Thursday, October 19, 2017

A Total Screw Up

Surely, no man has screwed up more consistently -- and spectacularly -- than Donald Trump. Witness has treatment of the family of a dead soldier. Richard Wolfe writes:

This week the commander-in-chief has somehow contrived to drive to tears the grieving mother of one of his own special forces. Along the way, he boasted about his own outreach to gold star families, and defamed his predecessors’ record on the same.

All the while he shows no sympathy or urgency about millions of his own citizens struggling for several weeks without food, water and power in Puerto Rico.

Hugging people doesn’t take much skill or sensibility; just a touch of humanity. A real populist finds this kind of thing quite easy. If you want to be loved by the people, it’s a good idea to show a little love to the people in their hour of need. It worked for Evita Peron, Fidel Castro and even the ice-cold British royal family.

But Trump doesn't possess even that simple sensibility. The only thing he really knows how to do is pick a fight:

Not so much Donald Trump. According to the mother of Sergeant La David Johnson, one of four Green Berets killed in action in Niger, Trump managed to “disrespect” her son and his widow, forgot his name, and told them he “knew what he signed up for.” This charming conversation took place while the family was traveling to the airport to receive the body of their beloved son and husband, leaving Johnson’s widow Myeshia in tears.

Naturally Trump has turned his multiple blunders into a political fistfight. He has blamed a Democratic representative traveling with the Johnsons for fabricating the account, telling reporters: “I had a very nice conversation with the woman, the wife, who sounded like a lovely woman.”

The sad thing is he probably thought he was being nice. The even sadder thing is that he still can’t be bothered to remember their name.

It's clear that Trump is unfit for his office. But, at times, one wonders if he's fit for anything. He's a total screw up.

Image: jadeluckclub

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Something To Keep In Mind

The Canadian aerospace industry just got shafted -- again. And Donald Trump got what he wanted. Tom Walkom writes:

The latest chapter of this ongoing saga began in April when American aerospace giant Boeing formally complained to the U.S. Commerce Department about Bombardier’s proposed sale of 125 C Series jets to Delta Air Lines.

Charging that the project had been improperly subsidized by the Canadian and Quebec governments, Boeing asked that an 80 per cent tariff be slapped on any C Series plane entering the U.S.

The Trump administration was more than agreeable. It imposed a preliminary tariff of 300 per cent, thereby making the Canadian-manufactured jet virtually unsalable in the lucrative U.S. market.

So Bombardier went to Airbus, which owns a plant in Alabama:

For Airbus, the arrangement is sweet. In return for letting Bombardier use its Alabama plant, it gets just over 50 per cent of the C Series project for free. It doesn’t have to pony up a cent.

Nor does it have to absorb any of Bombardier’s sizable $8.7 billion debt, much of which was incurred developing the C Series.

For Bombardier too, this is a good deal. By moving assembly from Canada to the U.S., it avoids the 300 per cent tariff and keeps the Delta sale alive. As well, it gets to locate its American production in a so-called right-to-work state that promises cheap wages and is vehemently anti-union.

While it no longer controls the C Series, Bombardier does get to keep a 31 per cent stake in the project for at least 7.5 years. And it can take advantage of Airbus’ global reach to market the jet.

And Donald Trump gets the jobs required to assemble the aircraft. Something to keep in mind during the current NAFTA negotiations.


Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Time Is Running Out

If you want to know what future resistance looks like, Chris Hedges writes, take a good long look at what transpired at Standing Rock:

Day after day, week after week, month after month, the demonstrators endured assaults carried out with armored personnel carriers, rubber bullets, stun guns, tear gas, cannons that shot water laced with chemicals, and sound cannons that can cause permanent hearing loss. Drones hovered overhead. Attack dogs were unleashed on the crowds. Hundreds were arrested, roughed up and held in dank, overcrowded cells. Many were charged with felonies. The press, or at least the press that attempted to report honestly, was harassed and censored, and often reporters were detained or arrested. And mixed in with the water protectors was a small army of infiltrators, spies and agents provocateurs, who often initiated vandalism and rock throwing at law enforcement and singled out anti-pipeline leaders for arrest.

No one should estimate what and who the resistors are up against:

The corporate state, no longer able to peddle a credible ideology, is becoming more overtly totalitarian. It will increasingly silence dissidents out of fear that the truth they speak will spark a contagion. It will, as in China’s system of totalitarian capitalism, use the tools of censorship, blacklisting, infiltration, blackmailing, bribery, public defamation, prison sentences on trumped-up charges and violence. The more discredited the state becomes, the more it will communicate in the language of force.

Native leader Tom B.K. Goldtooth sees the battle in existential terms:

This world is heading towards economic systems that continue to eat up life itself, even the heart of workers, and it’s not sustainable. We’re at that point where Mother Earth is crying out for a revolution. Mother Earth is crying out for a new direction.

As far as a new regime, we’ll need something based on earth jurisprudence.A new system away from property rights, away from privatization, away from financialization of nature, away from control over our … DNA, away from control over seeds, away from corporations. It’s a common law with local sovereignty. That’s why it’s important we have a system that recognizes the rights of a healthy and clean water system, ecosystem. Mother Earth has rights. We need a system that will recognize that. Mother Earth is not an object. We have an economic system that treats Mother Earth as if she’s a liquidation issue. We have to change that. That’s not sustainable.

This is not just a battle for one nation's soul -- although the battle for the American soul is seminal. This is a battle for the future of the planet. And time is running out.


Monday, October 16, 2017

Could He Be Right?

Sometimes irony is entertaining. Sometimes it hurts. Tom Walkom points to the irony of Donald Trump's insistence on American content rules as part of NAFTA:

Under NAFTA, automobiles manufactured anywhere in North America may be sold duty-free in Canada, the U.S. or Mexico.

Since, at $2.45 (U.S.) an hour, Mexican wages are a fraction of what they are in the other two NAFTA countries, this is a powerful incentive to locate production there.

As a recent report by former CIBC chief economist Jeff Rubin shows, this is exactly what has happened. Rubin calculates that the number of auto jobs in Mexico has quadrupled over the past decade. Over the same period, auto manufacturing jobs shrank by 26 per cent in Canada and 28 per cent in the U.S.

Which brings Walkom to Unifor's strike against GM's plant in Ingersoll:

Their demands did not focus on the usual issues such as wages. Rather employees sought ironclad assurances from GM that Ingersoll would continue to be the lead plant in North America for production of the popular Chevy Equinox sport utility vehicle.

Earlier this year, GM moved production of its Terrain model to Mexico from Ingersoll — at a cost of 400 Canadian jobs. The CAMI workers and their union, Unifor, wanted to make sure this didn’t happen again.

What the union wants is what Canadian politicians of various stripes used to insist upon:

Until recently, it was the position of the New Democratic Party. A little further back, it was the position of the Liberal Party.

Justin Trudeau may reject economic nationalism as dangerous. But his father, Pierre, did not. Indeed, Pierre Trudeau recognized that sometimes even the most cosmopolitan of nations need to protect themselves from the buffeting winds of the global economy.

It was a principle enshrined in the old Auto Pact. All of which begs the question: Could Donald Trump be right about something?


Sunday, October 15, 2017

Eminently Sensible

There has been a lot of fury about Bill Morneau's tax changes. His failure to disclose the full story behind his French villa hasn't helped his cause. But the main problem he has faced is that his changes aren't simple enough to understand. Robin Sears recalls a conversation he had with New Zealand's former finance minister, Roger Douglas -- who introduced the developed world's first GST:

“Listen,” he told me, “our bloody income tax systems — personal and corporate — look like bloody Swiss cheese! And, by the way, so do yours. Every country has more loopholes and giveaways in its income tax system than they can count. And any finance minister who claims he can fill even half of them is either lying or stupid or both,” he added.

He went on, that with a VAT or GST he could equally tax a rich man’s mink coat purchase and a working boy’s hamburger — everyone pays. He conceded that some cheating was always possible if cash and no receipts were involved, but he added, it was a lot easier to catch a GST cheat than an income tax cheater, with the help of a good tax lawyer.

It’s not regressive, depending on what we do with the revenue, Douglas argued. He planned to take a big slice of the GST revenue and give it back to those who needed it most — and did, setting up a generous rebate structure. His pioneering was copied all over the developed world. As Douglas said that day, when you want to get a big tax reform done quickly you need to do three things: keep it simple, open and transparent.

These days citizens -- with justification -- feel that legislators are deliberately trying to pull the wool over their eyes. The Republican health care plan was cobbled together behind closed doors. Then they tried to push it through without hearings. It failed. Somebody's missing something.

Morneau shouldn't expect any tax change to slide through without tough parliamentary oversight. And, if it looks like he's playing a shell game, his proposed changes will never get off the ground.

Roger Douglas' advice was eminently sensible.


Saturday, October 14, 2017

Another Canary In The Coal Mine

Everyone these days focuses on the middle class as the engine which drives the economy. However, Susan Delacourt writes, the shuttering of Sears stores across the country tells the story of what has happened to the Canadian middle class:

Retail analysts have been warning for some time now that e-commerce is threatening the very nature of shopping.

Those same analysts are saying, however, that you can’t draw a straight line between the rise of digital shopping and the downfall of the big stores like Sears or Zellers.

“The bigger thing is the shrinking of the middle class,” Barry Nabatian, market research director of Shore-Tanner Associates, told Ottawa’s local CBC Radio morning show this week. 

Neo-liberal economists, like Joseph Schumpeter, call it "creative destruction." But there's nothing creative about it:

The current troubles in the Canadian retail business have at least three dimensions, fallout-wise. When things go badly, we have to worry about the people who work in the stores, the people who shopped in the stores, and, as a Star story pointed out this week, all the businesses that supply the shops, too.

“The list of suppliers left in the lurch by the Sears Canada insolvency reads like a who’s who of retail and it circles the globe,” the Star’s Francine Kopun wrote, describing the tens, sometimes hundreds of thousands of dollars Sears owes to a vast array of businesses whose products fed into the once-great store empire.

That's a lot of destruction. The death of Sears is another canary in the coal mine. There have been several since the financial meltdown ten years ago. But the powers that be don't appear to be paying attention.


Friday, October 13, 2017

The Trump Show

When it comes to Donald Trump, Neal Gabler writes, we keep missing the point. We judge him as a president. Trump doesn't see himself as a president, Instead, he is -- and always has been -- an entertainer:

Whether by design or experience — and I suspect it is both — Trump never saw the presidency as a political institution. Originally, I wrote earlier here, he thought of it as a form of celebrity — the best way to get attention, which is what celebrities do. Now I fear that I was too optimistic. He actually seems to see it as an entertainment — not just a way to be the center of attention, though he clearly loves that — but as a way to tickle the public appetite for excitement. In doing so, he has replaced political values with entertainment values. Politics mean nothing to him. Policy is a bore for him as for most Americans. They want a show. So does he. And he intends to provide it.

Trump spends his time dreaming up future episodes of the Trump Show:

He knows how to put on a show for an electorate who likes shows. He thinks in terms of episodes. He knows how to bait the press into asking “what happens next” and to keep juicing the narrative. Chaos is an awful way to run an administration, but it is a wonderful way to keep people riveted and to distract them from policy discussions. And here is another thing about the show: It never ends. It is all Trump all the time. No entertainer has ever come as close as he has to monopolizing the ink and air.

Earlier episodes of the show had him "repealing and replacing" Obamacare. This week, he's cutting government subsidies to those who can't afford health insurance on their own. Next week's episode will be entitled,"Cancelling The Iran Deal." A future episode will be devoted to NAFTA.

For an electorate fascinated by The Jerry Springer Show, The Bachelor, and Survivor, he's made to order. That's why what used to be considered the world's greatest democracy has become The Gong Show.

Image: Pinterest

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Not The Sharpest Tool In The Shed

Canadians and Mexicans are wondering whether Donald Trump will tear up NAFTA. The rest of the world is wondering whether Trump will tear up the Iran nuclear deal. Roger Cohen writes:

The president’s refusal to certify an accord his own defense secretary, James Mattis, says Iran is upholding, and is in the American national interest, would send a strong signal that the United States has become a bait-and-switch power whose word is worthless.

It’s America’s word as solemn gage that has underwritten global security since 1945. Goodbye to all that.

Trump claims that the accord was a lousy deal. Cohen writes that it never promised an ideal outcome, but it was negotiated when both parties had their eyes wide open:

Iran’s nuclear program was pitched into reverse by the agreement after a decade of rapid development. The number of centrifuges was slashed. Iran’s uranium stockpile was all but eliminated; enrichment levels are capped at 3.7 percent, a long way from bomb grade; outside inspection by the International Atomic Energy Agency is rigorous. The IAEA, like Mattis, has found that Iran is in compliance.

Would it have been nice if Iran had been persuaded to dismantle its nuclear program and its scientists induced to consign their mastery of the nuclear fuel cycle to amnesiac oblivion? Sure. Dream on. Diplomacy takes place in the real world, as those mouthing off about North Korean nuclear dismantlement will discover. It involves trade-offs equally painful for both sides that produce an imperfect outcome better than the alternative.

Throughout his entire life, Trump has never had his eyes wide open. It has been reported that when Steve Bannon warned Trump that he could be removed under the 25th Amendment, Trump's response was, "What's that?"

Not the sharpest tool in the shed. 


Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Losing Its Moxie

Things have not been going well for the Trudeau government of late. Tim Harper catalogues its problems:

Nowhere has the gap between expectations and delivery been wider than on Indigenous reconciliation, part of a sweeping series of pledges Trudeau made on the campaign trail.

Despite a commitment to end all drinking water advisories on reserves within five years, the government says there were still 41 short-term advisories as of Aug. 31 and 103 advisories that have been in place for more than a year. The statistics do not include British Columbia.

The Enquiry Into Murdered And Missing Aboriginal Women keeps spinning its wheels as staffers resign. And there are a host of other problems:

Another Liberal promise, electoral reform, was cynically tossed overboard after a long series of sham hearings and questionnaires.

The early glow as Trudeau’s government welcomed Syrian refugees has long ago faded. Now the debate revolves around those arriving illegally at land crossings and whether Trudeau oversold the welcoming nature of this country’s immigration system.

Promised deficits of under $10 billion for two years before a return to balanced books was quickly punted and although this year’s deficit is smaller than forecast, there is no longer any timetable for balance.

Two years after pledging that Canada would return to a peacekeeping role as a sign the country is back on the international stage, the plan is in limbo.

Worse, this government can seem petty, whether moving to tax employee discounts (now apparently under government review), a measure that goes after low-paid retail clerks, not the 1 per cent, or spending more than $110,000 fighting an Indigenous girl’s $6,000 dental claim.

It has spent more than $700,000 fighting a Canadian Human Rights Tribunal order that it cease discriminating against Indigenous children when it comes to health and social services spending.

Finally, there is the hew and cry over Bill Morneau's tax reforms. Today Justin is in Washington trying to deal with Donald Trump -- a task that increasingly seems impossible.

It's not unusual for a government in the middle of its mandate to lose its moxie. But if it doesn't recover, it could be sounding its own death knell.


Tuesday, October 10, 2017

In Crisis

The United States is in crisis. Eugene Robinson writes in today's Washington Post:

The truth can no longer be ignored: Donald Trump is dangerously unfit to be president and could lead the nation to unthinkable disaster.

Retiring Senator Bob Corker says the White House is an "adult daycare centre" and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson says that Trump is a "moron." So what's to be done? Robinson writes:

This crisis isn’t about conservative governance vs. progressive governance. It’s about soundness of mind and judgment.

The Constitution does not offer much of a playbook for the situation we find ourselves in. Impeachment is reserved for “high crimes and misdemeanors” — a phrase that means anything Congress wants it to mean. Assume special counsel Robert S. Mueller III eventually concludes that Trump obstructed justice or even participated in a collusion scheme with the Russians. Would Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) and the Republican majority in the House actually move to impeach the president? Or would they be too fearful of the wrath of the GOP base? Unless the evidence were overwhelming, would there really be enough votes in the Senate to remove Trump from office?

That option doesn't look very likely. There is the 25th Amendment. But that solution was crafted to deal with a physical disability -- like Woodrow Wilson's stroke. There is nothing in the constitution dealing with the president's unsoundness of mind.

For the moment, we can only hope that the adults in the daycare centre can contain Trump. And that the Democrats win back one or both of the Houses of Congress in 2018.


Monday, October 09, 2017

Right Wing Lunacy

There has always been lunacy on the political right. In the 1950's it found expression in the John Birch Society, which accused President Eisenhower of being a communist agent. William F. Buckley took on the Birchers in the pages of The National Review. They were banished from the Republican Party and went underground.

But now they're back -- branding themselves as the Alt-Right -- and using the same playbook they used in the 50's and 60's. E.J. Dionne writes:

The extremist approach is built on a belief in dreadful conspiracies and hidden motives. It indulges the wildest charges aimed at associating political foes with evil and subversive forces. What’s striking about our current moment is that such groundless and reckless accusations have become a routine part of politics — all the way to the top.

The difference between the 50's and now is that Eisenhower new garbage when he smelled it. President Trump sees conspiracies everywhere, intent on doing him in:

Ah, you might say, campaigns are often dirty. But current forms of right-wing dirty politics reflect a reversion to the old extremism. It has become part and parcel of “normal” politics and justifies kooky pronouncements as expressions of patriotism. Ordinary political acts are painted as diabolical. Dark plots are invented out of whole cloth. They are first circulated on websites that traffic in angry wackiness, and are eventually echoed by elected officials.

Remember, Steve Bannon used to be Trump's chief political strategist. He's now back at Breitbart News peddling his lunacy. In the 1950's there were Republicans -- like Buckley -- who took on the crazies. These days, there are no Buckleys in the Republican Party.

It's raining where I am. But, rain or shine, have a happy Thanksgiving Day.


Sunday, October 08, 2017

This Is The Way Their World Ends

The American Empire is in decline. Chris Hedges writes that the signs of decay are everywhere:

The U.S. economy is being drained by wars in the Middle East and vast military expansion around the globe. It is burdened by growing deficits, along with the devastating effects of deindustrialization and global trade agreements. Our democracy has been captured and destroyed by corporations that steadily demand more tax cuts, more deregulation and impunity from prosecution for massive acts of financial fraud, all the while looting trillions from the U.S. treasury in the form of bailouts. The nation has lost the power and respect needed to induce allies in Europe, Latin America, Asia and Africa to do its bidding. Add to this the mounting destruction caused by climate change and you have a recipe for an emerging dystopia. Overseeing this descent at the highest levels of the federal and state governments is a motley collection of imbeciles, con artists, thieves, opportunists and warmongering generals. 

And, as with  all empires, the end will come quickly. Hedges quotes Alfred W. McCoy:

“The demise of the United States as the preeminent global power could come far more quickly than anyone imagines,” McCoy writes. “Despite the aura of omnipotence empires often project, most are surprisingly fragile, lacking the inherent strength of even a modest nation-state. Indeed, a glance at their history should remind us that the greatest of them are susceptible to collapse from diverse causes, with fiscal pressures usually a prime factor. For the better part of two centuries, the security and prosperity of the homeland has been the main objective for most stable states, making foreign or imperial adventures an expendable option, usually allocated no more than 5 percent of the domestic budget. Without the financing that arises almost organically inside a sovereign nation, empires are famously predatory in their relentless hunt for plunder or profit—witness the Atlantic slave trade, Belgium’s rubber lust in the Congo, British India’s opium commerce, the Third Reich’s rape of Europe, or the Soviet exploitation of Eastern Europe.”

Most Americans -- and, most importantly, the current president  -- are clueless about what is happening. They huff and puff in collective self delusion as their future gets darker:

For the majority of Americans, the 2020s will likely be remembered as a demoralizing decade of rising prices, stagnant wages, and fading international competitiveness,” McCoy writes. The loss of the dollar as the global reserve currency will see the U.S. unable to pay for its huge deficits by selling Treasury bonds, which will be drastically devalued at that point. There will be a massive rise in the cost of imports. Unemployment will explode. Domestic clashes over what McCoy calls “insubstantial issues” will fuel a dangerous hypernationalism that could morph into an American fascism.

This is the way their world ends.


Saturday, October 07, 2017

It's Coming

On the question of electoral reform, Andrew Coyne is an optimist:

It is going to happen, eventually. Some day, somewhere in this country, at some level of government, the monopoly will be broken, and the debate will have changed forever.

The monopoly to which I refer is the system by which we elect members of Parliament, the provincial legislatures, and city councils: single-member*, plurality-wins voting, or as it is popularly known, “first past the post.” And not only them — mayors, school boards, the works. Canada is one of the few countries that still uses first past the post, but it is the only one that only uses first past the post, universally and exclusively.

There are places in the country where the way in which we vote is changing:

Ontario has passed legislation allowing the province’s municipalities, if they choose, to use ranked ballots for their elections: earlier this year, London became the first to take them up on it, while Kingston will hold a referendum on the idea in 2018. This isn’t proportional representation: it’s still one member per district, winner-take-all, rather than the sharing of representation among several members on which PR is based. But it’s something other than the status quo.

Prince Edward Island, meanwhile, voted in a 2016 referendum to switch from first past the post to a hybrid system known as mixed-member proportional. Turnout, however, was “only” 36 per cent — as high as for most municipal elections in this country — on the basis of which Premier Wade MacLauchlan has ordered a do-over, to coincide with the next provincial election in 2019.
And now British Columbia. Readers will recall that B.C., too, voted by a majority to switch to a form of PR (known as the single transferable vote, or STV) in the 2005 referendum: nearly 58 per cent, in fact, including a majority in 77 of the province’s 79 ridings. But the rules, unusually, stipulated a 60 per cent threshold. In the rematch four years later, the same proposal obtained just 39 per cent.
With the coming to power of the NDP, however, the issue is back on the table: both the NDP and the Green Party, on whose support it depends, had made proportional representation part of their election platforms.  

The change will not come from the top -- as Justin Trudeau promised, and those of us who voted for him expected. But the change will come.

Image: bonuscut

Friday, October 06, 2017

Making Their Way Bareheaded

An entire generation -- those who are presently in charge -- has grown up thinking that the Unholy Trinity -- Milton Friedman, Friedrich Hayek and Ayn Rand -- understood how society should be organized. But Giles Fraser argues that the next generation -- the millennials -- are dusting off their copies of Das Kapital, and that Karl Marx is back. Marx argued that capitalism was based on superstition and magical thinking:

In the first chapters of Das Kapital, Marx explains how money makes money – or how, in the words of Matthew’s Gospel, “to everyone who has, more shall be given … but from the one who does not have, even what he does have shall be taken away”. Those with money are able to own the means of production and the labour needed to operate it. Throughout the whole cycle of making things and selling them on, the capitalist creates more money for themselves by getting employees to work longer and longer hours. This extra labour creates surplus value that results in profits for the capitalist.
Profit here is intrinsically exploitative – it does not exist without the extra hours worked by the capitalist’s employees. This is the source of the capitalist’s wealth, and when it is reinvested to capture an even greater share of the means of production and employ more workers, it grows off itself. Thus more and more is owned by fewer and fewer people. And money makes money, as if by magic.

Globalism has proven that Marx was, essentially, right:

The magical quality of our faith in money and in economic growth is a deliberate mystification of the social exploitation that the capitalist – understandably – wants to cover up. And “we draw the magic cap down over eyes and ears as a make-believe that there are no monsters,” as Marx put it in the preface to Das Kapital.

All of this becomes more and more obvious as global capital seeks new and ever more ingenious forms of concentration. The generation who learned their politics through the Occupy movement have had the scales fall from their eyes. Since then the 1% has become the 0.1%. And the magic cap is beginning to slip.

The kids are refusing to wear the hats they were given. They're making their way in the world bareheaded.


Thursday, October 05, 2017

The Tryanny Of The Minority

Once again, voices have been raised, clamouring for gun control in the United States. And once again, E. J. Dionne, Norman Ornstein and Thomas Mann write that those voices will be ignored, because the United States "is now a non-majoritarian democracy:"

If that sounds like a contradiction in terms, that’s because it is. Claims that our republic is democratic are undermined by a system that vastly overrepresents the interests of rural areas and small states. This leaves the large share of Americans in metropolitan areas with limited influence over national policy. Nowhere is the imbalance more dramatic or destructive than on the issue of gun control.

And the non majoritarian character of American democracy also explains why Donald Trump is president. His supporters live in "flyover country." And they complain that nobody listens to them. But, actually, they are in control:

David Birdsell, a Baruch College political scientist, has calculated that by 2040, 70 percent of Americans will live in 15 states — and be represented by only 30 of the 100 senators.

In the House, mischievously drawn district lines vastly distort the preferences of those who cast ballots. After the 2010 Census, the GOP controlled the redrawing of congressional boundaries in most key states. The result? The Brennan Center for Justice concluded that Republicans derived a net benefit of at least 16 seats from biased boundaries, about two-thirds of their current House margin.

The electoral college, meanwhile, is increasingly out of line with the popular vote. In raw terms, Trump had the largest popular-vote deficit of any electoral college winner. It was the second time in just five elections that the two were at odds. Here again, the failure of our institutions to account for the movement to metropolitan areas is the culprit. In 1960, 63 percent of Americans lived in metros; by 2010, 84 percent did.  

Hillary Clinton won the popular vote by three million votes. Trump claims that they were all illegal votes. But Rex Tillerson and a majority of Americans know that Donald Trump is a moron.


Wednesday, October 04, 2017

Get Ready To Feel The Burn

Andrew Nikiforuk writes that megafires will be a part of our future. The source of his information is a new book by Edward Struzik, Firestorm: How Wildfire Will Shape Our Future:

Thanks to the way climate change has collided with the growth of industrialized communities in forests, wildfires have got wilder, bolder, hotter, costlier and larger. Megafires are now poised to unsettle much of North America — and anyone who likes fresh air. 

Fire and forestry scientists foretold this unfolding horror story long ago. As Struzik documents, it is only politicians who don’t yet appreciate that climate change has ended business as usual in our forests. As a consequence the continent now has passed into a singular hell of megafires from California to Fort McMurray.

Canada is squarely part of the problem. Despite being a boreal nation shaped by northern forests that were “born to burn,” as Struzik puts it, the federal government has made things worse by gutting its ability to respond to wildfires.
Canada was once a leader in fire research, but no more. This year British Columbia could barely stay on top of its record-breaking fire season. In 2015 Alberta cut its wildfire prevention and management budget by almost $15 million just months before being humbled by the “Beast” in Fort McMurray. 

It's a story we should be familiar with by now. As the planet warms, governments cut back their fire prevention budgets, claiming the cupboard is bare. And, so, the forest burns:

This summer British Columbians got a smoky taste of the new realities. A record fire season in the Interior displaced 45,000 people, racked up nearly $500 million in firefighting bills and charred almost a million hectares. Meanwhile urban dwellers choked on the smoke and beheld orange-hued landscapes.

The fire science that Canada’s petro-politicians have chosen to ignore isn’t rocket science. A century of successful and aggressive fire suppression has created expanses of ungainly wood piles all ready to go up in smoke.

In addition the undisciplined consumption of fossil fuels has changed the climate and given us warmer temperatures, which in turn have extended the tree-burning season and invited more lightning storms.

Hot air from the Fort McMurray conflagration, Canada’s costliest natural disaster, even formed a pyrocumulonimbus cloud that triggered its own lightning storm. It sparked new firestorms more than 30 kilometres away from the main fire. That dragon-breathing development even shocked and awed seasoned fire scientists.

Fire scientists know where the damage will likely be done:

The Institute for Catastrophic Loss Reduction lists Vancouver, Victoria and Jasper as likely candidates for purgatory, if not hell itself. Fire experts suspect that Banff National Park, Timmins and Prince George are also at risk. Minnesota, Michigan, Maine and New Jersey are becoming more combustible too.  

We can see the train coming. But our political leaders tell us we can't afford to get off the tracks.

Image: The Tyee

Tuesday, October 03, 2017

American Violence and Donald Trump

In the wake of the horrific weekend in Las Vegas, Henry Giroux writes about American violence and the part Donald Trump plays in ginning it up:

Violence, sadly, runs through the United States like an electric current. And it’s become the primary tool both for entertaining people and addressing social problems. It also works to destroy the civic institutions that make a democracy possible.

Needless to say, Trump is not the sole reason for this more visible expression of extreme violence on the domestic and foreign fronts.

On the contrary. He’s the endpoint of a series of anti-democratic practices, policies and values that have been gaining ground since the emergence of the political and economic counterrevolution that gained full force with the election of Ronald Reagan in 1980, along with the rule of financial capital and the embrace of a culture of precarity.

Violence has been part of American culture long before Trump arrived on the scene. Nevertheless,

Trump is the unbridled legitimator-in-chief of gun culture, police brutality, a war machine, violent hypermasculinity and a political and social order that expands the boundaries of social abandonment and the politics of disposability — especially for those marginalized by race and class.

His language is full of violence:

He revels in a public discourse that threatens, humiliates and bullies.

He has used language as a weapon to humiliate women, a reporter with a disability, Pope Francis and any political opponent who criticizes him. He has publicly humiliated members of his own cabinet and party, including Attorney General Jeff Sessions and a terminally ill John McCain, not to mention the insults and lies he perpetrated against former FBI Director James Comey after firing him.

It is no accident that the worst mass murder in American history has occurred during the Trump administration.

Image: NBC News

Monday, October 02, 2017

Will It Be Different?

Jagmeet Singh now leads the New Democratic Party. All three of Canada's political parties are now firmly in the hands of millennials. Andrew Scheer and Singh are even younger than Justin Trudeau. So what does that mean? Campbell Clark believes that Singh will shake up Canadian politics:

Mr. Singh has the potential to disrupt the patterns of Canadian politics. His candidacy offered the NDP a ray of hope that they could move beyond union workers and urban lefties to appeal to new Canadians and fight for suburban ridings such as those in the Greater Toronto Area. The stalwarts didn't.

Still, that doesn't mean there will be another Orange Crush:

The party is dwindling into irrelevance in Quebec, which was supposed to be the new NDP base. Even a New Democratic MP, Pierre Nantel, questioned whether Quebeckers will accept a turbaned Sikh as a party leader. But Mr. Singh will be new and different, and speaks French well enough: On Sunday, he said he learned the language out of solidarity with people who had suffered the slights of a linguistic minority.

It will be interesting to see what Quebecers make of Mr. Singh. In the meantime, Singh has the potential to do well in the suburbs which surround Toronto. The NDP will look different under Singh. But the real question is this: Will it be different?

For the last forty years, all three parties have been firmly in the grip of neo-liberalism. The financial meltdown of 2008 should have spelled that ideology's doom. But it stubbornly hangs on. In the United States, it refuses to die and lives on in the body of a crazy old man.

Will Singh do more than just make his party look different?


Sunday, October 01, 2017

How Many Times?

When Petronas pulled the plug on its West Coast LNG juggernaut, some angry voices blamed government for nixing the project. Jim Stanford writes that Canadians have dodged a bullet and should be grateful the project is dead. Consider what happened in Australia:

To better understand the bullet that Canada dodged, consider Australia, a place where resource developers face far less onerous regulatory constraints. When gas prices in Asian markets surged past $15 per MMbtu in 2009, and again in 2012, gas producers everywhere salivated; but in Australia's case they could act on that greed quickly. Several massive LNG projects were built, virtually simultaneously, all aiming to cash in on premium Asian prices. Environmental and fiscal hurdles were modest; and Indigenous populations in Australia have little leverage to negotiate. A new right-wing government sweetened the pot by cancelling a modest carbon tax in 2014.
The outcome was a madcap construction boom that puts the Klondike gold rush to shame. Close to $200-billion (Australian) was spent on LNG projects over the next several years. In Queensland, three massive plants were built at the same time, on the same island. The impact of this mayhem on construction costs was both enormous, and predictable. The mother of all cost overruns was racked up at Chevron's Gorgon plant offshore Western Australia. Its final price-tag (a whopping $72-billion) was almost 50 per cent over budget. (Just imagine the recriminations if any public sector agency ever blew through its budget by a similar margin.)

The economic carnage from the building boom continues to be felt throughout Australia:

The short-lived boom affected the whole course of Australia's economy, generating inflation, putting upward pressure on interest rates, and contributing to a skyrocketing currency -- that in turn sparked massive deindustrialization (including the complete shutdown of Australia's auto industry). The plants are now on stream (though most have suffered repeated operational breakdowns), long before a single shovel hits dirt in Canada's LNG play. A triumph of free-market efficiency, right?

Once again, the Apostles of Unfettered Capitalism have created a disaster:

It's not just gas producers paying for this enormous miscalculation. Every Australian energy consumer is also paying. Unlike Canada, gas exporters don't have to prove that exports are surplus to domestic needs. Hence domestic prices more than doubled with the diversion of so much supply to exports; electricity prices also skyrocketed (because of gas-fired generation costs). Government isn't reaping any benefit, since the sweet royalty deals inked to accelerate LNG projects require virtually no royalty payments until capital investments have been paid off. That will likely never happen -- meaning Australians effectively gave away this gas (without royalties) to Asian consumers, many of whom now pay less for it than Aussies do.

How many times will this scenario need to be repeated until we wake up to the fact that neo-liberal economics is snake oil?


Saturday, September 30, 2017

Not In Trump's Circle

This was the week Donald Trump clarified for whom he's working. Richard Wolf writes:

Twice this week, when given the choice between his wealthy buddies and the working Americans he claims to care about, Trump has taken the gold-plated path.

Take his big tax cut, the biggest ever in history (or so he says). When asked by the super-friendly Pete Hegseth (from the aptly named Fox & Friends) about who his tax cuts were intended to help, our populist hero jumped right in.

“Really, the working people. We say the working people, middle class, the people that really haven’t been treated right, Pete, and they haven’t been treated right, really, for a long time. They have not been treated right,” he began very earnestly.

But look at his proposed tax rates. The top tax rate will go from 39.6% to 35%, while the rate for the people at the bottom will go from 10% to 12%. Trump claims he is going to increase the tax free deduction, but he doesn't say what income levels apply to each bracket.

And then there was the matter of aid to hurricane ravaged Puerto Rico. The Governor of the island and the mayor of San Juan have been pleading for help. But The Jones Act prevented ships from delivering that aid. The Jones Act was waived immediately for Texas and Florida. But it stayed in place for the island. Why?

“Well, we’re thinking about that but we have a lot of shippers and a lot of people who work in the shipping industry that don’t want the Jones Act lifted,” [Trump] told reporters on the South Lawn of the White House on Wednesday.

After thinking some more, Trump reversed himself on Thursday, more than a week after Puerto Rico lost its power grid and struggled to secure anything like adequate fuel supplies.

It is phenomenally hard to understand the thinking of a commander-in-chief who places the interests of shippers over his own citizens in dire need.

And the poor working stiffs who voted for him keep insisting they have a friend in the White House. Trump has friends. But working stiffs don't run in Trump's circle.

Image: The Huffington Post

Friday, September 29, 2017

It's All About Distraction

Linda McQuaig tells the history -- and the real story -- behind the Liberal government's attempt to close a tax loophole:

Twenty-five years ago, Brian Mulroney’s Conservative government introduced a tax change beneficial to wealthy families owning private trusts. One of the arguments used to justify the change was that it would help families with a trust support a disabled child.

The image of helping a disabled child certainly softened the image of what the government was doing — channelling hundreds of millions of dollars in tax savings to some of the wealthiest families in the country.

The amount of money that the wealthy have added to their annual incomes is staggering:

Once this invisible income — amounting to an astonishing $48 billion in 2010 — is added to their reported personal incomes, Canada’s rich are considerably richer than we’ve been led to believe.

For instance, according to commonly used data (for 2011), the average income for those in Canada’s top 1 per cent was $359,000. But once the income they held in private corporations was added, the actual average annual income of these folks was a much heftier $500,200.

The higher up the income ladder, the more popular private corporations have become. Roughly 80 per cent of the richest .01 per cent of Canadians funnel income through private corporations and the amounts involved are substantial, the study found.
The average income for those in the top .01 per cent was $4.69 million a year — an enormous income. But once the income held in their private corporations was added, the average income in this privileged group actually jumped to a stunning $8 million a year.

The Conservatives claim that they are fighting for Mom and Pop businesses and small farmers. These folks are now the disabled children of twenty-five years ago. But that line was a red herring then. And the Conservatives' argument is a red herring now.

It's all about distraction.

Image: btlonline

Thursday, September 28, 2017

It's The Politics, Stupid

Peter Donolo has an interesting column in this morning's Globe and Mail.  Donolo believes that the NAFTA negotiations are not about trade. They're about politics. The giveaway is that the Americans still haven't old us what they want. He writes:

What does that mean for the NAFTA talks? Don't hold your breath for negotiators to come up with trade solutions to a political problem. And if they do manage an agreement, count the seconds for a tweet from the President of the United States undercutting his own negotiating team. He's done it to his own White House staff, to his cabinet and to his party, time and again.

The term "win-win," which is the essence of any successful negotiation, does not exist in Donald Trump's lexicon. His approach is better described as zero-sum; the only way you can show you have won is by crushing your opponent into dust.

The American decision to add a 220% tariff to Bombardier's C-Series jets should be understood in that context. The decision is not good news for Canada.  And, meanwhile, Trump treats Mexico with utter contempt. That does not bode well for the future:

In less than a year, Mexico will hold presidential elections. Mr. Trump's relentless humiliation of that country has already sunk the hopes of the incumbent PRI and boosted the chances of leftist Andrés Manuel López Obrador. What would be the consequences of a NAFTA "loss" for Mexico? From the relative stability of recent decades, the Mexico-U.S. relationship could very quickly revert to earlier hostile, and even violent, patterns.

So fasten your seat belts. North America -- and, for that matter, the world -- is in for a lot more turbulence.


Wednesday, September 27, 2017

The Importance Of The Commons

George Monbiot writes that we have foolishly reduced human society to two elements: the state and the market. In fact, human society consists of four elements: the State, the Market, the Household and the Commons. We sometimes consider the value of the Household. But we have completely forgotten about the Commons:

That it is necessary to explain the commons testifies to their neglect (despite the best efforts of political scientists such as the late Elinor Ostrom). A commons is neither state nor market. It has three main elements. First a resource, such as land, water, minerals, scientific research, hardware or software. Second a community of people who have shared and equal rights to this resource, and organise themselves to manage it. Third the rules, systems and negotiations they develop to sustain it and allocate the benefits.

A true commons is managed not for the accumulation of capital or profit, but for the steady production of prosperity or wellbeing. It belongs to a particular group, who might live in or beside it, or who created and sustain it. It is inalienable, which means that it should not be sold or given away. Where it is based on a living resource, such as a forest or a coral reef, the commoners have an interest in its long-term protection, rather than the short-term gain that could be made from its destruction.

The commons have been attacked by both state power and capitalism for centuries. Resources that no one invented or created, or that a large number of people created together, are stolen by those who sniff an opportunity for profit. The saying, attributed to Balzac, that “behind every great fortune lies a great crime” is generally true. “Business acumen” often amounts to discovering novel ways of grabbing other people’s work and assets.

A vibrant commons reduces inequality because certain assets are collectively owned. When collective assets -- schools, airports, public lands -- are sold off to the highest bidder, everyone becomes poorer. Canada's new Infrastructure Bank is built on that principle. In my own province, a large portion of a public utility -- Ontario Hydro -- is being sold off to private investors.

The bottom line is this: When a government tells you it will decrease inequality while it sells off public assets, you're being lied to. Today's image is of The Boston Common.


Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Dumb As A Bag Of Hammers

As the Republicans' third attempt to repeal Obamacare was going down in flames, Mike Pence was warning Alaskans that the last thing they wanted to do was to adopt single payer medicare. Alexander Panetta reports:

The vice-president of the United States has some less-than-complimentary words for Canada’s health-care system, which he accuses of certain “failings.”

Mike Pence made the remarks in an interview last week with Alaska radio station KFQD.

He was being asked about the Republican health legislation struggling to get through Congress.

Pence warned that if the legislative effort collapses, the U.S. will be on a course for something similar to Canada.

That’s because the Democratic party is starting to rally to an unprecedented degree around the idea of single-payer health care as a long-term solution to the U.S.’s endless health debates.

“We have a clear choice here,” Pence said.

“You know, somewhere in between where I’m sitting in Washington, D.C., and Alaska, is a place called Canada. I probably don’t need to tell the people in Alaska about the failings of national socialized health care because it’s right in our neighbour and you see the results every day.

“Look, we’ve got a choice: It’s between big government, Washington, D.C., solutions that ultimately, I believe, will collapse into single-payer health care — or whether or not we’re going to repeal the (Obamacare) individual mandate.”

God knows, our medicare system isn't perfect. Panetta admits that "Canada’s health system is known to suffer from long wait times, especially for elective procedures." However, "Canadians not only have longer life expectancies, but also spend far less on health care than Americans according to World Bank data."

If Trump goes down, he'll probably be replaced by Pence. And Pence is as dumb as a bag of hammers.


Monday, September 25, 2017

A Single Digit IQ

Donald Trump's real talent -- his only talent -- is knowing how to pick a fight. On Friday night he targeted players in the NBA and the NFL. At a rally in Alabama, he told his rabid followers:

“Wouldn’t you love to see one of the NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, to say, ‘Get that son of a bitch off the field right now, out, he’s fired.  If NFL fans refuse to go to games, until players stop disrespecting our Flag&Country, you will see change take place fast. Fire or suspend!”

And, everywhere you looked yesterday, you saw athletes showing the Moron-in-Chief their fists. Some put their anger in words. Lebron James tweeted: "Going to the White House was a great honor until you showed up.” New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft -- up until now a Trump supporter -- expressed his "deep disappointment."

Kraft stood behind his players," Michael Harris writes, "ten of whom declined to stand for the national anthem before Sunday’s game against Houston. Harris believes this is a fight Trump can't win:

Trump is headed for a bruising. It may have started out with  [Colin] Kaepernick, but the ranks of those alarmed about racism in America is growing, just as Muhammad Ali electrified the anti-war movement in 1960s. It is no accident that Kaepernick is often seen sporting a T-shirt with Muhammad Ali’s face on it.

People love their sports and their players in a way politicians can only dream of. Trump has made a potentially fatal miscalculation in picking a fight with athletes the vast majority of the ‘deplorables’ who support him adore. That said, there were lusty boos at Foxborough when so many of the home team Patriots took the knee. Which is just to say, as wrong as Trump is, he is not alone in his warped patriotism.

And that really is the point. Trump's ignorant bluster is still a minority opinion. He knows he lost the election. He is in office because of an historical fluke called the Electoral College. And that fact is driving him crazy. That is why he can't get over Hillary. With each passing day, he increasingly looks like a man with a single digit IQ.

Image: The Baltimore Sun

Sunday, September 24, 2017

The Last Assessment

Robyn Sears offers an assessment of three of the contenders for the NDP's leadership:

Charlie Angus has impeccable New Dem credentials: northern, working class, long-term Indigenous activist; informal but smart, folksy but policy sharp, self-deprecating, well-known to local party leaders from coast to coast. As comfortable as an old shoe for a wide swathe of traditional party members.

Singh is a mirror opposite: openly ambitious personally and for the party, cool under pressure but happy to be seen to wield a knife, proud and flaunting his cultural and personal difference. Willing to stare down public intolerance and crazy racist hecklers — but with grace and confidence. 

Despite Guy Caron’s recent gains, Quebec still lacks a powerful native son candidate. Can Singh appeal to enough urban progressive Quebecers to overcome the hesitations of older rural voters’ unease with his difference? Or does Angus convince with his claim that he can best appeal to working and middle class progressive Quebecers, who are no different than other Canadians in their struggle to defend their families and work to build a better community?

Curiously, he has nothing to say about Nikki Ashton. And he implies that the choice is between Angus and Singh. Perhaps he really knows what's going on in the party's inner sanctum. His contention that the race is between Angus and Singh is interesting.

This will be the my last rumination on the leadership until after the Dippers make their decision.


Saturday, September 23, 2017

Proudly To Their Undoing

Neo-liberalism has been a monumental failure. The evidence of that failure is piling up all over the world. Paul Street writes:

Nearly three-fourths (71 percent) of the world’s population is poor, living on $10 a day or less, and 11 percent (767 million people, including 385 million children) live in what the World Bank calls “extreme poverty” (less than a $1.90 a day). Meanwhile, Oxfam reliably reports that, surreal as it sounds, the world’s eight richest people possess among themselves as much wealth as the poorest half of the entire human race.

The ravages of neo-liberalism are most evident in the United States, where the virus was first unleashed by those who fervently believed that Milton Friedman was a wise man:

The United States, self-described homeland and headquarters of freedom and democracy, is no exception to the harshly unequal global reality. Six of the world’s eight most absurdly rich people are U.S. citizens: Bill Gates (whose net worth of $426 billion equals the wealth of 3.6 billion people), Warren Buffett (Berkshire Hathaway), Jeff Bezos (Amazon), Mark Zuckerberg (Facebook), Larry Ellison (Oracle) and Michael Bloomberg (former mayor of New York City). As Bernie Sanders said repeatedly on the campaign trail in 2016, the top 10th of the upper 1 percent in the U.S. has nearly as much wealth as the nation’s bottom 90 percent. Seven heirs of the Walton family’s Walmart fortune have among them a net worth equal to that of the nation’s poorest 40 percent. Half the U.S. population is poor or near-poor, and half lacks any savings.
Just over a fifth of the nation’s children, including more than a third of black and Native American children, live below the federal government’s notoriously inadequate poverty level, while parasitic financiers and other capitalist overlords enjoy unimaginable hyper-opulence. One in seven U.S. citizens relies on food banks in “the world’s richest country.” Many of them are in families with full-time wage-earners—a reflection of the fact that wages have stagnated even as U.S. labor productivity consistently has risen for more than four decades.

And, now, Donald Trump is that nation's president. He is the omega -- what you get when you slavishly follow the advice of Friedman and his acolytes. Trump -- and the ideas he personifies -- represent failure by design:

As Joshua Bivens of the Economic Policy Institute showed in his important 2011 study, “Failure by Design,” the following interrelated, bipartisan and not-so-public policies across the long neoliberal era have brought us to a level of inequality that rivals the Gilded Age of the late 19th-century robber barons era. These policies include:

● Letting the value of the minimum wage be eroded by inflation.
● Slashing labor standards for overtime, safety and health.
● Tilting the laws governing union organizing and collective bargaining strongly in favor of employers.
● Weakening the social safety net.
● Privatizing public services.
● Accelerating the integration of the U.S. economy with the world economy without adequately protecting workers from global competition.
● Shredding government oversight of international trade, currency, investment and lending.
● Deregulating the financial sector and financial markets.
● Valuing low inflation over full employment and abandoning the latter as a worthy goal of fiscal and economic policy.

The evidence is indisputable. As the planet heats up, the blind march proudly to their undoing.

Image: Another Angry Voice

Friday, September 22, 2017

What's the Diff?

When it comes to the NDP leadership race, Rick Salutin asks the most important question of all: What differentiates the NDP from other political parties? The difference used to be pretty clear:

At any point in the 50 years after its founding in 1932 (as the Cooperative Commonwealth Federation, or CCF: which contained the answer in its name, unlike ‘New Democratic Party’), that question would’ve been easily answered. “Unlike Liberals, we are democratic socialists, we’ll demolish or at least tame the scourge of capitalism” — a view grown mildly resonant again, after 2008.

The last of the party's democratic socialists was Ed Broadbent. But things really got confused when Jack Layton and Tom Mulcair were elected leaders:

Then came Jack. At the convention that chose him, venerable NDPers said embarrassing, dated (if faddish) things like: Jack thinks outside the box. As if that had anything to do with anything or, for that matter, were true.

In 2004, under Jack Layton, the NDP voted to kill a transformative national child-care program, which the Liberal government had enacted, but which died as a result, giving us nine years of Harper conservatism. The NDP has never apologized for that, which would at least show they remember what their principles once were.

Then in 2015, NDP leader Thomas Mulcair promised to run no deficits if elected, after the Liberals promised to do so, effectively swapping principles. Self-congrats are less in order here than self-criticism, if not self-loathing.

These days, Salutin writes, the answer to the question, "What differentiates you?" seems to be "We're morally superior."

You can't win an election if that's the chief plank in your platform.


Thursday, September 21, 2017

The First Crooner Won't Be The Last

Abigail Tracy reports, in Vanity Fair,  that Robert Mueller now has his sites set on the White House:

While weeks of steady leaks about the Justice Department’s Russia probe revealed that special prosecutor Robert Mueller is zeroing in on Paul Manafort, Donald Trump’s former campaign chairman, and Michael Flynn, his erstwhile national security adviser, two new reports suggest that the former F.B.I. director has begun to train his focus on the president himself.

Mueller is seeking internal communications and documents related to 13 areas that prosecutors have identified as crucial, particularly those related to the firing of Flynn and Comey, according to both the Post and Times. His team has requested any documents related to Flynn’s interview with the F.B.I. earlier this year; his communications with Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak; and then acting Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates’s meeting with White House counsel Donald McGahn about Flynn and Flynn’s subsequent firing. Similarly, the F.B.I. is seeking any documents related to meetings between Comey and Trump while the former served as F.B.I. director and any discussions about his subsequent dismissal, including those tied to the White House’s initial statements justifying his ouster.

Trump has done everything in his power to shut Mueller's investigation down. But it continues to accelerate. Apparently, Manafort has been told that Mueller plans to indict him. The question has become who will be the first to sing?

And the first crooner won't be the last.

Image: You Tube

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

A Grand And Dangerous Fool

For awhile, the myth circulated that, once Donald Trump became president, he would change. After Trump's speech at the UN yesterday, that myth should be assigned to the ash heap of history. Ross Barkin writes:

Donald Trump will always be Donald Trump. If anyone hasn’t yet learned that lesson, today was educational. Trump, the reality show, punchline president – he’s great for the Emmys! – rambled in front of the United Nations general assembly about “Rocket Man” Kim Jong-un and threatened to “totally destroy” North Korea. His colorful language might even be funny if it weren’t for the fact that Trump controls a nuclear arsenal powerful enough to annihilate humanity several times over.

Trump was a blast from the past. The man who avoided the war in Vietnam with an ailment which never recurred, threatened the rest of the world with American power:

It is disturbing to consider the terrifying stakes resting on the state of one mercurial, TV-addled mind. Trump should not be running a mid-sized city somewhere in the midwest, let alone the most powerful nation on Earth. Most corporations wouldn’t let such a character near their boardrooms, either.

When you cut through the insane rhetoric, one thing is abundantly clear:

The office of the president will not change Trump. He is the same man he was 30 years ago, only older, more embittered, and more emboldened. He is Trump in the United Nations, Trump in the White House, Trump at home at night, railing at the cable news.

Trump claims that he was educated at the best schools. But he was -- and is -- immune to education. He is as ignorant in his 71st year as he was when his father sent him to military school to be "educated."

He is a grand fool -- albeit a grand and dangerous fool.

Image: The Guardian

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Taxing Wealth

One hundred years ago, Teddy Roosevelt warned Americans about, "a small class of enormously wealthy and economically powerful men whose chief object is to hold and increase their power." So he began to tax wealth through the estate tax and the capital gains tax. The breadth and width of these taxes have been significantly reduced. Robert Reich writes:

The estate and capital gains taxes were originally designed to prevent the growth of large dynasties in the U.S. and to reduce inequality.

They’ve been failing to do that. The richest 1 tenth of 1 percent of Americans now owns almost as much wealth as the bottom 90 percent.

The estate and capital gains taxes were originally designed to prevent the growth of large dynasties in the U.S. and to reduce inequality.

They’ve been failing to do that. The richest 1 tenth of 1 percent of Americans now owns almost as much wealth as the bottom 90 percent.

Many of today’s super rich never did a day’s work in their lives. Six out of the ten wealthiest Americans alive today are heirs to prominent fortunes. The Walmart heirs alone have more wealth than the bottom 42 percent of Americans combined.

Rich millennials will soon acquire even more of the nation’s wealth.

America is now on the cusp of the largest inter-generational transfer of wealth in history. As wealthy boomers expire, an estimated $30 trillion will go to their children over the next three decades.

The march to make the rich richer gathers momentum. And working stiffs -- when they can find jobs -- are left behind.

Image: MinnPost

Monday, September 18, 2017

The Dippers' Choice

Yesterday, the NDP held its final leadership debate. Tim Harper gives a cogent evaluation of the four candidates:

Singh promises growth. Backers believe he will grow personally as he moves from provincial to federal politics. They also believe he will grow the party with fresh membership.

Mention the NDP leadership race to those of us who do not live in the political world, and you get a lot of blank stares. Those same people, however, know Singh.

His opponents believe if he cannot win on the first ballot, he cannot grow.

Angus has worked assiduously to court second-choice support. Caron’s team believes he can finish third, stay on the ballot and grow his support because the Quebec MP has run a strong campaign. Ashton, the only one of the four making a second bid at leadership, has run the most unabashedly leftist campaign and has built perhaps the youngest core of supporters. She has also won union support and is a much more formidable campaigner than the Ashton of 2012.

She could surprise. If she is the first to drop off the ballot, however, her backers are expected to split three ways.

It really is hard to predict who will win. But Harper is also spot on in his analysis of how far the party has fallen:

It needs to find that relevancy in Quebec again and this is a tough road for any of the four, not just the turbaned Singh.

The party sold 124,000 memberships during this race, but a mere 4,907 of them were sold in Quebec, about half the total sold during the 2012 race.

It allowed itself to be outmanoeuvred by Trudeau on traditional left-of-centre issues and has largely been rudderless for 16 months.

However, some of the shine has worn off Justin. There is an opportunity for the NDP -- if they choose the right leader.