Saturday, June 23, 2018

Vote Trump's Party Out


Today, in The Washington Post, George Will is writing that Americans should vote for Democrats in the November elections. And, earlier this week, another once staunch Republican -- Steve Schmidt -- urged American voters to do the same. Gary Mason writes:

When I caught up with Mr. Schmidt this week, he was holidaying in Europe. One of the places he visited was the Bény-sur-Mer Canadian War Cemetery, which holds the graves of hundreds of soldiers killed at Normandy. Visiting the cemetery, and thinking of the sacrifices Canadian soldiers made as part of the Allied invasion on D-Day, as well as other joint war missions with the U.S., made him incensed over Mr. Trump’s recent criticisms of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
“It made me understand even more the danger of having a President who is unravelling the Western alliance as a cowardly and silently complicit Congress watches on,” Mr. Schmidt told me. “We have the U.S. President attack the Prime Minister of Canada, insult our allies, while praising [North Korean dictator] Kim Jong-un and fetishizing every other murderous tyrant, dictator and autocrat in the world.”
The picture Mr. Schmidt paints of the U.S. at the moment is an unnerving one – a President who uses mass rallies, and the repetition of lies, to incite dangerous fervour among his base; a President who dispenses propaganda through news outlets like Fox and the Sinclair Broadcast Group that he says have effectively become arms of the state; a President who believes he is the law and whatever he says is true; a President who addresses the most complex problems by affixing blame to the most vulnerable people he can affix blame to, often minorities.
“The Republican Party is a great threat to freedom and liberty and the U.S.-led global order that is quickly unravelling,” Mr. Schmidt told me. “The Democratic Party is now called to be the sentinels of liberty and freedom. It’s essential that Trumpism be repudiated, and repudiated as fast as possible.”

There are some smart Republicans. But they have officially left the party. They will not join the Democrats. But they're urging their fellow citizens -- this time around -- to vote for them.

Image: Daily Mail

Friday, June 22, 2018

Conservatives' Lack Of Imagination


The ice in Antarctica is melting much more quickly than we thought it was. Yet conservative governments across the country are wailing about carbon taxes. Paul Mason writes:

Everywhere you turn, politicians of a conservative bent are denouncing the climate-change measure as a pointless, economy-wrecking raid on people’s pocket books. United Conservative Party Leader Jason Kenney has made attacks on Alberta’s carbon tax the centerpiece of his pre-election strategy. Doug Ford just won power in Ontario after making his promise to dismantle the province’s cap-and-trade system a major component of his platform. Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe, also a conservative, has vowed to fight the federal carbon tax in court.

In Ottawa, the Conservatives use political theatre to complain about carbon taxes:

They carried out a 12-hour filibuster to draw attention to the fact the federal government won’t release any analysis of how much its national carbon tax will cost Canadians. This, despite the fact there have been plenty of studies done that have provided an answer to that very question. Studies everyone has access to.
The federal Standing Senate Committee on Energy, the Environment and Natural Resources estimated the cost of a $50-a-tonne carbon tax based on 2013 energy consumption levels. Their findings ranged from $603 per household in B.C. to $707 in Ontario to $1,120 in Nova Scotia. But those evaluations don’t take into account measures provincial governments can introduce to mitigate the costs, such as direct rebates or the reduction of taxes in other areas. They can pay for those breaks with the revenue raised from the carbon tax.

And that's precisely the point. The provinces have the power to decide how the tax will bite -- and what can be done to offset that bite. When B.C. introduced its carbon tax, it cut income taxes.

The Liberal plan isn't perfect. But Canadian conservatives lack imagination. The fact is they've lacked  imagination for a long time.


Thursday, June 21, 2018

Not The Sharpest




During the last election, Doug Ford made a lot of promises to Ontarians. But he never gave them a plan. David Reevely writes that Ford and Ontarians are about to have a rude awakening:

Ford’s big promise is jobs, especially manufacturing jobs. Ontario’s unemployment rate is 5.7 per cent, nearly the lowest it’s been in a generation, but with big disparities between urban areas and more rural ones. Manufacturing employment specifically is down about 300,000 jobs over the past 15 years. But fulfilling that promise will be difficult.
Manufacturing suffered more here in May, with 12,000 jobs in the sector disappearing from Ontario. Other industries more than made up the loss, but “employment in (manufacturing) reached a five-year peak in December 2017, and has been trending downward in 2018,” Statistics Canada reported. Alberta, Quebec, New Brunswick, British Columbia — all lost manufacturing jobs in May, with other provinces posting just tiny increases.

Moreover, Donald Trump's trade war won't make things any easier:

The hundreds of thousands of manufacturing jobs we retain depend a great deal on trade with the U.S., which President Donald Trump is torpedoing. The animosity only really started during the campaign, and Ford doesn’t have a real response yet, though he’s promised to stand with the federal Liberals as they marshal Canada’s response.
Ford will have to decide what sort of aid his government will give the workers whose jobs Trump has targeted, starting with steel and aluminum and potentially expanding to automakers. If the tariff tiff is temporary, that’s one thing. If it lasts a long time, help for businesses — manufacturing businesses! — that can’t survive without access to the American market could turn into corporate welfare.

And, of course, Ford's first official acts were to end the cap and trade system and to sink the Ontario Green Fund -- which supported initiatives to save and refocus on green energy. Ending both initiatives will cost money -- a lot of money.

The bottom line is that the man who promised to get a handle on Ontario's deficits is simply digging a deeper hole.

But, then, Dougie was never the sharpest tool in the shed.

Image: Twitter

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

A Nation Of Barbarians


Yesterday, Donald Trump accused Canadians of smuggling shoes across the border after they had "scuffed them up" a bit. There followed a host of lies about Canadian tariffs -- particularly dairy tariffs. Henry Giroux writes:

Trump has lied, along with a tsunami of other fabrications, about former president Barack Obama’s birthplace, he’s made false claims about why he did not win the popular vote, he’s stated he knew nothing about payments prior to his election to the porn star Stormy Daniels, and he’s wrongly declared that the U.S. is the highest taxed nation in the world.
He has falsely claimed 72 times that he passed the biggest tax cut in history; incorrectly states that he has eliminated Obamacare; and fallaciously argues that the Democrats were responsible for eliminating DACA (the Deferred Action for Child Arrivals that he terminated).

The lies now tumble out of his mouth in a daily barrage. And that barrage has become corrosive:

For Trump, lying has become a toxic policy for legitimizing ignorance and civic illiteracy. Not only does he relish lying repeatedly, he has also attacked the critical media, claimed journalists are enemies of the American people and argued that the media is the opposition party. His rallying cry, “fake news,” is used to dismiss any critic or criticism of his policies, however misleading, wrong or dangerous they are.

No where is Trump's corrosion more evident than in his policy -- not law -- to separate families at the border. For Trump language has become a political tool, not a harbinger of truth:

Under Trump, language operates in the service of civic violence because it infantilizes and depoliticizes the wider public, creating what Austrian neurologist and psychiatrist Viktor Frankl has called, in a different context, “the mask of nihilism.”
Trump’s endless fabrications echo the propaganda machines made famous in the fascist regimes of the 1930s. He values loyalty over integrity, and he lies in part to test the loyalty of those who both follow him and align themselves with his power.
Trump’s lying must be understood within a broader attack on the fundamentals of education and democracy itself. This is especially important at a time when the U.S. is no longer a functioning democracy and is in the presence of what sociologists Leonidas Donskis and the late Zygmunt Bauman referred to as a form “of modern barbarity.”

The United States has become a nation of barbarians. It is no longer a "shining city on a hill."

Image: You Tube

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

A Moral Black Hole At The Centre


The big picture, Paul Krugman writes, is shocking and depressing:

The U.S. government is, as a matter of policy, literally ripping children from the arms of their parents and putting them in fenced enclosures (which officials insist aren’t cages, oh no). The U.S. president is demanding that law enforcement stop investigating his associates and go after his political enemies instead. He has been insulting democratic allies while praising murderous dictators. And a global trade war seems increasingly likely.

These stories all have one common thread and that is the man who occupies the White House -- a walking and talking disease who is a clear and present danger to global public health. But what's going on goes beyond Trump:

Think about it. By the end of World War II, we and our British allies had in effect conquered a large part of the world. We could have become permanent occupiers, and/or installed subservient puppet governments, the way the Soviet Union did in Eastern Europe. And yes, we did do that in some developing countries; our history with, say, Iran is not at all pretty.
But what we mainly did instead was help defeated enemies get back on their feet, establishing democratic regimes that shared our core values and became allies in protecting those values.
The Pax Americana was a sort of empire; certainly America was for a long time very much first among equals. But it was by historical standards a remarkably benign empire, held together by soft power and respect rather than force. (There are actually some parallels with the ancient Pax Romana, but that’s another story.)

Donald Trump, however, doesn't believe in soft power. All those kids he has locked up show again and again that his modus operandi is brute force. And he doesn't believe in trade deals -- certainly not the global structures that were put in place after World War II:

In fact, the modern world trading system was largely the brainchild not of economists or business interests, but of Cordell Hull, F.D.R.’s long-serving secretary of state, who believed that “prosperous trade among nations” was an essential element in building an “enduring peace.” So you want to think of the postwar creation of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade as part of the same strategy that more or less simultaneously gave rise to the Marshall Plan and the creation of NATO.

His legacy will be an empire in ruins -- and a nation with a moral black hole at its centre.

Image: You Tube

Monday, June 18, 2018

A New And Better World


Thanks to Donald Trump, world alliances are being scrambled. Robin Sears writes that a new world order is appearing with each passing day:

Already we have seen both Angela Merkel and Emmanuel Macron publicly signal that an EU-centric foreign policy, not one led by the U.S., is their vision of the future.
China, less adroitly, continues to attempt to build an Asian sphere of influence. Their military advances in the South China Sea and the Indian Ocean have stimulated a budding South Asian strategic partnership. Nominally led by India, it is an attempting to unite all the nations of the region from Malaysia to Sri Lanka, in response to Chinese ambition. The old club of “likeminded nations” in Northern Europe are reviving their common cause on issues from climate change to the refugee crisis.

If Canadian politicians are wise, they will take note of what is happening and recognize that Canada could play an important role in this new world order:

This places Canada in a new and possibly important new place. Managing the relationship with the United States will always be a priority, but unlike the past two years, it should not be the foreign policy priority.
We are alone among the advanced Western democracies not to carry any colonial baggage in our relations with China, Japan and Korea. As members of the Commonwealth, the Francophonie, the OAS and NATO, we have an uniquely wide array of organizations and alliances through which to advance Canadian interests and policy goals.

Canada will always have to manage its relationship with the United States. But, as the United States declines, Canada's perspective must become truly universal:

Together, with a carefully selected group of partners, it might be wise for Canada to set out an agenda that encompasses a new 21st-century set of shared policy goals, early in the New Year.
Canada is well-equipped to play a role in United Nations and global finance reform, unfreezing the paralyzed WTO and giving the G20 a new injection of political energy.

Paul Martin was instrumental in establishing the G20. And other prime ministers have played an important role in global affairs:

As Fen Hampson’s new examination of the foreign policy legacy of Brian Mulroney, Master of Persuasion makes clear, when a Canadian prime minister has a focused agenda and supportive partners we can make a big impact on the global stage.
Two achievements of those years little known to most Canadians may point a path for another internationally engaged prime minister. Mulroney played an important role in helping Helmut Kohl to overcome French and British resistance to German unification at a very delicate moment.
He was also one of the pivotal players in imposing the sanctions on South Africa that led to the release and election of Nelson Mandela. We are perhaps at a moment where Canada can once again play a broader strategic role on today’s global crises.

We will not dominate in the new world order. But we could play an important part in establishing a new and better world.

Image: Godhum

Sunday, June 17, 2018

The Crunch Is Upon Us


This is an Age of Anxiety. Larry Elliott writes that it's not hard to understand why:

The past decade has seen the biggest financial crisis in a century, the biggest slump since the Great Depression and the slowest recovery since the second world war. Living standards have flatlined and public spending has been cut.
People are anxious, frustrated and angry. The only real surprise is that they are not angrier. That, though, may only be a matter of time, because rapid technological change is happening at a time when the global economy seems fragile and many people feel they are getting a raw deal. These are perfect conditions for an age of insecurity.

In anxious times, populism and demagogues arise, hand in hand. The OECD has just released a study which explains the present populist wave:

A quick glance at the report on social mobility published by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development last week helps explain why populists are gaining ground. The OECD found that 25 years ago, the disposable income of the richest 10% of the population across its 34 member countries was seven times that of the poorest 10%. It is now nine times as high. Wealth inequality is even more pronounced, with the top 10% owning half the wealth and the bottom 40% just 3%.
What’s more, there is less chance of a child born into a poor family making good than there once was. The OECD found that upward mobility for people with lower educated parents tended to increase for children born between 1955 and 1975 but stagnated for those born thereafter. “Families and communities in many countries seem to be trapped on the bottom rungs of the ladder.”
It is possible for children with a disadvantaged background to get up the ladder but it is a long and painful process. In the average OECD country it would take five generations for somebody born into the poorest 10% of the population to achieve average (mean) earnings.

In the past, institutions arose to counter balance the changes which swept through society:

The three previous industrial revolutions all caused technological disruption and led to significant job replacement. They also led to income inequality, because those with the greatest skills were able to stay one step ahead of the machine. Workers did not always benefit fully or immediately from the pick-up in productivity associated with periods of technological change, which were often long as well as difficult for those affected.
But institutions developed to ensure that the fruits of growth were shared. These took many forms: compulsory schooling, the spread of higher education, the development of central banks, the emergence of credit unions and friendly societies, the arrival of trade unions to represent workers, and the creation and expansion of the welfare state during the 20th century.

At the moment, spearheaded by the blind and the furious -- people like Mr. Trump -- those institutions are being torn apart. Without them, life will become, in Hobbes' phrase, nasty, brutish and short.

Clearly, the crunch is upon us.

Image: Huffington Post




Saturday, June 16, 2018

The Rest Of The World Knows That


Tony Burman writes that this past week reminded us of things we already knew about Donald Trump:

We already knew that Donald Trump has a pathological infatuation for dictatorships and the authoritarian leaders who rule them, and a loathing of everything that genuine democracy entails.

But what we learned  -- or should have learned -- this week is that Donald Trump is a danger to us all. There are five lessons we should take from the week just passed:

1. Kim is a much better negotiator than Trump:
The overwhelming consensus of nuclear experts is that Kim Jong Un clearly outmanoeuvred the U.S. president. The North Korean leader made fewer concessions than in previous negotiations with the U.S., dating back to the 1990s. He promised only to “work towards the complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula” – but with no timetable or details. In exchange, not only did he achieve a unique one-on-one summit with the American president — an obsession of the Kim dynasty for decades — but Trump also agreed to Kim’s request that the U.S. cancel joint military exercises with South Korea.
2. Trump stands in awe of North Korea:
Only six months ago, Trump had described North Korea in these terms: “The horror of life in North Korea is complete … Leaders imprison their people under the banner of tyranny, fascism and oppression.” Yet, after the Singapore summit, Trump told the Voice of America that he had this message for North Koreans: “I think you have somebody that has a great feeling for them. He wants to do right by them and we got along really well.”
3. Trump doesn't care about international relations. Everything he does is done for domestic reasons:
Trump made this absurd claim: “There is no longer a Nuclear Threat from North Korea. Everybody can now feel much safer than the day I took office …” But he showed why this is all about the mid-term congressional elections five months from now: “Honestly, I think (Kim) is going to do these things. I may be wrong. I mean, I may stand before you in six months and say, ‘Hey, I was wrong’. I don’t know that I’ll ever admit that, but I’ll find some kind of excuse.”
4. The Iran Deal -- which Trump just walked away from -- was a much better deal than the one Trump got from Kim:
North Korea has a developed and sophisticated nuclear program, hidden in underground bunkers throughout the country. Nuclear experts estimate it would take years for the process to happen. None of that was reflected in the skimpy two-page Singapore statement written by Trump and Kim. In contrast, nuclear experts point to the detailed, 159-page Iran nuclear deal as a potential model for any North Korea nuclear breakthrough. Of course, this is the deal that Trump has attacked as “the worst deal ever … defective at its core.”
5. The G7 meeting in Quebec was a disaster. Through insults and bullying, Trump injected chaos into the western alliance that he seems to loathe so much.
Coming as it did immediately before his lovefest with Kim Jong Un, the uproar revealed the enormous challenge currently being faced by 21st-century democracies in the Era of Trump. That may be the ultimate warning bell from this historic week.

Kim knows he's dealing with a "dotard." After the past week, the rest of the world now knows that, too.

Image: Politico Europe

Friday, June 15, 2018

Ignorance Is On The March


If you're looking for a clue to what life will be like in the Era of Doug Ford, Rick Salutin writes that you should keep your eye on education. That's because modern conservatives don't favour education. That was certainly true of Ford's conservative predecessor, Mike Harris:

Harris’s own public career began on school boards and he’d been a teacher himself. This disposed him negatively, not positively. For minister, he pointedly named a Grade 11 dropout, John Snobelen, who immediately told his staff to fabricate a “useful crisis” in public education to justify drastic attacks on it.
That included grabbing control of funding from local boards, undermining the public system with tax breaks for parents who put their kids in private schools, and bringing in standardized tests, which threatened to crowd out everything else done in classrooms. Teachers and their unions became Harris’s main opposition and everyone got used to frequent, sometimes illegal strikes.

I lived through two strikes in the Harris years. Mr. Snoblen did, indeed, create a crisis -- the effects of which have been long lasting.

South of the border, Donald Trump has also targeted education:

Trump placed his own ignoramus, Betsy de Vos, in charge there. Her life’s mission has been dumping public schools for private, so-called charter schools. Trump himself said, “I love the poorly educated.” That’s not the same as the uneducated, which could result from neglect. “Poorly” implies deliberate bad teaching. Keep them stupid.
The main pushback has come from U.S. teachers and their unions, often in “red,” Trump-voting states. It’s been breathtaking. Teachers have fought not just for wages, which are often far below average. They’ve demanded that the funding come from taxes on the rich or energy corporations, whose taxes had been reduced. They’ve allied with parents, who generally seem to get it since the aim is to bolster not just schools, but overall social well-being.

And, let's face it, Doug is not known for his stellar education. If it wasn't a priority for him, it should not be surprising if he chooses not to make it a priority for Ontario.

We live in a time where Ignorance is on the march.

Image: Toronto Star

Thursday, June 14, 2018

It's About Me And The Money, Stupid !


If you thought Donald Trump wasn't in the presidency for the money, think again. He and his family are rolling in a tsunami of profits. Jill Abramson writes:

This week, [Jared] Kushner’s new financial disclosure records were released, showing the considerable rise in his assets. Their value ranged between $179m and $735m, up from a range of $137m to $609m the previous year. (White House officials are required to report their assets in broad ranges). For Jared, it was a very good year, indeed.
Just last month came the happy news that Ivanka’s brand had won seven additional Chinese patents for items ranging from cushions to books. The new patents were issued at the same time that her father vowed to save ZTE, a major Chinese telecommunications company, from going bust – a rare and surprising move for a president who is a foreign trade hardliner. The New York Times noted: “Even as Mr Trump contends with Beijing on issues like security and trade, his family and the company that bears his name are trying to make money off their brand in China’s flush and potentially promising market.”
Then there is the president himself. His Trump International Hotel is doing brisk business, its lobby always full of White House favour-seekers, its pricey rooms often filled with industry executives and lobbyists. The hotel is siphoning business from other local hotels and convention centres, according to the District of Columbia and the state of Maryland, which have both filed lawsuits. They charge that Trump’s profits from the hotel violate the US constitution’s anti-corruption clauses. The Justice department, unsurprisingly, has defended the president’s continuing role as a hotelier, but a federal judge on Monday sharply criticised the department’s legal reasoning. The case is probably heading for the US supreme court.

Donald Trump is the personification of neo-liberalism and the values it espouses:

David Brooks, the New York Times columnist, recently summed up the “Trumpian world-view” writing, “Trump takes every relationship that has historically been based on affection, loyalty, trust and reciprocity and turned it into a relationship based on competition, self-interest, suspicion and efforts to establish dominance.”

Those values were recently on full display at the G7 conference. It's not about public service. It's about me and the money, stupid.

Image: Bloomberg

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

The True Measure Of A Just Society


Justin Trudeau has made it clear that he's working for the middle class. Ed Broadbent writes that Trudeau should be working much harder to raise the prospects of the poor:

There was a time when reformers looked elsewhere. They said the real test for a progressive government is how it treats the poor. Winning an election by appeals to the middle class is one thing. But continuing with that emphasis while almost five million Canadians are in poverty is a betrayal of the democratic goal of equality. It’s a particular betrayal of poor Canadian children who have been promised equality of opportunity.

 It was Broadbent who, in 1989, championed a resolution to reduce child poverty:

Back in 1989, three federal parties worked together to propose and pass a motion that I, as the leader of the federal NDP, moved to eliminate child poverty within a decade. We all thought that, with the right mix of policies at both the federal and provincial levels, this timeline was possible.

But, since then, the rate of child poverty has gone up -- from 15.8 per cent to 17.4 per cent. Now is the time to change that trajectory:

The government now has a chance to change directions. It is due to announce a Canadian poverty-reduction strategy within weeks. We should demand a pan-Canadian strategy to address the needs of the millions of Canadians living in poverty. And, unlike what happened in 1989, this should include specific benchmarks and timelines for child poverty so that subsequent governments can be held accountable. There should be an annual report to Parliament on its implementation.
The elements of a national strategy are clear. The attack on poverty, and eradication of child poverty specifically, must include concrete action on affordable housing, pharmacare, child care, tax reform, the minimum wage and precarious work.

The Scandinavian countries have done it. And we can, too. The true measure of a just society is how well we treat the so called least among us.

Image: Castanet

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

An Unreliable Partner




Margaret MacMillan -- one of our finest minds -- writes in today's Guardian that Canadians are bewildered: "Bewilderment. Fear. Anger. Hurt. Canadians today are struggling to understand what Donald Trump has just done to us."

Canadians and Americans, MacMillan writes, are cousins:

Canadians see the Americans as cousins. We love the same sports: Canadians are crazy about baseball and basketball, and our beloved game of hockey is played all over the US. For generations, Canadians have moved south in search of jobs, education and fame. A large part of Canada heads for Florida, California and Hawaii in the winter to get away from the snow. When the US endures disasters we sympathize. In the immediate aftermath of 9/11 Canadians opened their airfields and homes to the thousands of American planes and travellers who were stranded here. (In what seems to have been a vain attempt to win over the Trumps, Justin Trudeau took Ivanka and Jared to a cheery, feelgood musical about what happened when a plane bound for New York found itself in a remote Newfoundland village.)

But none of that matters to Donald Trump:

In the past few months increasingly testy growls have been emanating from the White House. Canada has a huge trade surplus with the US. (No matter that it doesn’t.) Canada cheats. Canada is a security threat which is why the US has to put tariffs in Canadian steel and aluminium. The Canadian government has politely disagreed. And Trudeau, in his now notorious press conference as Air Force One was heading to Singapore, repeated what he had already said: it is insulting to impose what are probably illegal tariffs on specious grounds.
It is Trump’s reaction that should have us all extremely worried – Americans included. Their country is very powerful but power does not last for ever and the US is facing challenges, from China in particular. The US needs friends and partners. So when Trump calls the chief minister of one of his country’s most reliable friends “very dishonest and weak” he is clearly not putting the interests of the United States first. His sorry advisers have piled in, so eager to please the boss that they don’t care what further damage they do. Peter Navarro, the self-proclaimed expert on China who doesn’t speak much Chinese, talks about a stab in the back. (Where have we heard that one before?) Larry Kudlow – the economist with the record of wrong predictions and the one who used to oppose Trump’s tariffs – exclaims that disagreeing with Trump on the eve of the summit with Kim Jong-un is undermining. “Kim must not see American weakness.” So that is now the role of American allies – to shower praise on the Great Leader just as his cabinet did in that shameful televised meeting last June.

Kudlow -- who is so dense about so much -- let the cat out of the bag. To score points with Kim, Trump plans to make an example of Canada, even if that example is contrary to the facts. Canadians have been schooled. Like all the contractors and workers Trump stiffed over the years, they've learned that Trump and his country are unreliable partners. There are other places to sell our wares; and there are other countries to buy from. And the next time the Americans need Canadian airports to land their planes, they can call on Vladimir Putin to help them out.

Image: Trump's Reliability

Monday, June 11, 2018

A Meeting Of Morons


Tonda McCharles has a must read article in today's Toronto Star. It details what went on behind the scenes at  this weekend's G7 summit. That picture leaked by Angela Merkel's office seems to be a pretty accurate depiction of what happened. And what happened, Paul Krugman writes, was a "debacle:"

There has never been a disaster like the G7 meeting that just took place. It could herald the beginning of a trade war, maybe even the collapse of the Western alliance. At the very least it will damage America’s reputation as a reliable ally for decades to come; even if Trump eventually departs the scene in disgrace, the fact that someone like him could come to power in the first place will always be in the back of everyone’s mind.
Trump demanded that the other G7 members remove their “ridiculous and unacceptable” tariffs on U.S. goods – which would be hard for them to do, because their actual tariff rates are very low. The European Union, for example, levies an average tariff of only three percent on US goods. Who says so? The U.S. government’s own guide to exporters.
True, there are some particular sectors where each country imposes special barriers to trade. Yes, Canada imposes high tariffs on certain dairy products. But it’s hard to make the case that these special cases are any worse than, say, the 25 percent tariff the U.S. still imposes on light trucks. The overall picture is that all of the G7 members have very open markets.
So what on earth was Trump even talking about? His trade advisers have repeatedly claimed that value-added taxes, which play an important role in many countries, are a form of unfair trade protection. But this is sheer ignorance: VATs don’t convey any competitive advantage – they’re just a way of implementing a sales tax — which is why they’re legal under the WTO. And the rest of the world isn’t going to change its whole fiscal system because the U.S. president chooses to listen to advisers who don’t understand anything.

Larry Kudlow is a case in point. If you check him out on Wikipedia you'll discover that he got a B.A. from the University of Rochester, where he was a Democrat and a member of SDS -- Students for a Democratic Society. Somewhere along the line, he became a Republican. This was after he went to Princeton to get a Masters degree in Politics and Economics. But he dropped out, never to return. That history has not stopped him from posing as an economic guru.

Trump has fired the people he insisted were "the best people." He is now a dolt surrounded by dolts. It's no meeting of minds. It's a meeting of morons.

Image: The Guardian

Sunday, June 10, 2018

Short-Termism


Susan Delacourt writes that Ontario's election highlights how short voters' attention spans have become. After all, ghosts haunted each of the party leaders:

The ironic part of the past Ontario campaign, as several commentators pointed out, is that all the leaders were contending with ghosts: Kathleen Wynne with the memory of her predecessor, Dalton McGuinty; NDP Leader Andrea Horwath with the old Bob Rae government; and Doug Ford, the new premier-to-be, with memories of the old Mike Harris Conservative years at Queen’s Park.
Attacks along these lines presumed a lot about the long-term memory of voters in the era of short-termism. When last week is a distant memory, who votes based on what happened a couple of decades ago in Ontario?

In years past, those ghosts could have sunk any one of the three leaders. But, in the fifteen years the Liberals assumed in power, many things have changed:

Consider this: the last time that a non-Liberal government was in charge at Queen’s Park, there was no such thing as Facebook (launched in 2004); YouTube (2005); Twitter (2006) or even, yes, iPhones, first unveiled by Steve Jobs in 2007.
In the fall of 2003, when Liberals first took power in Ontario, Stephen Harper hadn’t yet united the right-wing federal parties in Canada and Donald Trump, a New York real-estate magnate, was still months away from the debut of a reality-TV show called The Apprentice.

Trump, in particular, knows how to play on the public's short memory:

In just under 600 days in office, Trump has brazened on through multiple, major scandals and controversy; any one of which might have toppled a predecessor.
Trump gambles, often correctly, that no one will remember what he said previously, so he doesn’t bother much with explanations about when he changes his mind or states the opposite position later.
It’s called populism, as Trump practises it, but it often hinges on a dim view of the populace — particularly with regard to the public attention span. The better description for this brand of politics might be “short-termism.”

Short-termism puts an end to history. And, as George Santayana noted, those who refuse to learn from history are doomed to repeat it.

Image: Redbubble

Saturday, June 09, 2018

Things Could Not Have Worked Out Better


Donald Trump is in Quebec this morning, working hard to tear the Western Alliance apart. Jonathan Chait writes:

Western trade partners have attempted to reason with Trump’s demands, but the problem is that the basis for his beliefs and actions is entirely fantastical. If your neighbor is irate that you let your dog run loose in his yard, you can pacify him. If he’s irate that you are reading his thoughts through his tinfoil hat, there’s nothing you can do except disengage. And that is what they are doing. French president Emmanuel Macron threatened to sign a six-country agreement omitting the U.S. altogether. Canadian prime Minister Justin Trudeau vowed “to defend our industries and our workers” and “show the U.S. president that his unacceptable actions are hurting his own citizens.”
But trade is merely a symptom of a larger rearrangement of American alienation from its partners. The West has attempted to prevail upon Trump to retain, in some form, a series of agreements he inherited: the Trans-Pacific Partnership, the Paris climate agreement, and the Iran nuclear deal. In every instance the negotiations foundered on Trump’s allergy to compromise and immunity to reason. You can’t negotiate a climate plan with a person who considers climate science a Chinese hoax any more than you can negotiate a trade deal with somebody who believes Canada must be punished for the War of 1812.

Trump has poisoned his relationship with each of the Western leaders:

One by one, Trump’s personal relationship with the leader of each major U.S. ally has been fatally poisoned. Angela Merkel, whom Trump had repeatedly taunted and likened to Hillary Clinton during his campaign, was the first major leader to give up on Trump. “It’s difficult to overstate just how enraged Germany is about Trump,” reports Matthew Karnitschnig. Trump’s allies tell one British newspaper he “has grown frustrated with Theresa May’s ‘school mistress’ tone.” (May publicly corrected Trump’s circulation of fake videos blaming Muslims for violence.) Trump “has griped periodically both about German Chancellor Angela Merkel — largely because they disagree on many issues and have had an uneasy rapport — as well as British Prime Minister Theresa May, whom he sees as too politically correct,” his advisers tell the Washington Post.
Macron, who has bent over backwards to flatter and placate Trump, has found his efforts unrewarded. A recent phone call between the two was “terrible,” a source tells CNN. “Macron thought he would be able to speak his mind, based on the relationship. But Trump can’t handle being criticized like that.”

Things could not have worked out better for Vladimir Putin.

Image:  New York Magazine


Friday, June 08, 2018

Dark Nights -- And Days -- Ahead


It was a dark night. You could see it coming. But that didn't make digesting the outcome any easier. H.L. Mencken didn't have any respect for the folks Doug Ford calls "the people." Mencken called them "the booboisee." Last night, the people elected a card carrying member of the booboisee. There will be consequences. Michael Harris writes:

Ford’s campaign has been a well-oiled hot mess, despite the machinations on Facebook of the right-wing activist group Ontario Proud. From being on the receiving end of complaints of violating Ontario’s campaign finance rules to appointing candidates rather than holding contested nominations, Ford has shown himself to have all the instincts of his deceased brother — and a few of Donald Trump’s.
Ford also made wild promises to wipe out Ontario’s deficit coupled with enormous tax cuts. How do you pay down the deficit with less revenue? How do you pay for the tax cuts themselves, unless by the tried and true way of cutting services?
Ford’s costings for his promises are about as reliable as a five-year-old’s first go at an abacus.

We've handed the car keys over to a child, who will undoubtedly cause chaos on the province's highways.

Anger is what fuelled Ford's SUV. And when anger pummels reason, we court disaster.

Image: Global News

Thursday, June 07, 2018

Spoiling For A Fight


Donald is coming to Canada, and he's spoiling for a fight. Julian Borger and Ashita Kassam write in The Guardian:

This year’s conclave, opening on Friday, is being referred to as the G6 plus one, or the G7 minus one. It promises to be a showdown between the US president and everyone else.
Usually by this point the sherpas, diplomats who prepare for the summit, are working on the punctuation in the final communique. This time no one knows whether there is enough common language to put together any kind of joint statement by the meeting’s end on Saturday.

Trump sows chaos wherever he goes. And, by the time he leaves the summit, he will have sown more chaos:

On Wednesday, Trudeau said he was preparing for heated exchanges at the summit. “We know there will certainly be frank and at times difficult conversations around the G7 table,” he told reporters. “Particularly with the American president on trade, on tariffs.”
The last serious discord among the G7 was over George W Bush’s invasion of Iraq. But the rift this time is sharper and broader. Even the UK is not siding with Washington. Trump is challenging the norms of western cohesion and rules-based trade that have been in place since the aftermath of the second world war.

Trump is challenging the world order. He wants a new one. And, like the many buildings he claims he owns, he wants his name on it. Justin Trudeau is about to be severely tested.

He might take a lesson from his father -- who would probably bring his slingshot.

Image: Quora


Wednesday, June 06, 2018

And Thereby Hangs A Tale


Robert Kennedy died fifty years ago today. It seems so long ago. 1968 was a tumultuous year in the United States. Two months before Kennedy's death, Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated. Two months after his death, the streets of Chicago erupted in revolution.

At home in Montreal, I listened to Pierre Elliott Trudeau say things like:

Perhaps the rediscovery of our humanity, and the potential of the human spirit which we have read about in legends of older civilizations, or in accounts of solitary mystics, or in tales of science fiction writers - perhaps this will constitute the true revolution of the future. The new frontier lies not beyond the planets but within each one of us.

In the United States, Bobby Kennedy was quoting George Bernard Shaw:

Some men see things as they are and say, "Why?"
I dream things that never were and say, "Why not?"

The revolution fizzled and the counter revolution has taken hold. Donald Trump is president. And, on Friday morning, Doug Ford may be premier of Ontario.

And thereby hangs a tale.

Image: Baby Boomer Stories


Tuesday, June 05, 2018

One Big, Happy Family


The Ontario election took yet another weird turn yesterday, when Renata Ford -- Rob Ford's widow -- sued her two brothers-in-laws for 16.5 million dollars. Kevin Donovan writes in The Toronto Star:

The widow and children of former Toronto mayor Rob Ford are suing his brother Doug Ford, alleging he has deprived them of millions of dollars, including shares in the family business and a life insurance policy left behind to support his family.
In a $16.5-million lawsuit filed Friday in Superior Court, Renata Ford also alleges that former brother-in-law Doug Ford is a “negligent” business manager whose decisions have led to a steady decrease in the value of the Ford company, Deco Labels. Despite setting his sights on a political career, Doug has continued to receive “extravagant compensation,” even though Deco is losing money, Renata claims in her court filings.

Renata Ford alleges that:

when Rob died, she was left with Rob’s shares in Deco. Renata said soon after, brother Doug approached her and suggested they settle the estate without involving lawyers.
“Let’s get rid of the lawyers and settle this on our own,” Renata quotes Doug in her statement of claim. “They will only steal your money. You’re going to lose everything in your savings.”
Renata states in her court filing that she did not follow Doug’s suggestions, nor did she agree to his suggestion that she sell her late husband’s shares to Doug. She says she tried many times to get an accounting of Rob’s estate, but she remains in the dark.
[She claims] that she recently learned that Doug sold Randy Rob’s shares in Deco for a nominal cost of $1. She said she was then provided (the suit does not say who provided it) with a “third party valuation” of the shares and was told they had a “fair market value of zero.”
[She also claims] that when their father ran it, the company was extremely successful, with a market value of $10 million and an “investment portfolio” between $15 million and $20 million.
She alleges that the company has steadily lost value under Doug and Randy, who have been the top officers and directors of Deco since their father died.
“They have so negligently and improperly mismanaged (the business affairs of Deco) as to destroy their value,” she alleges.
According to the statement of claim, financial statements of Deco show Deco Toronto has experienced total losses of about $5 million between 2010 and 2017. Prior to Doug and Randy taking over it was profitable, she said.

Doug's claim to fame is that he knows how to carefully shepherd an economy -- and that, under his leadership, Ontarians will be one big, happy family.

Wanna bet?

Image: Carlos Osorio/Toronto Star

Monday, June 04, 2018

The Ghost Of King George


Michael Harris writes that the ghost of King George III stalks the White House. Soon he will float into Quebec:

King George III is in the Oval Office and he’s not playing cards. You know, Old Georgie? The mad 18th century British monarch famous for his blue urine and losing America on his watch.
Trump’s latest insanity is to put a ruinous tariff on steel and aluminum imports — 25 percent on steel and 10 per cent on aluminum. And not just on anyone, but on Canada, Mexico and the European Union. America’s friends, allies and key trading partners — countries Ronald Reagan used to call “kin.”
Next up? The Chinese.

Economist Paul Krugman called Trump the "Siberian Candidate." Economist Jeffrey Sachs writes that "Trump may be a “Manchurian Candidate” who is waging a 'psychopath’s trade war' with his closest allies to destroy the U.S."

The renowned Columbia University professor essentially accused Trump of exhibiting the kind of erratic behaviour that usually calls for serious quiet time and counselling.
It is said of King George III that he talked incessantly until he foamed at the mouth. So far, Trump just speaks out of both sides of his mouth, in a language few English speakers are familiar with. Some days, it sounds a lot like mania.

So, when what is now being called The G6 Plus One meet in La Mabaie, the leaders who Trump just gut punched will have to decide what to do with him. That will not be an easy task. After all, under Trump, the world is in chaos:

Foreign companies sanctioned one day, embraced the next, traduced the day after that.
Trade wars announced, called off, possibly back on again, and finally imposed — but for who knows how long.
Summits with dictators agreed to, cancelled, revisited, and re-announced.

And, whatever rules have been agreed to, he tears up.

Frankly, I wouldn't be surprised if Trump begs off coming to the meeting, claiming he has more important things to do -- like preparing for his meeting with Kim Jung Un. But, if he does put in an appearance, it will be interesting to see what happens.

Image: The New Statesman


Sunday, June 03, 2018

Now, That Was Unexpected


Yesterday, Kathleen Wynne dropped a bombshell. She announced that she knew her party could not win the election; and she asked Ontario voters to give her party a place in a coalition government. Things are looking grim for the Liberals. Some projections have the party winning as few as two seats. They have to win at least eight to retain official status in the legislature.

It's really hard to decipher how things will turn out -- mainly because Ontario's ridings have been redrawn. Robert Drummond writes that there are several possible scenarios:

It’s clear the Liberals can’t recover enough to win a majority of the legislature’s seats, and given the concentration of the NDP vote in particular areas, it would also be surprising as well if the New Democrats won a majority. (Of course, we were surprised in 1990 when the NDP captured a solid majority with under 39 per cent of the popular vote.) If there is a majority government, it seems most likely it will be Conservative.
The possibilities for minority government are much more numerous. Suppose the PCs win a plurality of seats, but not a majority. They would then have a legitimate claim that Ontario’s lieutenant governor should invite Ford to form a government.
Wynne will still be premier until a new government is sworn in. If her party was to make a late surge and hold on to some of its seats, she could ask that the legislature be called into session and could attempt to make an agreement with the NDP (or less likely, the PCs) to hold onto office.
If she winds up in third place in terms of seats however, her claim to continued power would be significantly weaker. The closest (though not perfect) analogy is found after the election of 1985 when the PCs, having lost a majority, asked for the legislature’s confidence in the hopes of continuing to govern.
They had managed minority governments from 1975 to 1981, and might have hoped to do so again. However, David Peterson’s Liberals and Bob Rae’s NDP agreed to withhold confidence from the PC government.
They settled on an accord by which the NDP would agree not to cast non-confidence votes against the Liberal government, headed by Peterson, for two years in return for the Liberals’ agreeing to pursue an agenda on which the two parties could agree.

The problem is that the Dippers remember how that agreement ended. Mr. Peterson called an election, the Dippers were cast aside, and got no credit for the policies they helped shepherd through the legislature.

With that history in mind, "NDP Leader Andrea Horwath has expressly ruled out a coalition with the Liberals, though that position makes sense if you think you can get a majority, but less sense if it means Ford would consequently become premier."

Politics makes strange bedfellows. Stay tuned.

Image: 680 News

Saturday, June 02, 2018

The Uglist American Of All


Russian Roulette is title of a best selling book about Donald Trump by David Corn and Michael Isikoff. Former American Ambassador Bruce Heyman writes that Trump is playing the same game with Canada. Heyman puts the relationship between Canada and the United States into perspective:

With a border of 5,525 miles, the US and Canada share the world’s longest unmilitarized border and also boast the largest balanced bilateral trade relationship; Canada-US annual trade exceeds $630bn in goods and services. Thirty-five US states have Canada as their largest export market and most of the remaining have it as their number two. Canadian soldiers have sacrificed their lives right next to American soldiers in Afghanistan, the Persian Gulf, Kosovo, Korea, and both world wars. After September 11, the people of Gander, Newfoundland, opened their homes to thousands of travelers stranded when we closed US airspace. This heart-warming story is told in, Come From Away, the hit Broadway show. We jointly protect North America through Norad and together protect Europe through Nato. Canada is our neighbor and friend, and our relationship demonstrates how diplomatic and economic friendship provides strong geopolitical stability.

A president who understood that relationship would not do what Trump is doing -- even for reasons of self preservation. It's clear that Trump glories in making enemies, while failing to understand that he is his own worst enemy:

There isn’t a relationship in the world more important to the United States than Canada, but Washington’s recent behavior is cause for alarm.
Trump has persistently tested this friendship over the past year and a half. The trouble started when we withdrew from  and signaled to Canada that the administration was willing not only to sacrifice our commitments but also our environmental future for empty political points.
Our bilateral relationship has been further strained by the travel bans, the Daca decision (over which a dangerous and cruel wave of uncertainty still looms), and the erratic behavior of customs agents. Our reckless approach to immigration has caused a number of refugees to flee the United States to Canada, putting a strain on their resources from coast to coast, but especially in Quebec.

Everything he has done since displays Trump's profound ignorance. He blames Canada and Mexico for the loss of American jobs, but he's too thick to analyze the real cause of that job loss:

The president is prioritizing political tactics over economic strategy, threatening our friendship and potentially millions of American jobs just because he won’t do the hard work that the office of the presidency requires. The administration is using Nafta as a scapegoat for the real problem of jobs lost through technological advancements.

Put simply, the president is intellectually lazy and consequently stupid. Those two characteristics define The Ugly American. Trump is the Ugliest American Of Them All.

Image: Democratic Underground


Friday, June 01, 2018

That's It, Donald!


Both Emmanuel Macron and Justin Trudeau have tried hard to establish a personal relationship with Donald Trump, their theory being that flattery would open Donald's brain. But both men have learned that Donald doesn't have an open brain. All he has is an ego that looks after his own needs.Trump shook each man's hand and showed him to the exit. Macron and Trudeau now know that they cannot deal with Trump. Rick Noack writes in the Washington Post:

Both Macron and Trudeau voiced especially harsh criticism of Trump on Thursday, even though other leaders who have been more at odds with Trump remained somewhat less vocal. Both German Chancellor Angela Merkel and British Prime Minister Theresa May sent their spokespeople to condemn the tariffs, rather than make a personal statement.
Meanwhile, Macron ominously warned that “economic nationalism leads to war. This is exactly what happened in the 1930s.” His World War II reference could hardly have been less veiled. Trudeau similarly referred to dark times of history in his response, saying: “These tariffs are an affront to the long-standing security partnership between Canada and the United States, and in particular, to the thousands of Canadians who have fought and died alongside American comrades-in-arms.”

Nothing they said penetrated Trump's skull. As Edith Bunker once said while gazing at Archie's pate, "Grass don't grow through concrete." Others in Europe have had no illusions about Trump. European Council President Donald Tusk has always had Trump's number:

At a summit in mid-May, European Council President Donald Tusk. . . lashed out at Trump over his policies regarding Iran, Gaza, trade tariffs and North Korea.
“Looking at the latest decisions of Donald Trump, someone could even think: With friends like that, who needs enemies?” Tusk said. “But, frankly speaking, Europe should be grateful by President Trump. Because, thanks to him, we got rid of all the illusions. He has made us realize that if you need a helping hand, you will find one at the end of your arm.”

It's true that Europe and Canada need the United States. But they don't need Trump. Justin seems to have concluded that dealing with Trump is a dead end:

At least Trudeau already appears to be preparing for a time after him. “This is not about the American people,” he wrote on Twitter Thursday. “We have to believe that at some point their common sense will prevail. But we see no sign of that in this action today by the US administration.”

After Robert Mueller completes his task, perhaps Americans will to come to the same conclusion.

Image: The Hill


Thursday, May 31, 2018

NAFTA On the Rocks


During the past year, NAFTA has been encountering ill winds and rough seas. The ill winds come from the Blow Hard-in-Chief. Peter Clark writes:

The Prime Minister has used his personal relationship with Trump to avoid crises. Now Canada is deemed “spoiled” and “difficult”. Trudeau is doing what a responsible leader needs to do when faced with madman tactics and threats to Canada and Canadians by trying to defuse the threat. But his neighbour will not talk to him.

The man who claims he knows all there is to know about the art of the deal has proved to be a deal breaker, not a deal maker.

Chrystia Freeland has shuttled back and forth between Washington and Ottawa. She has had a thankless task:

I don’t envy Freeland.  Imagine negotiating with a four-year-old, with the power and leverage of the President of the United States. Add to that a counterpart in Lighthizer who is impossible to satisfy.  Freeland and Lighthizer talked face to face for two hours Tuesday, but neither was all that interested in listening.
Bashing Mexico and NAFTA worked well for Trump in the primaries and his election. It’s a safe bet that he will keep to his whipping-boy strategy for the mid-terms and tie Canada to the post as well.

Canada has worked hard to garner support from state governors and individual members of Congress. But it's clear Trump doesn't listen to any of those folks. Television is the source of Trump's information. Briefing notes be damned.

NAFTA may well be damned. The winds and seas could get a lot rougher.

Image: Alternet




Wednesday, May 30, 2018

They Got Snookered


For years to come, the Liberal government's purchase of Kinder-Morgan will be used in business schools to illustrate deeply flawed decision making. What the Liberals did yesterday was simply bad business. Andrew Nikiforuk writes:

Let’s parse the fantastic numbers, because they will affect all of us.
The $4.5-billion purchase price only buys a leaking 65-year-old pipeline, an aging tanker farm not built to withstand earthquakes, and a port facility as well as engineering plans and permits for the twinning of a high-risk expansion project.
In 2007, Kinder Morgan reported to the National Energy Board that it valued the Trans Mountain pipeline system at $550 million.
Let’s repeat that fact: the federal government will pay $4.5 billion for an old and compromised tanker and pipeline system that the company valued at $550 million in 2007.

That $4.5 billion could have been spent more wisely -- much more wisely:

Alberta’s tarry bitumen, which will always sell at a discount due to its poor quality, can’t move through a pipeline without being diluted with costly imported light oils or fracked natural gas liquids from B.C. or the United States.
It takes a third of a barrel of imported light oil to move one barrel of bitumen through a pipeline.
The more raw bitumen Alberta mines, the more pipelines it needs and the more diluent it must import to move that raw bitumen.
Alberta now produces about 2.3 million barrels of raw bitumen a day but only 40 per cent is actually upgraded or refined into easily pipeable products such as synthetic crude, gasoline or jet fuel.
If the federal government took just $9 billion from its proposed $20-billion bailout for Kinder Morgan, it could fund three partial upgraders in Alberta capable of upgrading 300,000 barrels of bitumen a day.

And, then there is the cost of twinning the pipeline, and insuring against spills. In the end, economist Robyn Allan estimates that the total cost of purchasing Kinder-Morgan will be between $15 billion and $20 billion.

That's simply bad business. Trudeau and Co. got snookered.

Image: Funny For

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Nothing To Do With Families


The Republican Party used to style itself as the party of family values. It has now officially adopted a policy of breaking up families. Richard Wolff writes:

Earlier this month, the Department of Homeland Security adopted a new policy to start criminal prosecutions of parents crossing the border illegally, and to place their children in protective custody. It wasn’t enough to deport undocumented people. Now the Trump administration would actively break up their families.
This is not just an inhuman policy that violates any meaning of the words “family values”. It’s also recklessly incompetent about children’s safety, since the federal government has lost track of almost 1,500 of children in its supposed custody. For the American Civil Liberties Union, it’s unconstitutional because it denies migrant families due process.

What's the justification for the policy? All of those illegal immigrants, Mr. Trump says, are criminals:

We all know what kind of criminals Donald Trump has in mind when he talks about undocumented people: the tiny sliver who form part of the brutal MS-13 gang. 
For Trump, there is a vast army of MS-13 murderers out there, a force that rivals our own military in size. Otherwise it’s hard to understand the numbers he cited at the top of his infamous discussion about California’s so-called sanctuary laws earlier this month.
“California’s law provides safe harbor to some of the most vicious and violent offenders on Earth, like MS-13 gang members, putting innocent men, women and children at the mercy of these sadistic criminals,” he said. “But we’re moving them out of this country by the thousands. MS-13, we’re grabbing them by the thousands and we’re getting them out.”
By the thousands. Thousands and thousands of gang members getting deported, meaning the gang represents, what, hundreds of thousands of people? The FBI estimated the gang’s numbers between 6,000 and 10,000 in the US.
“We have people coming into the country, or trying to come in – and we’re stopping a lot of them – but we’re taking people of the country. You wouldn’t believe how bad these people are. These aren’t people. These are animals.” Trump says.

And what is Ivanka Trump doing? She says she's a “wife, mother, sister, daughter.” But being a daughter comes first. Being a wife and mother doesn't -- because she wants to be president one day:

According to Michael Wolff, Ivanka believes she will be the first woman president. Such delusions are not just a personal affliction apparently: her own mother thinks she’ll run for president in 15 years or so. She might start laying the groundwork by blocking her own father’s policies separating children from their parents.

 But her values are her father's values -- and they have nothing to do with families.

Image: Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images


Monday, May 28, 2018

The Third Round


Yesterday, Ontarians watched the third and final debate. It was the best of the three encounters. Martin Regg Cohn's observations are pretty accurate:

First, despite the attempts by both the Tories and Liberals to paint the NDP as dangerously radical, Horwath held her own. She not only gave no ground, she gave up precious little air time to Ford and Wynne any time they attacked — interrupting, denying or making her point by laughing out loud.
Second, Ford often looked and sounded ill at ease at times. He seemed short of breath during his opening statement, reverted to frozen smiles under attack, and lapsed into verbal clumsiness at times. But for all the anticipation that he would implode on live TV, he committed no blunders and never lost his cool despite coming under attack from both sides.
Third, Wynne made no breakthroughs in a debate where she needed a miracle to recover lost ground. She had an easier time of it, as the other two leaders went at each other. But she may have made some progress in re-introducing herself to voters who have given up on her these last few years.

Frankly, I thought that Wynne did a pretty good job of defending her record. I suspect that -- in ten years -- that record will look pretty good. But it's clear that her time has passed and the real battle is between Horvath and Ford.

Horvath was not intimidated by Ford, who was simply over the top:

Ford kept proclaiming “My friends” with evangelistic ardour as he looked into the camera and promised “a new day will dawn” when “the people” have their say. And, he warned, “God forbid the NDP takes power,” for the province will “be 10 times worse under the NDP” — a phrase he repeated perhaps 10 times.

Ford is -- politically, at least -- a simpleton who is out of his depth. But, if the present seat projections are correct, he could win a majority by a couple of seats. Which puts Mike Shriner, the leader of the Green Party of Ontario, into the mix. He was not on the stage last night. But he seems to be polling pretty well in Guelph, where he is running. If the count is close, Shriner could be the queen maker.

Stay tuned.

Image: Frank Gunn/The Canadian Press

Sunday, May 27, 2018

Richard Goodwin


Richard Goodwin died last week. I got to know who he was fifty years ago because I admired Robert Kennedy's eloquence. It was then I discovered that Dick Goodwin was the source of that eloquence. He came from a working class Jewish family, He was a brilliant student, went to Harvard Law, but never practised.

Instead, he went to work for John F. Kennedy and then for his brother Bobby. It was Goodwin who wrote one of the younger Kennedy's most famous speeches. Along with Adam Walinsky, he crafted Kennedy's Day of Affirmation Speech, delivered in South Africa, in 1966:

Each time a man stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope, and crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring those ripples build a current which can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance.”

That same sentiment was behind Lyndon Johnson's speech after the passage of the Voting Rights Act:

“It's not just Negroes, but really it's all of us, who must overcome the crippling legacy of bigotry and injustice. And we shall overcome.”

Jeff Greenfield writes in The Daily Beast:

In his 2014 introduction to the e-book version of Remembering America, Goodwin wrote that “the memory of the Sixties remains fresh in my mind This is not simply the nostalgia of a man in his eighties. The decade of the Sixties was one of those special moments in our history, when important public issues animated our citizens, when large achievement seemed a realistic possibility; and when the American faith was charged with a determination equal to the needs and the promise of the nation.”
This is, of course, a romantic version of that time, one that is rejected and even scorned by a significant segment of the American populace. And Dick’s words have an almost quaint ring in our current political climate. But it’s worth remembering that when Dick Goodwin and his colleagues entered the White House in 1961, no black or woman or Italian had ever sat on the Supreme Court; no African-American had ever been a member of the Cabinet, or led a Fortune 500 company; that from Capitol Hill to Wall Street to the powerhouse law firms and ad agencies, to the executive offices of newspapers, magazines, and broadcasting, your skin color, religion, gender, and family background imposed sharp limits on what you could do and what you could be. Goodwin was part of a movement that changed that bleak reality for good.

Goodwin was a master of the English language. And he was an idealist. Something to remember when you listen to the illiterate who presently resides at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

A brief note: If you have sent comments to the last couple of blogposts, I'm not ignoring them. They simply aren't coming through. Let's hope Blogger fixes the problem soon.

Image: bostonglobe.com


Saturday, May 26, 2018

Boycotting The Schools


There's a new head at the NRA. Actually, it's an old head and it's made of wood. Lawrence Martin writes:

You might remember this lardhead from the 1980s when he almost brought down the Reagan administration over the illicit sale of arms to rebels in Nicaragua. A vanity-ridden zealot who somehow managed to avoid drowning in his own self-righteousness, Mr. North went on to be a Fox News commentator.
Now as America’s No. 1 firearms promoter, he maintains that it’s not guns but the woeful culture of violence that is responsible for mass shootings. This hasn’t stopped him from being a paid pitchman for the violent video game Call of Duty. Nor has he explained why other advanced countries with similar youth cultures don’t have mass shootings.
Like Charlton Heston, his view is that 300 million guns in America are barely enough. Donald Trump doesn’t object. He’s become an NRA lackey.

With Trump in the White House, marches on Washington won't be enough to break the NRA's grip on Congress. But Arne Duncan, Barack Obama's former Secretary of Education, has an idea -- boycott the schools:

Having spent most of his lifetime trying to get youth in school, Mr. Duncan will now devote his efforts to keeping them out. It’s a long-shot bid but worth a try. September is the targeted month. Gun devotees on the political right of course will be up in arms. They’re already running down Mr. Duncan. One rightie scribe went after him because his kids go to an elite school. How dare therefore that he participate in the debate?

But think for a minute:

Beyond the right’s rage, a school boycott, parent-driven, student-driven or both, would be a logistical nightmare. There are 50 million precollege students in the United States. Schools in rural districts likely wouldn’t take part. There would be practical problems such as working parents not being at home to mind their kids during the day.
Of course not all schools would have to take part for a boycott to be impactful. A goodly number in concentrated areas would do. You could imagine how the pressure would intensify for lawmakers to do something. Thus far, Congress has been pathetically idle. Not even a promise to do something about bump stocks, devices that make firearms fully automatic, has been fulfilled.
September would be a good time for the boycott because the midterm elections are two months later. Most Democrats would support the boycott. Most Republicans would not. The gun issue could become pivotal in the campaign.

Boycotts raise lots of potential problems. But, if they occur at the right time, they can change societies. The Montgomery Bus Boycott put an end to Jim  Crow. And the boycott of South Africa took Nelson Mandela from prison to president.

The time is right.

Image: Famous Biographies

Friday, May 25, 2018

On The Rise


Andrea Horvath's political stock is on the rise. Tom Walkom writes:

A funny thing happened on the way to the June 7 election. The voters discovered in New Democratic Party leader Andrea Horwath another alternative to Wynne.
What’s more, to so-called progressive voters, Horwath seemed to offer the best of both worlds.
Her party’s platform, with its commitment to pharmacare, child care and denticare was similar to that of Wynne. But Horwath herself was not a member of the discredited governing party.
In effect, she offered voters Liberalism without the Liberals.

Ontarians are tired of the Liberals. Their numbers aren't moving anywhere. But, while Horvath's numbers are rising, Doug Ford's numbers are falling -- because he avoids talking costs:

His broad economic plans, such as they are, reflect the standard Conservative trinity of tax cuts, spending cuts and deregulation.
He has fleshed out his proposed tax moves, which include a 1.5 percentage point cut in the corporate tax rate, a marginal cut in the small business tax rate, a cut in the personal income tax rate for middle and upper income earners and a reduction in gasoline taxes. 
But he has not revealed how he plans to cut $5.6 billion in government spending without affecting jobs.

Ford is haunted by the ghost of Tim Hudak, who, the last time around, made a basic arithmetic error when projecting job growth. So Ford isn't talking job growth -- or job losses -- at all.

Having been conned once, Ontarians refuse to be conned again. And Ford knows it.

There are still two weeks to go. But Ontario may soon be the third province with an NDP government.

Image: The Ontario Federation Of Labour

Thursday, May 24, 2018

The Banana States of America


That's the phrase Dana Milbank uses to describe his country. It's not a dictatorship yet:

Right now the fear of the United States going totalitarian doesn’t feel quite right. This crowd is too clownish to be Stalinist. 

Be that as it may, there are all kinds of signs that the United States is no longer a democracy:

The president of the United States orders the Justice Department to investigate his political opponents. The Justice Department complies.
The president, The Washington Post reports, personally urged the postmaster general to double the rate it charges Amazon, apparently because he doesn’t like the coverage by The Post, owned by Amazon founder Jeffrey P. Bezos.
Trump settles a trade dispute with China on terms even his allies say are too favorable to the Chinese. Meanwhile, the Financial Times reports that a Chinese state-owned bank asked clients to pay $150,000 to attend a fundraiser with Trump.

The government seems to respond to the president's whims -- even as it passes very little legislation.  The whims, however, are deeply disturbing:

Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee observe May 17, the 64th anniversary of the Brown v. Board of Education decision banning segregated schools, by debating the judicial nomination of Wendy Vitter, who refused to say whether Brown was properly decided.
Donald Trump Jr., The New York Times reports, met three months before the election with a representative of wealthy princes from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates who wanted to help his father’s campaign.

One day Trump will be gone. But, by the time he departs, the Republic may be gone, too.

Image: Points In Case