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


Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Math Challenged


Over the weekend, it emerged that Ontario's NDP had made an error when costing the party's platform. Adam Radwanski writes:

As Ontarians were settling into their long weekends, perhaps discussing among themselves whether they should for once consider voting for an NDP government on June 7, news came of a very basic math error in the party’s platform – one that meant it had accidentally low-balled its deficit projections by $1.4-billion annually.

Doug Ford has been announcing all kinds of tax cuts. But he has refused to release a costed platform:

The Tories have been more quiet than one might expect of a party with a reputation for fiscal hawkishness. Possibly that has something to do with Mr. Ford declining to present a costed platform, nor even to detail a single cost-saving proposal while promising many billions of dollars in new expenditures and tax cuts. 

And  Kathleen Wynne is at odds with the auditor general, who claims the Liberals have significantly underestimated their projected deficit:

Enter Ms. Wynne’s Liberals, who have made a more concerted effort to highlight the NDP’s bad arithmetic. The governing party, now running third, is in a continuing battle with the province’s Auditor-General, who accuses it of low-balling deficit projections by about $5-billion. That may be more a dispute over accounting practices than a math mistake, but it makes for an easy NDP rebuttal when the Liberals go after them – as does a general sense that the Liberals have managed finances in recent years more to meet political imperatives than out of any great responsibility to the bottom line.

It would appear that all three parties are math challenged. The numbers are supposed to tell the story. But whose numbers do you believe?

Image: kidsarithmatic.com

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

It's Here


Because Donald Trump is who he is -- a man who operates on what Globe and Mail  columnist Lawrence Martin calls "a low information base" -- the United States is now facing a constitutional crisis. Eugene Robinson writes:

On Sunday, via Twitter, Trump demanded that the Justice Department concoct a transparently political investigation, with the aim of smearing veteran professionals at Justice and the FBI and also throwing mud at the previous administration. Trump’s only rational goal is casting doubt on the probe by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III, which appears to be closing in.
The pretext Trump seized on is the revelation that FBI source Stefan A. Halper made contact with three Trump campaign associates before the election as part of the FBI’s initial investigation into Russian meddling.
With the full-throated backing of right-wing media, Trump has described this person as a “spy” who was “implanted, for political purposes, into my campaign for president.” This claim is completely unsupported by the facts as we know them. Trump wants you to believe a lie.

As Robert Mueller closes in, Trump gets increasingly paranoid. The shadow of Richard Nixon looms large:

Now that the Mueller probe has bored into Trump’s inner circle — and federal authorities have raided the homes and office of his personal attorney, Michael Cohen — the president appears to be in a panic. The question is whether he sees this “spy” nonsense as a way to discredit Mueller’s eventual findings, or as a pretext for trying to end the investigation with a bloody purge akin to Richard Nixon’s “Saturday Night Massacre.”

The Justice Department has declared that the Inspector General will look into the matter. But Trump won't stop until he shuts down the Mueller inquiry -- or until the Congress shuts down Trump. In Nixon's day, there were Republicans who had backbones. These days, the Party is populated by invertebrates.

Trump's manufactured crisis is here -- and he may get away with it.

Image: Nicholas Kamm/Agence France Press/Getty Images

Monday, May 21, 2018

A Fact Full Election?



Last week, Bob Rae told a crowd of distinguished dignitaries, "Facts matter. Our politics needs to understand and respect this." Robin Sears wonders if Ontarians do understand this:

Like travelling medicine shows and revival preachers of old, their caravan booms noise and angry rhetoric but leaves little behind as it heads for the next town. A fact-free campaign of glaring contradiction can work for an established front runner with deep party roots and a following wind. That is not Doug Ford, nor this campaign. So far, he has promised nearly $30 billion in slashed taxes and expenditures – and, unacknowledged, thousands of job cuts as a result. Not even remotely clear is how this snake oil will work. Facts, apparently, do not matter.

It is, indeed, a strange election:

To some political veterans, 2018 feels like 1985 trending to 1990. For the ’85 campaign, the Tories made an unwise leadership selection to defend their 42-year governing record, opening the door to David Peterson and Rae. Then Peterson, spooked for no good reason other than his fear of a tanking economy, called an early election in 1990. Voters were not amused. As much as his own victory, Rae’s triumph was a rejection of the Tories and irritation with Peterson’s presumption.
Today, it appears the Tories would have won safely under either of the two women candidates they rejected in favour of vacuous populism. Having chosen the angry option, they have given credence to the Horwath taunt, “You don’t need to choose between bad and worse, there’s an alternative.” The NDP slate is the most gender-balanced but also the least experienced. Success outside the party’s areas of traditional strength will be almost entirely on Horwath’s coattails.
But leadership coat tails delivered all of the big election victories from Peterson through Rae, Harris and Wynne. The May 27 debate will be pivotal as grumpy voters, deciding what kind of change they really want, will get their last chance to see the leaders do battle. On the strength of the first two debates — one amateurish show in the first week and then the Northern debate — the Ford debate team should be working overtime.

And everything will hinge on turnout.

Image: City News Toronto

Sunday, May 20, 2018

Time For A Basic Income


It's time to implement Guaranteed Basic Income Programs. However, Gwynne Dyer writes, there  is surprising resistance to the idea. Conservatives argue that giving people free money is fraught with moral hazard. But the projections suggest that, in the future, large numbers of people will be unemployed:

The famous 2013 study by Carl Frey and Michael Osborne identified 47 per cent of U.S. jobs as liable to be automated in the next 20 years; a 2016 working paper from the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development suggested that 33 per cent of Canadian jobs are highly susceptible to automation; Nicholas Eberstadt’s 2016 book Men Without Work showed that 17.5 per cent of American men of prime working age are already not working.

Unemployed workers helped put Donald Trump in the White House:

Mr. Trump blamed it on free trade and the resultant “off-shoring” of many good American manufacturing jobs to Mexico, China and other low-wage countries: Nationalism always pays good political dividends. But the real job-killer was automation, and the Rust Belt suffered first and worst because it specialized in assembly-line jobs that could easily be automated even with the dumb computers and simple robotic arms of 20 years ago.
One-third of all surviving American manufacturing jobs were eliminated in the first decade of the 21st century, and less than 15 per cent of them went overseas. Automation killed the rest. If Mr. Trump understood that fact, he never mentioned it, but he did know how neglected the victims felt and how angry they were.
He also knew that the official unemployment figures lied, because they only counted people who were actively looking for jobs, not the much larger number who have just given up. “Don’t believe those phony numbers when you hear 4.9-per-cent and 5-per-cent unemployment,” Mr. Trump said in his victory speech after the New Hampshire primary in February, 2016. “The number’s probably 28, 29, as high as 35. In fact, I even heard recently 42 per cent.”
He was exaggerating as usual, but the real number is 17.5 per cent, which is two-thirds of the way to the peak U.S. unemployment rate in the Great Depression of the 1930s. If the current level of unemployment elected Donald Trump, what would twice that level produce?

If mass unemployment elected Trump, what will happen to liberal democracies when mass unemployment becomes standard operating procedure?

That's why it's time for a Guaranteed Basic Income.

Image: Vanier College

Saturday, May 19, 2018

Horvath May Be The Next Premier


Andrea Horvath is on a roll. Martin Regg Cohn writes:

This time, unlike last time, the New Democrats are putting forward voter-friendly policies such as partial pharmacare and cheaper child care. While their platform has echoes of the Liberal program — with the notable exception of an NDP promise of dental benefits for all — the pitch is backed by a far more popular salesperson.
Like the late federal NDP leader Jack Layton, Horwath is casting herself as a happy warrior pitching hope, not fear or anger. But the prerequisite for the NDP’s high hopes is that the Liberals be seen as having no hope, that instead of a three-way race it’s strictly a two-way contest pitting New Democrats against Tories — with the Liberals disqualified from the start.

The Ford campaign stands accused of buying the stolen identities harvested from a hack of the company which manages Highway 407, the private toll road the last Conservative government sold off to reduce the province's deficit. Apparently, the party was planning to pay international students to vote under the stolen identities.

Kathleen Wynne is running in third place. Nevertheless, Horwath has her problems:

After nine years as leader, she is comfortable with reporters and practiced at the role of opposition leader, but can be less forthcoming under questioning — whether it’s her vague child-care plan, an impossible promise to magically buy back Hydro One, or how she’d balance labour disputes against the public interest.
Horwath remains mindful of keeping her union base happy. On the eve of the campaign, the NDP blocked a Liberal government attempt to legislate an end to a two-month strike at York University, as recommended by an outside labour investigator who concluded it was hopelessly deadlocked and required arbitration.
Asked at a campaign event whether an NDP government would ever legislate the striking York teaching staff back to work, Horwath changes the subject to government funding. Asked again about how to resolve the labour dispute that affected 50,000 students, she still won’t say. Asked a third time, Horwath insists she has answered the question, though of course she hasn’t.

How it will all shake out is unclear. The campaign began with Doug Ford looking unbeatable. Now it's beginning to look like the premier might be a woman -- who leads either a majority or a minority government.

Stay tuned.

Image: FRANK GUNN / THE CANADIAN PRESS

Friday, May 18, 2018

From the Top On Down


Donald Trump's decision to move the American Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem was utterly cynical. Michael Harris writes:

When Trump departed from longstanding American policy by moving the American Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, he knew the consequences for Middle East peace — especially in the absence of an active peace process.
Trump knew that both Israel and Palestine saw Jerusalem as their national capital.
He knew the status of the city was supposed to be settled in final negotiations between the two parties.
He knew that having Christian evangelicals open and close the embassy ceremony would be provocative with Palestinians.

And one evangelical pastor, Robert Jeffress, was there to throw hand grenades:

Jeffress, a Baptist pastor from Texas, was on record saying that “the dark, dirty secret of Islam” is that “it is a religion that promotes pedophilia” and is “a heresy from the pit of hell.”
And this man is a spiritual advisor to the president.

The Israeli reaction to the Palestinian protests involved more than throwing one hand grenade:

60 human beings [were] gunned down in cold blood . .  a doctor [was] shot while tending to wounded civilians, and  2,800 people [were] hit by live fire or tear gassed by drones for protesting an illegal occupation.

And Trump's special envoy to the Middle East -- his clueless son-in-law -- said that moving the embassy was a step toward peace. It was no such thing. There is an election coming up in November, and Trump was playing to his base back home.

Like everything else  Donald Trump does, moving the American embassy was utterly cynical. It was a bloody reminder of the total rot that permeates the Trump administration -- from the top on down.

Image: Palestine Chronicle


Thursday, May 17, 2018

Undermen


Donald Trump has once again called undocumented immigrants "animals." Juan Cole writes that Trump's use of the word has uncomfortable echoes of Adoph Hitler's use of the term  untermensch or "underman:"

“Animal” functions similarly in this regard to the Nazi technical term “Untermensch” or underman, subhuman.
Richard A Etlin in Art, Culture, and Media under the Third Reich translates passages from the infamous SS pamphlet of 1941, entitled Der Untermensch:
“It is a frightening creature, a mere shadow of a man, with humanoid racial features, yet spiritually and psychologically more base than any animal. Within this being rages a vile chaos of wild, uncontrolled passions, a nameless desire for destruction, the most primitive desires, and naked vulgarity.”
The pamphlet goes on to be more specific about the identity of this horrible category of apparent human beings, who are actually animals or worse. It specifies eastern Slavs (Russians and Poles) and Jews, among others. Not even some members of those groups, but all of them. The pamphlet functioned as a call for and a justification for the genocide against the Jews, Gypsies, gays and other groups as well as the slaughter of Russian boys at the eastern Front.
That is, denigrating people as less than human is a step toward permitting their elimination.

It is, perhaps, too easy to use the Hitler analogy these days. But make no mistake. Like Hitler, Trump believes there are certain groups of people who are subhuman. Once there is growing public acceptance of  that notion, it is only a small step to making their elimination government policy.


Image: Exceptional Delaware wordpress.com

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Hell Hath No Fury


Lately, Stephen Harper has been showing his true colours -- he's a nasty conservative who is equal parts bully and bile. Andrew Cohen writes:

In February, he was elected chairman of the International Democratic Union (IDU), an organization of ”centre-right” parties. In April, he saluted the re-election of Prime Minister Viktor Orban of Hungary, the most authoritarian of them. This month, he applauded U.S. President Donald Trump’s withdrawal from the Iran anti-nuclear agreement, isolating the United States and alienating its allies.

While in office, he restrained himself.  Now he no longer has to compromise with anyone. But why is he so disagreeable? Cohen suggests that he has seen most of what he tried to do undone:

Mr. Harper has little to show for the past decade in power. His failure to act boldly then – to follow his instincts as a conservative – bothers him. To compensate for his incredible shrinking legacy, he embraces, with the impunity of a former politician, an uncompromising moral clarity.
As prime minister, Mr. Harper avoided the conservative social agenda on abortion, gay marriage and capital punishment. He rejected country-building – no pipelines or big projects, no abolition of the Senate, no electoral reform or strengthening of Canada’s economic union. The monarchy, which he lionized, is no more popular in Canada today than it was.
Many of his policies are gone. Balanced budgets – his Holy Grail – have been buried under deficit financing. Taxes have risen and the age of retirement lowered from 67 to 65.
The Conservatives muzzled scientists and cancelled the long-form census; the Liberals reversed both. Ministers and diplomats can talk again. Ottawa’s Memorial to the Victims of Communism, having been moved and made smaller, is less memorable.
The Court Challenges Program cancelled by Mr. Harper has been reinstated. His anti-terrorism bill will be amended. The Supreme Court has struck down his laws on minimum sentencing for drug offenders.

Hell hath no fury like a former prime minister whose legacy has shrunk to almost nothing.

Image: National Post

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

A Very Select Few


The Conservative Party of Ontario prefers cult to policy. That's increasingly obvious in the Ontario election. Martin Regg Cohn writes:

At a Doug Ford rally, the leader is always late, leaving extra time for his populist anthem to penetrate your being. A throbbing earworm that burrows deep inside your consciousness.
“Bring us hope, bring us change,” the theme song exhorts.
The crowd is warmed up to overheating as the anthem choruses, “For the people! Hey!”

That's Ford's pitch. He's a man of the people:

Ford fires up the crowd with stirring rhetoric about hydro rip-offs, a promise to rip up Ontario’s sex education curriculum, a pledge to axe any carbon tax, and a vow to cut taxes for the people.
For Ford Nation, the words are music to the ear. Not to mention that earworm.
Amid the mesmerizing messaging, however, there are clues that this is not a traditional Progressive Conservative campaign rally. Listen closely, and look at the telltale signs, for this is emphatically a Doug Ford election event.
“It’s bigger than one party,” the leader stresses, repeating the phrase for emphasis. “This is about the people.”
The people, not the party. Another clue comes from the signage at the podium, which makes no mention of the Tories.
Instead, a blue, red and white sign at the lectern says it all — all that needs to be said — in big bold letters: “Doug Ford for the people.”
There is nary a PC placard to be found, no true-blue Tories in their official colours. The old Progressive Conservative Party, whose leadership Ford captured in an upset victory last March, has been subsumed and consumed by Ford Nation.

In Ontario, populism is running amok. What will "the people" do when they discover that the people in Doug Ford's world are a very select few?

Image: The Toronto Sun

Monday, May 14, 2018

Nobels Are For Noble People


Residents of the Right Wing Looney Bin -- like Nigel Farage -- are trumpeting the suggestion that Donald Trump should receive the Nobel Peace Prize. Michael Harris writes:

You know Farage. He’s the bloviating bigot who served as “the racist shitetrump” of the United Kingdom Independence Party, according to one Twitter wit.
Of course, UKIP is the political party that led Britain out of the European Union to save it from immigrant hordes — only to have its leader resign more or less immediately after the deed was done. And before the multiple lies he told about the benefits of Brexit could be exposed.

Apparently, some people think Trump will bring peace to the Korean peninsula. But, if the North and the South bury the hatchet, others will be the peacemakers:

As for the formal ending of the Korean War, if there is a prize there, it is to be shared by Kim and South Korean leader Moon Jae-in, who did the heavy lifting with the North. The real issue from Trump’s standpoint is North Korea’s nuclear arsenal.
Trump’s demands on Kim are fraught with hypocrisy. While the president harrumphs about other countries shedding their nukes, he is heavily investing in a new generation of super weapons for America’s nuclear arsenal. That has touched off a news arms race with Russia.

Moreover, Trump's walking away from the Iran nuclear deal does not presage peace:

The president “vandalized” a deal that brought Iran’s nuclear program to a verifiable halt. Inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency and Trump’s own intelligence community confirmed that Iran was in compliance with the deal.
It is an agreement that America’s key allies, the U.K., France and Germany negotiated in good faith and stand by. By comparison, America’s word is worth about the same now as a degree from Trump University. Nada.

And, finally, as the American Embassy opens in Jerusalem today, Trump has made peace between the Palestinians and the Israelis impossible:

Trump is moving the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem, recognizing the city as Israel’s capital. The rest of the world and international law recognize East Jerusalem as Palestinian territory.
As a result of Trump’s decision, the Palestinian leadership refused to meet with Vice-President Mike Pence, that human limpet permanently attached to Trump’s backside.
And why would they?
The status of Jerusalem was a crucial part of talks toward a final agreement for a two-state solution. With the embassy move, Trump endorsed the Israeli position on a crucial matter before the matter was negotiated.
Claims that this ostentatious nod to Israel does not prejudice the status of Jerusalem in any future talks with the Palestinians are simply nonsensical. Dealing from the bottom of the deck is what it is.

Donald Trump has been dealing from the bottom of the deck all his life. He is many things. But he's not noble. And Nobels should be given to noble people.

Image: MercatorNet

Sunday, May 13, 2018

Despair Won't Get Us To Where We Want To Be


For some people, politics is all about finding a Messiah. Chris Hedges believes that approach leads to a dead end. Real political change begins with community:

No leader, no matter how talented and visionary, effectively defies power without a disciplined organizational foundation. The civil rights movement was no more embodied in Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. than the socialist movement was embodied in Eugene V. Debs. As the civil rights leader Ella Baker understood, the civil rights movement made King; King did not make the civil rights movement. We must focus on building new, radical movements that do not depend on foundation grants, a media platform or the Democratic Party or revolve around the cult of leadership. Otherwise, we will remain powerless. No leader, no matter how charismatic or courageous, will save us. We must save ourselves.

We have been mesmerized by the narcissism which permeates society. Its most ubiquitous icon is the selfie. But real political power doesn't begin with the self. It begins with the other. And that means several things:

It means receding into the landscape to build community organizations and relationships that for months, maybe years, will be unseen by mass culture. It means beginning where people are. It means listening. It means establishing credentials as a member of a community willing to make personal sacrifices for the well-being of others. It means being unassuming, humble and often unnamed and unrecognized. It means, as Cornel West said, not becoming “ontologically addicted to the camera.” It means, West went on, rejecting the “obsession with self as some kind of grand messianic gift to the world.”

And it has everything to do with education:

One of the most important aspects of organizing is grass-roots educational programs that teach people, by engaging them in dialogue, about the structures of corporate power and the nature of oppression. One cannot fight what one does not understand. 
The corporate state’s assault on education, and on journalism, is part of a concerted effort to keep us from examining corporate power and the ideologies, such as globalization and neoliberalism, that promote it. We are entranced by the tawdry, the salacious and the trivial.
The building of consciousness and mass organizations will not be quick. But these mass movements cannot become public until they are strong enough to carry out sustained actions, including civil disobedience and campaigns of noncooperation. The response by the state will be vicious. Without a dedicated and organized base we will not succeed.

Lately, I've had the feeling that Hedges has been drifting off into despair. But he seems to understand that the project he believes in will take time -- and that despair won't get us to where we want to be.

Image: Hemingway Solutions

Saturday, May 12, 2018

He's A Fraud


Efficiencies. That's the word Doug Ford is using instead of "cuts." That's because he -- or his party -- have learned something from the last time around. Linda McQuaig writes:

Former Conservative leader Tim Hudak went into the last Ontario election humming the familiar right-wing refrain about government waste and inefficiency. But he made things specific: he said he'd eliminate 100,000 public sector jobs, thereby cutting government spending by $2 billion, allowing him to lower corporate taxes.
The private sector, brimming with confidence, would then create one million jobs, Hudak claimed. Wherever he spoke, he stood in front of a billboard proclaiming his "Million Jobs Plan."
But as the economist Jim Stanford soon pointed out, Hudak had made some math errors, including multiplying by eight when he shouldn't have multiplied at all.

Ford claims he will not eliminate one public sector job. But, when you plan to reduce spending by $6 billion, it's obvious that people who work in healthcare and education will lose jobs. And the folks on welfare will also get less money. Mike Harris showed Ontarians how that was done:

It's worth recalling that Harris took a meat cleaver to welfare benefits -- cutting them by 21.6 per cent in 1995.
The Liberals, who've held power for 15 years, initially restored a small amount of what Harris took away, but have allowed inflation to eat that. (They've promised to do more, if re-elected.)
But today, a single Torontonian on welfare receives $721 a month -- enough to live a marginal, near-homeless existence. Indeed, as social policy analyst John Stapleton notes, today's welfare rate, in real dollars, is actually lower than the incredibly low rate put in place by Mike Harris.

Doug claims he stands like a rock with the little guy. But, if you're on welfare, he doesn't have your back. He's got a target on it.

However, if you're a corporation -- corporations seem to be people these days -- Ford will cut your taxes. He's  all about Orwellian language, avoiding the press and avoiding the numbers.

Because the numbers prove he's a fraud.

Image: Canada.com

Friday, May 11, 2018

His Nose In His Navel


Jason Kenny has coined a new phrase and is milking it for all its worth. The enemy, Kenny declares, is "the green left." The reason for his bombast, Michael Harris writes, is that Kenny has been out toried by Rachel Notley:

Almost as soon as she rocked the nation by winning a majority government, Rachel Notley underwent a political sea change.
She quickly morphed into someone the president of Suncor could take to the prom.
In fact, she was as tar sands-friendly as Stephen Harper, and much more successful than he was in pressing the dubious cause of this resource.
It was Notley, not the late Jim Prentice or Harper, who actually got pipeline approvals.

Conservatives always need a bogeyman. But it can't be Notley. So, like Stephen Harper before him, Kenny has declared war on the environmental movement:

Kenney’s recent speech to 3,000 party members was full of the fire and brimstone, bravado and bullshit that this politician and his former party have come to stand for on the environment file.
At the crack of doom, the Jason Kenneys of the world will be shilling for more tar sands development, while tarring and feathering anyone who says otherwise. But one thing they won’t be talking about is how to replace lost revenue from ditching the carbon tax.

And he's doing this as the tar sands become economically unsustainable:

Kenney is working up a rhetorical sweat beating a dead horse. Governments, including Ottawa, keep saying profits from the energy industry are what builds Canada’s schools and hospitals.
Earth scientist David Hughes tells a different story as reported in The Tyee.
Canada’s fossil fuels are being dumped at low prices, leaving “minimal and declining” revenues for government. Royalties from hydrocarbon production have “plummeted” 63 per cent since 2000. That drop has been matched by a 50 per cent decline in corporate taxes collected by government on drilling and refining activity.

That's why banks like "BNP Paribas and ING, as well as Sweden’s largest pension fund, AP7. . . have pulled the plug on further tar sands financing. And pressure is mounting on American banks JPMorgan Chase and Wells Fargo to do the same."

Notley and Justin Trudeau are facing the same future. But Kenny is a different breed. His nose, Harris writes, is "in his navel."

Image: The Huffington Post

Thursday, May 10, 2018

The World At The Roulette Table


The Iran Nuclear deal bears the official acronym JCPOA -- short for Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action. Donald  Trump torpedoed JCPOA two days ago. The rationale for his decision, Jonathan Manthorpe writes, seems embarrassingly clear:

The only rational explanation of Trump’s actions – if that is not an oxymoron – is that the JCPOA was a major foreign policy achievement of his predecessor, Barack Obama. Trump gives every indication of despising Obama, and of believing that his supporters want him to erase all evidence that a black man ever inhabited the Oval Office.

His petty, weak minded decision has isolated the United States:

Foremost is Trump’s rejection of the clear and persistent advice from JCPOA partners Britain, France and Germany not to junk the agreement. All three said there are flaws in the agreement, but the sensible approach is to stick with it and try to improve the deal in talks with Iran.
Britain’s Prime Minister Theresa May, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, and French President Emmanuel Macron, all invested considerable diplomatic credibility in trying to deter Trump from abandoning the JCPOA.
But Trump chose to display contempt for three of the closest and most loyal allies the U.S. has had since the Second World War. Having been spurned, they will have little enthusiasm in the future to either consider Trump’s interests or come to his aid in the future.
Future U.S. isolation may well be measured from May 8, 2018.

Apparently, Trump believes that his actions will have a salutary effect on North Korea. But, despite Trump's braggadocio, Kim Jung Un will read the writing on the wall:

The message Kim is getting is that Trump cannot be trusted to keep a deal, so better not to make one. His logical reaction will be to keep his nuclear deterrent stock pile well primed, pursue economic relations with South Korea, and, most importantly, ensure China’s Xi Jinping has got his back.
So Kim flew to Beijing on Monday for two-days of discussions with Chinese President Xi. Over the past few weeks Kim has gone to great lengths to restore the amicable relationship with Beijing, apparently with success.

Trump's life has been a series of miscalculations -- which Trump insists were actually triumphs. He claims that pulling out of the JCPOA is a triumph. But now more than his financial health is at stake. The man who knew nothing about the casino business is now gambling with the world's future.

Image: Real Iran

Wednesday, May 09, 2018

Code Red


Back in  February, New York Times columnist Tom Friedman issued a code red warning to his readers, writing that Donald Trump was "either compromised by the Russians, or a towering fool." We have yet to discover what the Russians have on Trump. But when the Great Orange Id backed out of the Iran Deal yesterday, he confirmed that he was, indeed, a towering fool. Roger Cohen writes in The Times:


The nuclear accord, reached in 2015, was a watershed. It was not intended to end Iranian-American enmity, virulent since the 1979 Islamic Revolution, but it did dent dangerous confrontation through dialogue.
It was a gamble on drawing Iran, a hopeful and highly educated society, closer to the world and so weakening the Islamic Republic’s hard-liners. It was not about Iranian interference in neighboring Arab states or about its ballistic missile program. It concerned centrifuges and Iran’s clear but never avowed quest for a nuclear bomb.
The agreement put a ring fence around Iran’s nuclear program into the second quarter of this century. It slashed centrifuges by two-thirds; virtually eliminated its uranium stockpile; capped enrichment levels at 3.7 percent, a long way from bomb grade; cut off a plutonium route to a bomb; and redoubled international inspection.
On all this, Iran was in compliance, according to the International Atomic Energy Agency. Its nuclear ambitions had been checked, a reason several Israeli military and intelligence officials, including former heads of Mossad and Shin Bet, backed the accord, along with former Prime Minister Ehud Barak.

Diplomacy doesn't result in perfect solutions. But, at its best, it arrives at win-win solutions. Trump doesn't know how to do diplomacy. The only rule he lives by is "I win, you lose." That is why his speech yesterday was couched in Orwellian terms:

It was not “a horrible, one-sided deal,” as Trump grotesquely claimed on Tuesday. It was not about delivering “peace,” as he absurdly suggested. It was not a “rotten structure,” as he emptily claimed.
Nothing in Trump’s speech was more scurrilous than this very Orwellian inversion of the truth: “If I allowed this deal to stand, there would soon be a nuclear arms race in the Middle East. Everyone would want their weapons ready by the time Iran had theirs.” In fact, Trump has single-handedly fast-forwarded that race by removing the constraints the deal imposed on Iran.

In the background stood John Bolton, who argued for regime change in Iraq. Obviously, Bolton has learned nothing for the Iraq War. Perhaps that's because Bolton spent the Vietnam War the way George W. Bush did -- in the Army Reserves -- knowing that if he was in the reserves he wouldn't get anywhere near Vietnam. Trump, of course,  got multiple deferments -- like Dick Cheney, whose main claim to fame seems to be shooting his friend in the face.

With such limited experience and monumental stupidity, Trump and his advisors have placed the entire world on Code Red.

Image: You Tube


Tuesday, May 08, 2018

The Old Paradigm


In Ontario, the conventional wisdom dictates that elections are won in the middle. That wisdom goes all the way back to the 1940's, when the Progressive Conservatives won 12 consecutive elections. Steve Paikin writes:

In 1943, the Tories had a 49-year-old war veteran named George Drew (born 124 years ago today) as their leader. He was the first politician to speak of a “Big Blue Machine,” one that would fan out across the province, capturing constituency after constituency. And for the next 42 years, that’s pretty much what happened. The Tories occupied the broad middle of the political spectrum. To their left was the Cooperative Commonwealth Federation — the party that in the early 1960s would morph into the NDP. The Liberals were, despite their name, a more rural, conservative party.
As long as the Tories could hang on to the middle, thereby splitting the votes of their critics between the other two parties, they could continue to win elections. And that’s what they did, on 12 consecutive occasions between 1943 and 1985.

When the Tories moved right and aped Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher, David Peterson -- with the help of Bob Rae -- moved into the middle. Mike Harris campaigned like a centrist and replaced Peterson. But his policies moved Ontario starkly to the right. Then Dalton McGuinty moved into the middle and replaced Harris.

But these days, the middle seems to have disappeared:

One of the things that makes this 2018 election campaign so interesting is that none of the major political parties today seems at all interested in seizing the middle. Both the Liberals and the New Democrats are vying to be the more left-wing party, each trying to offer a more interventionist platform than the other. And curiously, the PCs under Doug Ford seem content to define their conservatism in more right-wing, populist terms — consistent with the new leader’s “Ford Nation” branding.
Ironically, this opens up a large gap in the middle where pollsters tell us elections are usually won. Former PC leader Patrick Brown understood this: he tried to coax his fellow Tories away from the fringes and more toward the centre of the political spectrum. He was mostly successful at doing so, although the hold-outs (social conservatives, anti-carbon-tax types, etc.) certainly made lots of noise.
Andrea Horwath also understood that in 2014, when she tried to move her party toward the middle by offering tax cuts to small businesses and promising to find $600 million in spending cuts — two very un-NDP-like planks in the platform. Her problem was, she couldn’t bring her troops along with her. Too many NDP grassroots members don’t care about winning but about staying true to their socialist principles. That’s perfectly fine, except that the disconnect was apparent for all to see — and it hurt Horwath’s chances of winning.
In fairness, Ford is in some senses trying to have it both ways. He wants to stay true to his populist, right-wing roots, while at the same time flirting with more moderate Ontarians. That’s surely why he backtracked on his pledge to allow development in the Greenbelt and has tried to assure people that if he wins, there will be no massive downsizing of the public sector — something that former PC leader Tim Hudak pledged to do during the 2014 campaign.
Nevertheless, Ford’s core message of tax cuts, taking a step back on fighting climate change, and finding billions of dollars in so-called efficiencies has left many in the centre at best suspicious and at worst alarmed.
To be sure, some will vote for the Green Party, which has tried to advance some centrist policies — but the Greens have neither the money nor the megaphone to cut through. 

So where does that leave us? In uncharted territory. The old paradigm seems to be broken.

Image: TVO

Monday, May 07, 2018

An I.Q. Test


Michael Harris writes that the Ontario election is an I.Q. test for voters. And the question is, "What will voters do with a tired government that has been around for 15 years and wants another term?"

There is no doubt that the Liberals are getting long in the tooth. But the cure  can be worse than the disease. Harris reviews recent history:

Revulsion at corruption in the latter years of Jean Chr├ętien’s government after the AdScam affair earned the Liberals the boot. Paul Martin paid for Chr├ętien’s sins — and the country got Stephen Harper for nine long years of authoritarian democracy-bashing, lies, war, and assault on the environment.
In the U.S., there are two germane examples. Bill Clinton couldn’t keep his zipper up and then lied his brains out about the women he used to pleasure himself.
The spectacle of this privileged Pinocchio of the left pretending on national television that little lambkins didn’t know what sex was became a laughingstock. Al Gore paid for the peccadilloes of the president and the U.S. got George W. Bush — wars, torture, and all — for eight long years.

And, most recently, there has been the ascension of Donald Trump -- a man who is all ego and no brain.

If the polls are accurate, Doug Ford will be Ontario's premier. Again, recent history should be instructive:

With Doug, you are getting the remaining half of the Ford brothers tag team. The one that terrorized and degraded city hall in that brief period when Toronto became known around the world as the metropolis where the mayor smoked crack cocaine when he wasn’t knocking back the booze or knocking down matronly ladies in raucous council meetings.
You are getting a guy who wants to kill Ontario’s carbon tax, which is quite strange since there isn’t one. Cap-and-trade, which does exist, is clearly something he doesn’t understand.
You are getting a politician so thoughtless that he proposed dealing with Ontario’s affordable housing crisis by developing “a big chunk” of Toronto’s Greenbelt. The idea was so stupid that even Ford withdrew it a few days later.
You are getting a guy with a documented past as a drug dealer, as outlined in a major investigative report by the Globe and Mail. That report has never been refuted or the subject of legal action.

Voters have four options. They can elect Ford, or Wynne or Horvath. Or they can elect a minority government -- which should put all three leaders on notice. So the question remains. How smart are Ontario voters?

Image: ipolitics

Sunday, May 06, 2018

Youth: The Wild Card


When it comes to elections, a lot has been written about the apathy of the young. Recent polling in Ontario suggests that apathy may no longer be the default position for millennials. Martin Regg Cohn writes:

Among those aged 18 to 24, only one in three (34 per cent) said they bothered to vote back in 2014, according to surveys conducted for the Toronto Star by the polling firm Campaign Research. But as Ontario’s June 7 election looms, there may be something in the air that makes young voters rise up.
A new analysis of the polling data suggests today’s millennials are more mindful of democracy than commonly thought: A remarkable 43 per cent indicated they were “extremely likely” to vote next month, and a further 34 per cent “very likely” this time (a less reliable barometer, but still promising).
Taken together, those numbers suggest far more voters aged 18 to 24 could participate, making them a wild card in the June 7 election, according to online panels totalling 8,065 eligible Ontario voters, with a margin of error of 1.1 per cent.
“Millennials are more global-centric and issues-based,” Campaign Research CEO Eli Yufest told me. “Social issues resonate more with millennials aged 18 to 24.”

Right now, polls are suggesting that Doug Ford will be Ontario's next premier. But my hunch is that the young are not in Ford's camp. Their issues are not Ford's issues:

Education and issues such as sex education, LGBTQ and abortion rights are dramatically more important for young people than other age groups (where they barely register), according to the data. Youth are also more inclined to vote in federal versus provincial elections where they are attracted to global issues, suggesting that concerns over global warming could have an impact in the coming campaign.
Indeed, young people are far more likely than older adults to say they’d be motivated by an “issue, politician or party that I feel strongly about” — which perhaps explains the jump for Justin Trudeau’s cannabis plank, but also suggests susceptibility to a provincial election where carbon pricing is a flashpoint or PC Leader Doug Ford and Liberal Premier Kathleen Wynne are lightning rods.
Millennials also appear less cynical than older voters, perhaps a vestige of youthful idealism: Young people are one-third less likely to say they didn’t vote because they “don’t trust politicians,” and are far less inclined to say that politicians are “just in it for themselves.”

I'm not sure if they would vote for Kathleen Wynne or Andrea Horwath. But a youthful wave for either Wynne or Horwath could radically change Ontario's electoral map. If the young don't show up at the polls, there will probably be a Ford in the premier's office. But if the young do turn out, Mr. Ford's path to victory is not so certain.

Image: The Toronto Star


Saturday, May 05, 2018

It's About Corruption, Baby


The Socialist Worker editorializes that, when you boil it all down, the Trump Administration isn't about drama. It's about corruption:

Trump is obviously not the first or only corrupt American leader, but, just as he's pushing the acceptability of open racism and sexism to new lows, he's normalizing naked corruption -- and, therefore, impunity for the rich and powerful.
This isn't just about his scandals -- it's his philosophy of government to replace laws and systems with a series of individual decisions that increase the power of the decision-maker.
Trump's Consumer Financial Protection Bureau fines Wells Fargo for defrauding customers even as the administration strips regulations to prevent future crimes. That may seem like a contradiction, but for business, the message is clear: what matters less is legality than staying in Trump's good graces.

Trump has always been about corruption. His focus has always been on getting rich -- by whatever means possible. Those who have worked for Trump are a remarkable group of grifters:

Like Environmental Protection Agency head Scott Pruitt, who has repeatedly accepted gifts from the energy companies on whose behalf he is wiping out inconvenient regulations. And Trump hatchet men Paul Manafort and Michael Flynn, whose unreported lobbying work for foreign governments made them early targets of Mueller's special investigation into collusion between the Russian government and Trump's presidential campaign.

Stormy Daniels may occupy today's news. But the real news is about how Donald Trump is getting rich -- as he has always gotten rich -- at the public's expense.

Image: Me.me


Friday, May 04, 2018

Scheer Won't Make It


Conservatives in Alberta and Ontario are poised for a come back. In Ottawa, they're hoping that Andrew Scheer will bring them back from the wilderness. But, Michael Harris writes, there are several reasons why Scheer and the Conservatives will continue to wander in the desert:

Reason number one, Harper deja vu. Canadians got a bellyful of Northern Republicanism with the former prime minister, so Scheer’s attempt to create a GOP-style political base in Canada built on the same values is doomed. It will just remind voters why they dumped these guys the last time.
Reason number two: Mother Earth. Justin Trudeau will eat Scheer alive on the environment. Though the Liberals have broken key promises on this file, and will pay a price in British Columbia for doing it, they have at least recognized there is a problem.

Trudeau and Co. have broken several promises on the environment. But the Conservatives still have trouble recognizing the environment's existence:

As failed CPC leadership candidate Brad Trost declared, he doesn’t believe man-made factors are causing global warming. Of course, Brad. It’s all those farting cattle.
Scheer doesn’t quite go as far as his delusional colleague, but he is a de facto climate denier all the same. Which is why he has promised to repeal mandatory carbon-pricing, approve the defunct Energy East pipeline and retain the $3.3 billion in subsidies and tax breaks for oil and gas companies.

At least Trudeau is taxing carbon -- and instituting some kind of gun control:

Reason three: Scheer’s gun policy, which will play a part in the next election, is based on the NRA fantasy that the government is somehow coming for everyone’s rifle. There is also a little Davy Crockett riff thrown in for good measure.
The crowning absurdity of Scheer’s gun policy is his plan to create a firearms ombudsman, a permanent federal employee who would act as the champion of gun owners across the land. That’s right, Scheer wants a system that protects gun owners, not society.
That may be why he also says that the RCMP should be stripped of its power to reclassify guns. It may be why he wants to review the Criminal Code and scrub all federal regulations touching the acquisition, usage and transportation of firearms.

Most critically, like Harper, Scheer seeks to appeal to a narrow base. There simply are not enough votes there to catapult him into office:

A pro-lifer in the abortion debate, Scheer nominated Conservative MP Rachel Harder to chair the committee on the status of women. Harder, an anti-abortionist, was ousted by pressure from the Liberals and the NDP.
It was a stupid but revealing appointment. The pro-life movement was instrumental in getting Scheer the leader’s job. Perhaps that’s why he is in favour of having Ottawa fund anti-abortion groups.
Scheer also voted against same-sex marriage in 2005.

He is not where most Canadians are. It's true that Jason Kenny and Doug Ford are also not where most Canadians are. But Kenny and Ford only have to win enough votes in one province. Winning a majority of votes in the federation is an entirely different proposition.

That's why Scheer won't make it to the prime minister's office.

Image: Macleans

Thursday, May 03, 2018

An Empty Barrel


Back in  February, Doug Ford told a a private gathering that he was going to open up the Greenbelt -- which surrounds Toronto -- to housing development. Fortunately, what he said was caught on tape. And it created a firestorm. Edward Keenan writes:

It was a pledge he made privately in February, captured on video and released on Monday. When it first emerged, Ford defended the comments, and his position was initially defended by Progressive Conservative supporters under the impression it must be a carefully considered policy position. By the end of the day, he was pledging unequivocally to be the Greenbelt’s biggest defender. “The people have spoken, we won’t touch the Greenbelt. Very simple. That’s it, the people have spoken. I’m going to listen to them, they don’t want me to touch the Greenbelt. We won’t touch the Greenbelt. Simple as that,” he said.

Keenan has Ford's number:

Doug Ford says things. A lot of things. Often unexpected things.
He says them confidently, and forcefully. He conveys certainty.
This doesn’t mean he has given much, or any, prior thought to these things he says. It doesn’t mean he even knows whether those things he says are true or not. It doesn’t mean the things he says will help him. It doesn’t mean the things he says today will be the same as the things he says tomorrow.

And that's just the point. Ford is one of those empty barrels that makes a lot of noise. And he's been making a lot of noise for a long time:

Many people looking back on the Ford years at city hall will remember a couple of years of drug scandal. But those of us who were paying close attention before that will remember that Rob Ford’s mayoralty had entirely derailed well before any hint of drug abuse was reported. Much of how he’d lost control of the city council and its agenda involved his big brother Doug saying things. Opening his mouth and confidently firing a missile into the hull of Rob’s ship.
The Ferris Wheel on the Port Lands is an obvious example. About six months into Rob’s administration, in a series of media interviews, Doug Ford surprised everyone by unveiling a wild-eyed proposal to scrap decades of development planning for Toronto’s derelict port area and replace it with a developer-led malls-and-attractions scheme. Doug Ford’s salesmanship of the hastily concocted proposal was so successful that it was abandoned entirely by both Ford brothers within weeks, and in the process it managed to mobilize a massive movement against Ford and turn some previous council allies against him.
The libraries episode may be even more on point. The city was, at mayor Ford’s urging (and under the banner of “finding efficiencies”), going over a department-by-department cost-cutting audit. This was contentious enough, sparking widespread defences of things like snowplowing and fluoridating water that were suddenly up for discussion.
What wasn’t really up for serious discussion, at that point, was the library system, among the most-used and most beloved city services. The possibility of cutting its budget and closing branches was mentioned in a report alongside other unlikely possibilities like selling the zoo and Exhibition Place. But it wasn’t something the mayor was proposing.
Enter Doug Ford’s mouth: he started saying that there were more libraries in his ward than Tim Horton’s franchises (that this wasn’t true is likely beside the point) and that he’d close a bunch of libraries in “a heartbeat.” Most of us remember what happened after that. An insult contest with Margaret Atwood. All-night meetings featuring long lines of people begging that no libraries be shut and most other services spared. A city council rebellion after that during which many of Ford’s proposed budget cuts were scrapped and he started routinely losing major votes. There’s a straight line from there to city council overruling the Ford transit plan.

If Ford becomes premier of Ontario, you can expect more of the same.

Image: The Toronto Star



Wednesday, May 02, 2018

The Method To His Madness


Donald Trump is mad. There can be little doubt of that. But, E.J. Dionne writes, there is a method to his madness:

One of the many costs of the Trump era is the dumbing down of our political discourse. The incoherent spoken and tweeted outpourings from President Trump and the daily outrages of his administration leave little time for serious debate about policy or meaningful dialogue about our larger purposes.
News outlets are entirely justified in lavishing coverage on the sensational and the personal, since developments in these areas are a part of a bigger story that could undermine the Trump presidency all together. Nonetheless, the circus that Trump has brought to town is nearly as much of a threat to a well-ordered political system as is Trump himself.
This is where the Trumpian circus benefits the Trumpian project. If there are too many scandals for any one of them to seize our attention for long, all of them taken together allow what are potentially very unpopular policies to take root without much scrutiny.

Amid the total chaos of the Trump administration, all kinds of nasty policies slide by unnoticed. The rich get richer and the poor get poorer. Healthcare is slowly strangled. And, most importantly, nobody believes anything anymore:

Intellectual confusion and ambivalence now haunt the West. Older and once vital systems of thought—in Europe, Christian democracy and social democracy; in the United States, New Dealism and free market conservatism—have an ever-weaker hold on the popular imagination.

Madeleine Albright lived through the last period of mass confusion. Dionne writes that her book Fascism: A Warning is a call for public attention. Mr. Trump is hoping that very few people are paying attention.

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