Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Quebec Goes Its Own Way


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Image: The McGill Tribune

Monday, November 12, 2018

Trumpian Contempt




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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Image: Medium.com

Sunday, November 11, 2018

On This Remembrance Day


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

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

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

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

Something to think about on this Remembrance Day.

Image: Filipino Caregiver


Saturday, November 10, 2018

Desperate



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

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

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

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

And then there are those executive orders:

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

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

Image: The Washington Post

Friday, November 09, 2018

Tony's Travails


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

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

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

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

Image: VOCM


Thursday, November 08, 2018

How They Do It


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

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

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

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

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

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

Image: Pinterest

Wednesday, November 07, 2018

The Morning After


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

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

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

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

Image: Time Magazine

Tuesday, November 06, 2018

Comey On Americans


James Comey may have played a pivotal role in the election of Donald Trump. But, when Trump fired him, he made an angry enemy of Comey, who has become one of Trump's loudest critics. He writes in today's New York Times:

I feel the giant stirring. The awakening is slow, but it is underway. Torches and death in Charlottesville. Children in cages at the border. The lying, misogyny, racism and attacks on the rule of law from our president. These things poke the giant. It takes time, but the American people are stirring. They always do. And when they awaken, these fevers break very quickly. 

Mr. Comey accepts the essential American myth:

History shows us that America’s progress in fulfilling our aspirations is an upward sloping line. Yes, our present has always fallen short of our values. After all, we were born in original sin — our nation’s founders held inspiring truths to be self-evident while keeping human beings as slaves. But our history is one of continuous progress.

I'm not sure Comey's bedrock faith in the American experiment is justified. But today that faith is being put to the test. Comey believes his faith will be rewarded:

I’ve been traveling around the United States for six months speaking about ethical leadership. Nearly every place I go, I hear some version of this question: “Are we going to be O.K.?” What the questioner means is, given the current leadership of our country and the ugly undercurrent on which it thrives, is America as we know it going to survive? Yes, is the answer I give, without hesitation. We will recover. How long that takes is up to us, but I am optimistic.

Comey is optimistic about the United States, just as Winston Churchill was. I'm not so sure. But I continue to hope -- for the sake of all of us -- that both men are (and were) right.

Image: The New York Times

Monday, November 05, 2018

Tomorrow


Americans have been voting for a month. But tomorrow is the day the final count will begin. Micheal Harris writes that the choice couldn't be more stark:

A Republican vote would mean that the country now accepts the butchering of a U.S. resident and journalist by the Saudis, provided there are enough jammy contracts to be had from the people who ordered the gruesome hit on Jamal Khashoggi. That’s Al Capone economics, grafted, of course, to the usual rhetorical bull.
To support the GOP on Tuesday would be to embrace the President’s assault on free speech and the media, which he repeatedly calls the “enemy of the people.” His mantra shows exactly what he thinks of the First Amendment. To bad he doesn’t think the right to bear thoughts is as important as the right to bear arms.
A GOP vote would buttress the idea that if only America became the valley of the gun, with teachers, religious congregations, and everyone else able to carry and conceal, as Trump himself did while living in New York, the U.S. would have the best gun control in the world. All guns, all the time.
And if you are an American female and you vote Republican, it would be equal to dismissing all of the hard-fought gains women have made, from getting the vote in 1920, to running so many candidates for office in these midterm elections nearly 100 years later.

If, on the other hand, the Democrats take control of the House of Representatives, there will be an earthquake:

A vote for the Democrats would reaffirm the U.S. Constitution’s brilliance — the separation of powers and oversight of the executive branch by the legislative branch.
Under this President, the Republicans control both houses of Congress and the White House. With spineless sycophants in the House and Senate, people like Devin Nunes and Mitch McConnell, the White House simply directs the whole show. It has become, as H.L. Mencken once put it, a case of “running the circus from the monkey house.”
A vote for the Democrats will confirm the bedrock principle of the justice system that no one is above the law.
Should the Democrats win the House of Representatives, congressional committees will start doing their work again — instead of the bidding of the White House.
Donald Trump Jr., for example, could be brought before the committee to answer publicly and under oath for his meeting with Russians in the Trump Tower prior to the 2016 presidential election. Not the lies his father prepared for him on Air Force One, but the truth — or perjury charges.
His father’s financial records, including his suppressed tax returns, could be subpoenaed to determine if this is a President who has broken the emoluments provisions of the Constitution.
Those provisions prohibit the occupant of the White House from profiting from the office. Trump has obviously monetized the presidency, making money from properties like the Trump International Hotel in Washington, not to mention Mar-a-Lago and all those golf courses.

Tomorrow's vote is more than historic. It's existential. The future of the republic is at stake.

Image: The Village Voice

Sunday, November 04, 2018

Entrenching Minority Rule


If you want to know how Republicans captured the government of the United States, take a good look at what they've done over the last two decades. Ian Samuel writes that they have entrenched minority rule:

Minority rule is the result of interlocking and mutually reinforcing strategies which must be understood together to understand the full picture of what the American right wants to achieve.
Examples are everywhere. Take North Dakota. In 2012, Heidi Heitkamp, a Democrat, won a surprise victory in a Senate race by just 2,994 votes. Her two largest county wins were in the Standing Rock and Turtle Mountain Reservations, where she won more than 80% of the vote. Her overall vote margin in counties containing Native reservations was more than 4,500 votes.
Observing that Heitkamp literally owed her seat to Native voters, North Dakota’s Republican legislature enacted a voter ID law that requires voters to present identification showing their name, birth date and residential address. There’s the rub: many Native voters do not have traditional residential addresses, so this law effectively disenfranchises them.
Or take Georgia, where the Republican nominee for governor, Brian Kemp, is the secretary of state and in that capacity has placed more than 50,000 voter registrations on hold, many from urban areas with high black populations. That is in keeping with Kemp’s privately expressed “concern” that high voter turnout will favor his opponent – Stacey Abrams, running strongly to be the first black female governor in US history.
Exacerbating voter suppression is the ongoing partisan gerrymandering effort – the redrawing of electoral maps to favor one party over another. After the 2010 census, the Wisconsin legislature (controlled by Republicans) drew a map for the state’s legislative districts explicitly designed to ensure they would retain control of the legislature even if they received a minority of votes. It worked: in 2012, despite receiving only 48.6% of the vote, they won 60 of 99 seats. Democrats won an outright majority of votes cast but secured just 39 seats.

And, because of the way the electoral college works, the last two Republican presidents became President while capturing a minority of the popular vote:

The two most recent Republican presidents have entered office despite receiving fewer votes than their opponent in a national election, thanks to the electoral college, which systematically over-represents small states. (California gets one electoral vote per 712,000 people; Wyoming gets one per 195,000.) With the presidency in hand in the run-up to the 2020 census, minority rule will be further entrenched by adding a citizenship question to the census. This will result in systematic undercounting of the population in heavily Democratic areas, which will in turn further reduce their influence as legislatures draw maps based on the data.

The American Right have known for a long time that they are supported by a minority of voters. But that hasn't stopped their march to power. And they intend to keep things that way.

Image: Metaphysical Outlaws in America


Saturday, November 03, 2018

Things Will Get Mean


Relations between the Government of Canada and the Government of Ontario are on a downward slope. Susan Delacourt writes:

While it’s more the rule than the exception to have opposing parties in power at Queen’s Park and on Parliament Hill, relations between the Ford and Trudeau governments appear to be particularly raw, and especially so this week.
On Tuesday, federal Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer visited Queen’s Park and was warmly greeted by the premier as the “next prime minister of Canada” — a development that would come, Ford said at a photo op in his office, after voters “get rid” of Trudeau in next year’s election.
Meanwhile, federal Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen was accused once again this week of giving the back of the hand to his Ontario counterpart, Lisa MacLeod.
In an interview on Thursday night with CBC’s Power and Politics, Hussen said MacLeod was “engaged in fear mongering and using this issue to demonize people.” As for MacLeod’s claim that 40 per cent of Toronto shelter occupants are refugees, Hussen said: “The figures that are being thrown around are not based on facts.”
MacLeod responded on Twitter that Hussen was a “name-calling bully.” That charge also isn’t new — the two ministers have been sparring almost since the Ford government came to office last summer.
Trudeau’s labour minister, Patty Hajdu, was also plunging into the fray this week, announcing a wave of new worker protections very similar to the ones that have recently been rolled back by the Ford government.
Hajdu spoke out against what she called the “politics of cruelty” and the “devastating” spectacle of governments rolling back worker benefits.

In some ways, this isn't new. Stephen Harper and Dalton McGuinty were never on the best of terms. And Doug Ford has never been diplomatic when it comes to his opinion of Justin Trudeau. Moreover, the advisors for each party are openly hostile to each other:

There is plenty of cross-pollination between partisans in Queen’s Park and Ottawa at present. Trudeau’s government has been built around strong connections to Ontario Liberals. His two chief advisers, Gerald Butts and Katie Telford, are veterans of the old McGuinty government.
Ford’s new government, similarly, has been drawing on a raft of staff connections to the old Harper regime, including Jenni Byrne, who served as Harper’s campaign manager and deputy chief of staff, and is now installed in the premier’s office.

What has happened over the last couple of weeks offers a peek into the 2019 election. In Ontario, things will get mean.

Image: CBC

Friday, November 02, 2018

The Power Of Lies


As the midterm elections come to an end, Paul Krugman writes that the Republicans are spouting what has become a cascade of lies:

What are Republicans lying about? As I said, almost everything. But there are two big themes. They lie about their agenda, pretending that their policies would help the middle and working classes when they would, in fact, do the opposite. And they lie about the problems America faces, hyping an imaginary threat from scary dark-skinned people and, increasingly, attributing that threat to Jewish conspirators
Both classes of lie are rooted in the real G.O.P. agenda.
What Republicans truly stand for, and have for decades, is cutting taxes on the rich and slashing social programs. Sure enough, last year they succeeded in ramming through a huge tax cut aimed mainly at corporations and the wealthy, and came within one vote of passing a health “reform” that, according to the Congressional Budget Office, would have caused 32 million Americans to lose health coverage.
The G.O.P.’s problem is that this agenda is deeply unpopular. Large majorities of Americans oppose cuts in major social programs, while most voters want to raise, not reduce, taxes on corporations and high-income individuals. 

It's really quite remarkable, because the lies are so out in the open:

Instead of changing their agenda to meet voters’ concerns, Republicans have resorted to a strategy of deception and distraction. On one side, they have gone full black-is-white, up-is-down on policy substance. Most spectacularly, they are posing as defenders of protection for people with pre-existing conditions — protection that their failed health bill would have stripped away, and which they are now trying to take away through the courts. And they’re claiming that Democrats are the ones threatening Medicare.
On the other side, they’re resorting to their old standby: race-based fear.

But what is even more remarkable is the sheer number of Americans who believe the lies. There are Republicans who reorganized the con from the beginning:

It is now impossible to have intellectual integrity and a conscience while remaining a Republican in good standing. Some conservatives have these qualities; almost all of them have left the party, or are on the edge of excommunication.

Nonetheless, this election is all about the power of lies. If lies didn't have power, Donald Trump wouldn't be president.

Image: Pinterest

Thursday, November 01, 2018

When He's Gone, What He's Left Behind Will Still Be There


Some of us live in hope that, when Donald Trump is gone, things will return to normal. That hope ignores what Chris Hedges has called a corporate coup d'etat.  Paul Street builds on Hedges' analysis. There's a lot of magical thinking going on on the left:

Still, we on the left, what’s left of it, should nonetheless retain our capacity to be properly nauseated by a yard sign I recently saw in arch-liberal, super-blue Iowa City, Iowa. Surrounded by other, smaller signs with the names of a handful of dismal local and statewide Democratic candidates, it read “MAKE AMERICA GOOD AGAIN: Vote.”
Please. The notion that the richly bipartisan corporate totalitarianism of which Trump is the apotheosis can be reversed, and the nation made “good” simply by voting Herr Donald and the Republicans out of office is a childish fantasy.
That, too, is a Great Lie. As marchers celebrating a rare legal victory over a white supremacist U.S. police state in Democratically controlled Chicago chanted last month, “The whole damn system is guilty as Hell.” It’s the whole damn system that must be democratized from the bottom up. From the dismal dollar Democrats, The New York Times, The Washington Post, CNN, MSNBC, PBS, Tom Steyer, the Gates Foundation, the Brookings Institution, the CFR, the Atlantic Council, the Obama and Clintons on the so-called left, to the radically reactionary Republicans, the Koch brothers, the Mercers, the Heritage Foundation, the American Enterprise Institute, Fox News, the Weekly Standard, the Hudson Institute, the Hoover Institution, and the American Legislative Exchange Council, Breitbart, right-wing talk radio, the Sinclair Broadcasting Co., the Federalist Society and more on the actual right, imperialism, racial inequality and class rule have brought us to this menacing pre-fascist moment.

If there is any hope, perhaps it can be found in a blue baseball cap which I saw the other day. Its slogan was "Make America Think Again." Thinking -- critical thinking -- is on life support south of the border.

Image: Suzanne Churchill