Tuesday, August 20, 2019

Dark Clouds


Naturally, Canadians want their politicians to deal with Canadian problems. But, Glen Pearson warns, whoever becomes prime minister will face a dysfunctional world. He offers several examples to make his point:

The riots in Hong Kong have dominated the news cycle for days. Things have gotten out of hand for the Chinese government and they are expected to brutally dispel the protesters .  This is one hot spot that is already placing pressure on the Canadian government prior to the election, since some 300,000 Canadians live in the region.
China is active on other fronts as well. Their trade war with America is already having significant effect, leaving many economists warning that it will lead to a global recession just a decade after the global financial crisis that led to so many changes in work and corporatism.  And with China holding over one trillion dollars in U.S. treasury bills, what would happen if they called President Trump’s bluff and dumped those bonds?   Fortunately, for now at least, the Chinese government is showing more caution than the Americans.
This past July was the hottest month on record. The effects have been destabilizing and it’s becoming clear that only the most urgent of action among nations can mitigate the oncoming climate crisis.  How will Canada respond?
With Prime Minister Boris Johnson being elected by only .2% of the British population (Conservative members), it looks inevitable that his government (held buy only a majority of one) is careening toward a no deal Brexit. Britain is in trouble and knows it and a fall election is inevitable.  The implications are dire, not just for Europe but for all of Britain’s main allies and trading partners, including Canada.
The on-again off-again “bromance” between Donald Trump and North Korea’s Kim Jong-un might be mildly entertaining, but the four missiles launched by North Korea this month as a “direct warning to America” reveal once more that Jong-un has no intention of doing away with the nuclear potential and could easily be provoked to lash out if pressured too hard.
Last month, Vladimir Putin celebrated his 20th year in power. How did he celebrate?  By cracking down on dissidents and any political opposition.  He vowed once more to keep Syria’s President Assad in power and opened up new avenues for building strong ties with China.  As America abandons its global leadership role, Russia is proving more than willing to fill the gap.
The problems between America and Iran aren’t going away anytime soon. The Strait of Hormuz remains a vortex for all that could go wrong with regional tensions and global oil supplies.  With America pulling out of its peace arrangements with Iran, there aren’t any guarantees that just one incident couldn’t spiral out of control.
If there is a sleeping “time bomb” in the world today it is the escalating tensions between India and Pakistan – both possessors of nuclear warheads. Indian Prime Minister Modi’s cancelling of Kashmir’s special status has led to heightened tensions.  Kashmir represents the largest Muslim territory India has and the decision isn’t going down easy.  Neither India or Pakistan’s government is a model of stability and diplomacy.  Foreign experts around the world are watching this more closely at the moment than any other region. 

The clouds are growing darker. It's clear that the next prime minister will face all kinds of problems at home. But it's also clear that -- like it or not -- he or she will become deeply enmeshed in the world's problems.

Image: Hoosier Ag Today


Monday, August 19, 2019

Deregulation. Really?


There was a time when deregulation was all the rage. In fact, it's still all the rage. Alan Freeman writes:

The move to deregulate has been gathering steam worldwide since the 1980s as companies seek to maximize profit, backed by the resurgence of an ideological right that sees the undermining of taxes and regulation as a pathway to eroding and ultimately destroying the welfare state.

But the grounding of all of Boeing's 737 Max fleet has caused some to question the wisdom of the current policy:

As the New York Times has reported, FAA engineers never independently assessed the risks involved with the MCAS software that ended up forcing both planes into a deadly nosedive because Boeing was basically in charge of approving its own aircraft. As the Times reports, “the cozy relationship” between Boeing and the FAA meant that during the certification process for the Max, FAA management sometimes overruled their own staff after getting pressure from Boeing.

And there have been other recent examples of the havoc caused by deregulation:

The 2013 rail crash at Lac-Megantic, with the loss of 47 lives, has been linked to a lax regulatory environment that allowed a poorly maintained railway to put a single-man crew in charge of a train of highly flammable crude oil loaded in flimsy tanker cars that ran through the centre of a town.
In addition to the human tragedy, that disaster has cost the Quebec and federal governments hundreds of millions of dollars in cleanup and compensation costs.
And in the U.K., a public inquiry is investigating the disastrous 2017 Grenfell fire where 72 people were killed in a highrise public-housing project. Much of the inquiry will focus on how lax regulations allowed flammable cladding material to be installed on the building’s exterior during a renovation, which ended up turning the building into a raging inferno.

Nonetheless, the push to deregulate continues:

Studies from something called the Mercatus Center, a Virginia-based think tank that assiduously tracks the cost of regulations and comes to the startling conclusion that if it weren’t for regulations brought in since 1980, the U.S. economy would be 25 per cent larger than it is today — a tidy $4-trillion (U.S.).

 A good rule in all of life, however, is to always follow the money:

And what is the Mercatus Center? It turns out it’s a libertarian think tank dedicated to dismantling regulations and bankrolled by the notorious Koch Brothers, the secretive, union-busting, climate-denying American billionaires who have had a huge influence on turning the Republican Party and the U.S. far to the right. The Mercatus Center specializes in big scary numbers. It recently did a study that estimated the cost of “Medicare for All,” the promise of progressive Democratic presidential candidates, at a gob-smacking $32.6 trillion.

And now "Canada’s leading business group is looking to the libertarian Koch brothers and their acolytes for leadership. Pretty scary."

Simply put, deregulation has nothing to do with the common good.

Image: businessinsider.com

Sunday, August 18, 2019

Howard Roark



If you're looking for a precursor to Donald Trump, Tom Hartmann writes, take a good look at Howard Roark. Roark is the protagonist in Ayn Rand's novel, The Fountainhead:

When Donald Trump was running for the GOP nomination, he told USA Today’s Kirsten Powers that Ayn Rand’s raped-girl-decides-she-likes-it novel, “The Fountainhead,” was his favorite book.

Rand admitted her model for Roark was an infamous child murderer named William Edward Hickman. The details behind the murder are horrific. Suffice it to say that Hickman was a psychopath:

But to a young Russian idealist just arriving in America, Hickman was a hero.
And while Hickman the man has, today, been largely forgotten, Hickman the archetype has lived on and influenced our nation in a profound fashion, paving the way for Donald Trump, a man with no empathy or consideration of social norms, to one day occupy the White House.
Two years before William Edward Hickman was sentenced to death, a 21-year-old Russian political science student named Alissa Zinovievna Rosenbaum arrived in New York Harbor on a French ocean liner. The year was 1926, and she was on the last leg of her dream trip to the Land of Opportunity, scurrying across the Soviet Union, Germany, and France before procuring a first-class cabin aboard the S.S. De Grasse, bound for the United States.
Alissa was a squat five-foot-two with a flapper hairdo and wide sunken dark eyes that gave her a haunting stare. And etched into those brooding eyes was burned the memory of a childhood backlit by the Russian Revolution.
What young Ayn Rand saw in Hickman that would encourage her to base a novel, then her philosophy, then her life’s work, on him was quite straightforward: unfeeling, unpitying selfishness.
He was the kind of man who would revel in the pain parents would feel when their children were ripped from their arms and held in freezing cages for over a year.
In Hickman, Ayn Rand wrote that she had finally found the new model of the Superman (her phrase, likely borrowed from Friedrich Nietzsche). Only a worldview held by a man like Hickman, she believed, could ever prevent an all-powerful state from traumatizing another generation of small businesspeople and their children as the Bolsheviks had her family.
Hickman’s words as recounted by Rand in her Journals, “I am like the state: what is good for me is right,” resonated deeply with her. It was the perfect articulation of her belief that if people pursued their own interests above all else—even above friends, family, or nation—the result would be utopian.
She wrote in her diary that those words of Hickman’s were, “the best and strongest expression of a real man’s psychology I ever heard.”

Trump has said that he admires The Fountainhead:

It relates to business, beauty, life and inner emotions. That book relates to … everything.

One wonders if Trump ever read the book. Rand's novels are baggy monsters, truly hard slogs. But the novel was made into a movie in 1949, starring Gary Cooper. Perhaps he saw the film.

Image: IMDb

Saturday, August 17, 2019

Down To Oblivion


The nuclear arms race, Simon Tisdall writes, is back. The latest reminder of that grim reality occurred a week ago:

It was five days before officials confirmed a blast at the Nyonoksa range had killed several people, including nuclear scientists. No apologies were offered to Severodvinsk residents. There is still little reliable information. “Accidents, unfortunately, happen,” a Kremlin spokesman said.
According to western experts, the explosion was caused by the launch failure of a new nuclear-powered cruise missile, one of many advanced weapons being developed by Russia, the US and China in an accelerating global nuclear arms race.
Vladimir Putin unveiled the missile, known in Russia as the Storm Petrel and by Nato as Skyfall, in March last year, claiming its unlimited range and manoeuvrability would render it “invincible”. The Russian president’s boasts look less credible now.

Whatever the wrinkles, Russia is re-arming. And so is the United States:

The renewed nuclear arms race is a product of Trump’s America First outlook and that of comparable ultra-nationalist and insecure regimes elsewhere. Trump’s emphasis on defending the “homeland” is leading inexorably to the militarisation of US society, whether at the Mexican border, on inner-city streets or in its approach to international security.
“We have far more money than anybody else by far,” Trump said last October. “We’ll build up until [Russia and China] come to their senses.” Outspending the opposition was a tactic employed by Ronald Reagan in the 1980s. And Trump is putting taxpayers’ money where his mouth is. Overall, annual US military spending is soaring, from $716bn this year to a proposed $750bn next year.

Add to that the threat from China, and the clouds get very dark:

With a much smaller arsenal than the US and Russia, China, too, is “aggressively developing its next generation of nuclear weapons”, according to a major Chinese weapons research institute. Nor, given Moscow’s and Washington’s behaviour, has it an incentive to stop, despite Trump’s vague proposal for a trilateral disarmament “grand bargain”.
Like the US, China – while historically pledged to “no first use” – wants potential enemies to believe it may actually use tactical nukes. As Dr Strangelove would doubtless appreciate, this, perversely, increases the chances that it will.

Meanwhile, Trump lectures Iran on producing nuclear weapons. We may yet see the day when another Slim Pickens rides the bomb down to oblivion.

Image: Pinterest

Friday, August 16, 2019

The Final Verdict


The Ethics Commissioner's report is out. And, Tom Walkom writes, in the end, it won't make much difference:

On the one hand are those who agree with Wilson-Raybould that the prime minister had no business questioning how she chose to prosecute SNC, which faces charges of bribery and fraud related to its dealings in Libya almost 20 years ago.
On the other are those who agree with Trudeau that, since jobs were potentially at stake, he had every right to make his views known.

Certainly, things are playing differently in Quebec than they are in English Canada. Moreover, there is some precedent for Trudeau's claim that he was protecting Canadian jobs:

Ottawa’s massive bailout of Chrysler and General Motors in 2009 benefitted the two privately owned companies. But it also benefitted — briefly at least — the workers and communities that depended on them.
Essentially, this was the argument that SNC made: If the company were convicted at trial and thus barred from seeking federal contracts for 10 years, some fat cats would be hurt. But so would many ordinary workers.

And remediation agreements exist in other jurisdictions:

Remediation agreements are allowed in Britain, France and Australia. Stephen Harper’s Conservative government hadn’t been keen on the idea, the ethics commissioner’s report says. But the new Trudeau regime thought it swell.
Over Wilson-Raybould’s objections (she argued that the government was moving too quickly), a new measure allowing remediation agreements was passed into law in the summer of 2018.

The final verdict will be rendered -- as it should be -- in a little over two months.

Image: CBC




Thursday, August 15, 2019

A Bad Day


Yesterday was a bad day for Justin Trudeau. The ethics commissioner's report was a no holds barred condemnation of his behaviour in the SNC-Lavalin Affair. Chantal Hebert writes:

To read the ethics commissioner’s accounting of the events is to get the impression that the senior levels of the government essentially functioned as an arm of the engineering firm. The line between the two was not so much blurred as virtually invisible.
The commissioner’s conclusion that the prime minister violated the federal ethics law is unadulterated.
He finds no extenuating circumstances to absolve Trudeau of having applied improper pressures on the then-attorney-general to overrule her prosecutors in their dealings with SNC-Lavalin.
Dion rejects the rationale that the prime minister was only acquitting himself of his duty by trying to mitigate the economic fallout of a negative legal outcome for SNC-Lavalin.
He refutes the notion that because Wilson-Raybould ultimately stuck to her course, no line was crossed, noting that it is not the outcome of the arm-twisting that determines whether it took place.

There is a pattern here: Chretien, Martin and now Trudeau. If Trudeau loses the election in October, his tenure as prime minister will have, indeed, been short. This is the same old politics practised by a new face.

Will Canadians look beyond the face? Stay tuned.

Image: CBC


Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Dangerous Delusion


Denying climate change, Joe Ingrham and Bernard Schutz write, is a dangerous delusion. But it is understandable -- because it's hard to accurately predict the effects of climate change:

What is confusing to some, however, and allows others to claim that global warming is just nature’s way or is divinely predetermined, is that it is hard to predict how local climates will be affected. Like a pot of water, we know that with continually increasing heat the water will boil, but what we don’t know is how the bubbles in that boiling water will behave.
Like the bubbles in boiling water, changes in circulation are fiendishly hard to predict with precision. Cold melt-water from the decreasing ice-mass creates colder oceans nearby. Elsewhere, warmer air boosts ocean surface temperatures. These effects distort the circulation in ways complicated by the rotation of the earth and the shape of the continents, combining with the warming air currents to create a complex pattern of regional climate effects.
The North Pole’s ice cover produces a striking example since it consists of relatively thin sea ice, which during recent summers nearly disappears. This makes for big seasonal changes in the polar weather. It should be little surprise therefore that in the mid-latitudes of the northern hemisphere we are beginning to experience unusual weather patterns. Some can be traced to Greenland’s ice cover and increasing melt-water, which contribute to a difference between how air flows over the north Atlantic and Pacific Oceans.
In the case of the Pacific, warm air is now flowing almost unimpeded into the Arctic, accelerating the ice melt, while in the case of the narrower Atlantic, continental Greenland inhibits warm air from circulating northward in winter. Unbalanced, the warm Pacific air pushes cold Arctic air out, spilling it over the continents, bringing frigid winter spells to the areas of North America closest to the Atlantic and to northern Europe especially.
In summer, the warm air spreads northwards everywhere, leading to the unprecedented forest fires now consuming large areas of Arctic boreal forests and releasing methane from the permafrost. This pattern of extremes and fluctuations of weather may be the norm for the northern hemisphere for some time, depending on how fast the Arctic ice disappears and Greenland melts.
South of the equator, with the ice-melt from Antarctica spreading out all around the South Pole and running up against warm mid-latitude water, people may experience steadier warming but also seasonal extremes of destructive storms and calamitous flooding. Those least able to cope with these events will be the world’s poorer – farmers or slum dwellers in the southern hemisphere, rural or coastal inhabitants in North America and Europe.

These extremes are interpreted by some as flukes -- anomalies that we can't control. But when one looks at the evidence over the last five decades, it's clear. The planet is warming -- and carbon emissions are the cause. But lots of people don't want to give up carbon. So they proclaim that there must be a technological fix to the problem:

Indeed, the newly released green plan of Andrew Scheer and Canada’s Conservative Party falls right into that trap, calling not for the reduced use of fossil fuels but rather their increased use and instead mitigating their impact through the application of enhanced carbon capture technology. Essentially, without establishing any targets consistent with the Paris Climate Accord, the plan calls for leaving it largely to the private sector (ie. the oil and gas companies) to develop the technology, thereby avoiding the need to tax carbon emissions. Talk about the fox guarding the hen house!

There are differences in emphasis. But, essentially, the Liberal plan is the same. The private sector will solve the problem. But the private sector isn't -- and won't -- solve the problem. This is government's problem:

Governments today need to recognize that we face a crisis every bit as urgent as global war, and that we do not yet have enough of the technological weapons to address the crisis comprehensively. Public funds need to be poured into the development of carbon-free energy sources and storage methods that are scaleable and affordable. Elected officials and national leaders, including those in Canada, need to stop taking their policy cues from established industries like oil, gas and coal, and they must abandon the ideological fiction that public sector support undermines the free market. Indeed, if they don’t, there is every chance that neither the free market nor liberal democracy will survive for much longer.

Something to think about in the upcoming election.

Image: The Telegraph


Tuesday, August 13, 2019

When People Discover They've Been Conned


Doug Ford rode to power on two false promises -- buck a beer and cheaper gas. Tom Walkom writes:

Ford’s campaign team seized on the buck-a-beer slogan to build on Ford’s man-of-the-people persona — notwithstanding his abstinence from alcohol — while conveying his sensitivity to pocketbook issues, no matter how picayune. But the fine print of the promise told a different story.
In fact, the Tories weren’t promising beer at $1 a can, just the possibility of it — by removing an old Liberal minimum pricing policy designed to discourage excess consumption (akin to higher cigarette prices reducing smoking). Whatever your views on beer pricing as social engineering, Ford’s promise was premised on a fatal flaw — an outdated price point.

Ford knew nothing about the brewing industry:

It costs about 34 cents just for the can — without the beer, labour and transportation expenses — leaving brewers with margins (or losses) that were unsustainable.

Then there was Ford's promise of cheaper gas -- which provided his rationale for dismantling Ontario's cap and trade system:

When he won the June 2018 election, Toronto gas prices averaged 131.9 cents a litre; five months later, by the time Ford finally got around to cancelling cap and trade, gas prices had already tumbled to 114.5 cents without him doing anything, and bottomed out at 92.7 cents a litre last February (according to gasbuddy.com). To put that in perspective, Ford’s overblown promise to deliver a 4.4-cent reduction was dwarfed by the real-world plunge in gas prices of 39.2 cents a litre during that period.

Now he's spending $30 million dollars to fight the federal carbon tax. It's abundantly clear that Ford  -- the businessman -- knows nothing about international markets:

The bigger point, which puts the lie to Ford’s misplaced hype over the past year, is that global market forces matter more than a premier’s force of will.

When people discover they've been conned, they usually run the con man out of town

Image: The Toronto Star

Monday, August 12, 2019

The Larger Forces At Work


If we seek to know what is going on in Trump World, Paul Chadwick writes, we have to step outside the news cycle and carefully choose our sources. One of those reliable sources is the blog Lawfare:

I want to highlight one of the big slow wheels to which attention was presciently drawn a few days before the 2016 presidential election. Noting that Trump had a 33% chance of winning, the US-based blog Lawfare, which consistently manages to tap the rich thinking and experience of experts in varied specialist fields, pointed to the “large literature on the process of radicalisation and countering violent extremism” and applied it to Trumpism.
Quinta Jurecic and Benjamin Wittes argued that Trumpism is “a movement that exists within an electoral system but which has a deeply ambivalent relationship with the democratic norms of that system, a movement which both formally rejects violence yet manages also to tolerate and encourage it”.
Summarising the literature, they wrote: “The radicalising subject goes through a series of steps, with each step drawing him or her closer towards extremist beliefs and sometimes mobilisation towards violence as well.” The individual’s social ties play a part, including, particularly, social media.

 Trump has radicalized his supporters in the same way his arch foe, Al Qaeda, has radicalized millions of Muslims:

Nazis and white supremacists, previously talking only to each other without ways to reach large audiences, embraced Trumpism and were not repudiated. “So all of a sudden, huge numbers of people are potentially subject to the influence of peer groups they didn’t even know they had. More perniciously still, the radicals get to approach this very large new audience through the cleansing lens of an apparently mainstream political candidate and party. That Trump supporter taught [at a rally] to shout “Lügenpresse” [“lying press”] presumably didn’t know that he was screaming a Nazi slur; he was just following Trump’s lead, and the lead of those around him, in jeering at the ‘dishonest media’.”
In 2016 the authors thought that if their theory was right “we will see a significant spike in white supremacist violence over the next few years. The Trump campaign has provided a baseline undemocratic ideation to hundreds of millions of people and also provided a platform through which extremists, both violent and non-violent, can recruit and cultivate. If our collective understanding of the process of violent radicalisation is correct, the result will be blood.”

It was pretty prescient stuff. The folks at Lawfare understand the larger forces at work.

Image: MeglomaniacState.com

Sunday, August 11, 2019

Stephen's Ghost


If you think Stephen Harper has left the stage and relinguished control of the conservative agenda, Antonia Zerbisias suggests that you think again:

Since he quit Parliament, Harper has spoken at an event at U.S. President Donald Trump's Florida resort Mar-a-Lago, visited the White House, showed up at an Israeli college's $1,000-a-plate fundraiser, participated in the 2012 Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney's political retreat in Utah and guested on the right-wing Fox News.
In his lucrative tour of the rubber-chicken circuit, Harper did let slip during a speech at Stanford University that, "I could have turned the party into essentially a personal political vehicle if I'd wanted…"

Harper is everywhere these days. He basks in a right wing glow:

The most visible clue to Harper's retaining remote control is his chairing the ironically named International Democratic Union (IDU). It's the Munich-based alliance of the world's centre-right to right-wing political parties, including the Republicans south of the border and the Conservative Party of Canada here, the reigning Likud Party in Israel and Hungary's anti-immigrant Fidesz.
Think of it as the anti-UN. Among the IDU's stated goals is to "protect our people from those who preach hate and plan to destroy our way of life." Which is their way of fending off the climate and economic migrant waves now and to come.
We saw this in their vociferous rejection of last year's Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration (GCM), an idealistic UN document which binds no nation to anything more than having in view the human upheavals expected as the Earth bakes.
No surprise that Scheer unleashed an almost daily stream of tweets with full-on outrage and half-baked half-truths attacking the pact as if it would allow hordes of foreigners to land on our pristine shores. But it wouldn't, no matter how often Israel's Benjamin Netanyahu, Hungary's Viktor Orbán, and other Eastern European leaders threatened it would.

And Doug Ford follows him around:

For example, just last month, Ford basked in Harper's good graces, sharing a stage with him when the Canada India Foundation presented the former prime minister with an award. Clearly they remain focused on the same goal.

Stephen's ghost still haunts us. It's behind Andrew Scheer's vacant smile. And it's behind every word  Doug Ford spouts.

Image: HuffPost Canada

Saturday, August 10, 2019

Fraser Baloney


The Fraser Institute -- which receives funding from the Koch Brothers -- released a report this week with the headline, “The average Canadian family paid $39,299 in taxes last year, more than housing, food and clothing combined.” But, Alan Freeman writes, intelligent folks should be able to spot baloney when they see it:

According to the institute, the average family spent 44.2 per cent of its income on taxes compared to 36.3 per cent on “basic necessities.” And it says that the tax bill has gone up by 2,246 per cent since 1961.
It’s quite clever, talking about taxes rather than detailing the things that taxes actually pay for. Can I give you a list? Universal free medical care, free public education, heavily subsidized universities, policing, highways, roads, parks, old age pensions, garbage collection, national defence, and the list goes on. I don’t know about you but every one of those things is a necessity as basic as clothing and rent in a modern society, though not in the institute’s eyes.

And what about that huge tax hike over time?

In fact, Canadian tax rates overall have been pretty stable over the decades and compared to other advanced countries, our tax burden is on the low side. According to the latest statistics from the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), the tax to GDP ratio in Canada actually decreased to 32.2 per cent in 2017 from 32.7 per cent in 2018, while the average of OECD countries rose to 34.2 per cent.
Canada is 24th out of 36 OECD in terms of tax to GDP ratio in 2017. Our tax take is higher than in the U.S. and Australia but I’m not sure that low tax ratios are something we want to blindly emulate. The lowest tax to GDP ratio is recorded by Mexico, at 16.2 per cent, the sign of a developing country with poor public services and a very weak education system. And our taxes are much lower than in places like France, Denmark and Belgium.

We'll hear a lot about taxes in the upcoming election. But what matters most is the source of the information. And how those who work for the source do the math.

Image: Fraser Valley News

Friday, August 09, 2019

His Own Set Of Facts



Doug Ford lives in a world of his own. Rob Benzie reports in The Toronto Star that:

Premier Doug Ford is discounting public-opinion polls suggesting he is unpopular because some of those surveys appear in the Toronto Star.
Ford — who has been booed at the Raptors’ victory celebration, the Special Olympics launch, and the Toronto Caribbean Carnival, among other events — insisted Thursday that Ontarians are behind him.
“I can tell you one thing, everywhere I’m going, right across this province, people are saying the same message: keep going,” he told reporters in the Niagara community of Fonthill.
Asked about recent polls indicating his personal popularity has plummeted a year after he was elected, Ford bristled.
“Well, it’s the Toronto Star’s numbers. I don’t believe … Star readership polls. I worry about the ones at election day,” the premier said.

But the pollster the Star uses stands by his numbers:

“He appears to be confusing the online panel we use with the reader polls you run on your website,” he said, referring to the unscientific straw polls on many news websites, including thestar.com.
“That aside, we’re not the only firm that is seeing similar results,” said [John] Corbett, adding Pollara Strategic Insights, Mainstreet Research, Ipsos, and Innovative Research Group have each found similar results using differing methodologies."

Obviously, Mr. Ford believes he's entitled to his own set of facts.

Image: MEME


Thursday, August 08, 2019

What Awaits Us


Globalism, Larry Elliott writes, is on its last legs:

Globalisation as we have known it is coming to an end and that’s by no means unwelcome.
Hailed as the ultimate in human progress, a model based on loosening the controls on capital and the construction of global supply chains has spawned recurrent financial crises, fostered corrosive inequality and worsened the climate emergency. True, millions of people have been lifted out of poverty in the past 25 years, but most of them live in a country – China – that has kept the market at arm’s-length.
Throughout history there have been successive waves of globalisation followed by a backlash when the model over-reached itself. This is one of those occasions and all the ingredients are in place for a struggle between the defenders of the status quo and those who say that recent trends in politics, technology and the climate point to the need for a new world order focused more on local solutions, stronger nation states and a reformed international system. It’s quite a stretch to imagine that Trump has this in mind when he is bashing China, but the economic crisis of the 1930s – of which protectionism was one part – led eventually, albeit after the war, to reforms that made the world a sounder and safer place.

Whether we will get through this without a war is an open question:

The G7 – the US, Canada, Japan and the four biggest economies of Europe – no longer call all the shots at international summits. The independence of central banks is threatened. The US is unwilling to soak up all the world’s excess production and instead demands that countries such as Germany run down their trade surpluses. Europe’s drive for integration has stalled. Parties of the centre have been hollowed out, either because they failed to spot the weaknesses inherent in globalisation or were too timid to act if they did. The Washington consensus – that there was a one-size-fits-all solution to the problems of developing countries that involved privatisation, abandoning capital controls and budgetary rectitude – has fallen into disrepute. And Russia is not the busted flush it was supposed to be. The risk that the current iteration of globalisation could end in military conflict is much higher than generally acknowledged.
To prevent such an outcome, there needs to be change at all levels, starting with the local one. Even during its heyday, large chunks of economic activity remained untouched by globalisation and that segment is likely to grow as economies become more service-sector dominated. In addition, countries such as the US are already bringing production back within its borders – in part because of the high cost of transporting goods around the world, and in part because technological change – greater use of robots and artificial intelligence – has reduced the financial incentive to offshore.

When it comes to global politics and global warming, we're at the end of an age. What awaits us is unclear.

Image: Sound Cloud

Wednesday, August 07, 2019

Get A Grip


Max Boot writes that it's time for white people in the United States to get a grip. They're not victims. The evidence to support his assertion is overwhelming:

Whites are still much better off than blacks. The poverty rate among African Americans is 21.8 percent; among whites, 8.8 percent. The median wealth of black households is $17,409; among whites, $171,000. The homeownership rate for blacks is 41.2 percent; among whites, 71.1 percent. There is also manifold evidence of continuing discrimination against African Americans. It’s hard to imagine a white man being choked to death by police, as Eric Garner was in New York, for illegally selling cigarettes. Or two white men being evicted by police from a Starbucks for asking to use the bathroom without ordering anything, as two black men were in Philadelphia.

But American whites, like their president, pay no attention to facts:

These facts do not, however, compute with whites who are convinced that they’re the real victims. Notwithstanding his occasional, insincere denunciations of racism, President Archie Bunker is the channeler and champion of white grievances. In 1989, right after calling for the death penalty for the Central Park Five (five minority teenagers who were later exonerated of rape), Trump told an interviewer: “A well-educated black has a tremendous advantage over a well-educated white in terms of the job market. … If I were starting off today I would love to be a well-educated black because I really believe they do have an actual advantage today.” (Of course, if Trump were actually “a well-educated black” and became president, he’d have some poorly educated racist demanding to see his birth certificate.)

So Trump continues to fan the flames:

He tells women of color to “go back” to where they come from and uses dehumanizing language (“infested,” “breeding”) to describe minorities, even while claiming, preposterously, “I am the least racist person there is anywhere in the world.”

And he assumes that white supremacy is the way of the world:

Trump must imagine that white supremacy is the natural order of things and that any attempt to deliver justice for minorities who have been discriminated against for centuries is an indicator of anti-white prejudice. The most extreme form of this outlook can be found among white supremacists such as the gunman who allegedly slaughtered 22 people in El Paso on Saturday. The suspect claimed to be acting in response “to the Hispanic invasion of Texas” — a state that was part of Mexico before being invaded by Anglos. Even many whites who aren’t driven to violence display a version of this victimhood mind-set. They view accusations of racism as a far bigger problem than racism itself, and blame “social justice warriors” rather than white racists for inflaming racial tensions.

White supremacists are not going away. They've always been there. But, unless Americans of all backgrounds show Trump the door, the bigots -- like Donald Trump himself -- will be in your face, twenty four hours a day.

Image: The New Yorker


Tuesday, August 06, 2019

Lock The Medcine Chest


Donald Trump wants to give Americans lower drug prices -- by buying drugs from Canada. David Olive writes:

Trump is poised to authorize pilot projects by U.S. states, pharmacists and wholesalers to import from Canada medications approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
This, despite the fact that, "Canada pays some of the world’s highest prices for generic drugs. We are the only country with universal medicare that doesn’t also provide universal drug coverage. And the $34 billion that Canadians spent on prescription drugs last year is the third-highest in the world on a per capita basis."

Still, compared to American drug prices, Canadian drugs are a bargain. Trump's move was immediately condemned by a number of organizations:

It took about a minute for the Canadian Medical Association (CMA), the Canadian Pharmacists Association and 14 other medical groups to formally protest the latest peculiar Trump notion to Ottawa.
“Pharmacies in Canada are resourced to serve the Canadian public,” the CMA said. Canada is “not equipped to support the needs of a country 10 times its size” without running short of medications for ourselves.

If there has ever been an action that displays Trump's essential deviousness, this is it. Trump is all about personal profit -- built on fraud. He refuses to do what other countries have done to lower drug prices. But, if he can steal what he wants -- or needs -- from some place else, he'll do it in a heartbeat.

Canada only has one option when dealing with such a thief. Lock the doors -- on medicine chests or on anything else in the neighbourhood.

Image: MEME

Monday, August 05, 2019

Taking Stock


The last six months have not gone well for Justin Trudeau. But he does have one large arrow in his quiver. Tom Walkom writes:

At 5.5 per cent, Canada’s unemployment rate is near historic lows. Inflation-adjusted wage rates are rising again and the stock market is rocking.
Even hard-hit Alberta is doing better.
While worrying signs are emerging about the future of the world economy overall, in North America, at least, things are fine.
Last week’s decision by the U.S. Federal Reserve to goose the American economy by reducing interest rates marginally means the boom Canada’s largest trading partner now enjoys is virtually guaranteed to last at least another few months.

On the other hand, there has been much to disappoint:

Once in power, politicians almost invariably disappoint. Trudeau has been no exception. He broke one promise to reform the voting system. He broke another to balance the budget by 2019.
His attempts to curb global warming have satisfied few. On the one hand are those who find the government’s approach too timid. On the other are those who think his methods, such as imposing a carbon tax, are too draconian.
Trudeau argues that this shows the Liberals are hewing to the middle way. That’s one explanation. Another is that on this file he has managed to please no one.
The Liberal government has made significant efforts to help Indigenous people improve their lives. But so much remains to be done that these efforts have earned it little political credit.
As for Trudeau himself, the patina has faded. Canadians are no longer gaga over his star quality. Many, I suspect, are sick of it.

Andrew Scheer and the Conservatives are betting that Canadians are sick of Trudeau:

They present him as a self-absorbed dilettante, who is out of his depth in serious matters of state.
They focus on scandals, real and imagined — the SNC-Lavalin affair, the alleged attempt to silence critics of the government’s China policy, the holiday spent on the Aga Khan’s private island.
They calculate that if they can persuade enough disillusioned Liberal voters to abandon Trudeau, they will win.

And, rather than touting the economy, the Liberals are pointing to premiers like Doug Ford as a potentially dark future:

To that end, they are inventing bogeymen to tie Scheer to — such as former Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper or Ontario Premier Doug Ford.

Will it work? Stay tuned.

Image: The Toronto Star

Sunday, August 04, 2019

The Coming Great Flood


Civilizations, Chris Hedges writes, have been rising and collapsing for six thousand years:

We are probably not an exception. The physical ruins of these empires, including the Mesopotamian, Roman, Mayan and Indus, litter the earth. They elevated, during acute distress, inept and corrupt leaders who channeled anger, fear and dwindling resources into self-defeating wars and vast building projects. The ruling oligarchs, driven by greed and hedonism, retreated into privileged compounds—the Forbidden City, Versailles—and hoarded wealth as their populations endured mounting misery and poverty. The worse it got, the more the people lied to themselves and the more they wanted to be lied to. Reality was too painful to confront. They retreated into what anthropologists call “crisis cults,” which promised the return of the lost world through magical beliefs.

Sound familiar? Consider:

We are entering this final phase of civilization, one in which we are slashing the budgets of the very agencies that are vital to prepare for the devastation ahead—the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration, the Federal Emergency Management Administration and the Environmental Protection Agency, along with programs at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration dealing with climate change. Hurricane after hurricane, monster storm after monster storm, flood after flood, wildfire after wildfire, drought after drought will gradually cripple the empire, draining its wealth and resources and creating swathes of territory defined by lawlessness and squalor.

The future, indeed, is dark:

These dead zones will obliterate not only commercial and residential life but also military assets. As Jeff Goodell points out in “The Water Will Come: Rising Seas, Sinking Cities and the Remaking of the Civilized World,” “The Pentagon manages a global real estate portfolio that includes over 555,000 facilities and 28 million acres of land—virtually all of it will be impacted by climate change in some way.”
As this column is being written, three key military facilities in Florida are evacuated: the Miami-area headquarters of the U.S. Southern Command, which oversees military operations in the Caribbean and Latin America; the U.S. Central Command in Tampa, in charge of operations in the Middle East and Southwest Asia; and the Naval Air Station in Key West. There will soon come a day when obliteration of infrastructure will prohibit military operations from returning. Add to the list of endangered military installations Eglin Air Force Base in the Florida Panhandle, the U.S. missile base in the Marshall Islands, the U.S. naval base on Diego Garcia and numerous other military sites in coastal areas and it becomes painfully clear that the existential peril facing the empire is not in the Middle East but in the seas and the skies. There are 128 U.S. military installations at risk from rising sea levels, including Navy, Air Force, Marine and Army facilities in Virginia. Giant vertical rulers dot the highway outside the Norfolk naval base to allow motorists to determine if the water is too deep to drive through. In two decades, maybe less, the main road to the base will be impassable at high tide daily.
Cities across the globe, including London, Shanghai, Rio de Janeiro, Mumbai, Lagos, Copenhagen, New Orleans, San Francisco, Savannah, Ga., and New York, will become modern-day versions of Atlantis, along with countries such as Bangladesh and the Marshall Islands and large parts of New Zealand and Australia. There are 90 coastal cities in the U.S. that endure chronic flooding, a number that is expected to double in the next two decades. National economies will go into tailspins as wider and wider parts of the globe suffer catastrophic systems breakdown. Central authority and basic services will increasingly be nonexistent. Hundreds of millions of people, desperate for food, water and security, will become climate refugees. Nuclear power plants, including Turkey Point, which is on the edge of Biscayne Bay south of Miami, will face meltdowns, such as the accident that occurred in the Fukushima nuclear plant in Japan after it was destroyed by an earthquake and tsunami. These plants will spew radioactive waste into the sea and air. Exacerbated by disintegration of the polar ice caps, the catastrophes will be too overwhelming to manage. We will enter what James Howard Kunstler calls “the long emergency.” When that happens, our experiment in civilization might approach an end.

This is not an uplifting thought for a Sunday. I apologize. But, in the end, you can't apologize for wilful ignorance.

Image: Ancient Code


Saturday, August 03, 2019

Kenney's War On "Foreign Interests"


Jason Kenney has declared war, Linda McQuaig writes, on the "foreign interests" that he claims are out to sabotage Alberta's oil based economy:

With the exception of Donald Trump's claim that he's draining the swamp, it's hard to imagine a clearer example of gibberish than Jason Kenney's claim that he's defending Alberta against "foreign-funded special interests."
The Alberta premier has launched a public inquiry to expose the foreign funding behind environmental groups opposing his efforts to increase production of Alberta's carbon-heavy oil.

Kenney neglects to mention that, by far, the largest foreign interest in Alberta is Big Oil:

"Big Oil was the original special interest meddling in Canadian affairs," says Donald Gutstein, an adjunct professor at Simon Fraser University and author of The Big Stall: How Big Oil and the Think Tanks are Blocking Action on Climate Change. "From the very beginning, Canada's oil and the tarsands were an American affair, financed by American capital to provide petroleum for the American market. Canadians and the environment be damned. Now Canadians, environmentalists and First Nations are saying 'enough.'"
Let's be clear: enormous amounts of money are being spent in the global battle to lobby governments and sway public opinion on climate change in the roughly dozen years we have left -- according to the UN's panel of climate experts -- before it's too late to stop the world's descent into climate hell.
But the vast majority of this money -- by a margin of about 10 to 1 -- is spent by the fossil fuel industry, according to research by Drexel University's Robert Brulle.
Some of the most powerful U.S. oil interests -- including the multi-billionaire Koch brothers -- have major holdings in Alberta, as the Star's Olivia Ward and the Washington Post have documented.
The Kochs have been leading funders of the climate denial movement in the U.S., and a potent force shaping conservative politics.
While foreign interests stay out of the Canadian limelight, allowing Canadian oil advocates to speak for them, their reach into Canadian politics is astonishingly deep and comprehensive, according to Kevin Taft, who served as leader of the opposition in the Alberta legislature from 2004 to 2008.

It wasn't always thus:

Former Alberta premier Peter Lougheed attempted in the 1970s and '80s to limit the power of foreign oil interests and to direct a larger share of oil profits to the people of Alberta, but his successors -- particularly Ralph Klein and Jason Kenney -- have largely capitulated to Big Oil.
"Jason Kenney is an instrument of the oil industry, full stop," says Taft, whose book, Oil's Deep State, describes the extraordinary grip Big Oil has on Alberta (and Canadian) politics. "The biggest oil companies in Canada all depend on foreign investors, and most are majority owned by U.S., Chinese, and European interests. These people are smart, ruthless, and greedy, and their number one concern is corporate profit. They've captured political parties, regulators, and civil servants."

But now, the "interests" Kenney has in mind are environmental groups:

Ironically, environmental groups tend to be upfront about their foreign donations. The Pembina Institute, one of Kenney's targets, declares on its website that 15 per cent of its funding is foreign.
Meanwhile, according to Brulle's research, the climate denial movement is quietly funded by Big Oil and conservative billionaires, who funnel enormous resources through secretive networks of charities that don't disclose funding sources.

Big Oil and Mr. Kenney are staunch allies. And the assault on Planet Earth continues.

Image: Bunkerist

Friday, August 02, 2019

Wider And Deeper


On Wednesday, the Federal Reserve cut interest rates because, according to Fed Chair Jay Powell, there were clear signs that the economy was slowing. There was, Paul Krugman writes, another clear sign. Trumponomics has been a failure:

Why has Trumponomics failed to deliver much besides trillion-dollar budget deficits? The answer is that both the tax cuts and the trade war were based on false views about how the world works.
Republican faith in the magic of tax cuts — and, correspondingly, belief that tax increases will doom the economy — is the ultimate policy zombie, a view that should have been killed by evidence decades ago but keeps shambling along, eating G.O.P. brains.
The record is actually awesomely consistent. Bill Clinton’s tax hike didn’t cause a depression, George W. Bush’s tax cuts didn’t deliver a boom, Jerry Brown’s California tax increase wasn’t “economic suicide,” Sam Brownback’s Kansas tax-cut “experiment” (his term) was a failure.
Nevertheless, Republicans persist. This time around, the centerpiece of the tax cut was a huge break for corporations, which was supposed to induce companies to bring back the money they’ve invested overseas and put the money to work here. Instead, they basically used the tax savings to buy back their own stock.
What went wrong? Business investment depends on many factors, with tax rates way down the list. While a casual look at the facts might suggest that corporations invest a lot in countries with low taxes, like Ireland, this is mainly an illusion: Companies use accounting tricks to report huge profits and hence big investments in tax havens, but these don’t correspond to anything real.
There was never any reason to believe that cutting corporate taxes here would lead to a surge in capital spending and jobs, and sure enough, it didn’t.
What about the trade war? The evidence is overwhelming: Tariffs don’t have much effect on the overall trade balance. At most they just shift the deficit around: We’re importing less from China, but we’re importing more from other places, like Vietnam.
And there’s a good case to be made that Trump’s tariffs have actually hurt U.S. manufacturing. For one thing, many of them have hit “intermediate goods,” that is, stuff American companies use in their production processes, so the tariffs have raised costs.

There has always been an international market for horse manure. But, with Mr. Trump, the market keeps getting wider and deeper.

Image: ABI Attachments AU

Thursday, August 01, 2019

Understanding -- And Empathy


Everyone knows that Justin Trudeau is a child of privilege. Andrew Scheer plans to drive that message home by presenting himself in stark contrast to Trudeau. He claims that he "knows what it’s like when families feel anxious that they won’t make it to the end of the month. Someone who’s never had to worry about that can’t possibly relate to it on a personal level.”

Except, Paul Willcocks writes:

Scheer is paid $264,400 a year. He lives rent-free in a taxpayer-funded 34-room mansion with a chef, chauffeur and household manager.
He might remember his parents feeling anxious about making it to the end of the month when he was a child. They were solidly middle class — his mother a nurse, his father a unionized librarian and proofreader at the Ottawa Citizen. But they had three children, so money was likely tight at times.
But as a career politician, Scheer surely hasn’t worried about paying the bills for a long time. He had a history degree and limited work experience when he was elected as an MP in 2005. He’s done political staff jobs, part-time work as a server and briefly sold insurance in a friend’s agency.
Then at 25, Scheer hit the jackpot. He was elected MP for Regina-Qu’Appelle, and started collecting about $140,000 a year — about $195,000 in current dollars.
Less than two years later, Scheer was appointed assistant deputy chairman of committees of the whole and a deputy Speaker. The title has a vaguely Dwight Schrute quality, but the job brought a 10-per-cent pay increase over the base pay for an MP.
And after the Harper government was re-elected in 2011, Scheer was elected Speaker. That took his pay to $236,600 and gave him an apartment on Parliament Hill and taxpayer-paid housing in The Farm, a 5,000-square-foot residence on four acres.
Since he was elected as an MP at 25 in 2005, Scheer has collected about $3 million in salary. For the last eight years, he’s lived in housing paid for by taxpayers.
He isn’t doing anything wrong. Parliament approved the pay plan.
But it’s ridiculous for him to claim that “I know what it’s like when families feel anxious that they won’t make it to the end of the month.”

Franklin Roosevelt was also a child of privilege. That didn't preclude him from understanding what it was like to be poor and unemployed. However, he never claimed that he and his family had trouble paying the bills at the end of the month.

The issue is about understanding -- and empathy. One's background does not make either inevitable.

Image: The Tyee

Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Adieu, Warren


That didn't last long. The Green Party has severed its ties to Warren Kinsella. Susan Delacourt reports that:

Green Party Leader Elizabeth May has wound down a controversial working relationship with former Liberal strategist Warren Kinsella, saying, “He’s finished whatever work he was doing with us.”
The limited-run arrangement, which seems to have involved Kinsella setting up a quick-response unit for the Greens, had drawn huge criticism inside and outside Green Party ranks.
At issue was whether May could be serious about elevating the tone of politics while simultaneously throwing in her lot with a pundit/strategist more famous for burning bridges than building them — or, as Kinsella himself boasts in the biography on his blog, who “can be useful in a stick-swinging, bench-clearing brawl.”

May has a reputation as a truth teller. Kinsella is known as a bridge  burner. The two reputations were at odds:

Is that the end of it then? Perhaps, with regard to that particular campaign operative, but May is going to be asked again and again in the coming election how much she is willing to compromise her principles for practical politics. That’s really what this controversy was about.
It’s an age-old story in politics, in Canada and beyond: the closer you get to power or influence, the more you have to play the game, no matter how much you insist you won’t. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, he of the sunny ways and promises of sweeping electoral reform in 2015, is going to face a lot of similar questions as he campaigns for re-election.
She said to me this week that she remains sure she won’t be drawn into the dark side, that she won’t run attack ads or even fall back into the rote habit of repeating talking points.
She reminded me that to “tell the truth all the time” was her first promise on taking up the Green leadership 13 years ago.
“That’s still my goal. I’ve not changed,” she said. But she admits that telling the truth can sometimes make things awkward for her team, especially when listeners or her rivals add their own spin to her replies. It’s happening a lot more now in 2019 than it did in any of the previous three elections in which she’s run as leader.

So there you have it. Will Elizabeth be corrupted by our political system? Stay tuned.

Image: The Hill Times


Tuesday, July 30, 2019

The Votes Of The Desperate


It's been obvious ever since Donald Trump descended his escalator, that he lives in the past. Paul Krugman writes that's he's stuck in 1989:

Why 1989? That was the year he demanded bringing back the death penalty in response to the case of the Central Park Five, black and Latino teenagers convicted of raping a white jogger in Central Park. They were, in fact, innocent; their convictions were vacated in 2002. Trump, nevertheless, has refused to apologize or admit that he was wrong.
His behavior then and later was vicious, and it is no excuse to acknowledge that at the time America was suffering from a crime wave. Still, there was indeed such a wave, and it was fairly common to talk about social collapse in inner-city urban communities.

Some argued that inner city collapse was connected to the fact that black people tended to live there. But the sociologist, William Julius Wilson, argued that the chaos in inner cities had nothing to do with race:

What Wilson argued, however, was that social dysfunction was an effect, not a cause. His work, culminating in the justly celebrated book “When Work Disappears,” made the case that declining job opportunities for urban workers, rather than some underlying cultural or racial disposition, explained the decline in prime-age employment, the decline of the traditional family, and more.

Was he right? Well, just look at small town and rural America, where jobs have been disappearing for decades:

Sure enough, that’s exactly what has happened to parts of nonmetropolitan America effectively stranded by a changing economy.
I’m not saying that there’s something wrong or inferior about the inhabitants of, say, eastern Kentucky (and no American politician would dare suggest such a thing). On the contrary: What the changing face of American social problems shows is that people are pretty much the same, whatever the color of their skin. Give them reasonable opportunities for economic and personal advancement, and they will thrive; deprive them of those opportunities, and they won’t.

These are the very people who voted for Trump. And, as he lashes out at urban blacks, he does nothing for those who support him. I'm sure he's never read Wilson's book. He wouldn't understand it if he tried.

The point is he doesn't understand anything -- except that hate buys him the votes of the desperate.

Image: Audible.in

Monday, July 29, 2019

Doug's Shadow


Poor Andrew Scheer. He had hoped that Doug Ford would take the summer off and keep his mouth shut. But Doug likes the limelight. Antonia Zerbesias writes:

Ford, whose popularity, as measured by poll after poll, is tanking. That, despite making appearances "for the people" all over Ontario in his attempts to be likeable again.
He may still be smiling -- a barely upturned grimace -- but his eyes show fear and uncertainty.

Ontarians are not just exorcised by Ford's face:

This is the Ford who got loudly booed at Toronto's celebration of the Raptors basketball victory. The Ford who disconnected his "dial-a-premier" mobile phone because of "special interest groups" calling him at all hours. The Ford whose promise to "end hallway medicine" within a year will actually take many, many more years to fulfill, as Health Minister Christine Elliott just had to announce. The Ford who now requires high school students to take four online courses in order to graduate, even if their families can't afford computers. The Ford caught in a patronage scandal that just keeps on a'giving and a'giving, with a bodycount (so far) of seven dumped from their high-paying positions. The Ford who keeps trending on Twitter, with hashtags like "#CorruptAF." The Ford who missed his own deadline for a new Toronto transit strategy after, once again, ripping up years of research and a shovel-ready route.

Mr. Scheer has discovered that the big man casts a big shadow:

Whatever plans the federal Conservatives had for their Ontario election campaign while the provincial PCs would presumably be flipping burgers at legion halls in the hinterland, they overlooked one important factor. The news beast must be fed non-stop in the digital age and, if Queen's Park journalists don't have question period to cover, they'll find something else to investigate and report on.
Which they have. The Toronto Star has been relentless in its coverage, picking up where it left off with former Toronto mayor Rob Ford, Doug's younger brother. The paper has broken damaging stories on transit, cronyism and mental health care. The Globe and Mail let rip a powerful feature on Ford's friends and influences in the lobbying business. Even the usually Ford-friendly Toronto Sun has taken a few swipes.
Scheer is trapped in Ford's enormous shadow. He's trailing a year of the premier's cuts to health care, education, universities, libraries, emergency services and transit, plus his $30-million fight against the federal carbon tax and his billion-dollar effort to privatize alcohol sales. All this while giving free rein to developers to build condos just about anywhere, without regard for infrastructure, wildlife and environmental concerns.
To many voters, Ford looks like the trailer for a Scheer horror show. Which is why we don't see them anymore in the same photo op, like at the Calgary Stampede where both turned up at the flapjack grill. 
And to think that just last fall, they enthusiastically shook hands for the cameras, agreeing that they would take down Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his Liberals together.

Andrew Scheer has problems of his own. But, in Ontario, his biggest problem is Doug Ford.

Image: rabble.ca

Sunday, July 28, 2019

The Great Reckoning


Andrew Bacevich writes that there's a Great Reckoning coming. The device he uses for his argument is "a remnant of a manuscript, discovered in a vault near the coastal town of Walpole, Massachusetts, [which] appears to have been part of a larger project, probably envisioned as an interpretive history of the United States since the year 2000. Only a single chapter, probably written near the midpoint of the twenty-first century, has survived."

Bacevich looks at the world from the perspective of the future. In the early part of the 21st century, the evidence of the coming planetary collapse was everywhere:

Item: The reality of climate change was now indisputable. All that remained in question was how rapidly it would occur and the extent (and again rapidity) of the devastation that it would ultimately inflict.
Item: Despite everything that was then known about the dangers of further carbon emissions, the major atmospheric contributor to global warming, they only continued to increase, despite the myriad conferences and agreements intended to curb them. (U.S. carbon emissions, in particular, were still rising then, and global emissions were expected to rise by record or near-record amounts as 2019 began.)
Item: The polar icecap was disappearing, with scientists reporting that it had melted more in just 20 years than in the previous 10,000. This, in turn, meant that sea levels would continue to rise at record rates, posing an increasing threat to coastal cities.
Item: Deforestation and desertification were occurring at an alarming rate.
Item: Approximately eight million metric tons of plastic were seeping into the world’s oceans each year, from the ingestion of which vast numbers of seabirds, fish, and marine mammals were dying annually. Payback would come in the form of microplastics contained in seafood consumed by humans.
Item: With China and other Asian countries increasingly refusing to accept American recyclables, municipalities in the United States found themselves overwhelmed by accumulations of discarded glass, plastic, metal, cardboard, and paper. That year, the complete breakdown of the global recycling system already loomed as a possibility.
Item: Worldwide bird and insect populations were plummeting. In other words, the Sixth Mass Extinction had begun.

Yet in the face of all this evidence, countries -- particularly the United States -- refused to do anything about the looming catastrophe:

To say that Americans were oblivious to such matters would be inaccurate. Some were, for instance, considering a ban on plastic straws. Yet taken as a whole, the many indications of systemic and even planetary dysfunction received infinitely less popular attention than the pregnancies of British royals, the antics of the justifiably forgotten Kardashian clan, or fantasy football, a briefly popular early twenty-first century fad.
Of course, decades later, viewed with the benefit of hindsight, the implications of these various trends and data points seem painfully clear: the dominant ideological abstraction of late postmodernity — liberal democratic capitalism — was rapidly failing or had simply become irrelevant to the challenges facing the United States and the human species as a whole. To employ another then-popular phrase, liberal democratic capitalism had become an expression of “fake news,” a scam sold to the many for the benefit of the privileged few.
“Toward the end of an age,” historian John Lukacs (1924-2019) once observed, “more and more people lose faith in their institutions and finally they abandon their belief that these institutions might still be reformed from within.” Lukacs wrote those words in 1970, but they aptly described the situation that had come to exist in that turning-point year of 2019. Basic American institutions — the overworked U.S. military being a singular exception — no longer commanded popular respect.
In essence, the postmodern age was ending, though few seemed to know it — with elites, in particular, largely oblivious to what was occurring. What would replace postmodernity in a planet heading for ruin remained to be seen.

We are, indeed, at the end of an age. Something to think about.

Image: Steam


Saturday, July 27, 2019

It's Almost Shakespearean


It could be that history is repeating itself -- or at least rhyming. Susan Delacourt writes:

Forty years before Justin Trudeau has been forced to contend with Trump and Johnson, there was Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher — also transformative conservative politicians — and another Trudeau serving as Canadian prime minister.
Pierre Trudeau, like his son today, didn’t have much in common with the leaders chosen to head Britain and the United States, or with the brand of conservative politics that swept Reagan and Thatcher to office at the dawn of the 1980s.

There are differences, as Tom Axworthy -- who was a key advisor to Trudeau the Elder  -- points out:

Axworthy is cautious about seeing today’s U.S. and U.K. leaders as direct descendants of their 1980s counterparts. “Thatcher was extremely intelligent and articulate and Reagan was the greatest communicator I ever met in politics.”

But the parallels are unmistakable:

Pierre Trudeau clashed often with Reagan and Thatcher at international meetings — perhaps not as explosively as the Trump-Trudeau spat that burst into the open last year, but it was a constant tension in the early 1980s. Then, as now, when it came to global summitry, Canada found more congenial, progressive alliances with the leaders of Germany and France.
And with the U.S. and Britain acting as international conservative hawks in the 1980s, Pierre Trudeau spent some of his final term in office on an international peace crusade, after he’d finished patriating the Constitution and bringing a Charter of Rights to Canada.
By 1984, though, Trudeau, his peace crusade and much of his liberal resistance were swept aside. Canadians had gone from scoffing at Reagan and Thatcher to electing a prime minister who would be cosy with them — Brian Mulroney.

Who can say how it will all work out? But there's almost something Shakespearean about the irony.

Image: The Toronto Star

Friday, July 26, 2019

Republican Fascists


The Republican Party, Arthur Haberman writes, is a fascist institution:

Fascism is first characterized by a virulent nationalism, which is often either ethnic or racist. In the case of Trump, other leaders of the federal party, and many other members of the Senate and the House of Representatives, racist tropes are used all the time, most recently against several women of colour in the Democratic Party. Republicans are nationalist, whether it is “America First,” the insistence on the United States as the world’s greatest country, or in a belief in American Exceptionalism, something that sounds as though it is coming out of middle Europe a century ago.
Fascists attempt to neutralize the courts and take away the independence of the judiciary. Republicans have politicized the Supreme Court and the Republican-controlled Senate in the last few years has approved right-wing judges. who do whatever is bidden by the party, many of them found not competent to serve by bar associations.

Fascist governments have elections. But the elections are rigged. The Republican Party has worked very hard to rig elections in their favour:

Fascists like to have elections, which give the illusion of democracy. Some weeks ago the Supreme Court approved the idea that gerrymandering was constitutional. The decision was 5-4, with the two most recent appointees, Justices Gorsuch and Kavanaugh in favour. Both appointments are suspect — Gorsuch because the Senate refused to fulfil its constitutional duty under Obama; Kavanaugh because he was a clear political appointee who politicized his Senate hearing.

 They glorify the military:

Fascists like military might and power, especially its display. The July 4 parade in Washington this year was a Fascist happening.

 They subjugate women:

Fascists don’t like women who are politically active or aggressive. Fascism, as Virginia Woolf noted in the late 1920s, is a masculine doctrine. Women are supposed to be submissive and obedient. One of the ways Fascists display this belief is their attempt to control women’s bodies — males who pass laws to attack birth control and abortion.

 They vilify and scapegoat minorities:

Unlike some Fascist parties, the Republicans need not invent the devil. It is the Democratic Party, Blacks and Hispanics, immigrants and refugees, much of the media. The federal Republican Party is a party of white racists.

All of the signs are there. And they're hiding in plain sight.

Image: MEME

Thursday, July 25, 2019

It's Up To The Democrats


Robert Mueller has had his time before the House of Representatives. And E.J. Dionne doesn't mince any words:

President Trump and his Republican apologists — including his defense lawyer who moonlights as the nation’s attorney general — do not believe a single word they have said about former special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s report. The GOP has claimed that it shows “no collusion, no obstruction.” But Republicans’ behavior at Wednesday’s hearings, not to mention Mueller’s own words, prove they have been lying.

The Republicans tried to muddy the waters by attacking Mueller. But, as the day went on, Muller's answers became blunt and unambiguous:

With the passing of the hours, Mueller got increasingly steely. “It is not a witch hunt,” he snapped when asked about Trump’s favorite locution. Asked whether Trump’s answers to him weren’t always truthful, Mueller replied, devastatingly, “generally.” About Trump’s encouragement of WikiLeaks, he said: “Problematic is an understatement in terms of what it displays of giving some hope or some boost to what is and should be illegal activity.”
His steadiness in the face of repeated Republican provocations and his unwavering confirmations of his report’s genuinely scandalous findings about Trump sent a message: Only a country that doesn’t care about the rule of law, has given up on holding presidents accountable and is too cowardly to stand up to foreign interference in our elections would simply let all of this go. Wednesday provided a mandate for pressing on.
And Rep. Ken Buck (R-Colo.) got an answer from Mueller proving the old lawyer’s rule that you should not ask a question if you are not sure you will like the answer. “You could charge the president of the United States with obstruction of justice after he left office?” Buck asked. The laconic Mueller replied very simply: “Yes.”

After the hearing,Trump responded that he couldn't be indicted because, "I've done nothing wrong." This from the man who, the day before claimed that Article II of the Constitution allowed him to do, "Whatever I want."

It's clear that Republicans will back him in whatever he wants to do. The future is clear. It's up to the Democrats to make it happen.

Image: Vox

Wednesday, July 24, 2019

They've Multiplied


It's official. Boris Johnson is now the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom. And a lot of Britons know who they're getting. Jonathan Manthorpe writes:

Everyone knows — even those who have had no direct experience of him — that the real Johnson is a good deal less attractive than the bumbling, politically incorrect, but ebullient and encouraging image he presents.
Johnson’s entire personal and political history as a journalist, MP, mayor of London, and foreign minister is of total self-obsession, crude ambition, deceit and betrayal. He is one of those people who has mastered the art of failing upwards.

 He arrives without being elected to the position:

He got just over 66 per cent of votes from the nearly 90 per cent of the eligible 160,000 Conservative Party members.
Thus just 92,000 people from among the United Kingdom’s 65 million people have made Johnson prime minister.
So Johnson comes to the leadership with almost no national political legitimacy. Therefore, it is likely that he will either choose or be forced to call a general election ahead of the UK leaving the EU.

Besides  Brexit, Johnson has a nasty situation brewing with Iran.

The fools have gone forth and multiplied and democracy is failing.

Image: AP News