Sunday, May 31, 2020

The China Crisis

Justin Trudeau is facing a COVID Crisis. But just around the corner is a China Crisis. Robin Sears writes:

It’s essential when dealing with authoritarian governments to analyze carefully what really worries them, and what they will ignore. Any economic measures we might take they could care less about, as China could easily hurt us more.
Secondly, it is important to sort the must-haves: from the nice-to-haves. It would be a huge victory if Canada could help prevent Chinese spies from repressing foreign organizations and corporations in Hong Kong. We can’t.
We have two musts: the two Michaels and Beijing agents’ threats on Canadian soil against Chinese Canadians. Kovrig and Spavor must be allowed consular visits again, and then be released. Those Communist Party of China United Front workers who are dispatched to apply pressure on Canadians critical of the CCP should be arrested, named and shamed, criminally charged if not diplomats, sent home if they are.
These are Canada’s policy musts today, and the prime minister should cite them publicly and often. We have tried private diplomacy for more than 18 months now. It is time to go public. Will this provoke a CCP backlash? Perhaps, but the risks of not doing so are rising for Chinese Canadians and the two Michaels.

It's also vitally important to understand China's end game:

It is Taiwan that is President Xi Jinping’s endgame. He has pledged he will achieve unification while he is in office. He will fail, but he can make life much harder for Taiwan. A strong cross-pressure of regular public condemnations from as many of the OECD nations who are willing would be profoundly humiliating.

Getting there, however, will not be easy:

Xi faces his own dilemmas, he is engaged in a game of chicken with Trump. The CCP does not want to lose control in Hong Kong, but almost as badly it does not want to see Hong Kong’s status as an Asian financial capital destroyed. The city’s stock exchange is dominated by more than 200 listed mainland corporations, for whom access to global capital markets through Hong Kong remains key. If the property market were also to crash, in the wake of a collapse of the Hang Seng index, the cost would be in tens of billions of dollars for Chinese citizens and SOEs.
The Hang Seng has already sunk to a valuation of only 10 times underlying earnings, less than half that of the NYSE. If the Americans do pull Hong Kong’s special status, they would be signally to the 1,300 American corporations there, “Time to leave!” That would really be the beginning of the end for one of the most beautiful multicultural cities in the world. What seemed unthinkable only months ago — that the giant American banks, technology, and professional service firms would leave — now seems possible.

And, finally, working things through will take a long time:

In the Cold War, it took decades for the West to develop an effective set of political and economic levers to restrain the Soviet Union. But economic pressure, public humiliation over the treatment of dissidents and a visible and unmatchable military commitment on all of the Warsaw Pact’s borders led to the Soviets’ collapse.
The struggle to force China to accept the costs, obligations and responsibilities of a superpower requires different tactics. But two things have not changed since that earlier global battle: such a campaign can work only with the closest unity of strategy and tactics by the greatest number of nations; and by carefully choosing a short list of vulnerable targets of pressure wisely.

Trump's America First mentality won't work. But a global alliance of like-minded countries could.

Image: Canadian Business

Saturday, May 30, 2020

From Alabama To Washington

Fifty years ago, American cities were burning. Today, history is rhyming and Donald Trump is tweeting, "When the looting starts the shooting starts." Max Boot writes:

Consciously or not, Trump was quoting Miami police chief Walter Headley in 1967. Headley also said, “We don’t mind being accused of police brutality,” and he charged that, while most “Negroes” were “law abiding,” “10 per cent are young hoodlums who have taken advantage of the civil rights campaign.” Headley’s brutal rhetoric and tactics were later blamed for inciting a three-day riot in Miami in 1968.

Trump's presidency is the presidency George Wallace sought but never achieved:

As governor of Alabama, Wallace had vowed in 1963: “segregation today, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever.” But during his third-party campaign for president in 1968, following the passage of the Civil Rights Act and Voting Rights Act, Wallace didn’t run on an explicitly segregationist platform. Instead, he focused on a “law and order” message that drew on white voters’ concerns about rising crime, urban riots, antiwar protests, liberal court rulings, busing and other hot-button issues. His slogan was “Stand up for America.”
Wallace was not subtle about his threats of violence. At Madison Square Garden in New York on Oct. 24, 1968, he expressed disgust at demonstrators trying to block President Lyndon B. Johnson’s limousine: “I tell you when November comes, the first time they lie down in front of my limousine, it’ll be the last one they ever lay down in front of; their day is over!”
A few minutes later, shedding his jacket and clenching his fist, Wallace shouted: “We don’t have riots in Alabama. They start a riot down there, first one of ‘em to pick up a brick gets a bullet in the brain, that’s all. And then you walk over to the next one and say, ‘All right, pick up a brick. We just want to see you pick up one of them bricks, now!’ ”
As historian Dan T. Carter notes in his history of the modern conservative movement, “The crowd went berserk.” It was obvious to both supporters and detractors what Wallace was saying. An African American protester held up a poster proclaiming “Law and Order — Wallace Style.” “Underneath the slogan,” Carter writes, “was the outline of a Ku Klux Klansman holding a noose.”

The ghost of the man who stood in front of the schoolhouse door at the Univesity of Alabama now walks out into the Rose Garden.


Friday, May 29, 2020

Biden Will Win

Tony Burman is getting more and more certain that Joe Biden will be the next American president. He writes:

With more than 100,000 Americans dead and 40 million others out of work as a result of the pandemic and the U.S. government’s disastrous handling of it, Donald J. Trump will likely be remembered decades from now as the most incompetent, morally corrupt president in modern U.S. history.

It's hard to argue with that conclusion. But, Burman argues, there are several reasons why Trump will be a one-term president:

1. You can see a landslide in the making: Since March, Joe Biden has respected the “stay at home” instructions in his home state of Delaware, and he is doing just fine. In contrast, Donald Trump has hogged the spotlight and it has damaged him. At least two polls this week indicate that Biden is leading by 11 points. Trump’s approval rating has been sinking by the week. Remember that Trump’s margin in 2016 was razor thin — a total of 77,744 votes cast in three states (Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania) out of 120 million votes overall.
2. Trump's base is collapsing: Trump and the Republicans appear to be losing older voters who have always turned out to support them. Trump’s poor handling of the pandemic, his constant insults of Biden’s age and his persistent efforts to undermine Medicare have turned these voters against him. And unlike Hillary Clinton, Biden is seen as one of them. More broadly, recent polling in 13 swing states indicates a consistent lead for Biden in all of them, and at a level much higher than Hillary Clinton ever achieved.
3. Biden has learned from Hilary's failures: His campaign staff has placed more emphasis on their digital operation and created genuine bridges to the African American, Latino and progressive communities that felt neglected four years ago. Since it is assumed Biden will last only one term, a crucial decision is the choice of his running mate. Two strong front runners are Senators Kamala Harris and Elizabeth Warren, who would both be welcomed by Democratic activists.
4. The worst is still to come for Trump: the U.S. will still be flirting with depression-level economic damage and a “second wave” of the pandemic will begin to surface in the autumn. There is also the certainty that Trump — on the brink of defeat — will try to sabotage the process and claim that the voting is rigged. So, strap in.
5. Facing that immense damage, Biden has been inspired by Franklin Roosevelt: The landscape will be even worse than what Barack Obama and he, as vice-president, inherited in January 2009 in the wake of the 2008 recession. Instead of promising that “nothing would fundamentally change” as he once did as a candidate, there is increasing talk that Biden will be prepared to embrace the radicalism of president Franklin D. Roosevelt who took over from an unpopular Republican opponent during The Great Depression.

That's the future Burman sees. Let's hope he's right.

Image: The Toronto Star

Thursday, May 28, 2020

We Should Be Grateful

Stephen Harper, Andrew Cohen writes, hasn't changed. Even though he

has been out of office for four-and-a-half years, but he can still draw a crowd of conservatives and a chorus of critics. And nurse a hell of a grudge.
No one says former Canadian prime ministers must gently fade away, once the way of American presidents. What we do expect, though, is a measure of honesty, generosity and self-reflection.
Harper offers none of that. He is elder but no statesman; he has second thoughts without sobriety. He cannot help himself.

An interview Harper did with the American conservative talk show host Dennis Prager has surfaced after two years. And it reveals that Harper is as mean and nasty as ever:

Blaming the liberal media conspiring to defeat him in 2015 – his big allegation – is so silly that even Andrew MacDougall, Harper’s former head of communication, calls it “crap.”
No right-wing media in Canada? Has he checked the Globe and Mail, which endorsed his party, or the editorial pages of Postmedia News? Has he read John Ibbitson’s sympathetic biography? Didn’t Mike Duffy, as a broadcaster, destroy St├ęphane Dion in a television interview in 2008?
Collusion? I must have missed the midnight conclaves of the College of Columnists, scheming “to bring down” the Conservatives (as Val Sears of the Toronto Star famously declared boarding John Diefenbaker’s campaign plane in 1962).
Who needed collusion when Harper was destroying himself in 2015 with his “snitch lines” and anti-immigration tropes? Which party had the most money and the advantage of government and then foolishly set an election date two-and-a-half months away, certain that a long campaign would undo the callow Justin Trudeau?

Perhaps it all goes back to his relationship with his mother:

He reveals, for example, that his mother never said anything to him “remotely praiseworthy”. After he became prime minister, she allowed: “Well, you’ve done well for yourself.”
That may explain his gnarled, flinty and vindictive public persona in 10 years in office. By 2015, Canadians had enough of his distemper, so acute that he shocked a visiting foreign leader with his burning contempt for the opposition.
In the Prager interview, Harper notes that no Canadian university had given him an honorary degree, even though “I was one of the best-educated prime ministers the country ever had.”

Does that sound like sour grapes? You bet. We should all be grateful that he's not in office now.

Image: The Rayfield

Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Steaming Piles

From the very beginning -- starting with Barack Obama's "phony" birth certificate -- Donald Trump has peddled conspiracy theories. His latest is particularly vile. Peter Wehner writes:

When Lori Klausutis died, she worked for then–Republican Representative Joe Scarborough. Today, Scarborough is a fierce critic of the president from his perch at MSNBC, where he co-hosts Morning Joe. That is why the president has been peddling a cruel and baseless conspiracy theory that Scarborough had Klausutis murdered.
This is a topic most journalists are inherently reluctant to cover, given the danger that it will draw more attention to a vile lie. But with the president and his son Don Jr., who between them have more than 85 million Twitter followers, sending out lunatic tweets and calling for “the opening of a Cold Case against Psycho Joe Scarborough,” human decency requires a response.

Two days ago, the dead woman's husband asked Jack Dorsey -- the president of Twitter -- to remove the president's tweets about his wife from the platform. Then he wrote:

I have mourned my wife every day since her passing. I have tried to honor her memory and our marriage. As her husband, I feel that one of my marital obligations is to protect her memory as I would have protected her in life. There has been a constant barrage of falsehoods, half-truths, innuendo and conspiracy theories since the day she died. I realize that may sound like an exaggeration, unfortunately it is the verifiable truth. Because of this, I have struggled to move forward with my life.
The frequency, intensity, ugliness, and promulgation of these horrifying lies ever increases on the internet. These conspiracy theorists, including most recently the President of the United States, continue to spread their bile and misinformation on your platform disparaging the memory of my wife and our marriage.
I would also ask that you consider Lori’s niece and two nephews who will eventually come across this filth in the future. They have never met their Aunt and it pains me to think they would ever have to “learn” about her this way.
My wife deserves better.

The official autopsy found that Mrs. Klausutis had an undiagnosed heart condition. Nowhere does Trump or Junior mention that fact.

There are laws against libel. But, as Trump has proved time and time again, the law means nothing to him. And the damage keeps piling up. Wehner writes:

There is a wickedness in our president that long ago corrupted him. It’s corrupted his party. And it’s in the process of corrupting our country, too.
He is a crimson stain on American decency. He needs to go.

Everywhere Trump goes, he leaves steaming piles of excrement behind him.

Image: Reddit

Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Making The World Safe For Hypocrisy

Huge crowds gathered over the weekend in Toronto's Trinity-Bellwoods Park. Our political leaders were horrified -- with reason. On the other hand, they have not been leading by example. Susan Delacout writes:

While their disappointment was understandable, it was also a bit rich. When it comes to leadership by example during this pandemic, some notable Canadian politicians have amassed an array of examples of what not to do. Why does this keep happening?
Mayor John Tory is the latest public figure to sheepishly acknowledge he had strayed from his own advice when he played fast and loose with mask-wearing in that same crowded park over the weekend.
And he’s not alone in the pack of leaders who have failed to walk their own talk during this crisis.
Justin Trudeau crossed the Ontario-Quebec border to spend Easter with his family at Harrington Lake, even though that option was not open to other families with property in Quebec.
Premier Doug Ford visited his own cottage that same long weekend — to check the plumbing, he said — and then on Mother’s Day, held a gathering at his own house that was larger than public-health-prescribed limits.
Meanwhile, Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer piled his family into a not-physically distant plane ride from Saskatchewan to Ottawa in April.

Thomas Wolfe wryly observed that some people had a talent for, "making the world safe for hypocrisy, " But hypocrisy won't get us out of this crisis.

Image: Dreamstime

Monday, May 25, 2020

No Going Back

There's a rush these days to get back to the way things used to be. But we're not going back there. Bruce Anderson writes that the new world order is disorder:

This struck me as I was going through our latest Abacus Data polling, which highlights that Canadians don’t much like today’s leadership in China, Russia or the U.S. — the biggest economies and most militarized countries in the world. And they’re not so keen on the United Kingdom’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson, either.
Russia might be economically weak today, but still seems to be malevolent. The modern focus is on sowing division around the world, rather than building an empire, and hackers are the weapon of choice, rather than nukes. But it’s hard to imagine a Russian leader in decades as unpopular in Canada as President Vladimir Putin is today. Only seven per cent like Putin; 57 per cent don’t.
After the election of U.S. President Donald Trump and his “America First” agenda became dramatically clear, Canadians started to take a second look at China for a more globalist point of view about trade and climate and development issues. Briefly, Canadians felt China was a better example of global leadership and more committed to peace around the world compared to Trump’s America.
But today, China’s leadership is broadly mistrusted, with 10 times as many people registering a negative view of President Xi Jinping (52 per cent) as those registering a positive one (five per cent).

Gone are the days when Canadians thought that God was in heaven and all was right with the world:

Because of our cultural tendencies, Canada may be more deeply affected by the seemingly chronic disruption in the geopolitical landscape. Our democratic compass is set on “peace, order and good government,” and it’s no accident — it’s a reflection of what we prize. But from Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro to Johnson, Trump to Putin, Xi to Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the world seems hell-bent on disorder, or sometimes just hell-bound.
The pressures building up in the pandemic-afflicted world, coupled with the growing climate crisis, might offer the best and most urgent argument for a collective approach the likes of which we’ve never seen.
But the leaders in many of the countries that are vital to such an approach are running in the opposite direction.

Navigating this disorder will not be easy. But there will be no going back to the way things used to be.

Image: The New Statesman