Friday, September 30, 2016

Xenophobia And Political Ambition

Bob Hepburn warns that those of us who think that Kellie Leitch is on the political fringe, whipping up wing nuts, should think again. Xenophobia is gaining political traction all around the world. After his recent visit to Britain, Hepburn reports that:

In Oxford and Portsmouth, well-educated middle-income people, the type of voters I thought would see the advantages of being closely linked with other European nations, talked to me about why they voted to leave the EU.

Their main reason? Too many immigrants in recent years from the continent, many of whom they felt didn’t want to “be British,” who didn’t respect “British culture” and “British traditions” and who could be potential terrorists.

They also wanted to “send a message” to the political elite in London, who they felt ignored their concerns about immigrants working in jobs that once were filled by old-stock Brits.

The same thing is happening throughout Europe and the United States:

Similar anti-immigrant sentiments are rampant across Europe and are altering the political landscape from Greece to Germany, France and on to the United Kingdom.

The same xenophobia is a driving force behind Donald Trump’s campaign for the U.S. presidency, with his rallies fuelled by crowds roaring their approval whenever he vows to build a towering wall along the Mexican border to stop illegal immigrants.

In Europe, countries such as Turkey, Romania and Bulgaria are fed up with other nations demanding they take in more refugees fleeing the conflict in Syria. Greeks are trying to prevent migrant children from attending schools with their sons and daughters and talk about “a different look” now in Greek schools.

And, in Canada, the same sentiments are just under the surface:

The lone public poll on Leitch’s proposal found 67 per cent of Canadians, including 87 per cent of Tory voters, like the idea of screening newcomers for “anti-Canadian values.” The Forum Research poll for the Toronto Star also found 57 per cent of Liberals and 59 per cent of New Democrats like it.

It doesn't matter that potential immigrants are already heavily screened. What matters is that xenophobia is the handmaiden of political ambition.


Thursday, September 29, 2016

That's When It Gets Tough

The pundits are increasingly sceptical about Justin Trudeau. Nevertheless, Gerry Caplan writes, the public's love affair with him continues. Even columnists for The Toronto Star -- which generally supports his initiatives -- are beginning to show their cynicism:

Take a column this past weekend by the scrupulously non-partisan Susan Delacourt. Like so many of her peers, Ms. Delacourt did not at all appreciate Stephen Harper’s open contempt for the press gallery. So for most reporters, Mr. Trudeau’s openness and accessibility was a breath of fresh air. Now his shtick has turned to hot air.

Mr. Trudeau’s press conference last week, Delacourt wrote in last Saturday’s Star, “was a remarkably answer-free encounter with the parliamentary press gallery, in which one had the sense the Prime Minister was trying to prove that he could smile and speak for 20 minutes without saying anything.” She offers this warning to the PM: Voters can “take only so many platitudes and winding, wordy detours around hard truths.” Harsh stuff.

And, likewise, for Tony Burman, the bloom is coming off the rose:

Similarly, Tony Burman, former head of CBC News, ridicules Mr. Trudeau’s speech at the UN last week (to a hall two-thirds empty, it was not often enough noted). Mr. Trudeau was peddling his usual “We’re Canadian and we’re here to help” rhetoric. Mr. Burman comments acidly: “If only life were that easy.” And a Globe cartoon shows Mr. Trudeau as all sizzle, no steak.

Smiling images will only get you so far:

These scornful and disappointed observations seem to me to encapsulate much of the reaction these days to Mr. Trudeau’s endless sunny days. Nothing is as easy as Mr. Trudeau always implies, from pipelines to reconciliation with our indigenous peoples. Yet he must produce something, indeed many things, in the next few months, or he’ll be a laughingstock. But of course he risks being a laughingstock if he fails to live up to his own hype. This is a man who increases expectations every time he speaks, who can’t seem to distinguish between aspiration and reality, and he’s doing himself no favours.

 All political honeymoons come to an end. And that's when it gets tough.


Wednesday, September 28, 2016

It Only Stokes Anger

In what Lawrence Martin calls The Anglosphere, conservatism is in crisis. He writes:

In the United States, the conservative brand has gone from Dwight Eisenhower to Ronald Reagan, to George W. Bush, to Mr. Trump, who was on display in full floral gory or glory (take your pick) in Monday night’s presidential debate. Canada has gone from the moderate Toryism of John Diefenbaker, Robert Stanfield and Brian Mulroney to the vanquishing of Red Tories and the conservatism of Stephen Harper (with Toronto’s Rob Ford thrown in for bad measure). In Great Britain, the Conservatives are in the thrall of those who want to put up walls.

The brand is increasingly about identity tests and xenophobic strains. It is home to, if not climate-change deniers, then many who are close to it. It is soft on guns. Its appeal is to aging whites, to the prejudices of the less-educated, to religious fundamentalists. It’s a time-warp version of modernism, one many Canadian Conservatives apparently think they can thrive on.

Rather than building a big tent, conservatives have doubled down on their base:

In recent years, Canadian Conservatives have been like some of the others with their obsession with appealing to the party base, to the prejudices of the base, for milking it for everything it’s worth. In this sense, the crisis in conservatism reaches beyond Mr. Trump. The “base” fixation was rarely what it is now in these countries. The parties normally sought to broaden their pitch, not narrow it.

Democracy requires openness to ideas and to people who are not like you. But for modern conservatives, people who are not like them are considered  members of the elite. That's Donald Trump's pitch line. It was also Stephen Harper's line.

That mindset doesn't encourage renewal. It only stokes anger.


Tuesday, September 27, 2016

His Word Is Not His Bond

Following last night's debate, NPR fact checked the statements of both candidates. It should come as no surprise that much of what Donald Trump says is patently untrue. Consider just a few examples:

Trump said, "You look at what China is doing for country in terms of making our product, they're devaluing their currency and there's nobody in our government to fight them."

According to Anthony Kuhn, NPR's International Correspondent, "In fact, over the past two years, Beijing has been selling off some of its roughly $4 trillion in foreign exchange reserves to prop up the value of its currency, the Renminbi or Yuan. This has contributed to a lower U.S. trade deficit with China. Beijing allowed the RMB to appreciate against the dollar for about a decade until 2014, leading the IMF to judge the RMB as fairly valued in May of last year."

Trump said,"Thousands of jobs leaving Michigan, leaving Ohio, they’re all leaving."

Marilyn Geewax reports, "Unemployment in Michigan is 4.5 percent; Ohio rate is 4.7 percent. Both are better than the national average of 4.9 percent." 

Trump said, "Under my plan I will be reducing taxes tremendously from thirty five percent to fifteen percent for companies, small and big businesses." 

Danielle Kurtseblen writes, "The conservative Tax Foundation estimates that his plan would reduce federal revenue by $4.4 trillion to $5.9 trillion over the next decade, which is a lot, but down from $10 trillion in his original plan.

Some of that could be offset by economic growth, but even using “dynamic scoring,” the foundation says the plan cuts tax revenue by $2.6 trillion to $3.9 trillion over 10 years. (The higher figure is if the 15 percent business tax rate is applied to “pass-through” entities.) The biggest beneficiaries of Trump’s tax cuts are the wealthy. The top 1 percent of earners see their after-tax income rise by between 10.2 percent and 16 percent. Overall savings would be less than 1 percent.

Trump claimed that he never called climate change a "hoax."

According to NPR, "Actually, Trump has called climate change a "hoax" on several occasions. He said on Meet the Press that he was joking about China's role. As PolitiFact noted: "On Dec. 30, 2015, Trump told the crowd at a rally in Hilton Head, S.C., 'Obama's talking about all of this with the global warming and … a lot of it's a hoax. It's a hoax. I mean, it's a moneymaking industry, OK? It's a hoax, a lot of it.' "

The original source for the “hoax” quote was a tweet Trump sent in 2012. He said the concept of global warming was created by the Chinese to make U.S. manufacturing noncompetitive. 

Take a look at the NPR link. Trump is a serial fabricator and a serial bankrupt. His word is not his bond.


Monday, September 26, 2016

Ottawa, A D -- After Duffy

Last week, two of the movers and shakers in the Prime Minister's Office announced that they were giving back part of the money they had received to move from Toronto to Ottawa. They were followed by two other staffers -- for Ministers Dion and Bains -- who refunded another $55,000 to the federal coffers. Michael Harris writes:

After asserting that they had broken no rules, the PM’s prodigal aides followed a step further in [Mike] Duffy’s shoes. They both claimed that there were elements of their relocation expenses that made them feel uncomfortable at the time, just as Duffy had testified in his own defence. 

But then they went further:

Butts and Telford expanded the Duffy Doctrine. In their ‘mea culpa,’ they said they now felt strongly that the rules they followed in filing their moving expenses were so utterly, egregiously, and inherently wrong that they voluntarily returned a portion of their jammy reimbursements. 

The Conservatives, of course, were cackling -- forgetting that it was they who made the rules:

If the rules are, as Conservative MP Candice Bergen claims, a personal ATM for the current government and its minions, it was Stephen Harper who handed out the debit cards. In fact, Harper’s PMO approved nearly $325,000 in relocation expenses during its tenure, including $93,000 in moving expenses for one senior ministerial aide. In court, they call that a precedent. 

But arguing over who made the rules is pointless. Since Senator Duffy's trial, things have changed. Our age is still officially recorded as "A.D." But, in Ottawa, that acronym has taken on new meaning. From henceforth it will mean "After Duffy."


Sunday, September 25, 2016

Putting Money Where Her Mouth Is

Recently, Health Minister Jane Philpott informed the province of Quebec that she intended to enforce the Canada Health Act. Tom Walkom writes:

The Canada Health Act is the federal statute governing medicare. It lists the standards provinces must meet if they are to receive money from Ottawa for health care. And it gives the federal government the right to cut transfers to any province that doesn’t meet these standards.

In particular, it imposes a duty on the federal health minister to financially penalize any province that allows physicians operating within medicare to bill patients for extra, out-of-pocket fees.

However, the federal government has only rarely penalized provinces which allowed extra billing:

Compared to the billions the federal government spent on health transfers over the period, these penalties were pittances. But they did make the point that medicare is indeed a national program.

And in every province except B.C., where the issue has morphed into a constitutional court case, the extra-billing problem was apparently resolved.

There, Dr. Brian Day has launched a court case, claiming that extra billing is a practice that is protected under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. If the case succeeds, medicare -- as a defining Canadian institution -- will be finished. Someone has to meet the challenge head on. That task has fallen to Philpott.

But it's imperative that Justin Trudeau stand behind her by providing the money to defend medicare. Originally, medicare was a 50/50 proposition. Half of the costs were to be born by the provinces and half by the federal government. In 2013, CUPE released a report on Healthcare spending. The fifty-fifty split was ancient history. According to the report,

the federal government covers only one fifth of provincial health spending, where it used to cover half – and it wants to scale back further. The 2004–2014 Health Accord provided stable funding after deep cuts in the 1990s. It has brought the federal government’s cash share of provincial health spending up to 20 per cent1 from a low of 10 per cent in 19982 and part way to its original 50 per cent share. The current federal government wants to reverse this progress. 

The "current federal government," of course, was the Harper government. When Stephen Harper headed the National Citizens Coalition he advocated dismantling medicare. These days, Dr. Day has taken Harper's place.

Minister Philpott has signalled that the line has been drawn. But, if she is to succeed, the prime minister is going to have to put money where her mouth is.

Image: The Canadian Press

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Facts That Don't Suit Its Agenda

Andrew Coyne used to sing the praises of the Harper Party. That was before he discovered that they were not who they claimed to be. Stephen Harper may be gone, but his party is still a fraud. Take the issue of putting a price on carbon. Coyne writes:

The party of free markets, rather than support a plan that relies on the quintessential market instrument — prices — favours the most costly, intrusive and regulatory-heavy approach imaginable: the very approach that has so signally failed to date. The party of personal responsibility favours sparing people the costs of their economic choices, either socializing them via subsidy or disguising them via regulation.

All of the party's leadership candidates -- save one -- are vehemently opposed to putting a price on carbon:

Yet the position of the Conservative party, and of virtually every one of its leading lights, is flat-out opposition to carbon pricing, in whatever form. Of the federal party leadership candidates, only one, Michael Chong, has come out in favour. The other 87 or so are all opposed. The official line remains the same: it’s a “tax on everything,” and they want no part of it.

But, like it or not, a tax is on its way:

British Columbia has had a carbon tax since 2008. Alberta will have one in place by 2018. Ontario and Quebec are implementing cap-and-trade regimes. That’s 80 per cent of the country, by population, where carbon pricing is now law. And in six weeks the government of Canada will formally commit the country to the Paris climate accord, together with its Intended Nationally Determined Contribution, UN-speak for emissions reductions target. By year’s end, the Trudeau government has signalled it will have a national carbon price in place, with or without the provinces’ cooperation.

The Harper Party has never been who and what it claimed to be. And it has never been able to deal with facts that don't suit its agenda.


Friday, September 23, 2016

On The Edge Of Insanity

The "American Dream" used to be summed up in two words -- upward mobility. And, after World War II, almost everyone in the United States was upwardly mobile. Ben Fountain writes in The Guardian:

The biggest gains occurred in the post-second world war era of the GI Bill, affordable higher education, strong labor unions, and a progressive tax code. Between the late 1940s and early 1970s, median household income in the US doubled. Income inequality reached historic lows. The average CEO salary was approximately 30 times that of the lowest-paid employee, compared with today’s gold-plated multiple of 370. The top tax bracket ranged in the neighborhood of 70% to 90%. Granted, there were far fewer billionaires in those days. Somehow the nation survived.
Democracy’s premise rests on the notion that the collective wisdom of the majority will prove right more often than it’s wrong. That given sufficient opportunity in the pursuit of happiness, your population will develop its talents, its intellect, its better judgment; that over time its capacity for discernment and self-correction will be enlarged. Life will improve. The form of your union will be more perfect, to borrow a phrase. But if a critical mass of your population is kept in peonage? All its vitality spent in the trenches of day-to-day survival, with scant opportunity to develop the full range of its faculties? Then how much poorer the prospects for your democracy will be.
“America is a dream of greater justice and opportunity for the average man and, if we can not obtain it, all our other achievements amount to nothing.” So wrote Eleanor Roosevelt in her syndicated column of 6 January 1941, an apt lead-in to her husband’s State of the Union address later that day in which he enumerated the four freedoms essential to American democracy, among them “freedom from want”.

There is a lot of want in The United States these days. But, besides economic want, there is a growing inability among many Americans to think critically. And this inability is fostered by what Fountain calls the "Fantasy-Industrial Complex." Just as the Military-Industrial Complex threatened American democracy, so too does the Fantasy-Industrial Complex. There is now another American Dream:

the numbed-out, dumbed-down, make-believe world where much of the national consciousness resides, the sum product of our mighty Fantasy Industrial Complex: movies, TV, internet, texts, tweets, ad saturation, celebrity obsession, sports obsession, Amazonian sewers of porn and political bullshit, the entire onslaught of media and messaging that strives to separate us from our brains. September 11, 2001 blasted us out of that dream for about two minutes, but the dream is so elastic, so all-encompassing, that 9/11 was quickly absorbed into the the matrix of FIC. This exceedingly complex event – horribly direct in the result, but a swamp when it comes to explanations – was stripped down and binaried into a reliable fantasy narrative of us against them, good versus evil, Christian against Muslim. The week after 9/11, Susan Sontag was virtually crucified for pointing out that “a few shreds of historical awareness might help us understand how we came to this point”. For this modest proposal, no small number of her fellow Americans wished her dead. But if we’d followed her lead – if we’d done the hard work of digging down to the roots of the whole awful thing – perhaps we wouldn’t still be fighting al-Qaida and its offspring 15 years later.

And, so, the Middle East is worse -- much worse. And the United States is teetering on the edge of insanity.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

When It Becomes A Headwind

The Liberals' Achilles heal -- a sense of entitlement -- is once again becoming the subject of public discussion. Stephen Maher writes:

The latest nugget the Tory researchers have dug up was revealed Tuesday during question period, when Conservative MP Blaine Calkins repeatedly asked the Liberals to explain $1.1 million in moving expenses for political staffers, including one payment of $126,000 to an unnamed staffer in the prime minister’s office.

The Conservatives, brimming with righteous indignation, applauded Calkins as he accused the Liberals of lining their own pockets with these mysteriously large payments, and mockingly applauded Liberal House Leader Bardish Chagger when she responded with boilerplate about how “Canadians expect public resources to be used responsibly and economically.”

The Liberals have a reputation when it comes to this kind of waste. It's toxic and it brought down their last government:

The Liberals have a brand problem with this stuff. At the end of the Paul Martin era, the government seemed to spend half its time either defending Liberals who had pocketed excessive amounts while following the rules, or prosecuting others who had pocketed excessive amounts while not following the rules. This led to a lot of nasty in-fighting within the party as people in the second category lawyered up and tried to find ways of damaging people in the first category.

At the moment, Justin Trudeau is riding high in the polls. He may be tempted to brush this kind of stuff aside. But he would do well to remember the fate of former Liberals premiers Jean Charest and Dalton McGunity -- and present premier Kathleen Wynne.

All of them can testify to just how quickly the wind at your back can become a headwind.


Wednesday, September 21, 2016

An Awkward Fit

Last week, Tom Mulcair declared that the four pillars of the New Democratic Party were environmentalism, pacifism, feminism and socialism. Gerry Caplan -- who has been a Dipper longer than Mulcair -- writes:

I join the applause, or at least three-quarters of it. I can march behind the banner of socialism, feminism and environmentalism with pride and conviction. But pacifism, not so much. In fact pacifism has never been an NDP value, assuming that words have any meaning.

It's true that J.S. Woodsworth, on the eve of World War II stood in the House and declared that he could not support the resolution to go to war because he was a life long pacifist:

But this was not CCF policy and he stood alone. His party revered him enough to allow him to take this idiosyncratic stand, but no other CCF MP joined him. Prime Minister Mackenzie King also generously expressed his deep respect, calling Woodsworth an “ornament to Parliament.”

One can work for peace and not be a pacifist:

Pacifism is not merely a strategy or approach to be applied to a particular crisis. It’s much more: a philosophy or theory, and if you embrace it, it applies in all situations. A great deal has been written on this surprisingly complex subject, including by one writer who explains that “a pacifist rejects war and believes there are no moral grounds which can justify resorting to war. War, for the pacifist, is always wrong.”

As well, in practical terms, for genuine pacifists violence is never the right answer to any crisis, because it always makes things worse. So its use must always be opposed even when it seems naive or foolish. Hitler and the Second World War are the shorthand examples of this naïveté. You can believe in non-violent resistance to injustice without being a pacifist. And sometimes, force can only be met with force.

And, thus, we have another illustration of Tom Mulcair's problem. For all his talent, he never quite fit in his party.


Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Progress Is Incremental

There are those -- particularly Elizabeth May -- who are furious that the Trudeau government plans to keep the Harper government's emission targets. As I argued yesterday, it gives the impression that the Harper government never left. Chantal Hebert takes a different tack. She points out that the majority of Canadians support a tax on carbon:

According to an Abacus poll done last month, less than one third of Canadians oppose the introduction of a carbon tax as part of a larger climate change strategy. An overwhelming majority of non-Conservative voters support or could accept such a measure.

It is a rare tax that finds favour with a majority in the public especially on the heels of decade-long concerted federal effort to vilify the concept. According to Abacus, the rhetoric expended by Harper’s government on making a carbon levy politically toxic even fell on the deaf ears of almost four in 10 Conservative voters.

She argues that Trudeau is building a ladder for action on climate change:

It is hard to reach for the sky in the absence of a ladder.

The introduction of a national price on carbon is a crucial part of the building of a Canadian policy infrastructure sturdy enough to achieve steady progress on curbing carbon emissions. This is a policy for which governments will need public support for the long haul.

The popular consensus on carbon pricing was not born out of thin air. The fact that there is wide provincial support for the concept is an essential part of the mix.

And keeping Harper's targets, she argues, is not the same as keeping Harper's do nothing policy:

Keeping Harper’s targets is not the same as sticking with the Conservatives’ climate change plan. By maintaining the existing targets, Trudeau’s Liberals maximize the chances that the transition to a national price on carbon (complete with an escalator clause) is relatively seamless.

Given a choice between setting goals that may or may not be attainable at a prohibitively high political (and economic) cost, or putting in place the conditions for meeting more ambitious ones on a consensual federal-provincial basis over time, the latter should logically take precedence.
In particular, the election of an NDP government in Alberta has altered the alignment of the stars.

All progress is incremental. Whether it will be too little too late remains to be seen.


Monday, September 19, 2016

Time To Deliver

The clock is ticking on Justin Trudeau. Michael Harris writes that, all indications to the contrary, it's beginning to look like the Harper government never left:

On several fronts, Trudeau’s cabinet has behaved with an all-too-familiar sense of entitlement. After two years of torture for Sen. Mike Duffy on his public spending, there shouldn’t be any confusion in the mind of any federal cabinet minister, or their staff, on the expenses issue. But there has been.

Big bills for limo rides (Health minister Jane Philpott), billing their departments for expenses related to partisan events (Justice minister Judy Wilson-Raybould), and $6,600 for photographs (Environment minister Catherine McKenna). There has even been a resignation from cabinet, the details of which were covered up with a furtiveness worthy of the Harper thought police.

Instead of resetting the relationship with Canada's native peoples, it appears that the story line hasn't changed:

Instead of acknowledging aboriginal rights, Trudeau has allied himself on the infamous Site C dam project with one of the most unpopular politicians in the land, B.C. premier Christy Clark. He granted federal permits to allow BC Hydro to flood 83 kilometres of the Peace River Valley, a highly controversial project opposed by Treaty 8 Indian bands, farmland advocates, and Amnesty International.

Worse, Trudeau has done this while Indigenous Peoples are arguing against Site C in the courts. Until the courts decide whether the West Moberly and Prophet River First Nations gave their “free, prior, and informed consent” to the project, no one knows if this decision by two levels of government is even constitutional.

And, on foreign policy, Harper's ghost haunts Global Affairs:

The Trudeau government has denounced any Canadian who agrees with the Boycott, Divest and Sanction strategy proposed by many people around the world to force Israel to end its illegal occupation of Palestinian lands and return to the negotiating table.

Global Affairs minister Stephane Dion has mimicked the foreign policy of the previous government in Ukraine, where the main thrust seems to be to provoke the Russians.

Most disturbing of all, the Trudeau government proceeded with the Harper government’s immoral arms sales to Saudi Arabia, granting export licenses to make the delivery of Canadian-made armoured vehicles to that country possible.

Trudeau promised real change. It's time to deliver or get off the pot.


Sunday, September 18, 2016

Get Out Of Jail Free Cards

We were told for decades that Investor Settlement Dispute Mechanisms were essential in the new globalized economy, because they spurred economic growth.  But, after thirty-five years, the evidence is in. Murray Dobbin writes:

Financial Times analyst Martin Wolf recently argued bluntly that globalization no longer drives the world economy.

He points out that "…ratios of world trade to output have been flat since 2008, making this the longest period of such stagnation since the second world war. According to Global Trade Alert, even the volume of world trade stagnated between January 2015 and March 2016…"

In addition, says Wolf, "The stock of cross-border financial assets peaked at 57 per cent of global output in 2007, falling to 36 per cent by 2015." Foreign direct investment has also declined.

So if global trade isn't going to pull the world economy out of its persistent doldrums, why are countries putting so much political energy into signing these agreements? They do little or nothing to enhance growth in global trade -- trade is driven by global demand -- also flat. Amongst the countries primed to sign these agreements trade is already virtually tariff free.

Even the government's Global Affairs department's recent analysis estimates the Pacific Rim deal, the TPP, would increase GDP by a minuscule .127 per cent ($4.3 billion in a $2 trillion economy) -- but not until 2040! In short, we will gain virtually nothing.

So, if they don't catalyze growth, why do governments keep insisting that IDSMs be included in trade deals?

Over the past 10 years ISDS provisions in literally thousands of agreements have become tools for criminals, greedy law firms, and "investors" in ISDS cases.

In an excellent four-part series, Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative journalist Chris Hamby reveals that: "Companies and executives accused or even convicted of crimes have escaped punishment by turning to this special forum."

Hamby cites several cases: "… an Egyptian court had declared a foreign company's purchase of a factory corrupt and nullified the deal, court records show. But after the company filed an ISDS claim, the government agreed to pay $54 million in a settlement…"

In another, two financiers had been convicted of embezzling $300 million from an Indonesian bank but used an ISDS finding to force Interpol to back off, protect their investment, and "…effectively nullify their punishment."

Hamby found more than 35 cases where "…the company or executive seeking protection in ISDS was accused of criminal activity, including money laundering, embezzlement, stock manipulation, bribery, war profiteering, and fraud." One ISDS lawyer admitted privately: "You have a lot of scuzzy sort-of thieves for whom this is a way to hit the jackpot."
If it's it not criminals escaping justice, it's corporations gaming the system, perverting it so that the profit comes not from a planned or existing investment but from the increasingly enormous settlements demanded of governments if they win an ISDS arbitration.

As in the old board game, an ISDM  is a Get Out Of Jail Free card.


Saturday, September 17, 2016

The Reincarnation Of P.T. Barnum

Yesterday, Donald Trump walked away from his claim that Barack Obama was not born in the United States and, thus, not qualified to be president. He then took no questions and walked out of the room. The vociferous lie which he has repeated for five years went down the Memory Hole. And the polls tell us that Trump and Hillary Clinton are running neck and neck. Andrew Coyne asks, "Who's to blame?"

Who should we fault for this disaster? Should we blame his enablers in the Republican party? But which ones? The aging opportunists like Newt Gingrich or Rudy Giuliani, who see in Trump their last chance at power and can’t be bothered to worry about what he represents? Or the equivocators, the odds-checkers, once-respected figures like Paul Ryan or Marco Rubio, who know that Trump is the death of everything they claim to care about but sign on anyway, though only after weeks of contemptible public agonizing — as if the choice were truly difficult? As if they were not weak men following their desires, but good men trying to do right? As if their eventual decision were ever in doubt?

Should we blame Trump’s rivals in the Republican nomination race? They who might have stopped him early, but chose instead to parley with him, thinking his support would prove fleeting, preferring to turn their guns on each other. Even when it became apparent that Trump’s support was real, each calculated he could be the one to face him one on one — each thinking he need only outrun the others, not the bear. Until the bear consumed them all.

What about the media? Should they wear this? For granting him such easy access to air time, all those “phoners” to friendly hosts, when he had nothing to say? For devoting vast hours to his inane rallies in the hopes, often gratified, that someone would get beaten up, but in the certainty that large numbers of public would be attracted either way? For succumbing to Trump’s months-long war of attrition on human reason — the insults, the craziness, the elemental errors, the literally hundreds of lies, by which Trump advertised his Olympian disdain for any of the usual standards of behaviour, and so made it impossible for anyone else to hold him to account? For failing to break out of the trap of journalistic balance, when the alternatives are a flawed but quotidian candidate on the one hand and a sociopathic, race-baiting manchild on the other?

Should we blame the excesses of identity politics, the obsession with racial and sexual differences to the exclusion of individual rights or common human values, the assertion that society is a zero-sum conflict between ceaselessly warring groups, providing the opening for Trump to emerge as the champion of white male identity politics? Should we blame the stratification of society by class, class defined not by income or birth but by education and culture, the higher educated and the less so separated by a widening gulf of mutual resentment, such that whichever candidate the former are for the latter are against?

Is it the fault of the Democrats, for nominating a candidate as unelectable as Clinton? Should we blame the Clinton campaign for its inability, notwithstanding the millions of dollars and masses of manpower at its disposal, to put away a candidate as monumentally beatable as Trump? Do we blame the voters, for not doing their homework, exercising judgment, or just basically paying attention?

Coyne's last suggestion is the most telling. We should blame what increasingly seems to be a majority of American voters, who can't -- or won't -- recognize the reincarnation of P.T. Barnum. Trump knows how to manage a circus. But he knows nothing about being president.

Image: the

Friday, September 16, 2016

No Noble Savages

Chris Hedges had hoped that Bernie Sanders would spark a revolution. Unfortunately, he writes, the revolution was still-born:

The naive hopes of Bernie Sanders’ supporters—to build a grass-roots political movement, change the Democratic Party from within and push Hillary Clinton to the left—have failed. Clinton, aware that the liberal class and the left are not going to mount genuine resistance, is running as Mitt Romney in drag. The corporate elites across the political spectrum, Republican and Democrat, have gleefully united to anoint her president. All that remains of Sanders’ “revolution” is a 501(c)(4) designed to raise money, including from wealthy, anonymous donors, to ensure that he will be a senator for life. Great historical events happen twice, as Karl Marx quipped, first as tragedy and then as farce. 

The corporate agenda remains firmly in place:

The multibillion-dollar extravaganza of our electoral Circus Maximus is part of the smokescreen that covers the ongoing devastation of globalization, deindustrialization, trade deals such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership, endless war, climate change and the intrusion into every corner of our lives by the security and surveillance state. Our democracy is dead. Clinton and Donald Trump do not have the power or the interest to revive it. They kneel before the war machine, which consumes trillions of dollars to wage futile wars and bankroll a bloated military. To defy the fortress state is political suicide. Politicians are courtiers to Wall Street. The candidates mouth the clichés of justice, improvements in income equality and democratic choice, but it is a cynical game. Once it is over, the victors will go to Washington to work with the lobbyists and financial elites to carry out the real business of ruling. 

In the end, nothing will stand in the way:

To neoliberals, everyone and everything are disposable. The failed states that have risen up across the Middle East, Africa, the Caucasus and Asia in the wake of the Cold War herald a neoliberal world driven by violence, corruption, greed and desperation. The drug traffickers, smugglers, pirates, kidnappers, jihadists, criminal gangs and militias that roam huge swaths of territory where central authority has vanished are the real faces of globalization. These nihilists define Islamic State just as they define the corporate state. Corruption may be more naked and cruder in Afghanistan or Iraq, but it has its parallel in the for-sale politicians and political parties that dominate the United States and Europe. The common good—the building of community and solidarity—has been replaced through decades of corporate indoctrination with the callous call to amass all you can for yourself and leave the stranger bleeding on the side of the road. 

There is a new world order. It is based on naked exploitation. It—not democracy—is what we have exported across the globe. And it looks a lot like the anarchic state that Hobbes feared. The criminal gangs that deliver migrants to Europe make about $100 million a month for their work. They exploit and traffic human beings just as highly paid CEOs do.

It's a dark vision -- in which there are no noble savages.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Confronting It Head On

Kellie Leitch has caused a great deal of controversy with her suggestion that we screen prospective immigrants for "Canadian values." Actually, she's touching a nerve which predates Confederation. Desmond Cole writes:

Many have criticized Leitch’s proposal by saying it is impractical, since no one person or group can define or determine Canadian values. That’s a nice idea, but in practice we know the values our politicians attempt to sell us are a reflection of our colonial, white, British, monarchical heritage. There are such things as Canadian values, and they explain how our politicians have been peddling a fear of foreigners for the last 150 years.

Suspicion of all immigrants who are not white, or are not members of the former British Empire, is a Canadian value. Canada’s founding prime minister, John A. Macdonald, argued that Chinese immigrants to Canada were unfit to vote because they exhibited “no British instincts or British feelings or aspirations.” Macdonald didn’t need to cloak the authority of the state in the language of wanting a “conversation” about immigrants, as Leitch does today. In his time, there was no conversation to be had.

That's an inconvenient truth which we would much rather forget:

Of course, all of this is only possible because of another fundamental Canadian value: erasure. Our modern mythology suggests that indigenous people were never here, or that if they were, their values and customs gave way to a superior British way of life. Our history books and our educational resources for prospective new Canadians have little to say about the values and traditions of indigenous people. British colonialism made outsiders of people who had been here for thousands of years, and cast their values aside.

That’s how a white man in a red coat who carries a weapon and patrols stolen land has come to symbolize the enforcement of Canadian values. We are taught to honour the force Mounties used to Anglicize this land, to view the guy in red as a symbol of honour and patriotism, no matter what despicable crimes he carries out. The values of dominance and separation enforced by the modern RCMP, and the Canadian Border Services Agency, are not universal or self-evident — they are steeped in centuries of racism, colonialism, and white supremacy.

Leitch is not allowing us to forget our past. The question is, "Do we have the courage to confront it head on?


Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Words To The Wise

The Conservative Party, Lawrence Martin writes, is at a crossroads. But they seem to be tempted to offer more of the same:

Although they lost the last election, there are few indications our Conservatives are bent on major change. The leadership candidates who appear to have the upper hand are vigorous right-siders. Anyone thinking Tony Clement lacked hardline credentials need only look at his security platform laid out this week. Throw people considered to be potential terrorist threats behind bars without trial, he said, if they cannot be monitored 24/7.

The problem is that what they offer only appeals to their base -- which admittedly is unshakable. And party moderates don't seem to have strong voices:

Peter MacKay, who wasn’t really moderate to begin with, has backed away. Michael Chong has talent and integrity but is too mild-mannered to mount a strong charge. Deepak Obhrai is well-meaning but won’t get to first base in the balloting.The wets might consider Cape Breton, N.S., native Lisa Raitt one of their own. Now that Mr. MacKay is out, Ms. Raitt, who performed capably in cabinet, will enter the race. As a Maritimer she’s a more compassionate conservative and may be the best hope for change.

Certainly they need a change in tone. But they need more than that. Martin warns:

If they stay on the wide right flank, if they don’t make a concerted effort to broaden their appeal, they’re taking a big risk. With the New Democratic Party shipwrecked, the Liberals can draw on major support from the left. Leave them the centre as well and it’s game over.

Words to the wise.


Tuesday, September 13, 2016

What You Do To Lose

Donald Trump should be losing the race for president -- and he should be losing badly. Tom Walkom writes:

He is a serial bankrupt who, during his career has left customers and suppliers alike high and dry.

His take-no-prisoners approach to immigration, combined with his remarkable rudeness, has alienated entire voting blocs, including women, Hispanics and Muslims.

Even for a politician, he is singularly untruthful. PolitiFact, a project of the Tampa Bay Times, has rated 35 per cent of his statements as flat-out false and an additional 18 per cent as “pants-on-fire” whoppers.

His platform contains some content. But much is a hodgepodge of braggadocio and bluster.

Yet the polls are getting tighter because Hillary Clinton keeps stumbling -- literally, as she did on Sunday -- and figuratively as well:

Alas for the Democrats, the answer seems to be that Clinton — while perhaps able as an administrator — is a terrible presidential candidate.

Her friends insist she is warm and personable in private. But on television, she comes across as strident and defensive.

She is so wary of the press that it became news around the world last week when she finally allowed reporters onto her campaign plane.

Her platform is more comprehensive and nuanced than Trump’s. But I suspect few American voters would be able to tell you what’s in it.

And like Trump, she is not entirely truthful. According to PolitiFact, she tells fewer whoppers and flat-out falsehoods than Trump. But she makes many more statements that are rated “mostly false.”
Indeed, when the three categories of “mostly false”, “false” and “pants on fire” are added up. Trump and Clinton almost tie. Some 71 per cent of his statements are rated untruthful compared to 69 per cent for Clinton.

It's on the notion of truthfulness that both campaigns are faltering. Hillary's refusal to acknowledge her battle with pneumonia plays into voter doubt more than anything Trump could say about her.

The old saw remains true: It's not what you do to win that makes the difference. It's what you do to lose.


Monday, September 12, 2016

How Times Have Changed

Peter Mansbridge will retire on July 1st of next year. Michael Harris will not mourn his passing. But what really gets Harris' goat is Mansbridge's salary. According to Jesse Brown at Canadaland, Peter pulls down a million dollars a year and then some:

If Brown has it right (Mansbridge declined to cite alleged inaccuracies in the story) Canada’s decaffeinated Ted Baxter makes that every year for reading the news — and occasionally ad libbing when there is nothing to report. That, in fact, may be the best job description of Mansbridge —Bloviator-in-Chief of the CBC. His idea of breaking a story is announcing that Santa’s sleigh is a tad late leaving the North Pole, or that he, Mansbridge, is sporting the same tie as Justin Trudeau.

Mansbridge apparently gets “prominence and excellence” pay, begging the question who decides those momentous issues? Could it be Petey himself? There is also a lump sum cheque in lieu of “overtime.” The public even pays for this shopworn meat puppet’s expensive suits — $20,000 a year, or about a new suit every month. Did the taxpayers have to rent him an extra walk-in closet too?

And, until recently, like other CBC "stars," Mansbridge was a hit on the speaking circuit. Canadaland claims that:

Peter Mansbridge was paid $28,000 for a single speech to the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers (CAPP), while he was still actively reporting on their industry. Mansbridge tried to dismiss the whole story as the mischief of a gaggle of bloggers.

His pension won't be meager, either:

He did not correct Canadaland when it reported that he will pull down $500,000 a year when he is finally dragged out of the studio. If that indeed is the real figure, it is not a pension, it is looting the public purse, because all of this, the outrageous salary, the unnecessary perks, the pension that is really a cash-for-life lottery win ($10,000 a week) each and every year of his retirement, is paid for by the “cash-strapped” CBC, a.k.a. the government; a.k.a. the taxpayer; a.k.a you and me.

Mansbridge isn't the only CBC personality whose activities have caused an uproar lately. Think Rex Murphy, Amanda Lang and Evan Soloman.

The problem, Harris writes, goes back to CBC management:

While passionate champions of public broadcasting like Ian Morrison fought the Harper government to preserve the CBC’s budgets, these managers pissed away a king’s ransom on third-rate egomaniacs who thought they should have constellations named after them.

And at the same time as they were doing that, these same managers allowed their news and information shows to be overrun by lobbyists, stink tanks, and political hacks. Who in their right mind would put Stockwell Day on an expert panel?

No one ever claimed that CBC newsreaders were scintillating personalities. But, then, no one ever accused Earl Cameron or Stanley Burke of stealing the cookies from the cookie jar. And the Mother Corp used to produce some genuine journalists, like Morley Safer or gravel-voiced Norman DePoe.

How times have changed.


Sunday, September 11, 2016

Just Another Chapter

The War on Terror began on this date fifteen years ago. Tony Burman writes that, fifteen years out, some lessons are crystal clear:

First, it was preventable:

The former president, George W. Bush, will be mentioned often in anniversary ceremonies. People will speak of the surprise of the 9/11 attacks and the resolute way that Bush responded. But not mentioned will be that Osama bin Laden was already a known threat when the Bush administration took over. On Aug. 6, 2001 — a month before 9/11 — an intelligence memo to the president was headlined, “Bin Laden Determined To Strike in U.S.” Bush was on holiday at the time and he remained on holiday after the briefing.

Second, as a policy, revenge never works:

In response, the Bush administration decided to go after bin Laden by invading Afghanistan and then, in 2003, Iraq. It was a colossal blunder that must have fulfilled bin Laden’s dreams. Immediately after 9/11, the U.S. had the support of most of the world, including the major Middle Eastern powers. Had the U.S. acted in moderation, bin Laden himself would likely have become marginalized in the region, shunned by the very people whose support he sought. Instead, a series of military adventures not only cost billions of dollars and thousands of lives, but also bolstered bin Laden’s reputation in the region.

Third, terrorism doesn't spring from nowhere:

By pursuing an unwinnable military response, America’s cause was lost. And the implications of this debacle are still being felt. The focus was on the battlefield — wherever that might be in an era of terrorism. Left neglected were the root causes of terrorism’s appeal in the Middle East: the failing education systems, rampant government corruption, endemic poverty and the oppression of women at a time when their skills and talents were so desperately needed.

Fourth, the costs have been astronomical:

Sunday’s ceremony will celebrate the 2,977 innocent people who lost their lives on 9/11. That is an awful toll resulting from a heinous crime, and that should be stated. It actually has been, often, but it is easy to lose perspective. In the U.S. last year alone, 13,286 people were killed by gun violence. As a result of the military response to 9/11 in Afghanistan and Iraq, hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians were killed, as well as more than 5,000 American soldiers.

And, lastly, the war has given birth to the surveillance state:

The ferocious military action, not only by the U.S. but by governments everywhere, had a catastrophic impact on human rights. Governments used 9/11 as a pretext to curtail freedoms, squash political dissent and create a mushrooming surveillance state that is with us to this day.

After all the flag waving and drum beating, it's clear that the War on Terror has been just another chapter in The March of Folly.


Saturday, September 10, 2016

Ship Of Fools

Republicans may chant "Crooked Hillary!" and "Lock Her Up!" But, E. J. Dionne writes, no one personifies the corruption at the heart of the American political system more than Donald J. Trump. And Trump acknowledges that fact:

“I was a businessman,” Trump explained at a Republican debate in August 2015. “I give to everybody. When they call, I give. And you know what? When I need something from them two years later, three years later, I call them, they are there for me. And that’s a broken system.”

Over the last week, we have been provided with a perfect example of what Trump was talking about:

Meet Pam Bondi, Florida’s attorney general.
Trump would have us believe that it is pure coincidence that the Trump Foundation’s $25,000 contribution to Bondi on Sept. 17, 2013, was made four days after the Orlando Sentinel reported that Bondi’s office was considering joining a class-action lawsuit against Trump University. It was brought by customers who felt victimized by what sure looks in retrospect like a shameless rip-off operation. Weeks later, Bondi announced that Florida would not join the lawsuit after all.

Yes, when Trump needs something, he gets it.

And there's more to the story:

The Donald’s affections did not stop there. The Huffington Post revealed Tuesday that Trump also hosted a fundraiser for Bondi in March 2014 at his Mar-a-Lago resort. The invitation listed Trump and Rudy Giuliani as “special guests.”

However much he respects Bondi, Trump (or his minions) miraculously misreported the improper donation to her. As David Fahrenthold recounted in The Washington Post, Trump paid a $2,500 penalty because nonprofit, tax-exempt foundations are barred by law from making campaign contributions.

The foundation not only didn’t mention the political gift in its tax filings. It made, Fahrenthold wrote, “a false listing, showing that the foundation had instead given [a] $25,000 gift to a Kansas nonprofit with a name similar to Bondi’s political group. That gift did not exist. Trump had given nothing to the Kansas group.”

And on Wednesday, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, a watchdog organization, filed a complaint asking the IRS to reopen the case because Trump may have violated a separate tax rule against “self-dealing” by nonprofits.

It's that kind of behaviour which Trump's supporters say they hate. And that's why, they say, they'd never vote for Clinton.

Trump is the captain on a ship of fools.


Friday, September 09, 2016

The Voices Who Keep Us Honest

A week ago, Chris Hedges delivered a speech before the American Political Science Association. Hedges has always been an astute observer of the times in which we live. The speech is short and it should be read in its entirety. But a few passages bear repeating.

It's very hard to be a public intellectual today. Our social structures seek to crush such people:

We are a society awash in skillfully manufactured lies. Solitude that makes thought possible—a removal from the electronic cacophony that besieges us—is harder and harder to find. We have severed ourselves from a print-based culture. We are unable to grapple with the nuances and complexity of ideas. We have traded ideas for fabricated clichés. We speak in the hollow language we are given by our corporate masters. Reality, presented to us as image, is unexamined and therefore false. We are culturally illiterate. And because of our cultural illiteracy we are easily manipulated and controlled.  

There are many writers from the past who provide models for modern intellectuals:

The great writers—Marcel Proust, Anton Chekhov, Hannah Arendt, Simone Weil, Max Weber, Samuel Beckett, George Orwell, W.E.B. Du Bois, James Baldwin and others—knew that thought is subversive. They challenged and critiqued the dominant narrative, assumptions and structures that buttress power. They freed us. They did not cater to the latest fashion of the academy or popular culture. They did not seek adulation. They did not build pathetic monuments to themselves. They elucidated difficult and hard truths. They served humanity. They lifted up voices the power elites seek to discredit, marginalize or crush.

But Hedges always returns to one writer -- the late Sheldon Wolin:

Sheldon Wolin was a writer of this stature. He gave us the words and the ideas to understand our corporate despotism—what he called “inverted totalitarianism.” He did so by battling the dominant trend within university political science departments that, as he lamented, has seen them become de facto social science departments “addicted” to quantitative projects, chasing after an unachievable scientific clarity and refusing to take a stand or examine the major issues facing the wider society.
This quantitative gathering of “value-free” facts may get you tenure. It may get you invited as a courtier into the machinery of power—indeed, academic writing too often serves the ends of power.

But these pursuits, as Wolin reminded us, are intellectual treason. Wolin was not afraid to ask the huge, esoteric, uncomfortable and often unanswerable questions that make the life of the mind and political thought vital and important. He called out corporate power for its destruction of our capitalist democracy. He railed against the commodification of the individual and the ecosystem. He unmasked the mechanisms of manipulation. He denounced our corporate coup d’état. He upheld the integrity of the scholar. And he was often alone.

The good news, said Hedges, is that dead intellectuals speak to our own rimes as well as they spoke to their own -- and even in the most dreadful of places.

I taught his “Politics and Vision” last spring in a maximum-security prison in Rahway, N.J., to students earning their B.A. degrees. Intellectuals in our society who are poor, especially those of color, are trapped in environments and schools, and too often prisons, that make learning difficult and often impossible.

In prison these intellectuals, struggling against odds that most in this hall cannot imagine, convert their cells into libraries. My class was consumed by “Politics and Vision”—Machiavelli’s advocacy of “calculated violence” and call for the power elites to be skillful pretenders and dissemblers; Locke’s ability to convert property into an instrument for coercing citizens into political obedience; Weber’s understanding that the modern hero, unlike the classical hero battling fortuna, had to struggle against a bloodless, faceless system “where contingency has been routed by bureaucratized procedures” and where “even charisma has been bureaucratized.” The ideological mantra of corporate oppression—sine ira et studio, without scorn or bias—is, as Weber knew, a weapon to crush those with the passion, outrage, courage and vision to effect change. Wolin warned in the book that “each individual bore the awful responsibility for choice at this ultimate level but each was denied anything like the scientist’s sense of certainty.” He quoted Weber, whom he loved: “The ultimate possible attitudes towards life are irreconcilable and hence their struggle can never be brought to a final conclusion.”

This course expanded, at the requests of my students, from the required 12 class meetings to 24 and then 36. As they sat in a circle in the prison classroom week after week hunched over the text, my students began to discern that Wolin had another quality besides brilliance. He cared. And he cared about them. They were his demos. When we finished Marx, the class fell silent. One of my students then lamented that they had been waiting all semester for Marx and now it was over. I promised that once we had completed the book I would give a final lecture on Marx. By then you could feel Wolin’s presence in the classroom. 

Hedges believes that great writers are never irrelevant. They speak to the Jean Valjeans of all times and places. They are the voices who keep us honest.


Thursday, September 08, 2016

Good Advice

Justin Trudeau came home from China with a couple of small accomplishments. First, he made it a little easier for Canadian farmers to sell their canola there. And, second, he gave Canadian merchants access to Alibaba, the electronic portal to Chinese consumers. Nonetheless, Jim Stanford writes, Canada's trade with China has become highly imbalanced:

The bilateral trade flow was broadly balanced until the mid-1990s, with a modest flow going in each direction. But then China's export-led industrialization strategy kicked into gear, and China's exports then took off: first with a heavy reliance on simple labour-intensive manufactures (rooted in China's abundant, then-low-cost labour force). Close state oversight of trade flows meant that imports did not respond accordingly, and China began to generate very large, sustained trade surpluses.

Canada developed a large and chronic trade deficit with China, that really exploded after the turn of the century: quintupling between 1999 and 2008, reaching over $30 billion. It paused for a few years after the global financial crisis.

But since 2013 the deficit has surged once again. From 2012 through 2015 Canada's exports to China grew hardly at all: by less than $1 billion. But imports from China grew by $15 billion.  The bilateral trade deficit has thus swollen by half in three years, reaching $45 billion last year -- an all-time record, and Canada's largest bilateral imbalance. (Mexico is next biggest, at barely half that: a deficit of $24.6 billion.)

That's because, over that period, the Chinese strategy on trade has changed:

The Chinese industrial development strategy is focused heavily on moving "up the value chain." Through a range of policy measures, including state-directed investment, requirements for technology transfer on the part of incoming foreign investment, an aggressive and well-funded higher education and research agenda, and the promotion of concentrated "national champion" companies with a global focus, the government is successfully transforming the country's role in international trade into one that is increasingly high-technology and innovation-based. At the same time, the steady rise in Chinese wages and living standards (also part of the state strategy) means China is not especially "cheap" anymore from a labour cost perspective. Indeed, wages in Mexico in most sectors are lower than in the industrial areas of China.

The Harperite approach to trade was that all trade was good. But, of course what matters -- what has always mattered -- are the rules. Stanford suggests that our trade with China needs to be re-thought:

Instead of blithely pursuing trade for its own sake (no matter which way it goes), our trade approach to China must involve establishing mechanisms to ensure that trade is more balanced, both quantitatively (reducing the large, job-destroying deficit) and qualitatively (ensuring that China buys more from us than just resources). This will require a much more interventionist approach to managing the two-way relationship, than is implied in a standard FTA. Instead, we need to use active policy levers to boost exports to China (especially of value-added merchandise and services), limit the size of the bilateral imbalance, and attach conditions to FDI to ensure that it is enhancing Canadian long-run capabilities in key areas.
In other words, to successfully trade with China, we had better start emulating the Chinese.

Good advice.


Wednesday, September 07, 2016

On Waves Of Ignorance

Kellie Leitch is doing to the Conservative Party what Donald Trump has done to the Republican Party -- splitting it right down the middle. Michael Den Tandt writes:

Apparently, as far as Team Leitch is concerned, a new wind is blowing — a nativist wind, ripe for the harvest. Last week it was reported that a Leitch campaign survey had posed this question: “Should the Canadian government screen potential immigrants for anti-Canadian values as part of its normal screening for refugees and landed immigr
“Canadians can expect to hear more, not less from me, on this topic in the coming months,” she said Friday.

There has always been political hay to be made by stoking fear of "the other." And it's paying off for Leitch:

Why did Leitch decide to go all-in? One objective seems plain: donations. Last month it emerged she’s taken an early but significant lead in fundraising, accounting for about 60 per cent of the $376,377 raised by three then-declared leadership aspirants (Leitch, Chong, Bernier) in the second quarter, The Canadian Press reported.

Leitch is reaping profits. The party, however, isn't doing so well:

The takeaway is this: Leitch doesn’t care about upending the pluralist tradition of her party, or about how her latest gambit will surely be used by the Liberals to paint all Tories as xenophobes. Nor does she care about the evident risks in broaching a culture war, witness the career-ending losses of Harper last year and Quebec premier Pauline Marois in 2014. Leitch cares, it seems, about filling her campaign coffers.

She's taken a page from Donald Trump's playbook. Clearly she hopes to ride to power on waves of ignorance.


Tuesday, September 06, 2016

An Opportunity For Those Who See It

The NDP is in the wilderness. Tom Mulcair has been given his retirement date. But no one in the party seems to be interested in the job. Perhaps that's because no one is quite sure who or what the party stands for. Tom Walkom suggests that now is the time for the party to renew its marriage vows with labour:

We live in a time when labour needs a political party willing to work for it. And the NDP needs a reason to exist.

Labour needs a political party because unions, on their own, are a declining force. Only 29 per cent of the Canadian workforce is unionized. The number continues to fall.

This has happened because the economy, once characterized by large manufacturing plants, is now dominated by smaller service firms that, under current labour laws, are more difficult to unionize.

The decline of well-paying union jobs is one of the key factors behind the rise in income inequality that politicians routinely fret about.

Yet to reverse this trend would require a total rethinking of employment and labour laws, most of which were designed in the 1940s and ‘50s.
That in turn requires a political party willing to do the rethinking.

Just as the NDP brought medicare to Canada, it could bring labour reform to Canada:

Among other things, the laws must be amended to eliminate the loophole that allows so many employers to pretend their workers are independent contractors who do not qualify for benefits or statutory protection.

As well, labour relations laws would have to be changed to allow unions organizing, say, fast-food franchise outlets, to take on the ultimate employer.

These are just a couple of examples. The point is that, if unions are to survive, labour laws must be rethought.

The Dippers are in crisis. But a crisis is also an opportunity -- for those who see it. 


Monday, September 05, 2016

They Still Stand In Awe Of Harper

Last week, Kellie Leitch suggested that prospective immigrants to Canada should pass a "Canadian values" test. You'll remember that, during the last election, Leitch and then Minister of Immigration Chris Alexander pitched  a "barbaric practices" snitch line. Michael Harris writes that Leitch:

is a one-woman wrecking crew for the party of MacDonald and Mulroney. She parroted the Harper line, signalling that the CPC hasn’t learned a single thing from its recent electoral thrashing. She represents the abyss, not renewal.

Leitch, however, isn't the only former cabinet minister with a Harper obsession:

Take Peter MacKay. When Harper finally left public life, MacKay had a chance to be his own man, or at least what is left of that commodity. Instead, in a sucky and transparent attempt to woo the old Reform wing of the party who might be useful should he decide to run, he dipped deep into the wells of sycophancy and sang Harper’s praises — for leaving his “indelible” mark on the country, for steering Canada through the recession, and for getting the nation’s books balanced.

Those who survived the last election keep repeating Stephen Harper's view of the world:

They continue to play the violin for Stephen Harper. They continue to act as though the loss in 2015 was the result of great ideas poorly articulated, rather than a decade of tyranical one-man rule that very nearly ruined the country with Harper’s warmed up version of Northern Republicanism. Remember how Harper himself mused about banning the niqab in the federal public service, but denied that his government’s anti-Muslim ranting had anything to do with attacks on Muslim women? Trump-like? You know it.

And they refuse to look at the election results:

The party lost the youth vote and young females. It lost First Nations people, scientists, and immigrants. Someone has got to figure out a way to get them back — and it isn’t more tax cuts for wealthy corporations, niqab bans, information blackouts, or rat lines.

Harris suggests that perhaps Michael Chong is the only leadership candidate who doesn't doesn't still stand in awe of Harper.

Stay tuned.