Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Journalism's Moment

Presidential counsellor Steve Bannon has told the media to "shut up." And his boss has called journalists, "the most dishonest human beings on Earth.” In the wake of those pronouncements, Robin Sears writes:

Tyrants always respect and fear an independent media, often more than journalism’s ordinary readers. They understand its power to reveal their agendas, to mock their follies, and to delegitimize them. That’s why they do their best to demonize and marginalize journalists. From Mussolini to Chavez to Putin and Erdogan, it is a tactic proven successful – at least in the short term – for tyrants everywhere.

Trump's recent executive order provides yet more proof that he's a tyrant who lives in an alternate reality. He believes that, over the weekend, things went well in airports. And that puts a special burden on journalists:

If as a journalist you have evidence of misconduct, of bald-faced lying, of policies inimical to agreed American self-interest, you report it. You ensure your sources are bullet-proof, you seek out respected endorsers for your findings. But you report it – even if the Trump regime gets advertisers, subscribers and viewers to threaten to walk. A tactic you may be sure they will use.

Tyranny sometimes arrives on quieter feet than burning down the Reichstag. But it always requires threatening and bullying an independent media into submission. Sometimes it is brutal in its repression, but often it succeeds “by changing the channel” constantly. Introducing irrelevant news stories in response to attack, or staging corny photo ops. Tyrants always use a compliant media to denigrate opponents with phony stories. Like Pravda, in Putin’s good old days, house organs like Fox and Breitbart have used those tactics with devastating effect.

It is a foolish cliché to cite the unpopularity of the media. Lawyers, cops and politicians don’t rank much higher. Yet few of us do not cheer when any of them successfully defend justice and defeat the bad guys. When tyrants try to drive the media’s reputation down even further it’s important not to dismiss it, or worse quietly snicker. Failing to smack back at Trump’s media taunts is at some point to fail to defend the republic.

This is journalism's moment. 

Image:  Metal Recusants

Monday, January 30, 2017

Chez Vous

Hatred is a virulent disease. Last night it broke out in Quebec City. Apparently, the two suspects are in custody. The justice system will deal with them. Premier Phillipe Couillard's message was unadorned and straight forward. "Nous sommes avec vous," he told the Muslim community. "Vous- etes chez vous."

It's a message which needs to be repeated -- in many languages -- across the country.

Image: You Tube

Sunday, January 29, 2017

More Chaos To Come

Bill Moyers has been around for a long time. As Lyndon Johnson's press secretary, he saw the best -- the Civil Rights Act, the Voting Rights Act -- and the worst -- the Vietnam Debacle -- of American politics. But he has never seen anyone like Donald Trump or the Trumpian Project:

We’re a week into the Trump administration and it’s pretty obvious what he’s up to. First, Donald Trump is running a demolition derby: He wants to demolish everything he doesn’t like, and he doesn’t like a lot, especially when it comes to government.

Like one of those demolition drivers on a speedway, he keeps ramming his vehicle against all the others, especially government policies and programs and agencies that protect people who don’t have his wealth, power or privilege. Affordable health care for working people? Smash it. Consumer protection against predatory banks and lenders? Run over it. Rules and regulations that rein in rapacious actors in the market? Knock ‘em down. Fair pay for working people? Crush it. And on and on.

The closest prototype to Trump was George W Bush:

In this demolition derby, Trump seems to have the wholehearted support of the Republican Party, which loathes government as much as it worships the market as god. Remember Thomas Frank’s book, The Wrecking Crew? Published in 2008, it remains one of the best political books of the past quarter-century. Frank took the measure of an unholy alliance: the century-old business crusade against government, the conservative ideology that looks on government as evil (except when it’s enriching its allies), and the Republican Party of George W. Bush and Karl Rove — the one that had just produced eight years of crony capitalism and private plunder.

The Wrecking Crew — and what an apt title it was — showed how federal agencies were doomed to failure by the incompetence and hostility of the Bush gang appointed to run them, the same model Trump is using now. Frank tracked how wholesale deregulation — on a scale Trump already is trying to reproduce — led to devastating results for everyday people, including the mortgage meltdown and the financial crash. Reading the book is like reading today’s news, as kleptomaniacs spread across Washington to funnel billions of dollars into the pockets of lobbyists and corporations.

Trump's glaring conflicts of interests -- which allow him to serve himself and the wealthy first -- make a mockery of his claim that he is returning power to the people:

I know plutocracy is not a commonly used word in America. But it’s a word that increasingly fits what’s happening here. Plutocracy means government by the wealthy, a ruling class of the rich and their retainers. If you don’t see plutocracy spreading across America, you haven’t been paying attention. Both parties have nurtured, tolerated and bowed to it. Now we’re reaching the pinnacle, as Trump’s own Cabinet is rich (no pun intended) in millionaires and billionaires. He is stacking the agencies and boards of government with the wealthy and friends of wealth so that the whole of the federal enterprise can be directed to rewarding those with deep pockets, the ones who provide the bags and bags of money that are dumped into our political process today.

Moyers doesn't let the Democrats off the hook:

Yes, both Democrats and Republicans have been guilty of groveling to the wealthy who fund them; it’s a staggering bipartisan scandal that threatens the country and was no small part of Trump’s success last November, even as ordinary people opened their windows and shouted, “We’re as mad as hell and we’re not going to take it anymore.” So now we have in power a man who represents the very worst of the plutocrats — one who knows the price of everything but the value of nothing. I shudder to think where this nightmare will end. Even if you voted for Donald Trump for a reason that truly is from your heart, I cannot believe you voted for this.

This weekend, Trump's ban on Muslims entering the United States caused chaos around the world. There's much more chaos to come.

Image: psychologytoday.com

Saturday, January 28, 2017

When You Deal With Caligula

This week the world got an object lesson in how Donald Trump deals with his trading partners. He will build a wall between the United States and Mexico and lie about who will pay for it. Trump doesn't know much. If he knew any history, he would remember the Maginot Line -- a wall which France built after World War I along its German border to keep German troops out. When World War II began, the Germans simply flew over the wall.

The Mexicans will find a way over or under the wall. It's a 14th Century solution to a 21st Century problem. Justin Trudeau assumes that Donald Trump lives in the 21st Century, where rational analysis wins the day. Tom Walkom writes:

Still, the Trudeau government remains resolutely upbeat. It points out that Canada is the top export market for 35 American states. Its officials talk knowledgeably about supply chains and the economics of continental integration.

The Trudeau ministry was cheered when Stephen Schwartzman, the head of a business group advising Trump, showed up this week at their Calgary cabinet retreat to praise Canada.
But civil libertarians were equally cheered this month when four senior Trump appointees, including CIA Director Mike Pompeo, said they opposed torture. That didn’t stop Trump from raising this particular idea again.

Some 23 American states export $1 billion each to Mexico each year under NAFTA. Yet that has not moderated Trump’s views. I’m not sure why the Canadian government thinks its facts and figures will be any more successful.

At a Republican congressional retreat yesterday, Trump said he wants to replace multilateral trade agreements with one-on-one deals. Does that formula apply to NAFTA? Does he want to replace it with separate Canada-U.S. and Mexico-U.S. pacts? He didn’t say.

When his negotiators eventually start talking to Canada what will they want? He didn’t address that either.

Trump has a chaotic mind and an impulsive personality. Walkom warns that Trudeau should be prepared to walk away from whatever Trump demands. History offers another lesson. When you're dealing with Caligula, rational analysis doesn't work.

Friday, January 27, 2017

O'Leary -- Again

Kevin O'Leary  and Arlene Dickinson are having a public disagreement. He wants to be prime minister. She doesn't think it's a good idea. And she pulls no punches:

My first objection to Kevin’s candidacy is that the man I know is relentlessly self-interested and only pursues opportunities that further his fame, power or wealth.
This concern has since been confirmed when he was asked if he would leave the American show Shark Tank if he won the leadership. He said he wouldn’t, electing to commit half his energy to an American reality show.
In other words, instead of committing 100 per cent of his time to serving Canadians, he’s going to spend half of it investing in Americans, and serving his American interests.

Like Donald Trump, O'Leary refuses to divest himself of his business interests -- and he gives the impression that American interests would be at the top of his agenda.  Also, like Trump, his positions shift, according to the audience he is addressing:

I also said that Kevin shifts positions when it’s convenient. That too has been reinforced. When he’s in the United States filming Shark Tank, he calls Boston home. Now that he’s in Canada running for office, he calls Toronto home. When he’s in Montreal, suddenly he’s Québécois. It’s no wonder he doesn’t know the difference between Capitol Hill and Parliament Hill.

And, also like Trump, O'Leary lies without blushing:

I did find one of Kevin’s responses to my article surprising when he and his surrogates pronounced, falsely, that the only reason I criticized him is because I’m partisan. They even went as far as saying I’m running for office.

But he knows this isn’t true. I’ve publicly declared several times that I’m not running for any political party.

In other words, instead of being honest with Canadians, Kevin and his team chose to spread a lie in an attempt to delegitimize my view.

A recent poll suggests that O'Leary would do well against Justin Trudeau. If the Conservatives choose O'Leary as their leader, Canada -- like the United States -- will disintegrate. God help us.

Image: Huffington Post

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Big Time

Everywhere you look, Donald Trump is looking for a showdown. California has hired former Attorney General Eric Holder to take him on in his battle over sanctuary cities. New York mayor Bill DeBlazio vows that the city's police will not cooperate with Trump's program to round up  illegal immigrants. And then there's Trump's battle with the three million facts who didn't vote for him.

But, Michael Den Tandt writes, the big showdown -- the one with China -- is just around the corner:

The U.S. Navy is the guarantor of last resort for international law and international shipping through the South China Sea, worth an estimated US$5-trillion annually. China is attempting to assert a claim over much of that open ocean, contained by its so-called nine-dash line, as well as a group of small islets in the East China Sea in Japan’s Okinawa Prefecture.

Chinese incursions into territory long claimed by its neighbours have become commonplace in recent years, causing Japan to re-garrison its farthest-flung islands. Regional nerves have been further frayed by the People’s Liberation Army’s rapid building of various regional shoals and reefs into what appear to be air strips and fuel depots.

The administration’s self-stated sine qua non is the resurrection of American manufacturing, which it hopes to bring about by reversing a significant goods trade deficit with Mexico, nearly $60-billion in 2015, and a massive goods trade deficit with China, $366-billion in 2015.

China’s export-driven economy has long relied heavily on access to the U.S. market for steady, rapid growth. But that expansion, formerly in double digits, has slowed in recent years as the Chinese economy matures. This slowdown, which seems irreversible, has been posited by some analysts as the underlying reason for President Xi Jinping’s heavy-handed assertion of control over all aspects of the Chinese state — and Beijing’s new restlessness with regional limitations on its influence. Any dramatic curb in Chinese exports to the United States is likely to exacerbate such pressures.

Trump is spoiling for a fight with China. All indications are that he will get it. The problem is that those who spoil for a fight generally lose it -- to use a Trumpian phrase -- big time.

Image: USNI News

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Fixing Democracy

Donald Trump announced yesterday that the Keystone XL and Dakota Access pipelines are once again in play. Is there anyone who doubts that the Koch Brothers are behind those initiatives? Money has always been the mother's milk of politics. But these days, George Monbiot writes, it's dirty money:

The dirtiest companies must spend the most on politics if they are not to be regulated out of existence, so politics comes to be dominated by the dirtiest companies. It applies across the board. Banks designing dodgy financial instruments; pharmaceutical companies selling outdated drugs; gambling companies seeking to stifle controls; food companies selling obesogenic junk; retail companies exploiting their workers; accountants designing tax-avoidance packages: all have an enhanced incentive to buy political space, as all, in a fair system, would find themselves under pressure. The system buckles to accommodate their demands.

There are ways to fix the problem. Monbiot proposes that:

Every party would be entitled to charge the same small fee for membership (perhaps £50 or $50), which would then be matched by the state, with a fixed multiple. Any other political funding, direct or indirect, would be illegal. This would also force parties to re-engage with voters. Too expensive? Not in the least. The corruption of our politics by private money costs us hundreds of times more than a funding system for which we would pay directly. That corruption has led to financial crises caused by politicians’ failure to regulate the banks, environmental crises caused by the political power of the dirtiest companies, and lucrative contracts for political funders; and overcharging by well-connected drugs companies.

There are other equally important reforms such as developing an informed citizenry:

Germany provides a brilliant example of how this could be done: its federal agency for civic education publishes authoritative but accessible guides to the key political issues, organises film and theatre festivals, study tours and competitions, and tries to engage with groups that turn their backs on democratic politics. It is trusted and consulted by millions.

Switzerland offers the best example of the next step: its Smartvote system presents a list of policy choices with which you can agree or disagree, then compares your answers with the policies of the parties and candidates contesting the election. It produces a graphic showing whose position most closely matches your interests. There is some excellent civic technology produced by voluntary groups elsewhere (such as Democracy Club, Crowdpac and mySociety in the UK). But without the funding and capacity of the state, it struggles to reach people who are not already well informed.

All this would cost money, of course. But until our leaders stop being headwaiters to the wealthy, the only thing the rest of us will do is bus the tables.

Image: Keyword Suggestion

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Life With The Snopeses

Chris Hedges sees dark days ahead. The reincarnated robber barons are now in charge. And capitalism is in deep trouble:

We are entering the twilight phase of capitalism. Wealth is no longer created by producing or manufacturing. It is created by manipulating the prices of stocks and commodities and imposing a crippling debt peonage on the public. Our casino capitalism has merged with the gambling industry. The entire system is parasitic. It is designed to prey on the desperate—young men and women burdened by student loans, underpaid workers burdened by credit card debt and mortgages, towns and cities forced to borrow to maintain municipal services.

Casino magnates such as Sheldon Adelson and hedge fund managers such as Robert Mercer add nothing of value to society. They do not generate money but instead redistribute it upwards to the 1 percent. They use lobbyists and campaign contributions to built monopolies—this is how the drug company Mylan raised the price of an “EpiPen,” used to treat allergy reactions, from $57 in 2007 to about $500—and to rewrite laws and regulations. They have given themselves the legal power to carry out a tax boycott, loot the U.S. Treasury, close factories and send the jobs overseas, gut social service programs and impose austerity. They have, at the same time, militarized our police, built the most sophisticated security and surveillance apparatus in human history and used judicial fiat to strip us of our civil liberties. They are ready should we rise up in defiance.  

The new lords of the manner are just as repulsive as William Faulkner's people. Faulkner's novels are populated by low lifes like the Snopes family:

The Snopeses filled the power vacuum of the decayed South and ruthlessly seized control from the degenerated, former slave-holding aristocratic elites. Flem Snopes and his extended family—which includes a killer, a pedophile, a bigamist, an arsonist, a mentally disabled man who copulates with a cow, and a relative who sells tickets to witness the bestiality—are fictional representations of the scum now elevated to the highest level of the federal government. They embody the moral rot unleashed by unfettered capitalism. 

It's hard to read a Faulkner novel -- because the characters are so repellent. Now they have come off the Nobel Prize winner's page and made their way to the top of American society. We are in for dark days indeed.

Image: AbeBooks

Monday, January 23, 2017

Big Brother Is President

On Saturday, Donald Trump went to C.I.A. headquarters and gave a speech, in which he claimed there was no feud between him and the intelligence community. It was fake news perpetrated by the media. And, when three times as many people showed up to protest his inauguration than those who showed up for it, he sent his press secretary out to claim that a million and a half spectators were there to cheer for the Donald. Michael Harris writes:

President Trump’s new press secretary, Sean Spicer, went on to set a record for most lies told in a maiden press briefing. Amongst other whoppers, he asserted that the greater use of metal detectors in a wider area had kept hundreds of thousands of people from entering the National Mall. But law enforcement had a different story. ABC News reported officials told them that all checkpoints and magnetometers were cleared of all line-ups before the Inauguration ceremony began.

Spicer also said that the white floor covering on the Mall “highlighted” any empty spaces. He added that it was to Trump’s disadvantage, since this was the first time such floor covering had ever been used. Wrong. It was used for Obama’s second inauguration. The reason it wasn’t picked up by cameras then is a little embarrassing for Trump. Back in 2009, people were actually standing on it.

On Sunday, when Chuck Todd of NBC confronted Kelly Anne Conway about Spicer's numbers, she said that Spicer was using "alternate facts." When Todd responded that "alternate facts" was a euphemism for falsehoods, she lit into Todd: “Your job is not to call things ridiculous that are said by our press secretary and our president. That’s not your job.”

We're in George Orwell's world. Big Brother is president.

Image: ExtremTech

Sunday, January 22, 2017

By His Words

Andrew Cohen has left Ottawa and moved to Washington, where -- for the time being -- he is a Fulbright Scholar at the Woodrow Wilson International Center. He was, therefore, well placed to observe Donald Trump's inauguration and speech -- which, he writes, was an "endless tweet:"

Mr. Trump’s address defines the difference between his America and Mr. Obama’s America. The world according to Donald Trump is gloomy, cold and joyless.

Factories are “rusted-out” and strewn like “tombstones” across the land; schools “deprive” students of knowledge; crime and drugs have “stolen lives and robbed the country;” infrastructure has fallen into “disrepair and decay.”

Mr. Trump’s stentorian statement: “This carnage stops right here and right now.” This will become the signature of his address.

Unsurprisingly, Trump's took no note of the facts:

The reality is different. Crime is falling. Poverty is ebbing. Incomes are rising. Unemployment and inflation are low. Standards of education are rising.

But if you are the captain of chaos, you need calamity. If it does not exist, invent it. President Trump sees a country with an existential problem and makes himself its saviour. The worse things are, the more we need him.

So he is Hercules cleaning out the Augean Stables. Or Huey Long redistributing wealth. Or Andrew Jackson denouncing the “Corrupt Bargain.”

The speech was -- like the man himself -- utterly graceless:

Beyond the sternness, there was little grace. No soothing bromides about sunlit uplands. No salute to Hillary Clinton, who sat a few feet away. No grace notes at all, other than to the Obamas, whom he declared had been “magnificent.”

Intense though the tone, the words were pedestrian. It was a screed less than a speech, an extended, angry, endless tweet, punctuated by emotional exclamation marks.

By his words, ye shall know him. 

Image: RTE

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Ugly America

The inauguration is over. And what did it tell us? Not much that we didn't already know. One Note Donald gave the same speech he gave at the Republican convention and throughout the whole campaign. Michael Harris writes:

The Trump message? America is surrounded on all sides by threats. Mexican rapists, Muslim immigrants, slick Canadian trade negotiators, wily Chinese currency manipulators, corrupt Wall Street brokers, scumbag journalists and, of course, Crooked Hillary. And did I mention the CIA?

Only Super Donald could save the day.

For one thing, he knifed not only the political opposition, but his own party with startling regularity. Berate, belittle and behead — a modus operandi good enough to win him the Republican nomination for president, and then the presidency itself.

And, while he was fulminating, protesters were in the streets, breaking windows and burning cars. And they will be back in the streets today, in even greater numbers. Get used to it. In the Trump Era, protest will be the new normal.

Not since the days of the Vietnam War has the nation been so divided. Only now, the United States is at war with itself.

Trump's message yesterday was clear and direct: The Ugly American is back. And Ugly America is slithering behind him.

Image: Reuters

Friday, January 20, 2017


Donald Trump's cabinet choices make it clear that one of his administration's prime directives will be to protect and entrench the fossil fuel industry. George Monbiot writes:

Trump is the president that corporate luddites have dreamed of: the man who will let them squeeze every last cent from their oil and coal reserves before they become worthless. They need him because science, technology and people’s demands for a safe and stable world have left them stranded. There is no fair fight that they can win, so their last hope lies with a government that will rig the competition.

The most obvious signal of Trump's intention is the appointment of Rex Tillerson as Secretary of State:

By appointing Rex Tillerson, chief executive of the oil company ExxonMobil, as secretary of state, Trump not only assures the fossil economy that it sits next to his heart, he also provides comfort to another supporter: Vladimir Putin. It was Tillerson who brokered the $500bn (£407bn) deal between Exxon and the state-owned Russian company Rosneft to exploit oil reserves in the Arctic. As a result he was presented with the Russian Order of Friendship by Putin.

But Trump's other appointments underscore his prime directive:

Trump’s nominations for energy secretary and interior secretary are both climate change deniers, who – quite coincidentally – have a long history of sponsorship by the fossil fuel industry. His proposed attorney general, Senator Jeff Sessions, allegedly failed to disclose in his declaration of interests that he leases land to an oil company.

The man nominated to run the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Scott Pruitt, has spent much of his working life campaigning against … the Environmental Protection Agency. As the attorney general in Oklahoma, he launched 14 lawsuits against the EPA, seeking, among other aims, to strike down its Clean Power Plan, its limits on the mercury and other heavy metals released by coal plants and its protection of drinking water supplies and wildlife. Thirteen of these suits were said to include as co-parties companies that had contributed to his campaign funds or to political campaign committees affiliated to him.
Last year was the warmest year on record. The two previous years broke the previous records. We were told that Neanderthals became extinct thousands of years ago. We were misinformed. They are alive and congregating in Washington. They will eventually die out -- along with every other living species.

Image: The Guardian

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Mr. Wonderful?

Kevin O'Leary is in. But Brent Rathgeber isn't impressed by either O'Leary or his prospects:

The first few times I saw Kevin O’Leary harshly criticize a contestant, I thought it was so over the top that it had to be contrived. His affected viciousness repelled me; predictably, it also earned him a seat on the American copycat program Shark Tank. The American entertainment industry has a history of embracing the obnoxious.

There are those in the Conservative Party that are trying on Trump Lite for size:

We’ve already seen some of the worst aspects of the excruciating 2016 American presidential campaign migrate north. Kellie Leitch’s opportunistic proposal to screen potential immigrants for their embrace of ‘Canadian values’ is carefully nebulous, allowing it to send different messages to different people. Steven Blaney wants to revoke citizenship for terrorists and ban the niqab from the public service. Red meat for the anti-Muslim crowd.

Both Leitch and Blaney went after Maxime Bernier last night in Quebec City, before and during the French language debate, for campaigning to end corporate welfare after having handed out the pork as Stephen Harper’s industry minister. Leitch, the queen of the drive-by smear, quickly issued a press release calling Bernier a “liar and a fraud.”

But O'Leary sees himself as the Trump of the North -- a notion that Rathgeber doesn't think will fly:

I believe the Trump phenomenon was more an accident then the beginning of a trend. He’s the outcome of an unlikely collision between multiple factors: a deeply disillusioned electorate, fear of undocumented workers ‘stealing’ jobs, fear of terrorists — or anybody who looks like he might be one — and a very, very unpopular Democratic nominee. Take away any one of those factors, and Trump loses.

And the conditions that could permit the ascent of ‘Trump Lite’ simply don’t exist here. Undocumented Mexicans ‘stealing’ Canadian jobs? That’s not even a thing. Terrorism? Canada hasn’t been immune from terrorist attacks — but mass shootings are, thankfully, rare here. Stephen Harper tried to capitalize on islamophobia in 2015 but the barbaric cultural practices ‘snitch line’ and the war on the niqab were soundly rejected by the electorate.

Finally, there’s the obvious: Justin Trudeau is no Hillary Clinton. I may disagree with many of the current government’s policies, but Trudeau is young, hip, photogenic and (politics aside) personally very likeable. Moreover, Canadians already have had the opportunity to “drain the swamp” — and to some extent they did so in 2015.

Rathgeber is betting that Canadians will understand that Mr. Wonderful is not who he says he is.

Image: sharktankmrwonderful.blogspot.com

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Restoring Character

God knows, governments are imperfect and the source of great frustration. Some suggest that the antidote is to run government like a business. On Friday, Donald Trump says that he will run the United States like a business. And, starting today, Kevin O'Leary is making the same pitch.

But, Mark Bulgutch writes, applying business principles to government doesn't solve the problems -- because business suffers from the same problems:

Volkswagen programmed its engines to control emissions only when they were being tested in labs. Once those engines hit the road, they emitted 40 times more pollution. Not to be outdone, Fiat Chrysler installed engine software to disguise the fact that illegal amounts of nitrogen oxides were getting into the air. To be clear, this wasn’t accidental. In the words of the California Air Resources Board, “A major automaker made the business decision to skirt the rules.”

Takata put faulty airbags in millions of North American cars. Then it prepared falsified reports to cover it up. At least 16 people have been killed by those airbags exploding violently.

The Walmart in Fort McMurray, Alta., has been hit with 174 charges of selling food unfit for human consumption after last year’s terrible wildfires. Walmart reacted to the charges with a carefully worded statement that doesn’t deny anything. It just says it worked closely with food inspectors. Those same food inspectors say they gave Walmart guidance in person and in writing and that what the store did was, “a direct and avoidable risk to the health of this community.”

The antidote to corruption in government or business is character, not technocratic expertise. And, these days, money seems to corrupt character:

Money is literally the bottom line for business. There’s no such thing as too much. The Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives reported this month that the 100 top CEOs in Canada made an average of $9.5 million dollars in 2015. The top earner was Michael Pearson of Valeant Pharmaceuticals. He made $182.9 million. That’s about 536 times more than our prime minister makes. Looks like the government made a good deal.

Politicians, who now raise money 24/7, are looking for a piece of that action. Take money out of politics and you just might restore the character of its participants. 

Image: Before It's News

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

No Catharsis

Donald Trump is the new LBJ. That's Richard Cohen's conclusion in this morning's Washington Post. And, like Lyndon Johnson, his presidency is doomed:

But Trump ought to pay attention to [John] Lewis and what he represents. The president-elect will take the oath with a minority of the popular vote — a substantial deficit of almost 3 million votes. He enters the Oval Office with historically dismal poll numbers, lower now than right after he won the election. He has done nothing to woo the majority of Americans who rejected his candidacy and has, instead, adhered to his schoolyard habit of tweeting his every grievance, denigrating his every critic, making cameos with vaccine and global-warming doubters and, as if to show some versatility, rascals such as Don King and Kanye West. It is a “Gong Show” with no gong in sight.

Lyndon Johnson would no doubt warn Trump that he is already on thin ice and he will plunge through it the moment Congress takes the measure of his unpopularity. Johnson was a man of huge political abilities and experience, and his achievements in civil rights entitled him to greatness. Yet, when Vietnam went sour, so did the public, and it seemed, after a while, that his personal characteristics, scathingly caricatured by artists such as David Levine and Jules Feiffer, oozed out of him so that they obscured both him and his accomplishments. He was deemed capable of anything — of lying and perversion of all kinds. This is where Trump stands now.

Trump has a sense of self. But he has no sense of history. So don't expect him to take any lessons from that quarter. However, there are also lessons to be gained from Greek Tragedy:

Meanwhile, Trump will have his moment, that’s for sure, but when things go wrong he will be chased from office — just like Johnson once was. The ancient Greeks knew why: A man’s character is his fate. In that case, Trump’s presidency is doomed. 

 When the end comes, there will be no sense of catharsis.

Image: jarofquotes.com

Monday, January 16, 2017

Sabotaging The Economy

American stock markets have skyrocketed since the election of Donald Trump. The president-elect and giddy investors think they're on the cusp of Reagan 2.0. But, Ruchir Sharma writes, they can't go back to 1981:

The forces that underlie economic growth have weakened significantly since the Reagan years, worldwide. No nation, no matter how exceptional, can try to grow faster than economic forces allow without the risk of provoking a volatile boom-bust cycle.

The potential growth rate of an economy is roughly determined — and limited — by the sum of two factors: population and productivity. An economy can grow steadily only by adding more workers, or by increasing output per worker. During the Reagan years, both population and productivity were growing at around 1.7 percent a year, so the potential United States growth rate was close to 3.5 percent. In short, Reagan did not push the nation’s economic engine to run faster than it could handle.

In recent years, America’s population and productivity growth have fallen to around .75 percent each, generously measured, so potential economic growth is roughly 1.5 percent, less than half the rate of the Reagan era. Any policy package that aims to push an economy beyond its potential could easily backfire — in the form of higher deficits and inflation.

Like all conservatives these days, the Republicans want to turn back the clock:

The nub of the problem here is nostalgia for a bygone era. The postwar world grew accustomed to the rapid growth made possible by the baby boom. Not every country with rapid population growth enjoyed a steady economic boom, but few economies boomed without it. And for most countries, the era of population growth is now over.

The pressure of falling population growth means that every class of countries needs to adopt a new math of economic success, and bring its definition of strong growth down by a full point or more. For developed nations like the United States, with average incomes over $25,000, any rate above 1.5 percent should be seen as relatively good.

As they have done before, the Republicans will sabotage the economy -- and try to blame it on somebody else. 

Image: OpEdNews

Sunday, January 15, 2017

They Have To Speak French

Back in the 1990's -- when Preston Manning burst on the scene -- a new kind of sign sprouted on lawns in my neck of the woods. Its message was blunt: "No more prime ministers from Quebec." The sign's unstated assumption was that French is spoken only in la belle province. But, when Brian Mulroney was running for the leadership of the Conservative Party, Stephen Maher writes, that he

liked to tell Conservatives that they had to choose a leader who could speak both languages. “There are 102 ridings in the country with a francophone population over 10 per cent,” he said. “In the last election the Liberals won 100 of them, we won two. You give Pierre Trudeau a head start of 100 seats and he’s going to beat you 10 times out of 10.”

New Brunswick is our only officially bilingual province. Manitoba has a significant French population. And northern Alberta also has a a significant number of French communities. That's why Maher maintains that, if the Conservatives choose a leader who can't speak French, they'll lose. His or her French doesn't have to be perfect:

It is not necessary to speak both languages as well as the Trudeaus, Mulroney or Tom Mulcair. Stephen Harper never captured the music of the langue de Molière, and Jack Layton’s Montreal street French sometimes sounded too folksy, but both politicians were able to express themselves, which is what is necessary.

It works the same the other way. Jean Chretien’s English was not elegant, but he could communicate enough effectively to hammer home his point.

Chretien's syntax could be just as fractured in French as it was in English. But the message was always the same -- and Canadians knew it.

What does that mean for the Conservative candidates?  In the upcoming French only debate:

Chris Alexander will be good, and Michael Chong, Andrew Scheer and Erin O’Toole ought to be able to unspool some talking points, but Brad Trost, Kellie Leitch and Lisa Raitt face de facto disqualification if they parler Français comme une vache Espagnole.

The same rule will apply to whomever the New Democrats choose to be their leader. Prime Ministers don't have to come from Quebec. But they have to speak French.

Image: J.J's Complete Guide To Canada

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Sunny Ways Don't Work With Him

Justin Trudeau is encountering a lot of blowback these days. His cash for access troubles have him in hot water. And his announcement yesterday that the oil sands will have to be phased out will be met with cold fury in Alberta. But these are nothing compared to the blizzard that's blowing in from Washington. Michael Harris writes:

Forget about Trudeau’s domestic adversaries — his most deadly political foe is a real estate mogul and part-time president of the United States. As Trudeau fares against Trump on a handful of key policy areas, so his government will rise or fall.

That’s not to say that there aren’t domestic issues that matter. There are, including the still-unlamented Bill C-51, broken promises on the environment, and a sophomoric attempt at electoral reform. But Trump will cast a far longer shadow over public affairs in this country than any of them.

Harris goes on to catalogue the types of nasty weather that will blow across the border:

You can be certain that the Trump government will return to one of the preoccupations of U.S. policy: getting Canada to agree to a ballistic missile defence shield (BMD). The Americans have been trying to make this sale ever since Ronald Reagan saw Star Wars one too many times. In 2005, Paul Martin turned down the Americans on joining BDM, even though President Bush personally lobbied him on it.

In the course of throwing other toys out of his policy pram on his way to the White House, Trump has promised to rip up NAFTA. He already has, in a way, because the Tweeter-in-Chief has threatened General Motors, Ford and Toyota with a “big border tax” for building cars in Mexico. That, of course, is illegal under NAFTA — which is why he wants to tear it up.

And if Trump is ready to violate trade treaties and walk away from NAFTA if he can’t get the changes he wants, imagine what he’ll be asking of Canada in these negotiations. You can bet he’ll be playing shamelessly to his own lumber lobby by placing restrictions on Canadian softwood lumber going into the United States.

And while maximizing production in the U.S. and insisting on favourable trade balances with his trading partners, Trump will come after other major concessions from Canada. The Americans have always wanted market access to our agricultural sector, and it will come as no surprise when they demand in a new NAFTA an open door to dairy products.

And that’s to say nothing of Canada’s highly vulnerable auto industry, which will soon catch the eye of a man who would sooner see its jobs in Michigan under his ‘America First’ initiative.

All those clips of Trump in and out of the WWE ring are part of the Donald Trump Show. Sunny ways don't work with him.

Image: Mic/WWE

Friday, January 13, 2017

The Old Order Changeth

Errol Mendes writes that the Post World War II Order is crumbling:

As a new year opens across the globe, the post-Second World War order and the global rule of law are losing out to the rule of individual men.

The trend is most evident in the actions of Russian President Vladimir Putin and his military, along with his Syrian, Iranian and Shia Iraqi and Lebanese allies, who have been trampling the most sacred rules of war and committing the most horrific crimes against humanity against civilians in Syria. In his own country, Putin maintains the façade of a ‘managed’ democracy by crushing all dissent, controlling the media and using his security and intelligence forces to suppress — or murder — opposition voices. And his actions aren’t limited to the domestic; he’s undermine liberal democracies in Europe by aiding far-right and neo-fascist parties, not to mention his ultimate adventure — the seemingly successful manipulation of the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

 In China, the leadership is using its growing military and economic power to defy foundational rules of international law in the South and East China Seas, daring even the U.S. to challenge its claims over one of the most important sea lanes in the world — where $5 trillion worth of goods are transported annually. The Economist sums up how the Chinese leadership intends to ramp up its own crushing of internal dissent in an article titled, ‘China invents the digital totalitarian state’. The hundreds of lawyers and other pro-democracy activists who have either disappeared or are being held in secret jails seem to be just forerunners of what could happen to Chinese citizens in the coming years under the leadership of President Xi Jingping, as he seeks to assume all the major levers of power.

There are times in world history when everything seems to shift. This seems to be one of those times. But the shift does not look like it's for the better. If it is to be stopped, Mendes believes that nations committed to democracy and the rule of law must do three things:

First, they must use all their powers of political, economic and social persuasion to shine a bright light on the ‘post-truth’ fabrications fuelling the new authoritarianism — the terror, corruption and fraud perpetrated by this new generation of strongmen, perhaps by focusing on its undisputed leader: President Putin.
Second, they must examine their own glass houses to see how the so called Washington Consensus liberal order has produced too many losers, too many corporate robber barons, while creating a level of social inequality, job loss and poverty that begs the title “neo-feudal”.

Finally, to draw back the millions who may have wandered over to the authoritarian camp, progressive leaders, parties and governments must use the human rights agenda to promote the lives and interests of all. Martin Luther King put it best: “Justice denied anywhere diminishes justice everywhere.”
The clock is ticking.

Image: Robyn Waters

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Unencumbered By The Thought Process

Wherever Donald Trump goes, salacious details follow. Jonathan Manthorpe doesn't believe the salacious stuff. He writes:

Intelligence reports don’t work that way. They’re usually a jigsaw puzzle of hints and scraps that require much sorting out by highly experienced analysts to form a consistent picture. Even then, the analysts can’t be sure they’ve got it right.

And there are many unbelievable elements within the documents themselves. For example, the repeated claim that Putin “fears” a Clinton presidency doesn’t ring true. It’s known that Putin despises Clinton, blaming her for inciting unrest in Russia after parliamentary elections in 2011 and in advance of his orchestrated return to the presidency in 2012. But Putin has survived as Russia’s leader since 1999, and is preparing for another six-year term in elections next year. There’s no reason to believe he truly feared Clinton posed a threat to his plans.

But that doesn't matter:

There are still good reasons to accept that Putin wanted Trump to win the U.S. presidency, and that the Kremlin’s spy agencies were put to work undermining Clinton’s campaign. The joint report published on January 6 by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Central Intelligence Agency and the National Security Agency is unequivocal on that point.

The conclusion that Putin preferred Trump in the White House is utterly logical. Trump has on several occasions expressed what sounds like admiration for Putin and his firm rule (most would call it ‘authoritarian’). Trump also has expressed the hope that relations between Washington and Moscow, which have been on a steady downward slide since Putin came to power, can be improved.

Putin’s big hope is that the Trump administration lifts or eases sanctions imposed on Moscow in response to Russia’s annexation of Crimea, its occupation of large tracts of eastern Ukraine and its murder of Putin’s political opponents at home. Russia’s economy is overly dependent on oil and gas exports at the best of times. Low international prices for energy have hit Russia hard; the sanctions have made matters worse.

It's interesting that this information has been shopped around for months as opposition research for Trump's opponents -- both Republicans and Democrats. The CIA was not the source. But Trump -- with typical impulsiveness -- accused the intelligence community of leaking the material.

National Public Radio used to broadcast a show with two MIT educated auto mechanics, the Magliozzi Brothers. They joked about folks who they claimed were "unencumbered by the thought process." Regardless of whether or not the latest sound and fury is true, it's becoming more and more obvious that the president elect is one of the people they were talking about.

Image: ncse.info

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Obama's Farewell Speech

In his last address to the nation, Dwight Eisenhower warned Americans of the threat posed by what he called the "military-industrial complex." Last night, Barack Obama told his fellow citizens that they would have to work hard to protect their democracy from the threat of global Right Wing Populism. There have been several reasons for the rise of the Right Wing:

A shrinking world, growing inequality; demographic change and the spectre of terrorism – these forces haven’t just tested our security and prosperity, but our democracy as well. And how we meet these challenges to our democracy will determine our ability to educate our kids, and create good jobs, and protect our homeland.

He warned that, if Americans do nothing about their dysfunctional economy, they will court disaster:

Our economy doesn’t work as well or grow as fast when a few prosper at the expense of a growing middle class. But stark inequality is also corrosive to our democratic principles. While the top one per cent has amassed a bigger share of wealth and income, too many families, in inner cities and rural counties, have been left behind – the laid-off factory worker; the waitress and health care worker who struggle to pay the bills – convinced that the game is fixed against them, that their government only serves the interests of the powerful – a recipe for more cynicism and polarization in our politics.

And he offered his prescription for their economic ills:

So we must forge a new social compact – to guarantee all our kids the education they need; to give workers the power to unionize for better wages; to update the social safety net to reflect the way we live now and make more reforms to the tax code so corporations and individuals who reap the most from the new economy don’t avoid their obligations to the country that’s made their success possible. We can argue about how to best achieve these goals. But we can’t be complacent about the goals themselves. For if we don’t create opportunity for all people, the disaffection and division that has stalled our progress will only sharpen in years to come.

Opportunity for all. Easy to say. Hard to accomplish. Time will tell if his words ring -- like Eisenhower's -- through the decades.

Image: WITN

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Conservatives Need To Be Progressive

That's the message Hugh Segal delivers to his fellow Conservatives in today' s Globe and Mail. He begins with a review of recent history:

John Diefenbaker’s surprise defeat of Louis St. Laurent in 1957 reflected Progressive Conservative equilibrium on preserving the role of Parliament, opposing closure and championing of low-income seniors’ real needs. The 1958 Tory sweep was the largest majority in Canadian history and emerged largely because of the arrogance of the Liberals, who moved a non-confidence motion to bring down the Diefenbaker minority government. The Liberals believed that the 1957 Conservative win was simply a mistake by the voters.

Bob Stanfield’s near-victory over the unbeatable Liberal icon of Pierre Trudeau in 1972 (Mr. Stanfield lost by a handful of votes and just two seats) reflected a huge step forward for Mr. Stanfield’s moderation, integrity and concern for the disadvantaged. This surge, which produced a win for Mr. Stanfield in English-speaking Canada, was seen as a victory over the apparent arrogance and condescension of then-prime-minister Trudeau.

Brian Mulroney’s victory in 1984 over the Trudeau legacy championed by then-prime-minister John Turner was more about a moderate position on Canada-U.S. relations, less “my way or the highway” federalism, a stout defence of francophone minorities and a rejigging of Ottawa’s economic and social levers toward the centre from the bureaucratic centre-left.

Segal is delivering a warning to the members of his party who are in the throes of Trumpism:

The lessons of history seem, so far, to have had little impact. Canadians haven’t heard from any candidate about those living beneath the poverty line, the next stage of reconciliation with First Nations, a creative 21st-century federalism, a real-world foreign and defence policy, the inequities of unemployment for younger Canadians, the precariousness of areas of employment or the need for a national strategy for seniors.

They forget that Segal held an influential position in Bill Davis' Big Blue Machine -- one of the most successful political operations in Canadian history. They would be wise to lend him an ear. 

Image: Ottawa Citizen

Monday, January 09, 2017


Kevin  O'Leary is muttering about entering the Conservative leadership race. Lisa Raitt is trying to head him off at the pass. She'll do us all a favour if she succeeds. Michael Harris writes:

Bottom line? O’Leary will flounder in the Smart Tank because he knows squat about Canada and is about as homegrown as a banana. He is a de facto American trying to rewrite the history of the War of 1812.  Instead of getting even for the burning of Washington, O’Leary merely wants to muck out Ottawa with a spatula, which is a strange implement of choice for a dragon, right? A tongue of flame, a swishing tail, raking claws, sure. But a spatula?

And why should O’Leary delay announcing his entry into the CPC leadership race until after the French-language debate just because he doesn’t speak French? Whenever his turn came to speak, he could just hold up his bank book and show Quebeckers the balance. In O’Leary’s world, money talks and bull roar perambulates. How else could he actually say that he understands what Quebecers want?

O'Leary went to English language private schools when he grew up in Quebec and then headed to the University of Waterloo. He lived his life entirely in the English Solitude. Like Stephen Harper, he believes he doesn't need support in Quebec to become prime minister.

But he needs Alberta. And consider what he says about that province:

Consider his rantings on behalf of the Corporate Kleptocracy against Rachel Notley. The Alberta premier is to blame for Alberta’s skyrocketing unemployment rate, the plummeting dollar, and yes, Calgary’s loss in the Grey Cup.

Not a word about Conservative politicians in Alberta who let foreign multinationals cash in on the tar sands with pathetically low royalty rates (compare Norway’s Sovereign Wealth Fund to Alberta’s), and who never thought to diversify the provincial economy against the day when the oil wealth would be gone. Forty years of never asking the “what if” question.

O’Leary’s answer to Notley’s alleged screw ups – even more spineless concessions to the oil patch. On new oil and gas production capital expenditures, he wants to let the investor write off the entire investment in the year it occurred, and give a 36-month royalty “holiday” on any new capital investment. Increase the already gaudy returns for investors and all will be well.

Like his hero, Donald Trump, he's appallingly ignorant of the country he proposes to lead. Let's hope that Canadians -- and, more importantly, Conservatives  -- have learned something from recent events to our south.

Sunday, January 08, 2017

More And More Pungent

Conservatives have railed for decades about the evils of debt. Now The Wall Street Journal reports that they have elected the Debtor-in-Chief. Lauren McCauley writes:

An analysis by the Wall Street Journal published Thursday found that the incoming president owes at least $1.85 billion in debt to as many as 150 Wall Street firms and other financial institutions.

According to the examination of legal and property documents, “Hundreds of millions of dollars of debt attached to Mr. Trump’s properties, some of them backed by Mr. Trump’s personal guarantee, were packaged into securities and sold to investors over the past five years,” thus “broadening the tangle of interests that pose potential conflicts for the incoming president’s administration.”

In May, Trump filed documents with the Federal Election Commission (FEC) that disclosed $315 million owed to 10 companies—but that only included debts for companies that Trump completely controls, “excluding more than $1.5 billion lent to partnerships that are 30 percent owned by him,” WSJ reported.

“As a result,” wrote WSJ reporters Jean Eaglesham and Lisa Schwartz, “a broader array of financial institutions now are in a potentially powerful position over the incoming president.”

Things get really funky when you stop and consider that, as President, Trump gets to appoint the regulators of the companies to which he owes money:

In one troubling example, the investigation found that Wells Fargo, currently under investigation for a years-long banking fraud scandal, “runs at least five mutual funds that own portions of Trump businesses’ securitized debt;” is “a trustee or administrator for pools of securitized loans that include $282 million of loans to Mr. Trump;” and “acts as a special servicer for $950 million of loans to a property that one of Mr. Trump’s companies partly owns.”

“Once he takes office,” Eaglesham and Schwartz observed, “Mr. Trump will appoint the heads of many of the regulators that police the bank.”

Furthermore, Trump's debt has been financed by the same instruments that caused the financial meltdown of 2008:

The spread of Trump’s debt can in large part be attributed to the process known as “securitization,” when debt is repackaged into bonds and sold off. More than $1 billion of debt connected to the president-elect has been handled in this way.  

The smell of rot gets more and more pungent.

Saturday, January 07, 2017

Start With Community

Progressives are pretty pessimistic these days. That's because, Murray Dobbins writes, they've forgotten the importance of community. Margaret Thatcher famously said, "There's no such thing as society, only individuals." That notion -- with a misguided push from Ayn Rand -- became the prime directive behind neo-liberalism.

Dobbins believes that renewal does not begin with a search for individual leaders but with a search for community:

Peter Block in his insightful 2008 book, Community: The Structure of Belonging, dissects the preoccupation of citizens with leaders and leadership:
"It is this love of leaders that limits our capacity to create an alternative future. It proposes that the only real accountability in the world is at the top…The effect of buying into this is that it lets citizens off the hook and breeds citizen dependency and entitlement."
When citizens don't feel accountable, they increasingly act as consumers. Beyond neoliberalism's obvious imperatives such as free trade, privatization, tax breaks for the wealthy, etc., its most pernicious impact on society is the destruction of community. The greatest weapon the 1% has is our isolation from each other. And all efforts to defeat neoliberalism, no matter how valiant, inspired, smart or sustained, will fail unless they somehow ultimately contribute to the rebuilding of community. Unless and until that process begins in earnest, the systematic isolation of individuals and families from each other and from community will make garnering significant citizen power impossible.

That's an important insight. Atomize citizens and they become powerless. Allow them freedom and a desire to assemble, and they become -- not consumers -- but a force to be reckoned with:

After 40 years of neoliberal social (and economic) engineering, we are at a stage where as consumers we have virtually endless choices -- a mind-numbing variety of choices streamed at us at a speed and volume that leaves us stupefied -- shell-shocked by choice, diverted from our possible lives by shopping. But our choices as citizens are now so constrained by the erosion and corruption of democracy and the endless promotion of small government that our citizenship has atrophied.

The dominant form of politics in fact reduces most people to passive consumers of politics just as they are consumers of goods. As consumers of politics rather than intentional citizens, we simultaneously abdicate responsibility and end up indulging in the culture of complaint. Says Block, "Consumers give up their power. They believe that their own needs can best be satisfied by the actions of others..." whether they be public service providers, elected officials or store managers. 

As long as progressives buy into the notion that politics is product and that salvation can be found in individual leaders, they are buying into neo-liberalism. The difference between individuality and individualism is the difference between -- in Mark Twain's words -- the lightning and the lightning bug.

Renewal starts with community.

Image: IM Publications

Friday, January 06, 2017

Will She Get Away Unscathed?

Kellie Leitch is in a tight spot. Her campaign manager, Nick Kouvalis, has admitted manufacturing falsehoods. Michael  Harris writes:

Kouvalis has admitted that he posted a pack of lies about Justin Trudeau for the express purpose of getting a rise out of the Left.

He trumpeted on Twitter that Trudeau has wasted “billions” of taxpayers’ dollars on dubious foreign aid, including $351 million to the designated terrorist group Hamas. His bogus claim was almost immediately outed as false and cringeworthy, first by Jason Markusoff of Maclean’s, then by others. At least Kouvalis didn’t claim that Trudeau was not born in Canada.

He has a track record when it comes to this kind of behaviour:

Kouvalis went into Irwin Cotler’s riding and lied about the Liberal MP’s imminent retirement. Harper’s government House Leader of the day, Peter Van Loan, called that “freedom” of expression. House Speaker Andrew Scheer, now a candidate for the CPC leadership, called it “reprehensible.”

Kouvalis is the guy who said, “This is how the Left operates”, in the wake of the alleged break-in at Kellie Leitch’s home. No facts.

And, in case you've forgotten, Kouvalis was Rob Ford's campaign guru.

Our neighbour to the South has shown the world what arises from this kind of politics. The question is straightforward: Will Kellie Leitch get away unscathed?

Image: Macleans

Thursday, January 05, 2017

Only Public Outrage

At the beginning of the week, House Republicans voted to gut the Congressional Ethics Office. The next day they voted to reverse their decision after being scolded by their leader on Twitter. Some claim that Mr. Trump showed his leadership skills. But Frank Bruni wasn't fooled. He wrote in New York Times:

Is it any wonder that House Republicans felt O.K. about trying to slip free of some of their own ethical shackles, no matter how ugly the optics?

The story here isn’t what, specifically, they attempted to do. Nor is it their abandonment of the plan once the media gasped and their dear leader wagged his finger at them.

It’s the tone that Trump has set and the culture that he’s creating. He operates with an in-your-face defiance, so these House Republicans did, too. He puts his own desires and comfort first, so they reserved the right to do the same. With more than a few of his cabinet picks, he demonstrated little sense of fidelity to what he promised voters and even less concern about appearances. House Republicans decided to treat themselves to a taste of that freedom.

They were simply listening to their Master's Voice. David Brooks pointed out a couple of weeks ago that Trump has never been accountable to anyone -- a board of directors or shareholders. And, now that they are in control of all three branches of the government, Republicans feel that they are only accountable to themselves.

That's an extremely dangerous situation. It means that the only thing that will limit their hubris is public outrage.

Image: Wikispaces

Wednesday, January 04, 2017

It's Getting Shorter

We've known for at least twenty-five years that the time we have to reverse global warming is limited. David Suzuki writes:

We can't say we weren't warned. In 1992, a majority of living Nobel prize-winners and more than 1,700 leading scientists worldwide signed a remarkable document called "World Scientists' Warning to Humanity."

It begins, "Human beings and the natural world are on a collision course. Human activities inflict harsh and often irreversible damage on the environment and on critical resources. If not checked, many of our current practices put at serious risk the future that we wish for human society and the plant and animal kingdoms, and may so alter the living world that we will be unable to sustain life in the manner that we know. Fundamental changes are urgent if we are to avoid the collision our present course will bring about."
It then outlines critical areas where the collision was and is still occurring: the atmosphere, water resources, oceans, soil, forests, species extinction and overpopulation. In the 25 years since it was published, the problems have worsened.

The document then sets out an action plan to deal with the problem:

1) "We must bring environmentally damaging activities under control to restore and protect the integrity of the earth's systems we depend on." It specifically mentions reducing greenhouse gas emissions and air and water pollution. It also highlights the need to address deforestation, degradation and loss of agricultural soils and extinction of plant and animal species.

2) "We must manage resources crucial to human welfare more effectively." This one is obvious. Finite resources must be exploited much more efficiently or we'll run out.

3) "We must stabilize population. This will be possible only if all nations recognize that it requires improved social and economic conditions, and the adoption of effective, voluntary family planning."

4) "We must reduce and eventually eliminate poverty."

5) "We must ensure sexual equality, and guarantee women control over their own reproductive decisions."

In the last twenty-five years, we haven't made much progress. Time is short. And it's getting shorter.

Image: YouTube