Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Balmy Weather At The Pole

Europe is experiencing a cold winter this year. But where we used to take cold weather for granted -- the North Pole -- something wierd is going on. Jonathan Watts reports that:

The North Pole gets no sunlight until March, but an influx of warm air has pushed temperatures in Siberia up by as much as 35C above historical averages this month. Greenland has already experienced 61 hours above freezing in 2018—more than three times as any previous year.
Seasoned observers have described what is happening as “crazy,” “weird,” and “simply shocking”.
At the world’s most northerly land weather station—Cape Morris Jesup at the northern tip of Greenland—recent temperatures have been, at times, warmer than London and Zurich, which are thousands of miles to the south. Although the recent peak of 6.1C on Sunday was not quite a record, but on the previous two occasions (2011 and 2017) the highs lasted just a few hours before returning closer to the historical average. Last week there were 10 days above freezing for at least part of the day at this weather station, just 440 miles from the north pole.

Climate scientists predicted these radical shifts in climate. But they thought those shifts would occur further into the future. What the pole is telling us is that the collapse of the Polar Vortex may be upon us:

The vortex depends on the temperature difference between the Arctic and mid-latitudes, but that gap is shrinking because the pole is warming faster than anywhere on Earth. While average temperatures have increased by about 1C, the warming at the pole—closer to 3C—is melting the ice mass. According to NASA, Arctic sea ice is now declining at a rate of 13.2% per decade, leaving more open water and higher temperatures.

If the vortex collapses, we will experience what climate scientists call "warm Arctic, cold continents." Meanwhile, the oceans will continue to rise, flooding population centres that are at or just above sea level.

The evidence keeps piling up -- and we continue to ignore it.

Image: Antinuclear

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Two Kinds Of Conservatism

E.J. Dionne writes that there are two kinds of conservatism -- the "tweedy" kind and the extreme kind. Tweedy conservatism

is rooted in an affection for a particular place and its way of life. This conservatism is not always opposed to reform since reforms are often required to preserve the arrangements its exponents revere. Conservatism’s positive function is to warn against measures designed to fix things that are wrong, but whose main effects are to undermine institutions that are widely valued. Sometimes, seemingly sensible changes can unintentionally cause new problems.

Tweedy conservatism was Edmund Burke's conservatism. But Burke's vision has been buried by another kind of conservatism, which Dionne argues isn't conservtism at all. It's extremism, plain and simple:

The tweedy sort of conservatism has been giving ground to the extremists who want not simply to defeat their adversaries but to crush them; who traffic in conspiracy theories rather than in respect for facts and history; and who are willing to destroy the very institutions they claim to be trying to save. This has happened before (as when the white South’s displaced leadership backed the Ku Klux Klan to end Reconstruction after the Civil War), and we are seeing it anew in the age of President Trump.

That extremism was on full display at the recent Conservative Political Action Conference:

Before Trump, it would have been shocking to see Marion Marechal-Le Pen, a leader of the French neo-fascist National Front, appear at the same event with traditional conservatives like Vice President Mike Pence and Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Tex, and also with the president of the United States. But thanks to Trump, European-style ethno-nationalism has become so much a part of the movement that her visit seemed almost natural.

And the head of the NRA, Wayne Lapierre, brought the crowd to their feet:

Shamefully, Wayne LaPierre, the NRA’s top gun who is increasingly becoming America’s extremist in chief, showed few signs of being moved by the slaughter of high school students and teachers at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida. On the contrary, he had the impudence to say that those who think it’s time for some modest reforms in our weapons statutes were “saboteurs” and “socialists” using the deaths of young people to forward a dangerous agenda.
“If they seize power, if these so-called European socialists take over the House and the Senate — and God forbid, they get the White House again — our American freedoms could be lost and our country could be changed forever.”

Stephen Harper called the same extremism conservatism. And it is currently on display in Ontario's so called Progressive Conservative Party.

But Trump, Harper and the Ontario PC's leadership hopefuls are all selling snake oil. That should be patently obvious.


Monday, February 26, 2018

From Farce To Tragedy

I came upon this clip by pure happenstance. And then it hit me. In 1970, Americans turned on their televisions to laugh at the foolishness Archie spouted. Nearly fifty years later, he's moved upmarket and uptown. Now a significant number of Americans believe he's a font of wisdom.

From farce to tragedy.

Sunday, February 25, 2018

Repeating The Same Mistakes

Political parties, Robin Sears writes, tend to make the same mistakes. That is true of Canada's three major parties -- particularly true when a new generation of leaders takes over. Consider what has happened to the Ontario PC's and other federal parties:

The Mike Harris and Tim Hudak generation were shown the door by the Brown team. They may have earned their banishment in terms of successive self-inflicted defeats, but they sliced off nearly two decades of party history and experience all at once.
The Liberal Party of Canada went through a decade long civil war as a result of the vanity of two men. One can, therefore, sympathize with the young team around Justin Trudeau, who sent every one of the lieutenants to either leader to purgatory.
Sadly, the consequence was to cut themselves off from some of the best minds in Canadian politics: a generation of Liberal strategists and former ministers. The absence of their access to that collective political wisdom has emerged over and over in weak political and communications management.
New Democrats have just come through a similar six “lost years,” between the death of Jack Layton and the arrival of Jagmeet Singh. The failure of Thomas Mulcair’s leadership had roots similar to the Liberal and Tory experience: a leader and his team who knew little about the institution they were given command of.

It's a familiar story. The young reject the wisdom of the old. There are times when the old become foolish. The current gun control debate in the United States is a case in point. But, as a general principle, it is unwise for the next generation to cut itself off from its elders -- in part because of the nature of political parties:

Those who ignore the fragile bonds of a political party, who ignore unhappy riding presidents, who look to poll numbers for proof of future success, make serious strategic blunders.
For institutions essential to a functioning democracy, political parties are almost uniquely archaic institutions, culturally and organizationally: their history is mostly oral, their principles and values passed from veteran to newbie verbally, and their real decision-makers and opinion-influencers are often well-hidden from all but the cognoscenti.

Sears believes that the NDP under Jagmeet Singh will not make the mistakes it made under Tom Mulcair. We'll see.

Image: Knightsbridge Robinson Surette

Saturday, February 24, 2018

Times Are Tough For Red Tories

The irony of the Ontario Tory leadership race is that deposed -- now back in the game leader -- Patrick Brown is the only Red Tory in the race. And his opposition is desperately trying to get  rid of him. Tom Walkom writes:

He’s also the only candidate vying for the leadership who is running as a Red Tory. That’s important because the Red Tory blend of sound economic management and moderately progressive social policy is usually the formula for political success in Ontario — for any party.
Now that Brown has decided to fight for his old job, his critics are getting harsher. Interim leader Vic Fideli has kicked him out of the Tory caucus. Tory MPP Randy Hillier has filed a complaint about him with the province’s integrity commissioner.
The Globe and Mail published a complicated story asking whether Brown had entered into a financial arrangement with someone seeking a Tory nomination (the answer apparently was no).
Political operatives, irked that he hasn’t quietly gone away, accuse him of putting his own interests before those of the party — a charge that could be levelled at any politician trying to rock the boat.
When a 23-year-old girlfriend publicly supported him, Brown, 39, was criticized for dating younger women. That’s an accusation that Brian Mulroney, who was 34 when he married 19-year-old Mila Pivnicki never faced. Nor did Pierre Trudeau when he married a young woman almost 30 years his junior.

I was never impressed by Brown. But his saga says a lot about what has happened to Progressive Conservatism. These days, being a confessed Red Tory can be a self inflicted wound.

Image: The Huffington Post Canada

Friday, February 23, 2018

We Shall See

When it comes to gun violence in the United States, Michael Harris gets down to the nitty gritty. Consider, for instance, how much money the NRA has donated to American politicians:

Leave it to the lawmakers they say? Let’s be honest with ourselves for a second: They are too busy getting greased by the National Rifle Association to change America’s insane gun laws. Instead, they pretend to pray and hug and talk about their broken hearts after slaughters like Sandy Hook, Las Vegas, and now Parkland.
But as the New York Times reports, that doesn’t stop them from cashing fat checks from the NRA. Among the top 10 recipients of this gun/blood money: Senator John McCain of Arizona, $7,740,521 from the NRA; Senator Richard Burr of North Carolina, $6,986,620; Senator Marco Rubio of Florida, $3,303,355. Wednesday night, Rubio told survivors of the latest shootings in Florida, in which 17 people died, that he would continue to accept donations from the NRA.

The United States is a culture saturated in violence:

Beyond kids dying in their own schools, violence holds centre stage across a broad array of social activities in the United States that are rarely if ever examined. This is not a one issue fix. There is lots of low hanging fruit for those who don’t want to face it. And there is plenty of blame to go around. But it will take some thinking to get it right.
When will legislators search for a connection between ultra-violent video games and the ease with which an increasing number of individuals, many of them young people, cross the line from ersatz gaming into real life maiming?
Has anyone noticed that America’s favourite sport, NFL football, has become so violent that the league had to enter into a billion dollar legal settlement with players who were brain-damaged by concussive blows to the head playing the “game”? Violence makes for a wonderful spectator sport.
On the “entertainment” side, Hollywood offers an increasingly violent orgy of special effects movies that set highs for profits and lows for social contribution. Violence is glamorized, exploited and marketed to a public that can’t seem to get enough blood and guts.

And the adults refuse to do anything about it. If things are going to change, it will take a Children's Crusade -- like the one that put an end to the Vietnam War:

During the calamitous 1960’s and early 1970’s, all political parties in the U.S. conducted, promoted, and expanded the hellish war in Vietnam. It was a political liar’s-fest at the highest levels of government for as long as the men directing the war could get away with it.
After four protesting students were killed by National Guardsmen at Kent State University in 1970 for the high crime of taking part in an anti-war demonstration, young feet hit the street. And with those footsteps, the tide began to turn. Then came the Pentagon Papers and the truth about the war. In concert with an engaged media, the kids and people like Daniel Ellsberg finally put an end to the madness — largely because politicians were held to account for their lies and folly.

Will the kids be able to hold the politicians and the NRA to account? We shall see.

Image: vintage everyday

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Murdoch's Right

If you had any doubts about Donald Trump's exploding insanity, yesterday should have put them to rest -- because yesterday he floated his solution to school shootings. Amanda Holpuch and Paul Owen report in The Guardian that:

The US president on Wednesday held a listening session at the White House with survivors of last week’s Florida school shooting and others affected by gun violence, telling them “teachers and coaches” who were “very adept at using firearms” could be armed.
“If you had a teacher who was adept at firearms, they could very well end the attack very quickly,” he said.

Think about that for a moment. Trump believes that a designated number of teachers should be qualified marksman -- perhaps snipers. He elaborated on his proposal:

“I never said ‘give teachers guns’ like was stated on Fake News @CNN & @nbc,” he said. “What I said was to look at the possibility of giving ‘concealed guns to gun adept teachers with military or special training experience – only the best.
“Twenty percent of teachers, a lot, would now be able to … immediately fire back if a savage sicko came to a school with bad intentions. Highly trained teachers would also serve as a deterrent to the cowards that do this. Far more assets at much less cost than guards.”
He added: “A ‘gun free’ school is a magnet for bad people. ATTACKS WOULD END! History shows that a school shooting lasts, on average, 3 minutes. It takes police & first responders approximately 5 to 8 minutes to get to site of crime. Highly trained, gun adept, teachers/coaches would solve the problem instantly, before police arrive. GREAT DETERRENT!”

Although he claims to have gone to the best schools, it's painfully obvious that he doesn't know how they work. Armed faculty would -- always -- be a provocation. They would increase the likelihood of violence, not deter it.

In his book, Fire and Fury, Michael Wolf reports that Rupert Murdoch has voiced the opinion that Trump is a "fucking idiot." For once in my life, I find myself agreeing with Murdoch.

Image: IMDb

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

A Flawed Policy

Justin Trudeau is caught between a pipeline and a hard place. Tim Harper writes:

For Trudeau, a major hit to his self-styled progressive climate change policy looms.
In essence, a prime minister who wants to be known as environmentally aware is touting an unpopular pipeline project as a means to combat climate change.
He has accused an NDP premier in B.C., who has formed a coalition with Green leader Andrew Weaver, of trying to “scuttle” a national climate change plan by blocking an increase in tanker traffic.
Trudeau has always tried to thread the needle on the balance between the economy and greenhouse gas targets, but it is getting more difficult.

Trudeau has said that he needed Rachel Notley on side to make his climate change policy work:

“In order to get the national climate change plan — to get Alberta to be part of it, and we need Alberta to be part of it — we agreed to twin an existing pipeline in order to get to work,” he said.
“It was always a question of, if we could move forward responsibly on the Kinder Morgan pipeline, then Alberta would be able to be as ambitious as we needed Alberta to be and get on with the national climate change plan... they were linked to each other.”
Politically, this is accurate. Without Notley in Alberta, Trudeau risks having his national climate plan unravel, and, at least, he will be fighting with Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba and possibly Ontario as he imposes carbon pricing on resistant premiers.
But a shorthand rallying cry of “Save the planet, expand a pipeline,’’ is a difficult sell.

And that's just the point. Trudeau's charm makes him a good salesman. But what he is selling is a flawed policy.

Image: The National Post

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Principles? What Principles?

Donald Trump's character is corrupting American democracy. But. Paul Krugman writes, the corruption can't all be laid at Trump's feet. Much of what is wrong in the United States stems from the character of the Republican Party:

So what happened to the character of the G.O.P.? I’m pretty sure that in this case the personal is, ultimately, political. The modern G.O.P. is, to an extent never before seen in American history, a party built around bad faith, around pretending that its concerns and goals are very different from what they really are. Flag-waving claims of patriotism, pious invocations of morality, stern warnings about fiscal probity are all cover stories for an underlying agenda mainly concerned with making plutocrats even richer.

Under Trump, the Republicans have quickly shed the "principles" which they claimed were rock solid. That willingness to shed principles is reflected in the characters in those who work for Trump:

At the trivial but still telling end of the scale, we have the tale of Scott Pruitt, head of the Environmental Protection Agency, who keeps flying first class at taxpayers’ expense. The money isn’t the important issue here, although his spending violates federal guidelines. The revealing thing, instead, is the supposed reason he needs to fly premium — you see, ordinary coach passengers have been known to say critical things to his face.
More seriously, consider the behavior of John Kelly, Trump’s chief of staff, whose record of slandering critics and refusing to admit error is starting to rival his boss’s. Remember when Kelly made false accusations about Representative Frederica Wilson and refused to retract those accusations even after video showed they were false?
More recently, Kelly insisted that he didn’t know the full details about domestic abuse allegations against Rob Porter until, a White House staff member said, “40 minutes before he threw him out” — a claim that seems at odds with everything we know about this story. Even if this claim were true, an apology for his obliviousness seems in order. But these guys don’t apologize.

Personal and party integrity doesn't matter a whit. It's a truly sad state of affairs.

Monday, February 19, 2018

The True Progressive?

Michael Harris wonders if Jagmeet Singh is a true progressive. That used to be Justin's Trudeau's mantle. But he has disappointed many who voted for him:

The prime minister reneged on his much ballyhooed electoral reforms promised in the 2015 election, prompting national icon David Suzuki to call him a liar.
First Nations leaders like Grand Chief Stewart Phillip say that Trudeau has betrayed them.
Veterans have been left speechless by Trudeau’s court action against them, which was started by Stephen Harper.
And after the Trudeau government gave the green light to the dubious Site C dam in British Columbia, environmentalists as a group are wondering who is the real Justin Trudeau? The poster child of the Paris climate change summit or the guy who told Texas oilmen in Houston that, “No country would find 173 billion barrels of oil in the ground and just leave them there.”

Singh appears to be staking out the same ground as Trudeau. Will he be able to convince Canadians that he will do more than repeat Justin's rhetoric?

He has one potential problem. He wears a turban. That shouldn't make a difference. But, for some Canadians, it will. There are, however, some substantial differences between Singh and Trudeau:

For one thing, his personal story is a saga of true grit, immigrant style. Singh has gone from the kid in the turban that people snickered at in the plaza, to winning the leadership of a federal political party in which he was only given a two per cent chance of success.
Growing up, he helped keep his own struggling family together and managed to pick up a law degree along the way.
Unlike Trudeau, Singh knows what it’s like to feel unwanted, insecure and poor. And after he personally escaped all that, he didn’t forget the ones who have not.

Like Trudeau, he is fluently bilingual. But, in Quebec, he's not a native son.

Is he a true progressive?  We await the future -- which will give us the answer to that question.


Sunday, February 18, 2018

Pipeline Politics

Pipeline Politics have haunted this country since the end of the Second World War. Robin Sears reviews the history:

Every major pipeline we have built in Canada since the Second World War was typically the product of a long and difficult political battle. The first cross-Canada pipe, the project that gave birth to Trans-Canada Pipeline, helped bring down the Liberal government of Louis St. Laurent in 1957.
The infamous Pipeline Debate, ended nearly half a century of Liberal hegemony, and elected John Diefenbaker. It ushered in a period of political instability with six elections in just over a decade, ending only with Pierre Trudeau’s 1968 majority.
Next came the four-year fracas over the Mackenzie Valley Pipeline starting in 1974, which despite several attempts to revive it — the last as recent as the Harper era — remains stillborn. The pipeline inquiry, led by Justice Tom Berger, became a multi-year political crusade in defence of First Nations rights, environmental concerns, and was eventually seen as an attack on the oil and gas sector itself.

New pipeline projects have met the same fate as the Mackenzie Valley Pipeline:

Along the way we then had a series of more short-lived battles over Energy East, Northern Gateway and Keystone XL. Energy East fell victim to politics, most damagingly its poisonous reception by the government of Quebec. Northern Gateway died at the hands of enraged and empowered First Nations, and a series of governments unprepared to take the political risk of defending the transport of heavy oils through the pristine waters surrounding Haida Gwai.

Sears believes all of this pain could have been avoided if a solution -- first proposed in 1951 -- had been adopted:

In the ironies of political life, there is one solution that might have made this collision of interests avoidable. It is to have taken the oil across the Fraser River and through Washington State to an existing offtake port on the U.S. West Coast. This was the earlier planned route that almost killed the first pipeline to move oil from the Leduc oilfields to American markets.

Of course, the solution was no solution for the planet. And the curse of fossil fuels continues.

Image: Oil Price

Saturday, February 17, 2018

Are Things Not As Bad As We Think?

This morning, The Guardian has published an excerpt from Steven Pinker's latest book, Enlightenment Now: The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism, and Progress. Pinker is not an eternal optimist. But he has argued for quite awhile that things aren't as bad as we think. The reason we view the world darkly, he opines, is that our media are persistently negative:

Every day the news is filled with stories about war, terrorism, crime, pollution, inequality, drug abuse and oppression. And it’s not just the headlines we’re talking about; it’s the op-eds and long-form stories as well. Magazine covers warn us of coming anarchies, plagues, epidemics, collapses, and so many “crises” (farm, health, retirement, welfare, energy, deficit) that copywriters have had to escalate to the redundant “serious crisis.”

A constant diet of doom and gloom produces what psyhcologists Amos Tversky and Daniel Kahneman call an Availability Heuristic:

People estimate the probability of an event or the frequency of a kind of thing by the ease with which instances come to mind. In many walks of life this is a serviceable rule of thumb. But whenever a memory turns up high in the result list of the mind’s search engine for reasons other than frequency—because it is recent, vivid, gory, distinctive, or upsetting—people will overestimate how likely it is in the world.
Plane crashes always make the news, but car crashes, which kill far more people, almost never do. Not surprisingly, many people have a fear of flying, but almost no one has a fear of driving. People rank tornadoes (which kill about 50 Americans a year) as a more common cause of death than asthma (which kills more than 4,000 Americans a year), presumably because tornadoes make for better television.

Over the years, he writes, The New York Times has gotten progressively gloomier:

The New York Times got steadily more morose from the early 1960s to the early 1970s, lightened up a bit (but just a bit) in the 1980s and 1990s, and then sank into a progressively worse mood in the first decade of the new century. News outlets in the rest of the world, too, became gloomier and gloomier from the late 1970s to the present day.

And that kind of coverage has consequences:

The consequences of negative news are themselves negative. Far from being better informed, heavy newswatchers can become miscalibrated. They worry more about crime, even when rates are falling, and sometimes they part company with reality altogether: a 2016 poll found that a large majority of Americans follow news about Isis closely, and 77% agreed that “Islamic militants operating in Syria and Iraq pose a serious threat to the existence or survival of the United States,” a belief that is nothing short of delusional.
Consumers of negative news, not surprisingly, become glum: a recent literature review cited “misperception of risk, anxiety, lower mood levels, learned helplessness, contempt and hostility towards others, desensitization, and in some cases, ... complete avoidance of the news.” And they become fatalistic, saying things like “Why should I vote? It’s not gonna help,” or “I could donate money, but there’s just gonna be another kid who’s starving next week.”

I don't know if I buy Pinker's argument. When it comes to climate change, for instance, things are getting progressively worse. However, I do think he deserves a serious hearing. And I do know that you have to pick the sources you rely on carefully.

Image: Tutor2U

Friday, February 16, 2018

Marching Backwards

After viewing yesterday's leadership debate, Martin Regg Cohn writes:

Ontario’s once-proud PC party may emerge from this renewal process having regressed — with nary an idea for the future economic, educational or technological challenges facing our province. Four candidates (three serious contenders, one single-issue contestant) were behind the microphones at TVO.
Quite apart from condemning one another, the candidates were at war with themselves — contradicting their own past positions and demolishing the party platform that, until last month, the party had put forward collectively as a carefully considered blueprint for governing Canada’s biggest province.

The platform was supposed to take them to victory in the election -- which is now three months away:

A proposed carbon tax? Repudiated by all with astonishing alacrity, even though it funds the party’s promised $4 billion in tax cuts and assorted election sweeteners;
A sex-education curriculum updated three years ago in our schools? Condemned by all with unseemly passion, based on the fictional claim that no parents were consulted and that parents must always have the last word — as if teenagers hang on their every word, because father (or mother) knows best. While joining in the chorus of condemnations, Mulroney alone mused that she wouldn’t undo the current curriculum (having lost her backbone on carbon, she recovered her voice on sex ed);
A higher minimum wage? Bad for business but worse for workers, Ford argued with a straight face and steady gaze. All candidates condemned the $14 minimum wage brought in last month and assailed the Liberal government’s law raising it to $15 next year. Oh, and dissociated themselves from the party’s platform promise to phase in the $15 target more gradually, by 25 cents a year until 2022 — still too fast, according to Ford and Elliott, who were having none of it (only Mulroney stuck by the platform’s slower 2022 target).

Cohn warns that chaos may be a winning formula. Donald Trump seems to thrive on it these days. Nevertheless, it's utterly disheartening to realize that Doug Ford is calling the tune:

The remarkable repentances of Elliott and Mulroney — who have long coasted on their images as progressives — must be a bitter pill for them both to swallow, and seems like a poison pill for many other Tories. Not just . . . carbon but consent issues . . . [have] taken the party back in time to revisit the sex-ed controversy that Brown tried to put behind them — until a sexual misconduct scandal undid him.

Tanya Granic Allan, the candidate of the religous right, only has one issue -- scraping the sex ed curriculum. These days, the Tories seem fixated on sex.

And marching backwards.

Thursday, February 15, 2018

A Society Which Cannot Offer Its Youth A Future

There was another mass shooting in the United States. Barack Obama used to come out and  publicly appeal for gun control legislation. Yesterday, the Tweeting Twit used his standard medium:

My prayers and condolences to the families of the victims of the terrible Florida shooting. No child, teacher or anyone else should ever feel unsafe in an American school.

The soul of compassion. The weapon used was the same weapon used in other mass shootings -- the AR-15. Richard Wolfe writes:

There have been many attempts to tackle assault weapons like the AR-15. When Senator Diane Feinstein, the California Democrat, tried to do that in 2013, one month after the Sandy Hook school massacre, there were 60 “no” votes that killed the effort, including those of 15 Democrats.
Among those no votes was one Marco Rubio, the Florida senator, who told Fox News on Wednesday that now wasn’t the time to talk about gun control. “I think you can always have that debate,” he said. “But if you’re gonna have that debate about this particular incident you should know the facts of that incident before you run out and prescribe some law that you claim could have prevented it.”

The United States is a dying Empire. There are signs of its demise everywhere -- no more so than in the minds of American youth:

For the deeper, sadder truth is that something else is dying with each massacre in a school, church, night club, movie theater or at an open-air concert. And yes, with each gang bullet in Chicago too. What’s dying is the bright light of our teenagers’ confidence.
They say there’s no one more optimistic than an American teenager. That may always have been a gross generalization. But there aren’t many countries where kids are told they can grow up to be president, or a tech entrepreneur, a Nobel-prize winning scientist, or join the Peace Corps to fix the world.
Now we’re teaching them to throw their chairs if a shooter storms into their classroom.

A society which cannot offer its youth a future will not survive.


Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Nothing Has Changed

All three candidates for the leadership of Ontario's Progressive Conservative Party have declared their opposition to a carbon tax. Andrew Coyne writes:

When the Great Platform Revolt began, I had thought that their position would be just to default to the status quo, i.e. cap and trade, since a) this would not require them to do anything, b) the feds have said they would accept this in lieu of an explicit carbon tax, and c) the revenues the province collects from cap and trade, unlike a carbon tax, are invisible to the consumer. They could then claim to have averted the dread prospect of a carbon tax, while continuing to impose one via cap and trade.

But that's not what they're promising:

No, all pledge to repeal cap-and-trade, thereby guaranteeing the imposition of a federal carbon tax in its place: one that, as the platform boasts, would reduce the province’s carbon dioxide emissions by 10 megatonnes more over four years than what cap and trade would achieve. The sum effect of the candidates’ position, then, is to ensure precisely the thing to which they claim to be opposed.

The candidates know the base of their party. And, these days, it appears that the base of all conservative parties is petrified of the future. Rather than look forward, they prefer to look backward. The end result is that they always develop stupid policy:

As ever, the failure to embrace carbon pricing remains a missed opportunity for Conservatives: not only to prove their bona fides on the environment, but to replace all those existing schemes — and to make deep cuts in taxes in the bargain: to use carbon pricing, not just as a shield, but as a sword.

John Stuart Mill wrote: "Not all conservatives are stupid. But most stupid people are conservative." Nothing has changed since Mill reached that conclusion over one hundred years ago.

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Running For The Exits

It seems that the Trump Administration loses -- or fires -- someone every week. Last week, it lost two staff members because of accusations of domestic abuse. Ezra Klein writes that there are three reasons what was once a trickle has now become and flood:

1. Trump’s volatility creates fear, confusion, and frustration:

No one knows quite what he will do or say or want, and so staffers spend their days working on deals and plans that they know could be wrecked by a tweet or a late-night phone call or something the president saw on Fox & Friends.
Trump is also a difficult and disloyal boss who doesn’t listen when you brief him, doesn’t read the documents you prepare for him, and can’t correctly remember what you’ve told him. And if you anger him, he will turn on you in a meeting or, worse, in public. No one wants to end up like Steve Bannon or Jeff Sessions. And none of this is a secret to the men and women who might be next in line for these jobs.

2. Incoherence at the top leads to constant infighting below:

Trump is uninterested in core questions of governance, has never resolved the ideological tensions in his administration, and is heavily influenced by whoever gets to him last. The result is an ongoing battle, which plays out through both bureaucratic maneuvering and constant leaking, between the various ideological factions of the administration.
This makes the Trump White House a particularly dangerous place to work. All of the factions are constantly maneuvering to consolidate or regain influence by deposing members of rival factions.

3. Early Staffing Decisions have led to ongoing scandals:

The third zone of dysfunction is the Trump administration’s haphazard staffing and vetting procedures. 
Similarly, the Trump White House is mired in investigations circling the activities of Trump’s motley, amateurish campaign crew — Donald Trump Jr. and Carter Page and George Papadopoulos and Michael Flynn and Jared Kushner would have been nowhere near the center of a normal presidential operation — and those investigations are discouraging new staffers from joining the administration because they don’t want the hefty legal fees of getting caught in the Russia investigation or whatever scandal may erupt next.

Those who know Trump or have worked for him say that he doesn't do due diligence. He makes decisions with his gut and flies by the seat of his pants.

It should be no surprise that his administration is a shambles. Reports are that his staff is running for the exits.

Image: DAFilms

Monday, February 12, 2018

You Can't Blame The Little Guy

The recent roller coaster ride on the stock market is a reminder, Tom Walkom writes, that the economy is fundamentally unsound. There are several reasons for the shakes and quakes:

First, income inequality persists. It affects not only the developing world but so-called advanced economies, such as Canada and the U.S.
As economist Andrew Jackson has pointed out in the Globe and Mail, census data shows that the gap between Canada’s top 10 per cent and the middle class continues to widen.
This is not just a moral problem. It is a practical one. Economies prosper when the broad middle classes make enough money to buy the goods and services produced. They sputter when those conditions are not met.
Second, wage growth is still low. It’s better than it has been since the recession of 2008 — in large part because, with unemployment dropping, workers have slightly more bargaining power.
But the structural forces that conspire to keep wages down — such as the decline of unions and the growth of precarious work — remain.
As well, whenever workers make significant wage gains, central banks threaten to reverse them.

But there is a bigger reason which goes directly back to the policy central banks adopted to deal with the Great Recession:

In the years leading up to the recession of 2008, central banks — including the Bank of Canada — focused overwhelmingly on inflation.
When prices threatened to rise too quickly, central banks would signal that they wanted a hike in interest rates. This hike would then lead firms to restrict their business activity and lay off workers.
With unemployment up, wages would be depressed, leading workers to buy fewer goods and services. And that in turn would curb price increases.

When word came out two weeks ago that wages in the United States had risen by 2.9%, the market took a dive. God forbid that workers -- who haven't seen a pay raise in a decade -- should start to get a piece of the action.

You can't blame the little guy if he thinks that what goes on at roulette table is rigged.

Image: ThoughtCo

Sunday, February 11, 2018

Doing Nothing Is Not An Option

Over the weekend, Canadians gathered in several cities to protest the Colten Boushie decision. Tim Harper writes:

I cannot possibly suggest the jurors in this case were racist. I don’t know any of them and I wasn’t in the courtroom.
But I do know they live in a white world, as do I, and we would all be incapable of knowledge of an Indigenous upbringing in this country, something that carries with it fears, despair, lack of opportunities and outright racism.
This happened because Canada’s justice system is broken.

At a time when we are trying to reach some kind of reconciliation with Canada's First Nations, this decision throws a spanner into the works. Jodie Wilson-Raybould  did not mine words:

The reaction of Wilson-Raybould, an Indigenous justice minister, to a jury verdict was extraordinary and possibly without precedent.
My thoughts are with the family of Colton (sic) Boushie tonight,’’ she said via Twitter. “I truly feel your pain and I hear all of your voices. As a country we can and must do better — I am committed to working everyday to ensure justice for all Canadians.’’

 The justice system simply has to change:

There is a simple way to do better, and a quick way to do better — eliminate the system of peremptory challenges, something that invites racism in the system and can be eliminated by a Criminal Code amendment introduced by Wilson-Raybould tomorrow.
Peremptory challenges allow the Crown or defence to reject potential jurors without giving reasons. In this case, the Boushie family says the Stanley defence team used its 14 peremptory challenges to reject any potential jurors who appeared Indigenous. It is often cited as a reason for Indigenous underrepresentation on juries.
“The under-representation of Indigenous jurors is an issue in several provinces and it is a reality I find concerning,’’ Wilson-Raybould said in a statement.
But she promised only “careful study’’ of ending peremptory challenges, something the United Kingdom did three decades ago.

Until the problem of underrepresentation of Indigenous Canadians on juries is fixed, outcomes similar to the Boushie decision are bound to occur.

Doing nothing to solve the problem is not an option.


Saturday, February 10, 2018

King Chaos

Ontario's Progressive Conservatives should be worried. Doug Ford -- a Regressive Conservative -- wants to ditch the carbon tax. Caroline Mulroney and Christine Elliot are troding the path he is blazing. Martin Regg Cohn writes:

A mere eight weeks ago, the provincial Tories proclaimed themselves ready to win power with a plan, a carefully crafted election platform two years in the making.
Two months later, it’s done. Or more precisely, undone — unravelling on Ford’s terms, reshaped in his own image, recalibrated to his own vision.
Mulroney and Elliott are merely following Ford’s lead, reluctantly doing as Doug does and as he dictates. Declaring his candidacy last month, Ford demanded an end to the carbon tax at a time when his rivals were both trying to have it both ways — a carbon tax if necessary, but not necessarily a carbon tax.

Never mind whether or not the carbon tax is good environmental policy. It is the cornerstone of the party's platform:

As Dan Robertson, a senior member of the PC campaign team, observed succinctly, “If you drop the carbon tax, there is no ‘rest of the platform.’ No middle class tax cut, no child care refund, no mental health investment, no dental care for low income seniors.”
Can the party base change course in a matter of days, ditching its People’s Guarantee mere weeks before the June 7 election? No political party has ever made and remade its platform so close to a campaign, and no leadership candidates have so rapidly renounced their own promises before.

With Doug Ford in the race, all this chaos shouldn't be surprising. That's what the Fords do. They create chaos and call it leadership -- just like their orange cousin south of the border.

Image: Six Flags

Friday, February 09, 2018

The Beat Goes On

Canadians are polarized between the economy and the environment. Justin Trudeau says we can have both. And, to that end, Catherine McKenna has introduced a new set of rules which she says will put the economy and the environment in harmony. Tim Harper writes:

In unveiling a new environmental regulatory process McKenna was dealing with one of the defining dilemmas of this Liberal mandate, the crowded intersection between jobs, investment, climate change and Indigenous rights.

That's a Gordian Knot to be sure. And untangling that knot will always involve politics:

Elected politicians have to make hard decisions based on the national interest, the minister said, and streamlining and simplifying the regulatory process and explaining decisions simply and promptly to Canadians will not purge the process of politics.

The most prominent example of  that fact is the Kinder-Morgan pipeline:

It was approved under the discredited process under Stephen Harper that McKenna would dismantle with her legislation, not given the full review Trudeau had promised during a campaign stop in British Columbia in 2015.
It would have been approved under the new regulations she announced Thursday, and she echoed the prime minister in stating bluntly that the Kinder Morgan expansion would go ahead.
While accusing Harper of favouring politics over science in gutting environmental regulations, McKenna went on to explain the political considerations in the Kinder Morgan approval.
Without Notley’s initiatives in Alberta there would be no national climate plan, McKenna said, and in that context the Liberals gave the go-ahead to the Kinder Morgan expansion Notley so desperately wanted.
In other words, the political equation meant that the Liberals needed a supportive NDP government in Alberta more than the seats it may lose in B.C.’s Lower Mainland in 2019.
The Kinder Morgan expansion may have been in the national interest, but it was also in the Liberals’ interest, particularly with a nemesis, Kenney, ready to challenge Notley at the polls next year.

Kenney is waiting in the wings. And Ontario's PC's are planning to ditch the carbon tax that Kathleen Wynne's Liberals -- and the former PC leader Patrick Brown -- supported.

The beat goes on.

Image: Green Lifestyle Magazine

Thursday, February 08, 2018

On The Side Of The Nabobs

Tom Walkom writes that Doug Ford just might become the leader of Ontario's Progressive Conservative Party. Ford is no progressive. But he is angry. And, in conservative circles these days, you can get a lot of mileage out of anger:

So far none of the candidates has said much that would substantively differentiate them. Elliott and Ford oppose the imposition of a carbon tax as called for in the party’s election platform. Mulroney is vague but has said that if she wins she might rethink the entire platform.
The real difference is tone. Ford rages. The other two do not.
Ford’s main policy pronouncement to date is that, “It’s time to clean up this mess.”

The party hierarchy doesn't want Ford in the driver's seat. But the hierarchy does not have a good track record when it comes to choosing leaders:

The party has the distressing habit of ignoring the nabobs and making unsafe choices.
In 1990, it defied the then Red Tory old guard and chose Mike Harris. Harris tanked in the subsequent general election but recovered to win two back-to-back majority governments.
In 2004, the party made the safe choice of picking John Tory as leader. He lost the next election.
In 2009, the party chose Tim Hudak, a Harris acolyte, over the more centrist Christine Elliott. Hudak lost two elections. But the party rank and file were undeterred. In 2015, they elected as leader another controversial outsider — Patrick Brown.
Once again, Elliott, campaigning as the safe centrist, lost.

Ultimately, of course, what matters is what the voters of Ontario think. They might just be on the side of the nabobs.

Image: The Toronto Star

Wednesday, February 07, 2018

The Big Parade

Donald Trump has let it be known that he wants to see a military parade on the streets of Washington. Jonathan Freedland writes:

No need for us to deconstruct the motive behind this instruction. It came after Trump was the guest at France’s Bastille Day parade, where he stood at Emmanuel Macron’s side and watched tanks, gun trucks and column after column of starchly uniformed soldiers. “We’re going to have to try and top it,” Trump said afterwards. (The actual order to military chiefs was phrased in the language of a spoiled child: “I want a parade like the one in France.”)
By his own admission, then, Trump is engaged in a familiar, mine’s-bigger-than-yours, macho competition, with military hardware his chosen measure. Recall the equally uncoded tweet directed at Kim Jong-un last month, when the US president urged someone to tell the North Korean dictator that Trump’s “nuclear button” is a “much bigger & more powerful one than his, and my Button works!”

Freeland believes that there are at least two possible responses to Trump's militaristic dream:

Opponents can react to this in one of two ways. Mockery is the obvious response, seeing in Trump’s desire to display US tanks and rocket launchers on Pennsylvania Avenue the same transparent insecurity as the mid-life crisis neighbour who suddenly turns up with a Ferrari in the driveway.
Or we can be more sober, and regard this as just the latest and potentially most spectacular demonstration of Trump’s authoritarian instincts. Just as he has repeatedly expressed admiration for strongmen in the Vladimir Putin mode, just as he regards the machinery of the state as his personal staff – casually referring to “my justice department” or “my generals” – and just as this week he suggested that those who refuse to applaud him are “treasonous”, so this is yet more proof that Trump’s instincts are those of the autocrat.

Unfortunately, a large segment of of the American population supports Trump's march to autocracy:

While progressives might complain about the banana republic militarism, while fiscal conservatives will worry about the huge cost of diverting all that kit to the capital and while the city itself frets about the damage 70-tonne tanks are liable to do to its roads, a large chunk of US society will want to rise to its feet and applaud.

So what's to be done? Freeland suggests that Trump's opponents take to the streets with their own parade:

If Trump wants to show his strength on the streets, the opposition can do the same. Perhaps it could organise an alternative parade, whose theme is mockery of the would-be despot. And given the neurotic insecurity we know propels this man, I have an idea for the central display. While the armoured cars rumble down Pennsylvania Avenue and fighter jets fly over the Washington Monument, the rival procession could feature a giant effigy of Donald J Trump – with tiny, tiny hands.

That's an excellent suggestion. And, given the number of Americans who have taken to the streets protesting the presidency of The Great Orange Id, it just might come to pass.

Image: Kyiv Post

Tuesday, February 06, 2018

A Long History

Leaders in the West are appallingly ignorant of Africa and its history. Donald Trump is. But he's not the only western ignoramus. Gerry Caplan writes:

Canadians need to learn this lesson pretty badly too, as former Toronto mayor Mel Lastman demonstrated some time back. Setting forth on an official visit to Kenya, Mr. Lastman fretted publicly about the cannibals he was certain he'd bump into on the continent.

Men like Trump and Lastman blame Africans for the problems they face. But they know nothing of that continent's history:

The slave trade robbed Africa of 12 million of its most productive subjects. At the same time, it created a new class of slave-owning planters in America who provided a powerful engine to drive the U.S. economy. Without them, the rich countries would not be so rich.
Eventually, Western intervention turned into formal colonialism, with the European powers each arbitrarily claiming authority over certain African territories. Subsequent examples of Western turpitude are almost literally endless. Take the Congo, for example, the West's favourite incarnation of the heart of darkness. But the darkness was in the heart of its Belgian rulers, who, in the pursuit of rubber, murdered some 10 million of the 20 million existing inhabitants, one of the greatest genocides in human history. When, after almost a century of slaughter and destruction, Congo became independent, there were hardly any experienced or educated Congolese to run the country.
Here's another example. For many years, in return for loans to African governments from the West, orthodox capitalist policies were demanded. In Zambia in the mid-1980s, HIV/AIDS was just beginning its ravage of Africa. Loans were provided, but only on the proviso that no expansion of public services was to be contemplated. A country that so badly needed nurses was forbidden from hiring any more nurses. HIV was free to run amok, and took full advantage. In the absence of the needed human resources, about a million Zambians now live with HIV/AIDS, while the country has 600,000 orphans.

We in the West have a long history of blaming the victim. The ignorance of men like Trump and Lastman doesn't erase that history.  And those that don't know that history will repeat it.

Image: GNN Liberia

Monday, February 05, 2018

Financial Viruses

Canada is doing well on international surveys these days. Alan Freeman writes:

Another of those international rankings came out last month, this time courtesy of U.S. News and World Report. It purports to list the Best Countries in the World.
Canada did great. We were No. 2, just behind Switzerland. And to top it off, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was viewed as the most respected world leader, along with Germany’s Angela Merkel. Canada scored particularly well on quality of life and citizenship.

But we're also moving up on another survey -- of the best countries in which to stash your cash:

This week, the UK-based Tax Justice Network published its Financial Secrecy Index. The index, which comes out every two years, is designed to measure secrecy measures that facilitate similar unsavoury practices and attract illicit financial flows of money.
Canada was no. 21 in the list, with a financial system even less transparent than those in places like Russia and China, and tax havens like Cyprus and Barbados. 

We have agencies that are supposed to police money laundering and tax evasion. But they're not being very effective:

Yes, we have Fintrac, the agency tasked to root out money laundering and terrorist financing, but it has been hobbled by poor leadership and a culture of not really wanting to rock the boat, especially when it comes to naming and shaming Canada’s powerful financial institutions when they break the law.
This week, Fintrac lost an appeals court case, in effect enshrining an earlier ruling that has stopped the agency from imposing fines for almost two years. The court has ruled that Fintrac’s penalty program is opaque and needs more transparency.

And the problems at the CRA are legion:

At the Canada Revenue Agency, they continue their open-door policy to any international business that wants to put up a shingle in Canada and use a Canadian presence to reduce taxes, even if the company provides marginal benefit to the Canadian economy.
According to a report from a Dutch non-profit, the Centre for Research on Multinational Corporations, the Canada Revenue Agency has given its Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval to a tax arrangement that allows Turquoise Hill Resources Ltd., a Vancouver-based subsidiary of Rio Tinto to funnel profits from its huge copper mine in Mongolia through subsidiaries in the Netherlands and Luxembourg, thereby avoiding hundreds of millions of dollars in Canadian taxes.

Canadians like to think we're immune from the financial viruses that stalk the planet. We're not.

Image: Sprott Money

Sunday, February 04, 2018

No Time To Sleep

Robin Sears writes that social media have pioneered four new techniques --  disappearing ads, fake senders, massive targeted volumes and anonymous sponsors. Each represents  a clear and present danger to democracies.

He illustrates how they work and what their implications are:

You ride the streetcar home one spring morning next year, flipping through missed messages after a frantic work day. A tweet pops up with an embedded video that immediately plays a nasty attack on Justin Trudeau, making claims about corruption. It is sent by someone you have never heard of, on behalf of an obviously fictitious organization. Irritated, you scroll back to replay it, to try to figure who sent it.
It is gone.
A few seats back on the streetcar, another Twitter target discovers something strange about a good friend’s account. Not only have her followers grown from 1,700 to 700,000, she is saying things about Jagmeet Singh that are repulsive. She texts her pal, who is appalled at this online impersonation and immediately deletes her account. She is unaware that her digital doppelganger lives on and can be cloned thousands of times with almost imperceptible tweaks to her photo or her bio.
The New York Times last week reported that the going rate to buy stolen or fabricated IDs and retweets on the dark web is little more than one dollar for 1,000 fake Twitter accounts. A dollar.
If you have thought it improbable that some tech writers have estimated that somewhere between a third and half of Trump’s 47 million claimed followers are fake, do the math. That would have cost helpful supporters not more than $25,000, less than a dinner event at Mar a Lago.

The problem is not with the technology. It's with the corruption and subversion of the technology. It's taken Facebook and Twitter awhile to catch on to what nasty users have done to their platforms. But the damage done is now quite clear:

We are naked and vulnerable, however, where two earlier stage threats to a level playing field are concerned: pre-election social media advertising by unknown third parties, and massive campaign period overspending, paid for offshore undetectably. This is not a future problem or fantasy. The U.S. campaign was a victim of these techniques, and probably others yet to be revealed by Robert Mueller.

Some countries -- like Britain and Germany -- are wrestling with antidotes to these viruses:

The Germans and the Brits are forcing the social media companies to be responsible for content on their networks, the real identity of those sponsoring it, and provably tracing the source of the payments. But these are enforcement techniques mostly useful after the fact.

In Canada, we are just waking up to the problem. And, in the United States -- where the current president benefited mightily from the subversion of a new technology -- they're still sleeping.

This is no time to sleep.

Image: Education News

Saturday, February 03, 2018

Not Very Bright

Walter Shapiro writes that the Nunes memo is a 21st Century version of the Piltdown Man:

perhaps the most famous fraud in the history of paleontology [which] combined a 600-year-old skull, an orangutan’s jaw and a chimpanzee’s tooth to feign being the remains of the Missing Link between man and the apes.

The memo suggests that, in 2016, when the FBI applied for a FISA warrant to investigate Carter Page, it neglected to inform the judge that the chief source ot its information was Christopher Steele's memo, which was paid for by Democrats. It does not memetion that the bureau had been monitoring Page since 2013 -- and there was lots of other information about Page -- which had been attained from various other sources.

And, while the memo purports to suggest that this FISA application set off the current attempt to do Trump in, it does admit -- off handedly -- that the FBI's investigation began when another Trump campaign advisor, George Papadopolous, admitted to an Australian diplomat that he knew the Russians had a treasure trove of hacked emails from Hillary Clinton.

These Republicans truly are the gang that can't shoot straight. It is one of history's ironies that they are members of the Intelligence Committee. Shapiro correctly concludes that:

We have reached that alarming moment when right-wing Republicans actually believe the conspiracy theories peddled by the likes of Sean Hannity on Fox News, who claims the memo reveals an “attempted coup” against Donald Trump plotted by the “Deep State”. At least, the original fabricator of the Piltdown man knew that it was all a hoax. 

Like, their president, these folks just aren't very bright.

Image: cfact

Friday, February 02, 2018

What They Don't Want But Need

The standoff between Alberta and British Columbia has put Justin Trudeau in a bind. But he put himself in that bind before the governments of the two provinces decided to go to war over the Kinder-Morgan pipeline. Trudeau argued that pipelines could be built if Canadians paid a carbon tax. Tom Walkom writes:

Notley brought in a carbon tax. Trudeau approved Kinder Morgan. This was supposed to be the model of how measures to reduce greenhouse gases could coexist with economic growth.
The bargain didn’t work. In part, this was because opposition to Kinder Morgan was based on more than climate change. But in part it was because the premise behind the bargain was false.
Seriously battling climate change does carry a cost. True, ignoring climate change carries a greater cost. But it is naïve to think that the transition away from a high-carbon world will be painless.

The rub is that Canadians don't want to pay the real cost of kicking carbon:

The Trudeau government announced a national carbon tax to reduce emissions. But experts say that the tax as planned is far too low to get the job done — that it won’t discourage Canadians from high-emission activities, such as driving gasoline-powered cars.
The federal government tabled its formal carbon tax bill last month. But here too it backtracked, allowing big breaks for large industrial emitters.
The government’s caution is understandable. Fighting climate change carries a political as well as an economic cost.
But if climate change is as dangerous as scientists say, then boldness is required. Compromises, like the one behind the ongoing Kinder Morgan political soap opera, just don’t cut it.

And Mr. Trudeau refuses to tell Canadians what they may not want but need to know.

Image: The Tyee

Thursday, February 01, 2018

The Time Is Now

Goblaization caused massive dislocation around the world. And, as robots take over the workplace, that dislocation will continue. Larry Elliott writes:

In some ways, the debate that was taking place between the tech industry, politicians and academics in Davos last week was similar to that which surrounded globalisation in the early 1990s. Back then, it was accepted that free movement of goods, people and money around the world would create losers as well as winners, but provided the losers were adequately compensated – either through reskilling, better education, or a stronger social safety net – all would be well.
But the reskilling never happened. Governments did not increase their budgets for education, and in some cases cut them. Welfare safety nets were made less generous. Communities affected by deindustrialisation never really recovered. Writing in the recent McKinsey quarterly, W Brian Arthur put it this way: “Offshoring in the last few decades has eaten up physical jobs and whole industries, jobs that were not replaced. The current transfer of jobs from the physical to the virtual economy is a different sort of offshoring, not to a foreign country but to a virtual one. If we follow recent history we can’t assume these jobs will be replaced either.” 

The Neo-Liberal Revolution insured that nothing would be done for those who lost their jobs. And, because the  neo-liberal virus has not died, it looks like the Robotic Revolution will only make things worse for displaced workers. However, some of the wiser heads on the planet are suggesting remedies:

As the Institute for Public Policy Research has noted, new models of ownership are needed to ensure that the dividends of automation are broadly shared. One of its suggestions is a citizens’ wealth fund that would own a broad portfolio of assets on behalf of the public and would pay out a universal capital dividend. This could be financed either from the proceeds of asset sales or by companies paying corporation tax in the form of shares that would become more valuable due to the higher profits generated by automation.

Elliott warns that:

The dislocation will be considerable, and comes at a time when social fabrics are already frayed. To ensure that, as in the past, technological change leads to a net increase in jobs, the benefits will have to be spread around and the concept of what constitutes work rethought. That’s why one of the hardest working academics in Davos last week was Guy Standing of Soas University of London, who was on panel after panel making the case for a universal basic income, an idea that has its critics on both left and right, but whose time may well have come.

The time has come -- and the time is now.

Image: Antenen Research