Friday, November 30, 2018

A Dream Shattered

Caroline Mulroney's dream is dead. Bob Hepburn writes:

The dream harboured by the Ontario attorney general when she first entered elected politics in the summer of 2017 was that one day she would become premier of Ontario and eventually move on to become Canada’s first elected woman prime minister.

But, after being elected, it fell to Mulroney to defend Doug Ford's decisions -- the latest being on French minority rights:

The latest blow to the dream came two weeks ago when Premier Doug Ford’s government announced it was eliminating the position of French Language Services Commissioner and scrapping the plan approved by the previous Liberal government to create a French-language university in 2020.
As the minister responsible for francophone affairs, Mulroney was tasked with selling the cuts to outraged Franco-Ontarians as well as francophones in Quebec and other provinces.
She did so with great gusto, despite widespread condemnation about the cutbacks from across the country, including from federal Conservatives who fear a backlash in Quebec and in Ontario ridings with a large French-speaking population.
Without shame or hesitation, Mulroney insisted the moves were necessary as part of efforts to reduce government spending. She also tried to blame both the former Wynne government and the federal Liberals for the cuts.

This wasn't the first time she stepped up to defend Doug Ford's stupidity:

The first came in late June when in addition to her post as attorney general she accepted the downgraded role as minister responsible for francophone affairs, which no longer was a full cabinet position. She should have insisted Ford retain the post as a full ministry, as it was under the Liberals.
The second came in July when Ford failed to include a single word of French in his initial throne speech, an insult to Franco-Ontarians. Either Mulroney didn’t raise the point in advance of the speech or Ford simply ignored her. Regardless, she appeared unconcerned or ineffective.
The third came in September when Ford said he would use the “notwithstanding” clause in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms to override a judge’s ruling that Ford’s move to cut the size of Toronto city council in the midst of an election was unconstitutional. Mulroney defended Ford’s action, despite almost universal condemnation, including from her father.

Rather than shaping government policy, it has fallen to Caroline to defend it. She's in a marriage that may well end in divorce. But that divorce would require displaying some integrity -- which, at the moment, is nowhere in sight.


Thursday, November 29, 2018

Neither Wide Nor Deep

Amanda Simard -- the sole Francphone in Doug Ford's caucus -- has left Ford Nation. It should come as no surprise. During the election campaign, Martin Regg Cohn writes, Ford told Julie-Anne Lamoureau, Radio-Canada's Queens Park correspondent:

“It’d be important to be able to communicate with part of our country that speaks French — I love Quebec, I love Quebecers,” 

But there are 622,000 Franco-Ontarians, the people who tune into Lamoureaux reporting. Franco-Ontarians? Who are they? Ford did not -- in fact, he has never -- seen them:

Ford’s garrulous nod to French Quebecers and grievous snub to Franco-Ontarians gave the game away from the get-go. It revealed his obtuseness about minority rights that go to the core of linguistic identity.
If Ford could so easily forget his fellow Ontarians back then, is it any surprise his government remains so oblivious now — and that it would so wilfully toss grenades into so vulnerable a community? Let us count the ways:
On the day of his swearing-in last June, Ford summarily eliminated the stand-alone ministry of francophone affairs, downgrading one of our two founding peoples to second-class citizens.
In this month’s fall economic statement, his PC government went back on its campaign pledge to proceed with Ontario’s first dedicated French-language university. Promise made, promise broken — in either language.
The Tories also downgraded the independent French-language services commissioner, folding the advocacy role into the duties of the provincial ombudsman’s office (which focuses on individual grievances, not collective goals).

Mr. Ford's vision is neither wide nor deep. Word has it that other members of his caucus are thinking of  joining Simard -- who, for the moment -- is sitting as an independent.


Wednesday, November 28, 2018

White Degeneracy

What passes for White Supremacy these days, Keith Kahn Harris writes, is actually something quite different. It's really white degeneracy. That degeneracy is painfully obvious in the contrast between Barack Obama and Donald Trump:

Consider the contrast between Barack Obama and Trump. Obama is not a perfect human being, nor was he a perfect US president. But it’s impossible to deny his qualities. He is intelligent, competent, witty, plain-speaking, empathetic and has a loving relationship with his family. Obama is also a man who was not born into wealth and power, and worked hard to make something of his life. Trump is the reverse: incompetent, mendacious, rude and seemingly incapable of non-instrumental relationships. The only way he has made anything of his life is through being born into privilege, with sufficient reserves of family capital to allow him to build a “business” based on little more than bragging.
Aside from his politics, Trump is simply a man who falls short of any moral code you could care to imagine. Politicians are often cynical, cruel or corrupt, but a complete absence of human decency is rare. Even George W Bush can pass sweets to Michelle Obama and paint loving portraits of the soldiers he sent off to die.

This is not traditional White Supremacy:

What I think we are seeing is something rawer, a lust for power, coupled with an unvarnished hatred of non-white others that sees little need to disguise itself. This is a white racism that is predicated on nothing other than a desire to dominate and subjugate. Trump’s brutal expression of his basest urges empowers and licenses a similar abandonment, among his followers, of any pretence that white dominance is unjustifiable. This is not white supremacy as we have understood it. It is a move to demonstrate that whiteness can be as morally degenerate as one wishes it to be and still prevail.

It really is about setting free our basest instincts. And it is fuelled by insecurity:

At the heart of this proud degeneracy is an insecurity. A fear of “white genocide” has become normative on the far right, based on conspiracy theories about the likes of George Soros encouraging mass immigration as an attempt to replace the white race. Trump has come very close to trying to validate this myth. At the now infamous rally in Charlottesville in August 2017, the marchers chanted: “You will not replace us”. This suggests an awareness that white power cannot rest on justifiable foundations. Indeed, outside the old-style far right, the very concept of whiteness and race itself is given limited intellectual justification. All there is left is assertion and hate.

Just as Mr. Hyde was the liberated soul of Stevenson's buttoned down Dr. Jekyll, the people who are now dominant on the world stage represent the worst of humanity. But, Kahn Harris writes, perhaps there is hope:

If white racism and populism now rests on nothing more than naked power and self-assertion, there will be no need to wade through the academic verbiage about “bell curves” and black crime rates before we can tackle the problem. And perhaps the very degeneracy of Trump and the rest will begin to pall after a while. Most people – “white” or otherwise – are simply much better human beings than the leaders of the populist right. Maybe wallowing in the muck of white degeneracy will become such a sordid experience that an eventual realisation that it is better to be an Obama than a Trump will take hold.

We can only hope he's right.

Image: New York Post

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

He Misses The Big Picture

GM is pulling out of Oshawa. And Doug Ford has rolled over. Martin Regg Cohn writes:

No premier can force GM to cry uncle. But for reasons understood only by Ford, he has given up on the Oshawa decision, deferring to GM’s claim that it is final and irrevocable.
GM is not rolling up its Oshawa operations because it’s bankrupt — the company still earns billions in profits. No, this multinational is strategically re-engineering its own rebirth by wisely reinvesting in low-emissions vehicles that are the next consumer wave.
Where does Ford’s Ontario fit into that investment horizon? Consider the anti-business antics of Ontario’s supposedly pro-business Progressive Conservative government. 

The new Ford government has signalled to GM just how pleasant doing business in this province will be:

Ford’s first act as premier was to rip up signed private sector contracts, notably the White Pines wind turbine project that had previously been approved. To guard against litigation and compensation, he relied on legislation and confiscation.
In the aftermath, Ford spectacularly snubbed his visiting German counterpart last summer by refusing to sign a friendship agreement with the powerhouse state of Baden-Wurttemberg, home of renewable energy companies but also big carmakers. Open for business? Tell that to the Germans.
Ford recklessly dismantled the cap-and-trade framework that business had relied upon to price carbon pollution, laying the groundwork for a default federal carbon tax that created needless disruption.
Zapping renewable energy, the PC government unplugged its electric car supports — and lost a foolish court battle with Tesla after trying to cut out the California carmaker from sales incentives available to others.
The premier picked a public fight with Hydro One’s (admittedly overpaid) CEO. But instead of persuading him to reduce his salary, Ford sidelined Mayo Schmidt and the entire corporate board. Relying on the government’s partial ownership position, Ford chief of staff Dean French shut down any compromise talks, sources say. French later intervened in government-owned Ontario Power Generation to undo the hiring of another corporate executive he wanted out, Alykhan Velshi. Such is the PC government’s approach to corporate governance.
Ford cancelled a planned hike in the minimum wage to $14 an hour, clawed back two paid annual sick days, and cut corporate taxes further. 

The truth is that, like his cousin south of the border, Ford is a businessman who doesn't really understand how business is done these days. Like Mr. Trump, he suffers from a bad case of tunnel vision. And he misses the big picture.

Image: CBC

Monday, November 26, 2018

From Freedom To Fascism

Chris Hedges writes that neoliberalism has always been an absurd idea:

Neoliberalism as economic theory was always an absurdity. It had as much validity as past ruling ideologies such as the divine right of kings and fascism’s belief in the Übermensch. None of its vaunted promises were even remotely possible. Concentrating wealth in the hands of a global oligarchic elite—eight families now hold as much wealth as 50 percent of the world’s population—while demolishing government controls and regulations always creates massive income inequality and monopoly power, fuels political extremism and destroys democracy. You do not need to slog through the 577 pages of Thomas Piketty’s “Capital in the Twenty-First Century” to figure this out. But economic rationality was never the point. The point was the restoration of class power.

And, starting in the 1970's, the wealthy began to take back what they viewed as their birthright. They did this by establishing institutions which sold the idea that human freedom was synonymous with market freedom:

“It’s important to recognize the class origins of this project, which occurred in the 1970s when the capitalist class was in a great deal of difficulty, workers were well organized and were beginning to push back,” said David Harvey, the author of “A Brief History of Neoliberalism,” when we spoke in New York. “Like any ruling class, they needed ruling ideas. So, the ruling ideas were that freedom of the market, privatization, entrepreneurialism of the self, individual liberty and all the rest of it should be the ruling ideas of a new social order, and that was the order that got implemented in the 1980s and 1990s.”
“As a political project, it was very savvy,” he said. “It got a great deal of popular consent because it was talking about individual liberty and freedom, freedom of choice. When they talked about freedom, it was freedom of the market. The neoliberal project said to the ’68 generation, ‘OK, you want liberty and freedom? That’s what the student movement was about. We’re going to give it to you, but it’s going to be freedom of the market. The other thing you’re after is social justice—forget it. So, we’ll give you individual liberty, but you forget the social justice. Don’t organize.’ The attempt was to dismantle those institutions, which were those collective institutions of the working class, particularly the unions and bit by bit those political parties that stood for some sort of concern for the well-being of the masses.”

The problem is that neoliberalism hollows out everything it touches:

Neoliberalism generates little wealth. Rather, it redistributes it upward into the hands of the ruling elites. Harvey calls this “accumulation by dispossession.”
“The main argument of accumulation by dispossession rests on the idea that when people run out of the capacity to make things or provide services, they set up a system that extracts wealth from other people,” Harvey said. “That extraction then becomes the center of their activities. One of the ways in which that extraction can occur is by creating new commodity markets where there were none before. For instance, when I was younger, higher education in Europe was essentially a public good. Increasingly [this and other services] have become a private activity. Health service. Many of these areas which you would consider not to be commodities in the ordinary sense become commodities. Housing for the lower-income population was often seen as a social obligation. Now everything has to go through the market. You impose a market logic on areas that shouldn’t be open to market.”

When everything and everyone is commodified, there's a short road to fascism. Those who possess the most value possess the most power. That power is concentrated in fewer and fewer hands. And those hands take steps to protect themselves. They establish the structures they need to do that. In the end, it is all about coercing the masses.

It's not difficult at all to go from freedom to fascism. All that is required is to establish market freedom as the conventional wisdom. Once freedom is defined as market freedom, social justice goes out the window. And where social justice disappears, fascism takes its place.


Sunday, November 25, 2018

This Is War

Doug Ford's government has declared war on the environment. It has systematically dismantled the previous government's environmental policies. Martin Regg Cohn writes:

Welcome to Ontario’s upside down world of global warming — a province where Progressive Conservatives who once promoted environmentalism are now wishing it away. From one week to the next.
We shall see in the coming days precisely what Premier Doug Ford proposes as a replacement for the carbon pricing policy — pioneered by economic conservatives in Quebec (Jean Charest) and California (Arnold Schwarzenegger) — that he so proudly dismantled upon winning power.

Having done away with the office of the Environmental Commissioner, Ford has transferred those responsibilities to the Auditor General. But a look at Bonnie Lysyk's record on that file shows why Ontarians are right to be worried:

The mandate of Lysyk’s office is to deliver value-for-money audits ensuring taxpayer dollars are spent frugally — not necessarily environmentally. Investments in renewable energy or conservation can pay economic dividends, yet those arguments have eluded the auditor in the past.
In her 2016 annual report, the auditor demanded that the estimated cost of cap and trade be prominently displayed on natural gas bills, month after month. Yet the government had already disclosed the imputed $5 average cost, so what goal would be served by repetitively shining a spotlight on a recurring cost of doing business — paying a price for pollution — other than to call attention to a potential political irritant?
Remarkably for an auditor, Lysyk paid for a public-opinion poll, commissioned by her office, to ask Ontarians if they wanted to be reminded of this charge month after month — almost as if she were a Tory tax-fighter. Bizarrely for an independent officer of the legislature, she insisted that the Liberals order the arm’s length Ontario Energy Board to reverse the decision it had already taken that such disclosure was pointless — an auditor second-guessing a regulator.
In that same report, she also criticized the Liberal government of the day for an advertising campaign showing a “well-known Canadian environmentalist” — David Suzuki — warning students about the impact of global warming. The ad “appeared designed to create apprehension about the effects of climate change so viewers will be more likely to support Ontario’s Climate Change Action Plan.” Imagine that.
In her 2015 report, the auditor noted that in times of energy surplus, “Reducing electricity consumption through conservation efforts is of little value.” In a previous report, she blamed the phasing out of coal — for which the Liberals had won an electoral mandate — for raising hydro prices.
And so an auditor who wanted to whip up public opposition to the cost of cap and trade, who argued against ads that call attention to climate change, who criticized conservation, and who fretted about phasing out coal, shall now be Ontario’s environmental steward?

Rather than doing something for the environment, Mr. Ford has decided to beat it into submission.

Image: Mississauga-Lakeshore PC Association

Saturday, November 24, 2018


A couple of weeks ago, the Ford government increased the number of seats necessary for official party status in the Ontario legislature to 12 from 10. Today, the Toronto Star reports the reason for that move:

The Progressive Conservatives fear some disgruntled MPPs are set to cross the floor to join the Liberals, the Star has learned.
“There are at least two we’re concerned about,” a senior Conservative insider said, speaking like others from the Liberals and PCs on condition of anonymity in order to discuss internal machinations.
“We’ve been watching this closely,” the PC source said, declining to reveal which MPPs are suspected of plotting to defect except to say that two are from the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area.

But this week, Ford's MPP from the riding next to the Quebec border publicly dissented from Ford's decision to axe the Commissioner for French Language Services:

On Friday, sources close to Ford said there is also mounting concern that eastern Ontario PC MPP Amanda Simard might switch parties.
Simard (Glengarry-Prescott-Russell) made headlines this week by breaking with the government over the elimination of the French-language services watchdog and the cancellation of a new francophone university.

Perhaps that's why late yesterday afternoon Ford announced that Caroline Mulroney was going to be responsible for Francophone Affairs. These folks are driven by their guts, not their heads. There is mutiny in the ranks. That's why they will eventually blow themselves up.

Image: Extreme Movie Database

Friday, November 23, 2018

What's The World To Do?

Timothy Egan has been travelling California's blackened landscape and he's appalled:

The story it tells is grim, a portent of nature altered and convulsive. It’s not just that this audacious experiment — a huge parkland on the doorstep of a metro area of 13 million people — is now on life support. It’s that, as we are the first species to radically disrupt the world that gave us life, much of that world may soon be unsafe for human habitation.
California used to have distinct fire seasons. Now the storms of flame and smoke are year-round, and all of the nation’s most populous state is a fire zone. One in eight Americans lives in a land that could turn catastrophic on any given day.

The President of the United States looked at the same landscape, opened his mouth and proved why his former Secretary of State called him a "fucking moron:"

After a drive-by look at the wastelands, he suggested raking the forest floor, as he imagined they do in Finland. He said he wanted to “make climate great.” The Finns set him straight. The world laughed.
Trump has a crackpot for acting attorney general, Matthew Whitaker, a man associated with a company that promoted time travel and Bigfoot. And yet the president denies the peer-reviewed, consensus driven evidence on climate change.

In the face of such appalling ignorance, what's the world to do? Hope that Trump gets caught in a fire zone and doesn't make it out?

Image: Patheos

Thursday, November 22, 2018

Ford Is A Gift --To Trudeau

Many of us in Ontario feel nothing but contempt -- visceral contempt -- for Doug Ford. But Tom Walkom writes that, for Justin Trudeau, Ford is a gift that will keep on giving:

The Liberals’ real not-so-secret weapon is Doug Ford.
In the morality play that is Canadian politics, the Ontario Conservative premier can easily be portrayed by left-liberals as a black-hatted villain. He is big, brash and unapologetic.
In 2015, the Liberals successfully typecast then Conservative leader Stephen Harper as a malevolent genius — a kind of Lex Luthor to Trudeau’s Clark Kent.
They are having less luck with Harper’s successor, Andrew Scheer. With his easy smile and dimpled cheeks, Scheer does not easily fit the supervillain stereotype. So the Liberals tried something else.
First, they tried to define Scheer as a puppet of Harper who, in their storyline, was still the hidden mastermind behind Canadian Conservativism.

Scheer is incompetent. Ford is much more than that:

Ford is the left-liberal’s nightmare. He opposes carbon pricing measures to deal with climate change; he opposes employment standards aimed at alleviating precarious work.
From his time at Toronto city hall, he has a reputation as a blowhard and bully. And while he does not espouse the protectionist policies of Donald Trump, he looks and acts like the U.S. president.
Ford handily defeated Kathleen Wynne’s provincial Liberals in this year’s Ontario election. But the federal Liberals are betting that this was a one-off event spurred not by love of Ford but by Wynne’s personal unpopularity.
In fact, by polarizing the electorate, Ford may well make it easier for Trudeau in Ontario. Ontario NDP supporters deserted their party in droves in 2015, in order to vote Liberal and defeat the Harper Conservatives. They may do so again to ensure that Fordism doesn’t gain a hold nationally.

Ford's opposition to Trudeau's carbon tax will work in Trudeau's favour:

While too low to do any substantive good [it] is just high enough to assuage Canadian guilt and allow voters to think they are making a sacrifice for the environment.
Second, the Liberals are proposing to rebate this new carbon tax back to Ontario voters via a formula that miraculously will leave the average person financially better off.

The carbon tax may not do much for the planet. But it could well keep Doug Ford from damaging it further.

Image: CityNews Toronto

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

An Amoral Chump

Donald Trump is a con man. But the truth is that he himself is easily conned. Tom Friedman writes in The New York Times:

I really wrestle with this question: What is the worst thing about President Trump’s approach to foreign policy? Is it that he is utterly amoral or that he is such a chump? Because the combination is terrible — a president who is an amoral chump is the worst thing of all. He sells out American values — awful enough — but then gets nothing of value in return.
Trump presents himself as a tough, savvy deal maker, and then he lets all these leaders play him for a sucker. The word is out on the street: “Hey, guys, get in line! Trump is giving away free stuff! Just tell him you’re fighting Iran or the Muslim Brotherhood or that you’re a friend of Sheldon Adelson’s, and you get free stuff!”

Need proof? Consider Trump's decision to move the American embassy to Jerusalem:

Last May, Hanukkah came early for Israel when Trump moved the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem — a dream of every Israeli prime minister — for free! Trump could have gone to Bibi Netanyahu and said: “Bibi, here is the deal. I am going to make your dream come true and move the embassy. But in return you’re going to freeze all Israeli settlements in the heart of the West Bank.” Then Trump could have told the Palestinians: “You’re not going to like this. I’m moving the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem. But I am getting you something no American president ever got you — a freeze on Israeli settlements beyond the settlement blocks.”

And, yesterday, the Saudis got the same treatment:

Now Christmas has come early for the Saudi crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, in the form of a get-out-of-jail-free card for his involvement in the murder of moderate Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi in the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul. Khashoggi was killed by a Saudi hit team, which then reportedly sawed apart his body and dissolved the pieces in acid.
The Saudis claim this was a rogue operation that just happened to include key guards and aides of the crown prince. Attention: There has never been a rogue operation by the closest aides and guards of a Saudi leader in the history of Saudi Arabia. Not possible. This is an absolute monarchy. This was ordered from the top.
But because one cannot absolutely prove M.B.S. ordered it, Trump has chosen to give M.B.S. a pass, using the same language he did with Russian President Vladimir Putin, who is another recipient of Trump’s free stuff. When U.S. intelligence agencies declared that Putin interfered in our 2016 election, Trump said Putin told him that he didn’t do it. Putin’s regime got a slap on the wrist — a few sanctions — but nothing remotely as damaging to him as his intervention in our elections was to us.

The world now knows what Putin, Netanyahu and MDS have known for awhile. Trump knows no moral code. But he is also profoundly stupid. He is, quite simply, an amoral chump.

Image: Redbubble

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Mais, Non!

Yesterday, Quebec premier Francois Legault came to Toronto to try to convince  Doug Ford to reverse his decisions to cut the position of French Language Commissioner and to kill a new French language university. Ford refused Legault's request, triumphantly marching backward. Andre Pratt writes:

Not only will eliminating the position of the French Language Services Commissioner and killing the project of a French language university in Toronto have little impact on the provincial government’s balance sheet; they demonstrate a profound indifference, if not worse, toward the French minority’s rights and needs.

And standing to defend Ford's decision was Caroline Mulroney. Thirty five hears ago, her father rose in the House of Commons to defend French language rights in Canada:

“We are all children of our environments. We bring to given problems the judgment that has been shaped by the realities to which we have been exposed in our lives. In Canada, particularly in the area of language, these differ widely according to individuals and according to regions because of our sense of history. We must seek to understand these differences and consider them not as obstacles but as guides to the elaboration of sensible and realistic policies which will enhance rather than lessen the attractiveness of such policies in the minds of all Canadians.”
“The issue before us today is also one of simple justice. There is no painless way to proceed. There is no blame to be apportioned. There are no motives to be impugned. There is only the sanctity of minority rights. There is no obligation more compelling and no duty more irresistible in Canada than to ensure that our minorities, linguistic and otherwise, live at all times in conditions of fairness and justice.”

In the Ford government's recent throne speech there was not one word of French. Minority rights? Who's kidding whom?  Caroline Mulroney is a profile in cowardice. Andrew Scheer says the issue is a provincial matter. He simply confirms that his party is populated by dinosaurs -- and that the premier of Ontario is an idiot.

Image: National Observer

Monday, November 19, 2018

We've Been Here Before

One definition of insanity is repeating the same actions and expecting a different result. By that measure, the current Government of Ontario is insane. Tom Walkom writes:

Ontario Premier Doug Ford has completed the first part of the Mike Harris trifecta: He has declared a fiscal crisis.
Now the province awaits parts two and three. Stage two will be to slash spending in order to deal with this alleged crisis.
Stage three will be to return those fiscal savings to voters in the form of tax cuts.
It’s the formula Harris used successfully after he became premier in 1995. It’s the formula Ford’s finance minister, Vic Fedeli, put into motion Thursday with his fall economic update.
The update itself is slim but to the point. It says Ontario’s finances are in a mess because of the actions of the previous Liberal government. It says Ford’s government faces a deficit this year of close of $15 billion (a number that critics say is exaggerated).

In a twist from the Harris playbook, Ford has eliminated the office of Environmental Commissioner, which Walkom reminds his readers was "created by Bob Rae’s New Democratic Party government in 1993. Environmental commissioners have upbraided Ontario governments of all political stripes."

Ford has already eliminated Ontario's Green Energy program, which subsidized individuals and organizations for adopting measures which weaned us off fossil fuels. As the Large One leads the charge against the Trudeau government's carbon tax, he doesn't want the environmental commissioner proclaiming that he's a fool.

So how will spending be slashed? The latest update offered no clues. But Walkom has a few ideas on that subject:

First, the government is taking aim at those on welfare. Or, as the update puts it, the government will “present a plan to reform social assistance.”
This is exactly what Harris did in 1995 when he cut social assistance to the bone. It may have been mean-spirited. But it was immensely popular.
Second, the Ford government is zeroing in on the Ontario Drug Benefit program, which provides free or heavily subsidized pharmaceuticals to seniors and those on welfare.
What precisely it plans to cut back here remains unclear. The update says only that the government wants to make the program easier to understand, more consistent and more sustainable.
That could mean anything — from increasing the co-payments charged most seniors to eliminating the plan for all but the very poorest.

And remember. Ford's mantra is that he's a man of the people.

Image: The Conversation

Sunday, November 18, 2018

Reading the Tea Leaves

Stanley Greenberg is a pollster who has spent his career working for Democrats. In today's New York Times, he looks at the election results and he says that, despite everything else, there is hope:

At first, the results looked like something of a stalemate. The Republican Party retained and even strengthened its hold on the Senate. President Trump’s approval rating was at 45 percent, one percentage point below his percentage of the popular vote in the 2016 election. Analysts said that Mr. Trump still knew how to get Republicans “excited, interested and turn them out” and that he had “deepened his hold on rural areas.”
In the days that followed, though, it became clear that Democrats had made substantial gains. Analysts I trusted concluded that this was because suburban and college-educated women issued “a sharp rebuke to President Trump” that set off a “blue wave through the urban and suburban House districts.” At first, I also believed that was the main story line.
But the 2018 election was much bigger than that. It was transformative, knocking down what we assumed were Electoral College certainties. We didn’t immediately see this transformation because we assumed that Mr. Trump and the polarization in his wake still governed as before.

There are several reasons for Greenberg's conclusion:

First of all, Democrats did not win simply because white women with college degrees rebelled against Mr. Trump’s misogyny, sexism and disrespect for women. Nearly every category of women rebelled.
Second, Mr. Trump and his party maintained their principal base with white working class voters, the shift among women notwithstanding, and Democrats still need to do better. Nonetheless, Democrats got their wave in part because a significant portion of male and female white working class voters abandoned Mr. Trump and his Republican allies.
Third, Democrats made big gains because Mr. Trump declared war on immigrants — and on multicultural America — and lost. His ugly campaign succeeded in making immigration and the border a voting issue for the Republican base, according to the postelection survey I did with Democracy Corps, which asked those voting Republican why they did. “Open borders” was the top reason given for voting against a Democratic candidate. But it backfired among other voters.
Fourth, Democrats could not have picked up as many House seats as they did in 2018 without raising their share of the vote by four points in the suburbs, which have grown to encompass 50 percent of voters. Mrs. Clinton won many of these districts in 2016, so it was clear that any further shift in the Democrats’ direction would prove consequential. But Democrats made their biggest gains not there, but in the rural parts of the country. That was the shocker.

It appears that, even in rural America, a significant number of Americans are seeing Trump for the con-man he has always been. It will be interesting to see how they react as Robert Mueller unseals his indictments.

Image: Michael-In-Norfolk

Saturday, November 17, 2018

It's Personal

During the Quebec referendum in 1980, the fight between Pierre Elliott Trudeau and Rene Levesque was personal. In the next federal election, the fight between Justin Trudeau and Doug Ford will be just as personal. Marieke Walsh reports that:

Doug Ford is again putting Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in his crosshairs as the premier rallies Progressive Conservatives in Etobicoke this weekend.
The provincial Tories are gathering for a three-day convention to vote on policy changes and elect a new party executive. The meeting follows a rough two weeks for the new government; Ford has lost members of his inner circle to harassment allegations and former leader Patrick Brown has been causing headaches for the new leader.

Brown released his new book this week, Takedown, in which he takes aim at Ford,  Finance Minister Vic Fedelli, and Social Services Minister Lisa MacLeod. Ford has already turfed Economic Development Minister Jim Wilson.  And he's trying to switch the focus to Justin Trudeau:

I’m putting the prime minister on notice,” he said. “We’ve already taken Kathleen Wynne’s hands out of your pockets. And Justin Trudeau, you’re next.”
That line prompted a standing ovation from the crowd and chants of “Doug, Doug, Doug.”
Tensions between the two governments have been mounting since Ford came to office. The premier has frequently launched pointed attacks against Trudeau and the prime minister’s cabinet, and advisers have returned fire.
Last month, federal Intergovernmental Affairs Minister Dominic LeBlanc — a close friend of Trudeau — came to Queen’s Park and accused Ford of putting national ambitions ahead of his priorities as premier.

 It's Ford who is leading the charge against Trudeau's carbon tax:

He’s rallied support in Alberta, and hosted federal Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer and Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe at his office in Queen’s Park.
“We will fight the carbon tax right to the end,” Ford said.
The premier didn’t stop there, however. He also accused Trudeau’s ministers and advisers of wanting to impose a carbon tax that will “jack up the price of everything.”
In October, Trudeau unveiled his government’s plan to rebate revenues from the carbon tax back to Ontario families. The federal government said the rebate will leave 70 per cent of households better off — but Ford has said many times he doesn’t believe it.

So the stage has been set. And the battle will be nasty. The House of Ford has always been Animal House. And those are the people the prime minister will face in 2019.

Image: THE CANADIAN PRESS/Christopher Katsarov

Friday, November 16, 2018

Conservatism Rips Itself Apart

There is a cautionary tale unfolding for governments which call themselves Conservative. Maxime Bernier is staging a frontal assault on the Conservative Party of Canada. And in Britain, Theresa May's government is unravelling over Brexit. May was a Remainer. Yet she has been tasked with negotiating Britain's divorce from the E.U. The deal she reached with Brussels has split her party. Andrew Hammond writes:

The cabinet resignations reflect, in large part, the continuing U.K.-wide divisions over Brexit which leaves Ms. May’s tenure in Downing Street precarious. These problems were meant to have been put to bed by publication of the government’s Brexit White Paper in July.
Yet, if anything, Ms. May is even more politically isolated following the subsequent departure from her cabinet of leading Brexiteers Boris Johnson and David Davis. The former senior ministers have previously stood to be Conservative Party leader, and may do so again in the future, and are both lobbying hard against what has become known as Ms. May’s Chequers version of Brexit.
Her vision in the Chequers document came under intense criticism from the British political right and left, not to mention outside players such as U.S. President Donald Trump. Indeed, such was the opposition of elements of even her own Conservative Party, which lobbied to “chuck Chequers,” that the Prime Minister had to effectively rebrand it.
Now a draft U.K.-EU Brexit deal has been agreed to, the parliamentary arithmetic is such that Ms. May could need to rely on the votes of opposition Labour Party MPs to get the agreement through the House of Commons. Here it is highly unclear how many such Labour parliamentarians would support Ms. May, despite the potential pressure to do so for those politicians representing constituencies that voted in 2016 to leave the EU.

During the 1980's conservatism rejected its Burkean roots and adopted Ayn Rand as its philosophical godmother and Milton Friedman as its accountant. Rand and Friedman trumpeted the beauty of the Individual Unbound. The result was that conservatives became so enamoured of individualism they could agree on virtually nothing -- except what they were against. And what they were against, most of all, was government.

The end result has been that, when conservatives achieve power -- in Britain and the United States -- they can't govern because they can't craft policy. Their differences doom their dreams.

That's a lesson Ontario's Conservatives, under Doug Ford, are now learning.

Image: Politico Europe

Thursday, November 15, 2018

Selling Well

Doug Ford's Conservatives are ripping away at each other. And Andrew Scheer's Conservatives are engaged in the same self-flagellation. Maxime Bernier is attempting to blow up the federal Conservative Party. Tom Walkom writes:

Bernier says his People’s Party has signed up more than 30,000 members. He promises to field candidates in every riding for next October’s federal election and may well do so.
He has likened his People’s Party to Reform in its early years. The analogy isn’t that far off.
Like Preston Manning’s Reform, Bernier appeals to conservatives who have become disillusioned with the traditional parties of the right. They are not always consistent in their views and neither is Bernier.
As a libertarian, he would remove government from the business of business. His pet peeve is supply management in the dairy and poultry industries.
But his libertarianism would not extend to immigration. Bernier would reduce the number of immigrants allowed into Canada and require newcomers to adhere to what he calls Canadian values.
He is a critic of multiculturalism and “the cult of diversity at any cost.”

That message will play well in Quebec. And, on the subject of climate change, Bernier is a Luddite:

On the issue of climate change, Bernier would take a strictly hands-off approach. Trudeau’s Liberals are proceeding with their plans for a carbon tax. Scheer’s Conservatives say they would do something but won’t say what.
Bernier’s People’s Party would do nothing at all. What’s the point, he asks. Canada contributes little to global warming anyway. Why waste our time trying to meet targets we know we can’t reach in the hope of achieving emission reductions we know won’t accomplish much.
Better to cut taxes and hope that someone will eventually come up with a brilliant solution.

All of this is conservative red meat and Max wants a piece of the action. It's also crazy. But political insanity seems to be selling well these days.

Image: The Toronto Star

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

When Government is Run By A Thug

Doug Ford's government has only been in office for five months. But already it is engulfed in scandal. Robert Benzie and Rob Ferguson report in the Toronto Star that:

Chaos is swirling around Premier Doug Ford with his right-hand man forcing a departure at Ontario Power Generation, costing taxpayers up to $500,000 in severance, and another top Tory fighting back over his ouster in the wake of two sex scandals.
Three Progressive Conservative sources confirmed to the Star that Ford’s chief of staff, Dean French, phoned OPG chair Bernard Lord to demand that veteran Progressive Conservative political staffer Alykhan Velshi be removed from the Crown utility.
Also Tuesday, former PC caucus head John Sinclair broke his silence to say he did not leave his job last Friday over the way another key Ford adviser, Andrew Kimber, was forced out of the premier’s office for sexually inappropriate texts showing himself in a thong.
“Mr. Sinclair will take all steps necessary to defend his reputation against any defamatory and false statements regarding his character or conduct,” lawyer Scott Hutchison warned in a statement.
“Any innuendo or allegations of wrongdoing on his part are without foundation and should be treated with the profound skepticism they deserve.”

The province is being sued for shutting down a wind farm in Prince Edward County. The bill for that could be in the millions of dollars. Ford claims he knows how to control expenses. But the stench arising from that claim is getting pretty rank:

“Once again, it looks like the people of this province are going to be stuck with the bill for one of Premier Ford’s decisions and paying the price for settling his political scores,” said New Democrat MPP John Vanthof (Timiskaming-Cochrane).
Green Leader Mike Schreiner said it’s “certainly fishy” that OPG would hire and then immediately look to fire a senior executive.
“That doesn’t pass the smell test. It’s a waste of taxpayer money,” Schreiner said.

It's a time honoured axiom that a government take on the personality of the man who leads it. What's happening in Ontario these days is what happens when the provincial government is run by a thug.

Image: Niagara At Large

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Quebec Goes Its Own Way

If Andrew Scheer was planning on making inroads in Quebec, Chantal Hebert writes, his opposition to a carbon tax has doomed his efforts:

In Quebec, the anti-carbon pricing platform Scheer has been spending the fall shoring up is dead on arrival both in the National Assembly and on the ground.
As for his commitment to the Energy East pipeline — a project designed to transport oil from the Prairies through Ontario and Quebec to the Atlantic Coast — it amounts to a target on the back of his candidates as well as an incentive for Quebec’s premier to keep at a safe distance from the federal Conservatives.

The passion which used to be spent on Quebec sovereignty is now finding voice in environmental activism:

Tens of thousands of Quebecers took to the streets this weekend to call for more decisive action on climate change. In Montreal alone, 50,000 took part in the demonstration.
In the short space of a week, more than 150,000 signed a pledge that commits them to reduce their carbon footprints but also demands more proactive leadership on the issue from governments.

Newly elected premier Francois Legault has taken note and intends to ride the wave:

Among the right-of-centre premiers and leaders who have emerged since Justin Trudeau became prime minister, Premier François Legault already stands alone in support of the federal climate-change framework. The Quebec cap-and-trade system put in place under previous governments is there to stay.

Quebec has always gone its own way. And, on the issue of the carbon tax, it will do so again.

Image: The McGill Tribune

Monday, November 12, 2018

Trumpian Contempt

The President of the United States likes to trumpet his support for the military. But this past weekend, Max Boot writes, Trump showed his contempt for the military:

On Saturday afternoon, the president was scheduled to attend a ceremony at the Aisne-Marne American Cemetery, where 2,289 U.S. soldiers are buried — a small part of the 116,000 Americans who gave the last full measure of devotion during World War I. It was the sort of solemn occasion that U.S. presidents have considered an integral part of their duty at least since the Gettysburg Address. But Trump couldn’t be bothered.
The White House explained that bad weather grounded the helicopters that Trump and his entourage were planning to take. Yet somehow bad weather did not prevent French President Emmanuel Macron, German Chancellor Angela Merkel or Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau from attending outdoor ceremonies commemorating the end of World War I that afternoon. Somehow bad weather did not stop Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr., the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and retired general John F. Kelly, the White House chief of staff, from attending the very ceremony that Trump could not make.

But he loves to turn his country's soldiers into political props:

Trump shows what he really thinks of the troops by using them as political props. He deployed 5,600 troops just before the midterm elections to guard against the supposed threat posed by a few thousand unarmed refugees hundreds of miles from the U.S. border. He even suggested that the troops should commit the war crime of opening fire on migrants who threw rocks.
The Pentagon grandly dubbed this Operation Faithful Patriot and circulated pictures of troops in full “battle rattle” stringing barbed wire, only to quietly drop the ludicrous moniker amid Election Day. Conveniently enough, Trump and his friends at Fox essentially stopped speaking about the caravan once the votes were cast. But, as the New York Times reports, the troops are still in the field, without electricity or hot meals — or a mission. They will likely spend Thanksgiving away from their families.

This is a man who worked overtime to stay out of Vietnam. So, Boot writes, when Trump says he  is pro-military, don't believe him:

He has no understanding of what soldiers do or the honor code by which they live. His idea of military service is marching in a parade — and he is peeved he couldn’t have one in Washington this Veterans Day. Through his words and deeds, the commander in chief shows his contempt for the men and women in uniform.

Contempt is the operative word. Trump has plenty of it -- for everyone and everything that isn't labelled Trump.


Sunday, November 11, 2018

On This Remembrance Day

Today marks the one hundredth anniversary of the end of The Great War. It was supposed to be the war to end all wars. And it's true that, since 1945, there have been no world wars. But there have been plenty of proxy wars -- in Korea, in Vietnam and in Afghanistan -- the longest war of the modern era.

The Great War was supposed to Make The World Safe For Democracy. And today democracy is threatened around the world.

So, what are we to make of today? Some might say that we've made precious little progress. And, on my darker days, I'm inclined to agree. Perhaps we've just been lucky. My father -- a veteran of World War II -- used to say that he survived because of "pure dumb luck."

In many ways, the history of war is a chronicle of pure stupidity. But it's worth remembering that the United Nations was founded as an antidote to war. And, despite its failures, it still tries to rein in our darker angels.

Something to think about on this Remembrance Day.

Image: Filipino Caregiver

Saturday, November 10, 2018


Tom Walkom writes that Donald Trump is desperate to leave his mark:

He wants to be remembered as more than just a crude blowhard with funny hair. All presidents want to leave a legacy. But Trump’s need for acceptance and praise is so achingly obvious as to be almost pitiable.
He is desperate to make a mark. If a hung Congress means he can’t do it the usual way, he will find another.

So if he can't work with Congress, what could he do?  Walkom suggests a couple of strategies:

Expect Trump to focus more on matters over which Congress exercises little control, such as foreign and military affairs.
The president is already saber-rattling against Iran. He has unilaterally pulled out of the nuclear accord with that country and is warning of dire consequences should Iran fail to accede to American demands.
He has also sent U.S. troops to the Mexican border to thwart would-be illegal immigrants from Latin America. As commander-in-chief of the U.S. armed forces, he could make that deployment permanent.
Conversely, he is talking nice to North Korea and has not ruled out inking some kind of peace accord with its leader, Kim Jong Un.
Will he take the even bolder move of negotiating a peace deal with Afghanistan’s Taliban, thus putting an end to America’s longest war? Don’t dismiss the possibility out of hand. The U.S. has been quietly trying to make peace with the Taliban since Barack Obama’s presidency. Trump’s overwhelming vanity might be enough to push this effort to a successful completion.

And then there are those executive orders:

The other broad power a president enjoys is the ability to issue executive orders — legally binding edicts that do not require Congressional approval. Obama made use of this power to bypass a Republican-controlled Congress and impose pollution requirements on the use of coal.
Look for Trump to try something similar in areas that concern him. He has already mused about issuing an executive order that would deny the automatic right of citizenship to any person born in the U.S.
Such a move would be immediately challenged as unconstitutional. But that wouldn’t necessarily prevent Trump from trying it anyway.

Trump knows that Mueller and the Democrats are coming to get him. As his desperation grows, any number of things could happen.

Image: The Washington Post

Friday, November 09, 2018

Tony's Travails

Social Conservatives have a problem with the member from Parry Sound-Muskoka. They thought he was -- sort of -- on their side. Martin Patriquin writes:

Never a diehard social conservative, Clement happily aligned himself with the movement when it suited his purposes. Notably, he voted for a 2006 motion to reopen the debate on same-sex marriage, even though the principle had been ensconced in law for a year and a half at that point.
The motion, born to fail, ultimately failed, thereby allowing Stephen Harper to appear to defend “traditional” marriage without actually defending it. And Clement was a willing participant in this cynical game — just as he hedged his bets on abortion by describing himself “a six or a seven out of 10” when it comes to a woman’s right to end her pregnancy. As Christian newspaper The Interim put it in 2004, “He will go only as far right as he thinks he needs to in order to get the votes of social conservatives, but not an inch further.”
He has often cleaved to social conservatives throughout his career. Campaign Life Coalition (CLC), one of the more prominent social-conservative organizations in the country, lists 22 pieces of legislation “relating to life and family issues.” Clement has endorsed CLC positions for 15 of them, including voting against euthanasia, marijuana legislation, and a 2012 bill that would have made it illegal to discriminate against the transgendered. (He did support a similar bill in 2016, thus angering the CLC.)
Arguably his biggest gift to social conservatives was his decision, as health minister in 2008, to come out against safe-injection sites like Vancouver’s Insite. The life-saving attributes of these sites are indisputable. Since its inception in 2003, Insite intervened in over 6,000 overdoses.
Safe-injection sites are endorsed by the majority of the country’s physicians, as well as the World Health Organization. Clement called Insite an “abomination” and refused to renew the exemption the organization required to allow illicit drugs on its premises.

We are all less than paragons of virtue.  And we all get in trouble when we pose as paragons of virtue. Clement is in a very uncomfortable place. It would be uncomfortable regardless. But his alliance with social conservatives seems particularly hypocritical.

There is a lesson here for all of us. But those who make an issue of their virtue should take note.

Image: VOCM

Thursday, November 08, 2018

How They Do It

Donald Trump thinks he won the midterm elections. He completely ignores the results in the House of Representatives and focuses on the Senate. But the number of votes for Senate seats tells a different story. Sabrina Siddiqui writes in The Guardian:

Among the most eye-catching was a statistic showing Democrats led Republicans by more than 12 million votes in Senate races, and yet still suffered losses on the night and failed to win a majority of seats in the chamber.
Constitutional experts said the discrepancy between votes cast and seats won was the result of misplaced ire that ignored the Senate electoral process. But some expressed frustration with a system they suggested gives an advantage to conservative-leaning states.
The real concerns for Democrats, they said, could be found in a combination of gerrymandering and voter suppression tactics that might have prevented them from winning an even larger majority in the House and some key statewide elections.
“The rise of minority rule in America is now unmistakable,” said Laurence Tribe, a constitutional law professor at Harvard University.
“Especially with a sitting president who won a majority in the electoral college [in 2016] while receiving roughly 3m fewer votes than his opponent, and a supreme court five of whose nine justices were nominated by Republican presidents who collectively received fewer popular votes than their Democratic opponents and were confirmed by Senates similarly skewed.”

Voter suppression is an old story in the United States. For decades, in the Old Confederacy, poll taxes and literacy tests kept black people from voting. If those strategies failed, the Klan hauled Negroes out of their shanties, strung them up, and burnt those houses to the ground.

They've come up with new strategies. In Georgia, the Republican candidate for governor is also the Secretary of State, which means that he is also the referee. He has taken ten of thousands of Georgians off the rolls. 70% of them are black.

 The future is reflected in the results in the House of Representatives. The future is women, people of colour, Native Americans, LBGTQ members. They're not Republicans -- who are dinosaurs. But they are the majority.

They are the Big Bang -- which will eventually lead to the extinction of the dinosaurs.

Image: Pinterest

Wednesday, November 07, 2018

The Morning After

Every day in the United States, millions of children place their hands over their hearts and pledge themselves to "one nation, under God, indivisible. . ." Yesterday confirmed the notion that the United States is now two nations -- and divisible is the operative adjective. The next two years are going to be very raucous south of the border. Still, the Democrats took back the House of Representatives. Frank Bruni writes:

I’ll take it, and I’ll let others quibble over whether it amounts to a big wave, a modest one or a slosh of something wet and reassuring. It’s enough for the time being, even if doesn’t make me feel as good about America as I’d like to or as sure about the future as I yearn to.
It won’t humble Trump as thoroughly as he needs humbling. He’ll dwell on the Republicans’ success in the Senate, where they built on their majority. He’ll brag that he concentrated his own campaign-trail energy on that chamber of Congress and on those races, and he’ll be right. He’ll note — or others in his party will — that Democrats didn’t fare as well in these midterms as Republicans did two years into Barack Obama’s presidency, when they picked up 63 House seats. Now that’s a tsunami.
Trump needed a comeuppance, and the decisive swing of the House into the Democratic column was precisely that. You know what else was? The profiles of the Democrats who made that swing happen.
Many of the candidates for the House who turned red seats blue were women. A record number of them ran for Congress this year, and it seemed likely early Wednesday morning, even before all the counting of ballots was done, that the next Congress would also contain a record number of them: more than the 107 currently there. So a president who has acted and spoken with such vulgar disregard for women will deal with more female lawmakers than any of his predecessors did. That’s a measure of sweet justice.

There were plenty of disappointments. The black candidates for governor in Georgia and Florida were defeated. But there are now Democratic govenors in formerly Republican states. Electoral districts will be withdrawn and the Republican effort to disenfranchise voters will be slowed.

But make no mistake. The Republican Party -- now the newly confirmed Trumpian Party -- is dangerous and deadly. Things will not change in the United States until the Trumpians are reduced to an ineffective frat house.

Image: Time Magazine

Tuesday, November 06, 2018

Comey On Americans

James Comey may have played a pivotal role in the election of Donald Trump. But, when Trump fired him, he made an angry enemy of Comey, who has become one of Trump's loudest critics. He writes in today's New York Times:

I feel the giant stirring. The awakening is slow, but it is underway. Torches and death in Charlottesville. Children in cages at the border. The lying, misogyny, racism and attacks on the rule of law from our president. These things poke the giant. It takes time, but the American people are stirring. They always do. And when they awaken, these fevers break very quickly. 

Mr. Comey accepts the essential American myth:

History shows us that America’s progress in fulfilling our aspirations is an upward sloping line. Yes, our present has always fallen short of our values. After all, we were born in original sin — our nation’s founders held inspiring truths to be self-evident while keeping human beings as slaves. But our history is one of continuous progress.

I'm not sure Comey's bedrock faith in the American experiment is justified. But today that faith is being put to the test. Comey believes his faith will be rewarded:

I’ve been traveling around the United States for six months speaking about ethical leadership. Nearly every place I go, I hear some version of this question: “Are we going to be O.K.?” What the questioner means is, given the current leadership of our country and the ugly undercurrent on which it thrives, is America as we know it going to survive? Yes, is the answer I give, without hesitation. We will recover. How long that takes is up to us, but I am optimistic.

Comey is optimistic about the United States, just as Winston Churchill was. I'm not so sure. But I continue to hope -- for the sake of all of us -- that both men are (and were) right.

Image: The New York Times

Monday, November 05, 2018


Americans have been voting for a month. But tomorrow is the day the final count will begin. Micheal Harris writes that the choice couldn't be more stark:

A Republican vote would mean that the country now accepts the butchering of a U.S. resident and journalist by the Saudis, provided there are enough jammy contracts to be had from the people who ordered the gruesome hit on Jamal Khashoggi. That’s Al Capone economics, grafted, of course, to the usual rhetorical bull.
To support the GOP on Tuesday would be to embrace the President’s assault on free speech and the media, which he repeatedly calls the “enemy of the people.” His mantra shows exactly what he thinks of the First Amendment. To bad he doesn’t think the right to bear thoughts is as important as the right to bear arms.
A GOP vote would buttress the idea that if only America became the valley of the gun, with teachers, religious congregations, and everyone else able to carry and conceal, as Trump himself did while living in New York, the U.S. would have the best gun control in the world. All guns, all the time.
And if you are an American female and you vote Republican, it would be equal to dismissing all of the hard-fought gains women have made, from getting the vote in 1920, to running so many candidates for office in these midterm elections nearly 100 years later.

If, on the other hand, the Democrats take control of the House of Representatives, there will be an earthquake:

A vote for the Democrats would reaffirm the U.S. Constitution’s brilliance — the separation of powers and oversight of the executive branch by the legislative branch.
Under this President, the Republicans control both houses of Congress and the White House. With spineless sycophants in the House and Senate, people like Devin Nunes and Mitch McConnell, the White House simply directs the whole show. It has become, as H.L. Mencken once put it, a case of “running the circus from the monkey house.”
A vote for the Democrats will confirm the bedrock principle of the justice system that no one is above the law.
Should the Democrats win the House of Representatives, congressional committees will start doing their work again — instead of the bidding of the White House.
Donald Trump Jr., for example, could be brought before the committee to answer publicly and under oath for his meeting with Russians in the Trump Tower prior to the 2016 presidential election. Not the lies his father prepared for him on Air Force One, but the truth — or perjury charges.
His father’s financial records, including his suppressed tax returns, could be subpoenaed to determine if this is a President who has broken the emoluments provisions of the Constitution.
Those provisions prohibit the occupant of the White House from profiting from the office. Trump has obviously monetized the presidency, making money from properties like the Trump International Hotel in Washington, not to mention Mar-a-Lago and all those golf courses.

Tomorrow's vote is more than historic. It's existential. The future of the republic is at stake.

Image: The Village Voice

Sunday, November 04, 2018

Entrenching Minority Rule

If you want to know how Republicans captured the government of the United States, take a good look at what they've done over the last two decades. Ian Samuel writes that they have entrenched minority rule:

Minority rule is the result of interlocking and mutually reinforcing strategies which must be understood together to understand the full picture of what the American right wants to achieve.
Examples are everywhere. Take North Dakota. In 2012, Heidi Heitkamp, a Democrat, won a surprise victory in a Senate race by just 2,994 votes. Her two largest county wins were in the Standing Rock and Turtle Mountain Reservations, where she won more than 80% of the vote. Her overall vote margin in counties containing Native reservations was more than 4,500 votes.
Observing that Heitkamp literally owed her seat to Native voters, North Dakota’s Republican legislature enacted a voter ID law that requires voters to present identification showing their name, birth date and residential address. There’s the rub: many Native voters do not have traditional residential addresses, so this law effectively disenfranchises them.
Or take Georgia, where the Republican nominee for governor, Brian Kemp, is the secretary of state and in that capacity has placed more than 50,000 voter registrations on hold, many from urban areas with high black populations. That is in keeping with Kemp’s privately expressed “concern” that high voter turnout will favor his opponent – Stacey Abrams, running strongly to be the first black female governor in US history.
Exacerbating voter suppression is the ongoing partisan gerrymandering effort – the redrawing of electoral maps to favor one party over another. After the 2010 census, the Wisconsin legislature (controlled by Republicans) drew a map for the state’s legislative districts explicitly designed to ensure they would retain control of the legislature even if they received a minority of votes. It worked: in 2012, despite receiving only 48.6% of the vote, they won 60 of 99 seats. Democrats won an outright majority of votes cast but secured just 39 seats.

And, because of the way the electoral college works, the last two Republican presidents became President while capturing a minority of the popular vote:

The two most recent Republican presidents have entered office despite receiving fewer votes than their opponent in a national election, thanks to the electoral college, which systematically over-represents small states. (California gets one electoral vote per 712,000 people; Wyoming gets one per 195,000.) With the presidency in hand in the run-up to the 2020 census, minority rule will be further entrenched by adding a citizenship question to the census. This will result in systematic undercounting of the population in heavily Democratic areas, which will in turn further reduce their influence as legislatures draw maps based on the data.

The American Right have known for a long time that they are supported by a minority of voters. But that hasn't stopped their march to power. And they intend to keep things that way.

Image: Metaphysical Outlaws in America

Saturday, November 03, 2018

Things Will Get Mean

Relations between the Government of Canada and the Government of Ontario are on a downward slope. Susan Delacourt writes:

While it’s more the rule than the exception to have opposing parties in power at Queen’s Park and on Parliament Hill, relations between the Ford and Trudeau governments appear to be particularly raw, and especially so this week.
On Tuesday, federal Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer visited Queen’s Park and was warmly greeted by the premier as the “next prime minister of Canada” — a development that would come, Ford said at a photo op in his office, after voters “get rid” of Trudeau in next year’s election.
Meanwhile, federal Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen was accused once again this week of giving the back of the hand to his Ontario counterpart, Lisa MacLeod.
In an interview on Thursday night with CBC’s Power and Politics, Hussen said MacLeod was “engaged in fear mongering and using this issue to demonize people.” As for MacLeod’s claim that 40 per cent of Toronto shelter occupants are refugees, Hussen said: “The figures that are being thrown around are not based on facts.”
MacLeod responded on Twitter that Hussen was a “name-calling bully.” That charge also isn’t new — the two ministers have been sparring almost since the Ford government came to office last summer.
Trudeau’s labour minister, Patty Hajdu, was also plunging into the fray this week, announcing a wave of new worker protections very similar to the ones that have recently been rolled back by the Ford government.
Hajdu spoke out against what she called the “politics of cruelty” and the “devastating” spectacle of governments rolling back worker benefits.

In some ways, this isn't new. Stephen Harper and Dalton McGuinty were never on the best of terms. And Doug Ford has never been diplomatic when it comes to his opinion of Justin Trudeau. Moreover, the advisors for each party are openly hostile to each other:

There is plenty of cross-pollination between partisans in Queen’s Park and Ottawa at present. Trudeau’s government has been built around strong connections to Ontario Liberals. His two chief advisers, Gerald Butts and Katie Telford, are veterans of the old McGuinty government.
Ford’s new government, similarly, has been drawing on a raft of staff connections to the old Harper regime, including Jenni Byrne, who served as Harper’s campaign manager and deputy chief of staff, and is now installed in the premier’s office.

What has happened over the last couple of weeks offers a peek into the 2019 election. In Ontario, things will get mean.

Image: CBC