Monday, December 31, 2018

Thinking Of Our Children and Grandchildren

David Leonhardt writes, in  this morning's New York Times, that the number one story of the year has been climate change. It's been a year where the evidence of climate change has been everywhere:

I’ll start with the alarming parts of the story. The past year is on pace to be the earth’s fourth warmest on record, and the five warmest years have all occurred since 2010. This warming is now starting to cause a lot of damage.
In 2018, heat waves killed people in Montreal, Karachi, Tokyo and elsewhere. Extreme rain battered North Carolina and the Indian state of Kerala. The Horn of Africa suffered from drought. Large swaths of the American West burned. When I was in Portland, Ore., this summer, the air quality — from nearby wildfires — was among the worst in the world. It would have been healthier to be breathing outdoors in Beijing or Mumbai.

Yet most of our politicians are dinosaurs:

Amid all of this destruction, Trump’s climate agenda consists of making the problem worse. His administration is filled with former corporate lobbyists, and they have been changing federal policy to make it easier for companies to pollute. These officials like to talk about free enterprise and scientific uncertainty, but their real motive is usually money. Sometimes, they don’t even wait to return to industry jobs. Both Scott Pruitt and Ryan Zinke, two now-departed pro-pollution cabinet secretaries, engaged in on-the-job corruption.

During the recent Ontario election, California governor Jerry Brown came to the province to plead with its citizens not to ditch the cap and trade program which had been built by his state, Ontario and Quebec. Newly elected premier Doug Ford immediately killed the arrangement when he came to power. For the most part, those who govern us are wilfully ignorant. They focus on here and now. Future generations are, at best, a twinkle in someone's eye.

It's the young who will condemn us:

Deep down, do you really believe that future generations of your own family will be immune from climate change’s damage? Or have you chosen not to think very much about them?

We should be thinking of our children and grandchildren tonight.

Happy New Year.

Image: Tunis Daily News

Sunday, December 30, 2018

Roubini On Trump

I'm one of those people who pay attention to what Nouriel Roubini writes. He predicted the 2008 meltdown long before it happened. And, these days, he's not happy with what he sees:

Mr. Trump is now the Dr. Strangelove of financial markets. Like the paranoid madman in Stanley Kubrick’s classic film, he is flirting with mutually assured economic destruction. Now that markets see the danger, the risk of a financial crisis and global recession has grown.

As always, his evidence is exhaustive. But he particularly focuses on what Trump has done in the last three months:

More than anything else, though, the sharp fall in U.S. and global equities during the past quarter is a response to Mr. Trump’s own utterances and actions. Even worse than the heightened risk of a full-scale trade war with China (despite the recent “truce” agreed with Chinese President Xi Jinping) are Mr. Trump’s public attacks on the Fed, which began as early as the spring of 2018, when the U.S. economy was growing at more than 4 per cent.
As matters stand, the risk of a full-scale geopolitical conflagration with China cannot be ruled out. A new cold war would effectively lead to deglobalization, disrupting supply chains everywhere, but particularly in the tech sector, as the recent ZTE and Huawei cases signal. At the same time, Mr. Trump seems to be hell-bent on undermining the cohesion of the European Union and NATO at a time when Europe is economically and politically fragile. And special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Mr. Trump’s 2016 election campaign’s ties to Russia hangs like a Sword of Damocles over his presidency.

There were some who foolishly took comfort in the fact that there were adults in Trump's Oval Office. But anyone who knows anything about Trump's rakish career knows that he fiercely rejects adult supervision:

For one thing, until now, investors had bought into the argument that Mr. Trump is all bark and no bite. They were willing to give him the benefit of the doubt as long as he pursued tax cuts, deregulation and other policies beneficial to the corporate sector and shareholders. And many trusted that, at the end of the day, the “adults in the room” would restrain Mr. Trump and ensure that the U.S. administration’s policies didn’t jump the guardrails of orthodoxy.
But things changed radically in 2018, especially in the past few months. Despite corporate earnings growing by more than 20 per cent (thanks to the tax cuts), U.S. equity markets moved sideways for most of the year, and have now taken a sharp turn south. At this point, broad indices are in correction territory (meaning a 10-per-cent drop from the recent peak), and indices of tech stocks, such as the Nasdaq, are in bear-market territory (a drop of 20 per cent or more).

The baby has overturned his bassinet. It's going to be quite a new year.


Monday, December 24, 2018

During This Season

Every so often, my back rebels and I can't sit or stand at the computer for any length of time. I have recently experienced another such rebellion. But I am on the mend, and I will be back on a regular basis shortly.

I can't let this opportunity go by without  sending every one my best wishes for these holidays. This is the time of year when we contemplate Peace On Earth and Good Will To All. Given what we face, we desperately need more of each commodity.

May you know both peace and good will during this season.

Image: Queens Symphony Orchestra

Friday, December 14, 2018

Justice On The Move

Donald Trump's buffoonery can leave you in despair. But Michelle Goldberg writes, in The New York Times, that there is reason to hope:

The Democratic landslide in the midterms proved that the laws of political gravity haven’t been suspended; Trump’s incompetence, venality and boorishness had electoral consequences. Further, it was a year of justice and accountability for at least some of those who foisted this administration on the country. An awful menagerie of lowlifes was swept into power by Trump’s victory two years ago. In 2018, at least some of them started to fall back out again.

Consider what has happened to so many of those lowlifes:

When this year began, Scott Pruitt was still indulging in spectacular corruption as head of the Environmental Protection Agency. Omarosa Manigault Newman had just been fired from her senior administration job and had not yet revealed her stash of secret recordings. Rob Porter, who has been accused of abuse by two ex-wives, was still White House staff secretary. David Sorensen, accused of abuse by one ex-wife, was still a White House speechwriter.
At the start of 2018, the casino mogul Steve Wynn was the Republican National Committee’s national finance chairman. He resigned after The Wall Street Journal reported that he’d been accused of committing multiple acts of sexual harassment and assault. (Wynn denied assaulting anyone.) Elliott Broidy, owner of a private security company, was an R.N.C. deputy national finance chairman. He resigned after The Journal reported that he’d paid hush money to a former Playboy model who said she’d had an abortion after he got her pregnant. (Cohen was also a deputy chairman; he resigned in June.)
As this year began, the white nationalist Steve Bannon, Trump’s former campaign head and chief White House strategist, was still running Breitbart News. He’d not yet burned his bridges to Trumpworld with his comments in Michael Wolff’s book “Fire and Fury,” which was published in January. Since then, Bannon has lost considerable pull. He most recently made headlines after he was scheduled to speak at a conference on sex robots; a backlash to his invitation led to the conference being postponed.
In January, McClatchy reported that the F.B.I. was investigating whether Russia funneled money through the National Rifle Association to aid the Trump campaign. Throughout the year, as evidence of sketchy connections between the N.R.A. and Russia kept emerging, many on the right poo-pooed it. (“This attempt to turn the N.R.A. into another cog in the Russian conspiracy is laughable, but the mainstream media apparently still find it deeply compelling,” wrote Breitbart editor Joel Pollak in March.) On Thursday, Maria Butina, a Russian who’d nurtured ties to N.R.A. leadership and to Trumpworld, pleaded guilty to conspiring to act as a foreign agent.

Justice is on the move. It'll take awhile longer for it to catch up to Donald Trump.

Image: The Daily Beast

Thursday, December 13, 2018

Trump Of The North

In Ontario, things get more Trumpian by the day. Martin Regg Cohn writes:

Loyalty to the leader is paramount.
Fidelity to law enforcement comes second.
Sound familiar? Just ask our American friends, who have been wrestling with the spectre of obstruction of justice ever since Donald Trump won the presidency — and trampled on the FBI by firing its director, James Comey.
Now, Ontarians are facing their own moment of truth as the layers of deception are peeled back from the premier’s alleged secret meddling over the next OPP chief. Doug Ford’s loyal chief.
The allegations from interim Ontario Provincial Police commissioner Brad Blair about who will succeed him as the province’s top cop amount to a political earthquake. Blair and many in the OPP are up in arms because they believe the fix was in for a hostile takeover of the very police force that polices our politicians in power.
Ron Taverner, a personal pal of the premier, didn’t meet the original qualifications for the job — until a hand-picked hiring committee downgraded the job qualifications, two days after the competition opened. Unless the public can make the premier understand that he has crossed a line, Taverner will take over as OPP chief Monday.

Doug Ford doesn't know much. And he doesn't learn much -- ever since he dropped out of Humber College after attending for two months. He shambles from one outrage to another. And the rule of law means nothing to him:

Are Ontarians to be governed by the rule of law, or by the misrule of a miscreant who bends the rules and rewrites our laws? Shall our premier indulge his personal peccadilloes — in a customized camper paid for “off the books” to deceive taxpayers and lawmakers — and then cover his tracks?
Consider the devastating allegations in the OPP commissioner’s detailed submission — on official letterhead — to the independent Ombudsman’s Office this week seeking a formal investigation:
The hiring process “remains enveloped in questions of political interference,” Blair wrote. “To have this new command assumed without addressing this matter will cause dysfunction in the service.”
His appeal followed a public protest from a previous OPP chief, Chris Lewis, over the rigged hiring process that has discredited a police force that requires public legitimacy to do its job:
“The fix was in,” Lewis complained publicly, referring to the Ford-Taverner tag team. “There’s old relationships there, we all know it, and I think it was a travesty that this occurred.”

And Ford calls this "the people's government?

Image: The Globe and Mail

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Selfish Fools

Theresa May faces a non confidence vote today, Ian Birrell writes in The Guardian:

It is hard not to conclude that the Tory hard right are intent on destroying their party and handing the country to Jeremy Corbyn as they move to depose Theresa May at this point in the corrosive Brexit process. Yes, she has made a series of dire mistakes, including triggering article 50 with no idea of how to achieve departure from the European Union and then throwing away her party’s majority. But for all her many failures, now is not the time to oust her amid political deadlock and a national crisis.

Like neo-liberals around the world, they were inspired by the drivel Ayn Rand peddled seventy years ago:

Has there ever been a bunch of more selfish politicians than these extremists, who have already sacrificed the previous three Tory prime ministers on the altar of their obsession with Europe? It was hard not to spew up my cereal listening to Bernard Jenkin, one of their shop stewards, claiming on the radio that “this is not a matter of self-indulgence … not a matter of one faction over another”. Once again, duplicitous chancers seek to deceive the electorate with cheap soundbites as they fight internal battles. Yet we can see with disturbing clarity now that Brexit could not be further from the national interest.

They have left wreckage and cynicism everywhere they have achieved power -- and then they disappeared:

Is it any wonder voters have lost faith with politicians as they observe such arrogant behaviour at Westminster? The Brexiteers, many having fled office after discovering the difficulty of turning shallow slogans into reality, still spout their platitudes, shift stances with slippery ease and fail to answer the complex questions they posed. Yet they blame the prime minister for failing to do their factional bidding. The Tory insurgents are driven by one thing only: taking back control of their own careers, regardless of any cost to a country they see merely as collateral damage. Look at how the repellent Boris Johnson jokes about his weight as he limbers up for another tilt at the leadership, despite his record for incompetence and laziness as foreign secretary.

They really are a fine crop of dunderheads. And now we in Ontario -- not to be outdone -- have our own.

Image: Quotefancy

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

A Vast Left Wing Conspiracy?

Donald Trump and his acolytes insist that "a vast left wing conspiracy" is trying to do the president in. Lawrence Martin writes:

That’s a frequent claim by Mr. Trump’s defenders, including former campaign operatives like David Bossie and Corey Lewandowski in their new book The President’s Enemies: How The Deep State is Undermining The Presidency.
The authors blame the old ruling class, as does Mr. Trump who, rather than pick up on George H.W. Bush’s example, is back to his old seething self. He issued a series of angry tweets on Friday morning, saying he’s the victim of some kind of liberal plot, and asking why the perpetrators haven’t been investigated.

But Robert Mueller plows ahead. And the facts keep piling up:

Mr. Trump received yet more bad news this week when Mr. Mueller told a judge that Michael Flynn, the President’s former national security adviser, has been in tight co-operation with his investigators. So tight, in fact, that Mr. Mueller is recommending that Mr. Flynn, who had extensive contacts with Russia during the 2016 campaign (and is not much of a deep-state enthusiast), get no prison time.
As a big-time squealer on the President, he joins Michael Cohen, Mr. Trump’s former long-time personal attorney and fixer. Mr. Cohen, who could hardly be called a deep-state member, once said he would “take a bullet” for Mr. Trump. Now he is firing them at him.
He recently admitted lying to Congress in 2017 in testifying about an aborted Trump Tower project in Moscow. He initially said negotiations with the Russians did not go on during the 2016 election campaign. Now he says they did. It could well be true, as Cohen associates have suggested, that he has bombshell information about ties between Mr. Trump and Russia.

The deep state isn't doing Trump in. It's his own people -- Trump insisted that they were "the best people" -- who will bring him down. Grifters operate in groups. And they will go down together.

Image: Daily Kos

Monday, December 10, 2018

My Apologies

I''ve just discovered a raft of of comments that I didn't know were made to this blog. I apologize for their tardiness. Apparently, not all comments have come to my email.

I'll make a point of checking comments on the blog, not just my email.

Republican Rigging

Republicans have been rigging elections for decades. But, after the November mid-terms, they're on steroids, making sure that Democrats don't take control. E. J. Dionne writes:

Not so the Republicans in Wisconsin. Having lost the governorship, they’re using a lame-duck session of the legislature to strip Evers of many powers they were perfectly content to see Republican Gov. Scott Walker exercise. Why are they doing this now? Because Walker, who was defeated by Evers, is still in office to sign their bills.
Among other things, the legislation would stop Evers from taking control of a state economic development agency that the Democrat has pledged to abolish, and it would make it harder for him to overturn restrictions Walker imposed on social benefits. It would also limit early voting (which helped the Democrats win by expanding turnout). For good measure, the legislature wants to prevent Kaul [the newly elected Democratic Attorney General] from withdrawing the state from a lawsuit against the Affordable Care Act — even though that’s exactly what Kaul told voters he would do.
And because of the way the state has been gerrymandered, Republicans still control the state legislature The Democrats won the popular vote in State Assembly contests by a margin of 54 percent to 46 percent but emerged with only 36 seats to the GOP’s 63.

The same thing is happening in Michigan:

Republicans in Michigan (which also replaced a Republican governor with a Democrat this year) are working on a similar effort.
One Michigan GOP target: incoming Democratic secretary of state Jocelyn Benson, who, like other Democratic secretaries of state this year, was elected on an ambitious reform agenda. This includes greater transparency when it comes to political money. Republicans don’t like this, so they introduced a bill to restrict her oversight of campaign finance issues.

This kind of behaviour smells like what came out of the Jim Crow South:

The GOP’s anti-democratic impulse has far more in common with the old segregationist Democrats of the South than with the best Republican traditions that led to the rights-conferring 14th and 15th Amendments to the Constitution. The party’s efforts to lock in power regardless of election outcomes also eerily echo some of the behaviors of anti-democratic politicians abroad.

Donald Trump represents a colossal threat to democracy. But so does his entire party.

Image: BetterMan

Sunday, December 09, 2018

Bridge Building

Robin Sears writes that the funeral for George Bush Sr. illustrated the difference between politics as bridge building and politics as a zero sum game:

George Bush, Brian Mulroney, Jack Layton, Justin Trudeau each understood the importance that bridge building means to successful party building, as campaigners. Donald Trump, Stephen Harper, Doug Ford are champions of a different, more 21st century politics. One that celebrates exclusion and identity over inclusion and solidarity. Recently, it appears that its champions are winning.
What Bush’s time in power — only four years — blazingly highlights is what you can achieve when you govern as a bridge-builder. Campaigning in kumbaya mode is easy. Governing by painful compromise is not. Justin Trudeau, sadly, demonstrates the difference, having slid back into partisan memes too easily when in power, having promised a more accommodating governing style on the stump.

If Justin governed as he campaigned, he might have accomplished more:

Imagine if the Trudeau government were going into this next campaign having stickhandled a compromise on electoral reform, had delivered on child care and pharmacare, and had actually achieved a broadly supported climate change agenda. They would have avoided the finger pointing fiasco of last week’s first ministers’ meeting and been virtually certain of a second majority in October.
Having chosen to play traditional partisan games on each of these files, that victory is less clear. Yes, Liberals can point out that the opposition was equally infantile in their resistance to compromise. But it is incumbent on the one who holds power to offer a hand of conciliation, of genuine commitment to compromise.

Andrew Scheer and Jagmeet Singh are also operating from a zero sum perspective:

Andrew Scheer and Jagmeet Singh each promised an inclusive politics in their leadership runs. Now Scheer has threatened to join the bridge-burners before the starter’s pistol for the next campaign, whining about the negative media he will need to battle. Singh’s wobbly launch has deflected attention from his inclusive leadership promise to bookmaking on his very survival.

The downside was that Bush's bridge making made him a one term president. But, in the end, leaders are remembered for what they did, not how long they served.

Image: The Irrawaddy

Saturday, December 08, 2018


One of Doug Ford's campaign promises was to fire the CEO of Ontario Hydro. When he assumed office, he gave Mayo Schmidt his pink slip. That decisions caused a cascade of problems. Martin Regg Cohn writes:

By pushing out Schmidt, Ford set off a chain reaction in the U.S. northwest, where regulators were examining Hydro One’s proposed $4.4-billion takeover of regional utility Avista. Written promises that Ontario’s government acted only as a passive investor in Hydro One were flagrantly contradicted by Ford’s meddling, prompting the regulator to step in.
Hence the kill fee Hydro One must pay, plus commissions to investment banks involved in the deal’s financing, adding up to more than $150 million. Not to mention massive legal bills.
Except that cutting Schmidt’s supersized salary won’t shave more than a fraction of a penny off monthly bills. Paying out more than $150 million in kill fees and lawyer’s bills will cost the company far more.

Ford's claim to fame -- like innumerable conservatives before him -- is that he's a businessman; and he promised to run his government like a business. But the business press knows that Ford is a con man:

Ford’s bumper sticker slogan mocking the “Six Million Dollar Man,” [Schmidt] and his new roadside signs proclaiming Ontario “Open for Business,” belie the reality that this Progressive Conservative government is bad for business, and bad for Hydro One’s balance sheet. Ford’s pro-business rhetoric hasn’t fooled the business press, which is panning his government’s intervention in corporate governance, its interference in the hiring and firing of top managers, and its readiness to tear up signed commercial contracts to score political points.
If a Liberal or NDP government had attempted half of the upheaval undertaken by PCs so far, the private sector would be raising cries of banditry and Bolshevism. Happily for the Tories they are buffered by their historical affinity with right wing rhetoric.
But the more maladroit their performance, the more glaring the distinction between conservatism and competence. Meddling with management is no way to run a corporation, just as mismanagement is no way to govern a province.

Maladroit accurately describes Ford. And there will be more examples of his maladroitness to come.


Friday, December 07, 2018

Tolerating A Fraud

Paul  Krugman has coined a phrase which really encapsulates who -- or what -- Donald Trump is. Krugman writes that he's "a rebel without a clue." Nowhere is that more apparent than on the subject of trade:

Even as he declared himself Tariff Man, Trump revealed that he doesn’t understand how tariffs work. No, they aren’t taxes on foreigners, they’re taxes on our own consumers.
When trying to make deals, he seems to care only about whether he can claim a “win,” not about substance. He has been touting the “U.S. Mexico Canada Trade Agreement” as a repudiation of NAFTA, when it’s actually just a fairly minor modification. (Nancy Pelosi calls it “the trade agreement formerly known as Prince.”)
Most important, his inability to do international diplomacy, which we’ve seen on many fronts, carries over to trade talks. Remember, he claimed to have “solved” the North Korean nuclear crisis, but Kim Jong-un is still expanding his ballistic missile capacity. Well, last weekend he claimed to have reached a major trade understanding with China; but as J.P. Morgan soon reported in a note to its clients, his claims “seem if not completely fabricated then grossly exaggerated.”

The world trading system now hangs in the balance. Trump claims his experience as a businessman has enabled him to understand world trade and to make deals. But Trump is no businessman. The only thing he has ever sold is his name. And that name has been exposed as a fraud.

The question is, how long will the world tolerate this fraud?


Thursday, December 06, 2018

Ruled By Thugs

Yesterday, Bonnie Lysyk -- Ontario's Auditor General -- released a two volume report, detailing where she believes Ontarians aren't getting value for their money. She handed the Ford government an ammunition dump with which to attack Kathleen's Wynne's former government. Ford claims that the province faces a $15 billion deficit.

But, this morning, Robert Benzie reports in the Toronto Star that, back in September,  Cindy Vienot -- the province's controller -- refused to sign off on that figure and quit her job because she “did not agree with accounting decisions made by the current government.”

“I believe that the consolidated financial statements of the province of Ontario as issued … materially overstate the deficit of the province for the year,” she said in a submission to the legislative “transparency” committee examining the province’s books.
Veinot, a civil servant, has declined to speak publicly, but the Star obtained her 12-page summary that was sent to the standing committee on Tuesday.

At the centre of the controversy is the dispute -- between Lysyk and Veinot -- over provincial pension plans:

The controversy centres mostly around whether $11 billion of government money in the co-sponsored Ontario Public Service Employees’ Union Pension Plan and the Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan can be counted as a government asset on the books.
Veinot, a leading expert on pension accounting who finished first among 63,000 candidates in the 1998 certified public accountants exam in the U.S., contends the holdings are an asset.
Auditor General Bonnie Lysyk — and her predecessors — used to count them as such. However, Lysyk changed her tune in 2015 and no longer does.

At committee earlier this week, Wynne was grilled over her government's spending. The New Democrats tried to get Vienot in front of the committee. But the Fordians refused to call her. Clearly, this government enforces omerta -- the code of silence.

Yet another indication that Ontario is now ruled by thugs.


Wednesday, December 05, 2018

A Reckoning Is Coming

Two years ago, Justin Trudeau and Rachel Notley reached what Tom Walkom calls a classic Canadian compromise:

The federal government would help Alberta Premier Rachel Notley exploit and transport bitumen from the province’s oilsands. In return she would support Trudeau’s demand for some form of national carbon tax.

In normal circumstances, it should have worked. But the circumstances aren't normal:

The circumstances today are far from normal. Climate change is not simply another blip in federal-provincial relations that can be resolved by, say, changing the equalization formula.
If the scientific consensus is correct, it is a crisis on par with worldwide nuclear war.
Already, climate change is producing unusually severe droughts in some areas and unusually wild storms in others. It threatens to swamp much of Florida. It is melting the Arctic ice.
It has expressed itself through flooding in Europe and devastating wildfires in British Columbia, California and Alberta. It is generally accepted as one of the root causes of the Syrian civil war and is expected to lead to more conflict.

The federal Conservatives and their provincial brethren are ostrichs. They have their heads in the oil sands. Yet they claim that economics is their strong suit. They refuse to recognize that the oil sands are no longer economically viable:

Economically, the oil sands are doomed. In a world awash with cheap shale oil, new tar sands projects are ultimately too expensive to develop — even if the $4.5-billion Trans Mountain pipeline that Ottawa bought to deliver Alberta bitumen to the Pacific coast goes ahead.
Environmentally, they are a disaster — in terms of both the tailing ponds created to store their waste and the carbon emissions they spew into the air.

Our politicians refusing to admit a painful truth. The goo in northern Alberta -- one way or another -- will have to stay in the ground. Coming to terms with that reality is very painful. But, one way or another, a reckoning is coming.

Image: United Church Observer

Tuesday, December 04, 2018

We Seem To Be Electing Them

On Monday, Doug Ford staged a show trial. The special committee he set up to look into what he called  the "cover up" on Liberal finances heard from Kathleen Wynne. Martin Regg Cohn writes:

On Monday, Wynne set foot in the lion’s den — or more precisely, the kangaroo court. For nearly three hours, she faced questions from a gaggle of Progressive Conservative MPPs about her “fair hydro plan,” which borrowed billions of dollars to deliver the rate reductions that the Tories had been clamouring for in opposition (and which they are quietly retaining now in government).
The committee hearings are not exactly a Stalinist show trial, but they are akin to a reality show — and very much for show. Flexing his majority muscle, Ford packed the committee with his own loyal MPPs and a couple of New Democrats, but not a single Liberal — on the flimsy pretext that they fell short of official party status in the new legislature.
Channelling their inner Perry Masons, the Tory troupe — four of them ambitious lawyers aspiring to act lawyerly — asked Wynne what she knew and when she knew it. But their aggressive antics — personified by York-Centre MPP Roman Baber, who had to be cautioned by the committee chair several times — were more farcical than ferocious, allowing the former premier to parry their questions with a practised calm.
Wynne countered with the one question her questioners couldn’t answer: Why have they blocked an NDP request to summon Cindy Veinot, the non-partisan public servant who signed off on the plan as the provincial controller responsible for the government’s accounting?
Good question. But a show trial isn’t a good show if a witness doesn’t follow their script.

Mr. Ford is all about settling old scores. He runs his government like a mob boss. And he betrays his inner insecurity. He's done that since the beginning of his tenure:

Someone should remind Doug Ford that he vanquished the New Democrats. And vapourized the Liberals.
Six months later, this might be a good time to ask: Why not be gracious in victory, rather than trying to settle scores real or imagined?
Why do his loyal Tories leap to their feet, applauding wildly almost every time Ford speaks in the legislature? Why does the premier hurl insults at opposition MPPs unlike any of his predecessors?
The churlishness started on election night, when Ford broke with tradition by big-footing Kathleen Wynne — talking over her on TV before she could finish her concession speech. A minor point of protocol, perhaps, but it set the tone.

He's just another politician who is unqualified for and unsuited to his office. We seem to be electing a lot of them these days.


Monday, December 03, 2018

Shareholder First Global Capitalism

Writing in this morning's Guardian, Robert Reich explains what is behind GM's decision to close plants in Canada and the United States. But, first, he takes a trip down memory lane:

Much has changed since 1953. Then, GM was the largest employer in America and had only a few operations around the rest of the world. Now Wal-Mart is the largest employer in America, and GM is a global corporation that makes and sells just about everywhere.
Moreover, in the 1950s, a third of America’s workforce was unionized, and GM was as accountable to the United Auto Workers as it was to GM’s shareholders. That’s why, in the 1950s, GM’s typical worker received $35 an hour (in today’s dollars).

GM now produces cars for a global market, not the American market. And that has effected the wages it pays:

Today, GM’s typical American worker earns a fraction of that. The bargaining clout of the United Auto Workers has been weakened not only by automation, but also by the ease by which GM can get cheaper labor abroad.
In 2010, when GM emerged from the bailout and went public again, it boasted to Wall Street that it was making 43% of its cars in places where labor cost less than $15 an hour, while in North America it could now pay “lower-tiered” wages and benefits for new employees.
So this year, when the costs of producing many of its cars in Ohio and Detroit got too high (due in part to Trump’s tariffs on foreign steel), GM simply decided to shift more production to Mexico in order to boost profits.

Trump is demanding that GM close a plant in China. But he doesn't understand that GM's Chinese plants produce cars for the Chinese market:

GM doesn’t make many cars in China for export to the United States. Almost all of the cars it makes in China are for sale there.
In fact, GM is now making and selling more cars in China than it does in the United States. “China is playing a key role in the company’s strategy,” says GM’s CEO, Mary Barra.

The other thing that Trump doesn't understand is that China isn't stealing American technology. That technology is going to where it can be used most efficiently:

In shareholder-first global capitalism, technology doesn’t belong to any nation. It goes wherever the profits are. If a particular technology is vital to American national security, the US government could stop American corporations from doing business in China – just as it does, in effect, when it blocks Chinese companies from acquiring American components if the purchase poses a national security threat.

When Trump claims that he's making America great again, he's really making American business great again. And American business believes it is only responsible to its shareholders, not the broader society. China sees things differently:

The difference between China and America is that big Chinese companies are either state-owned or dependent on capital from government-run financial institutions. This means they exist to advance China’s national interests, including more and better jobs for the Chinese people.
American corporations exist to advance the interests of their shareholders, who aren’t prepared to sacrifice profits for more and better jobs for Americans.

The Chinese are hamfisted in the achievement of their objective. But, for them, business serves the nation. In the United States and Canada, it serves individual greed.

Image: Tony Dejak/AP

Sunday, December 02, 2018

Bush And Trump

No two men could be more different than George H.W. Bush and Donald J.Trump. Both were born into money, But that's the only similarity they shared. So how,  Max Boot asks, did we get from Bush to Trump? The answer is in the story of what became of the Republican Party. First there was Newt Gingrich:

The president was determined to reduce the growing deficits that he had inherited from Ronald Reagan — and that had grown larger still because of the need to bail out failing savings and loan associations. With the nation headed to war in Kuwait, he wanted to put America’s finances in order. The problem was that in 1988 he had foolishly promised, “Read my lips: No new taxes.” Bush knew he would pay a price for breaking his pledge, but he was determined to do so for the good of the country.
The No. 2 Republican in the House, Newt Gingrich of Georgia, initially appeared supportive of a spending deal that would have limited tax increases to levies on gasoline, alcohol and other products, avoiding income tax hikes. But when it came time to announce the agreement in the Rose Garden, Gingrich stalked out. Opposition from conservative Republicans and liberal Democrats doomed the deal, forcing a temporary government shutdown. Bush went back to the table, agreeing to a small increase in the top income tax rate, from 28 percent to 31 percent. (It had been 50 percent as recently as 1986.) House Republicans still rejected the deal, but this time there were enough Democratic votes to pass the compromise.
From a fiscal conservative’s perspective, the 1990 deal was a raging success. As Bruce Bartlett notes, “The final deal cut spending by $324 billion over five years and raised revenues by $159 billion.” It also put into place stringent rules mandating that any future tax cuts or spending increases would have to be offset by spending cuts or revenue increases. Within eight years, a $376 billion deficit had become a $113 billion surplus. Yet conservatives never forgave Bush for his apostasy.

And then there was Pat Buchanan, who ran against Bush in 1992:

Bush’s tax hike was also part of the rationale for Patrick J. Buchanan’s 1992 primary challenge, which proved more damaging than anyone had expected. The syndicated columnist won enough votes in New Hampshire (37.5 percent) to embarrass the incumbent and earn a prime-time slot at the Republican convention, where he gave his fiery “culture war” speech that repulsed moderates and independents. As Jeff Greenfield has noted, many of the themes Buchanan hit in 1992 were similar to Trump’s in 2016: He denounced threats to U.S. sovereignty, railed against globalization and multiculturalism, and called for “a new patriotism, where Americans begin to put the needs of Americans first.” 

In retrospect, it's easy to see that Buchanan was the precursor of Trump. One of Buchanan's most ardent backers was another Pat, the televangelist Pat Robertson. After meeting with one of Robertson's flock -- who refused to shake Bush's hand -- the president wrote this in his diary:

“They’re scary. They’re there for spooky, extraordinary right-winged reasons. They don’t care about Party. They don’t care about anything. . . . They could be Nazis, they could be Communists, they could be whatever. . . . They will destroy this party if they’re permitted to take over.” 

And that's exactly what they did.

Image: The Mercury News

Saturday, December 01, 2018

Hot Air

On Thursday, the Ford Government released its environment plan -- the one they claimed would be "better" than the previous Liberal government's plan. Martin Regg Cohn writes:

The premier’s climate-change strategy is certainly a change in direction: It scales back Ontario’s obligation to curb carbon pollution by more than 25 per cent — 30 megatonnes — at the very time reductions are most needed.
But it also reverses the onus: Rather than imposing a price on carbon pollution as a cost of doing business, the Tories are shifting the burden to taxpayers by making them subsidize big business.
Instead of polluters paying up, polluters are being paid off with $400 million in corporate carbon welfare that comes at taxpayers’ expense. Turns out that the premier’s famous “axe the tax” slogan served to disguise a bait-and-switch ploy that lets big business escape unscathed — taking the hatchet to taxpayer’s pocketbooks while slashing environmental protection.

The government claims its plan doesn't have to be ambitious:

The document begins by declaring “Ontario responsible for less than 0.4 per cent of global emissions,” as if our small population base somehow diminishes our moral responsibility as one of the planet’s highest per capita energy consumers (at the very time we are trying to dissuade the developing world from matching our unsustainable consumption patterns). It goes on to argue that Ontarians have already done their part by eliminating coal-fired power generation, putting us “on track” to meet our obligations to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Eliminating coal fired power plants was Dalton McGuinty's idea. He had foresight. Ford has none. It would require him to tackle transportation:

The heavy lifting in this province remains carbon emissions from transportation, which might have been better addressed through a cap-and-trade scheme that redeployed billions of dollars in emissions allowances to invest in public transit.

Instead the Ford plan is straight out of the neoliberal playbook -- privatize profits and socialize losses:

A Progressive Conservative government that regularly rages against red tape is returning to a regulatory framework — and a reliance on tax dollars — for outcomes that could be achieved more cost-effectively through the magic of free-market solutions under cap and trade or a carbon tax (which use price signals to incentivize reduced emissions). The Tories are proposing the Ontario Carbon Trust, “ an emission reduction fund that will use public funds” to encourage compliance.
The new Carbon Trust bespeaks the Tories’ approach — trust us — that brings to mind the Russian saying, “Trust but verify.” For Ford, this is an ideological (and illogical) backflip that betrays the environment, burdens entrepreneurs, and breaks faith with his fellow Tories.
The latest report promises special exemptions for industrial sectors, while stressing: “This approach does not enforce a blanket cap on emissions across Ontario.”

The Environmental Commissioner, who just lost her job, called out the plan for what it is -- a con job:

Ontario’s independent environmental commissioner, Dianne Saxe, has decried the new climate proposal for being “one-third as ambitious” as the cap-and-trade program it is replacing. Saxe exhorted the previous Liberal government to do better, and she has encouraged the Progressive Conservatives no less since they took power, but their response was to announce her position will be eliminated.
The Tories not only axed the tax, they sacked Saxe.

The Minister of the Environment, Rod Phillips, used to favour a carbon tax. But, like Caroline Mulroney, when he joined Ford Nation, he sold his soul. There's going to be more hot air in Ontario. But then, Doug Ford knows a lot about hot air.

Image: Twitter