Thursday, February 28, 2019

The New Justin

Jody Wilson-Raybould may have knocked the House of Trudeau off its foundations. Susan Delacourt writes:

Canadian politics has rarely seen such an inside glimpse of raw politics as it is practised, let alone by a member of a government still sitting at the pinnacle of power. It is more than the story of spirited disagreement — it is a picture of a prime minister and his people throwing their weight around, and clearly miscalculating the price they might have to pay for it.
It’s certainly not sunny ways. The Liberal ad team might want to throw out that pitch for the next campaign. Conservatives and New Democrats accumulated enough footage from Wednesday’s committee meeting to animate a full election’s worth of ads about a Liberal leader beating up on an Indigenous woman in his government.
Speaking of campaigns, Wilson-Raybould claimed the prime minister made his case in September for helping the Quebec firm, not just in the context of potential jobs lost if she didn’t agree to a plea deal for SNC-Lavalin, but against the backdrop of a looming Quebec election. So, she said, did Clerk of the Privy Council, Michael Wernick — the same supposedly non-political bureaucrat who made a vigorous and also memorable presentation to this justice committee last week.
Wilson-Raybould said in her statement on Monday that Wernick thought it important to tell her in September that the SNC-Lavalin board needed some answers before a looming meeting with shareholders and warned that the firm would relocate to London if Canada proved inhospitable to a plea deal. He then leapt into the politics of the situation — the Quebec election coming on Oct. 1.
“At that point the prime minister jumped in, stressing there is an election in Quebec and that, quote, ‘I am an MP in Quebec, the member for Papineau,’ end quote. I was quite taken aback. My response — and I remember this vividly — was to ask the PM a direct question while looking him in the eye. I asked, ‘Are you politically interfering with my role, my decision as the AG? I would strongly advise against it.’”

The result? Wilson-Reyboult was moved out; and David Lametti -- a Quebecer and law professor from McGill -- moved into her office. Trudeau, the feminist, knows how to play hardball. That's not the way he presented himself in the last election.

It will be interesting to see what Canadians think of the new Justin.

Image: The Georgia Straight

Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Ford's Mission

Ontario premier Doug Ford is a cauldron of contradictions. Heather Mallick writes:

People often claim to be economic conservatives and social liberals. Why? To get along with other people, to lower the intensity. But Ford is the first Ontario politician to have come out as economically liberal and socially conservative.
He spends freely, he acts as if Etobicoke were a farm in Lanark County, and he wants a premier’s van the size of a Zamboni as a personal emblem.
Ford professed to be the Conservative who would slay the Liberal deficit/debt dragon. It’s not happening. Yes, he’s hacking away at every accessible Liberal scheme, but the so-called “efficiencies” have been tiny, a few million here, a few million there.
He said goodbye to watchdogs like the Environmental Commissioner but never said how much money it saved. Cutting Toronto council was no bargain. Health Minister Christine Elliott has just announced massive changes to the Ontario health care system without offering cost details. She claims it will reduce the duplication of services but wouldn’t the dollar figure be fairly easy to calculate, at least at the beginning?

Now we're told that he needs a new van to carry him around the province. And Ford insists that, like the man himself, it needs to be big:

The giant van would have been his crowning — or is it clowning — glory. It looks more like a school bus — you say customized ride, I say pimped — at a cost of $50,696 over the purchase price. I don’t know why Ford needed a vehicle larger than what Wynne used, but he seemed to want something like an RV to carry a large entourage, a personal Das Boot.

Mr. Ford says his mission is to cut government spending.


Tuesday, February 26, 2019

Manafort And Trump

Over the weekend, Robert Mueller's suggestions for Paul Manafort's sentence were made public. The document was, in fact, a tome. Heather Digby Parton writes:

As it turned out, the memorandum wasn’t filed until Saturday afternoon and it turned out to be a richly detailed 800-page document about Paul Manafort’s sordid history of criminality. There is little doubt that this man has spent a lifetime consorting with terrible people doing terrible things and making a lot of money at it. You’d think Donald Trump would have done a little bit of research before he tapped such a person to run his campaign, particularly since one of his major campaign promises was that he would only hire the very best people. Considering how many other corrupt, criminal, incompetent hires there have been to his campaign and administration, that clearly cannot be among those “promises kept” he likes to brag about. There has never been a more motley group of misfits populating one presidency in American history.

Some believe that, because there were no hints at further indictments, the investigation is coming to a close. Parton doesn't buy that argument:

The fact that Mueller didn’t include any details about a larger conspiracy argues for the idea that there’s more to come, either in new indictments or that big report. For this week, we’ll have to content ourselves with the first major public hearing since James Comey testified in June of 2017. Trump’s former fixer Michael Cohen makes his appearance on Wednesday before the House Oversight Committee — on a split screen, while Trump meets with Kim Jong-un in Hanoi. The Trump presidency gets more surreal by the day.

Certainly, when Cohen testifies, he will also offer a hard look into Trump World. And I'm betting that Trump's son and son-in-law will not escape Mueller's net.

Stay tuned.

Image: New York Magazine

Monday, February 25, 2019

Mitch McConnell And The Inflection Point

William Rivers Pitt has written a really interesting piece on Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. Pitt believes McConnell is a valuable teacher:

He teaches us in graphic fashion how not to be. In his own words, McConnell shines a light down that road to ruin — his road, his way — and compels us for our own sake to choose the other route. He serves to make the decision binary: zero vs. one, nothing vs. something, altogether elegant in its simplicity.
It is all of a piece, the centuries-old notion of this country as a paycheck for the few at the expense of the many. British colonialists sought to peel the land using kidnapped Africans and impoverished Britons, slaughtering and displacing Native peoples wherever and whenever they were encountered. Wealth must be compounded with wealth, power must be held by the few to wield against the many. The fiction of democracy provides an illusion of freedom to obscure the looting that was the whole point of the endeavor to begin with.
Mitch McConnell is a highly visible champion of that ideological deception, a deft practitioner of that stagecraft. The “essence of America” he spoke of certainly exists, but cunning politicians of his ilk are too canny to mention it in public. That essence — the belief that the nation and its population are a gilded platter to be gorged upon, a fertile field to be plundered and despoiled for profit with the people serving as replaceable tools for the aristocracy — is McConnell’s poisoned birthright, and he defends it with all the powers at his disposal, just as his colonial predecessors did.

McConnell represents something the American Revolution sought to relegate to the dustbin of history. But the ideology of the British Overlords  is alive and well. It survived the Revoluion and today rules the roost. But we are, Pitt writes, at an inflection point:

Look no further than the tumult of the moment to witness how far the few will go to confuse and control the many. See their white nationalist puppets on the march and immigrants on the run; see the Black people cut down by the police officer’s gun; see women using a social media hashtag to explain how it has always been so it may someday cease to be; see the people deprived of options by the economics of enforced inequality fed into the maw of a profitable war machine; see LGBTQ+ people stripped of rights by a heteronormalized society that uses splinter Christianity to rationalize fear and hate; see the rage-flecked faces at one of Donald Trump’s rallies as they howl at enemies conveniently created to incur their distracted wrath; and see the oceans rising and the fires burning because the nature of plunder is damage. This is the place we have been, and the place we are going, if we choose poorly at this crossroads.

The Authoritarian Imperative survives in the Electoral College. And McConnell has devoted his career to seeing that it survives in the United States Senate. If he succeeds, all will be lost.


Sunday, February 24, 2019

The Militarization Of Liberal Democracies

William Davis writes in The New York Times that we are witnessing an ominous phenomenon:

A good indication of liberalism’s declining health is the rising profile of the military in domestic politics.
As the clock ticks down on Britain’s Brexit negotiations and the prospect of “no deal” rises, the fallback of military security looms into view. Britain’s defense secretary, Gavin Williamson, has stated that an additional 3,500 troops will be on standby to help ensure supplies get into the country, and government officials reportedly have examined the option of martial law in the event of major civil unrest. It is hard not to detect a whiff of excitement about all of this in the reactions of hard-core Brexiteers and their supporters in the media.
A similar sickness is evident across the Atlantic. President Trump has declared a state of emergency, provoked by a supposed crisis at the Mexican border, and he has deployed American troops on home soil. Brazil’s new president, Jair Bolsonaro, a former army captain who exemplifies many of the most frightening trends about the new strongman leaders around the world, has been steadily putting military personnel in key government positions.

The rhetoric of warfare is everywhere:

War metaphors (“culture war,” “social justice warrior”) accumulate steadily, each implying a breakdown of common political ground. One way to understand the upheavals of the past decade, manifest in political populism and the surge in talk about “post-truth” and “fake news,” is as the penetration of warlike mobilization and propaganda into our democracies.

And, in war, knowledge takes on a different character than it does in peaceful times:

Warfare requires knowledge, of course, just not of the same variety that we are familiar with in times of peace. In civil society, the facts provided by economists, statisticians, reporters and academic scientists have a peace-building quality to the extent that they provide a common reality that can be agreed upon. The ideal of independent expertise, which cannot be swayed by money or power, has been crucial in allowing political opponents to nevertheless agree on certain basic features of reality. Facts remove questions of truth from the domain of politics.
The conditions that most lend themselves to military responses are those in which time is running out. Of course, many of the emergencies that we face today are fictions: the “emergency” at the Mexican border or, perhaps, the British government’s intentional exaggerations of the threat of a “no deal” Brexit to put pressure on Parliament. Framing an issue as an emergency where time is of the essence is a means of bypassing the much slower civilian world of deliberation and facts.

That's Donald Trump's argument for his wall. And this situation is made worse by rapid technological change:

Because of technological changes of the past 30 years or so, initially in our financial system but subsequently in our media, political decision makers are increasingly short on time, having to react instantly to a constant flow of data. (If there is one feature of the military mind-set that we can all occasionally relate to, it’s that we don’t have very much time.) Many of the anxieties surrounding “post-truth” and “fake news” are really symptoms of a public sphere that moves too quickly, with too great a volume of information, to the point where we either trust our instincts or latch on to others’. There’s a reason Twitter invites users to “follow” one another, a metaphor that implies that amid a deluge of data, truth is ultimately determined by leadership.
The culture of an over-accelerated public sphere, wrought largely by technologies that we don’t know how to slow, is partly responsible for making democracy feel more like combat. But what can we do about it? Liberalism is not set up for this kind of challenge. The liberal ideal of civility is one in which argument and research can move at their own pace and decisions are made after the evidence is in. The separation of war from peace that laid the ground for liberal democracy to develop was originally a legal achievement, whereas now it also requires defending sanctuaries of slowness in the news media, market and universities.

Add to all of this the threat of climate change, and it's easy to see why we're in such a conundrum. Something to think about on a quiet Sunday morning.

Image: Emerging Nurse Leader

Saturday, February 23, 2019

Thou Shall Not Think!

Doug Ford says the rationale behind his budget cuts is to save people money. But Rick Salutin wonders if one of the collateral benefits of the budget cuts is to make people stop thinking:

Doug Ford's tax cuts will lower provincial revenues by $22 billion, necessitating spending decreases. The goal is, allegedly, saving us money. But what if there's an additional effect: diminishing the level of critical thought Ontarians give to public issues.
I'm not saying that's an overt purpose. It's hard to picture Ford entertaining more than one goal at a time. But it could be a collateral benefit, perhaps "unconsciously," which only extended talk therapy might reveal.

Ford has hit education particularly hard:

Take this week's mind-bending announcement that Ford has appointed a failed Tory candidate to head EQAO, the office that runs standardized testing, at -- here's the shocker -- $140,000. That's up from around $4,000. A recent EQAO chair says he can't even picture what a full-time head would do. This doesn't seem consistent with Ford's stated goals, er, "goal."
OTOH, standardized tests are the antithesis to teaching kids to think: you train them to shut down thought in order to pass tests. You deduct classroom time from stimulating their minds to bore them with test-taking drills. Fine teachers have left the profession because this isn't what they signed on for. But if less thought is an objective, even unconsciously, Ford's guy may come cheap at $140,000.
Or take universities. Ford has thrown Ontario's students into panic by removing their financial supports, or converting them to loans -- just in time for the normal bedlam of midterms. Anxiety thrives. Calculating the affordability of remaining in school disrupts exam prep or writing essays. One pressure keeping them on is that student loans now come due instantly, if you drop out. Dorm sessions on politics or film turn into: who understands these new rules?
When students came to Queen's Park question period and shouted at Ford, he railed, "They should have their mouths washed out with soap. That's what they should have." He'd managed, momentarily, to get them onto his level, and teach 'em something.
Or take his scheme for autistic kids. It's meant to "clear" the claims in the system. (He should wash his own mouth out. We're talking about kids.) It's utterly inadequate, throws the burden massively onto parents, whose lives will be shattered. And tosses those kids back into regular classrooms without proper readiness, making teaching unmanageable. Except maybe, drills for tests.
I'm quite serious about the anti-thinking agenda. There are theories on how societies generate fundamental change and one is through public education: creating citizens who can't be manipulated since they think for themselves. Ontario has a noble history, going back to Egerton Ryerson in the mid-1800s.

Those who can think are Ford's enemies. They can do something he can't. And that gives them a distinct advantage.

Image: The Magical Friendship Squad

Friday, February 22, 2019

David And Goliath

One thing is now clear. The Public Prosecutions Office was being subjected to political pressure. That's now how things work. Alan Freeman writes:

Of course, that’s not what Parliament had in mind back in 2006 when it established the Public Prosecution Service of Canada. Saving jobs or protecting big companies is not part of its legislative mandate. In fact, the service is supposed to be above politics and economics. What ‘s essential is its independence to make prosecutorial decisions.
The Director of Public Prosecutions has the power to make binding and final decisions to prosecute offences under federal jurisdiction,” according to the service’s website. If the Attorney-General wants to step in with a specific directive on a case, it must be put in writing and published in the Canada Gazette.
In the dozen years since the law was passed, this has never been done. And my assumption is that Jody Wilson-Raybould didn’t want be the attorney-general to overrule the director, Kathleen Roussel, who had decided that a deferred prosecution agreement wasn’t appropriate in the case of SNC-Lavalin.
By the time Roussel was named to her job in 2017, the fix was clearly in to let SNC-Lavalin get a deferred prosecution agreement, whether she thought it appropriate or not. The company had been hit for years by an avalanche of bad publicity and financial hits as the scope of allegations of bribery and corruption implicating the company and its employees around the globe became evident.

It has become a familiar problem. We now accept that some entities are too big to fail, because the collateral damage from that failure would be wide ranging. Put simply, in the new global order, David doesn't stand a chance against Goliath.

Image: Read Ed Reid

Thursday, February 21, 2019

Failing By Their Own Standards

When Doug Ford's government came to power, Martin Regg Cohn writes, it laid down three markers:  Law and order. Open for business. No profiting from power. But, less than a year into their mandate, they have failed, when judged by their own metrics:

Spoiled by power: In opposition, the Tories railed against the government “lining the pockets of their friends and Liberal insiders.” This week, Ford rewarded a failed PC candidate with a new $140,000 annual perk — dramatically upgrading the part-time chair’s job at EQAO which currently pays a mere $4,000 (a job held until last year not by a Liberal, but by ex-NDP education minister Dave Cooke). No sign of the Tories backing down, as they did after the uproar over Mississauga’s Hazel McCallion getting a $150,000 payday to advise the premier. Wait. Wasn’t Ford supposed to stop the gravy train, not fuel it up?
Optics for business: Ford profited handsomely from his Six Million Dollar Man motif, vowing to fire the overpaid CEO of Hydro One (and pretending the Tories wouldn’t have privatized it, despite trying to in the past). Setting off a chain reaction, he first cost Hydro One millions in pension payouts and other costs; then scuttled a planned takeover of U.S. utilities (American regulators cried foul over Ford’s political interference), triggering kill fees of more than $130 million; and finally a standoff this month with Ford’s newly appointed directors on the board who say they can’t find a qualified replacement CEO below market rates. An open and shut business case study in how not to carry out corporate governance.
Law and disorder: Upon becoming premier last July, Ford promised police unions he would “fix policing legislation.” This week, his government gutted the police complaints process across the province, rewriting the law so that rather than relying on outside probes, police can investigate themselves, internally. Imperfect accountability, but perfect for police unions.

Ford has been all about disruption and disorder. And the parade of both continues:

We saw it this month with the continuing investigation by the integrity commissioner into Ford’s egregious appointment of an underqualified crony (remember his rant against “friends and Liberal insiders”?), Ron Taverner as our new OPP chief.
We saw it last year with his confrontation over downsizing Toronto city council, when Ford’s government invoked the Constitution’s draconian “notwithstanding” clause to overrule a judge who had overruled the government’s overreach. While the premier disparaged judges as “unelected” and thus unqualified to judge him, Attorney General Caroline Mulroney did his bidding.
We saw it again when Ford broke an explicit campaign promise to maintain a minimum income pilot program (supported by many Tories, Liberals and New Democrats) terminating it early — and betraying the needy people who had signed up in good faith. The government’s contempt for the data-gathering process is reminiscent of the cynical sabotaging of the long-form census by the Stephen Harper government in Ottawa, which sold out Statistics Canada by depriving it of needed research data. This isn’t so much ideologically driven as antiempirical. Little wonder judges made a point of praising the people behind a court case for their “clear and cogent submissions” this month, while noting they couldn’t overrule a cabinet decision (however thoughtless and heartless). Emboldened by this dry run, encouraged by the judges’ supportive comments, a class-action lawsuit against the government is gaining momentum.

That's what happens when you elect a government of thugs. But you knew that. Didn't you?

Image: Macleans

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Worshipping Electronic Images

Donald Trump is a clear and present danger. But he needs to be understood, Chris Hedges writes, in the context of the digital revolution -- which has made the electronic image paramount:

Donald Trump, like much of the American public, is entranced by electronic images. He interprets reality through the distortions of digital media. His decisions, opinions, political positions, prejudices and sense of self are reflected back to him on screens. He views himself and the world around him as a vast television show with himself as the star. His primary concerns as president are his ratings, his popularity and his image. He is a creature—maybe the poster child—of the modern, post-literate culture, a culture that critics such as Marshall McLuhan, Daniel Boorstin, James W. Carey and Neil Postman warned us about.

Postman understood what was coming:

“It is not merely that on the television screen entertainment is the metaphor for all discourse,” Postman points out. “It is that off the screen the same metaphor prevails.” Americans, because television stages their world, “no longer talk to each other, they entertain each other.” 

And Trump is the embodiment of all that:

Trump is what is produced when a society severs itself from print, when it pushes art, ethics, classics, philosophy, history and the humanities to the margins of the universities and culture, when its members spend hours sitting inert in front of a screen. Information, ideas and epistemology are, as Postman writes, given form today by electronic images.

The result is not just cultural regression. It's cultural nihilism and narcissism -- something that John Ralston Saul has opined about:

“Now the death of God combined with the perfection of the image has brought us to a whole new state of expectation,” John Ralston Saul writes. “We are the image. We are the viewer and the viewed. There is no other distracting presence. And the image has all the Godly powers. It kills at will. Kills effortlessly. Kills beautifully. It dispenses morality. Judges endlessly. The electronic image is man as God and the ritual involved leads us not to a mysterious Holy Trinity but back to ourselves. In the absence of a clear understanding that we are now the only source, these images cannot help but return to the expression of magic and fear proper to idolatrous societies. This in turn facilitates the use of electronic image as propaganda by whoever can control some part of it.”

Trump has been at the centre of that communications empire for a long time. The power the electronic image has given him is what makes him so dangerous. The more we worship electronic images, the more powerful he becomes.

Image: New York Magazine

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Butt ExitsThe Building

Justin Trudeau and Gerald Butts go back a long way. Susan Delacourt reviews their history:

He and Butts met at McGill University when they were both studying English literature and on the debating team. Their friendship endured after university, even as Trudeau moved to B.C. to teach and Butts went on to work in politics — first, briefly, as an aide in the Jean Chretien years, and then on to Queen’s Park, to serve as senior adviser to premier Dalton McGuinty.
It’s there that Butts met Telford, then a chief adviser to then education minister Gerard Kennedy. Trudeau surprised some people by supporting Kennedy in the 2006 federal Liberal leadership — not the people who knew of his friendship to Butts, and through him, then to Telford.
By 2012, when he was working at the head of the World Wildlife Fund in Canada, Butts was helping his friend get into the Liberal leadership race and amassing the team around him. Butts has a huge network of friends in politics. One of his early mentors was James Coutts, the man who served as principal secretary to Trudeau’s father, Pierre Trudeau. Just a few months ago, Butts was one of the keynote speakers at an event to donate Coutts’ diaries to Trinity College at the University of Toronto.
Traditionalists in the Liberal party — indeed in Canadian politics — often balked at Butts’ large public profile while serving with Trudeau. While the prime minister himself grew more cautious in public life, speaking increasingly through careful statements and behind talking points, Butts was very much a personality on social media, sparring with critics of the government, often impolitically.
Two speculative conclusions arose: either Butts was saying what the PM couldn’t, or worse, that Butts was the real voice behind the power at the centre. Neither is likely correct: it’s probably more accurate to say that the two spoke — and thought — in tandem.

One member of the tag team has left. It's hard to say what the consequences will be. But don't expect Butts to go quietly into the night.

Image: The Toronto Star

Monday, February 18, 2019

The Grand Destroyer

Donald Trump is out to destroy the American Republic. But, Natalie Nougayrede writes, he's also out to destroy the European Union:

The trip by the US secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, to Europe last week was episode three of the onslaught, designed to play on east-west divisions within the EU. Episode one was Donald Trump’s 2017 Warsaw speech, infused with nativist nationalism. Episode two was Trump’s 2018 moves on tariffs, and his tearing up of key agreements such as the Iran nuclear deal and the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces (INF) treaty. To which should be added his open encouragements to Brexiteers, and his decision to pull out of Syria. All of the above affect European (including British) interests in very concrete ways, unlike mere tweets or insults thrown at allies.
Europe is trying to put up a resistance. Angela Merkel, Trump’s favourite political target in the EU, received a standing ovation on Saturday at the annual Munich security conference for her speech on the virtues of multilateralism. But perhaps we have yet to fully fathom what the EU is dealing with in this new Trump era. The man now whispering into Trump’s ears is John Bolton, his national security adviser. His brand of anti-EU ideology was on full display during Pompeo’s tour of Budapest, Bratislava and Warsaw.

The great builder is out to build only one thing -- his brand. Anything or anyone else that demands public attention is his enemy. Mike Pompeo, Trump's Secretary of State, is working furiously to help Trump's demolition of Europe succeed:

Pompeo has done two significant things. First, he in effect took possession of this year’s 30th-anniversary celebrations of the fall of communism in eastern Europe by waxing lyrical on US closeness to nations that fought for their freedom – all the while giving a free pass to rightwing populist governments that the EU has put on notice for their democratic backsliding. Second, through his choice of destinations, Pompeo amplified divisions between countries formerly behind the iron curtain and those that weren’t. This astutely plays on sensitivities, manipulated by demagogues, that have marred the EU’s capacity to unite in recent years.

Trump also has John Bolton, his National Security Advisor, engaged in the same project:

He identifies the EU as a threat to US interests (last year Trump called it “a foe”). “European elites” are “not content alone with transferring their own national sovereignty to Brussels, they have also decided, in effect, to transfer some of ours to worldwide institutions and norms, thus making the European Union a miniature precursor to global governance”. And he depicts the EU as “tinged with a discernable anti-Americanism”.

This weekend, Mike Pence was in Europe. He was greeted with stony silence. And Vladimir Putin couldn't be happier.

Image: Twitter

Sunday, February 17, 2019

Dealing With Leakers

A short while ago, the Ford government's plans to establish a healthcare superagency   -- standard conservative policy for cutting costs -- leaked. There was a firestorm. The Fordians immediately fired the civil servant who leaked the draft legislation to the NDP. Robin Sears writes:

Of all the many hypocritical hobby horses in political life there are few that can match this dichotomy. The Ford government was badly bruised this month when their somewhat hair-raising ideas of “health care reform” were sent to the NDP. The cabinet documents were not entirely congruent with the government’s publicly declared objectives, to put it delicately.
Despite being exploiters of many a brown envelope in opposition, the government’s reaction was surprisingly predictable, if unimaginative. The two favourite crisis comms defences for responding to a leak are: “Early thinking only, not finalized, wait for the real policy announcement …” Then you attack the whistleblower. Calling in the cops was a more unusual additional cudgel, most often employed by another leaky administration to the south.

Neither of those defences work well. When it comes to confidential documents, Sears writes, there is a simple test which should be applied:

There is no point in attempting to make your government leak proof with the threat of heavy boots — it will have the opposite impact, by enraging your staff and public servants. Far better to apply the tried and true, “front page test”: “What would my partner/parents/children think if they saw this on…”, when drafting.

Unfortunately, that is a test that is seldom applied. Politicians continue to insist on silence -- the SNC-Lavalin debacle is a more recent example of the problem. What Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis wrote decades ago is still true: Sunlight is the best disinfectant.

Image: Slide Share

Saturday, February 16, 2019

He's Nuts

National Emergencies are supposed to be solemn affairs. But Donald Trump's announcement of a national emergency was a stream of consciousness hodge podge from a dangerously deluded mind. Dana Milbank writes:

With the nation watching, Trump instead delivered a bizarre, 47-minute variant of his campaign speech.
He boasted about the economy, military spending and the stock markets (“we have all the records”), and he applauded the Chinese president’s pledge to execute people who deal fentanyl (“one of the things I’m most excited about in our trade deal”). He said Japan’s prime minister had nominated him for the Nobel Peace Prize. He declared Ann Coulter “off the reservation” but praised his favorite Fox News hosts and celebrated Rush Limbaugh’s endurance (“try speaking for three hours without taking calls”).
Further, Trump reported on his “great relationship” with the dictator of North Korea (which, Trump reported, is found “right smack in the middle” of South Korea, China and Russia), and he declared the “eradication of the caliphate” in Syria (his top general in the region begs to differ). He introduced his new attorney general, disparaged the Democrats’ “con game,” criticized retired House speaker Paul Ryan, invoked campaign promises, recited the “Make America Great Again” campaign slogan and pronounced his reelection prospects excellent. He pinged from regulations to Britain to MS-13 to “monstrous caravans” to an apocryphal story about women gagged with duct tape.
Oh, and he also mentioned his emergency declaration — specifically, that it isn’t necessary. “I didn’t need to do this,” he said in response to a question from NBC’s Peter Alexander. It’s just that the emergency declaration lets him build a border wall “faster.” He acknowledged that “I don’t know what to do with all the money” Congress gave him for border security, and he said that even if he only gets an amount closer to the $1.35 billion Congress authorized for barriers, “it’s going to build a lot of wall.”

This is a man who is completely unmoored from anything that looks like reality. The case for invoking the 25th Amendment is staring Americans in the face.

Image: Imgflip

Friday, February 15, 2019

The Greater Fool

Donald Trump believes he can get his wall built by declaring a national emergency. There is a national emergency, Eugene Robinson writes. But it's not at the southern border of the United States. It's in the White House:

The president’s decision to officially declare an emergency — to pretend to build an unbuildable border wall — is not only an act of constitutional vandalism. It is also an act of cowardice, a way to avoid the wrath of Ann Coulter, Rush Limbaugh and the rest of the far-right commentariat.
It is an end run around Congress and, as such, constitutes a violation of his oath to “preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States” — which gives Congress, not the president, the authority to decide how public money is spent. It does not give Trump the right to fund projects that Congress will not approve. Authoritarian leaders do that sort of thing. The puffed-up wannabe strongman now living in the White House is giving it a try.

The emergency exists in Trump's mind. It's a figment of his imagination:

Let’s be clear: There is no emergency. Arrests for illegally crossing the U.S.-Mexico border peaked in 2000, nearly two decades ago, at more than 1.5 million a year. They declined sharply under Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama and, in 2017, were at their lowest point since 1971. In 2018, apprehensions ticked up slightly — but still barely climbed above 400,000.
There has indeed been an increase in families presenting themselves at legal points of entry to seek asylum — those groups of bedraggled Central Americans that Trump calls “caravans.” Under U.S. and international law, these people have an undisputed right to ask for asylum and have their cases evaluated. Again, they come to legal border crossings to seek admission. Only a handful try to navigate the forbidding rural terrain where Trump says he wants to build a wall.
But Trump employs money as a weapon, and he sees enemies everywhere. His real enemies are the loudmouths at Fox News and Talk Radio. But, in Trump's befuddled brain, he thinks they're his allies. However, when Ann Coulter calls him a "weanie," he declares an emergency.

It should be clear to everyone -- if not to Trump -- where the emergency resides. That said, it's instructive to observe how many fools will march behind The Fool In The White House.

Image: Duluth Reader

Thursday, February 14, 2019

It's About Quebec

When you work through the sound and fury, Alan Freeman writes, the SNC-Lavalin Affair is all about Quebec:

SNC-Lavalin is one of those homegrown success stories. Its predecessor firm built the Manic 5 dam for Hydro-Quebec. After merging with Lavalin, it built the James Bay hydro project, Highway 407 near Toronto and Vancouver’s Canada Line plus many big projects abroad. It’s currently building the new federally-owned Champlain Bridge across the St. Lawrence River.
The Quebec desire to protect corporate “jewels” like SNC extends to these companies even when they screw up. Bombardier may have lost gobs of taxpayer money on the C Series aircraft before giving it away to Airbus and may still have huge problems acting as a reliable supplier of mass transit systems to customers in places like New York, Toronto and Switzerland, but God forbid anybody who puts down the company.
The same goes for SNC-Lavalin. The company’s name has been caught in a swirl of corruption cases for years, involving the McGill Hospital in Montreal, the Federal Bridge Corp., Elections Canada, the African Development Bank and the list goes on. But of course, I need to mention here that SNC sees itself as a victim throughout this whole affair. SNC insists, with a straight face, that all of these cases have nothing to do with the company and were only the work of a few rogue former employees (including a just-convicted former CEO).
The Libya case is the one exception, where the company itself is facing criminal charges, a trial it desperately wants to avoid because if found guilty, it will be hit with a multi-year a ban on federal contracts.

Navigating the politics of my home province has always been a case of dealing with a Rubic's Cube. Getting all the constituencies in line -- and getting them to stay in line -- is a Herculean challenge. These days that challenge is represented by newly elected Quebec premier Francois Legault:

Legault, a former separatist who cares little for the niceties of federalism, knows he’s got Trudeau where he wants him and is shameless. He actually wrote up a political ransom note of sorts, listing his asks from Trudeau and other federal leaders in the run-up to the fall election: more power over immigration; handing over administration of federal income tax to Quebec; $300-million for the costs of asylum seekers and more.
Despite SNC’s recent problems, Legault calls it “a beautiful company,” the kind of business “that creates value in Quebec and there aren’t enough of them.” With the recent drop in its stock price, SNC would normally be seen as a takeover target but Legault has warned that the province will do whatever it can to stop outsiders from getting a hold of it. The Caisse de Depot, the provincial pension fund manager, already owns 20 per cent and Legault said a Quebec government agency, could buy more.

Justin knows that, with Doug Ford ensconced at Queen's Park, he'll probably lose seats in Ontario. And his purchase of the Trans-Mountain Pipeline will mean fewer seats in B.C, even as he gains no seats in Alberta. So he's trying to re-arrange the Cube by picking up seats in Quebec. It appears that Wilson-Raybould did not buy into the plan.

Once again, the delicate balancing act that is Canadian Confederation is being tested.

Image: Financial Times

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Things Are Coming To A Head

Things are still murky. But they're becoming clearer. As Tom Walkom sees it, both Justin Trudeau and Jody Wilson-Raybould are responsible for this state of affairs:

First, the prime minister said he didn’t direct Wilson-Raybould to do anything untoward. She said nothing.
Instead, she issued a statement arguing that, as a former attorney general, she was bound by the principle of solicitor-client privilege and thus could not speak at all on the issue.
Then he said she had reconfirmed a conversation the pair had last fall in which he told her that the final decision in any federal prosecution was hers alone.
She still said nothing.
Then he noted that her continued presence in cabinet proved that nothing was amiss.
She responded by quitting cabinet.

It's been an awkward dance. Trudeau has been tripped up by his own rhetoric:

Throughout this dismal saga, Trudeau has been a victim of his own rhetorical confusion. He insists that Canada is subject to the rule of law — which is true. But he implies that this means Canada is subject only to the rule of judges — which is not true.
By law, politicians are given the explicit power to override judges in some instances (extradition is one example). The Constitution even allows elected politicians to override the Supreme Court in certain areas.
In a similar fashion, the Director of Public Prosecutions Act gives the attorney general, a politician, the power to override the decisions of federal prosecutors.
The allegation in the Globe story is that Trudeau’s officials pressured Wilson-Raybould last year to make use of the power the law gave her and allow SNC-Lavalin to negotiate a plea bargain.
It seems she took this as improper political interference and chose not to comply. Fine. That was her prerogative.
But it would have saved us all a lot of trouble if, having found herself at odds with the head of government over this important matter of public policy, she had taken the logical step and resigned from cabinet immediately.
And it would have helped if Trudeau had ditched his usual vague bromides and made it clear from the start that the rule of law does not require the negation of all politics.

Where will it all lead? Who knows? But it is an election year, and things are coming to a head.

Image: The Toronto Star

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Big Man, Small Brain

Doug Ford has taken an axe to education spending in Ontario. He has killed Ontario's new French university. He's ended free tuition to students of limited means. And now under the banner of "free speech," he has made student fees at universities optional. But "free speech" was always a fig leaf. Yesterday, Ford's real reason for optionalizing student fees stepped out in the open. Robert Benzie and Kristen Rushowy report in The Toronto Star:

The Progressive Conservatives ended mandatory ancillary student fees to tackle the red menace.
That’s the message of the governing party’s latest fundraising email blast sent Monday titled “How broken was education?”
“Students were forced into unions and forced to pay for those unions,” Premier Doug Ford said of the fees that helped to bankroll student government.
“I think we all know what kind of crazy Marxist nonsense student unions get up to. So, we fixed that. Student union fees are now opt-in,” said Ford.

Like his orange cousin south of the border, Ford sees no distinction between socialism and social democracy. He's a big man with a small brain:

Liberal MPP Mitzie Hunter (Scarborough-Guildwood), the former post-secondary minister, said Ford “knows literally next to nothing about student unions.”
“He seems to think his opt-out plan will help students and defund radical organizations. What he will actually defund are diversity clubs, student newspapers, (LGBT) centres, food banks, walk-home programs, Indigenous centres, and other important programming,” said Hunter.
“Under Ford’s plan only the wealthiest Ontarians benefit — those who never qualified for OSAP in the first place.”

Ford's slogan, "For The People" needs to be re-worked. He actually works "For The (Wealthy) People."

Image: London Free Press

Monday, February 11, 2019

Socialism For The Rich

Donald Trump has declared that he's the enemy of socialism. But Robert Reich writes that what he stands for is socialism for the rich. Capitalism is for everyone else:

In the conservative mind, socialism means getting something for doing nothing. That pretty much describes the $21bn saved by the nation’s largest banks last year thanks to Trump’s tax cuts, some of which went into massive bonuses for bank executives. On the other hand, more than 4,000 lower-level bank employees got a big dose of harsh capitalism. They lost their jobs.
Banks that are too big to fail – courtesy of the 2008 bank bailout – enjoy a hidden subsidy of some $83bn a year, because creditors facing less risk accept lower interest on deposits and loans. Last year, Wall Street’s bonus pool was $31.4bn. Take away the hidden subsidy and the bonus pool disappears.

That policy is on full display at General Motors:

GM has got more than $600m in federal contracts, plus $500m in tax breaks. Some of this has gone into the pockets of GM executives. Chairman and CEO Mary Barra raked in almost $22m in total compensation in 2017 alone.
But GM employees are subject to harsh capitalism. GM is planning to lay off more than 14,000 workers and close three assembly plants and two component factories in North America by the end of 2019.

And Trump, the businessman, followed the same playbook:

When he was in business, Trump perfected the art of using bankruptcy to shield himself from the consequences of bad decisions – socialism for the rich at its worst – while leaving employees twisting in the wind.
Now, all over America, executives who run their companies into the ground are getting gold-plated exit packages while their workers get pink slips.
Consider what has been happening throughout the United States:

Sears is doling out $25m to the executives who stripped its remaining assets and drove it into bankruptcy, but has no money for the thousands of workers it laid off.
As Pacific Gas and Electric hurdles toward bankruptcy, the person who was in charge when the deadly infernos roared through Northern California last year (caused in part by PG&E’s faulty equipment) has departed with a cash severance package of $2.5m . The PG&E executive in charge of gas operations when records were allegedly falsified left in 2017 with $6.9m.
Under socialism for the rich, you can screw up big time and still reap big rewards. Equifax’s Richard Smith retired in 2017 with an $18m pension in the wake of a security breach that exposed the personal information of 145 million consumers to hackers.

It's called fraud. And Trump personifies it.

Sunday, February 10, 2019

Debate Or Influence Peddling?

Don Lenihan writes that things are getting Kafkaesque in Ottawa:

Franz Kafa couldn’t script it better. The Trudeau PMO stands accused of interfering in a legal process and the former Attorney General is the only one who can clear the air; but she refuses to do so, citing solicitor/client privilege. Meanwhile, the prime minister, her client, twists in the wind yet, inexplicably, fails to waive his privilege so the former AG can rescue him.
Fortunately, late Friday night a key piece of the puzzle fell in place. Anonymous government officials confirmed to the Globe and Mail that the PMO had discussed the Lavalin issue with Jody Wilson-Raybould.
These officials go on to warn Canadians not to “conflate or confuse a “vigorous debate” in the Prime Minister’s Office or among the PMO and members of cabinet over how to handle SNC-Lavalin’s charges with an effort to put pressure on Ms. Wilson-Raybould.”
In other words, yes, there was a tense exchange between the PMO and the former Justice minister, and now the PMO is getting us ready to hear its side of the story. To help put this in focus, let’s recap developments over the last two days.
When the Globe story broke, most people took Wilson-Raybould’s silence as confirmation that the anonymous sources were right: she felt she had been pressured by the PMO. Her silence, as Susan Delacourt noted, spoke volumes.
Wilson-Raybould tried to explain away this silence through solicitor/client privilege, but it convinced no one. It only shifted attention onto the prime minister. “Why doesn’t he just waive his privilege and let her speak?” asked Conservative Deputy Leader Lisa Raitt.
Now it was the PM’s silence that was speaking volumes: presumably, he wouldn’t waive privilege because he was worried about what she might say.
This latest Globe story clarifies a lot. According to its anonymous sources, communication between the PMO and the Justice Minister on this issue is appropriate. Indeed, they believe there is nothing wrong with “vigorous debate” on such an issue, so long as it isn’t a way to apply pressure.
But therein lies the problem. People can and often do disagree about when pressure is being applied. The anonymous sources seem to be suggesting that at some point in these “debates” Wilson-Raybould felt she was being pressured, even though PMO officials believed they were “just debating.”

So was it debate or influence peddling? Stay tuned.

Image: 680 News

Saturday, February 09, 2019

The Death Of the Dollar

Under Donald Trump, the global financial system is being realigned. Chris Hedges writes:

The inept and corrupt presidency of Donald Trump has unwittingly triggered the fatal blow to the American empire—the abandonment of the dollar as the world’s principal reserve currency. Nations around the globe, especially in Europe, have lost confidence in the United States to act rationally, much less lead, in issues of international finance, trade, diplomacy and war. These nations are quietly dismantling the seven-decade-old alliance with the United States and building alternative systems of bilateral trade. This reconfiguring of the world’s financial system will be fatal to the American empire, as the historian Alfred McCoy and the economist Michael Hudson have long pointed out.

In the end, it will lead to the collapse of The American Empire -- much like the collapse of the British Empire:

The historian Ronald Robinson argued that British imperial rule died “when colonial rulers had run out of indigenous collaborators.” The result, he noted, was that the “inversion of collaboration into noncooperation largely determined the timing of the decolonization.” This process of alienating traditional U.S. allies and collaborators will have the same effect. As McCoy points out, “all modern empires have relied on dependable surrogates to translate their global power into local control—and for most of them, the moment when those elites began to stir, talk back, and assert their own agendas was also the moment when you knew that imperial collapse was in the cards.”

As American allies lose faith in the Behemoth, the U.S. dollar is being buffeted by ugly forces:

The dollar, because of astronomical government debt now at $21 trillion, a debt that will be augmented by Trump’s tax cuts costing the U.S. Treasury $1.5 trillion over the next decade, is becoming less and less trustworthy. The debt-to-GDP ratio is now more than 100 percent, a flashing red light for economists. Our massive trade deficit depends on selling treasury bonds abroad. Once those bonds decline in value and are no longer considered a stable investment, the dollar will suffer a huge devaluation. There are signs this process is underway.  Central-bank reserves hold fewer dollars than they did in 2004. There are fewer SWIFT payments–the exchange for interbank fund transfers–in dollars than in 2015. Half of international trade is invoiced in dollars, although the U.S. share of international trade is only 10 percent.

The future of the dollar looks pretty dark:

Sixty-one percent of foreign currency reserves are in dollars. As these dollar currency reserves are replaced by other currencies, the retreat from the dollar will accelerate. The recklessness of America’s financial policies will only exacerbate the crisis. “If unlimited borrowing, financed by printing money, were a path to prosperity,” Irwin M. Stelzer of the Hudson Institute said recently, “then Venezuela and Zimbabwe would be top of the growth tables.”

As things get worse, life in the United States will get more and more difficult:

The collapse of the dollar will mean, McCoy writes, “soaring prices, ever-rising unemployment, and a continuing decline in real wages throughout the 2020s, domestic divisions widen into violent clashes and divisive debates, often over symbolic, insubstantial issues.” The deep disillusionment and widespread rage will give an opening to Trump, or a Trump-like demagogue, to lash out, perhaps by inciting violence, against scapegoats at home and abroad.  But by then the U.S. empire will be so diminished its threats will be, at least to those outside its borders, largely meaningless.

Such will be the legacy of the man who has referred to himself as "The King Of Debt."

Image: bobdavisblog

Friday, February 08, 2019

Maybe They're Not Really Economists

In his State of the Union speech, Donald Trump resurrected an old menace -- socialism:

“Here in the United States, we are alarmed by new calls to adopt socialism in our country,” the president said, adding, “Tonight, we resolve that America will never be a socialist country.”

And he points to Venezuela as the bogeyman,  But what, Paul Krugman asks, do conservatives mean when they use the word "socialism?"

Sometimes it means any kind of economic liberalism. Thus after the SOTU, Steven Mnuchin, the Treasury secretary, lauded the Trump economy and declared that “we’re not going back to socialism” — i.e., apparently America itself was a socialist hellhole as recently as 2016. Who knew?
Other times, however, it means Soviet-style central planning, or Venezuela-style nationalization of industry, never mind the reality that there is essentially nobody in American political life who advocates such things.
The trick — and “trick” is the right word — involves shuttling between these utterly different meanings, and hoping that people don’t notice. You say you want free college tuition? Think of all the people who died in the Ukraine famine! And no, this isn’t a caricature: Read the strange, smarmy report on socialism that Trump’s economists released last fall; that’s pretty much how its argument goes.

Trump and his acolytes are operating from their standard playbook. They're blowing smoke. But, when you cut through the smoke, what's really going on?

Some progressive U.S. politicians now describe themselves as socialists, and a significant number of voters, including a majority of voters under 30, say they approve of socialism. But neither the politicians nor the voters are clamoring for government seizure of the means of production. Instead, they’ve taken on board conservative rhetoric that describes anything that tempers the excesses of a market economy as socialism, and in effect said, “Well, in that case I’m a socialist.”
What Americans who support “socialism” actually want is what the rest of the world calls social democracy: A market economy, but with extreme hardship limited by a strong social safety net and extreme inequality limited by progressive taxation. They want us to look like Denmark or Norway, not Venezuela.
And in case you haven’t been there, the Nordic countries are not, in fact, hellholes. They have somewhat lower G.D.P. per capita than we do, but that’s largely because they take more vacations. Compared with America, they have higher life expectancy, much less poverty and significantly higher overall life satisfaction. Oh, and they have high levels of entrepreneurship — because people are more willing to take the risk of starting a business when they know that they won’t lose their health care or plunge into abject poverty if they fail.
Trump’s economists clearly had a hard time fitting the reality of Nordic societies into their anti-socialist manifesto. In some places they say that the Nordics aren’t really socialist; in others they try desperately to show that despite appearances, Danes and Swedes are suffering — for example, it’s expensive for them to operate a pickup truck. I am not making this up.

Trumpian economists have a hard time dealing with facts. Maybe they're not really economists.

Image: Quillette

Thursday, February 07, 2019

Paul Dewar

Just a brief comment today about Paul Dewar. He was a rare politician. He stood firmly for what he believed. But he could also rise above the fray. We used to call such people statesmen -- or stateswomen.

Politics was in his blood. He inherited the gene from his mother. But he made his own way and met what awaits us all with gentleness, dignity and grace.

May he rest in peace.

Image: PressFrom

Wednesday, February 06, 2019

Behind The Crisis

Tom Friedman writes an interesting column on what  is behind the migration -- and immigration -- crisis around the world:

In the early 21st century, climate-driven extreme weather — floods, droughts, record-setting heat and cold — on top of man-made deforestation began to hammer many countries, especially their small-scale farmers. Developing-world populations exploded thanks to improved health care. Africa went from 140 million people in 1900 to one billion in 2010 to a projected 2.5 billion by 2050. The same surge happened in Central America, in countries like Guatemala.
Meanwhile, the smartphone enabled citizens to easily compare their living standards with Paris or Phoenix — and find a human trafficker app to take them there. Also, China joined the W.T.O., gobbling up low-wage industries, and the end of the Cold War meant no superpower wanted to touch your country, because all it would win was a bill.
This is creating wide zones of “disorder” — and the biggest geopolitical trend in the world is all the people trying to get out of zones of disorder into the world of order. And that is what’s creating all the populist, nationalist, anti-immigrant backlashes in the world of order — particularly in America and Europe.

And, in the United States, we're witnessing a replay to Norman Jewison's hilarious take on American hysteria in The Russians Are Coming, The Russians Are Coming. Donald Trump is playing the role Paul Ford played. Ford was the local leader of the VFW, who kept poking people with his sword.

If we could only laugh at this foolishness.

Tuesday, February 05, 2019

As Goes Tasmania, So Goes The World

Australian journalist Richard Flanagan writes that Tasmania is on fire:

As I write this, fire is 500 metres from the largest King Billy pine forest in the world on Mt Bobs, an ancient forest that dates back to the last Ice Age and has trees over 1,000 years old. Fire has broached the boundaries of Mt Field national park with its glorious alpine vegetation, unlike anything on the planet. Fire laps at the edges of Federation Peak, Australia’s grandest mountain, and around the base of Mt Anne with its exquisite rainforest and alpine gardens. Fire laps at the border of the Walls of Jerusalem national park with its labyrinthine landscapes of tarns and iconic stands of ancient pencil pine and its beautiful alpine landscape, ecosystems described by their most eminent scholar, the ecologist Prof Jamie Kirkpatrick, as “like the vision of a Japanese garden made more complex, and developed in paradise, in amongst this gothic scenery”

But Australian politician Scott Morrison is a classic example of what Barbara Tuchman called "woodenheadness."

Two years ago the then treasurer Scott Morrison picked up a large lump of coal. Perhaps he thought it was a great joke for Australia at the expense of a few weird outliers like the Greens and the global scientific community. Or perhaps Morrison wasn’t really thinking anything. Perhaps the greatest error of journalists is thinking people at the centre are more than they seem. The problem with people like Morrison, the true terror, is that they may be so much less.

The problem, Flanagan writes, is not that the barbarians are at the gate. The problem is that they're in the palaces of power.

Images: The Guardian

Monday, February 04, 2019

Scheer Incompetence

Michael Harris doesn't see much of a future for Andrew Scheer:

After a year and a half in office, people can be forgiven if they think Scheer is still Speaker of the House of Commons. Leaders lead, and by doing that, gain recognition.
Scheer merely lurks with that silly smile on his face, a political non-entity who acts like he’s gunning for the doorman’s job at Walmart.

He's particularly inept. Consider his encounter with The Assembly of First Nations:

Is it any wonder that chiefs from the Assembly of First Nations booed the Conservative leader lustily at a special meeting in Ottawa last December? They had a simple question, and it could hardly have caught the Tory leader by surprise. If he became prime minister, how would Scheer be different from Stephen Harper?
Yes, First Nations had a big beef with Scheer’s former boss, and for good reason. The only thing Harper didn’t do to Indigenous peoples was bring back Indian Agents. He humiliated leaders like Chief Theresa Spence of Attawapiskat First Nation, cut national funding, ignored problems and tried to run a federal bulldozer over native constitutional rights.
Scheer’s answer? The one thing you can’t say to people who have been waiting for decades for social justice — you’ll have to be patient.
If First Nations wanted to see how he would be different from Harper, Scheer said, they would just have to stand by until the Conservative leader announced his platform for the 2019 election.

Then there was the Clement Affair:

While Clement was busily cyber-sharing his private parts hither and yon, eventually ensnaring himself in a web of extortion, Scheer acted like a coach whose player had missed practice.
His reaction was to have a heart-to-heart with Sexting Man. The leader told his MP that it was a “poor decision” to send his body parts to the digital devices of strangers. Now there’s breaking news.
Remarkably, Scheer’s first instinct was not to fire Clement, but to relieve him of a few perks — some committee work and his role as shadow justice critic. And to take Clement at his word that he showed his junk to someone yearning to see it. And that, why no, he’d never done that before.
Scheer actually thought he could keep the former cabinet minister in caucus as the MP for Parry Sound-Muskoka. So much for Conservative party family values. And this from a man who refuses to march in Pride parades.

Perhaps Scheer is hoping that Doug Ford will put him over the top. It's true that Ford has some insight into Ontarian stupidity. But stupidity has its own way of coming back to bite you.

And Sheer looks like he's biteable.

Image: National Observer

Sunday, February 03, 2019

We Don't Need No Education

Once again, under Ontario's Conservatives, education is under the gun. Heather Mallick writes:

In [their] first few months of government, [Doug Ford] and his cabinet have cancelled plans for Ontario’s first official French university and three new university campuses in Brampton, Markham and Milton, cut tuition fees thereby taking $440 million from university and college revenues, partially reverted to loans rather than grants for poorer students, forced universities to adopt a largely unnecessary free speech policy, considered cancelling sex education entirely, and are now preparing the ground for possibly ending full-day kindergarten in Ontario (at the moment he’s claiming to back only full-day “learning,” and that sounds unreliable.)
Ford also removed University of Toronto President Meric Gertler as a provincial appointee on the board of Waterfront Toronto, which might normally be listed in the I-hate-Toronto category of Ford spite firings but did I mention that Gertler is the president of the University of Toronto? Yes, twice, you say.
I can see no other reason except that Gertler is highly educated and internationally regarded, which snapped one of the tighter elastics in Ford’s mental assemblage. The elites!
Gertler isn’t elitist at all. You can’t be when part of your job is coping with as-yet untaught teenagers, and anyway a more courteous and patient person you couldn’t devise to link Toronto and one of its largest core institutions.
No, Ford does not like education or anyone involved in the process at any level. Ford went to high school and perhaps, like me, has bad memories of hours writing exams in the gym. But why would he take it out on full-day kindergarten, which is essentially education prep?
But whether Ford decides to cut education spending at the beginning or the end of youth, whether out of well-intentioned false economy or a genuine animus toward anyone better-educated than he, the result will be the same. Young people will be less equipped to face what may be the harshest century we have yet known.
They will be at the forefront of what the former journalist Alan Rusbridger calls “the flight from complexity.” What a demolishingly understated English way of saying that people are stupid, and worse, they enjoy being so. 

As I wrote the other day, we've been down this road before. It shouldn't be a surprise. When you put an ignorant man in office, education becomes Public Enemy No.1

Image: Tad Too New

Saturday, February 02, 2019

God's Man?

This week, Sarah Huckabee Sanders claimed that Donald Trump was God's choice for president. Dana Milbank writes in The Washington Post:

Sarah Sanders, asked by the Christian Broadcasting Network this week about Trump being the right man for the moment, replied: “I think God calls all of us to fill different roles at different times, and I think that he wanted Donald Trump to become president, and that’s why he’s there.”
This makes sense, because Trump has of late been acting as if he draws his authority from the divine right of kings. He’s asserting his absolute power to act without — and often in contravention of — the Democratic House, the Republican Senate, his own intelligence agencies, law enforcement authorities and diplomats, and the will of the American public.

However, some might question the Divine Wisdom:

His choice of a thrice-married, foul-mouthed, untruthful casino mogul as His vessel raises thorny theological questions, not least: Why did God award Hillary Clinton the popular vote? And why, given all the Christian conservatives of high character running for president, did God go with a man who boasted about grabbing women by the [expletive], who paid hush money to a porn star, and who derided the “interesting” tendency of Vice President Pence to pray?
Perhaps it was Trump’s boast that “nobody reads the Bible more than me.” Or his National Prayer Breakfast call to pray for Arnold Schwarzenegger’s ratings on “The Apprentice.” Or his sermon to Liberty University students about the “two Corinthians.” Or his vow to keep “Merry Christmas in department stores, believe me. ”

Perhaps Sarah bases her belief on Biblical precedent:

We can’t be certain that God didn’t approach Donald, son of Fred, from a burning bush, and that Donald didn’t tell God that in Finland “they spend a lot of time on raking . . . and they don’t have any problem” with forest fires. Or that God didn’t speak to Donald, as to Joshua outside Jericho, telling him the wall would fall, to which Donald replied, “Mexico is going to pay.”

Or perhaps Sarah, like so many other Americans, is simply a fool.

Image: You Tube

Friday, February 01, 2019

Down The Same Old Road

Yesterday, Ontario's NDP opposition leaked a draft piece of legislation which would scrap our local health networks and put the province's entire health care system under a new super agency. We've been here before. Under Mike Harris, the government amalgamated municipalities, hospitals and school boards.

Conservatives claim to hate big government. But, when they legislate, they concentrate power in fewer and fewer hands. We have a small hospital in our community, which became part of a larger network. The hospital used to have 50 beds. It now has 15. It used to run in the black. The new octopus bleeds red ink every year.

This isn't wise policy. It's insanity.

Image: jon may