Friday, May 31, 2019

Doug's Way

Since being elected, Doug Ford has plastered "Open For Business" signs throughout Ontario. But his actions in office undercut that slogan. Alan Freeman writes:

Sure, companies love reduced corporate income taxes and lower minimum wages but what they want above all is a rules-based system where you can make long-term business decisions, in the firm knowledge that you won’t be subject to the changing partisan political will of the folks in power.
That’s what distinguishes investing in a first-world industrial nation from investing in a banana republic, where the autocratic ruler in charge may grant you a permit to build a cell-phone network and the next year, yank it from you arbitrarily and give it to a political crony.
In an advanced democratic country, that makes governments reluctant to cancel the contracts signed by their predecessors even if they don’t like them. It’s not really a good message to investors to rip up contracts and when you have a system of laws and independent courts, breaking contracts can also prove to be very expensive.

Ford complains about expenses. But ripping up contracts doesn't bother him. Consider The Beer Store:

The Beer Store, established in 1927 to control the drinking habits of Ontarians in a society that was still deeply suspicious of demon alcohol, is clearly an anachronism. It’s anti-competitive and doesn’t reflect contemporary society and modern commerce.
Yet the three brewing companies that own The Beer Store signed a 10-year contract with the Ontario government in 2015 to renew this arrangement in perfectly good faith. It allowed for a broadening of sales in supermarkets but fundamentally allowed the near-monopoly to stand. Ford calls it a “sweetheart deal” for the Beer Store’s 450 outlets that he wants to end and fully open up the market.
But instead of waiting until the contract ends in six years, Ford is acting now. It’s good politics, he figures, and a great distraction from his lousy poll numbers and the pushback he’s getting from voters over cuts to education, health and municipalities.
The beer companies claim they have the right to claim billions of dollars in damages from Ontario if the province breaks the terms of the contract. The Ontario legislature, however, has powers to overrule that agreement and even escape the need to pay compensation, although the courts may feel differently.
In running roughshod over a legal contract, Ford is saying Ontario is open for business, provided they do business his way. 

And that's the message.  You can do things in Ontario -- as long as you do them Doug's way.

Image: Narcity

Thursday, May 30, 2019

Is Independence Worth It?

When Jody Wilson-Raybould announced that she would be running as an independent in the next election, she also declared that she was "not a party person." -- which begs the question: Is that  a good thing? Andrew Coyne writes:

Independents, after all, even running as incumbents, rarely win in Canadian elections. Research shows that voters tend overwhelmingly to vote for the party first, the local candidate second. Without a party label, and the machinery that goes with it, independent candidates have a hard time getting heard, and would have even were the campaign finance rules not so heavily stacked in the parties’ favour: parties can raise funds, on which local candidates can draw, long before the writ is dropped, whereas indies cannot issue tax receipts for donations until after the election has been called.

Wilson-Raybould and Jane Philpott have distinct advantages. They are:

no ordinary incumbents, having carved out reputations in their time in government as fearless advocates for principle and/or competent managers. That they were so palpably mistreated by their former party and leader helps — people love to root for the underdog. And — the ace card — they can make a plausible case to their electorates that they will have more power as independents in the next Parliament than they might otherwise: more, even, than as members of any party.
[Both women] would be especially strongly situated, free to wheel and deal with all of the parties simultaneously, without themselves having to answer to any party. Add it up — the newly volatile politics of the internet age, their own star power, and the horse-trading possibilities in a hung Parliament — and the odds of these particular independents succeeding are considerably better than usual. Who knows? Maybe they’ll even lead a movement.

Still, what is troubling about Wilson-Raybould's declaration is that the problems we face today require collective solutions. We will not survive if we can't act collectively. Perhaps, Coyne writes, we need to redefine  what we mean by "political parties:"

Between the unseemly chaos of politics without parties, and the rigid lockstep of Parliament as we know it, there is surely room for a different kind of party politics — one in which parties are seen as loose associations of the like-minded, and MPs as fully sentient beings, rather than identical voting machines useful only for delivering majorities to their leaders.

Oh, were that it was so.

Wednesday, May 29, 2019

The Disease Is Spreading

Paul Koring writes that Trumpism has gone viral:

An ugly contagion of xenophobic populism threatens to poison democracies, turning them inward-looking just at a moment in history when the crises of global warming and massive migration demand collective international solutions.
In India, the world’s largest democracy, Narendra Modi nailed down an increased and absolute majority this month with a Trumpian-style campaign that featured naked appeals to Hindu majoritarianism and barely-concealed Islamophobia. Modi’s 352-seat majority includes not a single Muslim MP, although India’s nearly 200 million Muslims form 20 per cent of India’s population.
In Indonesia, President Joko Widodo cruised to an increased majority in the world’s largest Muslim nation after callously embracing a nasty and exclusionary brand of Islam. Widodo’s pick of Ma’ruf Amin, Indonesia’s prominent and openly intolerant Muslim cleric, as his running mate, was a deliberate shift away from the acceptance of diversity that was Indonesia’s hallmark for decades.
In Brazil, Jair Bolsonaro boasts he is “Trump of the Tropics” and ran a Trump-like nativist campaign in his successful bid for the presidency last fall. His derogatory remarks about women and especially Brazil’s Indigenous peoples make Trump look like a paragon of decency. Bolsonaro once voiced regret that Brazil had failed to exterminate its Indigenous people as efficiently as did the U.S. cavalry. “They say he’s the Donald Trump of South America,” Trump enthused when he hosted Bolsonaro this spring. 
So, the world’s four largest democracies all have Trumpian leaders, all tinged with racist and xenophobic tendencies, all mutually admiring of each other and all instinctively contemptuous of collective international co-operation.

But there is some hope on the horizon:

The results of the EU elections are more complex than the headline victories for xenophobes and ultranationalists would indicate.
Far-right parties fell short of anticipated gains. The centre of political gravity and thus the coalition that will emerge in the Parliament in Strasbourg has shifted to the left, not the right.
While centrist parties — which have dominated European politics since the Second World War — suffered a drubbing as voters turned out in record numbers to make clear they were tired of the same old offerings, the biggest shifts were to forward-looking, internationalist, and social democrat parties to the left of centre.
For instance, a Green tsunami washed across Europe. In Germany and Finland, Greens came second, Les Verts placed third in France. In Britain, the Greens edged the ruling Conservatives and closed in on Labour. Green parties also gained ground in Ireland and the Netherlands and Les Ecolos may finish first in the symbolically important city of Brussels, Europe’s de facto capital.
Young, diverse, internationalist voters, mostly concentrated in Europe’s vibrant and growing cities, powered the surge of support for Green and liberal parties. From Helsinki to Lisbon and Dublin to Berlin, new generations of Europeans share a common identity and a distinctly un-Trumpian view of the world. It’s focused on multilateral and co-operative solutions to the planetary perils of climate change, rampant inequality, and swelling migrant flows.

We are clearly at an inflection point. The upcoming election will be part of the emerging international picture.


Tuesday, May 28, 2019

The New Mass Media

Chris Hedges writes that there have been three media revolutions in the last thirty-five years:

the rise of right-wing radio and Fox-style TV news that abandon the media’s faux objectivity, the introduction of 24-hour cable news stations, and the creation of internet platforms—owned by a handful of corporations—that control the distribution of news and information and mine our personal data on behalf of advertisers, political campaigns and the government. The sins of the old media, bad though they were, are nothing compared with the sins of the new media. Mass media has degenerated into not only a purveyor of gossip, conspiracy theories and salacious entertainment but, most ominously, a purveyor of hate.

Hedges turns to a new book by Matt Taibbi titled Hate Inc. to help him explain what has happened. In the old media model, the goal was to manufacture consent. The new media still has the same goal:

The new media, Taibbi points out, still manufactures consent, but it does so by setting group against group, a consumer version of what George Orwell in his novel “1984” called the “Two Minutes Hate.” Our opinions and prejudices are skillfully catered to and reinforced, with the aid of a detailed digital analysis of our proclivities and habits, and then sold back to us. The result, Taibbi writes, is “packaged anger just for you.” The public is unable to speak across the manufactured divide. It is mesmerized by the fake dissent of the culture wars and competing conspiracy theories. Politics, under the assault, has atrophied into a tawdry reality show centered on political personalities. Civic discourse is defined by invective and insulting remarks on the internet. Power, meanwhile, is left unexamined and unchallenged. The result is political impotence among the populace. The moral swamp is not only a fertile place for demagogues such as Donald Trump—a creation of this media burlesque—but channels misplaced rage, intolerance and animosity toward those defined as internal

The old and new media set up battles in which there are only two sides:

The classic example was the show “Crossfire,” in which two antagonists, the stereotypical liberal and the stereotypical conservative, could never agree. The liberal, Taibbi pointed out, “was always cast as the person who couldn’t punch back. He was always in retreat. The conservative was always in attack mode. A personality like Tucker Carlson.” These staged and choreographed confrontations were, in essence, sporting events.

That two sided debate continues, even though -- on most issues -- the two sides agree:

The fact that on most big issues the two major political parties are in agreement is ignored. The deregulation of the financial industry, the militarization of police, the explosion in the prison population, deindustrialization, austerity, the endless wars in the Middle East, the bloated military budget, the control of elections and mass media by corporations and the wholesale surveillance of the population by the government all have bipartisan support. For this reason, they are almost never discussed.

Politics have now devolved into a sporting match -- which is on the air 24 hours a day. Each side rabidly roots for its team -- and nobody thinks.

Image: NBC News

Monday, May 27, 2019

Hiding Under The Bed

Andrew Scheer says that his environmental policy is a work in progress. But it really is hard to know what his party is thinking. It changes gears frequently. Rick Smith writes:

Trying to follow the Conservative stance on climate change can give you whiplash.
After all, this is a party that voted unanimously against signing the Paris Climate Accord in 2016, only to turn around eight months later and vote fully in support of the Accord (with only one Tory member dissenting).  This new commitment didn’t last long, however, with Leader Andrew Scheer first stating that the party’s climate plan would be built around achieving the Paris targets and then retreating to the vaguely defined goal of achieving “meaningful targets.”

All we really know is what the Conservatives don't like:

We know taxing pollution is out, despite a long history of Conservative support for market pricing mechanisms. Technology now seems to be a big part of the Tory answer.  Scheer has not been terribly specific about what “clean technologies” he is thinking of when he talks about how Canada is a leader in climate technology that it should be exporting to the world.  It doesn’t seem likely that he is referring to electric vehicles or renewable energy, support for which have been slashed by his friends in the Ford and Kenney governments.

It would appear that they are putting their faith in Carbon Storage and Capture (CCS):

Scheer’s Environment and Climate Change Critic, Ed Fast, may have given us a hint of where the Conservatives are headed in praising carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology.  Fast notes that despite the standard Conservative skepticism about governments picking “winners and losers” it could be useful for the government to put its thumb on the scale in favour of CCS, stating “we do want to encourage clean technology, especially in our oil and gas sector.”
CCS has long been favoured by the oil and gas industry as a handy way of continuing to rely on fossil fuels while addressing a growing public demand to get a grip on greenhouse gas emissions.  The problem is that there is little evidence it can actually be cost-effectively scaled up to deal with the scope of the problem.  Currently, the National Energy Board calculates that existing and proposed CCS systems worldwide would capture carbon equal to just 1% of current global emissions.  So the Tory’s magic bullet is unlikely to be any more effective than the Liberal carbon tax that Fast and Scheer contend is too low – and too economically harmful at higher levels — to effect real change.

You get the impression that Scheer would rather ignore the whole thing -- which, frankly, is what the Conservatives have been doing for years. They are hiding under the bed, hoping the bogeyman will go away.

Image: Jewish Public Media

Sunday, May 26, 2019

Have They Not Seen?

Max Boot used to be a clarion spokesman for the American Right. Now, having seen what the Right hath wrought, he is horrified. Last week, he writes, Donald Trump hit two new lows:

The president just delegated to Attorney General William P. Barr the authority to access and declassify the intelligence community’s most closely held secrets as Barr investigates the investigators who tried to stop Russian penetration of the Trump campaign. So Trump’s position is that his tax returns should remain private but the CIA’s “sources and methods” should become public.
This gives Barr a license to selectively declassify documents, just as Trump did last year to help Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) issue his own memo on the same subject. Nunes’s contention — that the FBI probe was triggered by the “Steele dossier” paid for by the Democrats — turned out to be false. But Barr is undeterred by Nunes’s failure to prove a deep-state conspiracy against Trump. He appears determined to find something, anything, in the secret files to feed Trump’s victimhood fantasies, even if the cost is to blow the cover of sources who have risked their lives to help the CIA.

And, also last week, Trump circulated a doctored video which appeared to show an inebriated Nancy Pelosi:

After House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) accused Trump of throwing a “temper tantrum” in a meeting with top Democrats, the president threw another one right on cue, calling her “Crazy Nancy,” saying “she’s a mess" and posting a doctored video to give the impression that she had trouble speaking. This, too, is an abuse with a precedent: During the 2016 campaign, Trump repeatedly cast aspersions on Clinton’s health. The indictment of dirty trickster Roger Stone reveals his friend Jerome Corsi writing to him on Aug. 2, 2016: “Would not hurt to start suggesting HRC old, memory bad, has stroke.” Trump is like a football coach who keeps calling the same plays for different opponents — as long, of course, as those opponents are female.

There is no one left in Trump's White House to tell him when something is a bad idea. And the Republican Senate will continue to do his will.

Have American voters not seen through this man yet?


Saturday, May 25, 2019

Utter Incompetence

If you take a close look at Doug Ford's first budget, Martin Regg Cohn argues, you begin to understand how incompetent he and his government are:

By rejecting the bureaucracy’s best advice — dismissing the non-partisan professionals as know-nothings — Ontario’s self-styled “Government For the People” shortchanged the people. Now we are all paying the price for a budget built on a foundation of false assumptions.
And flawed accounting.
On paper, the budget purports to spend a record $163.4-billion — a hefty $4.9 billion more than the last Liberal budget delivered some 12 months earlier.
But those additional billions are not all going toward front line services, nor allocated to future infrastructure. Social services, for example, will be cut by $892 million, reaching $1 billion the year after.
Instead, the money is being misallocated to a fiscal chimera, born of an obsession to redo the province’s books.
Controversial accounting changes would render worthless, for the first time, a hefty $11 billion surplus from a jointly-held pension plan long listed on the province’s books as an asset. By blowing a hole in the budget, the Tories suddenly displaced billions of dollars from regular spending that had to be found — and ultimately defunded — elsewhere.
A note in the government’s financial statements shows $2.7 billion added to the budget deficit in order to “provisionally adopt auditor general’s accounting treatment of pension expenses.” That’s a reference to auditor Bonnie Lysyk’s surprise demand that Ontario stop counting any such pension surplus as an asset — unless the fund fell into deficit (in which case, with utter inconsistency, she’d count it as a liability).
Under the last Liberal government, top civil servants had pushed back against Lysyk, noting that she and her predecessors had fully endorsed treating it as an asset since 2002 (not to be confused with raiding a pension fund, which remains illegal). Ultimately, the previous government heeded the advice of an outside panel of accounting experts who found Lysyk’s analysis fatally flawed — akin to claiming that merely because depreciation is an abstraction, it’s an imaginary number.
Interestingly, another panel appointed by the Tories landed on a similar actuarial analysis, noting that a pension surplus could not logically be worth nothing (as Lysyk had insisted). Yet in their zeal to dismiss and demonize anything that came before them, the PCs ignored all outside advice in adopting the auditor’s audacious demands.

And the damage will not just occur this year, it will be ongoing:

Another $2.4 billion in indebtedness was added to our budgetary burden, thanks to the auditor’s criticism of a 2017 hydro discount plan enacted by the Liberals under public pressure. Lysyk had argued the refinancing scheme would get lower interest rates if the borrowing went on the province’s books — underwritten by taxpayers rather than ratepayers (via OPG). Cheaper, but not fairer — henceforth the hydro bills of cottagers and affluent customers with outsized properties will be subsided by all Ontarians, rich or poor.
Another $1.5 billion in revenues were forfeited by the Tories in the last fiscal year after they killed the cap-and-trade program that required polluters to pay a price for carbon (with the proceeds going to transit investments and subsidies to schools and hospitals for energy retrofits). A further $308 million in scheduled tax increases were also cancelled.
Together, those tax and accounting changes add up to roughly $7 billion in recurring revenues that must be found elsewhere. Every year.

The Fordians did what conservatives have done for decades. They fled from expertise. Is it any wonder that Ford's support has crashed among Ontarians? They know incompetence when they see it.

Image: Times Higher Education

Friday, May 24, 2019

How Do You Arrange That?

Michael Harris writes that a choice between Justin Trudeau and Andrew Scheer is a lousy choice. Trudeau has proved to be a remarkable blunderer. The list of his mistakes keeps getting longer:

Trudeau overpays for a pipeline carrying dirty oil through pristine rivers and forests in British Columbia;
He exempts certain tarsands projects from new environmental assessment rules in a crude trade-off with Alberta;
He considers loosening restrictions on the pollution of major rivers with toxic effluent from tarsands tailing ponds;
He allows the unregulated use of seismic blasting to explore for oil and gas on Canada’s east coast, right whales be damned; 
That serial incompetence and hubris cost the PM two star cabinet ministers, his principal secretary, and his clerk of the privy council. And it is why he stands at a miserable 27 per cent in the most recent Leger poll conducted between April 18 and 22 for the Canadian Press — 13 points behind Scheer and the Conservatives.

Scheer, on the other hand, is worse:

But here’s the rub. As disappointing as Trudeau has been to many voters, the traditional alternative, the official Opposition, is far, far worse.
The government-in-waiting led by Andrew Scheer is a collection of Harper era re-treads peddling the same populist Republican policies Canadians vigorously rejected in 2015. As a group, the Conservatives’ favourite driving gear is reverse.
When the Tories had a chance to take the party in a new direction with a new leader, a step or two perhaps toward the values of the old Progressive Conservatives, they rejected someone like Michael Chong and chose Harper-clone Scheer. That was the declaration that, at least ideologically, this is still Harper’s party.
That could be why the Conservatives have never rejected the trademark policies of the Harper years that cost them government in 2015.

If you want to vote Green, your best hope is for a minority government with Elizabeth May holding the balance of power. So, here's the question. How do you arrange that without electing Scheer as the next prime minister?

I ask that from a province where Doug Ford is now the premier.

Image: Flipkart

Thursday, May 23, 2019

At Each Other's Throats

American politics have always been partisan, Glen Pearson writes. But Canadian politics used to be different:

Americans have always remained divided along partisan lines, while the Canadian context has been more of accommodation along general principles – a hegemony usually kept together by political parties usually hewing close to the political centre.  That national coherence is now fraying in light of more extremist tendencies weighing heavily on our traditional parties.

Increasingly, we are adopting the American model:

Seriously, we make assumptions based upon our belief that our positions are well thought out and we wonder how those with opposing views can be so na├»ve.  I’ve encountered a lot of this lately, as a conservative mindset sweeps across much of the world.  Those holding to such views who I encounter every day and work within our community think it’s high time that liberal thinkers started waking up to reality.  Liberal thinkers feel exactly the opposite.  How can they be so dumb?  Why can’t conservatives be open to research, to rational thinking?

We would do well to read a book by Jonathan Haidt titled The Righteous Mind:

Haidt declares right off that his goal for the book is to help people better understand and dialogue with each other as they work their way through their differences – a task seemingly impossible in our modern world where everything is about politics.  But the reader needs to beware that Haidt believes that all of us act more by intuition than rationality, so if you’re going to use reason to debate others, you might not get far.  In doing so, he provides plenty of research, as we would expect from a social scientist.  It’s more important to understand the other point of view than it is to defeat it, he says, adding that we were never designed to listen to reason:
“When you ask people moral questions, time their responses and scan their brains, their answers and brain activation patterns indicate that they reach conclusions quickly and produce reasons later only to justify what they’ve already decided.”
Haidt believes that people reason all the time, but that they base it upon their preconceived intuition or value systems – filters that make movement in thinking a pretty difficult thing.  And, yet, we all think we’re smart and capable people.  There’s a significant disconnect here and it has its effects not only on our relationships, but ultimately on our politics – how we reason, vote, and collaborate together to face our greatest challenges.
The Righteous Mind reminds us that our certainties could end up being dead ends, leaving us little room to maneuver when the time comes for compromise.  We don’t necessarily have to agree about our political directions, but we do have to respect that we all – millions of us – hold to core beliefs that require one another to achieve together instead of dividing into rigid camps that could put the lie to what we have historically constructed together.  As DeShanne Stokes would put it: “We owe our loyalty to each other and to our children’s children, not to party politics.”

Wise words. Until we get our loyalties straight, we'll be at each other's throats.


Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Ford Nation Never Noticed

Doug Ford sold himself as a man of the people. His first budget was supposed to underscore that perception. But things didn't work out that way. Martin Regg Cohn writes:

His first budget would recast him as a kinder, gentler premier. Not too tough, not too soft — just right.
It didn’t go according to plan.
By holding back the bad news — under the guise of a good-news budget — Ford’s Tories are belatedly paying a heavy price. Not as high a price, however, as ordinary Ontarians facing the daily drip-drip-drip of cascading cutbacks in recent weeks.
It all adds up to billions of dollars slashed from local education, transit, health care and social services. And it has provoked a growing backlash.

A recent poll suggests that 75% of Ontarians think their province is on the wrong track. So what's the big man to do? Declare bankruptcy:

Instead of moderation, desperation and disruption are Ford’s new watchwords — because desperate times allow for desperate measures. Rather than talking up Ontario’s prospects, the premier is now taking the province down — way down.
Ford has announced a fiscal emergency that can now be revealed:
Ontario has been declared bankrupt. By our own premier.
“We already came in here with a bankrupt province,” the premier now warns Ontarians every chance he gets.
“We were inheriting a bankrupt province,” he tells the legislature, a talking point faithfully repeated by his Progressive Conservative ministers and MPPs.

This truly is news:

In Ford’s view, Ontario’s economy is coming apart like crumbled feta cheese in a Greek fiscal crisis. One of his top ministers went further by citing the spectre of Venezuela’s economic wreckage, as if Ontario might soon be a failed state.
Never mind those roadside billboards proclaiming “Ontario is open for business.” Now his Tories are spreading the word and telling the world we are under bankruptcy protection.
The underlying premise behind the overheated rhetoric does not require a degree in accounting (nor any degree at all, which suits our premier): Tough times call for rough cuts.

But is it true? Is Ontario bankrupt?

Yes, years of deficit spending under Liberal, NDP and Progressive Conservative governments (with only a few years of surpluses under the Liberals and PCs) have piled on nearly $350 billion in debt. But a distaste for debt does not equal disaster — as many Toronto homeowners with outsized mortgages can attest.
Ontario’s finances may seem overstretched to some (including me, as I’ve written in past columns). But its net debt as a percentage of overall economic activity, as measured by GDP, has held steady at about 40 per cent over the past six years.
That’s a world away from the 175 per cent debt wall during Greece’s financial crisis. Which is why no credible credit rating agency, no responsible auditor, and no serious analyst would ever endorse Ford’s wild claims.
Bankruptcy is a false premise — like the premier’s false promise in the last election to trim the fat without impacting transit, health, education, or vital social services. Hyperbole aside, it is bizarrely off-message for our populist booster-in-chief.

The truth is that Ford and his party have been pedalling bankrupt ideas. They were proved bankrupt definitively over ten years ago. Ford Nation never noticed.

Image: Shale Directories

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Turning Back The Clock

For over seventy years now, conservatives have been working hard to turn back the clock. And, lately, they have been achieving what they see as victories. The latest evidence comes from Alberta. Justin Giovannetti reports in the Globe and Mail that:

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney has promised a “summer of repeal” as his United Conservatives prepare to enter the legislature for the first time as government with an agenda to quickly cut taxes and spark economic growth.
After four years of New Democrat government in Alberta, Mr. Kenney’s UCP plans to take aim at former premier Rachel Notley’s legacy by swiftly tabling a dozen bills that will roll back the province’s climate plan, cut corporate taxes and repeal toughened labour rules. The legislative session, which comes after a Speech from the Throne on Wednesday, could stretch into the dog days of summer after the Calgary Stampede.

In Ontario, Doug Ford has repealed Kathleen Wynne's cap and trade plan and gone to war against the federal carbon tax, while nixing the Liberals' Guaranteed Annual Income experiment in three cities.

In Alabama and Georgia, conservatives are hell bent on repealing Roe vs. Wade, forbidding all abortions. The procedures will now go underground and into the back allies -- as they did seventy years ago.

And Mr. Trump has repealed President Obama's Iran Nuclear Deal, setting the Middle East on a knife's edge. He's still trying to repeal Obama's health care program.

Throughout North America, conservatives are marching, proclaiming their belief in "That Old Time Religion." Certain that God is on their side, they march blindly into the past.

Image: You Tube

Monday, May 20, 2019

An Overcompensating Bully

Chas Danner reports in New York Magazine that things are heating up in the Middle East:

On Sunday, a rocket was fired into Baghdad’s fortified Green Zone for the first time since late last year, landing less than a mile from the U.S. Embassy. No one was injured by the rocket, which according to the Washington Post may have been a warning shot from Iran-backed Shiite militias, who have used rockets to protest U.S. policy in the past. The harmless rocket was also precisely the kind of thing that Bolton and Pompeo have threatened to retaliate for, as they have said Iran will be held responsible for any attacks on U.S. forces or interests by its allies and affiliates throughout the Middle East. The rocket has thus fueled dread among Iraqi officials that the U.S. and Iran will act out some kind of conflict inside Iraq and destabilize the country.

That event brought an immediate Twittter response from Donald Trump:

“If Iran wants to fight, that will be the official end of Iran,” Trump responded. “Never threaten the United States again!”

Trump's reaction generated an immediate response from a national security think tank:

The RAND Corporation’s Ariane Tabatabai . . . wrote on Twitter that Trump’s aggressive message was a step backward when the two countries need to be moving toward some kind of dialogue.
More concerning yet, this undermines the Trump administration’s efforts to reach the Iranian people,” she continued. “Threatening not just war but ‘the official end of Iran’ taps into deeply and historically rooted anxieties in Iran. Far from leading Iranians to oppose their leaders, it’ll rally them around the flag and cement distrust of the U.S.”

And Daniel Larison, of The American Conservative, came to a similar conclusion:

Trump’s rhetoric is aimed at appealing to his domestic supporters, so he doesn’t think about or care how it sounds to the targeted regime, but my guess is that the Iranian government will take this as additional proof that there is no point in talking to the U.S. while Trump is in charge. Over-the-top threats of destroying the entire country give the Iranian government another incentive to reject all U.S. demands, and they obviously do nothing to deescalate tensions between our governments when they are already very high. As usual, Trump’s public displays of “toughness” only make him seem like an overcompensating bully and give hard-liners in both countries another boost.

That phrase, "an overcompensating bully," fits Trump to a tee.

Image: The Cut

Sunday, May 19, 2019

Something's Got To Give

For those of us who would like to see the Green Party hold the balance of power in  Ottawa, Robin Sears turns to recent history and offers a cautionary tale:

Forty years ago this spring, an eloquent, passionate, young American-educated German named Petra Kelly helped to launch the Green movement that swept first West Germany and then much of Western Europe. Kelly was one of those naturally charismatic politicians who drew supporters from a broad sweep of German voters: left and right, young and old.
Before her death the rapidly growing Green Party was fraught with fierce internal debates between those who wanted to govern, and those who refused to compromise on an agenda that was fiscally and politically impossible. The two camps, one dubbed the “fundamentalists” and the other the “realists” broke the momentum of their early years. Petra Kelly was a “fundi” herself, and became estranged from the party she helped to found, as the “realos” gradually took over.

Navigating the tensions in any political party is not easy -- as Justin Trudeau can attest. May could find herself trying to keep the different camps in her party happy:

It is easy to envision an adroit squeeze play by a shakily re-elected Justin Trudeau, or Andrew Scheer as the prime minister of any minority government. . . Set up a vote of confidence early in the new Parliament based on a decades long, sharply rising carbon pricing agenda, locked in combination with setting the first shovels in the ground on TMX. If the Greens vote yes they will enrage their base. Vote no, and they defeat the government, and they are into a snap election which threatens annihilation.
The climate crisis is a painful irritation for an already wobbly federal government. But they have a short-term trump: “A Green vote means a Scheer government.” For the NDP the threat is more existential. Most European social democratic parties, bobbing and weaving, co-operated with or tried to clobber the Greens. Both strategies lead to more fragmentation of political loyalties, and a steady weakening of the traditional parties’ dominance.
For Elizabeth May to continue to push herself and her party into ever more dismissive and hard-edged rejection of any compromise with the resource sector may be great politics in the short term. But most Canadians know that theirs is a nation built on those industries. Weaning them off their massive carbon emission loads is a project of decades not days.

And that is the dilemma we all face. People move slowly. And the clock is ticking relentlessly. Something's got to give.

Image: Rogers-Long Team

Saturday, May 18, 2019

More Of The Same

Donald Trump says he doesn't want to go to war with Iran. But two of his closest advisors do. Tony Burman writes:

Beyond the incoherence of the president’s overall foreign policy, there are increasing signs that an eventual road to war against Iran is being built by the two anti-Iranian ideologues in the president’s circle who feel it their mission to provide Trump with the brain and backbone otherwise missing from the Oval Office.
Their names, of course, are John Bolton, the national security adviser, and Mike Pompeo, the secretary of state.
In recent days, Pompeo has flown to Iraq, Europe and Russia in an effort to increase pressure on Iran. He claims that the U.S. could go to war with Iran today for the same reasons the Americans invaded Iraq in 2003: “There is no doubt there is a connection between the Islamic Republic of Iran and Al Qaeda. Period. Full stop,” he told the U.S. Congress last month.
In fact, that statement is false. There is no credible evidence of a connection between Al Qaeda and Iran just as there was no proven connection between Saddam Hussein’s Iraq and Al Qaeda in 2003.

Bolton has been beating his war drums for years:

As for Bolton, he has had Iran in his sights for the past two decades, frequently calling for the U.S. to attack. In 2015, he wrote an opinion piece in The New York Times, titled: “To Stop Iran’s Bomb, Bomb Iran.”
It was Bolton who last week warned Iran that “any attack on United States interests or on those of our allies will be met with unrelenting force.”
But his claim there were increased threats from Iran was immediately denied by British Maj.-Gen. Chris Ghika, who is deputy commander of the American-led coalition fighting insurgent forces in Iraq.

The Trump administration has never been known for telling the truth. So, no one should be surprised by Pompeo's or Bolton's falsehoods. History has shown that recent American wars -- from Vietnam to Iraq -- have been rooted in falsehoods.

We now have more of the same.

Image: Lib Quotes

Friday, May 17, 2019

Ontario's Hulk

Doug Ford likes to talk. But he doesn't like to listen. A  new poll suggests that disability is costing him. Rob Benzie reports in The Toronto Star:

Progressive Conservative support is eroding less than a year after Premier Doug Ford’s majority victory, a new poll suggests.
The Pollara Strategic Insights survey found 31 per cent of respondents now prefer Andrea Horwath’s New Democrats, compared to 30 per cent for Ford’s Tories and 26 per cent for the Liberals under interim Leader John Fraser. Mike Schreiner’s Greens have surged to 11 per cent.
Pollara chief strategist Don Guy said a muddled PC agenda and “a hyper-partisan legislature” have been especially helpful to the Liberals and the Greens.
In last June’s election, the Tories won 40.5 per cent of the vote, the NDP 33.6 per cent, the Liberals 19.6 per cent, and the Greens 4.6 per cent.

Mr. Ford is the face of his party. And it's clear that an increasing number of Ontarians dislike that face:
The poll found 30 per cent of respondents approve of the government, with 64 per cent disapproving and 6 per cent unsure.
Among respondents who voted PC in 2018, just 69 per cent now approve of the Tories, with 29 per cent saying they disapprove and 2 per cent uncertain.
When asked for reasons why they cast ballots for the Tories, 70 per cent said “to get rid of the Kathleen Wynne Liberals” with 42 per cent citing “time for a change, generally” and 25 per cent saying they “have always voted PC.”
Only 21 per cent said it was because they “like Doug Ford.” Similarly, 21 per cent voted for the Tories for cheaper gasoline prices. That’s slightly behind the 22 per cent who said they voted PC because they oppose the “carbon tax.”
Only 8 per cent voted Conservative to expand the sale of beer and wine to corner stores, while 4 per cent said it was because Ford was “bringing back buck-a-beer pricing.”
Five per cent supported the Tories last June because of the promise to build more subways in Toronto.
Guy said the April 11 budget — with its controversial cutting of some services despite overall record spending — has not rolled out well for the government.
“Ham-handed cuts are crippling the core promise for swing voters — governing for the people,” the pollster noted.
“As a result, the swing voters who put the PCs in office are hearing only one meta-message from Ford: ‘Hulk Smash.’ And they are turning away,” he said, referring to the motto of Marvel’s Incredible Hulk.

Doug is Ontario's Hulk. And Ontarians are increasingly unimpressed.

Image: Polygon

Thursday, May 16, 2019

Sometimes It Gets Oppressive

The old adage, "It's not what you know, it's who you know," has been proven true yet again. Yesterday, Donald Trump pardoned Conrad Black. The two men used to be neighbours in Florida. And Black has written a flattering biography of Trump. Black concluded that, "Americans will likely and rightly judge (Trump) a success, despite his lapses of suavity … he is a man of his times, and his time has come."

Trump returned the flattery: “Lord Black’s case has attracted broad support from many high-profile individuals who have vigorously vouched for his exceptional character,”  One should remember that Black was thrown out of Upper Canada College for stealing exams and launching his business career by selling them to his fellow students.  His conviction for fraud and obstruction of justice in 2007 was pretty straightforward. The Toronto Star reports:

In 2007, Black was convicted of three counts of fraud and one of obstruction of justice in a Chicago court and sentenced to six and a half years in jail — more than twice the sentence handed to David Radler, his longtime partner who agreed to testify for the prosecution.
Two of the criminal fraud charges were dropped on appeal. But a conviction for felony fraud and obstruction of justice were upheld in 2010 and he was re-sentenced to 42 months in prison and fined $125,000.

Because of that conviction, Black "remains banned by the Ontario Securities Commission from acting as a corporate director or officer of a public company in Ontario. He was also removed from the Order of Canada."

Trump's press secretary, Sarah Sanders proclaimed that Black "has made tremendous contributions to business, and to political and historical thought."

Sometimes the rhetoric really gets oppressive.

Image: National Review

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

The Winds Of Change

In Britain, the winds of change are blowing. Climate change has become an urgent issue. John Vidal writes:

The last few months have seen the debate shift. Put it down to David Attenborough’s documentary, 1.5 million children on school strike, the charisma of Greta Thunberg, or sheer frustration with the political system, but increasing numbers of people now seem to recognise that nature’s wellbeing is a national priority.
The UK government, keen to position itself as a world leader on climate, but still promoting flying and roads and less keen to act at home, recognises the moment. Cambridge development economist Sir Partha Dasgupta has been commissioned to conduct a major study on the case for acting on biodiversity, much as Lord Stern was asked to review the economics of climate change by Gordon Brown in 2006. Stern’s 700-page report added greatly to the debate. But that was 13 years ago, since which time there have been many highly authoritative studies done on environmental economics. No new report is needed. They all argue roughly the same: that it will cost infinitely more for governments to do nothing about biodiversity and climate than to act decisively, and that to delay will increase costs further. Dasgupta can only argue that we must act soon.

Politically, climate change has reached a critical mass. The evidence can only be ignored if politicians are dedicated to their own extinction. The same shift is happening in the European Union:

Belgium, Denmark, France, the Netherlands, Portugal, Spain and Sweden have asked the EU to set 2050 as a target for being carbon-neutral, and want 25% of the EU budget to go to fighting climate change. For the moment, governments have little to lose. Most consumers would barely notice the changes needed to get to carbon neutrality in 30 years’ time. Who noticed that Britain has just had the first week in more than 100 years of electricity without coal, or that divestment from fossil fuels has reached $8tn? People will have to buy electric cars, more efficient fridges and heating systems, and Britain will need vastly more solar capacity, bigger forests and better insulation, but these are mostly easy and popular changes.

In Canada, we're fighting over a carbon tax. In Ontario, the Ford government is blanketing the air waves with ads telling us how much the carbon tax will cost -- not mentioning anything about the tax rebate. And the government is dismantling wind farms.

Here, it's all hot air

Image: Medium

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

He's Always On Transmit

Who is Doug Ford at his core? Martin Regg Cohn writes that he's a one way communicator. He's always on transmit:

Horsepower and political power have one thing in common: They both rely on communication to get you where you need to go.
If a horse doesn’t heed you, or a politician doesn’t hear you? You’re stuck.
The problem is not that our premier doesn’t talk. It’s that he doesn’t listen.
What we have here is a failure to communicate.

Ford doesn't know a lot of things. But you'd expect that a good politician would know how to communicate. Ford doesn't think communicating is important:

That’s what made question period in the legislature so lamentable late last week, when Ford stonewalled the Official Opposition by reading from a list of accomplishments. Neither listening nor responding, merely self-promoting; not just non-answers but non-sequiturs.
In truth, question period is rarely answer period. But rarely has a self-styled “Government For the People” been so disrespectful of so many opposition MPPs who also represent the people (garnering more than 58 per cent of the ballots cast, to be precise).
It’s the opposition’s job — officially — to hold the premier accountable. It’s his job to respond to them — and the people they represent — whether he likes it (or them) or not.

And, without the basic back and forth of communication, democracy dies. It's called accountability.The same lack of accountability is happening in the United States:

The accountability disconnect is falling to its lowest levels. At Donald Trump’s behest, cabinet secretaries are rejecting congressional appearances and subpoenas with unprecedented contempt.

When a leader is always on transmit, democracy is in deep trouble.

Image: You Tube

Monday, May 13, 2019

Ontario's Deficit

Doug Ford claims that Ontario has a deficit because the previous government spent too much money. However, if you look behind the numbers, a different story emerges. Linda McQuaig writes:

The Ford government wants us to believe that Ontario's deficit is caused by too much spending. But after years of stagnant social spending in Ontario, that's a hard case to make.
Indeed, by any reasonable measure, Ontario is a laggard in social spending. As Ontario's non-partisan Financial Accountability Office (FAO) notes, Ontario already has the lowest program spending (per capita) among Canada's 10 provinces -- before Ford's spending cuts click in.
If not spending, then what is driving Ontario's deficit?
Again, the FAO provides some revealing clues, noting that Ontario also has the lowest revenue (per capita) of any of the provinces. While the provincial average for revenue (per capita) is $12,373, Ontario only collects $10,415 (per capita) -- a significantly smaller amount.
Therein lies the dirty secret of Ontario's deficit -- too little revenue.
And Ford is making the problem worse by cutting taxes a further $3.6 billion a year, notes Sheila Block, senior economist with the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (CCPA).
Even Moody's, the Wall Street credit rating agency, pointed to Ontario's low revenue -- and Ford's tax cuts driving it lower -- as the main deficit culprit when it downgraded the province's credit rating last December.

So Ford's paranoia about the deficit is political theatre. Take a closer look at his budget cuts:

Ford's measures -- despite his claim to be acting "for the people" -- redirect resources from ordinary people to corporations and the rich.
The spending cuts will save the province money so Ford can reduce corporate taxes, even though a decade of corporate tax cuts has failed to produce the promised additional business investment. Never mind. There will be more for corporations to distribute among their shareholders.
And, in the name of "protecting what matters most," Ford is reopening a host of loopholes favouring high-income individuals -- like the scam that enables business owners to "sprinkle" income among adult family members, who face a lower tax rate, even when those relatives don't work for the family business.

There is another way of going about things:

The CCPA shows how this could be done -- by cancelling Ford's tax cuts, adding a very small increase in corporate and personal taxes (excluding those with taxable incomes below $50,000). The result would be a declining deficit, and the restoration -- even expansion -- of our social programs.

But that way, Ford insists, is the path to perdition. Perdition is here. And it wears Doug Ford's face.


Sunday, May 12, 2019

Raucous Years Ahead

I confess that I've been feeling pretty discouraged recently. In response to a comment from the Mound of Sound yesterday, I quoted Mark Twain: "Hain't we got all the fools in town on our side? And hain't that a big enough majority in any town?" But, Tony Burman writes, young people are no fools:

It is worth noting that many of these young people today who, according to polls, are most worried about climate change are part of the so-called “Generation Z.” They are people under 25, a very large population bloc and growing up as a potentially powerful political voice.
Increasing alarm about the threat of climate change is energizing voters in the U.S. presidential campaign, influencing elections in Canada and Europe, and providing people with alternative political options beyond the traditional parties.
In the United States, the issue now ranks as the most burning issue for many voters. A CNN poll in April among Democrats indicated that climate change outranks health care, immigration and the economy as an issue they regard as “very important” for their party’s presidential nominee to support.
In Europe, the pro-environment Green party has made significant inroads in elections in Germany and the Netherlands and may make a breakthrough in European Union elections later this month. As support for traditional parties collapses, the Green party in many countries is capturing support from many centre-left, progressive voters.
That, undoubtedly, is also the hope of Canada’s Green party as it celebrates its byelection victory last Monday in the British Columbia riding of Nanaimo-Ladysmith. The Green candidate won the seat from the NDP, pushing the Liberals into fourth place.

The ground is shifting, Burman writes, and "a political earthquake may be approaching." That earthquake will be international -- the kind of upheaval we haven't seen since the 1960's:

The accelerating political activism over climate change is beginning to resemble the 1960s when protests about civil rights, education reform and the Vietnam War took hold in the U.S., Canada and Europe. Then, as now, the movement was led by young people who radically challenged the political and media elites.

There are raucous years ahead.


Saturday, May 11, 2019

Democracy Is Dying

In Ontario, democracy is dying. The signs are everywhere. Martin Regg Cohn writes:

Judge for yourself, based on this day in the life of our legislature:
It begins with the morning question period. In fairness, it is not called “answer period,” but the premier of the day is expected to make a pretence of debate — perhaps resorting to self-deprecating humour or self-righteous anger to diss the questioner, dismiss the question, diminish the opposition, buttress his own government, but at least address the topic (or in rare instances, reply to a serious question with a serious answer).
Not today. The Official Opposition NDP asks about budget cuts, but Premier Doug Ford has a better idea.
Not only will he not answer their questions, but he will ignore the topics entirely, instead reading from a list — literally — of unrelated government announcements.
When the NDP asks about the future of ambulance services, the premier replies by boasting about his “buck-a-beer” strategy, bemoans “illegal border-crossers,” and decries the “job-killing carbon tax.” On cue, his majority Tories jump to their feet with standing ovations.
The loyal opposition shall be forever stonewalled. But whenever more faithful Progressive Conservative backbenchers ask their prepared questions, Ford’s cabinet replies with exquisitely and obsequiously scripted answers.
Ontario’s so-called First Government For the People has turned parliamentary democracy upside down: It shall be answerable only to its own members, but unaccountable to elected MPPs from opposition parties who captured more than 58 per cent of the vote.

And, outside the legislature, it's more of the same:

While the politicians talk past each other inside the chamber, anti-abortion protestors are outside on the front lawn. Progressive Conservative MPP Sam Oosterhoff slips out to address the crowd, vowing to make a woman’s right to abortion “unthinkable in our lifetime.”
Oosterhoff clearly feels strongly about the right to protest when the topic is abortion. But when a group of seniors walked into his Niagara constituency office for an unannounced book reading, days before, in protest against budget cuts to libraries and book clubs, his staff called police — and the MPP backed them up. (Beware seniors-cum-bookworms who stage sit-ins, let alone read-ins.)

Behold the Conservative Wave in Canada. It's not about the people. It's about power -- the people be damned!

Image: Dreamstime

Friday, May 10, 2019

The Clown President

Donald Trump's naked disregard for the law has been a long time coming. Chris Hedges writes:

This decades-long disregard by the two major political parties for the rule of law and their distortion of government into a handmaiden for corporations set the stage for Donald Trump’s naked contempt for legality and accountability. It made inevitable our kakistocracy, rule by the worst or most unscrupulous (“kakistocracy” is derived from the Greek words kakistos, meaning worst, and kratos, meaning rule).
Those in the parade of imbeciles, grifters, con artists, conspiracy theorists, racists, Trump family members, charlatans, generals and Christian fascists, all of whom often see power as a way to enrich themselves at the expense of the taxpayer, are too many to list here. They include former Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price, Ivanka Trump, Jared Kushner, Vice President Mike Pence, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, former Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke (who blamed “environmental terrorist groups” for the 2018 California wildfires, hired private jets to fly himself around the country and opened public lands for mineral and gas exploitation), former Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt (who held lavish dinners with the coal-mining and chemical executives whose companies he then deregulated) and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. This moral swamp also contains bizarre, Svengali-like figures darting in and out of the shadows, such as Stephen Miller, Michael Flynn, Steve Bannon, Kellyanne Conway, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, Anthony “The Mooch” Scaramucci and Omarosa Manigault Newman, not to mention paid-off porn stars and mistresses, sleazy lawyers and bungling and corrupt campaign managers.
At the center of this clown court is Trump, who, if the rule of law was in place, would have been impeached on his first day in office for violating the Constitution’s emoluments clause; by violating that prohibition, this chief executive is raking in millions from officials of foreign governments and lobbyists who stay at his hotels and resorts and use his golf courses. Trump not only does not attempt to mask his profiting from his office but in corporate promotional material says that those who stay at his properties may be able to get a photo with the president of the United States. As illustrated by the Robert Mueller report and by Attorney General William Barr’s open contempt for Congress, Trump does not even bother to pay lip service to the requirements of the law or the Constitution.

What is going on in the United States goes far beyond Trump. But Trump is the incarnation of it all. And, if Americans fail to see that, they're doomed. Unfortunately, many other countries are also suffering at the hands of the Clown President.

Image: Medium

Thursday, May 09, 2019

From Within

The CBC is reporting that both Jody Wilson-Raybould and Jane Philpott are considering joining The Green Party:

Green Party Leader Elizabeth May said today she expects two former Liberal MPs who quit Justin Trudeau's cabinet over the SNC-Lavalin matter will decide whether to join her party by early June.
Jody Wilson-Raybould and Jane Philpott resigned and were subsequently kicked out of the Liberal caucus in the fallout of the SNC-Lavalin affair, which saw top government officials accused by Wilson-Raybould of pressuring her to interfere in legal proceedings against the Quebec construction company.
Wilson-Raybould attended May's wedding in Victoria last month; at the time, according to a Global News report, she said she'd had "several conversations with Elizabeth, no decision has been made yet."
May said she's talked to both women but she's still unsure of her chances of securing them as candidates.

Liberal MP Andrew Leslie has announced that he will not run in the next election. If the case against Vice Admiral Mark Norman had gone to trial, he would have testified in Norman's defence.

Team Trudeau is falling apart. And it's repeating a well established pattern: From Trudeau and Turner, to Turner and Chretien, to Chretien and Martin, the Liberals always destroy themselves from within.


Wednesday, May 08, 2019

He Doesn't Know What He's Doing

Donald Trump and the House of Representatives are in a fight to see the Orange One's tax returns. Despite the fight, information on his taxes keeps leaking out. And it's abundantly apparent why the president doesn't want anyone to see his returns. Russ Buettner and Susanne Craig write in The Toronto Star:

By the time his master-of-the-universe memoir Trump: The Art of the Deal hit bookstores in 1987, Donald Trump was already in deep financial distress, losing tens of millions of dollars on troubled business deals, according to previously unrevealed figures from his federal income tax returns.
Trump was propelled to the presidency, in part, by a self-spun narrative of business success and of setbacks triumphantly overcome. He has attributed his first run of reversals and bankruptcies to the recession that took hold in 1990. But 10 years of tax information obtained by the New York Times paints a different, and far bleaker, picture of his deal-making abilities and financial condition.
The data — printouts from Trump’s official Internal Revenue Service (IRS) tax transcripts, with the figures from his federal tax form, the 1040, for the years 1985 to 1994 — represents the fullest and most detailed look to date at the president’s taxes, information he has kept from public view. Though the information does not cover the tax years at the centre of an escalating battle between the Trump administration and Congress, it traces the most tumultuous chapter in a long business career — an era of fevered acquisition and spectacular collapse.
The numbers show that in 1985, Trump reported losses of $46.1 million (U.S.) from his core businesses — largely casinos, hotels and retail space in apartment buildings. They continued to lose money every year, totalling $1.17 billion in losses for the decade.
In fact, year after year, Trump appears to have lost more money than nearly any other individual American taxpayer, the Times found when it compared his results with detailed information the IRS compiles on an annual sampling of high-income earners. His core business losses in 1990 and 1991 — more than $250 million each year — were more than double those of the nearest taxpayers in the IRS information for those years.
Overall, Trump lost so much money that he was able to avoid paying income taxes for eight of the 10 years. It is not known whether the IRS later required changes after audits.

Trump sold himself as the man who knew how to handle the economy and who knew how to make deals. But the numbers tell a different story:

In the granular detail of tax results, it gives a precise accounting of the president’s financial failures and of the constantly shifting focus that would characterize his decades in business. In contrast to his father’s stable and profitable empire of rental apartments, Donald Trump’s primary sources of income changed year after year, from big stock earnings, to a single year of more than $67.1 million in salary, to a mysterious $52.9-million windfall in interest income. But always, those gains were overwhelmed by losses on his casinos and other projects.
In 1985, Trump appeared to be on top of the world.
As the year played out, he borrowed hundreds of millions of dollars to fuel a wave of purchases, acquiring a second casino ($351.8 million), a Manhattan hotel ($80 million), the Mar-a-Lago property in Florida ($10 million), a New York hospital he intended to replace with an apartment building ($60 million) and an undeveloped expanse of railroad yards on the West Side of Manhattan ($85 million).
His yearly carrying costs on the rail yards would rise to $18.7 million. He would not be able to convert Mar-a-Lago into a money-making club for another decade. The apartments on the hospital site would not be ready for sale, as Trump Palace, until 1990, and another residential project would be stalled for years. 
Because his businesses were generally created as partnerships, the companies themselves did not pay federal income taxes. Instead their results wound up on Trump’s personal ledger.
Beyond the $46.1-million loss that his core businesses logged in 1985, Trump’s tax information shows that he carried over $5.6 million in losses from prior years. The IRS data on one-third of high-income tax returns that year lists only three taxpayers with greater losses.

This is a man who has never known what he's doing. And he's President of the United States.

Image: Truthdig

Tuesday, May 07, 2019

For The People?

The man who claims that his government is "for the people" appears not to be listening to "the people." Robert Benzie reports in The Toronto Star that Ford's proposed changes to education are a definite dud:

Premier Doug Ford’s classroom changes appear to be getting a failing grade from Ontarians, according to a new public-opinion survey.
The Corbett Communications poll suggests there is opposition to larger class sizes and to forcing students to take online high school courses, and indicates there is concern with Ford’s plan to eliminate thousands of teaching positions.
“Teachers are everywhere. It’s not the union that you really want to try to bust,” veteran pollster John Corbett said Monday.
“It becomes a real problem,” said Corbett, noting the effects could be felt in Progressive Conservative ridings across Ontario.
Using Maru/Blue’s Maru Voice Canada online panel, Corbett Communications surveyed 1,836 Ontario voters last Thursday and Friday. A sample of this size would have a margin of error of 2.4 percentage points, 19 time out of 20.

Consider what the pollster found:

Increasing class sizes from Grade 4 to Grade 8 from an average of around 23 students to 24 students was opposed by 47 per cent of respondents, with 30 per cent in favour and 23 per cent neither supporting or opposing or unsure.
But when those surveyed were asked about increasing high school class sizes from an average of 22 students to 28, 59 per cent were opposed, compared with 25 per cent in supporting and 16 per cent neither supporting or opposing or unsure.
“They do get the quantitative difference,” Corbett said of the respondents’ concern at larger class sizes.
Similarly, those polled were not enthusiastic about the government’s plan to have high school students take four online classes over four years, with 57 per cent opposed, 21 per cent supportive, and 22 per cent neither supporting or opposing or unsure.
“That’s because they see exactly where the Conservatives are going with that. They want to eliminate teachers. They’re trying to diminish the role of teachers,” the pollster said.
“I think people really look at that and say, ‘Wait a minute, I’m paying my taxes to have good teachers educate my child and they want him to learn from the internet?’ They understand what’s going on.”

As for Ford's plan to allow corner stores to sell beer, Ontarians are not against beer. But they are opposed to the way Ford plans to accomplish his goal:

Ford’s plan to allow beer and wine to be sold in corner stores was more popular, with 42 per cent in favour, 34 per cent opposed and 24 per cent neither supporting or opposing or unsure.
But support plunges if liberalizing sales came with a cost of up to $1 billion in financial penalties for breaking the government’s 10-year agreement with the Beer Store.
If there is a payout to the brewers’ retailer, only 33 per cent would favour expanded sales, with 59 per cent opposed and 17 per cent neither supporting or opposing or unsure.

Who knows? There may be a lot of Howard Beales out there.

Image: Dana Roc

Monday, May 06, 2019

The Blind Are Leading The Blind

The United Nations released a summary of a report last week on the health of the planet. Brad Plumer writes in The New York Times:

The 1,500-page report, compiled by hundreds of international experts and based on thousands of scientific studies, is the most exhaustive look yet at the decline in biodiversity across the globe and the dangers that creates for human civilization. A summary of its findings, which was approved by representatives from the United States and 131 other countries, was released Monday in Paris. The full report is set to be published this year.
Its conclusions are stark. In most major land habitats, from the savannas of Africa to the rain forests of South America, the average abundance of native plant and animal life has fallen by 20 percent or more, mainly over the past century. With the human population passing 7 billion, activities like farming, logging, poaching, fishing and mining are altering the natural world at a rate “unprecedented in human history.”
At the same time, a new threat has emerged: Global warming has become a major driver of wildlife decline, the assessment found, by shifting or shrinking the local climates that many mammals, birds, insects, fish and plants evolved to survive in.
As a result, biodiversity loss is projected to accelerate through 2050, particularly in the tropics, unless countries drastically step up their conservation efforts.

And what are we in Canada doing? Mr. Ford, Mr. Kenny and Mr. Moe are fighting the carbon tax all the way to the Supreme Court. Mr. Ford thinks we've done enough. And Mr. Kenney is removing the caps on Alberta emissions.

If there was ever a case of the blind leading the blind, this is it.

Image: The New York Times

Sunday, May 05, 2019

Ford And "Fake News"

Like his orange cousin, Doug Ford has gone to war with the media. Antonia Zerbisias writes:

The war between Doug Ford's government and the news media escalated this week when the Ontario premier and his finance minister Vic Fedeli took off for New York City on Monday, ostensibly to sell U.S. corporations on the idea that the province is "open for business."
While there, Ford popped up on the Fox Business Network, the right arm of the decidedly right-wing Fox (infotainment) News Channel on which, if something is in the public interest, it's dubbed "socialism."

The trouble was, the only media outlet which was informed of the trip was Ford's own news channel   -- Ontario News Now. When media organizations complained, Ivana Yelich -- Ford's press aide tweeted:

"Despite putting out numerous advisories and news releases on Premier @fordnation meeting with some of the biggest companies in America, I received one media request for information regarding his trip. And they wonder why @OntarioNewsNow exists."

The journalists who cover Queen's Park begged to differ:

The Toronto Star's Robert Benzie:
"1. The media were given no notice about the premier's trip until the night before he and the treasurer jetted to New York.
2. The Star asked about his trade mission yesterday and today.
3. Ontario News Now does video press releases not journalism."
CTV's Colin D'Mello took it further, cornering Ford in Toronto, pressing him on Ontario News Now's exclusive access and who pays for it.
"That's part of our budget," Ford mumbled, adding he makes "no apologies" for "getting the message out."

Yet another pronouncement from the Tower of Integrity.

Image: Allan Harding MacKay