Sunday, June 30, 2019

No Time For Folly

Robert Reich asks his readers to perform a thought experiment:

The tyrant and the oligarchy have convinced many voters the reason they feel powerless and economically insecure isn’t because the oligarchy has taken most of the economic gains and overwhelmed the government with its money. It’s because the country has been taken over by undocumented migrants, Latinos, African Americans and a “deep state” of coastal liberals, intelligence agencies and mainstream media.
This is rubbish, of course, but the tyrant is masterful at telling big lies and he is backed by the oligarchy’s money.
Imagine further that the opposition party will soon face another election in which it could possibly depose the tyrant and overcome the oligarchy. But at the rate they are consolidating power – over the courts, politics and the media – this could be the opposition’s last chance.

What would the opposition do? Certainly, it wouldn't be what the Democrats are doing:

Would it let almost every one of them go on television to debate one other, thereby placing a premium on one-line zingers, fast talk and rapid-fire putdowns? Would it assign them randomly to one of two nights, so several candidates with the most support would not even get to debate one other?
Of course not. Instead, it would take the half-dozen who had the best chance and structure the debates so they could demonstrate their understanding of the issues and the forcefulness of their ideas in lengthy back-and-forth exchanges.
Would it encourage them to split the party over policy issues that almost no one understands, such as the meaning of “Medicare for all”, thereby causing some voters to become alarmed about a government takeover of the healthcare system and others to worry the government won’t go far enough?
No. It would encourage the candidates to emphasize the larger goal, in this case to provide health insurance to everyone, and have them explain that a so-called “public option” to buy into Medicare would eventually displace for-profit private insurers anyway, because it would be so much cheaper.
Would it let any of this deflect attention from the tyrant keeping children in cages at the border, coddling foreign dictators and inviting them to help him in the next election, shattering alliances with other democracies, using his office to make money for himself and his family, lying non-stop, subsidizing fossil fuels and downplaying climate change, claiming the media is guilty of treason, and undermining other democratic institutions and norms?
Of course not.

But that is exactly what the Democrats appear to be doing. The simple truth is that most elections are lost by foolish blunders.

This is no time for folly.

Image: Goodreads

Saturday, June 29, 2019

A Very Good Question

Martin Regg Cohn speculates this morning that Doug Ford may not make it through his full mandate. Ford's alliance with his now departed chief of staff, Dean French, has caused discontent in his caucus:

Forced to fawn and fuss over the premier. Required to bow down before French. Hog tied by the Ford-French tag team. Made to witness them blunder and plunder.
A triumphal Ford set the tone early by lecturing his vanquished leadership rivals and fearful ministers that he owed them nothing. French followed up by admonishing mere MPPs that they owed Ford everything.

Ford's playbook was misguided from the start -- and  the blunders it caused continue to drag Ford's popularity into the basement:

Ford won the leadership by promising Ontarians the moon — he’d save the planet and still save us money. He pledged $30 million to fight the “job-killing federal carbon tax,” but today we are all the poorer and dumber in the wake of a ruling by Ontario’s top court that found it completely constitutional.
Policy blunders are only part of this government’s problem. On autism, global warming, increased class sizes, welfare funding — the Tories embraced austerity without sanity, cutbacks without consideration.
But personality clashes proved even more debilitating. With Ford’s backing, French antagonized every potential ideological ally who failed to pledge personal fealty, leading to an exodus of professional staff and an influx of unqualified cronies.
Cabinet lost its collective voice. And caucus wrestled with its collective conscience.
French berated backbenchers for disloyalty or displeasing him. Still, Ford stuck by his man even as he bullied a female MPP to the point of tears in front of the premier and others in early June, as the Star reported. Another backbencher compared the climate to a KGB culture of reprisals and fear.

People can only take so much humiliation. Then they turn on their masters:

Ontario’s Tories have a way of waking up when power fades away. They dumped ex-leader Tim Hudak amid declining electability in 2014, and they pushed out Brown amid declining credibility in early 2018.
The more Ontarians lose faith in Ford, the faster they will turn on the Tories. How long until Ford’s ministers and MPPs give up on him, as they have his predecessors?

A very good question.

Image: blogTO

Friday, June 28, 2019

Will They Elect An Emperor?

In the 2020 election, the Republicans will try to paint the Democrats as socialists. But, Paul Krugman writes, the Democrats are definitely not socialists:

Nobody in these debates wants government ownership of the means of production, which is what socialism used to mean. Most of the candidates are, instead, what Europeans would call “social democrats”: advocates of a private-sector-driven economy, but with a stronger social safety net, enhanced bargaining power for workers and tighter regulation of corporate malfeasance. They want America to be more like Denmark, not more like Venezuela.

The real issue should be what has happened to the Republican Party:

The other day The Times published an Op-Ed that used analysis of party platforms to place U.S. political parties on a left-right spectrum along with their counterparts abroad. The study found that the G.O.P. is far to the right of mainstream European conservative parties. It’s even to the right of anti-immigrant parties like Britain’s UKIP and France’s National Rally. Basically, if we saw something like America’s Republicans in another country, we’d classify them as white nationalist extremists.
True, this is just one study. But it matches up with lots of other evidence. Political scientists who use congressional votes to track ideology find that Republicans have moved drastically to the right over the past four decades, to the point where they are now more conservative than they were at the height of the Gilded Age.
Or just compare the G.O.P., point by point, with parties almost everyone would classify as right-wing authoritarians — parties like Hungary’s Fidesz, which has preserved some of the forms of democracy but has effectively created a permanent one-party state.
Fidesz has cemented its power by politicizing the judiciary, creating rigged election rules, suppressing opposition media and using the power of the state to reward the party’s cronies while punishing businesses that don’t toe the line. Does any of this sound like something that can’t happen here? In fact, does any of it sound like something that isn’t already happening here, and which Republicans will do much more of if they get the chance?
One might even argue that the G.O.P. stands out among the West’s white nationalist parties for its exceptional willingness to crash right through the guardrails of democracy. Extreme gerrymandering, naked voter suppression and stripping power from offices the other party manages to win all the same — these practices seem if anything more prevalent here than in the failing democracies of Eastern Europe. 

The real question in 2020 is whether or not the United States will continue to move further to the right -- and whether or not  Americans will elect an Emperor.

Image: The TLS

Thursday, June 27, 2019

He's Running Out Of Scapegoats

In another two days, Doug Ford will have been premier of Ontario for a year. And, after a year, the Ford operation is beginning to smell. But Ford blames others for that smell. Martin Regg Cohn writes:

First, he fired Vic Fedeli — faulting his finance minister for the worst budget rollout in recent memory. Leaving the premier faultless as usual.
Next, he parted ways with Dean French — blaming his once-powerful chief of staff for the most pungent patronage appointments in recent memory. Leaving the premier blameless as usual.

Those appointments were particularly egregious:

Never mind the bizarre appointment of a 26-year-old French family friend to be Ontario’s handsomely paid envoy in New York — a posting shut down decades ago but revived by the supposedly parsimonious PC government.
Never mind the New York posting that Ford belatedly cancelled when word got out. Former PC party president Jag Badwal, a realtor, is still being rewarded with a sinecure in Dallas as a new trade representative to promote investment in Ontario. If that patronage plum — a pretend job — still passes Ford’s smell test, he needs new nostrils.
And have we forgotten the Washington patronage pigginess that the premier proclaimed with evident pride last October? “I am so happy to announce,” Ford boasted back then, that PC loyalist Ian Todd would be Ontario’s new trade representative at an annual salary of $350,000 a year — a hefty $75,000 more than his predecessor Monique Smith, a former cabinet minister appointed by Wynne, and considerably more than Canada’s full-fledged ambassador to Washington, David MacNaughton (whose pay band is $248,000 to $292,000).
Emboldened by his own hubris, Ford arranged for a job to be created specially for his longtime Etobicoke crony Ron Taverner, a 72-year-old cop, at the Ontario Cannabis Store for $270,000 a year plus bonus — a pay hike of nearly $90,000 over his police job. When Taverner had second thoughts, the premier’s office paved the way for him to become commissioner of the Ontario Provincial Police at $275,000 (the original job qualifications were lowered, allowing him to apply despite lacking the required rank).
The uproar prompted a three-month probe by the legislature’s integrity commissioner, laying bare the shamelessness in the premier’s office that scandalized the province. A chastened Taverner withdrew his name, but Ford remained unrepentant, insisting that the final report amounted to “complete — I repeat a complete — vindication.”
This is the same premier who once thundered against “Liberal insiders getting rich off your taxes,” while solemnly promising to “put the people ahead of insiders and elites.” What about Tory insiders getting rich off our taxes?

Ford claims that none of this was his fault because, Cohn writes, "Ford doesn’t do introspection nor retrospection, not even recognition of where he’s gone wrong."

However, he's running out of scapegoats.

Image: twitter

Wednesday, June 26, 2019

The Government We Deserve

If  you believe that somehow there will be less baloney for sale during this federal election, you're going to be deeply disappointed. Susan Delacourt writes that social media will not reign in the lies and distortions. But there are two defences against falsehoods:

Craig Silverman is a media editor with BuzzFeed News, which is working in collaboration with the Star on election-integrity initiatives now and into the election campaign.
“There’s obviously a supply problem. It’s being created, it’s being spread,” Silverman told me on Tuesday. “But there’s also a demand problem: people in some cases are seeking it out, or when they’re seeing it and consuming it, they’re not taking their own responsibility to question it.”

Responsibility comes down to two things -- keeping your emotions in check, and using your brain:

For fake news to work as a tool of disruption or mischief, it requires an emotional audience, with hair-trigger instincts toward the “send” and “share” buttons. Angry or hyper-emotional voters are the best friends of fake news. Unsurprisingly, politicians such as Trump find them useful, too.
Emotions work well in politics for the same reason they work well in conventional advertising — it’s much easier to manipulate how people feel than how they think.

But there's also another element involved. Some promises are impossible to keep. The reasons are many. But salesmen have been peddling bridges in the desert for a long time. The old adage still applies: If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is."

And, as always, we get the government we deserve.

Image: The Fitness Skeptic

Tuesday, June 25, 2019

When Madness Becomes A Social Disease

Micheal Gerson offers a very solid explanation of why Donald Trump lies:

Most of Trump’s boldest lies are devoted to protecting himself from facts that diminish him. So, his net worth must be exaggerated, no matter what his tax returns might say. His inaugural crowd must be larger than Barack Obama’s, no matter what aerial photographs clearly show. He was cheated out of a popular vote victory, no matter what the evidence indicates.
Sometimes Trump’s self-serving deceptions are hard for followers to keep straight. The Mueller report, for example, was both dismissed as the illegitimate work of Democratic agents and embraced as complete vindication on matters of collusion and obstruction. Even though the explanations are inconsistent, they are unified by Trump’s broader purpose: the bending of reality to serve his self-perception.
Some kind of personal pathology seems to be at work. Trump’s epistemology is not so much relativistic as solipsistic. He has a bottomless need to project himself as wealthier, stronger, smarter and better than he actually is. This is a sign, not of strength, but of psychological fragility. Desperation for the illusion of mastery is the evidence of deep brokenness. It indicates a hunger for affirmation that reality will never fill. This encourages both self-delusion and the spinning of elaborate, self-serving lies.

The real danger he presents is that he invites others to live inside his own disordered, delusional brain:

Trump is not only speaking a series of lies. He is inviting millions of loyalists to live in a political reality conjured by his deceptions. Any news critical of him is “fake.” Any agitprop that supports him — even by the purveyors of conspiracy theories — is to be believed. And any election he might lose is fraudulent.
Not long ago, I sat on a plane next to a knowledgeable and articulate Trump supporter. The talk turned to the Mueller report, and I mentioned that Robert Mueller was awarded the Bronze Star for his bravery in Vietnam. “How do you know that?” snapped my conversation partner. I sputtered something about reading it in multiple, reliable sources. She remained unconvinced.

When madness becomes a social disease, we are all in trouble.

Image: Zero Hedge

Monday, June 24, 2019

Character Is Destiny

Last Thursday, Boris Johnson and his partner, Carrie Symonds, were involved in some kind of tiff. Mathew D'Ancona writes in The Guardian:

I have argued in the past that Johnson’s turbulent private life is a poor basis on which to attack him. One of the great improvements in British political culture in recent decades has been the decline of moral puritanism: after the fiasco of John Major’s “back to basics” strategy, a new and sensible consensus emerged that sexuality, infidelity and marital status are no long fair game in political conflict. But that shift does not represent a blank cheque. Yes, the police left Symonds’ flat satisfied that “there were no offences or concerns apparent to officers”. But the mere fact that the man poised to become prime minister in a few weeks was involved in an alarming altercation in which a neighbour felt it necessary to call police is self-evidently a legitimate matter for public inquiry.

This business is not about puritanism. It's about character. Actually, it's about two characters:

For the personality that Johnson has presented to the world is a confection, a stage act with roots in his true nature but with many affectations and contrivances. He is, one should never forget, “Al” (for Alexander) to his loved ones. “Boris” is a persona: it is his populist Conservative version of Ziggy Stardust, The Rock or Borat. It is a means to an end – and a potent one.
Indeed, it has become something close to a parlour game in the political and media class to chatter about “the two Borises” and wonder which is authentic. Which will we get in No 10: nice Dr Jekyll, the supposedly liberal Johnson who won the London mayoralty by posturing as a friend of immigration, diversity and pluralism? Or nasty Mr Hyde: the burqa-bashing populist who has led the charge for Brexit, says “fuck business” (and, presumably, the jobs that go with it) and treated the case of an imprisoned British-Iranian woman with indefensible sloppiness?

Given Johnson's long record of political schizophrenia, you would think that Conservatives, and Britons generally, would be paying close attention. After all -- whether it's Donald Trump in the United States, or Doug Ford in Ontario -- it should be clear that character is destiny.


Sunday, June 23, 2019

It Pays To Invest In Education

A new report commissioned by the Ontario Secondary Teachers Federation underscores the point that investing in public education is a good idea. The report is divided into two major sections. Jim Stanford writes:

The first uses the Conference Board’s input-output model to simulate the immediate spin-off economic effects of public education spending. Education is a major driver of economic growth and job creation -- yet conservatives insist on treating it solely as a "cost" or "drain," something to be minimized rather than optimized. The Conference Board suggests public education (K-12) accounts for 3.2 per cent of provincial GDP, and 290,000 direct and indirect jobs.
The report then simulated the effects of a 1 per cent increase in provincial spending on education (worth $291 million). It produces a multiplied impact on final GDP (with a final multiplier effect of 1.3). Almost one-third of the incremental expense is returned to government in tax revenues (about 40 per cent of that flowing direct to the provincial level). Wages and salaries (direct and indirect) grow by $275 million, and a total of 4234 additional jobs are created (in schools and administration, in the supply chain, and in downstream consumer goods and services provision).
The second analytical section of the report is more novel: it attempts to identify and quantify some of the major long-run social and fiscal effects of education spending. It points out that high school completion rates have improved dramatically in Ontario over the last 15 years. In 2004 only 68 per cent of Ontario students finished high school. It is important to keep in mind that was at the end of the last eight-year period in office of Ontario’s Conservatives -- these ones led by Mike Harris. Their term was marked by austerity, education cuts, attacks on the autonomy of local school boards, and historic job action by teachers resisting those cuts.
By 2017, after years of sustained growth in education funding, Ontario’s high school completion rate soared to 86 per cent. The Conference Board report reviews extensive published evidence indicating a link between funding levels and school attainment. It is clear that the improvement in Ontario achievement is linked to the increase in school funding after the Harris Conservatives lost power.

The report also illustrates how investment in education cuts other government costs:

The Conference Board report then considers just a few of the fiscal and social benefits of better school attainment. It identifies three main channels: reduced social assistance expenses, reduced health-care costs, and reduced criminal justice costs. In every case, strong correlations are visible in published literature between higher education and better health, income, and criminality results. The report estimates that if high school completion were to drop back down only partially as a result of funding cuts (in their scenario it falls to 83 per cent), additional public fiscal costs would be incurred in just those three areas totaling $3.8 billion over the next 20 years.

Full disclosure. I'm a retired member of the OSSTF. I was in the system during the Harris years, and experienced the disruption of educational services during two strikes. Both were unpleasant affairs. Frankly, I'm glad I'm no longer in the system. Doug Ford is going down the same destructive path Mike Harris trod.

Both men are not well educated. Neither man sees the value of public education. All Ontarians have  -- and will -- pay for their ignorance.

Image: Frontier Centre For Public Policy

Saturday, June 22, 2019

The Price Of Folly

When Saigon fell in 1975, the head of the C.I.A. station sent out his last cable from there. He quoted Sanatayana's admonition that those who refuse to learn from history will repeat it. And then he added he hoped people would learn from Vietnam's recent history.

Forty years later -- after "interventions" in Afghanistan and Iraq -- it's clear the Americans haven't learned a damned thing. Tony Burman writes:

In 2015, after years of negotiations, the world’s major powers — including the U.S., Russia, China and the key nations in Europe — finally worked out a historic agreement with Iran to prevent it from producing nuclear weapons for at least 15 years. Unlike North Korea, Iran doesn’t have any nuclear weapons.
In exchange, Iran was promised relief from the punishing economic sanctions that had been imposed on it in recent years, and an opportunity to rejoin the international community as a credible member.
The agreement was bitterly opposed by Iran’s regional rivals — Israel and Saudi Arabia — in spite of the prescient warning from U.S. President Barack Obama that war and chaos in the Middle East will not end until they learn how to “share the neighbourhood.”

Upon assuming office, one of the first things Donald Trump did was to tear up that agreement:

Trump claimed that the U.S. had given Iran $150 billion as part of the deal, but that was not true. In fact, the deal lifted a freeze on Iranian assets that were largely held in European, not American, banks. And that amount — money that actually belonged to Iran — was in the $50 billion range, not $150 billion.
Trump also complained the deal allowed Iran to continue funding insurgent proxy groups in Syria and Lebanon that threaten the interests of the U.S. and their allies. Iran, it should be noted, defends support of these groups as a crucial defensive measure against ongoing efforts by the U.S., Saudi Arabia and Israel to topple the Tehran regime.

Now the United States and Iran are engaged in a game of chicken:

Prodded by Trump’s hardline advisers, John Bolton and Mike Pompeo, the U.S. seems determined to turn the screws on Iran’s regime by goading it to take some action that would justify military retaliation.
As these actions, ironically, serve only to strengthen the hand of Iran’s hardliners, they may very soon get their wish.

History is overpopulated with fools.  The price of folly can be catastrophe.

Image: Seeking Alpha

Friday, June 21, 2019

Children Looking For Applause

Doug Ford shuffled his cabinet yesterday. He believes that what he needs is a change of faces, not policy -- because he has been changing his own policies ever since he entered office. The problem isn't the faces of the Ford government. It's Ford himself. And, Bob Hepburn writes, the root of it all is Ford's insatiable need to be loved. These days he's not being shown much love:

Doug Ford smiled weakly as loud boos rained down on him on Monday from many of the 80,000 people at the Raptors’ victory celebration at Toronto City Hall.
The Ontario premier maintained his stoic grin a minute later as huge cheers greeted Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who Ford despises.
It was the third time in recent weeks that Ford has been the target of widespread booing. The first occurred at the opening of the Special Olympics at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre, an event filled with children, and the second at the Collision international high-tech conference, an event filled with entrepreneurs and business people

Ford's personal insecurity mirrors Donald Trump's insecurity:

Ford’s need to be liked is strikingly similar to the personality of U.S. President Donald Trump, who seeks the love of the crowd, especially at his political rallies, and seeks the blessing of major media and New York society, much of which can’t stand him.
Like Trump, Ford’s hunger to be liked is a defining element of his personality. That can be a good thing, but it can also be a bad thing when times get tough, which they clearly are now for Ford.
In an article in Psychology Today magazine, Ryne Sherman, a former professor of psychology at Florida University, analyzed Trump’s personality and behaviours, which closely mirror those of Ford. Sherman looked at the bright and dark sides of Trump’s personality and described how they play out in day-to-day interactions.
For Trump, it means he can appear calm under pressure and won't take criticism personally, but actually is reluctant to listen to criticism. He likes to be the centre of attention and to talk a lot, but is also unwilling to listen and is overbearing. He has lots of ideas, but has trouble implementing them and can be unpredictable.
Already Ford is displaying such signs of unpredictability. His flip-flops on issues ranging from housing on the Green Belt to autism funding, safe injection sites and immediate cuts to public health funding are indications of a politician not so much as listening to public criticism of his policies, but rather to criticism of him personally.
Sherman also says people with this type of personality are impulsive, are self-promoting, easily angered, intimidate others and overestimate their abilities. Describes Ford, don’t you think?
Like Trump, Ford’s political rallies are critical for him. He thrives on the love of the crowd, as he will at “Ford Fest” on Saturday at the Markham fairgrounds.
His hunger for applause contributes to his need to believe that while his poll numbers are down — and they show his popularity plunging and now lower than even those of former premier Kathleen Wynne on the eve of last June’s election — he still rules a huge, loving base of followers, namely Ford Nation.
That’s why Ford’s office is “urging” all Conservative MPPs to promote the event widely so it will be packed with adoring Ford fans — and become a safe space for the man who hungers to be loved.

Men like Ford and Trump think of themselves as leaders. The truth is that they are children looking for applause.


Thursday, June 20, 2019

That's It?

Andrew Scheer has finally released his plan to tackle climate change. Alex Boutillier and Alex Ballingall report that:

Under the Conservative plan, companies will still be forced to pay for their pollution, but consumers will not pay a fuel levy directly at the cash register or gas pump as they do under the federal carbon price.
The party would put a cap on industrial emissions, forcing companies that emit more than 40 kilotonnes per year to pay unspecified amounts into research and development initiatives that are certified by the federal government. Examples in the plan include funding divisions of private companies that develop emissions-reducing technology, and paying into green technology programs at Canadian universities.

And, like all conservatives these days, Scheer says a tax is bad policy:

“You cannot tax your way to a cleaner environment. Instead, the answer lies in technology,” Scheer said as he unveiled his environmental plan in Chelsea, Que.

But wait a minute. There are no targets. There's no way to measure if the policy is working.  But, even more importantly, the policy is focused exclusively on industry. That presumably means that the rest of us don't have to do anything to save the planet.

Apparently, emissions from cars and trucks aren't a problem. Presumably Scheer will complain -- with Doug Ford -- about the cost of gas at the pumps. And there will be no cap and trade plan to help Canadians adapt to a green economy. The government will establish a fund to help them do that. Technology will provide the money and save us from oblivion. That's it.

This is a very un-conservative approach to the problem. But conservatives stopped being conservatives long ago. One can only conclude that Mr. Scheer is a fool. And his party is a fools parade.

Image: Babylon Revisited Rare Books

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

Some Resurrections Shouldn't Be Celebrated

David Brooks is a disillusioned conservative. In his book, The Second Mountain,  he writes:

“I have become radicalized … I now think the rampant individualism of our current culture is a catastrophe.  The whole cultural paradigm has to shift from the mindset of hyper-individualism to the relational mindset.” 

For fifty years, we have been living with the hyper individualism preached by Ayn Rand and Neo-liberals. That Randian Dream has crept into all our political parties. Glen Pearson writes, that it has left in its wake a lunar landscape of cynicism:

The disillusionment of the politically inclined roughly reflects what the average citizen with little party loyalty has felt for years.  The pervasive affiliation between capitalism and democracy, between privilege and power, partisanship and pandering, has, Brooks believes, removed political power from responsibility and, ultimately, effectiveness: “We have become too cognitive when we should be more emotional; too utilitarian when we should be using a moral lens; too individualistic when we should be more communal.”
In so easily abandoning our institutions, we forgot that through them we learned and practiced our responsibilities towards one another.  They were how we discovered one another and drew strength in a world that could easily be alienating.  For all their flaws, they reminded us of our accountability to things beyond merely our own persuasions.  South of the border, in the world where Brooks is attempting to navigate his doubts, we are witnessing what happens when raw power defies law, the public good, the institutions of democracy, global responsibility, and ultimately the welfare of the people themselves.  It’s an abandonment that manifested itself in both parties through recent decades of power but has now reached its ultimate betrayal of collective responsibility to each other.   It’s what comes about with the privatization of public accountability.

We yearn for public accountability. But that disappeared in the fog of 19th Century economics -- which were reborn fifty years ago. Some resurrections shouldn't be celebrated.

Image: Slide Serve

Tuesday, June 18, 2019

They're Still With Us

It's one thing to have a low corporate tax structure. It's something else again when corporations simply don't pay taxes. The Toronto Star reports that:

Canadian corporations failed to pay between $9.4 billion and $11.4 billion in taxes in 2014, according to the first comprehensive analysis of the country’s corporate “tax gap” — the difference between taxes legally owed and those collected — being released today by the Canada Revenue Agency.
That means 24 to 29 per cent of all the corporate income tax legally due in Canada didn't get paid that year.
The country’s tax hit was reduced significantly by CRA audits that found $6.1 billion of the unpaid bills — reducing the tax gap by 55 to 65 per cent — the report says.

Politicians on the right will continue to howl that we can't afford new government programs -- like pharmacare -- and we can't afford the programs we have. But, clearly, the government is not getting all the revenue it is owed. And corporations have teams of accountants and lawyers to make sure they keep their money:

In two cases last year involving large corporations BMO and Cameco, the CRA said their offshore tax structures were not legitimate and deprived Canada’s tax coffers of more than $3 billion. The companies appealed and a tax judge ruled them onside.
Much of the “aggressive tax planning” corporations use to lower their tax bills involves complex offshore structures that exist in a legal grey area. While the corporate accountants may believe they’re above-board, the CRA doesn’t always agree.

Fifty years ago, David Lewis made an issue of "Corporate Welfare Bums." He was speaking of subsidies to corporations. But, given their record on paying taxes, it would appear that the bums are still with us.

Image: The Toronto Star

Monday, June 17, 2019

Scheer's Problems

Justin Trudeau faces several issues which could doom his prime ministership. But so does Andrew Scheer. Penny Collenette writes that, with friends like Doug Ford and Jason Kenny, Scheer's quest for the brass ring could be doomed:

The Ontario premier has baggage already. He has unsurprisingly proven to be a political disaster. Voter’s remorse has set in. His polls are plummeting. Anonymous Conservatives are leaking their concerns to reporters and his caucus seems to be in a meltdown.
He and his team clearly did not learn a lesson from the Mike Harris government. When cuts hurt too deeply, people will scream in pain, especially when those cuts are aimed at the most vulnerable.
Scheer must find a way to distance himself from Ford while simultaneously retaining Ford Nation support. 

And then there is Jason Kenney:

Meanwhile, Jason Kenney is a strategic lightning rod. Formerly a federal Conservative minister under Stephen Harper, the premier of Alberta is also causing trouble. Unlike Ford, Kenney and Scheer seemed joined at the hip on policies. However, speculation is mounting that Kenney is the federal “leader in waiting” which has to be slightly awkward for the two of them.
Scheer will also have to carefully monitor the Alberta premier’s actions. Kenney, Ford and four other premiers recently joined forces in an “urgent” letter to challenge Trudeau on two recent pieces of environmental legislation. They warned of a “unity crisis” if they did not get their way.
If there is any threat that makes Liberal hearts beat faster, it is a threat to “national unity.” The prime minister realized quickly the political gift. He immediately countered with an allegation that the premiers were being irresponsible to suggest a national unity crisis.

It's early days. And campaigns do make a difference. But, at this point, I wouldn't make any predictions about who will win the next election.

Image: The Toronto Star

Sunday, June 16, 2019

Mike Harris' Legacy Lives On

Ontario often is the keystone in federal elections. Paul Barber suggests that, in the next election, that may well be the case:

Trying to establish Ontario's place in the Canadian federation's politics presents a paradox.
Critically important, Ontario cast 37 per cent of all votes in 2015, contributing 80 of the Liberals' 184 constituencies. However, having elected a small "l" liberal prime minister that year, the same province proceeded, less than three years later, to select the conservative Doug Ford as premier.

During the governments of Trudeau the Elder, Ontario was governed by Progressive Conservatives:

Ontario was governed by a progressive version of conservatism in the '60s and '70s, when premiers such as John Robarts and Bill Davis, quite compatible with the era of Trudeau the elder, held office.
Take education as an example.
The PCs of that era invested prodigious resources in all levels of education, particularly post-secondary. It would pay off economically. Toronto's current prosperity is directly connected to those investments. As a producer with CBC's The Journal in 1985, I made a short documentary profile of a small high-tech firm in Toronto that had just sold its new design system for cars to GM. Why in Toronto? CEO Stephen Bingham said that the staff's advanced technical skills were attributable to investments by Bill Davis in places like the Universities of Toronto and Waterloo and Sheridan College.

The party retains the name. But it is no longer progressive:

 A new hard-edged conservatism took over in Progressive Conservative Mike Harris' years of the '90s, enthusiastic about cutting education spending, prioritizing tax cuts. Deep cuts to postsecondary were offset to some degree by tuition increases and private sector support, particularly for elite universities such as Toronto and Waterloo.
Those years featured strong economic growth imported from a boom south of the border (dubbed by economist Joseph Stiglitz the "roaring nineties") and aided by a continuously declining Canadian dollar that fell from the moment the PCs took office -- from about 72 cents U.S. to 62.5 cents in January 2002. Conservatives liked to think the growth was about them and Harris' "Common Sense Revolution." It was not.

Doug Ford's government has returned to the Harris template.  But times have changed. And so have the Trudeaus. Many in Ontario's media blame Kathleen Wynne's previous government for Ontario's deficit. But the economy was good during the Wynne years:

Canada's largely conservative print media has misleadingly portrayed Ontario as a high spending, debt-ridden basket case. The truth is that spending and taxes remain low, the latter being a key contributor to debt, itself primarily a product of the financial downturn following the last recession. While, per capita, Ontario's debt is higher than that of most other provinces, it is not the largest in Canada and there is no crisis.  

When it came to taxes, Wynne was not willing to rock the Harris boat. His legacy lives on. And so we are where we are.  All of this history will play into October's election.

Image: Tom O'Connor/twitter

Saturday, June 15, 2019

He's Been There Before

Conservative premiers are lining up to fight two federal pieces of legislation -- Bill C-69 and Bill C-48. They say that both bills will trigger a national unity crisis. And they have worked very hard to get Quebec premier Francois Legault on their side. But Legault has refused to sign a joint communique with the other premiers. Chantal Hebert writes:

The official reason for declining the invitation to sign was that the amendments the Conservative premiers were adamant Trudeau accept in the final version of bill C-69 did not reflect Quebec’s concerns.
But Legault was also wary of the partisan undertones of the letter.
The end game of the Conservative premiers is not to have a pair of environment-related federal bills dismissed or rewritten.
Their latest offensive is part of a battle to the finish to help Conservative Party Leader Andrew Scheer oust the Liberals from power in the Oct. 21 federal election.

That strategy has been tried before, when Legault was a member of Lucien Bouchard's government, and the battle was over the Clarity Act:

At the time of the 2000 federal election PQ strategists were convinced then-prime minister Jean Chrétien would pay a hefty electoral price in Quebec for having given Ottawa the legal capacity to set the terms of engagements of future referendums.
They believed voters would rally to the premier’s contention — one shared by the bulk of the province’s chattering class — that the federal law was an attack on Quebecers’ collective right to self-determination. They hoped it would rekindle sovereigntist passions.
They were wrong. Chrétien won the popular vote and almost tied the Bloc Québécois for seats. A short time later, Bouchard resigned. He said the federal result was a major factor in his decision. The latter did suggest that in his role as Quebec gatekeeper vis-à-vis Ottawa, he was all bark and no bite.

The Conservative premiers are playing the same game. Perhaps it will work in Alberta and Saskatchewan. But Ontario and New Brunswick are different places:

Whether Doug Ford — an unpopular Ontario premier whose vocal backing of Scheer the Liberals hope will drive more votes their way — or Higgs, whose New Brunswick government was elected with a smaller share of the popular vote than the official opposition, will be similarly vindicated by their respective electorates is much less certain.
Trudeau could yet replenish his moral authority at their expense, leaving them with a weaker hand in their dealings with a re-elected Liberal federal government and some egg on their faces on the provincial front.

Jason Kenney and Doug Ford would love to make the next election about national unity. Not Francois Legault. As Huck Finn said, "I been there before."

Image: City News Toronto

Friday, June 14, 2019

The Coming Of Bo Jo

Tony Burman writes that it is now virtually certain that British Conservatives will choose Boris Johnson as their country's Prime Minister. Think of that for a moment. The next British prime minister will be "Bo Jo the Clown:"

Yes, during this next stage of Britain’s painful slow-motion national suicide, we can at least be consoled that the country’s blond-haired class clown will leave ’em laughing as Britain fades resolutely into obscurity.
How about the time at the London Olympics when, as the city’s mayor, he ended up dangling on a zipwire waving two plastic flags in a silly helmet, pleading “Can you get me a rope?” Or when he tried to convince the Chinese at the Beijing Olympics that the British invented ping pong “on the dining tables of England in the 19th century and called it ‘wiff waff’ ”?

If there ever was a man who says the wrong thing at the wrong time, it's Boris Johnson:

Last year, Johnson described Muslim women who wore burqas and niqabs as “looking like letter boxes (and) bank robbers.” He once wrote that the Queen loves the Commonwealth because “it supplies her with regular cheering crowds of flag-wearing picaninnies.” And, as foreign secretary, he wrote an insulting poem about the president of Turkey suggesting he had sex with a goat.

Why has Britain been given such a "gift?" Consider the party which he will lead:

For a large, diverse country such as the U.K., the Conservatives have come up with a narrow process to choose a new prime minister. Eligible voters will only include the 160,000 grassroots members of their party — in a country of 67 million people.
Even worse is the demographic breakdown of those people. They are largely older voters (56 per cent over the age of 55), overwhelmingly white (97 per cent), mainly male (70 per cent), very well-off and far more right-wing than the country at large.

Another Donald Trump will tread upon the world stage. Shakespeare was right. Oh, what fools these mortals be.

Image: Daily Mail

Thursday, June 13, 2019

Trudeau's New Big Idea

Yesterday, Eric Hoskins introduced the results of his panel's research into a national pharmacare program. Ontario's former Minister of Health is thinking big. And so is Justin Trudeau. Susan Delacourt writes:

It’s been a while since Canadian politics delved into national universal social programs — daycare was the last big one on the political agenda, and that died in the 2006 election that brought Stephen Harper’s Conservatives to power.
Hoskins, who has been heading up a federal advisory council on pharmacare for the past year, even supplied some of the script for lofty speeches on the Liberal campaign trail this fall.
“This is our generation’s national project,” Hoskins said when he unveiled the council’s recommendations. “Let’s complete the unfinished business of universal health care.”

Trudeau has made some other big promises which didn't work out as planned:

Electoral reform didn’t quite work out as planned, neither did the vow on modest deficits, carbon taxation or harmony with the provinces. 

But he wants to present himself as the progressive alternative. And the NDP also advocates establishing a national phramacare program. You can be sure the Conservatives will rain on the idea. They've already done that in Ontario:

[Kathleen] Wynne rolled out universal, OHIP+ coverage for the under-25 group in Ontario in 2017, we might recall, but Ford’s new Conservative government announced a rollback almost immediately after being sworn in a year ago. As of April this year, free prescription drugs are only provided to young people who don’t have private insurance coverage.

So how will it all work out? Stay tuned.


Wednesday, June 12, 2019

We Need A Better One

This morning, as Britain searches for a new prime minister, George Monbiot reflects on the toxic politicians who now bestride the globe:

A few years ago, the psychologist Michelle Roya Rad listed the characteristics of good leadership. Among them were fairness and objectivity; a desire to serve society rather than just yourself; a lack of interest in fame and attention; and resistance to the temptation to hide the truth or make impossible promises. Conversely, a paper in the Journal of Public Management and Social Policy has listed the characteristics of leaders with psychopathic, narcissistic or Machiavellian personalities. These include: a tendency to manipulate others; a preparedness to lie and deceive to achieve your ends; a lack of remorse and sensitivity; and a desire for admiration, attention, prestige and status. Which of these lists, do you think, best describes the people vying to lead the Conservative party?
In politics, almost everywhere we see what looks like the externalisation of psychic wounds or deficits. Sigmund Freud claimed that “groups take on the personality of the leader”. I think it would be more accurate to say that the private tragedies of powerful people become the public tragedies of those they dominate. For some people, it is easier to command a nation, to send thousands to their deaths in unnecessary wars, to separate children from their families and inflict terrible suffering, than to process their own trauma and pain. What we appear to see in national politics around the world is a playing out in public of deep private distress.

We are all imperfect. But we seem to prefer leaders whose imperfections are writ large. What should we do?

The underlying problem is the system through which such people jostle. Toxic personalities thrive in toxic environments. Those who should be least trusted with power are most likely to win it. A study in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology suggests that the group of psychopathic traits known as “fearless dominance” is associated with behaviours that are widely valued in leaders, such as making bold decisions and bestriding the world stage. If so, we surely value the wrong characteristics. If success within the system requires psychopathic traits, there is something wrong with the system.
In designing an effective politics, it could be useful to work backwards: to decide what kind of people we would like to see representing us, then create a system that would bring them to the fore. I want to be represented by people who are thoughtful, self-aware and collaborative. What would a system that elevated such people look like?
It would not be a purely representative democracy. This works on the principle of presumed consent: “You elected me three years ago, therefore you are presumed to have consented to the policy I’m about to implement, whether or not I mentioned it at the time.” It rewards the “strong, decisive” leaders who so often lead their nations to catastrophe. A system that tempers representative democracy with participative democracy – citizens’ assemblies, participatory budgeting, the co-creation of public policy – is more likely to reward responsive and considerate politicians. Proportional representation, which prevents governments with minority support from dominating the nation, is another potential safeguard – though no guarantee.

Surely, we can design a better system. Given the problems the globe faces, we need a better one.

Image: Celebration Of Mind

Tuesday, June 11, 2019

The Emperor Of Toronto

Doug Ford was elected premier of Ontario. But, Tom Walkom writes, he really wants to be Emperor of Toronto:

Ford’s fascination with Toronto is not new. It revealed itself immediately after the election last year that saw his Progressive Conservatives take power at Queen’s Park. That’s when, out of the blue, he decided to dramatically cut back the size of Toronto’s city council.
Was he settling scores? Was he fulfilling a downsizing dream that had eluded him when he and his brother Rob were members of that council? Who knows his motive?
The point is that the new premier of Ontario saw this bit of Toronto-centric localism as a top priority. He was even prepared to override the constitution’s charter of rights and freedoms in order to ensure the cuts were made.
Since then, Ford’s focus on Toronto has continued unabated.
He has trashed the city’s latest public transit plan, reached after years of agonizing to and fro. In its stead is a brand new Ford plan.
Did the city want one midway stop on its proposed Scarborough subway line? Phooey. Ford would have three.
Did the city have plans for a so-called relief line to ease the pressure on existing subway routes? Forget that. Ford would replace it with a so-called Ontario Line, running from Ontario Place on the lakeshore to the Ontario Science Centre in the city’s northeast.

Ford has just declared that he will decide how Toronto will develop in the future:

He routinely overturns decisions reached by the city’s elected mayor and councillors.
No detail of city business is too insignificant to dissuade his involvement.
His government’s decision to override the city’s development plans for two discrete areas of Toronto is perhaps the most extreme example. In effect, the provincial government is involving itself in the nitty-gritty of zoning.

He's a big man with many petty scores to settle. And he's doing his home town no favours.


Monday, June 10, 2019

Rules? What Rules?

Ever since Donald Trump became president, he has been breaking universally accepted norms for presidential behaviour. His recent trip to Europe merely added to the rules he takes pride in breaking. Max Boot writes:

Just look at how Trump behaved in his trip to Europe to commemorate D-Day — which he seems to think stood for “Donald’s day.” Trump managed to shatter one norm of presidential decorum after another.
Don’t engage in domestic politics overseas — and don’t engage in name-calling. During a Fox News interview at the American war cemetery in Normandy — can there be a bigger sacrilege? — Trump called special counsel Robert S. Mueller III a “fool” and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) a “disaster” and “Nervous Nancy.” Earlier on the trip, he called Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D.-N.Y.) a “creep” and singer Bette Midler “a washed-up psycho.”
Don’t lie. Trump made one false claim after another. The United States doesn’t have the “cleanest air in the world,” and it hasn’t “gotten better” since he became president. Trump doesn’t have the highest level of support ever among Republicans. Climate change doesn’t go “both ways.” Trump has attacked John McCain, and he did call Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, “nasty” — it’s on tape. Oh, and it wasn’t “fake news” that massive crowds demonstrated against Trump in London. The actual “fake news” was Trump’s claim that “thousands of people” were cheering him in London.
Don’t intrude into other democracies’ politics. Trump all but endorsed Boris Johnson’s quest to become prime minister of the United Kingdom, suggested that populist rabble-rouser Nigel Farage should be appointed to negotiate with the European Union, and said that Britain should pursue a “hard Brexit.” He even proposed including the National Health Service in trade talks. In his meeting with Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar, a Brexit opponent, Trump recommended a “wall” along the border between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland — the last thing that either side wants. In his defense, Trump was probably not trying to micromanage Brexit negotiations; he simply didn’t know what he was talking about, as usual.
Don’t mix government business with personal business. Trump made two separate trips, at considerable taxpayer expense, to spend the night at Doonbeg, his money-losing Irish golf resort. He even tried to get Varadkar to meet him there — a request the Irish prime minister refused. Trump’s visit provided a publicity windfall for the golf course and de facto put the weight of the American presidency behind the Trump Organization’s requests, still pending with the local authorities, to build a sea wall, more than 50 guest cottages and a ballroom. Trump’s sons, Eric Trump and Donald Trump Jr., who run the Trump Organization, even used the occasion to go on a pub crawl to win over the locals.

Trump offers his middle finger to the world. He's not an Ugly American. He's the Ugliest American.

Image: Vanity Fair

Sunday, June 09, 2019

The New Dr. Goebbels

These days, we are awash in falsehoods. Social media have been a blessing. But they have also been a curse. Robin Sears writes:

Someone leaked an email allegedly from a People’s Party of Canada organizer suggesting that non-white Canadians who join their nascent organization should be put on display in front of the camera, but never consulted about policy, “…as they are all liberals anyway.” It strains credulity, however, that any racialized Canadian would find the anti-immigrant, Islamophobic message of the Bernier blowhards attractive.
So the message may have been fake, as the party instantly declared, but it got a lot of attention and probably did some damage, whether fake or real.
More troubling was the reaction of YouTube and Facebook to a doctored video, now viewed millions of times, that showed House Speaker Nancy Pelosi as drunk. Facebook refused for days to take it down. No matter how improbable the source or the claim, some of smear will stick with some people – even after it has been amply disproven. Islamaphobes and Pelosi haters will continue to believe and circulate nonsense.

Recently, governments --particularly in Europe -- have been trying to regulate the new media giants. But, ultimately, the ability to exercise critical thinking  will determine  what kind of legs these stories have. It's become much easier for the new Dr Goebbels -- and there are several -- to exercise their dark arts.

Something to think about as we enter our federal election.

Image: The University Times

Saturday, June 08, 2019

Our D Day?

In the wake of the 75th anniversary of D Day,  some are drawing analogies between the climate crisis and the Second World War. Certainly, Elizabeth May sees a connection. Susan Delacourt writes:

Here in Canada, Elizabeth May and the Green party have put this comparison at the heart of the plan recently unveiled as “Mission Possible.”
One of the more intriguing components of the plan is to form a “survival cabinet” made up of members from all parties, a suggestion inspired by the wartime cabinets of Winston Churchill and William Lyon Mackenzie King.
May has been making the link between climate change and war for some time now, going back at least to last fall, when she spoke in the House during the emergency debate on the findings of the International Panel on Climate Change — that’s the panel that warned the world it just had 12 years to get its act together to avoid global catastrophe. 
It was Dunkirk, not D-Day, that May was talking about during that speech. She said she had been thinking about that mass evacuation of more than 300,000 trapped soldiers during the Second World War — an audacious act of leadership by Churchill that called upon civilians to help rescue troops trapped by the German forces at Dunkirk.
“Churchill of course, surrounded by naysayers, thought up a miracle, one that is clearly undoable. He asked, ‘How many civilian boats are there in Dover? We could get those civilians to cross the English channel and rescue over 300,000 men.’ Really? It was hardly plausible,” May said. “In this time and age we need to face the facts just as squarely. We need to tell Canadians that we have hope, to not despair or think it is too late.”

In many ways, these are dark days. But it's worth remembering that we're not the first generation to face dark days. What matters is how we respond to the darkness.

Image: Pinterest

Friday, June 07, 2019

The Chaos Premier

In the run up to the American election, Jeb Bush called Donald Trump "the chaos candidate;" and he predicted that Trump would be "a chaos president." Doug Ford has proved to be a chaos premier. But he's not the first. Tom Walkom writes:

As former PC premier Mike Harris discovered, what Ontarians really dislike is chaos.
Like Ford, Harris was elected on a promise to disrupt — in his words, to bring a common-sense revolution to Ontario.
For a while after he took power in 1995, that disruption was popular — popular enough to get him re-elected four years later.
But eventually, Harris’ version of permanent revolution wore the province down. There were simply too many teachers’ strikes, too many spending cuts, too much commotion.
Harris saw the writing on the wall and bailed out before his term in office ended.

Ford's decision to cap public sector wages at 1% will trigger labour chaos in the province:

To a labour movement already soured on the Ford government, it is a direct provocation.
In effect, the bill would eliminate the right of unions to bargain the most important part of any collective agreement — wages and compensation.
In any new contracts with public sector unions, the bill would limit increases in “compensation entitlements,” including but not limited to wage and salaries, to one per cent a year for three years.
Those covered by the bill include direct employees of the provincial government and its crown corporations, teachers and other education workers as well as those working in universities, colleges, hospitals and long-term care homes.

Ontarians have seen this movie before and they kicked the producers out as soon as they had the chance. Obviously, Mr. Ford was not paying attention during the film's first run.

Image: Quote

Thursday, June 06, 2019

He's Running True To Form

Doug Ford has announced that public sector wages in Ontario will be capped at one percent -- because the province is in a fiscal emergency. Martin Regg Cohn writes:

Doug Ford’s 1 per cent solution doesn’t add up. Not now, not even close.
No surprise that his Progressive Conservatives want to legislate a 1-per-cent wage cap on most public sector workers on the grounds that tough times require tough choices. There’s just one problem facing the Ontario government — the best kind of problem:
What if these aren’t tough times by any reasonable definition? What if the province isn’t facing an economic downturn, nor a fiscal crisis, not even a surging salary emergency to justify suspending collective bargaining rights?

But Ford is quite happy to suspend those bargaining rights, just as he is quite willing to tear up existing contracts:

A more savvy Tory government would have kept its powder dry for now. Instead, Ford’s PCs have ripped up contracts with green energy companies and introduced legislation to tear up an enforceable contract with the big brewers, relying on their majority muscle to outlaw the compensation to which they are entitled by law.
The legislature is supreme, insists Ford and his cabinet minions. The Tory majority can do as it pleases.

Of course, all of this will wind up in court and, ultimately, it will cost Ontarians lots of money. But, even more alarmingly, Ford is turning Ontario into a pariah:

In his zeal for beer, Ford’s confrontation with foreign brewers — blasted by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Wednesday — is not only undermining his contrived “Open for Business” slogan, it may ultimately cost us in the courts. Imagine draining the treasury to pay damages to foreign brewers, while forcing public servants to make up the difference in their salaries, and ultimately sticking taxpayers with the legal bill.
By declaring war on everyone everywhere — brewers, investors, municipalities and public servants — Ontario’s embattled government is devaluing the currency of its credibility and becoming an international laughing stock. But the Tories are not as dumb as they look, merely desperate.
The premier is not declaring war on public servants because Ontario needs the money. He merely needs a scapegoat.

And that's really what this is all about. Ford has been a thug and a bully all his life. He's running true to form.

Image: Can Stock Photo

Wednesday, June 05, 2019

He Smells After Three Days

The Brits have endured Donald Trump for the last four days. The upper echelons of British society have shown remarkable restraint. The Guardian reports that Prince Charles tried to engage Trump on the subject of climate change:

Prince Charles spent 75 minutes longer than scheduled trying to convince Donald Trump of the dangers of global heating, but the president still insisted the US was “clean” and blamed other nations for the crisis.
Trump told ITV’s Good Morning Britain on Wednesday he had been due to meet the Prince of Wales for 15 minutes during his state visit, but the discussion went on for 90 minutes – during which the prince did “most of the talking”.
Trump said: “He is really into climate change and I think that’s great. What he really wants and what he really feels warmly about is the future. He wants to make sure future generations have climate that is good climate, as opposed to a disaster, and I agree.”
But Trump said he pushed back at the suggestion the US should do more.
He said: “I did say, ‘Well, the United States right now has among the cleanest climates there are based on all statistics.’ And it’s even getting better because I agree with that we want the best water, the cleanest water. It’s crystal clean, has to be crystal clean clear.”
Trump added: “China, India, Russia, many other nations, they have not very good air, not very good water, and the sense of pollution. If you go to certain cities … you can’t even breathe, and now that air is going up … They don’t do the responsibility.”

Donald didn't see Charles' point -- just as he didn't see the protesters in the streets.

Theresa May has endured multiple humiliations over the last two years. Her final humiliation was standing beside Trump at their joint press conference. Benjamin Franklin said, "Guests, like fish, begin to smell after three days."

Trump has proved Franklin right. I suspect the Brits can't wait until he leaves.

Image: BrainyQuote

Tuesday, June 04, 2019

Bad Business

So called free trade deals with the United States are worthless. Consider, Tom Walkom writes, the recently re-negotiated USMCA:

It has been under renegotiation since Trump became president in 2017. For Canada, these negotiations were seen as vital. Thirty years of free trade with the U.S. had served to restructure virtually the entire Canadian economy.
To Canadian business and government, a world without NAFTA seemed unthinkable.
And so we negotiated. Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland negotiated. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau negotiated. Even former Conservative Prime Minister Brian Mulroney was brought into help.

The good news was that not much changed. For the better, The Investor Dispute Mechanism was nixed. However,

the fatal flaw in the renegotiated pact was that, with one key exception involving the auto industry, it did nothing to prevent Trump or any other U.S. president from overriding NAFTA on spurious grounds.
Which is what Trump did last week. Citing the authority of the International Emergency Economic Powers Act, a law that gives the president extraordinary authority during a crisis, Trump announced plans to levy tariffs on all Mexican goods entering the U.S.
The tariffs, which are to start at 5 per cent in June and rise each month until they reach 25 per cent in October, will continue until Mexico satisfies the White House that it is doing all it can to alleviate the “emergency” caused by the flow of migrants into the U.S. from Central and South America.
The implications of Trump’s latest move are far-reaching. What happens if this president, or a successor, decides that Canada isn’t doing enough to further some other bizarre element of U.S. policy?

New Yorkers have known for years that it's bad business to deal with Trump. Now, the rest of the world knows that it's bad business to deal with the United States.

Image: You Tube

Monday, June 03, 2019

It's Always Been Hard To Find Them

Peter Wehner offers a few thoughts this morning on the difficulty of governing. He writes in The New York Times:

In the late 18th century, Edmund Burke wrote to a friend and fellow member of Parliament that “every political question that I have ever known has had so much of the pro and con in it that nothing but the success could decide which proposition ought to have been adopted.”
Burke was right. It’s impossible to know the exact consequences once abstract ideas are imperfectly put into effect in the real world, which is untidy and unpredictable.

Many problems are devilishly complicated and we make decisions based on incomplete information:

Those in decision-making positions are often forced to make consequential judgments on incomplete information in a compressed period in an attempt to solve difficult and enduring problems. And the outcome of those decisions may well be determined by contingencies that are difficult to anticipate. That’s why it is important to look for leaders who not only have the right principles, but also discernment, wisdom and the ability to see around corners. And it’s important to keep our expectations realistic, because disillusionment begins with illusion-ment, which we should avoid.

These days, wisdom and discernment seem to be in short supply. But perhaps they always have been. I've been watching Ken Burns documentary on the Vietnam War. He makes clear that the war resulted from a fundamental misreading of a situation. The war began as a war of independence against a dying colonial system in Asia.

But the leaders of the day saw the war through perspective of the Cold War. It was a clash of civilizations -- between liberty and tyranny, good and evil. It went on for decades with a loss of life -- on all sides -- that was monstrous.

Wisdom and Discernment. It hard to find them today. It's always been hard to find them.

Image: Geckoandfly

Sunday, June 02, 2019

No Roosevelts

In the First Gilded Age, Robert Reich writes, an oligarchy controlled the United States. Teddy Roosevelt went to war against it and ushered in The Progressive Era:

Teddy Roosevelt called that oligarchy the “malefactors of great wealth,” and fought them by breaking up large concentrations of economic power–the trusts–and instituting a progressive federal income tax.
His fifth cousin, Franklin D. Roosevelt, further reduced their power by strictly regulating Wall Street, and encouraging the growth of labor unions. The oligarchy fought back but Roosevelt wouldn’t yield.
“Government by organized money is just as dangerous as Government by organized mob,” he thundered in 1936. “Never before in all our history have these forces been so united against one candidate as they stand today. They are unanimous in their hate for me—and I welcome their hatred.”

Now, with help from both major political parties, the United States is living through a Second Gilded Age:

According to a study published in 2014 by Princeton Professor Martin Gilens and Northwestern Professor Benjamin Page, although Americans enjoy many features of democratic governance, such as regular elections, and freedom of speech and association, American policy making has become dominated by powerful business organizations and a small number of affluent Americans.
The typical American has no influence at all.

There is one difference now, though. The United States is not ruled by a mob. But it is ruled by a mob boss -- who has installed his henchmen throughout the government. They will be hard to send packing.

Add to that the climate crisis, and you have a perfect storm of malefactors. And there are no Roosevelts in sight.