Saturday, August 31, 2019

Time For A Wealth Tax

Linda McQuaig argues that it's time to establish a wealth tax in Canada. That's what Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders are proposing south of the border:

Prominent U.S. Democratic presidential contenders Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders are campaigning on taxing the super-rich, with Warren calling for a two per cent annual tax on wealth above $50 million, rising to three per cent on billionaires.

Jagmeet Sing is proposing a similar tax on wealthy Canadians. And economist Thomas Picketty has assembled the data which proves it's a good idea:

The brilliant French economist Thomas Piketty answered that question [of whether or not a wealth tax was a good idea] at length in his celebrated international best-seller, Capital in the 21st Century, where he made the case for wealth taxes.
Without them, he argued with extensive data, wealth will become ever more concentrated, allowing the mega-rich to swallow up an ever-larger share of the world's resources.
Given that 26 individuals now have as much wealth as the bottom half of humanity (3.8 billion people), one wonders at what point conservative commentators might consider this a problem. 

However, our conservative media won't touch that issue, even though there are many arguments in favour of such a tax:

Let's not forget that the super-rich typically made their fortunes by selling products built by employees we all paid to educate, and shipping those products on roads we all paid to build.
A wealth tax would redirect a tiny fraction of those fortunes back to the community to help ordinary Canadians. I'd call that a good solution to the problem of millions of Canadians working really hard but still struggling to get by.
A wealth tax would also help curb the enormous political power of the super-rich. Fossil fuel billionaires, for instance, have effectively managed to block global efforts against climate change.

And here's the kicker: The majority of Canadians are in favour of a wealth tax:

A new Abacus poll shows that 67 per cent of Canadians support (or somewhat support) a wealth tax, along the lines proposed by Warren, and that even a majority of Conservative voters support it. That's probably about the same percentage of Canadians who support (or somewhat support) Mother's Day.

Now is the time -- in the upcoming federal election -- to discuss the idea.

Image: ITEP

Friday, August 30, 2019

Back To Basics?

The Ford government has decided that the way Ontario students are taught math is FUBAR. And their solution is GBTTB -- Go Back To The Basics. Martin Regg Cohn writes:

Education Quality and Accountability Office (EQAO) test results show less than half of Grade 6 students (48 per cent) met the provincial standard last year, a one percentage point drop from the average over the past three years, with similarly discouraging declines in other grades.
That’s nothing to celebrate, and may be reason to recalibrate, but is it proof of Lecce’s unwavering hypothesis? The Tories keep trying to link declining scores to discovery math, which they blame on an ideological fixation best fixed by going back to basics.
“There is absolute causation,” argued Lecce, who has taken to appearing at news conferences behind a podium sign proclaiming himself “For the Students” — a variation, lest you forget, of Ford’s inimitable “For the People” slogan.

But is there absolute "causation?"

Discovery math is better known by teachers as inquiry-based math because it teaches students critical thinking to find a solution to a problem, rather than simple computations. The thinking was that rote learning wouldn’t take students far in a world of computers and artificial intelligence, where calculations are done at warp speed; applied problem-solving is where humans will still come in handy.
How did discovery math measure up? In 2010-11, the EQAO recorded a Grade 6 score of 58 per cent; the next year it was still 58 per cent, before declining a point in 2012-13.
If discovery math was so deleterious back then, why wasn’t there a dramatic drop in those three years? And if it’s so bad now, why has it declined so slowly — hovering at 50 per cent in 2015-16, holding steady for the next year, before inching down again over the past two years?
Before we ascertain whether discovery math is part of the problem, ceteris paribus — all other things being equal — we need to rule out other factors definitively dumbing down math scores such as, say, smartphones and video games that distract students and detract from homework.

The Fordians have fallen back on modern conservatism's panacea for every problem -- go back:

Like Lecce, the premier hates so-called discovery math: “Kids used to learn math by doing things like memorizing a multiplication table and it worked,” he said last year.
In its collective wisdom, the government’s education brain trust has jumped on the back-to-basics bandwagon as a solution in search of a problem. Memorizing multiplication tables may be important, but when did applied problem-solving become irrelevant?

The inability to think critically in order to find solutions applies to much more than math problems. If anything, it's the most pressing crisis we face these days. And Ford's government is Exhibit A when ones looks for illustrations of the problem.

Image: You Tube

Thursday, August 29, 2019

No Time For Apathy

Here's a scary thought: Boris Johnson was inspired by Stephen Harper. Susan Delacourt is suggesting that possibility:

Johnson is putting parliamentary sittings on ice until Oct. 14, just shortly before Britain is due to pull out of the European Union in what is shaping up to be a no-deal Brexit.
Will Johnson pay a political price? If the Canadian experience a decade ago is any indication, probably not. Who knows? Perhaps Johnson was inspired by the Canadian example.
When he was prime minister, Stephen Harper prorogued Parliament twice — shutting it down once in 2008, in the midst of a Liberal-NDP effort to displace his minority government, and again in 2010, because he could. Or, as Harper put it then, to “recalibrate” his government.
There were protests — big ones, on Parliament Hill and even at Toronto’s Dundas Square. Thousands of people, in what may have been the most Canadian protest ever, braved biting cold across the country in January 2010 to stage public events against a word the demonstrators could barely fit on their placards.
The protests dwindled, but opposition parties continued to hammer away at Harper and his alleged contempt for Parliament. Less than a year and a half after those prorogation protests, the Conservative minority government fell — on a contempt of Parliament vote — and Harper was returned to power with a majority in 2011.

Perhaps Johnson expects a similar outcome. But the signs are ominous:

Donald Savoie, who has written many books on the crumbling state of our politics, has a new book out next month on the “disintegration” of democracy in Canada. Savoie says that if the public is apathetic now about parliaments grinding to a halt, it’s because people simply don’t expect much of those institutions anymore.
“Today, the government constantly plays fast and loose with Parliament, and this is true for both major political parties,” he said. “Think of the tendency to turn to omnibus legislation and think also of the tendency to make major policy announcements outside Parliament. It is highly unlikely, however, that this will be much debated during the next 60 days. Sadly, the role of Parliament no longer makes it on the hit parade with Canadians.”

The autocrats are on the march. This is no time for citizens to be apathetic.

Image: The Toronto Star

Wednesday, August 28, 2019

Forget The Moral Crusade

The problem in the United States these days, Chris Hedges writes, is that both sides have descended into moral crusades:

The continued inability of America’s liberal democratic establishment to address the ills besetting the country—climate change, unregulated global capitalism, mounting social inequality, a bloated military, endless foreign wars, out-of-control deficits and gun violence—means the inevitable snuffing out of our anemic democracy. Overwhelmed by the multiple crises, the liberal elites have jettisoned genuine political life and retreated into self-defeating moral crusades in a vain and futile attempt to deflect attention away from the looming social, political, economic and environmental catastrophes.
These faux moral crusades, now the language of the left and the right, have bifurcated the country into warring factions. Opponents are demonized as evil. Adherents to the cause are on the side of the angels. Nuance and ambiguity are banished. Facts are manipulated or discarded. Truth is replaced by slogans. Conspiracy theories, however bizarre, are incredulously embraced to expose the perfidiousness of the enemy. Politics is defined by antagonistic political personalities spewing vitriol. The intellectual and moral sterility, along with the inability to halt the forces of societal destruction, provides fertile soil for extremists, neofascists and demagogues who thrive in periods of paralysis and cultural degeneracy.

When you believe God is on your side, all kinds of outrages become possible; and ideology rules the roost:

Hannah Arendt in “The Origins of Totalitarianism” pointed out that ideologies are attractive in times of crisis because they reduce and simplify reality to a single idea. While the right wing blames the decline on darker races, the liberal elites blame the decline on Russia or racists. It is the ideology, not experience or fact, that is used “to explain all historical happenings, [to provide] the total explanation of the past, the total knowledge of the present, and the reliable prediction of the future,” she wrote.
All ideologies demand an impossible consistency. This is achieved by a constant mutation and distortion of reality until it becomes, as the Mueller investigation did, absurdist theater. The result for believers, Arendt wrote, is disorientation, heightened fear and paranoia.
These types of collective self-delusions have always existed in American society, as the historian Richard Hofstadter pointed out. Such self-delusions, he wrote, are “made up of certain preoccupations and fantasies: the megalomaniac view of oneself as the Elect, wholly good, abominably persecuted, yet assured of ultimate triumph; the attribution of gigantic and demonic powers to the adversary.”

Thus, Donald Trump has claimed that he's the Chosen One. And his opponents claim that he is Evil Incarnate. All of this leads to a dead end. And the problems remain unresolved.

Image: You Tube

Tuesday, August 27, 2019

Empty Hot Air

Having announced earlier cuts to teaching jobs and course options, last week -- two weeks before the start of school -- Doug Ford announced that those cuts would not take place this year. His back tracking leaves school boards in chaos. This week, having repealed Kathleen Wynne's revised sex education program, he introduced his "new" sex ed curriculum -- which looks remarkably like the curriculum he trashed. Martin Regg Cohn writes:

Politics, like sex, is about positioning. After whipping up people’s passions, Ford is now repositioning himself as the soul of sweet reason.
Despite the high hopes of socially conservative parents that Ford would ride to their rescue, he was always going to take them — and us — for a ride. The only question was how far Ford would bend himself out of shape to score political points along the way.
Who knew Ford would summon his inner Buddha, charting the virtuous middle path to avoid intemperate extremes. But unlike the Buddha who never forgets his scriptures, Ford has forsaken his old political lines:
“We`re going to repeal the sex-ed curriculum,” he huffed during the 2018 election. “The days of Liberal ideology indoctrinating our kids, they're done.”
He did indeed repeal, only to repent. Never mind all that ideology and idolatry, on the question of human sexuality Ford is suddenly mindful of the second coming.
When he inserted himself into the PC leadership campaign, after the sudden withdrawal of Patrick Brown from provincial politics, Ford made common cause with anti-sex-ed zealots. He embraced rival leadership candidate Tanya Granic Allen — who couldn’t stop talking about anal sex during the debates — until he won the race and cancelled her candidacy over her homophobic online rants.

The truth is painfully clear. Ford has no core beliefs. All the rhetoric is empty hot air.

Image: The Toronto Star

Monday, August 26, 2019

Too Far Left?

Justin Trudeau is brandishing -- rhetorically, at least --  his progressive credentials. His predecessors would not have lurched this far to the left. Chantal Hebert writes:

None of Trudeau’s predecessors embraced LGBTQ and abortion rights in the way he does. None described themselves as proactive feminists.
Chrétien and his immediate successor, Paul Martin, would have found doing so to be at odds with the task of leading a middle-of-the-road party.

Conservative pundit John Ivison -- unsurprisingly -- predicts that Trudeau's gambit will fail because:

“There is an absolute conviction that Canadians share Trudeau’s devotion, bordering on dogmatism, for an activist agenda to transform Canada into a more egalitarian society by government fiat.”

Trudeau has walked into traditional NDP territory:

Early on in his term, he became the first prime minister in 50 years to address a gathering of the Canadian Labour Congress. Such venues used to be the quasi-exclusive purview of NDP leaders.
But while Trudeau and Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland both delivered keynote speeches at the Unifor convention this week, NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh did not.

That's because Trudeau has his eye on the voters who put him in office the last time around:

In 2015, he brought the Liberals back to power on the shoulders of a coalition that included a critical number of younger voters.
This is a generation that has grown up with the notions of gender parity, equality in diversity, the right to choose whether to have an abortion or to marry a same-sex partner, and also with the issue of climate change.

Will it work a second time around? Stay tuned.


Sunday, August 25, 2019

Slouching Toward Bethlehem

The world will remember Donald Trump for his extraordinary stupidity. But, Tony Burman writes, historians will remember him most for re-igniting the nuclear arms race:

Like so many bizarre moments in Trump’s reality show, most of his theatrics will be dismissed in history as mere distractions created to blind us to what really matters.
What really matters is the survival of the planet, and there have been events in recent days that indicate we now have genuine reason to worry.
In addition to the deepening climate crisis, the world appears — without much fanfare — to have stumbled into the start of a full-blown nuclear arms race that may make the Cold War of the last century a relic of a less threatening past.

But, this time around, things are more ominous:

In both the United States and Russia, there are signs that uncontrolled global nuclear tensions have returned, and the risk of nuclear warfare in other dangerous parts of the world is at an all-time high.
Last Monday, the Pentagon confirmed that the U.S. had just tested a cruise missile that would have been banned in a 1987 nuclear arms treaty with Russia that recently collapsed after Washington withdrew from it.
Russian President Vladimir Putin condemned the U.S. test as evidence of “new threats” to Russia and promised that “we will react accordingly.”
But Putin has been having trouble himself dealing with the nuclear issue. In what some Russian media outlets are describing as “Putin’s Chernobyl,” he has been vague about a mysterious nuclear explosion inside Russia earlier this month.
North Korea’s Kim Jong Un successfully duped Trump during their face-to-face summits and is gradually building up his country’s nuclear arsenal, threatening South Korea and Japan.
India and Pakistan, two nuclear-armed rivals, are threatening war if the explosive issue of Kashmir is not resolved.
And the Middle East — no longer restrained by the United States — is on the brink of a potential nuclear arms race involving Saudi Arabia, Iran and Israel.
The wider context for these new nuclear threats is that worldwide military spending last year underwent a boom — particularly by Trump’s America.
According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), the U.S. in 2018 raised its military expenditure for the first time in seven years, spending almost as much on defence as the next eight countries on the list combined.
Trump’s administration has been particularly focused on ripping up any agreement concerning nuclear arms control.
The U.S. has pulled out of the 2015 Iran nuclear deal and abandoned the 1987 Intermediate Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty. This leaves only one major treaty — which expires in February 2021 — providing formal restraint on the world’s major nuclear arsenals.

And John Bolton, Trump's national security advisor, says it's unlikely the United States will remain a party to that agreement.

The crazies, like Yeats' rough beast, are slouching toward Bethlehem.


Saturday, August 24, 2019

Magical Economics

This week, Donald Trump called himself "The Chosen One" and "The King of Israel." He appears to  believe that -- because he has been divinely anointed -- his economic policy is infallible. But, Paul Krugman writes, Trumponomics is just warmed over voodoo economics:

Voodoo economics isn’t just a doctrine based on magical thinking. It’s the ultimate policy zombie, a belief that seemingly can’t be killed by evidence. It has failed every time its proponents have tried to put it into practice, but it just keeps shambling along. In fact, at this point it has eaten the brains of every significant figure in the Republican Party. Even Susan Collins, the least right-wing G.O.P. senator (although that isn’t saying much), insisted that the 2017 tax cut would actually reduce the deficit.
And every time voodoo economics has failed, its proponents concoct magical explanations:

My favorite until now came from Art Laffer, the original voodoo economist and recent recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Why did George W. Bush’s tax-cutting presidency end not with a boom, but with the worst economic slump since the Great Depression? According to Laffer, blame rests with Barack Obama, even though the recession began more than a year before Obama took office. You see, according to Laffer, everyone lost confidence upon realizing that Obama might win the 2008 election.

Krugman writes "until now," because Trump has gone Laffer one better:

Trump has invented ever more creative ways to blame other people. In particular, he’s now claiming that the promised boom hasn’t arrived because his opponents are hexing the economy with bad thoughts: “The Democrats are trying to ‘will’ the Economy to be bad for purposes of the 2020 Election.”

His failed economics are writing "DEFEAT" across Trumpian skies; and Trump's fragile psyche is imploding. That's why he is even more dangerous now than he has been -- to his country and to the world.

Image: Democracy Journal

Friday, August 23, 2019

Fundamental Incompetence

All those boos this summer have gotten to Doug Ford. His government has gone back to the drawing board and is revamping its funding strategy for autistic children. And yesterday Ford's new education minister, Stephen Lecce, announced that plans to increase class sizes and to lay off teachers would not be implemented this year. The result -- two week's before the beginning of school -- is chaos. Rob Benzie and Rob Ferguson report that:

Ontario’s education system has been plunged into “chaos and confusion” days before school resumes after Premier Doug Ford’s government tried to go back to the drawing board on increasing class sizes to save $250 million in the coming year.
Education Minister Stephen Lecce said Thursday he’s “open” to suggestions from school boards and teachers’ unions to stop average class sizes from rising to 28 students over the next four years — from 22 in the last school year — insisting they will only increase marginally next month in Grades 4 and above.
“We should not be dogmatic about this,” Lecce told reporters in Scarborough, calling for “innovative ideas” as the government negotiates new contracts with teacher unions to replace ones that expire at the end of August.

In the wake of Lecce's announcement, there is plenty of fury:

Education unions and school boards were left scratching their heads, given that teachers have already been laid off and course offerings pared for the coming school year after the changes were announced in March and confirmed when the province released the school funding formula last spring.
“This is the basis on which school boards have been planning for this year, resulting in courses and programs being cancelled, supports being lost, and teachers’ and education workers’ jobs being eliminated,” said Liz Stuart, president of the Ontario English Catholic Teachers’ Association.
“If the government was planning a different course of action, they could have told Ontarians about it months ago. Instead, they have been content to allow chaos and confusion to unfold.”

This chaos rhymes with Doug Ford's decision to cut the size of Toronto City Council -- in the middle of a municipal election:

A York board teacher, who contacted the Star and asked to remain anonymous, questioned how the Progressive Conservative government now expects school systems to meet the averages.
“Assuming the boards did their hiring and scheduling based on a higher (average class size) number, how in the world are they going to get it down to 22.5 in 12 days? It would take new hiring, and it would take a very significant rescheduling of courses. It’s impossible to imagine this getting done before Labour Day,” the high school teacher wrote in an email.
“But let’s say they could do it. A percentage of teachers will be told on day one that they have a different set of courses. How are they going to create all-new course plans then?”
“The Ford government is framing this as a ‘good news’ announcement, but this does nothing to mitigate the damage that will be wrought by the removal of a full quarter of Ontario’s high school teachers from the system,” said Harvey Bischof.

The Fordians know how to use blistering rhetoric. But look behind the rhetoric. What you see is fundamental incompetence.

Thursday, August 22, 2019


Two days ago, Donald Trump backed down on his pledge to legislate background checks for gun owners. Max Boot writes:

What the hell is wrong with us?
After every mass murder, Republicans offer lame excuses and tawdry evasions in lieu of badly needed action. They claim that it’s too soon to talk about political solutions right after a shooting — and then it’s too late. They blame video games and mental illness, even though every other Western country has video games and mental illness and none has the same problem with shootings. The rate of violent gun deaths in the United States is nine times higher than in Canada, 73 times higher than in the United Kingdom, 88 times higher than in South Korea, 110 times higher than in Japan. The rate is even higher in the United States than in Iraq or Afghanistan. This isn’t because the United States has a disproportionate share of the world’s video games. It’s because we have a disproportionate share of the guns: 4.27 percent of the world’s population owns more than 40 percent of all the world’s guns in civilian hands.

The ugly truth is that the Republican Party is owned by the NRA. Republicans are doing what they've been paid to do, despite all the evidence  that gun control works -- like the assault weapons ban which was in place between 1994 and 2004:

Louis Klarevas, a researcher at Columbia University, found that during the 10 years when the assault weapon ban was in effect, “the number of gun massacres … fell by 37 percent, and the number of people dying from mass shootings fell by 43 percent.” The effect would have been even greater if the 1994 law had fewer loopholes and if it had banned the possession, not merely the sale, of assault weapons and large-capacity magazines. That’s essentially what Australia did in 1996 after a gunman slaughtered 35 people. Australia has had only one shooting since then that killed more than four people — and that was the slaughter of a single family carried out by a relative.

The slaughter continues. And the Republicans -- led by the Coward In Chief -- sit on their hands.

Image: The Daily Beast

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

A Ship Of Fools

Rob Benzie and May Warren report in The Toronto Star that:

The cash-strapped Progressive Conservative government is hoping to conserve money by winding down some conservation programs.
But local conservation authorities say the province doesn’t actually pay for many of those activities, and some, like maple syrup festivals, can actually be money makers.
Conservation Ontario said local municipalities and conservation authorities were told in a letter last Friday from Premier Doug Ford’s administration to shut down any initiatives that are not related to their “core mandate.”

The push to hog tie conservation authorities is part of the "More Homes, More Choice Act," which the Ford government passed earlier this year. The legislation was designed to make it easier to build new homes. Anything that gets in the way of building more homes is anathema. Conservation authorities across the province are outraged:

Deborah Martin-Downs, chief administrative officer with the Credit Valley Conservation Authority, which covers parts of Mississauga and Brampton, said winding down activities like maple syrup festivals “will not save them a penny.”
Martin-Downs calls the letter “premature” and “incorrect.” She said while the authorities are in the process of negotiating what’s in their core mandates with the province, the Conservation Act allows activities that fall outside of them to be funded by municipalities, which already provide most of the funding.
Hassaan Basit, head of Conservation Halton, agrees that winding down maple syrup festivals and other recreational activities doesn’t make sense.
“It will not save money,” he said. “It will result in millions of dollars of lost revenue.”
Kelsey Scarfone, water programs manager with Environmental Defence, said the language referring to a “core mandate” is an avenue to cut essential programs that conservation authorities provide, from water monitoring to research on algae blooms.
“It really is a way to limit the types of work that conservation authorities can do on the ground, which is extremely negative because it adds so much value in terms of environmental protection in the regions that they operate in,” Scarfone said.

All of this is yet more confirmation that the Progressive Conservative Party is a ship of fools. And the captain of the ship is the biggest fool of all.


Tuesday, August 20, 2019

Dark Clouds

Naturally, Canadians want their politicians to deal with Canadian problems. But, Glen Pearson warns, whoever becomes prime minister will face a dysfunctional world. He offers several examples to make his point:

The riots in Hong Kong have dominated the news cycle for days. Things have gotten out of hand for the Chinese government and they are expected to brutally dispel the protesters .  This is one hot spot that is already placing pressure on the Canadian government prior to the election, since some 300,000 Canadians live in the region.
China is active on other fronts as well. Their trade war with America is already having significant effect, leaving many economists warning that it will lead to a global recession just a decade after the global financial crisis that led to so many changes in work and corporatism.  And with China holding over one trillion dollars in U.S. treasury bills, what would happen if they called President Trump’s bluff and dumped those bonds?   Fortunately, for now at least, the Chinese government is showing more caution than the Americans.
This past July was the hottest month on record. The effects have been destabilizing and it’s becoming clear that only the most urgent of action among nations can mitigate the oncoming climate crisis.  How will Canada respond?
With Prime Minister Boris Johnson being elected by only .2% of the British population (Conservative members), it looks inevitable that his government (held buy only a majority of one) is careening toward a no deal Brexit. Britain is in trouble and knows it and a fall election is inevitable.  The implications are dire, not just for Europe but for all of Britain’s main allies and trading partners, including Canada.
The on-again off-again “bromance” between Donald Trump and North Korea’s Kim Jong-un might be mildly entertaining, but the four missiles launched by North Korea this month as a “direct warning to America” reveal once more that Jong-un has no intention of doing away with the nuclear potential and could easily be provoked to lash out if pressured too hard.
Last month, Vladimir Putin celebrated his 20th year in power. How did he celebrate?  By cracking down on dissidents and any political opposition.  He vowed once more to keep Syria’s President Assad in power and opened up new avenues for building strong ties with China.  As America abandons its global leadership role, Russia is proving more than willing to fill the gap.
The problems between America and Iran aren’t going away anytime soon. The Strait of Hormuz remains a vortex for all that could go wrong with regional tensions and global oil supplies.  With America pulling out of its peace arrangements with Iran, there aren’t any guarantees that just one incident couldn’t spiral out of control.
If there is a sleeping “time bomb” in the world today it is the escalating tensions between India and Pakistan – both possessors of nuclear warheads. Indian Prime Minister Modi’s cancelling of Kashmir’s special status has led to heightened tensions.  Kashmir represents the largest Muslim territory India has and the decision isn’t going down easy.  Neither India or Pakistan’s government is a model of stability and diplomacy.  Foreign experts around the world are watching this more closely at the moment than any other region. 

The clouds are growing darker. It's clear that the next prime minister will face all kinds of problems at home. But it's also clear that -- like it or not -- he or she will become deeply enmeshed in the world's problems.

Image: Hoosier Ag Today

Monday, August 19, 2019

Deregulation. Really?

There was a time when deregulation was all the rage. In fact, it's still all the rage. Alan Freeman writes:

The move to deregulate has been gathering steam worldwide since the 1980s as companies seek to maximize profit, backed by the resurgence of an ideological right that sees the undermining of taxes and regulation as a pathway to eroding and ultimately destroying the welfare state.

But the grounding of all of Boeing's 737 Max fleet has caused some to question the wisdom of the current policy:

As the New York Times has reported, FAA engineers never independently assessed the risks involved with the MCAS software that ended up forcing both planes into a deadly nosedive because Boeing was basically in charge of approving its own aircraft. As the Times reports, “the cozy relationship” between Boeing and the FAA meant that during the certification process for the Max, FAA management sometimes overruled their own staff after getting pressure from Boeing.

And there have been other recent examples of the havoc caused by deregulation:

The 2013 rail crash at Lac-Megantic, with the loss of 47 lives, has been linked to a lax regulatory environment that allowed a poorly maintained railway to put a single-man crew in charge of a train of highly flammable crude oil loaded in flimsy tanker cars that ran through the centre of a town.
In addition to the human tragedy, that disaster has cost the Quebec and federal governments hundreds of millions of dollars in cleanup and compensation costs.
And in the U.K., a public inquiry is investigating the disastrous 2017 Grenfell fire where 72 people were killed in a highrise public-housing project. Much of the inquiry will focus on how lax regulations allowed flammable cladding material to be installed on the building’s exterior during a renovation, which ended up turning the building into a raging inferno.

Nonetheless, the push to deregulate continues:

Studies from something called the Mercatus Center, a Virginia-based think tank that assiduously tracks the cost of regulations and comes to the startling conclusion that if it weren’t for regulations brought in since 1980, the U.S. economy would be 25 per cent larger than it is today — a tidy $4-trillion (U.S.).

 A good rule in all of life, however, is to always follow the money:

And what is the Mercatus Center? It turns out it’s a libertarian think tank dedicated to dismantling regulations and bankrolled by the notorious Koch Brothers, the secretive, union-busting, climate-denying American billionaires who have had a huge influence on turning the Republican Party and the U.S. far to the right. The Mercatus Center specializes in big scary numbers. It recently did a study that estimated the cost of “Medicare for All,” the promise of progressive Democratic presidential candidates, at a gob-smacking $32.6 trillion.

And now "Canada’s leading business group is looking to the libertarian Koch brothers and their acolytes for leadership. Pretty scary."

Simply put, deregulation has nothing to do with the common good.


Sunday, August 18, 2019

Howard Roark

If you're looking for a precursor to Donald Trump, Tom Hartmann writes, take a good look at Howard Roark. Roark is the protagonist in Ayn Rand's novel, The Fountainhead:

When Donald Trump was running for the GOP nomination, he told USA Today’s Kirsten Powers that Ayn Rand’s raped-girl-decides-she-likes-it novel, “The Fountainhead,” was his favorite book.

Rand admitted her model for Roark was an infamous child murderer named William Edward Hickman. The details behind the murder are horrific. Suffice it to say that Hickman was a psychopath:

But to a young Russian idealist just arriving in America, Hickman was a hero.
And while Hickman the man has, today, been largely forgotten, Hickman the archetype has lived on and influenced our nation in a profound fashion, paving the way for Donald Trump, a man with no empathy or consideration of social norms, to one day occupy the White House.
Two years before William Edward Hickman was sentenced to death, a 21-year-old Russian political science student named Alissa Zinovievna Rosenbaum arrived in New York Harbor on a French ocean liner. The year was 1926, and she was on the last leg of her dream trip to the Land of Opportunity, scurrying across the Soviet Union, Germany, and France before procuring a first-class cabin aboard the S.S. De Grasse, bound for the United States.
Alissa was a squat five-foot-two with a flapper hairdo and wide sunken dark eyes that gave her a haunting stare. And etched into those brooding eyes was burned the memory of a childhood backlit by the Russian Revolution.
What young Ayn Rand saw in Hickman that would encourage her to base a novel, then her philosophy, then her life’s work, on him was quite straightforward: unfeeling, unpitying selfishness.
He was the kind of man who would revel in the pain parents would feel when their children were ripped from their arms and held in freezing cages for over a year.
In Hickman, Ayn Rand wrote that she had finally found the new model of the Superman (her phrase, likely borrowed from Friedrich Nietzsche). Only a worldview held by a man like Hickman, she believed, could ever prevent an all-powerful state from traumatizing another generation of small businesspeople and their children as the Bolsheviks had her family.
Hickman’s words as recounted by Rand in her Journals, “I am like the state: what is good for me is right,” resonated deeply with her. It was the perfect articulation of her belief that if people pursued their own interests above all else—even above friends, family, or nation—the result would be utopian.
She wrote in her diary that those words of Hickman’s were, “the best and strongest expression of a real man’s psychology I ever heard.”

Trump has said that he admires The Fountainhead:

It relates to business, beauty, life and inner emotions. That book relates to … everything.

One wonders if Trump ever read the book. Rand's novels are baggy monsters, truly hard slogs. But the novel was made into a movie in 1949, starring Gary Cooper. Perhaps he saw the film.

Image: IMDb

Saturday, August 17, 2019

Down To Oblivion

The nuclear arms race, Simon Tisdall writes, is back. The latest reminder of that grim reality occurred a week ago:

It was five days before officials confirmed a blast at the Nyonoksa range had killed several people, including nuclear scientists. No apologies were offered to Severodvinsk residents. There is still little reliable information. “Accidents, unfortunately, happen,” a Kremlin spokesman said.
According to western experts, the explosion was caused by the launch failure of a new nuclear-powered cruise missile, one of many advanced weapons being developed by Russia, the US and China in an accelerating global nuclear arms race.
Vladimir Putin unveiled the missile, known in Russia as the Storm Petrel and by Nato as Skyfall, in March last year, claiming its unlimited range and manoeuvrability would render it “invincible”. The Russian president’s boasts look less credible now.

Whatever the wrinkles, Russia is re-arming. And so is the United States:

The renewed nuclear arms race is a product of Trump’s America First outlook and that of comparable ultra-nationalist and insecure regimes elsewhere. Trump’s emphasis on defending the “homeland” is leading inexorably to the militarisation of US society, whether at the Mexican border, on inner-city streets or in its approach to international security.
“We have far more money than anybody else by far,” Trump said last October. “We’ll build up until [Russia and China] come to their senses.” Outspending the opposition was a tactic employed by Ronald Reagan in the 1980s. And Trump is putting taxpayers’ money where his mouth is. Overall, annual US military spending is soaring, from $716bn this year to a proposed $750bn next year.

Add to that the threat from China, and the clouds get very dark:

With a much smaller arsenal than the US and Russia, China, too, is “aggressively developing its next generation of nuclear weapons”, according to a major Chinese weapons research institute. Nor, given Moscow’s and Washington’s behaviour, has it an incentive to stop, despite Trump’s vague proposal for a trilateral disarmament “grand bargain”.
Like the US, China – while historically pledged to “no first use” – wants potential enemies to believe it may actually use tactical nukes. As Dr Strangelove would doubtless appreciate, this, perversely, increases the chances that it will.

Meanwhile, Trump lectures Iran on producing nuclear weapons. We may yet see the day when another Slim Pickens rides the bomb down to oblivion.

Image: Pinterest

Friday, August 16, 2019

The Final Verdict

The Ethics Commissioner's report is out. And, Tom Walkom writes, in the end, it won't make much difference:

On the one hand are those who agree with Wilson-Raybould that the prime minister had no business questioning how she chose to prosecute SNC, which faces charges of bribery and fraud related to its dealings in Libya almost 20 years ago.
On the other are those who agree with Trudeau that, since jobs were potentially at stake, he had every right to make his views known.

Certainly, things are playing differently in Quebec than they are in English Canada. Moreover, there is some precedent for Trudeau's claim that he was protecting Canadian jobs:

Ottawa’s massive bailout of Chrysler and General Motors in 2009 benefitted the two privately owned companies. But it also benefitted — briefly at least — the workers and communities that depended on them.
Essentially, this was the argument that SNC made: If the company were convicted at trial and thus barred from seeking federal contracts for 10 years, some fat cats would be hurt. But so would many ordinary workers.

And remediation agreements exist in other jurisdictions:

Remediation agreements are allowed in Britain, France and Australia. Stephen Harper’s Conservative government hadn’t been keen on the idea, the ethics commissioner’s report says. But the new Trudeau regime thought it swell.
Over Wilson-Raybould’s objections (she argued that the government was moving too quickly), a new measure allowing remediation agreements was passed into law in the summer of 2018.

The final verdict will be rendered -- as it should be -- in a little over two months.

Image: CBC

Thursday, August 15, 2019

A Bad Day

Yesterday was a bad day for Justin Trudeau. The ethics commissioner's report was a no holds barred condemnation of his behaviour in the SNC-Lavalin Affair. Chantal Hebert writes:

To read the ethics commissioner’s accounting of the events is to get the impression that the senior levels of the government essentially functioned as an arm of the engineering firm. The line between the two was not so much blurred as virtually invisible.
The commissioner’s conclusion that the prime minister violated the federal ethics law is unadulterated.
He finds no extenuating circumstances to absolve Trudeau of having applied improper pressures on the then-attorney-general to overrule her prosecutors in their dealings with SNC-Lavalin.
Dion rejects the rationale that the prime minister was only acquitting himself of his duty by trying to mitigate the economic fallout of a negative legal outcome for SNC-Lavalin.
He refutes the notion that because Wilson-Raybould ultimately stuck to her course, no line was crossed, noting that it is not the outcome of the arm-twisting that determines whether it took place.

There is a pattern here: Chretien, Martin and now Trudeau. If Trudeau loses the election in October, his tenure as prime minister will have, indeed, been short. This is the same old politics practised by a new face.

Will Canadians look beyond the face? Stay tuned.

Image: CBC

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Dangerous Delusion

Denying climate change, Joe Ingrham and Bernard Schutz write, is a dangerous delusion. But it is understandable -- because it's hard to accurately predict the effects of climate change:

What is confusing to some, however, and allows others to claim that global warming is just nature’s way or is divinely predetermined, is that it is hard to predict how local climates will be affected. Like a pot of water, we know that with continually increasing heat the water will boil, but what we don’t know is how the bubbles in that boiling water will behave.
Like the bubbles in boiling water, changes in circulation are fiendishly hard to predict with precision. Cold melt-water from the decreasing ice-mass creates colder oceans nearby. Elsewhere, warmer air boosts ocean surface temperatures. These effects distort the circulation in ways complicated by the rotation of the earth and the shape of the continents, combining with the warming air currents to create a complex pattern of regional climate effects.
The North Pole’s ice cover produces a striking example since it consists of relatively thin sea ice, which during recent summers nearly disappears. This makes for big seasonal changes in the polar weather. It should be little surprise therefore that in the mid-latitudes of the northern hemisphere we are beginning to experience unusual weather patterns. Some can be traced to Greenland’s ice cover and increasing melt-water, which contribute to a difference between how air flows over the north Atlantic and Pacific Oceans.
In the case of the Pacific, warm air is now flowing almost unimpeded into the Arctic, accelerating the ice melt, while in the case of the narrower Atlantic, continental Greenland inhibits warm air from circulating northward in winter. Unbalanced, the warm Pacific air pushes cold Arctic air out, spilling it over the continents, bringing frigid winter spells to the areas of North America closest to the Atlantic and to northern Europe especially.
In summer, the warm air spreads northwards everywhere, leading to the unprecedented forest fires now consuming large areas of Arctic boreal forests and releasing methane from the permafrost. This pattern of extremes and fluctuations of weather may be the norm for the northern hemisphere for some time, depending on how fast the Arctic ice disappears and Greenland melts.
South of the equator, with the ice-melt from Antarctica spreading out all around the South Pole and running up against warm mid-latitude water, people may experience steadier warming but also seasonal extremes of destructive storms and calamitous flooding. Those least able to cope with these events will be the world’s poorer – farmers or slum dwellers in the southern hemisphere, rural or coastal inhabitants in North America and Europe.

These extremes are interpreted by some as flukes -- anomalies that we can't control. But when one looks at the evidence over the last five decades, it's clear. The planet is warming -- and carbon emissions are the cause. But lots of people don't want to give up carbon. So they proclaim that there must be a technological fix to the problem:

Indeed, the newly released green plan of Andrew Scheer and Canada’s Conservative Party falls right into that trap, calling not for the reduced use of fossil fuels but rather their increased use and instead mitigating their impact through the application of enhanced carbon capture technology. Essentially, without establishing any targets consistent with the Paris Climate Accord, the plan calls for leaving it largely to the private sector (ie. the oil and gas companies) to develop the technology, thereby avoiding the need to tax carbon emissions. Talk about the fox guarding the hen house!

There are differences in emphasis. But, essentially, the Liberal plan is the same. The private sector will solve the problem. But the private sector isn't -- and won't -- solve the problem. This is government's problem:

Governments today need to recognize that we face a crisis every bit as urgent as global war, and that we do not yet have enough of the technological weapons to address the crisis comprehensively. Public funds need to be poured into the development of carbon-free energy sources and storage methods that are scaleable and affordable. Elected officials and national leaders, including those in Canada, need to stop taking their policy cues from established industries like oil, gas and coal, and they must abandon the ideological fiction that public sector support undermines the free market. Indeed, if they don’t, there is every chance that neither the free market nor liberal democracy will survive for much longer.

Something to think about in the upcoming election.

Image: The Telegraph

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

When People Discover They've Been Conned

Doug Ford rode to power on two false promises -- buck a beer and cheaper gas. Tom Walkom writes:

Ford’s campaign team seized on the buck-a-beer slogan to build on Ford’s man-of-the-people persona — notwithstanding his abstinence from alcohol — while conveying his sensitivity to pocketbook issues, no matter how picayune. But the fine print of the promise told a different story.
In fact, the Tories weren’t promising beer at $1 a can, just the possibility of it — by removing an old Liberal minimum pricing policy designed to discourage excess consumption (akin to higher cigarette prices reducing smoking). Whatever your views on beer pricing as social engineering, Ford’s promise was premised on a fatal flaw — an outdated price point.

Ford knew nothing about the brewing industry:

It costs about 34 cents just for the can — without the beer, labour and transportation expenses — leaving brewers with margins (or losses) that were unsustainable.

Then there was Ford's promise of cheaper gas -- which provided his rationale for dismantling Ontario's cap and trade system:

When he won the June 2018 election, Toronto gas prices averaged 131.9 cents a litre; five months later, by the time Ford finally got around to cancelling cap and trade, gas prices had already tumbled to 114.5 cents without him doing anything, and bottomed out at 92.7 cents a litre last February (according to To put that in perspective, Ford’s overblown promise to deliver a 4.4-cent reduction was dwarfed by the real-world plunge in gas prices of 39.2 cents a litre during that period.

Now he's spending $30 million dollars to fight the federal carbon tax. It's abundantly clear that Ford  -- the businessman -- knows nothing about international markets:

The bigger point, which puts the lie to Ford’s misplaced hype over the past year, is that global market forces matter more than a premier’s force of will.

When people discover they've been conned, they usually run the con man out of town

Image: The Toronto Star

Monday, August 12, 2019

The Larger Forces At Work

If we seek to know what is going on in Trump World, Paul Chadwick writes, we have to step outside the news cycle and carefully choose our sources. One of those reliable sources is the blog Lawfare:

I want to highlight one of the big slow wheels to which attention was presciently drawn a few days before the 2016 presidential election. Noting that Trump had a 33% chance of winning, the US-based blog Lawfare, which consistently manages to tap the rich thinking and experience of experts in varied specialist fields, pointed to the “large literature on the process of radicalisation and countering violent extremism” and applied it to Trumpism.
Quinta Jurecic and Benjamin Wittes argued that Trumpism is “a movement that exists within an electoral system but which has a deeply ambivalent relationship with the democratic norms of that system, a movement which both formally rejects violence yet manages also to tolerate and encourage it”.
Summarising the literature, they wrote: “The radicalising subject goes through a series of steps, with each step drawing him or her closer towards extremist beliefs and sometimes mobilisation towards violence as well.” The individual’s social ties play a part, including, particularly, social media.

 Trump has radicalized his supporters in the same way his arch foe, Al Qaeda, has radicalized millions of Muslims:

Nazis and white supremacists, previously talking only to each other without ways to reach large audiences, embraced Trumpism and were not repudiated. “So all of a sudden, huge numbers of people are potentially subject to the influence of peer groups they didn’t even know they had. More perniciously still, the radicals get to approach this very large new audience through the cleansing lens of an apparently mainstream political candidate and party. That Trump supporter taught [at a rally] to shout “Lügenpresse” [“lying press”] presumably didn’t know that he was screaming a Nazi slur; he was just following Trump’s lead, and the lead of those around him, in jeering at the ‘dishonest media’.”
In 2016 the authors thought that if their theory was right “we will see a significant spike in white supremacist violence over the next few years. The Trump campaign has provided a baseline undemocratic ideation to hundreds of millions of people and also provided a platform through which extremists, both violent and non-violent, can recruit and cultivate. If our collective understanding of the process of violent radicalisation is correct, the result will be blood.”

It was pretty prescient stuff. The folks at Lawfare understand the larger forces at work.


Sunday, August 11, 2019

Stephen's Ghost

If you think Stephen Harper has left the stage and relinguished control of the conservative agenda, Antonia Zerbisias suggests that you think again:

Since he quit Parliament, Harper has spoken at an event at U.S. President Donald Trump's Florida resort Mar-a-Lago, visited the White House, showed up at an Israeli college's $1,000-a-plate fundraiser, participated in the 2012 Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney's political retreat in Utah and guested on the right-wing Fox News.
In his lucrative tour of the rubber-chicken circuit, Harper did let slip during a speech at Stanford University that, "I could have turned the party into essentially a personal political vehicle if I'd wanted…"

Harper is everywhere these days. He basks in a right wing glow:

The most visible clue to Harper's retaining remote control is his chairing the ironically named International Democratic Union (IDU). It's the Munich-based alliance of the world's centre-right to right-wing political parties, including the Republicans south of the border and the Conservative Party of Canada here, the reigning Likud Party in Israel and Hungary's anti-immigrant Fidesz.
Think of it as the anti-UN. Among the IDU's stated goals is to "protect our people from those who preach hate and plan to destroy our way of life." Which is their way of fending off the climate and economic migrant waves now and to come.
We saw this in their vociferous rejection of last year's Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration (GCM), an idealistic UN document which binds no nation to anything more than having in view the human upheavals expected as the Earth bakes.
No surprise that Scheer unleashed an almost daily stream of tweets with full-on outrage and half-baked half-truths attacking the pact as if it would allow hordes of foreigners to land on our pristine shores. But it wouldn't, no matter how often Israel's Benjamin Netanyahu, Hungary's Viktor Orbán, and other Eastern European leaders threatened it would.

And Doug Ford follows him around:

For example, just last month, Ford basked in Harper's good graces, sharing a stage with him when the Canada India Foundation presented the former prime minister with an award. Clearly they remain focused on the same goal.

Stephen's ghost still haunts us. It's behind Andrew Scheer's vacant smile. And it's behind every word  Doug Ford spouts.

Image: HuffPost Canada

Saturday, August 10, 2019

Fraser Baloney

The Fraser Institute -- which receives funding from the Koch Brothers -- released a report this week with the headline, “The average Canadian family paid $39,299 in taxes last year, more than housing, food and clothing combined.” But, Alan Freeman writes, intelligent folks should be able to spot baloney when they see it:

According to the institute, the average family spent 44.2 per cent of its income on taxes compared to 36.3 per cent on “basic necessities.” And it says that the tax bill has gone up by 2,246 per cent since 1961.
It’s quite clever, talking about taxes rather than detailing the things that taxes actually pay for. Can I give you a list? Universal free medical care, free public education, heavily subsidized universities, policing, highways, roads, parks, old age pensions, garbage collection, national defence, and the list goes on. I don’t know about you but every one of those things is a necessity as basic as clothing and rent in a modern society, though not in the institute’s eyes.

And what about that huge tax hike over time?

In fact, Canadian tax rates overall have been pretty stable over the decades and compared to other advanced countries, our tax burden is on the low side. According to the latest statistics from the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), the tax to GDP ratio in Canada actually decreased to 32.2 per cent in 2017 from 32.7 per cent in 2018, while the average of OECD countries rose to 34.2 per cent.
Canada is 24th out of 36 OECD in terms of tax to GDP ratio in 2017. Our tax take is higher than in the U.S. and Australia but I’m not sure that low tax ratios are something we want to blindly emulate. The lowest tax to GDP ratio is recorded by Mexico, at 16.2 per cent, the sign of a developing country with poor public services and a very weak education system. And our taxes are much lower than in places like France, Denmark and Belgium.

We'll hear a lot about taxes in the upcoming election. But what matters most is the source of the information. And how those who work for the source do the math.

Image: Fraser Valley News

Friday, August 09, 2019

His Own Set Of Facts

Doug Ford lives in a world of his own. Rob Benzie reports in The Toronto Star that:

Premier Doug Ford is discounting public-opinion polls suggesting he is unpopular because some of those surveys appear in the Toronto Star.
Ford — who has been booed at the Raptors’ victory celebration, the Special Olympics launch, and the Toronto Caribbean Carnival, among other events — insisted Thursday that Ontarians are behind him.
“I can tell you one thing, everywhere I’m going, right across this province, people are saying the same message: keep going,” he told reporters in the Niagara community of Fonthill.
Asked about recent polls indicating his personal popularity has plummeted a year after he was elected, Ford bristled.
“Well, it’s the Toronto Star’s numbers. I don’t believe … Star readership polls. I worry about the ones at election day,” the premier said.

But the pollster the Star uses stands by his numbers:

“He appears to be confusing the online panel we use with the reader polls you run on your website,” he said, referring to the unscientific straw polls on many news websites, including
“That aside, we’re not the only firm that is seeing similar results,” said [John] Corbett, adding Pollara Strategic Insights, Mainstreet Research, Ipsos, and Innovative Research Group have each found similar results using differing methodologies."

Obviously, Mr. Ford believes he's entitled to his own set of facts.

Image: MEME

Thursday, August 08, 2019

What Awaits Us

Globalism, Larry Elliott writes, is on its last legs:

Globalisation as we have known it is coming to an end and that’s by no means unwelcome.
Hailed as the ultimate in human progress, a model based on loosening the controls on capital and the construction of global supply chains has spawned recurrent financial crises, fostered corrosive inequality and worsened the climate emergency. True, millions of people have been lifted out of poverty in the past 25 years, but most of them live in a country – China – that has kept the market at arm’s-length.
Throughout history there have been successive waves of globalisation followed by a backlash when the model over-reached itself. This is one of those occasions and all the ingredients are in place for a struggle between the defenders of the status quo and those who say that recent trends in politics, technology and the climate point to the need for a new world order focused more on local solutions, stronger nation states and a reformed international system. It’s quite a stretch to imagine that Trump has this in mind when he is bashing China, but the economic crisis of the 1930s – of which protectionism was one part – led eventually, albeit after the war, to reforms that made the world a sounder and safer place.

Whether we will get through this without a war is an open question:

The G7 – the US, Canada, Japan and the four biggest economies of Europe – no longer call all the shots at international summits. The independence of central banks is threatened. The US is unwilling to soak up all the world’s excess production and instead demands that countries such as Germany run down their trade surpluses. Europe’s drive for integration has stalled. Parties of the centre have been hollowed out, either because they failed to spot the weaknesses inherent in globalisation or were too timid to act if they did. The Washington consensus – that there was a one-size-fits-all solution to the problems of developing countries that involved privatisation, abandoning capital controls and budgetary rectitude – has fallen into disrepute. And Russia is not the busted flush it was supposed to be. The risk that the current iteration of globalisation could end in military conflict is much higher than generally acknowledged.
To prevent such an outcome, there needs to be change at all levels, starting with the local one. Even during its heyday, large chunks of economic activity remained untouched by globalisation and that segment is likely to grow as economies become more service-sector dominated. In addition, countries such as the US are already bringing production back within its borders – in part because of the high cost of transporting goods around the world, and in part because technological change – greater use of robots and artificial intelligence – has reduced the financial incentive to offshore.

When it comes to global politics and global warming, we're at the end of an age. What awaits us is unclear.

Image: Sound Cloud

Wednesday, August 07, 2019

Get A Grip

Max Boot writes that it's time for white people in the United States to get a grip. They're not victims. The evidence to support his assertion is overwhelming:

Whites are still much better off than blacks. The poverty rate among African Americans is 21.8 percent; among whites, 8.8 percent. The median wealth of black households is $17,409; among whites, $171,000. The homeownership rate for blacks is 41.2 percent; among whites, 71.1 percent. There is also manifold evidence of continuing discrimination against African Americans. It’s hard to imagine a white man being choked to death by police, as Eric Garner was in New York, for illegally selling cigarettes. Or two white men being evicted by police from a Starbucks for asking to use the bathroom without ordering anything, as two black men were in Philadelphia.

But American whites, like their president, pay no attention to facts:

These facts do not, however, compute with whites who are convinced that they’re the real victims. Notwithstanding his occasional, insincere denunciations of racism, President Archie Bunker is the channeler and champion of white grievances. In 1989, right after calling for the death penalty for the Central Park Five (five minority teenagers who were later exonerated of rape), Trump told an interviewer: “A well-educated black has a tremendous advantage over a well-educated white in terms of the job market. … If I were starting off today I would love to be a well-educated black because I really believe they do have an actual advantage today.” (Of course, if Trump were actually “a well-educated black” and became president, he’d have some poorly educated racist demanding to see his birth certificate.)

So Trump continues to fan the flames:

He tells women of color to “go back” to where they come from and uses dehumanizing language (“infested,” “breeding”) to describe minorities, even while claiming, preposterously, “I am the least racist person there is anywhere in the world.”

And he assumes that white supremacy is the way of the world:

Trump must imagine that white supremacy is the natural order of things and that any attempt to deliver justice for minorities who have been discriminated against for centuries is an indicator of anti-white prejudice. The most extreme form of this outlook can be found among white supremacists such as the gunman who allegedly slaughtered 22 people in El Paso on Saturday. The suspect claimed to be acting in response “to the Hispanic invasion of Texas” — a state that was part of Mexico before being invaded by Anglos. Even many whites who aren’t driven to violence display a version of this victimhood mind-set. They view accusations of racism as a far bigger problem than racism itself, and blame “social justice warriors” rather than white racists for inflaming racial tensions.

White supremacists are not going away. They've always been there. But, unless Americans of all backgrounds show Trump the door, the bigots -- like Donald Trump himself -- will be in your face, twenty four hours a day.

Image: The New Yorker

Tuesday, August 06, 2019

Lock The Medcine Chest

Donald Trump wants to give Americans lower drug prices -- by buying drugs from Canada. David Olive writes:

Trump is poised to authorize pilot projects by U.S. states, pharmacists and wholesalers to import from Canada medications approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
This, despite the fact that, "Canada pays some of the world’s highest prices for generic drugs. We are the only country with universal medicare that doesn’t also provide universal drug coverage. And the $34 billion that Canadians spent on prescription drugs last year is the third-highest in the world on a per capita basis."

Still, compared to American drug prices, Canadian drugs are a bargain. Trump's move was immediately condemned by a number of organizations:

It took about a minute for the Canadian Medical Association (CMA), the Canadian Pharmacists Association and 14 other medical groups to formally protest the latest peculiar Trump notion to Ottawa.
“Pharmacies in Canada are resourced to serve the Canadian public,” the CMA said. Canada is “not equipped to support the needs of a country 10 times its size” without running short of medications for ourselves.

If there has ever been an action that displays Trump's essential deviousness, this is it. Trump is all about personal profit -- built on fraud. He refuses to do what other countries have done to lower drug prices. But, if he can steal what he wants -- or needs -- from some place else, he'll do it in a heartbeat.

Canada only has one option when dealing with such a thief. Lock the doors -- on medicine chests or on anything else in the neighbourhood.

Image: MEME

Monday, August 05, 2019

Taking Stock

The last six months have not gone well for Justin Trudeau. But he does have one large arrow in his quiver. Tom Walkom writes:

At 5.5 per cent, Canada’s unemployment rate is near historic lows. Inflation-adjusted wage rates are rising again and the stock market is rocking.
Even hard-hit Alberta is doing better.
While worrying signs are emerging about the future of the world economy overall, in North America, at least, things are fine.
Last week’s decision by the U.S. Federal Reserve to goose the American economy by reducing interest rates marginally means the boom Canada’s largest trading partner now enjoys is virtually guaranteed to last at least another few months.

On the other hand, there has been much to disappoint:

Once in power, politicians almost invariably disappoint. Trudeau has been no exception. He broke one promise to reform the voting system. He broke another to balance the budget by 2019.
His attempts to curb global warming have satisfied few. On the one hand are those who find the government’s approach too timid. On the other are those who think his methods, such as imposing a carbon tax, are too draconian.
Trudeau argues that this shows the Liberals are hewing to the middle way. That’s one explanation. Another is that on this file he has managed to please no one.
The Liberal government has made significant efforts to help Indigenous people improve their lives. But so much remains to be done that these efforts have earned it little political credit.
As for Trudeau himself, the patina has faded. Canadians are no longer gaga over his star quality. Many, I suspect, are sick of it.

Andrew Scheer and the Conservatives are betting that Canadians are sick of Trudeau:

They present him as a self-absorbed dilettante, who is out of his depth in serious matters of state.
They focus on scandals, real and imagined — the SNC-Lavalin affair, the alleged attempt to silence critics of the government’s China policy, the holiday spent on the Aga Khan’s private island.
They calculate that if they can persuade enough disillusioned Liberal voters to abandon Trudeau, they will win.

And, rather than touting the economy, the Liberals are pointing to premiers like Doug Ford as a potentially dark future:

To that end, they are inventing bogeymen to tie Scheer to — such as former Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper or Ontario Premier Doug Ford.

Will it work? Stay tuned.

Image: The Toronto Star

Sunday, August 04, 2019

The Coming Great Flood

Civilizations, Chris Hedges writes, have been rising and collapsing for six thousand years:

We are probably not an exception. The physical ruins of these empires, including the Mesopotamian, Roman, Mayan and Indus, litter the earth. They elevated, during acute distress, inept and corrupt leaders who channeled anger, fear and dwindling resources into self-defeating wars and vast building projects. The ruling oligarchs, driven by greed and hedonism, retreated into privileged compounds—the Forbidden City, Versailles—and hoarded wealth as their populations endured mounting misery and poverty. The worse it got, the more the people lied to themselves and the more they wanted to be lied to. Reality was too painful to confront. They retreated into what anthropologists call “crisis cults,” which promised the return of the lost world through magical beliefs.

Sound familiar? Consider:

We are entering this final phase of civilization, one in which we are slashing the budgets of the very agencies that are vital to prepare for the devastation ahead—the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration, the Federal Emergency Management Administration and the Environmental Protection Agency, along with programs at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration dealing with climate change. Hurricane after hurricane, monster storm after monster storm, flood after flood, wildfire after wildfire, drought after drought will gradually cripple the empire, draining its wealth and resources and creating swathes of territory defined by lawlessness and squalor.

The future, indeed, is dark:

These dead zones will obliterate not only commercial and residential life but also military assets. As Jeff Goodell points out in “The Water Will Come: Rising Seas, Sinking Cities and the Remaking of the Civilized World,” “The Pentagon manages a global real estate portfolio that includes over 555,000 facilities and 28 million acres of land—virtually all of it will be impacted by climate change in some way.”
As this column is being written, three key military facilities in Florida are evacuated: the Miami-area headquarters of the U.S. Southern Command, which oversees military operations in the Caribbean and Latin America; the U.S. Central Command in Tampa, in charge of operations in the Middle East and Southwest Asia; and the Naval Air Station in Key West. There will soon come a day when obliteration of infrastructure will prohibit military operations from returning. Add to the list of endangered military installations Eglin Air Force Base in the Florida Panhandle, the U.S. missile base in the Marshall Islands, the U.S. naval base on Diego Garcia and numerous other military sites in coastal areas and it becomes painfully clear that the existential peril facing the empire is not in the Middle East but in the seas and the skies. There are 128 U.S. military installations at risk from rising sea levels, including Navy, Air Force, Marine and Army facilities in Virginia. Giant vertical rulers dot the highway outside the Norfolk naval base to allow motorists to determine if the water is too deep to drive through. In two decades, maybe less, the main road to the base will be impassable at high tide daily.
Cities across the globe, including London, Shanghai, Rio de Janeiro, Mumbai, Lagos, Copenhagen, New Orleans, San Francisco, Savannah, Ga., and New York, will become modern-day versions of Atlantis, along with countries such as Bangladesh and the Marshall Islands and large parts of New Zealand and Australia. There are 90 coastal cities in the U.S. that endure chronic flooding, a number that is expected to double in the next two decades. National economies will go into tailspins as wider and wider parts of the globe suffer catastrophic systems breakdown. Central authority and basic services will increasingly be nonexistent. Hundreds of millions of people, desperate for food, water and security, will become climate refugees. Nuclear power plants, including Turkey Point, which is on the edge of Biscayne Bay south of Miami, will face meltdowns, such as the accident that occurred in the Fukushima nuclear plant in Japan after it was destroyed by an earthquake and tsunami. These plants will spew radioactive waste into the sea and air. Exacerbated by disintegration of the polar ice caps, the catastrophes will be too overwhelming to manage. We will enter what James Howard Kunstler calls “the long emergency.” When that happens, our experiment in civilization might approach an end.

This is not an uplifting thought for a Sunday. I apologize. But, in the end, you can't apologize for wilful ignorance.

Image: Ancient Code