Saturday, February 29, 2020

Sound Familiar?

Teachers' strikes continue to roil Ontario. The basic issue: Doug Ford wants to employ fewer teachers. After all, if you cut the payroll, you save money. To achieve those savings, Ford proposes to increase class sizes and mandate online learning. He has recently been handed a report on what Ontarians think of larger classes and mandated online learning. But he refuses to release the report. Martin Regg Cohn writes:

My Toronto Star colleague Kristin Rushowy has revealed the results of the latest government survey that Premier Doug Ford tried to keep secret. Bad enough that his Progressive Conservatives won’t tell us what we already know, what’s worse is that the premier keeps pretending he knows what’s best for our children.

The Fordians argued that increased class sizes made students more "resilient." But Ontarians aren't buying that argument. So, Education Minister Stephen Lecce backed down -- a bit:

Stephen Lecce has partly rolled back the cutbacks by saying high school classes will only rise from 22 to 25 students. (Bear in mind those are merely averages — caps on the maximum number of students are also disappearing under the Tories, leaving some classes with as many as 40 students.) Lecce has also halved the number of mandatory online courses for each student from four to two, but the plan will still be untried in North America and no less half-baked.

His compromise has been greeted with scorn. Ford, however, refuses to back down:

“I don’t go by some online poll,” Ford insisted this week when confronted with the results he refused to share.

Does that sound like anyone else you've heard of?

Image: Socialist Project

Friday, February 28, 2020

The Donald And The Coronavirus

It took a while to arrive. But now the United States is facing its first crisis not generated by Donald Trump since his election. And things don't look good. Paul Krugman writes:

The story of the Trump pandemic response actually began several years ago. Almost as soon as he took office, Trump began cutting funding for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, leading in turn to an 80 percent cut in the resources the agency devotes to global disease outbreaks. Trump also shut down the entire global-health-security unit of the National Security Council.
Experts warned that these moves were exposing America to severe risks. “We’ll leave the field open to microbes,” declared Tom Frieden, a much-admired former head of the C.D.C., more than two years ago. But the Trump administration has a preconceived notion about where national security threats come from — basically, scary brown people — and is hostile to science in general. So we entered the current crisis in an already weakened condition.

And once the microbes arrived, consider what the Trumpian response was:

The first reaction of the Trumpers was to see the coronavirus as a Chinese problem — and to see whatever is bad for China as being good for us. Wilbur Ross, the commerce secretary, cheered it on as a development that would “accelerate the return of jobs to North America.”
The story changed once it became clear that the virus was spreading well beyond China. At that point it became a hoax perpetrated by the news media. Rush Limbaugh weighed in: “It looks like the coronavirus is being weaponized as yet another element to bring down Donald Trump. Now, I want to tell you the truth about the coronavirus. … The coronavirus is the common cold, folks.”

Now that the bugs are everywhere, what has Trump done? He's put Mike Pence in charge. Unfortunately, Pence has a track record when it comes to public health:

Early in his political career, Pence staked out a distinctive position on public health, declaring that smoking doesn’t kill people. He has also repeatedly insisted that evolution is just a theory. As governor of Indiana, he blocked a needle exchange program that could have prevented a significant H.I.V. outbreak, calling for prayer instead.
And now, according to The Times, government scientists will need to get Pence’s approval before making public statements about the coronavirus.

Trump says that the bugs will go away when the weather gets warmer. What does all of this tell us?

The Trumpian response to crisis is completely self-centered, entirely focused on making Trump look good rather than protecting America. If the facts don’t make Trump look good, he and his allies attack the messengers, blaming the news media and the Democrats — while trying to prevent scientists from keeping us informed. And in choosing people to deal with a real crisis, Trump prizes loyalty rather than competence.

But none of this is new. The Donald has acted this way since his first day in office.

Image: Mayo Clinic News Network

Thursday, February 27, 2020

Into The Past

As further proof that the Conservative Party is marching backward, consider Andrew Scheer's and Peter Mackay's reactions to indigenous protests across Canada. Heidi Mathews writes in Macleans:

In attempts to whip up public hostility and force an end to the protests, both official opposition leader Andrew Scheer and Peter MacKay, who is vying to replace him, turned to civil-rights-era racist stereotypes. Invoking the spectre of the “outside agitator,” they sought to delegitimize the involvement of non-Indigenous protesters in order to break the bonds of activist solidarity that can be so crucial in creating the political will to address the conditions of inequality and oppression that underlie civil unrest.

The "outside agitator" meme has been boilerplate for white southern segregationists:

As then-president of the West Virginia State Bar Association, William C. Beatty put it, civil disobedience was the result of “mob action tailor made for those few malcontents who desire the total breakdown of organized society.” Often portrayed as players in a communist conspiracy, these outsiders were presented as acting not in the interests of African Americans, but to further their own ulterior motives. 

That argument has been furious and false:

This outside agitator thesis was quickly shown not only to be inaccurate, but also the result of racist thinking. In 1968, the National Advisory Commission on Civil Disorders found the “typical rioter is not an outside agitator or itinerant vender of violence,” but rather “a young, frustrated, alienated black American.” Additionally, a 1969 study of middle-class white attitudes toward African Americans in the aftermath of the Watts Rebellion in Los Angeles found a sharp divergence between whites who believed that the unrest was caused by communists or outside agitators, and those who believed that systemic oppression of and discrimination against African Americans, were to blame. Strikingly, whites who believed the outside agitator explanation lacked previous social contact with African Americans, suggesting ignorance and a lack of empathy for the legitimate grievances of the Black community. Unsurprisingly, this group was more likely to favour punitive measures as a response to civil unrest.

It's interesting that Dennis Prager has been invited to speak at the Manning Center Conference in Calgary. The CBC reports that:

The Calgary-based Manning Centre will feature as a keynote speaker American conservative radio host Dennis Prager — a fiery and often controversial figure who recently complained that the left has made it "impossible" to say the N-word.
"It's disgusting, it's a farce. It's the only word that you can't say in the English language," Prager said in a clip that was initially flagged on Twitter by a writer for U.S. progressive nonprofit Media Matters for America.
Prager was responding to a caller on his radio show, The Dennis Prager Show, who asked Prager why he used an anti-Semitic slur on his program but would not use "the N-word."
"The left doesn't give a damn about [anti-Semitic slurs]. That's why," said Prager, who is Jewish and who freely uses words considered anti-Semitic slurs on his program.

No one should misunderstand where the Conservative Party is headed.

Image: Democratic Underground

Wednesday, February 26, 2020

Our Brothers' Keepers

The coronavirus has underscored just how important China has become to the world economy. It's much more important than it was during the SARS crisis. Jeffrey Frankel writes:

It is becoming increasingly clear, however, that this new coronavirus is likely to do much more damage than Sars. Not only has Covid-19 already caused more deaths than its predecessor; its economic consequences are likely to be compounded by unfavourable conditions – beginning with China’s increased economic vulnerability.
China’s economy has grown significantly more slowly in the last decade than it did previously. Of course, after decades of double-digit growth, that was to be expected and China has managed to avoid a hard landing. But Chinese banks hold large amounts of non-performing loans – a source of major risks.
As the Covid-19 outbreak disrupts economic activity – owing partly to the unprecedented quarantining of huge subsets of the population – there is reason to expect a sharp slowdown this year, with growth falling significantly below last year’s official rate of 6.1%. During the recent meeting of G20 finance ministers, the IMF downgraded its growth forecast for China to 5.6% for 2020 – its lowest level since 1990.
This could hinder global growth considerably because the world economy is more dependent on China than ever. In 2003, China constituted only 4% of global GDP; today, that figure stands at 17% (at current exchange rates).
Moreover, because China is a global supply-chain hub, disruptions there undermine output elsewhere. Commodity exporters – including Australia, and most of Africa, Latin America and the Middle East – are likely to be affected the most, as China tends to be their largest customer. But all of China’s major trading partners are vulnerable.

But, more than China's now central place in the global economic system, the coronavirus has also made clear just how interconnected we now are -- not just economically but in all ways.

We are, more than ever, our brothers' keepers.

Tuesday, February 25, 2020

Limbaugh On The Coronavirus

Rush Limbaugh claims that the coronavirus is "a common cold" which is being used to take down Donald Trump. Martin Pengelly writes in The Guardian:

The coronavirus outbreak is being “weaponised” by the media to bring down Donald Trump when in fact it is simply a version of the “common cold”, conservative radio host and presidential medal of freedom recipient Rush Limbaugh claimed on Monday.
His comments were widely condemned: more than 80,000 people are known to have contracted the virus worldwide and 2,700 are known to have died. Authorities are struggling to cope in China, Iran, Italy and Tenerife.
The World Health Organization has not yet declared the outbreak, which originated in China, a pandemic.
There are more than 50 known cases in the US, subject to quarantine. In India on Tuesday, Trump downplayed stock market falls in response to the outbreak, praised China for its response, and said coronavirus was “a problem that is going to go away”. But on Monday, his administration asked Congress for $1.8bn to boost its own response.
Limbaugh’s conspiracy theorist take is that the outbreak is being used by the media to discredit a president who earlier this month honoured the rightwing shock jock during the State of the Union address.
“It looks like the coronavirus is being weaponised as yet another element to bring down Donald Trump,” Limbaugh said on his Monday show. “Now, I want to tell you the truth about the coronavirus. I’m dead right on this. The coronavirus is the common cold, folks."

Thus spake Dr. Limbaugh. Sometimes his ignorance is laughable. In this case, however, it's more deadly than the virus.

Image: Media Matter For America

Monday, February 24, 2020

Who Is Mistreating Whom?

Now that Teck has withdrawn its application for an oilsands mine in northern Alberta, Jason Kenney will be spitting fire and brimestone, blaming Ottawa for what he sees as a failure. He will repeat his song of grievance, claiming that Ottawa  has treated Alberta unfairly since time immemorial. But Kenney is a hyocrite. If you're interested in unfair treatment, Mitchell Anderson writes, look at the gulf between Alberta's rural communities and its cities:

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney’s most recent political career is defined by battling perceived inequities with Ottawa. The province’s municipalities seem to feel the same way about their lopsided relationship with the legislature.
Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi recently pointed out the irony in Kenney’s public fight with Ottawa over transfer payments.
“The real fiscal imbalance in this country is not between provinces and regions, it’s between cities and everyone else. Taxpayers in the cities pay the freight… If you want to talk about fair deals, I’m happy to have that conversation.”

Kenney's base is in rural Alberta. And it's rural Albertans who Kenney favours:

A study from 2014 showed the Alberta government took in $2.7 billion more from the City of Calgary than it returned in provincial funding — an imbalance that ballooned from $883 million in 1991.
While rural Albertan municipalities are being told by the premier to eat $173 million in unpaid property taxes from oil and gas companies, the province’s largest cities have their own fiscal indignities to deal with.
Kenney’s government slashed funding to the City of Calgary by $73 million in its last budget, and imposed a $13-million cut in funding for Calgary police — the equivalent of 130 full-time positions, the chief of police said.
“From a government that prides itself on law and order, the fact that the biggest whack by far that they took to the city’s budget was to the police, is pretty surprising to me,” fumed Nenshi. Calgary city council was forced to cut $60 million in program spending, with the remaining $13 million coming out of capital reserves.
Running an effective government is hard when senior partners exercise arbitrary authority over budgets and policy.

And it's Calgary -- the beating heart of the oil industry -- that is being squeezed:

Calgary has been trying to expand public transit capacity and has an agreement with the province to go ahead with the Green Line LRT project, which the city says would create 20,000 jobs and move up to 170,000 people a day. Instead of providing stable predictable funding, the Kenney government last fall passed Bill 20 that allows the province to cancel committed infrastructure funding to local governments without cause and only 90 days’ notice.
Provincial funding cuts also forced the Calgary Board of Education to axe a popular transit pass program that helped low-income families cover the cost of getting children to school.
Alberta’s largest city already has a 10-year funding gap for infrastructure spending of $5.7 billion. Rather than expanding services for a growing population, Calgary councillors report that they can only maintain legally required municipal assets and essential services. Other urgent priorities languish on the drawing board, with potentially disastrous results.

Like the Mighty Moron south of the border, Kenney's strength is in the open spaces, not in the population centres. Just who is treating whom unfairly?

Image: The Hill

Sunday, February 23, 2020

Dangerous Territory

The anger which overtook the United States four years ago is drifting north. Susan Delacourt writes:

Large-scale rail shutdowns, Indigenous blockades, a new flutter of Western separatism from elected MPs in the House of Commons — a running theme throughout is the idea of governance itself as optional.
Grievances and strikes aren’t new in this country; neither are air crashes or disease outbreaks — just a couple of the other issues on which Trudeau offered updates at his “that’s enough” news conference on Friday.
What’s new in the array of issues confronting Trudeau in this early part of 2020 is an emerging set of doubts about whether government can broker differences and come to any kind of middle ground.

And we now have numbers behind the burgeoning grievances:

Ekos pollster Frank Graves has been doing some major research into populism and whether it exists in Canada in 2020. He told me on Friday, as we were waiting to see what Trudeau would say at his news conference, that some of the indicators he’s seeing are disturbing.
Canadians are increasingly settling into polarized views around education, science, climate change and immigration, for instance. The poles have deepened and grown farther apart in just four years too, between Trudeau’s first election and his recent re-election. But Graves doesn’t think this is a Trudeau problem as much as it is a potential crisis for the very idea of governance.
“We are approaching fundamental legitimacy crisis points on some of these issues,” Graves said.

Yesterday, I wrote about the legitimacy crisis in the United States. We appear to be headed in the same direction. We are, in short, in dangerous territory.

Image: World Nomads Journal

Saturday, February 22, 2020

A Crisis Of Legitimacy

The United States is a mess. And, Frank Bruni writes, it's getting worse:

Something unsettling is going on in American politics — in America, period — and the chaotic Democratic race exemplifies it. The rules are all blurry. The processes are all suspect. Or at least they’re seen that way, so more and more judgments are up for debate and more and more defeats are prone to dispute. President Trump is a prime player in this, but it didn’t start with him and isn’t confined to him. He’s exploiting and accelerating a crisis of faith in traditions and institutions, not causing it. He’s improvising, and he’s hardly alone.
Everywhere I look: incipient or latent pandemonium. The Iowa caucuses were a mess that motivated some candidates to press self-aggrandizing grievances, and there are concerns that the Nevada caucuses are headed for the same fate. Bloomberg’s rivals argue (understandably) that he’s using his billions to game the system and pervert the whole shebang. And in a reprise of four years ago, Sanders’s supporters fume that the media, the Democratic National Committee and other supposed pillars of the establishment are conspiring against him in some underhanded, corrupt way. I’m no soothsayer, but I foresee intensifying quarrels over whether whoever is leading the field deserves to be in that position and whether his or her competitors got a raw deal.

There was pandemoniun four years ago. There's more of it now. Why?

I blame the internet, because I like to and because it’s true. I mean that I blame the way it encourages people to choose their own information and curate their own reality, so that no official pronouncement competes with a pet theory. I blame a national epidemic of selfishness, too. It seems to me that fewer and fewer people are easily moved off their particular worries, their special wants. Any outcome that displeases them is ipso facto a bastardized one.
“The refusal to grant victors legitimacy bundles together so much about America today: the coarseness of our discourse; the blind tribalism coloring our debates; the elevation of individualism far above common purpose; the ethos that everybody should and can feel like a winner on every day,” I wrote during the last presidential election, and I wondered then if this were a passing phase.

Down there, they're facing a crisis of legitimacy. And I fear that we in the North are moving in the same direction.

Image: Zocalo Public Square

Friday, February 21, 2020

First Nations Blockades

First Nations blockades are roiling the country. The present situation can be traced back to a decision the Supreme Court made in 1997. Tom Walkom writes:

The 1997 Delgamuukw case, dealt directly with a claim by Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs for jurisdiction over a big chunk of unceded land in northern British Columbia.
While not ruling on the specifics of the case (the court said a new trial — which has never been held — would be necessary to do that) the justices indicated that the Wet’suwet’en nation did indeed hold Aboriginal title over a undefined portion of this land.
However, the court said this Aboriginal title did not confer exclusive jurisdiction. In particular, it said, federal and provincial governments retained the right to overrule Aboriginal title for valid reasons of economic development.
The court did not address the question of whether Aboriginal title would rest with the hereditary chiefs or elected band councils.

It's the conflict between the heredetary chiefs and the elected band council that is at the heart of this matter. The Conservatives, in the person of Andrew Scheer, are trying to muddy the waters:

Party leader Andrew Scheer has chosen to refer to protestors in such harsh terms. His contention that shadowy, foreign, climate “radicals” are secretly directing the blockades is patently absurd.
The Tyendinaga Mohawks blocking the CN mainline near Belleville may be wrong-headed. But they are not, as the Conservatives would have it, catspaws of American billionaire environmentalists, such as George Soros.

In this situation, it's really important to keep your eyes on the prize. This is a difficult situation and it will not be easy to resolve. Certainly, Mr. Scheer is not the person to do that.

Image: The Globe And Mail

Thursday, February 20, 2020

Curb Your Enthusiasm

The stock market is breaking records. The rich are celebrating. But Nouriel Roubini is not joining the party. There are alarms, he writes, going off in all kinds of places. To begin with, there are all kinds of geopolitical storms on the horizon:

For starters, the US is locked in an escalating strategic rivalry with at least four implicitly aligned revisionist powers: China, Russia, Iran and North Korea. These countries all have an interest in challenging the US-led global order and 2020 could be a critical year for them, owing to the US presidential election and the potential change in US global policies that could follow.
Under Donald Trump, the US is trying to contain or even trigger regime change in these four countries through economic sanctions and other means. Similarly, the four revisionists want to undercut American hard and soft power abroad by destabilising the US from within through asymmetric warfare. If the US election descends into partisan rancour, chaos, disputed vote tallies and accusations of “rigged” elections, so much the better for rivals of the US. A breakdown of the US political system would weaken American power abroad.

And the tension could result in all kinds of financial damage:

Revisionist powers could also attack the US and western financial systems – including the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication (Swift) platform. Already, the European Central Bank president, Christine Lagarde, has warned that a cyber-attack on European financial markets could cost $645bn (£496.2bn). And security officials have expressed similar concerns about the US, where an even wider range of telecommunication infrastructure is potentially vulnerable.
By next year, the US-China conflict could have escalated from a cold war to a near hot one. A Chinese regime and economy severely damaged by the Covid-19 crisis and facing restless masses will need an external scapegoat, and will likely set its sights on Taiwan, Hong Kong, Vietnam and US naval positions in the East and South China Seas; confrontation could creep into escalating military accidents. It could also pursue the financial “nuclear option” of dumping its holdings of US Treasury bonds if escalation does take place. Because US assets comprise such a large share of China’s (and, to a lesser extent, Russia’s) foreign reserves, the Chinese are increasingly worried that such assets could be frozen through US sanctions (like those already used against Iran and North Korea).
In a sell-off scenario, the capital gains on gold would compensate for any loss incurred from dumping US Treasuries, whose yields would spike as their market price and value fell. So far, China and Russia’s shift into gold has occurred slowly, leaving Treasury yields unaffected. But if this diversification strategy accelerates, as is likely, it could trigger a shock in the US Treasuries market, possibly leading to a sharp economic slowdown in the US.

And, of course, there is climate change:

Climate change is not just a lumbering giant that will cause economic and financial havoc decades from now. It is a threat in the here and now, as demonstrated by the growing frequency and severity of extreme weather events.
In addition to climate change, there is evidence that separate, deeper seismic events are under way, leading to rapid global movements in magnetic polarity and accelerating ocean currents. Any one of these developments could augur an environmental white swan event, as could climatic “tipping points” such as the collapse of major ice sheets in Antarctica or Greenland in the next few years. We already know that underwater volcanic activity is increasing; what if that trend translates into rapid marine acidification and the depletion of global fish stocks upon which billions of people rely?

With all of these threats on the horizon, it would be wise to curb our enthusiasm.

Image: IMDb

Wednesday, February 19, 2020

That Notion Is Insane

In July, The Joint Review Panel released its report on the Teck Mine in Northern Alberta. Andrew Nikiforuk writes:

Despite finding “significant adverse effects,” the panel declared that the mammoth project was in the public interest.
It added that the mine “would maximize the value of a product which is essential to everyday life” and provide income for Indigenous peoples of Alberta and Canada. Assuming, that is, oil prices reach $95 a barrel.

The price of oil is now $50 a barrel. Nonetheless, the push is on to approve the mine. And that, despite the wide reaching destruction that would be the consequence of opening the mine. The report pulls no punches about that destruction:

The project will destroy 292 square kilometres of the boreal forest, most of which is prime waterfowl habitat.
The report adds, “The project is likely to result in a significant adverse effect to biodiversity, primarily as a result of the loss of wetlands and old-growth forests.”
There will be a high to moderate loss of habitat for migratory birds whose populations are already dwindling.
According to the report, “more than 40 per cent of the old-growth forest within the regional study area will be removed and will not be recreated for more than 100 years after reclamation.”
In addition, the project “has the potential to make an incremental contribution to already existing significant adverse cumulative effects to woodland caribou.”
“Significant adverse effects” are expected for Roland Lake bison herd, a small population of disease-free genetically distinct wood bison.
In its first decade of operation the project will use about 105.2 million cubic metres of water — about 100 billion liters of water, or 100 small lakes.
The project will destroy or alter fish habitat for 1.5 million square metres in the Red Clay Creek and Big Creek watersheds, as well as the Athabasca River.
It will affect the traditional land use, rights and culture of 14 First Nations.
Total greenhouse emissions are estimated at 4.1 million tonnes of CO2 equivalent a year — about the amount generated by 400,000 homes or 800,000 passenger vehicles, or one large coal-fired power plant.

Given all this destruction, there are still those who argue that the mine is a good idea. That notion is insane.

Image: The New York Times

Tuesday, February 18, 2020

The Real Doug Ford

During the federal election, Doug Ford kept his head down and his mouth shut. But, if you really want to know what's going on inside Ford's head, Martin Regg Cohn writes that you should pay attention to what he said on his visit to Washington:

In the rarefied air of Washington this month, Ford forgot himself. Or more precisely, he allowed himself to be himself.
How else to explain his passionate homage to Donald Trump?
“I loved listening to the president’s State of the Union address the other night,” Ford gushed to a hushed Canadian American Business Council. “We hope the election is going to turn out the right way. Literally the right way.”

And he expressed his disdain for Bernie Sanders:

Ford went on to badmouth Bernie Sanders, the current front-runner in the party’s primaries, for daring to call himself a social democrat: “That’s actually scary. It is. It really is.”
Never mind that Sanders is merely an echo of the New Democratic Party that came second among Ontario voters in the election, and that now serves faithfully as Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition in the legislature. Scary for Americans, which translates as shame on you Ontarians, in Ford’s book.

There is an old Canadian norm: when you visit a foreign country, you don't meddle in its politics. Occasionally that norm has been broken -- as when Lester Pearson publicly disagreed with LBJ on the Vietnam War. But Pearson was a diplomat at his core. And he knew how to express a difference of opinion diplomatically. Ford's comments on Sanders underscore the fact that Ford possesses no diplomatic talent.

Moreover, it's becoming increasingly apparent that Ford possesses no talent all all.

Image: Pinterest

Monday, February 17, 2020

Dying In Plain Sight

Democracy is dying in the United States. And its death is very much a public death. Max Boot quotes Montesquieu: “The tyranny of a prince in an oligarchy is not so dangerous to the public welfare as the apathy of a citizen in a democracy.”

Certainly, Congress is -- at least partially -- to blame. But much of the public appears to not give a damn:

I don’t see massive marches in the streets. I don’t see people flooding their members of Congress with calls and emails. I don’t see the outrage that is warranted — and necessary. I see passivity, resignation and acquiescence from a distracted electorate that has come to accept Trump’s aberrant behavior as the norm.
A recent Gallup poll found that Trump’s approval rating among Republicans — the supposed law-and-order party — is at a record-high 94 percent. His support in the country as a whole is only 43.4 percent in the FiveThirtyEight average, but he is still well positioned to win reelection, because most people seem to care a lot more about the strength of the stock market than about the strength of our democracy. This is how democracies die — not in darkness but in full view of a public that couldn’t care less.

What is happening in the United States is a reminder to all of us that democracy does not come free. People will argue about the source of the quote. Some say Edmund Burke. Others John Stuart Mill. Regardless of who gave it to us, the line remains true: “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil [or the death of democracy] is that good men should do nothing.”

Image: Psychology Today

Sunday, February 16, 2020

Let The Young Vote

It is the young who have the greatest stake in the world we are creating -- or destroying. It is they who will live with the consequences we are setting in motion. Robin Sears writes:

There was much editorial teeth gnashing when our voting age was reduced from 21 to 18 in 1968. Teeth are grinding again about broadening the electorate once more.
The champions of the status quo ante always argue that younger citizens do not “have the judgment that can only come with age.” In reality, today’s 16-year-old probably has the policy sophistication of an 18-year-old half a century ago.
What the advocates of no change ignore is the unintended consequences of denying a nation’s youth a role in policy and governing. First, in comfortable places like Canada, they may sit out elections for years, if the habits formed in early adolescence did not include the most basic form of civic engagement, voting. In Australia’s compulsory voting system, many families go — parents, kids and all — to the polling stations.

They -- and we -- cannot afford their apathy. And their decisions are not always revolutionary:

Austria and Greece have lowered their voting ages to 16 and 17 and have elected progressive and very conservative governments in the past decade. Scotland’s voting age is 16, they just clobbered the Labour party. Pressure is rising in the U.K. to establish 16 as the threshold for all elections.

We confer the duties of citizenship on sixteen year olds:

Sixteen-year-olds can join the military reserves, drive a car, sign an employment contract, pay taxes — but not vote. They have a deeper understanding of the technology challenges they will face in the job market. In increasing numbers they are struggling to acquire the tools to survive in an era of robotic job-killing — but they have little policy voice, and no vote.
A 16-year-old surely knows more than their parents and grandparents about the accelerating power of technology. Equally, the post-internet generation knows what can never work, and what has a better chance of success. They know that a tax system that does not require tech giants to pay back to the nations that nurtured them and that now pay them enormous sums for their services, is absurd.

When you're old enough to drive a car, you're old enough to vote.

Image: Vox

Saturday, February 15, 2020

Mr. Ford Went To Washington

Last week, Doug Ford went to Washington, where he proclaimed that economics is simple. Emma Teitel writes:

Last week, Ford sat down for an interview with the Canadian American Business Council in Washington (a non-profit business organization), where he regaled that organization’s CEO, Maryscott Greenwood, with tales of a booming Ontario open for business.
“Economics is very simple,” he told Greenwood. “You cut red tape, you cut regulations, you lower business taxes and taxes for the people, and new revenue will come up to the coffers, as we say. And with that you can reinvest it into other areas, into health care, into education. Our economy right now is absolutely on fire.”

The trouble is that back home things are not as good as Ford says they are:

What the Premier didn’t tell his foreign hosts is that those “other areas” are not reaping the reward of his “simple” economic proposal; they are hurting as a result of it. Teachers are protesting major cuts to education, and the provincial government and the unions are at an impasse. Kids are missing school and their parents are not putting the blame squarely on teachers, as Education Minister Stephen Lecce might have hoped. According to a new internal poll commissioned by the Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation, a little more than half of residents polled in PC ridings strongly disagree with the government’s championing of larger class sizes.
As for that other “other area” (health care) — it’s hard to believe Ontarians are comforted by the notion that trickle-down economics will fill the holes carved out by cuts made to their health care system, when the world is frantically trying to stall coronavirus.

And, while he was there, Ford also waded into the upcoming Amercan election:

“I loved listening to the president on the State of the Union address the other night,” he told Greenwood. “I was disappointed when I saw Nancy Pelosi get up there and start tearing the speech up. That’s uncalled for. But let’s move forward. Let’s see what happens in the (U.S.) election. The economy is booming (in the States), it’s booming in Ontario. We hope the (U.S.) election is going to turn out the right way, literally the right way.”

One can only conclude that Mr. Ford's ego is bigger than his brain.

Image: Twitter

Friday, February 14, 2020

The Law Of Holes

A big decision awaits the Trudeau government. Will it approve the Teck Mine? Andrew Nikiforuk believes Trudeau should green light the project -- with stipulations. He writes:

Given Alberta’s belligerent confidence in holes, let’s agree. Canada’s federal cabinet should rubber stamp the permit for Teck’s oilsands mine.
At the same time, it must also declare that Canada will quantify and phase out $43 billion in annual fossil fuel subsidies as identified by the International Monetary Fund.
That means if the Teck mine fails, Canadian taxpayers will not support the boondoggle in any shape or form.
Alberta says it doesn’t want any federal handouts, so that shouldn’t be a problem. Now give the province what it wants. Let Nixon and Kenney defy the reality of low global oil prices and the commodity’s increasing volatility, and dig themselves a deeper hole to hell, unemployment and debt.
Every petrostate should have the freedom to build its own financial scaffold, knot its own fiscal noose and hang itself economically. It is what they do best.

Kenney has a really severe case of tunnel vision. And there's only one cure for it -- financial disaster:

Oil makes blind its dependents, regardless of their political hue. It encourages governments to overspend and undersave. It centralizes political power. It widens inequality. It replaces domestic taxes with hydrocarbon revenues, thereby breaking the bonds of representation. It erodes statecraft and rewards profligate government. The commodity’s busts and booms produce a vicious circle of bad policies that cement the state’s addiction to oil. It discourages diversification. In the end, it aggressively puts the needs of the oil and gas industry above everything else.
If Albertans wanted to regain their self-determination, they would not make digging the Teck mine their litmus test. But Kenney and company, despite the punishing downturn in prices, still don’t understand the Law of Holes.
The Law of Holes is elegant, proverbial and nearly a century old. It goes like this: If you find yourself in a moral and fiscal hole, you should stop digging.

And Alberta refuses to stop digging.


Thursday, February 13, 2020

Increasing Chaos

The chaos surrounding the natural gas pipeline in British Columbia is spreading across the country. And Linda McQuaig is struck by the difference between how the Trudeau government treats Jason Kenney and Canada's native people:

I admit to being against further oilsands development, making me a person of interest to the sleuths in Kenney’s $30-million “war-room” who are tasked with vilifying oilsands critics. Of course, they’re really hoping to unmask “foreign-funded special interests,” and I don’t have a single dollar of foreign backing. Still I do what I can!
The war room is just one of the Alberta premier’s bullying tactics, along with threatening Western separation, as he tries to intimidate critics and pressure the Trudeau government into approving the proposed Teck mine, a vast 293-square-kilometre open pit mine, which would be the biggest tarsands mine yet.
Meanwhile, there’s a willingness to play hardball when opposition is coming from Indigenous people and powerful business interests are against them.
These hardball tactics have been on display in northwestern B.C. in recent weeks as Wet’suwet’en Indigenous protestors, trying to block a pipeline from crossing their land, have been confronted with highly militarized RCMP officers dressed in combat fatigues, bearing assault rifles and police dogs.
Chainsawing though a gate marked “Reconciliation,” the RCMP have forcibly removed the occupiers — that is, people occupying their own land — amid prayers for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls, sparking nationwide protests. Most of the media attention has focused on how disruptive the protests have been to southern train travel.

We are faced -- in stark terms -- with the central question of our times: Will money triumph over the planet? That may sound melodramatic. But I believe that, in the end, that's the question we must answer.

At the moment, money seems to have the upper hand.

Image: CBC

Wednesday, February 12, 2020

The Tenuous Thread

Donald Trump's Justice Department has told Judge Amy Berman Jackson to treat Roger Stone nice. That announcement has caused the four federal prosecutors to resign from the case. One has resigned from the department all together. Jennifer Rubin writes:

Just as Trump tried to engage a foreign government to announce an investigation into former vice president Joe Biden and ordered up a probe of Hillary Clinton (which came to nothing), this is an egregious perversion of the rule of law. The president, like a tin-pot dictator, now uses the Justice Department to shield his criminal cronies, putting his finger on the scale in a way no other president has done in the modern era.
As he did in spinning the Mueller report and refusing to consider seriously the criminal implications of the whistleblower’s report, Attorney General William P. Barr has refused to defy the president or defend the reputation of his department. Former federal prosecutor Joyce White Vance tweeted:
As he did in spinning the Mueller report and refusing to consider seriously the criminal implications of the whistleblower’s report, Attorney General William P. Barr has refused to defy the president or defend the reputation of his department. Former federal prosecutor Joyce White Vance tweeted:

There are a few things that could be done:

First, the judge in the Stone case, Judge Amy Berman Jackson, could reject the revised recommendation, implicitly or explicitly rebuking the Justice Department. Second, while unlikely to be productive, the House can subpoena Barr to testify and explain the reversal. (He previously refused to respond to a House subpoena and was held in contempt.) Third, the House could open impeachment hearings on Barr, something I suggested previously when he refused to comply with a lawful subpoena and allowed his lawyers to misrepresent the facts in the Census case (only to be rebuked by Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr.). Finally, a wave of resignations of Justice Department officials might alert the country to the dangers of Trump erasing the line between partisan politics and the administration of the law (though Trump and his supporters may be delighted to fill their spots with more political cronies).

I have written before that the republic hangs by a thread. That thread is getting more and more tenuous.


Tuesday, February 11, 2020

The Best That Money Can Buy

Mike Bloomberg may be able to buy the presidency. And, Robert Reich writes, that possibility should really bother Americans:

Bloomberg has a chance of winning the presidency because his net worth is more than $60bn.
The yearly return on $60bn is at least $2bn – which is what Bloomberg says he’ll pour into buying the highest office in the land. It’s hardly a sacrifice for him, but it’s a huge sacrifice for American democracy.
Encouraged by the murky outcome from the Iowa caucuses and the notable lack of enthusiasm for Joe Biden, Bloomberg has decided to double his spending on TV commercials in every market where he is currently advertising, and expand his campaign field staff to more than 2,000.
He’s not competing in the first four states with caucuses and primaries but focusing instead on 3 March. So-called Super Tuesday will be more super than ever because it now includes California, Texas, Virginia, Minnesota, North Carolina and Massachusetts – a third of all delegates to the Democratic convention.
It’s much more efficient to go to the big states, to go to the swing states,” Bloomberg told the New York Times. “The others chose to compete in the first four. And nobody makes them do it, they wanted to do it. I think part of it is because the conventional wisdom is, ‘Oh you can’t possibly win without them.’”
Later, he added: “Those are old rules.”

That's precisely the point. These days, it's not about the best legislature. It's about the best legislature that money can buy.


Monday, February 10, 2020

Technology Can Be The Problem

Technology, we're told, can and will make lives easier. That's true -- but only partially true. When it comes to elections, what happened in Iowa proves that our faith in technology has been misplaced. Robin Sears writes:

The debacle in Iowa, like the one that struck Democrats and Republicans there before, and most infamously the one that denied Al Gore the presidency in 2000, have one feature in common. The increasing reliance of American elections on electronics, not paper. Bytes not bits, as it were.
Yes, sometimes they have “hanging chads” debates where human eyes try to second guess a computer’s count. Sometimes they have an informal paper record of local votes by precinct captains. But rarely do they have the almost religious ritual and security procedures that protect the integrity of Canadian paper-based balloting.
Ballots can be stolen, stuffed, burned, and forged, yes. Even that’s hard to do in a system where they are protected by a praetorian guard of election officials. But they can never, in their thousands, be made to disappear at a key stroke. Or worse, be made to generate a different outcome and victor than voters intended — as malfunctioning technology or malign interference can do in a microsecond.

Technology can be useful.  However, in elections, Canada has developed a middle ground:

A paper ballot remains the foundation, but it is often electronically counted. That count, however, is backed by a paper ballot and a paper tally sheet generated by the computer. Let’s experiment with online voting, but build it so there is a full reconstruction possible on paper.

When it comes to elections, we need a paper trail. And we need paper trails in other parts of our lives:

There is a reason that as heavily technologically dependent a nation as Japan favours cash more heavily than any other rich country. Yes, it is probably tax “management” in some cases. But mostly it is the security that comes from giving or receiving “real money” as incontrovertible proof of payment or sale. There is a reason that Americans cling to cheque writing more than any other rich nation. You sign a piece of paper yourself, and your bank is compelled to return it or a facsimile as proof of payment.
The underlying fear is often, bits versus bytes, once more. A bank’s computers can fail or be made to. Successful fraudulent digital transactions happen a lot. Or as we saw in the Libor currency trading scandal, verbal signals between conspiring traders can be transformed into digital fraud undetectably.
Of the billions lost to credit card fraud annually, how much would be possible with an ability to create an end-to-end paper trail of every step? Some argue blockchain technology offers the same level of accountability as paper documents, but millions of bitcoins have already been fraudulently traded successfully.

As with banks, paper guarantees legitimacy. As anyone who has lived through a Canadian winter knows, when the power goes down, lots of things don't work.


Sunday, February 09, 2020

The Kenney-Ford Alliance

Jason Kenney and Doug Ford used to be the best of friends. But times have changed. Kieran Leaviett and Alex Boyd write:

The anti-carbon-tax rally in fall of 2018 was perhaps the peak of what, once upon a time, was dubbed the “bromance” of Ford and Kenney, when they marched arm in arm against the Liberals in defence of provincial jurisdiction and the imposition of a federal carbon tax.
Back then, the newly elected populist leader of Ontario and the former federal politician who’d gone west to champion Alberta — Kenney would become premier in April 2019 — were the vanguard of a cross-provincial conservative movement going full tilt against Justin Trudeau in Ottawa ahead of last year’s federal vote.

But Trudeau won the election. And now Kenney and Ford have to work with him:

After Andrew Scheer and the Conservative party failed to take down Trudeau, who won a minority government in October, political analysts say Ford and Kenney now must focus on the problems at home and look at working with the federal government.
The realities of running a province are creeping in, [Conservative spokesman Tim] Powers said. That means the close political alliance may be starting to take a back seat to the demands of two very different jurisdictions that have their own problems to deal with.
It may have been an unlikely match. Ford was a populist, riding a wave of anti-establishment support all the way to Queen’s Park in 2018, while some see Kenney as an establishment Conservative, who spent many years in Ottawa as an MP before swapping out suits for jeans to campaign for premier across Alberta in a dark blue pickup.
But according to one former Ontario Progressive Conservative staffer, the bromance — a term Postmedia reported that Kenney used himself at the national Conservative convention in 2018 — was more than just politically expedient for the two premiers.

Now each man faces different priorities:

Ford must try to capture moderates in the centre of the political spectrum at home and Kenney will have to deal with a separatist movement on his right, which could prove dangerous for him in the next provincial election.
“For Kenney, the real challenge in the next election is keeping from having a Wexit party that is siphoning off 20 per cent of his vote.”

Politics makes strange bedfellows. And when their priorities change, they change beds.

Image: The Toronto Star

Saturday, February 08, 2020

Big And Dumb

Doug Ford visited Washington this week. He was there to talk trade. But he also waded into U.S. politics and the upcoming election. The Canadian Press reports:

Ontario Premier Doug Ford waded into U.S. politics during a visit to the country's capital on Friday, criticizing high-profile Democratic politicians and appearing to endorse President Donald Trump's bid for re-election.
Ford took shots at House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Sen. Bernie Sanders during an event organized by the Canadian American Business Council. The Premier was in Washington D.C. along with a group of other provincial leaders to attend the winter meeting of the National Governor's Association.
Ford said he enjoyed Trump's State of the Union address this week and slammed Pelosi for ripping up a copy of the remarks on television.
"I was disappointed when I saw Nancy Pelosi get up there and start tearing the speech up," he said during the event with the Canadian American Business Council. "It's uncalled for. I think it's a shame."
Ford also took aim at Sanders, a candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination, describing his political leanings as "actually scary."
"I always say socialism doesn't work," Ford said. "Raising taxes does not work. Show me anywhere in the world that it works, it doesn't."

Ford has previously voiced admiration for Trump -- in Ontario. Those of us who know the man are not surprised. But to voice his views in the United States -- particularly after Trump's sham trial in the Senate simply underscores the fact the Ford is remarkably obtuse.

Remember the line from Bad, Bad Leroy Brown? "He's big and dumb as a man can come." That's our Dougie.

Friday, February 07, 2020

An Ugly And Mean Party

Frank Graves and Michael Valpy have the numbers that tell what has happened to the Conservative Party. They write:

EKOS Research found that four years ago, there was a 10-percentage-point gap between Liberals and Conservatives who selected climate change as the top issue of political concern. That gap is now 46 percentage points.
More than 90 per cent of Canadians who identify with the political centre-left, which is 65 per cent of adult citizens, think that Canada now has a climate emergency (they don’t believe that it’s coming, but that it’s here now.) For people who identify as Conservative or People’s Party supporters, the figure is less than 30 per cent. Four years ago, there was a 20-percentage-point gap between Liberals and Conservatives on trust in science. That exploded to a 40 per cent gap following the last election.
Since 2012, the incidence of Conservative voters who think Canada is admitting “too many” visible minorities as immigrants has swollen from 47 per cent to 70 per cent . Meanwhile, the corresponding incidence of Liberals agreeing there are too many has dropped from 35 to 15 per cent. A modest 12 per cent gap has also expanded to a massive 55 per cent gap.

We are, to put it simply, becoming a much more tribal nation. As in the U.S. and UK, compromise is getting harder to find:

At the opening of the 21st century, almost 50 per cent of Canadian voters said they were neither small-L liberals nor small-C conservatives. Today, those saying “neither” are less than half of what they were 20 years ago—everyone is picking sides.
It means the ability to find centre terrain on the most divisive issues of the day is disappearing. The only path forward for those who win electoral power is to say, “Sorry, you’re wrong, we’re right.” When the gap is this egregious, you have to make choices, producing the predictable toxic backlash among the losers. On climate change, that’s what we see in Alberta and Saskatchewan, and among working class males of all ages with less than university education.
This is not unique to Canada. It’s a new feature of western democracy. You can hear it in post-Brexit England (“Take back control”), in Trump America (“Make America Great Again”), and now echoing in Conservative leadership candidate Erin O’Toole’s proclamation that, with him at the party helm, the Conservatives will “take back our great country.”

So we face an ugly and mean future. One of the reasons for that tragedy is that the Conservative Party is now an ugly and mean party.

Image: Bandcamp

Thursday, February 06, 2020

Living In Infamy

In the wake of Donald Trump's acquittal, Senator Sherrod Brown has written a devastating op-ed about the fear which grips the Republican Party:

History has indeed taught us that when it comes to the instincts that drive us, fear has no rival. As the lead House impeachment manager, Representative Adam Schiff, has noted, Robert Kennedy spoke of how “moral courage is a rarer commodity than bravery in battle.”
Playing on that fear, the Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell, sought a quick impeachment trial for President Trump with as little attention to it as possible. Reporters, who usually roam the Capitol freely, have been cordoned off like cattle in select areas. Mr. McConnell ordered limited camera views in the Senate chamber so only presenters — not absent senators — could be spotted.
And barely a peep from Republican lawmakers.

It truly was a pathetic display:

One journalist remarked to me, “How in the world can these senators walk around here upright when they have no backbone?”
Fear has a way of bending us.
Of course, the Republican senators who have covered for Mr. Trump love what he delivers for them. But Vice President Mike Pence would give them the same judges, the same tax cuts, the same attacks on workers’ rights and the environment. So that’s not really the reason for their united chorus of “not guilty.”
For the stay-in-office-at-all-cost representatives and senators, fear is the motivator. They are afraid that Mr. Trump might give them a nickname like “Low Energy Jeb” and “Lyin’ Ted,” or that he might tweet about their disloyalty. Or — worst of all — that he might come to their state to campaign against them in the Republican primary. They worry:
“Will the hosts on Fox attack me?”
“Will the mouthpieces on talk radio go after me?”

Under Trump, the mouthpieces on talk radio -- like Rush Limbaugh -- are given the Presidential Medal of Freedom. And Republicans quiver and twist themselves into ugly and foolish arguments:

Watching the mental contortions they perform to justify their votes is painful to behold: They claim that calling witnesses would have meant a never-ending trial. They tell us they’ve made up their minds, so why would we need new evidence? They say to convict this president now would lead to the impeachment of every future president — as if every president will try to sell our national security to the highest bidder.

Only one Republican in Congress -- Mitt Romney -- showed any courage. History will remember him kindly. All the other Republicans will live in infamy.

Image: Charisma News

Wednesday, February 05, 2020

Reading The Signs

Around the world, George Monbiot writes, tyranny is on the march:

We see this at work in the United States today, where the Republican party’s blatant disregard for the constitution will allow Donald Trump to escape impeachment.
In Brazil, outrages against indigenous people, opposition politicians and journalists are encouraged and celebrated at the highest levels of government. Jair Bolsonaro won the presidential election with the help of a judicial coup in which due process was abandoned to secure the imprisonment of the frontrunner, Luiz Inácio da Silva (Lula). Bolsonaro has been photographed embracing two of the suspects in the murder of the leftwing councillor Marielle Franco, and has sought to block corruption investigations into his son Flávio, who allegedly has close links with members of the paramilitary gang accused of killing her.
In India, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, after discovering that his alleged association with the 2002 Gujarat massacres no longer appeared to tarnish his name, is laying the foundations for a vicious ethno-nationalism. His new citizenship law deliberately denies rights to Muslims and could render millions of people stateless. People protesting against this act are brutally attacked by the police. Police and armed gangs have raided two Delhi universities, randomly beating up students, to spread generalised terror. In Uttar Pradesh, political opponents are routinely imprisoned without charge and tortured.
The president of the Philippines, Rodrigo Duterte, has bragged of riding around the streets of Davao on his motorbike when he was mayor of the city, shooting people he suspected of being criminals. Since becoming president he has, in effect, turned the police into a giant death squad, empowering them to murder people they believe to be involved in drug crime. Unsurprisingly, this general licence has led to the murders of political opponents, and land and environmental defenders.

We are watching the march of what Monbiot calls "killer clowns:"

Like these other killer clowns, Trump may now feel he can do anything. His legal team has in the past suggested he has total immunity, boasting that he could literally get away with murder. A culture of impunity is spreading around the world. “Try to stop me” is the implicit motto in nations ranging from Hungary to Israel, Saudi Arabia to Russia, Turkey to China, Poland to Venezuela. Flaunting your disregard for the law is an expression of power.

Read the signs. They're not good.

Image: The Falling Darkness

Tuesday, February 04, 2020

The Canadian Culture Wars

The Conservative Party is deeply divided. But there is one thing that unites them. Alan Freeman writes:

Conservatives may be divided on all sorts of questions, like gay marriage and abortion, or the role of government and tolerance for deficits, but they all seem to agree on one thing, their intense hatred of Justin Trudeau and what he stands for. Justin hatred has been a sure-fire money-spinner for the party’s fundraising arm for years but not so good when it comes to winning elections.
You know the lines. In 2015, Trudeau was “just not ready” and “economically clueless.” This past fall, Andrew Scheer renewed the attacks, calling Trudeau a “phoney” and a “fraud.” But above all, it’s always been very personal. Justin is nothing but a part-time teacher, a snowboard instructor, a virtue signaller, a celebrity sock-wearer, a purchaser of upscale donuts.
In contrast, Tory leaders and would-be leaders like Harper, Scheer and MacKay are hockey players or big hockey fans, regular dads who love to drive gas-guzzling pickups, order hotdogs on the Sparks Street Mall and patronize Tim Hortons drive-throughs. “I’m a guy who likes to stay active,” says MacKay. “Trudeau does yoga. I play hockey.”

It's reminiscent of the battle between George W. Bush and John Kerry fifteen years ago:

I recall the U.S. 2004 presidential election campaign where the Republicans managed to destroy John Kerry’s Democratic candidacy by characterizing him as an effete, wine-sipping Eastern liberal as opposed to that down-home regular-guy Texan, George W. Bush. 
In fact, both men shared very similar, privileged backgrounds. Both attended New England prep schools (Kerry went to St. Paul’s while Bush was sent to Phillips Academy). Both graduated to Yale. Kerry was an accomplished athlete and decorated officer during the Vietnam War while Bush managed to serve far away from the action in the Texas Air National Guard.
Yet Republican operatives successfully tarnished Kerry’s war record and then portrayed Kerry’s sporting pursuits as somehow fey. They took footage of Kerry wind-surfing (he was also an accomplished cyclist and skier) and mocked him in an ad as a flip-flopper who changed his positions on issues like a sailor in the wind.
There was also Kerry’s French, which he spoke fluently but couldn’t be caught dead speaking for fear of being dubbed as an out-of-touch fancy-pants university type. 
Bush, on the other hand, made sure that Americans knew his favourite pastime was brush clearing on the his 1,600-acre Texas ranch. More manly and the hobby of choice for another would-be cowboy on his large ranch, Ronald Reagan. It worked wonders for Bush. Kerry, never the most talented retail politician, went down in flames.

This week, we have been watching where all of this leads. In Washington, opposing sides can no longer talk to each other. And one side, at least, works to sabotage the constitution. This virus is deadly. If the Conservatives are hell bent on this path, Canada is in deep trouble.

Image: Skip Prichard

Monday, February 03, 2020

The Easy Path

It's beginning to look like Peter MacKay will have an easy path to the leadership of the Conservative Party. Martin Taube writes that easy victories can lead to disasters. He points to the ill fated voyage of Kim Campbell:

In 1993, Progressive Conservative cabinet minister Kim Campbell declared her intentions to replace outgoing prime minister Brian Mulroney. She was well-liked by caucus, and more than half of them backed her. There was hope she would evolve into a Canadian version of then-British prime minister Margaret Thatcher.
Prominent Tories like Perrin Beatty, Pat Carney, Joe Clark and Michael Wilson all opted against running. They likely sensed a massive tidal wave toward a political coronation, and put their leadership ambitions on hold. In most cases, for good.
Campbell turned out to be a disaster. Her weaknesses became painfully obvious. She had barely any political experience, a poor understanding of economic policy, and no filter with the public or press. Her huge lead almost evaporated, and she was fortunate to beat Charest for the PC leadership.

Leadership races test candidates' metal. Campbell was new and untested:

During her infamous interview with Peter C. Newman for Vancouver Magazine, she called Canadians who stayed out of the political process “apathetic SOBs,” and said she became an Anglican to keep away from “the evil demons of the papacy.”
The PCs went down from 157 seats to 2, and never recovered. Campbell lost her own seat, and resigned shortly thereafter. In her concession speech, she said, “Gee, I’m glad I didn’t sell my car.” It was the only amusing comment she ever made.

It's true that Peter MacKay has been around for a lot longer than Kim Campbell was. But he's been out of the game for awhile and he may be rusty. He -- and the Conservative Party -- should get a run for their money.

Image: Spencer Fernando

Sunday, February 02, 2020

King Donald

The man who claimed he could shoot someone on Fifth Avenue and get away with it keeps getting away with it. When Republicans voted down the Democratic motion for witnesses and documents, it was clear the fix was in. Lawrence Martin writes:

“Sham” cried the Democrats over and over again as Donald Trump was assured acquittal late Friday on impeachment charges. With the formal vote to exonerate him slated for Wednesday, he’s survived another trauma, the most grave he’s faced.
Next to sham, “coverup” was the most operative word in the Congressional corridors following the vote to disallow witnesses. Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer said on Wednesday that the country was headed for “the biggest coverup since Watergate.” Watergate legend Carl Bernstein echoed the sentiment. Referring to the reputation of the senate as the world’s greatest deliberative body, he said, “What a joke.”
Indeed it was. The Republican senators, at the behest of their leader, defied 75 per cent of Americans who, according to polls, wanted witnesses. Such witnesses, denied by votes from no less than 51 of the 53 Republicans, would surely have offered incriminating evidence of Mr, Trump’s plot to have the Ukraine government investigate his political rivals. The witnesses would have made it more contemptible for his Grand Old Party toadies to acquit him.

But look at the numbers. MSNBC reports that the 49 senators who voted for witnesses represent 20 million more Americans than the 51 senators who voted to suppress them. Thus, Trump's defence -- when the president does it, it's legal -- has become a precedent. When Richard Nixon used that defence, it was a joke. You see the problem.

The Republic now hangs by a thread. American voters have one last chance to save their republic -- nine months from now.

Image: MarketWatch

Saturday, February 01, 2020

Give Me A Break

This morning, the divorce is official. The UK has left the European Union. And, Ian McEwan writes, it was all done with "magic dust":

The only certainty is that we’ll be asking ourselves questions for a very long time. Set aside for a moment Vote Leave’s lies, dodgy funding, Russian involvement or the toothless Electoral Commission. Consider instead the magic dust. How did a matter of such momentous constitutional, economic and cultural consequence come to be settled by a first-past-the-post vote and not by a super-majority? A parliamentary paper (see Briefing 07212) at the time of the 2015 Referendum Act hinted at the reason: because the referendum was merely advisory. It “enables the electorate to voice an opinion”. How did “advisory” morph into “binding”? By that blinding dust thrown in our eyes from right and left by populist hands.

Advisory? That was a lie:

We endured a numbing complicity between government and opposition. The door out of Europe was held open by Corbyn for Johnson to walk through. In this case, if you travelled far enough to the left, you met and embraced the right coming the other way.
What did we learn in our blindness? That those not flourishing within the status quo had no good reason to vote for it; that our prolonged parliamentary chaos derived from an ill-posed yes-no question to which there were a score of answers; that the long-evolved ecology of the EU has profoundly shaped the flora of our nation’s landscape and to rip these plants out will be brutal; that what was once called a hard Brexit became soft by contrast with the threatened no-deal that even now persists; that any mode of departure, by the government’s own estimate, will shrink the economy; that we have a gift for multiple and bitter division – young against old, cities against the country, graduates against early school-leavers, Scotland and Northern Ireland against England and Wales; that all past, present and future international trade deals or treaties are a compromise with sovereignty, as is our signature on the Paris accords, or our membership of Nato, and that therefore “Take Back Control” was the emptiest, most cynical promise of this sorry season.

What we are witnessing around the world is a failure of political leadership. On the same day that Britain left the EU, politicians in Washington were opening the door for Donald Trump's acquittal.

Profiles in Courage? Give me a break.

Image: WBUR