Wednesday, September 30, 2020

Blowing Things Up

There wasn't a debate last night. Donald Trump blew up it up. Trump proved definitively that he is absolutely unfit for the office he holds. He was unfit when he won the office. He is unfit today. Jennifer Rubin writes:

When faced with questions about his actual record and policy, Trump threw up word salads, switched topics, made scurrilous accusations and convinced any rational viewer he is in over his head. He mostly interrupted, repeatedly and falsely accusing Biden of harboring positions that his more progressive opponents in the Democratic primaries held. Trump was a walking Twitter feed — no facts, all bluster and all insults. Unfortunately, moderator Chris Wallace was never able to control Trump, so the debate devolved into constant interruption.

Trump wound up arguing with Wallace, who correctly pointed out that Trump does not have a comprehensive health-care plan. Trump insisted he was lowering drug prices (he hasn’t) without addressing his lack of a replacement for Obamacare. Biden explained that he is not in sync with Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) on Medicare-for-all, as Trump claimed. As Trump tried to interrupt again and again, Biden asked derisively, "Do you have any idea what this clown is doing?” At another point, Biden quietly said, “Will you shut up, man?” He made the point that Trump has never had a health-care plan.

Trump vomited out a lie a minute:

On the economy, Trump boasted of his “best-ever” economy, but Biden took the side of the little guy, pointing out that the economy may be bouncing back for the rich but not for ordinary workers. Biden then threw Trump’s tax avoidance back in his face, after which Trump refused to confirm whether he paid $750 in federal taxes in 2016 and 2017, as the New York Times recently reported. Trump then lied that he had relatively little debt (he reportedly owes $421 million) and insisted he paid “millions” in taxes. Biden heckled him, taunting him to release his tax returns.

Biden pointed to studies showing his own plan would create more jobs and grow faster under his proposals than under Trump’s. In response to Trump’s taunts, Biden said bluntly, “You are the worst president America has ever had.” Biden said they handed Trump a booming economy but Trump “blew it” and didn’t save manufacturing.

I'm not making any predictions. But Trump proved beyond a doubt that his former secretary of state was right. He truly is a vile, "fucking moron."


Tuesday, September 29, 2020

It's Here

The second COVID wave has arrived in Ontario. And things are not going well. Bruce McArthur writes:

On Monday, Ontario recorded a pandemic-record 700 new COVID-19 cases, and the premier said the second wave had arrived, and he announced a plan to hire 3,700 new front-line health-care workers, from, personal support workers to nurses, to deal with a surge. 

It's not easy, waiting to be saved in Ontario. The alarm bells have been blaring for weeks, and Ontario’s hapless chief medical officer of health, Dr. David Williams, is still calling 700 cases a “wake-up call” as if it wasn’t widely anticipated, and the government doesn’t appear to be listening anyway. Last week, many Ontario leading health-care figures signed a letter asking for increased restrictions on high-risk commercial spaces. Monday, the Ontario Hospital Association called on the province to immediately put high-COVID areas back to Stage 2 of reopening, from the current Stage 3.

So far, the Ford government has been working around the edges:

Provincial interventions thus far have been low-cost and minor: lowering private gathering sizes, closing strip clubs, earlier closing hours for bars and restaurants. Toronto, similarly, dropped bar and restaurant limits from 100 to 75, and maximum table sizes from 10 to six. Mayor John Tory raised concerns about banquet halls, which are closed in B.C., but not here.

Ontario’s welcome narrowing of testing eligibility last week will help alleviate unacceptable lab turnaround times. But while the 700 may be a one-day bulge, it’s part of a pattern. And it reflects new cases from 10-14 days ago, so it doesn’t include what schools might do to transmission, with a few already shutting down. Is pruning around the regulatory edges going to turn the tide?

The heart of the problem is the government's confused messaging:

Premier Doug Ford keeps pleading with people who aren’t listening to follow confusing and contradictory regulations. After all, it’s 10 indoors and 20 outdoors, but you can also fit 30 in a classroom, 75 in a bar, plenty more in houses of worship and banquet halls and stores. Besides, social circles of 10 were in ashes as soon as people sent their kids back to school in a province unwilling to adequately fund small class sizes.

It's become clear that's it's now up to individuals. And recent massive gatherings -- in places like Wasaga Beach -- suggest that large numbers of individuals don't give a damn.


Monday, September 28, 2020

Is It Any Wonder?

The New York Times has published ten years of Donald Trump's tax returns up to 2018. The Times reports that:

Together with related financial documents and legal filings, the records offer the most detailed look yet inside the president’s business empire. They reveal the hollowness, but also the wizardry, behind the self-made-billionaire image — honed through his star turn on “The Apprentice” — that helped propel him to the White House and that still undergirds the loyalty of many in his base.

“The Apprentice,” along with the licensing and endorsement deals that flowed from his expanding celebrity, brought Mr. Trump a total of $427.4 million, The Times’s analysis of the records found. He invested much of that in a collection of businesses, mostly golf courses, that in the years since have steadily devoured cash — much as the money he secretly received from his father financed a spree of quixotic overspending that led to his collapse in the early 1990s.

Indeed, his financial condition when he announced his run for president in 2015 lends some credence to the notion that his long-shot campaign was at least in part a gambit to reanimate the marketability of his name.

Trump's claim to fame was that he would bring his business acumen to the United States government. The documents reveal that Trump has no business acumen. They also reveal that, in the year he won the presidency, he paid $750 in taxes. After the first year of his presidency, he paid another $750 in taxes.

Is it any wonder that he has almost destroyed the republic?

Sunday, September 27, 2020

It's In the Pipeline

Robin Sears writes that universal childcare has been on Canadians' radar for a long time:

Childcare in Canada has a long and twisting history — from pre-Confederation days when informal day nurseries were set up in some larger communities, to 1942 when subsidized daycare spaces were created for mothers working in war industries, to the boom created by the first feminist wave of the 70s. Like capital punishment, abortion and marriage equality, the cause was litigated brutally on each side, gaining traction slowly until one day becoming “inevitable.”

Events have now made universal childcare inevitable:

Why now? Because the fundamental economic logic of childcare has become overwhelming — not as a social justice card, but in purely liberal capitalist terms. More working women means a larger labour force, producing greater output and tax revenues, along with a stronger and more skills-diversified economy.

The evidence is no longer debatable: childcare, done well, really does make a nation richer, as well as fairer. And no, it is not a socialist plot to indoctrinate young children with poisonous ideas while trapped for hours every day in the hands of lefty propagandists — a claim one regularly heard whispered back in the day.

And, as was the case with Medicare, there is a working model in place -- not just in one province, but in two:

In Canada, it was partly the success of the Quebec subsidized system over more than 20 years, and B.C.’s more recent success since the election of the NDP under John Horgan. The pandemic sealed the case.

There will still be a lot of wrangling between the feds and the provinces. There always is. But universal childcare is in the pipeline.


Saturday, September 26, 2020

Get Rid Of The Big Money

Everywhere, it seems, politics is corrupted by big money. That certainly has been the case in Ontario. Martin Regg Cohn writes:

Back in 2016, after a series of columns exposing the wild west of Ontario fundraising, the previous Liberal government clamped down on the worst abuses — so that politicians from all parties could cater to voter interests, not pander to vested interests.

But Doug Ford’s Tories unilaterally diluted those reforms after they took power two years later, revoking public financing of political parties (modest “per-vote” subsidies based on most recent election results). Now, COVID-19 has changed the equation.

Fundraising is falling on deaf ears because ordinary Ontarians are out of pocket. Which leaves deep-pocketed developers whispering in the ears of desperate politicians.

Cohn believes that it's time to re-instate the per vote political subsidy:

With the benefit of hindsight, the premier has every reason to restore the “per-vote” allocations that he unilaterally phased out (scheduled to end next year). And with a little foresight, Ford could go even further in leading a cleanup of dirty money.

The perfect storm of a pandemic is the ideal time for the premier to curb excessive campaign spending, better reflecting the virtual world of COVID-19. Why allow parties to spend (and therefore raise) as much as $10 million for a provincial election campaign that amounts to overkill?

Amid COVID-19, we are entering a new world of political outreach and campaign marketing that is more digital than ever before. The premier could make the best of a pandemic by forcing all politicians to collectively clean up their act — with sharp new limits on how much they spend to grease their lumbering campaign machines.

The old fashioned way of funding campaigns is very costly:

All those sumptuous fundraising dinners are obscenely inefficient ways to attract donors — with big sums (and fine wine) poured down the drain to keep the cash flowing, while politicians waste time prostituting themselves.

As for those costly and clunky whistle-stop campaigns, they are whistling past the political graveyard. Just ask Ford, who ditched the traditional “leader’s tour” in the 2018 election, forsaking the customary chartered aircraft and customized bus, while eschewing the companion “media bus” laid on (for a hefty fee) for travelling reporters. The leader’s tour tends to be a “loss leader” for parties keen to get “earned media” (coverage), but most cash-starved outlets dropped anyway (the Star was often one of the few organizations to tag along).

The pandemic has forced many changes on us. But a change in the way we finance political campaigns could be a blessing:


Friday, September 25, 2020

A Violent Holocaust


This week, early voting began in the American presidential election. Frank Bruni writes:

Trump supporters descended on a polling location in Fairfax, Va., and sought to disrupt early voting there by forming a line that voters had to circumvent and chanting, “Four more years!”

This was no rogue group. This was no random occurrence. This was an omen — and a harrowing one at that.

Republicans are planning to have tens of thousands of volunteers fan out to voting places in key states, ostensibly to guard against fraud but effectively to create a climate of menace. Trump has not just blessed but encouraged this. On Fox News last month, he bragged to Sean Hannity about all the “sheriffs” and “law enforcement” who would monitor the polls on his behalf. At a rally in North Carolina, he told supporters: “Be poll watchers when you go there. Watch all the thieving and stealing and robbing they do.”

It's going to be a helluva election. Bruni asks:

Is a fair fight still imaginable in America? Do rules and standards of decency still apply? For a metastasizing segment of the population, no.

Right on cue, we commenced a fight over Ginsburg’s Supreme Court seat that could become a protracted death match, with Mitch McConnell’s haste and unabashed hypocrisy potentially answered by court packing, among other acts of vengeance, if Democrats win the presidency and the Senate.

That’s a big if, because we’re also hurtling toward an Election Day that may decide exactly nothing — and I don’t mean that night. I mean for months. I mean forever.

It looks to me that the United States is on the verge of a violent holocaust. I hope I'm wrong.

Image: The New York Times

Thursday, September 24, 2020

Hope And Fear

Canadians got a double dose yesterday. There was hope in the afternoon and fear at night. Susan Delacourt writes:

Politics is always a dance between hope and fear — doubly so in a pandemic.

So Canadians were treated to two speeches from Trudeau and his government on Wednesday, ranging from optimism to pessimism as COVID-19 remains dangerously on the march through this country.

The speech from the throne, with its promise of “brighter days” — not exactly sunny ways — was clearly drafted as the more hopeful declaration from Trudeau’s government. But the prime minister’s televised address to the nation was about the very real fears rippling through the country right now. There was nothing very sunny in it at all, really.

“We’re on the brink of a fall that could be much worse than the spring,” Trudeau said. “I know this isn’t the news that any of us wanted to hear.”

Basically, Trudeau was giving us a double-barrelled dose of hope and fear on Wednesday, which are operating on different timelines.

The Conservatives and the Bloc grumbled. The Conservatives are now a prairie party; and they grumbled about natural resources. M. Blanchet believes he speaks for -- and only for -- Quebec. He grumbled about provincial jurisdiction.

So now it's up to the NDP and the Liberals. It will take some work, but they might be able to dance with each other. This is surely no time for an election.


Wednesday, September 23, 2020

Private Education?

If you wonder why so many Americans appear to know nothing, look to the failure of the nation's public education system. Jason Kunin writes that Ontario is headed in the same direction -- with help from the pandemic:

In the spring of last year, Premier Doug Ford launched a surprise attack on public education by announcing a series of cuts, disguised as an increase in class sizes, that over a four-year period would have eliminated thousands of teaching positions, decimated programming at schools across the province, and forced students into e-learning courses that no one had asked for or wanted.

But the pandemic has allowed Ford to accomplish what he couldn't accomplish earlier:

A year and a half later, likely thousands of teachers have been pulled from brick and mortar schools, in-school programming has been slashed, and virtual schools are not only set up in boards across the province, but teachers, once and still vociferously opposed to e-learning, are lining up to teach online.

For the Ford government, it's mission accomplished. The pandemic has been a gift.

In a matter of months, COVID-19 has undermined trust in the public school system, created mass incentive for private school and homeschooling options, and achieved a grudging level of public acceptance for e-learning. The ground has now been cleared for the introduction of U.S.-style privatization reforms, such as vouchers and charter schools. The coming months will tell if this is, in fact, where the government is going.

And Ford's education minister has proven to be just the man for the job:

Ford and his smooth-talking Education Minister Stephen Lecce accomplished all this by never wavering in their goals and by implementing a back-to-school plan so inadequately funded and haphazardly planned that almost a third of Toronto parents felt compelled to protect their kids by pulling them out of in-school learning. Applications to private schools have soared.

By taking only half measures to protect students and school staff, the Ford government let the pandemic do its work for them. Class sizes for elementary grades were kept large, masks for Grades 3 and under were made optional, few additional caretaking staff were hired, minimal funding for PPE or ventilation upgrades was provided, and back-to-school plans were unfurled so late into the summer that boards were left scrambling, and the system was thrown into chaos.

For political game-players hell bent on pushing ahead with a privatization agenda that the public doesn't want, in disaster there is opportunity, and in crisis situations the public can be sufficiently beaten down to accept what it doesn't want. This is how disaster capitalism operates.

And make no mistake: When education fails, democracy eventually fails.

Image: The Village Voice


Tuesday, September 22, 2020

Get Mad And Get Even


Washington Post columnist Eugene Robinson writes that now is the time to take the gloves off:

This is a moment to get mad and to get even. The way to do that is to crush President Trump and pulverize the Republican Party in the coming election.

If the Republicans want to push through a conservative justice to replace Ruth Bader Ginsberg -- and Lindsey Graham says they have the votes -- they will. And the Democrats won't be able to stop them. That means they have to focus on the election:

Democrats can make them pay by taking their power away. All of it.

If you’re angry about how the GOP is tilting the Supreme Court, the first thing to focus on is booting Trump out of the White House and into well-deserved obscurity.

Four years ago, too many Democrats — especially young people and African Americans — stayed home on Election Day. Just 80,000 more Democratic votes spread across Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania would have given Hillary Clinton, not Trump, the power to nominate three Supreme Court justices, shaping the high court’s ideological makeup for decades to come.

I don’t know who those Clinton-appointed justices would have been, but I know they wouldn’t be Neil M. Gorsuch, Brett M. Kavanaugh and whoever Trump picks later this week. The Supreme Court has to be made a turnout-driving issue for Democrats, the way it has long been for Republicans.

That doesn’t mean, however, letting the battle over replacing Ginsburg become the central issue in the campaign. Joe Biden needs to continue hammering away at Trump’s weaknesses: his abysmal and tragically dishonest performance on the covid-19 pandemic; the economic devastation that resulted from his failure to contain the virus the way leaders of other rich countries did; and his decision to respond to the movement against systemic racism by championing Confederate monuments and channeling bitter White grievance.

That means that, first and foremost, Trump must be sent back to Park Avenue to face the Manhattan district attorney. But the Democrats must also take back the Senate:

GOP Sens. Susan Collins of Maine, Martha McSally of Arizona and Thom Tillis of North Carolina trail their Democratic opponents; while Cory Gardner of Colorado, Joni Ernst of Iowa, Steve Daines of Montana and Graham are also in serious trouble. If Democrats win any four of those seats, then even if Democrat Doug Jones gets ousted in deep-red Alabama, McConnell’s majority is gone.

It can be done. It's been done here. Remember that 1992 election when the Conservatives were reduced to two seats in the House of Commons? It all depends on how many people come out to vote.

Image: The Guardian

Monday, September 21, 2020

The Throne Speech

This week, the Trudeau government will unveil its throne speech. Robin Sears writes that the event will provide all our political parties with an opportunity to press the reset button:

Let us hope that the pain we have been through together, the power of ritual and ceremony, which is always part of the opening of Parliament, will tilt the political scales a little more toward statesmanship than showmanship. (We will now have to invent a gender neutral description of that leadership quality. Most of the statesmen in this pandemic are women.)

This truly is  a time for statesmanship:

Let’s debate the detail and direction of massive new spending. But let’s drop the scare mongering please: “We are creating debt-crushed lives for our grandchildren.” And the government might try, a little more graciously, to accept demands for constructive change instead of branding their opponents as simply irresponsible.

Jagmeet Singh, Chrystia Freeland, John Horgan, and Doug Ford (mostly), have avoided silly partisan showboating. Hyperpartisan leaders of every hue would do well to emulate their approach. The highest approval ratings from Canadian voters have so far gone to those leaders they judge to have placed Canadians’ safety and security above partisan advantage.

We should debate how, how fast and how much, when we talk about child care, pharmacare and strengthening public health infrastructure. Those and other social justice issues must form part of our agenda to build a new normal. On the left the temptation will be to say, “Too little, too late!” to anything promised in the Speech from the Throne. Pundits and politicians to the right will default to, “Too much, too green, too reckless!” I think most Canadians would prefer, “A good start, perhaps, but here are three ways we could make it better..”

The throne speech should be the beginning of a discussion -- not the beginning of an election campaign. We'll soon know which it will be.

Image: CPAC

Sunday, September 20, 2020

Crunch Time

Mitch McConnell is hell-bent on confirming Donald Trump's Supreme Court nominee -- despite what he did last time. Michelle Goldberg writes:

Mitch McConnell certainly has no intention of abiding by the so-called McConnell rule, an invention to justify the Senate’s refusal to consider [Merrick] Garland in March 2016. “The American people should have a voice in the selection of their next Supreme Court justice,” McConnell said then. “Therefore, this vacancy should not be filled until we have a new president.”

Replacing a progressive icon on the Supreme Court with a hard-core reactionary — one who will overturn Roe v. Wade, decimate civil rights law and fully unshackle big business — is an existential matter for the right. It is both the culmination of decades of conservative activism and perhaps an insurance policy in case the 2020 election itself ends up being decided by the court, like Bush v. Gore.

There are Republican senators who say they will not vote for Trump's nominee:

Shortly before Ginsburg’s death was announced, Senator Lisa Murkowski told Alaska Public Media that she wouldn’t vote to confirm a new Supreme Court justice this close to the election. The Times’s Jonathan Martin tweeted that another Republican senator, Susan Collins, told him earlier this month that she would oppose seating a new justice in October.

It will take two other Republican senators to stop this constitutional travesty. But Republican senators have proven themselves to be invertebrates in the Trump Era. If they force through Trump's nominee, Goldberg suggests that:

Outraged people should take to the streets en masse. Democrats in the Senate may not be able to stop Republicans from shoving a nominee through before the election or during a lame-duck session, but if it happens they should do all in their power to grind Senate business to a halt.

And if Republicans do give Ginsburg’s seat to some Federalist Society fanatic, Democrats must, if they win back the presidency and the Senate, abolish the filibuster and expand the court, adding two seats to account for both Garland and Ginsburg.

It really is crunch time in the United States.

A brief thought on John Turner, who died on Friday. He was a man of tremendous gifts who became Canada's second shortest-serving prime minister. His political career illustrates the wisdom of Ecclesiastes: "The race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, neither yet bread to the wise, nor yet riches to men of understanding, nor yet favour to men of skill; but time and chance happeneth to them all."

There are more important things in life than being Prime Minister of Canada.


Saturday, September 19, 2020

Amiel"s Tale Of Decadence

Barbara Amiel has just published a memoir. Hadley Freeman writes that the book recounts life at the top in the glittering '90's:

The 90s was a golden era for alpha power players, and back then they seemed golden, as if they themselves were plated, though that may have been the glint from the riches surrounding them. The Blacks, the Trumps, Robert Maxwell: the men were called “charismatic” by people who confuse charisma with bullshit; the women (Amiel, Ivana, Marla Maples) were styled by the papers as monstrous, and at times they were.

The people who populate Amiel's pages lived high and wide, served themselves, and bathed in self-pity:

The book reeks of 90s pretension: “How poisonous must one be when even the New York vendeuses wish to distance themselves?” she muses of the period after Black’s conviction, sounding like the first draft of a character from Clueless. When she sells her flat, ostensibly to pay Black’s legal bills, she “sighed with relief. Here I come, Chanel, I thought.” (Alas, for her and Chanel, the FBI seized the money soon after.) HBO’s Succession – which riffs on the Murdoch family – recently showed how the super-rich spend their money today: on yachts, sure, but on clothes and homes that whisper their wealth far more discreetly. Against this, Amiel’s style, all screaming ostentation, looks anachronistic.

She frames her memoir as a work of literary revenge on the friends who stopped talking to her at the opera. “Once there is an accusation that you have ‘looted’ millions from your company, you’re done,” Amiel writes, overlooking the pesky fact that, as well as the accusation, there was a trial and an imprisonment. “It would take years for the allegations against Conrad to be revealed as false,” she continues, assuming that famous kama sutra position, the reverse ferret. But the allegations were very much not revealed to be false. Rather, he was pardoned by Trump, and the fact that the year before Black had knocked out a book about the president with its nose so determinedly up his arse it might have doubled as a colonoscopy was, surely, just a coincidence.

This was Donald Trump's world and Conrad Black's world. Black has faded from public notice. But Trump is still with us, twenty-four hours a day. Do we really want to continue this tale of decadence?

Image: Everett Collection Inc/Alamy

Friday, September 18, 2020

Trump and Masks

Donald Trump's rejection of masks is truly puzzling. Paul Krugman writes that their benefits are obvious. Consider what has happened in New York State and in Arizona:

In New York State as a whole, the number of people dying daily from Covid-19 is only slightly higher than the number killed in traffic accidents. In New York City, only around 1 percent of tests for the coronavirus are coming up positive, compared with, for example, more than 12 percent in Florida.

At first, Arizona’s Republican governor, Doug Ducey, did everything wrong; not only did he keep the bars open, but he refused to let the (mostly Democratic) mayors of the state’s biggest cities impose local face-mask mandates. The result was a huge spike in cases: For a few weeks in July almost as many people were dying daily in Arizona, population seven million, as in the whole European Union, population 446 million.

But by then Ducey had reversed course, closing bars and gyms. He didn’t impose a statewide mask mandate, but he allowed cities to take action. And both cases and deaths plummeted, although not to New York levels.

In other words, we know what works. Which makes it both bizarre and frightening that Donald Trump has apparently decided to spend the final weeks of his re-election campaign deriding and discouraging mask-wearing and other anti-pandemic precautions.

Part of the reason is Trump's rejection of science. This week he claimed that "science doesn't know" about what is causing wildfires. But it's about much more than that:

The fairly obvious answer is that we’re looking at the efforts of an amoral politician to rescue his flailing campaign.

The economy’s partial snapback from its plunge early this year hasn’t given Trump the political dividends he hoped for. His attempts to stir up panic with claims that radical activists are going to destroy the suburbs haven’t gained traction, with voters generally seeing Joe Biden as the better candidate to maintain law and order.

And it’s probably too late to change the views of the majority of voters believing that he has given up on fighting the coronavirus.

So his latest ploy is an attempt to convince people that the Covid-19 threat is over. But widespread mask-wearing is a constant reminder that the virus is still out there. Hence Trump’s renewed push against the simplest, most sensible of public health precautions.

But anyone who sees the rising death numbers knows that's not true. Last time around, Trump rejoiced in his support among the undereducated. They continue to support him  -- and they continue to be his victims.

On the most basic level, a mask is an I.Q. test.


Thursday, September 17, 2020

Political Malpractice

There's been lots of speculation about a fall election. Susan Delacourt states definitely that there will be no election:

Trudeau surely hasn’t missed the fact that New Brunswick Premier Blaine Higgs turned his minority government into a majority in this week’s provincial election — something that Trudeau would certainly like to do, too.

But if “figuring it out” goes anything like the constantly evolving calculations on reopening Parliament next week, the process would be long, complicated and uncertain. Pandemics tend to take the snap out of a snap election, or even the much less complicated choreography of a throne speech.

And, recently, things have gotten even more complicated:

Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole and Bloc Québécois Leader Yves-Francois Blanchet have each been hit in the past few days with positive COVID-19 tests in their immediate circles. Both are now forced to hunker down in isolation that guarantees Parliament won’t be resuming in any condition close to normal next week.

That makes the House of Commons a perfect mirror of what’s going on in the larger country this September — the strong desire for return to normalcy colliding with the harsh reality of a virus that seems to be on the upswing again.

Reasonably healthy opinion standings for the Trudeau Liberals fade sharply in comparison to the unhealthy COVID-19 numbers now coming in daily from across the country. Any Liberals dreaming of the magic 40 per cent needed to win a majority government need only glance at the increasing numbers of people lining up for COVID-19 tests in Ottawa and other hot spots this week.

It's become clear that, with this pandemic, there is no end in sight. Calling an election in these circumstances would be political malpractice.


Wednesday, September 16, 2020

The Extinction Rebellion

The battle between people and capital continues. George Monbiot writes that, for the last forty years, capital has been winning. The problem is our first-past-the-post political system:

Our system allows the victorious government a mandate to do what it likes between elections, without further reference to the people. As we have seen, this can include breaking international law, suspending parliament, curtailing the judiciary, politicising the civil service, attacking the Electoral Commission and invoking royal prerogative powers to make policy without anyone’s consent. This is not democracy, but a parody of democracy.
By contrast to our five-yearly vote, capital can respond to government policy every second, withdrawing its consent with catastrophic consequences if it doesn’t like its drift. There’s a massive imbalance of power here. The voting power of capital, with modern trading technologies, has advanced by leaps and bounds. Electoral power is trapped in the age of the quill pen.

Our political parties are trapped in the old paradigm. In moments like this, real opposition comes from outside parliament:

The democratic and environmental crises have the same roots: our exclusion, for several years at a time, from meaningful politics. In some places, particularly Ireland, Iceland, France, Taiwan, British Columbia, Ontario and several Spanish and Brazilian cities, a host of fascinating experiments with new democratic forms has been taking place: constitutional conventions, citizens’ assemblies, community development, digital deliberation and participatory budgeting. They are designed to give people a voice between elections, tempering representative democracy, allowing them to refine their choices.

There are historical analogs:

Like the suffragettes and the civil rights movement, it was excoriated for threatening “our way of life”. Almost all democratic advances, everywhere, have been secured by people who were branded “anarchists” and “criminals”.

Today's opposition generally falls under the title The Extinction Rebellion. If that rebellion generates policy changes, there is hope for the planet. If it doesn't, we do -- indeed -- face extinction.


Tuesday, September 15, 2020

Trump's Nihilism

If you're looking for a philosophy behind what Donald Trump does, you're on a fool's errand. But, Rick Salutin writes, there is a common thread that ties everything Trump does together. It's nihilism:

What Trump means by and fears in anarchism would probably be better described as nihilism. It's a complicated and historically amorphous term. (Nietzsche wasn't a nihilist but he thought it should be overcome with a new, harshly honest morality; the Russian nihilists wanted to dismantle their brutal world and replace it with the nobler qualities of peasants and the early church.)

But in Trump, the heavy metal, guitar-smashing caricature of nihilism finds a home. He may be the first pop nihilist ever among world leaders. There's something touching in him saying to John Kelly, at a battlefield cemetery, that he doesn't get it, what did they die for? What was in it for them? Kelly may've been tempted to pat him on the back and try futilely to explain it.

This is nihilism and lack of empathy, not in Bill Clinton's shabby "I feel your pain" sense; but in the sense that there are worlds, literally, to lose, and he doesn't know it. He's less irresponsible than impenetrable. This is the challenge U.S. voters face in two months and it's not about medicare-for-all any more, Toto. Will they be up to it? Personally, I'm optimistic but that's another story.

As Edith Bunker said, as she examined Archie Bunker's head, "Grass don't grow through concrete." Nothing grows inside or outside Donald Trump's head.

Image: CNN

Monday, September 14, 2020

Trudeau's Green Gamble

Michael Harris writes that Justin Trudeau is preparing to take a green gamble. The last time the Liberals placed that bet, things did not work out well for them:

In 2008, then Liberal leader Stephane Dion took on Stephen Harper and his Conservative government by pitching a Green Shift for Canada. Dion introduced the notion of a carbon tax linked to tax cuts, claiming that a host of economists and environmentalists endorsed his policy. The Liberal leader warned that Canada must either get greener or face tariff restrictions on energy exports like dirty oil from the tarsands.

Harper’s counterpunch promptly dumped Dion on his backside. Harper claimed that Dion’s plan would destroy the economy to the point where national unity itself would be at stake.

According to the scorecards of Canadian voters, Harper recorded a TKO over Dion. Although he didn’t achieve a majority government, Harper won 143 seats, 16 more than the party held in 2006 — good enough for another minority.

As for the Green Shifter, he and his party won just 77 seats, 18 less than they had won in 2006 under an Ad-Scammed Paul Martin. The party received its lowest popular votes in 100 years. Dion resigned days after his humiliating defeat. The Green Shift entered the history books as the Green Faceplant.

But the times have changed. Big Oil is leaving the building:

ExxonMobil was just dropped from the Dow Jones Industrial Average after 92 years of preeminence. The world’s most valuable publicly-traded company, estimated to be worth $500 billion in 2008, has lost nearly two-thirds of its value. ExxonMobil was also dropped from the top 10 on Standard and Poor’s 500 Index. There are now no oil companies in S&P’s top 10.

Last December, just before the pandemic hit, Saudi Arabia sold off 1.5 per cent of state-owned oil giant Saudi Aramco, raising $25.6 billion in the world’s biggest share sale. It was part of a plan to create a massive sovereign wealth fund. According to Prince Mohammed bin Salman, as reported in Bloomberg News back in 2016, the goal is to make investments in non-petroleum assets. That way, the main source of the kingdom’s revenue will be investments, rather than oil.

Shell Oil dumped most of its investment in the Alberta tarsands in 2017.

Several financial institutions, including Deutsche Bank, will no longer invest in new fossil fuel developments, including those in the tarsands or coal projects.

Bond rating agency Moody’s coolly concludes that “modest enduring changes due to behavioural change combined with government policies and technological advantages designed to reduce carbon emissions could make it unlikely that oil demand will return to its pre-COVID levels.”

Nonetheless, we should expect Erin O'Toole -- who won the leadership of the Conservatives with Jason Kenney's help -- to follow the Harper playbook.  The NDP and Green response is yet to come.

Whatever happens, it's wise to remember that Kermit the Frog opined that it's not easy being Green.

Image: You Tube

Sunday, September 13, 2020

Boundless Mendacity

Andrew Rawnsley asks, "What kind of Tory government jeopardises the union and tears up the rules of law?"

For people who present themselves as super-patriots, Boris Johnson and his coterie at Number 10 have a craze for despoiling everything that the world once regarded as the best of British. The independence of the judiciary, the success of the BBC, the impartiality of the civil service and the authority of parliament - all have been bricked and bottled by the blue anarchists. When the Tory leader tried his prorogation stunt last autumn, he was even prepared to taint the position of the Queen by giving her illegal advice. Now their delinquency has escalated to explicitly tearing up the rule of law. That foundation stone of British democracy and lodestar of our country’s international reputation, the principle that once had no more passionate champion than the Conservative party, is no longer safe from them.

We live in a world that has been turned upside down. Nowhere is this truer than in Britain:

It was an extraordinary moment when a member of the cabinet stood before parliament to declare that the government plans to intentionally break international law by unilaterally rewriting sections of the withdrawal agreement with the EU. Number 10 then confirmed that Mr Johnson was ready to violate a treaty that he negotiated less than a year ago, made the centrepiece of his pitch to the British people at the election last December, and then had the Commons rapidly ratify in January. The agreement he once flourished as a “wonderful” triumph for his personal diplomacy is now described by Number 10 as a rushed botch that the prime minister never liked. Breaching of a treaty that he himself signed and advocated sets a fresh standard of brazenness.

BoJo believes he can break treaties at will -- even the ones he has just negotiated. But the damage he has done to Britain's international reputation is horrific:

Theresa May and Sir John Major are among the senior Tories shocked to find that an allegedly Conservative government wants to turn Britain into a treaty-breaking renegade state. Sir John warns: “If we lose our reputation for honouring the promises we make, we will have lost something without price.” Grave reprimands from two of his predecessors would have troubled previous prime ministers, but not this one. My word is my bond is not a motto by which Boris Johnson has ever lived his life.

No one has excoriated him as fiercely as Michael Howard, a veteran Eurosceptic. That former Tory leader makes the excellent point that the “severe damage” done to Britain’s moral authority will make it harder to criticise international law-breaking by the likes of China, Russia and Iran. Norman Lamont, the former Tory chancellor and one of the first prophets of Brexit, weighed in to say that the government had got itself into a “terrible mess”. Even the zealots at Number 10 may have a tremor of self-doubt when they are losing Tory elders as Brexity as Lords Howard and Lamont.

Brexit was always going to be difficult -- not a "piece of cake" as its boosters predicted:

The trigger for this simultaneous descent towards rogue nation status and lurch to the brink of a crash-out Brexit was the deadlock in the talks with the EU. It is no surprise that they have proved much more difficult than the Brexiters sought to pretend during the referendum campaign, when the negotiation was going be a “piece of cake”, and again in the run up to the December election, when Mr Johnson promised that his “oven-ready deal” would secure “a fantastic new trade agreement with the EU”. As some of us remarked at the time, “Get Brexit Done” was both the most effective slogan of the Tories’ election campaign and the most mendacious.

Mendacious is the right word. We seem to be cursed by a class of world leaders whose mendacity knows no bounds.


Saturday, September 12, 2020

Doing A Woodward


Roger Cohen  -- who is recovering from COVID -- catalogues all the things "you know" about Donald Trump:

You know that ego could not resist 18 interviews with Bob Woodward, just as you know that he spent some of those interviews detailing his lies to the American people about the virus (he preferred “to always play it down”), just as you know that he said in 2018 that the Aisne-Marne American cemetery in France he declined to visit was “filled with losers,” just as you know that in 2017 he said Haitians “all have AIDS” and Nigerian immigrants wouldn’t ever “go back to their huts.”

You know he doesn’t believe climate change is a threat, that he has done his best to eviscerate the Environmental Protection Agency, that he does not believe in science, that he thought “disinfectant” might knock out the virus “in a minute,” that he has hobbled the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, that he couldn’t care less about transgender people, that he loathes immigrants he has described as “animals,” and that he authorized the separation of thousands of immigrant children from their parents at the border. You know that in textbook totalitarian fashion, he calls a free press “the enemy of the American people.”

You know Trump thought there were “very fine people on both sides” at the 2017 neo-Nazi Charlottesville rally, and that he thinks any Jew who votes for a Democrat shows “great disloyalty,” and that he winks daily at millions of Americans who believe he is their savior from a takeover by Black and brown people, Jewish finance, cosmopolitans, and leftist radicals. You know Trump is “very much behind” President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi of Egypt because he has yet to meet a dictator he does not dream of emulating. You know Trump must be compromised with President Vladimir Putin to the point of ignoring Russian bounties on American troops in Afghanistan.

You know all of this, Cohen writes, and Trump wants you to know, convinced that you will give up -- overwhelmed and defeated. But it's not enough just to know. You must also remember:

It’s important not just to know, to be aware, but to remember. It’s hard to remember. It’s like looking for the way out of a labyrinth in the mist.

It’s important to remember that Trump believes he has done more for Black Americans than any president since Abraham Lincoln and that he claims he will preserve coverage for pre-existing conditions even as he is asking the Supreme Court to destroy Obamacare.  Because Trump is delusional and a world already on the brink of an armed Chinese-American confrontation may not survive a second Trump term without disaster. Nor will the oldest democracy on earth.

Trump expects to get his way. He expected to get his way with Bob Woodward. But he didn't. In less than two months, American voters can do a Woodward on Trump -- if they so choose.

Image: The New York Times

Friday, September 11, 2020

Collective Malevolence

Michelle Goldberg writes that Bob Woodward's tapes of Donald Trump reveal something we didn't know about him:

The president doesn’t sound ignorant or deluded. Rather, he sounds uncommonly lucid. On Feb. 7, Trump described the virus as airborne and “more deadly than even your strenuous flus,” adding, “this is 5 percent versus 1 percent, or less than 1 percent.” It’s not clear whether Trump thought that Covid-19 had a 5 percent case fatality rate — a number that seemed plausible in February — but he clearly knew that compared with the flu, it was several times more likely to kill.

There a common perception that Trump is a bumbling fool. And, while it may be true that he was a fool to talk with Bob Woodward, the fact remains that throughout the pandemic Trump has known what he was doing:

Publicly, Trump kept insisting that the virus would disappear. Privately, he told Woodward: “I wanted to always play it down. I still like playing it down, because I don’t want to create a panic.”

Trump lied to the country about the calamity that would soon overtake it. His administration didn’t ramp up a national testing or contact-tracing program. He and his supporters pressured states to open up prematurely. A July Pew poll found that only 46 percent of Republicans and those who lean toward the Republican Party considered the coronavirus a major threat to public health, compared with 85 percent of Democrats and Democratic leaners. Trump could have made Republicans take the virus seriously. He chose not to.

It’s now clear that just because Trump is lying to us, that doesn’t mean he’s lying to himself.

So what does that tell us? Put bluntly, it tells us that Trump is truly a malevolent force. Woodward's book comes on the heels of Mary Trump's book. Former FBI agent Peter Stzrok has just published a book. And there will be more books published before the election. Americans can't claim that they didn't know who the man was. If they refuse to send Trump and his enablers into the dustbin of history, they will stand convicted of collective malevolence.

Image: You Tube

Thursday, September 10, 2020

A Fascist Project

Henry Giroux does not pull his punches. Donald Trump, he writes, is fanning white wing violence in an effort to establish a fascist state:

Nobody should justify assaults that lead to needless human suffering and the destruction of neighborhood property, especially in impoverished cities. Nor should violence be used as a rhetorical device to include property damage. Violence is a term that should be limited to assaults, injuries and harm waged against human beings, not property. When talking about violence, it is crucial to make a distinction between the destruction of property and violence against persons.

Trump makes no such distinction. For him, demonstrators are terrorists who threaten the foundation of the nation. And, he claims, he has the solution to that problem -- state violence:

State violence comes in many forms and extends from the criminalization of social problems and the horrors of the carceral state to the militarization of the police and the increasing violence waged against undocumented immigrants, poor youth of color, and anyone who is not white and viewed as expendable, if not disposable.

The examples are everywhere:

Consider agents of the state suffocating, with impunity, a Black man, Eric Garner, on the streets of New York in full view of bystanders. Consider police officers shooting 12-year-old Tamir Rice while he was holding a toy gun; consider the police kicking in the door and killing Breonna Taylor while she slept in her bed; consider a cop putting his knee on George Floyd’s neck for almost nine minutes until the last breath passed from his body. Consider a government that separates children from their parents and puts them in cages. Consider that waging violence against Black men and women did not end with slavery and Jim Crow, but continues into the present era, especially under Trump, whose call for “law and order” functions as “an enabling tool for providing an open season on killing Black men.” Moreover, “law and order” as a defining principle of Trump’s mode of governance is best defined by the White House’s ties to criminals, such as the eight associates of Trump arrested or convicted of crimes, including Steve Bannon, Roger Stone and Michael Cohen.

Trump is setting the foundations for a fascist state. And he might well succeed.


Wednesday, September 09, 2020

An Old Lesson

Tom Friedman has an interesting column in today's New York Times.  It's about the politics of humiliation. And it goes a long way to explaining Donald Trump's supporters -- and people in general:

Humiliation, in my view, is the most underestimated force in politics and international relations. The poverty of dignity explains so much more behavior than the poverty of money.

People will absorb hardship, hunger and pain. They will be grateful for jobs, cars and benefits. But if you make people feel humiliated, they will respond with a ferocity unlike any other emotion, or just refuse to lift a finger for you. As Nelson Mandela once observed, “There is nobody more dangerous than one who has been humiliated.”

By contrast, if you show people respect, if you affirm their dignity, it is amazing what they will let you say to them or ask of them. Sometimes it just takes listening to them, but deep listening — not just waiting for them to stop talking. Because listening is the ultimate sign of respect. What you say when you listen speaks more than any words.

Harvard professor Michael Sandel understands this crucial dynamic:

In a much talked-about new book, “The Tyranny of Merit: What’s Become of the Common Good?” Harvard political philosopher Michael Sandel (disclosure: he is a close friend) says “the politics of humiliation” is also at the heart of Trump’s appeal.

Trump was elected by tapping a wellspring of anxieties, frustrations and legitimate grievances to which the mainstream parties had no compelling answer,” Sandel notes. These grievances “are not only economic but also moral and cultural; they are not only about wages and jobs but also about social esteem.”

How should Biden counter Trump's argument?

Sandel and I put our heads together and thought, well, maybe Biden should go on a tour of Trump country, focusing on rural counties and towns in the Midwest, and just listen to Trump’s base, both to learn and as a sign of respect.

Then, at the first presidential debate, Biden should ignore Trump and his buffoonery and speak about what he had learned by talking to likely Trump voters.

Biden could talk about where he agrees with them and where he disagrees with them and why — the ultimate sign of respect. That is how Biden can get at least some Trump devotees to see that “working-class Joe from Scranton” — not “Billionaire Don, born with a silver spoon in his mouth”— is the one who really hails from their side of the tracks and can be trusted (a very important word) to look out for them.

And Friedman's final point is really important:

When it comes to politics, a lot of people don’t listen through their ears. They listen through their gut, and Biden, more than any other Democratic leader today, has the ability to connect there.

The lesson here is an old one. But it is crucially important when it comes to dealing with people.


Tuesday, September 08, 2020

Chess Behind The Scenes

Justin Trudeau is talking about adding another $100 billion to the deficit. Don Lenihan and Andrew Balfour wonder if he's bluffing:

In politics, expectations are everything and Justin Trudeau’s team has been working overtime to ratchet them up – way up. So, what if Budget Day comes and this much-discussed figure of $100 billion is, say, ‘only’ $50 billion?

We think a lot of people – many of them Liberals – will breathe a sigh of relief. Conservatives, on the other hand, could be in a panic. Erin O’Toole appears to have hitched his wagon to the big number. In an interview with the Globe and Mail last week, O’Toole announced that, while he would balance the budget, he would take the next decade to do it.

O'Toole has planned to run against Liberal overspending. But he's in a bit of a box:

He is on record supporting the idea of a recovery plan but insisting that his approach will be different from Trudeau’s. For example, he singles out the impact of the pandemic on immigrants, many of whom own small businesses that have been damaged or destroyed by the shut-down.

Whatever the differences, it’s a safe bet that a Conservative plan will include a lot of the same things as the Liberal plan, such as funds for the provinces to improve long-term care for seniors. And, of course, O’Toole agrees on the need for a credible climate change plan.

The real difference seems to be in the scale. A hundred billion dollars will buy the Liberals a lot of stuff. But it also gives the Conservatives the fiscal space to design a plan that is substantive but far less costly.

They could spend $30 or even $40 billion and still be $60 or $70 billion lower than the Liberals. That’s a lot of money – more than enough to drive their narrative of Trudeau as a reckless spender.

However, as that $100 billion deficit shrinks, so does O’Toole’s fiscal space. If on Budget Day the deficit number is “only” $50 billion, this puts him in the same ballpark as the Liberals. Any clear contrast will be gone, and O’Toole will need to tell a different story.

Now he must convince people that his plan is better, and that will take lots of explaining. But as they say in politics, if you’re explaining, you’re losing.

It's a reminder that, with everything else going on, our political leaders -- behind the scenes -- are playing chess.

Image: Vancouver Sun

Monday, September 07, 2020

Don't Share A Foxhole With Him

At the beginning of his administration, Donald Trump referred to the leaders in the Pentagon as "his generals." But it didn't take long for that relationship to sour. Consider the saga of General James Mattis. David Ignatius writes:

Trump initially saw Mattis as a man in his own image — awarding him the Trumpian nickname “Mad Dog,” even though the ascetic Mattis was closer to a monk than a mongrel. Over the two years Mattis ran the Pentagon, his relationship with Trump grew poisonous. The more Mattis tried to educate Trump, as in his widely reported July 2017 seminar in the “tank” at Pentagon, the more Trump became resentful.

Trump berated his generals at that gathering — with language that’s eerily similar to what was reported in the Atlantic this week. According to Philip Rucker and Carol D. Leonnig in their book, “A Very Stable Genius,” Trump said: “You’re all losers. You don’t know how to win anymore.”

Trump thinks American soldiers who went into battle and died were suckers and losers. He would prefer they be props in a military parade -- part of the cast of the Trump Show. Retired military men took to berating Trump after they last served as props for him -- in front of a church:

Retired Adm. Mike Mullen, former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, denounced Trump for “politicizing the men and women of our armed forces.” Retired Gen. Jim Mattis, the former defense secretary, called Trump “the first president in my lifetime who does not try to unite the American people.” Retired Gen. John F. Kelly, a former Trump White House chief of staff, said he agreed with Mattis.

The generals have learned what New York businessmen learned long ago: "For all Trump’s talk of patriotism, he truly is transactional. Throughout his career, he has always believed that loyalty was for chumps."

You don't share a foxhole with him.


Sunday, September 06, 2020

The Recovery


Kevin Page writes that we need to do some hard thinking about our economic future:

The political and economic stakes are high. With the prorogation of Parliament, triggered in part by the resignation of a finance minister, the government will table a Speech from the Throne in late September. 

While I’ve been reading spy novels, [civil servants] are looking over the shoulders of colleagues in the European Union and possibly US presidential candidate Joe Biden to see what they are planning for recovery. They are assessing recently announced provincial (e.g., Ontario and Alberta) and municipal recovery plans. They are reading geeky disquisitions on possible economic scenarios for the world economy—with and without a vaccine—and trying to find a governing philosophy for fiscal policy in a world awash in debt.

If we rely on past (stimulus-type) policies to guide economic recovery plans they will likely be misguided and fall dangerously short. We cannot collapse present policy thinking into the past.

Plans are required for multiple scenarios. Uncertainty cannot be an excuse for no plans. As the saying goes, “No plan, no action leads to no results”.

For 40 years, deficits have been the bogeymen of our politics. But, Page writes:

The economics of deficits have changed. With next-to-zero interest rates and no inflation in near sight, there are virtually no bottom-line balance sheet impacts of running larger deficits. All the risks are punted to the future. Debt creates instability risks. If years down the road, inflation makes a comeback, interest rates will rise. The carrying cost of debt will skyrocket. Higher debt interest costs will crowd out spending on key policy priorities. 

It's critical to think about what those deficits can accomplish:

Targeted policies are essential. The process has started with the evolution of programs like the wage subsidy and employment insurance. With high but declining unemployment rates and no vaccine in sight, expect this to continue but with increased focus on people and businesses locked out of the recovery.

They must be targeted to clear objectives. In Europe and the United States, that process has begun:

The European Union has already launched its recovery policy path to the future. They have recently agreed to a trillion dollar plus (Canadian) recovery fund. The policy framework is composed of five big missions—cancer, climate change, oceans, cities, and food. The missions are designed to bring evidence, resources and policy experimentation to long-term issues. Targets will be set—along the lines of President John F. Kennedy’s 1961 vow to put a man on the moon by the end of the decade.

US Presidential candidate Joe Biden will campaign on a long-term recovery policy “Build Back Better”. The high-level plan focuses on four long-term challenges—manufacturing, infrastructure, children, racial equality. While financing the challenges will depend on a presidential victory and congressional backing, the Democratic candidate is proposing government support well in excess of a trillion dollars.

In Canada, policies to address long-term issues such as climate change, income disparity, economic and health resiliency (i.e., our capacity to address the next policy shock, whether a pandemic or financial or geopolitical crisis), and competitiveness are urgently needed. Governments need to lay out a vision (a north star) and plans to build confidence and partnerships (investment). Why not pro-actively shape and drive our future—more sustainable, more equitable, more resilient, more digital?

There is a way out of this calamity. But now -- more than ever -- we need to think critically and clearly about our future.

Image: The Toronto Star

Saturday, September 05, 2020


Doug Ford claims that he has done everything to make Ontario's schools safe -- everything except reducing class sizes. Bruce Arthur writes:

It is a little odd, though, that Doug has been saying this for a few weeks, during which time the back-to-school plan has changed approximately 37 times. And strangely, those changes have not included provincially mandated class-size reductions.

“You wanted ventilation, we got ventilation,” said Ford, still talking to the teachers unions. “You wanted more money for the teachers, we got more money for the teachers; we went out and got the reserves. We went and got the cleaning. We’ve basically covered every single list. And I’m just asking, just once, for your co-operation.”

Well, the HVAC improvement money came a few weeks before school starts, which is almost certainly too late, and probably insufficient. And the much-ballyhooed announcement of $500 million of reserves didn’t really reduce class sizes in any across-the-board way, because even when school boards are creative, tapping what are often already-committed reserves isn’t the same as new money. Even the new federal money hasn’t resulted in mandated lower class sizes.

We know that the number of people who gather in groups effects transmission:

According to modelling from the universities of Waterloo and Guelph, the difference between 15 kids per class in school full time and 30 would be 14 expected COVID-19 cases in the former, versus 53 in the latter, and over four times as many lost student days. And, presumably, more secondary infections.

But reducing class sizes has never been in the Ford playbook. In fact, when he took office, Doug wanted to go in the opposite direction:

As NDP education critic Marit Stiles notes, this is the government that was interested in cutting public education at the start of its term, and has thought about pushing public money to private charter and voucher schools. And it’s the same government that tried to push class sizes from 22.5 to 28 last fall so it could fire teachers. This appears to be an ideological line.

It's strange how some people ignore what is painfully obvious. Hello?

Image: iHeartRadio

Friday, September 04, 2020

Lurid Fantasies

Donald Trump can't claim that he defeated the coronavirus. He can't claim that he built a gung-ho economy. So what's left to run on? Paul Krugman writes that all he's got left are lurid fantasies:

It’s not just the fact that premature reopening led to a huge second wave of infections and deaths. Equally important, from a political point of view, has been Covid-19’s geographical spread.

Early in the pandemic it was possible to portray Covid-19 as a big-city, blue-state problem; voters in rural areas and red states found it easier to dismiss the threat in part because they were relatively unlikely to know people who had gotten sick. But the second surge of infections and deaths was concentrated in the Sunbelt.

And while the Sunbelt surge appears to be slowly subsiding now that state and local governments have done what Trump didn’t want them to do — close bars, ban large gatherings and require masks — there now appears to be a surge in the Midwest.

And, as for Trump's claim that the economy would come roaring back,

all indications are that the rapid snapback of May and June has leveled off, with unemployment still very high. Friday’s employment report is likely to show an economy still adding jobs, but nothing like the “super V” recovery Trump is still claiming. And there will be only one more labor market report before the election.

Furthermore, the politics of the economy depend less on what official numbers say than on how people are feeling. Consumer confidence remains low. Assessments by businesses surveyed by the Federal Reserve range from unenthusiastic to glum. And there just isn’t enough time for this to change much: Trump isn’t going to be able to ride an economic boom into the election.

So Donald is threatening the nation with invisible anarchists:

There has been some looting, property damage and violence associated with Black Lives Matter demonstrations. But the property damage has been minor compared with urban riots of the past — no, Portland is not “ablaze all the time” — and much of the violence is coming not from the left but from right-wing extremists.

It’s also true that there has been a recent rise in homicides, and nobody is sure why. But murders were very low last year, and even if the rate so far this year continues, New York City will have substantially fewer homicides in 2020 than it did when Rudy Giuliani was mayor.

In short, there isn’t a wave of anarchy and violence other than that unleashed by Trump himself.

However, it might work:

For whatever reason, there’s a long history of disconnect between the realities of crime and public perceptions. As Pew has pointed out, between 1993 and 2018 violent crime in America plunged; murders in New York fell more than 80 percent. Yet over that period Americans consistently told pollsters that crime was rising.

It worked for Richard Nixon fifty years ago. But Nixon was the challenger. Trump is the president. It all depends on how many Americans are as demented -- and vile -- as Trump himself is.


Thursday, September 03, 2020

The Rage Against Statues

This summer, protestors have been defacing and tearing down statues. In a democracy, we all have the right to protest. But one has the right to ask: Is this the most effective way to communicate your message? Marton Regg Cohn writes:

The tug of war over public statues keeps exposing our blind spots — not just our blinkered view of history, but of democracy in all its complexity.

Unpopular statues, like unpopular governments, ought not to be toppled in a democracy — just put in their place, placed in context, or put in storage.

The latest statue to come down was in Montreal. But, in our small town, there is a statue of Macdonald, outside the public library. The statue has historical significance. Macdonald practiced law in our town pre-Confederation. It has been covered with paint twice this summer and protestors have stood on the sidewalk, demanding that the statue be removed. Cohn writes that:

The controversy over Macdonald is complicated — and in many ways intertwined with the debate over Egerton Ryerson, whose statue at Ryerson University was covered in pink paint by the same protestors this summer. As one scholar looking into Ryerson’s relationship with residential schools noted, his name is “incorrectly linked to the ‘architect’ label;” instead, wrote Sean Carleton, “Macdonald must be understood as its architect.”

And he asks:

Shall we remove the monument to Mahatma Gandhi at Carleton University, given latter-day criticisms of the Indian independence leader for harbouring anti-Black views? What about the monument in Toronto’s Riverdale Park to Sun Yat-sen, the revered leader who brought China into the modern era?

 As a high school student, I was taught that Macdonald's role in Confederation was no mean feat. But I was also taught that some of his best speeches were delivered after he had been thoroughly lubricated. There was no halo around his head.

There are many reasons to protest. But decapitating John A.'s head in Montreal accomplishes nothing. One of my favourite anecdotes about Macdonald is about his meeting an opponent on the street. "I will not yield the sidewalk to a liar and a drunk!" said the man.

"But I will!" was Macdonald's response. And he stepped aside. 

We would do well to consider that response.


Wednesday, September 02, 2020

White Hot Crazy


A couple of weeks ago, the former Republican strategist Rick Wilson -- now with the Lincoln Project -- predicted there would be a lot of "white-hot crazy" coming from the Trump campaign.  On Monday, things really did get white-hot. Jennifer Rubin writes:

During an interview on Monday with Fox News’s Laura Ingraham, a spin artist for the president and a purveyor of anti-immigrant sentiment, [Trump] claimed that Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden is controlled by mysterious people. 

In concocting his tale, Trump fantasized of “people that you’ve never heard of, people that are in the dark shadows.” Ingraham, as though trying her best to stop his self-immolation, responded, “That sounds like conspiracy theory.” No luck. Trump continued: “They are people that are on the streets, they’re people that are controlling the streets. We had somebody get on a plane from a certain city this weekend. And in the plane, it was almost completely loaded with thugs, wearing these dark uniforms, black uniforms, with gear and this and that.” This is simply bonkers.

Ingraham tried to stop Trump before he went completely off the rails. But, these days, Trump thinks he's winning when he's spouting madness. He continued, suggesting that police who kill people are like a golfer missing a three-foot putt:

But they choke, just like in a golf tournament, they miss a three-foot [putt],” Trump said. Ingraham leaped in: “You’re not comparing it to golf, because that’s what the media [would say].” In other words, actual reporters would recognize what he was saying was morally offensive and so lacking in self-awareness as to suggest Trump cannot even fake normal behavior.

It's painfully obvious that the president is seriously sick. These should be grounds for exercising the 25th Amendment. Unfortunately, the Republican Party is as sick as Trump is:

In a normal time, with a functioning Republican Party and a patriotic vice president, this might be the end of Trump’s campaign and an invitation to invoke the 25th Amendment. We, unfortunately, have spineless sycophants in the GOP and a zombie-like vice president who feels compelled to show allegiance to a president plainly unfit to hold office. Likewise, in most families, there would be a family meeting to stop him from embarrassing himself. (Perhaps not in families where its members stand to inherit millions of dollars.) No chance of that, but the thesis from the president’s niece, Mary Trump, that there is something seriously wrong with him looks pretty unassailable.

And, so, madness marches on.