Tuesday, July 27, 2021

Another One Bites The Dust

The American Empire is crumbling. Chris Hedges writes:

Nearly all the roughly 70 empires during the last four thousand years, including the Greek, Roman, Chinese, Ottoman, Hapsburg, imperial German, imperial Japanese, British, French, Dutch, Portuguese, and Soviet empires, collapsed in the same orgy of military folly. The Roman Republic, at its height, only lasted two centuries. We are set to disintegrate in roughly the same time. This is why, at the start of World War I in Germany, Karl Liebknecht called the German military, which imprisoned and later assassinated him, “the enemy from within.”

Mark Twain saw it coming:

Mark Twain, who was a fierce opponent of the efforts to plant the seeds of empire in Cuba, the Philippines, Guam, Hawaii and Puerto Rico, wrote an imagined history of America in the twentieth-century where its “lust for conquest” had destroyed “the Great Republic…[because] trampling upon the helpless abroad had taught her, by a natural process, to endure with apathy the like at home; multitudes who had applauded the crushing of other people’s liberties, lived to suffer for their mistake.” 

And the historian Alfred McCoy has chronicled the process:

The historian Alfred McCoy writes “In the Shadows of the American Century: The Rise and Decline of US Global Power.” “Often irrational even from an imperial point of view, these micromilitary operations can yield hemorrhaging expenditures or humiliating defeats that only accelerate the process already under way.”

The death blow to the American empire will, as McCoy writes, be the loss of the dollar as the world’s reserve currency. This loss will plunge the United States into a crippling, and prolonged depression. It will force a massive contraction of the global military footprint.

The ugly, squalid face of empire, with the loss of the dollar as the reserve currency, will become familiar at home. The bleak economic landscape, with its decay and hopelessness, will accelerate an array of violent and self-destructive pathologies including mass shootings, hate crimes, opioid and heroin overdoses, morbid obesity, suicides, gambling, and alcoholism. The state will increasingly dispense with the fiction of the rule of law to rely exclusively on militarized police, essentially internal armies of occupation, and the prisons and jails, which already hold 25 percent of the world’s prisoners although the United States represents less than 5 percent of global population. 

Canada is closely tied to the United States. Our challenge will be to keep our distance, as the rot from within destroys our southern neighbour.

Image: Pinterest

Monday, July 26, 2021

The Weather Is Telling Us Something

This summer the weather has been weird. Emma Brockes writes:

In the depths of winter, at the pandemic’s height, an idea of this summer took hold. It would, we told ourselves, be the summer of outdoors, particularly for children, who had been shut inside on screens for too long. Travelling abroad might be out, but that was fine. If the past year had taught us anything, it was the value of small pleasures, closer to home. On freezing March days, I warmed myself with an image of July and August in Central Park. I would read and commune with nature while camp counsellors forced my kids to spend eight hours a day playing rounders. 
The weather has not been what Brockes expected:

This impression of a sudden departure from normal was no more apparent in New York than on Tuesday last week. City camps were closed that day for Eid and we arranged a playdate in Central Park. “What’s wrong with the sun?” asked my daughter, squinting up at the sky like a badly scripted kid in the first 10 minutes of a disaster movie. We all looked up. The sun was an orange ball, shrouded in haze. The entire park, in fact, was bathed in an eerie half-light. “It looks like the end of the world,” said my friend, and did a quick phone search on air quality. “Oh, wow,” she said. At that moment in New York, the air quality index was 157, well over the 100 threshold for safe-to-breathe. It was, it turned out, the residue of smoke haze drifting over the US from the wildfires in Oregon, and the air quality in New York that afternoon was the worst in the world.

And temperatures have been astronomical:

By the end of June, heat records were being broken all across the east coast – hitting 37C (99F) in Hartford, Connecticut (unseating the record from 1934), and 36C in Providence, Rhode Island and LaGuardia, New York.

This isn't accidental. We've been warned about this for years. Now the evidence keeps piling up:

The huge heatwaves in the Pacific north-west earlier this year were, quite apart from the death toll, accompanied by some startling imagery: that of thousands of shellfish being effectively cooked alive. In California, winegrowers are – it sounds like a joke, but isn’t – putting sunscreen on grapes to stop them turning to raisins on the vine. In the UK, hailstones the size of golf balls fell in Leicestershire and parts of west London flooded.

It's about time we connected the dots. The weather is telling us something.

Image: NASA Climate Change

Sunday, July 25, 2021

Who's Kidding Whom?

Last week, Donald Trump's good friend -- Tom Barrack -- was indicted. Michelle Goldberg writes:

When the billionaire real estate investor Tom Barrack, one of Trump’s biggest fund-raisers, was arrested on Tuesday and charged with acting as an unregistered agent of the United Arab Emirates along with other felonies, it might have seemed like a dog-bites-man story. Barrack was once described by longtime Trump strategist Roger Stone — a felon, naturally — as the ex-president’s best friend. If you knew nothing else about Barrack but that, you might have guessed he’d end up in handcuffs.

Nevertheless, Barrack’s arrest is important. Trump’s dealings with the Emirates and Saudi Arabia deserve to be investigated as thoroughly as his administration’s relationship with Russia. So far, that hasn’t happened. When Robert Mueller, the former special counsel, testified before Congress, Adam Schiff, chair of the House Intelligence Committee, said to him, “We did not bother to ask whether financial inducements from any Gulf nations were influencing U.S. policy, since it is outside the four corners of your report, and so we must find out.” But we have not found out.

Donald Trump's foreign policy tilted heavily in favour of the Gulf States:

Throughout his presidency, Trump could scarcely have been a more accommodating ally to the Emirates and to Saudi Arabia, whose crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, was a protégé of Prince Mohammed bin Zayed. Trump’s first foreign trip was to Saudi Arabia. He tore up the Iran deal, hated by Gulf Arab leaders. Of Trump’s 10 presidential vetoes, five dealt with issues of concern to the Emirates and Saudi Arabia. More significantly, he overrode Congress’s attempt to end American military involvement in Yemen, where Saudi Arabia and the Emirates were fighting on one side of a brutal civil war. According to Bob Woodward’s book “Rage,” Trump boasted that he “saved” the Saudi crown prince after the murder of Saudi dissident Jamal Khashoggi elicited widespread outrage.

And, if the allegations against Barrack are true, it all had a lot to do with big money:

In June 2018, The Times reported that Barrack’s company “has raised more than $7 billion in investments since Mr. Trump won the nomination,” about a quarter from either the Emirates or Saudi Arabia. Barrack stepped down from his executive role at that company in March, but just last week he told Bloomberg Television that Emiratis would be among his investors in a new venture involving “mega resorts” and “the hospitality industry as it relates to wellness, as it relates to health.” Americans deserve to know if Barrack essentially sold his investors influence over the foreign policy of the United States. The market for Trump scandal may be glutted, but when it comes to the role of foreign money in the last administration, there’s no shortage of mysteries.

Everything for Donald Trump is -- and was -- about money. Public Service? Who's kidding whom?

Image: CNN

Saturday, July 24, 2021

The Evidence Suggests Otherwise

Islamophobia is on the rise in Canada. Michael Harris writes:

The problem is growing. As reported by the CBC’s Elizabeth Thompson, a soon-to-be released report has found that online activity by right-wing extremists in Canada grew last year. Researchers identified 2,467 right-wing extremist accounts. Those accounts produced 3.2 million pieces of content in 2020, and generated 44 million reactions. 

The report, by the U.K.-based Institute for Strategic Dialogue, attributed the rise in hate speech in part to the pandemic.

“The pandemic has… created a febrile environment for radicalization, by ensuring that millions of people have spent more time online. In an environment of heightened anxiety, the situation has been an easy one for extremists to capitalize on. As a result of the pandemic, extremist conspiracy theories have flourished, and minority communities — in particular Asians — have been subject to increased hate crimes and harassment.”

The institute’s researchers found that on one social media site, Telegram, there were 17 groups focused on Canadian affairs. Seven channels hosted white supremacist communities, seven ethnonationalist communities and one hosted an anti-Muslim community.

The anecdotal evidence is everywhere:

In 2017, a horrible event revealed the virulent hatred of Muslims felt by some in this country. A young white nationalist walked into the Islamic Cultural Centre in Quebec City and proceeded to open fire on Muslim worshippers. Alexandre Bissonnette shot six men dead on the spot and seriously wounded six others. He eventually pled guilty to six counts of first-degree murder and six counts of attempted murder.

In June, 20-year-old Nathaniel Veltman was charged with purposely using his specially equipped pickup truck to run down and nearly wipe out an entire Muslim family. They were out for an evening walk in London, Ontario.

Salman Afzaal, his wife Madiha, their 15-year-old daughter Yumna and Salman’s mother, Talat Afzaal, were all killed. The only member of the family to survive the terror attack was nine-year-old Fayez Afzaal, now orphaned.

Just a week after the unspeakable London killings, a masked man attacked two young Muslim women wearing hijabs in St. Albert, Alberta. Their assailant knocked one woman unconscious and threatened the other one with a knife, before scarpering into the woods.

When it comes to racism, we like to think we're less infected than our neighbours to the south. The evidence suggests otherwise.

Image: Wilfred Laurier University

Friday, July 23, 2021

Corruption Was At Its Heart

On August 1, 2019, senators Sheldon Whitehouse and Chris Coons sent a letter to the FBI, asking for information into its investigation of Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh. This week -- nearly two years later -- they received a response to their letter. Ruth Marcus writes:

It’s no coincidence that it took a new administration — and Whitehouse’s incessant prodding of Biden administration nominees — to finally extract some answers.

The letter, which became public Thursday, offers a perfect illustration of the Trump administration’s disdain for congressional oversight, and the way in which the supposedly professional FBI allowed itself to be cowed — and ultimately tarnished — by subservience to the Trump White House.

The letter discloses, and some headlines have trumpeted, that the FBI “received over 4,500 tips, including phone calls and electronic submissions,” after reopening the Kavanaugh investigation following the allegations against him by Christine Blasey Ford and Deborah Ramirez. (Kavanaugh’s original Judiciary Committee hearing had ended a few days before the allegations became public.)

What happened?

What did then-White House Counsel Donald McGahn do with the “relevant tips?” That, we do know: not a damn thing. McGahn had no interest in discovering what his handpicked nominee had done, or not done. He had every interest in ensuring that Kavanaugh be confirmed, facts be damned. If there was any follow-up within the FBI itself, there’s no indication of that.

And that is the outrage here. The FBI’s investigation into sexual assault allegations against Kavanaugh wasn’t designed to uncover the truth. It was a shoddy enterprise whose mission was to satisfy enough disquieted senators — Republicans Jeff Flake of Arizona, Susan Collins of Maine — to get Kavanaugh across the finish line.

The evidence of the corruption at the heart of the Trump administration keeps piling up. Trump's lawyer, Michael Cohen, has been disbarred and sent to jail. Trump lawyer Rudy Guiliani has had his law licence suspended in New York and Washington, pending disbarment.

At the very least, Trump's Attorney General, Bill Barr, should also have his licences suspended. He should also be disbarred.

Image: Mother Jones

Thursday, July 22, 2021

A Policy Election

In the last federal election, Justin Trudeau focused on the opposition. In the upcoming election, he'll focus on policy. David Olive writes:

Recall that in the Grits’ desultory 2019 election campaign, the PM mostly inveighed against his opponents, offering little sense of what he would do with a renewed electoral mandate.

Or why he even wanted one.

But two years and one pandemic later, Trudeau has big plans for Canada.

He wants to preside over a renaissance of our G7 economy. That won’t be the Grits’ sole message on the campaign trail, of course. But it’s the one they’re most committed to this time out.

To a large extent, the Liberals are simply going with the flow.

Justin Trudeau has been traveling the country introducing policy and programs:

The forceful steps Ottawa began taking last year in retooling the economy account in part for Canada’s strong-than-expected economic recovery so far. And so they’ve shaped the economic and industrial policy reforms the Liberals will emphasize in their bid to reclaim the Commons majority they lost in 2019.

The “economy” is of course a catch-all for job creation, wage gains, innovation, and greater industrial and export prowess.

And the economy, especially if framed as an imperative and lucrative industrial renaissance, is a high card for the Grits.

On July 5, the PM was in Sault Ste. Marie, Ont., to announce up to $450 million to help Algoma Steel phase out coal-fired steelmaking.

On July 9, the PM was in fast-growing Surrey, B.C., to announce federal funding of up to $1.3 billion to extend Vancouver’s SkyTrain from Surrey to Langley, another large Vancouver ex-urb.

Last week, Trudeau was in Montreal to announce Ottawa’s $440-million share of a $693-million joint investment with Quebec to revitalize Canada’s aerospace sector.

Despite Bombardier Inc.’s widely reported woes, the Canadian aerospace industry still accounts for about 60,000 direct jobs across the country, many related to innovations in engine and airframe efficiency.

A closer look shows that the Grit investments are well-aligned with the issues Canadians have identified as their top priorities. Which are job creation; a “clean” economic recovery from the pandemic; a Canada that punches above its weight in innovation; and a path to deficit reduction made possible by the above.

Kim Campbell opined that an election is not the time to discuss policy. But, this time around, it looks like that is exactly what will happen.

Image: Caracas Chronicles

Wednesday, July 21, 2021

Insane Loyalty

One of the underlying characteristics of a cult is insane loyalty. That kind of loyalty is on full display in the modern Republican Party. Paul Krugman writes:

Signaling is a concept originally drawn from economics; it says that people sometimes engage in costly, seemingly pointless behavior as a way to prove that they have attributes others value. For example, new hires at investment banks may work insanely long hours, not because the extra hours are actually productive, but to demonstrate their commitment to feeding the money machine.

In the context of dictatorial regimes, signaling typically involves making absurd claims on behalf of the Leader and his agenda, often including “nauseating displays of loyalty.” If the claims are obvious nonsense and destructive in their effects, if making those claims humiliates the person who makes them, these are features, not bugs. I mean, how does the Leader know if you’re truly loyal unless you’re willing to demonstrate your loyalty by inflicting harm both on others and on your own reputation?

That nauseating loyalty is behind Republicans rejection of COVID vaccinations:

How did lifesaving vaccines become politicized? As Bloomberg’s Jonathan Bernstein suggests, today’s Republicans are always looking for ways to show that they’re more committed to the cause than their colleagues are — and given how far down the rabbit hole the party has already gone, the only way to do that is “nonsense and nihilism,” advocating crazy and destructive policies, like opposing vaccines.

That is, hostility to vaccines has become a form of loyalty signaling.

The G.O.P. has become something different, with, as far as I know, no precedent in American history although with many precedents abroad. Republicans have created for themselves a political realm in which costly demonstrations of loyalty transcend considerations of good policy or even basic logic. And all of us may pay the price.

Like the residents of Jonestown, Republicans have drunk the Kool-Aide. They're prepared to die for their leader.

Image: CBS San Franciso

Tuesday, July 20, 2021

Freedom Day?

Yesterday was Freedom Day in Britain -- and Boris Johnson was self-isolating. Polly Toynbee writes:

The prime minister’s glory day was such a disappointment. He had planned an event to declare his own VE Day – virus victory – “by summoning the spirit of Churchill with appropriately stirring rhetoric” at “an historic venue associated with the wartime leader”, according to a government source. In a rare wise move, Downing Street quietly cancelled it.

His advisers panicked over soaring Covid case numbers, predicted to rise to 100,000 or even 200,000 daily, the third-worst level in the world. What political idiocy, that the PM and chancellor thought they could skive off self-isolation on a nonexistent VIP “pilot scheme” – the same one Michael Gove had invoked to avoid quarantine after taking his son to the Champions League final in Portugal. Far too late, Downing Street announced that No 10 and the Cabinet Office had pulled out of this “pilot”, refusing to publish its results.

BoJo is Britain's Donald Trump. He screws up everything he touches:

Now get set to watch the public frustration and friction over swaggering macho men and defiant anti-vaxxers refusing masks, putting other passengers and shoppers at risk. Churchillian Johnson might have said, “Never in the field of human viruses was so much infection due to such an irresponsible few.” Polls this week have again shown that the public understands the precautionary principle better than their leader does.

“The warning light on the NHS dashboard is not flashing amber, it’s flashing red,” the health committee chair Jeremy Hunt told the Today programme on Saturday. There’s no better alarm signal than the double-jabbed new health secretary immediately contracting Covid, with unknowable long Covid effects, risking its spread through a care home he visited and pinging half the cabinet after close contact with them. That’s the story: the virus is everywhere, disease-inducing and still deadly to VIPs and little people alike.

“Please, please, please be careful,” Boris Johnson urged in full U-turn, but that’s not what his lot practise. His “irreversible” pledge has vanished because, right here and now, disaster has already struck an exhausted NHS all over again.

We are cursed with leaders who simply don't know what they're doing.

Image: The Guardian

Monday, July 19, 2021

Republicans' Culture Of Death

COVID is ripping through the United States again. And that, James Downie writes, is just fine with Republicans:

In the last two weeks of June, the United States averaged between 11,250 and 13,500 new coronavirus cases per day — the lowest numbers since the virus began spreading widely across the country in early 2020. As of Saturday, it was 31,464 cases per day. With multiple vaccines widely available, this rise was entirely preventable. The backsliding is due in part to Republican politicians and right-wing commentators who have spread misinformation about the virus, as well as colleagues too scared to confront them.

On “Fox News Sunday,” . . . Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-La.) correctly framed the problem as “choosing between vaccination or accepting higher rates of death.” Yet, bizarrely, he blamed distrust of the vaccines not on the many Republican voices raising doubts about them, but on “partisan comments coming out of the White House regarding next Jim Crow laws, or people like Senator Schumer and the White House not cooperating on a bipartisan bill.” How exactly Americans make a mental link between infrastructure negotiations and a lifesaving vaccine went unexplained.

And, over at Fox News, the lies just keep coming:

In this vacuum of silence, right-wing voices such as Tucker Carlson and Laura Ingraham have spread lie after lie about vaccination efforts. And Republican governors such as Kristi L. Noem (S.D.), Ron DeSantis (Fla.) and Mike Parson (Mo.) have encouraged “personal responsibility” or sown fears about government efforts to vaccinate more Americans. Never mind that those governors got their shots months ago. Never mind that, according to some estimates, nearly half of South Dakotans have been infected, or that Florida’s daily case average has quadrupled in the past month. The residents of their states will have to bear the risks, for the good of the governors’ poll numbers.

But other poll numbers are truly depressing:

The most recent Washington Post-ABC poll found that 29 percent of Americans probably or definitely won’t get vaccinated, up 5 points from the last survey, in late April. Forty-seven percent of Republicans said they likely or definitely wouldn’t get vaccinated, compared with just 34 percent of independents and 6 percent of Democrats.

The Republicans have a lot of blood -- and ignorance -- on their hands.

Image: AZ Quotes

Sunday, July 18, 2021

No Inoculation

Donald Trump isn't the only one promoting the Big Lie. Trump's former economics advisor Peter Navarro is trying to sell it too. Newsweek reports that:

Navarro, one of the first Trump administration staffers to publicly support the former president's baseless voter fraud claims, continued to insist that the 2020 election was stolen from his former boss in an interview on Steve Bannon's War Room podcast.

"I wrote the Navarro reports, I call them that because The Hatch Act, it's done on my own time, showed very clearly as you had said that not only did Trump win, he won in a freakin landslide," he said.

Navarro repeated the claim twice when requested by Bannon. "In a freaking landslide, full stop," he said. "Trump not only won, he won in a freakin landslide."

Others from the Trump Clown Car have joined Navarro for the ride:

Former White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany and advisor Stephen Miller joined Navarro in publicly promoting the Trump campaign's legal efforts to overturn his election loss, frequently appearing on Fox News to claim that they had evidence to prove widespread voter fraud.

There continues to be no evidence to support their claims:

After the election, the Department of Homeland Security's Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency said there was "no evidence that any voting system deleted or lost votes, changed votes, or was in any way compromised."

In December, former U.S. Attorney General William Barr, widely viewed as one of Trump's most loyal Cabinet officials, also said there was "no evidence" to support widespread voter fraud claims.

All this offers further confirmation that owning a doctorate from Harvard does not inoculate you from insanity.

Image: Newsweek


Saturday, July 17, 2021

The Mystery Explained

From the beginning of Donald Trump's rise, I have been mystified by his supporters. They struck me as rubes, easy marks for a con man. In an excerpt from his new book -- published by The Washington Post -- Michael Bender offers some insight into Trumpers:

The deafening roars and vigorous choruses from the capacity crowd at the 20,000-seat Amway Arena showed that Trump’s supporters were excited to watch a rerun. They’d stood in line for hours or camped overnight — enduring stifling humidity interrupted only by brief bursts of hard, heavy rain — to ensure a spot inside. Now I was rattled. I had let the rallies, which formed the core of one of the most steadfast political movements in modern American history and reordered the Republican Party, turn stale and rote. Why was Trump’s performance still so fresh and resonant for an entire arena of fellow Americans? I spent the next year and a half embedded with a group of Trump’s most hardcore rallygoers — known as the “Front Row Joes” — to try to understand what I’d overlooked.

Hillary Clinton called the Front Row Joes "the deplorables." It was an unfortunate term. But it was also accurate:

They were mostly older White men and women who lived paycheck to paycheck with plenty of time on their hands — retired or close to it, estranged from their families or otherwise without children — and Trump had, in a surprising way, made their lives richer. The president himself almost always spent the night in his own bed and kept few close friends. But his rallies gave the Joes a reason to travel the country, staying at one another’s homes, sharing hotel rooms and carpooling. Two had married — and later divorced — by Trump’s second year in office.

In Trump, they’d found someone whose endless thirst for a fight encouraged them to speak up for themselves, not just in politics but also in relationships and at work. His rallies turned arenas into modern-day tent revivals, where the preacher and the parishioners engaged in an adrenaline-fueled psychic cleansing brought on by chanting and cheering with 15,000 other like-minded loyalists. Saundra Kiczenski, a 56-year-old from Michigan, compared the energy at a Trump rally to the feelings she had as a teenager in 1980 watching the “Miracle on Ice” — when the U.S. Olympic hockey team unexpectedly beat the Soviet Union.

“The whole place is erupting, everyone is screaming, and your heart is beating like, just, oh my God,” Kiczenski told me. “It’s like nothing I’ve experienced in my lifetime.”

Like aging groupies at a rock concert, they were there for the performance. And that's what Trump gave them -- even as he despised them:

Their devotion wasn’t reciprocated. Trump was careless with his supporters’ innocence, as he turned coronavirus tests into political scorecards and painted civil rights protests as a breeding ground for antifa. His last campaign-style event as president, the “Save America” rally on Jan. 6 in Washington, helped fuel a deadly riot at the Capitol that has resulted in the arrests of more than 500 Americans. But the former president still drew thousands to a rural fairground about an hour outside Cleveland last month and to another in central Florida. And the question from June 2019 about what keeps bringing his fans back remains a pressing one for the country — and an urgent one for the Republican Party.

Like Lonesome Rhodes in the film, "A Face in the Crowd," Trump hates his supporters. Unfortunately, unlike the rubes in the film, they refuse to see who he is.


Friday, July 16, 2021

Their Dark Future

We now know that, in January, General Mark Milley believed that the United States faced a "Reichstag moment." Historian Timothy Snyder had been warning about that moment long before January. And Snyder is warning that the moment isn't over. Dana Milbank writes:

I called Snyder, who accurately predicted the insurrection, to ask how the history of European authoritarianism informs our current state.

“We’re looking almost certainly at an attempt in 2024 to take power without winning election,” he told me Thursday. Recent moves in Republican-controlled state legislatures to suppress the votes of people of color and to give the legislatures control over casting electoral votes “are all working toward the scenario in 2024 where they lose by 10 million votes but they still appoint their guy.”

“If people are excluded from voting rights, then naturally they’re going to start to think about other options, on the one side,” Snyder said. “But, on the other side, the people who are benefiting because their vote counts for more think of themselves as entitled — and when things don’t go their way, they’re also more likely to be violent.”

A lot of other scholars agree with Snyder. Another coup attempt, they say, is just around the corner:

A survey of 327 political scientists released this week by Bright Line Watch, a project by scholars at Dartmouth College, the University of Chicago and the University of Rochester, found widespread concern: The experts collectively estimated a 55 percent likelihood that at least some local officials will refuse to certify vote counts in 2024, a 46 percent likelihood that one or more state legislatures will pick electors contrary to the popular vote, and a 39 percent likelihood that Congress will refuse to certify the election.

In the United States, the future gets darker.

Image: Reddit

Thursday, July 15, 2021

The Conservative Temperament

Erin O'Toole does not inspire confidence. Many will blame him for his party's current woes. But those woes, Andrew Coyne writes, go way beyond O'Toole:

The Conservatives’ woes did not begin with Mr. O’Toole’s leadership, and they will not end there. In six elections under the unified Conservative banner, the party has averaged just short of 35 per cent of the vote – four percentage points less, on average, than the old Progressive Conservative and Reform/Canadian Alliance parties used to get, between them, in the years when the movement was divided.

Some of that is explicable in terms of policy. On many of the most important issues of the day, Conservatives have either had nothing to say (hello, climate change) or have actively antagonized voters they might otherwise have reached (race, immigration, marriage equality).

More broadly, the party seems to have lost its nerve, unable even to advance traditional conservative policies – free markets, lower taxes, balanced budgets – with any vigour. The left has been right about more things than the right in recent years, but right or wrong it has been demonstrably more confident.

Something in the Conservative temperament has simply become repellent to a great many people. If the besetting sin of Liberals is smarmy sanctimoniousness, the Conservative equivalent is a chippy defensiveness, an adolescent petulance, a conviction that the cards are perpetually stacked against them. Fair enough, up to a point: decades of what the late Richard Gwyn called “one-and-a-half party rule” have left their inevitable residue – a bureaucracy, a judiciary and a press gallery that are inclined to see the world, if not through Liberal glasses, then certainly through liberal ones.

So far, Canadian Conservatives have not gone off the deep end, like their Republican cousins:

The same fundamental insecurity that, in a Joe Clark or a Bob Stanfield, emerged as a kind of apologetic cough of deference to liberal elites, is also at work in today’s smirking Conservative populist. Though Canadian Conservatives have not gone so far down that road as their counterparts elsewhere – there is nothing to compare to the Republicans’ current mix of white nationalism, LOL-nothing-matters nihilism, and lunatic, QAnon-inspired conspiracy theories – they are too willing to nod in that direction.

The Conservative Party of Canada needs to take a hard look at itself  -- something it does not want to do.

Image: Scholarship Fellow

Wednesday, July 14, 2021

Short Term Politics

Robert Asselin writes that we have been cursed by what he calls "short term politics:"

It’s my belief that the professionalization of partisan politics — by which I refer to the increasingly sophisticated means used by political parties and apparatchiks to gain or keep power in the modern era — has led to an erosion of substantive debate about policy choices. Even more damaging, it’s exacerbated a tendency towards short-termism in our politics.

In an era of permanent campaigns, it’s increasingly difficult to distinguish election campaigns from governing mandates. We used to have election campaigns to guide governing mandates. Too often, we now witness a large share of governing mandates only serving as a set-up for the next election campaign. We used to campaign to govern and now we govern to campaign.

According to this worldview, going bold on a set of long-term policy prescriptions is seen as too risky and unnecessary. Instead, the preference is for smaller, micro-policies that are lower risk, easily communicated on social media, and designed to reach key subgroups within the population.

The danger of course is that these “policy” platforms just become collections of focus group-driven policies rather than actual blueprints for governing.

This is happening at precisely the time when the challenges we face require long term thinking:

It doesn’t have to be that way. At their best, election platforms are well-developed yet competing visions for the future. We’ve witnessed it, for example, in 1988 when the Conservatives made the federal election about continental free trade, or in 1993 when the Liberals proposed a clear and well-designed plan for economic growth and deficit reduction.

More recently, President Joe Biden ran on a modern version of Roosevelt-inspired ideals — namely a renewed commitment to a more activist industrial policy to address rising inequality and reinvigorate American science and industry to compete against China.

In each of these cases, economic policy was central as a ballot box issue and the party with the biggest and boldest ideas won.

What's the difference between short-term and long-term politics? Leadership:

Leadership also matters. There must be a role for politicians to help citizens understand the nature of the opportunities and challenges facing us and to put forward concrete plans for the future.

One can certainly argue that we need such leadership now more than ever. We’re coming out of a once in a lifetime economic crisis and there are two immediate traps that we could fall in. The first is to think the sugar-high, consumption-led recovery of 6 percent growth for this year will somehow last.

This upcoming election campaign is a crucial opportunity for such leadership. It should be a chance to discuss and debate competing economic plans and for Canadians to decide which one is best for them and their kids.

We'll soon see what kind of leadership is on offer.

Image: Avail Leadership

Tuesday, July 13, 2021

Under The Dome

Rebecca Gordon reports that life under the heat dome is pretty nasty:

In San Francisco, we’re finally starting to put away our masks. With 74% of the city’s residents over 12 fully vaccinated, for the first time in more than a year we’re enjoying walking, shopping, and eating out, our faces naked. So I was startled when my partner reminded me that we need to buy masks again very soon — N95 masks, that is. The California wildfire season has already begun, earlier than ever, and we’ll need to protect our lungs during the months to come from the fine particulates carried in the wildfire smoke that’s been engulfing this city in recent years.

I was in Reno last September, so I missed the morning when San Franciscans awoke to apocalyptic orange skies, the air freighted with smoke from burning forests elsewhere in the state. The air then was bad enough even in the high mountain valley of Reno. At that point, we’d already experienced “very unhealthy” purple-zone air quality for days. Still, it was nothing like the photos that could have been from Mars then emerging from the Bay Area. I have a bad feeling that I may get my chance to experience the same phenomenon in 2021 — and, as the fires across California have started so much earlier, probably sooner than September.

Heat records have been broken all over the Pacific Northwest. Portland topped records for three days running, culminating with a 116-degree day on June 28th; Seattle hit a high of 108, which the Washington Post reported “was 34 degrees above the normal high of 74 and higher than the all-time heat record in Washington, D.C., among many other cities much farther to its south.”

With the heat comes a rise in “sudden and unexpected” deaths. Hundreds have died in Oregon and Washington and, according to the British Columbia coroner, at least 300 in her state — almost double the average number for that time period.

And the people who suffer the most are the poor:

Just as the coronavirus has disproportionately ravaged black and brown communities (as well as poor nations around the world), climate-change-driven heat waves, according to a recent University of North Carolina study reported by the BBC, mean that “black people living in most U.S. cities are subject to double the level of heat stress as their white counterparts.” This is the result not just of poverty, but of residential segregation, which leaves urban BIPOC (black, indigenous, and other people of color) communities in a city’s worst “heat islands” — the areas containing the most concrete, the most asphalt, and the least vegetation — and which therefore attract and retain the most heat.

The costs of inequality keep rising.

Image: CBS News

Monday, July 12, 2021

Law And Order?


Republicans used to be the party of "law and order." Jennifer Rubin writes:

Republicans, once upon a time, fancied themselves as defenders of “law and order.” The essence of the hackneyed phrase was that the law should be dependable, apply impartially and act as a restraint on those in power. Courts were to respect precedent so individuals and civil society could rely on predictable laws. Unlike dictatorships, where “law” is a flimsy facade that autocrats use to further their interests and to intimidate and confuse opponents, Western democracies, conservatives once boasted, delinked the power of the ruler from the operation of the law, making the latter supreme.

But that's all changed:

Since the disgraced former president took office, Republicans have adopted a different notion of the law. They seek to render it unpredictable, increase the discretion of the state (when their side is in control), and attempt to accomplish what would otherwise be politically untenable through misdirection and harassment.

Need proof? Consider a new Texas law banning abortions:

The New York Times reports on the Texas law banning abortions after six weeks, when many women do not yet know they are pregnant:

Ordinarily, enforcement would be up to government officials, and if clinics wanted to challenge the law’s constitutionality, they would sue those officials in making their case. But the law in Texas prohibits officials from enforcing it. Instead, it takes the opposite approach, effectively deputizing ordinary citizens — including from outside Texas — to sue clinics and others who violate the law. It awards them at least $10,000 per illegal abortion if they are successful. 

The result is a law that is extremely difficult to challenge before it takes effect on Sept. 1 because it is hard to know whom to sue to block it, and lawyers for clinics are now wrestling with what to do about it. Six-week bans in other states have all been blocked as they make their way through the court system.

Consider the potential for harassment, spying, extortion and other vengeful behavior directed toward women. The law depends on what a woman’s neighbors, associates and friends know about her reproductive health and are willing to tell the authorities to grab a $10,000 bounty. The possibility of frivolous litigation is hard to quantify.

Texas Republicans lack the nerve to uniformly enforce the law or to defend its constitutionality. Professor Steve Vladeck of the University of Texas tells me, “It’s a deeply cynical effort to both (1) chill conduct that ought to be constitutionally protected; and (2) provide cover for judges to find creative ways to dodge the merits of the constitutional challenge.” This is a law designed not to “protect life” (a farce, given that protecting innocent life has taken a back seat when covid-19 restrictions were at issue), but rather to create fear and uncertainty for women and health-care providers. Will miscarriages lead to a lawsuit from a nosy office worker seeking to cash in on the reward? Will abortion bounties become a weapon in divorce and custody cases? No one knows — and that is the point. The law seeks not to protect the fetus in any systematic way but rather to intimidate women, making them into cash cows for spiteful anti-choice busybodies.

Under Republicans, the law is a tool for vengeance. And vengeance is what Donald Trump is all about.

Image: Quote Fancy

Sunday, July 11, 2021


Bob Hepburn believes that now is the time for Justin Trudeau to call an election:

In the last few days, Trudeau has been busy. He announced his choice of Mary Simon as Canada’s first Indigenous Governor General; promised a high-frequency passenger rail line between Toronto and Quebec City; announced in Sault Ste. Marie that his government is giving Algoma Steel $420 million to phase out coal-fired steelmaking; signed an agreement with Indigenous leaders in Saskatchewan to hand over management of child and family services; and met in Calgary with Alberta Premier Jason Kenney and Mayor Naheed Nenshi.

Trudeau insists he isn’t campaigning, but it sure looks like he’s campaign-ready.

If history is any guide, Canadians don't go to the polls during the summer. Fall is the favoured time for elections in this country:

Only three of the 35 federal elections since 1900 have been held in the summer, with votes being staged only twice in July (1974 and 1930) and once in August (1953). The last September election was in 1984, when the Conservatives under Brian Mulroney won a landslide victory. Before that, you have to go back to 1926 and 1911 to find a September vote.

The most popular month for an election is October, with eight being staged since 1900. Next in line are June with seven elections, and November with five.

Perhaps Trudeau is waiting for more news on COVID. But, for Hepburn, now is the time to go to the polls:

If he waits that long, he could miss his ideal window for winning re-election, especially if the economy turns down and COVID rears up again in the coming months, as some experts fear.

If that happens, Trudeau may never get another real shot at forming a government, an outcome that has ended the careers of many overly timid party leaders.

And, despite their slide in the polls, some Conservatives appear to agree. Our local Conservative candidate is out knocking on doors in our neck of the woods,

Stay tuned.

Image: Arizona Capitol Times

Saturday, July 10, 2021


Forty-two years ago, my wife and I caught a flight from Montreal to Port au Prince. We went there not as tourists but as observers. Jean Claude Duvalier -- "Baby Doc' -- was President for Life. He was preceded by his father Francois Duvalier -- "Papa Doc."

When we left our hotel in the morning, children gathered around us, hands outstretched, begging for money. We travelled around the city in minibuses -- they called them "tap-taps." Once, when stuck in a traffic jam, a legless man was wheeled out beside the bus, with his hands outstretched -- like the children.

On a hot evening, after a tropical cloudburst, a puddle formed in the streets. It looked like a prairie slough. A woman bathed there, as human feces slid from the shanties on the hill into the pool.

Outside the city, the landscape was deforested.  A few struggling stalks of corn grew in the open spaces.

That was over forty years ago. Nothing has changed.

Image: Bloomberg.com

Friday, July 09, 2021

Not The Time

The Green Party is consuming itself. Recent developments are not encouraging. Susan Delacourt writes

Green Party Leader Annamie Paul is facing a vote of confidence in two weeks, on July 20.

The party is not holding its big, biennial convention until the end of August. If Paul does not pass the confidence vote, that convention will be all about how to get some kind of leadership in place for a looming federal campaign. That is, if the campaign hasn’t started already.

Several party staffers were informed Wednesday that they had been laid off, including two in Paul’s office, and it was revealed that the Greens will not hire a national campaign chair for the next election. This at a time when other parties ordinarily would be adding to their election-readiness team.

The turn of the wheel has been dramatic:

Two years ago, as another, previous federal election loomed, the Greens looked like they were on the verge of a breakthrough. Provincially, Greens were getting elected to legislatures in Ontario and the Atlantic Provinces where they had never been considered serious contenders before. Greens were thriving in British Columbia, helping NDP Premier John Horgan stay in power.

Pundits such as this writer were speculating (always dangerous) about a Green party caucus in the double digits in Ottawa; possibly official party status in the Commons.

Instead, Greens only managed to gain three seats in the Commons in October 2019 — now reduced to two after Fredericton MP Jenica Atwin’s defection to the Liberals last month. The Green party leader blamed this on a plot by Justin Trudeau to destabilize her party, but it’s looking like the Greens are more than capable of pulling that off all by themselves.

With another federal election looming, this not the time for this to happen.

Image: The Globe And Mail

Thursday, July 08, 2021

Harvesting the Suckers


Donald Trump has launched a lawsuit against Facebook, Google, and Twitter. Paul Waldman writes:

His complaint against Facebook — presumably prepared by actual lawyers, hard as that may be to believe — claims that it “rises beyond that of a private company to that of a state actor. As such, Defendant is constrained by the First Amendment right to free speech in the censorship decisions it makes regarding its Users.”

It goes on to use the word “unconstitutional” again and again to describe Facebook’s decisions, despite the fact that only government action is or isn’t constitutional.

Waldman writes that the lawsuit won't go anywhere. But, then, it has nothing to do with the law:

What is this suit about? It’s about money, of course. As soon as Trump announced the suit, fundraising texts were blasted out to his supporters.

“President Trump is filing a LAWSUIT against Facebook and Twitter for UNFAIR CENSORSHIP!” they read. “Please contribute IMMEDIATELY to INCREASE your impact by 500% and to get your name on the Donor List President Trump sees!”

Trump has been a grifter all his life. And he knows that, in the United States, a sucker is born every minute. He simply is doing what he has always done -- harvesting the suckers.

Image: AZ Quotes

Wednesday, July 07, 2021

Our Next Governor General

Mary Simon will be our next Governor-General. She has been considered for the job ever since David Johnston got the job in 2010. It's been a long wait. But, Susan Delacourt writes, Justin Trudeau has got it right:

Sometimes a government appointment makes so much sense, one wonders why it hasn’t happened already? In Simon’s case, it actually almost did — twice.

As her husband, former CBC journalist Whit Fraser tells the story in his book True North Rising, Simon learned from the TV news in 2010 that her name was in the mix to replace Michaëlle Jean in the viceregal post.

When Johnston’s term was up in 2016, Simon’s name started to circulate again; this time, closer to the top of the field of contenders. Surely Justin Trudeau would seize the moment to install Canada’s first Indigenous person in the job, given all the new prime minister had said about his “most important” relationship with Indigenous people.

But Simon was passed over again, in favour of former astronaut Julie Payette — and we know how that all turned out.

This time, her appointment has been greeted by praise all around:

Praise has come from Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole and NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh. The Bloc Québécois didn’t have much good to say, but that was more about the institution of the Crown than Simon herself. Even Jody Wilson-Raybould, the former justice minister who is normally critical of everything the Trudeau government does in the realm of Indigenous issues, had praise.

She has precisely the temperament and the experience for the job:

As someone who has served as an ambassador, a cultural leader, a journalist and a constitutional negotiator, she has amassed all the skills a governor general needs for a job heavy on ceremony, diplomacy, communication and symbolism.

Simon’s familiarity with the Constitution is not a small thing. The governor general can be called upon to be a referee in times of intense political stress, as Jean was during the so-called “coalition crisis” between Stephen Harper and the opposition in late 2008.

Four Indigenous groups were involved in the Charlottetown accord negotiations. Simon was head of the Inuit delegation. The accord was ultimately defeated in an early brush with populism in this country — a wholesale rejection in a 1992 national referendum of deals made by political elites.

It's taken a while. But she's the right person for the job.

Image: Nunatsiag News

Tuesday, July 06, 2021

The Signs Are Not Good

This summer has confirmed the reality of climate change. Eugene Robinson writes:

Climate change is slow, gradual, almost imperceptible — until suddenly it’s not. One day, it seems like a normal summer. The next, the temperature soars to an unbearable 121 degrees. In Canada.

In a region where many homes are not air-conditioned, it is not yet clear how many people died from the extreme heat; in British Columbia alone, officials said there were more than 700 “sudden and unexplained” deaths during the week, three times the normal average. At least 95 deaths in Oregon are suspected of being heat-related. Dozens of deaths are being investigated in Washington state as well.

We were warned that this was going to happen.

The planet is warming because human activity has raised the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere by more than 47 percent since the dawn of the Industrial Revolution. Atmospheric carbon is now at a level not seen since 3 million years ago, an epoch when average sea level was 50 to 80 feet higher than today, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

We desperately need to slash carbon emissions and stop making things worse. But we also need to reckon with the myriad implications of the damage we have already done.

That means reexamining all kinds of assumptions — however reasonable they once were — that went into the way human infrastructure has been designed and built. What seemed like normal environmental parameters may no longer apply.

And we must act now:

It means that beachfront structures in vulnerable areas should be inspected, and their safety reevaluated, in light of the impact of rising seas. It means that projects to stem worsening flooding, such as a massive 20-foot sea wall that the Army Corps of Engineers proposes for Miami, should be given new urgency. It means that the price tag for such undertakings, however daunting it may seem, must be weighed against the cost in human life of doing nothing.

It means understanding that “100-year floods” or “500-year hurricanes” will no longer confine themselves to the intervals we have assigned them. Periods that once were considered extremely wet or dry will no longer be seen as extreme; the weather bell curve has widened and the temperature bell curve is shifting measurably to the warm side.

It means being smart enough to use the spending that will be necessary to adapt to climate change as an engine of economic growth and transformation. It means seeing adaptation not just as an environmental program but as a jobs program as well.

Are we smart enough to do what is required? When so many of us are still refusing to get vaccinated against COVID, the signs are not good.

Image: ESG Clarity

Monday, July 05, 2021

A Shrinking Choir

Recently, Erin O'Toole railed against those communities which canceled Canada Day celebrations. Paul Willcocks writes:

O’Toole delivered a video speech last week to the party’s MPs, complaining about communities that have decided to cancel Canada Day events this year after the discovery of hundreds of unmarked graves holding the remains of Indigenous children taken from their parents.

“I’m concerned that injustices in our past or in the present are too often seized upon by a small group of activist voices who use it to attack the very idea of Canada itself,” he said.

It's a message which appeals to his party's base -- but only to the party base:

The Conservatives still have many supporters — they did win the most votes in the 2019 election. But their increasingly divisive approach seems aimed only at the people already likely to vote for them.

And Conservative supporters are outliers on most major issues, from climate change to immigration to the pandemic, and the party increasingly seems to be held hostage by religious social conservatives. Pandering to the base drives away centre-right voters who once were the party’s main constituency.

As the polls show. The party captured 34 per cent of the popular vote in 2019, when the Liberals won a minority government. An Ipsos poll last month found support had fallen to 26 per cent. (Making a fall election even more likely.)

By way of contrast, both Justin Trudeau and Jagmeet Singh took a different approach:

 “I think this Canada Day, it will be a time of reflection on what we’ve achieved as a country but on what more we have to do,” [Trudeau] told reporters. Federal government Canada Day events are going ahead.

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh took a similar stance. “While there’s things that we can be proud of, absolutely, there are things that are really horrible, and that are a part of our legacy,” he said.

Both respected people’s right to make their own choices without judgment. Which likely makes sense to most voters struggling with the terrible contradictions of a country that claims a noble purpose yet has a history of genocide and continues to wage war against Indigenous people.

Like his Republican brethren south of the border, O'Toole is preaching to a shrinking choir.

Image: Brentwood Benson

Sunday, July 04, 2021

The Next One

Just as the COVID crisis recedes, Heather Scoffield writes, the next crisis is upon us:

Hundreds of British Columbians are dying in extreme heat — an event climatologists warn will happen with more and more frequency as the planet warms further. Meanwhile, on the other side of the country, environmental groups pointed out on Tuesday that a major natural gas project has lost a key source of financing after shareholders in a French bank voted to limit their exposure to fracking.

And that’s just this week. The momentum of the investment effects as well as the public health effects of climate change seems to be picking up.

The climate crisis is a public health crisis and an economic crisis all at once, and like we saw with COVID-19, our hesitation to deal head-on with the complicated bundle of issues will cost us dearly.

And, as was the case with COVID, climate change hurts the poor and ill-housed the most:

When the pandemic first gripped us a year ago now, vulnerable people were hurt first — seniors, people in crowded homes, the poor. The federal government moved in with billions of dollars in income support and scrambled to find masks, medical equipment and protective gear around the world. But not before the virus took hundreds of lives, hitting low-income neighbourhoods and seniors’ homes especially hard.

The heat wave is hurting the same bunch, taking the lives of more than 200 people in the past few days.

“We are seeing this weather can be deadly for vulnerable members of our community, especially the elderly and those with underlying health issues,” Cpl. Mike Kalanj of the Burnaby RCMP said this week.

In the end, we threw everything we had at COVID. The climate crisis demands the same kind of response. There will be those who will say it costs too much. They're misinformed:

The Parliamentary Budget Officer, Yves Giroux, has just released a new assessment of the long-term state of the country’s finances, and has concluded that the federal government — despite all the pandemic spending — is in fine shape. So are Quebec and Nova Scotia, and even Ontario.

The other provinces, not so much. And as a growing proportion of the population ages and moves out of the workforce, health costs will increase steadily. That imbalance needs to be taken care of, either through increased federal transfers or higher taxes — or both.

We must heed the lessons of the crisis we have just lived through.

Image: Getty Images

Saturday, July 03, 2021

Ignorance Is Strength

Paul Krugman writes that, on the Right, ignorance has become a necessary qualification:

On the right, expertise isn’t just considered worthless, it’s viewed as disqualifying. People with actual knowledge of a policy area — certainly those with any kind of professional reputation — are often excluded from any role in shaping policy. Preference is given to the incompetent — often the luridly incompetent.

Krugman cites the case of Stephen Moore:

It was Moore . . . who walked into Donald Trump’s office just days after America went into lockdown to urge reopening by Easter. While an immediate lifting of pandemic restrictions didn’t happen, Trump’s growing insistence that the pandemic was no big deal helped inspire armed protests against social distancing and mask-wearing, and it contributed to a public health disaster that has so far claimed 600,000 American lives — with 95 percent of the deaths happening after Easter 2020.

It goes without saying that Moore isn’t an expert on epidemiology. But he isn’t an expert on economics, either. In fact, he has a reputation among many economists for being wrong about almost everything. I don’t mean that he has made some bad forecasts — that happens to everyone (although some of us admit it when we were wrong and try to learn from our mistakes). I mean it is unusual for him ever to get the facts right, or even manage to land in the remote vicinity of the truth.

For example, in 2014 Moore published an attack on yours truly over the effects of state tax cuts in which every key number was incorrect. And not slightly off: He made claims about job growth for certain years but offered numbers from different years, and got even those numbers wildly wrong.

Another example: In 2015 he wrote an attack on Obamacare in which every main factual assertion was wrong.

Yet in right-wing circles Moore has failed steadily upward, serving as a member of The Wall Street Journal’s editorial board, becoming chief economist at the Heritage Foundation, and more. Trump tried to appoint him to the Federal Reserve’s Board of Governors and might have succeeded if Moore hadn’t been found in contempt of court for failure to pay alimony and child support.

There are lots of other examples. On the Right, Ignorance is Strength.

Image: New York Magazine

Friday, July 02, 2021

Only The Beginning

The indictment in New York has been unsealed. Dana Milbank writes:

The charges in New York against the Trump Organization and CFO Allen Weisselberg are extensive and serious. Scheme to Defraud. Conspiracy. Grand Larceny. Criminal Tax Fraud. Offering a False Instrument. Falsifying of Business Records. There were 15 counts in all, and New York prosecutors left hints that this is but an amuse-bouche compared to what’s coming. There were references to unnamed “other executives” compensated the same way Weisselberg was, “others” who implemented the fraudulent scheme, “including unindicted co-conspirator #1.”

The alleged scheme was straightforward, if sleazy: Weisselberg, like other Trump executives, was paid “off the books” in the form of rent payments, private school tuition, luxury-car leases, end-of-year cash payments disguised as “Holiday Entertainment,” and new beds, televisions, carpeting and furniture. The indictment makes clear the Trump executives knew they were doing wrong and tried to hide it: “On or about September 2016, Allen Weisselberg directed a staff member in the accounting department to remove the notations ‘Per Allen Weisselberg’ from the entries in Donald J. Trump’s Detail General Ledger relating to tuition payments paid on Weisselberg’s behalf to his family members’ private school.”

There is nothing surprising in any of this:

What’s most remarkable about the indictment is how unremarkable it is. Fraud? Conspiracy? Falsifying? Anybody who has lived through the past five years knows that this is Trump’s M.O. He ran the country with an endless series of falsifications, conspiracies and frauds. He ran his charity as a personal piggy bank. The surprising thing would be if Trump hadn’t run his business the same way.

The frauds and falsehoods of the Trump presidency led hundreds of thousands of Americans needlessly to lose their lives and provoked the worst attack on the U.S. Capitol since the War of 1812. Compared to that, the scheme alleged by prosecutors is small potatoes: $1.76 million in indirect compensation to Weisselberg, translating to just over $1 million stolen from the U.S. and New York city and state treasuries, and the taxpayers. Even if the case expands to other executives and other schemes, even if the entire Trump Organization turned out to be an Enron-style shell game, the damage done would be a pittance compared to the damage done by his presidency, and the much greater damage that could be done by another.

But, as it always is with Trump, there is more to come. This is only the beginning.

Image: businessinsider.com

Thursday, July 01, 2021

Canada Day 2021

This Canada Day is like no other I can remember. The graves of all those children -- recently and soon to be discovered -- make this a somber day. There is so much we didn't get right. Martin Luther King said that "the arc of the moral universe is long but it bends toward justice." There is so much to do.

Image: The Guardian

Wednesday, June 30, 2021

Outside The Box

Heather Scoffield writes that some people are beginning to think outside the box:

B.C. is paying the provocative Mariana Mazzucato and her institute at University College London about $350,000 to advise the provincial government over the next year on how to shake things up so that their comeback is all at once inclusive, innovative and sustainable.

It’s just one manifestation of the new-found political conviction that plain old economic growth is just not enough — that the pandemic has exposed deep problems of inequality and our vulnerabilities to crisis, and clearly something needs to change. Policy-makers and government critics alike are eyeing the blossoming comeback, determined to take full advantage of it to solve a whole range of problems.

From federal minister Catherine McKenna quitting politics to push hard at climate change from outside government to Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland making child care the centre of her pandemic budget, they’re talking about tossing away the shackles of convention to confront the problems of our generation.

Noted economist Don Drummond has the nub of an idea on that front. In a new paper, the chair of the Centre for the Study of Living Standards establishes the case for confronting inequalities in the name of widespread prosperity. And he proposes a new institute whose purpose is to shift government policy toward enhancing growth, crushing inequality and protecting the environment all at the same time.

Before readers roll their eyes at another layer of bureaucracy, Drummond explains that this institute would draw in federal and provincial governments, researchers and thought-leaders, but also operate outside the electoral cycle in a permanent way that ad hoc advisory groups have not been able to in the past.

“Canada can and must do better on growth and its distribution,” Drummond writes. “The economic future will likely be so dynamic, with the adjustment to a lower-carbon future just one of many fundamental shifts likely to happen, that it seems unlikely a temporary body can recommend a one-time reset that will put the Canadian economy on a promising path for years.”

There are loud voices calling for a return to the past. They call it "normal." We must not follow their counsel.

Image: Toronto Reality Blog

Tuesday, June 29, 2021

McKenna Retires

Catherine McKenna won't be running in the next federal election. Susan Delacourt writes that after the abuse she has endured, her decision is not surprising:

The woman who made her name as Justin Trudeau’s environment minister spoke in front of a pedestrian bridge built across the Rideau Canal during her tenure as MP for Ottawa Centre — an accomplishment of some local-riding pride, she said.

It’s called the “Flora Footbridge,” named after legendary Conservative politician Flora MacDonald, a trailblazer in politics for women such as McKenna.

The symbolism for this surprise announcement, then, couldn’t have been more perfect, with all the allusions to bridges built, between political parties and generations of women in elected office, right in the heart of the national capital.

As we know, though, real life in politics is rarely as lovely as the photo ops. So McKenna had to field a lot of questions on Monday that revolved around the price she paid for being a prominent feminist and climate-change advocate in Trudeau’s government.

Online abuse; disgusting graffiti defacing her constituency office; threats that resulted in the need for extra RCMP protection — all these punctuated her public life. As McKenna spoke, an RCMP officer hovered nearby, eyes surveying the small crowd taking in the open-air news conference.

McKenna was also unusual because of the way she balanced politics and family:

McKenna, in many ways, had more going for her as a woman in politics than Flora MacDonald did. She kicked off her career in cabinet with a declaration that she would go home every night to have dinner with her three children — a family-friendly policy that would not have been open to MacDonald or other women of her era. (MacDonald had no children, as was so often the case when women had to choose between career and family.)

McKenna also enjoyed more latitude to call out misogyny where she saw it. Long before she was sworn into a gender-balanced cabinet in 2015, previous women ministers were often told to keep their mouths shut, lest they be accused of “whining” or lacking the fortitude to compete in the rough-and-tumble world of politics.

But a person can only endure so much. It's never been easy to be a woman in politics. It still isn't easy.

Image: The Toronto Star

Monday, June 28, 2021

The Deadline

Today is the day. The Washington Post reports that:

Prosecutors in New York have given former president Donald Trump’s attorneys a deadline of Monday afternoon to make any final arguments as to why the Trump Organization should not face criminal charges over its financial dealings, according to two people familiar with the matter.

That deadline is a strong signal that Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance Jr. (D) and New York Attorney General Letitia James (D) — now working together, after each has spent more than two years investigating Trump’s business — are considering criminal charges against the company as an entity.

The two people familiar with the deadline set for Trump’s attorneys spoke on the condition of anonymity to disclose private conversations. Under New York law, prosecutors may file charges against corporations in addition to individuals.

That's why Trump was in Ohio over the weekend, claiming yet again that he is a victim. But the walls are closing in:

People familiar with the probe confirmed to The Washington Post that prosecutors were looking at charging the Trump Organization as an entity, as well as Trump Organization chief financial officer Allen Weisselberg, following Weisselberg’s refusal to assist in the investigation.

In recent months, according to people familiar with the investigation, prosecutors began investigating Weisselberg’s personal finances, in the hopes that Weisselberg might be persuaded to offer testimony against his boss. But prosecutors have grown frustrated with what they see as a lack of cooperation from Weisselberg, according to a person familiar with the case. This month, Post reporters observed Weisselberg driving into work at Trump Tower — home to both Trump’s Manhattan apartment and his company’s headquarters office — on a day when Trump was staying at the tower.

Weisselberg apparently believes he can beat the wrap -- as does Trump. I suspect both men have been misinformed.

Image: CNN

Sunday, June 27, 2021

Building Back Better

In the middle of the Second World War, the British government -- with an eye to the future -- decided to review all of the programs it administered. Robin Sears writes:

At the time, the U.K. had seven government departments overlapping on a multitude of often conflicting pension and social benefits policies. Sound familiar? Beveridge took little more than a year to analyze and study the holes in a threadbare safety net. He produced a report that literally changed the face of health and pensions around the world. Working with a series of fellow bureaucrats, they together consulted dozens of experts and citizens and produced a final report to ecstatic reviews. It sold 600,000 copies in weeks.
Beveridge pushed his study boundaries far beyond a tidy-up, recommending the creation of the National Health Service and an entirely new social safety net. His recommendations helped form the basis of our own systems, and many others around the world. It was his vision of rebuilding back better after the war. Its impact took decades to unfold, but the Beveridge Report is still regarded as one of the foundational documents for our social infrastructure in the advanced democracies.

Sears suggests that, as the pandemic recedes, we do the same:

Royal commissions are often sneered at as expensive, time-wasting political delay devices. But we have had several great commissions in the recent past, ones whose impact were felt for decades. The Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples, widely pilloried at the time, is now seen as a catalyst to unlocking Canadians’ new focus on Indigenous reconciliation.
We have learned many cruel lessons from the pandemic about preparation, education, co-ordination and adequate funding. But we have also made our support systems more complex and overlapping, with no obvious strategic vision to guide them. Add the challenges of a federal state, and we stand on the verge of losing the pandemic peace. New thinking on housing, education, health and innovation exists in unfinished pieces in many places, but again we have no strategic plan on what would make a unified social infrastructure for Canada’s 21st century.

We need to ask -- and answer -- several questions:

Should it include a guaranteed monthly income? Can we find alternatives to surging hospital costs? How do we replace the 19th-century straight jacket that traps each level of education? How do we ensure that each of the social determinants of health and prosperity are addressed in a coherent whole, and not a tangled plate of policy spaghetti?

The worst thing we could do would be to enter the next pandemic -- and there will be one -- without a plan to deal with it and the social strains it will impose.

Image: ET Canada

Saturday, June 26, 2021

Experience Counts For Something

It's remarkable. Lawrence Martin writes that, when it comes to choosing presidents and prime ministers, we have preferred men who have had little experience in government.

Mr. Obama, who served in the Illinois legislature, hadn’t even completed one Senate term in Washington before running for president.

Donald Trump was the first president who had no political experience or public service whatsoever.

George W. Bush, who served a few years as governor of Texas after being a baseball-club owner, had nowhere near the experience of his father, who was president from 1989 to 1993. Among other missteps stemming in part from his callow, cocksure ways was his blundering into the Iraq war.

Finding three other presidents serving in succession with such modest qualifications is no small task.

It's been the same story here:

In Canada, Justin Trudeau had served a few years on the opposition benches and as Liberal leader, but had no governing experience before becoming Prime Minister. He brought in a cohort of younger-generation types like himself who offered some fresh perspectives and fresh policies. But his team often excluded older pros who could have prevented embarrassing sophomoric lapses, which did not afflict Pierre Trudeau’s more veteran crew.

Likewise, Stephen Harper only had experience as an opposition member of Parliament before becoming PM. Calling himself an economist, as the brainy ideologue did, was a stretch. He was parochial, having rarely set foot outside the country before becoming leader of a G7 country.

His reign importantly addressed Western Canadian discontent. But his grounding was too narrow for him to take on statesman-like qualities. He governed with a chip on his shoulder, instead of doing so with goodwill.

Joe Biden is a refreshing change from the recent past:

Biden, the oldest and most experienced president in the history of his country, marks a sharp break with recent history. He is in a position to re-establish the importance of pedigree, the idea that if you’re set on occupying the most important position in the land, maybe you should have suitable credentials.

We too have had prime ministers who spent a long time on the lower decks before they came to the helm:

The closest thing to a Joe Biden that Canada has had in terms of experience is Jean Chrétien, who served in 11 cabinet portfolios before becoming prime minister. After barely surviving a Quebec referendum vote in 1995, the Shawinigan fox, as Bob Plamondon called him in his book of that name, governed effectively. He knew the country; he had it in his bones.

Another elder statesman, Louis St. Laurent, who became PM at age 66, didn’t fare too badly either. Nor did his contemporary in the Oval Office, Dwight Eisenhower, who became president at 62 with the experience of having led the Allied forces in the Second World War. The Republican presidency deemed the most successful in modern times is that of Ronald Reagan, who didn’t take office until age 69.

There were exceptions. President Kennedy was young and inexperienced. And Martin thinks that Brian Mulroney's inexperience was not an impediment. Mulroney's character was another matter.

There is, it seems to me, a lesson here. Experience counts for something. Human resources professionals operate on the principle that the best predictor of future performance is past performance.

Image: Package Car Union