Sunday, January 31, 2021

Where's The Exit?

Maggie Haberman reports in this morning's New York Times that the five lawyers who were going to defend Donald Trump in his second impeachment trial have quit:

Former President Donald J. Trump has abruptly parted ways with five lawyers handling his impeachment defense, just over a week before the Senate trial is set to begin, people familiar with the situation said on Saturday.

Those departures include his lead lawyer, Butch Bowers, whose hiring was announced last week, a person familiar with the situation said. Four other lawyers who were reported to be joining, including Deborah Barbier, a criminal defense lawyer in South Carolina, are also leaving, according to multiple people familiar with the situation.

Mr. Trump had pushed for his defense team to focus on his baseless claim that the election was stolen from him, one person familiar with the situation said. A person close to Mr. Trump disputed that that was the case but acknowledged that there were differences in opinion about the defense strategy. However, Mr. Trump has insisted that the case is “simple” and has told advisers he could argue it himself and save the money on lawyers. (Aides contend he is not seriously contemplating doing so.

It's really hard to defend someone who insists he's a very stable genius and is so obviously moronic. Ask Trump's two former lawyers -- Roy Cohn and Michael Cohen. Cohn is unavailable for comment, having shuffled off this mortal coil some time ago. But Michael Cohen will confirm his disbarment.

Trump is a fool. But these  impeachment lawyers aren't.


Saturday, January 30, 2021

Big Money In Big Pharma

The pandemic has been a windfall for Big Pharma. The Trudeau government was planning to roll out a national pharmacare program. Central to that effort was The Patented Medicine Prices Review Board. Tom Walkom writes:

Set up in 1987, the board’s job is to prevent pharmaceutical companies from charging exorbitant prices for new drugs. It does so by comparing prices charged in Canada with those in other countries.

Up to now, the board has compared Canada to high-cost countries like the U.S. and Switzerland. Justin Trudeau’s Liberals have promised to use lower-cost countries, like Australia and Norway, as comparators instead. Until last year, Big Pharma seemed an easy target.Now the drug companies have countries around the world over a barrel:

Nor, it seems, does Ottawa have the power to prevent the European Union from unilaterally interfering with the export of European-made vaccines to Canada.

Some in the EU are calling for such export controls. They argue that since companies like Pfizer and the British firm AstraZeneca profited from EU support, Europeans should be first in line when their vaccines become available — regardless of any commercial deals signed with outsider nations like Canada.
Now countries in Europe are fighting over who should get more of the vaccines. And Big Pharma is pushing the Canadian government for tax breaks. 

When the Mulroney government sold Connaught Labs decades ago, it left us to the mercy of Big Pharma. The pandemic has taught us that we must manufacture our own medical supplies and vaccines.

Once again, COVID has exposed how fragile our global economy is.

Image: Connaught Fund University Of Toronto

Friday, January 29, 2021

That Will Not Happen

The Republican Party is doomed. What isn't clear yet is whether the United States is doomed. Paul Krugman writes

On Tuesday Mitch McConnell, the Senate minority leader, who has said that Donald Trump’s role in fomenting the insurrection was impeachable, voted for a measure that would have declared a Trump trial unconstitutional because he’s no longer in office. (Most constitutional scholars disagree.

On Thursday Kevin McCarthy, the House minority leader — who still hasn’t conceded that Joe Biden legitimately won the presidency, but did declare that Trump “bears responsibility” for the attack on Congress — visited Mar-a-Lago, presumably to make amends.

In other words, the G.O.P.’s national leadership, after briefly flirting with sense, has surrendered to the fantasies of the fringe. Cowardice rules.

That's the story in Washington. The same thing is happening at the state level:

The Arizona state party censured the Republican governor for the sin of belatedly trying to contain the coronavirus. The Texas G.O.P. has adopted the slogan “We are the storm,” which is associated with QAnon, although the party denies it intended any link. Oregon Republicans have endorsed the completely baseless claim, contradicted by the rioters themselves, that the attack on the Capitol was a left-wing false flag operation.

What's going on?

Political scientists argue that traditional forces of moderation have been weakened by factors like the nationalization of politics and the rise of partisan media, notably Fox News.

This opens the door to a process of self-reinforcing extremism (something, by the way, that I’ve seen happen in a minor fashion within some academic subfields). As hard-liners gain power within a group, they drive out moderates; what remains of the group is even more extreme, which drives out even more moderates; and so on. A party starts out complaining that taxes are too high; after a while it begins claiming that climate change is a giant hoax; it ends up believing that all Democrats are Satanist pedophiles.

Donald Trump didn't begin the process. It started decades ago:

It goes back at least to Newt Gingrich’s takeover of Congress in 1994. But Trump’s reign of corruption and lies, followed by his refusal to concede and his attempt to overturn the election results, brought it to a head. And the cowardice of the Republican establishment has sealed the deal. One of America’s two major political parties has parted ways with facts, logic and democracy, and it’s not coming back.

The only hope for the country is to destroy the Republican Party. And it looks like that will not happen.

Image: Kobo Rakuten

Thursday, January 28, 2021

Do We Need A Governor General?

Julie Payette is gone. Bob Hepburn writes that it's time to make her job go with her. Consider what she did and what it cost:

In the 40 months that Julie Payette was Canada’s governor general she read two throne speeches, officiated once over the dissolution of Parliament, swore in some 30 cabinet ministers and wrote her signature on several dozen pieces of legislation.

That basically was the sum total of her primary duties.

She also spent a bit of time meeting children, cutting ribbons and handing out public service awards. By all accounts, Payette hated doing many of these tasks — to the point she even stopped doing some of them.

Total cost of operating her office over those 40 months?

Think about it: Canada spends more than $35 million a year for a position that’s a largely ceremonial relic of British colonialism.

It's nice work, if you can get it:

It seems like the perfect job — the workload is light, the pay is $288,900 a year, the benefits are spectacular, including an inflation-adjusted pension of $149,484 a year for life for a job that lasts just five years, a large staff ($19 million a year), servants, chauffeur-driven vehicles and two official residences, Rideau Hall in Ottawa and La Citadelle in Quebec City ($9 million annually)

One can argue that Payette was simply the wrong person for the job: She could have done so much more, and she could have done it with so much more politesse. But, just as the Electoral College is an anachronism in the United States, perhaps the office of the Queen's representative in Canada is no longer necessary.

Image: National Observer

Wednesday, January 27, 2021

Socialism For The Rich

When the pandemic has been reigned in, Tom Friedman writes that we have to have a conversation about what has become conventional wisdom over the last forty years -- socialism for the rich, capitalism for the rest:

This new consensus has a name: “Socialism for the rich and capitalism for the rest,” argues Ruchir Sharma, chief global strategist at Morgan Stanley Investment Management, author of “The Ten Rules of Successful Nations” and one of my favorite contrarian economic thinkers.

Socialism for the rich and capitalism for the rest — a variation on a theme popularized in the 1960s — happens, Sharma explained in a phone interview, when government intervention does more to stimulate the financial markets than the real economy. So, America’s richest 10 percent, who own more than 80 percent of U.S. stocks, have seen their wealth more than triple in 30 years, while the bottom 50 percent, relying on their day jobs in real markets to survive, had zero gains. Meanwhile, mediocre productivity in the real economy has limited opportunity, choice and income gains for the poor and middle class alike.

The best evidence is the last year: We’re in the middle of a pandemic that has crushed jobs and small businesses — but the stock market is soaring. That’s not right. That’s elephants flying. I always get worried watching elephants fly. It usually doesn’t end well.

We have bailed out companies that are zombies:

Sharma wrote in July in a Wall Street Journal essay titled “The Rescues Ruining Capitalism,” that easy money and increasingly generous bailouts fuel the rise of monopolies and keep “alive heavily indebted ‘zombie’ firms, at the expense of start-ups, which drive innovation.” And all of that is contributing to lower productivity, which means slower economic growth and “a shrinking of the pie for everyone.”

As such, no one should be surprised “that millennials and Gen Z are growing disillusioned with this distorted form of capitalism and say that they prefer socialism.”

In the 1980s, “only 2 percent of publicly traded companies in the U.S. were considered ‘zombies,’ a term used by the Bank for International Settlements (BIS) for companies that, over the previous three years, had not earned enough profit to make even the interest payments on their debt,” Sharma wrote. “The zombie minority started to grow rapidly in the early 2000s, and by the eve of the pandemic, accounted for 19 percent of U.S.-listed companies.” It’s happening in Europe, China and Japan, too.

During the pandemic, big countries have prospered. Small businesses have closed. As Hamlet said, "The time is out of joint."

Image: QuotesGram

Tuesday, January 26, 2021

Good Bye And Good Riddance

The Canadian political scene is being reconstituted. Some of its ugliest practitioners are leaving the stage. Susan Delacourt writes:

It appears to be sweeps week in Canadian politics — when troublesome political players get swept right out of the action.

Justin Trudeau’s Liberals tossed an MP out of caucus on Monday amid controversy over conspiracy theories, just a few hours after Sen. Lynn Beyak decided to shut down her racism-infused political career, effective immediately.

These exits come hot on the heels of last week’s resignation of governor-general Julie Payette and the ouster of a neo-Nazi funded MP, Derek Sloan, from the Conservative caucus.

The Liberals made no bones about why they ousted Ramesh Sangha from their caucus:

Sent out as a succinct, “he’s fired” missive by Chief Government Whip Mark Holland, it said Liberals were shutting down that kind of trouble in its tracks, within its own ranks.

Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole has been drawing some sharper lines too; not just with his own ouster of Sloan last week for taking donations from a neo-Nazi. 

The Conservatives still have some toxic MP's:

On Monday, one of O’Toole’s Conservatives, Kerry Diotte, was standing up in the Commons to call Trudeau “wimpy” and Calgary MP Michelle Rempel Garner was being chided for shouting “what the hell” in the direction of the government. So this is clearly a work in progress.

There are lessons to be learned from what happened south of the border. The Republicans should have taken Donald Trump out of the game early. Now their collective I.Q. is a negative number. Political parties destroy themselves when they coddle the crazies.

Image: Pittsburgh Post Gazette

Monday, January 25, 2021

Making Government Work

Joe Biden has talked a lot about unity. But, E.J. Dionne writes, unity is being overtaken by urgency:

Senate Democrats won their 49th and 50th seats in Georgia’s two runoff elections earlier this month, which gave them the majority thanks to Vice President Harris’s tie-breaking vote. This meant that the Senate had to be reorganized to recognize the shift in control. The outlines of an organizing resolution were already there from the last time the Senate was split 50-50, in 2001.

That didn’t stop Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) from balking. He demanded that Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) promise that Senate Democrats wouldn’t challenge the filibuster rule for the next two years. The current filibuster rule means that most bills need 60 votes to pass. Essentially, McConnell was telling Democrats to give up any power they might have to force action if the GOP persistently blocked Biden’s initiatives. 

It is a recipe for unrestrained minority rule.

The Republican Party has been fiercely dedicated to minority rule for decades. That's what their gerrymandering and voter suppression has been all about. It's clear they propose to operate as they have in the past. That presents the Democrats with a problem:

So, as Biden would say, here’s the deal: He and his party should indeed make every effort to negotiate with Republicans to win what support they can get. Bipartisanship is great when it works, so it’s constructive that Brian Deese, the head of the White House’s National Economic Council, is meeting with moderates and moderate conservatives, including Collins and Romney, to try to find common ground. What Democrats can’t afford, Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) said in an interview, is the “long drawn-out process” that characterized the party’s approach during the early Obama years on both economic stimulus and health care.

This means being willing to move quickly to what is known as the reconciliation process, which would allow passage of economic relief on a simple Senate majority.

“We should give Senate Republicans a very short amount of time to signal if they want to be partners in moving the country forward, or if they intend to be obstructionists,” Van Hollen said. “And the early signaling is that they are reverting to their obstructionist mode.”

Reconciliation rules are largely limited to bills involving money. Eventually, Democrats will have to take on the filibuster itself. They might do this piece by piece if obstruction prevails on particular bills, notably democracy reform efforts.

Already, conservatives are preparing to characterize any remotely progressive proposals from Biden as evidence that he is moving “hard left.” Moderate Democrats should not take the bait — and the early signs are that they won’t.

For decades, the Republicans' prime directive has been to make sure that government doesn't work. Biden's future rests on his being able to make government work -- and to do big things.

Sunday, January 24, 2021

How To Deal With Domestic Terrorists

Recent events in Washington have pushed an old question into the spotlight: How should we deal with domestic terrorists? Robin Sears writes:

There is no more sensitive dilemma in a democracy than limits to free speech and political conviction. The United States is again seized with the question, except this time the terrorists are on the right. FBI counterterrorism teams will probably return to the massive surveillance they performed on Black activists and American Communists. In Canada, we need to assess how to manage the threats posed by white supremacists and Nazis as well.

In Germany today, the challenge also comes from the right. A special forces group in the German army was found to be home to hundreds of extremists, some of whom seemed to have hoarded massive arms dumps, and apparently planning the murder of leading politicians. Their intelligence community has been harshly criticized for their failure to uncover this.

Similarly, the FBI has always been accused of treating white terrorists far more lightly than Black activists. In Canada, the same was true until recently. CSIS’s predecessor, the RCMP Security Service, spied on Tommy Douglas, along with many other politicians and trade union leaders. Even today CSIS has refused to release what files they held on one of Canada’s most revered political icons.

There was a time when the terrorists were on the left side of the political spectrum:

West German Chancellor Willy Brandt’s Ostpolitik — his effort to deepen diplomatic relationships with the Soviet Union to be able to win recognition of West Germany by Moscow and to attempt to stabilize relations during the Cold War — was condemned by the German right, and by Washington.

As a balancing act Brandt had imposed a loyalty oath, or “radical decree” on the German public service in 1972. It unleashed a storm of controversy within his party and within Europe. It was compared to Hitler’s loyalty oaths. Privately, Brandt was deeply stung by the attacks, but he argued passionately that a democratic state needed the tools to prevent subversion.

German terrorists like the Red Army Faction — also known as the Baader–Meinhof Gang — were murdering judges and business leaders, and openly calling for the deliberate infiltration of Marxist activists into German public institutions. Both Baader and Meinhof had been public servants. Brandt argued to friends that pledging not to attempt to overthrow democracy must be a baseline commitment for anyone serving the German people.

Loyalty oaths are just plain stupid -- and complicated. Today, most democracies have legislation to deal with foreign terrorists, but not domestic terrorists. Any such legislation could easily run afoul of rights and freedoms.

But we should give some thought to the problem.


Saturday, January 23, 2021

Intellectual Zombies

Joe Biden wants to unify his nation. But, Paul Krugman writes, he faces a tough slog:

Some, perhaps most, of the opposition he’ll face will come from people who are deeply corrupt. And even among Republicans acting in good faith he’ll have to contend with deep-seated cluelessness, the result of the intellectual bubble the right has lived in for many years.

Take Ted Cruz, for example:

Cruz is, or used to be, a smart man — ask him and he’ll tell you (although in my experience people secure in their intellectual bona fides don’t boast about their academic credentials). But he has spent many years pursuing power by trying to appeal to the worst instincts of the Republican base. Most notably, he has been among the leading voices pushing the false narrative of a stolen election and bears significant responsibility for the sacking of the Capitol.

Cruz isn’t stupid, he just imagines that voters are. What he’s really doing is offering us an early taste of the unprincipled opposition Biden can expect from the anti-democracy wing of the G.O.P., which appears to be most of the party.

And even Mitt Romney could well be a problem:

After the inauguration, Romney expressed opposition to a new economic relief package, declaring: “We just passed a $900 billion-plus package. Let’s give that some time to be able to influence the economy.”

Now, Romney has earned the presumption that, unlike other Republicans opposing relief, he’s honestly trying to do the right thing. But that’s an utterly clueless remark, indicating that he doesn’t understand what Biden’s proposed package is all about.

While coronavirus relief legislation is often called “stimulus,” that’s not what Biden is trying to do. The economy in 2021 isn’t like the economy in 2009, depressed because there isn’t enough demand; we haven’t fully recovered because we’re still on partial lockdown, with some activities curtailed by the risk of infection.

The goal of policy in this situation isn’t to pump up spending, getting people to eat out and travel. It is, instead, to help people, businesses and local governments get through the difficult period until widespread vaccination lets us go back to business as usual.

Both Cruz and Romney are not stupid men. But they illustrate what happens to those who join the Republican Party. They become intellectual zombies.

Image: ABC News

Friday, January 22, 2021

Julie, Julie, Julie

Julie Payette has resigned. The warning signs were there from the beginning. Susan Delacourt writes:

It took very few days after Payette’s announced appointment for some big red flags to emerge surrounding her life in Maryland, including a charge of second-degree assault (later dropped and expunged from the record) and an incident in which a woman died after being struck by a vehicle driven by Payette.

Nor did the PMO appointments division seem to do any research into Payette’s other forays into overseeing a workplace, such as at the Montreal Science Centre from 2011 to 2016, where employees lodged complaints very similar to the ones that have caused this latest, but largest downfall.

Had Payette wanted to run as a candidate in Trudeau’s Liberal party, her application would have been rejected on these grounds. But it was 2017 and the prime minister was a celebrity, Payette was a celebrity and what could possibly go wrong?

Four years ago, Americans elected a celebrity to the presidency. That didn't work out so well. I applauded Payette's appointment. But I assumed she was qualified for the job. I assumed she was like John Glenn -- a terrific astronaut and a skilled politician.

I was wrong.


Thursday, January 21, 2021

What Now, Jason?

Joe Biden has cancelled the Keystone XL pipeline. That puts Jason Kenney in a very uncomfortable spot. David Climenhaga writes:

It’s been a Biden promise from the get-go. It’s easy to do with the stroke of a pen. It’s devoutly wished for by key segments of his base. And it doesn’t cost the United States anything, fanciful arguments about the economic benefits of the Keystone XL pipeline notwithstanding.

Let it never be asked, “Who could have seen this coming?” Damn nearly everybody who’s been paying attention did.

Kenney's folly is monumental:

Kenney’s crazy bet has to be near the top of the most irresponsible things ever done in Alberta’s history. Will there be a political price to pay for his irresponsibility? Given that history, it’s hard to say.

Keystone XL might’ve had a chance if New Democrat Rachel Notley were still premier… because, social licence.

But Notley isn’t premier, is she? No, it’s Kenney, the politician who excoriated the very idea of seeking social licence for Alberta’s carbo-intensive heavy oil projects.

He called the whole concept of social licence a myth. He called it a failure. He called it a lie.

So what happens now? And what will Justin Trudeau do? The rubber has hit the road.

Image: Next Alberta

Wednesday, January 20, 2021

The Kind Of Surprises

Tom Friedman writes that the terrible experiment is over:

We just survived something really crazy awful: four years of a president without shame, backed by a party without spine, amplified by a network without integrity, each pumping out conspiracy theories without truth, brought directly to our brains by social networks without ethics — all heated up by a pandemic without mercy.

It’s not that Trump never did anything good. It’s that it was nowhere near worth the price of leaving our nation more divided, more sick — and with more people marinated in conspiracy theories — than at any time in modern history. We need to be simultaneously reunited, deprogrammed, refocused and reassured. The whole country needs to go on a weekend retreat to rediscover who we are and the bonds that unite us — or at least once did.

During his four years in office, Trump never ceased to surprise. But his surprises were of a particular kind. He knew no bottom. And, each day, he surprised the world by continuing to sink to the worst of all possibilities. Friedman believes that Americans need to continue to be surprised. But they need to experience the good they can do:

I honestly think we can again be our best selves, but it’s on all of us to make it happen. How so?

Upside surprises are a hugely underrated force in politics and diplomacy. They are what break bonds of pessimism and push out the boundaries of what we think possible. They remind us that the future is not our fate, but a choice — to let the past bury the future or the future bury the past.

I have been watching Mitt Romney repeatedly put his oath to defend the Constitution ahead of his party and personal political interests. Along the way, we’ve gotten to know each other. We don’t agree on everything, but there’s mutual respect. Romney recently introduced me for a speech I gave virtually to a bipartisan climate action coalition in Utah. That surprised some people, and maybe made them look at the whole issue differently. It’s surprising what can happen when we surprise for the better.

Liz Cheney just totally surprised me on the upside last week by putting country and Constitution before party and personal ambition and voting to impeach Trump. I knew her when she worked on Middle East democracy issues. Makes me want to reconnect.

Last May, after the death of George Floyd at the hands of the police, the rapper Killer Mike was enlisted by Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms to help quell the violence in Black neighborhoods. He surprised me when he scolded violent Atlanta protesters:

“It is your duty not to burn your own house down for anger with an enemy. It is your duty to fortify your own house so that you may be a house of refuge in times of organization. And now is the time to plot, plan, strategize, organize and mobilize. It is time to beat up prosecutors you don’t like at the voting booth. It is time to hold mayoral offices accountable, chiefs and deputy chiefs. …

It's certain that the future will be full of surprises. What matters is the kind of surprises that await us.

Image: LTC News

Tuesday, January 19, 2021

No Profile In Courage

Donald Trump has almost left the building. But Mitch McConnell has survived. Jennifer Senior writes that history's judgment of McConnell will be damning:

McConnell may think that the speech he gave on the Senate floor on Jan. 6, objecting to the election deniers, will spare him history’s judgment. It will not. It did not make him a hero. It simply made him a responsible citizen.

If McConnell ultimately votes to convict Donald Trump in his second Senate impeachment trial — he has suggested he’s open to the idea — that won’t make him a hero, either. He will simply have done the right thing and likely not for the right reasons: As Alec MacGillis makes plain in his excellent book “The Cynic,” Mitch McConnell never does anything unless it serves the interests of Mitch McConnell.

Which is why McConnell made his unholy alliance with Donald Trump in the first place. By his own admission, McConnell plays “the long game” (it’s the name of his memoir, in fact). He’s methodical in his scheming, awaiting his spoils with the patience of a cat. So if hitching his wagon to a sub-literate mob boss with a fondness for white supremacists and a penchant for conspiracy theories and a sociopath’s smirking disregard for the truth meant getting those tax cuts and those conservative judges … hey, that’s the cost of doing business, right?

The problem is that what goes around comes around:

For years now, the Republican Party has been radicalizing at a furious rate, moving rightward at a far faster clip than the Democrats have moved to the left. Political scientists even have a term for it: “asymmetrical polarization.” How we got to this frightening pass is complicated, but chief among the reasons is that the G.O.P. has been on a decades-long campaign to delegitimize government. Run against it long enough, and eventually you have a party that wants to burn the system to the ground.

McConnell, now on his seventh term, has been cynical and power-hungry enough to keep up with his party’s rightward lurch at every step.

When Republicans embraced the Southern Strategy, deciding that racial resentment — if not hatred — would power their rocket to the majority? No problem. His dalliance with the civil rights movement was only a youthful fling.

When the Republicans made their pact with social conservatives and evangelicals, realizing that pro-business policies couldn’t capture a majority’s imagination? No problem. He abandoned his support for abortion. (Yes, McConnell was once pro-choice.)

When anti-tax sentiment overtook the party’s desire to contain the deficit? No problem. He loved tax cuts, loved business, loved the rich (read Jane Mayer’s knockout McConnell profile from April for details about all the thumbs he has in moneyed pies).

When preserving power prerogatives overtook his party’s concerns about the former Soviet Union? No problem. McConnell refused to hear out warnings about Russian interference until weeks before the 2016 election (at which point he buried them), and he refused to consider bipartisan legislation that would attempt to curb foreign meddling until he earned himself the moniker “Moscow Mitch.”

When his party went from free trade to nativist populism, powered by xenophobia and racist resentment? Not a problem. He’d side with the populists, including their dangerous Dear Leader, until his workplace was overrun, five people were dead and the Constitution itself was among the critically injured.

Mitch has never been a profile in courage.

Image: BuzzFeed News

Monday, January 18, 2021

An Economic Fossil

Those who lobby for the fossil fuel industry claim that millions of Canadian jobs depend on the oil. Jim Stanford writes that the notion that Canada's economy is deeply dependent on oil is simply misinformation:

It is now undeniable: fossil fuels will disappear from most uses in the foreseeable future. And fossil-fuel industries will never again be an engine of economic growth and job creation in Canada.

Conventional wisdom portrays Canada as fundamentally dependent on extraction and export of natural resources – and fossil fuels are presently the biggest of these “staple” products. In hopes of delaying the inevitable, fossil-fuel lobbyists make exaggerated claims of their importance to the labour market, and predict economic disaster if their businesses are not protected and subsidized.

The statistical reality, however, is very different: fossil-fuel jobs constitute a very small portion of overall employment in Canada – less than 1 per cent. Their importance was already fading rapidly before COVID-19 hit. From 2014 through 2019, fossil-fuel industries lost 33,000 jobs, and their already-small share of total employment fell by one-quarter. Yet over the same period, Canada’s overall labour market strengthened steadily – achieving a record-low unemployment rate in 2019.

We are in a period of transition. But we have time to transition from an oil economy to a green energy economy:

The phase-out of fossil fuels will occur over decades, and that gives us time to plan for effective and fair employment transitions. We can enlist the normal mechanisms of change and adjustment that occur all the time in Canada’s diverse, fluid labour market, including retirements, voluntary entries and exits, interregional mobility, and job creation in growing industries.

The sooner we start planning for this transition, the easier it will be. For example, most existing fossil-fuel workers will retire over the next two decades, because they are older, on average, than the typical worker. By planning ahead, that natural turnover can take care of most of the gradual downsizing required. Senior workers in various locations can be encouraged to retire with incentives. Younger employees can keep working as the industry downsizes. Experience in other jurisdictions (such as Germany’s 20-year shutdown of black-coal mining) proves this can occur without a single involuntary layoff.

The hard part is accepting the notion that the fossil fuel industry is itself an economic fossil.

Image: The Guardian

Sunday, January 17, 2021

The Party Hasn't Changed

Erin O'Toole does not want the residents of Canada's prisons to be the first Canadians vaccinated. It's part of the old Stephen Harper playbook. Robin Sears writes:

Canadian conservatives since the Reform Party-era in the ‘80s have often skated too close to the line on Islamophobia, guns, refugees and Indigenous rights.

O’Toole needs to put a clear red line on the other side of those dangerous dog whistles. Instead he has renewed doubts.

Stephen Harper's Party were Northern Republicans -- and they  haven't changed:

Conservatives are admittedly masters at this American style of incendiary rhetoric, but it has trapped them with the same base — aging, rural and Western — for nearly two decades now. It perhaps signals some uneasiness in O’Toole’s caucus and activist base about giving up attack politics that he would do something as borderline racist as saying that no prisoners — or presumably therefore no prison employees — should receive a vaccination until every “other” Canadian has.

Is that really the message O’Toole has for Canadians about a more caring, less vitriolic Canadian conservatism? With a single foolish statement, he has gifted the Liberals and the NDP with a powerful weapon against him.

This week he doubled down, with someone in his camp authorizing an email conversation on his behalf with the bilious Ezra Levant and Rebel Media — the same collection of angry adolescents that helped bring down his predecessor. And the capper: a Tory fundraising page on the party’s website actually carried the headline, “Justin Trudeau is rigging the next election in his favour.” The page came down after the attack on Congress.

It would hard to think of a less appropriate time to be tempted to revive somewhat ominous slogans like “Take Back Canada” — it begs the question from whom and for whom? It should be retired after having been erased from everything with the party name on it. O’Toole did put out a statement last week saying most of the right things about white nationalism and the use of violent political rhetoric. But given the party’s record over the past two decades, that will not be good enough.

The Harper Party has changed its leader. But the party itself hasn't changed.

Image: The Toronto Star

Saturday, January 16, 2021

Condemned To Repeat History

Tony Burman writes that the United States is beginning to look like Germany in 1933:

Each day since the siege of the Capitol, there have been stunning revelations about what actually happened. The police response to the rioters was weak and ineffective, even though the FBI had warned beforehand that extremist groups were threatening “war” on Jan. 6 as Congress came back into session to ratify Biden’s election victory.

It is now regarded as the biggest threat to domestic national security, but the Trump administration has done virtually nothing about it.

The rioters were wearing the evidence of their Nazi-inspired violence:

At the storming of the Capitol, there were numerous examples of outright anti-Semitism. One Trump supporter, later arrested and identified by the FBI as Robert Packer of Virginia, wore a sweatshirt emblazoned with the phrase, “Camp Auschwitz.” The bottom of the shirt read: “Work brings freedom” — which is the rough translation of the phrase “Arbeit macht frei,” which was above the death camp gates as its victims entered.

Also among the rioters were many members of the far-right group, the Proud Boys, which has been praised by Trump. They were wearing T-shirts with the initials: “6MWE.” Referring to the Holocaust, those initials meant: “Six million (Jews) Weren’t Enough.”

After years of soft-pedalling of Trump’s true motivations, it is striking that there are many more references in the U.S. media these days wondering about the parallels between today’s America and Nazi Germany in the 1930s.

Those who refuse to learn from history are condemned to repeat it.

Image: HuffPost

Friday, January 15, 2021

It's Over

The relationship -- such as it was -- between Justin Trudeau and Donald Trump is over. Susan Delacourt writes

The last conversation between the two men was on Oct. 10, about a week after Trump had been diagnosed with COVID-19 and returned to work at the White House. Trudeau has not spoken to the outgoing president since — the longest stretch of silence between these leaders, even in very bad times.

So that’s it, then. All the attention and energy that Justin Trudeau and his government were forced to devote to Trump is already on its way to becoming a closed chapter in the history of Canada-U.S. relations. It ended while everyone’s attention, including that of the two leaders, was focused elsewhere in a tumultuous 2020.
It's not easy to maintain a relationship with someone who is both a sociopath and a moron. Trudeau would never be awarded points for maintaining such a relationship. But things should go better with Biden. As Justin's father said, it's difficult sleeping next to an elephant. Those difficulties are still there.

But, at least, we won't be sleeping next to a rogue elephant.

Image: Intervention Services

Thursday, January 14, 2021

His Final Days

Donald Trump has been impeached for the second time. It has been a speedy reckoning. Lawrence Martin writes:

What a spectacular fall it has been, in the space of just two months. The Republicans had emerged in decent shape after the election loss. Mr. Trump’s popularity was still high. Had he behaved like a normal human being during the transition, he was well placed to continue as the man in command.

But his crazed insistence that the election was stolen from him sealed his doom. It was confirmation that he was unhinged. His delusional rants divided Republicans, contributing to the loss, via two runoff election defeats in Georgia, of the party majority in the Senate and setting the conditions for the Capitol Hill convulsions.

Should the Senate move ahead and vote to convict Mr. Trump, it would likely mean he can never run for office again. It would be up to one of his children, probably the rabid Don Jr., to take up the banner.

Regardless of what Junior does in the future, the Trump financial empire is melting down.   Trump owes hundreds of millions of dollars, and the only bank willing to deal with him has cut him off.

The Orange Felon will spend the rest of his life in court, trying to fend off his reservation at The Gray Bar Hotel.


Wednesday, January 13, 2021

A Perfect Storm

Yesterday, Ontario premier Doug Ford issued a stay at home order. But Bruce Arthur writes that it's too little, too late:

Tuesday, Ontario’s scientific modelling painted a picture of COVID-19 catastrophe — of an unfolding long-term-care home massacre, of hospitals that run out of room, of a virus variant that could set everything on fire — and an hour later the premier walked out and said the system was on the brink of collapse. And all that was true.

And then Doug Ford issued an incomplete stay-at-home order that he said took five hours of cabinet debate to decide on, which sounds so absurd that it should have been livestreamed so the world could see. Faced with calamity, and in fact past a reasonable point of calamity, this government is staying true to itself: it is still choosing primarily to protect those who can protect themselves. And it’s giving itself someone to blame.

“The success of these measures will ultimately depend on you,” said Ford. “It will depend on each one of you. Because without all of us rowing in the same direction, this thing could get much worse. Just look at what’s happening in countries where the U.K. variant has taken hold. It’s a total disaster. And we’ve been told by officials it’s not a matter of if this new strain takes hold. It’s a matter of when it takes hold, and how wide it spreads.

Ford's government can't bring itself to do what must be done:

They just can’t bring themselves to truly lock it down, and take care of everyone they can. The stay-at-home order was so vague that the government gave conflicting details — you can go to your cottage, or you can’t — and legal parameters won’t be published until Wednesday. Schools in Toronto, Peel, York, Windsor-Essex and Hamilton will be closed until Feb. 11 — and it’s hard to say that they’ll reopen then — but daycare centres won’t close at all. Outdoor gatherings are down to five, as if that was the problem.

The province promises a blitz on big-box stores with too many people in them, a few weeks after encouraging shoppers to cram the non-lockdown malls. We are told to only leave our homes for essential trips, but also, non-essential retail stores have different hours now. And despite their non-essential nature, many aren’t closed.

And resolutely, Ontario once again eschewed paid sick leave for the much-infected working poor, which has been asked for by public health, by mayors, by the associate medical officer of health in the morning modelling press conference. Dr. Steini Brown, the rock-solid head of the province’s science table and dean of the Dalla Lana School of Public Heath at the University of Toronto, said any plan to truly reduce the virus would not work without it. It has been explained to the province that the federal paid sick leave benefit is clunky and insufficient.

When push comes to shove, Ford remains true to his core belief. Business takes primacy. And some thirty per cent of us refuse to follow public health directives. It's a perfect storm -- which allows the virus to spread.

Image: Behance

Tuesday, January 12, 2021

Beyond Redemption

Paul Krugman writes that what happened in Washington last week has been a long time coming. It began when the GOP started coddling the crazies:

This coddling of the crazies was, at first, almost entirely cynical. When the G.O.P. began moving right in the 1970s its true agenda was mainly economic — what its leaders wanted, above all, were business deregulation and tax cuts for the rich. But the party needed more than plutocracy to win elections, so it began courting working-class whites with what amounted to thinly disguised racist appeals.

Not incidentally, white supremacy has always been sustained in large part through voter suppression. So it shouldn’t be surprising to see right-wingers howling about a rigged election — after all, rigging elections is what their side is accustomed to doing. And it’s not clear to what extent they actually believe that this election was rigged, as opposed to being enraged that this time the usual vote-rigging didn’t work.

But it’s not just about race. Since Ronald Reagan, the G.O.P. has been closely tied to the hard-line Christian right. Anyone shocked by the prevalence of insane conspiracy theories in 2020 should look back to “The New World Order,” published by Reagan ally Pat Robertson in 1991, which saw America menaced by an international cabal of Jewish bankers, Freemasons and occultists. Or they should check out a 1994 video promoted by Jerry Falwell Sr. called “The Clinton Chronicles,” which portrayed Bill Clinton as a drug smuggler and serial killer.

Over the years, those on the fringe of the party became its centre:

For a long time Republican elites imagined that they could exploit racism and conspiracy theorizing while remaining focused on a plutocratic agenda. But with the rise first of the Tea Party, then of Donald Trump, the cynics found that the crazies were actually in control, and that they wanted to destroy democracy, not cut tax rates on capital gains.

Now the Republican party is in their thrall. And it can't be redeemed.

Image: The New York Times

Monday, January 11, 2021

Trump's Legacy

We now know what Donald Trump's legacy will be. Glen Pearson writes:

Only a week ago, commentators were saying that he might be the worst president in American history.  Now there is no doubt.  The endless footage of riots in and around the Capitol building put a sudden end to what had become a political and democratic tragedy.

That all this was occurring while a pandemic raged through the country, receiving scant attention from the occupant of the Oval Office, is a failure of major proportions.  That millions had lost their health coverage in the Trump era was of little significance to him.  And his endless fascination with Wall Street over Main Street while millions of citizens were without work was a kind of political blindness that was beginning to shake the country. 

Trump was never concerned about the conditions of his nation's citizens:

He enjoyed focusing on the hundreds of conservative judges he had appointed, including three to the Supreme Court.  The fact that the stock market continued to surge despite COVID seemed to convince him that he was a genius in economics.  But the joblessness, growing poverty, decline of cities, historic losses for small and medium-sized businesses, and the overcrowding of public health systems couldn’t hold his attention.

Trump’s four years, already highly controversial, have now ended in a fashion destined to denigrate his name and diminish any influence in the future.   A legacy is defined as “something long-lasting from an event or process.”  In Donald Trump’s case it was both – a process of four years of a mild kind of dystopia that was, in the end, eclipsed by one event that sealed his fate.  Conservatives are neither idiots nor fools, despite the actions of some of their more extreme elements.  The Trump-instigated riots of last week have proved too much for the sound conservative mind and have run counter to loyalty to the country.

He was always focused on himself -- to the detriment of everyone else. What happened last week was the inevitable result of one man's monumental ignorance and an insane need for approval.


Sunday, January 10, 2021

What Were They Thinking?

In the midst of the COVID crisis, some of our political leaders have disgraced themselves. Robin Sears writes:

In today’s crisis, some of our political leaders thought they should be on a Caribbean beach, instead of building morale and confidence as the COVID bombs drop more and more frequently across the country. The outrage at their stupidity and hypocrisy is well-earned, and will leave lasting scars on personal and political party brands. As someone who has advised political leaders for much of my career, my question is: What were these fools thinking?

This has been as testing a year on the social solidarity of Canadians as any in our history. We are fed up with the excuses, prevarications and unbelievable explanations for the failures in testing — and now, vaccinating — Canadians. The trust most leaders generated early in the pandemic now hangs by a thread. Canadians have been willing to endure all the sacrifices, because we believed that the rich, the powerful and the elites would not get to jump any queues, get any special treatment or be allowed to cheerfully violate onerous rules.

As the last two weeks have revealed, that faith sat on a shaky foundation of concealment, hypocrisy and lies by too many politicians and staffers of every party. Some even whined that they thought they were entitled to cheat because they had “worked so hard all year.” Really? Worked harder than an ICU nurse who has been pulling twelve-hour shifts for nearly a year? Staggering. Unforgivably, these selfish fools have undermined Canadians’ willingness to abide by tough pandemic rules.

It's clear that some of us think they're beyond the rules. Leading that parade are Doug Ford and Jason Kenney:

Each took a serious blunder and then made it worse. In their public performance they behaved with the arrogance and insensitivity that each built their career on attacking in others.

Ford expressed outrage at his finance minister’s St. Barts lollapalooza of a holiday — three weeks on one of the world’s most expensive resort islands, while his province was being locked down. His rage was less convincing when he admitted he had known where Rod Phillips was for two weeks, but had not chosen to tell Ontarians or fire Phillips until the story broke.

This week Kenney changed his story again. He said he was told of Huckabay’s trip when his chief was on the way to the airport. He admitted he did not order him to return. Why? He still refuses to release the names of his MLAs who have yet to admit that they too were members of the gang of fools. At least he admitted how badly he had damaged Albertans faith in their government.

Kenney's and Ford's failure will follow them into the future.

Image: Press Progress

Saturday, January 09, 2021

Now Is The Time

Lawrence Martin writes that Donald Trump has got to go -- now:

The storming of the Capitol building, more akin to something you might see in Belarus, was brought on by the monstrous fiction that Mr. Trump had somehow been cheated out of what he called a “landslide” election victory. Many Americans shamefully imbibed the poppycock. If they’re not embarrassed now, they should be, as should be the Canadians who have supported this President.

As the day of infamy ended, the mad king said he would go peacefully but ominously warned, “It’s only the beginning of our fight to Make America Great Again.” He should be taken at his word. If he isn’t stopped, more insurrections will come.

The question is whether Republican Party members will find a way of putting a nail in the coffin he has just rolled out for himself. Lawmakers talked of the possibility of invoking the 25th Amendment to remove him from office. It should happen. But his cabinet is likely too cowardly and sycophantic to pursue it.

It's clear two days after the riot that Republicans won't do that. They and their party are morally bankrupt. So the only option left is to impeach Trump a second time -- and put every one of the Republican congressional caucus on the record. The names of those who vote to allow Trump to stay should live in infamy.

Image: The Guardian

Friday, January 08, 2021

Careening To The Precipice

Yesterday, Doug Ford announced that all schools in Ontario will be closed until January 25th. Bruce Arthur writes:

There go the schools, and maybe it’s ironic. This is, after all, the province that refuses to learn anything as the pandemic spreads, and the way it’s failing the test has been predictable as a result. On Thursday neither the premier nor the education minister bothered to be the ones to say that Ontario schools will stay virtual through Jan. 25, save for the seven northern health units that have yet to be overrun. For parents, it’s a last-minute blow. A lot of people are scrambling again.

But it’s just one symptom of Ontario’s failure, and now we’re at the point where the province needs to make the hard choices. Either this province pairs the closures with actual lockdowns — which means no more skin-care product manufacturers open, after first-wave essential businesses included a private jet manufacturer — or the health-care system probably falters in a lot of places, and more besides.

The province's health care system is close to collapse:

There are backup morgues in London and Windsor, and a field hospital in Burlington, and record numbers everywhere you look: daily cases, active cases, hospitalizations, ICU patients, and deaths — 89 on Wednesday, a single-day high for the entire pandemic.

In the southwest, patients have been transferred from Windsor to Sarnia and Chatham-Kent. Peel was sending patients as far away as Barrie before Christmas. Within weeks, the bubble could stretch to Sudbury.

And, if the health care system fails, everything else folds. Ford's government was warned this could happen. And it has.

Image: NPR

Thursday, January 07, 2021

A Catalyst For Evil

Yesterday, Donald Trump unleashed his mob on Washington. With fourteen days to go in his presidency, Americans -- and the rest of the world -- have the full measure of the man. But Trump alone is not responsible for what happened. Conservative columnist George Will writes:

The three repulsive architects of Wednesday’s heartbreaking spectacle — mobs desecrating the Republic’s noblest building and preventing the completion of a constitutional process — must be named and forevermore shunned. They are Donald Trump, and Sens. Josh Hawley and Ted Cruz.

Trump lit the fuse for the riot in the weeks before the election, with his successful effort to delegitimize the election in the eyes of his supporters. But Wednesday’s explosion required the help of Hawley (R-Mo.) and Cruz (R-Tex.).

Hawley and Cruz made Trump's rhetoric actionable. Both men have law degrees from Yale and Harvard. Both studied constitutional law. And both knew what they were doing. Will pulls no punches:

Hawley announced his intention to object to the certification of some states’ electoral votes, for no better reason than that there has been an avalanche of “allegations” of election irregularities, allegations fomented by the loser of the election. By doing so, Hawley turned what should have been a perfunctory episode in our civic liturgy of post-election civility into a synthetic drama. He turned this moment into the focus of the hitherto unfocused fury that Trump had been stoking for many weeks.

And Cruz, by organizing support for Hawley among other Republican senators and senators-elect gave Hawley’s grotesque self-promotion an ersatz cloak of larger purpose. Shortly before the mob breached the Senate chamber, Cruz stood on the Senate floor. With his characteristic unctuousness, he regretted the existence of what he and kindred spirits have not only done nothing to refute but have themselves nurtured — a pandemic of suspicions that the election was “rigged.”

“I want to take a moment to speak to my Democratic colleagues,” said Cruz. “I understand your guy is winning right now.” Read those weasely words again. He was not speaking to his “colleagues.” He was speaking to the kind people who were at that instant assaulting the Capitol. He was nurturing the very delusions that soon would cause louts to be roaming the Senate chamber — the fantasy that Joe Biden has not won the election but is only winning “right now.”

Trump, Hawley, and Cruz are proof that an Ivy League education does not vaccinate you from evil. In fact, it can serve as a catalyst for evil.

Wednesday, January 06, 2021

About to Be Lanced

Awa Mahdawi writes that she receives nasty comments these days:

"Go back home to your third-world country,” a helpful stranger told me on Twitter recently. I get comments like this a lot, often appended with a witty comment about my name. Normally they don’t bother me. But this particular jibe was just after Christmas and it hit a nerve because, guess what? I’d love to go back home to England. I live in New York and it’s been more than a year since I’ve seen my family and friends in London. Part of me feels homesick, but the other part of me isn’t sure what I’m actually homesick for. When I read the news about Britain, I feel as if I barely recognise the country I was born in any more.

That reaction is part of the new Brexit Britain. There comes a time when we all learn that we can't go home again. The Montreal I grew up in no longer exists. If I want to go there, I turn to a novel by Mordecai Richler.

And there are always things about home that rub you the wrong way. Mahdawi does not deny Britain's pre-Brexit flaws. But it's depressing when things get really ugly:

I don’t want to romanticise pre-Brexit Britain. The country was not exactly an accepting utopia before the referendum. But Brexit unleashed something new and nasty: almost overnight, many people who were seen as in any way “foreign” felt unwelcome and out of place. Things seem to have got progressively worse ever since. Theresa May’s anti-immigration “citizens of nowhere” speech felt like a slap in the face. The premiership of Boris “piccaninnies” Johnson has felt like a punch in the gut. The government has been crammed with self-serving and out-of-touch ghouls such as Priti Patel and Jacob Rees-Mogg – a man who thinks that food banks are “uplifting”.

 What really depresses Mahdawi is the self-dealing:

It’s not just the government’s callousness that is depressing, it’s hearing from afar about the rampant cronyism and ruinous incompetence. Shorn of the softening effects of day to day interactions with kindly neighbours, close communities and good friends, to the international spectator Britain has become the world stage equivalent of the angry drunk who refuses to acknowledge it’s closing time. Being British had some cachet when I moved to the US a decade ago; now it just feels embarrassing.

Britain isn't the only example of this kind of rot. Today, in Washington, that rot comes to a head. The good news is that it looks like the infection is about to be lanced.

Image: Sound Health And Lasting Wealth

Tuesday, January 05, 2021

Liberty Or Death?

Democracies around the world are having a hard time containing COVID. Glen Pearson writes:

Democracies increasingly look incapable of containing the spread – not because governments aren’t trying, but because citizens themselves, confined for months, feel inclined to gather, despite the consequences.  Some experts are already claiming that another wave, fueled by a morphing virus, is about ready to break upon us.  As democracies succumb to the mounting caseloads, evidence is emerging that our citizenship ultimately lacks the collective and individual disciplines that guard our security.

All of our wealth, health systems, social supports, political structures, and information technology appear unable to keep a portion of us from putting the rest at risk.  Though mostly unintentional, the need to be free is placing our collective freedom in jeopardy.  And regardless of one’s opinion on this development – and there are many – the rise in cases and hospitalizations has now become a democratic and political problem.  2021 might well exacerbate those dimensions more than 2020 ever did.

The battle is between individual liberty and public health. It shouldn't be that way, If you're dead, you can't take advantage of the fruits of democracy. But there are those among us who believe their ability to do as they choose is more important than the commonweal.

Image: Pinterest

Monday, January 04, 2021

His Next Public Residence

There is nothing Donald Trump won't do to stay in office. The lastest evidence is the telephone call he made to Georgia's Secretary of State. Jennifer Rubin writes:

The Post reports: “President Trump urged fellow Republican Brad Raffensperger, the Georgia secretary of state, to ‘find’ enough votes to overturn his defeat in an extraordinary one-hour phone call Saturday that election experts said raised legal questions.” In the call, Trump asked Raffensperger to change the certified vote that was subject to multiple recounts: “So look. All I want to do is this. I just want to find 11,780 votes, which is one more than we have. Because we won the state.”

In fact he threatened him. The Post reports, “During their conversation, Trump issued a vague threat to both Raffensperger and Ryan Germany, the secretary of state’s general counsel, suggesting that if they don’t find that thousands of ballots in Fulton County have been illegally destroyed to block investigators — an allegation for which there is no evidence — they would be subject to criminal liability.” Trump, sounding like a mobster as he often does, said, “That’s a criminal offense. And you can’t let that happen. That’s a big risk to you and to Ryan, your lawyer.” Nice career, there Brad. Shame if anything happened to it.

Senator Susan Collins said she believed impeachment had taught Trump a lesson. Obviously, it didn't. This is the same tactic Trump used on the president of Ukraine. Trump hasn't learned a thing -- but he has earned an expense paid trip to the gray bar hotel. 

After January 20th, he'll begin his long and convoluted trip to his next public residence.

Image: The Brag

Sunday, January 03, 2021

The Death Of Reaganism

Paul Krugman writes that 2020 was the year when Reaganism died:

This year is closing out with a second demonstration of the lesson we should have learned in the spring: In times of crisis, government aid to people in distress is a good thing, not just for those getting help, but for the nation as a whole. Or to put it a bit differently, 2020 was the year Reaganism died.

What I mean by Reaganism goes beyond voodoo economics, the claim that tax cuts have magical power and can solve all problems. After all, nobody believes in that claim aside from a handful of charlatans and cranks, plus the entire Republican Party.

No, I mean something broader — the belief that aid to those in need always backfires, that the only way to improve ordinary people’s lives is to make the rich richer and wait for the benefits to trickle down. This belief was encapsulated in Ronald Reagan’s famous dictum that the most terrifying words in English are “I’m from the government, and I’m here to help.”

True, there wasn't enough aid and more -- much more -- is still needed. But 2020 illustrated a simple truth: government can make people's lives better:

All this big-government intervention worked. Despite a lockdown that temporarily eliminated 22 million jobs, poverty actually fell while the assistance lasted.

Nor did huge government borrowing have the dire consequences deficit scolds always predict. Interest rates stayed low, while inflation remained quiescent.

Republicans in the United States and the Conservative Party of Canada embraced Reaganism as dogma. 2020 was the year that proved they have worshipped a false god for a very long time.

Image: Peter Trumbore

Saturday, January 02, 2021

A Dumb Dumb Mistake

This week, Rod Phillips returned from his Caribbean Christmas vacation and was dumped from Doug Ford's cabinet. Steve Paikin writes:

When, a few years ago, Rod Phillips announced his intention to run for a seat at Queen’s Park, conservatives everywhere were pretty pleased.

Phillips was exactly the kind of candidate the Progressive Conservative party had hoped to attract. At that time in his early 50s, he had the perfect blend of experience in both the political back rooms and the private sector of the province. He’d been chief of staff to both a respected former Tory cabinet minister (Elizabeth Witmer), and a former Toronto mayor (Mel Lastman). He was at the side of then PC leader John Tory, through the 2007 Ontario election campaign.

He’d worked for some of the best companies in the private sector, including KPMG, Morneau-Shepell, and Goodman’s LLP, eventually becoming chair of the board of Postmedia, whose properties include the National Post, Toronto Sun, and Ottawa Citizen.

He also had experience in the public and voluntary sectors, as president and CEO of Ontario Lottery and Gaming, and chair of CivicAction, a non-profit.

In other words, Rod Phillips is not a dumb guy. He just can’t be to have achieved all of that.

Yet, when he returned to Pearson Airport he met the press, saying that he had made a "dumb, dumb mistake."

How could such a smart guy do something so stupid? The Greeks knew something about hubris. They knew that smart people made very stupid decisions. And the consequences of those decisions could be catastrophic.

Image: Life In the Realm Of Fantasy