Monday, May 31, 2021

King Coal In Alberta

The Grassy Narrows Project is a proposal to establish open-pit coal mining in the southern Canadian Rockies. A panel will soon decide whether or not to approve the proposal. Andrew Nikiforuk writes:

If the panel gives the contentious metallurgical coal mine a green light, the doors could open for other existing proposals that could industrialize nearly 1,000 square kilometres of the Rockies and threaten the region’s scarce water supplies.

Much hinges on the panel’s report and recommendations that will be submitted to federal Minister of Environment and Climate Change Jonathan Wilkinson next month.

Unsurprisingly, Jason Kenney is a full-throated supporter of the project:

For starters, the Alberta government of Jason Kenney has strongly championed Australian metallurgical coal developers as an important new source of jobs and revenue that could replace shrinking oilsands developments in the province.

All the steel-making coal would be shipped to Vancouver-area terminals for export to China or India.

In addition, the province and the Coal Association of Canada, directed by former Alberta Tory environment minister Colin Campbell, have tried to sell open-pit coal mining as a form of “reconciliation” that can enrich First Nations.

Meanwhile, the Kenney government hopes the Grassy Mountain Coal Project, owned by right-wing political activist and Australian billionaire Gina Rinehart, will be the first of eight proposed mines in the watershed of the Oldman River which, in turn, feeds the South Saskatchewan River.

As the market for Alberta oil dries up, Kenney is betting that Asia will buy up huge chunks of Alberta carbon.

Keep your eye on this one.

Image: People's World

Sunday, May 30, 2021

O'Toole And Bojo

Susan Delacourt writes that the Conservative Party of Canada has hired the social media firm that helped Boris Johnson rise to power:

As my Star colleagues Stephanie Levitz and Alex Boutilier have reported, O’Toole’s team has hired not one, but two consultancy firms with ties to Johnson’s victories: Topham Guerin for social media and Stack Data Strategies for political analytics.

We can divine two conclusions from these contracts: the Conservatives are serious about the looming data war with the Liberals and they don’t intend to play nice.

How not-nice? Well, let’s put it this way: I had to consult the Star’s taste and language policies to write about Topham Guerin’s claims to fame. It is OK, I learned, to use raw language if it’s in quotation marks, so here is a little snippet from an article on how Topham Guerin wages the social-media war.

“One of the tactics that Topham Guerin has become especially known for are ‘shitposts’ — a meme of obvious and usually ironic bad quality to troll its reader,” according to an interview with the firm’s founders, which appeared last year in an online New Zealand magazine called The Spinoff.

So be prepared. The next election is going to be very nasty:

Here’s Ben Guerin himself in that Spinoff interview: “Instead of having a big bonfire in a campaign, you have lots of little fires.”

There’s your preview of the next election campaign on social media: “lots of little fires.” Well, and don’t forget, s—posts too. (Please note the taste-sensitive spelling.)

This news comes on reports this week about what life is like on HMS Bojo:

Dominic Cummings was unable to vouch for Johnson’s judgment in picking advisers. “It’s just completely crackers that someone like me should have been in there,” said the man who was called Johnson’s Svengali; the second-most-powerful man in Britain.

All of this is deeply unsettling news.

Image: POLITICO. Europe

Saturday, May 29, 2021

It's A Hard Rain That's Gonna Fall

The Republican Senate has killed a bipartisan committee to investigate the assault on the American Capitol on January 6th. Karen Tumulty writes:

You’ve got to at least give Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) some credit for candor.
In pressing Senate Republicans to kill the idea of an independent commission to investigate the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol by supporters of then-President Donald Trump, McConnell did not bother to disguise the fact that he was making a cravenly political calculation.

So, yes, it's all about politics. But, if you look a little deeper, what's really going on is truly disturbing:

The more dangerous truth is that a not-insignificant portion of the GOP’s Trumpian base actually appears to believe that the violent mob was justified in its effort to disrupt Congress as it conducted its pro forma tally of the electoral votes that made Joe Biden the 46th president.
These are the people who have bought into Trump’s lie that the 2020 election was stolen from him, and who share at least some of the unhinged theories that fuel the QAnon movement.
A new poll released by the nonpartisan Public Religion Research Institute and the Interfaith Youth Core shows that these dangerous and conspiratorial beliefs are not confined to the country’s dank backwaters.
Fully 20 percent of more than 5,500 adults questioned in all 50 states — and 28 percent of Republicans among them — said they agreed with the statement that “there is a storm coming soon that will sweep away the elites in power and restore the rightful leaders.”
Even more worrisome were the 15 percent overall — and, again, 28 percent of Republicans — who were of the opinion that because “things have gotten so off track, true American patriots may have to resort to violence in order to save our country.”

As Bob Dylan wrote decades ago, "it's a hard, hard rain that's gonna fall."


Friday, May 28, 2021

Chill Out

The doomsayers are out in full force. The economy will overheat, they say. Inflation will run wild. It will be the 1970s all over again! Paul Krugman's advice is to take a deep breath and exhale -- slowly:

Chill out, everyone. Mostly we’re just experiencing the economic equivalent of a moment of wheelspin.

OK, there are some real issues involving current events that need discussing — and some of the continuing discussions, shockingly, involve serious debates among serious people. How much are closed schools and lack of child care keeping mothers out of the paid labor force? Are enhanced unemployment benefits making workers reluctant to take low-paying jobs?

And there are genuine questions about where we’ll be next year. Might the economy start to overheat, forcing the Fed to tap on the brakes to head off longer-term inflation? I don’t think that’s the most likely outcome, but it’s certainly a possibility.

Most of the scare headlines right now, however, reflect what you’d expect to see in an economy that’s trying to go from 0 to 60 in seconds flat.

Krugman cautions his readers to remember where we've been:

At the beginning of this year, the United States was still very much in the depths of the pandemic. Daily deaths were higher than ever, with Covid-19 taking more than 3,500 lives in the country every day. Parts of the economy that depend on close physical contact were largely frozen: According to the restaurant booking service, there were about 60 percent fewer seated diners than there had been during the comparable period prepandemic.

Then came an extraordinarily successful vaccination campaign. Deaths have plunged more than 85 percent and are still dropping. As fear recedes, the economy is surging, in what may end up being the fastest recovery ever. For example, restaurant bookings are already almost back to normal.

Why would anyone imagine us able to achieve that kind of sudden acceleration without leaving a few skid marks, and maybe even burning some rubber?

Mainly, however, we’re just seeing the problems you’d expect when the economy tries to roar ahead from a standing start, which means that we’re calling on suppliers to ramp up production incredibly fast and expecting employers to quickly attract a large number of new workers. These problems are real, but they’ll mostly resolve themselves in a few months.

Yes, labor supply issues may have held back April’s job growth, although more recent data suggest a possible rebound. April inflation surprised on the upside, largely because of used car prices. None of this tells you anything at all about how much we should worry about overheating, let alone how much more we should be spending on infrastructure and family support (answer: a lot) or how we should pay for these initiatives (answer: tax corporations and the rich).

What's the bottom line? "The virus is losing, and the economy is winning."

Image: USA Today

Thursday, May 27, 2021

Ford's Bad Debt

Charles McVety is not getting his university. Martin Regg Cohn writes:

Canada Christian College will not be granted coveted university status, as it hoped and prayed, despite the premier’s best efforts to lay the groundwork. Praise the Lord, not Ford.

Thanks to a panel of outside experts, CCC president “Dr.” Charles McVety has just been denied the political payoff that would have perverted our post-secondary schools. Yet the stench that still wafts over the premier and the preacher cannot so easily be waved off.

Ford tried hard to give McVety his university:

Last October, with the province preoccupied by life and death questions over COVID-19, Ford’s Tories snuck in little-noticed legislation to upgrade McVety’s fledgling bible college into a full-fledged university. But accrediting it to confer B.A. and BSc. degrees would only have discredited, devalued and downgraded our entire post-secondary system.

Nothing could dissuade Ford’s Tories from using their majority to pass the legislation, except for the independent Post-secondary Education Quality Assessment Board. Its expert panel rarely steps in, but it saw through the mirage of McVety’s posturing — pedagogical and theological, ideological and political — and put its foot down last week.

Its full report has not been released, but enough is now known about McVety and his Canada Christian College to render the rejection inevitable: his personal notoriety (public homophobia and Islamophobia); questionable propriety (six-figure seemingly unsecured loans to McVety and his son); and dubious academic credibility (its degrees challenged by a provincial regulator).

Much has been written about Ford seeing the light last year when COVID-19 struck, rising from the political dead and rallying his government to do its best, for better or for worse. But its cynical manoeuvres on CCC last October brought out the worst in the premier, who would sell his soul — and sell out the province — to make good on a bad debt.

Ford owes much of his political success to McVety. McVety's evangelical fold followed him into Ford's tent. But things are not yet finished:

Now that the application has finally been rejected, it must be rescinded from the law books — and not allowed to live on lest it be enacted by cabinet fiat in future. If the government refuses, if it does nothing to correct this legislative limbo, it will be an accomplice to McVety’s future plotting.

And McVety is threatening repercussions:

His public reaction to the rejection was to threaten a lawsuit, demonizing PEQAB’s experts for doing the devil’s work and accusing them of “political corruptness.” Now, the preacher speaks darkly of litigation in lieu of transfiguration — religious and academic.

“I will defend myself now, over time, because I love gay people and I love Muslims,” he protested to the Star’s Kristin Rushowy last week.

In fact, this personal friend of the premier has publicly claimed that, “according to Jesus Christ, we have to love Muslims, but we don’t have to love Islam;” he warns that “Islam is not just a religion, it’s a … mandate for a hostile takeover;” he describes same-sex marriage as “a dagger in the heart of man;” he decries sex education as a “militant homosexual agenda;” and he preaches that “homosexuals prey on children.”

The story continues. . .

Image: Press Progress

Wednesday, May 26, 2021

Who Will Drive Social Change?

Duncan Cameron writes that, historically, the working class has driven social change. But that trend has been reversed:

Today while the world faces growing inequalities, environmental destruction, and rapid climate change, members of the working class, abandoned by their representatives and attacked by governments, have joined the right-wing populist insurrection in alarming numbers.

Without the working class where are the agents of progressive social change? In his latest work, French economist Thomas Piketty points out that support for parties of the left now comes from the more educated strata of society.

How to organize and mobilize the highly educated seems less than obvious.

Within the context of corporate control over the political process, the women's movement has been the most powerful social force operating outside the mainstream, and could be expected to be a source of support for an alternative agenda.

The reality is that political parties of the left have to re-invent themselves as anti-capitalist formations. Issues of inequality, environmental degradation and rapid climate can all be traced back to how we produce goods and services and exploit resources.

We have been living with a corporate agenda for a long time now. And the consequences are everywhere. The most obvious consequences have been on the planet itself. Cameron believes that left-wing parties must focus on the future of the planet:

Left political parties have to reinvent themselves. Ideas for change need to be central to what they do. There is no point in waiting for an election to campaign on the issues that matter to people. Large numbers of engaged members are needed if left parties are to become agents of change.

A message of hope -- we can organize ourselves differently -- needs widespread attention from the public.

Food for thought.

Image: The American Prospect

Tuesday, May 25, 2021

More Lessons From COVID

COVID should have taught us many lessons. Andrew Nikiforuk has enumerated 10 of them. Robert Reich has added another 8. Here are three of the most important:

1. Workers are always essential.

We couldn't have survived without millions of warehouse, delivery, grocery, and hospital workers literally risking their lives. Yet most of these workers are paid squat. Amazon touts its $15 minimum wage but it totals only about $30,000 a year. Most essential workers still don't have health insurance or paid leave. Many of their employers (including Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk, to take but two examples) didn't give them the personal protective equipment they needed.

2. Healthcare is a basic right.

You know how you got your vaccine without paying a dime? That's how all health care could be. Yet too many Americans who contracted COVID-19 got walloped with humongous hospital bills. By mid-2020, about 3.3 million people had lost employer-sponsored coverage, and the number of uninsured increased by 1.9 million. Research by the Urban Institute found that people with chronic disease, Black Americans, and low-income children were most likely to have delayed or forgone care during the pandemic.

3. Billionaires aren't the answer.

The combined wealth of America's 657 billionaires grew by $1.3 trillion—or 44.6 percent—during the pandemic. Jeff Bezos, with $183.9 billion, became the richest man in the U.S. and the world. Larry Page, cofounder of Google, added $11.8 billion to his $94.3 billion fortune, and Sergey Brin, Google's other cofounder, added $11.4 billion. Yet billionaire's taxes are lower than ever. Wealthy Americans today pay one-sixth the rate of taxes their counterparts paid in 1953.

These are the kind of lessons that should come as a slap across the face. We'll see if that's what happens.

Image: Alamy

Monday, May 24, 2021

A Political Animal

Republican House Leader Kevin McCarthy is a political animal -- a totally political animal. Michelle Cottle writes:

Last week, he set heads shaking by announcing his opposition to the bill establishing a bipartisan commission to investigate the Jan. 6 sacking of the U.S. Capitol. The legislative negotiations had been led on the Republican side, reportedly at Mr. McCarthy’s explicit request, by Representative John Katko of New York. But Mr. McCarthy and his leadership team urged members to reject the deal, leaving Mr. Katko twisting in the wind. The plan passed on Wednesday. Thirty-five Republicans supported it, in what was viewed as a rebuke of Mr. McCarthy.

But one shouldn't be too quick to write McCarthy off:

What he really, really wants now is the speaker’s gavel, which hovers just a few precious seats beyond his grasp. If Mitch McConnell, the ruthless, calculating Senate Republican leader, is a shark, Mr. McCarthy is a jellyfish, carried spinelessly along by the political currents.

These days, such inchoate non-leadership is the best that House Republicans can hope for. In fact, that’s what they demand. In a conference increasingly dominated by Trumpian trolls (See: Marjorie Taylor Greene, Madison Cawthorn, Lauren Boebert, Louie Gohmert, Paul Gosar, Mo Brooks…), maintaining serious order is out of the question. Forestalling total anarchy requires a leader with an extraordinary gift for abject appeasement. It’s equal parts feeding the base the unhinged grievance it craves, while still keeping members from less Trumpy districts on board.

Mr. McCarthy has shown himself to be that leader, and he deserves recognition for rising — or rather sinking — to meet the moment.

Sometimes being a jellyfish will get you what you want.


Sunday, May 23, 2021

No Longer A World Leader

There was a time -- not long ago -- when Britain was a world leader in international aid. Simon Rawnsley writes:

It was at a meeting of the rich democracies’ club in Scotland in 2005 that Tony Blair cajoled the other leaders to commit to big increases in international aid. The signatories included George W Bush, a Republican US president, Jacques Chirac, a Gaullist French one, and Silvio Berlusconi, the bunga-bunga prime minister of Italy. This was not an act of charity, but of self-interested altruism. The pledge recognised that it is in the long-term interests of the affluent democracies for developing countries to be less exposed to poverty, disease, instability, conflict and extremism.

Gordon Brown stuck to the commitment even after the great crash of 2008 triggered the worst financial crisis since the 1930s. David Cameron enshrined in law the undertaking to meet the UN target of spending 0.7% of national income on aid. He did so even as his government imposed austerity at home. When rightwing Tories complained, their then leader riposted that it would be morally reprehensible for a wealthy country such as Britain to try to balance its books on the backs of the world’s poor. The commitment continued under Theresa May and made it into the 2019 Tory manifesto signed by Boris Johnson.

Johnson has not honoured his signature:

The pledge was cast aside last year, the Covid-induced “domestic fiscal emergency” being deployed by Rishi Sunak as the justification for inflicting devastating reductions in the support for some of the world’s most marginalised people. No other major western government has thought it sensible or ethical to cut international aid in the middle of a pandemic. A prime minister not as impervious to embarrassment as Mr Johnson might squirm at the thought of hosting the G7 when its other members are responding to the crisis by sustaining or boosting their aid budgets.

The cuts have come in two waves. There was a first last year in response to the expected contraction in the economy and a decision to switch aid spending to dealing with the pandemic. The second wave, the consequence of breaking what is supposed to be a legally binding commitment to the UN target, has been happening since the beginning of this year. The overall effect is to take out about a third of the aid budget over just two years. That would be extremely painful even if it were done carefully and with a view to protecting the most fragile countries. The evidence suggests that the cuts are being executed with a slapdash crudity that magnifies the damage and inflicts the worst of them on the most vulnerable. The government’s own commission on aid impact has just released a withering report into the first wave of cuts last summer. Civil servants were given no more than seven working days to decide where the axe should fall, among those cuts a £730m reduction in bilateral aid based on economic forecasts that proved to be too gloomy. Ministers spent just seven hours discussing £2.9bn of cuts, which were then predominantly imposed on the world’s poorest countries, the opposite of what they said would happen.

For those who have followed Mr. Johnson's career, none of this is surprising.


Saturday, May 22, 2021

A Bad Moon Rising

Michael Gerson writes that American politics is now being conducted under the threat of violence:

Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.), who has a talent for constructive bluntness, describes a political atmosphere within the GOP heavy with fear. “If you look at the vote to impeach,” she said recently, “there were members who told me that they were afraid for their own security — afraid, in some instances, for their lives.” The events of Jan. 6 have only intensified the alarm. When Donald Trump insists he is “still the rightful president,” Cheney wrote in an op-ed for The Post, he “repeats these words now with full knowledge that exactly this type of language provoked violence on Jan. 6.”

Violence is at Donald Trump's core:

Trump has made a point of encouraging violence against protesters at his rallies (“knock the crap out of them”), excusing violence by his supporters (people "with tremendous passion and love for their country”) and generally acting like a two-bit mob boss. He publicly supported Kyle Rittenhouse, the teenager charged with homicide in the killing of two people in Kenosha, Wis. (Rittenhouse has pleaded not guilty.) He embraced Mark and Patricia McCloskey for brandishing guns at peaceful marchers in St. Louis. He deployed federal security forces to break heads in Lafayette Square.

That violence exploded on January 6th. Now, Republicans who were targets of that violence are trying to bury an investigation into it. And they are desperately seeking to change the rules around elections to ensure their rule -- even though that rule is supported by a clear minority. The signs are not good:

Compared with the utter chaos of previous efforts, this time there seems to be a strategy at work. First, undermine Republican confidence in the electoral system and stoke the party’s sense of grievance. Second, modify state election laws to try to discourage Democratic (and particularly minority) turnout. Third, replace or intimidate state election officials who show any hints of independence or integrity.

The first goal has been achieved: In a recent poll, more than two-thirds of Republicans denied the legitimacy of Joe Biden’s election as president. Results on the second goal (so far) have been mixed. Republican “reforms” have made the system marginally less fair than the status quo, but not quite as bad as some feared.

The third goal is where the threat of violence has mattered most. Officials who held the line against electoral corruption in 2020 have been worn down by threats. Some have retired or been forced out of office. State legislators who didn’t act as reliable partisans have been targeted and intimidated. All who resist Trump’s will know they will be singled out by name. They will be exposed to political jeopardy and physical peril, particularly from activists who view the right to bear arms as the right to make armed threats.

The signs don't look good. There's a bad moon rising.

Image: The Arts Fuse

Friday, May 21, 2021

COVID Speaks

Andrew Nikiforuk, in The Tyee, gives COVID a voice. It's a must-read piece. The virus offers ten lessons. I'll only deal with three of those lessons. 

The first involves eternal growth:

Do you think your kind can just keep growing forever? Not even bacteria live such a fiction.

Maybe you should have listened to that German economist who said, “Man makes his own history but not always as he pleases.” Well, that’s me, a cultivator of displeasure.

Your overshoot is of another dangerous nature. Your future is no longer a reflection of your past, because you do not understand the dynamics of complexity in your own networked universe, let alone mine.

Since my last truly memorable visit in 1918 with my Spanish Flu (and it wasn’t Spanish, but no matter), you have made the world more connected and more complex with your machines and systems. You never bothered to calculate how steam ships could transform influenza from a regional delight to a global scourge, did you? Let me thank you again for that splendid innovation.

Every day you multiply this hazard. Every time you add another airplane route to a finite planet you accelerate the speed of my viral servants. All seems stable until your complexity brings down the house with a well-transported contagion on every doorstep.

Growth does not raise all boats. And the virus simply sinks many of them. 

The second lesson is inequity:

Show me a pandemic that equally afflicted the rich and the poor? I know. I have not made one. Your kind underestimates my unprogressive nature, which holds but a mirror to the flaws of your social relations.

My coronavirus has struck down the usual victims: the poor; immigrants who must work of a living; people of colour burdened with disease because they have no access to health care. People incarcerated in buildings like cattle in feedlots. It never ceases to amaze me how you concentrate people and animals in the name of efficiency, heedless of the inevitable biological price to pay.

The reality is this. Pandemics like myself don’t create inequalities. We merely exploit them and play with the opportunities.

The third lesson is all about hubris:

Your vulnerability is a product of your hubris. Think of me, this fine pandemic, as a Mongolian cavalry probing the defenses of an overconfident Chinese city. Even after SARS and Ebola (you can’t say I didn’t provide a fair warning), I marveled at your porous defenses. All about my feet I found a global tableau of disbelief, denial and timidity.

Almost everywhere I ventured, I found the powerful unprepared and inattentive. I moved through open borders and took advantage of overextended supply chains. I found politicians who minimized me as another “flu.” Your leaders actually believed that they could muddle through an extreme event with impunity.

Everywhere I probed, I discovered familiar vulnerabilities. I found a stubborn resistance to act quickly and a denial of the exponential function. I found the precautionary principle abandoned like an orphan on the Silk Road. I found an expert class reluctant to don masks or to consider the dominance of aerosol transmission. I found democracies who stupidly elected to fight a viral fire in their hospitals instead of in their communities or at their borders.

In sum, I found inept bureaucracies incapable of managing catastrophic risk led by a callous political elite that prized money more than workers. What a marvelous and entirely predictable reception!

A few lessons to ponder over this holiday weekend.

Image: Failwise

Thursday, May 20, 2021

Confronting The Problem Head On

Language and Quebec's identity are once again front and centre. Francois Legault claims that Quebec has the right to amend the constitution. At issue is Quebec's Bill 96, which would amend section 90 of the BNA Act to read:


“90Q.1. Quebecers form a nation.

“90Q.2. French shall be the only official language of Quebec. It is also the common language of the Quebec nation.”

The problem is the notion of "the Quebec Nation." Andre Pratte writes in The Montreal Gazette:

Do Quebecers form a nation? There is no doubt in my mind, and in the minds of the vast majority of experts who have studied the issue, that they do. Fifteen years ago, the House of Commons even passed a motion to that effect.

However, recognition of the Quebec nation (or distinct society) has not been enshrined in the country’s Constitution, because a majority of English Canadians are opposed to it. They fear that such recognition would lead to the granting of special rights to Quebecers, a situation they cannot accept. While I do not share this view, it is certainly a legitimate one. The only way to change the minds of our fellow citizens is to convince them, not to “shove the idea down their throats,” as the politicians in the National Assembly like to characterize the process that led to the 1982 Constitution.

He has a point. In French, the word pays means more than "province." It means home. But, for Francophone Quebecers, it means much more than that. It means homeland. It's not easy to negotiate the meaning of words between two different languages.

Justin Trudeau wants to ignore that negotiation. His father would have confronted the problem head-on.

Image: The Hill Times

Wednesday, May 19, 2021

It Was Just Tourists

Of all the absurd claims about the riot at the American Capitol, the most absurd is the notion that it was a "visit by tourists." How has it come to this? Thomas Edsall writes:

Immediately after the riot, support for President Donald Trump fell sharply among Republicans, according to surveys conducted by Kevin Arceneaux of Sciences Po Paris and Rory Truex of Princeton.

The drop signaled that Republicans would have to pay a price for the Trump-inspired insurrection, the violent spirit of which was captured vividly by Peter Baker and Sabrina Tavernise of The Times:

The pure savagery of the mob that rampaged through the Capitol that day was breathtaking, as cataloged by the injuries inflicted on those who tried to guard the nation’s elected lawmakers. One police officer lost an eye, another the tip of his finger. Still another was shocked so many times with a Taser gun that he had a heart attack. They suffered cracked ribs, two smashed spinal disks and multiple concussions. At least 81 members of the Capitol force and 65 members of the Metropolitan Police Department were injured.

Yet, within a week, Republican politicians changed their tune:

Arceneaux and Truex, in their paper “Donald Trump and the Lie,” point out that Republican voter identification with Trump had “rebounded to pre-election levels” by Jan. 13. The authors measured identification with Trump by responses to two questions: “When people criticize Donald Trump, it feels like a personal insult,” and “When people praise Donald Trump, it makes me feel good.

The same pattern emerged in the Republican Party’s favorability ratings, which dropped by 13 points between the beginning and the end of January, but gained 11 points back by April, according to surveys by the NBC/Wall Street Journal.

Elected Republicans have simply followed the mob. And the mob will follow Trump to the gates of hell and beyond. They believe their shared brotherhood represents paradise itself -- because he and they hate the same things. From their perspective, January was just another visit by tourists.

They are, simply put, damned.

Image: Reuters

Tuesday, May 18, 2021

Their Best Ally

The rise of Donald Trump underscores the failure of the American public education system. Dana Milbank writes:

Only a quarter of U.S. students are proficient in civics, according to the National Assessment of Educational Progress. And apparently, the right wants to keep it that way.

Civics education used to part of the American curriculum. Now, two Republican senators -- John Cornyn of Texas and Tom Cole of Oklahoma -- are sponsoring a bill that would authorize one billion dollars a year to improve civics education in the United States. The Right has erupted:

The Post’s Laura Meckler reported over the weekend, “Conservative media and activists are pelting the Republicans who support the bill to abandon it. They call the grant program a ‘Trojan horse’ that would allow the Biden administration to push a liberal agenda.”

Conservative writer Stanley Kurtz told Breitbart News that the bill would promote a “woke education” and a “Marxist-based philosophy” in which “teachers are forced to indoctrinate students with ideas like ‘systemic racism,’ ‘white privilege,’ and ‘gender fluidity.’ ” Kurtz wrote in National Review that the civics bill will promote a curriculum “built around radical Critical Race Theory.”

In reality, the civics bill does no such thing. The “Civics Secures Democracy Act” specifically states that it doesn’t “authorize the Secretary of Education to prescribe a civics and history curriculum.” That’s up to state and local leaders.

But the plain text of the bill didn’t stop Kurtz and his allies from spinning a conspiracy theory, based on their objections to another, unrelated grant program. (For that program, the Biden administration cited the New York Times’s “1619 Project” in touting the importance of teaching about the consequences of slavery.) So, now, it’s a safe bet that congressional Republicans will in large numbers oppose a bill promoting nothing more nefarious than civil discourse, voting, jury duty and volunteering.

Ignorance is the Right's best ally. And they will do everything they can to support that alliance.

One further note: I have recently readjusted the settings at Blogger and added an extra level of virus protection to this blog. If you continue to receive messages that this site is  unsafe, please let me know.

Image: Omia's Personal Blog

Monday, May 17, 2021

Who's Most Maladroit?

Justin Trudeau's government has made several mistakes during the pandemic. But the other guys have not been able to take him down -- because they themselves have been particularly maladroit. Michael Harris writes:

In the early days, few countries appreciated the dire threat of COVID-19. By the time they did, they were in a desperate fight against the pandemic without the necessary tools. Slowness off the mark in vaccine procurement is Ottawa’s principal sin in this matter. One day, as this country prepares itself for the Next One, a lot of things will need to be examined.

Why didn’t Canada have the capability to make vaccine domestically, in view of previous battles with the H1N1 and other viruses? As the auditor general reported to Parliament, the Public Health Agency of Canada was unprepared for the pandemic, despite 20 years of warnings, planning and spending for that inevitability.

Why didn’t the federal government take full control of the rollout of the vaccination program by declaring COVID-19 to be a national emergency?

And what about the availability of PPE, and the timing and availability of testing and rapid tests?

These are pretty glaring inadequacies. But the Conservatives -- both federally and provincially -- have not been able to capitalize on them:

The Conservative leader would do better to put his shoulder to the wheel of fighting the third wave, and worry about the court-martial of those responsible later. Poking a stick in the spokes while the battle rages is smallminded, unhelpful and transparently opportunistic.

And it is worse than that.

O’Toole’s comments that PM Trudeau was “playing” with people’s lives, “leaving people behind” and running “social experiments” during a pandemic are patently absurd. The recent budget, which O’Toole rejected, was all about making sure that as many people as possible get through this disastrous disease, both from a public health and an economic point of view.

Then there are Ontario and Alberta:

With almost 500,000 cases and 8,300 now dead from COVID-19 in Ontario, Premier Doug Ford is deservedly on the hot seat. That’s why he too is trying to deflect blame from his government’s handling of the pandemic to Trudeau.

Ontario is a hot mess, and Ford is a big part of the reason. Demanding that Ottawa tighten the border and impose travel restrictions is merely the premier’s latest ruse to have people forget his abysmal record as a COVID-19 fighter.

It was Premier Ford who recently approved the arrival of 30,000 foreign students in Ontario. How’s that for travel restrictions? It was Doug Ford who ignored advice on asymptomatic testing. And it is the Ford government that is responsible for Ontario’s shameful record of deaths in the province’s long-term care facilities, some of them due to hideous neglect.

In Alberta, the wheels are coming off Jason Kenney's bus:

Then there is Premier Jason Kenney, who once accused Ottawa of forbidding Apple and Google from working directly with Alberta to improve its COVID-19 tracing app. This from the same premier who emulated Dr. Donald Trump more than Dr. Anthony Fauci in the critical early days of the pandemic. Like Trump, Kenney compared COVID-19 to the flu. Like Trump, he downplayed the deadly threat. And Kenney scoffed at other province’s restrictions aimed at containing the virus.

The result? A misinformed public. Hundreds of maskless revelers recently attended an anti-lockdown rodeo in Alberta to protest COVID-19 restrictions. Though it is true that Kenney rebuked them, it was Kenney who originally led them to believe that “Yeehaw” was a policy statement. Not in a pandemic it isn’t.

And where has Kenney’s hapless conservative populism landed him? Eighteen members of his own caucus have dissed their leader publicly, the provincial legislature is in pandemic-related lockdown, and Alberta sports the highest per capita COVID-19 infection rate in North America. “All hat and no cattle,” is the traditional Texas put-down. “No hat and no cattle, and soon, perhaps, no horse” better sums up this feckless refugee from the former Harper government.

What do citizens think of all this? We'll find out in the next election -- which, I suspect, will be not too far into the distant future.

Image: Toronto Sun

Sunday, May 16, 2021

Our Unequal Future

The average price of a house in Toronto is now over a million dollars. Even in our rural community in Eastern Ontario, house prices are soaring. Robin Sears writes:

My parents bought a house in the early 1960s for less than $25,000. They sold it a quarter-century later for more than 30 times that amount. Compounded interest in any long-term investment would have been hard pressed to deliver that enormous increase. We bought a house in the 1980s for $250,000. It was recently sold by new owners for over $2 million, an eightfold increase. Two deep recessions later made its return much less impressive.

Now another real estate rocket has taken off. Today’s stats, soaring higher daily, are unhelpful in assessing future damage — as is discounting for inflation retroactively, as it has pushed mortgages from 18 per cent to less than four per cent. Two anecdotes may provide a hint about the risks. A country neighbour has watched a property they bid on double in value in just two years. There are estimated to be more than 27,000 empty homes in Canada today, snapped up by foreign investors, many of them regularly flipped to future non-residents.

We sold our house four years ago and moved into a condo. All three of our children are working, but two of them don't have pension plans. We're hoping that the profit from our house will provide for them in the future. But, when it comes to the Canadian population in general, things look much bleaker:

We are on the edge of a much larger compounding threat to social stability: inheritance. Thomas Piketty, the radical French political historian, was among the first to remind us that until the 19th century, the only certain way to get rich was not innovation, trade or even larceny. It was to marry money or to inherit it yourself. That rigid social immobility won’t return, but millions of citizens inheriting large sums will deepen and widen the wealth gap.

My generation will pass many trillions of dollars to our children. Estimates vary widely, between $50 and $80 trillion dollars, in Canada and the U.S. Generation X and millennials make up somewhere from eight to 10 million Canadians, depending on how you count. The arithmetic thus becomes astonishing. Taking the midpoint of both ranges means that many of them will be handed more than half a million dollars over the next two decades.

Many of the millennials among them — by far Canada’s poorest generation — will become overnight millionaires. Those without property-owning parents will remain among the poorest. Many factors can nudge these sums up or down: recessions, pandemics, inflation. But if today’s real estate boom continues for only a few more years, all these estimates will be far below reality and the real inequality impact. We know who the likely beneficiaries and the losers are, however. If you are a white university grad and living in a big city, you are much more likely to be a winner. If you’re not…

In addition, we are soon to emerge from the greatest wealth destruction event for low-income Canadians: the pandemic. As Bank of Canada governor Tiff Macklem said this week, “We are in the sharpest and most unequal economic cycle of our lifetime.” A raft of connected policy initiatives are needed: serious financial disincentives to non-resident home buyers and on those holding vacant homes; measures to cool housing prices including mortgage restraint, higher transaction fees and greatly increased affordable housing; inheritance taxes and taxes on capital gains that are less inequitable to wage earners.

The future looks very unequal.

Image: Giving Compass


Saturday, May 15, 2021

Coming Apart

Things are falling apart for Jason Kenney. David Climenhaga writes:

Todd Loewen, United Conservative Party MLA for the northwestern Alberta riding of Central Peace-Notley, broke party ranks Thursday morning and called for the resignation of Premier Jason Kenney.

Damning the Kenney government as “out of touch and arrogant,” Loewen also quit as chair of the party caucus. “I feel it is best to resign this position to be able to speak freely.”

Loewen is one of the COVID 18, who have objected to Kenney's lockdown measures:

It’s important not to valourize Loewen. He is, after all, part of a group of mostly rural MLAs whose principal objection to Kenney is that the premier is imposing COVID-19 mitigation measures that, while still insufficient, are too strict for their taste. In other words, they’re significant contributors to the problems harming the province and causing the UCP to unravel.

That said, it’s a blistering and articulate letter that sounds as if Loewen spent hours getting the wording just right. The letter was posted just before midnight last night on Loewen’s Facebook account.

The former Wildrose MLA assails Kenney’s arrogant style of one-man government, complaining of arbitrarily cancelled meetings, big decisions made without notice to members and input from members barely considered.

He extends the list of complaints beyond pandemic response to the government’s war on doctors, its coal development policy on the eastern slopes of the Rockies, which he said “did not align with the expectations and values of Albertans,” and its dealings with “a hostile federal government.”

“The caucus dysfunction we are experiencing is a direct result of your leadership,” he told the premier. “Messaging from your government has been contradictory, confusing, and needlessly inflammatory,” he went on, skillfully wielding an Oxford comma.

“The people of Alberta have lost trust in this government because you have not brought needed balance and reason to the discussion,” he continued. “These folks have not abandoned the principles and values of the UCP, but they have abandoned you specifically.”

One of life's inescapable axioms is that what goes around comes around.


Friday, May 14, 2021

Remembering Recent History

Inflation in the United States is rising. Paul Krugman is circumspect:

It’s true that while almost everyone was expecting a spike in consumer prices, the actual spike was bigger than expected. The one-year inflation rate went above 4 percent, surpassing its previous recent peak, in 2011.

It’s not silly to ask whether unexpectedly high inflation means that the economy has less room to run than both the Biden administration and the Federal Reserve have been assuming; that could be true, and if it were, Biden’s spending plans might be excessive and the Fed might need to consider raising interest rates sooner rather than later.

However, Krugman argues, the inflation numbers are driven by bottlenecks in the economy, not overall inflation:

Sure enough, those April price numbers were driven to a large extent by peculiar factors obviously related to the economy’s restart. When people talk about underlying inflation, they rarely have the price of used cars in mind; yet a 10 percent monthly rise in used car prices — partly because people are ready to travel again, partly because a shortage of computer chips is crimping new-car production — accounted for a third of April’s inflation. There was also a 7.6 percent rise in the price of “lodging away from home,” as Americans resumed going places amid a waning pandemic.

The same thing happened in 2011:

And inflation hawks went wild. Representative Paul Ryan (remember him?) grilled Ben Bernanke, the Fed chairman, over his easy-money policies, intoning, “There is nothing more insidious that a country can do to its citizens than debase its currency.”

Bernanke wasn't rattled:

The Fed stayed focused on “core” inflation, a measure that excludes volatile food and energy prices and that it (rightly) considers a better gauge of underlying inflation than the headline number. And the Fed’s cool head was vindicated: Inflation quickly subsided, and the dollar was not debased.

Things calmed down. What lessons can we draw from this?

First, you shouldn’t have a hair-trigger reaction to short-term fluctuations in inflation. Second, when you do see a bump in prices, look at the details: Does it look like a rise in underlying inflation, or does it look like a blip driven by temporary factors?

As inflation numbers rise here, we should keep that recent history in mind.


Thursday, May 13, 2021

Another Pipeline Problem

Gretchen Witmer, the governor of Michigan, wants to shut down the pipeline which supplies half the fuel needs of Ontario and Quebec. Lawrence Martin writes:

This line has been in operation for 67 years without a leak into the Straits, but that doesn’t cut it with the uncompromising governor, a rising Democratic Party star. She alleges it is in ill-repair and could cause a horrific spill. She’s ignored a compromise reached by the previous governor, Republican Rick Snyder, that would see Enbridge bore an underground tunnel connecting Lake Huron and Lake Michigan as a replacement for the pipeline.

It serves as a reminder of where we're going. Oil is on the way out. But that doesn't mean it will be easy writing its obituary. Fortunately, Biden's energy secretary was born in British Columbia and she has a sense of what it's like to navigate relations between Canada and the United States. 

 Solving this problem will be difficult.


Wednesday, May 12, 2021

When Truth Is No Longer Self Evident

Former senator Jeff Flake opens an op-ed in The Washington Post with a quotation from George Orwell:

“The further a society drifts from the truth, the more it will hate those who speak it.” 

Then he quotes from the Declaration of Independence:

“We hold these truths to be self-evident.”

These days, in the United States, truth is no longer self-evident. Flake writes:

It seems a good time to examine how we got to a place where such a large swath of the electorate (70 percent of Republican voters, according to polling) became willing to reject a truth that is so self-evident.

This allergy to self-evident truth didn’t happen all at once, of course. This frog has been boiling for some time now. The Trump period in American life has been a celebration of the unwise and the untrue. From the ugly tolerance of the pernicious falsehood about President Barack Obama’s place of birth to the bizarre and fanatical fable about the size of inauguration crowds, to the introduction of the term “alternative facts” into the American lexicon, the party’s steady embrace of dishonesty as a central premise has brought us to this low and dangerous place.

Flake is flummoxed by his former party mates:

When I became an unwitting dissident in my party by speaking in defense of self-evident truths, I assumed that more and more of my colleagues would follow me. I remain astonished that so few did. Congresswoman Cheney, I know how alone you must be feeling. But just know that history keeps the score, not Kevin McCarthy or Elise Stefanik.

It is elementary to have to say this, but we did not become a great nation by believing or espousing nonsense, or by embracing lunacy. And if my party continues down this path, we will not be fit to govern.

Perhaps he should have included one more quotation -- From Thomas Macaulay, Lord Acton:

" All power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely."

Flake's former party is hellbent on achieving absolute power. Acton would tell him that none of this is surprising.


Tuesday, May 11, 2021

Much More Than Cowardice

The conventional wisdom these days is that Republicans are doing what they're doing because they're cowards. Greg Sargeant writes:

As a broad description of our current moment, this is profoundly insufficient. It risks misleading people about the true nature of the threat posed by the GOP’s ongoing radicalization.

Obviously fear of attacks from Trump — or from right-wing media or primary challengers — is one motivator. But by itself, this simply won’t do: It implies that Republicans would prefer on principle to stand firm in defense of democracy but are not doing so simply out of fear of facing immediate political consequences.

The truth is much more sinister than that:

It’s impossible to chalk this effort up to “cowardice” or “fear of Trump.” It is a deliberate action plainly undertaken to manufacture fake evidence for the affirmative purpose of further undermining faith in our electoral system going forward.

The Republicans have made careful calculations. They know exactly what they're doing:

Republicans are employing their own invented doubts about 2020 to justify intensified voter suppression everywhere. [Jim] Banks neatly crystallized the point on Fox, saying those doubts required more voting restrictions — after reinforcing them himself.

Indeed, with all this, Republicans may be in the process of creating a kind of permanent justification for maximal efforts to invalidate future election outcomes by whatever means are within reach.

The lies about 2020 and the increasing dedication to destroying democratic institutions in the quest for power are inextricable from one another. As Jay Rosen says, the press is comfortable calling out the former — it can be packaged as a “fact check." But being forthright about the latter requires depicting one party as far and away the only primary threat to our democratic stability. That’s accurate, but it’s uncomfortably adversarial.

Relatedly, describing Republicans as “cowards” who “fear Trump” casts their machinations as mere reluctant efforts to cope with externally imposed circumstances they’d prefer not to be dealing with. This lets Republicans off the hook in a very fundamental way. It risks misleading the country about the true depths of GOP radicalization — and the real dangers it poses.

The Republicans crave power. And they're willing to destroy democracy to get it.

Image: The Medium

Monday, May 10, 2021

Cheney's Long Game

A civil war is being waged within the Republican Party. It appears that Liz Cheney will be a casualty of that war. But Conrad Yakabuski writes that the Cheneys settle scores   -- and they play the long game:

The Cheneys supported Mr. Trump in 2016 as the lesser of two evils, Ms. Clinton constituting, in their eyes, the devil incarnate. And during Mr. Trump’s term in office, Ms. Cheney voted in Congress to advance his agenda. But it is now clear she was biting her tongue all along.

The Cheneys began to reap their revenge against Mr. Trump even before the Jan. 6 Capitol riot that forever cast a stain on the Trump presidency and U.S. democracy. Axios reported that Ms. Cheney had been responsible for a Jan. 5 Washington Post op-ed signed by all 10 living former defence secretaries, including her father, that called on the country’s military leaders to reject any attempt by Mr. Trump to cling to power. Axios called it a “power play” by the Cheneys.

Ms. Cheney was hailed as a brave heroine for voting, along with nine other GOP House members, to impeach Mr. Trump following the riot he stood accused of inciting. By then, however, she had already declared war on Mr. Trump, so there was nothing particularly gutsy about her vote. It was just the next salvo in her war to reinstate the old guard atop the GOP.

She may lose this current battle. But don't count her out:

Ms. Cheney is playing a longer game than most of her House colleagues. While they fear Mr. Trump’s wrath in next year’s midterm elections, she is betting his influence over the GOP will soon wane. Privately, most Republicans acknowledge they are eager to move on from Mr. Trump. And his reign may increasingly look like an aberration as the GOP embraces its traditional stands on foreign policy and fiscal management, only minus the endless wars.

If she's right, lots of the present Republican house caucus could disappear -- along with Donald Trump.

Image: The Globe And Mail

Sunday, May 09, 2021

The Way We Were

The pandemic entente between Doug Ford and Justin Trudeau is over. Susan Delacourt writes

This back-and-forth is a sign that the 2020 entente between the Ford and Trudeau governments is probably over. Gone are the days when Ford and Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland held late-night “therapy” calls and when the Ontario premier lavished daily praise on all Ottawa was doing to help out with the pandemic.

Ford has recently released an ad demanding that Trudeau close Canada's borders to international travel. This week, at one of his daily briefings, Trudeau responded:

Trudeau . . . betrayed some frustration with Ford’s government on the same score on Friday when he spoke to reporters and was asked about the ad.

“Doug Ford asked me to restrict international students. There’s been about 30,000 international students come into Ontario over the past months because they were approved by the Ontario government,” Trudeau said.

“If the Ontario government wants to do more to restrict the volume of people coming into Ontario, we are more than happy to work with them on it, but it’s been a week since we’ve received that request directly from the premier (and) they haven’t followed up, except with personal attacks which doesn’t make sense and quite frankly won’t help Ontarians.”

That response was followed up by a letter from Inter-Governmental Affairs Minister Dominic Leblanc:

“We welcome your specific requests for further refinements to the mutually agreed list of acceptable international travellers,” LeBlanc writes in the letter, sent formally to Health Minister Christine Elliott and Solicitor-General Sylvia Jones, in reply to a missive they dispatched to Ottawa in the last week of April.

“The federal government stands ready, however to date we have not received such a request.”

Ford's strategy is pretty transparent:

Most political observers have recognized Ford’s anti-Ottawa salvos for what they are: an attempt to shift blame away from himself as Ontarians grow weary, frustrated and angry with the never-endemic.

The latest polling from EKOS shows that Trudeau’s Liberals now enjoy 42 per cent support in Ontario, while approval for Ford’s handling of the pandemic has dropped from 80 per cent last year to just 19 per cent this month. In a post on Twitter highlighting the tumble, EKOS chief pollster Frank Graves said: “That is unimaginably low. Biggest issue of last 80 years. Worst marks ever.” 

We're back to the way we were.

Image: CTV Toronto News

Saturday, May 08, 2021

Killing Reaganomics


The United States has been living with Reaganomics for fifty years. Joe Biden wants to send that policy catastrophe to its well-deserved death. Linda McQuaig writes:

"Trickle-down has never worked," declared Biden in his address to Congress last week, as he rolled out a massive agenda that would drive a hole through the heart of Reaganomics and its small-government fetish (at least when it comes to government helping ordinary people).

Biden wants to spend $6 trillion on things that would significantly improve the lives of regular Americans -- family benefits, paid medical leave, free preschool and community college, infrastructure and green new jobs, enhanced rights for workers.

And he wants to pay for it by raising taxes on corporations and other high-fliers last seen buckled over laughing at how massively they've swindled the American people.

To accomplish his goal, Biden is calling on other nations for help:

In a potentially game-changing move, Biden is trying to enlist major nations (through the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development) to support a global minimum tax, which corporations would be required to pay on their worldwide income, regardless of whether it was reported in a tax haven.

Washington is proposing a minimum rate of 21 per cent. So if a U.S. corporation reports income in a country where the corporate tax rate is 5 per cent, Washington would impose an additional tax to bring that corporation's tax rate up to 21 per cent. This would mean much higher taxes for corporate giants -- Amazon, Facebook, Google, etc. -- that make extensive use of tax havens.

International tax expert Gabriel Zucman says that if other countries follow the U.S. in policing their corporations this way "it's the end of tax havens."
Germany and France have pledged support for Biden's corporate minimum tax -- but not Canada.

Trudeau said he's open to the idea, but declined to commit to it, insisting instead that Canada will always ensure its taxes are competitive with other nations. This kind of tax competition is exactly what Biden's global minimum corporate tax is designed to avoid.

As the U.S. Congress lines up to kill Biden's program, this is precisely the time for Justin to support it -- enthusiastically.

Image: The Rabble

Friday, May 07, 2021

The Saga Of Rudy Giuliani


Rudy Giuliani is in it deep -- really deep. George Conway writes in The Washington Post:

In law and in life, things have a way of coming full circle. The quoted words come from the former president’s supposedly “perfect” phone call with Ukraine’s president, and described what could happen to the American ambassador there, Marie L. Yovanovitch. It was Giuliani’s relentless efforts that got her recalled. 

The arc of Giuliani's career has been remarkable:

The once-respected former federal prosecutor, New York mayor (“America’s mayor”!), presidential candidate and possible Cabinet pick, stands reduced to a laughingstock: shirt-tucking star of the “Borat” sequel, headliner for a news conference at Four Seasons Total Landscaping, and now defendant in a $1.3 billion defamation suit for having claimed that the long-dead Venezuelan dictator Hugo Chávez founded a voting software company that helped steal the presidency from Trump. 

The work Giuliani has done for Trump has exposed him, Conway writes, as "one of the world's worst lawyers:"

He’s the bumbler who blurted out on national TV that his client, Individual-1, had reimbursed a $130,000 payment made to a porn star, a transaction that triggered a sprawling and ongoing New York grand jury investigation into Trump’s overall business affairs.

The former first client wasn’t too thrilled about that. But he ought to be even more ticked about what came next: not one, but two, impeachments, both Rudy-enabled. Nobody — other than perhaps the impeachee himself — did more than Giuliani to get his client charged with high crimes and misdemeanors.

And the screw-ups keep coming:

According to a transcript published last week of a Giuliani phone call with one of the Ukrainian president’s top aides, it was Giuliani who first urged the Ukrainians to announce a bogus investigation of Joe and Hunter Biden so Ukraine could have “a much better relationship” with the United States. It was Giuliani who told the media that his Ukrainian adventure “isn’t foreign policy,” but was meant to “be very, very helpful to my client.”

Donald Trump claimed that he would hire "all the best people."

Famous last words.

Image: The New Republic

Thursday, May 06, 2021

Ford's War On The Environment

Under the cover of the COVID emergency, Doug Ford is selling out the environment. Martin Regg Cohn writes:

Under cover of COVID-19, Premier Doug Ford has been selling out the environment and selling it off to the highest bidder with underhanded tactics:

Environmental issues transcend the merely political and ideological. For this premier it is pathological.

He will be remembered as Ontario’s least green premier in a generation — going back to the days of his now notorious predecessor, Mike Harris.

Ford is leading a three-pronged attack on Ontario's environment:

It begins with the loosening of the Greenbelt, a band of protected farmland, forests, rivers and lakes. Ford has outdone himself by recycling a defeated, Harris-era politician named Norm Sterling to head the Greenbelt Council.

Perhaps no one else could be found to fill the big shoes of the previous Greenbelt Commission chair, former Toronto mayor David Crombie. A former federal Tory cabinet minister, Crombie resigned in protest last year over the Ford government’s meddling by issuing a call to action:

This is high-level bombing and needs to be resisted.”

Crombie’s reputation as Toronto’s “tiny perfect mayor” lives on. By contrast, Sterling is coming back from the political dead with his stature infinitely diminished.

The fraying of the Greenbelt fits a broader pattern. Ford’s PCs used their majority muscle last December to disempower 36 local conservation authorities while emboldening local developers.

The second part of Ford's assault has been his crusade against carbon pricing:

By dismantling the existing “cap and trade” program he automatically triggered a federal carbon levy at the pump to make up for the province’s non-compliance.

Thus, our allegedly anti-tax premier got us the “carbon tax” we’d never had (cap and trade was working well). Then our supposedly penny-pinching premier budgeted $30 million to challenge the federal levy, hitting every taxpayer in the pocket.

And, finally, Ford is backing the construction of a highway and disregarding the environmental assessment which construction of the project requires:

This week the federal government stepped in, bigfooting Queen’s Park with an environmental assessment for Hwy. 413 that the province couldn’t bring itself to do properly. Ottawa’s intervention contrasts sharply with Ontario’s determination to fast-track the route that would raze 2,000 acres of farmland and pave nearly 400 acres of protected Greenbelt land in Vaughan.

Add all of this to Ford's response to COVID, and the picture becomes crystal clear. Ford is simply incompetent -- a danger to the public health and the public good.

Image: The Toronto Star

Wednesday, May 05, 2021

The Big Lie Is The Big Disease

It has been remarkable to watch what has happened to the Republican Party. Tom Friedman writes:

Under Trump’s command and control from Mar-a-Largo, and with the complicity of most of his party’s leaders, that Big Lie — that the greatest election in our history, when more Republicans and Democrats voted than ever before, in the midst of a pandemic, must have been rigged because Trump lost — has metastasized. It’s being embraced by a solid majority of elected Republicans and ordinary party members — local, state and national.

“Denying the legitimacy of our last election is becoming a prerequisite for being elected as a Republican in 2022,” observed Gautam Mukunda, host of Nasdaq’s “World Reimagined” podcast and author of the book “Indispensable: When Leaders Really Mattered.”

“This is creating a filter that over time will block out anyone willing to tell the truth about the election.” It will leave us with “a Republican Party where you cannot rise without declaring that the sun sets in the East, a Republican Party where being willing to help steal an election is literally a job requirement.”

In a two-party democracy, there can be nothing worse:

There is simply nothing more dangerous for a two-party democracy than to have one party declare that no election where it loses is legitimate, and, therefore, if it loses it will just lie about the results and change the rules.

That’s exactly what’s playing out now. And the more one G.O.P. lawmaker after another signs on to Trump’s Big Lie, the more it gives the party license at the state level to promote voter suppression laws that ensure that it cannot lose ever again.

Kimberly Wehle, a professor at the University of Baltimore School of Law and author of the book “How to Read the Constitution — and Why,” writing in The Hill on Monday, noted that “as of late March, state legislators have introduced 361 bills in 47 states this year that contain limitations around voting, a 43 percent increase from just a month earlier.

“The measures include things like enhanced power for poll ‘monitors,’ fewer voting drop-boxes, restrictions on voting by mail, penalties for election officials who fail to purge voters from the rolls, and enhanced power in politicians over election procedures.”

Although G.O.P. supporters of these bills insist that they are about election integrity and security, Wehle added, “the lack of actual evidence of fraud and mismanagement in the American electoral system totally belies those cynical claims.”

Donald Trump is a moron. But he's a monstrously destructive moron. He destroys everything he touches. And, in the end, he may destroy the republic.

The Big Lie is the Big Disease.


Tuesday, May 04, 2021

Kenney's Hell

Andrew Nikiforuk writes that Jason Kenney is in a hell of his own making:

Alberta has now recorded more daily confirmed COVID-19 cases on a per capita basis than any other Canadian province or U.S. state.

That’s more than 2,400 cases a day in a province of four million people. Nearly 30 per cent of the infected are children

With a rising infection rate of 12 per cent, one in eight Albertans test positive for the virus, likely in the form of its many variants, breaking all previous provincial records.*

Put simply, Kenney disregards what the scientists tell him:

These numbers reflect, first and foremost, Premier Jason Kenney’s callous and persistent disregard for scientific findings and mathematical reality. He apparently does not understand or deliberately ignores the inconvenient truth that the virus spreads exponentially and therefore, left to its own devices, explosively. And that the faster and wider it spreads, the more it strengthens through mutation.

Now the ugliness Kenney has sown is blooming:

As a consequence, Alberta now has 508.2 cases per 100,000 citizens. That’s double the rate in hard-hit Ontario and more than triple the rate in British Columbia.

As Lethbridge Mayor Chris Spearman lamented to the CBC last weekend: “We have done the least of the provinces. We’ve tolerated protests against masks and at the hospital and rapid vaccination clinic.”

Once you let the devil in the door, he often runs the house. Kenney again has waved him right in.

Kenney believed he was the smartest guy in the room --  a notion that was always pitifully false:

A man with high opinions of himself, Kenney thought he could outrun the variants with vaccines. He lost that gamble totally, and now young citizens are struggling for air in hospitals with tubes in their tracheas. One 17-year-old woman in McGrath tragically died within five days of exposure. When governments give a dangerous virus free rein, bad things happen.

What explains Kenny’s dithering and wholesale aversion to leading in the public’s interest? The brash libertarian, probably the most unpopular premier in Alberta’s history, set the tone in his politicking by signalling he really doesn’t believe the government should restrict anything — including the movement of viruses.

Then when Kenney began to fiddle with closing, opening and closing again in response to lurching COVID-19 rates, 17 members of his own caucus flung his own don’t-tread-on-me notions back in his face, protesting such measures. Last month they openly chastised their premier and called for a regional approach that would allow areas with low infection rates to avoid restrictions.

In a province where the premier doesn’t apparently give a damn, the enforcement of COVID-19 rules has become a joke throughout the province.

This willful dereliction of duty in the face of a public emergency prompted this sharp tweet from Shannon Phillips, NDP MLA for Lethbridge West:

“Conservatives used to be a party where self-discipline, rule of law, and understanding rights come w/ responsibilities was the narrative. Now it’s do what you want, disregard others, break the law, reject responsibility, just yell, blame, lie with no intellectual anchor.”

Alberta is awash in the virus. And no one is paying attention to Kenney. He and his fellow Albertans are in hell.

Image: The National Observer

Monday, May 03, 2021

Building A Legacy

If Joe Biden leaves a legacy, it will take a lot of hard work. Some presidents have done it. Others have tried and failed. E.J. Dionne writes:

Franklin Roosevelt did it. Ronald Reagan did it.

Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, gifted politicians in their different ways, plausibly hoped they could create coalitions that would outlast them. The achievement eluded both.

A new report by Aliza Astrow points to what Biden will have to do:

The report is both a warning and a promise. As long as Democrats stay weak among non-college-educated voters, she argues, they will have trouble holding, let alone strengthening, their control over the House and Senate. And they will continue to face agonizing fights to win the electoral college, even with large leads in the national popular vote. But modest shifts toward the Democrats among voters without a college degree would change the game.

The two models she cites of Democrats who succeeded in winning non-college-educated voters in states Trump carried represent different wings of the party: moderate Gov. Roy Cooper in North Carolina and progressive Sen. Sherrod Brown of Ohio. Both, she said, campaigned on jobs for blue-collar workers, job training and infrastructure. Those who heard Biden’s speech last week will notice something familiar.

Moreover, Astrow is careful to discuss Black and Latino non-college-educated voters, not just Whites. While Democrats carried non-White voters without a college degree by large margins in the past four presidential elections, the party’s share among non-college-educated minority voters has slipped since 2008. (Their performance among non-college-educated Whites declined even more.)

Biden recouped some of the party’s 2016 losses with these groups — enough to win the key states that gave him his electoral college victory — but did not hit Barack Obama’s 2008 and 2012 levels. As Astrow reports, Obama won 53 percent of the non-college-educated vote in 2008 and 51 percent in 2012. Hillary Clinton took 44 percent in 2016, and Biden bumped the Democrats’ share back up to 48 percent in 2020. 

Biden's task is to unite voters who see others as their foes. He's hoping that he can find economic common ground between them:

But Biden’s intuition is that economic questions unite less economically privileged voters across racial lines — and that many non-college-educated voters think the Democrats have stopped talking to them altogether. By addressing their concerns explicitly and sympathetically, as he did last week, Biden hopes first to close this communications gap and then deliver tangible benefits.

Tom Wicker thought that was the way of the future in the 1960's. Back then, unfortunately, race trumped economics. Donald Trump proved that -- at least for four years -- it still did.

Perhaps things have changed.

Image: The Kinder Institute For Urban Research