Tuesday, August 31, 2021

Generating Insanity

Paul Krugman writes that there's an interesting connection between right-wing politics and the peddlers of snake oil:

Right-wing extremists, and to some extent even more mainstream conservative media, rely on financial support from companies selling nutritional supplements and miracle cures — and that financial support is arguably a significant factor pushing the right to become more extreme. Indeed, right-wing extremism isn’t just an ideological movement that happens to get a lot of money from sellers of snake oil; some of its extremism can probably be seen not as a reflection of deep conviction, but as a way of promoting snake oil.

Consider the following examples:

Alex Jones of Infowars has built a following by pushing conspiracy theories, but he makes money by selling nutritional supplements.

It’s also true, however, for more mainstream, establishment parts of the right. For example, Ben Shapiro, considered an intellectual on the right, hawks supplements.

Look at who advertises on Tucker Carlson’s Fox News show. After Fox itself, the top advertisers are My Pillow, then three supplement companies.

Snake oil peddlers, clearly, find consumers of right-wing news and punditry a valuable market for their wares. So it shouldn’t be surprising to find many right-leaning Americans ready to see vaccination as a liberal plot and turn to dubious alternatives — although, again, I didn’t see livestock dewormer coming.

How has this connection affected the political landscape?

Put it this way: There are big financial rewards to extremism, because extreme politics sells patent medicine, and patent medicine is highly profitable. (In 2014 Alex Jones’s operations were bringing in more than $20 million a year in revenue, mainly from supplement sales.) Do these financial rewards induce pundits to be more extreme? It would be surprising if they didn’t — as conservative economists say, incentives matter.

The extremism of media figures radicalizes their audience, giving politicians an incentive to become more extreme.

None of this would be happening if there weren’t a climate of anger and distrust for unscrupulous pundits and politicians to exploit. But the fact that extremism sells patent medicine creates a financial incentive to get more extreme.

The medicine show has always been a fixture in American life. These days, it generates insanity.

Image: Facebook

Monday, August 30, 2021

No Future

Andrew Nikiforuk writes that expecting governments to fight COVID is yet another example of misplaced faith:

When governments play with viral fires, it is ordinary citizens, including our unvaccinated children, that get burned.

And so the fourth wave has arrived in our midst like some crazed arsonist in a dry forest under a heat dome.

This is what happens when a reckless political class ignores history (pandemics have long tails); abandons effective control measures; preaches the gospel of unwarranted optimism; surrenders any duty of care, and abandons the unvaccinated (children) to high risk and uncertainty.

His focus is on Canadian -- not American -- governments:

In Canada, Alberta stands out as a risible example of this political and moral collapse.

A rudely inept government has refused to address rising caseloads, just as they did repeatedly in two previous waves. (Intransigent governments, whether of the left or the right, tend to behave badly, consistently.)

The Jason Kenney administration can’t even release modelling figures promised a month ago.

And the independent BC COVID-19 Modelling Group calculates that the trajectory of infections in the province will explode from 800 a day to 4,000 in the next two weeks without interventions.

The Trudeau government, which botched the nation’s entire pandemic response (if this wasn’t an emergency calling for national standards, than what the hell is?), obviously doesn’t want Delta’s exponential growth to influence a completely unnecessary election.

The same irresponsible panjandrums who wilfully let the third wave of COVID overwhelm the capacity of acute care hospitals in Ontario, Alberta and Manitoba ignorantly set the scene for a fourth wave.

So be warned: governments that reduce the pandemic to stats on the dead and the recovered are minimizing the complexity and severity of this pandemic.

There are other countries that have done much better:

Countries that have pursued elimination (Zero COVID), such as New Zealand and Taiwan, don’t have long COVID or clogged hospitals to worry about. They used layers of public health measures including effective border controls to eliminate community transmission altogether. They banished fear and restored confidence. And they did so without vaccines.

France’s Molinari Economic Institute recently compared the performance of Zero COVID jurisdictions with G10 nations with no discernible plan other than waiting for the vaccine. The results are jaw-dropping. In the U.K., for example, the economic downturn was nine times more pronounced in 2021 than in New Zealand. Moreover, the U.K. resorted to more stringent measures affecting civil rights than New Zealand ever has. (New Zealand, which hasn’t had a COVID case in six months and only 26 deaths for the entire pandemic, is now battling an outbreak with a strict lockdown.)

So what's to be done?

The institute’s recommendation: Couple vaccine campaigns with a Zero COVID approach.

Without such an approach children become victims:

By removing mask requirements and other protective measures, many governments from Florida to Alberta have left their young children vulnerable to mass infection — a careless and unethical act.

So what happens when you vaccinate about 70 per cent of the population, lift mask protocols and other measures, but leave children under 12 completely unprotected because they haven’t been jabbed?

Well, you push the pandemic into unvaccinated populations. (It could be another six months before researchers complete vaccine trials for children.)

And then what happens when authorities order children back to poorly ventilated schools with mostly ill-conceived health protocols as the Delta variant surges?

The outcome, like so much of this pandemic, is highly predictable: thousands of children have already been hospitalized in the U.S. Throughout the south and Midwest, pediatric hospitalizations have broken all pandemic records. As one doctor told the Wall Street Journal: “This is different than we saw before. We weren’t sustaining those numbers months ago.”

It's an old and ugly truth: Any society which does not nurture its children has no future.

Image: AZ Quotes

Sunday, August 29, 2021

The Conventional Wisdom Could Be Wrong

Justin Trudeau rose to power on The Politics of Hope. An old political trope is that Hope defeats Fear. But sometimes, Robin Sears writes, the politics of hope backfires:

Such moments delivered us Mike Harris, Stephen Harper, Doug Ford and Donald Trump. Why? The thread which seems to run through the triumph of angry, divisive and fear-promoting politics is an often sudden loss of belief in the hope promoters — especially if they are long-term liberal incumbent parties, and seen as not having delivered.

Kathleen Wynne, Paul Martin and even Barack Obama were all recent victims of this judgment by their former supporters. Justin Trudeau seems to be on the precipice of becoming the latest hope merchant to overpromise and under deliver. Anger and fear — and the attack politics successfully pioneered by Stephen Harper — work best when there is widespread disillusionment. Governments do defeat themselves, and the impulse to “throw the bums out” can be effectively torqued by savage wedge politics.

As in all things political, the key is timing. That, and reading your target electorate’s mood, expectations and appetite for red meat over what one American friend dubs “gospel politics” — an appeal to unite and fight together to a higher ground.

Sears assumed that hope would once again work for Justin:

Until just days ago, my assumption — and that of most observers — was that the Tories would once again dip into their angry wedge playbook, their comfort zone for more than two decades, and that Trudeau would once more roll out his claim of “sunny ways.”

But, this time around, it's Justin who's angry:

Well, it only took two weeks of campaigning to show how wrong we all were. It is the prime minister who is angry, overhyped and almost wilfully off-putting to some of his most devoted supporters. Astonishingly, it is Erin O’Toole who appears to have mastered the politics of hope and change, stunning his opponents with one more sunny optimistic policy proposal almost daily. He has seized the beau risque strategy, reaching to the centre and ignoring the grumbling of his aggrieved base in Western Canada.

Another trusted axiom is proving its power: Do I believe you? Do I think you are sincere? Do I trust you to fight for me and my family? In other words: who leads in the “authenticity” contest? Jagmeet Singh appears to be winning this matchup hands down. His life story and his powerful advocacy on Indigenous issues, health care and housing appear to ring true to more Canadians, especially the bloc crucial to Trudeau in his first two campaigns: younger voters.

Then there is the contest of affinity, appeal, charisma and modesty. In other words, who wins “likability.” Justin Trudeau appears to be losing it; improbably Erin O’Toole appears to be gaining it, but again Singh is the clear early winner. His cheerful, breezy campaign style, often with his newly pregnant wife at his side, has been infectious.

But it is beginning to feel like Canadians, determined to put their COVID nightmare behind them, are deciding who they will trust to build back better for their families. Humiliated and ashamed by our betrayal in Afghanistan, many are demanding an accounting. Perhaps most important of all, many young Canadians are laser-focused on climate performance, and feel deeply let down by the Trudeau government’s record. They are hungry for an authentic new leader on this file.

There's still a long way to go. But it's happened before. The conventional wisdom could be wrong.

Image: The Guardian

Saturday, August 28, 2021

The Best Possible Outcome

Justin Trudeau is in trouble. Chantal Hebert writes:

Since the election call the Liberal lead has melted. At week’s end, a handful of polls put Erin O’Toole’s Conservatives in first place.

But while the current national numbers bear a striking resemblance to the CPC/Liberal 2019 finish, there are major qualitative differences.

The Liberals are losing ground to both the Conservatives and the New Democrats in Ontario. That trend could lead to a disaster for his party on voting day.

Yesterday, Trudeau was greeted by an angry ground -- middle fingers in the air -- shouting that his talk of vaccine passports was segregation, pure and simple. I have written that we live in a time when Superstition has overthrown Reason. Hebert asks the crucial question: What are progressive voters to do?

[Trudeau] must hope that the prospect of a possible Conservative government will drive at least some of those who have been looking to support the NDP and the Bloc to reconsider.

Calls for progressive voters to coalesce behind the Liberals to keep the CPC at bay worked for Paul Martin in 2004 and for Trudeau in 2019. This year, both O’Toole and Singh have been trying out different strategies to counter the impact of such appeals.

The CPC leader has spent much of the first stretch of the campaign distancing his party from that of his predecessors. While it often seemed that Stephen Harper in 2015 and Scheer two years ago were mostly interested in fuelling the passions of the Conservative base, O’Toole has taken a different approach.

He has been highlighting policies that contrast with the Conservative platforms of the recent past.

The CPC plan is not just worker friendly; it casts the party as a union ally. It features employment insurance tweaks that one would usually expect to find in an NDP platform.

Where O’Toole’s predecessors approached all drug-related issues as law-and-order matters, he equates drug addiction with a health issue.

This week, O’Toole’s efforts to put a more positive spin on his party and its policies got an assist from the NDP.

On the campaign trail, Singh left the door open to supporting a minority Conservative government.

All this sounds a lot like Jack Layton opening the door for Stephen Harper.

Elections are about the best possible outcome -- not the best outcome.

Image: CBC News

Friday, August 27, 2021

What Now?

Yesterday in Afghanistan was horrific. Observers are comparing the American withdrawal from Afghanistan to the American withdrawal from Saigon in 1975. Marc Thiessen writes that the real analog is Beirut in 1983:

On Oct. 23, 1983, terrorists detonated a truck bomb at the U.S. Marine Corps barracks in Beirut, killing 241 American service members who were participating in a peacekeeping operation. Three months later, after failing to retaliate in any meaningful fashion, President Ronald Reagan withdrew all U.S. forces from Beirut. Reagan’s decision to cut and run had disastrous consequences. Osama bin Laden tried to replicate the Beirut Marine Corps barracks bombing with his bombing of the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, and then to exceed it with the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

Years later, bin Laden cited “the defeat of the American forces in Beirut” as proof that the United States was soft, and that if al-Qaeda hit us hard enough, we could be forced to retreat and withdraw. He further declared that the United States had done the same thing in Somalia, “trailing disappointment, defeat and failure behind it.” The United States, he said, “achieved nothing. It left quicker than people had imagined.” The United States would eventually retreat from Afghanistan in similar fashion.

Now Biden is fulfilling bin Laden’s prophecy. Except after Thursday’s attack, we are no longer simply handing the country over to our enemies, as we did in Vietnam; we are now leaving under fire, as we did in Beirut. And just as the Beirut retreat inspired America’s enemies to attack the U.S. homeland on 9/11, if we pull out on Aug. 31 with our tail between our legs, it will send a signal of weakness certain to inspire terrorists around the world.

Thiessen believes that the United States must do several things:

First, we should inform the Taliban that the United States holds it responsible for this attack. It established a ring of checkpoints surrounding around the airport. It controlled who got in and who did not. It stopped both Americans and Afghans from reaching the airport — but somehow the bomber got through, and another struck at a nearby hotel. Whether letting the bomber through to the airport was intentional or simply a security failure, we should tell the Taliban it failed to meet its commitment to secure the airport — and is thus responsible for the deaths of more than a dozen U.S. service members.

Second, we should inform the Taliban that because its failure to prevent this attack has delayed the evacuation, we will not be leaving on Aug. 31 — and will not set another arbitrary deadline for withdrawal. We will depart once every American, and every Afghan ally, has been evacuated — and not a moment sooner. We will stay as long as it takes to carry out that mission. We should make clear this is not a request. They have no say in the matter.

Third, we should inform the Taliban that since it failed to establish a secure perimeter at the airport, we will do so. We are also retaking Bagram air base so that we have another airfield to use for evacuations. And we will be conducting missions across the country to retrieve stranded Americans and their Afghan allies. Any interference in these operations will have severe consequences.

Finally, we should immediately deliver justice to those who attacked U.S. forces. In a speech Thursday afternoon, Biden warned the terrorists, “We will hunt you down and make you pay.” That will be hard to do if we withdraw all of our forces from the country on Tuesday.

So much depends on how Joe Biden will respond.

Image: Voice Of America

Thursday, August 26, 2021

The Same Old Song

For decades, conservatives have advocated for austerity. They are now planning to dish out more of it. Jim Stanford writes that during the pandemic,

governments around the world racked up eye-watering deficits as they opened the fiscal taps to support personal incomes, subsidize businesses, and finance public health responses. Canada was no exception. The federal deficit exceeded $350 billion for 2020-21, or around 15 per cent of national GDP -- the biggest (in relative terms) since World War II, and unimaginable in conventional economic discourse.

Canada's deficit was among the largest of OECD countries, indicating a relatively ambitious response to the pandemic. But most industrial countries also incurred very large deficits: across the whole OECD, they averaged around 12 per cent of GDP.

Meanwhile, provincial governments also incurred record-breaking deficits due to reduced revenues and increased health and other program costs. Every province except New Brunswick (whose COVID-insulated economy traversed the pandemic better than any other) incurred large deficits; Alberta's (at close to 7 per cent of GDP) was by far the biggest.

In monetary policy, too, the conventional obsession with inflation control and monetary rectitude -- already shaken by the global financial crisis (GFC) 12 years earlier -- was abandoned in most countries, in favour of extraordinary interventions to support spending.

Those are big numbers. However,

the combination of these two dramatic shifts in macroeconomic policy exposed the lie of austerity upon which neoliberal economic and social policies have been based for decades. Harsh government cutbacks were always explained on grounds that government just "can't afford" to spend more. This lie was critical to the formulation and legitimation of austerity. Why would populations accept endless belt-tightening, cuts in public services, and privatization of public assets, without this spectre of a binding budget constraint tying the hands of even progressive governments?

The pandemic proved something progressives argued for years: there is virtually no financial constraint to the ability of governments (especially national governments, which possess independent currencies and financial regulatory powers) to mobilize resources in the interests of social and environmental well-being -- if they choose to do so.

The Conservatives are hell-bent on reversing that choice:

For months during the pandemic, Pierre Poilievre -- then the party's finance critic, still a prominent spokesperson, and likely front-runner for party leader in the event O'Toole falters -- was the most outspoken critic of fiscal and monetary supports.

He lambasted both the government's large deficits and the Bank of Canada's money creation. In the Bank's case, Poilievre's attacks were extraordinary and aggressive: accusing the Bank of becoming an ideological tool, serving as "an ATM" for the Trudeau government's rampant spending. Given the accepted mainstream consensus for the last generation in Canada that the Bank should be politically independent from the government, this attack was like throwing a grenade into the polite company of Canada's political and economic elite.

Erin O'Toole got rid of Poilievre as finance critic. But the message is still the same -- only O'Toole himself is advocating more spending while attacking Trudeau's spending:

O'Toole has attacked the federal deficit (without saying what programs he would have eliminated to reduce it), blamed Trudeau for the increase in inflation that has accompanied the re-opening of the economy, and pledged to balance the budget within a decade if elected. That pledge would require years of deep austerity in federal spending, and would almost certainly throw ice water on the economy's rebound from the COVID recession. The experience of Europe after the GFC is painful evidence of the self-inflicted harm caused by fiscal restraint during periods of macroeconomic crisis.

It's the same old song. Stanford writes that some of us have not learned the lessons of the 1930s. But, for Canada's Conservatives, that's not surprising.

Image: You Tube

Wednesday, August 25, 2021

No Going Back

Paul Krugman writes that, when it comes to employment, workers are not going back to the pre-pandemic world:

After a year and a half of working from home, many don’t want to return to the stress of commuting. And at least some of those who were forced into unemployment have come to realize how unhappy they were with low pay and poor working conditions, and are reluctant to go back to their previous jobs.

You can also see it by looking at what’s happening in the sector hit hardest by the pandemic, leisure and hospitality (think restaurants and hotels). Employment in that sector is still well below its prepandemic level; but to bring workers back, the sector has had to offer big wage increases, significantly above the prepandemic trend.

In other words, some workers really don’t seem willing to go back to their old jobs unless offered substantially more money and/or better working conditions.

Conservatives are upset. They're predicting doom:

Conservatives insist that it is indeed a bad thing: Workers, they say, are refusing to take jobs because government aid is making unemployment too comfortable. But they would say that, wouldn’t they? Remember, they said the same thing in the aftermath of the financial crisis, claiming that the unemployed were being coddled — when the actual reason recovery was slower than it should have been was the destructive fiscal austerity imposed by Republicans in Congress.

They simply don't understand what has happened:

If it wasn’t government benefits, what explains the reluctance of some workers to return to their old jobs? There may be several factors. Fear of the virus hasn’t gone away, and it may be keeping some workers home. Child care is also an issue, with many schools still closed and day care still disrupted.

My guess, however — and it’s just a guess, although some of the go-to experts here seem to have similar views — is that, as I suggested at the beginning of this article, the pandemic disruption of work was a learning experience. Many of those lucky enough to have been able to work from home realized how much they had hated commuting; some of those who had been working in leisure and hospitality realized, during their months of forced unemployment, how much they had hated their old jobs.

The pandemic has caused us to re-evaluate our priorities. And they are not the priorities that conservatives hold dear.

Image: Quartz

Tuesday, August 24, 2021

No Good Way To End A War

The images out of Afghanistan have been gut-wrenching. And Joe Biden has gotten -- and will continue to get -- a lot of blowback. Michelle Goldberg writes:

There are two primary critiques of Biden’s Afghan policy. The first, which is valid, blames the administration for not clearing bureaucratic obstacles that kept Afghan allies waiting for visas, possibly stranding tens of thousands of people who deserve to be evacuated. The second, which is absurd, blames Biden for defeat in a war that was lost years ago.

The journalist James Fallows claims that the war was lost when the United States invaded Iraq. It was also lost when the U.S. established a corrupt government in Kabul  -- which has been killing Afghani civilians for twenty years:

Maybe American violence in Afghanistan could be justified if it were improving the average Afghan’s life. But often we seem to have made people’s lives harder. The most recent report from the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction paints a damning picture of two decades of American efforts in Afghanistan: “U.S. officials often empowered power brokers who preyed on the population or diverted U.S. assistance away from its intended recipients to enrich and empower themselves and their allies. Lack of knowledge at the local level meant projects intended to mitigate conflict often exacerbated it, and even inadvertently funded insurgents.”

The ugly truth is that there is no antiseptic way to end a war:

There was never a decent way to leave the country, which is why we fought a futile war for 20 years. But there also wasn’t a decent way to stay.

John Kerry's question rings as loudly as it did fifty years ago: How do you ask a man to be the last man to die for a mistake?

Image: The Boston Globe

Monday, August 23, 2021

Afghanistan Again

Afghanistan has once again bulldozed its way into a Canadian election. Robin Sears writes:

Midcampaign, on Oct. 12, 2008, CBC journalist Mellissa Fung was kidnapped in Kabul. And on Sep. 2, 2015, again midcampaign, a photograph of the body of a Kurdish refugee child named Alan Kurdi lying on a Turkish beach shocked Canadians.

The death of three-year-old Alan touched Canadians’ hearts, and cast a spotlight on how little compassion Stephen Harper’s government had shown in its refugee policy, especially toward Afghan refugees. Alan’s Canadian relatives expressed their hurt and anger. The Conservative campaign team was knocked off stride for several days.

Once again, Afghanistan has changed the political calculus:

The collapse of the regime in Kabul — literally as this election was being launched — seems likely to play a more significant role in the outcome than any of those previous incidents. The government has known for more than four months that the Americans would be pulling out of Afghanistan after more than 20 years, thousands of American deaths, tens of thousands of casualties and the waste of more than a trillion dollars. Yet it was only a few weeks ago that Justin Trudeau’s government outlined a vague plan to help extricate the thousands of Afghans who had supported Canadian troops in their 12-year campaign — one where more than 40,000 Canadians served, thousands were casualties and 158 died.

Scrambling after his election call, Trudeau announced that Canada would admit 20,000 Afghan refugees. No guarantee was offered to those Canadian supporters still in Afghanistan, however. It was an attempt to repeat his 2015 campaign success, when he opened Canada’s doors to tens of thousands of Syrian refugees and received wide praise.

This time is different: we have no ability to ensure that the interpreters, drivers and guides who worked closely with our troops and NGOs in Kandahar and elsewhere can get out. We are at the mercy of the Taliban and the Americans, and access to a single-runway airport. On Thursday, Defense Minister Harjit Sajjan announced that flights will resume “shortly.” But the prime minister said hours later that getting out all those Afghans with a Canadian connection would be “almost impossible.”

This is beginning to look like an opportunity for Erin O’Toole and Jagmeet Singh to use this disaster as a wedge to attack the Trudeau government’s often shambolic international relations record more broadly.

Nanox is out with a new poll this morning, suggesting that there is one percentage point separating the Liberals and the Conservatives, while NDP numbers are rising.

Afghanistan could be a significant reason for Justin Trudeau's defeat. As Harold Macmillan told John Kennedy, "Events, dear boy" can change the outcomes of elections.

Image: bb.co.uk

Sunday, August 22, 2021

When Superstition Overthrows Reason

Vaccine mandates are -- finally --  on the menu. Martin Regg Cohn writes:

With an election getting underway, Justin Trudeau mandated vaccinations for air and rail travel, also requiring those in federal government jobs to get jabs — not least Liberal candidates looking for work on Parliament Hill.

At Queen’s Park, Doug Ford finally saw his way to cracking down on health-care workers who were falling through the cracks, while ordering all 64,000 civil servants to get vaccinated — including his own Progressive Conservative MPPs and future candidates.

At city hall, John Tory is now practising what he’s been preaching — finally demanding that municipal employees do what he’s been asking his federal and provincial counterparts to do. Now the big banks and insurance companies, after much hemming and hawing, have hedged their risks by demanding vaccinations for their sprawling bureaucracies.

Getting vaccinated used to be a no brainer:

Vaccinations have been saving lives for hundreds of years, they have been settled law for a century, and they have been a prerequisite for generations of schoolchildren (but for special exemptions). The only logical argument for delaying the mandating of vaccines was the lag in delivering them.

What has changed? We live in a time when superstition has overthrown reason. And politicians -- afraid of their constituents -- have thrown in their lot with superstition. Thankfully, some who used to work in government have insisted on the primacy of Reason:

David Agnew is now president of Seneca College, but he once served as cabinet secretary at Queen’s Park. Steve Orsini now heads the Council of Ontario Universities, but he too held the job of Ontario’s top public servant.

It is instructive that both have been so instrumental in demanding action: Orsini by exhorting Ford on behalf of Ontario’s universities this month, Agnew by closing off his campus to the unvaccinated.

Seneca was the first post-secondary institution to require vaccination for students and faculty on campus this summer. What made Agnew roll up his sleeves and take aim at those who won’t?

He reminded me that after running the machinery of a provincial government, he took over UNICEF Canada — a global role that brought him face to face with the life-saving power of vaccines, especially the fight against polio and the pushback from anti-vaxxers around the world. What he learned overseas hit home in Ontario:

“I object to people putting pseudo-science in the way of real science, or treating this as a sterile debate about rights versus the people around the world who are dying or disfigured,” Agnew told me.

That two former bureaucrats had to prod the politicians into action shows just how lumbering our leaders have become in mid-pandemic. That the private sector is lagging behind the public service in securing our workplaces is a sad sign of timidity in an emergency.

It is vital that we insist on the primacy of Reason. If we don't, we'll be lost.

Image: Quote Fancy

Saturday, August 21, 2021

Our Own Morons

Maxime Bernier is still around. He's hoping to make it into the Leaders Debates. Stephanie Levitz writes:

For Maxime Bernier, the early polls do matter: for him to participate in the official leaders’ debates during this campaign, his People’s Party of Canada needed to be registering four per cent support in national polls as of Aug. 20.

As in the 2019 campaign, Bernier is banking on being on that stage — but this time, he thinks people will listen to him differently. This time around he's pitching himself as a harbinger of freedom:

“Before, when I was talking about freedom, people would say, ‘Maxime, what do you mean, freedom?’”, the former Conservative cabinet minister said in an interview with the Star.

“And now, they know. They have a big example in front of them every day of their life.”

Lockdowns, public-health orders and the debate about mandatory vaccinations have become Bernier’s political bread and butter during the COVID-19 pandemic.

We are losing our freedoms and our rights,” he said.

And there's more:

Among other things, he wants to bring down or eliminate certain tax rates, drastically reduce immigration levels, and hand power and funding responsibility for health care entirely to the provinces. His party doesn’t have a strategy for dealing with climate change, which it claims — contrary to the overwhelming scientific consensus — is occurring naturally. Bernier says government intervention on climate is both costly and pointless.

How much traction will he get? That remains to be seen. But one thing is abundantly clear: While the United States has its morons, we have our own.

Image: The Peterborough Examiner

Friday, August 20, 2021

Like Dandelions


Among the vaccinated, rage against the unvaccinated is building. Paul Krugman writes:

It’s possible to have sympathy for some of the unvaccinated, especially workers who find it hard to take time off to get a shot and are worried about losing a day to aftereffects. But there’s much less excuse for those who refuse to get their shots or wear masks for cultural or ideological reasons — and no excuse at all for MAGA governors like Ron DeSantis in Florida, Greg Abbott in Texas and Doug Ducey in Arizona who have been actively impeding efforts to contain the latest outbreak.

So how do you feel about anti-vaxxers and anti-maskers? I’m angry about their antics, even though I’m able to work from home and don’t have school-age children. And I suspect that many Americans share that anger.

The question is whether this entirely justified anger — call it the rage of the responsible — will have a political impact, whether leaders will stand up for the interests of Americans who are trying to do the right thing but whose lives are being disrupted and endangered by those who aren’t.

This isn't about personal freedom. It's about license:

Furthermore, to say something that should also be obvious, those claiming that their opposition to public health measures is about protecting “freedom” aren’t being honest.

Most notably, ever since masks became a front in the culture war it has been clear that many opponents of mask mandates aren’t merely demanding the right to go unmasked themselves — they want to stop others from acting responsibly. Tucker Carlson has called on his viewers to confront people they encounter who are wearing masks, and there have been scattered reports of violent attacks on mask-wearers.

So-called "conservatives" like Carlson have rejected long-standing conservative positions:

For decades, conservatives have insisted that business owners should have the right to do as they please — to hire and fire at will, to deny service to whomever they choose. Yet here we have Abbott threatening to pull the liquor licenses of restaurants that ask for proof of vaccination, even as Texas runs out of I.C.U. beds.

Conservatives have also championed local control of education — except, it turns out, when school districts want to protect children with mask rules, in which case MAGA governors want to seize control and cut off their funding.

So the friends of Covid-19 aren’t motivated by love of freedom. I could offer some hypotheses about their real motives, but understanding what’s driving these people is less important than understanding how much harm they’re doing. That goes double for politicians who are cynically playing to the anti-vax, anti-mask crowd.

Narcissists -- like the Orange One who started this -- are springing up like dandelions.

Image: cleveland.com

Thursday, August 19, 2021

2021 And 1971

In 1971, the United States was preparing to leave Vietnam. Today, that country is leaving Afghanistan. Peter Coy writes that the Afghan withdrawal signals an important change --  just as important as what happened in 1971:

In 1971 the U.S. was the undisputed leader of the free world. In addition to countering the Soviet Union and China militarily, America anchored the global financial system through a system of fixed exchange rates. To guarantee that the dollar was worth what it claimed in terms of other currencies, the U.S. Treasury promised foreign governments and central banks to exchange their dollars for gold, upon request, at a rate of $35 an ounce.

But the U.S. commitment was under pressure. The Vietnam War was dragging on, and the military process of Vietnamization — the project of handing over responsibility to the South Vietnamese Army — was going poorly.

Partly because of the war, inflation had accelerated, and the U.S. was running uncustomary trade deficits. True, the deficit in goods and services trade in 1971 was just $1 billion, a blip compared to one of $677 billion last year, but dollars were also flowing abroad through investment and aid. Players in the financial markets had begun to notice that the U.S. didn’t have enough gold in its vaults to honor all its obligations if foreign governments or central banks abruptly tired of the dollars they were accumulating.

As in 1971, the United States is relinquishing its role as world leader. Jeffrey Garten, dean emeritus of Yale's School of Management, has written that [The Bank of England, the Bank of Japan and their peers] "were left with hundreds of millions of dollar reserves that, after a quarter century, had suddenly lost their gold backing and were therefore of uncertain value,”

Nixon complained that Japan and West Germany, which the U.S. vanquished in World War II and then helped rebuild, weren’t sufficiently opening their domestic markets to American goods and should shrink their trade surpluses by making their currencies more expensive in dollar terms. West Germany and Switzerland pulled out of the fixed-rate system.

The American Empire is shrinking. And there will be profound changes to the world financial system -- which that empire has underwritten.

Image: You Tube

Wednesday, August 18, 2021

A Full Frontal Assault

Conservatives -- particularly American Republicans -- argue that we simply can't afford to reduce CO2 emissions. Paul Krugman cites four reasons why they're wrong:

First, the U.S. economy has consistently done better under Democratic presidents than under Republican presidents — a pattern so strong that even progressive economists admit that it’s puzzling. Whatever the cause of this partisan disparity, a party devoted to the zombie doctrine that tax cuts solve all problems has no standing to lecture us on what’s good for the economy.

Second, there is a remarkable inconsistency between conservatives’ expressed faith in the power of private initiative and their assertion that climate policies will paralyze the economy. Businesses, the right likes to tell us, are engines of innovation and adaptation, rising to meet any challenge. Yet somehow the same people who laud private-sector creativity insist that businesses will shrivel up and die if confronted with new regulations or emission fees.

In fact, a number of studies have shown that government projections of the effects of new environmental or safety regulations consistently overestimate their costs, precisely because businesses respond to new rules and incentives by innovating, finding ways to reduce compliance costs. And industry projections of the adverse effects of regulation are far worse, typically overstating the costs to a ludicrous degree.

Third, history strongly refutes the notion that there’s any necessary link between economic growth and greenhouse gas emissions.

Consider the case of Britain, where modern economic growth began. British emissions of carbon dioxide have been falling for half a century, despite a growing economy. On a per-capita basis, Britain’s CO₂ emissions are back down to what they were in the ’50s — the 1850s, when real G.D.P. per person was only about one-ninth what it is today.

Finally, Republican insistence that we must remain dependent on fossil fuels is especially strange, given huge technological progress in renewable energy — progress so remarkable that the Trump administration tried to force power companies to keep using coal, which is no longer competitive on cost. Improved technology means that climate action looks far easier now than it did in, say, 2008, when John McCain called for a cap on greenhouse gas emissions, a position that would be disqualifying for anyone seeking the Republican presidential nomination today.

We live at a time -- particularly on The Right -- when facts don't matter. They have always mattered in the reality-based community. The problem is that the reality-based community is enduring a full-frontal assault from The Right.

Image: dreamstime.com

Tuesday, August 17, 2021

Not This Time

Last time around, Justin Trudeau ran against Doug Ford. That won't happen in this election. Robert Benzie writes:

Justin Trudeau’s Liberals and Premier Doug Ford’s Progressive Conservatives will be keeping the peace for the Sept. 20 election, the Star has learned.

In sharp contrast to the 2019 campaign, when Trudeau attacked Ford on an almost daily basis — and the provincial Conservatives were fighting the Liberals in court — the two leaders will not be fixated on each other.

“We’re not running against Doug Ford,” a high-ranking Liberal, speaking confidentially in order to discuss internal strategic talks, said Monday.

Senior Progressive Conservative officials confirm that there have been productive informal conversations with the governing Liberals on the shared priorities of the two leaders — and keeping their powder dry.

During the COVID crisis, the federal Liberals and the provincial PCs established an alliance. In this election, they will live by the principle of peaceful co-existence. Traditionally blue ridings will probably remain blue. The question is whether traditional Liberal ridings will vote for the Dippers.

I assume Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba will remain blue.

In Quebec, the election seems to revolve around the notion that the Libs can take back seats from the BQ. It's been a long while since I lived there, so I can't claim to know what things are like on the ground.

Similarly, I have no idea how things will turn out on both coasts. I would appreciate hearing from readers on either coast.

And, so, the calculations begin.

Image:CityNews Winnipeg

Monday, August 16, 2021

Unnecssary But Useful

We are having an election because Justin Trudeau wants a majority government -- and he thinks he can get one. Certainly, the turmoil in the Conservative Party could work in Trudeau's favour. Stephen Maher writes:

These internal divisions are making it hard for O’Toole to stake out defensible turf. In his first media availability after the writ drop on Sunday, he tried and failed to dodge questions about vaccine mandates. He likely is not able to support them without his MPs rebelling, so he is jammed, stuck opposing a popular policy, which the Liberals will be delighted to discuss whenever anyone asks them about anything even vaguely pandemical.

O’Toole has shifted his party toward the centre, but the right wing is on the brink of open rebellion, and it is not at all clear that he has gone far enough to the left to appeal to the suburban voters he needs to break through in Ontario and Quebec. Or maybe his practical, sensible, centrist approach will find a constituency when voters get a better look at him. We don’t know yet, and should 36 days from now.

Jugmeet Singh, on the other hand, appears to have made inroads with voters:

Jagmeet Singh . . . looks chill. After an awkward start as leader, he is connecting with voters. As Philippe J. Fournier points out, the polls show he could stand between Trudeau and the majority he wants, if TikTok views translate into votes, which is something we stand to learn on Sept. 20.

It's hard to say what role Yves Francois Blanchet will play in this election. The resurgence of the Bloc Quebecois had a lot to do with the SNC Lavalin Affair. Quebecers always consider how well a prime minister is looking after their interests. The debacle over SNC put Trudeau in lots of Quebecers bad books. Perhaps his response to COVID will cause them to re-evaluate his commitment to  la belle province.

Time will tell how wise Trudeau has been. Maher concludes that "this election is unnecessary, but that doesn’t mean it won’t be useful."

Image: The Hill Times

Sunday, August 15, 2021


The media war has begun. On Friday, the Conservative Party released an ad attacking Justin Trudeau. Stephanie Levitz writes:

A Conservative attack ad launched ahead of an expected Sunday election call is being criticized as dumb, tasteless and embarrassing — by the party’s own members of Parliament.

The 37-second video features a cut-out of Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau’s face awkwardly pasted to the face of Veruca Salt, the spoiled brat from the 1971 classic film “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory,” in a scene from the film where she throws a tantrum over not getting what she wants in a song called “I want it now.”

The ad generated immediate criticism from Conservatives:

“Let’s be very clear I am not a fan of @JustinTrudeau with a provincial state of emergency, growing wildfire concerns in my province & potential 4th wave concerns. this election is purely selfish,” wrote Todd Doherty, a B.C. MP who serves as an adviser to leader Erin O’Toole on mental health and wellness.

Former Saskatchewan premier Brad Wall — long considered someone who might one day run for party leadership — raised his digital eyebrows in disbelief:

“Please tell me — @CPC_HQ that someone hacked your account and this is not an actual ad for your party.”

In our neck of the woods, CTV's Ottawa affiliate is available on cable and over the air. For the last two weeks, the station has been running ads for Pierre Poilivere, who is running in nearby Carleton. He rails against Trudeau, spending, and debt --  his standard schtick. He comes across like your angry grandfather.

This has already become tiresome.

Image: You Tube

Saturday, August 14, 2021

The Big Issues

There are, Andrew Coyne writes, several big issues which should be debated in the upcoming election -- but probably won't be. Here are a few of them:

1. Deficits, Debt and Economic Growth 

Oh, they’ll all mention the deficit. But none of them will offer to do much about it. The most that any of the major parties will promise will be a (gently) declining debt-to-GDP ratio years from now, which itself would require corrective measures none of them will propose.

You can grow your way out of debt -- either quickly or slowly:

None of the parties will put forward anything that would do much to improve Canada’s growth rate in the long run.

In the past, we relied heavily on rapid growth in the labour force to generate higher output and incomes. But with the baby boomers hitting retirement age, labour force growth has slowed to a crawl. Instead, we will have to wring more output from each worker, mostly by giving them more and better machines to work with.

Alas, that would require much higher rates of private investment than we currently enjoy, which means taxing the returns to that investment less punitively. The other ingredient of higher productivity: more competition – for example, by more fully opening industries such as airlines, financial services, and telecommunications to foreign players.

That none of these have made a dime’s worth of difference to the economy will not make a dime’s worth of difference to the debate.

And, most tellingly, as the recently released IPCC report makes clear, the planet cannot withstand this kind of economic growth.

2. National Unity

The federation, and the constitutional order that underpins it, is under strain, on two fronts. On the one hand, Quebec’s Bill 21, effectively banning the hiring of observant religious minorities across much of the public sector, and Bill 96, which purports to unilaterally entrench Quebec’s status as a unilingual nation in the Constitution, are plain violations of the Charter of Rights and, arguably, the division of powers.

On the other hand, Alberta is to hold a referendum shortly after the election on whether to remove equalization from the Constitution – which it has no power to decide, but which holds all sorts of trouble-making potential. The move is in part a protest at Alberta’s oil being blocked from export markets by, among others, Quebec, equalization’s largest recipient, which, again, it has no legitimate power to do.

The pressures are coming from different ends of the country and from different political perspectives. None of the parties wants to open up this can of worms.

Parliament And Accountability

We’ll probably hear lots about this, at least from the opposition: about the Prime Minister’s disregard for the Commons, his stonewalling of committees, frequent recourse to time allocation and omnibus bills, and abuse of the powers of prorogation and dissolution. All are indeed sins – but they were sins of the previous prime minister as well.

The Liberals came to power vowing to clean up the mess left by the Conservatives, as the Conservatives came to power vowing to clean up the mess left by the Liberals. So while the opposition parties will squawk about ethics and accountability, unless they offer some evidence that their commitment to change is any more sincere than their predecessors’, it is all a waste of breath.

Parliamentary Accountability is like the weather -- which, Mark Twain wrote, everyone talks about, but nobody does anything about.

Let the debate begin!

Image: macleans.ca

Friday, August 13, 2021

Will It Work?

The scuttlebutt is that, on Sunday, Justin Trudeau will call an election. Tom Walkom writes the plan could backfire:

The Liberal government does not need a new mandate. The old one, as expressed just months ago in the throne speech and budget, is supported by a majority of MPs in the minority Parliament.

Certainly, the government’s minority status has not prevented it from taking bold action against the coronavirus.

Nor has it stopped the government from introducing one of the most significant new social programs in decades — a national child-care system.

With the support of the New Democrats and the Bloc Québécois, the Liberal minority government has spent billions.

The polls, however, say the Liberals have a not insignificant lead. And power attracts politicians as a flame attracts moths. That said, if Trudeau does go to the polls, there are two wild cards in the hand he draws:

In this campaign, the pandemic is the wild card. The Liberal government can argue convincingly that its strategy worked — that its procurement policy produced enough vaccines to inoculate every eligible Canadian.

But all that could go for naught if Canada is hit by another wave of COVID-19.

It will be hard to argue that the government’s pandemic strategy is a success when people are dying from the fourth wave. And if the experts are right, we are on course for that wave, one dominated by the virulent Delta variant of the disease.

The other wild card is Erin O'Toole:

O’Toole is the other wild card. Polls show him well behind Trudeau in popularity. The election call gives him the chance to reverse that.

Many have dismissed O’Toole, arguing that the Conservatives are too badly split to provide him the support he needs.

They forget that the desire to oust the hated Liberals unites Conservatives of all kinds. They also forget that in the last election, even when saddled with unpopular leader Andrew Scheer, the Conservatives came within striking distance of power.

O’Toole has been mocked for pitching to unionized workers. His critics forget that many rank-and-file trade unionists are already small-c conservative and thus open to such blandishments.

I have written that, if there is an election, I will make no predictions. I see no reason to change my position.

Image: inclusioncanada.ca

Thursday, August 12, 2021

A Tall Order

William Rees writes that, as we consume the latest IPCC report on climate change, we need to remember that the biggest problem we face is ecological overshoot:

Ecological overshoot means there are way too many people using vastly too much energy and material resources and dumping too much waste.

In more technical terms, humanity’s consumption of even renewable resources and our production of wastes exceeds the regenerative and assimilative capacities of the ecosphere. This is the biophysical definition of “unsustainable,” and a harbinger of pending systems collapse. 

Few politicians have even heard of overshoot. They are dedicated to the old economic model:

One obvious earplug is the neoliberal economics dominant in the world today. Its adherents assume that:

The economy is separate from, and can function independently of, the biophysical “environment.”

Important relationships between variables change predictably and if they deviate from desirable comfort zones, can be reversed.

The “factors of production” (finance capital, natural capital, manufactured capital, human capital) are near-perfect substitutes. For example, human ingenuity — technology — can make up for any potentially limiting natural resource.

Damage to ecosystems or human communities (i.e. intangible factors not reflected in market prices) are mere “externalities,” tolerable if they don’t impede growth.

All of these so-called bedrock principles are false. We need a new economy founded on different principles. We must:

Formally recognize the end of material growth and the need to reduce the human ecological footprint.

Acknowledge that while humanity remains in overshoot, sustainable production and consumption means absolutely less production and consumption.

Understand that our growth economy is utterly dependent on abundant cheap energy, which is coming to an end.

Admit that modern renewables — wind turbines, solar panels, hydrogen — are not renewable, are themselves dependent on fossil fuels and have virtually no possibility of quantitatively replacing fossil fuels even by 2050, if ever.

Recognize that equitable sustainability requires an economic levelling; that is, fiscal and other regulatory mechanisms to ensure redistribution of income, wealth and opportunity among and within countries. Greater equality is better for everyone.

Enact polices that lead, fairly and without coercion, to a smaller global population, such as education, access to birth control and economic independence for women. The challenge is great, given that models show about two billion people could live comfortably indefinitely within the biophysical means of nature.

Implement measures including pollution and resource depletion taxes to internalize costs and move society closer to full social cost pricing.  This would blunt current steeply rising levels of consumption in the developed world, the greatest contributor to overshoot.

Getting the general public to accept these principles is a tall order. If anything, COVID has made abundantly clear how difficult achieving such a new economy will be.

Image: Pinterest

Wednesday, August 11, 2021

Deadly Fantasy

There is a deeply unsettling through-line on the Right between COVID and Climate Change. Paul Krugman writes:

On Monday the U.N.’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released its latest report. The conclusions won’t surprise anyone who has been following the issue, but they were terrifying all the same.

Major damage from climate change, the panel tells us, is already locked in. In fact, it’s already happening, as the world experiences extreme weather events, like heat waves in the Pacific Northwest and floods in Europe, that have been made far more likely by rising global temperatures. And unless we take drastic action very soon, catastrophe looms.

We can, however, safely predict how influential conservatives will react to the report, if they react at all. They’ll say that it’s a hoax or that the science is still uncertain or that any attempt to mitigate climate change would devastate the economy.

That is, they’ll react the same way they’ve reacted to past warnings — or the way they’ve reacted to Covid-19. Extreme weather events probably won’t change anything. After all, Republican governors like Ron DeSantis in Florida and Greg Abbott in Texas are still opposing virus-control measures — not just refusing to act themselves but also trying to block vaccine requirements by local governments and even private businesses — as hospitalizations soar.

The biggest problem for conservatives is that the solutions for both crises can't be found in the free market:

Businesses may have protested lockdowns that reduced sales, but as far as I can tell, corporations are eager to see maximum vaccination, which would help them get back to business as usual, and a growing number of companies are imposing their own vaccine mandates.

And even die-hard libertarians generally admit that promoting vaccines to stop a plague is a valid role for the public sector.

Covid denial has turned out to be even worse than climate denial. We’ve gone from cynical catering to corporate interests to aggressive, performative anti-rationality. And the right’s descent continues, with no bottom in sight.

The truth is that the right has been worshipping a false god for a long time. Its solutions don't work. And, so, it has retreated into fantasy. The problem is that the fantasy is deadly.

Image: CNN

Tuesday, August 10, 2021

A Fractured Party

The Conservative Party of Canada is fracturing. That split was on display on Canada Day. Andrew Perez writes:

Last month, the federal Conservative Party’s two most prominent figures released videos celebrating Canada Day that were at complete odds with one another.

Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole’s video was meticulously crafted on the streets of urban Canada with the backdrop of a LGBTQ pride flag, featuring visible minority Canadians intermingling.

Candice Bergen, the party’s deputy leader, also released a Canada Day video that could not have been more unlike O’Toole’s in both symbolism and substance. Flanked by Canadian and Royal Union flags, Bergen used her video to unleash a divisive culture war.

“We can’t give in to cancel culture. We can’t give in to those who want to erase who we are as Canadians and what we stand for,” avowed Bergen in a video reinforced by images and footage of the military, rural landscapes, and white Canadians.

Yesterday, O'Toole was in Belleville, Ontario, claiming that Trudeau's Liberals have forgotten rural Canadians and his party will change all of that. But, despite the rhetoric, the divide is also glaringly apparent when it comes to policy:

There are also stark policy cleavages that over the past year have bitterly divided O’Toole’s Conservatives into two broad camps. Three fundamental disagreements have emerged among the caucus and grassroots that touch upon core social, environmental, and economic policies.

On social policy, over half of the Conservative caucus voted against the Trudeau government’s Bill C-6 to ban gay conversion therapy — a barbaric practice designed to forcibly change a person’s sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression. The government bill exposed a deep rift in O’Toole’s caucus when 62 MPs opposed the bill at third reading, while 57 MPs supported the legislation. Although O’Toole and his more progressive colleagues supported the bill, Bergen and several prominent members of O’Toole’s shadow cabinet opposed the legislation, arguing it would criminalize normal conversations between children and parents regarding sexual orientation.

The vote results sent a torpedo through O’Toole’s caucus, fuelling a public relations nightmare for the party on social media. The vote also split the caucus along urban-rural lines outside Quebec, with a majority of Tory MPs from urban and suburban English Canada supporting the bill, while their rural counterparts overwhelmingly opposed the legislation.

On environmental policy, the caucus and grassroots have become bitterly divided over O’Toole’s pledge to include a carbon price on consumer fuels in the party platform. Climate policy experts have praised the climate plan as credible, but many veteran party activists derided the plan’s carbon savings account as a bizarre, administratively complex mechanism concocted for purely political reasons. The policy, styled as a “carbon levy,” has become a difficult pill for Conservatives to swallow.

So, can a house divided against itself withstand an election? We'll soon find out.

Image: In My Own Words

Monday, August 09, 2021

Bill Davis

Bill Davis has died. Bob Rae knew him for a very long time. He writes:

Despite the two-decade gap in our ages, our friendship grew and strengthened over many years. When I was a student at the University of Toronto, I would head across Queen’s Park to sit in the gallery and watch debates in the Ontario legislature. John Robarts was premier and Bill Davis was “all things education” — he would later shepherd into law the University of Toronto Act, which was based on a report on university government that I had helped draft as a member of the Students’ Administrative Council. He claimed later to have remembered my sitting in the gallery of the legislature, which I have always thought unlikely. But I realized in those early days he was a consummate professional, and someone interested in change. “Reforming in order to preserve”.

Davis was a Progressive Conservative. The emphasis was on progressive. He gave Ontario its community college system. He gave our son -- who was born with a cleft lip and palate -- a program that covered 75% of his dental reconstructive costs, which were considerable.

But, above all else, he was a fundamentally decent man. Rae writes:

There were things we did that, he made clear, he disagreed with, but there were a number of measures of which he thoroughly approved. “Just don’t quote me, Robert”, he would chuckle on the phone, using that name more often than any other. With his own relationship with both Brian Mulroney and Jean Chretien, and his own experiences on the national unity file, he proved an invaluable counsellor on constitutional issues, and we spent many moments reflecting on what Ontario had to be prepared to do in order to bridge the many national divides that were becoming deeper and less easy to resolve.

And he was committed to his family:

Devoted husband, father, grandfather and great-grandfather, he doted on them all, as they came to dote on him. They put up with his corny jokes, his foibles, his asides, and his love of sports, because they knew none of these were as defining as his deep love of family, friends, decency, and country. He has touched us all with his kindness and example, and we can only repay that gift with living and loving as he did.

We have lost a great man.

Image: Policy Options

Sunday, August 08, 2021

Violating The Preppy Code

Tucker Carson is a child of privilege. So is Lisa Birnbach. In The Washington Post, she calls him out:

Oh, Tucker Swanson McNear Carlson. I feel I know you. I have known guys who look like you, sound like you, played like you and lived like you. I’ve tousled hair like yours since I was a child. We were both educated in Rhode Island. You prepped at St. George’s, the beautiful oceanfront boarding school in Middletown. I attended the more bohemian Brown University, but this is all about you, not me.

In so many respects you could not be more prep. And yet. As the de facto commissioner of prepdom, it gives me no pleasure whatsoever to say you have violated our trust to be nice, polite, benign, sporting and somewhat forgetful. We, your school chums at the country club, the beaches of Nantucket and the garden clubs throughout New England, are painfully disappointed in who you seem like you’ve become: a mendacious and malicious money machine. You’d be dangerous even if you had only three names.

Carlson's violations of the preppy code have been many:

Your words these last several years — in particular, your reckless comments about the coronavirus vaccines — have been wrong and bad. And you know it, Tucker. At St. George’s every fall, students take the Honor Pledge and sign their names in the Honor Book, signifying their understanding and acceptance of the daunting responsibility that comes with it: “I pledge to be truthful in my words and honorable in my actions. I pledge to treat respectfully the person, reputation and property of all members of the community and our surroundings. I pledge that for any academic work, all work is my own and that I have upheld the spirit and expectations of Academic Integrity.”

When you book guests on your TV show who see the world differently than you do, is it respectful to mock them — making that “WTF?” facial expression — while they are doing their best to defend their points of view, all in service to your ratings and income? You know the answer, Tucker. Even some Republicans don’t want to appear on your show, for fear that you will shred them with your steroidal incredulity.

You sneak white-nationalist ideas like “replacement theory” into your rhetoric, and then you deny it. You said making children wear masks while they play outside is child abuse and that seeing vaccinated people masking up outdoors is equivalent to “watching a grown man expose himself in public.” You mused on TV that maybe the coronavirus vaccines don’t work “and they’re simply not telling you that.” When journalists have asked you if you’ve been vaccinated, though, you have answered with, “When was the last time you had sex with your wife and in what position?” and “What’s your favorite sexual position and when did you last engage in it?”

Integrity -- academic or otherwise -- is not for Tucker. Money and ME are what counts.

Image: Vanity Fair

Saturday, August 07, 2021

Now For Kenney

Yesterday I wrote about two American governors whose policy decisions regarding the Fourth Wave are idiotic. Today, I turn my attention to Jason Kenney. Alanna Smith writes:

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney says he won't "take lectures" from federal Health Minister Patty Hajdu on how to handle COVID-19.

Hajdu earlier penned a letter to her Alberta counterpart saying she agrees with the Canadian Paediatric Society's description of Alberta's move to lift all COVID-19 measures as an "unnecessary and risky gamble." 

"We're not going to ... take lectures from Minister Hajdu, particularly when it appears that she and her boss (Prime Minister) Justin Trudeau are hell-bent on a federal election campaign," Kenney said Friday at a news conference in Bowden, Alta., about drought support for farmers.

"If they really are that concerned about COVID, then why is she getting ready to put up campaign signs?

It sounds a little like Ron DiSantis telling Joe Biden to look after the U.S. border. It's an old magician's trick -- distraction. But Albertans are protesting Kenney's take on COVID:

Dozens of people chanted “test, trace and isolate” outside the legislature in Edmonton on Friday. It was the ninth consecutive day of protests, which have also taken place in Calgary.

Organizers said they will continue to protest every day until Aug. 16 – the day quarantine requirements lift in Alberta for people infected with COVID-19.

David Walsh, 14, said even though he is fully vaccinated, he is concerned for his peers when they return to school in September.

It’s idiotic, quite frankly,” Walsh said. “I’m worried about asymptomatic people in the school ... and not having to isolate anymore is concerning. I’m worried about my classmates and those who have been fed misinformation and haven’t been vaccinated.”

Businessman Rob Sproule attended the protest with his wife and children. He said he is gravely concerned about a fourth COVID-19 wave.

“No other jurisdiction has gone this far. Dropping restrictions is one thing. You don’t have to take it one step further and treat COVID like it’s the cold. It’s not a cold," said Sproule.

As concerns mount, so are cases in Alberta. Thursday marked the single highest daily case count since July 1 with 397 new infections. Alberta also had the highest active case count in all of Canada, according to federal data.

On Friday, the province reported 369 more cases, and 11 new hospitalizations.

Great minds think alike. But fools never differ.

Image: Global News

Friday, August 06, 2021

In The Spotlight

There's one thing about COVID that's undeniable. It puts stupidity in the spotlight. Eugene Robinson writes:

This is the GOP’s pandemic now. Cynical and irresponsible Republican politicians have created an environment that is killing Americans who shouldn’t have to die, swamping hospital systems with desperately ill patients, and generally ensuring that the pain and disruption of covid-19 are with us longer than they need be or should be. And they’ve done so in their own self-interest.

Stupidity seems to be the one thing that unites Republicans. And Florida governor Ron DeSantis is Exhibit A:

Public enemy number one is Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who is transparently trying to position himself as a contender for the GOP presidential nomination in 2024. DeSantis has signed legislation barring local governments from imposing covid-19 restrictions and prohibiting businesses from requiring that patrons be vaccinated. He has fought to prohibit cruise ships sailing from Florida ports from mandating vaccinations. And though he supposedly supports local control over public schools, DeSantis has threatened to withhold state funding from districts that require students to wear masks.

This week, Joe Biden asked him to "get out of the way." DeSantis has no intention of doing so. Texas governor Greg Abbott is also with Stupid:

 Abbott vows that “in Texas there will not be any government-imposed shutdowns or mask mandates. Everyone already knows what to do. Everyone can voluntarily implement the mandates that are safest for them, their families and their businesses.”

Both men talk about "personal responsibility." It's a good line:

Their basic message: Your body, your choice, nobody else’s business.

But that’s not true. Those who make the “personal choice” not to be vaccinated or not to mask up in appropriate settings are also making a choice to put others at risk. They can spread the coronavirus not just to other unvaccinated individuals, but also to those who can’t get vaccinated; those for whom the vaccines are less effective; and vaccinated people who might themselves not get seriously ill but could potentially pass the virus to more vulnerable members of their households.

Call it what it is: Stupidity. That's what's in the spotlight.

Image: thehill.com

Thursday, August 05, 2021

An Election?

Speculation is rampant that, within the next few days, Justin Trudeau will call an election. Polls suggest that the Liberals have a comfortable lead. So, from their perspective, this may be the time to hit the hustings. But we live in a precarious time. Glen Pearson writes:

Twenty years ago, there was a clear sense that the world, and Canada, were heading to a better place.  The economy was solid and technological development convinced us that we now had powerful tools to drive the change for the better.  There were problems, but we were in the process of overcoming them.

No one is sure of that anymore.  Rightly or wrongly, increasing numbers of Canadians believe this country is in decline and that elections just don’t seem capable of fixing the problem.

This is the backdrop that the next election will be set in.  The days of hope, while we still wish for them, seem somehow to be moving out of reach.  We have numerous causes but no cause, millions of voices but no voice.  Every viewpoint counts for something, but if it can’t respect those it opposes, or seek to find common cause for building something better, then millions of voices can merely become a din.

If the election merely increases the din -- lots of sound and fury signifying nothing -- things will only get worse:

If this coming election can’t carry a different tone, a more heartening sense of cooperation, then it won’t matter who wins if they can’t put this country back together again on a common path.  Make this election about that, and it will be an election that truly matters.

Over the last three decades, we have become increasingly selfish. The election could result in a more collective vision. If it doesn't, we'll be in a bad way.

Image: reneeroederer.com