Tuesday, November 30, 2021

Lauren Boebert And The Other Bigots

Last week, a lot of Americans spent time giving thanks. But Lauren Boebert was not in a thankful mood. Dana Milbank writes:

While the rest of the country paused to express gratitude for our many blessings. Rep. Lauren Boebert of Colorado, a QAnon-admiring Republican, referred to Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.), who is Muslim, as part of a “Jihad Squad” and told an audience a false story of a worried Capitol Police officer chasing down Omar. Boebert claimed she said: “Well, she doesn’t have a backpack. We should be fine.”

Boebert at first apologized “to anyone in the Muslim community I offended” with her Muslims-are-terrorists message. Nominal House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy (Calif.) issued a statement that avoided criticism of Boebert’s words. And Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.), whose support McCarthy needs to remain GOP leader, criticized Boebert — for apologizing. “Never apologize to Islamic terrorist sympathizers,” she wrote, repeating the “Jihad Squad” phrase.

After rejecting Omar’s request for a public apology on Monday, Boebert released a video expanding the original slander. “I will continue to fearlessly put America first, never sympathizing with terrorists,” Boebert said. “Unfortunately, Ilhan can’t say the same thing.”

There have always been political nutbars:

There have always been clowns like Greene, Gosar and Boebert. Over the past two decades, the Rev. Jerry Falwell referred to the prophet Mohammed as a “terrorist,” the Rev. Franklin Graham called Islam “evil,” Christian broadcaster Pat Robertson likened Muslims to Hitler, and conservative activist Paul Weyrich condemned [George W.] Bush’s “constant promotion of Islam as a religion of peace and tolerance” because “it is neither.”

But you'll notice that all of the aforementioned were -- or are -- Republicans. Now they control the party.

Image: The Washington Post

Monday, November 29, 2021

How Long?

Justin Trudeau came back to parliament with an agenda. But events, Chantal Hebert writes, could alter that agenda:

Part of the Liberal rationale for holding a snap election was the hope of riding out a possible post-pandemic economic storm from the relatively safe harbour of a governing majority.

By all indications, Erin O’Toole and his caucus are willing to bet the house on inflation turning out to be the Achilles heel of Trudeau’s minority government.

They are bringing a case that the Liberals are missing in action on the economic front with the same gusto that characterized their charge — at the same time last year — that Canada was about to be left behind as the rest of the world vaccinated its way out of the pandemic.

Time will tell whether this latest Conservative gamble will bring more dividends than the vaccine offensive. The latter only succeeded in making the Liberals look like they were exceeding expectations.

Inflation is not just a Canadian problem. It's an international problem. Many economists see inflation as temporary. The big question is temporary -- for how long? The Liberals are touting their national childcare program as a cost-cutter:

For now, Trudeau’s $10-a-day child-care policy and its prospective savings for many families is the main staple on the government’s anti-inflation shelf.

It is easy to see the rationale for that.

Six months after its launch, the Liberals have already secured a lot more provincial buy-in from across the political spectrum for their child-care policy than they ever did for pharmacare.

Among the larger provinces, Ontario alone has yet to sign off on the plan.

So much depends on how long the storm will last.

Image: whysoblu.com

Sunday, November 28, 2021

The Conservative Slide Into Irrelevance


The Conservative Party, Michael Harris writes, is imploding:

There are many factors driving down the popularity of conservatism in Canada. Let’s unpack them.

Alberta United Conservative Party Premier Jason Kenney made two epic messes. Dealing with the pandemic by whistling past the graveyard. And pissing away millions of dollars trying to paint critics of the fossil fuel sector as enemies of Alberta (demonizing prophets in the name of profits).

And then there are the comments and activities of former prime minister Stephen Harper, who clings to the public limelight like a fading movie star.

His rumblings so stirred Conservative imaginations that Maclean’s polled voters and concluded that his return to leadership might revive the party from its doldrums and make a race of the then looming fall election. Harper, intoned the magazine, would “attract support that’s not currently available to [Erin] O’Toole.”

Conservative saviour? In the harsh glare of an actual election, would not a significant number of voters be repelled by some of Harper’s business deals as a senior member of AWZ Ventures? The former PM heads up an advisory committee at AWZ trying to sell cutting edge surveillance technology to the United Arab Emirates, which also has a dreadful human rights record. AWZ also finances Israeli spy craft technology.

No wonder Harper had nothing to say when the Biden administration recently blacklisted one of the very Israeli spyware companies, NSO Group, whose goods the former PM was trying to hawk to dictators. The commerce department concluded that NSO’s phone-hacking tools were being used by foreign governments to “maliciously target government officials, journalists, businesspeople, activists, academics and embassy works.”

And now there is the fecklessness of Erin O'Toole:

O’Toole has flailed away at Trudeau with the obvious purpose of drawing attention away from his embattled leadership, dismal election results and uncertain relationship with party members.

O’Toole announced that the CPC will be voting against the speech from the throne, and all of its progressive measures. A few months ago, on the campaign trail, he often sounded more like Tommy Douglas than a former Harper cabinet minister. Which confused, because that was a reversal from the social-conservative face he presented to his own party to win the leadership.

It comes down to this. The man is so politically flexible no one knows what he really stands for, including his own base. Or if he stands for anything at all, other than winning power.

Modern Canadian conservatism -- rooted in the economic myopia of Milton Friedman and the philosophical selfishness of Ayn Rand -- is simply not equipped to deal with the brave new world we face.

Image: Facebook

Saturday, November 27, 2021

Another Variant

There is a new COVID variant. Bruce Arthur writes:

B.1.1.529, the newly named Omicron variant, was detected in South Africa but is already popping up all over; one case in Hong Kong travelled from Canada. It appears to outcompete Delta, which to this point had outcompeted everything else, which would mean it is our future. And scientists believe Omicron’s abnormal number of mutations could possibly reduce vaccine protection, though that is one of several important things that we don’t yet know.

And, he asks, what are we going to do about it?

Experts are frantically trying to discern just what the variant will do. It’s dispiriting, and a reminder of the hectic early days of this epochal pandemic. And it’s a reminder that the virus doesn’t get tired, even if we do.

“This is real,” says Dr. Peter Juni, the scientific director of Ontario’s independent volunteer science table, after reviewing the early genetic sequencing data out of South Africa. “This is not a blip. The only thing we know is it’s dominating Delta, and that in itself is troublesome enough.

“We’re not in peacetime right now.”

We cannot be complacent:

We have to presume it will arrive, and even if it’s only more transmissible that would mean a faster infection of the unvaccinated population, and into waning vaccine immunity. The federal government’s current requirement for pre-arrival testing and full vaccination makes sense: its travel ban is likely to be mostly theatre, and a more effective reinstitution of border quarantine may be necessary. We will find out how effective Canada’s border measures actually are, with one proviso: the variant will arrive.

“If there is a more transmissible variant, it’s coming. It’s going to happen,” says Dr. Isaac Bogoch, infectious diseases specialist at Toronto General Hospital and the University of Toronto who was part of a report late last year on federal border measures. “I think people think they have more control over the situation than they actually do.

“It doesn’t mean you don’t do anything, but it means you have to take meaningful action rather than performative action. You need to vaccinate like stink, better surveillance, enforced masking. Does this set the clock back to zero and it’s day one again? No.

It means we have to act collectively -- something a significant number of us have trouble doing.

Image: The Guardian

Friday, November 26, 2021

One Such Person

Florida governor Ron DeSantis holds degrees from Yale and Harvard law. That's supposed to signal intelligence and competence. It does not. DeSantis is vehemently opposed to any COVID 19 protocols. Florida school superintendent Carlee Simon writes in The Washington Post:

After months of harassing school districts, including mine, over our covid-19 protocols, Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) and the Florida Legislature have just passed a new law that blocks schools from requiring masks for students and quarantines for students and staff who appear asymptomatic. The governor even called a special legislative session to get this and other bills targeting covid-19 measures passed — although he conveniently waited until the delta-driven covid surge of the late summer and early fall had subsided in the state.

Of course, the outcome of the session was never in any doubt. DeSantis and other state leaders vehemently opposed mask mandates and quarantine protocols even as positive cases, hospitalizations and deaths from covid skyrocketed in Florida during the first few weeks of school. They fought school districts that required them tooth and nail, even withholding our funding because we did what was necessary to protect students and staff during a public health crisis.

Despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary, the governor insists that masks are ineffective and even harmful. To bolster his viewpoint, he fast-tracked the appointment of Joseph Ladapo — an anti-vaccine, anti-mask, hydroxychloroquine-promoting doctor apparently focused on undermining rather than protecting public health — as the state’s surgeon general.

Their nonscientific and nonsensical agenda is now enshrined in Florida law. From here on out, school districts cannot require masks no matter what happens in the future.

There's a lot of that going around these days -- monumental stupidity in the face of overwhelming evidence:

Never mind that covid cases are rising in half of the states and that experts are warning of a potential winter spike. If another surge comes to Florida, schools will have been hamstrung by state leaders more concerned about appeasing their governor and his political base than promoting the health and well-being of their constituents.

How to explain it? Obviously, it has nothing to do with the standard measures of intelligence. But it has everything to do with the will to power. Some of us will do anything to grasp the brass ring. DeSantis is one such person.

Image: The New Yorker

Thursday, November 25, 2021

A Strange Marriage Of Convenience

Parliament began with the same bickering between the major parties. Althea Raj writes:

On Monday, the Liberals sought to ensure focus remained on unvaccinated Conservative MPs — for reasons still unexplained, Erin O’Toole refuses to say how many of his MPs have medical exemptions from being vaccinated against COVID-19.

On Tuesday morning, Conservative finance critic Pierre Poilievre accused the Liberals of having an “inflation tax.” Inflation is at an 18-year high, and Canadians are feeling it at the gas pumps, at grocery stores and in the housing market. But Canada is not alone. It’s a problem shared by advanced economies around the world and exacerbated by choked global supply chains — although it is also true that the $300 billion or so the federal government has injected into the economy to soften the pandemic’s effects has contributed to the problem. Calling the result an “inflation tax” may be good branding, but it is deceitful.

On Tuesday afternoon, NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh lambasted the government over its throne speech, accusing it of having “run out of ideas,” and wouldn’t say whether his party would vote to support it. On Wednesday, Singh explained the reasons for his political manoeuvring: “I want it to be clear to the Liberals that they should not take our support for granted.”

But after the throne speech, "Bloc Leader Yves-François Blanchet was blunt with his remarks. The speech was vague, he said, but there was nothing in it to oppose. “How can we vote against apple pie?” he asked."

It will be a strange marriage of convenience:

Although Blanchet can be unpleasant, arrogant and condescending, he and the Bloc are often the sole authentic voices on Parliament Hill. Certainly, it helps that his party is not competing for power. For many Quebecers, the Bloc is a “none of the above” alternative on the ballot. But its mantra of being willing to work and negotiate with the government on anything that benefits Quebec, makes it a predictable partner, one focused on policy, and one that has been rather successful.

Sure, Blanchet can hit below the belt, as he did Wednesday in daring the prime minister to suggest that he would have been a better steward of the province’s health and long-term care systems than the government of Quebec.

Raj concludes -- correctly -- that the Liberals will remain in power with the help of the one party that doesn't want it.

Image: The Toronto Star

Wednesday, November 24, 2021

Bigger Is No Longer Better

Doug Ford wants to build a new highway as part of the system of highways that surround Toronto. But he's running into opposition. Ben Spurr writes:

While the Ontario PC’s are betting the proposed Highway 413 and Bradford Bypass will win over discontented commuters in the run-up to the June 2022 election, the idea that future drivers will zip along empty new highways is likely too good to be true.

Decades worth of research and real-world experience indicates highway expansions have limited ability to reduce congestion, because traffic volumes quickly increase to fill up new road space and gridlock returns within a matter of years.

The phenomenon is called “induced demand,” and experts say it doesn’t appear the province has adequately accounted for it in the highway vision it’s pitching to voters. Even the province’s own projections suggest the 413 would be afflicted by significant congestion soon after it’s built.

“When highway capacity has been expanded, there has been an increase in the amount of driving, and that’s what all the studies show,” said Susan Handy, a professor of environmental science and policy at University of California, Davis. While there’s debate over how fast gridlock returns, “over time you get back to where you were, congestion-wise,” she said.

There are lots of historical examples of induced demand. One is the Katy Freeway:

There’s no shortage of real-world examples of induced demand, which researchers have observed as far back as the 1920s. But one notorious case is the Katy Freeway in Houston, Texas. An expansion of the chronically clogged highway was completed in 2011 at a cost of $2.5 billion (U.S.), creating a traffic corridor that is 26 lanes across at its broadest point and is among the widest on the continent. Although drive times improved immediately after the expansion, by 2014 media reported that trips on the Katy were taking longer than in 2011.

The Fordians are working from an old outdated paradigm. The post COVID world is not going to be about building new and bigger highways.

Image: The Toronto Star

Tuesday, November 23, 2021

John Kennedy -- Country Bumpkin?

John Kennedy -- the Senator from Louisiana, not the president -- knows he's got a good shtick.  Robert Mann writes:

An acerbic Biden critic, Kennedy is a fount of sharp-but-folksy one-liners. He punctuated his 2016 Senate campaign spots with, “I will not let you down. I’d rather drink weedkiller.” With his exaggerated Southern accent, he affects a mixture of Mr. Haney, the con artist of the 1960s CBS sitcom “Green Acres,” and the bombastic Looney Tunes rooster, Foghorn J. Leghorn.

That shtick -- and the party -- have changed over the years:

We recall the brainy graduate of Vanderbilt University, the University of Virginia Law School and Oxford University’s Magdalen College; the relatively progressive Democrat who ran for the U.S. Senate in 2004; the man who, despite his 2007 party switch, served capably as state treasurer from 2000 to 2017; the official who, although in the same Republican Party as then-Gov. Bobby Jindal, was a fierce critic of Jindal’s reckless fiscal policies.

In pitching his Democratic Senate candidacy, he was articulate, restrained and progressive. He scorned the tax cuts for wealthy Americans that then-President George W. Bush had signed. He favored increasing the federal minimum wage.

These days, things are quite different:

“I don’t know whether to call you ‘professor’ or ‘comrade,’” Kennedy told Saule Omarova, a Cornell Law School professor, during her confirmation hearing before the Senate Banking Committee on which Kennedy serves.

When Kennedy asked if she had a resignation letter from the Communist youth group the Soviet-controlled Kazakhstan government forced her to join as a child, Omarova responded, “Senator, I’m not a Communist. I do not subscribe to that ideology. I could not choose where I was born.” Omarova told Kennedy the Communist regime persecuted her family, adding, “That’s who I am. I remember that history. I came to this country. I’m proud to be an American.”

Kennedy is a man without principle or moral compass. As Foghorn Leghorn would put it: "I say, the boy gets on my nerves!"

Image: You Tube

Monday, November 22, 2021

Time Is Running Out

It was heartbreaking to watch the final hours of COP 26. Robin Sears writes:

Whether you were appalled or simply resigned at the sight of India’s successful last minute power play to water down the commitment to phase out coal, it was high drama to watch it unfold. Minutes before the final concession, Reuters reported that China, India, the U.S. and the EU were huddling just off the floor. China pushed India to demand with them the “soft on coal” language, threatening not to sign the pact if they were refused.

These meetings always end the same way. Each time a breakthrough is in sight, one or two nations threaten to sabotage the whole meeting and a compromised in reached --  compromise that brngs us closer to the cliff:

There is no forum in the world like it. This is a decision-making body, made of up of nearly every nation on earth. The world has never succeeded at something this ambitious — and we have often failed. The League of Nations, collapsed; the UN, paralyzed by big power veto; the WTO, at risk of irrelevance.

At COP there is little hierarchy of power. The Maldives delegate, a powerful and impassioned campaigner, has the same access to the world’s attention as the U.S. It operates by consensus, so the major powers need to fight for Tuvalu’s support, not just that of their peers. Of course, there are side deals and hidden coalitions; everyone is equal, but some are more equal than others.

Foot draggers like Australia, China, India and Indonesia came under real political pressure inside and — more importantly — outside the hall. One could sense for the first time a sense of near panic about island nations’ survival, about extreme weather becoming more severe for everyone.

Watching John Kerry weave back and forth between groups, pleading for consensus; listening to the impassioned Africans telling the world of their climate suffering; witnessing the pain on the faces of the poorer nations’ delegates at the hard compromises they must swallow — you knew this was for real. As Kerry put it, very few public officials get to make decisions of this magnitude, choices about the very fate of the world.

Getting the countries of the world to act in unison has always been a fool's errand. And time is running out.

Image: shutterstock

Sunday, November 21, 2021


It's been a long time coming. But Lawrence Scanlan writes that we're finally talking about taxing the rich:

There has always been a great divide in human history, says Lars Osberg in an October conversation. The Dalhousie University professor of economics has been probing this divide since he was an undergrad and is now a world authority on the subject of inequality.

Osberg argues that while the gap between the rich and the poor has widened since the 1980s, a shift is coming. “The discourse on inequality,” he says, “has changed dramatically in the past five years.”

He recalls that six years ago, in the 2015 federal election, taxing the wealthy was simply not on the table. Even the NDP campaigned on a balanced budget while proclaiming that income tax rates beyond 50 per cent were out of the question.

The pandemic changed a lot of that: billionaires with toys enriched by the worldwide malady made the headlines, but so did makeshift encampments in city parks and growing lineups at food banks and community kitchens. It seems a tipping point was reached, and the shrugging of shoulders at the rich/poor divide gave way to a simmering anger.

In the 1950s things were a lot different:

“The rich, the middle class and the poor,” [Osberg] writes, “all shared in economic growth.” The incomes of the rich were then taxed at 70 per cent, not 30 per cent as now. To revert to those old levels today could net some $26 billion.

Things changed in the 1980s:

Starting in the early 1980s and especially in the mid-1990s, social programs were cut and never restored, and no one suffered more than those at the bottom while those at the very upper end saw their wages (and stock options) begin to soar. These days the top 100 CEOs in Canada earn, on average, $11 million a year.

That’s a heap of political and economic power in the hands of a very few, Osberg says. Power is so concentrated it imperils democracy. Prime ministers always take their phone calls and, a generation later, those of their sons and daughters.

The ice jam, however, is beginning to break:

But things change, sometimes quickly, and sometimes for the better. A minimum tax on corporate wealth was long seen as a pipe dream. Not now. Some 140 countries have just agreed to a minimum global corporate tax of 15 per cent as an antidote to the use of certain countries as tax havens.

It is a sign of change,” says Osberg. “The devil is always in the details, however, as to what will be counted in taxable income, and therefore how much this minimum is actually enforced. Maybe the tax rate should be higher, but that can come later. Multinationally-agreed, minimum corporate tax rates weren’t coming at all for many years.”

As Washington Post columnist Helaine Olen recently noted, “Billionaires are on a collision course with the rest of us. Survey after survey shows a solid majority of Americans believe that the rich in general and billionaires in particular are not paying their fair share.... We don’t need to look at the data on inequality in this country, child poverty, housing or health issues to know that things have gone too far.”

You can see the shift in public attitudes. Now we need to see the results.

Image: Center For Budget And Policy Priorities

Saturday, November 20, 2021

A Doomed Nation

Yesterday, Kyle Rittenhouse was found not guilty on all charges. No one should be surprised. Shree Paradkar lists three other examples of American injustice:

Tamir Rice, 12. Just 12 years old in 2014, playing with a toy gun, on a quiet playground in Cleveland, Ohio, when he is gunned down by police for possibly being a threat. The cop who killed him, never charged. The boy’s apparent guilt: being Black.

Trayvon Martin was 17 in 2012, killed for the crime of wearing a hoodie and carrying a packet of Skittles in Florida. George Zimmerman, the man who killed him, claimed self defence and was acquitted.

Mark Hughes, a 34-year-old Black man in 2015, shows up wearing a legally purchased AR-15 rifle at a protest in Dallas in the open carry state of Texas. The protest turns deadly leaving five police officers dead. Hughes quickly hands over his weapon to police and helps them evacuate people from rally, but the Dallas police department still circulates his photo to the world naming him the chief suspect.

Americans claim that the second amendment gives them the right of self-defence with a deadly weapon. But think for a moment:

Are we supposed to care about which particular set of laws in which particular state allows fully armed people to claim self defence against unarmed people? Are we supposed to be mollified that an acquittal most unjust was simply the law proceeding as decreed? Are we supposed to be blind to the knowledge that such laws, including the basic presumption of innocence, are never applied equally?

Rittenhouse arrived in Kenosha to help protect an auto dealership at the invitation of the owner. He walked into a smouldering tinderbox of a situation with a dangerous weapon he had no business carrying and one that immediately made him threatening. And when people around him responded to him like the threat he was, he reacted to that fear with his own. And claimed he responded in self-defence.

As the parents of Anthony Huber, one of Rittenhouse’s victims, said, the not-guilty verdict “sends the unacceptable message that armed civilians can show up in any town, incite violence, and then use the danger they have created to justify shooting people in the street.”

I have reached the conclusion that the United States is a doomed nation.

Image: NBC News

Friday, November 19, 2021

Trump And Russia

The so-called "Steele Dossier" has largely been discredited. But, Max Boot writes, that doesn't mean that Donald Trump wasn't collaborating with the Russians to get elected:

Simply read the bipartisan findings of the Senate Intelligence Committee report on Russia’s election interference. The committee, then led by Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), issued last year its fifth and final volume detailing even more extensive links between the Kremlin and the Trump campaign than had previously been known. (Lawfare has a helpful summary.)

The report notes that campaign chairman Paul Manafort, who was working for Trump for free, was in debt to a previous employer, Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska, on whose behalf he had done “influence work for the Russian government.” While managing the campaign, Manafort remained in close touch with his business associate Konstantin Kilimnik, a “Russian intelligence officer” who may have been “connected to the GRU [Russian military intelligence] hack and leak operation targeting the 2016 U.S. election.” Manafort shared with Kilimnik internal campaign polling data that could have been useful to the Russians in their disinformation campaign.

That noise about stolen emails was very interesting:

The report also sheds further light on the connections between the Trump campaign and WikiLeaks, which was used by Russian intelligence to release stolen Democratic emails. The report concludes: “The Trump Campaign took actions to obtain advance notice about WikiLeaks releases of Clinton emails…; created messaging strategies to promote and share the materials in anticipation of and following their release; and encouraged further theft of information and continued leaks.”

The key campaign middleman was Roger Stone, who refused to cooperate with investigators and was later pardoned, along with Manafort, by Trump. The report cites extensive evidence that, despite Trump’s denials, Stone kept Trump informed of his contacts with WikiLeaks.

Trump and his crew cannot claim they did not know where this stolen information was coming from. The report notes that “Trump and the Campaign continued to promote and disseminate the hacked WikiLeaks documents” even after the intelligence community publicly attributed the documents to a Russian operation. Rather than working with the FBI to protect U.S. security, the committee writes, “The Trump Campaign publicly undermined the attribution of the hack and-leak campaign to Russia, and was indifferent to whether it and WikiLeaks were furthering a Russian election interference effort.”-

Then there was that meeting to deliver dirt on Hillary Clinton:

The meeting was arranged by Russian oligarch Aras Agalarov and his son Emin Agalarov, Trump’s business partners in a lucrative 2013 beauty pageant in Moscow. (At least it was lucrative for Trump; the Agalarovs, according to the Senate report, apparently lost $10 million.) According to the report, the Agalarovs “have significant ties to Russian organized crime,” and the elder Agalarov has "significant ties to the Russian government, including to individuals involved in influence operations targeting the 2016 U.S. election.” 

From the beginning of Donald Trump's mad quest for power until its end in the capital riot, it's easy to connect the dots. Trump's model for the exercise of political power is rooted in Russia.

Image: NBC News

Thursday, November 18, 2021

Paul Gosar


Paul Gosar is a piece of work. Dana Milbank writes:

Ten days ago, as the world now knows, Gosar, a dentist/insurrectionist, tweeted from his official congressional Twitter account a manipulated anime in which the Gosar figure flies through the air and slashes the Ocasio-Cortez figure across the back of the neck. Blood sprays profusely from the neck wound. Ocasio-Cortez’s lifeless head snaps back. Gosar moves on in the video, swords drawn, to confront President Biden.

Gosar didn’t apologize for the video. He mocked the “faux outrage” and labeled as “laughable” the “shrill accusations that this cartoon is dangerous.”

On the House floor Wednesday afternoon, a defiant Gosar, noting that he took down the video (after about two days and 3 million views), portrayed himself as the victim. “No matter how much the left tries to quiet me, I will continue to speak out,” he vowed.

Yesterday, the House of Representatives voted to censure Gosar. Only two Republicans voted in favour of censure. All the other Republicans, led by Kevin McCarthy, mocked the whole process:

Kevin McCarthy (Calif.) is the one who truly has earned the censure of posterity. In his craven attempt to maintain himself as the House Republican leader, McCarthy showed once again that there is no level of violent, hateful or authoritarian speech that goes too far. By condoning threats and intimidation in the people’s House, he is inviting actual violence — and signing democracy’s death warrant.

McCarthy was outraged — not by the unrepentant Gosar’s homicidal cinematography but by Democrats’ move to reprimand him. Instead of condemning the video, McCarthy said Democrats would “break another precedent” of the House.

McCarthy, on the House floor, mentioned the matter only in passing (“I do not condone violence, and Rep. Gosar had echoed that sentiment”), instead reciting a meandering list of grievances: Proxy voting! The Steele dossier! Afghanistan! He threatened that when speaker he would retaliate by stripping committee assignments from five Democrats over various perceived offenses.

The victim of Gosar’s anime sword, speaking immediately after McCarthy, noted McCarthy’s strained search for equivalent wrongs. “When the Republican leader rose to talk about how there are all of these double standards … not once did he list an example of a member of Congress threatening the life of another,” Ocasio-Cortez pointed out.

“It is a sad day,” she said, “in which a member who leads a political party in the United States of America cannot bring themselves to say that issuing a depiction of murdering a member of Congress is wrong.”

A sad day indeed. We have witnessed the corruption and destruction of a once-proud political party.

Image: usnews.com

Wednesday, November 17, 2021

Canada's Nutbars

Political scientists have been analyzing how people voted in the last election. Even though the seat count is about the same, there are shifts happening among the voters. Andrew Parkin and Justin Savoie report that:

Most notably, while the People’s Party of Canada failed to win any seats, its share of the popular vote grew to five per cent — more than double what it earned two years earlier.

The PPC’s support is small yet not easily dismissed. The 841,000 votes it earned makes it the fifth most popular party in the country, well ahead of the Greens (who have appeared on the ballot, addressing the prominent issue of climate change, for decades). The People’s Party won three times more votes than the Reform Party did when it first fielded candidates in 1988, one election prior to its breakthrough in 1993.

At first glance, our fall 2021 survey shows PPC voters have the profile many would expect. They’re dissatisfied with the way things are going in our country today, feel the economy is getting weaker, think there are too many immigrants coming to Canada who don’t adopt the country’s values and hold a favourable opinion of the United States.

Yet these opinions do not really set them apart. Most Conservative Party supporters also hold these views. What does distinguish current PPC voters is their views on the COVID-19 pandemic, and specifically on the issue of vaccination, vaccine mandates and vaccine passports.

The PPC are anti-vaxxers:

For PPC supporters, the No. 1 issue was the loss of freedom stemming from vaccine mandates — a concern barely mentioned by anyone who supported other parties.

Someone who singled out “loss of freedom” during the pandemic as the most important issue facing the country had a 59 per cent chance of supporting the PPC, compared to only a five per cent chance for someone who mentioned any other issue.

Similarly, someone who singled out “COVID-19 vaccination issues” as the most important issue facing the country had a 44 per cent chance of supporting the PPC, compared to a six per cent chance for someone who mentioned any other issue.

Surprisingly, immigration does not move PPCers:

Equally important is the finding that PPC voters stand out much less for their attitudes on immigration. The impact of immigration views on someone’s likelihood of supporting the PPC is barely significant, in stark contrast to their opinions on vaccination.

This does not mean that PPC voters are strong supporters of immigration; rather, it means simply that their views on the subject do not differentiate supporters of the PPC from supporters of some other parties — notably, the Conservatives.

The findings should worry the Conservatives:

It does send a cautionary note to Conservatives who might be wondering what the party can do to bring PPC voters back into the fold. Rejecting new policies on climate change or social diversity is unlikely to help so long as PPC supporters continue to be motivated largely by a single issue — their opposition to vaccines.

As the election outcome itself showed, showing flexibility on vaccine mandates in order to win back defectors to the PPC risks putting more distance between the Conservative Party and the mainstream of Canadian public opinion.

In short, PPC voters were not simply typical Conservative supporters leaning furthest to the right on a range of issues that include government spending, taxation, climate change and immigration. They were, on average, a unique cluster of voters who have rejected the overwhelming public consensus on the need to be vaccinated to contain the spread of COVID-19.

Every country has its nutbars. They've found a place together in The Peoples Party of Canada.

Image: THE CANADIAN PRESS/Lars Hagberg

Tuesday, November 16, 2021

The Road To Serfdom

Republicans in the United States have no clothes. They stand naked with no pretenses left. Eugene Robinson writes

We are bombarded daily with heavy-lies-the-crown tales of woe about President Biden, Vice President Harris and the razor-thin Democratic majorities in Congress. Meanwhile, the Republican Party somehow evades similar scrutiny and skepticism. The truth is that if you want to see a portrait of factionalism and aimlessness, look closely at the dysfunctional collection of politicians that once could legitimately call itself the Grand Old Party.

Today’s Republicans agree wholeheartedly on one thing: ambition for power. That’s because, at least in Washington, they have so little of it: Under President Donald Trump, the GOP lost the White House and control of both the House and Senate, a rare trifecta not achieved since Herbert Hoover.

Thanks to Trump, the party also lost anything resembling a coherent philosophy. Republicans used to believe in tight fiscal policy but cheered while Trump spent wildly. They used to worry about the national debt but acquiesced while Trump racked up massive deficits. They used to believe in a muscular foreign policy but cheered while Trump swooned into bromances with Russian President Vladimir Putin and North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un.

I have never felt much kinship with Republicans. But now what you see is what you get:

The party had the chance to dump Trump after Jan. 6 but decided not to risk it. Now the GOP is stuck with him — and beholden to his moods, whims, obsessions and machinations.

Much is made of the fact that 19 Republicans in the Senate and 13 in the House voted for the landmark $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill that Biden signed into law Monday. But Trump lambasted the “RINOs [Republicans In Name Only] in the House and Senate [who] gave Biden and Democrats a victory,” singling out McConnell by name. And even McConnell wasn’t brave enough to attend the bill’s signing ceremony, citing unspecified (and probably nonexistent) “other things I’ve got to do.”

In other words, Emperor Trump’s position is that Republicans must obstruct initiatives that clearly would benefit their constituents but would also give “wins” to Biden and the Democrats. Not being able to claim credit for job-creating projects in their communities might not hurt GOP candidates next fall. But it sure won’t help them.

Republicans who actually want to fulfill their oath to the Constitution and participate in governing — such as Rep. Liz Cheney (Wyo.), who serves on the House Select Committee investigating the insurrection; or Rep. Fred Upton (Mich.), who voted for the infrastructure bill — receive death threats from Trumpist fanatics. The party claims to believe in “freedom,” especially from mandates for coronavirus vaccines and masks. But it no longer demonstrably believes in democracy.

One of the party's guiding lights was Friedrich Hayek, who wrote The Road To Serfdom. The party now believes the road to freedom is synonymous with the road to serfdom.

Image: Kobo.com

Monday, November 15, 2021

Sooner Or Later

Sooner or later, Michael Harris writes, Erin O'Toole is going to be confronted with his own failure:

Sooner or later, Erin O’Toole is going to have to admit that his stroll down the left bank of Canada’s political canal is a failure.

There is the obvious failure measured by seats won in the last federal election. Poor old Andrew Scheer got the Julius Caesar treatment after his one and only election as Conservative leader, and Scheer added more seats to the party’s total in the 2019 election than it won under Stephen Harper the election prior. Erin O’Toole lost seats compared to his predecessor’s numbers. That’s failure in neon.

O’Toole’s attempt to claim a victory of sorts by saying that the Conservatives had prevented Justin Trudeau from getting a majority was a dog that wouldn’t hunt from the get-go. Political parties look to their leaders for victory, not glib rationalizations for failure.   

O'Toole wants to drag his party to the left. The problem is that his party doesn't want to go there:

While O’Toole tries to save his job, the CPC base, or at least the hard right portion of it, is stewing over the party’s drift to the left and its defeat. The exclusion of anti-vaxxers from the Shadow Cabinet, particularly Leslyn Lewis, will only confirm that O’Toole is determined to abandon socially conservative policies. That is a big problem for the party, not just Erin O’Toole. As Jenny Byrne succinctly put it on a recent podcast, Conservatives don’t want to be Liberals.

That is the deep failure of Erin O’Toole’s leadership. It is one thing to go down fighting the good fight for your beliefs. You pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and await the next fray. You still have your beliefs intact.  

It is a very different thing to unilaterally exchange core Conservative positions for a more progressive agenda, as O’Toole did in the last election, all because you believe it is the secret sauce for winning. That leaves the base confused. If you lose, as the CPC did, the confusion eventually turns to anger. At the heart of the anger is the suspicion that it was because you abandoned conservative values that you lost.  

The irony is that Erin O’Toole would have been lionized as a political genius if he had defeated Justin Trudeau and the Liberals by shifting to the left. Much is forgiven when a leader wins the only prize that matters in politics: power.  

But Erin O’Toole and his inner sanctum lost the election. They got the country wrong.  They insulted part of their own base. That leaves the leader as a man who now cannot lead from either the right or the left in any future election, at least not with any real hope of winning. Key elements of the right will never trust him again. Canadians have already resoundingly rejected his masquerade as a progressive.

Sooner or later, all of the chickens will come home to roost.

Image: The Hill Times

Sunday, November 14, 2021

Burning The Books

American schools are being confronted by a new generation of book burners. Michelle Goldberg writes:

Virginia’s Spotsylvania County School Board this week voted unanimously to have books with “sexually explicit” material removed from school library shelves. For two members of the school board, this didn’t go far enough; they wanted to see the books incinerated. “I’m sure we’ve got hundreds of people out there that would like to see those books before we burn them,” said one of the members, Kirk Twigg. “Just so we can identify, within our community, that we are eradicating this bad stuff.”

This was just one example of an aggressive new censoriousness tearing through America, as the campaign against critical race theory expands into a broader push to purge school libraries of books that affront conservative sensibilities regarding race and gender. Deborah Caldwell-Stone, director of the American Library Association’s Office for Intellectual Freedom, told me that during her 20 years with the organization, “there’s always been a steady hum of censorship, and the reasons have shifted over time. But I’ve never seen the number of challenges we’ve seen this year.”

And the targets are not just recently published books:

In Texas and South Carolina, Republican governors have called for action on “obscene” content in school libraries. Public schools in Virginia Beach have pulled books including Toni Morrison’s “The Bluest Eye” out of their libraries pending the results of a challenge by conservative school board members. 

Many of the books being targeted are about members of marginalized communities:

Ashley Hope Pérez’s award-winning “Out of Darkness,” about a romance between a Mexican American girl and a Black boy set against Texas’ 1937 New London school explosion, came out in 2015. Until this year Pérez, a former high school English teacher who is now an assistant professor at Ohio State University, hadn’t heard of any controversy around it. But now her book is regularly denounced by school culture warriors. The group No Left Turn in Education, which was founded last year to fight critical race theory in schools, has it on a list of books that are “indoctrinating kids to a dangerous ideology.”

In September, a Texas anti-mask activist named Kara Bell read a passage from “Out of Darkness” at a school board meeting. The scene she chose was one in which a gang of racist white students sexually demean the Mexican heroine.

Bell quoted the characters making a slang reference to anal sex, words that left her appalled. “I do not want my children to learn about anal sex in middle school!” she cried. “I’ve never had anal sex! I don’t want to have anal sex! I don’t want my kids having anal sex!”

The Right is on a tear -- convinced that God is on their side. And, in His name, they're marching backward -- into the Dark Ages.

Image: The Washington Post

Saturday, November 13, 2021

The Fall Of The Wealthy

Big family-owned businesses can get pretty swampy. The battle at Rogers Communications is a case in point. Howard Greene writes:

Every family is a delicate ecosystem. But a family-controlled business can be akin to a one-party state. This has been playing out in full view on the nasty channel between members of the Rogers family over control of the company built by the late Ted Rogers.

Bad blood in the family can eventually lead to the demise of the business. That's what happened at Seagrams:

At Seagram, the disintegration was borne of Sam Bronfman’s iron grip on the company, and his legendary temper. At one point, he forced his brother out of the business (blood didn’t count). When it came time for “Mr. Sam” to pass the baton, he handed it to his eldest son, Edgar (blood counted). His youngest, Charles, became an equal owner. He and Edgar got 60 per cent of the family holding, while sisters Minda and Phyllis got 40.

But Charles didn’t want to be CEO, even though he held the same voting power as Edgar. Although Edgar ran Seagram for years, Charles recounted how his brother was often thwarted by their father who couldn’t let go. (Disclosure: I co-authored Charles’ memoir, “Distilled.”)

Eventually, Edgar anointed his second son, Edgar Jr., as his successor (blood counted) and, according to Charles, gave him “carte blanche.” Governance types would be aghast to learn that Edgar Sr. made Seagram’s succession plan public via Fortune magazine, without informing the board of directors or Charles, his co-chairman (blood didn’t count).

Edgar Jr, however, made terrible business decisions. The first was Jr.'s decision to sell Seagrams shares in Dupont. The second was his decision  to get into the entertainment business:

The sale of DuPont led to Seagram’s U-turn into entertainment, with the subsequent purchase of MCA, which became Universal Studios. This would have infuriated Sam, who’d admonished Edgar Sr. for personally buying a piece of MGM in 1968.

Meantime, five years after the purchase of MCA, as the media and technology sectors lurched towards convergence, Seagram sold itself to Vivendi for shares in Vivendi, which began a downward spiral. Not only did Seagram disappear and gobs of money evaporate. Edgar Sr.'s brother Charles didin't go to war with Edgar Jr. and Seagrams became part of history.

When I was a kid growing up in Montreal, "Mr. Sam" had reached the pinnacle of success -- the symbol of which was his house atop Mount Royal. He had risen from his Russian roots, through his early days on the Manitoba prairies, through his bootlegging career -- making and distributing bathtub gin -- to the apex of Montreal society. After rejecting his money for years, McGill University built the Sadie Bronfman Centre on  Sherbrooke Street and it became a temple to the arts in Montreal.

But Seagrams disappeared. Sic transit gloria mundi.

Image: particle.physics.ucdavis.edu

Friday, November 12, 2021

Sleeping With An Elephant

Donald Trump has left the White House. But that doesn't mean that the relationship between the United States and Canada is all sweetness and light. Campbell Clark writes:

The supposed kinship between Mr. Trudeau’s Liberals and Mr. Biden’s Democrats hasn’t led to a seamless relationship. The two countries couldn’t even co-ordinate the reopening of the border – Canada allowed fully vaccinated travellers to enter as of Aug. 9, but the United States waited three more months.

But there are bigger concerns now. When Mr. Trudeau heads to Washington next week for the Three Amigos summit of leaders of the U.S., Mexico and Canada, he will find the dangers to Canada’s economic interests haven’t gone away.

Mr. Biden isn’t Mr. Trump, but he is still a leader trying to harness economic nationalism in a divided U.S. political scene. And he’s backed by congressional Democrats who favour protectionist policies.

It’s not just the Buy American provisions in the big spending bills rolling through Congress. Instead of the tariffs threatened by Mr. Trump, there are proposals to give U.S. car buyers hefty incentives to buy American-made electric vehicles, which would encourage car makers to set up EV plants in the U.S., instead of Canada.

“It’s a bigger threat than anything pointed at us by Donald Trump,” said Flavio Volpe, president of the Automotive Parts Manufacturers’ Association.

The difficulties in the relationship were exacerbated by the pandemic and by other irritants:

Mr. Trudeau’s senior advisers couldn’t travel to press the flesh when Mr. Biden was elected. There was a pandemic. The transition period was marked by the Jan. 6 storming of Congress. Mr. Biden took over a divided country, and focused on domestic politics. Mr. Trudeau’s advisers have still tried to reach out to Mr. Biden’s, but until recently, mostly by phone.

But what is really missing is a Biden-era corollary to the full-court-press strategy that Mr. Trudeau’s government launched when Mr. Trump threatened to tear up NAFTA. Not the panic stations and the war room, but the lobby effort aimed at a broad cross-section of U.S. power players – legislators, governors, mayors, business and union leaders.

But we need a new strategy to deal with Biden:

Mr. Biden isn’t going to kill the EV incentive just to do Canada a favour. Mr. Trudeau’s government has to convince Americans, including Mr. Biden’s allies, that it isn’t in their interests. Mr. Volpe argued that Canada and Mexico could agree to offer the same incentive, to make it a North American electric-vehicle rebate – sidestepping the trade damage while joining the U.S. green initiative.

Of course, it is still possible that the electric-vehicle incentive, and its threat to Canada’s auto sector, will die in Congress. West Virginia Democratic Senator Joe Manchin, a key swing vote, is opposed. If it does, we can expect another such threat to come up in the future – so it would be wise to stay on edge.

Justin's father famously said that living next to the United States was like sleeping with an elephant: "No matter how friendly or even-tempered is the beast . . . one is affected by every twitch and grunt."

The elephant keeps rolling over on your side of the bed.

Image: Quote Tab

Thursday, November 11, 2021

A Good Question


On the COVID file, Doug Ford's record has been spotty. Martin Regg Cohn writes:

The recurring COVID-19 waves won’t subside anytime soon. But a rising tide of infections in Ontario hot spots doesn’t mean the sky is falling across the province.

Ontario has enjoyed an enviable reprieve. Per capita case counts remain the lowest of any large jurisdiction on the continent, far below B.C. — whose chief medical officer and NDP government were hailed as role models while their Ontario counterparts were pilloried for the past year.

Cohn asks:

Is it Doug Ford’s doing? Or will it be the premier’s undoing?

Is the glass half empty? Or is the vial 89 per cent full (the proportion of eligible Ontarians with one shot so far)?

For all the ephemeral talk of achieving “herd immunity,” our herd mentality has been remarkably robust. Getting nine out of 10 Ontarians to agree on anything — not least inoculation without indoctrination — is a testament to social consensus.

No less than herd immunity, total unanimity is elusive, as social scientists can tell you. In the years after Elvis Presley’s death, annual surveys showed as many as one out of 10 Americans believed he was still alive — roughly the proportion who won’t get vaccinated here.

Ford still will not mandate vaccinations for health care workers. But there is a method to his madness:

There is a pattern to the premier’s performance and a method to his madness: Ford does not so much lead the way as get out of the way.

My point is not to excuse but merely explain Ford’s abdication of leadership — his aversion to political will, and his avoidance of risk.

The premier prefers to pick his fights because he prefers winning odds to losing battles. That’s why he backed off a confrontation with hospital workers — he feared staff shortages and cancelled surgeries — but stuck to his guns with nursing homes, because he felt confident replacement workers could be found.

There is an election coming in Ontario and Cohn asks:

 If you’re leery of leading, why bother being premier?

A good question.

Image: The Toronto Star

Wednesday, November 10, 2021

O'Toole's Bogeyman

Erin O'Toole has found his bogeyman -- a "coalition government" between the Liberals and the NDP. Althea Raj writes:

Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole had a hard time concealing his smile this week as he accused Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of forcing a “radical Liberal-NDP coalition agreement” down the throat of Grit MPs.

This (presumed) Liberal-NDP coalition would be a disaster for the economy, O’Toole said. It would “threaten the livelihood of millions of Canadians,” mean “billions of dollars of new spending to buy Jagmeet Singh’s silence,” “shut down Canadian energy and resource sectors,” “divide Canadians,” “threaten our national unity,” and make Canada “a poorer and less relevant nation,” the Tory leader suggested.

Except there isn't any coalition:

On Tuesday, NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh was clear. “That is a firm ‘no’ for me. There is not going to be a coalition, at all. But I am prepared to find ways to work together.”

What that could mean runs the gamut from agreeing to fast-track legislation that both parties agree on (paid federal sick leave, the conversion therapy ban, housing affordability) to a kind of confidence and supply agreement, as experienced in British Columbia in 2017 between the NDP and the Greens. The talks are in their infancy.

Singh told reporters Canadians sent MPs back to Ottawa to “work for them,” and he wants Parliament to deliver.

It would be much better for O'Toole if Parliament didn't work:

Asked twice which topics he raised with the prime minister as possible areas of agreement, O’Toole only mentioned reconciliation. The role of the opposition, he suggested, was to oppose, to question, to scrutinize, to “ask questions about the ethical conduct of Justin Trudeau” rather than to try to work with the government to influence policies.

The Liberals are looking for some stability:

They want to avoid what they view as the toxic partisanship that characterized some of the Commons’ committees during the last sitting, where MPs held late night meetings, tried to call members of the prime minister’s family as witnesses, and dragged political staff to testify. They’d welcome the breathing room a long-term co-operation agreement could provide, where the NDP agrees not to defeat the Liberals on confidence matters such as the throne speech or the budget.

The Conservatives are working from the Republican playbook south of the border.

Image: The Toronto Star

Tuesday, November 09, 2021

That's It: White Supremacy


It used to be that evangelicals drove the Republican agenda. That, Jennifer Rubin writes, has changed:

Social policy is no longer at the heart of the agenda of the demographic. Instead, it has become nearly indistinguishable from the MAGA movement.

Conservative commentator and evangelical Christian David A. French acknowledges in a piece for the Dispatch: “We know that opposition to abortion rights motivates white Evangelicals far less than their leaders’ rhetoric would suggest. Eastern Illinois University’s Ryan Burge, one of the nation’s leading statisticians of American religion, has noted, for example, that immigration drove Evangelical support for [Donald] Trump more than abortion.”

As for gay rights, the Public Religion Research Institute’s annual values survey shows a majority of White evangelical Christians still oppose gay marriage, but that “substantial majorities in every major religious group favor nondiscrimination laws that protect LGBTQ people, ranging from 59% among white evangelical Protestants to 92% among religiously unaffiliated Americans.” Moreover, even opposition to gay marriage is declining because of a massive generational divide on the issue between older evangelicals and more tolerant millennials and Generation Xers.

So what do evangelicals want?

PRRI’s chief executive Robert P. Jones points out: “Among the 42% of Virginia voters who believe that Confederate monuments should be taken down, nearly nine in ten (87%) voted for the Democratic candidate Terry McAuliffe.” By contrast, “Among the 51% of Virginia voters who believe that Confederate monuments should be left in place, more than eight in ten (82%) voted for Republican candidate Glenn Youngkin.”

Other statistics bolster the view that racism or defense of white supremacy is at the heart of the GOP. Jones writes:

Among voters who hold an unfavorable view of the Black Lives Matter movement, believe the U.S. criminal justice system treats all people fairly, or believe that racism is a minor problem or not a problem at all, more than eight in ten voted for Donald Trump. At the national level, the divides produced by these attitudes are stronger than the divides over abortion. Among those who believe abortion should be illegal in all or most cases, 76% voted for Trump.

The fixation with defining the United States as a White Christian nation is on full display nightly on Fox News, where replacement theory — not abortion or gay rights — drives so much more of the conversation.

In this context, White evangelical Christians’ attraction to the thrice-married philanderer Trump is understandable, as is their support for the cruelest immigration policies (e.g., child separation) and the anti-Muslim travel ban. It’s all about race and religious identity, not policies founded in Christian values and certainly not about finding a role model for civic virtues. Trump was determined to protect White evangelicals against people of color and the decline in Christian identification; that was all they could hope for in a politician.

Republicans have a simple agenda -- get rid of people of colour. Don't let them cross the border and don't let them attain positions of power. They are the party of White Supremacy.

That's it.

Image: ADL

Monday, November 08, 2021

Get With The Program

It's time, Susan Riley writes, to stop treating anti-vaxxers with kid gloves:

It is long past time that governments, institutions, unions, corporations, school boards—especially health-care providers, but, basically, anyone who delivers a public service—stopped cowering in the face of anti-vaxxers, stopped trying to reason with ill-informed or bad-tempered zealots, stopped extending deadlines, and watering down regulations to suit the obstinate and the ignorant.

Enough with both-sidesism, with attempts at “balance.” Science and evidence, versus harebrained social media quackery, is not a debate worth indulging. Enough, too, with the elaborate delicacy with which vaccine-resisters have been treated, the gentle encouragement from premiers and their medical officers of health to get shots (in lieu of mandatory deadlines). Alberta even offered cash bribes to induce people to do the right thing.

So much, too, for spineless politicians—Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole, who won’t even disclose the vaccination status of his MPs, springs to mind—who acknowledge they have received the shots themselves, who earnestly urge their co-citizens to do the same, but, in the next breath, are ready to give people the choice of an effective vaccine, or expensive, and uncertain, frequent testing. And what happens when anti-vaxxers set up a howl against “forced” testing?

COVID is going to be with us for a long time. Vaccinations -- annual vaccinations -- will be the new normal. And most Canadians accept that fact:

Polls repeatedly show a large majority of Canadians support vaccines. After a year-and-a-half, and millions of vaccines administered world-wide, there has been a statistically insignificant number of bad reactions. The vaccines are safe. They don’t offer 100 per cent protection against COVID, but they have been proven to radically reduce the severity of the disease and the need for hospitalization.

Instead of engaging in bogus arguments over the “violation” of the rights of vaccine-resisters—this high-handed trampling of our “freedom” to become desperately ill and to infect others—governments should be defending the parents, children, grandparents, and others, threatened by the stunning selfishness of the few.

The most  infuriating anti-vaxxers -- those who work in health care -- should be given no leeway:

The most unforgivable failure, however, is various provinces’ inability, unwillingness, timidity—all of the above—to insist that staff in long-term care homes and hospitals be fully vaccinated. After so many seniors died, especially in the gruesome first months of the pandemic, it is unconscionable that, vaxxed or not, they are still at risk of outside infection.

Ontario Premier Doug Ford last week announced that hospital staff who are not vaccinated must submit to regular COVID testing. But no testing regime, or infection control measures, can match a vaccine for preventing spread. Ford blamed this cowardly, complicit approach on fear of losing too many front-line employees in a sector already under pressure. Which raises a pertinent question: do we want anti-vaxxers working in a hospital setting, or with vulnerable seniors? If they don’t believe in modern medicine, why are they in the sector in the first place?

When your paycheque depends on whether or not you've been vaccinated, even the loud and the obnoxious will get with the program.

Image: The Financial Times

Sunday, November 07, 2021

The Big Green Lie


Andrew Nikiforuk writes that we are being sold a Big Green Lie. What is the big lie?

Thanks to bright green technologies, we can continuously grow the level of consumption on planet Earth and deliver a bloated North American lifestyle to all without inviting climate catastrophe or a general breakdown of natural ecosystems that support all living things.

But that's magical thinking:

The appeal of the “tech will save us” charade crosses ideological lines. No sacrifice is necessary; no wisdom is required; no change is necessary. Both Green New Dealers and the Business-as-Usual Crowd believe a variety of so-called green technologies forged by the burning of more fossil fuels will save the day and postpone what is already happening: a great unsettling.

The majority of so-called renewables require extensive mining of scarce rare earth minerals and fossil fuels for their construction and maintenance. And that means devastated communities and mountains of toxic waste. Others, such as a hydrogen-fuelled future hoax, have been repeatedly pulled out of the ideas closet and abandoned, because an energy sink can never become a viable energy source.

So what's the alternative? Energy ecologist Vaclav Smil says the solution is to power down:

“I could design you the global system today without any horrible loss of standard of living all around the world,” he recently told David-Wallace Wells.

“Consuming 30, 40, 50 per cent less of everything that we are consuming, be it water, or steel, or energy. But we are not willing to go down that route. Technically, it doesn’t require any new inventions, nothing, and it will actually save us money in many ways.”

And while some people worry that inflation will lead us back into the 1970's, Smil believes that the '70s do point to a better way of doing things. We need to grow less:

Growth is a ponzi scheme. Increased prosperity depends on making more people because more people consume more goods.

If we don’t prioritize the health of the planet over our short-term economic interests the oceans will sicken with acid, the forests will die, and the fisheries will disappear. Nature will reduce our numbers if we do not scale down our appetites and ambitions.

We have exploited the richest of our fossil fuels, and renewables can’t offer the same energy density and quality. That is why energy conservation is the only way forward. Our energy use must consistently drop by three or four per cent a year over the next decade.

And it can be done. About 62 per cent of the energy flowing through civilization is now wasted and ends up in our atmosphere — our landfill for CO2.

This enormous waste gives us lots of room to cut and prune and scale back. An economic contraction, or what Gaia theorist James Lovelock calls a “sustainable retreat,” will dramatically reduce emissions and forestall a collapse.

It will result in more localized production and much less global trade and travel.

Almost all products will cost more but last longer. The era of buying cheap clothes and gadgets that end up in a landfill within a year of their purchase must end. No other civilization has ever bought food and thrown 40 per cent into the garbage and survived to tell the tale.

Technology won't save us. But modesty will.

Image: Democracy Docket

Saturday, November 06, 2021

Up A Tree

It's not easy leading a party of crazies. Consider the case of Erin O'Toole.  Campbell Clark writes:

Erin O’Toole is stuck up in a tree, and he can’t get down.

His own party is at the bottom, waiting, and he doesn’t know what to do. His voters are waiting. His leadership-race supporters are there too and, well, that’s a bit awkward.

He doesn’t dare go anywhere people might ask questions about politics, or government, or issues of the day, because one of those questions might be about vaccines, and whether his MPs are vaccinated. So Mr. O’Toole doesn’t go out into the public eye much. He doesn’t say much.

The Conservatives have a problem with vaccine mandates:

The last time he did go out in person to face questions from reporters was on Oct. 27, to deliver the latest iteration of his policy on vaccination for Conservative MPs (those who don’t get vaccinated won’t show up at the Commons) but he took six questions, gave fewer answers, and strode out of the room.

And then there's Jason Kenney:

If you wanted to know what the Conservative Leader thought about Alberta’s referendum on equalization the week before that press conference, you were out of luck.

That’s quite an omission, since Alberta’s United Conservative Premier, Jason Kenney, is calling on Ottawa to change the system after a vote for equalization to be removed from the Constitution. Mr. O’Toole’s party includes 30 of Alberta’s 34 MPs in Parliament, so it is primarily Conservatives who speak for the province’s role in Confederation.

“None of them would take a position. Erin O’Toole wouldn’t take a position,” complained Jay Hill, interim leader of the Maverick Party, a fledgling Western separatist party that fielded 24 candidates in the September election. He argues the formula for equalization is unfair to Alberta.

It is worth noting that Mr. Hill, a former Conservative MP and cabinet minister also now argues it is politically impossible to speak for Alberta on equalization without alienating Quebec and other parts of the country. Maybe Mr. O’Toole also feels it is a no-win question. When The Globe and Mail asked for his position on the referendum, a spokesperson said in an e-mail that the Conservatives “support the rights of provinces to propose amendments to the Constitution that address inequities in Canada’s governance structures” but offered no view on the substance.

And on climate change, O'Toole also has nothing to say:

This week, while Mr. Trudeau was in Glasgow for COP26 climate talks, reiterating plans to cap and then reduce emissions from the oil and gas industry, Mr. O’Toole had nothing to say. (He did submit an op-ed to a newspaper about raising the flag so it can be lowered for Remembrance Day.) NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh was in Glasgow, too. Mr. O’Toole did not hold any public events.

Mr. O'Toole really wanted to lead the Conservative Party of Canada. Apparently, he believes that the best way to do that is to keep his mouth shut.

Image: Facebook

Friday, November 05, 2021

Fading Politicians

Politicians are not the big wigs they used to be. Glen Pearson writes

For those eager to watch the regular gatherings among leaders of the most powerful democratic nations, this week’s gathering in Glasgow, Scotland carried with it a certain sense of desperation.  You could feel it as the luminaries flitted about in their attempt to show the kind of global solidarity it will take if climate change is to be effectively countered.  Yet, despite the hopeful language expressed by celebrities, activists and political leaders, they couldn’t pull it off.

This decline of prestige and persuasion has left global democratic leaders with less influence just when global challenges are at their greatest than they have been in a generation.  The aforementioned divisive populism, coupled with the rise of antisemitism and racial violence, employment problems, inflation and significant debts, are as vital a challenge as governments can face, and that without the presence of a global pandemic seemingly in the process of changing so many critical aspects of modern society.

Yesterday was a troubling example of how the prominent economic leaders had to endure a stream of history lessons on how they had failed in their wish to be global influencers.  “This is far from the truth,” claimed Bolivia’s President Arce when the power leaders claimed to be climate change leaders.  He then took it further, saying that the rich countries had forsaken their historical responsibilities and should now make up for lost time.

The Barbados president asked bluntly, “Are we so blinded and hardened that we can no longer appreciate the cries of humanity?”  He then added, “Are you going to allow the path of greed and selfishness to sow the seeds of our common destruction.”  Trudeau, Biden, Johnson, Marcon and others were left squirming in [their] seats.

So, if we can't rely on the big wigs, what comes next?  Francis Fukuyama did not offer us  much hope:

“We take great pride in a constitution that limits executive power through a series of checks and balances.  But those checks and balances have now metastasized.  When this political system is combined with ideological parties, the result is paralysis.  If we are to get out of our present paralysis, we need strong leadership.”

Our only hope rests in building strong alliances. Pearson concludes that:

It would be foolish to think they aren’t sincere concerning climate change, but it will be the power of collaboration and sacrifice that could reverse our direction, not merely promises to do so.

Is that possible? We shall see.

Image: Daily Sabah