Thursday, June 30, 2022

An Inflection Point


Marjorie LeBreton writes that it's make or break for the Conservative Party of Canada:

I have been a Conservative all of my adult life, witnessing firsthand the party’s evolutions and iterations over 60 years. Throughout that time – as I went from being a secretary at party headquarters and in John Diefenbaker’s office through years as a war horse in battles that all seemed momentous at the time to my grateful service in the Senate of Canada — there was always a common bond that held Conservatives together as we worked in the best interests of the party and of the country.

And these days that bond -- such as it is -- is very fragile. The chief reason for that fragility is that the party has been wandering in the desert for a long time:

I point out the simple fact that since I first joined the staff of the party during the final year of the Diefenbaker government in the 1960s, our party has been in power only three times – in 1979, with the short-lived Clark government; from 1984-1993 with the government led by the visionary and courageous Brian Mulroney; and from 2006- 2015 under the highly intelligent and disciplined Stephen Harper. If you do the math, that’s a grand total of 19 years in the past six decades.

Now, I fervently believe that the Conservative Party has reached an existential choice. The current leadership race is the third in six years, and the message that sends to Canadians in general cannot go unheard by Conservatives in particular: We have to get it right this time. I fear that if we don’t, the great accommodation reached by Stephen Harper and Peter MacKay in the fall of 2003 could fracture, possibly beyond repair.

Clearly, this trend cannot continue if we are serious about earning the support of Canadians in future elections. Setting aside the unseemliness of the treatment of the last leader, Erin O’Toole, and what that says on a human scale, it was clear that he had lost the support of the caucus. The party moved swiftly to set in motion the process for choosing the next leader. Personally, I applauded the Leadership Election Organization Committee for resisting demands for an early vote, opting instead for a longer campaign. The wise decision to hold the vote on September 10th would allow the time required for potential leaders to enter the race, organize their campaigns, sell memberships and introduce themselves to the membership.

The question is, "What will happen in the interval?" In the United States, the Republican Party may blow itself up. The same fate could await the Conservative Party of Canada.

Image: Policy Magazine

Wednesday, June 29, 2022

The Government Must Protect Her

 The testimony in Washington yesterday was explosive. Ruth Marcus writes:

An out-of-control president lunging for the wheel of his limousine to have it take him to the Capitol on Jan. 6, insisting that he did not care whether his armed supporters were subjected to security screening because “they’re not here to hurt me.” An ineffectual, overwhelmed White House chief of staff who understood that “things might get real, real bad on Jan. 6” — and did nothing to prevent it. An alarmed White House counsel who warned of the president’s inaction, “Something needs to be done or people are going to die and the blood’s going to be on [his] f---ing hands.”

Never in American history has there been a portrayal of a president so unfit for office or so willing to betray his oath in a desperate bid to retain power. Never have so many people in such positions of immense authority stayed so shamefully silent for so long about the horrifying behavior they witnessed, on Jan. 6, 2021, and before.

And never has the nation witnessed the drama of a staffer so young, composed and resolute describe witnessing a constitutional disaster that she was unable to prevent — “a bad car accident that was about to happen, where you can’t stop it but you want to do something.”

Donald Trump suffers from more than a personality disorder. He's mentally ill. Yet there are so many who are willing to kiss his ring. Cassidy Hutchinson isn't one of them:

In an administration of enablers, in a crowd of sycophants unwilling even now to stand up to Donald Trump and speak publicly about his unhinged conduct, 25-year-old Cassidy Hutchinson, a former assistant to White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, emerged from obscurity Tuesday, an unlikely — and lonely — truth-teller.

Hutchinson was the perfect witness to testify to the dereliction of duty she observed in the final days of the Trump White House, a Trump believer turned reluctant informant. Her GOP bona fides, including internships for House Republican Whip Steve Scalise (La.) and Sen. Ted Cruz (Tex.), could not have been more impeccable, nor her demeanor — calm and sorrowful — more convincing. She was John Dean in a white blazer and diamond necklace, reciting a similarly damning cavalcade of facts.

She had literally cleaned up after the president — helping the White House valet scrub ketchup off the wall after he threw a plate in fury over his attorney general’s conclusion that voter fraud had not caused his election loss. But her breaking point arrived on Jan. 6 — and in the end, she was willing to abandon the code of complicit silence that still prevails among too many of her former colleagues.

The MAGA mob will threaten her safety. The government must protect her -- twenty-four hours a day.

Image: AP News

Tuesday, June 28, 2022

Not That Far Away

Glen Pearson writes that the United States appears to be headed for another civil war:

American political analyst Michael Podhorzer laid out a frightening scenario last week in a newsletter penned for activists.  He suggests that the time might have arrived when the United States is not one country but two nations that happen to share the same geography.

“When we think about the United States, we make the essential error of imagining it as a single nation, a marbled mix of Red and Blue people.  But in truth, we have never been one nation. We are more like a federated republic of two nations: Blue nation and Red nation.  This is not a metaphor; it is a geographic and historical reality.”

It’s also a bold and sobering assessment of the causes of the increasing crises piled on top of the others for our neighbours to the south.  It’s almost as if time has moved developments faster than we can make sense of them.  In just one week, the world watched as the January 6 congressional hearings competed for prominence with the Supreme Court’s validation of the rights of citizens to bear arms in public and its radical reversal of Roe vs. Wade. These weren’t merely fascinating theatre but full-scale five-alarm fires representing attacks on democracy itself.

The recent Supreme Court decision has split the country in two and will result in a new underground railroad, where women seeking abortions will be smuggled into pro-abortion states from anti-abortion states. And, unfortunately, the United States is not the only country headed for mass civil unrest:

What makes such developments so vital is that they are not unique to America – representative democracy seems in trouble everywhere.  Solitudes are rapidly growing in Britain, France, Germany, and struggling democracies in the Middle East, Asia and Africa.  On display are self-assured entities that show no willingness to compromise or pull back.  America is the point of the spear in what is turning out to be a revolution of democracy at war with itself.

Canadians cannot afford to be smug about all of this:

Earlier this year, political scientist Thomas Homer-Dixon provided a dire warning in the Globe and Mail: “By 2025, American democracy could collapse, causing extreme domestic political instability, including widespread civil violence.  By 2030, if not sooner,” he adds, “the country could be governed by a right-wing dictatorship.”  Then directing his thoughts to Canada, he adds:  “A terrible storm is coming from the south, and Canada is woefully unprepared.”

There is a growing sense that such observations are now more valid than ever.  While much in the Canadian political context remains relatively stable, sectors are emerging that could harden in the coming year, making political compromise impossible.  Some will find this too extreme to mention. Still, after the release of his article, Homer-Dixon noted that, in 2014, Canadians would have thought the chances of Donald Trump winning the presidency would have been nil.  Now he has become a never-ending political story.

George Orwell was prescient about what could happen to democracies:

In his In Front of Your Nose, published in 1946, George Orwell of 1984 fame somehow intuited the divisive dangers we face today.  His insights resemble the world we now see unfolding and which Canadians must resist at all costs.

“The point is that we are all capable of believing things which we know to be untrue, and then when we are finally proved wrong, impudently twisting the facts so as to show that we were right.  Intellectually, it is possible to carry on this process for an indefinite time: the only check on it is that sooner or later a false belief bumps up against solid reality, usually on a battlefield.”

We are not that far away from the world Orwell imagined.


Monday, June 27, 2022

A Conservative Nervous Breakdown?

The Conservative Party desperately wants to form the Government of Canada. But, Michael Harris writes, it will never achieve its objective as long as it pretends to be an American knock-off:

The Conservative Party of Canada has never really been a new party that came together in a merger. It has always been a dysfunctional hybrid in which the hard right of its Western roots conducted a hostile takeover of the Progressive Conservatives. Peter MacKay’s lingering legacy.

Stephen Harper’s success was more the product of dreadful Liberal scandals and hapless, opportunistic leadership changes, than it was of his skills as a unifier.

Nothing has changed. Pierre Poilievre’s candidacy is an extension of the brand of conservatism currently on display in the United States—a fact-denying populism that has room for every conspiracy theory and grievance, where every authority and institution is painted as the enemy, and guys pissing in the Capitol and wearing Viking horns are lionized—until they’re sent to jail.

The Conservatives have a chance to remake their party:

The entry into the leadership race of progressive candidates like Jean Charest and Patrick Brown gives the Conservatives a chance to rethink the Poilievre camp’s dubious claim that the reason the party has lost three straight federal elections is that it was not Conservative enough. That’s what they said when Harper was defeated. It was not policies like the Barbaric Practices Act, it was how they were rolled out. It was a comms problem.

But they still don't understand that their problem isn't a communications problem. The problem is who they are. This leadership race is all about who they are:

The big story of this leadership race so far is the hardening divide between the two main camps vying for the top job. A source who was there recently told me that two prominent Conservative strategists almost came to blows at the Royal Ottawa Golf Club over the leadership race. A mere anecdote to be sure, but it shows the way this thing is headed, no matter who wins.

If Poilievre prevails, one branch of the CPC will be filled with embittered David Orchards, progressives who will not be able to stomach the party’s stubborn refusal to become more centrist. If Charest or Brown comes out on top, hard-core Harperites will feel betrayed, and may have no way to voice their displeasure but by rallying behind Maxime Bernier and the People’s Party. Under either outcome, the primary purpose of leadership conventions will be scuppered; unifying the party around a single person who can make its collective case to the country.

Events in the United States could have a big impact on Canada’s Conservative leadership race. That country is racing toward a political nervous breakdown. The party that stands four-square behind Donald Trump’s Big Lie that the 2020 election was stolen by corrupt Democrats is paradoxically looking like a big winner in the November mid-terms. Joe Biden looks like a dead man walking every time gas prices go up.

The cause of the nervous breakdown? The surge in Republican fortunes is happening at precisely the same time as the Jan. 6 committee hearings of Congress are documenting a broad, coordinated effort by the Trump White House to retain power, although he soundly lost the 2020 election and knew it. As one judge put it, the proof of the steal put forward by Trump stooges like Rudy Giuliani and John Easton was “a coup in search of a legal theory.”

Will the Conservatives have a nervous breakdown? Stay tuned.

Image: themiduit

Sunday, June 26, 2022

Ugly Truth


Michael Kinsley famously wrote that:

“It used to be, there was truth and there was falsehood. Now there is spin and there are gaffes. Spin is often thought to be synonymous with falsehood or lying, but more accurately it is indifference to the truth. A politician engaged in spin is saying what he or she wishes were true, and sometimes, by coincidence, it is. Meanwhile, a gaffe, it has been said, is when a politician tells the truth — or more precisely, when he or she accidentally reveals something truthful about what is going on in his or her head. A gaffe is what happens when the spin breaks down.”

Yesterday provided an example of what Kinsley was talking about. The Washington Post reports:

A Republican lawmaker called the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn the nationwide right to abortion established nearly 50 years ago in Roe v. Wade a “victory for white life,” which was met with cheers at a rally held by former president Donald Trump.

“President Trump, on behalf of all the MAGA patriots in America, I want to thank you for the historic victory for white life in the Supreme Court yesterday,” Rep. Mary E. Miller (R) said at the rally Saturday night in Mendon, Ill., referring to Trump’s former campaign slogan, “Make America Great Again.”

She began clapping her hands as spectators, some clutching red “Save America” placards, also began to applaud.

In the United States, the truth keeps getting uglier and uglier.

Image: You Tube

Saturday, June 25, 2022

Some Animals

The United States Supreme Court has overturned Roe v. Wade. The decision is an earthquake to the American legal system. Ruth Marcus writes:

The Supreme Court’s decision to eliminate the constitutional right to abortion is an unfolding tragedy for American women and an indelible stain on the court itself. The harm to women is immense but can be ameliorated with efforts in the public and private spheres to safeguard access to abortion. The damage to the court cannot be undone.

This radical conservative majority — unheeding in this case even of the conservative chief justice — has proven itself unmoored from the rule of law, and therefore unworthy of the public esteem that can be its only source of enduring authority.

With the vote of five justices to overrule Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania v. Casey, American women have lost a right that was guaranteed them for a half-century, an unprecedented elimination of an individual freedom.

The three dissenting justices laid out what lies ahead:

 “Whatever the exact scope of the coming laws, one result of today’s decision is certain: the curtailment of women’s rights, and of their status as free and equal citizens,” they wrote. “Yesterday, the Constitution guaranteed that a woman confronted with an unplanned pregnancy could (within reasonable limits) make her own decision about whether to bear a child, with all the life-transforming consequences that act involves. … But no longer. As of today, this Court holds, a State can always force a woman to give birth, prohibiting even the earliest abortions.”

With its decision yesterday, the Court established a new precedent. it's the same precedent that was at the heart of George Orwell's Animal Farm:  All Animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.

Image: word histories

Friday, June 24, 2022

Trump's Screwballs

Another day of hearings in Washington and the story keeps getting darker. Dana Milbank writes:

Two weeks of hearings by the select committee have made clear that the insurrection itself was but a manifestation of a much larger plot by Trump to overturn the election by any means necessary: violence, martial law, seizing voting machines, fake electors, intimidating state officials, harassing election workers, drafting meritless lawsuits — and a contemplated putsch at the Justice Department.

It's quite clear now that Trump himself is certifiable. And he surrounded himself with people who were as crazy as he is:

Though many in the Trump administration admirably (if not quite heroically) resisted his illegality, Trump was aided in his depredations by a seemingly limitless supply of crackpots willing to do his bidding. There were Trump lawyers Rudy Giuliani (‘nuff said), Sidney (“The Kracken”) Powell (Trump wanted her to be appointed as an independent counsel investigating election fraud) and John Eastman, who knew his cockamamie scheme to overturn the election was illegal.

The hearing yesterday focused on one of the crazies -- Jeff Clark -- whose house was raided yesterday by the FBI, while he stood outside in his pajamas. But there were all kinds of other crazies:

Screwballs enabled Trump in Congress, as well. There was Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), whose chief of staff tried to deliver a slate of fake electors to Vice President Mike Pence. And there was Rep. Scott Perry (R-Pa.), who championed Clark for the attorney general job. According to testimony released by the committee Thursday, Perry was among those seeking presidential pardons for their actions, along with Reps. Mo Brooks (Ala.), Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.), Louie Gohmert (R-Tex), Andy Biggs (R-Ariz.) and possibly Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.). Trump apparently considered blanket pardons for lawmakers and staff involved in the insurrection. At one point, Trump, frustrated that DOJ officials weren’t backing up his lies, urged them: “Just say the election was corrupt and leave the rest to me and the Republican congressmen.”

However, the loonie who directed it all was Trump:

At the center of it all was the crackpot-in-chief, whom Attorney General Bill Barr belatedly realized was “detached from reality.” He manipulated the government to back his election lies in ways that had been unimaginable. Donoghue testified Thursday about how Trump chief of staff Mark Meadows repeatedly insisted that DOJ investigate a YouTube-driven conspiracy theory claiming the CIA and MI6 worked with an Italian satellite company to erase Trump votes. Donoghue called it was “pure insanity,” “patently absurd” and “debunked.” Not satisfied with that answer, Trump’s White House secured the help of Pentagon official Kash Patel and acting defense secretary Christopher Miller, who reached out to an official in Italy to probe the bogus claim.

With so many screwballs running around, it's amazing the whole place didn't blow up. In truth, it almost did.

Image: Rolling Stone

Thursday, June 23, 2022

The Crazies Have Found A Home There

Think the United States is the only place with a large loud population of crazies? Think again. We've got them, too. Alex Boutilier reports that:

Key figures of the convoy protests and related organizations were welcomed to Parliament Hill on Wednesday by a group of Conservative MPs that assured them they have ‘allies’ in Ottawa.

And while the group professed peaceful intentions for future demonstrations, they also warned they believe Canada was on a “dark path,” deeply “divided,” even showing similarities to countries about to descend into “civil war.”

The Ottawa press conference was scheduled to coincide with a conference of the “Canada Citizens Coalition,” or C3, an umbrella group for various protesters connected to February’s convoy demonstrations that paralyzed downtown Ottawa and blocked several Canada-U.S. border crossings.

The protests were purportedly sparked by an opposition to federal vaccine mandates for cross-border truckers, but quickly morphed into a festival of grievances with federal and provincial authorities.

Several Conservative MPs showed up to pledge their support:

They were greeted by multiple Conservative MPs, including leadership candidate Leslyn Lewis, Jeremy Patzer, Ryan Williams, Arnold Viersen and Dean Allison – among others.

“The reality is there’s one political party that has been represented around this table here today, there’s one political party that has stood up in the House of Commons … and spoke on the position that you guys are here with today,” said Saskatchewan MP Jeremy Patzer.

“You do have allies. You’ve had allies all along, and so I just wanted to encourage you guys going forward.”

Conservative leader Candice Bergen claimed her party had no hand in organizing the event. But Canadians should beware of her party. The crazies have found a home there.

Image: Global News

Wednesday, June 22, 2022

It Keeps Getting Worse

Yesterday's hearings in Washington continued to lay bare the depravity of Trump and Associates. Jennifer Rubin writes that Rusty Bowers was the most compelling witness so far:

Most informed Americans already know about Trump’s effort to cajole Georgia state election officials to “find” just enough votes to flip the state. The shocker on Tuesday was that Trump, his lawyer Rudy Giuliani and Meadows were also directly involved in the efforts to overturn Arizona’s results as well.

No doubt anticipating the damage this revelation would do to his case, Trump attacked Arizona House Speaker Russell “Rusty” Bowers (R) before Tuesday’s hearing, claiming that Bowers had previously told him that the election was “rigged.” Bowers, perhaps the most compelling and effective witness the committee has questioned to date, stated clearly that Trump’s claim was false. He had not made such a statement, Bowers said, and Trump’s claim that Bowers said Trump won the state was “also false.”

Bowers, who supported Trump in the 2020 election, testified in unequivocal terms about the former president’s pressure campaign. He recalled asking Trump and Giuliani at least twice during a call after the election for proof of noncitizens or dead people voting. Bowers said he “never” received such information.

Trump and Company believe that saying -- and doing -- make it so:

In another call, Trump lawyer John Eastman called Bowers and asked him to vote to “decertify” Arizona’s electors. Bowers again refused. “I took an oath,” Bowers said he told Eastman. “For me to take that [course] would be counter to my oath.” Bowers asked, “What would you have me do?” Eastman responded that Bowers should just do it and let the courts sort it out. Bowers asked incredulously if he was supposed to “do something that’s never been done in history — the history of the United States” with no proof. “No, sir,” he said.

Saddest of all was the tale of two poll workers -- a woman and her mother -- who were accused of inputting phony votes from a thumb drive into a computer. The "thumb drive" was a package of mints.

There are lots of people who should go to jail and be disbarred. But premier among them is Donald J. Trump.

Image: The Hill

Tuesday, June 21, 2022

Caveat Emptor

While the House Select Committee is laying bare Donald Trump's attempted coup, some Republicans are openly advocating violence. Consider what is happening in Missouri. Eric Greitens is a Republican who is running for the Senate there. He's running a controversial ad. You can see the reaction to it in the YouTube clip at the top of this post. Paul Waldman writes:

With a shotgun in his hand and a pistol on his belt, Greitens accompanies soldiers busting into what appears to be a suburban home. Then he says to the camera: “Join the MAGA crew. Get a RINO hunting permit. There’s no bagging limit, no tagging limit, and it doesn’t expire until we save our country.”

For the uninitiated, “RINO” is short for “Republican In Name Only,” a term that originally referred to Republicans who were too ideologically moderate for someone’s taste. Now it is used to refer to those who, no matter how ideologically conservative, are insufficiently worshipful of Donald Trump or question the more radical beliefs and tactics of the extreme wing of the party.

Greitens is not deploying some subtle metaphor here. You can even order a “RINO Hunting Permit” sticker from his website. If asked, I’m sure he would say he’s not literally advocating the hunting and killing of human beings. But he kind of is.

Given what happened in the American capital on January 6th, Americans -- and Canadians -- have to be clear-eyed about this. For years, the Conservative Party has been taking its cues from American Republicans.

Caveat Emptor.

Image: You Tube

Monday, June 20, 2022

Mad As Hell

When Lyndon Johnson was asked why he didn't fire J. Edgar Hoover, he famously replied that he wanted Hoover  "inside the tent pissing out and not outside the tent pissing in." Michael Harris writes that the Conservatives are masters of pissing inside the tent:

One wonders if the Conservative Party of Canada will ever hold a leadership race without turning it into a master class of mud-wrestling, hanky-panky, and mutual denunciation.

They are usually so busy slagging each other, any notion of policy is at best an after-thought. Sorry guys, but squealing “freedom” at the top of your lungs while tying up a city is not a policy.

Pierre Poilievre, the slur-king of the current leadership, now says that the Patrick Brown campaign is cheating.

Poilievre lodged a formal complaint, accusing his rival of reimbursing membership fees paid by people who agreed to join the party. Brown has made public that he sold 150,000 memberships—a number Poilievre claims is bogus. How, one wonders, would he know, one way or the other?

In addition to the reimbursement charge, it is alleged by the Poilievre camp that the Brown campaign offered “additional financial inducements.” What does that mean? Cash, a bit of bitcoin, free beer? What?

But this kind of cat fight isn't new:

It is interesting that Poilievre has already smeared Brown before, repeatedly calling him a liar. He accused the mayor of Brampton of lying about his position on sex education in Ontario, his position on the carbon tax, and in his critique of the Harper government, of which Poilievre was a key member.

Poilievre seems to have forgotten all about his own attempt in government to de-tune democracy with the risibly named Fair Elections Act, and that other legislative stinker from Harper-times, the Zero Tolerance for Barbaric Practices Act. Strange way to support immigrants.

Poilievre is dissing Brown because Brown could hold the key to who wins the party leadership in September. If Brown’s membership numbers are correct, and the leadership should go to a second or third ballot, Brown could very easily deliver a victory to Jean Charest. So far, the Charest camp has been coy on its membership numbers, saying only that it has a path to victory in the fall.

That is precisely why Poilievre tried to paint an unflattering picture of Charest as a philosophical liberal who was in the pocket of the Chinese as a private consultant. He’s worried.

If Poilievre can get people talking about the moral poverty of his rivals, they may forget about his own blunders on this campaign. He extolled the virtues of bitcoin to Canadians as a hedge against inflation, without telling them he had investments in it. He later claimed that he checked with the ethics commissioner, who gave him the green light.

Poilievre also did his Donald Trump imitation in a childish outburst about firing the governor of the Bank of Canada.

Even Conservative MP Ed Fast came out against Poilievre for his comments about Tiff Macklem. And Poilievre is still missing in action on some big files—from climate change, to the rising tide of authoritarianism around the world. That hole in his resumé earned criticism of the party from former Conservative prime minister Kim Campbell. It isn’t hard to figure out who she is talking about.

The Conservatives don't win elections because they're mad as hell. Most of all, they're mad at themselves.

Image: CBC

Sunday, June 19, 2022

Poilievre's Future

At the moment,  if Pierre Polievre becomes the leader of the Conservative Party his future looks clouded. Robin Sears writes:

Poilievre will likely fall victim to the torment faced by the last two leaders. There’s managing a political base whose views are in sharp contradiction to those of a vast majority of Canadians, with an inability to pivot to positions that are not repulsive to that majority. He’ll also be inheriting a party and caucus irretrievably divided on core issues.

There are three obvious flashpoints: guns, climate and COVID. Most Canadians want our epidemic of handgun violence brought under control. Poilievre will not say how he will do so, as his base is vehemently opposed to any limits on their freedom to own a dozen assault-style weapons if they so choose.

Conservatives around the world have fallen into the trap of framing the fight against climate change as a left-wing conspiracy, none more hysterically than peculiar Pierre. There is no pivot for him here, either. As fires rage this summer and floods drown dozens of communities this fall, he will be left high and dry politically.

Nor will he be able to slough off his COVID baggage, as the public health challenges continue. From his vaccine blarney, to his flirtation with insurrectionary truckers, to his sneers at the public health measures that saved thousands of Canadians from death, Poilievre will drag behind him a very heavy COVID ball and chain, one that his opponents — inside the party and out — will be sure to keep a spotlight on.

His most serious weakness in securing the confidence of Canadians, perhaps, is that he will not have the support of at least a third of his own party on day one. Whether it is Brian Mulroney, Patrick Brown, Michael Chong, Rona Ambrose or Lisa Raitt, the list is long of party elders who will express their sorrow — and anger — at the political dead end that Poilievre seems to be dragging their party into.

So Poilievre may, indeed, meet the same fate as Andrew Scheer and Erin O'Toole. But there is another possibility:

This week, polling firm Abacus found that seven out of 10 Poilievre supporters are at least open to the idea Davos elites may have a “secretive strategy to impose their vision on the world.” And more than a third are open to the statement “Bill Gates has been using microchips to track people and affect their behaviour.” Sadly, the numbers for all of Canada aren’t that much lower on these conspiracies.

So it may be easier to ride a Trumpian tidal wave of anger to political success in Canada than most of us thought. One may hope that Poilievre’s leadership opponents do a better job of exposing this would-be emperor’s nakedness, and that the Liberals and New Democrats pound him with their biggest guns relentlessly.

Poilievre may yet become the Trump of the North.

Image: Quora

Saturday, June 18, 2022

Dangerous and Demented

The morons who occupied Ottawa in February are returning to the capital this summer. David Fraser reports that:

Ottawa police say they expect more protests and larger than usual crowds during Canada Day celebrations in the capital this July as groups related to the Freedom Convoy continue to plan protests. 

Several groups — most formed out of the Freedom Convoy — are planning protests in Ottawa throughout the summer, including many of the key figures and prominent streamers involved in the ongoing "Freedom Movement."

A cohort that includes many of the groups involved in protests earlier this year, as well as some that have emerged since, is co-ordinating events throughout the summer. 

Protests are expected to take place on a mass scale in the city starting June 30 when James Topp, a veteran marching across Canada in protest of the remaining vaccine mandates, plans to end his cross-country journey at the National War Memorial in downtown Ottawa. 

Topp began walking to Ottawa in February, inspired by the convoy protests and disturbed, he said, by government overreach affecting people who have chosen not to get vaccinated against COVID-19.

"As it stands right now, I have not been invited back to work as of yet," he said. "This entire march, the purpose of it was to serve as a protest. I felt it was a violation in several different ways." 

Topp's march is supported by Veterans 4 Freedom, one of the main groups responsible for organizing the Rolling Thunder protests that took place in April. 

The group's steering committee includes Tom Marazzo, who also gained prominence during the convoy protests in Ottawa, at times acting as an official spokesperson for protesters. He also ran in the Peterborough-Kawartha riding for the Ontario Party during the recent provincial election.

Ottawa police say residents have reached out with questions about the potential for protest around the national celebration on July 1, which won't take place on Parliament Hill this year.

"We will not allow for conditions that led to the unlawful protests in February to reoccur. We are applying lessons learned from the unlawful protest as well as the Rolling Thunder and associated protests to build our plan," the statement said. 

"We will continue an approach that prohibits vehicle-based protests in areas in and around places of national significance." 

The American Disease has crossed the border. The hearings over the last two weeks have laid bare just how dangerous -- and demented -- that disease is.

Image: CBC

Friday, June 17, 2022

To Accomplish Their Ends

John Eastman was at the centre of yesterday's hearing into the Trump insurrection.  Paul Waldman and Greg Sargent write:

The committee and witnesses offered a devastating case against Eastman, one that both reinforced what was already known and offered new information that made the president and his pet lawyer’s conduct look even worse — and perhaps criminal.

But as you ponder the case against Eastman, remember this: Eastman functioned as Trump’s agent throughout. Trump directly instructed his vice president, Mike Pence, to heed to Eastman’s advice, and to carry out his scheme.

And, as the hearing proceeded, two things became very clear:

First, it showed that Eastman might have fully understood that his scheme — which entailed getting Pence to delay the electoral count in Congress, giving states time to certify sham electors for Trump, based on a fictional legal theory — could lead to violence. And Eastman apparently shrugged off this possibility.

And, second, 

Eastman sought a pardon from Trump. It’s hard to say what this means: Eastman didn’t get one, and he might simply say he figured he’d be prosecuted, martyr-like, by the incoming regime. But it appears to reveal consciousness of legal vulnerability.

Trump claimed that he was going to hire "all the best people." It's abundantly clear that Trump hired people like himself -- people who had no conscience and who would employ violence to accomplish their ends.

Image: NBC News

Thursday, June 16, 2022

Bigger Than Nixon

The third public hearing of the committee looking into the Trump insurrection takes place today. Liz Cheney has provided a preview of what's to come. Greg Sargent writes:

Cheney reminded us the committee has convincingly demonstrated that Trump was extensively informed he’d lost. Cheney then said Thursday’s hearing will focus on Trump’s relentless pressure on Pence to subvert the electoral count in Congress.

“President Trump had no factual basis for what he was doing, and he had been told it was illegal,” Cheney continued. Despite this, she added, Trump “plotted” with Eastman and others to overturn the election on Jan. 6, 2021.

A crucial hint there is that Trump had been told this was illegal. This suggests the committee might furnish new evidence that Trump had been warned that such pressure — which constituted an effort to push Pence into violating his official duty — could violate the law.

A source close to Cheney tells me the committee is very likely to present such evidence. When Cheney says such things, the source says, it’s “based on information the committee knows.”

Trump’s pressure on Pence to abuse his role as president of the Senate by delaying the election’s conclusion is the key that unlocks this whole scandal. Eastman concocted a bogus legal justification for Pence to secure this delay, which would allow states to revisit the voting, find it fraudulent and certify sham electors for Trump, overturning his loss.

But also critical is that Trump was told this would be illegal on Pence’s part. What’s more, Trump appears to have been told his pressure on Pence to do that might also be illegal.

We know Pence’s counsel drafted a memo forcefully informing Trump that if Pence carried out his scheme, he’d be in violation of the Electoral Count Act of 1887, which governs how Congress counts presidential electors.

Trump has never claimed, as Richard Nixon did, that he is "not a crook." But it's becoming abundantly clear that he is -- a much bigger crook than Nixon.

Image: You Tube

Wednesday, June 15, 2022

A Hot And Dark Future

Crawford Killian writes that COVID has broken Canadian society:

After two years of the pandemic, Canada might well be diagnosed as a case of political long COVID: We know what hit us, but we can’t seem to muster the energy to do anything about it.

Public health has disintegrated into “personal responsibility,” though public health officials continue to be paid good salaries. Doctors, nurses and other health-care workers are catching COVID-19 or just quitting, leaving hospitals and clinics understaffed. Some of us are lucky to have family doctors, even if it takes weeks to arrange a face-to-face 10-minute interview. Pierre Poilievre has reportedly signed up 300,000 new members of the Conservative Party of Canada, largely on the promise of doing away with all vaccine mandates.

The data appears to confirm his opinion:

From the start of the pandemic, writer and researcher Jon Parsons tracked our response to it — not just the numbers of cases and vaccinations, but our ethical responses.

Our responses to the pandemic fall, he argues, into three categories: passive nihilism, active nihilism and ethical subjects.

The passive nihilist “perceives the world around them in chaos and, in response, then makes the decision to turn inwards and focus on themselves.... In the context of the pandemic, the passive nihilist wants their creature comforts. They miss most of all their haircuts and going out to brunch. They want to go on holiday amid suffering and disease.”

The active nihilist “sees the world in chaos and, in response, decides to make that world more chaotic still.... In the context of the pandemic, the active nihilist is the person who fights against any reasonable attempts to contain the virus. They are against lockdowns, against masks, against vaccines, and against anyone who tries to keep others safe.”

The third response is from what Parsons calls the “ethical subjects,” people who realize their inability to fix things but who try anyway. “In the context of the pandemic, they understand that it is an unfair situation, and they know it is not in their power to make the virus go away. Still, they commit to doing whatever they can to minimize the suffering of others.... The ethical subject makes a commitment to social solidarity even while recognizing there is some absurdity to it, in the sense that they know their actions will make little difference in the face of such tragedy. They cannot help but try.”

Most of us are nihilists, driven purely by self-interest:

North Americans have been encouraged for over 40 years to think that it’s “me against the world.” Margaret Thatcher, while still British prime minister in 1987, summed it up very well: “Who is society? There is no such thing! There are individual men and women and there are families and no government can do anything except through people and people look to themselves first.”

Our inability to react collectively to COVID suggests that, as we face climate change, our future is hot and dark.

Image: The Tyee

Tuesday, June 14, 2022

The Loonies Were In Charge

Rudy Giuliani was Donald Trump's most trusted advisor. And Giuliani was too well lubricated to advise anyone. That's one of the conclusions you have to reach after watching yesterday's hearing into the Trump insurrection. Dana Milbank writes:

Giuliani, once America’s Mayor and Time’s Person of the Year, long ago became a national punchline, with his melting hair dye and his post-election news conference at Philadelphia’s Four Seasons Total Landscaping. But thanks to the select committee, we now know that people inside the Trump administration and campaign also thought him preposterous — with one key exception: Trump.

The committee relived some of Giuliani’s most ludicrous claims, sometimes accompanied by footage of his wild-eyed TV appearances. Votes “in garbage cans” and in “shopping baskets” being wheeled in for counting under orders from Frankfurt, Germany. Eight thousand dead people voting in Pennsylvania. A suitcase full of ballots pulled from under a table in Georgia. Votes manipulated via Italy, the Philippines and a deceased communist dictator in Venezuela.

In depositions screened by the committee, a veritable parade of Trump advisers testified that they told the president what they thought of such ideas: “Bull---t.” “Completely bogus.” “Silly.” “Completely nuts.” “Crazy.” “Incorrect.” “Debunked.” “Idiotic.”

White House lawyer Eric Herschmann, in his videotaped deposition, wondered aloud whether Giuliani, “at this stage of his life,” had “the same ability to manage things at this level or not.”

Trump campaign lawyer Matt Morgan, in his deposition, spoke about his conversations with outside counsel: “The general consensus was that law firms were not comfortable making the arguments that Rudy Giuliani was making.”

Giuliani was too bombed to see reality and Trump's Attorney General, Bill Barr, said that Trump was "detached" from it.

The loonies were in charge.


Monday, June 13, 2022

Refusing To Accept Reality

Andrew Nikiforuk writes that we are trapped between two false narratives:

We are now trapped in what I have called “the poverty of two narratives” that pits the business-as-usual crowd against the green transitionists. This supposed debate avoids unpleasant realities such as rising global consumption and growing rates of energy use in a finite world. Moreover, both groups believe unlimited economic growth is the only answer to our multiplying emergencies.

Both narratives are false because they refuse to recognize a very hard fact. Our present economic model is unsustainable. The business as usual folks think things are just fine:

They celebrate the endless spending of fossil fuels as an economic miracle and political right with no catastrophic ecological consequences let alone any moral quandaries.

Investigative reporter Amy Westervelt documented that the messaging of this death cult has found a new impetus in response to inflation and Putin’s war. Business-as-usual elites now clamour that “American fossil fuel production ensures freedom and national security, high gas prices are caused by climate policy and the solution is more drilling, and climate change is something only liberal ‘woke’ elites care about.”

Amid all this bluster we rarely hear talk about reality. About 20 years ago a real energy transition actually occurred. That’s when the petroleum industry started, by geological necessity, to extract extreme and costly resources such as fracked oil, bitumen and deep-sea oil. As a consequence energy price volatility began to rock the globalization project. Extreme resources make ugly ecological footprints, require mountains of cash and deliver fewer energy returns.

We are getting to the point where all of this is about to implode. But there is another narrative, which Nikiforuk calls the "techno-green" narrative:

Meanwhile the green technocrats offer an equally distorted narrative about the state of things. They get climate change, but pretend a transition to renewables can be achieved without a massive investment of fossil fuels (try making a solar panel or windmill without oil) and the brutal mining of rare earth minerals. They even pretend that inflation, which makes every renewable more expensive, is not a barrier.

They also ignore that it took 160 years to build the current energy system at a time when petroleum and minerals were abundant and cheap. Now they propose to “electrify the Titantic” as ecologist William Ophuls puts it, at a time of expensive fossil fuels, indebted financial systems and mineral shortages.

The techno-greens also pretend that civilization can substitute fossil fuels, which are densely packed with energy, with renewables, which are less energy dense — and do so without subsequent reductions in demand or changes in behaviour. 

It's the problem of demand that trips up both narratives. Both narratives refuse to recognize that there are limits to growth. We cannot continue to expand our population and gobble up resources as we have for the last two hundred years.

Bob Dylan warned us that "it's a hard, hard rain gonna fall."

Image: AZ Quotes

Sunday, June 12, 2022

Not What They Used To Be

Maureen Dowd writes that monsters are not what they used to be:

I’m reading “Frankenstein” by Mary Shelley for school and the monster is magnificent. He starts out with an elegance of mind and sweetness of temperament, reading Goethe’s “The Sorrows of Young Werther” and gathering firewood for a poor family. But his creator, Victor Frankenstein, abandons him and refuses him a mate to calm his loneliness. The creature finds no one who does not recoil in fear and disgust from his stitched-together appearance, his yellow skin and eyes, and black lips. Embittered, he seeks revenge on his creator and the world.

“Every where I see bliss, from which I alone am irrevocably excluded,” he laments. “I was benevolent and good; misery made me a fiend.”

Before he disappears into the Arctic at the end of the book, he muses that once he had “high thoughts of honour,” until his “frightful catalogue” of malignant deeds piled up.

Like Shelley's creation, Donald Trump is also a monster. But

Shelley’s monster, unlike ours, has self-awareness, and a reason to wreak havoc. He knows how to feel guilty and when to leave the stage. Our monster’s malignity stems from pure narcissistic psychopathy — and he refuses to leave the stage or cease his vile mendacity.

It never for a moment crossed Donald Trump’s mind that an American president committing sedition would be a debilitating, corrosive thing for the country. It was just another way for the Emperor of Chaos to burnish his title.

The House Jan. 6 committee’s prime-time hearing was not about Trump as a bloviating buffoon who stumbled into the presidency. It was about Trump as a callous monster, and many will come away convinced that he should be criminally charged and put in jail.

The hearing drove home the fact that Trump was deadly serious about overthrowing the government. If his onetime lap dog Mike Pence was strung up on the gallows outside the Capitol for refusing to help Trump hold onto his office illegitimately, Trump said, so be it. “Maybe our supporters have the right idea,” he remarked that day, chillingly, noting that his vice president “deserves it.”

Boris Karloff's monster scared generations of moviegoers. But he was just a shadow on a screen. Trump is the real thing. And the damage and chaos he has caused -- and continues to cause -- is real.


Saturday, June 11, 2022

Will It Be Poilievre?

Chantal Hebert writes that the Conservative leadership race is Pierre Poilievre's to lose -- and there's plenty of time for him to do it:

If the Conservative leadership vote took place tomorrow, front-runner Pierre Poilievre would probably be able to turn his lead into a quasi or definitive first-ballot victory.

But with the vote set for Sept. 10, the Ottawa MP is instead about to spend what could turn out to be the longest three months of his already lengthy political tenure.

90 days is an eternity in politics, and recent Conservative campaigns have demonstrated it is one thing to round up members and another to ensure they vote.

In the 2020 leadership vote, almost 100,000 of those who had signed up to cast a ballot failed to do so. That works out to about 40 per cent of the membership.

To stay out of his rivals’ striking distance, Poilievre will have to spend the summer trying to keep his followers engaged.

Whether he can do that is an open question:

A fair number of his recruits are new to party politics. Many were attracted to his campaign by his overtures to the so-called “Freedom Convoy” and to the people who occupied the national capital earlier this year.

It is in no small part to cement their allegiance that Poilievre recently promised legislation to prevent a future federal government from implementing vaccination mandates.

That commitment went down like a lead balloon among the majority of Canadians — including scores of Conservatives — who supported vaccination mandates over the two years of the COVID-19 pandemic.

And Poilievre keeps spouting nonsense:

Every time he doubles down on his more outlandish pronouncements, be it on vaccines or bitcoin or the Bank of Canada, Poilievre risks doing so at cost to his credibility as a leadership contender and, to a lesser degree, as a potential party leader. It is not every one of his followers who signed up for a spell of disruptive leadership.

If only to avoid having to spend the summer replaying his most polarizing hits, Poilievre must hope either Jean Charest or Patrick Brown decides to bail out of the race before the vote.

And, Hebert warns, "a Charest defeat at the hands of an attack dog on Sept. 10 is more likely to hurt the Conservative brand than to diminish the former premier."

Stay tuned.

Image: The Toronto Star

Friday, June 10, 2022

A Teachable Moment

Last night, the House Select Committee investigating Trump and Co.'s attempted coup held its first hearing. It aimed to educate. It did that in spades. Jennifer Rubin writes:

The challenge for the committee is to tell a coherent story of the entire plot and to dispel the myth that the coup attempt was only about the Capitol assault. The committee has so far succeeded. Its initial telling of the far-flung plot — peppered with new, damning tidbits of Trump’s willful pursuit of power — was breathtaking.

And make no mistake. They're taking direct aim at Trump:

If Trump is ever to be held criminally accountable for the coup attempt, prosecutors will have to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that he knew what he was doing was wrong and unjustified. Here, the committee demonstrated there may be ample evidence of that.

Trump was repeatedly told his claims of voter fraud were bogus. New video of former attorney general William P. Barr’s testimony to the committee showed that he told Trump his fraud claims were “bulls--t” and “complete nonsense.” In addition, a sample of testimony from other Trump officials showed claims of fraud were repeatedly debunked and ridiculed. Justice Department officials and the White House counsel threatened to quit if Trump persisted in deploying the lie to retain power. Officials told Trump it was illegal to pressure former vice president Mike Pence to throw the election to him.

Other anecdotes solidified the image of a president fixated on remaining in power. Trump reportedly declared of calls to hang Pence: “Maybe our supporters have the right idea. Mike Pence deserves it.” Cheney’s retelling was bone-chilling — an indication of a dangerous character bent on overthrowing an election.

It was Pence who gave the orders that day to get the National Guard to the capital, while Trump sat in the dining room watching TV and enjoying the show. But most riveting was the video of the violence from that day. Trump claimed that there was "love" in that crowd. The video shows that these thugs had murder on their minds:

Seeing new video, and hearing audio of desperate police describing the attack, was nothing short of terrifying. The cruelty and lawlessness of the mob are indisputable. Trump’s words insisting that “love was in the air” was a powerful reminder of his capacity to lie.

Testimony from Capitol Police Officer Carolyn Edwards, who was abused and injured on that day, made clear that no reasonable person could doubt the crowd’s viciousness and anger. Filmmaker Nick Quested testified that the mob appeared well organized. This was no spontaneous uprising.

It was a good beginning. Let's hope the rest of the hearings are as equally instructive.

Image: The Washington Post

Thursday, June 09, 2022

Slouching Toward Extinction?

For the second consecutive election, the Ontario Liberal Party has failed to achieve official party status. Is the party slouching toward extinction? Susan Delacourt writes:

Is there anything about the federal Liberals’ near-death experience of more than a decade ago that gives clues to where the Ontario Grits should go today? Beyond finding themselves their own version of Justin Trudeau?

The two Liberal downfalls are not strictly parallel. In fact, one could say the Ontario Grits are in far bigger trouble than their federal cousins were in 2011.

It took one third-place showing in 2011 to shock the federal Liberals into survival mode, while Ontario Liberals will have spent eight years in that wilderness by the time the next provincial election rolls around.

Still, some Liberals in Ottawa were wondering last week whether this latest election would be the “2011 moment” for the provincial party.

By that, they mean a fork in the road: a moment when it’s time to consider everything from radical renewal to merger with the New Democrats — and of course, letting the party just wither away.

Some are suggesting a merger between the Liberals and the NDP. That's not likely:

First of all, it would rest on both parties coming from relatively similar positions of strength. While the provincial New Democrats and Liberals got roughly the same proportion of the popular vote last week — just under 24 per cent — they emerged with vastly different numbers of seats: 31 for the NDP and just eight for the Liberals.

As some New Democrats have suggested, if Liberals are thinking of a merger, all they need to do is buy memberships in the NDP.

Moreover, Doug Ford’s victory was built in part by attracting “blue Liberals,” who have more in common with his Progressive Conservatives than with the NDP. If the Liberal brand is tied to the middle of the road in politics, one could argue that Ford, not the leaderless NDP, is closest to the centre in Ontario right now.

The future of the Liberal Party has everything to do with its ground game:

Trudeau’s post-2011 rebuild of the federal Liberals focused a lot on the nuts and bolts of organization: bringing the party into the 21st century in terms of data and digital campaign techniques, and shaking the old structure out of its decades-old complacency.

The 2015 success was built on all that organizational overhaul — something the provincial party would presumably be looking into in the wake of last Thursday’s results.

But, Delacourt writes, luck has a lot to do with political success. The Ontario Liberals could use a lot of both -- organization and luck.

Image: Facebook

Wednesday, June 08, 2022

The Long Emergency

The inflation we're facing now is part of what James Kunstler called "the long emergency." Andrew Nikiforuk writes:

In 2005 Kunstler, famous for his critique of suburbia, noted that civilization’s energy appetites were unsustainable given the declining quality of fossil fuels left in the world.

“We can be certain that the price and supplies of fossil fuels will suffer disruptions in the period ahead that I am calling the Long Emergency,” advised Kunstler. “No combination of alternative energies will permit us to continue living the way we do, or even close to it.”

The elephant in the room is the rising cost of all fossil fuels.

There is a sustained effort on the part of some to ignore the elephant:

The experts mostly blame the pandemic, unsettled supply chains and great surges in demand. Don’t worry, the authorities tell us, all of this is temporary and transient.

At the same time political insurrectionists, who now proliferate like rodents in our whack-a-mole culture, have blamed everything from government deficits to carbon taxes for inflation. They do so even though inflation has appeared in jurisdictions with no deficits and no carbon taxes.

Pierre Poilievre, for instance, has famously accused the Bank of Canada for Canada’s 30-year high inflation rate. On Twitter the demagogue and wannabe prime minister claims that “money printing deficits” have “bid up the price of goods.”

But, clearly, the cost of energy is at the root of the problem:

Since April 2020 the cost of oil has climbed five-fold. The price of coal, the cheapest of fossil fuels, has hit new highs by nearly 150 per cent. Methane, which powers much electrical generation, has also hit new global highs. Diesel, the fuel which moves transport trucks, tractors and heavy machinery, has gone through the roof.

Whenever the price of those fuels rises, so too does the cost of food, housing, clothing and transportation, renewables and electric cars.

Art Berman has repeatedly underscored the basics: “Energy is the economy. Money is a call on energy. Debt is a lien on future energy.”

Lots of economists have given us a different explanation:

For decades now economists have mostly preached a different gospel. Their models pretend that money, labour or technology make the world go around. But this profession largely has been ignorant of the central role that energy plays in the rise and fall of civilizations. Whatever the economists might say, physical reality still rules. Growth doesn’t happen unless the per capita energy spending of fossil fuels increases. Period.

As the oil shocks of the 1970s ably demonstrated, higher oil prices primarily drive inflation. In April, for example, the U.S. inflation rate fell from 8.5 per cent to 8.3 per cent when the world price of oil dropped a bit from US$108 to US$101.

The rising costs of fossil fuels illustrates both the fragility and interdependence of a high energy spending civilization. When China started using more methane for power generation last year, the price of liquified natural gas started to climb. As methane prices escalated, many countries returned to coal because it’s a cheaper energy source.

When Europe thought it could retire nuclear energy with renewables and become dependent on Russian oil and gas with no problems, reality intervened. When the winds didn’t blow on the continent, there were widespread natural gas shortages as countries scrambled to make up for wind energy shortages. The U.S. then exported more fracked gas to Europe, but that caused prices to rise in North America. Then the price of diesel started to climb because refineries use methane to produce hydrogen in order to remove sulfur from diesel. Fossil fuels are the house that Jack built.

Let’s now add to this crazy picture years of underinvestment in oil and gas exploration primarily due to excessive multibillion-dollar losses from fracking (industry flooded the market and drove down the price below the cost of extraction) along with dubious claims about the energy transition. Scarcity is now an issue.

Meanwhile rising oil prices affect the cost of dinner, directly and indirectly. Whenever the price of diesel goes wild so too does the cost of our food, much of which travels far to our pantries. As the energy ecologist Vaclav Smil has calculated it takes the energy equivalents of five cups of diesel fuel (from fertilizers to herbicides to transportation) to put one kilogram of imported tomatoes on the table.

In fact we live in a wasteful civilization that thinks it is entirely acceptable to burn 10 calories of mostly fossil fuels to make one calorie of food, and all by employing fewer than one per cent of the population. Prior to the colonization of farming by fossil fuels, agriculture was local, small, low energy (employing human or animal muscle), inefficient and nutritious. Now it is global, big, high energy, efficient and tasteless.

The inflationary problem doesn’t stop with food. Most people, for example, still don’t understand that one barrel of oil does the equivalent work of 4.5 years of human labour.

As a consequence current oil consumption equals the employment of 500 billion fossil fuel “energy slaves” in our economy. This vast disruptive army has enabled the level of global consumption responsible for the relentless poisoning of oceans, the degradation of forests, the depletion of fisheries, the erosion of soils, the disruption of nutrient cycles and the destabilization of the climate.

Yet we continue to march to the abyss, refusing to change.

Image: Amazon

Tuesday, June 07, 2022

The Clock Is Ticking

Boris Johnson survived a no-confidence vote yesterday. But, Doug Saunders writes, his days are numbered:

He survived the vote by 211 to 148, meaning he will return to 10 Downing St. on Tuesday knowing that only 59 per cent of his 359 MPs have confidence in him – and, given that more than 160 of those MPs are ministers and parliamentary secretaries, and therefore contractually required to support him, he will know that his political world is closing in on him.
That might seem like a familiar state of affairs for the perpetually disheveled former newspaper columnist, whose career since becoming Prime Minister in 2019 has often consisted of unlikely self-rescues. But this time, even many of the MPs who voted for him to remain admitted they see little future for him.
“I mean, we don’t have an alternative,” MP Kwasi Kwarteng, who serves as Secretary of State for Business in Mr. Johnson’s cabinet, said in a radio interview. “I think the idea that we spend three months or whatever it might be finding a new leader and all that, going through all of that beauty contest, is absurd.”

Johnson's margin of victory gave him no reason to celebrate:

Mr. Johnson survived on Monday night by a smaller margin than Ms. May or Ms. Thatcher had. And, unlike them, he has an indelible record of having broken the law and his own party’s rules of conduct, making him extremely vulnerable to an electorate that may have turned against his Brexit path and other policies.

The Conservatives eventually cast both ladies aside. And Johnson continues to spout  conservative boilerplate:

What he reportedly offered his MPs in his closed-door defence speech on Monday night was more tax cuts and deregulation – the sort of right-wing wallpaper that is unlikely to inspire them on the campaign trail as they struggle to avoid mentioning a party leader that almost half of them have told to leave. 

But the clock is ticking. Like George Armstrong Custer, Johnson has marched into a box canyon. And history remembers how that ended.

Image: Andrea Minatures

Monday, June 06, 2022

Good Bye, BoJo?

This could be Boris Johnson's last day in office. The Guardian reports that:

Boris Johnson is to face a vote of no confidence on Monday evening after the threshold of 54 letters from Conservative MPs seeking his departure was reached.

In a statement Graham Brady, the chair of the 1922 Committee that represents backbench Tories, said the threshold of 15% of MPs seeking a confidence vote, numbering 54, “has been exceeded”.

“In accordance with the rules, a ballot will be held between 1800 and 2000 today, Monday 6 June,” it continued. “The votes will be counted immediately afterwards. An announcement will be made at a time to be advised. Arrangements for the announcement will be released later today.”

To stay in office, Johnson needs to win the support of at least 50% of all Tory MPs plus one, totalling 180. If he does win he is theoretically safe from such a challenge for a year – although the rules can be changed.

Asked about this on Monday, Brady confirmed to reporters that this was the case: “Technically it’s possible for rules to be changed but the rule at present is there would be a period of grace.”

Brady said he told Johnson on Sunday that a vote would happen, and liaised over the timing: “He shared my view, which is also in line with the rules that we have in place, that that vote should happen as soon as it could reasonably take place, and that would be today.”

Johnson's defenders are lining up:

In an immediate show of support, the foreign secretary, Liz Truss – who is widely assumed to be a contender if Johnson goes – tweeted: “The prime minister has my 100% backing in today’s vote and I strongly encourage colleagues to support him … He has apologised for mistakes made. We must now focus on economic growth.”

Other cabinet ministers also issued supportive messages, among them Rishi Sunak, the chancellor, and Dominic Raab, the justice secretary and deputy prime minister.

Everywhere, it seems, conservatives are in a foul mood. Stay tuned.


Sunday, June 05, 2022

Nixon And Trump

In his farewell address to the nation, George Washington warned his countrymen that democracy is fragile:

“Cunning, ambitious, and unprincipled men will be enabled to subvert the power of the people and to usurp for themselves the reins of government.”

Richard Nixon and Donald Trump were precisely the kind of men Washington had in mind. In a superb piece in The Washington Post, Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein write:

As reporters, we had studied Nixon and written about him for nearly half a century, during which we believed with great conviction that never again would America have a president who would trample the national interest and undermine democracy through the audacious pursuit of personal and political self-interest.

And then along came Trump.

The heart of Nixon’s criminality was his successful subversion of the electoral process — the most fundamental element of American democracy. He accomplished it through a massive campaign of political espionage, sabotage and disinformation that enabled him to literally determine who his opponent would be in the presidential election of 1972.

With a covert budget of just $250,000, a team of undercover Nixon operatives derailed the presidential campaign of Sen. Edmund Muskie of Maine, the Democrats’ most electable candidate.

Nixon then ran against Sen. George McGovern, a South Dakota Democrat widely viewed as the much weaker candidate, and won in a historic landslide with 61 percent of the vote and carrying 49 states.

Trump's attack on American democracy was much broader and deeper:

Donald Trump not only sought to destroy the electoral system through false claims of voter fraud and unprecedented public intimidation of state election officials, but he also then attempted to prevent the peaceful transfer of power to his duly elected successor, for the first time in American history.

In a deception that exceeded even Nixon’s imagination, Trump and a group of lawyers, loyalists and White House aides devised a strategy to bombard the country with false assertions that the 2020 election was rigged and that Trump had really won. They zeroed in on the Jan. 6 session as the opportunity to overturn the election’s result. Leading up to that crucial date, Trump’s lawyers circulated memos with manufactured claims of voter fraud that had counted the dead, underage citizens, prisoners and out-of-state residents.

We watched in utter dismay as Trump persistently claimed that he was really the winner. “We won,” he said in a speech on Jan. 6 at the Ellipse. “We won in a landslide. This was a landslide.” He publicly and relentlessly pressured Pence to make him the victor on Jan. 6.

On that day, driven by Trump’s rhetoric and his obvious approval, a mob descended on the Capitol and, in a stunning act of collective violence, broke through doors and windows and ransacked the House chamber, where the electoral votes were to be counted. The mob then went in search of Pence — all to prevent the certification of Joe Biden’s victory. Trump did nothing to restrain them.

By legal definition this is clearly sedition — conduct, speech or organizing that incites people to rebel against the governing authority of the state. Thus, Trump became the first seditious president in our history.

Nixon and Trump were very different men. But they shared one important characteristic. Both men were driven by white-hot hatred. But Nixon was much smarter than Trump. He was even capable of self-criticism. As he left the White House, Nixon said, “Always remember, others may hate you — but those who hate you don’t win unless you hate them, and then you destroy yourself.” Trump has no such gifts.

Ultimately, Nixon failed -- because the Republican Party rejected him. Times have changed and so has the Republican Party. Trump may yet succeed where Nixon didn't.

Image: The Washington Post

Saturday, June 04, 2022

Getting it Together

Doug Ford won the election because progressives couldn't get their acts together. Alex Ballingall writes:

For left-wing Ontarians, the despair — and frustration — is real. The premier they accuse of callous cuts and pandemic failures dominated the provincial election on Thursday and returned to power with an even stronger majority government.

The fact that, of the minority of people who bothered to vote, most cast ballots for left-leaning parties opposing Doug Ford’s Progressive Conservatives — that’s just salt in the wound.

“I mean, it’s pretty bad, right? In a lot of ways,” says Christo Aivalis, a partisan New Democrat in Kingston who analyzes politics through a leftist lens on his YouTube channel.

Despite Ford’s commanding victory, Aivalis looks at the election results and sees a majority who wanted a different direction. Almost 54 per cent of ballots were cast for the NDP, Liberals and Greens, versus 41 per cent for Ford’s PCs. Yet none of the more progressive parties could translate that into power. Nor could they reduce the PCs to a minority at Queen’s Park, or even inspire many people to get to the polls. Elections Ontario pegged voter turnout at 43 per cent — the lowest ever.

Progressives spent a lot of time fighting each other:

With similar platforms and campaigns that tried to convince voters to replace Ford’s PC government, the three parties split a majority of votes, making it easier for PCs to get a plurality of ballots in many ridings, said Cameron Anderson, a political science professor at Western University in London, Ont. He compared the situation to the 1990s and early 2000s, when the Canadian Alliance and federal Progressive Conservatives competed for votes on the right side of the political spectrum.

And the first past the post system made the split between them even worse:

Under that system, Ontarians elect MPPs based on who gets the most votes in a given riding. Some argue this is less democratic because it can produce disproportional results when support is relatively low but uniform across the province, such as when the Liberals got 24 per cent of all votes but only elected eight MPPs, or 6.5 per cent of seats at Queen’s Park.

But, most of all, Ontarians weren't in the mood for change:

The lack of a strong appetite for change meant voters didn’t congregate around a single party seen as having the best chance to dethrone Ford, said Lyle, referring to the “strategic voting” that is often discussed among progressive voters keen to defeat a right-leaning alternative.

The result on Thursday was basically a tie between the Liberals, who got 1,117,051 votes, and the NDP, who received 1,111,318. (The PCs got 1,912,651.)

[Greg]Lyle noted progressive voters “aren’t united in their values,” and that there is a split between those who want government to focus on redistributing wealth and those who want to emphasize economic growth. This makes it difficult to unite people who would never vote for a conservative party, even if that broad group represents the majority of voters, he said.

Ford will interpret his win as a juggernaut. As he did the last time around, he'll come in and, in his first year, he'll do a lot of damage.

Count on it.

Image: You Tube