Sunday, July 31, 2022

National Insanity

If you want to understand how insane things have become in the United States, consider this report from this morning's New York Times

RITTMAN, Ohio — Mandi, a kindergarten teacher in Ohio, had already done what she could to secure her classroom against a gunman.

She positioned a bookcase by the doorway, in case she needed a barricade. In an orange bucket, she kept district-issued emergency supplies: wasp spray, to aim at an attacker, and a tube sock, to hold a heavy object and hurl at an assailant.

But after 19 children and two teachers were killed in Uvalde, Texas, she felt a growing desperation. Her school is in an older building, with no automatic locks on classroom doors and no police officer on campus.

“We just feel helpless,” she said. “It’s not enough.”

She decided she needed something far more powerful: a 9 millimeter pistol.

So she signed up for training that would allow her to carry a gun in school. Like others in this article, she asked to be identified by her first name, because of school district rules that restrict information about employees carrying firearms.

A decade ago, it was extremely rare for everyday school employees to carry guns. Today, after a seemingly endless series of mass shootings, the strategy has become a leading solution promoted by Republicans and gun rights advocates, who say that allowing teachers, principals and superintendents to be armed gives schools a fighting chance in case of attack.

At least 29 states allow individuals other than police or security officials to carry guns on school grounds, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. As of 2018, the last year for which statistics were available, federal survey data estimated that 2.6 percent of public schools had armed faculty

The count has likely grown.

As a retired teacher, I am both horrified and appalled. The country is on the verge of anarchy. And, if anarchy results from this national insanity, there will be a national bloodbath.

Image: The New York Times

Saturday, July 30, 2022

They're Nuts

It appears, Tom Walkom writes, that the Conservative Party has lost its mind:

Conservatives, it seems, are no longer content with those who promise them good and limited government — they want more. That more can take many forms. It can be a fascination with conspiracy theories. It can be an enchantment with cryptocurrency. It may have no connection with what most people would view as traditional conservative economic policy.

Whatever happened to the old “sensible shoes” party known as the Conservatives?

As Pierre Poilievre, a radical populist, prepares to become the party’s new leader, it’s a question that has taken on new urgency.

Poilievre was already the odds-on favourite for winning his party’s leadership in a race that concludes next month. But his candidacy received a new boost this week, when he won the endorsement of former prime minister Stephen Harper.

Not all of Harper's ministers agree with their former boss:

Two former Harper ministers, Peter Kent and Lawrence Cannon, dismissed Poilievre’s views as “batty.”

In particular, they took issue with Poilievre’s unorthodox approach to monetary policy — he would fire the governor of the Bank of Canada, and give more weight to cryptocurrencies.

Cannon and Kent both support Jean Charest in the Conservative leadership race. In a more normal time, that would have counted for much. In these times, however, it seems Conservatives care little for the real track record of those who would lead them, and more for their adherence to the rules of trendiness.

Will Canadians buy "batty" Pierre? Stay tuned.


Friday, July 29, 2022

Living Next To An Elephant

In a surprising turn of events this week, West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin reached a deal with Chuck Schumer to support most of Joe Biden's agenda -- particularly his proposals on climate change. And there was a surprise within the surprise. When it comes to electric vehicles, Biden's focus has gone from Buy American to Buy North American. Susan Delacourt writes:

When a “buy American” provision on electric vehicle tax credits turned into “buy North American” in a surprise Washington compromise on Wednesday night, a collective cheer sounded throughout Justin Trudeau’s government.

This is no small thing in the Canada-U.S. relationship. It is no small thing either to the Canadian auto industry, which feared that giving Americans incentives to buy electric vehicles made solely in the U.S. would have spelled disaster for Canadian car manufacturers.

It was exactly what Canada had been seeking, through an intense lobbying effort at all levels in the United States — very similar to the lobbying that took place to save the North American Free Trade Agreement when Donald Trump was threatening it a few years ago.

“Relentless” was how Canada’s ambassador to the United States, Kirsten Hillman, described her team’s efforts to fight the buy-American provision in her celebratory statement on the compromise. “Non-stop” was how International Trade Minister Mary Ng described the advocacy, in an interview on Thursday.

The sheer number of meetings and interventions on this issue by the Canadian government are almost impossible to count.

Delacourt writes about one particular meeting:

One significant meeting, in the eyes of the Canadians, at least, took place last November when Trudeau arrived in Washington to meet with President Joe Biden. The night before Trudeau and Biden were due to meet, Canada decided to hold a reception and invite only the most senior members of the Biden White House. It was a risk, especially if they didn’t show up, but Canada calculated that if this country was going to do a full-out lobbying effort against the tax credit, it had to be focused on senior people around Biden.

The reception was held outdoors at Hillman’s official residence in Washington, to be respectful of strict COVID-19 protocols. Canadians and Americans could warm their hands over outdoor fires. Among the attendees were John Kerry, the president’s special adviser on climate; Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg and Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm.

Apparently, the message got through. When Biden met Trudeau the next day, one of the first things he mentioned was how clear — possibly annoyingly clear — the Canadians had been about the electric-vehicle tax credit the night before.

It's not easy living next to an elephant. You have to calculate your every move. But it can be done.

Image: Global News

Thursday, July 28, 2022

Institutionalize Him

Yesterday, I stumbled across an article in The Atlantic titled "What Donald Trump Got Out Of His Divorce From Ivana." The New York City tabloids were full of salacious details. If there's one thing Trump produces, it's salacious details. Molly Jong-Fast writes:

Donald gave away a lot in the divorce—precipitated, after all, by his highly publicized affair with Marla Maples. Ivana’s divorce lawyer was Michael Kennedy, a crusading attorney (and friend of my parents) known for representing members of the Weather Underground and the United Farm Workers. With his help, Ivana got: $14 million for herself; $650,000 a year in alimony and child support to raise Donald Jr., Ivanka, and Eric; a mansion in Greenwich, Connecticut; and an apartment on the Upper East Side.

But what Donald got from the divorce from Ivana was a realization that making a shameless spectacle of yourself could be boffo. As his biographer, the journalist Tim O’Brien, told me: “The lesson Trump drew from it was that he could endure a grotesque personal debacle, which he set in motion by his cheating on Ivana, and come out the other side even more an object of interest than he was before.”

The headlines that the divorce generated made the gauche Trump brand gold-plated. The spectacle of their marital disintegration was a kind of lurid but victimless crime, involving two people who fed off the media attention while dragging each other through Page Six. “The Trumps were just another bloated float in the ’80s parade of showy New York money-grubbers,” Tina Brown’s successor as Vanity Fair editor, Graydon Carter, told me. “Their divorce—fought more in the pages of the Post and the News than in the courts—elevated them to grand-marshal status.”

But there were others who saw more than that:

“I’ve never known anybody who is as dependent on attention as he is,” the writer Kurt Andersen told me. “But to me, it is in his case a jones like I’ve never seen. His obsession with fame is truly pathological. It’s not figurative; it’s not a metaphoric addiction. He had a real addiction.” Andersen, along with Carter, was a co-founder of the satirical magazine Spy, which famously traded on mocking Donald. But it was a two-way trade.

Anderson says that Trump is addicted to fame. That's an important insight. For Trump, attaining the presidency was the ultimate high. And losing it is the ultimate bad trip. It explains why he worked so hard to undermine the election -- and why he refuses to let the presidency go.

There is no rehabilitation for Trump's addiction. The only antidote is to institutionalize him -- behind bars.

Image: The Hill

Wednesday, July 27, 2022

They Now Own The Conservative Party

Stephen Harper says he's putting his money on Pierre Poilievre. Andrew Coyne is not impressed:

After all, who knows more about winning elections than Stephen Harper: the leader who took a certain Conservative victory in 2004 – the year of the sponsorship scandal – and turned it into a Liberal minority; who in 2006 turned a certain Conservative majority into a Conservative minority; who eked out another minority in 2008 against the historically inept Stéphane Dion; and who, after finally winning a potentially realigning majority in 2011 threw it away over the next four years.

At the end of which – after nearly 10 years in power – he departed with next to nothing in the way of a policy footprint: at least, of a conservative policy footprint. The Harper Conservatives jettisoned every principle that he or they had ever stood for, from democratic accountability to a strong defence to balanced budgets to free markets. And they still won but a single majority in five attempts. They sold their souls, and got nothing in return; swung for the lowest common denominator, and missed. All that remains of Mr. Harper’s legacy, the sole basis for his reputation as an unbending conservative, is his scowl: a petulant Cheshire cat.

So Mr. Harper’s endorsement of Mr. Poilievre is a big deal, especially among those who think Mr. Harper’s example is to be emulated or his judgment is to be trusted. Still, the supposition, apparently widespread, that the most unpopular minister in a deeply unpopular government has now become an unstoppable political phenomenon, based solely on his ability to turn out the anti-vaccine vote, seems to have emerged from the same strange universe in which Mr. Harper is a master strategist and principled conservative.

Poilievre trades in conspiracy theories:

The vast majority seem to have been attracted by Mr. Poilievre’s message – that the government, in league with the Bank of Canada and the World Economic Forum, is watching your every move, and is preparing still greater terrors to come – there is ample reason to doubt it. The party has not expanded its appeal to a broader section of the electorate. It has simply burrowed deeper into a narrow and highly excitable vein of it.

Coyne doesn't mince his words. What Poilievre's ascension shows is that the Conservative Party has

engineered its own takeover by a fringe movement. The convoy supporters and single-issue zealots to whom Mr. Poilievre has successfully marketed himself may be sufficient in number to overwhelm a three-time-loser opposition party, but it is far from clear they offer the kind of base from which to take the country. That’s borne out by recent polling from Angus Reid, among others. Mr. Poilievre does better than his more mainstream rival, Jean Charest, among Conservative and People’s Party voters. He does worse among centrist and Liberal voters: increasingly up for grabs, amid rising discontent with the government, and crucial to the party’s hopes of winning a majority.

Loonies took over the Republican Party a decade ago. They now control the Conservative Party of Canada.

Image: Facebook

Tuesday, July 26, 2022

A Failed Democracy?

 Max Boot writes that he used to be optimistic about his country's future. No more:

As the ads for mutual funds say, past performance is no guarantee of future results. We need to take seriously the possibility that the United States could become a failed democracy, if only to avert that dire fate. There’s a good reason that 85 percent of respondents in a recent survey said the country is headed in the wrong direction.

A lot of the gloom and doom is due, of course, to the high rate of inflation, which will subside in time. But there are more intractable problems, too, such as the persistence of racism and income inequality. That we have far more gun violence than other advanced democracies and yet can’t implement common-sense gun-safety regulations (such as a ban on military-style assault rifles and high-capacity magazines) is a damning indictment of our democracy. So, too, is our failure to do more to address climate change even as temperatures spike. When we do act, it often makes the situation worse, not better.

Unleashed by a right-wing Supreme Court, Republican legislatures around the country are repealing or restricting abortion rights. This is producing horror stories that I never thought I would see in the United States. A woman in Texas had to carry a dead fetus for two weeks because removing it would have required a procedure that is also used in abortions. A woman in Wisconsin bled for more than 10 days after an incomplete miscarriage because medical staff would not remove fetal tissue. A 10-year-old girl was raped in Ohio and had to travel to Indiana to get an abortion.

These are the kinds of human rights violations we would be protesting if they occurred in other countries. That they are happening in the United States is an ominous sign of what lies ahead, because other countries in recent years that have taken away abortion rights — Poland and Nicaragua — have also taken away political rights.

For over two centuries, Americans have liked to see themselves as residents of a shining city on a hill. But there is little light there these days. Boot writes:

I used to be an optimist about America’s future. Not anymore. There’s a good reason that so many people I know are acquiring foreign passports and talking about moving somewhere else: The prognosis is grim.

We seem to be sleepwalking to disaster. If we don’t wake up in time, we could lose our democracy. Just because we’ve avoided a breakdown in the past doesn’t mean we will stave it off in the future.

This opinion comes from a man who used to live on the hard right of the political spectrum.

Image: The Desert Sun

Monday, July 25, 2022

Burning Up

On Saturday, we lost power here for nine hours. There was an explosion and fire at an Ontario Hydro station up the road on a very hot day. There will be more such incidents in our future. Michael Harris writes:

While politicians obsess about inflation and the next electoral cycle, the planet is stewing in its own juices. Triple-digit temperatures in the United States and Europe are killing people because they don’t have air-conditioning, or they can’t reach a “cooling centre.”

Just one per cent of Europeans have air conditioning. And even though the U.S. is what author Henry Miller once called “the air-conditioned nightmare,” American authorities are predicting massive power outages across the U.S. this summer due to increased demand.

The power outages are reminders that we don't have the infrastructure we need to deal with climate change:

The so-called advanced societies don’t have the infrastructure to deal with deadly heat waves. With London surrounded by a ring of grass fires, the government has ordered people to shelter in place—a nice trick if the house is on fire. British firefighters say that this is the busiest they have been since the bombing of London in World War II. An apt observation. Unchecked, climate change will be World War II to the power of 10.

The situation is almost unforgivable when it comes to how political leaders have been caught with their pants down on climate change.

That’s because there has been no shortage of scientific Cassandras raising the alarm about what will happen to the dear, dirty planet if we dither on reducing CO2 emissions. The UN climate panel has repeatedly warned that the point of no return for the planet is a heartbeat away in historical time: less than 10 years. Even the U.S. military has defined global warming as the highest threat of all. China, they say, may be the geopolitical threat of this century, assuming we’re still around to deal with it. But the existential threat is climate change. Take it from the generals.

In politics, though, science gets only a tip of the hat when it gets in the way of the economy. Political leaders around the world have been tipping their hats to science for years, then ignoring it in everything but their speeches.

The Liberals claim they're tuned into the problem. But they refuse to act:

How could they believe in climate action and then green light the gigantic Bay du Nord oil project? Nor have they yet been able to meet any of the aspirational emission targets they have set.

The Conservatives don't see the problem:

When in power, the Harper government wouldn’t even agree to regulate the energy sector, let alone take proactive steps to reduce carbon emissions. Their position on carbon tax has turned them into a political flat-Earth society, with more of the same on the way if Pierre “Stephen” Poilievre becomes the new leader.

The story is the same in the U.S. President Joe Biden talked a good climate action plan, but then slinked off to Saudi Arabia to beg for more gas from a tyrannical state he once vowed to turn into a pariah. But the president didn’t get any gas, he just gave Saudi Prince Mohamed bin Salman a chance to publicly wipe a little of Jamal Khasoggi’s blood off his hands in a fist pump with the U.S. president; so much for U.S. moral authority in the world. A world-class disgrace by the president who is sitting at 31 per cent approval rating in the United States.

And we the people have been asleep:

Climate change has been pushed to the back of the agenda as though it were just another pain-in-the-ass issue in a world suddenly filled with unpleasant truths.  Enter the ostrich reflex. Instead of holding politicians’ feet to the fire on real climate action,  most of the public obsesses about the price of gas, the first pick in the NHL draft, the quality of the Governor General’s French, or who’s on the cover of Vanity Fair.

Harris writes that Nero fiddled while Rome burned: "It didn’t work then, and it won’t work now."

There are more last Saturdays in our future.

Image: UCLA Newsroom

Sunday, July 24, 2022

Progressive Conservatism 2.0?

Konrad Kakabuski speculates that we may soon see a rebooted Progressive-Conservative Party of Canada:

The party looks set to embrace the grievance politics of U.S. Republicans and the European far right, just as Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his fellow Liberals always hoped it would. They know that, faced with a Conservative Party leader who gives succour to misguided anti-vaxxers, angry truckers and right-wing conspiracy theorists, mainstream Canadian voters will opt for the comparatively safe Liberals, no matter how irritatingly woke the party’s leadership becomes.

Some supporters of Poilievre rival Jean Charest have concluded as much and are already musing about the creation of a new centre-right political party that would look, well, a lot like the old Progressive Conservative Party Mr. Charest led between 1993 and 1998.

Oddly enough, the possibility of creating a new-old political home for Red Tories has even been publicly evoked by the co-chairperson of Mr. Charest’s current leadership campaign, political consultant Tasha Kheiriddin. That has only further fuelled charges that the former Liberal premier of Quebec is not a real Conservative.

Speculation that a new political party could be launched once Mr. Poilievre has officially locked up the leadership is also being stoked by a group that calls itself Centre Ice Conservatives. It is holding a conference in Edmonton next month to provide a platform for political orphans. Ms. Kheiriddin is slated to speak at the event, along with former Liberal British Columbia premier Christy Clark.

The union of the old Progressive-Conservatives and Stephen Harper's Reform Party was never really a marriage. It was a hostile takeover and Red Tories were never welcome in the new party:

It is not for nothing that former PC prime minister Brian Mulroney, who once considered party loyalty sacrosanct, recently said he does not recognize himself in the current Conservative Party. The only alternative left for Red Tories like Mr. Charest, Ms. Kheiriddin and Mr. Peterson is to start anew.

La Presse columnist Yves Boisvert wrote this week that a person close to the Charest campaign had suggested that Mr. Charest might seek to emulate French President Emmanuel Macron, who created his own political party to launch his 2017 bid for the Élysée Palace.

Even if a new centre-right political party were to emerge in the wake of a Poilievre victory on Sept. 10, it is not clear if Mr. Charest, at 64, would be the obvious person to lead it. Mr. Macron was not yet 40 when he founded La République en Marche. And Mr. Charest’s current leadership campaign, while solid and principled, has not exactly caught on with the broader Canadian electorate.

Still, if only to restore some sanity to federal politics, no one should discourage Mr. Charest from trying.

Who knows what will happen? But it was always true that the Reformers were always a fringe. They may choose to be so again.

Image: CTV News

Friday, July 22, 2022


If you think it was bad, it was worse than you think. That's the chief takeaway from last night's hearing in Washington. Eugene Robinson writes:

However outrageous or irresponsible or treasonous you thought President Donald Trump’s behavior might have been on Jan. 6, 2021, it was actually worse. Much worse.

That was the message hammered home by the House select committee’s prime-time hearing on Thursday night. According to testimony presented by the committee, for nearly three long hours, as a violent mob smashed its way into the Capitol and hunted Vice President Mike Pence with homicidal intent, the president sat in his private White House dining room and watched the chaos unfold on a television tuned to Fox News.

He made phone calls, but not to the Pentagon or the Department of Homeland Security or anyone who could help put down the riot. Instead, he called Republican senators and lobbied then to object to final certification of the electoral college vote.

Trump -- as always -- was completely self-absorbed and not concerned about the violence at the Capitol:

The committee highlighted the tweet Trump posted at 2:24 p.m., when he knew the mob had already breached the Capitol’s defenses. Instead of trying to calm his followers, he incited them — and put a target on his own vice president’s back.

“Mike Pence didn’t have the courage to do what should have been done to protect our Country and our Constitution, giving States a chance to certify a corrected set of facts, not the fraudulent or inaccurate ones which they were asked to previously certify,” Trump tweeted. “USA demands the truth!”

A witness involved with White House security — whose identity the committee obscured, out of concern for the individual’s safety — testified that members of Pence’s Secret Service detail perceived the situation at the Capitol as so desperate, they feared for their lives and sent goodbye messages to their families.

When Trump ran for president in 2016, a group of twenty-seven psychiatrists warned that Trump's "malignant narcissism" was extraordinarily dangerous.

Last night. the hearing showed just how accurate those psychiatrists' diagnosis of Trump was. 

Image: Imgflip

Thursday, July 21, 2022

American Taliban

The fallout from the American Supreme Court decision continues across the country. Jennifer Rubin writes:

The horror stories from state abortion bans are piling up: Women facing dangerous delays in care for miscarriages. Doctors violating their training and waiting until their patient is at death’s door before performing an abortion. Pharmacists struggling to understand whether filling prescriptions for drugs that are used both for abortions and for post-miscarriage treatment opens them up to criminal charges.

Katie Watson, a lawyer and ethicist at Northwestern University, tells me that without an abortion ban, a doctor telling a patient to wait for treatment until she becomes really sick would qualify as malpractice. She also warns that state laws may be “criminalizing” miscarriages since medications used to clear the uterus after a miscarriage, such as mifepristone and misoprostol, are also used for an abortion. Miscarrying women — and their doctors — could face intense scrutiny.

In short, the Supreme Court’s decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization has thrown out the basic premise of medicine: to minimize health risks. The ruling generated chaos among doctors, lawyers and patients, who must now wrestle with incoherent restrictions or bans.

And, amid the confusion, women have become second-class citizens. Americans rail against the Taliban in Afghanistan. It's clear that an American version of the Taliban is now pulling the strings in the United States.

Image: Facebook

Wednesday, July 20, 2022

From The Bottom Up

COVID is back for the seventh time. Doctors are warning that our health system could collapse -- because we don't have enough people to staff it. Kwame McKenzie writes:

Early in the pandemic, we were told we were at war with COVID-19. Our initial plans to combat the virus made sense. We deployed an emergency response because we were not sure what we were dealing with, and we needed to contain a potentially catastrophic situation. Testing, tracing, isolation, distancing, mask mandates, lockdowns and vaccination were used to halt the spread the pandemic and ensure that it did not get out of control. Because of this, and the remarkable efforts of the Canadian people, we saved tens of thousands of lives.

But now our strategy makes less sense.

We have ditched the precautionary principle and are not deploying our most effective countermeasures, despite the fact that we are still unsure what the virus is going to do next — and despite mounting evidence that the situation is now catastrophic. There will be 20,000 to 30,000 COVID-19 deaths in Canada this year. Extrapolating from a U.K. study, we can estimate hundreds of thousands of Canadians will contract long COVID.

COVID-19 hugely increases the risk of diabetes, heart disease, dementia, mental health problems and other chronic diseases. Herd immunity will not happen. You can be reinfected. Vaccination may protect you from severe impacts, but has not prevented virus spread. And, perhaps most worrying, the risk of negative health impacts may increase each time we are infected. So, the current rates of death, hospitalization, long COVID and chronic health problems could rise significantly over time. We also do not know the long-term impact of reinfection on children.

Ramping up our emergency response in the face of the next wave will save lives and protect hospitals, while leaving us vulnerable to all the others impacts of COVID-19.

Recent polls indicate that Canadians don't want to go back to mask mandates. What's to be done?

One way of decreasing divisions is by increasing people’s inclusion in decision-making. Including the public in policy discussions could help us develop a more rational pandemic strategy. People are more likely to support collective action once they have had their say and feel they have been heard.

Questions for a public discussion could include: Are we happy to be reactive, or do we want to try to take more control? Should we focus on the here and now, or should we take precautions to decrease the likely long-term impacts of sequential infection? Should the focus be on severe impacts, or should we also consider long COVID? Are we happy to focus on protecting hospitals and business, or do we want to add schools and the way the virus is damaging our primary care and social sector? The aim would be to have a transparent democratic discussion about decisions which may have a profound impact on our future.

We are currently being asked to be part of a “living with COVID-19” strategy — a plan which cannot beat the virus, will lead to significant casualties and may blight our future. We may want to consider a more forward-thinking strategy. We should be given the opportunity to help decide to what extent we should fight back.

A top-down strategy worked the first time around. Now we'll have to work from the bottom up.

Image: The Toronto Star

Tuesday, July 19, 2022

The Stupid Party

This week, Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia nixed Joe Biden's plans to do something about climate change. Manchin argued that Biden's proposals would make rising inflation simply intolerable. Paul  Krugman isn't buying it:

I don’t want to talk much about Manchin. In a few months he’ll probably be irrelevant, one way or another: The odds are either that Republicans will take the Senate or that Democrats, aided by the awfulness of many G.O.P. candidates, will gain some seats. And he wouldn’t have mattered in the first place but for the sickness that has infected America’s body politic.

Still, for what it’s worth, my take on Manchin is both less and more cynical than what you usually hear.

Yes, he represents a state that still thinks of itself as coal country, even though mining is now a trivial part of its economy, dwarfed by jobs in health care and social assistance — with much of the latter paid for by the federal government. Yes, he gets more political contributions from the energy industry than any other member of Congress. Yes, he has a large financial conflict of interest arising from his family’s ownership of a coal business.

Yet my guess is that his Lucy-with-the-football act has as much to do with vanity as with money. (And nothing at all to do with inflation.) His act has, after all, kept him in the political limelight month after month. And if you don’t believe that great events can be shaped, great disasters caused, by sheer personal pettiness, all I can say is that you probably haven’t read much history.

That said, Manchin isn't the real problem. It's the Republican Party:

There’s an obvious parallel between the politics of green energy and the politics of Covid-19. Many people chafed at the restrictions imposed to limit the pandemic’s spread; even mask requirements involve a bit of inconvenience. But vaccination seemed to offer a win-win solution, letting Americans protect themselves as well as others. Who could possibly object?

The answer was, much of the G.O.P. Vaccination became and remains an intensely partisan issue, with deadly consequences: Death rates since vaccines became widely available have been far higher in strongly Republican areas than in Democratic areas.

The fact is that one of America’s two major political parties appears to be viscerally opposed to any policy that seems to serve the public good. Overwhelming scientific consensus in favor of such policies doesn’t help — if anything, it hurts, because the modern G.O.P. is hostile to science and scientists.

And that hostility, rather than the personal quirks of one small-state senator, is the fundamental reason we appear set to do nothing while the planet burns.

In so many ways, the Republicans truly are The Stupid Party.


Monday, July 18, 2022

Anger Merchant

Michael Harris writes that Pierre Poilievre is an anger merchant. The Conservative Party appears to believe that he will be their ticket to power:

The CPC has managed to convince itself that retreads from the old Harper government can take them back to power—even though the record shows that the two times the party has tried that, it has lost at the polls.

And no wonder every mildly progressive Conservative leadership candidate is reviled by the party establishment with a zeal normally reserved for attacking the government. If the party wanted “reasonable” candidates, it would not have dumped Patrick Brown, and Jean Charest would not be looking at Poilievre’s tail-lights in the leadership polling.

But the CPC doesn’t want reasonable, it wants aggrieved. It wants the new leader to steer away from policy ideas of the kind Charest has injected into the contest in order to reflect the anger that is bubbling up in this country and the United States. Widespread public anger is their ticket to ride—or at least they think so. And maybe it is. There is certainly a lot to be angry about.

And there's a lot to be aggrieved about these days:

Gas, home heating, houses, groceries, travel (if you call being put in storage at airports travel), have all skyrocketed in price. Inflation is pushing ominously close to ten per cent year-over-year. Everyone is feeling the pain.

Central banks are raising interest rates to cool off the economy, which will put a lot of debt-laden homeowners underwater. Every time the rates go up, it feels to regular people the way it does when their dentist hits a nerve while drilling a tooth. And there is no guarantee that this tricky game of tightening the monetary belt won’t lead to a recession or worse.

And then there is the loss of faith in political leaders and institutions. Recent polling from Angus Reid showed massive dissatisfaction in Atlantic Canada with the health care system—a system that will be further ravaged this fall and winter, when the folly of reopening during an ongoing pandemic will be exposed by new and far more infectious sub variants of the virus.

Political leaders have been whistling past the graveyard on this one, hoping it will go away. It will not. When the seventh and eighth waves of the virus start rolling and restrictions have to be reintroduced, there will be hell to pay.

But beware. Our southern neighbours should remind us of what happens when anger takes centre stage:

It works by transforming anger into hatred, and then training that hatred onto individual people. Policy becomes an afterthought, unless you think firing the head of the Bank of Canada or cryptocurrency as the answer to inflation are policies.

Politics at that point becomes irrational and extreme. That’s when the “lock-her-up” chants carry the day, and the “Fuck Trudeau” signs appear. That’s when a Hillary Clinton gets demonized and a Donald Trump gets elected, and maybe re-elected, despite mounting and damning evidence that if anyone tried to steal the 2020 election it was Trump.

Canadians should beware of Pierre Poilievre:

But before backing Poilievre’s sneering and cynical brand of politics, Canadians should keep in mind that a vote cast in hate is a wound on the country. And they should also remember that Poilievre’s idea of peace, order and good government was the Truckers’ Convoy.

As always, Harris hits the nail on the head.

Image: Macleans

Sunday, July 17, 2022

Not True Enough

Althia Raj writes that there are several theories circulating about why Patrick Brown was booted out of the Conservative leadership race:

Former NDP leader Thomas Mulcair claimed this week that former prime minister Stephen Harper’s people orchestrated Brown’s defenestration to keep their Conservative party “ideologically pure” and kill any chance Jean Charest had of becoming its leader.

“Based on the single, untested word of a longtime party operative, Brown was given the heave-ho,” wrote Mulcair, who was a Charest cabinet minister in Quebec’s National Assembly.

The party, based on an undisclosed number of allegations and complaints — whose nature is also shrouded in secrecy — chose to remove an approved candidate, who’d spent $300,000 to enter the race and may have raised about $2.25 million for the party (the cost of a one-year membership multiplied by the 150,000 memberships Brown claimed he sold), without, it appears, fully investigating the matter itself.
Ian Brodie, the chair of the Election Organizing Committee claims that Brown broke "sections 363 and 367, which prevent anyone other than an individual from donating to a leadership candidate and caps donations at $1,675."
But the act also says that if a leadership contestant receives a contribution from an ineligible contributor, they can return it to the contributor or pay the amount of it to the chief electoral officer within 30 days after becoming aware of the ineligibility. Brown’s campaign said it was prepared to do this. On Friday, it said it repaid $7,410.83 to the company that hired Jodoin and informed Elections Canada of the payment. The agency, however, said it had no such information.

In an email to members, Brodie said the Brown campaign was informed on June 29 of the allegations against it. On June 30, the party asked for a detailed and complete response. The Brown campaign provided a response on July 1 that Brodie wrote was unsatisfactory.

They continued to talk between July 2 and 5, in what Brodie described as an attempt to “find a path for the Patrick Brown campaign to be in compliance with our rules and federal law.” Later that day, most of LEOC’s 20 appointees decided to disqualify Brown by a vote of 11 to six.

Brodie praised them for doing “the right thing” to protect the “long-term interests” of the party. “LEOC could not afford the risk of having a leadership candidate under the investigation of Elections Canada for breaking federal law.”

Because the party referred the matter to the commissioner of Elections Canada, it says it can’t answer detailed questions about the allegations.

Brodie is a long-time ally of Stephen Harper, who said at the beginning of the race that he wanted a "true Conservative" to win. The suspicion is that Brown was not true enough for Stephen Haper.

Image: CBC

Saturday, July 16, 2022

It May Not Survive

Ruth Marcus -- who writes a column in The Washington Post -- holds a law degree from Harvard. She admits that she was skeptical about prosecuting Donald Trump:

Not so long ago, I was squeamish — nervous about the consequences, immediate and long-term, of having any administration prosecute its predecessor and chief political rival.

Prosecuting Trump threatened to further divide an already polarized nation; a conviction, even if secured, would be deemed illegitimate by a substantial portion of the population. If acquitted, Trump could be emboldened and empowered, a martyr to a seeming Democratic vendetta.

And whatever the outcome, the fateful step of bringing charges against a former president based on his conduct in office could unleash a dangerous cycle of tit-for-tat political prosecutions and revenge prosecutions. This is the stuff of banana republics, not the American system of justice.

But she has changed her mind:

My squeamishness and doubts have yielded — if not to the absolute conviction that Trump should be prosecuted, then to the increasing belief that charges are warranted, and that failing to bring them would be more damaging to the nation than turning a blind eye to his effort to subvert democracy and prevent the peaceful transfer of power.

What changed my mind? The evidence. The facts amassed by the House select committee are damning, morally and legally. To understand their weight and import, think back to the second impeachment trial and wonder: What if we knew then what we know now?

We know now that Trump could have harbored no doubt that he lost the election, and resoundingly. This unwelcome fact was driven home to him by his attorney general, senior Justice Department officials, White House lawyers and his own campaign team.

We know now how extensively Trump pressured state officials to support his scheme to overturn the election. It wasn’t just the infamous call to Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger to “find” the necessary number of phantom votes but also his pressure on Arizona House Speaker Russell “Rusty” Bowers to support a slate of phony electors.

We know now that Trump’s exhortation to come to Washington on Jan. 6, 2021 — “Be there, will be wild” — was merely the desperate culmination of his frustrated attempts to forestall the vote-counting by other means.

We know now that Trump was secretly plotting all along to urge his supporters to march on the Capitol that day — that this was no off-the-cuff, ad-libbed exhortation but a premeditated, closely held plan.

We know now that officials across the administration, including White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows and Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe, feared violence erupting on Jan. 6. “Things might get real, real bad on Jan. 6,” White House aide Cassidy Hutchinson said Meadows warned.

We know now that Trump wanted to join the mob in marching on the Capitol — that this was his plan all along; that his lawyers believed this would be “legally a terrible idea for us,” according to Hutchinson; and that he was enraged when he was prevented from following through.

All of this blatant disregard for the law must be prosecuted. The nation may not survive the prosecution of Donald Trump. But it surely won't survive not prosecuting him.

Image: TouTube

Friday, July 15, 2022

A Shrinking Tent

The fallout from Patrick Brown's disqualification from the Conservative leadership race continues. Kevin Philipupillai reports in the Hill Times that:

Supporters of ousted Conservative leadership candidate Patrick Brown, including new Canadians who were participating for the first time in a leadership election, say they are shocked by Brown’s disqualification. Some have not yet decided what to do next, even though Brown himself has endorsed Jean Charest.

Francesca Grosso, who purchased a membership in the federal Conservative Party in order to support Brown, told The Hill Times that many of the new members Brown signed up “come from countries in which freedom and democracy don’t exist.”

“This was their first taste of being part of a political process. And the party elite, quite deliberately it seems, has disenfranchised them, with no real explanation.”

Grosso said she and many other Brown supporters feel “disrespected and disregarded” by the federal party. “How am I taking this? I’m taking this quite personally. They don’t want us.”

The party proudly trumpeted its new members:

Bijay Paudel, the president of the Federation of Canada Nepal Chamber of Commerce, said in an email that he and his team had signed up “over 1,500 new members” from the community in support of Brown, whose campaign said it signed up more than 150,000 members. Front-runner and rival Pierre Poilievre (Carleton, Ont.) claimed his team signed up more than 300,000 new members. While both claims are unverified, the party confirmed last month that a record number of 600,000 members may be eligible to vote.

But now those numbers are suspect:

Paudel, a former candidate for the federal Conservative nomination in Mississauga-Malton, Ont., joined Brown’s leadership campaign in March as national campaign co-ordinator for the Nepalese Canadian community.

“Patrick is very close to our community so we decided to support him. However, after the news of the disqualification everyone is shocked,” said Paudel. “This is the first time our community took part in mainstream politics and we were excited about it.”

The Conservative tent keeps shrinking. And the party still hasn't figured out why it keeps losing elections.

Image: YouTube

Thursday, July 14, 2022

It's About Climate Change

If you want to know what the future holds, consider two words -- climate change. Glen Pearson writes:

With all the unprecedented challenges facing today’s world, nothing compares to the ravages of climate change.  The argument as to whether the coming disaster is caused by human activity has now been eclipsed by the ongoing string of climate emergencies that plague every part of the globe.  Despite this, one of the world’s great governments could only muster a few dozen politicians for a climate briefing.

The melting of glaciers, droughts, floods, forest fires, rising ocean levels, dwindling freshwater supplies, the increasing extinction of species, the rapid loss of biodiversity – all these are happening at the same time and are more significant in impact than at any other period in our collective lifetime.  Somehow, trucker convoys, Donald Trump rampages, the costs of food and fuel, and the caricature nature of politics have become our fixation.

When our leaders talk about climate change, they make the right noises. But they don't make the right decisions:

Western leaders talk a good line regarding the planet but increasing numbers of less affluent nations don’t believe the words.  Democracy has become the world’s great stage, and political leaders are merely its players – not seasoned, educated visionaries of conviction and principle.  Today’s leaders have more in common with themselves than with the millions they are supposed to govern.  They embrace at global conferences, trade anecdotes, gossip about their peers, and ultimately make promises that somehow rarely come to fruition.

This is just how it is, despite all the promises that say otherwise.  Canada is faring better than most, and that says something to our credit about our politics and civil service.  Yet when it comes to climate change, we are the fifth worst polluter in the world, and the recently touted budgets of both provincial and federal governments are deemed insufficient to meet this country’s climate goals.

We are all to blame – governments, citizens, bureaucrats, businesses, special interests – and we seem unable to rise above our daily concerns to care for tomorrow’s outcomes.  Our future awaits us, and we are not reconciled to it.  Our politics is more manic than meaningful, and our citizenship more angry than aspirational.  Politics has become our primary source of entertainment, leaving us to become mere watchers and political junkies, easily overcome by the climate change forces already among us.

Is this how we will be remembered -- the generation who saw the problem and couldn't  -- or wouldn't -- do what had to be done?

Image: NASA

Wednesday, July 13, 2022

They're Focused On Trump

After yesterday's hearings, it's now clear that the January 6 Committee is focused on Donald Trump. Eugene Robinson writes:

It was Donald Trump, and Donald Trump alone, who summoned and loosed the mob that sacked the Capitol, threatened Congress and the vice president and imperiled our democracy. That is the powerful message that emerged from Tuesday’s televised hearing of the Jan. 6 select committee. And these hearings make clear just how dangerous it would be for the former president to be elected again.

On the night of December 18th, a cast of crazies met with Trump at the White House:

Witnesses told the committee, Trump presided over a rancorous, hours-long screaming match between the Crazy and Normal camps that ended after midnight with no real resolution. At 1:42 a.m. that night, Trump embarked on a third, radically different course of action: He posted the infamous tweet telling supporters to come to Washington on Jan. 6, ending it with what MAGA extremists understood as a call to arms: “Be there, will be wild!”

It was Trump who called the mob to Washington. It was Trump who called them to war.  And they came with the weapons they needed for war:

A former member of the Oath Keepers militia group and a onetime sympathizer who joined the Capitol mob told the committee what happened next. Trump’s Jan. 6 tweets galvanized not just random MAGA acolytes but also more-established violent groups. And some leaders of the insurrection somehow learned in advance that Trump would call on the crowd to march on the Capitol.

There are still dots left for the committee to connect. But the emerging picture is of one man who made the horrific events of Jan. 6 happen. His name is Donald Trump. Trump can’t be let anywhere near power again, now that we know exactly how he will use it.

It's true that Trump isn't very bright. But his most singular talent is that he can summon the worst in and of humanity. And the carnage he can inflict -- with the help of his followers -- is horrifying.

Image: The Guardian

Tuesday, July 12, 2022

Rae On Orwell

Bob Rae writes that these days he has turned once again to the works of George Orwell to understand what is happening:

I began reading the works of George Orwell in my early teens, starting with the allegorical novella Animal Farm and the dystopian science fiction of 1984. I was hooked, and bought every red Penguin paperback edition of Orwell I could find. I have been reading his works, and reading about him, ever since.

Working at the United Nations has me thinking of Orwell and his observations more frequently these days, (I took note of what would have been his 119th birthday in late June). The UN at its best can be an institution that serves the greater good, but it has also, especially in recent months, been a place where words are twisted and lies abound. As certain state actors attempt to rewrite history and facts are turned on their heads, I often look to Orwell for guidance and wisdom.

Russian President Vladimir Putin’s ongoing “special military operation” to “destroy Nazism” by attempting to annex eastern Ukraine is a case in point. At the UN we’ve also become accustomed to constant attempts by the Chinese government to insert President Xi Jinping’s thoughts into official resolutions, compromising and qualifying commitments to human rights, democracy and the rule of law by making them subject to the “spirit” of the “equality of nations” and “mutual respect.” (Translation: Stay out of our business).

When it came to disinformation and its corrosive effects, Orwell knew his stuff:

In 1946, Orwell wrote: “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 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 a solid reality, usually on a battlefield.”

The limits of what is now called “confirmation bias” were never so well described.

Orwell’s writings put him at odds with the prevailing political correctness of his time. He warned of the dangers of the growing reality of totalitarianism, with his instinct proven correct in the decades that followed. In the macabre alliance of the Soviets and the Nazis in the Molotov-Ribbentrop non-aggression pact in 1939, he saw a display of contempt for the spirit of democracy. The prevailing themes of Orwell’s best-known works reflect his deep anger over the presence of tyranny all around him – lies and deceit, propaganda and mass surveillance, the rewriting of history, the curbing of personal freedoms; themes that still resonate today, often in terrifying ways.

In the darkness, though, Orwell still found faith in humanity. In one of his poems, he described an encounter with a fellow soldier in Spain: “But the thing that I saw in your face/ No power can disinherit./ No bomb that ever burst/ Shatters the crystal spirit.”

These days I'm bewildered by everything that is happening. We live in very dark times. Orwell looked unflinchingly into the darkness and was not overwhelmed by it.

Image: The Guardian

Monday, July 11, 2022

No Character

In our neck of the woods, masks have largely been abandoned. But at our local grocery store, some of the cashiers are still wearing them. And, when my wife and I go out, we wear our masks. That's because Andrew Nikiforuk is right. He writes in The Tyee:

Let’s call it a plague of willful incompetence or an outbreak of epidemiological stupidity. Or maybe José Saramago’s novel has come to life and targeted public officials with a scourge of blindness.

In any case, COVID, a novel virus that can wreak havoc with vital organs in the body, continues to evolve at a furious pace.

In response officials have largely abandoned any coherent response, including masking, testing, tracing and even basic data collection.

Yes, the people have been abandoned.

The data keeps coming in -- and it's nothing to celebrate:

Reinfections, and 2022 is surely the year of reinfections, just increase the damage from COVID, which can be profound: immune dysregulation, blood clots, nerve cell death, inflammation, lung damage, kidney failure and brain damage.

New science shows that Omicron and its variants are getting better at evading immune defences induced by vaccines or by natural infection. BA5, for example, is more transmissible than any previous variant.

As a consequence it is now possible to be reinfected with one of Omicron’s variants every two to three weeks.

The data also shows that each reinfection confers so little immunity — because the immune system is unable to remember it — that we must seek every other protection available.* A summer infection, for example, will not protect you against a fall infection. But each and every infection will damage your immune system regardless of how mild the symptoms.

There is more bad news. Past infection by older variants dampen rather than strengthen immune protection even among those with three vaccinations. “That previous SARS-CoV-2 infection history can imprint such a profound, negative impact on subsequent protective immunity is an unexpected consequence of COVID-19,” noted the researchers in Science.

The virus is getting better at thwarting vaccines and evading immunity. Although vaccine protection against hospitalization and death remains strong, it is being steadily eroded by Omicron’s subvariants. Meanwhile protection against severe disease has declined as the effectiveness of our vaccines progressively wanes.

Yet we blithely assume we're getting back to normal. We simply can't go back to the way things were. I'm getting darkly pessimistic in my old age. We haven't got the character to survive our brave new world.

Image: ThoughtCo

Sunday, July 10, 2022

They Still Haven't Learned Them

Boris Johnson has finally exited, stage right. Max Boot writes:

Every stage of Boris Johnson’s political progression has been utterly ludicrous and farcical — and that extended to his downfall, or “clownfall,” as the Economist dubbed it. Suddenly, in the past few days, there was a mass exodus from the British government among cabinet ministers who professed themselves to be shocked by the prime minister’s duplicity. “A decent and responsible Government relies on honesty, integrity and mutual respect,” thundered Northern Ireland Secretary Brandon Lewis in his letter of resignation.

Well, yes. But it’s hardly news that Johnson possesses none of those qualities. Dishonesty wasn’t a bug in the BoJo operating system, it was the system itself. “People have known that Boris Johnson lies for 30 years,” says Rory Stewart, a former Conservative member of Parliament. “He’s probably the best liar we’ve ever had as a prime minister.”

Sounds remarkably like the former American president:

Johnson was very much like former president Donald Trump. The difference, of course, is that while Trump continues to exercise an inexplicable hold on his political party, Johnson’s grip has finally been broken. The questions are: How could Conservatives have ignored for so long what was so blindingly obvious? And how can Republicans still stay in denial?

Boot suggests that Johnson was successful because he was so entertaining:

The secret of his popularity was that he was terrifically entertaining. Like a certain orange-tinted former U.S. president, he did not present as a normal politician. He made a virtue of his lack of seriousness to make it seem as if he was just a regular bloke despite his posh background. He bumbled his way to the top.

But the joke wore thin when Johnson actually had to govern. He promised to miraculously make Britain stronger and wealthier by exiting the European Union; he’s achieved just the opposite. Johnson’s management of the covid pandemic was no more successful. A House of Commons committee found that Johnson “made a serious early error” by flirting with the crackpot theory that allowing people to be infected would lead to “herd immunity.” The result was “many thousands” of avoidable deaths.

Eventually, Johnson instituted a strict lockdown, but he failed to abide by it. The result was the “Partygate” scandal, as evidence emerged of Johnson and his aides illegally partying at 10 Downing Street. Johnson was finally felled by one scandal too many. His chief deputy whip, Chris Pincher (a name straight out of Dickens), had to resign after being caught groping men in a bar. Johnson professed shock, until it emerged that he had been informed of similar misbehavior in the past when he had brought Pincher into the Foreign Office.

Put simply, leadership is not entertainment:

The lessons of Johnson’s rise and fall are simple and old-fashioned: Don’t treat politics as a branch of the entertainment industry; it’s too serious for that. Knowledge and competence are important in leaders; their lack is not a virtue. And character counts above all: Someone who can’t be trusted to tell the truth can’t be trusted to govern. It’s staggering that it’s taken the Tories this long to accept those basic home truths.

And the Republicans still haven't learned them.

Image: Alan Milne Lees The Medium

Saturday, July 09, 2022

The Wooden Candidate

Pierre Poilievre's latest video is all about wood, Or so he says. Marcus Gee writes:

If you haven’t seen his video yet, do tune in. We find Mr. Poilievre at home in Ottawa, admiring a post he recovered from an old barn to use in a DIY project. Early lumberjacks hewed it from logs, he says, leaving the scars of their axes as evidence of their labour. Then he turns to the planks on the wall. He bought them from a farmer, and spent hours cleaning and restoring them.

Why? Because they tell a story about the people who fashioned them and the elements that weathered them. All he did, he says, getting to his point, was to reclaim what was already there in the wood. “And that’s what my campaign is about” – reclaiming Canadians’ lost freedom.

“So-called liberals,” he tells viewers, have been trying to build a kind of utopia in this country, knocking down statues, sweeping away history and banning words as they go. This is nothing but a pretext to give themselves “vast new powers,” something he says they have been trying to do all through the past seven years of Liberal government. “Reclaim your life,” he concludes, as swelling strings play. “Reclaim your freedom.”

We've heard this kind of talk before --  most notably from our southern neighbours, but also from around the world:

No one who has the least paid attention to what is going on in the world’s democracies over the past few years can fail to hear the echoes here. Brexiteers like the unlamented Boris Johnson told British voters that leaving the European Union would help them “take back control” of their lives. The still-dangerous Donald Trump railed against media, corporate and government “elites.” Mr. Poilievre does, too.

And we've heard it here from the Ford brothers:

Toronto’s Rob Ford rose to power on a promise to wrest the city away from its self-serving elite and “stop the gravy train.” Last winter’s freedom-convoy mess in Ottawa unveiled a seam of anger at overreaching governments and established institutions. Many Canadians are weary of being told to reflect on the wrongs of Canadian history, however real and grave.

Mr. Poilievre and some of his rivals for the Conservative leadership are feeding these resentments. He has blamed the Bank of Canada for inflation and promised to fire its governor. He says that “government is ruining the Canadian dollar.” He is a fan of cryptocurrencies, the digital funny money that recently fell to Earth. Before the crypto crash, he told a podcast host that he and his wife sometimes watch a cryptocurrency channel on YouTube “late into the night.”

He has said that he will ban ministers in his government from going to the World Economic Forum, a favourite punching bag for conspiracy theorists. He recently walked alongside an army veteran who marched to Ottawa to protest vaccine mandates. “People should have the freedom to make their own decisions with their own bodies,” Mr. Poilievre said.

Mya Angelou warned us that we're fools if we don't believe him the first time.

Image: You Tube

Friday, July 08, 2022

No One To Save Him

Today Pat Cippilone testifies behind closed doors. Jennifer Rubin writes that Donald Trump should be in panic mode:

Former White House counsel Pat Cipollone has been the missing man at the hearings for the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 insurrection. Although present at the most critical moments in the coup attempt, until now he has refused to testify formally.

Cipollone has appeared for an informal interview with the panel, but he resisted speaking beyond a limited set of topics with claims of executive privilege. The Jan. 6 committee finally gave up friendly negotiations and sent out a subpoena last week. Faced with the prospect of criminal contempt and potential sanctions from the bar, Cipollone, a working lawyer, agreed to at least show up.

There are all kinds of questions the January 6th Committee wants to ask Cippilone:

How did John Eastman, the chief architect of the coup plot, end up providing legal advice to Trump?

Did Eastman or Meadows ever concede there was no voter fraud? Did Trump?

Others have testified that you described the letter written by Jeffrey Clark, the Justice Department official whom Trump wanted to appoint as acting attorney general, declaring the election as fraudulent as a “murder-suicide pact”? What did you mean by that? Did Trump indicate he understood it was illegal?

Why did Trump want to replace acting attorney general Jeffrey Rosen? Why did Rosen refuse to sign Clark’s letter?

What do you know about Trump’s calls to election officials in Georgia and other states? Did Trump understand this conduct was illegal?

Did you advise Trump to concede the election? What conversations did he have with Vice President Mike Pence and Pence’s lawyers?

What did you try to remove from Trump’s Jan. 6 speech? Why? Were those changes rejected, and if so, who rejected them?

Others have testified that regarding Trump’s proposal for him to march to the Capitol on Jan. 6, you said “We’re going to get charged with every crime imaginable.” What did you mean by that? Did you explain to Trump the possible charges he might face?

Do you know why Trump wanted to go to the Capitol?

What did you tell Trump after you dragged Meadows to talk to Trump on the afternoon of Jan. 6?

Did Trump ever suggest the mob should attack or kill the vice president?

Cippilone might try to take the Fifth. But Lawrence Tribe of Harvard Law School says, “Cipollone might try to invoke his fifth amendment privilege against compelled self-incrimination, but it doesn’t look like he was personally involved in anything criminal, so that privilege would not be applicable.”

They're closing in on Trump. And, unlike all the other times in his life, there is nobody there to save him.

Image: Daily Kos

Thursday, July 07, 2022

The Bill Has Come Due


Boris Johnson has resigned. Jonathan Freedland writes that there is a symmetry to his rise and fall:

Lies and a brazen contempt for the rules powered his rise; lies and a brazen contempt for the rules brought his fall. Which means the political odyssey of Boris Johnson has a curious symmetry. Except that what began as defects in the personality of one man ended as defects in his party and his government, inflicting great damage on the entire country.

The lies that proved his undoing are now all too familiar. The last, fatal lie was his claim that he had not been told directly of complaints of sexual misconduct committed by the former deputy chief whip Chris Pincher, a claim rapidly exposed as false in a rare intervention from a former permanent secretary at the Foreign Office, Simon McDonald. It turned out that Johnson had indeed been briefed about Pincher, and that once again Johnson had not told the truth.

There comes a time, though, when the weight of the lies is just too much to bear:

It was the pattern of repeated mendacity that proved too much to bear both for Johnson’s previous chancellor and his hastily installed successor, his health secretary and a slew of more junior colleagues, a pattern so firmly established in the public mind that even his closest lieutenants could deny it no longer. Central to it, of course, is the scandal known as Partygate.

Johnson had stood before the country in one of the darkest hours of the postwar era and promised that we were all in this together, that the lockdown regulations that kept loved ones from each other, even as they drew their last breath, applied to everyone including him.

But, as the nation discovered nearly two years later, that was not true. He broke those rules, indeed he broke the law and “presided over a culture of casual law-breaking”, in the words of an earlier resigner, the former minister and one-time ally Jesse Norman, even in the very building where those laws were drawn up, seeing himself as “free of the network of obligation which binds everyone else”, to quote the Eton housemaster who had spotted that same trait in Johnson 40 years earlier. He lied again when he told parliament he was shocked and “sickened” to discover parties had taken place in Downing Street, when he knew all too well they had taken place because he attended those parties himself.

None of this was a surprise, because dishonesty has been the one constant through Johnson’s career. Famously, he was sacked from his first job, at the Times, for making up a quote, and later he was sacked from Michael Howard’s frontbench for lying to the then party leader about an affair.

Ordinarily, a reputation for serial deceit would close off the route to the top, or at least prove an impediment. Yet for Johnson it proved no obstacle at all. On the contrary, his route to No 10 was smoothed with lies. How come? What were the forces that propelled a man whose flaws were so clear and well documented into the most powerful job in the land?

The British Conservative Party bought into the lies:

Bored with a leader who was dutiful, diligent and deathly dull – whose wickedest youthful transgression had been running unauthorised through a field of wheat – Conservatives were ready for someone with some swash to his buckle.

That was bound to be Johnson. For more than two decades, ever since he had stolen the show on Have I Got News for You, Johnson had been the Tories’ guilty pleasure. They would mob him at party conference, giggling at his every scripted gag, delighting in every studied ruffling of the hair.

For years, the conventional wisdom had held that “Boris” was the obvious choice for jester but an improbable king. But after May, under whom the Tories won just 9% of the vote in the 2019 elections for the European parliament, they were ready to overlook all the obvious flaws and offer the throne to her polar opposite.

The political logic was straightforward. For all his defects, Johnson was hailed as the Heineken candidate, able to woo parts of the electorate other Conservatives could not reach. Had he not proved that in London, becoming mayor – twice – of an otherwise Labour city? Conservative MPs, even those who knew Johnson best and therefore disliked him most, elected him leader on that basis.

But political success comes with a price. And now the bill has come due.

Image: Al Jezarra

Wednesday, July 06, 2022

Nowhere Near

The Conservative Party has kicked Patrick Brown out of its leadership race. The Canadian Press reports that:

The campaign for Patrick Brown said it was consulting its legal team after the leadership election organizing committee of the federal Conservatives voted to disqualify him from the race late Tuesday. 

Ian Brodie, the chair of the committee, announced the stunning move in a written statement after a meeting to discuss the matter.

He said the party had recently become aware of "serious allegations of wrongdoing" by the Brown campaign.

The allegations are related to the financing rules in the Canada Elections Act, Brodie said, but provided no further details.

In his statement late Tuesday night, Brodie said the chief returning officer for the party informed Brown of the concerns it received regarding the financing of his campaign, requesting a written response, and decided to withhold the interim membership list from his campaign.

Thus, one of Pierre Poilievre's main rivals has been dispatched:

Poilievre had not yet responded to the leadership election organizing committee's decision by late Tuesday night.

The campaign for former Quebec premier Jean Charest, who is also in the leadership contest, did respond by calling the news "deeply troubling."

"We expect further communications on the allegations of wrongdoing," wrote Charest campaign spokeswoman Michelle Coates-Mather.

"Transparency is paramount. We need to understand what the allegations are and how Patrick Brown's campaign responded."

Although he has been disqualified, his name is expected to still appear on the ranked ballot. A party spokesman said late Tuesday that a large batch of them had already been sent to members in the mail.

More proof that the Conservative Party shouldn't be allowed anywhere near the local dog catcher's office, let alone the Government of Canada.

Image: National Newswatch

Tuesday, July 05, 2022

Does He Care?

CTV News reports that former Saskatchewan premier Brad Wall was in contact with one of the organizers of the Truckers' Convey:

Former Saskatchewan premier Brad Wall was in contact with a key organizer of the Freedom Convoy anti-mandate protest, providing strategic advice before and after the Ottawa occupation began.

“Your group will likely be provoked by counter protesters and it is so important that they don't take the bait,” Wall said in a text message he sent Saskatchewan truck driver Chris Barber on February 2, according to court records.

“Also it is really important that any of those who are trying to hitch their wagon to this convoy with ulterior motives and off messages - especially racist stuff be openly and roundly condemned by the organizers.”

Wall cited as an example another protest organizer who was later criminally charged, Pat King, who commented in a Facebook video about Anglo Saxon replacement theory.

Wall knew who some of these people were. One wonders if Pierre Poilievre knows who some of them are. Or if he cares.

Image: Apumone