Monday, October 31, 2022

Divine Right?

I have already written about Doug Ford's refusal to testify at the public inquiry into the occupation of Ottawa. Today, Michael Harris takes on the issue:

Besides refusing to personally shed light on a matter that goes to the heart of the public interest, there is another reason why Doug Ford should be ashamed of himself. As the leader of the government, he represents the law. What message does it send to the public when the head of government decides that he doesn’t have to give an interview, offer testimony, or comply with a subpoena on a matter of great importance to everyone?

What message does it send when he effectively tells the people who elected him, he doesn’t have to tell them what really happened in their province?  And there is this question: if the prime minister of the country can step up and testify at the Emergencies Act inquiry, without a subpoena, as he plans to do, why can’t the premier of Ontario?

Ford argues that his government has already co-operated with the inquiry by handing over cabinet material and making senior officials of the government available for testimony. He is going to court to argue that the subpoena violates his parliamentary privilege.

That is a fig leaf to cover what is really at stake here. Ford doesn’t want to comply with the subpoena from the commissioners, because it will put him precisely where a growing number of politicians and their aides don’t want to be: forced to answer inconvenient questions under oath.

The defiance of subpoenas by politicians has become  an epidemic:

This is getting to be a serious issue in politics, both for politicians themselves and their staffs. Consider the parade of American public figures in whose dubious footsteps Ford is following.

Courtrooms are to former U.S. president Donald Trump what garlic and crosses are to Dracula. The reason is simple. When you get to court, if you lie under oath, it’s a crime. You can lie to the country, and you can lie to the media with impunity. But when you lie in court, it’s called perjury. Which is why Trump has done everything possible to avoid the subpoena of the House Select Committee to Investigate the Jan. 6 Attack, despite his empty criticism that no one at the proceedings is telling his side of the story.

When he was finally dragged into court by New York Attorney General Letitia James in her massive fraud investigation of the Trump organization, the artist of the deal answered only one question: what was his name? After that, he took the Fifth Amendment 440 times, a tactic he once said was the stock and trade of the Mafia. He has now been served with a $250-million lawsuit for alleged massive fraud by New York’s attorney general.

Senator Lindsay Graham refused to comply with a grand jury subpoena from the Atlanta-area district attorney looking into potential interference in the 2020 election by Trump and his minions. Georgia election officials testified that during a telephone call, Senator Graham tried to get them to change the result of the election in Trump’s favour.

Former White House Trump adviser Steve Bannon ignored a Congressional subpoena from the Jan. 6 Select Committee. He never produced a single document, nor the log of his activities at the time of the Capitol Hill riot. Instead, he argued that he had “executive privilege,” a point a lawyer for the former president disputes. Bannon was eventually convicted on two counts of criminal contempt of Congress, and has been sentenced to four months in prison. He remains at large pending his appeal.

Does Doug believe he rules by Divine Right? 

Image: The Hill Times

Sunday, October 30, 2022

Sleepwalking Through A Crisis

Judy Rebick writes that Canadian democracy is in crisis:

Thirty years ago on  October 26, 1992, Canadians voted on the only pan-Canadian referendum in my lifetime. The Charlottetown Accord, Prime Minister Brian Mulroney’s second attempt to amend Canada’s Constitution was voted down by a 54 per cent majority.  I doubt you will read about this extraordinary democratic event in the mainstream media because it was defeated despite or maybe because of the support it had from all of all the Premiers and all but one of the political parties. Moreover, all the daily newspapers across the country supported it. The people rose up Canadian style and voted no.

I write about it in 2022, not only to remember this extraordinary episode in Canadian history but because we are facing a similar crisis in democracy and once again need to rethink how our democracy works. Quebec just elected a majority government where the Coalition Avenir Québec (CAQ) won a significant majority of the seats with only 37.32 per cent of the vote, the Doug Ford Tories in Ontario won a majority of seats with only 40 per cent of the votes, and the BCNDP just undemocratically disqualified a challenger to run as leader of the party thus avoiding a debate on the future of the province and installing a Premier without any election whatsoever.

Rebick remembers the Charlottetown Accord and how it went down to defeat:

In 1992, I was President of the National Action Committee (NAC) on the Status of Women, Canada’s largest women’s group and a major spokesperson for the “No” campaign.  The experience of the Charlottetown referendum changed my ideas about democracy.  As I travelled from coast to coast, speaking at countless meetings and on dozens of talk shows, I found an informed and articulate population. I may not always have agreed with people’s views, but it was clear that they had carefully thought out what they were saying. Many people would come with a marked up copy of the accord and written questions to ask the panelists who represented the two sides. I had never felt such intense political participation. Because people knew that they had a direct vote on the outcome, they got more involved. Since the difference didn’t fall along the usual left-right spectrum, people had to decide for themselves what they thought. 

Canadian voters were energized. That is not the case today. We're sleepwalking through a very important time -- for Canada and the world.

Image: The Canadian Encyclopedia

Saturday, October 29, 2022

What's The Difference?

After the last provincial election in Ontario, Andrea Horvath -- the leader of the NDP -- and Steven Del Ducca -- who led the Ontario Liberals -- resigned. During Ontario's municipal elections, Horvath was elected mayor of Hamilton and Del Ducca was elected mayor of Vaughn, north of Toronto. Donald Trump is still going madly about his country, claiming he won his election. Susan Delacourt writes:

Defeat of one kind or another is a constant possibility. In fact, simple arithmetic tells us there are far more losers than winners in every election. Losers, however, are often dispatched to the distant past, the land of “didn’t you used to be…?” All across Ontario this week, many failed municipal candidates — many more than winners — are collecting up their signs and fading back to obscurity and non-elected life.

Former Ontario New Democratic Party leader Andrea Horwath was elected mayor of her Hamilton hometown. Former Ontario Liberal leader Steven Del Duca narrowly won the mayor’s job in Vaughan. Both of these leaders resigned on election night in June when they failed to stop Doug Ford from winning a majority.

Meanwhile, in Brampton, Patrick Brown held onto his mayor’s job, which he had been prepared to leave if he won the federal Conservative leadership race. Brown was ejected from the race during the summer (and fined $100,0000 by the party this week for alleged campaign violations).

It says something about all three of these politicians that they were unable to walk away from the business — that even as they were still licking the wounds of defeat, they decided to take another run at election.

So you have to ask the question, what's the difference between these politicians and Donald Trump?

Image: CBC

Friday, October 28, 2022

Empty Barrels

The Republicans have been talking about a Biden Recession. But this week's economic numbers revealed their lie. Paul Krugman writes that there may be a recession coming, but the United States is not in one now:

For now, suffice it to say, we weren’t in a recession earlier this year and aren’t in a recession now, although we could find ourselves in one in the future as delayed effects of rising interest rates kick in.

So, unable to sell a recession, the Republicans have turned to inflation as The Great Boogeyman. But they have no plan to deal with it:

It . . . seems worth pointing out that the G.O.P. doesn’t have a plan to fight inflation. Actually, it doesn’t have any coherent economic plan at all. But to the extent that Republicans have laid out what they will try to do if they win the midterms, their policies would make inflation worse, not better.

When pressed about how, exactly, they would reduce inflation, Republicans often fall back on some version of “Gas was only $2 a gallon when Trump left office!” So let’s talk about that comparison.

First, it’s remarkable how the right has reimagined January 2021 as a golden moment for America. At the time, about 20,000 Americans were dying from Covid every week; there were still nine million fewer jobs than there had been before the pandemic. Indeed, the still-depressed state of major economies, including that of the United States, was the main reason world oil prices were unusually low, which in turn was the main reason gas was cheap.

A better comparison would be with 2019, the year before the pandemic, when gas averaged $2.60 a gallon. Bear in mind that average wages have risen about 15 percent over the past three years, so gas would be as affordable now as it was in 2019 if its current average price were $2.99. As of Wednesday, it was $3.75. So yes, gas has become less affordable, but not by nearly as much as Republicans claim.

And despite G.O.P. rhetoric, Biden administration policies have had little impact on gas prices, which have been driven by events affecting world markets — notably Russia’s invasion of Ukraine — and to some extent by bottlenecks in refining, which grew worse for several weeks starting in mid-September but have eased again.

So what is the Republican plan to bring gas prices down? There isn’t one.

What about inflation more generally? You can make the case that large deficit spending early in the Biden presidency fed inflation (although it had little effect on the most politically salient prices, for energy and food, which have soared around the world).

If you’re worried about the inflationary impact of budget deficits, however, you should know that almost the only concrete economic policy idea we’re hearing from Republicans is that they want to extend the Trump tax cuts, which would … substantially increase the deficit.

It’s true that many Republicans adhere to an economic ideology that doesn’t see deficits caused by tax cuts as a problem, either because they believe — in the teeth of all the evidence — that tax cuts somehow pay for themselves, or because they believe that government spending, not deficits per se, is what causes problems.

But if you believe that cutting taxes without any plausible plan for offsetting spending cuts isn’t a problem even in a time of inflation, markets beg to disagree. Look at what happened to the pound and British interest rates after Liz Truss, the quickly deposed prime minister, announced an economic plan that, broadly speaking, looks a lot like what Republicans are proposing here. 

It's all a lie. Republicans are empty barrels. They make a lot of noise. But there's nothing there.

Image: Sound Cloud

Thursday, October 27, 2022

The Importance Of The Big Lie

Donald Trump has long had a habit of saying the quiet part out loud. And he's done it again. Greg Sargent writes:

Donald Trump has long harbored a tendency to confess to his sins in public. Now he’s done it again, revealing a large truth about today’s Republican Party in the process: He declared that his lies about the 2020 election are instrumentally useful in motivating GOP base voters.

Trump raised this in a call with Blake Masters, the Republican nominee in the Arizona Senate race, that was captured in a new Fox News documentary. Trump faulted Masters for saying at a debate that he didn’t see evidence of a rigged 2020 election, and urged Masters to be “stronger” on that point.

“You’re going to lose that base,” Trump told Masters, citing Kari Lake, the GOP candidate who might win the state’s governor’s race: “Kari’s winning with very little money. And if they say, ‘How is your family?’ she says the election was rigged and stolen.”

The conventional wisdom is that Trump can't think strategically. While it's true that he's not a good strategist, it's clear that simple strategy -- and repeating it -- is his strong suit:

It is unavoidably clear that many Republican elites have decided that adhering to or merely humoring Trump’s 2020 lies is essential to feeding that anger — and that they view these lies as a critical mobilizing tool in the midterm elections.

In Trump’s own telling, GOP base voters must be told that when they lose, they’ve been robbed — the outcome is illegitimate by definition. Scores of other GOP candidates are running for positions of control over elections — while essentially vowing to treat future elections as subject to nullification — which makes Trump’s point harder to deny.

Trump has supplied a plausible answer: Planting yourself squarely on the wrong side of Trump’s lies about 2020 might risk demobilizing or alienating the base, which could have imperiled McCarthy’s hopes of winning the House. What’s required instead is treating Jan. 6’s underlying cause as in some sense just.

The fate of Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) illustrates the point. Cheney demanded that Republicans as a party unequivocally renounce Trump’s insurrectionism, even if it costs them Trump voters. This is precisely what required her purging from the party.

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) has been very clear on exactly this point. In a telling moment last year, Graham said of Cheney: “She’s made a determination that the Republican Party can’t grow with President Trump. I’ve determined we can’t grow without him.”

Now Trump has said the same thing in his own way: The GOP needs his voters to succeed; keeping his voters in the fold requires telling them that when they lose elections, it doesn’t count.

All of this points to a country that is not only in decline but is also on the point of oblivion.

Image: Politico

Wednesday, October 26, 2022

What Happened To Shame?

We live in very strange times. Glen Pearson writes:

Consider the craziness of it all.  Donald Trump, out of office for two years, still believes his address is 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.  Vladimir Putin has carelessly risked the future of his career and the security of his nation in an effort to bend an already beleaguered people to his will.  China’s Xi Jinping has risked so much in his quest for world dominance that he’s about to force his nation into recession, which in that country will affect tens of millions of his citizens.

And now, this week, Britain is dealing with its third Prime Minister in as many months.  The Mother of All Parliaments has been so riddled with endless rounds of extremism, idealism, and populism that it can’t even manage its daily responsibilities.   It’s an embarrassment on a global scale that somehow doesn’t seem all that surprising in today’s political climate.

Democracy appears to be running on fumes while at the same time pushing the pedal to the metal.  Britain has seen two PMs selected in two months without any votes being cast for PM.  Scandal after scandal has rocked the governing party for years, yet it manages to retain power by failing to leave the choice of its legitimacy to the people.

The world is full of politicians who lie and don't blush. What happened to shame?

Image: Psychology Today

Tuesday, October 25, 2022

No Profile In Courage

The public inquiry into the convoy wants to talk to Doug Ford. But Ford isn't talking. Althia Raj writes:

Last Monday, the Ontario premier was asked why he wasn’t testifying at the commission. Among the 65 witnesses scheduled to testify, from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson, Ford’s name was conspicuously absent.

“Were you asked? Did you decline?” a CBC reporter queried on Oct. 17.

“I have not been asked,” the premier responded.

But Monday, in a letter to several lawyers representing interested parties at the inquiry, the commission’s co-lead counsels Shantona Chaudhury and Jeffrey Leon wrote they had asked Ford and Health Minister Sylvia Jones, who was then the solicitor general, for interviews.

“The information gathered by commission counsel in the course of the investigation made clear that Premier Ford and Minister Jones would have evidence, particularly within their knowledge, that would be relevant to the commission’s mandate,” they wrote.

They asked on Sept. 19 and several times after that, they wrote. “All requests were refused.”

Chaudhury and Leon then asked Ford and Jones to testify voluntarily. But “as of last week,” that invitation had been “declined ‘for the moment.’”

So Monday, summonses were issued.

Why Ford's silence? Well, so far, what the inquiry has discovered doesn't make officials look good:

So far, those who have followed the commission’s hearings learned the Ottawa Police Service was completely unprepared, senior officers didn’t trust each other, fought with each other, and their response was, unsurprisingly, unco-ordinated and unsuccessful. Ottawa city council wasn’t much better, with petty politics appearing to rule the day. It has not been much of a trust-building exercise, but in the end it should be. Given a full and transparent picture, citizens should be able to judge for themselves whether officials — at all levels — acted appropriately.

There are lots of questions:

Namely, why didn’t the province step in when it was clear the City of Ottawa and its police service were overwhelmed? Municipalities are creatures of the provinces. It was Ontario’s problem. What did the province do? According to federal Liberal sources, Ford’s government suggested behind closed doors that it was the federal government’s responsibility to act, seemingly because Ottawa is the country’s capital and the Ambassador Bridge a Canada-U.S. border crossing. Did the lack of agreement lead to further delay and an entrenchment of the protesters? Did the federal government take action that was more aggressive than necessary because of gaps in the province’s response?

Ford doesn't want to answer those questions. He's never been a profile in courage.

Image: The Toronto Star

Monday, October 24, 2022

Not Very Bright

Michael Harris writes that western democracies are in crisis:

Prime Minister Liz Truss held office for just 45 days, the shortest tenure of any PM in British history. The country that once prided itself on having the fifth largest economy in the world is now in post-Brexit chaos. Standard and Poor’s has downgraded the country’s debt, and savage cuts in public spending appear inevitable. Even the return of Boozing Boris, the PM who partied at Number 10 while Britains were under COVID lockdown, isn’t out of the question. The only certainty seems to be that no matter who the Conservatives choose as leader, the party will be trounced by the Labour Party in the next election.

With recession in Europe, and a cold winter looming without Russian gas, the situation is not much better on the continent. Italy just elected a far-right prime minister infamous for praising Italian dictator Benito Mussolini. Amongst other things, Giorgia Meloni is anti-immigrant. Even in Sweden and France, the far-right has made advances in recent elections. Just as William Butler Yeats predicted in his great poem, The Second Coming, the centre does not seem to be holding in many democracies.

In Canada, new Conservative leader Pierre Poilievre is pushing a right-wing agenda, featuring tax cuts, smaller government, and the amorphous promise of more “freedom.” And oh yes, hating Justin Trudeau. The man who stood with the “Freedom Convoy” during its slovenly and self-interested occupation of Ottawa appears to mean what he says. In a stunning example of abdication on the environment file, Poilievre recently told Quebecers that a Conservative federal government would not interfere in any of the province’s major developments on environmental grounds.

And there is a vile cauldron boiling in the United States:

The star basket-case of democracy in retreat is the United States. Britain may be in a mess, but the U.S. remains the most indebted country in the world. The national debt stands at an irredeemable $30-trillion, a significant portion of which was run up by Donald Trump’s unfunded and permanent tax cut for the rich.

If you count state and municipal debt, and Washington’s unfunded liabilities, like social security and Medicare, some debt clocks place the real number at $130-trillion in the red.  The only thing that keeps things careening along is that the U.S. can still borrow the money to pay the enormous annual interest on its debt.

But government-by-credit card is not America’s greatest problem. Faced with bigger bills for gasoline and groceries, an inflation rate Americans have not seen in decades, the country seems poised to elect the ethically bankrupt Republicans to run the House of Representatives, and maybe the Senate, as well.

Why is this happening? There are lots of reasons:

A painful COVID hangover, hard economic reality, and the search for scapegoats has created a public mood where the worst thing for a politician to be is not a liar, a cheat, or a scoundrel, but an incumbent. History provides a caution. As Thomas Jefferson so famously, and ominously, put it: “The government you elect is the government that you deserve.”

It all comes down to how smart we, the voters, are. It appears that we're not very bright.

Image: Flickr

Sunday, October 23, 2022

Very Uncomfortable

Susan Delacourt writes that the Freedom Convoy was a big deal:

Witnesses at the public inquiry into last winter’s convoy protest in Canada may already be running out of ways to describe how massive, weird and yes, frightening it was.

“Unprecedented” is a word that’s been thrown around a lot in the first week of hearings. “Nothing of this magnitude has ever been seen, quite frankly, in any city that I’m aware of in Canada in the last 25 years,” Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson testified.

Former Ottawa police chief Peter Sloly, according to one of his deputies, called it a “hydra” — a creature with many heads that needed to be “cut off and cauterized.”

Acting Deputy Police Chief Patricia Ferguson, who said she had to look up what the word meant when Sloly created “Mission Hydra,” definitely agreed Ottawa was dealing with some kind of strange new beast last January when the so-called “Freedom Convoy” rolled into the capital.

“This was obviously unprecedented in terms of its size and the type of thing we were dealing with,” Ferguson said during her testimony last week.

Until we know what this multi-headed creature was, no one will know how to make sure it doesn’t return — or, more importantly, whether it remains an ongoing concern for peace, order and good government in this country.

So what have we learned about the convoy?

First of all, most obviously perhaps, this thing was clearly more than a protest. Police stopped calling it that, we learned, when the “protesters” failed to pack up and leave town after the first weekend — when the hot tubs, stages and jerry cans of gasoline started arriving. That fact was established in the testimony of acting deputy chief Ferguson and some of the documents explored when she took the stand.

Police were pretty unanimous that Ottawa was dealing with a full-fledged occupation within days of the convoy’s arrival.

We also know it was national in scope and on the radar screen of police intelligence at least a couple of weeks before Ottawa was occupied.

There have been lots of moments of high-level intrigue during the past week, but it was Ontario Provincial Police Supt. Patrick Morris who provided the content most likely to be turned into a spy novel.

Since about 2019 or so, Morris testified, police, security and intelligence agencies at all levels across Canada have been keeping their eyes on a “significant amount of protest, dissent, some of which caused us reasonable grounds to suspect or believe that those issues would engage in criminal activity or illegal activity that would have a public safety impact.”

What they’re monitoring are brush fires of dissent that can explode into larger conflagrations, such as the rail blockades of early 2020 that started as an Indigenous land protest in B.C. No doubt Hendon was also keeping an eye on the 2021 election protests that dogged Justin Trudeau, which seemed to be a sneak preview of the convoy.

All of their intelligence is amassed, Morris said, in something called a “Hendon Strategic Intelligence Report,” which is distributed widely across the country to police and other security agencies. (Whenever the spy movie is made, it might be called the Hendon Report.)

The Hendon reports, he went on, were honing in on loose, vague protests such as “Shut Down Canada” and something police called the “Patriot Movement.” They were also picking up on increases in hate crimes and illegal activity associated with dissent.

COVID fatigue definitely played a role as these protest flames were fanned into the convoy fire, Morris said. “This is not one monolithic entity. These are grassroots, what I refer to as affinity groups, that share grievances. They acted locally, and also tried to coalesce, and I would say that this was the first successful coalescence.”

The convoy, as we are learning through week one of the hearings, was frustratingly difficult to contain because it had no one leader, no one cause and no clear demands. Demands they did have, Morris said, were already recognized to be impossible to meet (end COVID mandates now, etc.).

Money is a huge issue, simply because there was lots of it being raised online. The Star reported earlier this week that foreign money was not a major factor in the protest, according to intelligence documents deposited with the commission. But we also know the convoy was getting big shout-outs on Fox News in the U.S. and Ontario Premier Doug Ford said earlier this week that U.S. governors were highly attuned to the convoy protest.

And there was American influence behind the occupation:

At least a couple of witnesses have testified, too, that what was going on in Ottawa felt a little too similar to what happened on Capitol Hill on Jan. 6, 2021. The commission, one presumes, is going to probe those connections more deeply, whether they are figurative (inspiration for some) or literal (actual ties to the insurrectionists in the U.S.).

I suspect that what the inquiry uncovers will make us very uncomfortable.

Image: The BBC

Saturday, October 22, 2022

The Fortress Of Crazy

Under its new premier, Alberta is fast becoming the Fortress Of Crazy. Kieran Leavitt reports that:

Alberta Premier Danielle Smith says she wants a “blanket amnesty” for residents charged with violating public health restrictions during the COVID-19 pandemic and, in what one expert called a nod to conspiracy theories, to cut ties between the province’s health authority and the World Economic Forum.

Smith has spent much of her time in her new position as premier railing against decisions made during the pandemic, moves she was also a loud critic of as a radio host and UCP leadership contestant.

The new premier has already pledged never to lock down again, come under fire for suggesting unvaccinated people were the most discriminated-against group she’d ever seen, and promised to protect unvaccinated people under the Alberta Human Rights Act.

Smith’s latest step in ripping the provincial government away from its past record of health restrictions was delivered Friday during an internet livestream with the Western Standard just minutes after announcing her new cabinet picks.

“I believe that Alberta Health Services is the source of a lot of the problems that we’ve had,” she said.

Smith sees the World Economic Forum as the source of great evil:

“They signed some kind of partnership with the World Economic Forum right in the middle of the pandemic; we’ve gotta address that. Why in the world do we have anything to do with the World Economic Forum? That’s got to end.”

It wasn’t immediately clear what Smith was referring to, although Alberta Health Services was invited to join the WEF Global Coalition for Value in Healthcare in the summer of 2020, according to a news release from the time. The website for the coalition bills it as a global partnership where solutions can be explored for delivering better health outcomes and “innovative new approaches to person-centered health care.”

The World Economic Forum has been at the centre of conspiracy theories propelled through misinformation on the internet around a supposed “Great Reset” that would, the theories falsely assert, see global elites launch a coup to essentially take over world governments.

Lori Williams, a policy studies professor at Mount Royal University, said Smith took a day where she could have ushered in a new tone of stability after a series of headline-grabbing missteps and instead “shoots herself in the foot.”

“Rather than signalling continuity and competence, which I think her cabinet picks were meant to do, she has signalled an association with conspiracies again,” Williams said.

Smith has recently come under fire after independent journalist Justin Ling unearthed social media posts she’d made in the past dabbling in misinformation, some of which she’s already apologized for after making “ill-informed” comments about the war in Ukraine.

“She’s basically reminded anybody who might have forgotten or been willing to look in a different direction … of her inability to distinguish between credible, critically assessed information and conspiracy theories,” Williams said.

The American Disease has flourished in Alberta.

Image: The Toronto Star

Friday, October 21, 2022

An Inevitable Downfall

Henry Olsen writes that Republicans should pay attention to what just happened to Liz Truss:

Truss’s first mistake was to push a radical economic agenda she did not campaign on. Her personal views supporting a low-tax, smaller government were telegraphed years ago in her book, “Britannia Unchained.” But she did not campaign for the premiership on that agenda. She had promised some modest tax reductions and offered rhetorical backing for deregulation. But those were far short of the sweeping tax cuts she and her chancellor of the exchequer unveiled in their now-infamous mini-budget proposed in late September.

Republicans are at risk of making the same mistake if they retake control of Congress. The GOP’s midterm messaging focuses on inflation, crime and immigration, but the party is not telling the public much about what it would do to combat those ills. That might be good politics, but it also means they would have no mandate for significant departures from the status quo. Using the national debt limit next year as leverage to force significant spending cuts, including to Social Security and Medicare, as has recently been rumored, would be as politically disastrous for the GOP as Truss’s supply-side tax cuts were for the Tories.

Truss assumed that, once she became prime minister, she could do as she pleased:

Truss. . . failed by trying to push a revolution through Parliament without controlling all the levers of power. Many Conservative MPs quickly said they would oppose many of her plans, forcing her into humiliating policy U-turns that only fed the sense she was not in charge. Republican attempts to enact similar radical changes would be met with Democratic filibusters in the Senate and a presidential veto. Doing so regardless of that reality would be the political equivalent of Pickett’s Charge.

Being British, she delicately promulgated Donald Trump's position -- as expressed to the driver of his SUV -- "I'm the fuckin' president. You can't tell me what to do!"

The Greeks knew that hubris inevitably led to a leader's downfall.

Thursday, October 20, 2022

Truss Is Gone

That was fast. Liz Truss has resigned as prime minister of the U.K. Nick Eardley writes:

I've never seen anything like this. Let's be clear what's happened: yesterday Truss told us she was a fighter.

But the level of chaos in government, Parliament and the Conservative Party has led Truss to a point where she knows she can't continue.

What happens now is the quickest turnover of power we have seen in modern times.

This is a lightning speed change. The question is whether the Conservative Party can coalesce around a new leader and whether the party can avoid a general election.

In October we are going to have our third PM of the year.

She becomes the shortest serving prime minister in British history.

Her departure should serve as a warning to all conservatives.

Wednesday, October 19, 2022

Will He Be A Witness?

If there's one thing Doug Ford doesn't want to do, it's being a witness at the Emergencies Act Inquiry. Susan Delacourt writes:

Many mysterious characters drifted into Ottawa during last winter’s convoy protest. Three days into the public hearings on that event, the most mysterious actor to emerge so far is Ontario Premier Doug Ford.

In fact, two Doug Fords showed up in Ottawa on Monday. One, the in-person version, was appearing at an event with Justin Trudeau and Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson, talking glowingly about how well they all worked together.

To hear the premier describe it, they were as tight as the Three Musketeers when Canada’s capital and border points were under siege last February.

“Yes, I stood shoulder to shoulder with the prime minister,” Ford said on Monday about whether he supported the declaration of an emergency in February. “We’ve worked collaboratively with the mayor and the prime minister.”

But there is disagreement on that score:

Ontario, for instance, simply did not show up at proposed “tripartite” meetings with the City of Ottawa and federal government — a point that provoked frustration from mayor Watson and federal Emergency Preparedness Minister Bill Blair, the inquiry heard.

Watson had hoped Ontario’s Ministry of Transportation might get involved in efforts to pressure truckers into ending the illegal blockade; Blair asked why he was reading in the media that Ontario viewed the tripartite committee as useless.

“I think I was disappointed that they didn’t participate,” Ottawa city manager Steve Kanellakos said during his testimony on Monday. At several points in his retelling of events over this tense time last winter, Kanellakos talked of how Ford’s government was pretty hands off, preferring to leave this mess as a police matter to sort out.

To be clear, Ford was no Pierre Poilievre:

Unlike the man who has been newly named the federal Conservative leader, Ford did not cheer on the protesters or meet with them. Surprisingly, perhaps, Ford managed to duck the wrath the convoy directed at Trudeau, even though Ontario, as much as the federal government, was responsible for the COVID measures that had the convoy folks all riled up. Still, no “F-- Ford” flags flew during the Ottawa occupation.

And, after Trudeau declared an emergency, Ford declared an emergency in Ontario. His final alliance with Trudeau has put Doug in a tight spot. He's hoping he can fly under the radar.

Image: The Toronto Star

Tuesday, October 18, 2022

A World That No Longer Exists

Liz Truss has only been Prime Minister of Britain for a short time. But she's already headed for the exit. Owen Jones writes:

No one can deny that Liz Truss was a dire front person for her own economic policies, offering a demeanour that had all the reassurance of a random stranger plucked off the street to become your local school’s headteacher. Having turned her own citizens into lab rats for an experiment brewed in the boardrooms of opaquely funded rightwing thinktanks, she has now been barred from the lab itself. Buried by the very “markets” she once fetishised, the prime minister is terminally wounded, fronting policies that, just days ago, she would have savaged as coming from the “anti-growth coalition”. Demanding the removal of Truss is something of an abstract question because, in any meaningful sense, she is no longer in power.

But no one should lay the blame for her demise solely at her feet:

We must not let the Conservative party blame this all on Truss, anoint her successor, and then regroup and reset, as if everything is back to normal.

The rehabilitation of monsters – or, at least, the lack of accountability for villains – is one of the reasons our country is in its present disarray. The Tory knack for reinvention depends on it, which is why they’ve so far survived overseeing what is, by many measures, the most ruinous time in office of any government in living memory. Let’s not forget what happened to Theresa May, who – after carelessly disposing of the Tories’ parliamentary majority – was condemned to remain in office by her own party, in the hope she’d absorb the political mortar fire otherwise directed at the Conservatives as a whole. When that purpose had been served, May could be safely discarded, with Boris Johnson heralded as the leader of a fresh new government that was innocent of the sins of his predecessor.

You can also see it as George Osborne is interviewed on Channel 4’s flagship political programme in the capacity of witness, rather than an accused in the dock. No single politician is more guilty for the burning skip that British society has become: his ideologically charged austerity is at the root of the longest squeeze in wages of modern times, fuelling the discontent that proved pivotal in the triumph of leave in the 2016 referendum. He tuts now at economic policies recklessly defying market rules, as though it wasn’t under his economic stewardship that Britain’s AAA-rated debt status wasn’t stripped away.

But more consequentially, observe our new de facto prime minister, Jeremy Hunt. One political commentator declared that “listening to Hunt in interviews this morning [was] like reaching calm blue sea after weeks in a force 10 storm”. It is difficult not to conclude that for many self-described moderates, politics is all about vibe, not about substance: a politician’s record matters less than the reassurance offered by their presentation skills. Hunt himself conceded that, as health secretary, he was too slow to boost the NHS workforce: a euphemistic revision of how he ignored severe NHS staff shortages, which left us underprepared for the pandemic. Given he agitated for corporation tax to be slashed to an even lower level than Truss had dreamed of, how can he credibly argue he will offer a meaningful alternative to Trussonomics? His new “economic advisory council” is comprised of fund managers and bankers – two of the few groups in society who can claim to have profited from the last dismal few years.

In Britain and around the world, conservatives are ill-equipped to handle the problems we face. That's because they live in a world that no longer exists.

Image: CNN

Monday, October 17, 2022

Can He Do It?

Michael Harris writes that Pierre Poilievre won't bring Justin Trudeau down:

“I don’t see any signs of traction for Pierre Poilievre.”

These words were spoken on background by a senior Liberal who is less than enamoured with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. With a long history in the party running back to Pierre Elliott Trudeau, he is critical of the way in which the current prime minister has shunned veterans in the party, dissolved the Liberal caucus in the Senate, and chose not to consult old hands. They have seen a thing or two in their time, and still believe they have something to contribute.

And recent polls seem to bear out his assessment:

Canadians don’t seem to think that being a far-right attack-dog confers the credentials to be prime minister. Even with painful inflation, and a PM with obvious baggage after three terms in power, Canadians in the Nanos Research poll gave Trudeau a huge lead over Poilievre. If only Trudeau and Poilievre appeared on the ballot, 46 per cent of respondents would choose Trudeau as PM and just 30 per cent the new Conservative leader.

Nik Nanos rightly observes that the incumbent always does better in these polls, because they already have the position and are “a better known commodity.” But the fact is, Poilievre has been in politics longer than Justin Trudeau. And he is very well known from his long record both in and out of government: supporter of Stephen Harper’s Zero Tolerance for Barbaric Cultural Practices Act, rabid anti-vaxxer, and champion of the infamous siege of Ottawa that masqueraded under the name of the Freedom Convoy. For Poilievre, the occupation of Ottawa by a mob was just another opportunity for a selfie.

And the Nanos Research poll revealed another key weakness in Poilievre’s attempt to appeal to Canadians, other than the ones who downed the Kool-Aid inside the circled wagons of the recent CPC leadership race. When it comes to women voters, Trudeau leaves Poilievre in his vapour trail, with a stunning 52 per cent favouring the PM, against just 22 per cent for Poilievre. Those are not only losing numbers for Poilievre in the all-important suburban areas, but just about everywhere else.

As predicted by those who know him best, Poilievre has not moderated his right-wing messaging. In what appears to be a spiteful response to some key MPs who didn’t support his leadership, Poilievre dropped two of his strongest members from his shadow cabinet: Ed Fast and Michelle Rempel Garner.

And the CPC’s new civil liberties critic is none other than Ontario MP Marilyn Gladu. Gladu was an early and vociferous opponent of the Trudeau government’s masking and vaccination mandates. Like Alberta’s new premier, Gladu seems to think that it is more important to have the right to say no to a prudent public health measure than it is to save thousands of lives during a deadly pandemic. Talk about looking through the wrong end of the telescope.

At the next election, Justin will have been in office for close to ten years. He'll be well beyond his best before date. We'll see what the future holds.

Image: The Hill Times

Sunday, October 16, 2022

What's Wrong With White Americans?


A  majority of white Americans back the Republican Party. Perry Bacon writes:

A clear majority of White Americans keeps backing the Republican Party over the Democratic Party, even though the Republican Party is embracing terrible and at times antidemocratic policies and rhetoric. The alliance between Republicans and White Americans is by far the most important and problematic dynamic in American politics today.

Non-Hispanic White Americans were about 85 percent of those who voted for Donald Trump in 2020, much larger than the 59 percent of the U.S. population overall in that demographic. That was similar to 2016, when White voters were about 88 percent of Trump backers. It is very likely that White Americans will be more than 80 percent of those who back Republican candidates in this fall’s elections.

Eighty-five percent of those who voted for Donald Trump in 2020 were White, even though they make up only 59 percent of the U.S. population.

The Republican Party is the preferred choice of White people who describe themselves as evangelical Christians (whom Trump won by 69 points in 2020), White people in rural areas (Trump by 43 points), White people in the South (29 points), White men (17), White Catholics (15), White Protestants who don’t describe themselves as evangelicals (14), White people in the Midwest (13), White women (7) and White people who live in the suburbs (4). (These numbers come from post-election surveys and analysis from the Pew Research Center, the Cooperative Election Study and Eastern Illinois University professor Ryan Burge.)

 That White Vote is problematic:

Being the party of White Americans has given and will continue to give the Republicans two huge advantages. First, White Americans are about 72 percent of the U.S. electorate, about 13 percentage points more than their share in the overall population. White adults are more likely than Asian and Hispanic adults to be citizens (not recent immigrants) and therefore are eligible to vote. The median age for a White American is higher than that for Asian, Black or Latino Americans, and older Americans tend to vote at higher rates. If the electorate mirrored the country’s actual demographics and those groups voted as they did in 2020, Trump would have won only about 44 percent of the national vote, three points less than his 47 percent two years ago.

Second, the electoral college and the Senate give outsize power to less populated states — which in America today tend to be disproportionately White.

And history shows that White Americans have traditionally chosen the Republican Party:

The alliance between White Americans and the Republican Party has existed for decades. The last time a Democratic presidential candidate won the majority of White voters was in 1964, a year before Lyndon B. Johnson signed into law the Voting Rights Act. The Republican Party spent much of the next three decades courting White Americans, in part, by casting Democrats as too tied to the causes of minorities, particularly Black people and Latino immigrants.

So it’s no accident that Republicans are winning the majority of White voters. It is in many ways the result of a successful strategy. It’s not that Trumpism brought White voters as a bloc to the Republican Party (they were already voting Republican) — but rather that it hasn’t scared many of them off.

So, you have to ask, What's wrong with White Americans?


Saturday, October 15, 2022


Danielle Smith's first week on the job did not bode well for her future. Gary Mason writes:

At what point do Albertans begin to wonder – what just happened?

I’m referring to the new Premier, who has been foisted upon them by members of the United Conservative Party (largely from rural parts of the province) who thought Danielle Smith would make a perfectly fine head of government.

Maybe not so much.

As first days on the job go, Ms. Smith’s was pretty much a disaster. At a news conference on Tuesday, after her swearing-in ceremony, Jason Kenney’s successor was going on about one of her pet subjects: the terrible abuse and prejudice endured by the poor souls who chose not to get vaccinated during the pandemic.

She detailed the many things these saintly folks weren’t allowed to do over the past couple of years – enter hockey rinks, hop on planes, go to jobs, cross borders – and described them as having “been the most discriminated-against group that I’ve ever witnessed in my lifetime.”

You could hear jaws hitting the floor across the country.

How could someone who is supposed to be the leader of a population that includes Indigenous people, members of the LBGTQ community and immigrants from any number of countries – in other words, people who truly understand what discrimination is – compare the lived experiences of these groups with those who chose not to get vaccinated?

It was not just tone-deaf, but profoundly hurtful.

Lost in all the sound and fury was Smith's attempt to soften her Alberta Sovereignty Act:

The act, as she envisioned it during the leadership race, would empower her government to ignore federal edicts deemed not to be in Alberta’s best interests. These edicts, she indicated at the time, included rulings of the Supreme Court.

At her news conference, however, the new Premier said that the province would, in fact, adhere to all rulings of the Supreme Court.

This course reversal isn’t a complete surprise, as her proposed act has been universally panned and derided as unconstitutional folly tantamount to a separatist document (the criticism even came from people in her own party).

You have to wonder:

She quickly made it known, for instance, that Deena Hinshaw, the province’s Chief Medical Officer of Health, would not have her contract renewed. To be sure, Dr. Hinshaw is a sacrificial lamb, a gift to the anti-vaxxers who blamed her for the restrictions put in place during the pandemic.

But there will not be any “lockdowns” on Ms. Smith’s watch. She’s promised that. Even if, one is to presume, another wave of COVID-19 threatens to buckle the province’s hospital system, as it has several times over the past couple of years. Mr. Kenney’s downfall, in fact, was precipitated by his decision to end lockdowns in the summer of 2021 and declare the pandemic over, leading to an avalanche of new cases.

What is it they say about those who ignore history being doomed to repeat it?

The American historian Barbara Tuchman called it "wooden-headedness."

Image: The Globe And Mail

Friday, October 14, 2022

He Must Be Indicted

Yesterday's hearing in Washington provided a lot of new information. Dana Milbank catalogs it:

Trump adviser Steve Bannon, before the election, declared that Trump is “going to declare victory, and that doesn’t mean he’s the winner. … So when you wake up Wednesday morning, it’s going to be a firestorm.”

Trump friend and longtime adviser Roger Stone, before the election, said that regardless of the outcome, “the key thing to do is to claim victory. Possession is nine-tenths of the law. No, we won. F--- you. … We’ll have to start smashing pumpkins, if you know what I mean.”

Trump, knowing privately that he had lost, signed an order on Nov. 11 requiring the immediate withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan and Somalia.

Trump, acknowledging defeat, told Meadows (according to video testimony from former Meadows aide Cassidy Hutchinson): “I don’t want people to know we lost, Mark. This is embarrassing. Figure it out.”

Republican National Committee chairwoman Ronna McDaniel, in video testimony, testified about Trump introducing her to lawyer John Eastman, who tried to enlist the RNC’s help with his fake-elector scheme.

Nancy Pelosi, in newly released video, pleaded for help from the Pentagon, the Virginia governor and the attorney general. She reacted in horror to the violence and talked with Vice President Mike Pence about “defecation” and defilement of the House floor.

Donald Trump's attempted coup met the textbook definition of sedition. He was at the centre of it. There won't be any indictments until after the election, now three weeks away. But, after the election, he must be indicted -- for sedition and for his theft of government documents.

If there's any justice, he'll will spend the rest of his natural life in jail.


Thursday, October 13, 2022

The Second Jones Verdict

Joanna Slater reports in the Washington Post that:

A Connecticut jury ordered Infowars founder Alex Jones to pay $965 million in damages to the families of eight victims of the Sandy Hook shooting for the suffering caused by years of lies that the massacre was a hoax.

Wednesday’s verdict marks the largest award to date in a multipronged legal battle by the families to hold Jones responsible for circulating falsehoods about the 2012 mass shooting, in which 20 children and six educators were killed in an elementary school in Newtown, Conn.

Jones has been spewing lies for a long time:

Within hours of the shooting, Jones was telling his audience that it was staged as a pretext for confiscating guns. Within days, he began to suggest that grieving parents were actors. In the years that followed, he repeatedly said the massacre was faked.

The families testified during the trial that the lies spread by Jones led to harassment and threats by conspiracy theorists who have accused them of faking their own children’s deaths. They described feeling unsafe in their homes and hypervigilant in public. Some of the families moved away from Newtown.

The largest single award of $120 million went to Robbie Parker, whose 6-year-old daughter, Emilie, was killed in the shooting. Jones spent years mocking Parker as an actor. The plaintiffs also included an FBI agent who responded to the shooting. He was awarded $90 million in damages.

After the unanimous verdict was announced, the family members gathered outside the courthouse and thanked the jury.

“The truth matters,” said Erica Lafferty, the daughter of Sandy Hook Elementary Principal Dawn Lafferty Hochsprung, who was killed at the school. “Those who profit off other people’s pain and trauma will pay for what they’ve done.”

This was the second verdict against Jones:

In August, a jury in a different case in Texas said Jones must pay nearly $50 million to the parents of Jesse Lewis, a 6-year-old killed at Sandy Hook. The actual payout, however, will be far smaller because of state limits on such awards.

That's over one billion dollars. And there are more trials coming.

The truth matters. And this kind of lying must be expensive -- very expensive.


Wednesday, October 12, 2022

A Tough Time

Canada is a big country, and it's always been difficult to govern. There has always been a tug-of-war between the federal government and the provinces. But the road ahead will be very problematic. Susan Delacourt writes:

It was Pierre Trudeau, father of the current prime minister, who famously said many decades ago that Ottawa should be more than a “head waiter to the provinces” when it came to constitutional matters and national government.

Now, roughly 40 years later, his son is contending with an array of provinces who would like to see the federal government even further demoted — to a busboy, perhaps.

In the 2022 version of constitutional drama in this country, provinces are looking at the supreme law of the land as a pick-and-choose buffet of authority, which premiers can select or reject as they like.

In the past few weeks, the spotlight has shifted to Alberta:

Alberta’s new premier, Danielle Smith, has put this cafeteria constitutionalism into the spotlight with her promised “sovereignty act.” Details are still to come; Smith was only sworn in formally on Tuesday. What we do know is that Smith is arguing that if Alberta sees its interests in conflict with federal laws, it reserves the right to resist.

On Tuesday, the same day Smith was sworn in, Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe sidled up to the buffet with the release of a policy paper called “Drawing the Line,” in which the province argues it needs less of Ottawa in its life.

“We need a more autonomous approach to be a stronger province in Confederation,” the policy paper states.

Saskatchewan and Alberta have been saying for some time now that their opt-in view of federalism is far from radical and in fact, it is what Quebec has been practising with some considerable clout in this country for generations.

Smith did a round of media interviews over the weekend in which she said repeatedly that her sovereignty act would allow Alberta to be more like Quebec. Moe’s new policy paper also specifically credits Quebec with inspiration for “drawing the line.”

Canadians are sleepwalking through this crisis:

In my colleague Althia Raj’s latest podcast, devoted to the national-cohesion crisis that no one seems to be noticing, constitutional lawyer Marion Sandilands warns that pick-and-choose federalism is no way to run a united country.

In the case of Quebec, Sandilands said: “I think what we are seeing is not through a referendum, but independence bit by bit. … You know, there’s no one radical break, but I think over time, we’ll wake up one day and Quebec won’t really be a province anymore.”

And it’s spreading through other provinces too, even Ontario, where Premier Doug Ford’s government has twice now said it was willing to use the notwithstanding clause to pass laws that flew in the face of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

“I think we’re seeing tremors in the federation and in the Constitution and they’re all rooted in kind of different things, different contexts, different frustrations, different aggravations, but they have a common theme — this kind of rejection of the role of the courts,” Sandilands said.

All of this talk of sovereignty, drawing the line and unilaterally modifying the Constitution (as Quebec is proposing with its language laws) is the opposite — focused instead on where the provinces want to stage their own resistance.

As I wrote five days ago, things don't bode well for the future.


Tuesday, October 11, 2022

It Ain't Over

Joe Biden says the pandemic is over. Millions of people agree with him. But COVID hasn't receded into the history books. Glen Pearson writes:

Covid-19 hasn’t receded into the past, and it likely never will.  The record of its effects on us has been brutal – 4.3 million cases with 45,648 deaths.  Ontario had the worst count (14,495), but every province and territory had fallen into the pandemic’s grip.  It has changed our outlook on life, perhaps forever.  How we view employment, the economy, our communities, our future, and even one another has left us unsure of how to proceed.  The old formulas no longer work, and the alternatives remain unclear.

It’s difficult to move on when new variants continue to fill our hospitals, and recent deaths are announced weekly.  Before the pandemic, we had received consistent warnings that things like Covid were not only possible but imminent.  We largely ignored those signs and blindly moved on.  We are now running the dangerous risk of adopting that attitude once more, individually, collectively, and institutionally.  While we may hope to get on with our daily pursuits, our health systems remain woefully underfunded, under-resourced, and under pressure every moment of the day while the Canadian population and its leaders continue to ignore both the potential and severity of future pandemics.

With the Canadian economy threatened by recession and two years of pandemic debts to be repaid, the funds required to bring our health systems up-to-speed will prove difficult to secure.  And with a partisan political climate more concentrated on theatrics than the efficient delivery of services, the chances of inter-party cooperation to deal with the health crisis are minimal at best.

Pandemics are not new. And experience has given us the knowledge to deal with them: 

This knowledge is second nature to us, but we have placed an increased distance between awareness of the threat and the steps necessary to reduce it.    Disease has a context, fed and manipulated by societal conditions neglected over time.  Permit social conditions to deteriorate or remain under-resourced, and the threat to human life will be inevitable.  Canada has learned this lesson well enough to lead the world in healthcare awareness.  But knowledge without action leads to eventual decline.  Failure to address the problem is to accept it, and to tolerate it is to fall prey to our lack of watchfulness.

Pandemics require societal responses. Unfortunately, we live in an age of unbridled individualism and magical thinking. And so it continues.

It ain't over.


Monday, October 10, 2022

The Trumpification Of Canadian Politics

Canadian politics have become Trumpified. Michael Harris writes:

The same distemper abroad in the U.S. has already made an appearance here. No one talks much about the Freedom Convoy’s purpose in occupying Ottawa for three painful weeks. They wanted to change the government. They wanted a weird configuration of a truckers’ committee, opposition parties, and the governor general to run the show— without the untidy necessity of getting elected. They wanted to depose Justin Trudeau.

And the new leader of the Conservative Party of Canada took up at least part of their cause. As Jean Charest said during the recent CPC leadership race, “You can’t be a leader of a party, and the chief legislator of the country as prime minister, and support people breaking the laws. That disqualifies you.”

Except that it didn’t. With the public endorsement of former prime minister Stephen Harper, Poilievre ran away with the Conservative leadership.

The path that Poilievre is forging is not the traditional path in Canadian politics:

Unlike his immediate predecessors—Andrew Scheer and Erin O’Toole—Poilievre hasn’t moved to the centre in hopes of attracting new supporters. If anything, he has moved solidly to the right. He showed that when he supported the private member’s bill of Kelly Block, a social conservative from rural Saskatchewan. Block wanted a change to the Criminal Code to protect the “conscience rights” of health professionals.

If this bill had passed, (it didn’t) it would have made it an offence to intimidate or fire a health-care worker who refused to provide a medically assisted death or make a referral.

Just two problems with that approach. First, as reported by The Globe and Mail, there is nothing in the current legislation that forces medical professionals to take part in a medically assisted death. And second, the Court of Appeal in Ontario has already ruled that allowing doctors to opt out of making referrals would in fact stigmatize patients and restrict their access to legal medical services.

In the U.S., Trump and his MAGA movement have placed themselves above the law, demonized their opponents, declared war on the media, and promised to free Americans from oppressive government. Here’s Poilievre in his own words: “The Liberals want to stop me from becoming prime minister because they know I will get rid of their gatekeepers, defund the CBC, abolish mandates, and make Canada the freest country on Earth so you can take back control of your life.”

Sounds a lot like Donald Trump, doesn't it?

Image: twitter

Sunday, October 09, 2022

An Old Cautionary Tale

If you want to know how far the Republican Party has devolved, take a look at what's happening in the state of Georgia. Maureen Dowd writes:

Once, there were limits, things that could disqualify you from office, especially in the party that claimed a special relationship with Jesus.

But those limits don’t exist anymore.

Conservatives have sacrificed any claim to principle. In an unholy transaction, they stuck with Trump because there was a Supreme Court seat and they were willing to tolerate his moral void in order to hijack the court. They didn’t care how he treated women as long as he gave them the opportunity to rip away rights from women. They wanted to impose their warped morality, a “Handmaid’s Tale” world, on the rest of us.

Christian-right leaders made clear that, no matter what Trump said or did to women, he was preferable to Hillary Clinton, who supported abortion rights.

Now the Republicans are running Herschel Walker in Georgia, a man who:

demonstrates no qualifications for serving in the Senate. His sole credential is that he was once excellent at carrying a football.

Story after story has emerged about reprehensible behavior and lies concerning women and children, and about falsifying his personal history.

The Daily Beast asserted that while Walker wants to completely ban abortion, even in cases of rape, incest and the life of the mother, comparing it to murder, he paid for a girlfriend’s abortion in 2009. Walker has called the story “a flat-out lie,” but The Beast talked to the unnamed woman and checked her financial records. She said she was just sick of the hypocrisy. Even his conservative influencer son, Christian, disparaged his father’s “lies” on Twitter.

On Friday, The Times published a story confirming The Daily Beast’s reporting, and in a startling development added that in 2011, Herschel pressured the same woman to have another abortion. They ended their relationship when she refused; she had their son, now 10.

There’s more: His ex-wife claimed he pointed a pistol at her head and told her he was going to blow her brains out; he has four children with four different women, but hadn’t publicly acknowledged three of them. His 10-year-old was one of those hidden.

Yet the Republicans are sticking by Walker:

Privately, some Republicans are mortified by the Walker spiral, but they’re going to brazen it out for the win.

Dana Loesch, the right-wing radio host, was blunt: “I don’t care if Herschel Walker paid to abort endangered baby eagles. I want control of the Senate.”

It's an old story -- and an old cautionary tale.

Image: The New York Times

Saturday, October 08, 2022

Things Do Not Bode Well

A constitutional crisis is brewing. Andrew Coyne writes:

As of this week we will have not one but two provincial governments in this country formally committed to act in defiance of the Constitution, legitimate federal authority and the rule of law.

François Legault’s Coalition Avenir Québec government in Quebec is the first. Returned to power with an increased majority after a campaign filled with appalling attacks on immigrants, Mr. Legault will be looking to build on the signature policies of his first four years – Bill 21, imposing an effective hiring bar on observant members of religious minorities across much of the public sector, and Bill 96, which broadly outlaws the use of English in either the public or the private sector.

Still, Mr. Legault is the soul of legality compared with what we may expect from Danielle Smith as leader of the United Conservative Party and premier of Alberta. Where Mr. Legault at least pretended to rewrite the Constitution, Ms. Smith would openly repudiate it; where Mr. Legault’s government took the trouble to preserve its bills from the Charter’s reach by means of the notwithstanding clause – itself a part of the Charter – Ms. Smith’s would excuse itself altogether from federal authority, on the strength of nothing more than its own legislative say-so.

We have yet to see the precise wording of that bill, the preposterous Alberta Sovereignty Act, but as advertised it would pretend to empower the province to ignore any federal law it chose – after a “free vote” of the legislature, speaking of fig-leafs – and to defy any federal court ruling that went against it. Companion legislation would assert the right to replace all federally appointed judges with provincial appointees, to expel the RCMP in favour of a provincial police force, and to collect the tax from the province’s businesses and public employees that they now send to the feds.

It’s nonsense, of course: utterly, vapidly unconstitutional. So is Bill 96. And so both will be found in good time by the Supreme Court of Canada. But whereas the Legault government would probably yield before an inclement Supreme Court ruling – even the Parti Québécois accepted the court’s jurisdiction in the secession reference – the Smith government would more or less be bound to defy a court finding that the Alberta Sovereignty Act was ultra vires the Constitution: The whole premise of the law, after all, is to free the province from such constraints.

Mr. Legault has more demands up his sleeve: for full control of immigration, for example, or for more money for health care with even fewer strings attached. The immigration file is particularly fraught: The Legault government aims to reduce immigration to the province, even as immigration to Canada has soared. Over time, that promises to further reduce Quebec’s already dwindling share of the population, and with it the province’s influence. No problem: Mr. Legault has a solution. Quebec must be guaranteed its current share of the seats in the House of Commons, in perpetuity – as befits its status as a “nation.”

Things do not bode well for the future.


Friday, October 07, 2022

Poilievre The Misogynist

The more we see and hear of Pierre Poilievre, the more there is to dislike. Alex Boutilier reports that:

Pierre Poilievre’s official YouTube videos included a hidden tag appealing to misogynistic online movements that Canada’s intelligence agencies view as a danger.

A Global News analysis of 50 of Poilievre’s most recent YouTube videos showed that they included a tag — hidden from viewers, but not from the videos’ publisher — used by a misogynistic online movement. The tag helps promote Poilievre’s videos among those circles, and signals to YouTube what users might be interested in the Conservative leader’s messaging.

The tag, #mgtow, is an acronym for “Men Going Their Own Way” — a mostly-online movement comprised of anti-feminists who attempt to cut women completely out of their lives. According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, the movement overlaps with more aggressive forms of “male supremacy.”

It’s difficult to quantify the size of the movement, and its overlap with other forms of misogyny both online and in the real world. But online spaces connected to the “manosphere” have proliferated in recent years.

Global News verified the tag was used on the videos using publicly-available software and checked it against the video’s source code.

Within hours of Global News sending a detailed list of questions to Poilievre’s office, the tag disappeared.

Poilievre’s office said the Conservative leader was unaware the embedded tags existed “and therefore was unaware they were used for uploads on his YouTube channel over the last” four and a half years.

Unaware? Welcome to Poilievre's Conservative Party of Canada.

Image: Global News

Thursday, October 06, 2022

Toppling The Regime

Marjorie Taylor Greene is no intellectual giant. But she knows what she's doing. These days she has taken to calling Joe Biden's government a "regime." Greg Sargent writes:

No U.S. lawmaker rhapsodizes about political violence as enthusiastically as Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene. On Saturday, the Georgia Republican raged: “Democrats want Republicans dead, and they’ve already started the killings.” After the FBI search of Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort, Greene suggested the United States is embroiled in “civil war.”

The term “regime” is a mainstay of Greene’s political vocabulary, and right-wing authoritarian nationalists in Congress and the media are using it more and more prominently. Understanding the term is essential to grasping what’s happening with today’s MAGA-fied right and why some experts fear we may be hurtling toward rising political violence and instability.

Greene is on the leading edge of this trend. After the Mar-a-Lago search, she suggested that only “countries during civil war” typically see such “rogue” behavior by the state. Soon after, the term “regime” quickly became central to the right’s Mar-a-Lago narrative as a way to express that thought.

The January 6th insurrection failed. But Greene is a sign that another insurrection is coming:

It’s telling that all the “regime” talk exploded after the Mar-a-Lago incident. After all, the search was authorized by a judge who saw probable cause to believe that three federal statutes may have been violated. It ended up recovering reams of classified documents that Trump hoarded, after his own lawyers suggested to investigators that none remained.

To call this the work of the Biden “regime” is really to say that the act of applying the law to Trump will be treated as fundamentally illegitimate. When Greene claims this is the stuff of civil wars and rogue regimes, she really means that holding Trump accountable to the law should be regarded by his supporters as an act of war.

What's going on?

Conservatism scholar Joshua Tait explains how this works in his etymology of the “regime” term for the Bulwark. The word, Tait notes, is meant to invoke a sense that a range of U.S. institutions — the administrative state, the media, universities, etc. — have been irredeemably captured by the left, creating a “regime” that in some vague sense exercises hidden but tyrannical control.

As Tait writes, in this formulation, Trump is the tribune of “the people” — selectively defined — who is waging war on their behalf against this disguised tyranny. The “regime” has fought back with more oppression, which proves the truth of the original formulation in a conveniently self-reinforcing loop.

“What do people ultimately do to regimes?” Tait asks rhetorically. “They topple them.” To call the legitimately elected Biden administration “the regime,” Tait argues, “is an implicit call to overthrow it.”

Steven Levitsky, a scholar of democratic breakdown, sees this as roughly analogous to Latin American countries in which the concerted delegitimization of elected governments was followed by coups.

“To call a democratically elected government a ‘regime’ is to deliberately undermine its legitimacy and justify authoritarian and violent acts against it,” Levitsky tells me.

The mainstreaming of the term among Republicans bodes badly for what’s to come, Levitsky warns. This comes after a large swath of Republicans went all in with Trump’s efforts to overturn the 2020 election and then with placing him beyond accountability for the mob’s coup attempt, and as political violence is increasingly glorified in GOP politics.

Now the term “regime” is being employed strategically to justify the further abandonment of democracy, Levitsky notes: “This is clear evidence that a big sector of the party is now on authoritarian terrain.”

It's tempting to see Taylor Greene as an airhead -- because, in some ways, she is. But she is also very dangerous.

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