Wednesday, May 31, 2023

Up To No Good

Jagmeet Singh has introduced a resolution to remove David Johnston from his role as special rapporteur. Michael Harris writes:

So David Johnston is a hack cashing in on a jammy per diem, the prime minister is a rank manipulator, and the report by a former governor general into alleged Chinese interference in Canadian elections, is just a little back-scratching from one old canoeing buddy to another.

That’s the latest Trudeau trashing coming down the pike, including blow-back from a spoiled brat media that screeched for a public inquiry — only to get a report that said the evidence doesn’t show the Trudeau government allowed or tolerated Chinese interference.

A report that said opposition politicians engaged in an “excessively partisan way” which eroded trust in Canadian institutions.

In the rush to judgment that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was playing footsie with the Chinese government, a lot of people who should have known better forgot something of fundamental importance in the alleged Chinese interference story. Top secret material is at the centre of this dustup.

Why is that important? It means normal rules do not apply. It is against the law to reveal classified information, even to clear up the many misconceptions surrounding this case. And for good reason. Answering these kind of unsourced leaks, even by publicly providing the missing context for them, could reveal sources and methods. In the spy world, that could cost lives.

The result of all this is that there is rising paranoia in the country. The man who hopes to benefit most from this is Pierre Poilievre. His reaction has been interesting:

After slandering and smearing everyone involved in producing Johnston’s report as untrustworthy, conflicted or conniving, he refused to meet with the special rapporteur. He also declined to get the security clearance offered by the PM that would have allowed him to see for himself why Johnston concluded what he did.

The man who insisted on a public inquiry to lay bare the facts of this dubious story simply didn’t want to know them himself. Because perhaps then he would have to deal with another inconvenient truth laid out by Johnston. “The challenge is this: what has allowed me to determine whether there was in fact interference cannot be publicly discussed.” In other words, Poilievre couldn’t proceed with his campaign of innuendo and slander.

The resolution the House is debating is non-binding. But that doesn't mean it's harmless. Beware the fearmongers. They're up to no good.

Image: Outreach Magazine

Sunday, May 28, 2023

To The Right

Judy Rebick writes that things are shifting to the right in Canada. In Alberta, it's beginning to look like Danielle Smith will squeak through with a victory this week:

No less of a conservative than Globe and Mail columnist Andrew Coyne has written:

“It would be easy to dismiss the many odd things that come out of Danielle Smith’s mouth as the product of a disordered mind. Easy, and accurate.

“The past week alone has provided several examples. Equating the vaccine-compliant majority with Hitler’s followers; suggesting police officers who enforced public-health orders should face criminal charges; calling for doctors to be removed from decision-making roles in the next pandemic, in favour of the military. ”

A friend who was active in the pro-choice struggle back in the 80’s in Alberta tells me Smith was the most ferocious anti-abortion person in the province. Smith, like most Tories who want to win, keeps her views on abortion hidden but she recently admitted that she looks to Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem as role models for Alberta.

In Ontario, the Ford juggernaut continues:

In Ontario despite massive opposition, the corrupt Doug Ford government is privatizing health care as fast as they can. Bill 60 cuts core services including surgeries and diagnostics out of public hospitals into private for-profit hospitals and clinics. This at the same time as public hospitals are starving for funds and staff.

According to the Ontario Health Coalition this will create two-tier health care in Ontario in which patients will be faced with an increasing array of user charges and extra-billing for care when they are sick, elderly, in need and least able to pay.

To drive back the privatization, the Ontario Health Coalition is organizing a massive citizen run referendum on privatizing health care. The voting takes place all over the province on May 25 and 26, as well as online. It’s a unique strategy that may or may not push the government back.

The Ontario Federation of Labour is organizing a cross province day of action on June 3 that includes opposition to privatization. The combination of both actions may force Ford to take a step back and just as importantly spark some energy in progressive social movements that has been sorely lacking.

There is one bright spot in Ontario:

We seem to be seeing a bit of a shift in Toronto where left-wing Olivia Chow is far ahead in the polls. After 15 years of right-wing leadership at City Hall, and a visible deterioration of living standards for most, people are looking for an alternative. The Toronto Labour Council just released an Environics poll of 1,001 eligible voters in the city. Fifty-five percent say the city should invest in better services even if it means a tax increase. This included the supporters of right-wing candidates.

The trend line is clear. That's why progressives need to work hard to counter the trend:

Canada has never been as moderate as we pretend. Because of massive opposition to free trade, we implemented neo-liberalism later than many other countries but just as ferociously. We need a huge rise in progressive social movements to fight further cutbacks, privatization and increased power to the billionaires who are increasingly running our lives.

Will they? Stay tuned.


Saturday, May 27, 2023

DeSantis' Path to Power

At Joe Biden's inauguration, a young black poet, Amanda Gorman, read her poem "The Hill We Climb." Recently, the poem was removed from a school library on the objection of one parent. Greg Sargent writes:

That parent’s complaint, which was obtained by the Florida Freedom to Read Project, was that the poem has indirect “hate messages” and would “cause confusion and indoctrinate students.” In reality, Gorman’s poem calls for bridging our divides to enable our country to live up to its promise, declaring this an incomplete project. The idea that this represents hate and indoctrination is farcical.

If anything, the poem offers a dramatically different message from racial discourse the right usually objects to, i.e., that our white-supremacist past and continuing structural racism render our country irredeemable. The poem says our nation “isn’t broken but simply unfinished.”

The man who made all this absurdity happen -- Florida Governor Ron DeSantis -- defended the school's decision:

“It was a book of poems that was in an elementary school library,” DeSantis told a convention on Friday, though it was in fact one poem. DeSantis insisted the school district in question merely “moved it from the elementary school library to the middle school library,” and ripped “legacy media” for calling this a “ban,” complaining of a “poem hoax.”

That’s a shameless but revealing characterization of what happened. It’s true that Gorman’s poem was removed from the elementary school section of the library at Bob Graham Education Center in Miami Lakes and that access was preserved for middle school students.

DeSantis objects to calling what happened a “ban.” But the book was placed beyond the reach of elementary school kids for no reason whatsoever. What message does it send that a school went along with the idea that the poem read by the young Black poet at Biden’s inauguration is inappropriate for children, on grounds that it constitutes hate and indoctrination?

It’s also important to note that in response to complaints from that same parent, the school removed two other titles about Black history: “Love to Langston” and “The ABCs of Black History.” Her main objection to these books? They are “CRT” — meaning critical race theory.

That’s preposterous. Those books were written expressly to introduce kids in lower grades to these topics. As Stephana Ferrell, co-founder of Florida Freedom to Read, told me: “The books celebrate Black history, culture and famous voices in a way that connects with elementary school students.” Isn’t that what we want?

Finally, it’s absurd that all this happened due to such specious objections from one person. The school’s rationale for removing the books is that they’re age-inappropriate, but it doesn’t even say why they’re inappropriate for elementary school kids. It’s obvious that the school tried to split the difference, not removing them entirely but still seeking to make this one parent happy.

American racism is very much alive and well. And DeSantis believes it will get him elected president.

Image: The Washington Post

Thursday, May 25, 2023

Bonnie Crombie

Bonnie Crombie -- the mayor of Mississauga -- wants to lead the Liberal Party of Ontario. Martin Regg Cohn writes:

Crombie made big news last week as the mighty mayor who engineered Mississauga’s liberation from Peel Region. Score one for Her Worship, who persuaded the mighty premier to let her people go.

[Doug] Ford is crying foul. How dare Crombie pivot from mayor to premier quite so quickly on his watch?

“You can’t be … mayor and running for a leader,” Ford complained to reporters, peevishly if not indelicately: “You can’t put your butt on both sides of the fence.”

But that is exactly what Crombie is doing. And she is a force to be reckoned with:

Crombie first won election as an MP in 2008, but went down to defeat in the federal Liberal drubbing of 2011. Within months, she pivoted to Mississauga as a city councillor, ultimately winning the endorsement of Hazel McCallion to succeed her as mayor in 2014 (she won re-election last year with more than 78 per cent of the vote).

It’s a safe bet Crombie will be a “game changer,” in Ford’s parlance, for a Liberal leadership race that has so far fallen flat. More than any rival, she can claim name recognition and fundraising cognition; she is good at governing but also not bad at goading, thanks to her years in opposition.

Crombie is a centrist:

“It’s very important that the Liberal party be brought back to the centre, which is where our roots are,” she told the Star. Boasting that she has no baggage from the previous Liberal governments of Kathleen Wynne or Dalton McGuinty, Crombie argued that the party “moved too far to the left” under their rule.

She believes the Liberals’ leftward drift helped drive voters into Ford’s arms. But history records that the McGuinty and Wynne Liberals won majority governments when they ate the NDP’s lunch with a lurch to the left; perhaps Crombie, like Ford, is less preoccupied by today’s New Democratic Party.

Indeed, she seems more focused on geography than ideology. Despite her mayoral antecedents, Crombie is mindful of the Liberal party’s rural deficit ― the party has been in a rut outside the big cities since the McGuinty years.

It's hard to predict the future. But one thing is certain: Doug Ford is worried.

Image: CBC

Tuesday, May 23, 2023

The American Right To Be Stupid

What's going on in the United States is truly puzzling. Michael Enright writes:

In February, 2013, in one of his first public utterances as U.S. Secretary of State, John Kerry told a group of Europeans that in America, people have the right to be stupid.

As his listeners choked on their canap├ęs, he went on to explain. Sort of:

“Now I think that’s a virtue, I think that’s something worth fighting for. The important thing is to have tolerance, to say, you know, you can have a different point of view.”

Recently, it appears that Americans have become tragically tolerant of stupidity:

A recent analysis of IQ test scores indicates that the Intelligence Quotient test scores of Americans has dropped over a 13-year period.

For researchers, this is a troubling reversal of the so-called Flynn Effect, which suggests that IQ scores rose consistently during the 20th century and would continue to do so. However, this does not mean that Americans are stupid.

In a 2006 study of IQ and global inequality in 190 countries, the American levels pretty much averaged those in other industrialized countries.

In his important 1963 book Anti-Intellectualism in American Life, the noted historian Richard Hofstadter traces a suspicion of intelligence back to the founding of the republic by religious fundamentalists. The early settlers were uncomfortable with glorifying any virtue that wasn’t godly.

Hofstadter links the historic rise of religious and evangelical fundamentalism with anti-intellectual bias in all walks of American life, particularly pronounced in the politics of the country.

It appears that when religious fundamentalists rise to positions of power, stupidity becomes a pandemic.

Image: Psychology Today

Monday, May 22, 2023

The Debt Debacle

They're having a fight these days in Washington about paying the nation's bills. It's not about new bills. It's about paying the bills that have already been put on the national credit card. Twenty-five percent of that debt was racked up in the last four years under Donald Trump. No matter. Republicans are horrified by the amount of money their country borrows. Joe Biden is trying to resolve the issue. Jennifer Rubin writes:

For starters, Biden never said he wouldn’t negotiate with Republicans. He never said a debt ceiling bill had to pass before negotiations commenced. For months, he said that he would not negotiate over the debt ceiling but he would talk about spending cuts. He insisted Republicans put forth their own budget — as he did — to lay out the parties’ contrasting visions. Only when McCarthy brought up and passed a spending bill did the president agree to serious negotiations.

The White House insists Republicans moved toward the president in finally passing a spending plan. (The president’s aides pointed to a similar negotiation in 2011 for simultaneous budget negotiations before the debt ceiling was finally raised.) Certainly, the White House did flush out Republicans, although the latter voted on a spending plan, not a complete budget, which would have demonstrated the full extent of the GOP’s fiscal irresponsibility.

But there has been no deal and it's crunch time on June 1st. There are some who say Biden should simply ignore the Republicans and claim they must, under the 14th Amendment, pay their bills:

That, however, includes significant risks, including the loss of support among the usual suspects, notably Sens. Joe Manchin III (D-W.Va.) and Kyrsten Sinema (I-Ariz.). White House aides point out that a legal challenge over the 14th Amendment would be inevitable, and while the legal battle played out, the markets would be in turmoil. Indeed, the White House detected some troubling movement in the bond markets recently, though that calmed down once reports of constructive negotiations emerged.

Biden has some wiggle room. He can play good cop and bad cop:

While his emissaries talk to Republicans (who now understand their outlandish budget cuts aren’t happening), a discharge position, a proposal to invoke the 14th Amendment and pressure the 18 Republicans from districts Biden won in 2020 can ensure that Biden need not give away much. That gives him the best chance to avoid imperiling a stunning economic recovery or rewarding Republicans for their temper tantrum.

Time will tell whether that strategy will work.

Image: You Tube

Friday, May 19, 2023

Temperamentally Incapable

Readers of this space know that I have no patience for Pierre Poilievre. I took a break recently, thinking that I had obsessed too much about the man, and that I needed to regain some perspective. But this morning the newspapers are full of Poilievre's refusal to meet with David Johnston. Susan Delacourt writes:

For a couple of hours on Wednesday, Conservatives mumbled that Pierre Poilievre had turned down a chance to meet with Johnston on the foreign-interference issue because of an, ahem, scheduling issue — not enough notice to make the get-together possible.

But clearly some decision was made to be more discourteously candid as the day wound down, when the Conservative leader’s office clarified what it really thought of Mr. Johnston and his position as “special rapporteur” weighing next steps in investigating foreign interference in Canada’s democracy.

This was the hastily scrawled statement about fake jobs, cosy friendships with Trudeau and so on. Then, when Poilievre met with reporters on Thursday morning, he doubled down, saying he deliberately chose not to meet Johnston. “No. He is Justin Trudeau’s ski buddy, his cottage neighbour, his family friend, and a member of the Trudeau Foundation, which got $140,000 from Beijing. He has a fake job and he’s unable to do it impartially, he needs to simply hand it over and allow an independent public inquiry into Beijing’s interference.”

Prime Ministers don't talk like that. The G7 is meeting this weekend. Do we want Mr. Poilievre to represent us on the international stage? The man is temperamentally -- as well as intellectually -- incapable of doing the job.

Image: Radio

Thursday, May 18, 2023

Enforcing Ignorance

In the United States, there is a movement -- and it's gaining momentum -- to make students ignorant. Exhibit A is the state of Florida. Jennifer Rubin writes:

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who earned two Ivy League degrees, has apparently decided that making Florida schools and universities the laughingstock of the country is good politics. The Republican already went after public school teachers with his “don’t say gay” bill, championed an effort to prevent instruction about history that might upset students (make that White students), and banned Advanced Placement classes in African American studies. Now, he has decided to shred the curriculums of Florida’s public universities, inviting students interested in unapproved subjects to go to California (!) or other states that don’t control what can and cannot be taught.

This week, he signed a bill banning state spending on diversity, equity and inclusion efforts in public universities. The Post reported: “These programs often assist colleges in increasing student and faculty diversity, which can apply to race and ethnicity, as well as sexual orientation, religion and socioeconomic status.”

Worse: “The law also forbids public colleges from offering general education courses — which are part of the required curriculum for all college students — that ‘distort significant historical events,’ teach ‘identity politics’ or are ‘based on theories that systemic racism, sexism, oppression, or privilege are inherent in the institutions of the United States and were created to maintain social, political, or economic inequities.’”

Who decides what “distorts”? How can the state prohibit instruction about, say, the consequences of Jim Crow in a U.S. history survey class? Well, that’s up to the regime DeSantis has installed. We now see the full extent of the governor’s authoritarian impulse to control independent sources of information and to eviscerate professional standards that provide the basis for challenging state action and abuse of power.

Thomas Jefferson believed that no democracy could survive without a well-educated citizenry. Obviously, Desantis is not interested in democracy. And he's put the people in place who share his objectives:

If newly installed University of Florida president and former Nebraska senator Ben Sasse had an ounce of integrity, he would resign in protest of this wholesale annihilation of academic freedom. (The Chronicle of Higher Education, however, reported recently that, a month into his tenure, “Sasse has made few public appearances and declined a number of interview requests from local media.” His obsequiousness to his partisan boss and contempt for academic independence should surprise no one.)

DeSantis is not alone in the assault on academic freedom; he is simply the highest-profile MAGA figure attempting to suppress freedom and dissent. The American Association of University Professors recently documented 57 bills in 23 states aimed at undermining academic freedom. The AAUP explained: “The current round of legislation reinforces a right-wing communication effort to attack public colleges and universities on the grounds that they are ideologically outside the mainstream, hostile to conservative views and focused on indoctrinating students into 'woke’ ideology.” The report added: “These bills are only one piece of a broader campaign to remake public higher education that includes Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ hostile takeover of the New College of Florida.”

Anti-democratic, nationalist movements have historically attacked universities as hotbeds of elite and foreign influence, seeking to bend instruction to the will of the state and turn academics into handmaidens of state propaganda. Right-wing pundits who have whined incessantly about the disfavored status of conservative academics (largely because of peer or student pressure) have had precious little to say about state-driven attacks against academic freedom from a petty autocrat. (Their caterwauling about political correctness on campus is the sort of projection and victimology that seeks to cast oppressors as victims and tyrants as saviors of Western culture.)

And DeSantis is making noises about running for president.

Image: The Washington Post

Tuesday, May 16, 2023

Not The Facts

Americans think that the economy is terrible. That's strange -- because the data suggests things are pretty good. Paul Krugman writes:

Since December 2021 the U.S. economy has added almost six million jobs while the unemployment rate has fallen from 3.9 percent to 3.4 percent, a level not seen since the 1960s. And no, unemployment isn’t low because Americans have dropped out of the labor force: The percentage of adults either working or looking for a job has declined, but that’s almost entirely a result of an aging population, and labor force participation is right back in line with prepandemic projections.

To be sure, the return of serious inflation after decades of quiescence rattled everyone, and not just because it reduced real incomes. (Real wages fell during Ronald Reagan’s second term, but people felt pretty good about the economy anyway.) One benefit of low inflation is that it gives people one less thing to worry about; according to the American Psychiatric Association, inflation was a major source of stress during 2022.

But inflation, while still elevated, has come way down. The inflation rate over the past six months was 3.3 percent, compared with 9.6 percent last June. The price of gasoline, a major political talking point last year, is now more or less normal compared with average earnings.

And people have noticed. In October, 20 percent of Americans named inflation as the most important problem facing the nation; that’s now down to 9 percent.

So what's happening? Facts don't seem to matter:

The general rule seems to be that Americans are feeling good about their personal situation but believe that bad things are happening to other people. A Federal Reserve study found that in late 2021 a record-high percentage of Americans were positive about their own finances while a record low were positive about the economy. We don’t have results for 2022 yet, but my guess is that they’ll look similar.

A newly published study shows that who holds the White House has huge effects on views of the economy; this is true for supporters of both parties, although the effect appears to be about twice as strong for Republicans. The study also finds, however, that these changes in reported views don’t appear to have any effect on actual spending — that they reflect “cheerleading,” as opposed to “actual expectations.”

Beyond that, there’s good reason to believe that media reports about the economy have had a strongly negative bias. One thing that has gone really, really right in America lately is job creation, yet the public consistently reports having heard more negative than positive news about employment.

The propagandists are having a field day. Americans are paying attention to them -- not the facts.


Monday, May 15, 2023

The Art Of Political Lying

Lying is not new to politics. But, these days, it has become a vaunted art form. Consider Donald Trump's recent town hall. Michael Harris writes:

Like a mob boss sticking to his story under interrogation, Trump repeated old fictions to the delight of his cackling cult followers. The lies poured out of him like bullets from an AR-15: rapid-fire and relentless.  

The 2020 election was stolen; the Jan. 6, 2021, riot at the Capitol was a gathering of good people and patriotic Americans; the wall on the southern border was completed while he was in office; he could end the war in Ukraine in one day; it would be okay if the U.S. defaulted on its debt; Mike Pence had the legal authority not to ratify the results of the 2020 election. Blah, blah, blah.

Despite being swarmed by Trump’s lies and the crowd’s enabling enthusiasm for this prince of Pinocchios, Collins stood her ground like the solid, journalistic soldier that she is. Trump alternately ignored, talked over, and mocked the CNN moderator, but she doggedly fact-checked his lies, trying valiantly to hold him to the facts. But her solo battle to keep the conversation factual and rational could not slow the mojo of Trump’s mendacity.   

And the man who is totally driven by his Id continues to get away with the lies:

The reviews of this clown hall the morning after laid bare just how effective hyperbolic, public lying has become in politics. Commentators did not blast the man who lied his brains out for over an hour.  They blasted CNN for agreeing to a format in which their host became a sacrificial lamb to partisan politics, and Trump was given a megaphone to repeat falsehoods—new and old—to a mainstream, national audience.  

The critics have it ass-backwards. CNN may not have come up with the best format or venue for this event. They may have put Collins in a lonely and perilous position. But the broadcast did expose America’s most dangerous politician for the bloviating sociopath that he is.  

Political lying has become a source of great wealth. And, therefore, it has become acceptable:

The problem is that doesn’t seem to matter anymore. The reason is that political lying has become a protected form of dishonesty, something that is emphatically confused with free speech. 

In the United States, you can’t lie to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, you can’t lie to a court, and you can’t lie to the Internal Revenue Service. If you do, the consequences are immediate and serious. But if you lie to a whole country in pursuit of winning the right to govern, if you knowingly fabricate the facts to further your personal agenda, that kind of lie goes unpunished. 

In fact, this is how upside-down politics and political speech have become. When Trump was criminally indicted in the Stormy Daniels hush-money affair, some observers said that it would actually help his third presidential run. As if that weren’t enough, the same commentators concluded that being found liable by a jury for sexual assault would also assist in his quest for the GOP’s presidential nomination for 2024. Polling seems to back up those bizarre assertions. In other words, political lying is okay, mostly because it often works.

It may work. But no democracy can survive a firehose of lies.

Image: Twitter

Friday, May 12, 2023

The Fading Consensus

At the end of World War II, the movers and shakers established a new economic order. They called it "The Washington Consensus." Glen Pearson writes:

The economic agreement of recent decades is fading.   It was termed the “Washington Consensus,” and it was strong and adept enough to draw in the predominant economies of the West.  Biden was part of the Washington establishment that helped build that consensus.  Now, like Trump before him, he’s made the political and economic calculation that putting American interests above all those of its partners is the only way to get out of the financial hole in which America has mired itself.

As noted this week in the Atlantic:  “Ever-greater  global interdependence is no longer desirable.”  When fully carried out, this new policy approach will have challenging implications for America’s trading partners, including its neighbour to the north.

Many economists feel the global financial system is now in free motion, no longer tethered to the shared belief that capitalism and the free market, for all of their inequities, are nevertheless the best approach to take into the future.  Covid revealed the weakened underbelly of the global system, but it has been primarily the Chinese belief in pulling away from the global consensus and establishing its own markets and partnerships that has forced the rest of the world to readjust.

Biden’s key interest has been industrial strategy and how its renewal could help reshape the economic future of the nation he leads.  China believes the same thing, as do certain elements in France, Germany, the UK, and India.  It’s “looking out for Number One” time, and for a soft power nation like Canada that largely depends on global trade to leverage its economy, the hurdles ahead are bound to reshape the politics of today.

What does that really mean?

Ultimately, all this is bringing on a new age of economic nationalism.  Citizens and institutions that feel they are losing out to the world system now want to control their own.  They believe that shipping jobs and investments overseas only hollowed out local economies and they want their prosperity back.  The wealth generated in the last few decades appears to millions to have been sequestered by the great and mighty and they want more of it for themselves.  It’s a highly toxic and simple message.  It’s also a highly dangerous one unless managed properly.  In a world of “all against all,” there can only be a few winners.

Like politics and respectful negotiations, Main Street and Wall Street parted company years ago.  We are now divided in a world, and in such a setting, national governments have to find a way to feather their own nest while still participating in the world economy.  It will be a task fraught with risk but will likely grow in popularity with voters.  There is no certainty that this new approach will bring the wealth and peace that so empowered the earlier days of globalization.  No “sure thing” exists in economics.  Everyone has their own opinion or policy.  But if the politics guarding over economies turns on itself and ruins both our common purpose and historical partnerships, then all this new economic nationalism will be for naught.  It’s a treacherous road we are entering and only a common accord can guide us forward.  Splitting us increasingly into camps – political, economic, social, ideological – will ruin much of what is good in our Canadian consensus.

Buckle your seat belts. It could be a rough ride.


Thursday, May 11, 2023

Trump's Townhall

Donald Trump appeared on CNN last night. Frank Bruni writes that, if people are worried about Joe Biden's mental acuity, they should consider Donald Trump's mental health:

Given all the attention to President Biden’s cognitive fitness for a second presidential term, it seems fair, even mandatory, to assess Donald Trump’s performance at a televised town hall in Manchester, N.H., on Wednesday night through the same lens:

How clear was his thinking? How sturdy his tether to reality? How appropriate his demeanor?

On a scale of 1 to Marjorie Taylor Greene, I’d give him an 11.

He was asked to respond to a Manhattan jury’s verdict the previous day that he had sexually abused and defamed the writer E. Jean Carroll.

He said that Carroll once had a cat named Vagina.

He was asked about his failure to deliver on his signature promise to voters in 2016 — that he’d build a wall stretching across the southwestern border of the United States.

“I did finish the wall,” he said, just a few beats before adding that Biden could have easily and quickly completed the stretch that still hasn’t been built if he’d cared to. The statements contradicted each other. They made no sense. They were his entire performance in a nutshell.

He was asked about his role in the Jan. 6 violence and whether he had regrets.

He reminisced mistily about addressing the rally before the riot — “It was the largest crowd I’ve ever spoken to,” he boasted — and about how they were there “with love in their hearts.” The problem, he said, was “Crazy Nancy,” meaning Pelosi, whose fault all of this really was.

It's painfully clear. Trump is certifiable.


Thursday, May 04, 2023

We Know Who She Is

Danielle Smith's past keeps coming back to hurt her. Luke LeBrun writes:

A newly resurfaced video shows Alberta UCP leader Danielle Smith endorsed the Ottawa convoy occupation and Coutts border blockade as a means to force an end to public health measures across Canada.

Last week, Smith faced heavy criticism after posing for photos with James Bauder, a prominent convoy organizer who is now facing extensive criminal charges. Smith denies knowing who Bauder is, though Bauder himself doesn’t buy her story.

But the UCP leader’s recent attempt to distance herself from the convoy stand in clear contrast with her own past statements.

Several months before her whirlwind rise to Premier of Alberta, Smith endorsed the convoy occupation of Ottawa and illegal blockade at the Canada-US border in Coutts, Alberta during an appearance on a right-wing website.

Jason Kenney tried to calm the storm:

Two weeks earlier, former Premier Jason Kenney pleaded with convoy supporters to dial down the temperature and deescalate a potentially dangerous situation:

“I call for calm amongst anybody who feels sympathetic for those engaged in this blockade. Please stay away from the area. Please do not further intensify an already difficult situation.”

Not so Ms. Smith:

A week after Kenney’s “call for calm,” Smith went beyond expressing sympathy with the grievances of those in Ottawa and Coutts and endorsed the actions by stating that she wanted to see the convoy “win.”

Smith was asked about her views on Coutts in a February 2022 livestream broadcast by the Western Standard.

“This whole phrase of ‘peace, order and good government’, I think it’s become a shorthand to the federal government can do whatever the heck it wants and we just have to be peaceful and orderly about it,” Smith says when asked about Coutts.

That’s not, in my view, what it should mean.”

We know who Smith is. Let's hope Albertans do, too.

Just a brief note. I'll be writing less frequently. The news these days is unremittingly bad. And I'm getting repetitive. My readers need a break. And so do I.

Image: Press Progress

Tuesday, May 02, 2023

Gordon Lightfoot

Gordon Lightfoot became an international celebrity. But, to me, he was quintessentially Canadian. Back in 1965, as a university freshman, I attended a concert he gave as part of our Winter Carnival festivities. He ended the concert with his Canadian Railroad Trilogy.

He sang of a country that had existed

Long before The White Man

And long before The Wheel

When the green dark forest

Was too silent to be real.

He made Canada real.


Monday, May 01, 2023

Pierre's Disease

I've written a lot about Pierre Poilievre lately. That's because he's clearly not prime ministerial material. But, more than that, he carries the disease which threatens to take down the republic to our south. Michael Harris writes:

He started out as Stephen Harper’s attack-trained chihuahua, tugging at every enemy pant-leg in sight. Now he is the demander-in-chief of the official opposition, partly because his old boss and current mentor endorsed his bid for the Conservative leadership.  

Each day in QP, this life-long politician chivvies the prime minister over alleged shortcomings, often of a personal nature. Whether the subject is invoking the Emergencies Act during the laughably named Freedom Convoy, China’s attempted interference in Canadian elections, the cost of a hotel room to attend the Queen’s funeral, or donations to the Pierre Elliott Trudeau Foundation, the goal is always the same: make Trudeau wear it.  

Poilievre does that by using every controversy to portray the PM as the spoiled brat of privilege who lies to Canadians, has a broad dictatorial streak, is possibly a traitor, and probably corrupt. Poilievre’s specialty is not holding the PM to account on government policy. It is holding him to account on vacations—even when those vacations have been okayed by the ethics commissioner.

Unfortunately, there are lots of us who carry the same disease:

We have become a slagging society, thanks in part to Twitter. There are a lot of people who get a kick out of seeing public people flamed for their real and imagined sins and misdemeanours. The truth used to reside in a nuance. Now it lives in a well-turned or memorable insult, or even baseless allegation.

Roasting people is getting to be big business, as criminal defendant/candidate Donald Trump proves every time he opens his mouth, or takes to “Truth” Social. He specializes in bumper-sticker bombast.  So when Poilievre calls Trudeau a “freeloader” for staying with a friend in Jamaica while on vacation, those who don’t like the PM cheer, chortle, and chastise. And the usual suspects in the conservative media provide the echo-chamber.

Consider Trudeau's recent vacation:

By Poilievre-logic, which is a lot like Marjorie Taylor Greene-logic, the PM got what amounted to an $80,000 freebie—the usual cost of staying at the best accommodation in the luxury resort owned by his friend. And since that same wealthy friend made a sizeable donation to the Pierre Elliott Trudeau foundation, Poilievre scented something redolent of rotting fish.  

It is true that the Jamaica trip cost Canadians a pot of money, mostly to provide security and Privy Council support for the PM while he was out of the country. But that is true of every prime minister who travels abroad on either business or pleasure. 

A case in point: when Stephen Harper was prime minister, his 2012 official visit to India cost Canadian taxpayers $1.2 million. Most of that was accounted for by the $1,061,448 it cost to ship the PM’s armour-plated limousines to India in a Canadian Forces C-177 Globemaster. As if the Indian government didn’t have VIP limousines. When the undigested nutritional matter hit the fan over those jaw-dropping costs, Harper punted: the Mounties made him do it.

Then there is the friendship issue regarding the Jamaica junket. Poilievre says that by accepting Green’s hospitality, the PM handed him an IOU, which by the way is a slander on both men. There is zero proof that Green was grooming Trudeau for a payback, or that Trudeau was looking for a holiday handout. If there were, it would be a different story. 

What about the donation to the Trudeau Foundation?

For starters, a contribution to his father’s foundation is not walking-around money for Justin Trudeau.  Donations are used to fund public interest research and education, including granting 20 doctoral scholarships a year. The money Andrew and Alexander Green donated was used to establish the Mary-Jean Mitchell Green Scholarship, an endowment in memory of their mother.  

Secondly, Trudeau has repeatedly told the House in QP that he hasn’t been involved, either directly or indirectly, with the foundation for 10 years. The tradition in the House is that MPs are assumed to be telling the truth in their answers. Poilievre continues to scorn the PM’s answer, saying that it is not credible because Trudeau’s brother, Alexandre, is heavily involved in the foundation’s work. Bottom line? If Poilievre is calling the PM a liar, it’s time to produce the evidence. And if he doesn’t have the evidence, it’s time to set up another straw man.

Poilievre is a piece of work -- a vile piece of work.

Image: The Hill Times