Thursday, August 31, 2023

They're Expendable

If there's one thing modern conservatives have trouble with, it's the truth. Max Fawcett writes:

Sometimes, it pays to read past the headline. That’s certainly the case with a recent National Post story titled “Trudeau’s Law Society,” one that suggested “it’s no coincidence that more judges who donate to the Liberal party are brought to the bench than Conservative donors.” The Investigative Journalism Foundation, a news organization that partnered with Postmedia on the story, went even further by tweeting that its story “shows that the federal Liberals appear to be stacking the courts with their supporters.”

Thirteen paragraphs down, the reader — if they make it that far — discovers that only 18.3 per cent of the Liberal government’s 1,308 judicial appointees made a political donation, with 76.3 per cent of them having donated to the Liberals. That means 13.9 per cent of their appointees donated to the Liberals, with 86.1 per cent either not donating or donating to one of the opposition parties. “I’m not saying the data is a problem,” former Trudeau economic adviser and policy consultant Tyler Meredith tweeted, “but when 4 out of 5 people appointed aren’t contributing at all, to anyone, the favouritism angle looks far less than sensational header (sic).”

Ironically, this matches reporting from Postmedia back in 2010, which showed 66 of the 270 judges the Harper Conservatives had appointed at that point had made political donations, with 41 of them having donated to the Conservative Party of Canada. A further 25 had names that matched political donors — mainly Conservative ones — but couldn’t be verified as the same people. If you include them in the list, that’s 33.7 per cent of judicial appointees who were political donors, with 72.5 per cent of them donating to the CPC.

Postmedia’s editors clearly didn’t agree. Earlier this week, they published the second story in this ongoing collaboration, one that highlighted six Superior Court justices who had attended Liberal fundraisers “shortly before being appointed.” It beggars belief that any government would appoint someone to the bench because they attended a $1,625 fundraiser, and the reporting again ignores the pattern of appointment under the previous government, one that included former justice minister Peter MacKay appointing the best man at his wedding and an old friend of his father to the Nova Scotia Supreme Court. As Press Progress reported back in 2015, MacKay had personal and financial ties to six of the nine appointments he made to Nova Scotia courts.

Mark Twain understood how statistics could be manipulated.“There are three kinds of lies: Lies, Damned Lies, and Statistics,” he wrote. Conservatives aren't the only politicians who lie. But, since the rise of Donald Trump, facts have become expendable.

Image: AZ Quotes

Monday, August 28, 2023

Monumental Cowardice

Today, a judge in Washington will set the date for Donald Trump's trial for attempting to overthrow the government of the United States. Instead of being appalled by what Trump did, Republicans are stumbling over themselves to defend him. Consider what happened at the recent Republican debate. Michael Harris writes:

Six of the eight presidential candidates raised their hands to indicate that even if the former president were to be convicted on any of the charges, they would vote for him in 2024. A couple of them went on to say they would pardon Trump if they became president. 

Reality check? They were a pack of zombies following the leader over a cliff.

Think about the enormity of what every one of the GOP presidential candidates, with the exception of Chris Christie and Asa Hutchinson, had done. The so-called party of law and order was declaring to millions of people watching the debate on television that even if Trump were to be found guilty of one or several felony offences, and of breaching his oath of office to uphold the constitution, they would put him back in the White House. 

They were signalling to the debate’s audience that it was okay to put a felon in the White House. 

The United States has descended into national insanity:

It is beyond absurd. How could anyone vote for the Republicans as lawmakers, when the leadership of the party had just confirmed that it was okay to put a convicted criminal in charge of the whole show? 

How must women feel watching this travesty, with Trump’s sexual abuse of E. Jean Carroll already on the record in civil court? This is the party that criminalizes abortion, but whitewashes Trump’s behaviour. 

For one of the zombie-candidates who raised his hand to endorse Trump last week, the humiliation was total. If anyone should know just how low Trump can go, it is former U.S. vice-president Mike Pence. 

Remember those “Hang Pence” signs brandished by the pro-Trump mob during the Capitol insurrection? According to congressional testimony, Trump told his staff that maybe Pence “deserves” it. He certainly did nothing to quell the riot he had inspired, which placed a lot of other lives at risk besides that of Pence and his family. 

Just days before the first GOP debate, Pence told CNN in a direct reference to Trump that anyone who put themselves above the constitution should never be president. Yet a few days later, Pence affirmed that he would in fact vote for Trump. That flip-flop would break the back of a grizzly bear. 

Trump got to where he now is with lots of help. All those who helped him were -- and are -- cowards.


Thursday, August 24, 2023

A Lot Depends On The Alternative

The conventional wisdom is that Justin Trudeau is in the twilight of his political career. Michael Harris doesn't believe it. He writes:

The way most pollsters and pundits and all Harper-Cons see it, you can put a fork in Trudeau; he’s done. But they can put away the cutlery for now. The chances are better than even that the current PM will defeat his fourth Conservative leader in a row — assuming he sticks around for the next electoral tilt.

Yes, the polling looks bad. But there are few things less relevant than a mid-summer poll with no election in sight.

But consider other polls:

After eight years in power, Trudeau is polling higher than both Stephen Harper and Pierre Trudeau at the same point in their careers. In fact, only former PM Jean Chr├ętien had higher numbers after eight years in office than Justin Trudeau.

And according to a recent Nanos poll, there has been no rush to make Pierre Poilievre voters’ preferred choice for prime minister. Trudeau and Poilievre are in a dead heat in that category, both at under 30 per cent.

Lots of Canadians just don't like Trudeau -- with reason:

None of this is not to say that Trudeau, who assumed office with not much more than a famous name and photogenic smile, isn’t carrying some pretty heavy baggage now. That’s what eight years in office does to all politicians. Making things worse, most of the prime minister’s best-known blunders were self-inflicted, what in the tennis world would be called “unforced errors.”

After accepting a Christmas vacation on the Aga Khan’s island, news of the furtive trip inevitably leaked out. That’s how Trudeau became the first prime minister in history to be found in breach of federal ethics laws, violating three provisions of the Conflict of Interest Act.

The political optics looked worse than the violations. Vacationing with billionaires on their dime, even if they are family friends, is not the best way of convincing middle- and working-class voters that you feel their pain.

In 2018, the Trudeau government stumbled through the SNC-Lavalin affair, which led to the departure from cabinet of then justice minister Jody Wilson-Raybould and health minster Jane Philpott, two female stars of the party led by a self-avowed feminist. A low point for the PM.

Wilson-Raybould claimed that the Prime Minister’s Office interfered in a decision her department had already made concerning the huge engineering firm. In August 2019, the ethics commissioner agreed with her, finding that the PM’s team had breached ethics rules by trying to get the justice minister to reconsider granting SNC-Lavalin a deferred prosecution agreement, instead of a criminal charge.

In other words, Wilson-Raybould was dumped for being right, which is why Philpott followed her out of cabinet. That injustice cost the prime minister his principal secretary, Gerald Butts, who was forced to resign, and his majority government in the next election.

Justin has scored more than once on his own goal. But Stephen Harper's government was always ripe with scandals. Harris enumerates them and comes to this conclusion:

The bottom line in looking at both Liberal and Conservative scandals is that there is no ethical dividend in electing the Conservative Party of Canada. When it comes to scandals, neither of the two mainstream parties can lay claim to the high ground.

Pierre Poilievre can bloviate all he wants about the Trudeau government’s sins and misdemeanours. But he can’t erase the fact that for almost 10 years he was an integral part of a government that spent a lot of time in the political sewer.

And on the positive side of the ledger, Justin has wracked up an impressive legislative record:

Here is a partial list of what has been accomplished under Justin Trudeau:

After a couple of kicks at the can, Canada has gun control legislation banning the worst of the weapons that are wreaking havoc in the United States.

The Liberals created the Child Benefit for low- and middle-income families.

The government negotiated the Canada-United States-Mexico Agreement to replace the North American Free Trade Agreement.

Trudeau created an over $82-billion multi-year national housing strategy, overseen by the popular Nova Scotia MP and cabinet minister Sean Fraser.

The government legalized marijuana and assisted dying, areas fraught with so many emotional downsides that no one else would touch them.

Canada answered the call in desperate times of war, admitting 40,000 Syrian refugees.

Trudeau cut middle class taxes and increased them on wealthier Canadians, while increasing CPP benefits for retirees.

And at a dire time in world history, with Maui burning, coral reefs dying and water wars about to break out in Central Asia, the Trudeau government passed and doggedly defended a carbon tax on greenhouse gas emissions.

Trudeau’s greatest initiative, or worst, depending on whether you believe COVID restrictions amounted to a public health necessity or an assault on civil rights, was the government’s massive response to the pandemic. According to the conservative C.D. Howe Institute, the government’s policies saved 35,000 lives.

Joe Biden is fond of saying, "Don't compare me to the Almighty. Compare me to the alternative." A lot depends on the alternative.

Image: The Canadian Press

Sunday, August 20, 2023

Conservatives And Conspiracy Theories

Pierre Poilievre continues to strengthen his ties to conspiracy theorists. Max Fawcett writes:

It’s not exactly a secret that conservatism has made more room in recent years for conspiracy theories, whether they’re about vaccines and COVID-19 or the World Economic Forum (WEF) and its apparently nefarious influence over the Canadian government. But a recent fundraising email that included mention of “globalist Davos elites” caught the eye of Canadian Press reporter Mickey Djuric, who covered the CPC’s ongoing flirtation with the language of dog-whistle politics and conspiracies. The response from Poilievre, along with past and present Conservative MPs and its director of communications? Gin up a new conspiracy about The Canadian Press and its relationship with the CBC and other “legacy” media outlets.

Conspiracy theories are the mother's milk of Conservative politics:

Former CPC leader Andrew Scheer decided to join the fray. “No wonder Trudeau wants to censor all but four or five Liberals [sic] news sources: they all coordinate in attacking Poilievre with the same false headline,” he tweeted. “Collusion?” This did not sit well with National Post columnist John Ivison, who clapped back at Scheer’s uninformed paranoia. “It's a wire story, with a suggested heading everyone used. Every political rookie knows that — and you're a lifer. The only conclusion that can be drawn is that you are deliberately trying to stoke conspiracy and disinformation. You need to give your head a shake, Andrew.”

Ryan Williams, an MP from Ontario, tried a different tack: pretending the conspiracy theories that kicked off this raging inferno of nonsense aren’t actually conspiracies at all. “The problem with the WEF is that elected officials are trying to implement its policies without being transparent about them in an election, or otherwise,” he tweeted. “Ideas like 15 min cities, digital ID, and Klaus Schwab below. Run these ideas in an election and see what happens.”

The godfather of all this baloney is, of course, Donald Trump:

Donald Trump turned this into an art form, albeit a vulgar one, when he became U.S. president, and his Canadian imitators have been doing their best to mimic him ever since. In his outgoing speech as CPC leader, Scheer blasted the mainstream media and its “narrative” and tried to boost alternative right-wing sources like the Post Millennial and True North.

Conservatives are good at attacking their opponents. But when it comes to thinking critically? Well, that's another story.

Image: Red Deer Advocate

Thursday, August 17, 2023

The Blood On Trump's Hands

Jack Smith has charged Donald Trump with crimes he's committed throughout his life -- fraud and conspiracy. But he does not hold Trump responsible for the violence behind January 6th. He writes that Trump "took advantage of " the violence. Fani Willis puts violence at the centre of her indictment of Trump. Jennifer Rubin writes:

The indictment describes defendants traveling to Freeman’s home to mislead and intimidate her. Willis alleged Trump defamed Freeman to Georgia officials (claiming she was a “a professional vote scammer and a known political operative” and saying that “Ruby Freeman, her daughter, and others were responsible for fraudulently awarding at least 18,000 ballots to Joseph R. Biden at State Farm Arena in the November 3, 2020, presidential election in Georgia.”) Trump told Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger that Freeman had stuffed ballot boxes.

Trump tweeted references to a conspiracy about Freeman to his followers, which we know included those who were menacing election workers, making threats and endangering the lives of Freeman and others.

Former Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani is also accused of bantering about lies concerning Freeman (who he falsely stated had been “quite obviously surreptitiously passing around USB ports as if they’re vials of heroin or cocaine”). These lies reverberated through social media, putting a target on Freeman’s back and helping escalate threats against Georgia officials.

The indictment works to refocus our attention on the mob Trump and Giuliani allegedly tried to incite, to the threats the MAGA horde lobbed toward election officials and others, and to the gripping testimony from Freeman and her daughter, Wandrea ArShaye “Shaye” Moss, at the House Jan. 6 hearings. From everything we’ve seen, these Georgians’ lives were made a living hell.

Ruth Ben-Ghiat, author of “Strongmen: Mussolini to the Present” and an expert on fascism, told Insider that Trump resorted to inciting the crowd to violence when his other schemes failed “because he truly believes that violence is a way you can change history.” She added, “The thing about autocrats today is that they’re all corrupt, but they’re also violent. They use all of these tools at the same time. So, we can’t isolate one and say that Jan. 6 was just about this or just about that. It was everything. It was a process of months and it culminated in violence.”

Willis' case will probably conclude after the election. Trump has blood on his hands. And Willis is determined to make Trump pay for that blood.

Image: The New York Times

Sunday, August 13, 2023

Even Worse

The Canadian Press reports that Pierre Poilievre is selling conspiracy theories:

Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre has been hitting the summer barbecue circuit with ramped-up rhetoric around debunked claims that the World Economic Forum is attempting to impose its agenda on sovereign governments.

It is, some experts suggest, another sign that some conspiracy theories are moving from the fringes of the internet to mainstream thinking, as people's distrust of government grows.

In speeches to Conservative supporters across Canada, Poilievre has promised that none of his ministers will attend the international organization's conferences, including the annual meeting typically held in Davos, Switzerland.

"It's far past time we rejected the globalist Davos elites and bring home the common sense of the common people," said a Saturday fundraising email.

The Conservative party also recently sent out mailers with a poll asking people to tell Prime Minister Justin Trudeau who they think the prime minister should stand with: working Canadians or the World Economic Forum.

The wording implies Trudeau's cabinet is beholden to the latter.

The nutbars have moved into the mainstream:

Duane Bratt, political science professor at Mount Royal University in Calgary, said some people have long embraced conspiracies, but now they have moved into mainstream politics.

"The big shift that we have seen is that it is now being promoted by someone who could be prime minister," said Bratt.

Poilievre peddled the WEF control claims during the Conservative leadership race in 2022, and it has emerged again as a regular talking point following the federal byelection in southern Manitoba, said Bratt.

In that contest in Portage-Lisgar, the Conservatives were looking to beat back a growing challenge from the People's Party of Canada.

Maxime Bernier, the leader of that party who has long accused the WEF of having a globalist agenda, ran in the byelection. The Conservatives attacked him for having attended the Davos summit when he was Harper's foreign affairs minister in 2008. Bratt said Poilievre's embrace of conspiracy theories could be because he's attempting to steal back votes from the PPC.

Poilievre was the man who suggested that Bitcoin was the way of the future.  His vision wasn't very good when he wore glasses. It's even worse since he took them off.


Thursday, August 10, 2023

Something's Out Of Joint

In a blistering report, Ontario's auditor general has skewered Doug Ford's government.  Rob Ferguson and  Rob Benzie write in The Toronto Star:

Doug Ford’s Progressive Conservatives “favoured certain developers” in a controversial $8.28-billion Greenbelt land swap rammed through in a fashion the premier admits was “wrong,” the auditor general found.

In a searing 93-page report to the legislature Wednesday, Bonnie Lysyk concluded Ford’s opening up of 7,400 acres of environmentally protected land last fall “cannot be described as a standard or defensible process.”

That process was run by Ryan Amato, the chief of staff to Municipal Affairs and Housing Minister Steve Clark, without proper input from independent bureaucrats or land-use experts, she said.

But the premier and Clark, who took media questions for more than an hour, vowed to continue with the land swap — which will benefit Tory-connected landowners — despite the auditor general’s push for them to reconsider.

Ford has always been about transferring public wealth into private hands. The same was true of former premier Mike Harris. Paul Kahnert writes:

During the time the Mike Harris Conservatives were in power from 1995 to 2003, a record amount of public wealth was transferred to the wealthy. Just what is public wealth? Public wealth is our education system, our healthcare system, our water system and was once our hydro-electric system. It is our provincial parks, forests, lakes, rivers and the green is also the collective total of all our tax dollars in the provincial treasury. There is much more to public wealth when you add in things like long term care, community centers, hockey and curling arenas. The sum total of our public wealth is quite massive and the wealthy want it.  

Harris privatized Hwy 407 for a paltry sum. In a far worse deal Harris privatized the Bruce nuclear plant, where again the profits were privatized but the debt and risks remained public.  

Harris cut taxes massively for the wealthy and their corporations. In order to pay for those tax cuts, Harris slashed healthcare spending to the point where Ontario lost more than 10,000 nurses. Education was slashed by the education funding formula which to this day is still shortchanging the education system causing a crisis there. 

Harris changed the entire Hydro System from a non-profit at-cost system to a for profit corporate system packaging it up to be sold. Unbelievably after going fishing with Enron Chairman Kenneth Lay, Harris installed an Enron designed electricity market which also is still plaguing us to this day. The list is much longer and includes a long list of a removal of laws and regulations that were designed to protect the public, including the removal of a law requiring a binding public referendum anytime a public asset was to be sold.

It seems like every day and every week; Ford is hell bent on breaking Harris’s record transfer of wealth to the wealthy. Long term care was privatized where thousands died during the pandemic, many from neglect. Given the horrific record of private long-term care, Ford gave these owners 30-year licenses and is allowing the building of more private long term care homes. 

On top of shortfalls caused by the funding formula, Ford is cutting education funding more. It certainly looks like he’s creating a crisis again so that education can be privatized by charter schools or online education services. 

We've known who these people are -- and we've known it for a long time.

Something's out of joint.

Image: TVO Today

Monday, August 07, 2023

The Trump Of The North

According to a recent Abacus poll, a large number of Canadians don't like any of the party leaders. Michael Harris writes:

Here are the numbers: 33 per cent Liberal; 22 per cent NDP and 19 per cent Conservative. According to pollster David Coletto, it is this group of people who don’t favour any of the leaders that will decide the next election. If Trudeau can hold on to the Liberal vote in this group and add it to the 20 per cent who want him to remain PM, there is a realistic chance he will win a fourth term.

The same Abacus poll that showed an overwhelming majority wants a change in government also found 31 per cent of respondents didn’t like any of the politicians on offer. This group was then asked how they would vote if there were an election tomorrow.

It's clear that Justin Trudeau is in trouble. But so is Pierre Poilievre:

The sticking point is Pierre Poilievre’s slavish adherence to the kind of Trumpian nastiness that is rotting the heart of the Republican party in the Indicted States of America. Poilievre specializes in put-downs, not lift-ups. It is usually the latter that inspire Canadians.

With former PM Stephen Harper’s public endorsement, Poilievre won the top job by dragging the CPC further to the right. And he has maintained that Freedom Caucus-style political stance as leader of the Opposition.

Gut the CBC, fire the chairman of the Bank of Canada, close safe injection sites, and keep the drill bit turning to the right while the planet is deep in a fossil-fuelled fever.

That approach may have gotten Skippy the clip of the day from question period, but it didn’t make more room in the CPC tent. Politics is a game of addition, not subtraction, and so far, Poilievre’s has got the arithmetic backwards. Great at subtraction, a flop at addition.
In the wake of Donald Trump's third indictment -- a fourth is on the way -- it's truly strange that Poilievre keeps insisting that he's the Trump Of The North.

Image: Sean Kilpatrick, the Canadian Press.

Wednesday, August 02, 2023

Indicted Again

Donald Trump has been indicted for a third time. Jennifer Rubin writes:

Trump has spent his life evading responsibility for his conduct; within the space of a few months, he has been indicted three times in criminal court and held liable in civil court for defaming and sexually abusing writer E. Jean Carroll.

What’s most notable about the legal filing? Smith did not overcharge nor clutter the indictment with repetitive charges. He appears intent on keeping the case relatively simple. Simple does not mean unserious, however. Choosing not to bring the dicey charge of sedition or conspiracy to commit sedition, Smith nevertheless captures the enormity of the crime — the assault on our democracy.

There are three things that need to be understood:

For starters, if Trump ran for president under the mistaken notion it would protect him from prosecution, it was a colossal miscalculation; instead, his decision forced Garland’s hand, drawing into the case an incorruptible, aggressive and determined prosecutor who, in roughly eight months on the job, filed two mammoth criminal cases against the former president. Had Trump not declared his candidacy, the Justice Department might still be “working its way up the chain” in its Jan. 6 investigation. Trump remains his own worst enemy.

Second, Republicans have a fundamental choice: Do they nominate a thrice-indicted criminal defendant who sought to overthrow our democracy? General election voters will not avert their eyes from the blizzard of facts or the seriousness of the charges. If Republicans proceed with Trump, they become the party of insurrection and deceit. The GOP will be stained for a very long time by sticking by Trump’s side.

Third, Smith has done his job — faster and more completely than even his most ardent supporters expected. The judge and jury will be expected to follow their oaths. But it is up to the voters to make certain an abjectly unfit character never assumes power. There is no shirking that obligation, no matter what the results in court.

Even if Trump is convicted he could still be re-elected. The indictment separates the realists from the fools. We will soon know how many Americans are fools.

Image: Black Star News