Wednesday, January 31, 2024

Trump And The World

Where Donald Trump goes, chaos follows. With that in mind, Max Boot speculates what foreign policy would be like in a second Trump term:

Every president but one since Franklin D. Roosevelt has believed that the United States should exercise preeminent international influence for its own good and that of the world. Trump is the lone exception. He is committed to an “America First” agenda — the same label embraced by the Nazi sympathizers and isolationists of the pre-Pearl Harbor period. He has nothing but scorn for the twin pillars of postwar U.S. foreign policy: free-trade pacts and security alliances.

In Trump’s first term, he did not manage to overturn more than 70 years of American global leadership, but he certainly undermined it. He pulled out of the Paris Climate Accords, the Trans-Pacific Partnership and the Iran nuclear accord. He tried to pull all U.S. forces out of Syria and about a third of them out of Germany. He temporarily blocked arms deliveries to Ukraine to coerce President Volodymyr Zelensky into helping him politically. He launched a pointless trade war with China that inflicted considerable costs on the U.S. economy.

It’s a safe bet Trump will not be appointing any moderates next time. He has vowed to purge apolitical civil servants — a.k.a. “Communists, Marxists, Racists, and Radical Left Thugs.” The Heritage Foundation is compiling long lists of MAGA loyalists to staff a Trump administration.

Thus, there would be little — aside from his own mental fog — to stop Trump from carrying out his isolationist agenda. According to Thierry Breton, a senior European Union official, Trump in 2020 told E.U. leaders “that if Europe is under attack we will never come to help you and to support you” and “NATO is dead, and we will leave, we will quit NATO.” Congress recently passed legislation to prevent a president from exiting NATO without congressional approval, but Trump could still make the alliance a dead letter by refusing to honor the Article 5 obligation to defend members under attack.

Trump would almost certainly cut off U.S. aid to Ukraine — as his followers in Congress are already attempting to do, at his behest. He says he would end the Ukraine war “in one day” by telling Zelensky that Ukraine would have “to make a deal.” Such a deal would presumably turn over at least 20 percent of Ukraine’s territory to Russian occupation while dictator Vladimir Putin readied his forces to take the rest. Zelensky called Trump’s talk “very dangerous,” but Trump is far more interested in courting Putin than Zelensky. (“I was the apple of his eye,” Trump recently boasted about his Kremlin pal.)

The leaders of some countries — e.g., Russia, North Korea, Hungary, Saudi Arabia — might be enthused about Trump returning to power, but it’s a safe bet that Mexico, America’s top trade partner, won’t be one of them. Trump has vowed to “carry out the largest domestic deportation operation in American history,” with most of those migrants presumably being sent south of the border over the opposition of the Mexican government. Trump, who talked in office about firing missiles at drug labs in Mexico, is also developing plans to unilaterally use military force against Mexican drug cartels — a move that no sovereign nation could tolerate.

Most elections are about domestic policy. Let's hope that American voters are interested in foreign policy. Under Trump, the world will not be a better place.

Image: Quartz

Sunday, January 28, 2024

Lies And Damned Lies

Tucker Carlson came to Alberta because, he says, he wants to liberate us. Timothy Caulfield writes:

RIGHT BEFORE he was fired from Fox News last spring, the prime-time host Tucker Carlson was set to release a documentary called O, Canada! The trailer seemed to unironically suggest that the country needs to be liberated (read: invaded by the United States) to save it from the authoritarian rule of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. This move would, Tucker implied, accord with the US “official policy” of opposing oppressive dictatorships. The marketing for the documentary included Soviet-style graphics of Trudeau. “What if tyranny arrived right next door?” Tucker asked in the trailer. “And what would our government do in response?”

It wouldn’t have taken Tucker, or his team, much digging to uncover the fact that Trudeau is the leader of a politically centrist minority government within a parliamentary system. For all his many faults and political missteps, Trudeau isn’t a communist dictator worthy of a ground offensive by the US military. (And, by the way, Canada fares better than the US on human and economic freedom scales in rankings by think tanks like the Freedom House and the conservative-leaning Cato and Fraser institutes. The US doesn’t even crack the top twenty! Hmmm, should Canada do the liberating?)

Yesterday, Tucker decided to invade Canada himself, an assault that primarily involved two Alberta speaking events: the one in Calgary headlined a discussion with Premier Danielle Smith in front of an audience of more than 4,000 people, and an Edmonton event, which reportedly had twice as many people. The second show, which I attended, had Premier Smith provide a glowing introduction of Tucker. The premier started with a few anti–renewable energy jokes (which got a big laugh from the nearly full stadium) and rants about the evils of cancel culture (big cheers) and woke politics (big cheers). Shortly after, enter Tucker (standing ovation).

His speech, which was followed by a discussion with Conrad Black and Jordan Peterson, was little more than a string of Trudeau jokes, misleading assertions about Canada’s medical assistance in dying policy, and attacks on trans identity as a movement to “ritually humiliate you.” Throughout the event, there were frequent references to the importance of truth: “These are the stakes, this is the truth, I’m going to stand on the truth.” Coming from a person who has built a career on twisting reality, it felt like satire.

Truth. That's what Carlson said was at stake. The truth is that Carlson is telling what Mark Twain called "damn'd lies."  These are manufactured for fools. What is surprising is how many fools there are -- particularly the number who know exactly what they are doing.

Image: Brian Cahn / ZUMA Press Wire / Alamy

Thursday, January 25, 2024

The Perfect Storm

We now have a perfect political storm. Susan Delacourt writes:

Two sharply divergent views of those convoy protests, two opposite rulings from judges. Not surprisingly, each side will now be able to claim vindication, as well as grievance.

That was evident in the immediate aftermath of the ruling by Federal Court Judge Richard Mosley on Tuesday, with Conservatives and convoy supporters claiming victory, while Trudeau’s government wasted no time in announcing it will appeal the decision all the way up to the Supreme Court of Canada if it must.

In short, those extraordinary weeks in early 2022, which so divided the country, continue to pitch politics into two, polar-opposite camps.

And The Right is having a field day:

No question, it is looking like a good week for the anti-Trudeau right, what with convoy supporters getting to run a victory lap, Conservatives getting to rail against Trudeau “breaking the law” and, in a bonus of timing, former Fox News darling Tucker Carlson arriving in Alberta to appear at a bash-the-Liberals event with Premier Danielle Smith.

“I’m going to go liberate Canada,” Carlson said in an interview with Politico as he was getting ready to board his plane.

Smith believes the Federal Court has handed her another way to bludgeon Trudeau’s Liberals in her mind-your-own-business crusade against Ottawa. In a post on X on Tuesday, Smith said: “Whether it’s today’s court decision, or their defeat on plastics or the Impact Assessment Act, it is clear the Trudeau Liberal government simply does not understand or respect the Constitution of Canada.”

But things are not that simple:

Convoy supporters, for instance — and all of those people who said this was just a spirited party with bouncy castles and hot tubs on Wellington Street, should take note of this blunt statement from Mosley: “I considered the events that occurred in Ottawa and other locations in January and February 2022 went beyond legitimate protest and reflected an unacceptable breakdown of public order.”

Mosley goes on to say that he might have made the same decision himself to invoke the emergency legislation. But he has two fundamental problems with how the government used the emergency law: one with the argument for using it, the other with the scope of it.

In politics, where everyone wants to choose their own opinions — and facts — these days, the only certain outcome of the Federal Court decision is new life into a two-year-old fight over those convoy protests. There is a middle to be found between the two judges’ rulings, between Rouleau and Mosley — but don’t expect to hear too much of that in the polarized political arena.

If the Ottawa police had acted earlier, things might have been different.

Oliver Wendall Holmes famously said that freedom of speech does not mean that you have the right to yell fire in a crowded theatre. These days, the wisdom of that position is forgotten. For that reason, I still side with the government.

Image: NBC News

Monday, January 22, 2024

It's Ugly

Politics has changed. Michael Harris writes:

Politics used to be a contest of ideas between parties with different visions of the country. At election time, that produced a winner and a good loser.

Now it is a Texas death-match of ideologies. The other side is no longer just an opponent, but an enemy, a traitor, or worse. No victor is legitimate, and there are no good losers.

Our public spaces are now battlefields where anything goes: kicking, biting, eye-gouging, and, of course, industrial-scale lying.

The first casualty of barroom brawl politics is any meaningful discussion of policy. In a way, cerebral politics is dead, as the Democrats are slowly coming to realize in the United States.

The King of Sting, Donald Trump, is largely responsible for this sea-change in the national political discourse.

Trump is supported by followers whose idea of advocacy is an ever more vulgar partisanship; the “Fuck Biden” crowd.

Like it or lump it, a convicted fraudster and also a rapist—according to one judge—is now drawing comparisons from his followers with Jesus.

Canada has also become the home of barroom politics:

The prime minister has personally borne the brunt of MAGA-style politics here in Canada.

Several of his public appearances have featured verbal assaults that sounded like Trump supporters berating Biden or Nancy Pelosi.

“Fuck Trudeau” signs now routinely appear at Trudeau’s events, and the PM was accused at one of them of being a “pedophile” by a low-life jackass shouting in his face. Another dud threw gravel at him.

The Conservative Party of Canada has adroitly mimicked in this country Trump’s “everything is broken” message. It is not accidental that Pierre Poilievre is the champion of simple and draconian policies.

High interest rates? Fire the head of the Bank of Canada. How to cut spending? Defund the CBC, and put thousands of Canadian journalists out of work. Media giving you a hard time? Vilify and lecture them. Inflation getting you down? Try crypto currency.

Remember, the Orange One is the champion of firing big wigs, defunding public institutions, and attacking the press as enemies of the people. Poilievre received his message loud and clear.

Idiocy has become a social disease.

Image: CP 24

Thursday, January 18, 2024

Trudeau And Trump

Justin Trudeau has made his feelings about a second Trump presidency pretty clear. Susan Delcourt writes:

On the one hand, it isn’t surprising that Trudeau would be open about his views on Trump, who came to office determined to tear up the North American Free Trade Agreement and make Canada a casualty of his fierce, America-first protectionist policies. Personally, Trump appeared to hold Trudeau in low regard, famously slamming him as “dishonest and weak” during a 2018 Twitter tantrum. Similarly, Trudeau’s tolerance of Trump seemed stretched at times; notably, he was caught on camera in late 2019 laughing at the president with other world leaders at a Buckingham Palace reception. 

As one of the longest-serving progressive leaders now on the world stage, Trudeau is one of the few who bears the battle scars of dealing with Trump, and he has spoken before of how he has had to explain to Biden how much America’s reputation changed during the stormy Trump years.

Trudeau also sees a domestic advantage to running against Trump:

However, a new poll from Abacus Data shows that Canadians are more ambivalent about Trump than they were eight years ago — and while not as polarized as Americans, more divided on party lines than they once were.

Abacus CEO David Coletto reports that in his latest survey of opinions about the U.S. election, not all Canadians — especially Conservatives — share Trudeau’s view that a Trump victory would be bad news.

Coletto writes that “66 per cent of Canadians favour Biden over Trump, with a notable divide among Conservative supporters — 57 per cent favouring Trump and 43 per cent Biden. On the other hand, overwhelming majorities of Liberals and NDP supporters prefer Biden. Strikingly, younger Canadians, particularly those under 30, show a higher inclination towards Trump compared to those over 60.”

The Trump lie has spread across the border.

Image: Evan Vucci/The Associated Press file photo

Monday, January 15, 2024

Ed Broadbent

Ed Broadbent died last week, Robin Sears writes:

That an unassuming working-class boy from Oshawa grew into a pivotal figure in Canadian life and an international statesman is a testament to Ed Broadbent’s skill and determination, but also to Canada. Ed was an unlikely, beloved Canadian political leader. Trained as an academic, he was recruited as a New Democratic Party candidate in 1968.

Broadbent’s great strength was that he straddled the two worlds of his blue-collar, auto-assembly home town of Oshawa — a.k.a. the Detroit of Canada — and his academic life in nearby Toronto, partly because he believed that if he could inhabit them both, they were not really divided. Not everyone agreed – he made his political champions in the United Auto Workers wince when, at his nomination meeting, he quoted C.W. Mills, a leading American sociologist, at length.

But that juxtaposition of political theory and its practical application — Broadbent’s intellectual residency in the Venn overlap between abstract principles and implementation — was what defined him as a politician. He didn’t care about winning for its own sake, he cared about winning for everyone else’s.

He was a politician much different than those who practice that art today:

Broadbent was a passionate man beneath his softer, smiling public demeanour. He cared deeply about the abuse of those not able to defend themselves on Canadian reserves, on Canadian streets, and internationally. He was an addicted cigar smoker until he had to quit; loved a glass of good wine and an evening of spirited discussion with friends. He loved jazz and fine art and travel. His private life was marked by deep loss, not once but twice he lost beloved partners. Married three times in total, with two children, he always picked himself up and moved on. Even in these last years of his life, he had found a new partner who brought him joy.

Broadbent cared less about winning and more about doing the right thing. His ilk is hard to find these days.

Image: Policy Magazine

Thursday, January 11, 2024

Champion Of The Press?

Pierre Poilievre is suggesting that Justin Trudeau is an enemy of the press. Max Fawcett writes:

Poilievre’s attempt to gaslight an entire country into believing he actually cares about things like journalistic integrity and free speech is about three bridges too far, given the obvious joy he has taken in smacking down organizations like The Canadian Press, the CBC, and other professional media outlets in the past. As freelance journalist Dale Smith noted, “This guy’s wannabe goons tried to have me removed from the press gallery for making a joke about how terrible one of his MP’s questions was, so I really don’t think he’s all that concerned about the free press.” Former Global News reporter Rachel Gilmore had a similar bone to pick. “You released an entire press release attacking me, a journalist, for asking you questions you didn’t like,” she tweeted.

Ironically, Poilievre’s own party had Menzies arrested on two separate occasions, once at a 2019 event when Andrew Scheer was leader and once when he tried to ask Melissa Lantsman — Poilievre’s current deputy leader — some loaded questions about her sexual orientation at a July 25, 2021 event. As Menzies said in his video of the incident, “What kind of political party has a reporter arrested and then steals their notebook and takes pictures of it? You think Justin Trudeau’s media party is bad? These are the guys who want to form the next government.”

And, indeed, the polls suggest that they will be the next government. They are raising money on that lie:

It should surprise exactly nobody that there’s already a fundraiser underway over at the Rebel. This is what they do. But it should be a little more alarming to see the Conservative Party of Canada doing essentially the same thing. “Freedom of the press is being buried by the Trudeau government and state-controlled media,” their email says. “Trudeau has divided the media into two camps: those he has bought off with bailouts and those he has censored and arrested. This is a dangerous trend.”

As I have suggested before, these days there is a bull market in lies.

Image: The Tyee

Monday, January 08, 2024

A Wider War


Things are spinning out of control in the Middle East. Michael Harris writes:

Events unfolding in the Middle East are showing just how right Canada was to call for a ceasefire in the atrocious Gaza War.

The nightmare scenario—an all-out regional conflict involving Yemen, Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and potentially Iran on one side, with Israel and the United States on the other—is no longer a long shot.  

After the recent assassination of a senior Hamas member in Beirut, the leader of Hezbollah, Hasan Nazralla, has called for vengeance against Israel.  

Nazralla said his group is not afraid of war, and there would be no ceiling to the fighting if it begins.  Israel did not give the U.S. advance notice before carrying out the assassination of Saleh Arouri. 

Meanwhile in Iran, a car-bomb killed at least 84 people in the city of Kerman, which is the burial site of slain Iranian military commander Qasem Soleimani.  

Iran’s leader said Israel will face “harsh punishment” for the bombing and deaths, the worst in the country since the 1979 Islamic Revolution. The Israeli Defense Forces told CNN: “No comment.”

The war will continue as long as the United States supports Israel. And is real will keep fighting until the Israelis toss out Netanyahu.

All this will take time. In the meanwhile, a pause in the fighting is the only way to bring a little sanity to this nightmare.

Image: NBC News

Friday, January 05, 2024

He's Here

Everything that develops in the United states eventually crosses our border. So it is that we now have our own version of Donald Trump. Max Fawcett writes:

It’s not surprising then, that nearly a decade after Donald Trump’s entry into public life, we now have a Canadian Conservative leader who trades in the same trademark combination of bombast, belligerence, and bullshit. No, Pierre Poilievre isn’t the second coming of Donald Trump, but he keeps hitting some unmistakably Trumpy notes.

His contempt for the mainstream media, of course, is entirely in keeping with Trump’s. So too is his obvious disdain for expertise and the well-educated. And the rallies where he praises the virtues of the “common people”, and talks about all the ways in which they’re getting screwed over by elites? Textbook Trumpism.

Like the former and potential next American president, he’s also turning the party he leads into a projection of his own ego. Case in point: it recently asked members to help pick the new design of its membership cards. Their choices? Three different images of Poilievre. As someone on Twitter said, “if I wanted to be part of a cult of personality, I’d still be a Liberal.”

But perhaps the most striking similarity between Poilievre and Trump is their ability to bend long standing members of their party to their will — and away from their own apparent ideas and ideals. Take Michael Chong, the Member of Parliament for Wellington-Halton Hills and a longtime darling of Canada’s dwindling community of red Tories. First elected to Parliament in his early 30s, Chong stood out from his peers almost immediately both for his decency and keen mind for foreign policy. He served as Stephen Harper’s Minister of Intergovernmental affairs and Minister of Sport. Even after the CPC defeat in 2015 he seemed poised for much bigger things down the road.

But there are some differences between Poilievre and Trump:

While Trump doesn’t seem to consistently believe in anything other than his own right to profit and pleasure, Poilievre has the rigidly defined worldview of a lifelong conservative operative. Nowhere is that more obvious, or more telling, than in Poilievre’s approach to the Trudeau government’s signature policy. Skepticism towards carbon pricing has long been an article of partisan faith among Conservatives, but Poilievre has elevated it to a commandment that appears to override all others.

Take the CPC’s bizarre position on the modernization of a free trade deal with Ukraine, it opposed repeatedly on the basis that it contained language promoting carbon pricing. Never mind that Ukraine already has a modest price on carbon, or that it’s one it will need to significantly strengthen as it prepares to join the European Union. As an official spokesperson for the Ukrainian embassy noted in a statement, the deal “does not include any specific instruments on decreasing carbon footprint, including specific taxation instruments.”

Still, Poilievre's rise is deeply troubling. According to the polls, he'll be our next prime minister. God help us!

Image: The National Observer

Tuesday, January 02, 2024

Did They Get The Memo?

Paul Krugman writes that the news is remarkably good:

You may have heard about the good economic news. Labor force participation — the share of adults in today’s work force — is actually slightly higher than the Congressional Budget Office predicted before the pandemic. Measures of underlying inflation have fallen more or less back to the Federal Reserve’s 2 percent target even though unemployment is near a 50-year low. Adjusted for inflation, most workers’ wages have gone up.

For some reason I’ve heard less about the crime news, but it’s also remarkably good. F.B.I. data shows that violent crime has subsided: It’s already back to 2019 levels and appears to be falling further. Homicides probably aren’t quite back to 2019 levels, but they’re plummeting.

Overall both our economy and our society are in far better shape at this point than most people would have predicted in the early days of the pandemic — or than most Americans are willing to admit.

For if America’s resilience in the face of the pandemic shock has been remarkable, so has the pessimism of the public.

So why hasn't the public got the memo?

As Mark Twain wrote, "A little lie can travel half way 'round the world while Truth is still lacing up her boots."

These days there is a bull market in lies.