Thursday, March 28, 2024

Lies Can Get You A Long Way

Pierre Poilievre keeps repeating a lie. Bruce Arthur writes:

The top issue facing Canadians right now, if you ask Canadians, is affordability. Inflation rose, and is falling to a new, higher floor. Housing costs are the end of the fuse on a time bomb. It's tough out there for a lot of people. Look around.

So governments must find solutions, or at least be seen to try, and the number one topic has somehow become the carbon tax. Axe the tax, the opposing Conservatives say. They say "Trudeau's carbon tax has forced Canadians to choose between heating their home and putting food on the table." Which, uh, isn’t true.

Nevertheless, the Conservatives have hammered this message. In Ontario, Premier Doug Ford has also linked it to affordability, and Liberal Leader Bonnie Crombie has run from the idea of a carbon tax in response. Several provinces are opposing the April 1 increase, and the PM is firing back. (Rebates rise with the price, though in fairness, paying up front and having to wait for your money back in April can pinch, in harder times.)

But Pierre Poilievre's party is driving this exhaust-spewing bus. Affordability. Axe the tax. It's largely opportunistic nonsense, unfortunately.

Lots of people who understand the problem have popped that balloon:

"That (idea) that the Conservatives are fighting for the working class on this: I mean, you're not,” says Andrew Leach, a professor of law and economics, and the co-director of the Institute for Public Economics at the University of Alberta. "You're fighting for the people who have a material benefit from the removal of carbon pricing, which are people above that 70 per cent or 80 per cent income line. For the middle, it's a rounding error. To the bottom, (removing the carbon tax) is a big loss.

"And they're getting away with saying we're doing this for the poor. And it's insanity."

One professor? Pfft, you might say. We can find economics professors who say the carbon tax isn't worth the cost, and who write op-eds whose argument boils down to, uh, CO2 is good for plants.

Well, what about more than 200 Canadian economists? Because that's how many signed a letter this week addressing the main arguments against carbon pricing. That it doesn't affect emissions, for instance. (It does, according to at least two reports, at a lower cost than alternative approaches.) The letter also counters the arguments that the tax drives up the cost of living as a big factor in inflation, that it doesn't make sense to offer both carbon pricing and rebates, that it harms Canadian business competitiveness, and that carbon pricing isn't necessary at all.

The letter reads, "Healthy public debate is good, but it should be based on sound evidence and facts."

"Any attempt to reduce greenhouse gas emissions is going to reduce economic activity," says Stephen Gordon of the Université de Laval, who, like Leach, is a signatory. "The thing about the carbon tax is it has the least bad effect on economic activity."

What Poilievre is selling is a lie. But lies will get you a long way these days.

Image: Steve Russell/Toronto Star

Monday, March 25, 2024

A Contrary View

If the polls are to be believed, we are headed for a Conservative juggernaut. Susan Riley isn't so sure:

Lurking somewhere between despair and denial, you can spot tiny glimmers of hope for non-Conservative voters in this country—in what is, admittedly, an otherwise dire and discouraging political landscape. These glimmers may not shine brightly enough yet to stop the righteous armies of vengeance, the daily cavalcade of distortion and insult, the seemingly inevitable decline of a well-meaning—but flawed—prime minister, who has outstayed his welcome.

But, if everyone gives up, we may as well hand over the keys to Rideau Cottage immediately—and resign ourselves to accelerating climate chaos and increasing economic inequality. 

She cautions that we should look outside Ottawa:

The election of Wab Kinew, the first modern-day Indigenous premier of Manitoba, signals a welcome departure from the usual fed-prov scenario: premiers fighting Ottawa over every bland federal attempt at helping their citizens. In his first months, the new NDP premier has cheerfully accepted $664-million in federal money for health care, and also welcomed the recent federal mini-pharmacare plan.

And, while Kinew has not defended the federal carbon tax—and the controversial three-cent-per-litre hike coming next month—he has not trashed it, or the prime minister, like some of his provincial counterparts have. Instead, he has talked about devising a made-in-Manitoba climate plan, and, in the meantime—in the name of affordability—dropped the 14 cent provincial tax on gasoline and frozen electricity rates. 

There are promising rumbles coming from Atlantic Canada, too. New Brunswick Liberals have an energetic, articulate and bilingual new leader in Susan Holt, a mid-40s businesswoman from Fredericton. Since assuming the leadership last year, Holt has been travelling the province, meeting with health-care workers, new candidates and municipal officials—and posting her adventures on X. 

Her main focus is affordability, protecting the province’s bilingual status, and fixing the lamentably inadequate health care system. Like other provincial leaders, she is calling for a pause on the April 1 carbon tax hike; she also proposes cancelling a clean fuel tax and the provincial tax on electricity bills. While hardly the actions of a climate leader, Holt promises a New Brunswick environmental plan, and, unlike Premier Higgs, to date hasn’t joined Poilievre’s Axe the Tax rallies. (The truth is that most New Brunswick families now receive more than they pay on fuel taxes through the federal carbon tax rebate— a reality that prompted the province to drop its own tax and embrace the federal system last year.)

Meanwhile, Higgs, arguably the grumpiest of premiers, kick-started a specious campaign against trans kids last year, under the guise of protecting parental rights. While his position plays well to right-wing sentiment in the province, it provoked an open rebellion in his caucus and reportedly irritated pragmatic New Brunswickers more concerned with the cost of living that esoteric moral crusades.

According to one recent poll, Higgs’ Conservatives are now trailing the Liberals 34 to 40 per cent, and Holt is the preferred choice as premier among 31 per cent of those polled, compared to 25 per cent for Higgs. If those soundings hold until the October provincial election, Higgs could be off to involuntary retirement with the electoral map of eastern Canada changed once again.

And then there is Alberta:

Arguably, more impactful changes are looming in Alberta, with a competitive race to succeed retiring provincial NDP leader Rachel Notley. Along with four certifiably-sane former Notley cabinet ministers (all women), a prominent provincial labour leader and former Calgary mayor, Naheed Nenshi, have entered the race.

The fact that Nenshi, an avowed non-partisan as mayor, is joining the NDP makes him either an interloper and opportunist, or—for some progressive voters—evidence of the party’s potential to reach beyond its base and regain power. That said, Alberta Premier Danielle Smith has proven to be a wily operator, a skilled communicator and an attentive servant of her right-wing rural base. Despite her widely unpopular campaign to quit the Canada Pension Plan, her push for a provincially-financed police force to replace the RCMP, and her apparent hostility to clean tech investors, her UPC party continues to lead the NDP by around 7 points in most polls.

According to early intelligence, Nenshi, more than the other candidates, could challenge that lead. Under his leadership, the NDP would likely become an even more pragmatic, centrist party, that could sever ties with the unpopular federal NDP—or leave it to party members to join one, or both, branches of the party. A Nenshi victory could also open the door to genuine federal-provincial co-operation on climate change, instead of serving—as Smith’s government does—as an unpaid cheerleader for the booming fossil fuel sector. 

We'll see what the future holds.

Image: Psychology Today

Saturday, March 23, 2024

Wisdom That Will Be Missed

On the day of Brian Mulroney's state funeral, Catherine McKenna writes that Brian Mulroney was wise in a way that today's Conservatives aren't:

In 1987, U.S. president Ronald Reagan and prime minister Brian Mulroney stood side by side to announce the Montreal Protocol, one of the world’s most successful treaties, which would cut the use of ozone-destroying chlorofluorocarbons. Four years later, Mulroney would stand next to Reagan’s successor, president George H.W. Bush, to announce the Canada-United States Air Quality Agreement, which would dramatically reduce the toxic air pollution that was causing acid rain.

In each instance, scientists had sounded the alarm, environmentalists had taken up the cause and public concern in Canada was growing. Satellite images showed a gaping wound in the ozone layer over the Antarctic. Rivers and lakes many hundreds of kilometres from any factory had died from acidification.

What happened next changed everything: conservative leaders listened and then they led.

It wasn't easy. Big Money complained loudly. And there were Ronald Reagan, Margaret Thatcher and George Bush to be dealt with:

Well-funded industry lobbyists denied the science, and Mulroney had to cajole his American counterparts more than once, reminding them of the cost of inaction. The result was two agreements, based on science, that were smart for both the environment and the economy. According to Reagan’s secretary of state, George Shultz, the president saw the Montreal Protocol as an insurance policy. To him, it wasn’t ideological. It was prudent.

How did they do it? True to their conservatism and belief in free markets, Mulroney and Bush used the market to tackle acid rain: a cap-and-trade system in the U.S. coupled with targets and regulations in Canada. It proved far cheaper and worked much faster than almost anyone expected.

But it was Shultz, whom I met several times, who persuasively argued for the most conservative approach of all. He believed that to be effective and publicly accepted, carbon pricing should be revenue neutral, with all the money transparently refunded to people. Ironically, it was conservatives who helped me as we designed the basic principles for what would be a signature policy of our Liberal government.

All of this was 180 degrees from today's Conservatives:

None of this draws a flattering comparison to today’s conservatives. Pierre Poilievre, Doug Ford, Scott Moe and Danielle Smith profess to love markets but fight tooth and nail to sabotage carbon pricing — one of the most effective mechanisms that their predecessors devised to protect the planet. Rather than fight for the planet, they fight climate action.

They disregard not only science but Canada’s future competitiveness by ignoring the trillion-dollar opportunity of the clean transition, penalizing renewable energy in favour of oil and gas, and refusing to build the industries of tomorrow. It would be comical if it wasn’t so consequential.

Today's Conservatives can be counted among the Fatally Stupid.


Wednesday, March 20, 2024

The Carbon Tax: In Memorium

Max Fawcett writes that the carbon tax is dead:

How did the Trudeau government’s signature climate policy turn into a political albatross? As Ernest Hemingway might say: gradually, then suddenly.

Pierre Poilievre’s pledge to “axe the tax” has helped him open up an increasingly massive lead in the polls, while almost every provincial premier — including the last remaining Liberal one, Newfoundland’s Andrew Furey — is now calling for the carbon tax to be paused. Even progressive heavyweights and potential future premiers like Ontario Liberal Leader Bonnie Crombie and Alberta NDP leadership contender Rakhi Pancholi have announced climate plans that don’t include a consumer carbon tax, presumably guided by the assumption that the federal carbon tax won’t be around much longer. If the Trudeau Liberals don’t cut this increasingly heavy political anchor loose, it’s going to drag them even further underwater.

That ground is now lost. Continuing to wax rhapsodic about the intellectual virtues of carbon pricing isn’t going to help the Liberals recover any of it. Neither will trying to point out the hypocrisy in the Conservative attacks on it and their implicit preference for regulations, as Prime Minister Justin Trudeau did recently. Instead, it’s time for a full strategic retreat — ironically, to the very political territory Trudeau was accusing the Conservatives of occupying.

Pierre Poilievre will continue to crow. But that doesn't mean that climate policy is dead. Trudeau can:

scrap the consumer portion of the carbon tax and focus instead on the programs and incentives that can help consumers reduce their emissions. It should maintain the industrial carbon tax and proceed with policies like the oil and gas sector emissions cap and clean electricity regulations that put the onus on heavy emitters. It should invite Poilievre and the conservative premiers backing him to protect the oil and gas industry from paying for its pollution. And it should challenge the Conservative Party of Canada to finally come up with its own plan that goes beyond mere slogans and achieves some measure of substance.

He can tie Poilievre’s CPC to Danielle Smith and Scott Moe and use their ongoing fealty to oil and gas industry executives and hostility towards climate policy and clean energy as a different kind of political anchor. And he can deprive Poilievre of his favourite political weapon and dull his broader attack around affordability issues.

If he has one last trick in his political bag that can fundamentally change the political mood the way his pledge to run deficits did in 2015, this is probably it. Kill the carbon tax and live to fight another day. If he plays this card right, Canadians might still get the climate change election we deserve — and his party desperately needs — in 2025.

But don't count on it. We live in an age that has been marked by the rise of the Fatally Stupid.

Image: VOCM

Monday, March 18, 2024

No Bosom Buddies

You might think that, if Pierre Poilievre becomes prime minister, Doug Ford would be ecstatic. Martin Regg Cohn writes that such is not the case:

By rights, these two right-wingers should be soul mates.

Yet they are anything but.

Premier Doug Ford and federal Opposition Leader Pierre Poilievre barely know each other. Nor are they in a hurry to get better acquainted.

They have no private conversations to speak of. Nor any public interactions to take stock of.

Helming the Progressive Conservative government at Queen’s Park, Ford is Canada’s most powerful Tory. As leader of the federal Conservatives, Poilievre is putatively Canada’s prime minister in waiting.

By tradition, these two top Tories should be as one. Yet it is hard to fathom two fellow travellers moving in such different directions — keeping their political distance when in close proximity.

What evidence is there that Poilievre and Ford are not bosom buddies?

The best evidence of that avoidance came last weekend, when Poilievre convened a mass political rally in Ford’s home riding of Etobicoke North. Poilievre’s call went out to all true believers to stand together against the federal carbon tax, but Ford sent word out to caucus that he'd sit it out.

Despite their shared antipathy to taxes and hostility to government meddling, they clearly feel no mutual felicity. In truth, they have no time for each other, never having attempted a meeting of minds in the 18 months since Poilievre became federal party leader and the six years since Ford took over the provincial Tories.

What’s keeping these two conservatives so far apart? Why can’t they be friends and allies, if not comrades-in-arms?

From talking to those in the know, it’s apparent that the differences are as much personal as political, more stylistic than substantive.

Poilievre is a lifetime politician who never went to charm school. Ford had a life before politics, capable of turning on the charm to make a sale for the family business.

Where Poilievre is constantly chippy, Ford is alternately chipper to get his way. Where the federal leader is cantankerous, the premier can be gregarious when the mood moves him.

While Poilievre disdains Ottawa, he embodies the bubble of the federal capital — right down to the riding he represents. By contrast, Ford projects an everyman persona, cultivating the salty language of working folks while downplaying his privileged upbringing.

But there is a bigger divide:

Canada’s Conservatives are anchored in Western regional alienation, oblivious to the instinct for accommodation in Ontario. As premier, Ford is more mindful of the province’s propensity for centrism and compromise, no matter his initial impulse for conflict and upheaval.

Paradoxically, the premier sees his true counterpart as Liberal Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. While the two leaders are far from soul mates, they are at least simpatico — breezily cutting cheques and cutting ribbons for new factories or shared programs.

We'll see what the future holds.

Image: Toronto Sun

Thursday, March 14, 2024

The Bond Is Breaking

David Ignatius writes that the relationship between Joe Biden and Benjamin Netanyahu is pretty tense:

As the war in Gaza grinds on, President Biden and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu are locked in a public quarrel about military strategy, political leadership and even casualty numbers. Like past disputes in the relationship, this one will probably be resolved short of an open break — but it’s a tense moment.

The most visible disagreement has been about Netanyahu’s plan to attack Hamas’s remaining stronghold in Rafah along Gaza’s southern border with Egypt. Netanyahu and a broad range of other Israeli officials believe that destroying the four Hamas battalions there, with about 3,000 fighters, is essential to break its military control in the territory.

Biden said in an interview with MSNBC this past weekend that Rafah was a “red line,” but it wasn’t clear just what that meant. Last month, Biden said Israel shouldn’t attack Rafah until it had a “credible and executable plan for ensuring the safety” of more than 1 million Palestinian refugees who have been driven there by the fighting, according to a White House summary of the conversation. Administration officials say they still haven’t seen such a plan.

“We’ll go there,” Netanyahu shot back on Sunday, adding: “You know, I have a red line. You know what the red line is? That October 7 doesn’t happen again. Never happens again.” A senior Israeli official underlined that position in an interview on Wednesday. “If the administration says, ‘Never do Rafah,’ that won’t work. … You can’t do 80 percent of the job.”

But it will happen again. That's the history of the Israel and Palestine. And, now, the Netanyahu coalition is falling apart:

A deeper disagreement is about whether Netanyahu and his right-wing government really have united the country behind a clear endgame for the conflict. U.S. intelligence analysts were openly skeptical of Netanyahu’s leadership prospects in their annual threat assessment, delivered to Congress this week.

“Netanyahu’s viability as a leader as well as his governing coalition of far-right and ultraorthodox parties that pursued hardline policies on Palestinian and security issues may be in jeopardy,” the threat assessment noted. “Distrust of Netanyahu’s ability to rule has deepened and broadened. … A different, more moderate government is a possibility.”

That’s unusually blunt language for a public intelligence report, and Israeli officials protested what they saw as an effort to meddle in Israeli internal politics by, in effect, “weaponizing” the intelligence reporting. Netanyahu’s team was already peeved about what it saw as an attempt by Vice President Harris to drive a wedge into Israeli politics when she said on CBS News on Sunday: “It’s important to distinguish and to not conflate the Israeli government with the Israeli people.”

An important distinction to keep in mind.

Image: The NewArab

Monday, March 11, 2024

The War In Gaza

Protests against the war in Gaza are growing. Michael Harris writes:

Political leaders who can no longer hear the people are usually on their way to defeat.

That is one of the takeaways from the recently cancelled event featuring Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and visiting Italian Prime Minister Georgia Meloni in Toronto. 

A crowd of 400 protesters against the Gaza War—passionate and fractious—blocked the entrances to the Ontario Art Gallery. The prime minister was called “Genocide Justin” and a “liar.” Attendees were stopped from entering the building. 

Trudeau cabinet minister Ahmed Hussen hoofed it for two blocks trying to find an unblocked entrance to the venue. He could have saved the shoe leather. Even though the police said they could provide secure access to the art gallery, the prime minister’s staff decided not to proceed. 

Liberal MP Marco Mendicino expressed his view of the protesters in no uncertain terms: “You break the law, you should be arrested, charged, and prosecuted. … These thugs think they scored a victory last night, but all they did was lose public support, and embarrass themselves. Time for the madness to stop.”

Indeed. What the MP totally missed is that’s why the protesters were there in the first place: to stop the madness. It is not madness to protest the mass slaughter of 30,000 Palestinians in a war of misguided retribution. And there is the prospect of even greater casualties to come if a ceasefire and hostage agreement can’t be worked out before Ramadan. 

Trudeau's -- and the world's -- problem is how to deal with Benjamin Netanyahu:

In that case, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has already committed to an Israel Defense Forces (IDF) invasion of Rafah. The fate of a million and a half civilians sheltering there in dreadful conditions hangs in the balance. 

The overwhelming majority of those killed were not Hamas fighters. U.S. Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin was asked during congressional hearings how many women and children have been killed in the conflict. “It is over 25,000,” he replied. The Pentagon disputed that number, saying they could not confirm it. 

So far, the Trudeau government has played the moral lightweight in this ongoing humanitarian catastrophe. The prime minister did belatedly call for a ceasefire, and for that he deserves some credit. 

But there has been no follow through from Trudeau, no public pressure on Netanyahu to call off the dogs of war. Once again, Trudeau practising the uninspiring art of political gesturing. 

And that is what has enraged ordinary people around the world: the lackadaisical approach by so many governments to a humanitarian disaster so dire that it requires deeds—not words—to stop the wanton death and destruction. 

Until Trudeau -- and other world leaders -- get deadly serious with Netanyahu, the war will continue.

Image: The National Post

Friday, March 08, 2024

Caveat Emptor

Groucho Marx used to quip, "Who you gonna believe -- me or your own eyes?" These days, believing what you see with your own eyes can be problematic. Consider this story from The Associated Press:

WASHINGTON (AP) — At first glance, images circulating online showing former President Donald Trump surrounded by groups of Black people smiling and laughing seem nothing out of the ordinary, but a look closer is telling.

Odd lighting and too−perfect details provide clues to the fact they were all generated using artificial intelligence. The photos, which have not been linked to the Trump campaign, emerged as Trump seeks to win over Black voters who polls show remain loyal to President Joe Biden.

The fabricated images, highlighted in a recent BBC investigation, provide further evidence to support warnings that the use of AI−generated imagery will only increase as the November general election approaches. Experts said they highlight the danger that any group — Latinos, women, older male voters — could be targeted with lifelike images meant to mislead and confuse as well as demonstrate the need for regulation around the technology.

In a report published this week, researchers at the nonprofit Center for Countering Digital Hate used several popular AI programs to show how easy it is to create realistic deepfakes that can fool voters. The researchers were able to generate images of Trump meeting with Russian operatives, Biden stuffing a ballot box and armed militia members at polling places, even though many of these AI programs say they have rules to prohibit this kind of content.

The center analyzed some of the recent deepfakes of Trump and Black voters and determined that at least one was originally created as satire but was now being shared by Trump supporters as evidence of his support among Blacks.

Another reminder of something that has always been true: What really matters is the sources we choose for our information.

Image: The Daily Beast

Tuesday, March 05, 2024

Easy Marks

Millennials, we're told, are shifting their votes to Pierre Poilievre. Max Fawcett writes that Poilievre is playing them for fools:

Credit where it’s due: Pierre Poilievre has talked a good game about housing ever since he was elected leader of the Conservative Party of Canada. Sure, he keeps fibbing about being the Harper government’s housing minister (no such role existed) and continues to pretend the problem magically started when the Trudeau Liberals were elected, but he’s effectively drawn attention to an issue that’s been overlooked for too long. The huge surge in Conservative support among millennial voters, who now outnumber baby boomers, helps explain why his party is so far ahead in recent polls.

Housing-hungry millennials might want to look a little more closely at what he’s actually saying about the issue, though. Yes, Poilievre has been very good at feeling their pain and harnessing it to his own political ambitions. But if anyone’s expecting him to heal it as prime minister, his recent behaviour suggests they’re setting themselves up for some pretty major disappointment.

It's wise to concentrate on what Poilievre does and not on what he says:

He has, for example, decided to make an enemy out of NDP Premier David Eby, who he recently suggested has “probably the worst housing record of any politician on Earth.” Eby, of course, has been premier of British Columbia for just over a year now. In that time, he’s transformed the housing market in his province, implementing a raft of hugely ambitious and aggressive reforms that target everything from short-term rentals and restrictive local zoning bylaws to design-oriented regulations that can unlock more supply. Leo Spalteholz, a pro-supply housing activist in B.C., described the changes as “transformational.”

Poilievre is apparently counting on Canadians to ignore that progress or the context in which it’s taken place. “Look at the prices,” he said in a video that was clipped and shared by Canada Proud. “Vancouver is now the third most expensive housing market in the world, comparing median income to median house prices. Check it on for yourself.”

Well, I did. Despite the dead link Poilievre tried to direct people to — it’s — the data doesn’t tell the story he might like to pretend. Back in 2015, for example, Demographia’s annual study of housing affordability revealed that Vancouver was the second most expensive city in the world on those same criteria. Maybe, just maybe, it’s about something other than Justin Trudeau and Eby.

Curiously, while Poilievre is happy to blame Eby for the high housing prices that long predate his entry into provincial politics, he’s conspicuously silent about Ontario Premier Doug Ford’s track record. Prices and rents there have soared since his Progressive Conservatives took power in 2018, and most of his government’s legislative efforts on this file have revolved around trying to enrich Ford-friendly developers and exacerbate the province’s existing problems with sprawl. The Ontario PCs have repeatedly ignored the recommendations of their own Housing Affordability Task Force and in some cases, actively opposed them.

As a result, while housing starts were up 11 per cent in Eby’s B.C. in 2023, they dropped 36 per cent in Ford’s Ontario. As The Hub’s Steve Lafleur noted, federal Housing Minister Sean Fraser has been leading the charge for better housing policies in Ontario. “He’s getting municipal governments to make tough reforms the premier hasn’t thus far been willing to impose. Indeed, many of these reforms are straight out of the Housing Affordability Task Force report. The premier doesn’t have to drive the bus, but he really shouldn’t stand in front of it.”

As a New York City official once said of Donald Trump, "I wouldn't believe a word he says -- even if his tongue were notarized."

Image: DiJones

Saturday, March 02, 2024

Brian Mulroney


I never voted for Brian Mulroney. The Neo-Conservative Era -- which he ushered in with Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan -- to me always seemed wrong-headed. I agreed with John Kenneth Galbraith. "Trickle Down," he said, "is what comes out of the back end of a cow." 

That said, Mulroney accomplished some remarkable things. He helped end Apartheid in South Africa. The Montreal Protocol, which put an end to acid rain, was a world-changing agreement. And he had the eminent good sense to appoint Stephen Lewis as Canada's ambassador to the U.N.

For those of us who have Irish blood in our veins, the blarney was easy to spot. And for those of us who grew up in the Two Solitudes, Mulroney's attempt to bridge the gulf between the two was easy to support. Meech Lake failed. Bridging those differences remains Canada's essential problem.

Mulroney -- like all of us -- was a flawed human being. But history will be kind to him. May he rest in peace.

Image: Times Colonist