Friday, May 31, 2024



Yesterday, the law finally caught up with Donald Trump. Dana Milbank writes:

After the jury convicted him Thursday evening on 34 felony counts in the hush money case, he stood in the dingy green hallway on the 15th floor of the Manhattan Criminal Courthouse, huddling at length with his lawyers and aides.

Reporters who had been penned in the hallway all day waiting for him to appear called out questions to get a rise out of him:

How does it feel to be a convicted felon?”

“Are you worried about going to jail?”

The former president lumbered around the metal barricades with downcast eyes, then said … not much.

What he did say was his usual, tiresome litany:

“This was a disgrace. This was a rigged trial,” he said.

“It’s a rigged trial, a disgrace,” he added seconds later.

“This was a rigged, disgraceful trial,” he said, a third time.

Furthermore, he said, “our whole country is being rigged” and “it’s just a disgrace.”

This was not the trial that carried the most severe consequences. Trump's enablers are working overtime to put those off. But this was the trial that exposed Trump as the bottom feeder he has always been -- and as the stupidest man who has ever been elected president.

If Americans re-elect him, they are truly the stupidest people on the planet.

Image: ABC News

Monday, May 27, 2024

The Trumpification of Language


Donald Trump is a vulgarian. Nowhere is this more apparent than in his use of language. Michael Harris writes:

Language is the basis of how societies mediate differences of opinion. The give and take of sweet reason that produces compromise comes in words.  

Language is the foundation of diplomacy, that, to paraphrase the late British prime minister Winston Churchill, substitutes words, words, words for war, war, war.

Words are the magic ingredients of books that give delight and breathe life into culture. In the hands of masters like Alice Munro, Margaret Atwood, Timothy Findley, and Farley Mowat, they offer glimpses into worlds we would otherwise never see.

But these days it is not the language of reason or culture that dominates the national conversation. Everywhere you turn, you hear the angry, implacable, language of intolerance. That matters. The degradation of language is the degradation of society.

Trump hasn't just affected the language Americans use. He's affected our language as well:

During the “Freedom Convoy,” Canadians got a good look at the new vulgarity that is fast becoming the signature across so much of our politics.  

It is one thing to protest a particular government policy. That is a treasured right in any democracy. But carrying “Fuck Trudeau” signs has nothing to do with airing grievances. It is about promoting hate.  

Gumming up the national capital for three weeks, upending the lives of thousands of people in the process, is not protest. It is pandemonium.  

And when a national political leader takes doughnuts to the very people who wanted to change the government without the bother of an election, it endorses and reinforces the politics of confrontation and intimidation. It guarantees more “Fuck Trudeau” signs, more gravel-throwing, and who knows what else.     

Nor did Pierre Poilievre enhance his image as a statesman when he recently called the prime minister “wacko.” That language got him tossed out of the House of Commons, and forced a later apology. “Wacko”, by the way, is one of Donald Trump’s favourite pejoratives when he attacks his opponents. Just name-calling you say? Childish, but no big deal? Think again. 

It's not just that the language is vulgar. It has consequences:

A case in point. Trump and the GOP’s merciless verbal abuse of former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi sent a deranged, hammer-wielding, Pelosi-hater into the politician’s San Francisco home. When the attacker found out that the former Speaker was in Washington, D.C., he fractured the skull of Pelosi’s husband of 60 years, Paul Pelosi.

Intolerance, with violent overtones, has shown up in the strangest of places: American libraries. Language is at the centre of this unlikely development.  

It began with a very old story—the effort by some to segregate or remove books with “offensive” or “obscene” content from public libraries. That means anything dealing with sex or gender issues. Viewing culture through that horrible moral squint is what got To Kill a Mockingbird pulled from the curriculum by a British Columbia school board. As the saying goes: great books read you, you don’t read them.

“We had people threatening to burn down our building,” librarian Maegan Hanson said in an interview. The librarians think that the threats will only get worse now that Idaho Governor Brad Little has signed library content restrictions into law. The intolerance is increasingly becoming official.

Our salvation lies in not imitating him.


Saturday, May 25, 2024

Merrily We Go To Hell

Linda McQuaig writes that Canada is still in the grip of Big Oil:

The opening of the Trans Mountain Pipeline expansion this month — widely celebrated in the media — reminds us that Canada is still very much in the grip of Big Oil.

That $34 billion expansion was financed by Ottawa and it amounts to a massive public subsidy for the oil industry — at a time when we should urgently be financing renewable energy, not fossil fuels.

The renowned U.S. climatologist James Hansen famously said the oilsands were such a “dirty, carbon-intensive” oil that if they were to be fully exploited, it would be “game over” for the planet.

We have been warned. Each summer brings more and more devastating forest fires -- While the cost of renewable energy plummets:

Renewables keep getting cheaper. The price of solar power has plunged by 90 per cent, yet Big Oil remains dominant.

That’s because, with its long-established monopoly and extensive government support, Big Oil is far more profitable — and therefore more attractive — to major financial investors than the struggling, competitive firms that make up the budding renewable sector, notes Brett Christophers, a political economist at Uppsala University in Sweden.

Governments must become a lot more involved and they have to switch their loyalty from Big Oil to renewables.

Over the past four years, Ottawa has provided $65 billion in financial support for oil and gas, but only a fraction as much for renewable energy. Its main program for subsidizing renewables provides less than $1 billion a year, says Julia Levin, an associate director with Environmental Defence.

Now Ottawa is planning to spend $10 billion, possibly much more, subsidizing Big Oil’s futile but costly efforts to reduce its carbon emissions through “carbon capture and storage” — despite ample evidence the technology is highly ineffective at reducing such emissions.

This enables Big Oil to pretend it’s serious about reducing emissions, lulling Canadians into believing we’re making progress on climate, when we’re really just spinning our wheels and wasting a lot of public money in the process.

We keep pretending as merrily we go to hell.

Image: Green Queen

Tuesday, May 21, 2024

Abortion And A Rogue Supreme Court

In the United States, abortion will be on the ballot this year. Jennifer Rubin argues that the Supreme Court should also be on the ballot:

This year, abortion remains a powerful issue for Democrats. And the focus on abortion might also make the Supreme Court itself a top issue for Democrats in a presidential campaign for the first time in a generation. The radical Supreme Court that reversed Roe v. Wade is increasingly unpopular and scandal-ridden.

The importance of abortion — and, in turn, the Supreme Court responsible for overturning Roe in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization — marks a dramatic shift in the political landscape. In election after election going back to the early 1980s, Republicans used the Supreme Court to gin up their voters on a variety of issues, but especially on abortion. Democrats never really expected abortion access to disappear, so their presidential nominees did not rely as much on the Supreme Court to turn out their base. Now the tables are turned, at the very time the court has made a spectacle of itself.

Angst over the Supreme Court’s serial ethical blunders remind Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents that the problem is not just abortion but the court itself. Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. — who authored Dobbs and also committed arguably the worst ethical lapse on the court in memory — helps connect the dots for voters.

The court is clearly out of step with American voters:

This month, NPR reported on a Public Religion Research Institute poll showing that abortion rights remain extremely popular in the United States. “Nationwide, 64% percent of voters said abortion should be always or mostly legal; 35% said it should be always or mostly illegal. In most states — including states with Republican-controlled state governments — a majority of voters support legal abortion, and very few favor total bans.” Pro-choice advocates have won every abortion referendum since Dobbs, even in red states such as Ohio and Kansas. 

Like the court, the Republicans are clearly out of step with American voters. Understanding their problem, the Republicans have populated the majority of the court with their sympathizers. Like the upside-down flag that flew above Alito's house in January of 2021, it's clear there is a large number of Americans who believe that democracy is a quaint -- and useless -- idea.

Image: Democracy Now

Thursday, May 16, 2024

An Age Of Nay Sayers

 Canada's political leaders are having a hard time. Lawrence Martin writes:

The Angus Reid Institute put out an analysis last week saying the leaders of Canada’s major federal political parties have never been held in such dismal regard. It was based on an analysis of 50 years of public-opinion data.

It’s the first time that all three major federal party leaders, the survey said, have garnered net ratings of negative 12 or worse at the same time.

The minus-12 rating – meaning the disapproval percentage is that many points higher than the approval one – belongs to Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre. By today’s standards, that’s actually a good rating. NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh scores his worst ever ranking at minus-14. And, the study noted, “Prime Minister Trudeau’s approval has dropped to its lowest point at just 28 per cent, with a net approval of negative 38.”

Justin Trudeau's rating is about a lot of things. His "low standing stems from the housing crisis, inflation, immigration and his government’s incompetence as seen, for instance, in the ArriveCan app scandal. As well, there’s the fatigue factor, with his being in power almost nine years."

But for him and other leaders, we’re forgetting the elephant in the room: the burden of being at the helm in the online age. It’s often mentioned but not highlighted nearly enough. Owing to the internet and social media, political leaders are under bombardment from a gazillion more voices than they ever faced in the predigital era.

For the pall of unparalleled negativity that hangs over our politics, look to the naysayers, cynics, vilifiers and haters who have been handed microphones by virtue of this communications revolution. It’s been the catalyst for the disinformation epidemic, the rise of far right and left fringes, the debasement of the dialogue, the extreme polarization, the discrediting of the mainstream media, the erosion of trust in institutions.

With the comms system gone rogue, national leaders – provincial and civic leaders don’t have it so bad – can no longer influence, shape or control the message as they did before. Against the torrent of abuse, they have become more and more defenceless.

Compare the environment Justin Trudeau faces to that of his father. In Pierre Trudeau’s time, there was no internet, no relentless social-media attacks. The hard right barely existed, conservatives being of the more moderate Tory stripe. The more liberally inclined CBC had a far greater audience share. The right-wing Sun chain had yet to expand and conservative Postmedia had not yet been born.

Post-pandemic, we are in a very sour mood. Our darker angels are ascendant.

Image: Linked In

Sunday, May 12, 2024

Who He And They Are

Yesterday, Donald Trump crossed the river over to New Jersey and held a rally. Marianne Levine reports:

 Donald Trump on Saturday insulted the prosecutor who has charged him in his ongoing New York criminal trial, speaking at a large rally on the Jersey Shore filled with personal attacks, coarse language and vulgar expressions from the former president and his supporters.

The presumptive Republican nominee called Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg “fat Alvin.” He described New York Supreme Court Justice Juan Merchan, who is presiding over his trial, as “highly conflicted.” And he reprised his accusations that both are “doing the bidding” of President Biden, even though there is no evidence they have coordinated with Biden or his administration.

The attacks were the latest show of defiance against judges and prosecutors from a candidate who is facing 88 criminal charges across four indictments. They were part of a flurry of broadsides or baseless claims that Trump and his backers launched during a beachside rally that marked a return to the campaign trail after at the end of another week when Trump spent much of his time in a courtroom.

He said he was indicted on “bulls---” prompting some in the crowd to repeat “bulls---” in response. He attacked former New Jersey Republican governor Chris Christie, winking at the audience, “you cannot call him a fat pig.”

As Trump berated the Biden administration, he asked the crowd: “Everything they touch, turns to what?”

“S---!” the crowd responded.

At another point, as Trump complained about the news media, one rallygoer turned to the workspace for journalists, yelling: “You guys suck. F--- fake news. Go f--- yourselves.”

In Canada, we can do nothing about this looming disaster. Let's hope that Americans recognize who and what Trump and his supporters are.

 Image: The Washington Post

Friday, May 03, 2024

Championing Canada

It's easy to paint Pierre Poilievre as the Trump of the North. His "everything is broken" meme is right out of Trump's playbook. But Robin Sears writes that turning Poilievre into a mini-Trump cheapens Canadian politics:

Justin Trudeau must avoid the temptation to paint Poilievre as a Trump mini-me. It only cheapens our politics, ironically, in a pure Trumpian manner.

Far better to champion Canada, surely. Not only is Canada not broken, we this week succeeded at getting the world’s first serious draft agreement on reducing plastics near the finish line. Our role was central, professional and won global praise.

Federal NPD leader Jagmeet Singh and the prime minister would be better off declaring they are proud Canadians. They are proud of how well we have defended our institutions; those with a greater investment in their personal grievances — premiers and their backers — than in securing democracy.

We are proud of what Canadians have pioneered in immigrant integration, AI and quantum technology, in climate change, in progress on indigenous reconciliation, and on and on.

Trump is all about denigrating his country:

In Canada, it has not been about denigrating the country — until now.

It has not been about adolescent vulgarisms in personal attacks — until now.

Coming from a man whose life achievement is limited to a few weeks as a junior minister in the cabinet of a dying government and two decades as a publicly paid opposition MP, it is somewhat galling.

While acknowledging all our deficits and the work remaining to do, we are proud of Canada. Most of us do not want to hear it described as completely broken. 

The goings on in Trump's New York trial reveal just how sleezy a character Trump is. 

Let's not go there.

Image: The Toronto Star