Sunday, September 15, 2019

LA Times - Our Last, Best Chance

Today's LA Times editorial is grim - "Climate change is already here. 2020 could be your last chance to stop an apocalypse."

The changing climate is no longer an abstract threat lurking in our distant future — it is upon us. We feel it. We see it. In our longer and deeper droughts and our more brutal hurricanes and raging, hyper-destructive wildfires. And with that comes a new urgency, and a new opportunity, to act.

Climate change is now simply impossible to ignore. The temperature reached a record-breaking 90 degrees in Anchorage this summer and an unprecedented 108 degrees in Paris. We can watch glaciers melting and collapsing on the web; ice losses in Antarctica have tripled since 2012 so that sea levels are rising faster today than at any time in the last quarter-century. Human migration patterns are already changing in Africa and Latin America as extreme weather events disrupt crop patterns, harm harvests and force farmers off their land, sending climate refugees to Europe and the United States. 
It’s often difficult to attribute specific events to climate change but, clearly, strange things are happening. In India, entire cities are running out of water, thanks, scientists say, to a dangerous combination of mismanagement and climate change. In Syria, the civil war that has killed hundreds of thousands of people and displaced more than 11 million is believed by many scientists to have been sparked at least in part by climate-related drought and warming. Closer to home, two invasive, non-native mosquito speciesthat have the potential to transmit viruses, including dengue, Zika and yellow fever have recently been found in several California cities. 
According to NASA, 18 of the 19 warmest years ever recorded have occurred since 2000. The last five years have been the hottest since record-keeping began in 1880. July set an all-time record.
...It is late — terribly late — for action, but with some luck, perhaps it is not too late to avoid some of the worst impacts of climate change. In nations across the world, people finally recognize climate change as a top or very serious threat, according to the Pew Research Center. In the U.S., even Republican voters — and especially younger ones — are waking up to the realities and dangers of a warming planet.
...At this point, the mission is no longer to avert or reverse climate change, but to mitigate its worst effects (by continuing to reduce emissions and slow warming) and to adapt to others. Adaptation might mean retreating from coastal developments as the seas rise or elevating roads and installing flooding pumps (as the city of Miami is already doing), or creating carbon sinks to remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, all while continuing to try to curtail further emissions.
The striking part of this editorial is that there's nothing remotely controversial about it. It's all demonstrably true. Our predicament is indeed as dire as the editorial board contends. We very much stand at the edge of something right here, right now. Ask yourself how this can be given what we're hearing from our political leadership in the election campaign now underway?

How big a priority is this for Andrew Scheer or Justin Trudeau? Do they have a sense of the urgency of our plight? What are they prepared to do about it - build pipelines? The contradictions, the inconsistencies, their words and deeds are irreconcilable. What does it mean to declare an emergency that you won't acknowledge? 

The American election is more than a year off. It's still more interesting than what's on offer here, now.

I'm not following the federal election. I do as much as I can to avoid it because, in a word, it's a "shitshow." Maybe that's two words. Does it matter?

I don't like Scheer but I don't like Trudeau either. They're both hustlers - Trudeau a bit more polished maybe, Scheer more of a Gomer.

One thing I do know is that the winner will be the better liar. Stephen Harper was the better liar when he toppled Paul Martin. He promised two things - transparency and accountability - and then, on assuming office, went very dark and very deep.

Justin was the better liar when he toppled Sideshow Steve. Oh Gawd did he ever lay it on thick. Social licence, first nations reconciliation, electoral reform and more. It was all bullshit but it worked.

I've kind of had enough of it. I'm not interested in electoral promises, party platforms, any more. It's funny that we remember Kim Campbell for saying that an election is no time for discussing serious issues. How dare she? And yet Justin and Andy must agree. An election campaign is no time for discussing serious issues - honestly. An election is something you bullshit your way through to the limits of your ability and hope for the best when the votes are tallied.

I'm also getting fed up with this 'Lord of the Flies' hyper-partisanship. It's rampant on both sides. It breaks us into camps that view each other with distrust, anger, even hatred. It is tribalism.  It undermines social cohesion and, in the process, presents a serious threat to democracy itself.  You can't play Hutu v. Tutsi and expect to get along. Eventually the machetes come out. It's almost laughable that these hyper-partisan extremists want to define 'Canadian values.'

I felt a bit down this morning when I found we're only at day five of this campaign. 35 more days to go, five damn weeks. Oh well this is probably a good opportunity to get caught up on some of my backlog of reading. Just go ahead without me.

The election I'm interested in is the one that's due in November of next year. What will be the defining issue of that campaign?  Robert Reich posits a fascinating possibility - the sanity of the president of the United States of America.

Reich has an op-ed in today's Guardian, "Trump is seriously, frighteningly unstable - the world is in danger."

Everybody except 85 per cent of registered Republicans get it. The Cheeto Benito, the Mango Mussolini, is a nutjob.
In retrospect, what’s most disturbing about “Sharpiegate” isn’t Trump’s clumsy effort to doctor a National Weather Service map or even his brazen move to get the same agency to lie on his behalf.

It’s how utterly petty his motive was. We’ve had presidents trying to cover up a sexual liaison with an intern and a botched burglary, but never have we had one who went to such lengths to cover up an inaccurate weather forecast. Alabama being hit by a hurricane? Friends, this is not rational behavior. 
Trump also cancelled a meeting with the Taliban at Camp David. The meeting was to have been secret. It was scheduled for the week of the anniversary of 9/11. He cancelled it by tweet. 
Does any of this strike you as even remotely rational? 
Before that, Trump cancelled a state visit to Denmark because Denmark wouldn’t sell Greenland to the US. Hello? Greenland wasn’t for sale. The US no longer buys populated countries. The state visit had been planned for months. 
He has repeatedly told senior officials to explore using nuclear bombs to stop hurricanes hitting the US. He believes video games cause mass shootings. He thinks climate change is no big deal. 
He says trade wars are “good and easy to win”. He insists it’s Chinese rather than US consumers who pay his tariffs. He “orders” American firms to stop doing business in China. 
He calls the chairman of the Federal Reserve an “enemy”. He retweets a comedian’s sick suggestion that the Clintons were responsible for the suicide of convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein.
Reich points out the obvious. A lunatic president is a danger to the United States and the rest of the world to boot.

Now the interesting bit.  You may have read reports this week that, in some states, Republicans are cancelling presidential primaries this time around.  DJT will go unchallenged. Why? Let Reich explain.
Former Massachusetts governor Bill Weld recently tweeted that Trump is “a clear and present danger” to the US, with the hashtag “#25thAmendment”. Former Illinois representative Joe Walsh says the amendment should be “looked at”.
Can you imagine giving Weld and Walsh podium time to challenge Trump's sanity in a Republican primary? A Republican presidential nomination contest in which the contestants delve into the front runner's lunacy.

That has piqued my interest. As for what's going on here, let me know when it's over.

Saturday, September 14, 2019

What a Crappy Thing to Do.

Someone nicked the 18-carat loo from Blenheim Palace, Winston Churchill's birthplace.

The golden lavatory, named America, drew large crowds when it was exhibited in New York. It had been installed in a wood-panelled chamber opposite the room where Churchill was born. 
Blenheim palace is the ancestral seat of the Duke of Marlborough.
Ahead of the toilet’s installation, the duke’s half-brother, Edward Spencer-Churchill, founder of the Blenheim Art Foundation, said last month the lavatory wouldn’t be “the easiest thing to nick”. 
“Firstly, it’s plumbed in and secondly, a potential thief will have no idea who last used the toilet or what they ate,” he told the Times. “So no, I don’t plan to be guarding it.”
The toilet, designed by the Italian artist Maurizio Cattelan, had been plumbed in and was available for visitors to use.
I'm familiar with the phrase, "farting through silk," but this is ridiculous.

The palace's chief executive, Dominic Hare, is quoted as being 'relieved' no one was hurt in the burglary. I'll bet.

Embarking on the Era of "Climate Barbarism"

It has been foretold for years, at least two decades. Gwynne Dyer has written of it. Now, Naomi Klein says it's upon us, an era of "climate barbarism."

Klein's has released a new book, a compendium of essays, "On Fire: The Burning Case For a Green New Deal."  Some excerpts from a Guardian interview:
I don’t think I placed enough emphasis on the challenge climate change poses to the left. It’s more obvious the way the climate crisis challenges a rightwing dominant worldview, and the cult of serious centrism that never wants to do anything big, that’s always looking to split the difference. But this is also a challenge to a left worldview that is essentially only interested in redistributing the spoils of extractivism [the process of extracting natural resources from the earth] and not reckoning with the limits of endless consumption.

In a North American context, it’s the greatest taboo of all to actually admit that there are going to be limits. You see that in the way Fox News has gone after the Green New Deal – they are coming after your hamburgers! It cuts to the heart of the American dream – every generation gets more than the last, there is always a new frontier to expand to, the whole idea of settler colonial nations like ours. When somebody comes along and says, actually, there are limits, we’ve got some tough decisions, we need to figure out how to manage what’s left, we’ve got to share equitably – it is a psychic attack. And so the response [on the left] has been to avoid, and say no, no, we’re not coming to take away your stuff, there are going to be all kinds of benefits. And there are going to be benefits: we’ll have more livable cities, we’ll have less polluted air, we’ll spend less time stuck in traffic, we can design happier, richer lives in so many ways. But we are going to have to contract on the endless, disposable consumption side.
There was a time when Klein led from the front, back in the days when she challenged consumerism. Her shift into climate change came across like someone who had just discovered what countless others had been writing about and warning about for many years. Her book, "This Changes Everything," was a jumble of recycled thoughts.

As I've written on this blog for years, the existential peril to humanity is a basket of scourges from climate change to overpopulation to our rapacious exploitation of the world's very finite resources. It's not much use setting out to 'fix' one or two. If you don't resolve them all you have almost no prospects of fixing any of them.

While Klein's Leap Manifesto failed to get any meaningful traction, she now embraces the Green New Deal which, in my view, has about as much chance of success.
I feel a tremendous excitement and a sense of relief, that we are finally talking about solutions on the scale of the crisis we face. That we’re not talking about a little carbon tax or a cap and trade scheme as a silver bullet. We’re talking about transforming our economy. This system is failing the majority of people anyway, which is why we’re in this period of such profound political destabilisation – that is giving us the Trumps and the Brexits, and all of these strongman leaders – so why don’t we figure out how to change everything from bottom to top, and do it in a way that addresses all of these other crises at the same time? There is every chance we will miss the mark, but every fraction of a degree warming that we are able to hold off is a victory and every policy that we are able to win that makes our societies more humane, the more we will weather the inevitable shocks and storms to come without slipping into barbarism. Because what really terrifies me is what we are seeing at our borders in Europe and North America and Australia – I don’t think it’s coincidental that the settler colonial states and the countries that are the engines of that colonialism are at the forefront of this. We are seeing the beginnings of the era of climate barbarism. We saw it in Christchurch, we saw it in El Paso, where you have this marrying of white supremacist violence with vicious anti-immigrant racism.
Klein raises the straw man of white supremacy, presumably to duck the issue of overpopulation. It's not polite or politically correct to discuss such things, apparently. That's just privileged white man's talk. Except that it's not.

She embraces what is essentially "steady state" or "full earth" economics, a theory of a 'no growth' civilization that is decades old and may even have its intellectual roots in Adam Smith's 1776 classic, "The Wealth of Nations."

I bought "This Changes Everything." I won't be buying "On Fire." It's not that what she's advocating isn't good or necessary. Of course it is. It's that we have already chosen a different path and, yes, it leads to climate barbarism.  Averting that will take a wholesale change of the fabric of Western society and, daunting as that prospect obviously is, we're running out of time to build multi-decadal movements.

Friday, September 13, 2019

It's California - Again

California has just prohibited private prisons, including ICE detention centers.
California just passed a bill banning all for-profit prisons and immigrant detention facilities in the state, the Guardian reports — and some of these facilities could be gone as early as next year. 
Bill AB32, passed Wednesday and heading to Gov. Gavin Newsom’s desk for signing, would shut down private facilities that hold inmates with criminal convictions. More than 2,200 people were held in such facilities as of June, according to data from the federal Bureau of Justice Statistics data reviewed by the Guardian. It would also shutter privately run facilities for immigrants, who are considered civil detainees despite being held in prison-like conditions.

Assemblyman Rob Bonta, who introduced the bill, said in February that the inclusion of immigrant detention facilities wasn’t meant as a jab at President Trump or his immigration policies. Instead, he told the San Francisco Chronicle, it was a stand against companies that “only care about the almighty dollar.”

Whoa! Check This Out. Valery Plame is Running for Congress.

Let's Play 'Bury the Billion'

The Sackler clan apparently knows how to stash cash on a scale that would make KPMG weep with envy.

Team Sackler owns Perdue Pharma, a company that's in deep kimchi with claims relating to America's opioid crisis. I guess they figured it was time to get the Hell out of Dodge.
The New York attorney general’s office said Friday that it had tracked about $1 billion in wire transfers by the Sackler family, including through Swiss bank accounts, suggesting that the family tried to shield wealth as it faced a raft of litigation over its role in the opioid crisis. 
Earlier this week, thousands of municipal governments and nearly two dozen states tentatively reached a settlement with the Sackler family and the company it owns, Purdue Pharma, maker of OxyContin. But the attorneys general of a majority of states, including New York and Massachusetts, are balking at the proposed deal, contending that the Sackler family has siphoned off company profits that should be used to pay for the billions of dollars in damage caused by opioids.

To Forbes, they're the "Oxycontin Clan." To BBC they're "America's most hated family." To the families of the 200 Americans who die daily from opioid abuse they're monsters.

If You Want Democracy, Be Prepared to Fight For It.

I have been posting a lot lately on democracy and capitalism, things that we ought to have in mind as we go through this general election.  In both critical areas we're on the wrong path, a path already traveled by others to their peril.

This brings me to an op-ed published in The Guardian last month, "To Rescue Democracy, We Must Revive the Reforms of the Progressive Era."

At some point we need to see reality. We have embarked on another 'gilded age' of the sort that, a century ago, sparked an American political uprising, the Progressive Era.
In Democracy in America, Alexis de Tocqueville offered a prescient warning for “the friends of democracy”. In a chapter called “How Aristocracy Could Issue from Industry” he observed that industrial capitalism would create economic inequality between owners and wage-workers and divide them culturally, morally, and socially.

With the rise of industrial capital, Tocqueville feared there would be no genuine relationships between these two emergent classes. “If ever a permanent inequality of conditions and aristocracy are introduced anew into the world, one can predict they will enter through this door.” 
Almost 200 years later, Tocqueville’s fears seem prescient. We live in a second Gilded Age – an era of extreme economic inequality and monopoly power. Wages for workers have been largely stagnant for a generation, while CEO pay has skyrocketed. A small number of firms now dominate many sectors of the economy. And the consequence for democracy is dire: study after study in political science shows that government is responsive to the preferences of the wealthy and their interest groups, but not to ordinary people. This creates a vicious cycle in which the wealthy and corporations can rig the political rules to benefit themselves. And the rigged system only makes them wealthier and more powerful. The danger of “a permanent inequality of conditions and aristocracy” is upon us.
The author says the playbook we must follow already exists. It was written for us a century ago by American progressives of the early 20th century.
These reformers recognized that concentrated economic power – in any form – was a threat to freedom and democracy. Concentrated economic power not only allowed for localized oppression, especially of workers in their daily lives, it also made it more likely that big corporations and wealthy people wouldn’t be subject to the rule of law or democratic controls. Reformers’ answer to the concentration of economic power was threefold: break up economic power, rein it in through regulation, and tax it.

It was the reformers of the Gilded Age and Progressive Era who invented America’s antitrust laws – from the Sherman Antitrust Act of 1890 to the Clayton Act and Federal Trade Commission Acts of the early 20th century. Whether it was Republican trustbuster Teddy Roosevelt or liberal supreme court justice Louis Brandeis, courageous leaders in this era understood that when companies grow too powerful they threatened not just the economy but democratic government as well. Break-ups were a way to prevent the agglomeration of economic power in the first place, and promote an economic democracy, not just a political democracy. 
In other sectors, however, monopoly seemed almost necessary. It made more sense to have a single telephone network in America, given the high costs of building the network and the importance of having everyone on it. So here, reformers of the Progressive Era championed public utilities regulation. Democratic control would be preserved through legal restrictions – regulation of rates, universal service obligations, and non-discrimination rules. Public utilities regulation was a way to ensure that the basic infrastructure of industrial capitalism remained under democratic control, rather than being able to control democracy. This basic infrastructure also ensured that economic democracy could flourish; small businesses and individuals thrive when they have access to the preconditions of modern life at fair terms and for a fair price.
...Theodore Roosevelt once wrote that “there can be no real political democracy without something approaching an economic democracy.” The truth is that the two work hand in hand. Political democracy helps foster economic democracy as the people work to make the country more egalitarian. And a more economically equal society feeds into political democracy, as no one accumulates so much power that they can dominate government or their fellow citizens. 
Antitrust, regulation, tax, democracy reforms – these were rules that made industrial capitalism work, and kept it from destroying democracy. Even though it’s been gathering dust for decades, this Gilded Age and Progressive Era playbook is the essential starting point for reform today. We must reinvigorate antitrust laws and create a more competitive economy. This means breaking up big tech, big pharma, big banks – and restructuring and empowering the antitrust agencies so they are empowered to act with courage and vigor.
The wisdom of the past bolstered by new ideas for new times.
A central lesson of the Gilded Age and Progressive Era reformers is not what they did to reform the system. It is that they had the courage and creativity to think for themselves and pursue bold reforms, persistently, over decades. 
A new generation will have to adapt the old playbook to new challenges. Industrial capitalism’s basic structure is changing. As Shoshona Zuboff has argued in The Age of Surveillance Capitalism, the rise of surveillance technology and behavioral targeting risks an economic revolution that turns consumers into commodities and a political revolution that could morph democracy into digital authoritarianism. To paraphrase Tocqueville, if a permanent inequality of conditions or a nationalist oligarchy come to define the next generation, they could very well enter through these doors.
Don't wait to hear these ideas from Trudeau or even Jagmeet Singh. Like Scheer they're mired in neoliberalism, loyal disciples.  Change will have to be driven from the bottom up, from the street. It will necessitate certain forms of civil disobedience, enough to shake up our sullied political apparatus. Here's my pitchfork. Now where did I put that torch?


The Decay of Capitalism

Has Boeing become the poster-boy of terminal stage capitalism?

Writing in The Guardian, Matt Stoller argues that capitalism is no longer merely atrophied. It has broken.
Just a year ago Boeing appeared unstoppable. In 2018, the company delivered more aircraft than its rival Airbus, with revenue hitting $100bn. It was also a cash machine, shedding 20% of its workforce since 2012 while funneling $43bn into stock buybacks in roughly the same period. Boeing’s board rewarded its CEO, Dennis Muilenburg, lavishly, paying him $23m in 2018, up 27% from the year before.

There was only one problem. The company was losing its ability to make safe airplanes. As Scott Hamilton, an aerospace analyst and editor of Leeham News and Analysis, puts it: “Boeing Commercial Airplanes clearly has a systemic problem in designing, producing and delivering airplanes.” 
Something is wrong with today’s version of capitalism. It’s not just that it’s unfair. It’s that it’s no longer capable of delivering products that work. The root cause is the generation of high and persistent profits, to the exclusion of production. We have let financiers take over our corporations. They monopolize industries and then loot the corporations they run.
The executive team at Boeing is quite skilled – just at generating cash, rather than as engineers. Boeing’s competitive advantage centered on politics, not planes. The corporation is now a political machine with a side business making aerospace and defense products. Boeing’s general counsel, former judge Michael Luttig, is the former boss of the FBI director, Christopher Wray, whose agents are investigating potential criminal activity at the company. Luttig is so well connected in high-level legal circles he served as a groomsman for the supreme court chief justice, John Roberts. 
The company’s board members also include Nikki Haley, until recently the United Nations ambassador, former Nato supreme allied commander Edmund PGiambastiani Jr, former AIG CEO Edward M Liddy, and a host of former political officials and private equity icons. 
Boeing used its political connections to monopolize the American aerospace industry and corrupt its regulators. In the 1990s, Boeing and McDonnell Douglas merged, leaving America with just one major producer of civilian aircraft. Before this merger, when there was a competitive market, Boeing was a wonderful company. As journalist Jerry Useem put it just 20 years ago, “Boeing has always been less a business than an association of engineers devoted to building amazing flying machines.”
But after the merger, the engineers lost power to the financiers. Boeing could increase prices, lay off workers, reduce quality and spend its cash buying back stock.

...Far from being an anomaly, Boeing is the norm in the corporate world across the west. In 2016, the Economist noted that profits across the corporate sector were high and persistent, a function of a lack of competition across swaths of the economy. If corporations don’t have to compete, they can raise prices to buyers, lower what they pay to suppliers and workers, and reduce quality.

High profits result in sloth and corruption. Many of our industrial goliaths are now run in ways that are fundamentally destructive. General Electric, for instance, was once a jewel of American productive capacity, a corporation created out of George Westinghouse and Thomas Edison’s patents for electric systems. Edison helped invent the lightbulb itself, brightening the world. Today, as a result of decisions made by Jack Welch in the 1990s to juice profit returns, GE slaps its label on lightbulbs made in China. Even worse, if investigator Harry Markopoulos is right, General Electric may in fact be riddled with accounting fraud, a once great productive institution strip-mined by financiers.
The ultimate result of concentrating wealth and corrupting government is to concentrate power in the hands of a few. We’ve been here before. In the 1930s, fascists in Italy and Germany were gaining strength, as were communists in the Russia. Meanwhile, leaders in liberal democracies were confronted by a frightened populace losing faith in democracy. American political leaders were able to take on domestic money lords with a radical antitrust campaign to break the power of the plutocrats. Today we are in a similar situation, with autocrats making an increasingly persuasive case that liberal democracy is weak. 
The solution to this political crisis is fairly simple, and it involves two basic principles. One, policymakers have to increase competition for large powerful companies, to bring profits down. Executives should spend their time competing with each other to build quality products, not finding ways of attracting former generals, or administration officials to their board of directors. Two, policymakers should raise taxes on wealth and high incomes to radically reduce the concentration of wealth, which will make looting irrational. 
Our system is no longer aligning rewards with productive skill. Despite the 737 Max crisis, Boeing’s stock price is still twice as high as in July 2015, when Muilenburg took over as CEO. That right there is what is broken about modern capitalism. We had better fix it fast.

So, You Think You're a Progressive?

'Progressive' is a term bandied about very loosely. It seems anyone who considers themselves left of a Conservative can claim the laurel. Liberals like to imagine themselves progressives. New Dems were progressive before they chose to fight for power rather than people.

What does 'Progressive' mean if it still means anything at all?

If you want a global perspective you could try getting your hands on a copy of "The Meaning of Modern Life." Published in 1907 it is a collection of lectures or essays by some of the great thinkers at the dawn of the 20th century. Some names you'll know: Theodore Roosevelt, Woodrow Wilson, H.G. Wells, Grover Cleveland, Count Leo Tolstoy and Andrew Carnegie. Most you've probably never heard of. It's a heavy tome but a worthwhile read for those seeking to understand progressivism.  You can find in it the intellectual underpinnings of the Progressive movement that took hold in America in the first part of the 20th century.

The Progressive movement was a peoples' movement - government of the people, by the people, for the people, sort of thing. In the States it did trace back to perhaps its greatest president, Abraham Lincoln.

What did it stand for? You can get the drift of progressivism in a single speech delivered by Theodore Roosevelt in 1910 just three years after the publication of 'Modern Life.' This was his 'Square Deal' or 'New Nationalism' speech. It is a speech delivered to a gathering of Kansas farmers that is still widely taught today. I read it a few times every year.

What are the tenets or principles that define progressivism? Here are the core five:

1.  The distrust of concentration of wealth and power in the hands of a corporate oligarchy.
“I hope we shall crush in its birth the aristocracy of our monied corporations that dare already to challenge our government to a trial by strength, and bid defiance to the laws of our country” – Thomas Jefferson. These words, eloquently spoken by one our founding fathers, addresses a major area of concern for progressives. Progressives believe that the concentration of wealth and power into the hands of a select few does more to damage the general welfare of the country than to promote it using economic prosperity. A quick glance at the industrial revolution or “gilded age”, gives us insight on the social ills brought upon the country by unfettered capitalism.

2.  A commitment to workplace regulation and the living wage.
Before these regulations, due to the absence of financial leverage, people (including children), often worked eighty to one hundred hours a week for twenty-five cents an hour, sometimes less. Many progressives coined this abuse to be “wage slavery” and fought to establish a minimum wage that employers were required to pay their employees for what products they produced. With workplace safety regulations fairly fine-tuned and unions representing working bodies all across the country, these issues aren’t as hot of a topic today as they were in the 1920’s and 1930’s, but the federal minimum wage continues to be fervently debated. Of course, progressives believe in livable and sustainable working wages. Wages that differ from current wages that are believed to be artificially suppressed by business owners to accrue the greatest amount of profit, in the face of rising productivity.

3.  Environmental Stewardship.
Progressives believe that the health of the environment is imperative for the human species to progress forward. The unregulated emission of carbon into the atmosphere is dangerous and will spell grave consequences for our species if we don’t act to retard and correct the damage that we’ve perpetrated. Progressives believe that all creatures are woven in an interconnected web and man-made causes to global warming has damaged the equilibrium to this metaphorical web. As a species, we could conjure up the most ground breaking technological innovations and political reforms, but all of it is in vain if we (including our posterity), can’t enjoy these feats.

4.  Equality for all citizens, civil rights and social justice.
The Preamble of the Constitution states that, “We the people of the United States, in order to form “a more perfect” union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America. ”. Following this declaration, progressives fight for the rights of free and autonomous people to be recognized as fellow citizens of society by societies historically white, male and Christian dominated class. Progressives are strong advocates of police reform regarding minorities, marriage rights regarding gay and lesbian couples, programs that uplift struggling families by offering them a “hand up” as opposed to a “hand out” and champion the rights of women to have full and autonomous control over their own bodies. Progressives do not believe in “moral legislation”, that is, legislation that looks to regulate an individual’s life with respect to a certain religion or personal moralistic standard. Progressives believe in the individual freedom of American citizens, but realize that these freedoms cannot be upheld without fighting for the basic rights of all American citizens. No matter the race, religion, sex, sexual orientation, or lifestyle choice.

5.  Investing in a nation in which its people are the most important asset.
The tenacity of the working middle class to maintain the health of our GDP does not go unnoticed, and in fact, warrants praise and admiration from droves of countries around the world. Because of this, progressives believe that to reverse some of our economic ills, it’s paramount that we invest in ourselves as a country. In order to do this, progressives pose that enacting increased international tariffs, the immediate halting of the outsourcing of American jobs, spurring job growth by investing in our infrastructure, setting up a single-payer health care system and supporting free education are all steps to improve ourselves as a country and kick start the economy with the American citizen in mind, as opposed to foreign interests. Progressives advocate that everyone pays their fair share (by proportion) in taxes and that offshore tax havens should be abolished because they decrease the revenue our country receives by tax loopholes.
These restatements are obviously drawn from an American source but they speak to universal principles and values that all progressives can aspire to.

It is not inadvertent that many of these lofty thoughts are paid lip service by many of our own politicians who just as easily flout them between election cycles.

Neoliberalism has brought the triumph of corporatism wherever it has taken hold and that's just about everywhere. It's certainly true for Canada and yet we have, just next door, a glaring example of where it leads and the wreckage it leaves in its path.

Consider this passage from George Monbiot's most recent column:
Neoliberalism is the ideology developed by people such as Friedrich Hayek and Milton Friedman. It is not just a set of free-market ideas, but a focused discipline, deliberately applied around the world. It treats competition as humanity’s defining characteristic, sees citizens as consumers and “the market” as society’s organising principle. The market, it claims, sorts us into a natural hierarchy of winners and losers. Any attempt by politics to intervene disrupts the discovery of this natural order. 
...The doctrine was imposed by central banks, the IMF, the Maastricht treaty and the World Trade Organization. By shutting down political choice, governments and international bodies created a kind of totalitarian capitalism. 
It has failed on its own terms, and in many other ways. Far from creating general prosperity, growth has been slower in the neoliberal era than it was in preceding decades, and most of its fruits have been gathered by the rich. Far from stimulating an enterprise economy, it has created a gilded age for rent-seekers. Far from eliminating bureaucracy, it has created a Kafkaesque system of mad diktats and stifling control. It has fomented ecological, social, political, economic and financial crises, culminating in the 2008 crash. Yet, perhaps because its opponents have not produced a new, compelling story of their own, it still dominates our lives.
There are many among us, especially in the Liberal ranks, those who yearn for progressivism but cannot imagine removing the yoke of neoliberalism. They delude themselves that they can somehow have both. They lie to themselves and, with each passing year, progressivism is pushed further beyond their reach.

Thursday, September 12, 2019

Elections and Mounties Creep Me Out

I don't like riding to Justin Trudeau's defence but this business about the RCMP investigating supposed wrongdoing in the midst of an election campaign smacks of political interference by the national police agency and not for the first time.

Are the RCMP brass trying to meddle in this election? I can't say they're not and, face it, they do have a dodgy track record.  This sudden interest in questioning the prime minister and his PMO as well as headlines about interviewing Jody Wilson-Raybould about possible obstruction of justice in the SNC-Lavalin business couldn't be better timed if someone wanted to give the Tories a leg up in mid-campaign.

It's in all the papers. Mainly inference. Trudeau isn't talking. Must have something really sinister to hide. How dare he campaign for re-election when the embers of this scandal are rekindled?

The thing is, it's too easy a set-up. All you have to do is muddy the waters. The press will do the rest and what a bunch of saps they are.

They've got very short memories. You never read any reference to the role then commissioner Giuliano Zaccardelli played in giving Stephen Harper a leg up to defeat prime minister Paul Martin. Out of nowhere Zaccardelli delivered a letter to the NDP suggesting that Ralph Goodale was under investigation for some sort of wrongdoing. Ralph Goodale FFS!

It was an investigation that wasn't. There was nothing to it. It was a drive-by smear job on Goodale and the Martin government. In the aftermath Zaccardelli was summoned to appear before a Commons committee and refused to answer MPs questions.

And who can forget how the RCMP twisted itself and its integrity into knots to invent the "immaculate bribe" case against Duffy. 33 criminal counts. Enough to bury anyone. It was corrupt. Everybody in the PMO was off the hook. Everyone in the Tory Senate leadership was off the hook. Even the Tory legal office was off the hook.  At trial, the veteran judge found plenty of evidence of criminal wrongdoing, loads of it. He then acquitted Duffy of every charge, all 33 of them. Justice Vaillancourt sent a withering message - next time you want to prosecute such crimes, try charging the criminals.

Once again the head of the state police agency was never called to account. The file was closed. The culprits were never brought to justice.

Cops, whether the RCMP or the FBI, should not intervene in elections. Comey's meddling with 2 weeks to go by re-opening and then quickly re-closing the investigation into Hillary's emails was enough to saddle America and the world with the worst US president in that nation's existence. The mere hint of wrongdoing can be as devastating as a trial and conviction in a court of law.

Now we have this business. Was there obstruction of justice? Hell, I don't know. Jody Wilson-Raybould said there was nothing rising to the level of a crime. She should have known. She was there. She was the attorney-general, the country's top law enforcement official. The boss.

I don't want to see another false majority this time around, Liberal or Conservative. Majority governments have been a dismal failure at responding to the grave threats of the day. Chretien was a dud. Harper was a dud. Junior has proved to be a dud. They have not done right by this country.

However the predicament Canada, like every other nation, faces today demands elections that aren't skewed by scandals and innuendo. And the last thing we need is the Mounties' thumb on the scales again.

Breaking the Hold of Neo-Feudalism

It's what Canada's finance minister calls "job churn" when he tells Canadians that the gig economy is their future and they can lump it. Welcome to precarity, going from short-term job to short-term job, living from paycheque to paycheque, often without benefits, considering yourself a success if you're lucky enough not to fall within the cracks. That's the Morneau/Trudeau way.

California, the state whose economy is not quite double Canada's, sees the gig economy differently. There it's the hallmark of neo-feudalism and they're working to drive it out.
Labor leaders cheered in the balcony and lawmakers embraced on the floor of the California Senate on Tuesday as it passed a landmark measure that defines employees, a move that could increase wages and benefits for hundreds of thousands of struggling workers. 
But the bill is as much a starting point as an endgame: It will drive a national debate over how to reshape labor laws fashioned in the industrial era of the 1930s to fit a 21st-century service and knowledge economy. 
With the measure, which Gov. Gavin Newsom says he will sign, California will lead in a shift that will likely redefine the roles of governments, unions and worker organizations. Just as federal labor laws were promulgated to help the country recover from the Depression, the imperative to extend basic guarantees like a minimum wage stems from the staggering income inequality in California, the state with the highest poverty rate in the country.
...The “new economy, the gig economy, the innovation economy” is “feudalism all over again,” said the Assembly speaker, Anthony Rendon, a Los Angeles Democrat.
There's a term for this California initiative. It's called "progressive democracy." That is what caused me to start this blog a dozen years ago. Our governments have given away far too much sovereign power to the corporate sector with every free trade deal they've inked. Ordinary Canadians have been 'sold' into neoliberalism and Morneau's 'job churn' future speaks volumes.


Some think this is about Uber and Lyft drivers. It's not. It is about all sorts of those under the boot of the gig economy. Read this.

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Will Another Trudeau Betrayal Be Set Right?

Relax, Liberals. Then justice minister Jody was also neck deep in this.

'This' is the Carter decision on assisted dying. The decision of the Supreme Court of Canada, the most compelling decision of a nation of laws.  More compelling still because it was a per curiam decision. Not just that nine justices agreed. Per Curiam means 'one voice.' There was only one judgment. It was the judgment of the entire court. For the laity, it doesn't get any stronger than that.

The Carter decision is no mumble-jumble of legalese. The beauty of it, what makes it so compelling, is that anyone can read it and make full sense of it. The decision extends the protections of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms to what is, for many, the most horrible ordeal of their lives - death. The gravity of the subject matter, our right to die on our own terms, makes the decision so visceral that it floods the mind with notions of compassion, justice and decency as you pass from paragraph to paragraph.

Justin Trudeau deliberately put himself above and outside of the law by the whittled down legislation his government passed that deprived many of the worst afflicted to access to death with dignity, death on their own terms, painless and compassionate death. I knew right then and there that this guy was a huckster, perhaps even a monster who would throw many of our fellow citizens to the wolves for political advantage. It saddened me to think he was the progeny of Pierre Elliott Trudeau.

Now a Quebec court has laid the foundation for a challenge of Trudeau's truncated and cruel assisted dying legislation.
From Day 1, it has been clear that the legal requirement that only people whose natural death was imminent would be eligible for assisted death was unduly restrictive and discriminatory. 
What we have, Canada, is not so much a right to die as a right to die if you’re already on the verge of death. 
But that could soon, and mercifully, change. In a landmark ruling, Madam Justice Christine Baudouin of the Quebec Superior Court invalidated the “reasonably foreseeable” death clause of federal law and a similar section of Quebec law that says people must “be at end of life” to access assisted death. 
She said the restrictions were unconstitutional because they infringed the equality rights of the two claimants in the case, Nicole Gladu, a 73-year-old with postpolio syndrome, and Jean Truchon, a 51-year-old with cerebral palsy. Both were denied assisted death despite living with what they described as persistent, unbearable suffering, and they argued that was discriminatory. 
Justice Baudouin agreed: “The reasonably foreseeable natural death requirement deprives both individuals and claimants of their autonomy and their choice to end their lives at the time and in the manner desired,” she wrote in the 198-page judgment.
Who condemns a person to a long, protracted death of unbearable suffering? That would be Justin Trudeau. He should suffer the same fate. Only that's for the plebs.

Say what you will, I'm sure Slap Happy Andy would be worse, but someone who aspires to be prime minister yet believes he has the right to go outside the law and place himself above the law to trample on Canadians' Charter rights, particularly on something as important as the right to a decent death, is not fit to lead the country.

So make fun of Elizabeth May all you like but her incautious comments don't hold a candle to Justin Trudeau's abuse of power.

In case you can't be bothered to read the decision, just try one paragraph:

Insofar as they prohibit physician-assisted dying for competent adults who seek such assistance as a result of a grievous and irremediable medical condition that causes enduring and intolerable suffering, ss. 241 (b) and 14 of the Criminal Code deprive these adults of their right to life, liberty and security of the person under s. 7 of the Charter . The right to life is engaged where the law or state action imposes death or an increased risk of death on a person, either directly or indirectly. Here, the prohibition deprives some individuals of life, as it has the effect of forcing some individuals to take their own lives prematurely, for fear that they would be incapable of doing so when they reached the point where suffering was intolerable. The rights to liberty and security of the person, which deal with concerns about autonomy and quality of life, are also engaged. An individual’s response to a grievous and irremediable medical condition is a matter critical to their dignity and autonomy. The prohibition denies people in this situation the right to make decisions concerning their bodily integrity and medical care and thus trenches on their liberty. And by leaving them to endure intolerable suffering, it impinges on their security of the person.

40 Days - May They Fly

I don't like election campaigns. Well, if you're assigned to cover one the overtime's great but it's a lousy spectator sport unless you like a non-stop barrage of horseshit.  They'll be shoveling that stuff aplenty, an endless conveyor of compostable pucks.

Finally you'll get to your designated poll, cast your ballot and let the counting ensue.

Only then, after the winner is pronounced, will the full measure of the lies you've been fed emerge. Like Harper's "transparency" and "accountability" or his successor's whoppers about electoral reform, social licence, First Nations engagement among others.

That's when you'll know you've been had and there's f@#k all you can do about it. You put your X on the slip of paper, now sit down and shut up until the liars summon you again in four years.  Will it be another Liberal shit show or a Conservative shit show? Who knows?

All I know is, on the greatest threat facing our country and Canada's future, it'll be another four years squandered. Isn't that something? We're facing a genuinely existential threat, one that's coming on hard and fast, and the best we can come up with is Justin! Goodgawdamn!

For those of you deluded enough to believe Canada needs a Trudeau or a Scheer well fill your boots. You've got 40 days to indulge your self-righteous indignation. Life's not fair for you. I get it. I'm sorry.

The Only Question Is Who Will Be Kissing Bibi's Ass. Will It Be Justin or Andy?

Canada has its nose so far up Benjamin Netanyahu's backside that our leaders seem to have become pleasantly accustomed to the smell. Trudeau or Scheer, no matter, they can't get enough.

I guess that, short of nuking the Gaza Strip, Bibi can do as he likes as far as Ottawa is concerned.

There are Palestinians in Gaza who have been born and have died there as captives, completely innocent of any crime and yet confined to their equivalent of the Warsaw Ghetto.

I just checked a few days ago and it seems Gaza's already salinated and contaminated ground water will run out next year. It won't be long now before the place is uninhabitable. But Canada looks the other way even intimidating those who criticize Israel, denouncing them as anti-Semitic.

It's a safe bet that Canada won't change course if/when Netanyahu 'annexes' the Palestinian territory known as the Jordan Valley.

Sure they're Palestinian lands but Bibi can fix all that with the stroke of a pen - so long as he has the US and Canada to give him cover.

Here's what currently remains of the Palestinian West Bank.

In case you're guessing, yeah, the Palestinians get the white bits - well, except for Jerusalem. I'm sure if they put their minds to it they can create a country out of those shards somehow - unless they're 'annexed' next.

That Red and White Greeting Card is Netanyahu's way of saying there will never be a two-state solution. Israel will remain an apartheid state unless it gets the Palestinians shipped out to Jordan. The saying of that, no matter how obvious, is sufficient to be branded anti-Semitic. The Liberals once had more guts than they do now. They once could tell right from wrong, even when both sides were wrong.

The editorial board of The Guardian had this to say:
Benjamin Netanyahu’s plans to annex Palestinian territory in the occupied West Bank – and, crucially, seize the bread basket of the Jordan valley – if he wins the Israeli election next week are not only illegal under international law but would, if enacted, make peace impossible in the Holy Land. Neither of these things appears to bother Mr Netanyahu, who refuses to recognise the Palestinian right to national self-determination and statehood. 
The Likud leader framed his land grab as a defensive measure, yet – as Wednesday’s rocket exchanges show – his country’s military is busy on Israel’s western flank, not its eastern one. Missiles can vault the valley, puncturing the security argument that it could provide a buffer against an Arab invasion or guerrilla infiltration from the east. Israel seized the West Bank from Jordan in the 1967 war. It is worth noting that in 2001, in peace talks with Palestinians, Israeli security officials suggested an offensive utility for the Jordan valley, saying that if its peace treaty with Jordan was violated then the space afforded by the fertile strip could provide a useful way to “take action”. Given Israel’s recent offensive strikes outside its borders, this might explain why security arguments have resurfaced. 
Just how warped Israeli politics has become is evidenced by the fact that the main opposition coalition – Blue and White – were incensed not by the idea of annexing the Jordan valley but that Mr Netanyahu had not credited themwith thinking of it first. The Jordan valley may not be the strategic asset it once was. But it has an undisguised potency in Israeli politics, as a Palestinian state was always thought to border Jordan. It matters not whether Mr Netanyahu wins or loses the election, since it is hard to see a Knesset that would block the land grab. 
Mr Netanyahu can also count on the support of Donald Trump, who has destroyed the United States’ honest-broker role. The US president rashly recognised Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and endorsed the illegal seizure of the Golan Heights. He has cut off humanitarian aid to Palestinians. Mr Trump’s key Middle East officials – his ambassador to Israel, his son-in-law and his former special envoy – are all supporters of the settler movement to build housing in the West Bank for Israeli Jews in contravention of international law. Like Mr Trump, another rabble-rousing politician, Mr Netanyahu is prepared to sacrifice almost anything on the altar of domestic politics. He dismisses the occupation, 52 years of Israeli military rule over Palestinians, as “nonsense”. Yet what is the upshot of such thinking? Millions of Palestinians will end up living in segregated enclaves in the middle of the West Bank, with no real political rights and under separate legal and education systems. They will be dirt poor and under a permanent military occupation, with their movements curbed. How would the country reconcile a permanent occupation with its democratic ideals? Israel would not be building peace, it would be constructing a giant open prison.

Not So As You'd Notice

America is getting hammered by severe weather events these days - hurricanes, tornadoes, floods, droughts - of steadily increasing frequency, intensity and duration. So what is the biggest killer of them all?

Heat.  Heat claims more American lives than any other weather/climate event.  And, in the future, more people will be baking than ever.

Vox has published a three-part series looking at worst-case scenarios based on climate modeling for Tampa Bay, Arizona and Southern California. Let's put it this way. All three of them are going to get stomped.

The big threat facing Tampa and most of Florida takes the form of sea level rise and hurricane driven storm surge. Think of a 24-foot wave of water. For California the gravest peril is from wildfires.  Arizona, like its neighbouring states, will bake the life out of its residents.
One day in the future, a massive wave of high-pressure air will park over Phoenix. 
As the sun rises amid an already scorching summer, the pressure will hold the accumulated heat in place and the triple-digit temperatures will tick up higher and higher. 119 degrees Fahrenheit. 120. 121. 122. Health officials will warn citizens to stay inside, but some will venture out and emergency room visits will spike. At night, the temperature will drop only to 100.
At this point, air conditioning is not a creature comfort. It is survival itself.
Over the next 24 hours of this heat wave, electricity use will surge higher as millions of air conditioners blast at full force, and the power grid will sputter as power lines strain. Power plants will run dangerously low on cooling water as the rivers that feed the region slow to a trickle and heat up. Generators will become less efficient.

The grid will succumb to brownouts and blackouts. Air conditioners will wheeze out, leaving many in homes that will grow dangerously hot. Water pumps will shut off, threatening people with dehydration. Freezers will thaw and food will spoil. Lines will form at gas stations as stalled pumps force drivers to refuel by hand. 
Anxiety will grow about the region’s water supply. The Phoenix metropolitan region will already be in a drought and what little water is left will start becoming too hot to use. The nearby water reservoirs will be at record lows. Golf courses turn yellow as water restrictions go into effect.
Gasoline will be in short supply as people start to leave the city. Traffic will gridlock as asphalt bubbles and roads close. Flights will be grounded as the heat makes the air too thin to generate enough lift for aircraft to safely take off and climb. Cacti will wilt. Air pollution will reach record levels as dust and ozone build up, leading to another spike in emergency room visits. 
This surging heat with temperatures peaking around the 120s will linger for two weeks, as rising average temperatures increase the length, severity, and frequency of extreme heat. The city’s economy will grind to a halt. Lights will switch off. By the end of this cascade, many may die.
Phoenix has already had more than one taste of this lash.
The hottest temperature recorded in Phoenix was 122 degrees in 1990. And a searing late-June heat wave in 2017 lasted more than a week and melted mailboxes. Letters slid off street signs. Asphalt bubbled. Airplanes couldn’t take off. Power consumption soared to record highs. There was no measurable rain during the month.
This isn't conjecture either.
[Arizona State engineering prof, Mikhail] Chester, who coauthored the study warning that Phoenix could face the Katrina of extreme heat, explained that losing power jeopardizes not just air conditioning, but traffic lights, commuter rail, water sanitation systems, even fuel pumps for gasoline. So a blackout or brownout during a time when the city needs energy the most stands to create a propagating series of failure and disruption, halting the economy and potentially taking lives. 
“Whether it is a hurricane in New Orleans or an [extreme heat event] in the Southwest, critical infrastructure systems are at risk for cascading failure in ways that are unpredictable and surprising due to their complex interdependencies and fragility to extreme conditions,” the authors wrote. 
“For each of these, you can find precedent,” Chester said. “We’re not just making up doomsday scenarios. In the Southwest, we’ve had these scenarios unfold.”
Florida, Southern California and the US Southwest are in deep kimchi. They may face different scourges but the impacts on their residents will be severe. At this point let's add a layer of complexity - mass migration out of Central America. How will the United States, reeling from natural disasters and having to rescue its own people, bear the burden of mass migration along their southern borders?

How could America care for climate refugees? How would it support them? Where would it put them? How would it balance the needs of an internally displaced population, American IDPs, and foreign migrants desperate for survival? There are few good options and many bad ones that I won't go into now. They're the stuff that keep planners busy at the Pentagon, Britain's Ministry of Defence and their counterparts in many other countries.

Monbiot - the Brexit Vultures are Circling Overhead

Guardian scribe, George Monbiot, sees a dark ideology at play in the political ranks of Brexiteers who would be happy with a 'no-deal' Brexit.
We make a mistake when we assume that money is the main motivation. Our unreformed, corrupt and corrupting political funding system ensures it is an important factor. But what counts above all else is ideology, as ideology successfully pursued is the means to power. You cannot exercise true power over other people unless you can shape the way they think, and shape their behaviour on the basis of that thought. The long-term interests of ideology differ from the short-term interests of politics. 
This, I believe, is the key to understanding what is happening today. The Brexit ultras in government are not just Brexit ultras. They are neoliberal ultras, and Brexit is a highly effective means of promoting this failed ideology. It’s the ultimate shock doctrine, using a public emergency to justify the imposition of policies that wouldn’t be accepted in ordinary times. Whether they really want no deal or not, the threat of it creates the political space in which they can apply their ideas.
Neoliberalism is the ideology developed by people such as Friedrich Hayek and Milton Friedman. It is not just a set of free-market ideas, but a focused discipline, deliberately applied around the world. It treats competition as humanity’s defining characteristic, sees citizens as consumers and “the market” as society’s organising principle. The market, it claims, sorts us into a natural hierarchy of winners and losers. Any attempt by politics to intervene disrupts the discovery of this natural order.

...The doctrine was imposed by central banks, the IMF, the Maastricht treaty and the World Trade Organization. By shutting down political choice, governments and international bodies created a kind of totalitarian capitalism.

It has failed on its own terms, and in many other ways. Far from creating general prosperity, growth has been slower in the neoliberal era than it was in preceding decades, and most of its fruits have been gathered by the rich. Far from stimulating an enterprise economy, it has created a gilded age for rent-seekers. Far from eliminating bureaucracy, it has created a Kafkaesque system of mad diktats and stifling control. It has fomented ecological, social, political, economic and financial crises, culminating in the 2008 crash. Yet, perhaps because its opponents have not produced a new, compelling story of their own, it still dominates our lives.
...Johnson uses neoliberal framing to justify his attacks on public safety. He wants to pull down environmental standards, create free ports in which businesses can avoid tax and regulation, and strike a rapid trade deal with the United States that is likely to rip up animal welfare rules and threaten the survival of the NHS
He rages against red tape, but the real red tape is created by the international trade treaties he favours, that render democratic change almost impossible, through rules that protect capital against popular challenge, and shift decision-making away from parliaments and into unaccountable offshore courts (“investor-state dispute settlement”). This explains the enthusiasm among some on the left for Brexit: a belief that escaping from the EU means escaping from coercive trade instruments. In reality, it exposes us to something even worse, as the UK enters negotiations with the US, holding a begging bowl.

Wait, Am I Missing Something?

Our friend, Warren, seems to think Justin Trudeau is the worst prime minister ever, citing an article from the Globe claiming that the Libs are obstructing an RCMP investigation into SNC-L by refusing to waive cabinet confidentiality.

I believe there was a time when this same fellow roasted an earlier prime minister, Paul Martin, for calling an official enquiry into the Chretien-era Sponsorship Scandal, a.k.a. Ad-Scam.

As I remember it, Warren blamed the Liberal misfortune not on the party miscreants, not on the responsible government of the day (the one he worked for), but on Martin. Prime minister Martin's mortal sin? He didn't cover up. He didn't stonewall. He let the facts come out.

I don't know how you reconcile those two situations. Trudeau is under no obligation to waive cabinet confidentiality, not that I've heard of. If he's acting lawfully then he's not obstructing the RCMP. Besides didn't his idol, Jody Wilson-Raybould, unequivocally state that there was no criminal wrongdoing? I'm pretty sure she said precisely that.

Martin did what was right, what was ethically right, but oh so wrong to Warren. Chretien-grade skulduggery ought to have been buried.

So how can we make sense of this? Could it be that this fellow had an axe to grind with Paul Martin in that day and an axe to grind with Justin Trudeau in this day?

Am I missing something?  Is this election going to be fought on scandals - real, partial or simply made up? I'm not sure that's going to produce an  'informed' electorate when Canadians go to the polls next month.  But, hey, that's the level that politics has fallen to in Canada.

Here we are in a gawdhonest climate emergency, with existential change gaining a toehold in the poorest and weakest countries and, eventually, headed our way. Shouldn't we be talking about what threatens our kids and theirs?  Will we let scandals, real and imagined, suck the oxygen out of the room?

BTW - I apologize if this post sounds like I'm riding to the defence of Justin Trudeau. I'm not. I can think of plenty of reasons why he doesn't deserve to remain our prime minister. He doesn't deserve it. Then again, Canada doesn't deserve Andrew Scheer. So, yes, Trudeau is the lesser of two deficients and if we must have one, we should be content with a Liberal minority. I said "content" not happy.

Me, I'm still voting Green.

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

A Massive Majority of British Columbians Say Scrap Daylight Savings.

93 per cent. That's a compelling majority in favour of abolishing Daylight Saving Time and BC premier, Jim Horgan, says he's got the message.

Those of us well north of the 49th parallel experience day and night somewhat differently than denizens of southern Ontario. At certain intervals we go to work and return home in pitch dark.

The locals, it appears, are willing to accept a later sunrise in exchange for an equally later sunset. And why not?  This whole 'fall back/spring forward' business is annoying and it's old.

In metro Vancouver where some commute for an hour, sometimes two, that extra bit of drive-home sunlight at the end of a hard day is appealing.
If British Columbia moves to permanent daylight time, as respondents want to do, it means the province won't "fall" back in November while most of the country still will.

It would mean B.C. and its neighbour to the east, Alberta, would be on the same time for four months, until Alberta springs forward to return to standard time in March. It also means B.C. would only be two hours behind Ontario over the winter, rather than the usual three hours for the rest of the year.

Henry's Abyss - The Curse of the Neoliberal Era

I suspect that there are moments when most of us wrestle to make sense of our world today. There are so many things going on from climate change to the collapse of biodiversity and ecological ruin to the failure of our political systems and institutions. WTF? Exactly.

Renowned American public intellectual and McMaster prof Henry Giroux offers some timely insights.
The signposts are clear. Across the globe, politicians spew out inordinate incitements of hatred and bigotry, while legitimating and often overtly supporting racism. Liberals cling to notions of freedom and liberty that ignore the power of capital to turn such terms into their opposite. The mainstream media measure the task of pursuing the truth against how their bottom line is affected. 
What has emerged out of this abyss of rising authoritarian power and its politics of depoliticization is the depredations of an updated version of fascist politics and the normalization of a rising tide of cruel and habituated ignorance. Habit normalized in a politics that destroys notions of informed agency and self-determination now merges ignorance and hatred. One result is the growing support for right-wing populism, which views individuals and populations displaced by global forces and deprived of the most basic means of existence — including food, shelter and pure water — with disdain and hatred.
...Right-wing populism offers a pseudo-democratic notion of politics in which matters of informed judgment, critical agency and collective action disappear into the symbol of the leader. In this discourse, politics becomes personalized in the image of the larger-than-life demagogue, removed from the alleged ignorance of the masses or “herd.”  ...Right-wing populism destroys everything that makes a genuine democratic politics possible
...right-wing populism builds upon and accentuates a long tradition of anti-democratic, neoliberal and racist tendencies that have been smoldering in the United States for decades. It eliminates critical thinking, undermines acts of civic courage, dismantles genuine collective action rooted in mass movements, suppresses democratic forms of opposition and crushes opponents. Its stark Hobbesian division between friends and enemies, unquestioning loyalty and democratic participation contains a propensity for violence rooted in its unforgiving politics of exclusion. The latter is especially troubling at a time in which violence has increasingly emerged and is accepted as a defining feature and organizing principle of politics, if not society itself. In this instance, the friend/enemy binary becomes all the more dangerous in a context where history is being erased and ignorance colludes with power to give rise to widening networks of oppression.
Trump makes this divisive feature central to his mode of governance. Putting forward coded assertions of white supremacy, Trump acts on a regressive notion of unity that relies on exclusion and a politics of disposability. According to Trump, “The only thing that matters is the unification of the people — because the other people don’t mean anything.” In Trump’s discourse, the call for unity has as its foundation the implication that all opposition is not only illegitimate but constitutes the terrain of the enemy. His notion of “the people” is reduced to a category that mimics the will of the leader whose image of the U.S. is as racist as it is anti-democratic in this deeply authoritarian discourse. The right-wing populist claim to exclusive power, representation and governance in the hands of the leader is not without its critical moments. For instance, right-wing populist leaders go out of their way to criticize globalization and the elite, but in doing so, they claim that only they can “represent the people” while putting policies into play that expand the power of the financial elite and their neoliberal imperatives, such as regressive tax cuts and the hollowing out of the welfare state.
Who will protect Canadians from this populist contagion? Will it be Justin Trudeau? No, not hardly. You'll have to look for a leader who understands the urgent need for democratic restoration, progressive democracy, while there may still be time. That, like it or not, begins with electoral reform something Trudeau promised and then jettisoned shortly after taking power.

We felt the scourge of our skewed electoral politics during the torment of the Harper years. We elected Trudeau in good measure on his promise to see that would never happen again. No more false majorities that so readily transform into autocracies. No, in future all voices would be heard, all would be represented. Only Junior never had the guts, the courage, the decency to fulfill his promise. And, in reneging on that solemn  promise, Trudeau ensured we would still be vulnerable to the next rightwing populist who came along. 

Is Washington the Place Democracy Dies?

There's been a good deal of focus lately on the uncertain future of democracy across the globe. There was Shawn Rosenberg's paper suggesting that we've become so "dumbed down" that our brains can no longer handle such things as self-rule. It's not the result of Donald Trump. If anything, he's only a manifestation of a decay that has been nurtured for decades.
Democracy is hard work. And as society’s “elites”—experts and publicfigures who help those around them navigate the heavy responsibilities that come with self-rule—have increasingly been sidelined, citizens have proved ill equipped cognitively and emotionally to run a well-functioning democracy. As a consequence, the center has collapsed and millions of frustrated and angst-filled voters have turned in desperation to right-wing populists. 
His prediction? “In well-established democracies like the United States, democratic governance will continue its inexorable decline and will eventually fail.”
If you haven't watched Idiocracy this might be a good time to get your hands on a copy.

In his latest column, economist Paul Krugman, also addresses the undermining of democracy in the American government to the applause of a large segment of the American people.
In their 2018 book “How Democracies Die,” the political scientists Steven Levitsky and Daniel Ziblatt documented how this process has played out in many countries, from Vladimir Putin’s Russia, to RecepTayyip Erdogan’s Turkey, to Viktor Orban’s Hungary. Bit by bit the guardrails of democracy were torn down, as institutions meant to serve the public became tools of the ruling party, then were weaponized to punish and intimidate that party’s opponents. On paper these countries are still democracies; in practice they have become one-party regimes. 
And the events of the past week have demonstrated how this can happen right here in America. 
At first Sharpiegate, Donald Trump’s inability to admit that he misstated a weather projection by claiming that Alabama was at risk from Hurricane Dorian, was kind of funny, even though it was also scary — it’s not reassuring when the president of the United States can’t face reality. But it stopped being any kind of joke on Friday, when the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration issued a statement falsely backing up Trump’s claim that it had warned about an Alabama threat.

Why is this frightening? Because it shows that even the leadership of NOAA, which should be the most technical and apolitical of agencies, is now so subservient to Trump that it’s willing not just to overrule its own experts but to lie, simply to avoid a bit of presidential embarrassment. 
Think about it: If even weather forecasters are expected to be apologists for Dear Leader, the corruption of our institutions is truly complete.
Even more compelling, writes Krugman, is the US government's war on the American auto industry for sticking with Obama's plan for increased fuel efficiency standards. Now Trump has unleashed the Justice Department on the car makers.
In a remarkable rebuke to the administration, they have reached an agreement with the State of California to comply with standards nearly as restrictive as the Obama rules even if the federal government is no longer requiring them. 
Now, according to The Wall Street Journal, the Justice Department is considering bringing an antitrust action against those companies, as if agreeing on environmental standards were a crime comparable to, say, price-fixing
This would be disturbing even if it came from an administration that had previously showed some interest in actual antitrust policy. Coming from people who heretofore haven’t indicated any concerns about monopoly power, it’s clearly an attempt at weaponizing antitrust actions, turning them into a tool of intimidation. 
And it’s also clear evidence that the Justice Department has been thoroughly corrupted. In less than three years it has been transformed from an agency that tries to enforce the law to an organization dedicated to punishing Trump’s opponents.

Which brings to mind an article I read yesterday in Scientific American, "The Contagion of Corruption."

Corruption, big or small, impedes the socioeconomic development of nations. It affects economic activities, weakens institutions, interferes with democracy and erodes the public's trust in government officials, politicians and their neighbors. Understanding the underlying psychology of bribery could be crucial to tackling the problem. Troublingly, our studies suggest that mere exposure to corruption is corrupting. Unless preventive measures are taken, dishonesty can spread stealthily and uninvited from person to person like a disease, eroding social norms and ethics—and once a culture of cheating and lying becomes entrenched, it can be difficult to dislodge.

The science types assembled a group of volunteers to see how and when they would go along with corruption.
...So all participants faced a conflict between playing the game by the rules and behaving dishonestly to earn more. We created this setup to assess how individuals balance external and internal—or psychological—rewards when making ethical decisions. Research that Nina Mazar, On Amir and one of us (Ariely) published in 2008 indicates that most people act unethically to the extent that they can benefit while also preserving their moral self-image—an observation they described as the theory of self-concept maintenance.
Our work suggests that bribery is like a contagious disease: it spreads quickly among individuals, often by mere exposure, and as time passes it becomes harder and harder to control. This is because social norms—the patterns of behavior that are accepted as normal—impact how people will behave in many situations, including those involving ethical dilemmas.
And that may explain the real danger to America posed by Donald Trump, the Great Corrupter, the man who cannot tell the truth. The fish rots from the head down. Corruption is contagious. When a man of sullied principle and degraded intellect sits in the Oval Office it should come as no surprise that he quickly manages to corrupt the other institutions of government to and including the Department of Justice and a "bought and paid for" Congress that no longer serves the American people.