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A crochet treasure

Feminist Christian - lun, 03/27/2017 - 11:40
When I was a little girl, we lived on a busy street in Regina. We knew all our neighbours. I can still name the people in about 7 of the houses near us then. One was a hockey family. One had family back in Ontario who would visit often (and I think their daughter became fairly Canadian-famous in journalism). One family had 9 kids, and I knew all of them. There was the girl with Leukemia, a block over. There were the people behind us, who let me walk through their yard to get to school so that I didn't have to walk all the way around the block. There was the old lady who would always donate about 4x as much as anyone else to whatever I was raising money for (Jump Rope for Heart, the MS Read-a-thon, etc.) I still keep up with one of these families (yay facebook!) to an extent. But one woman just sticks with me. I loved her. So I'm going to tell you about Marie Craig.

Marie was the kindest lady I can remember. I have no idea how old she was. I was 7. She was Ancient in my seven-year-old mind. Older than my parents, for sure. I'm going to guess she was about 60. I can't remember her face very well, but I remember her. She was our next door neighbour to the south. She and her husband Jim. They were kind people who would invite me in when I was playing outside. They'd feed me cookies and milk, and let me explore a bit. Mom could call on them to babysit, though she rarely did. If Mom couldn't find me, she'd check with them, and usually that's where I was. She'd tell me not to bother Mr and Mrs Craig, which I always found confusing, because I was pretty sure they were happy to have me. They'd invited me, after all!

One time, I remember they invited me in to watch TV with them. They were watching a new show, and Marie made me go home to ask Mom if it was okay if I watched 'a negro show' (keep in mind, it was about 1982 and she was about 60. That was the polite term.) Jim told her she was being ridiculous, but she made me go. Mom laughed and said that yes, of course, it was fine. The show was Diff'rent Strokes, which she called "Different Colours". She said, "I figured your Mom would be fine. Some people don't approve of it, but they're just stupid."

Marie made the most amazing things. That was one of the reasons she intrigued me so much. She could take a crochet hook and a ball of yarn and make magnificent things. She made a blanket and pillow for my dolls. I still have them. And now that I crochet too, I see the amazing detail and work she put into it. I was grateful at the time, but I had no way of understanding the complexity of the work. It's incredible that she'd do that for a little girl.



So one day I asked her to teach me how. This is one of the conversations with her I can remember. She smiled and told me to bring over a hook and some yarn and she'd show me how. Now, I know crocheters. She definitely had extra hooks and yarn. No question. She either wanted to make sure that I really wanted it, so I had to go get my own, or she knew that any hook she lent me was never coming back. Or both. So I nagged Mom over and over until Mom finally got me a hook. It was a pink 5mm plastic hook that Mom found in Grandma's sewing stuff. I took it and a ball of yarn (purple! I remember!) and was SO excited. Marie looked at my hook and yarn and said, "Oh no. This will not do. Take this back and tell your Mom you need a proper hook. 3.5 mm. Aluminum. And lighter yarn. We'll get you doing this right!" I was so disappointed. Like, she couldn't even get me started?! But no, she was going to do it the right way. Heh. So I did. I nagged Mom until we went to Woolco and bought one. That night, Marie started teaching me. I made a few little things, but I found it too monotonous to keep doing so that I could get to the point where I could do it while doing other things. And hey, I was 7.

So next, I needed to know how to knit. She taught me that too. But for the life of me, I could not get used to holding the yarn in my right hand, so she taught me to do it Continental Style (where you hold the yarn in the left hand, but the stitches are otherwise identical). I remember her laughing at me about it. Gently, but she was amused. I made doll blankets and pillows and scarves - shaping was beyond me.

And then I stopped doing all that stuff. For decades. I came back to it when I was pregnant with Crackle. I couldn't remember much, but I remembered that I found it easier to do Continental knitting, that you go through both loops in crochet, that an aluminum hook is better than a plastic one (usually!) and that yarn quality matters a lot.

And I remember how patient and kind she was.

 I think of her so often. The last time I saw her was when we moved away in 1985. She cried. It was one of the first times I'd seen an adult cry. I asked Mom a few years ago how she was doing. Marie died of breast cancer several years ago.

I miss the world of my childhood when kids knew their neighbours and could wander into their yards without a thought. I miss people like Marie and Jim.

Monday Morning Links

accidentaldeliberations - lun, 03/27/2017 - 08:09
Miscellaneous material to start your week.

- Jordon Cooper writes that the Saskatchewan Party's slash-and-burn budget confirms that for them, the poor don't matter. CBC reports on the devastating effect the budget will have on municipalities, while Courtney Markewitch reports that Saskatoon's city council is fighting back. And Joel Senick notes that the planned shutdown of the Saskatchewan Transportation Company is another area where the Wall government may be on shaky legal ground.

- Tom Parkin examines how the Trudeau Libs are substituting meaningless buzzwords for coherent policy and campaign promises. Rob Gillezeau and Jeffrey Ansloos highlight Trudeau's empty words when it comes to First Nations issues in particular. And Campbell Clark warns about the risks of the Libs' plans to undermine the role of Parliament.

- John O'Kane reports on Douglas Hoyes' research showing how bankruptcies are increasingly the result of income inequality.

- Kathleen Lahey studies (PDF) the gender impacts of tax policy, finding in particular that both cuts to progressive taxes (including income and corporate taxes) and joint tax laws serve only to advantage wealthier men.

- And finally, Scott Price summarizes the attacks on labour coming soon from Brian Pallister's Manitoba PCs.

Unpopulism

Northern Reflections - lun, 03/27/2017 - 05:32

Around the world, populism is shaking the foundations of what were once liberal democracies. Larry Elliott writes:

The rise of populism has rattled the global political establishment. Brexit came as a shock, as did the victory of Donald Trump. Much head-scratching has resulted as leaders seek to work out why large chunks of their electorates are so cross.

The answer seems pretty simple. Populism is the result of economic failure. The 10 years since the financial crisis have shown that the system of economic governance which has held sway for the past four decades is broken. Some call this approach neoliberalism. Perhaps a better description would be unpopulism.
That's an interesting word. Elliott defines it as "tilting the balance of power in the workplace in favour of management and treating people like wage slaves." It is a system which has been "rigged to ensure that the fruits of growth went to the few not to the many. Unpopulism decreed that those responsible for the global financial crisis got away with it while those who were innocent bore the brunt of austerity."

And rather than reversing things, the last ten years have only made the situation worse. Consider how things worked before 1975:

During the business cycle upswing between 1961 and 1969, the bottom 90% of Americans took 67% of the income gains. During the Reagan expansion two decades later they took 20%. During the Greenspan housing bubble of 2001 to 2007, they got just two cents in every extra dollar of national income generated while the richest 10% took the rest.

The US economist Thomas Palley* says that up until the late 1970s countries operated a virtuous circle growth model in which wages were the engine of demand growth.

“Productivity growth drove wage growth which fueled demand growth. That promoted full employment, which provided the incentive to invest, which drove further productivity growth,” he says.
Thatcher, Reagan and Mulroney reversed that virtuous cycle:

James Montier and Philip Pilkington, of the global investment firm GMO, say that the system which arose in the 1970s was characterised by four significant economic policies: the abandonment of full employment and its replacement with inflation targeting; an increase in the globalisation of the flows of people, capital and trade; a focus on shareholder maximisation rather than reinvestment and growth; and the pursuit of flexible labour markets and the disruption of trade unions and workers’ organisations.

To take just the last of these four pillars, the idea was that trade unions and minimum wages were impediments to an efficient labour market. Collective bargaining and statutory pay floors would result in workers being paid more than the market rate, with the result that unemployment would inevitably rise.

Unpopulism decreed that the real value of the US minimum wage should be eroded. But unemployment is higher than it was when the minimum wage was worth more. Nor is there any correlation between trade union membership and unemployment. If anything, international comparisons suggest that those countries with higher trade union density have lower jobless rates. The countries that have higher minimum wages do not have higher unemployment rates.
And Mr. Trump and those who favoured Brexit have no intention of reversing what has happened.

Image: The Guardian

Leadership 2017 Candidate Profile: Pat Stogran

accidentaldeliberations - dim, 03/26/2017 - 18:58
The latest putative entrant in the leadership race is Pat Stogran - well-known for challenging the Harper Cons' callous treatment of veterans in his role as veterans' ombudsman.

So how does Stogran fit into a field of current MPs and longtime activists, particularly when his own goal is largely to raise issues?

Strengths

The primary advantage Stogran brings to the race is the combination of broader name recognition and perceived media credibility. It's not clear exactly how familiar he'll be to the public, but between a prominently-featured book and a number of media appearances he seems at least to be enjoying slightly more attention than his competitors.

In addition, Stogran has staked out some policy turf for himself with a focus on veterans' issues, open government and managerial experience.

Weaknesses

That said, Stogran faces a steep hill to climb in pursuing the NDP's leadership. All of his opponents have multiple terms of experience as MPs and a long history of political organization. In contrast, Stogran's introduction has included mention of his own unfamiliarity with the political process in general as well as the NDP in particular.

What's more, Stogran's inexperience has manifested itself in some dubious messaging, including reinforcing other parties' talking points about the NDP's economic credibility. It's difficult enough to win over the membership of a party as an outsider; it figures to be even tougher when part of the pitch is one which party members are likely to see as a tired and hostile line of criticism.

Key Indicator

While Stogran will surely need to win over some existing NDP members, it's hard to see how he has much of a path to victory among party loyalists. With that in mind, the key figure for him will be the number of new party members he can sign up (presumably with a heavy focus on veterans as a constituency): if he's going to mount a serious challenge, he needs to bring people into the NDP tent who wouldn't make the effort to join otherwise.

Key Opponent

In order to generate any traction as an outside voice on the economy and governance, Stogran will at least need to show more command of the subjects than his competitors. And that sets up a noteworthy contrast with Guy Caron.

If Stogran can meaningfully challenge Caron's themes to the same effect, his critique may resonate somewhat - shaking loose some down-ballot voters while weakening the strongest competitor for governance-based ballots. But if he can't, any continued criticism of the NDP's ability to govern will serve only to alienate members while providing a boost to Caron in defending the party's qualifications.

Plausible Outcomes

Best-case: A strong influx of new members which pushes him onto multiple ballots and allows for growth in an anything-can-happen scenario
Worst-case: A last-place leadership campaign finish based on a lack of membership support, coupled with a failure to establish a place within the NDP generally

Leadership 2017 Candidate Profile: Niki Ashton

accidentaldeliberations - dim, 03/26/2017 - 17:38
For Ashton alone among the NDP's leadership candidates, we've been through this exercise before. But for a candidate who stood out for her youth in 2012, it's remarkable how little has changed this time around.

Strengths

Once again, youth and expanded appeal are obvious priorities for all of the NDP's leadership candidate. And for the second time, Ashton is the candidate who personally reflects those opportunities - particularly in light of her successful outreach tour talking to young workers about their experiences with precarious work and life.

Having run a leadership campaign before, Ashton also has more experience than her competitors in the task at hand. And her comfort level in both languages has shown in the debates so far, where she's done especially well managing the flow of discussion periods and two-candidate debates.

Weaknesses

But it's not clear how far that experience will take her. While Ashton's 2012 results haven't received much attention, they have to be seen as a disappointment, as Ashton finished last on the first ballot. And she may have work do just to get back to where she left off five years ago: while she was a natural first choice for rural and First Nations voters once Romeo Saganash left the 2012 race, she now faces Charlie Angus as a magnet for that support.

Meanwhile, there's also reason for concern that Ashton has learned some of the wrong lessons from her time on the stage. She's proven more prone than the other candidates to offering surface-level answers to questions which call for more, or to answering a question other than the one asked. And while her core message of countering the spread of neoliberalism has its appeal, she has some distance to go in showing how to give effect to it.

Key Indicator

It remains to be seen how many pollsters will be asking questions along the lines of "best prime minister" or perceptions competence as compared to their usual first-choice support and favourability numbers. But I'd consider those to be the most important factors for Ashton's prospects of winning.

If she can compare credibly to her fellow MPs in those numbers while also inspiring a strong youth contingent, then she'll have a serious chance to emerge on top. If not, then she's likely headed for another disappointing result.

Key Opponent

Again, a substantial number of Ashton's core constituencies are also primary areas of strength for Angus. If Ashton can win enough over to stay ahead of him while outlasting him on the ballot, they may offer her a path to victory; if not, then there are limited paths for her to be competitive.

Plausible Outcomes

Best-case: Narrow win based on mobilizing young workers to emerge as one of the final choices, then convincing members to shift votes her way
Worst-case: 2012 redux

Leadership 2017 Candidate Profile: Guy Caron

accidentaldeliberations - dim, 03/26/2017 - 17:32
So far, media coverage of Guy Caron's NDP leadership campaign has focused largely on one note (that being his basic income proposal). But there's plenty more to his candidacy - and he may well emerge as the party's favourite when it comes time to vote.

Strengths

Both Caron's core campaign promise and his signature issues in Parliament (including fighting tax evasion and facilitating family transfers of small businesses) connect to his theme of economic competence. And the primary message he's conveying to NDP voters is indeed that he can both help reframe the debate on economic issues, and provide an answer to anybody questioning the NDP's strength in that area.

But in case anybody feared that Caron would be limited to talking numbers, he's had plenty of answers so far - offering both personal stories, and strong responses in every policy area covered. And in particular, Caron has offered both the most pointed critiques and best one-liners in responding to the Trudeau Libs.

Weaknesses

The most significant issue for the moment looks to be a mismatch between Caron's current communication skills and the NDP's pool of voters. Caron's substantive comments are no less strong in English than in French. But for the moment, his accent is just thick enough to require some effort to work through - giving him a greater degree of difficulty in reaching most of the voters he needs to win over.

It also remains to be seen how much political infrastructure Caron can assemble behind him compared to the longer-tenured MPs in the race - though I wouldn't expect that to be a huge issue as the campaign develops.

Key Indicator

Based on the above, I'll be watching for Caron's favourability outside Quebec. If he's within range of his fellow candidates, that should serve as an indication that he's made it over any language barrier and thus has room to grow.

Key Opponent

Caron's best-case scenario involves being able to appeal on later ballots to voters who have both an  inclination toward policy, and a strong interest in a leader with Quebec ties. Since Peter Julian's base fits both bills, he looms as the candidate Caron most needs to surpass.

Plausible Outcomes

Best-case: Enough early support to reach the final ballot, where Caron would have a strong chance of emerging as a compromise candidate
Worst-case: A fourth-place finish, as higher membership numbers from the West and Ontario outweigh Caron's home-province support

Leadership 2017 Candidate Profile: Charlie Angus

accidentaldeliberations - dim, 03/26/2017 - 15:27
If Peter Julian's leadership campaign has been surprising in its relatively push toward controversy, Charlie Angus may be defying expectations in the opposite direction - as the punk rocker has been the most serene figure in the race so far.

Strengths

Rather than spending much of the first two debates on a soapbox, Angus has thus far positioned himself as the comparatively happy warrior of the leadership campaign. His interjections so far have been measured, upbeat and personally compelling compared to those of his competitors - and members looking for an attitude and tone reminiscent of Jack Layton's leadership may find it in Angus.

Meanwhile, even while choosing not to deal much with policy specifics for the moment, Angus has proven comfortable dealing with whatever issues come up - at least as long as he's able to respond in English.

Weaknesses

One of the key questions for Angus at the start of the leadership campaign was his strength in speaking French. So far, he's been functional in reading prepared statements while struggling with quick responses - and it will be worth watching whether Angus can improve his communications over the course of the campaign.

The more lasting issue may be the flip side of Angus' choice to punt on policy for the moment. If his personal appeal falls short, there currently isn't much else for his campaign to fall back on in seeking to win over potential supporters. And each of Angus' main areas of advocacy (First Nations, ethics and poverty) is being targeted by at least one other candidate, leaving a risk that Angus might not be seen as the voice for a single key policy theme.

Key Indicator

Angus' personal appeal looks to be the crucial factor in the end. But in a campaign of violent agreement where few candidates will be under the microscope (and there may not be much distinction in approval/disapproval to monitor), I'll be watching early on for examples of institutional support which might provide him the resources to take advantage of positive perceptions later.

In particular, if Angus can assemble some support from within organized labour and/or Jack Layton's previous NDP team, that will take him a long way toward pushing for a Layton-style result - and he may be the one candidate with a chance to win a first-ballot majority.

Key Opponent

In order to get there, however, Angus would almost certainly need a strong majority outside of Quebec. And that's where the strength of Peter Julian's campaign may be critical: Julian is likely both the candidate in the best position to hold Angus short of an early-ballot victory, and the one who most stands to benefit if early-ballot Quebec support for other candidates ends up being divided up later on. 

Plausible Outcomes

Best-case: First-ballot victory based on personal appeal
Worst-case: Moderate first-ballot finish and little subsequent growth for want of a clear campaign theme

Leadership 2017 Candidate Profile: Peter Julian

accidentaldeliberations - dim, 03/26/2017 - 15:09
I'll start my series of NDP leadership candidate profiles with the first to enter the leadership race - and the one who's likely done the most to shape the campaign so far.

I've noted before my surprise at the choices made so far by Peter Julian's campaign: a candidate who could have portrayed himself as the safest of consensus choices has instead generated a great deal of polarization. But Julian nonetheless looks to be an extremely strong contender.

Strengths

Again, the primary advantage held by Julian is his experience as an NDP activist and organizer, and it's showing so far in the campaign. He's been ahead of the field from day one in putting his infrastructure in place and winning caucus endorsements, and his diverse experience in Parliament and elsewhere makes him comfortable talking about nearly any issue.

Beyond that, there are advantages to being seen taking the strongest position in the campaign on the hot-button issue of pipelines. In addition to giving Julian a ready applause line, that choice also makes him a natural beneficiary of an already-energized group of activists both inside and outside the party. 

Weaknesses

At the start of the campaign, I'd have expected Julian's largest concern to be whether he could speak powerfully enough on the stump and in debates to win first-choice support from members with plenty of options.

Having chosen to sidestep that potential issue through sharp issue messaging, Julian instead faces the challenge of defending himself from fossil-fueled vitriol now that he's become a lightning rod for criticism of any strong environmental policy. If Julian can hold up under those circumstances, he could position himself ideally to take the same message forward as the NDP's leader - but he'll face a lot more direct attacks now than he might have otherwise.

Key Indicators

The key indicators for Julian will then be second-choice support and negative perceptions. I'd fully expect Julian to rank at the top of many ballots, but a first-ballot win is likely not within reach - meaning that he needs to leave himself some room to add votes as other candidates are eliminated.

Key Opponent

To the extent Julian's campaign may turn on pipelines, Charlie Angus is currently positioned as the most distinct voice for facilitating (if not outright supporting) pipeline development. And Angus' handling of the issue could well turn the race in either direction.

If Angus decides he too can win first-choice support by firming up his own position contrary to Julian, the result may be to push perceptions further against Julian than he can afford, particularly if the position is echoed enough from outside the party. But it's also possible that strategy could set up a ballot question where Julian would pick up exactly the later-ballot boost he needs from Guy Caron and Niki Ashton supporters.

Plausible Outcomes

Best-case: First-place showing on the first ballot based on environmental and institutional support, followed by a relatively quick win
Worst-case: Moderate placement on the first ballot followed by little subsequent growth

A Brief Pause

Politics and its Discontents - dim, 03/26/2017 - 13:00


The metaphorical road beckons. See you in a bit.Recommend this Post

Leadership 2017 Links

accidentaldeliberations - dim, 03/26/2017 - 09:35
A few notes worth a look in advance of today's youth-focused debate...

- Kyle Duggan reports on Pat Stogran's imminent entry into the race. And The View Up Here features an extended interview to introduce Stogran as a candidate, while CTV offers a shorter interview.

- Anishinabek News examines Charlie Angus' focus on First Nations issues. Robert McCarthy offers an endorsement of Niki Ashton. And Jean-Philippe Langlais takes note of Guy Caron's analysis that the Libs' underwhelming budget only highlights the need for a progressive economic vision, while Tereza Verenca reports on Peter Julian's disappointment in the delay on housing in particular. 

- Lawrence Martin theorizes that the NDP needs to stick to what he perceives to be Jack Layton's script. But in addition to his questionable reading of the 2015 campaign, he noticeably omits Layton's track record as a progressive activist from any explanation of what led to his success.

- And finally, Nora Loreto offers her take on the campaign, while Eric Grenier previews the debate.

Sunday Morning Links

accidentaldeliberations - dim, 03/26/2017 - 09:18
This and that for your Sunday reading.

- David Olive offers his take on what a basic income should look like - and is optimistic that Ontario's ongoing experiment should hit the mark:
A UBI would be pointless in the absence of existing supports. In the Ontario pilot projects, the payout for a single person will be $1,689 per month. That’s still short of living costs. Average Toronto rent for a two-bedroom apartment ($1,450 per month) and a Metropass ($134 per month) leaves just $116 per month for food, clothing, prescriptions and other costs.

The model devised by Segal, a longtime advocate of UBI, is a sound and cautious one. Its payout is not that much higher than current welfare support under Ontario Works, whose payouts equal about 45 per cent of the Low Income Measure.

But the Segal payout, combined with existing welfare, is enough to lift recipients above the poverty line, ensuring substantial income for workers in precarious jobs and for those in the unpaid workforce. The latter includes tens of thousands of volunteers, whose social contribution is of immense value but doesn’t show up in GDP stats.

A well-designed UBI equates to freedom. Freedom from exploitative employers. Freedom to launch a small business or develop an invention despite a lack of employment income. Liberation from the “poverty trap,” where taking a paying job means surrendering welfare and other benefits. And freedom to escape an abusive partner relied upon for room and board.
...
We’re coming back to UBI now because the “social contract” between employers and workers lies in ruins. The decline of unions has consigned powerless workers to exploitative workplaces. And the tax system has been perverted to liberate the wealthiest 1 per cent from paying their fair share.

Income inequality is a widespread crisis. How we handle it will be a defining factor in shaping the 21st century. - Meanwhile, Emily Mathieu notes that rising rents and other costs are driving the working poor away from Toronto. And Dennis Raphael discusses the importance of political choices in ensuring physical and mental health.

- Angus Deaton discusses how extreme inequality leads to unstable and unrepresentative governance. Peter Waldman highlights the importance of in ensuring that any jobs provide both stability and a reasonable standard of living - as political spin about auto industry jobs in the southern U.S. states has led to little but exploitation in the face of minimal unionization and corporate-owned governments. And Harold Meyerson calls out the corporate media's bias against a fair minimum wage (among other basic protections for workers).

- Daniel Tencer writes that the next stage of trade negotiations with China is likely to include demands that Chinese employers be able to import workers on their own terms, while seeking to eliminate any talk of human rights or national security. 

- Finally, David Rider examines the Ontario Libs' secrecy around their Hydro One selloff - which includes hiding information about who has been involved in the privatization and at what cost. And we should expect similar secrecy - and reason for suspicion - if Bill Morneau follows through on the federal Libs' continued musings about privatizing airports and other public assets.

Fortress Amerika Begins To Pay A Heavy Price

Politics and its Discontents - dim, 03/26/2017 - 06:34
Now that the parody of a president selected by the American people has infected the U.S. national psyche with more than its usual quotient of paranoia and xenophobia, those same people are beginning to get the message that there is a high price to be paid for their irresponsibility. And I, for one, can muster little pity for those sectors that are suffering as a result of their fellow-citizens' choice.

Many are choosing to avoid Amerika for at least the next four years, from individuals to educational institutions. And it is beginning to have a financial impact, as these statistics make clear:
-Tourists spend $108.1 million an hour in the USA.

-Tourists spend $2.1 trillion in the USA every year, half of which goes to secondary small businesses like bars, restaurants, theaters, and so on.

-All of this generates $147.9 billion in annual tax revenue at the city, state, and federal levels.

-Travel ranks as the seventh largest industry in the USA.

Granted these figures represent domestic travelers as well as international ones. If you just look at international travelers, they still supported 1.1 million jobs and $28.4 billion in wages in 2015 alone. And in a divided America, will we see less internal travel, too? Almost certainly.

And as the following report makes clear, the financial health of universities is also in jeopardy:



All of these developments must be humbling indeed for the country that has the hubris to call itself 'the greatest nation on earth."Recommend this Post

Michelle Rempel's Outrageous Assault on Justin Trudeau

Montreal Simon - dim, 03/26/2017 - 06:20


It's a sad thing, but Michelle Rempel's behaviour is starting to alarm a lot of people in Ottawa, or deeply concern them.

For she just can't stop acting like she's boozed up, or stop directing torrents of abuse in the general direction of Justin Trudeau.

I mean who can forget when she recently accused him of treating Alberta...um...badly?



Or forget her many deeply disturbing Twitter tirades.

Well now she's done it again.
Read more »

That's Not His Style

Northern Reflections - dim, 03/26/2017 - 03:10


Americans were in danger of loosing their health care last week. They dodged a bullet. But there is a bigger danger looming. Tony Burman writes:

During a visit to South Korea earlier this month, Rex Tillerson, [Donald] Trump’s secretary of state, announced what appeared to be a dramatic change in American policy toward the nuclear threat of North Korea.
Since the diplomacy of the past 20 years has “failed,” he warned, pre-emptive military action against North Korea is now “on the table.” Tillerson’s warning reflected the U.S. government’s worry that Kim’s renegade regime is accelerating its nuclear program.
Having lost big time in Congress, Trump will not take Korean threats -- which are not new -- lying down:
This nuclear challenge has confronted several American presidents since the 1990s. It has also frustrated China, North Korea’s neighbour and chief economic benefactor, which potentially stands to lose the most if the Korean Peninsula descends into chaos.
This sudden reference by the Trump administration to the possibility of pre-emptive military action against North Korea has rattled the region. There are few informed analysts who see this option, if pursued, as anything but a certain catastrophe.
North Korea’s nuclear arsenal is thought to be widely dispersed throughout the country. No single military strike could destroy it. North Korea also has an even larger stockpile of chemical and biological weapons. Analysts believe that an attack would give Kim’s regime ample time to hit back immediately at neighbouring South Korea and at U.S. military bases in the region.
The potential death toll from such a conflict would be breathtaking. South Korea’s capital city of Seoul has a population of more than 10 million and is only about 50 kilometres from the border. 
Mr.Trump was willing to throw 14 million people off medicare. Would the lives of 10 million Koreans lay heavily on his conscience?
Burman writes that "rather than a pre-emptive strike, what is needed is increasing economic and diplomatic pressure — in tandem with China — to rein in the North Korean regime."
We saw how Trump operates last week. That's not his style. Nor is it Kim Jong Un's.
Image: Daily Express 

I Think This Captures the Mood

The Disaffected Lib - sam, 03/25/2017 - 10:52

 I was struggling to find words to describe the misery of the Republican party in the wake of yesterday's fiasco on health care reform. The I twigged to something out of the past that fits like a glove:

Like a bear with a raw assin black fly season
I think that captures the moment. 

A House Divided

The Disaffected Lib - sam, 03/25/2017 - 09:17


When House Speaker Paul Ryan pulled his American Health Care Act bill yesterday he revealed a deeply fractured Republican party. His Congressional Repugs are divided in three camps - moderate or establishment Republicans, Ryan's Ayn Rand Republicans, and even more radical hard right Republicans.

The moderate and the extreme factions wanted nothing to do with the AHCA. To the moderates it was too harsh and invited a voter backlash in the mid-term elections.

To the nihilistic, extreme right, it wasn't harsh enough. They wanted the bill stripped of everything but the title. No coverage for maternity care or emergency care or hospital stays - pretty much nothing except, of course, for the tax cuts for their patrons, the Koch brothers.

Ryan's legislation was not what Trump had repeatedly promised voters. Trump said his plan would cover everyone. Premiums would be a fraction of what they were paying under Obama's Affordable Care Act. Coverage would be much better. The bill placed before Congress was just the opposite in every respect. In fraud cases it's called "bait and switch."

With a majority of 247 Republicans to 191 Democrats, the bill should have passed easily.

After pulling the bill Ryan went on about how they were "close, very, very close." Maybe, maybe not. We'll never know and that's no accident.

Had the House voted on the bill there would be no hiding the truth about how deeply fractured Congressional Republicans have become. The full measure of the dissent by the extremists and the dissent from the moderates would have been laid bare like a raw, festering sore and it would have shown that Republicans have definitely not coalesced behind their new Republican president. Polling the Representatives would have been seen as a vote of confidence in Donald Trump and the outcome a huge defeat for the Cheeto Benito.

Abraham Lincoln drew from the Bible, Mark 3:25, when he said that "a house divided against itself cannot stand." Today's Republicans, an abomination of what Lincoln's Republicans stood for, failed to heed that. They also ignored another bit of Abe's sage advice: "You can fool all the people some of the time, and some of the people all the time, but you cannot fool all the people all the time."

Now, let's get back to the Russia business.

Star Letter-Writers Seldom Disappoint

Politics and its Discontents - sam, 03/25/2017 - 09:04


Whenever I am feeling a bit down about the world around me and the passivity with which so many 'face' it, I know I can go to the letters section of The Toronto Star to buoy my spirits. Today is no exception, as readers render judgement on the disgraced Senator Don Meredith and roundly reject his groundless, cowardly claim of being a victim of racism.
Re: Racism at play in criticisms of Don Meredith, senator's lawyer says, March 19

I am fed up with the cry of “racism,” which is being broken out once again by Senator Don Meredith in the affair involving a minor child.

Our disgust has nothing to do with the fact that he is a man of colour. His confession of “moral failing” does not begin to excuse the use of his positions of power and prestige to engage in the grooming and exploitation of a child.

The sexual exploitation of children is one of society's greatest taboos. In our universal rejection, the colour of the perpetrator has nothing to do with our perception of the grievousness of his behaviour or our concern for the probable lasting effect on the victim.

Senator Meredith's actions are those of a man without any moral compass whatsoever. And we as a community must be clear that our rejection of his actions have nothing to do with his colour.

He has crossed a line for which there is no possible excuse. If he has any honour or courage left, he must resign the Senate immediately

Robert Kent, Mississauga

This saga of indecent behaviour by Sen. Meredith has become utterly disgusting. After the Senator's failed attempt to mitigate his situation by blaming the victim, and by claiming that racism is the reason that he is being scrutinized, his (now former) lawyer has brought the situation to greater heights of disbelief.

Selwyn Pieters equates Meredith's sexual involvement with a 17-year-old girl to Senators Wallin and Duffy being investigated for improper use of expense accounts. They were not forced to resign. So he suggests there is racism at play.

Meredith's behaviour was bad enough. His continued attempt to blame everyone and everything else, and his lawyer's ridiculous statements, have reached a pinnacle requiring the Senate to deal with him.

Mike Faye, Toronto

For Senator Meredith to claim racism is rich. He got caught doing something he knew very well he should not have been doing and now that his world is imploding, he is blaming everyone else.

For him to make this whole thing go away would be to resign, and the fact that the Senate cannot force him to do so is sad. He is an embarrassment to everything that he stands for as a father, husband, minister and senator.

The senate has had enough embarrassment in the past year or so with Brazeau, Wallin and Duffy. That we taxpayers do not have a way of getting rid of them is a problem that has to be fixed.

Allan Mantel, Victoria Harbour, Ont.

One thing for certain, If Meredith was a member of the “old white boys country club,” he wouldn't be able to “play the race card.” Anyone, regardless of race, committing such an egregious act, should not only be thrown out of the Senate, but should also should be criminally prosecuted.

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Saturday Morning Links

accidentaldeliberations - sam, 03/25/2017 - 09:01
Miscellaneous material for your weekend reading.

- Brian Jones rightly argues that a fair tax system would go a long way toward eliminating any serious concerns about government deficits. And Marco Chown Oved offers some reason for optimism in the Canada Revenue Agency's response to the Panama Papers.

- David Macdonald examines what could have been in the Libs' federal budget, while Luke Savage calls out Justin Trudeau's combination of populist messaging and status quo, elite-friendly budgeting. And PressProgress notes that the main message to younger workers from the Libs is again to expect a lifetime of precarity.

- Russell Diabo discusses Trudeau's penchant for closed-door decision-making and surface consultations - and how First Nations thus need to be wary of empty words.

- Gary Mason writes that Brad Wall has thoroughly undermined any case for conservative economics (even as he continues to push its most inequitable aspects by handing freebies to big businesses while demanding massive sacrifices from citizens). And David Climenhaga wonders whether Wall is headed for a quick political exit - which would make sense given how his latest PR stunts are backfiring

- Finally, Daniel Bessner and Matthew Sparke point out that a few populist themes can't paper over Donald Trump's neoliberalism.

Donald Trump and the Trumpcare Disaster

Montreal Simon - sam, 03/25/2017 - 06:44


Well what a difference a day makes. On Thursday Donald Trump was sitting in the cab of a monster truck demanding that Republicans support his plan to replace Obamacare.

Or else.

And when he woke up yesterday morning, he seemed pretty confident his Trumpcare plan would be approved.



But sadly for him, that's as good as it got.
Read more »

No Man To Do Business With

Northern Reflections - sam, 03/25/2017 - 05:43


Yesterday was quite a day. The Republican repudiation of Barack Obama's health care bill went down to defeat. Ezra Klein doesn't mince words:

Let’s be clear about what happened here. The American Health Care Act failed because it was a terrible piece of legislation. It would have thrown 24 million people off insurance and raised deductibles for millions more — and the savings would’ve gone to pay for tax cuts for millionaires. It broke virtually all of Donald Trump’s campaign promises, and was opposed not just by Democrats but also by Republicans.

This is a failure for Speaker Paul Ryan on many levels. He wrote this bill, and when the speaker takes over the process like that, the upside is it’s supposed to create legislation that can pass. On this most basic task, Ryan failed, and failed spectacularly.

But beyond the legislative and tactical deficiencies, the AHCA reflected a deeper failure of moral and policy imagination. Ryan spent the latter half of Barack Obama’s presidency promising to repair the Republican Party’s relationship with the poor (remember Ryan’s “poverty tour”?). He’s spent every day since the passage of Obamacare saying the Republicans could do better. This is what he came up with? The GOP put their greatest policy mind in charge of the House of Representatives and they got ... this?
Donald Trump staged a hostile takeover of an intellectually and morally bankrupt party. He is the prefect CEO for such an organization. He now claims that he will move on to tax reform and building a wall which the American people -- not the Mexicans -- will pay for.

But it won't be easy accomplishing those objectives. He also plans to build the Dakota Access and Keystone pipelines. However, the same kind of public opposition to Trumpcare will greet those projects.

Yesterday, Mr. Trudeau applauded the rebirth of Keystone XL. Not a wise move, Justin. Just ask all those Americans who almost lost their health care what it's like to do business with the Great Orange Id.

Image: Sputnik News

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