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Hey, Sal. This One's For You.

The Disaffected Lib - 7 hours 36 min ago

For our friend, the Salamander. Here's your namesake, the biggest of them all.

The Best Weapon to Fight Right Wing Populism - Progressive Populism From the Left

The Disaffected Lib - 8 hours 11 min ago

The era of Everyday Low Taxes, especially for corporations and the rich, has brought us low.

Why, in a piece on rightwing populism did I open with a line about taxes? It's because we have to get out from under ill-conceived tax policies that have fueled inequality and social unrest now being exploited by rightwing populists.

You can go from Reagan to Trump, from Thatcher to May, from Mulroney to Trudeau, and we're still living under this farcical myth of "trickle down" prosperity for all. We've been waiting for more than three decades for that to happen and it turns out that what we've had instead is a "trickle up" economy facilitated by a political caste in service to narrow interests at the expense of the public interest.

There's an old line about people who know the price of everything and the value of nothing. The political equivalent of that are politicians who fixate on GDP, Gross Domestic Production, as the yardstick to gauge their performance. It's all about growth with little to no regard for where that growth winds up, how it impacts society. Growth can be a double-edged sword, dangerous if it's wielded carelessly as it has been routinely in recent decades. We have deep wounds to our social cohesion to show for it.

Now right wingers - Erdogan, Orban, Wilders, Trump are examples - are exploiting the discontent to ride a wave of faux populism much as some pretty horrible people have in the past. They purport to empathize with Joe Lunchpail's problems, promise to bring back some golden era past, all the while consolidating ever more power.

In Trump's case he promises to bring back the good old days of the 60s, 70s and 80s America when the middle class prospered and flourished. Only he's lying. He's lying because his base of Gullibillies don't know any better. They're Gullibillies who need to believe and don't care if tells the truth.

How do I know Trump's lying about bringing back the good old days? That's easy. Take a look at those good old days and see what he would have to reinstate to bring them back. That would begin with heavy taxation of higher bracket incomes. That would demand taxation of high incomes and taxation of wealth just like America used to have back when the government had funds to pay for infrastructure projects, a social safety net and so on. Trump is not going to do that.

In the postwar era of prosperity, every president, Republican and Democrat alike, managed to reduce America's federal debt as a percentage of GDP until the election of Ronald Reagan. In just 8 years, Reagan transformed America from the world's largest creditor state to the world's largest debtor nation. The U.S. has never been the same since.

Bush/Cheney enacted two massive tax cuts for the rich and launched two protracted foreign wars. There wasn't money in the treasury for any of that. That funding had to be borrowed from foreign lenders. That is the reality of everyday low taxes, the blood oath of the neoliberal era.

Trump promises the Gullibillies that he'll bring back their offshored jobs. That's nonsense. Those jobs were first outsourced to Mexico and then moved to China. Now China can't compete for the low cost labour. Running shoes are now being produced in Ethiopia.

Nobel laureate economist and former World Bank chief economist, Joe Stiglitz, has written a very insightful piece in the latest Vanity Fair in which he unpacks Trump's economic fantasies.

Trump, it would seem, believes that we can go it alone, that we don’t need the cooperation of China or any other country, or that if we did, we could buy it when we need it. He believes that everything and everybody has a price—that when and if we need cooperation, we can buy it off the shelf. Like the real-estate developer that he is, everything is transactional.

While there is some debate about the extent to which Trump is a “successful businessman,” there is no successful country that is grounded on the principles—or the lack of principles—upon which he has grown his businesses. Economists believe that a successful economy is based on trust, backed up by the rule of law. His standard business practice has been to stiff his suppliers, knowing that recourse to courts is expensive. Of course, over the long term, honest suppliers know this, and refuse to deal. Less scrupulous vendors overcharge and cheat, taking advantage too of the imperfections in our judicial system. But there is no successful economy based on the Trump model.

Trump supporters who eagerly await the return of $40 per hour plus benefits jobs are going to come up empty. Those jobs aren't coming back, not unless America's workers accept Ethiopian wages. That door has been nailed shut not just by Third World wage rates but by automation, robotics. It's simply cheaper and more profitable to rely on expensive robots than to return to the labour market Trump's Gullibillies imagine.
Trump is selling faux populism. There are things he says he'll do but simply can't. The other things - things he can do - he won't. And as he comes up empty handed he'll find someone or something else to vilify. The Gullibillies have an insatiable appetite for vilification. That's why they're Trump's lawful prey.
Does that mean that there's no place for populism? Hardly. There is both a place and an urgent need, just not for right wing, faux populism. Now more than ever. But what is populism, progressive populism? It's more than a chicken in every pot, a car in every garage. It's a formula of principles on which to found a relationship between the state and the individual, the nation and its people. Some of these are ancient principles that trace back to the beginning, Athenian democracy.

As Stiglitz observes, Trump's farcical promise is grounded on a freewheeling, lack of principles which, by itself, dooms it to fail. Principles guide policy. Without essential principles policy becomes incoherent, contradictory, even self-defeating.
Progressive populism is founded on principles that where and as possible should be expressed in policy. There is no magic bullet. Policy has to reflect limits and changing circumstances just as it reflects opportunities. Policy should be the practical embodiment of principle.
There can be no exhaustive compendium of progressive principles. But there are a number of core principles, tested and proven over generations, even centuries. A number of them are restated in Teddy Roosevelt's "Square Deal" speech of 1910 and I think you will find them suitable to our world today.
1. Balancing the rights of Labour and Capital.

Of that generation of men to whom we owe so much, the man to whom we owe most is, of course, Lincoln. Part of our debt to him is because he forecast our present struggle and saw the way out. He said: —

“I hold that while man exists it is his duty to improve not only his own condition, but to assist in ameliorating mankind.”

And again: —

“Labor is prior to, and independent of, capital. Capital is only the fruit of labor, and could never have existed if labor had not first existed. Labor is the superior of capital, and deserves much the higher consideration.”

2. Restraint of Special Interests and the Inequality These Interests Create

In every wise struggle for human betterment one of the main objects, and often the only object, has been to achieve in large measure equality of opportunity. In the struggle for this great end, nations rise from barbarism to civilization, and through it people press forward from one stage of enlightenment to the next. One of the chief factors in progress is the destruction of special privilege. The essence of any struggle for healthy liberty has always been, and must always be, to take from some one man or class of men the right to enjoy power, or wealth, or position, or immunity, which has not been earned by service to his or their fellows.

At many stages in the advance of humanity, this conflict between the men who possess more than they have earned and the men who have earned more than they possess is the central condition of progress. In our day it appears as the struggle of freemen to gain and hold the right of self-government as against the special interests, who twist the methods of free government into machinery for defeating the popular will. At every stage, and under all circumstances, the essence of the struggle is to equalize opportunity, destroy privilege, and give to the life and citizenship of every individual the highest possible value both to himself and to the commonwealth.

Practical equality of opportunity for all citizens, when we achieve it, will have two great results. First, every man will have a fair chance to make of himself all that in him lies; to reach the highest point to which his capacities, unassisted by special privilege of his own and unhampered by the special privilege of others, can carry him, and to get for himself and his family substantially what he has earned. Second, equality of opportunity means that the commonwealth will get from every citizen the highest service of which he is capable. No man who carries the burden of the special privileges of another can give to the commonwealth that service to which it is fairly entitled.

Now, this means that our government, national and state, must be freed from the sinister influence or control of special interests. ...We must drive the special interests out of politics. That is one of our tasks to-day. Every special interest is entitled to justice — full, fair, and complete —  For every special interest is entitled to justice, but not one is entitled to a vote in Congress, to a voice on the bench, or to representation in any public office. The Constitution guarantees protection to property, and we must make that promise good. But it does not give the right of suffrage to any corporation.

There can be no effective control of corporations while their political activity remains. To put an end to it will be neither a short nor an easy task, but it can be done.

We must have complete and effective publicity of corporate affairs, so that the people may know beyond peradventure whether the corporations obey the law and whether their management entitles them to the confidence of the public. It is necessary that laws should be passed to prohibit the use of corporate funds directly or indirectly for political purposes; it is still more necessary that such laws should be thoroughly enforced. Corporate expenditures for political purposes, and especially such expenditures by public service corporations, have supplied one of the principal sources of corruption in our political affairs.

3. Corporate Accountability and Regulation

We have come to recognize that franchises should never be granted except for a limited time, and never without proper provision for compensation to the public. It is my personal belief that the same kind and degree of control and supervision which should be exercised over public-service corporations should be extended also to combinations which control necessaries of life, such as meat, oil, or coal, or which deal in them on an important scale. I have no doubt that the ordinary man who has control of them is much like ourselves. I have no doubt he would like to do well, but I want to have enough supervision to help him realize that desire to do well.

I believe that the officers, and, especially, the directors, of corporations should be held personally responsible when any corporation breaks the law.

4. Effective Progressive Taxation of Income and Wealth

The absence of effective State, and, especially, national, restraint upon unfair money-getting has tended to create a small class of enormously wealthy and economically powerful men, whose chief object is to hold and increase their power. The prime need to is to change the conditions which enable these men to accumulate power which it is not for the general welfare that they should hold or exercise. We grudge no man a fortune which represents his own power and sagacity, when exercised with entire regard to the welfare of his fellows.  ...It is not even enough that it should have been gained without doing damage to the community. We should permit it to be gained only so long as the gaining represents benefit to the community. This, I know, implies a policy of a far more active governmental interference with social and economic conditions in this country than we have yet had, but I think we have got to face the fact that such an increase in governmental control is now necessary.

 No man should receive a dollar unless that dollar has been fairly earned. Every dollar received should represent a dollar’s worth of service rendered — not gambling in stocks, but service rendered. The really big fortune, the swollen fortune, by the mere fact of its size acquires qualities which differentiate it in kind as well as in degree from what is possessed by men of relatively small means. Therefore, I believe in a graduated income tax on big fortunes, and in another tax which is far more easily collected and far more effective — a graduated inheritance tax on big fortunes, properly safeguarded against evasion, and increasing rapidly in amount with the size of the estate.

5. Conservation and Securing Posterity

Of conservation I shall speak more at length elsewhere. Conservation means development as much as it does protection. I recognize the right and duty of this generation to develop and use the natural resources of our land; but I do not recognize the right to waste them, or to rob, by wasteful use, the generations that come after us. I ask nothing of the nation except that it so behave as each farmer here behaves with reference to his own children. That farmer is a poor creature who skins the land and leaves it worthless to his children. The farmer is a good farmer who, having enabled the land to support himself and to provide for the education of his children, leaves it to them a little better than he found it himself. I believe the same thing of a nation.

...Of all the questions which can come before this nation, short of the actual preservation of its existence in a great war, there is none which compares in importance with the great central task of leaving this land even a better land for our descendants than it is for us, and training them into a better race to inhabit the land and pass it on. Conservation is a great moral issue, for it involves the patriotic duty of insuring the safety and continuance of the nation.

We are face to face with new conceptions of the relations of property to human welfare, chiefly because certain advocates of the rights of property as against the rights of men have been pushing their claims too far. The man who wrongly holds that every human right is secondary to his profit must now give way to the advocate of human welfare, who rightly maintains that every man holds his property subject to the general right of the community to regulate its use to whatever degree the public welfare may require it.

6. Upholding and Advancing Labour and the Public Interest

The right to regulate the use of wealth in the public interest is universally admitted. Let us admit also the right to regulate the terms and conditions of labor, which is the chief element of wealth, directly in the interest of the common good. The fundamental thing to do for every man is to give him a chance to reach a place in which he will make the greatest possible contribution to the public welfare. ...No man can be a good citizen unless he has a wage more than sufficient to cover the bare cost of living, and hours of labor short enough so after his day’s work is done he will have time and energy to bear his share in the management of the community, to help in carrying the general load. We keep countless men from being good citizens by the conditions of life by which we surround them.

This New Nationalism regards the executive power as the steward of the public welfare. It demands of the judiciary that it shall be interested primarily in human welfare rather than in property, just as it demands that the representative body shall represent all the people rather than any one class or section of the people.

I believe in shaping the ends of government to protect property as well as human welfare. Normally, and in the long run, the ends are the same; but whenever the alternative must be faced, I am for men and not for property, as you were in the Civil War. I am far from underestimating the importance of dividends; but I rank dividends below human character. Again, I do not have any sympathy with the reformer who says he does not care for dividends. Of course, economic welfare is necessary, for a man must pull his own weight and be able to support his family. I know well that the reformers must not bring upon the people economic ruin, or the reforms themselves will go down in the ruin.

7. Upholding the Moral and Material Welfare of all Citizens.

One of the fundamental necessities in a representative government such as ours is to make certain that the men to whom the people delegate their power shall serve the people by whom they are elected, and not the special interests. I believe that every national officer, elected or appointed, should be forbidden to perform any service or receive any compensation, directly or indirectly, from interstate corporations; and a similar provision could not fail to be useful within the States.

The object of government is the welfare of the people. The material progress and prosperity of a nation are desirable chiefly so long as they lead to the moral and material welfare of all good citizens. Just in proportion as the average man and woman are honest, capable of sound judgment and high ideals, active in public affairs, — but, first of all, sound in their home, and the father and mother of healthy children whom they bring up well, — just so far, and no farther, we may count our civilization a success.
To Roosevelt's maxims of progressive populism I would add the "precautionary principle." In another time there might have been less need for it but that is not the era in which we now live.

I'm convinced that progressive populism is the only form that can work to the benefit of the public interest rather than the special interest. It seems radical only in contrast to the unquestionably radical neoliberal order that has already failed us but persists as our political caste's default operating system. Something will replace the neoliberal order. At the moment that includes this evolving autocracy and a form of neo-feudalism.

In from the cold -- refugees walking to Canada

Cathie from Canada - 9 hours 57 min ago
Canada now is accepting the tired, the poor, the wretched refuse, the huddled masses yearning to breathe free. And isn’t it great that we can do this.
I know there are inevitably some Canadians who will be “outraged” about the refugee stories we are now hearing about along the world’s longest undefended border.  I’m so glad we elected the Trudeau Liberals 15 months ago; I hope public safety minister Ralph Goodale will continue to stand firm on Canada’s right to continue to treat refugees fairly.
These photos are from a CBC story yesterday on refugees crossing illegally from the United States.  They show RCMP helping the family of nine Sudanese people across a snowbank at the border, after running from US border guards.

As the CBC story notes, asylum seekers who cross illegally are arrested but they can remain in Canada while their refugee claim is assessed.  If  they try to claim refugee status at a regular border crossing, the so-called Safe Third Party agreement between Canada and the US means they are turned back immediately into the United States.
And in the United States, their future is now bleak.
I know I am probably quoting too much from this story, but it is just so great:
Eight asylum-seekers, including four children, barely made it across the Canadian border on Friday as a U.S. border patrol officer tried to stop them and a Reuters photographer captured the scene.
As a U.S. Customs and Border Patrol officer seized their passports and questioned a man in the front passenger seat of a taxi that had pulled up to the border in Champlain, N.Y., four adults and four young children fled the cab and ran to Royal Canadian Mounted Police on the other side.
One by one they scrambled across the snowy gully separating the two countries. RCMP officers watching from the other side helped them up, lifting the younger children and asking a woman, who leaned on her fellow passenger as she walked, if she needed medical care.
The children looked back from where they had come as the U.S. officer held the first man, saying his papers needed to be verified. The man turned to a pile of belongings and heaved pieces of luggage two at a time into the gully — enormous wheeled suitcases, plastic shopping bags, a black backpack.
"Nobody cares about us," he told journalists.

The man then appeared to grab their passports from the U.S. officer before making a run for the border.
The officer yelled and gave chase but stopped at the border marker. Canadian police took hold of the man's arm as he crossed.
The border patrol officer told his counterpart that the man was in the United States illegally and that he would have detained him. Officers on both sides momentarily eyed the luggage strewn in the snow before the U.S. officer took it, and a walker left on the road, to the border line.
The RCMP carried the articles to their vehicles, and the people piled in to be driven to a nearby border office to be interviewed by police and to make a refugee claimAnother story in the Montreal Gazette today tells the story of a Yemen family and explains why Muslim refugee claimants are running to Canada:
[Montreal immigration lawyer] Taillefer says there are many practical reasons refugees are choosing to come to Canada instead of staying in the U.S.
For one, they are entitled to legal aid in Canada and welfare while they wait for a hearing, which is supposed to happen within 45 days of their arrival.
When they first come to Montreal, the YMCA provides food and shelter, but also help accessing social services, as well as finding an apartment and work.
In comparison, refugee claimants can wait two or three years for a hearing in the U.S., and their legal costs can reach as high as $15,000. In the meantime, they can’t get a work visa, and welfare is all but non-existent south of the border, Taillefer added.
“I had clients who said they were living off soup kitchens and when they saw that their files would be treated in 45 days and they could get legal aid in Canada it made a big difference,” Taillefer said.
Those factors may have contributed to the massive increase last year in the number of refugee claims made at land borders in Canada, despite the Safe Third Country Agreement — up more than 60 per cent across the country, from 4,316 in 2015 to 7,021 in 2016.
Then there’s Trump — and the state of the world.
“Since November we’ve heard more and more about Trump’s politics but also of the attitude of Americans in general toward refugees (during the election campaign),” Taillefer said.
People who had legal status as refugee claimants or students started to say that even if they were accepted by the authorities the population would still see them in a negative light, he said.Please also read the great diary by Kelly Macias from Friday  www.dailykos.com/…
And here is a recent CBC report — reporter Nick Purden interviewed a Somali man in Winnipeg who had crossed in November after 12 hours walking, and had gained refugee status.  Then Purden drove to the border that night, February 12, and found another Somali refugee who had walked for 21 hours to cross the border.  The man didn’t realize he had already made it to Canada, and he needed repeated reassurance that the RCMP constable who arrested him was not an American border guard.

xAlso posted at Daily Kos

Chris Wallace Defends "The Enemy Of The American People"

Politics and its Discontents - 11 hours 46 min ago
When even elements of the right are spooked, you know things are getting very, very serious:

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luxor: east bank sites: museums and souq

we move to canada - 12 hours 33 min ago
Our last day in Luxor was busy and fun. If you ever travel to Egypt without a tour group, I highly recommend securing the services of a driver. We have saved ourselves untold time, aggravation, and probably heat stroke, and we were able to pay generously while getting a great deal for ourselves.

Would you believe Allan wanted to get an earlier start than me? I can tell you without exaggeration that in 30 years of our domestic partnership, this was a first.

We went over to the east bank, and started at the Mummification Museum. It was small but excellent, explaining how the ancient Egyptians prepared bodies for mummification, with examples of all the instruments and ingredients.

After that, we went to the Luxor Museum, which is everything the Egyptian Museum in Cairo is not. Everything is labelled in three languages (Arabic, English, and French), with excellent background information to add context to the exhibits. There is also a lot of information about how objects were found and restored, with photos of various stages.

Most of the objects in the museum were found in the tombs we have visited. There are many beautiful statues of gods, goddesses, and pharaohs, not just religious icons but works of art. Most exciting to me were the glimpses into the creation of the great monuments. On a flat piece of alabaster, there was a floor plan; another stone was etched with a graph, clearly a blueprint. We saw a t-square, a level, and other tools of architecture and engineering. There were also very delicate tools used for jewelry-making, mummification, etching, and other activities. Imagine that someone had to create those tools as well! And they had to do that without examples -- they had to imagine what they needed and then make it. The Luxor Museum is a gem.

After the museums, we returned to the large fast-food place we enjoyed so much. The owner greeted us with, “Canada! Welcome!” Allan wants me to clarify that this is not fast-food in the North American sense. The food is freshly made to order, not processed, and the menu is quite large. It’s somewhere between fast-food and a formal restaurant. We had more koshari, shawarma, and basterma and egg.

After lunch, we walked through the souq (market) and had the experience we should have had in Cairo. It was clearly a souq for local people, not tourists. Women shoppers were dressed in special galabeyas, and many were “discussing prices” with the stall owners. Along with the fruits and vegetables, there was something we hadn’t seen before: poultry and butchers. Chickens and ducks were in cages, waiting to become someone’s dinner. It’s not fun to see, but I’m sure they have a better life than most chickens in North America. At a butcher stall, a cow head was hanging for display. I thought it was fake until I saw the neck. Not fake.

We saw fish of all sizes on display, with no ice or cooling equipment in sight. One stall operator periodically spritzed his fish with water, another burned incense at both ends of the fish table. We were pretty sure that some of the sellers caught the fish themselves in the Nile.

There were women selling pigeons, a sad sight. These women obviously have very low status in the market. They don’t have stalls; they sit on the ground between stalls with two boxes -- one with pigeons and one with eggs. In this culture, women rarely work outside the home, and if they do, they don’t work in public. I had the impression that selling pigeons is a job of last resort, maybe one step up from begging.

We had an interesting encounter with a spice seller! I was admiring the containers of beautiful herbs and spices, and he pounced on the opportunity. He would take a pinch of something, put it in my hand, and ask, “What’s this?” And then another, “What’s this?” I identified cumin, coriander, mint, anise, maybe a few others. Allan took a photo and we tried to give him 5 LEs, which would be a typical or slightly generous tip. Spice Guy waved us off. “You my sister! You my brother! This is not for money! This is my gift to you!”

I refused to buy, trying to explain that we are staying in a hotel and will not be cooking. Finally I gave in to a small amount of dried hibiscus, which I’ve been drinking both cold and hot; it’s called karkadee. Spice Guy weighed an amount, showing me he was giving me 120 grams for the price of 100 grams. “This is my gift to you!”

A few local women came by, asking about spices. They spoke to me, but it was well beyond my Arabic vocabulary. Then one woman was suddenly offended by something the shop owner said, made a disgusted face, and they all left.

Meanwhile, Spice Guy used a technique we have seen throughout: he put the hopeful purchase in a plastic bag and tied the handles. And all of a sudden, his gift to me that was supposed to cost 1 LE per gram became 100 LEs for the little bag of 120 grams. We said no, of course not, that was ridiculous, and he started yelling at us. He should have taken the 5 LEs for the photo. Allan said he doubts this guy makes 100 LEs in a whole day.

I did buy two cotton rag rugs -- runners. I had no idea I was going to buy them, but the colours were beautiful and the price quickly plummeted as we walked away. The confident walking-away is an excellent haggling technique. (I still hate haggling.)

The souq was interesting and fun, but it was also very long, with an uneven dirt-and-stone floor, and there’s no way out except at the other end. By the time we reached it, I was beat, and then somehow we ended up walking in the blazing sun, with the usual men calling to us and trying to “help”. Finally we called B’lal, and Allan found -- what else? -- an English-language bookstore he’s been reading about. I didn’t go in, which is just as well, as there were many beautiful books about pyramids and tombs and Egypt, and we don’t need to schlep them back with us.

B’lal and the other drivers repeatedly tried to arrange a felucca ride for us. Feluccas are traditional sailboats that are now primarily used for tourists, although some people still use them for fishing. One of our many drivers is also a felucca “captain”, and he’s in on the deal with B’lal, B’lal’s father, OG, and whoever else. So we surprised B’lal by finally saying yes to the felucca, since we had planned to do it that day.

Unfortunately for us, the air was very still, and we hardly went anywhere. Captain Felucca was assisted by a younger guy, who climbed up and down the mast, barefoot, and at times was forced to row a bit with a wood plank. He even made us the obligatory “welcome drink” on a tiny propane stove. It was very calm and peaceful on the water, but not much of a ride.

CF doesn’t speak much English, but for some reason he wanted to talk politics with me. “You know Mubarak? The people love Mubarak. He was strong for business.” The world over, people think dictators are strong for business. I said nothing. (Apparently the way to stop me from talking politics is to use a different language.)

After a time, CF made a phone call, and one of the motor boats towed them in, then gave us a ride to the west bank. (There are dozens of these boats, available for hire as ferries or for fun.) Allan went to pay the ferry guy a small tip, and he refused, saying B’lal had already paid him. Honest Ferry Guy was a welcome counter-balance to Spice Guy.

After resting at the hotel for a while, we went back to Restaurant Mohamed. (I’ve been spelling his name wrong, now corrected.) The food was even better this time. We had roast chicken and the usual 10 plates of food. This also gives me an opportunity to share another note about Mohamed: he gave us jewelry. Not junk either, necklaces of tiny stone beads that are authentic to the area. He has a huge number of them hanging up, and gives several strands to every guest. This night, he insisted on giving us more necklaces, plus two scarabs. We told him we would send him a postcard from Canada, inshalla.

Trump: from Cry-Baby populist to Paragon of the Establishment . .. .

kirbycairo - 12 hours 58 min ago
Populist movements in Western democracies generally don't last long. Instead they usually morph quickly into their own version of the establishment. I think that the reason for the short lived populist aspect of a political movement is reasonably simple. Populist movements are expressions of anger, discontent, and fear rather than expressions of principle. When there is a welling up of fear and discontent, the conmen and shysters come out of the woodwork to take advantage of it because conmen look for easy marks, and when it comes to politics in particular, angry fearful people are easy prey. When these emotions take hold of people, they don't think straight. Instead, they look for people who sooth them, who provide easy answers to complex problems and make them feel like everything is going to be ok. Thus the followers of populist conmen are fervent in their belief and passionate in their commitment to their saviour. As a result of this combination of fervency and fear and anger motivated passion, populist leaders can basically do anything they want and their support will stay relatively steady for some time, as long as they keep spouting their simple, soothing message. In this regard, Trump's now infamous observation that it wouldn't hurt his popularity if went out on 5th Ave. and shot someone, is ominously revealing. The most diehard followers of a populist leader have zero interest in facts, and shockingly little interest in the actions of their leaders. This is because such followers are being feed the political equivalent of soma which puts them in a sort of trance, And as long as their leader proclaims the right trigger phrases, espousing simple ideas about how everything is going to be fixed and all the "bad stuff" and "bad hombres" will expunged, nothing else really matters.

Ironically, this is where populist movements tend to come unstuck. When a populist leader gets swept up in the adulation, even if their intentions were initially good (which they seldom are), they realize that they don't have to do any of the things that their followers want, or they only have to make minimal, often cosmetic efforts to maintain the drug-like trance in which they have put their followers. The problem is, of course, since most populist leaders are primarily interested in enriching themselves and their social/ideological allies at the highest level, they quickly become the establishment that they swept to power to oppose. Thus things don't really change, at least not for the better, and often for the worse. And when this happens, the soma trance wears off just enough people for the populist movement to lose its momentum and things become unstuck. One of the problems, of course, is that populist movements often leave in their wake a rightwing political establishment that can last for years.

This is precisely the scenario that played out in Canada. The populist movement known as the "Reform Party" swept into Ottawa with all sorts of populist promises, feeding off socially conservative ideas and white-privilege fears. The "Reformers" said that they wouldn't take the rich Parliamentary pensions, that they would allow all sorts of free votes in the House of Commons, they insisted that their leader would live in the luxurious housing due an opposition leader or a Prime Minster, and that they would enact legislation based upon its social popularity not based upon some niche interest group. All those commitments lasted about five minutes once the Reform leaders found themselves in the luxurious and complex world of actual legislative politics. But as the Reform movement burned, from the ashes was born an establishment party that enhanced and magnified the very things that people who supported the movement had rebelled against in the first place. So we were left with a party that was less interested in transparency than any government in history, ruled for a very small percentage of the population, was comically dishonest, lined their pockets and the pockets of friends like never before, and was more intrusively sinister than ever in people's personal lives.

 The reason that a political movement that started out of anger and claimed to be interested in more responsive and open government could quickly turn into its opposite is because of what we have come to know as "cry-baby conservatism."
Playing the victim is a integral part of modern day conservative parties and movements. Leaders like Harper and Trump continually harp on this idea that the establishment and the media is all against them and that they have to be mean and secretive and dictatorial because otherwise their opponents will win. And the cry-baby conservatives use this simple political strategy to consolidate their power and create a political machine that is often actively acting in ways that are contrary to their stated beliefs and those of their followers. Thus conservative followers in Canada barely noticed the irony when Conservative government cabinet members railed against the elites while at the same time riding in limousines to work. Similarly in the US we have a billionaire president with billionaire cabinet members who cry out against the establishment and have already instituted laws that will make them richer and the average person significantly poorer.

What is clear is that as the Trump movement progresses, the idea of "draining the swamp" and changing the political establishment will feature less and less in the Trumpian narrative. More and more of the Trump followers will accept the idea that the Trump government has to create their own establishment, their own "swamp" if you will, in order to overcome all those "liberal" and media forces that are arrayed against them. Thus people will accept much greater corruption and criminality, than they witnessed in those they initially sought to replace. As I said at the beginning, this is because the followers of leaders like Trump, are not motivated by a principled stance for better, more responsible, democratic, and transparent government. Rather, they are whipped up by anger and fear of a changing world.

Of course, as the populist aspect of the Trump phenomenon wanes, many will come out of the political trance and realize that they have been had and this may result in a significant shift in a different political direction. Either way, the populist movement will be dead. The only question is, will it leave in its wake a political establishment that is able to hold on to power for a while or will it, with its criminality and corruption, undermine the delusional state that brought it to power in the first place, thus causing a kind of counter rebellion?

The Ezra Levant Horror Show and the Con Bigots

Montreal Simon - 15 hours 8 min ago

As you know, when I heard that Kellie Leitch had described Ezra Levant's latest bigot fest as a meeting of "severely normal people" I was naturally sceptical.

For how could anyone call a meeting organized by Levant and his scummy Rebel gang, and starring four Con candidates, and the bloated homophobe Charles McVety, anything but a freak show? 

But then a reader sent me a video of the sordid event and I was absolutely horrified.
Read more »

The Snobby Cons and the Bus Driver Minister

Montreal Simon - 15 hours 14 min ago

When I was a very small boy I used to dream of driving a bus, and the bigger the better.

But it didn't take me very long to realize that the job wasn't as glamorous as I had imagined. 

And that I probably would never have the skill or the patience to be a good driver.

Which was just as well because it turned out the job could also be dangerous.

So I really can't understand why the Cons behaved so badly in the House of Commons the other day.
Read more »

The Fallacy Of Playing For All The Marbles

Northern Reflections - 16 hours 52 min ago

Donald Trump's sales pitch was that, as a businessman, he knew how to get things done. His first thirty days in the White House suggest that he doesn't know how to get anything done. But Joe Stiglitz suggests that, when it comes to economic relations between nations, Trump threatens to get a lot of things undone.

While there is some debate about the extent to which Trump is a “successful businessman,” there is no successful country that is grounded on the principles—or the lack of principles—upon which he has grown his businesses. Economists believe that a successful economy is based on trust, backed up by the rule of law. His standard business practice has been to stiff his suppliers, knowing that recourse to courts is expensive. Of course, over the long term, honest suppliers know this, and refuse to deal. Less scrupulous vendors overcharge and cheat, taking advantage too of the imperfections in our judicial system. But there is no successful economy based on the Trump model.
 Trump's inability to tell the truth is particularly problematic:

Trump cannot even be trusted to base statements on reality. He seeks to build himself up by belittling his predecessor. Trump is wrong in his characterization of where the U.S. economy is today. The country as a whole has never had a higher G.D.P. The crime rate and the unemployment rate are markedly lower than they were eight years ago. Yes, America faces a variety of problems—it always has, and what nation doesn’t? Ordinary citizens have not been well served by globalization. The problem, though, is not with globalization itself but with how we have managed it.

So far, globalization has been very unfair. But playing for all the marbles will not improve it. And playing for all the marbles is the only thing that Trump knows how to do.

Image: You Tube

It's the Pot Calling the Kettle the Pot

The Disaffected Lib - Sat, 02/18/2017 - 16:32

One characteristic of Donald Trump that repeatedly calls his mental health into question is his chronic lying. He seems utterly incapable of distinguishing reality from fantasy.

Trump's greatest lie is to accuse the media of "fake news." The liar doesn't like what the media honestly reports about him and so he accuses them of fakery, dishonesty, except, of course, for Fox and Friends and they're just the best.

Unfortunately this derangement is worsening. Now the Great Orange Bloat has taken to smearing America's media as the "enemy of the American people." He did this at an hour and seventeen minute press conference that can only be described as "lie studded."

So now America's Liar-in-Chief lies about others lying - about him, of course.

So freely and compulsively does president Trump lie that Arizona senator, John McCain, has dropped the gloves. The chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee told NATO representatives to the Munich security conference on Friday that Trump has a "growing inability, and even unwillingness, to separate truth from lies."

Now McCain has responded to Trump's denunciation of America's media as "the enemy of the American people."

Such talk, McCain (R-Ariz.) said on NBC News in an interview set to air Sunday, was “how dictators get started.”

“In other words, a consolidation of power,” McCain told “Meet the Press” host Chuck Todd from Munich. “When you look at history, the first thing that dictators do is shut down the press. And I'm not saying that President Trump is trying to be a dictator. I'm just saying we need to learn the lessons of history.”

Um, no senator, I think that's exactly what you're saying. And you're right.

Sure, Putin Is a Thug, But, Herr Trump, He's Barking Mad.

The Disaffected Lib - Sat, 02/18/2017 - 11:17

The Washington Post reports that Germans have got Donald Trump pretty well sorted out.

It’s official: Germans are more worried about President Trump than Russian President Vladimir Putin.

That, at least, is the result of a poll published Friday by FG Wahlen for public broadcaster ZDF, in which a whopping 78 percent of Germans asked said they were “very concerned” about Donald Trump's policies, up from 62 percent in January. Meanwhile, 58 percent said they were worried about the politics of Russian President Vladimir Putin, while 40 percent said they weren't.

“It sounds tough, but after this memorable press conference one hopes that there's a good medical department in the White House to check whether everything really is all right with this man,” wrote Veit Medick, a Washington correspondent for Der Spiegel.

Our Bad. Sorry, He's Nuts.

The Disaffected Lib - Sat, 02/18/2017 - 11:07

That pretty much sums up Arizona senator John McCain's warning/apology to NATO representatives at the Munich security conference. America's president, Donald J. Trump, can't be taken at his word because he's unable to "separate truth from lies."

“I think that the Flynn issue obviously is something that shows that in many respects this administration is in disarray and they’ve got a lot of work to do,” said McCain, a known Trump critic, even as he praised Trump’s defence secretary. “The president, I think, makes statements [and] on other occasions contradicts himself. So we’ve learned to watch what the president does as opposed to what he says,” he said.

Without mentioning the president’s name, McCain lamented a shift in the US and Europe away from the “universal values” that forged the Nato alliance seven decades ago. McCain also said the alliance’s founders would be “alarmed by the growing inability, and even unwillingness, to separate truth from lies.”
Thanks for the heads up, John, although I'm not sure anyone still needs it.

Wrap Your Mind Around This - Ten Trillion Gallons of Water

The Disaffected Lib - Sat, 02/18/2017 - 10:16

That's how much rain is expected to fall in California in the coming week - ten trillion gallons of water.

Yeah, that California, the state that's endured years of severe drought along with brush and forest fires until la nina showed up with atmospheric rivers to essentially drown the place.

Years ago I read of a nomadic pastoralist (herder) in sub Saharan Africa. He lost half his herd one year to flash floods only to lose the remaining half the next year to severe drought. He gathered up his family and their possessions and made off for the nearest city to look for ways to survive.

Now California is the poster child for climate change and global weirding.

It is feared that areas that have been previously hit by forest fires could be more susceptible to mud slides as there is less vegetation to break the flow of running water.

Terry Anzur of KFI News told the BBC the dry, scorched ground that had been "saturated" with the heavy downpour was turning streets in to "rivers of mud".

After five years of drought, a series of storms have filled state reservoirs.

In a season of heavy storms, the latest is expected to be the heaviest by far.

Talk Is Cheap

The Disaffected Lib - Sat, 02/18/2017 - 08:54

At least we know that he knows. Justin Trudeau has said it - corporate elites and their political handmaidens (a.k.a. his own government) are the rot sweeping through world politics. Well Justin - duh.

Justin Trudeau is blaming corporate and government leaders for the spike in global anger rocking world politics, warning that low wages and the shift to precarious part-time work is at the heart of why citizens are opposing traditional powers.

Speaking at the St. Matthew’s Day banquet – an elite, black-tie event in Hamburg with a tradition that dates back centuries – the Prime Minister said companies contribute to public anger when they post record profits on the backs of workers who are underpaid and overworked.

“It’s time to pay a living wage, to pay your taxes, and to give your workers the benefits – and peace of mind – that come with stable, full-time contracts."

“Increasing inequality has made citizens distrust their governments. Distrust their employers,” Mr. Trudeau said Friday evening at the banquet. “And we’re watching that anxiety transform into anger on an almost daily basis. It follows that people’s natural defence mechanism in times of stress and anxiety is to hunker down and recoil inward. To give into cynicism. To retreat from one another. But it’s time for us, as leaders in politics and business, to step up.”

Well, Justin, it's called neoliberalism and you, like every other political leader in our land and most others, are in it up to your gills. Talk is cheap so what are you going to do about it? A lot of the powers governments have to respond to this sort of discontent have been surrendered to globalism, free trade pacts. You and your predecessors did that without so much as a "by your leave." Maybe you want to ditch those trade deals or at least rescind those crippling investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) provisions whereby corporate profits always trump public policy.
While you're at it, we need democratic reform - the sort of things that would make Parliament responsible to the Canadian people, not corporations. We've seen what neoliberalism does. It's a contagion and it rots democratic societies.

Saturday Morning Links

accidentaldeliberations - Sat, 02/18/2017 - 08:54
Assorted content for your weekend reading.

- Jordy Cummings exposes the shady side of Justin Trudeau's shin persona. Dimitri Lascaris interviews Nora Loreto about Canada's relationship with the U.S. And Michal Rozworski challenges Trudeau's decision to serve as a prop for Donald Trump rather than defending Canadian values:
The point to remember is that there would be intense pressure from within the US business world to prevent a trade war in the first place. Given today’s highly integrated supply chains, even a proportionately small volume of trade can still be crucial. It matters less that trade with Canada accounts for just 5% of GDP if some of that 5% is specialized parts and inputs that can cripple production. And it’s not that easy to replace Canadian-made goods in this case: doing so would require long-term investments with considerable fixed costs in plant and equipment. It could be done, but it won’t be the result of one critical statement.

Nevertheless, Trudeau acts as if that’s a real risk. Even if there might be no personal love lost between our cosmopolitan neoliberal leader and his nativist protectionist counterpart, officially this week it was all smiles and handshakes. Trudeau ducked questions from reporters at his joint press conference, stating, “The last thing Canadians expect is for me to come down and lecture another country on how they chose to govern themselves.” This condescension misses the fact that a majority thinks that even worsening trade relationships would be a price worth paying for standing up to Trump—nevermind that fears of a worsening are overblown. Past prime ministers have been willing to stand up to US presidents over smaller things despite the trading relationship.

Trudeau has to be aware of Canada’s unequal standing in its relationship with the US but he doesn’t have to cower in the corner waiting for a strike from the bully that may never come. Being in less powerful in a trading relationship doesn’t equate to moral paralysis in other spheres. Economic disruption cannot be a cover for lack of spine. My hunch is that Trudeau knows this—that his failure to stand up to Trump is cowardice that has its source in political calculation not economic necessity.- Brent Patterson comments on the need for Canada to seriously evaluate the dangers of the CETA and other corporate control agreements. And Stuart Trew and Scott Sinclair map out the road ahead as CETA undergoes scrutiny from the EU's member states.

- Alex Hemingway and Iglika Ivanova examine how the B.C. Libs have gone out of their way to impose a regressive tax system. And Marco Chown Oved reports on the Conference Board of Canada's study showing that Canada may be missing out on up to $50 billion every year in uncollected taxes.

- Meanwhile, the Economist notes that one of Trump's first major moves has been to facilitate bribery and corruption by allowing resource giants to conceal payments to foreign governments.

- Finally, Dan Durcan and Faiza Shaheen take a look at the realities of work in the U.K., where reasonable surface numbers of jobs are outweighed by the fact that the new work is generally low-quality and precarious.

On non-solutions

accidentaldeliberations - Sat, 02/18/2017 - 07:45
Tammy Robert thoroughly documents how Brad Wall's billion-dollar deficit has nothing to do with either resource revenues (being Wall's primary excuse for blowing up the budget), or public services (which are his first target for attacks):
I can’t consider the way the Saskatchewan government has handled the prospect of streamlining public service – or even this deficit – credible, because all they’ve demonstrated so far is that they’re primarily interested in brazenly protecting their political tails by dividing and confusing the narrative, instead of even pretending to consider well-planned or strategic spending decisions.

What I know for sure that the mess we’re in is not just about reduced resource and taxation revenue (the latter of which has been at a record high, thanks in part to both increased population numbers and a run of successful years in agriculture).

No, the financial dumpster fire we’re fighting has everything to do with the fact that this government has jacked up spending – even with the best of intentions – to unsustainable levels, and has simultaneously ran out of money trees, aka the GFSF and the Crown Corporations, to continue to fund their spending habits.Meanwhile, in case anybody was under the illusion that the Saskatchewan Party's current spin about a sudden budget crisis represents anything but an excuse to open up a new front in Wall's long-running war on public servants, here's his finance minister (emphasis added):
Doherty said the goal would be to hold compensation costs steady or reduce them if possible.

The austerity measures would be maintained over the long term, not just for the upcoming year, he said.If Wall wanted to deal with the full range of options to improve Saskatchewan's fiscal picture, provincial employees would be well down the list of logical places to look. (On that front, CBC's look at the revenue effect of tax changes shows that merely mirroring Manitoba's PST could pay for all of the province's public service salaries another time over.)

And if he was acting reasonably in response to budget problems which he thought were temporary, he'd be asking for "sacrifices" which fit that bill - rather than demanding permanent reductions in the standard of living experienced by the people who keep Saskatchewan running, while asking nothing of his corporate benefactors other than that they keep funneling copious amounts of money into his political machine.

Instead, Wall is making abundantly clear that he sees his own billion-dollar deficit as nothing more than one more excuse to keep slashing away at Saskatchewan's workers. And it's about time that both the blame and the responsibility for fixing Wall's mess were placed squarely on his shoulders.

The Nasty Party

Northern Reflections - Sat, 02/18/2017 - 07:00

The Conservatives' reaction to Resolution M - 103 reveals a lot about the Post Harper Party. Alan Freeman writes:

Some Conservative MPs have suggested that adoption of this non-binding motion will somehow constrain free speech by condemning hatred of Islam. Leadership candidates Kellie Leitch and Kevin O’Leary have, as usual, been trolling well beneath contempt. “No religion should be singled out for special consideration,” said Leitch. “A slap in the face to other religions,” said O’Leary, ignoring the motion’s condemnation of systemic racism and religious discrimination.

Chris Alexander, the boy-wonder diplomat turned crass populist, told a rally organized by the hard-right online outlet The Rebel in Toronto this week that he had trouble supporting a motion that “doesn’t mention the number one threat in the world, which is Islamic jihadist terrorism.” So hatred of Islam presumably isn’t a problem that Canada needs to worry about, according to the former ambassador.

The truth is that there’s pressure on Conservative leadership candidates to keep the back door open to the Islamaphobe vote. How else can you explain Leitch’s posting of a photo of a (blue-eyed) young woman wearing spaghetti straps, her lips sealed with a tape marked M-103, the number of Khalid’s motion? In the background is a faint image of police officers on Parliament Hill — a not-so-subtle reference to the 2014 attack on the Commons.

Then there’s candidate Pierre Lemieux (whoever he is), who said that Islamophobia isn’t at the forefront of discussion and isn’t a problem in Canada. He clearly hasn’t been watching the news for the past month. Maxime Bernier says he’s worried the motion would restrict freedom to criticize Islam — and then somehow managed to link its passage to support for Sharia law.

Backbench Conservatives have been no better. MP Marilyn Gladu said she worries that she could be accused of Islamophobia if she voiced the concern that ISIS terrorists would want to rape and behead her. By even suggesting that equivalence, our enlightened MP demonstrates that she clearly has issues of her own.

Of the candidates for leadership, only the thoughtful and eminently reasonable Michael Chong has said he would support the motion. Others are openly hostile, or are trying to slither out of supporting it. Not an edifying sight.

It's pretty clear that the Conservative Party is now the Nasty Party.

Image: The Old Grey Mare

Now This Is How To Conduct A Protest

Politics and its Discontents - Sat, 02/18/2017 - 05:51
This past Thursday, #DayWithoutImmigrants, these protests took place. Their simple elegance reverberates and reverberates.

Recommend this Post

Is Donald Trump Suffering From Untreated Syphilis?

Montreal Simon - Sat, 02/18/2017 - 04:53

It should be obvious by now that there is something terribly wrong with Donald Trump.

This deranged tweet he fired off yesterday is only more evidence of that.

For in a normal world he would have been arrested for inciting violence against the media.

And then there was that bizarre press conference.
Read more »


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