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The Honeymoon's Over

The Disaffected Lib - Wed, 01/11/2017 - 08:58

Not every shotgun wedding leads to a honeymoon.

Even before the PervertGate dossier became public yesterday, Americans were fast losing faith in the Great Orange Bloat.

The Washington Post reports that, as usual, Trump's polling numbers got a bounce after his election win but that started fading prematurely. He's not even inaugurated and the American people are turning against him.

A new poll from Quinnipiac University suggests that Trump has reverted to his pre-election standing, with Americans having major concerns about his temperament and the direction in which his presidency will lead the country. Trump’s continued controversies seem to have put him right back where he was before he won the election.

Quinnipiac is the first high-quality pollster to poll on Trump twice since the election. And while its poll in late November showed his favorable rating rising from 34 percent to 44 percent, that number has dropped back to 37 percent, which is about where it stood for much of the campaign. That’s tied for Trump’s worst favorable rating in a poll since his election. And a majority — 51 percent — now have an unfavorable view of him.

The American public, it seems, tried to like him and they must have tried awfully hard to like him but it didn't take. 
Likewise, the Quinnipiac poll shows a drop in confidence in Trump across the board. Although 59 percent were optimistic about the next four years under Trump in November, today that number is 52 percent. While 41 percent thought he would be a better leader than President Obama, it’s now 34 percent. While 52 percent thought he would help the nation's economy, it’s now 47 percent. While 40 percent thought his policies would help their personal financial situation, it’s now 27 percent. While 53 percent thought he’d take the country in the right direction, it’s now 45 percent.

You get the idea. There are similar drops in views of his honesty (42 percent to 39 percent), his leadership skills (56 percent to 49 percent), his compassion for average Americans (51 percent to 44 percent), his levelheadedness (38 percent to 33 percent) and his ability to unite the country (47 percent to 40 percent).

And then it gets worse. Toward the bottom, Quinnipiac asked respondents whether they thought Trump’s behavior since the election made them feel better or worse about him. Although “better” won out in late November, 36 percent to 14 percent who said they felt worse, that showing has been flipped. Today, 28 percent say they feel worse about Trump since Election Day; just 23 percent feel better.

Getting a grip

Dawg's Blawg - Wed, 01/11/2017 - 07:15
In just a few days, a spoiled child prone to tantrums will have his finger on the nuclear button. As Commander-in-Chief, he gets to call that shot. It cannot be countermanded, unless there is a mutiny. Just about anything one... Dr.Dawg

Obama's Farewell Speech

Northern Reflections - Wed, 01/11/2017 - 06:40

In his last address to the nation, Dwight Eisenhower warned Americans of the threat posed by what he called the "military-industrial complex." Last night, Barack Obama told his fellow citizens that they would have to work hard to protect their democracy from the threat of global Right Wing Populism. There have been several reasons for the rise of the Right Wing:

A shrinking world, growing inequality; demographic change and the spectre of terrorism – these forces haven’t just tested our security and prosperity, but our democracy as well. And how we meet these challenges to our democracy will determine our ability to educate our kids, and create good jobs, and protect our homeland.
He warned that, if Americans do nothing about their dysfunctional economy, they will court disaster:

Our economy doesn’t work as well or grow as fast when a few prosper at the expense of a growing middle class. But stark inequality is also corrosive to our democratic principles. While the top one per cent has amassed a bigger share of wealth and income, too many families, in inner cities and rural counties, have been left behind – the laid-off factory worker; the waitress and health care worker who struggle to pay the bills – convinced that the game is fixed against them, that their government only serves the interests of the powerful – a recipe for more cynicism and polarization in our politics.
And he offered his prescription for their economic ills:

So we must forge a new social compact – to guarantee all our kids the education they need; to give workers the power to unionize for better wages; to update the social safety net to reflect the way we live now and make more reforms to the tax code so corporations and individuals who reap the most from the new economy don’t avoid their obligations to the country that’s made their success possible. We can argue about how to best achieve these goals. But we can’t be complacent about the goals themselves. For if we don’t create opportunity for all people, the disaffection and division that has stalled our progress will only sharpen in years to come.
Opportunity for all. Easy to say. Hard to accomplish. Time will tell if his words ring -- like Eisenhower's -- through the decades.

Image: WITN

Donald Trump and the Golden Shower Scandal

Montreal Simon - Wed, 01/11/2017 - 05:19

As you know, I've always felt that the Russians had some dirt on Trump, for what else could explain his bizarre behaviour, or his apparent crush on Vladimir Putin?

Or the way he shrugged off an intelligence report about the hacking of the Democratic National Committee. 

After cheerfully using hacked material and fake news to smear Hillary Clinton.

Well now the shoe is on the other foot, and Trump is hopping mad.
Read more »

Show up. Dive in. Persevere.

Trashy's World - Wed, 01/11/2017 - 05:10
Last night, President Obama eloquently expressed one of the wonderful things about being in a democracy (or at least as close to a democracy as we will achieve). We are free to engage. We are free to participate. Yes, by all means, if something rankles you or angers you, or you think that you can do better – do something about […]

A Brief Programming Note

Politics and its Discontents - Wed, 01/11/2017 - 00:10

The winds were blowing. The snow was falling. The telephone rang. Cuba was calling with an offer we couldn't refuse.

See you in about a week. Recommend this Post

Tuesday Night Cat Blogging

accidentaldeliberations - Tue, 01/10/2017 - 15:58
Surrounded cats.

The Minister of Silly Excuses

accidentaldeliberations - Tue, 01/10/2017 - 15:39
Yes, Justin Trudeau has set up his predictable excuse for breaking his promise of electoral reform by putting a new minister in charge of the file during a crucial period. But let's see what Karina Gould has had to say about a more fair democratic system in communicating with her constituents (PDF):
Participants focused on the importance between direct and proportional representation. It was expressed that being able to vote directly for someone to represent constituents was important. Some felt that the Mixed Member Proportional system provides this ability. However, participants also expressed concern that most people do not understand proportional representation. Some participants also indicated that Canada is too large and sparsely populated in certain regions for Proportional Representation to be an appropriate option. The consultation demonstrated that electoral reform is a complex issue and there are many considerations to be made before one can identify an ideal system for Canada.Sadly, that combination of blaming proportional systems for the confusion being fostered by the Libs themselves and otherwise stacking the deck against the very concept of proportionality (no matter what the people being consulted actually say) looks to explain Gould's appointment.

Which isn't to say it represents a reasonable formulation of any coherent approach to the state of our democracy. But it represents exactly the kind of smokescreen Trudeau favours as a statement of the Libs' self-serving opposition to their own core electoral promise - and it'll be a pleasant surprise if Gould offers anything more reasonable in her new position.

The View from Germany

The Disaffected Lib - Tue, 01/10/2017 - 12:26

The opening line in Der Spiegel says it all:  "Doubts are growing inside Angela Merkel's Chancellery that the incoming American president will mature and become a statesman. The chancellor is preparing for frosty trans-Atlantic relations while at the same time trying to pull Europe together."

Think about that. Angela Merkel doubts that a 70-year old man "will mature and become a statesman." Hmm. If he's not mature at 70 it sounds like a safe bet that he won't become mature later on.

The hour-long video didn't exactly put the German chancellor in a cheerful mood. The footage was from Donald Trump's recent appearance in Pennsylvania during his so-called Thank You Tour and Angela Merkel, as she told the national executive committee of her center-right Christian Democratic Union (CDU), watched the rally in its entirety. She recommended that her fellow party members do the same. "It is interesting to see the thought environment he inhabits," she said.
During his speech, Trump celebrated a landslide victory that was anything but; he blasted the press ("the world's most dishonest people") and in no way left the impression that he has matured into a statesman following his election win. But one passage really stood out in Merkel's memory and she quoted it verbatim: "There is no such thing as a global anthem, a global currency, a global flag. We salute one flag, and that is the American flag."
Internally, she makes no secret of what she thinks about Trump's campaign. No other presidential candidate in the history of the United States has ever violated the rules of decency to the degree that Trump has. That's how Merkel sees it. That helps explain why, in a brief statement given to the press following his Nov. 9 election, she held the kind of moral sermon that no previous German chancellor had ever delivered to a US president.

She said that "Germany and America are connected by values of democracy, freedom and respect for law." She then offered close cooperation with the next president on the "basis of these values." It was the language of a parole officer trying to get her charge back on the right track. Merkel didn't just say this publicly -- she also repeated it during an hour-long telephone conversation with Trump on Nov. 11. The future president remained friendly, but was apparently thoroughly unimpressed.

It's Trump's character that worries Merkel most, his craving to be loved and admired and his fury against all those who refuse to do so. Merkel has been in office for 11 years and she knows very well just how unstable the world order has become. "Many have the feeling that the world has been turned upside down," she said at the CDU's annual party conference at the beginning of December. It was a tone that one seldom hears from Angela Merkel.

The chancellor is fully aware of what is at stake. If Trump carries out even part of what he promised during his campaign, then the world order as Merkel knows it would be relegated to the dustbin of history. The messages that Merkel's emissaries have been given by Trump's people so far haven't been particularly encouraging. They have reported that the new president will make his decisions based solely on domestic policy considerations. His foreign policy will be dictated by how his decisions will be seen by voters at home.

Trump also has a penchant for dismissing the warnings of his advisers and allies. This creates the additional problem that efforts to coax or even pressure the new president may have the opposite of the intended effect. "To Trump, what matters is not if his decisions are coherent, but how they are perceived," says one diplomat who represented the German government in Washington.

Small wonder that, in many circles, it's no longer the American president but the German chancellor who is considered the new leader of the free world.

The Gift That Just Keeps On Giving

The Disaffected Lib - Tue, 01/10/2017 - 12:06

Not all greenhouse gases last for hundreds of years. Some compounds such as chlorofluorocarbons and methane can linger for much shorter durations, a year to a couple of decades. Yet, even when they dissipate their impacts can continue for centuries.

A new study by researchers from MIT and Simon Fraser University finds that these short-lived GHGs can cause sea level rise that continues long after they're gone from the atmosphere.

Recent studies by many groups ...have shown that even if human-caused emissions of carbon dioxide were to stop entirely, their associated atmospheric warming and sea-level rise would continue for more than 1,000 years. These effects — essentially irreversible on human timescales — are due in part to carbon dioxide’s residence time: The greenhouse gas can stay in the atmosphere for centuries after it’s been emitted from smokestacks and tailpipes.

In one particular climate modeling scenario, the team evaluated sea level’s response to various methane emissions scenarios, in which the world would continue to emit the gas at current rates, until emissions end entirely in three different years: 2050, 2100, and 2150.

In all three scenarios, methane gas quickly cleared from the atmosphere, and its associated atmospheric warming decreased at a similar rate. However, methane continued to contribute to sea-level rise for centuries afterward. What’s more, they found that the longer the world waits to reduce methane emissions, the longer seas will stay elevated.

“Amazingly, a gas with a 10-year lifetime can actually cause enduring sea-level changes,” Solomon says. “So you don’t just get to stop emitting and have everything go back to a preindustrial state. You are going to live with this for a very long time.”

Here's the thing. This is a worsening crisis to which our political caste responds with pretend solutions, i.e. carbon pricing. That horse, the creature that might have been tamed with carbon pricing, has left the barn.

Really, Roger Ailes Goddaughter? Shame, Shame on You, Bill.

The Disaffected Lib - Tue, 01/10/2017 - 10:25
The New York Times is reporting that, shortly after the ouster of FOX News chairman, Roger Ailes, the network negotiated a sexual harassment claim settlement with Juliet Huddy. Ms. Huddy complained she was sexually harassed by FOX host Bill O'Reilly.

Here's the kicker - Juliet Huddy was/is Roger Ailes goddaughter.

You May Never Think of Donald Trump Quite the Same Way Again - Enjoy

The Disaffected Lib - Tue, 01/10/2017 - 08:07
Too bad no one realized back then that he was polishing up his presidential shtick.

When Is an Emergency Not an Emergency?

The Disaffected Lib - Tue, 01/10/2017 - 08:02

When I think of the word "emergency" I associate it with some situation out of the ordinary of unusual urgency. That was before Afghanistan.

An article published by the UN Humanitarian Affairs office, IRIN, describes as a "continual emergency."

The UN's emergency aid coordination body, OCHA, estimates 623,345 Afghans joined the ranks of that country's internally displaced population in 2016.

“The staggering numbers also confirm a worrying trend: Afghanistan is experiencing significant, year-on-year increases in the number of families driven from their homes,” said Danielle Moylan, a spokeswoman from OCHA. “The numbers of IDPs in 2016 are three-fold that recorded in 2014, and six times more than recorded in 2012.”

Based on current trends, the UN predicts that in 2017 at least 450,000 more people will join those already internally displaced. On top of that, Afghanistan struggles to support many of the 616,620 people pushed back from neighbouring Iran and Pakistan last year. Pakistan has warned that it will begin forcibly deporting Afghans who have not left voluntarily by March, and the UN expects about a million more, many of whom have no homes to return to.

The constant stream of displaced families means that a state of continual emergency has become the norm in Afghanistan,” said Moylan.

The New Kid on the Block - the Islamic State
The US nation-building exercise in Afghanistan is now a shambles, 16 years after it led the invasion that overthrew the Taliban. The US withdrew almost all of its troops at the end of 2014, and the Afghan National Army was meant to take over security. But government forces have struggled, and lost control of many districts, particularly over the past year.

Most territory lost to the government is under Taliban control. But by early 2015, IS had moved into eastern Afghanistan and announced its intention to carve out an area of control called “Khorasan”, in reference to a historical region that once covered much of modern day Afghanistan as well as parts of Iran and Central Asia.

The group, which is known as Daesh in Afghanistan, has concentrated its activities in eastern Afghanistan, especially Nangarhar, on the frontier with Pakistan. In some areas, local militias have sprung up to fight IS, while others have joined the Taliban or government forces. But IS has also extended its deadly reach throughout the country.

How much, if any, of Afghanistan's plight is our doing may never be known. We came, we saw, we shot it all to hell and then we left, passing the place to a corrupt, ineffective government and a hapless army. Did we leave it so weak, impoverished and exhausted that it became a magnet for the Islamic State? Chances are we'll never truly know. What we do know is that it was bad enough when we got there, worse when we left and steadily worsening in the wake of our departure.
Mission Accomplished.

Who Knew? Oh Yeah, Just About Everyone.

The Disaffected Lib - Tue, 01/10/2017 - 07:22

When it comes to the Western world, the United States of America scores dead last for electoral integrity and free and fair elections and that's not even counting the 2016 elections. From the London School of Economics, U.S. Politics and Policy project:

So are American elections actually as exceptionally bad as claimed? Here for evidence we can turn to the Variety of Democracies (V-Dem) project based at the University of Gothenburg, an independent academic study involving a team of over 50 social scientists on six continents. The latest version of the dataset (V6.2) covers 350 indicators and 30 democracy indices in 173 countries annually from 1900 to 2012. This project has been widely acknowledged; for example, last year it received one of the most prestigious dataset awards in American political science. What does the V-Dem evidence show about how the quality of American elections compared with contests around the rest of the world?

V-Dem gauges the quality of elections using dozens of indicators such as those concerning voting rights, campaign media, the extent of any problems of opposition boycotts and electoral-related violence, and the independence of the electoral management body. For a summary measure, V-Dem asks its expert respondents: “Taking all aspects of the pre-election period, election day, and the post-election process into account, would you consider this national election to be free and fair?” Responses to this item, averaged for the period from 2000 to 2012, can be compared in 161 countries.

As shown in Figure 1, out of 28 Western democracies, according to the V-Dem data, the US ranks last. And this was well before the 2016 election, which isn’t yet in the V-Dem dataset. The United States is clearly exceptional.

As you will see Canada isn't doing all that well either, coming in at a mediocre 2.5 and trailing Japan, the UK, Norway, Chile, France, Spain, Australia, Portugal, Netherlands, Switzerland, Costa Rica, Poland and the Czech Republic.

The U.S. did however handily beat East Timor, Liberia, Libya, Kyrgyzstan and even narrowly edged out Myanmar, Romania, Kosovo and the Dominican Republic.

Donald Trump and the Labyrinth of Lies

Montreal Simon - Tue, 01/10/2017 - 06:47

In his book The Art of the Deal Donald Trump called his compulsive lying "truthful hyperbole," or "an innocent form of exaggeration."

But they are lies, if his nose really did grow with every one he told, by now it would it would have had to be declared a dangerous weapon.

And the way he reacted to Meryl Streep's devastating criticism of him at the Golden Globe Awards, is just more evidence that he can't control himself.
Read more »

New Year, New Squirrels

Fat and Not Afraid - Tue, 01/10/2017 - 06:44

Well it was a lovely Christmas break; Kat was off for 3 weeks instead of two thanks to a nasty virus or something and Ryan and I ended up loaded with head colds for Xmas eve, day and Boxing Day but at least we were all together and we were able to relax. We went sledding and drank hot chocolate and ate chocolates, slept in, stayed up late, caught up on some Star Trek Next Generations and Deep Space Nine and generally loafed about when we weren't at work.

It IS good to get back to the regular routine, however. Yesterday and today we were up and the kids were out the door promptly at 745. Gabe helped without complaint to get the recycling to the curb before the truck came and now I have the morning to myself to putter about and put things in place before Ryan gets home tonight. He's been in the Soo a day or so for work at his new job and we're both hoping the expected snow storm holds off and lets him travel safely.

Work is work-not much to say there. I enjoy working at the new location far more than downtown; the clientele is more what I'm used too (ie, fewer drunks/stoners) and no-one is sleeping in the flower beds outside. The ladies I work with are all wonderful people with their own quirks and stories, though I do miss Jerry and Shannon quite a bit. My new manager is thrilled with my performance but I'm still learning to not stick my oar in where it's not needed. Just working on getting my squirrels at a rave to ducks in a row!

How is the new year treating you? How were your holidays?

Tuesday Morning Links

accidentaldeliberations - Tue, 01/10/2017 - 06:08
This and that for your Tuesday reading.

- Jesse Ferreras reports that Canada's supposed job growth has included almost nothing but part-time and precarious work. And Louis-Philippe Rochon points out how the influence of the financial sector has led to economic choices which serve nobody else's interests:
What makes governments hesitate to pursue policies they have been told would benefit the economy and the working class?

I am forced to conclude that these choices do not depend on economic factors, but rather on political ones, and in particular, the over-influence of finance and financial leaders in the political arena.

Full employment is possible, if governments chose to pursue it. Nothing stops government from adopting policies that would reduce the great inequalities in income by increasing marginal tax rates, adopting inheritance taxes and more.

Inevitably, however, these policies would hurt the financial elites who have become way too tangled up with the political class. It would also inevitably shift social power toward the working class and away from finance.  - Jim Stanford writes that much of the dogma underlying corporate free trade deals is at long last being met with scrutiny. And Noah Smith comments on the constant - and unfair - assumption that public policy shouldn't even be considered as a means of improving people's lives absent some discrete market failure.

- Andrew MacLeod reveals the results of the B.C. Libs' attempt to dodge a modest boost to the Canada Pension Plan - showing that two-thirds of respondents favoured the expansion which the Clark government tried to undercut. 

- Jessica Elgot reports on Jeremy Corbyn's call for a maximum wage law in the UK. And the Guardian's panel response offers plenty of food for thought - particularly to the effect that where the problem to be addressed is the disproportionate accumulation of income and wealth, the right policy prescription is likely through taxes rather than regulation.

- Finally, Andrew Coyne discusses the radically difference models which give rise to varied views on a basic income, while noting that Hugh Segal's proposed pilot program will offer a useful study of a model which should appeal to all sides.

Conservatives Need To Be Progressive

Northern Reflections - Tue, 01/10/2017 - 05:27

That's the message Hugh Segal delivers to his fellow Conservatives in today' s Globe and Mail. He begins with a review of recent history:

John Diefenbaker’s surprise defeat of Louis St. Laurent in 1957 reflected Progressive Conservative equilibrium on preserving the role of Parliament, opposing closure and championing of low-income seniors’ real needs. The 1958 Tory sweep was the largest majority in Canadian history and emerged largely because of the arrogance of the Liberals, who moved a non-confidence motion to bring down the Diefenbaker minority government. The Liberals believed that the 1957 Conservative win was simply a mistake by the voters.

Bob Stanfield’s near-victory over the unbeatable Liberal icon of Pierre Trudeau in 1972 (Mr. Stanfield lost by a handful of votes and just two seats) reflected a huge step forward for Mr. Stanfield’s moderation, integrity and concern for the disadvantaged. This surge, which produced a win for Mr. Stanfield in English-speaking Canada, was seen as a victory over the apparent arrogance and condescension of then-prime-minister Trudeau.

Brian Mulroney’s victory in 1984 over the Trudeau legacy championed by then-prime-minister John Turner was more about a moderate position on Canada-U.S. relations, less “my way or the highway” federalism, a stout defence of francophone minorities and a rejigging of Ottawa’s economic and social levers toward the centre from the bureaucratic centre-left.
Segal is delivering a warning to the members of his party who are in the throes of Trumpism:

The lessons of history seem, so far, to have had little impact. Canadians haven’t heard from any candidate about those living beneath the poverty line, the next stage of reconciliation with First Nations, a creative 21st-century federalism, a real-world foreign and defence policy, the inequities of unemployment for younger Canadians, the precariousness of areas of employment or the need for a national strategy for seniors.
They forget that Segal held an influential position in Bill Davis' Big Blue Machine -- one of the most successful political operations in Canadian history. They would be wise to lend him an ear. 

Image: Ottawa Citizen

Last Seat on Conservative Clown Car - Going, Going, Gone?

The Disaffected Lib - Mon, 01/09/2017 - 16:41

CBC News reports that Kevin O'Leary is telling his rich Tory pals in Florida that he's in. He will run for the Conservative leadership. Apparently O'Leary, probably bronzed and waxed, will make it official next week.

Michael Harris, meanwhile, figures O'Leary has no place to go but straight down.


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