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"There is no greatness where simplicity, goodness and truth are absent." Leo Tolstoy
Updated: 34 min 5 sec ago

Not With A Bang But A Whimper

15 hours 21 min ago

It's beginning to look like electoral reform is dead in the water. In the end, Chantal Hebert writes, our political parties could not rise above partisan self interest:

The Conservatives came into this discussion riding the referendum horse, and they come out of it more firmly in the saddle.
They have not budged an inch from their sense that the first-past-the-post system remains the best option. But they have found support from the other opposition parties for their contention that any change should clear the hurdle of a national vote.
That support is more tactical than principled.
Even as they are part of a pro-referendum consensus, the New Democrats, for instance, continue to argue that it is not necessarily essential to put a reform to a national vote prior to its implementation. If the Liberals set out to put in place the more proportional voting system the New Democrats crave, the government could find support on their benches for dispensing with a referendum.

But it's the Liberals who have truly bungled this file:

As for the Liberals, they have managed to turn a secondary policy front into a field of ruins.
With the logistical clock ticking on moving to a different voting system in time for 2019, the government waited eight months to set up a process to follow up on the prime minister’s election promise.
It never articulated a set of principles that might guide its management of the file.
The Liberals went into the debate with a known preference for a ranked ballot but could not be bothered or could not find a critical mass of intervenors to advance that option.
The Liberal committee members ended up rejecting the time frame set by their own leader to achieve a reform as unrealistic and the notion of a more proportional system as too radical. 
Electoral reform is an idea whose time has come. But it looks like it's an idea that will end, not with a bang, but a whimper. 
Image: Ottawa Citizen

The Post Truth Era

Sat, 12/03/2016 - 05:56
Several commentators have suggested that the ascension of Donald Trump marks the beginning of the Post Truth Era. George Monbiot writes that, in fact, we have been living in the Post Truth Era for some time now. Over the past fifteen years,

I have watched as tobacco, coal, oil, chemicals and biotech companies have poured billions of dollars into an international misinformation machine composed of thinktanks, bloggers and fake citizens’ groups. Its purpose is to portray the interests of billionaires as the interests of the common people, to wage war against trade unions and beat down attempts to regulate business and tax the very rich. Now the people who helped run this machine are shaping the government.
Consider, most particularly, those who have battled the idea that the climate is changing:

The fury and loathing directed at climate scientists and campaigners seemed incomprehensible until I realised they were fake: the hatred had been paid for. The bloggers and institutes whipping up this anger were funded by oil and coal companies.

Among those I clashed with was Myron Ebell of the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI). The CEI calls itself a thinktank, but looks to me like a corporate lobbying group. It is not transparent about its funding, but we now know it has received $2m from ExxonMobil, more than $4m from a group called the Donors Trust (which represents various corporations and billionaires), $800,000 from groups set up by the tycoons Charles and David Koch, and substantial sums from coal, tobacco and pharmaceutical companies.
And then there are those who see organized labour as their mortal enemy:

Charles and David Koch – who for years have funded extreme pro-corporate politics – might not have been enthusiasts for Trump’s candidacy, but their people were all over his campaign. Until June, Trump’s campaign manager was Corey Lewandowski, who like other members of Trump’s team came from a group called Americans for Prosperity (AFP).

This purports to be a grassroots campaign, but it was founded and funded by the Koch brothers. It set up the first Tea Party Facebook page and organised the first Tea Party events. With a budget of hundreds of millions of dollars, AFP has campaigned ferociously on issues that coincide with the Koch brothers’ commercial interests in oil, gas, minerals, timber and chemicals.

In Michigan, it helped force through the “right to work bill”, in pursuit of what AFP’s local director called “taking the unions out at the knees”. It has campaigned nationwide against action on climate change. It has poured hundreds of millions of dollars into unseating the politicians who won’t do its bidding and replacing them with those who will.

Trump portrays himself as the friend of the common man.  His friends, however, are not friends of the common man. But in the Post Truth Era, that fact is irrelevant.

Image: Joe.My.God

Californians Know A Con Job When They See One

Fri, 12/02/2016 - 05:06

Around the world, Neo-liberalism is triumphant -- but not everywhere. Robert Reich writes that, in the recent American election, California -- which used to be a pilot project for Milton Friedman's economic prescriptions -- overwhelming rejected Donald Trump:

In sharp contrast to much of the rest of the nation, Californians preferred Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump by a 2-to-1 margin. They also voted to extend a state tax surcharge on the wealthy, and adopt local housing and transportation measures along with a slew of local tax increases and bond proposals.
Perhaps that's because Californians know something that the people in Trump's Heartland don't understand. Consider:

For years, conservatives have been saying that a healthy economy depends on low taxes, few regulations, and low wages.

Are conservatives right? At the one end of the scale are Kansas and Texas, with among the nation’s lowest taxes, least regulations, and lowest wages.

At the other end is California, with among the nation’s highest taxes, especially on the wealthy; toughest regulations, particularly when it comes to the environment; most ambitious healthcare system, that insures more than 12 million poor Californians, in partnership with Medicaid; and high wages.

So according to conservative doctrine, Kansas and Texas ought to be booming, and California ought to be in the pits.

Actually, it’s just the opposite.

For several years, Kansas’s rate of economic growth has been the worst in the nation. Last year its economy actually shrank. 

Texas hasn’t been doing all that much better. Its rate of job growth has been below the national average. Retail sales are way down. The value of Texas exports has been dropping.
California has rejected neo-liberal orthodoxy. And that rejection has made all the difference:

California leads the nation in the rate of economic growth — more than twice the national average. If it were a separate nation it would now be the sixth largest economy in the world. Its population has surged to 39 million (up 5 percent since 2010).

California is home to the nation’s fastest-growing and most innovative industries – entertainment and high tech. It incubates more startups than anywhere else in the world. 
Californians have their problems. When it comes to climate change, they are enduring the brunt of Nature's assault. But the state -- whose population is larger than Canada's -- knows that Neoliberalism is a con job.

Image: 8

We May Be Cooked

Thu, 12/01/2016 - 05:04

Surveying what has been happening in Europe and the United States, Jonathan Manthorpe asks, "Is Liberalism dying out?" He writes:

Only in Canada (and Portugal) does the seemingly archaic and decidedly retro 20th-century notion of small-L liberalism — or, if you prefer, social democratic centralism — survive unchallenged.

Everywhere else among Canada’s cultural kith and kin, what has become known as ‘populism’ has taken power, or is poised to take power, or is busy fermenting in the streets and on the opposition benches.
Consider the evidence:

It was populism that propelled to victory the campaign to take Britain out of the European Union in June’s referendum. Donald Trump applauded the Brexit victory as a trailblazer for his own populist route to the White House.

It is populism that got Viktor Orban elected Hungary’s prime minister in 2010 and has kept him in power since. Populist parties have the most parliamentary seats in Greece, Slovakia, Poland, Switzerland and Italy. In Norway, Finland and Lithuania, populist parties are in governing coalitions. Populist parties are represented in the parliaments of all other European countries — including Germany, where Chancellor Angela Merkel remains an increasingly lonely champion of social democracy.

In France, Marine Le Pen, leader of the National Front, sees the Trump and Brexit victories as beacons lighting the way for her own push for the Élysée Palace in the presidential elections in April and May. The selection at the weekend by France’s centre-right Republicans of former prime minister (and conservative Catholic) Francois Fillon as their candidate ensures the election will be fought on Le Pen’s ground. The socialists — whose current leader Francois Hollande is the most unpopular president since the founding of the Fifth Republic in 1958 — are not in the game.

In Austria on Sunday, Norbert Hofer of the populist Freedom Party is odds-on to win the presidency. In Holland, current polls indicate that Geert Wilders and his radical anti-Islamist Party for Freedom will win power in the elections scheduled for March. In next September’s elections for the Bundestag, odds are good that the populist party Alternative for Germany, whose support has grown with the influx of about one million Syrian refugees, will win seats in the federal parliament for the first time.
There is a dark tide rising which not only threatens democracy but also the planet. We may be -- figuratively and literally -- cooked.

Image: Tastefully Simple

He's Beginning To Stumble

Wed, 11/30/2016 - 05:37

Lawrence Martin writes in today's Globe that Justin Trudeau is beginning to falter. First, there was the sound and fury over Castro -- although  much of the noise was the consequence of short historical memory. Beyond that, today's media is decidedly right-wing. Forty years ago,

there was no giant conservative chain like Postmedia, which is the preponderant print voice in many of the country’s big cities and which fields conservative commentators in greater number than progressives. Today the right side has the balance of power in the print media and has gained ground at the CBC where a conservative has been appointed to head up its new on-line commentary service.
More serious is the unfolding cash for access story:

The other rhubarb, the cash-for-access story, is one that stings because although it’s an age-old political practice it contravenes the clearly worded pledge Mr. Trudeau made before coming to power. To wit: “There should be no preferential access or appearance of preferential access accorded to individuals or organizations because they have made financial contributions to politicians and political parties.”
There is as yet no direct evidence of kickbacks or quid pro quos in what the PM and his ministers have done. On the question of openness and integrity, this government has shown more of it than their predecessors, who last we looked were embroiled in a cover-up scandal on Senate expenses that saw them trying to falsify a Senate report, misleading the House of Commons and offering testimony at the trial of Mike Duffy that was risible.
That said, the cash-for-access story could have legs, lots of them. Examples keep popping up. Liberals’ heads keep popping down. The Conservatives have them on the defensive and with Mr. Trudeau facing difficult decisions on upcoming nettlesome files, they are likely to keep them there.
And, yesterday, the Liberals approved Kinder-Morgan and the pipeline to Wisconsin. Both pipelines are on existing routes. Perhaps Trudeau feels that's a safe strategy. But recent events in the U.S. and the UK suggest that, these days, there is no such thing as a safe strategy.
Image: 123RF

Playing The Victim

Tue, 11/29/2016 - 05:30

The present crop of conservatives are a strange lot. They are, Scott Reid writes, nothing like their predecessors:

Conservatives used to campaign on rugged individualism and the projection of strength. Those of the modern breed are a whimpering litter of easily wounded weaklings. And they just can’t shut up about it.
Exhibit A is the President-Elect of the United States:

Almost daily, Donald Trump takes to Twitter to complain about the slights and insults inflicted upon him and, by extension, his millions of supporters. He is a 70-year old white male billionaire set to assume the full authority of the presidency of the United States. Outside of comic books, it’s impossible to imagine someone with greater access to personal power. And yet, he persistently rallies his followers with claims that he, and they, are subject to humiliating treatment by powerful, threatening forces. Like comedians and Broadway musicals.
Across the pond, it's more of the same:

Consider the messages underpinning the appeal of Marine Le Pen or the disaffection that fuelled Brexit. It’s a familiar litany of propagandized harms. Immigrants are taking your jobs. Sharia law is set to sweep our cities. Dollars spent on the EU could fund the National Health Service. And to quarrel with these arguments is to be branded as some sort of reverse-bully — with minorities portrayed as menacing scolds and bigotry applauded as politically incorrect courage.
And, in Canada, the Conservative Party is populated by the same kind of whiners:

Kellie Leitch moves from caucus nobody to number one in the Conservative leadership contest by reminding the rank and file that she is permanently under attack for the audacity of her views. Recently, her campaign went so far as to blame a break-in at her home on unscrupulous, dangerous leftists. So rattled was she by the violent intentions of these anonymous, tax-hiking multiculturalists that she had to withdraw from a leadership debate. The police, meanwhile, reported that there was no evidence that anyone — on the left or the right — had broken into her house. Never mind. It made for a good fundraising email.
There are no profiles in courage in this bunch. Reid correctly calls them "Crybaby Conservatives."

Image: Pinterest

Fools That We Are

Mon, 11/28/2016 - 05:42

These days, when it comes to public discourse, nuance is nowhere to be found. Michael Harris writes:

There is no public discourse, just an ongoing screed between those fighting for the controls. It’s not just sex, lies and videotape that is used to bring the opponent low — but a hearty boot to the meat pies if you can manage to get the other guy down. The mayhem etiquette of cage-fighting has vanquished any vestige of the Marquis of Queensbury rules. Welcome to Trumpland and the skewed reality of the alt-right.

Making matters worse, we have entered the Age of Dishonesty and Deception as author Ralph Keyes calls it, where casual dishonesty has become a pandemic in public life. What does that mean? All the whoppers no longer come from Burger King.
 Consider the reaction to Justin Trudeau's statement following the death of Fidel Castro:

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau lamented the passing of a world leader and family friend, and offered condolences to the Castros in the name of a deep friendship between the Canadian and Cuban people that runs back to the days of his father, Pierre Trudeau.

Stephen Harper’s son, Ben, called Trudeau’s statement about Castro “an embarrassment for Canada.” Since Ben’s father set the record in that department, perhaps he could offer further enlightenment to the Great Unwashed. Perhaps Ben might share his wisdom on the subject of his father’s words of praise for the despot who ran Saudi Arabia, King Abdullah, when he died. The record shows that Harper spent $175,000 to send Governor-General David Johnston to Saudi Arabia to personally convey his condolences. Nice treatment for a misogynistic dictator with a human rights record far worse than Castro’s.

US Senator Marco Rubio saw Trudeau’s remarks as flowers for a brutal dictator, misplaced compassion for a political thug who brought opposition to his revolution to an abrupt end against a wall or deep inside a prison.
No one remembers Fulgencio Batista, the dictator Castro replaced. Donald Trump  has made degraded discourse and outrageous lying normal. And we follow the Pied Piper, fools that we are.

Image: The Road To Cuba

More Black Days In July

Sun, 11/27/2016 - 03:16

It's been almost half a century since the assassination of Martin Luther King and the urban infernos that followed his death. That's two generations, and many people have no memory of that time. But we may be returning to that time. Linda McQuaig writes:

I’ve always been amazed at the way Americans routinely describe their country as “the greatest democracy on earth,” without considering how that characterization fits with its history of genocide against Native Americans and more than two centuries of slavery.
The fact that slavery was central to the American experience is rarely acknowledged, with little attempt to make amends for this atrocity — as South Africa did after apartheid or Germany did after the Second World War. There’s been only a belated apology, from the U.S. House of Representatives, in 2008, after decades of pressure.
And certainly the emerging Trump administration is in no mood to offer apologies:
The soft, itchy underbelly of American racism has been given a good scratching by Trump, who for years kept alive birther attempts to discredit the first black president.
Whatever damage Trump is likely to do around the globe, at home — under the guidance of master provocateur Bannon — he is almost certainly going to pick a fight with the Black Lives Matter crowd, despite their reliance on peaceful protests in the face of routine police killings of unarmed black men.
And when those tensions are further inflamed, the man who will be there to ensure justice is done will be Trump’s new attorney general, Jeff Sessions, the Alabama senator whose racial comments led to his rejection as a judge by the Republican-dominated U.S. Senate in 1986.
Consider Sessions' record on race relations:
Less well known is the insidious role Sessions played in preserving Alabama’s long history of separate and unequal education. In the 1990s, 30 of the state’s poorest school districts and a disability rights group successfully challenged the system, with an Alabama judge ruling it unconstitutional.
Sessions, then Alabama’s attorney general, fought to ensure ongoing inequality, using his office to wage a fierce two-year battle to overturn the decision — which was eventually upheld by the state’s supreme court.
Given Sessions’ history, it’s not hard to imagine how, as the nation’s attorney general, he’ll clamp down on black street protestors, stripping away their civil liberties and emboldening police — moves that will lead to more anger, violence, further clampdowns, mass arrests, etc.
Gordon Lightfoot's song "Black Day in July" may, once again, be getting a lot of air play. 

Calling The Kettle Black

Sat, 11/26/2016 - 05:31

We live in the Age of Misplaced Faith. A stunning example of what this means for ordinary people is CETA -- the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement. Murray Dobbin writes:

The federal government makes its own "reality" by crafting "facts" to fit its policy objectives -- no matter how outrageous they are when put to the test. Three numbers stand out in the talking points of federal governments under both Harper and Trudeau: that CETA will increase GDP by $12 billion, that it will create 80,000 jobs and that the newly created wealth will boost income by $1,000 per family.

But economist Jim Stanford debunked these numbers long ago -- pointing out in 2012 that the federal trade department simply took the $12-billion figure (itself a highly dubious figure) "[a]nd divided it by the number of families in Canada. That assumes that every additional dollar of GDP translates directly into family income. In fact, higher GDP never fully trickles down into income..." The money that does find its way into income goes mostly to the wealthy.

The $12-billion figure came from a study commissioned by Canada and carried out by three EU economists. Stanford pointed out that the model used made some outrageous assumptions:
"[c]onstant full employment (so no one can be unemployed due to imports), balanced trade (so a country's total output cannot be undermined by a trade deficit), no international capital flows (so companies cannot shift investment abroad), and no impact from fluctuating exchange rates."Stanford called the study "outrageous." He was being far too polite. It was outright fraud. Anyone paying even cursory attention to the Canadian economy knows that not one of these assumptions holds. We haven't had full employment for decades, we have been experiencing trade deficits for years, NAFTA resulted in the shifting of billions of investment dollars to Mexico and China, and our exchange rate has been all over the map.
A recent study from Tufts University took a long look at CETA and arrived at these conclusions:

  • "CETA will lead to a reduction of the labour income share. Competitive pressures exerted by CETA on firms and transferred onto workers will raise the share of national income accruing to capital and symmetrically reduce the share of national income accruing to labour. 
  • By 2023, workers will have foregone average annual earnings increases of €1776 in Canada and between €316 and €1331 in the EU depending on the country.
  • CETA will lead to net losses of government revenue. Competitive pressures exerted by CETA on governments by international investors and shrinking policy space for supporting domestic … production and investment will reduce government revenue and expenditure. 
  • CETA will lead to job losses. By 2023, about 230,000 jobs will be lost in CETA countries, 200,000 of them in the EU, and 80,000 more in the rest of the world [the study projects a loss of 23,000 Canadian jobs due to CETA in the first seven years].
  • CETA will lead to net losses in terms of GDP. [D]emand shortfalls nurtured by higher unemployment will also hurt productivity and cause cumulative losses amounting to 0.96 per cent of national income in Canada..."

Mr. Trudeau lambasted Mr. Harper for his misplaced faith. It was the pot calling the kettle black.

It's Later Than We Think

Fri, 11/25/2016 - 06:30

The news on climate change is not good -- and it's getting worse. The mainstream media are beginning to get the message. Ole Hendrickson writes:

The headline of a recent Washington Post article says "The North Pole is an insane 36 degrees warmer than normal as winter descends." Scientists are stunned by the magnitude of this deviation from past climate norms, as warm air keeps flooding into the high Arctic. But don't be fooled into thinking this means a warm winter in Canada. Even as the Arctic Ocean stubbornly resists winter, extreme cold has prevailed over Siberia and could spread to North America. This represents an ever-more chaotic climate. 

Another example is a must-read New Yorker article entitled "Greenland is melting," by Elizabeth Kolbert, winner of the 2015 non-fiction Pulitzer Prize for The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History. Kolbert describes in great detail what scientists working in Greenland are witnessing: "The shrinking of the country's ice sheet is triggering feedback loops that accelerate the global crisis. The floodgates may already be open." 
We are rapidly approaching a worse case scenario:

How bad could it get? Scientists aren't talking about complete human extinction, are they?
Sorry, but they are indeed. This may be the first you've heard of "euxinia" (pronounced "yuke-zenia"), but basically, this involves a planet devoid of higher life forms that depend on oxygen, oceans choked with rotting organic matter and bacteria spewing out toxic hydrogen sulfide. This happened during past mass extinctions, notably the biggest of all at the end of the Permian Period, 252 million years ago.

One study published this year says "exacerbation of anoxic "dead" zones is already progressing in modern oceanic environments, and this is likely to increase…" Another study says "[g]lobal warming triggered by the massive release of carbon dioxide may be catastrophic, but the release of methane from hydrate may be apocalyptic." Authors of the latter study add that "[t]he end Permian holds an important lesson for humanity regarding the issue it faces today with greenhouse gas emissions, global warming, and climate change."
And Mr. Trump thinks it's all a hoax perpetrated by the Chinese.


Another One

Thu, 11/24/2016 - 06:26

Crawford Killian voices the frustration that many of us who spent our lives in the classroom feel in the wake of the American election:

As a lifelong teacher, this really alarmed me. After all, I’d spent over 40 years trying to teach students to be critical thinkers with well-tuned bullshit detectors, able to detect a bogus argument and counter it with solid evidence. I wasn’t alone; critical thinking is built into the B.C. curriculum, and no doubt the curricula of most American schools as well.

Yet here was a president-elect who was a living, breathing repudiation of what teachers dedicate their lives to. It’s bad enough to get panned on, but Donald Trump’s triumph really rubbed our collective nose in our failure. A teenage Trump would have been the class clown in any school in North America, and promptly flunked. Instead he has flourished through a long life and many wives and bankruptcies. Now he’s proved that anyone, indeed, can become president of the United States of America.
Searching for an explanation of Trump's triumph, Killian returned to the work of Jean Paul Sartre and Theodor Adorno, two survivors of Nazism:

Reading Sartre again in 2016, I found him unpleasantly timely: “The rational man groans as he gropes for the truth; he knows that his reasoning is no more than tentative, that other considerations may supervene to cast doubt on it. He never sees clearly where he is going; he is ‘open’; he may even appear to be hesitant.

“The anti-Semite has chosen hate because hate is a faith; at the outset he has chosen to devaluate words and reasons. How entirely at ease he feels as a result. How futile and frivolous discussions about the rights of the Jew appear to him. …

“[Anti-Semites] know that their remarks are frivolous, open to challenge. But they are amusing themselves, for it is their adversary who is obliged to use words responsibly, since he believes in words. 
There are echoes of Neal Postman there. And Theodor Adorno spent a lot of his time researching the authoritarian personality:

“Hitler posed as a composite of King Kong and the suburban barber,” a projection of the fantasies of his followers.

“Hitler was liked,” Adorno argues, “not in spite of his cheap antics but because of them, because of his false tones and his clowning.” So he could shout the unspeakable things that his followers had long thought, including the prospect of sadistic cruelty against the enemy.

Seen in that light, Hitler’s raving and Mussolini’s strutting were strictly show business, a way to market violence. They were also literally irrefutable. The late historian Tony Judt noted that “The fascists don’t really have concepts. They have attitudes.” You can’t debate an attitude.
Again, more echoes of Postman.

History has had its share of dangerous clowns. We are now going to have to live with another one.

Image: The Guardian

Which Number?

Wed, 11/23/2016 - 05:29

We live in a digital age -- a time when numbers are everywhere. One number -- we've labelled it GDP -- has taken on a mystical quality. It has become the sole measure of our progress -- or lack of it. But there are other numbers that give a much more comprehensive measure of how far we've come or how much we have regressed. Roy Romanow writes:

Based at the University of Waterloo, the CIW [the Canadian Index of Wellbeing] tracks 64 indicators representing eight domains of vital importance to Canadians’ quality of life. Where GDP counts money circulating in the economy, the CIW captures fluctuations in community vitality, democratic engagement, education, environment, healthy populations, leisure and culture, living standards and time use to describe how we’re really doing.
And that number explains what has been happening in Canada, the United States and Britain:

From 1994 to 2014, Canada’s GDP grew by 38 per cent while national well-being only rose 9.9 per cent. What’s more, the 2008 recession stole our living standards, our leisure and volunteer time, even our sleep — and we never got them back.

At the national level, the picture that emerges over the past 21 years is a GDP rebounding post-recession but Canadians literally continuing to pay the price. From 1994 to 2008, the living standards domain rose 23 per cent. Then it plummeted almost 11 per cent and has yet to recover. Gains made on reducing long-term unemployment and improving the employment rate were lost. Income inequality is rising. And, despite increases in median family incomes, millions of Canadians struggle with food and housing costs. When living standards drop, community, cultural and democratic participation follow suit. Surely, this is not our vision of equality and fairness in Canada.
Canadians’ were hardest hit in the leisure and culture domain, which declined by 9 per cent overall. We’re taking less time enjoying arts, culture, sports — even vacations — the very activities that help define us as individuals. On the eve of Canada’s sesquicentennial, household spending on culture and recreation is at its lowest point in 21 years.
For the last thirty-five years our policy makers have suffered from economic tunnel vision. Each month they have waited for that monthly GDP measurement -- and for quarterly stock market results -- like addicts waiting for a fix. And, like all addicts, they have lost sight of the big picture. 
Romanow insists on looking at the big picture:
Critics will argue that governments cannot afford to worry about well-being, especially when GDP is fragile. What we cannot afford is ongoing environmental degradation. We cannot afford the human and economic costs of poor health. We cannot afford the erosion of equality and fairness that underpins Canadian democracy.
The complex issues of our time require evidence, integrated systems thinking and proactive approaches. As we set our course for the next 150 years, we need to place the well-being of all Canadians at the very heart of Canada’s vision.
Image: University of Waterloo

Can They Do It Without Him?

Tue, 11/22/2016 - 05:41

When George W. Bush was elected president, he withdrew the United States from the Kyoto Protocol. Canada followed suit. Now, sixteen years later, Donald Trump vows to withdraw the United States from the Paris Accord. But this time, Justin Trudeau says that Canada will back the accord. In fact, yesterday he vowed that by 2030 coal would no longer be a source of Canadian energy. Tom Walkom writes:

Still, the world carries on. At an international climate-change summit in Marrakesh, Morocco last week, delegates issued a proclamation confirming the Paris accord and pledging that the battle against global warming would continue to be a matter of “urgent priority.”
Canadian Environment Minister Catherine McKenna said Ottawa will forge ahead with its plans to reduce carbon emissions by, in one way or another, taxing them.
China’s delegate to the conference said tackling climate change is “a global trend that is irreversible.” His remarks were echoed by delegates from all the big emitters, including India, the European Union, Japan, the Middle Eastern oil states and Brazil.
It's true that the accord does not do enough.  And the commitments are promises. they're not binding. But that makes it easier for the rest of the world to not knuckle under to Trump. And he's a man who measures success by his ability to get others to knuckle under.  Then there's China:
More to the point, there is China. It wants to be recognized as a world leader. It is willing to spend money to achieve that goal. It is attracted to renewable energy in part to deal with its own coal-based smog pollution. But it also sees renewable energy as part of a long-run industrial strategy.
Trump believes he can get China to knuckle under by imposing stiff tariffs on Chinese goods. He's a fool, of course. Can the rest of the world prove him a fool on climate change? We'll see. Still, Walkom advises his readers not to buy ocean front property in Florida. 
Image: Peace Palace Library

A Tall Order

Mon, 11/21/2016 - 06:12

It's tempting, after Donald Trump's election, to think magically. If you're an evangelical, why worry about climate change if you're convinced that The Rapture is just around the corner? And, if you're a desperate coal miner or steel worker, why not think magically when Trump promises that he'll bring your jobs back? But bringing those jobs back won't be as easy as settling a $25 million suit against Trump University.

But Trump's opponents are making a mistake if they, too, begin to think magically. Chris Hedges writes that Trump's opposition must focus on economic justice:

We cannot battle the racism, bigotry and hate crimes that will be stoked by the Donald Trump presidency without first battling for economic justice. This is not a gap between the tolerant and the intolerant. It is a gap between most of the American population and our oligarchic and corporate elites, which Trump epitomizes. It is a gap that is understood only in the light of the demand for economic justice. And when we start to speak in the language of justice first, and the language of inclusiveness second, we will begin to blunt the protofascism being embraced by many Trump supporters.
You will not find the fight for economic justice on the Christian Right:

Those enthralled by such thinking are Christian heretics—Jesus did not come to make us rich and powerful and bless America’s empire—and potential fascists. They have fused the iconography and symbols of the American state with the iconography and symbols of the Christian religion. They believe they can create a “Christian” America. The American flag is given the same sacred value as the Christian cross. The Pledge of Allegiance has the religious power of the Lord’s Prayer. That a sleazy developer and con artist was chosen as their vehicle—81 percent of evangelicals voted for Trump—for achieving this goal is startling, to say the least. But this is not a reality-based movement. Most of those who profit from this culture of despair, many wrapped in the halo of the ministry, are, like Trump, slick, amoral trolls.  
But, more importantly, those who Hedges has labelled "the liberal class" must realize that their place is on the side of the economically dispossessed:

The liberal class has no hope of defeating the rise of American fascism until it unites with the dispossessed white working class. It has no hope of being an effective force in politics until it articulates a viable socialism. Corporate capitalism cannot be regulated, reformed or corrected. A socialist movement dedicated to demolishing the cruelty of the corporate state will do more to curb the racism of the white underclass than lessons by liberals in moral purity. Preaching multiculturalism and gender and identity politics will not save us from the rising sadism in American society. It will only fuel the anti-politics that has replaced politics. 
Convincing Americans to buy socialism is going to be a tall order.

Image: Always On Watch