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"There is no greatness where simplicity, goodness and truth are absent." Leo Tolstoy
Updated: 13 min 32 sec ago

Xenophobia And Political Ambition

7 hours 36 min ago
 
Bob Hepburn warns that those of us who think that Kellie Leitch is on the political fringe, whipping up wing nuts, should think again. Xenophobia is gaining political traction all around the world. After his recent visit to Britain, Hepburn reports that:

In Oxford and Portsmouth, well-educated middle-income people, the type of voters I thought would see the advantages of being closely linked with other European nations, talked to me about why they voted to leave the EU.

Their main reason? Too many immigrants in recent years from the continent, many of whom they felt didn’t want to “be British,” who didn’t respect “British culture” and “British traditions” and who could be potential terrorists.
They also wanted to “send a message” to the political elite in London, who they felt ignored their concerns about immigrants working in jobs that once were filled by old-stock Brits.
The same thing is happening throughout Europe and the United States:
Similar anti-immigrant sentiments are rampant across Europe and are altering the political landscape from Greece to Germany, France and on to the United Kingdom.
The same xenophobia is a driving force behind Donald Trump’s campaign for the U.S. presidency, with his rallies fuelled by crowds roaring their approval whenever he vows to build a towering wall along the Mexican border to stop illegal immigrants.
In Europe, countries such as Turkey, Romania and Bulgaria are fed up with other nations demanding they take in more refugees fleeing the conflict in Syria. Greeks are trying to prevent migrant children from attending schools with their sons and daughters and talk about “a different look” now in Greek schools.
And, in Canada, the same sentiments are just under the surface:
The lone public poll on Leitch’s proposal found 67 per cent of Canadians, including 87 per cent of Tory voters, like the idea of screening newcomers for “anti-Canadian values.” The Forum Research poll for the Toronto Star also found 57 per cent of Liberals and 59 per cent of New Democrats like it.
It doesn't matter that potential immigrants are already heavily screened. What matters is that xenophobia is the handmaiden of political ambition.
Image: huffingtonpost.ca

That's When It Gets Tough

Thu, 09/29/2016 - 06:18


The pundits are increasingly sceptical about Justin Trudeau. Nevertheless, Gerry Caplan writes, the public's love affair with him continues. Even columnists for The Toronto Star -- which generally supports his initiatives -- are beginning to show their cynicism:


Take a column this past weekend by the scrupulously non-partisan Susan Delacourt. Like so many of her peers, Ms. Delacourt did not at all appreciate Stephen Harper’s open contempt for the press gallery. So for most reporters, Mr. Trudeau’s openness and accessibility was a breath of fresh air. Now his shtick has turned to hot air.
Mr. Trudeau’s press conference last week, Delacourt wrote in last Saturday’s Star, “was a remarkably answer-free encounter with the parliamentary press gallery, in which one had the sense the Prime Minister was trying to prove that he could smile and speak for 20 minutes without saying anything.” She offers this warning to the PM: Voters can “take only so many platitudes and winding, wordy detours around hard truths.” Harsh stuff.

And, likewise, for Tony Burman, the bloom is coming off the rose:

Similarly, Tony Burman, former head of CBC News, ridicules Mr. Trudeau’s speech at the UN last week (to a hall two-thirds empty, it was not often enough noted). Mr. Trudeau was peddling his usual “We’re Canadian and we’re here to help” rhetoric. Mr. Burman comments acidly: “If only life were that easy.” And a Globe cartoon shows Mr. Trudeau as all sizzle, no steak.

Smiling images will only get you so far:

These scornful and disappointed observations seem to me to encapsulate much of the reaction these days to Mr. Trudeau’s endless sunny days. Nothing is as easy as Mr. Trudeau always implies, from pipelines to reconciliation with our indigenous peoples. Yet he must produce something, indeed many things, in the next few months, or he’ll be a laughingstock. But of course he risks being a laughingstock if he fails to live up to his own hype. This is a man who increases expectations every time he speaks, who can’t seem to distinguish between aspiration and reality, and he’s doing himself no favours.
 All political honeymoons come to an end. And that's when it gets tough.

Image:  cbc.ca

It Only Stokes Anger

Wed, 09/28/2016 - 07:37


In what Lawrence Martin calls The Anglosphere, conservatism is in crisis. He writes:

In the United States, the conservative brand has gone from Dwight Eisenhower to Ronald Reagan, to George W. Bush, to Mr. Trump, who was on display in full floral gory or glory (take your pick) in Monday night’s presidential debate. Canada has gone from the moderate Toryism of John Diefenbaker, Robert Stanfield and Brian Mulroney to the vanquishing of Red Tories and the conservatism of Stephen Harper (with Toronto’s Rob Ford thrown in for bad measure). In Great Britain, the Conservatives are in the thrall of those who want to put up walls.
The brand is increasingly about identity tests and xenophobic strains. It is home to, if not climate-change deniers, then many who are close to it. It is soft on guns. Its appeal is to aging whites, to the prejudices of the less-educated, to religious fundamentalists. It’s a time-warp version of modernism, one many Canadian Conservatives apparently think they can thrive on.
Rather than building a big tent, conservatives have doubled down on their base:
In recent years, Canadian Conservatives have been like some of the others with their obsession with appealing to the party base, to the prejudices of the base, for milking it for everything it’s worth. In this sense, the crisis in conservatism reaches beyond Mr. Trump. The “base” fixation was rarely what it is now in these countries. The parties normally sought to broaden their pitch, not narrow it.
Democracy requires openness to ideas and to people who are not like you. But for modern conservatives, people who are not like them are considered  members of the elite. That's Donald Trump's pitch line. It was also Stephen Harper's line.
That mindset doesn't encourage renewal. It only stokes anger.
Image: pinterest.com

His Word Is Not His Bond

Tue, 09/27/2016 - 05:30


Following last night's debate, NPR fact checked the statements of both candidates. It should come as no surprise that much of what Donald Trump says is patently untrue. Consider just a few examples:

Trump said, "You look at what China is doing for country in terms of making our product, they're devaluing their currency and there's nobody in our government to fight them."

According to Anthony Kuhn, NPR's International Correspondent, "In fact, over the past two years, Beijing has been selling off some of its roughly $4 trillion in foreign exchange reserves to prop up the value of its currency, the Renminbi or Yuan. This has contributed to a lower U.S. trade deficit with China. Beijing allowed the RMB to appreciate against the dollar for about a decade until 2014, leading the IMF to judge the RMB as fairly valued in May of last year."
Trump said,"Thousands of jobs leaving Michigan, leaving Ohio, they’re all leaving."

Marilyn Geewax reports, "Unemployment in Michigan is 4.5 percent; Ohio rate is 4.7 percent. Both are better than the national average of 4.9 percent." 
Trump said, "Under my plan I will be reducing taxes tremendously from thirty five percent to fifteen percent for companies, small and big businesses." 

Danielle Kurtseblen writes, "The conservative Tax Foundation estimates that his plan would reduce federal revenue by $4.4 trillion to $5.9 trillion over the next decade, which is a lot, but down from $10 trillion in his original plan.

Some of that could be offset by economic growth, but even using “dynamic scoring,” the foundation says the plan cuts tax revenue by $2.6 trillion to $3.9 trillion over 10 years. (The higher figure is if the 15 percent business tax rate is applied to “pass-through” entities.) The biggest beneficiaries of Trump’s tax cuts are the wealthy. The top 1 percent of earners see their after-tax income rise by between 10.2 percent and 16 percent. Overall savings would be less than 1 percent.
Trump claimed that he never called climate change a "hoax."

According to NPR, "Actually, Trump has called climate change a "hoax" on several occasions. He said on Meet the Press that he was joking about China's role. As PolitiFact noted: "On Dec. 30, 2015, Trump told the crowd at a rally in Hilton Head, S.C., 'Obama's talking about all of this with the global warming and … a lot of it's a hoax. It's a hoax. I mean, it's a moneymaking industry, OK? It's a hoax, a lot of it.' "

The original source for the “hoax” quote was a tweet Trump sent in 2012. He said the concept of global warming was created by the Chinese to make U.S. manufacturing noncompetitive. 
Take a look at the NPR link. Trump is a serial fabricator and a serial bankrupt. His word is not his bond.

Image: cnn.com

Ottawa, A D -- After Duffy

Mon, 09/26/2016 - 05:32


Last week, two of the movers and shakers in the Prime Minister's Office announced that they were giving back part of the money they had received to move from Toronto to Ottawa. They were followed by two other staffers -- for Ministers Dion and Bains -- who refunded another $55,000 to the federal coffers. Michael Harris writes:

After asserting that they had broken no rules, the PM’s prodigal aides followed a step further in [Mike] Duffy’s shoes. They both claimed that there were elements of their relocation expenses that made them feel uncomfortable at the time, just as Duffy had testified in his own defence. 
But then they went further:

Butts and Telford expanded the Duffy Doctrine. In their ‘mea culpa,’ they said they now felt strongly that the rules they followed in filing their moving expenses were so utterly, egregiously, and inherently wrong that they voluntarily returned a portion of their jammy reimbursements. 
The Conservatives, of course, were cackling -- forgetting that it was they who made the rules:

If the rules are, as Conservative MP Candice Bergen claims, a personal ATM for the current government and its minions, it was Stephen Harper who handed out the debit cards. In fact, Harper’s PMO approved nearly $325,000 in relocation expenses during its tenure, including $93,000 in moving expenses for one senior ministerial aide. In court, they call that a precedent. 
But arguing over who made the rules is pointless. Since Senator Duffy's trial, things have changed. Our age is still officially recorded as "A.D." But, in Ottawa, that acronym has taken on new meaning. From henceforth it will mean "After Duffy."

Image: orleansstar.ca

Putting Money Where Her Mouth Is

Sun, 09/25/2016 - 03:29


Recently, Health Minister Jane Philpott informed the province of Quebec that she intended to enforce the Canada Health Act. Tom Walkom writes:

The Canada Health Act is the federal statute governing medicare. It lists the standards provinces must meet if they are to receive money from Ottawa for health care. And it gives the federal government the right to cut transfers to any province that doesn’t meet these standards.
In particular, it imposes a duty on the federal health minister to financially penalize any province that allows physicians operating within medicare to bill patients for extra, out-of-pocket fees.
However, the federal government has only rarely penalized provinces which allowed extra billing:
Compared to the billions the federal government spent on health transfers over the period, these penalties were pittances. But they did make the point that medicare is indeed a national program.
And in every province except B.C., where the issue has morphed into a constitutional court case, the extra-billing problem was apparently resolved.
There, Dr. Brian Day has launched a court case, claiming that extra billing is a practice that is protected under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. If the case succeeds, medicare -- as a defining Canadian institution -- will be finished. Someone has to meet the challenge head on. That task has fallen to Philpott.
But it imperative that Justin Trudeau stands behind her by providing the money to defend medicare. Originally, medicare was a 50/50 proposition. Half of the costs were to be born by the provinces and half by the federal government. In 2013, CUPE released a report on Healthcare spending. The fifty-fifty split was ancient history. According to the report,
the federal government covers only one fifth of provincial health spending, where it used to cover half – and it wants to scale back further. The 2004–2014 Health Accord provided stable funding after deep cuts in the 1990s. It has brought the federal government’s cash share of provincial health spending up to 20 per cent1 from a low of 10 per cent in 19982 and part way to its original 50 per cent share. The current federal government wants to reverse this progress. 
The "current federal government," of course, was the Harper government. When Stephen Harper headed the National Citizens Coalition he advocated dismantling medicare. These days, Dr. Day has taken Harper's place.
Minister Philpott has signalled that the line has been drawn. But, if she is to succeed, the prime minister is going to have to put money where her mouth is.
Image: The Canadian Press

Facts That Don't Suit Its Agenda

Sat, 09/24/2016 - 05:37


Andrew Coyne used to sing the praises of the Harper Party. That was before he discovered that they were not who they claimed to be. Stephen Harper may be gone, but his party is still a fraud. Take the issue of putting a price on carbon. Coyne writes:

The party of free markets, rather than support a plan that relies on the quintessential market instrument — prices — favours the most costly, intrusive and regulatory-heavy approach imaginable: the very approach that has so signally failed to date. The party of personal responsibility favours sparing people the costs of their economic choices, either socializing them via subsidy or disguising them via regulation.

All of the party's leadership candidates -- save one -- are vehemently opposed to putting a price on carbon:

Yet the position of the Conservative party, and of virtually every one of its leading lights, is flat-out opposition to carbon pricing, in whatever form. Of the federal party leadership candidates, only one, Michael Chong, has come out in favour. The other 87 or so are all opposed. The official line remains the same: it’s a “tax on everything,” and they want no part of it.

But, like it or not, a tax is on its way:

British Columbia has had a carbon tax since 2008. Alberta will have one in place by 2018. Ontario and Quebec are implementing cap-and-trade regimes. That’s 80 per cent of the country, by population, where carbon pricing is now law. And in six weeks the government of Canada will formally commit the country to the Paris climate accord, together with its Intended Nationally Determined Contribution, UN-speak for emissions reductions target. By year’s end, the Trudeau government has signalled it will have a national carbon price in place, with or without the provinces’ cooperation.
The Harper Party has never been who and what it claimed to be. And it has never been able to deal with facts that don't suit its agenda.

Image: lautensblogspot.com

On The Edge Of Insanity

Fri, 09/23/2016 - 06:01

The "American Dream" used to be summed up in two words -- upward mobility. And, after World War II, almost everyone in the United States was upwardly mobile. Ben Fountain writes in The Guardian:

The biggest gains occurred in the post-second world war era of the GI Bill, affordable higher education, strong labor unions, and a progressive tax code. Between the late 1940s and early 1970s, median household income in the US doubled. Income inequality reached historic lows. The average CEO salary was approximately 30 times that of the lowest-paid employee, compared with today’s gold-plated multiple of 370. The top tax bracket ranged in the neighborhood of 70% to 90%. Granted, there were far fewer billionaires in those days. Somehow the nation survived.Democracy’s premise rests on the notion that the collective wisdom of the majority will prove right more often than it’s wrong. That given sufficient opportunity in the pursuit of happiness, your population will develop its talents, its intellect, its better judgment; that over time its capacity for discernment and self-correction will be enlarged. Life will improve. The form of your union will be more perfect, to borrow a phrase. But if a critical mass of your population is kept in peonage? All its vitality spent in the trenches of day-to-day survival, with scant opportunity to develop the full range of its faculties? Then how much poorer the prospects for your democracy will be.“America is a dream of greater justice and opportunity for the average man and, if we can not obtain it, all our other achievements amount to nothing.” So wrote Eleanor Roosevelt in her syndicated column of 6 January 1941, an apt lead-in to her husband’s State of the Union address later that day in which he enumerated the four freedoms essential to American democracy, among them “freedom from want”.

There is a lot of want in The United States these days. But, besides economic want, there is a growing inability among many Americans to think critically. And this inability is fostered by what Fountain calls the "Fantasy-Industrial Complex." Just as the Military-Industrial Complex threatened American democracy, so too does the Fantasy-Industrial Complex. There is now another American Dream:


the numbed-out, dumbed-down, make-believe world where much of the national consciousness resides, the sum product of our mighty Fantasy Industrial Complex: movies, TV, internet, texts, tweets, ad saturation, celebrity obsession, sports obsession, Amazonian sewers of porn and political bullshit, the entire onslaught of media and messaging that strives to separate us from our brains. September 11, 2001 blasted us out of that dream for about two minutes, but the dream is so elastic, so all-encompassing, that 9/11 was quickly absorbed into the the matrix of FIC. This exceedingly complex event – horribly direct in the result, but a swamp when it comes to explanations – was stripped down and binaried into a reliable fantasy narrative of us against them, good versus evil, Christian against Muslim. The week after 9/11, Susan Sontag was virtually crucified for pointing out that “a few shreds of historical awareness might help us understand how we came to this point”. For this modest proposal, no small number of her fellow Americans wished her dead. But if we’d followed her lead – if we’d done the hard work of digging down to the roots of the whole awful thing – perhaps we wouldn’t still be fighting al-Qaida and its offspring 15 years later.
And, so, the Middle East is worse -- much worse. And the United States is teetering on the edge of insanity.

When It Becomes A Headwind

Thu, 09/22/2016 - 05:24

The Liberals' Achilles heal -- a sense of entitlement -- is once again becoming the subject of public discussion. Stephen Maher writes:

The latest nugget the Tory researchers have dug up was revealed Tuesday during question period, when Conservative MP Blaine Calkins repeatedly asked the Liberals to explain $1.1 million in moving expenses for political staffers, including one payment of $126,000 to an unnamed staffer in the prime minister’s office.

The Conservatives, brimming with righteous indignation, applauded Calkins as he accused the Liberals of lining their own pockets with these mysteriously large payments, and mockingly applauded Liberal House Leader Bardish Chagger when she responded with boilerplate about how “Canadians expect public resources to be used responsibly and economically.”
The Liberals have a reputation when it comes to this kind of waste. It's toxic and it brought down their last government:

The Liberals have a brand problem with this stuff. At the end of the Paul Martin era, the government seemed to spend half its time either defending Liberals who had pocketed excessive amounts while following the rules, or prosecuting others who had pocketed excessive amounts while not following the rules. This led to a lot of nasty in-fighting within the party as people in the second category lawyered up and tried to find ways of damaging people in the first category.

At the moment, Justin Trudeau is riding high in the polls. He may be tempted to brush this kind of stuff aside. But he would do well to remember the fate of former Liberals premiers Jean Charest and Dalton McGunity -- and present premier Kathleen Wynne.

All of them can testify to just how quickly the wind at your back can become a headwind.

Image: road.cc

An Awkward Fit

Wed, 09/21/2016 - 06:30


Last week, Tom Mulcair declared that the four pillars of the New Democratic Party were environmentalism, pacifism, feminism and socialism. Gerry Caplan -- who has been a Dipper longer than Mulcair -- writes:

I join the applause, or at least three-quarters of it. I can march behind the banner of socialism, feminism and environmentalism with pride and conviction. But pacifism, not so much. In fact pacifism has never been an NDP value, assuming that words have any meaning.
It's true that J.S. Woodsworth, on the eve of World War II stood in the House and declared that he could not support the resolution to go to war because he was a life long pacifist:
But this was not CCF policy and he stood alone. His party revered him enough to allow him to take this idiosyncratic stand, but no other CCF MP joined him. Prime Minister Mackenzie King also generously expressed his deep respect, calling Woodsworth an “ornament to Parliament.”
One can work for peace and not be a pacifist:
Pacifism is not merely a strategy or approach to be applied to a particular crisis. It’s much more: a philosophy or theory, and if you embrace it, it applies in all situations. A great deal has been written on this surprisingly complex subject, including by one writer who explains that “a pacifist rejects war and believes there are no moral grounds which can justify resorting to war. War, for the pacifist, is always wrong.”
As well, in practical terms, for genuine pacifists violence is never the right answer to any crisis, because it always makes things worse. So its use must always be opposed even when it seems naive or foolish. Hitler and the Second World War are the shorthand examples of this naïveté. You can believe in non-violent resistance to injustice without being a pacifist. And sometimes, force can only be met with force.
And, thus, we have another illustration of Tom Mulcair's problem. For all his talent, he never quite fit in his party.
Image: huffingtonpost.ca

Progress Is Incremental

Tue, 09/20/2016 - 05:27


There are those -- particularly Elizabeth May -- who are furious that the Trudeau government plans to keep the Harper government's emission targets. As I argued yesterday, it gives the impression that the Harper government never left. Chantal Hebert takes a different tack. She points out that the majority of Canadians support a tax on carbon:

According to an Abacus poll done last month, less than one third of Canadians oppose the introduction of a carbon tax as part of a larger climate change strategy. An overwhelming majority of non-Conservative voters support or could accept such a measure.
It is a rare tax that finds favour with a majority in the public especially on the heels of decade-long concerted federal effort to vilify the concept. According to Abacus, the rhetoric expended by Harper’s government on making a carbon levy politically toxic even fell on the deaf ears of almost four in 10 Conservative voters.
She argues that Trudeau is building a ladder for action on climate change:
It is hard to reach for the sky in the absence of a ladder.
The introduction of a national price on carbon is a crucial part of the building of a Canadian policy infrastructure sturdy enough to achieve steady progress on curbing carbon emissions. This is a policy for which governments will need public support for the long haul.
The popular consensus on carbon pricing was not born out of thin air. The fact that there is wide provincial support for the concept is an essential part of the mix.
And keeping Harper's targets, she argues, is not the same as keeping Harper's do nothing policy:
Keeping Harper’s targets is not the same as sticking with the Conservatives’ climate change plan. By maintaining the existing targets, Trudeau’s Liberals maximize the chances that the transition to a national price on carbon (complete with an escalator clause) is relatively seamless.
Given a choice between setting goals that may or may not be attainable at a prohibitively high political (and economic) cost, or putting in place the conditions for meeting more ambitious ones on a consensual federal-provincial basis over time, the latter should logically take precedence.In particular, the election of an NDP government in Alberta has altered the alignment of the stars.
All progress is incremental. Whether it will be too little too late remains to be seen.
Image: envirovaluation.org

Time To Deliver

Mon, 09/19/2016 - 04:36

The clock is ticking on Justin Trudeau. Michael Harris writes that, all indications to the contrary, it's beginning to look like the Harper government never left:

On several fronts, Trudeau’s cabinet has behaved with an all-too-familiar sense of entitlement. After two years of torture for Sen. Mike Duffy on his public spending, there shouldn’t be any confusion in the mind of any federal cabinet minister, or their staff, on the expenses issue. But there has been.

Big bills for limo rides (Health minister Jane Philpott), billing their departments for expenses related to partisan events (Justice minister Judy Wilson-Raybould), and $6,600 for photographs (Environment minister Catherine McKenna). There has even been a resignation from cabinet, the details of which were covered up with a furtiveness worthy of the Harper thought police.
Instead of resetting the relationship with Canada's native peoples, it appears that the story line hasn't changed:

Instead of acknowledging aboriginal rights, Trudeau has allied himself on the infamous Site C dam project with one of the most unpopular politicians in the land, B.C. premier Christy Clark. He granted federal permits to allow BC Hydro to flood 83 kilometres of the Peace River Valley, a highly controversial project opposed by Treaty 8 Indian bands, farmland advocates, and Amnesty International.

Worse, Trudeau has done this while Indigenous Peoples are arguing against Site C in the courts. Until the courts decide whether the West Moberly and Prophet River First Nations gave their “free, prior, and informed consent” to the project, no one knows if this decision by two levels of government is even constitutional.
And, on foreign policy, Harper's ghost haunts Global Affairs:

The Trudeau government has denounced any Canadian who agrees with the Boycott, Divest and Sanction strategy proposed by many people around the world to force Israel to end its illegal occupation of Palestinian lands and return to the negotiating table.

Global Affairs minister Stephane Dion has mimicked the foreign policy of the previous government in Ukraine, where the main thrust seems to be to provoke the Russians.

Most disturbing of all, the Trudeau government proceeded with the Harper government’s immoral arms sales to Saudi Arabia, granting export licenses to make the delivery of Canadian-made armoured vehicles to that country possible.
Trudeau promised real change. It's time to deliver or get off the pot.

Image: dreamstime.com

Get Out Of Jail Free Cards

Sun, 09/18/2016 - 03:01


We have been told for decades that Investor Settlement Dispute Mechanisms were essential in the new globalized economy, because they spurred economic growth.  But, after thirty-five years, the evidence is in. Murray Dobbin writes:

Financial Times analyst Martin Wolf recently argued bluntly that globalization no longer drives the world economy.

He points out that "…ratios of world trade to output have been flat since 2008, making this the longest period of such stagnation since the second world war. According to Global Trade Alert, even the volume of world trade stagnated between January 2015 and March 2016…"

In addition, says Wolf, "The stock of cross-border financial assets peaked at 57 per cent of global output in 2007, falling to 36 per cent by 2015." Foreign direct investment has also declined.

So if global trade isn't going to pull the world economy out of its persistent doldrums, why are countries putting so much political energy into signing these agreements? They do little or nothing to enhance growth in global trade -- trade is driven by global demand -- also flat. Amongst the countries primed to sign these agreements trade is already virtually tariff free.

Even the government's Global Affairs department's recent analysis estimates the Pacific Rim deal, the TPP, would increase GDP by a minuscule .127 per cent ($4.3 billion in a $2 trillion economy) -- but not until 2040! In short, we will gain virtually nothing.
So, if they don't catalyze growth, why do governments keep insisting that IDSMs be included in trade deals?

Over the past 10 years ISDS provisions in literally thousands of agreements have become tools for criminals, greedy law firms, and "investors" in ISDS cases.

In an excellent four-part series, Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative journalist Chris Hamby reveals that: "Companies and executives accused or even convicted of crimes have escaped punishment by turning to this special forum."

Hamby cites several cases: "… an Egyptian court had declared a foreign company's purchase of a factory corrupt and nullified the deal, court records show. But after the company filed an ISDS claim, the government agreed to pay $54 million in a settlement…"

In another, two financiers had been convicted of embezzling $300 million from an Indonesian bank but used an ISDS finding to force Interpol to back off, protect their investment, and "…effectively nullify their punishment."

Hamby found more than 35 cases where "…the company or executive seeking protection in ISDS was accused of criminal activity, including money laundering, embezzlement, stock manipulation, bribery, war profiteering, and fraud." One ISDS lawyer admitted privately: "You have a lot of scuzzy sort-of thieves for whom this is a way to hit the jackpot."If it's it not criminals escaping justice, it's corporations gaming the system, perverting it so that the profit comes not from a planned or existing investment but from the increasingly enormous settlements demanded of governments if they win an ISDS arbitration.
As in the old board game, an ISDM  is a Get Out Of Jail Free card.

Image: clipartbest.com

The Reincarnation Of P.T. Barnum

Sat, 09/17/2016 - 05:25

Yesterday, Donald Trump walked away from his claim that Barack Obama was not born in the United States and, thus, not qualified to be president. He then took no questions and walked out of the room. The vociferous lie which he has repeated for five years went down the Memory Hole. And the polls tell us that Trump and Hillary Clinton are running neck and neck. Andrew Coyne asks, "Who's to blame?"

Who should we fault for this disaster? Should we blame his enablers in the Republican party? But which ones? The aging opportunists like Newt Gingrich or Rudy Giuliani, who see in Trump their last chance at power and can’t be bothered to worry about what he represents? Or the equivocators, the odds-checkers, once-respected figures like Paul Ryan or Marco Rubio, who know that Trump is the death of everything they claim to care about but sign on anyway, though only after weeks of contemptible public agonizing — as if the choice were truly difficult? As if they were not weak men following their desires, but good men trying to do right? As if their eventual decision were ever in doubt?

Should we blame Trump’s rivals in the Republican nomination race? They who might have stopped him early, but chose instead to parley with him, thinking his support would prove fleeting, preferring to turn their guns on each other. Even when it became apparent that Trump’s support was real, each calculated he could be the one to face him one on one — each thinking he need only outrun the others, not the bear. Until the bear consumed them all.

What about the media? Should they wear this? For granting him such easy access to air time, all those “phoners” to friendly hosts, when he had nothing to say? For devoting vast hours to his inane rallies in the hopes, often gratified, that someone would get beaten up, but in the certainty that large numbers of public would be attracted either way? For succumbing to Trump’s months-long war of attrition on human reason — the insults, the craziness, the elemental errors, the literally hundreds of lies, by which Trump advertised his Olympian disdain for any of the usual standards of behaviour, and so made it impossible for anyone else to hold him to account? For failing to break out of the trap of journalistic balance, when the alternatives are a flawed but quotidian candidate on the one hand and a sociopathic, race-baiting manchild on the other?

Should we blame the excesses of identity politics, the obsession with racial and sexual differences to the exclusion of individual rights or common human values, the assertion that society is a zero-sum conflict between ceaselessly warring groups, providing the opening for Trump to emerge as the champion of white male identity politics? Should we blame the stratification of society by class, class defined not by income or birth but by education and culture, the higher educated and the less so separated by a widening gulf of mutual resentment, such that whichever candidate the former are for the latter are against?

Is it the fault of the Democrats, for nominating a candidate as unelectable as Clinton? Should we blame the Clinton campaign for its inability, notwithstanding the millions of dollars and masses of manpower at its disposal, to put away a candidate as monumentally beatable as Trump? Do we blame the voters, for not doing their homework, exercising judgment, or just basically paying attention?
Coyne's last suggestion is the most telling.We should blame what increasingly seems to be a majority of American voters, who can't -- or won't -- recognize the reincarnation of P.T. Barnum. Trump knows how to manage a circus. But he knows nothing about being president.

Image: the dailybeast.com