Saturday, May 26, 2018

Boycotting The Schools

There's a new head at the NRA. Actually, it's an old head and it's made of wood. Lawrence Martin writes:

You might remember this lardhead from the 1980s when he almost brought down the Reagan administration over the illicit sale of arms to rebels in Nicaragua. A vanity-ridden zealot who somehow managed to avoid drowning in his own self-righteousness, Mr. North went on to be a Fox News commentator.
Now as America’s No. 1 firearms promoter, he maintains that it’s not guns but the woeful culture of violence that is responsible for mass shootings. This hasn’t stopped him from being a paid pitchman for the violent video game Call of Duty. Nor has he explained why other advanced countries with similar youth cultures don’t have mass shootings.
Like Charlton Heston, his view is that 300 million guns in America are barely enough. Donald Trump doesn’t object. He’s become an NRA lackey.

With Trump in the White House, marches on Washington won't be enough to break the NRA's grip on Congress. But Arne Duncan, Barack Obama's former Secretary of Education, has an idea -- boycott the schools:

Having spent most of his lifetime trying to get youth in school, Mr. Duncan will now devote his efforts to keeping them out. It’s a long-shot bid but worth a try. September is the targeted month. Gun devotees on the political right of course will be up in arms. They’re already running down Mr. Duncan. One rightie scribe went after him because his kids go to an elite school. How dare therefore that he participate in the debate?

But think for a minute:

Beyond the right’s rage, a school boycott, parent-driven, student-driven or both, would be a logistical nightmare. There are 50 million precollege students in the United States. Schools in rural districts likely wouldn’t take part. There would be practical problems such as working parents not being at home to mind their kids during the day.
Of course not all schools would have to take part for a boycott to be impactful. A goodly number in concentrated areas would do. You could imagine how the pressure would intensify for lawmakers to do something. Thus far, Congress has been pathetically idle. Not even a promise to do something about bump stocks, devices that make firearms fully automatic, has been fulfilled.
September would be a good time for the boycott because the midterm elections are two months later. Most Democrats would support the boycott. Most Republicans would not. The gun issue could become pivotal in the campaign.

Boycotts raise lots of potential problems. But, if they occur at the right time, they can change societies. The Montgomery Bus Boycott put an end to Jim  Crow. And the boycott of South Africa took Nelson Mandela from prison to president.

The time is right.

Image: Famous Biographies

Friday, May 25, 2018

On The Rise

Andrea Horvath's political stock is on the rise. Tom Walkom writes:

A funny thing happened on the way to the June 7 election. The voters discovered in New Democratic Party leader Andrea Horwath another alternative to Wynne.
What’s more, to so-called progressive voters, Horwath seemed to offer the best of both worlds.
Her party’s platform, with its commitment to pharmacare, child care and denticare was similar to that of Wynne. But Horwath herself was not a member of the discredited governing party.
In effect, she offered voters Liberalism without the Liberals.

Ontarians are tired of the Liberals. Their numbers aren't moving anywhere. But, while Horvath's numbers are rising, Doug Ford's numbers are falling -- because he avoids talking costs:

His broad economic plans, such as they are, reflect the standard Conservative trinity of tax cuts, spending cuts and deregulation.
He has fleshed out his proposed tax moves, which include a 1.5 percentage point cut in the corporate tax rate, a marginal cut in the small business tax rate, a cut in the personal income tax rate for middle and upper income earners and a reduction in gasoline taxes. 
But he has not revealed how he plans to cut $5.6 billion in government spending without affecting jobs.

Ford is haunted by the ghost of Tim Hudak, who, the last time around, made a basic arithmetic error when projecting job growth. So Ford isn't talking job growth -- or job losses -- at all.

Having been conned once, Ontarians refuse to be conned again. And Ford knows it.

There are still two weeks to go. But Ontario may soon be the third province with an NDP government.

Image: The Ontario Federation Of Labour

Thursday, May 24, 2018

The Banana States of America

That's the phrase Dana Milbank uses to describe his country. It's not a dictatorship yet:

Right now the fear of the United States going totalitarian doesn’t feel quite right. This crowd is too clownish to be Stalinist. 

Be that as it may, there are all kinds of signs that the United States is no longer a democracy:

The president of the United States orders the Justice Department to investigate his political opponents. The Justice Department complies.
The president, The Washington Post reports, personally urged the postmaster general to double the rate it charges Amazon, apparently because he doesn’t like the coverage by The Post, owned by Amazon founder Jeffrey P. Bezos.
Trump settles a trade dispute with China on terms even his allies say are too favorable to the Chinese. Meanwhile, the Financial Times reports that a Chinese state-owned bank asked clients to pay $150,000 to attend a fundraiser with Trump.

The government seems to respond to the president's whims -- even as it passes very little legislation.  The whims, however, are deeply disturbing:

Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee observe May 17, the 64th anniversary of the Brown v. Board of Education decision banning segregated schools, by debating the judicial nomination of Wendy Vitter, who refused to say whether Brown was properly decided.
Donald Trump Jr., The New York Times reports, met three months before the election with a representative of wealthy princes from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates who wanted to help his father’s campaign.

One day Trump will be gone. But, by the time he departs, the Republic may be gone, too.

Image: Points In Case

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Math Challenged

Over the weekend, it emerged that Ontario's NDP had made an error when costing the party's platform. Adam Radwanski writes:

As Ontarians were settling into their long weekends, perhaps discussing among themselves whether they should for once consider voting for an NDP government on June 7, news came of a very basic math error in the party’s platform – one that meant it had accidentally low-balled its deficit projections by $1.4-billion annually.

Doug Ford has been announcing all kinds of tax cuts. But he has refused to release a costed platform:

The Tories have been more quiet than one might expect of a party with a reputation for fiscal hawkishness. Possibly that has something to do with Mr. Ford declining to present a costed platform, nor even to detail a single cost-saving proposal while promising many billions of dollars in new expenditures and tax cuts. 

And  Kathleen Wynne is at odds with the auditor general, who claims the Liberals have significantly underestimated their projected deficit:

Enter Ms. Wynne’s Liberals, who have made a more concerted effort to highlight the NDP’s bad arithmetic. The governing party, now running third, is in a continuing battle with the province’s Auditor-General, who accuses it of low-balling deficit projections by about $5-billion. That may be more a dispute over accounting practices than a math mistake, but it makes for an easy NDP rebuttal when the Liberals go after them – as does a general sense that the Liberals have managed finances in recent years more to meet political imperatives than out of any great responsibility to the bottom line.

It would appear that all three parties are math challenged. The numbers are supposed to tell the story. But whose numbers do you believe?


Tuesday, May 22, 2018

It's Here

Because Donald Trump is who he is -- a man who operates on what Globe and Mail  columnist Lawrence Martin calls "a low information base" -- the United States is now facing a constitutional crisis. Eugene Robinson writes:

On Sunday, via Twitter, Trump demanded that the Justice Department concoct a transparently political investigation, with the aim of smearing veteran professionals at Justice and the FBI and also throwing mud at the previous administration. Trump’s only rational goal is casting doubt on the probe by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III, which appears to be closing in.
The pretext Trump seized on is the revelation that FBI source Stefan A. Halper made contact with three Trump campaign associates before the election as part of the FBI’s initial investigation into Russian meddling.
With the full-throated backing of right-wing media, Trump has described this person as a “spy” who was “implanted, for political purposes, into my campaign for president.” This claim is completely unsupported by the facts as we know them. Trump wants you to believe a lie.

As Robert Mueller closes in, Trump gets increasingly paranoid. The shadow of Richard Nixon looms large:

Now that the Mueller probe has bored into Trump’s inner circle — and federal authorities have raided the homes and office of his personal attorney, Michael Cohen — the president appears to be in a panic. The question is whether he sees this “spy” nonsense as a way to discredit Mueller’s eventual findings, or as a pretext for trying to end the investigation with a bloody purge akin to Richard Nixon’s “Saturday Night Massacre.”

The Justice Department has declared that the Inspector General will look into the matter. But Trump won't stop until he shuts down the Mueller inquiry -- or until the Congress shuts down Trump. In Nixon's day, there were Republicans who had backbones. These days, the Party is populated by invertebrates.

Trump's manufactured crisis is here -- and he may get away with it.

Image: Nicholas Kamm/Agence France Press/Getty Images

Monday, May 21, 2018

A Fact Full Election?

Last week, Bob Rae told a crowd of distinguished dignitaries, "Facts matter. Our politics needs to understand and respect this." Robin Sears wonders if Ontarians do understand this:

Like travelling medicine shows and revival preachers of old, their caravan booms noise and angry rhetoric but leaves little behind as it heads for the next town. A fact-free campaign of glaring contradiction can work for an established front runner with deep party roots and a following wind. That is not Doug Ford, nor this campaign. So far, he has promised nearly $30 billion in slashed taxes and expenditures – and, unacknowledged, thousands of job cuts as a result. Not even remotely clear is how this snake oil will work. Facts, apparently, do not matter.

It is, indeed, a strange election:

To some political veterans, 2018 feels like 1985 trending to 1990. For the ’85 campaign, the Tories made an unwise leadership selection to defend their 42-year governing record, opening the door to David Peterson and Rae. Then Peterson, spooked for no good reason other than his fear of a tanking economy, called an early election in 1990. Voters were not amused. As much as his own victory, Rae’s triumph was a rejection of the Tories and irritation with Peterson’s presumption.
Today, it appears the Tories would have won safely under either of the two women candidates they rejected in favour of vacuous populism. Having chosen the angry option, they have given credence to the Horwath taunt, “You don’t need to choose between bad and worse, there’s an alternative.” The NDP slate is the most gender-balanced but also the least experienced. Success outside the party’s areas of traditional strength will be almost entirely on Horwath’s coattails.
But leadership coat tails delivered all of the big election victories from Peterson through Rae, Harris and Wynne. The May 27 debate will be pivotal as grumpy voters, deciding what kind of change they really want, will get their last chance to see the leaders do battle. On the strength of the first two debates — one amateurish show in the first week and then the Northern debate — the Ford debate team should be working overtime.

And everything will hinge on turnout.

Image: City News Toronto

Sunday, May 20, 2018

Time For A Basic Income

It's time to implement Guaranteed Basic Income Programs. However, Gwynne Dyer writes, there  is surprising resistance to the idea. Conservatives argue that giving people free money is fraught with moral hazard. But the projections suggest that, in the future, large numbers of people will be unemployed:

The famous 2013 study by Carl Frey and Michael Osborne identified 47 per cent of U.S. jobs as liable to be automated in the next 20 years; a 2016 working paper from the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development suggested that 33 per cent of Canadian jobs are highly susceptible to automation; Nicholas Eberstadt’s 2016 book Men Without Work showed that 17.5 per cent of American men of prime working age are already not working.

Unemployed workers helped put Donald Trump in the White House:

Mr. Trump blamed it on free trade and the resultant “off-shoring” of many good American manufacturing jobs to Mexico, China and other low-wage countries: Nationalism always pays good political dividends. But the real job-killer was automation, and the Rust Belt suffered first and worst because it specialized in assembly-line jobs that could easily be automated even with the dumb computers and simple robotic arms of 20 years ago.
One-third of all surviving American manufacturing jobs were eliminated in the first decade of the 21st century, and less than 15 per cent of them went overseas. Automation killed the rest. If Mr. Trump understood that fact, he never mentioned it, but he did know how neglected the victims felt and how angry they were.
He also knew that the official unemployment figures lied, because they only counted people who were actively looking for jobs, not the much larger number who have just given up. “Don’t believe those phony numbers when you hear 4.9-per-cent and 5-per-cent unemployment,” Mr. Trump said in his victory speech after the New Hampshire primary in February, 2016. “The number’s probably 28, 29, as high as 35. In fact, I even heard recently 42 per cent.”
He was exaggerating as usual, but the real number is 17.5 per cent, which is two-thirds of the way to the peak U.S. unemployment rate in the Great Depression of the 1930s. If the current level of unemployment elected Donald Trump, what would twice that level produce?

If mass unemployment elected Trump, what will happen to liberal democracies when mass unemployment becomes standard operating procedure?

That's why it's time for a Guaranteed Basic Income.

Image: Vanier College