Sunday, October 22, 2017

Dialogue With The Dumb

William Rivers Pitt admits that, inside his head, he carries on a dialogue with Donald Trump. Part of the dialogue goes like this:

You are certainly a man of the times, The Man, avatar of all that ails us. You are, among other things, the end product of a decades-debunked economic model that consigns a vast majority of Americans to poverty and stasis while lavishing trillions on the wealthy. This we call "trickle down," and we've waited half a century now for the rain that never comes.

Work doesn't make money anymore. Money makes money. Money made by money made you. From what I hear, the last person you trickled down on got a page in that famous dossier. The economic model has failed dramatically, but you couldn't care less. It did well by you, and that's the dot at the end of the line.

Reality TV star, right? Perfect. Just exactly right. Television, Edward Murrow's wires and lights in a box, will prove in time to be one of the greatest derangers of civilizations in the history of the planet. A spigot of fiction, fear, calamity, greed and deception flows daily from every screen, unmaking reality stitch by stitch. Many see themselves now not as who and what they truly are, but as how they are depicted in the box. That's where you came from, that land of bombast and lies, and it makes seamless sense. "Reality" TV, indeed.

Trump is a product of our times, which -- let's face it -- are badly out of joint. Ours is an age which prefers fantasy to reality. Fantasy, after all, offers many scenarios:

You are the distilled essence of the age, a blurred orange watercolor that looks different every time the light changes. There is no substance to you, only menace and the same confused fiction that seeks to define and control this nation. Too many ignore or dismiss you as some sort of terrible mistake, a wrong turn down a blind driveway we can back out of, but that is not the truth of it. You were inevitable, a product of unreality many years in the making. If you didn't exist, someone would have made you up.

And that's the point. Trump is the final product -- what you get when you build a world view rooted in lies -- and you choose willed ignorance over facts.


Saturday, October 21, 2017

The Rise Of The City State

Jonathan Manthorpe, at ipolitics, has an interesting column about the rise of the modern city state. Cities, he writes, are where the action is:

The tipping point in this movement came in 2008, when — according to the World Bank — half of humanity was living in cities for the first time in history (the percentage has since risen to 54 per cent). More than that, the World Bank calculates that urban populations now create 80 per cent of the world’s gross domestic product, and that this will continue to increase as urbanization accelerates in developing countries, especially in Africa.

Recent political events, however, signal that not everyone is happy with the trend:

In most cases, citizens are shifting their immediate loyalties from the nation to their city or region. This trend does always lead to positive outcomes. The Brexit vote last year for Britain to leave the European Community can be seen as the country’s rural and smaller urban regions rebelling against the political, economic and cultural domination of London. Added to this is the perception that London is increasingly distant from and disdainful of the rest of the country.

The rise of Donald Trump is also attributable to a rebellion in "flyover country." And the Electoral College favours flyover country.  The disconnect between urban and rural citizens could be the source of much future strife:

A major problem for all cities is that they tend to be administrative creatures of subnational governments (like provinces) or the nation-state. Their capacities to pursue their own policies and raise the revenues needed to implement them are usually heavily prescribed and limited.

That’s as true of Toronto as it is of Lagos, Nigeria. Lagos is already Africa’s largest city, with 20 million people. The local governor predicts its population will increase to 40 million people in the foreseeable future.

Lagos is a city of enormous energy and self-confidence, but it is a city of almost unmatched chaos. There are about 200 unplanned slum neighbourhoods, with the result that 70 per cent of the city’s 20 million people lack indoor plumbing or access to grid power. About 60 per cent of Lagos’ children do not attend school.

The hope is that as Africa becomes the next repository of cheap manufacturing labour to be exploited, international investment will also bring the resources for functioning local and national administrations.

That has happened to a substantial degree in Southeast Asia, where urbanization has been underway for 30 years and more. However, since moves towards economic integration among the 10 regional countries begun in 2015, rapid social and technological developments are putting great strains on the cities and national government.

Cities that can't cope with rapid growth can quickly become hell holes -- fertile ground for terrorists:

Dislocated cities are also natural breeding grounds for radical political or ideological movements. The ultra-right-wing political movements in Europe and North America and the propagation of violent Islamic movements are not springing from villages. They are coming from the grimmer districts of Hamburg, Paris, Cairo, Karachi and the American rust belt.

Those of us who live in rural areas have watched this trend for decades. The children we raised have left because there are no jobs in the hinterland. The jobs are in the cities -- all over the world. But, unless the world can get its cities right, it will be rocked by our darker angels.


Friday, October 20, 2017

Too Late

It's been a bad couple of weeks for Bill Morneau. Yesterday he said he will put his considerable wealth in a blind trust. Tim Harper writes:

Morneau finally did the right thing, placing his substantial assets in a blind trust and announcing he would begin divesting his interest in the family business, Morneau Shepell.

Except this was 2017.

This should have been done a couple of years ago, because, to paraphrase Justin Trudeau, it was 2015.

If the ship of state is ever to be put on an even keel -- a proposition that appears less and less likely -- loopholes for the wealthy have to be closed. That's what Morneau said he was trying to do, even as he continued to profit from those loopholes. Nathan Cullen cut to the quick:

Here’s the nub of the conflict charge, as raised by New Democrat Nathan Cullen, an unproven allegation that nonetheless brings some smoke.

When Morneau introduced Bill C-27, legislation to make it easier for federal employees to move to a targeted benefit pension, a move which would benefit Morneau Shepell, the company’s stock went up 4.8 per cent within days, Cullen says. Morneau, he said, would have made $2 million in five days from that jump. But it’s not known that Morneau was holding or selling stock at that time.

Justin Trudeau's Liberals ran as progressives. But the Minister of Finance can't unfurl that banner. It's too late.

Image: The National Post

Thursday, October 19, 2017

A Total Screw Up

Surely, no man has screwed up more consistently -- and spectacularly -- than Donald Trump. Witness his treatment of the family of a dead soldier. Richard Wolfe writes:

This week the commander-in-chief has somehow contrived to drive to tears the grieving mother of one of his own special forces. Along the way, he boasted about his own outreach to gold star families, and defamed his predecessors’ record on the same.

All the while he shows no sympathy or urgency about millions of his own citizens struggling for several weeks without food, water and power in Puerto Rico.

Hugging people doesn’t take much skill or sensibility; just a touch of humanity. A real populist finds this kind of thing quite easy. If you want to be loved by the people, it’s a good idea to show a little love to the people in their hour of need. It worked for Evita Peron, Fidel Castro and even the ice-cold British royal family.

But Trump doesn't possess even that simple sensibility. The only thing he really knows how to do is pick a fight:

Not so much Donald Trump. According to the mother of Sergeant La David Johnson, one of four Green Berets killed in action in Niger, Trump managed to “disrespect” her son and his widow, forgot his name, and told them he “knew what he signed up for.” This charming conversation took place while the family was traveling to the airport to receive the body of their beloved son and husband, leaving Johnson’s widow Myeshia in tears.

Naturally Trump has turned his multiple blunders into a political fistfight. He has blamed a Democratic representative traveling with the Johnsons for fabricating the account, telling reporters: “I had a very nice conversation with the woman, the wife, who sounded like a lovely woman.”

The sad thing is he probably thought he was being nice. The even sadder thing is that he still can’t be bothered to remember their name.

It's clear that Trump is unfit for his office. But, at times, one wonders if he's fit for anything. He's a total screw up.

Image: jadeluckclub

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Something To Keep In Mind

The Canadian aerospace industry just got shafted -- again. And Donald Trump got what he wanted. Tom Walkom writes:

The latest chapter of this ongoing saga began in April when American aerospace giant Boeing formally complained to the U.S. Commerce Department about Bombardier’s proposed sale of 125 C Series jets to Delta Air Lines.

Charging that the project had been improperly subsidized by the Canadian and Quebec governments, Boeing asked that an 80 per cent tariff be slapped on any C Series plane entering the U.S.

The Trump administration was more than agreeable. It imposed a preliminary tariff of 300 per cent, thereby making the Canadian-manufactured jet virtually unsalable in the lucrative U.S. market.

So Bombardier went to Airbus, which owns a plant in Alabama:

For Airbus, the arrangement is sweet. In return for letting Bombardier use its Alabama plant, it gets just over 50 per cent of the C Series project for free. It doesn’t have to pony up a cent.

Nor does it have to absorb any of Bombardier’s sizable $8.7 billion debt, much of which was incurred developing the C Series.

For Bombardier too, this is a good deal. By moving assembly from Canada to the U.S., it avoids the 300 per cent tariff and keeps the Delta sale alive. As well, it gets to locate its American production in a so-called right-to-work state that promises cheap wages and is vehemently anti-union.

While it no longer controls the C Series, Bombardier does get to keep a 31 per cent stake in the project for at least 7.5 years. And it can take advantage of Airbus’ global reach to market the jet.

And Donald Trump gets the jobs required to assemble the aircraft. Something to keep in mind during the current NAFTA negotiations.


Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Time Is Running Out

If you want to know what future resistance looks like, Chris Hedges writes, take a good long look at what transpired at Standing Rock:

Day after day, week after week, month after month, the demonstrators endured assaults carried out with armored personnel carriers, rubber bullets, stun guns, tear gas, cannons that shot water laced with chemicals, and sound cannons that can cause permanent hearing loss. Drones hovered overhead. Attack dogs were unleashed on the crowds. Hundreds were arrested, roughed up and held in dank, overcrowded cells. Many were charged with felonies. The press, or at least the press that attempted to report honestly, was harassed and censored, and often reporters were detained or arrested. And mixed in with the water protectors was a small army of infiltrators, spies and agents provocateurs, who often initiated vandalism and rock throwing at law enforcement and singled out anti-pipeline leaders for arrest.

No one should estimate what and who the resistors are up against:

The corporate state, no longer able to peddle a credible ideology, is becoming more overtly totalitarian. It will increasingly silence dissidents out of fear that the truth they speak will spark a contagion. It will, as in China’s system of totalitarian capitalism, use the tools of censorship, blacklisting, infiltration, blackmailing, bribery, public defamation, prison sentences on trumped-up charges and violence. The more discredited the state becomes, the more it will communicate in the language of force.

Native leader Tom B.K. Goldtooth sees the battle in existential terms:

This world is heading towards economic systems that continue to eat up life itself, even the heart of workers, and it’s not sustainable. We’re at that point where Mother Earth is crying out for a revolution. Mother Earth is crying out for a new direction.

As far as a new regime, we’ll need something based on earth jurisprudence.A new system away from property rights, away from privatization, away from financialization of nature, away from control over our … DNA, away from control over seeds, away from corporations. It’s a common law with local sovereignty. That’s why it’s important we have a system that recognizes the rights of a healthy and clean water system, ecosystem. Mother Earth has rights. We need a system that will recognize that. Mother Earth is not an object. We have an economic system that treats Mother Earth as if she’s a liquidation issue. We have to change that. That’s not sustainable.

This is not just a battle for one nation's soul -- although the battle for the American soul is seminal. This is a battle for the future of the planet. And time is running out.


Monday, October 16, 2017

Could He Be Right?

Sometimes irony is entertaining. Sometimes it hurts. Tom Walkom points to the irony of Donald Trump's insistence on American content rules as part of NAFTA:

Under NAFTA, automobiles manufactured anywhere in North America may be sold duty-free in Canada, the U.S. or Mexico.

Since, at $2.45 (U.S.) an hour, Mexican wages are a fraction of what they are in the other two NAFTA countries, this is a powerful incentive to locate production there.

As a recent report by former CIBC chief economist Jeff Rubin shows, this is exactly what has happened. Rubin calculates that the number of auto jobs in Mexico has quadrupled over the past decade. Over the same period, auto manufacturing jobs shrank by 26 per cent in Canada and 28 per cent in the U.S.

Which brings Walkom to Unifor's strike against GM's plant in Ingersoll:

Their demands did not focus on the usual issues such as wages. Rather employees sought ironclad assurances from GM that Ingersoll would continue to be the lead plant in North America for production of the popular Chevy Equinox sport utility vehicle.

Earlier this year, GM moved production of its Terrain model to Mexico from Ingersoll — at a cost of 400 Canadian jobs. The CAMI workers and their union, Unifor, wanted to make sure this didn’t happen again.

What the union wants is what Canadian politicians of various stripes used to insist upon:

Until recently, it was the position of the New Democratic Party. A little further back, it was the position of the Liberal Party.

Justin Trudeau may reject economic nationalism as dangerous. But his father, Pierre, did not. Indeed, Pierre Trudeau recognized that sometimes even the most cosmopolitan of nations need to protect themselves from the buffeting winds of the global economy.

It was a principle enshrined in the old Auto Pact. All of which begs the question: Could Donald Trump be right about something?