Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Mulroney's Take On Trump



The old saw about politics making strange bedfellows remains as true as ever. Consider the alliance between Justin Trudeau and Brian Mulroney. Tim Harper writes:

Certainly in the past, Liberal prime ministers have turned to former Liberal prime ministers for wise counsel and Conservatives have done likewise, even though Stephen Harper once issued a government-wide edict that Mulroney was persona non grata because of what was finally found to be Mulroney’s inappropriate dealing with discredited former arms industry lobbyist Karlheinz Schreiber.

Mulroney has always kept in touch with Justin. In the hothouse of Montreal social circles, it could not be otherwise. And he saw the younger Trudeau's potential years ago. Trudeau, for his part, saw Mulroney's connections with Trump as invaluable:

Enter informal advisor Mulroney, who says he was approached by a Trudeau team which had put “all its eggs in Hillary (Clinton’s) basket and woke up the next morning and realized they knew no one on the other side.”

Mulroney said the Trudeau government was not alone in the centre-left expecting a Clinton win and “wanted it to happen in the worst way.”

And Trump is not keeping Mulroney awake at night:

He says, there is no reason for Canadians to be worried about Trump.

“No, why should we worry?” he asks.

I suggested the man was capable of tweeting the world into a war.

From Mulroney: “Don’t take the bait!

“That’s just Donald being Donald. He’s unorthodox and unusual, yes, but that’s why the American people voted for him."

Time will tell if Mulroney's take on Trump is accurate. 


Image: The Toronto Star

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Inspiration Is Hard To Come By



There are those who believe that the world is going to hell in an authoritarian hand basket. David Leonhardt suggests that they  -- and we -- should look at voter turnout numbers:

If liberals voted at the same rate as conservatives, Hillary Clinton would be president. Even with Donald Trump’s working-class appeal, Clinton could have swept Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania.

If liberals voted at the same rate as conservatives, Democrats would control the Senate. Clinton or Barack Obama could then have filled the recent Supreme Court vacancy, and that justice would hold the tiebreaking vote on campaign finance, labor unions and other issues.

If liberals voted at the same rate as conservatives, the country would be doing more to address the two defining issues of our time — climate change and stagnant middle-class living standards. Instead, Trump is making both worse.

Breaking down the numbers reveals why Donald Trump is president of the United States:

Polls show that a majority of Americans support progressive positions on most big issues. Yet Republicans dominate state and federal government.

Turnout is a big reason. Last year, Americans between the ages of 18 and 24 voted for Clinton over Trump in a landslide. Only 43 percent of citizens in that age group voted, however. By contrast, Americans over age 65 supported Trump — and 71 percent of them voted. Similarly, Americans in their 30s were more likely to support Clinton, and less likely to vote, than those in their 50s.

The pattern also exists across ethnic groups. Asian and Hispanic voters went for Clinton in a bigger landslide than millennials, but most Asian and Hispanic citizens didn’t vote.

And the gaps grow even larger in midterm elections. A mere 17 percent — 17 percent! — of Americans between 18 and 24 voted in 2014, compared with 59 percent of seniors.

So you may want to blame the young. Leonhardt suggests than rather than casting blame, progressives should inspire young voters: 

My instinct is that the answer for Democrats involves a passionate message of fairness — of providing jobs, lifting wages, protecting rights and fighting Trump’s plutocracy. It can be bolder than Democrats have been in decades. But it should not resemble a complete progressive wish list, which could turn off swing voters without even raising turnout.

Unfortunately, these days, inspiration is hard to come by. 

Image: quotesgram

Monday, June 19, 2017

It's Catching



Donald Trump's last cabinet meeting was stomach churning. Each member of the Trump team -- with the exception of James Mattis -- dutifully genuflected before the president. Reince Priebus said it was a "blessing serving your agenda."  Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue gushed that in rural America "they love you."

Michael Harris writes that the majority of Americans are not on side with the cabinet -- for many reasons:

Gallup, by the way, painted a different picture of a president VP Pence called “a truly wonderful man.” It’s most recent poll showed a 59 per cent disapproval rating of the president’s performance to date.

The rolling out of Trump’s new Cuba policy was nearly as ghastly as the cabinet meeting. It was a triumph of 1950’s Cold War rhetoric over substance. It was the aluminium siding salesman striking again.

Trump has so openly and egregiously turned the U.S. government into a highly profitable branch of the Trump business empire that he is now being sued by the attorneys general of Maryland and the District of Columbia.

They allege that his inescapable involvement in his family business violates the Emoluments Clause of the U.S. Constitution. Hard to argue: President Trump has doubled membership fees at Mar-a-Lago and China has given him a slew of valuable licenses despite its own law barring the use of foreign leaders names as trademarks.

It's madness. And it's catching.

Image: democraticmoms.com

Sunday, June 18, 2017

We'll Have To Wait And See


There are deep divisions in the New Democratic Party. It's is not the first time the party has faced the problem. Robin Sears writes:

In 1939, M.J. Coldwell risked splitting the CCF over his support for the Second World War, while his pacifist leader, J.S. Woodworth, was opposed. Except that the two men worked out an agreement that permitted party members to agree to disagree. Woodsworth maintained his honour and kept his leadership, although most party members were deeply committed to the fight against fascism.

In 1981, when the NDP struggled with one premier who supported the Charter of Rights and one who vehemently did not, with similar divisions across the party, Ed Broadbent and Allan Blakeney worked hard to prevent the disagreement from splitting the party. A vigorous convention battle ensued, but one that left no blood on the floor.

This time the issue is pipelines. B.C.'s Dippers are opposed to them. Rachel Notley's government favours them.  What's to be done? Sears doesn't offer a prescription. But he does give Dippers some free advice. In the past,

New Democratic Party leaders and activists . . . worked hard to ensure it did not happen,  smacked hard those who would use deep party differences for personal career gain, and  understood the restraint and caution that moments like these must entail.

Does it take courage for a Vancouver MP to grandstand at the expense of party unity in a leadership race about a controversial project deeply unpopular to his own base?

Is it wise, if you’re the only woman candidate, to fling epithets at the supporters of one of Canada’s — and one of the party’s — most admirable woman leaders.

Does it demonstrate leadership to deride a competing candidate seeking to find the balance a federal party’s leader must necessarily strike on internally divisive issues?

The questions answer themselves.

We live in a time where unbridled ego seems to trump party. We'll have to wait and see what happens with the Dippers.

Image: ceasefire.ca

Saturday, June 17, 2017

That's All There Was



Ruth Marcus writes that, in forty years, she's never seen anything like it:

Sometimes my role as a columnist is to advise readers not to overreact, to maintain perspective. Today my advice is to buckle up. Brace yourselves.

I’m not sure for what, exactly. President Trump firing Rod J. Rosenstein or taking moves that would force the deputy attorney general, and perhaps others, to quit? Firing special counsel Robert S. Mueller III, whose probe has pushed Trump to this frenzied state? Using his pardon power in an effort to shut down the investigation, on the theory that Mueller would then have nothing left to probe? Pardoning himself, a move of contested legality that even Richard Nixon balked at? Facing impeachment proceedings, however unlikely that may be with a Republican-controlled Congress? 

Donald Trump is a tangled mess of inconsistencies. But there is one consistent thread that ties them all together. He believes he is a victim:

He perceives himself as the ultimate victim — first of a double standard under which he is blamed while Hillary Clinton and her allies, such as former attorney general Loretta Lynch, escape responsibility. “Crooked H destroyed phones w/ hammer, ‘bleached’ emails, & had husband meet w/AG days before she was cleared- & they talk about obstruction?” Trump tweeted.

The second, perhaps even more deeply felt, aspect of Trump’s victimhood involves his conviction that any investigation of him constitutes an unfair attack by political enemies. “They made up a phony collusion with the Russians story, found zero proof, so now they go for obstruction of justice on the phony story,” he tweeted. “You are witnessing the single greatest WITCH HUNT in American political history — led by some very bad and conflicted people!”

Trump discovered his inner child seven decades ago. And he discovered that's all there was.

Image: discussionist.com

Friday, June 16, 2017

His Waterloo?


Justin Trudeau is still riding high in the polls. But Michael Harris suggests that B.C. could turn out to be his Waterloo:

Trudeau’s most immediate practical challenge to his feel-good, unbuttoned politics is the recent provincial election in British Columbia.

Trudeau made a major political blunder in aligning himself with a government whose rape-and-pillage approach to that special province is only now on display. The trade-off was obvious: Trudeau would play ball with Christy Clark and she would reciprocate by signing on to his national carbon policy.

Now that Clark and her band of corporate Liberal locusts have been thrown out, the extent of the damage they have done — and the degree of Trudeau’s sellout — is becoming more obvious by the day. Just one case in point: BC Hydro is $20 billion in debt largely because Clark insisted that it borrow to cover operational shortfalls so that she could produce balanced budgets. In other words, she pushed the utility deep into the red so she could fake it with the public on the true state of the province’s fiscal health.
Trudeau’s unholy alliance with Clark can’t be spun into gold by even the best set of rented tonsils. The prime minister was willing to barter away the environmental commitments he made on the campaign trail in return for a sitting provincial government’s cooperation on his national agenda.

It's always been true that politics makes strange bedfellows. But sleeping with the wrong partner can prove unhealthy and sometimes fatal. Trudeau has compounded the problem by pursuing policies which many West Coasters oppose:

Then, of course, there’s Kinder Morgan. British Columbians have just elected a government that is opposed to it. The new premier opposes it, the Mayor of Vancouver opposes it, the leader of the Green Party opposes it, coastal civic leaders oppose it, and First Nations have vowed to take to the ramparts to stop it. I still remember the days when Trudeau was on their side — when they at least thought he was.

So far, the PM’s reaction has been every bit as corporate as Christy Clark’s. He has rather arrogantly asserted his continuing support for Kinder Morgan, while Alberta Premier Rachel Notley has sent the insulting message to British Columbians that they don’t control their own coastline. A nice, neighborly kick in the meatpies, yes?

Having family roots in B.C. may not be enough to get British Columbians to vote for Trudeau.

Image: on-sitemag.com

Thursday, June 15, 2017

More Than Softwood and Dairy Products


In the coming NAFTA re-negotiations, Linda McQuaig argues that we should focus on Article 605 of the agreement:

Article 605 limits the power of governments to cut back energy exports. So, for instance, Canada must continue to make available to Americans the same proportion of our energy as in the previous three years.

If there were a global oil shortage -- like the ones in the 1970s -- we couldn't cut back our oil exports to the U.S. in order to redirect the oil to Canadians.

While section 605 has always offended those who care about sovereignty, it poses huge new problems in the age of global warming.

If we're serious about fighting climate change, we're going to have to phase out dirty oilsands production and rely on our remaining reserves of conventional oil (we have about 11 years left, at current rates) while we transition to clean energy, argues Gordon Laxer, founding director of the University of Alberta's Parkland Institute and author of After the Sands: Energy and Ecological Security for Canadians.

Mexico objected to Article 605 and got that provision waived. We should do the same. NAFTA is about more than softwood and dairy products.

Image: businessideas 2015-2016

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

They Blow Up Everything


While everyone is talking about James Comey and Jeff Sessions, the Republicans are working hard, under the cover of night. Dana Milbank writes:

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) invokedRule XIV,” a procedure that allows legislation to skip committees and go directly to the floor. McConnell is hoping to rush the health-care bill to a vote before the July 4 recess, and GOP senators working on the Senate legislation aren’t even sharing the specifics with their Republican colleagues.

The news outlet Axios this week reported that Senate Republicans don’t plan to divulge the details of their legislation publicly. “We aren’t stupid,” one senior GOP aide told Axios. No, they aren’t. And their subterfuge is working. Unnoticed by most, Senate Republicans believe they have cobbled together the 50 votes necessary to repeal Obamacare.

And besides killing healthcare, they're killing the financial reforms which were made after the Meltdown of 2008:

On the very day that Comey testified before the Senate, the House passed legislation largely repealing the Dodd-Frank financial reforms implemented after the 2008 crash. The bill would, among other things, remove the requirement that retirement advisers put their customers’ interests before their own. The House on Tuesday afternoon took up another controversial matter under cover of the Sessions distraction: As the attorney general testified in the Senate, the House voted along party lines to require a Social Security number for people to get Obamacare benefits. It is meant to block illegal immigrants from accessing health-care benefits. Opponents say it would also deny medical care for many newborn babies who are citizens.

Like their president, the Republicans -- all claims to the contrary -- are not master builders. Instead, they are on a seek and destroy mission. They will blow up everything they can get their hands on.

Image: newdelhitimes.com

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

The British Election



These are tough days for progressives. But things are looking up in Britain -- just when it looked like the left was dead. Tom Walkom writes:

While Labour didn’t win the election, it did place a strong second, capturing 261 seats and denying Prime Minister Theresa May’s Conservatives a majority in the Commons.

For Corbyn, it was a feat that just a few weeks ago was routinely dismissed as impossible.
At the beginning of the campaign, Labour appeared to be in shambles. Corbyn, a classic democratic socialist, who still promotes public ownership, was pronounced unelectable.

The 68-year-old trade unionist was said to be too old and too old-fashioned for modern Britain. Even his election as Labour leader in 2015 was widely viewed as a fluke, the result of the party’s too-hasty decision to democratize its voting process.

But Corbyn's win was no fluke:

The reasons for May’s dismal showing in Thursday’s snap election are many. She ran a disastrous campaign marked by policy flip-flops. Her main claim — that only she could safely negotiate Britain’s exit from the European Union — never caught on. Indeed, the so-called Brexit issue was not discussed much at all during the campaign.

Theoretically, the Manchester and London terror attacks should have helped her. Voters tend to move rightward when their safety is threatened.

But in this case, the attacks merely reminded voters that, in a previous Tory government, May had overseen savage manpower cuts to Britain’s police forces.

And what Corbyn advocated were classic progressive policies:

Corbyn campaigned unashamedly for public ownership. A Labour government, he said, would re-nationalize both the railways and the energy grid.

It would reintroduce free tuition for university students and reregulate the financial sector. It would build more public housing, raise taxes on the wealthiest 5 per cent of Britons and bring back rent controls.

While pronouncing itself in favour of free-trade and investment deals generally, Corbyn’s Labour came out strongly against those that allow private companies to override the public interest.
Most of all, however, she paled beside Corbyn. He shone during the campaign.

Corbyn is no pacifist. He endorsed Britain's nuclear strike force. But he stood for policies which used to be anathema. Like Bernie Sanders, he put a progressive agenda back on the table. Time will tell if the public will buy it. 

Image: DANIEL LEAL-OLIVAS / AFP/GETTY IMAGES

Monday, June 12, 2017

A War On The Poor



Diane Ravitch used to lead the charge from the Right on American Education. But, in the last ten years, she has become deeply embittered about what the Right has done to American public education. Now that Donald Trump has released his budget, her fury is white hot:

University education will become even less affordable:

The proposed budget would maintain funding for Pell grants for needy college students, but would eliminate more than $700 million in Perkins loans for disadvantaged students. No attempt would be made to lessen the burden of escalating college costs for students, whether middle-income or poor. Student debt is currently about $1.4 trillion, and many students, whether they graduate or not, spend years, even decades, repaying their loans. These cuts will reduce the number of students who can afford to attend college. 

And, with Betsy Devos at the helm, there will be more money available for private schools and for profit universities but profoundly less for beleaguered public schools:

The most devastating cuts are aimed at programs for public schools. Nearly two dozen programs are supposed to be eliminated, on the grounds that they have “achieved their original purpose, duplicate other programs, are narrowly focused, or are unable to demonstrate effectiveness.” In many cases, the budget document says that these programs should be funded by someone else—not the US Department of Education, but “federal, state, local and private funds.” These programs include after-school and summer programs that currently serve nearly two million students, and which keep children safe and engaged in sports, arts, clubs, and academic studies when they are out of school. They have never been judged by test scores, but the budget claims they do not improve student achievement, and aims to save the government $1 billion by ending support for them. The budget assumes that someone else will pick up the tab, but most states have cut their education budgets since the 2008 recession. No mention is made of how other sources will be able to come up with this funding.

Public schools used to educate a nation of immigrants. However, Trump policy is to build walls to keep them out. One assumes that Mr. Trump believes that public schools have outlived their time. But it goes beyond that. Trump's cuts are aimed at the poorest of the poor:

The administration wants to end many programs that are aimed at the poorest students and disadvantaged minorities in particular, while canceling vital enhancements to public school education like arts and foreign-language funding. These include supplementary educational services for Alaskan Native and Native Hawaiian students ($66 million); arts education ($27 million); American history and civics academies ($1.8 million); full-service community schools that provide comprehensive academic, social, and health services to students and their families ($10 million); library-based literacy programs ($27 million); “impact aid” to districts that lose revenue because of federal facilities like military bases ($66 million); international education and foreign language studies ($73 million); the Javits program for gifted and talented students ($12 million); preschool development grants to help states build or expand high-quality preschool services ($250 million); Special Olympics programs for students with disabilities ($10 million); and Supporting Effective Instruction State Grants, funds used to train teachers and to reduce class sizes ($2.345 billion). In addition, the Trump-DeVos budget would eliminate funding for a potpourri of programs including mental health services, anti-bullying initiatives, and Advanced Placement courses ($400 million). This is only a sample of the broad sweep of programs that would be eliminated, not just reduced. Some of the programs, like the Special Olympics for handicapped students, are small grants but they have both real and symbolic importance. The cuts to funds for reducing class sizes will have an immediate negative effect.
Trump does not believe in a War on Poverty. But he does believe in a War on the Poor.

Image: Pinterest.com


Sunday, June 11, 2017

No Is Not Enough



That's the title of Naomi Klein's forthcoming book. It's her reaction to and prescription for resistance to the Trump presidency. She tells The Guardian's Tim Adams:

“He keeps everyone all the time in a reactive state,” she said. “It is not like he is taking advantage of an external shock, he is the shock. And every 10 minutes he creates a new one. It is like he has these lasers coming out of his belt.”

Klein admits that she wrote the book quickly "because she feared that the further into a Trump administration America travels, the less scope there might be for resistance, for building an alternative."

And she believes that there are precedents that point the way to dealing with Trump:

She points hopefully to the example of Spain in 2004, when after the Madrid train bombings the prime minister, José Maria Aznar, announced that a state of emergency and special state powers were necessary. The people, remembering Franco, took to the streets to reject that analysis and kicked the government out, voting in a party that would pull Spanish troops out of Iraq. She is fully aware, too, of the alternative in Turkish president Recip Tayyip Erdoğan’s successful plea for dictatorial powers following the chaos of the failed coup in 2016. Klein’s book sets out those examples in advance of any comparable shock in America, and makes the case for collective resistance in the event of crisis. “I hope none of it happens [in the States] and none of it is useful,” she says, “but just in case, I wanted to have it out there as soon as possible.”

As hopeful as Klein is, she warns that evicting Trump from the White House will not be easy:

“I think he is a showman and that he is aware of the way that shows can distract people,” she says. “That is the story of his business. He has always understood that he could distract his investors and bankers, his tenants, his clients from the underlying unsoundness of his business, just by putting on the Trump show. That is the core of Trump. He is undoubtedly an idiot, but do not underestimate how good he is at that.”

The book sounds like an important read.

Image: commondreams.org

Saturday, June 10, 2017

He No Longer Knows When He's Lying



In a bizarre twist at the end of a very bizarre week, the Liar-in-Chief accused James Comey of lying. And he offered to testify under oath -- as if raising his hand would make a difference. Ezra Klein's conclusion is inescapable:

The United States government cannot be trusted so long as Donald Trump runs it.

That is the simple, chilling takeaway of James Comey’s testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee. It is separate from the legal question of whether Trump obstructed justice, or the political question of whether congressional Republicans care even if he did. 

The picture Comey paints of Trump is also, importantly, the picture Trump paints of himself: He is a man who lies constantly, who values loyalty over integrity, who has little understanding of nor respect for the values and restraints that people in power impose on themselves to keep from misusing their positions, and who intends to use both his powers of hiring and firing to stock the government with people who will serve him first and the country second. 

The debate will intensify about whether Trump is guilty of obstructing justice. But regardless of how that debates ends, Jim Cornette got it right. "He’s a TV star, and he can say, ‘I’ll fix this, it’ll be great, trust me!’ I wouldn’t believe him if his tongue was notarized." Comey testified that he kept contemporaneous records of his conversations with Trump because he didn't trust him. Angela Merkel has said the same thing. Klein writes:

Stop and consider Comey’s estimation for a moment. A longtime prosecutor, Justice Department official, and eventually FBI chief, Comey thought he couldn’t trust the president of the United States of America to meet with him without lying. And of course, Trump couldn’t. Trump lies constantly. And Comey was proven right in his particular case, as Trump has repeatedly lied about him. 

And this man is the president of the United States of America.
Trump initially had his White House say Comey was fired over his handling of Hillary Clinton’s emails, only to later admit Comey was fired over the Russia investigation, only to later say it was actually the emails. Trump has said he may release tapes of his conversations with Comey — tapes he clearly doesn’t have (“Lordy, I hope there are tapes,” Comey said today). Trump repeatedly told Comey he was doing a great job only to turn around and tell the country he was doing a horrible job.
Put aside where you think the truth lies in any of these judgments. The simple fact is the president of the United States lies routinely, about matters big and small. He lies about the size of his Electoral College victory. He lies about whether he’ll cut Medicaid. He is a liar. 

But what is truly disturbing is the nagging impression that Trump no longer knows when he's lying. 

Image: capitolhillblue.com

Sunday, June 04, 2017

Around For Centuries



Russian journalist Masha Gessen is something of authority on dictators. Having covered Vladimir Putin for years -- including personally interviewing him -- she's very familiar with the species. She writes that there's a myth that such men -- they are mostly men -- are evil geniuses:

We imagine the villains of history as cunning strategists, brilliant masterminds of horror. This happens because we learn about them from history books, which weave narratives that retrospectively imbue events with logic, making them seem predetermined. Historians and their readers bring an unavoidable perception bias to the story: If a historical event caused shocking destruction, then the person behind this event must have been a correspondingly giant monster. Terrifying as it is to contemplate the catastrophes of the 20th century, it would be even more frightening to imagine that humanity had stumbled unthinkingly into its darkest moments.

But a careful reading of contemporary accounts will show that both Hitler and Stalin struck many of their countrymen as men of limited ability, education and imagination — and, indeed, as being incompetent in government and military leadership. Contrary to popular wisdom, they are not political savants, possessed of one extraordinary talent that brings them to power. It is the blunt instrument of reassuring ignorance that propels their rise in a frighteningly complex world.

Putin fits nicely into that mold:

As someone who has spent years studying Mr. Putin — and as one of a handful of journalists who have had an unscripted conversation with him — I can vouch for the fact that he is a poorly educated, under-informed, incurious man whose ambition is vastly out of proportion to his understanding of the world. To the extent that he has any interest in the business of governing, it is his role — on the world stage or on Russian television — that concerns him. Whether he is attending a summit, piloting a plane or hang-gliding with Siberian cranes, it is the spectacle of power that interests him.

And, like Putin, the long time star of The Apprentice is obsessed with spectacle and ratings:

In the past few months, Americans too have grown familiar with the sight of a president who seems to think that politics consists of demonstrating that he is in charge. This similarity is not an accident (nor is it a result of Russian influence). The rejection of the complexity of modern politics — as well as modern business and modern life in general — lies at the core of populism’s appeal. The first American president with no record of political or military service, Donald Trump ran on a platform of denigrating expertise. His message was that anyone with experience in politics was a corrupt insider and, indeed, that a lack of experience was the best qualification.

Trump may be a new experience for Americans. But his kind has been  around for centuries.

On a personal note: I'll be away from this space for a few days. We're moving. The kids have flown the nest and my wife and I no longer need five bedrooms, ten acres and a barn. The toughest part of this experience is getting rid of 31 years of stuff. We're still purging and the moving van is coming tomorrow. When we're settled into our new home -- with a new internet connection -- I'll be back.

Image: mikesteeden.com

Saturday, June 03, 2017

Un-Enlightened Trump



Joe Stiglitz knows who Donald Trump is. He's no Master Builder. To the contrary, he's a Malevolent Wrecking Ball. He wants to destroy more than American Health Care and the Paris Climate Accord. He seeks to destroy the legacy of the Enlightenment:

For millennia before the middle of the 18th century, standards of living stagnated. It was the Enlightenment, with its embrace of reasoned discourse and scientific inquiry, that underpinned the enormous increases in standards of living in the subsequent two and a half centuries.

With the Enlightenment also came a commitment to discover and address our prejudices. As the idea of human equality – and its corollary, basic individual rights for all – quickly spread, societies began struggling to eliminate discrimination on the basis of race, gender, and, eventually, other aspects of human identity, including disability and sexual orientation.

Trump seeks to reverse all of that. His rejection of science, in particular climate science, threatens technological progress. And his bigotry toward women, Hispanics, and Muslims (except those, like the rulers of Gulf oil sheikhdoms, from whom he and his family can profit), threatens the functioning of American society and its economy, by undermining people’s trust that the system is fair to all.

As a populist, Trump has exploited the justifiable economic discontent that has become so widespread in recent years, as many Americans have become downwardly mobile amid soaring inequality. But his true objective – to enrich himself and other gilded rent-seekers at the expense of those who supported him – is revealed by his tax and health-care plans.

Europe -- led by Angela Merkel -- understands this. Her conclusion that Europe and Germany can no longer rely on the United States is absolutely accurate. She reached that conclusion after the G7 Conference. Trump's rejection of the Paris Accord underscored her conclusion. Stiglitz writes that countries, states, provinces and cities have to reject everything that Trump stands for:

The rest of the world cannot let a rogue US destroy the planet. Nor can it let a rogue US take advantage of it with unenlightened – indeed anti-Enlightenment – “America first” policies. If Trump wants to withdraw the US from the Paris climate agreement, the rest of the world should impose a carbon-adjustment tax on US exports that do not comply with global standards.

The good news is that the majority of Americans are not with Trump. Most Americans still believe in Enlightenment values, accept the reality of global warming and are willing to take action. But, as far as Trump is concerned, it should already be clear that reasoned debate will not work. It is time for action.

Trump is hopeless. He's Un-Enlighented. We must not be.

Image: Patricia Saxton
 

Friday, June 02, 2017

Polk Salad Donald



Yesterday, Donald Trump backed out of the Paris Climate Accord because, he said, it was bad for the American economy. Paul Krugman doesn't buy that argument:

About the economics: At this point, I think, we have a pretty good idea of what a low-emissions economy would look like. I’m sure that energy experts will disagree on the details, but the broad outline isn’t hard to describe.

Clearly, it would be an economy running on electricity — electric cars, electric heat, with internal combustion engines rare. The bulk of that electricity would, in turn, come from nonpolluting sources: wind, solar and, yes, probably nuclear.

Of course, sometimes the wind doesn’t blow or the sun shine when people want power. But there are multiple ways to deal with that issue: a robust grid that can ship electricity to where it’s needed; storage of various forms (batteries, but also maybe things like pumped hydro); dynamic pricing that encourages customers to use less power when it’s scarce and more when it isn’t; and some surge capacity — probably from relatively low-emission natural-gas-fired generators — to cope with whatever mismatch remains.

And would things look a lot different?

People would still drive cars, live in houses that were heated in the winter and cooled in the summer, and watch videos about superheroes and funny cats. There would be a lot of wind turbines and solar panels, but most of us would ignore them the same way we currently ignore the smokestacks of conventional power plants.

Wouldn’t energy be more expensive in this alternative economy? Probably, but not by much: Technological progress in solar and wind has drastically reduced their cost, and it looks as if the same thing is starting to happen with energy storage.

Meanwhile, there would be compensating benefits. Notably, the adverse health effects of air pollution would be greatly reduced, and it’s quite possible that lower health care costs would all by themselves make up for the costs of energy transition, even ignoring the whole saving-civilization-from-catastrophic-climate-change thing.

So Trump's economic argument doesn't hold. And, if Trump doesn't understand economics -- something that by now is abundantly clear -- what is really behind his argument? Krugman believes the truth should be glaringly apparent:

Pay any attention to modern right-wing discourse — including op-ed articles by top Trump officials — and you find deep hostility to any notion that some problems require collective action beyond shooting people and blowing things up.

Beyond this, much of today’s right seems driven above all by animus toward liberals rather than specific issues. If liberals are for it, they’re against it. If liberals hate it, it’s good. Add to this the anti-intellectualism of the G.O.P. base, for whom scientific consensus on an issue is a minus, not a plus, with extra bonus points for undermining anything associated with President Barack Obama.

The man who rode to power on the Birther Conspiracy is still riding that wave. In the 1960's Tony Joe White wrote a song called, "Polk Salad Annie" -- about a southern lady he characterized as "a wretched, spiteful, straight razor totin' woman."

 Behold Polk Salad Donald.

Image: You Tube

Thursday, June 01, 2017

How To Play A Fool



As Donald Trump makes a shambles of the world -- reports claim that he will back out of the Paris Climate Agreement today -- the Europeans and the Asians are taking two different tacts. To the Europeans, Trump is simply an idiot. Jonathan Manthorpe writes:

For European leaders last week, however, extended exposure to Trump in person seems to have come as something of a shock. His ignorance about the nature of the NATO partnership is far more deep and impenetrable than anyone could have anticipated.

He pointedly refused to pledge support for the NATO guarantee of mutual defence — the very core of the alliance. What made his silence even more churlish was the occasion for it: the unveiling of a memorial to the September 2001 terrorist attacks on the U.S. — the only time that NATO’s all-for-one-and-one-for-all Article Five has been invoked.

He continued the insults by lecturing the NATO leaders about their supposed failure to contribute two per cent of their gross national product to the alliance’s budget. He clearly doesn’t know — or perhaps doesn’t care — that the two per cent is a target … for 2025.

The most publicly exasperated of the European leaders was German Chancellor Angela Merkel. At a political rally on Sunday she told the crowd: “The times when we could completely depend on others are on the way out. I’ve experienced that in the last few days. We Europeans truly have to take our fate into our own hands.”

Merkel is now seen by many as the leading, dependable champion of North Atlantic civic values. Britain is casting itself off from the EU and will no longer be a player of influence, but Merkel does appear to have acquired a useful sidekick in the new French President Emmanuel Macron.

The Asians also believe Trump is an idiot. But he is a useful idiot -- because they understand that pumping up Trump's vanity will get them everywhere they want to go. And they want to go places:

For the moment, Japan, South Korea, Australia, Vietnam, Singapore and other traditional trade and defence partners in Asia don’t share the Europeans’ exasperation.

Japan’s Abe must take some of the credit for this. He rushed to New York soon after Trump’s election victory was announced in November and played court to the president-elect. It looked unseemly at the time, but it was a very smart move based on some shrewd analysis of Trump’s character.

All the criticisms Trump has aimed at Germany — trade imbalances, a lack of commitment to defence and a too-strong commitment to fighting global warming — can be levelled at Japan using the same mantras. But Trump has left Japan off his list of Twitter targets.

Obviously, Abe understands Trump’s vanity — and he understands that flattery will get him everywhere he wants to go with Trump.


The Asians know how to play a fool.

Image: vitamin-ha.com

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

The Beat Goes On



The same issues that plague our politics are on display in the British election. The central issue is what should be public and what should be private. George Monbiot writes:

Imagine designing one of our great cities from scratch. You would quickly discover that there is enough physical space for magnificent parks, playing fields, public swimming pools, urban nature reserves and allotments sufficient to meet the needs of everyone. Alternatively, you could designate the same space to a small proportion of its people – the richest citizens – who can afford large gardens, perhaps with their own swimming pools. The only way of securing space for both is to allow the suburbs to sprawl until the city becomes dysfunctional: impossible to supply with efficient services, lacking a sense of civic cohesion, and permanently snarled in traffic: Los Angeles for all.

Imagine designing a long-distance transport system for a nation that did not possess one. You’d find that there is plenty of room for everyone to travel swiftly and efficiently, in trains and luxury buses (an intercity bus can carry as many people as a mile of car traffic). But to supply the same mobility with private cars requires a prodigious use of land, concrete, metal and fuel. It can be done, but only at the cost of climate change, air pollution, the destruction of wonderful places and an assault on tranquillity, neighbourhood and community life. Such a society is ultimately unsustainable -- because resources are finite.

Theresa May is arguing that resources are infinite. Jeremy Corbin is arguing that they are not. But, unfortunately, the Labour Party  has bought into some of the same principles which animate the Conservatives:

Labour, through its proposed cultural capital fund, will reinvest in public galleries and museums. It will defend and expand our libraries, youth centres, football grounds, railways and local bus services. Unlike the Conservative manifesto, which is almost silent on the issue, Labour’s platform offers a reasonable list of protections to the living world.

But it also promises to “continue to upgrade our highways” (shortly after vowing to “encourage and enable people to get out of their cars”) and to provide new airport capacity. The conflicts are not acknowledged. Progress in the 21st century should be measured less by the new infrastructure you build than by the damaging infrastructure you retire.

The same battle we face here is being fought in Britain. And, Monbiot writes, we keep missing the point:

It is impossible to deliver a magnificent life for everyone by securing private space through private spending. Attempts to do so are highly inefficient, producing ridiculous levels of redundancy and replication. Look at roads, in which individual people, each encased in a tonne of metal, each taking up (at 70mph) 90 metres of lane, travel in parallel to the same destination. The expansion of public wealth creates more space for everyone; the expansion of private wealth reduces it, eventually damaging most people’s quality of life.

And the beat goes on.

Image: jpeg.adzuna.co.uk


Tuesday, May 30, 2017

It's Not Easy

 
Justin Trudeau faces Trumpian pressure on the NAFTA file. But, Tom Walkom writes, he also faces pressure because Canada is a member of NATO. That pressure is not just about ponying up more money. It's about once again sending troops to Afghanistan:

The problem facing the NATO-led force is that it is losing. The Taliban poses a significant threat in at least 40 per cent of the country. The Afghan army on its own has been unable to defeat the insurgents.

Added to this is the growing presence in Afghanistan of the terrorist group Daesh, also known as the Islamic State.

To meet these problems, the American general in charge of the NATO-led forces wants Washington to send between 3,000 and 5,000 additional military “advisers.” The Trump White House is said to be split over the request. No matter how this is sorted out, Trump wants other NATO members to share any pain.

Jens Stoltenberg, NATO’s secretary-general, said Thursday that a decision on the exact number of troops to be deployed by the alliance will be made later this year.

Oddly enough, Trudeau’s rhetoric on NATO may make it more difficult for Canada to avoid contributing troops to any expanded Afghan mission.

Faced with a U.S. president determined to have other NATO members spend more on defence, Trudeau has argued eloquently that money isn’t everything.

Dealing with Trump -- Angela Merkel will confirm this -- is a Herculean challenge:

Behind all of this is the spectre of the upcoming North American Free Trade Agreement renegotiation.

The Trudeau government is fixated on keeping the trade pact linking Canada, the U.S. and Mexico intact. Ottawa looks at everything, including defence, through a NAFTA lens.

The government strategy to date has been threefold. First, it is waging a public relations blitz to convince American lawmakers that it is in their own national interest to keep NAFTA more or less as is.

Second, it is waging a charm offensive to convince Trump that Trudeau is his, and America’s, best friend.

Third, it is hinting — more in sorrow than in anger — that, if forced, Canada can engage in trade practices of its own to make life difficult for American firms.

But of the three, the charm offensive is key. Faced with a president who takes perceived slights badly, Trudeau is going out of his way to stay on Trump’s good side.

Staying on Trump's good side is a Sisyphean task. As soon as you roll the stone up the hill a little, the mercurial Trump kicks it back down again.

It's not easy to stay out of Trump's swamp.

Image:

Monday, May 29, 2017

Those Who Know Take On Trump



In today's Washington Post, three former EPA administrators -- all of them Republicans -- take on Donald Trump. William Ruckelshaus, Lee Thomas and William Reilly begin with a bit of history:

More than 30 years ago, the world was faced with a serious environmental threat, one that respected no boundaries. A hole in the ozone layer was linked to potential increases in skin cancer and blindness from cataracts.

Despite early skepticism, the risk of a thinning ozone layer was such that an international U.N. conference was convened in Vienna to address this problem. The participating countries and international bodies, including the United States, the European Union and other major producers and users of CFCs, afterward met in Montreal to negotiate an agreement setting out a specific program to reduce the production and use of CFCs.

The Environmental Protection Agency, with strong support from President Ronald Reagan, led the international effort that resulted in a treaty that contained an aggressive schedule of reductions known as the Montreal Protocol. It remains in effect today and has resulted in significant improvement in the ozone layer and greatly reduced the threat to human health.

They then turn to today:

The EPA budget released this week cuts science and technology spending by more than $282 million , almost a 40 percent reduction. The Greenhouse Gas Reporting Program is zeroed out; air and energy research are cut by 66 percent. Programs targeted at specific areas with significant climate vulnerabilities, such as the Chesapeake Bay, the Great Lakes and Puget Sound, have been eliminated.

The destruction of irreplaceable research would be staggering. It would put us and the rest of the world on a dangerous path. If our president is wrong about the reality of climate change, we will have lost vital time to take steps to avoid the worst impacts of a warming planet. If those urging collective worldwide accelerated action are wrong, we will have developed alternative sources of clean energy that will enhance our green energy choices for the foreseeable future.

The evolving response of the Republican Party to environmental issues tells the story. The Party stands for wilful ignorance. And its leader is a fool.

Image: NewsBusters

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Scheer Stupidity?



So it's Andrew Scheer. The Conservatives dodged a bullet when they narrowly rejected Maxime Bernier's full blown libertarianism. They now claim that they have chosen Stephen Harper with a smile. Throughout the campaign, they kept saying that the problem wasn't their policies, it was their failure to sell them.

Scheer's acceptance speech was full of standard Conservative boilerplate. So the party is still not where the majority of Canadians are. But Scheer has another problem. Susan Delacourt writes:

If Scheer thought keeping order in the Commons was no walk in the park during his term as Speaker from 2011 to 2015, he’s soon going to learn it’s a lot harder to break up brawls in your own caucus — disputes that have proved to be hugely divisive in Canadian politics in the past.

When Scheer finally took the stage on Saturday night (in front of more than a few Conservatives with mouths agape over this latest reversal of polling fortunes), he offered the usual call for party unity. “We will win when we are united,” he said, praising Stephen Harper, the leader he’s replacing.

Harper kept the party together by ruling with an iron fist -- and by dishing out the perks of power:

Can Scheer hammer those pieces together after this weekend — with only the perks of Official Opposition to hand out, along with the promise of cabinet spots in the distant future? We’re going to see an interesting display of political management dynamics over the next year or two.

They've always been a fractious bunch. That's why they rejected Michael Chong. I suspect they will come to regret not choosing the candidate who best understands this country. They may eventually come to the conclusion that their choice this weekend was Scheer Stupidity.

Image: Edmonton Sun

Saturday, May 27, 2017

The Empty Headed Are In Charge



Michael Gerson used to write speeches for George W. Bush. He considers himself a conservative. But he is deeply disturbed about what has happened to conservatism in the era of Donald Trump. He writes:

To many observers on the left, the initial embrace of Seth Rich conspiracy theories by conservative media figures was merely a confirmation of the right’s deformed soul. But for those of us who remember that Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity were once relatively mainstream Reaganites, their extended vacation in the fever swamps is even more disturbing. If once you knew better, the indictment is deeper.

The cruel exploitation of the memory of Rich, a Democratic National Committee staffer who was murdered last summer, was horrifying and clarifying. The Hannity right, without evidence, accused Rich rather than the Russians of leaking damaging DNC emails. In doing so, it has proved its willingness to credit anything — no matter how obviously deceptive or toxic — to defend Donald Trump and harm his opponents. Even if it means becoming a megaphone for Russian influence.

Gerson believes that the Conservative Mind is diseased: The glaring symptom of the disease is the lack of common decency:

This failure of decency is also politically symbolic. Who is the politician who legitimized conspiracy thinking at the highest level? Who raised the possibility that Ted Cruz’s father might have been involved in the assassination of John F. Kennedy? Who hinted that Hillary Clinton might have been involved in the death of Vince Foster, or that unnamed liberals might have killed Justice Antonin Scalia? Who not only questioned President Obama’s birth certificate, but raised the prospect of the murder of a Hawaiian state official in a cover-up? “How amazing,” Trump tweeted in 2013, “the State Health Director who verified copies of Obama’s ‘birth certificate’ died in plane crash today. All others lived.”

We have a president charged with maintaining public health who asserts that the vaccination schedule is a dangerous scam of greedy doctors. We have a president charged with representing all Americans who has falsely accused thousands of Muslims of celebrating in the streets following the 9/11 attacks.

Gerson asserts that Trump is doing more harm than Hillary Clinton ever would have done:

Trump is doing a kind of harm beyond anything Clinton could have done. He is changing the party’s most basic moral and political orientations. He is shaping conservatism in his image, and ensuring an eventual defeat more complete, and an eventual exile more prolonged, than Democrats could have dreamed.

The conservative mind, in some very visible cases, has become diseased. The movement has been seized by a kind of discrediting madness, in which conspiracy delusions figure prominently. Institutions and individuals that once served an important ideological role, providing a balance to media bias, are discrediting themselves in crucial ways. With the blessings of a president, they have abandoned the normal constraints of reason and compassion. They have allowed political polarization to reach their hearts, and harden them. They have allowed polarization to dominate their minds, and empty them.

The empty headed -- not the wooden headed -- are in charge.


Friday, May 26, 2017

It's Unfolding


These days, Michael Harris is ticked off with both the Conservatives and the Liberals. His disdain for Justin Trudeau grows with each passing day:

Whether it’s the corporate welfare bums at Bombardier, or the owners of those bitumen-laden pipelines, Trudeau can’t seem to say no to certain people. His claim that we can have it both ways on the environment is as tiresome as it is disingenuous.

Meanwhile, the Conservatives are living in a Petrified Forest:

An intelligent party would have made a course correction after Harper’s anti-democratic, anti-court, anti-free speech, anti-environment, anti-immigrant decade of authoritarian deceit and corruption. Now, his former chief of staff, Nigel Wright, has reaped the harvest of Harper’s darkly manipulative approach to governing. Wright’s “ethical wall” apparently came equipped with a ladder.

An intelligent party would have seen the need to cultivate thinkers, not Kool-Aid drinkers. It would have taken the Michael Chongs and Lisa Raitts and embraced them.

Had it done that — had it learned from defeat — the CPC could have rebalanced its far-right recent history with its historic Red Tory roots. Stockwell Day and Joe Clark both could have supported such party.
Instead, the CPC appears ready to choose one of the B actors on the leadership list who have embraced Harperism in all its ideological rigidity — and doomed future.

Combine that with the idiocy erupting south of the border and there's little that encourages Harris. His hopes now rest with the NDP:

When you add into this mix the likelihood that the next big winner in Canadian federal politics will be the anti-Trump (assuming the Big Tuna is not beached by 2019), the NDP have a serious opening. They could make a comeback with progressives who parked their vote with Trudeau to defeat Harper but were betrayed on electoral reform, and Red Tories who were hoping for more from their leadership race than warmed-up leftovers.

The Universe may not be unfolding as it should. But it is unfolding.

Image: Amazon.com

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Pluto-Populism



E.J. Dionne writes that Martin Wolf has got it right:

Martin Wolf, the Financial Times columnist, captured Trump’s ideology with precision when he called it “pluto-populism.” It involves “policies that benefit plutocrats, justified by populist rhetoric.”

If you want proof, look at Trump's budget, which slashes the federal food stamp program:

Trump and Mulvaney are selling this budget as good for hardworking taxpayers by leading us to believe that it would really only hurt moochers and layabouts. Thus did Mulvaney claim that a $192 billion reduction in food stamp spending over a decade was directed at “the folks who are on there who don’t want to work.”

Well, as the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities reported, it turns out that in food stamp households with at least one working-age, nondisabled adult, more than 80 percent work in the year before or after receiving benefits, and more than half work while getting them. This is a program aimed primarily at easing the lives of the working poor.  

Trump policies are simply built on lies:

Many who did business with Trump learned the hard way not to trust anything he said. His supporters are being forced to learn the same dreary wisdom.

Yesterday, the Congressional Budget Office released its evaluation of the health care bill which narrowly passed the House. It concludes that 23 million people will lose health care coverage over the next ten years. Those who will benefit will be the young and the healthy. Those who will lose will be the poor and the sick:

Particularly astounding from a president who promised better health care for Americans who can’t afford it is the $1.85 trillion reduction over a decade from Medicaid and subsidies under the Affordable Care Act. But didn’t Trump promise not to cut Medicaid? Never mind, budget director Mick Mulvaney told CNBC’s John Harwood. That pledge, Mulvaney explained, had been overridden by Trump’s promise to repeal and replace Obamacare.

Robin Hood in reverse. As John Kenneth Galbraith wrote, they are touting a moral justification for selfishness -- Pluto-Populism.

Image: Community New Group

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Responses To Terrorism



For a second time this week, I find myself turning to something Robin Sears has written. Ruminating about the Manchester attack two nights ago, Sears remembers when he and his wife lived in London:

My wife left Harrod’s less than an hour before the IRA’s Christmas attack. The savage bombing of the Queen’s Horses and their trainers rattled my London office windows across the park. I watched a terrorist hit team spray women and children with blood and tissue, murdering one of Palestine’s saints, 10 feet in front of me in a crowded holiday hotel lobby. The Tokyo sarin attack took place a few trains after I had arrived at my office on that same line.

Something like that stays with you forever. But what matters is how you respond. A Trumpian response is exceedingly unhelpful:

Donald Trump’s attempts to whip up anti-Iranian and anti-Shia sentiment across the Muslim world is not merely morally offensive, it is dangerous to the safety of Americans and American allies. To deliberately incite state-to-state violence in the world’s most volatile region will also certainly raise the prospect of terror in other parts of the world. For as long as he is on the world stage, we must assume the threat barometer is swinging widely against stability or security.

We have been lucky -- so far. With the exception of  Michael Zehaf-Bibeau's one man assault on Parliament Hill, we have been spared the pain that Europe has known. But that doesn't guarantee our future. The best protection against terrorism is prevention -- and that does not mean arming ourselves to the teeth:

As we celebrate our 150 years of success in building a new form of nationhood, we cannot let our pride blind us to its perennial fragility. Canadian religious and public safety leaders, for example, need to deepen their conversations about the boundaries between acceptable and illegal hate speech, develop stronger models of shared engagement focused on mutual education and prevention, not merely surveillance and arrest.

Perhaps most important of all, Canadian business, civic, and community leaders need to make it clear to politicians and pundits who use racial, religious and ethnic divisions for votes or clicks, just how certain will be the destruction of their reputations and careers.

For it is not insensitive to the suffering of the Manchester families of the children who were victims of this latest atrocity to remember this: it is how we react to attack that is the path to less terror. We invest in prevention, we make punishment certain, and we double down on the peddlers of hate.

Something to think about. 

Image: Quote Master

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Faster Than We Thought


The planet is warming much faster than we thought. Dahr Jamail writes:

The reality of Anthropogenic Climate Disruption (ACD) continues to outstrip our ability to model worst-case scenarios, as it is happening so much faster than was ever anticipated. Sixty-three percent of all human-generated carbon emissions have been produced in the last 25 years, but science shows us that there is a 40-year time lag between global emissions (our actions) and climate impacts (the consequences). Hence, we haven't even begun to experience the worst of our emissions, and won't, until at least 2054.

The news is unremittingly bad. Our baselines no longer apply:

Approximately 55 million years ago, a 5-degree Celsius increase in global temperatures occurred in only 13 years, and a scientific report published last year revealed that in the near-term, Earth's climate will change 10 times faster than at any other moment in the last 65 million years. Science already shows that we are currently experiencing change 200 to 300 times faster than any of the previous major extinction events.

We are rapidly reaching the point where there will be no turning back:

Humans have never lived on a planet with temperatures 3.5 degrees Celsius above baseline, and many scientists believe it would be impossible to do so. An increasing number of climate change scientists now fear that our situation is already so serious, and so many self-reinforcing feedback loops are already in play, that we are in the process of causing our own extinction. Worse yet, some are convinced that it could happen far more quickly than generally believed possible - even in the course of just the next few decades.

In December 2010, the UN Environment Program predicted up to a 5 degrees Celsius increase by 2050. This is a shocking piece of information, because a 3.5 degrees Celsius increase would render the planet uninhabitable for humans due to collapsing the food chain at the level of oceanic plankton and triggering temperature extremes that would severely limit terrestrial vegetation, and hence, our ability to feed ourselves. And even higher temperature increases have been predicted.

Yet Mr, Trump still thinks it's all a hoax.

Image: Just Gotta Dive

Monday, May 22, 2017

The Challenge Facing Progressives


When it comes to Donald Trump, Robin Sears writes, progressives face the challenge of dealing with a man who lies as easily as he breathes. But progressives face a bigger challenge than Trump:

Like U.K. Labour, French Socialists and German Social Democrats — for that matter, much of the progressive democratic world — The Democrats have failed in addressing three transformative changes: job-killing artificial intelligence, globalization’s undermining of national economic decision-making, and climate change. The last is the hardest for progressives, in that the level of public support for the dramatic changes of direction required is weak. Worse still they have communicated a snobbery towards fat, racist, opioid-wounded, angry, white, working-class voters.

Each of these failures has contributed to most damaging defeat for the postwar consensus of every progressive government: greater equality must always be a priority. Until recently, even conservatives accepted the wisdom of a progressive tax system. Until recently, memory of real poverty and its impact on children, families, and society itself was still powerful for most leaders. Today’s progressive elites have few such memories let alone experience.

The progressive failure to articulate a believable vision created a huge opening for the same dishonest political frauds that ruined the first half of the last century. The collapse of the more astonishingly wicked or dumb among them — Geert Wilders and Marine Le Pen — is little comfort. 

Trump has proved a gold mine for late night comics. But Sears warns that blistering humour -- deserved though it may be -- is not what will defeat the Great Orange Id. Progressives need "a coherent vision of how they could restore hope for an increasingly stressed class of voters that includes many key elements of their traditional base."

Until progressives can give those who have been left behind a reason to believe in that vision, Trump and his clones will continue to lie and get away with it.

Image: The Challenge Roundtable