Friday, August 18, 2017

He Cannot Be Coddled

After Charlottesville, Michael Harris writes, Donald Trump becomes the touchstone by which we judge our own politicians:

The Trump White House isn’t the only North American political institution that has lost touch with the real world. The Conservative Party of Canada must now confront a hard fact: Their current leader lacks the nerve to pull the party back to the centre of what might be called ‘responsible conservatism’. In the wake of Charlottesville, that matters. If Conservatives don’t wise up, they may become the pot-bellied pigs of Canadian politics: yesterday’s fad that just smells up the house now.

Andrew Scheer says he won’t grant interviews to The Rebel, the Breitbart News wannabe run by Ezra Levant, under its current editorial direction. That’s nice. So what was it about Rebel’s former, pre-Charlottesville editorial direction that made Scheer comfortable enough to appear on the website several times when he was running for the leadership?

The Rebel was then, and is now, a collection of chocolate-encrusted nutbars — the lunatic villa of the alt-right.

And it should be said also that Scheer didn’t have any problem with having his leadership campaign run by Hamish Marshall, who was on the board of directors of The Rebel and is now, we are told, severing ties with the organization. So Scheer’s attempt to pretend he has only a passing familiarity with Ezra’s work is nonsense.

Justin Trudeau will ultimately be judged by how he deals with Trump:

And for Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, a postscript: Prime minister, you can coast a long way on selfies in a content-averse universe. But occasions arise when more is required of a leader than imagery. Donald Trump had already given the world his wish-washy take on Charlottesville. We didn’t need one from you.

What we needed from you was the straight goods. That means outing the racists by name and calling out the president of the United States for enabling violent, racist acts. That might have made your next meeting with Trump a little uncomfortable. But it’s a little like being told an off-color joke: If you don’t confront the person who told it, you might as well as laugh and walk away, realizing you have been diminished.

Trump is a force to be dealt with. He cannot be ignored. And he cannot be coddled.

Image: CBC

Thursday, August 17, 2017

The Laughter Will Be Universal

Donald Trump disbanded all of his business councils yesterday -- before every member of each council resigned. The message is pretty clear: Donald Trump, the businessman par excellence, is bad for business. Vichy Mochama writes:

The time will come for all brands to dissociate from this administration. Based on the pictures of young men marching, it won’t be too long before polo shirt companies will disavow white nationalism. Somewhere, a public relations agency for Poly by Ralph Lauren and/or Lacoste is in the middle of a heated debate about if and when to change the name of their tennis whites.

From candy conglomerates to e-commerce giants like Etsy and AirBnB, there has been a steady stream of brands taking a stand against the president. Or at least tweeting that they have.

Earlier this year, New Balance, the running shoe company had to clarify whether they were, as claimed by some, the official shoe of white supremacy. Now, New Balance was once the unofficial show of “these are the sneakers I can afford.” But they’ve moved up in the world. They’re now the semi-official (as decided by me) show of Wearing Heels At the Office But Not On The Way.

But like, the official shoe of white people? Nah. Racist footwear depends on what the racist is doing. Flip-flops aren’t inherently racist unless they’re being worn by a non-Indigenous person who is also wearing a headdress at a music festival. Then, yes, those are racist flip-flops.

Increasingly companies and brands are making the connection between the American administration and the racists who support it.

It's all coming down around Donald's ears. And the only thing he knows how to do is go to war -- with everybody. Soon the derisive laughter will be universal. 

Image: Mane 'n Tail

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Hopeless -- And Dangerous

When John Kelly took over as Donald Trump's Chief of Staff, many hoped that he would impose much needed discipline on the president. Monday's reworking of Trump's initial statement on Charlottesville had Kelly's fingerprints all over it. But, yesterday, we witnessed yet again how long Mr. Trump can be disciplined. This morning's New York Times editorializes:

Gone was the measured tone that the president’s aides had talked him into on Monday, when he said “racism is evil” and appeared to distance himself from his earlier claims about shared responsibility for the violence. In its place was a high-decibel defense of his original position, to which he added the claim that while there were “bad people” and “very fine people” on both sides, the “very, very violent” protesters on the “alt-left” who came “charging in without a permit” were at least as culpable as the neo-Nazi protesters.
In so doing, Mr. Trump took up many of the talking points of the white nationalists and far-right activists who have been complaining that the news media and the political establishment do not pay enough attention to leftists who call themselves anti-fascists. He also sympathized with the demonstrators’ demand — the announced reason for their rally — that Robert E. Lee’s statue in a Charlottesville park be saved. “Is it George Washington next week? And is it Thomas Jefferson the week after?” However deep their flaws, though, Washington and Jefferson are memorialized as heroes of American freedom, whereas Lee symbolizes violent division. It was hardly a surprise, then, that David Duke, the former Ku Klux Klan leader, tweeted to thank the president for his “honesty & courage” in denouncing “leftist terrorists.”

Some are still trying to put lipstick on this pig. But yesterday confirmed that exercise is hopeless. And that Donald Trump is a very dangerous man.

Image: Pinterest

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Is NAFTA Dead?

Andrew Coyne's conservative soul was perturbed by what Chrystia Freeland said yesterday:

I said we should be prepared to walk away from the negotiations. I didn’t say we should deliberately sandbag them from the outset.

The government of Canada has at last revealed its objectives for talks on renegotiating the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), a month after the Trump administration released its own. Of course, the nature of any such exercise is to reveal as much about each side’s perceptions of the other’s negotiating position; it makes no sense to come to the table with demands that haven’t a ghost of a chance of being accepted.

What particularly stuck in Coyne's craw was the Trudeau government's insistence that climate change, gender and indigenous rights be put on the table: "But do Trudeau’s people really think the Trumpians could be induced to accept bringing climate change into it? And gender? And Indigenous rights?"

Coyne suspects that the Liberals are betting that the talks will fail:

Of three possible outcomes — a successful conclusion to the negotiations, leading to an agreement between the three countries on a renewed NAFTA; failure, followed by Trump making good on his threat to abrogate the treaty; and failure, unaccompanied by abrogation — the third may well be the most likely.

Congress would have to approve Trump's backing out of the treaty -- and these days Congress disapproves of just about everything that Trump does. Canadians might not get their wish list. But Trump wouldn't get his, either.

Image: CNN Money

Monday, August 14, 2017

A Fake American

 Sarah Palin used to say that she spoke for "real Americans." Paul Krugman writes:

She meant rural and small-town residents — white residents, it went without saying — who supposedly embodied the nation’s true essence.

She was harshly condemned for those remarks, and rightly so — and not just because the real, real America is a multiracial, multicultural land of great metropolitan areas as well as small towns. More fundamentally, what makes America America is that it is built around an idea: the idea that all men are created equal, and are entitled to basic human rights. Take away that idea and we’re just a giant version of a two-bit autocracy.

Donald Trump's supporters showed up in Charlottesville over the weekend -- David Duke confirmed that fact. And Trump refused to condemn them. So what do these events tell us about the president? First, put them in context:

The man who began his political ascent by falsely questioning Barack Obama’s place of birth — a blood-and-soil argument if ever there was one — clearly cares nothing about the openness and inclusiveness that have always been essential parts of who we are as a nation.

But the present occupant of the White House has made no secret of preferring the company, not of democratic leaders, but of authoritarian rulers — not just Vladimir Putin, but people like Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdoganor Rodrigo Duterte, the homicidal leader of the Philippines. When Trump visited Saudi Arabia, his commerce secretary exulted in the absence of hostile demonstrations, an absence ensured by the repressiveness of the regime.

Trump's reaction to the events of the past weekend confirm that, despite his claim that he speaks for "real Americans," Trump isn't one:

Real Americans expect public officials to be humbled by the responsibility that comes with the job. They’re not supposed to be boastful blowhards, constantly claiming credit for things they haven’t done — like Trump bragging about job creation that has continued at more or less the same pace as under his predecessor — or which never even happened, like his mythical victory in the popular vote.

Real Americans understand that being a powerful public figure means facing criticism. That comes with the job, and you’re supposed to tolerate that criticism even if you feel it’s unfair. Foreign autocrats may rage against unflattering news reports, threaten to inflict financial harm on publications they dislike, talk about imprisoning journalists; American leaders aren’t supposed to sound like that.
 Donald Trump is what he has always been -- a fraud. He is a fake American.

Update: Apparently, the quotation I used in this morning's graphic is false. Sarah Palin did talk about real Americans. But she did not make that outrageous statement about her nation's first peoples. I apologize for the error. I have replaced the graphic.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Bigotry And Fake History

What happened in Charlottesville, Virginia this weekend provides a vivid reminder of who and what propelled Donald Trump into the White House. Michael Eric Dyson writes:

In attendance was white separatist David Duke, who declared that the alt-right unity fiasco “fulfills the promises of Donald Trump.” In the meantime, Mr. Trump responded by offering false equivalencies between white bigots and their protesters. His soft denunciations of hate ring hollow when he has white nationalist advisers like Steve Bannon and Stephen Miller whispering in his ear.

Their anger at the removal of a statue of Robert E. Lee is rooted in a misreading of American history -- a misreading which justifies a bigotocracy:

This bigotocracy overlooks fundamental facts about slavery in this country: that blacks were stolen from their African homeland to toil for no wages in American dirt. When black folk and others point that out, white bigots are aggrieved. They are especially offended when it is argued that slavery changed clothes during Reconstruction and got dressed up as freedom, only to keep menacing black folk as it did during Jim Crow. The bigotocracy is angry that slavery is seen as this nation’s original sin. And yet they remain depressingly and purposefully ignorant of what slavery was, how it happened, what it did to us, how it shaped race and the air and space between white and black folk, and the life and arc of white and black cultures.

They cling to a faded Southern aristocracy whose benefits — of alleged white superiority, and moral and intellectual supremacy — trickled down to ordinary whites. If they couldn’t drink from the cup of economic advantage that white elites tasted, at least they could sip what was left of a hateful ideology: at least they weren’t black. The renowned scholar W.E.B. Du Bois called this alleged sense of superiority the psychic wages of whiteness. President Lyndon Baines Johnson once argued, “If you can convince the lowest white man he’s better than the best colored man, he won’t notice you’re picking his pocket. Hell, give him somebody to look down on, and he’ll empty his pockets for you.”
We have a bigoted billionaire-cum-president who has done precious little for the white working class whose resentment fueled his rise. They have emptied their ethical and economic pockets in support of him even though he turned his back on them the moment he entered the Oval Office. The only remnant of his leadership they have to hold on to is the folklore of white nationalist sentiment, and xenophobic passion, that offer them psychic comfort if little financial stability.

William Faulkner understood that faded and corrupt dream very well. His novels are full of characters who are warped, violent and pathetic. It seems that not much has changed since his day -- except that today a Faulknerian character occupies the White House.

Image: Mother Jones

Saturday, August 12, 2017

On The Edge Of The Abyss

From the chair he occupies at McMaster University, Henry Giroux comments on what is happening in the United States. As Donald Trump edges closer to a confrontation with North Korea, Giroux's take on Trump rings truer than ever:

Ignorance is a terrible wound when it is self-inflicted, but it becomes a dangerous plague when the active refusal to know combines with power. President Trump’s lies, lack of credibility, woefully deficient knowledge of the world, and unbridled narcissism have suggested for some time that he lacks the intelligence, judgment and capacity for critical thought necessary to occupy the presidency of the United States. But when coupled with his childish temperament, his volatile impetuousness and his Manichaean conception of a world—a reductionist binary that only views the world in term of friends and enemies, loyalists and traitors—his ignorance translates into a confrontational style that puts lives, if not the entire planet, at risk.

Trump’s seemingly frozen and dangerous fundamentalism, paired with his damaged ethical sensibility, suggests that we are dealing with a form of nihilistic politics in which the relationship between the search for truth and justice on the one hand and moral responsibility and civic courage on the other has disappeared. For the past few decades, as historian Richard Hofstadter and others have reminded us, politics has been disconnected not only from reason but also from any viable notion of meaning and civic literacy. Government now runs on willful ignorance as the planet heats up, pollution increases and people die. Evidence is detached from argument. Science is a subspecies of “fake news,” and alternative facts are as important as the truth. Violence becomes both the catalyst and the result of the purposeful effort to empty language of any meaning. 

Words -- and truth -- mean nothing to Trump:

Anyone who communicates intelligently is now part of the “fake news” world that Trump has invented. Language is now forced into the service of violence. Impetuousness and erratic judgment have become central to Trump’s leadership, one that is as ill-informed as it is unstable. Trump has ushered in a kind of anti-politics and mode of governance in which any vestige of informed judgment and thought is banished as soon as it appears. His rigid, warlike mentality has created an atmosphere in the United States in which dialogue is viewed as a weakness and compromise understood as personal failing.

The United States is in deep trouble. But now -- thanks to Trump --  we all are in deep trouble.

Image: The Telegraph

Friday, August 11, 2017

Soft Power Works

While Donald Trump was threatening North Korea with "fire and fury," Canada secured the release of one of its citizens -- Hyeon Soo Lim -- from the Hermit Kingdom. Michael Harris writes that Justin Trudeau could have torn a page out of Donald Trump's playbook:

Trudeau could have jabbed back. He could have said that North Korea was being run by a dictator in training pants, a misguided, vicious child trying to ape the dubious accomplishments of his autocratic father and grandfather. He could have asked what else one could expect from someone who has his own people executed with an anti-aircraft gun. He could have said Kim was a madman with whom Canada would have nothing to do unless Lim was released on our terms. But he didn’t.
Instead, Trudeau went about the business of securing Lim’s release quietly. The PM employed his national security adviser, Daniel Jean. The Canadian group that went to work on the task teamed up with the Swedish diplomatic mission inside North Korea, where only 24 countries have embassies. Canada is not one of them.
Sweden functions as a ‘protective power’ for Canada in North Korea; in other words, it assumes consular responsibilities there for our citizens, like Lim.

Trudeau was not turning a new page. He was operating from an old Canadian playbook:

This country invented UN peacekeeping. Lester Pearson won the Nobel Prize for preventing the Suez Crisis from turning into a wider regional war in the Middle East. Though this is less well-known, Pearson also kept Canada out of the Vietnam War (just as Jean Chrétien kept this country out of the disastrous Iraq War that Stephen Harper was so anxious to fight).

But perhaps the person Trump could learn the most from when it comes to avoiding violent solutions is General John de Chastelain, a former Canadian chief of the defence staff and the man who helped broker peace between the Irish Republican Army and the Ulster Defence Force in Northern Ireland.
As it happened, I was attending school in Dublin during one of the deadlier phases of the battle between the IRA and the UDF. Back then, the conventional wisdom was that there was no bridge to peace in the seemingly endless cycle of sectarian violence between Catholics and Protestants.

But through two years of patience and diplomacy, de Chastelain and others came up with a plan to put an end to the Troubles — the so-called Good Friday Agreement of 1998. The deal was strongly endorsed in referenda held in the 26-county Republic of Ireland and the six counties of Northern Ireland. Where guns and bombs had failed, diplomats succeeded — through faith, hard work and goodwill.

Soft power works. But it takes time, patience and intelligence -- qualities which the current President of the United States clearly lacks.


Thursday, August 10, 2017

We Cannot Afford Him

Andrew Coyne writes that, for those who thought -- despite his flaws -- Donald Trump would be a better occupant of the White House than Hillary Clinton, the truth has come home to roost:

Those who had convinced themselves that, whatever Trump’s manifest unfitness for office, “at least he isn’t Hillary,” if they had not already repented of their folly over the previous six months, must surely do so now. (He said with no conviction whatever.) The presidency is not a ceremonial post; neither is it a program of policy. It is a command centre, with decisions to be made, many on short notice, sometimes with the most profound consequences. All of the U.S. Constitution’s careful separation of powers and checks and balances — though thank God for them — cannot erase the awful power of the office. Only Congress can declare war, but a president can sure start one. 

Granted, dealing with North Korea is a Gordian Knot that has defied solution:

Dealing with North Korea would tax the abilities of the ablest of presidents, and has. Trump cannot be blamed for the regime’s having acquired nuclear weapons: that was the legacy of previous presidents of both parties, whose concessions and bribes had no more effect on its actions than Trump’s threats. But now that it has nukes, it demands the most delicate and assured handling, one requiring deep experience in matters of state, subtle understanding of human nature, judgment, fortitude and sang-froid.

Having an occupant who is clearly unqualified and temperamentally unsuited for the job underscores the fact that it matters who occupies the White House:

Much speculation has surrounded Trump’s mental state, but as a madman he is not in Kim’s league. He is, rather, a fairly conventional bunkum artist — more unprincipled than most, to be sure, indeed seemingly unburdened by any commitment to fact, but ultimately a transparent bluffer. For all his attempt to play the bully, Trump can no more be counted on to deliver on a threat than a promise. Recall how his first bits of bravado, the suggestion that he might recognize Taiwan, or move the U.S. embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, ended: dropped at the first hint of pushback.

At this late stage in the planet's evolution, we cannot afford to have a monumental bunkum artist in the Oval Office.

Image: Merriam-Webster

Wednesday, August 09, 2017

The Big Bang Is Not A Theory

North Korea and the United States have reached a moment of truth. David Ignatius writes:

If Washington and Beijing manage to stay together in dealing with Pyongyang, the door opens on a new era in which China will play a larger and more responsible role in global affairs, commensurate with its economic power. If the great powers can’t cooperate, the door will slam shut — possibly triggering a catastrophic military conflict on the Korean Peninsula. 

Donald Trump's threat to unleash "fire and fury" has not helped:

The U.S. threat may be a bluff, but with Trump, you never know. Top U.S. officials understand that a preemptive war against North Korea could result in horrendous loss of life and a post-conflict outcome that would be worse for all parties. But when national security adviser H.R. McMaster says that a nuclear-armed North Korea is “intolerable” to Trump, one should assume he means it — and that he is preparing a menu of military options. 

We are edging to the brink -- and the future is uncertain:

North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho said Monday, in reaction to the U.N. vote and Chinese-American calls for talks: “We will under no circumstances put the nukes and ballistic rockets on the negotiating table.” Is he bluffing? Again, we don’t know.

The Defense Intelligence Agency concluded late last month that North Korea has mastered the technology for a miniaturized nuclear warhead that could sit atop a missile that could hit the United States, according to The Post. A white paper by Japan’s defense ministry reached a similar conclusion and warned that the nuclear threat was now an imminent problem.  

Some commentators call this a "catalytic moment." Things are speeding up. But what the world is speeding to is anyone's guess. Pessimist that I am, I'm not hopeful. I am certain of one thing: the big bang is not a theory.

Image: The Royal Secret

Tuesday, August 08, 2017

The Worst Is Yet To Come

So you think that with Trump gone it will be morning in American again? Think again. Paul Mason writes:

The scenario being touted in Democrat circles is that Trump tries and fails to sack Mueller, one or more suspects gets immunity and the beans are spilled. Trump then either resigns or is impeached. Mike Pence becomes president. Only then do we get to know what the rightwing billionaires behind the project really want. Because Trump was never their first pick: for the first six months of his campaign, the main elite donor to the Trump campaign was Donald J Trump himself. It was only when the religious conservative Ted Cruz failed to ignite the masses that ultra-rightwing business money switched to Trump.

The Koch Brothers let it be known that they and their network weren't backing Trump:

Even then the Koch brothers, who have funded rightwing pressure groups to the tune of $400m (£307m), kept their distance until their ally Pence was installed as Trump’s running mate. If Pence becomes president it will be the true moment of revelation. All the 3am garbage tweeted by Trump, all the waffle that comes out of his mouth at rallies, will be seen as the surrealist prologue to the main event. But what is the main event?

Pence is where they want him -- poised to take over at the appropriate time: The Kochs and their confederates have two objectives:

One, most clearly associated with the Koch brothers, is best described by its adopted euphemism: “income defence”. It sees every dollar of the US’s $19tn debt as a future claim on the profits of private enterprise; it wants low taxation and – as Trump backer Robert Mercer is once reported to have said – a state “shrunken down to the size of a pinhead”

The other side of far-right ideology, by contrast, wants a repressive state, imposed conservative social norms and – if necessary – an eviscerated constitution to achieve it. If we analyse Trump through his actions, rather than his garbled words, it is political illiberalism that has won out during the first seven months of his presidency. When a judge blocked his Muslim immigration ban, he attacked the judiciary’s constitutional role. When the press revealed malfeasance, he labelled them “enemies of the American people”. When James Comey refused Trump’s appeals for “loyalty”, he was sacked.

Pence has long stood for those two objectives. And he's willing to drive full bore to achieve them. The worst is yet to come.


Monday, August 07, 2017


Anyway you look at it, Michael Harris writes, Donald Trump is a fascist. You can't pussyfoot your way around that conclusion:

I use the word fascist advisedly. If we are to square up to the facts, what other way is there to describe Trump? Mussolini, whom Trump unabashedly quoted during the presidential election campaign, said that “fascism should rightly be called corporatism, as it is the merger of corporate and government power.”

Could there be a better description of the Trump cabinet than that? A collection of billionaires representing the corporate elite in the United States, who now also control the levers of political power – often without relinquishing their business conflicts?

Trump refuses to recognize the independence of the other branches of the American government:

Someone has apparently forgotten to tell the president that under the system of checks and balances in U.S. governance, the Senate is “co-equal” with the executive branch. But then fascists don’t lose much sleep violating the constitution.

Nor did Trump hesitate to violate the independence of the Department of Justice. The president lambasted his own attorney general for not undertaking criminal investigations into government leaks and the alleged crimes of Hillary Clinton. It is not the president’s job to direct criminal prosecutions.

And it is certainly not Trump’s job to tell Special Counsel Robert Mueller what he may or may not investigate when it comes to the Trump campaign/Russia connection. There is an old saying in law: you can’t be judge in your own cause, something fascists specialize in.

Trump's ignorance of the American Constitution -- which he is supposed to "protect and defend" -- is appalling.  But his drive for absolute control makes him truly dangerous. And those who have  enabled him, bear as much responsibility for the tragedy which has befallen the United States as he does:

Remember what Rick Perry said when he was running against Donald Trump for the Republican Party presidential nomination?

“Donald Trump’s candidacy is a cancer on conservatism, and it must be clearly diagnosed, excised and discarded.”

A year and a half later, Perry accepted the job as Trump’s energy secretary. Power corrupts.

Macaulay was right. Absolute power corrupts absolutely.

Image: Discogs

Sunday, August 06, 2017

Empowering Labour

NAFTA is going to be re-negotiated. That's fine with Linda McQuaig, so long as workers get a piece of the action. She writes:

In reality, NAFTA has been key to the transformation of Canada over the last two decades, enabling corporations to become ever more dominant economically and politically, while rendering our labour force increasingly vulnerable and insecure.

Indeed, the much-lamented rise in income inequality and feelings of powerlessness among working Canadians aren’t mysterious consequences of participating in the global economy. Rather, they’re the predictable consequences of our country signing a trade deal that greatly empowers corporations and their investors at the expense of everyone else.

The agreement's twenty year history makes it abundantly clear that corporations are in the driver's seat:

Gus Van Harten, an Osgoode Hall law professor and expert in international investment law, says NAFTA provides “Exhibit A for how rules of the global economy have been rewritten to favour large corporations and the superrich at the expense of the general public.”

Van Harten is referring to NAFTA’s Investor-State-Dispute-Settlement (ISDS) mechanism which, amazingly, allows foreign corporations to sue governments over laws that interfere with corporate profitability — even if those laws are aimed at protecting the public from, say, environmental or health risks.
These corporate lawsuits are adjudicated by special tribunals — notoriously sympathetic to corporate interests — that can force governments to pay the corporations compensation (out of our taxpayer dollars!) There’s no cap on the size of the awards.

Canada has already been sued this way 39 times, and paid out more than $190 million, with the money mostly going to major corporations and extremely wealthy investors, notes Van Harten. In addition, we don’t know how many times governments have backed off from introducing laws, to avoid provoking a NAFTA lawsuit.

The problem is that the push to empower labour won't come from the Americans: 

But proposals that ISDS be eliminated are unlikely to win support from, for instance, Rex Tillerson, U.S. Secretary of State and former CEO of ExxonMobil, which won $14 million from Canada in a NAFTA lawsuit.

And Trump, a billionaire whose companies (along with daughter Ivanka’s fashion business) routinely outsource work to low-wage jurisdictions, clearly has no interest in tampering with the wildly pro-corporate rules of NAFTA.

And Justin Trudeau doesn't advocate changing the balance of power -- despite his rhetoric. So the push to empower labour will have to come from elsewhere.

Image: SlidePlayer

Saturday, August 05, 2017

A Failure In Retrospect

Now that the Republicans have failed to repeal Obamacare, Paul Krugman puts that failure in perspective. Obamacare failed because the Republicans' attempts to sabotage it really ticked people off:

I’m talking about the people who screamed at their congressional representatives in town halls. People like, for example, the man who pushed his wheelchair-bound son, who was suffering from cerebral palsy, in front of a congressman, yelling that President Obama’s health care plan would provide the boy with “no care whatsoever” and would be a “death sentence.”

The reality, of course, is that people with pre-existing medical conditions are among the A.C.A.’s biggest beneficiaries, and would have had the most to lose if conservative Republicans had managed to repeal the law. And this should have been obvious from the beginning.

Beyond that, it’s now clear (as should also have been clear from the beginning) that very few people other than wealthy taxpayers were hurt by health reform, which was designed to disrupt existing health arrangements as little as possible.

Put bluntly, the Republican Party has been focused exclusively on the agenda favoured by the wealthiest Americans. And that focus has driven the party off the rails.

A word to the wise.


Friday, August 04, 2017

Showdown At The Washington Corral

Tony Burman has reached several conclusions about the Trump presidency. The first is that it will come to a bad end. The second is that Trump is in the pocket of the Russian mob. The third is that the end of the Trump presidency will be a existential challenge to American democracy:

We are now getting a much clearer sense of where this high-stakes drama is heading. The details may change but the contours of this epic chapter in American political history are beginning to emerge.

Although it has been another head-spinning week, perhaps the most important disclosure was a Washington Post story (notwithstanding reports that Mueller empanelled a grand jury to probe Russia’s ties to the 2016 campaign). The story suggested how centrally involved Donald Trump has become in the expanding inquiry about his secret connections with Russia.

Trump will do everything he can to stop the Mueller investigation:

Increasingly, it appears that the Mueller investigation will help answer that question by examining the close but largely secret relationship between the Trump empire and Russian financial interests.
According to leaks, it has only been in recent days that Trump has realized that this Mueller probe, if not stopped, may even include an examination of his tax returns that he has been so stubborn to keep secret.

A revealing preview of what Mueller is undoubtedly discovering was featured as the extensive cover story of September’s issue of the U.S. magazine New Republic. Written by investigative journalist Craig Unger, the story was titled: “Married to the Mob: What Trump Owes the Russian Mafia.”

Unger was stark in his conclusions: “Whether Trump knew it or not, Russian mobsters and corrupt oligarchs used his properties not only to launder vast sums of money from extortion, drugs, gambling and racketeering, but even as a base of operations for their criminal activities. In the process, they propped up Trump’s business and enabled him to reinvent his image. Without the Russian mafia, it is fair to say, Donald Trump would not be president of the United States.”

And, as Mueller zeros in on Trump, the Great Orange Id will become increasingly dangerous:

Like a cornered rat, he will fight to protect his interests. In every conceivable way, he will work to stop Mueller’s probe, to challenge Congress if it intervenes, to undermine the press and judiciary if they get in the way and — yes — even to engage in reckless military adventures if he thought that would strengthen his position.

We're heading for a showdown at the Washington Corral. 

Image: Hoaxtead Research

Thursday, August 03, 2017

The End Of Democracy

Across the globe, democracy is in trouble. Paul Mason catalogues the places where authoritarians are waging war on democratically elected governments:

A rough inventory of July’s contribution to the global collapse of democracy would include Turkey’s show trial of leading journalists from Cumhuriyet, a major newspaper; Vladimir Putin’s ban on the virtual private networks used by democracy activists to evade censorship; Apple’s decision to pull the selfsame technology from its Chinese app store.

Then there is Hungary’s government-funded poster campaign depicting opposition parties and NGOs as puppets of Jewish billionaire George Soros; Poland’s evisceration of judicial independence and the presidential veto that stopped it. Plus Venezuela’s constituent assembly poll, boycotted by more than half the population amid incipient civil war.

And,of course, south of the border, The Great Orange Id is doing his best to destroy the norms and institutions which buttress American democracy. Most troubling is the yawn these assaults have elicited from ordinary folks:

Let’s be brutal: democracy is dying. And the most startling thing is how few ordinary people are worried about it. Instead we compartmentalise the problem. Americans worried about the present situation typically worry about Trump – not the pliability of the most fetishised constitution in the world to kleptocratic rule. EU politicians express polite diplomatic displeasure, as Erdoğan’s AK party machine attempts to degrade their own democracies. As in the early 1930s, the death of democracy always seems to be happening somewhere else.

The problem is it sets new norms of behaviour. It is no accident that the “enemies of the people” meme is doing the rounds: Orbán uses it against the billionaire George Soros, Trump uses it against the liberal press, China used it to jail the poet Liu Xiaobo and keep him in prison until his death.

Today's autocrats, Mason writes, have become skilled in the art of what he calls "micromanaged non-dissent:"

Erdoğan not only sacked tens of thousands of dissenting academics, and jailed some, but removed their social security rights, revoked their rights to teach, and in some cases to travel. Trump is engaged in a similar micromanagerial attack on so called “sanctuary cities”. About 300 US local governments have pledged – entirely legally – not to collaborate with the federal immigration agency ICE. Last week the US attorney general Jeff Sessions threatened federal grants to these cities’ local justice systems, a move Trump hailed using yet another fashionable technique – the unverified claim.

Trump told a rally of supporters in Ohio that the federal government was in fact “liberating” American cities from immigrant crime gangs. They “take a young, beautiful girl, 16, 15 and others and they slice them and dice them with a knife because they want them to go through excruciating pain before they die”, he said. At school – and I mean primary school – we were taught to greet such claims about racial minorities with the question: “Really? When and where did this happen?” Trump cited no evidence – though the US press managed to find examples in which gang members had indeed hacked each other.

The autocrats know what they're doing. And they're relying on our apathy to succeed.

Image: Bloomberg

Wednesday, August 02, 2017

Is It Time For A Turban?

NDP leadership candidate Jagmeet Singh is generating a lot of press and -- if reports are to be believed -- a lot of financial support. But, Tim Harper writes, party regulars are full of questions about his candidacy:

Many of those same party stalwarts will also confess to a bit of nervousness about Singh, which indicates they see his ascension to the leadership as a gamble, and if these misgivings are not dislodged — or if they mount closer to voting — it will be clear this race is not yet decided.
There are those who wonder whether it is really wise for the party to try to “out-Trudeau” Trudeau.

They will tell you that Singh’s inexperience on the federal level has shown in debates, and he may be finding the jump from provincial politics to the bigger federal stage more difficult than he thought.

He is vulnerable on a policy proposal that would scrap old age security and roll it into a means-tested seniors benefit, breaking party policy on universality.

And, they wonder, should he win, where he would run? There is no such thing as a safe NDP seat left in this country, and many rue the early days of Jack Layton’s reign when a leader without a seat could not break through with voters by perpetually standing in front of a mike in the Commons foyer.

It would be a milestone if the leader of one of the three major political parties wore a turban. And it would test Canadians' legendary tolerance.

Image: Global News

Tuesday, August 01, 2017

No One Left To Sacrifice

Scaramucci's gone -- after ten days. Lucia Graves writes, "Who would want his job?" Consider what he was willing to give up to get it:

His wife reportedly left him for being so “hell-bent” on the White House, relentlessly – and opportunistically – courting Trump after his presidential rise. In January he sold his $11m stake in SkyBridge Capital in anticipation of a White House job.

Whether the details of the divorce report are true, what’s clear is he was willing to sacrifice everything: family, finance, reputation. It’s the same win-at-all-costs drive we’ve seen displayed repeatedly in Trump.

Now, even Harvard Law's alumni directory has him marked as deceased. All in all, it wasn't a good week for Scaramucci. But consider the man he went to work for -- and where he chose to go to work. Trump will sacrifice anyone at anytime to avoid responsibility for his own mistakes.

Today, the Washington Post  is reporting that Trump personally helped craft Don Jr.'s account of his meeting with Russian operatives. More Trump hires will walk the plank -- until there is no one left to sacrifice.

Image: Seeking Alpha