Now comes the hard part for young Justin Trudeau. Canada seems to be breathing an audible sigh of relief today as he presented the new cabinet of the Justin Trudeau regime. Young Trudeau sports a Haida tattoo on his shoulder, which seems to have been accepted by the First Nations peoples (that’s what Canadians now call the people they used to call Indians, a word somewhat taboo in Canada now) because his father was adopted into the tribe. And Justin just appointed an aboriginal woman as Attorney General who has been both a crown prosecutor and the top chief of British Columbia First Nations for relations with Ottawa. This move on its own is certain to dramatically alter the increasingly poor relations between indigenous peoples and Ottawa under the last regime. In this case you could almost hear the thunderous applause of First Nations members from coast to coast, as they can finally see that their legitimate concerns with the law would now be judged by one of their own. Trudeau named 15 men and 15 women to his cabinet, fulfilling a promise of gender equality that he made at a time when no one thought he would win. (In the Obama government women make up 25% of the cabinet). He included 3 First Nations people, 3 East Indians, two of them turbaned Sikhs highlighted by the new Minister of Defence, a former soldier and policeman who looks like a very tough guy, 1 Afghani=born refugee and 1 Inuit.
When asked why he has constructed such a cabinet, Justin simply answered, “because it’s 2015” which also seems like a good way to start trying to deal with the uncomfortable current world scenario. The whole country seems to be breathing a sigh of relief. One of the almost periphery things that this election did was to reverse the growing two solitudes between Quebec and ROC as there is now a completely bilingual prime minister, a very French, very intelligent and very experienced foreign minister, Stephane Dion, and several high-level cabinet ministers who took the oath first in French. The separatist movement for an independent Quebec, which almost won a referendum 20 years ago, has very probably been laid to rest for good with the Trudeau win.
One thing that seems clear is that the relationship between the US and its largest trading partner, Canada, has been very poor during the Obama years. Some say it may well be that Obama simply didn’t like Harper, but that surely can’t explain why the President spent almost no time in his neighbouring country, in any case much less than any of his recent predecessors. Journalists reckon it was a total of seven hours, most of them at international meetings held in Canada. And it surely didn’t help that Obama appointed a Chicago fundraiser for the Democrats to be the Ambassador and he made himself so unwelcome playing the role of the ugly American that he did not have access to members of the cabinet, never mind the Prime Minister, during his term.
Justin is already being warned to try avoid the fate of Obama, who came to power at about the same age but somehow never figured out how to use it well. The US seems to have such a chaotic legislature nowadays, almost a defunct political system, that poor Obama may have had no chance. But there are many who think he’ll go down as something of a disappointment no matter what happens now. There is good reason to hope that Justin will do better, if only because he will not have to deal with a strange and defiant opposition determined to make his plans unworkable. There are also many who would argue that it is unfair to blame the current dramatic decline of the US position in global affairs on Obama alone but to rather put the most blame on the elected legislature that worked so hard to block all his laudatory efforts. But what should we then conclude about the country that elected the legislature that seems to have become almost unmanageable at a time when Canada seems to be finding its way again through an election. Surely it would be a good idea for these two young leaders to have some friendly talks together, and try to get North America working together again instead of continually at odds, as has been the case with its two biggest countries over the last decade.5 Comments
When the debate is lost, slander becomes the tool of the loser(s). Socrates
There has been much mindless toing and froing among the literati and iliterati about the GOP debate that was interrupted – some say ruined – by actual questions directed at the participants. Some say the questions were “snarky”; others that they were – “gotcha” questions (a la Sarah Palin). Then there were some who said they did not really matter since none of the candidates answered any of the questions asked, choosing instead to launch unarmed missiles at the questioners. This has led to an opportunity for the mainstream media to cut off its collective balls and run. which to a large extent they have done.
GOP candidates want to be treated with a respect they have not earned but might actually earn if they found the courage to answer directly and honestly questions. And if they are offended by the questions to answer them anyway. Anyone who watched the Benghazi hearings saw a lesson in intelligence and intellectual courage and patience in the face of some of the stupidest questions anyone could come up with. Seems like Ms. Clinton provided a lesson in grace under pressure while the Republican candidates have provided a lesson in cowardice in the face of facts.
So given that the Republican candidates could stop being whining crybabies and put on their big boy (or girl) pants and answer some semi-tough questions, what about the press? Do your job: report on them, call them out, do not let them get away with their fatuous BS, and defend whatever integrity you have retained. Let Faux News carry their debates and then simply report on them – honestly and toughly.No Comments
Why it seems just yesterday that Canada’s premier Prime Minister of the Twentieth Century, Pierre Trudeau, managed to produce two sons on different Christmas Days and the country watched the first of them, Justin, turn into an adventurous young man (just like his Dad) who would travel widely, live for quite awhile in beautiful Vancouver, where he taught English and theatre at a local school, and enter politics as an MP from a francophone riding in Montréal. He certainly went far beyond what was expected of him in his first campaign as the leader of the Liberal Party, which in the last decade has been declared dead in the water by many political experts, as it slipped into third place in the last election, and seemed to be following middle-of the r0ad liberal parties in Germany, the UK, Scandinavia and elsewhere into oblivion, squeezed out in the face of competition between right wing and left wing parties with more profiled platforms. In the last election, Michael Ignatieff, surely the most prominent intellectual running for headhonchoship of a country lately proved completely incapable of putting his ideas across to the general public, and the Liberal Party was reduced in Quebec to a small rump representation in anglophone parts of Montreal and in British Columbia to two Vancouver ridings. Times were tough.
Enter Justin, who, as it turned out, at the very least has a way with a crowd that hasn’t been seen in Canada since the days of Pierre, although some would suggest that Brian Mulroney, who was asked by Nancy Reagan to give the eulogy for Ronald (imagine that these days when the President of the United States has spent 7 hours in 7 years in his neighbouring largest trading partner. This time the Liberals sent a young man with a big old name out into the ring. He was mocked and branded by the ruling Conservatives as a lightweight who should try again in a decade or two. When he responded by challenging the largest Conservative politician in Ottawa, an aboriginal Senator, to a boxing match, he was warned to not risk his body on such a dangerous mission and then promptly knocked the Senator out in the first round. When the Conservatives cleverly said that they’d consider him to have overachieved if he showed up at the first national debate in long pants, he kept his short pants on long enough to lead a bevy of reporters up the classic Grouse Grind mountain challenge in Vancouver, leaving almost all of them gasping for breath in his wake. Youth and athleticism does, as it turns out, have its charms. In the debate, he proved to be at least the equal of his two perfectly intelligent rivals, one from the right and one from the left. In short he had the opportunity to display in the longest campaign in Canadian history (8 weeks!, as Amurcans might note as they suffer through the torture of 2 year-long campaigns) that he not only had the physical stamina of his father, who could throw a canoe up on his shoulders and paddle through whitewater rapids in his sixties. He also seemed to have at least a reasonable percentage of the brain power of Dad. The jury is still out on this, but many have pointed out that Papa had the smarts to fill his cabinet with the best experts in the most important areas of national concern, something which the outgoing Prime Minister failed to do in spades. In his first conversation with Obama, Trudeau informed Obama that Canada would recall its fighter jets from the US-led mission in Iraq and Syria, so he is listening to a different drummer than the outgoing regime was.
So the next months will be very interesting as the second-largest country in the world is fronted by a young very attractive leader who will at the very least put a new tone on relations with his own people and other heads of state, and Canadians are hoping that that new tone will distinguish Canada’s return to its long-held former position as a reliable, independent, tolerant and sensible middle power.
Angela Merkel, one of the world’s most powerful women, appears on the surface to have a dual personality. On the one hand she has dealt a very tough hand to Greece through the German-led austerity program, a program that has not led to improvement in Greece’s economic situation while harming the Greek people immeasurably. On the other hand she has been the strongest voice in Europe for a compassionate, human rights program to assist refugees from the Middle East conflicts. While the Greek austerity program is politically popular in Germany, her proposed refugee program has mixed support among German voters, especially mixed among those in the former East Germany. And while she has had to back off from her initial willingness to accept signifiant numbers of refugees, she is apparently sticking to the basic effort to address the issue, and pulling the rest of the EU along with her.
While forced Greek austerity and welcoming refugees seem to come from very different places, it can be argued that they are both viewed by many in Germany as being in the country’s national interests. But it is perhaps better to view them in terms of her domestic political interests. There is a strong impulse among Germans to punish the Greeks for their past sins of profligacy as well as a view that hard working Germans should not be paying to bail out Greece. The refugees present a human rights issue that many Germans view as an opportunity to do the right thing, while also satisfying Germany’s need for workers in the face of the country’s falling birthrate. But as the numbers of refugees heading to Germany increases beyond original expectations Merkel is now risking a loss in her domestic political support. But having criticized her for her austerity policy it seems fair to give her credit for taking on the refugee issue in a humane and positive way, despite growing domestic uneasiness.
In addition to these major challenges Merkel is now faced with the the unpleasant story of Volkswagen’s deceit in hiding the true polluting effects of its diesel engines. The thought of Germany’s largest and most successful corporation knowingly poisoning the air people breath and hiding the fact of it has an especially ugly resonance and just might force Germans to look in their mirrors before forcing Greeks to continue to accept the destruction of their economy. While this introduces another tough issue for Merkel, I would not bet against her. Her political skills and instincts are simply too impressive to ignore.No Comments
In about 13 months the U.S. will have elected a new president. That is a long time away, but already it is not going well, with a Republican field of fact-resistant candidates and a Democrat field led by a candidate with a couple of self inflicted wounds. There is no useful purpose running through a list of candidates that until recently included a governor under indictment, another governor looking at possible indictment, a third who dropped out after his poll numbers disappeared, a couple of religious hustlers – one protestant, one catholic – a woman campaigning on a record of running a major U.S.company into the ground, a Southern governor who has destroyed his state’s education and health programs to kiss down to the GOP base, a former Lehman Bros. operative running on – yes! – economic expertise, a brain surgeon with zero political experience, and a narcissistic TV loudmouth.
Some initially saw the GOP race as an entertainment but with all candidates given a degree of credibility strange things can happen. And the press tends to provide that credibility to practically any candidate, regardless of their tenuous grasp of reality.
It is easy to criticize the press. While no one is innocent, culpability does vary from source to source. It is silly to complain about Fox News – serious news is not what they do. They are a propaganda machine and they feed the beast and are good at it. MSNBC serves a similar function for the left, with the important exception that people like Rachel Maddow and Chris Hayes (an actual journalist) maintain an attachment to facts and reality.
But what about the “serious” “objective” press, like the Washington Post, the NY Times and subscriber supported PBS Newshour? Would a serious press treat Trump seriously? Well, as it turns out – yes. His poll numbers are up therefore he gets an if not free, at least reduced fare, ride. Is there any reason to report that when Trump says we need to remove 11 million people from the U.S. he is suggesting an impossibility? Is there any reason when reporting that Carly Fiorina wants to defund Planned Parenthood because she claims to have viewed a video of alive babies being slaughtered by PP not to mention that no such video exists? Are climate change deniers entitled to a free ride away from scientific fact? Candidates’ statements typically are reported without filters of facts partly because it contributes to the narrative of political campaigns as horseraces and allows journalists to produce words without doing the real work of journalism.
Monday is “politics night” on the PBS Newshour and last Monday their panel discussed the current GOP race and with a wink wink here, and a wink wink there, they disposed of Wisconsin Governor Walker’s removal from the race without discussing his real policy and personal deficiencies, which are considerable. It was the horserace – he could not raise enough money they said – well, there might be a reason for that and maybe that could be discussed. Stories like Walker’s claim that he is saving Wisconsin’s education system by cutting the state’s premier University’s budget and spending the money instead on a basketball arena, and Carly Fiorina’s manufactured story on Planned Parenthood are reported without comment. Overall too many journalists seem to believe that they are not to call a lie a lie when the liar is an”important” politician. And in the name of “balance” they seem too often to be able to find someone able to make up facts to denigrate Planned Parenthood or deny climate change.
PBS Newshour does a fine job when they bring in real expert analysts but they have a tendency to head toward the on-the-one-hand-this, on-the-other-hand-that face offs, sometimes providing opposing party politicians air time to exhibit what is frequently an appalling lack of substance, apparently aimed at pleasing their bases. Newspapers are improving their approach to analysis by opening opportunities for experts to write focussed oped pieces that frequently serve as correctives to developing myths. We would all benefit from more of this and less timid acceptance of all that comes out of a politician’s mouth.2 Comments
Like the fate of Humpy Dumpty, the decline and fall of the European Union – an event that has been long predicted by Euroskeptics – seems to be gathering steam from the southern Hungarian border to the English Channel. It is actually too early to proclaim that the Union, that had been so remarkably successful in tearing down the previously carefully guarded national borders of Europe, is just about to fall, but it has certainly moved closer to the edge, and if it goes over it is certain that all the king’s horses and all the king’s men will never put Humpty Europe together again. And neutral observers are watching in horror as the walls between European states are being put back up, only 27 years after the fall of the Berlin Wall. And it is not because of the economic crisis that threatened European unity in the face of the prospect of Greek bankruptcy (see the contribution of Mr. Jeff of July 14) which certainly didn’t help any sense of a united Europe, but was salvageable through masses amounts of money and also did not include the states that maintained their own currency, notably the UK and Scandinavia (minus Finland)
Now the fall is much more imminent because the arrival of hundreds of thousands of refugees – including many from the Balkans who are really economic refugees, and no doubt a fair number of potential terrorists from the war-torn Middle East and Africa – has literally torn away the platitudes that speak of European unity. For good reasons, the refugees want to end up in Germany or Sweden, or perhaps Austria, the only countries that have indicated they would welcome them, But to get there they would have to get across the dangerous Hungarian-Serbian border that is now clearly marked with a razor-blade fence. The United Kingdom, which never signed the Schengen accord that opened European borders, has been markedly uninterested in providing safe haven that is remotely similar to its actions during World War Two. Smaller wealthy countries like the Netherlands and Denmark have disrupted travel into or through their borders. Sweden, Denmark, the Netherlands, France and others are understandably very unhappy with the inevitable growth on their soil of very right wing anti-immigrant parties. Amazingly, 70 years after the war that it organized and lost catastrophically, only Germany (and perhaps Sweden) has made a convincing public stand that it would welcome open borders for the refugees.
This is no doubt to a large extent because of the convincing insistence of its leader, Angela Merkel, the daughter of a Lutheran pastor in East Germany, that it is its moral duty to show a human face to desperate people in need. But Germany too now seems to be reaching its breaking point as it foresees as many as 1 million refugees arriving on its soil by the end of the year and has made no progress in getting other European countries, other than Sweden, to share the burden. While a very right wing party still seems out of the question in once fascist-controlled Germany, the prospect of a truly welcoming arrival for so many refugees in one country also seems more and more to be a naive prognosis. Germany too will have a great deal of domestic (and economic?) problems hosting such gigantic numbers. There is still some time for Europe to get its act together, but it seems increasingly probable that the various performers will be able to act as an ensemble.1 Comment
So, the Eurozone and the Greeks have dodged a bullet…or have they? and should they have? Below is a slightly edited exchange between an American former expat retiree and his friend who has lived in Europe for over twenty years. The former (A) lived in Munich and Prague for ten years; the latter (B) an American lawyer/businessman who has lived and worked in Europe for over twenty years.
A: What are your thoughts on Merkel and her Finance Monster – ur – Minister?
B: Repulsion. Same as for Greek governments of all denominations. Lying #### the lot of them. . Plague on German Volk and Greek governments. Tyrants and enslavers. There are no tyrants but that there are slaves. Politicians (particularly Greek ones) are slaves to the indulgence of their own power and so sell their people into slavery to keep their personal indulgence. And Hollande, …. He is a nothing. He was fighting Merkel just so as to keep France punching far above its weight for another few years.
In my opinion Greece should vote itself out of the Euro and the currency would soar (to my benefit admittedly). That not good for Angela. Good for Greek people who could get on with their lazy ways and devalue their currency whenever it was convenient for them. Good for principles. Good precedent for Portuguese, Spanish and probably Irish people. Bad for their incumbent governments.
If the people do not want an EU then there should not be one. If they want one they should have fiscal and political union and give up nation states except during the World Cup. That is the point my favorite economist misses. Wolfgang Munchau (Financial Times) is usually better but I think he has never known a non=integrated Europe and often forgets that indeed it is a utility for the benefit of people. Mostly of little people. :
A: Most of what I have read leading up to last night’s “negotiations” started with the premise that the Euro without political unity of some sort was doomed to struggle if not fail. Pickety, Stiglitz and Krugman, and many other professional economists have suggested that the best answer for Greece is to leave the Eurozone and work out their troubles with a new Drachma. In fact as Munchau says, it might be good also for other countries. (i.e. Ireland, Portugal, Spain) I have felt that Germany had simply found a new way to dominate the rest of Europe for its own parochial benefit, this time in a less obviously malign way. And sure, the Greeks have been led by crooks for years and many Greeks don’t work as hard as they might….and of course not as hard as the Germans claim to work. But austerity is a self indulgent exercise designed by Schaeuble, implemented by Merkel for the self interest of Germany, and the rest of Europe ends up participating in their own damage. As for the Greeks sleeping in the street waiting for the ATM s to,open and picking through garbage, they are simply collateral damage.
It is especially galling for me to see Merkelmania produce a heroine out of a local politician playing to her Calvinist voters while humiliating a fellow European country and forcing that country to accept absurd, counter-productive austerity programs designed to impoverish itself so it can accept so-called bail out money, which they then give to German banks. Ergo, a perfect ploy by the Germans, who then applaud themselves for their moral stance. This is not going to end well.2 Comments
Has anyone ever produced more nostalgically beautiful music about the United States than the ultra-Canadian McGarrigle Sisters and their talented offspring Rufus and Martha Wainwright, especially in their communal album “The McGarrigle Hour”? If you don’t know what we mean, get yourself a copy of this splendid cd, listen to cut 17, “Talk to me of Mendocino”, the almost heartbreaking love song written by Anna McGarrigle to a California that will soon no longer exist, and move on to cut number 18, “Baltimore the Beautiful City”, listed as a traditional song that they sang as buskers in US cities.This song was of course not written about the fires that ravaged Baltimore, the northernmost of southern cities, in the spring, but it captures the essence of the emotional drain that followed in its wake and no doubt found resonance in the nightmare that followed in Charleston, South Carolina.
Strong Men in anguish prayed
calling out to the heavens for rain
while the fire in ruins laid
Baltimore their beautiful city.
Between March 23rd and June 30, 2015 there were 100 homicides in Baltimore. The excellent and historic Baltimore newspaper, the Baltimore Sun, recently published the basic facts about these 100 homicides: name of victim, place of residence, age, gender and race. Three of the victims were white, one Asian, and 7 female, all the rest were black males. and almost all of them were under 35. No doubt each one of these cases has a backstory worth hearing, but one thing is very clear: It is dangerous to be a young black man in Baltimore, and there is every reason to feel that you have very few prospects of an improved life through hard work or better education if you were born into this syndrome. There are of course exceptions, but such exceptions tend to move out into the safer areas of town or out of town, which is also where the white population has been drifting for years. The city centre is simply too dangerous and if you can afford to leave it, you do leave. There is no information given on this list about the perpetrators of the homicides, but it is certainly not the case that the police force, which has been too easily identified as the cause rather than the solution of Baltimore’s racial problems, (by most estimates about half of the police officers in Baltimore are black) was involved with many, or even any, of these homicides. Any serious improvement in this situation can only occur when the basic problem of an understandable feeling of hopelessness in young black males is met by a willingness in the population as a whole to deal with the underlying problems for it. Baltimore, the beautiful city, still has some of that southern grace at its northernmost outpost, but also much of an understood racial division that too often is a destructive part of it. The solution has to start in finding a way out of this social structure.
Congratulations to the Boston Globe for publishing an article with the above title that underlines a festering problem which has only begun festering more in the 6 years of the Obama regime. It is yet another disappointment for those who thought Obama would bring in a fresh breeze after the Bush years, which is when the border problem began festering. But Bush did have a desperate security problem on his hands after 9/11 and clamping down on border crossing was a reasonable, if apparently, temporary, step. Instead as The Globe put it:
“Since the 9/11 jihadist attacks, the 5,525-mile-long border between Canada and the United States has been transformed from the world’s friendliest to a high security zone marked by fortified crossing points, thermal “body detectors,’’ swiveling surveillance cameras, and the occasional low-skimming Blackhawk helicopter or spy drone.”
Anyone who got stuck in the four-hour long waits at the US/ Canada crossing at the so-called Peace Arch on the Victoria Day long weekend was surely asking why and how this could happen in a century in which no such border checks interrupt the flow of economic, regular and tourist traffic in all of western and central Europe. You can drive from the UK to the Ukrainian border without encountering a single checkpoint but if you drive from Vancouver to Seattle you could well be stopped after 40 minutes for four hours by a checkpoint which costs many millions of dollars in economic terms and more than that in lost friendliness, while serving no real purpose. What is now called the mexicanization of the Canadian border will be a legacy of the Obama years. Let’s hope someone now comes in to put an end to the increasingly hostile border, before it’s too late, and grounds the drone planes which continue to spot no terrorists but many moose crossing a border in the wilderness.
It’s been a long dry spell for sports – a Marx Borthers so-called Super Bowl, a good Grey Cup after a Marx Brothers season, overhyped US semi-pro (i.e.) college football and basketball tournaments, and now the US tv moguls are trying to add semi-pro hockey of all things, of zero interest in real hockeyland, no soccer of note except when the Faroe Islands beat Greece in the European Championship prelims, baseball struggling almost pitifully with drug abuse, and with a potential summer race of interest a long way off, And all the while an overly long regular season NH L hockey agenda , half to it played in southern or near southern US cities with little or no interest in ice, and then – poof – suddenly the premier playoff schedule blazes forth in today’s papers. The real season of hockey begins – and finally a playoff scenario for the next 6 weeks is in store that will be terrific.. This time lady luck played its hand beautifully in forming the schedule.
Some of the usual suspects are present:New York Rangers have won the President’s Cup as the league champions, and their former world’s best goalie is just coming back from a lengthy injury (watch out!), the Detroit Red Wings, after a scare, are right in the middle of things, where they always show up at a minimum, and they are always welcome. They may be a bit old, but they have tons of skill and some young studs are working there way in nicely with the big boys (watch out!). Ditto for Chicago. The Pittsburgh Penguins, should by all rights be out of the playoffs, after a complete collapse, but just managed to stagger in as the last team on the last day, despite the fact that they think they have the best star players in existence – they’re wrong and will make a quick exit. The untalented but ruffian Boston Bruins are out and deservedly so – too old, too tired, too unskilled. And the incomprehensibly incompetent Toronto Maple Leafs outdid even their own seemingly endless disappointing seasons with a total turkey. Their supposed big scorer scored one goal after new year. Most of the rest of the country began to feel sorry for them. But not very. What is with that city? Maybe the endless snow got to them.
But look who is in and how they got there. Mordecai Richler can look down from above with delight on his beloved hometown Montréal Canadiéns . With the current best goalie on earth, an inherently modest First Nations chap from the splendid wilds of the Chilcotin plateau of British Columbia, and with plenty of help from a sassy Torontonian, of all things, this team has brought real excitement to the wonderful city where hockey really counts (watch out!!). And Vancouver, destroyed last year by self-destructive coaching, replied this year with a minor-league coach with major league talent, and a return to game-changing form by their superlative Swedish twins (watch out!!!). And this time no less than five Canadian teams are in the playoffs who will all be chomping at the bit, the last three after breathtaking final runs – none more than the Ottawa Senators who thumped Boston out of contention behind a supposedly mediocre minor-league has-been (or never was) goalie who was an injury call-up and then won 19 of the last 22 games. No matter what now happens, this team will be the sentimental favourite, but they shouldn’t be able to get past Montreal in the first round this year, though the do have the best defenceman in existence and home team support will be tremendous, but it also will be down the road. It is in any case easy to predict that this will be a great opening round series. Winnipeg hasn’t played a playoff game since 1996, so their new arena will be hopping, and their bigness and toughness may give Anaheim more trouble than they should expect from the eighth place team. And Calgary was picked for last by most pre-season experts, and came through in the end in hair-raising fashion game after game with a bunch of young guys who will make them a real contender in the future. The start against arch -rival Vancouver, and that too will be a sizzling series. Prediction, Vancouver vs Montreal in the final. Anybody’s series then, but the weather will be nicer in Vancouver. Bring it on!!!9 Comments