As has been pointed out by too many people, 2016 was a devastating year for progressives (a homely term for all those who are want equality, democracy and ecological sanity). There is no need to repeat the list of atrocities, failures and disappointments, as we all have them indelibly marked on our psyches. One result of the annus horribilis is that activists everywhere have pledged to try harder -- at what is clearly not working. There is even a sense of optimism rooted in the old left-wing shibboleth that "the worse things get, the better" -- meaning, of course that if things get really, really bad, people will rise up (and overthrow the 1%).
"Sweep away the community of honest brokers in America [and] we'll be left with a culture and public dialogue based on assertion rather than authenticity, on claim rather than fact."
Hubris: extreme pride, especially pride and ambition so great that they offend the gods and lead to one's downfall.
In the aftermath of the stunning results of the U.S. election, the mix of emotions and hard-nosed analysis spans the spectrum from feeling sorry for the irrational and politically illiterate American voter to visceral fear about the consequences of their electing a thuggish buffoon as president. But common to all reactions, I suspect, is a smugness rooted in our sense of superiority -- as if our elites are somehow more attentive to the public interest and the lives of ordinary Canadians.
Cameco, the Saskatchewan-based uranium mining colossus, is currently in Federal Court facing charges by the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) that it illegally avoided a stunning $2.2 billion in Canadian income taxes. It is not only the largest such case in Canadian history but one of the most shameless tax dodges ever hatched by a Canadian corporation. The court case has been delayed for years and just the fact that it has finally made it before a judge is good news. But the news could quickly turn bad if, facing defeat, Cameco makes a pitch to settle for less than the full amount. That would be a miscarriage of justice.
It's amazing what we gradually accept as normal -- even admirable -- in how we treat each other in Canada. Practices that were once seen as a repugnant surrender to government indifference, like food banks, are now virtually celebrated as a high point of citizen engagement and promoted as such by our public broadcaster once a year. And other practices, like hospitals and seniors' care homes that once had their own kitchens and cooking staff, are seemingly a thing of the past, a "luxury" that we have no hope of ever getting back.
As Bruce Cockburn's song suggests, the trouble with normal, is it always gets worse.
If recent mainstream economic reports are to be taken seriously, some of the big brains managing global capitalism these days are starting to lose faith in their neoliberal ideology. Some come close to sounding like virtual heretics -- like Jonathan Ostry, the IMF's deputy director of research and lead author of an article ("Neoliberalism: Oversold?") in the IMF's official publication. He stated, with a childlike innocence: "[s]ome aspects of the neoliberal agenda probably need a rethink.
There is a glaring disconnect in the world between economic growth, and trade and investment agreements.
At the same time that Canada and other countries are pushing hard for huge multi-national deals -- the TPP, CETA and the U.S.-EU deal, the TTIP -- all the evidence suggests that global trade is on a long-term downward trend. Nothing in the near or middle term future suggests that it will recover to anything like its China-driven peak.
Financial Times analyst Martin Wolf recently argued bluntly that globalization no longer drives the world economy.
The Trudeau government is hell-bent on ratifying two massive investment agreements -- the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) and Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) -- that will radically undermine Canadian democracy. Yet very few Canadians are informed about these deals because our mainstream media has been so irresponsible in reporting on their impacts. The first-order irresponsibility is the media's absolute determination to cast these deals as "trade deals" when even a casual reading reveals that they are corporate rights agreements which, because they are treaties, trump our courts and constitution.
No area of public policy is so shrouded in secrecy, obfuscation and outright deception than foreign policy. Most of the time it doesn't seem to matter much to the majority of voters who have more pressing things to worry about. But when Canadians read a headline that says "Russia mobilizing for war" one would hope they would take notice. A more absurd declaration is hard to imagine but there it was -- coming out of the offices of CSIS, the Canadian Security and Intelligence Service. It was just the latest alarmist rhetoric in a steady stream of anti-Russian propaganda that coincided with the largest NATO military exercise -- dubbed Anaconda -- since the end of the Cold War.