Friday, September 28, 2018

Kavanaugh-Blasey Ford face-off is not a sports events

I didn't watch the all-day televised US Senate committee hearing in which Christine Blazer Ford described in tearful and graphic detail how Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her some 30 years ago, although I know people who did. I figured I would get quite enough details in the next day's news. And besides, I feel like there is something a bit voyeuristic and creepy about watching a live performance of two people acting out life-changing events of this nature, kind of like a real-life reality show (a genre I avoid like the plague).
I think Globe and Mail TV critic John Doyle hit the nail on the head, as he so often does, when he compares the TV coverage, and particularly Fox News' coverage, to a sports event. As commentators and "experts" weighed in on how it was expected to go, and who was expected to "win", it had all the hallmarks of a major TV sports event. I'm surprised there wasn't a sweepstakes on the outcome.
In fact, this was a highly personal and emotional public admission of a deeply scarring event that one woman had been keeping under wraps for decades, and which she would much rather forget all about. And it was a less-than-edifying snapshot of a very angry man fighting for his political life. It was not a court case as such (although many people argue it probably should be), and there are no real winners, probably just two losers.
I see no reason why it should have been televised live for the titillation of the general public, and the gratification of political junkies.
I sincerely hope that Dr. Blasey Ford's sacrifice - her "civic duty" as she calls it - was worthwhile, and I hope that the political theatre was sufficient to persuade a couple of Republican Senators that Kavanaugh is a nasty piece of work and has no place in steering the moral compass of a country. But edifying television this was most definitely not.

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

If Bolsonaro is elected, God help Brazil

If you think that Donald Trump is offensive and insensitive - and Rodrigo Duterte, and Matteo Salvini, and Andrés Manuel López Obrador, and Doug Ford, and any number of other populists currently taking advantage of the Zeitgeist - you ain't seen nothing yet. Brazil holds a general election next month and, because the country is going through a particularly rough patch, economically, politically and in pretty much every other way, there is a distinct possibility that uber-populist Jair Bolsonaro could be elected there.
Make no mistake, Bolsonaro is a nasty piece of work. He has said that he would not rape a Brazilian congresswoman, but only because she is very ugly. He has said that he would prefer a dead son to a gay one. He has said that people who live in settlements founded by escaped slaves are fat and lazy. He does not do politically correct.
And if you thought that the long parade of flawed Brazilian politicians in recent years - from Luis Inácio Lula da Silva to Dilma Rousseff to Michel Temer - were a bad lot, imagine the country under a divisive right-wing populist and evangelical Christian like Bolsonaro. He has promised to slash the number of government ministries from 29 to 15 and to put army generals in charge of some of them, to privatize all of Brazil's state-owned
companies, and to "simplify" the country's taxation system to an unprecedented degree. And these are just some of the policies he is talking about publicly. He has already been stabbed at a political rally earlier month, and this has only served to increase his popularity.
Like it or not, populism is having its day and, however much more thoughtful people may warn against the risks of knee-jerk reactions in favour of fire-and-brimstone populists, they keep getting elected. If Bolsanaro joins their ranks, then God help Brazil. Soccer, salsa and any number of beautiful beaches won't help them then.

Well, Bolsonaro won. Populism 1, Brazil 0.

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

The world according to Donald Trump (snigger!)

Donald Trump's address to the United Nations General Assembly gives us a handy distillation of his attitudes and beliefs, in case we were in any doubt. It also gives an idea of just how seriously everyone else takes the man.
In a video clip shared around the world, Trump claimed that, "In less than two years, my administration has accomplished more than almost any administration in the history of our country". The UN's response? Giggles and laughter. Probably an unprecedented response to an unprecedentedly ridiculous claim.
Trump went on to assert, unabashedly, "We reject the ideology of globalism, and we embrace the doctrine of patriotism". He gave shoutouts to his "friends" (North Korea, Saudi Arabia), and lambasted his foes (Iran, Venezuela) at great length.
Mr. Trump later tried to make light of the UN's response to his ridiculous bragging, suggesting that, "They weren't laughing at me, they were laughing with me". Well, he would, wouldn't he? Diplomats who were there at the time, however, confirmed that they were very much laughing AT Trump.
It was, in a word, embarrassing. Political theatre at its best, I guess.

Monday, September 24, 2018

Simons' tone deaf line of bras

La Maison Simon's is a major department store and fashion retailer chain, established in Quebec back in 1840. It has 15 stores across Canada, as well as business offices in London, Paris and Hong Kong.
How, then, in 2018, could it be so commercially maladroit as to name a new range of bras after strong and successful Canadian women? Yes, they had a Nelly McClung bra, an Elsie McGill bra, a Clara Brett Martin bra. Worst of all they named one after Beverley McLachlin, former chief justice of the Supreme Court of Canada, who happens to be still alive, and without even asking her permission!
Ms. McLachlin, not too surprisingly, complained when she found out about this, and Peter Simons, the current CEO of the company has abjectly apologized and promptly withdrawn the offending line of underwear.
But, really, what goes through these people's minds?

Saturday, September 22, 2018

The day of the underdogs

I don't really follow American football, but I have to give a shoutout to perennial underdogs Cleveland Browns, who registered their first win in almost two years - 635 days - when they beat the New York Jets by 21-17. Apparently, it was a hard-fought game and a nail-biter, with the Browns desperately holding off several Jet's attacks at the end of the game.
The result came to my attention after hearing about a Browns support group called the Toronto Browns Backers right here in Toronto (yes, that's a thing). Apparently, the group, which meets for games in a pub in the Junction area of West Toronto, is a strong and long-lasting support group, which regularly gets up to a hundred rabid fans on game nights.
In a similar turnaround, my daughter's alma mater University of Waterloo's football team, the Warriors, which usually brings up the rear in the Ontario university football league, is having a bit of a moment, beating local rivals Laurer Golden Hawks to advance in the Vanier Cup championship, meriting a whole page article in the Globe and Mail. They get to play the reigning champs, Western Ontario Mustangs next, so the streak may not last that long. But it's always nice to see the underdogs get a day in the sun.

Friday, September 21, 2018

Some of Donald Trumps best tweets. Sad!

When Donald Trump became President, many people - many Republicans specifically - predicted that, once he settled into the job, he would raise his level of discourse out of the gutter, that he would become, as the phrase went, more "presidential". Two years into his tenure, we are still waiting for some improvement in his tone. If anything, it has deteriorated still further.
Part of the problem, of course, is his reliance on Twitter as a means of communication. Twitter is a platform that seems specifically designed for the petty put-down, for the puerile and ill-considered barb, and that's pretty much what we have been getting, with the added dimension of deliberate mistakes and bald-faced lies. It's not a pretty collection, but let's remind ourselves of some of his greatest hits (this list courtesy of CheatSheet):
  • Meryl Streep, one of the most over-rated actresses in Hollywood, doesn't know me but she attacked me last night at the Golden Globes. She is a .... (Jan. 2017)
  • SEE YOU IN COURT [aimed at the US Court of Appeals!], THE SECURITY OF OUR NATION IS AT STAKE. (Feb. 2017)
  • The opinion of this so-called judge, which essentially takes law enforcement away from our country, is ridiculous and will be overturned! (Feb. 2017)
  • Our southern border is unsecure. I am the only one that can fix it, nobody else has the guts to even talk about it. (Jul. 2015)
  • Watched protests yesterday, but was under the impression that we had just had an election! Why didn't these people vote? Celebs hurt cause badly. (Jan. 2017)
  • How amazing, the State Heath Director who verified copies of Obama's "birth certificate" died in plane crash today. All others lived. (Dec. 2013)
  • Nobody should be allowed the burn the American flag - if they do, there must be consequences - perhaps loss of citizenship or year in jail! (Nov. 2016)
  • Now that the three basketball players are out of China and saved from years in jail, LaVar Ball the father of LiAngelo is unaccepting of what I did for his son and that shoplifting is no big deal. I should have left them in jail! (Nov. 2017)
  • Any negative polls are fake news, just like the CNN, ABC, NBC polls in the election. Sorry, people want border security and extreme vetting. (Feb. 2017)
  • You are witnessing the single greatest WITCH HUNT in American political history - led by some very bad and conflicted people. (Jun. 2017)
  • The same people who did the phony election polls, and were so wrong, are now doing approval rating polls. They are rigged just like before. (Jan 2017)
  • It's freezing and snowing in New York -- we need global warming! (Nov. 2012)
  • In addition to winning the Electoral College in a landslide, I won the popular vote if you deduct the millions of people who voted illegally. (Nov. 2016)
  • Lightweight Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, a total flunky for Chuck Schumer and someone who would come to my office "begging" for campaign contributions not so long ago (and would do anything for them) is now in the ring fighting against Trump. Very disloyal to Bill & Crooked-USED. (Dec. 2017)
  • Obama is, without question, the WORST EVER PRESIDENT. I predict he will now do something really bad and totally stupid to show manhood. (Jun. 2014)
  • Sadly, the overwhelming amount of violent crime in our cities is committed by blacks and hispanics - a tough subject - must be discussed. (Jun. 2013)
  • Sorry losers and haters, but my I.Q. is one of the highest - and you all know it! Please don't feel so stupid or insecure, it's not your fault. (May 2013)
  • Such poor leadership ability by the Mayor of San Juan, and others in Puerto Rico, who are not able to get their workers to help. (Sep. 2017)
  • 26,000 unreported sexual assaults in the military - only 238 convictions. What did these geniuses expect when the put men & women together? (Jan. 2016)
  • VIDEO: Muslim migrant beats up Dutch boy on crutches! (Nov. 2017)
Of course there are many, many more that could, and perhaps should, be added to this list. A few more from various other lists, in no particular order:
  • I refuse to call Megyn Kelly a bimbo because that would not be politically correct. Instead I will only call her a lightweight reporter. (Jan, 2016)
  • Happy #CincoDeMayo. The best taco bowls.are made in Trump Tower Grill. I love Hispanics! (May 2016)
  • Our very weak and ineffective leader Paul Ryan had a bad conference call where his members went wild at his disloyalty. (Oct. 2016) 
  • It's so nice that the shackles have been taken off me and I can now fight for America the way I want to. (Oct. 2016)
  • The United States must greatly strengthen and expand its nuclear capability until such time as the world comes to its senses regarding nukes. (Dec. 2016)
  • @stephenfhayes: I heard you were a joke on the media panel this weekend in New Hampshire. You just don't have what it takes! (Apr. 2015)
  • @JonahNRO: You stated that I started "relentlessly tweeting like a 14-year old girl..." Horrible insult to women. Resign now or later! (Apr. 2015)
  • @michellemalkin: You were born stupid! (Mar. 2013)
  • One of the dumbest and least respected political pundits is Chris Cillizza of the Washington Post @TheFix. Moron hates my poll numbers. (May 2015)
  • I'm a conservative, but the weakness of conservatives is that they destroy each other, whereas liberals unite to win. (Apr. 2015)
  • The so-called angry crowds in home districts of some Republicans are actually, in numerous cases, planned out by liberal activists. Sad! (Feb. 2017)
  • How low has President Obama gone to tapp my phones during the very sacred electoral process. This is Nixon/Watergate. Bad (or sick) guy! (Mar. 2017)
  • The how come low I.Q. Crazy Mika, along with Psycho Joe, came ... to Mar-a-Lago 3 nights in a row around New Year's Eve, and insisted on joining me. She was bleeding badly from facelift. I said no! (Jun. 2017)
  • Why would Kim Jong-Un insult me by calling me"old" while I would NEVER call him "short and fat"? (Nov. 2017)
  • We should have a contest as to which Network, plus CNN and not including Fox, is the most dishonest, corrupt and/or distorted in its political coverage your favourite President (me). They are all bad. Winner to receive the FAKE NEWS TOPHY! (Nov. 2017)
  • I hope the boycott of @Macys continues forever. So many people are cutting up their cards. Macys stores suck and they are bad for U.S.A. (Jul. 2015)
  • I'm not against vaccination for your children, I'm against them in 1 massive dose. Spread them out over a period of time & autism will drop. (Sep, 2014)
  • @arianahuff is unattractive both inside and out. I fully understand why her former husband left her for a man - he made a good decision. (Aug. 2012)
  • LeBron James was just interviewed by the dumbest man on television, Don Lemon. He made LeBron looks smart, which isn't easy to do. I like Mike! (Aug. 2018)
  • North Korean leader Kim Jong Un just stated that the "Nuclear Button is on his desk at all times". Will someone from his depleted and food-starved regime please inform him that I too have a Nuclear Button but it is a much bigger & more powerful one than his, and my Button works! (Jan. 2018)
  • The concept of global warming was created by the Chinese in order to make U.S. manufacturing non-competitive. (Nov. 2012)
  • I have never seen a thin person drinking Diet Coke. (Oct. 2012)
  • Michael Wolff is a total loser who made up stories in order to sell this really boring and untruthful book. He used Sloppy Steve Bannon, who cried when he got fired and begged for his job. Now Sloppy Steve has been dumped by almost everyone. Too bad! (Jan, 2018)
  • Despite the constant negative press covfefe. (May 2017)
  • Two long running, Obama era, investigations of two very popular Republican Congressmen were brought to a well-publicized charge, just ahead of the Mid-Terms, by the Jeff Session Justice Department. Two easy wins now in doubt because there is not enough time. Good job Jeff... (Sep. 2018)
This stuff just writes itself...

Thursday, September 20, 2018

Crossing the floor is sleazy and disrespectful, and should be stopped

Up until a couple of days ago, I had never heard of Leona Alleslev, and right now I wish I still hadn't. But the instantly-forgettable federal MP for the instantly-forgettable suburban Toronto-area riding of Aurora-Oak Ridges-Richmond Hill precipitately inserted herself into the public consciousness when she defected from the Liberal Party she was elected with and "crossed the floor" to join the Conservative Party. She literally walked across the floor of Parliament and was welcomed with open arms and smug smiles by her new Conservative friends.
This kind of floor crossing happens from time to time, although this is the first time it has happened under the current government. You might remember David Emerson, Eve Adams, Belinda Stronach - all Canadian MPs well known for nothing other than selling out and double-crossing their electorate. In the UK, Winston Churchill apparently did it twice! Whenever it occurs, though, it inevitably leaves a bad taste in almost everyone's mouth.
Most backbench MPs, save a few notable exceptions who are voted in on their own personal charisma and merit, are voted in as a representative of a political party. Why they would then think themselves justified in abandoning that party, and offering their support to a party almost diametrically opposite in policy and philosophy, remains a mystery to me (and to most other people, judging from the tone of most of the letters and comments I have read). Imagine you are a member of the Aurora-Oak Ridges-Richmond Hill electorate who voted for Ms. Alleslev as part of the Canada-wide upsurge against the excesses of the Harper Conservatives at the last election. And now, you wake up in a Conservative riding anyway, regardless of your wishes and efforts. Imagine how that feels. "Let down" doesn't begin to cover it - "deceived" or "betrayed" are closer. How can such a person ever be trusted again?
The possibility of an MP crossing the floor in this way makes a mockery of the democratic process. Who knows what kind of behind-the-scenes machinations led to such a decision by a woman who, just a couple of weeks ago, was waxing lyrical about the Liberal Party and Justin Trudeau. Even then, she had apparently been in talks with Conservative leader Andrew Scheer for several weeks about defecting, and it looks like she will almost immediately walk into a shadow cabinet position. Go figure! The whole matter just smacks of sleaziness, distastefulness and underhandedness.
Andrew Scheer and the more vocal of his merry band at least seem happy to have her. Maybe she is seen as a worthy replacement for the recently departed (and equally sleazy) Maxime Bernier. Pretty much everyone else, though, just finds the whole affair somewhat embarrassing.
Whatever Ms. Alleslev's motives - ideology, personality, ambition, who knows? - why such a move is even legal is beyond me. Surely this is the political equivalent of breaking a contract. Certainly, a more honourable course would be to resign completely and to stand for re-election under a different party's banner (as the NDP has proposed), although few politicians could expect to be re-elected under such circumstances - a good indication of why crossing the floor is so wrong.

Some of the reasons Doug Ford's slashing of Toronto City Council is so wrong

Now that it is looking almost certain that Ontario Premier Doug Ford will get his wish to slash the number of Toronto City councillors from 47 to 25, I have been trying to find out two things:
1) Who actually pays the councillors, Toronto or Ontario?
This seems like a rather obvious question, but I realized that I didn't actually know. Most people, me included, were probably surprised that the province of Ontario actually has any legal power at all over municipal councils like Toronto, which effectively operate as self-sufficient entities (although there is an element of transfer payments from the province, in the same way as the federal government makes transfer payments to the provinces).
Anyway, yes, Toronto City councillors are paid directly by the city itself, not by the province, and councillor salaries are, for better or worse, also set by the city council itself. So, Ford is not actually saving the province a penny by all this. Rather, he is forcing a separate entity to make savings it may or may not want, and which its residents may or may not want. Which is pretty ridiculous when stated that way.
2) Are the savings Ford promises realistic, and do they outweigh the additional costs he is causing the city?
Ford says that getting rid of 22 councillors will save $25.5 million over 4 years. (Why over 4 years? Why not just say $6.3 million a year? Smoke and mirrors, perhaps?) This appears to be based on a cost per councillor of $290,000 a year. I can't find any reliable figures for this, but it presumably represents the annual salary of about $114,000, and some other unspecified sum for hiring staff, office budget, travel expenses, etc, which I have no way of checking. So, it may or may not be right, but probably does not take into account the additional staff that the 25 councillors would need to employ in order to cope with double the workload (staff are already struggling to keep abreast of all the constituents' requests, questions and complaints, as ex-councillor Ford should well know).
As for the additional costs that Ford's edict will burden Toronto with (and that with about 1 month to go before the election), this too seems to be largely unknown. Apparently, $17.5 million has been earmarked for the planning and execution of the October election, most of the planning having been already completed. How much will now need to be re-done to accommodate the re-drawn ward boundaries is anyone's guess, but it will include recalculating spending budgets for candidates, communicating the new boundary changes and polling locations to voters, preparing new voter lists, and many other matters. Given the constrained time-frame, there is also a huge likelihood of errors, and, if the legitimacy of the election is thrown into doubt as a result, then a new election will cost almost as much again. And how much has been consumed in legal costs and in unnecessarily tying up the courts? Also anyone's guess.
Anyway, these are just two of my concerns. I have many more. For example, I feel sorry for the many candidates who have given up jobs in order to run for a position as councillor, who will now presumably be facing off against twice as many other candidates. Effectively, twice as many candidates as necessary have turned their lives upside down, incurred sunk costs, and spent many hours campaigning, only to be told that the riding they want to represent no longer exists.
The other thing that has happened is that all the costs and work that went into the city's electoral boundary study that was begun in 2014 - which concluded that the numder of ridings should be INCREASED from 44 to 47 - has been made effectively redundant by the stroke of an executive pen. This detailed independent consultant's study, which was approved by 26-13 by Toronto's council, added three new ridings in heavily-populated downtown Toronto, as well as one in Willowdale, and took away one of the old downtown ridings, in an effort to equalize the numbers of constituents in each riding at around 60,000. It actually looked at the idea of using the provincial boundaries that Ford has since imposed, and specifically rejected it because it did not ensure equal representation.
I could go on. Doug Ford's move is wrong on so many different levels, it is hard to know where to start. It may be legal according to the word of the law, but it sure as hell isn't ethical or in accordance with the spirit of the law. Not that Doug Ford will lose any sleep over that. You who voted this guy in - yes, you know who you are! - I hope you are satisfied with your work.

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Trump hasn't forgotten about his war on the environment

Lest you might think that Donald Trump is going soft on the environment amid all the other shenanigans he is currently embroiled in, be comforted to know that he us still finding time to dial back more of Barack Obama's environmental and climate change initiatives.
The latest such is rolling back an Obama-era rule that forces energy companies to capture methane for natural gas production rather than just venting it to the atmosphere. Actually, the 2016 rule has never been fully implemented as it has been tied up in court cases brought by energy companies who see the rule as overly intrusive, and a Wyoming court (well, it would be Wyoming, wouldn't it?) put the rule on hold in April of this year. The energy companies argue that they already have an economic incentive to capture the methane so that they can sell it, and so more regulations are not needed.
Except ... they are clearly not taking up those economic incentives. The regulation would have cut methane emissions (one of the major contributors to climate change) in the US by over 180,000 tons a year, as well as up to 80,000 tons a year of other "volatile organic compounds", which are known to cause health problems when ingested. It would also have saved the energy companies an estimated $734 million in saved gas over the next decade, which would have offset their $2 billion compliance costs. A Trump spokesman remarked, pithily, "We're for clean air and water, but at the same time, we're for reasonable regulations". Hmmm.
Mr. Trump's buddies in the energy industry will no doubt thank him. The environment? Not so much.

Sunday, September 16, 2018

A new way of depicting climate change

Here's an interesting way of depicting climate change in what is perhaps a less distracting and easier to interpret manner.
British climate professor Ed Hawkins has developed a colour-coded "bar code graph" to give a more immediate visual snap-shot of the average annual temperature for cities or regions. Each vertical line represents the average annual temperature for the city for a particular year, and the lines are coloured from blue to red to show the increase or decrease in relative temperature compared to a baseline historical temperature. Presented in an image similar to a supermarket bar-code, the resulting representation gives a good visual idea of how temperatures have been increasing since the 19th century. It provides a much easier way of visualizing long-term trends than the traditional jagged saw-tooth line graphs. In particular, it makes it especially easy to visually compare the effects of climate change in different cties and regions. For example, within Canada, far northern cities and towns show a much more pronounced increase in relative temperatures.
Of course, not everyone likes Prof Hawkins' new graphing technique. Some say it is too abstract for people to understand well, and that it gives the impression that the absolute temperatures of different cities are being compared rather than the relative increases. I inagine that climate deniers may say it is a misleading and overhyped method that gives a false impression of global warming. Fair enough, I suppose, but I see it as a useful innovation in the fight against climate change.

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Ford's use of the notwithstanding clause is more scary than the court's decision

Having been stymied by the courts in his revenge actions against Toronto City Council, Doug Ford is apparently willing to go the dangerous route of using the controversial "notwithstanding clause" to get his own way.
In case you are not familiar with the infamous constitutional notwithstanding clause, also known as Section 33, this remedy of the last resort for desperate political leaders was created in the 1980s as a kind of compromise between provincial and federal politicians. It allows a provincial or federal government to enact legislation that overrides several sections of Canada's Charter of Rights and Freedoms for a limited 5 year period. It essentially allows a government to enact laws that that operate in spite of ("notwithstanding") charter rights that the laws appear to violate. It is very rarely invoked, and only in dire circumstances. It has only been used 4 times (mainly in Quebec) since it was established back in 1982 Even Stephen Harper never used it, although he was sorely tempted. Ford would become the first Ontario Premier to make use of it, and indeed even hinted broadly that he would not hesitate to use it repeatedly, and did not rule out similar actions on other city councils (although he has a particular hatred for Toronto).
In a scathing legal decision, Ontario Superior Court Judge Edward Belobaba ruled that Ford's surprise motion to slash Toronto's city councillors from 47 to 25, just weeks before a municipal election takes place, was "antithetical to the core principles of our democracy" and "clearly "crossed the line". He basically ruled that slashing the size of Toronto City Council, in this way and at this time, is not just callous and inappropriate, but it infringes on the freedom of speech and rights of both candidates and voters.
Ford's response to the judge's slap-down in calling his motion unconstitutional was particularly telling. He said that he found a court interfering in the democratic process to be a scary thing. Well, perhaps. But not half as scary as a politician willing to use the notwithstanding clause to override a legal ruling. So, with both sides crying outrage and blustering that the other is attacking and riding roughshod over the very idea of democracy, Doug Ford has unleashed chaos in the legislature, and elicited prolonged and noisy protests by citizens and MPPs.
The notwithstanding clause makes a mockery of our Charter of Rights and Freedoms. It was a bad idea back in 1982 and is an even worse idea now, even though no-one really expected it to be used quite as lightly and arbitrarily as Ford is using it. In this particular case, it is using a sledgehammer to squash a fly, but it also opens up the possibility of using it against other, more important rights and freedoms, and puts cynical and grandstanding politicians like Ford effectively above the law. Bad idea.
However the current case turns out, Canada needs to take a long hard look at the notwithstanding clause, and whether its presence in our constitution can possibly be justifiable.

Monday, September 10, 2018

Not Making America Great Again, but Making Everyone Else Poorer

If Donald Trump is to come anywhere near to Making America Great Again it will only be in a very limited sphere and, even then, only in relative terms, as the rest of the world goes to the dogs as a result of American protectionism.
For example, the only major national stock exchanges to show gains over the last year are, you guessed it, American ones, like the Dow Jones Industrial Average and the S&P 500, which are showing small but significant annual increases. Pretty much every other major stock exchange, from Canada's TSX to France's CAC, Germany's DAX, Britain's FTSE 100, Japan's Nikkei and China's CSI 300, have shown losses ranging from the small to the substantial, at least in US$ terms (some have managed modest increases in local currencies).
So, Trump's policies are not so much Making America Great Again as Making Everyone Else Poorer by comparison, which I don't think was necessarily his intention, but it comes as no surprise to most economists and most thinking people.

Saturday, September 08, 2018

Paris' new uritrottoirs provide poor optics in more ways than one

An interesting article in today's Globe and Mail explains about the city of Paris latest attempt to "deal with" the fact that French men appear to feel justified, for reasons no-one else understands, in peeing in the street.
Les pipis sauvages - yes, it literally means "wild peeing" - is a perennial blot on the the cosmopolitan and highly-civilized City of Light, a practice so endemic that most Frenchmen would probably not even see it as a problem at all. It's not like the city is not well-served with public toilets: Paris has 400 accessible on-street public washrooms, know as sanisettes, 150 of which are open 24/7. That is much more than many cities can boast. But still they unload in street corners and public buildings with nary a thought, creating stink and health hazards for all.
But now Paris has installed a bunch of uritrottoirs (urinoir + trottoirs: sidewalk urinals), small pieces of street furniture with the apparent purpose of allowing men behaving badly to do with greater ease. These brightly coloured boxes, topped with some jolly flowers - they are a similar size and colour to Canadian mailboxes, make of that what you will - allow men, but not of course women, who have much greater need, to do their pipis sauvages en plein aire, with offficial municipal endorsement, by peeing into the mail slot, so to speak.
To me, as a guy, it's kind of gross. To French women, it must be a real slap in the face: the city had funds available for public toilets and they gave them all to men? Poor optics at the very least, and in more than one way.

Tuesday, September 04, 2018

Does anyone still care about Trump's lies and inaccuracies

In case anyone still cares, the indefatigable Washington Post is still tracking Donald Trump's false and misleading statements and claims.
After 592 days in office, he is now up to 4,713 false or misleading claims, an average of about 8 a day. In fact, they are coming even thicker and faster than previously: in his first three months he averaged about 5 incorrect claims a day; in the last three months this has risen to over 15 a day. July 5th of this year holds the record, with a mind-boggling 79 false or misleading claims in one day, and August 30th came close with 73.
What is interesting is just how little I care any more. I think my outrage has all been used up, replaced by a kind of listless numbness. I know that's probably a bad thing, but what can you do in the face of such gross ignorance and denial?