I stopped by the Conservative Convention on Thursday night, just briefly. The mood (which I ascertained by asking several Conservative acquaintances “What’s the mood?”) was cautiously optimistic. The Conservatives I met — a random sample, skewed older because I haven’t met a new generation of Conservative activists — sounded pleased with Pierre Poilievre’s summer. But they also figure they’re getting a second look because voters have given the Liberals a hundred looks and they always see the same thing.
Later, word came from India that Justin Trudeau’s airplane had malfunctioned, stranding him, one hopes only briefly. It’s always a drag when a politician’s vehicle turns into a metaphor so obvious it begs to go right into the headline. As for the cause of the breakdown, I’m no mechanic, but I’m gonna bet $20 on “The gods decided to smite Trudeau for hubris.” Here’s what the PM tweeted or xeeted before things started falling off his ride home:
One can imagine the other world leaders’ glee whenever this guy shows up. “Oh, it’s Justin Trudeau, here to push for greater ambition!” Shall we peer into their briefing binders? Let’s look at Canada’s performance on every single issue Trudeau mentions, in order.
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On gender equality, the World Economic Forum (!) ranks Canada 30th behind a bunch of other G-20 members.
On global health, this article in Britain’s BMJ journal calls Canada “a high income country that frames itself as a global health leader yet became one of the most prominent hoarders of the limited global covid-19 vaccine supply.”
On inclusive growth, the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development has a composite indicator called the Inclusive Growth Index. Canada’s value is 64.1, just behind the United States (!) and Australia, further behind most of Europe, stomped by Norway at 76.9%.
On support for Ukraine, the German Kiel Institute think tank ranks Canadafifth in the world, and third as a share of GDP, for financial support; and 8th in the world, or 21st as a share of GDP, for military support.
Almost all of these results are easy enough to understand. A small number are quite honourable. But none reads to me as any kind of license to wander around, administering lessons to other countries. I just finished reading John Williams’ luminous 1965 novel about university life, Stoner. A minor character in the book mocks the lectures and his fellow students, and eventually stands unmasked as a poser who hasn’t done even the basic reading in his discipline. I found the character strangely familiar. You’d think that after nearly a decade in power, after the fiascos of the UN Security Council bid, the first India trip, the collegiate attempt to impress a schoolgirl with fake trees, the prime minister would have figured out that fewer and fewer people, at home or abroad, are persuaded by his talk.
But this is part of the Liberals’ problem, isn’t it. They still think their moves work. They keep announcing stuff — Digital adoption program! Growth fund! Investment tax credits! Indo-Pacific strategy! Special rapporteur! — and telling themselves Canadians would miss this stuff if it went away. Whereas it’s closer to the truth to say we can’t miss it because its effect was imperceptible when it showed up.
In a moment I’ve mentioned before because it fascinates me, the Liberals called their play a year ago, as soon as they knew they’d be facing Pierre Poilievre. “We are going to see two competing visions,” Randy Boissonault said in reply to Poilievre’s first Question Period question as the Conservative leader. The events of the parliamentary year would spontaneously construct a massive contrast ad. It was the oldest play in the book, first articulated by Pierre Trudeau’s staff 50 years ago: Don’t compare me to the almighty, compare me to the alternative. It doesn’t work as well if people decide they prefer the alternative. It really doesn’t work if the team running the play think it means, “We’re the almighty.”
There may yet be years — two, anyway — before we get to vote in a general election. Obviously much can change. I’ve made it clear, just about every time I’ve written about specific Poilievre policies, that I’ve seen no reason to be optimistic that a change of government would guarantee any improvement in public administration. But what we’ve seen elsewhere — most spectacularly in provincial elections in Quebec and Ontario in 2018 — is that sometimes voters stop caring about that question. They have a simpler question: After a decade in power, does the government in place even notice large, obvious things?
I see the Liberal caucus will be in London, ON this week. Here’s a chance for them to practice noticing large, obvious things. MPs would do well to walk around the city’s downtown core after dark, east of Richmond St., between Dundas and York. If they travel in small groups they’ll probably be safe.
While they witness what a Canadian city looks like in 2023, they might remind themselves that their unofficial 2015 election slogan was “Better Is Always Possible.” And ask themselves how much trouble they’ll be in if voters still believe it.
Lately when I write about the Liberals I upset my Liberal subscribers and when I write about Conservatives I upset my Conservative subscribers. I know it can feel like shtick, but it reflects my conviction that the partisan joust, and the genuine feelings that underpin it, are easier to address than the wicked problems of a chaotic time. And therefore way too tempting to an entire generation of political leadership.
For the Liberals, the challenge has been obvious since 2019: Does Justin Trudeau learn? In 2015 he ran as a disruptor, a guy who had noticed large, obvious things — interest rates were low! Small deficits were more manageable than they had been in years ! — and was willing to be cheeky in ignoring the other parties’ orthodoxies. Stephen Harper and Tom Mulcair were reduced to sputtering outrage that the new kid was making so many cheeky promises on fighter procurement (whoops), electoral reform (never mind), admitting Syrian refugees, legalizing cannabis, and more.
Since about 2017, inevitably, the Trudeau government has undergone a transition that’s common when disruptors become incumbents. He is increasingly forced to defend the state of things, rather than announcing he’s come to change it. He’s changed positions from forward to goal. All his opponents need to do is notice the big, obvious things he seems unable to see. The biggest: It’s become punishingly difficult for too many Canadians to put a roof over their head.
The old Trudeau would have done big, surprising things to show he could see such a thing. The Trudeau who ejected every senator from the Liberal caucus and broke a decade’s taboo against deficit spending would shut down the failed Canada Infrastructure Bank this week and put the savings into a national crisis housing fund. Or, I don’t know, some damned thing.
But of course, the surprising Trudeau of 2015 hadn’t been prime minister yet, had he? This hints at a question a few Liberals are starting to ask themselves. Does he have any juice left in him for more than pieties? He might still have some fight in him, but does he still have the job in him?
He’s already been in the job for longer than Pearson and Diefenbaker were. His indispensable right hand has been chief of staff longer than anyone who ever held the job. They have, for years, already been noticeably eager to administer lessons to others. Would they view a Liberal election defeat as their failure — or ours?
Would a prime minister who views a G-20 summit as a learning opportunity for every country except Canada view an election defeat as anything but further proof that Canada never really deserved him anyway?
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Irish Saying: Is This A Private Fight Or Can Anyone Join?
There’s no crying in baseball. And there’s no fighting in golf. Unless LIV is involved.
Don’t tell the participants in the Ryder Cup this past weekend. Under the sunny skies of Rome, the Americans and Europeans produced storm clouds over… brace for it… a golf hat. Or the lack of a golf hat. Let us explain.
American player Patrick Cantlay chose to go hatless, eschewing the U.S. team wardrobe that everyone else agreed to wear. Needless to say the hat had patriotic themes and Cantlay’s decision was seen to be controversial. It was not like quarterback Colin Kaepernick kneeling for the national anthem, but to those loyal to Old Glory its seemed disrespectful.
It wasn’t helped when media reported that Cantlay had declined the chapeau because, as opposed to teammate, LIV member Brooks Koepka, he wasn’t receiving a bonus for wearing the hat. And that, as a result, the embattled U.S. team was split over the controversy. (After first saying that he couldn’t find a hat that fit, Cantlay later changed his story to say that the bonus/ dissension story was false.)
That was all the partisan European fans needed to hear. They began mocking Cantlay by doffing their hats and jeering him as Team USA stumbled on Friday and Saturday. Rather than fold, however, Cantlay went on a blazing run in Saturday’s final match against Rory McIlroy and Matthew Fitzpatrick. Posting three straight birdies, his last forced the emotional Irishman into a difficult putt on 18 to get a tie.
After Cantlay’s dramatic putt dropped, his caddie Joe LaCava (formerly Tiger Woods’ caddie) mocked the crowd by doffing his hat in McIlroy’s vision. As he did he came close to McIlroy who was preparing for his ultimately unsuccessful putt. The two exchanged words. They were not, “Have a good day.” European team member Shayne Lowry then yelled at LaCava who returned fire.
When the sniping ended, the bare-headed Cantlay sunk a dramatic putt to give America hope on Sunday. But that didn’t end the unpleasantness. In the parking lot, McIlroy got into it with Justin Thomas’ caddy Jim “Bones” McKay. Lowry had to physically shove his fellow Irishman into a car to end the confrontation.
Golf’s chattering classes went mad with excitement. What would happen on Sunday as Europe attempted to win the four points that would return them the Cup? Would America be inspired? Was Europe distracted by McIlroy’s intemperate blasts?
Sunday, LaCava told media he’d met with McIlroy that morning to smooth things over. No hard feelings. In the end, etc. The most visible sign of Saturday’s ruckus was Cantlay buddies Justin Thomas, Colin Morikawa and Xander Schauffele also going hatless in solidarity. It didn’t help as Europe— led by McIlroy spanking Sam Burns 3&1— won the Cup 16.5-11.5. And McIlroy called LaCava a liar about talking to him.
But there was no mistaking the witches’ brew cooked up on the weekend in Italy. The well-rested Americans were handed their hats (badda-bing) early by a Euro squad seeking revenge for their loss at Whistling Straits in 2021. The coach’s selections on the U.S. side— Thomas, Koepka, Burns and Rickie Fowler— stunk out the joint. Calling them coach’s selections exaggerates. Zach Johnson was told by his core players whom to invite.
The Euro coach’s selections might not have been brilliant, but they didn’t hinder the win. Nor were the Euros hurt by the partisan crowd that hooted, chanted and sang its dislike for the Yanks. But that is the Ryder Cup, and when the sides meet again at NYC’s Bethpage Black in 2025 the rabble will reciprocate.
Some players called for calm. Rahm asked everyone to cool down after his half on Sunday. Cantlay smiled benignly through all the hullabaloo, saying the chaos is what makes the Ryder Cup great. But they were drowned out by the international press that pronounced critically on American vanity and the Euros swagger.
The Ryder Cup is traditionally— if not actually— considered the end of the golf season, the culmination of the majors and the FedEx Cup season. So it seemed only appropriate that the first full year of the Saudi-backed LIV Golf end with a sour taste for many. McIlroy, for one, has had a miserable time mixing the old (he won 2 times and earned $13,921,008 but with no majors) and the new (as defiant spokesman for the PGA Tour versus LIV he was hung out to dry by the Tour and many fellow players who allowed him to fight their fight). His outburst Saturday/ Sunday showed the strain he’s carried.
As the only LIV member playing at Marco Simone Koepka did little to put a happy face on his chosen Tour. Dour, sullen and churlish, he refused the ceremonial doffing of his hat when he’d schooled young Lucas Aberg 3&2. Not that the European and PGA Tour officials connected to the Ryder Cup extended a hand or made pleasant noises about the proposed merger with LIV.
Indeed, the ghosts of LIV members haunted the event. Ryder Cup legends Ian Poulter, Lee Westwood, Henrik Stenson, Graham McDowell, Paul Casey, Dustin Johnson and Phil Mickelson were not only excluded from playing but told there was no place in the coaching room of their teams. It all felt somewhat hollow at times.
Thanks goodness #HatGate resurrected a bit of the old-fashioned bile that makes Ryder Cups so anticipated. For all the polite chumminess of today’s PGA Tour, a silly pissing match is a nice diversion. After all, as Conn Smythe once said after a brawl-filled hockey game, “Much more of this and we will have to print extra tickets for the next game.”
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Bruce Dowbiggin @dowbboy is the editor of Not The Public Broadcaster A two-time winner of the Gemini Award as Canada’s top television sports broadcaster, he’s a regular contributor to Sirius XM Canada Talks Ch. 167. Inexact Science: The Six Most Compelling Draft Years In NHL History, his new book with his son Evan, was voted the seventh-best professional hockey book of all time by bookauthority.org . His 2004 book Money Players was voted sixth best on the same list, and is available via http://brucedowbigginbooks.ca/book-personalaccount.aspx
The White House’s ‘Misinformation’ Pressure Campaign Was Unconstitutional
From the Brownstone Institute
I am one of five private plaintiffs in the landmark free speech case Missouri v. Biden. Earlier this month, the Fifth Circuit Court found that the government “engaged in a years-long pressure campaign designed to ensure that the censorship [on social media] aligned with the government’s preferred viewpoints” and that “the platforms, in capitulation to state-sponsored pressure, changed their moderation policies.” This resulted in the censoring of constitutionally protected speech of hundreds of thousands of Americans, tens of millions of times. Based on this finding, the Fifth Circuit in part upheld an injunction on certain public officials put in place by a district court.
Even when the government appealed the injunction to the Fifth Circuit, its lawyers hardly disputed a single factual finding from the court’s ruling. A unanimous three-judge panel upheld the core findings that “several officials—namely the White House, the Surgeon General, the CDC, and the FBI—likely coerced or significantly encouraged social-media platforms to moderate content, rendering those decisions state actions. In doing so, the officials likely violated the First Amendment.” The government again appealed the injunction to the Supreme Court, where we expect a ruling this week.
The government’s claim that the injunction limits public officials’ own speech is absurd misdirection. The government can say whatever it wants publicly; it just cannot stop other Americans from saying something else. Free speech matters not to ensure that every pariah can say whatever odious thing he or she chooses. Rather, free speech prevents the government from identifying every critic as a pariah whose speech must be shut down.
We are all harmed when our rulers silence criticism. Our government’s self-inflicted deafness prevented officials and their constituents from hearing viewpoints that should have had a meaningful impact on our policy decisions. Instead, government censorship resulted time and again in the silencing of scientifically informed criticisms of, for example, harmful COVID policies. This allowed misguided and divisive policies to persist far too long.
The scope of the current government censorship regime is historically unprecedented. “The present case arguably involves the most massive attack against free speech in United States’ history,” the district court judge explained in his ruling. He went on, “The evidence produced thus far depicts an almost dystopian scenario… The United States Government seems to have assumed a role similar to an Orwellian ‘Ministry of Truth’.” The Fifth Circuit panel concurred: “The Supreme Court has rarely been faced with a coordinated campaign of this magnitude orchestrated by federal officials that jeopardized a fundamental aspect of American life.”
The government’s only attempted defense is that it was merely offering help to the platforms without jawboning them—”just your friendly neighborhood government agency.” But the law is clear that even “significant encouragement” to censor protected speech—not just overt threats or coercion—is unconstitutional. We discovered that social media companies frequently tried to push back against government demands, before finally caving to relentless pressure and threats. The evidence we presented from 20,000 pages of communications between government and social media demonstrated both significant encouragement and coercion—as when Rob Flaherty, White House director of digital strategy, berated executives at Facebook and Google, dropping F-bombs, launching tirades, and browbeating the companies into submission—until they removed even a parody account satirizing President Joe Biden.
But the more insidious and powerful censorship happens when government pressures companies to change their terms of service and modify their algorithms to control what information goes viral and what information disappears down the memory hole. With sophisticated deboosting, shadowbanning, search results prioritization, and so forth, citizens do not even realize they are being silenced, and viewers remain unaware that their feeds are carefully curated by the government. Novelist Walter Kirn compared this to mixing a record: turn the volume up on this idea (more cowbell) and turn the volume down on that idea (less snare drum). The goal is complete top-down information control online.
We were dismayed to discover the number of government agencies now engaged in censorship (at least a dozen) and the range of issues they targeted: the State Department censored criticism of our withdrawal from Afghanistan and the Ukraine War, the Treasury Department censored criticism of our monetary policy, the FBI (surprise!) ran point on several censorship ops, and even the Census Bureau got in on the game. Other targeted topics ranged from abortion and gender to election integrity and COVID policy.
Much of the state censorship grunt work is outsourced to a tightly integrated network of quasi-private (i.e., government funded) NGOs, universities, and government cutouts employing thousands of people working round the clock to flag posts for takedown. But constitutional jurisprudence is clear: the government cannot outsource to private entities actions that would be illegal for the government itself to do. If a government agent hires a hit man, he is not off the hook simply because he did not personally pull the trigger.
So-called “misinformation research” at places like the Stanford Internet Observatory is a slippery euphemism for censorship—not only because Facebook executives admitted to censoring “often true” but inconvenient information under government pressure, but because these entities function as laundering operations for government censorship.
Recent attempts to rebrand the work of the censorship-industrial complex with more anodyne euphemisms—”information integrity” or “civic participation online”—don’t change the fact that this is not disinterested academic research, but cooperation in state-sponsored suppression of constitutionally protected speech, always in favor of the government’s preferred narratives.
CISA, the government’s censorship switchboard and clearinghouse agency housed within the Department of Homeland Security, described its work as protecting our “cognitive infrastructure”—i.e., the thoughts inside your head—from bad ideas, such as the ones advanced in this article. (Not kidding: YouTube recently censored a video of our lawyers giving a talk on our censorship case.) These ideas aren’t throttled by government censors because they are untrue, but because they are unwelcome. There’s a more accurate term for the government’s takeover of our “cognitive infrastructure:” mind control. I don’t know a single American of any political persuasion who wants to be subjected to that.
Republished from Newsweek
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