Saturday, 21 December 2019

Christian Editor Disses Trump

Donald Trump may have evangelical Christians wrapped around his tiny finger, but at least one of note has expressed a dissenting view. Editor in chief Mark Galli of the magazine Christianity Today has torn a strip off the president. Galli writes that Trump's actions in Ukraine are "a violation of the Constitution" as well as "profoundly immoral," and goes on to describe the president as of "grossly immoral character." Strong stuff. And a loud voice. Christianity Today, founded by Billy Graham in 1956, has long been a leading voice among evangelicals.

So does this mean Trump is losing evangelicals? Not likely. Other leaders, including Billy Graham's son, are rallying around the president. Galli himself said he doubts he changed many minds. Furthermore, he will soon be leaving the magazine, perhaps leaving it in the hands of lesser men.

But the editorial is at least a spark of light in the evangelical gloom. It is encouraging that at least one of the faithful is sickened by supposed moral leaders doting on a degenerate politician. “If we don’t reverse course now," Galli asked, "will anyone take anything we say about justice and righteousness with any seriousness for decades to come?” A cynic might answer that, outside of the congregation, not many have been taking what evangelicals say about justice and righteousness seriously for a long time. Nonetheless, he has at least indicated there is still a conscience in the Bible Belt.

Friday, 20 December 2019

Are Albertans Regretting Their Decision?

Jason Kenney and his UCP  won a convincing victory in Alberta's April election, winning 55 percent of the popular vote, impressive in a country where 40 percent often gains a party a majority government. Yet in only eight months, Albertans seemed to have reversed their opinion. A ThinkHQ poll found that 53 percent now disapprove of the government's performance with only 44 per cent approving. Two other polls, by DART and Angus Reid, confirmed the reversal and showed the premier's approval also slipping.

ThinkHQ suggests this is a result of growing concerns about jobs, the economy and the new government's budget-tightening. Concern about jobs was up 14 points since October and only 39 percent of Albertans approve of the government's handling of health care. However, the belt-tightening shouldn't have surprised anyone, even when it was accomplished by combining a generous tax cut to corporations with the shrinking of public services. The UCP is a conservative party after all. Perhaps some conservatives naively thought everyone would share in the tightening.

Other possibilities include the shenanigans that went on during Kenney's campaign for leader of his party. This might have put a bad taste in some conservatives' mouths. And the government firing the guy who was investigating the scandal may have offended those who respect the rule of law.

Then there's Kenney's combative nature which leads him to lavish millions on various paranoid pursuits of "enemies." Although no doubt many conservatives support these follies, others may think the money could be better spent elsewhere ... say, on health care and education.

And is it possible that the premier's cavalier attitude toward global warming is causing unease at least among those conservatives who recognize the gravity of the crisis? Nah, now I'm clutching at straws.

Tuesday, 17 December 2019

Is the Democratic World Losing India?

India has been a jewel in the crown of democracy ever since it achieved independence in 1947. Despite mass poverty, religious and caste violence, insurgencies, separatism in Jammu and Kashmir, and feuds with its neighbours, it has remained democratic with respect for civil liberties, an active supreme court and a free press. However since the election of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in 2014, the country has begun to slide into strongman rule as the BJP increasingly recasts the country from a secular democracy to a Hindu state. The BJP is essentially the political arm of the country’s main Hindu nationalist organization, the fascistic Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS).

Since Modi came to power, there has been an increase in discrimination and violence against minorities, including mob lynchings, with Muslims, the country's largest minority, bearing the brunt. He has suspended Article 370 of the constitution which grants autonomy to Kashmir, India’s only Muslim-majority state. He has flooded the state with troops and detained hundreds of prominent Muslims. Recently, the BJP passed a citizenship law which allows non-Muslim immigrants from neighboring nations to seek citizenship in India, the country's first law that explicitly excludes Muslims.

Under intimidation from Modi and his allies, the press has become remarkably docile and approving of Modi's "New India." By selectively pulling government advertising and pressuring private companies to follow suit, he has largely silenced mainstream media. And according to his deputy, Amit Shah, the BJP's social media networks are an irresistible force.

Even the police have at times appeared intimidated, standing by or even participating during Hindu-Muslim conflicts. Courts, too, have been corrupted. The BJP have been rewriting school textbooks and renaming sites to fit the Hindu narrative. Meanwhile the RSS claims it runs thousands of schools and hospitals, a network of trade unions, the largest network of farmers, and the largest social-welfare organization working in the slums. A state unto itself.

Modi cut his political teeth in the state of Gujarat where he served as chief minister. During his tenure, riots killed thousands and drove tens of thousands from their homes. Evidence suggests the rioting was largely planned and directed by the RSS, possibly with government complicity. Thus his behaviour as prime minister is not a surprise. When Ashis Nandy, a trained psychologist, interviewed Modi during a study of the mentality of Hindu nationalists, he concluded that "Modi was a fascist in every sense." He had a puritanical, authoritarian personality and an enormous ego guarding a gnawing insecurity.

Some Indians see a grim future in all this. According to Krishna Prasad, former editor of the newsweekly Outlook, “Gandhi and Nehru were great, historic figures, but I think they were an aberration. It’s very different now. The institutions have crumbled—universities, investigative agencies, the courts, the media, the administrative agencies, public services. And I think there is no rational answer for what has happened, except that we pretended to be what we were for fifty, sixty years. But we are now reverting to what we always wanted to be.”

Can this be true? Has India, like so many developing countries, always been more inclined to strongman rule than to democracy? Has 70 years of democracy been a fluke? It would be hard to lose India, not only a developing country but the second most populous nation on Earth. A loss of 1.37-billion people would be a heavy blow to the democratic project.

Wednesday, 4 December 2019

Trudeau Dumps Democracy Portfolio

Looking over the Prime Minister's new cabinet, one portfolio that stood out because of its absence was Minister of Democratic Institutions. This is, or was, a portfolio with something of a chequered history.

It was first created by Paul Martin in 2003 during his truncated term as prime minister and entitled the Minister responsible for Democratic Reform. Martin had expressed concern about a "democratic deficit." In 2005 the title was changed to "Democratic Renewal" and the portfolio was assumed by Belinda Stronach who had recently crossed the floor from the Conservatives. When the Conservatives won the 2006 election the title reverted to "Democratic Reform." With the election of the Liberals in 2015, the portfolio became "Minister of Democratic Institutions" replete with hope for substantial reform following Justin Trudeau's promise of, among other things, never holding another election under the undemocratic First-Past-the-Post voting system. That promise was, of course, betrayed and we have just experienced another election under FPTP.

It now appears that, with the trashing of the appropriate ministry, the Prime Minister is trashing the whole idea of a democratic voting system. Out of sight, out of mind, for a promise that came back to haunt Mr. Trudeau. Ironically, as discussed in a previous post, support for a proportional system, which would make the people's will manifest in elections, has probably never been higher. Many conservatives, who have traditionally opposed proportional representation, have been converted because in our recent election their party got more votes than the Liberals but they are forced to smoulder in opposition while Justin, he of the good hair, runs the show.

The democrats among us smoulder, too, as even the consideration of a democratic system fades entirely from the federal agenda.