Weekend Political Items.
News Items covers four subjects: (1) World in Disarray, (2) Financialization of Everything, (3) Advances in Science and Technology, and (4) Electoral politics, foreign and domestic. Six days a week, not Sundays. Weekdays by ~6:45am ET. Saturdays: sometime in the morning, usually.
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1. Alan Ross (The Globe and Mail):
It has been a warm autumn in Alberta, but the province’s next political season will turn decidedly crisper. Incoming premier Danielle Smith’s leadership victory could usher in changes to the constitutional fabric of the country with remarkable scope and speed. The introduction of an Alberta sovereignty act, which Ms. Smith has promised to do quickly, would profoundly affect how the province – indeed the country – navigates the Constitution, jurisdiction and the rule of law.
The proposed legislation would give the Alberta legislature unprecedented power to declare that the province will not enforce federal law it believes encroaches on provincial jurisdiction or violates the Constitution. It would apply to federal legislation and regulations, as well as the authority of regulators such as the Canadian Energy Regulator and the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission. The industries and sectors captured span everything from V-chips to vaccinations.
The act would provide provincial legislators with veto power over federal law. The effect would be a made-in-Alberta reverse notwithstanding clause. Under Section 33 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, Parliament and provincial legislatures can pass legislation that would be otherwise unconstitutional. The Alberta sovereignty act would create the unique ability to reject laws that Alberta legislators believe do not pass constitutional muster. It also could give the legislature further, more granular powers to challenge the federal government’s regulatory decisions and operational activities, such as safety and environmental oversight of telecommunications infrastructure or cross-border pipelines.
The act would refashion the role of Canadian courts. The judiciary provides a remedy if governments overstep their jurisdiction. Alberta has sought previously to have courts declare laws unconstitutional; for example, respecting federal environmental impact assessments. However, the act would go beyond this to give Alberta legislators the quasi-judicial ability to declare laws unconstitutional. While the law often operates downstream of politics, this would be an exception under the Canadian political and legal framework.
The act could therefore trigger multiple court proceedings – on not only the constitutionality of federal laws the Alberta legislature seeks to reject, but also the constitutionality of the sovereignty act itself. These processes would be over and above litigation involving the powers of Alberta’s lieutenant-governor, who indicates she might take an unprecedented step of formally evaluating the constitutionality of the sovereignty act rather than giving it automatic royal assent. (Source: theglobeandmail.com)
2. Jair Bolsonaro emerged from the first round of Brazil’s presidential election with an unusually soft rhetoric, touting good economic news in a sign that he has started listening to advisers and avoiding controversial topics in a bid to win over moderate voters. The usually combative leader, who came in second in the Oct. 2 vote but with a much stronger performance than major pollsters had anticipated, has refrained from alleging voter fraud as many feared, and even acknowledged that loss of purchasing power during the pandemic probably boosted support for his leftist challenger, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva. As both men gear up for an election runoff on Oct. 30, Bolsonaro’s measured words are part of a strategy designed by campaign managers who for months have been trying to convince him that casting doubt on the country’s electronic ballots cost him precious votes, according to three political advisers who asked not to be named discussing internal plans. (Source: bloomberg.com)
3. Jair Bolsonaro’s revitalized bid for a second term as Brazil president has placed heavy emphasis on the conservative ideals of God and family. These are values that resonate in Saltinho — a small town in the agricultural interior of Brazil’s wealthiest and most populous state São Paulo — where three-quarters of the population of about 10,000 backed the far-right president in last weekend’s first-round presidential vote. The strong showing in Saltinho, which has benefited from an agribusiness boom cheered on by Bolsonaro, was the highest percentage among municipalities in the state and one of the highest across the whole of Brazil. Bolsonaro’s poll-defying performance in São Paulo state, which stretches more than 650km inland from Brazil’s Atlantic coast, has given him a fighting chance of retaining the presidency — and dealt a grievous blow to the hopes of his left-winger election rival Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva. (Source: ft.com)
4. Leftist Brazilian presidential candidate Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva can defend his lead against right-wing incumbent Jair Bolsonaro by appealing to voters who snubbed both in the first round of voting, according to political analysts and pollsters. Even as Bolsonaro's campaign emerged from the first round energized by outperforming most polls, he faces an uphill battle in winning over enough new voters in the next four weeks. Lula picked up key endorsements this week from the third- and fourth-placed candidates who dropped out of the race, putting up for grabs their combined 7.2% of votes on Sunday. No pollster has showed Bolsonaro making up enough votes from former candidates to gain an edge over Lula in the runoff. Even more votes are available among the 32.7 million eligible voters who skipped the ballot on Sunday, many facing a small fine for shirking their obligations in a country where voting is mandatory. Brazil's abstention rate rose to nearly 21%, the highest for the first round of a general election since 1998. PoderData showed that 55% of voters who skipped Sunday's election lean toward Lula, compared with 45% for Bolsonaro. (Source: reuters.com)
5. For the first time in years, Iran’s universities have re-emerged as a central focus of protests following the death in custody of a woman arrested for allegedly violating the Islamic dress code. These protests have spread across the country and, despite crackdowns, are continuing. With many students refusing to go to class, universities across the country have only partially reopened at the beginning of the academic year. Students in one institution, Ferdowsi University in the city of Mashhad, have called for a referendum on whether Iran should be run by an Islamic establishment. Protesters’ slogans include “We don’t want an Islamic republic” and “Woman, Life, Freedom” — embodying what they hope to achieve under a secular government. Iran’s high school students have also joined the protests, posting videos that show them removing their headscarves, writing slogans and singing songs to show their solidarity with the protesters. (Source: ft.com)
6. As Iran attempts to suppress rights protests across the country, another front of resistance has opened up in far-flung ethnic enclaves, where security forces in the past week killed more than 80 in the country’s remotest and poorest province, residents and activists say. Unrest in Sistan-Baluchistan and other provinces, which are home to ethnic minorities, poses a tricky challenge for the government, as it seeks to prevent the movement from spreading out of control without stoking further anger. The government has also responded with violent force in other remote regions of Iran with large ethnic minorities, including Khuzestan in the southwest and Kurdistan in the northwest. Sistan-Baluchistan is home to a majority of Iran’s Baloch population of more than two million, while Khuzestan is where most of Iran’s more than 1.5 million ethnic Arabs live. Kurdistan is home to a majority of the country’s roughly 10 million Kurds. All three ethnic groups complain of government discrimination and neglect, with some wanting more autonomy for their region. Security forces regularly clash with groups they accuse of separatism and terrorism.
7. Catalonia’s governing coalition shattered last night as disagreement over how hard to push for independence prompted one member of the alliance to quit in disgust. The future of government in one of Spain’s economic engines was thrown into doubt by the move, but the region’s president rejected the possibility of new elections and vowed to govern in the minority. The vote to abandon the coalition cemented a divide within the pro-independence movement, which was united by a disputed referendum in 2017 on secession but has since splintered because of clashes over how to fight on. The break-up was triggered by Together for Catalonia, the junior coalition partner, whose members voted by 56 to 42 per cent to quit because of perceptions that Catalonia’s president Pere Aragonès was not doing enough for separatism. Laura Borras, president of Together, which takes a hardline approach to secession, said after the vote that Aragonès had “lost democratic legitimacy” and failed as the coalition’s leader. (Source: ft.com)
8. The composition of Italy’s incoming right-wing government, likely under Giorgia Meloni, is still far from certain with just a week to go before the opening of the new parliament. The far-right leader is keen to form a credible cabinet to reassure investors and allies concerned about the country’s debt, an energy crunch and the potential failure to secure €200 billion of European Union funds. Moody’s Investors Services on Wednesday warned that delaying reforms needed to keep European money flowing and modernizing Italy’s economy may lead to a rating downgrade. Yet, the refusal by Fabio Panetta to accept the key finance ministry post has thrown Meloni’s plans somewhat into disarray. She had been counting on the European Central Bank board member to take the job, according to people familiar with the matter who asked not to be named discussing confidential conversations. Meloni will come under pressure to find an alternative quickly, if she wants to speed up the transition from the outgoing administration led by Mario Draghi. The first session of the new parliament, where Meloni’s coalition has a comfortable majority, is scheduled for Oct. 13. There was hope that the new government would be in place as early as Oct. 20, in time for a meeting of EU leaders. (Source: bloomberg.com)
9. The Labour party has a 30 point lead over the Conservatives in a YouGov poll of voting intentions as a majority of voters blame the government for soaring mortgage prices. That’s down slightly from 33% the week before. More than half of voters blamed the government for the economic crisis, while 24% attributed higher borrowing costs to global pressures. And only about 5% thought the Bank of England or mortgage lenders were responsible for the upheaval. (Sources: yougov.co.uk, bloomberg.com)
10. Some economists fear the Federal Reserve—humbled after waiting too long to withdraw its support of a booming economy last year—is risking another blunder by potentially raising interest rates too much to combat high inflation. The Fed has lifted rates by 0.75 percentage point at each of its past three meetings, bringing its benchmark federal-funds rate to a range between 3% and 3.25% last month—the fastest pace of increases since the 1980s. Officials have indicated they could make a fourth increase of 0.75 point at their Nov. 1-2 meeting and raise the rate above 4.5% early next year. Fed Chairman Jerome Powell has said the central bank isn’t trying to cause a recession, but it can’t fail in its effort to bring down inflation. “I wish there was a painless way to do that. There isn’t,” he said last month. Still, several analysts worry the Fed is on track to raise rates higher than required, potentially triggering a deeper-than-necessary downturn. “They’ve done a tremendous amount of tightening,” said Greg Mankiw, a Harvard University economist who advised President George W. Bush. “Recessions are painful for a lot of people. I think Powell’s right that some pain is probably inevitable…but you don’t want to cause more than is necessary.” Paul Krugman made a similar point last week. (Source: wsj.com, nytimes.com)
11. The September solid employment report will keep the Federal Reserve on track to approve another large interest-rate increase at its meeting next month as officials seek to lift borrowing costs high enough to soften the labor market and ease inflation pressures. Employers added 263,000 workers in September. While that marked a slight slowdown from the average pace of hiring in recent months, it is still well above the monthly gains of around 50,000 that economists think would keep the unemployment rate from falling. The unemployment rate dropped to 3.5% last month from 3.7% in August. Average hourly earnings rose somewhat more slowly in September than in the prior month, increasing 0.3% from August and 5% from a year earlier. (Source: wsj.com)
12. When the landscape settles, abortion is likely to be illegal or severely restricted in at least 20 states — where just two years ago, in 2020, about 250,000 people had abortions. It is clear that clinicians in those states will face imminent prosecution if they continue to provide abortions. What is much less clear is what happens if providers in blue states offer telemedicine abortions to women in states where that’s against the law. These clinicians, too, could be arrested or sued or lose their medical licenses. To protect themselves, they may have to give up traveling to certain parts of the country — and it’s still no guarantee. In the face of so much uncertainty and an invigorated anti-abortion movement, large organizations and most clinicians are loath to gamble. But Aid Access providers think that the end of Roe calls for doctors to take bold action. Their answer is to mail many more pills to women who otherwise may be forced to carry pregnancies they don’t want. (Source: nytimes.com)
13. About half of Americans (52%) and on average around 3 in 5 participants across all 34 countries (60%) report that they have felt stressed to the point where they felt like they could not cope or deal with things at least once in the past year. Young adults, those in low-income households and women are significantly more likely to report experiencing mental health issues, both in the U.S. and globally. (Source: ipsos.com)
14. Video and transcript: Former U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger discusses leadership in the twentieth century and lessons for contemporary foreign policy. Interview conducted by Richard Haass at The Council on Foreign Relations. (Source: cfr.org)
Domestic Politics Links: An essay on Barack Obama’s “lost manuscript” is worth reading in full. With control of the Senate in play, these are the races to watch. Democrats aim to keep spotlight on abortion, as they face midterm head winds. Jon Ralston explains why Democrats can’t afford to lose Nevada. If you want to know what’s going on in Nevada politics, you read Ralston’s work. More skeletons from Herschel Walker’s closet. And so on. Senate campaign debates: Arizona, North Carolina, Wisconsin. Republicans slash ad buys in N.H. Senate race as Hassan leads. Idiots unite: Attacking Maggie Haberman.
International Politics Links: Fareed Zakaria: What the West is still getting wrong about the rise of Xi Jinping. As Mr. Zakaria notes, it’s worth re-reading Minxin Pei’s famous essay, “China: Totalitarianism’s Long Shadow.” Xi Jinping’s quest for total control of China is just getting started. Thousands of Hungarians sign up to hunt migrants.