A new format for the Olympics?

So many recent Olympic games have had a questionable legacy and, since the world as a whole needs to be undertaking a massive effort to function more sustainably, it seems like the itinerant period in Olympic history might be appropriately brought to an end.

It’s lunacy to build Olympic-level athletic facilities over and over again, particularly since many of them (like ski jumps and bobsled tracks) cannot be safely used by anyone outside a tiny handful of world class athletes.

Instead, it seems much more sensible to adopt one of two approaches: the establishment of permanent homes for the summer and winter Olympics in suitable locations where the facilities already exist, or the dispersal of the Olympics with events to happen in different places around the world which already have facilities in place. Either approach would eliminate the role of the Olympics as a national prestige project, but that’s arguably where most of the problems come from, from massive spending on security and facilities to corruption.

House prices in Canada

Many journalistic sources have been commenting on the possibility that house prices in Canada have risen at unsustainable rates. Recently, The Economist printed:

Household debt has climbed to almost 170% of post-tax income. House prices rose by 20% in the year to April. Looked at relative to rents, they have deviated from their long-run average by more than any other big country The Economist covers in its global house-price index. In Toronto, one of two cities, along with Vancouver, where the boom has been concentrated, rental yields are barely above the cost of borrowing, even though interest rates are at record lows. In its twice-yearly health-check on the financial system, published this month, the Bank of Canada concluded that “extrapolative expectations” are a feature of the market. In other words, people are buying because they hope, or fear, that prices will keep rising.

They also note that house price inflation in Toronto is above 30%.

To me, a lot of this coverage seems to miss the link between house price inflation and global wealth inequality. People who own valuable assets have, in many cases, seen their wealth rise rapidly, while those reliant on wages have seen it stagnate or fall.

I think governments ought to be thinking much more seriously about policy mechanisms to curb inequality, including wealth taxes and guaranteed minimum incomes. This is both because much of the accumulation of wealth by the wealthy has been undeserved and because inequality distorts politics and social relations, making it harder to confront other problems.

Explaining Clinton’s defeat

From Hillary’s perspective, external forces created a perfect storm that wiped her out. In this telling, laid out in scores of interviews with Clinton campaign aides and advisors for this book, the media bought into an absurd and partisan Republican-led investigation into her e-mail server that combined with Bernie Sanders’s attack on her character and a conservative assault on the Clinton Foundation’s practices to sow a public perception that she was fundamentally dishonest. From there, Comey’s unprecedented public condemnation of her handling of the server, the Russian cyberattacks on the DNC and Podesta’s e-mail account, and new voter ID laws suppressed support for her. In a twist, Clintonworld sources said, Comey’s final exoneration of her enraged Trump backers and pushed them to the polls in droves. Along the way, they said, misogyny played a quiet role in turning men against her without an offsetting boost in support from women. Her most ardent defenders maintain that she nailed every major moment of the campaign. “Those debates were her. The Benghazi hearing. Her convention speech. Her getting off the mat in New Hampshire,” said one senior campaign aide. “She does not give up.”

But another view, articulated by a much smaller number of her close friends and high-level advisors, holds that Clinton bears the blame for her defeat. This case rests on the theory that Hillary’s actions before the campaign—setting up the private server, putting her name on the Clinton Foundation, and giving speeches to Wall Street banks in a time of rising populism—hamstrung her own chances so badly she couldn’t recover. She was unable to prove to many voters that she was running for the presidency because she had a vision for the country rather than visions of power. And she couldn’t cast herself as anything but a lifelong insider when so much of the country had lost faith in its institutions and yearned for a fresh approach to governance. All of it fed a narrative of dynastic privilege that was woefully out of touch with the sentiment of the American electorate.

“We lost because of Clinton Inc.,” one close friend and advisor lamented. “The reality is Clinton Inc. was great for her for years and she had all the institutional benefits. But it was an albatross around the campaign.”

Allen, Jonathan and Amie Parnes. Shattered: Inside Hillary Clinton’s Doomed Campaign. Crown; New York. 2017. p. 398–9

Closing days of the Clinton campaign

But over the course of the next seventy-two hours, on a series of conference calls, her team would radically reshape their approach to the final days of the campaign. In an effort to close a nasty contest on a high note and set herself up to govern from a more aspirational place, she had planned to spend millions of dollars on positive television ads in battleground states. The reintroduction of her e-mail scandal—and its attachment to Weiner—meant that she wouldn’t be able to concentrate on getting undecided voters to feel good about picking her. They already had deeply held concerns about her character, and this was going to add “Clinton fatigue” to the mix. Comey had raised the prospect of her facing criminal inquiry from the Oval Office and the country was being plunged back into the nasty, queasy politics of Bill Clinton’s final years in office.

Instead of just promoting herself on the airwaves, Hillary’s aided decided, she would use more of her cash to throw mud on Trump, to try to prevent him from getting a free ride while she again slogged through the e-mail saga. Her end-of-the-race persuasion campaign would be more of a reiteration of the case against Trump. She had to convince voters that he was even worse.

Allen, Jonathan and Amie Parnes. Shattered: Inside Hillary Clinton’s Doomed Campaign. Crown; New York. 2017. p. 360