Wednesday, November 30, 2016

The World Needs More People Like This

Living in Texas, I doubt this man will have endeared himself to many. All the more reason to laud his courage and integrity in displaying this sign outside of the Islamic Center of Irving, Texas.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

The Fight Must Continue

Because I am quite a private person, I rarely discuss anything personal on my blog. But I will, to a small extent, break that general rule today to convey something I have come to understand.

The catalyst for today's post is a comment that Kirby Evans made in response to something I posted yesterday, two videos depicting the empowerment of homophobes and racists now that the demagogue Trump has been elected president. Kirby is one of the bloggers that I read regularly and deeply respect for his heartfelt convictions and analyses. Since he made the comments public on my blog, I am sure he will not mind me featuring them in this post:
I must admit, Lorne, that I have largely lost heart. I avoid the news, can't bring myself to write blogposts. I just feel like all the years of fighting have left me drained and bereft of my humanity. In my dad's last years he was continually predicting the return of the 1930s because he said that the spirit of hate is too strong to keep down. As sad as it sounds, I am glad he didn't live to see this stuff. I know I need to keep fighting for my daughter's sake if nothing else. But I just don't know how any more. I feel like the tide of history has changed and we are just going to lose.
Here is what I wrote in response:
I felt the same way in the immediate aftermath of Trump's election, Kirby, but somehow found renewed purpose. I hope you will regain your spirit, Kirby.

Thoughtful, reflective and analytical voices like yours are far too important to be silenced. The war, in my view, is always worth fighting, if only to deny final victory to the rabid right, the morally twisted, and the outright bigots who live amongst us.
What I didn't mention was the catalyst for my renewed purpose, which is where the story gets a little more personal than I am usually comfortable with.

It was probably two days after the Trump victory that I received a phone call from an organization looking for someone to canvas on my street for their charitable cause. Although it was a worthy one, I immediately responded by telling her that I wasn't interested. It wasn't my refusal that was noteworthy, since it is not the kind of thing I do, but it was what I felt when I refused, which I will come back to momentarily.

Probably the same day, or perhaps the next, I was coming out of a library branch and walking to a nearby grocery store when a man sitting on a bench asked me if I had some spare change for a coffee and a doughnut from a nearby Tim Horton's. As is my usual practice, I said "No." (I should add here that I usually refuse such requests in the full knowledge that the area where I live is well-served with organizations providing breakfasts, lunches and dinners seven days a week, and we prefer to donate to organizations rather than individuals.)

My refusal was not delivered with any rancour, and his response was, "Oh." Yet something didn't feel right to me. As I continued my walk to the store, it occurred to me what it was. It was not that I had refused his request or the request of the telephone solicitor that bothered me. It was my realization of a certain mean-spiritedness I felt in issuing those refusals. It dawned upon me that I had, indeed, been deeply affected by the repudiation of my values and principles thanks to the Trump election and I had, in fact, allowed that victory to infect my own psyche. In a word, I think I had momentarily surrendered to the power of darkness cast by Trump and was, in fact, acting as a Trump supporter would have.

I am not sure if I am explaining myself clearly here, but the fact of my refusal was not the issue. I will repeat, it was what I felt when issuing the refusals. To counteract that, upon my return from the store I went into Tim Horton's and bought a gift certificate, hoping the man was still on the bench down the street. He was, and he once more made the same request of me. I handed him the gift card.

Such gestures may be largely meaningless, and certainly are unusual for me. But it hit me with full force that the only way to combat the darkness enveloping us now is to be proactive, to be on guard against such psychic infection, and to carry on as best we can in fighting the forces that would have us devolve into a lower form of existence.

I hope Kirby Evans at some point finds a renewed sense of purpose and resumes his blog. Win or lose, we all have a role to play in this fight, if only to deny final victory to the barbarians at the gate.

Monday, November 28, 2016

More Discrimination Thanks To Trump

I see reports and videos daily about the actions taken by the unhinged right-wing, the bigoted and the morally diseased. Most I choose not to include on my blog, but two especially egregious examples merit further attention. Both are brought to you from Raw Story:

(Bitter) Fruits Of Our Neoliberal Governments

It would seem that Star reader Douglas Porter of Peterborough sees with unusual clarity what so many prefer to ignore:
It seems that many things in history do a repeat cycle about every 80 years. I hate to think that we are on target for another societal unravelling evidenced by what we are seeing in the EU, U.K. and the U.S. that’s similar to what happened in the mid 1930s Europe prior to World War II.

But when 40 to 50 per cent of everyday working people are experiencing a steady 30-year decline in living standards and feel nothing but despair for the future, they often fall for the appeal of a charismatic strongman (or woman) who promises prosperity and better times ahead.

We are seeing a polarization of people that is worsening with more and more of us living in our silos and social media and sneering elites fanning the flames. It’s pretty clear the major cause is increasing income inequality and poverty.

Here in Ontario we are seeing hundreds of thousands of people driven into financial distress, low income status or poverty by an essential public service called electricity. Our government can’t even provide the basics of life any more in an affordable manner. Not housing, energy, child care, pharmacare or basic dental care.

Canada is the only Western democracy without a food security program, if you can believe it. What the hell kind of society are we creating? Water, electricity, food, affordable housing and even Internet in today’s world should be considered human rights, not luxuries. And remember that people outside of the bigger cities pay several times more for hydro, and those with electric heat and hot water pay about three times more again. Some 60,000 people had their hydro cut off last year and 600,000 were behind on their bills.

The Ontario government’s answer to everything is more booze — to kill the pain I suppose. Their electricity pricing is economic insanity and cruel social policy like nothing I’ve seen in 50 years. A vicious attack on the poor and utterly immoral. As if booze, drugs and gambling weren’t enough.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Our Post-Privacy Era

Have you ever found yourself, whether intentionally or by accident, on a webpage discussing STDs? Or how about a porn site? Perhaps you are interested in the online recruiting methodology ISIS? How about the latest research on the use of hallucinogenics to treat alcoholism or PTSD? Whatever you intent might have been, those searches, indeed, all searches, will now be preserved by law by your ISP if you live in Britain.

In a frightening development that would not surprise Orwell but should shock and appall the rest of us, Big Brother has flexed his mighty muscles:
After months of wrangling, Parliament has passed a contentious new snooping law that gives authorities — from police and spies to food regulators, fire officials and tax inspectors — powers to look at the internet browsing records of everyone in the country.

Civil liberties groups say the law establishes mass surveillance of British citizens, following innocent internet users from the office to the living room and the bedroom.
The Investigatory Powers Bill — dubbed the "snoopers' charter" by critics — was passed by Parliament this month after more than a year of debate and amendments. It will become law when it receives the formality of royal assent next week.
While this chilling bill will not provide access to the individual pages you may have consulted, it will provide the websites visited as well as the apps used and messaging services utilized.

As if this bold intrusion into citizens' privacy weren't enough,
Officials won't need a warrant to access the data, and the list of bodies that can see it includes not just the police and intelligence services, but government departments, revenue and customs officials and even the Food Standards Agency.
So shouldn't people simply rely on encryption methods to keep their communications private? Unfortunately, it's not that simple:
Service providers are also concerned by the law's provision that firms can be asked to remove encryption to let spies access communications. Internet companies say that could weaken the security of online shopping, banking and a host of other activities that rely on encryption.
It might be tempting for Canadians to heave a sigh of relief that they do not live in this brave new British world. But that would be unspeakably naive, considering the wish-list of our own RCMP:
The RCMP is lobbying the Prime Minister's Office for new powers to bypass digital roadblocks in cases where national security threats and other "high priority" suspects hide online and operate anonymously beyond the reach of police.

"I can safely say that there's criminal activity going on every day that's facilitated by technology that we aren't acting on," RCMP Commissioner Bob Paulson told CBC News and the Toronto Star in an exclusive interview.
There will undoubtedly be those lazy thinkers who claim that since their own lives are above reproach, they have nothing to hide. Putting aside the obvious objections to such capitulations, perhaps they should consider this:

Today's idle online curiosity may very well become tomorrow's crime.

Saturday, November 26, 2016

I'll Keep Posting These Kinds Of Videos

.... whenever I find them.

Meanwhile, these letters from Star readers remind us that the threat of racism is never far from home. We must be constantly vigilant and ready to take action against it:
Re: Signs in Toronto urge white people to join ‘alt-right’.

Marilyn May is correct in asserting that these fringe racist groups are emboldened by the attention such beliefs have received in the press with the ascent of Donald Trump and right-wing xenophobia in the U.S.

Before we get too smug; we should reflect on the fanaticism displayed by our own Rob Ford and the so-called Ford Nation. While that issue was not racist, it was a reflection of the resentment of certain groups against what they considered the elites in downtown Toronto, or the fringes versus the centre.

There will always be tribalism amongst humans and, on a smaller scale, this gives a sense of belonging and coherence in many groups. When it becomes confrontational, it is dangerous and inimical to the public peace.

In times of rapid technological and social change, we experience high levels of personal and social stress, no matter how comfortable and safe we might be compared to our forefathers.

It is interesting to note that the support of radical Trumpism has a religious twist. Christians, in particular, feel threatened and scared by the apparent incursion of other, foreign faiths or from those who have no faith at all.

I’m not sure Jesus would have approved.

Sigmund Roseth, Mississauga

It comes as no surprise to me that Donald Trump’s victory has emboldened those who periodically pop their intellectual manhole covers and bring their hateful views to the light of day.

The only difference is they believe there is now a place for their unfortunate views and they choose to remain above ground a little longer and soak up some sun.

I, however, have a great deal of faith in my fellow Canadians and don’t believe there to be fertile soil for open displays of hate here. These misguided bigots will soon enough discover this and retreat their views from whence they came, replacing their manhole covers firmly.

David Ottenbrite, Mississauga

What a mournful state of affairs has gripped Toronto. Strange indeed that men in Toronto think that because Donald Trump loves to hurl racist slurs, it makes it legal for white men in our city to do the same.

The whole world will regret that such a man could ever be elected by any group of people. Shame on the U.S. voters

Joy Taylor, Scarborough

Not only should we heed columnist Desmond Cole’s advice not to be smug. Since the appearance of alt-right posters in east-end Toronto and other reported terrible incidents of racism, we should avoid complacency about such attitudes within our society. We must be vigilant, call out unacceptable behaviour and develop strong positive responses.

Paul A. Wilson, Toronto

Friday, November 25, 2016

For What It's Worth

Unfortunately, bias and prejudice are an ingrained part of human nature, and as much as we might wish to deny it, there are demons that reside in all of us. The only honest way to deal with them, in my view, is to admit to and confront them as the first steps in overcoming them.

Like many Canadians, I have long wanted to believe that we occupy a higher moral ground than, for example, the United States, when it comes to racial, ethnic and religious equality. Of course, both history and recent events, including what was covered in this podcast, show that to be but wishful thinking. The internment of Japanese-Canadians and Italian-Canadians during WW11 is a historical rebuke to such notions, but there are other, lesser-known blots on our collective conscience.

You may have heard that a Canadian banknote set to circulate in 2018 will feature the first woman who is not the Queen. While the top five finalists are all worthy choices, my preference is for this woman:

Most people have heard of Rosa Parks, but how many know about Viola Desmond?
A business woman and beautician, Desmond is best known for her stand against racism as a black woman in Nova Scotia. While attending a movie in 1946, Desmond daringly took a seat on the main floor of the theatre rather than the balcony — reserved for non-white customers — after being refused a floor seat by the cashier. She was convicted in court for her actions, but was posthumously granted a pardon in 2010.
And this video conveys the situation she faced with such courage and conviction:

Historical injustices can never really be atoned for. However, they can be acknowledged and used to educate all of us, with the hope they they will never, ever happen again, however fond and unrealistic an aspiration that may be.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Use Your Words

This, courtesy of our friends at Raw Story:

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

UPDATED: Words Are Important

Thus political language has to consist largely of euphemism, question-begging and sheer cloudy vagueness. Defenceless villages are bombarded from the air, the inhabitants driven out into the countryside, the cattle machine-gunned, the huts set on fire with incendiary bullets: this is called pacification. Millions of peasants are robbed of their farms and sent trudging along the roads with no more than they can carry: this is called transfer of population or rectification of frontiers. People are imprisoned for years without trial, or shot in the back of the neck or sent to die of scurvy in Arctic lumber camps: this is called elimination of unreliable elements. Such phraseology is needed if one wants to name things without calling up mental pictures of them.

- Excerpt from George Orwell's Politics and the English Language

As a reader, writer and retired English teacher, words have always been important to me. Words rarely exist in a vacuum; they are almost always laden with context, either implicit or carefully spelled out. They have the power to convey meaning and truth, but they also have tremendous power to either help to heal or to destroy. Words need to be respected.

It is within this context that I was very happy to see ThinkProgress offer this note from its editors:
You can learn everything you need to know about the “alt-right” by looking at the man who popularized its name. Credit goes to Richard Spencer, head of the white supremacist National Policy Institute (NPI), and one of the country’s leading contemporary advocates of ideological racism.

The weekend before Thanksgiving, Spencer keynoted an NPI conference in Washington, D.C. Over the course of his speech, he approvingly quoted Nazi propaganda, said that the United States is meant to be a “white country,” and suggested that many political commentators are “soulless golem” controlled by Jewish media interests.

... ThinkProgress will no longer treat “alt-right” as an accurate descriptor of either a movement or its members. We will only use the name when quoting others. When appending our own description to men like Spencer and groups like NPI, we will use terms we consider more accurate, such as “white nationalist” or “white supremacist.”
We will describe people and movements as neo-Nazis only when they identify as such, or adopt important aspects of Nazi rhetoric and iconography.

The point here is not to call people names, but simply to describe them as they are. We won’t do racists’ public relations work for them. Nor should other news outlets.
An article by Lindy West in The Guardian makes a similar point:
In my column last week, I wrote: “One defining aspect of alt-right white supremacy is that it vehemently denies its own existence … This erosion of language is an authoritarian tactic designed to stifle dissent. If you cannot call something by its name, then how can you fight it?”

So I was heartened yesterday when KUOW, a public radio station in Seattle, released a statement announcing that they will be substituting “white supremacy” or “white nationalism” for “alt-right”. The reasoning, laid out in a memo to staff: “‘Alt right’ doesn’t mean anything, and normalises something that is far from normal. So we need to plain-speak it.”
Such measures as described above are all to the good. As I wrote in a recent post, New Yorker writer David Remnick points out the fact that the media are now beginning to 'normalize' Donald Trump and his ilk. This must not be allowed to continue, and it is to be hoped that more news agencies will find the courage and integrity to tell things as they are, not the way their corporate masters and Trump racists want us to believe.

I leave you with one final warning from Orwell:
Political language — and with variations this is true of all political parties, from Conservatives to Anarchists — is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind.

UPDATE: At noon, CBC's Ontario Today had a show about words that hurt. It is painful to listen to, but also a sobering reminder that Canada is hardly free from racism.

Monday, November 21, 2016

How Can We Remain On The Sidelines?

We cannot be silent in the face of this:

No One Escapes Blame: A Guest Post

In this guest post, my good friend Dom offers a point of view well-worth serious consideration. In contrast to my post yesterday, in which \i heaped scorn on those who either voted for Donald Trump or absented themselves from the electoral process, Dom argues that there is plenty of blame to be borne by everyone, included the progressives.

In the spirit of a good rant:

If Americans want to take a long hard look at the reason why Donald Trump won the election, I would suggest the left and centre in the US get a mirror. Have a good look. They are the reason that a pussy-grabbing, tax-dodging, bankruptcy-profiteering, climate-denier, war-monger, white-supremacy-supporter, health-care-abolisher, demagogue, and narcissist won the presidency of the United States. That’s right. The left is responsible. Why?

Because of their arrogance. Because of their sanctimonious dismissiveness of the right. Because of their seemingly cultural superiority of the right. Because of their unwillingness to have meaningful conversation with the right. Because of their constant insults of the right. Because of their “club-left” and exclusionary attitudes the right. That’s why.

How can any rational person think that the US democrats were going to win an election when their platform was to insult the right? “Trump”et across the country that the only answer was theirs. Remind right wing voters on a daily basis that the Washington Elite is the only answer and that their concerns are secondary to those of every other special interest group on the planet. Divide and leave out of the equation. That was the platform Hillary Clinton and her democratic party put forward.

Hillary Clinton: a corporate supporting elite that pretends to have the interest of the working class. That is the leader the democrats choose to represent the middle and working class? The US citizens are supposed to go to the polls and chant, “well at least she’s not Trump.” This is what the “the land of the free and the brave” boldly offers its citizens: a woman who stands for nothing, and a man who stands for the 15th century. But I digress…the right put forth the man that represents their interests. Yes, a fearful to your bones interest, but never the less a clear choice. What the hell did Hillary stand for? You would never know, for it was buried so deep, I doubt she would be able to find it with a soul searching GPS.

And don’t even think of getting me started on the protesting abstainers. Their arrogance and narcissism is beyond anything I have witnessed of Donald Trump. To think that abdicating responsibility of voting makes a statement is beyond comprehension. Votes “count”. “Count.” Arithmetic, simple arithmetic. When you don’t vote, you don’t count! There is no greater cause in abstaining a vote. There is no point to be made in choosing not to vote. The only point you are making is that you are a narcissist. You choose not to participate because you believe you’re special and your sacred vote should not be tainted. What you are is irresponsible and self-indulgent.

Trump was elected by the left. He was rocketed to power because of an unwillingness to adopt inclusiveness of the right by the left. There is no doubt in my mind that the US has been put on a path toward oligarchy and it has the majority of its people to blame. There can only be one thing left to say, “You get the government you deserve.”

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Taking Responsibility

The other day I came across the following stinging but very accurate indictment of those who voted for Donald Trump:
Not all Trump supporters are racist, misogynist, xenophobes. All Trump supporters saw a racist, misogynist, xenophobe and said “this is an acceptable person to lead our country.”

You may not have racist, misogynist, xenophobic intent, but you have had racist, misogynist, xenophobic impact.
Impact > intent.

So when you get called racist, misogynist, and xenophobic – understand that your actions have enabled racism, misogyny, and xenophobia in the highest halls of our federal government, regardless of why you voted for him.

You have to own this. You don’t get to escape it because your feelings are hurt that people are calling you names. You may have felt like you had no other choice; you may have felt like he was genuinely the best choice for reasons that had nothing to do with hate.

But you have to own what you have done: you have enabled racism, misogyny, and xenophobia.

Impact > intent. Always.
—  Phillip Howell

The above seems particularly germane given the spate of appointments the president-elect is making, appointments that confirm the worst fears of a large number of people.
The US president-elect on Friday picked Senator Jeff Sessions as attorney general, Representative Mike Pompeo as director of the CIA and retired lieutenant-general Michael Flynn as national security adviser.

The hawkish trio have made inflammatory statements about race relations, immigration, Islam and the use of torture, and signal a provocative shift of the national security apparatus to the right.
And what is one to make of the fact that the supremacist Steve Bannon has been named Trump's chief strategist and senior counselor?

You are as capable as I am of reading in depth about these appointments, so I won't go on about them here, since my real point is that while many commentators have offered an array of reasons that people supported Trump, such as their feelings of alienation, the fact that they don't feel their voices are being heard by their politicians, etc., etc. ad nauseam, the fact is that none of them can be excused for their choice. It is not as if they did not know the twisted 'values' of Trump, but either because of or despite those 'values', selected him anyway. For that, they must be harshly rebuked, even condemned.

And what about the approximately 50% of Americans who didn't bother to vote, some out of the usual indifference and apathy, some because they couldn't bring themselves to support either candidate? As Thomas Moore said in A Man For All Seasons, "Silence gives consent." By their non-participation in the election, they have significantly contributed to the darkness that is sure to envelop America and, unfortunately, much of the world.

The failure of the American electorate imposes upon the rest of us a special obligation. As I indicated in an earlier post, none of us can sit on the sidelines or turn away when we witness acts of hatred, racism, misogyny or other behaviour that represent the distemper of our times; sadly, in the minds of many, the election of a moral misfit has sanctified such vile acts.

Silence gives consent.

I will leave you with this peerless commentary that, from the progressive side, is the equivalent of shouting, "I'm mad as hell, and I won't take it anymore!

Friday, November 18, 2016

A Hearfelt Rebuke

In a commentary this morning, Danyaal Raza issues a stinging and heartfelt rebuke to his former professor, Kellie Leitch. Now a doctor, Raza talks of his reaction to that strange lady's dog-whistle politics:
Leitch’s email following the U.S. presidential election hit me hard. At 3 a.m., just hours after TV networks declared Donald Trump President-elect, Leitch doubled down on his racist and xenophobic campaign in an email to her supporters.

“It’s an exciting message and one that we need delivered in Canada as well,” she declared regarding Trump’s victory. “It’s the message I’m bringing with my campaign to be the next Prime Minister of Canada ... It’s why I’m the only candidate who will ensure that every visitor, immigrant, and refugee will be screened for Canadian values.”
Feeling deeply betrayed, the writer, a Muslim, wonders what she really thought of his ethnically and racially diverse classmates:
Surveying the class as she lectured, did she think we all belonged? Did she think we shared her values, presumably the Canadian ones she has in mind? What does her campaign mean for those who think we don’t have a place in Canada?
And therein lies the real problem with people like Leitch. Her divisive tactics do not exist simply in the abstract, but in fact have real-life consequences.
Trump’s “exciting message” that “we need delivered in Canada” has already unleashed a torrent of hate and intimidation.

At the University of Michigan, a “Crime Alert” was issued after a student was told to remove her hijab or be set on fire. In Los Angeles, a teacher taunted his Latino students, telling them their parents were going to be deported. In Indiana, a black women was told “Trump is going to deport you back to Africa.”

With many other incidents being reported, it’s amazing that a little more than a week has passed since Trump’s victory and Leitch’s endorsement.
And those are the kinds of consequences that all Canadians need to bear in mind when they consider her candidacy. As much as we would like to believe otherwise, Canadians are no different from, or superior to, people in other parts of the world. The civil society we live in, the values we hold dear and try to practice, are always going to be fragile. They need to be nurtured and deepened, since it would not take much, as polls already show, for us to succumb to the blandishments of those demagogues lurking within our midst.

As always, the character of our country and the health of our democracy rest with us, responsibilities that we should never, ever take lightly.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

The Normalization Begins

The other day, I wrote about a New Yorker article by David Remnick in which he warns of the insidious normalization of Donald Trump and his twisted values that will take place over time. It appears this is already happening, as the following makes clear. To her credit, Fox's Megan Kelly would have none of the poison that Trump surrogate Carl Hibie was peddling.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

UPDATED: The Responsibilities Of Citizenship

Given the times we live in, it is not enough to simply talk the progressive talk. Action is also required. The following two videos clearly convey what we can do when circumstances demand it.

And closer to home:

And Michael Moore makes a very similar point:
“White people, no matter how painful, have a responsibility to reject anybody who stands in front of a camera who spews racism,” Moore explained to host Reid. “Who spews sexism, misogyny. Who brags about being a sexual predator. I don’t care what your race is, but especially if you’re white. Because that means that you belong to the race that’s been in power forever.”

“This a country that was founded on genocide and built on the backs of slaves,” He continued. “So you have a special responsibility as a white person to always object to anybody who uses racism, who spews this hatred.”

“And do not call yourself a Christian if you are not willing, literally, to put your body in front of whoever is coming to hurt the other — the people who are not you.”
Strong videos and strong words, all necessary in the times we now find ourselves in.

For those who hope for some modification of Trump's lunacy, The Toronto Star has a sobering editorial on his appointment of hate monger Stephen Bannon to the position of chief White House strategist and senior counsel:
The move is a tacit endorsement of the race-baiting rhetoric that helped propel Trump to the White House and which has contributed to a surge in hate crimes and racially motivated harassment since election night.

The message Trump is sending has implications beyond the United States. The bigotry let loose by his campaign knows no borders. Several posters popped up in Toronto this week calling on white people “sick of being blamed for all the world’s problems” to join the alt-right movement. On Monday, an Ottawa rabbi woke up to find an anti-Semitic slur and a swastika spray-painted on her front door. In another part of the city, a school was defaced with the Nazi insignia and the letters “KKK.”

That’s the dangerous result of Trump’s campaign, which unleashed and legitimized racism, misogyny, homophobia and anti-Semitism south of the border and, to some still-unknown extent, here, too. By offering Bannon a prominent post in his administration the president-elect has sent a clear signal that hate will remain on the agenda. It’s the alt-right’s dream come true. For the rest of us, it’s a nightmare.
The chance of turning back this nightmare is one that falls to all of us, like it fell to bystander Valeska Griffiths who, along with others, intervened in the racist Toronto streetcar incident depicted above:

UPDATE: This should serve as a timely reminder of what is possible when we act with goodwill in our hearts.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Bernie Sanders Offers Both A Prescription And A Warning

Spending five minutes watching this video will likely provide more truth and insight than were heard in the entire U.S. presidential campaign.

Meanwhile, Back At Home

While the Gong Show unfolding in the U.S. will likely continue to preoccupy a great many of us in the weeks, months and years to come, we would be remiss to ignore disquieting occurrences in our own country. Many of these occurrences are unfolding under the blinding glare of our prime minister's sunny smile; indeed, many of them are being orchestrated by Mr. Trudeau, under the not-so-subtle aegis of his neoliberal agenda.

One of these issues is the Infrastructure Bank Trudeau is establishing, one that seeks to meld public and private money to finance projects. The key question one must ask, of course, is what is in it for the institutional and consortia investors he is trying to attract. Kate Chucng, a Toronto Star reader, recently raised a very pertinent point.
So the federal government plans to start an “infrastructure bank.” But we already have one. It’s called the Bank of Canada, and it was set up for this very purpose.

The Bank of Canada exists to make low-interest loans to all levels of government. So why are they wanting to borrow at high interest rates from private investors? Could it be that the 1 per cent controls the government?
It is a question all of us should be asking.

In his column today, Paul Wells writes about a meeting the prime minister and nine of his ministers had on Monday in Toronto at the Shangri-La, where they were guests
of Larry Fink from New York’s humongous BlackRock investment firm, pitching Canada as an investment destination to some of the deepest pockets on the planet.

Around the table were all your favourite emissaries from global capital. The Hong Kong Monetary Authority, with $360 billion (U.S.) in assets. Norway’s Norges Bank, which may be the world’s largest sovereign wealth fund, though it’s hard to tell and the Norwegians hope to keep it that way. The Olayan Group from Saudi Arabia, with assets somewhere north of $100 billion. Singapore’s Temasek Holdings, closer to $200 billion. The Qatar Investment Authority. The Lansforsakringar, which is Swedish for “If you have to ask, you can’t afford it.”
Interestingly, for a government that promised openness and transparency,
the whole day happened behind closed doors and surrounded by heavy security.
This kind of secrecy and preferred access, so typical of the former Harper regime, should cause all of us concern:
The novelty of it all, and the long trains of zeros and commas following all these visitors around, has generated a very large amount of skepticism among the relatively few Canadians who’ve been following this project so far. How will the investors generate returns? Toll roads? Jacked-up hydro rates? What kind of bargain is it if Canadians pay for all this fancy new stuff through their daily out-of-pocket expenses, rather than through their taxes?

Nearby, at Nathan Phillips Square, the Ontario Public Service Employees Union was staging a protest of the whole business. “When people find out how much of their money private contractors are skimming off the top, they don’t want anything to do with it,” Smokey Thomas, the OPSEU president, said in a news release.
There is no philanthropy in business. Everything is done with an eye to the bottom line. This fact alone should give Canadians deep, deep cause for concern over the direction our 'new' government is taking us in.

Monday, November 14, 2016

At The Altar Of Baal

All along, Trump seemed like a twisted caricature of every rotten reflex of the radical right. That he has prevailed, that he has won this election, is a crushing blow to the spirit; it is an event that will likely cast the country into a period of economic, political, and social uncertainty that we cannot yet imagine. That the electorate has, in its plurality, decided to live in Trump’s world of vanity, hate, arrogance, untruth, and recklessness, his disdain for democratic norms, is a fact that will lead, inevitably, to all manner of national decline and suffering.

The above is but one paragraph from a penetrating and, I suspect, prescient, article by David Remnick in the New Yorker. Even if you are feeling sated from Trump coverage, try to make room for this piece, rich as it is in insight and prediction.

What especially resonated with me in the above was Remnick's observation that Trump's election is a crushing blow to the spirit. I doubt that I am alone in feeling both dazed and demoralized by a demagogue's elevation to the highest office in the U.S. When it happened, I felt that a giant middle finger had been offered to all the things that I and most progressives believe in: education, critical thinking, fairness, acceptance and compassion, to name but five. For about two days I was mired in a kind of existentialist funk, wondering what the point was in continuing to write and advocate for the things I value - none of it seemed anything more than an exercise in vanity, catharsis and futility.

But after two days, my perspective changed.

I realized that to stop, to give in to despair, would be to abdicate to all the things that I despise in my life: racism, intolerance, ignorance and profound, willful stupidity. And so the fight continues.

I will take but one more excerpt from the Remnick article to comment upon:

In the coming days, commentators will attempt to normalize this event. They will try to soothe their readers and viewers with thoughts about the “innate wisdom” and “essential decency” of the American people. They will downplay the virulence of the nationalism displayed, the cruel decision to elevate a man who rides in a gold-plated airliner but who has staked his claim with the populist rhetoric of blood and soil. George Orwell, the most fearless of commentators, was right to point out that public opinion is no more innately wise than humans are innately kind. People can behave foolishly, recklessly, self-destructively in the aggregate just as they can individually. Sometimes all they require is a leader of cunning, a demagogue who reads the waves of resentment and rides them to a popular victory. “The point is that the relative freedom which we enjoy depends of public opinion,” Orwell wrote in his essay “Freedom of the Park.” “The law is no protection. Governments make laws, but whether they are carried out, and how the police behave, depends on the general temper in the country. If large numbers of people are interested in freedom of speech, there will be freedom of speech, even if the law forbids it; if public opinion is sluggish, inconvenient minorities will be persecuted, even if laws exist to protect them.”

We are, of course, already seeing the normalization of Trump, the legitimization, if you will, of a man who inhabits his own universe, at the centre of which is a black hole sucking in values and beliefs that most of us hold as preeminent guidelines to anything approximating a civil society. This normalization would not be possible without the cooperation of what Henry Giroux calls 'a supine media.' A good illustration would be the interview last night on 60 Minutes with the president-elect and his cheering entourage, a.k.a., his family. I did not watch it, but saw a sufficient number of clips touting the interview to get a good sense of it. Soon, some people will be saying, "Trump's not really a bad guy at all."

Another disheartening example of normalization came from a disappointing piece written by Garrison Keilor. While he may not be happy over what the electorate has chosen, his ultimate advice is to take it in stride:
We liberal elitists are now completely in the clear. The government is in Republican hands. Let them deal with him. Democrats can spend four years raising heirloom tomatoes, meditating, reading Jane Austen, traveling around the country, tasting artisan beers, and let the Republicans build the wall and carry on the trade war with China and deport the undocumented and deal with opioids and we Democrats can go for a long brisk walk and smell the roses.
That is something none of us should do. We need, as Michael Moore said the other day, to be resolute and active against all that Trump represents:
“White people, no matter how painful, have a responsibility to reject anybody who stands in front of a camera who spews racism. Who spews sexism, misogyny. Who brags about being a sexual predator. I don’t care what your race is, but especially if you’re white. Because that means that you belong to the race that’s been in power forever. This a country that was founded on genocide and built on the backs of slaves. So you have a special responsibility as a white person to always object to anybody who uses racism, who spews this hatred.”
Donald Trump now has something he has always dreamed of: the adoration of many, the attention of all. What he will never have, I hope, is respect from the people who truly matter to our humanity.

I have no illusions about the reach or efficacy of my little soapbox called a blog. But if it helps me, and perhaps a few others, to penetrate the darkness we are mired in, it is worth it. The alternative is just too frightening to contemplate.

Saturday, November 12, 2016

That Kellie Leitch: She Never Exceeds Expectations

I think the following video explains it all:

Judicial Bias

I was planning a post different from what I am writing today because of a set of circumstances that occurred yesterday, when a friend on Facebook pointed out an article in the Globe about a Hamilton judge who went to court wearing a Trump cap that read, "Make America Great Again."

Given my own encounter with judicial bias last June involving Justice Antonio Skarica, which I recounted in this blog, I decided to write to the reporters listed on the story to tell them about my experience with Toni Skarica and his t-shirt. I was then called by reporter Sean Fine, who briefly interviewed me on the phone.

Here are some excerpts from the article: The first provides the context:
On Wednesday morning, after the U.S. presidential election, Judge Bernd Zabel of the Ontario Court of Justice in Hamilton wore Mr. Trump’s “Make America Great Again” campaign ball cap when he entered his courtroom, a source who was in court told The Globe and Mail. He said the cap signified that it was an historic occasion. He removed the cap and put it on the bench in front of him, the source said, and returned with it after the court’s morning break.

Citing The Globe’s report, law professor Gus Van Harten complained in writing to the Ontario Judicial Council on Friday. He said Judge Zabel’s “childish” conduct cast doubt not only on the fairness of his courtroom but that of the entire Ontario Court of Justice, whose judges sit throughout the province. And he said the judge should at the very least be made to withdraw from cases involving minority groups disparaged by president-elect Trump during the campaign.
Van Harten's disgust and objections mirrored my own when I encountered Skarica:
The case of Ontario Superior Court Justice Antonio Skarica – who wore a Trump “Make America Great Again” T-shirt while out shopping one day last spring – provides an indication of how seriously judicial authorities take such complaints.

Lorne Warwick, a retired teacher from Dundas, Ont., complained to the Canadian Judicial Council, the disciplinary body for federally appointed judges. The CJC referred the complaint to the chair of its conduct committee, Nova Scotia Chief Justice Michael MacDonald. He spoke to Justice Skarica, who told him he had not intended to make a political statement; he had received the T-shirt from his brother and considered it an item of memorabilia. He promised not to wear the shirt in public again, according to a letter from the CJC that Mr. Warwick posted on a blog.

A spokeswoman for the CJC confirmed the authenticity of that letter. “I believe it shows we took the matter seriously, seeking comments from the judge, and carefully considering the matter following Chief Justice MacDonald’s direction,” Johanna Laporte said in an e-mail.

Mr. Warwick said in an interview that he was “astounded” when he and his wife saw Justice Skarica in the Trump T-shirt. “I felt his judgment was very bad.” He said other shoppers who recognized Justice Skarica looked at him “with disgust.” But at least the judge had to account for his “strange behaviour,” he said in his blog post.
I am one who leads a low-key existence and never seek to extol myself or 'build my brand,' as the young are wont to say. However, I write this only as a way to encourage people to keep fighting the good fight, a personal philosophy that I found deeply shaken after the results of Tuesday's presidential election.

I now feel my fighting spirit starting to return.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

UPDATED: More From The Conservative Braintrust

Well, we know what an abomination Kellie Leitch is as a Conservative leadership hopeful, but what about Brad Trost?

The pool, it would seem, is very, very shallow:

UPDATE: Note to Brad Trost: A B.Sc. in Geophysics does not make you a geophysicist.

And Two More Things

I hadn't fully appreciated, until the U.S. election results came in, how much we have in common with the ovine species:

H/t Carsten

I've said it before, and I'll say it again: George Carlin left us far too early:

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

On Today's Menu

Even though I will be riveted to the television tonight watching the U.S. election results, I have had more than enough American political coverage, having just returned from Cleveland, where politics seemed pretty much to be the only topic being covered by the media. So a return to Canadian politics is in order.

Saturday's Star had some strong opinions from its readers on Finance Minister Bill Morneau and his "let them eat cake" attitude toward those mired in precarious work. I think it is safe to say that his attitude is not shared 'by the masses'.
Finance Minister Bill Morneau thinks the precarious work situation is OK and he sees nothing wrong with a situation where worker protection has been so eroded that people are having difficulty supporting families, affording housing and food, to say nothing about saving up for retirement.

The Liberal government has shown itself only to be concerned with the middle class.

Almost nothing has been done for the homeless, seniors and those on the extreme margins.

Obviously the Liberals will do nothing for the working poor in precarious work ... the ones accessing food banks to stay alive.

I am severely disappointed in this party and its misguided focus. Its child-care program will only be affordable to a select group and not the working poor who will need it most.

I did not vote for Justin Trudeau and nothing about his performance so far has changed my mind.

M. Schooff, Orangeville, Ont.

Get used to multiple careers, our finance minister says. Instead of trying to fix the symptoms, perhaps the government should focus on fixing the cause.

The standard of living has been falling for about three decades, going back to the days of Reaganomics, where tax cuts for the wealthy were supposed to trickle down to everyone else.

Well, history has always proven that idea to be total nonsense. Instead of giving tax cuts to the wealthy and corporations, the government should be focusing on social responsibility and ensuring that those with money are sharing it with the country as a whole, instead of hoarding it.

Otherwise, we’ll see more and more precarious employment, job loss and poverty, which will cause more precarious employment, job loss and poverty. It’s a downward spiral that hurts the bulk of the population, while making more and more for the wealthy.

James Knott, Mississauga

It’s a pretty sad state of affairs when the finance minister says, this is as good as it’s going to get, get used to it. He even has a term for it: job churn.

I worry about our grand- and great-grandchildren and their future. They are told to get a good education in order to get good jobs.

All this does is make them over educated and over qualified for entry-level jobs with minimum wage and minimum hours.

Big multi-national companies have no loyalties to their employees, but want their employees to be loyal to the company. At the first sign of trouble, it’s fire or lay off hundreds.

How is the next generation going to cope when they don’t know if they’ll have a job next week, month or year? No job security, no benefits, no pension. Can they afford to buy a house or a car? Can they give their children the things they need, like a university education.

I don’t know what the government can do to bring good-paying jobs with benefits and job security back to Canada, but when the finance minister says get used to it, there is something wrong.

Allan Mantel, Victoria Harbour, Ont.

Thursday, November 3, 2016


I'll be out of town for a few days. Blogging will resume next week.

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

UPDATED: I May Have The Answer

Strange cacophonous sounds coming from the skies may seem like the prelude to a science-fiction film, but the phenomenon is actually happening throughout the world. At times sounding like trumpet blasts, at others like construction equipment, the noises have been heard for about a decade. Have a listen:

While no one has found an explanation for this mystery, allow me to put forth one: could it be Mother Nature expressing her horror at the way we have been heedlessly neglecting, abusing and exploiting the earth for far too long?

UPDATE: Thanks to Marie for providing this link to other possible explanations.