Sunday, February 26, 2017

The Company They Keep



Although I consider myself a hard-bitten cynic/realist, a report by Daniel Dale in today's Star has left me decidedly dispirited. Dale, our Canadian expert on Trump who has followed the Orange Ogre very closely since the primaries, asserts that what used to be called 'mainstream conservatism', is now falling into line with Trump's diseased worldview:
This year’s CPAC [Conservative Political Action Conference], which ended Saturday, was less an indication of a battle for the soul of conservatism than evidence that conservatism is now what President Donald Trump says it is. With a conspiracist openly hostile to Muslims running the world, the gap between the kooky fringe and the centre of the movement has vanished. And on issues from Islam to trade to Russia, the centre has shifted to fall in line with Trump’s worldview.
The demographic of attendees is one indicator:
Libertarians, seniors from liberal-leaning northern Virginia and suspiciously well-coiffed 20-year-olds seeking careers as Republican operatives make up a disproportionate percentage of the crowd.

Even there, there was no sign of a dissident movement. Trump had 15-per-cent support in the CPAC “straw poll” during the campaign last year. His approval rating in this year’s straw poll was 86 per cent.
People who were never invited to past CPACs, indeed, were shunned, are now on the main stage:
Seven Breitbart figures appeared on CPAC panels. Not including the Breitbart man who now serves as chief strategist to the president.

As Breitbart’s chief executive, Stephen Bannon used to antagonize the conference organizer, the American Conservative Union, by hosting a counter-event called “the Uninvited” for speakers deemed too incendiary on issues like Islamist extremism.
Consider some of the other invitees:

-Frank Gaffney, an anti-Muslim “security” advocate.

-Clare Lopez, who warned of a supposed Islamist plot to infiltrate Canada.

-Nigel Farage, the leader of the anti-immigration U.K. Independence Party and Brexit engineer.

It is said we are judged by the company we keep. If this year's CPAC invitees are any indication, mainstream, traditional conservatism is hanging out with some 'very bad dudes,' to use a Trumpism.

Perhaps what we are really witnessing is a fire sale of the American soul.

Saturday, February 25, 2017

All You Need To Know About Kellie Leitch

The picture below conveys all one needs to know about Kellie Leitch. In the right-hand corner is an ad placed by that very strange lady in Breitbart.


Conservative leadership candidate Kellie Leitch is running advertisements on alt-right website Breitbart news.

The advertisements include calls to dismantle the CBC, oppose the carbon tax and to screen immigrants for “anti-Canadian values.”

“We’re running ads about screening for Canadian values and dismantling the CBC because Kellie’s been very clear that those are her policies, that when she’s prime minister she will implement,” said Michael Diamond, a spokesperson for Leitch’s campaign.
Thanks for providing such clarity, Kellie.

Friday, February 24, 2017

Trump's Bitter Harvest

This may not surprise us, but it should still horrify us.
In the middle of a crowded bar, Adam Purinton yelled at two Indian men to "get out of my country," witnesses said, then opened fire in an attack that killed one of the men and wounded the other, as well as a third man who tried to help.

Kevin O'Leary Laid Bare

I have never cared for that blowhard known as Kevin O'Leary. A shallow man intellectually, he appears to have only two reasons for seeking the leadership of the Conservative Party of Canada: ego and a thirst for power, likely the same imperatives that impelled Trump to run for the U.S. presidency.

As Mark Cuban observes in the following, it is the latter motive that seems to most drive the failed Canadian/American businessman:

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Growing Momentum

A short time ago I wrote about the resistance movement that has developed and grown since Donald Trump's installation in the White House. A natural question to ask is whether or not the initial enthusiastic momentum of such a movement can be sustained. So far, the signs are good:



Consider this lady's powerful rebuke of Arkansas Senator Tom Cotton:



The passions of the people can be a potent force for evil or for good. Let us all hope it is the latter that prevails.


Tuesday, February 21, 2017

This Says It All

Brian ("There's no whore like an old whore") Mulroney's shameless pandering to Trump the other night confirmed yet again the shallowness of his character.

This political cartoon captures his abject sycophancy.


H/t iPolitics

Oh, The Horror!

Monday, February 20, 2017

Lest We Forget: Bearing Witness

In my view, this next story has absolutely no redemptive value. Nothing good emerges from such a grievous, historic injustice. And there can be no redemptive value in a recantation rendered when approaching the end of life.

Yet despite, or perhaps because of, its ugliness, it is important for all of us to bear witness. Emmett Till was a person, one who had barely tasted life, when he fell victim to a monumental, monstrous hate crime. And the even greater evil is that he is but one of countless others who suffered such cruel fates owing to a system racism that is far from eradicated, even in the 21st century.



And if you have never heard it, give a listen to Billie Holiday's haunting and unforgettable Strange Fruit.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

UPDATED: Chris Wallace Defends "The Enemy Of The American People"

When even elements of the right are spooked, you know things are getting very, very serious:



UPDATE: If you have a really strong stomach, you might be able to watch some of Reince Priebus's whorishness, which Chris Wallace had little patience for:

Friday, February 17, 2017

As Canadians, This Should Profoundly Disgust All Of Us

All this over a motion, a mere House statement, that has no force in law.
The Liberal MP who tabled an anti-Islamophobia motion says she has been inundated with hate mail and death threats.

Mississauga, Ont. MP Iqra Khalid told the House of Commons Thursday she received more than 50,000 emails in response to M-103, many of them with overt discrimination or direct threats.

"'I'm not going to help them shoot you, I'm going to be there to film you on the ground crying. Yeah, I'll be there writing my story with a big fat smile on my face. Ha ha ha. The Member got shot by a Canadian patriot,'" she read, quoting from the video.

And that, she said, was just tip of the iceberg. Here are some other messages she received and read in the House:

"Kill her and be done with it. I agree she is here to kill us. She is sick and she needs to be deported."
"We will burn down your mosques, draper head Muslim."

"Why did Canadians let her in? Ship her back."

"Why don't you get out of my country? You're a disgusting piece of trash and you are definitely not wanted here by the majority of actual Canadians."
We all need to speak out forcefully againt those who propagate such palpable hatred. Remember, silence implies consent.



Thursday, February 16, 2017

The Mad Hatter Holds A News Conference

This has to be seen to be believed. Mendacity AND an alternative universe: two for the price of one.

Bad News From The North

No matter how you parse it, this is extraordinarily bad news. That glacier melt is taking place at an alarming rate is bad enough, but the nature of that melt, as you will learn in the following report, should make all of us very, very nervous.





You can read more about the study here. Time is of the essence, despite people like Rona Ambrose calling Canada's pursuit of climate change mitigation measures "complete insanity" in light of the current madness in the White House.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

My Head Is Starting To Spin

CNN’s Jake Tapper on Wednesday humiliated Donald Trump’s claim that the barrage of negative news stories related to his administration are “conspiracy theories,” taking moment to explain to the president what differentiates a conspiracy theory from actual, real news.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

An Ideological And Horticultural Taint



Although I am not a user of medical cannabis, the current scandal (and it can only be termed a scandal) regarding dangerous and forbidden pesticide use by companies with the Health Canada seal of approval is instructive.

First, a recap of the situation is in order:
After a string of recent recalls by Mettrum Ltd., OrganiGram Inc. and Aurora Cannabis Inc. because of the presence of myclobutanil – a banned pesticide that produces hydrogen cyanide when heated – a number of patients told The Globe and Mail they don’t see how Health Canada can assure them the product can be trusted. Revelations that the government isn’t testing regularly to prove all companies aren’t using harmful chemicals have left consumers concerned for their health.
The real villain of the piece is our current 'new and improved' government, which seems quite content to follow the same practices set out by the former, much-despised neoliberal Harper government.
In a background briefing with The Globe and Mail, a senior Health Canada official acknowledged that even though the government prohibits the use of potentially harmful chemicals such as myclobutanil, – which is known to emit hydrogen cyanide when heated –the department has not been testing cannabis growers to ensure the 38 federally licensed companies were, in fact, not using it.
Instead, the regulator has been leaving it up to the growers to police themselves on the use of potentially harmful chemicals.[emhpasis added]
The rather naive justification for this betrayal of the people using pot for therapeutic reasons is unconvincing:
... we have not required licensed producers [LPs] to test for any unauthorized pesticides, nor have we been testing all LPs, and it is because we expect their companies to be pro-actively watching and taking the appropriate measures to ensure non-authorized products aren’t used.
Perhaps the most damning aspect of all of this is that when a recall of tainted product took place in December, Health Canada refused to reveal the reason: the discovery of myclobutanil.

We will soon be a year-and-a-half into our 'new' government's tenure, more than sufficient time to set new directions for all government bodies, but just as Revenue Canada has shown no particular appetite for chasing down offshore tax evaders, despite the revelations of The Panama Papers, Health Canada and undoubtedly many federal regulators are still hewing to the much-vaunted neoliberal tenet of belief: industry self-regulation.

A damning indictment, to be sure, both of the medical marijuana industry and the Trudeau government, which clearly has not yet met a free-market policy it doesn't like.

A Pertinent Parable

A friend sent me the following. Enjoy!

While stitching a cut on the hand of a 75-year-old farmer, the doctor struck up a conversation with the old man. Eventually the topic got around to Donald Trump and his role as President elect of the United States.

The old farmer said, " Well, as I see it, Donald Trump is like a 'Post Tortoise'.''
Not being familiar with the term, the doctor asked him what a 'Post Tortoise' was.

The old farmer said, "When you're driving down a country road and you come across a fence post with a tortoise balanced on top, that's a Post Tortoise."

The old farmer saw the puzzled look on the doctor's face so he continued to explain.

"You know he didn't get up there by himself, he doesn't belong up there, he doesn't know what to do while he's up there, he's elevated beyond his ability to function, and you just wonder what kind of dumb asses put him up there to begin with."




Sunday, February 12, 2017

Trump Human Rights Tracker

In reading Penny Collenette's column, Trump has wakened the sleeping giant of law, this morning, I learned that that particular giant as a watchdog on extreme political authority in a democracy, is now fully awake and alert. One of the expressions of that alertness is found in the fact that
Columbia Law Human Rights Organizations have launched an online tool called the Trump Human Rights Tracker, which records and summarizes the human rights affected or violated by each of the president’s orders. It is already chilling reading.
Although in its early days, the site already has seven entries, all of which link to the executive orders the Trump/Bannon presidency has enacted, as well as the analyses of various human rights' groups and the United Nations. Reading the latter is a particularly constructive exercise.

Consider, for example, the executive order Enhancing Public Safety in the Interior of the United States. While Trump publicly insists that the removal of illegal aliens will be limited to 'criminals', the actual language of the order says something quite different; this excerpt illustrates some of those it applies to:
(a) Have been convicted of any criminal offense;

(b) Have been charged with any criminal offense, where such charge has not been resolved;

(c) Have committed acts that constitute a chargeable criminal offense;

(d) Have engaged in fraud or willful misrepresentation in connection with any official matter or application before a governmental agency;
It is c and d that have therefore allowed heartbreaking scenes like this to occur:



In essence, anyone who has gained access to the U.S. illegally is now more vulnerable than ever under Trump's executive order, even someone like the above who poses no threat to security and has children who are, in fact, American citizens. While some will exult in such measures, those willing to look at the human dimensions and tragedy involved will not.

I have bookmarked the Human Rights Tracker, and intend to visit it regularly for further study and analysis. I hope you will too.

Thursday, February 9, 2017

A Change of Pace



Perhaps I am in a bit of a mood, but I don't feel like writing about politics today. Instead, today's subject is death, which we all must confront at some point. But this post is not about quotidian deaths, you know, the kinds that come as a result of long illness or random violence. Rather, this is about demises that occur under, to say the least, unusual, even absurd, circumstances, circumstances that one can hardly anticipate.

While I probably have something of a macabre sense of humour, today's subject is prompted by a story I read this morning of a rather ignoble end:
Judith Permar drove to a clothing drop-off box at about 2 a.m. Sunday, her black Hummer shrouded in the darkness of the Natalie, Pa., night.

It doesn’t appear the 56-year-old was fueled by a late-night desire to help the poor, though. When she arrived at the box, she jumped out of her enormous SUV, leaving the engine running.

At that point, it seems that she pulled a stepladder up to the drop-off box. No one can say for sure — the next time anyone saw Permar, she was dead.

After allegedly removing several bags filled with clothes and shoes, she slipped as the stepladder collapsed, her arm catching in the door.

The fall broke her arms and wrists, which were trapped in the box. Her feet, meanwhile, didn’t quite touch the ground, leaving her hanging.

There she dangled until 8:30 the next morning, when she was finally found.

Permar was pronounced dead at the scene. The county coroner James F. Kelley listed the cause of death as blunt force trauma and hypothermia.
And while we are on this subject, allow me to share with you some of the opening sequences of one of my all-time favourite shows, Six Feet Under, an HBO series which dealt with the mortuary business.

Enjoy, or not, as your sensibilities permit.



Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Facebook's Community Standards

Some time ago, I wrote about my disappointing experience with Facebook after I complained about what was essentially hate speech by a FB group. The response I got was that the racist anti-Muslim group did not violate their community standards.

Since then, it would appear that little has changed.

Yesterday I happened upon a video by a FB group entitled Refugee Resettlement, below which was an invitation to learn more at Act For America, which describes itself as "the NRA of national security." Take a look if you want to get a flavour of their 'concerns.' I watched the group's video which, in my view, is an exercise in fear-mongering and anti-Muslim sentiment, and it does violate my standards, but apparently not those of Facebook. Here is the reply I got about my complaint:
Thank you for taking the time to report something that you feel may violate our Community Standards. Reports like yours are an important part of making Facebook a safe and welcoming environment. We reviewed the video you reported for displaying hate speech and found it doesn't violate our Community Standards.

Please let us know if you see anything else that concerns you. We want to keep Facebook safe and welcoming for everyone.
Well, perhaps not everyone, as the video below makes clear:

Monday, February 6, 2017

A Reason For Hope



Although the White House is currently overrun with a band of lunatics that has quickly brought about very dark days, I can't help but think that there are reasons for hope. That I, an inveterate cynic, hold such a view astounds me, but the signs are unmistakable.


Or consider this array of magazines, whose covers leave do doubt about the medium's values and sensibilities. Here are but two of many:





Then there are the strong commitments to justice shown by the number of Canadian and American lawyers who are providing free assistance to travelers caught in Trump's Muslim ban.

As well, large protests are taking place in West Palm Beach near Trump's exclusive Mar-a-Lago resort; charities that traditionally hold fundraisers there are under intense pressure to go elsewhere rather than lend any scintilla of legitimacy to this rogue executive.

What I find especially heartening is that, unlike many protests and demonstrations of the past, these seem dominated by young people, not the graybeards of my generation. Is it possible that the Trump presidency has awakened, not just the dark forces of racism, division and hatred, but also a political consciousness that is strong, defiant and contemptuous of repression? Can it be that Americans, who like to think of themselves as fair-minded and open, are stung by the dark image of the U.S. that Trump is propagating both at home and worldwide?

Consider what Tony Burman has to say:
... the resistance to Trump’s rule is beginning to build in every corner of America, and in many parts of the world. This silent majority — yes, majority — is no longer silent.

It began the day after Trump’s inauguration with the breathtaking women’s marches in more than 600 American cities, as well as many world capitals, denouncing his policies. This event is now regarded as the largest day of demonstration in American history. Since then, there have been countless protests across America, both inside and outside of government, fuelling a growing resistance movement similar to the emergence of the conservative Tea Party in 2009.

Some of the protests have been evident in overflowing town halls and besieged congressional offices, while others have been more discreet. In an unprecedented act of disapproval, more than 1,000 State Department employees signed a letter condemning Trump’s anti-Muslim ban.

In Austin, Texas, meanwhile, the sentiment was more dramatically expressed.

Every year since 2003, a small group of Muslims in Texas have met in Austin to visit with lawmakers. It is called “Texas Muslim Capitol Day” and last year’s event was disrupted by protesters shouting anti-Muslim slogans.

At this year’s event on Tuesday, more than 1,000 people showed up to form a human barricade around the Muslim group to show solidarity.
So palpable is Trump's hatred, so clear is his racism, it would seem that the better angels of our nature are beginning to reassert themselves. Give those angels time to coalesce, and there is no limit to what they might accomplish.

Sunday, February 5, 2017

In These Troubled Times

... I rather envy this young woman her job:



Should the subject of alcohol's rather substantial role in American history interest you, I can highly recommend Susan Cheever's Drinking in America: Our Secret History, an absolutely riveting book.

Given the current madness in the U.S., I have a feeling that sooner rather than later, many of us will be seeking solace and refuge in fermented or distilled beverages.

Saturday, February 4, 2017

In Case You Hadn't Noticed



Meanwhile, Star letter writers offer their suggestions:
Re: Chaos, fear and anger, Jan. 29

Canadians outraged at Trump’s ban on Muslims and refugees can take concrete action by contacting the United States embassy in Ottawa and pledging not to travel to the U.S. until the ban is overturned. We can’t vote south of the border, but we can ban ourselves in solidarity with the victims of Trump’s racist policies.

John Gilmore, Montreal


While emphasizing Canada’s diversity and willingness to accept refugees are good things, they are not enough. President Trump and his cadre are putting in place the foundation for religious and racial discrimination that, liberals are convinced, will lead to undermining democracy and endangering the world by pitting Muslims against non-Muslims.

I recognize that our relationship with and trade dependence on the U.S. is important, but the U.S. government will operate in what it deems its own best interests regardless of what Canada says publicly. There is no more risk to speaking out than in staying relatively silent. The rest of the world, however, needs to hear our message and see our opposition to this intolerance.

The federal government, as one of the last liberal regimes in the world, must be a voice for the sort of fairness and equality that will alleviate the fears of others and undermine the messages of fear and hatred coming equally from Daesh and Trump.

Bruce Milner, Richmond Hill

Friday, February 3, 2017

The Power That Resides Within All Of Us



We live a world where far too many decisions are heavily influenced, if not determined, by economic considerations. The cost of everything, and the value of nothing, seems to be today's ruling ethos, to the point where we regularly seem to be little more than cogs in a giant mercantile wheel. That can be a source of despair, but it can also be an opportunity for all of us to rediscover both our true power and our essential values.

I recently wrote about my personal decision to boycott travel to the U.S. for at least the next four years. In this update, I provide links and brief summaries of those who have made the same choice; I will end with a letter in today's Star that echoes the same theme.

In a commentary, Mark Bulgutch, a former senior executive producer of CBC News, offers his thankfulness at being born a Canadian, and cherishes the life Canada has given him the opportunity to pursue.
But now the United States has decided to shut everyone out if they were unlucky enough to be born in one of seven countries, which happen to have mostly Muslim populations.

That is a policy we can’t ignore.

There are a lot of things we can’t control in our lives ... But no one tells us where to spend our vacation. And no one forces us to cross the border to buy a sweater or a TV set.

So let’s not do it. There’s no need to start a campaign. Just make a personal decision to avoid the United States whenever you can as long as the cruelty persists.

It’s not a terrible sacrifice. Wait four years. We can hope the Trump presidency will then be over. The Grand Canyon will still be there. The Golden Gate Bridge. Mount Rushmore. Disney World. They’ll all be there. And with any luck, the Statue of Liberty will still be there too.
Sheryl Nadler is another Canadian who has come to a similar conclusion. She talks about trips she and her girlfriends have regularly made to nearby Buffalo, a venue that offers them opportunities for shopping and nurturing their friendships:
...this weekend we made the call. Our next girls' weekend will be in Canada. And while I get that it's pointless to try to boycott the U.S. or to punish businesses of Americans who do not support Trump policies, that government's recent ban on immigrants and travellers from predominantly Muslim countries is abhorrent. The rolling back of women's reproductive rights, and the wall with Mexico are unthinkable. And the Trump administration's refusal to acknowledge the murder of six million Jews in its statement on International Holocaust Remembrance Day, essentially aligning itself with Holocaust deniers everywhere, is pretty much what I've been taught to fear my whole life.
Well-known Canadian author Linwood Barclay is making a similar choice, going so far as to cancel the U.S. part of his book tour, even though that may have negative consequences for sales.

The chaos caused by Trump's Muslim ban was a turning point for Barclay:
At this moment, entering Trump’s America feels akin to patronizing a golf course that excludes blacks, a health club that refuses membership to Jews.

I struggled most of the weekend with what to do. I spent a lot of time talking it over with my wife as we watched the news. I have never cancelled an event before. I had made a commitment to people. I had made promises.
For the writer, the other deciding factor was the mosque murders in Montreal which may have been influenced by the exclusionary policies favoured by Trump. as well the firebombings and vandalism of American mosques.
So I pulled out of the Arizona book events and went on Twitter to say that at least while the travel ban is in effect, I will be foregoing U.S. events and invitations.
It is not just individuals who are making the same call.
More than 4,000 university professors, administrators and researchers have signed a petition to boycott international academic conferences in the U.S. to show solidarity with Muslim colleagues affected by U.S. President Donald Trump’s travel ban.

“The reality is these international conferences are large money generators. They are important economic drivers. We don’t want to give the economic support to the U.S. in this situation.”
And finally, there is this letter from David Wentzell, of Milton, responding to a recent column by Heather Mallick:
Re: You must decide if you are a Sally or a Sean, Feb.1

The more than 4,000 educators who have committed to boycott conferences in the U.S. have demonstrated that they are “Sallys” and not “Seans.” As Mallick exhorts, we must all, individually, make this decision. In what we hope is a “Sally” statement, my wife and I have committed to eliminate all discretionary travel to the U.S. during the Trump presidency.

I encourage your readers to take the next four years to discover the glories of Canada, instead of Florida, Arizona and California, or the other 47 states. As a modest encouragement, your paper could eliminate coverage and promotion of U.S. destinations from the Travel section. Mallick wonders if Canada can “obstruct America’s dark path without paying a price.” A U.S. travel boycott is a way for individual Canadians to do just that.
There are other ways to convey one's opposition to the repressive regime to the south. I will try to look at them soon.

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Something Wicked This Way Comes



There can be no doubt now that true evil resides in the White House.
A leaked copy of a draft executive order titled “Establishing a Government-Wide Initiative to Respect Religious Freedom,” obtained by The Investigative Fund and The Nation, reveals sweeping plans by the Trump administration to legalize discrimination.

The four-page draft order, a copy of which is currently circulating among federal staff and advocacy organizations, construes religious organizations so broadly that it covers “any organization, including closely held for-profit corporations,” and protects “religious freedom” in every walk of life: “when providing social services, education, or healthcare; earning a living, seeking a job, or employing others; receiving government grants or contracts; or otherwise participating in the marketplace, the public square, or interfacing with Federal, State or local governments.”

The draft order seeks to create wholesale exemptions for people and organizations who claim religious or moral objections to same-sex marriage, premarital sex, abortion, and trans identity, and it seeks to curtail women’s access to contraception and abortion through the Affordable Care Act. The White House did not respond to requests for comment, but when asked Monday about whether a religious freedom executive order was in the works, White House spokesman Sean Spicer told reporters, “I’m not getting ahead of the executive orders that we may or may not issue. There is a lot of executive orders, a lot of things that the president has talked about and will continue to fulfill, but we have nothing on that front now.”
For anyone to favour these measures shows them to be a willing, perhaps even eager, participant in an evil that has rarely reared its head so egregiously in modern times.

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

News From The Twilight Zone

If there are such things as parallel universes, I sometimes wonder if, by some cruel trans-dimensional legerdemain, we have slipped into one of them. The latest indication of the permeability between worlds comes from the confirmation hearings of the Orange Ogre's pick for Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos.

In this episode, we learn that Ms Devos, a long-time charter school advocate with no faith in the public school system, has something in common with that famous Canadian plagiarist, Chris Spence: