Saturday, March 7, 2020

I'm sad as the Ontario Liberal Party uses an archaic system to elect a questionable leader

The CP24 live online feed at 12:35 pm today
I'm sad today as a couple thousand elected delegates, but also a big chunk of "ex-officio" delegates appointed to the convention with equal voting power due to their elite positions within the Ontario Liberal Party, gather in the International Centre in Mississauga to formally pick a new leader to replace the amazing trailblazer Kathleen Wynne.   

When the Ontario Liberal Party was smashed in the 2018 election and the NDP failed to stop Doug Ford's PCs, I was inspired to get re-engaged in helping to rebuild the Liberals as the only party that has traditionally been able to defeat Conservatives. 

I attended the June 2019 annual general meeting of the Ontario Liberals where hundreds of like-minded Liberal activists tried to modernize our leadership process that would allow all members a direct say in the leadership results including on the most important final ballot.  It would've allowed thousands of men, women, and youth across the province to have that vote in their own communities.  All major parties in Canada have moved to this form of direct democracy which engages hundreds of thousands rather than just hundreds.

But sadly, while 58% voted at that Ontario Liberal meeting last June to modernize, they were thwarted by a regressive minority of 42% of members who argued that the excitement of a convention, and the allegedly intense media coverage conventions always receive, would be foolish to give up.  Who cares about good process if you can have flashy television cameras?  (The change needed two thirds support to pass.)

Well, to that I offer the above image.  There is no live coverage currently on any television I can access (I cut my cable cord years ago).  The CP24 online live feed is not covering it as the above image indicates.  They're only publishing some leadership speeches as clips after they happen.  Perhaps they'll cut in for a few minutes when the leader is announced today after the first ballot around 2 pm.  CBC is not providing live coverage online or on CBLT.  TVO is not covering it on their television channel, but is at least live-feeding it on YouTube (which I'm currently streaming.)  That's it. 

So we've opted for a bad process and aren't getting the promised media attention.

And in the end, it looks like the mediocre Steven Del Duca will prevail due to his huge delegate count coming into the convention.

I'll give credit where it is due: clearly, Del Duca and his team ran a great campaign focused on signing up members and turning them out to vote.  It was a juggernaut.

I struggled to find an alternative I could truly believe in.  Few big Liberal stars stepped forward.

I was highly tempted to support Kate Graham, whose energy, drive and progressive vision for a new way of doing politics was inspiring.  But in the end, I opted to support Mitzie Hunter who offered many of the same things, plus a seat at Queen's Park and more actual government experience.  I even ran to be a Mitzie delegate in Toronto Centre, but came up short winning the 1 delegate spot Mitzie earned out of 16 from that riding.

The watering down of the membership votes into delegate counts remains a big shame.  Nine people together voted in Toronto Centre for Alvin Tedjo and Brenda Hollingsworth.  But those votes translated into zero delegates to the convention due to the math converting 206 votes into just 16 spaces.  Those nine people might as well have not shown up.   The Ontario Liberal Party needs to fix this and implement One-Member-One-Vote.

I could've gone to the convention this weekend as an alternate with no vote.  For the price of at least $500 plus transportation or hotel costs, I could have gone and sat to watch events in person, including what looks to be a first ballot coronation for Steven Del Duca.  I took a pass.  This is what happens when the system is designed to exclude about 90% of members from the final decision.  

Presuming Del Duca prevails this afternoon, I wish him well.  He lacks charisma, he speaks a bit like a robot, and looks like your typical Liberal backroomer.  He literally is one of those Liberals who used his position of power in government to manipulate decisions to his own political benefit.  I'm sure he'll be hoping to sweep all of those skeletons away and move forward.

But he's smart, energetic and clearly well-organized.  He's boring.  But sometimes that sells very well in Ontario.  We know that voters in general have been turned off and disappointed by Doug Ford's erratic and bizarre leadership choices and style.  He's been a bull in a china shop.  It may just be that Steven Del Duca, whose monotone voice belies a mood that never falls off the rails, might be able to portray a quiet competence that might connect with Ontarians.

Of course, the PCs and the NDP will try to tar him with the past sins of the Liberal Party.  They may succeed.  But we will of course see.  The Liberal establishment insisted that we must pick Del Duca in this race.  They've got what they wanted.  It's now time for Del Duca to deliver.  

Sunday, March 1, 2020

Pete Buttigieg, first openly gay presidential candidate to win a state caucus, drops out of the race

Former Indiana mayor Pete Buttigieg
I have mixed feelings about tonight's news that Pete Buttigieg, the openly gay former mayor of South Bend, Indiana, and upstart Democratic presidential candidate, is dropping out of the race. 

At a time like this, I want to be more generous and focus on the immensely positive aspects of his historic candidacy. Buttigieg did smash considerable barriers by building up his national campaign into what it became.  Just over a year ago, most observers dismissed the candidacy of the openly gay incumbent mayor of a small city in the midwest with a name tough to pronounce and no state-wide election victories under his belt. 

They weren't dismissing him in recent months.  Buttigieg built a national team that pulled out all the stops to take flight.  And it did for a while.  His victory in the Iowa caucus last month was a historic moment for the first major openly gay presidential candidate.  That's something to respect.  

The handsome man with piercing blue eyes and a clearly brilliant mind offered a fresh, outside-the-Beltway perspective on national politics.  His life story including his experience as a soldier as well as his religious faith, made him a unique candidate on the ballot.  There were times I could see how it could be possible he could win this thing, either this year or (more than likely) in future years. 

Still, his lack of experience at the state or national level made his candidacy a harder sell.  He struggled to expand his support beyond white communities.   Many people of colour communities viewed him as just the latest media concoction of a smooth talker who says the right things but never really delivers for them.  

Some of his best ideas, such as getting rid of the Electoral College or embracing Medicare for All, seemed to disappear the longer he continued to hold exclusive fundraisers with wealthy contributors.  In a year defined by the anti-establishment politics of Bernie Sanders, Buttigieg seemed little more than a retread of the types of politicians who did little in the past for the working class, only this time in a younger, cuter, millennial package.  It was interesting that the 38-year-old failed to pick up much young support, as we've seen in polling and exit polls.

In the end, while I enjoyed many of Buttigieg's speeches earlier in his campaign, he lately came across to me as a bit smarmy and overly-rehearsed.  I found him hard to relate to on a number of levels, despite him being gay and white, about 10 years my junior.  Perhaps it was his high-minded, managerial personality which reminded me of certain gay men I can't stand much.  His coziness with the establishment and big donors seemed completely at odds with what America needs right now.  

Still, I have to admire the guy.  There's no doubt he's got a future in politics.  It may be too late this year for him to re-calibrate his efforts and seek a different office like the Indiana Governor's mansion.  But it would certainly win him more fans were he to actually take down some horrid Indiana Republican as soon as possible.  

The timing in withdrawing today is likely meant to benefit other moderates remaining in the Democratic race on Super Tuesday.  This might help deny Bernie Sanders as many delegates as he would've won with the moderate middle splintered by Buttigieg's support.  We'll see if Amy Klobuchar does the same thing before Tuesday (probably not.)

Wednesday, February 12, 2020

Poll shows Steven Del Duca already deflating Ontario Liberal fortunes

Doug Ford will be happy with Steven Del Duca as Liberal leader
As I predicted in last month's blistering post against Liberal backroom operator Steven Del Duca's candidacy for the Ontario Liberal leadership, we now have a Campaign Research poll as proof that Del Duca literally deflates Liberal fortunes and helps out Andrea Horwath's NDP, and to some extent Doug Ford's Conservatives. 

The poll showed today, without any leaders' names mentioned, the Liberal brand is on top in Ontario with 36%, the PCs at 30% and the NDP at 21%.

But when leaders' names were added to the question, including reported front runner Del Duca's name as "Liberal leader," support for the Ontario Grits plummets from first to third, or from 36% to 25%.  The Ford PCs go up to 32%, while Horwath's NDP soars to 31%.   Overall, the average with both questions compiled together put the Liberals and PCs tied at 30%, and the NDP at 26%.  The Greens get 11%. 

That massive drop caused by the mention of Del Duca's name would be the huge numbers of progressive voters in Ontario who see no reason to vote Liberal with Del Duca as leader.

Insider Liberals or other non-creative, non-visionary Liberals who can't seem to see the major flaws in Del Duca, this is what you are ordering for your party: A long road back now made, due to your flawed decision-making, even longer and more lonely.  Best of luck to you as you will most definitely need it if reports of a massive delegate lead by Del Duca are confirmed soon by the party as true. 

Friday, January 10, 2020

Backroom operator Steven Del Duca as Ont Liberal leader will give huge boosts to both Doug Ford and Andrea Horwath...

Steven Del Duca, aka "The Automaton from Vaughan"
Steven Del Duca has been described ad nauseam by Robert Benzie at the Toronto Star as the "front runner" in the ongoing Ontario Liberal leadership race.

I actually knew Del Duca vaguely when he worked at Queen's Park for David Caplan.  I worked then for Michael Gravelle, and later the Liberal Caucus office.  Del Duca struck me then as nothing more than your typical backroomer, more in it for the game than for the people.

His campaign now has attempted to reinforce the "front runner" narrative with an ongoing "shock and awe" strategy that makes it appear that every insider Liberal in Ontario supports Del Duca.  The release of the specific number of "14,173" memberships allegedly submitted by the Del Duca campaign to the party adds a sense of inevitability to his ascendancy.  (37,831 Liberal members are eligible to vote in upcoming leadership delegate selection meetings in early February.  Those delegates will vote for the next leader at a Mississauga convention in early March.)

The Del Duca campaign is clearly trying to discourage all opposition to his bid to take over the party.  But opposition persists because the unlikeable, robotic Del Duca has got to be one of the worst front runners in leadership history.

I make that assessment not based on his inner value as a human being; I'm sure Del Duca is a great and friendly guy in person (and probably a lovely husband and father).  He's clearly skilled at working in the backrooms of the party and making thousands and thousands of friends in high places.  Clearly, this leadership race is the culmination of three decades of party machinations, currying favour with other insiders who are now lining up behind the guy they know well. 

Few Ontarians outside of Ontario Liberal circles know much about this obscure man, who was easily defeated in his riding of Vaughan in 2018, unlike Mitzie Hunter and Michael Coteau who held their seats in Toronto.

Further, Del Duca oozes that despicable insider Liberal vibe.  His robotic and monotone voice, his faked emotions, his oddly shaved head and uncharismatic looks, don't exactly scream "leadership material."  His record in government was spotty at best.

His decision as Transportation Minister to ignore the experts at Metrolinx and approve a proposed Kirby GO train station in his Vaughan riding was roundly criticized as the kind of self-serving decision Ontario Liberals got crucified for in 2018.  Ontario’s auditor general had little good to say about it.  Yet, Del Duca continues to defend his decision, saying data he's found since retroactively justifies it.  He never explains the data, of course, or how data can retroactively justify anything if you claim you only make decisions after consulting expert advice and data, not before.  If you don't believe Del Duca, he'll repeat this explanation about "data" using his monotone voice until you stop listening.

That may work on ineffective journalists who get tired of asking the same questions.  But it'll be fodder for Doug Ford's PCs and Andrea Horwath's NDP who will be able to paint Del Duca as the same old-style Liberal who wastes tax dollars just to benefit himself and his friends.  The fact that Del Duca looks the image of a sleazy backroom Liberal player will reinforce those attacks.

The new Ontario Liberal leader should be able to move away from the mistakes of the past and reach out to new voters.  That's why I'm supporting Mitzie Hunter in this race, who has a solid record in government and the private sector, actually won her seat in 2018, and is running a campaign now designed to reach new voters who abandoned the party in 2018.  Hunter will reach progressive voters the Ontario Liberals need to win back from the NDP in order to challenge the PCs for power.  Other candidates, like Michael Coteau, Kate Graham, and Alvin Tedjo, would also have great appeal with the kinds of voters the Liberals need to win back, I must admit.   

But not Del Duca, who's been saying Ontario Liberals need to move back to the centre (whatever that means), claiming things got too progressive under Kathleen Wynne.  With Del Duca as leader, progressive Ontario voters will be dispirited, likely stay home or vote for the NDP or the Greens, while the Grits go largely nowhere and get squeezed between the PCs and the NDP again. Say hello to another comfortable PC majority.  

This Liberal disaster is worth it simply because Del Duca knows the party and knows how to organize fundraisers?  Come on, Liberal insiders, what's wrong with you?  How can the "Automaton from Vaughan," as I've nicknamed him, be considered this race's front runner?

I can only explain Del Duca's strength so far in this race by pointing to the inherent flaws of the insider bubble.  And how personal connections and friendships can undermine decent judgment in people who should otherwise know better.  That seems to be what's happening here.

Del Duca's campaign this year and the support he's received from Liberal insiders reminds me of a 2003 film called Shattered Glass.  Starring Hayden Christensen, Peter Sarsgaard and Chloe Sevigny, it detailed the story of Stephen Glass, a writer for the New Republic in the U.S. who completely fabricated several of his stories for the renowned current affairs magazine.  How did he get away with it?  He used his charm, his personal connections and friendships to win favour and eradicate doubt among his journalistic colleagues.  His word, as detailed in his reporter notes, was accepted at face value.  Even when it became clear he was guilty of fraud, his award-winning journalist colleagues were deeply reluctant to question him.  Their emotions trumped their reason. 

As Sarsgaard's editor character Chuck Lane says in the film:  "We're all going to have to answer for what we let happen here.  We're all going to have an apology to make...We blew it!  He handed us fiction after fiction and we printed them all as fact.  Just because we found him entertaining.  It's indefensible.  Don't you know that?"

The fiction that Del Duca is handing in to Ontario Liberals is that he's the best candidate to lead the party back from the abyss.  And it does appear that many of his colleagues have fallen for it because they find him entertaining, or smart, or to be just such a great guy, blah blah blah.

Like I said, Del Duca may be a decent man.  But he wasn't much of a politician.  He wasn't good at keeping his own seat at Queen's Park.  He's connected with some of the worst decisions made by the previous government and he will wear them as leader.  And he looks like a robotic, unlikeable, uncharismatic, backroom, sleazy operator you can't trust with your tax dollars.

It's time for Ontario Liberals to come to their senses.  Anyone but Del Duca would be preferable in this race.   

Why am I so blunt?  Because the future of the province is at stake!  Steven Del Duca, woefully unqualified in my opinion, is using all the political tricks in the book to try to win the leadership of the one party I think can actually beat Doug Ford's PCs!  I must speak out and try to stop this fiasco from actually happening.   

Friday, January 3, 2020

My Favourite Films of 2019 - UPDATED AGAIN

Scene from Parasite
Sometimes making a list of one's favourite films for the previous year shortly after New Year's Eve can be a fool's game.  Sometimes movies need a bit of time to fester in my mind before their true greatness is realized.  Sometimes it takes the intense love expressed by others for me to truly open my eyes and get past my own initial hangups about a movie.  That happened to me this year with the masterpiece Parasite.

When I first saw it in November 2019, I was initially a bit disappointed with it.  I hadn't enjoyed it as much as I enjoyed Boon Jong Ho's previous films including Okja or Snowpiercer.  It was that disappointment accompanied by a distrust of group consensus that prevented me from appreciating Parasite that much for several more weeks.

Yes, the Oscars refocused my mind, I must admit.  They so rarely do, but this year was an exception when the most inspiring, original and fearless flick took the top prize, not only for Best International Film, but also Best Picture.  Had I missed something?  Yes, apparently.  I re-watched Parasite a week later with a friend, accompanied with some booze.  And to my joy, the second viewing was as delightful a second viewing one could hope for.  I found myself loving all the fine details of the piece, laughing as it unfolded, then switched gears and genres half-way, and approached its astonishing and thought-provoking conclusion.  I was hooked.  A third viewing the next week with another friend made me realize I had made a mistake with my Top Ten Favourites list of 2019.    

I've finally gotten around to updating this post to accurately reflect, for posterity, what I truly think about the films of 2019.  Parasite is very much my favourite film of the year.  Yes, 1917 was astonishing, but also just a very good war flick, the sort of which we've seen many times before.  I still am very glad I put Ad Astra very close to the top of my list.  I do love it more than 1917, after all.  It will remain my guilty sci-fi pleasure of 2019 as well.  

I have always amended my Top Ten list in years past.  This year was no different, although I will admit that I've never changed my list this much, this long after the year's end.  Is it cheating as a film lover to only truly appreciate a film after the Oscars anoint it the best?  Maybe.  My changing mind about Parasite has been instructive to me: I should try to keep a more open mind when watching the films I do and try better to put aside all prejudices and simply let them wash over me.  Perhaps I would've loved Parasite much sooner.

Without further ado, here are my top picks of 2019:

1. Parasite: Superb and unforgettable social commentary and satire, so relevant to our times that it stings the senses while still feeling enjoyable and entertaining, this film portrays a working class family that gradually takes over the various "help" jobs in a rich Korean family home.  The plot twists are amazing.  The artistry is so impeccable, I'm slightly ashamed I didn't appreciate this masterpiece earlier than I did.  Yes, it took the Oscars to make me realize how I had erred not putting this flick higher on my own list.  After four viewings (with more planned), this is no doubt my favourite of 2019.  

2. Ad Astra: I'm a sucker for artsy, philosophical sci-fi flicks.  With gorgeous cinematography, uber cool art direction, plus haunting, soothing, symphonic music, stellar visual effects (which here easily best those of the recent First Man), and a lovely performance by its beautiful, likeable, but complicated lead (in this case, Brad Pitt), this film takes its place among the best in the genre, in my opinion.  This is magnificent work by writer-director James Gray, whose last film, The Lost City of Z, I loved and recommend as well.

3. 1917: I'm also a sucker for great, historical war films, especially those with tremendous heart.  Throw in some handsome young leads, including George MacKay, and breathtaking cinematography, and it's cinematic ecstasy for me.  Roger Deakins' work in this film as DOP is a must-see.  The continuous, long shots are awesome to behold.  The acting is stupendous.  The direction by Sam Mendes among his best accomplishments.  I liked this one better than Dunkirk, which says a lot.

4. Us: Better than Get Out in many ways, this stunningly original, chilling story, also by writer-director Jordan Peele, about a family stalked by mysterious strangers who look exactly like them is not one I'll ever forget, including its sensational, jaw-dropping ending.  Lupita Nyong'o plays both mothers to perfection.

5. Once Upon a Time...in Hollywood: I must admit I love most of Quentin Tarantino's films.  I don't usually mind the extreme violence he indulges in as long as it's brief and serves a purpose, typically comedic.  Who could really object to seeing Hitler blown to bits in Inglourious Basterds, after all?  This is a sweet masterpiece, in typical Tarantino style, but also very heartfelt.  I think this one is on its way to wins for Best Picture and Best Director at the Oscars next month.

6. Portrait of a Lady on Fire: The queer film of 2019, without a doubt.  I caught this film at TIFF and was thankful I chose it.  The story follows the slow-burning romance between an 18th century young French female painter and her muse, a young woman whose wedding portrait she is commissioned to create.  Beautifully directed by Celina Sciamma, watching this story unfurl was a delight, especially the final scene at the orchestra with Antonio Vivaldi's Concerto No 2 in G minor.  Wow.

THE REST OF MY TOP 13:

7. Jojo Rabbit: Great historical satire about the banalities of hate.  Unforgettable.

8. Captain Marvel: Brie Larson kicks ass in this super hero origin flick that is totally original and extremely funny.  The special effects used to make Samuel L. Jackson look like a 30-something are far better than anything seen in The Irishman.

9. Harriet: Stunning and urgent historical drama about Harriet Tubman, one of America's greatest heroes of the Underground Railroad.  Cynthia Erivo is sensational in the lead role.  Definitely a masterpiece.

10. Marvel's Avengers: Endgame: A perfect finale to this saga. I've hesitated to elevate super hero films to my top ten list in the past.  But screw it: I'm a nerd who loves these flicks.

11. Spider-Man: Far From Home: The most entertaining Spider-Man flick I've seen. Plus Tom Holland and Jake Gyllenhaal make the perfect onscreen duo, even though all the homo-eroticism was definitely in my head.

12. The Best of Enemies: An expertly acted and crafted story that proves even the worst racists among us are capable of changing and the best way to bring somebody over from the dark side is not to insult and castigate them, but reach out to them with compassion.  Even if compassion is the last thing you think they deserve.

13. Pain & Glory: A lovely and inspiring addition to Pedro Almodovar's repetoire, with a superb performance by Antonio Banderas.

FOLLOWED BY, IN ORDER OF EXCELLENCE:
Yesterday 
Rocketman 
Little Women
Bombshell
The Two Popes
Star Wars: Rise of Skywalker
The Report
A Beautiful Day in the Neighbourhood
Judy
Lucy in the Sky Marriage Story
Joker
The Irishman
Knives Out
Clemency
Incitement
Terminally In Love (a short film I saw at the Inside Out film festival in Toronto, mesmerizing, trippy, funny, unforgettable)
War Movie (another short film I saw at Inside Out)
Thrive (another short film I saw at Inside Out.)
Ma
The Blonde One
Just Mercy
My Zoe
Maleficent: Mistress of Evil

STILL NEED TO SEE, IN ORDER OF PRIORITY: 
Apollo 11
Queen & Slim 
The Lighthouse
The Aeronauts
The Laundromat
Seberg
The Farewell
Tolkien

DISAPPOINTING: 
On the Basis of Sex
The Obituary of Tunde Johnson
X-Men: Dark Phoenix


Wednesday, January 1, 2020

Will we be celebrating the end of the horrid Trump era one year from now?

Happy New Year to all! 

Politically, I couldn't help but think last night as the clock struck midnight that 2020 will be a pivotal year for the world.

Much hangs in the balance.  In 2020, a key question will be answered: Is this a world where a narcissistic criminal who plays on fears and the worst of human instincts for personal profit is rewarded and strengthened?  Or is this a world where such a criminal gets his first taste of justice and deserved defeat?

It's not just an academic question.  Our ability to survive and endure the effects of climate change rests on if Americans will play ball with the rest of the civilized world in time for 2030.  So much is wrong with the world right now and Donald Trump is making all of it worse with the biggest and most damaging vanity project ever produced.   It's got to come to an end this year.

But will it?  Will this be an unfortunate four-year blip, a stark reminder of the darkness that exists in many parts of America and the world, but luckily can be beaten back?  Or will eight years of our lives, almost an entire decade, be dominated by this pathetic, narcissistic, low-life monster?  And confirm our downward spiral as a species on this planet?  I'm not sure I can take another four years of this torture.  I know the world cannot. 

Efforts by Democrats to challenge Trump with impeachment were just and the right thing to do.  The guy is a brazen criminal who must be challenged.  Yet despite this, Trump's base remains as solid as ever.  It's despicable.

But there is much hope.  In 2018, 53% of Americans came out to support the Democrats in mid-term elections, giving that party its biggest mid-term vote percentage victory in generations.  Despite the strong economy, most polls have given Trump disastrous approval ratings since 2017, the likes of which typically precede electoral defeat.   While Trump's supporters were more motivated by far to turn out and vote in 2016 than Democrats, collective disgust and fatigue with Trump's antics could produce voter turnout this year for the Democrats that could make the difference in swing states and send the monster packing.  

But the Democrats have to play this right and not make the same stupid mistakes that got us here.  Sadly, it's quite plausible that they will screw it up.  There are too many comfy, privileged centrists, who are doing very well thank you with the current power structures in society, who clearly haven't yet learned much from 2016.  I've had many discussions with well-meaning but deluded or misguided folks who think Trump can be beaten simply by nominating someone aligned with the elite establishment but just slightly more likeable than Hilary Clinton.  Easy peasy.

Nonsense.  The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result.  I'm done with insanity.

No, Trump's victory in 2016 exposed an anti-establishment anger that was so fierce it was willing to put someone as inappropriate as him in office just to send a message to the elites of America.  They rushed to the polls to elect a guy who would throw a wrench into the machine against a weak and uninspiring Democrat like Clinton.

Nominating a safe and flawed centrist like Joe Biden or Pete Buttigieg this year will likely accomplish the same thing: it will fail to inspire the Democratic base and will fail to boost voter turnout needed to boot Trump from office.  It would suck to turn our backs on better and more progressive candidates, and still lose to Trump. 

I'm in full agreement with this great piece by Adam Jentleson about the best way for Democrats to retake the White House.

Whoever the Democrats nominate, that person is going to face an onslaught of hate and lies from Trump, desperate to defend himself from defeat and the possible criminal prosecutions and jail time that could follow. 

Democrats need someone they can believe in, who will unite their party, and inspire new voters to get out and vote.  You can't do that with a milquetoast, career politician with a mixed record who embodies the insider establishment of Washington when he's not sounding lost.  You can't do that with a smooth-talking centrist who's changed positions on key issues in this race to appease the billionaire donor class behind closed doors.

Democrats need to nominate someone who is clearly on the side of the little guy or gal.  Someone the average person angry at the establishment can trust to go to bat for them.

For me, Bernie Sanders or Elizabeth Warren best fit that description.

I do worry about Bernie's electability and ability to withstand the onslaught of attacks that will come his way should he get anywhere near the Democratic nomination.  I worry that Sanders's communication skills won't be up to the task of convincing voters he can run the whole country.  Trump would take full advantage and use every corrupt trick in the book to paint Sanders as a "crazy socialist" who will increase your taxes and destroy the economy.  Would it work?  Probably.  I can see Wall Street voting for Trump to stop Bernie.  Sure, Bernie's base would be electrified by his candidacy.  But I've seen too many elections lost by well-meaning socialists who had no idea they were headed for crushing defeat.    

I do also worry about Warren's ability to withstand the attacks coming her way too, as well as sexism in America.  But I think she would overcome these, persist and thrive as a candidate.  With the help of a great running mate, I do think Warren will manage to both inspire the base to turn out in droves, but also capture all of the anti-Trump sentiment in ways that Sanders, Biden, Buttigieg and all others could never do.  She may be the best hope we've got. 

I could live with Bernie as the candidate.  I could even live (with great trepidation) with Biden as the candidate.  But I'm still with Warren.  This time next year, I hope we're all giddy with anticipation of the first days of the first elected female president of the United States.  That would be a future to look forward to.




Monday, November 25, 2019

Mitzie Hunter has won my support in the Ontario Liberal leadership race...

Ontario Liberal leadership candidate Mitzie Hunter
Like the Democrats to the south who are now trying to figure out which of their presidential candidates is best to beat Donald Trump next year, big-L Liberals in Ontario are also in the throes of their own provincial leadership race to determine who will lead the fight to bring the party back and challenge Doug Ford in 2022. 

Like so many pragmatic progressives in Ontario, I have to again admit that I voted for the Ontario NDP in 2018 in a failed attempt to stop Ford's regressive PCs from winning.  Yet again, despite the best possible political conditions for the NDP in a generation, they came up way short.  To me, those results again proved the NDP is incapable of winning over Ontario voters.  Now, the lingering and mediocre leadership of Andrea Horwath, whose work as Opposition Leader has gone mostly unnoticed by the public, reinforces that opinion.
 
That leaves the Ontario Liberals as the most viable option for displacing the PCs in 2022.  However, that won't happen if the Liberals pick the wrong person to lead them.  I wrote earlier this year my reasons for not supporting candidates Steven Del Duca and Michael Coteau.  Why settle for mediocre now hoping that it'll bloom later into something better?

Ontario Liberals need to embrace a leader who personifies a different and better approach to politics now.  Someone with a track record of competence and authentic progressive politics. 

For me, that person is Mitzie Hunter.  Let me explain why.  

Mitzie isn't afraid to reach out to members directly.  Amid this busy year for her, she's literally called me up three times to engage with me and give me a chance to share my thoughts with her.  That's an accessibility I've never seen in a leadership candidate. 

As a daughter of immigrants from Jamaica, Mitzie's lived the struggle to integrate and find a place in Ontario.  She's got street cred.  And she's succeeded as a leader.  She was the Vice-President of Goodwill Industries, the CAO of Toronto Community Housing, and CEO of Greater Toronto CivicAction Alliance, where she fought for democratic reforms and other progressive issues.  She was a big proponent for implementing preferential balloting at the municipal level.  In government, she has a solid record as Minister of Education, and Minister of Advanced Education and Skills Development.  And in 2018, when so many Ontario Liberals were losing their seats, she hung on to hers in Scarborough-Guildwood.  I also greatly appreciated her outspoken support this year for reforming how Ontario Liberals elect their leaders with One Member One Vote (which received 58% support from members at the June AGM, but failed as the change needed two-thirds support.)  

She's a bridge builder too.  While I didn't support the Scarborough subway extension (I much preferred the cost-effective light rail transit plan), I understand that politics is about compromise.  Sometimes you need to put a little water in your wine to get the best decision made supported by the most people.  Mitzie took a position on the Scarborough subway that respected everyone and tried to find a compromise that suburban residents wouldn't resent.  I have to admit that such pragmatism is a virtue in a successful leader. 

We need a new but credible style of leadership, one that excites and reaches out to all people.  We need a leader who does politics differently, with a desire to focus on our own strengths, not just our opponents' weaknesses.  Mitzie has pledged to be that kind of leader. 

Mitzie Hunter's policy focus thus far in this leadership has been to propose innovative ideas to address the crises of affordable housing, education, skills development and gun violence.  All crucial issues that speak to the basic needs of all Ontarians.  

I really admire her cautious, fair, balanced approach to policy.  She's steady.  She's done the work.  Fundamentally, she's a bridge builder whose judgment I would trust running the Ontario government.  When Mitzie says she wants to make sure our education systems and our economy work for "everyone," I know that she means "everyone."  I think that even-minded approach is how she'll be able to reach out to all Ontarians, not just those in the Greater Toronto Area, to win support and get the Ontario Liberals elected back into government.

I will admit that the two other candidates running for the leadership this year, Kate Graham and Alvin Tedjo, are both charming, smart and exciting options.   Back in September when Graham launched her bid, I was initially quite excited by the tone of her campaign and the new approach she promised to bring to politics.  Her recent policy pledge to embrace electoral reform with a new Citizens' Assembly process is a great idea (one I hope Mitzie borrows.)

Both Mitzie Hunter and Kate Graham are pledging to do politics differently, to focus on our strengths and not so much our opponents' weaknesses, and re-engage with the grassroots.  However, this is work that Hunter has actually done for years.  On top, Hunter actually has a seat at Queen's Park and has so many more years of elected experience in government.  Hunter is ready for this, while Graham seems a bit too green.  (Although I do hope Graham runs and wins in the next Ontario election in London North Centre.)

Tedjo too failed to excite me much with his leadership campaign until he recently announced his bold policy to unite the Catholic and Public school systems into one.  I've long supported that policy to end institutional religious discrimination in Ontario public schools.  I'm sure many Liberals and other Ontarians would support that too.  Tedjo deserves praise for proposing this.  But leadership is about more than just taking a great position on one issue.  Like Graham, Tedjo is unelected.  His personal work experience has been mostly as a political staffer or communications person.  He's talented, as he's proving with this leadership race.  But I'm not sure he's ready for this job now.

Mitzie Hunter is ready for this now.  She's the full package.  She's proven to me that she's willing to make those phone calls and reach out to all people.  The prospect of her winning the leadership gives me hope that the Ontario Liberals will be able to do the work to re-connect and earn back the confidence of Ontarians so that we may provide the kinds of policies our province needs.

I'm proud to support Mitzie Hunter.

The race is currently in high gear with all campaigns trying to sign up as many Liberals as members before the deadline of December 2, 2019.  Any one who pays the $20 for a two-year membership before next Monday is eligible to vote in upcoming leadership delegate selection meetings in February 2020.  (Each riding or student association will elect delegates in proportion to the amount of support received by each leadership candidate at those meetings, and those delegates will go on to attend the leadership convention in early March 2020.)   

Even if you're undecided, but want to participate in this crucial process, I urge you to follow this link and join the Ontario Liberal Party before December 2, 2019.

Tuesday, October 22, 2019

For all his flaws, Canadians reluctantly accept Trudeau over the far worse Scheer

There is a lot to digest about yesterday's Canadian election results.

Due to temporary work duties, I decided not to write publicly on the election while it was still in progress.

But I can say today, like most progressive Canadians, I'm relieved we don't have to endure Andrew Scheer's Conservatives and their regressive, retrograde policies just to punish the Liberals for their misdeeds.

Justin Trudeau didn't so much win this election;  Andrew Scheer lost it.

My main issue with the Trudeau Liberals these last four years has been their basic incompetence in terms of communications and issues management.

Their policy record in government was actually very solid.  Successes included more support for families with children which raised hundreds of thousands out of poverty, re-negotiated trade agreements that protected Canadian interests as much as possible in the face of an aggressive White House, better environmental protections across the board including more thorough and fair approvals processes for major projects, the legalization of cannabis, the reform to how the government appoints senators, better foreign policy with regards to women's rights, and great support for the LGBTQ community.

Despite all these policy successes, the government was largely incompetent in terms of how it communicated those successes or the reasons they had made certain decisions.  I would judge Trudeau's government on issues management as sloppy.

Into that vacuum jumped the country's Conservatives with their constant negativity and hate against all things Trudeau.  Much of it was unfair.  The Trudeau government literally bought a pipeline to keep western energy and economic prospects alive.  For this, they got trounced on the prairies.  Furthermore, the Liberals lost ground in Quebec to the Bloc for their pro-pipeline stance. 

In parts of the country where there is almost no Liberal base, support for the Grits collapsed last night.  Looking over the rural results in Saskatchewan and Alberta proves the Liberal brand is almost fringe out there.  Longtime stalwarts like Ralph Goodale were easily pushed aside by the Conservative juggernaut.

Those lopsided victories for the Conservatives in Alberta and Saskatchewan are largely responsible for the overall Conservative plurality in voter support across the country, which was 34.4%.  The Liberals won 33.2% across the country, but won in Ontario and Quebec, thus giving them the seat advantage overall - 157 to 121.

The NDP did better last night than it appeared they would at the start of the campaign.  24 seats is a big drop from 44, but the party did manage still a respectable showing.   Jagmeet Singh emerges from this campaign strengthened after two years of bad press.  Plus he now controls the balance of power and will be in a position to get major policy gains from the re-elected Liberals.

Trudeau will truly need to work hard to make this Parliament work and enact any kind of agenda.  He'll likely rely on both the NDP and the Conservatives at times to pass certain things.  These will be interesting times.

But Trudeau has been brought down several pegs.  He deserved it.  His racist blackface controversy in September hurt many in this country and dissolved a huge amount of existing good will for him.   His apologies seemed sincere, and his record in government was clearly pro-diversity.  Yet, it remained unclear how a 29-year-old son of a Prime Minister could possibly think it was appropriate in 2001 to dress up like that.  The vacuity of Trudeau's mind was fully exposed.

Despite this, the strong minority win will give Trudeau a chance to fight another day.  As there are not many viable successors in the wings and things are precarious with a minority, Trudeau will try to make this work and perhaps rise to the occasion.  I bet you he leads the Liberals into the next campaign regardless of what the Conservatives do.

As for Scheer, I truly hope he steps down.  While Trudeau's flaws were enormous, they weren't bad enough to justify looking past Scheer's failings.

Scheer was petulant and uninspiring in this campaign.  There was no real vision that inspired much of anyone east of Manitoba.  Quite the contrary.  His inability to apologize for his homophobic past was particularly irritating.  For him to emerge defeated despite Trudeau's mistakes says it all.  He needs to go.

One more note about Maxime Bernier, whose vanity project ironically called the People's Party now seems finished after winning zero seats last night.  That is wonderful.  He chose to stoke bigotries to try to build his party up.  It failed miserably.

There will be some people who will point to Bernier's failure as a reason to keep our current First Past The Post voting system.   Bullocks, I say.  His party only garnered 1.6% yesterday, which would not be enough for any representation under Proportional Representation (which, if enacted as I would like, would only grant seats to parties with over 5.0% of the vote.)  Even in a mixed PR system with local ridings, Bernier would've still lost his local seat as he did last night. 

But First Past the Post actually is exacerbating regional differences in Canada.  The Liberals won 14% of the vote in Alberta yesterday, but have zero seats.  They won 11% in Saskatchewan and also have zero there.  The NDP (16% voter support) and the Greens (6.5%) should've received more representation based on their support from Canadians, but will have to settle with the 7% and 1% of seats they respectively won.  The only solace for the NDP is the fact they now hold the balance of power.

Canadians aren't as divided as our electoral system would have you believe.  We'll see if the NDP demands that electoral reform be back on the agenda as part of this minority government.  I hope so. 

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

New Indiegogo campaign launched to raise funds for my new short film, "Big Snore"

Actor Scotty Murray during auditions for Big Snore
Today, I launched a three-week Indiegogo campaign to help raise much-needed funds for my new narrative short film, Big Snore.  I hope that you might consider helping me out!  

As many will know, I've been working part-time on film projects for over ten years.   My first success was co-writing and helping produce a beautiful short film, The Golden Pin, back in 2009 with director Cuong Ngo (the link to view the film is on the right.)  I also worked with Ngo on his first feature film, Pearls of the Far East, as an additional writer and associate producer.

In 2015, I finally decided to overcome my fears and take on a project as director.  The result was the short narrative film called Tri-Curious, a comedy about how last minute anxiety threatens to ruin a young couple's first threesome together.  It was an awesome experience and I remain very thankful to those artists and friends who shared their talents with me making that film, and to those individuals who donated generously to the Indiegogo campaign that helped finance it.

Tri-Curious played in several international film festivals, it earned over 1.5 million views on YouTube before it was exclusively licensed by gay streaming service Dekkoo, and released on a DVD compilation by TLA Releasing

Since then, I've literally spent the last couple of years contemplating what kinds of film projects to do next.   Making something that authentically expresses my values as an artist and a human being is very important to me.

INSPIRATION FOR THIS NEW FILM: 

As I detail on my new Indiegogo campaign page, inspiration for Big Snore happened one late night last year when I was lying next to my partner Samuel in bed while he slept.  I've always been a light sleeper, easily awoken.  Samuel, on the other hand, is a heavy sleeper who occasionally snores. (In truth, Samuel tells me I occasionally snore as well.)

That night, I couldn't find rest as his snores were unusually loud.  I struggled, I shifted in bed often, I took a sleeping pill.  Momentary frustration eventually gave way to inner peace when I remembered how lucky I am to be able to share my bed and my life with this wonderful man!  "What would I do if you ever stopped breathing?" I whispered.  Suddenly, EUREKA!  This could be my new story!  This could be an idea that I can carry all the way to production and beyond.  This story could say something I'd like to say about relationships and love in general.  Inspired, I soon fell asleep and slept like a baby.

I've been working on the script and preparing for this shoot since.  The script details one night in the life of a young gay couple, one of whom snores very badly, the other a light sleeper who struggles to get some needed rest.

I'm not one to spend months drafting up applications and waiting for responses from public funding agencies.  I've found such endeavours in the past to be somewhat futile, especially since competition for such dollars is so fierce.  For now, I'm hoping that this crowd-funding campaign will raise the necessary funds to give some compensation to my actors and crew, as well as fund the film's crucial post-production sound design.

One of my ambitions as a storyteller is to normalize the lives and experiences of LGBTQ people, without whitewashing the elements of our lives that make us unique.  All audiences want stories that are honest but also connect with them emotionally.   I'm hopeful that Big Snore will earn many chuckles and nods of appreciation from all audiences.

I hope you might consider contributing to this project.

Sunday, September 29, 2019

Re-engaging after yesterday's hateful march against my own community in Toronto and the inspired counter-protest

I haven't written anything here since June when I expressed my new love and support for Democratic presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren (a love and support that has only grown stronger.)

My focus these last few months has been strengthening my own day-to-day life and perhaps even enjoying it more. You could say I was being selfish.  Few if any issues in Canada had inspired me to write, despite a lot of course happening as it always does.  I have also disengaged from social media especially Facebook.  I have found myself avoiding most of the new social media platforms that have invaded our lives these last years.  I had been foolish with some of my engagements on those platforms.  I had angered others and undermined some of my own relationships.  I was worried some of my efforts at communication were being seen as shrill.

So instead, I've chosen to disengage.  To step back and re-evaluate.  To try to focus more on real life experiences rather than virtual ones.  But disengaging from these platforms cuts one off from the ways our modern world communicates these days.  Perhaps retreat is not the answer.  Perhaps figuring out how to fight, how to love, how to support each other in this online world is our new real life.

I'm disappointed in myself that I didn't hear about both yesterday's hateful march that tried to move up Church Street in Toronto, and the much larger counter protest defending love and the LGBTQ community, until afterwards.  The counter-protest defended my community by moving down Church Street from a rally outside the 519 Community Centre shortly before noon yesterday.  It had been organized in response to a planned march up Church Street of religious bigots who wanted to bring their hate to the heart of the Church and Wellesley neighbourhood.  The counter-protesters were going to have none of that.  They managed to create a massive human barrier on Church Street south of King Street.  The police barricaded both sides, which managed to stall the bigots from heading north of Wellington Street and perhaps cause physical violence (on top of the spiritual violence they were already spouting).  Streets were shut down for hours until the group of bigots dispersed and went back to whatever miserable lives they are leading.  

All of this drama happened before I even heard about it.  How could that happen?  I'm sad to think that my withdrawal has made me blind to the planning of these events.  Facebook invites from the 519 or other groups would've made clear the plans to counter the bigots.  I missed them and I'm ashamed. 

Yesterday's planned march against LGBTQ people wasn't a surprise.  It was planned by evangelist preacher David Lynn, who was arrested in June at the start of Pride month for causing a disturbance after attempting to preach hate in the Village and sparking loud and angry confrontations with local citizens.   Imagine a white supremacist taking his hatred to the heart of the Black community, then complaining about being silenced when he gets shouted down.  He was lucky he didn't get punched.  This kind of aggressive religious bigotry is becoming more common.   Yesterday's march was just the latest manifestation of it.  The haters have been emboldened in recent years by the likes of Donald Trump and powerful conservatives like him.  A misplaced sense of victimhood, arrogance, and bigotry is a toxic mix.
 
In recent years, I've not been overly comfortable as a protester.  I'm not one to make signs and march out on the streets, although I have been definitely an activist in other ways.  I did march and chant in the streets when I was a young adult but it's less my style now.  I engage here and there politically when it comes to the big picture and get involved on the occasional campaign.  But it has rarely been fulfilling in recent years.  But some causes are still worth marching for.  Yesterday would've been one of them.  This was literally an attack by hate-filled bigots in my own neighbourhood.  Their signs would've marched up Church Street right past my home had they not been stopped further south.  

I need to re-engage now.  I need to start making more of an effort to take part and be active in my community in a real way.  I need to find the energy after work to go to meetings I've been avoiding in recent years.  I need to seek out more opportunities to turn my passion and interest and support into something more than likes on Facebook.  There are opportunities to have real human connections, perhaps in marches, perhaps at other grassroots events, perhaps in Pride parades with folks just like me.

I need to get out of this funk and start to see the value in my own contributions again.  I need to find my inner activist again.  I need to write more, something I truly love to do. 

Congratulations and thank you to those great people who did get out there yesterday to defend our community against the bigots.  Who heard about it and took action.  I wish I had been there with you.  I hope to be there next time.  

Saturday, June 15, 2019

In a crowded Democratic field, Elizabeth Warren has won me over!

Senator Elizabeth Warren is surging in this race.
I'm a big fan of the Marvel Avengers series of flicks.  In 2018's Avengers Infinity War, in one key scene, the super hero character Doctor Strange (played by Benedict Cumberbatch) conducts some kind of massive mental examination of all possible future scenarios for defeating their genocidal enemy named Thanos.  He later tells Iron Man (played by Robert Downey Jr.) that he was able to envision 14 million possible scenarios and in only one of them do they beat their enemy.  Of course, if you've seen the final Avengers Endgame film this year, you know how that turned out.

I think of that scene when contemplating the ongoing race for the next Democratic presidential candidate.   Like most progressive political junkies, I've been sifting through the various scenarios presented by the now 23 candidates on the crowded stage for the right choice to take on and defeat the grotesque Donald Trump in 2020.

I do believe that the chances are much better than 14,000,000 to 1.  But I worry, like most, that settling on one safe candidate or relying too heavily on 2016 assumptions repeating themselves, could end up being a gigantic mistake.  The horrific thought of picturing Trump being re-elected in 2020 sends chills down my spine, as I'm sure it does all good people.  That sleazy, lying criminal must be removed from the White House next year (if not sooner.)  The key is figuring out which Democratic candidate is the one to do it.

Here are some factors that I believe to be true which underpin my current thinking:
  • Trump won in 2016 on a populist message that won over working class voters in rust belt states typically won by Democrats by campaigning to be on their side.   He was seen as an outsider and a change candidate who would shake things up in Washington. 
  • 2016 was not some aberration.  2016 was a repudiation of the politics as usual in Washington, ie. the Washington establishment represented by the Clintons, the Bushes, even Barack Obama, and in many ways, Joe Biden.  
  • The fact that Trump emerged victorious, despite his woeful inadequacies for the office well-known even by his supporters at the time, is proof of a much larger problem: Americans are tired of the status quo.  Ignoring this is foolhardy. 
  • Yes, Trump has let down many voters who supported him who now realize he was lying when he promised to bring back manufacturing jobs, or to protect Medicare. Instead, he's cut taxes for the top 1% while they continue to struggle.  This makes him vulnerable.
  • But Trump now has the power of incumbency when the economy is doing very well, which makes defeating him quite difficult. 
  • Trump's pathetic antics and major personality flaws have galvanized his opponents against him.  Despite this, Trump's approval ratings remain around 40%, thus he's been able to mostly maintain his base, but has alienated the other 60% including Independents.  While his base is motivated to support him again, the Democratic base is equally determined to turn out and stop him in 2020.  

In the Democratic field, I have been hoping that some awesome change candidate would emerge.  At first, it seemed that all of them, while possessing great strengths, also were dangerously flawed (dangerous only in that I could see those flaws one day undermining their campaigns and helping to re-elect the man-child.)

Below is a list that details how my mind has evolved on this since last fall: 
  • I first looked at Beto O'Rourke last fall as a dream candidate.  His Senate run against Ted Cruz was inspiring.  Yet, Beto's incoherent messaging since launching his presidential run has left me confused.  By losing the Senate race and no longer holding an elected office, Beto only has the power of his personality to sell in this race.  While charming, it's not good enough.  His tendency to provide long-winded answers to simple questions isn't helping.  Beto's going nowhere in this race.  
  • Kamala Harris impressed me back in December when it first became clear she has "the goods" when it comes to the gravitas needed for this race.  But since then, we've been reminded of some of her less than progressive accomplishments in her previous role as Attorney-General of California.  Plus, she hasn't really provided a compelling narrative surrounding her current candidacy and her policies are unsurprising, uninspiring and all over the map.  She's stuck in single digits in the polls. 
  • I've always loved Elizabeth Warren.  Her long-established reputation as a fighter for ordinary people against the excesses of Wall Street preceded her current run.  She was already well-defined before this race.  Yet, I worried about sexism in America.  Was now the time to have another female candidate when the last one had such a difficult time and eventually lost to Donald Trump?  That, plus Warren's handling of her DNA Indigenous heritage test made it seem her political smarts weren't quite as refined as needed.  Last December, I wrote Warren off.  But now I've changed my mind about her (more about that below.) 
  • Pete Buttigieg's surge earlier this year was fascinating to watch.  No doubt, the 37-year-old mayor of South Bend, Indiana and combat veteran has made quite the splash among the mainstream media and white, urban Democrats.  His speaking skills are amazing, of course.  But to date, he too suffers from a lack of a clear galvanizing message.  His open homosexuality would make his presidency historic.  I'd like to think that the right gay candidate could win the White House in 2020 as the right black candidate did in 2008.  But so far, I just can't really see it happening.  His vagueness on most policy issues is now working against him.  It's clear, in such a crowded field, he's not doing quite enough to go much higher than where he is now (between 5 and 10% in the polls.) 
  • Tulsi Gabbard's message is awesome but I just can't see her pulling up enough in this race to compete effectively.
  • Montana Governor Steve Bullock also has excellent experience and positions on issues, but he started this race too late and is now even shut out of the first debates happening later this month. 
  • The other candidates in the race are mostly non-starters for me: Cory Booker is too tied to Wall Street and is pretty uninspiring.  Kirsten Gillibrand was centrist until she pivoted left just in time for this race; she too is not inspiring.  Amy Klobuchar is boring and wants the Democrats to remain much like Biden: centrist and milquetoast.  The rest just aren't in the game.

I had hoped that Joe Biden wouldn't run due to his milquetoast approach to everything, not to mention his major mistakes in the past.  The list is too long: the 1994 Crime bill, voting for the Iraq war, voting against ordinary people in favour of the big banks on bankruptcy law, demeaning questioning of Anita Hill in the early 1990s and only apologizing for it in 2019, etc. etc.

Joe Biden is yesterday's man.  It's true that Washington Democratic insiders who just want to go back to the eras of Clinton and Obama are excited about him, but I'm not sure anyone else truly is.  Were Biden to become the candidate, it would deflate and discourage huge portions of the Democratic electorate, particularly the progressive side looking for major change in Washington.  Biden could overcome some of that lack of excitement by nominating a progressive Vice-Presidential candidate to run alongside him.  But Biden leading a clunky, uninspiring ticket against Donald Trump in 2020 fills me with fear that election day will produce a re-elected and truly dangerous Donald Trump for another four years.

For me, Biden represents nothing that America truly needs right now besides not being Trump.  As with Clinton in 2016, that simply won't be enough to stop Trump.

So back in February, I deduced that perhaps the best candidate for the job would be Bernie Sanders.  He had made such a strong impression in 2016 and inspired so many devoted progressives.  His message taking on the 1%, promoting Medicare for All, taking money out of politics, free tuition for public universities, all spoke to me.  His ability, as a white man, to connect with white working class audiences, such as in the rust belt states that Clinton lost to Trump, seemed to make him a winner.  I thought that now was the time for Sanders to emerge as the Democratic presidential candidate.  So I let that be known on some private social media accounts.  

The torrent of resistance and hatred against Sanders I received back was overwhelming.  It was clear Sanders remains as divisive as perhaps Trump is on the other side.

Thus, I've been questioning that support for Sanders big time.  Sanders' messaging this time isn't really all that much different than in 2016.  He remains pretty much exactly the same as he was then, except now he's pushing 80.  He does talk rather superficially a bit more about his personal family history.  But overall, the focus has been a constant repetition of working class outrage, heavy on grievance, not so detailed on the solutions.   Sanders' support doesn't seem to be growing either. 

Sanders would also struggle against a full-on attack from not just Donald Trump but also the top 1% establishment spending everything they could to undermine Sanders' campaign.  His self-described "socialism" would be a target on the back of his head.  I haven't heard anything close to enough from Sanders to counter the tsunami of hate, confusion and misinformation that's coming his way.  His communication skills are simply not strong enough. 

I have huge fears now that Sanders wouldn't be able to unite the Democratic Party around him.  Sanders might even inspire some centrist independent to run to try to stop him.   Whereas Biden might deflate progressive voters, Sanders might deflate centrists who will be less inclined to mark an 'X' next to Sanders' name in November 2020.  If it's between a tax-and-spend socialist named Sanders versus the status quo under Trump, I can see Trump actually pulling it off.

Ugh.  So they all have their flaws.

Yet the last few weeks have proven crucial to Elizabeth Warren:
  • Her steady release of detailed policies has given her candidacy additional gravitas and credibility.  
  • Her amazing retail skills are already reaching new heights.  Her town hall events have shown an ability to connect, particularly with suburban women that is so refreshing and undeniably impressive.
  • Unlike Sanders who inspires few outside of far left audiences with his dour stories of economic injustice, Warren's stories about struggling to achieve her dream of becoming a teacher, or how she was lucky to have an Aunt Bee to help her with child care, are emotional and inspiring
  • She's feisty.  
  • She's energetic.  
  • She's very likeable.  
  • She's principled.  
  • She is emerging in this race as the best candidate, possessing both the retail smarts to connect with ordinary people who want a champion to fight for them, as well as the policy credibility to appeal to voters who want real change.  She might even be the person of the moment, in 2019 and in 2020.

But what about Pocahontas?  With some great messaging, Warren can leave that minor controversy behind in the eyes of all reasonable people.  If Trump keeps calling her that long after the American people have accepted Warren's apology for it, it'll just make him seem even more immature and trite.  Of course, by comparison, Trump too has his major mistakes and flaws to contend with.  I'd much rather worry about Warren's handling of this one issue than worry about Joe Biden's various mistakes in his past including plagiarism.    

But Warren's a woman in a sexist country?  True.  Let's not forget that Hillary Clinton actually won the popular vote in that "sexist" country in 2016 by almost 3,000,000 votes.  It was a unique failure in three key states that undermined her.  Clinton was also hopelessly flawed and uninspiring with so much baggage.  Yet despite that, she won the most votes.

It's easy to see Elizabeth Warren inspiring and galvanizing turnout in places where Clinton failed.  Certainly, in places like Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin, and perhaps many more places. Warren is also 100% more likeable than Hillary Clinton could ever be. 

Warren's words also inspire: "What I've learned is that real change is very, very hard. But I've also learned that change is possible - if you fight for it."

When I've over-thought issues like this, suppressing my own instincts and instead tried to appease other people, I've fallen flat on my face.

I've learned the hard way that the best way forward is to fight for what you want.  Don't compromise and capitulate.  Stick to your own instincts and vote with your principles.  You're never going to get what you want if you don't vote for it. 

Supporting Biden because he's safe and currently considered the best bet for beating Trump reminds me of John Kerry in 2004 against George Bush Jr.   It would be the worst kind of capitulation.  Biden is not what America needs right now.

While his policies are great, Sanders personally isn't the answer, it seems, anymore.  I just can't see that happening.   

No, the answer to Donald Trump is Elizabeth Warren, a powerful, progressive woman who's got well-thought out plans for what ails that country and a new, vibrant ability to connect with ordinary people.  

I can't think of a better way for Trump's presidency to end than with Elizabeth Warren taking office after him in 2021.  

She's got the progressive credentials to inspire the left.  She's still reasonable on many issues that she won't scare off too many if any centrists, or even establishment types who can't stand Trump.

She's on her way up in this race.  I predict she'll soon overtake Bernie Sanders as the best bet to not only stop Biden, but also Trump in 2020.

Think of it: President Elizabeth Warren.  Now that's something to get truly inspired about. 

Sunday, June 9, 2019

Disappointing annual meeting sadly leaves little hope for the Ontario Liberal Party

Wow what a terrible waste of my time and money.  I paid $450.00 to attend the Ontario Liberal Party's Annual General Meeting this past weekend to help change it.  I had hoped that activists in the party would understand that the best way for a nearly extinct party to survive is to open itself up to tens of thousands of new members, members who do more than receive fundraising emails and thankless calls to knock on doors, but also get a full say in who becomes the party's leader.

That's how movements are supposed to work.  Engage, inspire and earn the trust of followers.

But after this weekend, it's clear the Ontario Liberal Party is no movement.   It's more like a corrupt corporation that sees membership as a transaction and revenue generator.

But first the good things from this weekend.  It was great fun to see so many old friends I haven't seen in quite a while and catch up.  Those lovely conversations will be the highlight from the weekend for me.

Unfortunately, those good moments have been overpowered in my mind by the bad.

The party had a chance to modernize and open up its final leadership choice to all members.  The constitutional amendment would've created an equally weighted One Member One Vote system that would've given all ridings an equal say in the final result.  

The change had majority support among convention delegates, garnering 58% support.  But as with all constitutional issues, a higher threshold of 66.67% was in force that prevented the change from happening.  

I am pleased with the fact that a majority of party activists who spent considerable money and time to attend this past weekend showed a preference for a more open and democratic party.  But alas, it's the 42% who ruined it for the rest of the folks for reasons which were simply invalid, in my opinion.

One woman sitting near me who voted against change claimed the party wouldn't have enough time or resources to organize a new open system for leadership.  Yet, she ignored the fact that instead holding a big convention staffed by hundreds would be just as cumbersome on the party.  "I support the concept, just not now for this leadership," was a refrain I heard.

"I like doing the right thing.  But let's delay doing it and instead keep on doing the wrong thing because it's more convenient."

That would be the sentiment that underlies the amoral core at the heart of too many Ontario Liberals, and Liberals in general.

"You don't want to give the chance for the crazies to take over," was another sentiment I sensed from opponents of change.  It's better to let 2,000 insiders who can be easily controlled and corralled toward a "consensus" candidate (a consensus no doubt cooked up by the elite insiders around each losing candidate in the backrooms) at a leadership convention decide the direction of the party.    

When someone who ought to know better looked at me in horror yesterday when he saw me wearing a One Member One Vote t-shirt, it reinforced for me why he could've been so pleased with remaining a Liberal party staffer even in the dying days of the Wynne government, when any pretense of principle or moral authority had long gone out the window.   

This weekend I even caught a glimpse of a 2003 war room insider who I later learned went on to form his own clean energy company, which lo and behold, got a high-paid contract from the Liberal government a few years later under its Clean Energy policy.  This weekend, he too was of course bad-mouthing the democratic modernization of the leadership process to keep it controlled by insiders like him.  

Power, being insiders, attaching oneself to the establishment elite, occasionally rubbing shoulders with them at conventions for which they paid huge amounts of money to attend without blinking an eye, perhaps even getting some corrupt contract out of it that lines your pockets, that's what being a Liberal is all about, at least for the 42% who ruined it this weekend for the majority.

Every single motion to modernize the party in any meaningful way was defeated this weekend.  

I do admire the lovely activists, particularly those who worked so hard to promote the OMOV option.  Most will continue to stay active and hope for change another year or decade from now.  

But I've always been an all-or-nothing guy.   If corruption rules the day in your organization, I can't just tolerate your organization for the bits of good it does.  The corruption disturbs me too much.  It's why I left the Catholic Church, for example.  This whole weekend triggered some old anxieties of mine which were responsible for my original decision to mostly leave partisan politics last decade.

I'm not sure I want to be active in a party where 42% of people could see no major value even now in opening up the party into a movement that engages and empowers its members to decide the leader.

"Justice later, not now," is not a credo I can respect or live by.  The fact that this is the last party in Canada that can't even understand that enough to change its rules speaks volumes.

The Ontario Liberal Party did some good in government, but also a lot of atrocious, deeply incompetent things.  They deserved the massive defeat they received in 2018.  Now they're the third party without status in the legislature.

After what I saw this weekend, perhaps they need to stay there.  My assumption after the NDP's inability to stop Doug Ford's PCs in 2018 was that resuscitating the Ontario Liberals would be the best way to get the Conservatives out of office one day.  

Not so sure now.  After this weekend, I don't think the Ontario Liberals are even capable of change.  Like their federal cousins who got rescued by Justin Trudeau and restored to power despite doing nothing to truly change, we're seeing the downsides of just putting the Liberals back in there to beat the Conservatives.

On the leadership front, things are even bleaker for the Ontario Liberal Party.  

Steven Del Duca would be a disaster as a leader.  The man is anti-charismatic and robotic in appearance.  He looks like the kind of sleazy, backroom, amoral Liberal of your worst nightmares.  He's talking about bringing the Liberals back to the center-right.  Presumably that means cozying up again with powerful interests like developers in the 905 sort of like Doug Ford is doing right now. 

The fact that Del Duca's now considered the "presumed frontrunner" means the Ontario Liberal Party has no future.

Sadly, the other major candidate in the race so far, Michael Coteau, isn't much better.  Yes, he's a mildly charismatic man who managed, unlike Del Duca, to keep his seat in 2018.  But his speaking style is as flat and uninspiring as a seal.  Plus he flip flopped this weekend on the One Member One Vote issue, first openly opposing it and then voting for it yesterday morning.  (At least the more cunning Del Duca, who was largely invisible this weekend, had the sense to lie and not let his disgust with democracy actually be communicated to the masses.)

****UPDATE #2 - Someone from Coteau's campaign claimed shortly after publishing this post that he never took a public position on OMOV prior to the AGM.  I have since re-located the CBC story here in which Coteau in fact did say he favoured sticking with a "delegated convention (that) allows for people who become supporters of the party at no cost to vote in delegate selection meetings."  The same CBC story says Coteau claims the "delegated convention protects against what he calls "special interests" taking over the leadership vote."

So clearly Coteau did flip flop on this very important issue, no doubt reading the room correctly before it voted 58% in favour of change.  It's not a great sign for people who want more integrity and genuine progressive credentials in the next leader after our last one did so much of her own flip flopping.   

I also wanted to see a side of Coteau this weekend that would show me that he's got some nice grassroots and interpersonal skills.  If he can make some magic one-on-one, maybe there's hope.  But sadly, when I attended his hospitality suite on Friday night, I saw a guy not ready for prime time.  I shook his hand, but he otherwise totally ignored me, despite multiple opportunities to engage with me.   If you can't even have a friendly 30 second conversation with a stranger wearing a delegate badge who's shown up in your own hospitality suite, your political skills are wanting. 

Because of his flip flop on OMOV, as well as his lack of political/social skills, my hopes that Coteau will ever have much ability to lead the Ontario Liberals back into contention faded this weekend.  

There is of course one more minor candidate, the energetic Alvin Tedjo, a defeated 2018 candidate from Oakville-Burlington North.  He's likeable and telegenic, but his resume is as thin as mine.  His background is in communications so perhaps he plans a major message that might inspire.  He did at least consistently support OMOV publicly so that appeals to me. 

As Del Duca and Coteau are so lousy, it does leave an opening for Tedjo.  Or anyone else with a bit of talent and ambition to work hard and bring this party back. 

Because this party desperately needs it. 

Those Ontarians looking for a progressive alternative to the Ford government might have to re-focus on the NDP and the Greens as more serious options for now until the Ontario Liberal Party learns how to fix itself.