Wednesday, December 30, 2020

As this horrific year comes to an end, thoughts on what to expect politically in 2021 and beyond

My favourite image from 2020, courtesy of CNN.com
My favourite image of 2020
I always liked odd-numbered years better than even-numbered years.  Not sure exactly why.  It was superstition on my part, not based on anything real.  Until 2020, that is.  Now my preference for odd-numbered years has been reinforced with a vengeance.  I can't wait to bid farewell to 2020 and see what lies beyond.   

Covid-19 has changed everything.  That is an understatement, of course.  The painful losses of loved ones have been worsened by the social isolation of our times.  We are only beginning to understand how life will be different going forward, assuming the vaccines now being approved for mass distribution prove to be effective.

The economic devastation this year caused by the pandemic has been sad to watch: Hard-working entrepreneurs seeing their life savings disappear and businesses close, millions of people losing their jobs, others forced to keep working for low wages and putting their lives at risk.  

There have been many mistakes made by governments as well as individuals.  Overall, Canada has managed somewhat adequately, although some regions better than others.  

Justin Trudeau took on the pandemic with a focus not before seen in him and has emerged as a stronger, more dependable leader not afraid to take drastic actions to get Canadians through this pandemic.  Trudeau's agenda has been underlined by a remarkably simple assertion: let the government carry more of the debt and decline during this pandemic period rather than off-loading that debt and decline onto individuals.  

The government has the ability to carry such debt more effectively over the long-term and with much lower interest rates than citizens could ever enjoy.  Thus, because the general public is going to come out of this year far better off than they might've, thanks to programs like CERB and other supports that kept many businesses afloat, our buying power remains mostly intact.  When lock downs end, our ability to kick start the economy back will be much stronger.  

The austere, conservative, help-yourself approach to public policy would've left millions buried in debt, losing their homes and collapsed the whole economy into a depression that would last for years.  I'm thankful our governments have mostly done the right thing in Canada on this.  

Thus, it seems to me that Trudeau enters 2021 in a stronger position from one year ago.  

New Conservative leader Erin O'Toole was the best choice the opposition Conservatives could've made this year.   O'Toole is an immense improvement over the hapless Andrew Scheer.  And O'Toole was infinitely preferable, in my mind, to the somewhat sleazy Peter MacKay.  O'Toole is, at least, a decent man who learned a lot from his failed 2017 leadership bid.   

In victory, O'Toole still has proven less adept at controlling the crazy, social conservative base of his party which helped elect him, instead choosing to indulge or tolerate them like you indulged your crazy old uncle at holiday parties prior to 2020.  That failure could continue to cloud O'Toole's more moderate positions and messages.  

2020 also brought considerable challenges and opportunities to provincial politicians in Canada.  Some thrived, like B.C.'s John Horgan whose strong performance as premier catapulted his NDP to its strongest majority victory in history.  Other premiers like Blaine Higgs and Scott Moe used their pandemic performances to win new victories (although Moe has been less great since his October re-election, as the pandemic's second wave hits Saskatchewan badly, and his neo-conservative impulses to promote "free-dumb" over common sense prove fatal.) 

Ontario's Doug Ford surprised many this year with a mature approach to managing the pandemic's early months.  It was a side of Ford few if any had ever seen before.  I joked it was like Christine Elliott had switched him from 'adolescent' to 'adult' mode and then broke the remote.  

Of course, Ontarians know Doug Ford well and haven't forgotten his adolescent side.  

Ontario's approach in recent months as the second wave ramped up has been less than stellar.  Tougher measures could've been implemented much sooner to make the second wave less severe, and prevent the kinds of sustained lock downs we'll be seeing now well into 2021.   

Ford doesn't face Ontario voters again until 2022 (more than likely), but there's no doubt Ford ends 2020 a stronger leader than when he entered it.  His disastrous first year in office left his party collapsed in public opinion, but now the Ontario PCs are back on top of public opinion polls.   

Ford is also stronger thanks to the Ontario Liberals' decision in March 2020 to elect the uninspiring Steven Del Duca as their new leader.  (Sadly, better, more formidable candidates who could've seriously challenged Del Duca never stepped forward.)  At year's end, Del Duca's few public comments remain as robotic as ever.  I'm not optimistic about the Ontario Liberals' chances of making much of a comeback under this guy in 2022.  (I'll only say that I still plan to vote for the Ontario Liberal candidate in my riding of Toronto Centre, David Morris, as he is a great individual and would do well for our riding, certainly better than the current NDP incumbent Suze Morrison.)  

Sadly, Andrea Horwath remains as Ontario NDP Leader well after her 'best before' date.   The perfect storm of 2018 in which she failed to win despite a highly questionable PC leader in Ford and a long-tainted Liberal administration on its way out, proves Horwath can't get it over the top.  Yet she stays.  

The best thing Horwath could do for Ontario progressives in 2021 is to resign and make way for a more palatable NDP leader (like maybe Waterloo MPP Catherine Fife) who might have a better chance of convincing Ontarians it's time for something different.  But sadly, I'm not expecting Horwath to leave.  

As for what I do expect in 2021, I agree with many commentators that Justin Trudeau will likely engineer a federal election toward the end of the spring, and I predict he'll end up winning it easily.  

I doubt Erin O'Toole will find a cogent message that reassures Canadians he'd manage these times better, and be much more than a federal tool for Jason Kenney's now discredited agenda.  NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh will continue to do well as a third party but probably won't have much of a breakthrough either.  We shall see.

UNITED STATES POLITICS

I entered 2020 with great trepidation about the year ahead in American politics.  

Would the cancer that is Donald Trump con the American people into giving him a second term? 

A year ago, Democrats seemed undecided about which standard bearer they'd pick as their presidential nominee.  

Many centrist Democrats seemed scared to embrace Bernie Sanders or Elizabeth Warren.  Even some supporters of those two worried about their abilities to win over American voters against Trump.  In the end, Joe Biden won over the moderate middle of his party in the early primaries of 2020.  

Then Covid-19 hit and changed everything. 

Donald Trump could've pulled a Doug Ford and risen to the occasion, but Trump proved too stupid, arrogant and drunk on his own bullshit.  This is what happens when you live in a conservative bubble surrounded mostly by sycophants who are even stupider than you.   

Had Trump taken the pandemic seriously and been seen to have taken tough action to keep Americans safe (ie. acted more like a Democrat), he'd probably have won re-election like most incumbent presidents do.   

But instead Trump followed his pathetic, petulant instincts.  He had convinced himself his incredible luck in 2016 was thanks to his assumed genius.   His slow motion disaster of a performance on Covid-19 this year - his petulance, his constant lying to the public, his promotion of conspiracy theories and crazy ideas - made the crisis worse at every turn.  

Once the depth of the uniquely American devastation caused by the pandemic had sunk in by June, combined with Trump's pathetic responses to this year's burgeoning Black Lives Matter movement, it became clear a majority of Americans, including a majority of independent, non-affiliated Americans, wanted him gone. 

All that was needed to ensure Trump's defeat was a decent performance by Joe Biden.  And Biden rose to the moment and campaigned brilliantly with a simple, yet resonant message: "Let's return decency and competence to the White House."  He bolstered his candidacy by choosing Kamala Harris as his running mate.  

I can't emphasize enough the immense accomplishment of knocking off an incumbent president.  It's rare in American politics, and Trump's defeat is the one major saving grace for 2020.   

Despite Trump's horrific flaws and clear incompetence, I was horrified that 46.8% of Americans still chose to vote for him.   And despite his clear record as a habitual liar and con man, I remain horrified that so many conservatives in America still believe Trump's self-serving lies about the election. 

I didn't really want to know how low a leader like Trump could go and still garner massive support from Republican voters.  But now we do.  

That mass delusion is something to be feared as we move forward into 2021. 

No doubt, the Trump facade needs to be further destroyed.  This political defeat should only be the beginning of the end for Trump and his cohorts.  Regardless of Trump's plan to pardon his friends, his family and even himself from federal crimes, I hope and expect state and local prosecutors will now pursue charges against Trump and his cohorts and make them finally pay for their crimes.    

I hope libel lawsuits against the horrific Sidney Powell and the Trump campaign for their lies about the election continue to ramp up and drain the Trump movement of every penny.  

I frankly don't care what Republican idiots and fans of Trump think any more.  They are clearly part of the problem and will not offer any help to the rest of us as we move forward. 

No matter what we do, the right-wing idiots will keep believing what they want to believe, ensconced as they are in their neo-con bubbles.  So it's better for us to do what we know is right and make the Trumpians pay for their crimes.  

Our best hope as progressives and centrists is to continue to work hard to represent the interests of ordinary people, to act with honour and integrity, and to fight hard to discredit and outnumber those on the other side who've gone crazy.  So the fight continues.  

I end 2020 with a cautiously renewed sense of hope for American politics, as well as world politics.   Trump's fascist tendencies bolstered similar right-wing dictator wannabes the world over.  Idiots like Jair Bolsonaro in Brazil mimicked Trump's game.  Now I'm more confident that Steve Bannon's fascist playbook isn't going to end the way he and others like him hoped.  

We won the battle in 2020 but the war is far from over.  

 

Monday, November 9, 2020

Dear conservatives, Donald Trump was a bridge too far...

Like many, I am so thankful that the U.S. election went the way it did.  

Also like many, I was disappointed it wasn't the humiliating defeat the monstrous orange-haired beast currently occupying the White House deserved.  

It was a clear defeat with a margin of about 51% for Biden to 47% for Trump.  Yet that was one point higher for Trump than in 2016.  Despite possessing less maturity than your average teenager, despite woeful incompetence and recklessness managing the U.S. response to the pandemic this year, causing tens of thousands of unnecessary deaths and massive economic collapse, not to mention years of spouting racist and other bigoted bullshit and endless lies, Trump got nearly 1 out of every two American votes.  

Luckily a popular vote victory this year did match up with the electoral college, but only barely.  Biden's wins in Wisconsin, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Nevada were razor thin.  

How could someone so monstrous get so much support from voters?  

Sadly, it's because most conservatives simply don't care too much about bigotry.  For too many of them, bigotry simply is not a deal breaker, if they even acknowledge it at all.

I watched Kelly Jane Torrance of the right-leaning New York Post editorial board appear on a CBC TV political panel this week after it became clear Trump was likely heading to defeat after a close result.   When asked how it might be possible to govern such a polarized country going forward, she stated governing will be more difficult if Democrat pundits and politicians continue to call "nearly half the country racist."  

They're not racist, she inferred.  "People are voting for Trump for various reasons.  A lot of people are voting for him because they like his policies."

I'll never understand how one can vote for a politician you know is racist, or has been using racism to gain greater political power, as Trump objectively has always done.  

It's a deal breaker for me.  Same goes for homophobic politicians.  That's why I'm a liberal.  The importance of equality trumps any personal gain.  I would not support a bigot just to get a tax cut. 

I guess that's the main difference between me and most conservatives.  

I have conservatives in my own family who voted for Stephen Harper after he called same sex marriage a "threat to a genuinely multicultural country."   

When questioned about how they could vote for someone who said that when you have a gay relative they love, I was told they too were voting conservative for other reasons and I shouldn't try to hold them to account for everything their favoured politicians have said and believe.  I suppose that is fair.  When I vote for anyone, I'm not necessarily endorsing every single thing that person has ever said or done.  

To their credit, those same family members and many other conservatives have condemned Donald Trump for years.   There are, indeed, many other instances of conservatives standing by fundamental principles such as basic dignity of individuals and respect for equality, and speaking out against those espousing bigotries.   The Republicans behind this year's Lincoln Project are just the latest shining examples.

To be honest, here in Canada I don't know of any mainstream Conservative party leaders I'd describe as bigoted on par with anything close to Donald Trump.   I'm glad Conservative supporters in Canada tend to be reasonable in making their final leadership choices, especially recently.   Erin O'Toole did win as a conservative populist throwing bits of red meat to win over the sizable socially conservative base of his party.  But he has taken a more inclusive approach to leadership than his predecessors.  There are, of course, a handful of Canadian conservative backbenchers who frequently spout nonsense - here's looking at you, Sam Oosterhoff and Randy Hillier (who was kicked out of his Ontario PC Party after years of outrageous comments.)  

The late Rob Ford, Toronto mayor from 2010 to 2014, was more of Donald Trump's style, including the buffoonery.  But he got sick and didn't run for re-election in 2014.  John Tory put an end to his brother's mayoral ambitions that year instead.  Then Doug Ford went on to become PC leader and got elected Ontario premier in 2018.  While more Trump-like in the first year of his term, Doug Ford seems to have found his "adult mode" button in recent months, leading efforts to combat the spread of Covid in Ontario.   

But Donald Trump is a different story.  So completely inept, selfish and explosive in terms of his bigoted rhetoric, he was a bridge too far.  Nothing could justify this horror we've seen the last four years.  

For most progressives, the last four years have been tantamount to extreme torture.  Donald Trump should never have been elected but he was because many people on the right who should've known better didn't bother to listen to their better judgments.   Tax cuts trumped decency. 

But isn't decency a key foundation of conservative ideology?  It ought to be.  

If racist bigotry or any kind of bigotry isn't a deal breaker for you - and you still vote for the bigot in the end - then, I'm sorry to say, you are part of the problem.  If the country is more divided, it's your fault.

Until conservatives refuse to back bigots just because they are promising them tax cuts, they will not have my full respect.  

Respect works both ways. 

I'm done with anyone who equates lies with truth.

Truth is objective.  The last four years, it's an objective truth that many innocent people have been tortured by a monster most Republicans helped put in office.  

How did this fool foist himself on the modern Republican party and the public?  

Donald Trump never won more than a minority of Republican support in the earlier 2016 primaries, but that was enough to sweep control of the party because of its winner-take-all voting system.  As a result, loyal Republicans were pressured to side with him.  Most did.  Conservatives in Canada have long ago embraced more just voting systems such as preferential balloting in leadership races to ensure majority support carries the day and not just a horrifically deranged minority.

Nobody wants a polarized country with one side failing to listen to and understand the other side.  I do try to respect conservatives, even social conservatives.  I listen often to conservatives and have learned a lot from them in life. 

But I can't yield on fundamental justice and equality issues.  Racists are not qualified for office and should never be tolerated.   I really wish that belief was shared and acted upon by a vast majority of conservatives, instead of just a bare majority which seems the case now, sort of...

Conservatives, if you want respect from us, start showing respect consistently.  

When people choose not to follow the same course in life you chose for yourself, please respect them for it.  Don't patronize and attack them as inferior to you.  Because we are not. 

There should be a reckoning for the fiasco of the last four years under Trump.  There may still be a reckoning for Trump and his family personally.  But that's going to play out slowly over time, if at all.  

Conservatives know they screwed up with Donald Trump.  After the rare one-term defeat of a sitting president, Trump will soon join a list of humiliated former leaders.  He deserves to be there.  (This of course assumes he doesn't try to mount a coup d'etat over the next two months.) 

I'll be curious to see how Republicans decide to move forward post-Trump.  I hope they choose a less dangerous path for us all. 

Sunday, October 4, 2020

Annamie Paul's Green Party leadership win gives Toronto Centre by-election voters historic opportunity

I've been a Liberal most of my life.  At one time, I was even employed as a backroom Ontario Liberal.  

But on occasion, usually for strategic or personal reasons, I've voted for the NDP, like I did somewhat reluctantly in the 2018 provincial election as it seemed the best way to stop Doug Ford's PCs.  

In the 2019 federal election, I even voted in my riding of Toronto Centre for Green local candidate Annamie Paul (pictured).  In fact, that followed me voting for her nomination as the Green candidate as well.  I joined the Green Party on a lark that year to see what things are like in that party.  To my pleasant surprise, I found a local nomination meeting in which ordinary members had control over the proceedings, including a unique question and answer session with the prospective candidates.  That experience contrasted massively with the sardine-style Liberal nomination meetings I've attended in the past, in which candidates' speeches are usually of almost no consequence as hundreds of instant Liberals are typically recruited and brought into meetings long after the speeches are done to decide the results.  That is, of course, if local members are allowed a vote at all on their local Liberal candidates.   

Paul won that federal Green nomination in Toronto Centre in 2019 after greatly impressing local Green members with her eloquence, considerable experience, and charisma.   Later that year in the election, she managed to do slightly better than the Ontario average with 7% of the vote against 58% for Liberal Bill Morneau in the typically Liberal stronghold.  I didn't renew my Green membership this year and didn't take part in this 2020 leadership race.  

But I'm not surprised at all that Annamie Paul's considerable strengths as a person and a politician translated into her victory as the new federal Green Party leader yesterday. 

Bill Morneau's sudden resignation in late summer as Finance Minister and Toronto Centre MP has led to the quick by-election in the riding set for October 26th, just over three weeks from now.  Paul had already won the local Green nomination again for the by-election, but now will be running as the Green Party leader.  That ensures the 2020 by-election will be much different than 2019.    

I never had much respect for Bill Morneau's political skills.  His retail and communication skills as Minister of Finance were weak.  Furthermore, I had always resented how Morneau had been parachuted into Toronto Centre with the decks stacked in his favour by party central, despite living elsewhere and clearly being out of line with the more modest demographics of the riding.  He would've been better suited in a suburban riding, in my opinion.   I voted for Annamie Paul in the 2019 federal election mainly as a protest against Morneau locally.  Had I lived in most other ridings, I probably would've voted Liberal in 2019.  

Toronto Centre has enormous social and economic problems.  The crisis of housing and homelessness is reaching new heights this pandemic.  I've always wanted a strong, local leader to step forward who will prioritize the urgent needs of the people who live here, not view the riding as a stepping stone to advance their careers.  Sadly, the Liberal Party keeps on appointing star candidates from afar as our local candidate.  

Such is the case again with the appointment of Marci Ien, a high-profile broadcaster who used to co-host Canada AM on CTV.  Ien seems smart and accomplished, but doesn't live in the riding.  Her strongest local connection may only be having attended Ryerson University back in the early 1990s.  

But with local resident Annamie Paul's victory as the new Green Party leader, I must say that the decision for me is now clear: I will be voting for Paul in this by-election.  Furthermore, with the Green Party leader now on the by-election ballot, this will sway a huge number of Toronto Centre voters to also support Paul.  

It remains to be seen if the NDP and the Conservatives will offer Paul the courtesy of not contesting the by-election.  In the past, when party leaders have attempted to win seats in by-elections, opposition parties have sometimes stood down and not challenged them.  The Greens did that for Jagmeet Singh in 2019 by not contesting his by-election fight in Burnaby, BC.  So far, the NDP has said it will re-run its local NDP candidate Brian Chang in Toronto Centre on Oct 26th.  That decision alone will make victory more difficult for Paul.

But we will see how the next three weeks go.  There is virtually no door-knocking or hand-shaking going on in this by-election.  Phoning and emailing is of course happening.  With the new, very eloquent and clearly intelligent Green leader contesting the by-election, we can expect a surge in media interest which will give Annamie Paul more publicity and focus the minds of by-election voters.  

By-elections tend to have poor turnout at the best of times.  It's entirely possible that Paul will be able to pull off a historic by-election win in Toronto Centre to follow up her historic Green Party leadership win.  

Paul is impressive and it would be ideal to see someone of her caliber win a seat in the House of Commons.  That would advance the cause of the environment at this crucial time, without really changing the make-up of the federal government.  That, to me, would be far more significant a result than adding yet another Liberal backbencher to the federal Liberal caucus, even though I do have great respect for Marci Ien.

Wednesday, August 26, 2020

New Conservative leader (and formerly moderate) Erin O'Toole uses social conservatives to win power

New Conservative leader Erin O'Toole
Once again, the power of social conservatives to determine the outcome of Conservative party leadership races in Canada knows no bounds. 

This week, after voting just over 40% of the Conservative leadership raw vote between two clearly unqualified socially conservative candidates, social conservatives propelled winner Erin O'Toole to victory on subsequent ballots over the perceptibly more moderate Peter MacKay.  

Yes Derek Sloan and Lesley Lewis were very unqualified leadership candidates.  

Sloan barely got elected to Parliament last year from Northumberland county in Ontario, and has since gone on to spread considerable and typical socially conservative B.S., doing his best imitation of the orange sociopath in the White House, including stupid comments earlier this year about the scientific origins of homosexuality (please leave the science for scientists!)  Sloan's biggest claim to fame: spreading racist doubt against Canada's Chief Medical of Health Doctor Theresa Tam simply because she was born in China.  Therefore, she couldn't be trusted to defend the health interests of Canadians, Sloan insinuated.  

In response to this crap, 15.6% of Conservative party members voted for Sloan this summer.  That translated into 14.3% of the points across the country.  This percentage was on par with the votes received by Brad Trost, another dimwitted so-con back in the 2017 Conservative leadership race.   The Conservative leadership voting system gives all 338 ridings equal points regardless of the number of memberships held locally.  All ridings get 100 points contributing to 33,800 points across the country.

Lesley Lewis' results were even better.  Despite never being elected to anything, and despite being unable to speak any French, Lewis garnered a scary 24.7% of the raw vote in the Conservative leadership race on the first ballot.  That vote was concentrated in certain pockets of the country like Saskatchewan (where she won the points outright on the first ballot) as her points across the country were only 20.5%.  

Lewis was well-spoken as a candidate in English, and I will admit she did manage to sound more reasonable on many issues than Sloan.  Her position on same sex marriage was discriminatory, an irony not lost on me as she's a Black woman.  (UPDATE: I've been taken to task for emphasizing her gender and race, which is ridiculous because both were very much relevant to how she was perceived in this race.  Lewis very much presented the professional, sophisticated, immigrant Black woman who could re-define the image of the typical Canadian conservative.  Yet she still possesses anti-gay positions including opposition to same sex marriage.  It has been suggested her "personal" position is not relevant as she promised she wouldn't re-open the marriage issue (the same policy held by Andrew Scheer) and allegedly does no harm.  In truth, it does a lot of harm.  Any opposition enunciated by political leaders to same sex marriage reinforces disrespect against all gay people, which is the opposite of the "respect" Lewis claimed she would offer for "everyone."  When political leaders take these positions, it sadly reinforces existing resentments and bigotries in society, and gives tacit permission for those bigotries to continue, which in turn leads to continued and justified violence and discrimination against queer people.  Most of the conservatives guilty of this will, of course, never see the violence they helped promote with their ideologies, which again is part of the problem, because then they will pretend it doesn't exist (see the Republicans in the U.S. for many examples of this.)   I also see the effect of Lewis' race and gender as having given permission to the white anti-gay so-cons in the party to continue to hold their positions and vote for her, and even feel good about it.)

Nevertheless, I will admit that Lewis is an accomplished person and would make a decent Conservative Member of Parliament, based on her experience (as we know many Con MPs still harbour the same anti-gay positions on marriage).  But like I said, she speaks no French and has never been elected to office.  The notion that she should be Conservative leader this year is foolish. 

Yet the so-cons, plus probably some other more moderate Conservatives, still cast ballots for her in huge numbers, challenging the two front runners, Erin O'Toole and Peter MacKay. 

Erin O'Toole, of course, is no social conservative.  Yet he's clearly smart and learned many lessons from his failed 2017 leadership run when he sounded decidedly more moderate, and more in tune with mainstream Canada.   After seeing the massive amount of votes for unqualified social conservative candidates in 2017, O'Toole clearly decided he needed to reach out to these people and win subsequent ballot support for this year's run.   

Thus, O'Toole pretended this year he was a so-called "True Blue" conservative, taking regressive positions on public funding for Canada's public broadcaster, for example, and promising to "Take Back Canada," whatever that means.  It was coded language designed to appeal to the substantial bigoted base of his party.

I'll never understand how moderate conservatives can stand next to and empower bigots like this, who so clearly make up a sizeable minority of the party.  Truth be told, conservatives once they win elected power, tend to ignore social conservative issues.  See Ontario Premier Doug Ford as the latest example of this.

No doubt, O'Toole, now safely in power, is free to remind us that he's "pro-choice" and intends to walk in Pride parades, unlike his predecessors Andrew Scheer and Stephen Harper. 

In truth, I've liked O'Toole for a while.  He seems like a decent man and is also a more natural fit for leadership, including stronger communication abilities than both Scheer and Harper.  He comes from a fiscal conservative, not social conservative wing of the Ontario party.  Thus, I don't really worry too much about what O'Toole might do should be actually win an election.   I doubt he'll ever shut down Canada's much-loved public broadcaster (you can't shut down and sell the English CBC and still leave the French equivalent SRC seriously viable as a company, as he promised this year). 

O'Toole's campaign this year simply exposes how shrewd a strategist he can be.  He used social conservatives to get over the top in this unique race.  And politics is ultimately about winning.  I can't fault him for being a good strategist.  

He's still got a lot of work ahead of him to get known and define what his leadership would mean to mainstream Canada.  On that front, he'll struggle against a fairly entrenched Liberal incumbent whose support went up this year thanks to Justin Trudeau's stewardship during the pandemic. 

Still, O'Toole is leaps and bounds better than Scheer, who reminded us all again how pathetic he is during his farewell address to the party on Sunday night.  For that, at least, I am grateful. 



Tuesday, August 11, 2020

Kamala Harris is the historic choice and probably the best choice that Joe Biden could've made for his running mate

Democratic VP candidate Kamala HarrisCongratulations to Kamala Harris being named this afternoon as Joe Biden's running mate on the Democratic ticket! 

I'm pleased with this choice.  It's great to have a woman on the ticket, one heartbeat away from the possible presidency.

All the other VP contenders had their strengths, but also weaknesses.  On the scale of things, it was obvious to me and many others that Kamala Harris had the most to bring to the role.

By not picking Susan Rice, Biden avoids reminding voters of the past (of which he himself already well reminds them.)  Instead, choosing Harris is a signal to the possibilities of a fresh start.   

By not picking a number of well-qualified local mayors or congresswomen, he signaled the importance of state-wide victories and experience, and the incredible pressure and vetting they bring.  Harris was elected both as statewide Attorney General and Senator from California.   She's done the hard work.  She's faced the intense fire, fought back and is still standing strongly.

Furthermore, Harris's presidential run in 2019 brought her the national exposure, scrutiny and experience you can't get from even state-wide campaigns.  In that sense, only Elizabeth Warren measured up to Harris.  She's a known quantity with great name recognition already.  

But in choosing a woman of colour who is dynamic, intelligent, very experienced and who seems very reasonable on policy, Biden is responding to this year's social unrest over systemic racism and putting in place someone who has excelled at working within the system to achieve reforms.  I can see Harris one day as president.  She's ready today.   

Harris's politics are modestly progressive.  Her policy record is mixed, but shows a strong ability to listen and grow.  I've been most impressed with her ability to win over critics who just last year attacked her with the line, "Kamala is a cop."  That apparently hurt her deeply and she's been reaching out to activists to change their minds about her since.  Her heart seems to be in the right place, along with Biden's.  She complements him well. 

Even her willingness to go after Biden in last year's Democratic debate over the issue of busing shows her fearlessness.  And Biden's willingness to move past that and put her on his ticket shows a maturity and judgment sadly lacking in the man child currently occupying the White House. 

If I were Biden, that would be my response when questioned about Harris's criticisms during last year's debate: "Her characterization was unfair, but I'm over it, I don't hold grudges, and I am even willing to work with people who previously gave me a hard time in order to do what's right for the American people." 

For Harris, she should say: "I'm not afraid to question and challenge in a very tough way when I need to." 

We don't need useless yes-men in the White House next to the President like Pence is today and everyone else on Trump's team.   We need people who can speak truth to power.  Harris has obviously proven she's willing to do that. 

Harris, best of all, is a honed fighter on the campaign trail with great ability to devour opponents with her sharp tongue and questioning abilities.  Her recent prosecutor-style questioning of William Barr and other Trumpians means that the VP debate against Mike Pence is going to be a doozie!   Having someone with Harris's oratorical skills help make the case against this horrid regime is going to be wonderful.  

Harris is reportedly one of Donald Trump's few adversaries who didn't get some immature nickname from him.  Apparently, people think Trump is a bit scared of Harris.  

That's a good thing.  Now she's going to help dismantle this horrid regime. 

In 2008, when Barack Obama picked Joe Biden as his VP running mate, I thought to myself this signals that Obama, then more of an outsider who was shaking up the body politic, was professing how serious he truly was about the presidency and how willing he would be to work with the mainstream.  

In 2020, I see Biden picking Harris as a signal that Biden gets it, he understands the moment we are in, he understands the needs not only of this most crucial campaign, but also our place in history.  This is a great choice! 

Thursday, August 6, 2020

Trump has empowered racist jerks to act like bigger racist jerks...


"Everything that has come out of his mouth, not just against Black people, I mean, he started his campaign with racist attacks on Mexicans. He's attacked Native Americans and his latest attacks are on Asian Americans by calling the (coronavirus) as the China virus. And there has been attacks against the Asian Pacific Islander community.  People have been hurt because of his essentially giving license to racists that might have been a little dormant for a minute, but who now feel completely emboldened and empowered," Bass said.

"I'm very clear that the Republican Party has two strategies for this election. And one is to resurrect the ghost of Joe McCarthy and the Cold War. And two is to resurrect the ghost of George Wallace and run a racist campaign," Bass said.

I'm a fan of Karen Bass.  I'm also a fan of Kamala Harris, the former California Attorney General and current Senator from California, who is also a major contender for Biden's VP spot.  I'm not sure who I prefer between the two of them.   I also like former United Nations ambassador Susan Rice, but her lack of elected political and campaign experience will make her a weaker candidate than the other two, in my opinion.  I also adore Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren, but I do think an all-White, septuagenarian ticket is probably not the best idea this year considering that Biden is where he is now thanks to Black women. 

But regardless who Biden picks as his VP, I'll support her. 

Because it is a matter of deep human importance and basic justice that the racist jerk in the White House be removed asap. 

Trump has empowered racists to be bigger racists like him. 

He's empowered jerks to be bigger jerks like him.

He's empowered sexual predators to commit sexual crimes against women because he got away with the same crimes.

The world is more horrible with this man in the White House.  For the sake of humanity and our collective future, that cancer needs to be removed yesterday.    

Sunday, June 28, 2020

Honestly, I'm not missing Pride much this year

Lake Shore Blvd West in Toronto earlier this week.
Lake Shore Blvd West in Toronto this past week
Perhaps I'm just older now and don't need the Pride festival to feel good about my sexual identity. 

Perhaps I've long ago learned to party responsibly so the loss of a weekend filled with boozy parties and running around to the point of exhaustion is a welcome thing.

Perhaps I don't miss the crushing crowds packed into a handful of blocks along Church Street, the noise, the blocked off streets featuring too many sound stages that pound out forgettable music so loud the smart neighbours nearby leave town for the weekend, not to mention the garbage left piling up. 

Perhaps the sight of non-LGBTQ food and street vendors taking over the streets to sell their fatty crap, who do this for every Toronto street festival without much actual care for the history of these communities, not to mention all the corporate floats and involvement that are really just mass communications efforts designed to sell you more you don't need.  

Please don't get me started on the awful parade.  Not perhaps, but definitely the parade has become awful both to watch and in which to participate.  If you're gungho to participate in the parade alongside a political party or your local union (as I have in the past), the long wait in the hot sun at the staging area for the parade to finally start moving has been excruciating.   I remember waiting three hours in the heat to get moving after our rendezvous time in 2014 World Pride.  For others, it was even worse that year.  Of course, once you get moving, seeing the cheering crowds and waving can be fun.  But alas, it's also fleeting as the crowds become a bit of a blur.  Pride parade organizers still seem after all these years to have little idea how to efficiently run parades. 

I haven't watched the parade comfortably from the sidelines in decades because it's almost impossible along the narrow Yonge Street route to get a good view amid the horrendous crowds.  Plus one half of the street will typically be covered in steaming sunlight as it's an afternoon parade, so without sunscreen it can be unhealthy.  I did try to watch in 2016 with visiting family when we found a spot on Yonge south of Carlton that provided a bit of a glimpse of those in the parade.  But alas, that was the year Black Lives Matter held its sit-in a few blocks north of us, grinding the parade to a halt. 
 
In retrospect, I admire Black Lives Matter activists who bravely pushed their agenda that day.  It raised awareness in ways few other actions could.  It reminded us all that Pride is political, that Pride was based on acts of protest.  Demanding armed and uniformed police officers be absent from the parade went a long way to helping the marginalized in our community find their place again in this event. 

But it's still a noisy mess. 

I do miss the excuse to see friends I haven't seen in weeks or months.  I miss the traditional house parties that won't happen this weekend.  Sure there'll be other weekends in the future.  Here's hoping that vaccines against Covid-19 eventually make communal life possible again. 

Pride weekend this year has been unusually restful and quiet.  I've done some reading.  I've done some awesome cycling.  I've done some planning for my next project.  I've watched Rupaul's latest All Stars episode with a close friend.  Today, there are no calls to come join some parade and wait around in the sun for 3 hours.  It'll just be more reading, a bit of writing of this blog, probably more cycling, a phone call with an old friend tonight, and perhaps some virtual Euchre with some other dear friends. 

A quiet, lovely Pride indeed.  It takes a year like this to remind us that much of the chaos and noise that Pride has become isn't really all that appreciated.  How did this beast get so big and corporate and manic?  

Why must Toronto be stuck with the existing Pride structure - shutting down the narrow corridors of Church Street, with its long waiting lines to get into bars or the boarded off outdoor events?  Why can't we have the parade in the evening when it's cooler?  Why does it have to be Yonge Street?  Why can't we take over a different location like a park and give people the space to attend?  With Covid's impact possibly lasting years, that may indeed force a much needed change.  

We'll see.  I may even have to join Pride Toronto again and try to advocate for change. 

But for today, all I will do is enjoy the quiet this year, knowing there's no party to miss. 

Sunday, June 14, 2020

The shortcomings of Donald Trump and neo-conservatism on full display thanks to Black Lives Matter and recent protests against racism...

The recent momentum earned by Black Lives Matter activists and their allies is indisputable. 

It finally seems that the recent murder of yet another innocent Black man, George Floyd, by a police officer in the United States has finally pushed public opinion into new progressive territory. 

Even my own younger brother, a middle-aged teddy bear of a White man whose political leanings definitely line up with most middle-of-the-road centrists in safe, mainstream Ontario, wrote recently on Facebook about how sad and sickened he was by the racist police violence we continue to see.  He vowed to do everything he can to make sure his own kids understand their part in fighting anti-Black racism, and all racism.  I'm proud of him. 

We've seen episodes like this in our society before.  Black men have been unfairly brutalized by the police for decades.  But this time, mainstream/aka White public opinion may have finally connected all the dots in ways racialized communities have been doing for decades.  It seems finally we are all simply sick and tired of the police brutalizing innocent Black people. 

But fixing this is a tall order, as we know.  If left unchecked, our existing power structures are more than happy to perpetuate injustice forever if it's profitable or makes the powerful feel stronger.  That's how power works.  I'm sure most police officers and their fans these days see this as just the latest backlash and expect temperatures to die down soon so they can go back to their old ways and nothing changes.  We can't let that happen.  The public needs to demand police forces that treat all people with dignity and respect regardless of race.  

The culture of policing itself needs a complete transformation.  In parts of the U.S. and Canada in recent decades, the militarization of police power has become horrifying.  There seems to be no limits to the budgets they receive to buy the latest military toys and vehicles completely unnecessary to conduct reasonable law enforcement in their communities.  My own limited experiences in Toronto have taught me that most male police officers under 40 are in it for the power, frequently abusing that power as they see fit.  These types need to learn to be better, or be gone. 

To undermine these power structures and force them toward greater public accountability, the public needs to be steadfast.  We need to demand our politicians hold police to account and change for the better.   That doesn't necessarily mean defunding the police.  But yes, it should mean that the public doesn't rely on police to provide all emergency social services.  But how did those social services get so underfunded, forcing the police to pick up the slack?  Well, it's been conservative politicians of course, voted in by conservatives in the public, eager to see funding for social services, for mental health services, and other public good measures cut to the bone.  So penny wise and pound foolish!  

Conservative ideology is like a drug.  Too much of it, and you overdose.  It's like organized religion that way.  Only in moderation, preferably mixed with a lot of liberal common sense, can neo-conservatism be anything better than corrosive.  

Yet in the U.S., most conservatives live in Fox News-inspired bubbles, cut off from the rest of humanity.  Those idiots have no idea why people are taking to the streets.  And they don't really care either.  Just like their president. 

It's always been my impression that conservative ideology is based fundamentally on the oppression of others.  Conservatism promises to make you a stronger person by crushing everyone else around you.   Conservative ideology teaches its disciples that they are uniquely superior because of their choices, or their values or religion, or their lifestyles.  They've chosen the good path.  That gives them the right, in their minds, to punish and torture (or enjoy as others torture) everyone who has chosen differently.  Most conservatives love the police as much as they love and adore the military.  There's something intoxicating to them about the unfettered fire power, I guess.  Yes, it's very much like a drug. 

The worst example of a conservative these days is, of course, Donald Trump.  He's the ultimate conservative: vain, racist, sexist, morally vacuous, only concerned with himself, his own power and wealth, and that's about it.  He's very much the product of the worst that ideology has to offer. 

He's also particularly unsuited for this moment.  As peaceful protests against anti-Black racism have found momentum across the world, Trump’s instincts are to constantly placate his racist, hateful base and make matters worse.  He can't help himself.  It's all he has to offer (as he did yet again this week by marking both Pride Month and the 4th anniversary of the tragic murder of 49 people at gay Pulse Nightclub in Florida by removing health rights for LGBTQ people.)  Trump's a narcissistic sociopath who needs to be removed and pushed aside as soon as possible.  Thankfully, the majority of the American public seems to agree, not appreciating his mishandling of both the recent George Floyd demonstrations and the Corona-virus outbreak.  Let's hope public opinion stays that way until November. 

Yes, there are some conservatives out there who abhor Trump.  I'm glad about that.  But in truth, most conservatives are really a part of the same problem that Trump represents: a selfish indifference to the plights of others, particularly if those others don't look, or love, or pray like they do. 

Systemic racism needs to be constantly challenged.  Undoing the influence of racism that has carved its way into our institutions so deeply takes concerted effort.  That means we, the public, need to demand that the levers of power in government, in the police, in our institutions, be opened up and shared.  Hierarchical systems have failed us.  They aren't and have never been based on any kind of merit.  Instead, our hierarchical systems have simply been used to fortify and strengthen existing injustices and imbalances.  Insiders anointing more insiders.  Advancement is more based on your amoral ability to suck up to those who have power.  I'm not someone who is full of shit who enjoys playing that sick game.  I don't lie very well, and that makes me uniquely unsuited for "leadership teams" in most North American management structures. 

At least, prior to this current enlightened episode, that is.  Now most organizations are falling over themselves to publicly state their dislike of anti-Black racism, with promises to do better to fight it.  The cacophony of corporate statements supporting the causes of Black Lives Matter now puts those corporations on the record.  They can be held accountable for future inaction.  If all of this talk leads to nowhere in those organizations, we can shame them for it. 

Those white insiders who have gone all in on that amoral game I described above should know that all this talk of ending systemic racism (or any kind of systemic oppression) is a direct threat to their power.  It's not just about race, of course.  Sexism and misogyny have also thrived under existing power structures.  Homophobia too.  Imagine having to compete on your merits and not win simply because your best buddy who looks and acts just like you is doing the hiring or making the day-to-day decisions.  Workplace cultures need to change. 

Sadly, most conservatives are not going to be helpful in the fight to make the world a more just place.  If you can't even see the problem, how can you possibly help solve it?  Even if they do acknowledge the problem, many just don’t care enough to do anything about it.  I decided long ago to reject conservative parties and politicians for those reasons.  Sure the tax cuts may sound enticing.  But all the shit that inevitably comes with conservative ideology is simply bad for humanity. 

We must constantly challenge anti-Black racism.  It's time to get real and make efforts at improvements in our daily lives.  I fully intend to keep up that fight.  I'll do it in all areas of my life where I can do so safely.  Yes, I benefit every day from white privilege.  I have tried deliberately to not take advantage of it.  But I need to do more.

This fight will take time.  But we've always known that. 

There is no one path to a better world.  But one thing is for certain: removing Donald Trump from the White House will help immensely with that goal. 

Tuesday, April 21, 2020

Special message to ignorant, bigoted conservatives during Covid-19: Go ahead, meet up in big groups, go to church, hug and lick each other, spread the virus amongst yourselves!

Neo-cons resemble zombies at a recent U.S. protest against public safety
I've gotten so angry lately when I hear about idiotic conservatives bitching and whining (even more than usual) about how they're being oppressed by public health rules trying to minimize the catastrophic health impacts of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic.

In their latest attack on science and basic facts, many conservatives are now taking to the streets to hold unsafe protests, thus making the public health emergency potentially even worse.

These entitled whiners, mostly White, have no idea what it's like to live under rules, whether written or unwritten, that greatly limit their choices - so to finally face some inconveniences these days seems foreign to them.  They're like spoiled children angry they can't play in the park anymore.  

We've seen this entitled conservative bullshit spreading in parts of the United States.  The evil scumbag Trump is encouraging public protests as he thinks they somehow reinforce his own insidious messages, all of which are only designed to re-write history to benefit himself and his re-election hopes.  I'm convinced Donald Trump doesn't truly give a shit about public safety.  He only wants the economy to recover - not to help out ordinary families who are also facing economic crises - but to help him win re-election.  Yes, this is what happens when you irresponsibly elect a narcissistic sociopath as President - you get total chaos during a health crisis and the death rate from the virus skyrockets - over 40,000 and climbing in the U.S. alone when a more responsible president would've taken action sooner and saved many of those lives.  I'm sure Hillary Clinton would've saved thousands from the horrible fates they are now set to experience thanks to Trump.  

Brazil's conservative president, Jair Bolsonaro, has been doing the same idiotic thing: playing down the virus for months, first pretending it's all a hoax, only begrudgingly accepting the truth in recent weeks, but still undermining public health with irresponsible messaging that encourages other idiotic conservatives to take to the streets. 

Most conservatives, who usually demand full consequences and responsibilities for liberals and other people they don't like, of course, exempt themselves from personal responsibility and consequences.

"Consequences are for liberals," they might as well be saying.   That's certainly always been my impression of conservatives. 

Well, it's time for consequences to finally hit these ignoramuses.  Covid-19 doesn't discriminate based on race or gender or sexual orientation like conservatives love to do.  As the educated know, it can infect anyone.

"The blood of Christ" won't protect these idiots, as one American woman recently claimed to the TV cameras while driving into a fundamentalist church parking lot to attend a service.  Many conservative governors in the U.S. have refused to ban church services during this crisis.

I do sympathize with all who have temporarily lost their livelihoods because of this crisis, including small business owners who can't operate and might lose their businesses as a result.  There is a lot of economic pain out there at this point.  Vulnerable people like minimum wage earners have been the worst hit.  Liberal governments have been pumping economies with measures intended to help get us through this.  First in line for government handouts have been, of course, conservatives. 

Sadly, collective welfare needs to trump individual profit at this point.  Adopting stringent rules this spring to protect public health and safety will allow the economy to be re-opened safely as soon as possible in the near future.  Irresponsibly re-opening the economy too early is likely to cause extra thousands of people to die horribly from this virus and possibly a second, even more severe wave of illness later this year.  Let's keep our eyes on the ball and not be distracted by these whining, entitled idiots.  

The only silver lining to this pandemic might just end up being a natural culling of ignorant conservative bigots.

When these arrogant folks go outside, meet up for big protests, attend church services, end up spitting on each other or licking each other or whatever they end up doing together, it will cause the virus to spread further among them.  As most of these idiotic conservatives live in Fox News-style echo chambers / bubbles where they never interact with intelligent liberals, the bulk of the consequences will be faced by them. 

Here's my special message to these ignorant bigots: keep it up.  Get out there.  Infect each other.  Go home to your conservative, no-doubt-bigoted elders and give them the virus too.

And I don't really need to say this to liberals, most of whom are educated and intelligent: continue to practice social distancing, stay away from conservatives, and you'll probably be fine. 

If, at the end of this Covid-19 crisis, we have far fewer idiotic, paranoid, angry, bigoted conservatives, that will be a good thing. Yes, I said it.

Monday, April 13, 2020

New Gay Short Film Trailer - “The Big Snore”



I'm thrilled to release the trailer for my new short film The Big Snore on YouTube.

Yes, you read that title correctly.  But I can assure you the film will not put you to sleep - quite the contrary.  It will make you laugh, turn you on, and warm your heart, when it's finally released.

The film is about a light sleeper who struggles one night to get some rest amid his man's loud snores.  While the story is not auto-biographical, it was, of course, inspired by real life experiences.  My husband Sam informs me that I'm an occasional snorer, as I can attest he is as well. 

This is the culmination of months of work.  I raised money for this project last fall and was very proud to get most of my budget from that fundraising.  Thank you so much to everyone who generously donated.

With that funding, I hired a great crew and we shot this little story in one day in November.  I especially want to thank my two lovely, awesome actors, Scotty Murray and James Chapman, for their great performances.  My cinematographer Adam Seward brought so much talent to this project including the beautiful colour treatment.  Even Sam helped out with everything that shoot day, including set decoration.  He asked specifically for the credit 'Set Decoration & Bitch,' and that's the credit he's received.  I love you, baby.    

Post production work started a few days after the shoot and finished in early March.  A special thank you to George Kallika for his hard work on the sound mix as well as the music!

I also submitted the film to the Canadian Filmmakers Distribution Centre (CFMDC), a not-for-profit distributor of Canadian queer short films (among other films in their collection), and I am thrilled that they have added my film to their queer film festival catalogue.  As such, they will be submitting it to film festivals around the world over the next year or so (they only submit to film festivals which pay screening fees, of which the CFMDC will take 30% should I get programmed.  The bonus for me is I will save a lot of time and money by not having to submit the film myself to dozens of film festivals.) 

Then, of course, Covid-19 hit us all in mid-March.  And as we know, most film festivals in the immediate future are postponed until the summer or fall.  So, the public release of The Big Snore will have to wait.  I do hope that it will be programmed into film festivals, should they happen, this summer or fall.  My fingers are crossed.  My longer term plan has always been to eventually publish a censored version of the film on YouTube after its festival run is completed, unless of course an exclusive distributor wants to purchase the rights first. 

But in the mean time, I'm very happy to share the trailer on YouTube and of course on this blog.
 

Friday, April 10, 2020

Bernie Sanders lost because he didn't really try to win over centrist doubters

Independent Senator Bernie Sanders
Politics is ultimately about one thing: winning.

Claiming your policies are overwhelmingly popular but you still always lose elections?  If those policies are as popular as you say, then that means you've failed the most important test of a political leader to connect your candidacy in the minds of those voters with that policy popularity.  It means they like the idea, but they don't think you're the one who is capable of implementing it.  

If others can steal a handful of your policies and then convince voters they are the better stewards of society including the economy and, thus, you lose, well you deserve to lose.

Because politics is about winning.  

All major campaigns and candidates have the potential to win.  It all depends on various factors, but most important can be the actions of the candidate and his/her campaign, how they communicate their message and how they reach out to people not inclined to support them.

If that candidate can't quite communicate a message that emboldens supporters and wins over doubters in order to win a majority of the vote, that candidate fails.

That's not the fault of voters.  It's the candidate's fault.

This week, Bernie Sanders suspended his campaign to become the Democratic presidential nominee in 2020. 

Bernie Sanders has been a loner on the periphery of politics his entire career.  He's been comfortable there.  He incessantly demonized the political establishment and encouraged his supporters to do the same.  This tactic got him a lot of notoriety and support in 2016, but failed to win that year.

In 2019/2020, Bernie largely took the same strategy.  He thought he could somehow inspire a massive turnout of new voters the likes of which the country had never seen.  This massive new turnout would overwhelm centrist Democrats and allow his movement to take over the party.   It would also turn out in places like Pennsylvania and Michigan and Iowa to elect Sanders over Donald Trump later this year, he predicted.

But then the primaries started happening and Sanders' support slumped, dropping significantly from 2016.  His promised massive turnout of youth and the disenfranchised didn't materialize.  In Iowa, his support was almost half of what it was in 2016.  In New Hampshire, a state he swept in 2016 with 61% support, Sanders again barely got 25% of the vote this year and was almost beaten by Pete Buttigieg and Amy Klobuchar.

Sanders did very well in the Nevada caucus and then was widely described for a few days by mainstream media commentators as the "Democratic front runner."  But Sanders then made a major mistake, as this CNN opinion piece makes clear:

 
After Joe Biden crushed Sanders and the rest of the field in South Carolina, a stampede of centrists galloped toward Biden in time for Super Tuesday.  The ease with which centrist Democratic voters embraced Biden on Super Tuesday and subsequent primaries showed the extent of Sanders' failure.  Biden now has an insurmountable delegate advantage.
 
This all leaves one flawed Democrat - Joe Biden - standing.  It's true that Biden's last two debate performances had improved immensely from previous debates.  He is starting to show the message discipline he'll need to possibly win this thing in November.  The impact of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic is making all things exceedingly difficult to predict, including the November presidential election.  There are signs the American public is starting to turn on Donald Trump whose pathetic vanity is getting in the way of providing the kind of leadership his country desperately needs. 

If it had been up to me, I would've picked Elizabeth Warren to be the Democratic nominee, even though I had many doubts about her ability to connect with enough voters in the battleground states to win.  She was the least flawed choice for Democrats, in my opinion. 

When it was clear Warren was not going to win, I started cheering for Bernie Sanders.  I sympathize greatly with his causes including universal public health care for all and getting the corrupt influences of big money out of politics.  I much preferred a septuagenarian who would fight for universal health care over another who merely promised slow, incremental change.

But I'm also a pragmatist, something no doubt many far lefties and Bernie bros will view as a weakness.  I am willing to give up getting everything I want in order to get at least some of what I want.   

I will be honest.  I did have heart palpitations when imagining an election fight between Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump.  I worried that a highly polarized fight between a self-described "socialist" and the despicable incumbent would result in victory again for Donald Trump.  There are too many sad examples of similar big socialist defeats throughout history, the December election in the U.K. being just the latest example.   I envisioned a devastating, crushing Sanders loss this November, followed by four more years of Trump's inanity.  (That was, of course, before the Coronavirus, which has changed everything.) 

No, Democratic voters instead have chosen a safe centrist as their party's nominee.  Biden is at least quite likeable, I will admit.  More likeable than Hillary Clinton could ever be.  Biden's ability to authentically express empathy is one of his greatest strengths.  Amid the chaos in health care and the economy this year, a safe centrist who wants to bring the country back together to heal might just be what a majority of U.S. voters want.  I hope that translates into a victory in the Electoral College.

One hope: Biden picks Elizabeth Warren as his running mate to inspire and excite the progressives in his party.  If he chooses another safe and uninspiring centrist like him as his VP, I'll become very pessimistic about Biden's chances. 

In the mean time, I'm ruminating about the lessons that have been learned or re-learned this year in the Democratic primary: Grumpily refusing to reach out, belittling those who don't support every single one of your brilliant ideas, has proven itself to be a recipe for failure.

I hope the next progressive hero who comes along does better and learns the most important lesson: "It's not about you, it's about us."

Sunday, April 5, 2020

Canadian TV masterpiece "Schitt's Creek" comes to an end...

Billboard promoting Schitt's Creek this season
I just want to write a quick shout-out to the great TV comedy Schitt's Creek, which is coming to a series end this Tuesday April 7th. 

Beautifully written, produced, directed, and acted, this quirky little show has become a major hit across the world since being picked up by Netflix (after a few years of decent success on CBC in Canada and Pop in the U.S.) 

I've always been a hard sell when it comes to new television shows, perhaps particularly Canadian shows.  The premise of this one - a rich family loses everything and is forced to relocate to a remote town they bought years ago as a joke - didn't especially intrigue me.  But man, was I wrong about this one!! 

After so much good word of mouth, I finally took the plunge alongside my partner watching the pilot episode just over a year ago courtesy of Netflix.  We were absolutely hooked after the first episode.  I was particularly intrigued by the pan-sexual / queer character of adult son David, played by the uber-talented Dan Levy, who created and wrote the show alongside his famous father Eugene who also plays patriarch Johnny Rose.  The incredible and hilarious talents of Catherine O'Hara as matriarch Moira Rose and Annie Murphy as daughter Alexis Rose round out the beloved family.  A wide array of characters played by superb actors surround them.  In six seasons, the laugh-out-loud jokes have been abundant.  

If you've got Netflix, I highly recommend you give it a shot as soon as possible.  It is perfect TV binge material, particularly for these hard times.  I'd describe each episode as 22 minutes of sublime joy! 

The best part of the show for me has been its portrayal of the romance between son David and his handsome fiance Patrick, played by the adorable Noah Reid.  The queer content has been so matter of fact, so nonchalant, it has been a wonderful breath of fresh air.  The unconditional acceptance and support the couple has received from David's family has been one of this show's treasures. Another treasure has been the frequent sight in recent months of the giant billboards featuring the lovely same sex couple kissing (seen above.)

Do yourself a favour and watch Schitt's Creek in its entirety as soon as possible.  (The sixth and final season is only still playing on CBC Gem or Pop, but it should show up on Netflix hopefully as soon as possible.)  In the mean time, here is one of my favourite moments of the entire show:

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.