Categories for Feature

Apparently, I should be dead

‎So, I should be dead.

There I was on the 401 outside Woodstock, driving back to TO in the fastest lane. The highway was clear and smooth. No potholes or anything like that.

The Jeep was new, too, less than 10,000 km – and that’s even after driving to Maine and back. Brand-new Goodyears, came with the vehicle.

Heard the sound first – always listen to your vehicle! – and then saw indicator showing rapid tire pressure loss. Driver side rear tire.

I can’t remember exactly how, but I got across three pretty busy lanes to the far side of the 401, and then up onto the grass.

My first feeling was irritation. Irritated with Toronto Dodge Chrysler (the dealer), Goodyear (the tire manufacturer), the roadside assistance outfits (both useless). Changed the tire myself without getting hit, and drove back home in the slow lane.

It was only when I got home, and was able to post a photo of the tire, that I started hearing from many, many folks. Messages I received many times: Warren, your tire shouldn’t have done that. A new tire shouldn’t ever do that.

And: Warren, you are lucky to be alive. You should be dead.

When I looked at that tire, I couldn’t really disagree: like, how did I get across three busy lanes of highway traffic after a blowout like that? Should I be pushing up, er, daisies?

I’ve always believed – actually known, but it’s a long story – that I wasn’t going to go out with a whimper. I’d be slipping this mortal coil with a bang. No hospital rooms for me, man.

When I was a punk rock teenager, I couldn’t picture getting to 20. Now that I’m a punk rock geriatric, I can’t believe I’m in my fifties. Feels like I’m running out of runway, you know? Losing Gordie this Spring brought all of that into pretty sharp focus.

Anyway. For now, still here. Still breathing. Still kicking. Sorry about that, haters.

Looking at that tire, my two-part piece of advice to all of you is this: one, live the cliché, and live each day like you don’t have any more days.

And, two: get good tires.


Column: when you lie down with dogs

The short, stout woman bobs through the crowd like ‎a hungry dog, jockeying for position at a dish of meat. She screams and yells, waving a plump finger in the air.

Every so often, she looks back behind her, in the direction of the cameraman recording her every move. The cameraman encourages to get louder and get more aggressive. She does. ‎

The woman‎ is Diane Blain. She previously achieved infamy by refusing to let a Muslim near her. Today, she is with her friends in the Storm Alliance to disrupt an event in St-Jean-sur-Richelieu, Quebec, where Justin Trudeau is speaking. She’s trying to get near Trudeau, who she hates.

For the Storm Alliance, the Trudeau event is a pretty big deal. It is an opportunity to get lots of free publicity, and not just in Quebec, either. They are successful, in this, beyond their wildest dreams. The St-Jean-sur-Richelieu event proves to be a ratings bonanza for the white supremacists. ‎

‎They’ve existed ‎since 2016, the Storm Alliance has. Before that, they were part of another organization, something called the Soldiers of Odin.

‎The Soldiers of Odin is neo-Nazi group. They were founded by a proud neo-Nazi, in fact, a guy in Finland, Mika Rinta, in 2015. They deny being a neo-Nazi group, of course, as all neo-Nazis do. But that’s what they are. ‎

‎The Soldiers of Odin are one of the biggest neo-Nazi groups in the world, now. They’re everywhere, from ‎the U.S. and the U.K. to Estonia and Germany and Canada. They got their start in all of those places by opposing immigrants and refugees who aren’t white like them.

‎Like lots of neo-Nazis, they’re big on Viking mythology. Fittingly, the Soldiers are named after Odin, ‎the Norse god of death and war. They see themselves as at war with refugees and immigrants with darker skin.

‎They conduct themselves as a vigilante group, more or less, popping up to “protect” white women from being raped by hook-nosed, dusky-skinned foreigners, or to forcibly eject migrants who have been forced to live under tarps at the side of roads. ‎

‎In Canada, the Soldiers of Odin are everywhere, pretty much. They have chapters in British Columbia, Alberta, Ontario, New Brunswick and – especially – in Quebec. In Quebec, they’ve been very active, and have become the dominant neo-Nazi/white supremacist group in the province.

‎They pretend to do street-level charity work, but their real expertise ‎is knocking heads. A classified Canada Border Services Agency intelligence report, obtained by the unstoppable Global News reporter Stewart Bell in June, states that the group’s raison d’etre is “anti-immigrant vigilantism.” Said the report: “They are not afraid to use violence to achieve [their] objectives.”

‎It was violence, in part, that prompted the creation of the Storm Alliance a couple years ago. The leaders of the Storm Alliance – and Diane Blain, Justin Trudeau’s heckler, is one of them – felt the Soldiers of Odin were attracting too much negative publicity. So they set up their own group.

‎The Storm Alliance may disapprove of the Soldiers of Odin’s approaches, but they’re not all that different. Their logo, for example, is a clinched fist, the words “you are not strong enough to withstand the storm,” around it. The fist is framed by a pair of Nazi-style SS lightning bolts.

‎The Storm Alliance are led by a former Soldiers of Odin leader, Dave Tregget. Like David Duke did for the Ku Klux Klan forty years ago, Tregget’s strategy is to project a kinder, gentler image for anti-migrant, anti-refugee agitation. It’s attracted the same sorts of white supremacists, neo-Nazis and bigots that Soldiers of Odin did and do. But it’s more media-savvy. ‎

‎Thus their presence at the Trudeau event, video cameras in tow. They were after uncritical media coverage, and they got lots of it.

‎The Storm Alliance’s previous media event hadn’t gone as well. In July, the Storm Alliance teamed up with another Quebec-based refugee-hating group, La Meute‎ (The Wolf). The two groups gathered on Canada Day at Hemmingford, Quebec, to intimidate migrants and prevent them from crossing the border. ‎

‎White supremacist Faith Goldy, now a Toronto mayoral candidate, showed up to offer Storm Alliance her support. She whips up hate, and she’s good at it. ‎

‎Storm Alliance’s Blain was the right choice to whip up hate at the Justin Trudeau event, too. She is a member of another anti-immigrant group, the Front Patriotique du Quebec, and is a separatist. A few months ago, a Front Patriotique admin opined on Facebook the need for a “terrorist attack to wake up people.”‎

‎Blain seems to dislike Muslims, a lot. ‎A few months ago, she refused to be touched by a Muslim student at a dental clinic at the University of Montreal.

‎At the Trudeau rally, she started screaming about illegal immigrants, and she got the attention of both the media and the Prime Minister of Canada. The cameras followed her at the event, and Justin Trudeau even engaged with her – forcefully but not inappropriately. ‎

‎The Conservative Party of Canada, right up to and including Andrew Scheer, loudly denounced Trudeau for abridging Blain’s “freedom of speech.” On Twitter and elsewhere, Conservatives condemned Trudeau for the sin of opposing Diane Blain. They sounded like they thought Diane Blain was a hero. ‎

‎She isn’t. She’s a racist.

‎Five minutes on Google would have shown them who Diane Blain really is. The Soldiers of Odin/Storm Alliance connections, the Muslim-hating, the Front Patriotique “terrorist attack to wake up people.” All of it was there to be found, if the Conservatives wanted to look. ‎

‎But they didn’t look. Or, if they did, they didn’t care. For instance: Maxime Bernier has been in a spit-flecked fury on Twitter, lately, loudly opposing diversity and tolerance, just like Diane Blain does. And he remained a member of the Conservative caucus. ‎

‎Here’s some free advice, Conservative friends, from a guy who has been writing about, and researching, the racist Right for decades. No charge.

‎When you lay down with dogs – foul, stinking, loathsome dogs like Storm Alliance and Soldiers of Odin – you’ll get fleas, Conservatives. ‎You’ll get fleas, big time. ‎

‎But you won’t get many votes. ‎


Death of a monster



Two Canucks on the mid-terms campaign trail.

The elderly woman approached us at the corner of Wythburn Road and Mardale Avenue, in South Portland. She squinted at us.

We’d seen her earlier. She wasn’t on the list the Democrats had given to us. She had a couple big pitbulls. She thought we had kept away because of the dogs.

Lisa shook her head. “No, you have beautiful dogs,” she said. “We are working for the Democrats, getting out our vote for the mid-terms.”

The older woman regarded us, a hand up to her eyes, because it was so sunny out. “I’m a registered Republican,” she said. “Voted for Trump.”

Lisa smiled at her. “Well, we hope you might consider voting a Democratic ticket this time,” she said. She extended one of the pieces of lit ‎we’d been leaving with people in the hardscrabble working class neighbourhood on Portland’s South side.

The woman took it, looked at it, then looked up at us. “I’m going to vote Democrat this time,” she said, finally.

“That’s great!” Lisa said. “Up and down the ticket?”

“Up and down,” the woman said, and then she gave us a smile.

It was like that everywhere, yesterday. Two years ago, we knocked on lots of doors for Hillary Clinton in Maine and New Hampshire. We encountered lots of people who didn’t like her – including Democrats. It was depressing.

This time, it was different. The change was stunning. Not a single Republican – not one. And we ran into not a few Republicans who said they were going to switch.

One woman – a registered, life-long Republican‎ voter – said to us: “He embarrasses us. He makes America look terrible to the world.”

Yesterday was a good day.

Change is coming, my friends. A blue wave is coming.

The monster will soon meet his end, and it will be another gloriously sunny day.


Boy, nobody saw this coming

Said no one.

What does it say about Consevatives? It says that they never ever change: Tea Party vs. Establishment Republicans, Reform vs. PCs, and so on and so on. Conservatives are always at war with themselves.

This also proves my Justin Trudeau theory, yet again: he may not be as smart as his Dad, he may not be as politically skilled as Chretien, he may not be as principled as Dion. But, Jesus, is he ever lucky.

When your main adversaries are The Mango Mussolini, Blandy Scheer, Mad Max and the Guy Who Leads the NDP, you can’t help but win.


The Conservative Party’s new heroine

From next week’s Hill Times column:

The Storm Alliance are led by a former Soldiers of Odin leader, Dave Tregget. Like David Duke did for the Ku Klux Klan forty years ago, Tregget’s strategy is to project a kinder, gentler image for anti-migrant, anti-refugee agitation. It’s attracted the same sorts of white supremacists, neo-Nazis and bigots that Soldiers of Odin did and do. But it’s more media-savvy. ‎

‎Thus their presence at the Trudeau event, video cameras in tow. They were after uncritical media coverage, and they got lots of it.

‎The Storm Alliance’s previous media event hadn’t gone as well. In July, the Storm Alliance teamed up with another Quebec-based refugee-hating group, La Meute‎ (roughly, The Wolf Pack). The two groups gathered on Canada Day at Hemmingford, Quebec, to intimidate migrants and prevent them from crossing the border. ‎

‎White supremacist Faith Goldy, now a Toronto mayoral candidate, showed up to offer Storm Alliance her support. She whips up hate, and she’s good at it. ‎

‎Storm Alliance’s Blain was the right choice to whip up hate at the Justin Trudeau event, too. She is a member of another anti-immigrant group, the Front Patriotique du Quebec, and is a separatist. A few months ago, a Front Patriotique admin opined on Facebook the need for a “terrorist attack to wake up people.”‎

‎Blain seems to dislike Muslims, a lot. ‎A few months ago, she refused to be touched by a Muslim student at a dental clinic at the University of Montreal.

‎At the Trudeau rally, she started screaming about illegal immigrants, and she got the attention of both the media and the Prime Minister of Canada. The cameras followed her at the event, and Justin Trudeau even engaged with her – forcefully but not inappropriately. ‎

‎The Conservative Party of Canada, right up to and including Andrew Scheer, loudly denounced Trudeau for abridging Blain’s “freedom of speech.” On Twitter and elsewhere, Conservatives condemned Trudeau for the sin of opposing Diane Blain. They sounded like they tought Diane Blain was a hero. ‎

‎She isn’t. She’s a racist.


Column: Sir John A. was a racist

BOSTON – What never moves and never talks, but is too often racist?

Statues, of course. They’re lifeless. Down here in America, but also back home in Canada.

Statues paying tributes to notorious historical racists like Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson are still found across the Southern U.S. – and someone even erected one honouring Nathan Bedford Forrest, the first leader of the Ku Klux Klan, just outside Nashville.

Here in Boston, the famous Faneuil Hall is named after an infamous slave trader. And in the city’s North End, there’s a Christopher Columbus statue – which pays homage to a man who also traded in slaves.

In 1492, upon arriving in the Caribbean and on his way to North America, Columbus was greeted as a demi-god by the native Arawak people. By 1495, on a return trip, Columbus was energetically committing acts of genocide against the Arawaks. They no longer exist as a people.

Debates have been raging about such statues for years, but have intensified in the age of the Racist-in-Chief, Donald Trump. Advocates for the racist statues say that these men are part of our history, and we should not tamper with history.

Opponents of these racist statues state, correctly, that such monuments are painful reminders of slavery, violence and genocide. They, we, argue that we should not ever celebrate hatred. They, we, echo the words of former New Orleans mayor Mitch Landrieu, who said such monuments “rewrite history to hide the truth [and] purposefully celebrate a fictional, sanitized Confederacy; ignoring the death, ignoring the enslavement, and the terror that it actually stood for.”

But the fans of racist statues are undeterred. Even up in Canada, where we regularly (and falsely) claim to be a kinder, gentler and less-racist nation than the United States, a controversy has grown around a certain statue of Sir John A. Macdonald.

The City of Victoria recently decided to remove a Macdonald statue on the steps at city hall. Ontario’s government then wrote them a letter, offering to take the statue Victoria that didn’t want. Ontario Tourism Minister Sylvia Jones told the Legislature that “people are complicated, but there is no doubt that 125 years after his death, our first prime minister stands as an important Canadian within the creation of our country.”

And that, certainly, is true. Macdonald is important, and he was “complicated.” But – knowing what we now know about him – he is not a man we should be celebrating like we once did. Statues and monuments should not be built in his honour.

If you disagree, a challenge. Imagine, for a moment, you are a First Nations person – or imagine that you are, like me, father to an indigenous girl. Just imagine that. Then read these words.

Here’s what he said in 1879: “When the school is on the reserve, the child lives with its parents, who are savages. He is simply a savage who can read and write. Indian children should be withdrawn as much as possible from the parental influence, and the only way to do that would be to put them in central training industrial schools where they will acquire the habits and modes of thought of white men.”

And here’s what he said in 1885: “…we have been pampering and coaxing the Indians; [but] we must take a new course, we must vindicate the position of the white man, we must teach the Indians what law is.”

Also in 1885: “I have not hesitated to tell this House, again and again, that we could not always hope to maintain peace with the Indians; that the savage was still a savage, and that until he ceased to be savage, we were always in danger of a collision, in danger of war, in danger of an outbreak.”

A couple years later, in 1887: “The great aim of our legislation has been to do away with the tribal system and assimilate the Indian people in all respects with the other inhabitants of the Dominion as speedily as they are fit to change.”

And, finally, this in 1884, when describing potlaches, the joyful indigenous gatherings held to celebrate births, deaths, adoptions, weddings: “…celebrating the ‘potlatch’ is a misdemeanor. This Indian festival is debauchery of the worst kind, and the departmental officers and all clergymen unite in affirming that it is absolutely necessary to put this practice down.”

And “put them down” Sir John A. did. He gave Canada’s First Nations – the ones who were here first – assimilation, brutality and genocidal residential school. That’s what he gave them, and us.

There therefore should be no further statues in his honour. There should be no new schools bearing his name. There should be more of us doing what Victoria has done.

Instead, let’s build monuments to those historical figures who were not violent racists.

Because statues, as lifeless as they are, can still hurt the living.