Categories for Feature

MLK

It’s his day down here in the US, today.  It feels sad. It feels like this country is being run by the son of a Klansman – and it is. That’s bad.

Then again – on the other hand – a year ago, my wife and our daughter were near the spot seen in the photo above, protesting the racist, sexist, extremist Unpresident. That’s good.

Educate your kids about the importance of Dr. King.  In 2018, it will be more important than ever before.


New Dark Ages? What?

Spotted late last night on Apple iBooks. I didn’t expect to see it.

And, it immediately had the effect of panicking me about where I am on book three in the X Gang series (it’s a trilogy, for those who care).

The third book doesn’t have a title yet. But, like the first two, it’ll likely be another Bad Religion song title.

Pre-order now!


How’d you like to get this in your inbox?

All of Hawaii did, today. Would certainly make you a lot more alert, wouldn’t it?

When I was a kid in Dallas, at David G. Burnet Elementary, we used to practice for air raids. We’d take shelter under our desks, stop talking, and await further instructions.

We were preparing for the inevitable North Vietnamese fusillade, apparently. I was pretty young, so I didn’t ask a lot of questions.

Anyway. As Lisa and me head Stateside tomorrow, I am moved to wonder: is the most-policed state in the world smarter because it’s always ready for incoming missiles? Or are they just sort of naturally paranoid?

I still know the Pledge of Allegiance, but I actually don’t know the answer. But I do know I’m quite happy Hawaii is still there. It’s the only state I’ve never been to, you know.


When a neo-Nazi hate rag returns, don’t stick your head in the sand

As many of you know, Lisa and I and many others – in the Jewish, Muslim, LGBT, and other minority communities – have been fighting the neo-Nazi hate sheet Your Ward News for more than two years. We have launched civil actions, we have pushed the authorities into laying criminal charges, and some of us have even initiated private criminal prosecutions of these white supremacists and neo-Nazis.

The latest issue of this so-called newspaper, however, is out. CBC News has interviewed us about it. Lisa and I have been hearing from many people on the East side of Toronto who are very upset. They thought the laying of the criminal charges would put an end to Your Ward News.

Unfortunately, however, that hasn’t happened yet. While the publisher and editor of this Holocaust-denying, pro-Hitler piece of filth have been charged with wilfully promoting hatred against women and Jews, the courts have lifted some conditions which would’ve made it difficult for them to continue disseminating hate. That was a mistake.

This week, then, I started a new civil action against the haters behind Your Ward News, and they’ll be served soon. Lisa, meanwhile, launched a civil action against them last year – and she is represented by the legal powerhouse of Heinen Hutchinson. And, next month, we will be back in the criminal courts to pursue the editor and publisher for printing death threats.

The best approach, then, is not to give up. The best approach is not to stick your head in the sand. The best approach – notwithstanding what our sadly-misguided local councillor says – is not just to shrug and give up.

The best approach is to keep fighting.

If you receive this newspaper, contact the police. Contact your local MPP. Contact your Member of Parliament. Let the media know. The only way to defeat hate is for communities to come together and keep up the pressure.

That’s what we intend to do, and hopefully you will too.


Jordan Peterson in his own words

I’ve been spending the past couple years writing about – and fighting with – actual neo-Nazis, so I haven’t had much time for fringe cases like Jordan Peterson and Lindsay Shepherd.

But I’ve certainly noted that the far Right – the hardcore neo-Nazis and white supremacists – sure like to reference Peterson and Shepherd a lot.  To them, these fringe types are the intellectualized version of their expressed prejudices.  (And, it hasn’t helped that otherwise-intelligent media/academic people have been sucked in by Peterson and Shepherd.)

So, I did a few minutes of research on Peterson.  This is what I found, with sources.  There will be more to come, as I find (or get sent) more.  Almost immediately, I didn’t see him as transphobic as much as he’s a misogynist.

  • Peterson on women: “[Society is] increasingly dominated by a view of masculinity that’s mostly characteristic of women who have terrible personality disorders and who are unable to have healthy relationships with men.” (Slate)
  • Peterson on femininity: “[That] terrible femininity…is undermining the masculine power of the culture in a way that’s, I think, fatal.” (Slate)
  • Peterson on misogyny: “The idea that women were oppressed throughout history is an appalling theory.” (Toronto Life)
  • Peterson on abortion: “Abortion is clearly wrong. I don’t think anyone debates that. You wouldn’t recommend that someone you love have one.” (Bridgehead)
  • Peterson on inclusion: “It’s not the role of society to make people feel included. That’s not the role of society.” (CBC)
  • Peterson on protecting people from gender discrimination: “[It is an] assault on biology and an implicit assault on the idea of the objective world.” (C2C)
  • Peterson on how women are neurotic: “Women are higher when it comes to Agreeableness — wanting everyone to get along…and Neuroticism — higher in negative emotion…” (The Spectator)
  • Peterson on LGBT people: “They’re power-mad people who use compassion as a disguise.” (The Star)
  • Peterson on being impolite: “There’s this strong compulsion to be polite. And not to purposefully offend someone. And I think that polite compulsion is being hijacked by power-mad leftists. In fact I’m certain of it.” (The Star)
  • Peterson on not caring if he’s offending anyone: “I think that people need to be able to say whatever they want no matter how outrageous.” (The Globe)

Ten reasons why Oprah would be a great candidate

Besides the weather, it’s all anyone is talking about: her speech at that awards thing was a blockbuster.

Personally, I think it’s a cool idea. Here’s ten reasons why.

1. If a corrupt, evil, mentally unfit TV billionaire could win, then a principled, decent, smart TV billionaire could certainly beat him.

2.  She would be a candidate at the precise moment when women are dominating the public and political agenda, and are looking for a candidate who will speak for them.

3.  She uses her celebrity in positive ways – to oppose bullying thugs (cf. Trump) and to promote great leaders (cf. Obama, the anti-Trump).

4.  The most motivated Democratic constituency – as we saw in Alabama – is African-American women.  An Oprah candidacy would keep them motivated and involved.

5.  She actually has a legislative record – cf. The Protect Our Children Act, an anti-predatory bill that became known as the Oprah Act.  She gets stuff done, even as a private citizen.

6.  She’s likeable and relatable, to say the least.  She didn’t get millions upon millions of viewers, and build a communications empire, by being a repellant reality TV circus act – she did it by being a person average folks want to bring into their living rooms, every single day.  As they did.

7. Does she have many years of political involvement?  No, she doesn’t, and so what.  In an era when many voters, on all points on the ideological spectrum (see: Trump and Sanders) are looking for atypical/outsider candidates, Oprah’s distance from Capitol Hill is a help, not a hindrance.

8.  She may be a billionaire, but she comes from humble roots – the child of an unwed mother in Mississippi, a survivor of sexual abuse, she was an honours student who could recite Bible verses off the top of her head.  She pulled herself up by her bootstraps.  And, she’s Oprah, for Chrissakes.

9.  She is unique, in that she is one of the few Weinstein-era celebrities who has retained her moral authority.  At a time when America is turning its lonely/anxious eyes to a Joe DiMaggio, Oprah is Joe DiMaggio.  She’s Poprah.

10.  She can win.  She can win.  Whether Trump is there or not – felled by Mueller or resigning to head off a post-midterm impeachment – she can beat him, just as she can beat the unholy cabal of Pence, Ryan et al.  She can win.

So, to those nay-sayers, objecting to my ten points here or on Facebook or Twitter, I say this:

If not Oprah, then who?  Who is the Democratic alternative?


Column: l’affaire Boyle

Not so long ago, I was in Vancouver at the same time as Jean Chretien.  He was there for his law firm, I was there for mine.  We decided to get together, in a spot down in Gastown.

It was sunny and a truly beautiful day.  Looking outside, Chretien suggested we go for a walk.  So, we left to take a walk – me, the former Prime Minister, and a single plainclothes RCMP officer.

Bruce Hartley, Chretien’s long-serving right-hand guy – and, frankly, the best EA in the history of Canadian politics – wasn’t with us.  He had business elsewhere.  So, Chretien, me and the cop strolled along Water Street, heading West.

People stopped and stared.  Japanese tourists took pictures.  BC Transit workers watched Chretien walk by, mouths agape.  Every few feet, Chretien would be stopped and asked for an autograph or to pose for a selfie.  It was a lot of fun.

At one point, in front of Waterfront Station, a homeless guy called out to Chretien.  The guy was sitting on the sidewalk, bearded and a little bit grimy.  He stood up and moved our way.  “Hey, Chretien!” the homeless guy yelled. “Hey, Chretien!”

The homeless guy now had the RCMP officer’s full attention, and mine, too.  I started pondering whether I could take a bullet for the greatest-ever Prime Minister, and concluded that I could and would.  But the homeless guy meant no harm.  He extended a grubby hand.  “Jean,” he said, giving a gap-toothed smile, “I just want to thank you for keeping us out of Bush’s illegal war in Iraq!”

Chretien burst out laughing, and so did I.  The Mountie relaxed.  Chretien gave the homeless guy five bucks.

Apologies for the length of this little anecdote, but it’s become relevant in recent days.  To wit: how does one get a meeting with a Prime Minister?

Quite a few folks are wondering about that, in the wake of the revelation that Justin Trudeau – a serving Prime Minister, and not just a former one – met with the rather-controversial Boyle family.  How did such a meeting happen?

The Boyles, of course, are the folks who were held hostage by terrorists and jihadists for half a decade in different locations in Afghanistan and Pakistan.  Joshua Boyle, the father, is a Canadian and was tortured and beaten.  Caitlan Coleman, his American wife, was raped.  Their three young children were born in captivity.

They returned to Canada in October and met with Trudeau in December.  The Boyles requested the meeting, apparently, and Trudeau agreed.  The Prime Minister received the Boyles in his Parliament Hill office, but precious few knew about it. After Christmas, however, the Boyles posted photos of the meeting on Twitter.  Eyebrows were raised.  Observers were puzzled.

When Joshua Boyle was last week charged with more than a dozen serious criminal offences – among them sexual assault, assault, administering a noxious substance, unlawful confinement and uttering threats – observers were more than puzzled.  Many, mostly of the conservative variety, were apoplectic.

In the National Post, Christie Blatchford wrote: “As Joshua Boyle, thank God, must be presumed innocent, so may Justin Trudeau be presumed to be merely stupid.”  Her colleague Chris Selley huffed that putting Trudeau together with Joshua Boyle was “a very strange decision,” a “bizarre misstep,” and a “backlash” is therefore coming that “could be legendary.”

“Legendary.” Could be.  Or, it could be – as in most things in politics – the most blasé explanation for events is the likeliest one.  This is Canadian politics, after all.

Sure, it seems likely that Joshua Boyle was under criminal investigation when he and his wife and kids met with Justin Trudeau.  It’s obvious, however, that Trudeau didn’t know that: there isn’t a political advisor alive – outside of Donald Trump’s circle, that is – who would knowingly put his or her boss in a meeting with a criminal, or a soon-to-be-alleged one.

It was in Joshua Boyle’s interest to get those photos published, because they potentially put a Crown prosecutor in a bit of a bind.  So we know Boyle didn’t tell Trudeau what was coming, in just two week’s time.

But what of the RCMP?  What of the Privy Council Office, Trudeau’s personal bureaucracy?  Didn’t they know?  Why not, if not?  And if they did, why didn’t they warn Trudeau not to meet with Joshua Boyle?

If the Mounties knew Boyle was about to be charged, and declined to tell Trudeau’s staff, it would be a massive scandal – but not the first time it has happened.  During this writer’s tenure on the Hill, it was well-known that the RCMP, CSIS and/or the uniformed guys and gals at the department of National Defence would sometimes place their political masters in harm’s way, so as to (a) be rid of them or (b) acquire leverage to be deployed at budget time or whatever.

Would PCO have known?  Perhaps, but highly unlikely.  The Privy Council Office mainly provides advice to the Prime Minister and his or her government.  In my experience, PCO is highly controversy-adverse.  They write memos and place ATIP-less yellow sticky notes on binders: they are not in the business of manufacturing scandal.  PCO dislikes scandal.

For now, no one is talking on the record about who knew what, and when they knew it.  We can be reasonably assured that Justin Trudeau and his senior staff are justifiably unhappy, and have had some interesting chats with the RCMP.  When it returns at months’-end, angry questions in the House of Commons are inevitable.

In the meantime, however, the most bland explanation for l’affaire Boyle is the most likely: Joshua Boyle asked for a meeting, no one objected, so Justin Trudeau agreed.

Sometimes – as with homeless guys, just as it is with a former hostage of the Taliban – these things simply happen.


Oh, that way madness lies; let me shun that.

Donald Trump’s latest tweets – about how he isn’t insane – indisputably make the case that he is. There can’t be much doubt, now.

What now? What do we do? What should be our method, in the face of such madness?

I wrote about his madness months ago, while in Boston. The problem I wrote about them remains the problem now.

BOSTON – Is being batshit crazy an impediment to ‎high public office?

It is a question being much-debated, these days, down here in the Disunited States. ‎As the Unpresident continues his ever-downward descent into the darkest, dankest depths – praising neo-Nazis and white supremacists, threatening to shut down the U.S. Government if Congress doesn’t give him his wall to keep out Mexicans – many serious people are asking a serious question: is Donald Trump insane? Is he nuts? Is he now, at long last, fit to be declared unfit?

Trump represents uncharted territory for the world. But the dilemma of what to do when a politician loses his or her marbles – not so much. It’s happened before, and not just down here in the United States, the nation now fully at war with itself.

It happens all the time, all over.  What isn’t so ubiquitous is how nations deal with the madmen at the top.

In Canada, we’ve had a leader who communed with his dead mother, and regularly talked to his dog. He thought Hitler was a saint. But ‎that man – Mackenzie King – was Prime Minister, and our longest-serving Prime Minister, no less.  Many knew he was certifiable, but history does not record any successful attempts to separate him from his office.

The 25th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution anticipated the madman named Trump. America’s constitutional forefathers were not so wise about everything – their idiotic Second Amendment pledge to permit citizens to maintain “militias” carrying around assault rifles, for instance, has rendered U.S. schools and ‎work places veritable shooting galleries.

That amendment was what allowed everything from Sandy Hook to the assassinations of Dr. King and the Kennedy brothers to‎ happen. It made this country the preferred jurisdiction of every modern mass-murderer.

But the 25th Amendment, in contrast, was smart. It was prescient. It reads:

“Whenever the President transmits to the President pro tempore of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives his written declaration that he is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office, and until he transmits to them a written declaration to the contrary, such powers and duties shall be discharged by the Vice President as Acting President.‎”

The 25th amendment is mainly preoccupied with process. As with lawyers, as with founding forefathers: the solution to process is more process. And the 25th is certainly mostly about process.

But it is those ten slender words – “unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office” – that bedevil many Americans, in these dark days. What does that mean, to be “unable” to be President of the United States? What is the standard? What is the threshhold?

‎When a president brags about sexually assaulting women? ‎ When he calls other nations, allies, rapists and murderers? When he mocks the disabled? When he breaks laws, over and over? When he discriminates? When he aligns himself with the Ku Klux Klan, and – on Twitter – threatens a nuclear war that will claim the lives of millions? Then?

The 25th Amendment ‎has been used before, in real life and on TV. On the TV series ‘Designated Survivor,’ starring Canadian Kiefer Sutherland as president, the 25th Amendment is invoked when Sutherland’s character must go under a surgeon’s scalpel after an assassination attempt. It’s a big deal, taking up a couple episodes of the show.

And in the real world – which frankly seems far less real, since Agent Orange was sworn in as America’s 45th president – ‎the Amendment has been applied only a half-dozen times since it’s adoption. When Gerald Ford succeeded Richard Nixon as president; when Ronald Reagan needed a colonoscopy, or when George W. Bush needed one, too; and so on. Resignations and colonoscopies: that has been the history of the 25th amendment, until now.

So, how does one go about determining that Donald Trump is unstable and therefore unable? Who determines that, and how? It is no simple thing.

Trump is not the first lunatic to lead the Republican Party. In 1964, the GOP’s leader was Arizona’s Barry Goldwater, a far-Right autocrat who called extremism a virtue, and who wanted to use nuclear weapons against‎ anyone who disagreed with him. Goldwater was not dispatched by a constitutional amendment – he was destroyed in the presidential election by a Democratic Party ad caled Daisy (and after which I named my own firm, full disclosure). Daisy worked because it called Goldwater’s sanity into question.

But, in the days leading up to the November 1964 vote, a few psychiatrists also decided to opine on Goldwater’s mental stability from afar. Without having examined him up-close, the psychiatrists declared Goldwater mentally ill, and therefore unable to discharge presidential duties.

That set off a huge controversy in the American psychiatric community. And it led to the ‎creation of what is called, down here, the “Goldwater Rule” – that is, a psychiatrist cannot now diagnose a person without them having first been a patient. In fairness, it is probably a good rule: if unpopular politicians could be removed from office by a stranger’s psychiatric speculation, then there will not be many politicians left in office, will there?

For the 75 per cent of Americans who want Trump gone, the Goldwater Rule is a dilemma. Donald Trump’s regime, enveloped in crisis and scandal as it is, is unlikely to offer up their “president” for examination by anyone’s head shrinks, anytime soon. If he is to be removed, the 25th Amendment to the Constitution won’t be the methodology.

Besides, it is not enough to call Donald Trump crazy. He is far worse than that. He is a serial liar and a cheat, a swindler and a con man. And, by his own admission, he is a “man” who sexually assaults women.

My favourite poet is Theodore Roethke. In one of his masterworks, In A Dark Time, Roethke writes:

“What’s madness but nobility of soul

At odds with circumstance?”

There is nothing noble about Donald Trump’s soul. He may be a madman, but he does not belong in an asylum. He belongs somewhere else.

Jail.


Racist is as racist does

Firstly, sincere congrats to Andrew Scheer for expelling the extremist Senator Lynn Beyak. Delighted to hear that he objects to his Senators being so defiant about their bigotry – but that he’s a-okay with his Senators being discreet about their racism! Well done, Blandy!

Secondly: in my 30 years of writing about the racist Right, my experience is that committed racists eventually out themselves, no matter how hard they try not to. They just can’t help themselves.

I give you, then, the heroine of the alt-Right and conservative columnists everywhere, Lindsay Shepherd.