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Monthly Archives: August 2018

DOUG FORD & DONALD TRUMP: TRUTH TAKES A BEATING

True genius resides in the capacity for evaluation of uncertain, hazardous, and conflicting information. – Winston Churchill

Fraud and falsehood only dread examination. Truth invites it. – Thomas Cooper

Frank A. Pelaschuk

What is truth?
We cannot ask our leaders because too many are strangers to truth. We hear America’s president Donald Trump and Ontario’s Doug Ford and their gang members talk constantly of “fake” news both refusing to answer questions they don’t like or from reporters they consider unsympathetic or, as does Trump, as “enemies of the American people”, i.e., Trump himself. Some, as had Ford, steal pages from others, making a show of media scrums with staff members in attendance solely for the purpose of loudly drowning out questions posed by members of the press and/or to show support for the new premier at taxpayer expense.
Theirs is the method of tyrants, bullies and liars who fear scrutiny and reject the notion of an open society and the public’s right to know for they are aware that with an open society comes the onus of responsibility and care in how one acts and what one says. For such as these, this kind of responsibility is restrictive and intolerable because it naturally lends to scrutiny and scepticism often in the form of pointed questions demanding honest responses. From most of our leaders, we seldom get that and, from some, Trump and Ford, almost never. A truly free society must, perforce, include and support a truly free press, a press free to ask questions without risk of intimidation, threat and reprisal notions that are anathema to the despotically inclined. Even so, even for Trump and Ford, shutting down the media is not an option while ignoring it too obvious: What is there to fear tenuous supporters may ask. More acceptable, even to those very supporters to whom Ford panders and whose tax dollars he says he wants to save and likely with a prayer of thanks to Stephen Harper, is the creation of his own taxpayer funded propaganda machine on the government website. That way he not only responds to soft questions from “fake” party hack “journalists” (conservative staffers) with his own version of the “facts”, he can also offer the constant iteration of how the mainstream media have it “in” for him and his supporters. You see, one constant in the mostly conservative war against the press is this: For Trump, Ford and all their kind, they are always victims of a vast conspiracy; anyone challenging or questioning them is out to “get” them and “those” folks out to get them are usually members of the “liberal establishment elites”.
For Ford and Trump and all their kind, there is no truth, no fact, but the truth and fact of what propels their agenda, their goals, their party and personal ambitions. Nothing more forcefully demonstrates this than the comments made by two members of Donald Trump’s inner circle. In January 2017, Counselor to the President, Kellyanne Conway, during an interview on Meet the Press, infamously defended Press Secretary Sean Spicer’s vastly inflated estimate of the crowd size during Trump’s inauguration saying Spicer “gave alternative facts…”! Not to be outdone, Rudolph Giuliani, Trump’s lawyer, appearing on the same show 20 months later, claimed that “Truth isn’t truth” a reaffirmation of the hidebound denialism of those who refuse to be open to anything but their own version of a gong show reality. For them, truth is a crap shoot, it is immaterial, a hindrance and unacceptable when it conflicts with their mythology. Even with the best will in the world, they cannot be offered the benefit of the doubt of having misspoke. There is no doubt. They may be vile but they are not necessarily stupid people; there is no misspeaking: they deliberately lie seeking to drag us into their Alice-in-Wonderland worldview, a world that many of their supporters apparently willingly inhabit of blind, unquestioning adherence to a belief or philosophy and/or, more likely, “a gut feeling”, that all things that do not conform to what they want to believe, to hear and to have confirmed, are suspect, wrong and not to be trusted. For me, it is difficult to declare for whom I hold the most contempt…those tin-pot despots eager to exploit and manipulate or those who gladly soak it in with minds in neutral and eyes glazed. For petty autocrats, such supporters are a bonanza for any claims of “fake news” are fodder to them who often seem prone to conspiracy theories (the American government was behind 9/11; Obama is not an American; the earth is flat and our governments don’t want us to know). These folk, who likely haven’t read a complete newspaper article in years let alone a newspaper, often appear to receive, and pass on, their information from Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter sources written by unknown, unreliable and dishonest attention seeking noisemakers with solid assurances that “this is real”.
In a way, sadly, it is, even if a really stupid way to inform oneself; theirs is a world lived online wherein only that with which they find agreeable is acceptable. Politicians of the ilk of Ford love this for these are the kind of people they hope to reach; it’s about winning and what better way to do so than playing on ignorance and manipulating the fears and baser instincts as did Kellie Leitch and Chris Alexander during the last election campaign and as Maxime Bernier, one-time leadership candidate for the Conservative party and loser to Andrew Scheer does today. While not all Conservatives are mean, the gang under Stephen Harper, many of whom still hold office under Scheer, are a nasty lot, Bernier particularly so because, beneath his impeccably manicured facade, there resides a foul cretin loudly and proudly broadcasting the depths to which he will sink in the form of bigotry that so many Conservative supporters find so appealing.
For Conservative supporters, however, not even the pretence of ambition can be offered as an excuse for vile attitudes; all they have is self-pity and the need to blame: nothing is their fault. For them, and always with encouragement from those willing to use them, there is the inchoate feelings of uneasiness, suspicion and anger: the world is a fearful, dangerous place and they are hapless victims, pawns of others: Big Government, Big Business, Big Unions; the list is endless; they are being dragged and held down by immutable forces they cannot and never had the ability to fight against. They are scared and told they are right to be frightened. They feel themselves losing and feel they are losers and are told they are losing and are losers. They long for something, anything, that will give their lives a sense of purpose and of fulfillment; they want change but feel helpless and floundering in their daily struggle because all they know is they want change, more and better but change from what and to what they are mostly unable to articulate. Ask any supporter of Trump or Doug Ford and their ilk what it is they want change from. Chances are, they cannot. They want easy fixes in the way of easy answers and grand promises. They want assurances they are, indeed, victims, that they deserve better, and that there is a fix.
And if you were to ask them why they believe the mainstream media is “fake”, they again will likely fail the test because the probability is they feed off bloggers with an agenda (mischief, political, who really knows?), from Facebook, Instagram and Twitter as noted above or from those Snake-Oil political salesmen slithering into their lives with the cure-all elixir for all the fears and ills of their lives; perhaps Ford’s “a-buck-a-beer” is the answer; they may need it when the costs of his cuts begin to add up.
Curiously, even as they proclaim distrust of politicians, they still insist on lapping up the same vague promises and poisonous nonsense by those very same people who have lied to them time and again.
But why? Certainly it is not because they seek honest men and women. If so, most in office having proven themselves liars would have been gone long ago. They certainly don’t want truthful people because, again, most of our elected folk would be long gone. Politicians are fond of saying, “Voters know best”. That’s what they like to say for public consumption. They also know better. Voters often make no effort to examine or understand party platforms. Doug Ford offered no detailed platform as he campaigned; even so, he won with a majority. Ontario voters simply did not care; they wanted change and opted for someone who offered nothing rather than the NDP party that did. They did not need to reflect on that they heard, read or saw because they wanted nothing to reflect on. These were not intelligent voters. And that, too, elated conservatives.
It could be that voters are simply too lazy, too willing to let others do their thinking for them, to let others tell them what they want and what they need. Maybe they love playing the role of mothered baby: yes, you are a victim, yes, the world is out to get you, yes, you need me to care for you, to love you, to save you money. Voters must accept responsibility but that requires effort to understand the political issues that affect their lives and be able to differentiate between want and need. Everyone wants to be well off but we all need good health. We must set our priorities and among them is to determine fact from fancy; it is not enough to embrace only that with which we agree but embrace instead that which works towards our interests and which includes the interests and welfare of others. We are, for better or worse, members of one community; tribalism as practiced by too many of our politicians leads to insularity and exclusion; it damages and fractures and encourages anger, blame and suspicion. How can we trust any politician who appeals to the worst in us and who states he knows all the answers while refusing to acknowledge let alone even listen to the voices of others? We cannot. There is nothing wrong with ambition or having goals; there is with using any method, fair or foul, to achieve those aims. Demonizing the media as a fraternity of “lickspittle elites” by which is meant, and in which is included, not only journalists but also educators, jurists, scientists, artists, business folk and, yes, even politicians who happen to disagree with them, is diversionary, divisive and destructive. How can knowledge be the enemy of anyone let alone a nation?
Truth has nothing to do with the revision of history or the denial of another’s humanity. Too many Conservatives do not seem to understand that. Nor is truth achieved by undoing the works of another simply because that work was done by that other. Trump, Ford and ilk of their kind are anti-truth simply because truth will not serve their purpose. They are despoilers and haters and serve no one but themselves and their friends. They are anti-democratic rigging the game as Harper sought to do with his so-called Fair Elections Act and as Ford seeks to do with his gerrymandering interference of the Toronto municipal election just months away.
What is truth? Rudolph Giuliani has it wrong; there is no My Truth or Your Truth. There is only Truth. What purpose does it serve in your daily life? Do you care? You should. Information from any source, particularly political, should not be swallowed holus-bolus. It must be studied carefully, evaluated with even greater care and then mulled over some more. Truth is not always easy, it may offend you because it is not what you want to hear. But if, in reasoning, you embrace it as true even as every fibre in your being may scream in opposition, it just may be. Our politicians will never be the answer; knowledge is.

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But such is the irresistible nature of truth, that all it asks and all it wants, is the liberty of appearing. – Thomas Paine

They that can give up essential liberties to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety. — Benjamin Franklin

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FORD, SCHEER AND CONSERVATIVES: NUT BARS OR FRUIT CAKES?

There is a limit to the success of conservative populism and the exploitation of “little guy” or “silent majority” rhetoric, and it is very often reached because of the emaciated, corrupted personalities of the demagogues themselves. – Christopher Hitchens

Populism is folkish, patriotism is not. One can be a patriot and a cosmopolitan. But a populist is inevitably a nationalist of sorts. Patriotism, too, is less racist than is populism. A patriot will not exclude a person of another nationality from the community where they have lived side by side and whom he has known for many years, but a populist will always remain suspicious of someone who does not seem to belong to his tribe. – John Lukas

Frank A. Pelaschuk

Doug Ford and his shrill sidekick, Lisa Macleod, in fact, the whole gang of Ontario MPP neanderthals and their federal and provincial counterparts, seem to be following the path loved by certain types of politicos of the day: parochial, dishonest, mean-spirited, ignorant, craven, self-serving, hypocritical, abusive, lying, media-hating, science-denying, thought-aversive, punitive, vindictive, petty, dogmatic, autocratic, and fossilized.
Ideas, if they have any, are so immured in locked minds that not a hint of light is discernible as if a requirement that not a ray be allowed to penetrate — ever. They swept into office and immediately set to work dismantling every liberal piece of legislation put in place by the Kathleen Wynne government; it doesn’t matter if the ideas were good, bad or indifferent, they took office in the way of thugs swinging metal bars and bats bent on the destruction of anything they don’t like, don’t understand and don’t support. Doug and his gang don’t like much, understand even less and support only that which plays to the worst instincts held by their supporters: that they are victims of Big Government and Liberal elites; that asylum-seekers are not only to be feared but receive preferential treatment over “legitimate” border crossers and Canadian-born citizens; that those on low income deserve even less and should get off their butts. They whine, really whine, about the decline of our infrastructures: failing roads and overpasses; the state of our education; and they whine, really whine about the shortage of doctors, hospital closures, the interminable wait times in emergency rooms while whining, screaming, that taxes are too, too, TOO, high. The Progressive (now talk about misnomers!) Conservatives have made an art out of playing on stupidity and fear encouraging the concept of victimhood and finger-pointing: it’s not them, it’s them. So they target opponents as liberals and socialistic elites but, if pressed as to what they mean by either, will often prove themselves ignorant on both or offer the usual bromides: soft on crime, tax-and-spend, pro-refugee, anti-life baby-killers. Everyone apparently needs his or her bogeyman. For Ford supporters, indeed for conservatives across the country it appears, the bogeyman is often new or reworked ideas progressives call progressive and conservatives find suspect, frightening, and foreign: too much emphasis on feminism and gender equality; too much tolerance of niqab-, turban-wearing newcomers; climate change isn’t proven; those on welfare are bums. And what about that Middle Eastern family next door who recently moved into the neighbourhood. Are they legal? Are they economic refugees? Are they asylum seekers? How do we know they’re not terrorists? Why don’t they dress like Canadians? Why are we allowing so many into our country? Grab the cell phone and record their movements. It’s that damn Trudeau’s fault; he just threw open the doors to anyone especially those Muslims.
Racism has always played a role in Canada, a fact we consistently ignore and too often deny, but the increasing tide of hostility towards newcomers appears to be the legacy of Stephen Harper’s last campaign (remember Kellie Leitch and Chris Alexander and the Snitch Line) and with the rise of populists as reflected by Trump and Trump-lite Ford fanning the flames of suspicion and intolerance with unproven claims of crisis at the border to Liberal assurances that that is not the case. Fomenting fear is an unproductive distraction; it does nothing to solve the problem of refugee claimants if there is a problem. The Trudeau liberals certainly could have done a better job regarding refugees but making life more difficult for those already having a hard go of it is not a solution and is unworthy of a nation that often boasts of being one of the most welcoming and tolerant on earth. Recent polls suggest that is no longer true if it ever was. Behaviour by politicians exploiting and exacerbating reasonable concerns regarding asylum seekers along with recent videos of fearful, bigoted Canadians harassing identifiable minorities should be enough to safely put that myth of smug moral superiority to rest once-and-for-all.
As is often the way of small, mean people with an even smaller vision, provincial conservatives, Scott Moe, Brian Pallister and Doug Ford, as do their federal counterparts, almost always believe it necessary to point fingers and blame others whether merited or not for any failures in society especially if those blamed are liberals just booted from office. So, for them, as with Trump, the media, perceived by conservatives as a cabal of liberal elites, becomes the target because one thing liars and sewer rats detest is light of any kind: facts are often a hindrance to their worldview therefore unwanted and unnecessary to the cause. For them, as with all of a despotic nature, an informed, educated populace is a dangerous populace; best keep the ignorant ignorant; so, to that end, stoke the flames of fear, warn citizens against the invasion of asylum seekers and economic refugees and the extreme likelihood of terrorists slipping into the country; tell them at every opportunity they’ve been lied to by a press made up of elites passing on FAKE NEWS not wanting you to know that the government is corrupt, is out to take away your rights, and is stealing all your hard earned money to help those foreigners get into the country, get more than you, and take your jobs: in short, you are the victim of a vast conspiracy of bleeding heart liberal-socialists. Of course, the ignorant lap it up for it confirms what they have always known but never been able to articulate: thank God for Trump and Fox News in the US and for Scheer and Ford and Rempel and Macleod and The Rebel Media at home who aren’t afraid to tell it like it is or, at least, tell us what we want to hear regardless of how crazy. And crazy it is.
Conservative supporters are much like the smokers of my day who refused to except the thousand science studies proving cigarettes cause cancer preferring instead to embrace, gasping for breath all the while, the single tobacco-sponsored study refuting all such claims: cigarettes are safe. Today, it’s Climate Change; it’s not happening, even if it is, it’s not man-made and any government intervention is nothing more than a TAX GRAB. It’s twisted, but that’s how ideologues win support: facts are unimportant; just give folks what they want to hear: You’re not the problem; you’re a victim.
For Ford, as with his federal counterpart, Stephen Harper, now longer in office and making mischief elsewhere, it is not enough to twist, ignore and/or make up facts, it is not enough to demonize journalists and the press, it is far better to muzzle it and what better way to suppress the media than to use taxpayer dollars to create your own propaganda organ and call it “Ontario News Now”. Now you can not only get true fake news with fake “journalists”, you can get it 24/7. And guess whose paying for it, Sucker. The very person whose money Ford says he wants to save.
Yeah, he wants to save your money. So he cancels Kathleen Wynne’s carbon program and allocates $30 million to fight the federal government on the imposition of a tax on provinces that do not come up with a carbon price program of their own. Ontario and the other provinces will likely lose the case but they don’t care because their real concern is demonstrating to their supporters that they are fighting on their behalf with a federal government of elites out to screw them. Conservative supporters will lap it up, run to the Ontario government website and click on Ontario News Now for the “real” truth and walk away deeply content in having once again confirmed what they already know: conservatives are the only ones capable of telling the truth and the truth is they are victims of an insidious liberal government conspiracy. But you will never hear that from the liberal media.
Kathleen Wynne, the wicked witch may be gone but everything she and her government have put in place has not only been bad, it has been DISASTROUS. Now that’s bad.
So, if Wynne’s carbon plan, as well as Trudeau’s, was disastrous, terrible, bordering on CALAMITOUS, what else has she put in place that could be as bad, maybe even worse?
Perhaps the basic income pilot project that was to be tested over three years. Now that’s pretty bad because, well, not to be too churlish about it or to make too fine a point, it’s a program that’s reaching into my wallet, taking my hard earned dollars, to help a bunch of poor, low income people whom I don’t know and could care less about. Why? I’m not responsible for their miserable lives. And the Ontario conservatives agree with me. Hell, they even broke their campaign promise to see the program to the end and are cutting a planned three per cent increase to social assistance by half. Why? Because, Lisa Macleod says, it’s a “disincentive” to work.
The program started near the end of last year. Yet less than a year into the three year test period, certainly not enough time to make an informed decision as to its effectiveness, but enough time to attack the poor and desperate simply because conservatives have a propensity to meanness and for categorizing the poor as shiftless or not trying hard enough, it’s been cut. The program involved 4000 low income people in various Ontario communities; it was one of the largest test projects of its kind eliciting world wide interest. It didn’t and doesn’t matter to Ford and gang. Singles received up to $16, 989 a year while couples received $24,027. If they had a job, the government would clawback 50% of every dollar earned. Did the project work? Lisa Macleod claimed it was failing recipients from becoming “independent contributors to the economy”. How could she make that determination when the project was axed before it became fully functional? One thing is certain: Ford and gang where not interested in knowing if the program worked. It was gone as far as they are concerned. What was at play here was just pure partisan political malice directed against a liberal Wynne government program with only the very poor taking the bullet.
This was not just the act of an unkind group of people; it was the act of nasty people.
I have in my long life met many conservatives with whom I have had disagreements but who were and are kind and generous and open to ideas and truth. Sadly, in my opinion, they are too few. Too many are like Trump and his followers and like Maxime Bernier, Kellie Leitch, Michelle Rempel, Pierre Poilievre, Stephen Harper, Doug Ford, Lisa Macleod and their supporters. They are too shrill, too angry, too invested in their own interests and peeves to be concerned in yours or mine. Harper was a petty individual with a despot’s heart. Ford and thugs are the same.
In a few weeks time, municipal elections are to take place. Last week, just hours before cutoff time for candidates to put their name forward, Ford, unilaterally, in a truly anti-democratic and vindictive move, went after Toronto and the incumbent mayor declaring he would cut the number of council members to half its size. There was no consultation.
It was a petty act by a petty man wrapped in a big body with a pea brain.
The world is harsh enough for far too many with little to no resources. No one, least of all these, need the added burden of cruel, spiteful, selfish, tight-fisted political mercenaries targeting them. What Ford and gang are doing is not fiscally responsible, not being tough on waste, and certainly doing nothing to solve very serious problems. It’s just a cruel slapdash way of governance that allows the petty and mean to crow about acting and then clapping their hands dismissively as they ignore the pain and bewilderment of the poor and disadvantaged disposed as easily as one does trash.
Truth is not a plaything. Truth may be played with, it may be used and abused and deployed for unholy and selfish ends by the unscrupulous and vile. Truth is a light towards justice. If we want both, it is up to us to be vigilant and protective of both. We must not blindly accept anyone’s truth as gospel nor should we be foolishly closed to any truth or idea because it is not ours. An open mind is called for. When presented a story, a fact, it is best to study what we hear, see and feel before we embrace it wholly. Denying what we don’t like doesn’t make something any less true than embracing what we like makes it more true.
I am no more a fan of Trudeau than I was of Harper or Scheer. He is dishonest and untrustworthy and I believe his feminism a prop and his public displays of empathy fulsome and too full of self-regard…is the public taking notice? Nor was I a fan of Wynne’s governance though I did like her personally. The Ontario liberals were incompetent and too many of their actions suggested not all members were as honest as I would have liked. But I never thought of Wynne as mean or vindictive or full of herself.
I cannot say the same of Ford, Macleod, and the rest in his gang. They are not people I trust. When he ran for office, Ford offered no platform, gave no information. He would cut taxes but not tell us how or what would be sacrificed. In office, he has dismantled programs and legislation for no other reason than Wynne’s liberals were behind them. He has even cut the Wynne school sex education program reverting to one from twenty years ago and which educators say is outdated. Going back and erasing the work of the previous government is not a plan nor governance when nothing is offered to replace what has been destroyed. Ford’s is the thinking of those behind the government Phoenix payroll debacle. Get rid of the old; we’ll worry about the new later. We can see where he may be heading. If you are poor, alone, in need of assistance, God help you. Ford and his kind will not.

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But such is the irresistible nature of truth, that all it asks and all it wants, is the liberty of appearing. – Thomas Paine.

They that can give up essential liberties to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety. — Benjamin Franklin

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