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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.

***

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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KELLIE LEITCH ET AL: THE UGLY FACE OF FEAR & INTOLERANCE

Hatred is the coward’s revenge for being intimidated. – George Bernard Shaw

Hating people is like burning down your own house to get rid of a rat. – Harry Emerson Fosdick

Frank Pelaschuk

Lately, we’ve been hearing a lot about Canadian values. We have heard it from the Liberals, Trudeau oozing, simply oozing sincerity as he puts to words, hand over heart, what we all want to believe of ourselves: welcoming, generous, tolerant, open, free, gracious, kind, polite, humble, not only the best country in the world but also recognized by Canadians at least if seldom declared above a whisper — superior to Americans – though this is something that Trudeau, so eager to win friends and please, would never, never, allow such thoughts let alone they be known. It’s a cozy Canadian picture if a bit overblown and slightly tainted by the aura of modest smugness.

But, while most of us have our own ideas of shared Canadian values, they have been dragged to the fore by Kellie Leitch and fellow conservatives contending for leadership of the party and recently by Tory MPs in the House who oppose M-103, the anti-Islamophobia motion by Liberal MP Iqra Khalid, with fanciful and untrue claims that it will lead to changes in Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms and gives Islam preferential consideration over other, i.e. “Christian”, religions. From that one small step, they argue, will follow more steps including the imposition of Sharia law and the denial of the right to free speech. Such assertions, especially from the Conservative members, are patently absurd and might easily be dismissed as laughably hypocritical were the matter not so serious. Leitch and most of those vying for top spot were members during the Conservative reign of Error under Stephen Harper which, as many may recall, was a government that routinely shunned the “lickspittle” media, that labelled critics, particularly environmentalists, as “radicals” and “stooges” in the service of foreign interests, that broaden the powers of security agencies to spy on Canadians, that made possible charges of economic terrorism against peaceful protestors, that muzzled government scientists, that denied the most fundamental of right of free expression, the vote, to Canadians living abroad more than five years, that, through the CRA, targeted charities perceived as “left-wing”, and that tarred all critics of the Israeli government and its treatment of Palestinians as anti-Jewish going so far, in one instance, as to rescind the thirty year charitable status and government funding of KAIROS, a multi-faith aid agency. On that occasion (2011), the agency had received approval for funding until then cabinet minister Bev Oda forged the government document with the insertion of the word “not” thus denying the charity’s funding and status. The Conservatives, with Jason Kenney leading the charge with claims that the Harper regime was cracking down on anti-Semitic groups, made the false claims that KAIROS had been spearheading the charge of the BDS (boycott, divestment and sanctions) movement against the Israeli government. The truth is, KAIROS, while critical of Israel’s policies regarding Palestine, did not support BDS. But Jason Kenney, prone to partisanship, to using government letterheads for party fundraising, to smearing opponents with innuendo and falsehoods, to tweeting bogus images of a child bride with her “husband” and of chained women re-enacting an historical event as if they were “real”, has had a long history of demonstrating that, when it comes to truth, he is a happy stranger as are almost all those conservatives, especially those of the Harper era. As with KAIROS, they lie when they suggest M-103, a non-binding motion to study systemic racism, is a threat to “free speech”. While M-103 could have been worded with greater clarity to leave absolutely no room for the mischief-makers, liars and weasels, there is no secret agenda to undermine “Christian” faiths or to impose Sharia law. The threat comes not from the motion but from those political opportunists who are eager to exploit the ignorant and lazy who prefer to believe the lies that offer them comfort and the illusion of safety and security. Yes, there is danger in the world but, thus far, in Canada and in the US, since the twin towers, the terrorists have been lone wolves Canadian and American born.

IT’S NOT YOUR FAULT

What Kellie Leitch and those of her ilk offer has less to do with Canadian interests than self-interest and self-aggrandizement by any means. It is about achieving power and influence by fair or foul means though, it is true, for some, the foul means seem bred to the bone, easier and more natural. In that respect, Leitch has much in common with Donald Trump with whom she wishes to identify and emulate: neither have much interest in truth or facts nor of the harm they are doing with their inflammatory messages of blame and hate. For that, they have much to answer. Little wonder those spewing vile messages on the social network, encouraging vandalism, offering threats and engaging in violence directed against Muslims, Jews and other marginalized members of our society feel emboldened: they have received the seal of approval from those who seek their votes and tell them exactly what they want to hear: it’s not your fault, we will fix things, we will heal you. As for how, save that for later.

So when Trump talks about security and seeks to ban immigrants from countries with large Muslim populations or when Leitch, particularly following the aftermath of her role in the odious Conservative snitch line debacle, talks about screening refugees for “Canadian values”, there is little reason to doubt that a racist and religious bigot and/or mean-spirited opportunist is at work pandering to the worst in us. Couched in any way she may wish, the message and intent cannot be mistaken. Leitch is referencing Syrians and Muslims in particular. This is not new to her or to the Conservative party but, until the last election campaign, was a relatively tepid political gambit fuelled by world headlines and several Canadian born lone wolf acts of terrorism.

About a month before the October 19, 2015 election, supposedly the last first-past-the-post Trudeau promised (that’s another topic for another time) Leitch and Chris Alexander, another leadership candidate for the Conservatives, stood before the media to announce the creation of a snitch line so that Canadians could report the Barbaric Cultural Practices of those niqab-, hijab-, burka-wearing you-know-who. Months later, the election over and the Conservatives out of power, Kellie Leitch appeared on CBC’s Power & Politics expressing regret with fake tears for her role in the snitch line debacle. Then, just months later, entering the leadership race, she reverted to the persona of the sewer from which she had briefly emerged. Following the murders of six Muslims in a Montreal mosque January 29, 2017, Leitch fell silent for a few days but not, it appears, to reflect on her leadership strategy for soon she was back at it spreading the message of her kind of Canadian values working up the elements of fear among those with the same values and questionable IQs against those, you-know-who, flooding our borders, even though the murderer, a young French-Canadian with an unhealthy interest in white supremacy (likely a characteristic common to her supporters) made a lie of her message. It didn’t and doesn’t matter. For the bigots, hysterics and those poisonous vipers fuelling the fires of racial and religious intolerance, it makes no difference that Canadians have far less to fear from the Muslim and Jewish communities than those communities have to fear from Canadians. Live a lie long enough one begins to believe it; it’s easier to accept you’re not to blame; you’re the victim and others are out for your job, your family, your faith – your life! It’s certainly easier than having to actually think and perhaps risk the niggling worm of doubt forcing you to question those feeding you this line: is there an agenda here?

The manipulators, the fear mongers, the exploiters and users, the power hungry and the power mad (autocrats, despots, and tyrants at heart), know this and they love it. It is not enough to have power but to wield it and wield it ruthlessly. That requires a compliant, ignorant and fearful populace, which seems to have grown in numbers in spite of the opportunities and advances offered by education and science. The dumber we are, the safer and the happier they are. Conservatives and their supporters will tell you that the non-binding motion, M-103, is dangerous but it is unlikely they would encourage you o actually read it for yourself (and it’s very unlikely their supporters in the rank and file have). M-103 clearly states, “the government should: (a) recognise the need to quell the increasing public climate of hate and fear; (b) condemn Islamophobia and all forms of systemic racism and religious discrimination…” “Condemn Islamophobia and all forms of systemic racism and religious discrimination.” Only an illiterate or someone with an agenda would see an agenda not there.

Contrary to the naysayers opposed to the motion, nowhere does Islam get preferential treatment. What this motion does is highlight what should be self-evident to anyone who possesses a modicum of integrity and common sense and is able to follow the news: Muslims and Jews are being targeted and the fear mongers, the racists and the lowlife panderers like Leitch and the Conservatives opposing the motion are exploiting this issue less because they believe in Canadian values, which they may well do whatever they are, but because they are more interested in seeking power and influence but suffer from a lack of will and desire to compromise and to be truly original and constructive in ways that will make for a better Canada.

Last year, the Conservative hypocrites suffered no qualms regarding threats to free speech when one of their members made a motion, supported by the Trudeau Liberals, condemning the BDS movement which stated: “That, given Canada and Israel share a long history of friendship as well as economic and diplomatic relations, the House reject the BDS movement, which promotes the demonization and delegitimization of the State of Israel, and call upon the government to condemn any and all attempts by Canadian organizations, groups or individuals to promote the BDS movement, both here at home and abroad.” The motion, as NDP leader Thomas Mulcair noted, was a direct attack against the right of free speech and assembly. Neither the Conservatives nor the Liberals gave a damn. Evidently it’s some kind of crime to be critical of Israel or to suggest that Palestinians have been victims of unfair treatment.

BE AFRAID, YOU ARE THREATENED

So what Canadian values are Leitch, and those of her ilk or even Justin Trudeau’s cash-for-access, ethically challenged and bald-faced lying hypocritical Liberals talking about? While Trudeau and the Liberals have demonstrated many shared, unpleasant, questionable and deceitful traits with the Conservatives (placing trade before Human Rights, reneging on open nominations, and turning away from openness and transparency and from electoral reform, for examples), they, thus far, have demonstrated none of the openly vile tendencies of racial and religious intolerance espoused by Leitch and cohorts; Trudeau is about sunny, sunny, sunny ways, more interested in getting on everyone’s good books promoting trade and himself as a proud feminist but too timid to chid, even mildly, the vile comments of a misogynistic Trump when offered the opportunity to publicly prove himself.

On February 24, 2017, during the penultimate leadership debate at the Manning Centre in Ottawa, Leitch spoke of some of her “values”: generosity, freedom, tolerance. Those are the same values Trudeau, Thomas Mulcair and many Canadians would share yet, uttered by Leitch, seem to hold a different meaning. There is about her demeanour and pinch-faced expression and the way she utters the words a miserliness and mean-spiritedness that saps the words of any value. There are strings attached to her type of generosity, freedom, and tolerance, conditions that require a signature and a surrendering to another what it means to be of an independent mind with values of one’s own. Throughout her campaign, she has been shamelessly vocal in condemning the “elites” by that, I guess, she means the media and those who disagree with her, while, as during the debate and at every occasion, not shy of throwing out her credentials and appealing to prestige by reminding all that she has been published. Well she is a doctor which means she is highly educated but when one sees her eight plus minute campaign video and the message she offers, you may be left asking: what good did it do her?

Clearly, there are some politicians who believe it really doesn’t take all that much to get voters on their side. Trump appears proof of that. For some, all you have to do is make a lot of grand promises without even a pretence of keeping them; you’ll worry about the fallout later and, if you are Trudeau, with a pretty face, nice hair, if you are named the best-dressed leader in the world and if you declare yourself a feminist and interfere in nominations to ensure that your preference, a woman, is selected, if you ooze, simply ooze sincerity, well, it doesn’t matter, the public will forgive all because you are golden. Or you can be famous, famous for being loud, brash, egotistical, and rich, rich, rich. That might be enough. No need to be a full-time Canadian; ideas are needed here either, just a promise to save the country and bluff, loud talk and self-congratulatory bluster.

For some, all it takes is the right message to win the vote. Pander to the fears, greed, and stupidity of the hateful and brutish. Everyone’s out for the main chance so promise anything, you don’t have to deliver. Next time do it all again. Fear, hate and greed are all you need to worry about. If you’re a politician, that will make you a winner, if not today, next time.

As for now, go about your business of getting elected, brag about your wealth or your credentials and hammer home the message that the world is a dangerous, dangerous place, that the voter is the victim and the barbarians with frothing mouths are pounding at the door wanting you and yours. Ignore the hateful, violent messages scrolled on school blackboards threatening harm to our Muslim and Jewish neighbours, ignore the firebombed mosque, the swastikas painted on synagogue walls, and the Muslim and Jewish tombstones overturned by the vandals, ignore the victims harassed and threatened and beaten on the streets. Ignore all this and say: I didn’t do this. I didn’t contribute. I’m not responsible.

Well, Leitch, if not you and those like you, who is?

***

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

 

JUSTIN TRUDEAU:THE ACCESS-FOR-CASH HUSTLER & A SHAMEFUL SILENCE ON TRUMP

Tell the truth about any situation & you are delivered from lack of progress, but become hypocritical or lying, and you may be in bondage for life. – Auliq-Ice

All other swindlers upon earth are nothing compared to self-swindlers. – Charles Dickens

There is not a crime, there is not a dodge, there is not a trick, there is not a swindle, there is not a vice which does not live by secrecy. – Joseph Pulitzer

Frank Pelaschuk

If Trudeau’s image has taken a bit of a battering lately, the sheen slightly worn, the glow very slightly diminished, it is largely of his making.

Swept into power largely on the tsunami of hope fed by many grandiose promises and the force of his youthful personality, he has, for some time, convincingly demonstrated his status as a star: it’s difficult to shake the faith of true believers who want only to believe.

Yet, from the very first, all that talk of making Human Rights a priority, of offering Canadians a real change, a new era of openness, transparency and honesty – all that hope – has proven to be mostly chimera. Words. And empty ones at that.

BAGMEN

Oh, yes, he has followed through with his promise to bring Syrian refugees to Canada and he has kept to his promise to consult with Canadians, oh, Lord, how he has consulted, name it…he’s got some committee talking to someone. And that is good. However, many of the promises he has kept have been the easy things, the things most Canadians can rally around and support and end up feeling good about themselves for doing so. That, too, is fine.

Yet, one could sense it almost from the first that what we got, all those young, new faces, the gender-balanced cabinet, all, all offering promise and hope, wasn’t quite true, there was something off, one of Trudeau’s own prize members almost ruining it, that high, heady euphoria not just of victory but of actually doing it, forming a cabinet that was not apparently but truly, truly, representative: women, new young political up-and-comers, visible minorities playing truly significant roles. He was promising a lot and demonstrated he meant business by making public the mandate letters for each ministry. But there was Jody Wilson-Raybould, a First Nations member, a first for the post, appointed a key position as minister of justice almost spoiling it by attending a $500 a plate fundraising event put on by lawyers from a prestigious firm and saying, with a straight face, that she attended not as the Minister of Justice but as a mere MP! As if such distinctions were really probable let alone likely. And there was Trudeau defending her, the clear conflict of interest violation blithely dismissed. If Trudeau saw nothing wrong, how could his supporters and gooey-eyed star struck fans.

But surely not all could ignore the clangour of distant alarm bells, however dimly rung. One began to immediately get a sense of what kind of man he was and it certainly was not as simple as the earnest, honest image he wanted us to embrace and love, love, love. It became clearer, of course, when the bells rang a second time for the justice minister. This was a result of her husband registering immediately after the election as a lobbyist for a First Nations band in Kelowna and for the not-for-profit First Nations Finance Authority that offers financial assistance to First Nations members. Again, apparently, neither Trudeau nor the justice minister saw reason to worry even though the justice department, which Jody Wilson-Raybould heads, and First Nations peoples are engaged in several lawsuits. We are to accept that the minister’s husband will recuse himself from any dealings with her department or that, as partners, they will not be talking to each other on these matters. That stretches credulity and is simply not enough of a safeguard particularly in light of the kind of judgement displayed by a minister and her boss who refuse to acknowledge clear conflict of interest and who resorts to weasel legalese to soft soap it: I attended as an MP not as minister of justice.

But these were just early harbingers of things to come. That it happened so quickly, easily and shamelessly is what makes it extremely surprising and so deeply troubling.

If it were simply a matter of Jody Wilson-Raybould, that would be it. Troublesome, yes, but nothing that could not be quietly dealt with and forgotten. Unfortunately, and very quickly, it was clear that the return of Liberal entitlement was back and here to stay. Jane Philpott, minister of health, early in her mandate, volunteered to repay questionable expense claims on three separate occasions after they came to light. There was Catherine McKenna, minister of environment and climate change who hired, at taxpayer expense and when press photographers were aplenty, a private photographer to record her adventures in Paris during the Climate Change summit. And then there was Chrystia Freeland, minister of international trade, who makes these two look like amateurs when it comes to picking the public wallet; while returning home from a business trip to the Philippines, she took a side trip to LA to appear on Bill Maher’s TV talk show. That cost the taxpayers nearly $20K for the added plane fare and the government plane that returned without her. Unlike Philpott, neither McKenna nor Freeland seem troubled by these expenditures. This is less an issue about nickel and diming Canadians than about how easily it is to slip into a mindset of entitlement and easy spending when the money is not yours. These are small things, true, but significant and not to be easily dismissed.

Unfortunately, Canadians appear to be indifferent to these things even when the conflict becomes glaringly obvious and worrisome.

It is bad enough that finance minister, Bill Morneau, and others, have hired staff from lobbying firms including TransCanada the beneficiary of recent government pipeline decisions. It is that this senior member of Trudeau’s cabinet and others, as well as Trudeau himself, has engaged in countless secretive fundraising events at $1500 a plate with developers, with those from the energy sector, with drug manufacturers, and with billionaire foreign nationals. When these were finally brought to light, we were assured that no discussions of business with government lobbyists ever took place. Trudeau himself made that clear adding he could not be influenced, regardless. Right. His staffers assured us that whenever having business with government attempted to broach business they were firmly instructed to go through the proper channels. Later, stretching credulity once again, staffers and Trudeau claimed that Trudeau often just happened (on a sudden whim?) to drop in at these private events and had no way of knowing who was in attendance! Well, suckers, you can see what they really think of us. Again and again Trudeau and his staff told us that no business was ever discussed. Some took them at their word while others were sceptical. As for the public? Well, the public was largely uninterested; this was small stuff, what really mattered, after all, was that young Trudeau was voted best-dressed leader of the western world.

The thing is, Trudeau and his staffers and the Liberal party lied to all of us.

At one highly secretive meeting at a private home, Trudeau met with about 30 Chinese millionaires (and billionaires), a couple of whom later had donated $50K to fund a stature of Justin’s father, $200K towards the Pierre Eliot Trudeau Foundation and $750K towards scholarships for the University of Montreal law faculty. A month later, one of the attendees who had been lobbying the government won approval from federal regulators to open and operate Wealth One Bank of Canada. Coincidence? Perhaps. But, interestingly, after months and months of denials, stonewalling, and plain lying, Trudeau did own up this little tidbit: people did approach him and did talk business at these fundraisers. Still, he averred, everything was on the up and up.

Can Trudeau be trusted? I’ve heard time and time again, from supporters and media pundits, that Trudeau, in fact, no politician would risk his reputation or career for a mere $1500. But it’s not just $1500 times the number of people paying, is it?

CHISELERS

Now there was a bit of a kerfuffle with Trudeau quietly spending the Christmas and New Year holidays in the Bahamas with the Aga Khan, a close family friend and lobbyist of the Canadian government. There is no issue with whom Trudeau and family spend their free time. But there is an issue with his attempt to keep his whereabouts secret and that he had neglected to mention he had spent time with the Aga Khan two years before. There is also the matter of his acceptance of a helicopter ride, paid for by the Aga Khan, from the Bahamian mainland to the Aga Khan’s private island and that he did not inform the ethics commissioner, Mary Dawson. That is a breach of regulations regarding the acceptance of gifts. The secrecy of the affair is particularly troublesome since Canadians are picking up the tab of $60K for RCMP accommodations and $48K for the Challenger jet on standby for the nine days. It must also be noted that Canada has, since 2004, given $310 million to the Aga Khan Foundation with Trudeau pledging another $55 million over the next five years. This is not about Trudeau holidaying with a friend as the Liberals would have us believe, but about secrecy, accepting gifts, and clear possibility of conflict of interests with a lobbying charity and the prime minister’s government. This is serious and no longer small stuff.

But it is not just in the area of cash-for-access that Trudeau and the Liberals suffer when it comes to integrity. He also harmed himself when he turned his back on his pledge to make Human Rights a priority by signing off on the Saudi Arabia light-armoured vehicle trade deal begun by Stephen Harper. By following through with a deal to one of the most repressive regimes in the world, Trudeau breached UN sanctions and Canada’s own regulations regarding international trade. He justified the deal by saying he could not risk Canada’s reputation as a nation unwilling to honour business contracts. Absolute nonsense. Canadian governments have done so in the past and for less honourable reasons. It was the $15 billion deal and 3000 Canadian jobs that concerned him. Had he cancelled the deal, Canada’s reputation as a nation supportive of Human Rights would have almost certainly been enhanced and with little, if any, negative effect in trade. Instead, when it comes to jobs and money, and they are important, Trudeau and Harper are brothers under the skin but, of the two, Trudeau proves himself a slipperier sort; one always knew where Harper was going.

To loud fanfare, Trudeau promised that, if elected, the October 19, 2015 would be the last first past the post election. He had Maryam Monsef, minister of democratic reform, form an all-party committee to make recommendations after consulting with Canadians across the country. When the report was finally submitted, Monsef roundly condemned it and the committee for not doing the job expected of them. It was a move almost anyone could see coming, for by that time, Trudeau and his Liberals had made it plain they were no longer interested in democratic electoral reform. Monsef’s response created a backlash; electoral reform was back in the news and she was severely damaged. She was demoted and replaced; even so, it is clear the Liberals would wish to see the promise die. If Trudeau feels compelled to keep it, he will not go with the committee recommendation of adopting a form or proportional representation but adopt, instead to go with the Liberal preferred choice of ranked ballot. This issue, as much as his declaration of making Human Rights a priority was and remains a charade, announced with attention getting bravado and arrogance, only to be left twisting in the wind to simply fade away because, as Trudeau pointed out, they are items not on top of the list for Canadians.

COWARDS

Trudeau is fond of declaring himself a feminist and he can justifiably be proud when he points to his cabinet. But declaring oneself a feminist doesn’t necessarily make it so. Perhaps I don’t understand what it means to believe something or to say that one believes in something. I always took it as a given that, if faced with the opportunity to back up what one says, one takes it.

During the past American election campaign, shortly after the recording of Trump bragging about groping women and being able to do anything he wanted with them because he was rich and famous, Trudeau was asked to comment. He did not. Instead, his was a calculated, self-serving, and cowardly evasion of the politician saying, “This relationship goes far deeper than any two personalities at their countries’ respective heads. I think, however, I’ve been very clear in my approach as a feminist, as someone who has stood clearly and strongly through all my life around issues of sexual harassment, standing against violence against women, that I don’t need to make any further comment” (Kathleen Harris, CBC News, Oct. 13, 2016). This is a leader of a sovereign nation but he allowed himself to be cowed by the possibility of a bullying misogynist becoming president of the United States. Instead of roundly condemning Trump’s remarks and thus joining the chorus of outrage, he cravenly ducked his head and stood mute except for uttering a platitude he was not willing to prove or support.

On Jan 24 of this year, he was asked by a reporter, “Do you think Trump is a misogynist?” That’s a perfectly clear and reasonable question. But Trudeau the feminist again failed to take the opportunity to prove himself a man of conviction preferring instead to say he was “pleased to have a constructive working relationship with the new administration…and I have made it very clear over the past year, it is not the job of a Canadian prime minister to opine on the American electoral process.” He went on to say, “It is the job of the Canadian prime minister to have a constructive working relationship with the president of the United States and that is exactly what I intend to do.” He was not asked to offer to opine on the US electoral process but on Trump’s attitude towards women. Trudeau refused, preferring to curry the favour of a vile, misogynistic bully by remaining silent. That is not leadership but a caricature; Trudeau as Babbitt. Some have said that was the right, smart move. Was it? To me, this is akin to witnessing from the sanctuary of one’s home another getting mug and doing nothing, not even calling 911.

And is it the right move for Trudeau to remain silent when Trump has signed a bill to build that wall at the Mexican border or to perhaps abandoning a NAFTA signatory to pander to the bully? And is it the right move for Trudeau to remain silent when, with a stroke of a pen, Trump bars entry to refugees from largely Muslim countries? As a leader, he diminishes himself and Canadians by proving he is too cowardly to do what is right, moral and just at risk of offending and enraging that lunatic to the south of us. That is cowardice, plain and simple. Remaining silent on racism, intolerance, and brutality is a sure path to self-destruction. Who will be Trump’s next target? Unions? Unionists. Jews? Where does Trudeau draw the line on what he will defend and condemn? I have no clue. I just know I cannot trust him be on my side.

When Trudeau returned from his foray with the Aga Khan, clearly troubled by the storm around the access-for-cash debacle, and clearly wishing to clean up his image and to show himself as one of the people, he engaged in a series of coffee shop tours across the country and took questions from the public, mostly friendly crowds. This was clearly an astute move, and it seems to have served him well. The questions were open and free. As a result, he did not always get a free ride; some of the questions were extremely hard. To his credit, he took them all. Now some have said that he was brave for exposing himself that way. Nonsense. Bravery is standing up for what you say you believe. He was simply fighting to regain that glorified image of himself, the golden prince working the crowd; his background as a teacher served him well and effectively. He is glib and sure-footed at such gatherings though, occasionally he did go off message and managed to enrage some as when, in Quebec, clearly pandering to his audience, he responded in French to a question posed in English about English language services. That was ignorance on his part and insulting to the questioner. Still, he escaped relatively unscathed the coffee shop tours are all win for Trudeau. Not once, not once, did anyone raise the matter of those access-for-pay fundraisers. What the hell is wrong with us?

Do I trust him? Can I trust him? I do not. I cannot.

Oh, yes, he is a prince, the golden prince, but he oozes, oozes charm and sincerity too easily and too readily for my liking. In a crunch he will, as easily and as readily, fail you smiling, smiling, a tear or two, perhaps, trickling down his cheek.

A man should never be judged by what he says but by what he does. We saw how Trudeau behaved during the past year regarding questions regarding access-for-pay and those elite, private, secretive fundraisers. After a year of denial, he promises to mend the rules around fundraising. I don’t expect much. The devil will be in the details. And we heard how he responded to direct questions regard the vile Donald Trump. Some have said his response was right, was smart. Was it?

To fear to act against a bully who may retaliate is neither smart nor prudent. Bullies thrive on picking on those perceived as weak and afraid.

Trudeau is both. But, what the hell, he is golden.

***

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

IDIOTS’ DELIGHT: TRUMP, TRUDEAU AND TRADE

There’s a seduction in fanaticism. It simplifies things. The leader decides everything for you and suddenly you have no more problems. – Elie Wiesel

The sole and basic source of our strength is the solidarity of workers, peasants and the intelligentsia, the solidarity of the nation, the solidarity of people who seek to live in dignity, truth, and in harmony with their conscience. – Lech Walesa

Frank Pelaschuk

VICTIMS

French President Georges Clemenceau once commented, “America is the only nation in history, which, miraculously has gone directly from barbarism to degeneracy without the usual interval of civilization.” That’s a harsh judgement from many decades ago but, unfair or not, it could easily be the verdict of today’s generation of relentless self-reference and self-reverence, folks taking endless photos of themselves and reporting on Facebook every aspect of their lives as if each minutiae was of such transcendent beauty and meaning that the world must surely be as eager to lap up the offerings as the presenter is to share. Occasionally however, reality barges in with shockingly graphic images: cops shooting blacks for no apparent reason other than their blackness. On the whole, however, thus far, there really is no there there as we suck in bromides as pearls, oh and ah over every cute picture of kids and cats and drool over every silly image of celebrity stars including our prime minister and his wife for whom no camera must be ignored and offer thunderous applause for every ignorant hate-filled utterance that somehow elevates us with suggestions that we are not to blame for any aspect of our own miserable hate-filled lives: it’s them, foreigners, the leeches on welfare, the old who left us a mess – well, the list is endless. We ceaselessly troll the web looking for the beautiful because we are not, perhaps hoping somehow some of that beauty and good life will rub off on us. But it’s not all beauty; we also troll the web in search of victims, the poor and ugly with smaller even meaner lives in hopes of bullying and destroying them because they are less skilful, less adept and weaker than ourselves. If you’re that shallow why not be mean?

In a time of decay, we wallow in a pit of hedonism, of narcissism and of sadism where judgement, intelligence, examination, and integrity are viewed with suspicion and dread; bellicosity, superficiality, dishonesty and meanness fuelled by stupidity and the rhetoric of fear, intolerance and ignorance fomented by the ilk of America’s Donald Trump, Britain’s Nigel Farage, and France’s Marine Le Pen appear to be winning the day: the virtuous many, they would have us believe, are victimized by the corrupt elite few who can be defeated only if the common man recognizes the dangers and works together.

Of course, we Canadians are not immune to such simple-mindedness; we’ve had our Ford brothers and for nine years the vile Harper gang Conservatives who last election proved themselves as despicable as any group can be with their campaign of racial and religious intolerance and today sit as official opposition pretending, as did those who voted them in, they were never part of that vile history. The ugly frog has been replaced by the handsome Prince with his Princess wife and all the little princes and princesses in his cabinet and Canada all agog and agag wowed by all that breathless freshness, the handsome youthful faces of such enchantment that the hoi poiloi and elites alike behave as religious ecstatics with every princely appearance and for every easy promise kept while studiously ignoring those broken or watered down or simply shelved. Criticize at your peril.

Not surprisingly, that populist line doesn’t offer the whole truth, though there is some in it: there are folks, though few, in politics and the corporate world who do have real power, who do conspire to keep wages low, who do conspire to quell dissent, who do conspire to further enrich the wealthy at the expense of those who haven’t. But the thing is, many of those who see themselves as “victims” seldom admit the role they themselves play in their own victimization, rewarding those very folks who seek their vote with vague and/or extravagant promises (often broken) while at the same time meeting in secret, often for a price (let’s call it kickback) with those very special-interest folks who would suppress their (the voters’) wages, ship jobs overseas, destroy their social safety nets, and feed from the public trough with government handouts with assurances, almost always broken once they’ve got the money, that the jobs will be kept here. But if it’s our man or woman making the promises and screwing others even more disadvantaged than us, we will gladly turn a blind eye: We’ll get ours if not today, tomorrow – one day, maybe taking longer than we hoped for but one day. Yeah, they’ll get theirs – one day. Meanwhile they’ll stay “victims” living in eternal hope and swallowing the endless bilge: those that have it all did it all by themselves; work hard, we can all be kings; those who fail are stupid, lazy; unions are ruining and running the country; union workers are greedy, lazy, fat cats; everyone has to tighten their belt, work harder, expect less (but when was the last time corporate taxes were raised?).

ENABLERS

We can see it today, everyday, the “victims” as applauding enablers to the rude, crude, vulgar, ignorant, stupid, misogynistic, racist, bigoted billionaire because he, that billionaire, has convinced them he is one of them, and he often is in rudeness, crudity, vulgarity, ignorance, stupidity, misogyny, racism, bigotry; Trump is not only their man, he is the man because his wealth is somehow proof he has no vested interests, that he is immune to corruption and influence. These are not intelligent people. If they were, they would weep that this is all American Republicanism is able to offer as presidential candidate.

Whether Trump believes what he says does not really matter. What does is that he says them. When he talks of building a wall, of barring entry to Syrians and Muslims, when he voices admiration for Saddam Hussein “because he kills terrorists”, because “they [sic] didn’t read them the rights, they didn’t talk” one wonders if there are any limits to hate uttered under the banner of free speech. The “terrorists” that Hussein slaughtered were often his own citizens their only crime likely opposition or perceived opposition to his tyranny. That this individual imagines himself presidential material and yet routinely talks of “killing” the bad guys suggesting America is too concerned with protecting their rights beggars belief while also giving a good indication of his thoughts regarding protections offered by the American Constitution. Clearly, for Trump, it is enough to be “suspect”. The hell with due process, if he was innocent he wouldn’t be a Muslim or a Mexican.

Trump may be a lunatic but he is a dangerous one and cannot easily be dismissed.

He tells his fans he is successful, he is “smart”, but ignores, as do his supporters, the evidence of his many failures in his business and personal life. He boasted on television of walking away with millions from his Casino in Atlantic City while stiffing his creditors and workers saying that’s what businessmen do. Is that right? Is that what successful people do, wash their hands of any responsibility and stiff others, folks just like those very ones who identify themselves as Trump supporters and plain working class Joes trying to earn a decent wage? Is this the man they would want for their boss? Imagine him running the country with that attitude; he’d have America bankrupt in every way while, doubtless, lining his own pockets. Shameless, unconscionable, he has tapped the support of those possessed of such stupidity they may not even grasp the depth of Trump’s amorality. I apologize for the previous sentence: in putting depth and Trump together I appear to give him too much credit.

“Smart”? The ignoramus can barely articulate a sentence let alone a coherent thought. If he does say something remotely intelligent, you can bet it was by accident. Even so, we cannot easily dismiss him for all his ignorance and offensiveness. It is not enough to ridicule him, not enough to say he ate his brain the first time he picked his nose. We cannot trust that he will lose his bid for American president because voters find him more offensive and dangerous than Hillary Clinton. That’s a mug’s position and too much is at stake.

Yet, having said all of the above, as much as it pains me to admit this, I understand why he does draw some to his side.

TRADE

He would renegotiate or scrap NAFTA calling it the worst trade deal ever and do the same for TPP calling it “a disaster”. Now this is the part that hurts: He is right.

Now I am no isolationist. I am, however, as much a fan of Big Business as Big Business is of unions. On NAFTA and TPP, I find myself on Trump’s side. Now Big Business will tell us that everyone wins with globalization. Not so. There are winners but they certainly are not working stiffs; workers just get stiffed. Perhaps that’s why, giving his past comments, I have doubts about Trump’s stand on the trade agreements. For many workers, NAFTA is associated with the beginning of the new age of chronic hard times. Jobs lost and shipped overseas or wages kept low under threat of same. The despair is palpable; it is real and not easily healed. Workers feel powerless and voiceless because they are powerless and voiceless. Ignored by their own political leaders, workers watch from the sidelines as politicians and company CEOs work together to suppress wages, as did the Harper regime with the Temporary Foreign Workers Program, and work to destroy unions and rollback gains made by them for their workers. With NAFTA, Canadians experienced first-hand the loss of sovereignty as Canadian laws meant to protect Canadian consumers have been repealed or born dead because of corporate lawsuits brought against Canada with claims that laws to protect consumers interfere with the ability of corporations to make and maximize profits. In other words, Canadian laws have become subservient to corporate interests. For ordinary working Canadians struggling to survive with two or three jobs while feeding a family, there appears to be no protections against governments that collude with Big Business. This is not just a rant of an old delusional white geezer though I may be all three. No less an authority than Fortune Magazine has pointed out some of the missteps of the NAFTA trade deal. In a piece for Fortune on NAFTA’s impact on America (there is no reason to believe the same could not be said of Canada), Jeffrey E. Garten (Fortune, March 29, 2016) wrote:

We failed to see that the benefits of trade, like all other economic benefits, were not shared equitably by the population. We failed to gauge how fast trade patterns could shift, how quickly industries were transforming themselves, and how much of a gap was created by the evisceration of unions which could negotiate protections and benefits for their members. As a result, those at the top of the economic pyramid benefitted. The other 80% were hit with low wage competition, outsourcing, lower paid jobs, or unemployment. All this was made worse by job-destroying technology that the Internet and digitalization was spawning, not to mention the great recession caused by the 2008 financial crisis that extinguished most economic growth. The meteoric rise of China, with its vast industrious labor force, was the coup de grace for millions of US workers, as was the ascent of so many other emerging market nations.

The highly secretive Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a “Made In America” deal as the Americans themselves have crowed, threatens to be even worse according to The Council of Canadians (http://canadians.org/tpp-info), especially for Canadians, controlling how governments may regulate corporate activity, expand the sharing of personal information across nations, extend the life of pharmaceutical patents (thus placing limits on generic drugs and greatly increasing costs of government health plans) and, under the ISD (investor-state dispute) clauses, and allow corporations to sue governments in secret tribunals and fix the amount of compensation when government regulation interfere with profitmaking. Under NAFTA, Canada has been successfully sued several times costing taxpayers $160 million. Under TPP, corporate ability to sue governments has been expedited thus making the transformation of a Canadian democracy into a Corporatocracy all but a fait accompli. By the time Canadians actually do get to learn the details, it will already be too late.

GAINS

Are Canadians better off? Well, some, just as in the United States, but they do not hold minimum wage jobs, do not work on factory floors, are, in fact, called boss, owner, shareholder. The losers, and there are losers, have been those who have always lost, the real workers, the men and women who are the backbone of every business and who are the real individuals that make a company a success, farmers, truckers, floor sweepers, janitors, nurses, doctors, technologists, educators, cafeteria workers, cooks, dishwashers, public servants – well, you get the drift – the stiffs shafted, sold out and betrayed by the bosses and the politicians bought and paid for by those bosses.

Trudeau, if he had a speck of backbone, would look towards renegotiating NAFTA. If he had a speck of decency he would reject TPP unless significant changes are made that protect workers, create new jobs, opportunities and offer greater take-home pay. But first he must inform Canadians bout the deal itself: what’s in it, who gains, who loses, what does it mean for all Canadians? I expect nothing from Trudeau except that he, as did Harper, will make trade and business interests a priority. We have seen this already. So no one can really claim to be surprised that Justin Trudeau, who promised to do things differently from the Conservatives, spent July 6 at Sun Valley, Idaho attending the secretive meeting of 300 business and tech elites labelled the “Summer Camp for Billionaires”. For Trudeau, this may just be an opportunity to rub shoulders with global movers and shakers and to promote Canadian business opportunities and expertize but the secrecy is troublesome suggesting that nothing innocent is going on there. Is this the man who will give them what they want?

Probably. Likely. Absolutely!

One thing is certain. If things are better, it is not for the poor, not for the single parent holding down several jobs, not for minimum wage earners. Chances are things are not better for you. The world will go on and we will let it leaving it to others to worry while we do as we always have: nothing. We will not hear, we will not listen, we will not change.

But we will always listen to the shameless liars and opportunists, the Trumps of the world who have tapped into this well of resentment, tap into the worst in us, tap into our fears and bigotry milking and massaging the inarticulate rage offering the snake oil salesman’s promises of the all-in-one cure-all. And dolts that we are we’ll buy it because we have always bought it, bought the easy answers and quick fixes rather than looking around for those folks who really will listen, really will hear, really will work for us. It’s not quick fixes or easy answers that we need but politicians who will listen or be forced to listen. And those politicians are not the Christy Clarks who lend their ear to the highest bidder. Nor does solution lie with the likes of federal justice minister Jody Wilson-Raybould, barely in office when she’s attending a private fundraiser put on by lawyers, a clear conflict of interest if ever there was one. And the answer does not lie with Justin Trudeau who saw nothing wrong with the justice minister tending such an affair and who signed off on the Saudi Arabia LAV trade deal, a deal with one of the world’s most repressive regimes. No, the answer certainly does not lie with a single member of the old Harper regime who all, all, went along with the vicious Tory campaign of racial and religious intolerance including the promise to create the odious snitch line to report barbaric cultural practices by you-know-who.

If there will ever be a solution, it must come from voters who will no longer blindly swallow every line of bullshit because it sounds nice or jibes with their own biases, or because the speaker is glib and handsome or has wealth which surely must mean he or she is absolutely intelligent, honest and would never lie to you. The voter must take responsibility for his own destiny. When politicians have lied to you, deliberately misled you, when they hold secret meetings with special interests and accept funds in return, when they pad their expenses, refuse to answer questions, when they sneak in legislation, or break Canadian regulations regarding trade with nation states that abuse human rights, they must be punished, booted from office and shunned like the pariah they are. They are scum.

Trump embodies the worst of politics if not humanity. He promises everything to everyone. He panders to the worst in Americans. But he, at the least, has promised to do something about NAFTA and TPP. I don’t trust him to follow through on either but he has raised the issue. The first has already harmed American and Canadian workers. The second will inflict even more harm.

Trudeau? Can we trust him? He could step up and do what is right for Canadians. I don’t expect that. He’ll be preoccupied. There’s always another photo-op.

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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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