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“The party told you to reject the evidence of your eyes and ears. It was their final, most essential command.” ~1984

A few days ago, I lost a Facebook friend who (as it turns out) is rather partial to Donald Trump, and thinks the “leftist” media are in cahoots to make this rain-averse President look bad. She was convinced that the now-infamous exchanges between #45 and CNN’s peppery Jim Acosta had included “violence against women” when a Trump staffer tried to snatch away Acosta’s microphone. I put up the clip and asked her what she saw.

She was adamant. Acosta attacked the young female intern. She believed not only the White House version (Sarah Huckabee-Sanders hadn’t distributed the doctored version of the clip at that point), but her own lying eyes.

Fascinated, I reviewed the clip half a dozen times. Could I have missed something?

Well, no, I don’t think so. In my corner, by the way, is a former Breitbart journo, so I shall plead innocent of any stubborn ideological blindness of my own here.

The Orwell quotation at the beginning of this article can be found all over the Internet addressing just this matter. It’s important to underline that the Party’s command would not always require months of torture to prevail—at some point in the future, the Party would control the present, and we would see, hear and remember what we were told to at any moment. We are even now meeting the avatars of that model citizenry.

There is no “Party” today, of course, but there is the crazed ideology of Trumpism in which the President, not the media (“Fake News”), and not even the senses (fallible and sometimes disturbingly off-narrative), defines the reality of his adherents.

I’m not talking common-or-garden self-delusion here—God knows we’re all guilty of that from time to time, and in the political sphere it appears to operate almost in plain sight as both a virtue and a vice. This Trump thing goes exponentially further—pretty nearly at the “How many fingers am I holding up, Winston” level. If he says “three,” it is utterly irrelevant to his cult following how many are actually in the air. And, frankly, to him as well.

The question is left, then: how is political discourse possible with the 40% or so of Americans prepared to follow their Leader through fire and ice if he asks? And the answer is: it is not. We might just as well attempt to converse with the gentleman who won his election to the Nevada legislature without, at least in the three weeks preceding his victory, being able to engage in any dialogue at all.

(“I’m fine with him being dead and winning,” said a woman of her Nevadan representative. She had been violently raped by him. “I know a lot of people who were going to vote Democrat if he were alive, but will now vote Republican because he’s dead.” There is a logic there, of course, but this does sum up, in one splendid metaphorical thunderclap, everything that is maddening about current American politics.)

The great political divide, in any case, has now progressed well beyond mere questions of civility: we are talking about nothing less than two incommensurable ontologies. And in such a case, where each side’s words are but empty sounds signifying nothing to the other, all that is left to us is an increasingly brutal struggle for dominance. Get ready, folks, because here they come. And they’re in no mood to talk.

UPDATE: (November 12) A similar if less apocalyptic take:

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Dr. Dawg

The bitch is in heat again

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If we could learn to look instead of gawking,
We’d see the horror in the heart of farce,
If only we could act instead of talking,
We wouldn’t always end up on our arse.
This was the thing that nearly had us mastered;
Don’t yet rejoice in his defeat, you men!
Although the world stood up and stopped the bastard,
The bitch that bore him is in heat again.

~Bertolt Brecht, “The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui”

Viktor Orbán. Jarosław Kaczyński. Matteo Salvini. Donald Trump. Jair Bolsonaro.

Mass murders of Muslims, Blacks and Jews, here in North America.

Fascism is winning. We can no longer deny the obvious, counsel politesse and non-violence in the face of savagery, and play semantic games. Resistance is mandatory. Our “democratic” institutions are not proving equal to the task. We must either replace them or abandon them and take the fight to the streets.

Seem extreme? Not to anyone with an awareness of history. Fascism didn’t just leap full-grown from its foul womb. It was conceived, birthed, nurtured and coddled until it grew spectacularly monstrous, at which point nervous grown-ups attempted to make deals and compromises, offering concessions that merely fed the beast-child. It didn’t work, of course. Only force worked, by the time we got around to it, and it was at an unprecedented cost.

History doesn’t repeat itself, but, as Mark Twain is reputed to have said, it often rhymes. We should stop the vain search for superficial differences and concentrate on the glaring similarities: violent racism and its associated hatreds (misogyny, homophobia), strongman government, conservative and liberal acquiescence (Conrad Black’s paean of praise for the fascist mayoral candidate Faith Goldy, for example, or the attempted platforming of that reprobate in the name of “free speech”), and a complaisant or even actively complicit media (eg, the “goats slaughtered in hotels” Toronto Sun, Canada’s very own Völkischer Beobachter).

Of course there is resistance, but it’s fragmented and generally ineffectual. The Left has other things on its mind. Faced with a full-frontal attack on the most vulnerable by a brutish government that clearly relishes its own cruelty, the leader of the labour movement in Ontario, Chris Buckley, deplores the breaking of a window in a Minister’s office. In this he is joined by the leader of the social-democratic “alternative,” Andrea Horwath. Calls for “civility” are the norm, in the teeth of the gale. (Civility, if I might point out the obvious, didn’t save a single Jew from the gas chambers.)

Fascism is armed, mobilized, and is heading our way. But we seem to be stuck at the Neville Chamberlain stage, appeasing rather than mobilizing ourselves. If we don’t want to hear it rhyme, we’d better do something about the history being made in front of our eyes. By any means necessary.

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Dr. Dawg

Overton Window, 2018

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Sometimes a picture really is worth a thousand words. The photo above is of the Doug Ford Progressive Conservative government of Ontario cheering and applauding as they repeal an increase in the minimum wage slated for next year, junk two days of paid sick leave for Ontario workers, and do away with salary equity for part-time, temporary and casual employees.

This is clearly a high moment for these people—they just can’t contain themselves. Their sheer pleasure at punishing our lowest-paid, most vulnerable workers is on full display.

Some are connecting this outburst with the times we live in, when normal behavioural restraints and common decency are being squeezed out of politics. I beg to differ. Conservative sado-political tendencies have always been easy to detect.

On December 3, 1998, widows, terminally-ill workers and cancer survivors from “Chemical Valley” in Sarnia, Ontario, attended the Visitors Gallery in the Ontario Legislature, when Mike Harris was in charge. Asbestos dust in Sarnia used to be so thick that traffic would sometimes be halted. Holmes Insulation and Caposite, both Sarnia companies, created a massive death toll of workers from rare cancers such as mesothelioma, by refusing to clean up their sites. Even families of the workers, affected by the poisons in their clothing, suffered abnormally high rates of various cancers.

In 1995, the Harris government had slashed inspectors, closed down occupational health and safety labs, and abolished a committee about to issue regulations on workplace toxins.

The NDP labour critic introduced the widows and dying workers to the Legislature. Immediately, the Conservatives jeered them, cracking jokes and laughing, catcalling and mocking them. One of the worst hecklers was Janet Ecker, then the Minister responsible for Community and Social Services, and presently a Senior Fellow of the C.D. Howe Institute. One widow wrote to Mike Harris conveying her anguish at her husband’s death being found funny by the Tories. The letter was never answered.

Yes, fascism is on a roll these days, there are cheerleaders aplenty, and Trump has set the tone from on high. But the sheer joy in human suffering that emotionally-ill conservatives are now emboldened to share with the world on an everyday basis didn’t start with #45, and it will not end with him. Cruelty for its own sake is baked into the current conservative/neoliberal ideology. Our best instincts must be invoked to rise up and resist the people, the institutions and the governments that celebrate it.

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Dr. Dawg

Buzzkill

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Here’s one person who inhaled in his youth and beyond who will admit feeling uncomfortable about the legalization of cannabis, at least the way it’s being done, thought about and celebrated.

I’m a child of the ‘sixties, back when a single seed in a pocket put a friend of mine behind bars, and when traces of cannabis smoke in facial hair or clothes could get you convicted of “possession.” Police would go undercover, try to sell you a small amount of dope, and then bust you if you paid. Passing a joint to someone could be considered “trafficking.”

Make no mistake, I’m glad to see those days gone forever. Lives were ruined. But to put an end to that oppression, why did we have to make things so damned complicated?

We could have decriminalized cannabis in small amounts—say an ounce or so. We could have expunged the criminal records of those whose lives were wrecked by the justice system for the “crime” of simple possession.

But this is Canada. We “legalized,” rather than decriminalized—meaning that there are more ways for a smoker of weed to stay illegal than you can shake a spliff at. Legalizing has brought with it the usual Canadian thicket of differing regulations, laws and policies at every level of government.

Where can you get it? It depends where you live. In Ontario, you can only get pot on-line. In the Northwest Territories, it’s being retailed through liquor outlets. Elsewhere, there’s a mix of private and government sellers. Grow your own? Well, the limit is four plants (except in Quebec and Manitoba, where they’re illegal), they must be grown from seed, and they must be kept entirely from public view—forget putting them by the window to get some sun. Can you buy it in edible form? Nope. Can you purchase hashish or kif or vape concentrates? Nope.

Be sure of one thing, though: a new government revenue stream has been created. Which is probably the whole point, come to think of it.

As for enjoying cannabis once you obtain it, tread carefully. Not in a boat, not in a car, not in a park (depends where you are), not in a pub, not on a beach, not near a school, not on the street….

An army of bureaucrats will ride this monster. Former anti-cannabis politicians and familiar names in policing circles are already wetting their beaks). “I was addressing a different era at that time,” says Julian Fantino, the former Toronto police chief who once compared the legalization of marijuana to legalizing murder. Ah, yes: that was then, but this is now, and there’s good coin to be made.

What of those carrying criminal records for purchasing what various ex-politicians and cops are now selling? The Trudeau government will be offering expedited, fee-free pardons, which seems reasonable enough, except for the fact that for jobs and housing, convicted dope-smokers will still have to note their criminal convictions on their applications.

Expungement, in which all records pertaining to the former offence are destroyed and the offence is deemed never to have been committed, makes more sense. There is currently a Bill in Parliament that proposes just that, but there is no indication that the government will support it. Partisan politics being what they are these days, don’t hold your breath.

This vast, trundling, defective behemoth of “legalised cannabis” is now loose upon the country, and I, for one, am not celebrating. It’s a dinosaur designed by a committee.

Why not just stop arresting and charging people for possession? Nah, too simple. Too simple by half. This is Canada, after all.

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Guest blogpost from reader Jim Owens.

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Had I remembered to pick up tinfoil the other day, I might have escaped the latest emanations from the mind of Stephen Harper, as radiated by his book excerpt in yesterday’s National Post. To judge from the online comments following the article, most NP readers must have an ample supply of aluminum, since their thoughts appear to be completely shielded from what he actually said. For example, they fail to notice his claiming the credit for Canada’s relative stability during the 2008 banking crisis, when in fact it was the previous Liberal government’s refusal to deregulate Canadian banks that preserved us from the extreme over-extension of capital. They also fail to appreciate the irony that, in the same article, Mr. Harper explicitly acknowledges the crucial role of nation-state regulation against the destructive effects of globalization.

But let us begin at the beginning. In this excerpt from his new book, opaquely titled Right Here, Right Now: Politics and Leadership in the Age of Disruption, Stephen Harper argues that the world has become split into “globalists” and “localists.” Globalists live “anywhere”; their lives are more or less independent of nation-states. Localists live “somewhere”; they are profoundly affected by the conditions of their nation-state.

Apparently globalists are doing much better than localists, but in Mr. Harper’s argument this remains a hidden premise, which spares him the trouble of explaining it. How globalists came to be independent of the nation-state, and how exactly this confers invulnerability from the woes affecting localists, is left to our imagination. One supposes that perhaps they are wealthier, and that there might be a class conflict between a wealthy globalist elite and a dispossessed state-bound proletariat. Certainly Harper employs the claim, in explaining the West’s restive populism, that “incomes of working people have stagnated or even declined over the past quarter-century.” But, curiously for an economist, he does not clearly connect the growing wealth gap with the dominant form of economic activity in the West, that is to say, a capitalism that actively resists state regulation.

In fairness, or perhaps paradoxically, he does nevertheless see a need for state regulation. “Left to its own devices,” he writes, “globalization would be an economic world of massive and persistent instability — as it was in late 2008, until the major nation-states stepped in.” But this is only to suggest that the purpose of regulation is to provide the stability required by globalizing forces. One supposes that this allows the lamented division between globalists and localists to be perpetuated more reliably. The matter goes unexplored, and is left for those whose tinfoil does not shield them from such unsafe thoughts.

Mr. Harper is instead in a hurry to explain that disaffected localists are turning to populism, as evidenced in the election of Donald J. Trump and the yearning for Brexit, not to mention the widespread rise of anti-immigrant movements in the West. He largely approves of this populism, but he wants to manage it using a particular ideology he has brought to the table. He calls this ideology “conservative populism,” and explains that “It is about putting conservative values and ideas into the service of working people and their families.” But he adds that “conservatives should remain pro-market, pro-trade, pro-globalization, and pro-immigration at heart. Going in a completely opposite direction in any of these areas would be a big mistake with serious ramifications.”

It is a regrettable trait of ideological thinking to start with an answer, and then apply it to whatever problems one observes. Stephen Harper has correctly identified a growing class conflict between the well-to-do and “working people” — an idea he might have encountered in another form during his studies in economics — but has made the colossal blunder of failing to work from this observation towards a rational and unprejudiced course of action. Instead he clings to a set of “values” that must guide us, notwithstanding their suspicious resemblance to the very principles that he says got us into the mess in the first place: pro-market, pro-trade, pro-globalization, pro-immigration. More than this, he says that any unnamed alternatives would be “a big mistake” without offering any reasons why, at least in this excerpt.

Rounding out the puzzle of Mr. Harper’s thinking is the fact that the very populism which elected Donald Trump, with his clearly anti-globalist, anti-trade, and anti-immigration attitudes (and anti-market, in the sense that free market deals are supposedly reached without the coercive application of superior power that marks, say, feudalist societies or mafia dealings) — this vicious populism is the same populism that Stephen Harper hopes to leverage with his pro-market basket of ideas.

There is more to be said about this book excerpt. Its analysis of the Make America Great Again movement in terms of the international politics of Iraq and Afghanistan is regrettably shallow. According to Mr. Harper, these misadventures incurred “enormous human and financial costs…with very little success.” As a result, “global security deteriorated,” which fed the populist America-first movement. One longs to explore the failures of these initiatives, and to trace the concomitant deterioration of security, in order to learn what mistakes were made and how they might be prevented.

Some might also want to compare Mr. Harper’s record as Prime Minister of Canada, with its pronounced anti-democratic tendencies — whether to test his current conservative theories against his previous Conservative behaviours, or simply to discuss his current attempts at political intervention. But I will leave it to others to recall the details of his dictatorial reign, and to explore whatever implications they may have for his populist political vision.

For my part, I wish only to portray Stephen Harper’s ideas in this book excerpt as they might be experienced by a reader whose mind is not thoroughly shielded by the tinfoil of a certain ideology.

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Capture.JPG “Our keynote speaker will be Maxime Bernier!” - Ezra Levant, promoting the November Rebelklatsch in Calgary.

Plop. Diving right into the pool too toxic for Andrew Scheer and Jason Kenney. Because THAT worked so well for Kellie Leitch.

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Balbulican

Only a Flesh Wound

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The Conservatives’ disintegration is, in an odd, backhanded way, a tribute to Stephen Harper.

There never really was a united “Conservative Party of Canada”; conceived in exile and consummated in the back room, it was always an uneasy patchwork of Red Tories, Reformers, fundamentalists, right wing libertarians, Old Blue Boys, and an ill-assorted grab-bag of anti-this-and-anti-that odds and sods. It was Frankenstein, but it was Stephen Harper’s own Frankenstein - his design, his selection of body parts, and his stitching. And only Harper - micro-manager, bully and authoritarian that he was - could keep all those writhing, ill-matched limbs together, and keep them writhing and slouching vaguely in the same direction.

And now, it seems, a key portion of the beast has broken free. It’s the part that’s bellicose, with a mind of its own; delicacy forbids I should pursue the metaphor further, but I’m reasonably sure that a few Conservatives are asking themselves, with anatomical accuracy: “Where does that prick think HE’S going?”

Are Conservatives forever doomed to wistful backward glances at their Leader’s predecessor? The hapless Andrew Scheer now makes Stephen Harper look like a tower of strength and purpose. Stephen Harper established Brian Mulroney as a paragon of humanity, moderation, and leadership on Indigenous and environmental issues. Brian Mulroney made Joe Clark look…err…never mind. Let’s stop there.

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Dr. Dawg

But...history!

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[Dear remaining readers: apologies for neglecting this blog of late—pressing assignments, alas. Stay tuned for more in a while. Until then, join me in abominating this dreadful spectacle of politically-correct historical erasure. Down the memory hole. Right out of Orwell. ~DD]

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Dr. Dawg

Ethnic triumphalism

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A grim future scenario: Canada’s new government, headed by someone not entirely unlike Andrew Scheer, establishes our country as a white, Anglo-Saxon, Christian ethnostate. White Christians around the world have an automatic right to immigrate. French loses its official language status, but acquires “special” status.

The right of the white, English-speaking majority to help themselves to indigenous land is now established in law. Reserve housing is bulldozed to build developments for the influx of white immigrants. They need living space, we are told. The displaced “natives” are deported to wasteland near a rubbish dump.

Outcry? I would imagine so. From some quarters, anyway.

But the Western “world” is selective in its outrage. I shall forbear from commenting further, however, because criticizing Israel is, of course, anti-Semitic by definition.

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