Balbulican

A Modest Propuesta

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trump wall 4.jpgPresident Trump took a short break this week from strengthening ties with China, Canada, England, Germany, France, Mexico, NATO and the UN to clarify his deterrence policy of frightening potential illegal immigrants by caging their children like stray dogs. Trump is of course to be commended for sticking to his guns and refusing to back down in the face of lily-livered dem-commie Soros-funded Muslo-traitors who pretend to care about these so-called “children”, and who accuse him of inhumanity. As if any kid wouldn’t have fun in a cool pen and with sci-fi tinfoil blankets!

The problem is, it’s not working. Time to step up the game a bit. What about selling off these mini-criminals’ corneas and kidneys on the lucrative transplant market? Just one cornea and one kidney per child, of course: Americans are not monsters.

Proceeds could go to the completion of Trump’s Wall (since it looks like the Mexicans may not be paying for it after all); and in the event of an unfortunate surgical mishap, the remains of the deceased larval-invaders could be hung on the Wall as a further disincentive.

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Photocredit: Lloydminster Little Theatre

It’s Patrick Ross’ birthday today. He is 37.

More than seven and a half years ago, I wrote about what proved to be the initial chapter of a seemingly never-ending legal saga. My friend Robert Day, better known to friends and enemies alike as Canadian Cynic, has been in the courts ever since, trying to recover some semblance of damages awarded for a grotesque libel against him.

Like other fish, mudfish are slippery. Ross proved hard to find, and, when found, he used every means possible, including declaring bankruptcy, to avoid the initial undefended default judgement against him. The story has many twists and turns, all fairly boring, to be honest, but very recently reality appears—finally—to have caught up with him.

First, Ross’ appeal of an unfavourable bankruptcy judgement in 2014, left dormant until very recently, was slapped down by a judge mere weeks ago. A further action by Ross, consisting of a bizarre attempt to have Day found guilty of contempt of court for attempting to suggest a reasonable settlement several dollars short of what he was owed after the 2010 judgement, was ruthlessly crushed by another judge earlier this week, who delivered his brutal smackdown from the bench.

We can all remember birthdays, both good ones and bad ones. There is usually, but not always, a cake, and people offer a few pro forma good wishes. I’m a creature of tradition, so let me offer mine.

Patrick, an aspiring novelist and thespian, is presently unemployed (or so my sources tell me), a university dropout and a bankrupt, who has moved back in with his parents. He has repeatedly failed to whack the judicial piñata, and now sits in a six-figure financial hole that he has been digging for many years. I hope he has finally put down his shovel.

At this point the words of Dante come to mind: “Nel mezzo del cammin di nostra vita, mi ritrovai per una selva oscura ché la diritta via era smarrita.” In the middle of life’s journey, Patrick, too, has found himself in a dark wood, having lost the straight path. May his birthday mark a turning-point, and may the second half of his life be more fruitful—and happier—than the first. I wish him success in making that change.

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Mandos

NAFTA was a mistake

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It’s probably in the medium-term interests of most Canadians to keep as closely to the current NAFTA arrangement as possible, because the Canadian economy is locked-in to the presupposition of expanded free trade with the USA. So it makes sense to support Justin Trudeau’s posture regarding the threatened US tariffs and so on and so forth. But the fact is, Canada has made itself vulnerable by doing the easiest thing and becoming so economically dependent on the USA that it is reduced to picking out lists of drop-in-the-bucket vulnerable industries in the USA in order to “retaliate” and gain an infinitesimal amount of political traction against the Trump juggernaut. And make no mistake: the choice of dairy supply management is no accident by the Trumpians — if you’re looking at the world through “bannonistic eyes”, this is a wedge issue inside Canadian society, and I already hear whines of “We’re letting them hurt our auto industry just to appease Quebec etc etc”, as though capitulating on supply management won’t just be an excuse to further annex the rest of the Canadian economy.

But NAFTA (and its FTA predecessor) was a mistake. It was the easiest thing. It was approved by economists who operate in an airless political vacuum and become the useful idiots for the business class. The correct way to approach such an enormous, powerful neighbour is to approach it cautiously, make deals on limited strategic areas, and keep a close eye on your own policy independence — yes, at the price of nontrivial short-term economic gains. Stay open to people, much less so to goods, capital, and services. Diversify. NAFTA held off a much-needed international diversification of trade, and insofar as Canada retained any amount of economic self-sufficiency, that very self-sufficiency is what is now under a threat that was always inevitable. If it wasn’t Trump, it would eventually have happened under a less flamboyant character. Because that’s what it means to be a neighbour of the USA.

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Balbulican

Chess

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TheBrokenChessboard.jpg Trumpist mal-pensants are now justifying their leader’s insulting behaviour before, during and after the G7 as a brilliant strategic attempt to send a “message” about “toughness” to North Korea on the eve of the summit with Kim.

I think most folks would agree that America’s fundamental goal at this meeting is less to disarm an eccentric, bankrupt, pissant dictator than to woo North Korea away from the influence of China, NoKo’s protector, sponsor, and the hand inside the sock for half a century. Trump has hinted with all the subtlety of a Florida condo vendor that America will take over as guarantor of North Korea’s security and shower the country with investment if they just agree to give up their nuclear program.

In light of that goal, then, what strategic messages did Trump actually send through his G7 performance? Well, I can decrypt three.

  • That America is an unreliable ally, and will turn publicly and unpredictably on its oldest diplomatic, trade and military allies at the whim of a temperamental President;
  • That Trump, who has unilaterally walked away from the Paris Climate Accord, the TPP, and the Iran Agreement, and has threatened to strangle NAFTA and extricate the US from NATO, can’t be trusted to honour any American treaties or agreements;
  • That Trump will disregard the advice of his allies, his partners, his advisors, his State Department, state governors, and anyone else, in pursuit of some unfathomable and ever-shifting vision of the world, distilled from Fox and Breitbart and excreted in Twitter-sized pellets.

That seems like a strange way to convince Kim to abandon his own nuclear defenses and the military, economic and diplomatic shelter of China. However, we’ve been told before that Trump’s foreign policy is opaque to lesser mortals because the man is actually playing four dimensional chess. That is possible, I suppose.

Friar Occam suggests another possibility.

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Well, 23% or so of them, anyway, so forgive the Dick Tuck reference. Nearly half of Ontario electors didn’t bother to show up at the polls. Of those who did, a mere 40% delivered a thumping majority to Doug Ford and his motley crew of wacko candidates—assorted homophobes, anti-choice activists, conspiracy theorists, racists and ghost-seers.

Democracy is grand. But we need a hell of a lot more of it in Ontario. (Hey, Liberals, how’s that first-past-the-post thing working for ya?)

A free press is a good thing, too, but not when the papers are behaving like unregistered third-party organizations on the PCPO team. The National Post and the Ottawa Citizen, both of which endorsed Ford, covered up for him for weeks, blacking out his alt-reich support (here’s DoFo posing with white supremacists Ronny Cameron and Faith Goldy), and his stated intent to restrict access to abortion in Ontario. As for the Toronto SUN, perhaps the less said the better.

PressProgress did much of the heavy lifting here, and was roundly mocked by national columnist Andrew Coyne for doing so. There was scant mention of the aforementioned PCPO whackjobs running for election, but the legacy media pounced upon every attack by right-wingers on NDP candidates. I half expected the latter to search kindergarten records for instances of gum-chewing and snowball-throwing.

There’s no point reiterating all the negatives about Ford. In a nutshell, he’s a loathsome human being without a single redeeming positive quality, elected by a steaming basket of deplorables.

The Liberals gave Ford a leg up. The last week of Kathleen Wynne’s campaign was a mephitic stew of anti-labour agitprop, misogyny and racism, directed against the NDP.

Racism? You bet. Gurratan Singh was excoriated for having once, in his youth, carried a sign saying “Fuck The Police”—in the GTA, where police have carried out a virtual reign of terror against visible minorities over the years, killing, “carding,” and hassling people for walking while Black. Tone-policing the righteous anger of a person of colour in such a context is nothing short of racist. (Andrea Horwath didn’t cover herself with glory on this one either, forcing Singh to grovel to the media and apologize. No apologies necessary, Mr. Singh, and congratulations on your victory.)

So now, the over-determined Ford victory poses the starkest challenge to human decency in Ontario’s history. A small minority of the people have installed a goofy, mean-minded oaf to rule our province for the next four years, evidently believing he’s Santa Claus. Ford never did provide a fully-costed platform, but he’s going to slash income taxes by 20%, Hydro rates by 12%, he’ll knock ten cents off every litre of gas, and he won’t cut any public service jobs at all. And, hey, beer will only cost you a buck.

Sex-ed and abortion rights, meanwhile, are under the gun. So’s the minimum wage increase the Liberals were going to implement this coming January. Ford doesn’t like schools or libraries much, either. In fact, cite any far-right-wing cliche about What Is To Be Done, and Ford is right there, grinning from ear to ear.

It’s going to be a rough and crazy ride, folks: best buckle up.

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Dr. Dawg

A tale of two countries

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France v. England, the land of my birth.

I loathe what that third-rate, dingy, squalid, crumbling, racist little country has become.

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Dr. Dawg

Resonances

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Resonances.jpg


~The Advocate (Tasmania) January 9, 1934

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The facts on the ground at the Gaza prison cage are not much in dispute. 60 Palestinians are now confirmed dead, mowed down in one day by live fire from Israeli Defence Forces, the latter situated at a comfortable remove from the crowds of Gazan inmates with their ineffectual rock-throwing and tire-burning. 2700 were wounded that day, at least 1350 of whom were hit by live gunfire. Israeli snipers targeted clearly-identified doctors and medics and journalists. Health care in Gaza is, to no one’s surprise, breaking down from the sheer volume of wounded.

There were no Israeli casualties.

Unbearable,” for some. It’s Hamas’ fault, say others, retreating into their privileged and comfortable moral smugness. Those brave soldiers who gunned down civilians in Gaza aren’t responsible for pulling those triggers—the Devil (Hamas) made them do it. Besides, the civilians in question should have been standing “hundreds of metres” away from the cage-fence. They brought it on themselves.

The attempt to map cause-and-effect on the carnage does lead to difficulties, though. One of the specious arguments for the existence of a Creator—that the universe can only be explained by a first cause—is easily disposed of: “Who created God?” And in the present circumstances, one can apply precisely the same logic: Who created Hamas?

The fons et origo of the tribal anger displayed at the Gaza prison fence might well be blamed upon Gaza’s current jailers, who have not treated the inmates with an abundance of kindness. Or on a captive people, dispossessed, poor, and made desperate by lack of hope, who elected a violent and brutal prisoners’ committee. Or we could go back a few decades and blame the Great Powers and the Suez crisis, or even further back to the UN partition that gave rise to an ethnostate called “Israel” in the first place. Or Great Britain’s governance of the Palestine Mandate. Or Nazi Germany. Or the Treaty of Versailles.

“History” is a series of narratives in which events are inscribed, acquire specific meanings, and the interpretations of which become severely circumscribed thereby. It’s not some objective process of linear cause and effect. It’s a mug’s game to imagine history thus. There is no point of origin where suffering began, and an ultimate blame can be assigned. There is only suffering. If the Israeli snipers (and the US) want to argue that the Devil sighted down the barrels of their guns and fired at Gazans, I could just as well argue that another infernal majesty or two, at no great remove, motivated the near-blind hatred that characterizes Hamas. But there were evil majesties before that, and more before that. I don’t see how any of this is helpful.

One can’t deny agency to any of the parties involved in the bloody affair a few days ago. The crowds at the prison fence were not “herded.” The snipers were not automata. Yet somehow, only Hamas is ascribed with agency in the affair, a malign force from which all evil springs. Here, in a progressive Israeli newspaper, we can see the nub of the problem:

Hamas conveyed indirect messages to Israel on Monday night that it might change tack in the Gaza border protests Tuesday, but Israel isn’t certain whether the group really aims to rein in the violent demonstrations which claimed the lives of 60 Palestinians by live Israeli gunfire Monday.

It’s impossible to read that without blinking. Who needs to be “reined in?” Whence comes the violence? Who are the victims of it? It’s all there, in a single sentence composed of frankly bizarre juxtapositions.

Surrealism, in fact, has been defined in just that way—“a juxtaposition of two more or less distant realities”—and the Middle East has clearly lurched into the surreal. It’s a landscape of death and champagne, one in which the new US Embassy in Jerusalem is opened by two notorious anti-Semites, and the victims of gunfire just down the road are held to be the perpetrators.

There can be no consistent foreign and domestic policy and no peace when sense, language and images have been stretched so far beyond their limits that they have become almost completely meaningless. It’s theatre of the absurd that now spreads before us, with blood and fashionable gowns. All the audience can do at this point is watch, shift uneasily in our plush chairs, and wait for the damned thing to end.

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Ottawa Centre is my riding, and I have attended two all-candidates meetings so far. The Ontario Progressive Conservative candidate failed to show for each, turning down an invitation to a debate hosted by a coalition of women interested in discussing gender-based violence, and committing to take part in a second one—only to let the organizers know, at the last minute, that she’d changed her mind.

Colleen McCleery is a coward, afraid to face the people she wants to represent.

But she’s not the only one. Right across Ontario, OPCP candidates are hiding from the electorate. With an oaf like Doug Ford at their helm, and no party platform as yet, they’re afraid of questions. They’re afraid of media. They’re afraid of Ontarians.

This is not democracy. It’s hide-and-go-seek. Even conservatives deserve better.

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Dr. Dawg

Shots and preyers

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Another day, another mass shooting in the US.

Nothing will be done.

The American empire is in its decadence. Comparisons with the Roman one have been duly noted. Headed by an Id-creature whose prototype was surely Alfred Jarry’s Ubu Roy, America is a nation where core values appear to have been inverted. Evangelical Christians support rampant womanizing, violence and hatred. Constitutionalists worship at the altar of constitution-wrecking. A “well-regulated militia” has come to mean any nutcase with a semi-automatic weapon, or cops on the hunt for what now amounts to their lawful prey. Checks and balances mean almost nothing, now that all three branches of government are under Donald Trump’s thumb.

But the Constitution is just a construct, a text. What explains the hideous allure of Trump, and his grotesque reign? And, here in Canada, on a lesser scale to be sure, the appeal of a porcine oaf like Doug Ford, likely the next premier of Ontario?

I will take credit for coining the term “sado-politics” in 1996, to describe the hateful regime of Ontario Premier Mike Harris, and more generally the mindset of the Right. There is a thesis to be written on sado-politics, I said then, and I had been seriously considering writing a paper or even a book on the subject. Then I came across this essay by China Miéville, and reluctantly put down my metaphorical pen.

It’s all here. History, psychology, politics. I urge folks to read the whole thing. It goes some way to explain the joy that so many Americans take in shooting and killing, a joy directly tapped by bands of evil enablers like the NRA, and indirectly (in Canada, too) by savvy politicians who know just how to arouse and excite the electorate with their oily rhetorical caresses.

Some part of a person likes to hurt other people, or enjoy the inflicted pain and death vicariously. A politician promising to further immiserate the poor, or kick immigrants in the face, or target other vulnerable groups with trademark conservative derision, promising to make their lives even more difficult, is guaranteed a huge proportion of the vote. Bombing brown people abroad will also win much applause: and showing the results up close is likely a wrong-headed liberal mistake, as it is guaranteed to excite a large number of viewers even more.

Miéville is right on the money, pun entirely intended. Class oppressors mine this part of the human psyche, weaponize it and deploy it. But, depressingly enough, Miéville is able to offer only the most attenuated hints of strategy for stemming this blood-red tide. Kindness? Hatred that somehow doesn’t obviate empathy? The joy, however fleeting, of overturning property relations here and there, and now and then?

How do we build on that? How do we win? Optimism of the will must somehow find its direction, its realistic grounds for existing, and its concrete project. But my pessimism of the intellect is admittedly causing me more and more to ask—is it all hopeless?

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