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Saturday, January 14, 2017

Conservative party leadership: If not Maxime Bernier then Andrew Scheer or possibly Kevin O’Leary

Maxime Bernier

The Conservative Party of Canada’s (CPC) leadership race is in full stride with no individual candidate separating her/himself from the pack, leaving the contest wide open. As might be expected, the field has been drawn from among current and former caucus members and a non-politician “outsider,” giving CPC members a wide range of political views to choose from.

The already crowded field will likely be augmented soon by another candidate, the well-known businessman and TV celebrity Kevin O’Leary, bringing the total number of candidates to 14, namely: Chris Alexander, Maxime Bernier, Steven Blaney, Michael Chong, Kellie Leitch, Pierre Lemieux, Deepak Obhrai, Erin O’Toole, Rick Peterson, Lisa Raitt, Andrew Saxton, Andrew Scheer, Brad Trost and Kevin O’Leary.

Unfortunately—at least from my viewpoint—current interim leader, Rona Ambrose, MP for Sturgeon River-Parkland is not in the race, which will conclude with the leadership election on May 27, 2017.

When this field will begin to be winnowed out is anybody’s guess, but until then we are fortunate to have the opportunity to debate the many different approaches to how a future Conservative leader might govern the country.

According to an early December 2016 Forum Research poll, Michael Chong led with the support of 10% of respondents representing all Canadians, followed by Lisa Raitt (8%), Kellie Leitch (7%), Chris Alexander (6%), Maxime Bernier (5%), Steve Blaney (5%), Andrew Scheer (3%) and Brad Trost (2%), with other candidates excluded from the survey for brevity.

Among Conservative voters, however, none of the candidates scored more than 9% cent support, while 48% said they preferred “someone else.” Conservative respondents chose Chris Alexander (8%), Steve Blaney (9%), Michael Chong (8%) and Lisa Raitt (8%) in a virtual tie for first place.

I believe that the ones who will be in the running with a reasonable good chance of winning on May 27 are: Chris Alexander, Maxime Bernier, Steven Blaney, Michael Chong, Kellie Leitch, Lisa Raitt, Andrew Scheer and Kevin O’Leary.

Of these, I could see myself voting for any of (no particular order of preference): Maxime Bernier, Michael Chong, Lisa Raitt, Andrew Scheer or Kevin O’Leary.

If the leadership election were held today, my vote would go to Maxine Bernier. Maxine is youthful, presents well and is receiving enough caucus support and endorsements to be a credible candidate. Furthermore, the MP for Beauce, Quebec has the most extensive, thoughtful and conservative platform—check it out.

My second choice—although it is still early times—is MP Andrew Scheer (Regina-Qu’Appelle), the former Speaker of the House of Commons who enjoys very strong caucus support and endorsements, an important element of any leadership bid. Mr. Scheer may well move up on my ballot after he releases more specific policies—and here’s hoping he’ll do that soon.

My third ballot choice is a toss-up between Michael Chong and Kevin O’Leary, should the latter enter the race as expected. At this point, however, I’m pretty lukewarm on both.

Photo credit: By Marcello Casal Jr/ABr (Agência Brasil [1]) [CC BY 3.0 br], via Wikimedia Commons

Thursday, January 12, 2017

On balance I find the unsubstantiated allegations about Donald Trump and Russia to be credible

Portrait of Donald Trump during a campaign event on August 19, 2015

None of us ordinary folk can be certain one way or the other of the truthfulness of the unsubstantiated allegations being reported by US intelligence chiefs regarding the connection between United States president-elect Donald Trump and Russia.

I believe, however, there is enough material now in the public domain for each of us to decide whether we believe the thrust of the allegations. And I for one do believe they are substantially true, notwithstanding denials by president-elect Trump, his army of apologists and paid spin doctors and, of course, the Kremlin.

For several months now we have heard Trump dismiss high-level intelligence reports of Russia’s interference in the presidential election, calling them “ridiculous” and placing the blame on Democrats who he claimed were upset over election results for publicizing such reports. In a mocking Tweet, Trump quoted WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange’s statement that “a 14-year-old kid could have hacked Podesta.”  Now he reportedly concedes Russia probably meddled in the election. So, was he being disingenuous when he persistently insisted Russia was not to blame?

Furthermore, months ago the president-elect was caught on a hot mic boasting that he groped women and then defended himself by claiming he was engaging in locker-room talk—in other words lying.

There are webpages dedicated to tracking and reporting Trump’s falsehoods and exaggerations, which are published by reputable media organizations. For example, during the lead up to the Republican nomination, POLITICO subjected a week’s worth of the president-elect’s words to their magazine’s fact-checking process. This amounted to 4.6 hours of his speeches and press conferences. According to POLITICO’s website, “more than five dozen statements deemed mischaracterizations, exaggerations, or simply false—the kind of stuff that would have been stripped from one of our stories, or made the whole thing worthy of the spike. It equates to roughly one misstatement every five minutes on average.”

A simple Google search will show a stunning pattern of falsehoods, half-truths and exaggerations emanating from the president-elect’s mouth. Even Mr. Trump’s paid spin doctor, Kellyanne Conway, seems to concede that the president-elect cannot be taken at his word. Last Monday (Jan. 9), she went on TV to defend her boss, who had once again denied mocking a disabled reporter.

“Why don't you believe him? Why is everything taken at face value?” Ms. Conway said. “You can’t give him the benefit of the doubt on this and he’s telling you what was in his heart? You always want to go by what’s come out of his mouth rather than look at what’s in his heart.” [Emphasis mine.]

So, clearly Trump’s words of denial cannot be taken at face value. And, as for Russia’s denials? Well, they invented the term from which “disinformation” is derived: dezinformatsiya, defined in the 1952 official Great Soviet Encyclopedia as spreading “false information with the intention to deceive public opinion.” Such tactics have been an integral part of Russian and Soviet tradecraft for several decades. Whole books have been devoted to this subject.

On the one hand, therefore, we have known liars denying the accuracy of the unsubstantiated allegations, while on the other hand we have the chiefs of US intelligence apparently believing the information they had was credible enough to be brought to the attention of President Barack Obama.

Then there is the credibility of the controversial dossier’s apparent author, the ex-MI6 (British secret intelligence service) officer, Christopher Steele. It is reported by media sources I trust that his sources and the people who vouch for him are credible. One described him as “very credible” and “a sober, cautious and meticulous professional with a formidable record.” He is also described as an experienced and highly regarded professional who is not the sort of person to simply pass on gossip.

As a conservative with a keen interest in politics, I have followed the US presidential nomination and election process closely for what must be about two years now. Over that time, I’m sad to say, my opinion of the president-elect deteriorated to the point I seriously doubt Donald Trump could himself “pass” Senate confirmation hearings for membership in his own cabinet.

And that’s a sad state of affairs. God help the United States of America find a way through this crisis.

Photo Credit: By Michael Vadon — This file has been extracted and cropped from another file: Donald Trump August 19, 2015.jpg , CC BY-SA 2.0, Link

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Fidel Castro dead at 90—I won’t mourn him

Castro-1959
Fidel Castro, Cuba’s Máximo Lider died Friday at the age of 90. The murderous dictator took the world to the brink of nuclear war, and might have unleashed it had not the saner heads of his Russian masters prevailed.
Castro was a mega­lo­ma­niac who enslaved his nation and made paupers of all Cubans but his Communist party cronies.
He was as ruthless a despot as Stalin, mercilessly trampling the rights and freedoms of his people and ruling them with repression and fear. Throughout his many decades in power, Castro never once gave his Cuban people a chance to control their own lives, and even at the end of his reign he chose to transfer power to his brother rather than to the people he claimed to love.
When Cubans endured state-imposed periods of deprivation, Castro blamed the United States and its embargo. What was there the U.S. could offer that his country could not get from Canada or Europe, I wonder. Was it charity? Was it foreign aid? It certainly was not food, clothing or medical supplies, all of which were available to Cuba from nations who did not enforce an embargo against it. Although, I suppose, antagonizing the Americans to the point they cut sugar imports from Cuba, forcing Castro to seek markets elsewhere, must have taken its toll on the island’s economy.
Castro, however, once boasted Cuba “is the only country in the world that does not need to trade with the United States.” So why blame America and its embargo for the pitiful plight of Cuba’s 11-million people?
Cuba did find a new market for its sugar, of course. For years the Russians bought all the island could produce. But, although the other Caribbean sugar producing nations tried their best to diversify their economies, Castro stubbornly refused to do so, deciding instead to continue with one main crop, sugar, and selling it to one main buyer, the Soviet Union—a short-sighted policy that would cost his people dearly.
Cuban society under Castro only ever thrieved when it was receiving huge Communist subsidies—$5-billion a year has been reported by reliable sources—from Russia and significant economic support from Venezuela. When the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, however, the Cuban economy virtually imploded, forcing the old hypocrite to temporarily legalize the hated  Yankee dollar.
In his wake, Castro has left a legacy of wretched poverty and political persecution, however, to be fair he also leaves something approaching racial equality and several medical and educational advances, which help balance the scales somewhat to his benefit. In sum, though, he leaves his people no better off than they were when he won his revolution on January 8, 1959. Such a tragic waste.
And it’s such a man that our prime minister, Justin Trudeau, has praised and lionized as a “remarkable leader” and “larger than life.” Is it not extraordinary how much admiration PM Trudeau seems to hold for dictatorships like Cuba and China?

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Should Kellie Leitch be so simply dismissed as she is by so many in the mainstream media?

KellieLeitch2014

The phenomenon that is Donald Trump’s successful presidential candidacy is hardly likely to come to egalitarian Canada, but he has already had an influence on our politics.

Unlike the United States, Canada does not, I believe, have such a large portion of our residents who feel left behind and disenfranchised that it could put a man like Trump in the highest office in the land. Canada does, though, have a core of voters who believe Canada is on the wrong track in its social development and evolving national identity.

This group probably represents at lest 30 per cent of voters in any federal election. And members of the group are usually open to voting for the Conservative Party of Canada. Given this core support, the Conservative party only has to attract another 10–15 per cent of voters to win a majority government. Hardly an insurmountable goal and especially one that might be easily reached if only the party had a charismatic leader who appealed to a cross-section of voters.

Where though would that additional 10–15 per cent likely come from? In my opinion, it would most likely be found among the growing immigrant communities where social conservatism is quite common. Stephen Harper seemed to have realized this since his former MP and cabinet minister, Jason Kenny, spent so much of his time wooing votes in these communities, and they, in turn, helped deliver to him a majority government in 2011.

Considering the foregoing, I wonder why a prominent Conservative would intentionally seek to antagonize these very voters by embracing policies that are known to be unpopular among immigrants. And here, of course, I’m referring to Dr. Kellie Leitch, the Conservative MP for Simcoe–Grey who is seeking the leadership of her party and who has described Trump’s election win as an “exciting message and one that we need delivered in Canada as well.”

Notwithstanding her apparent admiration for the president-elect, I have a great deal of respect for Ms. Leitch and for her many life accomplishments. I also have sympathy for her policy on Canadian values. After all, conservatives are supposed to conserve and protect our traditions and values, that’s a major part of our raison d’être, isn’t it? And hardly a day goes by without some prominent Liberal or New Democrat reminding us of how much he or she believes in our values. And aren’t these the values that made Canada the terrific country it is?

I must say, however, that I was not at all pleased with the “barbaric cultural practices” tip-line announced by Ms. Leitch  during the 2015 campaign, and am happy to hear she has since expressed regret over it. As I see it, a system that depends on Canadians snitching on one another is itself an anti-Canadian value and should not be encouraged.

And I wonder how effective simple screening would be in weeding out those who hold “anti-Canadian values.” Not very, I believe. Those who wish us harm would simply lie, wouldn’t they?

I will say, though, that while I might disagree with Dr. Leitch’s emphasis on certain of her priorities, I do not believe her policies can, in any sense, be construed a “dog whistle” code as suggested by several progressive sources.

The Canadian comedian Rick Mercer, to name one, said in a published rant that, “She [Leitch] speaks English, French and a secret language that only really angry white people can understand.” I think this is what the left/progressives call “dog whistle” code. And, apparently, only progressives know the key to translate this code for I’m a “white person” who is sometimes angry, but I can’t see a secret meaning in Dr. Leitch’s statements. So what the hell is he talking about?

Progressives often claim they know what conservatives really mean whenever conservatives criticize or even comment in passing on any policy, institution or position progressives claim as their own.

Mercer also claimed that the barbaric cultural practices tip-line proposed by Dr. Leitch during the election is, “[s]ort of like a toll free number you could call if brown people moved into your neighbourhood.” In fact, race and skin colour had nothing to do with the Conservatives’ proposal and there is no real evidence that they ever did.

The intent of man’s rant seemed to be to slander Dr. Leitch. It dripped with vitriol and scorn and seemed full of hate for someone he almost certainly does not know—or does not know well. And perhaps more to the point, he did not try to offer a coherent argument to refute Dr. Leitch’s words, or even attempt to poke fun at or satirize her proposal. Instead he chose to make a senseless attack on some “secret language” he claimed “only really angry white people can understand,” and to paint Dr. Leitch as a bigot. Shameful!

Mercer should get with the program. According to a September 2016 Forum Research Inc. poll, 67 per cent of Canadians want prospective immigrants to be screened for “anti-Canadian” values. My source for this is the Toronto Star website, hardly a bastion of secret code understood only by angry white people. Or perhaps Mercer believes 67 per cent of Canadians are “angry white people” and their views don’t count.

The mainstream media seems to have already written off Dr. Leitch’s chances and some of them paint her as little more than a bigot and hard-right looney. But what of the 67 per cent of Canadians who share her views on screening immigrants and refugees? Don’t their views count?

Maybe we are about to find out that Canada’s silent majority have realized they don’t always have to defer to those in the media and entertainment business who seem to believe they know best and only they can be counted on to do the right thing and think the right way.

That, it seems to me, was one of the “take-aways” from the U.S.  presidential election.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

President-elect Donald Trump: savior or dangerous demagogue?

So, the unthinkable happened: Donald Trump won election as the next president of the United States of America—much to the consternation and disbelief of the mainstream media, about 50 per cent of all Americans and 75–85 per cent of Canadians.

Personally, I saw no way the man could win on November 8. I wrote him off during his battle to win the Republican nomination and again during his campaign against Hillary Clinton. During the nomination race, in fact, I was not even sure he really wanted to win. I thought he might just be trying to stoke his ego and build his brand, but would drop out before things got too serious. Obviously, I was wrong, dead wrong.

Elsewhere, you can find dozens of theories for why Ms. Clinton lost, for it seems every pundit has something to say on that subject. Let me add only that a somewhat shop-worn candidate without a compelling economic message will never be a great bet to win any election in any Western democracy in 2016. The Clinton campaign spent far too much time and treasure attacking the man and too little of either articulating an attractive alternative, especially on economic matters.

So, for better or worse Mr. Trump is now president-elect and future commander-in-chief of the richest, most powerful nation on earth. A not altogether comforting prospect.

Some non-supporters of Donald Trump were encouraged by the comparatively conciliatory tone of his victory speech and his comments after his first visit to the White House. Since then though, not so much. Perhaps, many believed, the sheer magnitude of the presidency would have a moderating influence on his more extreme policies. He would, like so many Republicans before him, campaign from the right, but govern from the centre.

Good luck with that.

Mr. Trump’s actions since then have suggested he’ll govern pretty much as he campaigned. His tweets suggest this as does his appointments so far and his recent video giving an update of his plans for his first 100 days in office. Nothing too outlandish, of course, but pretty much as he promised during the campaign.

Anyone who follows me on the Internet knows I’m not a Donald Trump fan, never have been. And I do not see him as “presidential.” He has not the ethics or personal morality I—if I did have a vote—would look for in a president.

There’s a man who seems to use bankruptcy, not as a last resort, but as a tool to avoid financial responsibility. People who lent him money in good faith are left high and dry—not once, but several times. There is also Trump University—which, of course, was no university at all—and which The New Yorker describes as:

for-profit learning annex that some of its own employees regarded as a giant ripoff, and that the highest legal officer in New York State has described as a classic bait-and-switch scheme…”

Then there is his refusal to make his tax returns public. I assume from this that he has something to hide that could have adversely influenced American voters. Trump supporters would never have let Hillary Clinton so easily flaunt this tradition of financial transparency.

Finally, the man’s boasts about sexually assaulting women sealed the deal for me. He denies he was telling the truth when he claimed he had grabbed women by their genitals, of course, but I do not believe him. And, anyway, even if he was telling lies when he made those disgraceful remarks, it makes me wander what sort of man brags about sexually assaulting women and why anyone would want such a person to be their nation’s president.

But the people have spoken and the voters are always right.

Of course, more people voted for Hillary Clinton and, for that matter, Mitt Romney had a larger per cent of the popular vote (47.2% to 46.5%) in a losing cause in 2012, so Mr. Trump did not exactly get an overwhelming mandate.

But he did win. And it is high time those on the American political Left acknowledged the fact and quit their sour-grapes protests and–as Britain’s The Guardian newspaper put it—their attempts “to galvanize anger and fear over his [Trump’s] election into a strategy to resist his policies and remake the left as a credible political alternative.”

Readers should remember the moral outrage expressed by the media at large when president-elect Trump mused that he might not accept the results of the then upcoming election, which he suggested was rigged against him. He was—in the view of many—striking at the very heart of American democracy. What then are the Hillary Clinton supporters doing now?

Trump is a man I could not bring myself to vote for. Some of his policies, though, seem to make good sense, especially those geared towards illegal/undocumented residents and the daily inflow of those who have no legal right to reside in the U.S. It’s an open question as to whether a wall is the solution, but I believe most Americans would agree something has to be done.

Moreover, while globalization may have lifted millions around the world out of poverty, does any reasonable American believe that millions of middle-class Americans have not paid too high a price for that? Yes, they got lower prices for many consumer goods, but lost much of their own well-paying manufacturing jobs along the way.

Many of the major trade deals allow freer movement of capital between countries, but without the corresponding freer movement of labour. American capitalists set up shop in low-wage countries and got richer, but American labour were not, in any practical manner, able to compete for those jobs. And governments did little to provide a transition for those workers—essentially, successive U.S. governments tossed most of the lower middleclass to the wolves.

Will Donald Trump be a successful president? I doubt that he will. I believe his presidential legacy will be one of scandal and political upheaval.

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