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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.

Friday, September 23, 2016

Climate change fact or myth and does it even matter anymore?

Ontario PC leader  Patrick Brown surprised many members of his party when he announced last March he was in favour of putting a price on carbon. At that time he said, “Climate change is a fact. It is a threat. It is man-made.”

This apparent turnabout for the PC leader has not been met with much enthusiasm among conservatives who continue to have doubts about all sorts of things related to anthropogenic climate change, or “global warming” as we used to call it. Ontario PC membership—much like other conservatives across the country—span the full gamut of this issue.

In 2013, environmentalist Dana Nuccitelli, in an article he wrote for The Guardian newspaper in the U.K., used the term “climate contrarians” to describe sceptics who questioned the various aspects of climate change. He said the opinions of climate contrarians “spanned … 5 stages of global warming denial.” And from what I’ve read and heard over the past decade or so, I’d say most conservatives I know, or whose works I read or to whom I listen regularly are pretty much at one of those five stages.

In my opinion, only a minority of Ontario conservatives have made it through all five stages and is now fully accepting of the science, agrees it is caused by human activity and presents an impending threat, and is committed to mitigate the effects at virtually any cost, including carbon taxes or other greenhouse gas reduction mechanisms.

If Mr. Brown was being frank with us, his statements, “Climate change is a fact. It is a threat. It is man-made,” coupled with his support for “putting a price on carbon” places him firmly among this minority and at odds with the rest of us. But, while he may be among the minority of conservatives on this issue, he is among the majority of people in Canada, America and the European Union who have gone all-in on climate change.

The five stages, by the way, are as follows:

  1. Deny its existence
  2. Deny we’re the cause
  3. Deny it’s a problem
  4. Deny we can solve it
  5. It’s too Late

Sound familiar? I’d say it fits pretty well with the knowledge I’ve gained from following this subject closely over the past couple of decades.

I’d say I’m probably stuck somewhere in or between stages four and five. Yes, the issue seems real and does seem to be a problem, especially with the effect rising sea levels are having on many inhabited parts of the world. I’m still not convinced, however, that it’s all to do with human activity and would not have occurred anyway as a natural cycle of the planet’s cooling and warming. But I suppose human activity could be accelerating the process.

My main areas of contention though are: (a) can we really stop it or even slow it down or should we spend our limited recourses on mitigating its effects; and (b) this should not be used as a cash grab by governments to raise money for more social programs with which to bribe the electorate. In other words, any tax raised should be offset by tax reductions elsewhere.

At the end of the day, though, does any of our skepticism really matter? Regardless of what any conservative might think about the veracity of the science surrounding anthropogenic climate change, the science on this issue is, for all practical purposes, settled.

And while it may be considered heroic by some to continue to challenge the overwhelmingly large worldwide majority opinion, I believe it is a waste of our time.

Better we concentrate our efforts on making sure governments choose the least damaging and costly mitigation strategies, and also that every cent of carbon tax is returned to taxpayers in the form of lower taxes elsewhere and not as some social service or other offset that does not go back proportionately to those who paid the tax in the first place.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Is there no room for reasonable accommodation on Ontario’s sex-ed curriculum?

Yesterday I wrote about Ontario PC leader Patrick Brown losing the support of some of his party’s social conservatives over his position on a couple of defining issues. The examples I used were his flip-flop-double-cross on Ontario’s sex-ed curriculum and his decision to support putting a price on carbon.

These issues, at least in part, define who is and who is not a conservative. Not that all conservatives disagree with the new sex-ed curriculum or with some sort of price on carbon whether through a cap-and-trade mechanism or via direct taxation. After all, conservatives like progressives have a wide range of opinions on these subjects, some of which are quite nuanced. I believe it’s safe to say, however, that most conservatives have strong reservations about both issues.

Today, I’ll say a few words about Ontario’s sex-ed curriculum and tomorrow I’ll give my views on pricing carbon.

Regarding the sex-ed curriculum, most small “c” conservatives believe parents are the ones with primary responsibility for deciding the appropriateness of sex and gender identity-related material  taught to their children, and especially to young children. Their greatest concern seems to be centred around the age-appropriateness of the topics covered in the curriculum. And what’s so objectionable about that, especially when the curriculum itself seems to recognize this fact? The Health and Physical Education curriculum states:

Parents are the primary educators of their children with respect to learning about values, appropriate behaviour, and ethnocultural, spiritual, and personal beliefs and traditions, and they are their children’s first role models.”

Given that statement, why is this controversial curriculum being forced on so many families who fundamentally object to their children being exposed to it? Why not provide the sex-ed portion of the Health and Physical Education curriculum on a volunteer basis to children of parents who feel they need help in communicating this information to their children?

I’ve read the 244-page curriculum—or, at least, scanned the Grade 1–8 document with some care—and neither find it so egregious as many of its opponents do, nor as innocent and appropriate as its proponents.

There are sections that I question, however. Like the insistence of formally introducing six-year-olds to the correct, clinical names for human genitalia. This from a society that routinely refers to one another online as “assholes,” and peppers social media communications with four-letter references to human feces and to the act of sexual intercourse?

Are we so intellectually arrogant and self-righteous we cannot see how this could be considered age-inappropriate by many of our fellow citizens? Six year old girls are still playing with dolls, for God’s sake. Dolls, by the way, that we—mainstream  society—can’t even bring ourselves to produce with intact genitalia.

What about the concept of gender identity being introduced to eight-year-olds. At that age this is as likely, isn’t it, to be gender confusion or gender dysphoria that should be handled by a medical professional like a psychologist or psychiatrist, and not an elementary school teacher.

If a parent were to inform his or her family doctor of an eight-year-old child who seemed to be confused about their gender, to whom is the doctor most likely to recommend the child be referred, a specialist like a psychologist or psychiatrist or the child’s elementary school teacher? I’ll put my money on the former.

I must say also that I can quite see why some of my neighbours would be concerned with the fact teachers are introducing, discussing—at times almost seeming to be encouraging—the concept of romantic dating with nine-year-old children, masturbation with eleven-year-olds, and anal and oral sex with twelve-year-olds. This, along with normalizing homosexual lifestyles, is extremely difficult for many people of faith who adhere to a religious tradition or doctrine that teaches that certain of these practices are immoral.

The curriculum was pushed out to schools on a like-it-or-lump-it basis with minimum consultation, even after being withdrawn in 2010 (?) because it was so controversial.

I find it very hard to reconcile this blatant insensitivity towards what so many consider to be Christian values, practices and beliefs with today’s mainstream society’s sensitivity towards the religious practices of those non-Christians among us.

Christians, it seems, are expected to change in step with the times. Non-Christians, though, are encouraged to cling to old religious traditions and cultural practices—even when they contradict directly the Charter Rights of, for example, equality for women because, apparently, we are so enriched by the diversity of multiculturalism.

Now, I am not religious—not even slightly or nominally so—but I am a conservative and I believe in slow-as-we-go social change and respect for the values and traditions that got Canada to where she is today: a first-rate nation and a wonderful place to live and raise a family. Surly we owe to those who hold fast to our traditional values and beliefs—even those some of us may find outdated—as much sensitivity and reasonable religious accommodation as we extend to newcomers.

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