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Archive for the ‘In the News’ Category


How appropriate, ironic and frankly a little scary, that President Trump appoints the wife of a fellow billionaire Kentucky coal miner, as our ambassador. Let’s start an American oligarchy, and there is no other word for it. Except maybe medieval feudal system of barons and serfs. We ridicule the Russians for their path, yet look at how America is changing. Coal barons. Oil barons. Hotel barons. The medieval feudal caste system of life, so long ago rejected by our compassionate forefathers, is now being returned by King Donald. He is surrounding himself with fellow cronies and members of the billionaires club. No more doubt about it. America is ruled by the King and his courtiers. Blind allegiance to the king is the order of the day. Question his judgment, offer anything other than parroting answers, and you will be banished. And the irony in this? It is those very same coal miners, and I mean the guys who go underground and dig up the rock, who voted Donald Trump into power. He rode a crest of blue collar angst and disenfranchisement all the way to the White House. And now he is insulating himself with a surrounding cast of fellow business types and money bags. God Bless America. Thank God I live in Canada.

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With apologies to the author who penned this assessment of Hannah Arendt, could not find your name again to give due credit.
Thanks to my son for bringing this marvelous philosopher back to mind. Her take on mind and matter so fits today’s political narrative. Yeah. You know who I’m talking about. Him. The Donald. The President. So divest yourself for the foreseeable future of any preconceived notion about how politics works, or how nations interact. Or for that matter, even how we fit into the dynamic. It really is a brave new world. We’re living it, creating the narrative without any familiar reference point.

It follows, for Arendt, that political philosophy has a fundamentally ambiguous role in its relation to political experience, insofar as its conceptual formulations do not simply articulate the structures of pre-reflective experience but can equally obscure them, becoming self-subsistent preconceptions which stand between philosophical inquiry and the experiences in question, distorting the phenomenal core of experience by imposing upon it the lens of its own prejudices.

Herein lies the basis of Arendt’s quarrel with Hegel and Marx, for to define politics or the unfolding of history in terms of any teleology or immanent or objective process is to deny what is central to authentic human action, namely, its capacity to initiate the wholly new, unanticipated, unexpected, unconditioned by the laws of cause and effect.

“One could make people believe the most fantastic statements one day, and trust that if the next day they were given irrefutable proof of their falsehood, they would take refuge in cynicism; instead of deserting the leaders who had lied to them, they would protest that they had known all along that the statement was a lie and would admire the leaders for their superior tactical cleverness.” – Hannah Arendt, “The Origins of Totalitarianism”

Trump has pushed this approach to new extremes; even though there are more fact-checkers than ever dedicated to exposing his blatant lies, the president’s cunning tactic is to discredit these reports as coming from the established, “dishonest” media. Meanwhile, his movement’s beliefs are backed by widely available alternative sources.

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Twitter and Trump


Were it not for the disturbing malice in President Trump’s tweets, I’d say his social media commentary is charmingly naive. I’m not sure if it is the 140 character maximum allowed by Twitter that is distorting my view, or if in fact the President’s command of English is indeed at a grade 10 schoolboy level. I lean toward the latter conclusion. When a president uses terminology like “dudes” and “bad people” it reveals a mind that simply cannot grasp a more articulate phrasing. He seems to write whatever pops into his head, without any thought as to the potential consequence or interpretation of his words. Unlike you or I, the leader of the world’s most powerful and influential country would surely understand that his thoughts and actions are subject to analysis and reprint the world over. Every city from Albacore to Zagreb will look at what he has to say, and decide how his words will impact on them. But so far, a mere 15 days into his presidency, I see a man whose actions are motivated only by some kind of petulant grievance against anybody and everybody who has wronged him. He set up to undertake certain actions a long time ago, and nothing will change his course. It’s my way or the highway is a credo that seems to govern his every move. That might be a successful strategy for Vladimir Putin, but what President Trump has not yet understood is this. He is President in a democracy! He is still answerable to the people. And even if it takes another 4 years, the people can decide at some point that his style and simplistic viewpoint is not at all representative of their wishes. Unlike his counterpart in Russia, President Trump cannot manipulate everybody around him, including his military, to either agree or be fired, or worse yet as Putin has demonstrated, be terminated, quite literally terminated. Or can he? And unless he starts to demonstrate something other than oligarchic autocratic governing, the damage he can wreak in those four years is enough to completely destabilize and ruin our world. (And yet another part of me holds out hope that he will actually effect positive change with his straight ahead, damn the torpedoes style, but that is a subject for another essay.) So Mr. President, stop the tweets. They make you look silly. The President of the United States of America does not have to resort to social media commentary to be heard. Your world is not in cyberspace, reacting to and exchanging insults with the twitter world. I understand that it is an effective way to circumvent media, but dude, it is not presidential. Be a president, not a blogger.

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Syrian immigration


This intense focus on Syrian refugees is quite extraordinary. Our media is saturated with coverage, our social welfare agencies are all preparing for the influx of immigrants. Hundreds of millions of dollars is being allocated to establish support systems. Canada will also be providing psychological support to assist potential PTSD sufferers from Syria. How times have changed! When my parents fled their Baltic homelands during WW II and spent a few years in displaced persons camps (yesterday’s version of refugee camps?) prior to immigrating to Canada, they found no such help from government. They fled from horrors of war and atrocities committed by both Nazis and Communists that were surely comparable to anything suffered by today’s Syrians. The Baltic peoples established their own ethnic community networks and assisted each other. And as far as I can recall, every one of my parents’ generation found employment, bought houses with their own savings, became naturalized citizens and lived full and fruitful lives in Canada. Yes, I understand the necessity for intensive screening to ensure that not one terrorist enters our country, but is all this frenzy of activity really needed to ensure that Syrians adapt to their newly adopted homeland? How about allocating some of those hundreds of millions of dollars to our First Nations communities? They have been here for generations yet continue to be ignored by our government while struggling thru poverty and outrageous boil water advisories. Is it noble to offer such abundant assistance to strangers when your own people continue to suffer?

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LCBO union head pulling back on claim wine and beer in grocery stores would increase violence against women

Vito Pilieci, Postmedia News | March 18, 2015 | Last Updated: Mar 18 9:45 AM ET

(Sixty per cent of Ontarians over the age of 18 support the idea of selling beer and wine in alternative establishments, according to an Angus Reid study commissioned by the Ontario Convenience Store Association last year.
Brent Lewin / Bloomberg Sixty per cent of Ontarians over the age of 18 support the idea of selling beer and wine in alternative establishments, according to an Angus Reid study commissioned by the Ontario Convenience Store Association last year.)

The president of the Ontario Public Service Employees Union is dialling back on a claim that allowing more stores to sell beer and wine will spur more violence against women.

However, Warren (Smokey) Thomas says he continues to believe that increasing the availability of alcohol will have repercussions the government doesn’t appear to have considered.

Last week, Thomas issued a statement saying that allowing grocery stores to sell beer could lead to more violence. “We know alcohol contributes to violence, and this makes us question Premier Kathleen Wynne’s commitment to making women in this province safe,” it said.

On Tuesday, he took a quieter tone.

“Our point was this, the more you ‘liberalize’ the sale of alcohol, the more you will increase social problems,” Thomas said. “What she (Premier Kathleen Wynne) wants to do flies in the face of what the liquor control board stands for. It then just becomes mass retailing of alcohol.”

Thomas’s initial comments, which followed a newspaper report suggesting Ontario may license as many as 300 grocery stores to sell beer and wine alongside the brewery-owned Beer Store outlets and government-owned Liquor Control Board stores that now control most alcohol sales in the province, have helped bring the booze-sale debate to a head.

Even those who work with victims of domestic violence won’t say that increasing the number of beer and wine retailers will bring more violence.

Tara Henderson, a spokeswoman for the Ottawa Rape Crisis Centre, said that while alcohol is a factor in some cases of domestic violence, she is unaware of studies linking expanded access to more abuse.

“Alcohol can be purchased from a lot of different places,” said Henderson. “I don’t see why there could be a significant increase (in violence).”

The union president says debate over his admittedly “controversial” claim has deflected attention from his key point: Why was the rumoured arrangement negotiated in secret and why does it appear to favour a handful of large corporations?

According to the Toronto Star, the government will open an auction for 300 licences to sell alcohol at grocery stores, with no one chain being allowed to own more than 25 per cent of the licences.

Thomas asked what’s to stop a large convenience store chain from outbidding the grocery chains, which would allow beer and wine to be sold at corner stores across the province — a situation the premier has objected to openly.

Thomas represents more than 5,000 employees at the province’s LCBO stores. He insisted his objections aren’t based on securing his members’ jobs, and said his members could in fact benefit from increased jobs in warehousing and logistics if more retailers are allowed.

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Conrad Black | January 10, 2015 | The National Post

As I was sitting down to write about the atrocity in France, my wife Barbara hove into view, always a delicious sight, and announced that she was writing elsewhere on the same subject and that I could not do it. So I will not, other than to say that France had to admit more than a million Algerian Muslims in the mid-sixties, who had been loyal to France in the savage war of independence in that country, as well as a million European Algerians. It has been comparatively indulgent of Muslims since then, but this incident, or a few others like it, will motivate France to lead the Western counter-attack against militant Islam that should have been launched by our united civilization many years ago. Just as the French periodically become bored with life in their legendarily rich country of fine weather, food and wine, and tear up paving stones and hurl them across barricades at the police until bourgeois fear of economic loss reasserts itself and reaction takes over; when French possession and enjoyment of their country is threatened, the national faith in liberty, equality and fraternity will give way to more systematic repression of violent Islamists than would be acceptable in an Anglo-Saxon democracy.

When the Islamist threat is no longer theoretical or just a matter of ethnic slurs or offensive caricatures, and that time should have come after the massacre of 10 journalists in a newspaper office and of two policemen guarding it, in France there will be none of the faddish and abusive meddling of human rights commissions such as persecuted Mark Steyn and Ezra Levant in this country. Since the barbarians comingled with the Romanized Gauls 1,500 years ago, no one has displaced the French from their complete cultural occupation of la douce France. Those who have tried, including the Moors, the Plantagenet kings of England, and the German Empire and Third Reich, were a great deal more formidable and comparatively numerous than the venomous rag-tag of contemporary Islamist terrorists. Vive la France, which now awaits the continuator of Charles Martel, Joan of Arc, and Charles de Gaulle; a relatively easy victory awaits him or her.

Since I have been cyber-gagged from pursuing this subject further, I will retreat to a related one. In the weeks since Christmas, I (like so many others) have been forced to follow the stern counsel of our bathroom scales. My shapely spouse (who could eat an entire Black Forest cake without putting on more than eight ounces) has aided me in my efforts: As I was writing this column, I sauntered into the kitchen to make a cup of coffee. There I found Barbara watching a television program about obesity which, she cheerfully volunteered, I might find useful. (This was perhaps a bit gratuitous, as the program was about 600 lbs. people.) Still, the just-concluded Christmas season, with all its excesses, provides us a welcome opportunity to consider the current status of Christianity in the West.

In the commercial coruscation of Christmas, with incitements to buy accompanying all the deferences to non-Christians, the forgotten fact is that Christianity is a much greater force in the world than Islam. It has 50% more nominal adherents, hundreds of millions more communicants, 600 years more history, and an infinitely greater intellectual and cultural basis. Although it has been used as a pretext for group violence in recent memory, as in Ireland, no serious Christian authority counsels or condones violence other than in personal or societal self-defence. Islam lifted the monotheistic concept from the Judeo-Christians and even claim that none other than that frequent flyer Gabriel imparted the divine message to the Prophet, Muhammad.

Militant Islam had a spirited try at routing Christianity, and when it was repulsed from France and Spain, it returned in strength 800 years later as a largely secular Turkish force under Sulieman the Magnificent. It laid siege to Vienna in 1529, and again in 1683, but was repulsed on both occasions, the latter by Poland’s King Jan Sobieski. Turkey lost its bid for control of the Mediterranean at Lepanto in 1571.

No sane or civilized Westerner would dispute Islam’s historic significance or the right of anyone to practice that or any other religion. But many sane Westerners have together achieved the startling and unfortunate feat of establishing the politically correct fiction that the West is not Christian, and that it is the duty of all to avoid disparagement of extreme Islam, even after decades of endless provocations. The real problem of Western Islam is the failure of the Islamic peoples at self-government and the recourse, not uncommon for people who have been unsuccessful, to pious fervour and a nostalgic yearning for the days of triumphant militancy. But that is not a valid answer to Islam’s problems. As an entire and tolerant civilization, it is our duty to ourselves, and even to the Islamists who fancy themselves to be our enemies, to crush and exterminate this malignant and evil force as soon and thoroughly as possible.

We must stop hiding our Christian light under a bushel, and end this imbecilic fantasy that indulgence of those who would kill or subjugate all of us and anyone else deemed ambivalent in their hydra-headed jihad will achieve anything except the encouragement of their violent contempt. The two most populous Western countries, the United States and Brazil, are overwhelmingly Christian. A very inquisitive person would ransack the Western media to discover this, but a bone-crushing majority in both countries embrace the principal tenets of Christianity.

Extensive research by the very rigorous Pew Research Center, revealed a month ago that 73% of American adults believe that Mary was a virgin when delivered of Jesus, that 75% believe in the story of the Three Wise Men, 81% that Jesus was placed in a manger, 74% that angels announced His birth to shepherds, and 65% of adult citizens of the United States believe all of the above. The figures for belief in the four tenets mentioned above among Americans between the ages of 18 and 29 are, respectively, 70%, 74%, 80%, and 69%. Even among the millions of Americans with post-graduate degrees, from 53 to 65% believe each one of these traditional assertions.

This is not remotely the version of public religious faith anyone would deduce from the mainstream U.S. media. Brazil is a good deal more fervent, in Christian terms, than the United States, the more so from the Roman Catholic conversions to evangelical Protestantism of about 20% of the country when the Liberation Catholics were presenting Christ as a Marxist who sanctioned violence for social aims. (The process of erosion from Rome to Christian fundamentalism effectively stopped when Pope John Paul II excommunicated the principal Liberation theologians.)

The Canadian figures would be somewhat, but not unrecognizably, less robust than the American. Even Western Europe, though there would be extensive erosion of the faith in most of it, is unambiguously Christian by cultural and traditional criteria. The fact that Western society is so commendably tolerant does not give us a dispensation from protecting our heritage from assault. Pope Francis, who receives much greater respect and admiration from the Western (and the whole) world than our secular leaders, has endorsed military action against military Islam.

Let us hope, and those so inclined may legitimately pray, that the outrage in Paris will assist the Judeo-Christian world in seeing violent Islam plain, and in responding to it with the force that it has successfully employed against earlier, and in all respects, greater, threats. Otherwise, servile appeasement and cowardly silence in the face of the persecution of Christian minorities will eventually produce another Crusade, and that would be, as our friends in the atheist, self-hating left would say (though they are the chief practitioners of it), an overreaction.

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Je suis Charlie


JE SUIS CHARLIE. Let that become a cry for free speech. JE SUIS CHARLIE!

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