Thursday, January 30, 2014

Outrageous Fortune

To PC, or not to PC? That is the question. Whether 'tis nobler to have public meltdowns at the first sign of trouble, like what's been happening in the PC Party over the last little while, or to suffer slings and arrows like the entire Liberal Senate caucus has been doing after Justin booted the lot of them.

These Senators, if nothing else, are loyal. Extraordinarily loyal. That's how they got to where they......were (until yesterday).....and now, apropos of nothing, they get wished all the best in their future endeavors. And for what? Because Golden Boy looked silly denouncing the Senate scandal but not actually doing anything about it. Now we have a bunch of ex-Liberal Senators on the loose, still allowed to flout the toothless rules that keep creating messes like the Senate scandal, but now freed of the entirely inadequate social pressure from their former caucus colleagues and the party leader to not screw up too publicly. If anyone had cause to complain, they sure do.

By the way, Trudeau's buddy Gerald Butts was one of the top Daltonian minds here in Ontario, and what was Dalton most famous for? Introducing out of left field stuff without consulting the lowly people whom that stuff was going to affect, of course, and causing disastrous consequences.

But like Dalton, who managed to get off essentially unscathed while people under him took the fall, Trudeau is going to get laughed at a little, but in the end will be praised by the people who matter for being such a badass as to take this problem head on. Sure, he may have made the problem worse, but because his only critic is Stephane Dion, the guy who found it difficult to make priorities, it's just going to go down as more well meaning over-exuberance on the part of the Boy Wonder. (Also, I hear Francois Hollande is in need of some help over in France, which is something Stephane might consider looking into when he ends up excommunicado from the Liberal caucus.)

Now what about those hapless PCs? What do they have to show for being open about their grievances? Declining poll numbers? Lousy press? Unneeded headaches in the middle of byelections? Like Trudeau, Hudak saw a problem- the problem of everyone in Ontario who wasn't fortunate enough to be a union stooge getting smacked right in the paycheque because the Liberals' Butts-headed policy brainwaves flushed the economy. He decided to take on the problem in his own way, boldly. But unlike Trudeau, Hudak cannot count on unflinching loyalty from those under him when the rubber hits the road. And it's not just Hudak- if Harper were to punt all his Senators, they'd be climbing over one another to get exclusive tell-all interviews with the Toronto Star.

And this is why people do not criticize their party, or leader. Going public with your beef, no matter how justified it is, never helps the situation, and it doesn't help you. There is no incentive to do so, no reward, no increase in public esteem. Because the public cannot be honest about what it is they want from their politicians, and they do not reward honesty from their politicians (which is why Stephane Dion never became Prime Minister), there is no reason for the politicians to be honest with them in turn.

They say they want open-minded and open-mouthed Senators, MP's, and MPP's, and then they turn their backs on them.

Thus conscience does make cowards of us all;
And thus the native hue of resolution
Is sicklied o'er with the pale cast of thought,
And enterprises of great pith and moment
With this regard their currents turn awry,
And lose the name of action.

UPDATE: Hmmph! Looks like the not-Liberal Senators collectively decided to grow a pair, and now Junior has his first real "headache" to deal with. What now? Invoke the War Measures Act, perhaps?

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Dawn Of The Dead

Last night, I went to a public hearing at Toronto City Council where the topic of discussion was whether or not to allow jets to land at the airport on Toronto Island. I knew it was going to be brutal. I knew I was going to hear angry rants about the airport, about its devastating environmental impact, about how it would poison the water, about how it was another example of big business running wild. I was prepared to see pro-jets people get shouted down, mocked, booed. That's the way debates work. Bring it on, I thought.

What I wasn't prepared for were anti-jets people coming to the microphone and declaring -openly- that the debate wasn't necessary.  As far as they were concerned, there was no case for the airport, there could be no conceivable case for the airport, and the fact that somebody even deigned to raise the issue was offensive. To loud applause, they did this. Over and over again.

I was blown away.

A Toronto Port Authority spokesperson reassured the crowd that if there was an impact on the environment, if the noise levels were too high, if anyone's feelings were hurt, then the expansion would not go ahead. They stressed that the nature of the agreement meant that the City of Toronto, the federal Minister of Transport, and the Port Authority all had to sign the deal, no small feat. The meeting itself revealed that no action was to be taken until after the municipal election this year. To no avail. They might as well have been speaking in Martian. These speakers were absolutely livid that there was any probability that this expansion could happen. They were calling for the imprisonment of the CEO of Porter Airlines for having the temerity to ask for the expansion. They wanted to convict Robert Deluce of thoughtcrime.

Now, of course, these speakers were likely paid to be there by their unions and make deputations, or were activists with a prior interest. Of course they weren't speaking for everyone, and of course they had an agenda. That's fine. What isn't fine is that these people believed they didn't need to justify themselves. They were just right. The sense of entitlement on display was absolutely breathtaking. They absolutely walked in there ready willing and able to shut down a debate that needed to happen. It was like watching a zombie movie where human beings had been replaced with soulless killing machines consumed with hunger for other people's flesh.

And what about us? Are we just right? Naaah. In Hamilton, a couple of PCPO candidates resigned. Klees quit, and Dave Brister got shown the door. A telephone town hall that for some reason made the pages of the Toronto Star shows that the PCPO rank and file are panicky about "right to work" and the response they're getting at the doors. They say the policy is unclear, that they're stepping down for personal reasons, and a whole other host of excuses, but we know exactly what the real reason for this fear is.

It is OK to be opposed to right to work, or to the airport expansion, or to a power plant in Mississauga, or to anything. Table the issue, vote on it, and let the people decide. But these walking dead don't play by those rules. They don't want it debated on or voted on. And meanwhile, we are in the same boat as Kathleen Wynne, lamely trying to justify ourselves and stick to messaging. These entitlement zombies don't need no stinking messaging.  They don't have telephone town halls where they panic about how people are confused about policies that aren't even in the platform. They don't have "consultations." They brush off possible violations of the law like it's dirt off their shoulders.

What's it going to take to convince people that the old rules have stopped working and that new rules are called for?

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Cui Bono?

Opposition to "right to work" has nothing to do with concern over the vanishing middle class. That's the polite, nice reason we're going to use.

The reason I say this is because the unions hate the middle class. They hate the middle class because they hate capitalism, and they hate "the system", and they hate anyone who is not a union hack like them.

These are people who are opposed to the very way we live here in this country. Remember that they are perfectly capable of looking the other way when lunatics like Mugabe, Chavez, Castro, Pol Pot, Ahmadinejad, Mao, and Tito were or are doing their thing. Left-wing dictatorship is preferable to capitalism. Religious fundamentalism that is not Christianity or Judaism is preferable to capitalism. Anything that dismantles privilege, by whatever means necessary, is preferable to capitalism. And they can very easily bottle up that hatred and use it for political purposes, entirely divorced from anything related to social justice.

To the union leadership, everything to the right of them is fascism. Including the middle class, who may have no political leanings whatsoever. Including, as it seems, other unions who aren't as Kool-Aidy. But if it's good PR to put on a happy face, they'll do it. They pretend that they're the defenders of the middle class, and not so subtly imply that the middle class owes their living to them.

Except we know that it's all just a put-on, because if you get these guys talking you'll find they are no big fans of the middle class.....or of minorities, or of women, or of people of different orientations, or anyone who isn't like them. It's true, everyone: blue collar dudes don't have the most enlightened social views, union or not. I know- I was shocked too to find that out. So, it seems, was Joy Taylor, who complained about Adam Giambrone stomping on a person of colour just so he could place third in Scarborough Guildwood last year.

So I am just a tiny bit skeptical of unions who claim to be speaking out for their members. Especially since we never hear from the members, do we? There is always a pre-appointed spokesperson. Always ways of ensuring compliance from stragglers and scabs. Your basic union dudebro may be in part a decent fellow, but never when the higher-ups are around. It's pretty easy to scare him with concerns about lower wages.....except it really sounds like being forced to campaign for stuff you don't believe in or understand ("solidarity") is the price you pay for higher wages.

And hey- solidarity is pretty damn convincing. It's so convincing that guys like Dave Brister get worried about their election prospects and panic on Twitter. Lots of people who don't have a comforting bubble of like-minded individuals around them to blunt the bad news end up like Dave. Frank Klees bailed too, and I can't say I'm particularly choked up about that development. Newfoundland Premier Kathy Dunderdale got scared because people told a bunch of pollsters they didn't like her, so now we have to worry about another nominally Conservative province swinging red again.

What is happening here is the difference between people who are organized into ranks and who have good reason to fear for their safety if those ranks are broken, and the rest of us. Are you more or less likely to spout off about how you don't like right to work now that you know Brister got told to hit the bricks? Exactly. When Hudak put his foot down, he made the haters be quiet.

And that's what really bothers the union leadership about right to work. They fear a loss of influence. Influence over their members and the ability to terrify their enemies. And if unions could admit this- that it's all about taking privilege from those who currently have it- instead of dressing it up in nice language, people would respect them a lot more.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Ironing Out Irony

It's not a pretty sight, watching Kathleen Wynne trying to convince people that her announcements of goodies in advance of by-elections has absolutely nothing to do with politics, and is completely free of the taint of self-interest. It makes your jaw drop in awe to hear someone say something so patently ridiculous. And that's the point. That's why she said it.

She said it because she believes it completely and earnestly and because she knows saying it will completely mess up your frame of reference and reduce you to a state of utter confusion, wherein you have no choice but to accept it.

I think, in 2014, we are moving towards a post-irony world, and Kathleen Wynne's tall tale is but one example. As a child of the irony saturated 1990's, accepting this fact has been the basis for whatever passes as my quarter-life crisis, but I think, thanks to Premier Wynne, that I am finally starting to get over it. I, and all of us, must learn to live in a culture where denial is not just a river in Egypt, and people operate in clouds of delusion and create hermetically sealed "spaces" where they receive statements reinforcing that delusion, which leads them to say and do things so mindbogglingly dumbfoundingly stupid that nobody can speak or think about anything else for an entire week or more.

We've seen this sort of thing come out of the celebrity world before. Most recently, "actor" Shia Labeouf made Internet headlines for first stealing someone else's idea lock, stock, and barrel for a screenplay he "wrote", then alternating between trying to justify his plagiarism and apologizing for that plagiarism in between dodging legal threats and getting into a fight in a pub in London, England. I can't stop reading this story. I can't stop reading the interview he gave where he claimed his plagiarism was performance art and that he was actually some kind of genius. You won't be able to stop reading either, which kind of lends credence to Labeouf's theory.

Or, if you don't like big-box Hollywood insanity and would like something a little more free-range and grass-rootsy, I'd like to introduce you to Tumblr, which is effectively Stormfront for millennial social justice activists.

Picture, if you will, a kind of online mass protest against oppression of all sorts, kind of like the Occupy movement or the Red Squares, except this particular protest does not interact with the real world in any way. On Tumblr, celebrities are called out for being racist and for cultural appropriation without anyone actually interacting with the celebrities in question and doing any actual calling out to the celebrity's face. On Tumblr, people discuss why it is acceptable to discriminate against white, wealthy, male and otherwise privileged individuals but are quick to add that such discrimination is not and can never be racism. On Tumblr, people contribute to an ever growing list of why commonly used phrases, cultural practices, methods of dress, and other things you don't think twice about constitute rape and/or oppression. On Tumblr, people claim they are raising awareness about social problems but refuse to "educate their oppressors" about their (always) unconscious role in perpetuating those problems. (Also, there's a lot more free porn.) If you're a conservative, you're probably not going to be able to handle the raw experience right away, so I'd recommend starting with this tumblr, which is dedicated to mocking the other ones, and then moving slowly past that.

Tumblr proves that there are thousands upon thousands of young, educated, fashionable and cosmopolitan individuals who have retreated so deeply into self-constructed fortresses of denial that they cannot tell the difference between rebreathing the brainfarts of their online pals and actual social change, between the kind of oppression perpetuated by out-of-control governments who can and do turn entire economies upside down and the kind of oppression that comes from having your feelings hurt by something Phil Robertson said, between- and this explains the Bridget DePapes of the world quite neatly, I feel- revolutions in Tahrir Square and Ukraine and the kind of revolution that needs to occur here half a world away.

Tumblr works for the same reason that Kathleen Wynne's government works, for the same reason our movie theatres are filled with remakes, reboots, retreads and rewrites, for the same reason that having zillions of Twitter followers is now something to aspire to over having a legitimate job, for the same reason our airwaves and video game consoles and museums and stages and newspapers and bookstores are filled with the same kind of boring, safe, traditional appeal-to-all-audiences pap that still manages somehow to unintentionally offend the entire world from time to time- but no matter, because no real lasting harm is ever done, no one is ever punished, evil does not exist, and good always wins out in the end. Kathleen Wynne's total refusal to admit that she is motivated by self interest is so in step with our mass-deluded, hope-doped culture that is in itself an attempt to flee from the harsh economic realities inflicted upon us by well-meaning governments like hers that it's a wonder people aren't making bobbleheads of her to go along with the ones of Ford.

Again without the slightest bit of irony, progressives like to wag their fingers at us and say that the advent of Fox News and Sun News and other conservative content generators are dangerous because of the "narrow worldview" that they promote. But as we all know, we conservatives are the Emmanuel Goldsteins of this liberal 1984. We embody everything inside of them that they don't like and that they cannot come to terms with.

We, because we accept (if only on a theoretical level, sometimes) the existence of evil and the idea of personal responsibility, are way better able to handle our feelings being hurt. Kathleen Wynne cannot, which is why she cannot admit she timed funding announcements to coincide with byelections even though that is what she so obviously did. Tumblr social justice activists cannot handle the concept of personal responsibility because that means they might conceivably be to blame for something or that they might have to get off their computers and leave their comfortable bubbles and go take a stand.

There is no clearer proof of the correctness of the conservative point of view than the enormous dust storms of denial progressives throw up when confronted with the fact that their own behavior is no different from ours. They are self interested, they seek other people's wealth and privilege, they reinforce their own so-called "narrow" worldviews and are no more open-minded than the worst of the worst of the Tea Party.

They will never, ever, escape this truth no matter how much they hide, and that is why we always win in the end.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Sound and Fury

I'm finding it hard to write about the impending byelections, or anything related to provincial politics. Not because I don't want to, or because I don't have any ideas, but because it's really the same story over and over again. It's bloody boring.

Am I supposed to be mad or surprised at Kathleen Wynne's late-breaking decision to approve the construction of a new hospital in Niagara Falls? Am I supposed to oppose her move, as if I don't want the hospital built? Am I supposed to accuse her of "playing politics"? How about linking it to her decision to approve the Scarborough subway last year before another by-election? Sure, I can do that. So what? What's going to change? If I write about it, will the outcome be any different than if I hadn't written about it?

When I go out to Niagara Falls or up to Thornhill and work to get a PC Party MPP elected, is Kathleen Wynne going to lose power or do anything differently? Probably not. So she loses one more seat, big deal. She wasn't worried when she lost three seats the last time around (and everybody said that she did better than the PCPO anyway for some reason), and she's probably not worried now.

Kathleen Wynne is giving away the store, Kathleen Wynne is obsessed with holding onto power, Kathleen Wynne is stealing a PC idea, Kathleen Wynne is beholden to unions, Kathleen Wynne has zero long term vision for this province. Blah, blah, blah, blah. You've heard it all before.

Slightly more interesting is the idea that despite all the complaining, people are basically fine with this carrot-and-stick routine. Oh, nobody wants to oppose a new hospital! Nobody wants to annoy the government by spitting in their faces, or else we'll never get a new hospital ever again! Please, oh mighty Toronto-based Liberal government who can't even find Niagara Falls on a map, don't turn us out into the cold!

So, we gripe about how our political system is broken, about how we're all reduced to waiting for a byelection for the government to commit to something, and then when the time comes we all forget about the health of our democracy and transform into begging supplicants. Every time. All the talk about improving broken systems is just that- talk. Actual change requires a lot of work, which nobody has the time to do, and actual change might upset some people, so forget it.

People sure do love to gossip, though. People get really mad about how some guy at York University didn't want to have to deal with women, and the university accommodated his request, but they aren't actually going to do anything besides share the story on their Facebook walls. Like the "debate" over the Quebec charter of values, nothing is actually going to change. Even more so with the York University situation, because this is one guy making one obnoxious request, not a wide-ranging diktat on how government employees must dress. In a way, we owe this anonymous woman-hating douchebag a measure of thanks, because his request gave us something to talk about other than the Leafs and the weather.

Does anyone want to resolve the difficult and complex issue of religious accommodation? Anyone at all? No, let's just complain about it and then get distracted by something else. Someone else is affected by it, someone else will deal with it, or they won't. Who cares.

A theme I've been trying to communicate on this blog over the years is that we, as a nation, are moving toward a culture of "Screw the rules and screw people's feelings, we're the government". Every single political development has accelerated this trend, whether it's Trudeau, Harper, Ford, Christy Clark, Allison Redford, Dalton McGuinty, Kathleen Wynne, or the teacher's unions. The absolute belief that you are right in whatever it is you are doing and brutally silencing dissent is becoming crucially vital to success in Canadian politics. And this works because Canadians still, for some reason, expect a form of politeness and consideration from their government, and are shocked and angered when they don't get it. So shocked that they can't or won't or basically don't organize in response. They sure do scream about it, though. Lots and lots of talk about how change is coming.

Opposition parties (PCPO, I'm looking in your direction) misinterpret this screaming as a desire for change and assume that they have the next election in the bag. This never works, of course, but once again, getting a party into the kind of shape that it needs to be in order to win an election is really, really hard and requires out of the box thinking. And because "that's not the way we used to do things", well.....

Sooner or later, someone (well, someone else....besides me) is going to realize that all of the talk about politeness and mutual respect is just talk and that it would be almost pathetically easy to seize power and do whatever they want with it just by believing and by repeating that they are infallible. Maybe somebody already has, because Justin Trudeau turned the Liberal Party of Canada around with good looks, a famous last name, and the general impression that the rules don't apply to him. If he ever becomes Prime Minister, he's going to make Rob Ford look like William Pitt the Elder. We can howl with outrage about that all we like, but it isn't going to make a particle of difference unless we meet him with complete and overwhelming dispassionate brutality.

From now until 2015, the CPC should be devoting all its energies to destroying Justin Trudeau every way possible and in some ways that aren't possible instead of talking about how he is in over his head. And lest anyone suspect me of just being partisan, I will also say that if Ford's enemies want him gone, maybe they should spend less time collecting damaging quotes in the pages of the Toronto Star and actually organizing a campaign against him.

As I've said many times: We know what we have to do. What I'm saying here is not revelatory or new. You've heard it all before, not just from me. But as long as we make up reasons why we can't do what is necessary, things will continue as they have been, and we will have no one to blame but ourselves.