Mr. Just-keep-your-knees-together may Lose his Job

I was pleasantly surprised late last night to read that Federal Justice, Robin Camp who grew up in South Africa, may lose his position for deeply inappropriate, insensitive, unfathomable, and just plain stupid comments made throughout a 2014 sexual assault trial in Alberta, Canada. The Canadian Judicial Council concluded there was enough evidence to recommend Justice Camp be removed from power. That recommendation will go to Parliament, the body that actually decides Camp’s fate.

The surprise is due to the reality that only two other judges have been forced out of their job for misconduct since the CJC was founded in 1971. In both cases, like any self-respecting person, the maligned judges resigned their positions before Parliament made it’s decision. If ‘three’ seems like an impossibly low number over forty-five years, its because it is statistically improbable that among the federal judge population only a negligible amount of justices would be deserving of formal sanction. It goes to show that those in power are afforded latitudes that the rest of society could never expect. It appears that a judge’s actions must be so egregious – bordering on the unconscionable – before the social and political elite will strip one of their own of power.

This story made its way into the headlines throughout the summer and, especially, into the fall when the CJC began it’s inquiry into Mr. Camp’s actions to determine if he had offended the integrity of his position. And rightfully so. Not only did Camp have the gall to ask the 19 year-old female complainant, who Camp repeatedly referred to as the “accused,” why she couldn’t keep her knees closed as she was raped over a bathroom sink at a house party, but he also questioned why she didn’t employ more vigour to fend off her attacker – who outweighed his victim by at least 100 pounds. According to Camp, she should have prevented vaginal penetration by “skew[ing] her pelvis” or thrusting her buttocks into the sink basin. And, obviously, so sayeth Camp: drunk girls want to have sex and sometimes that sex is naturally coupled with pain. 

Camp wasn’t to be dissuaded from his attack on the complainant. He took it upon himself to question the complainant’s moral compass, concluding that her personal morality left “much to be desired.” The complainant, whose identity is protected by a publication ban, was homeless and struggled with addictions on the streets of Calgary. It appears that Camp believed her to be part of the “other” – the group that can be scuffed-off and dismissed. Withheld from justice. Denied decency and their basic humanity. Normally, I would say Camp threw everything into his personal defence (of the actual accused – the rapist – before acquitting him) save the bathroom sink, but he brilliantly covered that legal loophole, too. 

Apparently, the idioms of “blind justice” and “judicial impartiality” are legal principles in Camp’s mind that are only befitting a complainant meeting his personal criteria of appropriate social and economic prerequisites. It should go without saying that these foundational ideals – enshrined and encoded in legal systems throughout the western world – are meant to guide justices past bias based on unfounded beliefs regarding a person’s appearance, culture, ethnicity, sex, religion, or socio-economic status.

Equally incredible was the defence of Camp. During the judicial review, Camp’s daughter, Lauren, was placed in an unenviable position. With her father’s federal judgeship and legacy on the line, she painfully disclosed on the record her own unreported rape in their family home. Allegedly, Camp’s own daughter went through a similar experience to the complainant, but there was no gentleness, no compassion, no benefit of the doubt, or empathy shown for the latter, likely due to her station in life: homeless; struggling; the decay of western society. Or, perhaps Camp poorly treated his own daughter, too, but this would have been an even more tragic admission. Either way, I have deep empathy for both victims – of sexual assault and Camp’s treatment.

After all, the best defence Lauren could muster during her testimony was that her dad was “old-fashioned” and “there are gaps in his understanding of how women think and experience life.” The excuse is bewildering, and it feels forced – really, contrived. Even rehearsed. No male has to understand how a woman thinks or their personal life experience to appreciate that “No” actually means “No.” In fact, by the time boys are five, they know there are (sometimes) dire consequences if they do not heed this command. Inevitably, when that boy asks, “Why?” the short answer for the adult is “Because I said so.” This is well-engrained in children regardless of religion, sex, culture, or socio-economic status. And “because I said so” was the only justification the complainant needed to stop any unwanted sexual advances from her attacker, even if she was initially accepting of those advances.

A psychologist also defended Camp’s actions, and her testimony is farcical. The suggestion that Camp has undergone intensive “re-education” and therapy to better understand and appreciate the ways of the Canadian judicial system as well as Canadian societal norms and expectations to right his personal wrongs, perceptions, and misconceptions is similar to rehabilititation programs for convicted offenders. Yes, felons need to learn different behaviours or how to deal with their emotions in a socially acceptable manner, but they are convicted. Guilty. Wrong in the eyes of their peers. That is, it is not an acceptable defence that a powerful man required further education that was, unbeknownst to him, withheld  – in this case, at the age of five – and, therefore, should be allowed to remain on the bench. Absolutely not. Ignorance of the law; of judicial principles; of common decency; of your daughter’s own experience does not a defence make.

Moreover, the deployment of Camp’s upbringing in South Africa as a legitimate excuse for his deplorable way of thinking is outside the bounds of reasonability. When Camp was called to the bench in Canada, his peers judged him to be of sound mind and reflective of Canadian values and ideals. To be sure, even in allegedly-culturally-backward South Africa, in 2015 a judge somehow managed to see through the drama and absurdity of Oscar Pistorius’ defence and convicted the Olympian of murder in the horrific death of then-girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp. Pistorius’ jail sentence was exceptionally light and he is currently serving it in relative luxury, but even the South African judge got it right. Pistorius was guilty and his actions required formal sanction and discipline. 

So, too, does Camp’s demonstrated disposition. His actions were reckless. The five-member CJC board found that Camp had done harm to legal precedence, to future sexual assault victims, and reinforced myths that were long ago debunked. At this moment, I think it more than appropriate for the collective-Canadian conscious to sound the refrain, “No shit!” Victim-blaming, -shaming, -degrading is unacceptable. Comments dripping with vacuous misogyny, righteous condemnation, and damning condescension have no place in Canadian society, especially within those whom wield constitutional authority. If Camp didn’t learn some of these lessons when he was a boy, he ought to have picked them up in university and law school in the 1970s, or when he wrote his qualifying exams and was admitted to the Canadian bar in 1999, or during his countless interactions with Canadians over the fifteen years prior to presiding over the sexual assault case that will hopefully end his career.

Now Robin Camp will actually feel the pain of being publicly maligned like he maligned the complainant (or was she the “accused”?). He is disgraced. Soon to be cast aside. Treated like the “other.” The difference in his particular circumstances, of course, is that the treatment wholely fits the crime.

Jill Stein and the Absurd Recount

Under the banner of “Election Integrity,” the Green Party’s Jill Stein has raised $3 million to contest the election results in Michigan, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania. She has raised that money in 24hrs, an impressive feat, the capital needed to make a formal judicial request by this Friday (tomorrow) for the election results to be reviewed in each of the three jurisdictions. 

There is – potentially – much at stake. These three states have a combined total of forty-six electoral votes, which could put the election result into question, meaning the Democrat’s Hillary Clinton could be President-elect, and not Republican Donald Trump. Of Trump’s 306 Electoral Votes, he would be left with 260, which is ten votes shy of the 270 needed to win the presidency. 

Politically, it makes complete sense for Stein to be spearheading this movement. She is not attempting to help a fellow female candidate or the Democrats secure the White House over the Republicans. Rather, this would be fulfilling one of the planks in the Green Party’s platform. 

On her campaign webpage, Stein designs to “Empower the People” through “electoral reforms that break the big money stranglehold and create truly representative democracy: public campaign financing, ranked-choice voting, proportional representation, and open debates.” What a remarkable rambling diatribe. Somewhere in there is Stein’s reason for championing this last-minute judicial review (note to Stein camp: simply writing “electoral reform” as a plank would have sufficed).

Stein’s cause is perhaps noble, but it wreaks of political opportunity for the Green Party. Stein placed last in the presidential contest. Now she appears to be selflessly working for the American people to ensure the election result is accurate. A true patriot amid the scions of all-that-is-wrong-with-US-politics. In reality, Stein is working to make the Green Party’s lacklustre, blowhard platform shine with relevancy. 

Even if the reviews are allowed in each of the three jurisdictions, the chances of finding voter fraud or manipulation by a third party (Russia) on a grand enough scale to change the outcome in EACH jurisdiction is exceedingly low. And it must be all three, Pennsylvania (20), Michigan (16), and Wisconsin (10) to put President-elect Trump below the 270 Eletoral Vote threshhold.  It would be the Hail Mary of the century. Such reviews only feed the political troll that would have the audacity to cry, “the election is rigged.” Thus, a complete waste of everyone’s time and money, and an exercise in futility. 

Hillary Clinton lost the election to Donald Trump. Fair and square. Allow the Republicans to get on with governing and put an end to this absurd sideshow. Besides, the real show – that critics are billing as “even bigger and better” than the George W. Bush presidency – is just about to enter the main circus-ring.  

Clinton was the Right Candidate

Embittered and still in shock, the reality that Hillary Clinton will not be president is slowly sinking in for many Americans and Canadians. How could she lose? How did seeemingly everyone get it so wrong? How did a man so full of himself, contempt, misogyny, disrespect, ignorance, arrogance, and a complete lack of subtlety beat the poised, articulate, sophisticated, intelligent, poignant, and classy candidate? Many are still searching for answers.

One writer, Michelle Hauser with the National Post, suggests Clinton was too arrogant, blinded by “naked ambition” – as though Clinton should be apologetic for such a flaw in character – and ought to have known “the party was over” after failing to secure the 2008 Democratic nomination. In other words, Clinton never should have run for the presidency a second time. What a revelatory insight now that the election is over; Hauser never once raising the alarm bells for the Clinton camp pre-loss; even weeks prior to election night, writing it was time for the US to tell Trump, “You’re fired.” Make up your mind,  Hauser.

Hauser’s claim that Clinton believed she was owed the presidency after thirty years of public service is incredible. On what insights is Hauser basing this claim? If anything, the opposite is true. Clinton doggedly worked day-in and day-out for the last eighteen months to re-secure the White House for her party (something only five presidential candidates, barring a sitting president’s death, assassination, or resignation, have successfully done in  thirty-nine elections – or 12.8% of the time – since Abraham Lincoln ended slavery and the Civil War), to say nothing of another four years of service as President Obama’s Secretary of State, travelling to 112 countries to anchor American interests abroad. Clinton didn’t just walk away from politics after losing the 2008 Primary contest until her entitlement to America’s highest office could be fulfilled: she licked her wounds, swallowed her pride, and rededicated to commander-in-chief and country.

Taking a shot at the White House is not done without months of consulting, preparing, polling, gladhanding, and hosting multiple donor events to ensure a candidate can attract enough political and economic clout for the impending contest. It was a foregone conclusion Clinton would run in 2016; that does not mean she expected to be handed the keys to 1600 Pennsylvania Ave so long as she graced American voters with her presence. As she has shown throughout her career, Clinton rolled up her sleeves and went to work.

And Clinton’s approval rating for Democratic leadership remains unquestionable, evidenced by the minor facts of absolute dominance in the 2016 Primary election before winning the popular vote for President. Among white American women, exit polls show a majority voted Trump. Apparently, Ms. Hauser would opine that these women, caught “somewhere between angry and annoyed” that Clinton had the gall to run for President, voted for Trump in protest. Please. Clinton may have lost the presidency, but she was the right candidate for the Democratic ticket.

Robyn Urback with CBC, has suggested that the Democratic Party establishment should be ashamed for having lost this election to Trump. While it is embarrassing to lose to this man in particular, it suggests that Clinton and the party lost the campaign as opposed to Trump winning it. Time and again Clinton and her political team took to the high road in what was a nasty, brutal, bareknuckle brawl mostly because of how Trump chooses to handle business. Trump was able to keep the focus on his anti-establishment, -humanity, -immigration, -globalization, -logical rhetoric, and he ground-out every possible vote from the despondent, allegedly disenfranchised, disaffected, delusional and blame-anyone-else-for-our-problems Republican base. Trump fought harder and dirtier than any candidate in recent memory. And he won.

Another writer with the Globe and Mail, Marie Henein, is claiming Clinton’s loss is explained by gender. There. She said it. And she is wrong. No question, gender-bias is alive and well in North American society – alongside all of the other biases one could possibly imagine to unfairly pigeonhole an opponent. We all have them. Again, Clinton attracted the most votes of all American citizens who cast one. To believe bumbling socialist Bernie Sanders, the only plausible male alternative (appearing on all Primary ballots), would have won the presidency because he had the appropriate anatomy is asinine. If the next inductive counter-argument is to establish that other, stronger Democratic candidates would have entered the primaries if she had stepped aside, save the megabytes, Henein: insightful, astute contenders knew they would be publicly routed in any popularity row with Clinton.

Henein is right that Clinton’s main detraction is “relatability.” However, Henein’s version lays bare her own sexist bias. To most voters, relatable means having a discussion with the candidate over a beer. Instead, Henein questions whether Clinton appeared “cuddly” enough; motherly and grandmotherly enough; presidential enough in her pantsuits and pearls. (Has the sighted world forgotten about the airtime, webspace, memes, and gigabytes invested in Trump’s small hands, orange-glowing skin from a recent soak in nuclear waste (likely from Chernobyl while visiting Comrade Putin), or the dead thing on his head that he calls hair?) One only need watch the townhall-styled second debate where Clinton is devoid of her safety-lectern to see utter weakness in the relatable category: she is uncomfortable to the point that I drew blood from my lower lip, agonizingly trying to steady myself while she attempted an impromptu lean.  I’m still blushing at the thought.

Trump won because he did not stay on message; was not the voice of reason or stability; and he promised to Make America White Again (sorry, Trumpian slip). Clinton was bound by circumstance and a wildly popular predecessor that still resides in the White House. And it is incredibly difficult to ride the party’s coattails to the oval office for a third consecutive term as voters, in this case, viewed Clinton’s potential through the lens of Obama’s failures. Moreover, the deep, raw, emotion-inducing divide within the American electorate swung enough voters to cast ballots for the candidate that promises to reform Washington and cleanse America of its social ills, ethnically and otherwise. All of these situations are beyond the control of the Democratic establishment, and none of them can be laid at Clinton’s feet. Clinton was the candidate Democrats wanted, and the candidate the rest of the world deserved.

Change Trump


This morning, a majority of Americans are making their way to work in shock and awe that their candidate, Democrat Hillary Clinton, is not the president-elect of the United States. In fact, as of 11am EST, the latter has yet to make a formal concession speech, though she has privately conceded the race – clearly beaten last night – to her opponent. Republican presidential nominee Donald J. Trump has already secured 279 of the available 538 electoral votes with at least another forty available, a majority of which are leaning in his favour.

Even at his best during a particularly quagmired, quarrelsome, and quixotic presidential campaign, the major polls, pundits, and popular opinion polemics suggested Trump had few Electoral College paths to the White House. As it turns out, all paths lead to only one front door at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue: President-elect Trump’s. What a stunning, improbable, unfathomable upset.

Trump will be the forty-fifth man to hold what has become the highest elected office of the free world. While he campaigned on anti-western values including the absurd and frightening (repealing the Gun-Free School Zones Act), the unconstitutional and xenophobic (banning Muslims), the useless and ineffective (US-Mexican border wall), the protectionist and populist (exiting or renegotiating international trade deals), the embarrassing and eye-roll-inducing (US elections are rigged by the Democrats and their media), he has now promised to be the president “for all Americans” by putting millions of people and billions of dollars to work rebuilding the country’s crumbling infrastructure and inner-cities to make the United States “second to none.”

The unlikely Republican presidential nominee is the 2016 “change” candidate, not unlike the star Democratic State Senator from Illinois, Barack Obama, in 2008. His fervent campaign slogan, “Yes We Can,” echoed across the country and reverberated in adherents’ hearts. Like a phoenix rising from the ashes, Obama pledged to overcome the fray and end Congress’ partisan political problems. He would end wars, hunt terrorists, repatriate American troops, close prisons, build bridges where his predecessor had built walls, heal the deep social, economic and political divisions within America, and restore hope that the US was an international leader wanted by the world.

In the end, President Obama’s passionate promises did not equal sustained change. Yes, he had milestone successes in providing basic health insurance to many of America’s most vulnerable and under-privileged citizens, in first bailing-out and then reforming Wall Street, in eliminating the 9/11 mastermind and subduing other terrorist threats, and in finding a peaceable solution to the Iran question.

But Congress remains inextricably stalled and divided; the Guantanamo Bay detention facility remains open for business; thousands of US troops remain deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan (to mention nothing of the new US theatres of war against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria); international contempt for American intervention boiled-over in Benghazi; the national debt has all but doubled during his administration, though to be fair, some of that belongs to George W. Bush; and yesterday, the people of the United States overwhelmingly demonstrated that they remain deeply divided on what will actually make America great again – the popular vote going to Clinton and the presidency to Trump.

Now it is Trump’s turn to effect his venereal version of vacuous change in Washington. Favourably to the Republican Party is that it also won majorities in both the House of Representatives and the Senate, the bicameral legislatorial bodies that form Congress. But unlike in Canada where recent provincial majority governments (the Alberta NDP and Ontario Liberals) and back-to-back majority governments at the federal level (Stephen Harper Conservatives and Justin Trudeau Liberals) have passed controversial legislation with ease as politicians toe the party line, President Trump will have a difficult time wielding similar congressional authority.

In the American Republic, Representatives (435) and Senators (100) owe allegiance first and foremost to the electorate of the states they represent. Thus, fellow Republicans are afforded the ability to openly defy party wisdom or refuse their support for a presidential candidate, which Congressional Republicans Paul Ryan, John McCain, Marco Rubio, Lindsey Graham, Ben Sasse, and Mike Lee have publicly done. Thus, Trump has the next two years to persuade, cajole, force, and otherwise threaten the aforementioned Republicans and their colleagues into turning Trump campaign promises into meaningful, change-inducing legislation. That would be a feat of epic proportions for Trump, but he has already pulled off two minor miracles – winning the Republican Primary contest and the Presidential election. If he does pull it off, he will be a candidate for canonization.

We wait, with bated breath, for 2016’s change candidate to make good on his promise to govern for all Americans and “drain the swamp” that is Washington D.C.

Congratulations, Mr. President-elect Trump.

The Humble Poppy


An internal memo was leaked from Air Canada that notified employees to refrain from wearing the poppy should they find themselves in an Air Canada uniform. Hoping this to be an early 2017 April Fool’s joke, I checked multiple sources. It is no joke.

In the Western World, the poppy symbolizes a great deal more than Canada’s Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae would have imagined in 1917 as he set pen to paper and unleashed his tormented soul in his most-celebrated work, In Flanders Fields.

McCrae, already having served the British Monarchy (Canada then a Dominion of the Empire) in the South African Boer War, felt compelled to answer the call of duty in the First World War. He spent much of the war tending to the sick and dying as a surgeon along the Western Front, particularly in Ypres, Belgium, an area traditionally known as Flanders. He witnessed, firsthand, and then tried – most times unsuccessfully – to repair the vicious wounds humans inflicted on one another with fists, shovels, bayonets, barbed wire, bombs from above, grenades from below, machine guns, and gas. If disillusionment hadn’t already set in about the realities of modern warfare, it certainly did when McCrae’s close friend was killed in yet another offensive in an unending war of attrition.

Belgium witnessed some of the most savage brutality of the war, the earth left scarred almost as deeply as the souls of the men who fought it. And it was in the sullen skies over Belgium that the British Royal Flying Corps first scouted enemy positions, then engaged in dog fights with enemy combatants until planes were mechanized enough for human slaughter. Pilots now dropped bombs and armaments from great heights upon frightened, scurrying soldiers; men seeking cover in coverless trenches, hoping this pallid, miserable place would not become their makeshift grave. They, the unknown soldiers, would count themselves lucky to have their final resting place marked with a nondescript wooden cross.

And far above their readied graves, soldiers watched – even bet – on their flying aces to shoot down the enemy, maybe even the Red Baron: a victory to be relished amidst the long, monotonous moments between enemy bombardments; a loss to punctuate the anguish and hardship. And the air was no safe haven, either. Casualties were incredibly high among pilots, particularly for the RFC, where the average career of a pilot was better counted in days, not months or years.

To McCrae, the poppies that somehow still grew in scorched earth symbolized that amid the countless deaths, life would go on; that despite the callous calamity, the righteous would persevere; that even in war, momentary peace was attainable; that his own lasting despair could be overcome by one powerful, enduring emotion. Hope.

One hundred years after the supposed “war to end all wars,” a national airliner(!!) attempted to cleanse their workplace of the small, beautiful, red poppy that honours both the fighting and the fallen soldier. Air Canada’s rationale doesn’t matter; the fact that it took a rebellious outcry from employees and their union for management to see the errors in its ways – that they had to fight for the right to pin a poppy to the lapel of their uniform – borders on the unconscionable.

McCrae’s poppy remains an emotive symbol: thousands still fight, and millions more have since died, to keep his torch alight amidst the unending brutality we inflict upon one another. The poppy is sacrifice, freedom, democracy, honour, humility, blood, heroism, strength, loss, and many other unuttered personal beliefs and atonements. Collectively, however, we are bound to the humble poppy by hope: hope for our family and friends still serving; hope for peace; hope that, one day, war will be remembered as belonging only to the uncivilized.

Lest we forget.

Green Up or be Greened

The Choice and Necessary Sacrifice are Obvious


Garth Manning recently wrote an Op-Ed piece for the Financial Post on the destructive solar and wind farms that are apparently the newest and largest infiltrators of what was once the untouched, sacrosanct landscape of rural Ontario. “Make Ontario Great Again,” his supporters rejoin. These invading, energy-relevent “farms” – since farms are places for production, the term is apt – leave nothing but bird carcasses and valueless properties in their collective wake. The author certainly paints a bleak and sombre reality that is befalling sleepy, quaint rural Ontario.

Manning has valiantly attempted to breathe new, cogent and meritorious arguments into this issue by telling tales of government bullying; Ottawa’s powerful, omnipotent wind and solar lobby; the new, fast-paced, reality-television-wannabes that comprise the Ontario legislature; and the poor, downtrodden farmer and vineyard owner that are “progressively devastated” by wind and solar farms. He’s provided the barebones for an international best-seller; unfortunately, the structure upon which Manning has built his house of cards is nothing more than a Not-In-My-BackYard (NIMBY) matter of opinion.

Those that would subscribe to Manning’s argument likely share similar frustrations with the new wave of technologies for harvesting green energy: they are unacceptable because the reality of what it takes to produce the same amount of energy in a piece of coal (from Cleveland, OH) or a barrel of oil (from Fort McMurray, AB) is both uncomfortable and glaringly brought to the fore.

What were once out-of-the-way mines and their associated sundries, whose products were moved on covered trucks or in hidden pipelines, are now magnificent, gleaming structures that dominate rural Ontario, alongside the mass-production farms that Manning would have unsuspecting readers believe to be ruled by independent, single-family farms with one red barn and a little, sputtering red tractor, just like the idyllic picture on the loaf of bread, the jug of milk, the carton of eggs, or the butter and cheese packaging (spoiler alert: it’s not like that, at all). Now, there are daily reminders dotting (and apparently ruining) picturesque sunsets – sunsets that are actually made more magnificent due to the burning of fossil fuels – that energy production takes sacrifice and it isn’t always pretty.

And let’s do away with the absurdly deductive argument that wind turbines are nothing more than Cuisinarts turned avian serial murderers. Yes, creatures of flight are killed by wind turbines and solar panels, as though traditional means of energy extraction have been cost-neutral to the animal kingdom: birds suffocating and drowning in tailings ponds and rerouted, migratory Alaskan caribou would suggest otherwise. More importantly, human lives are also consumed by the energy production sector – no matter which particular sector we prefer to meet our energy needs. That is to say, wherever humans derive energy to meet the necessities of a modern lifestyle, there will always be an associated cost to the animal kingdom – one that “distinguished economists and professional engineers” are always working to mitigate, thanks in large part, to government intervention; Manning’s would-be “bullies” of rural Ontario.

Obviously, wind and solar farms are built in rural areas: buildings, like the Royal York Hotel or the Peace Tower, have an irritating tendency to get in the way of the sun’s mighty rays and the earth’s strong winds. Manning does not suggest an alternative to rural areas, even though they exist in the deserts of California, Nevada, and East Germany(!) or on the shores of the English Channel and the North Sea in the United Kingdom and The Netherlands, because the argument immediately collapses into an obvious NIMBY issue. The production of the necessary energy to run local businesses and agri-businesses is acceptable in rural Ontario provided it has a perceived zero-impact on the end-user or the beautiful, unhindered, not-based-in-reality, postcard landscapes Manning wants his readers to picture.

Furthermore, the article does not outline the other sources of energy that rural Ontario will rely upon once these green energy monstrosities are slayed. That’s because the only other source of green energy in the area – Niagara Falls – is considered a beautiful, enduring, iconic national symbol of clean energy production; the dirty, inconspicuous oil sands, coal mines, and vital pipeline infrastructure are nowhere to be seen or, more importantly, someone else’s problem. So, if not from your own backyard, Mr. Manning, from where will you, the vineyards and traditional farms of rural Ontario, derive the true engine of business and agriculture – power?

Many people that would decry the destructive forces of renewable wind and solar energy are also proponents of the argument that the ‘dirty’ oil sands, coal-fired generators, and Canada’s pipelines carry nothing less than wanton destruction – they are all hyperbolic harbingers of earth’s doom. These folks want all of the luxuries that come from an energy-dependent, energy-dominated lifestyle, but none of the associated aesthetic, ecological, economical, and ethical costs that accompany actual energy production.

The real problem with Manning’s argument is that he is grappling with a far bigger issue than the superficial one he presents. Similar to the mighty sausage that North Americans consume en masse, no one wants to know how it’s made: the end product meets and obliterates a human need, but the realities of its manufacturing process will turn even the most girded of stomachs. It’s not the energy production question we should be struggling with or the economic impact a wind or solar farm might have on a proposed area, but the social and economic consequences of a society accustomed to a lifestyle that is slowly killing us and our planet. (Now I understand why authors subscribe to hyperbolic arguments – they are fun to write and really wrap up an argument!)

I assume that those who would believe Manning to have a cogent argument would continue to burn fossil fuels and decry the madness and destruction of Canada’s boreal forest – a grandiosely tripe argument – and shake their collective fist from their warm and softly-lit home, with negative media reports on the oil sands consuming the air from an unwatched, energy-drawing television, while thumbing through the same reports on a recently-charged smartphone, ready to leave the true game-changing protest for social change to the world’s true heroes. Celebrities. They fly in and out on private aviation-fuel-burning jets for their brief, incoherent, self-righteous, plastic-water-bottle-in-hand appearances to voice their bombastic idioms on climatic change of apocryphal proportions. And what do all of these folks have in common? They make – or allow others to make – their lofty, heady, idealistic arguments from an ivory (and gold-gilded) tower built upon coal, oil and pipelines.

No doubt, they want change, but not at any cost. In fact, at no cost because they want the lifestyle we now enjoy, and energy production to remain someone else’s problem. The reality is too painful to bare should we look out our SUV’s windows as we hastily make our way through abandoned rural Ontario and be affronted with the conspicuous solar panel and wind turbine that are ushering in a hopefully cleaner, brighter energy-production future. What we really want are more hidden, out-of-the-way mines, oil sands pits, tailings ponds, and pipelines. Oh, wait a minute…


For Better or Worse, the Republicans will Endureth

No Conrad, The Donald is Just More of the Same


Conrad Black recently posted his latest thoughts and equivocations on his would-be hero of the 2016 United States election, Republican Presidential nominee Donald J. Trump. Variously, Black has defended this individual as a prominent New York businessman touting his capacity for administration and profitability; brushed aside the voluminous misogyny claims against Trump as “complete rubbish,” and that in person, Trump “is a lot less coarse than Mrs. Clinton.”  On the last point, only one of the elite would know Trump and the soon-to-be-President-elect Hillary Clinton on a personal level.

While Black does a fine job of reviewing the game-changers of American history, and if you’ve not read his biography on Franklin D. Roosevelt then you’ve missed out, the pinnacle point of his current piece is Trump as the newest incarnation of the game-changer, even if he loses to Clinton. Nothing could be further from the truth.

The Republican Presidential nominee is a continuation of the established party, just with the temperment and styling befitting one of his tempestuous and subtelty-lacking followers, of whom Trump’s handlers occassionally condemn. To be clear, Trump has not once mis-aligned the anti-semetics, “Luegenpresse” folks, misogynists, white supremecists, racists, bullies, and assaulters within his ranks: like a true leader, he leaves these menial tasks to the hired help.

Trump is anything but different from the corporate, social elite that comprise the political class he allegedly despises. The corporation that backs Trump: Donald Trump. Privately, he is friends with the Clintons and many incredibly wealthy establishment Republicans. Those publicly endorsing him include Dick Cheney, the multi-millionaire who covertly ran George W. Bush’s presidency as Vice President; Rick Perry, the former Texan governor turned Republican presidential candidate; Paul Ryan, the current House Speaker and highest elected Republican official; John Boehner, the former House Speaker; and the Koch brothers, worth billions and actively working for social conservatism across the American landscape. Trump is nothing less than more of the Old.

He symbolizes – nay, epitomizes – the Grand Old Party of yore: incredibly wealthy and handed the keys to the palace by his father; did not want for anything as a child, though supporters make him out to be the Queens’ latchkey kid; supports the Second Amendment to the point of absurdity (repealing Gun-Free School Zones legislation and arming “good guy” teachers); and is a white, heterosexual male that purports to take any woman he wants because of his celebrity, and allows his supporters to use xenophobia to denounce, well, anyone that doesn’t fit the appropriate cultural Make-America-Great-Again mold. Actually, that’s inaccurate: Trump has taken to task the tax-paying, hard-working Americans that are all enemies of the state. Muslims and Mexicans.

Trump and his supporters are political reductionists. With resounding failure, they have attempted to grow the GOP base on the ideas that delicately complex issues like illegal immigration or America’s illicit drug addiction can be resolved by erecting steel and concrete barriers; that social ills can be surgically removed by banning all adherents to a mainstream religion from living or entering the US; that repealing the 19th Amendment would improve democracy; that American military might and munitions can better resolve the Iranian question than President Barack Obama’s pen and peaceable answer; that the black community – which has never been in a worse social condition, according to Trump – should hand the reigns of justice (in another era, the whip) to a white man that better understands their collective plight.

Trump is no game-changer. He has failed to drive a wedge within the Republican establishment and carve out a new era for the party. Similar to Obama soundly defeating Clinton for the 2008 Democrats, only for the latter to return victriously eight years later, Black’s Trump has not “smashed the Republican elders – the pallid Bush-McCain-Romney” or the “Cruz-crazies;” at best, he has put them off until the next race. Rather, the Republican National Committee has used Trump for his pompous, populist and appalling appeal and it, too, is simply waiting for this garish aberration to run its humiliating course before ushering it into the dust bin of history.

Trump is but a change in the moment, a flash in the pan, the comic relief in a typically hard-fought race, a momentary lapse in better judgement. He is the 21st Century’s equivalent to Joseph McCarthy, who in the early 1950s was brought down by the Republican establishment, then administered by no less than Dwight D. Eisenhower, after the infamous communist hunter had the misaligned conception to seek traitors within the immutable rank and file of the United States Army. Like McCarthy, Trump has shown that if given enough rope he will eventually hang himself and his political suicide date is set for November 8.

Trump is not the candidate that has indelibly changed the Republican establishment, let alone American democracy. Beginning in 2020, Black believes that a Trump loss on Tuesday will deliver the next four years of office to the extreme left or right. Predictions, however, are best left to snake-oil dealers and fortune-tellers. While Black may be right about American democracy cusping at extremism, the 2020 Presidential election is but one election since the Republican Party’s inception prior to the Civil War.

That’s right: the GOP has withstood, Civil War, Reconstruction, Desegregation, Jim Crow, WWI, WWII, the Vietnam War, the Civil Rights Movement, George H. W. Bush, the other Bush, and many other difficult, sombre moments for the United States and the world. And the Republican Party has the ability to rebrand itself: Abraham Lincoln’s party for social progress and the abolition of slavery is nothing like today’s party as the final, unbending bastion for social conservatism. The Republican Party is an establishment and it will take more than the bombastic bluster of a blunt blowhard to destroy it, try as he might.

It is downright laughable that Black mentions Trump’s name after invoking the memories of Theodore or Franklin D. Roosevelt, Ronald Reagan, or even Richard M. Nixon, let alone that he would place Donald J. Trump next to these men on his voluminous biographical shelves. No doubt, Trump is a bright man. But being bright and capable of turning millions into billions does not a president-in-waiting make. Similar to the beauty queens that were not quite beautiful enough to be crowned in victory, as though a serious contender for the leadership of the free world is actually involved in such pandering, philistine pageantry, Mrs. Clinton, warts and all, is about to have the last laugh as she adorns Trump’s lapel with a shiny new 2016 Presidential Participation ribbon.