When Trapped by a Camel, Bite its Balls…

… and other Tales from the Arabian Nights.



THE SHEIK WAS FEELING…SNARKY. HE’D JUST returned from the Annual General Meeting of the Worshipful Order of Sheiks, where he’d given a TED Talk (“When Your Neighbours are Infidels: A Plea for Slightly Less Tolerance,” which had received only modest applause, hardly the ecstatic reception he’d fantasized) and where he’d been outvoted in his quixotic fight to stop women riding dromedaries on weekends (“Desperate Despot? Sheik Baked Over AGM Drom Com!”).

Let’s be frank: Sheiky was stressed out. No one was upholding traditional, tribal values, and when he told people that they had to align themselves with prehistoric legal codes written by the functionally illiterate, they just laughed.

Clearly it was only a matter of time before wives and daughters and mothers would have the right to leave home without permission in triplicate from the nearest male relative, or failing that, the oldest goat in the herd…

All of the high-achieving ancient prophets and saviors are male, have you noticed? God, Jesus, Joseph Smith, Mohammed, E. Ron Hubbard. They took over heaven like a bunch of CEO’s arranging a pricing cartel and stacked the decks against women. Paradise is a bunch of juicy young virgins catering to your every whim, no less! Women should hold their tongues in church! Cast your eyes down and act with modesty and deference to your male superiors! Eve, so the libel goes, brought sin into the world, shoved that apple right down Adam’s throat, I have no doubt!

{And wouldn’t it just be an apple. Apples! The least sensual fruit, crispy with virtue, hard-edged and painful in the mouth. You have to labour to get the joy from an apple, chew and chew, grind up the leathery red skin, all for the reward of a few paltry drops of sour water. It’s the Protestant work ethic in edible form.

Mortal sin should be a peach, with downy, pink-golden skin, its flesh soft as woman’s flesh, melting effortlessly with the most delicate bite, yielding to you, dripping juice down your chin and all over your hands, until you’re sticky with guilt and you reach for another and another.

A peach: Now that would be worth a thousand Edens, myriad angry gods. Fuck virtue! Grab some peaches, pack up your kit and give god the finger as you pass through the garden gate!}

Men had it all sewn up from the beginning. It’s like women overslept and didn’t get to the front of the line-up for the fire sale, and now they’ll never get the combo microwave convection oven for a dollar. The door crashers are GONE, girlfriends.

So much for nurturing, so much for Gaia and cocooning and Netflix and pizza! Where was your drive, your “can-do” attitude? Exactly!

… Anyway, as the Sheik did his AGM post-mortem, Shéhérazade just happened to walk by. She was fully veiled but her hair was in those big curlers the size of coke cans, and she was picking at a box of Turkish Delight.

The Sheik could sense her body shifting under her robes, and this made him think of a bright red tulip that dances fully unveiled in the meadow, caressed by the spring breeze.

Then it reminded him of the contents of a can of evaporated milk that you’ve set in boiling water, at the very moment it turns into caramel, gooey-sweet and luscious.

He perked up.

“Hey, you!” said the Sheik, and Shéhérazade froze in her tracks.

Getting singled out by the Sheik was a zero-sum, rigged game. It could mean another ruby and diamond cuff after a glorious night out at The Drake—or being dragged into Allan Gardens by a mob and impaled on a thousand spikes during Boxing Week.

Generally, however, his unpredictability was considered part of his quirky charm.

He continued, “You, with the, whatchamacallit, graceful stride of an antelope pursued by, I dunno, a cougar? Does that sound right? What’s your name again?”

Shéhérazade nibbled at the corner of another sweet as she considered how best to respond. No point getting him all in a twist with is it sh or sch or is it four or five syllables and is that s-h-a? or s-h-e with an acute accent—? She smelled rosewater, felt the powdery sugar soft on her tongue.

“Susan,” she replied. Her little white cat’s teeth sank into the translucent jelly, which resisted slightly, then offered itself.

“Just—call me Susan.”

“OK, look, little Suzie Q,” said the Sheik (because he was a man, and as such he couldn’t leave one single thing alone; he had to make even your name into a problem to be solved with diagrams and jokes or tarted up with curlicues and arabesques.)

“I’m cosmically bored. Tell me some unbelievable tales, but mark me well: They must truly be beyond comprehension or I shall see that something fiendish and terrible befalls you. I’ll—let’s see, now, cut off your arms and legs and put you in a jeweled box and all will be forbidden to see your beauty except me.

“I’ll wheel the jeweled box containing your torso out into the sunshine and I will let its cruel rays sparkle through the aquamarines and tourmalines and amethysts, glint off the gold leaf as you slowly die in agony—agony so unimaginable you will be unable even to weep!”

“Ok, Ok, I get the idea,” said Susan, adding under her breath, “Jeez, Louise, lighten up!” She continued: “I will tell you the Tale of the Little Black Dress!”

The Sheik settled back onto his throw cushions, lifted his goblet to his lips.

And so she began…


John Tory, Toronto’s kinda-sorta conservalib Mayor, has teamed up with Ford Nation for a truly spectacular outing of that Conservative little black dress with pearls, the Only Policies You’ll Ever Need: Lower taxes, tough on crime!

But I have to say. Though this outfit usually lends grace and style to the most lowly-born princess—and I know you can take the truth—John, you do not look lovely in it.

And you keep cutting off your toes so you can cram your feet into those Liberal Cinderella shoes. Kind of gross, what with all the blood, and in the end a waste of time, because they’re actually far too big for you.

Today’s tough-on-crime doo-dad goes: Toronto Community Housing Corporation will now be able to refuse applications from tenants who have been evicted for “criminal activity” such as drug dealing, assault or property damage.

I”ll pause for a sec until your fist-pumping and cries of “YES!!” die down.

I was pretty sure that property damage could also fall under a civil heading, but I stand corrected. Selling heroin, knocking over a potted plant; getting snippy with the receptionist or smacking your ex in the face with a two-by-four—it’s all equally reprehensible.

I get it. Once you’ve stepped over that line, you’re toast. Even public housing, mandated to supply, you know, housing to the public, will refuse you.

If you had any doubts about what a useless waste of skin you are, consider them resolved!

This measure is, says the article on Global News, “… part of a new strategy the province announced earlier this year to help create more housing and combat homelessness.”

And I ask you. Seriously. What better way to combat homelessness than making people homeless? Talk about obvious, staring you in the face solutions!

Sorry, did I say, “making people homeless?” Correction: Not PEOPLE. “Criminals,” or let’s just drop the namby-pamby Social Justice Warrior jargon and the Political Correctitude that has stifled us for too, too long, shall we? and call it like the fearless, truth-telling conservatives we are.

Not PEOPLE. Not CRIMINALS, even.

PIECES OF SHIT.

Man, I feel better already!

Reading carefully, I note that the article states, “evicted for” not “convicted of.” I’m wondering, you see, if these are evictions that could be based on perceptions, complaints, landlord harassment or malice.

Officially, evictions can be fought at a tribunal of the Landlord Tenant Board, but I’ve known many people who have been wrongly evicted yet either didn’t know their rights or were frightened to pursue the issue. Landlords terrorize their tenants in some cases knowing full well that tenants are intimidated and don’t trust the system to protect them.

Where will Pieces of Shit live, once they’ve been evicted? That’s not an issue, because the Conservatives are Tough on Crime and anyway what sort of nice, law-abiding actual people would care about Pieces of Shit?

Exactly.

Oh wait, that drug-dealing thing. Did you sell marijuana before October 17th, 2018? Because then you’d be a Piece of Shit. Off to the shelter with ya, low-life!

After that date, you would be a Groovy Cutting-Edge Entrepreneur, because suddenly, with another arbitrary wave of the wand that made you a Piece of Shit, you are now, bippity boppity boo, perfectly legal people, and please, sir, this way to your table for two while we valet-park your Mercedes!

Now the Ontario Government sells marijuana, but you went to jail for how many years?

So get yerself the finest cardboard box you can muster from the LCBO, stake out yer patch of Don Valley and don’t forget the Christmas lights and the tallboy can of Carlsberg Special.

Don’t worry: it’s legal.


Well, Nancy Pelosi is no longer the Speaker of the House!

— Donald Trump, to the Press, on hearing that Pelosi
had begun the formal process for impeachment,
September 25, 2019

Now to our mandatory, but necessarily brief, morning rounds in the world’s largest psychiatric ward, the United States of Fucktardery.

Did You Know:

Trump has been influencing the stock market for a couple of years now. Oh yes, siree, he has, so there goes your idea that at least we knew the worst; far from it, my pretties, for “the worst” is a constantly raised hurdle in the gladiator tournament that is the Trump Administration. There the daily goal is: Can you outsprint your personal best worst? You can but try, little warrior, and we who are about to die, salute you!

We’re re-enacting the last gasps of Rome; every day another razor cut on the face of decorum, another fingernail yanked from civility’s hand. And Truth? Ambushed, stabbed in the back.

In the mornings we take a deep breath and check our devices. We don’t know what to expect, we are more on our toes than a clutch of assassins sneaking up on Caesar in the Senate. What will the Twitter Fates decree?

Will he hint at a nuclear strike? Fire Debra Messing? Unilaterally do something dastardly in Iran? Deploy troops? Bring troops home? Call the FBI liars? Take medicine away from terminally ill children? Reconfigure the path of a hurricane? Bribe a hooker? Instruct a trial witness to change his testimony? Ban Muslims? Or vaping? Or make fun of a rape victim?

Such a cornucopia of possibilities in a world where anything tacky, mindless or potentially apocalyptic is possible!

In the service of the enigma that is Trump, every Tweet is vivisected with reverence; intern hands are plunged into its still quivering guts like the wizened hands of augurs squishing through the entrails of an Imperial Roman chicken, to uncover its hidden depths.

How have we not figured out that there are no hidden depths? Trump is one of those trillion monkeys whose random typing will produce Shakespeare’s sonnets, only he’s not the one.

Trump’s Looney-Toon self-serving fantasies, distributed to millions of innocent Twitter users, have, however, caught the attention of stock analysts, who note that a word here or a word there from The Great Mouth Breather can send stocks plummeting or soaring.

Is this just because he so pretty he don’t think too good about the repercussions? Or is it, as one analyst believes, that he’s deliberately manipulating the market to punish his foes and/or to enrich himself?

Hmmmm. I’d say—yes!



Andrew Scheer’s “Find Some Dope on Trudeau” team hit paydirt last week, unearthing not one, not two, but three pictures of Trudeau in blackface.

And although all of these images hugely pre-date Justin’s entry into politics (and although you could equally argue that as the son of a revered, two-times Prime Minister of Canada, Justin was never not in politics), how could I not feel happy for Scheer and his Dementors, because surely the continual effort of simply fabricating lies and feeding them to social media was beginning to feel a bit desperate.

These images have since gone virally international, being referenced on The Late Show and TIME Magazine, among many others.

In fact, TIME Magazine broke the story, completely catching the Canadian Press by surprise. Let me explain further: A rookie reporter, Anna Purna Kambhampaty, with no experience with headlining, breaking stories, who attended a conservative-aligned American Christian school, received a “tip” from a “Michael Adamson” who no one can track down, and was published in TIME, whose editorial staff did not verify the sources or fact-check the story.

In other words, it is possible that conservative-aligned players deliberately encouraged a major American publication to interfere in a Canadian election.

Read the full, and at 28 minutes to read, I mean full, analysis of possible dirty tricks » HERE.

As for the actual blackface pictures, I have no excuse to put forward. I’m reeling with disappointment, not because of any poor judgement involved but because he obviously exercised no judgement at all. He apparently believed, without considering the implications of his belief, that this was an acceptable and amusing thing to do.

They say that the sons squander the fortune that the father creates. Justin squanders the legacy of his father, who was a fierce, plain-spoken, authoritarian progressive with the common touch, a man who said, as he invoked martial law against terrorists who had kidnapped two diplomats, “Just watch me.”

Just watch me, and you’ll know what’s happening. Just watch me handle this emergency, and damn your pious talk of civil rights. It was a shocking, courageous, necessary outrage, and Pierre’s legacy lives on, Canada lives on, because of his courage.

Pierre’s legacy is noble, big, all-encompassing, erudite, proud, logical and consistent; pragmatic and visionary. Pierre was a politician of the old school.

Justin says, “Just ignore me.” Justin’s legacy is “Don’t do as I do, do as I say.” Justin’s legacy is a gender-balanced cabinet, transgender rights codified; these are good things, indeed.

But these are easy achievements, niche brownie points for most people. The big achievements that might have been— standing up to big oil and yet not alienating the province that lives on oil; following through on electoral reform; making his case for SNC-Lavalin without the appearance of being underhand, opaque and arrogant; real, instead of Twitter, diplomacy with the King of Saudi about women’s rights that might have bought an activist her freedom—none of these materialized.

Did we fever-dream it all in our post-Harper recovery?

Instead we found out too late that he is an apple fallen far from the tree in achievement but not in entitlement. We’ve seen and been appalled by his weak, defensive management style in not addressing issues proactively or understanding the confusion and impatience of an electorate who sought the ghost of his father and ended up with a two-bit Hamlet. When Trump frenemied him, we were not proud of our PM who stood up to the Big Guy; we felt protective, a worrisome clue.

It’s as though, in taking on the mantle of his father which we offered him, he showed gung-ho willing but in the end had no investment in the role; he hadn’t saved Canada, he hadn’t pulled it all together. That was someone else’s project, and he didn’t know where to find the documentation, the brand assets or the right fonts. His heart isn’t in it; it’s not life or death. He’s the politician as consultant, in and out, and he never knows the name of the receptionist.

He takes after his mother, the infinitely annoying Margaret Sinclair, the prototype spoiled princess (Diana took up the template when the ink had barely dried) who married above her station for the glory and then shied like a new mare at the gate when she realized that she was not just the plaything of a hot daddy: this business involved duty and public life.

Fuddle-duddle that shit! said she, or words to that effect, as off to Studio 54 she trotted to be banged by rock stars, snort cocaine and live the life she was born to, that of a privileged, worthless debutante, which is what she’d wanted in the first place, just with better photo opps.

Once again, nobody is paying attention except the right wing. Once again, progressives dig our own graves by bringing water pistols to a battle being fought with rocket launchers.


Let’s finish with these pictures and get on with our lives. There are three instances of Trudeau in blackface:

First photo is from 2001, when he was a 29-year-old teacher at a school in Vancouver and was attending an Arabian Nights- themed gala

Second is from when he was performing in a talent show as a student at high school

Third is video footage from the early 1990s, when Mr Trudeau would have been in his late teens or early 20s

In other words, these are pictures of a high school student, a teenager and a teacher at a private school, where the fellow guests at this particular “Aladdin” themed event that took place nearly twenty years ago were surprised that anyone would take this seriously or as an indication of Trudeau’s values.

Indeed many Canadians of as many shades of brown and black as you would like have dismissed these images as, not harmless, but certainly not indicating a secret Justin we never knew, or a closet racist bent on baking his prejudice into legislation. They express mainly two views: It was many years ago, these were the acts of a boy in a particular time and place, they were intended, however misguidedly, as harmless fluff; or that they find the images offensive but accept Trudeau’s heartfelt apology.

In other words, NO ONE CARES about Trudeau the teenager in blackface for a school play. Get serious, people.

This is Canada, Murgatroyd McGraw! We don’t like a big fuss and besides, we’re not all that stocked up with photogenic, charismatic and clever. If we took this more seriously than it warranted, we’d be looking at Andrew Scheer, who openly consorts with white supremacists, tells us he won’t revisit abortion, but that he’ll certainly allow his backbenchers to bring forward private bills to be voted on “according to conscience,” in other words, he is going to revisit abortion; Scheer, who worked for a politician who believed homosexuality should be re-criminalized.

Andrew Scheer has refused to denounce the Yellow Vest elements within the United We Roll group who have accused the prime minister of treason, called for violence against Justin Trudeau and who have been spewing hate and violence against immigrants. He has refused to condemn statements by one of his own Senators who asked the truckers participating in the United We Roll rally to “roll over every Liberal left in the country.”

Lana Payne, The ChronicalHerald.ca
https://www.thechronicleherald.ca/opinion/lana-payne-the-conservatives-have-a-racism-problem-288659/

We’re looking at the appalling Maxime Bernier, who all but wears a little moustache and a swastika on his arm, whose platform is non-existent except for complete denial of the science of climate change, and whose “People’s Party” exists solely to stoke division and hate;

We’re looking at Jagmeet Singh: An honorable man, a man of integrity, and who I’m ashamed to say may be unelectable because of his turban. In fact, the entire NDP party in New Brunswick just defected to the Green Party, because their constituents are so unable to get past Mr Singh’s religion (he’s Sikh), they feel their party is doomed.

Here’s the choice: Vote for the guy who, not twenty years ago, but within the past four has welcomed refugees, made a commitment to reparations for native Canadians, stood up for human rights in Canada and abroad, stood up to Trump, and wowed us with his fashion flair; or vote for the guy who, not twenty years ago, but within living memory, has compared gay people to dogs, hangs out with bona fide white supremacists, and gets all slippery about his intent regarding women’s reproductive rights.

If we’re going to fall, and I sense we are going to, let’s fall forward. Shall we?

Justin, you’re just as cute as a little red wagon. Now take off your cojone-shaped earrings and put those little suckers back where they belong.

Meanwhile, down in Loosiana…


an American woman bit the testicles of a 600-lb camel in order to escape when it sat on her (her arms were pinned down, too). She and her husband were visiting a petting zoo at a truck stop—we could conceivably stop right here for our ham sandwiches and Thermos of Tim Horton’s, but I’ve got lots to cover— and had thrown treats into the camel’s enclosure. Their dog ran into the enclosure, they ran after the dog, and that’s when the terrible camel sitting moment occurred.

Their dog is deaf, by the way.

Three cheers, then, for good old American pluck and ingenuity in the war against the stupidity of the same person exercising the pluck and ingenuity.

Truck stop manager Pamela Bossier says she was shocked and angered by the incident.

“What happened Wednesday was kind of really crazy,” she told local news station WBRZ. “She actually bit him in his private area. That’s about as nice as I could put it.”

I wish I was kidding.

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We Sincerely Hope Our Election Won’t Disturb Your Sleep …

plus: Facebook is the idiot-maker.


Carolyn Strom, R.N.: Self-made victim of the Facebook justice system.

IT BEING MY BIRTHDAY COMING UP and all, I treated myself, as one does, to a little bit of narcissistic self-analysis, in the form of the Myers-Briggs personality test.

The Myers-Briggs personality test is perfect for when you’ve gotten tired of astrology or palm-reading, want a little more cachet, but don’t want to burden yourself with anything too accurate or scientific. Lighten up, Mr J. Robert Oppenheimer!

Myers-Briggs is the real deal, having been concocted by the mother-daughter team of Katharine Cook Briggs and Isabel Briggs Myers in the spare time they could find between un-moulding the jellied ambrosia salads for the church social and retying each other’s corsets, and based on tinkering with the poetic but utterly unscientific, even dotty, theories of Carl Jung.

 Katharine Cook Briggs and her daughter Isabel Briggs Myers

Myers-Briggs is routinely referred to as pseudoscience, has poor predictability, poor repeatability (you can easily get a different result if you try again), it doesn’t account for neuroses or any personality disorders, and basically it’s just a load of old codswallop that’s maybe fun to administer to your friends when you have your Monopoly nights.

In the end I self-diagnosed as an extraverted introvert, meaning I’m constantly on a knife edge of confident self-doubt. I don’t quite know why I fall into this two-headed, comic-tragic, hi-lo self-esteem upward-downward spiral. I realize that everyone is unique, everyone has value and everyone’s story is different, which is why I should never compare myself to anyone and goddamnit how come he has over one hundred thousand followers of his blog while I have just over two hundred after five years?!

But that’s typical of an extraverted introvert with a knickerbocker twist. I’m the kind of guy who writes a kick-ass book, then fails to publicize it, which means I’ve sold three copies in the year since I bore down in a bathtub full of warm gin and tonic and Lamaze’d it into being.

Meanwhile I keep re-reading it, which means I keep nit-picking, and of course there’s no longer any hope of responding to my own humor in a spontaneous way. The whole project feels limp, deflated, like the balloons the day after your birthday party.

My birthday party, for which I intend to knock back a gin cooler or three from the liquor store and practise the Beethoven Opus 126 Bagatelles, will be this Saturday, September 21st. I’m going to be sixty-four years old. You may, in your imagination, kiss my gnarly hand and tell me how much I don’t look it, then slowly withdraw, because, and I know you can take the truth, you’re not on the list. Actually, no one is—just this once I’d like to experience an important milestone that isn’t all mucked up with guests.

The only invitee is my five-year-old self, who’s always here anyway, gazing out through these astonished eyes the way a fish trapped in its goldfish bowl gazes at the shimmering, wavy world beyond.

I feel the inside of my crusty iguana-skin, I stomp my webbed feet and I wonder what happened to the pale, milky-cool velvet integument of my childhood. I still reach out with the arms of a five-year-old, still love like one, still break down like one.

I once loved someone so much that when they left me, I literally thought I would die. I cried for a day and a night, for a week, for six months, for a year; I cried until I flipped inside out and stood like a long-forgotten martyr flayed for a lost cause, my heart and guts and liver and every internal organ that could feel pain dangling, glistening red and purple, from my bloodied trunk. I was stunned, slaughtered and butchered in the abattoir of love, and yet I didn’t die.

I didn’t die.

But I never slept in my bedroom again.

I’m persistent despite the odds; I’m lichen on a tree stump, moss on stone; insistently unlovely. I have grim determination, which means I’m handy to have around when you need someone to open that pickle jar.

What’s up with me at sixty-four? I’m shocked as the ghosts of my lost friends start to crowd around me at night, whispering that it’s OK and they’ll see me soon. I listen to Beethoven’s last five string quartets, his final confession and urgent advice to the future; mankind’s only necessary music.

My parents are dead, I’m estranged from my siblings, I’m currently sharing my one-bedroom apartment with three charming renegades, the tax people have garnished my monthly government pension and, all in all, life is way more interesting than I had any right to expect.


We’re approaching the day when the Canadian Federal Election limps across the unavoidably advancing finish line—oh, sweet Jeezus, no, I don’t know the date though it may have something to do with Canadian Thanksgiving or it may not.

How the election campaign begins is: we simply flip the switch to “on” and sit back. No primaries, no ticker-tape, no accusations of rape, or mass shootings or failed space launches. Just FLIP, ping! and we’re good. You’d have to have the compound eyes of a deer tick to notice any change.

“Hey, what was that tiny pinging noise?”
“That’s the Canadian Federal Election starting!”
“Are you trying to be funny?”
“I wish.”

This non-startiness is because we’ve spurned the American M.O., which is: de-educate your citizens, yell at the black people, make up stupid shit and Tweet about it, enlist foreign powers to destabilize the country by exacerbating social tensions, make up some more stupid shit, declare your press enemies of the people, declare your closest allies enemies of the Prez, discipline the weather agency for contradicting you, show contempt for the judiciary, yell at the Mexicans, stack the Supreme Court, then give everyone permission to donate as many billions of dollars as they want to buy the election for the candidate of their choice, which all makes for lousy democracy but superlative theatre.

Democracy… Theatre… Democracy… Theatre

You can see how easy it might be to get conflicted about this.

Of course, this means that Canada, with its geeky rules about political donations (they’re limited to $1,500 per person, and labour unions and corporations can’t contribute) must be socialist, at which epithet I chortle heartily even as I struggle to hoist my liver-spotted, chain-laden arms to the keyboard.

Ayn Rand, who conservatives worldwide keep mistaking for Milton Friedman, would have said we’ve “sold our rights for free healthcare!”

Ms. Rand was scarred by her experience with the Bolsheviks, so we can forgive her confusing authoritarian state capitalism, i.e. “communism,” with citizens voting for a benefit to which they willingly contribute their tax dollars, which they all love, and which results in happier, healthier participants in the consumer economy.

Take that, crazy-novel lady, and here’s a shout-out to your awkwardly named characters: Dagny Taggart, Ragnar Danneskjöld, Wesley Mouch, Howard Roark and Gail Wynand (a man). Rand may have had a certain vision and a dollop of sheer audacity, but her ear was pure tin.


I’ve been in total avoidance mode about, well, any of the alternatives to Justin Trudeau, frankly. But it’s time to man up and think about— UGH— Maxime Bernier, our very own Québec-grown authoritarian-nationalist white supremacist-misogynist candidate, the leader of the People’s Party of Canada. (We don’t, by the way, elect the Prime Minister; we vote for the party of our choice, whose leader then becomes PM.)

We are in the tradition of liberalism up here, which, like the development of common law, is a slow, dare I say, conservative process. We don’t throw everything out and start fresh. We don’t talk revolt or tyranny. We don’t nail everything down. We like nuance, interpretation, shades of grey. It takes us a century to ask for our own flag, even longer to repatriate the constitution.

We’re a pack of earnest Boy Scouts and Girl Guides who’ve finally achieved every merit badge, chanting our so-boring-it’s-woke mantra “peace, order and good government” with the self-conscious superiority of kids cleaning their plates of Brussels sprouts.

We are not republicans, up here in the cold-as-a witch’s-penumbra north. We are loyalists, which means we rebel by not rebelling; we are not a country in our own right, with a distinctive identity. We are whatever the revolutionaries were before they revolted. We are “not the United States.”

Because we did not rebel but remained a colony of the British Empire, we are more in tune with those who want another country’s protection. We understand what it means to take the high road and be the adult in the room, to know that we have every right to be isolationist and look to our own first, but to decide not to exercise that right.

The last guy who cared very much about any of this was Pierre, Justin’s dad. When Canada was about to unravel he gripped that idea with both hands and he held us together by the force of his will and by his arrogant belief that we should get what we needed, not what we wanted. He would not let us disintegrate because he could not let the idea of Canada die.

That kind of certainty is rare. Mainly we are full of self-doubt, unlike our British forebears with their five-hundred years of lawns hand-rolled by Capability Brown and tarnished, inherited silver services for twenty. The least little remark from a snarky American who hasn’t read the playbill about how we’re coolest on the block can send us, by which I mean me, into a tizzy of defensiveness.

Why, just this week on Twitter a creature called “Diana Death” (@TheeDianaDeath), a self-styled “rock musician and politically incorrect humorist”, invited herself to an exchange and told me that Americans “don’t give a scintilla of shit about your cheesey Charter;” and how could I respond except to point out:

“Diana, take it from a gay guy: You have the wrong kind of tits for that outfit.”

But getting back, reluctantly, to Maxime Bernier and the election: Maxime is the sweet, or angry, or reasonable, or vicious, face of the People’s Party of Canada.

Now I ask you—does that not sound promising? There couldn’t be anything ironic about having “people” (or “democratic” or “republic”) in the name of a political party, right? And anyway, everyone has to have a “People’s Party” these days, darling! Don’t be left behind! Don’t be caught flaunting some tatty, worn out, twentieth-century human rights thing; brown shirts are the new navy blue of conservatism worldwide!

It’s People’s Parties, and For the People, common people and right-thinking people and particularly white people. Good honest, hard-working people! Not rapists or gang members or illegals or invasions or infestations!

People—! People who need people! ♫ are the most right-wing people—in the world—!

Maxime’s for people, except when people are teenagers, female and refuse to shut up about climate change. He thinks it’s good politicking to bring out big ammunition to crush Greta Thunberg, a sixteen-year-old girl from Sweden who’s so fired up about this disaster, she’s traveled the world on a yacht (zero carbon profile!) to raise awareness. Bernier thereby demonstrates what teams of researchers in Sweden, studying climate-change denial (yes, it’s an actual subject for academic study now) have found: That there’s a direct correlation between climate denial and being a white-supremacist misogynist male, that there are guys who believe the planet was given by a white, WASP god to white, WASP men to abuse and dominate the same way they abused and dominated their womenfolk.

These are the guys who are threatened that their place in the sun has been taken over by a new generation terrified and angry about this chaos that’s been dumped in their laps.

(Click to view larger version.)

This is Bernier’s EIGHT-PART Tweet diatribe against a 16-year-old climate activist.

It’s a shameful outburst, uncontrolled and gratuitously nasty. He revels, like all abusers, in his power over those he perceives as weaker than him. It arouses revulsion in me, the same revulsion that I felt in Grade Six when our Principal whipped, with a barber’s huge black razor strop, the hands of a fellow classmate, a girl, who endured this torture and returned to her desk shaking uncontrollably, convulsed with sobs, her spastic fingers telegraphing an indecipherable message of confusion, betrayal and grief.

Many Canadians, noticing that he’s polling at only three percent, don’t take Bernier seriously, but I do. I remember how little we took Trump seriously. Do you?

And if that doesn’t make your ovaries descend, think of this: It doesn’t matter if Bernier’s party, the party of white supremacy and “pure laine,” falls into the ditch. He will have done his work, which is to make racism a topic, to normalize the discussion and make us ponder whether there might not be “good people on both sides,” that is to say, good racists.

And now it sounds like a legitimate comment when we say it’s the Chinese buying up all the condos; though no one is ever able to explain to me what the problem is with Chinese people buying condos, even all of the condos, as opposed to white people buying condos. The problem, apparently, is self-evident to everyone but me.

I’m being precious, of course, because we all know very well that the problem with “Chinese people buying all the condos” is that the Chinese people are all Chinese.

We do things our own way up here: In ‘Murica ya got yer slavery, up here we have the Canadian tradition, dating back to the eighteenth century, of head taxing Asians, throwing them in internment camps and working them to death, literally, laying track for our glorious Canadian Pacific Railway so our superiority can gleam from sea to shining sea.

But there I go, standing on the wall and screaming at wooden horses again. The body politic are like boulder-headed teenagers: You long to save them from the fatal mistakes of your youth, but they’re too busy buzzing their hair into Mohawks and hiking up their tartan schoolgirl skirts to listen to your desperately uncool warnings.

Every generation thinks they’ve nailed it, and we dinosaurs have to sit back and endure their predictable screams of outrage as we watch them climb those stairs to the attic room and open the very door, the only door, they were forbidden to open. It’s almost not worth the pleasure of saying “I told you so.”


We now head west, for the next plate of canapés in my tasting menu of annoyance will be served in the cloakroom: that ever-so-flat, barely-remembered Cinderella of Canada’s provinces, Saskatchewan. But first I have to stop for a little joke, OK? Bear with me.


An American couple have just collected their luggage at the airport and are figuring out where to go next, when they spot another couple, both dressed in heavy winter overcoats, tuques, gloves, snow boots, scarves, the full get-up.

The American wife says to her husband, “Oh, Harry, look at those inneresting people! Do you think they’re Canadians? I’m gonna go find out!”

She walks over to the couple who are all decked out in their winter clothes, and she says, “Excuse me, but would ya’ll mind tellin’ me where you’re from?”

The startled winterized guy looks at his winterized companion, then back at the American woman. The two of them say to her, in perfect unison, “Saskatoon, Saskatchewan!”

The American woman, taken aback, returns to her husband’s side.

“So,” he says to her. “Did y’all find out anything? Where are they from?”

“I dunno,” says the wife. “They didn’t speak any English!”


So it seems that in Saskatchewan a Registered Nurse made a complaint on Facebook about the allegedly poor treatment her grandfather received while in palliative care. Here’s a little of what she wrote:

“It is evident that not everyone is ‘up to speed’ on how to approach end of life care … or how to help maintain an aging senior’s dignity (among other things!)… To those who made Grandpa’s last year’s [sic] less than desirable, please do better next time!” 

Now, this seems fairly innocuous, right? Not to the Saskatchewan Registered Nurses’ Association, several of whose members launched a complaint.The nurse, Carolyn Strom, was brought before the SRNA’s Tribunal accused of violating their code of conduct for social media and bringing the nursing profession into disrepute by her remarks.

Strom was fined $1,000 and asked to pay the $25,000 cost of bringing her to the Tribunal. A Court of Appeal reaffirmed this decision (courts are reluctant to contradict the decisions of self-monitoring professional bodies). Strom, who has been dealing with this fallout since 2015, is due this week for a final appeal.

You can read more about the case » starting here.

I feel that I need to justify my fascination with this rather obscure case. I can only tell you that freedom of speech, and other rights, become very interesting when they come into conflict with others’ rights. How are we to decide whose rights get precedence?

Let’s think about this. Ms Strom took her complaint and aired it in public. On Facebook. What is it about this crass social media platform that is so seductive? It’s ugly in design, puerile in attitude, its algorithms can’t tell the difference between art, news and spam, it’s run by an entitled brat who sells our data to private companies and feigns surprise when it’s revealed that mysterious PR firms are rewriting reality in order to subvert democratic elections, and yet where do we run to?

We literally don’t seem to care how sinful it all is; I say “sinful” as only an atheist can say it, as a crime against the natural and good. Facebook makes idiots of us all, every time we use it.

Carolyn Strom made an idiot of herself when she broadcast her complaint on Facebook. She was seduced by the irresistible urge to give shade, to take her grief about her grandfather and neutralize it, turn it into a brisk efficient trip to customer service.

Because here’s the deal: by all accounts, Ms Strom did not once, ever, voice her complaints to the nurses at the facility during her apparently infrequent visits. We’re in the realm of guilty until proven innocent, trial by public opinion.

The nurses, unnamed by Strom but for all practical purposes easily identifiable by anyone who cared to make the effort, have been accused—but which of them and of what? They have no way to defend themselves against what is just insinuation. Every one of them is now under the shadow of this vague complaint, competent and “incompetent” alike.

Bad enough for a member of the public to complain this way, in a transparent, at least to us, attempt to obtain sympathy for her relative’s death. For a member of the nursing profession to do so, knowing full well that her actions were in defiance of professional standards and procedures she was bound to uphold, is unfair, unjust, and just plain tacky.

Welcome to social media, where everyone’s the star of their own monodrama, where we’re stuck in a twilight world of my side and your side, but rarely the point in the middle where the truth lives, messy and shaded with grey and letting no one off the hook.

Communication is a hard slog. Voicing your complaint to a real person, in the flesh, in real time, you can hear your self-justifications and convenient white lies fall flat in the dead space between you and them. Seeing someone’s skeptical face, experiencing their lack of investment in your innocence, is bracing as well as humbling. Unless you’ve truly been horribly abused with no provocation, you’ll feel like a kid who’s lying about who broke the window with the baseball. You’ll feel that most public of emotions, shame.

Far easier to sing your aria in an echo-chamber to a hand-picked audience of sympathizers, who’ll co-opt your story and take up your “cause.” Then you can all tut-tut together. Why solve the problem when it gives back so generously?

I have noticed over the years that some people crave negative experiences, even gladly paying for a fancy version that will impress the neighbours. Strom’s bill, at $26,000, with the luxury extras of a self-critical essay and a mandatory course in ethics, makes this the Rolls Royce of disappointment.


So, Merry Birthday to me, god bless us every one, vote anything but Conservative and don’t take any wooden nickels.

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On Differences of Opinion

Flash mobs of stupid conservative bigots are monopolizing our headspace



OCCASIONALLY, DEAR READER, I AM FORCED to come up with a statement of principles. This usually happens when I’ve been online, getting exasperated by and attempting to respond to the comments of conservatives who are all in a panic about some class of people they disapprove of, like gay people or liberals or women, being happy and exercising their rights.

If there’s something a modern-day conservative hates, it’s people they disapprove of being happy and free and shoving their equality down everyone’s throats. Man oh man—!

My incessant life’s work is grappling with, untangling and decoding conservative “logic.” Conservative logic is an act of contortion that the Cirque de soleil would have rejected for its latest Vegas show as being too demanding, for conservative logic is always trying to prove that some minority’s insistence on the right to live their life with the same rights, benefits and protections as anyone else constitutes a denial of the rights of conservatives.

The assumptions underlying this logic are never clearly articulated, either because conservatives are too entitled to bother thinking through the implications of what they’re saying, or because they understand the implications perfectly and sense how outrageous they are.

These assumptions are that only a select class of people, the best people—the aristoi—have rights; and that these best people are by definition WASP, heterosexual and male. To allow other, non-best people—the demos—to have rights devalues those rights.

It’s like a conservative’s wife seeing her immigrant housemaid dressed in a replica of her Christian Lacroix ballgown, a cheap imitation that the maid constructed herself during her coffee break using plastic tablecloths from Dollarama. And here’s the galling bit: it looks better than his wife’s, because she’s happy wearing it.

Relentlessly co-opting street culture and sucking it dry of meaning, the conservative’s wife runs out and buys a plaid Vivienne Westwood number bristling with sterling silver safety pins and randomly-placed zippers that have no function and calls herself a punk, even though if the conservative saw an actual punk approaching their front door he’d grab his assault weapon and shoot them.

This is the analogy. Anything the grimy hands of a non-conservative touches is tainted forever. So, if I, a gay male, get to marry my partner, I’ve spoiled conservatives’ exclusive right to and definition of marriage: “One man, one woman.” (Unbelievably, no one consulted me about this definition.)

For women to get equal pay is to destroy the idea that men’s work is inherently more valuable, usually expressed as “all of the businesses in the universe will tank from the expense of paying women equally, so, like, we can’t.”

Included in this argument is the lie that “there isn’t enough money,” because there’s always room in the savings account for a nuclear warhead or a gerrymandering project, to name two.

Missing from this argument is the concept that people’s rights aren’t subject to budgetary constraints. They’re not expendable if they are expensive. They need to be recognized, and now.

Conservatives are depressingly similar: a tight-assed gang of spoiled brats and shrieking bullies in Lacoste polo shirts who can’t bear to think about women having abortions, me getting married to a dude, gender identity, anthropogenic climate change, up-to-date sex education in schools or national anthem kneelers; anything that reminds them that they’re in the twenty-first century.

We do try. We want to be good parents to these maladapted children. We strap them into the high chair, we feed them the nourishing creamed spinach of inclusiveness, “this is the airplane coming into the hangar!” but they spit it right back in our faces.

My doomed attempts at educating the insistently ignorant and the perpetual onslaught of their thin-lipped rage has caused me the type of frustration that can only be relieved by bending forward and smacking my face repeatedly on the surface of my desk.

The more I do this, the more I resemble a fourth Trump son, sibling to the two Frankenstein Foreheads. Frankenforehead the Fourth, who you don’t know about because they keep him hidden in the White House attic, is the Washington, D.C. version of the first, mad Mrs. Rochester, except instead of emulating her and setting fire to the place, he stomps around with a lighted candelabra at the stroke of midnight and whispers tweets and other assorted sound-bytes in Donald’s ear.

“Psst! Don’t forget to call the Swedish Prime Minister and guarantee bail for A$AP Rocky! Even though Sweden doesn’t have bail and their leaders are forbidden to interfere with the legal system, but they’re SURE to make an exception for you!”

“Psst! Homeboy! When you make your Fourth of July speech, don’t forget to include how George Washington closed all the airports during the American Revolution! Yep, just throw that in any old where! Oh boy oh boy! This is gonna be even bigger than your inauguration! Biggest audience in, like. The history! of Time?!”

So that’s how the process goes that leads up to my statement of principles. I beat my forehead on the desk. I push back, I untangle. I decode. I attempt an answer. I beat the forehead again.

Also I cry. Let’s not forget the crying. And I’m not talking polite, “excuse me for a moment while my lips quiver and I sincerely hope my suicidal ideation and free-floating misery wasn’t too much of a downer, eh?” apologetic, Canadian-style crying, either.

I’m talking Man-Sobs: great, honking, moist, gasping, choking, snot-flying asthmatic gulps and mucus-y snorffles that would make you back away in alarm, fearing that this heralds my projectile vomiting onto your Yves St. Laurent smoking jacket, whilst literally an entire St. Lawrence Seaway of tears and saliva and invasive species pours down my face.

When I Man-Sob, my face looks like an open lock on the Welland Canal, if the locks on the Welland Canal were made of aging human flesh and covered with patchy, unkempt hair.

If only I could figure out how to make all of this aerobic. Or, failing that, just monetize the shit out of it.


PUBLIC DISCOURSE HAS BECOME POLARIZED to the degree that it’s scary and stressful to broach certain subjects with people, even worse when someone you thought you knew, your mom, for example, or your co-worker, initiates an exchange clearly assuming you hold the same bigoted views.

And I’m pushing back with less and less energy. I’ve lost some of the, how can I put this, spunk. I have less piss and vinegar. My responses are weary.

Instead of just slipping into my nuclear-grade conservative-proof overalls and flailing my hands at the keyboard, or in the face of the bigot, I first pause and consider what I might be getting myself into.

Do I want to be rolling on the ground at the bus stop, mud wrestling with a supporter of Andrew Scheer as we each attempt to bite off our opponent’s nose and pull out handfuls of each other’s hair?

Was it really on my agenda to have my face shoved into my plateful of gazpacho and my ears lobbed off with a vegetable peeler?

Did I willingly wake up this morning to the delighted realization that “I promised myself that today I will deliver a sharp, corrective thrust of my Doc Martens to the groin area of a Christian who’s decided gay men are Satan’s secret sauce! Yippee!”?

There is very little consensus remaining about our fundamental rights. When Lyndon Johnson kicked off a War on Poverty, or Pierre Trudeau affirmed Canadian multiculturalism, people supported them, or if they didn’t, at least they didn’t let on. These were not controversial ideas, they were mainstream.

I know that everyone says it’s Trump’s fault that there’s more polarization now, less agreement, more hatred and bigotry and stupidity, but that’s not entirely correct.

Don’t blame Trump for bringing bigotry into the world. The bigotry was there. The stupidity was there. He just took out his Stupidity Wand and went dowsing for Kellyanne Conway; he put on his hard hat with the lamp on it and went down the historical mineshaft to extract humungus ante-bellum boulders of bigotry.

Trump did not add to the sum total of bigotry and stupidity. He validated the bigots and the stupid people who’d been there waiting for him. He role-modeled, he set the gold standard for bigotry and made it super awesomely cool to be stupid.

For stupid, bigoted people he was aspirational. Now stupid bigoted parents could look at their stupid, bigoted kids and say, “Look, Thelma! Maybe one day you could be stupid, bigoted President! Isn’t that nifty? Oh, except that will never happen because, you know. Girl.”

Previously all the stupid people and bigoted people were in the closet, figuring out ways to “pass.” They had a suitable sense of shame about their condition.

They cocooned, developing economic theories that proved the market would effortlessly provide all of our needs in just the right quantities and at just the right price points if we stopped regulating it. This was the Stupid Theory of Economics, now taught worldwide, cooked up by Milton Friedman, a Stupid Economist.

This theory, incidentally, is the reason you and your extended family are now migrant workers sleeping in an abandoned railway car underneath the Bloor Street Viaduct.

Because stupid people get bored easily they need to fill every last minute of their waking lives, and then some. In the old days, traveling incognito, they would dress up like “Libertarians” and “Neo-Liberals” and convene in small groups to study the Second Amendment. These became the members of the Stupid NRA, who were astonished to discover that, although this Amendment is on the surface clearly referring to an 18th-century volunteer militia using muskets as a last-ditch effort against an oppressive, warring government, it is also effective at subtly conveying the Founders’ unmistakable intent that everyone in America should be issued a recreational automatic weapon at birth.

For geekier, computer-type fun they’d log on to ICQ chat rooms and make thought-provoking statements like, “I don’t think the earth can be round because we would just, like, fall off, I know, right? Pass it on.”

Now? The stupid bigoted people, swarming on Twitter in a new Day of the Locusts, have taken their cue from The Big Man, The Great Mouth Breather. They’re empowered, they’re vocal as hell, they’re no longer ashamed, and they’re gradually drowning out all but the most persistent liberal voices. They’re not going to take it anymore, whatever they’ve decided “it” is.

This is the kind of transformation that can happen when the leader of the most powerful nation on earth endorses something, like steaks or hooker sex or capital punishment.

Or stupidity and bigotry. Shares are through the roof!


ONE OF THE MANY WEIRD CONCEPTS going around is that freedom of expression is under attack and that people are being censored and silenced by the intolerant left (a concept usually expressed by someone speaking to their audience of millions on YouTube). The idea is that expressing an opposing viewpoint to a progressive is like thrusting a head of garlic and a cross into the face of a vampire, that we’ll explode, or whatever it is that vampires do in those circumstances.

Hence our “safe spaces,” our “political correctness” our “snowflakiness.” YOU are the fascists, the right says to us.

I don’t have time to personally address every single stupid and/or bigoted person, though I know some of you walked miles through a tornado then grabbed an Uber to get here today. Please try to understand, though I’m not holding my breath. I need to make this shit scalable.

I want to provide a public service at this point and define for you what is, and what is not, a difference of opinion.

Here’s Example One:

“I think we should provide healthcare by allowing people to keep their private insurance if they want.” / “I think we should provide healthcare using a single-payer model, like Canada and Britain.” / “I think government should stay out of the business of providing healthcare. The market will provide the best price and options if we just leave it alone.”

Those are differences of opinion. Although I strongly disagree with the last one, (because the evidence doesn’t support it) vive le difference, it makes the democratic world go ‘round. We’re smart enough — I think — to weigh the evidence and vote accordingly.

Another example:

“First-past-the-post voting is a disaster, because the party that gets into power doesn’t always have a majority of the votes.” / “Proportional representation is a disaster, because you end up with coalitions that give the third-level party undue influence on policies.”

Those are differences of opinion. They’re both concerned with a fair outcome to elections, an outcome that would best represent voters’ wishes.

With me so far?

Now let’s look at the following examples:

“ Women who have abortions should receive the death penalty. They should be hanged.”

is not a difference of opinion.

“If people want to criticize the government, they’re traitors.”

is not a difference of opinion.

“If you don’t like it here, you should go back to your shithole countries.”

is not a difference of opinion.

“Homosexuality is a sin and the gays [sic] shouldn’t be able to marry or adopt. They’re bringing about the downfall of society.”

is not a difference of opinion.

I feel almost embarrassed to have to spell this out, but:

If we want to live in a democratic society, if we want to work together to expand the scope of rights, equality, dignity as our understanding evolves, we have to agree on certain fundamental, inalienable human rights, and to do this, we codify these rights in an authoritative document from which flows the entire rule of law: a Constitution, a Charter of Rights and Freedoms, a Bill of Rights, a Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

We have differences of opinion when we discuss how to implement these fundamental human rights we have agreed on, these rights that may evolve, but which by common agreement can never be rescinded.

Rights may be expressed in the broadest terms, but their implementation is always specific, their meaning clarified within a matrix of situation, context and community. Always the question is: does this law, does this judgment, finally include whoever has been excluded, relieve the oppressed from their oppression, provide justice where justice has been denied?

If you don’t believe that women should control their own bodies;

if you don’t believe in the free expression of non-violent protest;

if you believe that some people are less than human or less than equal because they are different in their sexuality, gender expression, skin color, religious beliefs or any other trait and you counsel others to oppress and discount and exclude them;

if you advocate violence against a class of persons,

you are not expressing a difference of opinion.

You might actually be engaging in hate speech. This follows from the concept, noted by the Ontario Human Rights Commission in their literature about balancing conflicting rights, that “the private expression of the right is more protected than the public expression.”

Yes, there is freedom of expression. You are free to express in private whatever you care to express, no matter how reprehensible, but when you express the same idea publicly you may be causing a whole lot of mischief. Your right, exercised in public, to call for death to women who’ve had abortions may not be judged to be in the best interests of society.

More bluntly, if you publicly advocate violence against a class of persons, the restriction of that right may be justifiable. The harm of restricting your freedom of expression may be negligible compared to the harm that is caused to the target of your bigotry by its public expression.

My rights, your rights.

So please, conservatives, Christians, conservative Christians, the whole lot of you: Enough with the cant about freedom of expression and the misguided (to take a charitable view) or disingenuous (my actual view) attempt to rehabilitate statements such as those listed above, statements that indicate that you, the speaker, do not hold with the fundamental values of a democratic society. There is no dialog possible with people such as you and nothing to engage with in these statements.

When you engage in your convoluted conservative logic it makes you look incredibly foolish, and it makes the rest of us wonder about your — to appropriate one of the right’s favorite loaded words — agenda.

If you can’t come on board about the fundamental principle of democracy—namely, the equality in dignity and worth of all persons—I have a suggestion. Maybe you could find your own island somewhere, hopefully free of shithole-ness, and populate it with yourselves until your island is positively busting a gut with great-again-ness.

Then you can relax, secure in your fundamental beliefs, and the rest of us, relieved of your hateful rhetoric and privileged whining, can get on with the business of creating a more fair and more just society for everyone.


Afterword

Conservatives have a repertoire of sneering insults which they direct at liberals whenever they can get away with it. This usually means that no bona fide news organization is watching, in loco parentis, so think Twitter or Facebook.

Gay men used to be called “queers” and there is something about the sound of the “q-u” followed by the fluting double “e” that still makes me catch my breath in fear and shame. But we took the word “queer” and we owned it, using it as a badge of pride that we were odd, eccentric, creative or just plain ornery. This idea of “queer” as rejecting stereotypes and gender norms switched the focus to society instead of sex. Hearing “queer” used as a positive or at least neutral descriptor was surprisingly liberating.

Queer has lost its edge of sexual deviance and now begins to sound spirited, and happy-go-lucky, like a charming iconoclastic leprechaun who could cast a spell on your first-born but who is too busy dyeing the shamrocks pink to bother.

Conservatives call Liberals “snowflakes,” and we could start our rehabilitation of the word, rescuing it from the cycle of abuse and maybe sending it on a little vacation to Antarctica where it can tell itself, “Goldarnit—I’m snowflake and I’m OK!”

I think snowflakes are beautiful, unique crystals which can be fragile by themselves, but can make a pretty effective blizzard when they agitate with the other snowflakes.

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Ten reasons it’s great to be Canadian

just off the top of my head, currently covered with a tuque

Sea to shining sea?

JULY 1ST IS CANADA DAY. So I took a break from my usual morning task of rendering seal blubber in my igloo to count the ways it’s great to be a Canuck. It’s not an exhaustive list.

I’m sure there’s at least eleven.

(*Note to Americans: Canada is one of those “other countries” that you first learn about at Harvard. If you need to get your bearings, just think “Up there. Snow. Mounties. Cold. Justin.” Confusion, dizziness and sobbing are normal. You’re going to be fine.)


One:
You get to say “beaver” in mixed company.

Two:
You don’t have to worry about your country’s leader messing up and embarrassing you in full view of the entire world, because Justin doesn’t really do anything, and if he does mess up at least he’s a feminist, and anyway helll-oooo?! Trudeau, OK?

Three:
The heavy ankle shackles and full-body chains of Socialism help you stay trim and meet your “Canada Moves!” fitness goals when you drag their jaw-dropping extra weight along the sidewalk day in and day out.

  • BONUS: Looking for someone to play the ghost of Jacob Marley in “A Christmas Carol”? Hire a Canadian! We already have the costume!

Four:
It’s cool to have Queen Elizabeth II as our official head of state, or to be accurate, the giant, stuffed sock puppet dressed in primary colors that is used to represent Her Majesty, who actually died in 1973.

Five
Taking the jaw-dropping VIA Rail train with the glass dome to the west coast!

During this fabulous, epic journey you pass through the State of Alberta, renowned for its jaw-dropping one-hundred-percent unemployment rate ever since the oil industry collapsed.

  • BONUS: Get Andrew Scheer to pose for you in his cowboy hat, flanked by his forty-five wives dressed in modest full-length calico!
  • Get the little lady to sign her uterus over the the Conservatives and receive a limited-edition baseball cap that says, “My handmaid pledged her womb will U2?”

Six
Our annual, jaw-dropping White Heterosexual Pride Week festivities.

Top-rated parade experience this year: Faith Goldy and her sensational “Night Porter”-themed float with its celebrated Nazi Rainbow Flags. Kanada Über Alles! Droppings of the Jaw, ja?!

Seven
We can eat delicious “poutine” in historic Québec City! (Except while wearing a niqab, currently punishable with death by guillotine.)

Eight:
Playing rollicking, traditional Canadian games, like:

  • Who’s Got the Transfer Payment Resentment”
  • “Canadian Celebrity: Race to Oblivion”
  • “Super Frank Gehry-O”
  • “Save Toronto Waterfront! Trash Toronto Waterfront”
  • “Snub the Rich Asian”
  • “Honey, I Lost the Indigenous Women”

and, as a nod to equality,

  • “Bury that Fag in a Planter, Yo” sponsored by Mark Saunders, Chief of the Toronto Amateur Police Association.

(No prizes for the last two, just that warm glow…

…of shame.)

Nine:
I get to live in Toronto, “The City that Never Sleeps Except When it’s been Partying Too Much and Gets a Good Eight Hours so it Won’t Catch a Cold,” and the financial engine of our vast nation!

Here are some Visitor Tips! (Uh-oh: Three-Alarm Envious Warning!)

Don’t miss:

  • The Great Wall of Condos. Legend has it that beyond the wall there lies a mysterious, glittering body of water called “Lake Ontario” — but don’t try and find it because you’ll be trespassing; and
  • Sidewalk Labs’ “Googleopolis,” our future center of government, the office where you’ll go to pay-per-service when you want electricity or an ambulance, and headquarters of “STASI.”

Most popular this week:

  • After a heart-stopping two-hour wait to witness a migrating herd of the famously shy and skittish TTC Streetcars, it’s just a quick jaunt to the University District where you can gasp at stunning “Queens Park.”
  • Formerly the Ontario Legislature, this jaw-dropping piece of priceless Romanesque Revival granite architecture that we forgot to tear down is now the sumptuous private playground of Doug Ford and his entire extended family!

Ten:
It’s so woke to see the look on peoples’ faces when you say, “Eh?”

As in, “They should have put the Statue of Liberty up here, eh?”

Jaw-dropping!

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SCANDAL!? Nothing we can’t handle!

The SNC-Lavalin ruckus isn’t really about SNC-Lavalin—it’s about Justin.

Gather around, boys and girls, as once again I pull my granddad pants up into my armpits and hook my Walter Brennan thumbs behind my suspenders. I’ve just awakened from a forty-eight-hour afternoon nap, which is why I’m so annoyingly perky, and though the time is long past when it was even remotely relevant for me to explain what the Tommy Douglas was going on with this Canadian SNC-Lavalin doodad, I need you to listen up and at least pretend to care.

As blessèd Saint Judy was wont to growl:“ATTENTION WILL BE PAID!” Now, could someone help me up off my knees?

I never promised you relevance, Murgatroyd McGraw. I promised you Marlboro breath so toxic it could singe your eyebrows, yellow teeth caked with butter tart filling, mysterious, noisome stains on my gusset and slyly humorous, flippant commentary in place of measured, in-depth analysis.

Measured in-depth analysis? How perfectly common!

So, while I clear my smoker’s throat, the better to hoark another oyster onto my signed, framed portrait of Stephen Harper—some pleasures never pall— it’s time for a Canadian Fireside Chat about politics, optics, and which one of the following options you find most attractive:

Progressive Conservatives: More guzzling of fossil fuels, privatized health care, blatant white supremacy, rolled-back reproductive rights for women, no seat at the U.N. Security Council and compulsory church attendance in calico habits modeled after “The Handmaid’s Tale” by Margaret Who?;

Liberals: Badly-needed carbon tax that will actually put money IN the pockets of taxpayers, a stab at equality, properly-funded universal healthcare, business as usual and a pretty—and pretty ineffectual—prime minister, but who, when you look at him, at least doesn’t make you feel like stabbing yourself in the eyes with remorse because you voted your country into a no-turning-back state of oligarchic theocracy run by climate-change-denying cretins; OR

New Democratic Party: You’re kidding, right? Though Jagmeet Singh, the national party leader, is right up there, for me, anyway, in the woody-popping hierarchy, what with that dashing, dark, handsome sub-continental vibe and the liquid music of his accent, which is to me as a moist, patchouli-scented tongue probing my hairy, crusted inner ear.

Though, pace Jagmeet, Sikhs can be a little homophobic, as proof of which I will share that the last time a Sikh guy popped round for a blow-job, he said something kind of, well, insensitive to me as he was doing up his trousers. He cast an incredulous look down his nose at me, and said,

“Why do you like men?”

Betsy DeVos Theranos! This is a tough one! Don’t forget your ‘Smores, eh?


There was once a time in Canada, a long-ago, simpler era when squawking blue jays landed on your outstretched index finger and friendly, efficient beavers in Harris Tweed vests valet-parked your car at the Royal York, when we were content with, even proud of, our de facto one-party system.

Every other year or so you could vote Progressive Conservative (PC) instead of Liberal, just so you wouldn’t die of boredom, and without afterwards having to blush and laugh nervously while explaining that you’d recently been thrown from your thoroughbred at Woodbine Racetrack and weren’t expected to recover full brain function for at least a few months.

There was no shame in voting for the party of John Diefenbaker, or even of Brian Mulroney. Diefenbaker, for example, in 1957, appointed the first female member of Cabinet, Secretary of State Ellen Fairclough, who is remembered for eliminating racial discrimination in Canada’s immigration policy.

Yes, the PC’s were for equality and advancing the role of women in public service. Kim Campbell, Justice Minister and Attorney General under Mulroney, passed important gun control legislation.

And here’s a quote from Brian M:

“I think the government has to reposition environment on top of their national and international priorities.”

Provincially, we had exemplary conservative leaders in John Robarts and Bill Davis (who appointed Margaret Birch as the first female Cabinet member in the Ontario Legislature in 1972).

Empowered women! Gun control! Prioritizing the environment! Are we through the looking-glass yet, did we nibble the wrong side of the giant mushroom, are we mad as hatters? These were “conservative” men and women with some bold ideas (and some dubious ones such as NAFTA), but they were, on the whole, advocates of fiscal conservatism. Whatever their private beliefs might be, they understood that as public servants they were in office to work for the benefit of all Canadians.

That government had a role to play in the lives of voters, that government could and should be a good custodian of the environment, that government should protect and recognize the worth of all its citizens—these were not “radicalized extreme-left socialist agendas.” They were givens.

Only when the execrable slime-bag Mike Harris took power—on the rebound from Bob Rae and the NDP— in 1995 did the conservative shredding of the social contract begin in Ontario. This of course was nothing but the same old conservative playbill, turbocharged and disguised as a “Common Sense Revolution.”

When populists and demagogues start making like Uri Geller with English, co-opting concepts like “common sense,” “revolution,” “freedom,” “democratic” and “people,” and bending them into new, sinister shapes, you know it’s time to pack your weekender from Frank & Oak with rolls of bandages and a big bottle of aspirin, in case your future includes an extended stay in the basement of the Presidential Palace, where they don’t even bother to soundproof the interrogation rooms; and whatever you do, don’t forget your Roget’s so you can look up the exact opposite of whatever they’re promising to deliver.

Mike’s “Common Sense Revolution” involved a typical, explicitly anti-labour, anti-social safety net stance (get those queens off welfare!), gerrymandering by way of the amalgamation of the City of Toronto and its suburbs into a “megacity,” the downloading of once-provincial costs to municipalities, and pedaling the snake oil of “deficit reduction” and privatization: all of this based on the premise that government itself is the problem, and therefore the correct and only model for government is that of a department store holding a fire sale.

Example: Ontario had built and was managing a toll highway, the 407, the world’s first with no toll booths and automatic, electronic billing. This public project was based on the startlingly novel concept that greedy, entitled car drivers should actually pay for the infrastructure that they require and should also compensate for guzzling black gold, with the tolls collected contributing much-needed revenue (deficit!) that would support health care and other social services. This one was a no-brainer, and would surely be Ontario’s golden goose for many decades.

But Harris, following his personal mantra of “if it ain’t broke, break it, then declare it needs privatizing,” sold the highway’s operations to a business consortium in the late 1990’s for $3 billion to “reduce the deficit.” Now, twenty years later, none other than SNC-Lavalin is selling ten percent of its share in the toll highway for $3.25 billion.

Nice business acumen, Mike.


Whatever their private beliefs might be, conservatives used to understand that as public servants they were in office to work for the benefit of all Canadians.


Other highlights of his term in office include the Walkerton tragedy, in which a couple of buffoons in charge of the well water supply to a small town failed to chlorinate the water (which had been contaminated by manure run-off from a farmer’s field), make accurate reports, undergo yearly mandatory training, or indeed to do anything except help themselves to a cold brew from the fridge at the Public Utilities Commission and try to cover their criminally incompetent tracks.

Although the Ministry of the Environment had repeatedly ordered the managers and staff to follow the correct, current testing protocols, no one had ever followed up to see if this had actually happened (it hadn’t). Water testing had been privatized, and it can’t be denied that government was smaller as a result.

So was the population of Walkerton, down by a body count of six unfortunate victims of E. coli-contaminated water and thousands of others laid low by life-threatening gastrointestinal infection as a result of ignorance and bad management.

But let’s look at the bright side: At least we balanced the budget.


Getting back to our “scandal:” SNC-Lavalin is a Canadian company whose executives have, in the past, been rather overly fond of bribing Middle Eastern despots in order to obtain lucrative contracts. (Business as usual in that part of the world, you might understandably murmur, and many did.)

This is old, old news; all of the executives guilty of buying their business are long gone and justice done. Any scandal had been dealt with long ago, yet the stars decreed that SNC-Lavalin would be thrust into the spotlight once more, apparently to provide our new Justice Minister and Attorney General, Jody Wilson-Raybould, with her inaugural trial by fire.

The stakes: Prosecute SNC-Lavalin, after which they would be forever banned from taking government contracts; or treat it as a civil matter and administer a sharp financial slap on the wrist.

Wilson-Raybould was determined to take the prosecution route. Justin Trudeau, understandably anxious about the potential loss of nine thousand jobs just before a federal election, picked up the phone. In fact, he may have picked up the phone a few times before having his morning de-caf, and he may have insisted more than once, as it’s his duty to do so, that there was an alternative to going hard-line and prosecuting.

This was remediation, involving hefty fines but saving the nine thousand jobs, a rather sensible-sounding approach made possible by recent legislation that had been fully endorsed by the PC’s. In this scenario, there was scope for judicial discretion and prosecution was not inevitable. Remediation would provide transparency, promote confidence in the just outcome via that hefty fine and avoid dragging innocent employees into a quite unnecessary, because redundant, criminal investigation.

Wilson-Raybould, whose staff had examined the legislation and concluded that SNC-Lavalin was not eligible for remediation, was having none of it.

Why was Wilson-Raybould so rattled when the PM, along with other members of the boys’ club, advocated vigorously for remediation, and why did she dig in her heels? The more Justin and other cool heads tried to persuade, the more stubbornly she pushed back. Was she handicapped by the thinnest skin ever sported by a member of Cabinet or, for that matter, a lawyer? Was she revealing that she simply couldn’t cope with the demands of the post?

Trudeau’s lobbying has been spun as “undue pressure,” obstruction of justice, a sneaky attempt to let criminals off the hook, or to pay off business cronies, but all these descriptions are quite false. His lobbying was neither inappropriate nor shady.

Did Trudeau attempt to influence the attorney general’s decision? Of course he did, because this is exactly what is expected in our adversarial legal system. Every day, in every court, lawyers attempt to influence: They advocate vigorously, even aggressively, for the solutions that they feel best serve the public interest. This is not sleaze or scandal or interference; this is how our legal system works.

Now Wilson-Raybould proceeded to have an extremely public melt-down that cast Trudeau in an extremely unfavorable light, and she stirred the contents of this teacup so relentlessly that we can justifiably question if her concern was actually about justice.

Wilson-Raybould’s trump card, and her most gasp-inducing error of judgment—or deliberate act of sabotage, take your pick—was to produce, like a cheesey Las Vegas illusionist producing a white rabbit from her top hat, a recording of a phone conversation she’d had with the PM—a recording she had made secretly, without Trudeau’s knowledge or consent— and every nuance of whose content was now parsed and analyzed in the press ad nauseum.

Seriously, friends.

Such cloak-and-daggerism is not the meat and potatoes of the highest levels of Canadian government. This is high-school drama, the sort of subterfuge the nerdy, overly-sensitive President of the Debating Society deploys on the mean boys in the motorcycle jackets who tease her about her acne.

I draw the following conclusions:

There is no scandal or wrongdoing to be found, and no one is seriously claiming there is. This whole affair was a cynical, calculated exercise in throwing mud and seeing how much would stick. Progressive Conservatives and their official mouthpiece, the Globe & Mail, were more than willing to leverage public ignorance of our government and our legal system and to misrepresent both the substance and context of events.

Let’s see what we have: A Native MP, a woman, being hounded by the “feminist” PM; “punitive” demotions and Cabinet shuffles; sudden resignations, corporate criminals going scott free; secret recordings! Perfect ingredients for the perfect spin, a narrative that could create enough doubt to cast the prime minister as a sneak and a bully, and make Canadians question his judgment and even his legitimacy.

The ultimate goal? Bring down Justin Trudeau at any cost.


Did Trudeau attempt to influence the attorney general’s decision?

Of course he did, because this is exactly what is expected in our adversarial legal system.


Is SNC-Lavalin a great, big, heavy-duty Glad bag full of sleaze? Sure, but no more so than any other corporation doing what capitalism does best, i.e., feed itself. Is Justin Trudeau an entitled, opaque, overgrown brat who expected business as usual with the boys in the backroom and who doesn’t understand how his apparent belief that he is not obliged to justify any action, or tell the whole truth, ever, reveals him as shifty and arrogant? It would seem that way.

Were any laws broken? No. Did anything happen that was even out of line? Apart from maybe Nancy Drew and the Case of the Secret Phone Call, not even close.

This was a scandal-free scandal, a big helping of Nothing-Poutine, yet the Progressive Conservatives made a meal of it, bulking up the thinnest material with insinuation and indignation. More insidiously, they caught the attention of the white male demographic that despises Trudeau; despises him for being his father’s son; despises his patrician upbringing and gentility; despises what they see as his “girliness,” his drama teaching days, his avowed feminism, never acknowledging that he grew up breathing politics as the son of Pierre, our most flamboyant and also most intellectually rigorous statesman, the man who held this country together with his bare hands when it threatened to disintegrate and would not let go until it was out of danger.

The trolls and the disgruntled slingers of mud forget Justin’s long years of political dues-paying and his resounding success in 2015; and they are apoplectic at Trudeau’s inclusiveness, his generosity, his uncanny ability to unite Canadians, to embody our pride, to build and articulate our identity and our collective vision for this brave, fragile confederation, this country that is barely more than a wish, a dream, an idea of a country.

Trudeau inspires; white male conservatives, fuming with hard-hatted rage at their diminishing hold on power, carp and threaten and bury their heads in the tar sands and call, shamefully, for a return to “European values.”

They are full of that odious, passionate intensity; the very worst, as always, dragging down the very best.