Saturday, January 27, 2018

Patrick Brown and the politics of sexual harassment and backlash

Ex-PC Leader Patrick Brown (CP/Aaron Vincent Elkaim)
This week saw the dramatic destruction of Patrick Brown's leadership of the Progressive Conservative Party of Ontario after allegations of past sexual misconduct involving teenagers on his staff came to light.

The usual suspects in the media, sadly many women, are fast at work fanning the flames of alleged male victimhood, ignoring the facts that contradict their assumptions.  Whether they intend it or not, they are helping to spawn a backlash that will ultimately discourage real victims from coming forward again to hurt their favourite man-boys. 

It was fascinating that this story emanated out of CTV News, the private sector broadcaster not exactly known for its liberal biases.  Far from it.  Thus, when CTV unleashed this bombshell of a story about Brown, it was interesting that no one claimed the messenger of the story was biased.  Instead, it added credibility to the claims. 

Had the story come from the CBC, you can bet all of those private sector whiners like Christie Blatchford would be arguing as well this was also an unfair attack from a left-leaning "state broadcaster," in addition to her other tirades against the teenagers Brown allegedly threw himself upon.   

Is it fair in politics that a leader would have to resign because of some allegations that seem to ring true to the objective viewer, even though they haven't been proven in court?

Let's re-read that sentence's first five words: "Is it fair in politics...?"  There is no fairness in politics.  So that answers my question.  I am in agreement with Chris Selley on that one. 

"What about due process?" many scream in defense of men they assume are innocent in the face of multiple allegations.  It seems everybody accused of egregious acts gets removed from positions of power over the course of the investigation, once allegations are made.  Patrick Brown shouldn't be any different.

These same folks, of course, have little to say when the accused are black or Muslim or gay.  In the face of racial profiling by police, these folks typically make the argument, "If you haven't done anything wrong, what are you afraid of?"  Perhaps they should consider asking men that question today instead of giving credence to the bogus argument that white men are somehow today's biggest victims.

Patrick Brown led a coup against the PC Party establishment in 2015 to become the leader by out-hustling Christine Elliott in membership sales and voter turnout.  He's an expert organizer.  But in the other crucial tasks of politics, like earning love, loyalty and commitment from colleagues, the kind of which wouldn't evaporate instantly the moment a story like this breaks, he clearly wasn't great.    

So weak an impression he had made as leader, it wasn't entirely stunning to see him fall so fast this week.  It was fitting.  Suddenly, his strange bachelorhood despite being modestly attractive and clearly talented made sense.  He's not the settling type, it seems.

My impression has always been if any straight man looking to settle down possesses a tiny amount of decency and talent, even barely above mediocre, to say nothing of his looks, there's at least ten wonderful, more decent, more talented, more attractive women out there willing to commit to him should he love them back.  Such is how our society works in North America, I find.  The good ones always get scooped up early.  It's the not-so-good ones who can't seem to settle down, I find.  Christie Blatchford would blame women for this, of course, even though the fault lies with the guys. 

That, of course, doesn't apply to gay men, who have an entirely different life experience having to seek out romance and love from other men (that is, after enduring the trauma of accepting ourselves and coming out of the closet.)  Generally, most men just aren't that great at giving love, sadly.  We're great at taking it, that's for sure.  Many of us do eventually learn to give love too as most women do. 

Why are women better at this than men?  Well, look at how society treats all women.  It's a humbling experience from start to end.  Arrogance, the kind of which seems intrinsic in even the most mediocre of men, is not something that is tolerated in women, as we know.  If Hilary Clinton can be defeated by the likes of Donald Trump, then all women are vulnerable.  I wonder when Christie Blatchford or Rosie Di Manno are going to write about that topic?  

But back to Patrick Brown.

I never thought much of him.  As a leader, he was mediocre at best.  The best thing he had going for him was the sense that his governing opponents, the Ontario Liberals, deserve tossing out of office.  I was not looking forward to him possibly governing Ontario.  In fact, I had major doubts he'd get elected, despite Kathleen Wynne's unpopularity.

Now who knows what will happen with the Ontario PC leadership?  There doesn't seem to be any one candidate who will be the consensus choice.  Christine Elliott was that person in 2015 and she got crushed by the likes of Brown.

Sadly we cannot underestimate the stupidity of the Tory base, who have shown themselves more than capable of rejecting the best candidates in favour of the crappiest the last two leadership races.  These are folks who think a 19-year-old, home-schooled ideologue is more qualified to be an MPP than others three times his age and life experience. 

We shall see.  Brown is finished, thankfully.  Now this gives the Ontario PC Party a chance to get it right.  Will they?

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Anti-gay discriminators now complaining about getting a taste of their own medicine re: Canada Summer Jobs program

For decades if not centuries, social conservatives and devoutly religious types have led the charge in favour of discrimination against LGBT people.  They have fought tooth and nail to ruin the lives of people like me.  They regularly threw vulnerable LGBT youth out of their own families, homes, businesses, schools, churches and other organizations.  

But in Canada in the 1990s, the mainstream culture started to change for the better.  Why?  For a whole slew of reasons, including the fact that more LGBT people continued to come out of the closet, thus humanizing the experience for many formerly ignorant straight people.

Another important reason was the arrival of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms in Canada.  Courts ruled starting in the 1990s that LGBT people were entitled to equal treatment under the law, thanks to the Charter.  In 2003 in Ontario, a court ruled that same sex couples have the legal right to marry, a decision which was confirmed by the Canadian Parliament in 2005, extending marriage rights to all LGBT people across the country.

During this entire period, let us not forget who fought progress every step of the way: social conservatives and the devoutly religious.  For them, their religious beliefs trumped basic human dignity and equality under the law.  From a position of power, they demanded that LGBT lives remain second class.

As we know, the Conservative Party under Stephen Harper called same sex marriage a "threat" to this country.   Harper wasn't able to stop equal marriage of course.  But he certainly undermined LGBT rights and all human rights in other ways, including cancelling the Court Challenges Program which provided vulnerable citizens suffering from discrimination with financial support to fight that discrimination in the courts. 

I'm glad to say that the gains LGBT people have made in this country now seem fairly entrenched.  But I'll never forget how hard those social conservatives fought against my basic humanity, dignity and equality. 

So there is a certain poetic justice today seeing so many of the same religious folks now whining about alleged "discrimination" against them by the Trudeau government over its changes to its Canada Summer Jobs Program.  Predictably, Conservative MPs who fought against human rights for LGBT people and still refuse to attend community Pride celebrations, are going to bat for their social conservative friends.

This is a gross recent trend we've seen from many conservatives: adopt the language of the progressive left to draw false equivalence comparisons between real historical oppression and the loss of power they're now sensing.   

"Oh look, I have to sell a wedding cake to a same sex couple.  I'm oppressed!"

And of course, there is a steady stream of conservative politicians like Donald Trump and Andrew Scheer more than happy to go to bat for them.

How soon these Canadian conservatives forget that up until they were forced to accept equality for all people in law, they opposed it. 

On the issue of the Summer Jobs Program change, it does seem that the Trudeau government is playing a bit of 'culture war' politics here, using this minor issue to get a lot of attention.  That's politics.  Is it discrimination on the basis of religion that some organizations are being forced to check a box on an application form they think contradicts their faith?  Perhaps.  Is it just for Canadian tax dollars to fund summer jobs for students who are working on anti-abortion campaigns or fighting basic equality for all?  I don't think so.  Or if many of those jobs would do no such thing, yet the organization as a whole nurtures an anti-gay culture and environment?  I wouldn't say I'm crazy about that.  We have a lot of need in this society that is currently being met by religious charities.  I do think a commitment to serve all people without discrimination is essential for receiving public tax dollars. 

Yet our tax dollars fund Catholic public schools in Ontario which teach that women are not fully equal to men, that abortion is a sin and that LGBT people are sub-human.  Of course, none of the conservatives squawking now about the Summer Jobs Program have much to say in opposition to that state of affairs.  It's only when they feel the twinge of injustice against themselves do they now appeal to the very human rights laws they vigorously opposed just a few years ago.

I don't have much sympathy for them.  If they feel they are being discriminated against, they should take the Trudeau government to court over it.  And if they take that path, they'll be able to use the renewed Court Challenges fund (which the Trudeau government re-instated) to help in their fight.   

****UPDATE January 23, 2018****

This story today clarifies the government's position very well, which in my mind means that these rules governing the Canada Summer Jobs program aren't discriminatory at all.  In fact, I have to support them wholeheartedly.  I do not want my public tax dollars going to organizations that plan to hire students to engage in discriminatory activities.  

Saturday, December 30, 2017

My Favourite Films of 2017 (so far...) UPDATED

I'm delighted to share my annual list of my favourite feature films released in 2017.  Of course, I'm no movie critic so I haven't been able to see every major release this year, so there are several probably great films I have yet to see which could find their way into my top 13 favourites (in fact, one just did; The Florida Project has jumped to number 1 on my list!)  As I continue to see more movies, or as my opinions evolve upon more reflection, I'll continue amend this post, like I always do.   While I do consider myself a refined cineaste, this list is still, first and foremost, a list of my favourites.  So very good films that simply didn't appeal to me or even offended me won't make it on this list.  Still generally, I don't think any film critic or film lover would quibble with my top 13:

1.  The Florida Project:  Wow! Everything about this tender, incredible film is note perfect.  The film depicts life for a little girl living with her troubled single mother in a Florida housing project/motel and it's quietly riveting.  The performance by Bria Vinaite as the mother is mesmerizing and so is young Brooklyn Prince as Moonee, through whose eyes we see the experience unfold.  Plus I don't remember enjoying a performance by Willem Dafoe this much.  He most certainly deserves the acclaim he's getting for this.  This is great filmmaking. 

2.  Lady Bird:  I saw this recently and loved it.  Saoirse Ronan gives a performance as equally lived in and authentic as Timothée Chalamet did in Call Me By Your Name.  This is a brilliant character study and I loved the unique relationship portrayed between daughter and her mother, played by the amazing Laurie Metcalf, who I haven't seen much of since Roseanne.  I also adored Tracy Letts as Lady Bird's dad, as well as Lady Bird's relationship with her best friend Julie, played by Beanie Feldstein.  There are so many moments in this gem that I truly cherished.  Touching, intimate filmmaking here by Greta Gerwig.  (Formerly #9 but moved up after some more consideration.)

3.  Dunkirk:  Stunning visuals and direction from Christopher Nolan, as well as a stunningly hot and talented cast, depict the efforts to rescue the British and French armies from the beach in France in early World War II.   Gripping and beautiful to watch, I loved this war film from beginning to end.  It's nice to see Nolan stay true to his vision, perfectly execute it and now receive the acclaim and hopefully the nominations he deserves.

4.  Call Me By Your Name: This film is a sensuous delight that perfectly captures a unique moment in time and place for its characters.  It's the classic coming-of-age/first love tale many of us in the queer community have always hoped to see, free from queer film tropes like gay bashing, hateful parents or inevitable punishment and death.  This film chronicles the evolution of young Elio from genius yet inexperienced teenager to broken-hearted adult, and actor Timothée Chalamet embodies the role with seemingly effortless authenticity and feeling.  He is the beating heart and soul of this movie. (This was my #1, but upon more reflection and another viewing, I do find the romance fairly unsatisfying here; it works mostly as a one-sided reflection or memory of a teenager's first love that got away rather than a true romance.  Plus Armie Hammer's performance seems often unconvincing to me.) 

5.  Get Out:  This timely, anti-racist, satirical masterpiece by director Jordan Peele was released last winter, yet is now poised to do well this awards season, even perhaps take Best Picture.  It deserves to.  It's a perfect, original exploration of its subject matter about a young black man who visits the home of his white girlfriend only to find a house of horrors, playfully pushing buttons that need to be pushed today in our culture.  Loved it!

6.  The Post:  Steven Spielberg taps into the zeitgeist today in this note perfect film about the 1971 backroom deliberations at the Washington Post to possibly publish details of the infamous Pentagon Papers after the New York Times had been temporarily barred from doing so.  There is heady stuff here including the fight between government and the press, the competition between newspapers, the fight for equality and respect for women in the workforce.  And it's all handled with a non-melodramatic touch that felt completely realistic and appropriate.  Spielberg does thankfully keep some of his stylistic Spielbergisms in check, focusing on moving the story forward at all times.  And the film is gorgeous including the 1970s art direction and the awesome focus on the old-fashioned news gathering and editing process, not to mention the printing press mechanics.  Meryl Streep is perfect as are the rest of the cast.  I was born to love this movie!

7.  Baby Driver:  Super-hot Ansel Elgort plays the sympathetic driver nicknamed "Baby" who transports his fellow crooks away from their crime scenes.  Every element of this film - from the music, to the editing, to the sound, to the writing, to the acting - is masterful.  I watched this before the Kevin Spacey scandal erupted, so I have no idea if his presence might ruin it now for viewers.  But I suggest it's still demands a try.   

8.  The Shape of Water:  This just might be director Guillermo del Toro's best, most accessible film. It's certainly my favourite one of his.  It's still a little strange, but what else could it be coming from him?  Let its beautiful colours, sounds, effects and performances wash over you as soon as possible, I say.

9.  Okja:  If you've never thought about the conditions in which your food is engineered and brought to your table, you need to see this film immediately.   Director Joon-ho Bong does some of his best work here ever, artfully telling his tale without being preachy.  If you have Netflix, watch it!  Not only does this film enormously entertain, it inspires audiences to think.  It certainly inspired me to start buying "free run" eggs despite the extra costs, although I'm not quite ready to give up meat.

10.  Detroit:  I didn't know much about the 1967 Detroit riots, nor the shocking and heart-breaking Algiers Motel incident that took place during it, before watching this film.  But I do now thanks to the incredible talent of director Kathryn Bigelow.  Harrowing and essential viewing for anyone who thinks the police are just great and that black people complain too much about discrimination and police violence.

11. I, Tonya:  Hilarious and completely entertaining.  Margot Robbie superbly captures the essence of Tonya Harding's humanity, in all its tragedy and ridiculousness.  Allison Janney as her mother is an unforgettable villain.  The rest of the cast is awesome, as are all other elements in Craig Gillespie's film. 

12. Film Stars Don't Die in Liverpool: I read that many people were moved to tears during Call Me By Your Name or Lady Bird, but I wasn't.  But I did cry toward the end of this lovely film, which tells the tale of aging Hollywood starlet Gloria Grahame's affair with a much younger man, upon whom she depended during the final months of her life.  Annette Bening is perfect as Gloria Grahame, as is the supremely sexy Jamie Bell as Peter Turner, her lover. 

13.  The Big Sick:  I didn't think that star Kumail Nanjiani was sexy before seeing this movie, but I definitely do now.  Funny that.  Fabulous all around. 

14.  Wonder Woman:  Director Patty Jenkins (who helmed Monster back in 2003 with Charlize Theron) outdoes herself with this perfect telling of the famous heroine's story.  I'd always lamented the fact that Hollywood had not yet put Wonder Woman on the screen, but considering how great this film is, the wait was worth it.

Honorable mentions: 

God's Own Country 
Spider-Man: Homecoming  
Land of Mine 
I Am Not Your Negro 
An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power
Star Wars: The Last Jedi
Victoria and Abdul
A Bad Moms Christmas 

Strangest, completely fucked, but a masterpiece: 

mother!: Darren Aronofsky's most daring work can only be viewed and understood as an extended, tragic and violent metaphor.  It's a tough watch and definitely not for everyone.  But I've never seen anything else like this movie and remain glad I got through it.  


Darkest Hour:  Gary Oldman gives a great performance as Winston Churchill.  But director Joe Wright has no idea how to make historical dramas gripping.  Instead, he spends his time using odd lighting and showing his hero "huffing and puffing" and marching quickly down dark hallways.  In calling it Darkest Hour, they mean that literally.  This is the most poorly lit film I saw this year.

Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri:  I thought Frances McDormand, unlike in previous roles, was a little one note here.  There were many great characters here with stories playing out especially with Sam Rockwell, whose character was thoroughly repulsive.  Overall as a film: not horrible, but I just didn't like it that much including the (spoiler alert) non-ending.  

Beach Rats: Where was all the much-hyped male nudity?  And haven't I seen this closeted teen story done this way dozens of times before?

It:  Unsettling and not in a good way.  Watching kids fend off child molesters and killer clowns for two hours is not my idea of entertainment. 

The Dark Tower:  Way too short and rushed.

Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets:  Lots of visual eye candy but little depth.

Kingsman: The Golden Circle:  Ugh, nowhere near as enjoyable as Part One.

The Great Wall:  Look, it's white guys saving the day in People of Colour land again.

Life:  Look, the black guy is the first one to die again.  Couldn't finish it.   How do you make a film with Jake Gyllenhaal and Ryan Reynolds together in tight quarters, and yet it still disappoints?

Worst film of 2017:

Geostorm:  Makes all other apocalypse films look like masterpieces.  So bad.

On my list to see as soon as possible, in order: 

Phantom Thread
All the Money in the World 
Good Time
Battle of the Sexes
Blade Runner 2049

Friday, December 29, 2017

2017 Politics in Review, and a couple Predictions for 2018

As 2017 draws to a close, a few political observations:
  • 2017 saw the cancer that is Donald Trump assume the Oval Office and proceed to denigrate American democracy and government - from constantly promoting white supremacy to muddying all waters simply for the sake of causing trouble.  His own fragile, pathetic ego was his only priority.  The good news: because of his inherent unsuitability for office, Trump was barely able to get anything accomplished, except for the big tax cut bill passed in the Republican Congress.  If there's anything Republicans (and most conservatives) are good at it's cutting taxes for the rich and powerful, at the expense of the rest of us who pay for it with degraded public services and higher service and tuition fees.  
  • But perhaps in response to the grotesque Trump, we saw an important push back from the left this year with key victories that may portend more progressive wins in 2018 and beyond.  Pendulum swings to one extreme tend to eventually provoke similar swings in the opposite direction.  With Democratic wins this year in Virginia and, most importantly, in the special Senate election in Alabama where progressive hero Doug Jones bested bigot/accused rapist Roy Moore, it looks like the Democrats will do very well in 2018 mid-term elections. 
  • But should the Democrats stay the safe centrist course, or follow the Bernie Sanders route of authentic progressive politics?  Time will tell.  2017 did also provide some important insight into how well an unabashedly progressive agenda might play with voters: 
    • Voters in Great Britain upended the Conservative establishment by turning to far-left Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn in droves in last June's election.  Written off as politically dead before the campaign, Corbyn inspired a new generation of voters to turn out with his "For the Many, Not the Few" campaign that echoed sentiments promoted by Bernie Sanders in 2016.  As a result, Corbyn held Conservative Theresa May to a shaky minority government and stands well-positioned to topple the Tories next time. 
    • Voters here at home in British Columbia also turned to both the NDP and the Green Party to displace the long-entrenched conservative BC Liberal Party.  Despite a booming economy, voters decided last May that policies designed only to benefit the privileged needed to go in favour of helping the many, and the combined NDP-Green vote jumped from 48% in 2013 to 57% in 2017.   Now a NDP-Green alliance is governing British Columbia, with a fair vote on proportional representation set for 2018.  
    • Voters in France embraced flawed centrist Emmanuel Macron over the governing Socialists (who got trounced), and far-left candidate Jean-Luc Melenchon to beat back the horrid Marine Le Pen, whose racist politics mimicked those of Trump.  The final tally saw the centrist Macron beat out Le Pen 66% to 34%.   But Macron now has seen his popularity plummet and it remains unclear if he can maintain his centre-left coalition over the forces of the far right in that country. 
Those gains by Corbyn in the U.K. and the NDP and Greens in B.C. proved to me that authentic progressive agendas can win wide support from voters.  Federally in Canada, we continue to see the progressive left divided between a moderately progressive Liberal administration under Justin Trudeau, and the third-party NDP under the novice but promising Jagmeet Singh, forcing the question: what is the best way for progressives to beat conservatives?  As an authentic left-wing option under the NDP or Jeremy Corbyn or Bernie Sanders, or as a mushy/moderate/barely progressive option like under Justin Trudeau or Emmanuel Macron?  This question will continue to dominate my thoughts in 2018.   

Besides the above predictions of Democratic victories next November, I'll predict that the upcoming Ontario 2018 election will be closely fought between a superior incumbent, Kathleen Wynne, who's worn out her welcome with most Ontario voters, and her sub-par opponents Patrick Brown and Andrea Horwath.  Ontario voters will be largely uninspired by their choices.  I honestly can't decide who will win this.  Although my gut is telling me that, in the end, Brown will fall flat on his face due to his inherent mediocrity, opening up the election for a narrowly re-elected Wynne government.   To that end, Wynne has already embraced the policies and politics of the Sanders left, sensing that Ontario voters will want to swing as far away from the neo-con Trump right as possible.  In the end, Ontario voters might just decide to accept the devil they know (Wynne) rather than the ones they don't (Brown and Horwath.)  We shall see. 

Stay tuned soon for my annual Favourite Movies of the Year post....

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

When good people like Nancy Leblanc step away from partisan politics, we all lose...

As long as we've recorded human history, we've known that politics is a nasty business, perhaps the nastiest. But also one of the most important - the pursuit of power will always be.

Plato wrote about a "philosopher king" as the ideal ruler. Such a person in practise has never existed, of course. Or if such a person actually did pursue political power, their idealism and principles would soon undermine those efforts. No doubt, history is filled with thousands of such decent people who considered politics but stepped back rather than compromise their integrity and ethics. The tragedy here is the absence of decent people relinquishes the realm of politics to the ruthless, nasty, amoral jerks who make up the vast majority of our politicians and those who work for them.

So there is nothing profoundly new about this post, except highlighting just the latest example of how the nastiness of politics has once again pushed aside a decent person. Nancy Leblanc is such a person. She may humbly disagree with being compared with a "philosopher queen," but for me, the comparison is apt as Nancy is exactly the kind of person our politics needs: someone who's in it for the right reasons, to help make people's lives better and to promote better public policy and governance.

Nancy is an accomplished Toronto lawyer who entered the political arena in 2014 as the Ontario Liberal candidate in Parkdale-High Park in west-end Toronto, then considered a thankless task taking on NDP veteran incumbent Cheri DiNovo.

Given only a handful of weeks to raise tens of thousands of dollars and her public profile, Nancy ran a great campaign and came within 600 votes of knocking off the well-entrenched incumbent. Had the party deemed to allow her to take the nomination sooner, as it did other non-incumbents in Toronto NDP ridings, Leblanc might've prevailed.

"I got involved in the political process because I sincerely want to make a difference in people's lives for the better. I am a lawyer and as such ethics and integrity are very important to me. So after coming so close to winning in 2014, I persevered and continued to work in good faith because I knew I could do a good job of representing this riding," said Leblanc in a statement this week. 

Since 2014, she's continued working in the grassroots, knocking on well over 20,000 doors in her riding, engaging with and advocating for local residents, working on riding specific policy ideas for the coming 2018 election.

She also used her considerable organizational skills to raise $50,000 for the local riding association, as well as raise over $50,000 for the Ontario Liberal Party separate and apart from riding resources.

She is the ultimate grassroots candidate with the kind of skills, local base and established profile you'd think the Ontario Liberal Party would want to take on the NDP again in 2018.

But sadly that doesn't seem to be the case and that's a shame. Another nominee with no public profile who doesn't even live in the riding, but close with the party backroom, seems poised to take the nomination instead.

Leblanc announced yesterday that she won't be continuing to pursue the Liberal nomination.

"I have come to believe that the path for me to continue to make a difference for the people here in Parkdale-High Park is not with the Ontario Liberal Party in 2018. This was a very difficult personal decision to make, especially after all the hard work over the past few years, but it is one that I have firmly made after much consideration around all of the circumstances involved," said Leblanc.

In life and in most professions, massive hard work, intelligence, integrity and years of grassroots campaigning will usually produce results.

But not in politics, sadly. Certainly not in Ontario provincial politics, it seems, these days. This is a major loss to the Ontario Liberal Party and to all Ontarians, frankly.

Despite this setback, Leblanc would still make an incredible politician and community leader and I hope she finds other ways to serve the public in the future. If she does take the plunge again, I will support her 100 percent.

Because if good, decent people like her step away from politics, we all lose.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Australia becomes 2nd country to pass same sex marriage by popular vote

Results of Aussie vote on equal marriage, courtesy ABC

Ireland was the first country in 2015 to pass equal marriage by national popular vote, by a margin of 62% to 38%. 

Today, Australia released its results in that country's postal survey of voters in which almost 80% of voters participated on the issue of legalizing same sex marriage in that country and the results are wonderful: 62% in favour, 38% opposed.  Observers expect the Aussie government to pass same sex marriage into law perhaps by the end of this year.  

I want to congratulate all Australians on this historic victory for equality! 

It's heartening that these national votes, at least in the western world, are starting to result in wins for human rights and equality.  Sadly other national votes outside the west in recent years, like in Slovenia, have been won by the bigots.

But referendum victories even in the west are a recent phenomenon.  Defeats in similar referendums at the state level in the United States used to be common.  It wasn't until 2012 that American voters started embracing equality by popular vote at the state level.    

Other victories for same sex marriage happened either in legislative bodies or in the courts, including in Canada where a court victory in 2003 legalized same sex marriage in Ontario, followed by passage of full marriage equality across the country in the House of Commons in 2005.  Full marriage equality was granted by the American Supreme Court in 2015 across that entire country.

Of course, we must not forget that homosexuality remains illegal in many parts of the world, so we must keep up the fight for equality the world over and not forget those LGBTQ people not fortunate enough to live in mostly progressive countries. 

As always, we can't forget that many other issues remain for LGBTQ people: Freedom from discrimination in human rights laws, protection against hate crimes, as well as a host of other economic equality issues which are even more relevant to all LGBTQ people than marriage laws.  On those fronts, much more progress, especially in over half of American states where LGBTQ people can still be fired from their jobs for being queer, is needed. 

Saturday, November 4, 2017

I never thought Frank Underwood's comeuppance would look like this...

Actor Kevin Spacey as Frank Underwood
Netflix has announced that Kevin Spacey will no longer play any part in its series, 'House of Cards.'  

This follows a series of allegations of sexual harassment and sexual assault leveled against the actor from various House of Cards male crew, former colleagues and actor Anthony Rapp, who made public last weekend complaints that Spacey made inappropriate advances on him when Rapp was 14 (and Spacey was 26.)

It also follows the maelstrom that has erupted across Hollywood recently in response to allegations against movie mogul Harvey Weinstein and other powerful straight men.

For a country that heard gross admissions of sexual assault and harassment from Donald Trump, but then proceeded to "elect" him anyway over a more qualified woman, these recent developments are a minor step in the right direction.  We have to continue to fight to make sure all sexual predators, straight or queer, pay for their behaviour (that means that Trump must be tossed out on his ass in 2020 if not sooner).  It's nice to see that the immense bravery it takes to come forward with allegations like these is being partially rewarded with some major professional consequences for those who clearly seem, due to the mere volume of complaints, to be far from innocent.  That's heartening.

This article this week by writer Natasha Chart proved to be one of the best articles on the connection between sexism and homophobia I've ever read.  I recommend it highly. 

But back to Kevin Spacey and 'House of Cards.'   Please allow me a bit of glee at Spacey's demise from the increasingly tiresome show.   This was a show that since Season 3 or 4 (of six) has become incredibly annoying, ditching any pretense for realism in favour of the repeated formula that went something like this: "Let's introduce weak adversaries for Frank, let them annoy him for an episode or two, then let Frank flick them away like dust off his lapel only to become stronger and even more powerful than before. Repeat."

It wasn't good writing the last three seasons, it was bullshit.  No politician has ever experienced the kind of uninterrupted climb to immense power as Frank Underwood.  And to get there, Underwood killed at least two people.  Furthermore, his wife Claire joined the murderous club last season just before the heavy-handed writers made her President of the U.S. 

I've been watching 'House of Cards' since the first season but have been disappointed since Season 3.  I stopped watching mid-way through Season 6 when it became clear the writers were taking delight in deceptively teasing us with the continued hope that Underwood and his wife would finally pay in any major way for their crimes.  In life, that kind of evil should face consequences, but so rarely does.  The last thing I need is to experience dramatized and exploited evil in my entertainment.  I'm kind of sensitive that way.  

That's why I've also refused to watch the celebration of misogyny and violence against women that is "Game of Thrones." Other sadists may love that shit, but not me.  (In a culture that adores such entertainment, is it any wonder that sexual harassment and violence against women remain such problems?)

Who could have foretold that Frank Underwood's demise would be due to the complaints of one man?  Anthony Rapp is my new hero. 

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Jason Kenney sure can't get enough of bullying LGBT kids

Jason Kenney's at it again, arguing that public taxpayers which include many who don't agree with retrograde Catholic beliefs, should have their tax dollars finance lessons that teach that LGBT people are "disordered."

Kenney even has the gall to claim his position is in favour of a "diverse society," when in fact it achieves the opposite, giving power to religious bigots to crush the lives of LGBT teenagers.  

This issue reinforces again my belief that no public tax dollars should be spent on religious schools, including Catholic ones, in Alberta, Ontario or anywhere else.  

Kenney's latest bullying of LGBT kids is in line with the weaselly candidate's past recent pronouncements.

Earlier this year, the anti-gay candidate argued that vulnerable teens who wish to join straight-gay alliances in high schools should be outed to their parents.  

You know, the kind of thing that might terrorize a closeted teen struggling with their sexuality.

On all of these issues, the slimy Kenney proves time and again how awful he is when it comes to human rights and equality, always siding with bigots.

No decent person who supports equality can have a kind thought or any support for Mr. Kenney.   

As Kenney appears to be the frontrunner for the upcoming United Conservative Party leadership against former Wildrose leader Brian Jean (who actually seems more reasonable on equality issues than Kenney) and social liberal Doug Schweitzer, this paints a fairly depressing picture of the future of Alberta politics.   I'm hoping somehow either Jean or Schweitzer can pull off a victory against the disgusting Kenney. 

Thankfully, the current NDP government is adamant that public tax dollars should not be spent to promote religious bigotry in publicly funded schools.  So at least that progressive policy will remain in place until the next election expected in 2019. 

Monday, October 2, 2017

Jagmeet Singh will change federal politics and Canada for the good

New NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh
Just a short note to express my happiness with Jagmeet Singh's resounding victory in the federal NDP leadership yesterday.

I did have a sense a couple weeks ago that Singh would prevail easily and that turned out to be the case. 

Singh is a star but he also seems to have all the goods needed for leadership success, including policy chops, vision, compassion, supreme communication skills, and charisma.  He commands attention and when he receives it, he impresses.

Like I wrote a couple weeks ago, I think many Canadians including many Quebecers will give Singh a chance and a listen and most will be impressed.   His turban, as a practising Sikh, ought not to offend anyone who listens to and understands Singh's story as to why he chose to wear a turban in the first place - as an act of rebellion in favour of social justice.

Some critics have written him off as a silver-spooned socialist who likes the finer things in life.  On that, I say, "So what?"  His description of his choices to dress impeccably well, as well as earn a law degree and even learn mixed martial arts, all fit in with a member of a visible minority who was "arming" himself against racism and oppression.  Singh's description of his personal history rings true to me and I find him extremely sympathetic.

Now, Singh will get the chance to challenge underlying / sub-conscious racism that still exists in Canadian society.  Just by standing on the leaders' stage, he'll confront old prejudices. 

In the end, his power as leader may indeed end up one day or year soon truly challenging Justin Trudeau's Liberals and Andrew Scheer's Conservatives for government.  He brings to this considerable strength and promise. 

I'm looking forward to watching him over the next several years as he begins the process of challenging for power in Canada.  It's true that Justin Trudeau's Liberals have disappointed many progressives and clearly stand too closely with the Conservatives on too many issues that need real action today.   Singh's NDP will provide a viable threat to the Liberals on the left and force them into action on progressive issues, or risk defeat and huge losses of support to their left-wing rivals in the next election.

Monday, September 18, 2017

Coming out of the closet: I joined the NDP and I'm voting for Guy Caron

NDP leadership candidate Guy Caron
I wrote last week about the future of the New Democratic Party, as well as the future for progressive politics in Canada.

Since then, I've done a lot of thinking, including watching yesterday's NDP Leadership Showcase online from Hamilton.  After a great deal of reflection, I have some confessions to make:

1) I'm coming out of the closet as a card-carrying New Democrat.   Yes, this follows having joined the Conservative Party of Canada earlier this year and participating in their leadership race.  I remain a pragmatic progressive who cares deeply about the shape of our Canadian democracy.  For me, joining these parties including the Liberals in the past is the equivalent of voting in open primaries in the U.S.  More Canadians should be engaged in this way, as far as I'm concerned.  I, of course, quit the Conservatives after the regressive Andrew Scheer won that close contest.  

2) Up until last week, I was most attracted to leadership candidates Charlie Angus (for his passion, authenticity, and clarity) and Jagmeet Singh (for his passion, charisma and similar authenticity, as well as the fact that his victory would be an important breakthrough for people of colour in Canada.)  I had come to think poorly of Niki Ashton whose ambitions to lead a renewed "movement" of socialists didn't seem to ring true to me.  I also didn't think much of Guy Caron, who seemed like a nice enough guy but hadn't yet reached me emotionally or intellectually in this campaign.

3) As of yesterday, I've done a complete switch.  Guy Caron's stellar showcase presentation yesterday impressed me greatly, including the heartwarming introduction by his wife.  Suddenly, Caron's very well-thought out plans on basic income, proportional representation and many other issues are resonating with me.  Yesterday, he even clarified that he opposes the Quebec government's proposed plan to tell religious minorities what to wear when they provide or receive public services; he simply respects the jurisdiction of the Quebec legislature, which frankly so do I and anyone else who respects Canadian federalism.  Caron has also been showing his charming and humorous side of late.  He's clearly a likeable guy, much more likeable than Tom Mulcair could ever be.  He's no recent recruit to the NDP cause in Quebec like some other pseudo-separatists; he's been fighting for the NDP in that province for decades and his federalist credentials are clear.   Add to this Caron's ability to speak both official languages fluently, he offers a truly credible option to not only hold on to the NDP's base in Quebec but also to build on it (and deny the Bloc Quebecois a comeback anytime soon).  None of the other candidates can offer that, so he's suddenly skyrocketed from being my last choice to my first.

4) I still think highly of Jagmeet Singh and I think he'd be a fine leader who will easily engage with young people across most of English Canada.   He may even be able to similarly connect with Quebecers, I suspect, although that will be a struggle at first as his French language skills, as we saw yesterday in his showcase speech, remain merely adequate. 

5) Niki Ashton has been passionate in this race and her drive to renew the NDP as a movement is well-timed after it lost those roots under Tom Mulcair.  Her speech yesterday was solid, showcasing her decent French skills.  Furthermore, it's now clear to me that her youth and her clarity on the issues puts her in a great position to connect with millenials.    

6) Charlie Angus is still a great man and leader.  I've been inspired by his passion and clarity in this race.  However, when it comes to his weak French skills, or his ability to connect with the next generation of voters, I suddenly have major doubts.  In him, I saw someone a bit charming and older in the same vein as Bernie Sanders.  However, Angus has yet to show the kind of passion needed to inspire young people the way Sanders did.  While the other three candidates might quite naturally or easily connect either to young people or to Quebecers, Angus will have a huge struggle on his hands.  In him, I see flashbacks of Howard Hampton, another earnest and well-meaning NDP leader from Northern Ontario who ultimately failed to have much of an impact.

Thus, to my shock, I will soon fill out my online ballot in the NDP leadership race in order: 1) Caron, 2) Singh, 3) Ashton, and 4) Angus.

Yes I've changed my tune big time since last week.  I felt it important to clarify my new position.

A stronger NDP will keep the Liberals on their toes and force them to protect their left flank.  For me, I want a viable NDP that challenges for government, not just third-party status.  While the Liberals have done some good on the progressive front, if they become complacent about their progressive support, that'll spell trouble for many of the issues we progressives care about and want real action on.   And if the NDP can become strong again, should the Liberals falter, we'll have a decent and clear alternative to whom we can turn.