Monthly Archives: July 2007

Something’s in the Air

I’ve noticed Liberal hacks are fine tuning and revising their blogs following Kinsella’s sexist gaffe. Yesterday Kinsella himself on his blog entry had a link to an article which read something very close to “More on my cookies cock-up“. It’s been edited out so I can’t reproduce it exactly. But I remember it because I thought to myself a “cock-up”? Probably not the best choice of words given his recent antics. Today Kinsella’s entry has been revised to read “More on dumb cookies joke.”

I’m guessing Warren thought better than to use phallocentric language to help this mess go away. Either that or he has received enough edification from all those who’ve attempted to attenuate his comments that he now feels it’s ok to make a joke about it. If Kinsella wants to single out Randy Hillier’s regressive social views, he should just do so plainly. But he should be under no illusion that his recent unwitting manifestation of sexism is any less insidious and detrimental to women.

At the same time Derek Raymaker, Warren’s sycophantic band mate, removed from his blog all references to women (and on occasion a man) as “douchebags”, and was kind enough to replace each reference with the word “psychopath”. Seems he’s now partial to calling women he doesn’t like a “heinous cow”. Seems he’s also no longer on Kinsella’s blogroll. Way to have your pal’s back Warren. Raymaker, still voting Liberal?

Hmm, interesting trains of thought. With friends like these women don’t need enemies.

I’m also wondering about the netiquette around this kind of thing. As journalism, and other forms of articulation, become less hard copy and more transient, ubiquitous, easily edited and revised forms of human expression, what accommodations must the term “publish” make? Once a post is published what are the ethics around editing and revising that entry? As someone who’s not wholly innocent of this either, I think this a very important question.

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Update:

It would appear these guys are really mired in “damage control” mode. First Kinsella cleans up his blog. Next, Raymaker, whose metier is hurling insolent and puerile (thanks for the word of the week Warren) attacks, has, in a delicious irony, suddenly begun moderatingthe comments on his own blog.

Update 2:
In the old days it was the shredder that went into overdrive in these situations, now it seems all it takes is the click of a button. Derek Raymaker went from referring to Parkdale High Park MPP, Cheri DiNovo, as a “douchebag”, which he attenuated with the much more edifying term “psychopath”. And now, the blog entry has been deleted altogether. I’ve kept a record for any out there curious to read it.
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Odd & Ends

1. Cherniak continues to be all hot and bothered about the Ontario Liberal funding scandal being labeled a “slush fund”, so he keeps repeating over and over that there was no slush fund. Fine by me. Let’s just call it an illegitimate, irresponsible fund for currying favour with a declining voter base which the Liberals once could take for granted, but now have to earn, I mean buy, its vote.

But it’s not a slush fund.
2. Final thoughts on the Warren Kinsella affair.
First, on the apology on his blog:

After threatening to equivocate, Kinsella opts for high moral ground by listing potential excuses, getting in a couple of digs at MPP’s who were outraged by his sexism (you know the NDP is just retaliating for his smear of Cheri DiNovo and that he still opposes her fitness for office over something that happened more than 40 years ago, more on Lisa Macleod a little further down) by leaning on his record of standing up for women, and even a character reference from one of his editors. You know, things he might have done were he inclined to equivocate, but since he’s not going to equivocate Warren Kinsella does the honourable thing and admits “he made a dumb, sexist mistake.” And thus, he falls on his own sword, martyred for the betterment of sexist males everywhere.

Although I believe his apology to be sincere, it is telling that not once does he acknowledge the immediate victim, Lisa Macleod, of this sexist incident. In fact, Kinsella apologizes to virtually every woman in the world, except the one he most injured by his insensitive mistake. In fact, all he can say about Lisa Macleod amounts to I don’t know what she’s so upset about, she should be more rattled by her colleague Randy Hillier.

I don’t think Warren Kinsella is a sexist. He’s certainly no knuckle dragging Conservative, but I also don’t think he’s ideologically committed to ending sexism and other injustices. This was a sexist act and all the more dangerous for its innocence and banality. Because the moment we really need to worry about is when people start turning a blind eye to this type of thing. That’s my whole point. As a Liberal ideologue, his arrogant commitment to personal gain and winning, even unscrupulously, is simply deeper than any commitment to progressive politics, to the disenfranchised and marginalized, to the poor, to a more just and equitable society. I’m struck that in his apology what he seems most contrite about is not his offending Lisa Macleod and women everywhere, but that the cartoon was tactically a stupid move that backfired. It cost the Liberals points in the race for re-election and made Kinsella look bad.

Second, on Warren’s publishing of received emails. 
How can it not seem as a withdrawal of any contrition?  Kinsella’s dumb sexist act  was simply wrong. To initiate the topic with “Survey says” undermines any previous sincerity. Even if everyone who wrote in agreed with Kinsella, it wouldn’t change the fact that his action was wrong. Social justice is not a popularity contest. The threat of a “tyranny of the majority”, as Mill well understood, is a serious flaw in majoritarianism. Regardless, it is the right and decent thing to do to personally apologize to about the only woman to whom Warren had yet not apologized. I commend him for contacting Lisa Macleod.
Have a safe and enjoyable weekend.

Ontario Liberal Government coming apart at the seams

Murray Campbell, a well respected and fair journalist, summarizes well this unhinging. Ultimately, Ontarians should prove to be the benefactors. A minority government will better serve this province. I just hope that the electorate are farsighted and sage enough to vote for electoral reform as well.

Ontario Premier has little time to repair damage

From Friday’s Globe and Mail

TORONTO — It took a while, but the first wheel finally fell off Dalton McGuinty’s government.

Harinder Takhar remains in cabinet because he withstood allegations that he was “egregiously reckless” in the way he handled his business affairs.

David Caplan was able to bluster his way through the controversy surrounding insider fraud at the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corp.

But Mike Colle couldn’t survive a damning report that concluded he shovelled $32-million to multicultural groups in the province with barely a nod to standard administrative procedures.

The flip thing to say is, as a colleague suggested, that Mr. McGuinty has finally lived up to his promise to phase out Colle by 2007.

But Liberal strategists will be in no mood for humour today, because Mr. Colle’s resignation could scarcely have happened at a worse time. We are just 11 weeks from the Oct. 10 election day (surely Mr. McGuinty must now be regretting his zeal for fixed election dates), and there is hardly any time to repair the damage caused by the minister’s resignation.

Once again, the Premier will have no one to blame but himself.

The furor over the year-end grants to groups seen to be friendly with the Liberal Party began last April with a story that the Bengali Cultural Society received $250,000.

The story had legs because one of the organization’s executives was vice-president of the riding association of Liberal MP Maria Minna.

The next day, we found out that the Iranian-Canadian Community Centre was given $200,000 just three weeks after it registered as a charity and that its directors included a Liberal candidate in the coming election.

The opposition called for Mr. Colle’s head. Instead of acceding, the government embarked on what Progressive Conservative Leader John Tory characterizes as days of “denial, ducking and stonewalling.”

The grants issue dominated Question Period until Mr. McGuinty could stand it no more and recessed the legislature three weeks early, a few hours before Mr. Colle was scheduled to be grilled before a legislative committee.

The Conservatives asked about 270 questions in that period. They received no answers and, worse, were on the receiving end of insinuations that they were motivated by racist attitudes.

There’s a rule in politics that a minister should step aside when he or she becomes the story. The Premier, perhaps emboldened by his success in staring down attacks on Mr. Takhar and Mr. Caplan, broke this rule. He could have dealt with the controversy by kicking Mr. Colle out of his cabinet last April with the prospect that voters would soon forget.

Instead, he allowed it to build momentum and now, with voting day on the horizon, will have to deal with what Auditor-General Jim McCarter said is the reasonable perception that political favouritism underlay the whole sorry mess.

Mr. McGuinty said yesterday that the process Mr. Colle followed was “clearly inadequate,” but he shouldn’t have needed Mr. McCarter to tell him that. Anyone watching the minister squirm during his daily grilling by reporters would have come to the same conclusion.

In the coming weeks, you will hear a lot from opposition politicians about the cricket association that asked for $150,000 after it was invited to apply for funding and the next day received $1-million. It had so much money that it spent $20,000 to throw a celebratory dinner (at which Mr. McGuinty spoke) and then socked away $500,000 in five-year, investment certificates.

Parents of autistic children or those running bake sales to buy school textbooks will scratch their heads. And thanks to Mr. McGuinty’s faulty political instincts, they won’t have time to forget before they head to the polls.

No Ontario Liberal "Slush Fund"???

Just when I thought this last week couldn’t get any worse for the Ontario Liberals (with racism and sexism rearing their ugly heads in association the Ontario Liberal Party), it turns out I’m wrong.

Some Liberals seem to think that Michael Colle’s resignation concludes this fiasco. As Jason Cherniak says in his blog: “In any case, Colle is now gone. The problems were pretty clearly centred in his office.”

Cherniak should be ashamed of himself. He defended Colle in the past, and suddenly, for political reasons, he’s willing to scapegoat a decent man (Colle apparently had volunteered to resign when this scandal heated up and McGuinty refused his resignation. This problem, however, cannot be whisked away just like that. Colle’s not innocent, but neither is McGuinty. Sorry, this problem is systemic and symptomatic of the arrogance and recklessness of this government.

As to the auditor general’s report, the main finding was actually this:

We found that the decision-making processes followed with respect to the Ministry of Citizenship and Immigration’s more significant year-end grants in the 2005/06 and 2006/07 fiscal years were not open, transparent, or accountable.

Pretty scathing I’d say.

Moreover, I’m not so sure that the charge that this money was a “slush fund” can be so easily dismissed. Everyone’s quoting the line:
“We found no evidence that any organization received a grant because it had political ties.”

Interesting that the next lines are conspicuously omitted in any renditions of the report I’ve seen:

However, in some cases those ties did exist, and, when this is combined with a process lacking openness and most of the normal accountability controls, it can create the perception of favouritism if the organization ends up obtaining a grant.

As I understand the term, a “slush fund” has two ethically questionable elements. First, is it’s illegitimacy, accounting or otherwise. And this was something well established in the present report.

Second there is an “understanding”, an expectation of quid pro quo (we’ve scratched your back, on Oct. 10th perhaps you might scratch ours). Cherniak calls this patronage and seems to see it as qualitatively different (i.e. not unethical) from a “slush fund”. Now whether this favouritism is real or perceived, especially if we look at some of the more glaring individual cases, I don’t think it’s a huge stretch to argue that such an expectation was created in some of the recipients of these grants. Added up, seems like a slush fund to me. Since the Ontario Liberals increasingly can’t rely on a large portion of the ethnic and immigrant vote, something had to be done.

Latent Sexism Erupts in Liberal Propaganda: Thanks Warren

I’ve been second guessing my thoughts earlier this week on the racist email circulated by a public service employee working in a Liberal cabinet office. My basic point of imputing the action in its peculiarity to a racism latent in Liberal ideology, I thought perhaps was going too far. To be sure, the smugness, the arrogance, and sense of entitlement displayed by the Ontario Liberal government does seem conducive to this kind of senseless and careless action. Either the employee was too careless and naive to fully understand what she was doing, or her sense of entitlement so exalted as to feel beyond reproach.

More gravely, however, this was not only a stupid moment, it was a stupid racist moment. For all the talk in Liberal camps about being progressive, sometimes even “leftist”, about social justice and human rights, the truth is that when these kinds of actions erupt under their watch it can’t help but illuminate the hypocrisy at the heart of Liberal ideology. Liberal ideologues are nice, they smile, have middling intelligence. They talk a good game in relation to social justice, poverty, and human rights but the unchangeable truth is that Liberalism is originally and essentially about raw self-interest, laissez faire economics, and sidling up to big business interest. Progressive politics and Liberalism only come together incidentally or conveniently and not out of principle. The Ontario Liberal Budget of 2007 was a case in point. It not only was NOT anything approximating a “poverty” budget, it only became a “poverty” budget because of the hard work of folks like MPP Cheri DiNovo, the Ontario NDP, the Canadian Labour Council, and only then because the Ontario Liberals surprisingly lost a by-election (York South Weston) almost exclusively because of their stance on poverty.

Say what you will, but a New Democrat would never act in this way. Why? Because a New Democrat is under the sway of a different ideology. Vigilant concern over things like racism, sexism, homophobia, poverty, workers rights etc. is inherent to the principled progressive politics of social democratic ideology. Still, just as I’m overcome with doubt at what I’ve written, enter Warren Kinsella.

It seems in his zeal to smear the Conservatives, their leader and especially Randy Hillier, Warren Kinsella let his guard down and the truth of Liberalism spoke despite him not because of him. You see,in his blog yesterday, Warren published a photograph/cartoon, which he has already removed from his website so I’m left working from memory. Anyway, in his bid to regale us with his wit and humour, Kinsella affixed a number of comments next to those flanking Hillier and listening to him speak, implying that they were desperate not to be seen there nor associated with this brute. One of those standing there was MPP Lisa Macleod, next to whom Kinsella attaches a thought bubble saying something to the effect “I’d rather be baking”. Why exactly would MPP Macleod rather be baking Warren? Because she’s a dumb woman or because she clearly has food issues?

Now, this is Warren Kinsella doing this, not some inexperienced summer hire. But is this any less thoughtless and incendiary than last week’s racist incident? First of all, given how much talk there has been about the necessity of increasing the number of women in Canadian politics, I’m shocked and appalled that Kinsella was not more sensitive to his latent sexism, but still there you have it. Progressive, punk loving, hipster Kinsella, a bona fide sexist despite himself. Typical Liberal. With friends like him, progressives don’t need enemies.

According Kinsella, removing the picture from his blog has only to do with his wife not finding the cartoon very funny at all. Duh. Do you think? She’s a woman, no kidding she wouldn’t be terribly amused. Again, typical Liberal. As we saw with the racist email, when caught red handed, never ever take responsibility or ownership. Deny and deflect. Pathetic!!

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Update:
Classically Liberal show of contrition by Kinsella on his blog. After threatening to equivocate, Kinsella opts for high moral ground by listing potential excuses, getting in a couple of digs at MPP’s who were outraged by his sexism (you know the NDP is just retaliating for his smear of Cheri DiNovo and that he still opposes her fitness for office over something that happened more than 40 years ago, more on Lisa Macleod later) by leaning on his record of standing up for women, and even a character reference from one of his editors. You know, things he might have done were he inclined to equivocate, but since he’s not going to equivocate Warren Kinsella does the honourable thing and admits “he made a dumb, sexist mistake.” And thus, he falls on his own sword, martyred for the betterment of sexist males everywhere.

Although I believe his apology to be sincere, it is telling that not once does he acknowledge the immediate victim, Lisa Macleod, of this sexist incident. In fact, Kinsella apologizes to virtually every woman in the world, except the one he most injured by his insensitive mistake. In fact, all he can say about Lisa Macleod amounts to I don’t know what she’s so upset about, she should be more rattled by her colleague Randy Hillier.

I don’t think Warren Kinsella is a sexist, but I also don’t think he’s ideologically committed to ending sexism and other injustices. That’s my whole point. As a Liberal, his commitment to winning, even unscrupulously, is simply deeper than any commitment to progressive politics, to the disenfranchised and marginalized, to the poor, to a more just and equitable society. I’m struck that in his apology what he seems most contrite about is not offending Lisa Macleod and women everywhere, but that the cartoon was tactically a stupid move that backfired. It cost the Liberals points in the race for re-election and made Kinsella look bad.

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Update 2
I was just re-reading this from Kinsella’s blog:
“Or I could suggest that Cheri di Novo’s outrage relates to the fact that I loudly opposed the political candidacy of a person who had actually smuggled drugs in Bibles (which I did, and still do).”
What does the parenthetical comment refer to? Is Warren admitting that he too, as a wayward teen over forty years ago, smuggled drugs in bibles? Or worse, that he still does? I didn’t think Warren could be so squeaky clean as all that. You know, once too having been a teenager and in a band and all that.

Mr Kinsella get over it. You opposed her candidacy simply because she wasn’t a Liberal. And your opposition was not only loud, it was part of a scurrilous attack which John McGrath described as the worst smear campaign he’d witnessed. Yet, as is commonly conceded, MPP Cheri DiNovo is one of the best things to happen to Queen’s Park in quite some time. She’s a tireless advocate for the poor and marginalized, for small business and working families. She’s articulate, she’s courageous, she’s principled. The antithesis of a Liberal. I couldn’t ask for better representation in Parkdale High Park.

Reckless Racism Issues from Ontario Liberal Government

This bit of racism typifies why I can’t suffer Liberal politics (I can’t suffer Conservative politics either, but that’s another story). I wish not to chastise any further the unfortunate woman who sent out the racist email from a Liberal cabinet office. I assume she’ll be the last person to act so recklessly and thoughtlessly in the future. Besides whatever unconscious passive aggressive barbs are contained in her email should be worked through between her and her therapist.

Instead I mean to read this incident more symptomatically and in its peculiarity as a particular effect of ideology, namely of Liberal ideology. I’m repeatedly admonished for using that old weathered term, “ideology”. I’m told either that, like socialism, ideology belongs to another time, conjuring up anachronistic images of the Red scare and old Italian communists like Gramsci, or I’m told that I’m to accept that in late capitalist societies we are now not only postmodernist but postideological too. Bullshit! I would argue that at no time has humanity been any more ideological than in western late capitalist consumer societies.

Ideology is not merely an integrated and co-ordinated system of beliefs. In fact, ideology is really not a belief or rational conviction at all and for two reasons: 1) it is a position to which one often will irrationally and chauvinistically adhere, even despite evidence to the contrary, and 2) like “culture”, ideology works implicitly and largely unconsciously, which is one of the reasons we can’t be reasoned out of our ideologies. The most famous statement on ideology was that uttered by Jesus on the cross: “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” Living unconsciously, unreflectively, and unknowingly bears only the trace of living ideologically. Late capitalist consumer societies not only are more profoundly marked by this way of living/spinning than any other society in history, but also we enjoy it so much that we have gradually exhausted the possibility of even imagining alternative ideologies. We are so completely resigned to a Liberal/Capitalist ideology that we can’t but fail to act in the face of impending catastrophes (economic, environmental, social or otherwise). So what is Liberal political ideology?

The Liberal ideological universe is one comprised of “flexible” values and fluid truths (that’s a kind way of saying that in the Liberal ideological universe one will say and do anything for approval and success), all of which are commanded by entitlement, opportunism and an abiding desire to win at all costs. Moreover, since everyone (from big business to workers, students, immigrants, and the poor) must remain placated at all times, in this universe a principled stand cannot be taken. In fact, in this universe this absence of principle is elevated to core ideological imperative. Be everything to everyone.
That Liberal ideology resembles capitalism itself and its various reincarnations (from unfettered industrial capitalism, to welfare State restricted capitalism, to late global capitalism) should come as no surprise. As is well known Liberalism was an ideology seminal to the growth of capitalist economies. In fact, the original freedom which Liberals sought after was for the market’s freedom from regulation. Think of Victorian London, of Charles Dickens’ novels, and there you have early Liberals version of a great society with an unfettered free market economy.

This linking of Liberal ideology to capitalism is important because Liberalism overcomes social prejudice and injustice much the same way as capitalism is said to have overcome things like sexism, racism, homophobia etc.: through expediency and self-interest. Social justice, equality, fairness in Liberal/Capitalist ideologies are not adopted as matters of ethical principle, but as ways of furthering self-interest and self-preservation. Markets thrive on the circulation of capital irrespective of characteristics or value systems of those circulating that capital. Liberal ideologues thrive on power and vote getting and thus at times it becomes expeditious and advantageous to adopt policy that incidentally is also socially just and ethical. But let’s be clear. What drives Liberal ideology is not principle or ethics or fairness but pure self-interest and self-aggrandizement.

The racism issuing from Queen’s Park is symptomatic of several things. First and most importantly, ideology and racism are deeply entrenched in our lives. “We do it, but do not know we are doing it”. Even after getting caught red-handed, there is the unfortunate attempt to deny and disavow by claiming that the email didn’t refer to anyone outside of Siu’s circle of friends. This the “I’m not racist some of my best friends are black” denial is simply reprehensible. At least own what was done, even Michael Richards did that.

Second, this passive aggressive “innocuous” form of the racism is peculiar to Liberal ideology. But of course it’s never innocuous nor innocent. A formal admission of guilt and an apology is the very least this young man deserves. For his part, Mr. Reid responded with grace and intelligence.

“This isn’t a Confederate flag in a pickup truck,” he said. “But it’s the kind of private view that affects decisions about someone like myself in the job market.”

Third, when the truth surfaces in the Liberal ideological universe it can only do so on veiled or spontaneous terms, such as Freudian slips, passive aggressiveness, carelessness. Had the media intercepted a racist missive from the Conservatives, it would have been very different in form. Racism, fear, and hatred in Conservative ideology is visceral, owned and explicit, not disavowed, concealed and implicit as it is Liberal ideology. The truth always returns and I think in this regard also of George Smitherman and Sylvia Watson unwittingly uttering the fateful truth when they’ve accidentally called McGuinty, “McGuilty.”

Hence the old truism that the difference between a Conservative and a Liberal is that with the Conservative you see the knife coming.

Ontario Liberals spend millions avoiding treating children with autism

I don’t know what’s worse. That another McGuinty broken promise has miserably failed children with autism in Ontario or that this government chose to go to court to attempt to deny the public from knowing how many millions of dollars it spent fighting a lawsuit seeking that this government provide the treatment it promised.
What’s worse the cold indifference of this government or its arrogance and smugness? You decide.
I do know Shelley Martel was one of the truly bright lights in women’s politics in this country and she will be dearly missed by all who value dedication, dignity and integrity in politics.

Warren Kinsella Flails and Misses

Is there anything more pathetic than a goon long past his prime flailing away hoping miraculously to land one last punch? I mean some Libloggers (no not you Cherniak) are delivering better jabs than this once for hire hitman of politics. I’d turn away but like a train wreck, this disaster transfixes me.

Warren Kinsella reduced to this. To this!

Not only desperate and ineffectual, but so juvenile this “hee hee guys, check out the funny photo of Tory with hand growing out of his head, almost as funny as this little animation sent to me by some liberal half-wit hack.” Perhaps Warren could have actually addressed the content of the article which incidentally deals with one of the most pressing budgetary issue facing cities in Ontario, most notably in Toronto? Ontario Liberals promised to upload some of the download, but unfortunately McGuinty only keeps on downloading. Mandating cities to deal with social services without helping them pay for them is potentially illegal and at the very least reprehensible.

Then yesterday, the best Kinsella has with which to swipe at CUPE is a link to Michael Coren. I’ve always thought Kinsella and Coren to be contradictions of each other. You know Warren “I’m so cool I’ve trademarked “Cool Factor” Kinsella. I know, I know, by definition you can’t be cool if you call yourself cool but still this is the punk loving, road tripper, libertine Kinsella who regales his supporters with banal vulgarity and profanity. Then you have Michael “I hate baby killing pro-choicers, Muslims, and homosexuals” Coren. I mean Coren epitomizes that stilted, hypocritical conservatism that punk attempted to shatter and question.

I understand they both share legendary arrogance and narcissism, middling intelligence, and a love of malicious slandering of their opponents but surely Kinsella and Coren remain incongruous. For example, I wonder if Kinsella in his zeal to malign CUPE shares Coren’s sentiment that “Israel reluctantly built a fence, not a wall, to protect its children from crazed religious fanatics who lust for innocent blood.” You call that a “fence”! To me a fence is what one puts up in one’s backyard for privacy when entertaining or sunbathing.

Am I imputing too much to this? I think it’s pretty clear that defence isn’t Warren Kinsella’s metier but has he also lost his punch? I can only hope his war room tactics continue to help win more seats for the Ontario NDP.