Sean Spicer seems determined to protect Donald Trump from his own fabrications.  This requires a level of intellectual dishonesty inconsistent with the correct use of English grammar.  Look at the sentence below which I culled from today’s Toronto Star:

“He believes what he believes based on the information he was provided,” said Spicer, who provided no evidence to back up the president’s statements.

The use of the noun clause what he believes indicates a relatively sophisticated intelligence in that it indicates a willingness to deal with a known unknown.

But then comes the dreadful passive construction based on the information he was provided.  Nobody believes the voice who utters a clunker like this.  It’s a childish attempt to hide either the facts, or the lack of facts.  It’s a passive “The front window was broken” when only  the active “I broke the front window” will do.

So what’s wrong with Spicer?  He uses the passive voice.  The information he was provided will not do it.  The White House Press Corps, the American People, and certainly we, Canadians, will have no use for him until he uses the active voice exclusively and he shows the source of every single bit of information which crosses his podium.

It’s all in the grammar.


To the Tower with him!

January 24, 2017

If Trump’s crew continue with their program of alternative facts, what if journalists created an alternative president?  What could Trump do if CNN, BBC, CBC, Reuters and other media outlets reported thoughts and activities of Mike Pence as though he were already Head of State?  How long would it take for White House sycophants to catch on and switch their allegiance?  A gradual increase of Pence standing could lessen the load of expectations for which Trump is clearly not prepared.

If world leaders denied standing to Trump and looked instead to Pence, could the Donald’s lies and loose-cannon rants be contained before he does any real damage?  A figurehead president, Rapunsel-like, could live out his term away from the White House, pressing buttons on a mere video-game representation of World politics, and given his lack of interest in real input, remain none the wiser.

Over the years the Tower of London has housed kings and pretenders in similar fashion.  This is not a new idea.


Cash for Access

December 20, 2016

Here’s a thought:

Over the last few years my contributions to the Liberal Party of Canada have been directly tied to the level of abuse Justin Trudeau has faced in the media during his time in office. Unfair attack ads opened my cheque book because, like a distant but somewhat protective parent, I felt I could at least do something to defend the guy.

All fall I have ignored the LPC email stream begging for contributions because things were going pretty well for JT and the Liberals and they could get along without me after we had gotten rid of Harper. It seemed it was somebody else’s turn to pay the piper. I didn’t mind if it was Chinese billionaires. It at least showed the Liberal Party had gotten off their butts and learned how to raise money.

But now the media’s lining up on this ethics issue. The LPC has learned to find the money to operate, but they’re vulnerable because of the catchy  bumper-sticker phrase “Cash for access.”

I guess the condemnation is really directed at me, the lazy parent. So last night the cheque book opened up again.

Remember when the Canadian media called Justin Trudeau a hypocrite for refusing to condemn Donald Trump during the long presidential campaign? Turns out JT was wiser than his naysayers thought.

Then his loudest detractor quipped he would be no match for Trump in negotiations. Cheap bumper-sticker thought, that Bambi-vs-Godzilla line from Kevin O’Leary.

Even Michael Harris’s David-vs-Goliath comparison is a poor analogy, because it still speaks to a cranky, insecure Manichean tradition of the battle to the death between principalities which today is far from the Canadian experience.

The last fresh idea about Canada-U.S. relations (mouse-sleeping-with-a-friendly elephant) came from the elder Trudeau, come to think of it.

From what I’ve seen of Donald Trump so far, the elephant-in-an-orange-toupe idea still retains a good deal of currency.  Justin Trudeau would fit naturally into the role of the rider trapped on this panicked elephant as the United States careens along the road, driven by its fear and natural urges, but unsure of its destination, or even direction at a given moment.

I’ll watch with interest the first public encounter between Trump and Trudeau, but I expect  the rider will continue to calm the behemoth and begin to nudge it away from the more obvious hazards as it burns through its manic energy.

About that Vox Pop survey

December 7, 2016

For non-Canadian readers, electoral reform is a big deal in Canada after the man we chose as Prime Minister promised during the campaign that the 2015 election would be the last one with First Past The Post voting.

Word about a survey popped up last week, primarily due to the Prime Minister’s decision to send every Canadian of voting age a postcard inviting them to complete the online survey the government has sponsored as part of the electoral reform process.

For me so far, electoral reform has been the activities of others, of intense interest to the interested, but external to my inner thoughts. But it’s an important decision, and as individual and intimate as one’s time in a voting booth.

I understand the ridicule directed at what I came to consider a well-structured survey. Someone called it a push-poll, but couldn’t articulate its point. I’d suggest the point of the Vox Pop Labs interactive online survey was to push laggards like me into beginning our internal dialogues.

I can march along with the Liberal band without a lot of daily thought. Be nice to others, look after the environment, pay one’s debts, make contributions when they ask — standard stuff.

But do I want government to consist of endless compromises to accomodate every single-issue group in Canada?  No, I chose a strong majority on the survey. Do I want to be able to boot the wretches out?  Not on a daily basis.  Once every four years would be fine.

The crunch came when I had to choose whether to use the electoral process to concentrate power in my own cultural tribe, or distribute it “fairly” to all of the other tribes. That’s where I drew the line. I don’t want to give up power at this stage in life.

The other decision point was easier: I don’t want to vote for a party list. I am not a Leafs fan. I want to know the man or woman who will represent me, and I’ll make up my own mind. Proportional representation is out because it has too many working parts. Sorry, Lizzie May, I like you but I don’t like PR.

To my surprise I realized my likely vote in a referendum would be FPTP or Ranked Ballot. Subject to other inputs. Vox Pop forced me to start the internal dialogue. Creepy, especially for those who prefer to keep their politics on the outside.


Update, 7 December

My friend and correspondent Tom Stutzman asked what I meant by “keeping their politics on the outside.”


Pundits treat electoral reform as something to write about.  They remain detached and are affronted when someone asks them, “What’s in your soul?”  

They react about the way they would to a salvationist at the door.  This poll asked Canadians quietly to take stock of their innermost thoughts on the subject of electoral reform.  It gets the reader’s attention prior to the ensuing learning activity.  That’s Trudeau’s B.Ed. showing through.

Canadian pundits don’t want to be taught much, especially about themselves.

Would-be Conservative leader Dr. Kellie Leitch’s latest kick is to legalize pepper spray for women to use for personal protection.

Around Forfar you never know how something will get used until it gets used, and this rule will probably apply to pepper spray, as well.

So I prepared a T-shirt to go with Leitch’s campaign.  The tangled syntax should fit well with statements made by Conservative cabinet ministers over the last decade.  I don’t know if Kellie will like it, but…



*To non-Canadian readers I apologize for a column which must look like inside baseball. Rather than load the piece up with parentheses and marginal notes, I’ll leave it to Google to provide explanations on demand.  After considerable thought I hope that I have found a context within which to respond to the recent U.S. election.

It’s a scifi world in politics now, where there is literally no such thing as bad press. The only losing strategy any more seems to be the pursuit of a quiet, principled and dignified campaign. Canada’s Dr. Kellie Leitch has caught onto this meme and decided to get herself some Trump in an effort to avoid irrelevance.

What galls me is the commodification of this package of negative attitudes as a prefabricated political strategy.

The question for Canadians is how can we sanction the McVetys, the Fords and the Leitches without simply inflaming the virus with the heat of publicity, which is all they seek?

The only immediate suggestion would be to lapse into autocracy — what Trudeau bluntly used to prevent the (Sam Oosterhoff-style) packing of nomination meetings in 2015 — but to do that is to allow the virus attacking democracy to advance as well.

So the old debate question emerges again: how can a democracy protect itself against attacks upon truth as the the informed news editor is supplanted by the writer of fake news?