A briefing note for progressive thinkers on the celebrity bombast of the political right

I’m often tempted to weigh in on the popular appeal of bombastic, right-wing celebrity politicians, yet I hesitate when smart commentators say exactly what I was thinking – people like the brilliant Rick Salutin of the Toronto Star, Marcus Gee in the Globe and Mail, or Charles Blow in the New York Times. They always nail it. But recently, I started to have thoughts that may not have been covered in the relentless carpet-bombing of Donald Trump and before him, Toronto’s notorious mayor Rob Ford, not to mention Boris Johnston, the demagogue behind the ‘Brexit’ referendum. ROFO, BOJO, and Trump are the heralds of new kind of leadership in this millennium. It’s become clear to progressive thinkers that we need to take the appeal of right wing buffoonery more seriously.…
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Hit over the head and blamed for falling? The curious case of Scarborough and the Toronto media

When Canada first built its railways, forever remembered in the sepia photograph of the last spike, the idea was that railways spawn communities, commerce, and population growth. It was the undisputed economic model. It is precisely why, along with connecting communities, that both Canada and the United States built their railways in the first place. But when it comes to the Scarborough subway 130 years later, we have thrown that model into reverse:  we won’t lay the rails down until the communities, commerce and population growth are already in place. Although we are looking at a similar mode of transport, we are treated to a 180 turn of the lens. And if you agree with the premise that Scarborough doesn’t deserve the Subway because it is not a growth community,…
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There will be a 75th reunion of Canadian veterans in Holland in 2020

On Sunday, March 19, 1961, my grandfather was one day away from death in the small town of St. Mary’s Ontario in his family home on the main street of town. He did not want to live on the terms on which he then understood his life. Robert A Stapleton was 84 years old. He had suffered circulatory problems most of his adult life along with painful arthritis. One of his legs had been amputated above the knee a couple of years earlier and his remaining leg had been recommended for amputation by doctors. He had refused and life-ending gangrene had become a very real possibility in that early spring. I was 10 years old at the time and I had been a part of many recent family gatherings on weekends in…
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Life and Fun in 2016

There are a lot of fun things to do in 2016: Here are my top four, highly idiosyncratic entries,  all from watching evening television on Netflix or CBC Praise Keith Richards – Rock Historian: Tune into Netflix and go to the music documentaries. It takes a while until you realize that Keith Richards is in almost all of them. He has raised the halting carefulness of the intoxicant trying to keep it together to high art. But don’t let the highly practiced ‘stoned’ style (and a 70+ year old wearing a headband) distract you or make you think that this isn’t serious. Keith Richards is THE historian of rock and roll. He traces it – he spins it. He plays it. He takes you from Muscle Shoals to clubs in Chicago.…
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A reply to Martin Regg Cohn’s column: “Gambling on Horses hasn’t paid off”

It’s hard to know if Toronto Star columnist Martin Regg Cohn is trying to use horse racing as a way to ‘spank’ the Provincial Liberal party. Maybe he is showcasing what he believes to be a “dying Liberal brand” through the Ontario government’s attempts to revive horse racing in Ontario. Regardless, Cohn’s column in the Toronto Star[1] of June 16, 2015 fails at both. I won’t take the time here to retell the story of the rise and fall of the Slots at the Racetrack Program (SARP) or the Wynne’s government’s work to breathe life back into the industry. We all know the story and we have heard it countless times before. So let me tell a bit of a different story. When the McGuinty government pulled the plug on…
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We are the 61%

In the May 2011 federal election, voter turnout was 61%. In the same election, all other parties except the winner received 61% of the vote. In other words, of the 61% of us who voted, 61% of us voted against the majority government that took power. Usually 61% runs the show; but not now. And it looks like it will happen again. Why? To quote ABBA: “The winner takes it all!” The Conservative strategy is a 39% strategy. They need 39% of Canadians not to vote in 2015. And they need 39% of the popular vote to get a majority again. These are modest goals. They also need progressives to split their vote as equally as possible between the other two mainstream parties. The Conservative government has announced a Budget with…
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A funny thing happened on the way to the middle ages: Boethius and the ‘Identity of Indiscernibles’

It takes a long time following retirement from the public service after which you realize that you can write about anything you want. I had always wanted to publish a limerick that I wrote with a friend (now deceased) over 40 years ago.  In this blog, I take another item off my intellectual bucket list. I was reading PhD level courses in philosophy in 1973 at York University (Social and Political Thought) when the course material required that the class read the Consolation of Philosophy by the mediaeval philosopher Boethius[1]. Boethius, born in 480 A.D., was an influential sort who reported directly to Theodoric the Great. But he got himself imprisoned for trying to navigate the difficult and treacherous process of bringing Constantinople and Rome closer together. Theodoric eventually had Boethius…
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Twenty Eight Canadians

Twenty eight Canadians returned to Italy to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the Italian campaign that took place during World War II from July 1943 to April 1945. They ranged in age from their later eighties to their mid-nineties. They were in the minority of the living well enough to go. They were a remarkable group and the Canadian government has taken great care to ensure that we don’t lose track of them in the way we lost track of Canadian veterans of the Great War. In that case, it seems as if they were suddenly gone. But what do we really know about this group of veterans who travelled to Italy from November 22 to November 30th as part of the official delegation? What does the twenty seven men…
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We are going! the 70th anniversary of the Italian Campaign

Al Stapleton, 94, is visiting the fields of battle in World War II Italy this week as a member of Canada’s Official Delegation to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the Italian campaign. He is our father. This is his third visit to Italy. The second time was ten years ago for the 60th anniversary. His first visit was seven decades ago. For the first four decades of our lives, we heard little about his wartime experience in Italy. It took a long time for the painful stories of war to emerge. He arrived in July 1943 under the cloak of darkness and raging storms as part of one of the largest expeditionary forces in history. Departing from a troop carrier, he waded ashore on a beach in southern Sicily close to the sleepy…
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Doing the BORF: The new world of vacationing Torontonians meeting Americans

I recently went on a vacation cruise to the western Caribbean as the itinerary included Honduras, Guatemala, Belize and Grand Cayman – four places I had never visited and wanted to experience. Truth in advertising: this was a luxury cruise with a high concentration of prosperous looking white people and a preponderance of Americans. But I had no idea that I was going to BORF so I started to keep notes on the experience. The qualifications for a BORF  are unique to people who travel from Toronto to another location outside of Canada and who have the chance of running into Americans. A cruise in this sense is ideal. I should also say from the outset that I had no idea I was going to BORF and I can freely…
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