Italy: 60/40

The exit polls on the Italian Constitutional Referendum are showing the Yes side of PM Matteo Renzi losing bigly. 60% No, 40% Yes.

Popular anger at everything from the Euro to unfettered African and Middle Eastern migration on to the perpetually sketchy Italian economy all came into the mix. However, having followed the campaign a bit, my sense is that this is a purely populist reaction against the perceived globalist elite. Renzi was appointed – not elected – to office a couple of years ago. Whatever his politics he was seen as a tool of a technocratic, Europhile elite and, as such, when the people had the opportunity to voice their displeasure they took it.

This does not finish the EU. It will take the election of M. LePen to accomplish that; but it does signal a large scale rejection of the centralizing impulse which drives the EU. I expect there will be a fair dose of commentary linking Brexit, Trump and the defiance of the Italians. I doubt that there was much of a link other than the growing realization that the current situation of mass migration, unbalanced budgets and growing governmental interference with people’s lives is unsustainable.

The Italians are having to deal with a wave of African and Middle Eastern migration which they do not want and cannot afford. Their government seems hell bent on spending money it does not have to rescue, feed and house these migrants. Elites, imbued with an internationalist, multicultural orthodoxy, can’t imagine why their citizens are looking askance at migrants who are better treated than the Italians themselves. Unwanted migration is not the only reason for anger but it is the most visible.

The divergence between elite and popular opinion on the question of migration is the fulcrum of anger which is grinding away the pretensions of elite opinion. “Italy for the Italians!” can no longer be dismissed as irrelevant racist cant. Rather, it will begin to inform the actions of any government which hopes to rule Italy.

Today’s Italian vote may well signal the beginning of serious Italian nationalism.

As a general rule elites and Europhiles decry nationalism because they are convinced that that nationalism will set European state against European state a la WWI and II. I don’t think it will. Rather I think the nationalism will set the dominant European culture against the Muslim and/or African migrants/colonists flooding the borders. In the process that nationalism will start rooting out the now discredited ideology of multi-culturalism. In which case, today’s vote was a victory for Italy and the idea that Italian culture is worth defending.

The major loser in all of this is the EU. For the EU the idea of “Italian” was somehow to be submerged into the idea of “European”. The problem was that “European” was not very attractive as it gradually descended into unswerving support for unlimited migration, politically correct multi-culturalism and a deep belief that bureaucrats could make better decisions than Italians about how Italians lived and worked. 16 years of economic stagnation in the Euro strongly suggests that Brussels adds very little to the Italian mix.

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Pot Leaks

marijuana postal delivery

Here are your brownies Mrs. Smith. Can I see some ID?

To my not very great surprise, John Ivison of the National Post had parts of the Canada Marijuana Task Force Report leaked to him.

What was a tiny bit surprising was to be called by “The Morning Show with Matt Gurney and Supriya Dwivedi” http://www.640toronto.com/morningshow/ at 5:30 AM this morning (Producer Ryan…you owe me baked goods.) to comment on the information disclosed in the leak. You can listen to my remarkably coherent (having been awake for a minute and a half) ramblings here.

A couple of slightly less random thoughts on the leaked material.

The leak itself is interesting and more than a little outrageous. The Report clearly favours Health Canada Licenced Medical Marijuana growers and many of those corporate grow shows are publically traded companies. Allowing the report to come out in dribs and drabs (because “translation”) could cause deep uncertainty in the public markets. The government should release the report, in toto, immediately.

Substantively, the Report apparently recommends that legalization efforts be directed at “getting rid of the $7-billion-a year black market. Sources familiar with the report, which is expected to be made public Dec. 21, say all the other recommendations flow from that guiding principle.”

It is not clear whether that “black market” includes the grey market of dispensaries and pot shops which has grown up in Canada and which continues to expand.

Using “legalization” as a weapon against the “black market” is pretty much the level of restrictive thinking I expected from the Task Force. Rather than seeing legalization as an opportunity to regularize the marijuana market, the language suggests a resumption of the war on drugs by other means.

The Task Force is apparently suggesting that the 40 Health Canada approved licencees remain the only legal source of marijuana and proposes that recreational pot, like medicinal pot, continue to be delivered by Canada Post. A nostalgic bow to the mail and a suggestion pretty certain to keep dispensaries and “Bob on the corner” in business for the foreseeable future. Here is a free clue for the Liberal government: recreational pot users are impulse buyers. As I say in my book, “The most common triggers for the decision is that, by their lights, a customer is running low on pot, has run out of pot or has been out of pot for some time but only now has the money to buy more pot.” In short, not likely to wait a week for Canada Post to deliver.

But recreational pot users may be waiting a lot longer than that. Let’s do a bit of simple math. A 7 billion dollar a year “black” market at, say, $10 per gram implies a 700 million gram market or 700,000 kilograms. According to Health Canada’s market data, Canada’s licenced corporate grow shows, in the quarter ending September 30, 2016 produced 5734 kilograms of pot and had inventory of 13,236 kg. Just for fun, lets say we take quarterly production to 7000kg. Annualized, in round numbers, 30,000kg.

Yup, the combined production of all the Health Canada licenced corporate grow shows is, optimistically, less than 5% of projected recreational demand aka “the black market”. Don’t be looking for the postie with your pot anytime soon.

There is no question that some, but not all, of the current licencees can scale up their operations; however a 20x increase in production is not likely with only 40 licencees.

Ivison’s story goes on to suggest that, at least initially, Canada Post would have a monopoly on pot deliveries. The logic here being that Canada Post would verify the identity and age of the people it was delivering to. Right. Just for fun think about how that would work. Would you go to your local post office and present ID to pick up your pot? Would the postie (for those of you who still have home delivery) ask for id at your door? Canada Post according to its 2015 Annual Report delivers millions of parcels. Some days it delivers over 1 million parcels. E-commerce is taking off and Canada Post is getting its share of the business. But a great deal of the parcel post does not involve any interaction with the recipient.

If you take the “black market” number of 700 million grams and assume people will buy in 10 gram parcels – call it $100 – that is 70 million face to face deliveries a year. There will be new jobs at the Post Office.

The only encouraging thing in the Ivison piece is that distribution and production will have to be discussed with the provinces. Ivison suggests that, at least in BC, “which already has a large number of pot shops, the expectation is that the provincial government will require dispensaries to buy marijuana from a licensed producer.” This would make a heck of a lot more sense than distributing through the Post Office.

I am waiting for the release of the actual report, but if Ivison’s article is substantially correct, the Liberal Government is being handed a largely unworkable plan for marijuana legalization. Insufficient supply, inefficient distribution and a prohibitionary mentality seem to have destroyed the entrepreneurial opportunity marijuana legalization presented.

I’m not surprised.

 

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What to Look For in the McLellan Task Force Report on Marijuana Legalization

51lb8qgn6zl-_sx389_bo1204203200_I’ve written a book about how to “Start and Run A Marijuana Dispensary or Pot Shop”. You can buy it at Amazon at this link. When you write a book about a subject which is in the news you get to do a fair bit of media. The Canadian Marijuana Task Force Report is being delivered to Cabinet tomorrow and will be released to the public “in due course”. Preparatory to that release I made a few notes for my publicist which I thought might be of interest to my readers. Here they are with a few comments below.

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The McLellan Task Force Report on Marijuana Legalization Report is supposed to be released in the next few days. The Task Force was charged with working out how best to legalize the recreational use of marijuana in Canada. Its findings are likely to determine how the Liberal government implements its campaign promise to legalize marijuana.

There are a number of questions which the Report may address:

  • Regulatory regime: will the Task Force opt for a Colorado style “seed to sale” regulatory regime where every step of production and sale is tightly controlled and subject to video surveillance, inspection and high security or will the Task Force adopt a less intrusive regime closer to the regulations governing liquor or tobacco?
  • Regularization of the “Grey Market”: Will the Task Force give grey market dispensaries and pot shops a route to above ground operations or will the Task Force take the position that the grey market must be eradicated for legalization to be effective.
  • Growers: Will the Task Force take the position that the only growers who should be allowed to operate are those already licenced by Health Canada or will it provide a pathway for non-licenced growers to participate in the recreational marijuana market.
  • Age limit: The Canadian Medical Association has suggested to the Task Force that the minimum age for recreational marijuana consumption be set at 25. Will the Task Force accept that recommendation or will it set 18 or 19 as the minimum age.
  • Federal/Provincial issues: This being Canada there are a number of issues surrounding legalized marijuana which engage the Constitution. Will the Task Force recommend that marijuana continue to fall under the Federal Criminal Code and Narcotics Control act with legalization consisting of forbearance where licencing and regulations are in place? Or will the Task Force recommend leaving the regulatory details to the provinces?

The marijuana legalization debate in Canada comes down to a question of top down, centralized regulation versus bottom up, decentralized regulation.

The experience in Vancouver and Victoria suggests that a decentralized, bottom up, lightly regulated model is viable and can meet the needs of marijuana users with minimal disruption. It offers entrepreneurial opportunities and, properly taxed, could prove to be a significant, low cost, source of revenue to government.

However, against the Vancouver model, there is a significant strand of prohibitionary thought. If the McClellan Task Force takes a prohbitionary line it will treat marijuana as a “dangerous” substance which needs maximal, top down, regulation. This line will emphasize “protecting the children” and keeping “organized crime” out of the marijuana business as goals more important than entrepreneurial opportunity, competitive pricing or easy access.


If I was to bet I would think the Task Force is going to go for a restrictive, possibly very restrictive, set of regulations regarding recreational pot.

While there are a lot of people who would like to see full decriminalization and a general bottom-up approach, there are lots more who come at marijuana from a prohibitionist perspective. Given McClellan’s background as an anti-drug health minister and a long time advisor to a law firm representing several of Health Canada’s licenced medical marijuana grow shows, the Task Force is unlikely to adopt a laissez-faire  approach.

The only question is how restrictive and comprehensive the Task Force reccomendations will be. Or, put another way, will there be room for the bottom up, Vancouver, style approach within a national framework?

A creative Task Force could craft a regulatory regime which allowed the grey market to be regularized by requiring dispensaries and pot shops to obtain their supplies from licenced growers. (And which eased the current absurd backlog of applications at Health Canada: over 1400 applications, 40 licences granted.) The retailers could be licenced at a local or provincial level – rather like private wine stores – and would have to conform to local zoning and other by-laws.

The licenced growers under such a scheme would, in effect, become the pot equivalent of wineries which are only allowed to sell to licencees. Thus, whatever quality concerns arise could be addressed at the grower level. The number, location and size of pot shops would be a purely local matter. (And, if I were designing the regs I would drop the increasingly implausible “medical marijuana/recreational marijuana distinction”.) If we insist upon preserving the medical marijuana category as a somehow constitutionally guaranteed Canadian right, then licencee growers could continue to sell to mail order customers and individuals would be allowed to grow their own or designate a grower.

You could set a federal minimum age for pot purchase but, despite there being medical evidence that long term heavy usage is not good for the young brain, it would be unwise to set it much above 19 as that would simply create black market opportunity.

This regulatory outline would allow the cannabis culture driven grey market to be regularlized while ensuring that the Health Canada “Big Pot” industrial grow shows stayed in business and allowing new entrants at the grow level. It would be relatively easy to administer and would allow different communities to craft by-laws to reflect their individual community values.

I am not holding my breath.

 

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Drugs

fentanyl, marijuanaOver at Small Dead Animals there is a post on “The New Normal” in Vancouver. Kate didn’t post it but the chap who did seems to want to throw pot shops and fentanyl into the same “end of the world” bucket. I commented:

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I just published a book on Starting and Running a Marijuana Dispensary or Pot Shop (http://amzn.to/2g3Oqn4) I looked hard and could find next to no serious scientific evidence as to the medical efficacy of pot. Even the anecdotal material was pretty useless as it rarely dealt with dosage. Medical pot is, generally, a wedge issue to open the gates of legalization. And it worked.

The dispensary/pot shop movement is very strong in Vancouver and Victoria with the municipal governments on board and the police and Crowns uninterested in prosecuting offences concerning what is still an illegal drug. In other jurisdictions there is more of an appetite for prohibition.

Which way the federal government is going to jump will become clearer when the McClellan Task Force reports. This could be as soon as next week. My bet is that Canada will have legalized and heavily regulated recreational marijuana using a “top down” model and attempting to eliminate the grey market. Not, by the way, because this is good policy; rather because the multi-million dollar, publically listed, legal marijuana growing industry has been lobbying hard to put the competitive dispensaries out of business.

The fentanyl driven overdose epidemic is a whole other story. It is not confined to the meaner streets of the Downtown Eastside of Vancouver. In my little Lake Cowichan community, two people have died in the last few months. Nor is it confined to injectable drugs – apparently fentanyl is turning up in cocaine with fatal and near-fatal consequences.

Fentanyl is dangerous enough, and cheap enough, that it will kill a lot of people in the next few years. Some of those people will be the down and outs of the DTES who, for some reason, people on SDA seem willing to write off as losers who made “bad choices”. It is certainly a position but it is hardly a moral position or a Christian one.

However, unfortunately, the people who are “trying to help” at Insite and the pop-up injection sites, are not willing to face the fact that nothing that they are doing is more than a strategy of postponement. They are unwilling to accept that addiction left untreated will kill eventually. Getting addicts through “a day at a time” is an expensive and almost certainly doomed approach.

There is a tendency to malign “do-gooders” but, unfortunately, for the wrong reasons. The biggest error of the “do gooders” lies in the fact they believe that they should treat addicts as autonomous, adult, agents with all of the rights of functional citizens. The police, social services, the justice system all buy into this view and, frankly, it is not working.

To actually “do good” systems and legal mechanisms and funding have to be put in place to remove these people from the toxic environment in which they live their addiction, place them in involuntary care, treat the addiction and monitor the recovery – often for years at a time. Facing that nasty reality is, apparently, harder than watching addict after addict overdose and, eventually, die.

A serious program of involuntary care is one side of the equation. The other side is to prosecute dealers and suppliers who adulterate the drugs they are selling. Basically, create a new offence of “adulteration” and put in a 15 year mandatory minimum sentence. Have as part of the offence “provision of adulterating substances” with the same sentence. And, just to make the point clear, set this as a “strict liability” offence so that the defence “but I didn’t know it was fentanyl” is unavailable.

The marijuana ship has sailed. It is a colossal waste of time to whine about legalization although how legalization occurs in Canada might be worth paying attention to.

The question of what to do about harder, more deadly, drugs needs serious re-examination. What we are doing now is not working. It is killing people and safe injection sites are a band aid at best.

That’s where my comment ended. The idea that addicts might be subject to compulsory treatment seems, at first and second glance, profoundly anti-libertarian. However, we have very little difficulty in requiring the mentally ill, after appropriate medical certification, to be confined and treated if they are deemed to pose a threat “to themselves or others.” A position we justify because we believe that at a certain level of cognitive impairment, an individual loses agency. They are no longer functionally responsible for themselves.

I think much the same argument can be made about addicts. While there are certainly addicts who are very good at managing their addiction and the rest of their lives, there are also addicts who are simply incapacitated. It is a determination which can and should be made by doctors and tested before a judge before any compulsory order is made. And such an order should be routinely reviewed.

The infrastructure to treat addiction is pretty piecemeal in Canada. There are a few public beds, a few secure facilities (mainly for alcohol issues) and a significant, for profit, sector. To treat addiction seriously would require big commitments at both the federal and provincial levels.

Might be a good idea to earmark the revenue from recreational pot – as much as a couple of billion a year – to getting the addiction rehab initiative underway.

She Skates?

Grrrr….

There is just so much wrong with this: http://nypost.com/2016/11/22/trump-wont-pursue-charges-against-clinton/

First off, it is not Trump’s decision to make. The basic principle is that the Attorney General makes the call as to whether and when to appoint a special prosecutor. That is designed to prevent politics from getting in the way of the operation of law.

Second, sending your ex-campaign manager off to deliver the news is entirely wrong. If you are serious you need to appear serious. Either Sessions or Trump himself should have dropped this particular bomb. Coming from Kerryanne Conway it is not in the least clear what, in fact, was decided. Does this mean there will be no investigation ever? Or is it the current view of the incoming administration subject to revision in the light of new evidence. Does it just include Hilly or does the “stay” include the Clinton Foundation, Huma, Cheryl Mills and so on?

Third, what does it say about the idea of the rule of law? It is all very well to talk about “healing” but not at the expense of having a justice system which operates differently for elite players.

I completely understand the impulse to be gracious in victory and to avoid even the appearance of trying to jail your political opponent. At that level it is a political decision and one which might be defended at a political level. However, at a process level and a legal level, this is exactly the sort of seat of the pants decision making which creates contempt for the Office of the Presidency.

Not smart Trump, not smart at all.

UPDATE: 

“I’m not looking to go back through this,” he explained to reporters at the New York Timesoffices on Tuesday.

When asked if he was taking prosecution off of the table, Trump said “no,” but he appeared eager to move on.

“My inclination would be for whatever power I have on the matter is to say let’s go forward,” he said. “This has been looked at for so long, ad nauseum.“

Trump argued against prosecuting the Clintons, suggesting that it would be better for the country and his administration if they moved on.

“I think it would be very, very divisive for the country,” he said. breitbart

That leaves the door open but it is still a lousy way to deal with a question of law. Nice as it is for Trump to have an “inclination” the correct way to proceed is to leave the door wide open until Sessions is confirmed by the Senate and has conduct of the file(s).

Part of the reason for electing Trump was to restore some semblance of the rule of law and respect for process. Short cutting that process is not helping.

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racist/homophobic/islamophobic/fascist/nazi poopy pants

Trump, Hitler, Dr. DawgHoward Dean is a proven idiot but he eliminated any doubt on Evan Solomon’s show by announcing, “He appoints a reasonable person, who’s much more conservative than I am, but someone you can talk to, as his Chief of Staff — and then the senior adviser’s a Nazi,” link

Keith Olbermann has examined the evidence and arrived at the conclusion Trump’s campaign manager, Kerryanne Conway is a fascist. link

My pal Dr. Dawg is happy to announce today that “Donald Trump, [who] is busy at the moment staffing the White House with fascists.” link Dawg goes on to talk about how he “prefer(s) to focus on Trump and his Fourth Reich supporters” in the comments. (link)

I get that these poor people are beside themselves with anti-Trump hysteria. But to go direct to “Nazi” or “fascist” or misogynist or racist suggests a degree of intellectual laziness which does not bode well for the left’s capacity to rebound from the shock of the Trump victory.

It also suggests that the left is under the illusion that these epithets still have much power. Even ten years ago calling someone a racist was a really powerful slur. It signified because it was a word which actually meant something. Now, people are called racist for saying that “all lives matter” or that open borders have real costs. Apparently, you can be labelled an anti-Semite because someone you don’t know and certainly don’t countenance has said something anti-Semitic somewhere on the internet which has nothing to do with your own patch of the net. All that needs to happen is that these people have to vaguely endorse your site.

No one really knows what goes on in Howard Dean’s rather worn out brain but when Solomon followed up on his Nazi remark he said vis a vis Bannon,

“Well, he’s anti-Semitic, he’s anti-black and he’s anti-women.”

“It’s a big word,” he said. “I don’t usually use it unless somebody’s really anti-Semitic, really misogynist, really anti-black.” link

Dean seems to think that if someone (in his opinion and without evidence) is “really” some bad things then, well, “He’s a Nazi.”

This is the language of the pure smear. It is not about any sort of political discourse or argument, it is simply taking the worst word you can think of and slapping it on your political opponent. Three-year-olds understand the tactic.

“You’re a poopy pants.” they will merrily cry in the sandbox.

The infantilization of the left, replete with safe spaces, Play-Do, puppies, safety pins continues apace in the face of Trump. I expect we’ll be seeing more acting out as Trump appoints more adults to his Administration. But it is just unfortunate when people who should know better join in the sandbox melee.


Having said all that, it would be wise of Bannon and the rest of the White House team to keep a lot of blue water between themselves and the actual Nazis at the Richard Spencer backed National Policy Institute. The alt-right contains many, often contradictory, strands of thought and blocking the NPI line would be both prudent and right. Bannon says zero tolerance for anti-Semitism and racism, making sure that NPI is pointedly excluded from even a look in at the Trump White House would be a good first step.

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Press Out

By convention the major news networks and several newspapers and organizations form the White House Press Corps replete with office space in the West Wing and daily press briefings from the “Press Secretary”. This convention goes back to the end of the 19th century and has become more formalized with the passage of time.

Need it continue?

I think it is fair to say that the establishment media in the US has been universally hostile to President Elect Trump. Editorially that would be one thing, but it is pretty clear that the reporters and opinion columnists (and is there really a difference any more?) can’t stand Trump. And Trump cordially returns the favour calling out dishonest reporters and what he sees as biased coverage.

Perhaps it is time for there to be a bit of distance between the President and the Press. Physical distance. Setting up a briefing room and offices for the Press Corps in a basement at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building across the street from the White House would make clear the Press Corps’ status in a Trump Presidency. And a weekly rather than daily briefing would be more than sufficent to cover the routine matters an Administration has to announce. Yes, the media would howl. But so what?

At the moment Trump can get any coverage he wants or needs when he wants or needs it from any number of non-traditional media outlets. Breitbart, Daily Caller, Drudge…Hell, the Daily Mail does a better and less biased job of covering Trump than the US mainstream media.

“Draining the swamp” means more than kicking the lobbyists out of government, it also means breaking up the media cabal which has enabled the swamp to fill up in the first place. Dumping the Press Corps into a basement half a mile from the center of power will make their actual importance very clear.

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Steve Bannon

The defeated left is going all in on Breitbart’s (and soon the White House’s) Steve Bannon.

The smears are as fact free as they are nasty and it is a direct and simple challenge to Trump. People like Harry Reid and Elizabeth Warren are slagging Bannon and threatening not to co-operate (as if) with Trump.

So now Trump gets to decide: keep Steve or underbus him in the face of a determined lefty smear. I think it is an easy decision; but it will also be a telling one. If Trump backs his pick he wins bigly, if he waivers, even slightly, he will have created a huge problem for himself and his Presidency. We should know how this turns out by the weekend.

If you want to read what this notorious “anti-Semite” and “racist” and white supremacist thinks go read his remarks to a Vatican conference on poverty.

https://www.buzzfeed.com/lesterfeder/this-is-how-steve-bannon-sees-the-entire-world?utm_term=.jgq2dB2Wq#.tw3ywEyX5

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A Week Later

168439_600

About this time a week ago most people thought Hilly had the election in the bag and were resigned to four years of, at best, uninspired American Presidential leadership. While very few people were enthusiastic about Hilly there was a sense of inevitability about her.

And then it happened. The polls were, largely, wrong. Trump managed an upset for the ages and we now have President Elect Trump.

Several million words of analysis later we discover a couple of things. First, as I suspected, black voters did not turn out for the nice white lady in the same numbers as they had for Obama. I can’t help but think this was baked in and should have been reflected in the turnout models the polling people use. But, apparently, it wasn’t. Second, deplorables showed up and voted. Again, not surprising. Third, these two factors put states into play which the HRC campaign – pathetic as it was – believed were locks for Clinton. Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Michigan(!) all jumped to Trump. Not by much but by enough.

It turned out that the scare mongering about Trump – which, realistically, was all the HRC campaign had – played great in New York City and coastal California, but it didn’t pull many votes. Turnout, overall, was down.

This left mainstream media and the pollsters it relied on looking deeply dumb. The major newspapers and networks did not even try to conceal their support for Clinton and their contempt for Trump and his voters. While Hilly can shamble off the national stage to her well-deserved obscurity (and one hopes indictment and conviction), MSM has to show up for work knowing that it managed to get the 2016 election entirely and completely wrong.

There are, of course, assorted post-election melt downs. Apparently, a small but vocal subset of university students need grief counselling and another sub-set of alleged Hilly supporters think that roaming the streets with baseball bats will make a difference. #notmypresident had its moment and sunk.

Now the left is, rather predictably, making unsupported claims about Trump being surrounded by racist/fascist/anti-Semitic/homophobic/islamophobic/misogynists. Eviltons to a man. I suspect this will go on for a while as Trump appoints people whose positions are not congruent with the pernicious political correctness which has characterized the Obama years.  The very idea that conservatives and people on the right may be part of a Trump administration seems difficult, if not impossible, for lefty commentators to accept. I suspect Trump does not care.

Trump, and the Republican Party which took both House and Senate, has received a “change” mandate. He set out policies from immigration reform to calling out the Global Warming hoax which represent a clear break from business as usual. Not only was he elected but Republicans in their droves were elected too. Now the question is will they deliver?

At this moment Trump has the wind at his back and the enormous reservoir of goodwill an incoming President always begins with. We all know that goodwill dissipates very quickly, but if Trump can work out an agenda with Congress he may be able to get a great deal done very quickly.

Of course, the Europeans are freaking out. But this is not a surprise and not really important. Putin is showing willing, the Chinese are proffering olive branches and the rest of the world seems willing to wait and see. Right now Trump can, simply by being friendly, drain a good deal of the venom which has built up over the years of incompetent Obama administration foreign policy.

The single biggest thing Trump has going for him at the moment is the ignorant contempt of the mainstream media, the left and many foreign “leaders”. By casting Trump as a Yahoo, a buffoon, they set the bar very low for Trump success. It is not that these people underestimate Trump, it is that they don’t estimate him at all preferring to cling to a caricature. This gives Trump a huge advantage.

Now we’ll see how he uses that advantage.

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Leonard Cohen is Dead

Leonard cohen

Leonard Cohen and Marriane, Hydra, Greece

All the fun of the 60’s, the Village, Greece when it was cheap, Montreal when it was brilliant with writers and poets and Trudeau pere, had a weird effect on those of us born smack middle of the Baby Boom in the late 50’s. It was impossibly romantic, a bit old-fashioned and entirely enticing. Our leading edge Boomer non-contemporaries re-invented folk, wrote poetry which was not embarrassing to read,  hung out with F.R. Scott and Irving Layton as well as Judy Collins and Joni Mitchell.

Being a bookish child, along with listening to Songs of Leonard Cohen I actually read both his novels, The Favorite Game and Beautiful Losers. The first I understood in a precocious way and have been meaning to re-read, the second read like it had been written on meth…which it turns out it was. Those novels, along with the songs, were a window onto a vanished world of a generation just becoming. It was not yet a cliche to live in little more than a cave on Hydra with a beautiful Norwegian girl called Marianne and write songs about her (my favourite LC song actually) although the Durrells had done it before the war and Patty Fermore did it after.

Susan and I went to see the Cohen show when he came to Victoria in 2010. Years and years of practice ensured that it was a brilliant, perfectly arranged and managed, evening. But it was Cohen’s great gift of empathy which shone through the remembered melodies and nostalgic lyrics. He was remembering along with his audience.

Many years before, during some awards festivity in Vancouver, I heard that Cohen was staying in a hotel my then wife and I enjoyed a Friday evening drink before dinner. I am not terribly interested in celebrity. But I was quite willing to stake out a seat before the fire in the Wedgewood Hotel and take my chances. And, as it happened, Cohen came in. Alone. No entourage, no security, just the man.

There is a funny choice in situations like that. Do you play it cool and leave a busy man to his business? Normally I would have. But I didn’t. I went over to him in the lobby, held out my hand and said, “Thank you.” He took my hand, looked me in the eye and diffidently said, “No, thank you.” Then the elevator binged in the background and, with a slight nod of the head, Cohen was gone.

Now he is actually gone. I am glad to have had an instant to thank him.

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