Elections 101: Russian Lambs & Political Theatre

1). The popularity of a Russian leader, historically speaking, increases proportionately in relation to how much that leader is disliked or criticized by the international community. Their popularity increases the most when their country is at war or invaded.
2). Said Russian leader assassinated very publicly a former Russian spy in the UK using a nerve agent that intelligence services in Britain would certainly trace back to the Kremlin. Putin wants everyone to know it was him who ordered the attack.
(Putin has publicly killed his enemies for the sake of consolidating his domestic strength on three occasions, e.g. the most recent attack in the UK, the use of Polonium against Litvinenko, and the shooting of Boris Nemstov (an outspoken Putin critic) on the steps of the Kremlin. The numbers go up considerably when we include all of the journalists he’s killing in his country.)
3). International community predictably plays its part in the narrative by reacting with outrage. Russian citizens circle their wagons around the puppet master and defend Putin.
4). Putin wins election in two days by landslide as the populist leader and defender of the mother country.
5). Democracy in Russia continues not to exist for at least another 4-5 years. Minorities in that country continue to suffer and we get to continue on with the Cold War 2.0 and a suicidal arms race preparing for a third world war no one can actually win.

The World Needs More of Canada

My American friend Lane wondered why Canada turned out so different than the United States. While conducting some research for a Canadian Studies class I teach, I came across the following paragraph explaining why Canada followed the direction it did (despite forces pushing it in other directions):

“What was revolutionary in Canada was not so much the arrival of democracy at its conception. Democracy arrived as a broad program of social, political, economic, and administrative policies consciously and intellectually designed to bring together opposing religions, languages and races. What was radical was the idea that a fair democracy could be based not on a definition of race as an expression of a nation state, but on what today we would call diversity; fairness was the key to diversity and diversity to fairness. The second revolutionary fact was that the Canadian movement was based on the rigorous use of political restraint, precisely the opposite of reform and revolutionary movements in Europe (1848) and the United States (1776-1783). Third, the reform movement here would manage to hold on to power while the others collapsed” (Louis-Hippolyte LaFontaine & Robert Baldwin by John Raulston Saul (p.5-6)).

Canada’s English elite in 1848 genuinely believed in the importance of a race-based authoritarian form of government (dominated by the English minority); however, two leaders emerged–Louis-Hippolyte LaFontaine (a Quebec politician) and Robert Baldwin (from Ontario)–who challenged the notion we had to live in two solitudes or warring tribes by bringing French and English together; these two men faced considerable pressure to give into the temptation to use violence to advance their political vision for the country; nevertheless, they had the courage and foresight to support, unequivocally, a principle of fairness where all of Canada’s stakeholders (relative to the 1840s) were given equal security under the law; and they created a country (and political process) where people were willing to make decisions based on one another’s opinions and well-being instead of one’s origins or tribe.

LaFontaine and Baldwin are my heros. The world needs more of Canada.


Btw, LaFontaine was Canada’s first prime minister (pre-Confederation).

Mr. King & Me

Martin Luther King Jr. observed he’d (and the civil rights movement) placed too much hope in white people, in that, after some freedoms had been won and initial progress made they abandoned African Americans. King argued white people were more concerned about stability than justice.

I’m a white dude. I also consider(ed) myself a moderate. I contemplated King’s words and I wonder: am I part of the problem? By wanting to just introduce piece-meal reform of the existing system, am I actually getting in the way of something better?

I’m not entirely sure how to answer this. I definitely wouldn’t prefer living under some sort of communist system; I’ll take class systems and freedom of mobility over that every time. But I’m not exactly in favor of an economic system that pools so much wealth into so few hands that it actually contributes to political instability and human suffering.

So, what exactly do we replace capitalism with? Capitalism lite? I like Hedges because he identifies the symptoms of what’s wrong. But, man, where are the people who can genuinely articulate what we can replace the extant system with? And what would prevent that system from simply being dominated by some sort of elite eventually?

I just want people to be free, happy and secure. What political system allows us to achieve that? Democracy and the rule of law are definitely great steps towards this. Hmmm. Maybe reforming the existing system, meaningfully, can achieve some semblance of a more equitable, just society?

We Have a Choice

Sobering. So we have a choice: democratically and as voluntarily as possible make the ‘Great Transition’ to a post-carbon based economy (and grow our economy in that direction, ie. hey conservatives we can still grow an economy, jobs, etc. through renewables…it is possible…fossil fuels aren’t the only way (look up ‘false dichotomy)) or we can maintain the status-quo and coast blindly in to a future fraught with risk where governments will be forced to take Draconian measures to limit our climate impact.

What little room/time we had to maneuver gradually to a solution has been lost. If we would have taken climate change seriously in the 90s (which scientists did as corporations spent money on media campaigns to obfuscate the issue and confuse the public to prevent action) we would have ultimately been in a better position to make the transition we need to make today.

You do not have to be a psychic to read the future. You just need to be scientifically literate.


Teaching White Hatred…Accidentally

There are a lot of websites and videos online illustrating how terrible Europeans were with respect to establishing their overseas colonies or how poorly minorities have been treated in the former colonies of Canada and the United States. These sources are often used in primary, secondary and university classrooms. These ideas have their place in an accurate retelling of Canada’s and every other Western nation’s history.

I wonder though: how effectively is this information being presented? Is it taught in a nuanced way where students emerge with an appreciation for the overall ethical and historical significance of these events? Or is it taught in such a way as to push people towards fascism, towards obstructionism, or to reinforce an ideology like progressivism? Regrettably, the way these things are taught sometimes has unintended consequences.

The unstated premise of “white people have enjoyed unearned privilege and power” could be “white people are the enemy of progress.” I accept, historically speaking, that because of that power white people have inflicted–intentionally and unintentionally–a lot of pain and repression on people of color and other marginalized peoples. Also, I totally support the justice aims of everyone being secure in their person and equal under the law; however, the villianizing of white people will no more establish a culture of tolerance, or a more equitable and sympathetic society, than the repression of marginalized peoples could.

I am white (and a male) but I most certainly did not establish the reserve or residential school system. I never held the opinion that women could not do anything a man could do. I have always argued in favour of Canada possessing a progressive tax regime where the nation’s most vulnerable have access to healthcare or unemployment insurance. My being the prototypical “white male” has nothing to do with the values I hold; a sense of justice isn’t limited by or an expression of genetics.

So, I think it would be great if schools taught the facts–that yes Canada has some sordid periods of history–but avoid teaching this collective white guilt nonsense.

To illustrate: when I learned about Catholic repression of Lutherans during the 15th century when I was in my grade 10 history class, I automatically sided with the Lutherans and came to detest Catholicism. This is because I had no larger context to operate under. I had a knee jerk reaction (typical of emotion rather than reason at work). I just saw injustice in the most immediate sense and failed to see a larger picture (mainly because my history teacher was substandard). Over time I came to see the issue in a more nuanced way and that I did not have to practice self hatred (I was a Catholic) in order to feel fraternity with Protestants.

I have since studied race relations at the university level and had professors tell me only white people are capable of being racist or repressing others. I challenged that notion in class by appealing to racial/ethnic differences being the cause of genocides in Rwanda and Turkey in the 20th century; and I pointed to the fact that the Chinese have an unflattering term used in reference to white people that translates to ‘garbage’ and that during the 1930s and 40s Japan taught master race theory to its people. My professors largely ignored me (one literally telling me to just be quiet).

So it seems I had crappy professors and teachers at every level: myopic intellectuals fixated on the moment or present need, incapable of seeing a larger picture.
If we are realistic we accept the fact any individual can not only experience racism but also be a racist. Schools that teach a limited narrative, that refuse to build an appropriate overall context are inadvertently teaching young white people not only to hold a greater sense of civil responsibility to others but also, potentially, to feel a sense of “white guilt.” This is counter-productive; and while this might appease the emotional requirements for revenge held by some of the more emotionally charged folks out there, it results in the creation of a self defeating fiction.

Effective teaching would not result in this happening. If you go into teaching, please do not do this.

Does the Left Appeal to Guilt as Opposed to Principles?


Gormley’s article (see link above) is a satirical piece pressing home the point that people need to chill with all the engineering of society through language. For example, there are people who want to change the New Testament so it doesn’t say “Jesus sits at the right hand of the father” because it alienates left handed people. These social justice warriors are well-intentioned people but they:

1). Mistake their own sense of personal indignancy as the standard by which all others should measure what is socially acceptable or unacceptable. The identity wing of the political left definitely shares some behaviors and attitudes consistent with ‘benevolent’ authoritarian regimes.

2). They assume that nuances or any semblance of tradition cannot continue to exist because it reflects white male patriarchy.

I confess I understand what they want to achieve but their activity makes me fearful because good people are afraid to disagree with them since no one wants to appear to be bigoted or prejudiced; whereas if I disagree with them I might, in fact, be reasonable and justified in doing so.

American Healthcare

The majority of Republicans don’t believe you should be required to pay into healthcare, or buy insurance, if you are young and/or healthy. This is an absurd way of looking at insurance.

Think of it this way: in rural Tennessee there was a fellow who forgot to pay for fire protection. So when his home started on fire the fire department arrived with one purpose–to prevent the fire from spreading to the man’s neighbors who had paid for fire protection. The man begged and pleaded for fire protection services to put out the blaze but they refused. He didn’t pay the fee.

You don’t buy insurance because you’re house is currently on fire any more than you pay taxes to pay for police protection services only when your home is in the act of being broken into. The whole premise of insurance is to have some capacity to deal with adversity, obstacles and problems, etc. in the future.

When it comes to healthcare you might not be sick now but odds are you’ll eventually, we’ll all eventually, make use of it; it makes some intuitive sense then to have everyone pay into insurance so we can pool our collective wealth avoiding such things as:

  • Bankrupting families who have to sell homes, cars, cash in assets, etc. to pay for exorbitant health care costs in order to seek treatment. When I was younger I had a number of medical procedures to determine whether or not I had cancer. These procedures would’ve cost me thousands of dollars (money I would not have had in my early 20s). Luckily I was born in Canada so I paid nothing for any of these procedures.
  • Pushing the elderly out of healthcare because a good proportion of them are stuck on a fixed income. My mother died of lung cancer in 1998. The various procedures to detect and attempts at treating the disease would’ve bankrupted my family; however, we paid nothing, not a cent for her treatment (and yes we did pay something, we paid taxes over time, and consequently we were able to worry about just caring for my mom in her last days instead of paying for her care).
  • Needlessly forcing young people off of their parent’s insurance plans, i.e. even young and apparently healthy people can suddenly grow sick.

I’ve met a number of Americans, particularly ones in their 20s, who were forced into the following gamble: don’t buy insurance this year so I can pay for that car or student loan. They gamble with the fact that cancer and a host of other illnesses do not discriminate and frequently appear as though out of nowhere. Why gamble in this way when it isn’t even necessary? There are, ironically, more cost-effective and productive approaches to healthcare than the private insurance Americans appear to love so much.

So, while there are some legitimate criticisms of a universal healthcare system like Canada or England has, e.g. long wait times, the use of older technology in diagnosis and treatment, etc. Canada’s system is far more efficient than whatever the heck America has had. Specifically, Canada has longer wait times because everyone–even homeless people–can access the healthcare system. (With that said, people who are seriously ill do not wait but are fast-tracked to the front so they can receive emergency treatment. Yet, no system is perfect, sometimes people do get overlooked…but far fewer compared to the millions of Americans who had no healthcare whatsoever prior to Obamacare.) The only reason you don’t find these longer wait times in the United States, historically speaking, is because private insurance systems naturally keeps millions of people out of the system because of cost. People who can’t afford insurance don’t make use of insurance or related health services. Good system? Stupid system.

In a meeting with all 52 senators at the White House today, President Trump argued that single payer (or the American equivalent of universal healthcare) doesn’t work because it would cost more money than would be taken in. I beg to differ. Canada, Sweden, Norway, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Finland, Belgium, etc. all  have universal healthcare systems (or socialized healthcare) and these countries are doing fine. Healthcare outcomes in these countries are much better than what Americans experience by comparison. Why can’t some Americans see this?

If you bombard people with a trope like “universal healthcare doesn’t work” or “socialized medicine” doesn’t work enough, you can convince people through shear repetition that it doesn’t work. The thing is the American free-market approach, or placing profit over people, doesn’t work compared to what other G20 countries do (you can Google “healthcare comparison outcome” and you’ll find article after article backing up what I’m saying here).

Ideology and political culture. Free market fundamentalism is an ideology that’s alive and well in the United States despite being discredited by not delivering what it promises to do, e.g. trickle down economics. American political culture is prevents a lot of people from seeing socialism as a living option, i.e. people have been pounded and pounded with anti-socialist, pro-free market tropes, since they were young they cannot tell the difference between liberal socialism and authoritarian communism. Also, it would be difficult to establish a centralized system in a country like America because the United States, historically speaking, has purposely set up a system where individual states are preserved from interference from the federal government. A country like Canada, therefore, which has a strong central government was, and is, able to do things more seamlessly than America. This doesn’t mean you cannot establish a single system for America; it just means there’s an additional hurdle in the American context.