Open Letter to the Americans: Communism is Socialism But Socialism Isn’t Necessarily Communism

Political leaders, particularly ones from the Republican Party (but not exclusively), misrepresent socialism whenever they get a chance. They use the “S” word to scare you; they bring up horror stories about Stalinist Russia, gulags, and the specter of communism. (I don’t know how many times I’ve heard them use a failed state like Venezuela as an example of what socialism gets you. What they should do is show you what a successful socialist country looks like.) Canada is socialist. So is France, Britain, Denmark, Sweden, Italy, Norway, Finland and a half dozen other countries in Europe alone. Australia and New Zealand are socialist. Citizens living in socialist countries enjoy higher standards of living than people residing in the United States; and every single country I mentioned is a genuine democracy where people are free to own private property, marry who they want, practice a religion (or not) if they want, participate in elections, form political parties, and so on and so forth.

Communism is one of many forms of socialism; it is accurate to say communism is socialism. However, it is not accurate to say socialism is necessarily communism. This is because there are different types of socialism (communism being only one kind). When most people hear the word “socialism” it is actually being used in reference to something called Fabianism; this word is an allusion to the “delay tactics” used to slow the invading armies of Carthage by the Roman General Quintus Fabius Maximum Verrucosus (280-203 BCE) during the Second Punic War (218-201 BCE). Fabians reject the revolutionary doctrines of Marxism, recommending instead a gradual transition to a socialist—or more equitable—society. Fabians do not want to abolish private property or do away with fundamental freedoms like freedom of speech. On the contrary, Fabian socialists (or “socialists”) are trying to mitigate some of the worse aspects of capitalism—like exploitation and massive wealth inequality—by introducing social reforms like progressive taxation, enacting minimum wage laws, improving working conditions, and guaranteeing the right of workers to bargain collectively and to strike.

I wrote this because I’ve heard even Democrats (e.g. presidential candidate Julian Castro) conflate “socialism” with “communism”. The Demorats are supposed to be the “reasonable” ones but they appear to be just as ignorant of it as any Republican.

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Canada in the Age of Trump

Months before Donald Trump won the Republican nomination and then the U.S. Presidency, Matthew MacWilliams, a University of Massachusetts postdoctoral candidate, stumbled across a striking way of looking at a candidate who seemed to defy all the rules of politics.
 
His polling research had revealed that parenting styles were a powerful predictor of voter attitudes towards Trump. In particular, MacWilliams discovered that those who preferred authoritarian child-rearing approaches—who valued traits such as obedience and good behavior in their children over curiosity or independence—were much more likely to back Trump. Moreover, their support wasn’t strictly contingent on traditional party preferences. As MacWilliam’s polls showed, authoritarian parenting preferences can be found among both Republicans and Democrats.
 
To further confirm his hypothesis, he also looked at correlations between those with authoritarian outlooks and more specific political views, such as attitudes towards the protection of minorities, terrorism and immigration. The results further confirmed the distinct alignment of values and politics that allowed Trump to win over working-class Midwesterners, religious South¬erners and even some affluent younger people, among them voters who might have balked at his positions on LBGTQ+ rights or looked askance at his behavior.
 
Extracted from Michael Adams’ Could It Happen Here? Canada in the Age of Trump and Brexit.

Stand Up for Democracy

https://www.amazon.ca/Democracy-Chains-History…/…/1101980966

Democracy in Chains written by historian Nancy Maclean has written one of the most important books published within the last 100 years. If you want to see what the enemies of democracy are up to while Trump deliberately distracts everyone then give this a read; while everyone has been distracted by Trump’s antics (and he’s doing it on purpose because if there’s one guarantee its liberals will lose their shit at the least provocation), the Republican Party has garnered 24 of the 30 votes necessary to call a constitutional convention. The last convention was held by George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, etc. back in the 1770s.

The objective of the new convention will be to repeal certain amendments. For example, they want to repeal Amendment 17. Amendment 17 was considered a victory by progressives back in the 1930s because it got rid of the practice of appointing senators and introduced the current system of having the People themselves vote for them. By repealing Amendment 17 the practice of appointing senators would be reintroduced and I can assure you that the will of the People will be utterly ignored. What you’ll see is an increase of corporate influence and interference over the organs of government.

You guys: if democracy fails in the United States it is only a matter of time before that sickness spreads to other countries. Quit falling for the distractions, put aside your petty differences, and come together.

Note: for context you need to also read a book published by Mark R. Levin (an influential thinker from the far right in the United States, e.g. The Liberty Amendments). You can see ALL of the amendments that the Right wants to push through. Another amendment is to make it illegal to pass budgets that create deficits. This sounds great in principle (i.e. don’t spend money you don’t have, etc.), however, this will be the Trojan Horse leading to the repeal of social programs like Social Security and Medicare.

One way or another, the United States will not look, feel or be the same following the next presidential election.

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.

Governing by Brand: Trump Inc.

“You know what uranium is, right? It’s this thing called nuclear weapons. And other things. Like lots of things are done with uranium. Including some bad things. But nobody talks about that.”—Donald Trump

If I wanted to take power, Alexander Hamilton wrote, I would mount the “hobbyhorse of popularity, I would cry out usurpation, danger to liberty, etc. etc. I would endeavor to prostrate the national government, raise a ferment, and then ride the whirlwind to direct the storm”.[1] Demagogues and populist leaders not only direct storms, they create them; they whip the people into a frenzy and the minute they relax their hold—allowing people time to actually think instead of feel—the power monger’s influence wanes.

I have a theory about America’s new president. I don’t think he has any intention of actually governing. He governs by decree and executive order (something he and fellow Republicans vilified Obama of doing). This isn’t governing, it’s institutional cynicism. He’s going to continue doing what he did in the business world—sell a brand.[2] He doesn’t know how to do anything else (and he’s good at it). Yet, being good at selling a product doesn’t necessarily translate into being able to lead the world’s most powerful democracy for a four year term.

Trump doesn’t make anything; he slaps his name on a building or a steak and claims it as his own. Instead of actually reading briefings, Trump watches television to get his information. He listens to white supremacist radio shows and thinks he’s getting an accurate presentation of the state of the nation. If the man cracked a book in his adult life I’d be surprised. He isn’t a thinker. He’s a doer. So, instead of attending intelligence briefings or learning what constitutes or what does not constitute overstepping presidential prerogative, he’s back on the campaign trail bragging about his election how he carried Florida. He’s a salesman, not a president. Three weeks into his presidency and there hasn’t been a single day where Trump’s “finely tuned” administration hasn’t made some sort of mis-step. I hear the bell from the news app on my phone and I cringe wondering ‘what’d he do now?’ I still, honestly, cannot believe he won the election; and it wasn’t his smarts that won him the election–it was arguably the ignorance of the average American voter (who appears to be willing to trade the rule of law and pluralism for the prospect of short-term financial gain). I don’t think people understood what exactly they were buying.

A good test of a man’s character is how he reacts to constructive criticism. Trump fails this test. In order to avoid the justifiable criticism of his executive orders and cabinet picks, he directs attention back on the media calling them the greatest enemy of the United States. The greatest enemy of any country is a leader who resorts to special pleading[3] and cries foul whenever light is brought to bear upon one of his many ill-founded policies. Speaking of policies, when the Free World is led by a man so ignorant of history he cannot be expected to develop policies with a context (he just criticizes existing agreements or institutions a either “very, very bad” or “the worst deal maybe ever”); when you elect the intellectual equivalent of Jared the Subway spokesmen to power, you cannot reasonably expect him to make informed decisions around science generally or climate change (a Chinese plot!) specifically, e.g. his pick for head of the Environmental Protection Agency is a climate change denier.

So, if I have any advice for President Trump it is this: just do it, sir. Build that wall. Think different. Think so differently that it appears you’re not thinking at all. The people will continue to melt in your hands, not in your mouth; because your leadership tastes so good, cats ask for it by name.[4]
Notes
[1] Private correspondence from Alexander Hamilton to Edward Carrington (1792). See: https://founders.archives.gov/documents/Hamilton/01-11-02-0349.

[2] Trump reputedly offered Governor Kasich the vice-presidency. The president told Kasich that he could control domestic and foreign policy. When asked what responsibilities Mr. Trump would take care of it became apparent the businessman turned politician would be the face of the White House, i.e. he’d sell the policies and be the brand for a new order. http://www.cnn.com/2016/07/20/politics/john-kasich-donald-trump-vice-president/

[3] The Republican Party recently passed a notion permitting President Trump from not having to release his tax returns. If Trump has nothing to fear and there’s no conflict of interest, why the secrecy? Just like his predecessors he should be required to be forthcoming with information that establishes his trustworthiness and integrity; or we can just take him at his word and trust. When has that ever gotten a people into trouble?

[4] https://blog.hubspot.com/blog/tabid/6307/bid/33535/10-companies-that-totally-nailed-their-taglines.aspx#sm.0002dixf216rtfiqscz2fcdl6e35p

Podcast Episode 19: America like…WTF?

In episode 19, the Hooligans discuss the significance and meaning of Donald Trump’s recent (and surprising) victory in the American presidential election. The cast considers the impact of Trump’s stated policies for Canada, the United States, and how the controversial figure’s rise in the United States is increasing popular support for ultra-right wing political parties in Western Europe (a trend not seen since the 1920s).

Episode 19: America like…WTF?

Click on the hyperlink above to download and listen to the podcast. Feel free to leave a comment or question in the comments section below. One of the cast members will respond.

Thanks in advance for listening and check back regularly for updates to the site and podcast. Also, if you like what you hear please follow us on Word Press to receive notifications on when the blog or podcast is updated.

Notes & Clarifications
1). On the night of the election, Mark Halpern (one of the hosts of Showtime’s Circus) was interviewed on Stephen Colbert’s Election Night Special on November 8th.  Halpern is one of the managing editors of Bloomberg Politics and a senior political analyst for MSNBC. He and co-host John Heilemann followed both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump during the 2016 presidential election. Halpern argued that Trump’s election was one of the three most disastrous events to befall the United States, e.g. World War II, 9/11 and of course November 9th, 2016.

2). On November 8th Donald Trump won the presidency by winning the electoral college; however, for what it’s worth Hillary Clinton won the popular vote, e.g. As of November 11th Clinton had received 60,467,245 votes (or 47.7%) while Trump received 60,071,650 (47.4%).

Source: http://www.ibtimes.com/latest-popular-vote-results-2016-hillary-clinton-has-almost-400000-more-votes-winner-2445216

Three other candidates won the electoral college but received less of the popular vote, e.g. Clinton had more than Trump (2016), Al Gore had more than George W. Bush (2000), Grover Cleveland received more support than Benjamin Harrison (1888), and Samuel Tilden received more than Rutherford B. Hayes in 1876.

3). Rick made reference to John Cruickshank during the show. Cruickshank is a former contributor to the Toronto Globe and Mail who, during a recent interview on CBC’s The Investigators, discussed the reasons why media’s predictions were wrong. Also, Cruickshank provided some interesting insight as to the significance of Trump’s unexpected victory. Specifically he said the campaign was covered “as if it were a plebiscite on the character of Donald Trump, but it wasn’t, really. It had a lot more to do with the fact that for almost all of the American population, they haven’t had a raise in 40 years.” You can watch the interview by clicking on the link below:

Source: http://www.cbc.ca/news/world/americans-vote-out-media-1.3846307

4). During the show Rick made reference to the stagnation of African-American wages since the 1960s, i.e. as a cohort this group actually made more money in the middle of the 20th century than they do in 2016. The site linked below presents information from a report published in 1965 called “The Negro Family: The Case for National Action.”

Source: http://yourblackworld.net/2013/03/02/the-black-family-is-worse-off-today-than-in-the-1960s-report-shows/

5). There are a series of important elections coming in Europe in 2016 and 2017. The election of Donald Trump, and specifically the way he won, has emboldened and increased support for right-wing political parties in France, Germany, Austria, Hungary, Belgium and Italy. The BBC article linked below provides a context for understanding the paradigm shift currently taking place in Western Europe.

Source: http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-36150807

6). During the podcast, Rick couldn’t recall the name of President John F. Kennedy gave to his administration’s time in office. Kennedy called it the “New Frontier.” Kennedy pursued a domestic policy which carried on with liberal social reforms enacted under the President Franklin D. Roosevelt in the 1930s. In terms of foreign policy, Kennedy encouraged Americans to make a difference in the world by joining the recently formed Peace Corps and to land a man on the moon before the Russians (during the so-called Space Race).

Quit Watching the Train Wreck

Fear is the path to the dark side. Fear leads to anger, anger leads to hate, and hate leads to the Republican nomination.

Yoda Kennedy

Take the Trump test. Turn to CNN and see whether or not they’re discussing the controversial Republican presidential candidate right now.

I’ll wait.

My family’s been taking the “test” for several months now and 98% of the time, there he is, the “Donald” in all his orange glory being discussed; it doesn’t matter what time of the day or night. There he is (inescapable like gravity). By comparison the coverage Clinton’s campaign receives is negligible. You hear the odd thing about emails, secret speeches given to Wall Street, or the magic word “Benghazi” creep up now and again, etc. but other than that you don’t hear a lot about her.

Why does Trump get so much coverage and Clinton so little?

Click bait. If it bleeds, it leads. Trump is strangely alluring—sort of like a car crash where you just want to see the burning wreck for its own sake; and his campaign, arguably, has been one car wreck after the next, e.g. calling Latinos rapists, saying he’ll ban Muslims, cajoling war heroes, picking fights with parents of Muslim American war veterans, refusing to make his tax returns public, encouraging the beating of critics attending his rallies, impulsive tweet after tweet after tweet, his “locker room” conversation with “Access Hollywood’s” Billy Bush about a certain inability to control himself around beautiful women, and then his recent promise to sue 11 “beautiful women” who came out saying he’d groped them—just like he said he couldn’t help from doing; nevertheless, we keep watching and waiting to see if the latest controversy is the final one…and it never is.

I can’t seem to look away; and that’s the problem with Trump and why he won’t just go away—we keep looking, we keep listening; the fire is too pretty; my Freudian Thanatos impulse too strong. Mr. Trump gets stronger every time we watch the, to borrow one of his very, very favorite words, “disaster.” This reminds me of the god Aries as portrayed in an animated “Wonder Woman” movie. When people fight Aries, the god of war, he gets stronger; once people quit fighting and seek peace he gets weaker. Trump is like Aries: the more we watch the stronger he and his brand becomes.

I looked at November 8th as a sort of emancipation day. Even Canadians support him; they tend to be of the conservative variety; and the liberals I know vilify him. I’m tired of hearing Canadians and Americans talk about the guy. For my part I think I’ve written about six articles looking at the Trump phenomenon. I’m done. This is the final one. I’m moving on to bashing Trudeau or giving my qualified support to Saskatchewan’s premier, Brad Wall. Wall is the only one of the three civic leaders I’ve actually met. I took a class to the Regina Legislature a number of years ago and he took time out of his busy day to meet with us. He was magnanimous, funny and friendly. I have never actually voted for the guy but I know he has the province’s best interests in mind. I just wish he was a little closer to the center is all.

So, Trump is going to lose the election. I have little doubt of that. But he isn’t going to go away. He’ll keep pushing forward the idea he lost—not because of his many personal defects—but because the election was rigged. I think he’s going to lose the election more because of his “busy hands” and impulsive nature than anything else. Nevertheless, he isn’t going anywhere after November 8th.  He’s going to rile his followers up in an effort to build his brand out of the wreckage he’s left behind on the democratic and political landscape of the United States. Worse still there’s talk about him starting his own television channel after the election. I thought Oprah’s channel was bad, Trump’s will be worse.

Even though he’s not going anywhere, there’s a solution: quit watching. Turn away. Tune out. I’m not advising people remain fundamentally ignorant of the goings-on in the world. Just remain ignorant of Trump is all. Ignore him and don’t give into the temptation to look at the burning wreck. When you quit watching, just like when you quit fighting Aries, he loses his power and his capacity to influence.