Monday, May 15, 2017

America Is Ruled By Those with a Cold, Cruel Heart

The purpose of government is not merely to afford pleasure to those who govern, but to make life tolerable for those who are governed.       Bertrand Russell

Growing up an hour's drive from the Canadian- American border, I have always been somewhat in awe of what Americans can do when they put their minds to it.  Indeed, the "can do" spirit is something quintessentially American. It is woven into the fabric of the American dream, for better or worse, but is something to behold and to wonder.

After all, Americans invented the nuclear bomb, which, as odd as it may seem, put an end to the scale of  carnage and horror thar occurs when nations engage in total warfare as was the case in the World Wars. As it turned out, the mere thought of mutually assured destruction has to this day prevented the major military powers from taking each other on.

Years later, when I was a boy, I watched in real time on a black and white television in the comfort of my living room as the first man, an American, set his foot on the moon.  It still boggles my mind that not only were they able to put a man on the moon, but that we could witness this truly historic event unfold nearly a quarter million miles away -- live

Presently, you are reading this text thanks to the communicative power arising from yet another American invention, the Internet, which has given birth to the World Wide Web and all the applications we can download to do things that our forefathers never had dreamed of with a simple tap on a screen.

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Yet, with all this imagination, with all this know how, the richest and most powerful nation the world has ever seen is unable to provide for and take care of all its citizens.  In fact, as reported in The Atlantic:

For the first time since the 1990s, Americans are dying at a faster rate, and they’re dying younger. A pair of new studies suggest Americans are sicker than people in other rich countries, and in some states, progress on stemming the tide of basic diseases like diabetes has stalled or even reversed. The studies suggest so-called “despair deaths”—alcoholism, drugs, and suicide—are a big part of the problem, but so is obesity, poverty, and social isolation.
It's as if those who govern have turned their backs on those who are governed.  When it comes to health outcomes in the United States, there is a steep social gradient.  In short, the richer you are the longer you live and with a better quality of live.  Conversely, the poorer you are, chances are that your life will be shorter and be plagued by a number of ailments brought on by lifestyle choices that are difficult to escape.

Importantly, it doesn't need to be this way.  It is not as if God has ordained this state of affairs.  Unfortunately, many Americans, in particular within the ruling class, behave in concordance with the belief that wealth, as well as skin color, is a sign of divine favor, while poverty and sickness are the sign of moral decrepitude and skin color is a sign of moral and spiritual degeneration.  In other words, in America God's chosen few are rich and white, like the founders of the nation.

This twisted cultural meme, a weird mutation of the Calvinist doctrine of election, has been embraced by America's ruling elite throughout the nation's history.  This point was brought to my attention during my last trip to New York City, where upon visiting the National Archives, aptly located in the financial district, I learned that Broadway, the longest and most famous street in the Big Apple, was originally built by African slaves on what was left of a trail forged by the Indigenous peoples living on Manhattan.  In fact, since its inception as an English colony, the creation and accumulation of wealth in America has involved and often depended upon the exploitation of an underclass, which in this case involved the exploitation of those who were thought to be subhuman.

Today, things have changed, but nowhere near what we could expect from a civilized nation in the twenty-first century.  For instance, in almost all of the developed countries in the world, adequate health care provided to the entire citizenry is thought of a basic human right.  After all, no one knows what the fates have in store and misfortune may fall upon any of us.  As a result, in developed nations basic health care is made available to everyone.

Not so in the United States of America.  In the US, where health care is delivered for the most part by the private sector motivated by the desire for profit, the guiding principle informing the system is "pay for the service, or die"!  How Christian!

It's not difficult to see why.  Extending adequate health care to people of limited means requires the financial participation of the wealthy.  Indeed, the inclusion of millions who were previously uninsured into the Affordable Care Act (ushered in by President Obama), so that they could enjoy the benefits of being eligible to receive health care beyond their individual capacity to pay was predicated on a surtax levied upon the wealthy, those with incomes of more than $200,000 per annum.  Now that the republicans control Congress, the Office of the President, and the Supreme Court, the Affordable Care Act has been repealed and replaced by the aptly named, the American Health Care Act, which eliminates all the taxes in the previous act that were included to pay for the subsidies that help people buy insurance, estimated to add up to $592 billion.  Furthermore, the Congressional Budget Office concluded that over 10 years, 24 million fewer Americans would be covered under the present bill who otherwise have had insurance under the Affordable Care Act.

So, what is the future for these 24 million Americans, who most probably will find themselves without health insurance?  Obviously, those who rule America don't give a shit about them: "let them fend for themselves and may God have mercy upon their sorry-ass souls."

What a missed opportunity to bring America within the fold of civilized nations.  Instead, the core values of Social Darwinism have once again been unleashed.  The exploits of the exceptional will be applauded and the plight of the downtrodden will be ignored.

America, a great place to visit, but thank God I don't live there.

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Canada at 150: Stll an English Settler State


plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose

(the more things change, the more the stay the same)




That's pretty much how I feel about living in Canada in the second decade of the twenty-first century.  Yes, this country has seen a lot of changes, from the building of the trans-national railway to the creation of the information superhighway.  Yet, when it comes to our political economy and our system of governance, we are still what we were 150 years ago, an English settler state.


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Looking back at the Europe's imperial conquest of the rest of the world, Britain did something different as compared to the Spanish and Portuguese when it decided to people on a vast scale some of its colonies with successive waves of English settlers and thereby established control of large territories occupied by indigenous peoples: the United States, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand.  In fact, with the exception of the United States, which fought the British to win its independence and to become a republic, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand are still part of the Commonwealth, a vestige of the former British Empire, and still have a hereditary monarch, Queen Elizabeth, as their head of state.


What amazes me is how resilient this form of governance has turned out to be, resisting any substantive change to the manner in which we govern ourselves for 150 years.  Think back to Canada at the time of Confederation in 1867: approximately, one million people spread out over a huge expanse of land, with the majority living in rural sectors.  This is a time that predates electricity, air travel, and the internet.


Without question, the scale of the economy and the amount of communication within and between peoples in different nations was tiny as compared to what we experience today.  You would think that given the monumental change we have seen in the manner in which Canadians live their lives since Confederation would be reflected in Canada's political institutions.


Apparently not.


Living in the twenty-first century, a time in which I regularly chat via Skype with my fiancé who lives in South America at no additional cost than my connection to the Internet, and that I can pull up onto my screen the latest edition of daily publications from around the world like the New York Times, The Guardian, or Le Monde in seconds, I am absolutely flabbergasted that we retain a system of governance that embodies a hereditary monarch, an appointed Senate, an electoral system that uses a voting method (first-past-the-post) in which each and every vote does not count equally, and that the system grants what constitutes the powers of an elected monarch (in Canada the Prime Minister can declare war without the consent of Parliament) to the leader of a political party that did not garner the majority of the popular vote.


WTF?  How is it that we have done so many marvelous things over the last 150 years but we have never gotten around to creating a modern, democratic, nation-state?


What also boggles my mind is not only do we cling to an outdated system of governance but that even making a relatively simple change, like creating an electoral system in which the representation in Parliament accurately reflects how people voted, is next to impossible. 


How complicated can it be?  If we are going to tell the world we are a democratic nation -- the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms states that we are a nation that adheres to the values of if a free and DEMOCRATIC society --  the least we could do is create and use a democratic electoral system.


However, it has been my experience that the most powerful political institutions in Canada, the Prime Minister and the Supreme Court of Canada have, in effect, resisted bringing Canada into the twenty-first century with regard to the nature of its political institutions.  The former refused to honour a campaign promise enshrined into a Speech from the Throne (so much for the symbolism) to change our aberrant voting method that dates to the middle ages, while the latter refused to hear a case that challenged the constitutionality of the said voting method, but did find the time to pronounce on what are the acceptable limits of bestiality.  Go figure.


Given this turn of events, I have become resigned to the fact that I will not see Canada make any qualitative changes to its status as an English settler state in my lifetime.  Sure, I am free to marry another man if I wanted to, and end my days with the assistance of a doctor if I so choose, and will soon be able to buy marijuana legally if I so desired, but although these things maybe important to others, they matter not to me.


What I would really like to be able to do is to participate meaningfully in the way this nation is governed, but that's not going to happen anytime soon.  Instead, what I am being offered is the opportunity to smoke a joint at my leisure so to take the edge off the discomfort that arises when I reflect upon how the state makes sure that my political voice and the voices of more than a million other Canadians who take seriously the health of the global climate are effectively silenced.


Happy Birthday Canada!  Unfortunately, we are going to have to part.  You may embody many admirable qualities, but not the one that matters most to me.








































 

Monday, December 5, 2016

Considering What Just happened in the US, It should Be Painfully Obvious Why Canada Should Change Its Voting System

It's hard to believe but it's true.  Donald Trump is the President-elect of the United States of America.  A man who has never held a public office in his life now is Commander and Chief of the most potent and lethal military force in history.  Put another way, the fate of planet rests in the apparently small hands of a man many consider to be a narcissistic sociopath. 

Yes, this man now has access to the nuclear codes.  I sincerely hope and pray he doesn't decide to nuke anyone.

So, how did this happen?  Much has been written in the aftermath of Trump's victory.  Most of the analysis concentrates on socio-economic variables centered on gender, class, and race.  But the fact of the matter is that Trump did not win the Presidential election.  He lost the popular vote.  Indeed, Hillary Clinton received approximately 2.5 million more votes than Trump.  What occurred is that the Electoral College awards its votes on a state-by-state basis.  Whoever gets the most votes in the state (with the exception of Maine) gets all of the state's electoral college votes.  Add them up and the President-elect is the one who gets the majority of electoral college votes.  In other words, it is the distribution of votes in the winner-take-all electoral districts that determine the winner of the electoral contest.

Was this election democratic? No! Clearly, the democratic result of the popular vote was overturned by the mechanics of the voting system.  The name of the game in a Presidential election is to win as many states possible that produce the greater number of electoral college votes.  The margin of victory in any given state does not matter.  For example, the fact that Trump did poorly in the most populous states of New York and California did not matter since he won a greater number of smaller states that in the end produced 20% more electoral college votes than what Hillary won.

This is not the first time the candidate who loses the popular vote has gone on to become the American President.  The last time it happened was in the 2000 election when Bush defeated Gore despite not having the support of the majority of American electors.  Electoral results carry consequences like the war in Iraq, which was clearly the result of the lie that claimed that the Iraqis possessed arms of mass destruction that required a US military invasion.  What now lies in store for America and the world at large has given rise to great concern for the safety of the global community.

Certainly, the question that needs to be raised is how can the most powerful nation in the world use such a dubious electoral system to decide who will lead the nation?  Simply put, the problem is that the Americans have never gotten around to modernizing their electoral system, which is, for the most part, a relic of its colonial past as an English settler state.  Winner-take-all electoral districts are still in use in England, the USA, Canada, and Australia.  The rest of the world, however, has moved on to adopt electoral systems that do not produce such aberrant electoral results.

It just so happens that Canada is now in the process of deciding whether to change its voting method.  During the last federal election in Canada, the soon-to-be-elected Prime Minister Trudeau promised that the 2015 election would be the last using the winner-take-all, plurality system called first-past-the-post.  Ironically, Trudeau became Prime Minister as a result of the distortion brought on by the voting system: his Liberal Party only received 39% of the popular vote; but in one region, the Maritimes, he won 61 out of 61 electoral districts with only 56% of the popular vote, thereby giving him a "majority" government, meaning that the electoral system had created a majority when in reality his party only had the support of the minority of the population.

Fabricating majority rule and the reversal of popular vote are only two of the major problems of first-past-the-post.  It also systemically under-represents or denies altogether representation to smaller political parties.  Essentially, the supporters of such parties are effectively disenfranchised.  In the 2004 federal election, for example, the Green Party of Canada received almost one million votes but was denied any representation in Parliament thanks to the electoral system.

Canadians have been aware of these problems for almost one hundred years.  In fact, in the provinces other voting methods have been used, but for many reasons we have never taken these problems serious enough to make a qualitative change to the voting system at the federal level.  Looking at what just happened in the US, we should realize that a hostile take over of one of Canada's traditional governing political parties by a demagogue is wholly possible.  In fact, Germany adopted proportional representation largely to prevent this possibility from ever happening again given the tragic turn of events leading to carnage of the Second World War.

Let's not be smug Canada.  It could happen here.  Do the right thing.  Adopt proportional representation and make Canada Trump proof.




























 

Monday, November 14, 2016

Democraphobia Runs Rampant in North America

The fear of democracy has a long history.  Plato was mistrustful of the demos, believing it would be subject to bullies and to tyrants. In England, the storming of the Bastille in France by the sans-culottes during the French Revolution was dismissed as a regrettable manifestation of "mobocracy". According to Thomas Jefferson, one of the most influential framers of the American constitution: "A democracy is nothing more than mob rule, where the fifty-one percent of the people may take away the rights of the other forty-nine." Really? I guess as a slave-owner, he had cause for concern if ever the "mob" had taken over and moved to take away his "right" to own slaves.

This denigration of the demos into the unruly mob is a tendency that we have not shaken through out the Anglo-American countries of the Northern Hemisphere.  Somehow down under, the Aussies and the Kiwis have been able to overcome the fear of the rule by the many and have adopted more modern democratic institutions, namely electoral systems in which the electoral results reflect the will and the desire of the masses in the representation found in their elected assemblies.

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This has not yet happened in Canada, the UK and the USA, which still cling to their outdated electoral systems that regularly distort electoral outcomes, where the results are often far from what the people intended.  In North America, this is particularly the case.

Here in Canada, the last two federal elections have produced "majority" governments in which a single party has found itself with a majority of seats in Parliament despite the fact that each of the two political parties that won the subsequent elections actually received less than 40% of the popular vote.  In effect, Canada is ruled by a minority that systemically receives the benefit of an electoral distortion in its favor and rules as if it had the support of the majority.

To the south of us, the Americans just staged a Presidential election in which according to the popular vote, the loser, Donald Trump, has become the President-elect despite the fact that his opponent Hillary Clinton received approximately two million more votes.  In this case, the election was decided by the infamous Electoral College which uses an antiquated method to decide the election: the winner of the popular vote in each state gets all of that state's electoral votes, and the winning candidate that goes on to become the President is the candidate who garners the majority of the College's electoral votes, not the overall popular vote.  At last count, Trump was awarded 20% more electoral college votes despite having received less votes overall than his opponent.

What's up with that?

Obviously, both Canada and the US pay only lip service to democratic principles.  For instance, the most fundamental feature of democracy is that it is the rule of the majority.  Yet, in both countries, electoral procedures are allowed to deviate from the democratic norm, which lead to the formation of governments that although created as a result of a popular election, do not reflect this most fundamental feature of democracy, the rule of the majority.  As is often the case, the Devil is in the details and in both countries the Devil manifests itself in each country's use of single member, winner-take-all, plurality electoral districts.  To the winner go the spoils of victory.  To the other candidates nothing.  Hence all the ballots for the other candidates, which often constitute the majority of the votes cast in the electoral district, do not bring about any effective representation for the electors who cast them.

Put another way, we do not hold democratic elections in North America.  What we do is stage electoral popularity contests guided by slightly different rules than in democratic elections. The winner of the popular election appears to have the legitimacy of a democratic result, but in reality the winning candidate or political party has won according to the rules governing the popular elections in each country, not by the rules governing democratic elections of which the most important is that each vote counts and counts equally.

This masquerade has been going on for quite some time.  At the heart of the problem is the fear of what the "many" might want and what the "many" might do.  Fear of an unruly mob taking over is far-fetched since the rule of law, backed by a substantial police and military presence, is well-entrenched in both countries.  However, the well-off few have reason to fear that the many, if given the reigns of power, would move to better redistribute the nation's wealth and to pass environmental and social legislation that would make the accumulation of great wealth of the few more difficult.  Heaven forbid! 

In reality, elections in North America are for the most part and with few exceptions little more than popularity contests conducted by the ruling elite that allows the population at large to participate in a public spectacle in which the public chooses between the two options provided to them by an electoral process designed and maintained by the wealthy.  For example, although there are considerable differences between Trump and Clinton at the level of outward appearance, neither represent a significant departure of the way wealth is acquired and maintained in the US.  Similarly, in Canada, with regard to social issues there are considerable differences between the Conservatives and the Liberals; however, both parties are the flip sides of the same coin when it comes to financial and economic matters.

Presently, in Canada there has been a Parliamentary Committee created to examine how to change the voting system as a result of the promise made by our new Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, during the last federal election.  This is the fourth time such a committee has been struck in about one hundred years.  Will this time be any different? 

Indeed, a promise made during an electoral campaign is often much different than the promise kept once the government is in power.  In this instance, it is the fear of the unknown that prevents the newly elected government from changing the electoral system because by changing the rules by which governments are formed, notwithstanding the possibility of making the government more democratic, there lies a very real possibility that the ruling party might lose its lock on political power that the present system has conferred upon it.  Better the devil we know than to risk an uncertain future.

In my mind, "the only thing we have to fear is fear itself."  In Canada, we spend billions to educate the public.  Consequently, we are not any less intelligent collectively than the people who govern us, although we are probably less concerned with the accumulation of wealth of the few than the well-being of the many.  To me, democracy is not such a scary proposition.

Get on with it!       

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Sorry Folks, But This Scribe Saw It Coming

One really good thing about not watching television is that it is much easier to pick up on things that the mainstream media does not want you to think about.  As this Presidential election played out, what the media tried to do is sweep under the rug was the depth of the anger that a great number of Americans were feeling towards the ruling liberal elite: the Ivy league educated, neo-liberal, condescending-towards-working-class hucksters who used to run the country.  Because of their control of the media, they were able to persuade about half the population, city dwellers for the most part, that their way was the only way to run the country.  They were in for a rude shock.

Back in March of 2016, I knew something had changed and that this election would be different.  In a previous blog, America's Quiet Revolution, I wrote:

By now you probably noticed that things are not quite right in the land of Uncle Sam.  A lot of people are angry and "they ain't gonna take it any more".  So much so that the financial-media-congressional complex is losing control of the country.  In short, the dispossessed underclass from across the political spectrum are refusing to follow their marching orders handed down by the ruling elite of both the Democrats and the Republicans.  Imagine the Republicans choosing Donald Trump as their candidate for the presidency and the Democrats choosing Bernie Sanders.  The former is a demagogue while the latter is a self-declared democratic socialist.  What's up with that?
I think that the majority of Americans have finally woken up to the fact that they have been exploited mercilessly for the last forty years.  They now know that the economy is rigged for the benefit of the super rich, the .01% of the population.  For the great many, the economic recovery from the Great Recession has brought little if any relief, while the top of the top have received 80% of the newly created wealth.  Now the shit has hit the fan, and the underclass is about to take matters into their own hands. . . .
How this is all going to turn out is anybody's guess.  One thing is for sure, however, the USA is presently morphing into something new.  Traditional constituencies are breaking apart and a new order is on the horizon.
After seeing and having read about what happened surrounding the surprise result of the Brexit referendum in the United Kingdom, I couldn't help but connect the dots.  In June of 2016, I published another blog, The Decline of the Anglo-American Empire, in which I explored what seemed to be a common thread:

The revolt of the elites in the West and most notably in the English-speaking nations has been going on now for the last thirty-five years.  Essentially, the members of the moneyed class have decoupled their futures from those with whom they share a geographic and political community. 
In short, the Washington-Westminster consensus entails a neo-liberal agenda of cutting corporate and personal income tax, deregulating financial markets, reducing investments in social programs, moving manufacturing to where labor and environmental laws are lax, encouraging predatory lending to the disadvantaged, and extracting wealth from the real economy to be re-invested in off shore tax havens. 
In doing so, the elites have left the common folk in the United Kingdom (UK) and the United States (US) behind to fend for themselves in a beleaguered society that no longer has the sufficient resources and economic opportunities to maintain the quality of life that previous generations enjoyed. . . .
Before, throughout the post war period, there existed an inclusive social contract that embodied the belief "that we (those of Anglo-Saxon descent and their close cousins) were in this together."  No longer.  Now, there exists a "sink or swim" worldview in which those with the good luck of being born into well-off families are gliding quite well through the turbulence that incessant globalization has brought about, a middle-class struggling to keep their heads above water, while the poor are drowning in hopeless despair.
What has changed is that the callous treatment previously reserved for members of visible minorities has now been expanded to be applied to the vast majority of those who represent the racial bedrock from which the Anglo-American Empire drew its strength -- the English in the UK and white Americans in the US.  Both groups, having grown accustomed to preferential treatment, resent the decline in their living standards and are now pushing back, refusing to follow the leadership of their ruling elites. . . .
The tectonic plates are also shifting is the US as the two-party political system seems to be coming to an end.  Most notably, in the run-up to the Presidential elections, white Americans have abandoned the leadership of the Republican Party to nominate the xenophobic, trash-talking, demagogue Donald Trump.  In doing so, they have repudiated the economic program that has left them behind as compared to the very well off, the upper 1% of the population.  Instead, they have embraced the vilification of those of different skin color, in particular Mexicans and Arab Muslims, who, apparently, are responsible for the hard times that many Americans are now experiencing as a result of the stealing jobs from white Americans by immigrants.
By the end of July 2016, once both parties had nominated their candidates, I started to sense that things might not unfold the way the mainstream media was scripting the campaign.  In my blog with the foreshadowing title, The U.S. Presidential Election: A Drowning Man Will Clutch at a Dragon, I wrote:
Well, it's done.  The Republican and Democratic Parties have nominated their candidates to become President of the United States of America, Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton.  Really? These are the choices? The sociopath who can do the least harm? . .
In offering these two candidates to the electorate, both parties have shown very clearly the failings of the two-party political system.  Moving forward to November, the media will focus its attention on what promises to be a campaign filled with personal attacks, a veritable tele-reality affair, which might play in Trump's favor, but in the end, regardless of the outcome, the real losers will be the vast majority of Americans.
Finally, during the last weekend of the campaign I saw what I thought was an absolutely brilliant video that addressed what I thought what had been the ballot box question all along.  If you want to understand why Trump won the election, you should view: Donald Trump's Argument For America.

Not that I was absolutely certain that he would win, but I thought he had a good chance despite all of the propaganda polls that were circulating days before the election.  In my final blog of the campaign, Choosing Between Donald the Vile or Crooked Hillary: The Absurdity of It All,  published on November 7, 2016, the day before Americans would prove the pundits wrong, I wrote:
I understand how it all came about.  Let's face it.  The majority of Americans have been screwed over royally by a ruling elite that cares more about their stock options and speaking fees than the well-being of the population.  Over the last ten years the meme of the top 1% has penetrated the national psyche.  To secure Clinton's nomination all that was needed was to control the Democratic primaries, which as it turned out proved relatively easy to do.  Seeing how her nomination turned out to be an unpopular choice -- no other politician symbolizes the politics of privilege better than Hillary -- the task for the media was to focus the electorate's attention on perhaps the only other candidate who could be even more repugnant than Hillary, Donald Trump.  The thinking was that the American electorate would never be that stupid as to elect a man who proclaimed that he would build a wall to keep out illegal Mexican immigrants and that he would get the Mexicans to pay for it.
But the choice for many Americans is not a rational one.  In fact, for many the decision is fraught with emotion.  Dare I say that the decision to vote for Trump, aside from fascists and xenophobic racists, is simply a grand gesture of saying "fuck you" to America's ruling liberal elite.  In living memory, Americans can remember earning $80,000 a year from a single job that had benefits and a decent pension.  Now, millions toil for paltry wages: two jobs to earn $30,000, and a whole generation is stuck with mountains of student loan debt of which many will work a lifetime without ever paying off the debt.
I can see the twisted logic.  It's payback time.  Force those who have the most to lose by America running of the rails to have to deal with the antics of Donald Trump.  It's like someone who lives in an all white enclave accepting a lower offer to buy his or her house in order to sell to an African-American family just to piss his or her neighbours off.
I guess desperate times cry out for desperate measures and I think electing Trump would unquestionably be a wake up call for America's ruling elite who thought overwhelming advantage in campaign spending and media coverage would be enough to have their candidate elected.
Yet, things may not turn out as planned.  The unthinkable may come about.  Seeing through the charade of an election designed to place yet another millionaire into the highest office in the land and to do likewise with Congress, more than half its members are also millionaires, ordinary Americans just might serve notice that they are no longer to follow the script laid out for them, thinking that if the top 1% has, in effect, abandoned the population, in having to deal with a Trump as President at long last they will be in the same boat as their fellow citizens.
Misery loves company.
So, there you have it, my take on the Presidential campaign.  Without question, Trump winning the election represents a significant rupture from the past.  Was it a total surprize?  I don't think so.  But to see it coming, you had to discard the opinions and the analysis from the mainstream American media and read the reports of those who were travelling through the USA during the campaign and capturing what they experienced.  It was all captured by the written word, but you had to search for the reports and resist the spoon feeding provided by those who had way too much invested with maintaining the status quo.
 
   
 

Monday, November 7, 2016

Choosing Between Donald the Vile or Crooked Hillary: The Absurdity of It All

So America, it all comes down to this: the whole world waits with bated breath while you decide which of your more despised Presidential candidates loses the election.  I think it's safe to say that those of us living outside of the USA hope that Trump loses.  After all, if he wins, as Commander and Chief of the most potent military force on the planet, he would be given access to the codes that control America's nuclear arsenal.  Oops, sorry about that humanity.

Other than my immediate concern about the safety of the planet, what strikes me the most about this election is how absurd it is.  Come on America.  Really? That's the best you can do?  Give the electorate the choice of being led by an overtly narcissistic, racist, misogynist sociopath or a cold-hearted, calculating, sell-out-to-the-financial-elite sociopath?

These are the choices?

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Back when I was in high school, I had to study The Theatre of the Absurd in such plays like Beckett's Waiting for Godot and Ionesco's Rhinoceros.  Having to decide between the two most reviled Presidential candidates since public opinion polls have been used to measure popularity strikes me as an absurd proposition.  I liken it to being invited to be a judge for a body building contest only to find out that all of the contestants are morbidly obese.  What's up with that?

I understand how it all came about.  Let's face it.  The majority of Americans have been screwed over royally by a ruling elite that cares more about their stock options and speaking fees than the well-being of the population.  Over the last ten years the meme of the top 1% has penetrated the national psyche.  To secure Clinton's nomination all that was needed was to control the Democratic primaries, which as it turned out proved relatively easy to do.  Seeing how her nomination turned out to be an unpopular choice -- no other politician symbolizes the politics of privilege better than Hillary -- the task for the media was to focus the electorate's attention on perhaps the only other candidate who could be even more repugnant than Hillary, Donald Trump.  The thinking was that the American electorate would never be that stupid as to elect a man who proclaimed that he would build a wall to keep out illegal Mexican immigrants and that he would get the Mexicans to pay for it.

But the choice for many Americans is not a rational one.  In fact, for many the decision is fraught with emotion.  Dare I say that the decision to vote for Trump, aside from facists and xenophobic racists, is simply a grand gesture of saying "fuck you" to America's ruling liberal elite.  In living memory, Americans can remember earning $80,000 a year from a single job that had benefits and a decent pension.  Now, millions toil for paltry wages: two jobs to earn $30,000, and a whole generation is stuck with mountains of student loan debt of which many will work a lifetime without ever paying off the debt.

I can see the twisted logic.  It's payback time.  Force those who have the most to lose by America running of the rails to have to deal with the antics of Donald Trump.  It's like someone who lives in an all white enclave accepting a lower offer to buy his or her house in order to sell to an African-American family just to piss his or her neighbours off.

I guess desperate times cry out for desperate measures and I think electing Trump would unquestionably be a wake up call for America's ruling elite who thought overwhelming advantage in campaign spending and media coverage would be enough to have their candidate elected.

Yet, things may not turn out as planned.  The unthinkable may come about.  Seeing through the charade of an election designed to place yet another millionaire into the highest office in the land and to do likewise with Congress, more than half its members are also millionaires, ordinary Americans just might serve notice that they are no longer to follow the script laid out for them, thinking that if the top 1% has, in effect, abandoned the population, in having to deal with a Trump as President at long last they will be in the same boat as their fellow citizens.

Misery loves company. 















Monday, August 29, 2016

Life, Liberty, and the Sociopathic Pursuit of Wealth

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

(The United States Declaration of Independence)


Well, it has been decided.  Donald Trump will be the Presidential Candidate for the Republican Party and Hillary Clinton will be the candidate for the Democrats.  I know.  It's so easy to say that "these are the choices?"  Yes, they are and it says miles about what kind of nation the United States of America has morphed into.

The nation was indeed founded on lofty ideals arising from the Enlightenment, extending to the early settlers primarily from Britain, but the rights were not extended to the indigenous peoples and the African slaves.  It would take a bloody civil war during the nineteenth century and the struggles of the civil rights movement of the twentieth to arrive at some semblance of all humans being created equal although many members of the indigenous, feminist, and LGBT communities might disagree.


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Looking closely at the aforementioned unalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, it seems clear enough that one has the right to be alive and to be free to do as one wishes within the existing legal framework, but it is the pursuit of happiness that raises the most concerns, especially how it is presently pursued in the United States.  To be happy requires, at the very least, that one's basic survival needs: food and water, adequate shelter, clothing, education, and the possibility of earning a living are met and in a manner in which that one doesn't have to worry from one day to the next if they will be.  That being said, it is evident that millions of Americans have reason to belief that their pursuit of happiness has been seriously impeded by social structures that favor one segment of the society, the rich, at the expense of the majority of Americans.

To be sure both candidates represent the interests of wealthy Americans who desire to focus their pursuit of happiness on their pursuit of wealth.  In fact, both candidates are multi-millionaires.  In the case of Donald Trump, he inherited his wealth from his father and has continued in his father's footsteps as a real estate developer.  In the case of Hillary Clinton, she was born into a family of more modest means, but yet somehow managed to team up with her husband, the former President of the United States, Bill Clinton, to parlay their public service careers into a multi-million sum of net worth.  In other words, one was born rich, the other got rich.

Essentially, they represent two sides of the same coin, the sociopathic pursuit of wealth.  By that I mean that they embody characteristics often associated with sociopaths: narcissism, lack of empathy, a belief that they are exempt from societal norms and rules, and engaging in intentional deceit to advance their self interest.  Taken together these characteristics bring forth an attitude of indifference with regard to how their behavior might have negative consequences for others.

Of the two candidates, it is much more apparent that Trump manifests sociopathic tendencies.  He is unabashed in his efforts to promote his name and image -- to such an extent that some journalists are saying that he is not a serious candidate and is only using the Presidential campaign as a means to promote his name and the Trump brand.  Given his outlandish statements, for example, telling people he intends to build a wall between the United States and Mexico to keep out the drug dealers and rapists and will get the Mexicans to pay for it, it doesn't seem out of the realm of the possible that he is testing the limits of what he can say and do as a candidate in order to cash in on his exploits at a latter date.  Moreover, his crass comments about minorities clearly demonstrates lack of empathy and his refusal to make public his personal financial records show a blatant disregard for the public's right to know sufficiently the background of the person they are contemplating voting into the most powerful political position on the planet. 

Of course, his economic plans include reducing the taxes of the most wealthy and improving the economic lot of white, lesser educated, males by implementing xenophobic social and economic policies.  Less immigrants supposedly means more jobs for white people, not necessarily good paying jobs with benefits, but jobs nonetheless.

With Clinton, the sociopathic tendencies are not as readily apparent, and she exploits the constant opportunity to redirect attention concerning important questions about her character and behavior towards the easy target, Donald Trump.  Repeatedly, members of the public raise the question of how could the Clintons become so rich as politicians supposedly employed by them to advance the public good.  It is well known that she was paid princely sums to give speeches to associations from the financial sector on Wall Street, but she refuses to make public the transcripts of the speeches.  Perhaps, the so-called speeches were little more than bribes attached to services rendered and to be rendered at a later date.  Likewise, what are the connections between the Clinton Foundation and the US State Department, of which Hillary Clinton was the Secretary of State?  It appears that donations to the Foundation opened doors within the Obama administration.  Answers could be forthcoming but unfortunately people who could shed light on what was happening behind closed doors end up dying under mysterious circumstances before they have the opportunity to testify.  Similarly, important and troubling questions about how the integrity of the Democratic Party Primaries leading to Hillary's nomination as the Party's Presidential candidate remain unanswered to date although a number of lawsuits alleging electoral fraud have been launched, the President of Democratic National Committee, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, was forced to resign, and a few people who worked on Clinton's campaign have also met their untimely demise. 

Although Hillary appears to be much more liberal in her social views, her economic policies favor the pursuit of wealth by the rich liberal elite, those educated at Ivy League universities, like Hillary, Bill, and Obama, who parlay their social connections in the financial, legal, technology, and entertainment sectors to do very well for themselves in the neo-liberal order they helped to create.  It should be noted that Hillary is already more than half way to her goal of raising one billion dollars for her presidential campaign.

Looking forward to the Presidential election in November the average American has very little to hope for.  Both candidates represent the interests of the already and the soon-to-be rich.  For those on the outside looking in on the spectacle of the ostentatious display of wealth that the modern-day Gatsby-like personas love to put on, good luck to you.  However, if you believe that your vote could make a difference and you are thinking that maybe it is in the best interest to limit the damage that either one of these sociopaths could inflict upon America, you should consider voting for a progressive candidate in the Senatorial or Congressional elections.