May 22 2019 At last count there are 24 people running to be the next Democratic nominee for the 2020 U.S. presidential election. It's a long haul. And already some of them – after initially turning some heads, have fizzled out. People like Beto O'Rourke. At last Joe Biden has joined the fray and has become the instant favourite displacing Bernie Sanders. Yes. that speech that Joe made at the 2016 convention was a populist gem. He can be a likeable guy but he's prone to making dumb mistakes. His recent touchy-feely actions involving women and children have critics calling him "creepy Joe". Policy wise he's solidly in the discredited Hillary Clinton Camp. His populist rhetoric is sure to wear thin when voters realize he's just another corporatist like Hillary. Americans have rejected the establishment and I'm sure this will continue in 2020.
Right now the flavour of the week is Pete Buttigieg who looks like a token gay actor on a TV sit-com. He's said that "policy is overrated" yet he's done well, most notably on that recent Fox News Town Hall. Good looking and unthreatening to anybody, that's Mayor Pete and it could take him far. But can he beat Bernie with his solid, loyal base of support and that popularity has grown, if anything, since he was cheated out of the 2016 nomination. Bernie seems as focused as ever but can he keep it up? He'll be 79 on election day and I think that's a problem both in optics and also the pressures of the presidency could be too much to expect of a person that age to deal with. Especially a candidate that will surly be pushing for serious change. But there is a solution to Bernie's age problem. And that's Tulsi Gabbard.
For progressives, Tulsi is the brightest light in this whole election cycle and I'm certain that she and Bernie are actually working as a team. She's 38 and yes, she's way down in the polls right now but that should change. There's plenty of time. So far Tulsi has been dealing with a very hostile media using the same old smear questions like her supposedly being cozy with Putin and president Assad of Syria. She does not have to win the nomination but she should certainly be able to garner a whole lot of respect from open minded voters.
Jan 31, 2018 Donald Trump's teleprompter assisted 'state of the union speech' last night was not so much Trump but more the Republican Party talking points — all of it entirely predictable blather and jingoism. What really bothered me was the lack of opposition in the room. When Trump bragged about moving the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem the Democratic Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer jumped up and applauded enthusiastically. I think it's pretty obvious that the Democrats really agree with most of the Republican policies. An exception is with Russia — which is a distraction and a convenient "straw man" argument that Democrats use so that they may "appear" to be different from the Republicans. But are they? And have the Republicans finally succeeded in reining in Trump? Maybe so.
I find this whole thing very depressing because this kind of situation can easily lead us to war, very serious war. If the Republicans appear to be loosing support going into the midterms in just a few months from now I think Trump will play the war card. And, just like in Iraq, the Democrats will give the president their full backing while NeoLiberals, such as CNN's Fareed Zakaria, will proclaim that Trump "now looks presidential".
As if this were not enough there is another thing that troubles me deeply — the influence of "trolls" affecting American politics. People are becoming confused. Take for instance the many people who watched Trump's speech last night — if they watched it on YouTube, or on a web site — they have the chance to post comments regarding what they just watched. The idea was for it to be like the old "letters to the editor" in newspapers. Until recently I had always found many of the comments that ordinary people post to be very useful. But recently the "trolls" have taken over.
I can't think of a better example of this than the comments on Bernie Sanders' Response to Trump's speech on YouTube last night. This was the kind of issues based response that we have come to expect from Bernie. It was on Bernie's own YouTube channel so we know it was not edited to make Sanders look bad. Yet the trolls came out in force showing that most of them didn't even watch the whole video. Most of the comments were critical of Bernie in ways that do not relate to anything he said in the video. And more often than not the comments were silly, uninformed or childish. Any Bernie supporter, (which is what you would expect to be watching this video), would be inclined to come away with some doubt about Bernie's very high polling stats with ordinary Americans.
Also, last week Trump made a speech at The World Economic Forum in Davos. Again it was all teleprompter party rhetoric bullshit. Likewise I read many of the comments on Trump's speech which were to a large degree similar to JFK hero worship mixed with the second coming of Jesus. This had no resemblance to the interesting comments on talks at last year's Davos. The trolls and their "fake comments" are ruining YouTube. I think the answer to this problem is to create an algorithm that does not allow comments unless a user has watched at least 75% of a video.
Jan 9, 2018 The buffoonish American president Donald Trump, has been president for one year now and there is plenty of chatter about him not being fit for office — that maybe it’s time for him to be impeached. While there does appear to a long and mounting list of evidence to support impeachment the result of this action might very well lead to something even worse — a united Republican administration led by a religious fundamentalist. It would seem obvious that, unlike Trump, Michael Pence would be able to move the GOP agenda ahead with little or no resistance from his party. So why would the GOP be reluctant to support a Trump impeachment? Because they know that Pence would be even more unpopular with a great many Americans. Sure, polls are saying that Trump is the most unpopular president in modern history flirting around the 30% mark, but the reason why Trump was electable against Hillary Clinton and why a sizeable part of the electorate still support him is because he is seen as being anti-establishment. Today politicians are not trusted or respected — and the 2016 race was about Americans’ discontent with establishment politics. Just as the Democratic Party supporters were in denial about Hillary's glaring negatives, the almost unknown Vermont senator Bernie Sanders would have easily triumphed over Trump if Sanders had been the party's candidate in 2016. Bernie still leads in polling for contenders in 2020 though he has not confirmed that he will run. Right now I favour a Bernie Sanders/Nina Turner ticket in 2020. And as much as I would like to see a third party rise-up the road ahead seems difficult. I think that's why Bernie is reluctant to get on-board with a third party. However, right now, it looks like the Democratic Party is never going to back progressives like Sanders or Turner. I'm certain of one thing — unless American politics can become far more progressive the country's slide toward irrelevance will surely continue. Maybe Trump, "the buffoon" will turn out being a wakeup call.
Oct 10, 2017 I see greed as the desire to have more money, power, food or status than one actually needs. Greed can, and certainly does, lead to societies that function less well compared to societies whose assets are more evenly distributed. I also believe that greed is a major factor in the downward spiral of today’s market capitalism. Now the very rich would rarely admit that they, themselves, are greedy. They will always say that they worked for it — or it proves they are smart — or that wealth handed down to them is good and proper. And then there’s the quest for capital to finance worthy undertakings such as Tesla’s initiative to bring electric transportation and green technology to the masses. That’s not “greed”.
Maybe you argue that “greed” helps to advance human progress by pushing us to reach higher toward accomplishing something? I don’t see that as “greed”? Greed is not “competition” which is a person or group trying to achieve certain goals in competition with another person or group. Right now car companies are competing to be the first with a mass produced electric car. The “status” and “profit” that would flow from being the first would not be motivated by “greed”. Here’s where the dictionary definition of “greed” comes into question. It often lists excessive “status” as an example of greed. The trouble is when the status in question is “unwarranted”. I usually see “status” and “respect” as being related. Many of us respect Noam Chomsky so his “status” in society is very high to a great many people. Don’t we all want respect and the position of status that comes with it? An example of “unwarranted status” is the presidency of Donald Trump who does not deserve the “status” and “respect” we normally give to such a high office. To Top▲Comments▲
Is 'Meaning' a Human Need?
Feb 4 2017 I see no meaning in life other than what meanings we humans create for ourselves. I'm not necessarily implying that a pursuit of self-interest has meaning – but I can't say that it doesn't either. Our culture tells us that there is meaning in doing good things and I go along with that as most of us do. This "need for meaning" is an artifact of our culture, largely via our religious traditions. Although a need for meaning may feel like an real human need it's not a real need except when we're conditioned to believe that it's a real need. We don't "need" alcohol but we can be conditioned to believe we do. To Top▲Comments▲
Thoughts Before The American Election 2016
Sept 9, 2016 In a way I think both Bernie and Trump appeal to populist sentiments and both are a nightmare to their respective party establishments. The fact that Trump is doing so well reflects the weakness of the other Republican contenders. He’s been a disruptive force on the right and he’s exposed the broad underlying sediments of right-wing voters. The GOP must now face the real possibility that Trump may actually win the nomination. He’s also a gift to the Democrats because Trump will divide the GOP. The thing that could stop Trump is if Republican voters began to believe, (they will believe anything), that Trump is actually a clever ruse employed by the Democrats.
Bernie speaks very well to the sentiments of populist, progressive white Americans. Strong on domestic issues his weakness is foreign policy, which he tends to dodge. And there is his questionable ability to appeal to blacks and hispanics. I don’t give him much of a chance of getting the nomination if Clinton performs well. And lately she has been impressive stealing the Keystone XL pipeline issue from Sanders and her recent appearance on Saturday Night Live made her seem a bit more human. She’ll likely win the nomination. However, Clinton is very much the establishment candidate so she will not bring needed change or reform and her hawkish tendencies could get us all into trouble.
Bernie clarifies his foreign policy HERE Sept 21 2017
Feb 1 2017 Basic Income plans have been studied in the past in Canada and elsewhere. The reason many are thinking about this right now is due to new forecasts that suggest that technology will soon displace a lot of today’s work force. And if this is true financial inequality will grow in a big way. http://www.basicincomecanada.org/ I think that the benefits of a guaranteed income programme would offset the direct costs. I believe this is the reason why right wingers like Milton Friedman have looked at this with interest. Any plan that’s revenue neutral that’s also simpler has to be a very good thing. I also believe that this discussion opens up the philosophical question of why human beings work.
Feb 2 2017 This is largely semantics. Right now I do not consider China to be an “imperialist” power. But I think there are other forms of imperialism that China is currently engaged in and this could expand, even militarily, in the future. We could argue the terminology but I would suggest that an expansion of business interests into other parts of the world, such as China has be doing in places like Africa and South America amounts to imperialism. Of course there are resources that China needs and they will try to get them one way or another. Some may call this as simply doing business. But I see this as a form of imperialism.
The face of imperialism has changed. Even American imperialism is quite different from past imperial powers. I would submit that any imperial tendencies that China may have had in recent times have been held back by more powerful western imperialism. But this could change. I’ve long believed that the real differences between we in the west and the Chinese are cultural. They are no more peaceful by nature than we are. This idea of a people being better than another has got to stop. And this growing nationalism in China needs to be addressed as well.
The school teachers I’ve known here have all been pragmatic in their workplace – choosing to “keep out of trouble” within a school system that discourages teachers from discussing their political views with their students. Even at post secondary this kind of thing is being discouraged by an increasingly right wing, business oriented school administration.
There are of course two sides to this complicated issue. Let me sight one personal example involving my daughter when she was at Humber Collage studying graphic design. She had a professor there who’s job it was to instil a “business ethic” in his students to the point that design was just another way to “make a living”. This kind of pragmatism was not unexpected by me given the school’s vocational nature. As a parent I can understand the objective of having your kid make it “in the real world” – and in this case it worked out well perhaps because I was pushing Ashley strongly in the other direction – “to love what she was doing” and to not be in it just “to make a living”. My daughter disliked this teacher and pushed back against his business agenda but I have to admit that this experience – along with another similar experience at Western – have probably given her the balance to make it in a very competitive world as a creative director in New York and now in LA. I have to wonder though what kind of future citizens we’re creating when the school system is all about “getting a job” together with parents that discourage the idealistic tendencies of their children. My suspicion is that the reason why the state of the world seems so dire today is this lack of idealism in a world that’s obsessed with pragmatic self interest.
But then – even if you agree with me on this lack of idealism in today’s society its embrace carries with it a certain peril – “idealism” implies a certain truth. And what is “truth”? If we believe in the ideology that “God is on our side” does this allow us to do anything? For sure this is a more complicated path than pragmatism. But what choice do we have?
Feb 2 2017 Of course the use of metaphor is a given by any good communicator, especially the leader of country with a long romantic history. Even American presidents like Obama use metaphor effectively. And that awful scoundrel Ronald Reagan was great with his “the shining city on a hill”. Notable Americans in the past such as Mark Twain used metaphor quite a lot.
I can’t recall ever sitting through an entire speech by a Chinese leader in the past but it seems to me that Xi Jinping is a wonderful communicator, perhaps the best since Mao Tse-tung. And it’s comforting to see that China appears to have an intelligent and communicative leader as we could be headed toward a very difficult period in international relations.
You mention “imperialism” as the “important issue facing us today”. This is not a part of China today – as you often point out and I agree. The last thing Xi Jinping needs to deal with right now is expansion. In the future, however, this could change if or when China becomes the world’s most dominant power. There is that question of Taiwan.
I also am concerned with the “growth imperative” that China and the rest of the world have embraced. There is still little talk of this problem as China continues to overproduce.
It’s good to hear about the positive expectations that your students have of China's leadership. This compares favourably to the terrible “values” that are instilled through the media in the West. I wonder though if your students are all that aware of politics, at least on a national level? And if an idealized perspective regarding China’s leaders is mainly a cultural expectation. I can’t help but feel that “pragmatism”, not “ideology”, is the dominant obsession of the modern Chinese proletariat just as it is pretty well everywhere else.
Jan 31 2017 Last year at DAVOS, The World Economic Forum, the talk was centered on technology, artificial intelligence and robotics. This time hi-tech is also a major subject but this time the focus of the conference is social order in a changing world. Again there is an interesting panel on “Basic Income” with Cambridge professor Guy Standing who’s been arguing in favour of Basic Income for decades. As unlikely a concept under capitalism one could imagine there is increasing support for some form of basic income from both the political right and the left. And now it’s championed by Silicone Valley as probably the only way to fight income inequality.
But the big star of DEVOS this year certainly has to be Xi Jinping, the Chinese president, who convincingly makes his case for economic globalization and open markets blaming greed and inadequate regulation for the world’s current economic problems. He insists emphatically that “no one will win in a trade war.” He went on to say that “China is pursuing a path based on realities” . . . China has “blazed a development path that suits China’s actual conditions . . . We are not jealous of others’ success”. Without boasting he continues “We will open our arms to the people of other countries and welcome them aboard the express train of China’s development”.
Quite a sales pitch. Had Hillary Clinton become the American president she would probably be in Davos making a similar speech. But we're all fed up with corporatists like Hillary Clinton. Wisely the Democrats sent Joe Biden instead. While I believe that the Chinese president’s speech will bring comfort to much of the world it will also bring support for China’s objectives at the same time that The United States is becoming politically irrational under Donald Trump.
To PV Jan 28 2017 I see the internet as being a reflection on the society in general, both the good and the bad. Quickly, we have become dependant on the internet but this is a negative that we can tolerate. If we lose the internet we will be handicapped by losing a tool in our quest for truth. The very real worry is that the web will become more difficult to interact with as it becomes more commercialized. Some people I talk to – older people especially – describe the internet as comprising of cat videos and fake news. I see that person as not utilizing the internet effectively. Like any tool the internet requires practice and persistence if we are to make best use of it.
One critical view of the internet is that it has a tendency to divide users into “factions” where the information presented tends to harden an already held view. This tendency is a relic of our tribal past. It gives us comfort to be around people who think like us – we feel we’re not alone in having views that seem to clash with the rest of society. I could cite many groups on the internet that propagate this serious and divisive problem of “factions”. One of the most troublesome problems in recent times relates to the promotion of "the system", that is market capitalism. This appears too broad to be considered as “tribal” but if we break it down into factions within it we have the “believers”, the market utopians who think “the market” will take care of everything.
And we have the “the critics” – those who accept markets but don’t believe capitalism is being managed correctly. People like RT’s Max Keiser. Also within this faction is Alex Jones who is more or less the internet version of Rush Limbaugh. Where Jones is different from Limbaugh is that he tends to embrace every conspiracy theory out there. I see plenty of truth in what Jones is trying to tell us but I find him obnoxious especially when he goes off the edge as he often does. Some may find him entertaining, I don’t, I find him mostly silly and even scary. And when Jones is wrong he's wrong big time. For instance I’m disturbed that he propagates the use of guns. And that he adds to the prevailing sense of “paranoia” and hopelessness in America which leads in turn to desperation which then leads to irrational ideology.
My own position is that of “anarchism” which can hardly be called a “faction”, at least within present day society – it’s too small a tribe and it’s too unknown, poorly understood and almost invisible. Anarchism is in some ways the opposite of capitalism. To put it very simply: capitalism is power from the top, by the very few, while anarchism is power from the bottom, by the many. People generally aren’t aware that anarchism is a powerful, underlying part of today’s social order. Today when we say “social order” we think that can’t be anarchism. But there can be no politically relevant anarchism without social order. Anarchy in this sense does not mean chaos – just the opposite. It means a non-hierarchical social order. We really have to come up with a better name for “anarchism”.
The trouble with all of this breaking down into societal factions is that we spend most of our energy buried within our own tribal, like minded faction – and we all do this to some degree – we lose sight of the bigger picture. Thereby we see a distorted and biased view of the truth. I think you will agree that what I’m saying applies to the general public at large, to today's journalists as well as to the current political order.
To PV Jan 28 2017 The political order has needed disruption for a long time and that’s where Donald Trump comes in. He may prove to be useful in our road to change. To wake people up, to engage the masses. And we're off to a good start bringing out thousands more activists compared to those that were at Trump's inauguration. The idea that somebody like Trump can attain such a lofty position in American politics should make us all want to re-examine our system of checks-and-balances. For Trump is a man who lies with a sense of childish innocence. Like a five-year-old child he doesn’t seem to appreciate that lies can have repercussions. He appears to believe he can go on just as he has been doing in business for many years using lies to get his own way. And like a five your old he does not think things through beforehand. I also believe he’s beyond learning these things. Trump lies alright but he’s now within a system where lies have become a fine art. I think most of us can see through Trump’s child-like lies but there are still many who are indoctrinated into a system of lies that are far more insidious than the phenomenon of Donald Trump. So like I was saying – I don't worry about Trump all that much. He may even prove to be instrumental in helping to bring about a better world. But he himself is far from being the answer. The answer is us.
From the Archive: Bad to Badder, on Trump's First Week
Jan 27 2017 Suddenly as I look at the mess we’re in I’m seeing “green shoots” of hope out there. Especially for Canadians. With the stroke of a pen Donald Trump has put the Keystone pipeline project back on the table. Whether it will ever go ahead given the strong opposition remains an oily question. The good news is that any thought of building new pipelines here in Canada has been halted, perhaps forever. As you know by now we had about sixty thousand people, mostly women, take to the streets of Toronto to protest Trump’s disrespect of women along with the many other crude and chilling remarks by this self-obsessed asshole-in-chief. What will this guy do next?
I’m not that worried. Trump is like a gift to the political activist community. And he’s sure to keep on giving. Already we’ve had half a million demonstrators in Washington and many more in sympathy throughout the world. People are asking what’s next as they’re eager to make a further impact on a world that appears to be in a mode of insanity. This won’t let up as long as Trump is in the Whitehouse. And the way I see it Trump won’t be around very long anyway. Already, without completing his first week as president, his own party is speaking out against him in public saying he’s wrong about his comments on voter fraud. Has this kind of critique of a newly elected president by his own party ever happened before? Who needs those head-in-the-sand Democrats when the Republicans are ganging up against their own leader? I wonder if Donald will even last six months?
It’s not hard to see why the Republicans are turning on Trump because they see him as unstable and unresponsive to party dictates. It’s as if Trump is his own separate party. He hates the Republicans and they hate him. Trump needed the party to win the election just as the party needed Trump to put the Republicans back in the Whitehouse. They no longer need each other so there is good reason to force Trump out. It will certainly be a battle that Trump will likely loose. And the Republicans will get what they wanted all along: a predictable party loyalist named Michael Pence, an anybody but Trump. I can just picture Paul Ryan in the background drooling ghoulishly. Just when we thought that Donald Trump is as bad as it can get a united Republican party, along with their majority in the house and senate, will suddenly become a much more sinister power to deal with. Four years of Trump would be much better than this scenario.
From the Archive: My Argument Against The Iraq War
By Stan Jones November 2, 2003 I accept that Saddam is a nasty tyrant. I could even accept an initiative to challenge his control in Iraq. But I feel the actions taken by the US have been heavy handed and globally divisive. A large part of the world finds this deadly war wrong. The public reasons to attack Iraq given by George Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Bair are clearly false. The claim that Iraq has weapons of mass destruction as well as having active connections to terrorist groups is unproven. And an acceptable case for war has not been made. Yet they go in anyway. Much of the respect for America around the world has come into question and has been replaced by contempt. How can it be productive in the war on terrorism or the advancement of world peace or the betterment of counties like Iraq if America is so detested in so much of the world, especially in countries it claims to be liberating? America's refusal to cooperate within the framework of the United Nations is and will, I believe, set America on a backward track. The UN is all we have for reasoned, civilized resolution of world problems. The fact that a country that is suspected of having weapons of mass destruction is willing to allow inspectors free access is a precedent that could have continued to other countries like Iran and North Korea. This is an initiative that could realistically lead toward world disarmament. True world progress. Yet the US chose to ignore the UN and significant world opinion. This certainly reveals the Bush administration's true imperialist intentions. So how is it that so many Americans, many of them thoughtful and intelligent, believe that the war is just and worthwhile? Part of it is the concept of backing the chief commander without question, like good soldiers "ours is not to reason why - ours is but to do and die". Part of it is through control and manipulation of the media. The 'embedded' reporters; the non objective analysts; the war games generals; CNN and especially Fox. Our much more balanced CBC has, I feel, contributed to a much greater understanding by Canadians to what's happening and the reasons. Aside from the 'weapons of mass destruction' and 'terrorist ties' rhetoric there is little talk on the reasons to go to war in the American media. Many Americans just simply refuse to accept the concept that the leaders of their country could be so wrong.