Category Archives: Politics

More on Police, Race and Mental Illness

By Marvin Ross

I ended my blog on police race and mental illness by asking why we abdicate the crisis care in mental illness to cops in the first place. Those who are ill deserve more than to be treated by people with guns. It has already proven to be a disaster. Since that came out, there ithas been talk of defunding the police which, frankly, I do not understand.

We need the police to prevent and investigate crime in our communities. That should be their primary function and, I gather, no one who advocates defunding disagrees with that concept. I think, and I may be wrong, that the other issues like responding to mental health calls, police in schools, and similar duties should not be supported. I guess that would also extend to domestic disputes where a marriage counsellor would show up. These calls, however, are among the most dangerous for the police.

A Toronto Star columnist, Vinay Menon, wondered if defunding meant this should happen when his house was broken into at 3 in the morning. He said he took:

real comfort in knowing a squad car with armed cops is only a 911 call away. What’s the alternative? Go downstairs in my jammies and kindly ask the home invaders to get on the blower with a community psychologist to figure out why they have just removed steak knives from a kitchen drawer and are frantically rifling through my wife’s purse for car keys, which they are about to use to steal our Jetta before terrorizing my cats? True story!

Defunding maybe are laudable goals but are they feasible. Mental health services in North America have been so defunded and are so inadequate that the health system is often AWOL. I learned the sad reality many years ago when the schizophrenic brother of a friend would regularly escape and show up at my apartment. The second time it happened, I called the hospital and told them to come get him. I was so naive, that I fully anticipated hospital staff would come. Two cops showed up but he had already left. No worry, they said, we know him and will drive around the area.

Jospeph Meyer, whose excellent blog I referred to, did a small survey on facebook asking Would you feel comfortable calling for the police during a psychiatric crisis? So far, 60 people have said no and only 18 have said yes. People commented that they had both good and bad experiences while one said the police killed the subject and another said an arrest was made. I have also heard outside of this survey that the police are sometimes handcuffed and can do very little because of restrictive mental health acts in that community.

In many communities, there are specially funded units for trained officers to go out with social workers or psychiatric nurses. Often the hours are limited, the demand too high for them to respond and it is the regular patrol car that arrives. I’ve dealt with some of the specialized officers and been on panels with them so I know they are dedicated and trained but they are too few. With the regular patrol car, you’re taking your chances.

The solution is not defunding the police but improving their training while, at the same time, fighting for improved mental health acts, more hospital beds, longer hospital stays and more realistic privacy legislation. We still need the police for psychiatric emergencies but we cannot accept the excuse of “there are a few bad apples so what ya gonna do, eh?”

Some of the problems are well illustrated in this news report: If the embedding does not work and for some problem it does not show, here is the link

One of the interviewees in that clip refers to being made to feel like a criminal when the police become involved and that is a perfect example of a bad encounter with untrained police. In one of my earlier Huffington Post pieces, I talked about a man with schizophrenia who went to his local ER for help. After a long wait where nothing happened, he wanted to leave but was not allowed to. The hospital called to police (five of them), a physical conflict ensued and the poor guy was arrested and charged with numerous criminal offences including assault of a police officer. That is often a charge laid when someone’s head gets in the way of a police fist.

I knew the man and wrote about his adventures with the criminal justice system where he was found not guilty and the judge had very harsh words for the police and the hospital staff. Despite his acquittal and the denunciation of the complainants by the judge, the perpetrators received no penalties from their employers, the justice system or the healthcare regulators asI described. I did encourage him to sue which he did. He called me a few years later to say that his legal action was done and he was very pleased with the result.

I can’t remember who said it but no airline has ever used the excuse that sorry the pilot who flew into the mountain instead of landing at the airport was just a bad apple pilot. Training and vigilance is needed to improve their response so they do not shoot and kill a young Indigenous woman when doing a health check as happened recently in Edmunston, New Brunswick.

And maybe we need a People of Colour Police Department

Defusing Nasty Cultures (Police, etc)

By Dr David Laing Dawson

There is a small moment in one of the videos we have all been watching that is very telling: The 75 year old protester has been pushed by a police officer, he falls backwards onto the sidewalk and cracks his head. As they walk by one officer starts to bend down to tend to the fallen and bleeding man. Another nudges him to walk on by. The one whose instinct was to respond to the injured man acquiesces and straightens up and walks away.

In the George Floyd video it is unclear to me which, if any, of the other officers are simply standing by, abetting, participating in the assault, and/or at least suggesting a different action be taken.

We are social animals. And that means we are each vulnerable to accepting practices within our club, our company of brothers, that we would not accept in the quiet contemplation of our own instincts and morality. Nasty cultures, nasty cultural practices and attitudes can develop in groups, especially in isolated brotherhoods, and those who perceive themselves as under threat.

(“nasty” here can mean antisocial, nihilistic, apathetic, misogynistic, racist, aggressive, criminal, vindictive, even sadistic)

And this development of an insular nasty culture can occur within platoons, cults, police divisions, offices, residential schools, hospital wards, and long term care homes.

Once such a nasty culture has developed it is hard for any member to resist it, as that first video illustrates. Membership comes at a price.

The remedies:

1. Moral leadership, very active visible moral leadership.

2. Policies, rules and standard practices that go as far as possible in preventing these cultures from developing and flourishing. (e.g. Not teaching choke holds but banning choke holds)

3. Breaking up any nasty little groups that develop within a police squadron or the night shift nurses.

4. Transparency. (Finally we may have a real benefit from everyone carrying a camera)

5. Perhaps, above all else, we need to admit these behaviours are within our human capacity and therefore we need to develop social strictures that prevent them.

Police, Race and Mental Illness

By Marvin Ross

Systemic racism exists in every country and no one is immune despite what some Canadian politicians have claimed. Ontario premier Doug Ford, at his daily Covid-19, press briefing, was shocked at what has gone on in the US and proudly proclaimed that there is no racism in Canada. Another right wing former politician declared that racism was like his being made fun of at school because he wore glasses.

The next day in the legislature, Doug Ford walked his assertions back. The other, lost his two consulting jobs for his stupid and ignorant comment. It took the satirical website, The Beaverton, to summarize our racist history pointing out that Canada is:

“home to the Indian Act, Chinese Head Tax, Africville, “None Is Too Many,” Japanese Internment Camps, Sixties Scoop, Residential Schools, Komagata Maru, the Oka Massacre, and MMIWG”.

It is hard for us to be sanctimonious when there are still reserves with no clean drinking water. I can say as someone who comes from an immigrant discriminated group that in my lifetime, things have improved. They just aren’t where they should be and, given human nature, may never be where they should be. American anti-black racism, however, is rather unique as explained by the internationally syndicated columnist, Gwynne Dyer.

He points out that historically, slavery has been equal opportunity. Slaves have come in all colours save for the US and Brazil. In order to justify the buying, selling and oppression of human beings of one colour, US society had to justify it. And they justified it by deciding that the slaves are inferior.

He said:

“that rationalization is still hanging around, together with the underlying knowledge that American whites had done their Black fellow-citizens a great harm, and the widespread belief among whites that you must fear those whom you have wronged.”

He also points out that American police are tremendously violent and kill unarmed Black people at a rate of 100 to one compared to the British police. The culture of police everywhere is a bit more violent than the culture of say social workers but, in Canada at least, that is improving a bit. When I worked with the police as a statistician many many years ago, it was looked down upon among their ranks for an officer to have a university education or to be taking university courses. Now, many departments are only recruiting those with university degrees and often masters degrees.

This brings me to the topic of mental illness and the police. Overall, I’ve found the police to be incredibly compassionate and understanding when they are dealing with someone in a psychotic state. I’ve heard from many others who have found the same thing. I suspect that it is likely only a few who mess up. When they mess up, it is spectacular and gets a lot of media attention. My US advocate colleague, Joseph Meyer, wrote an excellent guest blog on Pete Earley’s site on police, Black Lives Matter, and the mentally ill.

Since the George Floyd murder, Toronto had another death of a young woman from a visible minority in an interaction with police. This has led to claims of racism and a recounting of some previous deaths with police that have occurred over the years. Many of those deaths have involved racial minorities but not all. No one can know with any degree of certainty if racism played a role but I do think that the biggest reason was police stupidity and lack of proper training.

This most recent case involved Regis Korchinski-Paquet aged 29 who fell to her death from the 24th floor of a high rise in the presence of police. She is described in the article linked above as Afro-Indigenous but the family lawyer at the press conference referred to her as Ukrainian Indigenous from Nova Scotia – an example of the mixing of races and ethnicities in Canada.

What is known is that there was a family dispute and her mother called 911 for help getting her daughter to the psychiatric emergency. The family lives in a very nice area of the city but six cops showed up for the call. When the police got off the elevator, they found Regis, her mother and her brother in the hall. Six big cops with guns (even holstered), handcuffs, etc is very intimidating regardless of your mental state.

It is reported that Regis got into an argument with the police and then said she needed to go to the bathroom and went back into her apartment. The police followed her in and blocked her family from going in with her. Next, her mother heard “mom, help me” and Regis went over the balcony to her death. No one knows what took place in the apartment other than the police officers who were there and, stupidly, the Toronto Police do not have bodycams.

The event is being investigated by the civilian review agency but this is my assessment. Six cops to answer a 911 call for mental health assistance is absurd. It simply escalates the situation. I have seen the police respond to a floridly psychotic person and only one cop comes with one backup. The backup stays out of the way and out of sight and is only there if things escalate and if he/she is needed. The main officer then talks quietly and calmly to the person so as not to frighten or escalate. The officer uses quiet, respectful conversation to get the person to comply and to go to the hospital. That cannot be achieved by six big cops huddled in a confined space like an apartment hallway.

Despite all the calls for better police training, there are still cops who just don’t get it and that is the problem. But even if they do get it, the key question is why do we abdicate the crisis care in mental illness to cops in the first place. Those who are ill deserve more than to be treated by people with guns. it has already proven to be a disaster.

The Donald’s Sense of Humour

By Dr David Laing Dawson

It has been pointed out by many that Trump lacks, among other traits, a sense of humour.

This is not quite true.

He regularly deploys the kinds of labelling of others that is usually seen in unsupervised groups of boys age 7 to 13 and draws from the same age group the occasional chuckle. His “Crazy Bernie” and “Sleepy Joe” and “Nervous Nancy” are equivalent to the mockery of prepubescent boy children: “fatso”, “idiot”, “dickwad”…..

And at his rallies he occasionally tries a false modesty routine that never quite works: a hint at his prowess, greatness, attraction, and success that the audience might have missed, ha, ha.

But that is it.

And I wonder if the absence of an adult sense of humour may be a marker – that is an indicator of a narcissism so profound and all encompassing that its absence should be an early warning sign.

There are many kinds of humour. There are even scales people have devised to judge a sense of humour.

But, I think, to be able to quip, to wit, to pun, to successfully use sarcasm, double meaning, innuendo, to tell jokes in long form with a twist, or short form with a punch line, to lighten mood with an unusual association….. – all of these require adult empathy.

And true empathy is an adult trait, hints of which can be seen in childhood, but which does not fully form until the brain has fully developed.

Perhaps not having an adult sense of humour should be a disqualifier for any public office.

“Democracy is coming to the U.S.A” – L. Cohen

By Dr David Laing Dawson

But the USA is where the action is, where the polarization increases under duress, where racism rears up, where the social contract is broken, where guns are carried to protests, where the selfish I openly struggles with the We, where each blames the other, where politicians regress to school yard taunts, where expedience trumps knowledge, and where this might all go the wrong way.

Intimations indeed. From Intimation of Mortality posted on May 18, 2020

The Trump Propaganda Machine Just Keeps Rolling Along

By Marvin Ross

Internationally syndicated columnist, Gwynne Dyer, recently wrote a column on how, during this pandemic, every country gets the government it deserves. He was specifically referring to the UK and to the US as both have severely botched their responses to this crisis. About the same time, Irish Times columnist, Fintan O’Toole, wrote that the attitude in the world today is to pity the United States.

“Trump’s mixed messaging and lack of leadership has made the U.S. the epicenter of the pandemic: “I don’t think we’ve ever seen… a leader who has been active spreading a deadly virus, which is really what Trump has been doing.”

And while all this is true, a great deal of the blame must go to the scientists as David Dawson wrote earlier,for not exposing his lies and BS. Yes, they are protecting their jobs and their asses but at the cost of tens of thousands of lives. Sure he can fire them but maybe, just maybe, the mass firings would get Americans to stop and think for a minute.

The other group that is enabling this BS are the journalists attending the White House press briefings. The role of the media in a democracy is to inform the public and to “act as watchdogs checking government actions.” That watchdog role should involve taking the statements that Trump and his press secretary make and doing some basic fact checking. Some US media groups are doing some of this but often not the ones sitting in DC listening to the press briefings.

The other day, I caught the new press secretary giving her briefing to the press. She was pointing out that because of all the hard work that had been done by the administration and by others, the US had one of the lowest rates of covid-19 and Covid-19 deaths in the world. So, as a result, we are now able to relax the lockdown rules and reopen the economy.

That is actually the opposite of what is happening. The US has one of the worst rates of infection and mortality in the world as can be seen here. With that as a response to a question, the proper response is for the journalist or others to ask a supplementary question. What evidence do you have for asserting that? No one did.

At that same press conference, she dismissed the need to mass test people and called it useless. However, it is reported that she, herself, and the inner White House Circle get tested twice a week.

By not challenging it, it then is considered to be fact. Now I realize that journalists might lose their accreditation to appear at the briefings but so what. If enough ask difficult questions and challenge the BS, most will be kicked out. And if they are, then the networks can refuse to broadcast it. By not going that route, they are simply enabling the lies and propaganda.

Trump’s newest press secretary is 32 year old, Harvard Law School grad Kayleigh McEnany. She is a life long Republican and an early supporter of Trump. In 2012 during the birther attack against Obama, she posted this on twitterHow I Met Your Brother — Never mind, forgot he’s still in that hut in Kenya.” Obama’s half brother, Malik, lives in Kenya and is a graduate in Accounting from the University of Nairobi.

The Trump propaganda machine has been busy and working from the very beginning. In 2017, Jeff Nesbit writing in the US News and World Report, compared Trump’s media policies to that of Joseph Goebbels and Hitler. He wrote:

“State-sanctioned propaganda – which works by destroying independent media credibility while simultaneously disseminating lies – is now lurking around every corner in America, and in the press briefing room at the White House itself, where the press secretary and administration officials offer demonstrably false statements as truth or “alternative facts.”

He ended with “The power of state-sanctioned propaganda, and its ability to destroy the credibility of independent media, is timeless for a simple reason: It works.”

It is time for the US media to stop enabling Trump and to take a stand.

Can the United States be Fixed?

Image by shawn1 from Pixabay

By Marvin Ross

The other day, we posted a blog by Susan Inman critiquing Bernie Sander’s mental health platform but there is a bigger picture when it comes to the US. So much is wrong with that country that I am not sure it can be fixed without some very drastic changes.

I’m just reading Tightrope: Americans Reaching for Hope by New York Times writer Nicholas Kristoff and journalist Sheryl Wudunn.

They begin by pointing out that the US, compared to other countries, ranks at:

#40 for child mortality

#50 for personal safety

#61 for high school enrollment

#25 in the overall well-being of its citizens

The US is one of only a very few countries that has regressed based on the Social Progress Index. The US spends more on health care than any other country but its outcomes are comparable to that of Ecuador. The school system is on par with Uzbekistan. The US working class has collapsed into unemployment, broken families, drugs, obesity and early death. Not a pretty picture.

Kristoff looks at some of the kids he grew up with in rural Oregon who died early from chronic medical conditions whose illnesses he says would have been well managed in Europe and Canada where there is universal health care.

And yet, many of these people support Trump. A woman in Oklahoma he interviewed had been saved from a very abusive husband by a social agency. She became a kindergarten teacher and was living happily with her son and voted for Trump. She was not pleased when the funding to her social agency was slashed but felt that maybe Trump was right to save tax money and plans to vote for him again.

Another was an old friend who had endured seven bouts of homelessness, voted for Trump and will vote for him again. He is opposed to any social safety net as he feels that recipients are irresponsible. His main love of Trump, however, is guns. He goes nowhere without a revolver on his hip and will not give that up.

I just watched the episode on Netflix’s documentary Dirty Money on Jared Kushner. A working class family in Baltimore being squeezed for every penny by their landlord (a Kushner company) with escalating dubious late fees and court costs. revealed they had voted Trump. They did look a little sheepish when told their landlord was Kushner but will they vote Trump again in 2020?

One of the most compelling comparisons between the US and Canada mentioned in the book was a study done on the reaction to the layoffs in the auto industry in 2008-09 between Detroit and Windsor. The two cities are across the river from each other and have large auto plants. Detroit workers were worse off partly because of a lack of a social safety net such as that in Canada. But in Windsor the Canadian government jumped in within 24 hours to try to ameliorate the impact of layoffs.

An action centre was established to help with job searches, retraining and obtaining benefits. A number of laid off workers wanted to enroll in nursing training but the program at the local college was full. The government encouraged the college to add more spaces so workers could train.

The attitude in the US is that outcomes are a reflection of the persons personal responsibility. If you lose your job and become poor, destitute and/or homeless, its your fault. There is little that society can or should do to help.

Reversing what is happening in the US is a gargantuan task and I doubt we will see any changes in the near future. The only candidate of the two still standing who puts forth a true reformist policy (mental health aside) is Sanders. His policies are similar to that of the NDP in Canada or leftish social democrat parties in Europe but to many Americans, he is scary and a threat. From what I’ve read, he is most popular among the young who are not frightened by the concept of social democracy and who realize they have little future in the new America. Should Biden win the nomination which is likely, they may not even bother to vote thus assuring the world of 4 more years of Trump.


Guest Blog -US Democrat in Canada Opposes Sander’s Mental Health Platform

Image by Dean Moriarty from Pixabay

By Susan Inman

American-Canadians like me can vote in American elections, and also in the primaries that select nominees. Now that Bernie Sanders has released his disability platform  I’m hoping he doesn’t end up being the Democrats’ choice to run against Trump.

As the mother of a daughter living with schizophrenia,  I’ve learned over the past twenty years how much Canada is influenced by American trends in mental health care. The controversial positions that Sanders has recently endorsed reflect beliefs that have become increasingly influential in Canada. These positions harm the people they are meant to help.

People new to thinking about the most responsible, socially just positions regarding mental health care might be very impressed by the language in Sanders’ platform. The platform teems with references to human rights and offers an array of services that would be available in a Sanders administration for people able to voluntarily make use of them. However, readers need to dig deeper into the controversial positions he’s adopted to understand why my American community of family caregivers are alarmed. Underlying these positions is minimization of the severity and nature of psychotic disorders like schizophrenia for most people who live with them.

Here are Sanders’ stances on three crucial issues:

1. Sanders believes that treatment must be voluntary.

Psychotic disorders at some points involve psychosis, which is an inability to distinguish between what is real and what isn’t. A common feature of psychosis is anosognosia,  a brain-based inability of many people in psychosis to understand that they are ill. This is the main reason these people refuse treatment.

Too many human rights advocates refuse to acknowledge the existence of this condition. Policies ignoring anosognosia have had catastrophic consequences for people with psychotic disorders; people with untreated mental illnesses have increasingly ended up homeless, victimized, and in jails and prisons.

Sanders’ disability plan does reference the fact that 1 in 5 inmates has a serious mental illness. However, he insists that just providing more voluntary services will fix the problem: “As president, Bernie will fight to end the criminalization of disability, while also defending the rights of people with disabilities to make their own choices about treatment.”

Sanders narrowly limited the kinds of advocacy groups he listened to. He hasn’t listened to the many people, like writer Julie Fast, who are living with psychotic illnesses and don’t want to be left untreated under the banner of protecting human rights. Fast writes, “The concept of individual rights doesn’t apply to someone who is not in his or her right mind. We are not in our right minds when we are sick.”

Canada has been influenced by the same kinds of advocacy groups that have advised Sanders. Currently, access to both inpatient and outpatient involuntary care, available through British Columbia’s strong Mental Health Act, is being legally challenged. The plaintiffs are the Council of Canadians with Disabilities. Proponents of the court challenge argue that the use of involuntary treatment promotes the idea that people with mental illness lack capacity; it seems it is unacceptable to acknowledge that some people have illnesses that, at times, can interfere with capacity.

2. Sanders opposes reforms that would create desperately needed acute psychiatric beds.

The US has a statute, the Olmstead decision, which prohibits hospitals from accessing Medicaid funding if they have more than 16 psychiatric beds. Sanders supports the Olmstead restriction which has resulted in a massive shortage of acute psychiatric beds.

Canada also has too few psychiatric beds. Complaints from patients, family caregivers and mental health providers about the shortage of beds led the BC Psychiatric Association and the BC Schizophrenia Society to investigate the problem and issue a joint report  with recommendations to address the shortage.

3. Sanders will continue to block family caregivers’ access to crucial information.

Sanders opposes the reform of legislation (called HIPPAA) governing privacy of information. This legislation means that families can’t find out if their family member is in a hospital, what plans there may for discharge (even if the person lives with them) and what follow-up care is needed. Research  demonstrates that family involvement during inpatient care is key in helping patients access outpatient treatment.

Canadian families also struggle with privacy rules that hurt their family member. However, BC’s Mental Health Act  allows clinicians to share information when it’s necessary for families to provide continuity of care.

I am part of a group of American families working to bring about a mental health system that offers the best support for people living with psychotic disorders. These families are much more organized and outspoken than similar groups that I am involved with in Canada. They have repeatedly shown me that it’s essential to educate political leaders about policies that offer the best help.

Over the past year, the Democratic primaries have provided opportunities to help candidates learn essential information about psychotic disorders and the many changes that could improve outcomes for this marginalized population. Kamala Harris, Cory Booker, Pete Buttigieg, Amy Kobuchar and other Democratic candidates have offered strong support for these sensible approaches. Members of our group found it impossible to engage Bernie Sanders who repeatedly ended conversations by proclaiming that a single payer medical system would solve the problems they tried to describe.

One member of our group is prominent writer Ron Powers whose memoirNo One Cares About Crazy People, describes the harrowing ordeals of both of his sons who developed schizophrenia. Ron lives in Vermont, Sanders’ home state, and wrote an open letter  trying to persuade him to reconsider the policies he’s supporting. So far, we aren’t seeing changes in his platform.

If Sanders becomes the nominee, I will vote for him. I’ll hope that family caregivers can eventually get him to see that just spending more money won’t provide the help that’s needed. At least we now have other Democratic leaders who are willing to support a more informed and complex view of human rights.

Susan Inman is a Bridgeross author of the best selling book After Her Brain Broke:Helping My Daughter Recover her Sanity. She lives in Vancouver, BC.









US Founding Father’s Blew it with their Constitution

By Marvin Ross


Image by Mary Pahlke from Pixabay
Image by festivio from Pixabay

I recently watched a discussion between Samantha Bee (a Canadian) and Stephen Colbert on the Daily Show around the time of the Kangaroo Court Impeachment. Colbert asked about impeachment in Canada which Samantha tried to answer before they went back to exchanging quips.

She did say it does not exist in Canada and while Canada is not immune from a Trump (as Ontario has in the Trump wannabee, Doug Ford), I do not think that what is happening in the US could happen with the British Parliamentary System we have. Let me explain.

The US Congress (House of Representatives and Senate) are tasked with the job of passing legislation which must them be signed by the president. Unfortunately, the president can veto any law he does not like or approve of and it can only be passed by a 2/3 of both houses defeat the veto. The president may also unilaterally sign treaties with foreign powers subject to approval by 2/3 of the Senate. The president also appoints his cabinet but those cabinet members are not elected but rather approved by the Senate.

And here we have the problem. The president is elected separately from the members of Congress by the Electoral College and he acts separately from the Congress. He is not held accountable to the Congress and his appointments to cabinet (while needing to be ratified) are not elected by the citizens and are only accountable to the president.

The result is lame presidents like Obama who had no support in Congress because the Republicans had a majority or Trump who does his own thing without being accountable to Congress.

Under the British system, each political party elects a leader and elected not by those in parliament but by all members of the party. The leader is a politician who has to run for office in his/her constituency and be elected. If that party wins a majority in the elected House of Commons, then the leader of the party becomes Prime Minister. The Prime Minister sits in the Commons and is subject to daily question period where members fire questions at him and hold him accountable for what is happening. These can become quite rowdy as we’ve seen in Britain over Brexit. Can anyone imagine Trump having to show up daily in Congress to be questioned?

The Prime Minister must satisfy two groups – his own constituency which he/she represents and his party which can call a leadership review if they are sufficiently angry with his behaviour. After the current election in Canada in 2019, the losing Conservative Party became fed up with their leader and he has been turfed.

As for the cabinet, that is another significant difference. Members of the cabinet are chosen from the pool of elected members of the House of Commons. Again, they are responsible and accountable to their constituents at home and to the members of their party and to the House of Commons.

The other aspect of the Parliamentary system involves majority and minority governments. The party winning the most seats can have a clear majority holding more than 50% of the total seats or a simple majority where they have more seats than anyone else but fewer than 50%. In the latter case (called a minority government and mentioned by Samantha Bee) the government can be defeated by a vote of non confidence and be forced to call another election before their four year mandate is up.

All of this, in my opinion, makes the British Parliamentary system far more responsive to the interests of the people and less likely that we would see a Trump.

Now I did mention Ontario’s Doug Ford (brother of later mayor of Toronto Rob well known in the US) who acts like Trump and did win a majority. His election was more of a non confidence vote in the previous government which had ruled too long and with whim people were getting fed up.

Doug set out to undo many of the policies accepted as necessary by the voters. He immediately tried to change funding for kids with autism and was forced to backtrack when parents descended upon the legislature. He went after the educational system to freeze wages, increase class sizes and make certain numbers of courses into e-learning. Teachers are involved in work to rule, rotating strikes and have the support of the majority of the citizens. This youtube clip of Question Period in Ontario after the budget is actually quite funny. The premier praises his finance minister for his brilliant budget but shortly after this (with attacks from all over) he fired the guy.

A number of his early policies are before the courts and those cases that have been decided have not been in his favour. His popularity across the country is about the worst of any politician ever and he is often booed when he shows up to public events like the celebration for the Toronto Raptors win.

Given the fragmentation of the US constitutional system, I can’t see any of this every happening there. Hatred of Britain clouded the vision of the Founding Fathers and gave the US what I consider to be a deficient system of government.

Post Democracy US

cover dawson trump

Below is a column from David that we published in January, 2017. Who knew just how bad the US political system would get under the leadership of the American Ayatollah but it has become worse. With his impeachment acquittal, he is now being accused of another quid pro quo with New York State trying to stop investigations into his prior tax fraud. And of course, he is going after the dedicated public servants who blew the whistle and testified. As the Toronto Star Washington correspondent wrote Donald Trump is a law unto himself.

And, to remind all, there is a collection of  our posts on his mental state called Two Years of Trump on the Psychiatrist’s Couch with 5 stars on Amazon and available everywhere in print and various e-book formats.

By Dr David Laing Dawson

My optimism was short lived. After watching Trump’s speech at the CIA headquarters and Sean Spicer’s first press conference I wondered how one goes about dismantling a democracy. I assume there is no manual for this. So I thought I would create a Coles Notes version so we can all follow along:

1. Make frequent reference to the utter failure of all previous administrations. Take credit for anything good that happened during the most recent administration.

2. Promote a cult of personality. Suggest the new leader has God-like powers, such as controlling the rain, and solving complex and intractable problems with forceful statements.

3. Paint a bleak picture of the current state of affairs and grossly exaggerate the risk, the dangers posed by outsiders and nonbelievers.

4. Promote law and order and military power as the only forces that can keep us safe.

5. Incrementally reduce voting rights by insisting on regulations that favor your supporters and disenfranchise others. Do this by claiming you are controlling corruption and fraud.

6. Choose an enemy or two, give them names, and promise to eradicate them. Use emotionally inspiring words such as evil, kill, wipe them out, get rid of them once and for all.

7. Exaggerate the size of your support and the crowds attending your rallies. Refer to this as a movement.

8. Lie frequently and often. Use big, bold lies. This is a form of desensitization. More and more will believe your lies. The remaining citizens will stop caring.

9. Undermine the Fourth Estate. Seed distrust of news and information. Call all reporters and truth tellers liars. It will be difficult to fully control the media (this is not Russia) but consider using licensing bodies, libel laws and the courts to tie their hands.

10. Promote the idea that the people of your nation, your followers, are superior human beings, exceptional, and deserve to live better than others. American Exceptionalism. Or is that “Uber Alles”?

11. You will need the armed forces and intelligence agencies so flatter them frequently, while you replace their leaders with your own men.

12. You will need cabinet members and spokespeople who will unabashedly promote you and your statements and policies no matter how unpalatable or ludicrous they become. Some will be willing to do this for money, others for power and glory of their own, and others because of their own anger and resentment from earlier grievances. Unfortunately such people abound. But remember, it is not loyalty that binds them to you, but self-interest. Reward them generously; always be prepared to kill them.

13. Quickly disparage and render impotent any leader who opposes you. Memorable name calling and disinformation will suffice.

14. Create a language of code words for anything that remains unacceptable for most citizens. For example: “alternative facts” for lies, “violence in the inner cities” for racial profiling.

15. Use hyperbole at all times. A person or event is either “great”, “fantastic”, “amazing”, or “a disaster”, “evil”, “total failure”. This fosters a dichotomous view of the world and will help dehumanize victims when the time comes to purge.

16. Find some allies in other countries by directly or tacitly supporting their extreme views. Examples might include Putin, Duterte, Boris Johnson, Marie Penn and Netanyahu. Be unpredictable for the others. Keep them on edge.

17. Finally, incrementally increase your power and authority until you can accurately call yourself “president-for-life” or “Supreme Leader”. This will take time. At some point you will need a crisis at home (Terrorist attack for e.g.) or you will need to provoke a crisis abroad and at home (Palestinian response to moving embassy to Jerusalem for e.g.). This will justify your transfer of a specific power from a democratic body (congress/senate/parliament) to your own office. This can be done on the grounds that only you know all the facts, and quick decisions are required. It is also more acceptable if the democratic bodies are perceived as ineffective or too partisan. Your people can ensure the latter condition is met.

18. In the meantime cater to the dominant political force in the democratic body by quickly implementing all their pet projects (e.g anti-abortion legislation), and by cancelling all the social and health initiatives of that upstart negro president.

19. Build monuments to yourself. Oops. I forgot. You already have. Good. Build more. Start with the Trump Great Southern Wall.

20. Throughout this process continue to emphasize that you are working for the people. Use the words “people”, “working people” and “democracy” frequently. As you usurp power explain that you are protecting democracy.

21. Have patience. Others may deliver you the crisis and fear that will allow an incremental or bold increase in power. When you assume new powers present yourself as reluctant to do so.

22. Use as much pomp and circumstance as possible. People love ceremonies. Emphasize the sacred trust your office embodies.

23. Visit a religious leader (televised of course). Ensure him and the American Public that you understand the enormity of your office and the need for God’s guidance. Try not to sneer or chuckle doing this. It is not wise to compare yourself to God, but you can hint that He favors you in some way.

24. Don’t worry about the physical quirks the cartoonists seize upon, the little black mustache for example, or the blonde comb over. Ultimately these will confer upon you icon status.

25. There will be protests and marches against you. Be gracious in your response to those that remain peaceful. Come down very hard on those that become violent. Emphasize these, and use them to accrue more power. But, be assured that any large gathering of people can become violent with a little help from your friends.

26. Toady up to the leaders of organized religion, the church.  With few exceptions these religious leaders will see you as a means of helping them achieve their long term goals. They will not stand against you for fear of losing their own power.

27. Allow others to live vicariously through you. This is a fine balance. While allowing the people to view your sumptuous life style use colloquial language, talk as they do. Remind them you work tirelessly for them. Pretend that one day they can all live as you do.

28. Women are tricky. Have one or two around you but not many. They tend to have empathy for others, children, small animals. They tend to prefer compromise and cooperation. Reference your own dear mother frequently, and say how much you respect women. But subtly denigrate them by your own actions, and limit their voices and rights through reproductive and child-care legislation.

29. Gain increasing control of your population. You can start this by controlling all immigration and visitation to your country. Then pick the minority group most feared or misunderstood by your followers and order a registration process. This will appear harmless, like getting a driver’s license. Then incrementally increase the strength of this process, include more identifiable groupings, until all citizens must carry “papers” with them and submit to police checks. This will instill fear.

Feb 16, 2020   Donald has been quite masterful making the Republican Party his own cult, and making truth a relative commodity. I thought undermining the independent judiciary would be difficult. (In Canada a politician publicly opining about any case before the court can cost their job). But it is now happening and happening quickly in the US, with Trump, emboldened by his acquittal,  stating publicly he “has every right to intervene”.

We are now in the top of the ninth with two runners on. Political control of the courts is the death knell of democracy.