Category Archives: Politics

More to Justin Trudeau – MAGA vs. the Planet and all its peoples

By Dr David laing Dawson

And further more, Justin:

There are two impulses within each of us. The “I” and the “We”. Sometimes compatible, often in conflict, these impulses are played out in the bedrooms, the boardrooms, the courtrooms, and the Government assemblies of our nations. Between WWII and a few years ago the world saw a remarkable surge of “we-ness”, of cooperation, of global alliances, of consideration for the other, of peace keeping, of disaster response. Each year saw fewer people die of starvation and preventable illness. Each year saw fewer people die from murder, genocide, and war. (Despite each of these now being visible in our living rooms, and thus occupying more of our mental real estate)

Apart from international and world concerns “We-ness” also produces good public education for all, health care for all, opportunity for all, and a solid social safety net.

It was the short sighted “I-ness” of many nations that inexorably drifted into WWI (with a special boost from Kaiser Wilhelm who was the Donald Trump of an earlier time), and then, with the unresolved grievances of WWI, into WWII.

But American culture has always promoted the “I” over the “We” and at its best this can produce the Edisons, Fords, and Jobs of this world, and economic, scientific, entrepreneurial progress, and enough money to help the other while sacrificing little.

It is the existence within ourselves of these two often conflicting impulses that has taken us to the top of the food chain, the dominance of our planet, our overpopulation, and our ability to destroy it all.

But we have reached a tipping point. In America a cartoon of “I-ness” was elected president. Briefly we watched “We-ness” as embodied in Bernie Sanders go up against the “I-ness” of Trump and we had hope for America.

Whatever the nuances of MAGA it does not bode well for this world as a whole. The America that led much of the “We-ness” between WWII and a few years ago is dormant or deceased.

Now here is the rub. The “I-ness” of current America will provoke an “I-ness” in the rest of us. And thus we could slip back into the inexorable dialogue of Wilhelm, Nicolas, Clemenceau, Lloyd George, Wilson and Franz Josef.

So, Justin, it is imperative that leaders like yourself fill the vacuum of “We-ness” on the world stage. Time to be Mike Pearson. Speak at the UN. Form alliances, free trade pacts, promote disaster relief, peace keeping, the end of land mines, the denuclearization of all, peaceful solutions to conflicts, a two state solution for Palestine, open arms for refugees, women’s health and education, birth control and abortion……… as well as my earlier proposal for carbon capture.

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Open Letter to Justin Trudeau, New Oil Pipeline Owner.

By Dr David Laing Dawson

Dear Justin,

Donald Trump took the USA out of the Paris Accord, you are now an Oil magnate, Elizabeth May linked arms with the anti pipeline crowd and was convicted of contempt of court, Europe depends on Russian gas and oil, oil keeps the Sultans of the Mid East in power, the hurricane season is about to start before the damage from last year is repaired, BC is already burning, reports from Greenland, the Arctic, and the Antarctic are all a bit spooky.

It is time we accepted the fact that we humans will not give up our reliance on coal, oil, gas, or our taste for meat, in time to save the planet.

But there is an opportunity here and you are just the leader to seize it.

Convene a meeting of international scientists to discuss carbon capture. Make it a goal of this convention to settle on the most promising technologies and theories. Then meet with the leaders of China, Japan, California, and Western Europe to develop a spectacularly well funded international consortium tasked with making carbon capture a reality. Invite American scientists to participate. Do this before 2020. The clock is ticking.

Reading about these technologies I was discouraged by the problems of sequestration, the energy required to take carbon from the air and convert it into usable graphene, and the problem of scale. But then it occurred to me that in only a few short years we have erected sufficient towers to ensure my cell phone works almost anywhere in the world.

It is not within our nature to give up our reliance on oil soon enough. But it is in our nature to build a pipeline through the Rocky Mountains, lay cable across the Atlantic Ocean, have highways crisscrossing our lands and build sufficient communication towers for me to be writing this almost anywhere in the world.

So do this now Justin. Play to our human strength of innovation and industry. Let Canada take the lead. We are major polluters yet late on the list of nations that will be rendered uninhabitable by climate change.

Predictions for the Singapore Summit

By Dr David Laing Dawson

Donald Trump’s post G7 speech was vintage Trump: sprinkled with nonsense, silliness, hyperbole, lies, non-sequiturs, semi-literate unfinished phrases, teen-speak, and unbridled narcissism.

Now he is off to Singapore.

I am writing this to see if I can guess what will happen, or put another way, how Trump will be able to declare the meeting a triumph of his doing, or a failure caused by Kim.

No doubt Kim is smarter than Donald. And Kim would be strategically foolish to actually give up nuclear weapons.

So I think Donald must praise himself and Kim throughout the meeting and for a few weeks afterwards, claiming success. (This does not in Trump’s world have to do with anything that really happens).

Later, at any time, he can claim that Kim did not live up to his agreement at the meeting, and can go back to calling him little Rocket Man.

But this might make him seemed duped by Kim.

On the other hand he has already prepared the ground for that by saying he might have to walk away.

Kim wins by simply having the photo op and getting the US to foot the bill.

Kim can promise anything in general terms and come off well. And Trump can keep saying he got farther than all the other presidents before him, especially Obama.

So that is probably what will happen: A photo op. Both sides promising grand things, Trump using his teenage language of general hyperbole. Nothing need actually happen. Trump can keep saying he accomplished what no other president ever managed.

Quietly North and South Korea can continue to talk. Because Trump can say this has been a success he can avoid applying further sanctions on his allies China and Russia, and get back to his trade war with his other allies, Canada, Mexico and Europe.

Meanwhile Putin in his frequent phone calls can reassure Trump that he will not release the Golden shower video, nor call the loans to Trump International.

Iran can enrich more and more Uranium and rebuild its nuclear facilities. Israel can settle more and more of the occupied territories. More populist far right leaders will erect walls in and around Europe.

And Justin, you now have an opportunity to paraphrase your father: “I have been called worse things by much, much better people.”

Oh, and one other thing, Kim will permit Ivana to trademark her brand in North Korea.

The Erosion of American Democracy.

By Dr David Laing Dawson

From 1934 until the end of WWII the Nazi party passed over 40 incremental laws restricting Jewish presence and participation, leading inexorably to “the final solution”. This is a desensitization process; each seemingly benign step leading to the next slightly less benign step.

In a previous blog, somewhat flippantly, I wrote out a do-it-yourself manual for the erosion and destruction of an established democracy. To a surprising degree much has already come about in the USA under Trump and the Republican Party in a mere 18 months.

Several recent events have pushed this timeline dramatically along.

Trump has quite unnecessarily pardoned Dinesh D’Souza as a message to Comey, Mueller and Rosenstein, and undoubtedly to Flynn and Cohen, demonstrating his power to the men who prosecuted D’Souza in the first place, and his support to those currently charged.

Then in a tweet he threw Manafort under the bus in a clear statement to the others that there are conditions attached to his promise of support and future pardon.

In the midst of this his lawyers sent a letter to Mueller suggesting or stating that The President cannot be charged and indicted for anything because ultimately this same man can decide what is illegal and what is not.

(I gather the idea that the President is not above the law is not that clearly spelled out in the constitution).

This notion should be shocking, but instead I hear it discussed, argued over, with talk of precedence and norms rather than disbelief, horror and immediate action.

Each of these steps are akin to the  Nazi rulings. Desensitization is occurring.

I suggested a war with Iran or Korea would be necessary for Trump to enact some emergency measures in his waddle to dictatorship, but his instincts may be more clever than mine. For he seems to be ignoring Iran now, and cozying up to North Korea, while starting a trade war with his allies. His use of “national security” as a pretext for the imposition of tariffs is telling. Maybe he does not need a real war. Perhaps he only needs a trade war with Europe, Canada and Mexico, with each of these allies retaliating in a way that hurts his base. In such a trade war  the American people will feel more and more surrounded by enemies, a fortress besieged, alone in this fight with the world.

And that is when people are willing to turn to a charismatic leader who promises them everything – safety, security, prosperity, greatness – in return for a little blindness.

The clock is ticking my American friends.

A Caution For the June 7 Ontario Election

By Dr David Laing Dawson

Doug Ford wants the municipal governments of Ontario to adopt the American model. U.S. mayors, like the US president, have executive powers. They decide things. They award contracts. They don’t have to contend with a fractious group of councillors. They have power. And with power residing in one person we can have efficiency, quick decisions, a single vision, the rapid enactment of a plan. And we can also have corruption.

“Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.”

We have all grown up hearing this adage over and over again. But I suspect we each hear it as “Power corrupts – others, not me.”

I know of an astonishing number of US state governors and state representatives being convicted felons but this proposal by Doug Ford made me wonder about U.S. city Mayors. So I looked it up. I stopped counting at 50.

Power corrupts. A pot of public money attracts crooks faster than yellow jackets to syrup. Municipalities, cities, with so many lucrative contracts to dish out, need all the safeguards we can possibly apply. We need to accept the slowness of change, the tangles of red tape and the constant bickering of municipal politics.

We do not need to copy the American model at any level of governance. We suffer sufficient folly (and undoubtedly bits of corruption) as it is. We do not need to add an American scale of corruption to our poor, struggling Ontario cities.

Political Ideology – Right or Left – is Disastrous

By Dr David Laing Dawson

Just once I would like to hear a Canadian politician say ideologies make bad government.

We have now had sufficient history and experimentation with democratically elected governments to know that unfettered, unregulated capitalism is a horror for all but the rich, and ultimately destructive for them as well, and that ideologically driven socialism is a disaster that fosters corruption and gives birth to tyranny. This history lies before us from Venezuela to Russia to Cuba; from the USA to Greece and Chile. In Ontario we already enacted these dichotomies (in moderate Canadian fashion) with Mike Harris and Bob Rae.

But we are neither an ant colony nor roving bands of sharks. We are human.

So this means our shark genes are always in conflict with our ant genes. Our impulse for self preservation and self aggrandisement conflicts with our empathy for others, our social impulses. We want to help ourselves and help others. We seek both hierarchy and equality. We are Donald Trump and Mother Theresa.

So we need both a system of governance and economics that allows us each to pursue a pot of gold, an invention, success, membership in an exclusive club, achievement, and at least a comfortable life, and a system of governance that oversees the ethics and morality of these pursuits while ensuring we are all at least well fed, clothed, educated, housed, protected from predators, and kept healthy.

And a system of governance that ensures we don’t destroy the planet in our pursuit of the former, and don’t bankrupt the province and nation in pursuit of the latter.

It was disheartening to hear Doug Ford mouth a ridiculous Trump hyperbole: We will cut taxes and you will see the economy grow like “nobody has ever seen before.”

And equally disheartening to hear Andrea Horvath say they would do away with back to work legislation.

We’ve been here before. Cutting the taxes of the wealthy and well-to-do does not cause trickle down. It causes trickle up.

Without back to work legislation in place as a last resort our government becomes beholden to the tyranny of the collective.

Both of these ideas are driven by ideology rather than one hundred years of experience.

My unelectable ideal politician would be saying, “We need a mixed economy. We need rules and regulations that foster invention and entrepreneurship while providing all of our citizens a comfortable life and protecting them from corporate greed. To do this we need to keep many services within the public sector, paid well and monitored carefully, while creating an atmosphere in which the pursuit of wealth, of entrepreneurship, of excellence, and the greed of a few, can benefit all.

We continue to need a mixed economy with a complex set of rules and regulations. And we promise to tweek these as best we can based on experience and knowledge over the next five years, with a goal of bringing health and prosperity for all.”

The Royal Wedding and Constitutional Monarchy

By Dr David Laing Dawson

The Royal Wedding has brought out the skeptics, the wet blankets, and those that point out the absurdity of a modern democratic nation having a royal family, a king or queen. Surely we have evolved beyond this. And look at the incredible cost, they say.

Of course having a Queen, a royal family, and the fairy tale story of a commoner capturing the heart of a prince is anachronistic. Of course the pomp and circumstance is ridiculous and very expensive. It is all so old and out of date and silly in the age of liberal democracies and twitter.

But then so are we. We humans that is. We are anachronistic. Despite evolution we humans have retained a genetic propensity to project onto our leaders a sense of our own worth, our identity, some magical power, some special destiny. Perhaps we no longer can buy the “chosen by God story”, but we are still ready to bow and curtsy and believe. We bask in their excesses and successes. We are all too ready to revere them. They symbolize our history and our collective.
So having a king or queen, a royal family, without any actual power, allows us to harmlessly project onto them all of the above. We can watch them with admiration, glee, and shadenfreude. They embody our spirit, our collective. (It’s about time they became multi-racial).

And because we in Canada have this monarchy (and the representative of the monarchy) we can, and usually do, view our prime ministers as merely human, easily replaced with a vote of non-confidence. Good, bad, mediocre, fully human. Just doing a job someone else could do. We do feel a little spark of pride when they perform well on the world stage, but we are royally upset when they take a holiday at public expense.

At this very moment we can clearly observe the downside of having no Head of State above the elected leader of a full democracy in the USA and we can compare this with our anachronistic system in Canada.

We are protected from ourselves by retaining a Monarchy. Let the pomp and circumstance surround the Queen, the Royal Wedding, our own Governor General. Let them embody our collective, our desires, our identity. Then our elected leaders can be nothing more, or very little more, than public servants. Then they can be kept in or removed from office without much fuss. We will remember them kindly or not so kindly. They may or may not get an airport named after them, but we will not develop myths about them.

Compare this to what is happening now and what will undoubtedly transpire in the USA in the autumn of 2018.

Long live the Queen.

Turbans and Equality Before the Law

By Dr David Laing Dawson

Driving out of Hamilton this morning I observed a spectacular array of head coverings. Some had, I’m sure, religious significance; others were a celebration of a belated spring morning; some were to ward off the chill; one was a large colourful wrapping more at home in Kenya; some were statements of fashion, others were black flowing fabric extending to the ground, some were signs of teenage affiliation, a couple were those dark knobs of youthful sihkism, and some were that hallmark of anonymity and singularity, the hoodie.

This North America was once referred to as “the new world”, as opposed to the old world steeped in rules of deportment and dress, a hierarchy based on parentage, and years of bloody conflict.

We have done a fair to good job overcoming tribalism and fostering inclusion in Canada.

But that is only one of the significant advancements to which we aspire in this New World.

The others? Equality of opportunity, equality before the law, knowledge and science before superstition, limitations on if not full dissolution of privilege.

The priest sprinkles his (soon to be his or her) holy water on the head of my newest grandchild. But we all know it is just water, H2O, and I would not be allowed to carry a liter of it onto a plane in case it turns out to be flammable or toxic.

I also know I will have to remove my shoes and belt at airport security even though my pants will droop and reveal my SAXX underwear as I stumble through the scanner.

Which brings me to Navdeep Bains. My Google headline news this morning was all about Mr. Bains, a member of Trudeau’s cabinet, being asked to remove his turban before boarding an American plane. Bains reports that he felt “frustrated” and “awkward”. He complained. He also in his comments implied that a man of his position should not be treated this way. All this hit the headlines; the Americans apologized.

That Mr. Bains did not want to remove his turban, that he argued the point, is all well and good, and reasonable whether he won or lost the argument. The rest, the outrage, the apology, the fact it made news based on outrage, risks undermining those equally important aspirations of equality, sanity, and no one given special privilege.

If my SAXX underwear must be exposed so too should Mr. Bains’ hair.

At airport security I and my wife must remove our shoes because one sweaty suicidal young man managed to smuggle plastic explosives in his sneakers. I don’t like it. I am tempted to argue that no one in my demographic has ever been known to bring a bomb onto a plane. We comply and smile.

On the other hand, Mr. Bains, the worst terrorist act in Canadian history was perpetrated by people who wear the same tribal symbol as yourself. So get over it Mr. Bains. This inconvenience is a small price to pay for the privilege of living in a land of equality before the law.

Update on Jagmeet Singh and Cultural Inclusion

By Dr David Laing Dawson

A comment on my last blog asked what the question to Jagmeet Singh was and wondered about the relevance of his turban.  Well, the question posed to him by the CBC was if there were any circumstances in which he would support violence. The background to this was his equivocation regarding the Air India mass murder, and his attendance at gatherings alongside Sikh extremists.

Canada is a wonderful experiment. So far one hundred and fifty-one years of a gradually evolving, gradually improving liberal democracy of inclusion. The world needs to watch Toronto: People from a hundred different cultures speaking dozens of different languages living and working within one large metropolis and (as a friend put it with a tone of incredulity) they are not killing one another. This is unique in our world.

There has been a recent increase in gun violence in Toronto but usually it’s young men killing other young men from the same tribe (or gang).

We struggle with, argue about, but make accommodation for religious practice and the wearing of religious and tribal symbols. As long as it does not conflict with the laws of Canada and the rights of others we usually accommodate.

These symbols (dress, hair cutting or covering, metal adornments, tattoos, markings, face coverings) are statements of separation, exclusion, and speak of membership in a specific tribe, religion or cult that may or may not want to adhere to our evolved Canadian social contract. Hence we need to be vigilant and ensure that the practices within these cults do not contravene our laws and our charter of rights and freedoms.

But there is another unspoken but clear message declared by these symbols. And it is the very message we are trying to eliminate in Canada. And that is the message of superiority, of tribal superiority.

These symbols (wearing a cross, a turban, a ceremonial dagger, ringlets and yarmulkes) are statements of membership, but also of superiority. For the unspoken, subtle message is that “I am righteous and you are not; I am going to heaven and you are not; I am favoured by God and you are not.”

I trust that by living in Canada, attending our public schools, and finding life here not too bad, after a couple of generations most will relegate the wearing of these symbols to celebrations and yearly rituals, and think of them only as historical reminders, connections to a past of struggle and sacrifice.

The Way of Politicians

By Dr David Laing Dawson

The other day I listened to Jagmeet Singh being interviewed by the CBC. He was asked a very specific question. He danced, avoided, interrupted, distracted for a good ten minutes. His performance reminded me of Marco Rubio when asked a direct question by a student: “In the future will you accept donations from the NRA?”

Marco danced around this question like a verbal Nureyev. “I’m glad you asked that question.” is always the first response of faux sincerity. Often followed by “That is a very important question.”

I wondered then if politicians all go to the same politician school.
The one that teaches you how to avoid a question and still sound smart, knowledgeable, reasonable, thoughtful, and absolutely of a firm opinion that something or other is the morally right position. And that “something or other” will be sufficiently vague to offend no one.

Or, slowly but surely, everyone.

No wonder we don’t trust politicians. No wonder we are willing to elect a bullshit artist like Donald Trump, or a Ford brother, because they are, if no more honest than the rest, at least more entertaining. It is almost refreshing to hear Donald Trump lie rather than avoid acknowledging a fact, a truth. He even boasts that he was making it up all along. And then denies that as well. In a funny way, we know where he stands. But not Singh or Rubio.

Politicians. Agggghhh.

But let me keep this close to home. Mr. Singh, you seem smart and modern. Perhaps you are ready to participate in our liberal democracy and lead one of our three political parties. I accept that you practice some clothing and hair worship that dates to the seventeenth century. Every cult leader invents some magical interpretations and incantations to keep his flock in line.

But please leave these historical tribal grievances on the continents from which they sprang and continue to be fertilized. Do not. I repeat, do not bring them here.

And a one act play from David Laing Dawson