Category Archives: Politics

Buck a Beer and Dented Tuna Tins

By Marvin Ross

The Buck a Beer campaign (opposed by many craft brewers) was first developed about 2002 by Lakeport Brewery in Hamilton Ontario as an attempt to gain market share. It worked and they went from a 1% market share to the top 10 in a very short period of time. But, Ontario raised the minimum price and Lakeport was bought out in 2007. The CEO of Lakeport, Teresa Cascioli, went on to become a major philanthropist in Hamilton donating over $4 million to various institutions in the city.

How it came into the mind of Doug Ford as something anyone wants is bizarre. Unlike the woman who used her wealth generated by the buck a beer, he is willing to spend tax dollars on this scheme while not only cutting the basic income pilot program but by cutting the increase in social assistance planned for September from 3% to 1.5% . He has also put on hold all other improvement to social assistance to come into effect on that date.

Doug, unfortunately, is a carryover from the last Conservative government Ontario had starting back in 1995 led by Mike Harris. Harris slashed welfare rates by 21.6% and despite modest increases during the Liberal regime, rates have not recovered from that slashing. It is important to remember that most of the people impacted by those cuts are disabled and cannot work or can only work part time.

Treating the disabled this way is cruel and smacks of Marie Antoinette. In fact, when the social services minister under Harris, David Tsubouchi, was challenged in the legislature, his suggestion was that the poor and disabled could buy dented tins of tuna at less than the usual price if they bargained with shop keepers. He then put out a proposed welfare diet that includes pasta without sauce, bread without butter, and the elusive 69-cent tuna can.

He even went further by telling single mothers on welfare that they had ample time to find jobs because they had a three-month warning. He also suggested welfare parents could just ask neighbours to look after their children, and accidentally ordered 115,000 disabled people and senior citizens to be cut off from their welfare benefits.

A report done in 2015 on the 20th anniversary of those cuts found that the consumer price index had gone up by 45% but the cost of the welfare diet had increased by 107%. The welfare rate has only gone up by 37% to 2015. Pathetic.

In an op ed in the Hamilton Spectator, Michael Taub a former speech writer for Stephen Harper, argued that the Progressive Conservative Party is not progressive and should not have progressive in its name. He argues that rather than being progressive they practice:

“compassionate conservatism. For instance, working with religious organizations and private charities to help out the poor and needy. Finding ways to use the free market as a means of getting people back to work and wealthier, such as reducing taxes and state involvement. Supporting public programs like health care and education, but ensuring the private sector has a greater role and/or influence in these sectors.”

He supports Ford’s cutting of the Basic Income Project and of social assistance rates. His argument:

Rather than a never-ending cycle of government handouts, the PCs will use other means, such as tax cuts (including the 10 cent reduction on gas prices) to accomplish the same goal. This will hopefully produce far better results and savings for Ontario families.

Right, let us reduce gasoline by 10 cents a litre to help people who cannot afford to buy a car and who have to use the food bank to eat in their substandard rental units.

The utter folly of this is that if people cannot afford to eat nutritious food which is more expensive, it will impact their health. They will end up getting costly medical treatment for the ill health caused by their poor diets. That will cost more than the money saved on social assistance cuts. And don’t think that the Liberals are any better. Despite being in office for 15 years, they failed to bring the social assistance rates back to where they were when they were slashed in 1995. Social activists found a loophole in the act that allowed for the poor to get an extra allowance if they needed more expensive food for health reasons. Doctors and nurses began signing the forms for their patients so they could eat better but the government put an end to that practice.

Going off on a tangent, I must point out that I knew David Tsubouchi and he was our lawyer until he went into cabinet. To this day, I do not understand how he could do what he did as he was a very nice, compassionate person. He was a poet and, because he was bored with the law, he acted in his spare time and played a Japanese salesman in David Cronenberg’s Videodrome and other shows.

But then, politicians do stupid things that run against their principles to be in power. A recent Toronto Star column asked where the grown ups are in Ford’s cabinet as they are all silent. I think the explanation for this was spelled out by the late journalist Heather Robertson. I’m just reading her book, More Than A Rose (1991) on the wives of Canadian Prime Ministers. She makes the point that politicians can make peace with anyone if it leads to power.

Power corrupts but the whiff of power corrupts just as easily.

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Buck a Beer Trumps Compassion for the Poor and Disabled

By Dr David Laing Dawson

“Buck-a-beer” as proposed by Ontario’s new Premier, Doug Ford (and brother of the infamous Rob) is simply a very silly adolescent political promise. With all that is going on in this world our premier comes up with “buck-a-beer”. I am embarrassed.

But now his government is discontinuing the basic income pilot project.

I have always been astonished by the gap between what we know of human behaviour and how our governments function. Especially, for example, how so many leaders think “punishment” in the form of sanctions will change the behaviour of dictators.

But back to the issue of basic income for all.

There are far too many variables to know how each and every recipient of a basic income will behave. For some, will a basic income simply make their lives better? Will their health improve? Will they develop more or less incentive to work? Will the cost to taxpayers be, ultimately, less or more? Will the increase in basic income be offset by a decrease in health care, social service and correctional system costs?

For those who could in theory work or be retrained for work would it be an incentive or a disincentive? And ultimately, for our economy, would that matter?

Surely in our society in 2018 it is simply cruel to force people to live on $700 a month. So the humanitarian argument is easily won. It is the other arguments that go on and on. Incentive, disincentive? Can we afford such a program? Will the taxpayers tolerate such a program costing them money? Can we prove to the taxpayers that it will cost them little?

I know the fear our inner Ayn Rand holds is that some of the recipients will take advantage of “the system”. They will pocket the money, buy booze and drugs with it, and continue in their sloth-like ways.

But we are, I like to think, a rich, modern, caring and scientific community. So, let us study the problem. Let us choose 4000 people to receive basic income and compare this to a matched sample of 4000 people who receive the usual services. Let’s give this a few years and then let’s study the results down to the penny. At all levels. Health care costs, trips to emergency, social service costs, police costs, alcohol and drug addiction, part-time and full time employment, effect on next generation, income tax paid, volunteer hours…

A difficult component to track I am sure (but maybe economists can) would be the effect on the broader economy. Every extra dollar a basic income recipient receives will be spent (note: in Canada, and not on a luxury yacht made in New England). The money will go round and round, and at each stop it will increase the income of others and shed a small percentage to taxes.

And I gather that is what we were doing, though I have little idea about the details of this pilot project and the extent of the evaluation. To stop it now is Trumpian, allowing ego, prejudice, ideology, and politics to Trump truth and compassion.

More to come

Delusional Narcissism and the Donald

By Dr David Laing Dawson

It is time to make a prediction, though, as a relatively sane person, I know we can never be one hundred percent sure of anything. Seldom over 70% for that matter.

But here it is:

Donald Trump’s pathology is becoming more and more evident in his off the prompter remarks, his lies and contradictions, his fractured adolescent English and his tweets.

If this simply continues, if the Republicans retain control of House and Senate, and Donald’s popularity does not drop precipitously within his base, then step by step, under cover of the Trump circus, the Trump distraction, America will become worse in all ways. Let me list some of them:

Racial intolerance, racial strife

Women’s reproductive rights, women’s equality, gone

Fascist application of laws

Good health care for fewer and fewer.

Distribution of Wealth even worse

Destruction of the environment

Increasing corruption.

Larger and larger debt

More and more poor and black in prisons

Fewer, poorer welfare programs

Poorer public education

More tribal isolation

More gun violence

Damaged reputation in the rest of the world.

(And the world will suffer because we need a sane and healthy America)

On the other hand Mueller may indict Trump and/or members of his family and inner circle, or we find the Russians do have something on him, or he fires Mueller and sets in motion a constitutional crisis. Whichever way Trump’s presidency comes to an end the problem remains his narcissism.

Each of us may suffer a narcissistic injury from time to time. (a rejection, a loss, a failure, a disappointment). The healthiest among us nurse our wounds, learn from the experience, and become kinder, gentler, more thoughtful people. The more narcissistic flail longer, hurt more, deny longer, blame others, before they give in and learn from the experience. With a little more narcissism they remain hurt for longer, and may develop unhealthy coping mechanisms, such as continuing the blame, seeking revenge, obsessing.

And then we have the supreme narcissist. Usually such a person will organize his or her world to be immune from challenge. Which is perhaps where Donald Trump would be if he hadn’t entered politics – surrounded by sycophants who support his illusion, be king of the resorts and golf courses he owns, print his name in bigger and bigger gold letters, make claims without challenge of being a stable genius who has written many books, and get his name in the news media as often as the Kardashians.

It was quite telling to hear Donald disrespect his own country at the Helsinki meeting. Some called this treasonous. But I think the explanation for this behaviour comes not just from his need to please Putin, but from his narcissism. By that I mean that another president would know that his or her power and status derived in fact from being the elected representative of the Country America and all it’s institutions. Not Trump. His sense of his greatness precedes and exceeds his conferred status as President. He is “Trump”. ( the pun in this is one of those quirks of history)

And that level of delusional narcissism does not suffer injury lightly. He will flail and explode in rage. He will disorganize. He will blame and obsess. He will not go quiet into that good night.

Trump-Speak explained

By Dr David Laing Dawson

Listening to Donald Trump at any time is not conducive to equanimity but I clicked on the link to his “take on Brexit”. He was asked about Brexit by a reporter as he stood behind a podium. At first, in a congenial way, he responded that he had been reading a lot about Brexit in anticipation of his upcoming visit to the UK. And then he elaborated in his usual style.

But I am writing about this because it was a clear demonstration of how Donald Trump’s mind works, and of the concept of “associations”.

When we listen to someone else, or to our own thoughts as we form sentences and speak words, each noun, verb, adverb and adjective can cause us to experience associations from other memories and experiences.

In a serious discussion about roses the word “pink” might be used, causing us to think of a “pink Cadillac” or the singer “Pink”, but being in the context of a serious discussion about horticulture we will not let our brains and mouths take us off the topic at hand.

Now people with Asperger’s or “on the ASD spectrum”, not being as keenly aware of the intent of the speaker as others usually are, will often go off on an extraneous tangent, caused by a word association. Often it is a metaphor or simile mistaken for a factual statement of equal or more importance than the original topic.

Someone in a state of disorganized psychosis may appear to go off on an irrelevant tangent linked to a single word, and in that tangent the unusual linkages can occur over and over and may cause a “word salad.”. “Word salad” being an extreme form of “loosened associations.” Of course some of the associations may be to unspoken thoughts and feelings, including delusions and hallucinations.

With the toxicity of drugs, alcohol, infections, chemicals, the fractured sentence structure can be further impaired by problems of working, immediate, and recent memory and the distractions of distorted perceptions.

In dementia, with impairment of recent memory, the brain may associate words spoken, not with the forgotten recent topic, but with other older memories.

And, of course, with some people, the assault on linear,  logical and cohesive sentence structure can come from word associations to an overwhelming theme, or trait, or need, or obsession. And here we have Donald Trump. Always, always to his own accomplishments, his self-aggrandizement, his prickly defensiveness, his greatness, his popularity, his wealth.

It is difficult to discern from his answer how much he actually knows about Brexit (probably very little). But the word “Ireland” took him to the properties he owns in Ireland, to how much they love him there, and on to the “magical” property he owns in Scotland, the birthplace of his mother, and the fact he owns properties “all over”, but the people voted to leave the EU, and there will be protests, there will always be protests, and the word protests took him to his own experience of protests during his election (actually switching to the American election without naming it) and how many electoral votes he got, and the words won and election, took him to Wisconsin which he won and Ronald Reagan didn’t win even when Reagan “swept the board”.

There was nothing new here, but a clear demonstration of how much Donald Trump’s narcissism intrudes and distracts from any cohesive linear thought about something other than himself.

In a similar vein, if one listens carefully to Trump’s semantics, his choice of references, his associative processes, when he talks about the upcoming meeting with Putin, his narcissism prevents him from seeing himself as anything but himself, not as a representative of a country. His mind loops within the small circle of how he personally will be perceived and received by Putin (compared to all the lesser presidents who came before him of course).

In a sane world this man would now be making decisions about nothing more than the hair and tanning products he applies each morning. And perhaps what club to use on the dogleg seventh.

 

Advice to the Donald on How to Keep Track of Seized Kids

By Dr David Laing Dawson

Dear Donald,

It has come to my attention that you are having trouble reuniting the 2000 to 3000 apprehended children with their parents. It seems you may have to resort to DNA testing to determine who belongs with whom. (By the way, if you are worried that some might have been brought to the USA by sex traffickers you could simply ask them.)

Meanwhile, should you institute another roundup of children in the future might I recommend that you use a highly successful method of keeping track of them once used in an earlier roundup:

Simply tattoo a unique number on the arm of each child. Enter this number in a ledger along with the name and age of the child and the name of his or her parent. The forearm is a logical body part for such tattoos because it could accommodate a long number without resorting to an alphanumeric system. I will include a photo as a visual aid.

Please do not hesitate to call for further advice.

Sincerely,

numbers

When is it Too Late? Or is it?

By Dr David Laing Dawson

When the steps are incremental and desensitizing, inuring, it is difficult to know when we have moved beyond the point of no return. Many of us thought the separation of children from their parents and the incarceration of over two thousand children in cages all over the country might be a step too far and too fast. But even this is being obscured and overwhelmed with rhetoric and confusion, with Orwellian language.

And speaking of Orwellian language I notice that Trump is not bothering to use a full phrase in his accusations, such as accusing any number of democrats of being “soft on crime” or wanting “weak immigration policies”. He has taken the next step in simplifying and labeling: The Democrats are “for crime”, they are “for gangs”, and they want “no borders.”

“Power corrupts” is not an empty phrase. It is an observation of all human behaviour. From studies of our history to the guard/prisoner experiments of the 1960’s. The gentlest person can find his or her inner tyrant when placed in the social context of supervising the weak and helpless. A few will wrestle with these unwanted impulses. Many will give into them.

I mention this because I detect a subtle shift in tone coming from the President of the United States. He is still prickly and defensive. He still manages to bring every issue back to himself and his greatness. He still denigrates Obama and all previous leaders to enhance his own reputation. (and to fuel the racism of his base)

But now his rallies and tweets have adopted a demagogic tone more directly and specifically. More and more his words place him above the law. More and more his words place him as the only important decision maker. More and more he ignores ethics and due process. More and more he aligns with tyrants and disparages the leaders of the democracies of this world with the worst derogatory word a mob boss can muster: “weak”.

His over-the-top rhetoric about the “Witch Hunt” is working. He is swaying public opinion. Most Republican politicians are falling in line. He may know little of history, compassion, governance, but he sure knows Goebbels (“If you tell a lie often enough…”) and the principles of modern marketing.

He once added qualifiers to his outrageous lies and hyperbole. “They are rapists and murderers – though some I suppose are good people.” He doesn’t bother now. Immigrants are “invaders” and “infections”.  One step away from vermin and cockroaches.

Increasingly he directly threatens individuals and corporations in his tweets.

If we are not at the tipping point, my American friends, we are close.

On Shoes and the United States Space Force

By Dr David Laing Dawson

He is so 14, our Donald. That is the 14 year old brain at work. He hears something, a story, and immediately propagates this as a truth that explains the world, or a part of it. Without judgement, context, history, accuracy, consideration.

Canadians have been smuggling shoes across the border. Clearly evidence of Canada’s unfair punishing tariffs.

This is the level of reasoning I see clinically between age 12 and 14. After 14, usually, some questions, context, history, some sense of scale creep in.

Next we have the “Space Force” (cue the theme music; design the Star Trek costumes). “Warp speed ahead, Mr. Spock”. The last time this made sense to anyone would be age 14. It is in late childhood and early teen years that we can emerge from a Sci Fi film and imagine what we have seen being a mere 10 years away.

I don’t mean the computers, the communication devices, some of the clever prognostications sci-fi writers slip into their stories – I mean the whole thing – zipping around the universe in million ton craft and little dune buggies at warp speed in sexy uniforms. That’s where the Donald’s head is. And he would be, of course, Supreme Commander of, cue the music, The United States of America Space Force.

And all the lying and exaggerations. That is age 14. I very seldom, in clinical practice, see a teen alone. I always include the parent(s).  I explain that, (exaggerating but a whit) without the parents in the room, it can take me a full hour to determine if the child in question is actually attending school. At 14 and 15 from the teen talk of “basically” and “pretty much” and “yeah, sure” to out-right avoidance and lying, I might, by the end of an hour, have his attendance nailed down to: 2 or 3 days per week does actually get to school by 8:30, vapes at the smoking pit, goes in the school but avoids classes, then leaves at noon.

We need responsible adults in the room. Both in my office and in the Oval office.

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.

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.