Category Archives: Political

Where is the “Trump national Alliance?”

Why Trump Isn’t Hitler

Many progressive voices fear that President Trump is moving America towards totalitarianism and/or fascism. Trump has brilliantly sold “America First” as a form of patriotism, while others say it’s really anti-American. Serious discussions may draw parallels between Trump and the history of Nazi Germany, even though it’s a conversation-stopper to call him the new Hitler. The hint is always there.

I don’t think Trump is a new Hitler for a fundamental reason: He doesn’t have an organized cadre of thugs to suppress dissenters. The early Nazi Party participated “hugely” in every counter-demonstration and politically-motivated street brawl it could find. That requires a giant organization Trump lacks.

Continue reading Where is the “Trump national Alliance?”

Candidate Roads not Taken

The first Clinton-Trump debate was last night. I think both candidates did about as well as I expected. Here are two arguments the candidates could have made but didn’t:

  • Clinton: when Trump said “we should have taken the oil” while in Iraq, Clinton should have called him on it. Such “taking” would require war and long-term occupation with lots of our own troops.
  • Trump: when Clinton called for an “intelligence surge” in the context of ISIS-inspired domestic terrorism, Trump should have called her on it. Her surge requires expanded spying on American citizens and weakens national cybersecurity.

I could not have done a tenth as well in the debates as either of them, but these are arguments I wanted to see.

Continue reading Candidate Roads not Taken

A PRIMER ON CANADIAN POLITICS (FOR AMERICANS) – PART 2

Thank you to Rick for inviting me to post this on the Smatters blog! I’m very happy to be guest blogging. The purpose of this series is to give my American friends a better understanding of the political system in Canada. Again, as with part one, this is all from memory, so please forgive me my lapses (and Canadians, please do correct me if I’m wrong).

Part the Second: Parliament and Parties

Canada’s federal legislative branch is the Parliament. It’s comprised of two houses – the House of Commons and the Senate. Unlike the US Senate, the Canadian Senate is appointed. Similar to the US Senate, it is rife with scandal (Google “Mike Duffy,” for example) and obstructionists (Google “Canadian bill C-279,” for example).

When Canadians vote for the Member of Parliament (MP) from their riding (a riding is akin to a Congressional district in the US), they are voting for their representative in the House of Commons. This is the only direct vote the Canadian public has for federal representation; Canadians do not elect the Prime Minister (PM) directly, unlike the election of the US President. In the case of a majority government (ie, one party wins more than half the seats in the House), the leader of the majority party becomes the PM. (Currently, PM Trudeau of the Liberal Party leads a majority government; in the previous session of Parliament, 2010-2015, PM Harper of the Conservative Party led a majority government.) In the case of a minority government, when no party has won more than half of the seats (what Harper had in his previous terms as PM), a coalition needs to be formed between several parties in order to select a PM. Deals are made, agreements are reached, and usually the leader of whichever party won the most seats becomes the PM.

In the US, we’ve had two main political parties (with shifting platforms and party identities) basically since the Lincoln/Douglass presidential race of 1860 (ie, 7 years before Canada gained its independence). Third parties (eg, Bull Mosse, Greens) and independents (eg, Ross Perot) have occasionally made waves, but it’s mostly been Democrats and Republicans running the show in the US.

The party system is much more complex in Canada. After the federal election of 2010, the New Democratic Party (NDP) skyrocketed to prominence and replaced the Liberals as the official opposition party (ie, the party with the second highest number of seats in Parliament); at one point in 2015, the NDP were expected to win the most seats in the election and form the next government. Also, the Greens have maintained one seat through the past few elections. And the Parti Quebecois (PQ), though not as prominent as it once was (or as its predecessor, the Bloc Quebecois, was) since the diminution of interest in Quebec separatism, holds seats in Parliament as well.

So why are there so many parties in Canadian national politics? Well… partly it’s due to differences in regional interests. The PQ addresses interests that are (for the most part) specific to Quebec. The NDP has broader appeal now, but most of their support base originated in the prairies.

I think there’s another reason for the proliferation of parties in Canadian politics, though, and this one should be informative for Americans interested in the development of viable third parties in the US. It’s because Canadians only vote for their MP’s, and not their PM. When a third party rises to prominence in the states, it’s usually because they’re running a charismatic presidential candidate. All of the focus ends up on a single candidate at the top. But the way to effect change isn’t by starting at the top; it’s by starting at the base. Canadians, because they only vote for their MP, have no direct influence on who their next PM is. Everyone knows who the party leaders are, but they’re not voting for them directly (unless they live in their ridings – eg, Trudeau’s riding is Papineau, Quebec; Harper’s riding was Calgary West, Alberta). They are voting for whichever candidate in their riding best represents their interests, which is why regional issues sometimes play out on the national political scene. And because minority governments (especially) are inherently unstable, relying on coalitions of parties, third party MP’s can exert substantial leverage on big issues by deciding which larger party to (temporarily) lend their support.

The lesson here, for Americans: expecting a third party or independent to win the presidency in the foreseeable future is probably not realistic. There are no third parties or independent movements with enough sustained involvement at the base to pull this off from scratch. Because of this, at the presidential level, the most valuable thing you can do with your vote is probably to use it to support whichever big party (Republican or Democrat) nominee best represents you, even if they do not represent you perfectly. If you’d like to support other parties, the local and Congressional levels are where you will have (by far) the most leverage. This is built in to the Canadian system, but not the US system. And this is why it is essential to vote in all elections, not just every four years in the presidential ones.

My favorite meme from 2015

A neighbor has a variant of the Gadsden Flag flying under his American Flag. Instead of yellow, it’s black, but it has the snake and the “Don’t Tread On Me.”

I haven’t found anyone on the Internet who offers a Gadsden Flag with the “Send Snacks” motto. I’d buy one in a second.

This is also a “test posting” – WordPress has a “featured image” setting and “image post” format. I’m wondering what they do.

 

“Happy Birthday” Freed! Next should be Mickey Mouse

Original melodyYesterday, a federal judge summarily ruled that the infamous song, “Happy Birthday To You” is not copyrighted. Time-Warner bought the company that bought the company that bought the company that bought some rights to the song in the ’30s. The paperwork was vague, so the lawyers interpreted it to make lots of money for the alleged copyright holder.

The royalties currently add up to about $2 million a year. The plaintiffs in the copyright case are starting a class action suit to recover some of the royalties that Time Warner and its predecessors collected improperly.

The point of copyright and patents is to encourage people to create things. The copyright gives a legal monopoly over the work for some number of years. Modern patents last about 20 years. Copyrights used to last 28 years. Now they last 70 years past the death of the author. Clearly this has nothing to do with paying authors. It has everything to do with selling a DVD containing black-and-white Disney cartoons.

Continue reading “Happy Birthday” Freed! Next should be Mickey Mouse

A Primer on Canadian Politics (for Americans) – Part 1

Thank you to Rick for inviting me to post this on the Smatters blog!  I’m very happy to be guest blogging.  The purpose of this series is to give my American friends a better understanding of the political system in Canada.

Part the First: Head of State

Canada is a part of the British commonwealth; what this means (amongst other things) is that officially, the head of state is the reigning British monarch; ie, currently, the Queen. Her representative in Canada is the Governor General. This position was much more meaningful in the days when the monarchy was more deeply involved in administrative affairs, and communication technology involved slow, fallible wooden ships. Now the position seems a lot more ceremonial; however, the Governor General still does have to sign off on various official acts in Canada – calling an election, forming a new government, and proroguing parliament.

“Proroguing,” as I understand it, is when the prime minister decides to close shop on the sitting parliament for a while. There may be legitimate uses for it, but it can also be kind of a bullshit move. The current prime minister (Stephen Harper, Conservative Party) prorogued parliament in late 2009, ostensibly because he wanted Canada to focus on the winter Olympics in Vancouver, but immediately before the prorogue there was a lot of grumbling in parliament and the press about some shady dealings he’d supposedly been involved in; speculation (on the left, anyway) at the time was that he just didn’t want to answer questions and he hoped it would blow over. Anyway, the Governor General rubber stamped the prorogue, parliament went home for a few months, the Olympics were awesome, and the furor over the issues did quiet down.

So clearly, the Governor General’s position (and by extension, the Queen’s role) is still important in Canadian politics. If the Governor General hadn’t signed off on it, parliament could not have been prorogued, the prime minister would probably have been asked to answer some uncomfortable questions, and possibly there would have been a call for a vote of no confidence in his leadership.

Next installment:  Parliament!  (No, not George Clinton’s Funkadelic.)

Put Grace Hopper on the $20 Bill

RADM Grace HopperJanet emailed me a link to the W2O campaign, which wants to discard Andrew Jackson from the $20 and replace him with a noteworthy woman. The campaign has its own list of candidates, mostly human rights icons and politicians. I’d call Rachel Carson the only nonpolitical candidate, since she’s a scientist. But since climate denial has become a popular political cause, Carson’s choice would also be considered political.

[Not sure why I’m ignoring Clara Barton – maybe I’d be more excited if she’d been a physician like Gramma Doc].

Cousin Peter suggested Grace Hopper, and I love the idea. If you’re using the Internet and you don’t know who Grace Hopper is, you should go watch the 17-minute video “The Queen of Code.” In a nutshell, Hopper was a giant of the computer field in the early days. She first worked on the Harvard Mark 1 as a naval officer during World War II, and then on the first Univac computer. She’s most famous for work on programming languages. Her work on COBOL brought “automatic programming in an English-like language” to businesses, making it practical for more of them to use computers.

Continue reading Put Grace Hopper on the $20 Bill