A young Saudi Arabian girl who hid in a hotel room in Bangkok and told the world that she was afraid to return home because of what her male relatives would do to her, is now safely in Canada. After many countries in the world hummed and hawed about accepting her as a refugee, Canada stepped forward to offer her asylum. When the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) needs a place to send people in trouble, they know that Canada is one of the best places to turn.
Rahaf Mohammed Alqunun almost immediately declared that she would no longer refer to herself by her last name. Instead, she would be called Rahaf Mohammed.
This is not the first time Canada has acted against Saudi Arabia for its treatment of women. A few months ago Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland criticized Saudi Arabia for jailing two women activists. Saudi Arabia threw a temper tantrum and expelled the Canadian ambassador in response, as well as recalling its ambassador from Ottawa along with other moves. One Saudi diplomat even tweeted a 9/11 style threat against Canada. That does not seem to have deterred Canada, however, particularly when it comes to the Saudi Arabian treatment of its citizens abroad and of women in particular.
All of this is just fine by me and shows once again how a little nation like Canada is not afraid to stand up to a global bully like Saudi Arabia while its American neighbor tugs at its forelock and refuses to blame the Saudi royal family for murder.
There are reasons for this of course. Canada has oil of its own. And Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau took a real shellacking in the media and on social media for selling the Saudis military vehicles. I really don’t care about the reasons why Canada did this I’m just glad they did.
As Mr. Trudeau said during the first altercation with the Saudis, Canada will always speak strongly on questions of human rights.
Finally, I wish Ms. Mohammed a safe and peaceful time in Canada. But as this article from the New Yorker shows, no Saudi citizen living abroad who has dared to criticize Saudi Arabia’s treatment of its citizens or of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is safe from pressure to be quiet or even worse retaliation, as we know all too well from the case of Jamal Khashoggi.
By now, the vast majority of Americans have accepted the fact that our president is a crude racist. There is nothing presidential about Donald Trump, not in any way, shape, or form – which makes the fact that he is president so hard to accept even two years after his election.
He’s really little better than a schoolyard bully, especially when it comes to the way that he responds to any real or imagined adversary or critic. I know Trump doesn’t like Elizabeth Warren and the fact that he calls her Pocahontas is bad enough but to tie that vile remark to little Big Horn is just one of those things that leaves you speechless. There does not seem to be any bottom for Trump, no crude remark he leaves unsaid, no racist thought he keeps quiet.
On the other hand, watching him lately tells me he’s worried. He knows his time is up and that all of his lies and racism and under the table dealings with Putin and laundered Russian money and his obstruction of justice are about to rain down on him like a monsoon.
Twenty-eight years ago, my mother-in-law came to visit us in Windsor, Nova Scotia, Canada to have hip replacement surgery. We had a very good midsize hospital just outside Windsor. Therefore my mother-in-law, who was more or less on a fixed income, knew that the hip replacement surgery costs in Canada, even with American healthcare (what there is of it) were substantially lower than those in the United States. So she came to have it done there.
The key is why they these costs so much lower. With universal healthcare in Canada, administrative costs are reduced, everyone pays into the system through taxes and as a result, the overall cost to purchase healthcare in Canada is substantially less than in the United States for someone who is not a Canadian. Basically, Canadians subsidize the cost of foreigners purchasing their healthcare in Canada.
So Rand Paul is going to Canada for a hernia operation as the result of the attack by his neighbor a couple of years ago. But Rand Paul says he’s not really going to Canada for “healthcare.” He compared the idea of universal healthcare to “slavery” a few years ago. So far be it from him now to seek out the care that he needs in Canada because of “socialized” medicine.
Rand Paul is one of America’s worst senators, who consistently talks the talk, but inevitably fails to walk the walk. A promise from Rand Paul to take a tough stand and two dollars will help you by a latte but you’ll still need $0.75.
Mr. Paul should thank his lucky stars that Canada has universal healthcare or else be paying through the nose just like he would if he were in the United States. What a phony.
In Canada, we call “pom-pom” hats “toques.” You can pick up a decent one at Canadian Tire for, oh, $25 Canadian. But apparently at this New York Middle School “fashion is “very important” to the children of the 1%. So they are paying $350 US for a fancy toque-like hat. And apparently losing them, which has led to much sturm and drang.
“We understand that fashion is very important to our middle schoolers,” administrators at Great Neck North Middle School wrote in a letter to parents obtained by the New York Post.
Which only goes to prove two things: 1) A fool and his or her money are soon parted and 2) George Carlin was right when he said if you stuck together two things that have never been stuck together before, some schmuck will buy it.
Trump’s immigration policies are driving talented foreign workers to Canada. Excellent
Part of this article states that Canada is not very good at selling itself. Well, part of that may be that unlike Americans, Canadians tend to understate how great the country is. And it is a great country that offers so much more than the United States.
The weather? Well as the article again notes there is no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothes.
It’s amazing to me how scared Republicans, and particularly Republican white men, are of new Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. They attack her relentlessly. The other day when Nancy Pelosi was being sworn in as the new Speaker of the House, the GOP only booed one person when their name was called during the vote and that was Ocasio-Cortez. Conservative talking heads criticize her every move, every idea she has, they even tried to make fun of her because she likes to dance.
Oh how scared they must be. If there’s one thing I’ve learned from years of covering politics and living in a political family is that you don’t attack someone like this unless you are really scared of what they represent and you need to try to knock them down. Unlike others in the past, however, who have been attacked this way Ocasio-Cortez gives as good as she gets and she is unafraid to clap back. And how it must bother these old white men that a young Latina is unafraid of them.
What really scares them is how much she is admired by young people. Her ideas, like a 70% tax the ultrarich (which is an idea that is supported by several Nobel prize-winning economists), resonate with young people who are struggling with student debt and only able to find minimum-wage jobs. I know my four children all between the ages of 16 and 23 feel that she speaks for them and their concerns. And that is really what has the GOP terrified.
A few years ago, when I was still working at the Christian Science Monitor, photos showing the abuse of prisoners at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq became public. I was writing about what the pictures told us about the US military one day when a member of our management team came by, saw what I was writing, and commented how terrible it was and this was the first time that he’d ever heard of any such thing connected to the US military.
I told him it was far from the first time that the US military had been accused of atrocities during wartime. The US war in the Philippines (in fact, the US committed so many atrocities in his conflict that then Pres. William McKinley asked the press not to write about them because it was endangering his chances of reelection), World War II, the Korean War, Vietnam, Afghanistan, Iraq all saw such atrocities take place along with an effort by the US military and the US government to cover up these incidents. We like to excuse these incidents as “the fog of war” but very often as with the My Lai massacre in Vietnam, American troops and commanders knew exactly what they were doing.
But this was a new one to me. In an attack described as “mass murder” by Human Rights Watch, US forces destroyed a building in which many Somali elders had gathered to talk about ways to find a peaceful solution to the problems in Somalia. Over 200 civilians were killed. The attack so angered Somali citizens that they attacked and killed four Western journalists in retaliation. The attack also played a direct role in the incident we know as “Black Hawk Down,” where several American soldiers were killed and their bodies dragged through the streets of Mogadishu.
At the time, there didn’t seem to be any reason for the Somalis brutal treatment of the bodies of the dead American soldiers. Now that this incident is being exposed, perhaps it gives us more context to understand this horrifying reaction.
And this, friends, is why we need good solid journalism more than ever. These two Canadian journalism students at Concordia University in Montréal, through hard work and lots of shoe leather, discovered the identity of one of the most racist and terrifying figures promoting hatred on the Internet. They did so knowing that they would be attacked by the far-right not only digitally but perhaps even physically.
With the help of a reporter on the Montréal Gazette, their hard work led them to a self-employed information technology consultant in his early 30s, Gabriel Sohier Chaput, also a resident of Montréal. Unlike the United States, Canada has laws against hate speech. In Montréal when police moved in to arrest him, he vanished and his whereabouts are still unknown.
The actions of these two students illustrate why journalists become journalists. We don’t do it because we think that one day they’ll make a movie about what we do and ask some big Hollywood personality like Robert Redford to portray us. Most of us start our careers at small papers or media outlets reporting on local council meetings or chasing ambulances. We do it because we care about the truth and we believe that people have a right to know the truth, even little truths like you learned at council meetings. Sometimes that truth makes people angry, even the people who should know about it. That will not stop us from doing what we need to do.
It’s why people like Gabriel Sohier Chaput need to know we are out there and we will not stop at exposing what they do.
A very nice piece on Tim Caulfield, who makes his home in Edmonton, Alberta, and his efforts to blow up the pseudoscience of people like Gwyneth Paltrow and Deepak Chopra. Like Caulfield, I believe that if it doesn’t have a scientific basis it is just so much humbugery, not very different from the snake oil peddlers who used to sell their wares across the American frontier. Just a new group of suckers easier to reach because of social media.
“If you are willing to believe this one magical thing, I think it’s easier to believe other magical things,” he says. “And I think this is a significant problem in this day and age: This deep erosion and loss of trust and critical thinking in how our world works.”
Homeopathic cures, anti-vaxxers, GMO haters, vaginally eggs, the endless stream of bogus health cures and wellness routines that never ends especially when these phonies realize that coming up with bogus concoctions can make them millions. Thank the stars above for people like Caulfield.
In the same vein, I would also recommend the podcast “Sawbones” which is done by one of the normally very funny McElroy brothers and his doctor wife which relentlessly seeks out and demolishes bogus medical theories while alternating with interesting looks at medical history.
The Western Massachusetts town of Charlemont said thanks but no thanks to Comcast. And who can blame them? Especially after the FCC did away with Net Neutrality rules, largely thanks to the interventions and “donations” made by large networks to Republican politicians to support the measure. There is also the reality that when the deal with Massachusetts runs out in a few years, how much do you think Comcast is going invest in new equipment in small towns in western Massachusetts? Probably not much.
I think it is very smart of the people of the town to build their own network. I hope many other small towns in America make the same decision.
When I heard that Chuck Todd would no longer allow guests on Meet the Press who are climate change deniers I wanted to add him to my Christmas card list. I, like Todd, also believe that it’s time to stop messing around with these foolish people. Climate change is an undeniable fact and because so many people in power, like Pres. Trump, choose to ignore it means really bad things for our planet, some of which we are just starting to see now.
“I don’t believe it,” President Donald Trump said in response. “No. No. I don’t believe it.”
I have heard this before. I can relate.
“No. No. I’m not racist,” Trump has said repeatedly. Evidence be damned.
It would also be nice if some national TV host said: “I’m not going to interview racists on the show anymore.” This, of course, would mean that Pres. Trump could never be interviewed, not to mention too many Republican members of Congress to enumerate. Heck, if Fox News ever adapted such an idea (I’m not an idiot, I promise you, I’m just daydreaming here to make a point) almost their entire nighttime lineup would be off the air not to mention three-quarters of the guests they interview.
Racism, like climate change, is an observable fact in the United States and the people who deny that are just as wrong as the climate change deniers are.
Is Donald Trump’s Tweet About Roger Stone Witness Tampering?
We all know that one of the worst things about Donald Trump’s presidency is the tweets. Presidential policy dispensed in 280 characters. Even Republicans in rural states who strongly support Trump have told the media they wish the president would lay off Twitter for a while.
Well, it turns out the tweets are not only annoying, but they may also be illegal. In this interesting piece written by Lawfair, a legal blog, the writers examine the issue of whether or not Trump’s tweets in August about Paul Manafort and Michael Cohen and his tweet earlier this week about Roger Stone amount to witness tampering. They present a pretty strong case that it does. They also point out that the later comments by Roger Stone that Trump’s tweets don’t amount to witness tampering are in fact mistaken. And when it comes to legal matters, I wouldn’t trust Roger Stone or Donald Trump as far as I could throw them.
As you know I going through the final stages of leaving Facebook. While I appreciate the opportunity to reach out to friends and to speedily post articles about which I think are important for people to read, I could no longer justify continuing to support a company that engaged in so many possibly illegal and certainly distasteful practices.
And here is just one more example. Lots of far-right supporters of Donald Trump calling for his opponents to be shot or for members of the caravan approaching the US border to be shot. It’s not just that Facebook allows these hateful posts in to be made and remain online (so much for its new anti-hate speech technology) what really bothers me is that many of these posts are not being made by stereotypical right-wing weirdos but by police officers and people in positions of authority. And these cretins know Facebook won’t do much of anything to stop them from posting their vile and evil sentiments. Especially if they are white.
Like the Texas man, many of the hateful and violent comments came from white users. In 2017, ProPublica reported on internal Facebook documents that showed the company had an apparent bias toward protecting the speech of whites while flagging posts by black and other minority users.
Time to give up on Facebook. folks. The only way that Facebook will change is if millions of people leave.
It must be difficult to be an aide to Donald Trump in any capacity. Part of the job description has to include undoing presidential lies and overstatements. Because almost nothing Donald Trump says is actually true. Certainly not of the time that he says it.
Take, for example, his boast on Twitter that China was going to remove all tariffs on American auto imports. If it was true it would be quite an accomplishment. China imposes a 40% import duty on American autos. But sadly, as has been the case so many times in the past, it is not true.
Many of Trump’s top economic aides spent yesterday “pulling back” the president’s statement because no such agreement exists at the present time. And while these advisors tried to be as optimistic as possible and say it might happen, no one bothered to consult the Chinese who haven’t said anything about any kind of an auto agreement.
All politicians polish the apple a bit when it comes to their accomplishments. Trump polishes it so hard he makes it too slippery to pick up. In fact, most of the time he is trying to polish it when there’s no apple at all.
Well, a Canadian invented basketball. Why shouldn’t we be good at it?
So Canadians are responsible for two of the four major North American sports, hockey and basketball. And Canada’s McGill University is probably responsible for the beginnings of American football that we see today. While the first sort of football match was played between Princeton and Rutgers in 1869, it wasn’t until Harvard played McGill in 1874, and then adopted McGill’s rugby-style rules that football as we know it began to take shape. The first Harvard-Yale game was in 1875, and after that game, Yale and Princeton both decided to switch to the McGill rules. It was then the great Walter Camp at Yale who improved on these rugby-style rules and introduced the notion of downs, the quarterback and the 11-man team.
But it was those crazy Canucks who laid the groundwork.
For Canada and the United States, World War 1 has very different meanings.
In America, it is a barely remembered oddity. Very few Americans know that 100 years ago today, April 6, 1917, America entered the First World War. Buried under the tsunami of the Greatest Generation that won World War II, and wedged in between that war and the Civil War some 50 years beforehand, the war to end all wars rates barely a blip in a country that pays scanned attention to its history at the best of times.
It’s a completely different story in Canada. World War I is very much present in the minds of many older and younger Canadians. And that is primarily because of one battle – Vimy Ridge which started 100 years ago this coming Sunday, April 9. It was the first time that all four Canadian divisions in the war fought together. Both the British and the French tried to take Vimy Ridge but failed. In reality the repeated assaults on the Ridge were little more than diversionary tactics designed to draw German strength away from a more important battle, the battle of Arras. But that did not matter to Canadians, who stormed and captured Vimy Ridge in a battle that became mythologized, true or not, as the “moment” Canada became a country.
In America, World War I was seen as a problem that the United States needed to avoid. The imperial powers of Britain and France fought the imperial powers of Germany, Russia and Turkey for control of the European continent. Although Britain and France upheld democratic ideals that were very close to what Americans believed in, American politicians distrusted their long-term objectives and saw the war as a way for the countries involved merely to increase their territorial holdings. (And in some ways, this was very true, particularly in areas like the Middle East, where the Sykes-Picot agreement on how to divide up that part of the world between the imperial powers continues to haunt us to this day.)
Two events changed America’s perspective on the war. The first was the sinking of the British ship the Lusitania in 1915 where 128 Americans were killed when it was torpedoed in the Irish Sea by a German submarine. After this, American President Woodrow Wilson became much more vocal in his support of Britain and France, despite the attempts of German-Americans to keep America out of the war.
The final straw was the Zimmerman letter. Issued by the German Foreign Ministry in January 1917. The Zimmerman letter or telegram was sent to the government of Mexico and proposed a military alliance between the two countries and Japan if the United States entered the war. (Germany, which had decided to return to unrestricted submarine attacks on merchant shipping, anticipated this would draw in the US.) It called on Mexico to invade United States and Germany promised that it would help recapture and hold the land it had lost in the 1840s including Texas and Arizona and New Mexico. The letter created a firestorm in the United States and after that it was only a matter of time before the Americans went “over there.”
But despite its current low profile, World War I did affect America in many important ways. Perhaps the most important way was how many immigrants, who had always been viewed with suspicion by Anglo-Protestant Americans, came to be seen as “real” Americans for the first time because of their willingness to sign up and fight. It also promoted America’s move from a mostly rural culture to a much more urban one. For many of the thousands of troops who went to Britain and France this was the first time they had been more than 20 or 30 miles away from the spot on which they had been born. And, as the song says, “How ya going to keep them down on the farm after they’ve seen Paris.”
Meanwhile Canada had been involved in the struggle from the very beginning, but always under the command of British officers. Which was what happened at Vimy Ridge was so important because the Canadians won that battle with minimal British help.
There were dark moments. In Newfoundland, which back then was in a colony of Britain and not yet a part of Canada, July 1 does not only mark the day Canada became a country in 1867. July 1 marks the day that 758 Newfoundlanders took the field at Beaumont-Hamel on the first day of the battle of the Somme in 1916. By the end of that day 90% of the Newfoundland Regiment were dead, dying, or wounded. At the next day’s roll call only 68 men were present. There was hardly a town or an outport in all of Newfoundland that was not touched by that day’s events.
For me, World War I is also very present. I was named after a great uncle, my grandmother’s brother, who was killed by a sniper during the war. I have very strong memories of watching First World War veterans taking part in ceremonies at the National Cenotaph in Ottawa when I was growing up. As a youngster, I met several men who had fought in the war. It does not seem like it was 100 years ago to me.
After the war, Canada was different. It no longer saw itself as a colony of Great Britain but as its own country and some 20 odd years later when World War II started, Canada did not declare war on Germany the same day as Great Britain but purposely waited several days before doing it on its own to make the point ‘we call our own shots from now on.’
Taking a more realistic view, World War I was an unnecessary slaughter ofmillions of men on both sides for reasons that are still not very clear. And while Vimy Ridge was an important moment for many Canadians, it’s fair to say that it means more to English Canada than to French Canada, so the claim that it is the moment that Canada became a country needs to be taken with a grain of salt.
I think that after this year’s anniversaries, World War I, the war to end all wars, will continue to disappear into the background, perhaps only commented on in British historical dramas, Canada’s National Film Board documentaries, and maybe some Ken Burns-like filmmaker in America deciding to do a series on PBS. For a war that meant led to so many changes for so many countries, I doubted 50 years from now it will be little more than a few paragraphs in high school history books.
One of the best things about public school in the United States is that religion is left “at the school house gate,” to borrow a phrase from a famous Supreme Court ruling on a different issue.
It’s not quite the same in Canada. There is no “separation of church and state” in Canadian law. Religious schools, in particular publicly supported Catholic schools, have operated in Canada since the country’s founding in 1867. For instance, the province of Ontario supports a Catholic school system. I know because I once attended Corpus Christi school in Ottawa. Right across the street was Mutchmor school, the ”Protestant” school, but basically it was for everyone who wasn’t Catholic. They would call us “Corpus Crispies” and we would chant back they were “Mutch Less.” Such is the nature of how religion brings us together.
There is also public financial support in some form across the country for other religious schools, including Hindu, Muslim, Christian and Sikh.
Canada public schools, however, are like those in the US and openly practicing religion during the school day is frowned upon. At least that what courts in Canada have been saying since the mid-1980s, when the courts ruled that schools cannot conduct religious exercises that favor one denomination. Even voluntary exercises were found to be unconstitutional, as “opting out” can create a stigma for the student who opts out.
It is constitutional to wear expressions of your faith in a public school: a yarmulke if you’re Jewish, a hijab if you’re Muslim, a cross if you’re Catholic. And that is as it should be.
But what about putting aside a space for a group of students so that they can pray during the school day? That’s the question after a school in Brampton, Ontario put aside space for Muslims students to pray on Fridays. This is not the first time this has arisen as a potential issue – in 2012 a public school in Toronto allowed a Muslim Imam to come and talk to students at lunchtime on Fridays.
Both situations are a mistake. If schools are prohibited from holding opt-out religious exercises, then opt-in is also a problem, potentially for the very same reason.
To quote Ed Morgan, a University of Toronto constitutional law expert, who was interviewed about the 2012 conflict, “I think this looks like a school practicing religion. The school may be conveying a message that they endorse religion and that’s what the school is not allowed to do.”
And that’s the way it must be, regardless of the religion. While the Canadian approach to religion in public schools is certainly more open than in the US, this is a road the country does not want to go down. What happens when every religious denomination starts to ask for “accommodation”? Many schools currently refuse to allow parents to pull their children from a class every time something they find questionable is taught – which is as it should be. It’s going to be a lot harder to argue in favor of this rule if you’re giving students from any religion a room to pray in during public school times.
There are numerous publicly supported religious options for school in Canada, where open expressions of religion are welcome. Or before or after school, fine. But the minute the public school day starts, then it’s time for religion to leave.
It’s a particularly hard time for Canadians Muslims. The recent murder of six Muslims in Quebec City and the very public race-baiting tactics of Conservative leadership candidate Kellie Leitch have exacerbated fears in the community. But this is a question that not only affects Muslims, but all Canadians. And if Canada is going to make sure that there is a level-playing field for all people of faith in public schools, then open practices of faith are going to have to be left at that school house gate.
The latest results are in and it’s not looking good for Americans as compared to their neighbors to the north. An article in Canada’s national news magazine, Maclean’s, lists a few of the ways that Canada has moved ahead of the United States in important economic, social, and political measurements.
For instance, Canadians live an average of 2.5 years longer than Americans. They are six times less likely to find themselves behind bars. They are the 6th happiest people in the world, while Americans are in unlucky 13th place. Almost 60% of Canadians have a college degree while in the United States it’s only 46%.
The libertarian Cato Institute ranks Canadians as the sixth freest people in the world, while the US can be found in 23rd place. The conservative Heritage Foundation puts Canada ten places higher than the US for economic freedom. Home ownership is 5% higher in Canada and Canadians earn more money per capita than Americans. Yet, Canadians also work 80 fewer hours per year than their American cousins and take an extra three days of vacation.
One of the stats that matters the most in a free society is press freedom. Reporters without Borders ranks Canada 18th, which is not what it should be, but the US limps in at 41st. (Yes, 41st.)
Oh, did I also mention that Canadians also have universal healthcare?
But why? Why has this happened? What differences have created this startling result between these two neighbors?
Let’s start with size. There are about 320 million people in the US, and only about 1/10 of that in Canada, despite the fact that Canada is a larger country. Finding the right mixture of economic and political policies for that many people is much more difficult. There is a reason that countries like Sweden, Norway, Finland and Iceland rank so high in many measurements of a successful society. Countries with smaller populations are just easier to govern in most cases.
Military spending is also another very important factor. The United States spends more than Canada on the military by a gagillion dollars. Money that could be used to alleviate poverty, create the best healthcare system in the world, provide a college education to every American, is spent instead on weapons to keep the US at the top of the superpower food chain. Meanwhile, Canada’s spending on any military necessity is anemic, largely because Canadians count on the US to protect them in times of trouble.
Yet the most important differences are cultural and political. If America had a motto, it would be “every tub on its own stand.” (Which is actually Harvard’s unofficial motto.) There are many pluses to this view of the world. Individual Americans deal with failure better than any nationality in the world, and are quick to pick themselves up off the mat and make a new start. On the other hand, however, many Americans have a hard time caring about other people in the world, let alone other Americans. And the fractured US system of government, that is so local in so many places (and in such a large country), provides benefits but it makes it very difficult to install any national programs that would help all its citizens.
Canada is a nation largely created by its geography. Living in a much harsher climate, the importance of working together just to survive was important in early Canada. It’s an attitude that has remained regardless of the fact that most Canadians no longer live in danger of the elements. And the Canadian system of parliamentary government, while it certainly has its problems, does make it easier to create those much needed national programs.
There are other factors of course, but those listed above may be among the most important. Canada is far from perfect (it’s record on its treatment of its indigenous peoples is abysmal) but appears to be on the rise. As the United States moves into four years of Donald Trump as its president, it’s very likely it will continue to drop in all of the categories mentioned above.