It Can Happen Here

It can happen, even in a quiet place like Nova Scotia. (Photo by Geoffrey Fairchild)

If it had happened in Virginia, it would not have shocked me so much. Not that you are ever prepared for a mass shooting. But as one of my children neared the end of their high school days and there had been a couple of reports of gun-related problems in our community, I was secretly glad that school had been canceled as a result of COVID-19.

When you are a parent of a child in school in America, you live daily with the grim thought that it could happen here.

But Nova Scotia? Where I’m from? I had lived in Nova Scotia for 35 years and I never knew a single person who owned a gun. Not one. In Virginia, there are five gun shops within twenty miles of where I live.

So when I heard that a gunman had killed at least 22 people, including an RCMP officer, during a 12-hour murder spree on Sunday across a section of the province, I was honestly deeply stunned. Not that mass murders don’t happen in Canada, but they are rare and Ontario or Quebec loomed in my mind as the places where this kind of violence could happen. Not Nova Scotia.

The reality is, however, that it can happen in Nova Scotia. The individual who decides to kill people for whatever reason is difficult to stop. The knife attack at a Japanese subway stop that kills a dozen people or the terrorist attack that kills dozens of people with a truck in France are no different than a murder spree with a gun that that kills 22. Only the numbers change. People are murdered regardless of the reason.

What does matter is what you do to prevent these gun attacks from happening regularly. Canada, Australia, and New Zealand, to name just three countries are far ahead of the United States when it comes to preventing gun violence.

April may be the first month in decades that the US does not have a school shooting. The reason? Only one – there is no school. If school were still in session, you can bet there would have been at least one or more gun-related mass murders at schools in the US.

The “Sound of Freedom”?

Canada does not have the equivalent of a 2nd Amendment in its Charter of Rights and Freedoms. And it does not need a 2nd Amendment. Canadians (like the citizens of the countries mentioned above) are not obsessed with firearms. Recently someone posted in a local community online email group that the sound of someone having target practice with an assault weapon in their backyard (I hear it almost every day where I live in Virginia) was “the sound of FREEDOM!”

What a load of codswallop. I have always been puzzled why Americans so strongly link “freedom” to the right to own a gun rather than the right to vote. But here we see a fundamental difference between the US and Canada (and almost every democratic nation on the planet).

Many Americans don’t trust government. (For me, this is most obvious when it comes to health care. Americans don’t want a single payer system because they don’t want the government running their health care. That will take away their “liberty.” Never mind the other democratic nations in the world who have universal health care and seem to have as much liberty as the US.)

So American gun rights activists and far-right conspiracy theorists believe that they need to be armed to the teeth because you never know when the “deep state” will try to take over America. Conservative media outlets magnify this issue every chance they get.

The issue of gun ownership is also as cultural as it is political. Take Switzerland for example. It’s a country with very high gun ownership.

“People grow up [in Switzerland]in a very different culture around firearms. They’re taught to treat firearms responsibly,” according to University of Toronto professor Jooyoung Lee, an authority on gun ownership and gun violence. “They’re socialized into a world where the firearm is understood as part of his duty to a country. It’s part of serving the military. They take classes to work on marksmanship.”

Canadians, by and large, have a greater trust in their elected representatives and don’t seem to be so paranoid about a “secret” government take over.

Canadians do own guns. There were about 2.5 million firearm licenses given in Canada in 2018. In 2018, Stats Can reported that 249 Canadians were killed by guns, far the most by hand guns.

While there more gun violence in Canada than Switzerland, Canadians share with the Swiss a culturally responsible attitude toward guns that seems to be missing in the US.

All of which makes what happened in Nova Scotia seem so bizarre and out of place.

Sadly, we live in a world where we need to accept these risks. We can reduce them (as in Canada, Australia, or New Zealand) but we can never eliminate them. No matter where we live.

All Changed, Changed Utterly – The End of ‘Normal’

Telecommuting will become the main way to work. (Photo by Goblinbox)

I’ve been thinking of these lines from W.B. Yeats’ poem “Easter 1916” for a few days now. People long for a return to “normal,” back to the way things were before the pandemic. But we are not going back to “normal.” Not by a long shot. Whether COVID-19 plays out this summer, this fall, next winter or not until 2021, things will not be the same, some in good ways, some in bad.

What normally takes the public, both here and around the globe, time to accept or to adapt to has been rushed into acceptance. Here are a few of the changes that are probably going to last.

The expanded use of televisits to doctor’s offices

COVID-19 won’t mean the end of going to the doctor’s office, but many people will now use telemedicine to deal with less serious ailments. This may also provide a lifeline for small/rural communities who are losing their health clinics and hospitals. Rather than driving miles in a car to reach medical care, patients will first do a video call with a physician or physician assistant who could determine if they do need more serious medical care.

Universities will see a similar strong shift to online

Professors who have fought against the use of technology in their classrooms are being forced to use it if they want to teach at all. More students will see the advantages of taking online classes, particularly in terms of reducing student debt. Universities will need to up their games to keep pace.

The other possible outcome is that student tuition will disappear. Universities who want to lure students to campus to pay for room, board and extras will need to give them a financial reason to do so. Zeroing tuition or dramatically lowering it will be the best way to accomplish this.

America will have a single payer health care system within a decade

Although support for this option had already started to grow, the damaging effects of COVID-19 and the lack of proper health care among large segments of the population will make it easier for progressive politicians to sell the idea to a previously wary public.

There are detractors, of course, but the longer COVID-19 lasts and the more people it infects, the weaker the arguments against single-payer become.

Telecommuting will become the way we work full-time rather than an option

There will always be people who’ll want to ‘go to the office’ and bosses who want them to do that, but the pandemic has turned telecommuting from a part-time option to a full-time possibility. Greater telecommuting and more flexible hours for those who do want to go to the office will also ease the burden on public transport and the density of the public.

It’s also hard for controlling basses to argue that work isn’t being done when everyone is working from home. Plus the added benefits to the environment, reduced daily traffic, the price of gasoline and an employee’s bank account.

Oil won’t hit $60-$80 a barrel again

While people will probably surge out of their homes after “stay-at-home” orders are lifted, it will take many years for most people to overcome the psychological fear of infection. Especially for international travel by airline or cruising. (Cruising may never totally recover.) So less oil will be used. And the oil “end game” between Russia and Saudi Arabia, made worse by COVID-19, will keep prices depressed for years.

It will be easier and safer to stay at home. Add in changes because of telecommuting and by the time people get over their hesitation to travel, alternative energies will have a much larger footprint around the world.

The end of the handshake

It’s hard to say what will replace it (a slight nod or a namaste-like greeting?) but it has gotten really bad press in the past few months. Most people will stop doing it by 2030, if not sooner.

Finally, America will no longer be the dominant nation on the planet

Things were already trending towards China. But the election of Donald Trump in 2016, the way he has handled this pandemic and the way China has reached out to nations around the world to help even as the US has dramatically stepped back its international role have accelerated this change.

China will undoubtedly take heat for the way it initially failed to notify the world about the virus, but as Obama chief-of-staff/Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel once said, ”Never let a good crisis go to waste.”

Almost as soon as Trump announced he was putting a hold on funding for the World Health Organization, China stepped in to say it would pick up the financial slack. And this is not the first time the Chinese government has done this. (For instance in Italy, China no longer thought of as the origin of COVID-19 but as a nation that reached out to help Italy. The same is true of Serbia and Poland.)

While there is little doubt that the Trump administration will spend the next few months attacking China, it will be too little, too late. COVID-19 will speed up the decline of the US as a world power and speed up the ascension of China.

Will “a terrible beauty” be born because of all these changes? Only time will tell.

Several Republican Governors Step Up to Meet the COVID-19 Challenge

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan at Ft. Meade, MD in 2015. (Photo by Nate Pesce)

If you only listened to Donald Trump, you would think all Republicans have stuck their heads in the sand about the COVID-19 crisis. That all Republicans believe there is little value in social distancing, that all Republicans oppose vote-by-mail, that all Republicans want to “open up” the country before the end of April.

To be sure, many far-right Republicans are doing just that. Republicans in Wisconsin, in a blatant act that sought to undermine democracy and expose hundreds of thousands of people to illness, refused to change the state’s election day for primaries and local elections. Republicans in Kansas overrode the Democratic governor’s orders to only allow limited church services and allowed large gatherings, even though three hot spots in the state had been traced back to people attending religious gatherings.

Meanwhile, it’s easy to applaud the actions of Democratic governors like New York’s Andrew Cuomo, Washington’s Jay Innslee, California’s Gavin Newsom or Michigan’s Gretchen Whitmer. They have been some of the most outspoken and active governors in the United States in the fight against COVID-19.

There have also been, however, several Republican governors who have also been outspoken and consistently on the ball as well, despite efforts by officials in the Trump administration to get them to “back off and quiet down.” Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine, Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker and most of all Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan have, sometimes quietly and sometimes quite noisily, made the point that the coronavirus pandemic is a very serious one and that the federal government has not done enough to help the states.

Other Republican governors like Nebraska’s Pete Ricketts and New Hampshire’s Chris Sununu have supported vote-by-mail (despite Trump’ attempts to undermine it) to deal with their state’s primary or with the possibility of voting that way in November to protect the inhabitants of their states.

Trump’s RINO

Maryland ‘s Larry Hogan in particular has drawn Trump’s ire. Trump is desperately trying to make people forget how badly he handled the initial stages of the battle against COVID-19 and only focus on what he says about how he’s dealing with it now. Trump is very thin-skinned when anybody points out that he’s underperforming or his past mistakes, even if they do it politely.

To Trump, Hogan (the current head of the National Governors’ Association) is a RINO (Republican in Name Only) because he dares to say out loud and regularly that the federal government is not doing a very good job responding to COVID-19. If you don’t support Trump’s views of the virus or his attempts to rewrite his previous lies and misstatements (in the spirit of “Trump uber alles”), then you can’t be a REAL Republican.

To his credit, this has not deterred Hogan. Perhaps he wears Trump’s scorn as a badge of honor. Or perhaps he knows that Trump blames everyone but himself for his numerous failures, so he’s merely the latest in a long line of Trump’s COVID-19 scapegoats.

As Trump continues to lie, blame others for mistakes and promulgate bad information about the coronavirus, and his poll numbers continue to fall and his reelection in November becomes increasingly doubtful, don’t be surprised if you see more Republican governors stray from Trump’s gang of sycophants and minions.

Covid-19’s Best Friend – Religion

In Bnei Brak, a suburb of Tel Aviv, where 95% of the residents are Ultra-Orthodox Jews, as many as 40% of the residents are infected with Covid-19. Ignoring the pleas of Israeli authorities and instead listening to the directions of their religious leaders who told him there was nothing for them to fear from the Coronavirus because God would protect them, Ultra-Orthodox Jews continued to gather in large numbers and even violently protest against measures designed to force them to accept social distancing.

In Louisiana and Florida in the United States, three Christian evangelical pastors have consistently refused to stop holding large church gatherings. This even though all three men have been charged by the police with not following public orders against large gatherings. Tony Spell, of Life Tabernacle Church in Baton Rouge not only dismissed the charges but insisted he would hold an even larger gathering on Easter. When asked by the media why he would not follow the governor’s warnings, Spell replied “We have a mandate from the word of the Lord to gather together.” Like all Trumpistas, he believes the pandemic is “politically motivated.”

Hobby Lobby, the right-wing Christian-owned arts and craft store in the US tried to evade orders to close in various states calling itself an “essential business.” David Green, the founder of Hobby Lobby, in a message to employees, said God had told his wife Barbara to push ahead and He would protect them. Hobby Lobby has since been forced to close all stores and furlough all workers…without any pay.

In the Iranian city of Qom, a group of “angry radicals” raided the shrine of Fatima Masumeh after the doors had been locked in order to protect the public against the spread of the Coronavirus. These radicals saw the closing of this shrine and others as a betrayal of their Islamic beliefs and called for an end to restrictions. They, of course, insist that their belief in God will protect them.

While organizing an all Sunni gathering in Lahore, Pakistan, Muhammad Ashraf Asif Jalali, a Pakistan cleric, insisted that “no man can get sick as per the will of God” and that if anyone did get sick at his conference the government should “hang him.”

In India, where Prime Minister Modi has imposed at least a three-week lockdown, members of his Hindu-supremacist party are still planning religious festivals.

In South Korea, a Christian evangelical doomsday church known as the Shincheonji Church of Jesus (which of course believes it is the one, true church – don’t they all) held a meeting in Daegu in early February where thousand of people sat closely packed together to pray. Their religious leaders would not let them wear face masks and told them they didn’t need to fear the disease. One 61 year-old woman, known as a super spreader, infected so many of her co-religionists, she is responsible for half of the Covid-19 cases in South Korea.

As a reporter in one Middle Eastern newspaper put it in a statement that applies to the entire world “Fundamentalist forces have a vice-like grip on the hearts and minds of large swathes of the global population.”

Misleading Their Followers

This is not a tirade against religion. While I don’t personally follow any religious tradition and don’t think that any amount of prayer will protect you from Covid-19 if you are a “covidiot,” it’s easy to see the value of religion in a time of global confusion. When people don’t know if they’ll get sick or if they’ll lose love ones or friends to the disease, religion provides an important measure of support. At a time when any port in a storm makes it easier to deal with this life-threatening cataclysm, religion can play a constructive role for many people.

It is not, however, a good thing when religion is used by unethical and despicable religious leaders to increase their power over their followers and to insist that they know better than science. Ultimately, all these charlatans fall back on the same claim – God will protect you. These religious leaders want us to believe that they have a direct line to the creator of their choosing who is giving them special instructions to hold these large gatherings or to ignore safety warnings.

Well, the Lord helps those who help themselves. It is perfectly possible to continue to practice religious beliefs by yourself in a time of global uncertainty. On the other hand, listening to these phony religious blowhards of any creed, who instruct followers to gather in large numbers, can become a death sentence for them or for others that they know and love.

It’s time for authorities in all countries to crack down on these religious hooligans. When we face a situation where a person’s religious beliefs can ultimately infect or kill many others, the religious belief must be superseded by the safety of others.

Democratic socialism? Me, worried? Nah.

I’m lucky enough to be the citizen of two amazing countries: Canada and the United States. I was born in Canada and spent my first 35 years there. I’ve spent the last 30 in the US.

While I value my American identity, every time I hear Americans talk about Canada it makes me want to hit them upside the head. The reality is that Americans know S.F.A. about the way Canada works.

This is especially true when it comes to issues like healthcare, guns, foreign policy, the place of religion in the public sphere, education and the role of government. Canada is a truly a different country than the United States.

Democratic socialism has become yet another topic on which I realize many Americans display a stunning level of ignorance. We’ve had Democratic socialism (or to be more technically correct “social democracy” – there is a difference) in Canada for… 80 years now. While we’ve never had a Democratic socialist federal government, the Democratic socialist party in Canada, the New Democratic Party (NDP) has at one point been the official opposition. The NDP has run numerous provincial governments from one end of the country to the other for decades.

And yet Canada hasn’t fallen under the ‘socialist yoke.’ It hasn’t fallen into the communist orbit. The Canadian economy (aside from all the bumps and hiccups suffered by any economy) is doing just fine, thank you very much.

So I think it’s important to explain to my fellow Americans that much of the nonsense about Democratic socialism emanating from talking heads on various cable-TV networks is just sound and fury that signifies nothing.

(By the way for all those of you were wondering, I am not a Bernie Sanders supporter. For my tastes, Sanders is too old, in bad health and not a very effective legislator considering all his years in public office. I believe it’s time for Sanders and Biden and people of that generation to get the hell out of the way. Enough already.)

The List

1. Democratic socialism is NOT communism. It’s not even socialism.

Democratic socialism has about as much to do with communism as Martin Luther King had to do with the Ku Klux Klan. Democratic socialists do not believe in one-party or authoritarian rule or that the government must own the means of production. They believe in democracy and fair elections. In Canada, for instance the NDP has won and lost political power on the provincial level many times. No NDP government has never refused to give up power when defeated in an election.

Democratic socialism is not what is practiced in Cuba or China or Vietnam or Mongolia or any of those other places where political freedoms are forbidden.

(I feel that I should also point out, however, that many nations that wholeheartedly believe in capitalism like Egypt or Saudi Arabia or Singapore also severely restrict political and personal freedoms. The urge to limit freedom seldom has much to do with the way the economy is run.)

2. Democratic socialism does not mean the end of capitalism

In a Democratic socialist country like the ones you have in, oh, Norway, Sweden, Iceland, the Netherlands, Denmark, Finland (you know, all those countries that rank at the top of every poll about having the best healthcare, education, standard of living etc.) as well as France, Germany and the UK, the government does play a greater role in what is known as a mixed economy.

For instance, Sweden is thought of worldwide as a Democratic socialist country with a strong commitment to social programs like universal healthcare and an elaborate social safety net. But it also has very strong individual property rights and very little product market regulation. (Also known as the Nordic Model.)

Under Democratic socialism, unrestrained capitalism is tempered. Social democracy prefers progressive and humane reforms to capitalism. Wealth is distributed more equitably through a fairer taxation system to support ideas like improved healthcare, better education, literacy, and childcare.

You don’t have to have a Democratic socialist government to live in a Democratic socialist country by way. It would be a stretch to say that Boris Johnson is a Democratic socialist, but the UK has many elements of Democratic socialism like universal healthcare, childcare programs to help parents, pensions, and unemployment benefits.

3. The difference between any form of socialism and classical liberalism is economic equality

Both systems have their roots in the Enlightenment but socialism, which is very contextual, demands that economic inequality be included in any measure of a society’s structural health, along with personal freedoms advocated in liberalism.

4. The United States already has Democratic Socialism!

Surprise! If you live in the United States, you already live in a country strongly influenced by Democratic socialism. Where would we be without programs like Social Security, Medicare and public K-12 school education? Several US cities have elected officials who ran on Democratic socialist platforms.

Older, far-right Americans who complain about the kind of socialism espoused by Bernie Sanders would scream loudly if their Social Security check didn’t arrive on time. Then again, Americans have cornered the hypocrisy market on this issue.

5. We have nothing to fear but fear itself

Let’s be blunt. Even if a Democratic socialist like Bernie Sanders was elected president, the United States would not turn into Sweden or Norway overnight. It might, however, find ways to promote economic stability for more Americans like an improved minimum wage or, God forbid, universal healthcare.

Again, don’t hold your breath. This is America were talking about.

Ilhan Omar Has a Point About AIPAC

It’s long past time that we moved towards the position that it’s okay to criticize the government of Israel. You can totally support the right of Israel to exist, as I do, and yet criticize a far-right government that’s used racism and has perhaps engaged in war crimes to maintain its position. Nor should we hesitate to criticize its leader, an individual unafraid to use racism to remain in power, nor it seems is he afraid to use allegedly corrupt actions to maintain that position either.

After all, we’re doing it in America about our leader right now.

It should not be something we dither about. Or worry about being called anti-Semitic by far-right individuals who want no criticism of the Israeli government. If this was any other country in the world, criticizing that government would not be seen as a hate crime.

Yes, we should also criticize the actions of corrupt and cruel organizations like Hamas, who has ruled the Gaza Strip with a relentless and brutal thirst for power of its own. Hamas hurts more than helps the Palestinian people. Its actions against the people of Israel also deserve to be condemned.

But it takes two to tango. And many the actions of the Netanyahu government and the Israeli Defense Forces are also relentless and cruel and if they are not war crimes they are very close to being so.

Nor should criticism of the American-Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) be off limits either. Which is why Democratic representative Ilhan Omar has a point. AIPAC is one of the most powerful lobbying groups in Washington along with the NRA and the energy lobby. To deny this is to stick your head in the sand and ignore reality. And it should be noted that Ilhan Omar is not the first person to make this point. The Mearsheimer and Walt report of 2007 presented a strong case of how individuals and organizations work very hard to push US policy in the direction of Israel.

But I would argue that one step farther. I don’t think AIPAC pushes American policy towards “Israel” in a broad sense. I believe they want to push US policy in the direction of a certain kind of Israel, basically one run by a far-right Israeli government. I don’t think AIPAC has much interest in a more liberal form of government in Israel, as it would undermine many of the views AIPAC has promoted or the years. One only has to read Thomas Friedman’s piece in the New York Times this week, critical of both Omar and AIPAC, that outlines many of the actions taken by AIPAC that sought to undermine an American administration that it saw as “unfavorable” toward a far-right Israeli government.

Representative Omar and I may have different reasons for criticizing AIPAC and the actions of the Israeli government and perhaps she needs to learn to hone her criticism so that she does not open herself up so easily to charges of anti-Semitism but I am glad she has moved us in a more open direction. Criticizing the government of Israel or an American lobby group that promotes a far-right agenda does not mean that you “hate Jews.” In fact, one of the most encouraging signs that things are changing was the number of American Jews who actually defended Omar’s right to criticize AIPAC and pointed out how the far-right tries to smear anyone who makes the kind of comments that she did.

The people of Israel deserve far better than the government they have now which has only served to isolate them from the world and undermine their image as one of the great democracies. Open and honest criticism of a far-right Israeli government and of an American lobby group that support it is a step in the right direction.

Old White GOP Men Are Terrified of Ocasio-Cortez

GOP Strategist Calls Ocasio-Cortez ‘The Little Girl.’ She Lets Him Have It.

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.

Did the U.S. Cover Up a Civilian Massacre Before Black Hawk Down?

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.

How 2 Student Reporters Exposed One Of The Internet’s Biggest Neo-Nazis

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.

The Canadian Busily Blowing up Pseudoscience – Musings 01/01/19

Has Tim Caulfield become the Canadian nemesis of pseudoscience?

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.

This Western Mass. town rejected Comcast and will build its own broadband network

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.

What the Believers Are Denying (The denial of climate change and the denial of racism rest on the same foundation: an attack on observable reality.)

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.

Democrats Know How to Play Dirty Tricks Too – Musings, 12/27/18

[Illustration by Georgia Democrats, Creative Commons]

Internet billionaire Reid Hoffman apologizes for funding a group tied to disinformation in Alabama race

And they don’t like being caught doing it any more than the Russians or the Republicans did.

Apparently, a pro-Democrat research firmed used “Russian-like disinformation tactics” during the Alabama Senate race between Republican Roy Moore and Democrat Doug Jones (Jones apparently had no idea this was being done). And these dirty Russian like tactics were done by none other than the firm that presented a major report on the Russian disinformation campaign to the Senate.

This disinformation campaign was apparently funded by Internet billionaire (anytime I see Internet billionaire I always get suspicious) Reid Hoffman, co-founder of Linked In who was throwing around a lot of money to support democratic causes. He apologized for supporting this one in particular but offered no real details about the actual campaign itself.

Stupid, stupid, stupid.

Leave it up to the Democrats to shoot themselves in the foot while at the same time finding a way to make Vladimir Putin and his Russian thugs seem less ominous. I don’t know who okayed this particular operation but whoever it was needs to have his goddamn head examined. Idiot.

LeBron James apologises for ‘Jewish money’ Instagram post

LeBron James said that when he posted the lyrics from a song by 21 Savage he thought it was a “compliment.” LeBron James is no dummy so I fail to see how he could think that any reference to the term “Jewish money” is a compliment when it reinforces an anti-Semitic stereotype that stretches back centuries. Republican politicians and right-wing talking heads have been using it lately to smear Jews like George Soros.

Maybe he really didn’t know. But I hate the “I’m sorry if I offended anybody” nature of his apology. How about just saying “I screwed up and used a really anti-Semitic reference that did offend a lot of people.” And then using his massive bully pulpit to explain to people why it’s anti-Semitic. At this moment in history, with the Pittsburgh shooting so fresh in our memories and regular attacks on Jews in the U.S., it could’ve made a big difference if he had handled in the right way.

But he’s LeBron James. So he gets to skate. The NBA accepted his explanation that it was a mistake. ESPN carried a short piece about the comment, no doubt not wanting to upset one of America’s biggest sports stars. While this story may fade in a day or two, you have to wonder if LeBron’s posting the remarks, followed by his weak apology. will linger. Millions of young people pay attention to what he does and says. As this piece in SB nation puts it, will there be people who now think it’s okay to make allusions to “Jewish money” because LeBron did?

The Dollar Store Backlash Has Begun

An interesting piece about the boom of Dollar Stores across the United States and what it says about the real economy – not the one followed by billionaires on Wall Street, but the one everyday people live in. Basically, the article argues that if a Dollar Store appears in your neighborhood that means your neighborhood is in economic trouble.

Trump Brags To Troops About A Fictional Giant Pay Raise He Got Them

Because he’s Donald Trump and because lying is as natural to him as breathing is to most human beings, President Screw-Up couldn’t help himself when he went to visit U.S. troops in Iraq over Christmas. First, I’m glad he went to visit the troops. That’s a good thing. But rather than quietly and humbly (ha ha) thanking the men and women who put their lives on the lines for America every day, he tried to make the event all about himself by bragging that he had got them their first pay raise in a decade and it was a 10% pay increase!

Lies, damn lies and pretty poor statistics.

First, the military receives a pay increase every year. So the last time the military got a pay increase was last year, not a decade ago. And the pay increase they are receiving this year is 2.6%, not 10%. The people that I know in the American military watch their money pretty closely because we really don’t pay them very well. They are more than well aware of what is in their paychecks. They would know immediately that he was just gasbagging them. But Trump believes he can baffle the entire world with his bullshit.

By the way, that wasn’t the only screw-up that President Screw-up made. After his trip, he posted a video of his meeting with Seal Team Five, which had been deployed to Iraq. Only you’re not supposed to do that. Technically, as president of the United States, he can make any secret instantly not secret. But we all know he wasn’t thinking that.

Instead he posted a video that revealed the identities of members of a special operative squad. People who actually pay attention to things like security say that the president’s actions would normally be viewed as a violation of operational security because it endangers the lives of the members of that team. Not that Donald Trump ever even thought about that for a second.

Americans Trust Clergy Less Than Ever, Gallup Poll Finds

With good reason. Catholic priests, bishops and cardinals do bad things to little boys and little girls. Evangelical clerics turn a blind eye to the many sins of Donald Trump in order to get the power that they want. There are many good people of faith in the United States. There may be even some in the clergy. But as the article above points out “a whole lot of really bad apples” spoil the bunch.

I do note that the group immediately below the clergy were journalists. We are unpopular because we tell people things they don’t want to hear. The clergy is unpopular because too many of them are liars and hypocrites. Like Congress, which finished last in the poll.

What Really Happened to the Global Order

The Death of Global Order Was Caused by Clinton, Bush, and Obama

I’ve been a big Stephen Walt for a long time. Certainly, since he and John Mearsheimer wrote their brilliant exposé on the far-right Israeli lobby that wields so much power in official Washington. So I’m always happy to read what he writes even if I’m not sure I totally agree with it.

This piece on the death of the global order, however, is brilliant and contradictory. Progressives and liberals (like myself) are quick to blame the death of the way things were on Donald Trump. And they’re just as quick to blame him for the demise of America’s standing in the world.

Now Mr. Trump certainly deserves a lot of blame for this but as Walt points out in this article he actually may be the least responsible for where we are now. Basically, he argues that America had a moment after the end of the Cold War with Russia when we could’ve pushed our allies to take more responsibility on the world stage that would’ve freed the United States to focus more on problems at home. Instead, we went merrily around the globe trying to push our liberal values on anyone who would listen (and often those who wouldn’t) and the result has been disastrous. Donald Trump may have provided the “tipping point” but Clinton, Obama, and Bush had already set the wheels in motion.

Walt really does excoriate the United States for its stupidity and its responsibility for much of the chaos we see in the world. As I said above you may not agree with his point but it always makes for a really good read.