A Guide to Understanding Polls

Photo by Trending Twitter Topics from 10.10.2019, Creative Commons

I’ve had a difficult relationship with polls for most of my journalistic career. This reached its apex (or nadir if you look at it that way) years ago when I wrote a column encouraging people to lie to pollsters.

Lying, I argued, would skew the polls and force politicians to make decisions based upon their instincts and their actual principles. I was deluged with angry emails from pollsters at various companies who denounced my attempts to convince people to lie as being “anti-democratic.”

Well, I’m not sure it was anti-democratic, but over the years I have come around to understanding the reason why politicians and others use polls. We live in a big, complex society. If you’re running for national office (or even for a local office that covers a large area) it’s almost impossible for you to speak to every one of your constituents about their concerns.

In this case, polling can provide you with a guide to how the public views particular issues or how they perceive a politician’s efforts to solve important problems or champion important initiatives.

There’s one problem.

People don’t understand polls. People don’t know how they work, how they are taken, who’s doing the polling, how you determine if you can trust a poll or not and how much a particular poll is worth versus another poll.

Over the years I’ve had the opportunity to speak or listen to some of the best minds on polling in Canada and United States. Based on the things that they told me and what I have heard them say, I offer this guide to helping people better understand polls and the roles they play in our democracies.

1) One poll is a snapshot, not a movie

The idea for writing this guide came to me when a friend messaged me on Facebook about a new CNN poll that showed Biden in trouble in battleground states. A devoted Democrat, he was worried that this signaled trouble ahead for the Biden campaign.

Maybe. Maybe not. One poll is a snapshot. Never totally believe what one poll alone tells you. There are so many different conditions that can affect the results of one poll that it’s only a snapshot of a particular moment in a political campaign. This is true whether in Canada or the United States.

What you want to do is look at polling averages – the aggregate of several polls over a period. For instance, I pointed out to my friend that if you look at the average of a number of polls taken in battleground states over the past few months, Biden actually had a lead of 3 to 5 points in many of them. If future polls continue to show trouble for Biden in battleground states, then he should worry.

But one single poll basically means little in the long run.

2) National polls in the United States are useless

Well, maybe not useless, but they don’t mean much. The brains behind Democratic and Republican campaigns pay scant attention to national polls. They are much more interested in state polls. Since America basically elects a president based on the electoral college, a politician can be doing very well in national polls and still lose the election.

Take 2016. Final polls showed Hillary Clinton winning the national popular vote by 2% to 3%, which she did. But since the president of the United States is not elected on a popular vote but by the electoral college, she lost because she did not carry enough states.

It’s a bit different in Canada and Britain where a national poll can give you a better idea of how political parties are doing with public. In Canada you still need to pay attention to the vote in the Prairies versus the vote in Ontario, for instance, but you can trust a national poll more than you can a similar poll in the United States.

Again, that’s only one poll. If a lot of polls show that advantage, then you can take it to the bank.

There are also some important questions that you need to ask about each poll that you consider:

A) Who did the poll?

There are good polling organizations and there are bad polling organizations. It is unfortunate that too many media outlets when referring to recent polls don’t bother to tell you much about the organization that did a poll.

For instance, Ron Elway, the chief political correspondent at NPR, taught me that Quinnipiac was one of the best pollsters in the business especially in its coverage of states like Florida, Ohio and Pennsylvania. Why? They’ve been doing it for a long time and so over the years have ironed out errors in their methods.

You can also put your trust in a Marist poll or Survey USA poll, organizations that have received consistently high marks for their lack of bias in polling and the way they conduct each poll. On the other hand, any poll that you see from TCJ Research or Strategic Vision treat with a huge grain of salt. These polls almost always skew as many as 2-4 points towards Republicans.

B) How many people did they poll?

Randomness is the key to good polling. Normally, to achieve a statistically good sample of the public you need to interview at least 1000 to 1200 participants. That gets harder and harder these days because fewer and fewer people are willing to take part in polls.

When pollsters interview fewer people, the results are harder to trust. That’s why it’s important to pay attention to the statistical error of the poll. For instance if a pollster only interviews 400 to 500 people about a candidate or an important question and the result has a high error rate of 5% or more that means if the poll was something like 49% in favor and 51% against the question, the real result could be anywhere from 54% in favor and 46% against to 44% in favor and 56% against. Those are dramatic differences.

(Note: A friend read this and added something I had forgotten about the margin of error. To quote Pew “A margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points at the 95% confidence level means that if we fielded the same survey 100 times, we would expect the result to be within 3 percentage points of the true population value 95 of those times.”)

A poll with a relatively small number of participants can give you a hint about how people feel about a politician or a particular issue, you just shouldn’t bet your house on the result.

C) Who did they ask?

In a political poll, you want to know if the poll was done of registered voters or likely voters. You get a much truer picture of a campaign when you interview likely voters. These are people who are, as the phrase says, likely to vote in election. Since the United States has such a lousy turn out in elections (be they federal, state, or municipal) somebody can be registered to vote but that doesn’t mean they’re going to go to the polls.

Good pollsters have ways to determine the difference between a likely voter and a registered voter by asking them questions like: did they vote in the last election, have they ever written a letter or an email to their local media, have they ever participated in a campaign, do they know the location of their polling station, etc.

So a poll that says 54% of registered voters support Donald Trump versus a poll that says 54% of likely voters support Joe Biden would be good for Trump but great for Biden.

D) How was the question asked?

The way pollster asks a question will often determine the way the participant will answer it. Good pollsters ask the same question in several different ways to get at the participant’s real views.

Bad pollsters do what are called “push polls” where they ask questions in such a way that they’re pushing you to answer in a fashion that suits the politician or the organization behind the poll.

Politicians and big corporations are infamous for doing push polls in order to produce a result that they like and then spread it among the media, who too often don’t bother to ask how the poll was conducted or how the questions were asked.

E) How was the poll weighed?

Pollsters weigh polls to try to produce a truer result. For instance women and seniors tend to answer the phone more often, which can skew the sex and age ratio of the poll. So they weigh (or adjust) the poll to better match the actual sex and age demographics of the public. Or they might oversample a group to get a more representative result. Good pollsters will include this information in their methodology explanations included at the bottom of each poll.

F) What is the pollsters’ history of success or failure?

I refer you to Nate Silver’s Pollster Ratings where he and his team at fivethirtyeight.com regularly look at the history of each polling organization in terms of successful polling of particular issues, how many polls the pollster has conducted and how the polls are conducted (live, land-line phone, internet, cellphone).

This is a great help to determine the difference between a well-known pollster who has conducted many polls and a fly-by-night organization that pops up to produce polls that favor a particular candidate or issue. It helps to know the success rate of polling predictions because that gives you a better picture of how you should view the poll.

An organization that has a 90% success rate (like Survey USA) should be given greater credence then a poll from an organization that only has a 70% success rate (like Survey Monkey).

G) The shame factor

People do indeed lie to pollsters. This is particularly true in a poll that concerns an unpopular politician or an issue such as racism or misogyny. Or in an exit poll taken the day of an election. If the person being surveyed actually holds racist or misogynist views, they may lie to the pollster about their positions creating a false result.

Pres. Trump benefited from this factor in 2016 particularly after his “grab them by the pussy” remarks. At that time voting for Trump was not seen as a particularly popular thing to do, even though a lot of people wanted to do it. It was also a factor in exit polls. So when a pollster asked if they supported Trump, many people who did said no.

So what does all this tell us about polling? I would recommend you read Nate Silver’s book “The Signal and The Noise” which looks at how polling is done and how predictions made by pundits and politicians often bear no semblance to reality.

Polling may not be a great way to determine how we feel about politicians or controversial issues in, but it may be the best way that we have going forward.

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.

A Tale of Two Countries

Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry provides an update to the media on COVID-19 in BC. (Province of BC)

If an American wants to understand how leadership and unity make a difference in the fight against COVID-19, they do not need to look across the globe to countries like South Korea, New Zealand or Singapore. Instead, they should shift their gaze to the north of the border.

The American public has, by and large, truly done a magnificent job in the battle against this virus in the past few weeks. When medical experts first projected that COVID-19 could kill as many as 100,000 to 200,000 Americans it was based on an estimation that only 50% of Americans would observe social distancing. Instead, those same experts have been able to drastically lower the possible death count to around 60,000 because more than 90% of Americans have engaged in social distancing.

American media regularly cover the stories of the heroes of the COVID-19 battle – the doctors, the nurses, the truck drivers, the grocery store workers, the postal workers, the delivery people – who literally risk their lives to care for people or try to help the country maintain some semblance of normality.

The problem is at the top.

When you look at the differences between the way politicians in Canada and the United States have responded to the COVID-19 crisis, the differences could not be more jarring.

Let’s start with the leaders.

In the United States you have Donald Trump who relentlessly blames others for his poor response to the virus. He ignored repeated warnings. He has confused Americans with misinformation and a lack of leadership that was made plain in his statement that he takes “no responsibility” for his country’s chaotic and slapdash response to this emergency.

Trump has consistently sent out signals that he cares more about how COVID-19 will affect the stock market and his reelection than he does about the American people, and his actions and the actions of his closest advisors reinforce this belief. One only needs to read the extensive and thoroughly reported piece in Sunday’s N.Y. times to realize how badly this administration has handled the crisis.

Oh Canada

In Canada, meanwhile, there has been some valid criticism that perhaps Justin Trudeau’s government also reacted too slowly to the initial reports of the spread of COVID-19. The difference is, however, what happened afterwards.

While not the most popular politician in Canada’s history, and struggling with a minority government after the last election, Trudeau has largely been everything you want a leader to be. He has been a voice of reason and encouragement to the Canadian people.

For instance, read this speech about his government’s economic plan to help Canadians. While on the one hand it delivers information about this policy initiative, on the other hand the speech can only be described as stirring, particularly the ending where Trudeau refers to how the older generation of Canadians helped build Canada to be what it is today and that it is up to younger Canadians to protect them and that heritage.

It stands in stark contrast to Pres. Trump’s tweets about his favorable “ratings,” his jokes about “models” and his attempts to blame anyone and everyone about his administration’s problems with COVID-19.

There are other important differences between Canada and United States.

One is the cooperation in Canada between the federal government and the provincial governments. A recent column by Peter Loewen, professor of political science and at the Munk School of Global Affairs & Public Policy at The University of Toronto, Taylor Owen, associate professor of public policy at McGill University, and Derek Ruths, associate professor of computer science at McGill University described it this way:

So far, Canadian political action around the COVID-19 pandemic has seen more cooperation between the federal and provincial governments than we have seen at any other point since 2015. Ministers are actively avoiding criticism of one another and are largely focused on the same goals. Indeed, much has been made of the camaraderie between Doug Ford [Conservative premier of Ontario] and Chrystia Freeland ( Liberal Deputy Prime Minister of Canada and federal minister of Intergovernmental Affairs], and it has overshadowed larger political concessions, like Ontario all but laying down arms in its political opposition to a carbon tax.

Public Health Officials the New Canadian Heroes

Another important difference is how Canadian politicians have deferred to the health experts and science. This is particularly seen in the role that Canada’s public health officers have played in the crisis. They have literally become rock stars.

Officials like British Columbia’s Dr. Bonnie Henry, Prince Edward Island’s Dr. Heather Morrison, Québec’s Dr. Horracio Arruda or the Chief Public Health Officer of Canada Dr. Teresa Tam have been lauded by Canadians of all stripes for their clear, unambiguous daily briefings about COVID-19.

These public health officials have been free to give Canadians the straight goods – that means they are honest when things are bad and straightforward about what Canadians need to do in order to reduce the effects of COVID-19. They have earned the overwhelming support of Canadians.

Meanwhile, America’s Dr. Anthony Fauci, who has been lauded by many, was recently forced to accept protection from the Health and Human Services department because of the many death threats against him. It also appears he had started telling a little too much truth for Trump.

Finally, Canadian politicians, regardless of their political affiliation, deserves to be applauded for their willingness to stand back and let the people who know what they’re talking about have the center stage. It’s also been encouraging to see how politicians have not attacked each other but have done their very best to work together in a time of crisis.

No one is naïve enough to believe that this will continue forever. But the fact that it is happening is important.

To some degree it reflects the differences between the philosophies of Canada and the United States. In Canada it’s “peace, order and good government” while in the United States it’s “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”

Most of the time, people will choose life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. But in a moment when our ability to work together matters if we are going to defeat the menace of COVID-19, peace, order and good government might be the better choice.

You say you want a revolution… Then again, maybe not

Joe Biden
Vice President Joe Biden holds an event with voters in the gymnasium at McKinley Elementary School in Des Moines, where he addressed a number of issues including the recent escalation with Iran. Iowa member of Congress Abby Finkenauer was also on hand to announce her endorsement of Biden. (Photo by Phil Roeder)

I worked an information desk yesterday for the local Democratic Party in my neck of the woods in Virginia. During the three hours at my post, I talked with voters, thanked them for voting and encouraged them to take information that detailed ways to assist the campaign in November. I was deeply struck by how many people commented to me they were worried that the future of the country was at stake.

It wasn’t just older people who made this comment. One younger woman, probably in her early 20s, was extremely passionate about how worried she was. I have no idea who she voted for, but she signed up immediately to work on the campaign in the fall.

The depth of Biden’s victory in Virginia surprised me. A closer contest between Biden and Sanders seemed in the cards. But Biden’s victory yesterday reflected what I personally saw at the polls. People were not so interested in a revolution as they were in getting rid of Donald Trump. People spoke of it with an almost religious fervor. They hate Donald Trump and the most important thing is to remove him from office.

If the results of yesterday’s Democratic primaries across the country indicate anything, they indicate that most Democrats believe that Joe Biden has a better chance of doing that than Bernie Sanders.

This leads to two observations:

1. If Sanders fails to win the nomination after such a promising start, he should not blame the Democratic establishment for his failure, but Trump himself.

If the Republicans had offered any other candidate but Donald Trump as the Republican nominee in 2020, center-left Democrats might have been more open to the kind of revolution that Sanders is promoting.

After 3 ½ years of a Trump presidency, however, Democrats are more interested in a return to normalcy (in the words of Jon Meacham) then a Sanders’ administration that might bring four more years of “revolutionary” discombobulation caused by a lurch to the left.

Not that Sanders’ ideas are unattractive. Healthcare for all is a great idea. I come from Canada. I lived in a system with universal healthcare. I know the benefits it bestows upon country. Canadians long ago stopped worrying about the government “controlling” healthcare. Universal healthcare means Canadians live several years longer than Americans and because they are healthier, this spins into other areas. Canadians enjoy a higher standard of living and a greater per capita income than Americans.

But the United States is not Canada.

Contemplating the kind of struggles that an implementation of Sanders’ policies would mean for politics in Washington and for the country looks to be too much for many Democratic voters.

The idea of Medicare for all needs to be introduced to the public as an option at first. I truly believe that once people have the option, they will choose it and the country will move towards Medicare for all.

2. Biden needs to seal the deal with Democratic voters.

People have spoken about “buyers’ remorse” becoming Biden’s next hurdle. Democrats, swept up with enthusiasm after Biden’s victory in South Carolina who then voted overwhelmingly for him on Tuesday, wonder if they made the right choice.

The withdrawal of Michael Bloomberg from the primaries and his endorsement of Joe Biden as the best candidate helps Biden. The many billions of Bloomberg will now go towards electing the former vice president.

This must scare Donald Trump. He worried about Biden in the past. Now dealing with a Biden who has a billionaire behind him – a billionaire who said he’s not afraid to spend a billion dollars to defeat Trump – will no doubt generate many tweets indicating how insecure our dear leader is feeling.

So prepare for a tsunami of social media claiming that the nomination was stolen from Bernie once again and criticizing Biden for doing the same things that Trump himself does.

Still, the campaign is far from over. We’ve seen one come back, maybe we’ll see another. Perhaps Sanders will discover some magic sauce that will refocus his campaign and regenerate his image in the eyes of Democratic voters.

Hmmm. Probably not.

Progressive Democratic voters will probably need to wait until Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is old enough to run for president before they score a decisive victory over the Democratic establishment. She already has my vote.

Conservatives and “Socialism”

Most Americans have probably never heard of Tommy Douglas. He was never prime minister of Canada, a big hockey star or a well-known entertainer. A few Americans might know him as the grandfather of American action-star Keifer Sutherland.

Yet in 2004, when the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) did a national show on who was the greatest Canadian of them all, Tommy Douglas won.

And he was a democratic socialist.

Born in Scotland, his family immigrated to Canada when he was six. When Douglas was a child, he injured his right knee and doctors thought they would have to amputate his leg. His family was poor and couldn’t pay the medical bills. It was only because a famous surgeon said he would treat Douglas for free if medical students could observe, was his injury treated successfully.

The experience changed him forever. Years later, Douglas said: “I felt that no boy should have to depend either for his leg or his life upon the ability of his parents to raise enough money to bring a first-class surgeon to his bedside.”

Eventually he became a Baptist minister but was horrified by what was happening to people during the depression. He became an activist and got into politics – as a democratic socialist.

In 1935, he was elected to parliament as a member of the Cooperative Commonwealth Federation (CCF) the forerunner of Canada’s New Democratic Party (NDP). Eventually he switched to provincial politics and became the leader of the CCF in Saskatchewan. In 1944 he was elected premier and the head of the first democratic socialist government in North America.

He introduced a provincial bill of rights and was the first Canadian leader to call for a national bill of rights. (Which eventually happened in 1982 with the Charter of Right and Freedoms). He was the first politician in Canada to create a government-run utility that spread electricity into many rural areas of the province. And his party, which was re-elected five times, introduced the first program to offer free health care to all citizens of the province.

In 1961 he stepped down as premier and became the first leader of the newly formed NDP. Although never elected prime minister, he party held the balance of power during the terms of Lester Pearson who took many of Douglas’s ideas, like universal health care, and made them available to all Canadians.

For his many efforts to improve the life of all Canadians, Douglas was constantly dubbed a “communist’” or worse by the country’s conservative politicians and media pundits. It all became a joke to Douglas. There is a wonderful documentary showing Douglas debating a conservative, who is standing at the microphone using all the worse scare words he could think of to describe Douglas, while Douglas sits quietly sitting in the background, with a delightful smile on his face, looking over his notes, preparing to demolish this pompous idiot who had no idea of what he was talking about.

And speaking of pompous idiots with no idea of what they are talking about, that brings me to CPAC, the conservative gathering of Trumplodytes that happened this past weekend in DC. “Socialism” is their new bug-a-boo word designed to scare Americans into supporting their repressive, anti-democratic agenda.

Speaker after speaker ranted about “socialists” like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and others who they say want to turn American into a Venzuela-like nightmare. They used almost the same words that the enemies of Tommy Douglas used back in the 30s and 40s to denounce him. That’s the thing about conservatives. Their lack of imagination means their vocabulary rarely differs from country to country, from era to era.

Here’s the thing about democratic socialism. The key word is democratic. Countries like Sweden or Norway use a combination of the best ideas of socialism (free health care, free or very cheap education, etc.) and strong market economies. The result is that they regularly record the highest standards of living in the world. The same for Canada, which led the OCED index of growth for many years.

And let’s not forget Germany, France, Denmark, Great Britain, Japan, Australia, Spain, Finland, Ireland, Belgium, New Zealand, Austria, Switzerland or the Netherlands – all countries that have achieved a balance of democratic socialism and capitalism.

Democratic socialism argues that there is an important place for the role of government along with private industry. I find it amusing that so many Americans conservatives denounce the horrors of democratic socialist programs, when so many count on two of them – medicare and social security.

Unbridled capitalism is a lovely system for the top 1%. The gap between rich and poor in this country continues to grow larger and larger. If people are afraid of a Venezuela happening here, that will be the cause not democratic socialism.

The far-right twist words and ideas beyond all recognition and try to shove them down people’s throats to scare them. (For instance, the other day a Republican state representative in Arizona compared mandatory vaccination for measles to “communism.”)

The day when democratic socialism and capitalism work side by side in America is not far away. And America will be a much better country for all its citizens as a result.

The Difference between Neo-Nazis and Incels

Why incels are a ‘real and present threat’ for Canadians

Canada’s excellent TV newsmagazine, The Fifth Estate, has a compelling story about Incels, (a shortened form of involuntarily celibate) a group largely composed of white males who literally can’t get a date. The result is they feel an overwhelming hatred towards all women and “Chads” (in Incel speak, those are the guys that get girls and are good-looking and physically fit).

As The Fifth Estate piece points out, this group of insecure white males (who number in the tens of thousands on the three main Internet forums where they can be found) is extremely dangerous. The article goes on to point out several very violent acts of murder committed by Incels, including an incident in Toronto last year when 10 people were mowed down by one of these destructive males in a van.

Incels believe women owe them sex, and in some cases, people active on incel forums advocate for government-sanctioned girlfriends and sexual encounters.

“[Incel] became a religion of sorts, and it’s a recent ideology,” Arntfield of Western University, said. “These are people who’ve found each other online and can ruminate over what they can do.”

As I was reading the piece, and other recent pieces that I’ve read about this group, I came to the conclusion that this group is actually much more dangerous than the neo-Nazis that like to parade around in places like Charlottesville, Virginia or Portland, Oregon or other groups of mostly white males who somehow feel society has left them behind.

Neo-Nazis, and similar white supremacist groups, largely bond together over their hatred of minorities and other religious groups like Jews. Neo-Nazis certainly can be violent but most of the time they just make a lot of noise. They want to be noticed. Law enforcement in both Canada and the United States don’t pay as much attention to these right-wing whack job groups as they should, but they do pay some attention and the result is if there have been any violent plots planned by neo-Nazis or similar white supremacist groups in the past few years, the FBI or the RCMP and other government agencies have largely sniff them out and arrested the concerned individuals before they had a chance to act.

Incels are different, however. They don’t like making a big noise, except when they commit murderous acts of violence. They don’t hold Incel parades, and there is no Imperial Grand Wizard of Incels. They aren’t asked for their opinions on political events nor are they likely to give speeches in public forums. Instead, they lurk on the web where they can share their insecurity and their hatred of women amongst each other. (It’s interesting to note the community was originally started by a woman back in the early 90s but it has morphed into the twisted group we see today.) If you walked up to a person on the street and asked them what they thought about Incels, the chances are most people (especially over the age of 30) wouldn’t have a clue what you’re talking about.

The one thing that Incels share with neo-Nazis is that they both absolutely believe in the supremacy of males, in particular white males.

Many of the Incels who have committed these horrible acts of violence are lionized by other members of their community. There seem to be very few checks on their attitude towards women and self-pity and they use these feelings of inadequacy to fuel each other to commit these horrible acts. It’s not that everyone who belongs to the Incel movement is a potential murderer or domestic terrorist. There are enough members of this group, however, who may be only one or two steps away from taking such incomprehensible steps.

One of the experts quoted in The Fifth Estate piece about this group said that it is useless to try to talk to them or change their minds. As a result, she said there needs to be increased police awareness about their activities.

I completely agree. If they aren’t doing so already I think it’s time for the authorities in both Canada and the United States to pay attention to a group that has committed so many acts of violence over the past decade. (It’s interesting to note that over the last 30 years in Canada over 120 acts of violence have been committed by right-wing groups – which are of course largely composed of white males – while there have been only seven acts of violence committed by Islamicist-inspired extremists.)

Canada Sticks Its Finger in Saudi Arabia’s Eye… Again

Young Woman Who Fled Saudi Arabia Arrives In Canada As Refugee

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.

No Low Too Low for Trump and Health Care Lies from Rand Paul

Trump invokes one of the worst Native American massacres to mock Elizabeth Warren

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.

I hope he gets soaked.

Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul is going to Canada for surgery

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.

Travails of the Children of the 1%

A Canadian “pom-pom” hat, also known as a toque.

Wealthy NY School Begs Kids to Leave Home $350 Moncler Hats

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.

Go North, Young Man…And Woman

Trump’s immigration policy has foreign tech talent looking north of the border

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.