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November 16, 2016 18:59 +0000  |  Politics The United States 1

The outcome of the US presidential election was easily predicted. I say this because I was sure Trump would win as far back as May of this year. There seems to be a great many people still entirely surprised by the outcome though, so I thought I'd write down my reasoning.

There were two primary factors in Trump's taking of the White House. I'll deal with the minor reason first.

Sexism

It's still easier for most people to vote for a black man than it is for a white woman. The reasons for this are long and horrible, but this reality hasn't changed much in the last few thousand years. A woman may have a better chance now of winning an election, but sexism continues to stack the deck against every female candidate in most of the world.

It's a real problem, but I don't think it's nearly enough to explain why Clinton lost in an election that was the Left's for the taking.

The Establishment

Trump didn't win this election, Clinton lost it because she couldn't convince people to show up. Take a look at this chart showing the voter turnout over the last few elections (credit to dinoignacio via reddit). Trump rode the coattails of the Republican base who vote red regardless of the candidate, but the Left barely represented, begging the question: why not?

To answer this you need only look at the Bernie Sanders campaign. Here was a candidate who called for an end to money in politics, real socialised medicine, a focus on the environment, and on returning industry to the country. His focus on the future appealed to young people, his record on social policy encouraged the base, and his rhetoric on taking care of people hit hardest resonated with everyone who has been hurting over the last few years.

That last group is what matters because that last group is HUGE.

The truth is that in most Western nations, the US included, austerity and the right-wing have been at war with the working class for decades. In countries without an adequate social safety net (like the US), it's entirely common to have a household with two working parents and two children, and still not have enough to make ends meet. For those families just squeaking by, they live in fear of one of them losing their job, at which point they are literally homeless.

These people are angry, and they're scared, and the best that the Left could drum up was a woman whose dynastic name practically begs the spectre of corruption and hereditary rule. Clinton is the embodiment of "politics as usual" handed to a nation of people desperate for change.

At his core, Obama wasn't much different from Clinton in the ideals that capitalism somehow equals freedom, but importantly on the surface Obama was inspirational: the first black president, a Democrat who talks like a Kennedy. That man could have read the phone book to the public and the world would still have fallen in love with him.

But after eight years with him at the helm, the people are still scared and angry. They've barely survived a banking crisis that crippled the planet and saw not one rich white banker convicted. There are riots on the streets spurred by cops with military hardware murdering cvilians. They're still living paycheque to paycheque and the only explanation they're getting is from the Orange Beast on the right who is insisting that the immigrants are to blame for everything.

This was a hard sell, but the American people were ripe for a real shift in policy. So what did the Democratic party do? They sabotaged the Sanders campaign and assumed that fear of the damage Trump could do would be enough to get the plebs to vote blue.

The people are tired, angry, and scared. They want an end to corruption, to a government that doesn't understand or even hear their plight. They were told repeatedly by that establishment that a vote for Trump would be insane, that it would burn everything down. The trouble is, that's what the people want. The people want a revolution. They want to see muderous cops and "banksters" behind bars, they want an end to foreign wars, and they want coprorations out of politics.

This is a failure of the Left to give the people what they want. The left could have run an inspirational candidate, one who wanted the same thing 70% of Americans wanted. This was the opportunity to capture the White House, the Senate, Congress, and the Supreme Court for that revolutionary vision of the future.

But the Democrats wanted another Clinton.

That's why they got Trump.

December 01, 2010 00:06 +0000  |  Activism Politics The United States 1

Has anyone else got the feeling that world governments haven't learnt the right lesson from the latest series of cables released by Wikileaks?

Here's a newsflash guys, the key isn't to be sorry that you got caught, it's to be sorry that you committed the acts for which you (should be) ashamed in the first place.

Wikileaks should be commended for their dedication to promoting openness in our relations with our neighbours, rather than vilified for distributing to the truth to the world.

August 26, 2010 20:03 +0000  |  The United States Travel 4

Central Park
Central Park is so pretty.
Bethesda Fountain
One of the more famous landmarks in Central Park: Bethesda Fountain.
The Alice in Wonderland statue in Central Park
The Alice in Wonderland statue in Central Park.
Times Square
Times Square is huge and riddled with billboards. This is a tiny part of it.
The United Nations
The United Nations
Peace
"Peace"
The Empire State Building
The Empire State Building as seen from 51st street.
Congress
Congress
Lincoln
The inscription above reads: "In this temple as in the hearts of the people for whom he saved the Union the memory of Abraham Lincoln is enshrined forever.
The Vietnam Memorial
The Vietnam Memorial
Congress peaking behind the Washington Monument
It does seem a shame that Lincoln's view of Congress is obscured by Washington's phallic monument.

I have committed the profoundly naïve: I attempted to see two major American cities in four days. Let it be said that while it's definitely possible, I don't recommend it -- especially if your feet aren't very cooperative. Here, on day four in my Washington DC hotel room, my feet are dangling off of the bed and are in considerable pain. The tiny blisters on my toes are a testament to my daring, as well as my ignorance concerning the task.

Now with that out of the way, here's a quick run-down of my various sights and experiences :-)

NYC

New York is BIG. I know that it looks rather tiny on the map, but trust me, it's massive. With 8 million people in the city alone and 20million in the surrounding area, New York is too big to really experience in two months let alone two days. Like most places worth seeing, I think that someone has to live there to really understand it. For my part, I was just happy to have a few days to take it in. For the majority of my trip (save for a quick ride on the Staten Island Ferry) I was Manhattan Guy, so everything that follows can only apply to that tiny island.

I'll start with the simple: navigation. Manhattan is a narrow sliver island with only a few major avenues running North/South and more than one hundred streets running East/West. As a result of this sort of layout, walking 3blocks East is roughly equivalent to walking ten blocks North anywhere on the island. People jaywalk like crazy there, right in front of cops in fact. I can only assume that it's totally legal there. Traffic is always rough, regardless of the time of day, and is in fact just like you see in the movies: about 90% cabs... except that they're not yellow, but rather a kind of nasty orange colour.

As for sightseeing, I went a little crazy. In the space of two days, I managed to visit every landmark in the city and see/do exactly what I wanted to, which in most cases was just see that place and try to understand what it must be like to walk in its shadow every day. I went to Central Park, which again, is well reflected in the movies. It's a massive park nested in the midst of millions of people crammed onto an island. And it's not a park as you might have come to expect in your own town, no Central Park has a giant pond, a carousel, a baseball park and dozens of quiet trails, bridges, trees, and creeks. It's the result of more than one hundred years of curating and management... it's amazing.

I also found time to visit the United Nations, Ground Zero, The Empire State Building, Rockefeller Center, Madison Square Gardens, Grand Central Station, and the studios for CBS & NBC as well as Ed McMahon's theater where David Letterman does his show now. As per Stephen's advice, I took the (free) Staten Island Ferry just long enough to get reasonably close to the Statue of Liberty, and I even found the LEGO store... how awesome is that?

Some interesting tidbits about New York:

  • The street food is amazing. There's nothing quite like lamb souvlaki on a pita at 11pm at the corner of Madison & 51st. I also tried both the bagels and the pretzels. Sadly, I was unimpressed on both fronts.
  • The city hums, but it doesn't seem to sit well with me. It could be the American flags everywhere, or the general lack-of-pleasantries common with Americans, but I didn't feel very comfortable there.
  • While cabbies are everywhere, they're not as crazy or chatty as the ones you see in movies. In my time there, I took 3 cabs: the first one was an old, Asian man, super-friendly, who'd been doing this for 23years. After all this time, his English was still pretty sketchy, but I appreciated his take on what it's like to do this kind of work for so long. The other two drivers however were like riding with a robot: little or no conversation, and very broken English when we did have to communicate.
  • Rockefeller Center has tables & chairs out front in the summer since it's obviously too cold for an ice rink.
  • The subway system isn't nearly as impressive as I was expecting. Obviously, I was only around for a couple days and only rode it twice, but I got the distinct impression that it was built for commuters rather than residents. Its cars are smaller than Toronto's, lacks helpful signage and doesn't service large portions of the island. Also, it smells like Toronto's subway system, which isn't a good or a bad thing, just an interesting curiosity.

Washington DC

After walking my feet off in NYC, I took a quick nap overnight and headed to Washington DC by train the next day. Let me just say that if the option is available, train is definitely the way to travel. Walk a few blocks to the station, wait less than a half hour to board, ride in comfort with free wifi and a power outlet for a few hours and then walk a few minutes to your hotel. It's cheaper, faster, cleaner, and far more comfortable. Also, the free wifi let me play Gowalla all the way from NYC to DC ;-)

Washington DC is a tiny town masquerading as a state within the larger state of Virginia. For the most part, the city appears to be a collection of government buildings peppered with statues and monuments all in the classical style. More than a few times I've found myself comparing DC to a modern Rome with all of the buildings still standing.

There's a pretty obvious racial divide here. While there's clearly a healthy mix of black & white in DC, a stroll through Union Station or down Pennsylvania Avenue will illustrate the imbalance. While I've seen a number of black people walking about with bluetooth headsets & blackberries, in two days here and I've not seen a single white person in a service-related job. It's as if the white population has "allowed" the blacks into the management sector, but somehow sees itself as "above" working at McDonald's or waiting tables. I've only been here two days though, so could be totally wrong on this one.

Like NYC, I went a bit crazy with the sightseeing here, and my feet may never forgive me. As soon as I arrived yesterday, I dumped my gear in my hotel room and started gallivanting. I visited the Library of Congress and did a quick tour through there, took some pictures at the Capitol, and then headed down to the National Archives, The Washington Monument, The Smithsonian, The WW2 Memorial, The Vietnam War Memorial, The Korean War Memorial and the Lincoln Memorial.

Yesterday's highlight though was without a doubt, the National Archives, where I actually saw the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of the United States. The documents are ancient and faded, most of the text of which has been nearly erased with time. Regardless, it was rather inspiring to actually see it and read the words "We the People" knowing the reasoning behind those words. As Canadians, I think we often forget how different we are from the Americans: the Ideas that formed this country are very different from those that formed our own. Frankly, I think that even though we've been neighbours for all this time, there's still a lot we have to learn from each other on this front.

That night I gave my feet a nice hot bath and slept in today to recover before heading out to Arlington National Cemetery. Let me just tell you that no matter how big you think it is, no matter how strongly you might think it will affect you, you really can't prepare yourself for that place. There are over 350 000 people buried there, for each headstone, one life... and the stones go on, and on, and on, and on. Past presidents are buried here, including JFK, but I spent my time just trying to take in the acres of death. Over 200years have past since that place was founded, and nowadays they bury around 25 people as a daily average. It's a testament to patriotism and to the judgement of American leadership.

The last stop on my trip was to the White House, a palace surrounded by iron fences and concrete barricades. I took in the view from behind the distant gate, and didn't go for the tour (if there in fact was one). After Arlington, I wasn't really interested.

DC is an interesting town, with ancient classical buildings everywhere you look, and metal detectors in its food courts. It's the kind of place that everyone should visit at least once, but I don't think I'll be coming back.

So that's it for my trip. I had a really good time travelling, but will be glad to be back on Canadian soil tomorrow. America is scary, but that's a topic for another blog post some other time. I'll leave you with a link to my Gowallawalk map, a plotting of various places I've been, including all of the spots I visited on this trip.

February 04, 2010 19:03 +0000  |  Canada Family Nationalism The United States 3

My grandmother just sent this to me with the added request that I distribute it to those in my own networks. I can agree with the sentiment and so I'm doing just that. It's about time that Canadians recognised that our place in this world is more than "America's Hat":

I am old enough to remember when the Great Lakes St. Lawrence Seaway was debated and ultimately opened to navigation in 1959. Construction of the 306 km. stretch of the Seaway between Montreal and Lake Ontario is recognized as one of the most challenging engineering feats in history.

Discussion with the U.S. had been ongoing over the past thirty years but in the end they decided not to participate in such a major undertaking. Canadian public opinion was pushing our politicians to go it alone and in July , 1951 Premier Frost of Ontario publicly asked the United States to “Please, get out of the way and let us get on with the job.” The Federal Government followed within days and announced we would build the St. Lawrence Seaway. It was a time of Canadian pride. The United States then decided that they would participate in the building of the Seaway and the project went ahead.

I tell this story because I wonder where our Canadian pride has gone. We were a much smaller nation in the 1950’s but we felt we could do it. Now it seems we must ask the U.S. to make our policy on climate change, auto emissions etc.

Shirley Quinn,
Armstrong, B.C.

November 05, 2008 06:56 +0000  |  Politics The United States 3

It's done. America has apologised to the world for seven years of war, a ruined global economy and a deteriorating climate. A majority (albeit a slim one) has spoken and chosen a new leader to represent the most powerful nation in the world that man... talks like a Kennedy. Obama speaks with such conviction that despite my long-standing cynicism directed at politics in general, I find myself wanting to believe in a brighter future.

Think about it for a moment: a black man is president of the United States.

Maybe there is hope for us after all.

As for John McCain, I'm left with some disappointment in knowing that his career is coming to a close. McCain has always been a patriot and servant to his country for that, I feel that he's not been given enough credit. I may not have agreed with most of what he supported but such devotion and service to the greater whole must be recognised and for that I thank him for his hard work and dedication.

The future for Obama is going to be terribly difficult. The whole world has pinned such hopes on him and has, dare I say it, unreasonable expectations of the powers of one man to captain a ship so very full of holes. In the coming years, we must remember that change requires more than empassioned speeches, it needs dedication and support from the people. The president has called for sacrifice and service and if change is really going to happen, these will both have to come in spades.

October 24, 2008 21:02 +0000  |  Politics The United States 0

Howard Zinn, author of A People's History of the United States talks about an Obama Presidency and how merely electing him will not be enough for real change. For that, we need direct action:

July 23, 2008 06:33 +0000  |  Politics The United States 4

Don't laugh. He's doing it.

I only hope that he has the chance to make history before the miserable failure retires and gets to spend the rest of his life being referred to as "Mr. President".

July 03, 2008 20:48 +0000  |  Politics The United States 2

Found initially on One Good Move, this 30second spot really made an impression on me:

February 25, 2008 05:58 +0000  |  Politics The United States 2

He's doing it again, Ralph Nader is running for President and gods bless him. No one currently running for president under either the Democrat or Republican banners wants to do for America what Nader knows he can do.

He announced his candidacy on MSNBC's meet the press today and when asked if he'd be running he gave the following response:

Let me put it in context, to make it a little more palatable to people who have closed minds. Twenty-four percent of the American people are satisfied with the state of the country, according to Gallup. That's about the lowest ranking ever. Sixty-one percent think both major parties are failing. And, according to Frank Luntz's poll, a Republican, 80 percent would consider voting for a independent this year. Now, you take that framework of people feeling locked out, shut, shut out, marginalized, disrespected and you go from Iraq to Palestine/Israel, from Enron to Wall Street, from Katrina to the bungling of the Bush administration, to the complicity of the Democrats in not stopping him on the war, stopping him on the tax cuts, getting a decent energy bill through, and you have to ask yourself, as a citizen, should we elaborate the issues that the two are not talking about? And the--all, all the candidates--McCain, Obama and Clinton--are against single payer health insurance, full Medicare for all. I'm for it, as well as millions of Americans and 59 percent of physicians in a forthcoming poll this April. People don't like Pentagon waste, a bloated military budget, all the reports in the press and in the GAO reports. A wasteful defense is a weak defense. It takes away taxpayer money that can go to the necessities of the American people. That's off the table to Obama and Clinton and McCain.

The issue of labor law reform, repealing the notorious Taft-Hartley Act that keeps workers who are now more defenseless than ever against corporate globalization from organizing to defend their interests. Cracking down on corporate crime. The media--the mainstream media repeatedly indicating how trillions of dollars have been drained and fleeced and looted from millions of workers and investors who don't have many rights these days, and pensioners. You know, when you see the paralysis of the government, when you see Washington, D.C., be corporate-occupied territory, every department agency controlled by overwhelming presence of corporate lobbyists, corporate executives in high government positions, turning the government against its own people, you--one feels an obligation, Tim, to try to open the doorways, to try to get better ballot access, to respect dissent in America in the terms of third parties and, and independent candidates; to recognize historically that great issues have come in our history against slavery and women rights to vote and worker and farmer progressives, through little parties that never ran--won any national election. Dissent is the mother of ascent. And in that context, I have decided to run for president.

The guy from One Good Move said it best:

For those Democrats upset by another Nadar run for the presidency let me remind you that it might have been avoided if you'd had the wisdom to vote for John Edwards.

The world needs more leaders like Nader, and Fates willing, he'll get his chance... probably not, but I can hope.

February 08, 2008 02:01 +0000  |  Politics The United States 0

Lawrence Lessig, champion of the Creative Commons makes an elegant and compelling case for Barack Obama. Well worth 20minutes of your time, it lays out the real differences between him and Hillary Clinton when it comes to the things that really matter.

Here's hoping for Obama/Edwards 2008!