America’s Choice: Cement the Oligarchy, or Burn it All Down

Let’s just accept the media narrative that Sen. Bernie Sanders has lost any chance at clinching the Democratic nomination.

Let’s also ignore this crazy notion that Sen. Ted Cruz has a chance of stopping Donald Trump’s momentum.

This leaves America with two options:

  1. Vote Clinton for President: She has a progressive history, worked closely with Pres. Obama and has a proven track record. However, she has also accepted 100s of millions of dollars from Wall Street throughout her years in politics and she is currently benefiting from Citizen’s United (a Supreme Court ruling that allowed corporations to make unlimited amount of political contributions). Therefore, for those who feel that America has morphed into an Oligarchy (system run exclusively by and for the wealthy), it is unlikely that a Pres. Clinton would do much to reverse that trend. This would ultimately cement America’s oligarchy in place.
  2. Vote Trump for President: He is a billionaire businessman with no political experience, KKK members for supporters and a plan to bar any and all Muslims from entering the USA. However, he is funding his own campaign and speaks forcefully against corporate influence in politics. He also speaks forcefully against women who have an abortion, Mexican immigrants and really women more broadly speaking. Most intellectual observers agree he would essentially destroy the American Empire.

The scary part is that the current anti-establishment fervour in America is undeniable, and while Sen. Sanders has capitalized on it, Hillary has been the embodiment of the establishment status quo—even going out of her way to embrace Pres. Obama strongly (which will likely hurt her in the Fall)…

So, when I’m watching this insane election for the rest of the year this will be my frame of reference: Is America going to cement their oligarchy or will they vote to burn it down?

Insider-Outsider

A Tale of Two Candidates

As first published for Red River College’s theprojector.ca:

Should offensive tweets or Facebook posts made when you’re 20 years old disqualify you from running for public office when you’re 35?

There are many variables that play into whether or not a candidate should step down over inappropriate posts, but the most important factor seems to be the candidate’s response.

This is apparent in the tale of two candidates leading into next month’s provincial election.

On one hand, former Liberal candidate Jamie Hall had some tweets from 2012 resurface where he used the misogynist words, among other things. His apology was seen as a kind of non-apology because he used that old qualifier, “those who were offended,” before going into justifications and explanations for his tweets.

In public relations, we’re taught to keep these kinds of responses sincere and concise — Hall did neither. The Manitoba Liberals dropped him the next morning.

On the other hand, the NDP’s “star candidate” Wab Kinew has had to field some tough questions about his own inappropriate tweets. That includes his choice of words in some rap songs he made when he was 30 years old.

In contrast, Kinew has stated that he is sorry for the vulgar hip-hop lyrics where he celebrated violence toward women and made homophobic slurs. He has not tried to justify his language, but critics say his apology (released in his book “The Reason You Walk”) came far too late and smacks of political opportunism as opposed to genuine regret.

The irony of Kinew’s troubles is that they would not be dogging him if the NDP hadn’t demanded that the Liberals drop Hall. Now they’re being accused of hypocrisy as they continue to defend Kinew from public scrutiny.

As a millennial and political junkie, I’m torn about this. Dumb social media posts should not disqualify young people from running for political office, but every candidate must be held responsible for his or her words.

Hall made an interesting argument when he said he wants to be honest with voters and he does use vulgarity in regular conversations. Perhaps the phrase “politically incorrect” exists for this reason, as Hall came to the conclusion that politics is simply not for him.

Are we now going to bar people from political office based on things they’ve said on social media five years earlier?

Nobody is perfect, but when it comes to social media, recent events have made it clear your profiles better appear squeaky-clean before entering the political arena.

U.S. President George W. Bush declares an end to major combat in Iraq during a speech to crew aboard the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln as the carrier steamed toward San Diego, California, in this May 1, 2003 file photo. (Larry Downing/Reuters photo)

How Bush Sold the West

When Bush sold a lie to wage war in Iraq, he essentially sold out America and Britain—and by extension the rest of the West.

The generational impact of the war in Iraq cannot be overstated.

Bush’s ‘War on Terror’ fuelled so much fundamentalism in the Middle East, which has culminated in the rise of ISIS. It destabilized  the region and forever pulled America into a quagmire of continual war. But, it’s about so much more than that.

At the heart of the Middle East lies the Saudi Arabian Empire. They’re winning.

On Terrorism: Saudi Arabia benefits from the destabilized region. With Iraq out of the picture, their neighbour across the Persian Gulf is their biggest adversary. Both Iran and Saudi Arabia have factions that invest in terrorist activities, because both benefit from it in their own ways. And America’s eternal war against these eternal terrorists has meant a cash-strapped, oil-reliant American Empire.

On Oil: Saudi Arabia owns oil. That is they essentially own OPEC, the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries, which oversees the rules and regulations governing 13 leading oil-exporting countries. Their rules impact the entire international oil market. They’re the reason our oil-based economy is slowing down, and Canada’s dollar is so low.

Unlike Canada, Saudi Arabia and OPEC are able to increase exports significantly without needing additional infrastructure. That’s what they’ve decided to do, and it is messing up our economy because our last government decided to put all of our eggs in one oil-based basket.

When George Bush attacked Iraq, many corporations made money on the war and many oil companies made money too—war requires excessive amounts of oil, and destroying Iraq’s clout opened up markets for the biggest players. And America.

On Democracy: The Middle East has never done well with democracy. Much like Russia. The Arab Spring showed us that there is a will for freedom and democracy, but the unfolding chaos since has showed how hard it will be. And the dysfunctional autocracies in Saudi Arabia and Iran both fear democracy, because they require a certain denial of basic freedoms to be able to hold their grip on power. While democratic Western countries bemoan the inhumane public executions of dissidents in Saudi Arabia, they all continue to have close relations that keep the current Saudi regime in power. These same Western countries are often quick to criticize Iran, without any sense of hypocrisy.

The new power structure of the Middle East is rooted in the Iraq War. It’s now between Saudi Arabia and Iran, both of whom have links to terrorism and both of whom benefit from destabilizing the region as the Middle East fights for democracy.

The worst part is that Canada, America and Western Europe seem forever entangled in the fallout from Bush’s disaster.

 

The Drama of the American Primaries

As first published for Red River College’s theprojector.ca:

On the Republican side of American politics, Donald Trump is leading the pack. He’s ahead of Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz — or the “choke artist,” and the “liar,” as Trump affectionately refers to them.

On the Democratic side, Bernie Sanders’s “political revolution” has hit a brick wall. The older black community in the south recently backed Hillary Clinton in South Carolina by an astonishing 86-14 margin to hand her a 74-26 victory.

Americans have two extremely entertaining battles going on. A former Republican nominee, Senator Lindsay Graham, recently said his party has gone, “batshit crazy,” which is an understandable assumption if you’ve watched their recent debates.

The Democrats have an interesting contrast emerging, where Clinton is now relying on the same black voters who handed her a defeat in 2008.

One race is a hilarious — though somewhat scary — downward spiral of a party that can no longer acknowledge climate change or immigration reform in any rational way. The other has become an argument of lofty idealism versus cynical pragmatism.

It’s obvious which side is more entertaining. At this point, Trump has the Republican nomination all but sewn up. His momentum shows no signs of slowing, and his opposition is weak and divided. Most importantly, faced with the choice of Trump or Cruz, the Republican establishment is choosing Trump — made evident by New Jersey Governor Chris Christie’s recent endorsement.

What is less clear is if Sanders’s enthusiastic support is starting to wane, or whether it was ever widely received outside of Northern suburbs and college campuses. The Clinton campaign saw this weakness early and allied strongly with President Obama as a way to shore up the support of the typical Democratic base in southern states.

The Sanders campaign relies on ambitious, high-information voters — people who believe America has to remove corporate money from their elections. Unlike Obama, his support does not come from an emotional place, but a rather logical one.

Meanwhile, Clinton benefits from everything that comes with being who she is. Her roots in every segment of The Democratic Party go back to her time as First Lady, then senator, then Secretary of State — and she has all the influence those positions would entail.

She’s also, however, viewed as an establishment figure, while Bernie — though an elected official for decades — is viewed as anti-establishment.

And at a time when a reality TV host will become a presidential candidate by riding a wave of anti-establishment sentiment in America, there is a very real concern that Clinton’s status quo approach would have a much harder time fighting Trump’s momentum.

Hillary Clinton has an Oligarch Problem

While Sen. Bernie Sanders openly and constantly criticizes Walmart for paying their employees such low wages that many need to be on food-stamps, Hillary Clinton takes $353,400 from the Walton family.
I don’t get why the Clinton camp thinks she is immune to this big money criticism… She will be going up against Trump, who often boasts about funding himself and not being tied to any special interests. He will attack her as “bought,” much more directly than Sanders has been.
Many progressive Americans who are supporting Sanders will not support Clinton for this exact reason. With a lack of progressive enthusiasm, Trump could really win as an anti-establishment candidate. In this scenario, Bernie Sanders is more electable and exactly what America needs right now. I hope I’m wrong, and rational Americans will still outnumber the Trump fervour.

Read more here: http://usuncut.com/politics/alice-walton-hillary-clinton/

Ubernization

As first published for Red River College’s The Projector:

In order to use the newest cab system around, you’d have to leave The Peg. But is that really a bad thing?

Uber has pulled out of our province due to Manitoba’s Taxi Cab Act, which essentially fines anybody operating as a taxicab without a license to do so — presumably for safety reasons.

The concept is simple enough—an app-based “ride-sharing” service that allows for cheaper rates and quicker service than traditional taxis.

But while the concept is simple, the repercussions are complicated.

The political and economic results of Uber entering any city’s market makes for a divisive and often heated debate.

Uber claims they are a technology company that merely created their app platform to allow individuals to offer rides for a reasonable fee. As an app developer, they generally skirt all of the regulations that govern your typical taxi companies.

For this reason, Uber finds some markets more difficult than others to tap into. For example, Winnipeg’s market is difficult because of the aforementioned Taxi Cab Act and the fact Manitoba Public Insurance has stated they will not cover an unregulated vehicle being used as a taxi.

Our only insurance company is not interested in cooperating and the Manitoba Government isn’t making any amendments or additions to the Taxi Cab Act — so Uber is out.

This is the kind of problems Uber runs into, yet time is on their side. It seems they’re adding new major cities all the time, like Edmonton, for example.

Interestingly, at a time when Alberta’s economy is suffering due to record-low oil prices, there have been reports of people commuting from Calgary to Edmonton for the weekend to work as an Uber driver. Outside of some costly surge pricing stories, the ride-sharing service is very popular in its new Alberta home.

Looking at these two examples — Winnipeg and Edmonton — it is easy to see the economic impacts, but also the need for reasonable regulations.

No matter where you stand on Uber, it’s hard to imagine hesitant politicians will stop their growth.

Mayor Brian Bowman once likened Uber to Napster, the software that brought MP3s and free music to thousands of people around the world many years before online streaming or iTunes. It too was considered illegal, but we now see its positive impacts on our ability to access music easily.

So equate a ride to the bar with downloading the new Kanye track, Winnipeg.

Ride-sharing is the future. And there’s not much anybody can do about it.

The Rise of Sen. Sanders

As previously published on Red River College’s The Projector:

The American primary season is upon us.

This is when American voters decide who their Republican and Democrat presidential candidates will be.

Much has been made of the prospect of a President Donald Trump, but while the Republican side has become a gong-show, the Democratic side is shaping up to be an unexpectedly close contest.

For years, pundits and political observers assumed Hillary Clinton is a shoe-in for the nomination and the inevitable Democratic candidate for president. Nobody saw the 74-year-old, self-described “socialist” Bernie Sanders making a significant impact on the Democratic race.

Any assumptions for this have seemed to fly out the window since Sanders launched his bid for president last May.

Many Clinton supporters started out saying that nobody who embraced socialism could be elected president of The United States. But as Sanders’s popularity has increased, so have his poll numbers. On Feb. 1, some national polls show Sanders out-performing Clinton in match-ups against Republican leaders Trump and Ted Cruz.

While Sanders still lags behind Clinton in national matchups, he has risen to a statistical tie in two early primary states — Iowa and New Hampshire. On Feb. 1, Sanders split the delegates in Iowa—the state that played a decisive factor in then-Senator Obama’s meteoric rise to defeat Clinton back in 2008.

“What Iowa has started tonight is a political revolution,” Sanders said on Feb. 1 That was after he acknowledged that no one president could bring about the ambitious changes he and his supporters are calling for.

This fact is one of Clinton’s main attacks. She says Sanders is not being practical, but this a cynical attack. The Iowa caucuses proved that many Democratic voters are heeding the call for a political revolution.

“If a bank is too big to fail, it is too big to exist,” proclaims Sanders during every stump speech, before pointing out that Clinton receives millions of dollars in donations from said big banks.

In an attempt to drive a wedge between Democratic voters, Clinton says Sanders’s plan for universal healthcare will kill Obamacare and restart a divisive national debate. Sanders says he would merely look to expand Medicare to all Americans.

One thing is certain — Sanders has become the candidate for the anti-establishment progressives of America. While Clinton looks to brandish her establishment credentials, Sanders points to his history of leadership on progressive issues from campaign financing, to civil rights, to opposing the War in Iraq.

Sanders’s rallies are larger and his supporters are louder, but the coming weeks and months will show us if his campaign is organized enough to achieve what many pundits continue to view as unlikely, if not impossible.

iran-saudi-arabia

The Middle East’s Deepest Divide

As first published for Red River College’s The Projector:

Tensions are escalating between two major powers in the Middle East.

Sunni-run Saudi Arabia and Shia-run Iran have been experiencing a kind of cold war for decades, but in recent weeks it’s heated up. But instead of capitalism versus communism, this war is between Sunni and Shia — the two major sects of Islam.

The latest flashpoint came when Saudi Arabia went through with the execution of Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr, a Shia religious leader within Saudi Arabia — where Shiites are an oppressed minority. Amnesty International called the execution politically motivated, as Nimr al-Nimr was a non-violent activist who often spoke out against the Saudi regime.

In response to this execution, many Iranian Shiites ransacked the Saudi Arabian embassy in Iran’s capitol city of Tehran. Iranian officials were accused of purposely failing to protect the embassy, and as a result Saudi Arabia and a few of their allies cut all diplomatic ties with Iran.

Meanwhile, Iran’s government has arrested nearly 60 people who were involved with the riot, and they accuse Saudi Arabia of only cutting diplomatic ties to distract from their controversial executions.

Iran continues to condemn Saudi Arabia’s execution of Nimr al-Nimr, with Ayatollah Ali Khamenei saying there will be “divine vengeance” against the regime.

All of this has led to every major power in the world — including the United States, China and Russia — calling for calm. With the region embroiled in a war against ISIL, the last thing anybody wants is a full-blown war between two of the Middle East’s largest countries.

Yet, the Iran-Saudi tension is hard to separate from the ongoing extremism throughout the Muslim world. After all, every extremist organization will adhere to either Shia or Sunni while violently killing those who do not share their ideology.

The reality is that this division between Sunni and Shia has accounted for most of the turmoil in Iraq, both before and after George Bush’s war. And by extension it has brought us to our current struggle against ISIL.

The Iran-Saudi Arabia — Shia-Sunni — divide is really at the heart of so much violence in the Muslim World. And it will take these two countries coming together to heal this divide before any lasting peace can truly exist in the Middle East.

iran-saudi-arabia

Canada’s role against ISIS: Drop bombs or train troops? — Both or neither?

President Barack Obama has said that the goal in Iraq and Syria is ultimately to contain and defeat ISIS. He has enlisted a coalition of Western countries to mount an offensive against the medieval regime, but the results have been mixed.

As recently as hours before the Paris attacks, Obama was saying that ISIS has been contained to their sliver of territory between Iraq and Syria. Critics attacked this statement in light of the attacks, but the fact that these attacks were made by citizens of France shows that the actual geography of ISIS territory has little to do with it.

This attack points to what I see as a fatal flaw in this strategy to defeat ISIS. All military leaders will tell you that no amount of military effort alone can defeat ISIS, because their fuel is ideology rather than territorial conquest—and no amount of bombs can destroy an ideology.

In light of the attacks, many critics also criticized Prime Minister Trudeau’s plan to stop dropping bombs in Iraq & Syria. However, Canada’s military has actually increased bombing action in the months since Trudeau came to power. It remains to be seen if he’ll change this tactic, but many Canadians who voted Liberal are expecting to see an end to the bombing run.

As I’ve stated in a previous post, my worry is that this is all in vein while we continue to sell arms to Saudi Arabia, where wealthy oil magnates are actually funding factions of ISIS. The hateful Shia-based extremism of ISIS is being partially funded by some extremists in Saudi Arabia, and the West’s allegiance with this regime doesn’t seem to be softening any time soon.

Therefore, the root of ISIS’ extremism will never really be pulled out until the West comes to terms with the complicated role that Saudi Arabia is playing. It is complicated, because many Saudi officials are backing the war against ISIS and they are currently working to lead an Arab-Muslim coalition against the Islamic State. Yet, the effectiveness of these Muslim-led initiatives has been fairly week to date.

For these reasons, I believe Canada’s expertise in training troops and supporting humanitarian efforts in the region would be a far better use of our national resources.

 

Welcoming Refugees: Canada’s Compassionate Tradition

As written for Red River College’s Projector Newspaper:

Over the holidays, Canada welcomed thousands of Syrian refugees. Prime Minister Trudeau personally greeted the first wave of privately sponsored refugees, which led to international praise of Canada’s compassionate policy.
Pope Francis has called the war these refugees are fleeing, “piecemeal Third World War,” and just like the two before it, many politicians have stigmatized the victims — the Syrian families who have lost their livelihood.
During the First World War, Belgian refugees fleeing German bombs were viewed as invaders by much of the United Kingdom. During the Second World War, Jewish refugees also faced backlash with one Canadian immigration worker famously saying, “none is too many,” when asked how many our country would accept. Canada has come a long way since those days. We’ve welcomed Vietnamese, Ukrainian, Rwandan, Kosovar and Sudanese refugees along with many others. So it is only right that we respond strongly to this massive crisis. Prime Minister Trudeau set a lofty goal of 25,000 Syrians by year’s end. That proved impossible, and Canada failed to meet the smaller, revised goal of 10,000. Regardless, there seems to be a compassionate consensus across our country.

We don’t want to be on the wrong side of this historic humanitarian crisis.
Sadly, many people have not learned this lesson of history.
When President Barack Obama said the United States would welcome 10,000 Syrian refugees by the end of 2016, some American governors responded by saying none would be welcome in their states.
We have some political leaders, like Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall and Interim Conservative Leader Rona Ambrose, who question the rush to humanitarian aide — saying that security concerns need to be a priority. Yet, the majority of these refugees are women, children and families who were living comfortable lives before their homes were destroyed, and security screenings are still being done. While many non-profit organizations around the world are doing what they can to welcome Syrian refugees in many Western countries, it appears that no country shares the nearly unanimous sense of compassion Canada is currently showing.
This makes sense when you think most Canadians probably have ancestors who came to this country fleeing persecution or oppression. And unlike our southern neighbours, we celebrate this aspect of our cultural fabric. Canada is proudly compassionate. In a world full of xenophobia and stig-mas surrounding Muslims, our country is showing ISIS that we are not at war with Islam. And by offering refuge to the masses of peaceful Muslims who continue to bear the brunt of their atrocities, we are actually striking at the very heart of their hateful ideology.