Factorials Affecting Quebec Bill 21

Mathematic of Conflict

Sectarian conflict increases exponentially with the number of groups that exist.

Consider two groups, A and B. They have only one set of conflicts, each with the other. Add another group, C and suddenly you have AB, AC, BC…three sets of conflicts. Oh well, not so bad. Add yet another, now you have 4 groups, with 6 sets of conflicts: AB,AC,AD,BC,BD, CD. Add a 5th group, and sure enough, there are now 10 conflicts. Mathematically, this is expressed by the formula:


where ‘n’ is the number of groups and the symbol ‘!’ means factorial = multiple of all the integers from 1 to n together : n*(n-1)*(n-2)*…*1.

There are some tricks in this formula. You have to understand that if n = 2, then (n-2)! would look like zero, and the formula would be undefined because you were dividing by zero…so we define 0! to be the number 1. This seems arbitrary, but there are actually some pretty neat ways of getting to this idea using series of factors in more advanced mathematical analysis…yawn…just take it for granted right now, that 0! = 1.

The first ‘2’ in the denominator (the bottom part of the fraction) is curious. This stems from the fact that if you only have 2 groups, A and B, you really only have one source of conflict between A and B (its not both AB and BA in counting the conflict areas).

So try it. Five groups of conflicts leads to 5!/(2((5-2)!)) = (5*4*3*2*1)/(2(3*2*1)) = 120/(2*6) = 120/12 = 10 or count for


(remembering that in counting conflicts, AB = BA…right?…so you divide by 2 if you count them all…which we didn’t here, we just listed half…).

I used to do this with my karate students. I would have them do n! push-ups during the course of the class, but within their groupings, so that they would do n push-ups first, then a little later, they would do n-1, and later still n-2…until we got down to one push-up which they all thought was pretty silly…one push up. And then, as they massaged their shoulders, I would ask them how many push-ups they did. As weeks went by, when we got up to n = 15, they knew they were in for 105 push-ups. This usually made them grin when they realized they had done a huge number of push-ups without really realizing it.

It didn’t take them long to discover that if you just take the two numbers, n, and n-1, cut the EVEN one in half and multiply the two together you get the same result. Thus, if we started at 11 push-ups, our total by the end of class was 55.


It makes the world go around.

It governs the exponential growth in strength you can achieve doing karate. (Well…don’t examine that one too closely.)

One time, we chose ‘n’ to be twenty. Even spread out, 190 push-ups makes you sore!


Quebec Bill 21


This is why Quebec’s Bill 21 is so important, and so misunderstood. In the good old days, there was really only one conflict, Protestant versus Catholic. One conflict was enough to cause a lot of strife.

If you think back to Medieval Europe, after 622 CE, we’re talking Catholicism versus Islam, and look at the trouble we got into there. Crusades, Inquisitions…some really nasty stuff.

Then you have to consider the sub-groups who decide to search out Witches and Satanists, whether they exist or not.

Realistically in Canada, with its commitment to diversity and multiculturalism, welcoming, as we like to pride ourselves, refugees from all over the world, we have Christians, Jews, Muslims, Sikhs, Hindus,…and now even Atheists, the fastest growing group, second only to Christians if you include ‘nones’ and unaffiliated.

Let’s just leave it with the top four in terms of numbers: Christians, Jews, Muslims, Atheists (or ‘nones’ or unaffiliated). How quickly can you apply the formula above? Six opportunities for conflict, even without splitting Christians into a dizzying variety of sub-groups. Go ahead, put the numbers in the formula and show your work.

Not one area for conflict. SIX!!

Is there conflict between different religions? Not in Canada, we say, bunch of PollyAnnas that we are.

Do we bring in peoples from other parts of the world where the conflict exists? If we do, we bring in the conflict, even ignoring the conflicts that already exist, right here in CANADA.

Canada has a history of sectarian divides. Look back in the early years of French English conflict culminating in the Plains of Abraham (the famous battle between French and English for the ultimate prize of Canada itself). A famous battle, yes, fought by an Anglican against a Catholic on the land named after a Jew (well…a Scott, anyway).

It is sobering to remember that in that battle of September 1759, BOTH GENERALS DIED! In fact, the victorious general DIED FIRST! Do our Muslim brothers and sisters know this history when they arrive, that our country was born out of religious struggle and war, a religious battle that didn’t even involve theirs? That battle was the result of the immigration of European war, of socioeconomic enmity between historical enemies, and not unrelated to the schisms introduced by the Catholic Anglican divide in 16th century England, because Henry VIII wanted a divorce from his Catholic wife. Problems with importing religious intolerance began our country’s history, and we must do what we can to suppress that intolerance.

Canada, notwithstanding its violent quasi-religious origins, has been relatively free of sectarian conflict. In the birth of our nation, we had the foresight (?) to delay the conflict by incorporating Catholic and Anglican traditions into our laws, so mixed as it was in French and English, in the British North America Act, particularly around the topics of education and language. We did not address the problem then and there. They shoved that one off to us.

But let us not forget our disinclination to treat Jews fairly during the dreadful holocaust of World War II. Our Canadian anti-Semitism persisted in  attitudinal behaviours involving memberships of prestigious clubs, housing in particular areas, employment opportunities where rumours of quotas persisted…issues I was aware of as a teenager.

In welcoming refugees and immigrants to our great melting pot, most Canadians worry about inviting the sectarian violence we hear goes with it. At the same time, foreign policy of our neighbours to the south has stirred dissention and has lead to terrifying acts of violence as occurred on September 11, 2001, raising fears of similar tensions spreading to the New World. Was the cause of that torment religious, or was it because someone over here thought, “What is our oil doing under their sand?” Whatever the cause, the rallying cry was religion. As the rallying cry so often is.

All this as people become increasingly disaffected with religion because of contentious issues like homosexuality, same-sex marriage, medical assistance in dying, foundations for honesty and morality, entrance into paradise only for the chosen few, opposition to separation of church and state…well…even more complicated…churches and state.

Dealing with differences might have been practical back when we had only one conflict: Catholic versus Anglican. The rapid rise of  immigration from all of the Judao-Christian-Muslim traditions gets us quickly to three, and the addition of the second largest group in Canada, the Atheists (or nones or unaffiliated) gets us to 6. Add a couple more, Sikhs and Hindus, or even start sub-dividing, and the number of conflicts grows exponentially, now quite reasonably at least 10, possibly 15 or 20 we have to prepare for, even BEFORE we start to consider the religion that was here when we got here in the first place, those of the North American Aboriginal!

We cannot do it, folks. The world is still too immature not to exert some control over these conflicts. Until we gain the tolerance that allows us to change our guide books wherein some nasty bit of ancient xenophobia commands punishment of things the other groups take for granted, our best bet is to avoid conflict rather than deal with it. Like the BNA Act. As long as we live out Tom Lehrer’s National Brotherhood Week**, written in jest, but sadly based in reality, our best option is neutrality, and that means modelling.

Don’t tell them what to do; show them what to do. That means, in the case of Quebec Bill 21, avoiding the conflict in day to day civic interactions by totally avoiding the displays. That means thinking ahead: to the woman in the Catholic nun’s habit processing intake of applications for Medical Assistance in Dying; to the clerk emulating Kim Davis with a button saying, “It’s Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve,” checking applications for same sex marriages; to the teacher with a crucifix on her desk teaching religious instruction to the Humanists’ children.

Will this be used by malevolent bigots who wish to penalize some religious dogma they do not embrace themselves? Of course it will. Why would this law reduce malevolent bigotry? That has existed since before the Plains of Abraham.

The best we can hope for is to reduce the numbers of flashpoints, to hide the issues for a while until the populace gets used to interacting without enmity. Until expressions of groupthink, be it Christian or Jewish or Muslim or Atheist, hold no animosity toward some other group, until we all learn to interact without breaking into that animosity, until we learn to see such displays without being justifiably terrified because of vile expressions of groupthink punishments of ‘the other’.

Until we grow up, we are best advised to just avoid it.

Sore shoulders, a metaphor for diversity, due to exponential growth. The ‘n’ is large, and that is as it should be, but if we want to keep ‘n’ large, we have to be careful, we have to be realistic.

We celebrate tolerance of all, but we better do so by protecting ourselves from ourselves. Take your tolerance to work, but leave your displays at home.





Szymanski’s Rules


Screen Shot 2019-02-06 at 1.32.34 PM
Shown here as the 1960 Bronze Medalist, he won Gold in 1952 Olympics


I learned of Szymanski’s rules about 25 years ago, and while I knew they came from an Olympic class weight lifter, I can only suspect they came from Norbert Schemansky a.k.a Szymanski.


That he was an Olympic Gold Medalist is not in dispute. Nor that he was a WWII veteran who fought in the Battle of the Bulge.


For me, I just do not know, and cannot seem to find out, if he were truly the author of Schemansky’s Rules (or Szymanski’s Rules as the ‘Polish’ version might be known). Now these are truly inspirational. If quipped originally by Schemansky, in my book that puts him in the same category of home spun philosopher as Yogi Berra (“It ain’t over ’til it’s over”).


For years, I taught Szymanski’s Rules as a tribute to my wife’s, and mother-in-law’s, Polish roots, and as a tool for meaningful effort of any kind. They stuck in my head the first time I heard them. Generations of subsequent black belts, and subsequent physicians, students of mine over two and a half decades, have been exposed to these truisms. If it really was you, well, thank you Norbert. You deserve the credit.


  1. ‘The stronger you get, the harder it is to get stronger.’


In muscle physiology, this is a function of muscle training, conditioning, based on genetics. There is probably a peak strength, an asymptotic level, that nobody quite reaches, a maximum that nobody quite knows. There is only so much bulk, even in the most ridiculously muscled individual, and that will vary with family lineage, habitual training, lifestyle choices and raw determination. Knowing this rule helps to quell the frustration of progressively smaller progress.


But other physical endeavours are similar. Speed, timing, coordination are all developed in sport practice, and practice makes perfect. The more we know of our human limits as displayed by successful athletes, the more we aim for and the more we achieve. Will the marathon drop below two hours, now that Eliud Kipchoge has come so close?


So too practice effects on performance, such as music, with occasional leaps of excellence that set standards for everyone else. I have read that Chopin and Liszt competitively composed piano scores that they hoped the other would not be able to play. Certainly Glen Gould set standards of speed, where suddenly the historically melodious right hand of a Bach fugue is so fast it becomes the accompaniment to the now dominant melody in the left that nobody before him had considered.


Intellectual activities and knowledge have a parallel. While knowledge facilitates understanding for future knowledge, the experience in implementing assessments and treatments based on such knowledge clearly has a practice effect, and competence is pretty well assured with every Gladwellian 10,000 hours. Still, getting better, even maintaining that effect takes continued effort, and the world of knowledge, like everything else, is never standing still. All physicians view their profession as life-long continuous learning. Two years of retirement, and I feel I have lost more than I ever knew.


  1. ‘Winners work on their weaknesses, losers work on their strengths.’


Here, we have a useful maxim. As a high school student I automatically extended my eating preferences to my work habits. Saving the best for last (getting the broccoli down while still hungry enough to force it) and rewarding oneself with the roast beef is a moderately common practice, particularly (unknown to me at the time) of successful eaters. If you are not allowed to eschew (instead of chew) your broccoli until you are president of the USA, you’d better deal with it first.


In matters of taste, referring to work, your weaknesses are often the stuff you don’t like. English was my broccoli! I struggled to see the point of the question, “What is the mood of the witches’ scene in MacBeth?” Mood? What has bubbling and boiling got to do with mood, I would sputter, sweating with anxiety and roiling confusion, feeling like everything was getting away from me, out of control. I worked at English. I had good teachers and still I worked. Hard.


English inevitably took twice as long, twice as tediously, but I worked at it, and then scampered happily through mathematics, to finish with steady state control and low entropy in physics. How did I know I was winning? I wasn’t. English was my lowest mark, barely an A out of secondary School. Physics was damn near perfect. Mathematics was one mark off!


Back to the tough stuff, Biology was rote memory work. Boring but understandable. Chemistry was similar but at least delightfully illuminating. The order of individual success was reversed from the order of  study? English, Biology, Chemistry, Physics, Mathematics.


Like broccoli, I automatically worked on my weaknesses. I was, for whatever childhood reason, a long term gratifier, possibly due to my hearing troubles. I had learned to delay the good stuff by doing everything in order of that which I liked least, and then savouring that which I liked best. Why? I have no bloody idea.


When I first heard the rules, it took me a moment to get the second part of number 2. ‘Losers work on their strengths?’ It was hard to apply that term ‘loser’ to any work ethic. But as I went through university, I gradually came to recognize the need to manage time as much as master content, necessitating greater work on the areas I found harder. The extra work had to be reserved for the boring, difficult stuff. Had I spent ALL my time on creating the most elegant solution to some wave equation, the free energy of a redux reaction would have eluded me. As would the developmental stages of Piaget’s children.


But in that original rendition of Szymanski’s Rules, I think there was the further explanation related to vanity. If you do something really well, you love doing it (and if you love doing it, you eventually end up doing it really well). That trick dive you have mastered, the one and a half reverse summersault in layout position, entering the water cleanly, with nary a ripple or splash. Beautiful dive. The crowd loves it. You could do it all day. And you do, to the detriment of the two and a half front tuck.


As you do your best dive, over and over again, you are working on your strengths, FORGETTING Rule number 1! After all, how much better can you get.


I have had discussions with medical types about this phenomenon. One of my colleague leaders, a radiation oncologist. As is so typical in medical hierarchy, I helped hire him and he was my boss. Certainly circular, and possibly incestuous, medical management always comes down to something like this. Together we helped to run a cancer centre delivering excellent care while teaching new cancer specialists. But to attract funding and students, to foster top level research and to deliver tertiary level specialty care beside assiduously thorough teaching, we needed something extra to inspire the troops.


He delivered an impassioned speech at a meeting, to take some service, some disease we treat particularly well, and somehow make it better…put some bells and whistles on it. He too had attended some work related self-help seminar that flogged, ‘Building on Success.’


But this is health care, not competition diving. I quoted Szymanski. I argued for finding the stuff we did badly, the worst in fact, and bring it up to the quality of all the rest, and continuously do that with every service, all the time. As each treatment, each disease fell behind, put our resources into that. ‘Winners work on the weaknesses,’ I said, leaving sub voce‘ losers work on their strengths.’ But somebody else, some echo quipped the second part, having heard me quote Szymanski before, and my friend and colleague and mutual leader looked a little bleak. Was he being called a loser? Alas, the echo continued in agreement with me but mostly himself, ‘Best not cure them of lung cancer to have them die of chemotherapy toxicity.’ At least he hadn’t said radiation toxicity.

So losers, go work on your strengths. And I’ll work on the broccoli. And maybe the English.


  1. ‘If you want to lift heavy weights, you have to lift heavy weights.’


This has to be the most profound of Szymanski’s rules. It’s really the Nike, ‘Just Do It.’ You can hear him, can’t you. ‘Hey, Szymanski, what is the secret of your success? How can I become a great weight lifter?’ Well, the answer is simple and yet so commonly missed. How do you become great at anything?


There are things I have done in my life which I have become very good at. Small, seemingly simple things, but where being good at them is terribly important. The very first bone marrow biopsy I did took a long time. In the treatment of patients with leukemia and lymphoma, one often needs to dig a biopsy needle into the superior posterior iliac crest (if you lie flat on your back, curl up your head and shoulders, as well as your legs, knees to your chest…curling up in a little ball… the iliac crests are the boney part that is touching the floor at the level of your waist. If you rock back and forth, it hurts a bit as the most prominent bone against the floor.)


This biopsy is often repeated monthly. The  biopsy needle is thick, about the size of a knitting needle. You have to force it into the bone, make sure it is well seated’ into the hard boney crest, and then drill deeply, about an inch, further in. You can’t let it poke out either side of that boney plate…there is nasty stuff out there, like arteries. Local anaesthetics really only freeze the outside of the bone. When we tell patients there are no nerves on the inside of bone, we lie. It appears not to be that bad when they don’t believe it will be that bad, as long as it’s quick. I try to skip quickly over that. Needless to say, speed is of the essence. Practice makes perfect, and I used to do about 150 a year.


There is no magic. You need to be attentive. You need to be prepared for each step in the process. You probably only need to be lead through the procedure once or twice by a good teacher if you are a physician who has done other surgical stuff. But to get good, to reduce pain to a minimum, you need practice. It is not magic. It is practice. You teach the muscles by repeated practice.


Karate was very similar. It is not magic. By the time you become a black belt, about four years of regular, focused, repeated practice, you have maybe punched the air with a middle level punch, right hand, about 200,000 times. In between all the kicks, and blocks, and steps, and kata, and a host of other hand and foot techniques, all repeated low, middle and high. But the one middle level zuki…like all the other techniques, well, in four years maybe 200,000, more or less.


Now, if you ask your sensei how to get the most power into that punch, he will glibly say to contract all the muscles which propel the punch and relax all the muscles that inhibit the punch, because our strikes are always combinations of opposing muscles. Just relax all those which oppose the motion while contracting all those that don’t. Easy. Sure.


Which is why, when stroboscopic photography was originally done, the speed of a white belt’s punch was found to be about 4 times slower than the black belt’s. No surprise. It’s just practice. And since kinetic energy is mass times velocity squared, the energy delivery is 16 times greater for the black belt. Not magic, just practice. ‘But which muscles oppose the punch?’ the white belt cries.


The sensei bows, saying softly, ‘Just practice, grasshopper.’ Just do it. ‘If you want to punch punches fast, you need to punch punches fast.’ The odd thing is, I really think that is exactly what happens. When all the muscles, in perfect unison, contract at exactly the right sequence, the right ripple down the arm, with all opposing muscles loosely snapping like the tip of a whip, suddenly the lower belt gets it for the first time. The feeling is something you know when you know it, and the gi, the karate uniform tells you because suddenly the cloth of the arm of the karate-gi speaks. You feel it, and you hear it. The gi speaks to you, and you know for the first time which muscles need to contract, and which need to relax. And then, if you have half a brain, you immediately do it again and again until the gi speaks again.


And sometimes, you stop and look around you, because everybody has heard your gi too, and have stopped to look, to try to see what you did. You do it again and again, and then gradually translate that gi feeling and sound into the left arm, the legs, with different techniques one by one, always going back to that feeling you first got with your midi chudan gyaku szuki. You add hip twist, chest and shoulder re-twist later, only to find the gi speaks ever more frequently. You add kiai. You relax, lower your shoulders, and do it again, and again, until you know that feeling so well you never lose it. You get it all together in one punch, feet, legs, hip twist, waist to chest, shoulders, arm, fist, calm face…and the two inch board held by three colleagues…yes, three…one holding either side of the board and one behind those two…the board held by three of your colleagues breaks.


How did you do it? ‘If you want to punch fast punches, you have to punch fast punches.’ ‘If you want to do painless biopsies, you have to do painless biopsies.’


‘Just do it.’ That’s all.


‘If you want to lift heavy weights,’ Szymanski answers, with a shrug, turning the palms of his hands up, with an expression that says this is all quite simple, ‘you gotta lift heavy weights.’








To Impeach, Or Not To Impeach



Some Americans (and Canadians, as interested observers) are talking longingly about impeaching the president of the United States, but very few, even among the Americans, understand the process and the criteria. To listen to liberal progressive media coming from the United States, even right wing commentators like David Frum, one hears the steady rise in sonorous background thunder as the storm looms closer for The Donald.

The most recent “Real Time with Bill Maher” was perhaps the most frightening when one listens to the rising fear and anxiety of the panellists about the degradation of the world’s most famous democracy.

We, in Canada, are perplexed, and concerned. One of our own, David Frum, has raised the alarm with his book, Trumpocracy (reviewed elsewhere on the blog). And Robin Williams famously quipped a prescient simile, “Canada is like the cozy little apartment sitting above a meth lab,” well before Trump was Trump. Years ago, Tom Lehrer wrote his satirical and not so funny song, “We Shall All Go Together When We Go,” in reference to nuclear annihilation. “Every Hottentot and every Eskimo” (a no longer politically correct appellation for Canadian aboriginal). So Canadians are justifiably threatened by Trump, not just by his tariffs.Trumpocracy

But will the destruction of modern democracy be with a bang or a whimper? The latter, I suspect, if heads full of straw prevail.

With this in mind, truly in the forefront of many minds, thoughts turn to impeachment. Twice in my lifetime, watching from above (the north), this spectre has been raised, with Nixon who resigned before it occurred, and Clinton who escaped by politics, perhaps due to a lack of modern appreciation of dominance hierarchy in employment situations (Monica was his intern, for God’s sake, something even Bill seems still not to appreciate).

But what is impeachment, and what is it not?

Recently, October 2017, Sam Harris interviewed Cass R. Sunstein , the Robert Walmsley University Professor at Harvard Law School, author of Impeachment: A Citizen’s Guide. [Worked in White House for Obama. Group on Surveillance and National Security, Defence Innovation Board.]Impeachment

Professor Sunstein has researched the impeachment process and gives a very pithy review of the law and purpose, an explanation all Americans, and a lot of observers, should absorb. Several points are worth summarizing.


Abuse of Power

Impeachment is used for egregious abuse of power, presidential power, not just because the president may be a jerk. Character will not suffice. Being a boorish pig, a misogynist and racist, will not suffice. The key to impeachment is the abuse of the power of the presidency. You may not like him, tough. You can’t impeach him because you don’t like him…he’d be gone by now, were it so.


Real Crimes May Not Be Impeachable

As in the first criteria, jay walking, shoplifting, tax evasion, may not be enough to warrant the initiation of impeachment processes, because anybody can do this stuff. Indictment for these crimes can wait. Impeachment does not apply. But shooting James Comey, a suggestion made by Trump’s lawyer as something for which Trump could not be indicted, would almost certainly result in impeachment, followed in seconds by indictment…so it’s a bit silly.



Nope. Not impeachable. You should have known this when you elected him. ‘W’ was no bright light (though he is looking good now, isn’t he?) but never impeachable. You can’t impeach Trump just because he doesn’t know the difference between a Canadian and a Brit. Or why Russia is no longer welcome in the G7 (well, G6 + 1).


Display of Lunacy

While not impeachable, this is subject to the 25th Amendment, quite possibly under too much partisan control to do much good until it is virtually death or hospitalization in an asylum. But even pseudo-death is not impeachable. When Woodrow Wilson had his stroke and his wife took over, few knew. When Reagan became increasingly demented, few cared. When John Cleaves Symmes Jr. (a distant relative of the author) posited that all planets, including Earth, were hollow, and proposed an expedition to the North Pole to find the ‘North Pole Shaft’, he was supported in this activity by President John Quincy Adams, demonstrating that politicians then were just as nutty as they are today. Nobody impeached Adams.

And yet other noncriminal actions are impeachable.


Playing Hooky

Just not doing your job is impeachable. Shuffling off to play golf too much, watching TV all day, failing to undertake important activities, such as daily security briefings and skipping out on G6+1 meetings. Well, not sure about the last two…


What Crimes are Impeachable

The core criteria are based on the idea of wielding power like a king, or a dictator. Anything which looks like a monarch, for example…no going back to King George III, even if his excuse might be porphyria. Abuse of the pardon process, clearly a presidential prerogative, rises to an impeachable level of sin. Disturbing investigative processes or manipulating personnel to effect a dishonest but favorable outcome in evaluation, by hiring and firing key people, would be another. Involving other countries (enemies essentially) in the disruption of democracy, to enable your own election is yet another.

All are grist for the mill because they involve the misuse and misdirection of incredible power…like a king.


Process of Impeachment

The issue is first taken to the House of Representatives, where a 50% + 1 vote after suitable wrangling and discussion, can send the president to impeachment. Then the  Senate decides by 2/3 majority vote, whereupon, if guilty, the president is removed from office. Following removal from office, the Senate may decide further to prevent further holding federal office, and whether emoluments may accrue, such as pension.


What of Trump?

Abuse of pardon, clearly a power which only the president enjoys, has not been highlighted as a problem to be resolved by impeachment of Trump to date, but it is getting close. It should be. Yes, Trump could pardon himself, he has the power. He claimed it only yesterday. And yes, he may not have considered it, but the House could then vote to impeach him, and almost certainly would. Immediately.

Pardoning Arpaio seemed to me to be pushing the limit, given the nature, and recency, of Arpaio’s crimes, and the appearance of ‘quid pro quo’, since Arpaio was one of the first to endorse Donald Trump during his campaign. Certainly this sent a signal to others helping Trump…the purpose of serving justice appears to be secondary to the purpose of serving Trump.

Now, the spectre of pardons handed out to any and everybody in recognition of loyalty to the president could run the risk of being viewed as abuse of power.  How better to encourage criminal loyalty than by pardoning perps against possible subsequent  incarceration? Is Trump doing this? How can we know?

Paul Manafort is looking at life in prison. He better be hoping Trump will pardon him, or rely on Mueller to do something gentler than incarceration. Is the spate of pardons suddenly enjoyed by the president a message? But if Trump does this, would the country view this as kingly abuse?

Obstruction of justice can lead to impeachment, particularly when conducted using the power of the presidency. Here we see the efforts of Trump to prevent investigation into his alleged collusion with Russia possibly to obtain illegally stolen information on Hillary. Might this be granted by Putin in return for reductions of Obama-imposed sanctions, or other favours? Is this all an effort to prevent the airing of a ‘Golden Showers’ tape, as Linda Javez on Bill Maher’s Real Time claimed the other night, for example? Investigations into the meetings with Russians are being opposed by Trump (he calls it a witch hunt) by his allegedly demanding (though not receiving) loyalty from his employees (such as Comey), or openly claiming he would never have hired someone who, like Sessions, would not ‘protect him’ or ‘have his back’; perhaps even the diversions such as accusing others of similar crimes (wire-tapping and spying by Obama, collusion by Clinton), could be viewed as attempts at obstruction by diverting FBI or Department of Justice efforts; but this would be hard to prove.

Trump’s obvious reluctance to implement sanctions against Russia, the desire to curry favour from Russia (inviting them back into the G6+1), the disregard for the serious cyber-attack by Russia against the US democratic process (which may well have helped Trump into office, and may well help him again), the efforts to hide the truth by allegedly lying about subsequent actions taken (such as dictating that letter for Don Jr.), or by degrading his own institutions of intelligence gathering…these all have by some been alleged to represent attempts to obstruct the investigation into collusion with Russia in return for diplomatic favors. As Trump says, we’ll see.

Another potential abuse of presidential power might be the use of the presidency to advance his own greed through his power as president to negotiate favourable business relationships for his or his family’s businesses. Consider the putative Argentinian deal reported by David Frum in ‘Trumpocracy’:

“On November 14, 2016, Trump spoke for fifteen minutes to the president of Argentina, Mauricio Macri. According to reports in the Argentine media, Trump mentioned that a Trump-licensed building in Buenos Aires was stalled in the permitting process. The next day, Trump’s local partners triumphantly announced that the building was moving forward. It would later emerge that not only had Trump’s daughter Ivanka joined the call, but that Trump’s son Eric had arranged it, at the request of Trump’s lead partner in the Buenos Aires deal.”

Is this abuse of presidential power? Who knows? Perhaps the Senate will know!


Impeachment is Political

The House of Representatives can vote to impeach. The Senate can then find him guilty by a vote of 2/3. The courts, including the Supreme Court, do not have much input, apart from the leadership of the Chief Justice during the Senate presidential impeachment hearings.

The president can be indicted for any crimes once impeached and removed from office. It is open to discussion whether the sitting president can be indicted, but once his term is over, he certainly can be, provided the statute of limitations allows.

Americans seem increasingly worried about the state and viability of their democracy, and observers, such as Canadians, are almost equally worried. Some think the state of affairs has gone so far now that recovery in the eyes of the world may only be achieved by removal of Trump from office. But it seems he cannot be removed for his misogynistic behaviour (barring supportable accusations of sexual assault), his objectification of women (invasion of privacy at his beauty pageants, labels of aesthetic classification (“She’s not a ten”), and greaby behaviour with his daughter), let alone his locker room talk. tj5qdp4yur7rfbmelfiv

He cannot be impeached for his lies, except as they advance other sins such as obstruction of justice.  He cannot be impeached for his malignant narcissism, his stupidity, or his brash braggadocio. He cannot even be impeached for his foreign policy of favouring despots (Putin, Kim, Duterte, Erdogan) and snubbing allies (Trudeau, Macron, May, Merkel), unless it were to translate into some ‘quid pro quo’ for his business, his family or his election.

But when he IS impeached…when it does occur…it is a couple of voting sessions! Not a court with rules of evidence, per se. Not a jury pondering all the evidence. It’s a consensus by the House, a campaign rally by the Senate. Once he is impeached for the right thing, he could be out on his butt in a heartbeat. He might be crying foul, he would almost certainly be blaming Obama, he might be asking why Hillary didn’t suffer this disgrace (and someone would dutifully remind him that she didn’t win the presidential election)…but he would be out.

And maybe democracy will be saved.

BOOK REVIEW: Trumpocracy. The Corruption of the American Republic by David Frum



In my life as a physician, I am aware of Ipecac, a medication used in emergencies to induce vomiting, in those cases where the substance taken does not further endanger the patient by the induction of vomiting.

It is an emetic…it induces emesis.

Well, if you need to induce emesis, this book is for you.

Not because of the writing…the writing is excellent, up to the standards of the journalist, David Frum, respected for his honesty and and clear analysis, Republican though he is, and has been, to this day. In fact, Frum voted for HillaryClinton, something he never would have thought he could do, because, as he reported, “I was voting for the American system. I was voting for the rules, the norms, the Constitution that I expected her to respect even as she implemented policies with which I disagreed—unlike Donald Trump, who would subvert those standards even in those cases where he did things I might approve.”[p195/274]

In the first half of the book, Frum outlines Trump’s sins in detail, and this is truly one of the very few times a book has brought me that dreaded sensation of nausea; it is terribly hard for me to quell the sense of revulsion I feel when reading about Trump…the concentration of details is more than I can physically take.


Reporting, “He’s the meanest man I’ve ever met,” [p69/274] uttered by one reporter in Trump’s entourage, Frum outlined the incident of Sean Spicer, a devout Catholic, being denied an opportunity to meet the pope for no apparent reason other than Trump could do it, he could play with that kind of power.

I certainly remember the reporting of his rages, and ‘Trumper tantrums,” as they at first became known. Apparently those who work for Trump know that he might embarrass or denigrate anyone, at any time, for any reason.

His self-centered self-pity translates into nasty behavior towards others, without necessarily obvious cause.

“Trump has created a snake pit working environment, seething with hatreds and perforated by mutually vindictive leaks. He extracts grovelling flattery in public and private, but never requites even the most abject loyalty,” Frum writes. His anger is most stirred by any who criticize  him, surprise him, or stop him from doing what he wants to do. He hates criticism, and demands flattery. With this type of temperament, Frum argues, he ends up surrounding himself with people who believe they will do the right thing when the time comes, but end up by struggling to curry his favor with lies.  Frum asks, “If the Trump administration were as convinced as you are that you would do the right thing—would they have asked you in the first place?”[p69/274]

To make sure it stays that way, Trump insists on reviewing the resume of every cabinet and sub- or sub-sub-cabinet member, in search of abject loyalty.


Frum reports that no American president has dealt out more lies. He rattles off a representative list: birther hoax, popular vote difference and illegal voting, New Jersey Muslims cheering 9/11, demographics of terrorists, Russian collusion with Democrats, his own inauguration attendance, his legislation record, Trump University, reasons for not releasing tax returns, not to mention his persistent deceitful defaming of those who oppose him from Crooked Hillary to Lying Ted to Little Marco.

Recently, since Frum’s book was published, this seems to be getting even worse, with such things as ‘Spygate’ and accusing Mueller and the FBI of planning to meddle in the next election!?!


Frum neatly outlines a timeline of events (and again we are learning of even more after this book went to press) of interactions between the Trump campaign and Russian contacts. He reports as well, “it certainly looks as if the Trump campaign coordinated its strategy and messaging with Russian-sponsored hacking and disinformation efforts.” The appearance of aiding the Russians for this work by threats to NATO, and reappraisal of President Obama’s sanctions through General Michael Flynn is frighteningly stark.

This, to Frum, represents the most successful foreign espionage attempt against the country, facilitated by a political party that is circling the wagons to protect Trump.

Foreign Affairs

Many former allies in Europe and abroad appear to be losing faith in the USA. Frum quotes polls demonstrating increasing distrust that the United States will do the right thing, by former allies such as South Korea, Japan, Australia, Europe, United Kingdom. Frum argues that Trump favors non-democratic countries because of better commercial opportunities with dictators and oligarchs.

Worse still, Trump has revealed information which can be used by America’s enemies to interfere with intelligence assets when “he described how the Islamic State was pursuing elements of a specific plot” to Russian foreign minister Lavrov, prompting one of his former campaign workers to comment that “…he looks like a comlete moron…”.


Trump complains about leaks in the White House, leaks which the administration has never been able to control or root out. Frum writes, “Donald Trump says more things that should not be said than any president in American history. But also more than any president in history, he works in an office he cannot trust and knows he cannot trust.” You really have to wonder if some of those leaks are designed to protect the country from it’s lazy, dishonest and narcissistic president.

Frum recounts the story of nine senior officials in multiple agencies who told a Washington Post reporter of Michel Flynn’s references to the Obama administration’s election-related sanctions against Russia, and how that matter might be reviewed following Trump’s election.

“It had to be assumed that the Russian embassy would immediately alter its communications methods, denying the United States future information flows, at least for some period of time. To protect the United States from a compromised national security adviser, nine senior intelligence officials agreed to burn an important American national secret.”


When Trump began his campaign and announced he would not take a salary as president, I was certainly puzzled. But as Frum points out, “The people who could write large checks had noticed Trump’s practice of diverting campaign funds to his own businesses…” and goes on to list various ways money was transferred to his bottom line. One source, for example, donations to fund the inauguration, can be distributed without reporting requirements. “The Trump inaugural committee promised that any unused funds would be donated to charity. No charity ever announced receipt of any gift from this source, nor did Trump’s inaugural committee offer any accounting for the money it received.”

Remember the Megyn  Kelly debate fiasco leading to Trump’s boycott of the second Fox News debate? Trump promised to donate money he raised at a rally to charity, trying to take TV ratings away from the televised debate. Frum writes, “…it would take months for Trump to be shamed into disgorging the money he raised and to honor his own million-dollar pledge”.


The summary of Trump’s actions as president and his character is actually stated on page 10, in the book, though my copy is an ebook and finding proper reference points is tricky (my apologies here for lack of specific references for quotations above…you’ll have to read the book in entirety):

“President Trump has plunged the government of the United States into chaos that enhances his personal power. He has persuaded millions of Americans to ignore information they need as “fake news” from a “corrupt media.” He has allowed foreign states and local politicians to tamper with the integrity of American elections to his own benefit. He demands that high officials disregard the law in favor of personal loyalty to him. He has concentrated power in the hands of military men—better men than himself, but not the right hands for the job of civilian government. He has alienated allies, appeased large enemies, and goaded small ones to the edge of war. He has brutally inflamed the ethnic and class divisions that empowered him in the first place. He has enriched himself in government in a way that disheartens every honest public official, and invites dishonest ones to imitate him.” [p10/274]

Frum’s penultimate paragraph gives guidance for the next election, but takes it even further and engages Trump’s enablers, who Frum clearly disparages (so if you are one of them, take heed):

“As President Trump is cruel, vengeful, egoistic, ignorant, lazy, avaricious, and treacherous, so we must be kind, forgiving, responsible, informed, hardworking, generous, and patriotic. As Trump’s enablers are careless, cynical, shortsighted, morally obtuse, and rancorous, so Trump’s opponents must be thoughtful, idealistic, wise, morally sensitive, and conciliatory. “They go low, we go high,” a wise woman said,” (who said that first, Michelle Obama or Hillary Clinton?)

It is a good book. I suspect it was hastily written, and published in order to inform the mid-term elections in the United Sataes. I was particularly intrigued by the fact it is in the library immediately after publication. Cory Doctorow has written of the value of providing some of his books for free because obscurity is the enemy of authors, but obscurity is not something David Frum needs to worry about. What Frum worries about is his adopted country.

Buy it, or borrow it through your local library, read the book. And if you need an emetic, ask your doctor…there are safer ones, but none more effective.

Book Review: A Higher Loyalty



If you don’t think that Trump is a dirtbag right now, as CNN’s Phil Mudd calls him, you just might after reading this book…but even if you don’t, even if you are an Always Trumper, if you are an honest one, this book is still fascinating on several different levels

I first watched James Comey giving testimony in a senate hearing. You notice him because he is tall, and not a little geeky, with his ‘Lordy, lordy’ expression he seems not to have extirpated from his speech patterns. Very quickly, as I listened to him, I got the impression he was honorable, honest, and desperately trying to do the right thing.

A lot of people like to criticize him, though, because many think he single-handedly (with the help of Russia, and a little Hillary) brought down Hillary Clinton’s candidacy for president, or worse, elevated Donald Trump to where he is today…which frankly can make Comey the anti-Christ to Democratic eyes.

The Book

James Comey was the seventh director of the FBI, appointed by President Barrack Obama and fired by President Donald Trump. He had served George Bush as  Deputy Attorney General under AG John Ashcroft, where he had opposed that administration’s use of surveillance and torture, but his most recent notability has been his awkward ouster by Trump for continuing the Russian probe and declining to swear fealty. The book is not just payback; it may more rightly be a rallying cry for presidential impeachment.

Comey outlines his early years as a wimpy geek who grows to an awkward 6 foot 8 inch and achieves his desire of a position at highest levels in American law-enforcement, that might allow him perhaps to save the country…it’s too early to tell. In the course of his description of events in his life, we experience his take on, and successful opposition to some sinister legal procedures of the ‘W’ administration, his investigation of Hillary Clinton’s email fiasco when she was Secretary of State, which lead to her political upset, and the initial phases of the Russia Investigation which shines an ominous light on the 2016 presidential election, not to mention Trump’s toxic narcissism. Comey’s major conclusion is that Trump is morally unfit to be president, and is quite possibly guilty of obstruction of justice necessitating the appointment of  perhaps yet another special prosecutor.

Media Opinion

Pundits who have not yet read the book…it just came out today (April 17th, 2018)…are critical of the excerpts they have seen, and interviews of Comey himself, because they find the descriptions of Trump’s urolagnia and enjoyment of Russian sex trade, tawdry, and thus unbecoming of Comey’s position as a former Director of the FBI (perhaps forgetting the first director). The mental image of the President of the United States of America titillated by watching two prostitutes urinate on a bed once used by Michelle and Barrack Obama, however true it might be, seems to be a picture too voyeuristic for television political junkies. On CNN, coming from this conservative nerd, it seems out of place, but within the description of the entire book, it is rendered more of a police blotter report, making one think the excerpt has been salaciously selected for best marketing.

The journalists all question Comey’s motives as a disgruntled employee, bent on getting even for the nasty way

384px-James_Comey_official_portraithe was fired.

The pundits quibble that he should not be talking at all because he is leaking classified information (he is not…some of this info has never been classified, and he is now a private citizen, thanks to Trump).

The talking heads seem to think he should just accept Trump’s dreadful epithets and lies, but Comey will not.


It is breath-taking how they expect the bar of behavior to be so incredibly higher for Comey than the one expected of Trump himself, who has actually called for (well, tweeted for) Comey’s immediate incarceration (trial? what trial? who needs a trial?).

Trump is claiming the former director of the FBI is exhibiting impropriety, uncivil behavior (for which Comey should be jailed?).  Partisan surrogates, otherwise known as Republicans, say ‘good riddance’ to an honest man.

Comey is accusing Trump of being morally unfit to be president, and in this even Comey’s detractors probably agree.


Yes, they call him dishonest, while Trump calls him ‘Lyin’ Comey,’ apparently forgetting he applied this appellation to ‘Lyin’ Ted Cruz’…you remember, that guy whose father, according to the dignified Trump, was an assassin of John F Kennedy.

In this book, the beginnings being a short auto-biography, Comey exposes with considerable transparency his craven behavior the night Ramsey the Rapist threatened him and his brother, reflected by his leaving his neighbor’s wife and daughter locked outside with the rapist during the melee. Fortunately, they were unharmed.

He also confesses his weaknesses. “Some of mine, as you’ll discover in this book, are that I can be stubborn, prideful, overconfident, and driven by ego. I’ve struggled with those my whole life.” Frankly, to the reader, this seems very much like the reverse or other side of some Dunning-Kruger effect applied to character rather than intelligence. I frankly see none of those faults.

Comey describes his own insecurities which culminate in one of his worst ever sins, trashing some unpopular kid’s dorm room in order to get along with his peers, “Four decades later, I’m still ashamed of myself,” he writes. Is this something Trump might write? You know better.

Comey is guilty of lying about his basketball prowess in order to avoid ubiquitous comments about his excessive height. “I don’t know why I did that. Maybe I was insecure. Maybe it was just easier.” You know to Trump and his surrogates, this will be the greatest lie ever.

Petty Descriptions

One of the biggest criticisms of the book is that Comey appears to belittle Trump based on his appearance, including Trump’s ridiculous hair, orange tanning outline to his eyes, and the question of Trump’s small whatever. Out of context, in the marketing excerpts, it does sound pretty petty, but within the book itself it is simply part of the paragraph of description of Comey’s first meeting with Trump. Nevertheless, one of the fascinating insights of the book is how the media scramble to find some egregious criticism…and this was it.


This was the first time I’d ever seen Donald Trump face-to-face. He appeared shorter than he seemed on a debate stage with Hillary Clinton. Otherwise, as I looked at the president-elect, I was struck that he looked exactly the same in person as on television, which surprised me because people most often look different in person. His suit jacket was open and his tie too long, as usual. His face appeared slightly orange, with bright white half-moons under his eyes where I assumed he placed small tanning goggles, and impressively coiffed, bright blond hair, which upon close inspection looked to be all his. I remember wondering how long it must take him in the morning to get that done. As he extended his hand, I made a mental note to check its size. It was smaller than mine, but did not seem unusually so.

Remember how it was portrayed on CNN? Here, this appears a description of someone, who, in 100 years, will be hopefully just a footnote.


It is easy to see why Hillary is bitter about Comey, and Comey’s explanation of the email debacle is tricky, difficult to follow, but fascinating. It is hard for me to see this as attempts at self-aggrandizing, though; more likely naive expectations that he might effect some correction to what he saw as a flawed and unfair process for both himself and Clinton. It all depends on how much liberty you give the man. It could simply be a desperate struggle of someone trying to do the right thing when there was really no ‘right thing’.

The explanation, however, exposes a lot of misinformation of the pundits and talking heads, conjuring up rules of behavior that are undefined. But, as Comey writes, “There was much hysteria about how we were violating Justice Department rules and policies. Of course, there were no such rules and there had never been another situation in the middle of an election like this.”

It is notable that Chuck Schumer and Barrack Obama acknowledged the impossible position Comey was in. Comey was in a lose lose situation which the book explains moderately well, though you have to read this part carefully.

In Return

In contrast to the minor faults of the author which even people on his side of the argument try to exaggerate, the description of the president’s behavior is every ill that we have come to normalize about the most powerful leader in the world.

Trump is accused roundly in the media and by Comey of many things: egotistical in the extreme, ignorant of anything (let alone nuance) remotely related to governance, flagrantly and willfully dishonest, clearly immoral even by today’s loose  sexual revolution standards…but by far the worst characteristic which is not out and out illegal, Trump is really, really nasty.


We saw some of that with his manipulation of the firing of Andrew McCabe, engineering the event to rid him of his pension just two days before the limits. We see it again when Trump turns a private conversation with McCabe (it is hard for decent people to read this passage):

Still in a fury at McCabe, Trump then asked him, “Your wife lost her election in Virginia, didn’t she?” “Yes, she did,” Andy replied. The president of the United States then said to the acting director of the FBI, “Ask her how it feels to be a loser” and hung up the phone.

McCabe’s wife is a pediatrician and Democrat who ran for public office and lost. The president of the USA is behaving like a hideous fourteen year old.

Nudged by the president on several occasions to swear some oath of loyalty to Trump,  Comey steadfastly declines. Trump fires Comey in the most petty, childish act possible, allowing him to discover his own loss of employment as TV monitors about the room in which Comey was addressing an audience of FBI staff displayed the announcement of Comey’s resignation, then swiftly it changed to Comey’s firing. Comey was mid-sentence when he saw this above his audience in California. Contrast this despicable example of Trump’s type of human interaction, with Comey’s subsequent and immediate consideration:

I told the audience, “Look, I’m going to go figure out what’s happening, but whether that’s true or not, my message won’t change, so let me finish it and then shake your hands.” I said, “Every one of you is personally responsible for protecting the American people and upholding the Constitution of the United States. We all have different roles, but the same mission. Thank you for doing it well.” I then moved among the employees, shaking every hand, and walked to a private office to find out what was happening.

This is leadership. Trump’s behavior is pure childish vindictiveness. All this for the man that Trump had openly praised only three months before, but Comey would not kiss Trump’s ring, and that was the non-kiss of death.

Trump’s attempt to insult and embarrass Comey even went so far as to deny Comey access to the FBI plane that brought him out to California, though the Deputy Director Andrew McCabe authorized Comey’s return by that flight, raising the fury of Trump that his childish sadistic prank was subverted.


While Comey paints a picture of an impulsive, selfish, nasty, vengeful, ignorant imbecile in the country’s president, whose morals and treatment of people is despicable, Comey also builds a case for obstruction of justice with respect to Michael Flynn (over whom Trump tries to negotiate with Comey regarding Flynn’s illegal behavior) and to Trump’s  own alleged culpability in the Russian probe (trying to prevent Comey from pursuing the investigation into Russian meddling, and the distinct but currently alleged possibility of Trump’s election being illegitimate in the first place because of  collusion with Russian oligarchs).

Comey calls for a special prosecutor to find the tapes Trump referred to of Trump’s many conversations with his administration and possibly uncover a plot of obstruction of justice.

Without a doubt, the picture Comey paints of Trump is of an incredibly insecure  man devoid of ethical behavior or a desire to lead and filled with vituperative vengeance. Comey comes across as honest and transparent man dedicated to the law and protecting others from the bullies that made his own childhood miserable.

Does Comey come across as weak, as some partisan pundits argue? Well, he is taking on the most powerful man on earth who wants him jailed immediately without bothering with a trial. He is opposing his own political party. He has a past history now of taking on the most powerful woman in the USA in the pursuit of truth and the law.

No, he is not weak. Will he win? I doubt it, but I truly hope so.


I will add to this, and clean it up a bit, but there will be errors in my haste to get this out (the book went on sale yesterday, and I read it in a single twelve hour sitting, sidelined as I was by a knee injury). To this point in time, I see the media making some disparaging claims about the book which I attribute to the fact they have not yet read it…when put together as this is, the result is actually horrifying about the alleged behavior of the 45th president of the United States.

There is a curious unexplained entry which has, as yet, not been touched in the media.

First, in mid-June, the Russian government began dumping emails stolen from institutions associated with the Democratic Party. It began with entities calling themselves DCLeaks and Guccifer 2.0. They were stolen emails intended to harm Clinton and the Democrats. This made very real the prospect that the classified material relating to Loretta Lynch might drop at any moment, not decades from now. [Emphasis added.] As noted earlier, the release of that material, the truth of which we had not verified, would allow partisans to argue, powerfully, that the Clinton campaign, through Lynch, had been controlling the FBI’s investigation.

The potential exposure of unverified classified information about Loretta Lynch seems to have altered Comey’s thinking about what to tell the American people, but we may never know how, nor just what that material was.

My own conclusion is that Comey’s primary reason for this production is to call for the investigation of a man whom he believes may be dishonest, illegitimate, criminal and possibly treasonous. James Comey is the former director of the FBI, former Deputy Attorney General of the country, and a man known by his friends, acquaintances and enemies as honorable, honest, moral and yes stubborn. I think Comey is right, and I think we should all buy and read his book. The counter-punch is coming as soon as Trump gets someone to read and translate the best parts to him.

By far, the most startling statement in the entire book, one that runs a chill up your spine and essentially commands all Americans, and many others around the world, to read this book:

Donald Trump’s presidency threatens much of what is good in this nation. We all bear responsibility for the deeply flawed choices put before voters during the 2016 election, and our country is paying a high price: this president is unethical, and untethered to truth and institutional values. His leadership is transactional, ego driven, and about personal loyalty. We are fortunate some ethical leaders have chosen to serve and to stay at senior levels of government, but they cannot prevent all of the damage from the forest fire that is the Trump presidency. Their task is to try to contain it.

This, from a man heretofore well known for his integrity and honesty, a man who was the Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation and formerly the Deputy Attorney General of the United States, a man who was praised frequently by both sides, and a man who, mistakenly or not, did what HE thought was right, a slave perhaps to his own righteousness, even though he must have known the incredible dangers.

The stuff that gets me the most is the claim that I am in love with my own righteousness, my own virtue.

But you should be in love with your own righteousness, when you think about it. You should want to protect it at all costs, even your career. You should be proud of your own righteousness. God knows Comey has earned it. Can ANYONE say the same of Donald Trump?

Buy the book. If you Americans love your country, buy the damn book.

Sure, this will make him money…he’s going to need it.




Comey, James. A Higher Loyalty: Truth, Lies, and Leadership. Flatiron Books. Kindle Edition.  ISBN 978-1-250-19246-2

A Level Playing Field for Capitalism

Early use of tools

The Child Grows Up

I learned, very young, not to use my precocious mesomorphic stature to ‘beat up’ on the competition in the schoolyard. Youngest in a family of three boys, living in the back woods of southern Ontario, rough and tumble play gave way to down-right nastiness, until that fateful day I found myself dominating my eldest brother. It was a shock to us both, I being fourteen years old, he nineteen. And although he would forever tower over me in my mind, he was already diminutive on my path to 5’ 11 3/4”. His 5’ 6” just didn’t cut it.

We had passed the level playing field unnoticed some time before, and this test of strength found him face down in the yard, with me holding him in a hammer-lock. It proved a Pyrrhic victory.

“Go ahead. Break it,” he growled through the dirt, rather than capitulate, and my own conquest melted away in my horror. I was defeated by my own sense of fairness, of decency (there are those who say I should have broken his arm then and there). In an instant it was obvious this would never again be a ‘fair fight,’ just as it had never been a fair fight during all those years that I had suffered.

But then, we never fought again; his abuse of me became one that earns the ninth level of Dante’s inferno (treachery), rather than simply the seventh (violence).

I was a peculiar child, introverted in spite of obvious athleticism, lost in my thoughts and aware of my intelligence which blessedly loomed larger as well.

Lucky Advantages

It was about this very moment that I drew the analogy of strength as an unfair and undeserved advantage, to intelligence as a cudgel I also must not abuse. I actually reasoned, philosophically at fourteen, eschewing philosophy publicly for the rest of my life, that to ‘beat up’ on someone intellectually was just as bad as to do so physically.

I was a peculiar child. Thoughts like this should not have surfaced for at least forty years.

Since then I have watched the constant tennis match between the Left and the Right, the spectator calmly rotating his head back and forth following the long rallies.

Pock, pock.

Survival of the fittest because incentives work. Capitalism.

Pock. Pock.

Universal basic income because nothing works. Socialism.

Pock, pock.

We used to have a dog, a large Springer Spaniel, that would chase our tennis balls in those halcyon summer days before courts had ball-encompassing wire fences. The dog’s incentive was a morsel of white bread. WonderBread, in fact. The balls would come back a little slimy, sometimes canine punctured, especially when the bread was stale, but dutifully dropped in the centre of the court.

Retrieving is what I do!

That is, until we ran out of bread. Curiously, then the balls started disappearing, hidden deep in the surrounding forest, only to reappear the next day when we came with a new supply of fresh bread.

Incentives work, and the damn dog was beating up on us intellectually.

I needed a level playing field with my brothers, my schoolmates, and even my dog.

The polarization of the political landscape in the USA has captured my attention for these last fifteen months. Distracted by that orange orangutan who inhabits the building we Canadians desperately tried to burn down in 1814, my thoughts have turned obsessively, repeatedly, to solutions that might bring those opposing political ideologies together.

Capitalism works, but gouges deep caverns out of playing fields, creating socioeconomic gaps which destabilize the populace. As a spectator in a country that enjoys its socialism without daring to call it socialism, that enjoys universal health care which does not suppress business development, that enjoys a moderately effective safety net, that enjoys a democratic government which actually has a process for extirpating orange orangutans who accidentally gain ascendancy…we Canadians collectively watch the ball going back and forth, in that country to our south.

Pock. Pock.

Contradictory Platform

I fantasize running for some political office in the USA, standing on a dais in front of a crowd as a Democratic candidate and fool them all by cheering on Capitalism. 350px-Roll_call_DNC_2008Let the race begin. Survival of the fittest. Spoils to the winner. Work hard and make it big, the American Dream.


Start from a level playing field. Start with the basics as equivalent as possible: intelligence, education, health, safety. Then fire the starting gun and let them go.

House them comfortably and nourish them, keeping families together with dignity. Educate them as far as they can productively progress. Secure their minds and their bodies with universal, free health care. Provide them with basic room and board. Keep them safe.

Then let them compete for the largesse. Some will innovate, work hard, get rich by the sweat of their brow. Some will discover cures and stars and ideas. Some will entertain. Some will govern. And all will be paid accordingly. But all will start, at the very least, with the basic health and education, room and board, safety and governance, under a progressive tax system which still maintains substantial incentives.

Remove inheritance. Reduce class divides. Remove the initial imbalances. Include many more people in the workforce at appropriate levels of ability.

Socialism Through Capitalism

Capitalism, with a level playing field. Capitalism without the handicaps. Capitalism without the cheating. Capitalism without the poverty, without the monstrous gap. Capitalism without personal empire. Capitalism with nobody left behind.

There are those who would say that some will freeload. Some will simply enjoy subsistence living. Drugs and a life of crime offset by policing and governance. Well, so what? At least you don’t have that guilt of the uncaring middle-class.

There are those who will claim it is against God’s commandments. There are those who will say, ‘Thou shalt not steal,’ ever the harking call of the strange business-Evangelical bedfellows (1.) who want the duty of wealth redistribution wrested from big government and given, far more cheaply, to big religion where it belongs. Soup kitchens dragging in the faithless indolent to become the faithful penitent, amounts to the ‘right’ type of progress.

There are those who would claim the right to perpetuate family dynasties. Tell them they should earn it at each generation. Or show them the orange orangutan, and ask if family dynasty truly helped him (or the country).

There are those who would say it cannot be afforded, it is too costly. They forget it is already happening, or that they claim it is. The undeserving poor are getting health care, education, room, board, one way or another, but without the dignity commensurate to those who ‘earn it.’

To a very real extent, physical strength and intellectual quotient are, largely, pure dumb luck. No one of us provides our own nature or nurture which causes either inborn trait to excel. Both can be improved within narrow limits. Both can be destroyed within not-so-narrow limits. If you want FAIR incentives to reward invention, determination, hard work, and unswerving focus, you have to start out equal…or as close to equal as possible. If you want FAIR  incentives.

Capitalism from a level playing field. Socialism with nice big morsels of fresh WonderBread. Just don’t call it socialism.

  1. Kruse, Kevin M., One Nation Under God, How Corporate America Invented Christian America, ISBN-13: 978-0465049493. Basic Books, New York, 2015

Post-script: “People confuse intelligence with value.” Jordan B. Peterson. Yes, this is part of the problem. We should view intelligence more like we do strength; even there the value is becoming questionable over time.



Modern Messiah? or Father Figure to the Orphans


Picture of Jordan B Peterson lecturing at U of T


I find this (link below) a fascinating and entertaining talk, from an equally fascinating man. I will probably have to get the book to examine the issues properly…

I don’t think I have ever ‘held in abeyance’ an opinion about someone for such a long time. The crowd seen in the video, typical of many who come to see Peterson, is large, focused and inquisitive, and gives him a standing ovation wherever he goes. Right or wrong, it is an amazing phenomenon!


This is what I said about Peterson a YEAR ago:

A friend of mine, Mario Coniglio, shared an article about Jordan Peterson some months ago. It offended me because I felt Peterson’s sensitivity to LGBT community was insufficient, and that his objection to abiding their request for different gender specific pronouns was picayune. I think Mario was a little surprised by my objection, but I just felt there was more trouble in the world to deal with than fighting with a bunch of people who were being marginalized and denigrated, even over something as important as free speech. I still think that way, that his objection was ‘over the top’.
But I was curious, because Mario is a pretty smart guy, a professor at UW, and because the story actually involved some university demands on free speech, demands which as an Associate Professor in Medicine at Western, I was not experiencing (after all, it’s not like Medicine is part of the Humanities).
Then, seeing complaints about Peterson … I took a look at some of his lectures and interviews.
The man, Peterson, is very intelligent, thoughtful, and intellectually honest. Many of his ideas are very interesting and certainly align with a lot of what I think as well. ‘The meaning of life is proportional to the responsibility you take.’ Was that his?
I still don’t think he should have made such a fuss over the pronoun issue, but I have a little more understanding of that…I need to find one of his talks on that subject, and to the extent that the issue is mixed in with a threat on academic freedom, perhaps he has more justification than I thought.
There are things he says that I do not agree with, though I believe we don’t have enough evidence to decide:

He seems to believe humans are inherently irrational without moral grounding and further believes a moral structure arises from religion. Curiously, I am not at all sure he believes in an all-powerful, omniscient god, or that if he did he would tell us honestly (notwithstanding his intellectual honesty; his support for God may be strategic and a little manipulative, I don’t know), but more importantly he thinks it is necessary to have the concept lest humanity descend into moral chaos. “Don’t throw the baby out with the bath-water.”

I think this issue is one of Peterson’s main objections to New Atheism, and his tone when talking of Dawkins and Harris is certainly disparaging to my ear, but I could be hearing what isn’t there. To summarize, he doesn’t like throwing out religion not because he thinks God is important, or real, but because he thinks humanity cannot survive without God. I think this is overly pessimistic, although for years I believed that proselytizing atheism was intellectually honest, but strategically silly. So maybe he and I actually agree, …
I am going to read a lot more of Jordan Peterson. I think he is worth reading, and worth listening to. ‘Velut arbor aevo. May she ever thrive-o. Toronto ever is my alma mater.’

That’s what I wrote a YEAR ago.

Well, that was then. I have listened to a lot of Jordan Peterson since then. The best I can say about myself after all this is that I am capable of keeping my mind open enough that I can turn 180 degrees when I have sufficient reason…and that’s pretty good.

I know now that I fall into the 25% who write to him to say that his talks have allowed me to now put into words those things I already understood but didn’t know how to say.

I know now that he is probably one of the ‘most likely to be misunderstood’ intellectuals because he does not protect himself from…or pre-empt…that misunderstanding, as when he says he agrees with ‘equality,’ but not ‘equality of outcome’…or when he argues that you cannot lay ‘hierarchical inequity’ at the feet of capitalism, because “That’s just wrong,” or when he rails on the post-modern neo-Marxists, whatever they are, who seem to inhabit a world I don’t (Humanities…I may just be unexposed).

I know now that you have to listen very carefully when he speaks, because the Alt-Right really should not applaud him at all.

I know now that he will speak to anybody, as if ‘on principle,’ even Bill O’Reilly.

I know now that his put-down of the doom-mongering Evangelists (i.e. William Lane Craig) who argue there is no meaning to life without God is one of the most beautiful passages of oratory I have heard in a long, long time, and after that, Jordan B Peterson has earned enough of my tolerance to let him do a lot of wrong before I will think that ill of him again.

So, as stingy as I am, I can’t get this at the library, and I really want to understand, lest I claim his Rule # 1 to be infantile (“Stand up straight”) when in fact, I just was listening too fast and not far enough. It turns out that Rule # 1 is the one I believe the most (possibly because I can’t remember Rule # 2)…

Cobalt Nebula uploaded this in parts and I have…