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An Eye on the White House

December 04, 2017

Can’t Stop Thinking of the Damage Trump is Doing to America?

Does it seem like there is no getting away from Donald Trump? There he is on TV. And on the internet. And in the newspaper. Your friend talks about Trump almost as much as their spouse and kids. The person ahead of you at the grocery store is talking about him on their phone. His leering, orange, dimwitted face stares out from magazine covers.

It seems like Trump is everywhere and that makes it incredibly difficult to stop thinking about the incredible damage he is perpetrating. But what can you do? It seems irresponsible to just unplug and shut out the rest of the world. Surely, the fact that we ended up with Trump as president is due in part to people not doing their due diligence and failing to see that this third-rate conman and pathological liar has no business running a hot dog stand, let alone one of the most powerful countries in the world.

The whole ongoing situation can make one incredibly sad. Newsweek even recently warned that the average case of winter blues could be worse this year because of Trump.

Try to keep the following in mind:

Don’t Forget the Expiration Date

Trump won’t remain in power forever. While it’s pretty clear now that Republicans will not impeach him, the 2020 election seems like a pretty sure way for America to be rid of him. Providing, of course, that Democrats can put their divisions behind them and come together behind a candidate that truly serves liberal interests.

Recognize Your Limits

You can protest, you can resist, you can never surrender, but you can’t win this fight by yourself. Also, if you let Trump bother you to the point where it is compromising the rest of your life, then that could create serious personal problems for you, your loved ones, and possibly even the friends who support you.

Remember the Likely Damage to the GOP

Yes, Trump’s support doesn’t seem to waver among those who drank the Kool-Aid, but once they realize just how badly this new tax bill will impact them, a good number will finally wake up. Trump may have support now, but remember, even with those numbers, he still has the lowest popularity of any president at this stage in recent history. Trump’s damage will inevitably impact the GOP in both the House and the Senate. How much, however, will ultimately be up to Democrats and their supporters.

So, stay alert and stay vigilant, but don’t be afraid to disengage and tell your politically engaged uncle, “Let’s not talk about Trump today.”

 

November 29, 2017

Politics at Christmas: Should You Just Keep Quiet?

Politics is a hot button topic at the best of times. Now, a year after Donald Trump’s election victory, it is a positively radioactive one. America is divided like no time in recent memory and that clash can extend right to the Christmas dinner table. Some people dread holiday a get together because of things like the cost, travel time, and the headache of many little children sharing the same space. However, the final straw for some this year just might be the thought of listening to a drunken Uncle Roy singing Trump’s praises.

Would you agree to a holiday embargo on political discussions? After all, shouldn’t Christmas be the single most non-partisan day of the year? Avoiding the topic altogether would seem to be the easy answer, but surprisingly enough, some psychologists and mediators disagree. Their take is that we should actually take advantage of the opportunity to share a meaningful dialogue.

The advice each expert offers differs somewhat, but the main message is that it is important to avoid any form of judgment or verbal attacks. When engaging with others on social media, this is the fallback for an increasing number of people. However, it is important to never do that in person. Not only will it fail to sway anyone to your side, it will just poison the entire atmosphere. Those negative feelings will invariably extend to everyone else at the gathering, which is certainly not fair.

At a time when politics seems to be the last thing that anyone wishes to discuss at family gatherings, it may be worth setting aside part of the day for just such a talk. Certainly, having a mixture of family members in attendance can make for a lively and informative discussion. However, we understand if you don’t feel like risking it, given the events of the last twelve months.

November 15, 2017

How Canadians View Donald Trump (Spoiler: Very Badly)

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and American President Donald Trump.

 

The United States and Canada have been joined at the hip for ages, even though the two countries’ views differ dramatically on some issues. This is certainly true in the present; Donald Trump’s far right agenda is a significant contrast from the much more centrist view of Justin Trudeau’s ruling Liberal Party.

If many Americans regard Donald Trump with dismay, their opinion is certainly echoed far and wide by their northern neighbors. In fact, Canadians’ rabid dislike of Trump has lowered their opinion of the United States in general. The Toronto Star reported that a mere 43% view America favorably and 51% are negative. That is down 22% from Barack Obama’s time in office and the lowest view of the USA in decades.

This may sound like a Left vs Right issue, but the generally positive outlook in the past was not influenced by party lines. However, Canadians were 55% positive, even when the infamous George W. Bush was in office. The numbers were in the 70s with Ronald Reagan, and the right wing then apparently did not hate Bill Clinton as much because the total during his time was similar.

Continuing with the data provided in the article:

  • 92% think Trump is arrogant
  • 78% think Trump is intolerant
  • 72% think Trump is dangerous
  • 16% think Trump is well qualified to be president

 

Those numbers are just comically bad. One can only assume they have actually gotten worse in the ensuing five months as Trump commits one jaw-dropping blunder after another.

Trump’s determination to tear up the North American Free Trade Agreement has also not won him many friends in the Great White North, but he flip flops so dramatically and so often, it is tough to say whether this will even come to pass.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has done well with his high wire act so far, but a failure of NAFTA could well be the event that causes even him to publicly denounce this most unsteady of leaders.

July 26, 2017

Why Psychiatrists Can’t Pick Apart Trump’s Psychology

The world’s largest psychiatric association does not let its members comment on the President’s mental state.

Presidential politics is always personal.

It’s not to say the issues don’t matter. Health care, civil rights, the economy, and war are always at the top of the agenda in debates and interviews. But increasingly, the candidates themselves have become issues as contentious as any other.

This was never truer than in the 2016 Presidential race, where Donald Trump dominated media coverage with his exaggerations and unfiltered rhetoric. This has lead some on both sides of the political aisle to wonder just what’s going on inside his head.

Trump isn’t the first candidate to face accusations of being unfit to lead. When John McCain ran in 2008, commentators pointed to his advanced age as a liability (especially since it put Sarah Palin a “heartbeat away” from the office). Obama was accused of being born on foreign soil. Critics said Mitt Romney was too wrapped up in business dealings.

But President Trump is the first candidate in a long time to face questions regarding his mental health.

In the 1972 election, democrat George McGovern chose Thomas Eagleton as his running mate. McGovern was unaware that Eagleton had previous been hospitalized for depression. When he found out, he initially promised to back Eagleton “1,000 percent”, but later consulted with psychiatrists and doctors regarding his would-be vice president. He asked Eagleton to resign, and Eagleton abided.

Further back, in 1964, the press turned its guns on Republican Barry Goldwater. The poorly-named Fact magazine published an article claiming that 1,189 psychiatrists stated Goldwater was unfit to be president due to his mental state. In truth, the claim was misleading at best; the magazine had polled 10,000 psychiatrists, only 2,417 of whom applied, and the majority did not see Goldwater as unfit.

Goldwater lost the election, but he also filed a libel lawsuit against the magazine. Following this incident, the American Psychiatric Association (APA) put in place the “Goldwater Rule”, which reads as follows in the Principles of Medical Ethics:

On occasion psychiatrists are asked for an opinion about an individual who is in the light of public attention or who has disclosed information about himself/herself through public media. In such circumstances, a psychiatrist may share with the public his or her expertise about psychiatric issues in general. However, it is unethical for a psychiatrist to offer a professional opinion unless he or she has conducted an examination and has been granted proper authorization for such a statement.”

In brief, it meant members of the association cannot offer opinions on someone they have not personally evaluated.

In March of 2017, the Washington D.C. branch of the APA debated the rule. Some argued the rule infringed on freedom of expression. One psychiatrist, John Zinner, argued psychiatrists have an obligation to speak out on the issue, just as doctors swear an oath to protect their patients. But not all agreed the rule was obsolete. Mark Komrad worried overturning the rule would turn the public against their profession, which is “already seen as peddlers of a liberal world view.”

Recently, the American Psychoanalytical Association announced it would allow its 3,000 members to comment on Donald Trump’s mental state as they pleased. Many commentators are touting this as a huge change, but the Psychoanalytical group is miniscule compared to the American Psychiatric Association, which boasts over 36,000 professionals in its ranks.

The latter group reaffirmed its commitment to the Goldwater Rule in March.

July 17, 2017

The Proud History of Political Bumper Stickers

Last week, I extolled the virtues of the humblest form of political advertising: the bumper sticker. No one asked for such a defence, but I felt compelled to make one in the wake of the Democratic Party’s latest folly.

Sure, bumper stickers are annoying, ugly, and often dumb. But they’ve been a part of American politics for almost a hundred years. They’re a classic part of presidential campaigns, like the Iowa Straw Poll and the New Hampshire Primary.

No one’s sure exactly when, or where, the idea for bumper stickers originate. Esurance claims it was the 1927 Ford Model A that sparked the notion. Apparently, car owners just couldn’t resist sticking cardboard and metal signs to the rear of their Model As.

And why not? If you’ve got space to spare, you might as well use it to spread your deeply-held political convictions. T-shirts and tattoos weren’t in vogue yet, so opinionated politicos had little choice but to slap their preferences on a sign.

The Atlantic attributes the first actual bumper ‘sticker’ to a screen printer named Forest P. Gill in 1946. Mr. Gill developed a self-sticking sign by painting canvas with DayGlo ink on one side and adhesive on the other. By 1950, he made good business selling stickers in the advertising industry, mainly for tourist attractions.

The first political bumper stickers came about in the 1952 presidential election between Eisenhower and Stevenson. Eisenhower’s campaign also pioneered the first political TV ad. Stickers also served him well on re-election in 1956.

Not as catchy as, “I Like Ike.”

Forest Gill’s company went on to produce stickers for Kennedy, Regan, and Alabama governor George Wallace. But Mark Gilman, the current president of the company, says their product has been on the decline.

He blames social media, of course. By the way, isn’t this a great phrase? You could insert it into just about any article about anything and it would still be on-point.

Larry Bird, a Smithsonian Museum curated, agrees. He says today’s campaigns are tailored for television, while the presidential campaigns of yore were about face-to-face contact. With that, there is less desire for a tangible object to connote one’s political orientation.

A bumper sticker speaks to a time and place. It’s a verifiable commitment, one that isn’t always easy to just peel off. It says you’ve been somewhere, spoke to someone, taken a physical action to show your support. Social media just doesn’t have the same affect.

July 10, 2017

Political Bumper Stickers are Dumb and Ugly, but not Pointless

Still reeling from its loss six months into the Trump presidency, the Democratic Party has finally decided to try something new. Or, at least, to put a spin on an age-old political advertising tactic. Last week, the Last week, the party asked its supporters to vote on their favourite of four brand-new bumper sticker designs.

That was a miscalculation, to say the least. The sticker designs were widely ridiculed for lacking substance, invoking cringeworthy catchphrases and self-deprecating humour. It seems unlikely any of the four designs will see the light of day, though countless parodies are sure to adorn many a bumper in the coming midterm elections.

You would think something as simple as bumper sticker is hard to mess up. It’s a tiny, rectangular box, designed to be squinted and scoffed at from behind the wheel of another car. But as I see it, bumper sticker advertising is no different from most other ads out there.

I think the makings of a good bumper sticker are the same as those of a good headline or a good Tweet. The message must be short. It must be memorable, and easy to read. And, of course, it has stand out.

Some people argue that bumper stickers are a waste of space. This is a common excuse I’ve seen for the Democratic Party’s sticker shenanigans. No one reads bumper stickers anymore, so what’s the point?

It’d doubtful a sticker ever going to persuade someone to vote one way or the other. But it could certainly motivate them to Google a name, or an idea, especially if it’s something bizarre.

The bumper sticker also has advantages over other forms of advertising. We’re becoming ever more skillful at ignoring ads, developing PVR and Adblock to circumvent the messages our content providers impose on us. Bumper stickers are one of the few forms of advertising that still have a captive audience.

Sure, you could just ignore them. But why would you? Being stuck in traffic or waiting for a light to change is boring. You can’t really admire your surroundings because you have to pay attention to what’s in front of you. As a smart, responsible citizen, there’s no way you’re about to pull out your phone while you’re operating a motor vehicle.

So what do you do? You stare straight ahead, and your eye is drawn to whatever’s in your line of sight. If there’s a bold message on a little white box, you’re going to read it. You can’t resist.

If you’re already planning on dropping flyers, going door-to-door, and putting up a yard sign, you might as well add a bumper sticker to your political advertising suite. If nothing else, it’ll show hopeless and apathetic voters that there are, in fact, other supporters in town, and it might be worth voting after all.

Might as well take another swing at the whole bumper sticker thing, Democrats. At least there’s plenty of time to come up with a good slogan for the 2018 midterm elections.