Thursday, April 18, 2019

What Now?

The Mueller Report, redacted as it is, is pretty damning.  The media, many activists and the Democrats will certainly kick up a fuss.  The next move is really up to the Republicans.  They can fight being pushed out with legalities and using their control of the Senate and Presidency and now even the Supreme Court.  But eventually they will reckon against the 2020 election.

That must give many pause for reflection.  The Mueller report is only a part of what crimes and misdemeanors are yet to come.  Not only is Trump's past full of legal and public relations problems, but going back to the CIA/FBI revelations to key Congressional members there is more cause for concern.  Mitch McConnell threatened the Obama administration that he would accuse them of meddling in an election, thus creating a clear path aided by the Russians.  Now we learn the Kentucky Senator and Majority leader also had some dealings with the Russians.

Would the public overlook all this Russian inter actions and Trump's obvious attempts at obstruction?  Many would forgive Trump for various reasons.  I think much of the 1% are very grateful for their tax rebates plus loosening up constricting regulations.  Others are pleased at all the rhetoric and action against minorities.

Many were discouraged for their job prospects and lapped up many distortions against Hillary Clinton.  A few may be willing to examine their perceptions.  Others may realize that many policies were not in their interests.

Minorities are not the problem for job prospects.  Really it boils down to the greed of those with power and money.  They are looking for cheaper alternatives and finding them with automation (and artificial intelligence) and shifting increasingly job descriptions to low labour costs, less regulation overseas markets.  There are ways of dealing with these problems, but they aren't given much of a platform.  Although a bit outdated here is a blog from 2014 that illustrates the job future: http://www.therealjohndavidson.com/2015/08/rise-of-robots.html

The tax cut was really engineered by donations from the wealthy.  And although a token amount was given to encourage low income voters the wealthy supporters gained a bigger hunk of available wealth.  Some have invested in creating jobs and of course extra money being spent creates jobs.  However huge chunks of money were mainly used to consolidate wealth.  On the other side the government will be dealing with deficits which eventually all tax payers will suffer for.  But at the same time programs that benefit lower income people will be curtailed as the wealthy see them as harmful to their interests.  The many inter connections will increase inequality.

Trump has gone against the majority in many ways although admittedly his base likes much of his efforts and/or find him entertaining.  He has offended many allies and upset peace initiatives.  Meddling in the Mid East endangers us all.  Some of it was just to please his base, but some was for selfish unfathomable reasons.  The Iran Nuclear deal did not suit his allies in Israel and Saudi Arabia, but was critical. for wold peace  He took the side of Israel regarding Iran plus Palestine and also of the Saudi Arabians on Yemen.  Another group of voters will be threatened by these actions.

He has gone against American traditions regarding Russia.  Although no collusion  has been legally declared more Americans will wonder what the connection must be between Russian election aid and Trump's many favorable words and actions.

On the social front besides rhetoric and actions against visible minorities he also supported anti-LGBT efforts.  A touchy issue that is very key for many voters is abortion.  Most people are repulsed by abortion, but realized that effective ways to diminish it include sex education and access to contraception.  Some realize that it is difficult to judge women and their families when they find themselves in an unwelcome pregnancy--rape, incest, health issues, economic hardship are some factors. Sex is very hard to control and in a misogynous and sexually obsessive society, men are able to avoid responsibility.   Society seems to be evolving in their acceptance of new morality.

All of this must make the upcoming election frightful for many Republicans.  Even those in what have been considered safe seats  have to be worried how much power they will have if their Republican colleagues are not able to win.  If they refuse to take any responsibility how will their voters react?  They are already sliding.

Much of party actions are coordinated, but they have to realize real power  comes from being part of majority with control of Congress, the president and judicial.  If they punish the "bad apples" and show respect for bi partisan efforts inevitably some people will forgive them.  Impeachment is risky for both sides and at this stage unlikely to happen.  Renominating Donald Trump should also be a risky choice for the Republicans.  An association with Donald Trump could drag down many Republicans. 

Much of this mess will carry on.  The Republicans (giving a lot of credit to Mitch McConnell) managed to avoid a Democratic Supreme Court choice replace a conservative judge and then go on to add two more of their choices.  At the lower levels of the judiciary Republicans have been very active in assuring a conservative bent for at least another generation.  The electoral college will continue to distort the popular vote and states still have leeway to gerrymander.  (Dark) money will still be effective at subverting votes.

It may be a few years before the U.S. is back on track.  They have to earn trust from their allies and respect from others.  They need to tackle problems like climate change, future of jobs, inequality and campaign finance.

Sunday, April 7, 2019

Ricardo Trogi Triology

Not all of us are able to put our autobiography in film format.  Most of us don't have the insights and talent to be as interesting a view as Ricardo Trogi.  Like many of us there are multiple factors in explaining how we reached our present status in life.

My interest in his story started by accident noticing a title "1991" (2018)  Sure enough the author wanted to remember a key year in his life.   He ended up in Perugia, Italy although his Italian linguistic skills were limited.  He presented more than one version of what really happened and most of us could identify one version as wishful thinking.  Kept me laughing with many human foibles exposed.


Going back to his earlier background  "1981" (2009) we see him as an 11 years old who had just moved to new school and is anxious to make friends.   He hooks up with 3 other boys and it turns out they all lied to make an impression  The foursome all exhibit, sexual curiosity, all try to manipulate parents and status conscious.  Ricardo is spoiled, but nagged by his parents.  This film contrasts a fantasy world with reality.  Going back to our youths most of us can sympathize with yearnings that sooner or later run up against harsher reality.  Ricardo's father was Italian married to a French Canadian was a tiny bit outsider which was displayed by the constant misprounciation of his last name.  There was also an assumption that he would be able to speak Italilan, but he couldn't.

The middle film "1987" (2014)  brings our subject to 17 years old with three friends.  In a fantasy Ricardo is shown talking to legislators complaining that he was being asked to make career choices at 17, while unable to legally drink alcohol until 18.  The four friends were intent upon sneaking into bars, but were mostly unsuccessful.   Sex is an obsession and one outlet is masturbation.  Jealous rears up strongly when driving a girl friend to the prom felt guilty enough to confess she has "frenched" with a college student at a bar.  Our hero has a hard dealing with this and it is not really resolved until the end of the film.  At one point determined to overcome his virgin status he takes out a girl with a reputation.  However it turns out she really wasn't a slut.  The four friends talk to each other about girl problems and try to help out, but not always successful.

In the meantime the four are involved stealing car radios.  His friends suggest that as an Italian he was the most natural. Finally running from the police and inevitably caught and identified.  To get some leverage he identifies a friend who had been seen with his girl friend.   Near the end he is seen cycling from Ste Foy towards Trois Rivieres over 100 kilmetres away as his girl friend has confessed she loves him and wants to lose her virginity.  As the movie ends we learn the outcome of the main characters.  In his case it turns out he was asked to make choices for college and as Italian class was full he elected cinema for fun

Ricardo Trogi  got an early break in 1994 when as participant on tv program he was given a chance to travel to make a short film.  When back home he made a series of short films two of which were chosen  for"La Longue Nuit des court-m├ętrang" (Long Night of Short films) at Cannes.  A few years later did his first feature film as a writer/director  "Quebec-Montreal" winning an award for comedy and also success at the box office and some festivals.  Not everyone gets to indulge in what amounts to film autobiography, but he certainly does it very entertainingly.  Maybe not finished.

Ricardo's wife, Anne-Karine Gauthier was the clothing co-ordinator for "1981"  for which she was nominated for a Genie award.  She also worked with "Quebec-Montreal."  She has her own independent career including television productions. 

Three actors carried through all three films, aging naturally.  Jean-Carl Boucher played Ricardo as an 11 year old, then a 17 year old and finally(?) as a 21 year old.  His father Claudio Colangelo played his father and Sandrine Bisson played his mother winning a Jutra award as best supporting actress for "1981" and nominated for a Canadian Screen award for "1987."  Rose Adam played his sister in "1981" and "1987."

I watched one other of his films "Le Mirage" (2015)  It was about a man caught up in trying to maintain his status despite turbulent financial stresses.  His relation with his wife and another couple underwent difficulties for which I became increasingly unconcerned. Sex was a big part of his attempts to maintain self respect, but very counter productive.  All through the film he was confronted by consumer and duty expectations from his wife and two children.  Unlike the triology  the ending did not leave much hope.

Saturday, April 6, 2019

WHO IS GOING TO BEAT TRUMP?

For many Americans getting rid of Trump is more important than policy details.  Some hope legal procedures can be used, but most think it more practical to vote him out of office.  Apparently that task seems easy enough that Democrats already have well over a dozen candidates.

The Republicans had a similar problem in the 2016 primaries with a dozen or so candidates.  From my perspective one problem was that they all felt they had to be tougher than their opponents to get attention. In the end Trump proved to be the most obnoxious.  The Democrats are each trying to be unique while trying to deal with certain litmus tests.

Trump has actually earned a lot of brutal respect (with the help of domestic and foreign enablers) that many Democrats fear him.  He did get in with less than a majority of voters and is concentrating on his base (the deployables).

Getting an early start can be helpful.  They can all expect to be scrutinized like they have never been before.  Their opponents of both parties are looking for dirt and the media is wanting to draw a crowd with sensational tidbits which could range from sex scandals to stumbling over words.  A lot of worthy people are scared off.  Others realize the effort requires a super human effort and after assessing the odds decide they are better off not running.  Sherrod Brown is one example.

Biden and Sanders are supposed to appeal to older voters who are more reliable at the ballot box.  Age is a factor.  Looking back we now realize that Ronald Reagan was in early stages of dementia and a case is being made that Trump is well advanced.  Also the younger generation has new ideas and enthusiasm.  A contrast with a 70+ Trump would be a plus.

Joe Biden should not be compared to Donald Trump's licentiousness, but that possibility has been opened.   Joe is being judged by much higher standards than Trump has been--not caught boasting or what would be considered sexual assault, but taking advantage of male privilege, something many male and even female voters can forgive, but one can imagine Trump will paint him as a hypocrite.
While Joe's career encouraged touching many now feel today such behaviour is overstepping personal space boundaries. 

Bernie Sanders my favorite from 2016 has drawn a lot of attention from progressives.  His age is against him and by declaring himself proudly as Democrat Socialist provides a bigger target.  Ironically a lot of his support comes from younger voters.  Although he has a history of involvement with civil rights he seemed too distant from blacks compared to Hilary Clinton.

My favorite candidate Elizabeth Warren is very conscious of Trump's racist attack which is really accusing her of dishonesty.  She has stood up for ordinary consumers better than others with the possible exception of Bernie Sanders.  She has spent a lot of effort developing policies but it seems voters' attention span doesn't permit too many details.  She is usually ranked in the top four or five and might do well in the debates, but might seem vulnerable to the Trump machine.

Kamala Harris makes a good impression.  Like many politicians she has a history of doing what she thought right and practical at a difficult time.  Some will think that can be used against her.  Her idea of boosting teachers fits in with what I consider a major priority.  Half black and half Indian could gain some support while at the same time be awkward, remembering that Obama was considered by many blacks to not be black enough.  It also reminds that Trump gained votes from racists.

Amy Klobuchar also made a good impression at the Kavanaugh judicial hearing   She has been criticized as being rough on her support staff.  Women are not supposed to be tough.

Beto O'Rourke even though he lost his Senate race in Texas created a lot of enthusiasm.  He is very open and expressive.  An example of changing dynamics was when established Republicans thought Beto's participation in a rock band would turn off voters it had a positive impact.

Cory Booker had made many media appearances and has a share of admirers.  Single men are frowned upon and suspected of being closet gays.  His new girl friend, activist and actress Rosario Dawson could be an asset.

Pete Buttigieg would not have been possible a decade or so ago.  A gay mayor of a fairly small city, but he has already aroused very positive attention.  His intelligence strikes many as outstanding and he has quick reaction to questions.

A lot of good people have been left out of my assessment which is more a reflection of the multitude than their individual value.  My focus is on the Trump question.  Name recognition is critical, after all most people base their decisions of what has filtered through to their attention.

The winner could turn out to be someone not mentioned.  The debates and fund raising will juggle perceptions of relative merit.  The Vice Presidential candidate could emerge from these candidates or not.  Balancing the duo ticket is considered important to the campaign.  The primary candidates in many cases will boost their popularity which can be transferred to the package.  Senators often have a national brand awareness, but Governors actually have more administrative experience.  Hopefully business experience won't be a priority.  Science awareness should be a factor.  Diversity of options could be a positive favor.

Mike Pence is an interesting case.  Apparently Paul Manafort realized that Donald's reputation would not encourage evangelicals to support him and manipulated events to get Mike Pence on as vice president.  It is a wonder that he would pair himself with such as obvious offensive candidate, but it is speculated he had his own ambitions.

The possibility of a female duo has been raised.  It could draw more female voters, but the Democrats are already strong in that area.  Aside from turning off misogynist males it could also have a negative impact with evangelical women who feel women's place is in the home.  Women like Jacinda Ardern draw admiration from both sexes  helping to create a better atmosphere.

In the last election Climate Change was seldom discussed.  Partly suspect that the media did not want to offend some of their big advertisers.  Unfortunately the danger has accelerated and it will be harder for denialists to be taken seriously.

Trump loves to cut down his opponents with a slick nickname and insults.  Everyone is vulnerable, but really he is also very vulnerable.  He seems very sensitive to criticism and is transparent in his hate for Obama who in reality was a far superior president.

I am inclined to believe almost any one of them could beat Trump.  More voters are conscious of third party dangers.  The demographics are moving favorably for the Democrats.  Trump has lost more voters than he has gained by his mercurial ways and policies. Turnout is critical.  Trump has a hard core of believers he can count on, but the more lethargic voters are more conscious they will definitely lose if they don't vote.

In addition to a concern about beating Trump, another danger the Democrats do face is a purity test.  No person is without fault.  I would like to think that intelligent caring people learn from their mistakes, but too many people are not willing to forgive.  Most of the candidates have already found it necessary to apologize for past behavior or choices made under unique circumstances.  A recent example inspired a blog on the topic:  http://www.therealjohndavidson.com/2019/02/self-righteousness-and-forgiveness.html

PHOTO EXPLANATION:  Admittedly not my best, but Benjamin Franklin was a most admired American who never ran for President.  You can't run today without a lot of money and you really have to want it.  Perhaps suitable people would prefer a role like Benjamin Franklin's, after all he contributed to America's success and is recognized more than many of the subsequent presidents.

Friday, April 5, 2019

Ukrainian barbers

Getting one's hair cut is in some ways a ritual with personal meaning.  I suspect women are more concerned, but it is also important to males.

Growing up in Oshawa my father directed me to where I would get my hair cut and I stayed loyal on my own which was easy as it was right across from my high school, Oshawa Central Collegiate. Steve Salmer was someone my father knew long before and told me a little of their family history.  They didn't have a lot of money and they identified one son as the best chance to get ahead and the rest worked to put him through law school.  That one son became my father's lawyer dealing with my father's trucking business.  Steve, happened to be of Ukrainian descent.

Steve was my barber until we moved from town just after grade 11.  I remember sitting in chairs and told to move further from the window so prospective customers would not be deterred.  Steve humoured me when I rebelled against a regular brush cut as I am sure he had been through it many times.

There are no photos of me getting my hair cut, but my father who was a prolific photographer did take a photo of my brother Marshall at the hands of Steve Salmer.

I knew a fair number of Ukrainians in Oshawa.  I even had a Ukrainian aunt, Aunt Mary Coakwell.  Lots of  friends at school and also Polish and Italians. Michael Starr representing Oshawa was the first Ukrainian cabinet minister. A few years later I helped him to lose an election.  Check out http://www.johnfdavidson.com/2014/04/my-short-but-educational-political.html  One of my longest time relations with a girl friend was Ukrainian and I spent a lot of time with her family getting to appreciate Ukrainian food and customs..

After many twists and turns before I ended up in Hamilton and met my wife who is actually half Italian and half Ukrainian.  One of her uncles was a Ukrainian lawyer whose father was a Ukrainian Greek Orthodox priest whose church, St Vladimir's I was married in.  Of course I gained some Ukrainian aunts.  Definitely got to appreciate Ukrainian food (my favorite was something called beet leaf Holubschi??

Steve was actually my barber with the longest hair cutting relationship.  In Haliburton I had two barbers--at university I wasn't sure who they were, but do remember I met my wife outside their shop. As I worked different parts of the province I had some good barbers--I remember one Italian barber in Oakville that I went out of my way to visit and also another one in the town of Hagersville, but I was on the move all the time and two reliable barbers actually retired on me.

Getting hair cut is a drain on the pocket book and often inconvenient.  I would sometimes get up early on Saturdays to be first in line otherwise would have to wait one or two hours.  At one stage my wife volunteered.  She would usually comment on my hair cuts--too short, too long or too uneven and I trusted and valued her judgment.  Eventually decided it was cheaper, more convenient and even more satisfying to trust my hair cuts to my wife.

In the warm weather it is done out on our back porch where the mess is easier to handle.

My wife is also Italian, so keeping one's hair at its best comes natural.

Did I learn anything worthy of the Ukrainian culture?  I certainly learned to like much of their food including perogies, and cabbage rolls.  One my favorites was something I remember as beet leaf   holubsti. I enjoyed the dancing and the accompanying music.  I learned a little of their history.  My son who lives in New  Zealand said that he found it very difficult to find pirogies in his new country. On one of our trips to watch the Raptors play my son and I went to Wayne Gretsky's restaurant and enjoyed a Polish version.  Back in Hamilton about six blocks from where we live Loaded Pirogies with some innovative ways of enjoying one of my favorite foods.

Tuesday, April 2, 2019

Ernest Lubitsch

New discoveries are often unexpected.  Bored with some library selections stumbled on "Trouble in Paradise" which typically had all sorts of praise written on it.  Such praise is not always deserved, however  when I went to check it out, the computer screen said it could not be checked out.  Taking it to a clerk I learned that it was in special collections and wasn't supposed to be on the shelf  About to walk away the clerk said he would put it on my card, but asked me to return it to his desk.

I thought the DVD quality would be risky, but there were no problems.  The movie was in black and white (no surprise), but it grabbed my attention.  Watched the special features and became fascinated.  Reserved as many of his other films as I could find and watched more special features.

Ernst Lubitsch was nominated for an Oscar 3 times without winning, but in 1947 he was given an Honorary Award.  The presenter, Mervyn LeRoy commented that Lubitsch was "a master of innuendo."  He left his mark.

Born in Berlin, Germany in 1892 he developed an interest in theatre from high school and at age 16 left school to try his luck on stage.  His father would support him only if he kept accounts at the family tailor shop.  All through his cinematic career he put a lot of attention to costumes preferring luxurious fabrics.

Ernst performed at cabarets and musical halls in the evening.  By 1911 he worked under Max Reinhardt quickly rising to leading roles and by 1914 was involved in writing and directing plays.

He soon performed in silent films such as  "Shoe Palace Pinkus," (1916) but gradually dropped acting to concentrate on directing and writing.

By 1918 he wrote and directed "The Eyes of the Mummy," a silent films starring Pola Negri who eventually became a major star in Hollywood.   He directed her in a number of other films.   It was filmed in Germany, but very easily adapted for English audiences with inter-titles, then prevalent.

By 1923 he crossed the Atlantic and directed Mary Pickford in "Rosita."  As a German Jew he had decided there was more safety and wealth in Hollywood.  As Hitler came to power in 1933, Ernst made his exit permanent.  He became a U.S. citizen in 1936.

Ernest liked to collaborate with writers especially early on with Hans Kraly who unfortunately ended the relationship when he  ran away with Ernst's first wife.  Samson Raphaelson later commented that they each inspired one another often starting with one or two bad ideas that led to something good.

"Love Parade" (1929) is considered the first musical movie with the songs integrated to the story.  Also the first to have soundtrack produced after production.  Ernst Lubitsch persuaded Maurice Chevalier to play the leading male as a royal courtier, although he felt was too humble for such a role.  He also went with Jeannette McDonald after others had rejected her screen tests.

Back to the film that caught my attention, "Trouble in Paradise" (1931).  It was considered pretty sophisticated with a triangle love affair as the focus and dialogue that would not be accepted four years later when Hollywood adopted a Production Code that amounted to censorship.  The film was taken out of circulation.   It was re-released in 1968.  It was never put in cassette form, but was released as a DVD in 2003

Research uncovered an interesting set of events.  Lubitsch had married an English woman, Vivian Gaye and had one child.  His wife and daughter were in Europe as war declared.  They boarded a ship for America that was sunk by a German submarine in September of 1939 with 118 passenger deaths.  His wife, daughter and maid did survive.   The same year "Ninochka" was released with Greta Garbo  "laughing."

"The Shop Around the Corner "(1940) was supposedly Ernst's favorite film.  He had bought the rights to the original Hungarian play in 1938, but had to wait to line up stars James Stewart and  Margaret Sullavan.  The plot was considered pretty good and has been redone a number of times, most recently as "You Got Mail"







"To Be Or Not To Be" was one I had seen and enjoyed many years previous , but watched with new eyes.   Started in 1941, but released after American entered war.  It was not not well received at first.  As a satire it portrayed Nazis as bumblers. Jack Benny thought it was his best film and Carole Lombard, whose husband Clark Gable had not wanted her to take the film declared it was her most enjoyable film.  Carole died after completing the film and before it was planned for release.   Lubitsch wanted to satirize the Germans, but also the acting profession.  He loved Shakespeare.


Heaven Can Wait (1943) with Don Ameche and Gene Tierney marked a turning point.  He had heart attacks in 1943 and1945 setting him back each time.   Another heart attack at age 55 in 1947 caused his death.

He can credited with developing musicals and pushing censorship limits.  He definitely knew how to get attention.

Sunday, March 31, 2019

COLLUSION OR FRAUD

The Trump administration is on a victory tour, shouting they have been TOTALLY vindicated, although the Mueller Report has not been examined in public.  Trump, himself has already determined to obliterate more of Obama's legacy.  His policies are in major ways against the best interest of his voters.  To me it seems likely his supporters are either at least tolerant of racist views and/or upset over progressive social freedoms.  If a lie is repeated enough it is believed.

My understanding of collusion is vague.  It has to be proved that there was a criminal coordinated effort to bring about a result.  Of course all successful election campaigns involve coordinated efforts, but if we like the end results the efforts are acceptable.  In the carefully worded summary it was concluded there was no collusion with the Russian government.  Michael Cohen had already pointed out that Trump didn't feel the need to be direct in order give direction.  The summary did concede that obstruction has neither been proved or disproved.  Apologists state that since there was nothing to hide there couldn't be any obstruction which of course is nonsense.

Like most people I am dependent on what is brought to my attention by media and reinforced by how other people react to it.  None of the points I will raise are new, but they have not been denied.  If they don't mount to the legal definition of collusion I would shift my focus to the charge of fraud.

Well after the election we were told that Trump had been negotiating for a Trump Tower in Moscow, even though it had been strongly denied.  He is entitled as a businessman who quite likely thought he wouldn't win the election to carry forward his business.  One major problem is the lie about it.  Nobody can be sure of what really happened, but it seems this effort might have been all the Russian government needed to get some concessions.  Obviously Russian authorities were aware of of this multi million dollar transaction and could understand that perceptions of significant numbers of American voters would be negative.  After the official denials of Trump all they needed to do was threaten to reveal the truth.  Possibly they had other points to operate with.

Paul Manafort as a campaign manager (with a history of supporting Russian interests specifically against Ukraine that wants stronger relations with the West) gave polling data to an associate of Putin. There was no point to the effort if this information was not going to be used.  Apparently the Russians used several tactics and seemed to be aware of leveraging situations.  Efforts were made to switch Democrat inclined voters to third party choices.   That was by itself instrumental in shifting the Electoral College to Trump.  Naturally they amplified Trump's rhetoric and likely targeted it. 

This is not meant to be all inclusive of Trump's ties to Russia.  It could be argued that Trump was just duped by Putin.  Putin is very openly expanding Russian influence.  He strives against NATO, the EU as well as democracy in Venezuela and Syria.  Trump's behavior is definitely unusual and mostly supportive of Putin own grievances.  Trump's ego is oversized and to a great extent is admired by too many.

The Republicans have used tactics to diminish accusations and innuendo.  Commonly they deny and when caught, spin. As more facts come out it seems there were very significant contacts.   Many, but not all Conservatives are overlooking a great deal about Trump, but realize they have an opportunity to  do things mostly opposed by the population such as lower high end taxes, cut social programs, and in some cases tighten up and abolish abortions. 

The Washington Post took up the challenge of tracking the lies of Donald Trump.  It is such a large and growing number that most of us don't bother getting the exact number.  I plead guilty, but recall it is something over 8,000.  You could quarrel with the definitions used, but even Trump supporters concede he likes to lie, but it is all in a good cause.  In my humble (?) opinion these lies were not for a good cause, even for many who thought fervently they were.   Muslims, Mexicans, blacks and gays are not responsible for their lot in life.  The greed of the 1% and automation are much more serious.

Climate change is real and Trump has brushed it off with distortions and misinformation.  He lied to coal miners, but they wanted to believe him rather than Hilary Clinton who pushed for job retraining.

Tax cuts were supposed to benefit everyone, but the very wealthy gained the most in absolute terms.  The cuts most certainly didn't pay for themselves and in fact are already ramping up deficits that Republicans know will have negative effects.  They also suggest cuts to safety net benefits and government services will solve any deficit concerns.  The rich got their rewards.  An earlier blog on dark money explains http://www.therealjohndavidson.com/2016/07/dark-money-by-jane-mayer.html

When someone has been conned they resist admitting it.  When someone is accused of unsavory motivations they deny it.  To most of us it is obvious Trump did not deserve to win and has been a very divisive and incompetent president who could lead to disaster of one type or another.

What can be done?  At the moment calmness is critical.  Avoid the Republican traps, while avoiding unnecessary concessions.  The Republicans under Trump are over reaching.  The more outrageous the Republicans efforts are the more likely they are to generate questions from those who have been lied to.  Unless they can gain public support enough that Republican politicians fear for themselves impeachment rhetoric should be curtailed.  The Mueller Report, if ever revealed in reasonable totality is likely to provide many points that will put Republicans on the defense, but may not be enough for immediate action.  That leaves the 2020 election.  The Democrats already have the policies that most Americans prefer on health care, abortion, infrastructure, gun control, etc. and importantly more credibility.

The Constitution is not serving the interests of the Americans.  Twice the Electoral College has delivered a problematic regime which will take decades to undo--thinking of the judiciary system and America's international reputation.  For many other nations there will be a fear that a subsequent administration can undermine whatever progress a new administration can offer..

One thought after hearing constant justifications for the 2nd Amendment is that something similar should be articulated for education.  Early on the American government without a national army realized they could be attacked when they were unprepared.  Some would argue the second amendment was enacted to protect the citizens against the government, but I contend more important was a concern for national defense.  Today it has been interpreted with help of lobbyists that Americans must have access to military level weaponry.

On the other hand what Americans need much more to preserve real democracy is education.  It seems conservatives are always ready to cut public education, especially perceived non job skills.  Not sure what concrete proposals should be included, but budgets and non political supervision are critical.  If the Americans prefer to believe Trump, the selfish, egotistical entertainer then it must be admitted they deserve him, but the rest of us (I am proud to be Canadian) don't deserve him.

Just a review of those who helped put Trump in position:  http://www.therealjohndavidson.com/2017/07/trump-enablers.html

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

A better way to deal with sick shooters

Like everyone I was stunned by the recent shootings in Christchurch, New Zealand.  My son lives in New Zealand, but he lives on the North Island.  He did have a teacher colleague who was in lockdown  in Christchurch.  My cousin Linda was actually on the South Island and had been in Christchurch a bit before and as I write this she and Derek are back in Christchurch before they head back to Canada.

Derek was the first one to get my attention posting on Facebook something about one of the victims--the first one who actually greeted the shooter.  Another Facebook post from Derek was about one of victims who had tackled the shooter resulting in his death and that of his son.  I shared one of them and am pleased that some of my friends shared it a little bit further and before too long I could see other people had picked up the posts from other sources.

Then Jacinda Ardern, the New Zealand Prime Minister had posts up saying that she would never utter the name of the shooter.  It might be recalled that several shooters in the past credited earlier shooters with inspiring them.  To some sick people the shooters were portrayed as some weird sort of hero.  There are many factors mostly not understood that result in mass shootings and it seems the general public knows more about the shooters then they do about the more numerous victims.

Hopefully this latest shooting will start to reverse the publicity--it should be more about commemorating the victims than the sick belligerents.  We need to understand what causes a particular person to commit such horrid deeds.  We need to be able better to predict who is more likely to emulate earlier shooters and decide what steps can be taken to minimize the danger.   This is now a global concern and needs to be taken with co-operation between all national authorities.

What we as individuals and particularly politicians need to be more careful of is not to publicize sick people, but remember the victims.

Jacinda has set a good model of what should be done.  I can't resist mentioning that Donald Trump was pathetic.  How they were each elected was a contrast and might have another lesson.

Donald Trump was elected with less votes than his main opponent Hilary Clinton.  In some jurisdictions there would have been a run off if no candidate received 50% of the votes, but the American system was set up with critical input from slave owners that allows disproportionate  power to smaller states.  The contest allows for strategies that take advantage of voters who are unhappy about something and whose vote can be leveraged.  Actually everyone is unhappy about something, but the Republicans have mastered stirring up social concerns that actually disadvantage minorities who can be targeted to enable getting power for their conservative economic agenda.

New Zealand offers a proportional system that means a significant fraction of votes are split among parties rather than geographically.  As it happened Jacinda's party only accumulated the second most votes, however the party that finished third felt more in alignment with Jacinda's party and agreed to support the more liberal party of Jacinda's.  Obviously both parties joining together had to be willing to share power and be willing to compromise some of their policies.

The voters in New Zealand's system made a better choice, but not only for themselves, for the whole world.  We need more examples like Jacinda Ardern.

I wanted to get this off my chest before the next crisis has its own urgency.

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

FARSIGHTED

We make dozens of decisions every day, but some decisions are too complex to be resolved without study.   There are many books that advise http://www.therealjohndavidson.com/2016/08/decisions-are-path-to-success.html  Johnson delves into what he calls "complex decisions," the ones that can change our lives and deserve careful deliberation.

As he recommends stories as a path to understanding Johnson tells us a few examples.  The decision process to kill Osama bin Ladin was very complex and serious.  The Abbotabad  decision benefited from previous mistakes.  We are taken back to a mysterious bit of information that only indicated that an important person might live at a compound In Abbotabad, Pakistan.  Although it was early speculated that this might be where bin Ladin was holed up, the danger of being wrong was critical. At each step of the process multiple opinions are sought and teased out with many choices being eliminated.

Loss aversion is a greater fear than greed for gain and needs to be guarded against.  At some point in a complex decision we try to calculate the risks of something not working out as anticipated.

Uncertainties are certain to be found in complex decisions or as Donald Rumsfeld would say, there are unknown unknowns.  One way of dealing with them is to cast a wide net involving other contributors.  As much as practical scenarios can be constructed.  Simulations might also be tried such as the Pentagon rehearsing possible attacks on Abbotabad that modified their plans.

You might recall there was no buildup to the announcement of a successful mission.  They had also taken into account some of the consequences of the assassination.  They had booked an alternative supply route to Afghanistan a year in advance.  They had taken precautions to minimize the martyrdom of bin Ladin.

Charles Darwin was contemplating marriage, but had many concerns about what he would have to give up.   We know that he adopted a version of what has come to be known as the Benjamin Franklin method.  Other than him actually marrying we don't know his conclusion to the decision.  Later he faced another decision when his daughter Annie was threatened with a little understood disease.  Unfortunately the options were not well studied and she died forcing changes in both his and wife's lives.  He became less religious and open about it while he his wife found comfort in her religion.

Returning to Darwin to illustrate other points.  What surprised me the most was that the decision to publish his theory of Evolution took very long.  He wanted the fame that he expected, but not the notoriety that would ensue and not only create intense religious hostility, but upset his wife .  His wife eventually accepted her husband's lack of religiosity, but in the end Darwin was forced to publish his theory as a rival threatened to publish his similar theory first.

Another set of decisions came from reading novels in particular "Middlemarch." George Eliot wrote "Middlemarch that contains decisions with factors that clash with one another..  Towards the end Johnkson refers to the life of George Eliot who was born Mary Ann Evans.   Unlike Darwin who tried to decide between marrying or not marrying George Eliot chose a third option which was to live together with her partner outside marriage.   Her decision involved her writing career and her political ideals.  An earlier blog dealt with the importance of using stories to persuade people to make a decision:  http://www.therealjohndavidson.com/2011/06/tell-to-win-offers-winning-formula.html

Throughout the many examples in the book, Johnson maintains that diversity of viewpoints is critical, obviously such as including both genders, age range, a variety of ethnic, experiences, etc.  A single viewpoint is often unable to see a full range of choices.  He criticizes gerrymandering as it groups people with a predominant ideological perspective. 

My take on Premier Doug Ford's decision to cut the number of Toronto city councillors.  http://www.therealjohndavidson.com/2018/07/move-over-donald-trump.html 

Johnson suggests three complex issues that deserve careful analysis before making a decision.
long term;  contact with extra terrestial beings, immortality and artificial intelligence.  For some people the downsides are minor but in reality there are serious consequences to making a wrong  choice.  Scientists are now cautioning us against trying to contact beings from outside our planet as they would likely have superior technology and perhaps unkindly intentions.  Other scientists are concerned about artificial intelligence overcoming humans.  Immortality seems like a natural goal,that no longer seems impossible, but  it has difficult to assess consequences.

Of course for many of us we need a little help in making some decisions.  Sometimes we need a little help or we would like to "nudge" someone off the fence.  http://www.therealjohndavidson.com/2016/01/can-nudge-help-you-make-better-decisions.html

In the acknowledgements he admits that he starting taking notes almost ten years before publication.  A lot of decisions along the way.  Everyone is compelled to make important decisions--what career path to pursue, who to marry, to find a purpose in life.  

Saturday, March 9, 2019

The Death of Truth by Michiko Kakutani

Donald Trump has created an industry for writers and book sellers.
To most people I respect it is a great mystery why so many people admire him.  Michiko Kakutani is another who offers some more thoughts on the subject.

Michiko alluded to "Identity" a book Francis Fukyama felt compelled to write after his-earlier book "The End of History" had to be updated as Trump had set back the progressive path had been supposedly set in motion for civilization.
Some thoughts on Fukuyama's latest book (it is very good as well)  http://www.therealjohndavidson.com/2019/03/identity-new-force-in-modern-politics.html

The 2008 crash didn't hurt banks, but thousands lost jobs, while others suffered wages cuts and inequality increased.  The people's anger has been diverted with scapegoats such as Mexicans, Muslims, minorities socialistic thinking.  The role of de-regulations is ignored.  The coming issue of increasing automation and artificial intelligence is not brought up.  The 1% are steadily increasing their control while the masses are stirred up truly "fake news."

Gaining power has become ruthless with the first casualty, truth.   Lee Atwater, a Republican operative partially responsible for Ronald Reagan's success once said,  "perception is reality"   Among many other things Ronald Reagan deregulated media resulting in greater concentration of the message senders.  He also did away with service requirements and a fairness policy.  Broadcasters did what was intended, focusing on profits.  News became part of the entertainment package and changed to become part of the profit effort partly through sensationalism and partly through segmenting profitable niches.  Newt Gingrich quoted "As a political candidate I'll go with how people feel and I'll let you go with the theoretician."

Tom Nicholls:  If citizens do not bother to gain basic literacy in the issues that affect their lives they abdictate control over those issues whether they like it or not.  And when voters lose control over these important discussions they risk the hi-jacking of their democracy.

Michiko made some observations after reading "Amusing ourselves to death" by Neil Postman.  Postman discussed the approaches of George Orwell to Aldous Huxley with respect to the predicted future dystopia.  George Orwell visualized a tightening of information through censorship, but also blatant distortion of reality  and most of us cynical future observers have adopted this viewpoint.  Huxley on the other had visualized a drug infused atmosphere where the pursuit of pleasure obscured awareness of reality.  Postman favored this likelihood.  Both scenarios assume the power at the top were immune from the truth. Postman was writing about the insidious role of television, but his observations are even more relevant today.  Read my take on his book:  http://www.therealjohndavidson.com/2018/05/amusing-ourselves-to-death.html

One of Trump's heroes, Vladimir Putin is a master of lying. or maybe it is just a manifestation  of power.  Putin lies, denies and then brags about it.  Ukraine was a good example of how a powerful man can lie  One of Trump's methods from Robert A Heinlein, "  You can sway a thousand men by appealing to their prejudices quicker than you can convince one man by logic."
 
One way to distort truth is the use of false equivalences.  If a fact points to a foul deed it is quickly pointed out that both sides are guilty so it is no big deal.  Science is belittled at every opportunity because all too often it suggests a change in policy is required.

Thomas Jefferson opined that men need to be governed by truth and reason.  A necessary requirement was a free press.  Tyrants seek to stifle a free press.

There are a few hopeful blimps the author notes.   The Parkland students  campaigning for greater gun control have forced a small retreat by established advocates for more gun freedoms.  They supposedly are too naive, but thank goodness they have persisted.

Last two sentences from the author:  "Without truth, democracy is hobbled.  The founders recognized this and those seeking democracy survival must recognize it to-day."

Thursday, March 7, 2019

IDENTITY: A NEW FORCE IN MODERN POLITICS

Originally this book was to be reviewed shortly after reading, but work bogged me down and I ended up reading two other books before finding time for another blog.  Ironically I learned more about the the author Francis Fukuyama.  He is famous for "The End of History" which I had not read.  In it he apparently proclaimed that all history had led to our modern status quo which Francis thought was destined to boost democracy and progressiveness indefinitely  This new book was made necessary because Trump set history backwards.

Politicians have been trying to figure out how best to attract enough voters to get elected.  Francis Fukuyama explores the issue of identity which is a critical factor that some politicians understand better than others.

Economic motivation is rooted in the demand for recognition and therefore cannot be satisfied by economic means.  For many leaders it is felt that if the incentives are right a worker, citizen will be motivated.  Francis goes beyond that implying that people have come to recognize money is one important tool to be recognized.  Money is one marker of status. 

Back in 1974 the proportion of national output going to the 1% was only 9%, but in 2008 it had risen to 24%.  That was at the expense of the rest of the population and the victims were looking for someone to blame.

Fukuyama credits Martin Luther as one of the first Western thinkers to extol the inner self or the external social being.  Humiliation drove many movements with one of the best examples the French Revolution.  The growth of liberalism led to the free movement of labor.  Two of the most liberal nations, Britain and the United States were drivers of industrialization.  Ironically (?) inequality in developed world is most pronounced in the same two countries.

Simone de Beauvoir wrote that the experiences of women not the same as for men and helped promote idea to boost the status of women.  Over time other aggrieved groups, racial minorities, gays, transgenders who developed a conscience of being treated unfairly.  Fukuyama contends that nations need to develop national identities. 

United States was mostly settled by the British, but Irish Catholics starting immigrating around the 1840's.  Southern and eastern Europeans followed and were also resented.  In World War I many Germans tried to hide their identity.  in the 20th century and more so in the 21st, Mexicans and Muslims are becoming more noticeable and causing politicians like Sarah Palin to comment on the "real America" and Donald Trump wants to "make America great again."

Fukuyama advocates that minority abuses have to be corrected.  Assimilation has to be encouraged.  Economic stress needs to be mitigated as resentment starts with loss of status.  Social media facilities the formation of groups and also misinformation to spread.

Identity has been used to divide people, but it also can and has been used to integrate.  My little review necessarily skims over much of Fukuyama's arguments which are well worth reading.

After reading it was brought to my attention that Stacey Abrams rebutted some Fukuyama's arguments during her response to the State of the Union speech.

Wednesday, February 6, 2019

The Evolution and Art of film subtitles

Do you feel shut out of some highly acclaimed movies?  Or maybe you would like to know what is really being said during the "dirty" parts.?  Maybe you just want to better understand how a movie fits together.  Subtitles open up the world, but there is an art to them that can not only enhance the movie, but also further confuse the issue.


 

 "Sairat" a surprising movie in a language you are probably unaware of--Marathi.

There are really two concerns--clarity and understanding and they are intertwined.

Silent films had the problem of communicating dialogue and explaining some actions.  They chose to use a full screen for a title page with dialogue or description.  This could be to cover foreign films to the extent many Americans did not realize which country the film originated from.  Many silent films were accompanied by a musical band, but one invention cut that expense by allowing programmed music to play with the film.

If it is blurry or with confusing fonts the reader is slowed down.  If the letters blend in with the background color it will force more concentration on just reading.  Advances in chemistry applications, laser and lately digital have made reading much smoother and less distracting.   Bubbles are often used to project thoughts usually for humour.  Norwegians and Hungarians advanced the technology.

By 1903, "Uncle Tom's Cabin utilized inter titles between film scenes.  By 1909 M. N Tropp developed concept of subtitles at bottom of screen.

One of the early pioneers, Herman G Weinberg got involved with foreign films brought to the United States by re arranging German symphony music for string quartets.  When  talking pictures became more common, many foreign films became inaccessible.  In a bit of a learning process Herman subtitled over 300 movies.  With a subtitled German film the non Germans were upset that they were not understanding a joke as the German speakers were all laughing. 

"Sarah's Key" an international classic you can better understand in French and English.

To avoid taking away from other factors--cinematography, acting, scenery, costumes, etc. written dialogue needs to be concise, meaning often words are eliminated to get at the meaning.  Colloquialisms are tricky, but if not dealt with the viewer is confused. A typo can add to the confusion.

Dubbing became popular at one time as it was thought a better way to make words clear.  Many movies are still available this way, but many of us find dubbing unnatural.  The voice doesn't always match the visual and often comes with an awkward distracting cadence.

Woody Allen is a challenge because his movies tend to be wordy.  He admired a French subtitleist who managed  to captured the essence of his dialogues.

Censoring can be disastrous distorting the meaning of the script.  Sometimes the subtitleist uses euphemism for swear words. 

"Leviathan" depicts a Russia you never knew about.


 In some instances subtitles are not needed.  In some films your viewpoint is that of one of the main characters, but sometimes they are confronted with people speaking in a language they don't understand.  Often subtitles are used so you can understand an irony in the dialogue, but other times it is better if you are as confused as the protagonist.   The film credits are often left alone, but admittedly when non Roman fonts are used such as cyrillic or Asian a film buff will not learn to appreciate a particular artist who contributes to their enjoyment.

 

"Corazon de Leon" filmed twice in Spanish,  one of the most popular film languages.  See what you have been missing!








 Americans have been distrustful of Iranians.  "A Separation"  won an Oscar and in the Farsi language presents a view that shows that the people are not that much different.




The idea behind subtitles is to make a film more accessible to a wider audience.  Another neglected audience has been deaf and hard of hearing people and increasingly they have access to descriptive subtitles so they can better understand some of the underlying emotions.  SDH has increased access for more people to movies 

The point of understanding the art of subtitles is to better enjoy subtitled movies which offer a much wider world perspective for many of us:  http://www.therealjohndavidson.com/2015/09/do-subtitles-scare-you-who-knows-what.html

Monday, February 4, 2019

SELF RIGHTEOUSNESS AND FORGIVENESS

We live in a time when your past (or anyone's) can come back to haunt you, perhaps more easily than in any past time.  The thing that has changed the most is not human behavior, but the all too common self-righteousness.

Infants are pretty much at the mercy of their parents.  Children are influenced by their peers.  Young people still struggle to fit in.  Hopefully some of us mature enough to realize there is more to the world than we had been taught.  Humans still want to think of themselves as good, as accepted by society, strive for domination and intimacy and want to survive whatever the world throws at us.

Governor Northam is not somebody I was very conscious of and can only speculate how his  inner thinking and feelings operate today.  To be a successful politician, requires a strong ego, strategic thinking and luck.  Luck that no one will uncover some of your almost forgotten youthful history.  We have all gotten away with something.  I am very conscious of some of my youthful failings--this is not a full confession, but most of you would be able to relate:  http://www.therealjohndavidson.com/2013/08/what-have-you-gotten-away-with.html

To get to where you are you made a number of mistakes.  Some of them you learned from and others you have been able to cover up, even forget.  One of the childish games most of us have played was to catch someone having done something stupid or forbidden.  At an early age we become conscious of avoiding or covering up embarrassing or punishable actions.  This is second nature to the vast majority of us.

We have set standards of behavior for different situations and all too often at least a few of our trespasses are unforgivable.   Many of us can be a bit critical.  When we have been caught, a few look for opportunities to criticize others, particularly our enemies.

I can only imagine the atmosphere Ralph Northam grew up in, but speculating that many of his elders and his peers had some form of racism.  We all do, but to some areas it is more blatant than others.  We like to think that medical students would be more educated and mature, but it is likely there are some that are provocative and even more likely that others don't want to rock the boat.  Virginia is not considered the Deep South, but is still a southern state.

An article I read, I think on CNN pointed out that some politicians that have advanced equality had a long history of racism.  The two most easily remembered are Abraham Lincoln and Lyndon Johnson.  One might argue that their past also formed their understanding and allowed them at a mature age to take a courageous stand.  Governor Northam's political record regarding respect for blacks (prior to his mishandling of this current scandal) has been relatively commendable.   I don't know what he would have done without this obstacle, but suspect he would be a supporter of equal rights.

Hypocrisy  runs deep in American politics.  When Newt Gingrich was among the leaders trying to impeach President Clinton he was in the midst of an adulterous affair.  Perhaps a more appropriate analogy might be Donald Trump with his many anti black words and deeds loves to catch Democrats in their hypocrisies.  I do realize I am indulging in "he did it too."  A Biblical saying is "he who is without sin should cast the first stone."

Forgiveness can be very difficult.  The most difficult cases deal with violence and humiliation.  Sometimes the "guilty" one is unrepentant.  The forgiveness not only allows one side to move forward, it also allows the innocent victim to also move forward and another bonus is that the rest of society can benefit.  I don't think Governor Northam needs to automatically resign, but he will be judged hopefully on how he goes forward.  Has he matured, has he learned, can he become a positive example?

The big question for all of us might be what have we learned from our past and how can we do better in the future?

Some earlier thoughts on some recent examples of quick judgments:  http://www.therealjohndavidson.com/2018/01/are-we-quick-to-judge.html 

Two Postscripts (about one hour later)

1.  After writing this, one fear is that just by suggesting Governor Ralph Northam might deserve forgiveness means some people will find it difficult to forgive me.  No matter what one expresses there is someone ready to condemn.   It seems likely that there are a number of people that can understand my argument. Most of them worry about what others will think of them.  I feel that as well.

2.  Many years ago when I was about in grade 6 two or three of us somehow got turned on by two movies about Al Jolson.  Rock was starting to shape our music interests, but we got sidetracked.  One of us bought some records which we all listened to.  Recently I re-saw the two movies and realized a few things.  I had had almost no contact with blacks at the time and it did strike me as strange that Al Jolson did a lot of performances in black face.  In the first of the movies they showed some scenes where Al joined some black musicians and wanted to adapt some of the music and moves--apparently this was the start of his rise to fame.  He was really impressed with their music and I understand was supportive of individual blacks, but it does boil down to cultural appropriation.  Another more recent example was Elvis Presley who made a lot of black music popular among whites.  I enjoyed Al Jolson and probably didn't notice that sometimes the blackface enhanced my enjoyment.  Jolson and Presley helped open up our culture, but each of them at one time must have wrestled with their conscience.

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

WHAT I LEARNED AS A TAX PREPARER

Are you dreading the upcoming tax return?  Not sure how to fill out the forms and what documents are needed?  You are not alone.  

It was a long time ago that I got paid to prepare tax returns,  but I have done tax returns for myself and family up to the present.   H and R Block offered a part time job (I already had a day job), but you had to take a course.  I thought I knew it all, but sadly didn't.

I knew that we had a progressive tax system, but didn't really understand how it works.  The instructor was very good at explaining.  It starts with the premise that everyone has certain financial needs:  food, clothing and shelter.  The exact levels are difficult to determine fairly, but it is generally accepted that some people do not earn enough income to pay taxes.  Others earn enough to survive with more for other goods and they are expected to contribute, but the government realizes many can only spare so much.  Still others, a minority make well more than needed to survive and in fact enjoy luxuries.  Usually they benefit more from government infrastructure than the rest and are able to pay more taxes.

Personally I owned a small amount of stocks and was pleased to learn about dividend tax credits.  The theory being that the country needed investors and many were of the widows and orphan types that needed encouragement and protection.  Many years later I learned that people who earn money through some investments pay a much lower tax rate, one American billionaire who thought this was a shame was Warren Buffet who paid a lower tax rate than his secretary.

My daytime job was selling office supplies and on one call to an accounting firm I boasted that I had taken the course.  The accounting company rep boasted back to me, "you learned the basic facts of how to fill out the form.  We figure how much you can get away with."  I always knew there were people in all income levels who bent the rules.

One memory-a client admitted that he had done flyer delivery for cash payments.  In another previous job I worked with flyer distribution.  I knew that his official income would not result in any taxes owed.  I shamed him into estimating his unofficial income.  We did it in such a way that he still didn't pay any taxes, but we both felt uncomfortable.  More on my circulation career which included a stint marketing flyer distribution:  http://www.therealjohndavidson.com/2012/08/my-career-in-circulation-part-3-winding.html

A common strategy I encountered with customers was to overpay taxes and get a nice rebate.  They hated the idea of having to pay extra taxes.  A better way to look at it is you do end up paying taxes that means you had the use of the money beforehand.  If you got a rebate that meant the government had the use of your money.  Forced savings such as buying mutual funds or bonds is a better way and if you register the investment plan you can save money on your taxes.

Another common practice was to buy a RRSP mostly around the month of February to get a tax deduction.  If enough people did this it would be enough to temporarily boost stock prices.  A better strategy would be to do monthly contributions such as to a mutual fund.  Dollar cost averaging helps to optimize fund growth and one overlooked fact is that earnings are protected from taxes until withdrawal.

If your income has any complications it may well pay to seek professional advice  If you income is simple such as wages and standard deductions it is not as difficult as too many people think and free advice is available.

What I had to say about tax collectors:  http://www.therealjohndavidson.com/2015/04/tax-collectors-dirty-job-frowned-upon.html


Saturday, January 26, 2019

Minority Rights are the key to democracy

This is a cliche for many people, but too many of us need reminding.  Democracy cannot grow without minority rights.

Madeleine Albright. from "Fascism"  states "in a true democracy, leaders respect the will of the majority, but also the rights of the minority.  One without the other is not enough."  More about her book, http://www.therealjohndavidson.com/2018/10/fascism-warning-form-madeleine-albright.html

With every election, we expect everyone to accept the result.  That is how our decisions are made.  However over history we have countless examples of how the majority can be wrong and even sometimes come to regret their decision.  Donald Trump got in without a majority with a platform that seems against minorities as well a big part of what he calls his base.  Too often politicians will set majorities against a minority to win an election.

My concern in this blog post is with minorities, the ones whose vote did not translate directly to power.  The majority/minority split can be in almost every category. (race, sex, age, political preferences).  Ideally every individual should fit into society and contribute to it.

However many minorities are not respected and are even commonly discriminated against.  But examining the concept of a minority any individual can be considered a minority.  There are considered a number of races and even more ethnicities and religious affiliations.  then there are education and employment status.  Sexual preferences are achieving greater public awareness.  We can go further--short or tall (or in between). age  f there are more females in a society than males are a minority, although females may feel they are because they have in effect less political power. 

The point is any one person can be discriminated against, but society is only optimized when every individual is allowed to make a contribution.

Minorities have fought back violently.  Other forms of resistance are not so obvious, but nonetheless impact all of society.

John F. Kennedy quote--"Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable."

Nelson Mandela was very realistic after his years in prison.  He knew the majority blacks needed the educated whites and found ways to alleviate criticism.  Gandhi understood that Hindus were stronger with the support of the Muslims and worked to ally them (and others) to fight the British.  India today has more Muslims than any other nation, although conflicts are still there.

The American constitution and others have tried to give rights to the minorities.  The separation of church and government is crucial.  Although in Lebanon they have achieved some stability by holding some positions of power to specific minorities.  The trend today seems to be to expand minority rights such as for sexual preferences.  The majority normally resists losing their privileged status, but with more contact increase their acceptance.

Proportional voting gives a strong voice to minorities.   One complaint against it has been that too often power is split,  That is true, but when it happens it is more difficult for one party to discriminate against the minority

Tuesday, January 8, 2019

The Fifth Risk--the latest from Michael Lewis

Whatever catches the fancy of Michael Lewis is apt to receive perceptive insights.  He has a way of gathering information from people who ought to know better.  We are the ones who are better off.  Mostly in this book he talks to good intelligent people about serious concerns.

One example is Lewis has Karen Pence quoted after Trump and her husband's election victory , "You got what you wanted, now leave me alone."

The Trump team was not prepared for a transition.  In 2015 laws had been passed to make transition plans  mandatory.  In short the Trump team was unprepared, incompetent and too often counter productive.  For the most part they were not interested in learning how a department functioned  Both George Bush and Barrack Obama had gone to great lengths to pass on critical information.  Doug Christie was the one who encouraged Trump to set up a transition team.  In the end he got fired by Steve Bannon and much of what he set up was disregarded.

What is the Fifth Risk?  Many mechanisms could have been developed, but the author chose a judgment of one of his contacts.  The risks were the dangers of a Trump government not paying attention to real problems.  It was admitted that each of the listed risks could have been ranked differently and others could be added  The first risk was of a nuclear disaster.  The second risk was North Korea acting up.  The third risk was the unraveling of the Iran deal.  The fourth risk was an attack on the electric grid.  The fifth risk was to project management by which I interpret to mean the government not continuing to monitor scientifically the many dangers threatening the population..

By many people with a conservative philosophy the government is a problem.  This has fostered a distrust and ignorance of the the government functions.  To some (myself included) a function of the government is to protect their citizens.  In many cases this means against the 1% who are exploiting the masses.

One almost comical appointment was for Rick Perry to the Department of Energy.  That was the department he famously forgot in one of the presidential debates.  He confessed he had no idea of its functions which included nuclear weapons controls.  His ignorance is typical.

Government employees are often portrayed as not as smart as private business employees and are not conscientious.  The author was able to find many who do not fit that description and who have been in fact crucial for the health and welfare of all Americans.  For the most part these employees had been ignored by the Trump team.

Another myth seemingly integral to the Trump team is that government cannot get things done as well as private business.  In fact most corporations are not willing to spend large amounts of money and time on research.  That critical function has been done through government.  Mariana Mazzucato had a lot of insight on this matter:  http://www.therealjohndavidson.com/2015/07/the-entreprenurial-state.html.

Like other Republican political leaders (and for that matter many Democratic leaders) take up the mantra that regulations stifle business.  What is overlooked is that unchecked corporations will cut corners and usually looking for ways to exploit consumers.  Many feel that the 2008 recession can be traced to lack of enforced regulations.    Allowing more money into the political process assures that many decisions will be tinged with vested interests.  Most of the Trump appointees were focused on doing away with regulations that hurt profits rather than protecting citizens.  A prime example was deleting information on climate change.

Funding for research was routinely cut (partly to allow for tax cuts) and also loans to startup companies particularly for renewal resources.  Conservatives were quick to point out the mistake loaning money to Solyndra.  Nevertheless the loan program did succeed to give American renewal resource companies to boost energy preparedness and pay for itself. Oil interests are constantly fighting renewal resources.

Nutrition has been a concern of government that is resisted by many food manufacturers.  Meat inspectors, researchers, etc have been instrumental in saving lives.  Nonetheless Trump appointees
take the side of profit seeking corporations..

Michael Lewis as always gets into an issue in depth.  There are so many anti-Trump books and articles out, but also adamant defenders.  It is hard to stomach that not only behind the scenes but fairly visible the Trump administration is not on the side of the "people" as they love to claim.

Maybe Americans will appreciate the positive contributions of the government as the shutdown affects over 800,000 employees taken off their jobs or forced to work without pay.  Countless services will be curtailed and businesses that depended on the spending of federal employees will notice a drop in revenue.  The lack of financing for farmers and small businesses will be slow down the economy.

Tuesday, January 1, 2019

MEMORIES FROM 2018

2018 has come and gone.  Some more memories to capture before they slip away.

The easiest in some ways to forget are those who are no longer with us.  Some left some good memories.  There are of course many others who could have been mentioned.

Lisa De Macio married to Sam with two great kids, Nicole and Gregory and one grand-daughter Chloe.  At one time she taught English as a second language, the same as my sister Rebecca.  Lisa went on to help people with disabilities.  She didn't want people to cry over her death so she planned her own memorial down to a lot of thoughtful details.  Some high school friends from Havergal College were instructed to make sure humor was added to the memorial and they did.   Sam gave a speech part of which I remember,  "When you leave here, her love will go with you."  I remember her father in law Peter (who married my mother in law) liked to take her out to a favorite Greek restaurant in Burlington--we all came to love.   She had degrees from the University of Toronto and Ryerson.  One small detail given by a friend of hers was she recommended the book by Viktor Frankl--"Man's Search for Meaning"--one that left a deep impression on me.  Sam was right--she left her mark and the rest of us are better off for it.

Sridevi was a Bollywood actress, well regarded in her sphere, but probably not well known among western movie goers.  During a vacation in New Zealand I went to an Indian restaurant, Shiraz in Whangerei and noticed they had sweets including ladoo.  I had never tasted them before, but remembered them from a wonderful movie, "English Vinglish"  in which Srivevi played a woman whose husband and children mocked her for not speaking English.  The movie set up circumstances where she learned to speak English secretly, but all the way through her pride and joy was a business making ladoos which I indulged in during my New Zealand vacation.  I went on to see her in her earlier days when she played romantic leads and a more recent memorable movie "Mom" that is well worth seeing.  I was looking forward to new movies, but will have to content myself with her older films.

Stephen Hawking died during the Paralympics.  From an earlier speech  just before the 2012 Paralympics I would like to.quote:  "We are all different there is no such thing as a standard or run of the mill human being, but we share the same human spirit.  Look up at the stars and not down at your feet."  Another quote, "However difficult life may seem there is always something you can do and succeed at."  Not only gave us science understanding, but also contributed to humanity.

Anthony Bourdain.  I love eating, but my attraction to him was his bringing new cultural experiences.  It was upsetting that he committed suicide, possibly due to addiction problems.  We did learn of exotic food items, but more importantly learned about different cultures and how we all have a lot in common starting with a love of communal eating.  In the first video I saw of him he was participating in a hangi which eventually became a bucket list item for me that I finally indulged in on my recent trip to New Zealand.  See below.

Kofi Anan, former secretary General of the U.N.  A voice of reason in a turbulent world.  After retiring Kofi still had words worth listening to:  https://www.facebook.com/Channel4News/videos/2188262544720258/UzpfSTEwMDAwMjk4Mjc2OTIzMzoxNzA3ODI0MDA5MzI3MDA4/

Aretha Franklin left behind a lot of good songs. The one I most remember is RESPECT and I was surprised to learn the original Otis Redding version was a male demand for a woman to be his servant.  She made it an anthem with a different theme.  I have come to appreciate she had other songs, many of which were written by her, but many were covers that were appreciated by the originators including Carole King and Simon and Garfunkle.

John McCain someone we all have to respect.  He was labeled Republican, but in fact he was more free of labels than just about any politician.  More than for others he made decisions based on what he thought was right.  This link is something to remember:  https://twitter.com/kylegriffin1/status/1033524441752457216?s=12



David and Krista presented us with Calder to join his older sister Hannah.  Apparently Calder is already a Toronto Maple Leaf fan.












We finished off 2017 and started 2018 in New Zealand with a memorable holiday.  One of my bucket list items was a Maori ceremony coupled with a hangi.  A Christmas gift from Michael we enjoyed was the best view of Auckland with one of the best meals at Orbit 360, atop Sky City.  Perhaps adding to our enjoyment is that we escaped a bad storm and cold spell back in Ontario. For more details check:  http://www.therealjohndavidson.com/2018/01/starting-2018-in-new-zealand.html

The Winter Olympics are always something that draws my attention.  http://www.therealjohndavidson.com/2018/02/winter-olympics-2018.html

Paralympics a few weeks later is something I have come to appreciate what men and women can accomplish despite life's sometimes unfairness:  http://www.therealjohndavidson.com/2018/03/2018-winter-paralympics-triumph-for-all.html

After three years of tests and wondering, Heather was diagnosed with MS, the progressive kind.  She actually was relieved as she thought her problem might be a brain tumor.  Heather is still mobile, but needs a cane and tires more easily and even falls on occasion.  When the parking lot where she works was tied up with renovations a drive to work campaign had a number of people involved.  We became involved in the MS Mandarin walk campaign and accumulated 9 walkers and cheerleaders--one under one and another close to 90.  We raised over $2,000, but the struggles carries on.  In  a separate fundraising Heather raised enough money for an Alinker ($2800) in a few days.  It boosts her mobility while retaining some muscle use and also allows her to see people eye to eye.

Doors Open Hamilton always seems to fall on the weekend the weather is finally good enough to start getting our yard ready for the summer.  Still I try to keep the tradition alive.  Cannon Knitting Mills has been an empty building I walk by on my way to the dentist, but they have big plans for it.

As Heather reached the age of 40 we decided to have a big party.  It happened that a distant cousin from Atlanta, Lana Wachniak and her husband Bill were in town and wanted to surprise my mother in law.  Heather had friends and co-workers visit.  A lot of baking and cooking was appreciated by the guests.  Heather emulated her birthday photo from age one.

We live within walking distance of a tour boat and this year were able to take advantage of a free community tour.  Hamilton is known as an industrial city and we were able to appreciate the steel plants along the shore of Hamilton Harbour.  But there is also a little bit of nature and art along the way.

A memorable moment for Sharon came when Heather took her to a Blue Jay game as a birthday present.  After the game they encountered a big problem.  The underground parking was flooded and they were delayed for over an hour.  But during  that time Heather spotted Buck Martinez, now broadcaster for the Jays and encouraged Sharon to get his autograph and then a photo.

Another once every four year event was the World Cup.  As usual there were a lot of good games.  The winning French team was mostly made of immigrants or the sons of immigrants.  Croatia provided the other finalist.

40th wedding anniversary of Frank and Connie.  We attended the wedding and were surprised to learn that Sharon is related to her school friend Connie.  Frank came to Canada as an infant with his parents leaving Hungary during the 1956 Revolution.  Family and friends gathered to share memories.






Supercrawl celebrated its 10th anniversary.   It is amazing such a big event is just down the street.  More details:  http://www.therealjohndavidson.com/2018/09/supercrawl-on-its-tenth-anniversary.html 


I attended an event that would have been on my bucket list if it had been conceivable.  A Bollywood backup singer, Arijit Singh has become my favorite male singer, but he was based in far off India and even though he did tours they were to big cities.  Out of the blue an announcement was made he was performing in Hamilton at the First Ontario Centre within walking distance.  I had not been to any arena type concert in decades, but wanted to see this.  As it turned out it was billed as a Toronto event as I suppose it was more suitable for marketing.  It was a bit of a shock because it was too loud for my ears and an arena doesn't have the right acoustics.  He is a very nuanced singer.  Still I was impressed with the level of musicians backing him and I was also impressed at how long he performed.  He was on stage for over three hours with only a five minute break.  I still love his music, but will stick to a quieter atmosphere.  I suspect most of my readers have not even heard of him.  Nonetheless he has a massive world wide audience and is well worth finding and listening to. 

The Art Gallery of Hamilton BMO International Film Fest was in October.  I always attend the Trailers and Teasers show as you learn about a wide number of movies.  We went to see "Puzzle" starring Kelly MacDonald and Irrfan Khan.

Each year I get to go to the Royal Winter Fair on behalf of The Rider and I get to meet some interesting people.  Jessica Phoenix is a very likeable person who has overcome adversity to win gold medals for Canada had her story written up by Julie Fitz-Gerald.       Here they are at the Ontario Equestrian booth.





This past fall was another gathering of friends from M M Robinson high school plus spouses, friends and some offspring plus Chef Luther..  A few more hit the 65 mark with three cakes from Sharon.






We returned to our traditional New Years' Eve party for food, drink and conversation with close friends.  Sharon outdid herself and my sister Rebecca helped out.




Restaurants eat up money and time, but I love them and consider them a form of art with a lot of potential for beauty. Some memorable  visits in Canada were to Bangkok Spoon, Loaded Pierogis ,Gate of India,  and Mesa,
Looking back to New Zealand restaurants fond memories of  in Whangerei found an Indian dessert, ladoo at Shiraz; Newmarket Sun World Chinese Restaurant, Orbit  360 way up  inSky City;  Pakuranga mall has a weekly market--enjoyed Char Kuey Teow, a Malaysian booth with long lineup, difficult t find a seat, but worth the effort.

Read over 30 books and would like to remember a few:  http://www.therealjohndavidson.com/2018/12/my-favorite-books-of-2018.html 

Saw over 300 movies and here is what I want to remember: bit.ly/2R505Gh

top 3 blogs of 2018

Starting the year in New Zealand: http://www.therealjohndavidson.com/2018/01/starting-2018-in-new-zealand.html

my favorite book of the year  http://www.therealjohndavidson.com/2018/12/21-lessons-for-21st-century.html

animals after vegans:  http://www.therealjohndavidson.com/2018/01/what-happens-to-farm-animals-when.html

To read  about 2017 check:  http://www.therealjohndavidson.com/2018/01/2017-another-year-to-remember.html