Has J.J. McCullough said something sensible at last : “In Canada, interest in the monarchy remains mostly an elite thing”?

Posted: September 28th, 2022 | No Comments »
“Electro-Magnetic Love” by Michael Seward, September 2022.

ONTARIO TONITE. RANDALL WHITE, FERNWOOD PARK, TORONTO, WEDNESDAY 28 SEPTEMBER 2022. Andrew Cohen is “a journalist, professor of journalism at Carleton University and the author of Two Days in June: John F. Kennedy and the 48 Hours That Made History” (and The Unfinished Canadian: The People We Are).

Back in the middle of June last year Mr. Cohen published an article in the Ottawa Citizen with the headline “The Washington Post’s troubled — and troubling — Canadian columnist.”

The columnist in question was “one J.J. McCullough, a cartoonist and YouTuber, in Vancouver,” who is “clever, confident and conservative,” and a purveyor of “fine” writing,“where ‘fine’ does not necessarily mean good.”

J.J. McCullough relaxing in Vancouver.

Andrew Cohen’s critique of Mr. McCullough’s weekly (and largely Canadian “global”) column in The Washington Post did not mince words : “From his 36 years of life, he foists his black pearls of wisdom on his innocent readers … His view of Canada is mirthless, even mournful. It is without nuance or variety … his night sky is unbroken by a star of hope … It reflects his disappointment in the weak, feckless confection known as Canada.”

Mr. Cohen went on : “This view of … a failed state presumably played well in the conservative pages of The National Review, for which he wrote. In the Post, offered irregularly, it might be eclectic … Weekly, though, it is boring, a jejune lament. Justin Trudeau is a mediocrity … He’s done. The Conservatives are ineffective without Stephen Harper. Everything is a failure: bilingualism, the office of the governor general, banning plastics, regulating broadcasting …”

Andrew Cohen then began his conclusion with : “The mystery is why the Post runs McCullough, as if he reflects the mood of Canada. Perhaps that’s why it also publishes David Moscrop, a thoughtful progressive (who recently used his column to tell Americans Doug Ford should resign).”

Pierre Poilievre defended JJ last year … and I finally agree with him myself now!

“Spukhaft” by Michael Seward, September 2022.

The day after Andrew Cohen’s J.J. McCullough critique appeared in the Ottawa Citizen there was response on Twitter. McCullough himself began with a question about the article’s title: “In what way am I ‘troubled’? Because I have a different opinion than Mr. Cohen here?”

This was followed by a supporting tweet from Pierre Poilievre (somewhat before he became leader of the Conservative Party of Canada) : “Andrew Cohen’s attack on J.J. McCullough is a cry for help from the sleepy old establishment Liberal media now irrelevant because online platforms allow people to read writers they actually enjoy, like J.J. McCullough.”

Until recently I altogether agreed with Andrew Cohen in this particular Canadian domestic conflict. Yes Canada is a (wonderfully, in part) crazy place in many ways with much growing up still left to do. But I am equally convinced that Canada — and particularly its government and even its politics — does have virtues. They are worth bearing in mind and keeping alive.

“Warning Signs” by Michael Seward, September 2022.

On September 21, 2022, however, J.J. McCullough’s weekly Washington Post column was headlined “In Canada, interest in the monarchy remains mostly an elite thing.” And in the wake of what many Canadians did see as the sad death of Queen Elizabeth II this article said a number of things I altogether agree with (and with what passes in Canada for some passion).

Disproportionate royalism of thought-leader class has stifled a larger debate

I was not entirely surprised by this. Like a few others I remember Mr. McCullough from his time long ago now trying to change what he notes in his September 21, 2022 column as “the fact that Canada lacks a republican [ie anti-monarchist] movement of any power.”

He apparently at least half gave up on all this because “I underestimated not only the full scope of the Canadian public indifference and ignorance about our monarchical ties, but also the magnitude of the elite’s obsession with it.” He nonetheless retains something of his earlier Canadian republican or anti-monarchist convictions (like many others, myself included!).

“no way outa here!” by Michael Seward, September 2022.

In any case McCullough now aptly complains that : “Public opinion polls have shown for years a majority of Canadians support cutting ties to Buckingham Palace.” But this is “rarely conceded” by (most) Canadian political leaders and academic, business, and media elites.

So at the recent “Ottawa church ceremony for the queen,” McCullough notes “former [Conservative] prime minister Brian Mulroney asserted that ‘in my judgment,’ the ‘overwhelming majority of Canadians’ support the royalist status quo.”

And current Liberal PM Justin Trudeau, McCullough also notes, is “probably Canada’s most sincerely monarchist prime minister since John Diefenbaker.” (A bit of an exaggeration perhaps, but essentially and for some among us quite disappointingly true.)

In the wake of the Queen’s recent sad passing, as McCullough nicely enough makes the point : “Such disproportionate royalism on the part of the thought-leader class has helped stifle a larger debate about the future of monarchy that Canada should really be having by now.”

In the end JJ, Andrew Cohen, and others do agree on future of monarchy in Canada!

“Gothic Tale” by Michael Seward, September 2022.

Ironically or otherwise, J.J. McCullough has of course not been the only Canadian pundit calling for a new debate on the monarchy in Canada, in the wake of Elizabeth II’s recent sad passing — even if he is to no small extent on the money when he urges that attachment to the (British) monarchy in Canada “remains mostly an elite thing.”

Opinion polls do suggest that from a quarter to a third of we Canadian masses (as opposed to the classes, as the old anglophone “thought leaders” used to say) still do support the old offshore monarchy. And similarly, on the other side of the coin, various renegade members of the elites (or the classes) are already calling for an end to the monarchy in the new age of King Charles III.

Five days before Mr. McCullough’s “In Canada, interest in the monarchy remains mostly an elite thing” appeared in The Washington Post, a piece by his old critic (and member of both Canadian academic and media elites) Andrew Cohen had appeared in The Globe and Mail, based in Canada’s current most populous metropolis in Toronto.

Andrew Cohen at Carleton U.

This Cohen article was called “The Queen is dead. Time for Canada, finally, to talk about becoming a republic. We owe it to ourselves.”

I have no idea whether Andrew Cohen finds J.J. McCullough’s parallel remarks on the monarchy some five days later as impressive as I do. He might view some of McCullough’s September 21, 2022 column as still betraying the old flaws beneath a welcome surface of agreement.

A real-world Canadian republic in the not too distant future is going to take a lot of constructive thinking. Right-wing nattering nabobs of negativism are no better than those on the left, etc.

Still, speaking strictly for myself, as a passionate supporter of Mr. Cohen’s June 16, 2021 critique of Mr. McCullough’s Washington Post columns, it does seem striking in 2022 that the future of the monarchy in Canada is an issue on which I broadly agree with the clever, confident and conservative J.J. McCullough.

Reaching across the ideological chasm?

This agreement across the ideological chasm does (in my mind at any rate) raise the prospect that the future of the monarchy in today’s “free and democratic society” (Constitution Act, 1982) could finally be some unifying democratic issue for the Canadian near to mid term future.

“Brass Band” by Michael Seward, September 2022.

It might eventually bring together enough Canadians of all persuasions to revisit the prospect of actually amending the constitution we apparently brought home with our own amending procedures 40 years ago.

And, along with abolishing the monarchy and becoming a (parliamentary democratic) republic, this could somehow pick up the work on the Québécois nation, Indigenous rights, Senate reform, and more that was no doubt wisely enough set aside for the moment 30 years ago.

It could also be just a wild political fantasy that J. J. McCullough’s hidebound elites just won’t allow! (And the rest of us won’t care enough about to protest effectively.) Only time will tell. And whatever happens Canada and the Canadian people will continue to struggle on, in an increasingly less harsh climate (and with increasingly less support for the monarchy in opinion polls).

The long journey to ending the British monarchy in Canada actually began just after the Second World War

Posted: September 18th, 2022 | No Comments »
“Upstream” by prize-winning Toronto artist Michael Seward, September 2022.

COUNTERWEIGHTS EDITORS, GANATSEKWYAGON, ON. SEPTEMBER 18, 2022. The extravaganza following the death of Queen Elizabeth II has been especially concentrated in the old imperial metropolis across the seas. And there as well the Queen’s state funeral tomorrow will begin at 11 AM BST (or 6 AM EDT here in North America).

Whatever else, all this amounts to an authentic historic moment. Great Britain and the British Empire and Commonwealth were one thing when Elizabeth II unexpectedly inherited the throne on February 6, 1952. The United Kingdom and the Commonwealth of Nations were another quite different thing when she passed away on September 8, 2022.

Along with the United Kingdom itself and other so-called “Commonwealth realms,” the change has everything to do with present-day life in Canada (and in less direct ways the wider global village). The Queen’s death marks a dividing line of sorts. (See, eg, the September 15, 2022 statista report, “India Overtakes UK to Become Fifth Biggest Economy.”)

“On the Head of a Pin” by Michael Seward, September 2022.

Around this aging table here we counterweights editors were all of 6, 7, 8, and 9 years old when the 20-something Elizabeth Windsor suddenly became Queen Elizabeth II.

We were all living in one or another part of Southern Ontario in central Canada — then still a somewhat more obviously colonial and rather aggressively British North American place, with a British red ensign standing in for the independent Canadian flag that did not arrive until 1965.

We all remember getting bronze coronation medals some 16 months later. (As explained by coinquest.com today : “Every school child in Canada got one … when Queen Elizabeth II was crowned in 1953. There are plenty of them to go around, and that keeps the price low.”)

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Sovereignty Smith in Wild Rose Country & Trudeau Liberals/Singh NDP (& what the people think after much-loved Queen)

Posted: September 8th, 2022 | No Comments »
“Hot and Humid, College/Spadina, Aug.22” by Michael Seward, August 2022.

ONTARIO TONITE. RANDALL WHITE, FERNWOOD PARK, TORONTO, THURS SEP 8, 2022. [UPDATED SEP 10]. As the new fall cultural season begins, I seem to be contemplating two confusing but nonetheless intriguing stories in the news of the day/week/month etc :

(1) Lieut. Gov. Salma Lakhani & Danielle “Sovereignty” Smith in Wild Rose Country (and then suddenly today the Queen passes away at Balmoral Castle in Scotland)

News from Alberta is what keeps Ontario politics interesting. The leadership race voting process for the province’s governing United Conservative Party has already started (on September 2). The winner will be announced just under one month from today, on October 6.

Memories of summer at the lake 2022.

If it’s Danielle Smith — and she is currently “the frontrunner candidate in the race to replace Jason Kenney as Alberta’s UCP leader and premier”— we denizens of the Canada-First most populous province should be girding our loins for some further crazy talk (and possibly even action?) about Alberta sovereignty. (On Ms Smith’s theory there are now two Canadian provinces that are “pas une province comme les autres.”)

The prospect has already prompted such local headlines as “Alberta Lt.-Gov. willing to block sovereignty act if it’s found unconstitutional … ‘We are a constitutional monarchy, and this is where we keep checks and balances,’ Salma Lakhani said. ‘I’m what I would call a constitutional fire extinguisher’” ; and “Danielle Smith says premier, Alberta Lt.-Gov. wrong to comment on sovereignty act … Smith accuses Jason Kenney of tipping the scales in favour of Travis Toews.”

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As summer winds down there’s a Quebec election in the air (and Emily Wilson’s translation of The Odyssey on YouTube!)

Posted: August 23rd, 2022 | No Comments »
“Kerouac in Mexico” by prize-winning Toronto artist Michael Seward, August 2022.

COUNTERWEIGHTS EDITORS, GANATSEKWYAGON, ON. AUGUST 23, 2022. According to the Angus Reid Institute, 56% of Canadians across the country agree that “I can’t keep up with the cost of living,” and 39% disagree.

At the provincial level, Quebec has the smallest proportion agreeing with the statement (41%), and Saskatchewan the largest (71%).

Quebec election Oct 3 could be a lot like Ontario election June 2?

338Canada’s August 20 seat projection for October 3, 2022 Quebec provincial election in Canada : CAQ = Coalition Avenir Québec, LIB = Parti libéral du Québec. QS = Québec solidaire, PQ = Parti Québécois, QCP=Quebec Conservative Party.

Meanwhile, “Quebec Conservative Party becomes first to launch 2022 provincial election campaign … even though the official first day of campaigning has yet to be called.” The “election is scheduled for October 3, with a campaign required by law to last between 33 and 39 days.”

At the same time, the latest (August 20) numbers from 338Canada make clear (once more) that François Legault’s (rather conservative) Coalition Avenir Québec (CAQ) is going to win a strong majority government on October 3 — 97 of 125 seats. The Parti conservateur du Québec led by Éric Duhaime is projected to take some 13% of the province-wide popular vote, but no seats at all in l’Assemblée nationale.

At the same time again, strongly reminiscent of what happened to the Doug Ford “Progressive” Conservatives in this past June 2’s election in Quebec’s anglophone sister province of Ontario, the 338Canada August 20 numbers show the CAQ with only 42% of the cross-province popular vote. (Ford had 41% in Ontario, and with four parties in a first past the post electoral system this gave him 83 of 124 seats!)

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After this throne speech what Ontario needs is 4 years of community organizing

Posted: August 12th, 2022 | No Comments »
“Taking the Bait, Every Time” by Michael Seward, August 2022

ONTARIO TONITE. RANDALL WHITE, FERNWOOD PARK, TORONTO, FRIDAY 12 AUGUST 2022. Allison Jones’s Canadian Press report on the August 9 throne speech for Canada’s most populous province summarized much of the mainstream media reaction : “Ford throne speech says more can be done on health staffing but offers no new solutions.”

(Aka “Throne speech notes healthcare shortages; offers no new solutions.” And for essentially the same text under yet another title, see “‘No easy solutions’ to health care, economic issues, Ford government says in throne speech … urges Ontarians to prepare for economic slowdown.”)

Ontario health minister Sylvia Jones responds to questions about privatizing health care in the legislature.

Other reactions to the start of the strong-majority Ford government’s second term in office include : “People in Ontario are getting worried about the state of government services … As residents remain apprehensive, they are not confident that things will get better anytime soon, especially with Doug Ford just beginning a new term at the helm.”

And then there is “Jones asked if for-profit health care a possibility in Ont.” And “Ontario health minister won’t rule out privatization as option to help ER crisis … Asked if the government is considering privatization, Sylvia Jones says ‘all options are on the table’” (And for the very latest here see “Ontario health minister says health-care access through OHIP won’t change” and “Doug Ford swallowed a bee while talking about the possibility of privatizing health care”!)

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The American people of Kansas show a little light at the end of the tunnel

Posted: August 4th, 2022 | No Comments »
“There’s No Scientific Proof” by Michael Seward, August 2022.

NORTH AMERICAN NOTEBOOK. RANDALL WHITE, FERNWOOD PARK, TORONTO, 4 AUGUST 2022. It would no doubt be wrong to express too much joy about “‘No’ prevails: Kansas votes to protect abortion rights in state constitution.” This supposedly “red state” support for the progressive option may not finally have real impact on the crucial November 8 midterm elections in the USA.

At the same time, Katharina Buchholz’s related August 3 statista.com piece “Post-Roe v. Wade: The State of U.S. Abortion Laws” does raise some vague prospect of a progressive electoral geography beyond the (largely north) Atlantic and Pacific coasts, with a mid west burp in Illinois and (possibly) Minnesota.

Kansas, that is to say — the old Bleeding Kansas which finally entered the Union as a free state, some two and a half months before the start of the Civil War in 1861 — is not the only 21st century American state that may be somewhat more progressive (and even ready to vote more Democratic) than currently thought by all too many observers (including the person writing here).

The blue colours on Ms Buchholz’s map, for instance, are awarded to states where “Abortion rights protected/not expected to ban” under current law, regardless of the recent extreme conservative Supreme Court decision on Roe v Wade. And along with the usual bi-coastal suspects (and Illinois etc — and Kansas of course), they include New Mexico, Colorado, Nebraska (remember the Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854?), and Montana (and the Illinois companions Iowa and Minnesota, along with the new south in Virginia and North Carolina).

Put another way, New York (the old most populous “Empire” state) and California (the new most populous “state of what’s next”) are not the only centres of authentic American civilization and good sense nowadays (and again even with an honourable mention for Illinois and Barack Obama’s second hometown of Chicago).

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Pope’s visit should also remind us that Indigenous peoples “were fundamental to the growth of Canadian institutions”

Posted: July 28th, 2022 | No Comments »
“Interstellar Polemic” by prize-winning Toronto artist Michael Seward, July 2022.

COUNTERWEIGHTS EDITORS, GANATSEKWYAGON, ON. JULY 28, 2022. Paul Elie, a senior fellow at Georgetown University with a special interest in religion, has written in The New Yorker about Pope Francis’s current Canadian visit, to confront the role of the Catholic Church in the historic appalling and now quite discredited Indian Residential Schools in Canada :

“On Sunday [24 July 2022], he met with Indigenous representatives at the airport in Edmonton; then, on Monday, he travelled fifty miles south to the hamlet of Maskwacis. There, seated in a wheelchair, he addressed other representatives, saying, ‘I have come to your native lands to tell you in person of my sorrow.’”

Mr. Elie carried on : “The apology that followed was striking in its openheartedness. “I humbly beg forgiveness for the evil committed by so many Christians against the Indigenous peoples,” the Pope said … The apology suggested that regardless of how long Francis remains Pope, the trip will serve as a capstone to his tenure. Much of his papacy has involved redressing wrongs committed by the Church, and he has done so by striking a note of penitence that’s relatively new to the papacy — but that he has now established as an essential part of the office.”

Immediate historical background

“Pope Francis is greeted by George Arcand, Grand Chief of the Confederacy of Treaty Six First Nations, as he arrives in Edmonton on Sunday, July 24, 2022.”

We can only hope that Pope Francis’s Canadian visit will equally advance the cause of Indigenous “Reconciliation” and (a word much used in this context) “healing” in the 21st century world’s second-largest mass of political geography. (The largest, by far, belongs to Vladimir Putin’s Russian Federation. And in this one geographic respect Canada is actually slightly larger than the usually friendly giant USA next door — although Canada currently has only 11.5% of the human population of the United States!)

It is without a shred of doubt quite impossible to say anything good about the Indian Residential Schools experience in Canada today (or, eg, the parallel assimilationist — and “Western or European cultural imperialist” — Indigenous educational institutions in the USA and elsewhere). And there is no question that “ground-penetrating radar” evidence in June of last year on what Paul Elie in The New Yorker has called “the remains of two hundred and fifteen children from the Church-run Kamloops Indian Residential School, in British Columbia” has “brought fresh urgency to the request” for a papal apology.

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Catching up with Pierre Poilievre — how a guy born and raised in Calgary became an Ottawa region MP and likely next leader of the Conservative Party of Canada

Posted: July 19th, 2022 | 1 Comment »
“It’s All Coming Back to Me Now” by Michael Seward, July 2022.

ONTARIO TONITE. RANDALL WHITE, FERNWOOD PARK, TORONTO, TUESDAY 19 JULY 2022. For the longest time I have done my best to ignore Pierre Poilievre (“he pronounces it ‘paul-ee-EV’”), current frontrunner in the Conservative Party of Canada leadership race (to be decided this coming Saturday, September 10 — now less than two months away).

It was as long as 18 years ago, on June 28, 2004, that, having only recently celebrated his 25th birthday, M. Poilievre first entered the Canadian House of Commons.

He won election as MP for “Nepean-Carleton (since renamed Carleton), a sprawling suburban and rural riding southwest of Ottawa, under the newly united Conservative banner that Stephen Harper knitted together out of the [Canadian] Alliance [Alliance canadienne] and the Progressive Conservatives.”

It says something about Pierre Poilievre’s current credentials that he has been comfortably re-elected for more or less the same riding (“renamed Carleton” in 2012 for 2015) in every subsequent federal election (2006, 2008, 2011, 2015, 2019, 2021).

Career under Harper government

“Poilievre speaks during question period in the House of Commons in May 2018 (Chris Wattie/Reuters).”

Poilievre was the youngest MP in the House when first elected. (Andrew Scheer was 14 days older.) And he subsequently earned a reputation as a “Conservative attack dog” inside and outside parliament.

The Stephen Harper government that was more than nine years in office, 2006–2015, gave the young attack dog Pierre Poilievre some intriguing assignments. (Overseeing the drafting of the controversial 2006 Federal Accountability Act is one example.)

Perhaps understandably, however (given his youth alone), Poilievre only made it into the cabinet proper as Minister of Employment and Social Development for the Harper government’s last nine months in 2015.

He nonetheless also did some controversial work on the Fair Elections Act (passed) and the bill that was to become the Citizen Voting Act (not passed) as Minister of State for Democratic Reform, 2013–2015.

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Strange state of conservative politics in Canada and UK (and USA — could BOJO even be Trump’s successor??)

Posted: July 9th, 2022 | No Comments »
“Same Old Story” by prize-winning Toronto artist Michael Seward, July 2022.

SPECIAL FROM THE DEMOCRATIC DESKTOP OF CITIZEN X, ON THE EDGE OF THE CANADIAN SHIELD IN BUCKHORN, ON. K0L 0C1. 9 JULY 2022. The only immediate conclusion we up here in the Kawartha wilderness can draw is that some prominent Conservatives in Canada really do not like Patrick Brown.

He was replaced as Ontario PC leader by Doug Ford only months away from the 2018 provincial election.

Now only a very few months away from the 2022 Conservative Party of Canada leadership vote he has suddenly been disqualified from the race, for reasons still less than altogether clear.

(Party official “Brodie said he would like to share all the information the party has on the matter with members, but for legal reasons can’t right now.”)

“Patrick Brown Coup 2.0″ — Conservative democracy in Canada

“Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, right, was a surprise guest Wednesday [April 22, 2015] at a campaign reception in Toronto hosted by MP Patrick Brown, the front-running candidate for leader of Ontario’s Progressive Conservatives.”

The man in charge of the apparently 11–6 vote to disqualify Patrick Brown in 2022 is the political scientist Ian Brodie, a former Stephen Harper chief of staff and author of the 2018 book, At the Centre of Government: The Prime Minister and the Limits on Political Power. Those in the know like to say that Mr. Brodie is a Conservative Party of Canada official of great integrity.

There are also such recent news headlines as : “Patrick Brown was aware company was paying for campaign work, whistleblower says” ; “Conservative Party tried to bring Brown into compliance with election laws and failed: leadership chair” ; “Brown axed to keep Conservative party ‘beyond reproach,’ top official tells members” ; and “Patrick Brown, disqualified from CPC race, facing Brampton mayoral troubles as well.”

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On Canada Day 2022 these are times that try us (esp in USA) .. but there’s solace looking at summer on Blueberry Hill

Posted: July 1st, 2022 | 2 Comments »

NORTH AMERICAN NOTEBOOK. RANDALL WHITE, FERNWOOD PARK, TORONTO, FRIDAY 1 JULY 2022. On the one hand, Canada Day 2022 could be declared a happy event since the country has largely joined the growing part of the global village that is pretending the COVID-19 pandemic has ended.

This year there is a Canada Day Picnic more or less in the neighbourhood where I live. It’s a long walk, and driving means you have to find an almost impossible parking space. It’s best to take the streetcar.

(Years ago we’ve taken the streetcar all the way downtown for free hot dogs at Queen’s Park — well five-cent hot dogs anyway. But there’s nothing free at Doug Ford’s Queen’s Park now.)

On the other hand, in the world I live in it’s not easy to be happy about the public realm this year — in Canada as well as next door in the USA. With such international headlines as “Johnson and Trudeau Mock Putin’s ‘Tough’ Persona at G7 Meeting,” you might think the domestic Justin Trudeau critics who call Canada’s PM “whimpy” would be at least somewhat pleased. But growing bodies of evidence make clear they are not.

(Though a June 16 Mainstreet poll shows both New Democrats and Liberals ahead of their 2021 election results!)

And then there’s the sad truth made clear in Felix Richter’s June 27, 2022 statista article, “How Representative Is the G7 of the World It’s Trying to Lead?” In a nutshell the current G7 that has just been meeting in Germany’s old Catholic state of Bavaria (the United States, Japan, Germany, United Kingdom, France, Canada, and Italy) has 43.4% of the world’s GDP (Gross Domestic Product or annual economic production), but only 9.8% of the world’s population.

(And a June 28 global Gallup poll reports “World Unhappier, More Stressed Out Than Ever.”)

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