Musings, 12/10/18: “Don’t Insult My Country, Dotard”

French Government Slams Trump: Stop Interfering And ‘Leave Our Nation Be’

Having grown up Canadian, I remember very well the last time a French politician tried to interfere in the affairs of another country. I refer to, of course. the late French president Charles de Gaulle and his “Vive la Québec libre” comment made while visiting Québec in 1967. Lester Pearson’s Canadian government sort of told dear Charles to shut up and get out and he left the country.

More or less the same thing happened this past weekend, only it was France who was on the end of obnoxious comments, in this case tweets, by another world leader. That obnoxious world leader, of course, was Donald Trump. Trump, who hates not being the focus of every story no matter where it is happening in the world, decided to toss in his two cents worth about the protests by the yellow vests in France. Trump made the protests all about the Paris Accord on climate change and deluded himself into thinking that the crowds were chanting “We want Trump.” (This is only because this is what Donald Trump chants when he is alone by himself in the bathroom.)

And while some members of the French government politely told der Trump to back off, some people did not use diplomatic language at all. Joachim Son-Forget, a member of the French National Assembly, responded to Trump’s comments, by tweeting himself the unforgettable phrase that Trump was suffering from “cerebral incontinence.” (Ah, the French do have a way with words.) He followed this up by borrowing Kim Jong Un’s insult about Trump, “Don’t insult my country Dotard.”

The yellow vest protests have been extremely violent and widespread in a way that only protests in France can be. America had a similar protest over the way our government is being run. It was called the 2018 midterms.

Ontarians, we’re all living in a Dukes of Hazzard show now

I don’t think my American friends can truly appreciate what a brainless nincompoop Doug Ford is and what a mystery it is that he was elected premier of Ontario. The true reason was, of course, that the former Liberal government was so hated and despised by the average voter in Ontario they would’ve elected a blowup sex toy as the next premier. Doug Ford is not a blowup sex toy although he probably has the intelligence of one.

This is a great column by my friend and fellow Canadian Nieman Stephen Mayer that paints Ford with just the right brush. He not only acts like Boss Hogg and runs the government of Ontario like Boss Hogg ran Hazzard County, he looks like Boss Hogg. As Stephen points out in this column, it appears he’s installed his own version of Sheriff Roscoe P. Coltrane as the head of the Ontario Provincial Police.

I think the voters of Ontario must feel like they were on this wild bender, are slowly starting to sober up and asked themselves “Oh my God, what did we do?”.

Tumblr’s New ‘No Sex’ Rules Show The Problems Of FOSTA And EU Copyright Directive In One Easy Move

While the Boomer Generation and those over the age of 40 have been fascinated by the recent court filings by special counsel Robert Mueller concerning our dear president, younger people have only one topic on their mind – the decision by the popular social media network Tumblr to ban pornography from its site in the very near future. Tumblr, which is owned by Verizon through its purchase of Yahoo, made this decision because of a report of child pornography on Tumblr, which led to their app being pulled off of the Apple App Store. Tumblr reacted to these reports by immediately taking down these deeply offending images.

But Verizon, which has decided to surrender rather than fight for free speech, has decided to ban all “pornographic” images on Tumblr. They are using bots to hunt down these images. Which of course has led to complete chaos and the banning of anything that has a flesh tone (or in some cases is nothing at all to do with sex). Tumblr has been a safe space for many members of the LGBT community and some sex workers who used Tumblr to alert each other to the potential dangers of particular customers. But it’s the average user who is infuriated by Verizon’s move. In my own home, my children who are of the ages between 23 and 18 can talk of little else and how angry they are. They plan to leave Tumblr and I predict millions more will as well.

What lies behind this is a new law known as FOSTA (or SESTA) which was put into effect in April of this year. Before they became law, the Internet was ruled by the “safe harbor” provision of the 1996 Communications and Decency Act which basically protected Internet sites from third-party postings. FOSTA, which creates a runaround to the CDA, was enacted as a way to curb sex trafficking on sites like Backdoor (which has since gone out of business) but has done little to stop sex trafficking and only endangered free speech on the Internet. In fact recent statistics show that there are more sex trafficking posts available on the Internet only now they are located on sites which have no interest in cooperating with the police, which Backdoor did do.

This is yet another case of moralistic do-gooders using a sledgehammer to solve a problem that needed a thumbtack. Politicians who want to connect to the millennial generation need to pay attention to this issue. They need to study it and talk intelligently about it if they want to harvest the votes of young people.

Click here for reuse options!
Copyright 2018 My Two Countries

Musings:12/09/18 – Say Hello to the New Boss, Same As the Old Boss

William Barr Is Jeff Sessions Without the Baggage

Just in case anyone thought that William Barr will bring a new approach to the Justice Department needs to remember that this is Donald Trump’s administration. Trump would not have chosen Barr, who’s been auditioning for the position for several months now, if he did not think that Barr would not only continue Jeff Sessions’ far-right approach to issues like police reform or criminal justice reform but also give him a man in the Department of Justice who he could count on to obstruct the Russia investigation as much as possible.

As this article in Slate explains, Barr is basically Jeff Sessions without the baggage. Perhaps not as racist, certainly as homophobic and who can certainly be counted on to continue Sessions’ battles against civil liberties and civil rights. Really not much of an upgrade.

Ex-Harper immigration minister calls out Scheer over ‘factually incorrect’ statements on UN migration pact

It really must be embarrassing for Canadian conservatives almost every time Andrew Scheer opens his mouth. Because every time he opens his mouth he seems to stick his foot in it. Scheer, who wants to pretend he is Canada’s Donald Trump (only without the money and the “big brain”) does share some of Trump’s greatest features: he doesn’t seem to care much about reading or actually learning the facts of the situation.

It’s pretty embarrassing when a member of your own party and former minister in the government of Stephen Harper (a group not known for being warmhearted towards any issue of immigration) basically tells you not only are you wrong but you are very wrong.

Watching Andrew Scheer’s performance from afar is like watching a car wreck unfold before your eyes. You really can’t do anything to stop it but it’s fascinating to watch.

Harvard’s Bipartisan Congressional Orientation Under Fire For Being Too Corporate

Boys, there’s a whole bunch of new sheriffs in town and they are not just going to go along to get along. If the Democratic Party thinks that the new progressive members elected in the 2018 midterms will just quietly lineup support the status quo, I think they are starting to realize that it ain’t gonna happen. The great danger is, of course, that this new progressive group within the Democratic caucus will become the “Freedom Party” of the left. Time will tell.

But it is obvious from the reaction to the overwhelmingly corporate nature of the orientation at Harvard, and its complete lack of any voices from labor or from any other progressive area, that these new voices are going to demand some changes and they are not going to do so quietly.

Click here for reuse options!
Copyright 2018 My Two Countries

What’s happening in the Great White North, Monday, November 26

Since the name of this blog is My Two Countries I am going to try to write as much about my home and native land as I am about what is happening south of 49th parallel.

The red line crossed, Jamal Khashoggi’s life cannot be sacrificed for Canada’s economy

An opinion piece from the Globe and Mail that I strongly agree with. Germany has already halted sales of military weapons to Saudi Arabia. It’s time for Justin Trudeau to do the same. For someone who supposed to care so much about human rights, it is time for Trudeau to back up his words with some action. Mohammed bin Salmon is a murderer. I’m not naïve enough to think that Canada hasn’t done business with murderers before. But this murder was particularly egregious and sets a dangerous precedent. If MBS doesn’t learn that there are consequences to his temperamental fits of pique, other innocent people will die for nothing more than disagreeing with him.

Time to fish or cut bait, Mr. Trudeau.

GM to slash jobs and production, cancel some car models

Welcome to the 21st-century folks. And the death of the fossil-fueled car. This decision has numerous consequences for many people. On the one hand, there are the workers at the Oshawa plant and the many plants in the United States who will lose their jobs. But they are also the people who produce oil in Alberta or other places in the world. When one of the world’s largest automobile makers decides to close up several manufacturing plants in two countries because people aren’t buying fuel-powered cars like they used to, the canary in the coal mine is singing. An opera in fact. Bring on electric cars.

There has been a tendency among people to blame immigrants for “taking their jobs.” Immigrants aren’t the reason that people are losing their jobs. It’s technology. And it’s not going to stop happening.

“I talked to the president of GM last night. The first thing I said is, ‘What can we do? What do we have to do?'” Ontario Premier Doug Ford told reporters this morning. “And he said, ‘The ship has already left the dock.'”

When it comes to hazing, female athletes are just as vulnerable

I don’t like college sports. Particularly American college sports. Canadian college sports, on the other hand, tends to be far less oriented towards the almighty dollar than its US counterpart. That doesn’t make it any better in many ways. This report that two-thirds of all varsity athletes in Canada have been subject to hazing – and more women than men – is disappointing but not unexpected. I find the tribalism that goes along with being part of a college sports puzzling. I mean, who really cares? I sure as hell don’t.

Scientist refutes notion that gender identity is an ‘unscientific liberal ideology’

Okay, we all know that conservatives don’t believe in gender identity. They also don’t believe in climate change, a livable wage for workers and freedom of the press (if you listen to PC party leader and political screwball Andrew Scheer, who wants freedom of speech on college campuses – he says – but so much for the media). This is an interesting CBC interview with a prof from Queen’s University who has spent her career studying gender identity. This means that she knows of a hell of a lot more about the issue than conservative politicians.

Oh yeah, there was another thing I forgot to mention that conservatives don’t believe in: facts!

Stamps beat Redblacks 27-16 to win 2018 Grey Cup

When I was growing up as a kid in Ottawa many Saturdays about 300 other kids and I would crowd onto a bridge that overlooked the formally named Lansdowne Park and watch the old Russ Jackson-led Ottawa Roughriders of the Canadian Football League. To this day my brother, Jimmy, will not watch the NFL which he considers an inferior league to the CFL. Last night the latest edition of an Ottawa team, the strangely named Red Blacks, lost the Grey Cup to a team I am familiar with, the Calgary Stampeders. Oh well, maybe next year.

The Red Sox won the World Series – I don’t need anything else.

Click here for reuse options!
Copyright 2018 My Two Countries

It can’t happen here, eh

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau [Photo by Alex Gulbord, Creative Commons]

by Tom Regan

When Sinclair Lewis wrote It Can’t Happen Here, a semi-satirical novel about a dictator defeating FDR and taking over the United States, it was generally assumed that he was writing about what would happen if Louisiana politician Huey Long became president of the United States. Fortunately for the United States, and unfortunately for Mr. Long, it didn’t happen. Long was assassinated in 1936.

An American political novel from the 30s about the threat of democratically elected dictatorship may not seem relevant to Canada today. Many Canadians, particularly those in the middle and on the left, clearly think that the kind of right-wing, populist, anti-governmental wave that swept Donald Trump into power in the United States could never happen in a liberal and progressive country like Canada.

Well, sorry to burst your bubble, but it certainly could.

Sobering evidence that this could indeed happen in the great White North was revealed yesterday. For the past 15 years, the international public relations firm Edelman has issued an international “trust index” that basically measures the amount of trust that citizens of a variety of countries have for institutions like the media, non-governmental organizations, business and the government. On Tuesday they released the latest information on Canada and what it showed was disturbing – that basically Canada is poised for the same kind of populist “eruption” that recently brought Donald Trump to power in the United States.

Edelman executives who released the report called its findings “dramatic” and said that the same kind of wave of ingredients that fueled populist uprisings in the United States and Britain are coalescing in Canada. Confidence in the government of Justin Trudeau for instance, has dropped dramatically. While some drop-off is to be anticipated after a year in government, it was much more than expected, from about 55% to 45%. Meanwhile, a staggering 80% of Canadians said they thought that the county’s “elites” were out of touch with ordinary citizens. Almost 2/3 said they didn’t have faith in the country’s leaders to effectively tackle the issues facing the nation. And 50% of Canadians said that they felt immigrants were damaging the country’s culture and economy.

On the one hand, it’s been quite the year in international politics and it would be foolish to assume that Canada would be totally passed over by the nativist wave that swept through the United States and much of Europe. On the surface a 45% approval rate is not disastrous for Trudeau. On the other hand, it would be sheer folly to ignore what this report demonstrates: That government is not connecting with ordinary Canadians, that the government is not doing its job in helping Canadians understand the benefits that immigrants bring to the country, and that the government has ignored the consequences of globalization on the lives of many of its citizens.

There is some evidence that Trudeau may understand what’s happening. His recent decision to skip the summit of world leaders in Davos and instead embark on a cross-country series of town hall meetings would seem to indicate that he senses the political peril of ignoring the common folk to hang out with global elites.

There is little doubt that Conservative leadership candidate Kellie Leitch, however, sees the political opportunity of this populist moment. She has seized on the fact that many Canadians are unhappy with the status quo, and hopes to use that populist sentiment to capture the leadership of her party and ultimately 24 Sussex Dr.

Fortunately, Trudeau has at least two years before he has to call another federal general election. It is quite possible that the populist wave will ebb first. The tumultuous first few weeks of the Trump administration in the United States has already dampened the enthusiasm of many for that kind of government, including among a good number of those who voted in. But Donald Trump is an odd and unpredictable fish, and if you’re counting on his erratic behavior to make your argument for progressive policies, then you’re just throwing a Hail Mary pass and hoping for the best.

If Canada wants to avoid the same kind of populist eruption that’s happening in much of the rest of the world, there’s real, hard work to be done to repair the trust between Canadians and their government. And it needs to start right now. Slick, “sunny” PR opportunities are not going to change a thing.

Click here for reuse options!
Copyright 2017 My Two Countries

Canada prepares for ‘war’ with US

By Tom Regan

Is Canada going to war with the United States? No, not really. But you might say that some elements of the Canadian government are being put on a political ‘wartime’ footing.

Montana/Canada USA Border boundary crossing north of Eureka on Highway 93. (Photo by Spend a Day Touring LLC, Creative Commons)

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has made some questionable decisions lately, including the sudden decision to drop the plan to change the way Canadians elect members of Parliament. While there are some good reasons for his decision to do so, his way of dealing with the matter shows that over a year into his term he still having some problems figuring out the right way to do things.
One of the things that he has figured out the right way to deal with, however, is the Canadian relationship with the United States. Canada’s relationship with the United States is, at the moment, the most important economic one it has. (Ask me which one is the most important 10 years from now and I might say China.) While that relationship has had its ups and downs, particularly over issues like softwood lumber and cultural issues, it has been dependable and stable for decades.

That was then. This is now.

And now comes in the form of Pres. Donald Trump, a man whose ideas on how to effectively govern the most powerful nation on the planet could be written down on the back of a matchbook cover. Perhaps the most accurate description to be seen so far of Mr. Trump’s governing style was put forward by former liberal staffer Warren Kinsella who described Mr. Trump as a “monkey with a machine gun.” Trump’s habit of tweeting out policy at 3 AM in the morning when he’s restless and bored means anyone dealing with his administration needs to be nimble and one step ahead of the game.

And this is where Canada has perhaps shown the way for other nations in how to deal with Mr. Trump by creating a “war room” in Mr. Trudeau’s riding office in Papineau Québec. The office, headed by liberal political veteran Brian Clow, is designed to help coordinate the Trudeau government’s response to Mr. Trump’s unpredictable whims and fancies. As described in The Hill, which covers government and political issues emanating from Parliament Hill in Ottawa, the office will seek to ensure “integrated outreach across government, so that any projects or talks already underway continue to be worked on.”

Perhaps the most accurate description to be seen so far of Mr. Trump’s governing style was put forward by former liberal staffer Warren Kinsella who described Mr. Trump as a “monkey with a machine gun.”

The genius in this idea is that it will prevent the Trudeau government from “fighting the last war” – in other words move it away from conducting negotiations and outreach in the bureaucratic ways that used to work in the past, but are quite irrelevant in the age of social media and Mr. Trump’s ‘in the moment’ bulldozer style of public policy. Making sure that all government departments are coordinated and singing from the same hymnbook in their dealings with the Trump administration is also key. If you want to see how chaotic mixed messages can be, take a look at what’s happening south of the border right now, where government departments are sometimes called upon to respond to initiatives they didn’t even know were happening.

Another smart thing the Trudeau government did is make former Lieut. Gen., now Liberal MP, Andrew Leslie (Orléans, Ont.), parliamentary secretary to the Foreign Affairs minister, focused on Canada-U.S. relations. The Canadian-American military relationship is important one, and Mr. Leslie’s time working with the Americans, especially in Afghanistan, will serve him well. (There are already signs that the US military is not happy with Pres. Trump – witness the recent leak by three different officials at the Pentagon about how poorly planned the recent raid on Yemen was.) Considering the number of former military people now serving the Trump administration, having a solid relationship with them can only benefit Canada in the long run.

There will be pressure on Trudeau to not be too chummy with Trump, or face the kind of public backlash that greeted British Prime Minister Theresa Mays’ public relationship with The Donald. On the other hand, however, Trudeau cannot afford to be too standoffish or else he risks the wrath of a man known for his childish vengeful attacks on those he sees his opponents. Creating a war room to deal with the US and its new administration is one way of ensuring that Canada’s best interests will be looked after.

Click here for reuse options!
Copyright 2017 My Two Countries