Musings 12/06/18 – The Celebration and the Denunciation

George H.W. Bush’s funeral was a powerful renunciation of Trump
Bush’s Funeral Wasn’t About Trump. But Of Course It Was.

How odd it must’ve been for a man who insists that everything be about him, to sit through a 90-minute service about another person, and to listen to speaker after speaker extolled that person’s virtues when every virtue was a repudiation of how the listener conducts his life.

As John Harris writes in Politico, in Washington DC subtext is text. While each of the four speakers eulogizing the late Pres. George H. W. Bush focused on his service to his country, his understanding that the opposition is not the enemy, his desire for America to have a prominent place in the world, and perhaps most of all his kindness, they were also denouncing the lack of these traits in the current occupant of the oval office.

Trump sat through the service like a caged animal, arms folded in a defensive posture, restless, unable to tweet, not bothering to sing the songs or pray the prayers (probably because he didn’t know them – Trump probably has been near a church since he was baptized).

But the most stinging and straightforward rebukes came from a former Canadian Prime Minister, Brian Mulroney, who praised Bush for his work on NAFTA, in NATO, on environmentalism, and in international leadership, all things which Trump has derided or debased.

For me, watching the service I had mixed emotions. I was not a huge fan of the 41st President of the United States (I will never forgive him for the Willie Horton ad) but he understood service and you cannot question his love of country. More than anything else I came away with a feeling of nostalgia. A nostalgia for a time when the president of the United States, regardless of his political party, actually tried to make the office more about the people of the country than about himself.

Huawei CFO arrest ‘violates human rights’, China says

Hearing China condemn another country for violating human rights is a bit like listening to the Ku Klux Klan condemn another organization for being racist.

Nonetheless, I was a little surprised to read of the arrest of Meng Wanzhou, Huawei’s chief financial officer. The daughter of the founder of the Chinese telecom giant was picked up by Canadian authorities in Vancouver because her extradition is wanted by the United States for some reason. We don’t know what for yet, because Ms. Meng asked for a publication ban of the details of her arrest, which you can do under Canadian law. (Reporting on court cases and court proceedings in Canada is completely different than what is done under American law.)

Coming so soon after Pres. Trump and Chinese Pres. Xi Jinping seemed to momentarily put aside their trade differences for 90 days, this will not help smooth that road.

Recently several Western countries have restricted the use of Huawei technology in the building of infrastructure for the new 5G networks. That tells me that Western security services are concerned that the Chinese are building lots of backdoors and ways to disrupt a country’s technology through the use of Huawei equipment.

Facebook discussed cashing in on user data, emails suggest

The more I read about Facebook, the happier I am that I am leaving it on December 15. Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff recently compared using Facebook to having an addiction to nicotine. As he said, Facebook is the new cigarette. It’s hard to leave, I won’t lie, but with each new bit of news about Facebook, it reaffirms my belief that I’m doing the right thing. Good riddance to bad garbage.

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Musings, 12/02/2019 – Our witness tampering president

Is Donald Trump’s Tweet About Roger Stone Witness Tampering?
We all know that one of the worst things about Donald Trump’s presidency is the tweets. Presidential policy dispensed in 280 characters. Even Republicans in rural states who strongly support Trump have told the media they wish the president would lay off Twitter for a while.

Well, it turns out the tweets are not only annoying, but they may also be illegal. In this interesting piece written by Lawfair, a legal blog, the writers examine the issue of whether or not Trump’s tweets in August about Paul Manafort and Michael Cohen and his tweet earlier this week about Roger Stone amount to witness tampering. They present a pretty strong case that it does. They also point out that the later comments by Roger Stone that Trump’s tweets don’t amount to witness tampering are in fact mistaken. And when it comes to legal matters, I wouldn’t trust Roger Stone or Donald Trump as far as I could throw them.

Facebook Lets Users Post About Killing Immigrants and Minorities

As you know I going through the final stages of leaving Facebook. While I appreciate the opportunity to reach out to friends and to speedily post articles about which I think are important for people to read, I could no longer justify continuing to support a company that engaged in so many possibly illegal and certainly distasteful practices.

And here is just one more example. Lots of far-right supporters of Donald Trump calling for his opponents to be shot or for members of the caravan approaching the US border to be shot. It’s not just that Facebook allows these hateful posts in to be made and remain online (so much for its new anti-hate speech technology) what really bothers me is that many of these posts are not being made by stereotypical right-wing weirdos but by police officers and people in positions of authority. And these cretins know Facebook won’t do much of anything to stop them from posting their vile and evil sentiments. Especially if they are white.

Like the Texas man, many of the hateful and violent comments came from white users. In 2017, ProPublica reported on internal Facebook documents that showed the company had an apparent bias toward protecting the speech of whites while flagging posts by black and other minority users.

Time to give up on Facebook. folks. The only way that Facebook will change is if millions of people leave.

Senior aides push back on Trump’s claim that China agreed to cut auto tariffs

It must be difficult to be an aide to Donald Trump in any capacity. Part of the job description has to include undoing presidential lies and overstatements. Because almost nothing Donald Trump says is actually true. Certainly not of the time that he says it.

Take, for example, his boast on Twitter that China was going to remove all tariffs on American auto imports. If it was true it would be quite an accomplishment. China imposes a 40% import duty on American autos. But sadly, as has been the case so many times in the past, it is not true.

Many of Trump’s top economic aides spent yesterday “pulling back” the president’s statement because no such agreement exists at the present time. And while these advisors tried to be as optimistic as possible and say it might happen, no one bothered to consult the Chinese who haven’t said anything about any kind of an auto agreement.

All politicians polish the apple a bit when it comes to their accomplishments. Trump polishes it so hard he makes it too slippery to pick up. In fact, most of the time he is trying to polish it when there’s no apple at all.

Canada punches ticket to 2019 FIBA World Cup with rout of Brazil

Well, a Canadian invented basketball. Why shouldn’t we be good at it?

So Canadians are responsible for two of the four major North American sports, hockey and basketball. And Canada’s McGill University is probably responsible for the beginnings of American football that we see today. While the first sort of football match was played between Princeton and Rutgers in 1869, it wasn’t until Harvard played McGill in 1874, and then adopted McGill’s rugby-style rules that football as we know it began to take shape. The first Harvard-Yale game was in 1875, and after that game, Yale and Princeton both decided to switch to the McGill rules. It was then the great Walter Camp at Yale who improved on these rugby-style rules and introduced the notion of downs, the quarterback and the 11-man team.

But it was those crazy Canucks who laid the groundwork.

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Musings for November 30, 2018

Why America doesn’t win wars anymore (4:39 p.m.)

Dominic Tierney, a professor at Swarthmore College and the author of multiple books about how America wages war, may know the reason why.

“We’re still stuck in this view that war is like the Super Bowl: We meet on the field, both sides have uniforms, we score points, someone wins, and when the game ends you go home,” he told me. “That’s not what war is like now.”

Vladimir Putin And Saudi Crown Prince Pal Around At G20 Summit(4:13 p.m.)

How murderers greet each other.

Three Remarkable Things About Michael Cohen’s Plea (10:06 a.m.)
As the rest of the headline says, “These developments would, under normal circumstances, end a presidency.” Maybe it will. Maybe it will.

Stonewall Jackson, Robert E. Lee, and Jefferson Davis rising from smoke and ashes is depicted in this enormous carving “etched” into the side of Stone Mountain. (By Bryce Edwards, Creative Commons)

The Costs of the Confederacy

An intriguing piece by of all people Smithsonian magazine on how much the Confederacy continues to cost the taxpayers of the United States. Tax dollars continue to support shrines, monuments, parks, and historical sites that honor these losers to the tune of over $40 million a year. And often at many of the sites, the people involved continue to spread the lie that the main cause of the Civil War was not slavery. It’s time we cut funding to these places and that school boards in the South stop using them to take schoolchildren on “educational” visits. I’m tired of this whole “heritage” argument. Honoring the Confederacy, and that pile of propagandistic rubbish known as “The Lost Cause,” is just another way of honoring white supremacy.

First, far from simply being markers of historic events and people, as proponents argue, these memorials were created and funded by Jim Crow governments to pay homage to a slave-owning society and to serve as blunt assertions of dominance over African-Americans.

Second, contrary to the claim that today’s objections to the monuments are merely the product of contemporary political correctness, they were actively opposed at the time, often by African-Americans, as instruments of white power.

Finally, Confederate monuments aren’t just heirlooms, the artifacts of a bygone era. Instead, American taxpayers are still heavily investing in these tributes today. We have found that, over the past ten years, taxpayers have directed at least $40 million to Confederate monuments—statues, homes, parks, museums, libraries and cemeteries—and to Confederate heritage organizations.

‘White supremacy’ is really about white degeneracy

From the Guardian, a piece on how far right white supremacists are reveling in the fact that they can be as morally contemptible as they want to be and yet still prevail. And as long as Donald Trump is president of the United States, and people like the Republican Steve Bannon are roaming the world spreading racism and bigotry, this attitude will probably continue to motivate those who believe in white supremacy. It’s why the rest of us who see these liars and racists as the phonies that they are need to speak out strongly every chance we get to shut them down.

But for millions of Americans to choose Trump and to continue to support him cannot simply be dismissed as voters “holding their noses” and selecting the individual who could best forward their agenda, regardless of his personal qualities. For a significant proportion of his supporters, it was a deliberate choice for moral degeneracy, even a celebration of it. It is also a reproach to the Obama years and to Obama personally. A bad white man will always be better than a good black man, regardless of the political platforms they support.

Trump is a moral degenerate in every sense of the word. And we need to call him on it at every opportunity.

‘They got me. I’m afraid.’: Swastikas spray-painted on a Jewish professor’s office at Columbia

You can look in any corner of America and see how the racism and bigotry of Donald Trump are infecting and inspiring anti-Semites and white supremacists to engage in acts that once would’ve been thought unthinkable. But it’s not just Trump. The entire Republican establishment has for years undermined any efforts by law enforcement or other groups to bring attention to the activities of these people. Republican politicians would hide behind “oh they’re picking on us” and refused to fund investigations by departments like Homeland Security into areas of domestic terrorism and white supremacist violence. And you know why? Because if these governmental organizations were allowed to investigate these people, we would find nothing but far-right Republicans, Trump supporters, and members of the NRA.

Black People Don’t Get To Be ‘Good Guys With Guns’

In the past month, police murdered two African-Americans who were legally carrying handguns and attempting to help in troubling situations. That’s because for too many police in this country their first thought when they see an African-American with a gun is “shoot to kill.” Nevermind the situation, never mind trying to find out what’s going on, never mind if the African-American question is not pointing the gun at a police officer, never mind if the individual involved is actually following the orders of the police. Just shoot. And then issued a mealy-mouthed apology later that totally glosses over the blatant racism of the police officers involved.

There is no place in this country, no place, where African-Americans are safe from the brutality of the police.

GOP moves to dilute power of governor, AG, secretary of state

Yet one more sign that Republicans really don’t care about the will of the people, they just want power. Plain pure and simple. And they will do anything from changing laws, to suppressing voters, to putting their thumbs on the scales to make sure that they what the people want is ignored.

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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.

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The war to end all wars slowly disappears from history

World War 1 tanks and soldiers, probably British or American. [Great War Observer, Creative Commons]

by Tom Regan

For Canada and the United States, World War 1 has very different meanings.

In America, it is a barely remembered oddity. Very few Americans know that 100 years ago today, April 6, 1917, America entered the First World War. Buried under the tsunami of the Greatest Generation that won World War II, and wedged in between that war and the Civil War some 50 years beforehand, the war to end all wars rates barely a blip in a country that pays scanned attention to its history at the best of times.

It’s a completely different story in Canada. World War I is very much present in the minds of many older and younger Canadians. And that is primarily because of one battle – Vimy Ridge which started 100 years ago this coming Sunday, April 9. It was the first time that all four Canadian divisions in the war fought together. Both the British and the French tried to take Vimy Ridge but failed. In reality the repeated assaults on the Ridge were little more than diversionary tactics designed to draw German strength away from a more important battle, the battle of Arras. But that did not matter to Canadians, who stormed and captured Vimy Ridge in a battle that became mythologized, true or not, as the “moment” Canada became a country.

In America, World War I was seen as a problem that the United States needed to avoid. The imperial powers of Britain and France fought the imperial powers of Germany, Russia and Turkey for control of the European continent. Although Britain and France upheld democratic ideals that were very close to what Americans believed in, American politicians distrusted their long-term objectives and saw the war as a way for the countries involved merely to increase their territorial holdings. (And in some ways, this was very true, particularly in areas like the Middle East, where the Sykes-Picot agreement on how to divide up that part of the world between the imperial powers continues to haunt us to this day.)

Two events changed America’s perspective on the war. The first was the sinking of the British ship the Lusitania in 1915 where 128 Americans were killed when it was torpedoed in the Irish Sea by a German submarine. After this, American President Woodrow Wilson became much more vocal in his support of Britain and France, despite the attempts of German-Americans to keep America out of the war.

The final straw was the Zimmerman letter. Issued by the German Foreign Ministry in January 1917. The Zimmerman letter or telegram was sent to the government of Mexico and proposed a military alliance between the two countries and Japan if the United States entered the war. (Germany, which had decided to return to unrestricted submarine attacks on merchant shipping, anticipated this would draw in the US.) It called on Mexico to invade United States and Germany promised that it would help recapture and hold the land it had lost in the 1840s including Texas and Arizona and New Mexico. The letter created a firestorm in the United States and after that it was only a matter of time before the Americans went “over there.”

But despite its current low profile, World War I did affect America in many important ways. Perhaps the most important way was how many immigrants, who had always been viewed with suspicion by Anglo-Protestant Americans, came to be seen as “real” Americans for the first time because of their willingness to sign up and fight. It also promoted America’s move from a mostly rural culture to a much more urban one. For many of the thousands of troops who went to Britain and France this was the first time they had been more than 20 or 30 miles away from the spot on which they had been born. And, as the song says, “How ya going to keep them down on the farm after they’ve seen Paris.”

A copy of the Vancouver Sun from April 10, 1917 celebrating Canada’s role at Vimy Ridge. [Vancouver Sun, Creative Commons]

Meanwhile Canada had been involved in the struggle from the very beginning, but always under the command of British officers. Which was what happened at Vimy Ridge was so important because the Canadians won that battle with minimal British help.

There were dark moments. In Newfoundland, which back then was in a colony of Britain and not yet a part of Canada, July 1 does not only mark the day Canada became a country in 1867. July 1 marks the day that 758 Newfoundlanders took the field at Beaumont-Hamel on the first day of the battle of the Somme in 1916. By the end of that day 90% of the Newfoundland Regiment were dead, dying, or wounded. At the next day’s roll call only 68 men were present. There was hardly a town or an outport in all of Newfoundland that was not touched by that day’s events.

For me, World War I is also very present. I was named after a great uncle, my grandmother’s brother, who was killed by a sniper during the war. I have very strong memories of watching First World War veterans taking part in ceremonies at the National Cenotaph in Ottawa when I was growing up. As a youngster, I met several men who had fought in the war. It does not seem like it was 100 years ago to me.

After the war, Canada was different. It no longer saw itself as a colony of Great Britain but as its own country and some 20 odd years later when World War II started, Canada did not declare war on Germany the same day as Great Britain but purposely waited several days before doing it on its own to make the point ‘we call our own shots from now on.’

Taking a more realistic view, World War I was an unnecessary slaughter ofmillions of men on both sides for reasons that are still not very clear. And while Vimy Ridge was an important moment for many Canadians, it’s fair to say that it means more to English Canada than to French Canada, so the claim that it is the moment that Canada became a country needs to be taken with a grain of salt.

I think that after this year’s anniversaries, World War I, the war to end all wars, will continue to disappear into the background, perhaps only commented on in British historical dramas, Canada’s National Film Board documentaries, and maybe some Ken Burns-like filmmaker in America deciding to do a series on PBS. For a war that meant led to so many changes for so many countries, I doubted 50 years from now it will be little more than a few paragraphs in high school history books.

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Prayer space in Canadian public schools a mistake

Canada has had publicly supported religious schools since its founding. But the open practice of religion in public schools has been frowned on by Canadian courts since the mid-1980s. (Above, St. Phillips Elementary Catholic School in Ontario) [Photo by Amir Syed, Creative Commons]

By Tom Regan

One of the best things about public school in the United States is that religion is left “at the school house gate,” to borrow a phrase from a famous Supreme Court ruling on a different issue.

It’s not quite the same in Canada. There is no “separation of church and state” in Canadian law. Religious schools, in particular publicly supported Catholic schools, have operated in Canada since the country’s founding in 1867. For instance, the province of Ontario supports a Catholic school system. I know because I once attended Corpus Christi school in Ottawa. Right across the street was Mutchmor school, the ”Protestant” school, but basically it was for everyone who wasn’t Catholic. They would call us “Corpus Crispies” and we would chant back they were “Mutch Less.” Such is the nature of how religion brings us together.

There is also public financial support in some form across the country for other religious schools, including Hindu, Muslim, Christian and Sikh.

Canada public schools, however, are like those in the US and openly practicing religion during the school day is frowned upon. At least that what courts in Canada have been saying since the mid-1980s, when the courts ruled that schools cannot conduct religious exercises that favor one denomination. Even voluntary exercises were found to be unconstitutional, as “opting out” can create a stigma for the student who opts out.

It is constitutional to wear expressions of your faith in a public school: a yarmulke if you’re Jewish, a hijab if you’re Muslim, a cross if you’re Catholic. And that is as it should be.

But what about putting aside a space for a group of students so that they can pray during the school day? That’s the question after a school in Brampton, Ontario put aside space for Muslims students to pray on Fridays. This is not the first time this has arisen as a potential issue – in 2012 a public school in Toronto allowed a Muslim Imam to come and talk to students at lunchtime on Fridays.

Both situations are a mistake. If schools are prohibited from holding opt-out religious exercises, then opt-in is also a problem, potentially for the very same reason.

To quote Ed Morgan, a University of Toronto constitutional law expert, who was interviewed about the 2012 conflict, “I think this looks like a school practicing religion. The school may be conveying a message that they endorse religion and that’s what the school is not allowed to do.”

And that’s the way it must be, regardless of the religion. While the Canadian approach to religion in public schools is certainly more open than in the US, this is a road the country does not want to go down. What happens when every religious denomination starts to ask for “accommodation”? Many schools currently refuse to allow parents to pull their children from a class every time something they find questionable is taught – which is as it should be. It’s going to be a lot harder to argue in favor of this rule if you’re giving students from any religion a room to pray in during public school times.

There are numerous publicly supported religious options for school in Canada, where open expressions of religion are welcome. Or before or after school, fine. But the minute the public school day starts, then it’s time for religion to leave.

It’s a particularly hard time for Canadians Muslims. The recent murder of six Muslims in Quebec City and the very public race-baiting tactics of Conservative leadership candidate Kellie Leitch have exacerbated fears in the community. But this is a question that not only affects Muslims, but all Canadians. And if Canada is going to make sure that there is a level-playing field for all people of faith in public schools, then open practices of faith are going to have to be left at that school house gate.

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Why are Canadians doing so much better than Americans?


Canadians are quickly moving farther ahead than Americans in important social, economic and political measurement. [Photo of Canada Day 2014 in Calgary, taken by Thanks for Visiting, Creative Commons]

The latest results are in and it’s not looking good for Americans as compared to their neighbors to the north. An article in Canada’s national news magazine, Maclean’s, lists a few of the ways that Canada has moved ahead of the United States in important economic, social, and political measurements.

For instance, Canadians live an average of 2.5 years longer than Americans. They are six times less likely to find themselves behind bars. They are the 6th happiest people in the world, while Americans are in unlucky 13th place. Almost 60% of Canadians have a college degree while in the United States it’s only 46%.

The libertarian Cato Institute ranks Canadians as the sixth freest people in the world, while the US can be found in 23rd place. The conservative Heritage Foundation puts Canada ten places higher than the US for economic freedom. Home ownership is 5% higher in Canada and Canadians earn more money per capita than Americans. Yet, Canadians also work 80 fewer hours per year than their American cousins and take an extra three days of vacation.

One of the stats that matters the most in a free society is press freedom. Reporters without Borders ranks Canada 18th, which is not what it should be, but the US limps in at 41st. (Yes, 41st.)

Oh, did I also mention that Canadians also have universal healthcare?

But why? Why has this happened? What differences have created this startling result between these two neighbors?

Let’s start with size. There are about 320 million people in the US, and only about 1/10 of that in Canada, despite the fact that Canada is a larger country. Finding the right mixture of economic and political policies for that many people is much more difficult. There is a reason that countries like Sweden, Norway, Finland and Iceland rank so high in many measurements of a successful society. Countries with smaller populations are just easier to govern in most cases.

Military spending is also another very important factor. The United States spends more than Canada on the military by a gagillion dollars. Money that could be used to alleviate poverty, create the best healthcare system in the world, provide a college education to every American, is spent instead on weapons to keep the US at the top of the superpower food chain. Meanwhile, Canada’s spending on any military necessity is anemic, largely because Canadians count on the US to protect them in times of trouble.

Yet the most important differences are cultural and political. If America had a motto, it would be “every tub on its own stand.” (Which is actually Harvard’s unofficial motto.) There are many pluses to this view of the world. Individual Americans deal with failure better than any nationality in the world, and are quick to pick themselves up off the mat and make a new start. On the other hand, however, many Americans have a hard time caring about other people in the world, let alone other Americans. And the fractured US system of government, that is so local in so many places (and in such a large country), provides benefits but it makes it very difficult to install any national programs that would help all its citizens.

Canada is a nation largely created by its geography. Living in a much harsher climate, the importance of working together just to survive was important in early Canada. It’s an attitude that has remained regardless of the fact that most Canadians no longer live in danger of the elements. And the Canadian system of parliamentary government, while it certainly has its problems, does make it easier to create those much needed national programs.

There are other factors of course, but those listed above may be among the most important. Canada is far from perfect (it’s record on its treatment of its indigenous peoples is abysmal) but appears to be on the rise. As the United States moves into four years of Donald Trump as its president, it’s very likely it will continue to drop in all of the categories mentioned above.

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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.

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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.

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