America In The Eyes Of The World — A Guest Post By John Fioravanti

I have been so pleased by the excellent guest posts I have received from friends in the UK — David, Gary and Colette — as a part of Project Coexist, giving us a chance to see how people outside the U.S. view us these days, in light of the changes in our nation.  Today I am happy to share with you another excellent point-of-view from Canadian friend, John Fioravanti!

America Today: A Canadian View

I appreciate Jill Dennison’s generous invitation to be a guest on her blog site. As a retired high school history teacher, I don’t presume to be an expert on this topic or any other – nor do I claim to speak for any Canadians other than myself. Having said that, I believe that many Canadians are profoundly saddened and anxious by developments on our southern border since the Trump Administration took power.

Having taught American history for many years, I have some understanding about the events and ideas that shaped America from its colonial days. Like all nations, the United States has evolved throughout its history in many significant ways. Today, I see America at a crossroad as many of the foundational values are being tossed aside for political expediency.

U.S. President Donald Trump meets with Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in a bilateral meeting at the G7 Summit in Charlevoix, Quebec, Canada, June 8, 2018. REUTERS/Leah Millis

Diplomacy is a dirty word in the Trump White House and I am horrified that the president resorts to bullying and personal insult in his conduct of relations with Canada and the other Allies. Where is the dignity and respect that normally characterize international relationships – especially with allied nations? These were the tactics used against Prime Minister Justin Trudeau throughout the NAFTA negotiations. The worst part about that episode was that it utterly destroyed the trust that existed between Canada and the United States throughout the 20th Century and into the 21st.

Mulroney and Reagan sing “When Irish Eyes Are Smiling” at the 1985 Shamrock Summit.

I never expected Trudeau and Trump to become fast personal friends since they are divided by their political ideologies. Brian Mulroney and Ronald Reagan were both conservative leaders and good friends. Stephen Harper, a conservative, did not become friendly with the liberal-minded Obama. Yet, Liberal Party leader Justin Trudeau became good friends with Obama. My point here is that the political leanings of our national leaders often determine the temperature of the relationship. Under Donald Trump, that temperature has become decidedly frigid, and that benefits neither nation.

As I consider Trump’s poor behaviour in Washington and on the world stage, I am most concerned with his complete break with truth and honesty. I am appalled that so many millions of Americans still support him. Do they not value truth and honesty? Or are they just willing to subvert those values as a fitting sacrifice to achieve their political agenda? These are very troubling questions. I fear for my American cousins and for the rest of the free world.

Much has been written about the divisions within America. Donald Trump did not create those divisions, but he has single-mindedly exploited them to appease his base. In like manner, he has driven a wedge of distrust between the United States and her traditional allies. At the same time, Trump pays public homage to authoritarian leaders around the globe. His chaotic foreign policy has resulted in trade wars with allies and foes alike and the result is the isolation of America on the world stage.

I live a short two-hour drive from our southern border at Niagara but I have not driven across to visit friends in New York State since Trump took power – nor will I until America votes him out of power. That makes me sad. His mercurial policies cause me to be anxious and fearful about travelling in the States. Perhaps that is silly but it is my truth.

As a youngster, I remember being glued to the TV news as America’s cities burned during the race riots of the 1960s. As I listen to the white supremacist rhetoric and watch news reports of children and minority groups being targeted in mass shootings in America today, the old horror of those bygone days rears its ugly head.

Canada has its fair share of problems too. We have racial divisions of our own. There are people in Canada who think Donald Trump is a great example to follow. As a liberal, I’ve always done my best to accept that others have differing political and social views to my own, but I fear that American conservatism characterized by dishonesty and a total lack of integrity has made inroads among Canada’s conservatives.

Today, America is writhing in the midst of a political stalemate that has caused a partial shutdown of the federal government. Neither Trump nor the Democrat leaders in Congress are willing to blink. Meanwhile, thousands of federal workers find themselves used as political hostages who may lose their savings, their homes, and their peace of mind as a result. This is morally reprehensible!

Presupposing America can emerge from the next two years in one piece, will American voters elect leaders who will take steps to heal the nation and heal the broken relationships with the allies? Who can be certain? The divided house called America is frightening to behold. The fate of the free world hangs in the balance.

Thank  you so much for your perspective as one of our two closest neighbors, John!  I’m wondering if there are plans in the works in your own government to take steps, such as building a big, beautiful wall, to protect your southern border, for under our current circumstances, many of us may be fleeing to the north to escape political persecution here!

Full Bore Snarky Snippets …

Perhaps it’s the holiday season that’s done it, or perhaps it’s just an overload of Trumpism.  Perhaps it is the cold temperatures and lack of sunlight.  But whatever it is, I am in a mood these days.  A mood that has my tongue in shreds for I have bitten it so many times as I try to be a good grannie and show some enthusiasm for such things as the Christmas village and the live tree, the cookie-baking and decorating/shopping/wrapping/spending.  A mood that has me crying myself to sleep at nights as I wonder what the hell this world is coming to.  Anyway, the result is I am in super-snark mode, so you may want to don your ear plugs for this one …

earphones


Don’t drink the water …

drink-waterFrom the very first line, it galled me …

“On Tuesday, Donald Trump’s Environmental Protection Agency announced it would roll back Obama-era rules that, under cover of the 1972 Clean Water Act, empowered federal bureaucrats to regulate virtually every puddle, pond and drainage ditch under the guise of protecting wetlands.”

This statement is from the Editorial Board of the Las Vegas Review-Journal and can be found on the EPA’s website.  The first thing to note is that it refers to “Donald Trump’s Environmental Protection Agency”.  THE EPA DOES NOT BELONG TO DONALD F***ING TRUMP!!!  The EPA is an agency of the United States federal government that is funded by, and thus belongs to, WE THE PEOPLE!

the adelsons.jpg

Miriam and Sheldon Adelson

Guess, by the way, who owns the Las Vegas Review-Journal?  None other than Trump’s mega-donor Sheldon Adelson, the casino magnate who, along with his wife, donated $55 million this year to groups dedicated to securing Republican control of the House and Senate.  Adelson’s wife was mysteriously awarded the ‘Presidential Medal of Freedom’ for no reason other than the obscene amount of money she and hubby spent to help Trump get elected.  The Adelsons donated some $83 million to help Trump get elected, and another $5 million to his inaugural fund.

The editorial called this week’s rollback of Obama-era clean water rules “another administrative success story in its battle against the overweening administrative state.”  Believe me, folks, this is not in any way, shape or form a ‘success’, but is another nail in the coffin of our overall health and the state of our environment.  The Clean Water Rule protected the water we drink from chemicals and waste being dumped into our water supply by fossil fuel producers, manufacturers, and agribusiness.

Think about this one … one in three Americans gets their water from a source that will no longer qualify as ‘protected’.

There will be legal battles and it is unlikely that anything will change in the immediate future, but this is one more signal from the Trump administration that big business carries the day and We The Little People have little or no value to Trump and his minions.  Yo! … you supporters of Trump … do you honestly still believe that he is “one of us”?


Revenge of the eejits …

When asked by a Reuters’ reporter if he was concerned about a possible impeachment, Trump replied …

“I’m not concerned, no.  I think that the people would revolt if that happened.”

The people … would revolt?  What people???  First, only a minority, although an inexplicable 40% minority, even tolerate the buffoon.  And of that 40%, probably only 5% have the guts to take to the streets in protest.  And if there was a revolt, the U.S. military and National Guard would put it down quickly enough … trust me, a tank trumps a man with an AR-15 most any day.  So no, Donnie boy, there might be a few isolated incidents, a bit of grumbling, and a bunch of hot air from the talking heads over at Fox, but there would be no wide-scale revolution that would put you back on your throne!trump-jailShould he be impeached?  Absolutely, for he is the most corrupt, dirtiest ‘president’ in the history of this nation, and he is destroying the country just as surely as Hitler destroyed Germany in 1933.  Will he be impeached?  Probably not.  Even if he is impeached in the House of Representatives, the odds of the Senate voting to convict and remove him from office are slim-to-none, for they are all lapdogs, boot-lickers, whose personal fortunes are tied to his.  But if he is impeached and removed … his next office will likely have very thick iron bars.


LIES, lies and more lies …

In the past week, Trump has told so damn many lies about his “wall” that it is the source of dark mirth around the globe.  He claims that large sections have already been built … they have not.  He claims that it is necessary to the nation’s security … it is not.  And now … wait for it … now, he claims that Mexico is actually paying for it!  They are not, in case anyone even still cares.

His muddled theory here is …

“I often stated, ‘One way or the other, Mexico is going to pay for the Wall.’ This has never changed. Our new deal with Mexico (and Canada), the USMCA, is so much better than the old, very costly & anti-USA NAFTA deal, that just by the money we save, MEXICO IS PAYING FOR THE WALL!”

Anyone who ever had any doubts about the mental capacity of this ‘man’ … never fear … he has the mind of an eight-year-old, at least!

There is no consensus that provisions in the new trade deal would result in Mexico funding a border wall, and former Mexican Foreign Minister Luis Videgaray tweeted following the announcement of an initial agreement on the USMCA that Mexico would never pay for the wall, even through the new deal.  I ask again, would somebody please wake us from this nightmare???


And that is all the snark for tonight, folks.  Well, actually I have plenty more, but I should save some for tomorrow, yes?

Keep Your Eye on the Ball …

More than a few times, I have been told that one of the reasons Trump supporters continue to be his supporters is jobs.  When asked in a recent poll what the single most important issue was to most people, the answer was ‘jobs’.  Granted the job outlook has, until recently, looked pretty good, but not as a result of anything Trump has done.  Unemployment was already low and dropping at a steady rate under President Obama.  And now, with his tariffs and the retaliatory tariffs from other nations, that may well be about to change.  Actually, the pendulum is already beginning to swing back.  Consider this …

The following is an excerpt from a story in today’s Washington Post:

POPLAR BLUFF, Mo. — When a Mexican company bought Mid Continent Nail Corp. in 2012, workers at the factory here feared it was the beginning of the end. Their jobs, they suspected, would be given to lower-paid workers in Mexico, more casualties of the hollowing out of U.S. manufacturing driven in part by an embrace of global trade.

Instead, Mid Continent’s factory has doubled in size since Deacero’s purchase. The company, facing fewer restrictions on steel exports after the North American Free Trade Agreement, shipped steel into Missouri, willing to pay skilled workers more to take advantage of cheaper energy costs in the United States and a location that allowed swift delivery to U.S. customers.

But … Trump has put 25 percent tariffs on steel imports, bumping production costs and prompting Deacero to reconsider this arrangement. With Mid Continent charging more for nails, orders are down 70 percent from this time a year ago despite a booming construction industry. Company officials say that without relief, the Missouri plant could be out of business by Labor Day — or that remaining production could move to Mexico or another country.

The layoffs have already begun. The company now employs fewer than 400 workers, down from about 500 before the tariffs took effect last month.

The plant may close its doors by Labour Day.  That, folks, is just a month-and-a-half away!  We’re not talking about next year, or in three years … we’re talking about NOW.

Or consider the case of Harley-Davidson, who will begin shifting production for the EU market to its international facilities rather than raise their prices by as much as 31% if they stayed in the U.S.  Typically, when their decision was announced, rather than talk or negotiate, Trump did the only thing he knows how to do:  mock and threaten.  Such helpful, professional behaviour, eh?

Two weeks ago, the CEO of General Motors warned that the company may be forced to cut back production and cut U.S. jobs.  And the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers (AAM), issued an analysis estimating the price of a typical new vehicle sold in the U.S. would rise by about $5,800 as a result of the tariffs.  Think about that one … nearly $6,000 more to buy a car!

An analysis by Trade Partnerships concludes that …

  • The tariffs, quotas and retaliation would increase the annual level of U.S. steel employment and non-ferrous metals (primarily aluminum) employment by 26,280 jobs over the first one-three years, but reduce net employment by 432,747 jobs throughout the rest of the economy, for a total net loss of 400,445 jobs;
  • Sixteen jobs would be lost for every steel/aluminum job gained;
  • More than two thirds of the lost jobs would affect workers in production and low-skill jobs.
  • Every state will experience a net loss of jobs.

These are but a few examples of the fallout from Trump’s trade tariffs, and the damage is only beginning.  The longer the tariffs remain in effect, the more jobs will be lost AND the more we will see the prices of both agricultural and durable goods rise.  While I do not wish the loss of a job on anyone, I have to ask:  is this what it takes to awaken Trump followers?  Do they have to lose their jobs before they begin to see that virtually nothing Trump has done has been in our best interest?  Will they finally get it when they awaken one morning and realize they have no job, no health insurance and cannot afford food for the next week, let alone a car to go buy that food or look for another job?

Trump’s cabinet were handpicked for their loyalty to Trump, and they received early training in “alternative facts” and “how to spin anything using blatant lies”.  Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin learned his lessons well, apparently, for he claims U.S. tariffs and China’s retaliatory actions haven’t dented the domestic economy, as he sought to calm fears from Republicans in Congress that a trade war is hurting American consumers and companies.

Paul Ryan, on the other hand, seems to have remembered his Econ 101:

“We risk having American products locked out of new markets, jobs moved overseas, and a decline in American influence. As our generals will tell you, these agreements are just as important for our national security as they are for our economy.”

It is time for Trump’s followers to wake up and realize that they are the ones who will be hurt most by his policies regarding education, the environment, foreign policy, and the economy.  A number of issues have been forgotten in recent days as we are all concerned with Trump’s horrific behaviour abroad last week, and his apparently slavish adoration of Vladimir Putin, as evidenced in Helsinki on Monday.  Trump has been in a whirlwind of tweets and speeches contradicting his own self at every turn, in a foolish attempt to put some favourable spin on his actions, else distract us from them.  But we cannot afford to take our eyes off any of the balls:  the immigrant children, abuses of power, tariffs, and much more.

A Canadian Perspective – A Guest Post by John Fioravanti

After I opined strongly about Trump’s abominable behaviour toward Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, I began to wonder how the people of Canada viewed the incident.  I asked Canadian friend John if he would write a guest post for me, and he graciously agreed.  Thank you, John!


Trump’s Treatment of Trudeau – A Canadian Perspective

By John Fioravanti

 

For many months since the inauguration of Donald Trump, I have watched him behave poorly as he played to his base of supporters. I am dismayed that his enablers in the GOP party in Congress refuse to exercise their constitutional duty to oversee his decisions that are often based on ignorance of the facts and outright lies. I don’t think Donald Trump has many supporters or admirers in Canada.

Figure 1: President Donald Trump at the G7 Summit 2018

Figure 1: President Donald Trump at the G7 Summit 2018

To be honest, I am a supporter of Canada’s Liberal Party, which is ideologically in line with American Democrats. I voted for our local Liberal candidate and was overjoyed to see Justin Trudeau win a majority government in the House of Commons in October of 2015 – despite the smear campaign launched by the Conservative Party (like the American GOP) that featured many attack ads that belittled Trudeau personally. Trudeau ignored those attacks and ran his campaign on the issues.

Figure 2: Trudeau & Trump at the G7 Summit 2018

Figure 2: Trudeau & Trump at the G7 Summit 2018

It is fair to say that many Canadians were in shock and somewhat uneasy when Donald Trump won the presidency in 2016. His campaign attacks on the NAFTA accord have been unsettling. Free trade has been an economic boon to all three countries involved. Two facts that are irrefutable about our bilateral trade history: one, the USA buys more goods from Canada than from any other country in the world; and two, Canada buys more American goods than from any other country in the world. To say that the collapse of NAFTA would not hurt the US economy is preposterous. However, it would hurt Canada more.

Thinking about our historical relationship with America, I’m reminded of a quote by Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau who was Prime Minister from 1968 to 1984.

“Living next to you is in some ways like sleeping with an elephant. No matter how friendly and even-tempered is the beast, if I can call it that, one is affected by every twitch and grunt.”

Figure 3: Prime Minister Pierre Elliot Trudeau 1968-1984

Figure 3: Prime Minister Pierre Elliot Trudeau 1968-1984

No country in the world has impacted Canada more than the United States. In the late 18th and 19th Centuries, annexationist American troops invaded Canadian territory during the Revolutionary War and then three times during the War of 1812. After the Civil War, American negotiators demanded that Britain hand over the Canadian colonies in compensation for damages incurred when the British helped the Confederate government. These occurrences bred feelings of unease, suspicion, and outright fear of the United States among Canadians.

In the 20th and 21st Centuries, the relationship changed to a close friendship as we became more than business partners, but also military allies through two world wars, the Cold War, the Korean War, and the War on Terrorism. On 9/11, Canadian airports accepted flights unable to land in the United States. Gander, Newfoundland, a town of just 10,000, residents took almost 7,000 passengers into their homes for five days and treated them like family. The Broadway play “Come From Away” immortalizes this extraordinary act of kindness to total strangers. Canadians and Americans have a shared history in North America and now we have a shared popular culture – it is no wonder that Europeans cannot distinguish us from each other.

I have been a student of history my entire life and in my adult years, my focus has been on Canadian and American history. My second academic passion is the study of politics, so I am fairly familiar with the constitutions of both of our countries. In my lifetime, I witnessed nothing but deference and respect between our Prime Ministers and Presidents. Sometimes friendships sprang up between our leaders when they were ideologically in tune – like Brian Mulroney and Ronald Reagan, and Justin Trudeau and Barack Obama. On the international stage, we have always had each other’s backs.

It is for these reasons that I am shocked and dismayed by Donald Trump’s abysmal behavior towards Justin Trudeau. Yes, I felt personally offended by Trump’s outright lies and insults. At the same time, I felt extremely proud that Trudeau did not respond, in kind, to Trump’s remarks nor to the vile remarks made by Trump’s minions in the aftermath.

Figure 4: Trump warning Trudeau about the PM's remarks at the G7 Summit

Figure 4: Trump warning Trudeau about the PM’s remarks at the G7 Summit

As an aside, my wife, Anne, and I had the good fortune to meet and chat briefly with our former Prime Minister, Paul Martin. He was PM for three brief years before being defeated by Conservative Stephen Harper. Since then, Martin has remained active within the Liberal Party and was a guest advisor at the G7 Summit. When I shared my views about Trudeau’s handling of the G7 fallout from Trump, he nodded sagely and assured me that he would pass that along to Justin Trudeau. It was such a thrill to spend a few moments alone with this kind and generous former prime minister!

Figure 5: Former Prime Minister Paul Martin 2003-2006

Figure 5: Former Prime Minister Paul Martin 2003-2006

My anger and disgust are not aimed at the American people. I understand how Trump operates. I followed the presidential election campaign very closely and I’ve seen how many Americans are also angry and disgusted with him and his abominable tactics. I also understand that Trump was defeated in the popular vote and that he has the approval of a scant 40% according to polls. By the way, Trudeau has the approval of 80% of Canadians according to recent polls for his stand against Trump’s tariffs. I can’t remember the last time a Canadian PM got an 80% approval rating for anything!

Many of my American friends have apologized and are concerned that this trade debacle will do irreparable damage to Canada/US relations. My response is that no apology is necessary – most of the American people did not behave badly. Trudeau and our Foreign Minister, Chrystia Freeland, have continued to work towards a resolution of the tariffs and the NAFTA accord. It is our hope that our American cousins will lobby their Representatives and Senators to dissuade Trump from the path of a trade war with Canada and the other G7 countries.

Figure 6: Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland speaking to reporters in Washington after meeting with members of the Senate after the G7 Summit.

Figure 6: Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland speaking to reporters in Washington after meeting with members of the Senate after the G7 Summit.

Donald Trump will not change. He will continue to behave as he sees fit until the American electorate takes away his majorities in Congress and then removes him as President. I’m losing faith that the Mueller investigation will bring Trump down. I do not think Congress would impeach Trump no matter what Mueller reports. The remedy to the problem of Trump is to be found with the voters of America.

Our Shame … Our Embarrassment

My single largest fear, when it appeared that Donald Trump might actually win the 2016 election, was not about internal or domestic policies, though they certainly do weigh heavily.  My single greatest fear, however, was in the area of foreign relations and foreign policy, for it was already obvious that Trump had no inkling about how nations interact, and it was also obvious that he was unlikely to take advice from anybody else.  Although he swore his intent to surround himself with “the best people”, we all knew that he defines ‘best’ quite differently than most of us.  So, when he was declared the winner of the electoral, though not the popular, vote in the wee hours of November 9th, 2016, I was bracing for a series of foreign policy catastrophes and hoping against all hope that Congress and high-level advisors would be able to contain the worst of the damage.

That said, I was in no way prepared for the calamity that Trump has wrought upon our nation in the last 16 months, and most especially in the last month … actually, the very worst may have come in the last 3 days, though it may be followed by worse on the morrow. For you see, not only is Trump acting out of ignorance, but he is acting out of malice, out of an obvious desire to destroy long-term alliances and either isolate the U.S. in a way that is not sustainable, not in our best interests, and very dangerous in today’s global environment, or he seeks to realign with our nemesis, Russia.

What he and his advisors have done in a short 24-hour period to our relations with our closest neighbor, Canada, is appalling and unconscionable.  Last week I expressed the opinion that it might be best if he did not attend the G7.  This week I am thoroughly convinced it would have been better.  Trump, who does not understand global trade, but thinks of himself as a master ‘wheeler-dealer’, put the final straw on the camel’s back of our relationship with Canada and the EU, particularly Canada.

Trump came to office proclaiming, incorrectly, that the U.S. has been taken advantage of by its trading partners. He has sought to renegotiate trade agreements and threatened to impose tariffs on countries that resisted.  Trump sees international trade agreements as a win/lose situation and he is determined to be the winner.  In reality, such agreements as NAFTA are not a win/lose proposition, but a win/win one in which each side makes some concessions and both sides gain.  But Donald Trump is willing to make no concessions, not willing to budge one inch from what he perceives as his rightful win.

Trump left the G7 meetings early, skipping out on the discussions about climate change, which was just as well, since he had nothing positive to add and would likely have derailed any serious discussions in an effort to take center stage as he always does.  At the conclusion of the G7, there was a press conference where a reporter asked Canada’s Prime Minister Trudeau about the U.S. tariffs and whether Trudeau was taking seriously Trump’s threats to cut off trade with any country that failed to do Trump’s bidding.  Trudeau responded …

“I highlighted directly to the president that Canadians did not take it lightly that the United States has moved forward with significant tariffs on our steel and aluminum industry, particularly did not take lightly the fact that it’s based on a national security reason that for Canadians, who either themselves or whose parents or community members have stood shoulder-to-shoulder with American soldiers in far off lands and conflicts from the First World War onwards, that it’s kind of insulting. And highlighted that it was not helping in our renegotiation of NAFTA and that it would be with regret, but it would be with absolute certainty and firmness that we move forward with retaliatory measures on July 1, applying equivalent tariffs to the ones that the Americans have unjustly applied to us.  I have made it very clear to the president that it is not something we relish doing, but it is something that we absolutely will do, because Canadians, we’re polite, we’re reasonable, but we also will not be pushed around.”

Although it was a very reasonable and well-reasoned comment, when Trump heard of it he went into a rage, tweeting …

“Based on Justin’s false statements at his news conference, and the fact that Canada is charging massive Tariffs to our U.S. farmers, workers and companies, I have instructed our U.S. Reps not to endorse the Communique as we look at Tariffs on automobiles flooding the U.S. Market!”

And …

“PM Justin Trudeau of Canada acted so meek and mild during our @G7 meetings only to give a news conference after I left saying that, ‘US Tariffs were kind of insulting’ and he ‘will not be pushed around.’ Very dishonest & weak. Our Tariffs are in response to his of 270% on dairy!”

There was nothing either dishonest or weak in what Mr. Trudeau said – and he was well within his rights to say it.  But even that wasn’t the worst of it.  On the Sunday morning talk shows, Trump’s minions took the whole thing to the next level of idiocy and most likely cost us the friendship of a treasured ally.

Canada wall-2On CBS’ Face the Nation, White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow:  “So, he holds a press conference. The president is barely out of there, on the plane to North Korea, and he starts insulting us. You know, he starts talking about U.S. is insulting Canada. We are not — we, Canada, are not going to be pushed around.”

Then Kudlow hopped right over to CNN’s State of the Union, where he said: “Potus is not going to let a Canadian prime minister push him around – push him, Potus around, on the eve of this. He is not going to permit any show of weakness on the trip to negotiate with North Korea. Nor should he.”

Trump’s Twitter finger was apparently bored in Singapore, and he jumped back in …

“Fair Trade is now to be called Fool Trade if it is not Reciprocal. According to a Canada release, they make almost 100 Billion Dollars in Trade with U.S. (guess they were bragging and got caught!). Minimum is 17B. Tax Dairy from us at 270%. Then Justin acts hurt when called out!”

But possibly the most obnoxiously insulting barb came from Trump’s trade adviser Peter Navarro appearing on Fox News Sunday:

“There’s a special place in hell for any foreign leader that engages in bad faith diplomacy with President Donald J Trump and then tries to stab him in the back on the way out the door, and that’s what Bad Faith Justin Trudeau did with that stunt press conference.”

Trump, Kudlow and Navarro all sound like a bunch of West Side thugs, which is just about all they are.

Canada, however, responded to the assaults in an adult manner with diplomacy and tact.  Canadian foreign minister Chrystia Freeland told reporters in Quebec City:

“Canada does not conduct its diplomacy through ad hominem attacks … and we refrain particularly from ad hominem attacks when it comes from a close ally.”

At this juncture, I would like to humbly and sincerely apologize to Prime Minister Trudeau and all Canadians on behalf of myself and the majority of citizens in this nation for the inane and unfair language and behaviour of our representatives.  We would not blame you if you closed your borders to U.S. citizens and you would be well within your rights to do so, but we hope that you won’t.  Please forgive us.

The Wall That Donnie Didn’t Build …

Okay, folks, I want everyone to repeat after me:  We do not need a wall to secure our southern border.  Period.  It is a damn shame that all of us … bloggers and paid journalists alike … are spending the bulk of our time these days trying to peel away the layers of lies and fraudulent claims by the ‘man’ who claims to be president.  To an extent, he uses all this b.s. as a smokescreen, a distraction from Robert Mueller, Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal.  But to a larger extent, the reality is simpler:  Trump simply does not know how to be honest.  He has spent so much of his life telling lies, that it is his norm.  Unfortunately, he is now in a position such that his lies, if people in key decision-making positions believed them, could cause all manners of grief, leading up to and including an all-out war.  And so, we all keep doing our best, wasting entire days, digging for what’s real and trying to shine a light in the dark corners where the truth has been hidden behind the web of lies.

The latest?  We are back to the bloomin’ border wall between the Southern U.S. and Mexico.  A superbly ridiculous idea at its inception, it has become even more so.  To recap, though … does anybody remember how he kept saying Mexico would pay for the wall?  We all knew he had no leverage, no power to force Mexico to pay for something that had no benefit to them.  And Trump knew it, based on a conversation he had in August 2017 with Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto.

“But the fact is we are both in a little bit of a political bind because I have to have Mexico pay for the wall – I have to. We cannot say that anymore because if you are going to say that Mexico is not going to pay for the wall, then I do not want to meet with you guys anymore because I cannot live with that. I am willing to say that we will work it out, but that means it will come out in the wash and that is okay. But you cannot say anymore that the United States is going to pay for the wall. I am just going to say that we are working it out. Believe it or not, this is the least important thing that we are talking about, but politically this might be the most important talk about.”

Translation:  You know you’re not going to pay for it, and I know you’re not going to pay for it, but let me keep saying it for a while, and then it will fade away.

But in Trump’s mind, that wall must be built regardless of who pays for it.  Why?  Because he remembers fondly how his supporters kept chanting, “Lock her up!  Build that wall!!!”  And he is as aware as any that some people don’t like him … really, really don’t like him … and that his very survival depends on those chanters staying happy.

Now, the problem is that there is no need for a wall, and most of us know that, so how can he justify paying for it with our money.  We don’t want a damn wall! We want health care, we want clean air & water, we want better schools and affordable college, we want a myriad of things, but a wall is not one of them.  Even the chanters didn’t really want a wall … until Trump convinced them that Mexicans were “bad hombres” and were coming to rape, pillage, and take their jobs.  None of which, of course, has a shred of truth.  So, since there is no need for the wall, no possible justification, Trump must create an illusion of a need.  Which means he must lie.  And that is exactly what he has done, yet again.

On Easter morning, while the rest of us were hiding/finding coloured eggs and chocolate bunnies, peeling veggies for later in the day, and relaxing with family, Donnie-boy was tweeting.  (One has to feel a little sorry for his youngest son, Baron, for it seems Trump forgets he exists!)

“Border Patrol Agents are not allowed to properly do their job at the Border because of ridiculous liberal (Democrat) laws like Catch & Release. Getting more dangerous. “Caravans” coming. Republicans must go to Nuclear Option to pass tough laws NOW. NO MORE DACA DEAL!” — 9:56 AM – Apr 1, 2018

“Mexico is doing very little, if not NOTHING, at stopping people from flowing into Mexico through their Southern Border, and then into the U.S. They laugh at our dumb immigration laws. They must stop the big drug and people flows, or I will stop their cash cow, NAFTA. NEED WALL!” — 9:25 AM – 1 Apr 2018

And that stupid tweet actually garnered 125,000 likes!?!?  Ah well.  The point here, though, being that it is not true.  None of it.  Nada.  Ni siquiera un poquito.

First, why must the word ‘democrat’ always be prefaced with an insult by Trump & Co?  I am perfectly able to refer to ‘republicans’ without an offensive preface.  This is offensive and highly unprofessional for a ‘man’ in his position.  Second, ‘catch and release’ is an unofficial protocol first in use by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) that began … oh, let me think … in 2001 under republican President George W. Bush.  Hmmm but the “ridiculous liberal democrats” get blamed.  And it is not a law, simply a protocol, the way things are done, and it started because ICE didn’t have time to be chasing down every immigrant that crossed the border for periods of up to six months.

And third, Trump claims that Mexico is doing little or nothing and that great “caravans” are headed our way and we must be afraid, very afraid.  Just yesterday, the Mexican government broke up a caravan of nearly 1,000 from Central America, as they have done in the past.  The government disbanded the group, issuing humanitarian visas to some, and giving the rest 10 days to leave or apply for permission to stay in Mexico.  Below is a picture of some of the people from that ‘caravan’ …Scary looking bunch, eh?

Donald Trump, my friends, is lying to us, just as he always has and just as he always will.  He uses fear tactics to get us to buy into his wall rhetoric.  The bottom line is that the wall would cost us, the taxpayers, upward of $25 billion and would serve no purpose other than to assuage Trump’s ego.  Congress realizes there is no need for a wall, since they allocated a small percentage of the cost in the budget, and put significant restraints on even that.

What Donald Trump has accomplished, however, is to once again anger the Mexican government.  President Enrique Peña Nieto has already cancelled a planned visit.  Mexican Foreign Secretary Luis Videgaray came back with a tweet of his own:

“Every day Mexico and the U.S. work together on migration throughout the region. Facts clearly reflect this.”

It might, at this juncture, behoove us to recall that Mexico is one of our two logistically closest allies, as well as an important trading partner.  Who among us would pick, pick and pick some more on our closest neighbor, knowing that there were plenty of enemies on the next street willing to do us harm?So, Trump is willing to use the lives of young people, the DACA Dreamers, as a bargaining chip to get his wall, for that is what this entire spate of ugly tweets boils down to.  But let us not take our eyes off the real balls here:  Robert Mueller, Stormy Daniels, and Karen McDougal, for those are the ones Trump is really afraid of.  Those are the ones from whom he is trying to divert our attention.  Focus, folks.

A Matter of Trust …

One of the political analysts I most respect for both his knowledge and unbiased viewpoints is Fareed Zakaria.  He hit the nail on the head this morning on CNN’s Fareed Zakaria GPS (Global Public Square) when he said …

zakaria-2“The United States is now blasting an international agreement it is a sworn party to, without exiting the agreement. It is taking potshots at an international framework and yet staying within it — sort of. The result is a foreign policy that is not just unpredictable, but incoherent.

Trump has now signaled to countries like North Korea, never make a deal with America, because even if we sign, we might still upend the whole arrangement anyway. In his speech on Iran, Trump made the bizarre claim that other countries think in 100-year intervals. Even if this were true, which it isn’t, Trump’s actions suggest that his administration cannot even stay the course for a few years, let alone a hundred. Donald Trump’s national security team, the so-called grown-ups, have signed on to this contradictory policy toward Iran — which is a sad sign, perhaps, that they value their jobs more than their reputations.”

What he says is absolutely true.  Since taking office Trump has lied more often than not, and he has removed the U.S. from important agreements for no reason other than they were not his idea, but one of his predecessors. He has decided, even though the majority of the people he is supposed to represent disagree, that the U.S. no longer will participate in the Paris Accords to lower the impact of carbon emmissions on the environment.  He has made it clear that he will almost certainly pull out of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) unless Canada and Mexiso agree to give the U.S. the most favourable terms, at the expense of their own nations.  He has pulled out of UNESCO, and threatened to abandon the U.S. commitment to the United Nations entirely.  And now he is playing games with the Iran nuclear agreement for no reason other than that President Obama was the U.S.’ representative at the time we entered into the agreement.

It is bad enough that we here in the states know him to be a liar and untrustworthy.  But now every nation with whom we have international relations are scratching their heads and saying, in the language of social media, WTF???

It is one thing when he promises “great health care” and then not only provides us with nothing, but robs tens of millions of people of having any heathcare.  It is one thing when he promises tax cuts to the working people, but in reality his tax cuts will help only the wealthy.  All that is bad enough, but …

When he promises aid to Puerto Rico after a devastating storm, then drops the ball and attempts to make it look like their own fault, that sends a message that Trump will not keep his promises.  When he randomly, for no reason at all pulls out of a commitment, an obligation on the part of the U.S., that sends a message that the United States does not uphold its commitments.  And when he threatens to pull out of a mutual commitment to go to the aid of our allies, as they would us, in the event of a foreign attack, then the message is loud and clear.  The United States can no longer be counted on, the United States is no longer reliable or trustworthy.

From there, it is a hop, skip and a jump to … “the United States is no longer our ally.” In turn, if we were to be attacked by Russia, North Korea, or any other nation, we would have no right to expect assistance from the EU or any other allies, not even Canada or Mexico.  If Trump truly wants to isolate this nation, he is off to a fine start, but let the buyer beware … it is about the second stupidest thing he could do at this point.

And all for what reason?  Because he is a megalomaniac and his name is not on any of these agreements.  He had no part in them, worse yet, his antagonism toward President Obama is palpable and he is determined to attempt to erase President Obama’s name from the history books.  The reality is that, while Obama was a good, though not perfect, president, Trump is actually making Obama look even better than he was!

I suspect that if the Iran nuclear agreement were to be re-named the Trump-Iran nuclear agreement, he would sit down and shut up. He sees himself as more than any president can be … he sees himself as an emperor rather than a president.  The global effect of his decisions and rhetoric is far-reaching.  The U.S. is no longer the leader of the western world … only because of Trump.  Our allies are making their own plans for future events that do not include the U.S. … only because of Trump.  Where is the line in the sand?  Where is the breaking point where this country, its people and its elected officials finally stand up and say, “ENOUGH!!!”?  It better be soon, folks … it better be real soon.

Need I Say More?

There is a difference between strength and bombast.  Bullying, tooting one’s own horn, threats – whether idle or real – are all part of bombast, not real strength.  Genuine strength includes understanding the situation, knowing when to act, when to wait, and when to keep one’s mouth shut.  Real strength in the world of governance requires knowledge, understanding, patience and intelligence. Events in the last 48 hours in the dark world of Trump include threats against one of the three biggest television networks in the nation, a challenge to take and compare IQ tests to the Secretary of State, threats to de-certify a fully functioning global agreement that is contributing to world peace, mocking and taunting a U.S. Senator, threats to pull out of a trade agreement with our closest neighbors/allies, and threats against the NFL.  If there are any who still support him, perhaps they see these moves as strength.  The rest of us see it for what it is:  bombast.

The following is an excerpt from a letter written by a student at State College in Pennsylvania on September 29, 2016, almost two months before Donald Trump was elected:

I urge those of you who are unsure of how you will vote in November to consider what it would mean to have a man who is a bully, and who supports bullies, have the keys to our nuclear weapons. That Donald Trump is a bully is undeniable. He yells at people he does not like, he threatens them, and he calls them names. These are behaviors that we all agree are totally unacceptable in our schools and workplaces. Why should they be acceptable in a Presidential candidate?

Significantly, Trump continues to express admiration and respect for other bullies. And scarily, these bullies are dictators such as Vladimir Putin and the fortunately deceased Saddam Hussein. Again, do we really want a man who admires brutal dictators in charge of our nuclear weapons? Does Trump have no idea of the difference between our American way of life and that espoused by the world’s worst dictators Does he not understand the role America plays as the leader in demonstrating what democracy truly means?

A bully as our Commander-in-Chief. A bully in charge of the world’s greatest military power. Do you really want to vote for that?  Hillary Clinton has demonstrated, in a number of important positions, that she understands the proper use of our power. We can make America stronger by voting for her.

Pamela Monk

The title of her letter? True Strength Is Not Bombast

One astute commenter, a student from Temple University, responded to Ms. Monk with an apt quote from Theodore Roosevelt …

 Theodore Roosevelt: “I neither respect nor admire the huge moneyed men to whom money is the be-all and end-all of existence; to whom the acquisition of untold millions is the supreme goal in life, and who are too often utterly indifferent as to how these millions are obtained.”

Need I say more?

The Wall That Was Never Meant To Be …

It may not be the biggest news of the day, but it is important in two ways:  1) it shows us, as if we didn’t already know, the character, or lack thereof, of the man who is called “president”, and 2) it proves the point that all the rhetoric about “building a wall” along the U.S.-Mexican border was never anything more than talk, a way to gain the support of the conservatives whose goal is to “make America white again”.

On Thursday morning, The Washington Post published a transcript obtained by the Post’s Greg Miller of Donald Trump’s call to Mexico’s president Enrique Peña Nieto on 27 January. The gist of the conversation is that Trump told Peña Nieto that the wall is not really that important, but that he needed Peña Nieto to stop saying publicly that Mexico would not pay for the wall, as it was making him (Trump) look bad.  He threated Peña Nieto with tariffs and ultimately threatened to cease the friendly relationship between the U.S. and Mexico.  A few of the more salient moments:

Trump: “The only thing I will ask you though is on the wall, you and I both have a political problem. My people stand up and say, “Mexico will pay for the wall” and your people probably say something in a similar but slightly different language. But the fact is we are both in a little bit of a political bind because I have to have Mexico pay for the wall – I have to.

So what I would like to recommend is – if we are going to have continued dialogue – we will work out the wall. They are going to say, “who is going to pay for the wall, Mr. President?” to both of us, and we should both say, “we will work it out.”

Because you and I are both at a point now where we are both saying we are not to pay for the wall. From a political standpoint, that is what we will say. We cannot say that anymore because if you are going to say that Mexico is not going to pay for the wall, then I do not want to meet with you guys anymore because I cannot live with that. I am willing to say that we will work it out, but that means it will come out in the wash and that is okay. But you cannot say anymore that the United States is going to pay for the wall. I am just going to say that we are working it out. Believe it or not, this is the least important thing that we are talking about, but politically this might be the most important talk about.”

Peña Nieto: “I understand you well, Mr. President. I understand this critical point and I understand the critical political position that this constitutes for your country and for you, Mr. President. Let us look for a creative way to jump over this obstacle. I clearly understand what this issue constitutes for you in the United States.“

Trump: “Okay, Enrique, that is fine and I think it is fair. I do not bring up the wall but when the press brings up the wall, I will say, “let us see how it is going – let us see how it is working out with Mexico.” Because from an economic issue, it is the least important thing we were talking about, but psychologically, it means something so let us just say “we will work it out.” And if you want to do that, then we will go back to the negotiation table with Jared and Luis. And I am sure they can work something out that is good for both nations, and obviously that would be a positive thing. And I am sort of in this bad position because the deal that they are making is not nearly as good as the deal I could impose tomorrow – in fact this afternoon. I do not have to go back to Congress or to the Senate. I do not need the vote of 400 people. I have the powers to do all of this, and I came to the office this morning and I met with a group of people – we had a plan to just go into what I wanted to do for two years. But I know what you are saying, it is something that is good for you. It is very important for you to understand this – I want the best solution also for Mexico.”

The remainder of the conversation centered around the drug trade and trade in general, and ended on a cordial note.  President Peña Nieto’s approval rating at that time was somewhere between 12% and 17%, even lower than Trump’s.  He did himself no favour among his people when he stopped saying publicly that Mexico would not pay for Trump’s wall.

wallThe important take in all of this is that Trump doesn’t actually care whether the wall gets built or not, and likely never did.  It was rhetoric, pure and simple.  It was an idea – a bad one at that – that riled the masses, that incited the people who wrongly believed that stopping immigrants from entering the U.S. would somehow improve the economy and society of the U.S.  Trump told them so, and blindly, without thinking too long or hard, they believed and they cheered and they voted for the man with the plan for a wall.

Mind you, the wall was never a sound idea to begin with.  It would have cost an estimated $67 billion by the time all costs were taken into account, and taken 3.5 years to build.  Mexico was never going to pay for the wall, and despite Trump’s threats, there is no way to force them to.  The wall would not have stopped illegal immigration.  The wall would have damaged the economies of both Mexico and the U.S.  Tourism would have dropped dramatically, trade would have been diminished, and the relationship between the two countries damaged.  More importantly, there are other ways, far cheaper ways, to get a handle on illegal immigration.

The wall was never meant to be … it was only meant to serve one purpose. Trump lied to get votes.  No surprise, but I feel pity for his supporters for whom the border wall and ban on Muslim immigrants were the key reason for supporting him.  First, because they were duped by a con man, and second because their views are so narrow that they have shut themselves off from the rich culture of the rest of the world.  And yet … undoubtedly they will find a way to justify Trump’s lies and deceit once again.

The Canadian Guy Has Class!

On Monday, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau came to visit and to discuss ongoing policies with Trump.  Trudeau had hoped for an audience with the President of the United States, but in lieu of that, he got Trump.  Of course, the U.S. was embroiled in the scandal of National Security Advisor Mike Flynn and whether he did or didn’t give Russian ambassador Kislyak a heads up about impending sanctions by President Obama back on Christmas day, so it is understandable that the U.S. news outlets were too busy to cover more than the barest details of Trudeau’s visit.

trudeau-trump-shakeNonetheless, there were some pretty great moments, like when Trudeau got to have his picture taken standing to the left of Ivanka Trump, with a beaming proud Papa Trump on her right.  And speaking of Ivanka, let us not forget the iconic photos of Ivanka gazing with adoration at the handsome, young Trudeau!

trudeau-trump-ivanka.png

The take on the visit depends entirely which side of the border you are on.  The U.S. press called the meeting boring, but the Canadians were thrilled.  Both reactions seem to be a result of the fact that Trump didn’t throw any of his bombastic temper tantrums during the Trudeau visit.  U.S. citizens seem to have come to a point where they look forward to these daily, sometimes hourly events, but Canadians, having a bit more sense of propriety, find them unamusing, to say the least.

trudeau-ivanka

Their major differences are in the areas of immigration, trade and climate change.  As we all know, Trump is determined to have his way in banning refugees from at least seven Middle-Eastern nations from entering the U.S. and is not above verbally abusing judges and others in order to see his ‘orders’ carried out.  Meanwhile, Trudeau welcomes refugees and the cultural diversity they bring.  Asked for his opinion on Trump’s refugee ban, PM Trudeau tactfully declined to opine, saying instead, “The last thing Canadians expect is for me to come down and lecture another country on how they choose to govern themselves.”

us-canadaCertainly the main point PM Trudeau came hoping to come to an agreement with Trump about was regarding trade, given that Trump has repeatedly said he would either ‘rip up’ the NAFTA agreement, or renegotiate it in terms more favourable to the U.S.  Canada counts on trade with the United States for about 25 percent of their country’s gross domestic product and 73% of their exports.  PM Trudeau and President Obama had forged a mutually beneficial working relationship, so it is no wonder that Trudeau was a bit unsure what to expect from the contentious Trump … heck, those of us who live in the U.S. do not know what to expect of him from one day to the next!

A little known episode from last month:  a group of six Canadian women and two French nationals tried to enter the U.S. in order to attend the Women’s March on 21 January, but after a two-hour ordeal at the border which included a search of the car, their mobile phones being examined, each person fingerprinted, and their photo taken, they were denied access and told that if they attempted to cross the border again during the weekend, they would be arrested.  Another Canadian and a British citizen were also turned away after informing border patrol agents the reason for their visit was the Women’s March. The same day, a resident of Montreal was turned away after being asked by border patrol agents whether he was ‘pro-Trump’ or ‘anti-Trump’.  He was then fingerprinted, photographed, and denied entry.

At least one Canadian school district has ceased their periodic field trips into the U.S., citing safety concerns in light of Trump’s immigration ban and the unpredictability of what might happen next. We certainly can no longer claim to be a nation of hospitality, can we?

trudeau-welcome.jpg

PM Justin Trudeau welcoming newly-arrived refugees to his country

Justin Trudeau is a class act, much the same as was President Obama.  Though we have the impression that he strongly disagrees with Trump’s stance on immigration and his ‘executive order’ to ban mostly Muslims from the U.S., Trudeau has never specifically criticized Trump.  He has merely stated the importance of welcoming more refugees, without mentioning Trump by name.  As I said, the man has class, something which is sorely lacking in Trump.

On a final note, the day after the meeting and press conference with PM Trudeau and Trump, Sean Spicer had this to say in the morning White House press briefing:

“Yesterday the president set — had an incredibly productive set of meetings and discussions with Prime Minister Joe Trudeau of Canada, focusing on our shared commitment to close cooperation in addressing both the challenges facing our two countries and the problems throughout the world.” Um, Sean?  It’s Justin … Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. Not Joe.

I asked one of my Canadian friends if we could trade leaders … just for a year or so.  Her response, verbatim, was: “Over my dead body (and those of millions of Canucks!!) Sorry…”  Guess that means ‘no’, huh?  And I was even willing to throw in Bannon, Miller, Spicer, Conway, Sessions and DeVos as a bonus!  Well, can’t blame me for trying.  Sigh.