While Canada in NAFTA lingers on (maybe, maybe not) we go to test the Resistance in Northern California!

Posted: September 4th, 2018 | No Comments »

I’ve just returned from the beach, as I start to write at least. It’s Labour Day 2018, up here in the true north. It was cloudy and grey at the beach, and still hot but relieved by a strong, steady breeze from the west.

There were quite a few people, enjoying the last day of the summer holiday season before, as someone somewhere put it recently, the real world returns.

My ostensible reason for going to the beach — only a few minutes from our office — was to contemplate what to write here, on my current assignment.

Again I have been asked to announce that this coming Wednesday (ie tomorrow) most of us at our Toronto editorial headquarters will be leaving for further regular consultations with the growing technical support staff,  now in Mill Valley, California, some 15 miles north of the Golden Gate Bridge …

NAFTA maybe, maybe not?

Some time has passed. I’m coming back to this assignment late at night. It’s dark out the window at the back of the building, just beyond my desktop computer …

I’ve concluded that my best move is to return in the morning, when I’ve had a chance to sleep on community political views one last time …

… I’m back again. It’s now Tuesday afternoon. Too much to do getting ready this morning. And a lot remains undone. So, as luck would have it, I don’t have much time to say more in this space.

All the editors, however, have urged on me that they do want to acknowledge we are leaving at a time when relations between the country we are leaving (for a week) and the country we are visiting are officially troubled, over NAFTA and so forth.

“You people here have a great country with great possibilities”

We are aware as well that in some minds this has only blended with the Federal Court of Appeal decision against Ottawa’s approval of the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion, to give Justin Trudeau his worst week from hell as prime minister yet.

I have also been instructed to say that the editorial community here has (at least?) two further propositions to advance. The first is that we are just going to California, centre of the Resistance to the current rogue administration in Washington, DC.

And the second is just that all of us here urge Primer Minister Trudeau (and Chrystia Freeland and everyone else in the cabinet, in parliament, and everywhere else) to keep standing up and standing firm for the best interests of Canada and the Canadian people, as in the past. Whatever happens, we the north will survive and prosper greatly in the end.

(And remember what US President Dwight Eisenhower told Ontario Premier Leslie Frost back in 1953 : “You people here have a great country with great possibilities … don’t let them ruin your water. We have ruined ours in the States … ”)

Building the Trans Mountain pipeline

Oh and in conclusion a last (third?) thought on the Trans Mountain pipeline. We believe that Justin Trudeau will finally make sure the thing gets built to tidewater, just as he has promised.

And we fail to see how it benefits the great Canadian cause of having this happen (safely and with environmental sensitivity, etc) to scream endlessly that he’s bound to fail?

Meanwhile, we are escaping further debate on all such matters by concentrating for the next week on much deeper questions of high technology and the future generation, at the Bay Area conference centre illustrated in the accompanying photos.

We remain unshakably convinced that Canada and all its glorious provinces (and especially the one that is not a province like the others) will remain standing in both official languages, and in the high traditions of the First Nations who have given the country its name and so much more, when we return on September 12, 2018.

The ongoing pursuit of various American (and Canadian) dreams

I will report further at some point not too long after our September 12 return on just what we may or may not have most recently discovered about the future of America in the Marin County heartland of California liberalism — and the ongoing pursuit of various American (and Canadian) dreams.

Meanwhile, a few of us managed to drop by the beach again just now this Tuesday afternoon : far fewer people on a beautiful sunny day, but with another strong, steady breeze, this time from the east. As Eisenhower told Leslie Frost long ago, we do have a great country with great possibilities up here in the ancient land of the multicultural northern fur trade, from the Atlantic to the Arctic to the Pacific oceans. “Je me souviens.”

Will deposing moderate Malcolm Turnbull as Australia’s PM finally lead to Australian Republic of his dreams?

Posted: August 24th, 2018 | No Comments »

Malcolm Turnbull (l), now deposed prime minister of Australia, with prime minister of New Zealand, Jacinda Ardern (r), in at least somewhat happier times than today!

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA. REPORT FROM GREG BARNS. Australians used to laugh at Latin American nations like Argentina and Ecuador, which in recent decades turned over their leaders with astonishing regularity. But now the boot is well and truly on the other foot.

Today saw the demise of Australia’s fifth Prime Minister in 11 years. The Liberal (and moderate liberal) Malcolm Turnbull, who headed the Republic campaign to end Australia’s ties with the British monarchy in 1999, was deposed as Prime Minster courtesy of a hard-right insurgency inside his party, as he himself described it.  His successor, the conservative Christian (but still Liberal) Scott Morrison, assumes office with doubts about whether he can command a majority in Australia’s lower house, the House of Representatives.

(Canadian admirers of Justin Trudeau will also want to remember that the Liberals have long been, so to speak, Australia’s largest party broadly on the right side of the political spectrum. The best current Canadian analogue is the provincial party system in BC, on Canada’s Pacific Coast.)

Malcolm Turnbull (1) with his former Treasurer Scott Morrison (r), who finally became the “consensus candidate” in a Liberal leadership contest provoked by what Turnbull has called a hard-right insurgency against his government.

The last Prime Minister to see out his term in Australia was the Liberal John Howard — a great influence on Stephen Harper in Canada. Mr Howard was voted out of office in 2007 and replaced by Kevin Rudd of the Australian Labor Party (ALP), who was in turn deposed by the ALP’s Julia Gillard in 2010. Ms Gillard was then undermined by Mr Rudd who got his old job back for six weeks, before losing an election in 2013 to the Liberal’s Tony Abbott.  Mr Abbott, an arch-conservative Anglophile, lost in 2015 to Mr Turnbull who had challenged Abbott for the Liberal leadership.

Confused?  Well so are many Australians, and angry too at the self interest of their political class.  The campaign to unseat Mr Turnbull has been so chaotic that many are now saying the Liberals, who have been the major conservative organization in Australia since 1944, are now finished as a political force.

The influence of media mogul Rupert Murdoch and the so-called Sydney shock jocks, the Rush Limbaughs of Australian radio, was apparent in the consistent attacks in recent months on the moderate Mr Turnbull. The favoured candidate of the Murdoch media and other right-wing media outlets has been  the Immigration Minister Peter Dutton.  Mr Dutton belongs in the nativist hard-right camp — hostile to migrants, contemptuous of ‘out of touch’ judges, and opposed to climate change policies.

The good news about the Australian Liberal leadership contest, some will say, is that Rupert Murdoch’s favoured (and most Trumpian) candidate, Peter Dutton, did not win. Murdoch who is now married to Jerry Hall — also mother of four of Mick Jagger’s children — was probably not too disconsolate. Many thanks to Getty for photo.

But Mr Dutton’s backers did not bank on Mr Turnbull’s tactical skills.  Prime Minister Turnbull cast some doubt on Mr Dutton’s ability to remain in parliament because of a provision in the Australian Constitution, which prohibits MPs from earning money from the government : Mr Dutton’s family owns childcare centres which receive government subsidies. Mr Turnbull also controlled the timing of the request for a leadership ballot, and this meant that the alternative conservative Mr Morrison had time to garner enough votes to win the Liberal leadership.

Mr Morrison, however, may have to call an election immediately, even though one is not officially due until May 2019, next year. The Liberals now have a one-seat majority in the 150-seat lower house, and Mr Turnbull has indicated he will quit his Sydney electoral district immediately.  Unless the opposition ALP agrees to a pair, which would ensure one of its MPs did not vote, Mr Morrison and the Liberals may lose a confidence motion in the House.

Meanwhile the events of the past week have bewildered Australians. One of  the reasons for frequent leadership changes is because the rules of the Liberal Party mean only MPs get to vote.  In order to avoid its similar experience with Ms Gillard and Mr Rudd, the ALP has moved to a system where all members of the party can vote for the leader.

The moderate Liberal Mr Turnbull had a difficult job as Prime Minister. To become leader he cut a deal with the dominant right-wing faction of his party, which meant he agreed not to resurrect the Republic debate and not to pursue other liberal causes he believed in, such as a carbon tax or emissions trading scheme.

Malcolm Turnbull during the 1999 Australian Republic referendum — which his side lost (on a technicality some would say) 55% – 45%.

It is likely the Australian Labor Party will win the next general election whenever it is called.  And the party and its leader Bill Shorten are committed to an Australian Republic.  They may even be able to entice Mr Turnbull, as an ex-Liberal Prime Minister, to campaign with them and so turn his Australia first dream of the late 20th century into a 21st century democratic reality.

If this does happen, it  may give Australian politics some fresh interest for Canada. (If the struggle between the hard right and the more moderate Malcolm Turnbull inside the Australian Liberal Party doesn’t already seem at least vaguely reminiscent of Maxime Bernier’s resignation from Andrew Scheer’s Conservative Party only yesterday!) And if an Australian Republic does finally grow out of the summer 2018 hard-right insurgency against Mr Turnbull, it will not be a consequence that the insurgents intended.

Greg Barns is a political commentator and former political adviser in Australia.  He worked closely with Malcolm Turnbull on the 1999 Republic Referendum and followed Mr Turnbull as National Chair of the Australian Republican Movement in 2002.  Mr Barns is author of ‘What’s Wrong with the Liberal Party?’ (2003 Cambridge UP). Twitter @BarnsGreg.

RIP V.S. Naipaul — who thought briefly about moving to Canada long ago but then went back to England

Posted: August 24th, 2018 | No Comments »

V.S. Naipaul in his later days.

I have no deep familiarity with the writing of V.S. Naipaul, who “died at his home in London” Saturday, August 11, 2018, just a few days short of his 86th birthday.

But he is at least one of only a few great literary talents I for a while found fascinating after my mid-30s. I feel an urge to say something at the time of his death. (And why not? As explained on Twitter : “We are all journalists now.”)

I was late coming to Naipaul’s work. I first learned about him on Dick Cavett’s PBS series, during the age of “the last great intellectual talk-show host” on US TV.

Based on records now online, that was in late November 1980. And I was fascinated (refreshed even) by the man talking to Dick Cavett.

Not long after, I received Naipaul’s 1979 novel about modern Africa,  A Bend in the River, as a birthday gift. Reading that led me to buy his early 1981 collection of four gripping non-fiction pieces, published in paperback by Vintage Books in New York as The Return of Eva Peron.

The next Naipaul book I bought (in hardcover this time) was his mid-1970s report on India : A Wounded Civilization. (He was born and raised on the Caribbean island of Trinidad — a grandchild of reputedly high-caste migrants from India.)

Naipaul in his earlier days.

Sometime later I was lucky to come across a remaindered hardcover copy of Naipaul’s 1984 collection of two brilliant non-fiction pieces, Finding the Center. (The first piece pursues his own autobiography, and the second his travels in West Africa.)

Over the past few days I’ve been pleased to (re)discover that Ian Buruma (a great literary talent in his own right) considers both A Bend in the River and Finding the Centermasterpieces.”

Finding the Center is also Buruma’s personal favourite, among Naipaul’s “more than 30 books in a distinguished writing career spanning five decades.”

After Finding the Center I bought three more books by V.S. Naipaul myself.

A Turn in the South, published in 1989, describes his 1980s travels in the most angular geographic region of the USA today (and long ago as well).

Beyond Belief : Islamic Excursions Among the Converted Peoples was published in 1998. It draws on Naipaul’s travels in the Muslim countries of Indonesia, Iran, Malaysia, and Pakistan.

Naipaul at home in England, 1981.

Finally, I also managed to find a remaindered hardcover copy of the 2004 novel, Magic Seeds. It  reports on adventures in India, Berlin, and London, and “Britain’s new multi-racial identity.”

I was subsequently dissuaded from looking too closely at Magic Seeds by the critic Mike Phillips at The Guardian. On his view : “There may be many reasons to admire the body of Naipaul’s writing. This book is not one of them.”

More generally, all three of these later Naipaul books that still sit on my shelves deal with subjects that are still interesting and important in the turbulent global village today. But I have not found them as gripping as the first four of his books I read, in the first half of the 1980s.

There is nonetheless (I have just agreeably rediscovered) an eighth and final Naipaul item on my shelves today. And it has proved especially helpful in my personal homage to the many reasons to admire the body of his writing, now at the time of his death.

It is a neatly folded 7-page “hard” copy of Ian Buruma’s late 2008 review of Patrick French’s The World Is What It Is : The Authorized Biography of V.S. Naipaul.

It also fits well enough with Buruma’s August 13, 2018 eulogy, “V.S. Naipaul, Poet of the Displaced.”

Naipaul in Grenada, 1983, on assignment for the London Sunday Times.

Both pieces are from the New York Review of Books. The last paragraph of Buruma’s (online NYR Daily) eulogy a week or so ago is worth quoting in full up front :

There is no such thing as a whole civilization. But some of Naipaul’s greatest literature came out of his yearning for it. Although he may, at times, have associated this with England or India, his imaginary civilization was not tied to any nation. It was a literary idea, secular, enlightened, passed on through writing. That is where he made his home, and that is where, in his books, he will live on.”

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August for the people 2018 : Canada/Saudi Arabia, Emancipation Day, global languages, Auden’s Brexit poem?

Posted: August 9th, 2018 | No Comments »

At the beach ... where we should all be in August.

CANADA/SAUDI ARABIA : To us what the Canadian federal government has done in its recent complaints about the fate of Samar Badawi, and other human rights activists in Saudi Arabia, is altogether what should be done. We have stood up on the side of the angels, and we should just have the balls to stay there.

As explained by The Independent in the UK : “Canada said last week it was ‘gravely concerned about additional arrests of civil society and women’s rights activists in Saudi Arabia, including Samar Badawi’… Ms Badawi is a lawyer and sister to [Saudi Arabian] blogger Raif Badawi, who was sentenced to 1,000 lashes and 10 years in prison in 2012 for criticising the country’s clerical establishment. His wife Ensaf Haidar and three children now live in Quebec … The whereabouts of Ms Badawi along with Nassima al-Sadah, arrested on the same day, are currently unknown …”

Canada’s “really quite standard comments from a Western ally” here (in the words of one former Ottawa bureaucrat now in academia) have prompted a quite fierce reaction from the Saudi government and its ambitious new crown prince.

For further details see, eg, Akbar Shahid Ahmed’s (we think especially perceptive) HuffPost US piece, “Thanks To Trump, Saudi Arabia Won’t Accept Even Mild Criticism From Its Friends … That a standard statement on human rights now inspires drastic Saudi actions and troll attacks evoking 9/11 shows authoritarians are bolder and diplomacy is harder.”

Current Quebec resident Ensaf Haidar, wife of Saudi-imprisoned human rights activist Raif Badawi, and her children, meeting with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

Some Conservatives in Canada — still congenitally attached to old (and new) imperial apron strings — have been wondering on Twitter and so forth whether Canadians are really willing to “pay the price” some believe is always exacted when you stand up for principles in this way.

Our quick thoughts are that the true north, strong and free, does not do anywhere near enough business with Saudi Arabia now for any such price to be very high for the overwhelming majority of we the people of Canada. And standing up for forward-looking principles of freedom most of us do value highly, in the always troublesome short term, could do even the Canadian economy a great deal of good over the mid to longer term.

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Toronto Danforth Shooter : strong city that still ignores painful truths still joining real global village at last

Posted: July 27th, 2018 | No Comments »

Grace Lake, Ontario. Photo : LKS White.

The last time in this troubled year that some of us here heard about troubling killings in our Toronto homeland we were in northern California.  (See “Toronto van killings : strong city that ignores painful truths joins real global village at last,” 2 May 2018.)

And now, some three months later, when we first heard about “Ralph Goodale’s Office Says There Is ‘No National Security Nexus’ To Toronto Danforth Shooter” (25 July 2018) we were deep in the wilderness cottage country of the old Provisional County of Haliburton, Ontario — about three hours drive north of the present-day “global city.”

The long and short is that around 10 PM this past Sunday evening the 29-year-old Faisal Hussain, who lived with his parents in a seventh floor apartment in the Thorncliffe Park high-rise neighborhood some three kilometers away, suddenly started shooting people near the Alexander the Great Parkette on Danforth Avenue.

Hussain continued shooting as he proceeded west along “the Danforth” (as some still say), in what is now often called Greektown — until he apparently shot himself dead after an initial encounter with police at Danforth and Bowden Street. By this point he had “killed an 18-year-old woman and a 10-year-old girl and injured 13 others.”

Shortly after Toronto police had identified Faisal Hussain “a news release was sent out to select media attributed to the ‘Hussain Family’.” It expressed deep grief and regret over what Faisal had done, and explained that he had struggled with mental health issues for years.

Emergency measures professionals attend to shooting victims late Sunday evening in Toronto, July 22, 2018.

Not too long after that a statement by the ISIS terrorist group in the Middle East claimed Faisal Hussain “was a soldier of the Islamic State and carried out the attack in response to calls to target the citizens of the coalition countries” — although “‘ISIS’ did not provide further detail or evidence for its claim.”

Both the Toronto police and the office of federal public safety minister Ralph Goodale have said that, so far, there is no evidence of the sort they find convincing to sustain the ISIS claim.

At the same time, the most sensible and constructive view I’ve stumbled across is a tweet from former Ontario NDP premier, federal Liberal interim leader, and longtime Toronto resident Bob Rae :  “No contradiction between reports ISIS is claiming credit for Danforth attack and stories that shooter had history of mental illness, and that guns are a problem.  It’s not a game of either/or.  Terror preys on vulnerable people and weak laws.” (6:27 AM —  25 Jul 2018).

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Does anyone in Canada today really care what happens with Brexit in the UK? (& why we should, sort of .. )

Posted: July 20th, 2018 | No Comments »

“U.S. President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin shake hands during a joint press conference after their summit on July 16, 2018 in Helsinki, Finland. (Mikhail Svetlov/Getty Images).”

Nowadays not even anglophone Canadian political junkies follow the domestic politics of the United Kingdom with anything like the interest that was common enough 100 years ago (judging from early 20th century newspapers).

And the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC)’s old role as a distributor of British TV programming to North American audiences, going back only say 60 years, has now been largely usurped by the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) in the USA next door.

For anyone anywhere who may be interested, however, the current UK debate over “Theresa May’s Chequers deal on Brexit” offers welcome food for thought on such subjects as high policy referendums — and just how we make decisions generally in our democracies today.

I have no Brexit expertise. My research here goes no deeper than the two dozen recent media reports listed at the end below. But (again) the current Brexit moment — in the middle of the Summer of 2018 — holds some real wider interest. And that is what I’m focusing on here.

The current moment began on Friday, July 6, when “Theresa May’s Chequers deal on Brexit” was agreed to by the UK cabinet. (Or so it seemed.)

Amani Hughes reporting on Red Velvet Cupcakes in slightly earlier stage of her career at the Express.

At 10:15 PM local time a report by Amani Hughes was posted on the Express website in the UK : “Brexit latest: Chequers showdown … A PROPOSAL on Brexit has been agreed by Theresa May and ministers at Chequers. Here are the main details agreed after a 12-hour meeting as the Soft Brexit proposal comes under fire.”

Then two cabinet ministers resigned — David Davis, Ms May’s “once-loyal “Brexit minister” in charge of “negotiating the country’s split from the bloc,” and “Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, a tousle-haired frontman for Britain’s campaign to leave the European Union.”

The deep criticism behind these resignations was that Prime Minister May’s Chequers deal is too much of a “Soft” as opposed to a “Hard” Brexit. It “keeps Britain tied to many EU rules and regulations after it leaves the bloc in March 2019.” It is “a fudge, a timid capitulation, a ‘Brexit in name only’ that ignores the 52 percent of voters who opted in June 2016 to leave the EU.”

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Happy Canada Day 2018 : Electing the Governor General could make a lot of sense in the 21st century

Posted: July 1st, 2018 | No Comments »

Meghan Markle and her mother, Doria Ragland, on their way to tea with the Queen, May 2018.

Meghan Markle and Harry Wales have now shown the world that the British monarchy does have some kind of modern future. (Though, somewhat intriguingly, what was once the website of “The British Monarchy” nowadays just calls itself “The home of the Royal Family.”)

Meanwhile, back in the most northerly North American UN member state, Canada Day 2018  may also be a good time to think further about Jonathan Manthorpe’s helpful April 18 ipolitics report on “Commonwealth countries consider life after Queen Elizabeth.”

Long before the new populist age of Doug Ford (and some would add Donald Trump), Mr. Manthorpe’s book on The Power and the Tories in Canada’s most populous province convinced more than a few readers that (strange as it may seem) Ontario politics was interesting.

Canada Day 2018 fireworks set off between the North Shore and Canada Place in Vancouver start at 10:30 PM PT.

Many years later, his report on life in the Commonwealth after the Queen usefully frames a broad policy debate we ought to be having (quietly and craftily) in all parts of Canada today.

Of particular interest are the arguments Mr. Manthorpe advances in the later parts of his article, starting with : “If Canadians decided they wanted to directly elect the Governor-General …”

He urges that : “Directly electing the head of state sounds like a great democratic advance, but it is not.” From another point of view, this proposition at least deserves to be challenged, in a friendly, upbeat spirit, inspired by diverse traditions of compromise — and perhaps especially at a time when a president next door actually seems to be threatening the Canadian future (in one way or another).

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If “good fences make good neighbours,” would Trump’s southern border wall make better neighbours of Mexico & USA?

Posted: June 26th, 2018 | No Comments »

The city at night.

I agreed with a lot in  Masha Gessen’s Friday, June 22 column for The New Yorker : “Trump’s Opponents Aren’t Arguing for ‘Open Borders’—But Maybe They Should.”

It fits with the “global village” that the Edmonton-born Marshall McLuhan began to talk about in the 1960s. And this has come to echo loudly in the now very diverse City of Toronto where he ended his life (and where I live today) — and in various other places around the world.

At the same time, when I finished Masha Gessen’s piece I also found myself remembering Robert Frost’s wonderfully memorable poem of early 20th century New England, “Mending Wall.” It seems to have some particular relevance for the USA today, even though it was written more than 100 years ago.

Frost’s poem captures something quite deeply rooted in the modern American experience, I think. And it is one of Donald Trump’s undoubted if still largely mystical talents that he has a crude but sometimes deadly instinct for appealing to such things.

“Mending Wall” was written not long after the decade when Robert Frost was living on and intermittently working a small poultry farm in New Hampshire, not far north of the city of Lawrence, Massachusetts — where Frost grew up after his family moved back east from his San Francisco birthplace, when he was 11 years old.

Frost farm in New England autumn today.

For better or worse, this place has now been restored as a “Frost Farm” heritage site, and you can still see the stone wall that appears in “Mending Wall.” Very briefly, the poem is about a conversation between farmer Robert Frost and his neighbouring New England farmer, as they go about their annual exercise of repairing the wall between their two properties.

Frost in this setting is not just a farmer. He is also a poet, of course — and in fact a local schoolteacher “at nearby Pinkerton Academy.” Unlike his more rigorous farming neighbour he has poetic doubts about the real utility of the annual exercise of stone fence repair.

The poem begins : “Something there is that doesn’t love a wall,/That sends the frozen-ground-swell under it,/And spills the upper boulders in the sun;/And makes gaps even two can pass abreast.” As was the custom, however, the poet meets his neighbour “at spring mending-time” to repair such gaps, and “set the wall between us once again.”

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Has Donald Trump pushed us into a new age of political mendacity, like Orwell’s time between the two world wars?

Posted: June 20th, 2018 | No Comments »

The still seriously unreformed Senate of Canada wisely passed Bill C-45, the government's legislation to legalize recreational marijuana, Tuesday evening, June 19, 2018, without further toil and trouble. (Mark Blinch/Canadian Press).

[UPDATED JUNE 21 (& happy summer solstice) & JUNE 22]. Something Donald Trump tweeted this past Monday morning illustrates one of the many things wrong with his view of the real world I live in.

In Mr. Trump’s own words : “The people of Germany are turning against their leadership as migration is rocking the already tenuous Berlin coalition. Crime in Germany is way up. Big mistake made all over Europe in allowing millions of people in who have so strongly and violently changed their culture!”

As I have tried to write down what I object to in these three sentences I have fallen into what may be the ultimate depths of the issue. (A fate the stunning new information technology of our time  so easily promotes.)

Stepping back from the ultimate depths for a moment, I began my quest with : “what is wrong with these three particular Donald Trump sentences on Germany and Europe?”

In the first place, crime in Germany is way down, not way up.

(See, eg : “Actual German crime data from last month shows the national crime rate in Germany over the previous year was at its lowest level since 1992.” Or : “Crime actually fell in 2017 by 9.6 percent in Germany … Also, crimes by non-German suspects fell by 22 percent in 2017. By any measure, Germany has far less violent crime than the US.”)

This may not be a “real-life” photo of Donald Trump with a gun in his hand, of course, but it seems arguable that it at least speaks a language he admires. Thanks to North Amarillo Now — part of the rising tide that will eventually rule Texas!

So the second of Mr. Trump’s sentences above is simply factually incorrect. This is admittedly not an issue that seems to worry his own art-of-the-deal political philosophy unduly. But for those who want to be at least outwardly sensible it ought to raise concerns.

From a more complex angle, Donald Trump’s three sentences about Germany and Europe (above, in italics) were tweeted in defence of his (and Jeff Sessions’) own deeply mean-spirited recent immigration policy practice of separating children from parents (just now discontinued), in migrant families who break the law along the US-Mexico border. (See, eg: “President Trump blames Democrats, doubles down on immigration amid backlash.” And, most recently : “After outcry, Trump signs order that will stop separations and detain families together … ’The border is just as tough, but we do want to keep families together,’ president says.”

[For June 21 UPDATE click on "Read the rest of this page" and/or scroll below].

UPDATE JUNE 22 : If this US domestic struggle over immigration policy finally does become “a defining moment” for the Trump presidency — with much impact on the mid-term elections this coming November — an altogether  new report will be in order. Meanwhile, the author of this report, L. Frank Bunting, passes along his lightly annotated current reading list :

The original L. Frank B., 1856–1919. God knows what he would have made of the real-life Wizard of Oz who is now President of the United States of America?

* Some families reunite in US as questions linger at border … Mixed signals continue for migrants as Trump chides Republicans.” (Associated Press, Jun 22).

* “Confusion, uncertainty at border after Trump’s about-face … Lawmakers reject hard-right immigration bill.” (Associated Press, Jun 21) … A hard-right bill was defeated when 41 Republicans crossed party lines to vote against it. The vote on a second bill, considered a compromise, was postponed as Republicans looked to rally support. Democrats oppose both measures as harsh. The second bill, House minority leader Nancy Pelosi told reporters, “may be a compromise with the devil, but it is not a compromise with the Democrats.”  Meanwhile Mr. Trump is advising Republican lawmakers to wait until November when : “We can pass great legislation after the Red Wave!” in the mid-term elections.

* “Melania Trump wears ‘I really don’t care’ jacket before visiting migrant kids.” (Mr. Bunting notes : “I really have no idea what’s going on here. I thought it was a Photoshop joke at first.)

* “Italy to seize two migrant ships for ‘illegally flying Dutch flag’.” (Westmonster, Jun 22). Donald Trump would no doubt like the new Italian populist coalition government’s approach to immigration. And note that the “Westmonster” author of this article (a play on “Westminster”, home of the Mother of Parliaments?) is a UK website that believes in a “full, clean Brexit, defeating radical Islam, ending the scourge of violent crime.”

Former Republican Steve Schmidt, who will vote Democrat in the 2018 mid-term elections this November, because “the future of our country is at stake in many ways.”

* “Americans finding ways to work against Trump immigration policy (From Rachel Maddow) ; “Record-High 75% of Americans Say Immigration Is Good Thing” ; and (alas?) Susan B. Glasser’s “Letter from Trump’s Washington” in The New Yorker : “Trump’s Cynical Immigration Strategy Might Work for Him—Again … The lesson Trump learned was not that saying shocking, untrue, and arguably racist things about immigrants was politically dangerous but that doing so helped him become President.”

* Bunting’s last update item here is another Canadian reporter’s look at the ultimate depths of the issue. In this case it’s Globe and Mail columnist Gary Mason’s June 22 piece on Steve Schmidt,  who just resigned from the US Republican party : “The warning we must hear, from a former GOP loyalist.” Anyone who watches MSNBC TV in 2018 will need no introduction to Steve Schmidt. He believes his old Republican Party has become “corrupt, indecent and immoral” and a “danger to our democracy and values.” The Democratic Party “is now called” to defend “liberty and freedom.” It is “essential that Trumpism be repudiated.” Mr. Schmidt argues the upcoming midterm elections have seldom been so crucial. If Republicans maintain control of Congress, it will only embolden the President … “There is a lot riding on these elections …. Really, the future of our country is at stake in many ways.”

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Are Trump’s US trade policies a new argument for the Trans Mountain pipeline to Asia in Canada?

Posted: June 16th, 2018 | No Comments »

Wild weather downs trees, wires across Toronto — as here in the St Clair and Oakwood area — 13 June 2018. Photo: Matty@mattytoophatty.

[UPDATED 4 PM]. The brief but fierce big rainy wind that toppled a huge old oak tree down by the lake is over, here in this big-urban Ontario NDP electoral district. But it also almost seemed like a meteorological comment on key current political events.

The human dramas have calmed down now, along with the big rainy wind. And like others of our citizenship — with “Protégera nos foyers et nos droits” ringing in our ears — we’re pleased to hear that the Angus Reid polling organization has discovered : “Canadians feeling confident, not cowed, post G7; prefer harder line in negotiations with Trump.”

Along the way, Justin Trudeau’s once-flagging approval rating has jumped up 12 percentage points. It is now almost back to where it was this time last year. And : “The surge in Trudeau’s approval rating comes alongside an uptick in support for his Liberal Party.”

(In an era when conspiracy theories do grow on trees, it is almost impossible not to wonder whether Prime Minister Trudeau and President Trump have cooked up their latest public quarrels, to gain domestic political advantages both could use at the moment? But of course this cannot possibly be true in Justin Trudeau’s case …  Well, probably … ?)

“Donald Trump and Justin Trudeau at the most recent G-7 summit, in Quebec. Photograph by Evan Vucci / AP.”

And then two gentlemen who may or may not be from the New York intelligentsia have acknowledged various deeper truths in : “Why Justin Trudeau Is Able to Stand Up to Donald Trump” (Adam Gopnik, The New Yorker) ; and “Trump’s Insults Are Bringing Out Canada’s Inner Fiery Nationalism” (Ed Kilgore, New York Magazine).

Finally, there are (were) Bill Maher’s warm words of love for Canada (home of several of his girlfriends?) — and the amusing Justin Trudeau and Donald Trump piece in his show from darkest Los Angeles last night. (Which also had George Will suggesting there is an argument the Mueller investigation has not been set up in a strictly proper way, or some such thing. Which may or may not mean who knows what for the increasingly absurd career of President Trump?)

In any case as of 4:02 PM ET, 15 Jun 2018, Maclean’s magazine journalist Paul Wells was tweeting : “For what it’s worth, I think the mood in Canada has shifted rapidly from outrage to ‘whatever’” …  Not too much later, we counterweights editors here can report that we (well … most of us) have now moved beyond our initial outrage too.

On June 14 the Toronto Marlies beat the Texas Stars 6-1 to win the Calder Cup — trophy of the American Hockey League championship.

Whatever else, President Trump has managed to unite the bitterly warring Canadian political classes, in both official languages, from coast to coast to coast, and from left to right and back again. That is a rare achievement.

The Trumpeter may have also provided a decisive reason for going ahead with the Trans Mountain pipeline in Alberta and BC  (while doing everything possible and more to protect Canada’s stunning Pacific coast). As Prime Minister Trudeau has noted, Trump’s US trade policies just underline the importance of diversifying Canada’s trade relationships. And Trans Mountain will open markets for Canadian oil in Asia instead of the United States.

Meanwhile, however the future develops exactly, we share the quiet faith in Canada’s unique northern North American destiny that the latest trade disputes with the USA (and Mexico) have once again laid bare. Go Canada Go. “Protégera nos foyers et nos droits”!

UPDATE 4:00 PM ET This just in, from John Bowden  : “Americans favor Trudeau over Trump on trade policy: poll … A Global News/Ipsos poll released Saturday [JUNE 16] finds that Trudeau enjoys a 20-point advantage … among Americans when it comes to which leader respondents think is better handling the discussions over tariffs and other trade issues … “Fifty-seven percent of US respondents told the poll they support Trudeau’s actions, compared to just 37 percent who said the same for Trump.”

FOX News will not believe this, of course, but … could the venerable US Constitution actually be amended so that presidents have to be either born in the United States or have previously served as head of government of a neighbouring North American democracy? (Under some updated 21st century interpretation of the old Monroe Doctrine?) Certainly not of course. But if something like that ever did happen, former US head of government Barack Obama could win a reciprocal election as Justin Trudeau’s Liberal Party of Canada successor without campaigning.