“And, behold, six men came from the way of the higher gate, which lieth toward the north” : Democracy in US & Canada 2018

Jan 21st, 2018 | By | Category: In Brief


A new painting by Toronto artist Michael Seward : “on the lookout for other life forms in the universe, if you’re out there would you please answer!”

[UPDATED JAN 23]. Is anyone surprised that there is a US federal government “shutdown” on the anniversary of Donald Trump’s first year in office?

If you actually are interested, try : “On Trump’s First Anniversary, a Government Shutdown” by John Cassidy in The New Yorker ; and “U.S. House could accept bill extending government funding for 3 weeks” from Thomson Reuters. [UPDATE : Happily enough it didn’t last too long. See, eg, this Thomson Reuters report – “Trump signs spending bill, ending US government shutdown … Short-term funding deal will keep the lights on through Feb. 8.” And see this worthy editorial from the Chicago Tribune :  “Shut down this shutdown habit.” ]

Some argue that “the trouble isn’t just what the Trumpists may yet do; it is what they are doing now. American history has already been altered by their actions … in ways that will not be easy to rehabilitate” (Adam Gopnik in The New Yorker).

Reading an excellent report in The Washington Post from late last year (“How the Trump era is changing the federal bureaucracy” by Lisa Rein and Andrew Ba Tran) at least makes me wonder  about Adam Gopnik’s evaluation:

Women’s march in Walnut Creek, California (birthplace of one of author’s grandchildren) January 20, 2018.

“By the end of September [2017], the federal government had 1.94 million permanent workers, down nearly 16,000 overall since the beginning of the year … In the first nine months of 2009, Obama’s first year in office, the government added 68,000 permanent employees, growing to 1.84 million …

“The relatively small net decrease under Trump so far masks what has been a substantial drop-off in staffing at certain agencies.”


Personally, I am glad the family I have in the USA today lives in California.

See an interesting piece by David Siders in Politico Magazine this past November 2017 : “Jerry Brown, President of the Independent Republic of California … As he crusades across Europe, the governor is acting like the leader of a sovereign country–an alternative to the United States in the Trump era.”


Some Pew Research Center data from this past spring, assembled by the excellent analysts at Statista Charts, asked citizens from various countries :“How satisfied are you with the way democracy is working in your country?”

On this reckoning Canada finishes in third place, with 70% of respondents saying they are satisfied with how their democracy is working today – behind India (79%) and Germany (73%).

Not surprisingly again, only 46% of US respondents said they were satisfied with their democracy at the moment.

More recently, Aaron Wherry on the CBC News site was opining “Trudeau goes again to the people, but spare a thought for the Ottawa bubble … ‘Doing open town halls … is at the heart of what a democracy should be,’ PM says.”

My own quick and dirty reaction to “spare a thought for the Ottawa bubble” is that if current debates in parliament were interesting they would capture public attention. But it is not interesting to watch a lot of even impressive sophomoric bullying about Justin Trudeau’s vacation on the Aga Khan’s private island. (The “Aga What?” is what many among we the Canadian people will say. And even some of us without a lot of money will have our own private islands on a pristine northern lake.)

* * * *


Kathleen Wynne and Hillary Clinton in Toronto, 2014.

This past Christmas Day 2017 the hard-working Chantal Hébert posted another helpful article on the Toronto Star website : “Trudeau may lose some like-minded premiers in 2018 … The provincial elections in Ontario and Quebec will be the major Canadian political stories of 2018.”

In fact, the practically sovereign people in three Canadian provinces will be voting for their provincial legislative assemblies and executive governments in 2018 : Ontario on June 7, New Brunswick on September 24, and Quebec on October 1.

In Ontario, where I live myself, the election seems bound to be some kind of referendum on Liberal Premier Kathleen Wynne – who is both Ontario’s first female premier and first openly gay premier (who currently lives with her partner Jane Rounthwaite, and has children and grandchildren from her earlier heterosexual marriage).

For a little more on this see, eg : the Toronto Star’s astute and eminent Bob Hepburn on “Is Wynne so unpopular because she’s a woman? … Misogyny, sexism may play huge role … .”Â  And, from Zi-Ann Lum at Huffington Post Canada : “Heckler Accuses Kathleen Wynne Of ‘Destroying The Canadian Family’ … Ontario premier defended her government’s minimum wage hike at a volatile town hall meeting.”

Women’s march in Toronto, Canada, January 20, 2018.

Hepburn almost seems to be arguing for a Wynne Liberal strategy that tells the women who only started voting in Ontario elections in 1919 : “if you can’t have Hillary in America how about getting even by re-electing Kathleen Wynne in Canada’s most populous province.”

This might actually be good strategy, if something tweeted today by local political guru Warren Kinsella is right. Kinsella was talking in particular about “#womensmarch2018, #MeToo, #alabama, #TheResistance” in the land of the friendly giant due south. And he declared : “the most powerful force in Western politics today is women. The Unpresident has awoken something that will ultimately destroy him.” (And you heard it here first.)


Two days after Christmas 2017 the Toronto Star published a passionate editorial headlined : “Senators should offer their ‘sober second thought’ on cannabis law – but quickly … The Senate should do its job in debating the law on legalizing marijuana, but in a timely, organized fashion that allows it to be adopted by July 1.”

Women’s march in Chicago, USA, January 20, 2018.

(Note btw that even in the land Donald Trump seems to think he owns these days, “Americans continue to warm to legalizing marijuana, with 64% now saying its use should be made legal.” Moreover : “Following the 2016 election, the number of US residents living in a state with legal recreational marijuana nearly quadrupled from 17.4 million to 67.4 million, which means 21.28 percent of US residents now live in states with legal recreational marijuana.”)

My esteemed friend and colleague Randall White tells me that Ottawa’s current troubles with its cannabis law in the bizarre institution the Senate of Canada remains just show how Justin Trudeau’s Milquetoast stab at vaguely revising the Unreformed Senate of Canada is not any kind of real Senate reform that makes sense in the 21st century, and is just not working.

Others will say “just not working yet.” Dr. White says he will probably have more to say a bit further down the road himself (“without of course imagining many will be listening”).

Women’s march in Westfield, NJ,USA, January 20, 2018.

Meanwhile, he recommends two pieces from the CBC News site : Chris Hall this past December on “Trudeau and his ministers seem to miss the Senate’s old rubber stamp … Liberals fail again in bid to get Senate to pass key bills more quickly” ; and John Paul Tasker a week or so ago on : “Liberals seek new approach to Senate amid legislative roadblocks … For first time, Liberals invited their senate representative to cabinet retreat.”


The other day a musical friend was touting Canadian folk singer and songwriter Gordon Lightfoot’s early hit “Early Morning Rain.” (A “hit single” on various charts in 1965, 1966, 1971, and 2005. And 16 “appearances on hit albums” by various artists including Lightfoot himself, 1965—2016.)

I started listening to the thing on the very excellent You Tube –  a wonderful resource for anyone who likes music – and I decided I like the cover by Elvis Presley best.

Stormy Daniels (aka Stephanie Clifford), who is reported by the Wall Street Journal to have been paid $130,000 to not talk about her 2006 extramarital affair with Donald Trump – porn star, porn producer, and shrewd business person in her own right (and more recently a mother too)!

Who knows just what this may or may not mean? Except that it’s happily not the kind of thing Donald Trump would have anything to do with at all. And though I’m no big fan of folk music, that’s enough to let a smile be my umbrella for now …

(O and btw the quotation in the title to this piece – “And, behold, six men came from the way of the higher gate, which lieth toward the north” – is from Ezekiel 9:2 in the Christian Old Testament.)

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