America, where have you gone?

I am really worried about the future of the United States of America. Let me explain my concerns. Since the spring of 2017, America appears to be on a downward spiral.

Thanks to the rhetoric of the apprentice president, the country seems to be more divided than at any other time in recent history. Emboldened by the vile words that emanated from the election campaign, and the apparent tacit approval of the Oval Office, the white supremacists and other nationalistic groups have attacked, verbally and physically, minorities; people of colour and people of other faiths. Has the apprentice done or said anything to alleviate this dissent and social unrest? No. In fact, when referring to the Charlottesville murder, he is quoted as saying there were probably “good people” on both sides. How the hell can someone who deliberately ran their vehicle into a group of peaceful demonstrators, killing one, be called a “good person?” Just about every day, there are reports of some white person calling the police because they see some black person doing something innocent. The comments issuing from the White House and some of the legislation and executive orders are doing nothing to ease the “us against them’ mentality that seems to have taken hold in the so-called “land of the free”. Or does that phrase have an asterisk after it now: *provided you’re a white American citizen?

Immigrants are being targeted. We’ve all seen or heard of the current situation where children of all ages are being separated from their parents if they try to cross the southern border outside a regular border-crossing point.

The economy is another area the apprentice president seems to be intent on destroying. Trade barriers in the form of tariffs while good in theory, don’t work in practice. When a country imposes punitive duties on imports, two things happen. First, imported goods become more expensive. If the goods are materials for the manufacture of products, the costs are passed along to the end user – you. If finished products are imported, the same thing happens – you end up paying more for that product. Why is this? Simple. Because the manufacturer or importer isn’t going to eat those additional costs since it will affect their profits, therefore the consumer pays more. The second thing trade barriers do is cause the countries affected by American import duties to retaliate by imposing their own extra duties on American products. The result? The other country will buy less from American suppliers because of the extra duties; and they’ll find a manufacturer in some other country that can provide goods of a comparable quality at a lower cost. According to a news report I saw tonight on one of the news channels, at the moment, Washington has imposed punitive extra duties on goods from countries, and had those countries impose similar duties on American goods, that account for two-thirds of American foreign trade. I have read in the last couple of days that BMW, which manufactures vehicles in the US, is going to move some production to China to avoid the tariffs the Chinese have imposed on the import of automobiles manufactured in the US. Even if you’re not an economics major, you know what effect those actions are going to have on the economy of the United States? If you said they will cost jobs, you pass the course.

Internationally, in addition to the imposition of trade barriers, the apprentice appears to have made it his personal mission to alienate nations that have long been staunch allies of the US. His habit of meddling or commenting on the internal affairs of other nations have done much to ensure that other countries don’t like America much right now. Just today, at the NATO meeting in Brussels, he tore a strip of Germany for their reliance on natural gas from Russia, going so far as to call Germany “a slave of Russia”. I’m certain that Angela Merkel loved hearing that from someone many in her country consider a buffoon. In the meantime, while driving allies away, he is making efforts to become friends with Vladimir Putin, the leader of a country long considered America’s sworn enemy.

The military is another area that seems to have attracted the attention of “the powers? that be”. Having failed to have any and all transgender members discharged, they have turned their attention to immigrants serving in the armed forces. Some are being discharged, often with no reason given, or a vague “national security” reason, with no specifics provided. Such action can only serve to weaken morale in the armed forces. Having worked for a company that at one time, was reducing staff, I know that such actions lead to a general feeling of “am I going to be here next week? Or am I the next on the chopping block?”

A country divided internally by strife; with a struggling economy and a weakened and demoralized military is a prime target for some power with a hatred of the US to consider an attack of some type. This may not be an actual physical occupation, it could take the form of an economic takeover of the United States instead. No fuss, no muss and the objective is still achieved.

I seriously hope I’m wrong, but from what I’ve seen, this appears to be very possible.

Cat.

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Decisions, decisions, decisions

I am really starting to be concerned about the future of the Province of Ontario for the next four years. On June 7, the citizens of Ontario will elect a new Premier (our version of a state governor).

The leader of the Progressive Conservative Party is Doug Ford, brother of the late mayor of Toronto, Rob Ford. When Doug was a city councillor during his brother’s term as mayor, he proved himself to be a bully toward other councillors and had some very different views. Among his pronouncements was an idea to close libraries to save money. Apparently Doug had never read a book and could see no reason why anybody should. Another instance that springs to mind was his opposition to a proposal to put a home for autistic children and young adults in his neighbourhood. His objections to this proposal were that it would lower property values in the area and that these people would be allowed outside.

Doug Ford has said he admires Donald Trump and some of his ideas and comments during this election campaign so far seem to show he’s taken a page from the Trump campaign playbook. (In comments on Facebook, I’ve referred to him as “Trump North”.) Like Trump, Doug likes to portray himself as “a man of the people”, but he counts his wealth in the millions. He claims he can save the province billions by finding “efficiencies”. No plan, no exact amounts disclosed, just “efficiencies. Sound familiar to my American readers? Figures pulled out of thin air, proposals to reduce business taxes, all the while not revealing how exactly he’s going to save this money that won’t involve raising taxes and cutting people. During a leadership debate yesterday, in response to a question on hiring immigrants to work in northern Ontario, Doug said “We should take care of our own first.” I think I heard all this stuff sometime during the 2016 presidential campaign in the US. According to the polls, Doug Ford and the PC party are leading by about a 14 point margin, so obviously there are people who like what he has to say. Oh yes – one more thing. It is tradition that the party leaders also provide a press bus. Doug isn’t doing so which is one way of controlling what the media reports on his campaign.

There is one thing that gives me hope he won’t be able to run unfettered over Ontario. In Canada, both federally and provincially, the leader of the party must win a seat in the legislature. Doug is running in a riding (electoral district for my American readers) that includes the city ward the Ford family considers a fiefdom and is the headquarters of “Ford Nation”, so it seems unlikely he will lose. But, in the Canadian political system, both federally and provincially, there are three major parties, In Ontario those parties are the Progressive Conservatives, led by Doug Ford; the Liberal Party of Ontario, led by Kathleen Wynne, the current Premier, and the New Democratic Party led by Andrea Horwath. This is what gives me hope. With three major parties and only a fourteen point lead, it appears to me that if Doug does become the next Premier of Ontario, he will have a minority government. Having the most seats will make him Premier, but not having a clear majority of those seats means he’ll have to offer some concessions to the other two parties to get legislation passed.

Personally, I have no idea at the moment how I’m going to vote. As I wrote, Doug Ford scares me. While Andrea Horwath and the NDP are saying some interesting things, the last time the NDP formed the provincial government during the ‘90’s, they almost destroyed the province. Auntie Kathleen and Liberals are also saying nice things, but they also have had some problems during their reign. Further complicating my decision is that the MPP for my riding, a Liberal, was of great help to me when I had some problems with my documents a couple of years ago. So, do I vote for the local representative who helped me as a form of reward for his help, knowing the spotty record of his party, the NDP who did so much damage in the past, or take a chance Doug won’t turn out to be a Trump clone?

I have about three weeks to decide, so I’ll be paying close attention to both the provincial and local campaigns.

I don’t care if you vote PC, NDP, Liberal, Green or some other party. But, on June 7, you must vote.

Cat.

No Ben, just no

I try to avoid commenting on American politics on general principle because I have plenty of targets here in Ontario, but every once in a while comes a WTF moment that can’t be ignored. Such was the case earlier this month with the comments of Ben Carson. Something about immigrants coming to America in the holds of slave ships, working hard for less and dreaming of starting a new life for themselves. No Ben, just no. This is the sort of thing Kellyanne Conway would no doubt call “alternative history”.

Ben, these people were in the holds of slave ships because guess what? They were slaves! They were treated as cargo, not passengers. Once they arrived in America, they were property, not immigrants; not people who chose to come to America in hopes of a better life. They were ripped from their comfortable lives in various African countries and forcibly shipped to your fair shores. As property, they could be bought and sold, just as the plantation owner could buy and sell horses or cattle. And in many cases, the livestock was better treated than the slaves.

If they were dreaming of anything Ben, it wasn’t of making a better life for themselves in America. I’m just guessing here, but if they dreamt of anything, it was escaping, making contact with the Underground Railway and finding their way to Canada, where they could truly live as free people and make a better life.

Ben, I understand revisionist history is common in the administration of which you are part, where your president denies saying things he has been recorded as saying and other members deny speaking with the Russians despite proof to the contrary, but really, calling slaves “immigrants” is too much of a stretch. Immigrants indicates to me, at least, they came willingly, whereas slave ships did not carry willing, paying passengers. History texts are not printed in a looseleaf format for a reason: the past can’t be changed and is not subject to being altered at will by you or anyone else. . And “alternative history” is properly called “fiction”.

So, no Ben, just no.

Cat.

Raandom thoughts inspired by television

1 – Winters in the west can be especially nasty. Just ask anyone who lives in Manitoba or Minnesota if you doubt me. It wasn’t a fashion statement that the Winnipeg police wore buffalo hide coats in winter, it was because they were warm. Yet this week alone about 50 people have braved sub-zero temperatures (Fahrenheit, not Celsius) and walked across snow-covered field in hope of finding refuge in Canada. These people are, or were, all refugees living in the US, some of whom had already been granted the right to live there. They are taking this difficult trek and risking hypothermia because they are aware that if they presented themselves at the border crossing at Emerson Manitoba they may be refused entry. In this particular area, there is no physical barrier separating our two nations, so it is easy to gain entry to either country.

When asked, many of these refugees state they are afraid of what is happening in the States right now and don’t feel safe. And given this week’s shootings in Kansas and Washington state, I don’t blame them. The election of Donald Trump appears to have triggered a wave of xenophobia among many of his followers and emboldened them to the point these followers feel they can shoot or kill anyone who looks or dressed differently with, if not impunity, expectations their actions will be feted by others with the same mind set

Had these people tried approaching the customs house at Emerson, they would have been refused as I wrote above. There exists an agreement between the US and Canada that in essence says that refugees who arrive in one of these two countries cannot use that country as a jumping off point to the other. I’ve heard on the news this may be called a doctrine of “First Safe Country”. But, these people no longer feel America is a safe county, hence a two hour walk across snowy fields in temperatures as low as twenty below F – around -35 Celsius – to seek sanctuary in Canada.

On the news this morning I heard an interview with the Canadian Immigration Minister who stated both the RCMP and Canadian Border Security Agency have sufficient resources to deal with these arrivals. But rather than round these people up and ship them back to Minnesota, the Minister (and this makes me proud to be Canadian) has given the town of Emerson $30,000 to help with the costs of hosting these new arrivals. Further, the news reports that most of these refugees do qualify for Canadian residency. There may be charges after the applications are processed for entering Canada illegally, but I don’t think these people are worried about that too much. We the north – home of the free.

2 – Earlier in the week I watched a documentary on the massacre at Charlie Hebdo and the subsequent manhunt for those responsible. Just after this happened, I wrote a piece in which I voiced the view that we, journalists, bloggers and anybody who writes opinion pieces are also Charlie. Charlie Hebdo is a publication that relied heavily on satire and while we who also write may not resort to that particular form of writing, we sometimes venture into sarcasm or some other form, such as allegory, to make our point. As someone who is willing to put their point of view “out there” for others, we are bound to upset some of our readers. It may be said that if we’re not upsetting someone, we aren’t doing our jobs properly. In the gatherings after the massacre at Charlie Hebdo many people held signs reading “Je suis Charlie”. For people who write and post their views and opinions on various topics, and I include myself in that group, I think we could modify that sign to read “Nous somme Charlie”, for in our own way we may be just as controversial.

Cat.