Is he still there?

trump
Whatever you have to say about Donald Trump, at least he’s motivated me to get to another blog article.

I’ve been posting a few comments and links on Facebook about Trump, and in general I’m finding that a lot of Canadians (at least those on my friends list) find him interesting, curious, outrageous, but they are not particularly concerned about the upcoming US election. It’s as though this was a neighbour down the street cutting up his trees, but none are going to fall on your lawn.

It was Pierre Trudeau who said of the USA: “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.” We would be naïve to think that whoever ends up as the next US president will not have a significant effect on Canada. In spite of their seventeen trillion dollar national debt, they are still regarded as the strongest economy in the world. The value of our dollar hangs on how it relates to the US greenback. Three-quarters of our exports, and two-thirds of our imports come from the US. In spite of every little do-dad we have around us coming from China, the more important trade is with the US— China only accounts for about 1/15 of our imports, and far less of our exports. Do you think that the installation of someone like Trump, already planning on building a complete wall between the US and Mexico (and making them somehow pay for it!) won’t offer danger to Canada’s trade?

The US is the most militarily powerful nation in the world. While they are a slight second to Russia in terms of nuclear weapons with 7,700 warheads (as far as nuclear warheads, this amounts to saying they can only destroy the earth ten times as opposed to twelve), they lead the world handily with both manpower and conventional armament. Their military budget exceeds second place Russia by about seven times, their manpower is almost double, their submarines (each Trident Class of which carries explosive power in excess of all the bombs of WW2 combined), their aircraft carriers at ten far exceeds that of any other nation. They lag behind Russia only in numbers of tanks. Their military budget exceeds that of the next nine nations combined. (Read all this and then say, “Donald Trump—Commander in Chief”.)

Canada sits at 20th place militarily, behind nations like Turkey, Pakistan, Egypt, Taiwan, Tailand, Poland, and others. And you think we aren’t affected by the capabilities of our friendly neighbour?

Many Canadians find the Trump candidacy humorous because they don’t really feel he has a chance of being elected. I certainly hope they are correct. However, no one thought he would be in the race for Republican nominee past the first debate. But he certainly is, and has become a solid leader in any polls being taken. Certainly he would never survive the state caucuses and primaries. But he has, and although it is early, he is the leader in votes for the nomination convention this July.

Statistics are interesting. Chew on these: Trump just won South Carolina’s primary handily. Six of the last seven candidates to win SC went on to win the nomination as Republican candidate for president. Trump won New Hampshire as well. Every Republican candidate in history who has won both New Hampshire and South Carolina has gone on to win the nomination.

Beyond winning the nomination of the Republican Party as their candidate, he will be into a contest from July to November with the Democrat candidate for president, looking at this time as being Hillary Clinton.

There’s a balance for you—how many Americans will find electing a woman as president less preferable to electing a jackass like Trump? (Oops, I betrayed my bias already!)

So what’s wrong with Donald Trump? Let me count the ways…

He’s a bully. He’s called opponents liars and thieves. He’s insulted Mexicans, and is strongly biased against them. He’d like to get rid of millions of them, and erect a wall. He’s insulted women (yet many younger women vote for him—go figure). He’s a racist when it comes to Blacks and Jews. He’s insulted the Pope—if you’re Catholic, or just care about the current one. He’s biased against any Islamic person, and wants them banned from the country. In fact he’s brought out hatred openly against just about any group of people or individuals who have opposed him. Qualities of a president of the US?

He’s taking on Apple in a war of words over the issue of access to a terrorist’s phone. He might be correct on that stance for a lot of people, but remember how he announced his position: “I just thought of it… let’s boycott Apple!” I just thought of it? Is this how a presidential candidate makes a decision encouraging millions to boycott one of the top American corporations? What’s next? “We’re going to bomb North Korea… I just thought of it!”

The man gives new meaning to the expression loose cannon. He’s a potentially powerful cannon that has long broken its ropes and is careening around the deck on a rolling sea…loaded and primed.

So why is he even there? His presence, as well as the success of the Democratic candidate Bernie Sanders, is directly related to the hatred of millions of Americans for government as they have seen it over the last few decades. Politics is a power business, and it takes a billion dollars of campaign work to become president. You have to pick up supporters, and you would be a fool to think that nothing is expected in return. The banks fleece borrowers to the point of luring them into country wide home foreclosures, and the banks get bailed out, most of their CEO’s waltzing off with millions in rewards. Their young men march off to war in strange lands, die by the thousands, and their bodies are brought home, largely secretly so as to not stir up the people. Freeing the innocent is the claim for mid-east wars, but most know its Oil. They fight groups armed with weapons they provided them with last time around. Fear grips the land as they become targets for terrorists, whose message and intent the average American hardly understands—and government doesn’t seem to be able to do much about it. Too many Americans are feeling their nation is somehow out of control, and their families don’t mean much in the scheme of things. They’re afraid. Donald Trump empathizes with their fear, and says it won’t continue under his rule. He makes no definite promises, other than blocking immigration, building walls, and generally hunkering down like a mean-tempered badger in a burrow, but for the man on the street who has been looking over his shoulder for a decade, by golly, it sounds like it might just work.

I don’t have a great record at election predictions, which should scare you more than comfort. I have a feeling that he will fall short as more and more states run their primaries to select the Republican candidate. I probably will be wrong about that. I do think that a Trump – Clinton showdown for president in November will (by virtue of the American people waking up and saying, “What were we smoking?”) go to Hillary Clinton, but—and here I’m most concerned—I could be wrong about that. Hillary is a woman…no woman has ever been elected as president in the past. Hillary represents the power people all over again—connections are obvious to the past, to the banking industry, to the governments of the past, to powerful forces that Joe and Mary in the fields don’t begin to understand.

And, as it seems lately on the campaign trail, when you elect Hillary, you also get Bill. That might be good; that might be bad. No one is entirely sure how people will take Bill2. Is he more appealing to the electorate as “First Man” than Trump’s possible First Lady, third wife Melania, famous for semi-clad modeling shoots?

In any event, Canadians need to be prepared. Make up large signs now, and in case of a Trump win in November, be ready to stand all along the border, from coast to coast, waving them in American faces: The theme is, ”Are you guys nuts????”

Let’s hope for the best.
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A few links (It’s not hard to get stories on Donald Trump):

A Trump dealing from the past. Trying to execute the Central Park Five:
http://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2016/feb/17/central-park-five-donald-trump-jogger-rape-case-new-york

The new First lady (PG-13):
Melania Trump

Famously Offensive Trump Quotes (PG or R at least):
http://presidential-candidates.insidegov.com/stories/5187/23-ridiculously-offensive-donald-trump-quotes#Intro

Expected…

RidinghoodAs Obama pointed out on Friday, the news briefings on mass shooting are all too common, to the point of routine. The Oregon shooting seems to have had a religious connection in the shooter asking students to identify themselves as Christians—if they admitted this, he shot them in the head, if not, in the legs. Early reports indicate he had a thing against organized, institutionalized religion, a common feeling, but one usually acted on by just staying away from churches.

Obama indicated frustration, a sentiment that he has displayed many times on this issue. He knows he’s largely failed in making any progress on gun control, and with only a year to go, he will leave with little accomplished.

He asked reporters there to do homework on it: compile stats on Americans killed by terrorists, and compare that to ones killed by fellow Americans in mass shootings. A few news agencies have done that, and any form of graph shows the results are obvious. The main deaths from a terrorist activity occurred on 9-11, almost three thousand killed in the Twin Towers attack. There have been a few since that, such as at the Boston Marathon, but compared to home-grown gun deaths, any terrorist plotting stutters along the bottom line, while domestic gun violence soars at stratospheric levels above. Continue reading

Still Deferred

fergusonI wasn’t surprised by the news this morning that the Grand Jury in Ferguson, Missouri decided not to charge the police officer who shot and killed teenager Michael Brown several weeks ago.  In fact I don’t think anyone I know would have been surprised.  It was expected.

Despite my writing what I thought was a pretty good article back in December of 2010 about the improvement in race relations in America, that nation and its racial issues still is a charged situation that is not through exploding.

I can see a number of reasons for ongoing trouble. Continue reading

Blueberry Hill

putinOccasionally things you see or hear do a twist on your brain—too bizarre to fit into place in the view you have constructed.

So it was when I (wait for it . . .) first heard Vladimir Putin singing “Blueberry Hill”.  I kid you not.  Where do you fit that?  The memories of Fats Domino with the original hit, of Richie Cunningham warbling his theme song, fade—or perhaps are driven from the mind. Continue reading

Second Chances

 

wavesFor a number of years when I first started working down here, I used to take wedding pictures. Something of a hobby, made a little money at it. I would just do a budget job, flat fee, take about 72 pictures (two rolls of 36, for those who have forgotten, or never knew the days of Kodachrome), and when the first prints were back, I would just hand over the prints and negatives to the couple to do what they wished for copies and enlargements.

“Let me tell you an interesting story,” I said to a few friends in early December. “Thirty years ago…” I started, and I’m sure they hoped I didn’t fill in all the missing time, but I had their attention.

Saturday evening. July, 1983. I was watching TV when Ellen said the unforgettable words: “Didn’t you have a wedding this evening?”

KaPow! Out of my chair! The wedding was at 7 pm, was about ten kilometers away, and it was almost that time. I grabbed my camera equipment and raced out the door. Continue reading

Aging. Gracefully?

judith

Several months ago, I got a renewed interest in the music group The Seekers.  I was converting some LP records to CD’s and owned two of their albums from back in the ‘60’s.  They were, and still are, a group based in Australia, with memorable hits for my generation like Georgie Girl, I’ll Never Find Another You, A World of our Own, and the haunting The Carnival is Over.  They were probably the last of successful folk-based groups, and managed to bump both the Stones and the Beatles off the charts in the days when those groups were expected to be on top.

The Seekers story is interesting.  They left Australia to try for success in Britain—booked as entertainment on a cruise ship to cover transportation costs.  Shortly after their arrival, their popularity took off.  Much of their sound came from the wonderful voice of Judith Durham—she was very much the “Seekers sound”.  But Judith had issues of her own, particularly ones of poor self-esteem and lack of confidence.  Despite appearing in the dreams of most young men at the time, she thought she was overweight and unattractive, and despite later being described by Elton John (he once played piano for them) as possessing “one of the purest voices in popular music”, she wasn’t even confident in that ability.  She decided to leave the group at the peak of their success to pursue a singing career of her own.  She did have that, mainly singing jazz in America with her husband pianist Ron Edgeworth.  The remaining Seekers had an assortment of replacements for her through the years, none of which was a Judith Durham. Continue reading

The Elephant’s Visa

Pierre Trudeau once said, in reference to our American neighbours, “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.”

Certainly, along with many other things, we share a financial bed. When the elephant rolls in a wakeful night, we will feel it.

The US heads toward an election this November, and the number one concern in the Obama-Romney choice for president is which man can solve their economic woes. Neither candidate seems to possess magical answers. There’s a reason for this: there are no magical answers. The US is in the most difficult financial situation in its history, one not likely to be repaired by just tweaking and tinkering. While Canada holds an enviable position in a shaky economic world, we are certainly not immune to the US plight, and we will feel the effects of their struggle more than we will feel that of the European community.

It’s hard for us to appreciate the US debt situation. No doubt the man on the street identifies economic trouble mainly by the loss of his job or that of his neighbour, or by the escalating cost of buying gas or groceries. Curiously, fingers point at Europe and its debt crises, and attention seems to be diverted from the US mess. Perhaps the world has developed such a belief in America as a “superpower” that they scrounge up faith that somehow, miraculously, Americans will easily find their way out of this jam. Continue reading

Walking the Wires

Nik and Delilah Wallenda

Like most people in at least Canada and the US, I watched with interest the lead-up to Nik Wallenda’s walk across Niagara Falls. Since the actual walk was scheduled for 11:00 pm, and I figured there would be a lot of preamble, I opted for bed and checking in the morning.

I don’t know if I would have been more enticed to watch had he not been dragging a rolling box connecting him securely to the almost two inch steel cable. His worst-case scenario was that he would fall off the wire and end up dangling about five feet below it until they managed to pull him off, perhaps with the aid of a helicopter. That would have been embarrassing, but not fatal to more than his pride.

The tether was apparently mandated by his main sponsor, the ABC Network. They indicated they didn’t want responsibility for any mishap.

I’ve been told that Wallenda kneeled once along the way, but other than that performed no unusual acts on the wire, and finished the walk in about half the expected time. Looking at the news reports the next morning, I had to feel it was a bit of a non-event. Skill was certainly there, but for a Wallenda a bit of routine work. Though I would doubt I could make more than ten feet down the wire, I might have been willing to give it a try myself (for significant compensation), knowing that at the worst I would fall off a few feet and dangle until rescue.
Continue reading

A Changin’?

Bob Dylan

Come gather ’round people
Wherever you roam
And admit that the waters
Around you have grown
And accept it that soon
You’ll be drenched to the bone
If your time to you
Is worth savin’
Then you better start swimmin’
Or you’ll sink like a stone
For the times they are a-changin’.

Bob Dylan wrote The Times They Are a’Changin’ in 1963, and it became the archetypical protest song and a rallying call for a generation. It drew on some older Irish and Scottish songs, and even got inspiration from Ecclesiastes and the Gospel of Mark (“the first shall be last”). Dylan wasn’t sure himself if it was the right song for the time. (It’s comforting to find that sometimes even he didn’t understand his songs.) For the youth of the time, however, it spoke to their feelings about Big Government, Big Business, and Big Control by parents. This would all change. The world was going to be different. They would see to it.

A month later, JFK was assassinated, and in the next few years, the US got more firmly involved in the Vietnam War. They couldn’t count on government. Things were ripe for change. Things needed to change. Students started protests. Marches were held, thousands strong. The Civil Rights Movement was underway. We Shall Overcome.

So what happened? Continue reading

No Respect

Like most Canadians, I reacted in shock on July 25 when Jack Layton held the news conference where he announced, “I have a new cancer…” His appearance, compared to the Jack Layton we had seen in the spring election only weeks earlier, looked like twenty years down the road: eyes sunken, cheeks hollow, obvious significant weight loss—we all could see the signs and we knew he was in very big trouble.

The raspy voice spoke of fight, of optimism, but few of us felt it. I gave him until October. It was a second shock last Monday when the news came that he had died. Fast. It scares us all. Continue reading