Is he still there?

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.

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:

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

Famously Offensive Trump Quotes (PG or R at least):


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

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


I have always been opposed to abortion, an issue that has now been put on the Canadian back-burner—we have no laws governing the practice since the Morgentaler decision in 1988, one of only a few countries in the world in that situation. There are no laws even governing when in the pregnancy an abortion can take place.

I could cite my influences as being things like our beautiful daughter, born to a young single mother who was quite likely advised by some to seek an abortion, or things like hearing of the lady in our community who aborted a child because she had to stand at a wedding in October and wanted to look good, but even long before that I was influenced by enough knowledge of biology to know that (reinforced now with our tremendous knowledge of DNA and genetic coding) that a fetus is a human being, unique in itself, from the very beginning. If you can only grasp potential, it has all the potential in the world, including the often stated possibility of being the first person to find a cure for cancer, had we not placed them in the garbage instead.

I know the world is over-populated, I know we don’t seem to take care of the people we have (though we could), but I don’t think the answer there lies in getting rid of some of us as we are just developing. Continue reading

The Domino Effect

I recall an incident quite a few years ago when most of the students in the high school where I taught had a walkout.  Or perhaps we could call it a “walk-in”, since they went to one of the gymnasiums and refused to go to class.

 It was not a protest against the administration or teachers, in fact it was an action designed to bring attention to their desire to have a cafeteria in the school, mainly done in hopes of attention from the community, municipal council, and school board.

 While teachers and The Office were very sympathetic to the purpose, a school can’t run with about five-hundred students in the gymnasium, so eventually the principal called their attention, described how he agreed with the idea, etc., etc., and then formally ordered them to leave and return to classes.

 They didn’t go.
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A Contributing Factor

The shooting of twenty people in Tucson has opened up the usual media frenzy. Experts in all imaginable fields are being dragged into the studios to provide the background the producers feel we all require to understand this tragedy. In only a few days we’re already getting tired, which is an unfortunate disservice to the victims.

There’s an attempt to sort through the head of killer Jared Loughner, if they can, to discover what motive he had for the shooting. He’s not particularly cooperative, saying little to police, and apparently only providing minimum answers and a few smirks at his first court appearance. His mug shot on being charged is a clown face. The “massacre”, as some are now calling it, was likely in a sense vaguely political, but distorted enough that few of us will be able to comprehend his reasoning. Friends indicate that his opinions about government and politics were usually so bizarre that they couldn’t get a handle on just what his agenda was. He seemed to have a particular paranoia about the government, made comments about mind control and brainwashing, and had a specific concern about the US money system.

A nut case, for sure, so the attention turns to what might have set things in motion, or made his assault possible.

A certain amount of effort was initially going into trying to lay the blame for the shooting of Congressional Representative Gabrielle Giffords and nineteen other people in Tucson on the doorstep of one Sarah Palin. The style-but-no-substance Alaskan had a website that featured a US map of gun sight “targets” (one of which was Giffords), Democrats in close contests that the Republican Party should “eliminate”. It’s a stretch to feel that this alone inspired Loughner, but that map is a symptom of a larger US disease that contributed to the shootings.
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Emmett and Jeannie

We often watch the Ellen show on TV, it’s good for laughs, and she frequently has guests that are some of the top names in music, performing, and news.

Ellen is quite well off from the top-rated show, and she tends to be generous. In one of her regular segments, she sends “Senior Head Twit” (Ellen’s label) Jeannie out to surprise a person in the community, who has either written to Ellen about financial difficulties, or has been recommended by a friend. I anticipate that thousands write in, but logically only a few are chosen, making the arrival of Senior Head Twit Jeannie a surprise.

The usual situation is that Ellen will call the lucky person on the phone during a live show, while Jeannie and a camera crew wait outside the person’s house. After the initial shock of receiving the phone call ends (it seems to frequently provoke lengthy screams), Ellen will mention that it appears someone is knocking on the recipient’s door, and it is, of course, Jeannie and the crew, often bringing an attaché case of about $10,000 and/or a new automobile.

It’s typical for the woman receiving the gifts to burst from the house, rushing into the arms of Jeannie, tears running down her cheeks as they do a joyous dance of hugs.

I sometimes sit there thinking, “How marvelous!”

It’s not the thousands of dollars or the beautiful Buick at curb side. It’s not the thrill of the family being given a much-needed shot of optimism.

It’s my age, and the fact that I was a teen and young adult in the late 50’s and early 60’s, and then and later in my teaching career I took an interest in the racial unrest in North America, particularly in the southern United States. You see, financial crisis is the prime qualification for the appearance of Senior Head Twit Jeannie, and because of that, and because of the still financial imbalance in the US along racial lines, often the woman receiving the gift is black.

Jeannie is white, and there is absolutely no hesitation, as there should not be, in the two of them rushing into each others arms in the dance of joy. There is no hesitation in Jeannie scooping up the little children clustering around their feet. Thankfully, it’s a new generation.

It was not always that way, obviously– in fact it was drastically and tragically not that way. I find the young people of today have little appreciation of that fact, since to many of them the 60’s and beyond are as relevant as the days of Julius Caesar.

This article would stretch to longer than my novel if I attempted to go into a litany of hate crimes against blacks over the last century and a half. In the hundred years up to 1968, some five thousand blacks were lynched in southern United States, many for “crimes” as absurd as not stepping aside in time from a white person’s walking path or from the path of his vehicle. For the vast majority of these beatings, hangings, and burnings no one was ever charged or punished.

In 1955, fourteen year old Emmett Till, visiting from Chicago and apparently naïve about the situation with blacks in the south, made a comment to a 21 year old white woman in a store. What he said is not clear to this day, but making any comment to a white woman was unheard of at that time. It was possibly flippant, the most likely words being, “Bye, Babe”.  The woman’s husband and his brother went to the house where Emmett was visiting that evening. They took the youth and, probably in the company of other men, beat him severely, breaking his leg and gouging out one eye. They then shot him, tied a large metal fan around his neck with barbed wire, and threw his body into a river.  He was found by family three days later.

The husband and brother were arrested, went to trial, and were acquitted. One jury member later told a reporter that he didn’t think any white person should go to jail for killing a black person (of course “words to that effect”).

Emmett’s body was sent back to Chicago, and his mother displayed him in his casket as he was found, refusing any repair by morticians. Tens of thousands attended the macabre viewing and funeral, and it made national news. One of the arguments at trial was that Emmett’s body was so damaged that positive identification could not be done at that time. In 2004 he was exhumed, positive identification made, and he was reburied in a new casket. His original casket resides in the Smithsonian. Emmett was only one of many.

In 1957 a group of nine young students attempted to register at Little Rock Central High School. This was but one of many actions by black children at that time, demonstrating courage that most us could never muster. They were initially prevented from entering the school by the Arkansas National Guard, under orders of the Governor. A mob of people followed them, many calling for a lynching. One of the nine black students, Elizabeth Eckford, recalled:

They moved closer and closer … Somebody started yelling … I tried to see a friendly face somewhere in the crowd—someone who maybe could help. I looked into the face of an old woman and it seemed a kind face, but when I looked at her again, she spat on me.

President Eisenhower called out the 101st Airborne Division of the army, and for the balance of the year, these soldiers formed lines to escort the nine into the school. In spite of that, they were of course taunted, spit on, and abused as much as the white students were able to do. The following year, the governor managed to get a law through the state legislature allowing him to close the schools to prevent integration, and the state schools were closed for a year. Only two of the nine returned after forced reopening the next year, but all managed to complete their high school in other locations, generally at relatives’ homes in the north, and went on to university and mainly professional careers.

While it seems that racial prejudice has faded with time, there is still a lot of deep-seated hatred in the south that will likely only pass with the generations. Emmett’s case was only one of many murders at that time, and many more took place in the late 50’s and into the 60’s. As late as 1998 a final racial killing took place when three white supremacists dragged a 49-year old black man behind their truck for miles, dumped his body at a black cemetery, and went to a barbecue.

While teaching history, or even in English class when reading poems or stories by black authors, I often brought in some of the stories of this long struggle for equality. Students were frequently surprised by the little steps that were made, made in what (at least to me) were relatively recent years.

In 1968 British singer Petula Clark touched Harry Belafonte’s arm during the filming of a TV special.  Sponsor Chrysler requested that the segment be deleted from the show before airing. Clark refused, and she managed to get all alternate takes of the scene deleted. The “questionable” segment was aired.

Nat King Cole, like many black performers who later became famous to a wider audience, initially played only in black concerts, and was on occasion beaten for not behaving as some whites felt he should.

Famous for “going where no man has gone before”, Star Trek managed it as well when William Shatner kissed Nichelle Nichols (Lieutenant Uhura) in late 1968. Believe it or not, that is cited as the first interracial kiss on American television.

So here we are in 2010, and the ghosts of Emmett Till, Lamar Smith, Mack Charles Parker, Felton Turner, William L. Moore, Madgar Evers, Oneal Moore, James Byrd Jr., and thousands of other blacks (and sometimes murdered sympathetic whites like Viola Liuzzo) watch from the shadows. On a dark evening in Arkansas, in Mississippi, in Alabama, Senior Head Twit Jeannie beats on a door, grinning from ear to ear, and a woman bursts from inside, rushing into her open arms.

I smile. Isn’t that marvelous?


Too little, too late?

A news video yesterday showed the Pope entering Westminster Abbey during his visit to Britain. In the background a crowd was booing and placards were being waved decrying his visit, as well as decrying Benedict as a person. Certainly an unusual welcome.

The brief visit of the Pope to England is bringing mixed results for the Catholic Church. While not the first visit to England of a Pope since the English church split off centuries ago (John Paul II made a visit), this is treated as a “state” visit, and he was welcomed by the Queen and by the Archbishop of Canterbury, head of the Church of England, and figurative head of the Anglican Church in Canada, and Episcopal Church in the US.

It was anticipated that there would be reaction on the issue of sexual abuse by priests, and the crowds did not disappoint. The abuse is a scandal that has ripped away at the reputation of the Catholic Church, and will continue to do so well into the future. In his unfortunately quiet, halting, and often poorly-stressed English, the Pope apologized for the damage done in the past. It seemed to fall on deaf ears, since many regard the past and even present reaction of the church to the crimes as being almost as bad as the crimes themselves, and feel the church has fallen far short in the exposure, admission, and punishment of the guilty. A shadow hangs over Benedict himself, as he has been accused of at least dragging his feet, if not contributing to cover-ups and participating in the too common quick relocation of clerics accused of abuse. Some articles suggest that it is only his role as Pope that keeps him from being drawn into current investigations of church response.
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