Category Archives: politics

Government with Big Holes

 

The pandemic is playing out in the United States at a time when the country was stripped of vast amounts of administrative leadership as a result of Donald Trump’s failure to appoint people to fill an astonishing array of important governmental posts. He blames it on the Democrats—of course—but the real failure is caused by his lack of appreciation for government. Trump thinks government is all part of a nasty Deep State that should be shredded. So why fill holes?

 

Trump has been soaked in the right wing ideology of extolling the virtues of small government. To give one example, where many could be given, as soon as he got elected he announced a new policy for regulations. For every new regulation proposed his bureaucrats would have to suggest 2 that could be dropped. That sounds good no doubt to his base, but such arbitrary rules can and did hamstring government. Trump does not realize that there is such a thing as good government and does not appreciate that we need it. At few times do we need it more than during a pandemic. As a result many critical posts have been filled with temporary replacements or none at all.

Garret Graff reported on this issue in depth in Politico. He pointed out that just when we desperately need good, efficient, and compassionate bureaucracy that bureaucracy is in a shambles of Trump’s making. In fact much of it was done deliberately because Trump wanted flexibility. I suspect he likes this so he can fire personnel without going through the embarrassing process of Senate approval for a replacement, even though the Senate is controlled by Republicans.

Graff started with a reference to a concerning statement by the Surgeon General in April of 2020:

U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams promised that we’re entering the darkest days of the Covid-19 epidemic: “This is going to be our Pearl Harbor moment, our 9/11 moment. Only, it’s not going to be localized, it’s going to be happening all over the country. And I want America to understand that,” Adams told Fox News’ Chris Wallace.

Adams’ metaphor, evoking the two deadliest—and most shocking—moments of modern American history, came on the fourth consecutive day that U.S. deaths from Covid-19 crossed the 1,000 mark. Across Saturday, Sunday and Monday, more Americans were killed by the novel coronavirus than in either Pearl Harbor, the 9/11 attacks or the Civil War battle of Antietam. The days ahead surely will include an even grimmer toll.

 

Yet Adams’ metaphor of this as our new “9/11 moment” is more apt than he likely intended: Comparing the events is about more than just a story of casualties—it is also a story about government’s failure. Both Pearl Harbor and the 9/11 attacks occurred, in part, because the U.S. government and intelligence failed to see the attacks looming. We were caught unprepared, and Americans paid for that mistake with their lives.

 

After 9/11, we swore to never let that happen again. “Never again” was the mantra handed down to the nation’s leaders by George W. Bush in the White House on September 12. We devoted billions—trillions, even—of dollars after 2001 to fixing the intelligence and information-gathering problems identified by the 9/11 Commission, and Congress and George W. Bush worked through the biggest reorganization of the government since 1947 to create two entirely new entities to help prevent “the next 9/11”: The Department of Homeland Security, an attempt to bring together all the agencies tasked with protecting the country at home, and the Office of Director of National Intelligence, a coordinator for the nation’s 17 disparate intelligence agencies to ensure that the country better understood both the big picture and the small picture of what was happening around the world.

 

Unfortunately, President Donald Trump’s routine, day-to-day mismanagement of the government has left both organizations—the very entities we tasked as a nation to prevent the next 9/11—riddled with vacancies and temporary officials as the novel coronavirus rapidly spread from a small blip in China to a global health and economic catastrophe. In fact, the four top jobs at DHS and ODNI have all been filled with temporary acting officials for literally every day that Covid-19 has been on the world stage.

 

Those positions were created by George W. Bush—not Obama. As a result Trump’s disdain is less understandable. Nothing Obama did could be good. And they are very important positions and they are not just military or counter terrorist positions either. Intelligence, which Trump has often mocked in favor of getting intelligence from his buddy Putin, is vitally important in many respects, including preparedness for pandemics! Intelligence is broad. And in both senses of the word “intelligence” Trump lacks respect for it, and America, and in fact the world, are paying a heavy price for that disdain. As Graff reported:

While we often think of those jobs as focused on protecting against terrorism, both agencies have critical public health roles, too; U.S. intelligence spent the winter racing to understand how serious a threat Covid-19 truly was and deciphering the extent of China’s cover-up of its epidemic. Just last week, news broke about a special report prepared by U.S. intelligence documenting China’s deception about the disease’s spread—information that, had it been more accurately captured and understood, might have caused a faster, harder response and lessened the economic and personal toll of the epidemic at home.

 

Yet Trump has churned through officials overseeing the very intelligence that might have helped understand the looming crisis. At Liberty Crossing, the headquarters of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, the government will have been without a Senate-confirmed director for eight months as of next week; last summer, Trump accepted the resignation of Dan Coats and forced out the career principal deputy of national intelligence, Sue Gordon. Coats’ temporary stand-in, career intelligence official Joseph Maguire, then served so long that he was coming close to timing out of his role—federal law usually lets officials serve only 210 days before relinquishing the acting post—when Trump ousted him too, as well as the acting career principal deputy. In their place, at the end of February—weeks after the U.S. already recorded its first Covid-19 case—Trump installed U.S. Ambassador to Germany Richard Grenell as his latest acting director, the role that by law is meant to be the president’s top intelligence adviser. Grenell has the least intelligence experience of any official ever to occupy director’s suite.

Graff reached the following conclusion in his investigation into this crucial issue: “The government agencies designed to protect us are riddled with vacancies and temporary officials. No wonder we’re facing a catastrophe.”

And we know what that is the case.

Sometimes I have to applaud politicians, even one’s I don’t like

Sometimes I have to applaud politicians, even one’s I don’t like that much.

On March 25, 2020, the Canadian House of Commons, after resuming discussion at 3:14 in the morning, passed a massive spending bill which then passed all phases of the House before sunrise. It was the biggest spending bill in the history of the Canadian Parliament. Some politicians, like Canada’s staunchly conservative Member of Parliament from Manitoba , Candace Bergen, not my favorite politician even though

she is a member of my tribe, had a very hard time swallowing it.

As the Winnipeg Free reported,

 “This is a very heavy load to bear,” Bergen told her colleagues, her voice echoing through the nearly empty chamber.

The Manitoba MP is among the most partisan on the Hill, but wasn’t on this day.

“I am glad we can be here together — not always agreeing, but agreeing on one thing, that we are putting the needs of our fellow Canadians first and foremost,” she said.”

Then the Senate passed the huge bill in less than 4 hours.  Without the traditional ceremony Governor General Julie Payette gave her royal assent while sitting at a table in a massive lobby at Rideau Hall.

Sometimes politics works!

Even in the U.S. that massively divided country, where politicians seldom agree on what day it is, the next day managed to get things done as well. The American Senate, after vigorous debate and good old fashioned comprises on all sides, did itself proud and passed a $2 trillion economic relief package to respond to the coronavirus pandemic. It also was the largest package in the history of that country. You may not like the details, just as you might not like the details of farmer sausage, but at least they put aside their astronomical difference and reached a historic agreement. It was historic because a Senate that divided almost exactly along party lines on the impeachment of Donald Trump agreed on this package unanimously. That’s impossible isn’t it?

I wish the politicians could managed to agree on other issues besides financial crises or wars, but I have to give them credit by working together to compromise.

Maybe next time they can do that on climate change, or poverty.

Is it time to panic?

WalMart with empty shelves

This country is on full-fledged panic mode. Stores have run out of toilet paper! None of the shelves. Now this is getting serious. A financial crisis and a health crisis. What does this mean?

I have no idea what this means. The stock market is plunging (or is it recovering?)  Either way, there is very little less rational than the stock market. Reason has nothing to do with it. I don’t know how serious either crisis is. The financial crisis seems to have been brought on by the coronavirus crisis. I don’t know how serious it is.

But there is one reason I think that panic is a serious option.  Now I know some of my faithful readers will criticize me for bringing Trump into the discussion. Some people seem to think I blame him for everything. I don’t think that is true, but I acknowledge their concern. That won’t stop me from commenting on him. And I know he may not be to blame, but I doubt that he has helped either.

The real problem is two-fold.  Like it or not, Donald Trump is the leader of the free world (though I don’t acknowledge him as my leader and I think I am part of the free world.) The real problem is that he is a person who does not think evidence and data are relevant to his job as President. I started to worry when I heard Trump say, “I have a hunch the problem is not as serious as the Disease Control Center says it is.”  Earlier he said, echoing the right wing pundits from whom he does take advice, I think it is a hoax.”

I am not really concerned about Trump. His Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson, said “he’s a fucking moron.”  Sorry for my bad language, but the quote is not real without the bad word. I think Tillerson was right. I know some friends of mine think he is smart. After all he got elected as President of the United States. I think Trump is cunning. He knows what is good for Donald Trump. He has a keen sense of that.  He is able to disregard the interests of everyone else other than himself. This allows him to avoid distractions and concentrate on his goal–i.e. what is good for himself.

But ultimately I think Tillerson is absolutely right. What really scares me is that about 55 million voted for him and most of them still like what they see. They like him. Now, from my perspective, the United States is led by a man who is obviously unfit for the job.

Even more important however is that Trump is uninterested in data or facts. And he won’t listen to experts. This is what Trump said on CBS 60 minutes the week the latest IPCC report was issued, when asked if he still thinks that climate change is a hoax? “Look I think something is happening, something is changing and it will change back again. I am not denying climate change but it could very well go back.” He added that his uncle  was a professor of science. Trump never talked about climate change with his uncle, but Trump assured us, “I have an instinct for science.” Trump wants us to base vitally important decisions not on science but an instinct for science. It doesn’t matter that Trump knows nothing about science he expects us to trust him. And guess what? Millions of Americans do exactly that. They are not accustomed to basing important decisions on facts and reasoning on those facts. They base decisions on things like hunches, faith, trust, and instinct instead. And they vote for leaders who do exactly the same thing. Would you want a cancer surgeon who based his decisions on science, data, evidence, and careful reasoning on that data or a surgeon who based his decisions on instinct or faith? During a serious health or financial crisis would you want the country to be led by a President who respects science or one who has a instinct for science? Take your pick. But his scares me.

I am about ready to panic.

 

Is Donald Trump a King?

Recently, I learned some astonishing things about the United States. One of my legal heroes, Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz, made astounding statements in the U.S. Senate in defence of President Donald J. Trump from impeachment charges launched in the House of Representatives.

Susan Glasser a reporter with the New Yorker interpreted what he said as follows:

Donald Trump’s lawyer said that the President can do just about anything he wants.” This is an astonishing claim. It amounts to saying the United States is not a democracy. Dershowitz was asked by Senator Ted Cruz, during the question and answer phase of the Senate Impeachment Trial of Trump whether or not the President’s motivations mattered when he imposed a condition on the release of hundreds of millions of dollars of military aid for the Ukraine’s defence against Russian aggression. If the President insisted on a quid pro quo that Ukraine investigate Trump’s leading Democratic Party rival before getting the military aid was that permitted?

Dershowitz, one of Trump’s lawyers, went beyond saying what he needed to say to answer that question. Dershowitz said, Donald Trump has the power to do just about anything he wants to do, and there’s nothing that the U.S. Senate can or should do about it. There are no limits on what the President can do. Dershowitz in effect suggested.

 I was stunned to hear this. Democracy is more than counting ballots. Counting ballots is important. It is a vital part of democracy, but it is not all of democracy. A democracy must be a country that permits all citizens to vote and for all their votes to count equally. But there are many forms of democracy. Democracy is more than that.

The majority must be constrained by civil liberties or human rights. In other words, we must have a liberal or constitutional democracy. Even majorities in a genuine democracy cannot impose their will on the minorities in all cases. There must be reasonable limits on what the majority can do. For example, the majority cannot be allowed to ban freedom of religion or freedom of speech.  Another example: the majority cannot be permitted to ban free speech, or the free press, or the freedom to assemble.

In Canada such limitations on democracy are contained in the Charter of Rights and Liberties. Added to that, to have a democracy we must have a society in which the rule of law is respected. We do not elect dictators or kings. Our elected representatives, even our top leaders, must govern by law. Political leaders must be governed by law like everyone else. They cannot do anything they want. This is the flaw in Dershowitz’s argument. Saying the President can do “anything he wants,” amounts to saying the President can be an absolute dictator. That is contrary to democracy.

I am no expert on the American constitution so don’t want to comment on it. But a democratic society cannot be led by a dictator or king, even if the term of the leader is limited for specific years, such as 4 years in the case of the United States.

Dershowitz had something larger and more profound to say, however: Donald Trump has the power to do just about anything he wants to do, and there’s nothing that the U.S. Senate can or should do about it.

Dershowitz argued,

“If a President does something which he believes will help him get elected in the public interest, that cannot be the kind of quid pro quo that results in impeachment,” he argued. Dershowitz was offering Trump—and all future Presidents—a free pass. His argument seemed unbelievable: as long as the President thinks his reëlection will benefit the country, he can do anything in pursuit of it without fear of impeachment.”

Really?

Of course, earlier Trump himself made it clear that this was his position. No surprise there. He said “I can do whatever I want.” Trump’s actions and statements, ever since he got elected, make it clear that is precisely what Trump believed. If Trump is right, America is not a democracy! If Trump is right the US has elected a King!

In the impeachment trial in the Senate the House managers who acted as prosecutors, played the video of Trump making this statement over and over again. It was no surprise that Trump believed this. All of his actions and statements since being elected in 2016 made it clear that this was his belief.  Few others have expressed similar views. Therefore is it was shocking to see this position supported by Alan Dershowitz a respected Harvard Law Professor emeritus.

As shocking as all of this is, and it is shocking, what is even more shocking is that millions of Americans agree with this!  Millions don’t challenge his statement. Whatever Trump says or does, he must be right. We will soon see how many Republican Senators agree with this. I suspect almost all of them agree. In my view this means all of these people do not think it is important that the country is democratic! That is shocking!

I wonder how many Americans think Trump is a king?

USA: Is this a country without Honour?

 

I love America; I love Americans. They are a wonderful people, but they have gone seriously awry. But sometimes they are seriously misguided. And when that happens a friend should be able to say that to the friend. This is one of those times. It is not enough to claim that you are honorable—you have to walk the walk and talk the talk.

Honor used to be an important value among Conservatives—genuine conservatives I mean. But increasingly among modern conservatives at least, honor is no longer important.

When Donald Trump realized what he had done in letting loose the Turks on his allies the Kurds, and realized that to some of his supporters, honor still meant something, this is what he announced, by tweet of course:

“As I have stated strongly before, and just to reiterate, if Turkey does anything that I in my great and unmatched wisdom consider off limits, I will totally destroy and obliterate the economy of Turkey (I’ve done before)”

Stephen Colbert described this as Trump going “full God Emperor.”  This is on a level with North Korea’s Kim Jong-un.  But ignore the incoherence of this quote. Ignore the corrupt and idle boasting. Just look for the honor. You won’t find it. This is what America elected as their President. A man without honor! And 63 million Americans seem to like it. Does that mean American without honor too?

I don’t accept that Americans can blame it all on an ill chosen President. 63 million people voted for this one and I have been told most of those who did, still support him.  This is not an issue about Trump. He is too easy a target. But what about the country? It is not as if Donald Trump ever concealed his lack of honor. He boasted about. He said that in the Vietnam War he served by managing to avoid getting a venereal disease. Then he dismissed John McCain as a poor war hero because he got caught. Trump escaped the Vietnam War the way many rich boys did, by getting dubious health deferments as a result of alleged bone spurs, so that he could stay behind and chase models and starlets, while other young men and women, usually poor men and women, risked their lives and fought the war. Americans knew exactly what they were getting, and although 66 million voted for Hillary Clinton, 63 million voted for him. That is no aberrant number. That is a lot of support. This is where the problem lies. Trump himself is easy prey, but not 66 million Americans. Is the country without honor? I think it is time for Americans to step up and be counted. I think it is time for Americans to think about this.

The Monarchy of Fear

 

When I saw the title of a book, The Monarchy of Fear, I was immediately attracted to it. Then when I saw who wrote it, I had no choice; I had to buy it. The author is Martha Nussbaum, considered by some, to be the finest philosopher in the United States. I had read an article about her in the New Yorker, but had not read any of her books. In that article I learned that she liked to write about emotions. To me, a graduate in Philosophy some 5 decades ago, this seemed unlikely. I was wrong. Emotions are important in so many ways and it is good that philosophers opine on them.

For quite some time I have thought fear is an emotion that can have extraordinary consequences, particularly in the modern political context. Fear is a natural product of the age of anxiety or the age of anger. What could be more important than that?

Nussbaum had important things to say in the very first paragraph of the book. Here is what she said,

 

“There’s a lot of fear around in the U.S. today, and this fear is often mingled with anger, blame, and envy. Fear all too often blocks rational deliberation, poisons hope, and impedes constructive cooperation for a better future.”

This struck exactly the right note from my perspective. The real problem with fear is that it interferes with rational decision-making. And we see it everywhere. In Canada just like the United States, but I think it is particularly prevalent in the United States. That country is the richest in the world, has the best armed forces that money can buy, spends more on prisons and police than any other nation by a long-shot.  Yet it seems to me to be a country infused, no saturated, with fear. Americans like to call themselves the ‘land of the brave,’ but over and over again, from gated communities, to elaborate armies, the country is hobbled by fear to such an extent and with such intensity that it constantly surprises. And as Nussbaum suggests, such fear often “blocks rational deliberation.” Nowhere is the effect of this powerful more evident than in the election of Donald Trump. What rational deliberation could have ushered in his presidency?

Nussbaum boldly asserted the following:

“What is today’s fear about?  Many Americans, themselves powerless, out of control of their own lives. They fear for their own future and that of loved ones. They fear that the American Dream–that hope that your children will flourish and do even better than you have done–has died, and everything has slipped away from them. These feelings have their basis in real problems: among others, income stagnation in the lower middle class, alarming declines in the health and longevity of members of this group, especially men, and the escalating costs of higher education at the very time that a college degree is increasingly required for employment. But real problems are difficult to solve, and their solution takes long, hard study and cooperative work toward an uncertain future. It can consequently seem all to attractive to convert that sense of panic and impotence into blame and the “othering” of outsider groups such as immigrants, racial minorities, and women.  “They” have taken our jobs. Or: wealthy elites have stolen our country.”

How many of the important social problems of the day are encapsulated in that paragraph? There is a lot to chew over in that paragraph.

And of course with such fears rational deliberation is unlikely! It is hardly surprising as a result that the United States, in its moment of fear, has turned to a man who is probably more unlikely to solve its problems than anyone else we could consider. As a result of fear they made the worst possible decision imaginable. That is the monarchy of fear!

All our puny scandals.

Andrew Scheer: Thinking Small keeps him small

         Well the election is over and the Conservative Party who ran on a lackluster platform of ‘same old, same old’ gained the most popular votes. They had the weakest policies about climate change, which I thought was the critical issue in the campaign.  Is this a defeat for climate change advocates like me?

Not in my opinion. The Liberals spent a lot of time during the election campaign shooting themselves in the foot. First, many, like me, were disgusted at their performance in the SNC-Lavalin scandal. Though it was a puny scandal by American standards, it was real by ours. Many of us felt that our Prime Minister interfered with our rule of law by trying to unduly influence his Attorney-General Jody Wilson-Raybould to step in a resolve, to his satisfaction, the corruption and fraud case against a Quebec corporation that hires a lot of Quebecers. The independent Ethics Commissioner Mario Dion rapped Trudeaus’s knuckles for the second time. But Trudeau got away with it.

Next, the black face/brown face demeaned Trudeau’s image even though most people I think were willing to cut him some slack because “back then” we were all less aware of how hurtful our actions could be. He was no worse than most of us.

Finally, many people, like me were very disappointed that after bringing in a carbon tax despite the opposition of most Canadian Premiers, Trudeau spent threw away the political capital he had earned, by purchasing a pipeline for $4.5 billion. Few wanted that, outside of Alberta.

As a result of these 3 issues I really think the Conservatives threw away a golden opportunity to take advantage of Liberal missteps. The Liberals were ripe for the plucking, but the Conservatives failed to do that because they thought too small. Instead of saying they were ready to tackle the greatest issue of our times, climate change, they asked us to vote for them to put more cash in our pocket. It was puny. They could have done so much more. Can  you imagine if the Conservatives, after decades of opposing all rational measures to combat climate change, they announced a big turn around? I think people have been stunned and thrown their support to these newcomers. Instead, the Conservatives gave us, more of the ‘same old, same gold.’

I really think Canadians were ready to make a big commitment to tackle climate change. If the Conservatives had realized that instead of wasting their time with chump change, they would now be forming a government with a large majority. Instead they let the Liberals slip in. They could have done better. So much better.

Thinking small begets small.

Money doesn’t Talk; it Swears

Last week, in his State of the Union address,  President Donald Trump said the American economy is booming, unless politics, foolish wars, or ridiculous investigations interfere. He was referring of course to the many investigations of him and his campaign, including the Mueller inquiry and numerous investigations launched by the House of Representatives now that the Democrats are in the majority. Really the essence of Trump’s argument is that because the economy is doing well no one should interfere with him no matter what he has done. This is the same attitude he has to the Saudi Arabian assassination of American resident and Washington Post reporter Jamal Khashoggi. After all they Saudis have invested billions in buying American arms. Is that not reason enough not to interfere in anything they have done, no matter how despicable?  Because millions of people continue to support Trump, and even think his State of the Union Address was “presidential”, it shows to all that America is morally bankrupt.  Dylan was right, “money doesn’t talk it swears.”

Fear Porn

Fear Porn

 

In recent years many people in the west have characterized refugee issues as security decisions rather than humanitarian issues. This has had important negative consequences for refugees. As Jennifer Welsh said in her Massey lectures, “One implication of this ‘securitization’ of asylum seekers is the tendency to reframe the responsibility to tackle refugee situations as a matter of peace and security and to focus on immediate causes of displacement.”

This approach causes many people, such as my own current Member of Parliament, Ted Falk, to concentrate on the destabilizing effects of the presence of refugees on neighbouring country’s security, communal cohesion, and national identity. People like Falk believe that refugees are dangerous. They fear refugees and therefore make poor decisions about them.

Such irrational fears have spread around the world but particularly to the United States. Of course, as I have indicated elsewhere, the United States is a peculiarly fearful nation. They especially fear the influx of migrants and immigrants and refugees from the Muslim world and from Mexico. It is not an accident that many of these people that they fear have skin colours other than white. In my opinion this is the legacy of the American history of racism going back for centuries to its horrible treatment of indigenous people and importation of African-American slaves and their offspring.

President Trump himself was filled with venom and anxiety at the thought of the approaching brown hordes. Then he turned to filling his supporters with fear. That is something he has a unique talent for. Of course it is easy to mock absurd fears, but fears are important. They are used to generate hate against people seeking asylum. Stoking fear and hate in a democratic state is a very dangerous thing.

Donald Trump capitalized on these fears to get elected President in 2016. It did not matter that the United States had an extremely onerous vetting process of all such possible entrants to the country. It’s not a perfect system, but it is probably the best in the world.

Trump also tried again, with less success, to capitalize on such fears just before the Mid-term elections in 2018. He warned of the so-called “Caravan” of refugees and asylum seekers heading from Central American including Hondurans and others to the United States. Donald Trump and his close ally Fox News ratcheted up the fear to such an extent that millions of Americans feared this group of rag-tag people consisting by most accounts of a lot of women with young children.

The Republicans claimed the Democrats were organizing this crusade and that they believed in completely open borders. Trump was a master of manipulating this to his own advantage. He said he would send 5,200 troops. Later he increased this to 15,000 troops. Not just border guards, but troops. According to the Washington Post, “This appears to be the largest such peacetime deployment of active duty U.S. troops a the border in a century.” This was more troops than the Americans sent to fight super scary ISIS. The American troops were also ordered to secure the border walls (remember many already exist) with razor wire.

Of course all of these security people were being added to a border already hyper-militarized with 16,000 border guards, 5,000 ICE personnel, 2100 National Guards and many deportation agents. All this to oppose men, women and children who might throw rocks.

Many Americans interviewed on television said this was an invasioneven when they were more than a thousand miles away. It became a huge election issue and fired up his base of supporters. This was not surprising since Trump and his Fox allies relentlessly fueled the fears. Sean Hannity, watched by millions of Americans, repeatedly referred to this as “an invasion” as did other Fox contributors. He also referred to it as a “a mob of humanity.” Donald Trump himself repeatedly referred to it as an imminent “invasion of our country.”

All of this was done while the invading “army” without weapons was a couple of months away. What kind of invading forces give the target country a 3 months heads up?

Would young mothers take their children on such a perilous journey if they were not fleeing something they really feared? Like gangs that were to a large extent fueled by American deportees returning to their presumed homeland. These gangs were often fueled by drug money from American consumers. Should we not show some empathy for them? Or should we listen instead to demagogues? These people are suffering; they should not be demonized.

Even other stations, besides Fox, are getting on the bandwagon against these demonsapproaching the border? Trump tweeted, “the caravans are made up of some very tough fighters.” Later in the same day, October 31, 2018, 5 days before Mid-term elections he tweeted again, “Our military is being mobilized at the Southern Border. Many more troops coming. We will NOT let these Caravans, which are also made up of some very bad thugs and gang members, into the U.S. Our border is sacred Must come in legally. TURN AROUDND!”  Clearly he wanted to scare the crap out of people. Some have called it Trump’s scaravan.

Talking about the Caravan while helping a Republican candidate in Florida Trump said this about the Democrat rival,

 

“Andrew Gilliam wants to throw open your borders to drug dealers, human traffickers, gang members, and criminal aliens. That’s great. That’s what we want. Let those people pour in folks. Let them join come join you on your front lawn.”

 

Trump is a master of stoking fears.

There were actually 4 caravans that appeared to be heading toward the U.S. The Washington Postdescribed the situation this way,

 

Military planners anticipate that only a small percentage of Central American migrants travelling in the caravans U.S. President Donald Trump characterizes as “an invasion” will reach the U.S. border, even as a force of more than 7,000 active-duty troops mobilizes to prevent them from entering the country.

According to military planning documents, about 20 percent of the roughly 7,000 migrants are likely to complete the journey. The unclassified report was obtained by Newsweek on Thursday.

If the military’s assessment is accurate, it would mean the U.S. is positioning five soldiers on the border for every one caravan member expected to arrive here.

“Based on historic trends, it is assessed that only a small percentage of the migrants will likely reach the border,” the report says.”

 

It turned out the military planners were not as worried about the potential migrants as the American President. The military report was more concerned about Americanmilitia groups eager to lend their well-armed support. As the Washington Postsaid, “The assessment also indicates military planners are concerned about the presence of “unregulated armed militia” groups showing up at the border in areas where U.S. troops will operate.”

Trump was also quick to characterize the members of the caravan as scary individuals, even though most other reports, other than Fox News of course, said they were mainly women and children fleeing violence in their own countries often caused by gang members that had been deported there by American authorities. Trump described them this way at different times: “many young strong men,” “very tough fighters,” “terrorists from the Middle East,” “hardened criminals,” “lepers,” “people with small pox and TB,”  and “a lot of bad people.” Another Republican added, “pedophiles,” and “wife beaters”. That doesn’t leave a lot of room for anyone else. Added to that, according to the Washington Post, “He also insists the number of migrants heading north is much larger than estimates put forward by U.S. and Mexican officials.” Of course Trump has never allowed the facts to stand in the way of the hateful or fearful messages he wants to send.

Trump said similar things in April that everyone forgot about. Trump painted a picture of a large group of migrants near the border as rapists and pillagers. It turned out to be 400 people requesting asylum which they are legally entitled to do.

Then Trump added that if any of these people throw rocks the troops should fire their guns. Reminds me of the Gaza strip. Is that what American has come to?

It was no accident that Trump made a huge issue of these caravans a few weeks before the American midterm elections of 2018. He did not want to wait until the potential migrants arrived as that might blunt the political message he wanted to use in those elections. Now he is doing it again to gain support for his big beautiful wall.

Trump, together with many of his supporters loves what Bill Maher called Fear Porn. Why is that? I think that Trump like populists and demagogues around the world uses fear to drum up support for his policies. He does that because his ideas have little rational basis. How else can he get people to support them? Porn sells.

A Big Beautiful Wall

 

Today,  I considered 2 reports on the border issues in Arizona.  First, I read a brief report in the Arizona Republic newspaper which I decided to subscribe to today for the balance of our visit. I think local news is important. We should not rely entirely on Comedy News.

The newspaper reported on a group of mostly Guatemalan asylum seekers that breached the U.S.-Mexico Border yesterday. A smuggler helped a group of 118 asylum seekers by providing a ladder so they could climb over the wall near Yuma Arizona. that sounds like a lot of people. They were caught on video surveillance scaling the wall yesterday. About 86% of them were families travelling together, Customs and Border Agency reported. The video showed a number of people dropping to the ground after scaling the fence that was about 18 ft.

As the members of the group dropped to the ground they huddled in a group. The person who supplied the ladder, on the Mexican side, was shown leaving the scene in a hurry. According to the report, the people were “brazen  A spokesman for Border Security said, “It shows how brazen these smugglers are and the fact that they’re unafraid I wondered, ‘were they brazen, or were they desperate?” This incident happened about a mile from where 376 asylum seekers dug  holes to tunnel under the border fence last week. That too sounds like a lot of people.

Is this an emergency as Trump alleges? Does it warrant spending billions on a wall? Does it warrant shutting down the American government? Some would say yes. That group in Yuma was the single largest authorities had encountered in the area.

Some say that the wall there is “only” 18 ft. high. We should build it 30 ft. high some say. Of course, if a wall is built 30 ft. high does that mean the next smuggler will get a ladder 31 ft. high? A border guard interviewed by the Arizona Republic said, it might not be so easy because the smuggler would need two  30 ft. ladders. One on each side of the fence (wall). The video showed that an 18 ft. drop was pretty high. Particularly for young children. There are always young children. We have to remember that. These were families with young children. Do we not care about that?

On the radio today I also heard an interesting interview with Santa Cruz Sheriff–Tony Estrada. He is 75 years old and was recently elected for his 7th term as Sheriff.  That county includes Nogales Arizona and Nogales Mexico where  Chris and I lived near  for a month 3 years ago.

Estrada  said he was  the longest running Sheriff in Arizona. He seemed very knowledgeable.

Estrada is not a fan of Trump’s proposed “Big, beautiful, border wall.”  In fact he thinks it is a fantasy. “The wall won’t help,” he said.  Estrada said that almost all illegal immigrants come through at points of entry. Those are the legal border crossings that people use when they cross a border. Those places all have border walls already! They don’t need more walls.

Estrada also said that illegal immigrants were not the big problem, illegal drugs were the main problem. Meth in particular had in recent years become the main problem. This reminded me of Manitoba. Meth is a problem. But a wall won’t help. Those drugs also come in through points of entry, according to Estrada. The real problem is demand! In the US demand for illegal drugs is extremely high. Estrada said, the US has 5% of the world’s population and more than 50% of the world’s drugs. Americans can afford to pay and they demand that they get them. That is the problem. It is not a wall or lack of a wall that is the problem.

Sheriff Estrada said the border authorities could use money in the new proposed bill that Trump insists be signed before the government is reopened. It could be used for better technology (even though they already have the best technology!) and more boots on the ground, but spending money one a wall would be a waste. (Other border guards agree with Trump that building a wall is a good idea.)

Estrada pointed out that once in a while people cross the border with ladders as happened in Yuma, but this is rare. It is also rare that some people dig under the wall. I think he was saying if we wanted stronger borders we have to be smart. Building a ‘big, beautiful wall’ is not smart. I agree.

It’s always better to be smart.