Trump’s great idea: rake the forests floors clean

Former President Trump has come up with another great idea. Everyone agrees that the source of wildfires is the buildup of flammable materials on the forest floor, so the obvious solution is to clean it up.

“I see again the forest fires are starting,” Trump told a rally in Pennsylvania. “They’re starting again in California. I said, you gotta clean your floors, you gotta clean your forests — there are many, many years of leaves and broken trees and they’re like, like, so flammable, you touch them and it goes up.”

Well, duh. With B.C.’s forests littered with flammable materials, just clean them up.

Trump is very wise. He listens to world leaders. Trump said: “I was with the president of Finland and he said: ‘We have, much different, we are a forest nation.’ He called it a forest nation. And they spend a lot of time on raking and cleaning and doing things, and they don’t have any problem.”

The Finns are so negative, people like Malla Hadley who tweeted: “I grew up in Finland. a) it rains all year round. b) we have a lengthy and cold winter. c) Finland is a sparsely populated country with just over 5mil ppl, with land size ~3/4 of CA and most of it forests and lakes. d) no friggin body is raking the forests.”

But why not accept great ideas? Make Canada Rake Again!

Get the school kids out of their stuffy classrooms and into the forests this winter with their rakes. Let them commune with nature in a productive way.

Hard work builds character, contributes to success, and promotes happiness. Once the kids lift their faces from their screens, they will be liberated by a work ethic.

Giving kids trophies and high grades without effort has negative effects. When kids are rewarded without making the effort, it reduces confidence, promotes dependency, and robs them of their personal dignity.

It takes the right person to set up these work camps for kids, someone with the moral authority and integrity of Donald Trump. Since the former president is busy restoring the once great Republican Party, we’ll have to find someone in Canada.

That person is Maxime Bernier, leader of People’s Party Of Canada.

Bernier can set kids straight on role models. We certainly don’t want kids following wimpy young people like Greta Thunberg. Of her, Bernier tweeted: ”@GretaThunberg is clearly mentally unstable. Not only autistic, but obsessive-compulsive, eating disorder, depression and lethargy, and she lives in a constant state of fear.”

Environmentalists plan to radically transform our society through hysterical fear that the end of the world is coming. We must defend our freedom to burn fossil fuel and preserve our way of life.

Bernier’s work camps for kids would instill pride in the way that Canada was before the immigration of non-whites. But, in a demonstration of magnanimity, there would be camps for white kids and camps for non-white kids.

Songs would be composed for the kids to sing while raking the forests, songs of the glory of the Aryan race.

Kids would carry little red books with the sayings of their great leader, Maxime Bernier. In quiet times of contemplation, they would be inspired by the truths within.

Trump’s big-tent coalition of the deluded

President Trump has assembled a ragtag rabble of misfits into “Trump’s Army”.

Trump’s Army storms the U.S.Capital. Image: Los Angles Times

The disgraced president was able to unite marginalized groups in a way no other president has done. Believers in alien abductions, the Deep State, QAnon, the Proud Boys and the Illuminati all found a home in the White House.

Trump brought those on the fringes of society to prominence. Not only did he elevate these groups, he embodied their alternate reality. He epitomized a deranged mentality.

Political commentators struggled with Trump’s brand of leadership at first, calling it populism –an appeal to ordinary people who feel that their concerns are disregarded by established elite groups. It’s now clear that Trump’s leadership defies historical labels.

I could never figure out whether President Trump was delusional or a liar. Did he really believe the untruths he was telling or was he purposely telling untruths? Now I realize that the truth doesn’t matter. What seems important to me –whether something is true or not- is inconsequential. For Trump’s Army, the truth is a trifling matter of little importance.

It’s a rare moment in American history when an alternate reality has gripped the nation in a big-tent coalition of the deluded.

Trump’s Army is nowhere on the political spectrum of left and right. Sure, Republicans were seduced by visions of power but right-wing issues such as abortion, small government, low taxes were not key to Trump’s win. Delusion was the key to his success.

The alternate reality of Trump’s Army is outside the material world. It consists of far-right conspiracies such as QAnon which alleges a cabal of Satan-worshiping pedophiles is running a global child sex-trafficking ring and plotting against President Donald Trump. It proposes that Wayfair Furniture (a real company) was involved in a sex-trafficking ring involving children.

Antifa is a convenient straw man. Trump set up Antifa as a dangerous organization with the intention of defeating it. He can revel in the glory of defeating something that never really existed.

Illusions will die hard in the Republican Party.

After Trump’s Army invaded the Washington Capital last Wednesday, some Republicans had trouble processing it. Former Alaska governor Sarah Palin was convinced that Antifa infiltrated the march. She went on Fox News and said “A lot of it is the Antifa folks.” Palin said she had seen some “pictures” that convinced her.

The big tent of fringe groups is fundamentally unstable. Eventually, real events happen that can only be dealt with people with a grip on reality.

The only way Republicans can gain control of the White House is by returning to their appeal to the right end of the political spectrum. By appealing to Trumps’ Army, Republicans risk losing the White House again.

Trump’s Army still poses a real danger.

An internal FBI bulletin warned that more violence is being planned: “Armed protests are being planned at all 50 state capitols from 16 January through at least 20 January, and at the U.S. Capitol from 17 January through 20 January,”

If Republicans condemn Trump’s Army, they risk losing the fringe element. Good riddance, I say. If they continue to feed the Army’s mania, they risk sending America into a civil war that pits the zombie-like Trump’s Army against rational citizens.

Russian COVID misinformation part of pre-election strategy

Just as in the last U.S. presidential election, the Russians are stirring up the electorate in advance of November’s presidential election.

image: Dictionary.com

It’s all part Prime Minister Putin’s plan to unhinge the U.S.; to sow as much unrest, division, discontent, misinformation, mayhem, and civil disorder as possible in hopes that the U.S. will fall apart under the weight of the chaos.

The Russians couldn’t hope for a better ally than the Disrupter-in-Chief President Trump.

Before Trump was elected, the notion of a U.S. president cooperating with the Russians seemed so improbable that it would have only occurred in the movies.

Such a movie was The Manchurian Candidate. In the movie, an American sergeant is captured during the Korean War of 1952 and taken to Manchuria where he is brainwashed and unconsciously controlled by the Russians on his return to the U.S.  The sergeant’s mother, a Russian agent, tries to have him installed as president so that that Russians can control the American government.

It would take the wildest conspiracy to suggest that the Russians have brainwashed Trump but his actions are very much aligned with the Russians. Both Trump and the Russians take to social media like Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube to spread division.

I have no doubt that the Russians stir up far-right groups like the Boogaloo Bois, characterized by their Hawaiian shirts and a philosophy that predicts an impending race war called the “boogaloo.” They would be comical if they didn’t carry assault weapons and spew hate.

Then there is the ideologically-twisted antifa movement which is lauded and reviled; lauded because they are anti-fascist but reviled because they are blindly driven by the same violence they abhor in fascists.

The antifa movement has a zombie-like control of otherwise rational people. In New York in late May, two young lawyers were charged in connection with a Molotov cocktail attack on a vandalized police car. They had recently participated in a Zoom solidarity meeting with antifa extremists.

The current pandemic provides an opportunity for the Russians to fuel the spread of conspiracies, hoaxes, myths and fake cures that undermine public-health efforts to control COVID-19.

The apparent Manchurian Candidate Donald Trump recently re-tweeted a video about an anti-malaria drug being a cure. Russian intelligence is behind the spread of disinformation about the drug.

Another one that has Russian fingerprints all over it is the hoax that claims new 5G towers are spreading the virus through microwaves. Yet another is that Microsoft founder Bill Gates plans to use COVID-19 vaccines to implant microchips in all seven billion humans on the planet.

Social media amplify these false claims and helps believers find each other. The flood of misinformation has posed a challenge for Facebook, Twitter and other platforms, which find themselves in a game of whack-a-mole. As soon as one fake site is wacked down, another pops up.

It’s no coincidence that the three worst months for hate crime are around election time. Those months also see a rise in violent extremist plots and fatal attacks.

Look for more hate and misinformation to spew forth as the election draws near. We may be able to contain the spread of Cov2 by closing our border with the U.S. but we can’t stop the spread of lies, many originating from Russia.

 

Trump takes on the Military-Industrial Complex

 

U.S. President Trump’s goal of pulling troops from the Middle East threatens the established order that has dominated the American economy and foreign policy since the end of the Second World War.

image: cartoonstock

The term “military-industrial complex” was first used by another Republican president, Dwight D. Eisenhower. He warned that government policy was being dictated by the war industry, euphemistically called the “defense industry.”  In his farewell address in 1961, Eisenhower cautioned that the United States must “guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence…by the military-industrial complex.”

Eisenhower believed that the military-industrial complex was subverting national interests and promoting participation in the nuclear arms race.

The last time that the military-industrial complex was threatened was after the collapse of the USSR in 1991. General Colin Powell worried about running out of enemies: “Think hard about it. I’m running out of demons. I’m running out of villains.”  He was wondering out loud whether the U.S. needed such a large army after the fall of Soviet Russia. What’s the point of having the world’s greatest military power and no dark forces to fight?

Powell worried needlessly. America managed to find new enemies.

Like many of President Trump’s moves, this one is poorly thought out. He is both pushing and pulling U.S. military supremacy. He wants to pull troops out of the Middle East while at the same time promoting U.S.-manufactured goods.

Manufacture creates jobs at home and the U.S. military provides a base for corporate colonization of the world.

Ten per cent of the American economy is directed at making weapons –most of which are sold to the military. The United States still maintains nearly 800 military bases in more than 70 countries. In comparison, Britain, France and Russia, have 30 foreign bases combined.

The trouble with the business model is not the jobs it creates, it’s the endless war that America must fight in order to make sense of the manufacture of weapons for the “Defense” Department. If the weapons weren’t made to be used, what would be the point in making them?

The rationale of the military-industrial complex is wearing thin and withdrawal of troops has some sympathy. Public Affairs columnist Lawrence Martin says:

“It’s a timely reminder of the debacle created by Mr. Trump’s Republican predecessors. The Iraq disaster and its collateral calamities; American military intervention and nation building that proved futile; the never-ending war in Afghanistan; hundreds of billions spent and tens of thousands of deaths. For what? (Globe and Mail January 2, 2018).”

Derailing the military-industrial complex has long been a dream of global peace-lovers. But there is going to be a lot of push-back from American Generals who want to keep their jobs.

Perhaps President Trump’s next big idea will be to convert U.S.-made weapons into steel to build his Mexican wall. He’s already hinted at a new role for the military in his television address Tuesday to defend against the threat that bedraggled families from Central America pose. “This is an invasion of our Country and our Military is waiting for you!” he tweeted earlier.

President Trump’s quixotic tilt at military-industrial complex is likely to fail but in the meantime, peace-lovers can hope.

 

Canada’s contribution to NATO

During President Trump’s Alternate Truth tour of Europe, he scolded NATO countries:

“Many countries are not paying what they should. And, frankly, many countries owe us a tremendous amount of money for many years back, where they’re delinquent, as far as I’m concerned, because the United States has had to pay for them.”

    President Donald Trump walks away after being greeted by NATO Secretary General Jens

In the real world, NATO countries don’t owe the United States a cent. Members contribute to the organization for mutual protection. Trump is confusing what he thinks is a debt with the goal of increased spending to two per cent of GDP by 2024.

The United States spends almost four per cent of its GDP on NATO as a matter of choice. Former U.S. ambassador to NATO Ivo Daalder says:

“No one owes us any money. Nor is the U.S. spending more because allies are spending less … our defense spending is a national decision and is determined by our national security and defense needs.”

Regardless, the amount of money spent on defense is not the whole picture. Professor Elinor Sloan, political scientist at Carleton University says:

“A big reason countries don’t adhere to [the two per cent of GDP] is because it is a flawed metric. It doesn’t capture the military capability a country can deploy in support of NATO operations, measure absolute military spending or account for the percentage of a defence budget spent on major equipment as opposed to, say, pensions and housing (Globe and Mail, July 10, 2018).”

The two per cent figure doesn’t take into account non-monetary factors such as Canada’s willingness to take on leadership roles, contribute to dangerous missions, and accept casualties and the loss of life. You can’t buy leadership and commitment.

The military is an integral part of the U.S. economy. They have more than 1.3 million troops on active duty, 450,000 stationed overseas. The military-industrial complex fuels the American economy and asserts global hegemony.  It’s a way of distributing wealth nationally through military contracts, something like Canada’s equalization payments to provinces. It’s also a social security scheme to provide work to youth who have few options. Author Danny Sjursen, who served in Iraq and Afghanistan, says:

“The military is also a welfare state; it is the most socialist institution we have. It provides a certain degree of economic stability (Harper’s magazine, June, 2018).”

Canada has its own interests but they don’t include a welfare state based on the military. Nor are they exclusive to NATO.

Not long ago, we only had two coastlines to protect. As Canada’s Arctic flank becomes exposed because of global warming, we need ships, fighters, and submarines to establish a presence in the North. The Arctic is melting. As shipping traffic increases, foreign bombers and fighters will test our sovereignty.

NATO is important to Canada, not just for the military component but for the political connections to Europe. As the U.S. becomes more unstable under the Trump administration, we look to Europe as an ally and trading partner.

As we watch in disbelief as Trump scolds his NATO partners while cozying up to Russia, Canada will be strengthened as we chart our own course.

Government as theatre

The Trump administration doesn’t make sense as government. He has no coherent foreign or domestic policies. He fires trusted advisors regularly. White House staff wake up each morning and check their Twitter feeds to find out what bizarre direction the country is now going in.

    image: NPR

However, the Trump administration does make sense as theatre. Not exactly Shakespeare, although there may be comic elements. More like professional wrestling says Naomi Klein:

“It’s hard to overstate Trump’s fascination with wrestling (Harper’s magazine, Sept., 2017).”

He has performed at least eight times in World Wrestling Entertainment, enough to earn a place in the W.W.E. Hall of Fame. In the “Battle of the Billionaires,” he pretended to beat wrestling champ Vince McMahon and shaved McMahon’s head in front of the cheering throng.

Trump honed his infotainment skills in front of live audiences. As president, whenever he wants a feel-good moment he assembles crowds of supporters and whips up the crowd with the standard rhetoric of wrestling.

His campaign followed the and true wrestling script: invent heroes and villains. Mock the villains with insulting nicknames like “Little Marco”, “Lyin’ Ted.” Stir up the crowd with over-the-top insults and chants like “Killary,” and “Lock her up.” Direct the crowd’s rage at the designated villains: journalists and demonstrators.

“Outsiders would emerge from these events shaken, not sure what had just happened,” says Klein, “What had happened was a cross between a pro-wrestling match and a white-supremacist rally.”

President Trump’s plans to meet with North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong-un, if it ever happens, will have the circus-like feel of a wrestling match. Each leaders boasts of having a bigger rocket than the other. They trade insults, Trump calling Jong-un a “little rocket man.” Jong-un calling Trump a “Mentally deranged dotard (senile old man).”

Trump will promote the match as having high stakes. If Trump wins –and in wrestling, the hero always wins- Kim will have to eat humble pie. Trump will symbolically shave Kim Jong-un’s head.

That’s how Trump will spin the meeting. The reality is a bit different. Trump is not bargaining from a position of strength. While he does have the potential to bomb North Korea out of existence, that would also destroy much of South Korea. Kim Jong-un’s stature is elevated to that of a world leader as a result of the proposed meeting with Trump.

Trump is not bothered at all about the political reality, his concern is ratings. Klein explains:

“So Trump sees himself less as a president than as the executive producer of his country, with an eye always on the ratings. Responding to the suggestion that he fire his press secretary, he reportedly said, ‘I’m not firing Sean Spicer. That guy gets great ratings. Everyone tunes in.’”

It’s a mistake to think of Trump as a politician. He ran for office as reality show host and won because he isn’t a politician. He is skilled at attracting attention to himself with crude, audacious, contradictory, untrue and insulting remarks.

It works. In a world that’s increasingly narcissistic, Trump is skilled at drawing attention to himself with his clever wrestling shtick.

Facebook tests honest ads in Canada

Facebook hasn’t been completely honest. They haven’t made it clear how we pay for the service.

Facebook is the world’s largest social network with 2 billion active users –I’m one of them. What I get from Facebook is the opportunity to connect with friends and family. What Facebook gets is $52 billion a year in advertising, an average of $80 per North American user annually. I get a valuable service and Facebook gets $80. But what’s troubling me is: just who is trying to influence me? Who have I sold myself to?

The answer hasn’t been clear because the true source of postings isn’t always obvious.  An investigation by the U.S. Senate revealed that Russians anonymously influenced the outcome of the last presidential election. Facebook told the Senate that Russian agents placed 80,000 posts that were seen by 150 million Americans.

Earlier this year, Facebook’s Chief Security Officer, Alex Stamos said that Russians bought 3,000 ads amounting to $100,000 between June 2015 and May of 2017. In violation to Facebook’s policy, 470 were connected to inauthentic accounts. Not all the ads were overtly political.

“Rather,” says Stamos, “the ads and accounts appeared to focus on amplifying divisive social and political messages across the ideological spectrum — touching on topics from LGBT matters to race issues to immigration to gun rights.”

Such propaganda sneaks by our defences unnoticed because of the homey feel of Facebook; you don’t expect disinformation to be bundled with posts from friends.

Other Russian accounts weren’t subtle at all. One Facebook posting was from a fake group called “United Muslims of America.” It targeted actual Muslims. The group claimed that Hillary Clinton admitted that the U.S. “created, funded and armed” al-Qaeda and the Islamic State.

Another Russian Facebook group, “Army of Jesus,” featured Jesus arm-wrestling Satan in which Clinton is Satan. Trump is “an honest man who cares deeply for his country,” the group added.

Facebook knows you well. They know where you live, what you like and what you share, where you travel, what you do for a living, when you are online and for how long. Facebook knows you in unimaginable detail. There are more than 52,000 Facebook categories used to microtarget ads to your interests and desires according ProPublica: subtleties of your character that that even you may not even be aware of.

In an attempt to clear the fog of deception, Facebook Canada has announced that they are going to pull the curtain back and reveal more about advertisers. Ads will now have to be associated with a Facebook page –that’s already standard with brand-name products. And ads will reveal how you have been targeted.

The U.S. Senate wants Facebook to go further with their proposed Honest Ads Act. The act would require disclosure of the rate charged for the ad, the name of candidates in the case of political ads, and contact information of the purchaser.

In the past CEO Mark Zuckerberg has resisted, claiming that Facebook is just a technology company. Now it’s becoming abundantly clear that Facebook is not just a sharing platform but a publisher, and as such must be responsible for its content.