Donald Trump has figured out how to deal with his illegal immigration ban—fire the attorney general! Yes, yes, that should do it nicely. In fact, just to be sure it’s true, here it is reported by Fox ‘news’. Well, that should bring the party together. (Well, maybe not all of the parties. And, then, there’s that pesky rest-of-the-civilized-world to contend with. Even Canadian universities have joined forces to (politely) condemn this action.) Hopefully, all the decent Americans will be back to full employment by next week and this will all blow over. Still, it would be nice if the new administration would just ask around a bit before signing executive orders instead of just listening to new kid on the block, Steven Miller (who’s been running up and down the halls of power). The swamp is getting full and the alligators don’t seem to have a plan.
Steven Aftergood, of the Federation of American Scientists, noted today that the immediate publication of President Trump’s first three National Security Presidential Memoranda (NSPMs) in the Federal Register is “an act of unprecedented transparency.” Typically, these things are highly classified. So, why were these published? Aftergood offers two suggestions–either it was a mistake or it was a publicity stunt. Steven, do I really have to choose? Either way, three cheers for transparency! We might as well see this stuff coming.
Still in the news is the newly-minted ‘Muslim ban.’ Reaction from world leaders tends toward the negative, with a surprise nod from Australia and a predictable nod from the European far-right. Digging into the archives, we also find a surprise dig from the human being who later became the vice-president. To the north, Canada’s leader has gone out of his way to welcome Muslims but others in the country have not.
Finally, Bill Gates and Warren Buffett are hoping to counter the administration’s move to promote dirty energy with their own to promote clean energy. This with a view to mitigating human-induced climate change. And yet, scientists have recently concluded that it wasn’t climate change at all that caused the mass extinction in Australia 45,000 years ago. It was actually just humans. At least climate change finally gets a break.
A view inside the Trump white house. Credit: Peter Trusler, Monash University
Politics, by its nature, has an inherent aversion to truth and clarity. Politicians need to convince their constituents and donors that they represent their respective interests (and not those of the other). Often, the results are harmless. One area where things get dicey, though, is in matters of war. It is disconcerting, then, to find the new president shuffling around the National Security Council with yesterday’s memo. More so, now that the US has recorded its first war death under the new administration (in Yemen).
Some might have wondered whether Trump would abandon his reliance on on bombast, exaggeration, and crass pettiness one he achieved his station. Unfortunately, his disassociation from reality has continued unabated in his first week in office, and, of course, the new president has responded to criticism of his mendacity with his usual grace and elegance. I imagine his supporters will continue to downplay this tendency and cry foul of the media for pointing it out.
It’s not that I’m a great lover of the media, mind you. I do, however, believe that a functional democracy requires some system for informing the populace of developments that affect it, and for helping it sift fact from fiction. Otherwise, even the best-intentioned will make poor decisions at election time and the worst-intentioned will run riot. So, it’s disturbing to see the new administration so blatantly making an enemy of the media. I think the media usually falls short of its duty and potential (by pandering to prurience or trivialities), but it has relevance to the extent that can report, record, and check the misstatements of those in power. Any administration that sees such agency as a foe to be conquered is an administration to be feared, indeed.
It seems that I’m trendy. At least, I’m part of a trend. The trend is foreigners coming to Canada, with their families, to study at university. To read the comments following the article about this disturbing trend, it appears that I am destroying the soul of the country. To be honest, I had no idea. I thought it would be a good idea to leave my country, a land that is currently trying to keep foreigners out (despite considerable protest and legal wrangling), and take up residence in a place with a bit more tolerance for pluralism and multi-culturalism. It’s an interesting experience to be an American in a foreign land and feel the contempt of those who believe that I’m taking advantage of their hospitality.
What interests me more, though, is the thought of what drives such contempt. I believe the answer always ties to shortages of resources. People are angry because they think foreigners are taking their jobs, their healthcare, their retirement, their land. But, this is a land of abundance. What will happen if (or when) things really start to run out? I think we’re seeing this in America now. Things (like jobs) are running out. When that happens, people want someone to blame and that someone has to be as unlike them as possible.
People have circles around them. At the center they have themselves. The next layer is usually family. Then friends. Then a layer of people they think share their beliefs. Next is a layer of people who look like them and then kind of a generic layer of people-in-general. After this comes a layer of disagreeable folks–those with some perceived defect–and, finally, the undesirables. When people are happy, they don’t think about their layers. When they are unhappy, they blame the others around them, starting with the outermost layers. The problem is, as long as you’re unhappy, you attack the outermost layers until, at last, it’s just you. And then you self-destruct. Unfortunately, by then, a lot of damage has been done.
My son turned six years old today. When he was a baby, I took him and his older sister to the park. Things were fine for a while until something went south for him and he started crying in the determined, inconsolable manner that he had developed. As I left the park pushing the noisy two-seater stroller I began singing, “Lalala, lalala, no more crying babies–Lalala, lalala, no more crying babies.” While he had had sufficient time to develop a sense of criticism about many topics, music was not yet one of them, so the stroller quieted down. I remember thinking that one day I would not have any more crying babies.
That day has come. I have no more crying babies. I have no more toddlers. I don’t even have small children anymore–I just have children now. I’ve heard people say that kids grow up quickly. I haven’t found this to be the case. I have found, however, that the babies, the toddlers, the small children all go away, and, when they do, they don’t return. They don’t go quickly, but, when they do go, they’re really gone. They don’t come back. They become something else.
Today on the radio there was a discussion about childcare. The details aren’t important. What struck me is that no one seemed to want to address the core issues, namely Should the poor breed? If not, who should prevent us (and how?)? If yes, how can we afford to raise our young? My wife and I postponed having children for over a decade because we never felt we had enough money. Then, finally, we felt we did. We both had decent jobs and decided to start a family and get a new car. So we did, and then the recession started and I lost my job and my career. Eventually, at $2500/month for childcare for two kids, I couldn’t justify working the kind of jobs that I could get. But, neither could we get by very well on just my wife’s income. I don’t think we were the only ones in that position. It seems that for many people, the days of raising a family on one income are gone. So, the question is, Is it responsible for the working poor to have children? Is procreation now only justifiable for the wealthy?
I hope not. I have a wonderful wife that I’ve been married to for over twenty years and two great kids who are having a happy childhood. Life hasn’t really worked out the way I wanted it to. But, when things are bad, I try to focus on what I do have–a great family. And I’m grateful for that.
Amidst all the bluster, it’s hard for me to remember that stuff actually happens when the new president speaks. What he says is so ridiculous and incoherent, I comfort myself by thinking that people must know this is all a bluff. Then I get reminded by the sober (and somewhat humorless) folks at the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientist that really bad things can happen when erratic people are in charge of nuclear weapons. They have now set their lovely doomsday clock forward 30 seconds in response to recent moves by the current administration. It’s now set closer to world destruction than it has been in 64 years. And, this is just the administration’s first week. No wonder our friends are cancelling their visits.
The situation is made more worrisome by the news that Donald Trump sends his tweets from an unsecured phone that he carries with him. A hacker could tap into it to listen to whatever the microphone on the phone can pick up or to track the POTUS’s location. Here’s what concerns me most–what could anyone hack into this guy’s phone and tweet that would be so absurd that it wouldn’t sound like it came directly from the erratic synapses of the leader of the free world? I mean, really, what could it possibly say that is more bizarre than anything he’s already said (and then defended)? “Sorry”? “My opponent made a good point, but has not considered…”? “I’m actually bald”? “Let’s bomb Canada”? Ok, he might actually say the last one. I just threw it in to get the attention of the secret service. (Harmless passivist here guys–non-violent.) The point is, maybe we’re all so inured to neo-Orwelian Trumpspeak, that no one will know when the Trumpphone does get hacked.
Wait–hold the phone–this just in (well, last week). The president actually does have a new phone. His security detail has given him one that is secure–and a little harder to use for texting. Somebody set the clock back.
It seems that Mr. Trump is ready to build his wall and it seems that it will keep out even the very president of Mexico. Maybe it will keep out everyone else as well. We’ll see. He is also going to crack down on the massive voter fraud that nobody seems to believe happened except for him and he wants to reopen the CIA’s overseas black sites. Hopefully, he won’t open any in the US. If I worked for the Environmental Protection Agency right now, I’d be concerned.