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A united future begins as a tangled mess

In trying to explain Donald Trump’s stunning election as U.S. President, Stephen Harper – in his latest book, Right Here, Right Now: Politics and Leadership in the Age of Disruption – identified a divide between “those who live somewhere” and “those who live anywhere”.

The ‘”somewheres,” on the one hand, are the typically common folk in society. They fix boilers, grow food, and drive buses or taxis. They are the ‘locals’ who keep communities ticking over.

The “anywheres,” on the other hand, do not rely on any given place. They work for international businesses, or have university degrees which give them freedom to choose from a pool of nations where they can make their living. Their work, in the long run, helps to integrate nations into the growing global community.

Somewheres, according to Harper, make up the majority of the population in Western countries; but he claims the anywheres have been dominating politics – that is, until the recent shift in political trends, resulting in Brexit, Trump, Boris Johnson, Le Pen, Doug Ford, etc.

Harper believes ‘somewheres vs. anywheres’ (an idea borrowed from British journalist David Goodhart) is the new divide in present day political fault-lines; and he advocates populist conservatism (which, he confesses, is really just conservatism) as the solution.

In regards to policy, he writes:

Conservatives should remain pro-market, pro-trade, pro-globalization, and pro-immigration at heart. Going in a completely opposite direction in any of these areas would be a big mistake with serious ramifications. But being pro-market does not mean that all regulations should be dismantled or that governments should never intervene. Being pro-trade does not imply that any commercial arrangement is a good one. Being pro-globalization should not entail abdicating loyalty or responsibility to our countries. And being pro-immigration should never mean sanctioning the erasure of our borders or ignoring the interests of our citizens.*

In short, being pro-something is not an excuse for ideological tangents.”

With all respect to Harper – I genuinely think that his observations are astute – he seems, contrary to his stance of anti-ideology, attached to his conservative values.

Proposing conservatism as our solution is akin to a commercial with no relevance to the product it is supposed to advertise. 

Here’s a fictional example: a Zen master speaks beautifully about what it takes to become a guru; then it is revealed that he is eating a Big Mac.

Similarly to that commercial idea (I’ll be expecting a cheque, McDonald’s!), there is real wisdom in Harper’s reflections; but conservatism, like the Big Mac, is not the answer.

The somewheres vs. anywheres situation feels, to me, like a struggle between the old world and the new world – between the comfortable nostalgia of the past and the potential grandeur of the future.

In resolving this division, it is important to first recognise that somewheres and anywheres actually need each other. 

Somewheres need anywheres to provide the Western ideals, and the promise of a brighter future; anywheres need somewheres to keep everyday society going.

There is, then, importance in Harper’s beloved conservative values: in striving for the ideals of the future, we shouldn’t forget where we’ve come from.

In the same way that a flower cannot grow without its roots, our future, globalised society won’t grow without our (already established) foundations. Tearing our roots apart – no matter how tangled and distorted they have become – will create more problems than it solves.

Nonetheless, we are experiencing what is, arguably, the greatest revolution in the history of civilisation: the digital revolution. 

The lifestyle – and potential – of the human race has evolved enormously in a miniscule amount of time … and the changes we have seen could yet prove to be the tip of the iceberg.

The new, seemingly infinite world of the internet, and the rapidly improving technology at our disposal, is not something that can be governed by the traditional nation states that populist conservatives are so fond of.

And while Harper acknowledges the need to be pro-globalisation, he is also dismissive of the global community’s relevance, describing it as “a mere notion.” But, similarly, all nation states also started out as abstract concepts; and in a world where the internet/social media are so relevant, the global community is more real than ever.

There must have been something in pre-historic times that forced tribes to work together; and our current situation as separate nations mirrors that in a number of ways.

These circumstances hold the potential to deliver an exciting future; but they also hold the potential of a frightening one. For that reason, it is vital that such delicate times are dealt with intelligently and carefully. There is no point of reference in history for how we might fare in this digital/technological age, so traditional conservatism alone is not the answer.

We need an eclectic, innovative approach. It’s true that we should conserve and protect our roots; but we should also actively nurture our global community, because there are too many problems that nation states cannot solve alone.

Still, these divisions stand stubbornly in the way of such sensibilities. It is becoming increasingly important for people and countries to listen to each other: but are humans capable of that? I’m still not sure.

_____________________________

Right Here, Right Now: Politics and Leadership in the Age of Disruption (2018).

Brexit – What’s the big deal?

Brexit is arguably the U.K’s biggest political event of our generation – its ripples continue to shake, and the nation is more divided over it than it has been over anything in decades.

So: is Brexit really such a big deal? This article will attempt to unpack that question.

What is Brexit?

Brexit is the motion for Britain to leave the European Union (E.U).

When the British electorate voted in the 2016 referendum, the result shocked the world of politics – not so dissimilarly to Donald Trump’s election as U.S. President.

From over 33 million voters (a 72% turnout), those who voted to ‘Leave’ made up 52% of the vote; whereas those who voted to ‘Remain’ amassed 48% of the vote.

Due to such fine margins, the referendum has not ended the debate – not by a long shot. Here in Britain it is virtually impossible to go anywhere without overhearing a conversation, or glimpsing some headline about Brexit.

And, 3 years on from the referendum, Brexit has still not been implemented.

There are a number of reasons for this – such as the refusal of so-called ‘Remainers’ to accept the result. (https://www.bollockstobrexit.com/ )

Furthermore, U.K Parliament – equally as divided as the population – hasn’t managed to agree on how to implement Brexit.

Parliamentary conflicts triggered Theresa May – a Remainer prior to the referendum – to resign as Prime Minister. (https://www.ft.com/content/082d16f8-7dfd-11e9-81d2-f785092ab560)

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What’s Happening Now?

Disputes as to whether or not the majority of the population is still in favour of Brexit are ongoing.

There is a claim that, leading up to the referendum, the Pro-Leave campaign lied to the electorate – Boris Johnson, Conservative MP, has been summoned to court to answer for those claims. (https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2019/may/29/boris-johnson-appear-court-eu-referendum-misconduct-claims )

However, there are examples of lies from both campaigns – and in this era of ‘post-truth’, where the authority of ‘facts’ is open to interpretation, it seems unlikely that Johnson will be prosecuted.

In another display of post-truth, the U.K’s results in last week’s European Parliament Elections imply different things depending on who you listen to.

Remainers argue that clearly Pro-Remain parties collectively outperformed the Pro-Leave parties clearly in favour of a so-called ‘hard Brexit’ (leaving the E.U with or without an E.U trade deal). Remainers, therefore, believe there is a mandate for a second referendum, where the electorate will have an opportunity to change its mind. (https://www.politics.co.uk/blogs/2019/05/27/european-elections-remain-triumphant )

But Nigel Farage, the leader of the Brexit Party, dismissed these claims as ‘absolute tosh’. He, along with the other ‘Leavers’, point out that 75% of activists in the Conservative Party (currently in government) are Pro-Leave, and taking their numbers into account proves that the appetite for Brexit still exists.

Judging the true message of these results is challenging; but the country is certainly still divided.

What will happen next?

Following Theresa May’s failure to deliver Brexit, pro-Leave candidates are dominating the race to replace her as Prime Minister (the current favourite is Boris Johnson). https://www.telegraph.co.uk/politics/0/next-prime-minister-uk-odds-candidates-boris-johnson/

It seems likely, then, that Brexit will finally go ahead on the 31st October – with or without a deal.

Will the U.K be better off?

It’s hard to say for sure whether or not the U.K will be better off.

‘Euroscepticism’ (anti-E.U feeling) is not only present in the U.K – it is spread all across Europe.

Euroscepticism also transcends the traditional politics of ‘left and right’ – the pro-Leave Brexit Party, as well as the pro-Remain Change UK, are made up of former supporters and members from both the Conservative and Labour parties.

Here are some basic arguments to LEAVE:

  • The E.U is undemocratic and adds a needless layer of bureaucracy.
  • Freedom of movement encourages immigration, adding strains to services like the NHS.
  • It has treated member states badly when in economic crisis (particularly Greece).
  • Industries, including the fishing industry, have suffered.
  • Calls for a ‘United States of Europe’ and a European army possess a dystopian flavour.

And here are some basic arguments to REMAIN:

  • The E.U has succeeded in keeping peace between European countries.
  • Global issues can’t be tackled without cooperative organisations such as the E.U.
  • The E.U provides checks and balances, preventing governments from getting too powerful.
  • Some supporters actually prefer E.U politics to their own national politics.
  • Freedom of movement is a two-ended stick, providing opportunity and improving economy.

There are counterarguments to the arguments from both sides of the debate, and it seems unlikely that either side will convince their opposition any time soon.

Nobody truly knows if the U.K will be better off or not.

So what’s the big deal?

From a democratic standpoint the referendum has been won, so Brexit simply must go ahead.

But the debate won’t go away.

Brexit is a topic which people have identified with far more than they ever identified with the traditional ‘left vs. right’ politics – and when Brexit is finally delivered, it is likely that the debate will still be relevant.

And that’s the big deal. Brexit engages people.

It may seem obvious that the U.K has more pressing concerns than E.U membership – like poverty, the environment, and its own government’s flaws (which will still exist after Brexit).

Still – for better or worse – that will all have to wait.

All I want for Christmas

Christmas is upon us, so I’m making a list of everything I want.  I want everything I want and I want it, now.  That’s what I want.

I want peace; at home and around the world.  Some people love acrimony.  I want to cure that.  Intermittent Fasting helps.  I want everyone to try it.

There’s nothing like exfoliating.  I want a new luffa brush.  Bill O’Reilly, who’s on a long list of Irish-American / Canadian uber-conservative idiots, told an associate-producer he wanted to watch her scrub herself with a “felafel thing.”

I want Bill’s hero, Donald Trump, arrested and sent to prison, in Mexico.  Trump makes George Bush look a stable genius.  I want to ask our good neighbours, “Why did you vote for that foul, awful thing?”

I want a cure for Histiocytosis, a horrible, rare disease, which has afflicted my niece, Julia.  I want to thank and praise the medical community, in Hamilton, for miracles.  Another beautiful, young girl I know is in a fight at McMaster Children’s Hospital, where Julia was.  I want all children to be healthy and happy.

I like to do home renovations, but am leery of electrical jobs.  I want to take a course.  I like my old house.  I want to die in it, then be buried in the garden.  I want to be compost.

I want my daughter to stop bringing home animals.  I love them, too, but I want a break.  Having said that, I want to walk Doug, our great dog.  I want Doug to be happy, all the time.

There’s window, where I sit to write.  Much of the time, however, I watch squirrels.  If there’s reincarnation, I want to join my rodents.

Action Entertainment

Across a thin wire

Then down a tree

One’s in pursuit

One tries to flee

 

They cut to the left

Then to the right

But the aggressor still follows

The one that’s in flight

 

Back up a tree

Across a long fence

This racing rivalry

Is really intense

 

It’s pure entertainment

A wonderful sight;

There’s nothing quite like

A good squirrel fight

 

I want my car to start.  I want my computer and furnace to work.  I want my heart to keep ticking, my legs to keep kicking, and my heels to keep clicking.  I want to watch TV, because I love channel flicking.  I want to rhyme, a lot of the time.

I want to curb some appetites.

Sometimes, I want to save the world.  Most of the time, I want to lie on the couch, in track pants, comfy clothes, leisure wear, or quitters and save myself.

I Want, I Want, I Want

I want to be famous

I want to be rich

I want to be idle

I want perfect pitch




I want a place in the countryside

I want beachfront 2 miles wide

I want to be handsome and hazel eyed

I want to be purified, glorified, and beatified

 

I want servants at beck and call

I want my very own shopping mall

I want to be thin and I want to be tall

I dare say I want it all




I want I want I want

Write this down in your biggest font

Like a spoiled debutante

I want I want I want      

 

I want the beach house and the shore

I want Candy and her store

I want everything, heretofore

I want it all and then some more




I want to be famous, celebrated, cheered

I want to be loved, admired; completely revered

I think I want to be internationally known

But really, I think I want to be left alone




I want I want I want

Write this down in the biggest font

Like a spoiled, rotten debutante

I want I want I want

 

I Want song lyrics:  I want to know what love is.  I want you to show me.  I want to feel what love is.  I want you to know, I want you to know, right now, you’ve been good to me, baby; better than I’ve been to myself.  The best things in life are free, but you can give them to the birds and bees.  I want money.  That’s what I want.  I want to wish you a Merry Christmas, I want to wish you a Merry Christmas, I want to wish you a Merry Christmas, from the bottom of my heart.  Feliz Navidad. 

Feliz Navidad, indeed.

What more could I want?

The Narcissist Apocalypse

Hollywood has given us numerous scenarios, wherein zombies try to take over the world.  A zombie apocalypse makes for great fiction and comedy.  However, not funny, nor fictional, is the increasing number of people with a narcissistic personality, or who have narcissistic characteristics.

As well as growing in numbers, our culture favours narcissistic qualities, so narcissists are, increasingly, in positions of power.  With an abundance of self-confidence, narcissists make a great first impression and present themselves as capable, obedient workers and natural leaders, ready, willing, and able to run the show.  Donald Trump demonstrates how effectively a self-serving narcissist, even a vile, dumb, unqualified one, slithers up ladders.

Although the Internet is awash with information on the condition, narcissism is not well understood.  There is a lot of misinformation.  I lack professional qualifications, but am a recreational researcher, armchair psychiatrist, amatuer profiler, weekend psychoanalyst, Monday morning quack, and barstool philosopher.  As well, most critically, I’ve had lifelong relationship with a narcissist.

Spotting a zombie is easy: a stumbling gait, stunned, open-mouthed countenance, poor complexion, failing wardrobe, and questionable hygiene make one obvious.  Narcissists are a different entity.  A narcissist looks “normal,” walks, talks, and, to the touch, feels normal.

A narcissist, however, doesn’t feel, like others.  A defining characteristic of a narcissist is a lack of empathy.  Although they have grandiose opinions of themselves, and a need to be recognized, narcissists don’t care about others.

Relationships with a narcissist are, therefore, one-sided and toxic.  Even children are valued, only, for what they can provide the narcissist: respectability, status, cover, bait, income, accessories, props…  Children of narcissists grow up with the challenge of being unloved.

A narcissist can’t be cured or changed, so don’t try.  A relationship with a narcissist doesn’t end well.  There are signs.

If you meet one, run.  You are better off alone.

Contrary to popular belief, narcissists are not putting up fronts to mask insecurities.  Narcissists, truly, believe they’re superior.  An inflated sense of self contributes to a narcissist’s arrogance, dismissiveness, and / or cruelty, as well as their charisma and self-assuredness.  There is never a lack of self-confidence, even in a failing narcissist.

In fact, narcissists are most dangerous when reality doesn’t mesh with their opinion of themselves.  This is termed Narcissistic Injury.  Rather than reflect on their behaviour, a narcissist will blame others and lash out, often, cruelly.  A friend is divorcing a narcissist and his behaviour is dreadfully sadistic.  Despite declaring himself a Christian, he is a cruel (injured) narcissist.

Competitiveness and a drive for recognition push some high achieving narcissists to great work and accomplishments.  However, most narcissists prefer soft targets and gravitate to middle management and public service.

There are different ways to create a narcissist and our society is establishing perfect conditions for their proliferation.  A neglected child can become a cold, reptilian survival-machine, indifferent to anything and anyone, but themselves.  On the other end, children who’re overly-indulged and told, from conception, they are better than everyone, believe it.

Celebrity can trigger, latent, narcissism.

We are all born narcissistic.  As infants, the moment we are uncomfortable, we squawk.  Fortunate babies have their needs catered to, immediately.  Ideally, as time goes by, and we grow up and realize there are others, who have needs and feelings, we become less self-centered and more community minded.

One of the most critical factors in the development of a compassionate, caring citizen is unstructured, unsupervised play.  By playing with others; siblings and friends, children learn to share and care.  A selfish child loses playmates and the joy they bring, quickly.  Throughout history, people have learned to give and take and see things from another’s perspective, by playing.

As family sizes shrink, children have fewer siblings to play with.  Unstructured play, with a group of similarly aged children, is, also, a thing of the past.  Parks, fields, trails, all over Canada, sit empty, while youth stay home and play video games by themselves, for hours.  Even in a group, children play alone.

Media and social media contribute to the narcissism epidemic.  While sitting with friends and family, people stare at their phones.  An obsession with celebrity, likes, and views undermines and overrides a drive to behave well or do good work.

Single occupancy vehicles breed narcissism.  A hyper-competitive culture contributes to unhealthy, self-centered behaviour.  The disintegration of family and community creates individualistic behaviour.  Decades of giving everyone a trophy and declaring losers winners hasn’t helped.  Self-esteem, once earned, is now conferred upon every Tom, Dick, and Narcissist.

Narcissists deserve sympathy.  With insatiable appetites for material goods, recognition, admiration, fame, and prestige, a narcissist can never be content; never be happy.  Their self-centeredness means they will always be alone, even within a relationship.

I worked with a cruel narcissist, who went out of her way to make people miserable.  It seemed her only joy.  When she died, prematurely, I wrote a 50-word poem-obituary.

Karma And The Narcissist

Breaking spirits, cutting throats

Spreading lies, taking notes

Entirely without remorse

Every day, she stayed the course

 

She got her castle and her throne

But sat up there all alone

And when they threw her in the ground

No one came and stood around

To mourn, or cry, or say, Good-bye

 

From climate change and terrorism, to mass migration and poverty, humanity is facing a litany of challenges, many self-made.  The proliferation of narcissists is, to me, another indication our species is driving down a dangerous road, lost.

Eventually, people will have to go back to compact, compassionate communities, or we’ll perish.  As with a zombie apocalypse, flourishing narcissism is inimical to humanity.

 

Does Vladimir Putin own Donald Trump?

At the now infamous US-Russia summit in Helsinki, Vladimir Putin made what President Trump characterized as “an incredible offer”: In exchange for allowing Special Counsel Bob Mueller to question Russian intelligence officers indicted in the collusion probe, Putin wants to question Americans he claims were involved in ‘crimes’ against Russia.

Putin accused American-born British financier Bill Browder and his partners of conspiring with US intelligence officials to launder $400 million out of Russia and into the campaign coffers of Hillary Clinton.

Total funds raised by Hillary Clinton during the 2016 election cycle amount to $563 million, so that would mean Browder and associates funded an astounding 71% of her campaign. Perhaps the sheer absurdity is what forced Putin to recant his statement.

Nevertheless, the Russians released a list of 11 Americans they want to question, including Michael McFaul, former US Ambassador to Russia under President Obama and a vociferous Putin critic. The list also names at least two other diplomats, as well as members of the intelligence community.

On Wednesday, New York Times correspondent Maggie Haberman prodded press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders to clarify President Trump’s position. Is he really willing to hand American officials over for questioning by Putin?

“There was some conversation about it,” Sanders said, “but there wasn’t a commitment made on behalf of the United States. And the president will work with his team and we’ll let you know if there’s an announcement on that.”

Let’s be clear: no president should have to “work with his team” on this. The immediate, obvious answer is “nyet!” What could possibly be more impolitic than subjecting American diplomats to interrogation by a hostile power without a whiff of evidence? And what could possibly make Trump look even more like a Putin stooge?

The common thread connecting the 11 Americans singled out by Putin seems their work on sanctions against Russia. This is really about Bill Browder and the Magnitsky Act.

Although Putin now treats Browder as a bête noire, they were once allies. Browder’s Hermitage Capital Management was the largest foreign investor in Russia until 2005, when he was suddenly stripped of his visa and deported as a “national security threat.” The exact reason is unclear, but it’s worth noting Hermitage had made a habit of auditing corrupt Russian conglomerates with ties to the Kremlin.

In the wake of Browder’s expulsion, Sergei Magnitsky, Browder’s Russian accountant, alleged that police helped organized crime groups to take over three of Hermitage’s businesses and claim fraudulent tax refunds on their behalf amounting to $230 million.

Magnitsky was arrested in 2008. He was held for 11 months without trial, denied necessary medical attention, and then beaten to death seven days before the Russian government was legally required to release him.

The murder of this whistleblower triggered an international outcry. Browder reached out to his political contacts in the US, who responded by introducing the Magnitsky Act. Signed into law by President Obama in 2012, it barred Russians accused of human rights abuses from entering the US and froze their stateside assets. The Act was later expanded to include criminals from other countries as well.

Canada passed its own Magnitsky Act in 2017; the UK and the Baltic states have done likewise.

Putin has fought bitterly against this legislation. Repealing Magnitsky was apparently the big ask of Natalia Veselnitskaya, the Kremlin-linked lawyer who met with Donald Trump Jr. and other Trump campaign officials at Trump Tower in 2016 after offering dirt on Hillary Clinton through intermediaries.

As fate would have it, Veselnitskaya also defended Prevezon Holdings Ltd in American court, a Russian firm accused of laundering $14 million of dirty money into the New York real estate market. About $600,000 of those funds came from the $230 million tax fraud that caused Magnitsky to be killed in the first place.

Trump’s ham-fisted overtures to Putin make less than no sense from a policy perspective.

The Russian Federation is a kleptocracy to rival Ferdinand Marcos’ Philippines or Mobutu Sese Seko’s Zaire. It is a pirate state, run by a cabal of crooked bureaucrats, tycoons, and gangsters who have plundered their country’s natural wealth, depriving their own people.

Despite an official salary of US $302,000, Putin lives in a $1 billion palace and owns a $500 million yacht. He may, in fact, be the richest man in the world, and he didn’t get there by saving paycheques from his days as a middling KGB officer in East Germany.

Russia has invaded Crimea, shot down a passenger jet over Ukraine, and propped up the mass-murdering Assad regime in Syria. Russian intelligence operatives have hacked into American political institutions, interfered in an American election, bought influence with right-wing groups like the NRA, and waged an information war against the concept of democracy itself. They haven’t backed off, either; if anything, they’re doubling down.

Sanctions, combined with tepid world oil prices since 2014, have crippled Putin’s economy, and his popularity is in serious decline. Given his intransigence, the sensible course is to keep up the pressure until his people finally tire of him.

But Donald Trump continues to give succour to Putin, his cronies, and their corrosive conspiracy theories. That’s why the mainstream media is (finally, belatedly) asking: does Putin literally own Trump?

Trump doesn’t have the power to give Russia Bill Browder; Browder has been a citizen of the UK since 1998. He probably won’t hand over American diplomats like Ambassador McFaul either. Still, that he would even contemplate it can only be described as rock bottom, even for an administration that has hit rock bottom many times before and kept on drilling. They’re fracking for personal worsts.

If President Trump is a Russian asset, he’s certainly the most guileless in history. Yet he seems poised to get away with it by virtue of his position and his cult of personality.

Somewhere, Julius and Ethel Rosenberg are clawing at the lids of their coffins.

#MyNameIsMirian describes horrors of U.S. border patrol

In a heartbreaking letter from an immigrant mother, Mirian described how her only child was taken from her at the United States border; celebrities have now taken part in reading the letter to raise awareness of the atrocities taking place.

A YouTube video has made its rounds on the internet as celebrities like Ryan Reynolds, Chadwick Boseman, Maggie Gyllenhaal, and Emma Thompson gather together to read the letter of an immigrant mother at the border. So far, over 30 celebrities teamed up to read the letter out loud in an attempt to bring public awareness to Trump’s administration and the separation of immigrant families at the border.

The letter begins with Mirian stating officially that her accounts are true. She stated that she is a resident of Honduras and is the biological mother of her son, born in 2016. She fled Honduras on January 15, 2018, and made her way to America in the hopes of escaping government violence taking place in Mexico. She decided to flee Honduras after the government teargassed her home.

“On February 20, 2018, my son and I crossed the international bridge in Brownsville, Texas and presented ourselves to U.S. immigration officers. We told the officers we needed asylum. After I presented myself at the bridge with [her son], U.S border officers took me and [son] to be interviewed,” the letter said. “The officers took a statement from me regarding the reasons I came to the United States. The U.S immigration officers then told me they were taking my son from me.”

According to Mirian, the immigration officers only informed her that she would be going to one place and her son to another. When she asked why they were being separated, the officers provided no answer.

The officers then made her walk out with her son to a government vehicle before placing him in a car seat. “My son was crying as I put him in the seat. I did not even have a chance to try and comfort my son because the officer slammed the door shut as soon as he was in the car seat. I was crying too. I cry even now when I think about that moment when the border officers took my son away,” she wrote.

She was then moved into Port Isabel Detention Centre, where she stayed for a few days and panicked about her son. She wrote a request asking for information about her son and a detainee told her that her son was at a facility in San Antonio, Texas.

While she was detained she was able to speak with a caseworker who was in charge of her case. The worker informed Mirian that her son was crying for her and asking where she was during the first few days they were separated. She also learned that he was doing a bit better but had since developed an ear infection and a cough.

She added that since her son is only a toddler, he doesn’t speak much yet. He needs to be comforted by her presence and reassured that he is safe and healthy.

“On April 3, 2018, I received a positive, credible fear finding from a San Antonio immigration judge. I understand that I will now be able to present my asylum claim in the immigration court,” she wrote. “I will do everything that I need to do to seek protection in the United States. It would not be safe for me and my son to return to Honduras.”

As the celebrities read out Mirian’s letter, some were reduced to tears as the truth of Trump’s administration was made perfectly clear.

The hashtag “MyNameIsMirian” is currently trending on social media as news of the letter went viral.

Melania Trump’s coat under fire

First Lady, Melania Trump wore a coat that read: “I really don’t care, do u?” on her visit to New Hope Children’s Shelter in McAllen, Texas, a shelter housing dozens of children who were separated from their families.

Donald Trump’s “zero-tolerance” policy was under fire in recent weeks as photos of crying, confused children separated from their parents made it to mainstream media. Leaked audio footage of children crying and begging for their parents was also released to the public, which sparked further outcry from those keeping up with Trump’s cruelty.

Trump’s insensitivity and blatant disregard for the families was made abundantly clear as he let thousands of children get torn from their parents without batting an eye. Only under recent scrutiny did he sign an executive order to halt the separation of families. Even with this move, the Trump family unsurprisingly remained tone-deaf about how to approach the situation.

On her visit to New Hope Children’s Shelter in McAllen, Texas, Melania Trump wore a tasteless jacket that sported the phrase “I really don’t care, do u?” on the back in white letters. When news of the sighting first broke out, it was difficult to make out what her coat said specifically. Though, suspicions were confirmed when President Trump addressed his wife’s attire in a tweet. On June 21 he wrote: “‘I REALLY DON’T CARE, DO U?’” written on the back of Melania’s jacket, refers to the Fake News Media. Melania has learned how dishonest they are, and she truly no longer cares!”

Naturally, news sites from around the world picked up the story and published pieces on her attire. Twitter users then received the news and started immediately commenting. Many Twitter users called her move deliberate and some mentioned how, even if she didn’t know what she was doing, the move was tone-deaf.

The president’s spokeswoman, Stephanie Grisham, took to Twitter to criticize the media for focussing their attention on Melania’s wardrobe rather than on more pressing issues. “Today’s visit w the children in Texas impacted @flotus greatly. If media would spend their time & energy on her actions & efforts to help kids – rather than speculate & focus on her wardrobe – we could get so much accomplished on behalf of children. #SheCares #ItsJustAJacket,” Grisham wrote on June 21.

It isn’t just Melania who missed the mark. Their daughter, Ivanka published a tweet after her father signed the executive order. On June 20 she wrote: “Thank you @POTUS for taking critical action ending family separation at our border. Congress must now act + find a lasting solution that is consistent with our shared values; the same values that so many come here seeking as they endeavor to create a better life for their families.”

As with Melania, Ivanka was berated on Twitter for her tweet by those on the social media platform. Users noted how Trump started the separation of families and only after extreme criticism did he do anything about it. One user asked how she feels knowing that her family’s name would be a blemish on US history. It’s a fair question.

Immigrant families remain under Trump’s heel

Yesterday, Donald Trump took the bold and decisive step of signing an executive order against himself.

Specifically, against the separation of migrant families at the southern border that was occasioned by his administration’s “zero tolerance” policy toward illegal immigration.

“Thank you @POTUS,” first daughter and White House advisor Ivanka Trump tweeted, “for taking critical action ending family separation at our border.” Yes. Thank you, daddy, for mopping up the humanitarian crisis you yourself created for political gain. I so love when you do that.

Still, it is noteworthy, even unprecedented, that President Trump has surrendered on an issue of such vital importance to his core supporters. Nor does it seem likely that it was First Lady Melania Trump or de facto First Lady Ivanka who talked him down.

More probably, the president could smell what was on the breeze; a CNN poll published on 18 June showed 67% of Americans disapproving of family separations. Senate Republicans, in a rare display of moral courage, unanimously denounced the practice. Even Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX), an immigration hardliner and famously the most hated man in Washington, slithered out of his pit to register his disgust.

Viewed from any angle, this policy is a disaster. A disaster for its underage victims, chiefly, but also for the United States, its government, its ruling Republican party, and its president.

In the first place, if anyone expected a hard line stance to deter undocumented immigrants, that hope proved futile. Leaked Homeland Security documents show that the number of people caught illegally crossing the border actually rose by 5% in May — from what was already characterized as an historic high in preceding months.

Of course, family separations were never sincerely intended to hold back the tide. As President Trump himself made abundantly clear, he was using caged children as bargaining counters against Democrats (and Republicans) in the House of Representatives who have refused to fund the building of a border wall. With the November midterms looming, Trump is desperate to unite his base by making headway on this keynote campaign promise.

The president tried to play chicken with Congress with thousands of helpless migrant children in the back seat. He swerved, and in so doing, perhaps crashed into the limits of his power. If there’s one silver lining here, it’s the demonstration that even a recalcitrant, ineducable child-Tsar like Trump can be restrained by the preponderance of public opinion.

If there are two silver linings, the other is the shambolic, humiliatingly inept management of this policy by the administration. It really is a wonder these people found their way out of their mothers’ wombs.

As The Washington Post has observed, Trump and his minions offered a rainbow of contradictory explanations and excuses for their callous insistence on separating children from their parents.

The president’s chief of staff, John Kelly, and the Attorney General, Jeff Sessions, both described separations as a deterrent against undocumented immigration. When asked if that was the case on Monday, Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen dismissed the very idea as offensive.

White House aide Marc Short characterized the separations as government policy; Nielsen said, before Congress, “We do not have a policy to separate children from their parents.”

Presidential advisor and surrogate Kellyanne Conway said she didn’t want anybody to “use these kids as leverage.” But when Sessions first announced the ‘zero tolerance’ prosecution of immigrants that started all this, he explained the rationale: “Congress has failed to pass effective legislation that serves the national interest—that closes dangerous loopholes and fully funds a wall along our southern border.” Sounds like a classic hostage situation to me.

Finally, and to no one’s surprise, the president has contradicted himself over and over and over again. He said he felt illegal immigrants must be prosecuted. Then he said he was forced into doing it by the Democrats. He was against a ‘moderate’ immigration reform bill. Then he was for it. And, of course, he couldn’t end the separations by executive order until he spontaneously did so yesterday afternoon.

Make no mistake: the executive order does not end the crisis. It may, in fact, be illegal. Trump wants to keep up the prosecution of as many migrants as possible without estranging parents from children. How you ‘keep families together’ when mom and dad are in prison is another question.

Besides, there is no plan to reunite the 2,000 children who were already removed from their parents’ care. The executive order will halt future separations for the time being, and two pieces of remedying legislation are being debated. But there’s every possibility we’ll be back to square one in a month.

Perhaps some small comfort can be taken in the knowledge that the chaos of the president’s mind, his obdurate lack of strategy, is contagious. It has spread throughout the administration, hamstringing all attempts to explain what the hell this policy was — other than repugnant.

As Eugene McCarthy observed, “The only thing that saves us from the bureaucracy is its inefficiency.”

I fear that will be cold comfort indeed for children who will go to sleep tonight without their parents to tuck them in.

Twitter: @WoobieRoods

What does Toronto think of Trump’s war on ‘evidence’?

The United States government, under the direction of President Donald Trump, has banned the use of certain words in official documents submitted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). These words, or phrases, include “evidence-based” and “science-based.”

Other words banned from use include “vulnerable,” “entitlement,” “diversity,” “transgender” and “fetus.”

Analysts are currently preparing reports for the 2019 budget process. According to media reports, staff were told to say the “CDC bases its recommendations on science in consideration with community standards and wishes.”

The CDC has made it clear that regardless of the words they are or are not permitted to use, their recommendations will always be based in science and fact.

This attack on freedom of speech is not surprising considering Trump’s determination to push scientists out of the White House. He has also said that transgender people should not be in the military and abortion should be illegal. It seems like the President of the United States has decided that since the road towards making these statements into legislation will take too long — until then, he will simply omit them from speech in Washington.

When something is evidence-based or science-based, it means there are facts to back up a statement. It is not based on “community wishes”. There analysts work with numbers, statistics, quantitative and qualitative data. To disallow someone to use these words to describe their work is ludicrous and incredibly dangerous.

Lack of data on these important topics is already an issue. Since Trump took office, a number of federal agencies have downscaled data collection, especially on topics like climate change and the LGBTQ community. Information has even been removed from government websites as if it never existed in the first place.

As a journalist, and as a citizen, this is disheartening. Access to information is pivotal to an informed citizenry. It is how people make informed decisions. To remove information you don’t personally agree with is an affront to this critical foundation of democracy. They do that in countries with dictatorships, when the government wants the people to only adhere to certain ideals. Is this the beginning of that slippery slope?

I was really hoping that 2018 would be better than 2017 — but every time I hear something like this, I know deep down it is going to be much worse.

What do you think? Let us know in the comments below!

What you need to know about net neutrality

Net neutrality is all over the news. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC), with the support of U.S. President Donald Trump, wants to repeal the net neutrality laws put in place to create a more equal and open Internet. People gathered in 700 different cities across the United States (mostly outside Verizon stores) to protest these changes.

But, what exactly does this mean and why are people so upset? Women’s Post has you covered with this super easy to understand (and perhaps overly simplistic) primer:

What is net neutrality?

Net neutrality is essentially equality on the Internet — all data must be treated the same by all providers, browsers, and platforms. It prevents these companies from slowing down service (or preventing access entirely) to website, applications, and other features from competitors. Internet providers can deny access to certain sites either because you don’t pay enough or because they have their own service they would rather customers use.

For example, in 2014, Comcast got caught slowing down streaming on Netflix, and AT&T started a program that required apps to pay more money in order to ensure they used less data. All of these things gave certain platforms and applications an advantage over others.

What happened in 2015?

In 2015, President Barack Obama encouraged the FCC to regulate broadband Internet providers as a public utility, recognizing the Internet as a service necessary for economic and social growth, as well as a tool for innovation. Internet was reclassified as a telecommunications service in order to justify the change. Telecommunication companies are exempt from any kind of price control. It also led to more government control over broadband traffic.

In short: companies were not allowed to block or slow down the content of their rivals.

What is happening now?

Trump was elected and wants to overturn everything Obama has done. This includes net neutrality. What are the arguments for net neutrality? Republicans believe the government oversight associated with Open Internet was slowing investment in the technology.

Without net neutrality, it would also allow carriers like Verizon and AT&T to offer tiered pricing for Internet access — the more a person pays, the faster they get their Internet. Those who agree with the appeal say this will create a more stable marketplace and remove barriers for investment.

However, without net neutrality it becomes difficult for emerging technology companies or startups to get the same amount of speed as other sites. There will be no guarantee your site wouldn’t be blocked or that it won’t lag when potential customers come to use your product. There is also a socio-economic concern — if you have to pay more for Internet access that works; what will this mean for those who can’t afford it?

The new rules are scheduled to be voted on next Thursday, December 14.

What do you think? Should the U.S. repeal net neutrality? Let us know in the comments below!