Illegal

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I saw a post on Facebook today – and yes, I know I spend too damn much time there – where someone is holding a sign that says: Without immigrants, Trump would have no wives. Cute but hardly relevant to the current debate. It was the comment below that riled me up. It essentially said Trump has no problems with immigrants but with illegal aliens, which the commentator then compared to the difference between invited guests and people who break and enter.

That seems reasonable, right?

One should never confuse a grammatical sentence using a well-constructed metaphor for reason.

To say that Trump has no problem with immigrants is to ignore everything he has said about Muslims. Of course, he doesn’t just fear immigrant Muslims, he fears American-born Muslims, too. And I use the word ‘fear’ rather than ‘hate’ because I’ve finally concluded that, above all else, Donny Trump is a coward, right down to his lily-liver, his rubber spine and the stains in his underwear.

I put that out there so you know where I stand. But if you want to know where all that anger comes from, you know who to blame — and it’s not Obama. But I digress.

If you notice the shift from legal immigrant to illegal alien, you might not be surprised to know that it is a deliberate semantic distinction. When you call someone an ‘alien,’ you are, especially in the 21st Century, implying that they aren’t human – and therefore don’t have to be treated as such. Moreover, you are implying that, like all invading aliens, they are DANGEROUS. See, there’s that fear again.

And then there is that metaphor. Immigrant equals invited guest. Except that the United States (and Canada) let people buy their way into the country. Pony up enough investment dollars and the door swings wide. From now on, the next time I throw a party, I’m going to give preferential access to people who buy a ticket.

Then there is the other side of metaphor. Illegal aliens are all criminals. Well, in a sense they are since they broke immigration law to come to the country. One estimate says that 11 million did that. But so what? Somewhere between 30 and 45 million Americans deliberately evade their taxes – which is also against the law.

And studies have shown that other criminal behavior is no more likely among illegal immigrants than among legal ones or for that matter among natural-born Americans. In fact some show quite the opposite.

And what constitutes an invitation anyway? Maybe a job offer? Don’t want to think about Mexicans? Then take a typical Maritimer in Canada. There is a shortage of decent jobs in eastern Canada. Meanwhile, in Toronto (back in the 60s and 70s) and in Alberta and Saskatchewan more recently (well until a year ago) are begging for workers. Maritime lads move there for the work and the locals accuse them of stealing their jobs – jobs they themselves won’t take because they are dirty or don’t pay as well. Oh, yeah, and they call them lazy, too.

Like Tea Party radicals who simultaneously accuse Mexicans of being lazy and stealing their jobs. Pick one. Because really, if Trump (or Cruz) throws out all the Mexicans (and, by the way, he won’t), who will clean his pool, look after his kids, build his hotels or cook the meals in them? The Bundys? Yeah, right.

And that’s ten minutes.

Duffy Redux

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The final arguments of the Senator Mike Duffy trial are being made this week; this will be of limited interest to American readers as none of your Senators have ever had moral failings let alone committed a crime, right?

Two weeks have been scheduled but, since the judge already asked for and received written submissions, it will likely be wrapped up fairly quickly. It seems the prosecution has already given up on the most serious charges, that of taking a bribe. Since the person who offered the bribe, Nigel Wright, was never charged with anything it is hard to imagine how the person who received it could be guilty.

Unlike certain sex acts, bribery is not a solitary occupation.

The next most serious charges are fraud and breach of trust. The fraud one is tricky – it requires that the Senator willfully and knowingly tried to defraud the government. With respect to his disputed – and since repaid with the Wright cheque – housing allowance one might accept that Senator Duffy was actually confused. He was appointed to sit as the Senator for Prince Edward Island, despite, he claims, telling the PM that he lived in Ottawa. The Prime Minister recommended him and the Governor-General, that is the Crown, appointed him. They must have thought he lived in PEI or that his residency was established somehow by the appointment.

Given that the money was repaid – as you would do if you made an honest mistake rather than a deliberate criminal act – it seems less that 50-50 that the Crown (yeah, the same one that appointed him) is going to win on this one.

The dodgy contracts and travel for party business may be the best bet for the prosecution. It seem likely that Mr. Duffy knew he was trying to pay for things that were definitely outside the purview of Senate business and set up a shell to cover these questionable expenses. The travel for political purposes is a little trickier since there was no doubt why Duffy had been appointed to the Senate in the first place – to shill for the Conservative party. No one in Ottawa thought it was for his public policy acumen so why should Duffy?

The big question is what happens if Duffy is convicted of any charges (and there is a slim chance that he might get off scot-free). He might get probation or even a conditional discharge, neither of which might trigger an expulsion from the Senate. One might think an honourable man would resign in those circumstances but there is a considerable difference between being called Honourable and being such.

That will leave it up to the Senators themselves. The rules permit the Red chamber to suspend (they already did this, remember) or even expel a Senator. But Pamela Wallin, who was suspended at the same time as Duffy and Brazeau but was never charged with a crime, is back in her seat and collecting her salary. None of her colleagues have said a thing about that. Would they – and here I mean the Conservative majority – be willing to further tarnish the legacy of the former Prime Minister by having this story dragged through the papers again? It will be fascinating to watch if it comes to that.

But that’s ten minutes.

 

Monday Musings

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It’s Monday. I should be working. I’ve got to get to the office. Then I have to come home to my other office and work some more. Instead, I’m typing for ten minutes for your pleasure and elucidation. I trust you appreciate it. Even as I write, the items on my list of things to do are having a sexy morning. Honestly I can see them procreating.

Guns from Canada have fallen into the wrong hands! Apparently guns sold to our good friends, the despicable Saudis, to use against the rebels in Yemen have somehow gotten into the hands of the very same Yemeni rebels. People are shocked. Government officials – when confronted with the facts – say the ‘when they become aware of such things’ (duh) they will work with exporters to make sure it doesn’t happen again. So, exactly how are you going to do that? Every army in the Middle East have gotten their hands on weapons the international community says they shouldn’t have. How could that happen? Ask any gangbanger in Detroit and he’ll give you a hint. They ‘stole’ them or bought them on the black market or took them from the dead hands of their enemies. Sell guns to anyone and you better expect some or most of them will wind up in the wrong hands. It is, after all, the American way.

Bernie Sanders apparently was an active participant in the civil rights struggle according to a picture that has recently emerged. Emerged? Like a sword being lifted out of a pond by a watery witch. Despite his left-wing credentials, Clinton can still say that Bernie wasn’t a Democrat – even if he is a democratic socialist. Meanwhile right wingers in the Republican Party can’t decide if Donald Trump is more of a fascist than Barrack Obama. No really that is a discussion they actually have. Those who don’t study history are doomed to repeat it – the rest of us are doomed to suffer from the repetition.

I’ve decided that I’ve pretty much had it with winter. Next year, I plan to spend as much time in southern climes as I can afford. When the money runs out, I guess I’ll have to drown myself. At least the water will be warm.

I’m currently reading novels for possible publication. This is the good part of my job. Before I could read the novels I had to read all the submissions. That, I hate to tell you, is not as pleasant. Most people are not bad writers or even lousy story-tellers; most of them are mediocre. Sorry but it’s true. After four hours of reading slush, I usually get a brain freeze, not unlike eating cheap ice cream too fast on a hot day.

One last thought on guns – isn’t refusing to do mental health checks on people who want to own guns a crazy idea? Especially since recent studies suggest that the majority of people who gun down their families have a history of severe mental illness.

Well, that’s it, the buzzer has gone and I can get back to my list. I swear it’s twice as long as when I started this blog. Where is Planned Parenthood when you need them? Right, busy being lied about by Republicans.

And that really is ten minutes.

Domestic Violence

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There was another domestic murder near Ottawa yesterday. A man, who clearly intended violence since he brought a gun, confronted his ex-wife in her father’s home. His former in-laws and his two children were present. The father-in-law intervened in the argument and he was the first to die. The ex-wife was shot next and then he turned the gun on himself. He died of his wounds while the woman has life-threatening injuries. According to reports, the grandmother and two children ran away and were ‘unharmed.’ Other than having their lives destroyed, of course.

We point to a lot of reasons that such things happen. Violence against women is endemic. Men are raised in a society that says, implicitly at least, they ‘own’ their families. We don’t have enough women’s shelters or enough penalties to punish violent men or programs to cure them. All true.

Some even blame feminism – that is to say; uppity women. You’ve probably heard variations of that expression in other contexts.

There is another factor that has only recently been talked about. It can be summarized in the expression: spare the rod and spoil the child. Some people believe that striking children is a necessary part of good parenting. It teaches them a lesson. And it does: it teaches them that violence is an answer to their problems.

My father, on occasion, struck me. It was very much a special occasion – not more than a handful of times in my entire childhood. Mostly I got a clear explanation of how I had failed to meet his high expectations of me – far more painful.  Still, to resort to violence so seldom was pretty good, considering his father had, on occasion, used a horsewhip on his children. I recall one time when my brother and I had committed a particularly egregious crime (and in this case it was an actual crime – theft). I can still hear my father’s words to my mother more than fifty years later. “Get them out of my sight; if I start on them I don’t know that I can stop.”

And that is domestic violence in a nutshell. Once begun, where does it stop? Violence always escalates – whether during a single incident or over the course of a series of them.

And it often begins in childhood. Children who are routinely physically punished – and here I am not talking about horse whips but what most people would refer to as a spanking once or twice a month – are more likely to become schoolyard bullies, more likely to strike their own children or domestic partners, more likely to commit domestic murder, more likely to go to prison for violent crimes, more likely to fail at life.

See. They learned their lessons well.

Sadly, society has done little to stop systematic violence against children. Think of it, we haven’t prevented acts against little kids that would otherwise be considered assault. The criminal code actually condones the use of reasonable physical force against children between the ages of two (two!!!) and twelve. The definition of reasonable is left to the parent (or teacher). My father’s words come back to me – “I don’t know that I can stop.”

Fortunately, the law is going to change – if the new government is to be believed – and that exception will be removed. Parents who beat their children will have no defence under the law. And maybe, twenty years from now, a few children will be spared losing their parents and grandparents to violence. We can only hope.

And that’s ten minutes.

The War on Drugs

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The war on drugs has taken a new and somewhat bizarre turn with the interview of El Chapo – the notorious Mexican drug lord – conducted by actor, Sean Penn and published in The Rolling Stone. It created a bit of a stir among the chattering classes and a lot of embarrassment for Mexican and American drug enforcement agencies who have been trying to track him down ever since he escaped from a maximum security prison six months ago. Meanwhile satirists, critics of the drug laws and Mexicans in general have been having a good laugh. A lot of them admire the nerve of the fugitive, it seems.

Guzman – his real name – wound up being captured, in part because of the interview, and is expect to be extradited to the USA to face charges ranging from murder on down. He will undoubtedly be convicted and shoved in a prison somewhere – if his money doesn’t, once again, help him escape.

The most interesting thing El Chapo said in his interview was that nothing – his capture, his death, millions more for police or fences or prisons – will interfere with the operation of the illegal drug trade. In that he is probably right. If the war on drugs was an actual competition between nation states, the United States would have been on its knees a long time ago.

Prohibitions never stop the prohibited product being consumed. The prohibitions of alcohol did nothing for America but increase deaths from tainted bootleg alcohol and establish the Mafia as the major crime organization in a multitude of cities. It also founded the fortunes of a number of still prominent Canadian families but that’s another story.

It is unclear to me why America is so determined to prohibit – rather than control – the use of drugs. No doubt, drugs do harm but there is plenty of evidence that drug use can be mitigated if treated as a medical condition rather than a moral failing. Studies in cities in England where pilot projects temporarily turned heroin use into a medical issue rather than a legal one saw dramatic reductions in death rates, a virtual elimination of petty crime and even the return of some addicts to productive work and family life – even while their addition was maintained and managed. The experience in Portugal has been similar.

Movements to decriminalize or even legalize drug use in America have taken halting steps, focusing on marijuana which is not, apparently, physically addictive though it may be psychologically so. In the long term, government control of drug sales will reduce the negative impacts of the drug trade and make it less attractive to criminal elements. There will continue to be some violations of the law but it will be reduced to the level of the local bootlegger – a problem for society but seldom a threat.

I’ve long believed that all drugs should be decriminalized, medicalized, regulated and, in some case, legalized. The savings in terms of law enforcement, health care, and personal suffering would be considerable. And I’m not alone – the mayors of America’s largest cities have called for the same thing.

You have to wonder who exactly is profiting – aside from drug lords like Guzman – from the current system?

And that’s ten minutes.

 

Insurgents

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The Bundy’s are back in the news – briefly. One might recall that the father of the current bunch was engaged in an armed stand-off in Nevada last year. They promised never to stand down. Eventually the federal government threw up its hands and walked away, figuring a million bucks wasn’t worth killing for. Now the sons are occupying some wildlife reserve in Oregon – unwanted by both the community and by the family they came to support. They promise to stay for years. This case is a little different — not a case of unpaid fees but of actual rebellion against the law. The feds may not do much but I suspect they won’t walk away either. I suspect the ‘militia’ will go home in a few weeks – declaring victory. Or they will cease to be newsworthy and hang in for months, ignored and forgotten.

A lot has been made of the fact that these religiously motivated insurgents are not being called terrorists – except by the thousands of social media activists who call them exactly that. It’s true it is a little hypocritical – and maybe a little cowardly – to take guns to a peaceful protest but at least they didn’t enter shooting. The Bundy occupation is similar – though not identical to – the Occupy movement and deserves to be treated in much the same way.  With patience and, to an extent, restraint.

It is true that the Occupy movement didn’t threaten to kill people; it simply suggested that bankers should be arrested and put in prison for life. And they didn’t open carry – though whether no-one had guns is uncertain. It was, after all, America where even grandmas carry pistols in their purses.

Critics are also right to say that they would be treated differently if their skin was darker. I have no doubt that is true but perhaps what is really needed is a less extreme reaction to non-white protesters as opposed to a harsher treatment for this bunch of lame-ass cowboys. Do we really need to have the federal or local police go in shooting?

The real problem is that America is increasingly dominated by groups who no longer believe that America and its government is their country or their government. Most of these groups are right-wing but not all of them. And, more and more, they are supported by prominent Republican politicians who offer their moral and even physical support to people who are clearly in revolt against the legitimate constitutional power of the state – that is, of the people.

Revolt against the law is not necessarily a bad thing. Non-violent resistance has frequently changed societies, even overthrown governments. Armed insurrection has worked from time to time but I doubt if the people hiding out in Oregon really want to emulate the Castro’s and Che Guevara.

In any case, the Bundy clan will eventually pack up their gear and go home – convinced , of course, that the only reason ‘patriots’ didn’t flock to their side is because of some massive liberal conspiracy. And next year, they will find some other place to wave their guns around. Though I doubt it will be any more important than some little known reserve in the middle of nowhere. We won’t see them in Manhattan anytime soon.

And that’s ten minutes.

Guns (Again)

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There is not a lot of point in trying to argue with Americans – some Americans – about guns. These are people who are not open to listening to any argument about why guns should be restricted. That should give you a clear window into their mindset. Not open to ANY ARGUMENT.

Some cling to the second amendment (like they actually understood what it says) as a point of principle. That’s a scary thing. These are people who are not only willing to tolerate mass shootings but the day to day murder, accidental death and, mostly, suicides that widespread gun ownership seems to provide – on a principle. When you think of what atrocities that others have been willing to do on points of principle, I guess this is a fairly small thing. 20 to 30 thousand deaths a year is no big thing compared to genocides elsewhere. But it does add up.

Some people actually fervently believe the silly slogan of the NRA – that good guys with guns can stop bad guys with guns. Mostly no. Yes, you can cite a few examples (mostly off-duty cops or soldiers) but I can double down on your citations. Take the good guy with a gun who tried to stop a car-jacking in Texas. He wound up shooting the victim of the car-jacking in the head. He then scooped up his shell casings and ran away. A certain animal cunning, at least, if not otherwise an intelligent response.

Because most of these good guys with guns actually don’t have a clue how to act in a live fire situation. Neither of course do I but there are plenty who do and most of them say what you should do is run, hide or fight back – IN THAT ORDER. Whipping out your gun almost always makes it worse. So there you have it – good guys with guns are mostly clueless and almost always screw-ups. If they weren’t, I might be worried about pointing it out.

Then there are those who just deeply cynical – they know there are votes to be gained by fear and by appealing to base desires for righteous revenge. If people die, so what? It’s not likely to be them or their family – they can afford trained security. Some of these people are under the sway of the NRA – others are actually in their pay. I’m looking at you, congressman.

Speaking of screw-ups (and losers) do people who actually have time to walk around malls and sports arenas and school yards with open-carry assault rifles actually have real lives? Don’t they have jobs or something useful to do, homes to go to, children to love? No, I didn’t think so.

And tell me how do you tell an open carry enthusiast from a dangerous psychopath? In America it is apparently based on the color of his skin. Even though most mass shooters are white males.

And speaking of psychopaths – did you know that one out of every two hundred people are psychopaths. That means there are at least 750,000 heavily armed psychopaths with guns in America. What could possible go wrong? But I’m arguing with the wind.

And that’s ten minutes.