Friday, March 31, 2017

Busy Days Are Here Again

We are done with March and I could start a weather rant about a missing spring and snow and cold, but it wouldn’t help one bit, would it? So rather than that I can tell you that recently there have been a few nicer days with sunshine, letting day temperatures rise above the freezing mark. And what a relief THAT is. Yesterday was still pretty windy, but that didn’t deter me from getting firewood down from the forest and running my wood splitter until I was all done. Today was even nicer, as the wind had died down, though one can still feel a cold draft. But if there is anything getting this guy out of the house at full speed, it is bright sunshine and an agenda for work to be done.
So, I started out by getting a few screws and some groceries from “the other side”. You really should see that hardware store. There isn’t a thing they don’t have.
Lubec HardwareLubec hardware is the best.

Being back on the island, I took advantage of the still frozen ground to drag 2 tree trunks down from the forest. Gotta do that while the ground is hard, otherwise I gonna churn up the whole area. These tree trunks are gonna be used for constructing a firewood shed. I mean why buy costly lumber, if I can use round timber for a simple construction?

Next was stacking up the split firewood. At the end of the day the round stack is as high as I am and I have to stop. Gonna but a  tarp over top to protect against rain, then start another stack. So much fun watching the firewood supply grow.
1-20170331_132139                         A lot of snow was melting off today

Then it was time for lunch. Bea was away for the day, so I rigged up our propane stove outside and fried up some real bacon and eggs. Great lunch grub and I avoided to stink up the kitchen, which delighted Bea when she got back home.
Weather was nice enough so I could actually sit outside eating my lunch.
Afterward I briefly checked my emails and saw a picture a long time friend had posted.
Teatret Vårt 1978The picture above is 40 years old and shows a smiling young man (oh that is me?) Hard to believe where all those years have gone. It was taken under a theater trip while on my first job in Norway. I professed to be stage technician and the rest of the crew in the picture are actors.
So, when evening rolled around and Bea got home I had dinner at the ready and we could sit down and talk about what we had achieved. Great busy day it was for both of us and tomorrow is April Fools day, which has been re-named TRUMP DAY.  

Monday, March 27, 2017

March 27 1927 – January 25 2012

Mom, you would have been 90 today.  We miss you so much.
When you passed on, I was sitting on a flight from San Diego.  It was hard to land in Hamburg learning that you were gone. 
I am so glad that you came over to Canada in 2004 visiting us. We had a great trip to the west coast.

You know, Dad is doing OK in the nursing home, but I think it was much harder for him than he lets on. He tells us he wants to go but he has a strong health.

Always in our hearts.

Your son

Sunday, March 26, 2017

The Media Have Finally Figured Out How to Cover Trump’s Lies

Not just falsehood by falsehood, but as the defining feature of his presidency.

By Will Oremus

Donald Trump is not on the cover of Time this week, and that must gall him. The president is the subject of the magazine’s cover story, the promise of which apparently persuaded him to grant it an exclusive interview. But instead of Trump’s visage, the cover features a single three-word question in bold red type: “Is Truth Dead?

It’s a callback to Time’s famous 1966 cover—“Is God Dead?”—and as such, it’s an eye-catcher. Time isn’t what it once was, but it still has a prominent perch on newsstands across the country. And this week, its top story highlights a side of Trump that much of the mainstream media have until recently failed, or neglected, to properly convey: his fundamental dishonesty.

The question on the magazine’s cover refers to Trump’s apparent ability to lie, dissemble, and distract from the truth—and to not only get away with it but to ride those lies to the world’s most powerful office. The story within by Time’s Washington bureau chief, Michael Scherer, rightly takes Trump’s dishonesty as its premise, then asks: How exactly does it work, and why, and can it possibly keep working now that he’s president? It’s a good story, thoughtful and—though Trump would never admit it—fair in the sense that it examines its subject’s penchant for prevarication without exaggerating, distorting, or moralizing.

More revealing still is the full interview transcript, which finds Trump inadvertently proving the story’s premise at every turn. The money quote, which is also the cover story’s kicker, is Trump in microcosm. Caught in a contradiction over his wiretapping claims, the president throws up one red herring after another, like a panicked homeowner hurling kitchen appliances at an intruder, before resorting finally to this: “Hey look … I can’t be doing so badly, because I’m president, and you’re not.”

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This is as clear a distillation of Trump’s epistemology as you could hope for. Simply put: Might makes right.

Time is not the only mainstream publication to belatedly shine its light full-blast on Trump’s mendacity. The Wall Street Journal’s conservative editorial board got there this week, too, making Trump’s credibility the subject of a scathing column that likened the president to a drunk clinging to a gin bottle. The implication: He’s addicted to lying.

Even Fox News has begun to set boundaries around the degree of pro-Trump dishonesty it will tolerate: This week it suspended one of its top legal commentators over false claims about wiretapping, which the White House had subsequently latched onto.

On a superficial level, it’s remarkable that middle-of-the-road and even conservative journalistic outlets are now breaking with their own conventions to, essentially, label the president of the United States an inveterate liar. But on a deeper level, what’s remarkable is that it took them this long.


That Trump is a professional peddler of smears and conspiracies has been clear from the outset. After all, we’re talking about a man who built his political name around the nakedly racist and utterly false claim that President Barack Obama was born in Kenya. And yet he ran a whole campaign, was elected president, and spent more than two months spouting whoppers from the White House before some of the nation’s largest media outlets began to call him for what he is. And he did it all while branding his opponent as “crooked Hillary,” a ploy by which he manipulated much of the media and the public into minimizing his own misdeeds by mentioning hers in the same breath. (To be fair, some major news organizations, including the New York Times, Washington Post, and Los Angeles Times, have been duly documenting and highlighting Trump’s dishonesty since long before he was elected. That they’ve often been reticent to apply the “L-word” speaks not so much to cowardice as to the high bar they’ve set for deploying such a freighted term. Hearteningly, these publications have become much better about not letting Trump’s false claims stand unchallenged, even in headlines.)

It isn’t that Time, the Wall Street Journal, and others haven’t confronted Trump on specific claims. They have, of course. But they’ve failed until now to recognize that his untruths amount to something much more than a series of claims to be evaluated and debunked just as the claims of any politician must be. Trump’s reliance on dishonesty is not incidental to his character, or his appeal, or his approach to politics. It is his defining feature, shaping everything from how he talks, to the views he holds, to the way he conducts business and politics. If that sounds like an exaggeration, just go read the Time interview again and chase it with the Washington Post’s fact-check.

Trump’s lies are, and have long deserved to be, a top story in their own right. That the mainstream media have largely failed to treat them as such reveals the depth of its entrenched conventions around journalistic balance and respect for the presidency. Too many reporters and editors allow those conventions to constrain what should always be their core mission, which is to tell the public what they know to be true, no matter whom it offends or embarrasses.

The focus on Trump’s credibility may be late in coming, but it’s welcome nonetheless. In a way, Time—and the Wall Street Journal, and even in its way Fox News—has helped to answer that cover story’s three-word question through its own actions this week. So have the members of the public who have recently withdrawn their support of Trump, plunging his approval rating to historic lows. The truth isn’t dead: It’s down, and Trump is kicking it. But this week, at last, it’s kicking back.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Oh Boy, Revenue Canada Messed Up

Now here is a story you gonna love, but it’s a bit scary as well.

In June 2015 we filed our tax returns through our long-time accountant. When we got his summary he had calculated small tax refunds for each of us, which we anticipated to receive shortly after. However, until yesterday we never received any tax assessment nor any cheques from Revenue Canada.
But yesterday, I finally received a letter hich was the most astounding letter I have ever received.
It was Bea who discovered it: The letter was directed to “The Estate of the late Peter Harwerth”.
Yup, I was deceased and this letter would most likely be the last one which would ever carry my name.  So sad.

Once we had opened the letter it did not contain my last cheque, but a tax re-assessment and a tax bill of over $500.
The letter also made clear that I previously had received my tax refund of roughly the double amount. Of course, that was not the case.

The situation warranted a call to Revenue Canada. Under that call I was able to convince the person I spoke to, that I was far from being dead. I was promised that the “mistake” as it was called, would be corrected.
Re. the missing cheques, an immediate investigation showed that both cheques had indeed been cashed only days after they had been issued.  And because Canada Post is never capable of processing any letters from Ontario to our place within 2-3 days we understood that somebody had stolen mail from Revenue Canada, taken out the cheques and cashed them.

What’s happening now is that we will be isued new cheques and Revenue Canada will launch an investigation of who stole the mail, forged our signatures and cashed the checks. And maybe, if they are lucky, they will be able to follow a paper trail to where the money went.
This still leaves me wondering how and why Revenue Canada made me a deceased person. What has happened????

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

What They Believe Is What They “Know”

CBC: Neil McDonald                      

FBI Director James Comey is obviously a creature of the filthy Washington elite

Like one of those trust experiments where the subject falls backwards into a crowd, arms spread, eyes closed, counting on friendly hands to intercept a painful crash, President Donald Trump fled to Louisville on Monday.

There, swaddled in love, he smiled and spoke about his favourite subject: November 8, 2016.

He loves talking about that day, because he absolutely, unquestionably won the election, and not even the liberal haters or the subversives in Washington's intelligence agencies, or the director of the FBI, or even the failing New York Times can rationally claim otherwise.

'That beautiful day'

"Remember that beautiful, beautiful day? That beautiful day?" asked the president, glorying in the memory. "That was a beautiful day … remember?"

The crowd members arranged behind Trump, white and mostly middle-aged — not that that should be taken to mean anything — cheered, happy as clams. They can't be reminded often enough about Nov. 8. That was the day they crushed the elites and leftists, and took their country back.

One woman wore a baby-blue "Make America Great Again" cap. A man hoisted a placard proclaiming "Promises Made. Promises Kept." Another one read "Make America Proud Again."


To Trump's supporters, it didn't matter that Comey confirmed the FBI is investigating whether Trump’s campaign officials colluded with Russian officials. (Mark Makela/Reuters)

To them, it was immaterial that just hours earlier, FBI director James Comey (whom Trump praised as gutsy and honourable when Comey decided, during the last days of the election, to publicly re-open the investigation into Hillary Clinton's emails), had basically called Trump a liar in testimony on Capitol Hill, denying his tweets about Barack Obama ordering the wiretapping of Trump Tower.

Nor did it matter to them in the slightest that Comey confirmed the FBI is investigating whether Trump's campaign officials colluded with Russian officials to influence the outcome of the election.

Media placeholder

To the people at the Louisville rally, and the rest of Trump nation, all that means is that Comey, and Mike Rogers, the National Security Agency director who testified beside him, are creatures of the filthy Washington swamp their president promised to drain. They are almost certainly part of the Deep State conspiracy to undermine Trump, the so-called "intelligence" officials who leak things to reporters and secretly hate America for being free.

These are people who listened very closely when Sean Spicer, White House press secretary, publicly repeated Fox News commentator Andrew Napolitano's theory that Obama turned to GCHQ, Britain's secret eavesdropping agency, to wiretap Trump during the campaign, so there would be "no American fingerprints" on the dirty operation.


Spicer publicly repeated Napolitano’s theory that Obama turned to GCHQ to wiretap Trump. (Manuel Balce Ceneta/The Associated Press)

That Spicer was treated as unhinged by Washington's establishment only made the allegations more believable to the base, especially when GCHQ and British Prime Minister Theresa May angrily denounced the story as utterly false.

Nor did it matter that Fox News issued a statement saying there was no basis to support Napolitano's claim, or when Fox let it be known that Napolitano would no longer be appearing on Fox.

Napolitano's theory sounded pretty good. And did President Trump not himself publicly praise Napolitano during that press conference he held last week with that female German chancellor whose left-wing hand he wisely refused to shake? Did the president not call Napolitano a "very talented legal mind," and a "very talented lawyer?"


Almost certainly, their takeaway from the whole episode was that Fox News — for many years their only source of news and commentary — has become a suspect organization, firing brave truth-tellers like Napolitano and that courageous guy Roger Ailes, the head of Fox News who supported President Trump, just because a bunch of women said he'd sexually harassed them.

The lamestream media said the same thing about the president, especially after that cleverly faked recording where someone sounding like Donald Trump talked about grabbing women's genitals. (And even it it wasn't faked, so what? A lot of women probably target a fellow as good looking and rich as the president, right? It might not be politically correct to say so, but don't women ask for it all the time?)

As for the senior Republicans in Washington, people like House Intelligence Committee Chair Devin Nunes, the guy who traitorously invited the FBI director to slander President Trump under oath and then even said a "gray cloud of suspicion" now hangs over the White House, one word: RINO.

Republican In Name Only. Fake conservatives.

Medical Funding

McConnell is a perfect example of a Republican In Name Only. (Cliff Owen/Associated Press)

Washington is infested with them. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is a perfect example; he actually says he doesn't like the president's tweeting. House Speaker Paul Ryan is another lousy hater. We'll see about them next election.

Same goes for the federal judges, or, as President Trump calls them, the so-called judges, who keep striking down his efforts to keep Muslim terrorists from entering America.

It's not fair that they refuse to believe the bans aren't religious discrimination, and that they insist on quoting the president's election promise to ban all Muslims from coming into the States.

The president's right. They aren't real judges. They're just judicial activists, and they should be fired, or something.

In fact, it's all just a conspiracy.

President Trump is going to bring back everybody's job.

He is going to give us better health care for less money, and he has kept all his promises, and if he says the Russia thing is fake news, then it is, and if he says millions of illegal immigrants illegally voted for Hillary Clinton, then they damned well did, and the stupid media and liberal elites can just stop their yapping about facts and evidence.

Because you know what? There is only one fact that matters: what happened on that beautiful, beautiful, beautiful day last year.

Remember? Remember? You lost, and we won, and this is our country now. And Obama was born in Africa.

Deplorables believe what they “know”.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

A Mild Day In March

March hasn’t been the month of spring so far. Snow showers and very low temperatures have made March a colder and more wintry month than January has been.
But today, one day into spring, things changed – at least for a while. Even though it was still chilly early on, the weather warmed to +7C during the afternoon and when the sun broke out it got so warm that I threw my jacket into the truck, (doesn’t take much for Canadians to do that) continuing my wood chopping in a light sweater.
But before I started the outside work, Bea came to me with a project. She wanted another birdfeeder. This time it should be a tray-feeder where also Cardinals could sit munching seeds. We looked at images of feeders on the internet which gave me the basics to go ahead with the building. A project like this can be made out of wood scraps and I happen to have plenty of it. Just the other day, Bea had been coming home with some wood a neighbour had thrown out while doing renovations in his house. Perfect for small projects. As it turned out some of the wood was cedar which definitely is an advantage for a project aimed to withstand wind and weather.

I can have my most enjoyable hours in my shop puttering around on a project.

When I had a basic roof installed, I found some left-over roof shingles which I cut into small strips and glued them to the roof with hot glue. Now it started to look like a real house.
Being done with the wood work, I grabbed a spray can with clear coat and put a varnish on the shingles. Besides of being a protection it looks nice when the shingles are a tad darker in colour.
1-20170321_1933481-20170321_193401And then it was time to call on Bea for inspection. She said it was beautiful and that is all the reward a home-putterer needs, before the next project turns up.
           While Dad putters in his shop I take a good nap

Monday, March 20, 2017

A Deplorable Waiter Refused To Serve 4 Latina Women Until He Saw Proof Of Residency

It was girls’ day out, and Diana Carrillo had abandoned her desire to eat healthy well before she, her sister and two friends got to the Southern California restaurant. The destination: Saint Marc, an upscale spot in the seaside city of Huntington Beach, where Carrillo had been once before.
As the waiter walked up to the table, Carrillo figured she’d splurge on the grilled-cheese sandwich and pay the $2 up-charge to add some of the restaurant’s signature bacon. To start, maybe she’d share a watermelon and cheese plate with her sister and friends.
But the mood soured quickly after the waiter appeared. Before he could serve the four Latina women, he said, they needed to show proof of residency. “I need to make sure you’re from here,” he said.


Kent Bearden, the senior director of operations at Saint Marc, told The Washington Post that the waiter who had asked for the women’s IDs had been fired. It was the first time the employee had done anything like this, Bearden said, and he “had never received so much as a write-up” before.
“I don’t know if he had an agenda or not,” said Bearden. “My concern is he violated a company policy. We’re very specific about how we treat our guests. That individual did not treat a table of guests to the expectations that we set forth in that company policy, and that caused him to be terminated.”

No doubt that the waiter was a deplorable who felt “entitled” by TRUMPELSTILSKEN’s rhetoric to “enforce” the new hateful policy. Just wondering whether this is something travelers in the U.S. should be prepared to experience other places as well.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

My Friend The Eagle

Never in my life have I seen so many eagles than on Campobello Island. And today I had another almost close encounter with my friend, the eagle.
Due to his dark colour he is probably just in his second year, a youngster still, but full grown. Bald eagles are getting their white heads during their third year. Until then they can be mistaken for golden eagles – at first glance.


I met my friend down at Herring Cove Beach. Actually I was just turning back to my car when I saw him approaching a tall spruce way out there atop of the rocks.


He sat in the highest top. It was a beautiful day and he was searching for food. I could see that he was looking towards me where I stood on the sand bar besides the creek running out of Lake Glensevern. All of a sudden he jumped off his perch, spread his huge wings and came sailing straight towards me. Approx. 50 feet from me he swung away and started on a wide circle along the forest edge and back over the parking lot.
While he came cruising again I had the NIKON up and the shutter was clicking and clicking and clicking. Then he circled and circled over and over again, maybe just 35-40ft. above the ground.
While I was taking pictures of him I got mad about myself. WHY, just WHY did I leave the tele-lens  at home. I had only my standard 18 – 55mm mounted.
Then I saw what I believe was the reason for him circling. From the shoreline rocks I noticed an otter emerge, clambering and jumping upwards until he reached the road and headed for the cover of the trees. Clearly, the eagle had seen the otter from his first vantage perch and decided to give it a try.
It wasn’t me he had been interested in. After the otter was gone from view the eagle took a new seat in another spruce tree.
No need for using energy when the food was gone. I crossed over to the parking lot and walked towards the tree where he was still sitting. He had a pretty good view across the area and his head was turning left and right. I stood there without any movement for at least 10 minutes looking up to him, but he wasn’t going to let me see another fly-by.

Campobello is home to an abundance of bald eagles. We have enjoyed them many times with our visitors from several view points of our tours.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

The American Jerk Refused to Shake Hands!

The American embarrassment is continuing. The so-called president doesn’t know how to behave with international guests.

Not only is Trumpelstilsken causing embarrassing international incidents but he is also a poor excuse for a real statesman and gentleman. Just look at this picture and you know how bad he behaved.1-Fullscreen capture 3182017 90913 AM  1-Fullscreen capture 3182017 90938 AM                     Not a Gentleman, ignorant of manners

Donald Trump has apparently refused to shake Angela Merkel's hand during a joint appearance at the White House.

The pair held an awkward meeting that could help determine the future of the transatlantic alliance and shape the working relationship between two of the world's most powerful leaders.

While the President greeted the German leader with a handshake upon her arrival at the White House, he appeared to ignore requests to do so as the pair sat together later in front of TV cameras.

In footage of the photo opportunity, as photographers call for the two to shake hands, Ms Merkel can be heard saying: "Do you want to have a handshake?"

Mr Trump briefly turns towards her, but continues sitting with his legs apart and hands together.

She then turns back to face the cameras, smiling thinly.

Despite the seemingly frosty nature of the joint appearance, both leaders described their meeting in brief remarks to reporters as having been very good.

The meeting is consequential for both sides.

The controversial orders Donald Trump has already issued

Ms Merkel, who officials say has prepared carefully for the encounter, is likely to press Trump for assurances of support for a strong European Union.

Mr Trump, who as a presidential candidate criticised Merkel for allowing hundreds of thousands of refugees into Germany, will seek her support for his demand that North Atlantic Treaty Organisation nations pay more for their defence needs.

Relationship building is a less overt but important agenda item. Ms Merkel had close relations with Trump's Democratic and Republican predecessors, Barack Obama and George W Bush, and she is likely to seek a strong working relationship with Mr Trump despite major policy differences and wariness in Germany about the former New York businessman.

He spent a good part of 2016 criticising the Chancellor, accusing her of "ruining" Germany for allowing an influx of refugees from Syria.

"You watch what happens to Angela Merkel, who I always thought of as a very good leader until she did this. I don't know what went wrong with her," said then-candidate Mr Trump at an August rally in Virginia. "What went wrong? Angela, what happened?"

Then, Mr Trump seemed to care little about the potentially awkward ramifications were he to win. He invoked Ms Merkel as a foil at his rallies, accusing his campaign rival, Hillary Clinton, of wanting to be "America's Angela Merkel." He lashed out at Time magazine when it named Ms Merkel "Person of the Year" in 2015 instead of him.

Mr Trump, at the time, did find ways to voice his respect. When a television station in September asked him to name a world leader he admired, he cited Ms Merkel.

"Those who know the Chancellor know that she has a knack for winning over people in personal discussions. I am sure that Donald Trump will not be immune," said Juergen Hardt, a conservative lawmaker who helps coordinate transatlantic relations for the German government.

Mr Trump is eager to see follow-through on his demand that European countries shoulder more of the burden of paying for the Nato alliance, which he has criticised.

He will also seek ideas from Ms Merkel on how to deal with Russian President Vladimir Putin, a leader Ms Merkel has dealt with extensively and whom Mr Trump, to the consternation of Republican and Democratic lawmakers, has praised.

"The President will be very interested in hearing the chancellor's views on her experience interacting with Putin," a senior administration official told reporters.

And with T-Rump’s Russian ties he should be very glad that Merkel actually speaks the Russian language, opening up for talks with the Siberian Cowboy.

Friday, March 17, 2017

Lying Don “The Con”

What do do when the president is lying?
The question here is whether he’s lying intentionally or whether it is the result of being mentally off balance. If lying with the intention of slander and political gain, he should be prosecuted and removed, if lying because being mentally unfit….he should be receiving the help of a psychiatrist and… removed from office as well. As we see, the final outcome for lying Don would be the same.
Obama listening
The president’s allegations against Mr. Obama wire-tapping Trump’s Golden Throne at Trump tower is just the latest example of his lies making headlines. Receiving his news from Breitbart proves not to be the best and most reliable source and being the president of an otherwise well-reputed nation he should have known better. It is indeed amazing that he reads Breitbart at all. Together with the likes of “Fantasy News Outlets” like FOX and Infowars, these sources are namely poised to feed the deplorables and nothing but deplorables, but should be off limits for presidents and administration officials.

And when said FOX News “finds out” (still without a shred of evidence) that Obama used the British spy agency GCHQ (Government Communications Headquarters) for Trump Tower surveillance, Mr. Press Secretary Spicer has nothing better to do than repeating and re-enforcing the president’s unsubstantiated claims by accusing the Brits of being Obama’s henchmen, thus causing a
diplomatic  tsunami.

The GCHQ quickly and vehemently denied the contention on Thursday in a rare statement issued by the spy agency, calling the assertions “nonsense” and “utterly ridiculous.” By Friday morning, Mr. Spicer’s briefing had turned into a full-blown international incident. British politicians expressed outrage and demanded apologies and retractions from the American government.

But luckily, the Brits understand that the Trump White House is currently somewhat unbalanced, so they won’t take up arms against the U.S. SmileDowning Street clearly wanted to avoid adding to any embarrassment in Washington while making it clear that Britain had no part in any such wiretapping, and that Britain would not be a party to circumventing the laws of another closely allied country.

Yet, in spite of all caused chaos stubborn Trump has continued to stick by his claim about Mr. Obama even after it has been refuted by a host of current and former officials, including leaders of his own party.

But what happens at “GOP and Friends”?

The controversy over Mr. Trump’s two-week-old unsubstantiated accusation that Mr. Obama had wiretapped his telephones last year continued to unnerve even Mr. Trump’s fellow Republicans. Representative Tom Cole, Republican of Oklahoma, said Friday that Mr. Trump had not proven his case and should tell Mr. Obama he was sorry.

“Frankly, unless you can produce some pretty compelling truth, I think President Obama is owed an apology,” Mr. Cole told reporters. “If he didn’t do it, we shouldn’t be reckless in accusations that he did.”

Can You Say Crazy?

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Trump Immigration Policies Kill Work Visas For Specialized Canadian Nurses

A danger to National Security?

Advanced practice nurses and nurse anesthetists told they no longer qualify for professional visas

CBC News Posted: Mar 15, 2017 4:36 PM ET Last Updated: Mar 15, 2017 5:31 PM ET

U.S. Customs and Border Protection have rejected work visas for Canadian citizens working at Michigan hospitals.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection have rejected work visas for Canadian citizens working at Michigan hospitals. (Dave Chidley/Canadian Press)

Canadian nurses working at Michigan hospitals were shocked last week when border security officers stopped them from entering the U.S. because of changes to their working visas under new immigration policies.

Staff at Detroit's Henry Ford Hospital heard reports of nurses unable to renew their working visas. Last week, a new Canadian hire at Henry Ford tried to go to work, but was turned away at the Windsor-Detroit border.

She was told advanced practice nurses and nurse anesthetists no longer qualify for the working visas because of policy changes under U.S. President Donald Trump.

"We really question the motives," said immigration lawyer Marc Topoleski, whose firm is retained by the hospital. "All of the immigration executive orders and all the things being rolled out have been focused on national security first, and this is clearly not an issue of national security whatsoever."

'Livelihoods are at stake'

Only advanced practice nurses and nurse anesthetists are being rejected. All Canadian nurses working in the U.S. have non-immigrant NAFTA professional (TN) visas.

An estimated 30,000 to 40,000 Canadians work in the U.S with TN visas, which allow experts in certain fields — like economics and science — a fast track, provided they have a job offer.

Henry Ford Hospital alone has hundreds of Canadians on staff, with about 25 advanced practice nurses or nurse anesthetists with TN visas.

"Some of these things are surprising," said Patrick Irwin, vice-president human resources at Henry Ford Hospital. "We have always been able to qualify these nurses under the TN category."

CBC News contacted U.S. Customs and Border Protection for an interview, but has yet to get a response.

Hospital officials said they're doing everything they can to resolve this issue.

"Their livelihood is at stake," Topoleski said. "They don't know why this is happening, they don't understand why it's happening. All they've been doing is just coming here and helping Americans get better by providing patient care."

Michigan's Council of Nurse Practitioners is trying to make their members aware of possible problems at the border, according to executive director Olivia McLaughlin. 

"It's obviously concerning for a number of reasons," she said. "This seems like a recent opinion that is affecting the renewals."

'It just makes absolutely no sense'

The nurses have been advised they need to apply for H1B visa status, which is a separate category under NAFTA for more specialized employment. But those applications can cost between $3,000 and $4,000 depending on the applicant, according to Topoleski.

  • Other policy changes recently announced by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services will suspend a fast-track program for processing H1B applications as of April 3.

Standard application processes for work visas could then take six months or more, said Topoleski, who worries long wait times could hurt hospitals that are in desperate need of specialty nurses.

"These specialty nurses are hard to find. There's more positions than there are people available," Topoleski said. "They're coming here to help our patients. I just don't understand what the policy goal is by doing something like this, it just makes absolutely no sense."

Wednesday, March 15, 2017


Travel ban banned
With Wednesday not even over yet, the great news is that T-Rumps travel ban has been stopped again by a Federal Judge, this time from the great state of Hawaii. It seems like the judiciary is keeping track of vile executive orders from the White House thus upholding the pillars of democracy.
I can just imagine the barrage of angry tweets from twitler tomorrow morning. Most likely Rumpelstilsken won’t get a shut-eye tonight.

Funny Wednesday

Spicer cartoon

A Smart Man’s Tale But Maybe Too Smart For Corrupt Trump And GOP

Mark Cuban Just Responded to Trumpcare with a BRILLIANT Solution



With critics on both sides of the political spectrum reacting to the new Republican Trumpcare plan with horror and derision, Mark Cuban, the billionaire owner of the Dallas Mavericks and one of the stars of Shark Tank, has come up with a common-sense alternative to the dead-on-arrival Republican fiasco, that Bernie Sanders would be thrilled to see enacted.

It probably won’t come as a surprise that this visionary business leader rejects the entire Republican approach to the medical system in favor of a simple single payer plan to cover every American citizen. Most of the world, including most notably our Northern neighbors in Canada, have single payer health care systems that not only cost much less than in the USA, but have overall better medical outcomes for their citizens than we get here in the states.

Like most single payer health care proposals, Cuban’s plan would remove private insurers as middlemen in health care and make the government responsible for administering and paying for most medical costs. Unlike some other single payer initiatives, however, Cuban’s idea is to have 100% of the cost of every American’s chronic illnesses and life-threatening injuries covered by the plan, while less costly, more mundane medical issues could continue to be covered by private insurance.

Writing in his blog, Cuban says:

The premiums that we are paying to insurance companies as individuals or as company coverage for these significant risks would go from the insurance companies to the IRS. Only the cost of covering the what’s left would continue being paid to the insurance companies.

It would not be hard to do the math. Every insurance company does this analysis already. The government does this analysis already. We all would end up paying more in taxes, but less in insurance and healthcare costs over time.

There would be no mandates. There would be no individual penalties.  No Tax Credits. No subsidies. No Offsets or deductions for buying higher end insurance. This will be single payer (Yes I know it’s a dirty phrase in this country) for chronic physical or mental illness and for any life-threatening injury.

Everything not covered by the above can be covered by insurance sold on the Free Market, managed by the states, sold across state lines, without government interference.

He also proposes a most-favored nations clause on drug pricing, with the government forcing pharmaceutical companies to charge them no more than the lowest price offered to any other of their customers. This is a big change from the current regulations which actually prevent Medicare from even negotiating with drug companies over prices.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Latest Ridiculous News From The Border

Hamilton church volunteers denied entry to U.S. so they wouldn't 'steal American jobs'

By Mahnoor Yawar, CBC News Posted: Mar 13, 2017 5:04 PM ET Last Updated: Mar 14, 2017 5:16 AM ET

A group of volunteers from the Rehoboth United Reformed Church in Hamilton was denied entry to the U.S. on its way to spend March break rehabilitating neighbourhoods hit by Hurricane Sandy.

A group of volunteers from the Rehoboth United Reformed Church in Hamilton was denied entry to the U.S. on its way to spend March break rehabilitating neighbourhoods hit by Hurricane Sandy. (Rehoboth United Reformed Church)

A group of church volunteers from Hamilton heading south to do relief work were denied entry to the U.S. for fear they would take American construction jobs, said a spokesperson for the church.

The 12-person contingent from Hamilton's Rehoboth United Reformed Church was travelling by road on the morning of Saturday, March 11, to New Jersey.

Erik Hoeksema, the church's outreach director who was travelling with the group, said they intended to spend March break cleaning up and rehabilitating neighbourhoods affected by Hurricane Sandy.

U.S. border law says Canadians do not require a visa to enter the country for volunteer work, as long as they can provide proof that their work will not be compensated.

'If you can't get a church van with 12 white folks through (the border), how much worse is it for any person of colour?'- Rev. Seth Kaper-Dale of the Reformed Church of Highland Park, New Jersey

Hoeksema says the group was told they had failed to have a letter sent from the host church "paroling" them into the country.

"So what ends up happening is the organization that you're going to work with sends a letter to border patrol saying this is what they're going to be doing. What our group did not do, is we did not send that ahead of time," he admitted.

Hoeksema said the border patrol officer, who treated them cordially, told the group he would grant an exception and let them through if the host church managed to fax or email a letter right away.

'Stealing American construction jobs'

Hoeksema says he contacted Rev. Seth Kaper-Dale, the pastor at the Reformed Church of Highland Park in central New Jersey, which would be hosting the group, so he could fax a letter to border patrol explaining their intended purpose.


The volunteers were trying to cross at the busy Queenston-Lewiston border crossing in NIagara. (Anna Sharratt/CBC)

When the first letter was deemed "not specific enough" by a border patrol officer, Hoeksema said he texted Kaper-Dale to send another, being careful not to make any specific reference to construction.

"In general, mission teams do team-building, tour mercy ministries of the church (food pantries, re-entry programs, thrift shops, etc) and assist with neighbourhood cleanup projects," said the second letter.

It was this last part that was interpreted as "work for hire," says Hoeksema. Officers denied them entry after they had been stopped for more than two hours.

"It's not a new thing that groups are going down there and helping out," said Hoeksema. "In the past, our groups would go down and help in impoverished neighbourhoods and maybe they would even do some light construction."

"I think everybody knows that's what groups are doing down there when they're volunteering. Common sense has it that we're not going down there to steal American jobs. We're helping people."

'No pressing need'

Hoeksema says this was not the church's first relief work trip headed south of the border. Many individuals from the congregation have, in previous years, travelled to volunteer on their own or with a group down to other states such as Kentucky or Pennsylvania.

Letter Seth Kaper-Dale

The first of two letters that Rev. Seth Kaper-Dale says he sent to border patrol on Saturday morning to explain why the group from Hamilton was traveling to the U.S. When this was not deemed specific enough, a second letter was emailed, which border officials said described 'work for hire.' (Rev. Seth Kaper-Dale)

On this occasion, however, the group was told that, as foreigners, they would be taking American jobs, and that there was no pressing need for relief work anyway this long after Hurricane Sandy hit the region in 2012.

"Hurricane Sandy happened five years ago ... but the unfortunate thing for people who live in poverty is that they don't get over these things as quickly as others," he explained.

"They obviously can't afford to remove the barriers that are in front of them on their own, so they rely on volunteers coming. And that's all we were trying to do, go help others."

Kaper-Dale agreed, saying it takes an average of seven years to get an impoverished family back on its feet.

"We still have people living in their yards and in trailers while their houses are not completed because of financial shortcomings and the distribution of funding after Hurricane Sandy. Honestly, it just takes a long time to rebuild."

A U.S. border spokesperson said the refusal came down to documentation. The official said groups doing humanitarian work need to provide documentation in advance from the municipality where the work is to be done stating what they will be doing.
"In this case, CBP attempted to assist the group, but ultimately the group was unable to obtain the proper documentation to support this visit," said the spokesperson.

Frustrated and shocked

Kaper-Dale, who said the group had been co-ordinating their stay at the New Jersey church for months, was frustrated and shocked by the incident.

"We've hosted other Canadian groups, and we've always been appreciative of their coming, and no Canadian group has ever had any issue at the border."

He said he'd never had to send out a letter before, and believed that the changes were a reflection of political changes in the U.S.

"If you can't get a church van with 12 white folks through [the border], how much worse is it for any person of colour, any person born somewhere else, any person whose name sounds foreign to an [Immigration, Customs and Enforcement] officer, or any refugee?"

Hoeksema said all members of the Hamilton group were carrying Canadian passports and had previously travelled to the U.S. with no incident.

"We probably would've gotten through if we'd just said we were visiting," he said.

New Jersey debris

Debris from superstorm Sandy is piled high on a New Jersey beach, giving a sense of the scale of the 2012 storm.

TRAVEL BANS HURT: Girl Guides of Canada cancelling trips to the U.S., citing travel concerns

We really wanted to make sure that no girl gets left behind,' spokesperson says

By Tania Mehta, CBC News Posted: Mar 13, 2017 3:21 PM ET Last Updated: Mar 13, 2017 6:16 PM ET

As a result of the decision by Girl Guides Canada, a nationally-sponsored trip to a camp in California that was scheduled for this summer has been changed to a different destination.

As a result of the decision by Girl Guides Canada, a nationally-sponsored trip to a camp in California that was scheduled for this summer has been changed to a different destination. (Pawel Dwulit/Canadian Press)

Girl Guides of Canada has announced it will not be taking any trips to the United States in the near future, citing concerns about inclusivity.

"While the United States is a frequent destination for Guiding trips, the ability of all our members to equally enter this country is currently uncertain," international commissioner Sharron Callahan and director of provincial operations Holly Thompson wrote in a joint advisory issued Monday afternoon.

"This includes both trips that are over or under 72 hours and any travel that includes a connecting flight through an American airport," the advisory says.

The statement does not directly mention — but appears to be a reaction to — the executive orders U. S. President Donald Trump has signed restricting travel to the United States.

Trump's first travel ban temporarily prohibited people from seven Muslim-majority countries from coming to the U.S. It was subsequently halted by the courts, prompting the president to issue a second executive order. The second order removed Iraq from the list of banned countries, but visa processing for travellers from Iran, Somalia, Sudan, Yemen, Syria and Libya will be suspended for 90 days once the ban goes into effect on March 16.

The travel bans have led to confusion about who can and who can't travel to the United States — some Canadians and permanent residents living in Canada have reported problems gaining entry to the U.S. 

'No girl gets left behind'

Sarah Kiriliuk, national manager of marketing and communications for the Girl Guides of Canada, said the decision is a precautionary move.

"We have lots of girls across the country that travel every year overseas and to the U.S.," she told CBC News Network.

"We really wanted to make sure that no girl gets left behind."

She said that trips are planned months in advance and it would be disappointing if anyone got to the border and was turned away.

"We wanted to make sure there was zero risk," she said.

Kiriliuk said that until now, no trip to the U.S. has been cancelled or delayed because of the travel ban.

Community reaction

Kristin Maier, a Brownie leader in Penticton, B.C., said she's happy to hear about the advisory.

"The ability of our members to equally enter the United States is uncertain under new laws set by president Donald Trump," she told CBC News. She said she is "beyond happy to be part of an organization that takes such a clear stance on equal rights and equal opportunities."

Other people on Twitter shared their thoughts: 


Sandy Shaw @shaw_sandy

Craziness - when even Girl Guides don't feel welcome.

Fred @fredofthenorth

@CBCToronto good decision! Canada has plenty of great places to go!

4:42 PM - 13 Mar 2017

As a result of the decision by Girl Guides Canada, a nationally-sponsored trip to a camp in California that was scheduled for this summer has been changed to a different destination.

"This was a very difficult decision to make," wrote Callahan and Thompson.

"We hope that members will appreciate this reflects our commitment to inclusivity and equal opportunities for all girls and women."



Monday, March 13, 2017

A Ticket to Hell

Charles M. Blow MARCH 9, 2017

Credit Damon Winter/The New York Times

Donald Trump has spent his whole life overselling an overinflated vision of himself and his success.

He was the outer-borough boy whose father’s “boxlike office” was on Avenue Z in Brooklyn; he always dreamed of making it to Manhattan and breaking into the big league.

With a hustler’s spirit and some sleight of hand, he made it, but not in total.

He made the move, made the money and made his mark on New York’s skyline, but he never quite made it into the inner sanctum of New York high society.

I’m convinced that this is part of his obsession with former President Barack Obama. Obama was quickly granted the thing Trump never had: upper-class acceptance and adulation.

For Trump’s part, his sin was even worse than being new-money: He was tacky rich.

No amount of money or success could completely rid him of the odiousness of being coarse and crass.

For him, things had to be gilded to be glamorous. All modesty — either real or contrived to guard against exposure — was absent from the man. He was a glutton for attention and adoration. He chased the spotlight and pimped celebrity for profit. He valued flaunting over philanthropy.

In New York City’s elite social circles, Trump was persona non grata.

As many others have pointed out, he became the idiot’s image of an intellectual, the coward’s image of a courageous man and the pauper’s image of a prosperous man.

But rather than being crimped by his ostracism, he wore it as a badge of honor.

He became the Everyman of rich men. He was the outsider, too authentic and even acerbic to be tamed by the convention of the elites. He was the populist billionaire, still engaged in the rough and tumble, at home on reality television just as he was in overpriced real estate.

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He was impolitic in the way that many average Joes would be if they came into wealth and not from it.

He swept into politics at just the time that message had its greatest resonance, when there were enough people leery of institutions and weary of the establishment; the wealthy, social, cultural and intellectual elites were on the outs, and there was an opening for an outsider who knew how to work his way in.

The elites who had rejected Trump were now the rejected class. They were the 1 percent, the Wall Street barons, the manifestation of the evils of income inequality. This was the time for a populist, or at least someone who could pretend to be one.

It was in that environment that Trump swept into the presidential election, with the same bluster and bravado, aggression and subversion that had worked well for him in business.

He was not book smart or well mannered. He was all gut and elbow and verbal barbs. For too many, he was refreshingly anti-polish and anti-convention.

And, as is Trump’s wont and calling card, he oversold his voters a bill of goods that he would never be able to deliver. The Pied Piper of pipe dreams did in politics what he had done in business: He got people to buy into a success mythology in which he was a wizard. In this mythology, ethics, honor and truth are casualties.

Everything is going to be the greatest and the best and the most successful simply because he deems it so.

But now, the legend of Trump, the one most rigid in his own mind, is rubbing up against the harsh reality of presidential politics, where cooperation is needed and accountability is demanded. In this new world, Trumpism appears brittle, hollow and impotent.

No matter your politics, Trump’s first weeks in office have been a disaster, as his rush to action, lack of focus and absence of acuity have led him to calamitous missteps and conspiratorial misstatements.

And now his oversold promises are being exposed for the lies they were — draining the swamp in Washington, forcing Mexico to pay for his ridiculous southern border wall, the incredibly defective Obamacare repeal and replacement proposal.

In January, Trump oversold again in an interview with The Washington Post about what he would deliver. The Post reported Trump’s comments this way:

“We’re going to have insurance for everybody,” Trump said. “There was a philosophy in some circles that if you can’t pay for it, you don’t get it. That’s not going to happen with us.” People covered under the law “can expect to have great health care. It will be in a much simplified form. Much less expensive and much better.”

But the plan just announced and endorsed by Trump doesn’t even come close to delivering on this promise. Not only would prices most likely rise for many Trump voters, but millions of Americans would be at risk of losing coverage under the plan.

Not only that, but as NBC reported last month:

“Donald Trump’s most ardent supporters are likely to be hit the hardest if he makes good on his promise to dismantle the Affordable Care Act and embark on trade wars with China and Mexico.”

The report continued:

“An analysis by the Kaiser Family Foundation found that 6.3 million of the 11.5 million Americans who used the A.C.A. marketplace to buy their insurance last year live in Republican congressional districts. Policy analysts say that a rollback of the A.C.A. would hurt older and rural Americans — two populations that favored Donald Trump over Hillary Clinton in the presidential election.”

As he has done his whole life, Trump has sold those who follow him as some sort of money-drenched messiah a bill of goods, but this time the lie is likely to manifest in loss of life, as sick people lose coverage.

Donald Trump has sold his supporters — and by extension, this country — a ticket to hell.

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Bing Bing White Christmas

The first time I heard of Bing Crosby was way back in Germany. I was listening to an American Christmas Song which was very, very different from our more solemn German Christmas songs we grew up with. And a “White Christmas” was every German’s dream, mine as well, and I think most people loved the song as did i.
Bing Crosby
That’s now a very long time ago, but Bing Crosby’s crooning voice is still one of my favorites I like listening to. My every-Saturday program of CBC Francais 
(5pm and 8pm at Atlantic Time), is the time of the week when one or the other song of Bing is played as well

Naturally, I got interested in learning more of this interpreter of songs of the American Songbook so I started digging.

Born Harry Lillis Crosby in Tacoma, Washington, on May 3, 1903, "Bing" grew up to become one of America's most popular entertainers of all time. The fourth of seven children in a poverty-level family who loved to sing, he was briefly sent to vocal lessons early on by his mother, until he grew tired of the training.
Crosby began singing in a high-school jazz band, and when he began attending nearby Gonzaga College (he had grown up practically in the middle of the campus), he ordered a drum set through the mail and practiced on the set. Introduced to a local bandleader named Al Rinker, he was invited to join Rinker's group, the Musicaladers, singing and playing drums with the group throughout college.

Though the Musicaladers broke up soon after his graduation in 1925, Bing Crosby was ready to stick with the music business. Crosby had made quite a bit of money during the band's career, and he and Rinker -- who was the brother of Mildred Bailey -- were confident they could make it in California. They packed up their belongings and headed out for Los Angeles, finding good money working in vaudeville until they were hired by Paul Whiteman, leader of the most popular jazz band in the country (and known as the "King of Jazz" in an era when black pioneers were mostly ignored since they were unmarketable). For a few songs during Whiteman's shows, Rinker and Crosby sang as the Rhythm Boys with Harry Barris (a pianist, arranger, vocal effects artist, and songwriter later renowned for "I Surrender Dear" and "Wrap Your Troubles in Dreams"). With their clever songwriting and stage routines, the trio soon became one of the Paul Whiteman Orchestra's most popular attractions, and Crosby took a vocal on one of Whiteman's biggest hits of 1927-1928, "Ol' Man River." Besides appearing on record with Whiteman's orchestra, the Rhythm Boys also recorded on their own, though an opportunity for Crosby to enlarge his part in the 1930 film King of Jazz with a solo song went unrealized, as he sat in the clink for a drunk-driving altercation.

When Whiteman again hit the road in 1930, the Rhythm Boys stayed behind on the West Coast. After Crosby hired his big brother Everett as a manager, he began recording consistently as a solo act with Brunswick Records in early 1931, and by year's end had chalked up several of the year's biggest hits, including "Out of Nowhere," "Just One More Chance," "I Found a Million-Dollar Baby," and "At Your Command."

In 1931, Crosby launched his hugely popular radio show. He soon started starring in films, winning an Academy Award for Going My Way in 1944. Throughout much of his career, Crosby dominated the music charts with nearly 300 hit singles to his credit. He died in 1977.

But how did Harry Liilis become “Bing”, a name sounding like a little church bell?

The nickname "Bing" found him when he was just seven years old. The Spokane Spokesman-Review ran a comic feature called "The Bingville Bugle," which was a parody of hillbilly newspapers. The young Crosby thought the feature was a riot, and he would giggle uncontrollably when reading it. A neighbor noticed his laughter and started calling Crosby "Bingo from Bingville." The "o" eventually went away, but the nickname stuck.

So, there you got it. “Bing” it became and Bing stayed on to his last day.

Bing Crosby was a “Columbo-style” kinda  guy.

When television fans think of Columbo, they probably envision Peter Falk starring as the title character. However, the job could have been Crosby's.

The Columbo character made his debut in 1960 on The Chevy Mystery Show with Bert Freed portraying the detective. Thomas Mitchell also spent some time in the role, but the character really exploded when NBC decided to make a television movie in 1968.

The film's producers wanted either Crosby or the great Lee J. Cobb to portray Columbo, but Cobb couldn't squeeze it into his schedule. Crosby turned down the role for a funnier reason: he thought it would interfere with his golfing. At that point Bing considered himself mostly retired, and he didn't want to deal with the long drag of shooting keeping him off of the links.

And GOLFING was his great passion

Maybe turning down an iconic role for golf isn't so surprising considering what an avid golfer Crosby was. Crosby wasn't just any old amateur player; he was serious about his game and whittled his handicap down to two while playing in both the British and U.S. Amateur championships. In the late 1940s he signed a contract with ABC to do a weekly radio variety show, but he made a seemingly strange request: that the show be taped instead of live. This stipulation was a first for broadcast radio, but it enabled Crosby to spend more time on the golf course.

Although Crosby was a fine player, his most enduring contribution to the game was probably the tournament he started in 1937. The first "Crosby Clambake" was played for a purse of $3000 that came out of Crosby's pocket, but it gradually grew into a major event. The tournament is now known as the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am, one of the PGA Tour's most beloved events.

Crosby wasn't just a golfer; he also enjoyed a little bit of action at the track. In 1937, he teamed up with a group of fellow superstars to open the Del Mar Racetrack just north of San Diego. In addition to Crosby, the team of investors included Jimmy Durante and Oliver Hardy. Crosby was at the track's gate on its opening day, shaking hands and greeting guests, and the track soon became one of California's hottest spots for celebrity sightings.

Another funny story about Crosby and racing:

In 1943, the singer's house burned down. That's a bad piece of luck, but Crosby managed to salvage some of his spirits. As he was picking through the ashes and rubble in search of any useful relics, he found a shoe in which he'd hidden $10,000 in track winnings. The money was still intact.

Not everybody would be blessed with such luck.

Bing Crosby takes a big place in my musical heart and I am already looking forward to next Saturday’s program.

Saturday, March 11, 2017

The Big Misunderstanding Of The “Dems”

An Insider's View:

The Dark Rigidity of Fundamentalist Rural America

In deep-red white America, the white Christian God is king.

By Forsetti's Justice / AlterNet

March 8, 2017

Photo Credit: / Shane Trotter

As the aftermath of the election of Donald Trump is being sorted out, a common theme keeps cropping up from all sides: "Democrats failed to understand white, working-class, fly-over America.”

Trump supporters are saying this. Progressive pundits are saying this. Talking heads across all forms of the media are saying this. Even some Democratic leaders are saying this. It doesn’t matter how many people say it, it is complete BS. It is an intellectual/linguistic sleight of hand meant to draw attention away from the real problem. The real problem isn’t East Coast elites who don’t understand or care about rural America. The real problem is that rural Americans don't understand the causes of their own situations and fears and they have shown no interest in finding out. They don’t want to know why they feel the way they do or why they are struggling because they don’t want to admit it is in large part because of the choices they’ve made and the horrible things they’ve allowed themselves to believe.

I grew up in rural Christian white America. You’d be hard-pressed to find an area of the country with a higher percentage of Christians or whites. I spent most of the first 24 years of my life deeply embedded in this culture. I religiously (pun intended) attended their Christian services. I worked off and on on their rural farms. I dated their calico-skirted daughters. I camped, hunted and fished with their sons. I listened to their political rants at the local diner and truck stop. I winced at their racist/bigoted jokes and epithets that were said more out of ignorance than animosity. I have watched the town I grew up in go from a robust economy with well-kept homes and infrastructure to a struggling economy with shuttered businesses, dilapidated homes and a broken-down infrastructure over the past 30 years. The problem isn’t that I don’t understand these people. The problem is they don’t understand themselves or the reasons for their anger and frustration.

In deep-red America, the white Christian god is king, figuratively and literally. Religious fundamentalism has shaped most of their belief systems. Systems built on a fundamentalist framework are not conducive to introspection, questioning, learning, or change. When you have a belief system built on fundamentalism, it isn’t open to outside criticism, especially by anyone not a member of your tribe and in a position of power. The problem isn’t that coastal elites don’t understand rural Americans. The problem is that rural America doesn’t understand itself and will never listen to anyone outside its bubble. It doesn’t matter how “understanding” you are, how well you listen, what language you use…if you are viewed as an outsider, your views will be automatically discounted. I’ve had hundreds of discussions with rural white Americans and whenever I present them any information that contradicts their entrenched beliefs, no matter how sound, how unquestionable, how obvious, they will not even entertain the possibility that it might be true. Their refusal is a result of the nature of their fundamentalist belief system and the fact that I’m the enemy because I’m an educated liberal.

At some point during the discussion, they will say, “That’s your education talking,” derogatorily, as a general dismissal of everything I said. They truly believe this is a legitimate response, because to them education is not to be trusted. Education is the enemy of fundamentalism because fundamentalism, by its very nature, is not built on facts. The fundamentalists I grew up around aren’t anti-education. They want their kids to know how to read and write. They are against quality, in-depth, broad, specialized education. Learning is only valued up to a certain point. Once it reaches the level where what you learn contradicts doctrine and fundamentalist arguments, it becomes dangerous. I watched a lot of my fellow students who were smart, stop their education the day they graduated high school. For most of the young ladies, getting married and having kids was more important than continuing their learning. For many of the young men, getting a college education was seen as unnecessary and a waste of time. For the few who did go to college, what they learned was still filtered through their fundamentalist belief systems. If something they were taught didn’t support a preconception, it would be ignored and forgotten the second it was no longer needed to pass an exam.

Knowing this about their belief system and their view of outside information that doesn’t support it, telling me that the problem is coastal elites not understanding them completely misses the point.

Another problem with rural Christian white Americans is they are racists. I’m not talking about white hood-wearing, cross-burning, lynching racists (though some are). I’m talking about people who deep down in their heart of hearts truly believe they are superior because they are white. Their white god made them in his image and everyone else is a less-than-perfect version, flawed and cursed.

The religion in which I was raised taught this. Even though they’ve backtracked on some of their more racist declarations, many still believe the original claims. Non-whites are the color they are because of their sins, or at least the sins of their ancestors. Blacks don’t have dark skin because of where they lived and evolution; they have dark skin because they are cursed. God cursed them for a reason. If god cursed them, treating them as equals would be going against god’s will. It is really easy to justify treating people differently if they are cursed by god and will never be as good as you no matter what they do because of some predetermined status.

Once you have this view, it is easy to lower the outside group’s standing and acceptable level of treatment. Again, there are varying levels of racism at play in rural Christian white America. I know people who are ardent racists. I know a lot more whose racism is much more subtle but nonetheless racist. It wouldn’t take sodium pentothal to get most of these people to admit they believe they are fundamentally better and superior to minorities. They are white supremacists who dress up in white dress shirts, ties and gingham dresses. They carry a bible and tell you, “everyone’s a child of god” but forget to mention that some of god’s children are more favored than others and skin tone is the criterion by which we know who is and isn’t at the top of god’s list of most favored children.
For us “coastal elites” who understand evolution, genetics and science, nothing we say to those in flyover country is going to be listened to because not only are we fighting against an anti-education belief system, we are arguing against god. You aren’t winning a battle of beliefs with these people if you are on one side of the argument and god is on the other. No degree of understanding this is going to suddenly make them less racist, more open to reason and facts. Telling “urban elites” they need to understand rural Americans isn’t going to lead to a damn thing because it misses the causes of the problem.

Because rural Christian white Americans will not listen to educated arguments, supported by facts that go against their fundamentalist belief systems from “outsiders,” any change must come from within. Internal change in these systems does happen, but it happens infrequently and always lags far behind reality. This is why they fear change so much. They aren’t used to it. Of course, it really doesn’t matter whether they like it or not, it, like evolution and climate change even though they don’t believe it, it is going to happen whether they believe in it or not.

Another major problem with closed-off fundamentalist belief systems is they are very susceptible to propaganda. All belief systems are to some extent, but fundamentalist systems even more so because there are no checks and balances. If bad information gets in, it doesn’t get out and because there are no internal mechanisms to guard against it, it usually ends up very damaging to the whole. A closed-off belief system is like spinal fluid—it is great as long as nothing infectious gets into it. If bacteria gets into your spinal fluid, it causes unbelievable damage because there are no white blood cells to fend off invaders and protect the system. Without the protective services of white blood cells in the spinal column, infection spreads like wildfire and does significant damage in a short period of time. Once inside the closed-off spinal system, bacteria are free to destroy whatever they want.

The same is true with closed-off belief systems. Without built-in protective functions like critical analysis, self-reflection, openness to counter-evidence, and willingness to re-evaluate any and all beliefs, bad information in a closed-off system ends up doing massive damage in a short period of time. What has happened to too many fundamentalist belief systems is damaging information has been allowed in from people who have been granted “expert status.” If someone is allowed into a closed-off system and their information is deemed acceptable, anything they say will be readily accepted and become gospel.

Rural Christian white Americans have let anti-intellectual, anti-science, bigoted racists like Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Bill O'Reilly, the Stepford wives of Fox, and every evangelical preacher on television into their systems because these people tell them what they want to hear and because they sell themselves as being like them. The truth is none of these people give a rat’s ass about rural Christian white Americans except how they can exploit them for attention and money. None of them have anything in common with the people who have let them into their belief systems with the exception that they are white and they speak the language of white superiority.

Gays being allowed to marry are a threat. Blacks protesting the killing of their unarmed friends and family are a threat. Hispanics doing the cheap labor on their farms are somehow viewed a threat. The black president is a threat. Two billion Muslims are a threat. The Chinese are a threat. Women wanting to be autonomous are a threat. The college educated are a threat. Godless scientists are a threat. Everyone who isn’t just like them has been sold to them as a threat and they’ve bought it hook, line and grifting sinker. Since there are no self-regulating mechanisms in their belief systems, these threats only grow over time. Since facts and reality don’t matter, nothing you say to them will alter their beliefs. "President Obama was born in Kenya, is a secret member of the Muslim Brotherhood who hates white Americans and is going to take away their guns." I feel ridiculous even writing this, it is so absurd, but it is gospel across large swaths of rural America. Are rural Christian white Americans scared? Damn right they are. Are their fears rational and justified? Hell no. The problem isn’t understanding their fears. The problem is how to assuage fears based on lies in closed-off fundamentalist belief systems that don’t have the necessary tools for properly evaluating the fears.

I don’t have a good answer to this question. When a child has an irrational fear, you can deal with it because they trust you and are open to possibilities. When someone doesn’t trust you and isn’t open to anything not already accepted as true in their belief system, there really isn’t much, if anything, you can do. This is why I think the idea that "Democrats have to understand and find common ground with rural America," is misguided and a complete waste of time. When a 2,700-year-old book that was written by uneducated, pre-scientific people, subject to translation innumerable times, and edited with political and economic pressures from popes and kings, is given higher intellectual authority than facts arrived at from a rigorous, self-critical, constantly re-evaluating system that can and does correct mistakes, no amount of understanding, respect or evidence is going to change their minds and assuage their fears.

Do you know what does change the beliefs of fundamentalists, sometimes? When something becomes personal. Many a fundamentalist has changed his mind about the LGBT community once his loved ones started coming out of the closet. Many have not. But those who did, did so because their personal experience came into direct conflict with what they believe.

My father is a good example of this. For years I had long, heated discussions with him about gay rights. Being the good religious fundamentalist he is, he could not even entertain the possibility he was wrong. The church said it was wrong, so therefore it was wrong. No questions asked. No analysis needed. This changed when one of his adored stepchildren came out of the closet. He didn’t do a complete 180. He has a view that tries to accept gay rights while at the same time viewing being gay as a mortal sin because his need to have his belief system be right outweighs everything else.

This isn’t uncommon. Deeply held beliefs are usually only altered, replaced under catastrophic circumstances that are personal. This belief system alteration works both ways. I know diehard, open-minded progressives who became ardent fundamentalists due to a traumatic event in their lives. A good example of this is the comedian Dennis Miller. I’ve seen Miller in concert four different times during the 1990s. His humor was complex, riddled with references and leaned pretty left on almost all issues. Then 9/11 happened. For whatever reasons, the trauma of 9/11 caused a seismic shift in Miller’s belief system. Now he is a mainstay on conservative talk radio. His humor was replaced with anger and frustration. 9/11 changed his belief system because it was a catastrophic event that was personal to him.

The catastrophe of the Great Depression along with FDR's progressive remedies helped create a generation of Democrats out of previously diehard Republicans. People who had up until that point believed only the free market could help the economy, not the government, changed their minds when the brutal reality of the Great Depression affected them directly and personally.

I thought the financial crisis in 2008 would have a similar, though lesser impact on many Republicans. It didn’t. The systems that were put in place after the Great Recession to deal with economic crises, the quick, smart response by Congress and the administration helped turn what could have been a catastrophic event into merely a really bad one. People suffered, but they didn’t suffer enough to become open to questioning their deeply held beliefs. Because this questioning didn’t take place, the Great Recession didn’t lead to any meaningful political shifts away from poorly regulated markets, supply side economics or how to respond to a financial crisis. This is why, even though rural Christian white Americans were hit hard by the Great Recession, they not only didn’t blame the political party they’ve aligned themselves with for years, they rewarded them two years later by voting them into a record number of state legislatures and taking over the U.S. House.

Of course, it didn’t help matters that there were scapegoats available toward whom they could direct their fears, anger and white supremacy. A significant number of rural Americans believe President Obama was in charge when the financial crisis started. An even higher number believe the mortgage crisis was the result of the government forcing banks to give loans to unqualified minorities. It doesn’t matter how untrue both of these things are, they are gospel in rural America. Why reevaluate your beliefs and voting patterns when scapegoats are available?

How do you make climate change personal to someone who believes only god can alter the weather? How do you make racial equality personal to someone who believes whites are naturally superior to non-whites? How do you make gender equality personal to someone who believes women are supposed to be subservient to men by god’s command? How do you get someone to view minorities as not threatening to people who don’t live around minorities and have never interacted with them? How do you make personal the fact massive tax cuts and cutting back government hurts their economic situation when they’ve voted for such policies for decades? I don’t think you can without some catastrophic events. And maybe not even then. The Civil War was pretty damn catastrophic, yet a large swath of the South believed—and still believes—they were right and had the moral high ground. They were/are also mostly Christian fundamentalists who believe they are superior because of the color of their skin and the religion they profess to follow. There is a pattern here for anyone willing to connect the dots.

“Rural white America needs to be better understood,” is not one of the dots. “Rural white America needs to be better understood,” is a dodge, meant to avoid the real problems because talking about the real problems is viewed as too upsetting, too mean, too arrogant, too elite, too snobbish. Pointing out that Aunt Bea’s views of Mexicans, blacks and gays is bigoted isn’t the thing one does in polite society. Too bad more people don’t think the same about Aunt Bea's views. It’s the classic, “You’re a racist for calling me a racist,” ploy.

I do think rational arguments are needed, even if they go mostly ignored and ridiculed. I believe in treating people with the respect they’ve earned, but the key point here is “earned.” I’ll gladly sit down with Aunt Bea and have a nice, polite conversation about her beliefs about "the gays, the blacks and the illegals," and I'll do so without calling her a bigot and a racist. But this doesn’t mean she isn’t a bigot and a racist, and if I’m asked to describe her beliefs these are the only words that honestly fit. Just because the media, pundits on all sides and some Democratic leaders don’t want to call the actions of many rural white Christian Americans racist and bigoted doesn’t make them not so.

Avoiding the obvious only prolongs getting the necessary treatment. America has always had a race problem. The country was built on racism and bigotry. This didn’t miraculously go away in 1964 with the passage of the Civil Rights Act. It didn’t go away with the election of Barack Obama. If anything, these events pulled back the curtain exposing the dark, racist underbelly of America that white America likes to pretend doesn’t exist because we are the reason it exists. From the white nationalists to the white suburban soccer moms who voted for Donald Trump, to the far-left progressives who didn’t vote at all, racism exists and has once again been legitimized and normalized by white America.

Here are the honest truths that rural Christian white Americans don’t want to accept; until they accept these truths, nothing is going to change:

  • Their economic situation is largely the result of voting for supply-side economic policies that have been the largest redistribution of wealth from the bottom/middle to the top in U.S. history.
  • Immigrants haven’t taken their jobs. If all immigrants, legal or otherwise, were removed from the U.S., our economy would come to a screeching halt and food prices would soar.
  • Immigrants are not responsible for companies moving their plants overseas. The almost exclusively white business owners are responsible, because they care more about their shareholders (who are also mostly white) than about American workers.
  • No one is coming for their guns. All that has been proposed during the entire Obama administration is having better background checks.
  • Gay people getting married is not a threat to their freedom to believe in whatever white god they want to. No one is going to make their church marry gays, have a gay pastor or accept gays for membership.
  • Women having access to birth control doesn’t affect their lives either, especially women they complain about being teenage single mothers.
  • Blacks are not “lazy moochers living off their hard-earned tax dollars” any more than many of their fellow rural neighbors. People in need are people in need. People who can’t find jobs because of their circumstances, a changing economy or outsourcing overseas belong to all races.
  • They get a tremendous amount of help from the government they complain does nothing for them. From the roads and utility grids they use to farm subsidies, crop insurance and commodities protections, they benefit greatly from government assistance. The Farm Bill is one of the largest financial expenditures by the U.S. government. Without government assistance, their lives would be considerably worse.
  • They get the largest share of Food Stamps, Medicaid, Medicare, and Social Security.
  • They complain about globalization, yet line up like everyone else to get the latest Apple products. They have no problem buying foreign-made guns, scopes and hunting equipment. They don’t think twice about driving trucks whose engines were made in Canada, tires made in Japan, radios made in Korea, and computer parts made in Malaysia.
  • They use illicit drugs as much as any other group. But when other people do it is a “moral failing” and they should be severely punished, legally. When they do it, it is a “health crisis” that needs sympathy and attention.
  • When jobs dry up for whatever reason, they refuse to relocate but lecture the poor in places like Flint for staying in failing towns.
  • They are quick to judge minorities for being “welfare moochers,” but don’t think twice about cashing their welfare checks every month.
  • They complain about coastal liberals, but taxes from California and New York cover their farm subsidies, help maintain their highways and keep the hospitals in their sparsely populated rural areas open for business.
  • They complain about “the little man being run out of business,” and then turn around and shop at big-box stores.
  • They make sure outsiders are not welcome, deny businesses permits to build, then complain about businesses, plants opening up in less rural areas.
  • Government has not done enough to help them in many cases, but their local and state governments are almost completely Republican and so are their representatives and senators. Instead of holding them accountable, they vote them into office over and over and over again.
  • All the economic policies and ideas that could help rural America belong to the Democratic Party: raising the minimum wage, strengthening unions, spending on infrastructure, renewable energy growth, slowing down the damage done by climate change, and healthcare reform. All of these and more would really help a lot of rural white Americans.

    What I understand is that rural Christian white Americans are entrenched in fundamentalist belief systems; don’t trust people outside their tribe; have been force-fed a diet of misinformation and lies for decades; are unwilling to understand their own situations; and truly believe whites are superior to all races. No amount of understanding is going to change these things or what they believe. No amount of niceties will get them to be introspective. No economic policy put forth by someone outside their tribe is going to be listened to no matter how beneficial it would be for them. I understand rural Christian white America all too well. I understand their fears are based on myths and lies. I understand they feel left behind by a world they don’t understand and don’t really care to. They are willing to vote against their own interests if they can be convinced it will make sure minorities are harmed more. Their Christian beliefs and morals are only extended to fellow white Christians. They are the problem with progress and always will be, because their belief systems are constructed against it.

    The problem isn’t a lack of understanding by coastal elites. The problem is a lack of understanding of why rural Christian white America believes, votes, behaves the ways it does by rural Christian white America.