Looking for the bright side in 2018


Let’s try to look on the bright side for 2018.

That’s easier said than done though, isn’t it?

Like, for example, I just looked at the weather forecast for our area here in greater Hope Ness, and there’s no relief in sight for an end to the current deep freeze, and a lot more lake-effect snow. I ventured out onto the wind-swept Eastnor Flats to get some diesel fuel for the tractor, and I might as well have been at the North Pole. I understand it was almost as cold there.

(Note to Donald Trump who just tweeted sarcastically about the need for a little of that good, ol’ global warming: It IS about global warming, and climate change, throwing the longstanding stability of the jet stream out of wack. This is why parts of Alaska are warmer than Hope Ness, and maybe even Washington, D.C. for that matter. The science-based facts about it are just a few keys over from twitter, Dear Donald. Give it a read some time before tweeting the first ill-informed thing that comes to mind – and that’s putting it nicely.)

But getting back to why it’s no so easy to look on the bright side about the New Year:

For one thing, there’s reason enough to worry the new year won’t be better than the old, with the unstable personality responsible for stirring up a year of world-changing fear and uncertainty about the future still in power, though not quite “absolute” yet. (A few more firings may do the trick.)

That person is not Kim Jon Un, the ruthless dictator of North Korea who likes playing chicken with nuclear toys, though the shoe described above fits well-enough on his foot too.

But no, it’s that other guy, POTUS, President of the United States who, as Commander-in-Chief of the U.S. military, also has his finger on the nuclear-weapons button and asked before he was elected, “why can’t we used them?”

The answer to that question is surely self-evident.

The story now making the rounds of the rumour mill in Washington, as the 2017 clock winds down is that POTUS is about to fire Robert Mueller. A former Director of the FBI for 12 years, and decorated-for-heroism, Vietnam War veteran, Mueller is the special counsel investigating Russia’s interference in last year’s U.S. election, and whether or not it involved “collusion” with the campaign of now-President Donald Trump.

Hard to believe, but apparently Trump has that power to fire a special counsel appointed by the U.S. Justice Department to investigate him, as Richard Nixon did when he was President, and used it to fire the special counsel investigating him. It backfired, and the resulting outcry forced Nixon to resign in 1974, rather than face impeachment.

So far, members of Trump’s Republican Party who control both houses of Congress are showing no signs of being ready to impeach him. Meanwhile, many are piling on to the ongoing, insidious campaign, aided by Fox News, to discredit Mueller and his investigation, and the FBI.

So, the stage has been set, even as Trump says he doesn’t plan to fire Mueller. The firing of Mueller, possibly any day now, or by now, will create political “bedlam” in the U.S., as one pundit predicted.’

I note Trump told the New York Times in an impromptu interview that he expects Mueller to be “fair” and so for the time being he’s not going to use his “absolute power” over the Justice Department to fire him, or Attorney-General Jeff Sessions, for that matter. And who will be the judge of what’s “fair,” one, or millions, might ask? Or does that fall under the heading of “Absolute Power?”

The special-counsel investigation is closing in on high-ranking members of the Trump campaign, getting closer possibly to Trump himself who spent 2017 claiming it’s nothing but a sour-grapes “witch hunt.”

Trump’s firing of Mueller would say a lot to thinking people about what he’s afraid the investigation might find. The bright side, if indeed it happens, is that it might wake up his “base” to the truth about Trump. Sooner or later, one way or another “the truth will out.” He is, after all, his own worst enemy.

As for other bright sides in 2018, a lot depends on your point of view:

Say you’re a member of one of a number of municipal councils in southern Bruce County, Ontario, Canada. Then you might have cause to celebrate if federal Environment Minister Catherine McKenna, decides to give final approval to Ontario Power Generation’s (OPG) planned deep geological repository (DGR) for the storage of low and intermediate-level radioactive nuclear waste at the Bruce Nuclear site near the shore of Lake Huron. That would, or at least might, unlock millions of dollars worth of payments to Kincardine and other municipalities under an agreement signed in 2004. The payments are currently on hold in special accounts because the approval process is so far behind schedule.

However, OPG also promised the Saugeen Ojibway Nation(s) the DGR would not be built without SON approval; and SON officials recently said they need more time to get informed input from their communities.

That should not be a factor in the municipal payments unless the municipalities were consulted by OPG about the promise made to SON.

Things do get complicated.

Also, regarding the “bright side,” there’s a provincial election coming, no later than June 7, 2018.

It’s always a good thing to have a free and fair election. There are lots of places in the world where people don’t get that opportunity.

Recent polls have shown the Progressive Conservatives, holding on to a lead over Ontario’s incumbent Liberal government, followed closely by the NDP.

But the polls have been wrong before, and six months is practically a lifeline in politics. That must be the “bright side” for Premier Kathleen Wynne, and no doubt she’s holding on to it for her dear, political life.

Then there’s the difficult NAFTA re-negotiation talks now expected to continue until at least March, and the possibility that the impulsive Trump might just decide to cancel the agreement.

But there is mounting pressure in the U.S. not to do that, particularly in states that rely heavily on agricultural trade with Canada and Mexico. An opinion piece in a North Dakota farm publication, AGWEEK, caught my eye:

“America’s NAFTA trading partners, Mexico and Canada, account for more than three-fourths of where North Dakota’s exports are sold,” wrote Ben Hanson, a candidate in that state for the U.S. House of Representatives elections, November, 2018.

“A withdrawal from NAFTA would cause over 500 North Dakotan producers to lose their jobs, putting North Dakota in the top five states hit worst. That’s why I stand with the bipartisan group of 18 U.S. senators who’ve written Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, demanding that he protect agriculture sectors in any trade negotiations.”

Trump may say and do what he wants about Canada and Mexico, but the farmers of rural, mid-America, are another thing altogether.

So, on the bright side, NAFTA will most likely not be cancelled.

But, of course, nothing is that predictable any more. A lot depends on which way the whims are blowing on any given day.


A version of this post was originally published in The Sun Times in December, 2017


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