Canada Needs to Grow Up

From the BBC:

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has taken a stand on social media against the temporary US ban on refugees and immigration from seven Muslim-majority countries.

One day I hope Canada and Canadians will be able to define themselves on who they are, rather than who they are not. Judging by this statement and others posted by Canadians on social media, this seems beyond them.

Mr Trudeau underscored his government’s commitment to bringing in “those fleeing persecution, terror & war”.

This is the man who praised Fidel Castro and said absolutely nothing when Obama terminated the ‘wet foot, dry foot’ policy which offered sanctuary to Cubans fleeing Communist repression.

Within hours, Mr Trudeau’s tweets had been shared more than 150,000 times.

“Welcome to Canada” also became a trending term in the country.

Mr Trudeau, who gained global attention for granting entry to nearly 40,000 Syrian refugees to Canada over the past 13 months, also sent a pointed tweet that showed him greeting a young refugee at a Canadian airport in 2015.

So far Canadians seem happy with this man-child and his immigration policies. At least, that’s what social media and the mainstream press would have us believe. But then again, I wonder if millions of ordinary Canadians are quietly seething about this and we’ll be seeing Trudeau out on his arse at the next election. He appears to have been elected largely on his looks the first time around.

For all their self-righteous posturing about tolerance, diversity, and their not being like those ghastly Americans they’ve just had a 27 year old French-Canadian social studies student shoot up a mosque in Quebec. Somebody up there needs to start governing properly rather than striking poses at the United States, and that will involve a mature discussion on immigration, its benefits, and drawbacks. Under their current PM I doubt this is even possible.

More on Trump’s Executive Order

Having read some more about Trump’s Executive Order I think he was trying to make three (or possibly more) points with it.

1) By basing it around existing legislation endorsed by Obama he was able to show that the criticism, protests, and outrage has little to do with the content or implications of the policy and everything to do with the fact that it is he, Donald Trump, that is signing it. Trump knows full well that the media is simply a branch of the Democratic opposition and that the protests and outrage will continue regardless, so he believes the best course of action is to discredit them. Or, more accurately, give them enough rope so they will discredit themselves. If this keeps up, and I can’t see how it won’t, people will simply tune out the protests assuming they haven’t already, and will dismiss any criticism as being dishonest and incoherent. The protesters, media, and foreign politicians have done themselves few favours by not realising this EO was largely based on a piece of Obama legislation, about which they said nothing.

2) As Roué le Jour says under my previous post on this subject:

Trump is establishing ground rules. Only US citizens have a right to enter the US, everybody else does so at the discretion of the US government. Once you have accepted that, we can talk.

The fact that this needs saying shows how warped people’s impression of the USA has become. I think the criticism about the timing of the order, which left people stuck the wrong side of immigration counters at airports, is valid but it used to be fairly uncontroversial that a country has the right to decide who it lets in and on what terms. Insofar as most countries are concerned this is still the case, but with millions of migrants blatantly flouting border restrictions in Europe while the respective governments watch on impotently, this idea appears to have been lost on some. Trump was elected mainly on the basis that he would put America first and foreigners second, and this was to address a perception – either real or imagined, it doesn’t matter – that this had not been the case under Obama and probably Bush as well. I think this statement that the American government and nobody else gets to decide who enters the USA and on what terms is something that many Europeans wish their own governments would say.

3) Scott Adams says something interesting in a recent post:

President Obama’s approach was to give a free pass to Islam in general and to any Muslims that were just minding their own business. But the unintended consequence is that Muslims have less incentive to police their own ranks. Trump changed that. Now if you want to stay out of the fight against terrorism it will cost you.

So Trump has created a situation – or will soon – in which the peaceful Muslims will either have to do a lot more to help law enforcement find the terrorists in their midst or else live with an increasingly tainted brand. Trump is issuing no free passes for minding your own business. His model makes you part of the solution or part of the problem. No one gets to sit this one out.

There is a school of thought that says pressure needs to be brought to bear on Muslims to get their own house in order. Ultimately, Islamic terrorism and the elements which make it incompatible to the West need to be addressed from within. Thus far, for whatever reasons, this hasn’t happened and the West has been waiting for it to happen for over fifteen years. Some believe that it has been too easy for supposed moderate Muslims to remain silent over the problems other Muslims are causing, simply preferring to put their hands in the air and say “nothing to do with me”. To be fair, as I argued here, I don’t blame them for this: if the Western leadership cannot bring themselves to condemn Islamic extremism, then why the hell should moderate Muslims? I’ve long thought the Western policy of kow-towing to Muslim activists and downplaying the atrocities does moderate Muslims no favours in the long run. As I said earlier:

If our leadership – and I use that term loosely – lacks the conviction to uphold the principles which supposedly define the West, why the hell should we expect Muslims to come out in support of them?  I suspect for many, faced with a choice between leaning towards Islamic principles and Western principles, many moderate Muslims are choosing the former because they are unconvinced that the latter even exist.  Hell, I’m not convinced they exist in any meaningful sense any more, so why should somebody who comes from a culture where they have been historically absent?

In his inauguration speech Trump called a spade a spade, the first time a Western leader has done so in a long time. I don’t believe this Executive Order will do much by itself, but it is a warning shot across the bows of the Islamic world that things are going to be different from now on. The elephant in the room is Saudi Arabia, whose dual policy of funding jihadists and extremism while supposedly remaining allied to the United States has been allowed to go on for far too long. If wealthy Saudis (and others) were made to feel the pain of their actions by finding themselves unable to travel to the US for their business meetings and shopping sprees, then maybe they would reconsider what they are doing. Sadly, I don’t think even Trump will take on the Saudis in this regard: the two countries are far too interdependent on one another and once you go down that route there is no saying how it might all unravel. But the point remains nonetheless: the pain is going to be shared around a little more evenly than before and we might go several steps further yet, so start getting your house in order.

That was different, because…

It’s amazing how much more people are able to see with Trump in charge:

Precisely because the problem is one of temperament and character, it will not get better. It will get worse, as power intoxicates Trump and those around him.

Indeed, which is why so much power should not rest with a single person who is, after all, only human. But were was this argument during the Obama years? Or are we to believe his character was exemplary and at no point was he intoxicated with power?

It will not be surprising in the slightest if his term ends not in four or in eight years, but sooner, with impeachment or removal under the 25th Amendment.

Fine, but if calling for the impeachment of a President a week into his tenure becomes the norm, be prepared for the time when it’s your guy being thrown out.

For the community of conservative thinkers and experts, and more importantly, conservative politicians, this is a testing time. Either you stand up for your principles and for what you know is decent behavior, or you go down, if not now, then years from now, as a coward or opportunist. Your reputation will never recover, nor should it.

You abandoned your principles a long time ago, it’s a bit late to go searching for them now.

For many more it will be a split between those obsessed with anxiety, hatred, and resentment, and those who can hear Lincoln’s call to the better angels of our nature, whose America is not replete with carnage, but a city on a hill.

Anxiety, hatred, and resentment. Does that better describe Trump’s supporters or opponents?

This is one of those clarifying moments in American history, and like most such, it came upon us unawares, although historians in later years will be able to trace the deep and the contingent causes that brought us to this day.

I’d agree with him on that: Trump’s election may well indeed be seen as a defining moment in the path America takes from hereon, but not in the way he thinks it will.

There is nothing to fear in this fact; rather, patriots should embrace it. The story of the United States is, as Lincoln put it, a perpetual story of “a rebirth of freedom” and not just its inheritance from the founding generation.

Which is presumably why people voted for the guy who promised change instead of more of the same.

But all can dedicate themselves to restoring the qualities upon which this republic, like all republics depends: on reverence for the truth; on a sober patriotism grounded in duty, moderation, respect for law, commitment to tradition, knowledge of our history, and open-mindedness.

And where was all this during Obama’s administration?

He will do much more damage before he departs the scene, to become a subject of horrified wonder in our grandchildren’s history books.

If so, he’ll not be alone.

Americans, in their own communities, can find common ground with those whom they have been accustomed to think of as political opponents.

You mean shake off the divisiveness and identity politics which were the bedrock of Obama’s reign?

There is in this week’s events the foretaste of things to come. We have yet to see what happens when Trump tries to use the Internal Revenue Service or the Federal Bureau of Investigation to destroy his opponents.

This is idle speculation, nothing more. But Obama actually did use the IRS to destroy his political opponents and the silence from his supporters was deafening. Your concerns over Presidential abuses of power are arriving a little late, don’t you think?

He thinks he has succeeded in bullying companies, and he has no compunction about bullying individuals, including those with infinitely less power than himself.

Thus continuing a tradition which stretches back to at least 2009. Memories Pizza, anyone?

He has demonstrated that he intends to govern by executive orders that will replace the laws passed by the people’s representatives.

He probably watched Obama over the past eight years and got the impression this is how things were done nowadays.

With every act he makes new enemies for himself and strengthens their commitment; he has his followers, but he gains no new friends.

Is this Trump after one week or Obama after eight years?

He will fail most of all because at the end of the day most Americans, including most of those who voted for him, are decent people who have no desire to live in an American version of Tayyip Erdogan’s Turkey, or Viktor Orban’s Hungary, or Vladimir Putin’s Russia.

Indeed, but they also don’t want to live in a version of some South American socialist basketcase or an African kleptocracy either. Maybe one day we’ll see a candidate come forth who promises something different.

There is nothing great about the America that Trump thinks he is going to make; but in the end, it is the greatness of America that will stop him.

It’s going to be a bit of a stretch to depend on American greatness to save the nation when the last guy spent his entire time in office trying to disabuse the world of the very idea.

Trump’s Executive Order

The media appears to have gone into meltdown because Trump has done what he said he’d do and stopped people from certain countries entering the United States. I was watching Sky News yesterday and it was wall-to-wall condemnations from people such as the Mayor of London, media figures who hate Trump anyway, random Brits whose holiday plans have been disrupted, and Mo Farah the Somali-born long-distance runner.

From what I have read on Twitter and the blogs, the media has unsurprisingly failed to honestly and accurately report on what Trump’s Executive Order does and does not do, instead preferring to pander to the hysteria by broadcasting plenty of coverage of the protests. These protests seem to be a permanent fixture these days and one indistinguishable from the other. I find it hard to believe I am the only one who finds the media’s obsession with them wearisome, and if this is what passes for news they might as well stick a webcam on the beach and report on the tides.

I’m not going to try to clarify what Trump’s Executive Order is all about, nor am I going to waste my time correcting the media clowns (Ben Shapiro has done a reasonable job of the former here and the latter here for those who are interested.) Instead I’m going to look at a few broader points.

The first is that this is a clusterfuck. Regardless of whether the policy is right, wrong, goes too far or not far enough, it comes across as hastily drafted and in need of umpteen clarifications. Nothing of this nature should be knocked up on a couple of sides of A4 and issued without a proper quality check: it appears that nobody with any legal expertise looked at it first, and it could have been a lot better than it is. I don’t like this rule-by-decree business at the best of times, and I don’t like Trump doing it at all. Although those that are now wailing about Trump’s casual use of Executive Orders might want to reflect on why they stayed utterly silent when their hero Obama set the precedent by ruling in this manner: yes, there were reasons why people criticised him for this and it was nothing to do with his actual policies. Nevertheless, if Trump is going to insist on issuing Executive Orders, couldn’t we at least expect that they have been properly studied, discussed, and reviewed before they are signed and distributed to the affected organisations immediately afterwards so they can at least explain to people what the hell it’s all about?

Secondly, one thing missing from the whole media circus was any acknowledgement that Trump is actually trying to solve a genuine problem, albeit in a cack-handed manner. Sky News dragged out one outraged citizen after another but there was absolutely no discussion whatsoever of the reasons behind the policy itself. There wasn’t even an acknowledgement that this had been a major part of Trump’s campaign and that immigration, terrorism, and Islam and how the combination should be dealt is what is driving much of the politics in Europe and the USA at the moment. Trump’s election was partly due to the media refusing to discuss these issues, despite their being at the forefront of the minds of a good chunk of the electorate, and the media and other establishment figures appear to be compounding their mistakes by ignoring the elephant in the room. Perhaps Trump’s policy is racist, stupid, illegal, and everything else the media says it is, but even if that is the case let’s at least have a discussion on the problem he is trying to address and come up with some alternative solutions. The way the opposition are presenting this is as if Trump woke up one morning and simply decided to implement some random policy simply because he is a bigot, and the whole Gordian Knot of refugees, immigration, and terrorism exists only in his imagination.

Finally, I think this Executive Order is a bit like Trump’s wall. I don’t think it will solve anything, but both are a sign that at least a US President is trying to solve certain issues. Given that the official policy thus far has been to pretend these problems don’t exist and to persecute anyone who believes otherwise, this is actually quite a shift. The Overton Window is being expanded rapidly by Trump, and it is extremely difficult to stop things like immigration being discussed when policies like this latest one are actually being implemented. Again like the wall, I think this Executive Order is a sign that the sands are rapidly shifting and things which would not have been thought politically possible even a year ago are now happening, and they are happening everywhere. The political classes and the media are in a blind panic because they can feel the foundations on which they sit wobbling and they don’t like the direction of travel one little bit. Again, like the wall, I think we may well look back in a decade or so and think Trump’s decision to ban people from certain countries entering the USA was rather benign given what followed.

Familiar Ground Under Tillerson’s Feet

This article is apparently fake news, or bollocks as we used to call it:

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s job running the State Department just got considerably more difficult. The entire senior level of management officials resigned Wednesday, part of an ongoing mass exodus of senior Foreign Service officers who don’t want to stick around for the Trump era.

According to Ben Shapiro at Daily Wire:

Only one problem: these guys didn’t quit. They were fired.

CNN now reports that the Trump administration told undersecretary for management Patrick Kennedy, Assistant Secretaries for Administration and Consular Affairs Michele Bond and Joyce Anne Barr, and director of the Office of Foreign Missions Gentry Smith to take a hike. State Department assistant secretary for Europe Victoria Nuland was also shown the door. They submitted their letters of resignation as “per tradition at the beginning of a new administration,”said CNN, and the White House gave the okay.

As Shapiro says, the reason the WaPo ran with this headline is to make out that thousands of seasoned and indispensable public servants are refusing to work for Trump, thus plunging the new administration into chaos. But it’s interesting to look at the article anyway:

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s job running the State Department just got considerably more difficult.

Well, maybe. There are some people – perhaps even Tillerson – who believe getting rid of key individuals who ran the State Department under Obama is something to be done by the incoming administration as a top priority. The assumption that people quitting en masse will make automatically make things difficult for the new boss is something you sometimes come across in the corporate world, but in almost every instance the people involved vastly overestimate their own importance – and their competence. Genuinely valuable employees don’t do this.

All are career Foreign Service officers who have served under both Republican and Democratic administrations.

Again, note the assumption that this is a good thing.

That amounts to a near-complete housecleaning of all the senior officials that deal with managing the State Department, its overseas posts and its people.

What’s not to like?

“It’s the single biggest simultaneous departure of institutional memory that anyone can remember, and that’s incredibly difficult to replicate,” said David Wade, who served as State Department chief of staff under Secretary of State John Kerry. “Department expertise in security, management, administrative and consular positions in particular are very difficult to replicate and particularly difficult to find in the private sector.”

Who says anything about the private sector? The senior management have walked out in a huff, leaving a plethora of high-profile positions for the younger generation of staff to step up and fill. This is a mistake so many people make when they try similar things in the corporate world: they believe in their own indispensability not realising that anyone can be replaced, it is a lot easier than you think, and the person who will replace them will be that bright young subordinate that they kept down and patronised for years with self-serving tales of their own exaggerated “experience”.

But the emptying of leadership in the management bureaus is more disruptive because those offices need to be led by people who know the department and have experience running its complicated bureaucracies.

Uh-huh. Every corporate manager in history has heard this a hundred times, and now a bunch of people who have spent their entire careers in the public sector are trying it on with a man who has decades of experience in managing one of the world’s most successful companies. It probably hasn’t occurred to them that those complicated bureaucracies themselves are part of the problem.

“Diplomatic security, consular affairs, there’s just not a corollary that exists outside the department, and you can least afford a learning curve in these areas where issues can quickly become matters of life and death,” he said. “The muscle memory is critical. These retirements are a big loss. They leave a void. These are very difficult people to replace.”

I expect Rex Tillerson heard this and breathed a huge sigh of relief. There he was wondering if he could manage the switch from private to public sector, and now he finds on his first day in the job that it’s actually much the same with senior managers in cushy jobs assuring him of their own indispensability just before they’re fired. He probably feels so much at home that he’s tried to log in to his State Department laptop using his ExxonMobil password.

Tillerson’s job No. 1 must be to find qualified and experienced career officials to manage the State Department’s vital offices.

I expect there is a queue of candidates forming outside his office as we speak, all of whom currently work on the same floor.

His second job should be to reach out to and reassure a State Department workforce that is panicked about what the Trump administration means for them.

Where the WaPo sees panic Tillerson might see concentrated minds.

There are some areas of concern about what an inexperienced Trump might do as President, or indeed Tillerson in his role of Secretary of State. Bog standard personnel management of administrative functions is not among them, and it is illuminating that the Washington Post thinks that it is.

The Great Wall of Trump

Trump’s not fucking about, is he? We’re not even a week into his Presidency and he’s issuing orders left and right with the purpose of delivering on his campaign promises. I suppose this is what happens when you don’t elect a career politician, they actually do what they say they’re going to do. Contrast this with the UK and its procrastination over leaving the EU. Had Trump been in charge instead of Cameron the Channel Tunnel would have been dynamited by the end of June last year.

The wall along the border with Mexico is an interesting one. I will hold my hand up and say I didn’t think he would actually do it, but it’s looking as though he was serious about it. Unsurprisingly the usual suspects are outraged but, again unsurprisingly, the reasons as to why are somewhat vague. Some seem to be confusing a physical barrier with a metaphorical one: Mexico’s President has said “Mexico doesn’t believe in walls” which certainly explains a lot about their building standards. Symbolism is important and a giant wall between two nations doesn’t look good on the face of it, but this hasn’t come out of a clear blue sky.

Countries tore down their physical borders and stopped shooting people who crossed them illegally on the understanding that the authorities on both sides would put in place a process of crossing it legally and each would make at least some effort to ensure this was adhered to. For years it has been the policy of the Mexican government to completely ignore this, and even to actively encourage Mexicans to illegally enter the USA. It’s not as if the Mexican government has been particularly pleasant or friendly towards the United States either, this is not Canada we’re talking about. A cornerstone of Mexican domestic policy is to rail against their neighbour to the north and lay all their troubles at the feet of America. Now they might have a point if they base their criticism on the carnage that America’s ludicrous War on Drugs is causing in Mexico, but if this is their concern then they should come out and say it instead of whipping crowds into a frenzy with chants of Yankee Imperialism if somebody suggests they should reform their oil and gas sector, for example. The wall, if it ever gets built, will be simply be the product of decades of incompetent and dishonest Mexican politicians and the refusal of their American counterparts to address the issue of illegal immigration. When the Mexican president says  his country offers “its friendship to the American people and its willingness to reach accords with their government”, US citizens are entitled to ask why this has not extended to policing the border properly and discouraging its citizens from crossing it illegally.

They might also be forgiven for asking why having an impermeable border is an impediment to diplomatic relations. Why is the Mexican government so upset that illegal border crossings are about to be made more difficult? Could it be that Mexico sees the remittances its diaspora sends back home to be an important source of income without which they might have to start running their country a bit better?

There are a couple of similarities with the wall built by the Israelis along their border with the West Bank between 2000 and 2003 when they were faced with seemingly endless suicide attacks. There is no doubt that the wall has made the lives of Palestinians a misery and that the routing has hived off some land which probably doesn’t belong to Israel, but its opponents mainly concentrated on the symbology and the seemingly outrageous idea that Israel might effectively control who enters its territory. I got the impression at the time that for a lot of people, especially the idiots in the West, their real complaint was that it would work, and Israelis would be less prone to being murdered in cafes by suicide bombers. Many called it an “apartheid wall”. Thankfully the barrier did drastically reduce the number of suicide attacks, which are now quite rare in Israel proper.

The other similarity is the argument over whether the Israeli security barrier was a wall or a fence. Those calling it an apartheid wall used to post pictures such as this:

Whereas a lot of the barrier looks like this:

There are already articles on the practicalities of Trump’s wall. It’s hard to see how it will be completely concrete with no sections that are just fencing. What will be interesting to see is whether those who emphasise the wall part of the Israeli barrier to criticise Israel will emphasise the fencing sections of the US-Mexico barrier in order to claim that Trump has failed. The BBC will be worth watching in this regard, as will others.

It certainly won’t be pretty, and it’s going to be expensive. Trump has said Mexico will pay for it, the Mexicans have said they won’t, and proposals have been made to pay for it using the proceeds from tariffs on goods coming into the US from Mexico. This is a stupid idea: Americans will end up paying more for their goods and Mexicans will be poorer and thus more likely to try to come to the United States to find work. I think what Trump is trying to do is make it clear to his Mexican counterpart that the reason this wall is needed is partly due to the policies of his government and his predecessors, and that their attitude towards the US border needs to change. Hitting the Mexicans financially is one way of getting this point across, but I still don’t think tariffs are the way to go. I’d prefer to see the Americans cough up for it themselves and be done with it. They could always scrap a few dozen useless government bureaucracies if money is the real issue here.

In principle I don’t have any problem with a wall across a border, particularly if not having a wall has meant the border might as well not exist. I find myself in agreement with this statement:

“A nation without borders is not a nation,” Mr Trump said. “Beginning today the United States gets back control of its borders.”

However, I think the wall will ultimately fail. A wall in itself is not enough to prevent people illegally entering the USA: as the Soviets learned in Berlin, the physical barrier must also be accompanied by the means and willingness to dispense lethal force against those who try to cross it. The Israelis do this to some degree, which is why they call it a security barrier and not a border marker. Whatever people say about Trump and his supporters we are not about to see machinegun nests and minefields sprouting up along the US-Mexican border and the bodies of men, women, and children rotting on the barbed wire as a warning to others. Even if the wall somehow presents an impenetrable barrier, the migration will shift to the sea and America’s long and often remote coastlines. If America wants to keep illegal immigrants out then they need to make life so damned tough for them once they are inside that few will want to come. Then you’d not even need a wall but a simple fence, rather like the one they already have. The problem is that Americans don’t want to do this: either they find the cheap labour too attractive or they lack the political will to see illegal immigrants treated harshly, or both.

That said, the willingness to build a wall and attempt to secure the border is a sign of hardening attitudes. When this option fails, we can expect to see them harden further still at some point in the future. This doesn’t just apply to the US: if we carry on along this trajectory it will eventually become permissible to discuss using lethal force along the borders of European countries to keep undesirables out. The recent scenes of thousands of grown men charging the fences in Hungary and Slovenia while European politicians say nothing is going to shift the Overton window towards bigger fences, walls, and eventually minefields, machineguns, and pogroms.

Trump’s wall is a symbol of the utter farce that has been immigration policy in the West for the past decade or more, and of the failure of what passes for politicians in those countries. But it is merely a sign of the direction we are travelling in, and those same politicians seem unwilling to acknowledge that and do something about it. There may come a time when Trump’s divisive, controversial, and much-criticised wall is seen as a reminder of how benign and peaceful things used to be.

Trump and Sexual Assault

Reluctant as I am to be defending Donald Trump on this point but it keeps coming up. Take a random example:

Look at these men. Look at them. Gathered around the most powerful man in the world – a man who has openly bragged of sexual assault, who refers to a vulva as a woman’s “wherever” – as he signs away the reproductive rights of women in developing countries.

I assume the author is referring to Trump’s “grap ’em by the pussy” remark when she says he has openly bragged of sexual assault. This is what he actually said:

Trump: Yeah, that’s her. With the gold. I better use some Tic Tacs just in case I start kissing her. You know, I’m automatically attracted to beautiful — I just start kissing them. It’s like a magnet. Just kiss. I don’t even wait. And when you’re a star, they let you do it. You can do anything.

Bush: Whatever you want.

Trump: Grab ’em by the pussy. You can do anything.

The key point here is “when you’re a star, they let you do it”. I’m not going to defend what Trump said or dismiss it as locker-room talk, but he is making the point that when you’re a star you can do anything, they let you do it. This may be distasteful but it appears to be true, which I suspect is why so many women have gotten upset about it. I cannot condone the actions of somebody behaving in this way, and that is also the case with Trump: he was speaking like a dick and boasting of acting like a dick.

But he was not bragging of sexual assault: it would be sexual assault if the pussy grabbing was not consensual, but he clearly says “they let you do it”. He’s not saying he grabs their pussy whether they like it or not, which would be sexual assault in the case of the latter. Of course such behaviour looks like a quick way to find yourself fending off accusations of sexual assault and I understand Trump has done so in the past, but what he describes is by definition consensual.

This may seem like nitpicking on my part, but accuracy is important in these matters. A lot of women seem to have marched on DC on the basis of something that simply isn’t true, and they continue to repeat it. It’s yet another reason why they are not being taken seriously enough to mount any sort of opposition to his Presidency.

Update on the Book

So my book is progressing at a reasonable pace, and I’m learning a lot as I go.

The first thing I learned is my dialogue format wasn’t great: too much “I said” and “she said”. I read a few pages of books which handle dialogue well and saw they used them much more sparingly than me, so I made some edits. Fortunately this was an easy fix, so no big deal.

The second thing I learned – which I ought to have known before – is “show, don’t tell”. I was doing too much explaining rather than letting the reader infer what is happening from the actions and speech of the characters. Again this was an easy fix, simply a matter of deleting the unnecessary sentences where I have explained what has just taken place.

The third thing I learned was to do with word count and structure. When I started this project I assumed writing a book was simply a matter of banging out 80-90k words to tell some sort of story. I was making splendid progress and the words were falling off my keyboard onto the screen, and I made it as far as 65k words. I was nearly done! It’ll be in people’s stockings for Christmas! Then I stopped and engaged my brain a little.

I’m an engineer and perhaps because of that any project I undertake I do in a very structured manner. I use the word “structure” a lot in my day-job, and I’m not referring to I-beams, concrete, and rebar. If I’m asked to do a job I look at what needs doing, why, by whom, and in what order. I put that together into what is called a Work Breakdown Structure which helps me organise the whole job in my mind. At the beginning it is a rough outline and as I get more information and the picture becomes clearer I start filling in the gaps. I start to see how one part will link to another and what I need to do to make that happen. With the structure in place I can concentrate on one small area for a while without losing focus on the overall project. If anyone wonders why I always seem to have so much time on my hands it is because I work fast and efficiently, skills acquired through being naturally bone idle and workshy. I can work fast and efficiently because I invest time and effort up front into making sure the work is properly structured before it begins. If everyone could do this I’d never have got a job, let alone a career.

So I realised at 65k words that my story needed a structure. I had the unstructured story in my head but that doesn’t mean it will translate well to paper. Any story has what I will call “Key Events”: two people meet, somebody dies, a vital piece of information is revealed, somebody switches sides, the killer is identified. It is vitally important that these key events take place at regular intervals: you can’t have the reader waiting for half the book for the first one and then the next three come along in the following chapter. The book needs to “balance”, as I call it. The first Key Event has to come early on to keep the reader interested, and the last must come very near the end (obviously). I don’t think there is any rule as to where the rest must fall, but they need to be spread out somehow and not clustered. And that’s where I went wrong in my first draft: too much was happening close together.

The other area where structure plays an important role is in character development. You need to spend enough time on this so that reader is invested in the characters, otherwise he simply won’t care when one of them turns out to be Prince Harry’s lovechild. But you also don’t want to go far and leave the reader wondering when the hell something interesting is going to happen to all these people he by now knows very well. I doubt there is a hard and fast rule on this, but the right balance needs to be struck in the context of the overall book length and the frequency of the Key Events.

It was all getting rather complicated, and so I did what all good engineers do: I made a spreadsheet. I have a list of the key events and the place at which they appear in the story in terms of percentage of overall word count. Actually I have three figures, assuming total word counts of 80k, 85k, and 90k. I have each scene listed and their corresponding word counts and so whenever I write anything I can see where each Key Event is falling in the book and whether the space between them is too large or small. Using this method I keep an overall eye on how the book is balanced, and it tells me where I need to expand a scene or cut some words out.

I’m already struggling to keep under my maximum word count of 90k and so I need to be very disciplined in what I am including: anything that isn’t directly relevant to the story, and some things that are relevant but unimportant, are being chopped out already. However, it is easier just to get as many scenes written as possible in the early stages and cut when required later, I think. I am already finding that exercising this discipline on the word count is making the writing better, which is why I am reluctant to exceed the maximum.

The other thing I need to keep an eye on is the mood flow of the book. There are several Key Events and scenes connecting them, and a reader needs to be given a breather every now and again. Some scenes may be harrowing and intense, but he will need some which are more relaxed between them. A good story will manage the emotions so they rise and fall like a roller-coaster, and not have the first half depicting savage hand-to-hand combat with an alien species with no letup, and the second half somebody who has escaped the fighting lying on the beach with his girlfriend talking about relationships: the intensity and emotions need to ebb and flow. The spreadsheet helps with this to some degree, too. It also helps me to decide how the book will be divided into chapters, and which scene goes in which chapter.

I say all this because I have not got the faintest idea how anyone else structures their writings and what tools they use. Scrivener has a built-in storyboard function which looks good, but I just found it easier to use an Excel spreadsheet to create something similar to the Work Breakdown Structures I compile in my day-job. It will be interesting to see if this works for me, particularly if in years to come whole documentaries are being shown on television about how the great T. B. Newman structures his masterpieces. I can hope.

I have also had some useful feedback on what I have written so far. I am sending completed scenes to a friend of mine who is probably not completely objective but is certainly somebody who would be considered in the core target readership, and the information she is giving me is invaluable. The first thing she pointed out was that I’d blabbed out the whole story in the opening pages, giving the reader little incentive to carry on. These kind of errors could cost me a yacht. She’s also highlighted the bits that don’t make sense, are confusing, add nothing, or seem incomplete. So far everything has been easily fixable, which is encouraging. She thinks the writing is okay, the characters believable, the descriptions relatable, and the story sound enough. Whether the rest of the world agrees remains to be seen, but as I say, it is encouraging.

Finally, it appears to be a lot more work than I first envisaged but my motivation is still running in the high nineties, percentage wise.  I hope to get it in front of an editor by mid-year, but we’ll see.

The Ones Who Flee

Recently the BBC has excelled in two areas:

1) Anti-Trump commentary.

2) Unintentionally amusing articles on expatriates.

You can therefore imagine my delight to find they have outdone themselves and combined their two favourite topics in one article!  Let’s take a look:

When people first started talking about Donald Trump running for president, Sarah thought it was a joke and not something she had to take seriously.

Sarah, half the country, and the entire mainstream media.

But then on November 8, 2016, she says the “unthinkable” happened; Trump won the election.

Unthinkable to whom? A certain refrain from The Little Red Hen comes to mind here.

Sarah, who asked that we only use her first name out of concern for her safety, immediately called her husband, who was out of the country on business, and told him, “That’s it. I want to go, and I’m not kidding.” His response, she says: “I know. We can go.”

I am often told some things are best said face-to-face and not over the phone. Clearly in some households demands to emigrate are not one of them.

So, next month, Sarah, 43, her husband, 45, and their two school-aged daughters will uproot themselves from the small Midwest town where they have lived for the past three-and-a-half years, and leave the US for a country thousands of miles away. They have no plans to come back.

Three-and-a-half years? This doesn’t sound like a family for whom moving is something unusual.

Her husband is not from the US, does not have status as a resident and works overseas a lot. While their children are dual citizens of both the US and his home country, Sarah is a US citizen with permanent resident status in both.  Her husband has relied on temporary visas when he’s in the states with his wife and daughters.

Could the BBC not have found an example of a family fleeing the Trump Terror who were at least all US residents? This family is clearly internationally mobile and having arrived just a few years ago didn’t seem all that committed to staying in the US in any case. Little wonder hubby didn’t object to moving when the phone call came.

“It’s kind of a gamble of whether he’s going to rub someone the wrong way and not get in,” she says.

Who the hell have you married?!

She considers her family lucky since they have the means and opportunity to leave.

Meaning, they weren’t particularly committed to living there anyway.

But she worries about the message she is sending to her daughters…

If things don’t go your way, pack up and run away?

…and she’s concerned about the people she is leaving behind.

Here’s my prediction: they’ll be absolutely fine.

“What kind of example am I giving my kids just getting up and going when there are so many people here who can’t do that? Who is going to stay here to protect them and fight for them?”

You’re not refugees fleeing a war zone, love.

Sarah says she is sad to leave her friends but that they have been supportive. Many have said they would also leave if they could.

What’s stopping them?

But, not everyone understands her decision, especially her father who voted for Trump.

“The ones who don’t get it are like ‘Good riddance,’,” she says. “And that’s exactly why we are going, because I don’t want to raise two girls when I don’t feel safe, and I’m putting their safety at risk.”

Don’t tell me this whole thing is over a spat with her father!

Most of the questions [Montreal-based Canadian immigration lawyer Marisa Feil ] says she receives are related to whether it generally requires an offer of employment to be able to immigrate to Canada or get a temporary work permit. “Most Americans are shocked to find out that they cannot just move based on their education and/or work experience,” she says. “Canada has moved to a system where most individuals immigrating have some connection to Canada either in the form of a job offer from a Canadian employer or having a family member in Canada that could help them find a job.”

People who want to move to Canada in protest at Trump’s immigration polices are surprised that the same policies apply in Canada. Weren’t the uneducated hicks ignorant of international affairs all supposed to be Trump supporters?

For Galina, a New Yorker living in Australia and working in property management, Trump’s win has meant a long delay for any plans she had to return to the US.

“Now I am really not [going to] come back until I am sure that there is going to be an America left,” she says. Galina was an ardent Bernie Sanders supporter who asked that we only use her first name due to the sensitive nature of her decision.

She was worried people would find out she was a Bernie Sanders supporter and think her an idiot?

“Currently I don’t believe that Trump is going to be a good president, much less a safe president. I’m worried that he’s going to run the country into the ground, piss off the wrong people and start a proper world war or a terrorist attack. He also gives America a bad name.”

Trump will “start a terrorist attack”? A “proper world war”? I can see why she feels at home in Australia.

She says Australia’s government subsidised healthcare, the lack of guns, free education, and higher pay rate are other reasons she is choosing to stay.

Nothing to do with Trump then. What are the odds she had no plans whatsoever to go back regardless of who won in November?

For Sarah, the move is not what she had envisioned for herself or her family. She says she is “totally heartbroken” and had always thought she would raise her two daughters in the US.

She’s heartbroken at making a move that is entirely unnecessary.  This woman is mentally ill.

“But I need to protect them,” she says. “I cannot in sound mind stay here when I have the option of going.”

I think your issues with soundness of mind are going to follow you wherever you go, sweetheart.