Category Archives: American Politics

No News is No News

Just watched the 20 minute Chrystia Freeland “news” conference.

Apparently she’s promised “not to negotiate in public” which means she is unwilling to address any substantive questions at all.

This week’s talks have ended but they will be back at it Wednesday of next week.

Just one problem, which Freeland, of course, dodged, Trump has basically said that he is not moving on any of the key points and that he’d be just as happy to drop a 25% tariff on Canadian made cars. Kinda tough to negotiate around that.

Which means that, after a week of “intense” negotiations Freeland is going back to Canada with nothing except the fact that The Donald is planning on taking his bilateral agreement with Mexico and notifying Congress that it will be signed 90 days from now.

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Here’s Hoping

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Sundance is a remarkably well informed American commentator who pays attention to trade. The above is not confirmed but if that turns out to be the Canadian position the politics will be fascinating.

A complete capitulation to Trump would make Trudeau look like the wimp most of us already think he is. It would also give us a chance to catch the tailwind of the current American economic boom.

It would, I suspect, cause the left in Canada to implode simply because it would suggest that their hero Justin takes business more seriously than posturing. And when you give up posturing what does the left have left?

As Trump would say, “We’ll see what happens,” but real Canadian patriots have to hope that common sense prevailed and that we are on the road to genuine free trade with our friends to the south.

[Note seeing much action on the CDN/USD front. If the above is true I would expect a fairly sharp rise in the value of the Canadian dollar.]

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State of Play

After the Manafort verdicts and the Cohen plea deal, if you were watching MSM, you could be forgiven for thinking that Trump would be packing his bags and getting ready to resign rather than be impeached. Forgiven but still more than a little wrong.

What has actually happened is that one former associate has been convicted on eight out of 18 counts of assorted financial irregularities a decade ago. No Russia, no Trump. But the Cohen plea deal is much more interesting. Essentially Cohen, as part of the allocution leading to the guilty plea, said that he was directed to make payments which would influence the outcome of the election and that this constituted a campaign finance law violation and therefore the person giving him the direction also violated the law.

Cue the Democrats and the MSM. Trump committed a crime, Trump conspired, Trump is not a legitimate President, Trump’s Supreme Court nominee should not be considered because Trump is only in the White House because he committed a crime…and so on. The theme of the day yesterday and I expect pretty much all this week is that Cohen admitted to criminal behaviour and therefore Trump is a criminal for telling him to commit the crime.

When it comes to Trump the MSM is willing to seize on any reed, no matter how slender, to come up with something, anything, to do him down.

Paying off the floozies, or settling lawsuits or paying out subcontractors is pretty normal course business. But wait, this was not billionaire Trump doing it, it was candidate Trump so that’s different…its a reportable campaign contribution and he didn’t report it. Probably not. Watching relatively sane people discuss the question, a reportable campaign contribution is a payment made to, exclusively, further the campaign. Buying a new suit may enhance a candidate’s appearance and therefore contribute to his campaign, but it is also just a normal course transaction and therefore unlikely to be found to be a reportable campaign contribution. And you can go a long way into those woods if you really start looking at the law going to reportable campaign contributions.

The fact that Michael Cohen, in his allocution, said it was a contribution designed to further the Trump campaign is immaterial, particularly as an allocution is only evidence as against the person making it. Cohen’s – or more precisely, the SDNY Assistant DA’s – characterization of the law is not actually the law and, because this will not be going to trial, is not in any sense a finding of law.

It also contradicts Cohen’s prior versions of his story. Plus, it is the statement of a man who has a prosecutorial gun to his head in the form of a sentencing recommendation on the other charges which are, pretty clearly, actual violations of the law.

From Trump’s perspective, Manafort and Cohen are now off the board. It is possible that one or both of them, faced with decades in prison, will “remember” some form of “collusion with the Russians” but, unless they have really solid evidence, those memories are unlikely to gain much purchase. Manafort is already fading from the headlines simply because nothing he was convicted of has anything to do with Trump. Cohen will have a slightly longer half-life if only because his lawyer is an old-time Clintonista and is more than willing to suggest that Cohen has the real dirt on Trump.

But the excitement of bringing these two rascals to court is going to fade fast. Meanwhile, the Dems are hollering for “Impeachment”. It is not very clear that failing to report a possible campaign contribution quite clears the bar of “high crime and misdemeanour”; but no matter, the Democrats want a chance to impeach the Orange Menace.

For the next two months, Trump will be on the road campaigning for Republican Congressional candidates. He’ll stage rallies, tweet his “full and total endorsement”, brag, goose the economy, invite people to the White House and push his band of deplorables to get out the vote. The Republican vote. The Mueller investigation will grind on but it is increasingly irrelevant simply because it has not managed to come up with any actual links between the Trumpsters and the evil Russians.

However, the Mueller investigation is not the only politically significant investigation in operation. The Congressional investigation into the activities of the FBI and the DOJ with respect to the Hillary emails, the DNC hack, the surveillance of the Trump campaign, the Steele dossier and its use to obtain FISA warrants to spy on the Trump campaign, the improper unmasking of American persons by Obama administration officials, the complicity of MSM in the partisan leaks of the FBI and the general corruption of the FBI/DOJ under Obama is coming to a boil. Unlike the Mueller investigation or the trial of Manafort or the plea of Cohen, Trump holds all the cards in the corruption scandal because he can declassify the documents, texts and emails which document what is almost certain to be the largest, most insidious, scandal ever to hit American politics.

Right now this scandal is missing two things: a convenient, memorable, nickname like “Watergate” and an insider whistleblower who can simplify and connect the dots. I suspect both things will be supplied around the second to third week of September. Real crimes committed by senior government officials all of whom supported, well, Hillary. The Democrats won’t stand a chance.

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Voice Suppression

free speech, walled gardenOn this holiday Monday I was lolling around in bed flipping through websites on my phone.

Over at Drudge I came across the fact that Apple and Facebook had taken down pages and podcasts from Alex Jones on the basis that they constituted “hate speech”. Apple’s spokesperson said,

“Apple does not tolerate hate speech, and we have clear guidelines that creators and developers must follow to ensure we provide a safe environment for all of our users.”

Facebook was a bit more specific, the pages were removed “for glorifying violence, which violates our graphic violence policy, and using dehumanizing language to describe people who are transgender, Muslims and immigrants, which violates our hate speech policies.”

I have no interest in Alex Jones per se – my own sense has always been that he was crazy rather than dangerous – but I was interested in Apple and Facebook both denying him access to their platforms. Something which, as private companies, they are entitled to do.

I then had the interesting experience of watching the brownshirts of the liberal left engage in the silencing – in a very noisy way – of a young black woman.

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These children were not really protesting what Miss Owens was saying so much as her mere existence as a young, female, black, conservative.

The idea of silencing people you disagree with rather than actually engaging with them and debating the points they raise is gaining traction on the left because, in the face of Trump, they have really run out of arguments which hold any appeal for the broader public. Yelling, blowing whistles, banning and mobbing opponents are all tactics suggesting desperation.

And no one is more desperate than the dwindling, ragtag army of global warming/climate change believers. Concern about climate change is fading fast in the US (and, more slowly in the rest of the world) and those pesky, heretical, skeptics seem to have begun winning the policy debate. So, what to do?

Media Matters knows: “Zuckerberg has expressed concern about climate change, arguing last year that the U.S. should not pull out of the Paris climate agreement and noting that rising temperatures are melting the glaciers at Glacier National Park.

But he is not using the immense power of his platform to halt misinformation about climate change. To the contrary, Facebook is enabling and disseminating climate denial on multiple fronts. In addition to the problems outlined above, the platform helps bogus climate stories to spread — like a hugely popular climate-denial storyfrom YourNewsWire, a fake news site that Facebook refuses to ban even though fact-checkers have debunked its stories at least 80 times. And one of Facebook’s most high-profile scandals involved handing user data over to Cambridge Analytica, a shady political consultancy that has close ties to fossil fuel companies and climate deniers.”

For outfits like Media Matters yelling at Facebook to ban opinion they do not like is a very effective strategy. They are taking the street tactics of the little Antifa brownshirts and aiming to silence dissent. They are well aware that the climate scare message is floundering largely because alternative perspectives are being offered. Rather than trying to address those alternative perspectives, leaning on Facebook or Twitter or YouTube to have those perspectives silenced is an effective strategy.

It worked with Alex Jones so why won’t it work along other vectors of wrong think?

The power of entities like Facebook and Twitter and YouTube rests on their capacity to deliver audiences to content. Unfortunately, any number of content providers have succumbed to the temptation of larger audiences and have started publishing their content directly on these platforms. Which, of course, means accepting the Terms and Conditions these private companies impose. And if these Terms and Conditions are interpreted to exclude particular points of view, well, tough nuggies.

A more robust – and realistic – approach is to publish content on websites which you actually can control and relegate FB and Twitter to their proper place as publicity machines for your content. It is not, of course, a perfect solution – after all, ISPs and my pals at WordPress have their own Terms and Conditions – but it takes away a good deal of the power Facebook, in particular, has accumulated over public discourse.

I suspect, over time, FaceBook will go the way of MySpace and cease to have much of a role in the public square. Were it not for Trump, Twitter would already be on the downslope of public popularity. However, the promise of the internet in allowing dissident voices to be heard, can be destroyed if those voices voluntarily walk into the walled gardens of Facebook or Twitter or Apple. The good news is that there is nothing which compels anyone to stay inside Facebook’s walls.

Time to #Walkaway.

 

 

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Canadian Trade Debacle

“It is highly unusual, after more than a year of three-party talks, for Canada not to participate in the new discussions between U.S. and Mexican negotiators,” said Chris Sands, head of the Center for Canadian Studies at Johns Hopkins University.

Indeed, recent developments point to a steady souring of relations between Ottawa and the White House. Formal, three-way talks to revamp the North American Free Trade Agreement have not been held since May, though had been expected to restart after the Mexican presidential election earlier this month.

A third source briefed on the negotiations said the U.S. side, fuelled in part by Lighthizer’s dislike of Freeland, has decided to not even let Canada back into the process until it makes some kind of substantive concession. national post

If you are not in the room you are not part of the deal. The dimwitted PMO and Trade Pixie Chrystia Freeland seem to think that “standing up to the Americans” is good trade policy as well as political catnip. After all, if Trudeau can be cast as Canada’s champion tilting with big, mean, Trump he should win the next election in a walk. (Or so the Ottawa thinking, I am inclined to think Canadians are not that dumb; but I’ve been wrong before.)

The politics of trade are one thing, the actual effects of “no deal” are quite another. The combination of no trade deal with the US and the anti-business consequences of the national “carbon” tax make investment decisions in Canada very easy: why would any US company or Canadian company for that matter, build a factory in Canada when that same factory could be built in the US or Mexico and enjoy access to the US market?

No one has to love Trump to figure out that Canada is better off with a trade deal with our largest trading partner. If that means abandoning our weird desire to enshrine gender equality in such a deal or, more substantively, accepting a negotiated sunset clause or the gradual elimination of tariff barriers in the dairy industry, we should get on with it.

Unfortunately, the political class in Canada – and our awful media – seem to be holding on to the idea that somehow Trump is not the “real” President and that, even if he is, he’ll be gone soon because he’ll be impeached or convicted criminally. Bouncing around Washington to speak to mainly Democratic Senators and Representatives in the name of a “charm” offensive likely re-enforced the perception that Trump is just a bad nightmare which will be over soon. And, hey, mid-terms!

The happy thought of Trump’s departure is the bedrock of leftist delusions about many things. The reality that Trump is going nowhere and that he seems to be accelerating his agenda apparently does not register in the collective Ottawa political brain. It is too horrible to contemplate. So long as the Liberals and their enablers in the media cling to the vision of the quick demise of Trump’s America (and a restoration of those nice Democrats) they will blunder along gaining no traction at all in trade or on any other file.

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High farce, shenanigans and treason

Hillary Clinton, Donald TrumpThe breathless revelations that Michael “not a consigliere” Cohen recorded his phone call(s) to Trump to discuss buying the rights to a Playmate’s tell all about the Donald were trumped by the rumour that Mueller was going to subpoena testimony from a famous New York Madame who was tied up in the Elliot Spitzer scandal and once worked for the very creepy Roger Stone. Special Counsel Mueller, unable to find any connection between Trump and Russians, has opted for the endless delights of exposing the seamy underbelly of the Big Apple. He’ll be busy for years with the “gotcha” just around another New York City corner. Some curmudgeons are complaining about the cost of Mueller’s Special Counsel sitcom. Not this one, I think the American People are getting great value for money. Entire television series have had less plot and fewer doubtful characters than the Mueller show and I, for one, am very grateful.

The serious minded, front of the room, kids do have a point that Mueller is serving as a distraction from the investigation of the previous administration’s abuse of the Intelligence Community, the DOJ and the FBI in the small matter of the assorted FISA Court applications for surveillance on minor Trump operatives. Which is true; but it is also largely irrelevant. Unlike the “Trump colluded with the Russians” farce, there are facts of the matter in the FISA case and general abuse of process by the last administration and those facts have been committed to paper. That exposing those facts is taking a very long time is frustrating but it is not fatal to the enterprise of exposing who did what. The FISA application and renewals were on paper and signed by identifiable people. The White House and UN Ambassador “unmaskings” of US persons left a paper trail. The use of the Steele dossier (and its very interesting manner of compilation) to obtain the FISA warrants are all ripe for exposure. The critical fact being that Trump, as the head of the Executive Branch, can declassify all of these documents. Why he has not done so until now is a bit of a mystery but, on a bet, I would say he is keeping his powder dry as the Mueller farce plays out.

But now we roll around to treason. The lengthy report of the DOJ Inspector General confirmed – as if confirmation were needed – that the “investigation” into Hillary Clinton’s illegal use of a personal server for government business was pro forma at best and a politically motivated whitewash at worst. The FBI’s finest reduced themselves to Keystone Kops in their zeal to protect Hilly (and her henchpeople) from the consequences of her choice to run her own, private, communications setup. It ignored the fact that this server and the classified information which went through it, was almost certainly compromised by multiple enemies and potential enemies of the American State.

There is simply no room for doubt left: Clinton, for her own purposes, created a private communications network which was then compromised by foreign state actors. Now, was this treason per the US Constitution. Probably not.

“Treason against the United States shall consist only in levying war against them, or in adhering to their enemies, giving them aid and comfort.”

Treason requires that an individual actively give support to America’s enemies and while Clinton and her people were grossly negligent, it appears that they were simply too stupid to think through the consequences of the Secretary of State running an insecure server. (Or, as seems more likely, too arrogant to care about those consequences.)

However, despite the learned “Judge” Comely rewriting the standard of proof for the Espionage Act, no requirement of intent to give aid and comfort to America’s enemies is to be found in that Act. In fact, no intent at all is required for an action to attract the effects of that Act. Simply being careless with classified information is enough to attract charges.

If the FBI, at the conclusion of a good faith investigation had recommended charges against Clinton and her staffers, it would have discharged its duty and left the decision to prosecute where it belonged, at the DOJ. Instead, Comely and a number of other FBI staffers conducted a sloppy, irregular investigation and then Comely arrogated the charging authority from the DOJ on the basis of then AG Lynch’s ill advised tarmac meeting with Hilly’s husband Bill. This was entirely improper. The charging decision is the DOJ’s not the FBI’s and if Lynch believed herself compromised, she could easily have recused herself and allowed a deputy to make the call.

It might have gone the same way, but the DOJ exercises a supervisory role with respect to the FBI and an honest DOJ official would have wanted to review the investigation before reaching the odd legal conclusion that the Act required “intent” when it expressly does not.

The farce, shenanigans and near treason all go back to a common origin story: the cack-handed decision to let Hillary walk away from her actions in creating an illegal, private, communications network when she was Secretary of State. Once that decision was made the Intelligence Community, the FBI, the DOJ and the White House had to pray that Hillary would win the election and that these decisions would stay safely swept under the carpet. Some members of those communities did more than pray leading to the FISA applications, the Steele dossier, the unmaskings and the questionable surveillance of the Trump campaign.

It was the mainspring of what FBI man Peter Stzrok described as an “insurance policy”, a means of defeating Trump even if he actually managed to win the election. Because the IC, FBI, DOJ and ex-Obama Whitehouse operatives knew that if Trump won, they all were in huge jeopardy of prosecution for their roles in exonerating Hilly and spying on Trump.

Can’t wait.

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And it’s Coach Kavy for three points

Judge Brett Kavanaugh is a long way from the socon’s dreams of kicking Roe to the curb. He has a gold-plated resume, is judicially conservative in the best sense of that term, was in the Whitehouse on 9/11 and will be tough to defeat in the Senate. American legal beagles will have fun with some of his decisions and they are welcome to it. What I am interested in is how Trump has evolved.

Kavanaugh is a savvy pick. He’ll have all the Republicans – even the lovely lady Senators worried about Roe – and including the RINOs because of his Bush connections. He has fairly limited exposure in terms of red flags to the dwindling minority of Democrats who take Supreme Court nominations seriously. (He is, of course, Hitler to the loonies, but so would anyone Trump picked.)

Which means that, unless there is a tape of his grabbing someone’s nether parts, he’ll be confirmed and Trump will take the easy win. This is smart.

The difference between a professional and an amateur is in what they do when it is fourth down, six yards to go, on the thirty-five yard line with a 14 point lead going into halftime. Sure, you could run the touchdown play and rack up the points. But a pro will kick the field goal. It is the percentage move.

Trump has four months to the mid-terms. Winning the Senate should be fairly easy, but the House of Representatives is a bit more of a struggle. Being able to point to a string of victories – Gorsuch was a win, Korea was the beginning of a win, the unemployment rate and the worker shortage are wins, the black and Latino unemployment rates are big wins, a few days of summitry may turn up some wins – with which to build momentum. And a pro will anticipate losses – Mueller, even without an actual crime, is hurting, so are unneeded trade wars and the price of gas seems to be going up – and will understand that he has to take the hits.

But going into the locker room at halftime with a 17 point lead is way better than being ahead by a couple of touchdowns. Apparently, Trump gets that.

Winning the game means being re-elected in 2020. Being able to point to solid, confirmed, SCOTUS appointments will be a big part of that re-election campaign.

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Canada Day!

Canada, Canada Day, Trump. tariffsThere is nothing I like being more than a Canadian. My compatriots may drive me crazy but our disagreements are political rather than patriotic.

Sadly, our current federal government thinks it can win an election – in a year – by picking a fight with our friends in the US. The PMO’s polling tells them that Canadians a) can’t stand Trump, b) will rally around a PM who stands up for Canada no matter how wrong we might be. I suspect that polling is right but premature.

No one wins a trade war and today the smartypants Liberals are embarking on a series of deliberately political retaliatory tariffs designed to hit Republicans where it hurts, at the polling booth. There are many things wrong with this strategy beginning with the fact it won’t work. Tariffing soy sauce because North America’s largest soy sauce plant is in retiring GOP speaker Paul Ryan’s district looks clever but isn’t. After all, at best, that plant ships about 10% of its production to Canada. Our tariff will be an annoyance rather than a game changer. And just as Canadians claim to be willing to stand shoulder to shoulder with Trudeau in opposing the Trump monster, Americans are perfectly capable of supporting the industries we target.

Canadians win when we come up with creative compromises. Flat out telling the US that we will not accept a five year sunset clause on NAFTA is stupidly beligerent. Intelligent compromise would have created a process – general review at 6 years, sectoral review at eight based on the general review and the possiblilty of revision at 10. It’s boring but it is very Canadian. Same thing with the steel and aluminum tariff. Figure out what the Americans are actually after (likely an end to the transhipment of Chinese commodity steel) and figure out how to make that happen while enhancing the Canadian position.

Unfortunately, this very Canadian approach is not very sexy. It is not going to save a floundering Liberal government. To do that, the geniuses in the PMO realize they somehow have to cast the next election as a referendum on Trump rather than a review of the Trudeau government’s meager list of accomplishments. To that end picking a fight with the US seemed like a good idea.

It isn’t.

With a year in hand, the US can pretty much destroy the Canadian economy and flatten what manufacturing is left in Ontario. They don’t need to do much, just impose a 20% tariff on all cars coming into the US and fail to exempt Canada. Boom, done. Like the rest of the world, Canada enjoys access to the American market because we have negotiated that access and the Americans, to date, have had no particularily compelling reason to restrict that access. Indeed, up until the fracking revolution, there was a strategic reason to keep Canadian oil and gas flowing to the US. That reason has gone.

It is a Canadian pasttime to bash Americans. All the more so with Trump in office. Where that comes from is not obvious but the reserves of anti-Americanism in Canada are, apparently, bottomless. And those reserves are filling fast as the American economy under Trump revives and thrives in contrast to Canada’s. I have no idea if Trump is Making America Great Again, however he is, unambigously, making America Rich Again. And he is doing that through tax cuts and deregulation which are anathema to the economic illiterates who surround Trudeau and infest the Finance Department. Normally, when the US economy surges, Canada enjoys a knockon effect. But between nitwit “carbon taxes” and unnecessary “trade wars” and an apparent inability to build pipelines, Canada is going in the opposite direction.

Between now and next Canada Day I suspect it is a good bet that Canada will make itself poorer. The only question is how much poorer.

If the PMO and the Liberal Party really think they will be able to run against Trump in a little over a year they have to pray that he does not continue to deliver jobs, growth, prosperity and a reassertion of American might internationally. They have to hope Trump will, somehow, be impeached, or lose the mid-terms decisively, or have his economic policies crash or walk into some other disaster – because if Trump’s successes continue and the Democrats fail to win big in November, he is going to be a much less attractive target.

Yes, if Trump does tariff cars at 20% he’ll be demonized all over the world. But where it counts, in the car plants in Ontario and in the parts manufactories, there is not going to be much left. Rail at Trump all you want, the fact is that it will be Trudeau who was dumb enough to poke the bear for political points.

I hope all my Canadian readers enjoy our National Holiday. And then I hope all my American readers enjoy July 4. In a year, we will still be celebrating Canada Day but, unless our politicians smarten up, we will be a poorer and less consequential nation than we are now. And, worse, that condition may very well be permenant as our jobs flow south.

This Canada Day our situation is serious but, with intelligence, not fatal. Next year?

Happy Canada Day!

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Milk Fight

shutterstock_175414571-1000x480The Donald seems obsessed with Canadian Dairy tariffs. As well he might be as they can go as high as 290%.

Over the next week or so, Canada and the US are going to have to climb down from their rather silly positions on everything from aluminium to felt pens.

A good place to start is with Canadian dairy. Why not announce a zero tariff on hormone/antibiotic free milk? It is a tiny percentage of American dairy production but a huge percentage of Canadian dairy is both hormone and antibiotic free.

Trump seems to be attracted by shiny objects and a “win” on dairy is very shiny indeed.

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True North

Justin Trudeau, Donald TrumpOnly in Canada would the rudeness of our Prime Minister to a departing guest be raised – admittedly by Warren “Lying Jackal” Kinsella – to a question of Canadian patriotism. Our Minister of External Affairs has wagged her stubby little finger at the Donald and called his response to Trudeau’s rudeness “inappropriate”.

In so far as there is any thinking at all in Ottawa I suspect some bright light in the PMO, in the wake of Ford’s victory in Ontario, has had the idea that the way for Trudeau to win the next election is to try and cast that election as an opportunity for good Canadians to vote against the monster Trump. It is just the sort of idea which will emerge from a gender-balanced brain trust a bit high on soy. Because decent, good Canadians hate Trump and if Trudeau is seen to stand up to the orange ogre we will all troop to the ballot box in Trudeau’s support. While I think that is unlikely, it is really all these clowns have left.

Which is very bad news for Canada. Because Trump is not kidding on tariffs and could care less if all the Canadas rise as one in support of the Little Potato. As I pointed out below, at virtually no cost to the American economy, Trump can pretty much wipe out the one bit of manufacturing which exists in the so-called “Golden Triangle”. And if Ms. Freeland thinks he is inappropriate now, imagine how fast her finger will have to wag if he hits oil and lumber with the same sort of across the board tariff.

A lot of diplomacy and trade strategy can be learned in a school yard. Six grade one students are unwise trying to take on the kid in grade seven. While they might be able to slow him down they can’t actually hurt him, but one solid punch from the big kid and a little kid is laid out flat. Is that fair? Of course not. But it is how the world works.

Poking a bear is never, ever, smart.

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