The behind-the-scenes complicity of Ivanka Trump

Ivanka and daddy Donald.

Until Ivanka Trump’s interview with Gayle King on CBS This Morning which aired this past Wednesday, it was unclear what Ms. Trump’s role in the White House actually involves, other than possession of a top-level security clearance, attendance at multiple high-level meetings and the occupation of a coveted West Wing office.

Now, at least we know that a large part of Ms. Trump’s position is, as she presents it, the White House’s “Oh, Dad!”-er In Chief.

“I speak up frequently. And my father agrees with me on so many issues. And where he doesn’t, he knows where I stand,” Ms. Trump assured Ms. King.

“Can you give us – ” Ms. King said.

“It’s not my administration,” Ms. Trump responded, all but adding an “I just work here.”

Specifics, it seems, are for little people.

Ms. King’s curiosity in this matter is understandable. Throughout the election and beyond, Ivanka Trump was bandied about as Team Trump’s token-but-highly-influential moderate, a lady moderate, no less. Ms. Trump was, we were to understand, the modern young woman who made it okay to vote for the guy who boasted of being able to “Grab ’em by the pussy.”

It was insinuated, often by Ivanka herself, that she would, in some behind-the-scenes old-fashioned daughterly way, keep her dad in line, at least as far as it came to issues such as women’s health care.

“Do not be alarmed by Mr. Trump’s plan to defund Planned Parenthood and his apparent openness to penalizing women who choose to have an abortion,” Americans were essentially told. “This man is not American Ceausescu. For he has a girl-child! A New York girl-child!” But, months in, it is difficult – in all the actions, failed actions and in the stated agenda of Donald Trump’s team – to find a shred of a policy that might conceivably have been influenced by the kind of character Ivanka Trump has been attempting to play.

What is increasingly clear about most of the Trump family members is that even though they are collectively attempting to run the United States now, they seem to share an expectation that the media will continue to write the same kind of puff-piece, brand-promoting, semi-fawning stories about them as they have mostly seen go to print – only now there should be more of them.

The assumption seems to have been that, having achieved office, an entire library of in-flight magazine prose should be devoted to the Trumps. Even remotely hardball questions are characterized by the family and their supporters as way out of bounds.

“I put it into trust. I have independent trustees,” Ms. Trump said waspishly when asked the should-have-seen-it-coming-like-a big-soft-beach-ball question about the current status of her business.

That would be the same business that issued an e-mail Style Alert drawing reporters’ attention to the sight of “Ivanka Trump wearing her favourite bangle from the Metropolis Collection on 60 Minutes,” brazenly hawking a $10,800 (U.S.) diamond bracelet.

“But the trustees are family members, right? Your brother-in-law and your sister-in-law?” said Ms. King, on behalf of sentient life everywhere.

“They are,” Ms. Trump said, “But they’re completely independent. And I’m transparent about that.”

Well, thanks, Ms. Trump, that didn’t even attempt the smell test.

Is Ivanka trying to tell us that she acknowledges that her family members are in fact members of her family? Are we meant to be impressed by this remarkable display of honesty? (Although, to be fair, I’m not sure I’d cop to Eric.)

“I’d like the perks of power, hold the accountability,” is the gist of all Trump family communications.

Read the other half of the complete article by Tabatha Southey on the Globe and Mail newspaper web site.


Fighting Trump’s immigration ban with love and laughter

Katy Lemay/The Globe and Mail

Katy Lemay/The Globe and Mail

Trump’s immigration ban as it affects one man and his son’s grave.

Hasan loved to hear me sing to him. This came as a bit of a shock to me. There was always a collective groan in the Farooq family household when I would begin humming an old country song. But my baby boy, my Hasan, loved it. Coming home from classes from UC Berkeley Law school, I would scoop him up into my arms and sing all of his favourite sleepy-time songs.

Hasan’s tastes were varied. He loved Imam al Busiri’s 11th-century ode to the Beloved Messenger Muhammad and he loved my a capella version of the Star Wars theme. He was a particularly big fan of Dawud Wharnsby Ali, a Canadian Muslim folk singer who sings about faith, flowers and cups of tea.

Born three-weeks prematurely on May 5, 2015, at the Royal Alexandra Hospital in Edmonton, Hasan arrived in my arms wheezing.

As I cut the umbilical cord, it became apparent to me quickly that he wasn’t breathing as he should have been. The pediatric nurses rushed him off to the neonatal intensive-care unit.

He was hooked into the CPAP machine to help him breathe and tears of fear rolled down my cheeks while his tiny fingers wrapped around my finger. With his breathing stabilized, Hasan turned his head to me and gave me a huge impish grin.

It was a grin that promised this was the first of many pranks, in cahoots with his brilliant, carefree mother, to be played collectively on his overprotective hypochondriac of a father.

I wanted to name him Yahya, meaning, “he who lives,” the Arabic name for the biblical John. My father, looking at my son’s blue-green-grey eyes, his light brown hair and his impudent smile, thought we should name him Hasan, meaning “beautiful.” It did not take much persuasion for my wife and I to agree.

As we prepared Hasan for his burial nine-months later, washing that beautiful, wavy hair, I realized the deep wisdom in my father’s words.

We drove down to California when Hasan was four-months old so I could start grad school in San Francisco. He was on the smaller side, as premature babies often are, but other than that, he was healthy, babbling and chattering all the way. As we drove past the border, through Idaho and then on the Oregon Trail, I had a distinct sense of a homecoming of sorts.

Hasan was truly a California boy. I could see the Pacific Ocean reflected in his sky-blue eyes. My wife would take him in his stroller almost every day for walks along the Bay while I was studying.

What I was studying seemed so at odds with the world around me. As Donald Trump’s presidential run began to pick up steam and an engine of hate, misogyny, Islamophobia and racism began to tear its way through Alexis de Tocqueville’s imagined American dream, I would come home and hold my baby tightly. Hasan’s laugh – often prompted by pulling off his tiny sock – would make me wonder how there could be ever be hate in the world.

Hasan passed away suddenly, with no real warning. I was only a month or so away from completing my thesis. I came home in late February from class to find that he looked exceptionally pale; rushing him to the hospital, we learned that he had a rare genetic disorder that had affected his immune system. Two days later, he closed his eyes – eyes that could stare into your soul – for the last time.

Two months later, as I graduated from UC Berkeley and drove back past Seattle to return to my Canadian law firm, the car seat in the back was empty.

President Trump’s immigration ban does not affect us at this time. But I worry that my wife – who still travels on a Pakistani passport – will one day not be allowed to visit our child’s grave in San Francisco.

And I wonder what Hasan would think of all this.

Our metaphysical separation, between heaven and Earth, is also tied to a political separation between borders. I think my son would have wanted me to respond to the “Muslim ban” with the same way he lived. With love. With song. With enormous hope. With a laugh that made my heart soar. With dignity and respect.

And so, we go on to work against these policies. I do it, maybe in a small corner of my heart, to ensure that my wife and I can visit California to visit my son’s grave without being turned away.

I do it more, however, to respect my son’s legacy. A legacy of light and laughter and love. It is a legacy that we will all need to hold onto in the upcoming days of uncertainty that we face. It is a song that we all need to sing to our children: “A voice was chanting, As the fog was lifting, This land was made for you and me.”

Mustafa Farooq lives in Sherwood Park, Alta.

From the Globe and Mail ‘Facts & Arguments‘ section.

Canada’s “fetid wall of feces”


A bizarre feud over Lee Murray’s massive pile of manure has left the New Brunswick farmer steaming mad.

The ugly quarrel with Murray’s next-door neighbours, the Gallants, made international headlines this week when a judge ordered he pay them $17,000 in costs and damages, saying he had used his tractor to build a fetid wall of feces along the Gallants’ property line to make them miserable.

Murray, who has lived all his life on Indian Mountain near Moncton, N.B., said Thursday he is planning to file an appeal.

“There was a lot of questions my lawyer didn’t ask in court,” he said in an interview from his home. “I’ve been self-employed all my life and this is the worst mess I’ve ever been into. This is nuts.”

Murray, a cattle farmer, said his family got along just fine with Joan and David Gallant until about six years ago, when Joan Gallant complained about getting too much of the Murrays’ junk mail.

“It was downhill after that,” Murray said.

I can understand where some readers may be tempted to compare steps leading to this manure wall tantrum with Trump’s wall tantrum with Mexico and Canada.

The pile eventually grew to be about 18 metres long, 13 metres wide and as high as his nearby three-car garage, David Gallant said.

He said the smell was so bad, he couldn’t stay in the building.

“I almost couldn’t make it out the door,” he said. “It was just suffocating in there. You couldn’t catch you breath … We’re talking tonnes of manure here.”

He said he asked Murray to move the pile, but he refused.

It sat there for the next 11 months.

Justice George Rideout of the Court of Queen’s Bench concluded that Murray dumped the dung to antagonize the Gallants, saying his actions were “wilful and reprehensible.”

“In my opinion … the manure was placed where it was for only one purpose: to make Mr. and Mrs. Gallant’s lives miserable,” the judge wrote.

“The manure was piled high and a photo taken by Google from a satellite shows it. There were other places where the manure could have been placed which would not have caused the odour problem.”

The judge imposed an injunction on the Murray family, saying they can’t pile or spread manure within 300 metres of the Gallant home, or within 60 metres of any part of their property.

The judge also said the Murrays can’t communicate with the Gallants except in writing.


There’s a lesson here for everyone. If you start throwing shit around it will eventually just land all over yourself.

The father of Canadian computing

Photo: Robert Lansdale/Courtesy of the University of Toronto Archives

Photo: Robert Lansdale/Courtesy of the University of Toronto Archives

Computing pioneer Kelly Gotlieb was quintessentially Canadian in that he united high technical achievement with a low public profile. Leaders in the field of digital computation, however, have long regarded the University of Toronto professor emeritus, who died on Oct. 16 at the age of 95, as the father of Canadian computer science.

In 1948, just a year after receiving his doctorate, Dr. Gotlieb helped establish the country’s first computation centre, at the University of Toronto, and in 1952, he imported Canada’s earliest digital computer, FERUT, to his new lab. This 800-pound thermionic-tube-filled monster was the second of its kind to be produced by the British firm Ferranti Electric Co. (FERUT is an acronym for ‘FERranti U of T’).

With FERUT up and running, Dr. Gotlieb collaborated with the University of Saskatchewan to process research data digitally. U of S sent metres of paper tape by Teletype to U of T over analog phone lines, encoding gigabytes of raw data. Dr. Gotlieb’s computation centre fed this into FERUT, which in mere hours had analytical output, also on paper tape, that was then sent back to U of S. The process was lightning-fast compared with previous snail-mail turnaround times of up to four months.

When the university established its Department of Computer Science in 1964 (for graduate students only), Dr. Gotlieb was appointed its first director. By that point, he had already distinguished himself in digital computation, calculating the dynamic stability of designs for the new Avro Arrow fighter plane and modelling the hydrological consequences of various configurations for the St. Lawrence Seaway then being mooted. Dr. Gotlieb’s calculations so reassured the U.S. Congress that it reversed its initial opposition to the Seaway, for the first time opening the industrial and agricultural heartland of North America to global seaborne trade.

Over his long career, Dr. Gotlieb co-authored four books and authored or co-authored more than 100 publications in peer-reviewed scientific journals; in 1958, he was a founding member of the Canadian Information Processing Society. He pioneered a computerized reservation system for Trans-Canada Airlines (now Air Canada), paved the way for the world’s first computer-controlled traffic lights (in Toronto), fostered today’s machine-readable postal codes and digitized U of T’s card catalogues so effectively that his system was adopted by the U.S. Library of Congress.

“We were,” he once remarked, “responsible for an entire nation’s calculations.”

Dr. Gotlieb was a visionary, not only in the technical issues of machine computation, but also in their potential social implications. In the 1960s, he was chosen by U Thant, Secretary- General of the United Nations, to be one of six world experts advising on how computer technology might assist international development. Years later, he served on Canada’s first federal task force on privacy.

Read the complete article in the Globe and Mail here.

Report on Business magazine throws water on Harper’s economic performance and his government.

The Globe and Mail’s Report on Business magazine today published an article on Harper’s economic plan with the title ‘Harper’s economic plan: spin to win”.

The lengthy article delves in the the micromanagement by Harper of every political stance, event, or announcement by the Conservatives. The purpose? Promote Stephen Harper and his personal agenda. Harper is the first Prime Minister of Canada to be found in contempt of parliament.

Ralph Goodale, finance minister under Paul Martin, is quoted in the article as saying of the Conservatives “Spin is the number one priority, policy secondary. It’s been clear all along.”

Clear all along?

“Look at the record. Not since the 1930s have Canadian economic growth numbers been so bad as this last decade under Harper.” And no, Goodale argued, you couldn’t blame it on “global conditions,” as the Prime Minister liked to do. The downturn from the financial crisis ended several years ago.

Now, in 2015, as an election approached, there was a new downturn. The Tories’ economic narrative turned sour. Where once Canada was doing better than all the G7 countries, now it was the only country among them with an economy sputtering out recession-like numbers.

The bad news kept rolling in. Oil prices had plunged. Growth numbers fell. Bank of Canada Governor Stephen Poloz called the country’s economic performance in the first quarter “atrocious.” Uncertainty prompted a delay in the budget delivery date. The country’s merchandise trade deficit reached an all-time high. A balanced budget, the much-ballyhooed promise of the government, looked less and less likely, given revenue shortfalls. Labour union economists Jim Stanford and Jordan Brennan did a statistical analysis in which they examined 16 indicators of economic progress for all Canadian governments since the Second World War. Their conclusion: The Harper Tories ranked last.

It wasn’t just labour economists who were doubting the Conservatives’ record, but the Harper team blew off such studies as being biased.

The dogs barked, the caravan moved on. Through the run of bad news, Finance Minister Joe Oliver showed little concern, maintaining a low profile. When the 75-year-old did appear for Question Period in the House of Commons, pitbull Pierre Poilievre, 36, often stood in his place. The young enforcer had been named the new employment minister.

Poilievre, with scant life experience outside politics, had frequently been the subject of unflattering press reports. But he was regarded as one of the party’s best pitchmen by the Prime Minister. Poilievre was not in the job long before it was revealed that he had used a team of public servants, who weren’t supposed to engage in partisan activity, for overtime work on a Sunday. They were called in to film Poilievre glad-handing constituents and promoting the government’s Universal Child Care Benefit plan. Not one to brook criticism, Poilievre then took things a step further, wearing a shirt with a Conservative logo on another round of promotion. His government, a Globe and Mail analysis found, funnelled 83% of the projects under its signature infrastructure fund to Conservative-held ridings.

While one wag suggested the Tories should be hit with a “crass-action” suit, they plunged ahead, eyes firmly fixed on the Oct. 19 rendezvous with voters. Their opponents could gripe all they wanted. They weren’t going to change their ways. They would pound the airwaves with the message that they were doing great things for Canadians. If the experts were saying their balanced budget was not achievable, it didn’t matter; they clung to the boast.

Economic performance, as Goodale noted, was highly susceptible to spin. Harper may never have worked as an economist, but his two degrees in the field taught him an important political truth: Statistics could be found to prove or disprove most any theory one wanted. It was all about who had the biggest megaphones.

Read the whole Report on Business magazine article from the Globe and Mail at this link.

A new cyber surveillance virus found.

Kaspersky Lab’s reports a new cyber surveillance virus dubbed Gauss has been found in the Middle East that can spy on financial transactions, e-mail, social networking activity and may also be capable of attacking critical infrastructure.

The Moscow-based firm said it found Gauss had infected personal computers in Lebanon, Israel and the Palestinian Territories. It declined to speculate on who was behind the virus but said it was related to Stuxnet and two other cyber espionage tools, Flame and Duqu.

“After looking at Stuxnet, Duqu and Flame, we can say with a high degree of certainty that Gauss comes from the same ‘factory’ or ‘factories,’ ” Kaspersky Lab said in a posting on its website. “All these attack toolkits represent the high end of nation-state-sponsored cyber-espionage and cyber war operations.”

According to Kaspersky Lab, Gauss can steal Internet browser passwords and other data, send information about system configurations, steal credentials for accessing banking systems in the Middle East, and hijack login information for social networking sites, e-mail and instant messaging accounts.

What bugs me, pardon the pun, is that such technology can be used against private citizens anywhere, including the country which created the virus.

Read the complete article on the Globe and Mail newspaper web site here.