Category Archives: Politics

What To Do When King Donald Goes Mad

By Dr David Laing Dawson

In November of 2016 I wrote the piece that follows. Predictions for the Trump Presidency. As Donald himself might say, “Who knew impeachment was so complicated?” So, I got that wrong. It will be a long and messy process. If only they had a parliamentary system and could simply call for a vote of non-confidence.

And I did not guess the extent to which Trump would  incriminate himself with both his careless tweets and his loose boastful talk in both the Russia affair and the obstruction of investigation into the Russia affair.

Other than that though, my predictions are depressingly accurate. And I still think the danger for the U. S. of A. and the rest of the world is that Donald Trump, unlike Nixon, will not go gentle into that good night. The sane and rational leaders of America need a plan. As the bad news mounts; when Trump’s counter attacks and deflections begin to fail; when he is cornered, he will lash out. They must make sure he cannot bring the temple down.

Predictions for the Trump Presidency

By Dr David Laing Dawson (Nov. 24, 2016)

The good news:

Donald Trump has neither the knowledge nor patience to figure out how to repeal parts of Obamacare, renegotiate NAFTA, build a great wall, prosecute Hillary, create the mechanisms to actually find and deport 3 million immigrants, or even change the tax system.

He won’t interfere much with climate change accords, because he doesn’t really care one way or the other and this is also a very complicated endeavor. He will continue to contradict himself from day to day, responding to his immediate impulses and his (I must admit) well honed intuitions about his public.

He can interfere with the TPP because all he has to say is, “Not gonna do it.” China can take the lead and a trade deal will be struck with all countries on the Pacific excluding the USA. I have no idea what that means for the USA or Canada.

Anything that requires a great deal of work, attention to detail, building a consensus, formulating a complex plan, he will not do.

The bad news:

Within a few weeks of his presidency Donald Trump will manage to mix his business dealings, his self-aggrandizement, and his petty peeves with his presidency, with his representation of the people of the United States, to such a degree that the democrats and a few republicans will start an impeachment process. In the ensuing hearings his business dealings around the world and at home will be exposed. He will respond with anger and outrageous accusations. This will convince others to support the impeachment.

As it becomes clear that Donald J. Trump will be successfully impeached he will become a raging bull. He will not simply announce, “I am not a crook.” and board the helicopter in disgrace. He will rage. He will suffer an extreme blow to his narcissism. He will rage and lash out.

This will fuel the racist fires at home and cause great anxiety abroad. He could well bring the temple down.

Sane American leaders need to be thinking about a contingency plan.

Perhaps the fully sane leaders of the rest of the world could form a club and plan a contingency of their own. What to do when King Donald goes mad.

With Trump – The Devil is in the Details

By Dr David Laing Dawson

As the political theater continues south of our border, lurching toward a constitutional crisis, everybody is weighing in, asking every conceivable question, offering every conceivable opinion.

For part of this though, at least when it comes to Donald Trump, we need but listen closely.

Did he ask Comey if he, Donald J. Trump, was under investigation?

Did Comey answer?

Is any of this normal, ethical, proper? Might it even be obstruction of justice?

Is it true?

Listen and read carefully.

The truth, I think, lies in his use of the modifier ‘three’. As in “three times” Comey told him he was not under investigation.

This is not something he should have asked the Chief investigator of himself and his cronies, and the Chief investigator should not have answered. But did this actually happen even once?

The “three times” wording indicates the whole thing is a simple lie. A childish lie. An unnecessary embellishment. The kind of embellishment and exaggeration a child uses to sell his lie.

It is the kind of embellishment and gross exaggeration Trump always uses to sell his lies. “You know it, I know it, everybody knows it.”

As I have said before, during the impeachment process please take away the nuclear codes.

And this morning, it was suggested that Trump may be intimidating a witness http://www.politicususa.com/2017/05/12/donald-trump-intimidate-witness-threat-james-comey.html

 

The Real Reason James Comey Was Fired.

By Dr David Laing Dawson

CNN interviewees offered these three competing explanations last night:

  1. That he has lost the confidence of the public and law enforcement? An unlikely cause for a summary dismissal.
  1. That he mishandled the Clinton email problem one year ago? No. C’mon now. Trump would not fire Comey for that reason. Never.
  1. That the investigation he leads is closing in on the Trump-Russia connection? Well, Doh.

But there is a fourth, slightly less portentous possibility.

James Comey, in his recent testimony to Congress, said:

“It makes me mildly nauseous to think we might have had some impact on the election.”

Donald Trump won that election. So to paraphrase, Comey testified, before the world, that, “He feels sick to his stomach when he thinks he may have helped Trump get elected.”

Donald just might have taken that personally. He tends to do that.

You’re Wonderful, Mr. Trump, But War is a Really Bad Thing.

By Dr David Laing Dawson

I apologize for being so obsessed with Donald Trump but with the doomsday clock being closer to midnight than ever before, with a rekindling of cold war tensions, with Noam Chomsky worried, the arid lands expanding, the oceans rising, this one incompetent man is in a position to do extraordinary harm to our planet.

However, an aspect of his personality seems to be emerging that I had not guessed would be there. Despite his bluster, his threats, his word salad provocations, when someone meets with him face to face he quickly backs down, changes his “mind”.

General Mattis convinced him that maybe torture was not a good thing. Someone else explained to him that health care systems are complicated. Someone else explained NATO to him and that perhaps it is not so obsolete after all. Trump meets with the President of China and China is no longer a currency manipulator. And now phone calls from Justin Trudeau and Enrique Pena Nieto have caused him to pass on withdrawing from NAFTA.

Which means several things:

  1. That bluster of confidence and narcissism is a thin veneer.
  2. A very insecure man lies beneath.
  3. Above all he wants to be liked, loved, respected.
  4. Face to face he quickly backs down.

So this means to keep our world safe and secure, the adults in the room need merely take him aside and talk to him. And others not in the room should finagle an invitation to Mar a Lago.

Unfortunately it also means that when his bluster and off-the-cuff proposals align with the self-interest of the only adults in the room they are unlikely to have that talk with him.

So America is stuck with a massive increase in military spending, fewer regulations, much less environmental protection, more tax breaks and benefits for billionaires, some fracking here and there, a little more oil and coal, a little less wild life, a few more guns – and those boys in uniform we call The Military, well, they may get to play with a few of their favorite toys. (Such as the MOAB and Tomahawks)

Then I watched “At Issue” on CBC. And although the panel on CBC is so much more gracious, thoughtful, and polite than any counterpart on CNN, they still seek meaning and planning in the words of Donald Trump. Like he actually thought these things out. Like he actually plans his flip-flops. As if he might actually be two moves ahead on the chessboard. NO. Just listen carefully to any extended interview. He knows almost nothing. He has no plan. He has no convictions. He cannot sustain a thought of any complexity.

He’s like a kid who once took an angry swipe at his pile of blocks, causing them to break the jar on the counter, which then poured chocolate jellybeans upon him. He spends his life trying to repeat this. I think the shrinks call it repetition-compulsion.

But here is the silver lining and my advice to all sane, sensible, reasonable, liberal, thoughtful leaders in this world. Don’t react to his tweets, his bluster. Don’t engage through media. Meet him face to face. Show him respect. Then tell him, respectfully, what he should do, and why. And smile all the while.

Justin, I think you are just the right man for this assignment.

Conscious Thought is Slow.

By Dr David Laing Dawson

My plasma screen big TV refreshes each and every pixel 200 times per second. Or is that every other pixel? And is there a formula that allows some of those pixels to rest in their current state for the full second? And this occurs after information has traveled from God knows where at close to the speed of light through copper wire and fiber optic cable.

My conscious mind cannot keep up.

But there are parts of our brain that must work almost as quickly. My optic nerve for instance. Or the message from burned finger to brain and then to muscle. Or from retina, to brain, to amygdaloid, to pineal to adrenal to heart and stomach so I might feel revulsion or delight or anger before my conscious brain manages to explain this.

Which is why most conscious thought occurs after the fact, after the action, after the experience, after the event. Which is why most conscious thought is rationalization, the explaining and organizing of an action already taken or a feeling already felt.

I am (slowly) thinking about this because I am trying to understand how it is so many cheered when Trump let fly those 59 missiles. The images of dead children on my plasma TV caused that very fast electrochemical chain reaction from retina to neuron to experiences of revulsion and anger. But how about we spend some time thinking and talking about how this civil war might be ended.

And every time I see Kim Jong Un on my plasma TV I want to slap him or deflate him. He, his terrified and sycophantic generals, and his strutting robot men, cause that same fast electrochemical reaction in my brain to produce hormones of disgust, of anger, and no small amount of incredulity.

And I know when I listen to the politicians and “experts” on CNN, I am hearing the thought processes that slowly justify the more instant wish to deflate this man. And then we cheer the armada, the threats, the bombast, and, God help us, we may soon be cheering the preemptive strike, or the overwhelming retaliation.

Please know this. Know this about our instant reactions and the slower thought processes that justify them. Know it is time to calm down, step back, and figure out how best to deal with such a man as Kim Jong Un and North Korea’s 25 million people to ensure we all have a future.

Please Stop Listening to Donald Trump

By Dr David Laing Dawson

There was a point in my mother’s dementia when she could engage in a ten minute conversation with an acquaintance or stranger without the person discovering that she, my mother, could not tell you her address, age, the date or day of the week. She was adept at the speechisms, the smiles, the nods, the all-purpose declarations of pleasantness, of good weather, of well being, of the “So nice to see you again”, “lovely weather we’re having” kind of remark.

In a perverse sort of way it reminds me of Donald. Though his fill-ins, rather than being pleasantries, are a rather random assortment of extreme declarations: bad, very bad, terrible, horrible, disastrous, disgraceful to wonderful, terrific, great, best, like you’ve never seen before.

Note that both “lovely weather we’re having” and “like you’ve never seen before” work adequately no matter the reality.

Donald probably knows his addresses (they are easy to remember), the date, his handicap, the names of his children, but he clearly knows little else. His throwaway statements of “big league” and “disaster” stir his audience, but they also hide a chasm of knowledge and a lack of any detailed understanding.

We can be sure that when he rants about the dairy industry, Canada, and NAFTA, he knows nothing about these subjects. When he tells Fox News interviewer Maria Bartiromo about the “most beautiful piece of chocolate cake you’ve ever seen” and how he leaned across and told the President of China that he had just launched 59 missiles “at Iraq”, it wasn’t a slip of the tongue in a rapid conversation. Maria corrected him, simply saying, “You mean Syria?” He repeated her “Syria” without blinking, and went back to talking about dessert.

But he is POTUS and so the pundits, politicians, reporters, experts, panel members all try to find meaning, thought, policy, and direction in his utterances. Beside my own mother’s dementia it conjures images of courtiers, earls, and nobles trying to find wisdom in an idiot king’s sighs and passing of gas.

I think Trudeau and Merkel understand this. Let’s hope Kim, Xi, and Vladimir do as well.

I am Distressed to Hear the War Drums

By Dr David Laing Dawson

I am distressed to hear the war drums. I am distressed listening to the talking heads, the panel of retired generals, pundits, and experts on CNN talk of war with North Korea. I am distressed by their matter-of-factness, by their strategic and political ponderings, all so devoid of horror.

How do we remain so inured to the real consequences of war?

My grandfather died in 1972. I had long thought he fought at Vimy, and on a visit there, to see the trenches and the monument, I wrote in the guest book, “I came to see where my grandfather fought.” In the trenches and the bomb craters one can smell the fear, sense the horror, see the threat of opposing trenches a stone’s throw away. At the monument, awe and pride intrude. My grandfather was here.

But it turns out he wasn’t.

Thanks to the wonders of the digital age I now have 93 adobe pages of my grandfather’s military record from the moment he enlisted until his discharge and the time of his death.

He enlisted in January of 1915 and joined the Canadian Expeditionary Force when it was still necessary for a married man to have his wife’s permission. His wife and my grandmother was Irene Alice who he left behind in Victoria with three children. A fourth would arrive, at least by my calculations, after the war.

On the enlistment form, just above a final declaration, is a curious question: “Do you understand the nature and terms of your engagement?” He answered “yes” and then completed the form with a signature much like my father’s and my own. He was 28 years old and five foot nine. He was assigned to the 30th battalion and sent overseas in the spring of 1915. From January 1915 until March 31, 1916 my grandmother received between 30 and 40 dollars per month.

He spent the summer training at Shorncliffe, on the Kentish coast of England, and then, in September, he was shipped to the front. The front being the trenches of France, and then Belgium and the second battle of Ypres.

Twice in France he was taken from the trenches to a field hospital suffering from influenza. He was promoted to Sergeant by late September 1915, and then to Sergeant Major. Upon discharge he was awarded the Distinguished Service Medal.

On June 3, 1916, at the Battle of Mont Sorrel, within the second battle of Ypres, my grandfather rose from the trench at the call to charge. A bullet pierced his right bicep and shrapnel hit him in the right side of his face. He was evacuated to the Graylingwell War Hospital with “wounds to his right arm and scalp”.

In the documents I have the army is more detailed and thorough in its descriptions of the pay records than either combat or medical experiences, but I do have terse notes by doctors and digitized versions of the original x-rays.

My grandfather’s right arm healed quickly. The x-rays show a piece of shrapnel behind the right eye lodged in bone. They did not attempt to remove this. He is transferred to a convalescent hospital with his arm healed and almost fully functional but suffering from poor sleep (nightmares of his time in the trenches), headaches and dizzy spells. The dizzy spells cause him to black out and fall frequently. Specialists cannot find a physical cause to explain these latter symptoms and they diagnose the etiology as, in part, “nervous”.

By August of that year he is declared medically unfit to return to duty and then formally discharged from the army in January, 1917. The monthly pay to my grandmother ceases two months later.

So he did fight in the trenches; he was wounded, and he was furloughed to London as I knew, but he didn’t fight at Vimy as I had come to believe. And it is 30 to 40 years later that I formed my first memories of my grandfather and he never spoke of the war and I had no idea of the questions I might ask.

But now my medical curiosity has kicked in. Initially his symptoms might have been concussive, or post concussive. Next he certainly suffered from what they called “nerves” and would soon refer to as “shell shock” and now PTSD. He did suffer the living hell of the cold muddy trenches in France and Belgium through the winter of 1916. He watched men dying suddenly. He watched men dying slowly. He watched men throw themselves into battle to relieve their growing terror.

But it is also possible that he continued to report dizzy spells and he continued to fall down at the convalescent hospital because he did not want to go back to those trenches.

Perhaps he had come to know that in war there is no glory to be had.

Analyzing Trump Gibberish

By Dr David Laing Dawson

When speaking to someone, perhaps answering a question, most of us occasionally go off on a tangent, we find the first clause of our thought and sentence has triggered a parallel thought. Many of us find at times that the thought, the idea we were expressing, requires a change of format, a change of sentence structure in the middle of the utterance in order that it make sense. At that point we pause, and then either find a link such as “about which” that will work, or we start over and restructure from the beginning. Sometimes we realize what we said was not clear, and then reformulate the thought with, “What I am trying to say is…”. Sometimes the whole sentence is verbalized before we realize that it doesn’t quite work as a logical thought.

But always, or almost always, we notice this ourselves, during the time we are talking or immediately after. That is, we listen to ourselves.

And this is one of the things perplexing about Donald J. Trump. He either doesn’t listen to himself or he doesn’t care what comes out of his mouth.

A recent New York Times article called it gibberish and indicative of some sort of derangement.

We are all capable of gibberish at times. What worries me is that Donald Trump does not seem to notice he is speaking gibberish. This may explain the ease with which he lies and contradicts himself.

I don’t really understand this. His narcissism, yes. His short attention span, yes. His lazy grandiosity, yes. But what does it mean when the President of the United States does not listen to himself when he speaks? What does it mean when he does not listen to himself and notice the inconsistencies and contradictions in his speech, when he loses his way mid-sentence? Apart from being dangerous for the rest of us?

In a state of mania a rapid stream of consciousness occurs, a flight of tangential thinking, “pressured speech” as we call it, random thoughts and exhortations, sometimes linked only by rhythm and rhyme. But President Trump is not manic.

I have spent many years listening to delusions. Clear, simple, “fixed” delusions (as we call them) contain an inner logic. Trump’s speech patterns do not contain an inner logic. By inner logic I mean that if one accepts the hypothesis that the Martians are controlling me, then all else that I assert on this subject is plausible, if I can logically link it to the central idea.

Fractured, unsettled, probing, scanning, disorganized delusional thinking is different. It is a brain frantically looking for an organizing principle. This comes closer to Trump speak, but he does not appear in any other way to be psychotic.

Sprinkling random observations into the middle of an exchange and then forgetting you have done this can be a sign of dementia.

“The snow is on the ground.”

“Mother, it’s July.”

“I know that.”

“Then why did you mention snow?”

“I didn’t say anything about snow.”

This is probably not the problem afflicting Donald Trump, but time will tell. If it is some form of dementia it will get worse.

And then, just recently in the Oval Office while holding a conference with some members of Congress, he announced, in relation to the battle for Mosul, and specifically the involvement of American troops, “they are fighting like they’ve never fought before.” He said this with a particular tone and prosody, and a smile of pleasure, of good news and high expectations.

It is an interesting phrase in that context, rather meaningless and perhaps somewhat insulting to the veterans of the Iraq war and many other wars. Except if you take the phrase and the contextual information together, the unspoken portion of this thought ends with, “because I am an inspiration to them.”

It is similar to other favorite phrases of his, such as “like you’ve never seen before”. “It will make your head spin.”

It is empty salesmanship, a promise of nothing really, and a way of taking credit if something good happens, a way of congratulating himself in advance.

And it shows a paucity of complex thought beyond that of a 14 year old.

Linguists point out that the ability to compose and utter a sentence consisting of several clauses, with a premise supported by observations, leading to a logical conclusion, is a product of reading. Prior to written language all we required was something like, “Lion come, run.” But Trump’s performance with the teleprompter demonstrates that he can read, he just doesn’t read much. This leads some pundits and scholars to point out that we are in a post-print age. That much of Mr. Trump’s base do not read either.

Still, one would think Mr. Trump would notice when he is talking gibberish. And I would think it is the moral duty of all those who get to interview him, to point it out.

We live in a new age, when the spoken words (and tweets) of one man are instantly shared with the world, and because of his position of power, they have impact, they have weight. But while the world is listening to this man, he is not listening to himself.

The silver lining to this is, I think, that the Merkels, Mays, Trudeaus of this world have figured it out: that all his utterances, lies, contradictions, illogical constructions, and gibberish, can be translated as, simply, “I am great and you are not.”

But this also means he can be easily manipulated by the Putins and Bannons of this same world.

 

Please, America, Please

By Dr David Laing Dawson

I have always looked to our south, like many Canadians, with a little disdain, a smidgen of envy, a touch of awe, and no small sense of superiority. When you repeat over and over again, ad nauseum, that America is the Greatest country on earth, I want to politely shout, “No, you are not.” Perhaps by one measure out of twenty you are, but that’s it. One out of twenty. Maybe two. Military force and entertainment. Maybe three: military force, entertainment, and some of the sciences.

You got the atomic bomb first, with the help of a few imported scientists, but Canada was second in having the knowledge and technology to build one, and it did not. Perhaps this was a much more significant accomplishment.

You can see our relationship has been complicated.

Traveling in Europe we quickly identify ourselves as Canadian, not American. I know some Americans who do as well.

But I was in Paris when the twin towers came down, and we spent four days there watching the news. And I found, out on the street, that suddenly I too was American, North American.

How dare these primitives, these semi-civilized thirteenth century people, attack the greatest city on earth, the showpiece of my America? How dare such primitives, such pre-enlightenment Neanderthals attack this beacon of light, this democracy, our democracy?

At that moment the civilized enlightened world was with you, America. You had a free hand to go hard after Osama Bin Laden. Instead you invaded Iraq. And as the war drums grew I found myself saying, “No. They won’t do that. Nobody could be that stupid.”

But you were. And then you did it badly, ignoring history and everything we know about collective human behaviour, about what happens when you take away stability, structure, organization.

And once again I became a disdainful Canadian watching you torture yourselves (and others).

Of course, with your own disdain of regulations and oversight, you also allowed a financial crisis to assail the world, and for the gap in wealth to grow to outrageous proportions. The very rich got richer, the poor got poorer.

And then we had 8 years of Obama, a man who proved to be, if a little indecisive, at least sane, intelligent, kind, thoughtful, knowledgeable and responsible. It looked like America had a chance again and might one-day regain a fourth or even fifth category of greatness.

Four or five out of twenty wouldn’t be all that bad. Education? Health care? Quality of Life? Women’s rights? Racial equality? Literacy? Scientific literacy? Standard of living? Clean air? Clean water? Mental health care? Less primitive corrections system? Modern transportation system? Banking regulations? Maybe you would even direct that famous American energy and ingenuity toward preventing the calamity of climate change?

But no.

Instead you took a mighty step backwards. You elected a child as president and a raft of 19th century idealogues to Congress. The arguments I hear on CNN about that whole list one paragraph above are silly, stupid, primitive, ill informed. With each of them the push is backwards: women’s rights, health care, EPA, great lakes, mental health care, climate change, education, science, corrections, regulations, wealth equality, race relations.

Please, America, Please. Those of you who are enlightened, educated, worldly, kind, sane, responsible – those of you who have empathy for others, who have outgrown or at least come to terms with your past – those of you who care about the real future – the future for yourselves, your children, your grandchildren, and the rest of the world for that matter – you need to resist; you need to turn the tables.

I could simply go on feeling superior and disdainful, but America is too important, even the idea of America is too important. We, the whole world, need a sane, stable, educated, advanced, involved, compassionate America.

And now I shall watch CNN again and cross my fingers.

We are Now in Big Trouble

by Dr David Laing Dawson

The other evening Mr. Tapper of CNN came out directly and asked the following question: Does Mr. Trump know the difference between the truth and a lie? Does he say these things as strategic gambits, all the while knowing they are falsehoods, in some cases outrageous falsehoods, or is he incapable of knowing the difference? This dichotomy suggests either he lies nastily and without regard for any semblance of truth as a political strategy, a gimmick, a distraction, or he is incapacitated.

Neither answer is very reassuring. And if this is an incapacity what is the nature of it?

There is a simple and consistent answer to this question. Pathological narcissism.

Trump’s lies are responses to that which his inflated ego cannot accept. All information, evidence, facts that suggest Trump is not supreme, the best, the most popular is unacceptable to him and therefore must be denied or rebuffed with “alternative facts”. Any successes or glory he does achieve must be revisited, replayed, exaggerated over and over again.

The fact Donald Trump’s narcissism is extreme enough to require this level of denial of reality (the size of the crowds, the “3 – 5 million illegal votes”, murder rate, wire taps) means it is incapacitating. He is incapacitated.

His lies, his tweets, are not even bounded by plausibility. They will continue, grow more outrageous, and dissolve in a wild lashing out.

Unfortunately Kim Jong Un and the excited commentary on American television may be providing Mr. Trump a way to lash out and destroy. And then, which I am sure aligns with an image in his head, he can stand akimbo in his great black coat upon the scorched battlefield like a Vulcan God.