Category Archives: Politics

Kim Jong-Un Goes to the White House

By Dr David Laing Dawson

In our histories there were times the mad arrogant king could demand that his subjects, especially the Lords and Ladies of his court, prostrate themselves in obedience and offer unlimited praise of his highness. They would do this because to refuse brought about death for themselves and a life of penury or slavery for their families.

To my knowledge Donald Trump does not have such powers (yet). But still his cabinet engaged in such a ritual display before the world. As if from a script they each in turn offered the same words of honour and subservience, rounding off with a fantastical account of the state of the nation, the world, and their particular spheres of influence, and indebtedness to his majesty.

I could only listen to a few of these and perhaps, maybe, someone in the circle diverged from the script later. The last to speak I listened to described such a delusional world view I could watch no more.

This is not something we should be watching in a democracy. Perhaps North Korea, or Saudi Arabia, not America. The penalty for not complying, of thinking for themselves, of being principled and honest is not death. At least not yet. Where is their pride? Where is their courage?

More importantly, if they do not find this courage soon, the day may come when the penalty for disobedience will be death and a life of penury for their children

Short Unofficial Profiles of the People Around Trump.

By Dr David Laing Dawson

Sessions: Obsequious little man who hides his hatred beneath an endearing smile and a soft southern drawl. Iago comes to mind. But Donald is not Othello. Think Richard III instead.

Kushner: Unreadable age, temperament and intentions. A Mona Lisa smile. No apparent anxiety, worry, puzzlement, or humour. That degree of control and confidence in what should be overwhelming complex human situations can only be explained by psychopathy. If this were a kingdom and he were next in line for the crown he would be plotting the death of the King already. Perhaps he is.

Bannon: I know this man, but not in a position of power. Intellectually brilliant, alone in his squalid rooming house, paying no attention to hygiene or diet as he pores over history and its many conspiracies, iterations and cycles to arrive at his own nihilistic philosophy in which mankind destroys itself and he can then look upon the rubble knowing that he is close to being a God.

Pence: A child-like belief in God and destiny, so much so that he can forgive the most egregious sins and comfort himself that it must all be part of God’s plan, even if it elevates him to a position for which he is not remotely qualified, and even if it casts him among sinners.

Ivanka: Though perhaps a little smarter than her father and perhaps slightly more empathetic, she has otherwise inherited or absorbed his tone-deaf sense of entitlement. I can hear her say, when told the peasants have no bread, “Let them eat cake.” Or at least, “Tell them to architect their own destiny as I have.”

Tillerman: A blunt and successful force in the business world, he became depressed when confronted by the daunting task of being Secretary of State for a naked emperor. He, alone among the group, realizes he has much to learn about government and nations. He will soon have a crisis of conscience. He knows he is on stage in “The Scottish Play”.

Spicer: Sean is a lost soul approaching the gates of hell. He knows it is too late. Ignominy awaits if he rejects Satan now. Ignominy awaits if he continues on this path. He will one day die the Death of Ivan Illych, tormented by his cowardice and his failure of conscience.

Conway: Kellyanne is Madam Bovary, trading on looks and charm, attaching to the man in the room who is most likely to bring her fame and fortune, luxury and TV time. She will happily say whatever pleases this man, easily convincing herself that truth is an overrated commodity. As her looks fade she will have to trade more on her willingness to flatter and lie. And she knows that when her Lord falls under the knives of impeachment she will be a welcome guest on all the talk shows.

Paul Ryan: A career politician since his days as student council president. The gift of a hollow smile and a brain always calculating the vectors of power. Honesty, ethics, morality, reality all fall beneath the sword of political expedience.  He is something of an Ayn Rand libertarian, which really means, “Let no agency have power, unless it is I.” and “I’m all right Jack; so bugger the rest of you.”

 

 

Standing By Trump – Or Not

By Dr David Laing Dawson

As social scientists point out, it is a prime directive for homo sapiens to maintain standing in their community (power, pecking order, value); it is not a prime directive to listen to reason and apply educated perceptual and deductive processes to arrive at a truth. Hence the amazing displays of twisting, selecting, avoiding, diverting, and denial coming from Republican law makers when asked to comment on a particularly stupid, childish or even incriminating comment by Donald Trump.

In the Hans Christian Andersen story it is only a child who is free to blurt out, “But the emperor has no clothes.” The lords, the noblemen, the ladies, the merchants – they all have much to lose. As does the emperor himself.

This emperor, The Donald, likewise has much to lose should he ever admit either ignorance or failure. His whole narcissistic edifice would crumble. He would find himself staring at a reality he has never allowed himself to see before.

And perhaps some of those Republicans do not have law degrees or other marketable skills, and rely on their Government salaries to support five children, an invalid wife, two aging parents, and a large mortgage. These I forgive. They should keep their heads down and avoid microphones. But there are others I am sure who have many options. They would lose but the ephemeral status of a title and invitations to the old boys club.

Yet none speak up.

It is disappointing to learn that in an old democracy an incompetent man can be elected President on the basis of misdirected anger, show business glitz, and ridiculous promises, all flavored with misogyny and racism.

But it is more disappointing to see that not one nobleman, not one lawmaker, is able to overcome the prime directive from our days in the jungle – not one has the courage to put his standing in his community at risk and announce, as the child would, “The emperor has no clothes. The emperor is lying. The emperor is incompetent. I can no longer support the emperor. I resign.”

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.