Category Archives: Trump

US Founding Father’s Blew it with their Constitution

By Marvin Ross

 

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Image by Mary Pahlke from Pixabay
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Image by festivio from Pixabay

I recently watched a discussion between Samantha Bee (a Canadian) and Stephen Colbert on the Daily Show around the time of the Kangaroo Court Impeachment. Colbert asked about impeachment in Canada which Samantha tried to answer before they went back to exchanging quips.

She did say it does not exist in Canada and while Canada is not immune from a Trump (as Ontario has in the Trump wannabee, Doug Ford), I do not think that what is happening in the US could happen with the British Parliamentary System we have. Let me explain.

The US Congress (House of Representatives and Senate) are tasked with the job of passing legislation which must them be signed by the president. Unfortunately, the president can veto any law he does not like or approve of and it can only be passed by a 2/3 of both houses defeat the veto. The president may also unilaterally sign treaties with foreign powers subject to approval by 2/3 of the Senate. The president also appoints his cabinet but those cabinet members are not elected but rather approved by the Senate.

And here we have the problem. The president is elected separately from the members of Congress by the Electoral College and he acts separately from the Congress. He is not held accountable to the Congress and his appointments to cabinet (while needing to be ratified) are not elected by the citizens and are only accountable to the president.

The result is lame presidents like Obama who had no support in Congress because the Republicans had a majority or Trump who does his own thing without being accountable to Congress.

Under the British system, each political party elects a leader and elected not by those in parliament but by all members of the party. The leader is a politician who has to run for office in his/her constituency and be elected. If that party wins a majority in the elected House of Commons, then the leader of the party becomes Prime Minister. The Prime Minister sits in the Commons and is subject to daily question period where members fire questions at him and hold him accountable for what is happening. These can become quite rowdy as we’ve seen in Britain over Brexit. Can anyone imagine Trump having to show up daily in Congress to be questioned?

The Prime Minister must satisfy two groups – his own constituency which he/she represents and his party which can call a leadership review if they are sufficiently angry with his behaviour. After the current election in Canada in 2019, the losing Conservative Party became fed up with their leader and he has been turfed.

As for the cabinet, that is another significant difference. Members of the cabinet are chosen from the pool of elected members of the House of Commons. Again, they are responsible and accountable to their constituents at home and to the members of their party and to the House of Commons.

The other aspect of the Parliamentary system involves majority and minority governments. The party winning the most seats can have a clear majority holding more than 50% of the total seats or a simple majority where they have more seats than anyone else but fewer than 50%. In the latter case (called a minority government and mentioned by Samantha Bee) the government can be defeated by a vote of non confidence and be forced to call another election before their four year mandate is up.

All of this, in my opinion, makes the British Parliamentary system far more responsive to the interests of the people and less likely that we would see a Trump.

Now I did mention Ontario’s Doug Ford (brother of later mayor of Toronto Rob well known in the US) who acts like Trump and did win a majority. His election was more of a non confidence vote in the previous government which had ruled too long and with whim people were getting fed up.

Doug set out to undo many of the policies accepted as necessary by the voters. He immediately tried to change funding for kids with autism and was forced to backtrack when parents descended upon the legislature. He went after the educational system to freeze wages, increase class sizes and make certain numbers of courses into e-learning. Teachers are involved in work to rule, rotating strikes and have the support of the majority of the citizens. This youtube clip of Question Period in Ontario after the budget is actually quite funny. The premier praises his finance minister for his brilliant budget but shortly after this (with attacks from all over) he fired the guy.

A number of his early policies are before the courts and those cases that have been decided have not been in his favour. His popularity across the country is about the worst of any politician ever and he is often booed when he shows up to public events like the celebration for the Toronto Raptors win.

Given the fragmentation of the US constitutional system, I can’t see any of this every happening there. Hatred of Britain clouded the vision of the Founding Fathers and gave the US what I consider to be a deficient system of government.

The Continuing Rorschach of Donald Trump

By David Laing Dawson

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Back Cover of Two Years of Trump on the Psychiatrist’s Couch

Most politicians are quite adept at concealing the inner workings of their minds, their unguarded thoughts: “That is a very important question you’re asking. I thank you for asking that and giving me a chance to respond to such an important question. Now when I was a young boy growing up in (Idaho, Winnipeg) in a working class neighbourhood, and I watched my father go off to work each morning…..”

But Donald, ahh Donald. Every day he tweets and talks he exposes something about himself, not necessarily in the content of his half sentences, but in their form and style and context.

I am writing this because of two compelling moments last week. The first of these was his inclusion of Alabama as a target of Hurricane Dorian, which was quickly refuted by Alabama officials and his following press conferences and tweets in which he compulsively went to great lengths, including the notorious addition of a sharpie curve, to claim he was right, not wrong, to include Alabama.

It was a very small, entirely forgivable mistake to include Alabama in the first place but he was officially corrected. And herein lies the problem. He could not admit to even such a small, understandable, inconsequential error. And this, unfortunately, is evidence of a very fragile narcissism, one that cannot accept any correction lest it topple the whole edifice.

The second was his use of phrases such as, “Who ever heard of a category 5?” The news and late night hosts were quick to find and air five or six times in the last three years Donald has used very similar phrases when talking about hurricanes. “I don’t think I’ve ever heard of a category 5”. “I’m not sure I’ve even heard of a category 5.”

It has been pointed out the second to sixth time he said this it was a lie. But I think it is more Rorschach evidence of something else. Whenever he is over his head, when he doesn’t know any details, when he doesn’t really understand, he resorts to a set form of linguistic grandiosity: “Bigger than you’ve ever seen before.” “Who knew health care was so complicated?” “Like you’ve never seen before.” or simply, “It will be big, very big.”

And these phrases cover for the fact he doesn’t know the details, he doesn’t comprehend or understand, while at the same time implying that if he doesn’t know something it is beyond the comprehension of mortal man. And, as always with Donald, truth is inconsequential in his self serving performances.

Not news, but just more Rorschach evidence.

On the other hand, is there any point trying to determine the working principals of this man’s brain/mind? Or as others have pointed out, might we be simply watching “Reality TV”? Was there really a plan in place to fly Taliban leaders and the President of Afghanistan to Camp David for a secret meeting with Donald scheduled for today, Sunday? That he then cancels publicly with a tweet? Boggles the mind, it does.

Well, either way we are living in a world where the man with the biggest voice plays always to the camera seeking immediate glory, attention, or revenge, using, just as “Reality TV” does, fictional contrivances masquerading as truth.

 

Two Years of Trump on the Psychiatrist’s Couch – Ad Banned by Pinterest

By Marvin Ross

Everyone keeps telling me what a wonderful site Pinterest is and the value of posting information there and of advertising. Frankly, I find it totally confusing but I decided to try it out and set up a Bridgeross Communications board (or is it a pin?). And then I thought I would create an ad which comprised a cover of the Trump book, a link to the Amazon kindle sales page and a brief explanation.

That explanation also comprise a quote from the write up of out two new books from the Hamilton Spectator which said the book  “is a fascinating, insightful, often humorous, usually chilling plunge into the coral folds of the brain under that Cheeto-coloured scalp”.

I thought I would test with a $10 limit and, as a publisher, I’ve done these types of ads on both google and facebook.

Much to my surprise, about a day after submitting the ad, I received a rejection from Pinterest that said, in part, that it “didn’t meet our advertising guidelines.”

Specifically:

Sensitive content
We want to keep Pinterest a safe place for discovering possibilities, so we don’t allow divisive or disturbing ads that could trigger users. We don’t allow language or imagery that is:

• Offensive or profane (censored or not)
• Excessively violent or gory
• Sickening or gross
• Sexually suggestive
• Politically, culturally or racially insensitive
Unless paired with educational or charitable information, we also don’t allow:

• Content that capitalizes on recent controversial or tragic events
• References to sensitive health and medical conditions

They then offered me the chance to revise the ad.

Like I’m going to do that but since when is it offensive to criticize a politician or any public figure. Libel laws protect people from invalid comments but where is the freedom of speech in the US these days? Where is the 1st amendment?

To date, the book has sold in North America, the UK and Australia and has been bought by libraries in the US, Germany and the Netherlands. But, I guess that it is too sensitive for the poor souls who inhabit Pinterest. Pity!

 

The Erosion of American Democracy.

By Dr David Laing Dawson

From 1934 until the end of WWII the Nazi party passed over 40 incremental laws restricting Jewish presence and participation, leading inexorably to “the final solution”. This is a desensitization process; each seemingly benign step leading to the next slightly less benign step.

In a previous blog, somewhat flippantly, I wrote out a do-it-yourself manual for the erosion and destruction of an established democracy. To a surprising degree much has already come about in the USA under Trump and the Republican Party in a mere 18 months.

Several recent events have pushed this timeline dramatically along.

Trump has quite unnecessarily pardoned Dinesh D’Souza as a message to Comey, Mueller and Rosenstein, and undoubtedly to Flynn and Cohen, demonstrating his power to the men who prosecuted D’Souza in the first place, and his support to those currently charged.

Then in a tweet he threw Manafort under the bus in a clear statement to the others that there are conditions attached to his promise of support and future pardon.

In the midst of this his lawyers sent a letter to Mueller suggesting or stating that The President cannot be charged and indicted for anything because ultimately this same man can decide what is illegal and what is not.

(I gather the idea that the President is not above the law is not that clearly spelled out in the constitution).

This notion should be shocking, but instead I hear it discussed, argued over, with talk of precedence and norms rather than disbelief, horror and immediate action.

Each of these steps are akin to the  Nazi rulings. Desensitization is occurring.

I suggested a war with Iran or Korea would be necessary for Trump to enact some emergency measures in his waddle to dictatorship, but his instincts may be more clever than mine. For he seems to be ignoring Iran now, and cozying up to North Korea, while starting a trade war with his allies. His use of “national security” as a pretext for the imposition of tariffs is telling. Maybe he does not need a real war. Perhaps he only needs a trade war with Europe, Canada and Mexico, with each of these allies retaliating in a way that hurts his base. In such a trade war  the American people will feel more and more surrounded by enemies, a fortress besieged, alone in this fight with the world.

And that is when people are willing to turn to a charismatic leader who promises them everything – safety, security, prosperity, greatness – in return for a little blindness.

The clock is ticking my American friends.

Two Short Pieces – Trump Post Mother’s Day

By Dr David Laing Dawson

The United Banana Emirates

When Donald J. Trump brought his son-in-law and his daughter into the White House and gave young Jared something like 5 portfolios, 5 jobs to do, each requiring a full time employee with years of expertise and experience, pundits talked of despots, kingdoms, banana republics and nepotism.

Of course Jared could not do all those jobs, which may have been the point.

Then Mar a Lago became a “Southern White House”, which meant important meetings and government business was being conducted in the potentate’s country estate. There was surprisingly little outcry about this, but it struck me as an important step toward despotism. The president was no longer conducting business from the house of the people, but from his own castle. When the president of Japan visits it is not to the historic house of democracy, but to the wealth and splendour of the King’s castle.

And now two more revelations about the drift to banana status: The President’s personal lawyer, a Michael Cohen, has been selling access to the president for hundreds of thousands of dollars, and the very agencies established to protect the citizens and the planet from the excesses, from the greed and corruption of various industries, are now firmly under the control of those industries. That’s Banana Republic 101.

Donald and the ethics of a psychiatric diagnosis

As a physician I should not diagnose, or label, a set of personality traits unless I do it to benefit my patient, to help him or her in some way. But Donald, you do have a narcissistic personality disorder. And knowing this can help you in the following way: You want to be revered, liked, loved at all times, congratulated, fawned over. You love to take credit for all good things that happen. You must undercut all competition for  affection of others. Because of this disorder you can never be fully content. Your ego must be fed again and again.

And there are many who do express their love for you, who will applaud you, defend you, do your bidding without question, fawn over you. And you in turn will shower them with praise, affection, opportunity and money. But Donald, they don’t love you, not really. They are almost as narcissistic as you are. They are just men (and a few women) who will sell their souls for a little second hand limelight, celebrity status, money, and the illusion of power.

You’ve given Giuliani, like an old opera star, a second chance on the stage. You’ve given Pruitt an opportunity to hob nob with the hoi polloi and get rich in the process. For Bannon and Putin you have been a useful idiot. You have given Cohen a chance to smoke cigars, swagger, make deals and get rich without doing much work. And the list goes on.

The point is, Donald, they don’t really love you. Your narcissism renders you vulnerable to praise. And when your ship is sinking they will not be sharing their life vests with you.

Drip, Drip, Splash.

By Dr David Laing Dawson

First Stephen Bannon and now Rob Goldstone. Both men obviously eat badly and bathe less often than desirable. I’m sure neither man picks up after himself. Goldstone may have been the image in Donald Trump’s mind when he said that the hacker could have been a 400 pound man in his mother’s basement. (Though in his actual statement Trump managed to attach the “400 pound” description to the bed upon which the man sat.)

Again I’m glued to CNN listening to the panels dissect the latest revelations, this time of Donald Trump Jr. and his meeting with a Russian Operative. And I know, looking at Don Jr., that if he were to emerge from the sales office on a Used Car Lot, I would take my business elsewhere.

I also think of the Kardashians, another name I cannot avoid, but about whom I need not waste a second of my time. I don’t need to watch them, read about them, think about them, despite their mastery of the celebrity game.

And Kanye West. Despite his crew’s mastery of Google algorithms, I can avoid reading, watching, or listening to him.

If only that were true of the Trumps. It should be. It should be.

Many politicians have lapses. The business of government can become corrupt. But it should always be serious. There should be some line between serious matters of democracy, of governance, of justice,  and the frivolous, infantile, adolescent high jinks of pleasure and titillation of Reality TV.

That line has frayed.

The impresario with no boundaries, a man who can’t tell the difference between using others and being used, emails Don Junior to tell him he can set up a meeting with a representative of the Russian Government who has dirt on Hilary Clinton. Don Jr., just as one might remark on a Facebook cat video, writes, “I love it.”

I can hear Putin saying, “Wow, that was easier than I thought it’d be. Make sure you get some video.”

Democracy can be slow, clumsy, frustrating, inept, but it is so much better than any other form of government. We have been told we need to be vigilant. We have been told we need to participate. We have been told how important the institutions of democracy are despite periodic scandals perpetrated by flawed men and women.

But it looks like we need to be told the operations of a democracy are serious. This is not reality TV. This is not Miss Universe promotion. This is not the bullshit and bafflegab of the entertainment industry. This is serious business, and it will affect the lives of my grandchildren.

Whatever their ideologies, from the freedom caucus to libertarian to liberal to socialism, it is time for American politicians to at least take their responsibilities seriously.

Now let me tell you what I think really happened one morning in the Kremlin a year or so ago:

“Vladimir, we have hacked the DNC server. We have many, many emails embarrassing to the Clinton campaign. Should we give them to Donald?”

“Nyet. He is stupid. He would boast about having them. Besides, we just give them to him what does that get us? Nothing. No. This is what we do. Find an intermediary to set up a meeting. Tell them we have dirt on Clinton and we want to share. This must be written. Go through Emin and that producer, Goldstone.”

“Who should they contact, my president?”

“Someone dumb enough to come to such a meeting. Donald Junior maybe, Manafort, Kushner, yes?”

“And when they come to the meeting we give them the emails?”

“No. No. That’s the beauty part. We get them to the meeting and record it but we don’t give them the emails. So then they’re compromised but we still have the emails and we can decide when or if to release them.”

“Mr. Putin, you are a genius.”

“I know. I know. Would you like to feel my bicep?”

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.”

 

 

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.

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.