Tag Archives: Putin

The Threat To Democracy – A Canada Day/ Independence Day Concern

By Dr David Laing Dawson

The other night on the Bill Maher show Adam Gopnik warned of the threat to liberal democracy that Donald Trump presents. He also said that the democratic candidates arguing about what are usually the important issues (health care e.g.) normalizes Trump’s behaviour. If they don’t focus on that they are saying it is just politics.

We all recently saw Trump make a joke about telling Putin to not interfere in American Elections. We all saw him legitimize the cruel dictatorship of Kim Jong Un and suggest in conversation with Putin and by his friendship with The Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia that killing off journalists is not such a bad thing.

But a small exchange between Trump and another journalist was perhaps the most chilling of all. The journalist asked Mr. Trump what he was going to discuss with Putin. And Donald Trump answered, “None of your business.”

And that small exchange embodied the threat to democracy Trump poses. For clearly Donald Trump does not see himself as an elected representative of the people with a four to eight year appointment to that position. He is, in his mind, a potentate, a king, a ruler, a despot, a chosen one, a single being more important than the populace, the populace that is allowing him to temporarily represent them. He does not understand democracy.

And then in Canada I see a cartoonist was fired, presumably for a cartoon depicting Donald golfing by the edge of the Rio Grande and coming across the bodies of Oscar Ramirez and his daughter Angie. The caption read, “Do you mind if I play through?”

Gopnik rightly suggests America is at a turning point; the only issue for 2020 is defeating Donald Trump before they lose their democracy. And the democratic candidates need to focus all energy on this.

And I mention the cartoonist because I think, I believe, that of all the freedoms we have in a democracy, the most important, and the freedom that provides the strongest bulwark against tyranny is not just the freedom of speech, good journalism, the fourth estate, but the freedom to complain, criticize, and most importantly, make fun of our leaders and deities.

A Belated Happy Canada Day.

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Update on the Dismantling of American Democracy.

By Dr David Laing Dawson

In 2017, when Sean Spicer was giving press briefings, I wrote out a list of things that Trump and his cohorts would have to do to dismantle the democracy of the United States of America, and for Trump to become President-for-Life, Supreme Leader, or King.

With Trump and his Administration now defying Congress, planning to insert himself front and center in the Fourth of July celebrations, and manufacturing three crises (Immigration, trade war, potential war with Iran), I thought it time to revisit this list and consider the progress he has made with just 18 months to go before the next election.

(If I were writing this today I would emphasize the all in point one, all previous administrations; constant reference to his brilliance and fitness in point 2; change point 3 to “paint a bleak picture of the current state of affairs in all other nations, compared to his USA”.

And I would add: undermine all treaties, agreements, and international cooperative agencies so your people feel more isolated and fearful, make this a family affair, completely entangle the affairs and interests of the USA with your own business interests and properties, and while disparaging all independent news agencies create your own controlled media presence, and, oh yes, pardon any convicted criminal who remains loyal to you and has an audience, e.g. Conrad Black. )

Here is the list from 2017:

1. Make frequent reference to the utter failure of all previous administrations. Take credit for anything good that happened during the most recent administration.

2. Promote a cult of personality. Suggest the new leader has God-like powers, such as controlling the rain, and solving complex and intractable problems with forceful statements.

3. Paint a bleak picture of the current state of affairs and grossly exaggerate the risk, the dangers posed by outsiders and nonbelievers.

4. Promote law and order and military power as the only forces that can keep us safe.

5. Incrementally reduce voting rights by insisting on regulations that favor your supporters and disenfranchise others. Do this by claiming you are controlling corruption and fraud.

6. Choose an enemy or two, give them names, and promise to eradicate them. Use emotionally inspiring words such as evil, kill, wipe them out, get rid of them once and for all.

7. Exaggerate the size of your support and the crowds attending your rallies. Refer to this as a movement.

8. Lie frequently and often. Use big, bold lies. This is a form of desensitization. More and more will believe your lies. The remaining citizens will stop caring.

9. Undermine the Fourth Estate. Seed distrust of news and information. Call all reporters and truth tellers liars. It will be difficult to fully control the media (this is not Russia) but consider using licensing bodies, libel laws and the courts to tie their hands.

10. Promote the idea that the people of your nation, your followers, are superior human beings, exceptional, and deserve to live better than others. American Exceptionalism. Or is that “Uber Alles”?

11. You will need the armed forces and intelligence agencies so flatter them frequently, while you replace their leaders with your own men.

12. You will need cabinet members and spokespeople who will unabashedly promote you and your statements and policies no matter how unpalatable or ludicrous they become. Some will be willing to do this for money, others for power and glory of their own, and others because of their own anger and resentment from earlier grievances. Unfortunately such people abound. But remember, it is not loyalty that binds them to you, but self-interest. Reward them generously; always be prepared to kill them.

13. Quickly disparage and render impotent any leader who opposes you. Memorable name-calling and disinformation will suffice.

14. Create a language of code words for anything that remains unacceptable for most citizens. For example: “alternative facts” for lies, “violence in the inner cities” for racial profiling.

15. Use hyperbole at all times. A person or event is either “great”, “fantastic”, “amazing”, or “a disaster”, “evil”, “loser”, “total failure”. This fosters a dichotomous view of the world and will help dehumanize victims when the time comes to purge.

16. Find some allies in other countries by directly or tacitly supporting their extreme views. Examples might include Putin, Marine Penn and Netanyahu. Be unpredictable for the others. Keep them on edge.

17. incrementally increase your power and authority until you can accurately call yourself “president-for-life” or “Supreme Leader”. This will take time. At some point you will need a crisis at home (Terrorist attack for e.g.) or you will need to provoke a crisis abroad and at home (Palestinian response to moving embassy to Jerusalem for e.g.). This will justify your transfer of a specific power from a democratic body (congress/senate/parliament) to your own office. This can be done on the grounds that only you know all the facts, and quick decisions are required. It is also more acceptable if the democratic bodies are perceived as ineffective or too partisan. Your people can ensure the latter condition is met.

18. In the meantime cater to the dominant political force in the democratic body by quickly implementing all their pet projects (e.g anti-abortion legislation), and by canceling all social and medical initiatives started by that upstart negro president.

19. Build monuments to yourself. Oops. I forgot. You already have. Good. Build more. Start with the Trump Great Southern Wall.

20. Throughout this process continue to emphasize that you are working for the people. Use the words “people”, “working people” and “democracy” frequently. As you usurp power explain that you are protecting democracy.

21. Have patience. Others may deliver you the crisis and fear that will allow an incremental or bold increase in power. When you assume new powers present yourself as reluctant to do so.

22. Use as much pomp and circumstance as possible. People love ceremonies. Emphasize the sacred trust your office embodies.

23. Visit a religious leader (televised of course). Ensure him and the American Public that you understand the enormity of your office and the need for God’s guidance. Try not to sneer or chuckle doing this. It is not wise to compare yourself to God, but you can hint that He favors you in some way.

24. Don’t worry about the physical quirks the cartoonists seize upon, the little black mustache for example, or the blonde comb over. Ultimately these will confer upon you icon status.

25. There will be protests and marches against you. Be gracious in your response to those that remain peaceful. Come down very hard on those that become violent. Emphasize these, and use them to accrue more power. But, be assured that any large gathering of people can become violent with a little help from your friends.

26. Toady up to the leaders of organized religion, the church.  With few exceptions these religious leaders will see you as a means of helping them achieve their long-term goals. They will not stand against you for fear of losing their own power.

27. Allow others to live vicariously through you. This is a fine balance. While allowing the people to view your sumptuous life style use colloquial language, talk as they do. Remind them you work tirelessly for them. Pretend that one day they can all live as you do.

28. Women are tricky. Have one or two around you but not many. They tend to have empathy for others, children, small animals. They tend to prefer compromise and cooperation. Reference your own dear mother frequently, and say how much you respect women. But subtly denigrate them by your own actions, and limit their voices and rights through reproductive and child-care legislation.

29. Gain increasing control of your population. You can start this by controlling all immigration and visitation to your country. Then pick the minority group most feared or misunderstood by your followers and order a registration process. This will appear harmless, like getting a driver’s license. Then incrementally increase the strength of this process, include more identifiable groupings, until all citizens must carry “papers” with them and submit to police checks. This will instill fear.

 

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.

A New Years Message to Justin Trudeau

by Dr David Laing Dawson

I have in my head an image of three generations of a family fleeing in an oxcart from the destruction of war. Today they may be boarding a bus leaving Aleppo.

We respond emotionally to the images of children, wide-eyed, dusty, confused. But it is the older generation I think about, frail, arthritic, failing. The children may live to see the fighting stop and the country rebuilt. At the very least they can hope for this. But the grandparents know they are unlikely to live to see another round of peace and prosperity. They are unlikely to live long enough to see what becomes of their homes, their lands, and their grandchildren.

I was a university student during the Cuban Missile Crisis. Oddly I remember it as spring, but it must have been a warm October in 1962. I should have been studying for mid-terms, but with Khrushchev pounding his shoe on the desk at the U.N., Kennedy not backing down, nuclear missiles deployed in Cuba, armed Soviet vessels steaming toward the American blockade, it looked like the end of the world was approaching quickly, and I decided that sitting in a library poring over books was no way to spend one’s last day on earth. Instead, I spent much of it sitting under a tree on the campus watching the leaves and the drifting clouds beyond.

We now know some of the strange details of those ten days of brinksmanship. Khrushchev overestimated Kennedy’s maneuvering latitude in a democracy. The Joint Chiefs wanted to invade Cuba. Kennedy knew the Soviets would have to take Berlin if the US took Cuba and killed some Russians in the process. And he knew where that would lead. Thank God Khrushchev knew as well, and he was not a madman, not an outrageous narcissist. Khrushchev blinked. And I went back to studying for my mid-terms.

I am no longer young, and like the grandparents on that oxcart, I wonder what is in store for the world and for my grandchildren. I am trying to gauge my anxiety about this. I have written about The Donald’s threat to democracy, but what do I know? I am neither historian nor political scientist. But many more qualified than I are seeing the same trend, the same threat to American democracy that I see, the same rise of an amoral international oligarchy, the chipping away at the fundamental tenets of democracy. And as it is for the crabs in a large pot of warm water on the stove, and for the subjects of a gradual desensitization program, each increase in temperature, each aberration becomes the new normal. The CNN pundits frequently say it has no “precedent”, (and in one of the best Freudian typos of all time, as we know, Mr. Trump wrote “unpresidented”), and that these are “new times, new realities”. Of course each of these erosions of American democracy does have a precedent. One need but look beyond our shores to the oligarchs of Russia, the nepotism of both Koreas, the mix of business and politics in China, the collapse of democracies in the past, and 1930’s Germany.

But let me get to my point before I dig too deep a hole. There are a few good democracies in this world, most notably Canada, capable of punching above their weight in international affairs. The next few years we must not succumb to the disease affecting much of Europe and America. We must instead shout loud and clear, we must participate, we must join whatever rational and sane leaders there are left in this world to get us through this. We must negotiate, mediate, and speak for morality.

So, Prime Minister Trudeau, it looks like we must try to survive four years of Mr. Trump and his cohort of oligarchs and plutocrats, impulsive tweets, regressive policies, a continuing increase in income disparity, further deterioration of the American public education and health system, along with Vladmir Putin baring his chest and flexing his pecs, Kim Jong Un playing lego with his nukes, Netanyahu digging in his right to the expansion of Israel, Brexit turmoil in Europe, Duterte unleashing the hounds of hell…

We need adults at the table. We need somebody to raise the flag of sanity and compassion. It will be okay by me if you and your team neglect the home front. By and large we Canadians are doing just fine. But we need to know our voices are being heard when Putin and Trump square off, or some idiot is about to trigger another mid east conflagration, or Putin and Trump team up and piss off China…..or…..

In a world of delicate balances, a world of compromise, a world in which we know that the written or spoken word, even if it is merely the public pronouncement of an obvious logic, truth, or morality, can trigger retaliation or war – in such a world the impulsive tweet, the school yard taunt, fake news, the inattention to detail,  the folly of self-importance, the fragile ego, and a horrible combination of ignorance and grandiosity can spell doom for us all.

You have a job to do Mr. Trudeau, you and all the other sane voices on the international stage. I wish you God speed.

On Putin, Bush, Trump and the Canadian Election

By Dr David Laing Dawson

We must pick our leaders wisely.

Russia currently has Mr. Putin, the Macho Man. He loves nothing more than to bare his chest, let his pectorals ripple, to hunt large animals, display his strength and resolve. He feels he embodies his country, and many of his countrymen feel the same.

This is dangerous.

Then we had George W. Bush. As I watch Donald Trump I am gaining some sympathy for George. George wasn’t smart, but he tried. When he mangled our common language, when his words issued from his mouth in stumbling contradictions and malapropisms, one felt he was trying to say something intelligent and reasonable but he just didn’t have the skill or the mastery of language. When he talked in black and white terms, and borrowed his language from young adult fiction (“evildoers” for example), I felt he would be more nuanced if he could. When he backed stupid policies I felt he wouldn’t do this if he actually grasped the probable consequences of them. He probably did actually believe one could just invade Iraq, destabilize the Middle East and set them all on a path to democracy.

He was dangerous.

And now we have Donald Trump. His use of language is even less sophisticated than that of George W. Bush, but I get the feeling it is a pose, a performance. A performance by a very narcissistic man with no scruples. None whatsoever. Willing to play on every base fear of a semi-educated American public. Appealing to the adolescent super-hero fantasy that plays, occasionally, in everybody’s mind. Willing to play on fears, prejudices, pride, and myth. I think he loves the idea of being president like he loves the idea of having his name on large impressive buildings.

The pundits don’t think he can be elected. They hope he will crash and burn. But he might not.

He is very dangerous.

So (God help us) we may have Putin and Trump at their respective helms in the same decade.

This will be extremely dangerous.

If Canada is to ameliorate this danger to any degree we must have a leader who could do so. A Mike Pearson maybe. Not Mr. Harper. Mr. Harper is smarter than Trump or Bush, and more civilized than Mr. Putin, but his instinct is boldness, brashness, assertion of power and control; he would like to be emperor. He is not dangerous within our parliamentary democracy, but should he find himself sitting at a table with Trump and Putin, could he avert disaster? Or would he too thump his chest and get us all killed?

Mulcair and Trudeau have not been tested. But either of them, at that table with Trump and Putin, is more likely than Harper, I think, to suggest a peaceful solution, to negotiate, to mediate, to avert disaster, to be a second Mike Pearson.

And either would probably be better for mental health policy.