Watergate for Dummies

constitution

Rational people watching what’s happening in the Divided States of America are rightly worried. Really worried.

Pulitzer prize winning journalist Carl Bernstein, the one-time Washington Post reporter who made his bones breaking stories on the Watergate scandal that brought down President Richard Nixon, calls Trump’s appointment of Matt Whitaker as head of the Mueller investigation a Presidential coup.

George Conway, husband of Trump propagandist Kellyanne Conway and a Conservative Washington lawyer with solid Republican credentials, felt compelled to write a New York Times op-ed saying Whitaker’s appointment is unconstitutional.

Even before the Whitaker appointment, retired U.S. Airways pilot Chesley ‘Sully’ Sullenberger, who demonstrated his coolness in crisis by landing a plane with 155 passengers aboard on the Hudson River, says he has never been more worried about the future of his country.

Former CIA director John Brennan, who called Trump’s slavish performance in Helsinki treasonous, warns the nation of a looming constitutional crisis.

Michael Hayden, a much-decorated four star General and former Director of both the National Security Agency and the CIA, cautions the country about the fragility of the veneer of civilization.

Brennan and Hayden, in particular, are serious men and American patriots of the highest order who have spent their lives in the service of their country.

As has Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller, the rich kid who volunteered to go to Vietnam, where he was wounded in action, and later gave up a lucrative private law practice to prosecute bad guys for a comparable pittance.

On the other side of the ledger lives the evil presence of Donald Trump, a venal conman who dodged the draft in pursuit of money, proudly avoids paying taxes, cheated students at his bogus ‘university’ and on his three wives, bullies all who oppose him, praises murderous thugs like Vladimir Putin and Rodrigo Duterte and proclaims at his frightening mob rallies that he “loves” Kim Jong Un, the unhinged psychopath who starves his people, killed his half-brother and sent an American student home in a fatal coma for pilfering a poster.

When I first began writing about Donald Trump, I did so for amusement. He seemed the perfect comic foil with his ferret-top hair, orange-tinted perma-tan and ridiculous bombast. This is a man who phoned New York media outlets pretending to be his own publicist, confiding in a laughably concealed voice that he, Donald Trump, was being pursued by all the women in New York City.

I viewed him, as so many others did, as someone to be mocked, an orange clown with bad hair and a limited vocabulary.

I’m not laughing anymore.

Trump is a malevolent, malicious, criminal. A paranoid narcissist who views the world through the narrow focus of how it affects him. He has no ideology, no beliefs outside what benefits his shallow existence. No spirituality, zero empathy. No boundaries when it comes to his own survival, even if it means appealing to the worst element in America with fearmongering and lies. Even if it means violence and death. Even if it means bringing the country down with him.

Trump is cult leader Jim Jones without the mind addling drugs. He exudes unctuousness and demands total devotion from his mesmerized and often slow-witted followers. His hypocrisy is breathtaking, his lack of shame an indication of serious mental pathology. He once agreed with shock jock Howard Stern that his daughter Ivanka was “a piece of ass.” He values loyalty, on a one-way street.

Take his treatment of Jeff Sessions, the Alabama Senator who supported him from the beginning, the first serious sitting politician to join the Trump camp. Sessions gave up his safe Senate seat for his dream job of Attorney General, in his mind a fitting reward for his loyal service.

It should be said I have no sympathy for Sessions, who stood by Trump through his rancorous campaign of bigotry and lies. If he didn’t get the measure of the man during those months of daily contact he probably wasn’t qualified for the job of highest law enforcement officer in the land. But that is beside the point when looking at Trump’s view of loyalty.

Sessions, a proud conservative extremist who was nominated for a judgeship in 1986 but not confirmed because of controversial comments on race, proved to be more of a law and order man than Trump expected. Sessions took the advice of ethics people at the Department of Justice and recused himself from the Russia investigation because of his involvement in the campaign.

As Attorney General, Sessions implemented the extreme agenda Trump needed to appeal to his frightened mouth-breathing base. But this wasn’t enough for Dear Leader, who wanted a Roy Cohen-like pit bull who would use every dirty trick available to thwart the investigation that threatened his Presidency.

When Sessions couldn’t deliver, Trump began a campaign of public humiliation to get his resignation, so he could put in place a stooge. He called him weak and questioned his manhood. Sessions stood his ground, using the bad optics of his dismissal before the midterms to keep his job.

Within hours of the polls closing, Trump made his move, ordering Chief of Staff John Kelly to do his dirty work. Sessions asked for a few days to clear up his desk. The once-respected Marine General said no.

Trump got his stooge in Matt Whitaker, the wannabe politician who auditioned for the job on CNN by laying out a scenario in which an acting AG could shut down the Mueller investigation by starving it of funds. No matter that he hasn’t been confirmed by the Senate, has a questionable past working for a Florida company that cost consumers $26 million before being shut down as a scam and is otherwise unqualified for the job.

To get to his stooge, Trump had to pass over Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, the Senate-confirmed Republican he picked for the job, and Senate-confirmed DOJ Inspector General Michael Horowitz, both of whom were next in line under the normal succession.

One wonders what it will take for the Republican Congress to wake up to the danger Trump represents. What level of debasement will he sink to before the rational people of the “self-proclaimed greatest country on earth” rise up.

Hitler was a monster disguised as a ranting clown with a bad mustache and worse hair. Kim Jong Un is an overfed fiend masquerading as a messiah in fat-concealing custom suits and cropped clown hair. Donald Trump is a diabolical brute, a schemer without conscience who cloaks his malice in grade school insults delivered from a pursed-lipped, oily orange clown face shaded under a swooping aircraft carrier comb-over of indeterminate colour.

The Shining City Goes Dark

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The abomination that is the Donald Trump presidency can no longer be thought of as an aberration. The Conman-in-Chief represents the values of a significant portion of the country’s electorate. He is symptomatic of what the nation has become.

The U.S. midterms were viewed by many observers as a referendum on human decency. Nothing short of a total rejection of the Bloviating Orange Blowhard’s corruption, lying and fearmongering would qualify as redemption for a country that likes to bill itself as a “shining city on the hill.” The world now knows that the hilltop has gone dark. The blue wave upon which rode the hopes of humanity’s better nature washed ashore not as a tsunami but instead as a spent swell that failed to muster a whitecap in the political swamp.

Both sides will claim victory. Democrats will tout the oversight significance of taking over the House and Republicans will bray about expanding control in the Senate and through it the nation’s courts.

Winning without honor is America’s thing in the New Millennium.

American voters saw fit to re-elect two candidates running under felony indictments. They gave the blatant racist Steve King a seat in Congress to legitimatize his abhorrent world view. Trump toady Ted Cruz was rewarded for embracing the man who denigrated his father and insulted his wife. It’s a long way from the inspiration of the Alamo to modern day Texas.

In Florida, voters handed the keys to the Governor’s mansion to another Trump toady who campaigned with racial dog whistles and misused his infant son in a sickening sycophantic ad. The good people of Georgia empowered the guy who spent years rigging the vote as the state’s partisan Secretary of State and then refused to recuse himself from overseeing the voting process in which he was a candidate. It wouldn’t pass muster with democracy watchdogs in a third-rate country.

Voters handed the Conman-in-Chief what he interprets as a get out of jail card. And they did so with eyes wide open, knowing he was an unindicted co-conspirator with his former personal lawyer for flaunting campaign finance laws. They knew he was a pathological liar, a tax evader, a draft dodger, a philanderer, a fear-mongerer, a bully, a danger to their precious democracy and a petty person of low moral character.

It didn’t take the Malignant Mango Megalomaniac long to act out. With the results of the mid-terms still undecided in some races, the Conman-in-Chief moved to protect himself from the Mueller investigation by firing Attorney General Jeff Sessions and appointing someone who has publicly discussed ways to muzzle the Special Prosecutor. He threatened a Democratic Congress with counter investigations if they dare subpoena his taxes.

Donald Trump, the silver spoon daddy’s boy who has never suffered the consequences of a life spent grifting in pursuit of material gain, is scared spitless at the prospect of his many financial wrongdoings being exposed. He is a desperate and dangerous narcissist capable of anything to save his orange skin.

With a constitutional crisis looming and unknown depredations waiting to reveal themselves as Trump’s legal troubles mount on multiple fronts, it is now crystal clear that Americans have the government they so justly deserve.

Enablers have blood on their hands

 

Last week started with the President of the United States covering up the murder of a journalist and U.S. resident by a Middle East money lender who is Crown Prince Jared Kushner’s BFF, progressed through a nationwide bomb scare that threatened the lives of two past Presidents, among other high-profile Trump critics, and ended with mass murder in a place of worship in Mr. Rogers upscale Pittsburgh neighborhood.

The worried world watches and waits, wondering if Trump’s heavily armed deplorables will easily surrender their moment in the spotlight or if the Dear Leader and his plethora of bootlickers will inspire bloody insurrection from the mentally unhinged fringe element if the election doesn’t go their way. .

The self-proclaimed “greatest country in the world” is a boiling cauldron of hatred ready to bubble over into post-election violence that could engulf the country and impact the entire globe.

White House leakers say the Mango Megalomaniac, his feverish brain sweating the investigations a Democratic win will bring, is working on a scheme to discredit a negative GOP result with conspiracy theories and court challenges.

Few objective observers expect anything less from this malignant narcissist? But what about the supporting cast of sanctimonious sycophants, religious wingnuts and faux patriots who masquerade their cowardice in the folds of the flag.

Presumably unencumbered by mental illness, regular CNN Trump enablers like Rick Santorum, Steve Cortes, Alice Stewart and Scott Jennings, among many others, twist themselves into human pretzels denying the obvious unfitness of their choice for the highest office in the land. They cluck about entertainer Trump versus presidential Trump, separating the toxicity of his venom and evil clown antics emanating from the Oval Office as if he were a toddler going through the terrible twos.

They justify their advocacy by citing supposed successes, most notably the seating of two ultra conservative judges to the Supreme Court. The plain politically incorrect truth is that a monkey could put his finger on the list provided by the Federalist Society and get his picks through a Senate top-loaded with tree-swingers.

The much-vaunted tax reduction for the rich, the only significant legislation passed by a Congress and Executive Branch dominated by Republicans, is so unpopular GOP candidates aren’t talking about it in the run up to the midterms, instead preferring to vilify a caravan of poor people a thousand miles and weeks of walking away from America.

Family values stalwart and Republican operative Stewart, a crucifix prominent on her throat most nights, admits to being dismayed by the pussy grabbing tape, porn star and Playboy bunny payoffs, philandering and sexual assault accusations but rationalizes voting for Trump because he appointed Supreme Court judges who might overturn a woman’s right to control her own body.

Cortes, the Hispanic Chicago businessman and slavish Trump defender, overlooks Dear Leader’s divisive rhetoric and attacks upon his heritage by pointing out good job numbers bolstered by people of colour forced to work multiple jobs for subsistence wages.

Failed Presidential candidate Santorum, ever focused on future opportunities, smiles slyly to himself while mildly disavowing the most egregious Trump behavior, careful not to alienate the deplorable base key to his political ambition.

Jennings, the ‘aw shucks’ moderate, assuages his conscience and puts on a good guy face for his kids by disagreeing with the most offensive Trump methodology while supporting the man endangering the democracy they will inherit.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Leader Paul Ryan and their respective gangs of mouth-breathers, climate change deniers, religious ravers and NRA lap dogs have chosen to be on the wrong side of history for political expediency, implications for the future of the country be damned.

Evangelical scions like Jerry Falwell Jr. and Franklin Graham, intent on their mission to preserve the power and riches bestowed upon them by their earthly fathers, will presumably answer for their self-serving actions when they meet their Maker. Meanwhile, their followers will have some explaining to do at the Final Judgement for eschewing the biblical values they exalt in favour of an agenda carried out by a demented orange emissary of the dark underworld.

The Murdoch family and the right wing mercenaries at Fox News betray the viewers who support their privileged lifestyle by spewing venomous conspiracy theories and pumping out fake news 24/7 while Dear Leader demeans real journalists.

Oblivious to the havoc he reeks, Donald Trump stumps the country spewing poisonous rancor against all who oppose him, ingraining his invectives in the sick minds of violent fringe players like accused bomber Cesar Sayoc, seen chanting CNN sucks at Trump’s frightening mob rallies, and Robert Bowers, who adopted Trumpian tropes by calling immigrants “invaders” and lamenting that Jews are “infesting” America before carrying out his murderous rampage.

Historians may recognize the Dear Leader’s mental illness as a mitigating factor for the damage he has done. Not so for the ‘sane’ people he relies upon for support.

All Trump enablers are culpable in the carnage endangering their democracy. All of them have blood on their hands.

 

 

 

Own up America, many of you are deplorable

Until my mid-teens I bought everything America was selling. I swallowed brand USA with the naivete and fervor of a Trump University sucker.

I watched the westerns with chisel-jawed heroes like Randolph Scott and John Wayne fighting bad guys and blood-thirsty Indians. I idolized actor Audie Murphy who overcame his thespian shortcomings because audiences knew the decorated World War II veteran had the real life chops to play heroes.

Back before the Me Too Movement, I laughed  as Bob Hope delivered scantily clad show girls and double entendres to American service men protecting the world from communists in lonely far away outposts.

I worshiped Davie Crockett, Daniel Boone, Colonel Travis, Kit Carson. Resourceful men of integrity and true grit.

I looked up to your Presidents. I particularly liked Kennedy, the good Catholic family man whose philandering went unreported, when he faced down the tyrant Khrushchev. In my youthful mind U.S. Presidents represented a country with principles, a country that stood up to tyranny, no matter the cost, to keep us all safe.

The truth is, I wanted to be an American, not a polite Canadian with second rate celebrities, earnest heroes and boring politicians.

Then I grew up. Or at least expanded intellectually.

The illusion of America the Great, did not shatter immediately, smashed upon a sharp rock of reality. It peeled away, layer by layer, as historical truths gleaned from a lifetime of reading and travel began to sink in.

In this era of alternate facts and truth isn’t truth, here are a few myth shattering irrefutable facts easily verified on Google:

  • The Constitution Americans so revere was formulated by bigoted white men who viewed the concept of liberty through the toilet paper tube view of race. The liberty they envisioned did not include black people who slaved on their plantations, yellow people who died at back breaking labour for meager pay or red people whose lands were usurped in a cultural genocide that would eventually be given the highfalutin name of Manifest Destiny.
  • The United States is not a true democracy in which the majority rules. Money is the determining factor in getting elected. Lots of money. Even then the Presidential candidate who gets the most votes doesn’t always win, as evidenced by two of the last three Presidents. The Electoral College system was created to appease slave states. It is so complicated and antiquated most Americans could not tell you how it works, or why. The Senate is a smoke and mirrors democratic institution: in choosing a Supreme Court Justice who will determine the country’s direction for decades, a representative from Wyoming who might represent a couple hundred thousand voters carries the exact same weight as a Senator from California who represents 20 million constituents.
  • The U.S. is not a country in which no man is above the law. As if he were a Medieval monarch, the President retains the absolute power to pardon anyone of any crime, be it friend, family member or accomplice. It is an open question among constitutional scholars whether a President can pardon himself. Enough said.
  • The United States is not the land of the free. In America, incarcerating its own people is big business. The U.S. imprisons more of its citizens than any country in the world. It’s not even close.
  • The Supreme Court is not an impartial body above politics. This is a claim stunning in its brazenness, given the disgraceful nominating process the world just witnessed. Justices are appointed by the politicians in charge on the basis of their ideology. Period.
  • The U.S. is not the greatest country in the world, a place where all the rest of us want to live. It is a country that spends more on its military than the next five countries combined while its infrastructure crumbles and Americans die because they can’t afford health care. Once great cities like Detroit have been reduced to Third World dereliction. Chicago is a war zone. No one wants to move to Flint and drink toxic water or go to Puerto Rico to sit in the dark. It is a scary country whose heavily armed citizens are killing each other in nightclubs and movie theatres, restaurants and parks, churches and schools in record shattering numbers. The majority of the non-desperate world citizens prefer to live in stable countries and many no longer want to visit the States.
  • The U.S. has never been the shining city on the hill, a beacon of integrity for all the world to see. It is a country that has always put its own interests first regardless of morality. It has pillaged the world’s resources, never putting a dollar into a Third World country without the expectation of getting two out. The feigned indignation expressed by Lindsay Graham at the Saudis for killing a journalist, the same red-faced sputterings he unleashed at the “non-political” Kavanaugh hearings, would make for great satire if the subject matter wasn’t so horrifying. As Graham well knows, the U.S. has a long sordid history of propping up murderous tyrants, from Anastasia Somoza in Nicaragua to the Shah of Iran, from Saddam Hussein to Manual Noriega in Panama, until the latter’s blatant drug dealing became too public. America threw in with corrupt Vietnamese generals while dropping bombs, napalm and Agent Orange on people fighting for the right to determine their own country’s fate. All in the name of  their own national interests. Meanwhile Graham’s new BFF is cozying up to the current generation of tyrants, professing love for the North Korean thug who had his half-brother killed in a Singapore airport and returned the broken body of a barely alive U.S. student who pilfered a poster. The hypocritical Graham will no doubt eventually fall in line with U.S. leaders who are blatantly providing a cover story for a repressive tyrant who murdered a U.S.-based journalist then cut up his body.
  • Perhaps the greatest myth of all is inherent in the country’s name. The United States of America is anything but united. The plain-spoken, politically incorrect fact that nobody on network or cable television wants to say out loud is that the U.S. comprises a society in which a significant portion of its populace has deplorable values. There can be no other explanation for Donald Trump, who is a symptom not the cause of the country’s spiritual sickness. Hillary had it right. Trump supporters are deplorable. They laugh uproariously when their Dear Leader mocks a disabled person or sexual assault victim. They chant “Lock her up!” when he chastises a political opponent and then nod reverently when he tells them accused sexual predators are innocent until proven guilty. Trump supporters are the “very fine people” who marched with tiki torches and killed a woman in Charlottesville. They profess their love of Jesus and family values while supporting a man who cheats on his wife with porn stars, lies pathologically and admits to grabbing women by their private parts, a guy who bullies the weak but barely stops short of oral sex for strongmen like Putin. They cluck when he takes babies and young children from their mother’s arms but take secret comfort in the fact desperate foreigners will soon have to climb over a 30-foot wall to get into the country. They give fealty to a man who drapes himself in the flag but avoided military service when his country called. They say America First but support a tax cheat who always put himself before his country. Deplorable is as deplorable does.

A question of malignancy

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One of the most frequently asked question among viewers of Trumpland, the greatest reality show in the history of television, is what motivates the people who defend its star.

It makes sense that sleazebags like Sean Hannity are in it for the money, as are the paid sycophants who debase themselves daily. But why do career politicians, successful business people and even military generals, all of whom already have money and status, sacrifice their reputations and legacies for a malignant, mentally unhinged, mango megalomaniac?

I have no answer except that Donald Trump is the most compelling television villain of all time. And that includes fictional soap operas like Dynasty and Dallas. J.R. couldn’t shine Trump’s loafers when it comes to duplicity and far-reaching malevolence. Forget about bankrupting rival tycoons and debauching socialites, Trump has the stature and capacity to corrupt and degrade on a global level. Not to mention his uncanny ability to metastasize his malignancy to any seemingly respectable person who enters his orbit.

Even given his ‘genius’ for entangling others in his web of nastiness, he couldn’t carry the 24/7 show himself. His backup cast is to die for.

Trump flaunts his Barbie trophy-wife on his arm like an over-the-top diamond-encrusted designer watch; his favored daughter is a callow, conspicuous consumer of her own tacky Made-in-China fashions; his shallow sons, emasculated and greasy, do their father’s dirty dealing on command; his falsetto-voiced, skinny-suited son-in-law, who absorbed the art of murky financial dealings on the knee of his felonious father, exudes the precise amount of limp-wristed ineptitude to make him seem truly sinister.

And that’s just the immediate family, all of whom might be indicted in future episodes, except perhaps for Melania, who cannot be prosecuted for taking up the oldest profession in the Biblical books.

Trumpland viewers are treated to a congo line of cowardly Republicans who dance to his frenetically crazy tune as if they are monkeys performing for a mad orange organ grinder.

House Speaker Paul Ryan, the devout Catholic who weekly demonstrates a miracle to his fellow Church congregants by walking upright to his pew without a spine, has attached himself to a thrice-married philanderer and admitted sexual predator with the devotion of a prepubescent altar boy to the Virgin Mary. Great role model for the teens in the parish Catholic Youth Organization, Paul.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, the turtle-like political schemer and ultimate swamp creature, emerges from his jowls intermittently to croak positively about a President he loathes, before retreating into the folds of skin in silent acquiescence as his Republican lawmakers trash patriotic Americans serving in the FBI and intelligence communities.

General Michael Flynn gave up a life of fancy dinners with dicey foreign leaders and all-expense paid travel abroad to throw his three-star respectability into Trump’s collection basket of half-baked buns. He began his association with the Evil Orange Clown by transmogrifying his military bearing into mouth-frothing shouts of ‘Lock Her UP’ and will likely end the relationship behind bars whimpering ‘Let Me Out’.

Sean Spicer, who before meeting Trump had carved out a respectable career as a slightly bent spoke in the GOP propaganda wheel, threw his future job prospects to the winds of political expediency by publicly blowing his boss with the “yours is bigger than his” pronouncement at his first official press conference.

Reince Priebus, the weak-kneed lifelong Republican hack, emerged from the shadowy obscurity of dim GOP backrooms to fizzle out under the relentless glare of the Trump sun, his big boy political pants sagging above the crack of his ass as he shuffled off to search out a book agent.

Steve Bannon, the messy Machiavellian menace behind Trump’s rise to Conman-in-Chief, rose from the White Nationalist bully pulpit that is Breitbart News to a White House desk within slobbering distance of the Oval Office. He put in 18-hour days pulling his political puppet’s strings with a mix of feigned fealty and obsequiousness only to find himself back at Breitbart when he ran afoul of the kids, and is now scanning the job classifieds with Reince, Sean and Michael. Job hunting tips for Sloppy Steve—get a haircut, wash your face, shave and camouflage that overflowing belly with an untucked shirt.

Attorney General Jeffrey Beauregard Sessions, the Evil Elf of Alabama, swallowed his southern pride and took shelter under the nearest toadstool as the boss heaped insult and humiliation upon him for the Russia recusal. He held his low ground to do the important work of harassing ‘bad people’ who smoke pot but eventually forfeited his elfin manhood in entirety by acceding to the boss’s demand to go after the Clintons and find dirt on the director of the FBI. Where does an evil elf go when the kingdom collapses?

Anthony Scaramucci, media pundit, businessman, financier, opportunist and human pinky ring, sold his profitable company to serve a man whose venality he came to idolize only after he won the Presidency. The Mooch swaggered into the media spotlight and unashamedly put his lips to the boss’s ample ass at his first press conference with flattery that went so far beyond the pale that even casual observers were left blushing. It was all for naught as the Mooch found himself muttering profanely at the unemployment agency even before officially undertaking his new White House job.

Secretary of Health Tom Price, the good doctor of the stock market swindle, graduated from allegations of insider trading while serving in the Senate to fraudulent use of government airplanes for personal business during a brief stay in the Cabinet. His political career crash-landed when the boss uttered the words that gave him a woody watching The Apprentice—”You’re fired.”

Sweet talking southern belle Sarah Huckabee Sanders perfected the art of man-flattering and lying with straight-faced innocence, but likely won’t be up for the part of Scarlet in any remake of Gone with the Wind. She doesn’t seem like Rhett Butler’s type.

The one person in Trumpland who may have a future after impeachment is Stephen Miller, the dead-eyed Trump defender whose occasional emergence from his White House lair to do Sunday talk shows, scares the bejesus out of Liberals and even centrist Republicans. Miller might not have much of a future in drafting bills or writing speeches, but he’ll never be out of work as long as Hollywood is making movies with evil Nazi characters.

A shoveler’s guide to the digital galaxy

With the new millennium roiling in its awkward teenage years and the digital world, even in its infancy progressing at a dazzling pace, we are living in interesting times.

I like to tell dinner guests of a certain age that their place in human history is unique and will remain so to infinity. The more modest among them find it hard to accept that they are special. Others express puzzlement.

People born between 1945 and 1965 are the last generation to grow up without computers. For as long as human history is recorded, there will always be the time before computers and the time after computers.

The Last Ones will always hold their place.

It’s been snowing here in the desert, a foot in two days, and as most Canadians know, shovelling snow is a good time for reflection. The technique doesn’t change much whether you’re clearing a sidewalk or a long curving driveway. Push the snow shovel forward until the volume bogs you down, then throw as much as you can comfortably lift to one side or other. Repeat.

The world is changing so fast it seems quaint to reminisce about a time when teenagers were thrilled to get a tinny sounding transistor radio for Christmas that would almost fit in their shirt pocket.

If you had told a teen back in the fifties that in their golden years kids would be carrying their entire music collection in a device smaller than the new transistor; that it would double as a phone and could also take pictures and better video than Dad’s bulky movie camera; that you could ask it arcane sports questions and it would answer in real time; that it would provide detailed maps and directions almost anywhere in the world; well, he would likely have accused you of smoking wacky tobaccy.

Except there was no marijuana in Edmonton in the fifties and early sixties. Not in my circle. We started to hear rumours about such things about 1967. But if you wanted to partake of the herb you had to go to Van, man. Maybe down to the Retinal Circus.

Edmonton was still a small city, perhaps 150,000 people. The bread man delivered to your door and the milk man was a neighbourhood regular. You could pet his horse on the nose or just watch it drop a load on the street in front of your house.

My older brother’s summer job was clop-clopping through the streets of Edmonton in a horse drawn milk wagon, one of the last Edmonton milk men to pull on the reins before horses were phased out in the late sixties.

If my brother wanted to talk to his girlfriend on the family phone he had to stretch the cord into the bathroom and leave the door open a crack. He didn’t have a stereo in his room as a teenager. It wouldn’t fit between our beds and the closet.

My sisters shared the room next door. I think they might have had a shiny, new clock radio that my older sister got for Christmas. I can’t recall for sure though. Their room was off limits for the boys.

My dad was a working man who took on extra jobs so we could afford to buy a small house. They paid $3,000 and eventually sold it for 10. Mom was home every day making breakfast, lunch and dinner. Just like June Cleaver, the Beaver’s Mom, but without the fancy dresses.

There was no fast food. Mom made everything from scratch. We had a garden and she did a lot of canning. A lot of Moms did back then. She put the sealed glass jars filled with vegetables under the basement steps where it was dark and cool year-round. It cut the cost of food for a family of six, a smallish number back then. Many of my friends had six or eight brothers and sisters. Always someone to play with.

We got our first TV in that house, a small black and white with rabbit ears on top. It got three channels that shut off after the late night movie. We watched wrestling or hockey on Saturday night and Walt Disney after supper every Sunday. The Ed Sullivan show was the hottest thing on the tube. (TVs had tubes then. Lots of them.) Ed stood with his arms crossed and stiffly introduced his guests in a staccato voice. He was a newspaper man before TV.

We all watched together, with Mom and Dad in the most comfortable chairs and some of us lying on the floor. We decided what to watch by consensus and there wasn’t much arguing because the CBC shows were mostly lame. Tug Boat Annie. Father Knows Best. Mike Hammer. Only three channels and something for everyone.

Push snow until shovel bogs. Toss left or right. Repeat.

I started in journalism in the early eighties at a far-flung outpost of the then powerful Thomson Newspaper chain, The Kamloops Daily Sentinel. We typed stories on sheets of cheap pink paper using 30-year-old Remington typewriters with worn keys, cigarettes dangling from our lips, overflowing ashtrays perched precariously on stacks of paper beneath clouds of smoke.

Good times.

Reporters did most of our fact gathering by phone, scribbling in notepads with a free hand. If we needed to check out a document at City Hall we had to go there, and if we were lucky, somebody might photo copy it so we wouldn’t have to copy it by hand.

My first week on the job I screwed up on a court document and wrote a story accusing a prominent city lawyer and a sitting provincial judge of breach of trust. On the advice of Thomson’s Toronto lawyers, the paper printed an obsequious front page retraction above the masthead, hoping to mitigate any financial damage. The headline, in 72 point bold face usually reserved for the outbreak of war, read, simply: “Oops… we goofed.” It was rumoured to be the largest retraction printed to date in a Canadian daily newspaper.

After an investigation that involved higher ups in far away corporate headquarters, a copy editor was deemed most responsible and demoted. Having nowhere lower to go except out the door, I was left to slink around the courthouse in shame on future assignments.

I was working in Vancouver in time to get a media pass to Expo 86, where technological marvels of the world were on display. Newspapers were profitable in those days, with no hint of the gloom and doom that would settle on the industry as the Millennium came to an end.

The paper I worked for was expanding, replacing its typesetting machine with clunky computers connected by complex wiring taped to the rug by technicians with tool belts.

I was in my mid-thirties by then, and already technically challenged. To keep up, I bought a home computer for two month’s pay and for the next several weeks poured through how-to books trying to master the intricacies of DOS. That first computer weighed 25 pounds and had the power and memory of an I-pod Shuffle. It functioned as a typewriter with floppy disks for information transfer. A year or so after I bought it I couldn’t give it away as a boat anchor.

Keeping up with the latest technology, the company bought a Fax machine, which saved reporters a lot of shoe leather. No more trips to City Hall, only short walks to the Fax, which spewed out a small forest of press releases 24/7. What a great invention, except when you phoned a Fax number by mistake and got a loud gronking noise instead of hello.

The first cell phones were big and heavy. You needed a holster to cart one around. One day a slick political operative came to the office to do an interview. I was impressed when he pulled a small flat object from his shirt pocket and flipped it open to take a call. I wanted a flip phone but the company hadn’t caught up yet and I couldn’t afford one on my own.

Oh, the times they were certainly changing.

When I retired in 2009 the Fax was a historical curiosity. Photographers didn’t use film anymore and I didn’t have to size actual pictures for reproduction in print. All journalists carried cell phones and lap top computers that provided instant access to the world. Like the Eagles Song, ‘everything all the time.’

Push snow shovel. Lift and throw. Repeat.

The first year of Donald Trump’s Presidency is relegated to its place in history. The year when Reality TV crossed over to politics and brought us into a new universe of alternative facts.

A year when lies from the leader of the Free World became the norm and sexual assaulters were outed by the score.

A year of Breitbart and Fake News.

A year in which sleazy media opportunists like Sean Hannity and spineless Republican politicians denigrated American patriots like Robert Mueller, James Comey and the dedicated men and women who work at the FBI and in U.S. intelligence.

A worrying year for all nations who stand by the principle of truth and the rule of law.

A year of outstanding journalism from mainstays like CNN, the New York Times and the Washington Post.

A year of substantive online reporting from new media like Politico and the Daily Beast.

A year of record-breaking mass murder in a divided country upon which the stability of the world hinges.

A year of ominous signs of climate change. The winds blew hard and the fires burned hot in 2017.

A year the U.S. pulled out of the Paris Climate Accord.

The Last Ones are the only living connection to the pre-computer world. Even though our memories are distorted by the lens of nostalgia we alone know firsthand about life in simpler times. I cannot say whether the world is better or worse for the technological achievements I have seen in my life. I know it is faster, smaller, better informed, immensely more complicated and stressful in the extreme.

I can’t help wondering if the digital age will end well. for humanity.

Push snow shovel. Lift and throw. Repeat.

UnChristians debase faith

religion

Judge Roy Moore’s run for the Alabama senate seat provided the state’s Christian community a golden opportunity to live the tenets of the faith. The Christian conman Moore gave them a chance to show their children that those who use the Lord Jesus Christ to further political goals or as a rationale for misdeeds must be held to account.

They failed themselves and their children while righteous Alabamans banished the mall-cruising teen predator into history’s political swamp, there to croak piously about the forces of evil who conspired to put him in the muck and slime where he belongs.

Alabama’s Evangelical Christians supported a deeply troubled man because they prefer his far right agenda to that of any Liberal Democrat, no matter how virtuous and God-fearing. They tarnished the faith they blindly defend and compromised its core values.

I say this with considerable insight into the devoutly religious mind. I was born into a faith-based family. My pro-life parents fervently believed in the teachings of their Church. We prayed on bended knee at home on important dates in the religious calendar and attended church together on Sunday. I went to religious schools from elementary through high school, receiving instruction from Church-vetted teachers throughout.

One ideology was drummed in from Grade One on–‘ours was the one and only true religion.’

I believed everything I was told. As fervently as my parents. Many guilt-ridden nights were passed in terror-filled trepidation at the prospect of burning in hell for eternity because of a childhood transgression against one of the Ten Commandments. I prayed for forgiveness and vowed to do better but couldn’t quite suppress a sliver of thought that God was harsh and vindictive. Even to a child, eternity in hellfire seemed overkill for taking His name in vain or thinking impure thoughts.

Bigger cracks in my faith emerged in my teens. I began to question the virtue of the Christian teachers, both laymen and those who wore the cloth, as they revealed themselves through the familiarity of daily contact to be no better and sometimes worse than non-believers I knew outside the Church. Despite early indoctrination into the “true” Christian faith, the kids I went to school with often came up short in character comparisons to neighbourhood friends who went to public schools.

It became inescapably clear that my religion had no monopoly on righteousness.

Still, my parents provided a powerful example of Christianity in their daily lives. My Dad tithed to the Church every week even when we had to dig in the couch for change to come up with money for a loaf of bread for the family. He worked three jobs but still found time for charitable work. My mom kept her nightly home vigil with muted complaint when he went to meetings and volunteered at Church events that raised money for families even poorer than our own.

Mom and Dad did not look down upon those who worshipped in other faiths, be they Muslim or Buddhist or Jew. Their God would never denigrate a person of another belief, unless that person distorted and twisted the teachings into hot-air blasts of hate.

Mom and Dad did not look down on First Nations people, as so many other faith-based friends, school mates and relatives did at the time. They were colour-blind when it came to people of good character, believing integrity shined as brightly on a black, yellow, red or brown face as on white.

Mom and Dad held strong faith-based views on hot-button Christian issues like abortion and homosexuality. The former they viewed as akin to murder and the latter as an abomination and a sin. But they did not proselytize and I never heard them speak derogatorily about anyone regarding either issue.

Mom and Dad did not lie. They placed high value on the truth.

During a discussion late in his life, Dad refuted my assertion that five per cent of the population was gay. “How could that be?” he replied with great conviction. “I’ve never met a gay person in all my years of living.”

This kind of delusional thinking is impossible to overcome with logic, as we have seen so often in the era of Donald Trump, but I loved him no less in his wilful ignorance.

When it came to light after his death that one of the grand-kids was gay, Mom put family and right from wrong over blind faith. “It doesn’t matter what the Church says,” she told me. “God knows who’s good or bad. It doesn’t change my opinion even a little bit. He’s a good person and that’s all that counts.”

Dad showed his measure as a Christian man daily throughout his long life but the instance that stands out for me is the time he stood on principal and resigned from his cherished Christian men’s organization.

Like most fellowships devoted to good works it had rituals and ceremonies and lifelong friendships developed among its like-minded members. It is an international organization with community branches and officers who oversee various charitable projects. Dad had served on the executive of his council and volunteered countless hours over the years. His involvement wasn’t selfless. He enjoyed the camaraderie of the group and valued the friendships he made. To say it was a large part of his life would be understatement.

After decades of service, he came to believe that improprieties occurred in the appointment of a member of the executive of his council. Nothing sordid or financial. Instead the conflict centred on the passing over of deserving men for a position on the executive in favour of a man he deemed to be a lesser candidate with more Church clout. Although not personally involved in the outcome, he believed in his heart it wasn’t right.

My Dad left school in Grade 11 to work on the family farm. He was not a man of letters and he turned to his sons for assistance in drafting a painful letter of resignation from the organization he so loved.

It didn’t matter to my brother and I whether he was right or wrong in the executive dust-up. He took the hard way and followed his conscience when it would have been easier to go along, setting an example for his sons that would resonate long after he left this life.

Those Christians who follow false prophets in pursuit of political goals, like fanatics in all religions, debase the faith they hold so dear and do a disservice to true Christians like my Mom and Dad who knew the difference between right and wrong.

 

Putin on the Ritz

vlad

The Conman-in-Chief’s latest encounter with Vladimir Putin makes it clear to all but the most obtuse observer that the bloviating blowhard is scared spit-less of the Russian gangster.

Gathered with world leaders for a photo op dressed in a blue silk smock hanging to mid-thigh that violently clashed with his orangeness, looking like an aging overweight hairstylist with a fondness for excessive hair product, Trump turned to the similarly attired little murderous macho man, flashed his best salesman smile and extended a tiny hand.

The resulting grasp exhibited none of the prolonged awkwardness shown with previous world leaders. No grip and yank to show dominance. Just a brief limp-wristed clasp to set the tone for what was to come.

With all things Russian dominating the domestic political stage, the tough-talking, trumpet blaster did not deem it expedient to have a mano-a-mano sit-down with the thug his intelligence agencies say interfered with America’s most sacred democratic institution.

Instead he asked Vlad politely during a brief aside whether the ‘rumours’ he was hearing about election interference were true.

“Nyet,” replied Vlad, apparently showing some annoyance at the trumpet-blaster’s temerity. “Is plot by political foes to ruin great relationship.”

Unspoken, except perhaps by an imperceptible digging in of Vlad’s blood-stained fingernails into the flesh of a tiny hand, or maybe the subtle twitch of a killer’s eye, was the pee tape and money laundering documentation Vlad has squirreled away in the Kremlin for just the right moment.

How else to explain Trump’s take-away from their encounter.

“I asked him again about election interference and he said no. How many times can you ask someone.”

And with that, the commander of the greatest military force the world has ever known, a man who thrives on his perceived toughness, who feigns patriotism for political expediency, who pulls no punches when dealing with adversaries like Rosie O’Donnell, Nordstrom’s, grieving Gold Star families, female network anchors, NFL players and even his own Republican colleagues, one of whom has terminal brain cancer, throws his entire intelligence community under the military bus.

“I believe him,” he said meekly.

After all, why would Vlad lie about something like that. Especially to his new best bro.

For all his shallowness, intellectual deficiency, pettiness and plain out ignorance, no one can deny the Apricot-tinted Conman’s cunning and incredible survival instincts.

Ask yourself why a man facing the pressure of a massive investigation into all things Russia would publicly take the word of his country’s number one enemy, a Russian tyrant who murders his political enemies, over the documented findings of Americans who risk their lives gathering the information in service of their country.

It’s a head-scratcher.

My guess is, money laundering and other financial crimes aside, it dates back to the Miss USA pageant in Las Vegas in 2013. According to an account pop-singing Russian oligarch Aras Agalarov gave to a Russian news outlet, as reported in Politico, he met Trump in the lobby of his Las Vegas hotel and developed an instant camaraderie.

“He took me around the shoulder, gave a thumb’s up, saying ‘Everything is cool!’” Agalarov remembered of the Trump Hotel meeting. Later, as the two watched the pageant, Trump regaled Agalarov with his philosophy on prenuptial agreements and gossiped about VIPs in the audience, per the Russian’s account.

In light of the Access Hollywood tape, who could doubt that with the country’s most beautiful women parading on stage, that the conversation with the Russian pop star turned to “boy talk.”

Investigators looking into the existence of the pee tape video are looking in the wrong place. The encounter may not have taken place in Russia, where Trump’s spidey senses would have been on full alert, but instead in a penthouse in the desert, where Trump would have felt safe getting a golden shower. What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas, except when Russian spies are involved.

That explains the testimony to Congress of Trump bodyguard Keith Schiller, who recently told U.S. lawmakers that someone in the Agalarov entourage offered to send five women to Trump’s room during a trip to Moscow for the Miss Universe pageant. Schiller says he declined the offer on Trump’s behalf.

Agalarov likely knew the Old Orange Groper had a predilection for doing naughty things with beautiful women from the Viagra-fueled partying they did in Vegas. Like a good host, he wanted to return the favour, Moscow-style, with secret cameras rolling.

From the loyal Schiller’s testimony under oath, we don’t know whether Trump dropped his guard and succumbed to his libidinal yearnings in a far away land. The long-time bodyguard said Trump laughed when he told him about the offer. He said he stood at Trump’s door for several moments but could not testify as to what might have occurred after he left.

Given Trump’s taped admission that he can’t stop himself from kissing women, welcome or not, and his affinity for grabbing them by the pussy, it doesn’t take James Bond to figure out what the Russians might have on the Old Orange Groper.

Locked & Loaded

bloody gun

The next time you’re at a large concert or sporting event, say something with an audience of about 30,000, look around at the crowd and imagine each man, woman and child with a bullet hole in their forehead. That’s how many Americans die every year from gun violence, and that’s not counting the injured.

For people who never tire of telling us they live in the greatest country in the world, shooting each other is an everyday thing.

According to the non-profit monitoring group Gun Violence Archive, in the first year of the Mango Megalomaniac’s debasement of America’s highest office there have been 378 mass shootings, defined as four or more people shot at the same general location and time. This is down from 483 in 2016. Of course, the year isn’t over.

Despite these startling statistics the Conman-in-Chief has Americans convinced that terrorism is the greatest threat facing the country. This is an alternative fact not born out by the numbers.

An exhaustive study by Alex Norasteh of the Cato Institute concluded that from post 9/11 to 2015 there have been 24 Americans killed by foreign-born terrorists. Norasteh went further, crunching numbers from 1975 to 2015. He concluded during that 40-year span that 1.13 billion foreigners entered the U.S. legally and illegally and more than 28 million foreigners entered the country for each terrorist who killed somebody in a terrorist attack, including the thousands who died on 9/11.

Clearly, building a wall and banning visitors from Muslim countries won’t keep Americans safe. Gun-loving good old boys are murdering people with frightening competence, using high-powered weapons capable of killing dozens of their fellow citizens in mere minutes.

The Conman-in-Chief, pandering to his well-armed base of deplorables, signed an executive order in February making it easier for people with mental health issues to obtain firearms. That didn’t stop him from saying the latest outrage in a Texas church wasn’t about guns. It’s a mental health issue, he said, without a hint of shame.

That’s like saying smoking cigarettes is an inhaling issue. Leave them in the pack and they won’t harm your health.

The U.S. could build a 50-foot wall around its entire perimeter and its citizens would not be safe in any aspect of their consumer-driven lives because they have to live with each other in a country suffering from mass psychosis.

Not at elementary school:

Dec. 14, 2012, Newton, Connecticut: Twenty children and six teachers are mowed down at Sandy Hook Elementary with a semiautomatic weapon.

Not at high school:

April 20, 1999, Littleton, Colorado: Twelve students at Columbine High School are killed and 21 injured by two students armed with bombs, guns they borrowed from their parents and knives.

Not at university:

April 16, 2007, Blacksburg, Virginia: A disgruntled senior at Virginia Tech kills 32 people and wounds 17 others before killing himself.

Not on the job:

Workplace killings are too frequent to list them all but it suffices to say the phrase ‘going postal’ originated in the U.S., where making a living can be hazardous, whether you work in a beer warehouse or a financial institution.

Aug. 3, 2010, Manchester, Connecticut: A former employee shoots eight people to death at Hartford Distributors before turning the gun on himself.

July 29, 1999, Atlanta, Georgia: A failed day trader killed his wife and two children with a hammer before heading to his former firms, Momentum Securities and All-Tech Investment Group, with evil in his heart. The final toll—12 dead, 13 injured.

Not while taking in a movie:

July 20, 2012, Aurora, Colorado: A Batman fan dressed as The Joker shoots 82 moviegoers, killing 12 and injuring 70 during a showing of The Dark Knight Rises.

Not while eating dinner out:

Oct. 16, 1991, Killeen, Texas. A 35-year-old man crashed his pickup into Luby’s Cafeteria. He shot and killed 23 people before killing himself. Twenty-seven others were wounded. A former roommate said he hated blacks, Hispanics and gays, and thought women were snakes.

Not while dancing to Latin music:

June 12, 2016, Orlando, Florida: A sexually conflicted security guard killed 49 people and wounded 58 others inside Pulse, a gay nightclub hosting Latin Night. He was shot and killed by police after a three-hour standoff.

Not while listening to country music:

Oct. 1, 2017, Las Vegas, Nevada: A lone gunman opened fire on a crowd of concert-goers at a country music festival on the Las Vegas Strip, leaving 58 people dead and 546 injured. The man fired hundreds of rounds with a semi-automatic rifle he legally converted to an automatic weapon, firing from his suite on the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay Hotel.

Not while barbecuing at home with friends and watching football:

Sept. 19, 2017, Plano, Texas: An estranged husband killed eight people on his wedding anniversary while they were watching The Dallas Cowboys on Sunday Night Football.

Not even while praying at church on Sunday morning:

Nov. 5, 2017, Sutherland, Texas: A mentally ill man who had been drummed out of the military after spending a year in the brig for beating his wife and stepson used a legally acquired semi-automatic rifle to kill 26 people and wound 20 more at First Baptist Church. He was shot by a neighbour who grabbed his own assault rifle and rushed to the scene.

The gun carnage escalates with new records being set yearly while the gun lobby bribes and extorts Washington lawmakers who piously wave the Second Amendment, written in the 1700s by men who wanted to arm slave-owning militias with flintlock muskets against the threat of an uprising by the enslaved.

Americans might want to pause for a moment before allowing their government to build walls and seal their borders. Some of them may want to get out someday.

What a great country.

Survivor – The White House Edition

surviror

Dear Trump voters…

The rational among you may have noticed your ‘businessman’ President has made a few suspect hires. The Mango Megalomaniac’s first 200 days in the Oval Office would have got him fired from The Apprentice for appalling judgement, as illustrated by a multitude of the shortest political tenures in U.S. history.

The record setting string began with National Security Advisor Michael Flynn, the shortest serving NSA ever, fired after less than a month for lying to the Vice President about his contact with the Russians.

A record that will go down in history steeped in Turkish coffee, slathered in Russian salad dressing and surrounded by the stale pizza crusts left over from conspiracy theories propagated by his son.

Then came Press Secretary Sean Spicer, fired after six months for not lying convincingly enough for the President. And because he wore ill-fitting suits, had a sparser comb-over than the boss and exhibited a limited command of English.

Spicey’s  record for ruining a reputation began with his emphatic and pictorially disprovable lie about the inaugural crowd during his first five minutes on the job.

The man the President hired to take Spicer’s place came to work with fire in his eye vowing to quell White House dissension through a scorched earth policy. Instead, Anthony “the Mooch” Scaramucci, who arrived on the press briefing scene blowing kisses and exuding an overabundance of love for the President, scorched the air waves in a profane tirade and was perp-walked off the White House grounds, his sorry ass singed and fired after 10 days. He had not yet officially assumed his duties.

The man who personified a human pinky ring holds a record for bad Presidential judgement that may never be broken,

Next came your President’s pick for the critically important post of White House Chief of Staff. The ineffectual and weak-kneed Reince Priebus, a devout Christian who declared at a banana republic cabinet ‘love-in’ that serving Trump was a blessing, was dumped like an odorous expulsion from the Narcissist-in-Chief’s dimpled fat ass.

A record in stinking up a political blessing that makes the Washington swamp smell sweet in comparison.

The latest on the list, the White House’s first political Advisor on White Supremacy, Steve Bannon, was banished back to bloviating for Brietbart, voice of the Alt Right, where he vows to wage war against anyone who tries to deflect the Infant-in-Chief from Bannon’s stated mission of figuratively blowing up the country’s institutions.

This is a record with an ominous asterisk, since the position of Advisor on White Supremacy is unique to this administration.

Consider this, denizens of Trumpland, your Reality TV hero also set a real-life firing record by becoming the first President in U.S. history to fire an FBI director who was investigating his administration. Unlike his flinty-eyed TV alter ego who cut his minions loose by staring them down across the table in a corporate boardroom, your Chicken-In-Chief sent an underling to the director’s office with a mealy-mouthed letter when he was out of town. The FBI director with a long record of public service learned about the firing on CNN.

It is understandable that those of you who first fell under the Trumpeter-in-Chief’s spell during his Reality TV days might not be overly concerned by the spate of firings. After all, most of you tuned in each week, side by each on the couch, or on matching recliners, with quivering thighs or the sexual tingling of an oncoming woody, in anticipation of hearing your hero utter his signature phrase.

If only life in America could be that great again.

The trouble is your choice to lead isn’t content with firing people. He wants to torture them too. Good people like Jeff Sessions. Your Disloyalist-in-Chief denigrated then publicly humiliated his personal pick for the highest law office in the land, hoping to goad him into resigning so he could then arrange to fire the special prosecutor investigating him for obstruction of justice and other crimes and misdemeanors.

Remember, Jeff is your guy, the first senator to endorse the man you embraced as your Commander-in-Chief. Sessions is cracking down on Dreamers and the immigrant families who are taking your jobs in the cabbage patch. He wants to ban Muslims and stop the funding to sanctuary cities. He may look like an Evil Elf but he’s claims to be a Christian who wants to expand your country’s world-leading prison industry by locking up more Americans for longer terms. He knows in his heart that people who smoke pot are bad. He stands for confederate statues and prosecuting bad people on both sides of the neo-Nazi, White Supremacy, KKK melees.

If Trump is gunning for Jeff, none of you are safe.