Protecting America’s national interest comes at too high a price for Third World

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“The people of the United States want us to kill all the men, f*** all the women and raise up a new race in these Islands.”*

American soldier serving in the Philippines, commenting on the message filtering down to troops from their superior officers, circa 1900

“I knew enough about the Philippines to have a strong aversion to sending our bright boys over there to fight with a disgraced musket under a polluted flag.”*

Celebrated American author Samuel Clemons, aka Mark Twain, speaking in New York

At the turn of the 19th Century, America defeated Spain in a one-sided war advertised by the government as a fight to liberate the Cuban people from Spanish depredations. Revolutionaries in the Philippines, also tired of being ruled by far-off Spain, joined America’s cause when the U.S. Navy anchored off Manila, a strategic Spanish possession. They did so with the expectation Filipinos would be given the opportunity to govern themselves when the conflict ended, in keeping with stated American values.

Instead, the alliance devolved into a brutal fight over control of the geographically important Archipelago, in which the better trained and equipped U.S. troops were given licence to kill and torture. Honing techniques the American military would later deploy in Viet Nam, soldiers roamed the countryside in search and destroy missions, indiscriminately killing, raping, torturing captives, often to death, and burning entire Filipino villages suspected of harboring the enemy.

The U.S. Colonel who tamed the Tagalog rebels, lionized at home as ‘Fighting’ Frederick Funston, pillaged his way up the military promotional ladder to General and a Medal of Honor. Theodore Roosevelt, the president who never met a war he wouldn’t fight in personally, declared it would take more than 30 generations for the savage islanders to be on a level with Americans and capable of governing themselves. The American public, who swallowed the official bullshit with no aftertaste, viewed the conflict as being in the country’s national interest. The hundreds of thousands of brown people who died, in their polluted view, possessed ‘limited intelligence and ability’. Collateral damage.

The Third World has been enduring America First for a very long time.

During the Philippine adventure, as in Viet Nam, the U.S. did its own dirty work, with Presidents William McKinley, Teddy Roosevelt and later Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon, suffering the political consequences of the moral outrage heaped on them by progressive thinkers like Samuel Clemons, a staunch anti-imperialist. Similarly, Bush 45 and Barack Obama had to answer for Iraq and Afghanistan.

A hundred-plus years and many wars later, it is hard to ignore the cliché and truism—”History repeats itself.”—when considering the current conflict in Yemen, wrought by the Saudis with the full complicity of America.

But who is answering for the catastrophic despoliation of Yemen being wrought upon millions of brown people by proxy for America’s national interest? Where are the voices of outrage in the midst of the world’s greatest humanitarian crisis?

The Saudi-piloted murder planes, until recently being refueled by the U.S. air force, and the bombs falling from them upon innocent men, women and children, some of them riding in school buses, bear the Made-In-America stamp.

Death and mayhem in the Middle East mean billions of blood dollars for America and jobs for U.S. workers, rationalizes the  Bloviator-in-Chief. Donald Trump’s coverup of the Khashoggi killing told the world all it needs to know. America sanctions murder for the right money.

The Trump administration can’t be blamed for the cause of the conflict, which dates back centuries and is rooted in religious rivalry and intolerance. But there can be no question the U.S. trains and props up a despotic Saudi regime that tortures, decapitates and dismembers its opponents and only this year gave women the right to drive.

It does so, the U.S. government tells its people, because it is in America’s national interest. Saudi Arabia is a bulwark against the nuclear wannabe mullahs of Iran. A kind of the enemy of my enemy is my friend rationale. And because they have oil money to pay for American weapons.

The Senate makes noise about limiting U.S. support for the murderous tyrant known as MSB as people starve in real time. Is anybody questioning the wisdom of providing billions of dollars in sophisticated weaponry to a psychopath who runs a country that spawned the 9/11 attackers? A country that is a friend of terrorist enemies.

If so, I haven’t heard about it on American media, currently obsessed with the top-rated multi-network reality show, Donald Trump’s Blackening of the White House, starring a villain who makes J.R. Ewing look like Mr. Rogers. Collectively, the media virtually ignores the killing of Yemenis as it does all but the most egregious interruptions in regular programming.

It takes a natural disaster of historic proportions in the homeland to shift the focus for a day and get anchors away from Washington and New York desks and out to affected locations in tight black t-shirts or stylish rain gear and boots. Only mass shootings in double digits can avert the media’s focus from its ratings winner. Or the killing of one of its own, especially if it involves a grisly dismemberment and a djellaba-wearing villain the American public can get behind hating.

It is a sure bet that most Americans are only vaguely aware of the country where the Made-In-America humanitarian disaster is unfolding, beyond that it is somewhere far away, maybe the Middle East, or Africa. On the periphery of their personal device-addled brains they know Arabs are fighting each other. They don’t know why or much care.

It doesn’t occur to them that it is not in Yemen’s national interest to have a proxy war on its soil. That Yemenis, though Muslim and brown, are parents and daughters and sons, grandparents and uncles and aunts, who want what Americans want–food, lodging and neighbourhoods where kids can play without fear of foreign made bombs, mines or machine gun bullets.

CNN managed to squeeze in a short segment last week on the Yemen man-made catastrophe at the end of one of its Trump’s Blackening of the White House episodes. After a voice-over warning about disturbing content, cameras took viewers into an emergency facility where doctors were unable to save a tiny famine-ravaged boy, following outside as his grieving Dad left cradling the body to his chest. Another scene showed children with ghastly wounds from bombs, shrapnel and snipers’ bullets.

But the most haunting images were of emaciated kids with sunken eyes, bloated bellies and skeletal arms and legs. Not a ratings winner with viewers slumped in easy chairs and on couches or bar stools, drinking beer and eating burgers, pizza and potato chips, growing more obese on four thousand calories a day.

Millions of people are homeless and hungry and the United States, using the same old ‘national interest’ trope it has relied on for a hundred-plus years, is complicit. That is not fake news or an alternative fact. It is the plain truth.

I suppose it shouldn’t be surprising that the country that elected a world class narcissist to its highest office is a country of navel-gazers bordering on mass narcissism. It is only natural to have a leader like Trump when the electorate has a propagandized view of the havoc wreaked in the name of America’s national interest.

Christian evangelists, so concerned about human life in the womb they will support a soulless, venal liar if he will give them judges that further their cause, care diddly squat about the brown kids their government is helping kill. Franklin Graham and Jerry Falwell Jr., well-fed and safe in their gated communities, prefer to rail against the “war on Christmas.”

Putting America First, the oft-stated goal of white supremacy groups like the Ku Klux Klan, has cost millions of brown, yellow, red and beige people their lives. As I have stated in previous blogs, there can be no argument that the U.S. is a great country, but to be the ‘greatest country’ requires more than self-proclamation. It means learning from past wrongs and making things right in the present. It’s well past time that Americans stop parroting the party line and start walking the righteous walk.

(*Quotes from the Statesman and the Storyteller, an exhaustively researched book on turn of 19th Century America by Mark Zwonitzer.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Last Great Generation…

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Mike and Germaine Maloney wedding photo 1939

Watching the moving rituals following a Presidential death in the U.S. brought tears to my eyes, especially when George Jr. choked up at the podium while delivering the final words of his historic eulogy for his father.

President and son to President and father.

All the sentimentality and talk about the passing of the last great generation brought my parents to mind. Mom, a devout Catholic, went peacefully to her maker at age 96 a couple of years back. Dad, her partner in faith as in life, predeceased her by 14 years at age 88. They were together 63 years.

Uncelebrated at their deaths for great accomplishments, they were born into circumstances less privileged then the late H.W. Bush.

Mom’s family moved from Quebec to Alberta when she was a young child. Her father eventually ran a one-man dairy from a rented acreage on the outskirts of Edmonton, delivering milk from his cows to the General Hospital run by the Grey Nuns.

The acreage was not connected to water, so my grandfather mounted a huge tank upon a trailer which he pulled down to the city water hydrant at the main road and filled up periodically for drinking water for the family of two adults and six kids, two boys and four girls. One of the kids’ daily jobs was to scoop water into buckets and carry them to the house for drinking and washing dishes.

Calling it a house is an exaggeration. It was a two-room shack with a loft for the boys. The girls slept in the living room crossways on a fold-out couch, four to the bed, the parents a whisper away behind a thin wall. The toilet was 50 feet from the house, a frightening and discouraging distance for a child on a frigid Alberta winter night. Throwing out the contents collected in the pots the night before was another daily childhood task.

The kids worked from the time they could walk, milking cows, feeding chickens, cooking, cleaning and shovelling cow shit. The boys did the heaviest work and the girls learned the domestic arts they would need in adulthood.

Mom started school in Edmonton wearing her older brother’s boots with English as her second language. Her father pulled the girls out of school as soon as they reached the legal age. Their place was working in the home, he told them in French, leaving no room for argument.

My Dad finished Grade Eleven. He grew up in more prosperous circumstances on a farm outside St. Albert.

The big house had running water and more sophisticated bathroom facilities than Mom’s. He had two sisters and five brothers. His father James was gassed in the trenches in WWI. The son of one of St. Albert’s prominent pioneers, James became a farmer and sometime small businessman. My great grandfather Daniel Maloney’s local celebrity was gleaned in part when he travelled to Ottawa as part of a delegation to convince Sir John A. McDonald’s Conservative government to construct a bridge over the Sturgeon River. The St. Albert RCMP station is called Maloney Place.

The celebrity didn’t translate into dollars for Daniel’s offspring and Dad and his seven siblings learned early that life required hard work and grit. Dad bore scars from being kicked in the head by a horse as a young boy and all the kids had calluses on their hands. The girls helped their Mom with laundry, cleaning and daily meals for 10 and the boys learned to build barns and sheds, to repair machinery, and to handle six-horse teams, my father’s early lesson about never walking behind a frisky horse notwithstanding.

His older brothers hauled horse-drawn freight when barely into their teens. Dad was pulled out of school periodically in spring and fall for planting and harvesting.

Mom first noticed him at Church. His scars from the horse hoof burnished away by the sun, he wore his wavy hair in a period pompadour that soared six inches above his forehead, and made him appear hair, if not head and shoulders, above the male competition in Mom’s tiny family and church social world.

Family legend has them meeting at a softball tournament in St. Albert at which he bought her an ice cream cone. He was tall, fit and handsome and she was what was called a looker, a dark-haired French beauty with fine features. They married only months later, Dad at 25 and Mom at 19, at the end of the Depression and on the cusp of the conflagration that would be World War II.

Dad was rejected for service because of flat feet, an ironic military decision considering he spent most of his working life walking from house to house delivering milk. They started life together in a series of small rental houses. Mom even stayed in a tent for a time to be with her new husband as he worked on the Alaska Highway. Before moving in with Dad she had never lived outside the family home.

They lost their firstborn son at birth and went on to have four other children, two boys and two girls, a standard number for the time. With memories of the Great Depression burned into their being, they lived a frugal life, eventually buying a small house, moving the family to a more comfortable bungalow after ten years of saving for the down payment. Mom was a homemaker and Dad worked on his days off from the dairy where he became a foreman and remained for the rest of his working life. He was a highly skilled carpenter and jack of many trades, but outdoor work was unreliable in the cold winters of Edmonton.

When they bought their first new car with the children older, Mom took a job at the General Hospital where her father once delivered milk, sewing sheets in the basement for a dollar an hour until the new car was paid off. They bought a basic model Rambler with vinyl bench seats, standard transmission and hand-powered steering and windows. Mom quit the hospital when it was paid off.

They paid bills on time and met the responsibilities of parenthood on a limited budget by doing what needed to be done. Mom canned vegetables and washed clothes in a wringer washer, hanging them on the line to dry in summer and to freeze in winter. Dad did all house repairs, yard work and car maintenance, changing the oil in the driveway of the garage he built.

They were the original recyclers. Nothing was thrown out that had any material use. Torn clothes were mended, shoes repaired, and Dad spent many an idle evening darning the toes of his socks, worn through by miles of walking on his milk routes on flat feet. Nothing was disposable, least of all diapers, which were soaked in a bucket and washed separately.

Meals were basic and wholesome, lots of hamburger and liver, with emphasis on stomach fillers like potatoes, pasta and bread. Well-cooked roast beef was a Sunday ritual. Full family attendance was expected at every evening meal and picky eaters were not countenanced. No vegetable tasted so bad that it could be left behind on a plate with people starving in India and China. On extra special occasions, Mom and Dad sipped at glasses of Mogen David Wine.

Sunday mornings were reserved for Church. Attendance wasn’t optional for the kids even into their late teens. Dad did not work for money on Sundays, using it as a day of rest to do jobs around the house. There were times when Dad had to borrow change from the float in his milk pouch but he never missed his weekly donation at Sunday mass. He was one of the men who passed the collection basket at Church, walking ramrod straight in his only suit. When it got so out of style Mom became embarrassed, he had it tailored to narrow the lapels.

Mom and Dad always put their children first, instilling integrity and ethics in their offspring as best they could, by example. They did not look to put one over on anybody by paying less or charging more on anything they bought or sold. Lying was not a misdemeanor in Mom and Dad’s book, but instead a major offense to be punished by a spanking, or even worse, a period of ostracization from their affections.

They believed in working for everything they got and did not look kindly on shirkers, whatever their social status. Devoutly religious, they tried with limited success to pass their beliefs on to their children but did not proselytize to friends or strangers of non or different faiths. I never heard them speak ill of other religions or people of different colours and cultures. They took their measure of people by the way they lived.

They raised four children, none of whom were incarcerated, who went on to live mostly respectably, working to buy homes and paying their bills and taxes.

This peon is not meant to infer that my parents were saintly people who raised the ideal family. They had the imperfections inherent in the human condition and held firmly to some of the now politically incorrect views of their time. Their marriage, though enduring, was not a perfect union.

Mom revealed herself to be an artist of considerable talent in later life and Dad was a skilled craftsman who could build a house or a fine piece of furniture. If they had dreams for themselves or disappointments for personal aspirations unfulfilled, I never heard them.

They were working class people, decent, with a moral code they would not compromise, regardless of short-term advantage. In my view, their ordinary lives were lived with a steadfastness and heroism underrated by the want-it-now pay-for-it-later generation that followed them. They left this earth without the pomp and praise bestowed upon H.W. on his final journey but with no less value for the lives they lived. George JR. said of his father he was the best a boy could hope for. I put my Dad and Mom right up there with him. They exemplified all that was right about the last great generation.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Wisdom of Ted the Barber

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Contrary to what readers of this space might infer from my frequent scathing criticisms of the current U.S. administration and the people that put it in place, I am not a rabid anti-American.

Some may recall the piece I wrote at the end of a five-month road trip through America. It began by paraphrasing Charles Dickens–It is the best of countries; it is the worst of countries–and went on to note its fascinating cultural diversity, geographic splendour and the many contributions its citizens have made to the world’s betterment, from music to literature, from science to technology, from championing religious freedom to advocating for democracy.

The Dame and I recently travelled to the small Arizona town of Florence for a sunny break from the frequently gloomy skies of November in the South Okanagan. It was the first time we’ve been in the U.S. since the ascendancy of the Conman in Chief and like many Canadians we were hesitant about giving the tacit support of our tourism dollars to a country that would elevate such a repellent person to the nation’s highest office.

I rationalized that it would combine a holiday with firsthand research in a state Trump won by four percentage points.

Florence is a dusty desert town set along the Gila River amidst stands of saguaro cactus and sagebrush halfway between Phoenix and Tucson. To say it has seen better days would be kind. Sprinkled along its historic main street are boarded up businesses, a burnt-out bar and ramshackle buildings of limited aesthetic value. It does not have a grocery store and its main industry is incarceration.

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Nearby, the Del Webb resort community of Anthem at Merrill Ranch stands out in sharp contrast. Littered with snow geezers and the more prosperous of the local population, it has a mini-shopping mall, an 18-hole golf course and a modern recreation/fitness facility and pool.

Back in Florence, near the end of the main street, an old school barber shop seemed a logical place to scope out rural Arizona in the era of Trump while getting my ears lowered.

The shop is a comfortable place, roomy, with two barber chairs, an assortment of seating for waiting customers and a pool table covered over, either out of disuse or to keep the falling follicles from fouling the felt.

A young boy is getting clipped in one of the chairs, while his mom, dad and brother supervise from the sidelines. They are Canadians, I am soon to learn from the affable proprietor, who rises to greet me and usher me to the empty chair.

Ted the barber is a voluble man with an encyclopedic knowledge of all things Florence. He looks to be in his mid-fifties and has lived here since his family moved from Oregon when he was a child. He wears a blue barber smock and moves gingerly with his back tilted forward from the waist at an odd angle.

The Canadian family, he informs me upon learning of my nationality, has moved to the Florence area for a business opportunity and will be staying five years. Preoccupied with the boys, the parents take no notice or offense at Ted telling a stranger their business.

After carefully determining the precise lowering of the ears desired, Ted sets to removing hair at a leisurely pace. The counter below the mirror is cluttered with the usual assortment of barbering tools and the mirror itself is framed with photos from Ted’s life.

Ted seems perfectly suited to the intimacy of his chosen profession. Loquacious without being overbearing he answers his curious customer’s questions with the authority and detail gleaned from a lifetime of living in Florence.

The town’s main employers are the 12 prison complexes scattered on the town’s perimeter that house by his estimate 39,000 law breakers, from juveniles in “training” camps to murderers awaiting their fate on death row in the super max penitentiary. He says the guards and personnel at the lower paying state prisons tend to live in Coolidge, a slightly larger down-at-the heels town about 10 miles up the road. The better compensated federal prison workers commute the 50 miles from Tucson and the suburbs of Phoenix with a smattering mingling with the snow geezers in the manicured Del Webb development.

There is a disproportionate number of courtrooms in town to deal with legal matters that inevitably arise from the plethora of prisoners who are officially considered citizens but cannot vote. The town receives a set annual amount for each prisoner housed in its jurisdiction. He says most of the lawyers and judges who preside over the courts commute or live in Anthem.

Having been cautioned about talking politics, I guardedly remark that Arizona has a new Democratic Senator for the first time in a while. Ted says, only slightly scornfully, the new Senator owes her election to the wave of liberal Californians who have moved to Arizona in recent years to escape the crowds and high taxes of California living. He says he cringes each time Donald Trump opens his mouth but notes that he has been good for the economy. I suspect he is one of the deplorables and so steer the conversation to more friendly ground.

One of the photos framing the mirror is of a local sports team. It is signed and inscribed with best wishes for Ted’s speedy recovery. Ted catches my eye settling on the photo and explains he had a little accident some years back. When asked if it involved cars he laughs and says somewhat sheepishly that his misfortune occurred at a family gathering.

Two teenage boys were causing mayhem pushing a small wooden merry-go-round at a speed that upset some of the smaller children. Ted went over to comfort one of the girls and inadvertently put a foot on the platform just as the youths resumed pushing. The resultant momentum propelled Ted onto the adjoining concrete where he broke his neck in four places. It put him in the hospital and he was bedridden and unable to walk for four years.

At the time of the accident Ted was a successful businessman in Coolidge, operating a number of cash-oriented retail businesses that fell on hard times with the boss unable to watch over them. He was eventually forced to sell the businesses at less than favourable terms.

During his long recovery, which he termed as near miraculous given the doctors’ original prognosis, he held no animosity toward the boys who pushed the merry-go-round. They visited him frequently and expressed great remorse.

“Accidents happen,” he says, matter-of-factly, with no discernible rancour or self-pity.

After relearning to walk and with his businesses now gone, Ted took up barbering and has been at it for six years. When asked about the physical rigours of being on his feet cutting hair, he says he owes his ability to work on the massive doses of morphine he takes daily. He says the furor over America’s opioid crisis caused his doctor to cut his prescription in half with another cut on the horizon. He’s not sure how he will get by when his current supply runs out and asks if I know anything about the marijuana derivative CBD oil used for pain and inflammation.

Ted lives in a large house on 10 acres a few miles from town. He’d like to sell the property and get something more manageable. One of his regular duties is removing the rattle snakes that sun themselves in his driveway and slither into crevices around the property. He scoops them with a shovel and sets them down away from the house. He used to kill them until the rat population ballooned. He and his wife kept a lot of outdoor cats that helped with the snakes and rats but lately the owls and coyotes have taken their toll and they are down to about four. They have a couple of small house dogs.

Ted is proud of his daughter who is entering pre-med school. There is a graduation picture of a teenage girl stuck on one side of his mirror and I suspect she is one of the girls in the sports team photo.

Ted does not seem beaten down, as one might expect, from all he has endured. He comes across as a proud, if slightly bent over American, determined to face the vagaries of life with the courage and resiliency that made the United States the envy of the world. He is a man of true grit, the kind of person the silver spoon rich guy Donald Trump could never be.

There can be no doubt the U.S. ranks high on any list of the world’s great countries and it is because of decent Americans like Ted, who persevere and make do with what life has given them.

Ted is a good and thorough barber. He lathers and shaves the back of my neck with a straight razor then places a soothing hot towel over my head while administering a brief scalp massage. He whisks away loose cuttings before sending his Canadian customer away with a broader understanding of the constituency that put Donald Trump in office.

The charge for the haircut is 10 dollars. The information and inspiration are free.

Watergate for Dummies

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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, who was 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

ass loss

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.