The Long Road From Normal


desktop computing 90sA long, long time ago, I used to play chess. Not very well, to be honest; I was probably a better backgammon player if anything. Or maybe I wasn’t all that great at either.

But here’s the thing .. I’ve played neither of those games in… gotta be nearly three decades. First, it was computers … when I fell under their spell, that was it for spare time. I was enthralled, seduced by DOS and data bases. I tend to get pretty intense when I dive into a new interest.

And then I got into politics – headfirst and totally submerged. It’s hard to believe that I’ve only been following politics seriously for about the last six years, but, you see .. I didn’t really need to before that. Things were ticking along pretty well – we didn’t get too far forward, but we also didn’t fall too far behind. Business as usual, really. And I was busy.

But then there was Harper. Oh, he’d been around for a while before he really started getting up my nose, but there came a point when I realized that his political trajectory was going to take Canada to places that most of those I consider friends and family, really didn’t want him to visit.

As things heated up towards the 2015 federal election, there were more and more issues in which Harper’s ultra-conservative bent seemed contrary to real growth for Canadians. Austerity measures in Canada worked against future prosperity, and his government’s penchant for secrecy and overreach of government powers of surveillance, especially in the drafting of Bill C51, felt way too much like a Big Brother usurpation of civil liberties.

Harper represented an old guard that was terrified of losing power, and determined to hold on, by force if necessary. Trudeau seemed a breath of fresh air, a loosening of your grandfather’s prohibitive rules, and a step into a better Canada.

And then along came Trump, and the world was never the same again. And probably will never be the same again, in my lifetime.

Now, the weird thing is, I knew, right away, from the day Trump swept down that escalator with Melanoma, like Boris and Natasha, that he was going to be the worst, most disturbing, and most damaging person, to ever happen to America.

trump melania escalatorFor a while I had recapped his reality show, Celebrity Apprentice, and so this cast of characters were mildly familiar to me. This crew of misfit toys believed that they were the equivalent of American royalty, and displayed the same sort of quasi lèse majesté /insanity so often found from that mix of inbreeding and narcissism. The Trump family were petty tyrants – and they hadn’t even begun to tyrant.

Once inaugurated, I knew he and his family of damaged goods were going to rape America, pillage it’s treasures, and then burn it to the ground, before salting the earth, to prevent further generations from bringing it back to life.

chosen by god to make fun of trumpBut as bad as I thought he might be – he’s worse.

For at least the first year of Trump’s tenure, myself and a very large crop of ‘resisters’ lived on high alert, watching an administration filled with the worst appointees in history, picked solely for their ability to bring down every supporting pillar of democracy and justice, set to the destruction of America in as short a time as possible.

And, oh my .. wasn’t there a lot to see!

Amy Siskind‘s The List: A Week-by-Week Reckoning of Trump’s First Year, compiled a list of actions taken by the Trump regime that posed a threat to our democratic norms. Under the headline “Experts in authoritarianism advise to keep a list of things subtly changing around you, so you’ll remember,” Siskind’s Weekly List began as a project she shared with friends, but soon went viral. (Amazon)

resist mugDr Stuart Shapiro, a teacher of macroenomics at Rutgers Bloustein School of Public Policy, kept a diary of his own Facebook comments, titled, Not Normal: A Progressive’s Diary of the Year After Trump’s Election

In it, he chronicled his reactions to the incidents, tweets and policy proposals instigated by the new administration in it’s first year. His palpable exhaustion as the nation lurched from surprise to surprise, and outrage to outrage is a helpful reminder that no other presidency in recorded history ever dominated the news cycles as thoroughly and unceasingly as this one has.

And then there was my favourite guilty pleasure … The Resistance by Keith Olbermann

Truthfully, within a year of Trump’s reign, the general definition of ‘normal’ was no more – crushed under the weight of executive orders and a display of greed, arrogance, and corruption so vivid and intense that it often threatened to blind me.

mr corruption

Oh, sure, the Old Guard flailed about, and those bipartisan lawmakers remaining managed to get the Robert Mueller investigation into play, but the Republican party stood firm that their Dear Leader and his demented whims were how those once United States would now be run.

Every time Trump or any of his minions were caught for wrong doing, they immediately cried victim. But really, it is Jane and Joe American and their kids who have paid the price for this poor presidential pick.

Most of the time, I don’t really blame Jane and Joe for falling under the spell of a politician. When you’re trying to raise a family and make a living, a lot gets put aside, to be dealt with sometime later .. maybe after the kids go to bed. It’s all part of a life cycle; someone’s gotta be keeping those home centres and toy companies in business. I can totally understand why the average person – say from 30 to 50 years of age – absorbs no more than the loudest or most eye-catching information that goes on around them.

It just becomes really difficult to keep on giving the Trump Cult that benefit of a doubt as the evidence piles up against their idol and his feet of clay, and still, his approval numbers stay in the mid 40s. These days, the nation is just too damn tired and jumpy to even raise much of a fuss when Trump sets fire to another couple of million dollars on a  weekend getaway, or increases the debt ceiling by another trillion dollars or so.

Most of us following the Trump debacle had just assumed that the Mueller Report would be wrapped up, by now, and that Trump’s crimes would be exposed, and another can of presidents opened in time for dinner.

But nope … apparently there’s still a lot more rabbit hole to fall down.

There is hope, though. This week has turned out to be one of the wildest chapters in the book of Donald’s really terrible, horrible, no good, weeks. As the current White House resident met for a second time with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, desperately trying to shake off some of the stink of that fake ‘national emergency’ he’d declared just before taking a long vacation weekend, former personal lawyer and broken nosed ‘fixer’ Michael Cohen testified publicly about the Trump Foundation’s many quasi legal and often very illegal business workarounds while calling Trump a “a racist,” “a con man,” and “a cheat” before Congress, right as the New York Times released a new report detailing how Jared Kushner‘s security clearance had come about .. and it wasn’t nearly as secure as either the Donald or the daughter of POTUS had promised. Nope .. not at all.

Oh yes, a very bad week indeed.

Kim Jung Un got Trump to buy him dinner, give him a place on the world stage, enable Kim’s propaganda, choose Russia/North Korea‘s words over America’s own intel, excuse horrific and ongoing human rights violations, and walk away from taking the blame for Otto Warmbier’s brutal beating death, in a country where nothing is done without Kim’s explicit permission.

In exchange, the North Korean dictator produced a “White Paper on Human Rights Violations in the U.S. in 2017,.” where the tiny tyrant accused the Trump Administration of being a billionaires’ club, that harbors a “policy of racism” while exacerbating social inequalities and denying freedom of the press and health coverage to citizens.”

trump kim big envelopeOh me oh my and ouchy! Something tells me that the days of sweet, sweet love letters in giant envelopes arriving at the White House from his loving Kim are far behind us now …

I also suspect that a lot of that ‘locker room talk’ in the 2 hour 20 minute CPAC rally rant had much to do with the POTUS feeling increasingly cornered. It’s not surprising the mask would begin to fall off, and a little bit of the crude ‘pussy grabber‘ re-emerge. Thankfully, this time, only an American flag was molested.

Strange days indeed, mama. Or, as Daniel Dale tweeted, “Folks, these are the rantings of a sundowning old man whose brains are leaking out of his ears live on stage.

Can someone please point me the way back to ‘Normal’?

 

Power Corrupts


Not feeling quite myself these days – it’s like there’s a flu going round. Some sort of energy-sapping, soul-sucking, misery-laden, bone-crushing, muscle-rending miasma, that’s keeping a lot of us from feeling our best, or even very good.

Oh that’s right; Trump is still president. There’s your trouble. Or at least, one steaming pile of it.

It’s almost beyond comprehension that the orange shit gibbon continues to rampage thru the White House halls, especially considering how dangerous his demented ravings are to the planet. Not content with merely twitter goosing the perpetually paranoid North Korean dictator, he thought he’d start another pissing match with Iran’s Revolutionary Guard.

Way to honour your presidential oath to protect and defend mushroom cloudthe constitution .. or the people. The Nuclear Clock edges closer to midnight, and what we’re hoping is dawn’s early light might just be the glare off a pyrocumulus mushroom shaped cloud.

This TrumpPlague is virulent, and it’s debilitating effects are immediate. You see it’s incapacitating effects most evident amongst those people that feel a strong empathy for people in need, regardless of their race, sex, creed, colour, or age. But even those who like to pick and choose just who gets to receive help and support are starting to notice a pattern in TrumpLand; there’s only one entity that is worthy and/or deserving, and that is the Hairy Sunburnt Marshmallow in control, he who manages to be simultaneously all powerful and yet the only victim in any situation or crisis.

the buck stops anywhere but hereIt is a stunning example of someone who could do so much good for the deluded populace who eagerly put he and the Republican Party into power, consistently managing to stop short of ever benefiting or enriching anyone but himself. His specialty is senseless destruction in the pursuit of profit, and the ripping away of any semblance of a social safety net or security that the people may have enjoyed. His belief is that the people he rules over – no matter how young, old, vulnerable or infirm – deserve nothing unearned.

Which is pretty rich, coming from someone who’s never wanted for anything since the day of his birth.

The plain truth is that any idiot can destroy – raise their foot and demolish what others worked so hard to build, or fire a gun and kill a human it took months and years to bring into existence. It’s easy. What’s not easy is creation, and the protection and nurturing of human beings and the good that they are capable of doing.

boot on a human faceWe’ve seen evil morons force their will upon the vulnerable before. Trump’s
abuse of absolute power is nothing new .. it’s just new to those who refuse to see a pattern of abuse of power in their society.

Abuse against people of colour; immigrants, and the DACA children who have never known any other home than America; mothers who were forced to give birth to children they cannot afford to raise; women and children who have had any sort of medical aid stripped from them in a fit of pique and carelessness; football players who dare to protest racial inequality; journalists who seek to provide information and truth while government agencies conspire to spread disinformation and outright lies, and conspire to conceal their plans to manipulate gullible citizens; Puerto Rican and US Virgin Islands citizens who have the nerve to expect to be treated with the same respect as other U.S. citizens in their time of need…. it’s a constant stream of abuse against anyone who is not HIM.

The TrumpPlague is nothing new. The current wannabe dictator is not an anomaly; he conforms to a pattern of political abuse of power that has been ignored or treated as a quotidian part of North American society since the first American elite signed off on the constitution.

“America, the Empire, … imagined itself as it wanted to be, as it had claimed to be in its infancy against a cruel and despotic king in the late eighteenth century.
It reshaped itself into the rebels, not the imperial overlords.
It shaped itself as oppressed, fighting for freedom.
But America, like every nation, has its ages of psychosis. It has fits of indecision and periods of self-delusion.
Consider how presidents spoke movingly of ‘freedom from tyranny’ while personally holding hundreds of men, women and children in slavery.
Or imagine Jefferson, the Sage of Monticello, who was the father of half-Black children, at the same moment as he wrote, in his only book, “Notes on the State of Virginia,” that Black people were essentially nonhuman, a species related to the orangutan. (Does this mean that he saw himself as being into bestiality? Or did this mean he really thought his children were, well, half monkey?)
Americans, like any people, are subject to delusions.        america vietnam
….
In the grisly aftermath of a war that tore millions from the face of Asia, all to cover for the corporate exploitation of Vietnam’s bauxite and other natural resources, the imperial shock trooper, the imperial metallic death’s hand, was father to the rebel.
The were, in fact, more than related.
In truth, they were one.”

(Star Wars and the American Imagination; Mumia Abu-Jamal, 2015.)

But here’s what’s interesting: while we are attempting to make some sense of this current overriding entitlement that abuses everyone who fails to bow down to the Trump throne and proclaim undying loyalty and fealty, our attentions have been caught by something we feel we CAN have a say on, something society likes to pretend that they DO care about and always HAVE cared about, but really only gave lip service to …
the abuse of power over women.

Although we may be powerless to remove Trump from the presidency, at least we can all get behind getting incensed and excited about those who’ve been accused and tried in the public eye for sexual abuse. Right?

Oh, you’ve always been against those with any kind of power forcing themselves on women and children? You mean, while 60 women came forward to accuse Bill Cosby of drugging and raping them, but were ignored and reviled until a male journalist actually had Cosby admit in print that he’d done so? Or when you cheered on the (female) lawyer who got Jian Ghomeshi off the rape hook with her clever manipulation of his weeping victims? Or maybe it’s when serial pedophiles, like former U.S. House speaker Dennis Hastert, served just 13 months for a bank fraud conviction linked to his effort to buy off the accusations of a former student he sexually abused during his days as a high school wrestling coach. Like Al Capone, they just couldn’t get him on his real crimes.

Jeffrey-Epstein-sex-offenderOr billionaire financier Jeffrey Epstein, the child molesting ringleader of a sexual human trafficking ring, who was allowed to freely leave jail during the day and only come back to overnight at his Palm Beach Country jail for the mere thirteen months he served of an eighteen month sentence in 2008. Two felony counts of soliciting underage victims for sex would get the average person twenty years in federal prison. But not if you have money and power.

These instances, and many others, are why I welcome those, who now call themselves allies, entering into the discussion. Sadly, though, I can already see the future, when the charges are downgraded, the sentence is a wrist slap or commuted, and it all goes back to where it was before this small moment of ‘enlightenment.’  What has gone before tells us that somehow there will always be some devious, quasi legal, way of placing the blame not on the monster that abuses power, but on the helpless victims of the predator.

Why is that?

Women and children do not hold some mysterious power over the male penis. The real power is not inherent in the one allowing or denying open and unasked access to his or her genitals .. it is in the one doing the hiring and the firing, making decisions, controlling our work environment, and deciding how much to pay women, or even whether to treat women like humans or adversaries. It is in those who would rather take what they want, by trick if possible, by force or coercion if necessary, and then deny any culpability in the abuse.

Where’s the power, once the predator has ejaculated into whatever tunnel of love or potted plant they’ve chosen to empty their sperm within, when all they need to do is turn over and sleep, a good sleep, despite now needing to spend the rest of their lives concealing what they’ve done, from those who would make them accountable?

Is it with the ‘powerful’ victims, who then get to clean up the mess, do the ‘walk of shame’ home afterwards, and try to live with the reality that they have been treated as no more than a convenient receptacle for the lust of a powerful person who has neither the need nor desire to control their own sexual drives?

Don’t get me wrong; I’m really glad that there are many powerful people, both men and women, who are now willing to stand by the victims. But hopefully you can forgive those of us who fail to believe that the uncloaking of predators like Harvey Weinstein, Roger Ailes, and yes … the Dear Leader Trump … will change how society will go forth from their current days of reckonings. We know how this game is played – you will forget, and they will rise again, somehow, somewhere. They are merely the figureheads, the most powerful in their fields, the ones who got caught … this time. This abuse of power goes on every day, and in every sphere of human life, from the homes where children have to be wary of their own lust driven parents or step-parents, to your local MacDonalds. It’s happening in small and large business, and in places of government … anywhere where some creep with a modicum of power uses that power to take what they are not willingly offered.

trump grabs ivankas assAnd, lord help me, I don’t see it ending anytime soon.

“Incest and other forms of prolonged sexual abuse are such profound violations that they provoke a different form of disbelief than the kind that women often face when they talk about sexual violence they have experienced; when you tell your mother you’re being raped by your father, as the author of The Incest Diary does multiple times in her adolescence, you are disbelieved not because your mother is casually misogynistic, in keeping with her culture, but because she can’t believe you and uphold her understanding of the world. Incest is a violation so profound that it breaks knowledge. In these cases we disbelieve not because we’re so inured to a world where men take sexual advantage of women that such abuse seems normal, but because we can’t conceive of a world in which what we believe is normal could be so defiled.”
(https://electricliterature.com/who-gets-to-write-about-sexual-abuse-and-what-do-we-let-them-say-928dfbd184d6)

For many, the exposure of the Cosbys, the Weinsteins and the Ailes comes as a surprise. The knee jerk reaction is to disbelieve the victims, as if this sort of abuse is an aberration, a gross accusal of wrongdoing that is impossible to fathom, given the position, power and wealth of the accused. Such disbelief speaks to a naiveté and privilege that belies the reality of what we call first world civilization.

Power, fame and wealth do not bestow intelligence, empathy or humanity. In many cases, in fact, they are diametrically opposed.

We so often hear of those that can only believe an accusation of abuse from a women if it has happened to one of their own .. their daughter, their sister, their wife. Then, and only then, is sexual assault scary and disgusting. Consider how comforting that is to those of us whom you don’t consider your ‘own’ in some fashion.

I would like to think that this depressing interval in history can be a time of revelation, a time when the abused and oppressed can tell their stories and be believed, when the realization that women are people as valuable and respected as men – indeed as equal – is accepted as fact, even if just from this day forward.

But I’m not holding my breath.

” My friend was so ready to excuse the actions of this man as normal—he was a relatively new acquaintance, I might add—that he waved me off and acted as if my extreme discomfort was negligible.

Never mind the fact that he was already doing harm, by ignoring my wishes to be left alone and making me feel vaguely unsafe during an otherwise pleasant evening. Never mind that I wasn’t asking for my friend to beat his ass (a show of magnanimity, I thought!), or that I wasn’t going so far as to scream rape or otherwise suggest that I was in danger of him sexually assaulting me right then and there (even though my spidey senses told me he certainly might, if given the chance, since “no” clearly wasn’t in this guy’s vocabulary)..”

(https://verysmartbrothas.theroot.com/i-have-been-raped-by-far-nicer-men-than-you-1819412131)

i-did-try-and-f-ck-her-she-was-married-i-12715251One of the saddest things I’ve read in recent days was on my own Facebook page, in a thread where the discussion of Weinstein’s abuse of power was inevitably compared to Trump’s, with a meme that quoted Trump’s own words, spoken on that Hollywood Access tape, before … BEFORE .. the election that saw him crowned King of America.

The (American) woman who commented on the post was incensed. She could not believe that Trump had said those words – in public, on video tape, irrefutably – and had still been elected as President of the United States.

He did. He was. And he is.

Not feeling quite myself these days – it’s like there’s a flu going round. Some sort of energy-sapping, soul-sucking, misery-laden, bone-crushing, muscle-rending miasma, that’s keeping a lot of us from feeling our best, or even very good.

We’ve all got the TrumpPlague. And it may be the death of us.

 

So Long 2016


yes .. it’s been a while … but the rants have just been biding their time .. 😉

Your Sunday Sermon …

So long 2016 .. adios, hasta la vista. You took a lot out of us, and a lot from us, and what you’ve left behind isn’t all that comforting, but you’ve been and you’re gone. Don’t let the door hit you on your way out.

The thing about the sixth year of a decade is that it tends to be a culmination of the previous years. The beginning of a decade still clings to the decade before, and baby steps to change begin in the first few years, but by the sixth, the decade has rather defined itself. This six was a doozy. And it likely portends much of what will define the teen years of this century.

Were we more shaped by the losses we sustained, or by the gains we achieved? To me, the year was more reactive than proactive, although certainly, there were advances in most fields.

As for the arts …  nothing much captured and kept our attention, either visually or musically, for very long. The lack of gatekeepers allowed the flood of creativity, but it’s hard to distinguish one drop of water from another in an ocean.

Television might be the last bastion of creative possibilities, at least that which is available from the independent channels. I still prefer British television to American overall, but keep on the lookout for nuggets of gold in North American teevee.

walking-deadThis was the year I finally gave up on The Walking Dead .. Season Seven, filmed as even more brutal than the graphic novel from whence it sprang, just took it too far for me to stomach. After episode one, I gave episode two a cursory glance, but the emphasis on a demagogue bullying and  humiliating his ‘people’ felt too much like what I imagine Americans will experience under their new alien overlord.

But on the plus side, two new series – one from the U.S., and one from Britain – explored something I expect to see in a nearer future – artificial intelligence and a robot workforce Both were brilliantly written, acted and filmed. WestWorld postulated a future amusement park where humans could interact in any way they chose with realistic, synthetic humans, and wrapped the drama around a story line that encompassed decades.  The cast were amazing. My only quibble was with an unspoken assumption that, given the choice, most humans would choose to indulge their basest and most despicable impulses without fear of reprisal. Perhaps that is the sad truth.

humans-cast-tv-show   Humans, a British series, took another tack; a future as mundane as our own, where ‘synths’ took over all the tasks people no longer wanted to do – in effect, a new slavery. The flaw in that ‘dream’ was a computer code able to bring consciousness to the synths.

Consciousness, however, and in both series, drew attention to the new slavery AND the enormous range of needs and emotions, as applicable to both humans and synths. Just as a ‘human’ could be damaged by experience and become evil, so could a synth.

future-of-robotsI don’t think we’re close to the sort of realistic, humanistic synthetic beings either series portrayed, but automation and robotics – computers taking over most of the jobs humans currently do – is projected to be an issue affecting the planet within the next two decades.

“instead of a pro-job growth future, economists across the board predict further losses as AI, robotics, and other technologies continue to be ushered in. What is up for debate is how quickly this is likely to occur.

By 2034, just a few decades, mid-level jobs will be by and large obsolete. So far the benefits have only gone to the ultra-wealthy, the top 1%. This coming technological revolution is set to wipe out what looks to be the entire middle class. Not only will computers be able to perform tasks more cheaply than people, they’ll be more efficient too.

Accountants, doctors, lawyers, teachers, bureaucrats, and financial analysts beware: your jobs are not safe. According to The Economist, computers will be able to analyze and compare reams of data to make financial decisions or medical ones. There will be less of a chance of fraud or misdiagnosis, and the process will be more efficient. Not only are these folks in trouble, such a trend is likely to freeze salaries for those who remain employed, while income gaps only increase in size. You can imagine what this will do to politics and social stability. ”  

(http://bigthink.com/philip-perry/47-of-jobs-in-the-next-25-years-will-disappear-according-to-oxford-university)

For many, that shift to robotics will come when they are unwilling or unable to pivot to another occupation. What happens to all of those workers, who trained for positions that no longer exist?

cognitive-dissonance1We are already in a frightening economic time, when the wealthy are pedestalled for no more reason than their wealth, and where those who cannot find work are despised. We’ve been conditioned for centuries to believe that our work defines us, and that hard work builds character. We’ve been trained to believe that those with wealth, no matter how it was gained, are our superiors, and that  their wealth somehow magically imbues their character with all of the traits we claim to respect; charity, kindness, empathy, intelligence and the like.

Cognitive dissonance allows us to look at a venal, bigoted, racist, misogynistic, narcissist, and somehow believe that the attributes that created his great wealth – the ability to lie, cheat, steal, and steamroll over others, expecting nothing but the finest for himself, but comfortable with others having very little – make that person qualified for the leadership of 319 million citizens.

If writer and political commentator Andrew Sullivan is correct that, “in terms of our liberal democracy and constitutional order … [Trump] is an extinction-level event, it may well be that his campaign and election are the paths to a new world rising from the ashes of the old.

ai-driven-automationMassive unemployment caused by automation must be met with new, thoughtful, empathic intelligence. If it is instead met by rampant greed, coupled with a loathing for any criticism or accountability, the clay feet of the rich and powerful will finally be exposed.

True leadership does not seek to enrich only the leader, or seek to rape the land and it’s people for profit. Every nation on the planet is in dire need of the sort of leadership that is bi-partisan and respects every nation and every citizen for not only what they have to offer, but for their very existence.

There can be no leaders without followers.

gpi-gdpImagine if, instead of  defining the wealth of a nation by it’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP,)   it was instead known by it’s Genuine Progress Indicator (GPI.)   The GDP has no conscience; it cannot tell if a dollar is spent on progress or destruction, and it neither knows nor cares about a future impact on the people. As Paul Hawken, an American entrepreneur, environmentalist and author, once said, “We are stealing from the future, selling it to the present, and calling it Gross Domestic Product.”    

The GPI, on the other hand, takes into account not just goods and services produced, but also the social and environmental impact of that production. When every citizen has more money to spend, more leisure time, and better health, the GPI rises. But when rates of crime, imprisonment, pollution and environmental damage increase, the GPI falls accordingly.

True leadership takes a long range look, sees the changes coming, and seeks to steer the citizens to a safer future. That kind of vision is antithetical to the current crop of wouldbe leaders, who are little more than politicians prepared to pander, lie, and allow corruption in the name of short term gain, and an unethical win.

Combining what needs to be done to enrich the citizens socially needs to take into account the upcoming redefinition of employment, and the climate changes we are experiencing.

If nations want true leadership, they need to reject those politicians who display an ignorance of scientific facts and a predisposition for encouraging divisiveness amongst their citizens. Citizens need to accept that they are responsible for the politicians they ignore or elevate, and understand  that with citizenship comes not only rights, but accountability. police-state-dictatorship

Otherwise, the government truly does become “what the people deserve.” No more, and no less.