Meep Meep! and other Augusty Thoughts


No matter how you may feel about Senator John McCain‘s political past, with his recent demise, you cannot help but remember that he was a war hero, and a stand up guy. His passing leaves us short of what might have been the last real gentleman standing in the Senate. As his life becomes a memory, those who knew him well remind us of those moments that defined a Giant of the Senate and of a politician who frequently eschewed partisanship for a wholehearted defence of democracy.

Even in death, McCain holds firm to his principles. As I read this morning, “John McCain told friends months ago that he didn’t want Donald Trump at his funeral. Instead he wanted former President Barack Obama and former President George W. Bush to attend his funeral and deliver the eulogy. McCain famously lost to Bush in the 2000 Republican primary race for President, and then lost to Obama in the 2008 general election for President. Yet McCain chose these two men — one Republican and one Democrat — to eulogize him.

McCain thus ensured that his funeral would be bipartisan and inclusive, making it all the more glaring that current “President” of the United States wasn’t invited.”

Imagine what a horrific human being you have to be, to be barred from both McCain’s funeral, and the funeral of Barbara Bush. And this is the guy who thinks he deserves a Nobel Peace Prize. He couldn’t negotiate peace between the two types of candy in an M&M bag.

November can’t come soon enough ….

storms coming

 

In a week that hints of a possible end to the Trump administration’s reign of terror, it is a real comfort to know that the rule of law must ultimately prevail, even over an administration as venal and corrupt as this one.

And yet, there are still those that hold a grudging admiration for the Grifter in Chief, and his army of wily surrogates and spokespeople who seek to stop his feeling any sort of retribution for his heinous , malicious whims and vindictive executive orders.

wile e coyoteThey will assure you that they would never .. NEVER … vote for the Orange Manatee. But they just can’t help themselves from grinning – just a little – when he wriggles out of yet another moral or ethical dilemma.

It’s like Trump is the RoadRunner, constantly outwitting the smarter, but nonetheless ultimately hapless, Wile E. Coyote. 

For many who feel vaguely discontented with their lot, there’s a real anger towards ‘smart people,’ those who ‘caught the breaks,’ and are often considered part of a group that seems to be determined to keep the regular Joe down. There’s a resentment for those who have more success, and a belief that somehow, those guys had more, and unfair, advantages.

tall poppies 2Because of the tales and tropes we’ve grown up believing, there can be a real bitterness in some. It is as though they believe that intelligence is a negative characteristic, that should be hidden from others, or at least, played down with great modesty.

They believe that “Real Men” don’t have to study, let alone ‘think’ … Real Men just DO! They naturally have all the information they need to solve any problem, even if it’s not in their field, or their realm of expertise. They are simply born with that ability. It’s just something that ‘real men’ know in their always righteous guts.

So when a confident, if completely incapable, con man comes along – especially one that ticks so many of our culture’s other boxes .. he’s tall, he’s imposing, he takes no shit, he is in charge, he’s got a lot of women in his life, whether through matrimony or a lifetime of libertinism … those same people can feel like they’re looking at a man of action. If not a hero, then at the very least, an anti-hero, whom they can admire.

They look at this man who will literally shove aside other men to be fully spotlighted and in charge … and something inside them admires that brutality.

trump shoves PM of Montenegro

Mistaking recklessness for bravery, lasciviousness for virility, and self-preservation for selflessness, they are happy to carry the 72 Year Old Toddler‘s water.

The OranguTAN likes to come off as a sort of lovable rogue, always ready with a quip, even when it is completely inappropriate or critically cruel of others. It’s all about the luck, the wit, the simple act of being The Donald, rather than any sort of actual information, data or reality. He is completely averse to any pretension of knowledge, or the acquiring of same, disdaining his crucial daily briefs and demanding that they instead be solely bullet points and pictographs. Because a man of his stature, you see, must always be on the run, on the go, being a manly man, playing golf, grabbing pussies. Busy busy!

Eventually, of course, there will be retribution. But up until that fateful day, there will be many who will throw their careers and bodies in front of Mad King Donald, as he stumbles toward a possible impeachment and a probable indictment, believing that their loyalty will be rewarded, if not in the White House halls, than in the publishing offices where they will flog their memoirs for big bucks, in hopes of bringing joy to the slathering, puerile readers who will never come within a thousand miles of such proximity to ‘greatness.’

Until the day that the roadrunner catches Mr Wile E.

the muellering

……………………………………………………..

In the flurry of convictions, plea bargains, and requests for immunity this week, one long time comrade of the Gibbering Gibbon found his string of publications in the spotlight – and most definitely not in a good way.

David Pecker, notorious tabloid king, owns nearly every supermarket tabloid and gossip sheet in the United States, including the flagship publication National Enquirer. In an effort to get ahead of the rush of those seeking immunity deals, he’s admitted to having withheld stories detrimental to the Trump campaign, by using ‘catch and kill;‘ the practice of buying up a story and then burying it. This would very likely constitute an unlawful contribution to the Trump campaign of 2016.

He’s even admitted to having an office safe dedicated solely to stories and photos of Trump in flagrante delicto. This ain’t no Geraldo hoping for an Al Capone bonanza – this is the real deal.

But while we wait, and silently shudder at what might lie within the safe’s depths, I think it has to be noted that Pecker did not just hide Trump’s offences, he maintained a constant assault on Hillary Clinton throughout the course of the campaign, on his tabloid’s covers.

national enquirer hillary covers

Despite all this Democratic insistence of ‘going high when they go low,‘ this abuse of the public’s trust, in the lies and smearing of one presidential candidate in favour of the other, cannot be ignored. While the tabloids may be considered ‘entertainment,’ there are many parts of the United States when their words are considered ‘gospel,’ based mainly on how many lesser educated people were raised – to believe that words in print must be true, simply because they have been printed.

We already know a big chunk of Americans – the ones Hillary so rightly called ‘the deplorables‘ – did and do believe these accusations and lies. They continue to buy into Pecker’s steady drip of venom against Democrats, anti-gun activists, and civil rights advocates .. every damn Saturday when they pick up their groceries at the local Wegmans or Albertsons, and then trot down to the VA for a rousing chorus of “lock her up.’

If Hillary can’t bring herself to sue the bejeezus off this turd, a civil suit should be brought against his publications. His stories constitute a willful assault upon the attention spans of the ignorant and the poorly educated.

Lies, propaganda, and a relentless, overt attack on one candidate to assure the political success of another is not free speech – it is collusion between Trump and Pecker, and campaign meddling, and it needs to be acknowledged as such.

trump pecker enquirer

 

Watching The Dream Die


lbj lowest black man

If you can convince the lowest white man he’s better than the best colored man, he won’t notice you’re picking his pocket. Hell, give him somebody to look down on, and he’ll empty his pockets for you.
— Lyndon Johnson, 36th President of the United States of America

Martin Luther King Jr had a dream. And he died for it, along with the many others, of all colours, who fought to bring the civil rights movement to America.

Norman Rockwell Murder in MississippiIt took many years, and many lives, but the leaders of the civil rights movement persevered with the goal of securing legal rights for African Americans, rights that other Americans had already held. The movement resulted in large legislative impacts, including the installment of the first black U.S. Supreme Court justice. Mountains were moved to accomplish their goals of ending legal racial segregation and discrimination. Using non-violent campaigns, they achieved new recognitions in the legal, federal protection of ALL Americans.

 

Thurgood Marshall (1908-1993) was a U.S. Supreme Court justice and civil rights advocate. Marshall earned an important place in American history on the basis of two accomplishments. First, as legal counsel for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), he guided the litigation that destroyed the legal underpinnings of Jim Crow segregation. Second, as an associate justice of the Supreme Court–the nation’s first black justice–he crafted a distinctive jurisprudence marked by uncompromising liberalism, unusual attentiveness to practical considerations beyond the formalities of law, and an indefatigable willingness to dissent.” 

Norman Rockwell Right to Know

Donald Trump is the nightmare that people of colour have wrestled with all of their lives, the creature that haunts their dreams and makes them hold their babies closer. And his minions, Steve Bannon, Stephen Miller, and most especially that evil gnome Jefferson Beauregard Sessions, have waited patiently for decades for just this moment in time to arrive, and vindicate their most malevolent, bigoted thoughts. At first, he was just the fool who egged on racists throughout Barack Obama‘s presidency with his ridiculous birtherism theory, but now Trump’s tweets and rants have galvanized fear and ignorance, like a lit match dropped into the gasoline of repressed racism. To his base’s clear delight, they are relaxing into an overt racism in which they can lawfully and openly show their hatred of people of colour, supported by their horrific master.

trump supports hate facesTrump’s tweeting is beyond a dog whistle to his racist supporters – it’s even beyond a bull horn. It’s an IV of disgusting, depraved poison, that is constant and inescapable and that excites the part of his follower’s brain that delights in cruelty and chaos.

By contrast, consider the struggle for civil rights in America. I’m old enough to remember how violently so many struggled to prevent integration. There were threats, there were beatings, there were murders. We in Canada watched from afar as the country battled it’s way to a new view on human rights and human dignity.

rosa parks on busEverything that Trump does and says is another giant step towards obliterating that essential moment in American history.

Now, even if you are someone that believes that free speech, even hate speech, is your right, what has to be remembered is that this division of the population is not just unsettling – it’s fundamentally a national security issue. The nation is weaker when the people are fighting against each other.

This weekend is the one year anniversary of the murder of an innocent woman who had been counter-protesting racists marching on Charlottesville. A group of white supremacists, screaming racist, ethnic and misogynistic slogans and carrying tiki torches, rallied to “Unite The Right“. During that protest, one person was killed and 19 others were injured when a car sped into a group of counter-protesters.

charlottesville nazisThe original reason for the 2017 march centered around, amongst other things, protesting the removal of statues of Confederate leaders. Unless you are a pigeon with no other options, the removal of a statue should not really be either cause for alarm, or a reason to hurt another person.

And here’s the most interesting thing about those statues. The Confederacy was a treasonous attack on the United States of America. It was only because of Lincoln’s decision not to ’embarrass’ the people who’d supported the Confederate Army that the leaders escaped being hung for treason.

Northerners took a pragmatic approach to the war’s end. They realized the impracticality of trying thousands of Southerners for disloyalty in states where juries were unlikely to deliver guilty verdicts, and that continued cries of treason would interfere with the more important task of nation-building.

Ironically, the lenient approach allowed Robert E. Lee and other Confederate leaders to become heroic figures to later generations of Americans of all sections, says Blair, citing words written by Union Gen. George Thomas in 1868: “The crime of treason might be covered with a counterfeit varnish of patriotism, so that the precipitators of the rebellion might go down in history hand-in-hand with the defenders of the (US) Government.”  (see: www.futurity.org.)

After the Charlottesville riots, Trump refused to call out the militant right marching under a Nazi banner. Instead, the President of the United States said :

“We condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence, on many sides. On many sides.”

david duke kkk tweetAs CNN explained in an editorial in August 2017, “ Both sides don’t scream racist and anti-Semitic things at people with whom they disagree. They don’t base a belief system on the superiority of one race over others. They don’t get into fistfights with people who don’t see things their way. They don’t create chaos and leave a trail of injured behind them.

 Arguing that “both sides do it” deeply misunderstands the hate and intolerance at the core of this “Unite the Right” rally. These people are bigots. They are hate-filled. This is not just a protest where things, unfortunately, got violent. Violence sits at the heart of their warped belief system.

 Trying to fit these hate-mongers into the political/ideological spectrum — which appears to be what Trump is doing — speaks to his failure to grasp what’s at play here. This is not a “conservatives say this, liberals say that” sort of situation. We all should stand against this sort of violent intolerance and work to eradicate it from our society — whether Democrat, Republican, Independent or not political in the least.”

And as actor/director Spike Lee told an interviewer just this week,  “The President of the United States had a chance to denounce hate. The whole world saw what happened and he didn’t do it.”

There is no “other side” to racism if you live in a democracy. There is no “right” to be racist. There is no ‘racist amendment’ that would allow racists to be tolerated in any situation. There is NO validity to their arguments of white superiority, only anti-social activity that tears apart society.

Norman Rockwell 1964 young girl

However, the climate fomented and nurtured by Trump’s administration not only encourages overt racism, it is tacitly welcomed and rarely held accountable for the pain and discomfort of those upon whom this abuse is waged.

This new fad of calling 911 on people living their life while being black will most certainly, inevitably, eventually, get someone killed. People of colour know that siccing the cops on a person of colour can and will often devolve into a life or death situation.

Just ask actor Ving Rhames, who was a target of racial profiling earlier this year. A neighbour called the LAPD  after a neighbour claimed to have seen a ‘large black man breaking into a house.”

Rhames, who had been watching television in his Santa Monica home with his two English bulldogs, answered the door.

“I get up, I open the door, there’s a red dot pointed at my face from a 9 millimeter,” Rhames. “And they say, ‘Put up your hands.'”

Last year, NBA All-Star Lebron James’ Los Angeles home was vandalized with N-word graffitti, and in March of this year, Milwaukee Bucks player Sterling Brown was seen in a video being tackled to the ground for a parking infraction.

bbqing while blackJust being AWBAlive While Black – has lead to a fad of white people calling 911 to report their fear of black people golfing too slowly, eating waffles, waiting for a client in a Starbucks, handing out campaign literature, napping at lunch, barbecuing at a public park, asking to use a valid coupon, eating their lunch, being a real estate agent, swimming in their public community pool, checking out of an AirBnB without acknowledging a wave, or seeing an 8 year old child selling cold bottled water on a warm day.

And in response to these frantic calls from white people, most of these innocent people had to deal with the police showing up, with flashing sirens and guns blazing. After all, the steadfast perspective of white callers seems to always be far more trustworthy than the potentially criminal actions of law-abiding, tax- paying, black citizens.

I’ve yet to hear of any accountability being demanded of the people who are wasting precious police resources by calling the police on innocent parties. Nor have I heard of any of those who’ve had their lives put into danger, successfully suing the callers or their employers. But I hope that becomes a fad, and soon.

From his first speech on the campaign trail, Trump has been overtly, aggressively, racist, condemning and dismissing people of colour. Although an elected president is supposed to be the president of all of the people, he is selective about whom he chooses to favour or flay.  As if his spoken and tweeted attacks on (black) football players for their non-violent protest of taking a knee during the National Anthem, despite their repeated explanations of what the protest means, weren’t annoying enough, his continued attacks actually break two laws.

law on kneeling for flag

A federal law, enacted in 1943, says that no citizen can be forced to participate in rituals that are used with the flag or any other symbol of the United States.

And 18 U.S. Code 227 is a law that could be used against Trump in response to his various statements about private businesses, including the NFL. This law prohibits “the President, as well as members of Congress and other federal officials, from “wrongfully influencing a private entity’s employment decisions.” Persons convicted under this statute face up to 15 years in prison and disqualification from public office.

Trump continuously recommending, even commanding, that protesting players be fired or punished seems to fit 18 U.S. Code § 227’s basic definition.”

Racism, white supremacy, and white nationalism; when the president and his administration tell the country to turn against a huge segment of their own people, that country is ripe for exploitation by those that will use that division for their own purposes and gain. When the president demonizes certain segments of the working population as somehow being less fit, less trustworthy or less capable, the enemies of the United States have their toehold into an internal, fractured, weakness that can be used against the country.

But I’m not going to hold my breath waiting for anyone in this administration to call him on either of these crimes. They are all too busy dismantling America and democracy.

And killing that beautiful dream….

 

 

 

 

Who’s A Clever Boots Then? Bueller? Anybody?


it’s always weird when you’re recovering from being really sick. I’ve just come out of two weeks of a knocked down, dragged out, coughing and snorting extravaganza that left me gasping for breath, and wishing I’d bought shares in Kleenex.

charlie brown teacher soundWhen you’re that sick, when you spend less hours ambulatory and/or awake than you do face down on the futon, you watch the swirl of madness that we call politics with a jaundiced eye;  you know it matters, very, very much who is elected to lead the country, but they all sound like Charlie Brown‘s teacher, and look more like distorted monsters from another planet than they do potential leaders.

It’s all sound and fury, indicating nothing, whether it’s on this side of the border, or the other. I am losing patience with the demands on my mind and equanimity..

It’s exhausting. And so unsatisfying. I don’t’ think anyone has ever aspired to spending their days picking the lint out of Trump’s lying navel and yet that’s where much of North America finds ourselves most days after more than two years of living under this constant demand for our attention while his government continues their assault on common decency.

The other day I was cruising around you tube and I came across a clip from the Late Show with Stephen Colbert. It was a really interesting, intriguing and complicated thought piece .. about six minutes long, and rife with those little tidbits of ideas that I so love, the ones that can be chewed over and dissected, the sort of thing that is so beloved by those who can’t wait to get their teeth into something juicily debatable.

And the piece was from two years ago. It was from a time, that now seems like ancient history, when intelligent people could actually revel in taking a moment to consider, debate, and rationally come to a conclusion on an intricate or ethically debatable issue, that was not about current events but rather something beyond this minute’s absorption, without the whole thing dissolving into a screaming, spit-drenched, fit of rage and blather. There was no screaming at all, in fact, and it felt like heaven.

trump painting

Two years ago,  before Trump was all we saw or heard, 24/7, ad nausea …  Were we really that much smarter, that much more rounded, that very much more  different? Do you remember? Because I believe I miss those days, before all of the air was sucked out of all of the rooms by the gassiest and yet most vacuous windbag in American history.

Why are we now expected to continuously give a madman’s tweets and spastic actions the same thought, consequence and weight as those from more measured actors? At what point did Fox News’ pretense of a ‘fair and balanced’ level playing field of broadcast disinformation devolve into  the madness of everyone having to attempt to understand, parse, and defend the indefensible?

If it appears that the overall intelligence quotient of North America has been dropping like a stone since Trump’s election, the good news/bad news is that the planet has, in fact, been moving in that direction for decades.

The most pessimistic explanation as to why humans seem to be becoming less intelligent is that we have effectively reached our intellectual peak. Between the 1930s and 1980s, the average IQ score in the US rose by three points and in post-war Japan and Denmark, test scores also increased significantly – a trend known as the ‘Flynn effect’. This increase in intelligence was due to improved nutrition and living conditions – as well as better education – says James Flynn of the University of Otago, after whom the effect is named.

Westerns have lost 14 IQ points on average since the Victorian age, according to a study published by the University of Amsterdam last year. Jan te Nijenhuis thinks this could be because intelligent women tend to have less children than women who are not as clever.”  (ignorant people Carlin. Jpg)

So, basically … idiocracy.

But is this what we want, brothers and sisters, is this the world we yearn for, a world where being uneducated, uninformed, and/or unintelligent is the norm rather than the exception?

It would seem to be so, or that would apparently be the opinion of our cable newcasters, because, when given the options of all things cable news could focus on this week, ten hours were dedicated to discussing Roseanne‘s racist tweets and subsequent firing, while the new info on Puerto Rico, with the report that there were 4600 more deaths than was originally determined, occupied air space for only 1/2 an hour.

Priorities.

I find the skewing of truth, and the prevalence of disinformation, to be the hardest things about living in the time of the Mad King. Well, that and the complete reluctance of the adults in the room to reign in the many tendrils of his dictatorship.

trump vulgar starter packThe extraordinary thing is that there was a time when Americans prided themselves on their intelligence. The founding of theie nation, in fact, rested upon a well-read citizenry, who could understand the foundations of democracy, and accept that their progress as a sovereign nation hinged on an understanding of how to achieve independence from the British government.

Today, less than a quarter of American students are proficient in civics and only 12 percent are proficient in U.S. history. It would seem that the American people get both the government, AND the education, they deserve.

“If a nation expects to be ignorant and free in a state of civilization, it expects what never was and never will be.” – Thomas Jefferson

In 2018, America is suffering under the heavy thumb of a patently unfit US president with zero moral compass and questionable intellect. In these times we have to be careful about what we choose to accept.

idiocracy todayWe need to take his cast of crazies with a massive dose of salt, and understand that, although they seem to be winning the day with their soup of dishonesty, criminality and immorality, their adroit sidestepping of truth and reality is wickedly clever, but always disingenuous. Our appreciation of low cunning should always be from a remove.

 

” Let me be clear as I can be: In politics and in life, ignorance is not a virtue. It’s not cool to not know what you’re talking about. That’s not keeping it real or telling it like it is. It’s not challenging political correctness… that’s just not knowing what you’re talking about.

When our leaders express a disdain for facts, when they’re not held accountable for repeating falsehoods and just making stuff up, when actual experts are dismissed as elitists, then we’ve got a problem.” Barack Obama, May 2018

 

 

 

 

 

Gene-y In A Bottle


astrology chartHow gullible are consumers? Good marketing seems able to sell us anything, up to and including a president. So, I’d say we’re pretty darn gullible.

The first time I saw commercials for companies that would test people’s DNA … for a hefty price, of course … I laughed out loud. It was clear from the start that this testing was essentially the 21st century equivalent of having your astrological chart done; fun, something to giggle about with friends, a fad that would come and go with varying success over the decades.

I grew up knowing that I’m French and American on my dad’s side, and Irish and British on my mum’s side. My sense of who I am, and who my people are, came from learning the language, foods and customs of these groups, and I have a certain allegiance to all of them. If a DNA test were to show that I’m actually 98% Italian, I’d eat a little more pasta – as if that’s possible! – but it’s not going to change who I am, where I came from, or how I feel about my family. Nurture over nature if you will. I’m gonna dance with the one that brung me.

I’m not saying that DNA testing is a game .. it has it’s place in science, in research, and in the courts. However, attempting to define your place in the world by discovering where your DNA may have been at different moments in time? that’s where the science falls down.

FamilyTreeDNA, 23and Me, Ancestry, MyHeritage… even National Geographic is getting into the act. The trouble is, every company is dependent on the data sets they’re already decided upon, and the algorithms which change based on new information prioritized by the company.

Think of this testing as akin to the blood tests your doctor orders; he decides that the lab will check for certain substances or changes in your blood by asking them to look for those subsets. If he has not asked, for instance, that your blood be checked for anemia, it’s not likely that they’ll either test for that, or find it.

Same with these DNA kits. The companies are looking for certain data subsets of which they are already aware. They are basing what they find on what they have previously found.

So, for instance, if a lot of their customers have a set of genetic markers indicating that their ancestors came from Scandinavian countries, then a lot of the incoming tests will miraculously find a whole lot of distant cousins arriving in the next week’s mail. The companies may be using as few as 115 data sets to define the genetic markers they’re searching for in new samples.

There is no one specific gene that denotes your ancestors exact heritage. It’s all subsets, billions of sets of genetic markers that might indicate where your ancestors were at some point in time. And even within your own biological family, not everyone will have inherited the exact same markers .. which is why testing of identical twins, triplets, etc with identical DNA, may still show different results.

The science is not inherently bad, it’s inherently imperfect. We want to see the testing as a sort of magic, that will tell us where our ancestors came from, and what that means to us in the present. But unfortunately, it’s highly unlikely to bear much resemblance to reality.

My husband thought it would be fun to buy me a kit for my birthday, since I had commented on the commercials that were ubiquitous last year in the months leading up to the holidays. I received it in December, and got my sample result this week.

In order to believe the results they’ve sent me, I’d have to accept that my dad’s mum had a “Bridges of Madison County” encounter prior to his birth, because it seems that the Tellier family’s five hundred year stint in France didn’t make the subset marker cut.

But the data markers used in this testing found that I am 53.5% Irish, Scottish and Welsh, 34.7% Scandinavian, 10.6% Sardinian, and 1.2% Nigerian.

swedish chefThis might explain why I hanker to sing the Swedish Chef blues. Bork Bork Bork!

It’s immaterial, anyway. It’s a fun pastime, something to make you smile, and maybe marvel at the way we’re all interconnected, at least on a genetic level. There was a viral video going around a year or so ago, that showed people of all ages, creeds and colours having their DNA tested, and discovering that they had things in common with people they would never have encountered were it not for the making of the video. Finding out that we have more in common with each other than we know … seems a little sad that some people have to see a DNA test’s results before they can ‘get’ that.

dna testing a racist. jpg

It’s life. It’s all of us being busy spreading our genes all over the planet, every where and all the time. And all of us being, despite how it may appear at the outside, very much the same as each other on the inside.

But there is a good use for DNA testing. DNA tests can be used for testing if you carry certain diseases, especially those that you might not want to unwittingly pass on to your own children.

genetic testingCaveat here, though, is that having a gene marker for a disease does not 100% confirm that you will get that disease, only that you are more likely to do so than others without that marker. You are at risk, but other factors – age, diet, exercise, medications, lifestyle choices – may have a stronger impact on whether or not you’ll succumb to the disease.

I’d feel a lot better if the DNA testing kits on the market which claim to reveal your heritage were labelled truthfully – as entertainment. While they might occasionally hit on a set of data subsets that matches with a customer’s, overall, their ‘science’ is about as scientific as predicting the weather by chicken entrails.

I’m filing my test results with the astrological chart my mum bought for me when I was 12, and my books on numerology and tarot. It’s all fun stuff, but I’m not taking any of it to the bank.

 

Smoke and Mirrors and Politics Oh My!


Pull the curtain back to reveal the secrets behind the Wizard of Oz. Pull the camera back to reveal how public relations imaging massages a wonderful picture of solidarity. paris leaders march PR

Don’t get me wrong; I think it’s terrific that more than 40 world leaders linked arms and joined a march of solidarity in Paris following the death of 17 people during the attacks on Charlie Hebdo, police officers, and a kosher supermarket.

At the head of the parade were French leader Francois Hollande led the British Prime Minister David Cameron, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, , Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, Malian President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita, EU President Donald Tusk, and Jordan’s King Abdullah II, along with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, whom Hollande had actually originally asked not to attend, feeling that Netanyahu’s presence might be ‘divisive.’

After a minute’s silence, the march began. One and a half million people walked behind the dignitaries, who did not stay for the entire length of the march from Place de la République to the Place de la Nation in eastern Paris, about 2km or 1.2 miles.

Joining the leaders’ own security staffs were about 2,000 police officers and 1,350 soldiers, including elite marksmen on rooftops.

So when this photo emerged today, I was not at all surprised. paris leaders march real

A wide angle shot, taken from a nearby rooftop, showed that the front line of leaders was followed by just over a dozen rows of other dignitaries and officials. Following them was a large security presence keeping the leaders separated from the throngs of other marchers.

World leaders want to look as though they are down to earth, and just one of the people, but in actual fact, they are kept fairly isolated from their citizens. They spend a lot of taxpayer money on keeping taxpayers out of their way through security forces. Even the most innocuous photo op involves days of preparation. The kiss that politician just gave that baby was not spontaneous. Leaders must be kept from both intentional and unintentional attack and surprises.

In March 2014, the National Post noted that the cost of Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s RCMP personal security team has more than doubled since 2005, when the annual budget for the PM’s protection detail was $8.8 million, to the 2013-14 cost of $19.6 million, an increase of 122% between 2006 and 2014. It costs a lot of money to be that unpopular.

Security aside, heads of countries spend a lot of money and time on image. Specialists in public relations matters, aka “spin doctors,’ work closely with anyone who needs to present themselves, and politicians are no different. They are groomed in how to speak, behave, and maintain a positive public image.

Probably one of the first cases in which style over content ruled was the Nixon/Kennedy television debates of 1960. U.S. Senator John F. Kennedy, the Democratic nominee, and Vice-President Richard Nixon, the Republican nominee, were filmed at CBS’s WBBM-TV studio in Chicago.

“Nixon, pale and underweight from a recent hospitalization, appeared sickly and sweaty, while Kennedy appeared calm and confident. As the story goes, those who listened to the debate on the radio thought Nixon had won. But those listeners were in the minority. By 1960, 88% of American households had televisions — up from just 11% the decade before. The number of viewers who tuned in to the debate has been estimated as high as 74 million, by the Nielsen of the day, Broadcast Magazine. Those that watched the debate on TV thought Kennedy was the clear winner. Many say Kennedy won the election that night. Sorensen says the Kennedy team didn’t realize what a game changer the debate was until the following day at a campaign event in Ohio. “The crowds for his motorcade were much larger than they’d ever been,” he says. “That’s when we knew that, if nothing else, Kennedy had firmed up support for himself in the Democratic party.” (Time Magazine)

Technology has made it harder for aspiring and incumbent political aspirants to present an always positive image. With social media, a politician’s message can be blasted over Twitter, Facebook, and Youtube, creating a more human image. But it can also be used against them, as they are shown to make just as many embarrassing mistakes as any other human.

Mandela funeral selfieI’m sure that Danish Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt, British Prime Minister David Cameron and US President Barack Obama would like to forget their selfies at Nelson Mandela’s funeral. Anthony Weiner had to resign his position as a member of the United States House of Representatives after getting caught sexting in 2011, and didn’t he do it all again during his attempted run for the Mayoralty of New York City in 2013!

ford mocks drunk driverAnd then there’s our own Rob Ford. Nearly everything he did during his term as Toronto Mayor was embarrassing, not only for him, but for the city.

So it’s not too surprising that the world leaders staged a photo-op. What is surprising is that so many people were shocked to discover, less than 24 hours later, that they’d been once again set up to see what politicians wanted them to see.

crisis up my sleevePerhaps it’s an object lesson that people of all countries should consider; the Wizard of Oz commanded Dorothy to ‘Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain‘, because in reality, he was just be a regular guy hiding behind a machine to create a mighty and powerful display.