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’?

 

Elections and Their Consequences


Elections here, elections there… we’ve got elections everywhere!

trump painting satanWith the American midterms just two weeks away, It goes without saying that most liberal progressives, democrats and independents are hoping to see a ‘blue wave’ overturn the stranglehold the Trump administration has on all three branches of government, and the Supreme Court.

Widespread reports of gerrymandering and voter suppression, however, are indications that the Republicans, unable to run on their non-existent record, are ready to lie, cheat and swindle to keep their power. In previous decades and administrations, the Attorney General would have stepped in aggressively to stop this abuse, but under AG Jeff Sessions, the corruption ensues without check.

GOP old white men in undiesMany are looking to millennials to start that wave of resistance, but from articles and interviews I’ve read, a lot of millennials can’t be bothered; they think their voices will not be heard, and there seems to be a belief that the kids can take back the country once the last of the old white guys in power die off.

They’re not counting on the “farm teams’ .. the Kavanaughs and the Paul Ryans, ready to pick up the slack from the McConnells and Grassleys as they die off. And they’re counting on there being a country left when they’re finally ready to get involved.

We’ll have to keep all appendages crossed that there is still some justice and democracy left in America, that will see the election allowed to play out without chicanery. But I will not take any bets on that happening.

ford notwithstandingMeanwhile, I sure hope that most Torontonians and other Ontarian citizens are planning to cast an informed vote this week in our municipal elections. With all of the meddling that Ford did in cutting our city council in half, and with his nuclear use of the notwithstanding clause to force his will on the citizens of Toronto, not much time was left for some of the candidates to explain their positions on important issues affecting our city.

Ford gave incumbent mayor Tory the greatest gift of all when he tinkered with the electoral machine. With all of the confusion and chaos, it’s most likely that the great unwashed will do what they always do when their cheese is moved – simply vote for the person with the most recognizable name on the ballot.

And that’s a damn shame, because that’s essentially how our world has gotten into the mess it’s in today – voters who once made an effort to be informed and knowledgeable have been replaced with angry, populist, knee jerking votes AGAINST the status quo, rather than votes FOR progress.

I get it; we’re living in a world where we have to instantly react to once shocking events on an hourly basis. There’s just been too many non-stop fireworks going off daily since January 2017, and that makes it hard to be able to pin down the truth and the facts about atrocities most people of the west struggle to contemplate, let alone deal with mentally.

Remember when the ‘Resistance’ were warning the world that they must not ‘normalize’ Trump and his horrific, racist, bigoted ways? Well, it’s happened. That many haven’t yet realized that it’s happened is in itself proof that it’s happened.

jamal-khashoggiTake the disappearance of Jamal Khashoggi, the American resident and Washington Post journalist. At the beginning of October, he entered the Saudi Arabian consulate in Turkey. He was there to obtain a document verifying his divorce so that he could marry his Turkish fiancée. But like the old commercial once said, “He checked in, but he never checked out.”

Khashoggi had been persona non grata and self exiled from Saudi Arabia since November 2016, when he wrote a mild rebuke against the perils of a new president, Donald J. Trump. ” The expectation that ‘Trump as president’ will be starkly different from ‘Trump as candidate’ is a false hope at best,” were the words that Khashoggi wrote about Trump’s stance and rhetoric on the Middle East.

For this ‘crime’ he was banned from all social media, including journalistic writing, making television appearances, and attending conferences. He self-exiled to the United States six months later.

On October 2 he was lured to the consulate, where a team of 15 Saudi Arabians, including one autopsy expert with a bone saw, ‘interrogated’ (tortured) him to death, and then dismembered his body so that it might be disposed of more easily.

The grisly truth of his kidnapping, torture and murder are known to us thanks to what is most likely the ‘bugging’ of the Saudi consulate; Turkey originally claimed to have found the audio recording of the encounter on Khashoggi’s Apple Watch, but tech experts have said it is not very likely. However the information was retrieved, one thing is certain; the American government knew the truth about the murder almost immediately, but covered up the story.

investigating KhashoggiIn the three weeks since the murder, people have struggled to come to terms with this act of violence. Some can sort of understand bits and pieces of what happened, but balk at simple truths, like a photo from the Associated Press showing a cart filled with cleaning supplies that arrived at the consulate just hours before an investigation of the premises was due to occur. Spies, torture, dismemberment.. all of this they can swallow .. but a cleaning cart? That just butts up too closely to normalizing traumatic death, and their mental processes shut down rather than absorb the photo.

MBSBut the most shocking actions have all have been done by Trump and his administration, who have, from the beginning, and with full knowledge of not only the murder, but of U.S. intelligence intercepts showing that MbS had ordered that Khashoggi be lured to Saudi Arabia, known full well that the Crown Prince had ordered the detention, likely with an intent to torture and murder the writer. They later speculated that it was likely that his disappearance in Istanbul was a substitute plan that went sideways.

And yet Trump, with that knowledge, with audio tapes documenting the blood curdling sounds, pretended that he did not believe that MbS was involved, and actually offered a tentative excuse in advance of the Saudi’s excuses, that it might have been ‘rogue killers’ who did the deed.

This, despite solid information that the 15 Saudi Arabian assailants had arrived on private government planes, rode to the consul in diplomatic vehicles, were greeted and welcomed at the consulate by the officials in charge, and did the actual torture and murder in the consul’s own office, later returning to Saudi in the same manner they’d arrived.

The US president has deemed that the investigation that Saudi Arabia did into their own culpability in the murder is credible, and an ‘important first step.’

” The Saudi Arabian government announced Friday that Khashoggi died after a fistfight at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, and that 18 Saudis had been arrested for further investigation while Deputy Director of Saudi Intelligence Ahmed al-Assiri had been dismissed.” (CNN)

trump and saudi orbTrump’s not sure that the US should take action, but if they do, he doesn’t want it to impact the imaginary arm sales and jobs that he believes may be arriving, some time .. really soon .. maybe within ten years. But with nothing on paper or signed, and those imaginary job numbers rising by the day, it’s clear that his words are just more lies intended to protect his, and his son in law’s, personal financial relationship with the Saudis.

We’re now learning of a phone call, as reported by The Wall Street Journal, between Jared Kushner and Saudi Prince Mohammed bin Salman where the young prince asked “why the outrage?” (Wall Street Journal)

Other people are not at all sure that the Saudis should be allowed to skate on the assassination of an America resident.

“After 2+ [weeks] of dissembling, the Saudi ‘explanation’ is not remotely credible,” Suzanne Maloney of the Brookings Institution tweeted. “Nor is the MBS myth, at least not anymore.” She continued: “The end result of this horrific saga is a weaker, more isolated Saudi Arabia [and] a less effective US-Saudi partnership. And no justice for the innocent victim.” (Washington Post)

Even Trump’s own party is finding it increasingly difficult to defend this cowardice on the president’s part.

” New Jersey Sen. Robert Menendez, the top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said in a statement that the Saudi statement is “far from the end.”

“This is far from the end and we need to keep up the international pressure. Congress did its part when we invoked Global Magnitsky Act for a presidential determination. Now President Trump must follow the law,” Menendez said.

Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman Sen. Bob Corker warned against assuming that the Saudis’ “latest story holds water” and stressed that the U.S. must assess Khashoggi’s death under the Global Magnitsky Act, which sanctions human rights offenders. 

isis vs saudi“The story the Saudis have told about Jamal Khashoggi’s disappearance continues to change with each passing day, so we should not assume their latest story holds water,” Corker tweeted Friday.. “They can undergo their own investigation, but the U.S. administration must make its own independent, credible determination of responsibility for Khashoggi’s murder under the Global Magnitsky investigation as required by law.” (CNN)

trump msb bloodshake

However, for those for whom there is no bottom to a moral ground, they are carrying on blithely, raking in the dough. While Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin reluctantly cancelled his trip to the “Davos in the Desert’ conference due in November, he’s still set on going to an anti-terror finance meeting soon to occur in Riyadh. Now THAT is irony.

“There was no actual condemnation by the administration of this human rights atrocity, no defence of a free press, or of the right of Americans (residents or citizens) to travel safely. The administration looks feckless, and if it continues down this road, will earn the ridicule and disdain of Americans, our allies, and all free peoples.

In allowing the Saudis to delay this long, and failing to demand audio recordings allegedly capturing the murder, the administration has become an accessory after the fact, an enabler of nearly unimaginable evil.

What’s more, Trump looks pathetically weak. His childlike willingness to adopt a transparent lie so as to avoid taking action will certainly entice other despots to engage in similar acts of brutality.” (Washington Post)

But what’s going on back at Saudi Arabia HQ? Strangely – the crown prince may not be on as solid a ground as he once thought. The young prince – blood-thirsty and naive – may be the King’s favorite son – but he’s not the only son, or even grandson, available to carry on the legacy of the Sauds.

It would seem that MbS drastically misjudged how the world would react to the Khashoggi murder. And don’t forget that when the shit hit the fan, it was down to his daddy, 82-year-old King Salman, who had to call Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan, to explain why his ‘special’ boy should not be too harshly judged.

what they do to others they will do to youMbS has done some horrific things in his 16 month run-up to Monster In Charge. He has been given free reign to reshape the kingdom to his own vision, and along the way, has arrested and imprisoned scores of human rights and women’s rights activists, along with pursuing a war in neighboring Yemen where routine flouting of human rights and international battlefield rules have led to the death of at least 10,000 civilians and displaced an estimated 2

million overall.

King Salman has literally spent a ‘king’s ransom‘ to cement a strong relationship between Saudi Arabia and America, but MbS may have severed that connection with just one bone saw.

It is hard to predict what will happen next, to either the United States or Saudi Arabia. However, it is becoming increasingly visible that MbS may simply not be ready to assume the reins of power he so eagerly grasped just 16 months ago. And his daddy may be about to show him just what real power looks like when wielded by a real monarch.

 

Meanwhile.. back in Washington, DC ….

republicans spineless