The Teeter Totter of Hell


by Roxanne Tellier

Oh America.  So many wanted to believe in the ‘shining city on the hill,’ and your declaration that your people deserved ‘life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. ‘ Millions of immigrants looked for salvation on your shores, and believed that the poem, etched on the base of that sacred icon, the Statue of Liberty, and a gift from a country that knew well what it meant to overthrow a tyrannical monarchy and bask in a newfound freedom, was a prayer and a promise written just for them.

But beneath the anthems, the ‘rockets red glare’ and the hands pressed to hearts, too many have learned that there lies a nation built on genocide, slavery and a slavish devotion to capitalism that has devolved into an insatiable greed and selfishness.

Now we know the dirty little secret of the United States of America;  all of the high flying words, the protestations of freedom, the claims that all were created equal, the vaunted checks and balances meant to assure the republic would remain a democratic country, were nothing but lip service. 

Well, at least according to FOX News, and trump and his henchmen. 

” On August 12, 2019, Ken Cuccinelli,, acting director of US Citizenship and Immigration Services, revised a line from the poem to outline a new immigration policy that would evaluate potential visa/green card immigrants on the basis of income and education, stating: “Give me your tired, your poor who can stand on their own two feet and who will not become a public charge.” In a subsequent interview, Cuccinelli also interpreted the poem as referring to “people coming from Europe” (wikipedia)

The framers of the U.S. Constitution knew well that the people could one day be fooled by cunning con men and those seeking to enrich themselves by abusing power, so they created a system that co-equally divided the powers and responsibilities of three branches; the legislative branch, the executive branch, and the judiciary branch. 

They also put into place a system of checks and balances, that, combined with the separation of powers, they hoped would guard against a tyranny  imposed upon the people, in the event that any one branch attempted to grab too much power.

But checks and balances only work when those charged with obeying them are men of honour with a respect for the laws and institutions that are the framework of a democratic nation.

As James Madison wrote in the Federalist Papers“In framing a government which is to be administered by men over men, the great difficulty is this: You must first enable the government to control the governed; and in the next place, oblige it to control itself.”

As prescient as the Founders were in their attempts to keep America from devolving to a monarchy or dictatorship, they couldn’t possibly have guessed that men like Mitch McConnell and Donald Trump, never mind the self-loathing white nationalists lead by Stephen Miller, would one day come to power, with an agenda designed solely to enrich themselves, while keeping the American people complacent and subjected to their will through fear, force,  and/or intimidation.

Those who fled countries under the thrall of dictatorship, or under threat of  physical or intellectual assault, believed that America’s shores would, like the Gates of Heaven, usher them into a life where all men had the opportunity to be free, and to seek to enrich their lives through a lifetime of hard work, and dedication.

Apparently they were wrong. 

“Dad, my sitting here today, in the US Capitol talking to our elected officials is proof that you made the right decision 40 years ago to leave the Soviet Union and come here to the United States of America in search of a better life for our family,” he said. “Do not worry. I will be fine for telling the truth.”

Even as those brave witnesses came forward in these last two weeks to testify to the crimes and corrupt behaviour exhibited by, not just the POTUS, but a cabal of his henchmen, in the Ukraine scandal, those witnesses were having their lifetimes of dedicated civil service smeared, and have since described harrowing incidents of harassment, threats and attack on their very lives, and the lives of their families.

So, no, Lt Col Vindman, you are not ‘fine.’ Your dad was right to worry. You won’t be fine for devoting 40 years of loyal service to your adopted country. Instead, the military must find somewhere to shelter you and your family from the wrath of America’s elected representatives, it’s president, and his cultist followers.

Lt Col Vindman, Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch, Jennifer Williams, former White House national security official Fiona Hill, and others from the former or current administration are being viciously attacked for daring to testify to the corruption and felonious actions of trump and his shadow government.

Whatever side of the political divide you may be on, this case is ridiculously easy to understand. Trump attempted to force new Ukraine president Zelensky to personally appear on the Sunday political edition of CNN’s journalist Fareed Zakaria’s program to inform the rest of the ‘free world’ that he (Zelensky) was about to open an investigation into potential misdeeds perpetrated in the Ukraine by Hunter Biden, the son of former vice president Joe Biden, who is currently a front runner in the Democratic presidential nomination in the run up to the 2020 election. If Zelensky agreed to do so, trump would release over $400 million set aside by Congress to aid in the Ukraine’s defence against Russia.

By doing so, trump would then hold enormous power over Zelensky for as long as either of them were in power, since this would be an act of corruption perpetrated by a new president, swept in on a platform of anti-corruption. 

It would also be a federal offence, as outlined in the Congressional Budget and Impoundment Control Act of 1974, which was put into place after then president Richard Nixon impounded tens of billions of dollars, and refused to spend funds appropriated by Congress, particularly if the impounding of those funds would cause programs he didn’t like to be gutted.

This precipitated a constitutional crisis, as the Constitution, in it’s separation of powers, granted Congress the power of the purse.

And so the 1974 Congressional Budget and Impoundment Control Act was created, in order to limit the powers of an out of control president.

Trump is a scofflaw, who believes himself above the law, and certainly that he is above such niceties as obeying federal laws, but that is precisely what he has broken. And he has compounded that felony with the impeachable act of attempted bribery, in order to solicit re-election aid from a foreign power.

In any other place or time, this would be an open and shut case, and trump would be impeached, removed from power, and indicted.

However, trump’s America is a BizarroWorld of GOP officials as corrupt as in any third world dictatorship, that is colluding with a branch of Justice headed up by an Attorney General who is himself implicated in the corruption, and aided and abetted by a cultlike following who are prepared to commit any atrocity in the service and name of their GodKing.

So, this is not the America that Lt Col Vindman thought it was. It’s not a country where those who devote their lives in service to their country can feel secure that speaking the truth will set them free. In trump’s BizarroWorld, only his truth is viable, and anyone speaking against it must be thoroughly punished to the full extent of his presidential powers.

Further, trump, in lockstep with the wishes of Russia’s leader, Vladimir Putin, wanted Zelensky to confess to a meddling in the 2016 elections by the previous government. This would then allow trump to ‘prove’ a debunked conspiracy theory, and to deny the conclusions of all of the American intelligence agency leaders, that Russia had interfered in the 2016 election, by shuffling the blame upon the Ukraine government instead. By doing so, trump could then insist that American sanctions upon Russia must be lifted.

What Trump demanded, as was made clear on his call to Zelensky, was that Ukraine lend credence to the Crowdstrike conspiracy theory. Not only did Trump make that demand, but Nunes and others have been attempting to support that claim during the hearings. And that is why Dr. Hill made her statement about Republicans not believing in Russian interference: They are actively working, right now, in concert with Trump, to “prove” that there was no Russian interference. They are no longer willing to admit even the things they admitted in that report they’re still waving around.

Every single time someone mentioned “investigating the 2016 election,” what they really meant was “exonerating Vladimir Putin and shifting the blame to Hillary Clinton.” And while it’s understandable that no one wanted to use their five minutes to unwind this ridiculous “Hillary hacked herself and hid the server in Ukraine” theory that Attorney General William Barr is chasing around the world, not taking that time allowed Republicans to pretend that they’re not actively working to clear Russia as well as Trump. When they are. They really, really are. (Mark Sumner, Daily Kos)

Yes … the lord giveth, and the lord taketh away. The last two weeks of witness testimony at the impeachment inquiry hearings have gladdened the heart of many who want to see trump’s iron grip on America’s institutions and justice system broken, and for him to suffer the consequences of his impeachable and felonious actions.

On the other hand, the American public are not united in their need to see an unbridled and omnipotent POTUS overthrown. There remains a firm 23% of Americans who will follow their president wherever he takes them, even if where they’re going is to hell in a handcart.

And the timing isn’t great either, when the American thanksgiving is right around the corner, followed by America’s most beloved holiday, the Black Friday sales. Christmas will follow, and then much of the nation will be dealing with inclement weather for several months.

Political junkies will follow impeachment proceedings as they occur, but for many Americans, lulled now into numbness by three years of constant tweets, executive orders, and ‘chopper talk’ pronouncements vilifying anyone against the trump juggernaut as ‘human scum,’ it may well be that trump slides into a second term handily, as have so many past incumbent presidents, and despite his crimes.

And if that happens ….. the rest of the world can only wish America ‘good luck.’ Because trump and his cabal have spent the last three years destroying any vestige of what was once the great white hope of the rest of the world. They have  murdered Captain America, and put a slavering, rapacious Golem in his place.

In time, the America we once thought existed will be a legend as outdated as tales of Atlantis.

Liar Liar Pants on Fire!


by Roxanne Tellier

When we’re kids, we’re terrible at telling lies. You can spot a kid that’s telling a tall tale a mile away, because they’re just not great at deceiving others.

Deception and lying are all part of a cognitive understanding called a Theory of Mind. That’s the realization that we all have our own knowledge, beliefs and opinions … that development informs us that we all have different minds.

Over time, we learn to tell ‘social’ lies, the fibs that get us through our days. “How are you today?” the cashier asks us, and we cheerily inform her that we’re just fine, despite the screaming headache we’re trying to ignore. Or someone asks if they look good in their new coat, and we tell them they look amazing.

pinochioSalespeople lie a dozen times a day, or if not lie, at least they’ll minimize the defects of an item, and maximize it’s benefits. We lie on our resumes, and on our dating profiles .. at least a titch … and we lie when we want to look smarter or more informed than we really are.

Peer pressure and our need to fit the perceptions and expectations of others drives a lot of the lying. We want to look good to others, and to do so, we often have to ‘enhance’ our reality.

We lie to avoid the consequences of mistakes, we lie to buy time, we lie to spare other people’s feelings. We may be lying for all the right reasons, but we’re still lying.

All of that lying comes at a cost. What we really crave is honesty, or at least the belief that someone is being honest; complete honesty is the access to ultimate power. When we feel that a person is telling us the truth, we hand over our power to their keeping. We believe that they have our best interests at heart, and, in effect, must be better people than we assume ourselves to be.

But trust is a fragile thing. And even if the person who broke that trust tells us with sweet words and warm embraces that our trust was broken for a very good reason … once we no longer trust, we can no longer cling to a faith in the person that has broken the code of truth.

And when you pile lie upon lie upon lie … the very foundations of a relationship proves to be built upon quicksand. Not a great thing if it’s in a romance, but if that relationship is between a nation, and it’s leader, there’s an enormous price to pay, and it’s a dangerous place for a nation – or a planet. Especially a planet where Pinocchio demands absolute fealty, constant attention, and has the codes to a nuclear football.

“On January 20, Trump’s truthful hyperboles will no longer be relegated to the world of deal making or campaigning. Donald Trump will become the chief executive of the most powerful nation in the world, the man charged with representing that nation globally—and, most importantly, telling the story of America back to Americans. He has the megaphone of the White House press office, his popular Twitter account and a loyal new right-wing media army that will not just parrot his version of the truth but actively argue against attempts to knock it down with verifiable facts. Unless Trump dramatically transforms himself, Americans are going to start living in a new reality, one in which their leader is a manifestly unreliable source.” Politico, January 1, 2017.

There’s a crushing irony in Trump, who promised to be the ‘law and order’ president, who has racked up a blinding total of over 6000 lies since taking office, telling Americans and the world that he believes the words of Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who denies having been involved in the murder of U.S.-based, Washington Post journalist, Jamal Khashoggi.

don't lie to meBelieves MbS, may I add, over the findings of his own CIA, the actual tape of the screams of the man being murdered, and the fact based reality that nothing happens in the Kingdom of the Saud’s without the leader having full knowledge of all actions taken in his kingdom, and in his name.

I’m sure it’s not only those of us who are parents or grandparents that smelled the aroma of defensive lies well before they were fully baked in Trump’s oven of hypocrisy. He did, after all, begin cooking them up even before the Saudi’s had had a chance to properly season those lies with the blood of their tortured and murdered victim.

Kids lie because they have no power. They lie to protect themselves from the consequences of their actions. But leaders have ALL of the power; if what they are doing or proposing is in the best interest of those they lead, there’s no need to hide their words or deeds. Trump’s deep dish lying is only necessary when there’s double dealing, corruption, and personal greed afoot.

But then again, Trump has a lot of practice in both the telling of, and the swallowing of, lies. He’s essentially based his entire presidency and legacy on a roiling sea of tall tales, myths, innuendo, misrepresentations, denigrations of truths, and lie after lie after lie. And his claims are usually at the expense of those whose sole mission in life is to present truths – be it the CIA, the FBI, or the free press.

He’s denied that Russia had any interest in putting him into office, even as witnesses, texts, and chains of emails come to light proving his collusion. No matter what proof is laid on the table, Trump, that sly dog, manages to twist and turn the truth, until his base can be convinced that there’s no smoking gun of evidence, just a ‘light’ claim of wrong doing that he denied at the time, but that if you look at it from his point of view, was never wrong doing, and even if it was, it wasn’t a crime and certainly not illegal .. and hey presto! There’s your new normal … a candy coated lie that everyone wants under the tree at Christmas.

The Teflon coating of Trump’s America is nothing but a veneer of protective lies. Just ask special counsel Mueller, who’s spent the better part of a year and a half exposing the lies of 45’s cronies, lies that come to them as easily as breathing. Or ask those he’s caught in those lies, those that once swore utter loyalty to the Father of Lies, in exchange for a sniff of power … Michael Cohen, George Papadopoulos, Paul Manafort, and Michael Flynn, to name but a few.

Whether it was lying about the paying off of sex scandals, the fiddling of campaign finances, or Russia’s involvement and meddling into the 2016 election, and whether it was for power, loyalty, or reasons we may never understand, Trump’s ex besties will be paying a steep price for lying to federal authorities.

Yes .. I’m aware that all presidents lie. The difference here, though, is the frequency, and the intent .. Nixon, Reagan, Clinton... no question that they were caught lying, in attempts to protect their reputations.

But Trump seems to lie because he just can’t help himself. There’s no matter so small that he can’t find a lie inside it; during the campaign, PolitiFact found that he lied 70 percent of the time. It’s knee-jerk, it’s just what he does … George Washington could not tell a lie, Trump cannot tell a truth.

(anecdotally, Trump once told his butler, Anthony Senecal, that the tiles in a nursery at MarALago‘s West Palm Beach club had been made by Walt Disney himself. Knowing that was false, Senecal protested. Trump’s response was: “Who cares?”)

He is the Boy that Cried Wolf. Many of us can no longer believe anything he says, ever.

Even the most brilliant human brain can only cope with so much misinformation. For the majority of us, we’re easily overwhelmed with a flood of false statements. Our coping mechanism soon becomes overburdened, and ultimately, we begin to absorb the disinformation as a new reality, no matter how implausible those statements may be.

yes masterAnd Trump is also the master of another form of lying, so insidious that most people don’t even see it coming …he practices ‘illusory truth,‘ … the sheer repetition of the same lie until it begins to register as truth in our minds, and even causes the actual reality and truth to be erased from our memories.

Keep repeating a lie and it begins to seep into our minds as truth. Say it enough, and we’ll no longer be able to recognize truth at all.

Worse still, our efforts to refute those lies only serves to solidify the lies as truths. The brain can’t parse out a phrase like, “it’s not true that all migrants are gangsters.” Instead, it filters out the first part, and seizes upon the second as what is important. Refutations and retractions will do nothing to change judgments and decisions we make based upon false information.

I wish that I could tell you that there is an easy way to change the minds of those who have absorbed this administration’s lies and misinformation and made those deceptions into core beliefs. But I cannot. In point of fact, the processing of all of this false information has physically altered the minds of the ‘true believers’ as surely as those of religious cultists. They literally cannot hear any information that does not correlate to what they have accepted as truth.

The base of Trump’s followers will not willingly drop their acquired values; they are far more likely to double down on their emotional connection to the lies than to hear statements that belie what they have come to consider gospel. Trump’s base will have to be ‘deprogrammed’ by someone able to reshape their minds. We can only hope that whomever comes along to do so, has honorable intentions, and the good of their country top of mind.

 

Addendum:  When I first started writing this column, I came from a very different perspective. By the time I was winding up the piece, I was shaken to my core.

“Lying” sounds like something we have to teach kids not to do; kid stuff, not all that important, a mere peccadillo, as they used to say.  But it’s so much more than that. When the people we are meant to trust … our elected leaders, civic leaders, religious leaders … lie to us to further their own agendas, their words can warp the teachings and beliefs of a lifetime. And that is some scary stuff. Manchurian Candidate stuff.

If you have an interest in the science of lies, please read this article – especially the second half – and be prepared to look at America with an entirely different and more educated eye by the end of the read.

The distressing reality is that our sense of truth is far more fragile than we would like to think it is—especially in the political arena, and especially when that sense of truth is twisted by a figure in power. As the 19th-century Scottish philosopher Alexander Bain put it, “The great master fallacy of the human mind is believing too much.” False beliefs, once established, are incredibly tricky to correct. A leader who lies constantly creates a new landscape, and a citizenry whose sense of reality may end up swaying far more than they think possible. It’s little wonder that authoritarian regimes with sophisticated propaganda operations can warp the worldviews of entire populations. “You are annihilated, exhausted, you can’t control yourself or remember what you said two minutes before. You feel that all is lost,” as one man who had been subject to Mao Zedong’s “reeducation” campaign in China put it to the psychiatrist Robert Lifton. “You accept anything he says.””

https://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2017/01/donald-trump-lies-liar-effect-brain-214658

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.