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Wednesday, 30 November 2016

Principles, My Dad, and Donald

Principles – “a fundamental truth or proposition that serves as the foundation for a system of belief or behavior or for a chain of reasoning.”  Principles can relate to the rules of personal and moral behaviour as well as be the basis for scientific theorems.

Principal – “the person with the highest authority or most important position in an organization, institution, or group

My dad was a principal with principles.  Elementary that is.  He had thumbnail pictures of all the students in the school pasted onto the wall of his office.  I guess he figured that it was easier to discipline a student if he knew his name.  Or hers.  He was a nice guy. Really soft-spoken.  Teachers used to follow him from school to school.  He didn’t like to stay in one too long. 

Even though he rarely yelled, Dad was a bit of scary guy ‘cause when he said something, he meant it.  He could also make you feel like shit.  That was his real strength.  Unfortunately, his disappointment was worse than if he’d used a whip.  At least, that’s what I think now.  Maybe if he’d actually brought out a whip, I would have preferred the disappointment. 
Dad and his two boys
Back in the days of the Cold War, my dad would say that “any system will work so long as the leaders within that system are principled.”  They had to be in it for the greater good.  They couldn’t be in it for themselves. 

You see my dad was a bit of a communist.  My parents bought a little cabin north of Hinton that had no running water or electricity.  It still doesn’t.  And that’s all he cared about.  He wouldn’t have missed a minute of sleep if he’d lost his beautiful house in Edmonton with the giant yard where he’d throw the baseball with me in the good old days.  He was a complicated guy with simple desires. 


Family at the cabin minus me, the photographer
He loved poetry.  In fact, kids I met in high school remembered my dad reading poetry in the classroom and at school assemblies.  He used to read “The Song of Hiawatha” by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow to my brother and I.  I still remember the opening stanza, “By the shore of Gitche Gumee, By the shining Big-Sea-Water” and so on.  We never finished it . . .as far I know.  It's 204 pages in paperback and my brother and I were something like six and eight respectively at the time.  My dad was a bit of an idealist.  

He loved the mountains.  As a young man, he was a member of the Alpine Club of Calgary.  Before we owned the cabin, we’d start every summer holiday in Jasper and stay until the weather turned.  Then we’d move onto the Okanagan to enjoy the sun and hangg out on the beach.  Then, we’d go back to the mountains and spend some more time hiking and kayaking before returning home.  I loved it. 
The Family at Lake O'Hara in Banff.  (I took the photo.)
I can’t help but wonder what he’d make of present times, Donald Trump in the U.S. and Jason Kenney here in Alberta.  Neither could be considered me of principles.  Let me give you a couple of examples.  If my dad said he’d build a wall between the U.S. and Mexico, then, come hell or high water, that wall would be built.  Likewise, if he’d said he'd prosecute Hillary Clinton, she’d be as good as doing time by the time he got to power. 

He never coached any of the baseball teams I played on.  He figured that if he spent all day dealing with kids, he wasn’t going to waste his spare time dealing with more.  But, somehow, he got convinced to coach a group of older kids when I was in Grade 5 or 6.  Ironically, Dad didn’t entirely approve of competitive sports. 

He’d played them as a kid.  He drove me to innumerable hockey games and practices.  But deep down, he disapproved of competitive sports.  He didn’t a single player from that team he coached.  He’d just rotate them through the games.  Unfortunately, every player couldn't play every game but if he had controlled the league, he would just have created more teams.  I can only imagine the heat from parents and players he took but he couldn’t have cared that much.  It was never a topic of dinner table conversation. 


Me as a rising hockey star
Jason Kenney was fined for inappropriately interfering with the selection of delegates at a riding in Edmonton.  If you don’t remember or don’t recall the event, he rented a hospitality room two doors down the hall from where the vote was taking place.  Jason said that the way he understood the rules, he wasn’t allowed to be near the room.  But, he said, the rules didn’t define near, whether it’s 10 metres or a 100.  Seriously?  If your ex tells you that she doesn’t want you near her, I don’t think there’d be any question that she doesn’t want you at the same dinner party even though you’re sitting at the other end of the table.

My dad liked to lean toward the other extreme when rules were being applied.  In Jason Kenney’s position, he would have made sure he wasn’t in the same city.  Or, at least the same neighbourhood.  He’d never have brought a bunch of young people to a convention with the intention of disrupting the whole process.  For my dad, the political process would be considered more important than any one individual.  People come and go but the system must always be in place.  Otherwise, chaos, he’d say.  If the process needs to be changed, there’s a process for that too.

My dad wasn’t easily ruffled. When I was about ten and my brother was eight, we were caught by a neighbour playing knock-a-door ginger.  The woman phoned my mom telling her to come and pick get us.  My mom said that we could find our own way home.  So, the woman phoned the police.  We were just heading out to the car when my dad showed up with our little brown poodle on a leash.  He apologized to the police that they’d had to make such a ridiculous call.  Then, we walked home.  No lecture, no being grounded, certainly no spanking.  Nothing.  End of story.  We’d learned our lesson. 

The family in front of house minus me plus Grandma

I can only imagine the reaction of a Donald Trump.
  He would have yelled at the cops, threatened to sue the woman, and I don’t know what he would have done to us.  Probably nothing.  We would have been his kids after all.

Hillary Clinton accused Donald of not having paid taxes for the past two decades.  Now, my dad or any person of principles would be ashamed if confronted with such accusations.  Donald didn't flinch.  He doubled down.  Not only has he not paid taxes, he’s smart for not having done so.  Really?  A principled individual would know that our government depends on taxes to provide us with services, our infrastructure, our policing an our defence.  If one person feels they shouldn't pay taxes, that idea should apply to us all.  

If I’m going to guess why any sane person would have voted for Donald, I would say that they believe that, when he becomes president, the gravity of the position will force him to behave according to the principles of conduct befitting the position.  It’s like leaving an alcoholic in charge of the liquor at a party you believe him when he says that no one else knows better when someone else has been drinking too much.  We’ll put our trust in him because he says he won’t be the man he’s always demonstrated himself to be. 


The U.S. election results wouldn't have surprised my dad, the principal with principles.  He had a rather cynical view of mankind. That's the downside of being principled. People disappointed him all the time.  That said, when people got mad at him or accused him of wrong doing he ignored them.  ‘Cause he knew he was right.  

Donald’s won but he’s never going to feel good about it.  He’ll use the presidential office to augment his wealth which he’ll never feel good about.  As Dad would say, a person can never get satisfaction out of things.  So Donald is going to continue his defensive, blasphemous, libellous twitters full of untruths and eventually people will tire of them.  And him.  The question is when and how much damage can be wrought on the American people and their friends, like us Canadians.  Betrayal hurts most.  


In his element

Wednesday, 16 November 2016

Post-truth

Post-truth - Relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief – The Oxford Dictionary’s word of the year. 

How the f**k does a Donald Trump happen?  He’s the kind of guy at a party who knows everything about everything, the kind of guy a lot of us try to avoid because it’s impossible to have a normal conversation with him.  Name a topic and he’ll know more than you.   I’ll give you an example.  I know more about ISIS than the generals do.”  A normal response to a statement like that would be “you’re a f**king idiot” and find another place to be.  But he’s the presidential candidate for the Republican party.  The seriousness of the office to which he aspires can’t be ignored.  So, the media, the public and, more specifically, other candidates are forced to reason with the pronouncements, prognostications and suppositions of this megalomaniac with the mental age of a 12-year-old intent on being right with no interest in the truth.

He says, “All of the women on The Apprentice flirted with me - consciously or unconsciously. That's to be expected.”  How can a person reason with that?  The argument is circular.  If the woman shows interest, it’s to be expected.  If she says she’s not interested, she really is.  She’s just not conscious of it. 

He says, “The concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese in order to make U.S. manufacturing non-competitive.”  Where did that come from?  Where would he find evidence to support such an outrageous claim?  As a toddler, my middle child prefaced her contemplations with “in my special mind.  Similarly, the idea of global warming must have been a product of Donald Trump’s special mind.  He’s come up with all kinds of spectacular contemplations and pronouncement like:

“I will build a great, great wall on our southern border, and I will make Mexico pay for that wall. Mark my words.”
“Ariana Huffington is unattractive, both inside and out. I fully understand why her former husband left her for a man – he made a good decision.”
“You know, it really doesn’t matter what the media write as long as you’ve got a young, and beautiful piece of ass.”
"When Mexico sends its people, they're not sending their best. They're sending people that have lots of problems...they're bringing drugs, they're bringing crime. They're rapists."
"Donald J. Trump is calling for a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States until our country's representatives can figure out what is going on."

Banksy - West Bank, Israel
Will he really build a wall and force the Mexican people to pay for it?  Does it matter?  What does Donald know about Adriana Huffington?  Or relationships besides tits and ass?  In other words, let’s just skip to the swim suit competition.  Or Mexicans?  What does he know about their motivations for risking their lives to leave?  Is he even aware of the murder rates caused by cartels and indirectly, his country’s war on drugs?


Like any other creations of a special mind, reality is irrelevant.  I am reminded of Karl Pilkington, that round headed idiot Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant would interrogate and torment on the Ricky Gervais Podcast that ran in the early 2000s.  Karl wondered, "Does the brain control you or are you controlling the brain? I don't know if I'm in charge of mine.”  And, " The way we have nails on our toes, it would be good to have the same protective stuff on our heads and knees, because it can take a battering.”  Or travel, “You can be into travelling, but the world’s only so big innit?  So, eventually you’re gonna run out of places to visit, whereas biscuit . . . there’s loads of them.”  Amusing stuff.  Jon Stewart was positively euphoric when Donald Trump announced that he would run for president but back then, he just thought he was funny. 
The famous round head of Karl Pilkington
The existence of a Donald Trump does not surprise.  It’s his larger coterie of followers that’s amazing.  But who are they? Allow me to imagine. 

1.      Donald’s people include, for lack of a better term, gun nuts, the guys (and some gals) who live in that alternate reality where the world is safer with a gun than without.  They imagine themselves alone in their house (or apartment), and suddenly, hear someone just outside their bedroom.  Maybe the trespasser is a simple burglar, or maybe he’s there as part of a gang there to rape and pillage the owner and his loved one.  Fortunately, there’s the AR-15 right next to the bed ready to protect the home owner and his loved ones.  And, the owner knows how to use this military grade weapon ‘cause he’s been practicing on the range.   Sure, he might have heard that there’s been a lot of gun deaths in the U.S.; like 165,000 between 2010 and 2014.   But that’s just an even greater reason to own a gun for protection against all the bad guys who do.
The fact is that there’s a greater chance that he’s going to use it on himself than someone else ‘cause of all those gun deaths that took place between 2010 and 2014, 102,557 were suicides.  About 62%.  And, if he doesn’t use it on himself, there’s way more chance that he’s going to use it on someone he knows or loves ‘cause that’s just what happens.  It’s a fact even if it’s not a feeling.  
American Gun show 
2.      Donald’s people fear being killed by a terrorist even if there’s a 1 in a 20 million chance of that happening in the U.S., about the same chance of being killed by a piece of furniture.  Nevertheless, a threat’s a threat so it’s good thing that Donald’s got a 10-point plan on immigration, one that won’t allow Syrians seeking refuge from a civil war where between 301,781 and 470,000 have actually been killed. 

3.     Donald’s people believe that through the magic of being “the greatest president for jobs that God ever created, Donald will somehow, like magic,  bring 25 million more jobs to the workplace.  And they’ll be those good paying jobs in manufacturing and coal mining once enjoyed by the middle class, who now, more often than not, occupy a rung somewhat lower.  Those jobs are never coming back ‘cause they no longer exist.  Sure, factories could return to the U.S. like they’re already doing except the jobs aren’t going to come with them because they’re now being done by robots.  Companies eliminate transportation costs and they can directly oversee production.2   So, I’ll be waiting with everyone else for this man to “pull a rabbit out of the hat” as Bullwinkle used to say. 

4.      Donald’s people don’t usually possess college degrees nor do they make much money so, they’ll definitely benefit from his proposed tax cuts.  Those earning less than $25,000 a year and couples earning less than $50,000 will effectively pay no tax.  That would include approximately 75 million households or about half the tax roll in the U.S.  Donald hasn’t forgotten himself and the other rich ‘cause he’s promised to eliminate estate tax which at the moment applies only to those whose estate exceeds $5 million.  And, he says, it’ll all be revenue neutral because the increased income generated by annual growth rates of between 2% to 3.5% will cover the lost revenue caused by tax cuts.  Some, so-called experts, as Donald’s people would argue, disagree with their hero’s prognostications.  By analyzing numbers through a process called quantitative analysis, global firms like Oxford Economics, predict the U.S. economy will actually shrink by the end of Trump’s first term, by a sizable $11 trillion.  I wonder where the jobs will come from if that occurs. 



5.     Donald’s people trust their gut feeling and their feeling was that Donald was telling the truth.  The problem with the gut feeling is that it can have no basis in reality.  After 9/11, many people were feeling that air travel was no longer safe.  They preferred to ignore the numbers reality that there’s a greater chance of them getting killed on the ride to the airport than on their subsequent flight.  So, rather than flying, these people chose to drive long distances causing what has been estimated to be an extra 1,595 deaths of Americans on the road that same year.
      Daniel Dale of the Toronto Star counted 560 falsehoods told by Donald during his campaign but each transgression, no matter how egregious didn’t matter to his people.  It didn’t matter that he didn’t pay taxes or insulted the memory of a courageous soldier or called John McCain a loser because he was taken prisoner during the Vietnam War, a war   Donald managed to avoid after he was called up not once, not twice but five times. 
      No, Hillary Clinton’s inappropriate use of emails was far worse than the 75 lawsuits pending against Donald, 3500 since 2000.  They range from casino-related lawsuits to personal injury suits to lawsuits related it his real estate to suits having to do with government taxes.  Of course there’s also lawsuits related to contract, his employees, and branding and licensing.  The list goes on.  For a guy who called himself the great negotiator, he sure depends on litigation a lot.  Donald’s people just have a gut feeling that Hillary’s a crook and certainly worse than a guy who grabs p**ssies and doesn’t pay taxes or contractors under his employ.
  
Before science, we made sense of nature with belief and superstition.  Now, we don’t even have to do that.  Except by choice and illness, we have very little interaction with our natural environment.  It’s the social environment that we have to contend with and, it’s in this context that we are only beginning gain an understanding.  Obviously, the pollsters and statisticians couldn’t predict Donald’s victory. 

There is a system of prediction that has been completely accurate since 1982 when it was developed by Allan Litchtman, an historian, the help of his friend, a geo-physicist.  It’s called the “Keys to the Whitehouse” and it’s correctly predicted the winner of a presidential election since 1984.  Instead of numbers from polls and performance in debates, it measures the performance of the party in power and its opposition on a 13-point scale. 

Hard to believe 
According to this forecast, Trump could have been almost anyone, even a racist, misogynist egomaniac with a face the colour of pumpkin who makes up facts as they pop into his special mind. Hillary was doomed to lose, no matter how vile the competition. We’ve certainly moved beyond the truthiness popularized by Steven Colbert on the show bearing his name.  Donald Trump, on the other hand lives in a world of post-truth where reality is a creation of his special mind.  He’s like Karl Pilkington when he says, "I find that if you just talk, your mouth comes up with stuff."  And for Donald Trump, that stuff becomes the truth, or not the truth but a special kind of truth known only to him and those who choose to believe him. A post-truth so to speak.