Now You’ve Gone and Done It Whitey Put a Psychopath in the White House

Since President Donald J. Trump first appeared on the Manhattan skyline like an orange-skinned Godzilla groping a woman’s crotch with one sausage-fingered hand and the soaring spiral of his failed dream of real-estate moguldom with the other (just like his Daddy but bigger, huge) those who believe Trump is bat-shit crazy have become legion.

The most erudite and detailed rumination on the subject is an article entitled “A Neuroscientist explains: Trump has a mental disorder that makes him a dangerous world leader” http://bit.ly/2kswc0j

It begins by mentioning “Vanity Fair’s” Henry Alford’s resonate query “What exactly is wrong with this strange individual” and states “While there is no official clinical diagnosis of psychopathy, the textbook traits of it and related to Anti-social Personality disorders like Narcissistic Personality Disorder and Sociopathy, are somewhat easy to spot once you know the signs.

“The failure for there to be an official way to diagnose these disorders is due more to the fact that individuals who have these traits are adept at masking them, or giving answers to questions that psychologist ‘want’ to hear.”

Graydon Carter is one of the longer standing questioners of Trump’s mental state going back to those halcyon days when he was a wide-eyed Canadian refugee in New York and the fledgling editor of Spy Magazine.

In a recent editorial Carter described how, in 1993, he took Trump, “the tabloid oddity of the moment,” as his guest to the White House Correspondent’s Dinner.

Since an acquaintance, Mike Kelly, who was then a reporter for The Baltimore Sun, took the first “oddity guest” in 1987 – Fawn Hall, Oliver North’s erstwhile secretary – it had become “a thing” to do, find that “oddity” and take them to that dinner.

Unlike the circus geek, Ms. Hill and Mr. Trump did not know they were the sideshow’s main attractions, which, of course, made the scenarios even funnier. Even then the “Correspondent’s Dinner” was becoming decadent.

In his editorial entitled “The Ugly American” Carter gave a succinct and disturbing portrait of what having a meal with, by then, the forerunner for the Republican Presidential nomination, was like.

He recounts being invited to dine with the Donald at his gauche Palm Springs retreat, the private, garish, outrageously expensive “golf and country club,” Mar-a-Lago.

“Dinner with Trump is generally a one-sided affair. He talks so much and with so much velocity that it can make your hair flutter… Whatever wife he has at the time tends to say nothing.”

Carter was forewarned by a Trump insider: “Family dinners at the Trumps are different. As a rule they are over in 45 minutes?”

Why?

“Because that’s how long it takes Donald to eat.”

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Writing in “Vanity Fair’s” online blog spot “Hive”, Keith Olbermann, a long-time sports broadcaster and lately, pop culture pontificator, set out to prove that Trump was insane in a piece entitled “Could Donald Trump Pass a Sanity Test?”

In his eagerness, or ambivalence, Olbermann made a significant mistake. He put forth something called the Psychopathy Checklist Revised (PCL-R) as a test for insanity… which it most definitely is not.

Rather it is a controversial test for psychopathy, which is, by its very nature, the antithesis of insanity, albeit a far more dangerous condition.

Psychopathy could be described as a state of “hyper-sanity.

Marshall McLuhan called cliches social probes. “Crazy like a fox” would be an appropriate cliche the psychopath .

The PCL-R test was developed by a Canadian psychologist, Dr. Robert Hare, in the early 1980s and has subsequently become the standard instrument for researchers and clinicians in penal institutions in industrialized countries around the world as well as large corporations, government organizations and academic institutions who can afford to believe there is benefit in attempting to identify the psychopaths in their midst. (The test is a copyrighted package only obtainable by accredited personnel and it ain’t cheap)

What Dr. Hare has shown definitively, whether you believe psychopathy is a real condition or a convenient but compelling fiction, is that the majority of psychopaths are not criminals, rather far more often dangerous and destructive captains of industry, denizens of Wall Street, steel and shipping magnates, high-achievers at work in all sectors of society who share, in varying degrees, a panoply of extreme characteristics.

Sound familiar?

One thing that Olbermann is right about: Dr. Hare’s list of symptom and behavorial clusters unique to the psychopath puts President Donald J. Trump right up there in the Pantheon of Dangerous Psychopaths, and therefore by my reckoning, the first one in history to be President of the United States.

Something Dr. Hare brought to the fore is the fact that psychopaths are like chameleons and often difficult to spot and identify.

The PCL-R test contains two parts: a semi-structured interview protocol and a thorough review of the subject’s biography and any other information accessible to the clinician that he or she deems relevant.

During an interview (a technique characterized by sequential questioning of the subject) the clinician “scores” 20 items that measure different elements of the psychopathic character in an ordered conjugation.

These items cover the nature of the individual’s interpersonal relationships, capacity for emotional involvement, responses to other people and situations, any evidence of social deviance and details to do with lifestyles.

The list of twenty “traits” include superficial charm near charisma, a significant capacity for glibness, grandiose self-estimation, insatiable need for stimulation, pathological lying, cunning and commitment to and acumen for manipulation, lack of remorse or guilt, shallow affect, callousness and lack of empathy, parasitic lifestyle, poor behavioral controls, sexual promiscuity, early behavioral problems, lack of realistic long-term goals, impulsivity, irresponsibility, failure to accept responsibility for one’s own actions, many short term marital relationships, juvenile delinquency, and so on.

One behavioural description I particularly like is “criminal versatility”. (Given what I know of Trump’s biography his life has been a virtuosity of criminal or near-criminal versatility.)
Full-blown psychopaths score between 20 – 30 on this section of the PCL-R. A score of 5 or less rules out the diagnosis. Non-psychopathic criminals tend to score in the high teens and low 20s.

From what I know of psychopaths, and I know (and have written about) more than the average person, this test, if properly administered by a skilled clinician, and the President somehow answered all the questions honestly, (something most people doubt he could or would do) Trump would easily score over 30 points.

 

WHERE PAUL BERNARDO USED TO LIVE – PT III

James_KP-24_Mural in double sized cell

My friend, the great photographer Geoffrey James, was able to get an all-access pass to Kingston Penitentiary, including the Segregation Unit and those cells only moments before occupied by such murderous sexual deviates as Saul David Betesh, Paul Bernardo and Russell Williams.

As with all great art there is precedent and tradition. Prisons are not a common subject in the societal lexicon or dialogue – they should be but they’re not; in photography or in life. But the formidable American shooter Danny Lyon has done it before, in the 1960s.

In Lyon’s case, he somehow talked his way into a number of operating prisons in Texas and got loose on the ranges and among the work crews. The results are quite remarkable. Not so easy getting access here. As Geoffrey is quick to point out, “Americans are different, they have no shame.”

Years ago, shortly before it was scheduled to close, Geoffrey tried to talk Eastern State Penitentiary officials in Philadelphia into a similar project but the vagaries of bureaucratic thinking denied him the necessary timely permissions and, as Geoffrey also said to me “once they say no, it’s forever.”

“So the trick this time was to never let anyone say no.”

Ironically, Eastern State, transformed into a successful tourist attraction, now encourages everyone to bring a camera. Bringing his camera, a digital Leica Rangefinder and taking pictures inside Eastern State now would be completely pointless for James. The part Geoffrey needed to capture is gone. Very soon after an institution like a prison or an asylum closes, it irrevocably changes and thereafter, “it too is gone forever.”

In a process that is somewhat magical what was once a Gothic house of horror becomes a tourist trap and just as they arrive in droves at Frank Lloyd Wright’s Fallingwater so to do tourists attend prisons like Eastern State and the Ohio State Reformatory (the 250,000 square-foot facility where “The Shawshank Redemption was shot in 1994) by the tens of thousands. Snapping pictures is what tourists do; it is not what Geoffrey James does.

Geoffrey has well learned over the years what all good investigative journalists know: “Never rush in and get a no.”

Chains of command must be learned. There are far more people in a bureaucracy that can say “no” than “yes. You have to know, literarily and figuratively, from whom you are seeking permission and what they may require to say “yes”.

In Geoffrey’s case he found his way to the right Regional Commissioner of Corrections, who he understood to have been the warden of the Kingston Prison For Women (K4W) where Karla Homolka was housed for the first 4 years of her sentence. It was similarly closed by the correctional authority for good when the last prisoner was transferred out in May 2008. The walls have been demolished and the property now belongs to Queen’s University.

The Commissioner understood implicitly what Geoffrey meant when he said the work had to be done immediately before the renovators moved in, while the laundry is still undone, because once closed and tampered with, the prison part of the facility evaporates.

She was predisposed to Geoffrey’s project because she knew exactly what he meant when he talked about evanescence and immediacy, to get in and start shooting right away even before all the prisoners had been relocated.

A prison is evacuated according to the incarcerated individual’s assessed risk level – the most dangerous first the least last. There are other considerations but that is the main criteria.

Some of the portraits of the inmates that were still there waiting to be moved (to where God and the prison authority only knows) are among the most haunting in the book.

Change is very difficult for the institutionalized – think about Brooks (James Whitmore) the old con in The Shawshank Redemption and the most gentle, wise and kind character in the movie.

When released after 50 years, Brooks hangs himself.

Shortly after they learn of Brooks’ fate, contraband smuggling con Red (Morgan Freeman) explains what it means to be “institutionalized” to Brooks’ best friends, fellow con Heywood (William Sadler) and convicted murderer Andy Dufresne (Tim Robbins), the protagonist of this thoroughly compelling picture: “The man’s been in here fifty years. Fifty years! This is all he knows. In here, he’s an important man. He’s an educated man. Outside, he’s nothin’! Just a used up con with arthritis in both hands….These walls are funny. First you hate ’em, then you get used to ’em. Enough time passes, you get so you depend on them.”

The thirty-foot high, 10 foot thick limestone walls of the historic Kingston Penitentiary are those walls

The Shawshank Redemption was filmed on location in the famed Ohio State Reformatory in Mansfield, Ohio. As did Eastern State Penitentiary, the Ohio State Reformatory has been transmuted into a tourist magnet that has helped boost the economy of Manifield and the surrounding counties. Last year, the O.S.R. had 80,000 visitors. The 250,000-square-foot fortress, first opened in 1896, a number of years after the Kingston Penitentiary, has become a state landmark. Today it is as important to the local economies of the three or four surrounding counties as it was when it was a functioning prison.

Geoffrey James new book “Inside” about the historical Kingston Penitentiary has achieved his goal. All kinds of institutional cruelty as well as accomplishment, the troubling ambiguity that characterizes North American penal history, is palpable in many of the un-peopled photographs that otherwise appear to be, on the surface, explorations of architectural accents and angles.

It is thoroughly evocative collection that fully captures the spirit of place.

In many of the photographs the claustrophobic cells look like their occupants have just gone out to the canteen. Much of the prisoner’s artwork (some of it truly remarkable,) old-timey pin-ups and newspaper clippings still cling to the walls. Bunks appear just slept in with unlaundered blankets askew. The resulting collection of photographs, captions and short revealing endnote written by James is a disturbing, thought-provoking, completely original narrative that elegizes at the same time as it eulogizes… and indicts.

Fyodor Dostoevsky, the Russian novelist said, “The degree of civilization in a society can be judged by entering its prisons.” That has been my direct experience and its truth is manifest in Geoffrey James “Inside.”

This book of photographs, captions and short essay is exactly what Geoffrey James is all about: Composing narratives with magnificently rendered still photographs that capture both the past and the future.

He did this with his first published collection in 1989. la campagna Romana which appears to be a fine suite of beautifully framed landscape photographs taken with his “primitive, shoe-box panoramic camera.” It is, in fact, about the same thing “Inside” is about: the photographer’s search for something ineffable, in the case of la campagna Romana, the famed Roman countryside and whether it actually still exists.

In the preface to la campagna Romana Geoffrey James says “my journey, rather than leading to any kind of understanding of this landscape, brought only a dawning sense of the labyrinthine complexity of Italian life, of the manner in which the political permeates everything… at Castel di Leva, just south of Rome (Plate 17), I talked with a shepherd’s wife while staring across the GRA at a vast Eurosprawl of radio towers and supermarkets and military barracks – a vision, if ever there was one, of the future of campagna.”

Change a few nouns and verbs the same could be said about “Inside”. It’s about his search for the truth about prison, about it’s soul, no matter how dark, and what it says about our civilization.

Because he sees in this world – as it is immediate and inexorably captured by the lens – another world, perhaps one more real, with some vestige of truth, the one jagged piece of the jigsaw puzzle that allows for a multi-diminsional, integrated apperception. He thinks this might be it and that’s why he bothered.

Greater than the sum of its parts, “Inside” will be published on September 18 by Black Dog Publishing, London, England with support from the Agnes Etherington Art Centre in Kingston, On.

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LIFE ON NUT ISLAND AND SOCIAL AMNESIA – PT. I

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Life on Nut Island

The Boston Marathon bombing: Now there’s a crime that speaks directly to us about the dangerous times in which we live, the inherent growing isolation of the individual in “society,” our perpetual pathological unawareness and psychic blindness, the helplessness of entire law enforcement bureaucracies in the face of one or two renegade lunatics – heavy stuff not the squalid, sordid tragic mess with which I became so entwined, the salacious Bernardo/Homolka saga that consumed ten years of my life and from which I will probably never fully recover.

As usual I’m on about unlearned lessons from Nut Island. My two arrests in 1998 and 2003 and subsequent decade-long prosecutions had nothing to do with “free speech” or “free expression” as many journalists and media-types and writers’ groups conceived – nothing so lofty.

(I was, of course, thankful for the Writer’s Union, PEN’s and CJFE’s and the Human Rights Watch support which was hung on that hook. Any writer in trouble with the police and/or government deserves that support providing they have not robbed a bank or killed their partner.)

Even though my arrests and prosecutions were “personal,” the consequence of a perceived offence that I had, unwittingly or not, levied upon a couple of politically powerful men, still none of it would ever have happened except for a quirk in the space – time continuum, a small “c” classic case of two or three people being in the wrong place at the right time for the wrong reasons.

Neither can anyone draw any survival lessons for the young and innocent from the story I was somehow destined to chronicle in “Invisible Darkness” and “Karla“. What lessons can we teach our daughters from the Leslie Mahaffy and Kristen French abduction, rape and murder?

What is to be garnered from already street-wise and aware teenagers who approached, in Kristen’s case, a late model car with an attractive young couple in a church parking lot in the middle of a sunny afternoon in response to an ask for directions in a city in which people perpetually get lost and constantly ask for directions?

Is the lesson that you never ever talk to a stranger (or stangers) Susie, under any circumstances, regardless how innocent they appear. If some one asks you for directions you must immediately tell them to “fuck off” and run into the nearest house and phone the police?

Or in Leslie Mahaffy’s case: Is the lesson never practice “tough love”; never lock your teenager daughters out of the house in an attempt to teach them lessons? Maybe, but when mothers’ are at their wits’ end, tactics can get weird.

Does a “mistake” like that (if that’s what it is) deserve such an horrific and final restitution? Of course not.

But that would be the sum total of any lessons this reality show the Bernardo’s created conveys: “Don’t lock your daughters out of the house at night.” But what about all the tens of thousands of sons and daughters who don’t care whether their parents’ doors are locked because they long ago decided not to go home at night anyway? It’s a hopeless tautology, and hardly one from which lessons can be drawn.

And are we any closer to understanding psycopaths or sociopaths or whatever term is au current for this fictious character than we were when the figure was first coagulated in that unreadable book “Mask of Sanity” by Hervey Cleckley published 1941? Even if you buy into psychopathy, how does it explain or deter murderous creatures such as Paul and Karla?

There is however a lesson that can be taken from all extreme cases such as the Boston Marathon bombing, Paul Bernardo and Karla Homolka, Amanda Knox and her incarceration in Italy and the arrest and “successful” prosecution and wrongful conviction of the five young men who were convicted of a rape in Central Park ten years ago: The lesson is as unattainable as solid explanations for “Why Hitler“? We must scrap our institutions of law and disorder and start again because they are completely disfunctional and beseiged by a kind of organizational necrotizing fasciitis.

Read about it and watch: I wrote a piece published in Walrus Magazine in 2007 and soon to be released as an electronic long-read called “Life on Nut Island“. Amanda Knox has just published a memoir “Waiting to Be Heard“. And then there is the documentary called “The Central Park Five“?

STRANGERS AND STRANGE ANNIVERSARIES – THE BRITISH ARE COMING!

The French Invasion was followed by the British.

In February 2013 yet another television producer, this time from England, reached out to me. As the French are from the British, Mr. Turner was entirely different than Ms. Ladou. “I’m contacting you from a television production company called Twofour Broadcast based in Plymouth, UK. We make a documentary series called ‘Born to Kill?’ (known as ‘Twisted’ in the US) which is distributed worldwide. We’re currently on the fifth series and looking to focus one of the episodes on the case of Paul Bernardo and Karla Homolka.

“The series ‘Born to Kill?’ tells the stories of some of the world’s most notorious killers through the words of the people that knew them, their victims, and communities best. The central crux of the series is to answer the nature vs. nurture argument – were these killers’ actions determined by violent predispositions they were born with, or a result of upbringing and life circumstances pushing them towards it?

“For previous episodes we have interviewed prosecution and defence from the cases, spouses and family members of the killers, the perpetrators of the crimes, criminal psychiatrists, victims’ family members, and expert journalists, always receiving positive feedback from those involved. Through those that knew the killer and the contemporary social environment best, we question the true impetus and drive of the crimes, rather than glorifying or vilifying as I’m aware many crime documentaries tend to do when focusing on serial killers.

“To help illustrate the kind of documentary we wish to produce on Paul Bernardo and Karla Homolka, you can find a link to a previous episode we have produced in the series on the case of Santa Cruz killer Herbert Mullin here:

As a consequence of my interaction with Mr. Turner and TwoFour which began in November, 2012 and continued over the ensuing four months I sent a missive to to TwoFour’s Chief Executive Charles Wace cc’d to the Managing Directors Mark Hawkins and Melanie Leach, as well as Executive Producer Neil Edwards.

“I am writing you out of sense of frustration and indignation. I am the author of two books on a Canadian crime commonly referred to as the Bernardo/Homolka case. The case has finally caught the eye of the producer(s) of one of TwoFour Groups’ programs ‘Born to Kill’.

“My two books, both published by Random House Group companies are titled ‘Invisible Darkness: The Strange Case of Paul Bernardo and Karla Homolka’ (1997) and ‘Karla: A Pact with the Devil’ (2003). In spite of their age, both continue to sell briskly around the world.

“I own the worldwide broadcast, media and digital rights. I am recognized as the leading authority on this case and the books are rightly considered encyclopedic and definitive. “Virtually everything of any consequence in my books is understood to be proprietary information.

“In November 2012 someone from “Born to Kill” reached out to me and since then, off and on, and since February 2013, very much on, I have participated in a well meaning and open correspondence with one James Turner. Just before I was to be interviewed for the program in Toronto on March 28, Mr. Turner unceremoniously and without explanation cut me loose for want of a better phrase. His note from March 22 read

‘Hi Stephen,

Unfortunately we can’t proceed. Thank you very much for your correspondence but the schedule has changed and we’re no longer able to go ahead with the meeting and the interview.

Thanks again for your interest,

James’

“It was obviously the decision of whoever is the exec producer for this segment “Born to Kill” to exclude me. I do know that the project is going ahead because I know a number of the people who are scheduled to be interviewed in Toronto and environs from March 27 through to March 31.

“After all the time I was enticed to commit, not to mention the advice and leads I freely provided, the disrespectful and terse manner in which I have been dismissed cannot stand.

“Mr. Turner thanks me for my ‘interest’. It was not my interest in ‘Born to Kill’ it was the producers’ interest in me and my work. I had never heard of ‘Born to Kill’ or TwoFour Studios before I received an email in November 2012 asking me if I would be interested in participating in the program.

“As Mr. Turner said in his first email to me on February 22, 2013 ‘I’ve been reading your fantastic book, Invisible Darkness, which has helped my understanding of the case immensely. As someone who knows the case and has had direct contact with Karla Homolka, I feel you could offer valuable insight into the case and it would be wonderful to hear from you.’

“To my one line reply asking how I might be of service Mr. Turner said ‘We’d love to interview you for the documentary if that is of interest to you. Any advice you could offer for our own research would also be appreciated.’

Then on February 26 he said ‘Looking at our schedule, the crew is planning to be in Ontario from Wednesday 27th of March to Sunday 31st. Are any of these days convenient for you for the sit-down interview?’

“You might want to review the entire correspondence.

“A great deal of my time has been gratuitously wasted. When it came time to negotiate appearance fees and expenses Mr. Turner, with considerable corporate bombast, he gregariously explained, at length, the TwoFour Studio’s nickel and dime policy.

“Thinking your studio honorable and bona fide and in the interest of getting the story right for the European market I reluctantly agreed to the terms for reimbursement for the bare minimum expenses and nothing else. In return for this agreement, obviously considered by Mr. Turner’s superiors as too generous, I was dismissed.

“I was supposed to be in Boston this week and next. Mr. Turner told me unequivocally that I was going to be involved and I believed him. I rearranged my schedule at considerable expense to accommodate the ‘Born to Kill’ crew in Toronto between March 28th and the 31st.”

In the letter I go on to discuss “breach of contract” and “proprietary rights” inherent in copyrighted material: “Because the case was so complicated and so old, it would be virtually impossible for your lawyers or American lawyers and perhaps, today, even most Canadian lawyers (except for the three or four who did the legal work on both my books) to determine the extent of those rights and if they are infringed. It is virtually impossible to do anything substantial on this case without infringement.

“For example, Mr. Turner explained that the guiding narrative for “Born to Kill” series was the nature v. nurture dialectic. If someone in the segment you are cobbling together were to speculate whether Karla was “mad or just bad” that could constitute an infringement of my rights.

“One of the reasons that the Hollywood movie “Karla” was such a disaster is that the director and producer Michael Sellers was compelled to leave half of what he shot on the cutting room floor because he repeatedly infringed my rights.

“Mr. Sellers was also compelled to pay considerable compensation for assuming he could do his project without consultation with me and/or my agents and the bona fide Hollywood producer who at that time owned the motion picture rights which have since reverted to me. We found it remarkable that Mr. Sellers actually shot his entire movie either thinking that we would not notice or “naively” assuming that no one would raise objection. It is a testament to Mr. Sellers level of competence and his standing within the motion picture and television community that he did.

“For example, one of the things Mr. Sellers had to leave on the cutting room floor was a character based on Dr. Hans Arndt and the entire narrative sub-plot of his controversial, complicated relationship with Karla.

“Dr. Arndt’s relationship, opinions and assessments do not exist anywhere else other than in my books because I had an exclusive arrangement and agreement with him and he died years ago, tragically, a very youthful and fit 60-year-old, without ever speaking to anyone else about the case.

“If you require any more information, I will be happy to provide it. I look forward to your response,

“Sincerely, Sw

STRANGERS AND STRANGE ANNIVERSAIRIES – PART II

2009_0303stehenscamera0038I’ll come back to the woman from France and how that played out.

This past Friday, February 15, 2013 I got an email from the crime reporter for Global Television, Catherine McDonald. Catherine told me something that I could hardly believe: It was the 20th anniversary of Paul Bernardo’s arrest. The problem is, for me, it happened yesterday. I was sitting in my studio reading a long newspaper report about Bernardo’s arrest. Deep in the copy it said that Bernardo was married to a young woman from St. Catharines. I jotted down a note to a couple of publishers I knew. It asked who this young wife was and what she was doing all the while Bernardo was out allegedly raping and pillaging? I fashioned it as a book proposal and faxed it off. (Was there email in 1993? If there was it was not ubiquitous – the obsolete fax was the fastest medium). It was Sunday. By Monday evening I had a book deal.

This compression of time (and space, because there is very much a spatial aspect to memory) can be discombobulating. Further, I sense there is some kind of renaissance of interest in the Paul and Karla cases, as though they are perpetually going through generational rediscovery. (Or else what was the young French woman at my door?) This is curious to me because there are no heroes in that seaweed and there are no lessons to be learned from the tragic expression of Paul and Karla’s darkest natures. For some one who was fully prepared to move on and never think about any of the details again by early winter 1998, I found myself parroting Michael Corleone in “Godfather III”: “Just when I thought I was out… they pull me back in!”

On the upside, I have noticed a decided up tick in the sales of my books in both in Canada and the United States which is something quite remarkable given that “Invisible Darkness: The Horrifying Case of Paul Bernardo and Karla Homolka” was published 15 years ago and “Karla: A Pact with the Devil” in 2003 – 2004. At any rate, Catherine wanted me to do a “hit” – give her a comment or two on camera. She said she was at the courthouse covering some current malfeasance – I think it was the anesthesiologist who is alleged to have sexually assaulted dozens of female patients after he put them under for various surgeries over the past dozen years.

Canadians seem to have a purchase on the most peculiar and bizarre crimes – I have never heard of anything like the crimes this doctor is accused of perpetrating in any other country in the world; similarly there is no series of crimes so deviant and peculiar as those Colonel Russell Williams confessed to, not to mention Paul and Karla’s trespasses, unique, as far as I know, in the annals of criminal behavior.

Catherine explained that Paul Bernardo’s erstwhile defense lawyer John Rosen was conveniently in the courthouse defending some other miscreant and had agreed to say something and she thought I would make the ideal counterpart.

Catherine is a vivacious and persuasive woman who just happens to be married to a good friend of mine, Adrian Montgomery, and she is also eight-and-a-half months pregnant. Although I really have never had any particular interest in Paul Bernardo who I’ve always seen as a callow pawn in Karla’s game, a kind of fern bar habitué gone very wrong, it’s hard to say no to Catherine. However, when she found out I was at the farm and did not intend to come into Toronto that day, as I had indicated to Adrian I was going to be earlier in the week – I believe I said to him “I am going to be at Ciao (the Yorkville bar and eatery where the partisans gather every Friday evening in Toronto,) come Hell or high water, on February 15.” For emphasis I said “I’m a third generation Torontonian. My grandfather had a butcher shop at the corner of Eglinton and Spadina; legend has it I was born on the loading dock of Marty Millionaire’s at the corner of Queen and Parliament. (See Sandra Martin’s profile in “Toronto Life,” October 2004) The fact that I don’t have a pied-a-terre in the city and the mobility to come and go as I please is a tragedy of epic proportion: Diligently working to rectify that situation – it’s what keeps me going.”

I meant what I said except my beloved paramour Marsha Boulton and I had been traveling for a couple of days, visiting old friends who own wineries in the Niagara Peninsula and Marsha was tired and did not feel like a trip to the city and she trumps Hell and high water.

Catherine said she could not possibly come up to the farm – there was simply no time – she had to have the piece done and finished for Global’s six o’clock news broadcast and hung up.

When I told Marsha about Catherine and the anniversary of Paul Bernardo’s arrest she was willing to make an exception so I called Catherine back and made arrangements to meet her at the Global studios as soon as I could get there – which would probably be around 4:00 PM. That would work.

With no time to indulge any nostalgia – I’m not much for nostalgia anyway but 10 years involvement in the morass that became the Bernardo and Homolka disaster for me, it is sometimes hard to stave off, we hurriedly packed, kept our reservation at the Metropolitan Hotel and furiously made a rather uneventful 2 1/2 hour drive. We arrived at the studios on Barber Green at about 4:10PM.

I saw the piece at 11:30 PM in our hotel room that night. I was on air for about 25 seconds. Rosen got 40. It wasn’t profound but it was nostalgic.

DEVIANCE AND THE 2012 PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION – PT II

As Maureen Dowd points out in her column today (Sunday, November 11, 2012) “Mitt Romney is president of white male America… a patriarchy… so hardcore, so redolent of country clubs and cadillacs, it made little effort not to alienate women.” (Romney is President) This isn’t the era of “Mad Men” but Romney and his people think it is. She points out that the election had the biggest gender gap in the history of the Gallop poll.

Obama won the vote of single women by a whopping 36 percentage points. So it was not the so-called “waitress moms”(Crucial Subset: Female Voters Still Deciding) – the pollster’s phrase that sounds very much like something made up in the offices of “Mad Men” – – who were stupid or out of touch – they understood that Obama inherited what I previously described as “the Titanic of all economies” from two of the whitest patriartic males in American history, George W. Bush and Dick Cheney; that it wasn’t “Obama’s debt” as Mitt Romney insisted on calling it, rather America’s debt, and clearly knew all too well that the real travesty in American society and culture were the out of touch minority white males’ sense of entitlement and narrow insularity.

It wasn’t the 47 percent that always vote for Obama who are (according to Mitt) “dependent on government, who believe they are victims, who believe the government has a responsibility to care for them;” the people about whom it is not Mitt Romney’s job to “worry about” who are stupid, lazy and out-of-touch, rather Mitt Romney and his tribe of white, male strategists and politicos.

That 47 percent knew that a man who changes his position like most of us change our underwear could not be trusted. They knew that Romney was “faking it.” So did the single women, the “waitress moms” out there, with less than $50,000 in household incomes and therein lay Romney’s fate to be known for what he was, a faker and a Gekko. He wanted to be president so badly he could taste it.

It was Romney and his people who turned out to be the lazy ones, the ones for whom research and fact-checking meant nothing. It is they who are the victims and now, nothing but an historical footnote, if that. I had never heard of Mitt Romney before this election unleashed him on the world. He’s been vanquished along with the venal Karl Rove and the oleaginous billionaires for whom he was the Republican shill. Good riddance. Unfortunately, the Gordon Gekkos out there still run the world. To think that Obama can do anything about that is naïve. But now, at least, he has a mandate to show everyone what he can do and let’s hope that he will take the power that has been invested in him as an agent of change to do just that; change America and therefore the world, for the better. It’s time for him to exercise his “executive privilege” and stop trying to get consensus and cooperation. It’s impossible to work with people who have shown themselves prepared to resort to any means necessary to rid themselves of him and everything he stands for. It did not work over the first four years and now that the Republicans and surprise, recalcitrant and humiliated, it certainly won’t work over the next four. Reason does not work with the unreasonable. Hopefully that is the lesson that Barack Obama has taken from this public rejection of the Republican’s deviance by the “waitress moms” and that 47 percent who together wisely put him back in office.

DEVIANCE AND THE 2012 PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION

I must say that watching Mitt Romney during this election campaign and in the three debates was both fascinating and repulsive, very similar to the reaction I had to Gordon Gekko, the oleaginous hedge fund manager impeccably invoked by Michael Douglas in Oliver Stone’s blockbuster “Wall Street.”

Gekko was one of serial rapist and schoolgirl killer Paul Bernardo’s heroes. He had a number of Gekko’s aphoristic declarations such as “Greed is Good” pasted on his bedroom wall.

I point this out in passing only because most people who are following or come to this blog only know me as the author of Invsible Darkness: The Strange Case of Paul Bernardo and Karla Homolka and Karla: A Pact with the Devil.

Set in present day Wall Street in 1987 Gordon Gekko was a harbinger. He said “The richest one percent of this country owns half our country’s wealth, five trillion dollars.” (Ah, those were the good old days when the numbers were almost fathomable.)

Gekko continued in his inimitable vein: “One third of that comes from hard work, two thirds comes from inheritance, interest on interest accumulating to widows and idiot sons and what I do, stock and real estate speculation. It’s bullshit. You got ninety percent of the American public out there with little or no net worth. I create nothing. I own. We make the rules, pal. The news, war, peace, famine, upheaval, the price per paper clip. We pick that rabbit out of the hat while everybody sits out there wondering how the hell we did it. Now you’re not naive enough to think we’re living in a democracy, are you buddy? It’s the free market.”

Mitt Romney channels Gordon Gekko. In 1987 he was doing in real life what Gekko was doing on the big screen – hedge fund managing.

Twenty-five years later at a private $50,000 per person private fundraiser in Boca Raton on May 17, 2012, Romney/ Gekko said “There are 47 percent of the people who will vote for the president no matter what. All right, there are 47 percent who are with him, who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe the government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you-name-it – that that’s an entitlement. And the government should give it to them. And they will vote for this president no matter what. … These are people who pay no income tax. … [M]y job is not to worry about those people. I’ll never convince them they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives

Doesn’t anyone know a Gekko when they see one?

Does anyone other than other One Precent-ers and 1%-er wannabes want to see a man like Mitt in the Oval Office?

I can understand that the Captains of Industry would vote for a Gekko because he is one of their own and it would be amusing to have unfettered access to a cronie’s corridor of power but I have no idea what appeals to the other 46% that Romney believes will vote for him.

Presumably, there are the 47% who are, according to Romney, going to vote for the President “no matter what.” These are, in Romney’s estimation, freeloaders. According to Romney and his camp, 47% of all Americans who vote “are dependent upon government,” “believe that they are victims,” “believe the government has a responsibility to care for them,” “believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you-name-it” In the Republican parlance these and other staples of life are derisively referred to as “entitlements”

What I don’t get is who are the 46% of American voters who apparently think like Romney and his cohorts that he can take their votes for granted. Never mind that the majority of these Romney supporters are well-to-do, God-fearing, bigoted white males. What else is new? I don’t get the attraction but it is a fact.

What both sides acknowledge is what the pollsters tell them – about 6-9% of the remaining voters remain undecided.

Since 1996 we have transitioned from the “soccer mom,” to the “security mom”post-9/11 to the present day “waitress mom” and they are the ones that are going to tip the scales and decide the election.

According to the pollsters and their researchers these are blue-collar white women who did not go to college and live on less than $50,000 per annum. They are not necessarily loyal to either party but right now, according to media reports, they favor a candidate who leads a party that believes all forms of social security and “entitlements” must be slashed, that only one God is great and that abortion should not be legal no matter what the circumstances.

As the Republican candidate from Indiana Richard Mourdock recently said, “even when life begins in that horrible situation of rape, that is something God intended to happen.” There are ads currently running in Indiana that clearly show Mourdock has Romney’s full endorsement. Romney hasn’t asked for an apology or censured Mourdock or rescinded his support. So while Romney may say many things behind closed doors and occasionally even in front of them, the real Mitt Romney peeks out. Read for yourselves: “Crucial Subset: Female Voters Still Deciding“- and “Mourdock’s Comments Pose Dilemma for Romney“.

Just because a person is white, female, uneducated and makes less money than $50,000 does not mean they are stupid does it? Surely they would not vote for men and a political party that maintains the kinds of attitude and holds the beliefs that Romney and Mourdock do? If they did it would be for me another one of those “abiding mysteries.” A very wise and rich friend of mine once told me that if I could not understand another person’s behavior it was simply because they, and their behavior are stupid.

This subset of “waitress moms” represented 9 percent of all voters in 2008 and voted for Obama. If they were there in 2008, in the same position they are now, how can Obama be held responsible for the fact they are still uneducated and make less than $50,000 a year? He inherited the Titanic of all economies – one that had hit the iceberg and was headed to the ocean floor – fast – an economy as bad as The Great Depression’s, which, as every sentient being on the planet knows was the result of the Bush/Cheney Administration’s war mongering and profligate unbridled spending preceded by Reagan’s sweeping changes to regulatory policies that affected how banks and investment firms could do business.

The American economy is starting to turn around, jobs are coming back and Obama’s policies and actions are the only reason this is happening because it ain’t happening in Europe where such austere economic tactics as those Romney espouses are in full force.

As Nicholas Kristof wrote in the New York Times recently “If you want to see how Romney’s economic policies would work out, take a look at Europe. And weep.” “Romney’s Economic Model

Unlike Mr. Romney, President Obama actually has a plan for moving onward and upward. Like I said, educated or not, a certain percentage of Americans appear to be stubbornly entrenched (i.e. stupid) in certain political doctrines and religious beliefs that are bigoted and exclusionary. How else to explain that almost half of the decided voters really want a Gekko like Romney in the White House, a man not nearly as principled or as enlightened in certain crucial areas as was George W. Bush and look at what he wrought.

It is frightening to think that the fate of this once great nation is in the hands of a subset called “waitress moms” who, by the way, are not necessarily either waitresses or mothers but rather an educational, gender and income classification of professional pollsters.

One would really think that these women would fear Romney the way women in the Niagara Peninsula once feared Paul Bernardo and Karla Homolka. Not so. As the Times’ article reports a women named Ashley Delpidio is going to vote Romney. She is 26, works in customer service for a health insurance company and says “‘I’m a woman so obviously I believe in women’s rights’ but for her the economy is the overriding concern and she believes that Romney would do better at creating jobs.”

Not an opinion shared by Nobel-Prize winning economist and New York Times columnist Paul Krugman who wrote in a recent column “Snow Job on Jobs” Mr. Romney “doesn’t have a plan; he’s just faking it. In saying that, I don’t mean I disagree with his economic philosophy; I do, but that’s a separate point. I mean instead, that Mr. Romney’s campaign is telling lies:” This isn’t partisanism, it’s called fact checking.

If Romney is elected he will immediately tear down whatever support “waitress moms” now have. They can kiss Planned Parenthood, Big Bird and most importantly Medicaid goodbye. Again, read Krugman on Medicare and what Romney so derisively calls Obamacare: “Death by Ideology.”

Not to mention two of the most important and success initiatives the Obama Administration has put in place: the “Race to the Top” programs in education and transportation. See Tom Friedman’s recent column “Obama’s Best Kept Secrets.”

You would only not know that a Romney lead Republican government would immediately kill all these and other many important and effective programs that the Obama administration has initiated during it’s first four years if you were blind, deaf and dumb.

If I can see all this clearly from here, how is it that this subset of 9 percent of voters in America cannot? Is it a trees for the forest phenomenon? Social amnesia? Stupidity? A recent Romney TV ad featured a young woman telling her newborn: “Dear Daughter. Welcome to America. Your share of Obama’s debit is over $50,000.”

Are Americans so gullible that they do not see right through this glib stuff? Firstly, it’s not Obama’s debt, it’s America’s. Secondly, the Obama administration did not create it, Gekkos named Bush and Cheney did. Can it really be that uneducated white women who earn less than $50,000 a year have the fate of America in their hands? I guess we’ll find out on Election Day.