On Pavlovitz, Positivity, Privilege – and the Bossa Nova


by Roxanne Tellier

John Pavlovitz is a writer, pastor, and activist from Wake Forest, North Carolina, who has a wonderful site called, ‘Stuff That Needs To Be Said.’

john pavlovitzMost of his posts are essentially sermons that could be just as easily spoken from a pulpit as read from your tablet. Pavlovitz asks the hard questions of those who consider themselves Christian – what kind of person does the world need right now? And what are you prepared to do to help?

His views are not radical, or at least, they weren’t radical until this current administration began to mutate the basic tenets of Christian beliefs into something unrecognizable.

golden rule

Pavlovitz is a good man, and well able to put into plain words the confusion so many feel in seeking to make sense of the ugliness that suffuses so much of the United States (and Canada) in 2019.

On ‘thoughts and prayers,‘ “As a Christian and pastor I have no aversion to prayer, but in the face of injustice and suffering, prayer without behavior change or measurable movement isn’t something I’m all that interested in. Whether religious or not, heroic people move from burden to action, from heart to hand; they evolve from simply feeling empathy to tangibly expressing compassion. The people who are the difference makers don’t wait for someone else to stand up to corrupt power or oppose unjust legislation or advocate for people who are hurting so that they can join in — they stand up and oppose and advocate regardless of the cost.”

On the rush of Evangelicals to proclaim Trump and his presidency as God’s anointed, he says, “Christians need to stop passing the buck to God, and just own the compromises and sick bedfellows they’ve been willing to make for Supreme Court seats, anti-abortion legislation, weapon stockpiling, and a rapidly assembling white Evangelical theocracy. Stop namedropping God.”

In his most recent post, he responded to many of his followers who enjoy reading his heartfelt prose, but wish he could just lighten up a little. You know – insert a few gifs of playful puppies and kittens into his discussions of how best to deal with an administration hell bent on dehumanizing anyone whom they consider less than themselves, and who dismiss any sort of bipartisan pushback with vile, toxic, rebuttals that further tear their nation apart.

Been there.

It had never occurred to me that being able to dismiss anything that disturbs your little world is a privilege. But it is. If you’re the tiny snotty-nosed kid at the border, wearing dirty diapers that you’ve had on for days, sucking on a bottle that hasn’t been washed in weeks, you don’t have a lot of time to smell the roses. And if you’re a mother who has to worry every time her black skinned son leaves the house, that you may never see him again because some white cop ‘feared for his life’ and shot him for no reason … you may get a little testy when you are told to ‘smile,’ because it makes some stranger happier.

https://johnpavlovitz.com/2019/07/06/the-privilege-of-positivity/

Positive thinking is pretty easy when you’re in the In Club, when your work is appreciated, and when you make a decent or maybe even a good buck. It’s a lot harder when you feel like the whole world is against you .. because it is.

In just two years, the trump administration has managed to completely change America’s attitude towards immigrants and refugees, and in the process, to further step up what seems to be an innate fear and loathing of people of colour.

statue of liberty

While there were always a few hard liners who hated ‘foreigners,’ most people understood that there are only three kinds of Americans on American soil – colonists, immigrants, and Native Americans. Every American’s ancestors came from somewhere else, all the way back to the first settlers, who were lucky they weren’t greeted with the same hatred and cruelty that this current crop of asylum seekers is facing.

Americans used to know that. And they used to know that the people who bagged their groceries, cooked their meals, tended their kids or their gardens, and worked in the jobs that others thought below them, were just the newest wave of those who flocked to America for the chance of a better life.

They used to know that immigrants were actually less likely to commit crimes than white male domestic citizens, and that, until they were given some kind of approved and official status, immigrants could not access any social benefits.

immigrant alternative factsImmigrants are the lifeblood of America. Without the influx of striving, determined workers, America would eventually fade away, as each generation has less children than the one before. It is immigrants who make it possible for Americans to retire – it is the taxes they pay that enable the country to prosper.

In just two years, America has gone from being the ‘shining city on the hill’ to a place where immigrant babies are caged, the Attorney General acts as a personal lawyer for the president AGAINST a Supreme Court decision, and Independence  Day is co-opted as nothing but a re-election rally for a man who spits on Constitutional norm, and needs military parades to keep his ego from sagging. 

july 4 2019

This is a process called ‘normalization.’ Every day we need to tweak our definition of ‘normal’ just enough to get thru another 24 hours without screaming or running around like our hair is on fire. We are constantly normalizing, rationalizing, bringing things down to somewhere near ordinary, just so that we can accept the new status quo and live a semi regular life.

So, I must ask you – in the face of this “new normal,” what does it mean to ignore the abuses of elected officials in our meeting places, just so that we appear to be ‘positive’ and acting in a societally approved manner?

Is it being cynical to believe that those in power have only their own best interests at heart? To see that those who cannot “afford” to give immigrant children soap or toothpaste can somehow find $102 million under the couch cushions to spend on weekly golf vacations, and another $92 million to throw a parade/party to celebrate their own selves?

Or is it perhaps far more cynical to believe that the marginalized, the homeless, the asylum seekers … those who are being hurt, demonized, or treated unfairly because of their birth place, sexuality, or lack of money ….. have ‘only themselves to blame’?

Do those who victim blame really believe that the victims have done something – intentionally or not – to deserve the pain?

If a kneejerk reaction to hearing about cruelty, unfairness, inequality, and the abuse of power is to instinctively blame the victim, who is the real cynic? Is it the one who rails against brutality, or the one who believes that some people are just not born as equal or worthy as others?

ostrich syndrome

I know that the world seems brighter and happier when we all put on a happy face, but hiding our heads in the sand to avoid the reality of a world heading in a precipitously downward motion doesn’t stop the fall; it just makes the landing a lot more of a painful surprise when the ride inevitably ends.

always take sides

 

………………………………………………….

” João Gilberto Prado Pereira de Oliveira, known as João Gilberto; (10 June 1931 – 6 July 2019), was a Brazilian singer, songwriter, and guitarist. He pioneered the musical genre of bossa nova in the late 1950s, as such, he is sometimes known as the “father of bossa nova”.”

girl from ipanemaJoão Gilberto, 88, pioneered the bossa nova genre, and in so doing, brought a little bit of ‘strange’ to North America that it didn’t know it had been waiting for.

He had an extraordinary life. In 1955, after releasing his first few recordings, his father, who could not grasp his son’s style, and refusal to get a ‘real’ job, had him committed to a mental hospital. He was released after a week, but not before some memorable psychological interviews there.

“Gilberto stared out of the window and remarked “Look at the wind depilating the trees.” The psychologist replied “but trees have no hair, João”, to which Gilberto responded: “and there are people who have no poetry.”

Gilberto soon teamed up with Antonio Carlos Jobim, a composer, producer and arranger with Odeon Records. But is was with his hit single, “Girl from Ipanema,” sung by Astrud Gilberto (his wife at the time,) that he became known in America. His 1964 album Getz/Gilberto with the American saxophone player Stan Getz, sold millions of copies, won several Grammy awards and popularised bossa nova around the world.

Just this morning I read about the meaning of the word, ‘saudade.’ which can be roughly translated as, “a feeling of longing, melancholy, or nostalgia that is supposedly characteristic of the Portuguese or Brazilian temperament.”

chega de saudade

“It is a yearning for one’s childhood, when the days would merge into one another and the passing of time was of no consequence. It is the sense of being loved in a way that will never come again. It is a unique experience of abandon. It is everything that words cannot capture. “ Nina George, The Little Paris Bookshop

“Gilberto began singing at 18. After moving to Rio de Janeiro, he released the record Chega de Saudade in 1959, which marked the beginning of the world-famous bossa nova music style. ” (The Guardian)

And the rest became history. Rest in Peace, Senor Gilberto.

 

The TrumpCamps


by Roxanne Tellier

” If you knew of a child who was being forced by a parent or guardian to sleep on a cold concrete floor, in overcrowded surroundings, with screaming lights always on overhead that made it hard to sleep, had limited access to a bathroom, no way to brush their teeth, no soap and no towel — would you do something? “

That’s the question NPR‘s Scott Simon asked in his latest column. For many Americans under Trump’s spell – the answer is ‘no.’

Trump has always wanted some kind of a monument to celebrate his legacy as president. He wanted a wall … a multi-billion dollar wall … that I’m sure he’d inevitably gild to better reflect what he believes is his own brilliance.

Instead, history will look upon Trump’s administration with revulsion. His sadistic cruelty will give him a singular place of dishonour in a Hall of Infamy, where his actions will place him shoulder to shoulder beside other human monsters.

concentration camp definitionAnd his legacy will be the cries of abused, mistreated babies in concentration camps. The TrumpCamps.        A place where the hopes of the downtrodden, the ‘huddled masses yearning to be free,‘ go to have their dreams beaten out of them.

Trump likes to say that he didn’t start this border policy, that he is only continuing on what President Obama had previously put into place. But, as a man who had told over 10,000 lies by the time he’d been in office for just two years, his words are .. you guessed it .. more lies.

” During the Obama administration, family separations were rare and predicated upon two conditions: whether border officials felt the parents or guardians posed a threat to the children, or whether the adults, under U.S. immigration law, had to be detained based on prior criminal convictions.” (The Los Angeles Times, Scott Martell)

” While it’s true that Obama did, during a 2014 surge in migration, implement wide-scale detention of families, Trump’s administration chose a much harsher path.. As part of a broader border crackdown, Trump instituted a “zero tolerance” policy in April 2018 that called for every illegal entry case to be prosecuted. That policy resulted in thousands of children being separated from their parents before Trump walked it back two months later, amid international outcry, with an executive order. (The ACLU estimates over 700 families have been separated since then due to loopholes in a federal ruling that ordered the Trump administration to reunify separated families.)

While Obama was undoubtedly tough on immigration — his administration still holds the record for most deportations — border officials used discretion during his presidency to determine which illegal crossing cases to prosecute. On the other hand, in April 2018, the Justice Department under then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions instituted a “zero tolerance” policy that called for every illegal entry case to be prosecuted. This resulted in children being separated from parents — even when the parents had done nothing more than try to cross the border.” (Vox.com/June 2019)

And, as Speaker Pelosi recently said, no migrant children died for 10 years prior, but already six are dead under the Trump regime and conditions are worsening.

So let’s address the moral loophole that so many of trump’s followers use to excuse their being complicit in the abuse of children – that the children should suffer, in order to punish the parents, and to deter others from coming to America, because they have ‘broken a law.

Well, crossing the border is actually only a misdemeanor. And asking for asylum, which is what the majority of these families are attempting to do, is a human right. Article 14 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that “Everyone has the right to seek and to enjoy in other countries asylum from persecution.”

And that’s before we even mention that the United States Constitution grants many of the same legal rights to non-citizens and citizens, as does the American legal system, which allows federal prosecutors to use their discretion when deciding whether to prosecute a crime.

But let’s say we do call their pleas for asylum and refuge a crime; at best, it is a misdemeanor. So just how far are you willing to go to punish them for this great ‘crime’?

campingAnd before you answer that … remember that there are other laws frequently broken by pretty much everyone, be they citizen, tourist, or asylum seeker. There are tons of opportunities to commit a misdemeanor in the United States, and maybe you yourself have done so at some time. Things like … buying fireworks, or pot … illegal in many states, federally illegal everywhere. Jaywalking. Cutting down your own tree for Christmas from a National forest. Trespassing on federal lands – if you like mountain biking on the Pacific Crest Trail, you better not have kids; should they choose to prosecution to the fullest extent of the law, the feds could grab them.

It’s very safe to say that the immigration laws, as put into place under Trump by Jeff Sessions, constitute a cruel and unusual interpretation and enforcement of normal border protection. Worse yet, the way they went about putting this quasi-legal abuse into place has only triggered yet more refugees intent on reaching America before the border is closed entirely. This plan has backfired spectacularly.

Perhaps there is a lesser, though just as noteworthy, part of Trump’s disgusting legacy; his perverse twisting of laws in order to thwart the nation’s freedom, rights, and democracy itself, and the gross, self-serving, monsters who rush to enforce his bidding.

Can you possibly imagine the logic used by this woman, as she attempts to argue that babies, toddlers, children, and parents really have no need for soap, a toothbrush and toothpaste, a towel, or even a bed? I can only believe that there are twisting worms and maggots in her skull that have replaced whatever brain she had prior to this court appearance.

Considering what private contractors are being paid to house the refugees – it’s around $750, per day, per person – it is hard to believe the contractors cannot afford to keep the children safe and sanitary.

For the private corporations driving this incarceration, the millions are rolling in, all paid for by the taxpayers. For just a little idea of what this is costing, consider that Comprehensive Health Services Inc., a private company based in Cape Canaveral, were paid $50.7 million to cover the costs of keeping 1,000 migrant kids warehoused between February 22 and July 6, 2019. Pretty sweet money for less than five months work.

And yet, government officials have blamed detention facilities lack of amenities on Congress’ not yet having passed an emergency funding package of almost $3 billion.

The sad truth is that “Money isn’t keeping guards from allowing people to access toilets,” she said. “Money isn’t causing guards to take clothing and medicine away from children.” Nope, it’s not the money that makes them sadists – they already were, and cruelty has always been the point of these camps.

just doing my jobThis lack of human kindness is a vile enough comment on the lack of compassion being shown to these refugees. It’s so vile that journalist and author Michael Scott Moore, once held captive by Somali pirates, noted that the pirates at least gave him soap and a toothbrush. Trump’s administration treats migrants more harshly than Somali pirates do their hostages.

And Trump has the nerve to call other countries ‘third world shitholes.’

Despite the continual gaslighting around the existence and conditions of these camps, we are slowly beginning to understand the depth of the perverse cruelty implicit in how they are being run.

for profit child abuse detention centresWhile the administration attempted to deny, in the beginning, that children were being separated from their families, it soon became clear that this separation was not only a key part of Sessions’ brutal orders, but that the staff and guards of the camps had no interest in the well being of the kids, nor had they any intention of ensuring that the children could at some point be reunited with their families. There were no records kept, even as the youngest of babies, just a few months old, were torn from their mothers’ breasts and put into freezing centres with no facilities to properly care for the children.

No identifying marks. No paperwork. Not even a tattoo, temporary or permanent, to ensure that these little ones would be able to see their parents again. That’s not how you treat immigrants, it’s how you treat children and adults whom you intend to enslave, or to use for sexual trafficking or as human guinea pigs. Without a paper trail, these asylum seekers were more likely to be raped or murdered by the Customs and Border Patrol than they were by the coyotes who preyed upon them on their long trek.

The horror stories of shocking neglect and incompetence by the staff that have come out in the last few weeks should be enough to break the heart of anyone not made of stone. In one case, four toddlers under the age of three … two year old babies! … were so severely neglected and sick that lawyers had to force … FORCE … the government to hospitalize the children, less they die in the camp.

“One 2-year-old’s eyes were rolled back in her head, and she was “completely unresponsive” and limp, according to Toby Gialluca, a Florida-based attorney.
She described seeing terror in the children’s eyes.

“It’s just a cold, fearful look that you should never see in a child of that age,” Gialluca said. “You look at them and you think, ‘What have you seen?’”

The camps are hellholes, and conditions are so unsanitary that the sites are ripe for tuberculosis, dysentery, or Durchfall, a disorder of the digestive system caused by improper and inadequate food. In fact, many babies and toddlers are already refusing food and water, as they are too frail to keep anything down.

manafort vs kids in campsWould you call the police if you knew that thousands of children were being held in cold, cramped, filthy and uncomfortable circumstances? Would you have the guts to report that the facilities where they are kept are riddled with flu and lice outbreaks, and the cells are so crowed that children and babies sleep on the floor, on a mat, beside an open toilet?

The lawyers that visited the Texas camp last week were sickened by the neglect and visibly filthy conditions, and appalled at the lack of proper adult supervision. The Associated Press report said that the site lacked adequate food, water or sanitation inside, and described teen mothers and other younger kids being asked to care for infants and toddlers on their own.

Conditions are ripe for the spread of contagious diseases like scabies, boils, rashes, and abscesses that result mostly from vitamin deficiency and infections. While some may argue that these camps are just holding places, not the death camps of World War Two, once the dominoes of illness begin to fall, death will certainly sweep through these grossly unsanitary centres.

everyone deserves kindnessI have often been accused of being too kind-hearted. I don’t know if that is true, but I do know that I believe in treating every living creature with respect and kindness. I see neither of those being offered to the children of the camps.

Instead, Trump is now using the most sickening and gruesome accounts of this sadistic treatment of babies and asylum seekers as a rally point in his election stomping. He’s actively encouraging a blood lust in his fans, whipping up the worst qualities of these people who can only make themselves feel bigger by seeing others as smaller.

trump supporters crueltyTrump plays on that divisiveness. He knows that if he turns his supporters against others, he can get away with his overt sadism and racism. He knows that, no matter how bad things get because of his tax or tariff decisions for his base, and even as he steals away their health care and social security, they treasure his promises to be even crueler to immigrants and those Trump calls his enemies.

This week’s announcement that ‘millions’ of illegal immigrants would be rounded up and deported was just one more action of a leader who is completely out of control and power drunk. The point was to terrorize these families who have long been integrated into American society, but who have not yet attained citizenship, often through no fault of their own. These are your neighbours, the people that care for your children and your sick and elderly, the people who work in your gardens and fields. They are the citizens least likely to commit crimes, and most likely to be drastically underpaid, which keeps the price of goods and services low for other Americans.

Just before giving the order to begin the round up, Trump decided to postpone the show — and put it back on the road for the July 4th weekend, a weekend once dedicated to the celebration of ‘life, liberty, and the American Way.

Could there be a more fitting cap to his legacy of terror, detention, cruelty, and horrific neglect? Only he could turn America’s birthday into a day that will go down in infamy as a day filled with terror and the cries of the innocent.

When, inevitably, the pendulum swings back, and Trump has become history, I foresee a day when being called a “Republican” will have the same cachet as being called a “Nazi,” and the name “Trump” will be as reviled as that of “Hitler.”

That day cannot come soon enough.

trumpcamp

 

Building Tiny Bomb Shelters for Fun and Profit


by Roxanne Tellier

wrong week to stop huffing glueEver have the feeling that you picked the wrong decade to try to get and stay healthy, focused, connected and relatively substance free? 

I’m telling you – I wish they’d narrow down the date of the Apocalypse, because I am totally prepared to return to smoking and drinking if it’s in the relatively near future. Heck, I’d probably be up for heroin or crack, if I knew I wouldn’t be around to pay the physical price for indulging.

grumpy cat RIP

Even Grumpy Cat couldn’t take this world any more. Oh, sure, they said the poor kitty had complications from an infection, but I’m gonna bet the tiny feline just couldn’t take another day of Trump.

And who could blame him?  Constant distractions, disruptions, lying, and a continual, unending chaos at the highest levels of government are what we wake up to every morning. Settled law has become unsettled. The relatively established ground of how our nearest and dearest will react to the next political landmine has turned to quicksand.

Just when you thought politics had hit rock bottom, you read that the sales of shovels and pick-axes continue to rise. And is that the sound of digging you hear?

These times are just too … interesting.

We read the gloomy predictions of climate catastrophe, follow the bouncing stock market ball, and wonder if there’s still time to build a tiny bomb shelter (because .. property rates are INSANE!) before a nuclear war erupts in a country near us.

When the rules by which you’ve been playing the game of Life are suddenly changed, for whatever reason, it can feel like a chasm has opened beneath your feet, exposing a yawning maw of emotional lava. And it can really mess you up. It’s exhausting, pretending to be a functioning adult.

types of depression

When I recently posted on Face book that I was too depressed to spend as much time on social media as I had in the past, I was surprised at how many people responded to the post, saying that they were feeling the same way.  Social media, which started as a nice way to pass the time with friends, has, in some cases, become a hive of pandemonium, where even the simplest statement can escalate in a heartbeat into a challenge to pistols at dawn.

some men just want to watch the world burnWe are angry and disillusioned with our fellow humans. We wonder how people whom we have known for decades could find it in themselves to vote for the Trumps and Fords of the world.

I have been in this place before, this dark corridor of tears and fear. I had a terrible, deep, and long lasting depression nearly two decades ago. It was soon after the events of 9/11 in the United States, and coincided with several personal events that caused within me a perfect storm of melancholy.

I spent months hiding in the basement, lying on a folding lounge chair, drinking myself into oblivion, trying to come to terms with a world that no longer made sense to me. I finally confessed my inability to cope to my doctor, and he sent me off to a psychiatrist, who was of very little help. The prevailing attitude was that depression was caused by a chemical imbalance, and thus should be easily curable if/when the right combination of chemicals were applied to the problem. In my case, his chemicals could not fix me – ultimately, I had to fix myself, unaided.

I am strong but tired fibroWe know now that a chemical imbalance is just one small segment of any study of depression disorder and mental illness; not every problem can be cured by pills. Some sufferers will need time, some will need counselling, and some will simply wake up one morning to discover that their pain has grown a hard callus over their broken heart.

What often drives a deep depression is a reaction to our present reality, and a feeling of being helpless to control our own lives in relation to that reality. It is, some say, a sense of loss, of grieving the person you once were, because you are now dealing with a very different present, and in so doing, have become a very different person, one whom you may occasionally find unrecognizable, or even unlovable.

Some, who live relatively unexamined lives, are better equipped than others to deal with extreme changes to their personal landscapes; with minor changes to their own belief systems, they can readily adjust to the ‘new rules’ that are imposed upon them by those who make and enforce the laws of their country.

one third will watch one third killHistory is filled with stories of people who stood by and watched horrific – but legal – acts be committed by those who created and enforced the laws of the land. It wasn’t that they were born to be bad people, per se .. it was that they were capable of ‘going along to get along’ … to watch without interfering, and to keep silent so that they themselves were not the next to be persecuted.

 

It is simply a truth that for many, self-preservation will overrule empathy if there’s anything at stake. Like those who cannot understand how others can be anything but regular, old heterosexual until they realize that someone close to them follows a different sexual lifestyle, it’s easiest to name and dismiss others as ‘not our sort’ when you’ve never known what it is that ‘their sort’ believe or practice.

abortion only protects fetusThe draconian new anti abortion laws emanating from Alabama, Mississippi, Georgia, Kentucky and even Ohio, this week, ripe with a stench tinged with the sulphurs of Hell, have left many of us shaken, angry, and defiant in a way I haven’t seen in many months. These almost comically villainous, and decidedly unconstitutional, attacks on the civil rights of 51.8% of the American population were purposely designed to attract a backlash by the ACLU and other groups, in order that the Religious Right might attempt to overturn Roe v Wade, the landmark court case allowing abortions to be performed in the United States.

chastity belts for menRepublicans feel that the time is right to take this battle to the Supreme Court, now that Trump has stacked the Court with his handpicked lackeys.

And in Ontario last week, a very young and barely post-pubescent Conservative member casually shook the same red cape in support of a pro life protest on the grounds of Queen’s Park, where he made the pronouncement that he hoped to make abortion unthinkable in his lifetime.  By so doing, this home schooled and very religious young man unleashed a storm of estrogen-fueled fury unlike anything he could ever have dreamed of provoking.

What most of us, in both the U.S. and Canada, have recently learned is that the right to abortion isn’t actually settled law in the U.S. And in Canada, with 7 out of 10 provinces now ruled by Conservatives, and with a federal election looming that might turn the entire country back to the Right (and somewhere around the 1950s) our own abortion rights might be on the table sooner rather than later.abortion dont' tell me what to do

It is an irony of Alanis Morissette sized proportions that Canada, that ruled in 1967 that ‘there’s no place for the state in the bedrooms of the nation,‘ thereby decriminalizing homosexuality, would now appear to be saying, in 2019, that the state DOES have the right to assert dominance over the uteruses (uteri?) of it’s women.

I won’t lie .. I am pissed. I am really, really REALLY pissed that a battle that so many of us fought for – and won! – back in the 60s is being brought back to life like some stinking, rotting zombie, purely for the tiny percentage of North Americans who, like ISIS, believe that their religious beliefs trump those of the rest of the nation.

I take great comfort in how women and their allies are fighting back this time around. We are not about to be manipulated by guilt as we have been in the past, and we no longer believe that the burden of contraception is completely our responsibility- it takes two to tango, and a lot of not so woke men are about to learn how to dance.

 

Walking-Dead

My only hope is that this desperate attempt by the Religious Right to pull the world back into the Dark Ages only succeeds in demonstrating indelibly and for all time that religion must never, ever, be allowed to trump science and democracy. That way lies dragons.

trump separation of church and state

 

Hiding the Mueller Report Under a Rabbit


by Roxanne Tellier

Happy Easter! Did you find any chocolate in inappropriate places today?

eostreWe’re not religious, nor do we have any little ones in the house, so we just sort of forgot about the whole thing until we tried to buy some milk, and found the grocery store closed Friday.

Christians in the West celebrate Easter somewhere between March 22 and April 25, on the first Sunday after the full moon of the vernal equinox on March 21. This timing, and the halting of capitalism for the day, is brought to you by the pagan Teutonic goddess of the dawn, fertility and spring – Eostre. If that sounds familiar, it’s because her name is the ‘root’ for words like estrogen … the female hormone necessary for fertilization and child bearing.

easter originAs cavemen, we couldn’t be 100% sure that Winter would actually end, or when. The pagan ritual of the Spring Equinox is a celebration of the change and renewed life we yearn for in this season. Early priestesses encouraged worship of Eostre as the symbol for this return.

” Today, pagans continue to celebrate spring and attribute the change of the seasons to the powers of their god and goddess – also portrayed as The Green Man and Mother Earth.”

That’s an irony indeed, since today’s pagans are greatly outnumbered by those who are intent on stripping the earth of all her wealth and beauty, in order to enrich a small number of people.

Ah well, mustn’t grumble. Let’s eat some chocolate and sing along with Deanna Durbin!

Think the timing for the official pre-wash with extra spin cycle of the Mueller Report might have had a little something to do with Easter? As in … hopefully most people will have forgotten about it by the time they get back from their holidays?

….. and how about that Barr, eh?

It seems like only yesterday that I was opining on the wisdom of the official Attorney General of the United States position being a partisan one; surely the top law enforcement office for ALL of the citizens of the United States should be one that rules from a bipartisan stance.

barr is bizarro john goodmanAnd why, oh why, by all that’s holy, does William Barr have to look like a Bizarro World John Goodman?

Following in the footsteps of a president that favours his base over the greater populace, AG Barr came down firmly on the side of Trump, donning kid gloves to handle how the Mueller Report was unveiled, and, like a mum defending her bad widdle boy, provided excuses for the despicable behavior that has irrevocably despoiled the presidential seat, ahead of the actual report outlining those behaviors.

He was shilling for the POTUS like a two bit carny trying to get the punters to buy tickets to see the Gorilla Gorilla Gorilla Grrrrrll.

watergateWorse still, his toadying ensured that the Report only deepened the public distrust of the justice department, while revealing conclusively that the Republican Party is morally and legally bankrupt.

“We have in Mueller’s report a narrative, a timeline narrative, of the cover up by the President and his actions. There’s absolutely no question that this has been a vast Presidential cover up.” says legendary Watergate journalist Carl Bernstein.

trump pres worse than WatergateBernstein, a CNN analyst, cited his former Watergate colleague Bob Woodward’s book Fear: Trump in the White House, in which Woodward reported that former Cabinet officials believed Trump was not acting in the best interests of the United States and was a danger to national security.” (CNN)

And even the legal beagles of FOX (News) were more honest in their comments, if cautious not to bring down the full wrath of the president upon them, than the Republicans in the Senate who are still attempting to defend the indefensible.

napolitanoFox News senior judicial analyst Judge Andrew Napolitano on Thursday noted that there were items in the report that Barr failed to mention during the pre-spin press conference on Thursday morning.

The president—the behavior of the president is immoral, deceptive, and repellent,” Napolitano exclaimed. “But it doesn’t rise to the level of criminality.”

We should be reminded that the worst of the president’s impulses, that would have lead indelibly to criminality, were generally forestalled by unelected, career administration personnel, who had to try and read his rants and determine if he was just blowing off steam, ‘joking,’ or really intended for others to commit criminal acts on his behalf. A master of deception, Trump will never put anything implicating himself in wrong doing in writing – he leaves it for his minions to divine his intent, to carry out his crimes, and then pay the legal price for their loyalty.

 

Well, his previous conduct, and the belief that a sitting president cannot be indicted might have kept him out of jail so far, but the aftermath of the Report’s release may change how he goes forward.

trumpBear in mind … the report only covered the lead up to his inauguration, and his first few months in office. What he’s gotten up to in the two years since then are blowing up the pages of American history on a daily basis.

You’d think by now we’d be inured to his constant threats and bullying. Trump is lashing out, demanding an investigation of the investigators, and causing those who testified against him to fear for their futures. He has called the investigation an illegal witch hunt, and said that “the whole episode was an illegal takedown that failed … and somebody’s going to be looking at the other side.”

mcConnel stopped obama warning about russiaDespite overwhelming evidence that the Russians did, indeed, meddle in the 2016 election to help Trump win the presidency, Trump continues to fight the ghost of his defeated opponent, Hillary Clinton, and now,-incredibly – has begun to blame his predecessor, President Obama, for not stopping the Russian interference, for some nefarious purpose that doesn’t make much sense at all … why would Obama encourage the electoral win of a Republican candidate by allowing a foreign power to influence the outcome? Do you have to be in full blown senile dementia to understand that convoluted contention?

But what now has to be determined is if the Democrats are prepared to pick up the gauntlet that the Report has thrown down.

” In its extensive discussion of the constitutional issues implicated by special counsel Robert Mueller’s 22-month investigation, the report asserts that Congress has the authority to apply law “to all persons – including the President.” Specifically, Congress may “protect its own legislative functions against corrupt efforts designed to impede legitimate fact-gathering and lawmaking efforts.” The authority to prohibit a president’s corrupt use of power, the report finds, is essential to “our constitutional system of checks and balances and the principle that no person is above the law.”

The report declines to reach a judgment on whether the president has committed a crime because Mueller views himself as bound by Department of Justice policy against indicting a sitting president. This does not mean that the president has not committed a crime. Indeed, Mueller’s refusal to reach a judgment is based partly on principles of fairness to the president: while people accused of a crime usually have the opportunity to give their story at trial, in this case, when no charges can be brought, the accused has no opportunity to clear his name. Mueller pointedly notes that the sitting president’s immunity, however, would not preclude prosecution “once the President’s term is over or he is otherwise removed from office” — that is, impeached.” (USAToday, 2019/4/21)

And this is where the going is gonna get rough for traditional Democrats. In the past, egregious interferences into Obama’s presidency were largely tolerated, rather than called out as the profound malfeasance McConnell practiced for eight years. This must stop .. right here, and right now … if America is to regain her fading democracy.

The time for the battle is when it presents itself, not somewhere down the road, when the contentious actions have become ‘old news’ and the battle itself appears to be nothing but hurt feelings and the re-treading of old ground.

mcconnell with garlands headThe time to stop McConnell from preventing Merrick Garland’s appointment was in 2016, when it happened. The Democrats assumed they’d win 2016, and ‘fix it in the mix,’ but that political hubris now has America dealing with a Supreme Court and minor courts stacked with Trump loyalists that will impact upon major legal decisions for decades to come.

No, now is the time for the Democrats to show some of the backbone and ‘strong man’ attitude that so many in the United States believe to be the measure of their vigour. This is not the time to ‘go high.’ It’s the time to stand up and fight.

lindsey grahamNo more delicate tippy toeing towards justice, fearful of causing upset. It’s time to roar ahead, just like the Republicans did against Clinton, when they showed that they were prepared to go to the mat over a presidential blow job, to win, no matter the cost. And it worked for them electorally, got them more seats, and moved Lindsey Graham into a position of power he could only have dreamed of before he snatched the media spotlight with his pearl clutching antics.

There has been some talk from moderate Dems that they would like to conduct a few more lengthy investigations before deciding on whether or not to consider impeachment procedures, but in my view, that has the potential of further angering the populace, who are fed up with what looks to them to be a major waste of time and tax payer dollars.

There’s also been talk that it would be smarter, this close to the next election, to focus on positive progression on the health and environmental front, but let’s face it .. ain’t nothing good coming from that as long as Trump has the bullhorn, and his gang of sycophants are blocking any forward movement from the Dems.

Although it IS possible to talk impeachment AND other concerns simultaneously.

civil warSome contrarians are advising that calls for impeachment might lead to a further division of the country, but, apart from the Civil War, it would be hard indeed to find another time in history when the country was so critically divided.

Despite the voluminous material, articles, and books – AND this Report – that have been written outlining the illegalities and corruption of the current administration, those who have drunk the Trump Kool-Aid are not going to change their minds on what they believe. Six more months, another year, of investigations, are not going to change the hearts and minds of his base.

It is up to the Congress, who are charged with oversight, to hold the president accountable for the obstruction that he has committed.

The only way the Dems are going to change the current trajectory of American history is to stop trying to be the party that always has to be perfect and correct, always taking the punishment that ensues with a gracious smile. They have to put an immediate stop to McConnell’s sneakiness, and burn it down the minute he raises his unholy turtle head. They have to stop pretending that politics is a gentleman’s game, where everyone plays fair – they have solid proof that fairness is a foreign concept to career Republicans, and that playing nice only benefits the GOP. Ignoring how dirty the Republicans play is only making the Democrats appear like weaklings.

As the Democrats wonder if they dare go after a career criminal, the GOP are already in attack mode, with a double pronged frontal attack that is determined to punish those they consider treasonous for the audaciousness of investigating the election, while also implying that a move to impeach the president would mean that the Democrats do not love their country. The banners are being printed, the catch phrases practiced, and the talking points sharpened.

In Trump, the Republicans have found their savior, and they are not afraid to use every last fibre of their beings to stand by their man, even as they abet his corruption, and help destroy the country they claim to so love. It may be a twisted, ultimately destructive, passion, but it definitely trumps the indecisiveness that the Dems are bringing to the skirmish.

impeach trumpYes, a call for impeachment has little hope of succeeding, in the face of a Republican senate and presidency. But it is what the Democrats must be seen to do, charged as they are by their elected positions to bring oversight to the most powerful position in the nation. They must be seen to be the face of all of those who decry this president, who rules from a throne of lies and corruption.

The road to impeachment has been laid out for them to follow. All they have to do is pick up the gauntlet, and fight for those who put them into power.

The Democrats have to look to 2020, and their crop of young, exciting, fresh faces with progressive ideas looking to be the next leaders of the nation.

impeach trump2All that the Republicans bring to the party is a senile old man, whose lies and corruptions will drag them down, and a bunch of long in the tooth senators content to live out their last years fighting against someone who hasn’t even held office in over eight years.

Launching an impeachment at this time will throw into sharp contrast the difference between the party of tomorrow, and the party of the old, corrupt, past.

It’s time, Democrats.

 

Does this Mueller Report Make Trump’s Ass Look Fat?


by Roxanne Tellier

Please Note: I wrote this on the morning of March 24th, and, like all days since Trump’s inauguration, additional info, obfuscation, and possibly, even more obstruction in the Barr four page note on the Report, happened immediately thereafter.

If you’ve ever thought you’d like to be a blogger or a journalist, this time period is either exhilarating, or utterly exhausting… For me, it’s a little of both. Anyway…  here we go…

……………………………………………………………….

FOX News is trying to spike the ball on it already, declaring total victory for Trump before anyone has even seen what is in the statement, and despite the results of a poll of their own viewers showing that a majority of Americans believe that the president tried to interfere in the investigation.

mueller report

In other news, the president has threatened the American people with his quasi Brown Shirts enforcement crews of military, police and motorcycle heavies, should the evidence contain anything that hurts his standing or feelings .. but mostly his feelings.

All because the Mueller Report dropped on Friday, This is the 500 plus page compendium that Mueller handed in to Attorney General William Barr, a Trump supporter, recently elevated to replace former AG Jeff “Keebler Elf” Sessions.

sessions barr AGTo recap, Sessions recused himself from the Trump-Russia probe on March 2, 2017, and then found he’d become the butt of Trump’s fury nearly every day thereafter, until he resigned/was fired on November 7, 2018.

Just as I was thinking to myself, hmmm .. wouldn’t you think that a pivotal post like Attorney General for all of the American people should be a bipartisan office?, this came over the social media transom ….

” … CNN reports that McGaughey, the husband of Barr’s youngest daughter, has been hired as an attorney in the White House counsel’s office, where he’ll “advise the president, the executive office, and White House staff on legal issues concerning the president and the presidency.” While the division is separate from the legal team that defends Trump in the Russia investigation—a group of leading lights that includes Rudy “maybe there was collusion” Giuliani—its work nevertheless does “intersect with the investigation.” (Trump reportedly blamed former White House counsel Don McGahn for failing to bring the probe to a close.) Meanwhile, Mary Daly, Barr’s oldest daughter, will be leaving her current job in the deputy attorney general’s office for a gig at the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN), which has had its own Russian intrigues.”

This is how potentially explosive political info is handled, in Trump’s Bizarro World. “Nice kids you got there.. would be a pity if something… happened … to him .. or her … “

Every day, in every way, the Trump administration is penning an alternative American history that weaves Mafia style organized crime intrigue along it’s white supremacist backbone. It’s like we’re living in a chronicle of our times in the form of a forced literary mating of The Godfather and The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich.

Be that as it may, Trump, his ‘friends,’ and those who profit from his administration, have softened the ground well in advance of the release of the report; they’ve made sure that his base and the undecided see any rejoicing over this report as a ‘piling on’ by the Dems, and a celebration prior to a launch of a charge of impeachment, rather than what it is … an attempt to pull back the curtain on a very real attack on the American electoral system – as broken as it may be – by a hostile foreign power.

trump not legit presThe Mueller Report’s primary question is, Did Donald Trump collude with Russia to win the presidency? 

And the follow up, unspoken but explosively critical second question would be, “If it is found conclusively that he did, is he actually the legitimate current president of the United States?”

At this point we have no idea if those questions have even been definitely answered. All we have is the hope of a hero, in the form of Mueller, offering us the reassurance that there can be a return to order, that real leadership is in our future, and that our faith can eventually be both earned and restored by those whom we have elevated to positions of great power.

To my mind, there should really never have been any confusion over whether or not Trump was working with the Russians. Prior to the election, he stood in front of a televised rally, and said, ” “Russia, if you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing.” It appears that they were, since that night, Russian hackers tried to get into Clinton’s personal email.

That’s what actually happened, even as Trump and his minions tried to laugh off the comment as a joke, and the hack as a coincidence – even as he continued to repeat the same request on Twitter.

donald_tweet Russia emails” What, you’ve never jokingly invited a hostile foreign power to compromise your nation’s cyber-security before?” (Vanity Fair headline)

And we also knew that they had indeed fiddled with the election .. by June 2017, it was being reported in Bloomberg and other major business and political journals.

putin hacked electionRussia’s cyber attack on the U.S. electoral system before Donald Trump’s election was far more widespread than has been publicly revealed, including incursions into voter databases and software systems in almost twice as many states as previously reported.
In Illinois, investigators found evidence that cyber intruders tried to delete or alter voter data. The hackers accessed software designed to be used by poll workers on Election Day, and in at least one state accessed a campaign finance database. Details of the wave of attacks, in the summer and fall of 2016, were provided by three people with direct knowledge of the U.S. investigation into the matter. In all, the Russian hackers hit systems in a total of 39 states, one of them said.

Now, make no mistake, the very idea that a candidate for president of the United States – or an actual president who blithely fires heads of justice departments, and discloses highly classified security information to Russian foreign ministers while they dally in the Oval Office – might be compromised by a hostile foreign power, should be of interest to the average citizen.

But sadly, that’s not really the case. Jane and Joe Citizen have a life to lead, kids to raise, a mortgage to pay. For most, political or military history is just trivia to everyone except aspiring Jeopardy contestants. There hasn’t been a ‘war’ on American soil since the Aleutian Islands Campaign of 1942. The Cuban Missile Crisis and the Cold War are baby boomer lore, and “Russia – tear down that wall!” is nothing but a bit of Reaganology.  In polls taken around 2016, 55% of Americans thought that Russia was America’s enemy and unfriendly, but 25% were unsure, and 19% thought Russia was a friendly nation.

America is just not that into Russia.

Russia, on the other hand, has a long history of anti-Americanism, a simmering, seething hatred of the United States, and a belief that the U.S. is Enemy Number One. Russia doesn’t forget easily, and Vladimir Putin, an ex-KGB foreign intelligence officer for 16 years, has no soft spot for America or her president, despite Trump’s belief that he and Vlad are BFFs.

Truthfully,  given Mueller’s mandate for the report, there should be little new information for anyone but those who’ve lived in an underground bunker since the summer of 2016.

Don’t be waiting for any juicy bits of gossip or innuendo about Trump’s money laundering or corruption – that’s the stuff that Mueller passed on to the Southern District of New York and other justice departments better able to service the subpoenas already issued, and the almost one hundred rumoured subpoenas still being held under lock and key for the gang that couldn’t shoot straight.. soon come, mon ….

Like Al Capone, whom the justice system pursued for nearly a decade before he was brought down for tax evasion, there’s an array of Trump/GOP criminality that has been, and is being, committed in plain view, every day, since the inauguration, and it’s only now that some of these tangled webs are getting straightened out. It’s exhausting, watching the swamp attain new depths daily. I think a lot of people started to believe it was unstoppable by anything but supernatural means.

“Mueller’s report is likely geared not towards telling a story, or answering non-criminal questions, but toward fulfilling the purpose of the regulation – that is, explaining his prosecutorial decisions. Unless Mueller understands his role especially grandly, the report is likely not designed to fill the oversight shoes of Congress, or to assist the legislature’s role in the impeachment process. Yet unless the report is particularly spare in factual detail, that will not stop politicians and commentators for redeploying it for all sorts of other purposes.” (Benjamin Wittes, Lawfare)

mueller takes down trumpToo many have been content to believe that it would have to be the Mueller Report, acting as a magic wand, that would finally stop the flow of corruption.

Instead, the reality is that all of the indictments, trials, and actual criminal records earned by advisors, his personal lawyer, and campaign manager, just to name a few, have to be served and serviced by the proper jurisdictions, advocates, and criminal lawyers charged with pursuing gross abuses of power and criminality. These are the people who will take down the bad guys, not Mueller

Mueller had his mandate, but, just like Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz, we have always had the power to ‘go home’ – we just kept waiting for a house to fall on the evil witch, rather than expecting our justice department surrogates to find their hearts, brains and courage, click together their legal heels, and start arresting these unusual suspects.

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And yet another of our priceless Toronto musical treasures, singer/songwriter Joe Hall, has left the building. Rest well, Joe.joe hall It is with profound sadness that I have to announce the death on Friday of my dear old friend and collaborator Joe Hall. We just brought out a new recording in December…in his opinion and mine, the best ever. He will be missed, he was unique. He was the only Canadian songwriter I would seriously compare to Leonard Cohen.” Tony Quarrington

From his website: ” He’s been compared to everyone from Frank Zappa to Tom Waits, but Joe Hall is a true original, whose sharp wit, insightful social commentary, and wildly entertaining stage presence made him one of Canada’s legendary folk rockers. A fixture of the 70s Queen St scene in Toronto with his band The Continental Drift, Joe has called Peterborough home for 25 years and continues to play, record and tour ”

 

 

The Butterfly Effect


I’m not sure if I’m blessed or cursed to have a fairly large amount of time in my life in which I can spend hours down the rabbit hole of the Internet, researching and following any thread that interests me.

meeting of the mindsI can spend days, even weeks, deep diving into all things esoteric and non. In an ideal world, I would live in a salon, where others of like minds would join me in this intellectual pursuit, and we would solve all of the mysteries of the universe.

Until that day arrives, the world and it’s distractions will continue to impede my potential band of mystery solving superheroes.

The imminent destruction of a small butterfly sanctuary on the American/Mexican border caught my attention recently. While this is by no means as horrific as the sadistic practices trump’s Homeland Security goons wage against refugees and immigrants, it is, nonetheless, notable. 

butterly effectCan small things, matters almost imperceptible in a larger picture, change the world? Can a tiny event, hardly noticeable on the day it happens, serve as a catalyst for a planet’s future?

“some systems … are very sensitive to their starting conditions, so that a tiny difference in the initial ‘push’ you give them causes a big difference in where they end up, and there is feedback, so that what a system does affects its own behavior.John Gribbin, Deep Simplicity

People are funny; some are hypersensitive to changes in systems, while others simply cannot understand long term consequences. For some, it’s willful blindness, but for others, it covers up a truth that might irreparably damage their psyche if faced. Better to not believe one’s own eyes than to have to admit that some small, likely unimportant act – or lack of acting! – might have long term, and horribly dangerous consequences.

for the want of a nail

If we are to believe that our actions have consequences, how do we live with ourselves when we fail to act in proactive and logical ways? if we know that eating certain foods will make us ill, how do we rationalize our actions when our food and beverage intake is reflected in damage to our bodies? If we are made aware that smoking cigarettes damages the lungs of both the smokers and the non-smokers that breathe in those fumes, how do we come to grips with the illness or death of a loved one who passively inhaled what we exhaled?

climate change is not just politicalIf we are told that 97% of climate scientists believe that our disrespect for the planet will cause untold harm to not just those living on this earth, but on the generations to come, how can we not look at the havoc we continue to inflict on the globe, and not feel sick at what our greed and selfishness has wrought?

Many of us vehemently DON’T want to believe that something tiny and barely noticeable could affect our lives … psychologically, that’s called proportionality bias: the inclination to believe that big events must have big causes.

That’s what leads so many to become conspiracy theorists. In any given year, roughly half of all Americans believe in at least one conspiracy theory, according to the University of Chicago‘s political science professors Eric Oliver and Thomas Wood. Without the slightest trace of evidence, 19% of Americans believe the U.S. government planned the 9/11 attacks to start a war in the Middle East, while 24% believed in Trump’s ‘birtherism‘ theory that claimed former president Barack Obama was not born in the United States.9 11 files

Today, 61% of Americans remain convinced that the official Warren Commission report on Lee Harvey Oswald’s part in assassinating President John F. Kennedy, is incorrect – they believe that he could not have acted on his own. And since the 1963 tragedy, the number of disbelievers has never dropped below 50%; proportionality bias tells them that one man, with one bullet, could not have so dramatically changed the course of history all on his own.

“It used to be thought that the events that changed the world were things like big bombs, maniac politicians, huge earthquakes, or vast population movements, but it has now been realized that this is a very old-fashioned view held by people totally out of touch with modern thought. The things that change the world, according to Chaos theory, are the tiny things. A butterfly flaps its wings in the Amazonian jungle, and subsequently a storm ravages half of Europe.”
— from Good Omens, by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman

In 1961, chaos theory, or the butterfly effect, was brought to prominence in a work written by mathematician and meteorologist Edward Lorenz. While running a numerical computer model to redo a weather prediction concerning the details of a tornado, he entered the initial condition 0.506 from the printout instead of entering the full precision 0.506127 value.

The tiny change brought about a completely different weather scenario result, and highlighted the sensitive interdependence on conditions that could result in very large differences in expectations, with just a small change in calculation.

The term, ‘butterfly effect‘ was actually the second name given to this phenomena. Lorenz originally used a sea gull’s wings to describe the theory.

” One meteorologist remarked that if the theory were correct, one flap of a sea gull’s wings would be enough to alter the course of the weather forever. The controversy has not yet been settled, but the most recent evidence seems to favor the sea gulls”

butterfly killerColleagues suggested that changing ‘sea gull’ to ‘butterfly’ would be more poetic, but it was not until 1972, when he was wondering how to title a talk he was giving on the subject, that colleague Philip Merilees concocted Does the flap of a butterfly’s wings in Brazil set off a tornado in Texas?  as a title.

I can’t help but wonder if those scientists might have been influenced by the 1952 story, The Sound of Thunder, written by Ray Bradbury, in which a time travelling hunter changes the future, by stepping on a butterfly, 65 million years in the past.

In the short story, set in 2055, a man named Eckels travels back in time to shoot and kill a Tyrannosaurus Rex. But he panics at the sight of the beast, and accidentally steps off the path that he has been warned that he must follow. When his hunting party returns to their present, everything has changed, right down to the language that people are speaking, and it is apparent that an evil dictator is now in control of the nation.

 

Bradbury writes: “Eckels felt himself fall into a chair. He fumbled crazily at the thick slime on his boots. He held up a clod of dirt, trembling, “No, it cannot be. Not a little thing like that. No!”

Embedded in the mud, glistening green and gold and black, was a butterfly, very beautiful and very dead.

“Not a little thing like that! Not a butterfly!” cried Eckels.

It fell to the floor, an exquisite thing, a small thing that could upset balances and knock down a line of small dominoes and then big dominoes and then gigantic dominoes, all down the years across Time. Eckels’ mind whirled. It couldn’t change things. Killing one butterfly couldn’t be that important! Could it?”

Ford as Dear LeaderAh, to speculate on all of the apparently insignificant moments that shape destinies and alter our times and history! While we may not recognize them, when they happen, or for what they portend, threads of cause and effect are created.

And in time, those moments can change the course of a human life or of a peoples’, eventually impacting  everything from our fashion to our emotions and our health, from our politics, to our economies and our very planet.

Best to have a little humility in the knowledge that our fates and futures can be sidetracked by something as fragile as a butterfly’s wings, in a time of chaos.

tags: Roxanne Tellier, Butterfly Effect, Internet, Homeland Security, John Gribbin, Barack Obama , Warren Commission , John F. Kennedy, Good Omens, Terry Pratchett, Neil Gaiman, chaos theory, Edward Lorenz., The Sound of Thunder, Ray Bradbury

The Trappings of Fame


“Fame … makes a man take things over …. puts you there where things are hollow”

If you were a baby boomer in the sixties, you most likely never knew anyone who was ‘really really’ rich. There was a kid in my school whose dad was a famous football player, but I didn’t know her well. And there was another friend who came from Texas; they had a big house, and even had a maid, who let us make chili and mess up the kitchen.

I had relatives who had oil patch money – they didn’t come around to many family parties, though. They likely got tired of being hit up for loans that would never get repaid.

USA - 30th Anniversary of Elvis Presley's Death - GracelandWhen you think about it, one of the most famous, and presumably wealthiest, person with a high profile, back in those days, was Elvis. And by today’s standards, Graceland isn’t exactly the Taj Mahal. Not with all that shag carpeting. But for the time, it was high glam.

As a child, I knew, through reading, that there had been times in history when some people had attained obscene wealth, usually by conquering another country, and by subjecting those natives to their will. Those people were called kings, and whatever they wanted was granted to them, for their skill in warfare.queen of sheba

England had a royalty, but they wore sensible shoes.

I didn’t look up to those people; I never wanted to be ‘royal’ It seemed a pretty high price to pay for a life lived entirely in the public eye. And back then, there were a lot of people who wondered if the trade off of privacy for public adulation was a good one.

Now, of course, people will do anything to be seen, hopefully to be admired, for whatever it is they can do to be different. Tattoo a snake on your face? We’ll only be impressed if you’re the first to think to do so.

“Could it be the best, could it be? Really be, really, babe?”

I don’t know if it is a Canadian way of thinking, but I remember how most people I knew, growing up, adhered to the ‘tall poppy syndrome‘ … that meant that you didn’t want to stick your head up too high, or blow your own horn a little too loud, because you’d be sure to get cut down to size if you did. The syndrome is basically a way of sneering at those who revel in having a ton of money – which we assume is ill-gotten gains – or of seeking fame in public life.

william shatnerIn the seventies, you’d have been more likely to hear someone snigger, “geez, who does he/she think he/she is!” when a Canadian even got a mention in American media.

We did not put many Canadians on pedestals for their achievements, though we’d often get a little warm feeling when we felt like we’d snuck a Canadian through, behind America’s back. Like that William Shatner guy, with the weird way of talking. His mum had an acting school on Girouard in Montreal, so he was one of the good one’s.

We had our own awards, our Junos instead of Grammys, our Genie awards instead of Oscars, and by geez, that should be good enough for any Canadian! Just look at that Walter Ostanek fella, and all his polka Grammy wins! Does HE look happy? Now, you just go practice your accordion, and try not to get all stuck up and big headed!

“Fame …. what you like is in the limo”

And then came …. rock and roll hedonism.

“In the seventies … There was more excess, more hedonism, more drugs, more attitude, more sex, more style, more enthusiasm. Just?… more.” (The Telegraph, UK)

mudsharkI’m not saying that the days of mud sharks, Whovian displays of hotel trashing, and the deaths by overdose of nearly every icon of the day opened the door to the pedestaling of the rich and famous….

but it helped.

The austerity of the post war years, and the drive and eventual success of the lower class kids, who knew the only way to get out of soul crushing poverty was to get into sports or rock n roll, became the envy of those who wondered what it would be like to literally have the world and all of it’s glories at their feet … drugs, drink, the most beautiful women in the world … it could all be yours, if you just cracked the Top Ten Charts.

Mo’ money, mo’ problems. Some of the luckier and richer rockers listened to their dear old dads, or to the managers and accountants who flocked to help funnel some of this largesse into safer investments, like property. And sadly, some of those ‘helpful’ advisors turned out to be there with the intention of taking advantage of the silly geese now laying multiple golden eggs.

Fame and wealth are on a sliding scale, as the wiser of the nouveau riche artistes soon learned. And if those musos wanted to keep at least some of the moolah that was coming in, in order to pay for their growing entourages, they’d have to learn to manage, manipulate, and increase their funds, just like the robber barons of the last century had done.

And off they went, to the tax havens…. and began to grow their own little dynasties …

“Fame, “Nein! It’s mine! is just his line … to bind your time, it drives you to, crime .”

We aging hippies, especially those of us who chose careers in the arts, might not have prioritized the acquisition of wealth, but that didn’t mean we couldn’t drool a little when these new ‘lifestyles of the rich and famous’ were dangled before us, in the mid eighties.

make it rainMTV glommed onto that envy, and promoted the lifestyles of celebrities in shows like “The Fabulous Life Of … “ and “Cribs.” These quasi reality features pretended to give the plebes a glimpse into the opulent homes, glamorous lifestyles, and vacation playgrounds of those musicians who had ‘made it.’

FAME … and wealth, were now what everyone wanted to achieve, by any means possible. Oh yeah, it was all about the Benjamins …

“Fame … what you get is no tomorrow … “

And we bought it .. oh yes, those of us who looked on and envied the lifestyles of those who had cracked the money and power code, wanted in on the fun.

“Americans are accustomed to talking about fame using the heady language of the cosmos: the celebrity as a celestial truth, situated above us; the superstar as a force in the firmament, all heat and light and gravitational demands. Michael Jackson’s environmental form of fame—music that permeated people’s lives, iconography that saturated American culture—anticipated the intimate version of celebrity that is the default today. It is fitting, in that regard, that celebrity itself functions as a spectral character in Leaving Neverland. Jackson was acutely aware of the affordances of fame; he leveraged them, the documentary suggests—and, ultimately, he weaponized them. Joy Robson, Wade’s mother, recalls Jackson making a request of her; she recalls, as well, that when she refused it, he coolly informed her: “I always get what I want.”” (The Atlantic, March 2019)

This year has seen the release of several documentaries that question what the pedestaling of fame has done to our vulnerable young women and men. With the allegations in Leaving Neverland and Surviving R. Kelly, we also need to be aware of what fame does to the psyches of those who wield that much power.

camp followersThere have always been camp followers, disciples, those who believe that proximity to what they covet, for even a few moments, raises their own profile and value amongst those who have not had the same access to the royalty of their time.

When those who possess power of any potency use manipulation, a righteous fear, and their fame/perceived authority to get what they want, they are abusing that power in order to exploit vulnerable people for their own advantage or gain. And even if those people go willingly to the abuse, it’s still abuse.

Now, the funny thing is that, somewhere along the line, we all started to think that those who achieve fame and financial reward for being good at one thing, like music, or business, could translate that magic to other careers.

And strangely enough, in a culture that appears to embrace a meritocracy, those who seek fame and power somehow manage to drape the mantle of unique talents upon those whose rise to fame may well have simply come from a well placed endorsement, a reality television episode, or a sex tape featuring some very, very large buttocks.

kardashian buttWe would never expect our dentist to take out our appendix or fix our plumbing, but for some reason, we think that someone who has managed to acquire – by hook, and likely crook – a large amount of money, should be given free reign to guide a country, or should be allowed to tell us who and how to worship. The mind boggles.

The political ‘base’ of a country is as subservient to a populist politician, as a congregation is to a hyperbolic preacher, or a groupie or ‘musical prodigy’ is to a music mogul. There’s a parallel in the abuses.

rewards just aheadDangling the promises of future prosperity, they will assure their acolytes that there is a brilliant future awaiting them, if they’ll just listen to their master’s advice. The prey might wonder at what is asked of them, if they follow this path, and they may be reluctant to give their all, without the assurances, as false as they may be, that their faith will bring them enormous rewards in the end.

The followers will put that preacher, or politician, or musical ‘genius’ on a pedestal, and make that person their whole world, believing that their devotion and loyalty is as strongly returned.

But eventually, and inevitably, that faith is abused.

Our adoration of those with fame and wealth blinds us, and when those whom we’ve put on a pedestal are toppled, our beliefs in our selves is fractured.

toppling idolsWhat goes up .. must come down. At some point, the blinders fall off, and we see that those we call gods and kings are just selfish, spoiled, narcissists, and that we are the toys and pawns they use to satisfy their own whims and urges.

2011 … “A new study co-funded by the Gates Foundation, however, portrays the ultrarich as lost souls burdened by the fears, worries and family distortions of too much money.

Yeah yeah. Cry me a river.