Bad Week for Sore Losers


When those charged with guiding and arbitrating the people become inured to the peoples’ actual needs and opinions, it’s time for them to go. When entitlement and arrogance override justice for ALL, not just the chosen few, it’s time to reassess the entire system.

Fair play,” the belief that all battles should be fought with an eye to respect, ethics and consideration, has been summarily dismissed of late, to be replaced by public figures that do not take defeat well, and who use failure as a platform for endless carping, whining, condescension, and threats of revenge. boehner pouting

This lack of character, as shown by those we’re told deserve respect, affects every aspect of our lives, taints how we feel about our culture, and disrespects what ‘the rule of law’ means to our society.

As a vocal majority of Americans cheered the lowering of the Confederate flag, and the raising of the Rainbow, the squealing of sore losers filled the media. Sour grapes do not a good wine make, even if they may give sore losers an opportunity to have a good whine.

Removing the Confederate flag is, in itself, a sort of ‘false flag,’ in that the flag represents a very tiny part of a larger problem of systemic racism in America. Despite being shown absolute proof that the flag had been used by proponents of slavery and the KKK, some in the South continue to insist that flying it is a matter of heritage.white house rainbow

In fact, just yesterday, Brittany “Bree” Newsome climbed the 30-foot flagpole on the grounds of the South Carolina state Capitol where the battle flag still flew, to remove the banner. She was immediately arrested, and the flag raised again, just in time for a pro-flag rally to take place at the monument.

In the two weeks since the slaying in South Carolina, mourners and citizens have had to walk and drive past a flag flown at full mast, a flag idolized by a 21 year old man so driven by ideology that he felt the need to shoot and kill, in cold blood, nine black worshipers in an historic church.pro confederate flag

And yet, there remain some who want the flag to stay. Or, as Gawker put it, “Racist Idiots Hold Pro-Confederate Flag Rallies Across the South.” 

Bad week for sore losers. Obamacare, aka the Affordable Care Act, was finally entrenched as the law of the land by the Supreme Court‘s ruling, leaving no room for a theoretical future Republican president to undo major pillars of the law. Obama after Court ruling

Republicans, having made 50 – fifty! – previous attempts at dismantling the Act were furious, but defiant. The battle wasn’t over, fumed it’s opponents, and FOX News talking heads, who have never been very good at keeping up with change to their conservative ideology.

rubio panicsFlorida Sen. Marco Rubio aimed his anger at the Supreme Court. “As we look ahead, it must be a priority of the next president to nominate judges and justices committed to applying the Constitution as written and originally understood.

Marco … put down that water and tell me … Why would that be? Are we living in 1776 or 2015? The forefathers are long gone, and the Constitution is a living thing, subject to conversation and amendments, not the iron grip of a dictator installing ‘yes men’ to do his will.

Justice Clarence Thomas of the Supreme Court had a bad week too. On Thursday, Thomas came down against the Supreme Court saving the Fair Housing Act of 1986 (to protect against housing discrimination based on race, sex, religion, and origin,) saying that “racial imbalances do not always disfavor minorities.”  He was referring to black pro sports teams. i can't breathe

Because, you know. .. those NBA players are mostly black, and they do very well for themselves.

He then joined Justices Samuel Alito and Antonin Scalia in dissenting to uphold Obamacare subsidies, though it was passed 6-3.

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And to cap off his week of blind ignorance and entitlement, he and three other Justices voted against removing state bans on same-sex marriages. This time, he took exception with the concepts of “liberty” and “dignity.”

“The corollary of that principle is that human dignity cannot be taken away by the government. Slaves did not lose their dignity (any more than they lost their humanity) because the government allowed them to be enslaved. Those held in internment camps did not lose their dignity because the government confined them. And those denied governmental benefits certainly do not lose their dignity because the government denies them those benefits. The government cannot bestow dignity, and it cannot take it away.”

clarence-thomas-wife-tea-party-16x9You’ve come a long way, baby, and I mean that disrespectfully. Are you sure you’d have the dignity and respect you receive as a Supreme Court judge had you been born in the days when you would have been enslaved at/by birth? Your own interracial marriage to a white woman named Virginia, (irony alert!) would have seen you arrested and prosecuted prior to the Supreme Court’s 1967 ruling on Loving v. Virginia, which required every state to recognize interracial marriage. You and your life represent two clear instances where the government did indeed bestow dignity. Why would you deny that to others?

Republican candidate Mike Huckabee had to add his own strange thoughts to the ruling. “The Supreme Court has spoken with a very divided voice on something only the Supreme Being can do — redefine marriage. I will not acquiesce to an imperial court any more than our Founders acquiesced to an imperial British monarch. We must resist and reject judicial tyranny, not retreat.”

Arrogance. Entitlement. “Do as I say, not as I do.” One law for the masses, another for those who make the laws. If the laws don’t fit your own views, keep hammering away at them until they do. The will of the people be damned.

Ralph Klein gay rightsNot that we’re without our own Canadian sore losers and bigots. In 2004, Premier Ralph Klein of Alberta said Gays won’t be getting married in Alberta, we’re not going to do it.” 

For ten years, Ralph Klein, Stephen Harper, Pat O’Brien, Randy White and Tom Wappell fought against every single gay rights initiative. And yet, the law was passed in 2005, and so far – no sky has fallen.

Sore losers and entitled arrogance is as alive in Canadian politics as in the U.S. Last week, convicted ex-MP Dean Del Mastro sneered his way through his sentencing, certain that Prime Minister Stephen Harper would pull his irons out of the fire at the last minute. After all, he’d been a loyal servant, whom Harper had kept by his side despite the evidence of his guilt.width="300"

Del Mastro’s never apologized for breaking the rules in his 2008 campaign, of overspending on the campaign, breaking his personal campaign contribution limit or of filing a false return with Elections Canada to conceal the overspending. Instead, his defence was to whine to the court about how difficult the prosecution and trial has been on his family, and that the incident has taken a financial, physical and emotional toll. All of these burdens came from his own bad judgment, but we’re not to speak of that.

<>When the verdict was reached, Del Mastro burst into tears, and begged the judge not to send him to prison. He was told he’d be spending a month in jail, down from the 9 to 12 months originally recommended by the Court in October. And, indeed, he spent just 16 hours in jail before being released on bail.

After all, why would Del Mastro worry about actual consequences? In October, 2014, he was found guilty of three out of four charges of election fraud. And yet, he remained defiant, saying he had no plans to step down as an MP, only to step down voluntarily in November, just before he was to be suspended from the House of Commons. He then whined about how much money he was losing by having to leave his position, a job he’d gained by fraud, and lost by getting caught.

Del Mastro walked away from his nearly nine years in federal politics with a pension worth $44,000 a year, which he becomes eligible for at the age of 55.

In a final, delicious irony, Canadians, through a fundraiser organized by his riding association that allowed them to provide tax receipts to contributors, subsidized the legal fees of Del Mastro. “Organized by his riding association” .. in a riding he might not have won had he not cheated in the election.

harper_gives_the_finger1Harper himself has not commented on Del Mastro’s sentencing, nor has he addressed the fact that his government has far more than the usual share of corruption and shameful conduct. Among the Harper government’s scandals are the illegal “robocalls” in the 2011 election, fraudulent expense claims by Tory senators, and of course, nearly ten years of placing the needs of corporate Canada above it’s citizens’ rights, leading to the tainted meat scandals that followed the gutting of Canada’s food-inspection agency, and an environmental record on pollution and climate change that defines new depths in a race to the bottom. And that’s even before Bill C-51, the greatest threat to free expression in Canada, or Bill C-59, which allows the government to retroactively alter history in the government’s favour.

Given his poor record, Harper could at least give Canadians some comfort by making it clear that he won’t defend cheaters in the future. Instead, he keeps the media at arm’s length, behind his security team that costs the nation over $20 million a year (2013 figure,) his only hope, a capitalization on the fear he’s whipped up around terrorism.

Based on a visible lack of ethics, and political appointments bestowed less on political ability and more on the incumbent’s willingness to mindlessly obey orders in the Harper Government, along with shady moves to retain power during the last three elections, and the introduction of a U.S. style “super pac” to ensure a win in the coming election, there is good reason to be nervous about Harper and his party’s conduct in the run up to the vote.

How the election and it’s outcosore loser2me proceeds will speak volumes. True class and character are shown in how one responds to losing, or even the prospect of a loss. What separates the winners from the losers is how a person reacts when things don’t go their way.

How each of us conducts ourselves during and after the election, regardless of it’s outcome, will say much about our own selves, and the mood of the country. Sore losers aren’t realists … they’re fantasists who can’t fathom a life that doesn’t revolve around their own needs and beliefs.

sore loserCivil discourse and disagreement requires only three things: Don’t make it personal. Avoid put-downs. And, above all, stay calm.

What this week has shown us is public servants who have abdicated responsibility to those they serve, choosing instead an endless pursuit of personal vindication. We can all do better than that.

(originally published June 28/15 – https://bobsegarini.wordpress.com/2015/06/28/roxanne-tellier-bad-week-for-sore-losers/)

Apocalypse Now?


Apocalypse Now?

So, apparently we’re on the verge of another mass extinction – the last one killed off the dinosaurs. We’ve exploited the planet through hunting, fishing, and the degrading of wild habitats, and the planet is fighting back. Couldn’t happen to a nicer species, judging by our behaviour of late. I thought the advent of ‘promposals’ would have pushed us over the edge.

On the plus side, we may have until about the year 2200, the end is nearso put away the ‘end is near’ signs for now. On the negative side, there are a whole lot of people who not only think we’re living in end times, but who are actively praying to be in the first wave hitting Heaven.

Baby Boomers grew up with apocryphal thinking. We cowered under our little school desks during the Cuban Missile Crisis, and sang along to Barry Maguire’s depressing dirge.

(Fun fact: The Turtles recorded “Eve of Destruction” on their first album in 1965, but wisely did not release it as a single until 1970. The writer, P.F. Sloan, felt the song was essentially channeled to him in one long song writing session in the early morning hours between midnight and dawn. He claimed he heard an “inner voice that is inside of each and every one of us but is drowned out by the roar of our minds! “)

The Spokesmen, a folk group that were actually John Madara and David White, a Philadelphia song writing team whose hits include “At The Hop” and “You Don’t Own Me,” recorded an answer song called “The Dawn Of Correction” that made it all the way to #36 on Billboard. “When we wrote the song, we were never for the war, we were just for America, and we felt that ‘The Eve of Destruction’ was a slap against America. Because of the anti-war sentiment, ‘The Dawn of Correction’ was obviously taken the wrong way.”

And of course, “In the Year 2525” predicted the human race’s eventual demise in 9595, but I can’t even listen to the song long enough to get you the url … it was that bad. Save yourself! Don’t Google “Zager and Evans ‘In The Year 2525!”

Certainly there’s no shortage of music available that warns of, or pleads for, mass destruction. Everyone from Johnny Cash to Creedence Clearwater Revival, and from The Strokes to Nine Inch Nails are included for your listening pleasure in this playlist for your Final Days.

No shortage of literature, either. Heck, the Bible told us to start packing for the afterlife centuries ago! And I’ll bet there were cavemen who etched cautionary tales into the walls even before that. But why? Why do we alternately fear and embrace an end to our lives and world?

Some say that our tendency to romanticize a post-apocalyptic world is a response to today’s uncertainties, threats of terroriszombiesm, war, fiscal cliffs and climate change. We secretly believe that we will be one of the few ‘left behind,’ post disaster, in a world cleansed of the Bad Guys. Children, especially, think that life would be much simpler if all they had to deal with were well-known and predictable boogie men like Zombies.

Some mentally cast themselves as the heroes of a new world they can leave their own mark upon, imagining that they can thrive and get back to nature, oblivious to the very real hardships of a life without antibiotics and electricity, amidst crumbling infrastructure. These are the preppers, who build bunkers and compulsively store food and water. Their response to fear is goal oriented. Simple tasks are therapy.

Others are survivors of traumatic experiences, fatalists happiest when amongst other fatalists. It’s not suicidetimeenough if the world kills you first. An apocalypse is just another event in a life of negativity, and if doom can be ascribed to some larger, external event – a rogue comet, an ancient prophecy – well then, whatever happens is certainly not going to be blamed on them.

fear-allure“Apocalyptic beliefs make existential threats—the fear of our mortality—predictable.” And fear is something so primal, it’s etched into our DNA. “Over evolutionary history, organisms with a better-safe-than-sorry approach survive. This mechanism has had consequences for both the body and brain, where the fast-acting amygdala can activate a fearful stress response before “higher” cortical areas have a chance to assess the situation and respond more rationally.” (Shmuel Lissek, neuroscientist)

A scarier group, and one with an even more frightening ability to move the planet closer to oblivion, are the religion based groups who are anticipating a glorious afterlife with their chosen deity. No, not just Muslims in the Middle East – you can count mescalator to heavenany politicians in both Canada and the United States as being amongst those who are salivating at the prospect of a stairway to heaven.

Or better still, an escalator.

One third of Americans believe that the conflict in Syria is a sign predicted in the Bible that the end is nigh. Rep Michele Bachman , who has often hinted that she believes President Obama is the Anti-Christ, claims that the rapture is coming, thanks to President Barack Obama’s policies on Iran’s nuclear program and marriage equality.

“We in our lifetimes potentially could see Jesus Christ returning to earth and the rapture of the church,” Bachmann said. “We see the destruction, but this was a destruction that was foretold. Rather than seeing this as a negative, we need to rejoice, Maranatha Come Lord Jesus, His day is at hanHalloweenTwilightZoned.”

Three out of four evangelicals believe Christ will return soon. They believe they’re seeing the end of the world because that’s what they want to see. They pooh pooh the idea of dealing with hellfire and brimstone, because they figure they won’t be around. They’ve ticked the “Rapture” option, which says that true believers get first dibs on heaven, while the sinners deal with the mess they’ve left behind.

left behind(Fun fact: The Rapture is not in the Bible. It was invented in the 19th century by John Nelson Darby, an Irish evangelist, and then made popular by a preacher named William Eugene Blackstone in his 1908 book, Jesus is Coming, which sold more than a million copies. It’s a pop construct. An “escapist fantasy” that neatly avoids killing off the ‘good’ Christians.)

Whatever their religion, religious fanatics want to see non-believers punished, even if it means destroying the planet, as long as they themselves are finally instated as the rightful rulers of all mankind.They are so eager for that day to come that preachers like Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson blame every current disaster upon those they conceive of as sinners; feminists, gays, pagans, and every other religion that isn’t their own.

What they’re really drooling over are apocalyptic revenge fantasies.

Although Canadians are pretty tolerant, we have Evangelicals in Canada as well, and one of them is our Prime Minister. In Marci McDonald’s 2010 book, The Armageddon Factor, she warned about the “theo-cons” (Stephen Harper’s word), who view “science and environmentalism as hostile to the Bible.”

armageddon factor“Regarding the church that Harper has belonged to for nearly three decades — the Christian and Missionary Alliance Church — McDonald noted that its “adherents believe that the Bible is ‘inerrant’ and the Second Coming is ‘imminent’.”

That would place Harper’s church squarely in the Evangelical tradition called dominionism, those who believe in the so-called “dominion mandate” spelled out in Genesis 1:28: “And God blessed them [Adam and Eve], and God said unto them, be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the Earth, and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the Earth.”

Many (although not all) dominionists take that passage as a divine trump card against any thoughts about environmental protection or regulation.”

This is an interesting read, though not really the sort of book you want to take to the beach with you on a sunny day. It’s the sort of book that makes you think, whether you believe the work or not.

We are fascinated by tales of an apocalypse, especially if said apocalypse finds us alive and having wonderful adventures in a new world of our own shaping. But what those stories should be teaching us is what we can do to stop moving towards an end caused by human interference, and how to make the necessary changes in our lives in order to avoid leaving our children and grandchildren a barren world, ripe for annihilation.

(originally published June 21/2015 @ bobsegarini.wordpress.com)

I Won’t Dance – Don’t Make Me


If you are lucky enough to discover the world of blogging, and to find a place for your musings, you will inevitably discover one immutable truth; the majority of people like to hear what they already believe to be true.

In an effort to remain timely and click-worthy, a lot of writers will take the easy path, and regurgitate the same information over and over and over. Better to have a large click count than to endanger your brand by talking about subjects that are not as dear to the heart as that which first drew readers to your site.

no sugar coatI don’t do that. I write about what interests me, and what is important to me. And thankfully, that’s a huge spectrum.

I won’t be reduced to ‘preaching to the converted.’ I cannot change the beliefs of those who’ve been inculcated by their upbringing and treasured beliefs.

All I can do is, hopefully, point where logic leads me. As a tech writer and editor, I rely on research to show me where the planet is headed. My research is always non-partisan. feet of clayMy idols frequently show their feet of clay. I don’t mind, because anyone who isn’t capable of error isn’t really human.

We can revere humans who make errors. It’s not a crime. Humans inherently are subject to the same rules as everyone. Deceit will out. Honesty will shine. Those that try and straddle two thoughts so as to be more popular to the voting populace will be shown up as self-serving charlatans. It’s all part of our culture. Image_of_Congress

But I, for one, will not grind the mill exceedingly fine. Going over and over the same material is the role of the populist, the Bill O’Reillys and Ann Coulter’s who’ve lost sight of what it is to have a clear and unobstructed view of reality, in favour of a one-sided slab of apple pie, delicious to their followers, but repugnant to anyone who can actually parse out what is happening in front of their eyes. coulter oreilly

Pandering to a delusional audience is odious, no matter how illustrious the writer’s credentials. Pandering simply to keep the lowest segment of society on your side is to not only give up your credentials as a truth seeker, but to pit oneself against the likes of Danielle Steele’s slightly smutty, but always bestselling fiction; a guilty pleasure to those that enjoy soft porn, but who can’t actually bring themselves to let their friends know how they spend their spare time.guilty pleasure

Big Dreams and Lotteries


schrodinger-1325709458I love that moment just before I check an old lottery ticket. For as long as I can avoid checking the numbers, it’s like Schrodinger’s cat – the dream is both dead and alive simultaneously. I can continue to muse upon what I’d do with a big win, because until the numbers are checked … I just might be a winner!

I never am, though.

But still I keep buying the tickets. Not all the time, just now and again, and when I really feel like a lotto win is the only way out of my life, that’s there’s no other way I can break free of my personal cage.

gilded_cage_by_kirschsalvator-d45ti8mWe all have cages. Some have gilded cages, others cages of straw. Some perpetuate a cage they’ve known since childhood. But they’re all cages, and we’ve usually built them for ourselves. It’s much more fun to dream about a magical lucky event than to challenge the cage.

I like to tell myself about all of the altruistic things I’d do with a lotto win. … I have a lot of plans. I could do a lot of good, I argue with some imaginary deity who must hear millions, if not billions, of such pleas daily. I, of all of the past winners, would make that money work for so many … just put it into my hands, and I’ll show you …

lottery_winnerSurveys show that many baby boomers – especially those free spirits like me, who thought we’d “die before we got old,” – are hoping for either a lotto win or a good inheritance to retire comfortably. Certainly, we can’t depend on the government to cushion our aging bones.

I read stories about people who’ve won large lotteries. It seems like many of those people don’t end up as happy as they’d thought. Winners in Canada tend to fare better, and invest their winnings more wisely, although we have our share of sad stories. And certainly, a big lotto win will bring out all of those lost friends and relations!

another jackpotThere does seem to be a method to some of the winners’ strategies. I can never figure it out myself. But I had an email the other day that said that someone had worked out a scientific way to ensure multiple wins. I just had to send them some money, and I’d be set for life. And I mustn’t tell anyone about this secret, because the government would stop the loophole.

I didn’t send them money either. Sounds like just another lottery to me.

Comedian John Oliver on why American state lotteries are a ‘stupid’ tax.

Manufactroversy – Measles and Vaccines


CDC measles graphI’ve been off the grid for several days with no time to research or write. But I can assure you that my absence was not due to having measles! I was vaccinated as a child, my children were vaccinated, and their children have been vaccinated. In fact, due to the wonders of vaccines, measles had actually become extinct in North America by 2002.   

iron lungFor those who weren’t around in the 1950’s or earlier, a vaccine may seem silly and old fashioned. But people my age and older remember growing up when children could still get polio; most of us had friends who had spent time in an iron lung, or who were still recovering, if they’d been lucky enough to survive.

smallpoxAnd most of us knew someone with scars left from having had smallpox. Edward Jenner invented the very first vaccine, for smallpox, in 1798. Before that, 30-35% of people who caught ‘the pox’ died, while the rest were left with horrible scars, usually on the face, and possibly blindness, limb deformities or osteomyelitis. When smallpox was finally eradicated in 1979, it had already killed an estimated 300–500 million people in the 20th century alone .The disease is now effectively extinct; the last known case was in 1977, in Somalia.   

(for more information on other horrible diseases eradicated by vaccinations, please read here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eradication_of_infectious_diseases)

vaccinationOur parents were more than eager to protect their children from these horrors. And when vaccines for measles, mumps and rubella appeared, they were added to what we were given. Why would parents let their children suffer, if there was an alternative?

Vaccination (or inoculation) is essentially the administration of a material made from the antigen (antibody generator) of the disease you wish to avoid. That material stimulates the immune system, which either completely prevents an individual from getting the disease, or at the least, weakens the impact of the disease.

In a way, it’s sort of how homeopathy works, where a substance that causes the symptoms of a disease in healthy people is given to sick people in hopes of curing similar symptoms. But homeopathy is considered a pseudoscience, and is not effective beyond having a placebo effect.

The real science of medicine, on the other had does work. And until a British medical researcher, Andrew Jeremy Wakefield, wrote a now discredited 1998 paper claiming that there is a link between the MMR vaccine and the appearance of autism and bowel disease, most of us were simply happy to ensure our children lead healthy livretracted-lancetes.

(Not only was the study discredited, when his results were never able to be reproduced, but a 2004 investigation identified undisclosed financial conflicts of interest to do with his research. He was also charged with misconduct by the British General Medical Council when it was found that autistic children had been given invasive procedures, like colonoscopy and lumbar puncture unnecessarily.)

Unfortunately, former Playboy nude model/MTV host Jenny McCarthy, heard about this study, and believed the theory, citing her own autistic son Evan as proof positive that Dr. Wakefield was correct in his findings. She became a vehement activist and promoter of alternative autism treatments, and pushed for research into the possibility of environmental causes.

jenny mcCarthy CNNApparently disregarding the updated information on Dr Wakefield’s misconduct, and despite what now seems to be a misdiagnosis of her son’s illness (seizures more consistent with Landau-Kleffner syndrome, often confused with autism,) McCarthy took to the airwaves, beginning in 2007, spreading her beliefs before mass audiences, including the respected Oprah Winfrey Show, Larry King Live and Frontline.

a lie can travelWith such a high profile, her stance became very popular. And as hard as it is to get a ball rolling, it’s just as hard to change its direction. There are now millions of people who treat her three books on autism as bibles, despite the misinformation they contain.

It has been said that that McCarthy’s “unfounded claims that vaccines cause autism have been one of the greatest impediments to public health in recent decades.” Her short 2013 stay as a co-host on the talk show “The View” was highly criticized. McCarthy’s credibility rating remains high, despite her anti-vaccine stance. Since The View is largely aimed at parents, many believed further discussion of the discredited theory would endanger the public.

a lie doesn't become truthIn an open letter article in Time Magazine, senior writer Jeffrey Kluger criticized McCarthy, saying, “Jenny, as outbreaks of measles, mumps and whooping cough continue to appear in the U.S.—most the result of parents refusing to vaccinate their children because of the scare stories passed around by anti-vaxxers like you—it’s just too late to play cute with the things you’ve said. You are either floridly, loudly, uninformedly antivaccine or you are the most grievously misunderstood celebrity of the modern era. Science almost always prefers the simple answer, because that’s the one that’s usually correct. Your quote trail is far too long—and you have been far too wrong—for the truth not to be obvious.”

Many who followed the misguided theory pointed to a correlation between an increase of many conditions that used to go by other names now being called autism and the administration of the MMR vaccine. The fact is, we are now more informed and able to recognize the span of autism spectrum disorder. It is that ability to provide a better diagnosis that has created the apparent rise in the number of autism cases.

As early as 2007, Skeptic.com had already laid out the truth about the discredited theory.

“During a question and answer session after a talk I recently gave, I was asked for my opinion about the vaccine/autism controversy. That was easy: my opinion is that there is no controversy. The evidence is in. The scientific community has reached a clear consensus that vaccines don’t cause autism. There is no controversy.

Science-vs-BSThere is, however, a manufactroversy — a manufactured controversy — created by junk science, dishonest researchers, professional misconduct, outright fraud, lies, misrepresentations, irresponsible reporting, unfortunate media publicity, poor judgment, celebrities who think they are wiser than the whole of medical science, and a few maverick doctors who ought to know better. Thousands of parents have been frightened into rejecting or delaying immunizations for their children. The immunization rate has dropped, resulting in the return of endemic measles in the U.K. and various outbreaks of vaccine-preventable diseases in the U.S. children have died. Herd immunity has been lost. The public health consequences are serious and are likely to get worse before they get better — a load of unscientific nonsense has put us all at risk.”

The facts are that research shows that the vaccinations do not contain materials that cause autism. There have been over 1 billion vaccines given, and study after study has shown that there are no negative long-term consequences.

autism speaksLast week, Rob Ring, chief science officer at Autism Speaks, said in a statement posted to the group’s website. “Over the last two decades, extensive research has asked whether there is any link between childhood vaccinations and autism.The results of this research are clear: vaccines do not cause autism. We urge that all children be fully vaccinated.”

surgical masksNow, I’m all for freedom of choice. Parents who are concerned about their child receiving a vaccine SHOULD talk to their paediatrician, and make an informed choice. If that choice is not to vaccinate, then, for the sake of ‘the herd’ – the millions of others who may be affected by that choice – families who opt out of vaccination should be isolated from those they may contaminate.

Stop it might be measlesMeasles are very contagious. Even hours after an infected person sneezes or coughs, everyone who is in the area is potentially affected. And that includes babies too young to safely receive a vaccine, and the elderly, who may have come to the end of their immune safety. About three out of 10 people who get measles will develop one or more complications including pneumonia, ear infections, or diarrhea.

Does that seem fair? Does it seem right that someone who ‘feels’ that their child may develop … MAY develop … a problem .. a one in literally a million chance .. should potentially be allowed to let their child impact upon other people’s health?

prohbitingWe live in a world that has outlawed everything from scented toilet paper to peanut butter in schools, and smoking anywhere. The receptionist at my medical clinic has to wear a face mask all winter because she won’t get a flu shot. Much as I hate the restrictions, I respect those who have lobbied to protect everyone, as opposed to those who chose to follow their own conscience, whether their information is correct or incorrect.

I don’t get to smoke in the park; you don’t get to subject others to your unvaccinated child.

Defining Down


no meat on FridaysI grew up in a time when single mothers were scorned, when people who ate meat on Friday went to purgatory, when interracial marriage was illegal in many parts of the United States … My husband’s mother married a black Bermudian, and most of her family refused to speak to her for years. There were few visible minorities.

Gays did not only have no option to marry, they were closeted and lucky if they kept their sexuality hidden, tormented by local bullies, or prosecuted under archaic laws against homosexuality if found in compromising positions.

But times have changed. Change happens because you care enough to make a difference, when enough like-minded people decide that the guiding principles they’ve been following either no longer make sense, or are plainly unjust.

It’s frustrating to watch how slowly organizations and governments move to make change. The people speak, and when their voices shake society’s pillars, those who control power acknowledge a possible problem. In order to defer action until it’s decided if the issue is good or bad for those in power, comObamaSignsBillprehensive studies are done, dragging out the questioning still longer. When finally a solution is presented, it’s inevitably a compromise that makes no one completely happy, but which we all hail as a step forward.

There are downsides and upsides to expediting change. While it’s frustrating to wait for the wheels of progress to turn, lore tells us that slow change would be of a “sober second thought.” But in a world that regularly examines and attempts advancements based on new ideas and technological advancements, a less cumbersome process allows opportunities for change that really matters. And if the change is not completely positive, swift movement to curb or perfect that change should occur.

defining deviancyFunny how we absorb change. In 1993, the late Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan wrote an insightful paper on how American society has coped with massive social change. When deviant behaviours – from births to unmarried women, to violent crime, to a simple rejiggering of our attitudes towards pornography – reach a certain level, we soothe ourselves by “defining deviancy down.” By declaring these behaviours normal, we take the stigma and the sting out of the action.

iatrogenic govtHe had another theory, of “iatrogenic government.” This proposes that some social problems may have been inadvertently caused by government; for instance, the conservative contention that liberal policies produce a culture of dependency. (In the medical field, an iatrogenic ailment is one inadvertently induced by a physician or medicine.)

“The central conservative truth is that it is culture, not politics, that determines the success of society. The central liberal truth is that politics can change a culture and save it from itself.” Politics is an argument about the future.

By defining deviancy down, those who prefer to live peacefully are kept lulled by what they are told by authority figures. While they may sense a problem, they are easily soothed when a mainstream media assures them that this is the ‘new normal.’

When it comes to social mores, they can safely quote authorities who tell them not to worry about the stuffy old ways of thinking they learned from their parents and grandparents; that’s ‘fuddy-duddy thinking now. All the cool people know what’s really happening, and it’s all just fine.

storming the castleHowever, there are bigger issues at stake. There’s a surprising lack of dismay over economic numbers that would have given our recent ancestors cause to storm the Capital with pitchforks. Those numbers get massaged until the public can be assured that all is well, despite what they’re seeing with their own eyes.

In the United States, the passing of Citizens United completely changed any sense of a level playing field in a democratic government.

“The Citizen United ruling, released in January 2010, tossed out the corporate and union ban on making independent expenditures and financing electioneering communications. It gave corporations and unions the green light to spend unlimited sums on ads andcitizensunited other political tools, calling for the election or defeat of individual candidates.

In a nutshell, the high court’s 5-4 decision said that it is OK for corporations and labor unions to spend as much as they want to convince people to vote for or against a candidate.” (http://www.publicintegrity.org/2012/10/18/11527/citizens-united-decision-and-why-it-matters)

Flash forward just five years, and we have the Koch Brothers, the 7th and 8th richest men in the world, vowing to spend nearly a billion dollars on whomever they’ve decided to back in the next Presidential election. citizensunited 2

Welcome to the oligarchy. Most democratic governments currently in power already appear to be hamstrung by those who have exchanged campaign funding for a say in government policies. Citizens United simply made the manipulation more visible.

(As Katty Kay, journalist and lead anchor of BBC World News America, recently  said, “The Democrats would do it too, if they could. She added, “It is only going to get worse… If I invested $10 million in an election, I would want a return on my investment. I would want to make sure there were votes on the floor.”)

Our cultural instinct is to find those who think like us, a society where we are safe from having to be responsible for caring for all around us, since it’s difficult enough to get through our busy lives. Exhausted at the end of the day, we don’t want to feel obliged to think very deeply about a myriad of issues, each more convoluted than the next.

Our media knows that, dutifully feeding us mere tidbits of real ‘news,’ and filling the rest of the air time with feel good stories and barely concealed infomercials for the products of advertisers who sponsor the show. choose responsibilityWe can choose from a variety of consumer goodies, but are given only a tiny menu of pre-approved opinions and positions on the things that really matter – like how our countries are being run.

Because if we choose, then we are responsible, are we not? Better to define deviance down, to live with a new normal we feel powerless against, than to choose to make changes that matter.

Use Your Power – Vote!


CANADA-2030Even those amongst us, who are tired of hearing about, and arguing about, politics and the economy know, deep down, that we must take responsibility for how Canada will be governed and represented to the world. It’s no longer enough to whinge and moan about the issues that have snuck up on us while we struggled to keep up with the cost of living; Canadians need to decide what sort of Canada they want to live in. And that means we have to vote.

10.-Represents-the-peopleWe have the right and a duty to vote, but voter turnout has been steadily declining in Canada and the United States, as well as in Western Europe, Japan and Latin America. The world’s highest voting rates, at 95%, are in Belgium, which has compulsory voting, and Malta, which does not.

(Other countries with compulsory voting include Australia, Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Greece, and Luxembourg.)

Voter turnout among Canadians is at an unprecedented low, and has been declining since the late 1980s. Voter turnout in the most recent election, at 61.4%, was the third lowest in Canadian history. Young voter turnout was 39% in the 2011 federal election. Canada’s youth will often say that there is little in politics that relates to them. If an issue catches their attention, they are more likely to participate in boycotts and demonstrations, groups with like-minded views and passions.

Screen shot 2014-10-23 at 14.12.48.jpgThere’s a general malaise about voting. As much as I adore the witty and eloquent Russell Brand, I find his disdain for voting appalling and unhelpful to his more impressionable followers. Even that old reprobate Johnny Lydon of the Sex Pistols, once famed as an anti-establishment rebel, has called Brand’s refusal to vote “the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard,” adding “You have to vote, you have to make a change. You’re given lousy options, yes, but that’s better than nothing at all.”

In 2013, Brand guest-edited Britain’s “New Statesman” and wrote at length about his views on politics, saying “I have never voted. Like most people I am utterly disenchanted by politics… I will never vote because, as Billy Connolly said, “It encourages them.””dont-vote

He has since moderated his words. “What I said was, ‘There’s nothing worth voting for.’ If there was someone worth voting for, I’d vote for it and I’d encourage other people if they think that there is a political party that represents their views; if they think there are politicians that are speaking on their behalf, by all means vote for them.”

We’re exhausted with the process. We’ve also lost interest in civic and social participation. Pre-1980’s, more of us were involved with our churches and schools, and we were more likely to be involved with professional or fraternal organizations. Before televisions and computers were available in every home, we met our friends and neighbours socially, to play bridge, or to pit our skills against each other physically in pickup sports and bowling leagues.

When pressed, those who can’t be bothered to vote will say that they’re just too busy. It may feel that way, but studies have consistently shown that we have the same amount of leisure time we have always had – we’re just using it differently.

Statist-voting-logicOthers will say that voting makes no difference; we’re only exchanging one self-serving politician for another. Since the early sixties, we’ve had less trust in government and in politicians in general. The rise of ‘attack ads’ and smear campaigns has left voters with a foul taste in their mouth about politics in general.

There’s an actual formula for figuring out the likelihood of someone voting.

PB + D > C.

P is the probability that an individual’s vote will affect the outcome of an election; B is the perceived benefit that would be received if that person’s favoured political party or candidate were elected; D is for democracy or civic duty, or any social or personal gratification an individual gets from voting, and C is the time, effort, and financial cost involved in voting. (Wikipedia.org)

One of the issues affecting voters in Canada and the States has been a sneaky tinkering with that C; in the name of efficiency and a feigned attempt to curb ‘voter fraud,’ politicians have made it more difficult for some groups to be heard.

election-fraud-for-dummiesVoter suppression, the ‘dirty tricks’ dreamed up to intimidate, or to make it inconvenient or impossible for citizens to vote are illegal activities. After the Canadian Federal election of 2011, the Conservative Party was accused of having used live calls and robocalls to tell voters that their polling station had been changed. Voters were directed to false addresses, often several hours away from correct stations. These calls claimed, illegally, to be from Elections Canada.

A federal court was asked by The Council of Canadians to look into allegations of Conservative Party voter fraud. The court concluded that fraud had indeed occurred, probably by someone with access to the Conservatives databases, but said that there was no direct proof that the Party or any successful candidates were either directly involved or profited from the fraud. Although the Conservative were criticized for making “little effort to assist with the investigation,” the court did not annul the result in any of the six ridings where the fraud had occurred, concluding that the number of votes affected had been too small to affect the outcome. (Wikipedia)

In 2015, changes to Canada’s voter eligibility have a new requirement, that each voter prove his or her physical address on paper. The long accepted practice of having a second person vouch for a voter’s address will no longer suffice.

native voice“The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms guarantees the right to vote to every citizen in Canada who is 18 years and older. While the Fair Elections Act doesn’t trump the Charter and render the right to vote for these groups null and void, the EFFECT of the Act could be just that. The Chief electoral officer Marc Mayrand reported in a CTV news article that removing vouch voting could affect over 100,000 people — particularly those who are Aboriginal and live on a reserve.

homeless votePeople who are homeless, whether on the streets, couch surfing or living somewhere temporarily, are also at risk of losing their ability to vote if voter vouching is dismantled. People who are homeless can experience theft, or sometimes misplace their personal identification because of housing instability. This shouldn’t hold them back from voting.

“Irregularities” have been noted with respect to voter vouching in the last election according to a report commissioned by Elections Canada. These irregularities are being touted by the current government as a reason to end voter vouching, however, the report actually states that these issues were ‘administrative’ and made by elections workers — not by voters themselves. In court cases that preceded the report, both the Ontario Superior Court and the Supreme Court of Canada agreed that, “there was no evidence of fraud or ineligible voters being provided ballots.” (Huffington Post Canada)

bc reserveThis change may also become a problem as physical mail delivery becomes a thing of the past. It will definitely be a problem for many First Nations people, who often do not have regular street addresses, and thus relied on vouching. Elections Canada now requires each person lacking identification that includes an address to have a different registered voter swear an oath as to the technical land description of their home or a letter from the First Nation confirming the location, along with a piece of identification with the voter’s name. Elections Canada will not accept Indian status cards alone.

voter-suppressionIn the United States, elections are locally administered, which has often been found to allow the manipulation of elections. Before the Voting Rights Act of 1965, poll taxes, literacy tests, and grandfather clauses were used to suppress poor and racial minorities from voting. Today, voter suppression is more subtle, but is an integral part of policy for the Republicans, who have championed voter ID laws, voter caging, and felony disenfranchisement. There is also a sad history of physical intimidation at polling stations, ranging from unauthorized security guards, to simply making voters wait for long hours in gruelling weather.

Some countries are working to improve voter turnout by increasing possible voting locations, requiring companies to give workers paid voting time off, or allowing voters to vote over several days, as they do in India. In France, voting is held on the weekend, so that most voters have no need for time off from work.

internet-voting1France, Switzerland, Estonia, Geneva and the United Kingdom also allow internet voting. The US Department of Defense has been looking into making internet voting secure, but no decisions have been made.

In Canada, federal elections still use paper ballots. There have been some efforts at the provincial level to allow internet voting, and some municipalities, including Peterborough, Markham and Halifax, provide internet voting as an option. We’re still a long way from being wired politically.

ask questionsNonetheless, and despite the best efforts of those who fear we’ll make the ‘wrong’ decision come Election Day, it’s still imperative that we use our votes to demand the changes we want to see in government. Voting is our power. By not voting, you cede that power to whomever’s voices are louder than the peoples, to further their own agendas and gain.

help wantedUnless we want a democracy in name only, we need to get involved, to seriously look at the candidates in our constituencies, and make an informed judgment on those who are seeking to work for us. Politicians are job seekers; they need to present a résumé and an outline of what they intend to do for us before being handed power. And they must be held accountable if they fail to perform up to their claims and our standards.

powerWhile they vie for their ‘job’ as your representative, you have the power. Once they’ve been elected, it’s out of your hands. So tell those who want your vote that they’ve got to work for it. Choosing not to vote, or to vote without understanding whom you’re hiring, only guarantees that Canada will find itself in the same place or worse by the next time the opportunity to make a difference comes along.

If you don’t vote, you just won’t matter. And all your complaints and demands will only be the wasted breath of the unheard and the unempowered.

So – Where Are You From?


everything-affects-everythingI live in Canada, and I am Canadian. However, I am also a citizen of the world. When it comes to activities all over the globe, there are no more borders – all countries are affected by the actions of those in all other countries. You’ve only to look at the recent terrorist attacks, the Ebola outbreak, or the long tail rising from weather or chemical spills at home or half-way around the world to see that we can no longer ignore or be silent about events in other countries.

global citizenshipThe world has become a global village. Understanding that we are world citizens should be creating a new level of understanding amongst countries. We have the ability to stop thinking that it’s “us against them,” to end foolish militaristic posturing, and to work together to solve problems as one, rather than reinventing the world with every new advancement.

Instead, some countries seem to be curling in on themselves, becoming xenophobic, fearful of anything even slightly foreign to their lives. We stereotype each other, with the more fervid extremists creating myths that certain people and races are not only different to us, but evil and subhuman. Some feel it’s not enough to enjoy their own religion; they insist that everyone must adhere to the same beliefs, at pain of death.

nigeria_boko_haramEvery human life is worthy and valuable. The lives of the thousands of Nigerians being slaughtered by Boko Haram are as worthy of being honoured as those of the Charlie Hebdo journalists in France. The world’s leaders marched in solidarity with France, but are strangely silent over everyday atrocities in Africa and the Middle East.

Racism, tribalism, regionalism, religious bias, segregation – these are the beliefs and banners of those who would divide to conquer. In that division, there is money to be made, regardless of how much blood must be spilled. Wars hell-bent on maintaining those divisions kill the young and naive, who sacrifice themselves on these altars of delusion.

bomberman Luis QuilesIn the free world, we raise barriers around ourselves, building ‘safe’ communities where those who are not like ourselves are not granted admission. We wrap our own children in protective cocoons, while children in war torn countries deal with the madness of adults who consider the maiming or death of innocent civilians nothing but collateral damage.

wealthy foodIndustrial complexes rape the land, destroying century old forest growth and rain forests, and pushing the creatures that once lived there further and further away from their natural habitats. Those too wealthy and jaded to have a sense of their place on the planet elect to spend their family vacation picking off animals near extinction for ‘sport,’ while illegal poachers slaughter the last remaining wild elephants for their tusks and temporary riches. Impoverished villagers rise early to secretly haul away the sand from their beaches, which they sell to industrialists for use in manufacturing computer chips – for computers they’ll never have access to in their lifetimes.

Poverty has an effect on us all. 70% of the world’s population live in countries where inequality has increased since the 1980s.

wealthy never have enoughThe middle class is disappearing, and a new stratum of untold wealth shelters the richest 85 people across the globe who share a combined wealth equal to that of the poorest 3.5 billion of the world’s population.

In a global economy, where we are all citizens of the world, wealth inequality is becoming the most important division of all, threatening political stability and driving up social tensions. The wealthy elites, not content with merely controlling vast fortunes, are now concentrating their efforts on controlling the political process of many free world countries, in an attempt to rig the rules in their own favour.

Oxfam executive director, Winnie Byanyima cautioned that people around the world believe that the rich have too much influence over the direction their country is heading.

WealthDisparity“In developed and developing countries alike we are increasingly living in a world where the lowest tax rates, the best health and education and the opportunity to influence are being given not just to the rich but also to their children.

“Without a concerted effort to tackle inequality, the cascade of privilege and of disadvantage will continue down the generations. We will soon live in a world where equality of opportunity is just a dream. In too many countries economic growth already amounts to little more than a ‘winner takes all’ windfall for the richest.”

trickle_down_xlargeWe global citizens fear an oligarchy, and for good reason. The wealthy wield more and more political influence, allowing them to shape government policies in their favour. Faulty economic principles like the ‘trickle down theory’ have given the lowest tax rates to the rich in 29 out of 30 countries while personal taxes for the poor and middle classes have increased.

world citizenWe can no longer be silent when we see inequality or injustice, no matter where they are happening. “Where are you from?” is no longer applicable in a global village. The only question can be, “What are you doing to help change what is wrong with our society?”   

On a lighter note – here’s a link to my Sunday music column, at Bob Segarini’s “Don’t Believe A Word I Say” blog.

https://bobsegarini.wordpress.com/2015/01/25/roxanne-tellier-popping-the-top-off-covers/

Martin Luther King Day


what are you doing for othersInjustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. Never again can we afford to live with the narrow, provincial “outside agitator” idea.”   (Martin Luther King Jr. ) 

Today, Americans observe Martin Luther King Jr. Day. It’s a federal holiday, so many people will enjoy a long weekend, with schools, banks, courts and all federal offices closed.

King was the inspiration of millions, being integral to the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and ‘60s. During the 1963 March on Washington, he gave hope to all who felt less than free in America with his uplifting “I Have a Dream,” speech which earned him a reputation as one of the greatest orators in American history.

rosa parks quoteIn 1964, then President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the landmark Civil Rights Act that outlawed discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, or national origin. That same year, King received the Nobel Peace Prize for combating racial inequality through nonviolence.

King was planning a national occupation of Washington, D.C., to be called the Poor People’s Campaign, when he was assassinated by James Earl Ray, in Memphis, Tennessee, on April 4, 1968.

“We know through painful experience that freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed.” (MLKjr)

After his death, he was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom and the Congressional Gold Medal. Soon after, labour unions in contract negotiations began to campaign for a holiday, Martin Luther King Jr. Day , in his honour. In 1971, the day was established as a holiday in numerous cities and states

reagan signs MLK dayPresident Ronald Reagan signed a bill designating the third Monday in January to honour King in 1983, but it was not observed until three years later. It is a floating holiday, in that it is celebrated around the time of King’s birthday, January 15. In 1986, the day became a U.S. federal holiday.

Interestingly, Reagan originally opposed the holiday, citing cost concerns.

jesse_helmsSenators Jesse Helms and John Porter East (both North Carolina Republicans) led opposition to the bill and questioned whether King was important enough to receive such an honor. Helms criticized King’s opposition to the Vietnam War and accused him of espousing “action-oriented Marxism” Helms led a filibuster against the bill and on October 3, 1983, submitted a 300-page document to the Senate alleging that King had associations with communists. New York Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan declared the document a “packet of filth”, threw it on the Senate floor and stomped on it “ Wikipedia.com)

In 1994, Congress designated the King Holiday as a national day of service. But some states resisted observing the holiday, an action that would seem directly opposed to King’s ‘dream.” It was not until 2000 that the day was officially observed in all 50 states.

Many politicians still active in government today voted against the holiday. In October 1983, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley of Iowa and Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch of Utah, former GOP presidential nominee John McCain of Arizona, and Richard Shelby of Alabama, were amongst the 22 opposing votes against 78 Senators in favour, along with the current House Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers of Kentucky, and current top Republican advocate in defense of the Voting Rights Act, Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner of Wisconsin.

steve scaliseMajority Whip Steve Scalise, a Republican from Louisiana, voted twice against a state version of the holiday. Which is not surprising, considering that it has recently become known that Scalise delivered a previously unreported speech at a 2002 conference sponsored by a white-supremacist group. He was one of three Louisiana statehouse members who voted against the proposal in 1999, and then one of three nay-sayers in 2004.

supreme court“The U.S. Supreme Court ruled 5-4 in June 2013 that a key provision of the 1965 Voting Rights Act designed to prevent racial discrimination in certain voting laws was no longer necessary. The majority opinion, authored by Chief Justice John Roberts and joined by Justices Antonin Scalia, Anthony Kennedy, Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito, stated that “things have changed dramatically” in the South and that the “country has changed” since the Voting Rights Act was passed. The court argued the law had successfully defended against discrimination, but was no longer needed. Racism, the court majority appeared to suggest, was over, and laws created during a time when such hatred was in its heyday served now to place unjust “burdens” on certain states and jurisdictions that wished to pass new voting laws — laws, of course, that had nothing to do with trying to suppress minority votes. “ (Huffington Post)

“An unjust law is a code that a numerical or power majority group compels a minority group to obey but does not make binding on itself. This is difference made legal. By the same token, a just law is a code that a majority compels a minority to follow and that it is willing to follow itself. This is sameness made legal. Let me give another explanation. A law is unjust if it is inflicted on a minority that, as a result of being denied the right to vote, had no part in enacting or devising the law.” (MLKjr)

And so today, Americans celebrate a holiday honouring a man instrumental in the creation of the Civil Rights Act that outlawed discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, or national origin, while SCOTUS – which consists of a non-elected Chief Justice of the United States and eight associate justices who are nominated by the President and confirmed by the Senate for life tenure “unless they resign, retire, take senior status, or are removed after impeachment (though no justice has ever been removed)” (Wikipedia.org) – dismantle that act to protect the very states that impelled it’s necessity.

“How does one determine whether a law is just or unjust? A just law is a man-made code that squares with the moral law or the law of God. An unjust law is a code that is out of harmony with the moral law. To put it in the terms of St. Thomas Aquinas: An unjust law is a human law that is not rooted in eternal law and natural law. Any law that uplifts human personality is just. Any law that degrades human personality is unjust.” (MLKjr)

martin-luther-king-jr-quotes-silenceKing’s words ring as true today as they did in this 1967 speech he gave at Stanford University. The “Other America” still exists, and will continue to do so until more people, universally, demand social equality and human rights for all.