But Enough About Me


by Roxanne Tellier

Okay, I’m tired of the pandemic game now … can we play something else for a while?

I’ll tell you, I thought I’d be just fine with ‘social distancing.’ I’m not great with staying up late; social distancing is how I basically spend most Saturday nights.

And as the daughter of a hoarder, I was weeks ahead of most when the penny dropped, and people got into panic buying. Way ahead of you guys! I panic when I can see bare shelf in my pantry; I like to have at least six tins or packages of our favorite foods tucked away ‘just in case.’ 

I really thought the libraries being closed would be the straw that broke my spirit, but even there, I’m pretty much covered. Books, DVDs, CDs … I’m better than good.   On top of that, there are all sorts of musical and theatrical libraries that have flung open their virtual doors to allow the locked down citizens to wallow in unfettered streams. (And yes – that includes Pornhub …)

Never been big on greeting people with hugs and kisses. The Real Housewives or Kardashian-style easy kisses gross me out. Hey, I don’t know where those lips have been! Like the Georgia Satellites, I’m good when you “keep your hands to yourself.”

With my flotilla of medications on hand, and being currently addiction free, I am, strictly speaking, good to go, as long as Shawn gets out to the shops to bring home some milk and fresh fruit and veg occasionally.

So I really should have no reason to worry. But guess what? I do. I’m worried about YOU. 

How are you coping? Are you having problems being isolated, or are you enjoying the quiet? Do you feel like you’re going to be okay for as long as this goes on? Do you have someone you can count on to help you out when you need something – or when you just need to tell someone you’re afraid, and do they think this cough sounds serious?

And what do you miss the most?

Some people are frantic that they can’t get together with their friends and family. It can be painful not to have the comfort of our loved ones when we’re also dealing with so much uncertainty, and fear of the unknown. On the other hand, not everyone has a happy family. I wonder how those families are coping with so much enforced togetherness; are they enjoying a reprieve from the morning madness rush to get everyone up and out, or have they just substituted another kind of busy-ness?

Those who enjoy watching or playing sports, even pickup games, are finding it hard to have an enforced cessation of that diversion.  And a lot of kids, who just a month ago were looking forward to summer vacation, are now discovering, to their surprise, how rich their school and social life was before lockdown.   

Others wish that the music and theatrical venues would reopen. Three events that I was looking forward to have been cancelled, and won’t be rescheduled this year, which is maddening, but hardly fatal. I’m far more concerned about how those in the entertainment business are going to keep themselves fed and housed without an income. There will be benefits for those hit hardest by unemployment, but when you’re already spending most of your life behind the economic eight ball, things start tight and get really constricted very quickly.

I worry about those on fixed incomes as well; relying on a pension or a disability benefit is a tightrope walk for many, especially if anything disrupts the carefully laid plans of those who know there is just so much money coming in, and bills to be paid, crisis or not.

It was just last October that, following several economic studies, millennials were told that they need to prioritize putting at least 40% of their weekly income aside now, in order to have any kind of pension security when they’re seniors. Tell that to the kid who’s living in a corner of someone else’s basement, and frantically trying to find any kind of job that will allow them to pay for that AND their food.

The stats say that 44% of US residents could not cover an unexpected $400 expense. I’m not sure that there are that many less Canadians who could either, at least based on what I’ve heard people say in the past.

So yeah – I’m worrying about you. I’m hoping that people are coping without accidentally harming themselves or others. Keeping my fingers crossed that those who are healthy and able are sparing a thought for those that could really use a hand in getting through the crisis. 

These are difficult times for everyone. We’re not used to this uncertainty in our lives, with no idea of how long it will last, or what changes will come as our dance with COVID 19 goes on. I know I’m going a little stir crazy, and I’m becoming prone to inappropriate laughter and/or tears, though my husband might disagree with that having had a sudden onset.

And though I utterly, thoroughly, completely abhor wearing any kind of face mask, it looks like masks will be in our public future for the foreseeable future, so we may as well get on that.

The plain truth is that we’re in this for however long it takes. We are helpless to change what’s going on in our countries, and must trust in our leaders. We can only control ourselves in this time. We know that many of us will get ill, many will recover, and some will not. But there’s little we can do at this point but wait and see.

Eventually the world will ‘re-open for business’ and, like Queen Elizabeth said in her special speech to the world today, “we’ll meet again, don’t know where, don’t know when.”

We have an opportunity to use this time to move from a reaction of fear, to a period of learning and into societal growth. I hope it’s an opportunity we choose to take.

Is That You, Rona?


by Roxanne Tellier

Funny, I always thought that I’d get so much more done. Whenever I felt like I just couldn’t keep up with all of the richness and offerings of modern life, I’d mutter to myself…

“If only time would stop – just for a day or two – and let me catch up on all of this watching, reading, and writing!”

So here it is, and guess what I’ve been doing? Lying on my bed, watching YouTube, playing games on the tablet, and spending quality time with the cats. Between naps.

I have 24 library books here to be read and used for the three major projects I’m working on, but I’ve not opened one of them. Instead I’m storming through my stack of paperback novels, the pulpier the better.  Occasionally I feel guilty about not working on those weighty projects, but then I tell myself that I just can’t possibly start yet, not without that one other book that was on its way before the library so abruptly closed. 

I keep busy, no question. And I spend a lot of time wondering if I’m sneezing because of allergies, or because of the coronavirus.

I’ve also been doing daily stealth assaults on my local big box grocery stores. I’ll go very early, hoping to run in and out again without any physical contact. From the beginning, I’ve assumed our isolation could get well beyond two or three weeks, and have foraged accordingly. The shelves are full, you can’t squeeze one more item into the freezer, and I think I’m even good on fresh produce, at least for a while. I’m the daughter of a prepper – I was born knowing how to stockpile the essentials.

Which is a good thing, because on my last foray to FreshCo, there was nary an egg to be found, nor a bag of pasta representing. Panic in aisle 3.

(In my own defense – I HAD to do the shopping. If I left the hunter gathering up to the hubby, we’d be trying to divvy up a package of sliced processed cheese, a jar of peanut butter, and a loaf of raisin bread.)

Anyway, I think I’m good. I think we can now pass another couple of weeks without having to resort to UberEats or the like. Based on how the stock market plunged last week, not sure if we could afford UberEats anyway.  

For all that, for all of the inconvenience, for all of the upset and the crippling uncertainty of our futures, we’re actually doing pretty good, compared to others. Sure, I’m missing a library book or two that I really wanted to read, but luckily, I wasn’t in the middle of some government tug of war over my income or a missing passport. I’m not dependent on any addictive substances. I’m not waiting for some obscure medication to arrive from some far-off land. Heck, I’m not even waiting on anything from Amazon right now!

Although we worry about our families, and our friends who are vulnerable, we’re stocked up, we’re relatively healthy, we’ve got each other and our cats, and life could be a heck of a lot worse … and is, for many, all over the world.

At this point, all we’re really being asked to do is to stay home and not spread a disease. The Greatest Generation stormed a beach in Normandy – we’re being asked to Netflix and chill.

This is our chance to be unsung heroes, by just staying home and not actively harming other people. We’ve got this.

I worry about those who rely on convening in groups to deal with mental and health issues. So many people who are struggling to survive without drugs or drink, or who are depending on other people sharing helpful words and kindness are suddenly being thrown into close quarters, confronting their demons by themselves under highly unusual circumstances.

However, there’s a bright side. For once, this enforced solitude and curtailment of our usual mad rush through the days is allowing us to actually have time to do some things that we might just brush over normally. We’ve got more time to listen, and to think. We also have the option to be the ‘helper’ in our world; some have been offering to help those who can’t leave their house. Others have been sharing their creative output.

It turns out that musicians, artists, and creatives are far more important that was previously thought

This is a great time for those who have something entertaining to share to get their work out before a larger and more receptive audience than usual. We’ve got a lot of time on our hands. And look! There are people writing poetry, short stories and novels, and sharing their work for free or a minimal price! There are musicians giving free house concerts on Facebook!  Sure, there will always be meanies who choose profiteering over sharing, but the good people who just want to be a part of a bigger community far outnumber the bad guys.

The government is also really trying to do it’s best to try and help every citizen survive, even as we shelter in place. Beyond that, some companies are going beyond the minimum, in an effort to soothe the pain.

The United Nations declared internet access a basic human right in 2016, saying that all people must be able to access the internet freely. All well and good in principle, but far too many people can’t afford full internet access in Canada, which has one of the highest cost structures in the world. The good news is, nearly all Canadian internet service providers are suspending data caps and allowing freer wi-fi on their home internet plans right now. And Rogers has made all of its cable channels free to watch.  

In both Canada and the US, the government is preparing to spend trillions to keep the economy going. There are plans to ensure a temporary form of Basic Income for all taxpaying Canadians – a good first step in addressing some of our country’s inequalities. The most vulnerable need to be protected. We need to stop the shutoffs of electricity, water, internet that some predatory institutions may attempt. Mostly, we need to spend this money – the nation’s money – on infrastructure and in helping our people survive.

But they’re also talking about using billions and even trillions to prop up businesses that might be best left to fail. The hotel business, cruise lines, airlines, gambling,  – these are not necessities, they are extravagances. 

I worry that we will follow the ragged script left over from 2008, and once again patch up the buggy whip companies that have survived only by bailouts. People should be demanding that this money be spent on healthier, greener choices. If not now, when?

Times change. People change. Even those who continue to say that humans are not responsible for climate change must have seen what has been happening to the planet since we got out of Nature’s way. Cleaner air and water happen when we’re not inserting ourselves into the natural world, with our needs and our garbage. 

Yeah, when it’s all over, we could all be in clover, as Van the Man once said.  All we have to do is spend our time and our “Blue Money” wisely.

It will be worth all of the pain if we can come out of this crisis a better planet.

Parsing What Comes Between the Thanks and the Giving


by Roxanne Tellier

Americans celebrated their Thanksgiving this past week. Many families endured long journeys, traveling across the country, to spend time with the people they love. The lucky ones gathered around tables that groaned with heaps of delicious, fresh, and sometimes even healthy, food.

Norman Rockwell; Freedom from Want

Following in the tradition of the giving of thanks, families and friends joined hands and expressed their gratitude for those they love, for all that they have, and for all they hoped to amass during the capitalistic human centipede orgy known as Black Friday shopping.

Amen.

For the fortunate, it was a warm, loving, pre-holiday feast. Some families went to bed feeling loved, with full bellies, and visions of the sugar plums they’d enjoy next month.

Other families – not so much. Beyond worrying about how to pay for that groaning board, they had to deal with the ‘difficult’ relative – the aunt, or uncle, or son or daughter or in-law who, instead of bringing a sweet potato and marshmallow pie, brought their anger, fear, and their disdain for the political party that the rest of the gathering espoused.

All In the Family; Archie, Edith, Michael and Gloria

And that could be to either party. While I have my own bias, I’m well aware that a family that has an altar to trump is gonna have trouble with the family member who is a ‘never trumper’ – and vice versa. Think Archie Bunker, wrangling with son in law Michael Stivic, while Edith and Gloria tried to calm the troubled waters. Oh yes, it was ever thus. As then, so today, but oh my living lights and liver! It’s so much worse now.

Tell me,  how’d we ever get this way.

Not everyone experiences these unpleasant interactions. Maybe you are blessed with a Hallmark card family that never disagrees. And many people use social media sparingly, as a place to connect with loved ones, and to enjoy funny gifs and Youtube videos. That’s a perfectly valid – probably the most sensible! – way to enjoy the internet. What I’m talking about here is those of us who compulsively follow the news, with a fetish for politics. That’s a whole other experience. For us ….

” These are the days of miracle and wonder. This is the long distance call. The way the camera follows us in slo-mo. The way we look to us all, oh yeah”

Paul Simon – The Boy in the Bubble

Maybe we can blame it on social media, on our ability to reach out and touch every other person on the planet who enthusiastically agrees with our theories and preferences, but the truth is, a huge segment of society has somehow devolved into something primal and tribal. It’s no longer a disagreement or a difference in opinion; it’s outright war against anyone who doesn’t toe exactly the same political lines we hold dear.

And no matter how ridiculous. 

The level of insanity exhibited by the Mad King installed in the White House is only matched by his sycophantic court, who gladly traipse along behind him, carrying his water, and informing the people that his most insane pronouncements are only misunderstood by his subjects because the hoi polloi can never dream of attaining the level of ‘genius’ trump was born with. Sigh.

You know – the way North Koreans are taught from birth that their holy family in the Kim Dynasty are beyond human understanding, and must be worshipped as gods. Like that. 

The sad truth is that the rules of modern civilized engagement have been fundamentally changed, and many people have decided that they prefer these new rules. Why tell the truth, when the president, all of his administration, and apparently almost all those of wealth and power, no longer feel the need to do so? What kind of sucker tells the truth and takes accountability for their misdeeds, when there’s dirty money to be made, and a seemingly infinite number of lawyers prepared to argue that your fake truth is just as valid as someone else’s declaration?

The people in charge are making it up as they go. Reality is now whatever the 1% say it is, and the rest of you better ‘get over it.’

75% of Americans don’t trust their government and politicians, while 64% don’t even trust each other. And the response from their governmental spokesperson?

“This is the way it works. Get over it.”

Nick Mulvaney, Acting White House Chief of Staff, October 17, 2019

And why bother being civil to each other, when accusations, personal sniping, and the flinging of links to sites that trumpet your truth, is the new way to communicate? The loudest voice seems to rule the day, as those with softer voices and gentle demeanours fall by the wayside.  Even many of those that we may think of as friends and colleagues seem unable to stop themselves from snapping at our heels, unmoored from a frontal cortex that might stop their lips from voicing what might, in better times, have never been uttered, like so many stroke victims who have lost their verbal filters. 

The atmosphere seems to favour the conceit that we are the most important and most knowledgeable person in the room, while simultaneously being the biggest, and most ignored victim, in history. Schrödinger’s Narcissist, demanding to be heard, no matter how inane and mundane our input may be. The shining lead in a reality show in which it truly is all about us, and the ‘little people’ are on their own.   

The trouble is, when everyone’s the boss, when everyone is too important to be of help, things get really dicey when you actually need help yourself. And we’re all so short of time. When we want something, we want it now, and the not getting of something we want the minute we want it leads to tantrums and tears over stuff that we might have brushed away as no big deal, just a few years ago.

Maybe our narcissism and self-focus is a by-product of the things we cannot control or change. Spending our time on self-soothing leaves little time for thinking about how the rest of the world lives. While we complain about how hard it is to get rid of stuff so that we can buy more stuff, there are millions of Canadians and Americans who are homeless. In truth, the average person is just two or three pay cheques away from being in the same boat. Maybe even just one.

” Millions of middle-class Americans are just one missed paycheck away from poverty, with 4 of 10 considered “liquid-asset poor,” or without enough money socked away to cope with even a sudden disruption in income. “

Despite the lowest unemployment rate in decades and solid economic growth, many Americans are on thin financial ice, Prosperity Now found. Minority households are particularly lagging on key measures such as income and wealth, the study found. Across the board, more than 1 in 10 American households fell behind in their bills in the last year, a signal that many are struggling with rising costs and stagnant incomes.  “ cbsnews.com

While blowhards rant about how ‘welfare queens’ pump out more mouths for taxpayers to feed, and claim with no evidence that the poor use their food stamps for steak and booze, the sad truth is that America can be a harsh and unforgiving place for those born to anything less than middle class. Many resent giving the poor and vulnerable ‘hand outs,’ but have no solutions as to how we should go about helping those less fortunate than themselves.  

This epidemic of poverty and homelessness is not new; society was ever thus. What is so startling about today’s wave of needy citizens is the glaring contrast between the haves and the have nots.

Trump’s Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos, has 10 yachts, 12 private jets, 4 helicopters, a government job replete with perks and benefits, and pays no taxes.  She also has 24/7 security, at a cost to the taxpayers of $20 million to date, because she ‘fears for her life’ due to some teacher-led protests.

At 10:30 a.m., this Black Friday, I walked along Yonge Street near Bloor, picking my way through the hands held out for change, while avoiding the prone bodies in sleeping bags that hugged the curb. Across the street, the glittering shops of Yorkville were swamped with fur coated shoppers proffering their black AmEx credit cards to take advantage of sales.

Toronto‘s libraries don’t talk about it much, but they are often the only place able to provide a safe haven for those with no homes, and nowhere to go during the day. On any given day, it’s not unusual to see a bundle buggy heaped high with all of a person’s worldly possessions parked in a library foyer or washroom. And while it may be tempting to sniff that you are opposed to paying for this with your tax dollars, the question then must be what you are prepared to do to help with the situation instead. And that takes a great deal more money, courage and empathy, than kicking in a few pennies per year in your taxes.

Looking beyond our cities and nations, people all around the globe are dying by the millions, from war and neglect. In Yemen, 85,000 children under the age of five have died from starvation, along with countless adult civilians. In Syria, the Kurdish people, who just a month ago were American allies, are being slaughtered as the Turkish militia go door to door in search of ex-fighters. Russia illegally annexed Crimea, and is at war with the Ukraine.

Southwest Bangladesh

The nation of Bangladesh is frantically trying to bail out the waters that are threatening to sink this South Asian country, due to climate change. And it is not even an island nation. It’s population of over 163 million will soon need somewhere to live. Like the other countries facing imminent disaster, they will become climate refugees, searching for new homes, along with Comoros, Tonga, the Seychelles, Palau, Nauru, Kirbati, the Federated States of Micronesia, Tuvalu, and the Maldives.

Last week, koalas became functionally extinct, joining the more than nearly 500 species that have gone extinct in the last century due to continued human degradation and destruction of natural habitats.. Your grandchildren may never see a koala, polar bear, rhinoceros, lion or tiger other than in a picture book.

And yet .. and yet .. and yet ….

The wealthiest people on earth increased their combined personal fortunes by about $1 trillion dollars last year. The poorest person on Forbes Richest People List, at number 20, is Jack Ma, who has a personal net worth of over $41 billion dollars. Mr Ma, alone, if he wished, could end world hunger. 

I know that it is difficult to cope mentally with all of these issues, of climate change, man’s inhumanity to man and animals, wars, populist politicians, societal division, a lack of civility and decency, inequality, and the disparity of income and the ill treatment of our most vulnerable that we see around us. How do you justify these things, when so many of these problems could potentially be ameliorated by the very people who compound the issues in their quest to amass and hoard more wealth than most of us can envision?

If you allowed yourself to really feel the despair of all of those who are afraid, hungry, cold, or in pain – how would you be able to get up every morning and go to school, or work? How do you keep the wheels of the world turning, if you are grieving for people you don’t know, and are unlikely to ever encounter?

I don’t see a lot of happy people these days, on the streets, in the stores, in their vehicles or on transit. I see a lot of angry people, a lot of frustrated faces, and people rushing to be somewhere that doesn’t seem like a place they want to be. I see beggars on the streets of a wealthy city.

“How can you tell me that you’re lonely? And say for you that the sun don’t shine.”

Ralph McTell, Streets of London

Maybe we need to re-examine how we engage with each other. These days I hear so many more raised voices, and so much less laughter. Maybe it’s time to encourage and reward civility and good humour, rather than making heroes and celebrities of those who delight in disrespecting and brutalizing their fellow human beings.

And with the holiday season nearly here, and the cold of winter encroaching, maybe we can all just take a minute to be truly grateful for what we have, and to help those in need. Not a single one of us can save the earth – but all of us together could make a start.

Nostalgia, Russian Assets, and Canada Votes


by Roxanne Tellier

If this column doesn’t actually get written, edited and/or published until February or March of 2020 …. don’t blame me.

NO ONE can resist the call of nineties arcade games! Remember Commander Keen,  Bio Menace, Mr Blobby, Duke Nukem and the rest of the Apogee Games? They’re back, baby! and as addictive as ever. I can’t believe this DOS dump of 2500 hot titles of the nineties .. the list is endless .. well, at least until you look for game 2501 ….

Here’s the link. Don’t say I didn’t warn you!

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Over the last few weeks, I’ve had to come to the conclusion that America’s POTUS is, in truth, a Russian asset. I know – now you’re laughing and want to throw me a tinfoil hat.

But bear with me for a bit. Take a look at everything that has been accomplished in Trump’s first 1000 days – does America look any better than it did before he was inaugurated? Are America’s lower and middle class wealthier, or indeed even happier, than they were before he arrived? Is the country more secure, better positioned, now that most of her allies have been driven away, and her strategic alliances have been irreparably damaged?

Is America’s farmland protected from the devastation of Trump’s trade war that has seen family farms go bankrupt, only to be snapped up by Russian and Chinese investment companies?

For that matter, with the flood of rollbacks of regulations and legislation that once protected America’s parks, wildlife and water … are you happy with the devastation that’s been allowed to happen throughout the nation?   

Or are most Americans sick to death of the constant flood of criminal nonsense flowing from this White House?

It begs credulity to not see the strong link between Russia and Trump; he’s repeatedly  insisted that all of the Intelligence Agencies, venerable pillars in American governance, are against him, and are wrong in their conclusion that Russia interfered with the 2016 election. He’s insisted over and over again that Russia needs to be back in the G7, since he believes that it was only Obama’s prejudice against Putin that resulted in the sanctions against Russia, that he’s tried repeatedly to remove.  And at this very moment, Trump has his puppet, Attorney General Bill Barr, traveling the world, in a totally bizarre attempt to prove those intelligence agencies wrong about Russia’s part in the election.  

Putin’s long term plan to bring down America as a world power has always been to destroy it from the inside, and that seems to have been what has happened. The nation is divided, there’s no progress being made although trillions of dollars are being spent on nonsense, this president may well be the first to be not just impeached, but imprisoned, and his supporters are threatening a civil war should anyone be mean to their fair haired, orange faced, tweetheart.

And then there’s this ….

Gee. That’s not suspicious AT ALL.

And is it just a coincidence that Trump gave Turkey the go ahead to besiege Syria, and to begin a genocide against the Kurdish fighters who’d saved America’s bacon against the rebels … on Putin’s birthday?

Here’s a portion of what the Kurds’ commander in chief says about America’s betrayal of Syrian Kurds.  

Turkish-backed Syrian fighters evacuate a wounded comrade

” We lost 11,000 soldiers, some of our best fighters and commanders, to rescue our people from this grave danger. I have also always instructed our forces that the Americans and other allied forces are our partners, and so we should always make sure that they are not harmed.

Amid the lawlessness of war, we always stuck with our ethics and discipline, unlike many other nonstate actors. We defeated al Qaeda, we eradicated the Islamic State, and, at the same time, we built a system of good governance based on small government, pluralism, and diversity. We provided services through local governing authorities for Arabs, Kurds, and Syriac Christians. We called on a pluralistic Syrian national identity that is inclusive for all. This is our vision for Syria’s political future: decentralized federalism, with religious freedom and respect for mutual differences.

The forces that I command are now dedicated to protecting one-third of Syria against an invasion by Turkey and its jihadi mercenaries. The area of Syria we defend has been a safe refuge for people who survived genocides and ethnic cleansings committed by Turkey against the Kurds, Syriacs, Assyrians, and Armenians during the last two centuries.

We guard more than 12,000 Islamic State terrorist prisoners and bear the burden of their radicalized wives and children. We also protect this part of Syria from Iranian militias.

When the whole world failed to support us, the United States extended its hands. We shook hands and appreciated its generous support.

At Washington’s request, we agreed to withdraw our heavy weapons from the border area with Turkey, destroy our defensive fortifications, and pull back our most seasoned fighters. Turkey would never attack us so long as the U.S. government was true to its word with us.

We are now standing with our chests bare to face the Turkish knives”  (ForeignPolicy.com)

By every measure, Trump’s treachery has resulted in the deaths of thousands more innocents, and his botched attempt at stopping the horrific wave of genocidal murders only gave Turkey’s leader everything he wanted .. and more .. since the validation of Turkey’s annexation of Kurdish land came with the stamp of approval of the American government.

 “The cease-fire agreement reached with Turkey by Vice President Mike Pence amounts to a near-total victory for Turkey’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who gains territory, pays little in penalties and appears to have outmanoeuvred President Trump.” (The New York Times)

“This is essentially the US validating what Turkey did and allowing them to annex a portion of Syria and displace the Kurdish population,’ the senior US official said. ‘This is what Turkey wanted and what POTUS green lighted.’(CNN)

America’s president gave Russia quite the present for it’s leader’s birthday. It would seem that Putin’s work here is done.

Some Trump followers are lauding the withdrawal of American troops from Syria as honouring a campaign promise to ‘end endless wars.’ However, the troops that are currently abandoning the Kurds to a bloody fate are not going home – they are being deployed to Saudi Arabia to be a PAID military for the Saud’s own war. 

Trump has remade the United States military in his own image… now .. they’ll murder for pay. Once proud soldiers are now mercenaries. You have to wonder if that is what all of them signed up for.

************************************************************************

So .. is Tulsi Gabbard, a Democratic presidential contender, also a Russian asset, as Hillary Clinton claimed? All things considered.. she’s certainly not much of a Democratic asset . I’m hearing so much back and forth on this today; on the one hand, people are scoffing at the very idea. On the other, well, Clinton has been right many times before. Can you really afford to just pooh pooh the idea?

The funny thing is – Hillary didn’t name Gabbard. Gabbard just immediately grabbed the quote and ran with it.

If we look at Gabbard’s voting record, it’s pretty easy to see a not so Democratic bent to many of her decisions.

From 2014 onward, Gabbard appeared regularly on Fox News to lambast the Obama administration for avoiding the phrase (“radical Islam.”) In one interview, she told the host that “the vast majority of terrorist attacks conducted around the world for over the last decade have been conducted by groups who are fueled by this radical Islamic ideology,” a statement that may be technically true due to the violence and instability plaguing Middle Eastern countries, but is wildly misleading considering that non-Muslims make up the vast, vast majority of terrorist perpetrators in both Europe and the United States.

In the wake of the Charlie Hebdo shootings in January 2015, Gabbard complained on Fox News that by “not using this term ‘Islamic extremism’ and clearly identifying our enemies,” the administration couldn’t “come up with a very effective strategy to defeat that enemy.” She told Neil Cavuto that “this isn’t about one specific group,” but about “this radical Islamic ideology that is fueling this,” and that it needed to be defeated “militarily and ideologically.” She characterized Obama’s refusal to “recognize” the enemy as “mind-boggling” and “troubling.”

Gabbard flirted with joining the Trump administration, taking an interview, and she also refused to denounce the appointment of Steve Bannon in the Trump administration. Breitbart, Bannon, and others quickly praised her. ” (The Daily Kos)

While Gabbard is basically a non-issue this election, I’d keep an eye on her performance over the next few years. It would be a shame for America to find itself with yet another Russian asset, next time around.

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Canada, you will have a chance to make a difference to your nation tomorrow.

On October 21 – VOTE to elect members of the House of Commons to the 43rd Canadian Parliament.  

And remember ……

Happy Thanksgiving! And It’s time to VOTE, Canada!


by Roxanne Tellier

I have only two things on my mind today …..

Freedom From Want – Norman Rockwell

First … Wherever you find yourself this Thanksgiving, on which ever day upon which you choose to celebrate the holiday, enjoy the moment.

I hope you are surrounded with people you love .. or like … or at least with people that you can tolerate, even if only in consideration of a nice, hot, three course meal at some point.

I hope that those that like turkey, get turkey and that those who like tofu, somehow enjoy that tofu. Probably with kale.

May your day of the giving of thanks begin with kisses and laughter, and end with more laughter, more kisses, maybe a little pumpkin pie, and definitely some Maalox.

Try to remember that it is a day for giving thanks – not a day to start a civil war. Kiss the cook. Kiss your mum. Hell, kiss everyone, and blame it on the after dinner drinks.

And most of all, remember to give thanks for your own gathering, and the people around the table. No one is guaranteed to be there next year, so love them now.

Happy Thanksgiving.

……………………………………….

Now .. get out there and VOTE!


Vote like your life depends upon it … because it does.

And I’m back!


by Roxanne Tellier

… with your Sunday political sermon, though it’s a day late. Time to catch up on what you may have missed over the last couple of weeks, and to get a sense of the direction we seem to be heading towards as Canadian election fever sets in.

In other words… where are we going and why am I in this hand basket?

Looking specifically to Canada, I’m getting very nervous about how Canadians feel about the parties from which they’ll choose their next leader. And one of those reasons is because of a lack of charismatic leadership.

Don’t get me wrong – I’m a lifelong Liberal, and will vote for Trudeau again, because I agree with most of his stated policies. However, I’m unhappy about some election promises that were either not kept, or kept very badly … looking at YOU, new cannabis legislation… what a mess that is!

I wanted electoral reform, incontestably part of the Liberal platform in 2015, and that was off the table after the first year.

“The Special Committee on Electoral Reform was created in the spring of 2016, and it delivered its report in December. It proposed two things. The first was that Canada replace its traditional system of voting (the ­single-member plurality system known widely as the first-past-the-post model) with a proportional system of representation (where seats in the House of Commons would be allocated according to the proportion of votes each party received). Second, it recommended that the idea be put to a referendum.”  (reviewcanada.ca)

However …. On February 1, 2017, the newly appointed Minister of Democratic Institutions Karina Gould announced that the government was no longer pursuing electoral reform and it was not listed as a priority in her mandate letter from Justin Trudeau  In the letter, Trudeau wrote that “a clear preference for a new electoral system, let alone a consensus, has not emerged” and that “without a clear preference or a clear question, a referendum would not be in Canada’s interest. ”  (Wikipedia)

The Liberals never wanted proportional representation, so it’s not surprising that an excuse was found not to pursue it with the people. But I’m still angry that it was taken off the table.

Still, even the National Post, notoriously right leaning, had to report that “The Universite Laval’s Centre for Public Policy Analysis’s latest reading — updated since March — shows the Liberals have entirely fulfilled 53.5 per cent of their 2015 vows, partially lived up to 38.5 per cent and broken eight per cent.”

92% of promises kept. Unfortunately, the 8% not kept are the ones I was hoping to see fulfilled. Still – I’m just one Canadian, out of 37 million. Got to be a lot of people who did have their wishlist met.

I still say, when I”m looking to the other parties that are in the race, it’s the lack of a strong, compelling leader that stands out. At least to me. Your mileage may vary.

Andrew Scheer has the look of a Howdy Doody puppet, and the wooden emotions to go along with the image. He’s 3 parts Harper and 1 part the preacher from Footloose. The dimples and simper can’t hide his lack of connection to the actual citizens, that is, those of us who haven’t been living off the taxpayer dollar for the last 15 years, which is most of his life to date. This is a guy who has not paid for his own housing or meals in so long, he couldn’t tell you the price of a kilo of sugar if you stuck a gun to his head. His idea of transportation costs entails having the taxpayer fund over $2,035,886 of luxury travel, just in the time since he became an MP. This is your guy if a Conservative plutocracy is what you want for your government.

I voted NDP in the last provincial election, but I can’t say that I’m sold on Jagmeet Singh asPrime Minister. Remember when Margaret Wente gushed over his ascension to leadership? 

Those turbans! That beard! He was just the kind of figure to make progressive folks feel good about themselves, their party and their prospects. GQ, the men’s fashion magazine, profiled him in rapturous terms, calling him “the incredibly well-dressed rising star in Canadian politics.””

Ah, but we were all so much older then – we’re younger and more racist than that now.

Elizabeth May, bless her heart, remains our Green Queen, and with climate change such an important issue top of mind right now, there are many who will put their X beside her name, just because there’s Green in the party’s title. Google the party’s platform to see what else the party has in mind for the country.

As to Maxime Bernier and his People’s Party -well, on the bright side, it’s looking like his main contribution to the election will be drawing support away from Scheer’s Conservatives.

Regardless of your preference, please remember that, unless you are a white male, someone fought for your right to vote. Someone may well have died, fighting for your right to vote, and it is important that you exercise that right. Because – your vote does count. If it didn’t, the bad guys wouldn’t be constantly trying to suppress that right.

Maybe you’ve already made up your mind, and made your choice, and are happy with it. If so, I’m glad to hear it. What worries me, honestly, is the voters who tend to vote ‘against’ rather than for; or those who vote their ‘gut’ without understanding the platforms of the party leaders. The time has long gone when you could just close your eyes and pin the tail on a prime minister, and tell yourself that it didn’t matter, because all parties are the same. They are not.

On the plus side, and whether you are into politics or not, our entire electoral race lasts only a few months, so there isn’t time to get too bogged down in nastiness and slurs. Well – unless you want to. Lots of people love to argue on social media. Have at it, if that turns your crank.

A few short months. Not like in the United States, where Trump officially filed his re-election campaign with the FEC on January 20 , 2017, the day of his inauguration. He didn’t want to miss a penny of the donations he could keep requesting, nor the adulation of his base, who could be relied upon to keep massaging his ego.  

We’re still fourteen months away from the next presidential election, and I’m already over it. Pretty sure Trump is too – after all, he called off his trip to Denmark because they laughed when he wanted to buy Greenland, and sent Pence to visit Poland  (“Congratulations, Poland! on the 80th anniversary of the Nazi invasion!”) so that he could stay at Camp David to ‘oversee’ Hurricane Dorian, and fit in a couple rounds of golf. And then he apparently cancelled a secret meeting that he’d planned to hold at Camp David with some Taliban leaders, to celebrate the anniversary of 9/11.  I’m beginning to think this guy just doesn’t feel like presidenting any more!

It’s a whole new world, isn’t it? I mean.. do you remember when we worried that impeaching Trump would result in a Pence presidency? Now we know that, no matter how low Trump goes, there’s always another abyss he’s programmed into his GPS. Worse =we’re all gonna get tweeted to death on the ride there.

This is the hell in which Americans now find themselves, looking down the barrel of fourteen months in which the average citizen can never really be sure that what they’re being told, by any of their leaders, or the heads of federal services, is true, or just what they’ve been told they have to say, in order not to contradict their Dear Leader.

It’s not even so much a flood of DISinformation as it is a bombardment of MISinformation, the likes of which no society can be expected to deal with gracefully. Like headless chickens, we can only bob and weave, ducking each new onslaught of lies and untruths aimed at what is left of our sanity. And even once the liars are gone, the bully pulpit power of those lies will continue to warp the minds of Americans for generations to come.

I’m hoping that Pelosi finally finds her spine and allows the Dems to begin impeachment proceedings, but I’m not holding my breath. In truth, it’s immaterial if the Senate won’t pass it; the point is to put the spotlight on all of the crimes and misdemeanours that have happened during Trump’s reign of errors and terrors, so that all Americans can see clearly what’s been going on in the halls of power since January 2017.

We have to accept that there is NO savior coming to America. We thought Mueller might be the guy to vanquish the goblin, but he didn’t, or perhaps he couldn’t, under paid lackey AG Barr’s sovereignty.

Right now it seems like the Dems are just crossing their fingers and toes, and praying that everything will be hunky dory if they can make it from here to Nov 2020 without Trump releasing a load of nuclear ejaculate in the direction of whatever country displeased him at breakfast.

I don’t believe that a lack of action is the right course to take, but I’m not running for anything, and I’m not American. I have my own Canadian election to worry about.

My bigger fear, like that of other countries around the world, is that not beginning impeachment proceedings now will lead to a second, third, fourth and for life tenure of his presidency, which, once he’s tired of playing Emperor, he’ll pass down to Ivanka. 

And that’s a fate I wouldn’t wish on my worse enemy.

What to Do in Toronto Before Going Into Labour (Day)


by Roxanne Tellier

It’s June of 1968, and Marymount High School has only recently gone co-ed. Before that, the girls wore kilts and giggled in the west end of the building, overseen by nuns, while in the east end of the building, the boys wore ties and had chalk thrown at them by priests or lay teachers whenever they acted up.

It’s sweltering, and there’s no air conditioning. Most of us are trying to catch a whiff of summer through the huge windows that have been cracked around the room. A friend covertly palms me a lyric sheet .. it’s from the new Crosby Stills and Nash album. “Wooden ships, on the water, very free and easy!” And another “ Guinevere  had green eyes.. like yours, lady like yours.”  

My eyes are brown. My lip curls.

There’s this long haired guy in some of my classes who has a vibe midway between Jim Morrison and Charles Manson, and he’s got a ‘following’ because he’s the coolest guy in Montreal and he’s always got access to the best pot. His name is Gerry. One of the hangers on to his crue is a guy who eventually becomes a drummer for a rather famous Montreal band.

(The three of us get busted on the next April Fool’s Day for performing a half-assed attempt at a Black Mass, complete with virgin and stolen communion wafers. But that’s a story for another day.)

And Gerry hands me a poem he wrote, that is terrible even by 1968 standards, and then intones, from his perch in the back of the class … “Summer’s almost gone… “

Flash forward ….. it’s 2019, and it’s been 50 years since Woodstock and my school days. I look at the calendar and realize that summer IS indeed almost gone, and for people of my age, that means the dread of six to a hundred months of snow and ice.

But for most Torontonians, the start of the Canadian National Exhibition – aka The Ex – is the shock that tells them that another year is drawing to a close. Soon the kids will be back at school, and before you know it, we’ll be choosing costumes for Halloween, and making our Christmas lists. The funny thing about a year is how quickly the back end runs away from us.

My grandson is involved with something that has to do with watching other people play video games in one of the buildings at the Ex. I’m not sure I will go this year. I don’t like walking the miles necessary to get from one side of the site to the other, trying to find my friends who scored a nice paying gig at one of the little band shells. I don’t gamble, so the Casino is out. And I’m pretty much over the need to score a .99 cent bowl of spaghetti, if that even still is a ‘thing.’

But – you should go! If you have kids, and if going to the Ex is the way you mark the parameters of your life, you should go! Because the Ex is whatever it means to you, whatever ritual you need to do to put a comma in the summer of this year before trotting on to the Fall. Go. Shoot an air rifle at a booth manned by fast talking carnies! Play your birthday at the Birthday Game tent, or toss a ring over a glass and win a doll. Eat a corn dog or something that should never have been covered in chocolate before being fried. You’d never eat it if it wasn’t ‘just this once!’ Do it! Do it NOW.

I’ll soon be making my own little tour of places that won’t be as much fun in a month or two. I want to join some friends who regularly loll at Sugar Beach, which is down at the foot of Lower Jarvis Street adjacent to the Redpath Sugar Factory, for an afternoon of music and margaritas. I want to enjoy the park’s brightly coloured pink beach umbrellas and candy-striped rocks. It’s part of Toronto’s waterfront, and .. it’s free!

One of my fave things to do in summer is to jet down to the easternmost end of the Beach, past the Balmy Beach club, where a lot of the locals gather to exercise their dogs. I miss my dogs, and this is a nice way for me to get a little sun, and to try to steal a little affection from some of the dogs who race across the sand, and throw themselves madly into the water to fetch the sticks or balls their owners toss in for their entertainment.

I’m a water baby.. I need to be near water. But sometimes I need a little more excitement than that caused by the  passive eyeing of the hind ends of dogs and the Lake Ontario horizon. That’s how I found myself one afternoon drifting through the harbour on a one hour tour of the Islands.

If you’ve ever wondered what it would be like to be a tourist in your own city, there’s a ton of ways to explore. I recently took to Groupon to find the cheapest tickets to a few attractions.

The boat tour I mentioned was only one of a half a dozen different ways to sail off, at any time of the day. The boat I chose was a bit low end, but at $12, was what I needed at the time. There’s also a ‘pirate’ ship you can book, a Great Lakes schooner, and lots of ‘party’ boats with music and booze. Maybe you and your main squeeze could take an evening cruise, and sail off into the sunset together!

Feeling a little more adventurous? Why not try a two hour tandem kayak down the Humber River! You can give that a try during the week for as little as $23 dollars.

Or how about indulging your inner child, with a game of mini putt golf! There’s a new  entertainment complex that just sprang up downtown that combines food, booze and nine holes out of a choice of three different courses of 27 unique themed holes. Fulfill your dream of golfing drunk!

For $43, you can sign up for 10 salsa & bachata classes at Steps Dance Studio in Rosedale. Spice it up with a little hot sauce! 

“At her studio, Jennifer aims to make Latin dance accessible to all people, even those who have no previous dance experience. Beginning with basic step patterns and technique, lessons progress through more advanced skills such as partner turns, syncopations, styling, and more complex turn pattern combinations. To add a little variation to the mix, Steps Dance Studio also runs monthly workshops and studio parties.”

Who knows? there may be a  Latin lover in your future!

When it comes to music, we Torontonians are really spoiled. Through the week there are jams at the Black Swan, Grossmans, The Tranzac, and so many other locations.

But Saturday afternoon is when you can hear some of the finest jazz, by some of the finest musicians, that I’ve ever heard  – at The Pilot, on Cumberland, just west of Bloor. From 2:30 to 5:30, you’ll be blown away by the chops of the likes of Chris Wallace, Dave Hutchinson, Steve Koven, Aaron Davis, Bernie Senensky, Nick Morgan, and Jeff King. The last time I was there, I was completely knocked out by drummer Mark  Micklethwaite. Watching him play is like auditing  a master class. Awesome sauce!

Outriggers Saturday matinee, 3:30-6pm

Or maybe you’re in the mood for a trendy Beach brunch while being serenaded by Toronto R&B and soul vocal icon, Johnnie Wright at Outriggers, on Queen at Beech, across from the venerable Garden Gate Restaurant, aka The Goof. Johnny has had a regular Saturday afternoon matinee gig there forever, accompanied by master keyboardist Michael Fonfara, and the ever-entertaining, versatile Robbie Rox on congas. Can you think of a better way to while away a summer’s day from 3:30 to 6pm?

In my east end hood, August is when the Danforth Village BIA takes over Stephenson Park (between Westlake and Main St, one street south of the Danforth) every Wednesday night, from 6 pm to 9 pm. There’s bands, food, a beer tent, and lots of run around room for the kids.

I missed the first two Wednesdays, but hope to catch at least one of the next two scheduled. On August 21,  Little Magic Sam aka Sam Taylor will hold court, and on August 28, The Stephen Stanley Band will rock the joint..

There’s only two more Kensington Market Pedestrian Sundays left as well. On the last Sunday of the summer months, the streets are given over to the people. Enjoy music, local vendors and art on streets that are closed to traffic from noon to 7 pm. Always a great place to people watch!

So now you have several ways to have fun with the last two weeks of August, beyond the venerable CNE, and at prices ranging from zero dollars to ‘the sky’s the limit!’

YOLO, babes. Enjoy!