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.

It Was 20 Years Ago Today


When you are smack dab in the middle of massive change, it’s nearly impossible to parse what is going on all around you.

hippies love not warBaby boomers have been there a few times. The chaos of the sixties, when the world suddenly went from belonging to your parents, to belonging to you and your like-minded friends – remember that?

That same sort of massive overturning of the status quo happened again around 1998, and most of us just rolled with it, not realizing how irrevocably our world was about to change. Once again, the world was being handed over to a new generation, and those who wanted to keep current, were about to be sent back to school or risk being considered a dinosaur.

tech change computers

A few weeks ago, a Facebook buddy, Walter Frith, posted something that I can’t stop mulling over in my mind … how is it that I lived in the middle of a complete technological upheaval, and never felt so much as a tremor?

Walter wrote, ” I’m watching the first season of The West Wing again for the zillionth time and having begun in the 20th century, it’s a hoot seeing the occasional typewriter, enormous video cameras, referencing the Encyclopedia Britannica with no mention of smartphones, Facebook, YouTube, Wikipedia and Twitter, all of which had not been invented yet. Watching a political drama series without ANY reference to social media seems almost absurd now but the times were what they were back then, 19 years to be exact.”

… mind … blown …..

I was actually working in tech back then – first at Oracle, then as a writer and sales person for the Canadian rags Toronto Computes, then The Computer Paper, and finally We Compute!

old cell phonesFrom Parade Magazine:
The Evolution of the Cell Phone
• 1973 – The first cell phone. The phone Martin Cooper designed for Motorola weighed 2.5 pounds and had a battery life of 20 minutes.
• 1983 – Motorola DynaTAC 8000X. …
• 1984 – The Nokia Mobira Talkman. …
• 1995 – The Motorola StarTAC. …
• 1996 – The Nokia 8110. …
• 1998 – The Nokia 5110. …
• 2004 – Motorola Razr. …
• 2007 – The iPhone.

I had a cell phone in the late eighties, early nineties, but it was enormous, and cost hundreds of dollars a month to service. Very few people, beyond those who could write it off as a business expense, bothered with cell phones back then.

We moved to Scarborough in 1998, and I found a new career selling collectibles on eBay (which had debuted in 1995.) Most of my transactions were done by cheque or money order, until PayPal launched in 1999, and forever changed international commerce.

There was no Wikipedia prior to 2001, and though it may feel like you’ve always been on Facebook, that site launched in 2004, eventually burying MySpace, which had launched in 2003.

Youtube came along in 2005, and Twitter arrived in 2006. Mixtapes were effectively put out to pasture when Spotify debuted in North America in 2011.

And the smartphones .. ohhhh the smartphones! It was 2007 before we began arguing over which iteration of LG, Samsung or iPhone was best. Can you imagine that? In only eleven years, trillions of dollars have been generated for an industry that didn’t even exist before 1973.

It’s hard to envisage how we lived prior to all of this tech. Cast your mind back to 9/11, for instance. At that point, with almost no one being on any form of social media, the North American phone network became impassable in hours, as we all tried to connect with people who might have been affected by the tragedy.

The cell phone changed our life. The smart phone put an incredibly powerful computer into our pockets and purses. And most of us can’t envision leaving the house without that lifeline.

You know what else didn’t exist, even ten years ago? The iPad (2010,) and tablets in general. Uber (2009) and Lyft (2012,) AirBnB (2007,) Pinterest (2010,) 4Square (2012,) Instagram (2010,) and KickStarter (2009.)

And that’s just a few of the apps we believe we can longer live without .. and we have no idea what leaps and bounds of thought and tech might be coming down the pipeline to blow our minds in the 2020s.

There’s only one way that this relentless tech explosion could feasibly be stopped – if someone, a powerful person, so out of touch, so narcissistic and so megalomaniac, believed that it was within his right to take over the heart of current tech – the cell phone – and bend it to his needs.

That would be a bridge too far, I believe, and might even cause those who rely on the convenience of this ‘computer in their pocket,’ to opt out … to reject the very instrument that has become their lifeline to the rest of the world.trump on cell

But that would never happen .. right?

 

oh oh ….

 

 

 

It Is To Laugh!


samantha bee trevor noah.jpgIn a Salon.com article last week, Steve Almond accused Comedy Central of having “squandered Jon Stewart’s legacy” by appointing South African comedian Trevor Noah as host, over the then-incumbent Samantha Bee.

The author points to the success of Bee’s new show “Full Frontal” as proof that Noah’s lower key, outsider’s perspective, has damaged the credibility and political power of The Daily Show.

There’s so much wrong with that attitude that I barely know where to begin. Full disclosure: my conversion to political junkie is relatively recent, and as with most converts, I just can’t get enough of meaningful discussion on my new passion. I’m also an entertainer who studied comedy and acting for long enough to have a dispassionate overview of what I see on the screen – I’m not buying the physical over the intellectual. I watch for knowledge and to hear something clever that I hadn’t thought of myself.

That being said – there’s lots of leg room in the television/Internet world for a wide spectrum of opinions, and lawdy, lawdy, there’s a fan for every fanatical opinion. I dislike certain types of discourse; insightful commentary has no need to use scatology or childish insults unless justified in context. Those that shriek their thoughts are right off my list of viewing. So, that certainly leaves out the FOX News Network, and all Republican debates, no matter how ‘entertaining.’

But let’s just cut to the chase on why Samantha Bee declined the chance to succeed Jon Stewart.titans of late night 2016

I like how Vanity Fair leaned into the 50’s sexism of late night by making the photo Mad Men-themed’.

The ‘titans of late night’ sausagefest included Stephen Colbert, Conan O’Brien, James Corden, Jimmy Kimmel, John Oliver, Seth Meyers, Jimmy Fallon, and token light skinned Trevor Noah and Larry Wilmore. Not exactly a cultural mosaic going on there.

vanity-fair-cover2

“What’s conspicuously missing from late-night, still, is women,’ wrote David Kamp.’How gobsmackingly insane is it that no TV network has had the common sense — and that’s all we’re talking about in 2015, not courage, bravery, or even decency — to hand over the reins of an existing late-night comedy program to a female person?

(You could also add “people of colour” there, but I’ll get to that in a minute.)

While I can appreciate the work of Conan O’Brien, James Corden, Jimmy Kimmel, Seth Meyers, and Jimmy Fallon, I’ve never really taken to them. I’m just ‘over’ the late night formula, with its emphasis on rising or fading stars, and middle of the road, slightly risqué, rarely challenging patter. That was always the domain of older, white males, and still largely is. That’s more ” falling asleep in front of the TV” stuff, to me.

colbert thumbs upStephen Colbert’s defection to The Tonight Show, despite his best efforts, still landed him in that traditional format. While the move made great career sense overall and I do love his joyful, melodica playing, bandleader, Jon Batiste, Colbert’s brilliance is still best viewed in his political snipes, and thankfully, the cream of his wit usually wind up getting spun off into Internet clips and memes.

Trevor Noah only has to step on stage for the conservative dog whistles to start – he’s a young, black, South African, and an immigrant who’s taken an American’s job! A gentle, soft spoken and thoughtful soul, he is able to laugh at his own foibles and to marvel at American customs and culture. I find his often wide-eyed wonder refreshing – I too sometimes feel the same gulf between how Canadians and Americans think. Sometimes it’s just too wide a mental leap to span.

The contrast between the often brash, broad humoured and ultra-white Stewart and Noah’s more restrained presence can be jarring, if all you are looking for is what you’ve already seen. But Stewart himself knew that it was time to go – he’d accomplished what he’d set out to do. He saw that it was time to move on and let the next wave of young comedians have their shot. He subsequently signed a four year production contract with HBO, while continuing as executive producer of …larry wilmore

The Nightly Show with Larry Wilmore – an Afrocentric look at America’s politics. Maybe it’s the humour of the damned and the resigned, but it’s also intelligent, truthful, often wise, and empathic.

A typical, if bowdlerized, user’s comment on the show: “they have almost no white people on their show at any point, and often just disrespect that person. It’s always a black panel, it’s always the same guys opinion, who is him? I’ve never seen or heard of him. He presents rather, off humor, if any of this is humor, which it’s not, it’s just a group of people acting out raged constantly”

people care about pets over poor blacksThe main take-away being, at least on the commentator’s part, not to see a chance to explore and try to understand a different perspective on the very real problem of racism in America, and how it’s dealt with, legally and individually, but instead a demand for more white faces to rehash white opinions on a series focused on black lives. And there you have your #allLifeMatters in a nutshell.

Stewart was also instrumental in launching Last Week Tonight with John Oliver, a satirical look at news, politics and current events. Funny-sausage-principle-by-John-OliverOliver had the distinction of guest-hosting The Daily Show in the summer of 2013, when Stewart took a working sabbatical to direct his film, Rosewater. Oliver’s sardonic and exaggerated comedic ‘voice,’ was immediately acceptable to American viewers familiar with the work of British comedians in the Monty Python vein. Although his series airs only once a week, each episode is a little gem, with the bulk of the airtime focusing with laser beam intensity on a well-researched and timely item deserving of closer examination.

 

hollywood_reporter_bill_maher_coverStill a force to be reckoned with, is Bill Maher, of Real Time, and the late, lamented Politically Incorrect. The granddaddy of political satire and discussion, Maher is definitely polarizing. He’s a “love him or hate him” kinda guy. Perhaps that’s the attraction. At any rate, I’ve followed his career since the nineties, and even once seized the opportunity to be in the Politically Incorrect audience, just a week or two after 9/11. Though I can’t remember if that was the episode that got his multi –award winning show cancelled.

ABC decided against renewing Maher’s contract for Politically Incorrect in 2002, after he made a controversial on-air remark six days after the September 11 attacks. He agreed with his guest, conservative pundit Dinesh D’Souza, that the 9/11 terrorists did not act in a cowardly manner (in rebuttal to President Bush’s statement calling them cowards). Maher said, “We have been the cowards. Lobbing cruise missiles from 2,000 miles away. That’s cowardly. Staying in the airplane when it hits the building. Say what you want about it. Not cowardly. You’re right.””

Maher barely skipped a beat, moving from ABC to HBO in 2003, where his hour-long political comedy talk show, Real Time with Bill Maher, has flourished ever since.

Bill and I have been aging disgracefully – a world apart, but akin in spirit – for decades. We’re both still lippy, lefty, liberals – though I disagree with his pro-gun stance – with a sarcastic attitude, and a hate-on for bad politics, bought off politicians and mass media, inane bureaucracy, and rabid religionists of any stripe. What’s not to love? I’m positively dejected when I miss my Friday night fix of Real Time .

samantha bee on ScaliaBut circling back to Full Frontal with Samantha Bee… this new series airs only once a week. Like John Oliver, Bee touches briefly on current events, before diving deep into the murky waters of American politics. She’s funny, strong, relevant, courageous … even the show’s theme song, PeachesThe Boys Wanna Be Her,” asserts that “the boys want to be her, the girls want to be her.”

And I think that rings true to a young, engaged, non gender discriminating audience. Bee is cocky, unafraid to confront the staid establishment. Her interview with Texas Republican representative Dan Flynn, about writing the anti-abortion restrictions despite knowing little about the procedure, is typical of her style. “I speak with the authority of one who has a uterus,” Bee tells him, “and I guess that’s why I think that you’re the wrongiest, wrongheadedest wrong person.”

She’s exciting, she’s brave – and she’s Canadian! All of which allows her to comment and opine on wrongheadedness from the perspective of a country more known for acceptance than intellectual resistance. But we’re only four episodes in so far. It may seem longer, since that has encompassed four weeks, but we’re talking baby steps here.

By contrast, Trevor Noah’s been at The Daily Show since September 28, 2015, appearing four nights a week most weeks. Viewers have had time to decide on whether they like his shtick or not. Or have they? trevor noah w de Blasio

I recently watched an episode of Noah speaking with New York Mayor Bill de Blasio. But this time, the episode that I watched was not the regular, clipped for time, segment normally shown in the time spot, but rather, included the ‘extended’ interview that is available only to those who seek out the episode on Comedy Central. There was an entirely different tone between the televised and the ‘only available on the Internet’ conversation.

In the first, commercially aired segment, there was a lot of polite banter and civility. But just as the conversation got started, it was cut short.

De Blasio: And look, a lot of people don’t feel the government’s treating them fairly. For years and years, a lot of – and this is especially why, as you know, I’m very involved in the issue of addressing income inequality. And, you know, it’s amazing, you see the national discussion – like, why are people angry? Why are they frustrated? Because they’ve been screwed. Because for decades they’ve seen their incomes go down. They’ve seen their economic reality decline, and they wonder if their kids are going to have anywhere near as good a life as they had. Would you be content? The anger and frustration are the natural way people should feel when they go through that, and then they take that frustration out on a government that they feel has let them down. 

Noah: That has let them down, especially when it comes to income inequality. It’s funny you bring that up, because you are big on income inequality, which seems like a Bernie Sanders supporter, and, yet, you’ve endorsed Hillary, which we’ll talk more about. TV time is up – we’ll be talking more on the web and on the app.

(the extended interview) http://www.thecomedynetwork.ca/Shows/TheDailyShow?vid=821779

Now, I can’t say that I’ve watched many of the extended interviews. However – a different Noah, a more confident, knowledgeable and willing to confront, Noah, appeared during the extended segment. And, in my opinion, that’s the Noah that viewers would prefer to the polished, safe, non-threatening, Noah they’ve been sold since his debut.

sense of humourBut really, in the end, our appreciation of comedy is personal, and only our opinion, as is our sense of humour. Everyone’s taste is different, and that’s a good thing – it speaks to our individuality. There’s room for all at the inn – pitting comedian against comedian is sophomoric and limiting. Let’s keep any nonsense austerity principles as far away from the distribution of art as we can.

Having a wide range of voices available for regular viewing is the essence of our freedom to choose, a real gift to viewers, and a paean to the right of free speech.

 

(first published Match 6/2015: bobsegarini.wordpress.com/2016/03/06/roxanne-tellier-it-is-to-laugh/)