DBAWIS CMW, Jeopardy, and What the Heck is ASMR?


by Roxanne Tellier

cmw 2019

It’s that time again! Canadian Music Week .. CMW 2019 … starts tomorrow, and continues all week, with enough major stars and events to keep even the most jaded muso happy.

“Canadian Music Week’s 3 day Music Summit is designed for both industry executives and recording professionals focused on the business of global music. Encompassing 3 days of dedicated programming streams to Tech & Innovation, Live Touring, and Global Creators Summit, as well as keynotes, celebrity interviews, breakout sessions and workshops, it will provide you with the tools and knowledge to build your profile in the business and put you face-to-face with the forward-thinkers who shape the entertainment industries.” CMW intro

Tomorrow night’s kickoff party at the Phoenix Concert Theatre will feature Television, the punky rock band from New York City fronted by Tom Verlaine, that ruled our close n play stereos back in the late 1970s. The fun starts at 7pm.

Toronto’s CMW affiliated clubs will be chockablock with amazing line-ups of talent hailing from near and far, until Sunday, May 12th.

linda-perry cmwI’m always most interested in the conferences, and as usual, the choice of subjects and speakers means that I’ll be run ragged. I’d like to catch 4 Non Blondes Grammy Award-nominated producer and songwriter Linda Perry‘s Masterclass on Thursday the 9th, where she’ll be giving live critiques on a selection of songs by artists and producer-songwriters attending this session.

Perry is a Songwriters Hall of Fame Inductee (2015) and co-founder of WE ARE HEAR, a new company set up to empower artists and break the industry mold. Linda Perry/WE ARE HEAR is represented by peermusic worldwide.”

Tons of good stuff to see and hear, and you know the DBAWIS writers will be checking it out, and reporting back to you, throughout this week and next.

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alex trebekAh, Jeopardy … the trivia lover’s best friend. Hosted by Canadian Alex Trebek, 78, who holds a Guinness World Records™ record for Most Game Show Episodes Hosted by the Same Presenter, the show’s unique formula has kept viewers tuning in since 1984, a mind boggling 35 years of compering.

This March Trebek informed his fans that he’d been diagnosed with stage IV pancreatic cancer, with a poor prognosis, but that he intended to aggressively fight the cancer. After all, he added, his contract meant he was expected to keep working for another three years!

Enter James Holzhauer, 34, a professional sports gambler, who has been dominating the show for the last 20+ days, and racking up wins of over $1.6 million dollars. Holzhauer is a phenom, a packrat of minutiae, who has not only figured out how to most successfully play the game, but, using a data driven approach, has come very close to breaking the game by beating the system.

james-holzhauer 18 dayHolzhauer uses the odds, selecting and correctly answering, the harder, top dollar clues first, and then seeking out the “Daily Double” clues, and making huge bets. By the halfway mark of the game, he’s ahead of the other two contestants with an insurmountable lead, and the game is pretty much over, as he romps to the end and Final Answer.

I cheered him on for the first week or two – it was an amazing display of top level overall trivial knowledge. But by week three, I was tired of watching his opponents slink dejectedly out of the studio, their shot of a lifetime now little more than a memory. At around the eleven day mark, I began to search out older episodes of the show, where there was at least some chance of not knowing exactly how the game would inevitably end.

Prior to 2003, Jeopardy had a few rules that kept the game in check, including a five-show limit for returning champions. It was also an unwritten rule that contestants would generally start by selecting the easier, low-money questions first, and work their way up, while viewers played along, feeling a little more confident with their own responses as the questions got harder. The loosening of those rules changed the game by raising the stakes.

For now, Jeopardy is seeing its best ratings in years, similar to what they had some 15 years ago with 74 time winner Ken Jennings. But I have to wonder who will be interested in watching next season’s games, if every episode is essentially a foregone conclusion. I tune in both to see how many questions I can answer, but also for the fun of watching other trivia mavens strut their stuff. If there’s no real competition, I’m not sure I want to watch what is the human equivalent of the bully pulling the wings off flies.

Love you, Alex … but starting to seriously get sick of James ‘owning’ this season of Jeopardy.

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An old friend, who is also a brilliant novelist, lives in Princeton, NJ, and often hosts soirees that include guests whose names are regularly printed in bold face in the media. Sometimes those guests include one of her neighbours, the writer Chris Hedges, best known as the doom and gloom, Pulitzer Prize winning, highly political, writer, editor and founder of TruthDig.

chris hedges quoteLauren tells me that he often winds up sitting by himself in a corner, because people just can’t take his constant proclamations of political corruption, upcoming wars and the inevitable destruction of our planet through unregulated capitalism.

And I’m gonna say, being rather known as a doom and gloom type cynic myself, that I understand that people don’t always want to hear about ‘how the sausage is made.’ Sometimes you just want to talk about fun things and relax with friends. I totally get that. And I’ve even been known to actually do that.

not listeningBut here’s the thing … people are getting very, very bad at handling reality. It’s one thing to say, “not now, please – I’m enjoying this brie,” and another to simply close your mind to the facts and truth of your current political and physical environment.

Lately I’ve found myself doing the same thing – reading an article that is so filled with horrors to come, that I have to shut down the computer and go out for a breath of air. It’s like my brain can’t take any more, and a massive steel door clangs down, preventing me from absorbing any more information on yet another assault on democracy, or attempts of the right wing to suck the earth dry for profit.

trump won't leave officeTruth be told .. it’s as bad as it looks. Actually worse. It’s so bad that people are seriously asking what will happen after the next election, if/when Trump just won’t leave the office if voted out.

You are already living in a dictatorship if you live in fear of an out of control president who believes he is above the law, and will call for a civil war rather than descend the throne.

Looks like Bill Maher agrees, at least a little. Never been a fan of ASMR, but what the heck … Honestly .. this is brilliant … and Moby is a very capable foil as well!

My point – and I do have one – is that we can only hide from reality for so long. We may not like it. We may say that we have no interest in politics, but in point of fact, politics is taking an enormous interest in everything about you, by which I mean, how much they can take from you before you finally fight back.

Is there is any end to the avarice? As the stakes mount, in terms of what kind of planet we live on, and who gets to live or die, based on the up or down turned thumb of populist rulers, I have begun to believe the answer is ‘no.

The wealthy, having ‘won’ nearly all of the riches in the world, now find most of us nothing but an inconvenience to their reign. Can they not leave us one damn leaf or a bit of ground to call our own?

This avarice strikes home when I consider how much I love the greenery of the towns and cities of Ontario. Even within this bustling big city, I only have to take a short walk to find myself in a well wooded park.

I’ve never been one for camping, hunting or fishing, but I’ve known hundreds of people who love Ontario’s abundance. Our green space is not just our treasure, it’s also a huge source of provincial revenue through tourism.

And yet, our politicians want to monetize the place, open up the joint for ‘business’ – which at this point seems to involve bringing in trainloads of cheap booze, gambling, casinos, and ferris wheels with hot and cold running prostitutes.

They’ll just have to clear away your green spaces, and pollute the air and water to do so, but apparently, that’s not too big a price for YOU to pay. They’re sure you’ll be delighted with living on endless grey parking lots with a Starbucks on one corner, and a Shopper’s Drug Mart on the other.

nursery treeOne of the most recent cuts in the Ford government’s budget is to a long standing project called the 50 Million Tree Program. 

The goal of the 50 Million Tree Program is to plant 50 million trees by 2025. To date, with continued government support, we’ve helped more than 4,000 landowners get involved.

Planting trees is a practical way to get more from your property, give back to the community, and help the environment. Work with us, and you can increase the value of your land, improve the quality of your soil, increase wildlife habitat, enhance recreational opportunities, improve the overall health of the environment and leave a lasting legacy.”

The 50 Million Tree Program was started in 2008 and has planted more than half its goal to date. It cost taxpayers $4.7 million last year. The bulk of the work of planting is done by conservation authorities , and students in the summer. The end of the program will also mean job cuts to those in the field.

“Patchell described the government’s decision, announced the day after the April 11 provincial budget, as short-sighted. It will lead to more erosion in flood zones, poor air quality, warmer lakes because of the lack of shade and less habitat for wildlife.

“It’s ignoring the societal value of tree-planting and of taking care of the environment,” Patchell said. “Trees clean the air and maintain the water for all of Ontario – for everybody.” (Ottawa Citizen, May 4, 2019)

The costs for this were largely borne by the landowners, but of course, you have to get the trees from somewhere. One of those ‘somewheres’ was the Ferguson Tree Centre outside of Kemptville.

The centre will have to destroy more than three million trees, due to the cost of future maintenance, that were planted to handle the nursery’s commitment to the program over the next three years, but that will no longer be needed.

Elections have consequences, and as long as we shut our eyes and refuse to be informed, we will be bystanders to a world whose beauties are ravaged and sacrificed to the maws of big business and the corrupt politicians that serve them.

trees cut downFord’s vision ‘for the people’ of Ontario appears to be aimed at the needs of drunks and gamblers, not at the campers, hunters and fishers wanting to enjoy the splendour of our province.

You really don’t know what you had .. until it’s gone.

 

Let’s Kill Hitler


For baby boomers, on whom the shadow of World War II fell the darkest , the post war years teemed with possibility. Our future lay before us like a shimmering landscape, designed by the brilliant minds now free to bring us sci fi and fantasy tales of a world filled with scientific and technical advances beyond our wildest dreams.

flying carFlying cars anyone?

But, if we looked to our families, who were now coping with war’s aftermath, or when we saw the shadow of a tattoo on someone’s wrist, we felt the pain of the millions who’d perished for a tyrant’s narcissistic wet dream, and, even the youngest of us wondered .. why didn’t anyone stop Hitler when he first started killing people?

During Hitler’s years in power, there were 42 failed assassination attempts on his life, that we know of. Surrounded by bodyguards and security forces, it’s pretty hard to kill a dictator.

But if you were a writer possessed of a fantastical mind, you might have asked yourself; what if you could go back in time, and kill a younger version of Hitler, before his rise to power?

It is perhaps unsurprising that this particular trope appealed to hundreds, if not thousands, of scribes, and that the attempt to find a time travel exemption to changing the past, continues to be tested. As recently as August 2011, my fave sci fi series, Doctor Who, took their own stab at the genre, in an episode called, “Let’s Kill Hitler.” (Spoiler alert; they failed to kill him.)

weird tales 1941 I Killed Hitler

 

Actually, the very first story to do so was published in Weird Tales, in July 1941, and was called, “I Killed Hitler.

 

In James Gleick’s book, Time Travel, he posits that “humans invented time travel to counter the regret that we only have one life to live. “ The question isn’t really, “Should you kill Baby Hitler?” But rather, “How do we best come to terms with a world where evil exists?””

But why do I bring this up, you ask? We’re all aware that Godwin’s Law says that “As an online discussion grows longer, the probability of involving Nazis or Hitler approaches one.” So it’s moot, right?

Well, here’s the thing… by June 24, 2018, even Mike Godwin had to admit that “The question of evil, understood historically, is bigger than party politics.”

“The seeds of future horrors are sometimes visible in the first steps a government takes toward institutionalizing cruelty. In his 1957 book “Language of the Third Reich,” Victor Klemperer recounted how, at the beginning of the Nazi regime, he “was still so used to living in a state governed by the rule of law” that he couldn’t imagine the horrors yet to come. “Regardless of how much worse it was going to get,” he added, “everything which was later to emerge in terms of National Socialist attitudes, actions and language was already apparent in embryonic form in these first months.

So I don’t think Godwin’s Law needs to be updated or amended. It still serves us as a tool to recognize specious comparisons to Nazism — but also, by contrast, to recognize comparisons that aren’t. And sometimes the comparisons can spot the earliest symptoms of horrific “attitudes, actions and language” well before our society falls prey to the full-blown disease.”

So, why am I bringing up this comparison? The answer lies in a portion of a new digital exhibit, the 1938Projekt, that catalogues the final days of European Jewry.

” As was the case with French Jews who threw lavish parties in the months leading up to their deportation, or the Poles who helped manufacture the very weapons that would be used against them a year later, for my family the impending loss of their property, their homes, and even their lives seemed so surreal as to be almost impossible. They don’t actually mean it. They’ll make a show of it but we’ll be fine. There’s no chance we’ll really be gone tomorrow. The tragedy is that we don’t recognize how intractable these political climates are with a sudden timely realization, but rather as a slow burn—imperceptible until only after the damage is done.”

…………………………………………….

You’d have to have been crazy to have predicted such a thing as the Holocaust. Most of them simply didn’t believe that there was any credible reason why things would suddenly surpass normal levels of anti-Semitism and go from bad to catastrophic.

It is the story of how easy it is to become inured to the progression of a deteriorating situation. Through its lens, we see the time more clearly for what it was: not just another brief chapter in the thousands-of-years-old story called anti-Semitism, but a tinderbox heating up with the passage of each day. It’s easy to look now and see a series of warnings plastered onto the walls of the past, plain and clear for all Jews to see, only for fools to ignore.

But if someone were to tell you about a shooting at a synagogue in Pittsburgh and swastikas graffitied on the Upper West Side and Nazi marches and Jewish cemeteries being defaced and a president who calls himself a nationalist and ordinances that dissolve the rights of immigrants and of the queer community and a caravan of refugees, and told you to leave behind your family business and your belongings and your home and move across the world to a place where you didn’t know a soul and didn’t know the language, would you? You’d have to be crazy.”       (https://www.tabletmag.com/scroll/274646/what-it-was-like-to-be-a-german-jew-in-1938)

You see, I think that, like those long ago writers of science fiction who yearned to turn back the clock to a time before Hitler took power, we’re now living in a time when there is a chance to change what seems to be inevitable.

And I think that, if a change doesn’t happen, we’ll see future writers scribbling about wanting to time travel back and kill a baby Trump, before the real horrors began in America.

wh punished Acotsta more than khashoggi murderersUnlike a lot of people who still cling to the idea that checks and balances, and the application of the Constitution, will prevent anything too destructive from happening in America, I see that we are once again following a historic arc that has always moved in a horrific direction, and that swing is accelerating.

The assaults on the justice system and law itself are compounding daily. Where is the outrage over Khashoggi‘s murder? Why have those who swore to stand by AG Sessions, or to defend Robert Mueller’s Russian investigation, suddenly disavowed their previous words?

What did you think it meant when President Trump suggested he could pull press credentials from any reporters who didn’t show him “respect.” Can you not see that Trump has essentially revoked the First Amendment without even having to use an ‘executive order’ to do so? Like all dictators, first they must take out the press, in any way possible, because the press are they that would show you the misdeeds the administration would rather conceal.

cronkite just read the newsThe POTUS, on his bully pulpit, cannot repeatedly tear down American institutions verbally, without risking their actual destruction. When every speech at his rallies sounds like the words of an authoritarian, the supposition of an authoritarian regime can’t be avoided.

Post midterms, and post some of the most despicable attempts to thwart a legitimate election in recent history, many Republicans are publicly calling the attempt to count every ballot cast, voter fraud, and an attempt to ‘steal’ an election. But this is not theft or a fraud … you may not recognize it, GOP, but this is democracy.

When I hear Americans cry, “...but this isn’t America. This isn’t who we are!” I have to beg to differ.

There’s an historic pattern of racism and xenophobia that has a long through line, from America’s very beginnings, right through to the US Supreme Court’s 2013 decision to gut a key element of the 1965 voting rights act, based on the election of a man of colour to the presidency. That law demanded that areas with a history of racial discrimination at the polls get prior authorisation before changing their election or voting laws. As we’ve just seen in the 2018 midterms – we really needed that provision. We all watched the disastrous Republican-run elections that slashed the rights and ability of people of colour and indigenous people, to cast their votes, in the name of non-existent voter fraud. What you saw was voter suppression.. they never got a chance to vote, so there was never a chance of fraudulence, except on the part of those making up these rules to benefit their own party.

That problem is solved,” Justice Roberts intoned, dismissing centuries of racism and exclusion.

“This isn’t who we are!” you say?

Do you remember the poem that begins, “first they came?” America’s version begins with calling Mexicans rapists and claiming that they bring drugs and crime, then moves on to the torment of American Muslims, before dancing on to the Dreamers, the Trans community, the LGBTQ, Puerto Ricans, Hondurans… and eventually, it comes to the Jews, as it ever has.

The massacre at Pittsburgh’s Tree of Life Synagogue came at the hands of a white, middle aged, right wing, Trump supporter, who thinks Trump isn’t hard enough on the Jewish citizens of America, and so he murdered 11 people in Trump’s name.

Ironically, and In spite of his overtly racist leanings, Trump enjoys solid support from the Jewish community. One of his most fervent supporters, Miriam Adelson, the wife of Sheldon Adelson, will soon receive a Medal of Freedom, that is essentially her reward for her part in her husband’s donation of $113 million to Trump’s election and midterm support.

Like those in Germany, Poland and France that went to the movies, or threw parties, mere days before they were marched to camps, supporters like the Adelsons think his racism will stop with Mexican immigrants and African-Americans.

The pattern is too consistent. History shows horrible acts of racism, over and over and over again, against the most vulnerable of citizens. The United States, like 1984’s Oceania, has always been at war .. with itself.

This IS who you are, America.

Bill Maher has been calling this flaunting of law by the Trump administration a ‘slow moving coup‘ for the last year. With the illegal appointment of Whitaker to the position of Acting United States Attorney General, that coup picked up speed.

In third world dictatorships, the chief law enforcement officer‘s main qualification is – he doesn’t enforce the law. Officials of independent mind are hounded out, or shoved aside.”

As Maher said, “In mid 2017, I first read you my dictator checklist, but since this week is the week we first added, “install your personal protector as head of the justice department, ” after adding in September, “install your personal protector on the highest Court,” let’s review the dictator list one more time.

You’re a narcissist who likes to see his name and face on buildings.
You appoint family members to position of power
You hold rallies, even when you are not running, and they are scary.
You talk about jailing the press, and political opponents.
You want to hold military parades, and muse openly about being president for life.
You use your office for personal financial gain.
You love other dictators.
You lie so frequently your supporters don’t know what the truth is anymore, and don’t’ care.

For a coup to work, it is first necessary for truth itself to be destroyed – as well as the people who try to report it. So the dictator is free to say anything, and his followers believe it.

Adding to that dictator checklist, we now have state TV in this country, an actual propaganda channel, where the ‘reporters’ openly endorse the leaders. And we have people who oversee the elections they are running in.

In August of this year, Trump’s semi-liquid mob mouthpiece, Rudy Giuliani, said “the truth isn’t the truth.”

So – truth isn’t truth, the press is the enemy of the people, there are ‘alternative facts,’ “there’s no proof of anything, ” “What you’re seeing and reading isn’t what’s happening.”

…………………………………………………………………………………………………………
In 1986, after 21 years of being the president (dictator) of the Philippines, Ferdinand Marcos, and his wife, Imelda Marcos, had their reign of corruption overturned, and the family was sent into exile. It is estimated that the couple plundered between 5 and 10 $BILLION US dollars from the Philippine people during those years.

imelda w shoesAnd yet, Imelda made a comeback, and somehow managed to get elected to the the Philippine House of Representatives , not once, but FOUR times, despite having been called a kleptocrat by historians, being listed by Newsweek as one of the “greediest people of all time” and having had the distinction of having committed, along with her husband, the greatest robbery of a government, according to the Guinness Book of World Records.

In November 2018, Mrs. Marcos was convicted of corruption involving US$200 million, from the time between 1978 and 184, when she was governor of Metro Manila. She has been sentenced to a total term of up to 77 years of imprisonment.

I’m telling you this because of the parallels between the Marcos and Trump camp … neither can quit their love for a self-serving, selfish, corrupt, world champion thief. Nothing you say will change the opinions of his or her cult. And just as the Filipinos kept voting Imelda back in, as she siphoned over $200 million from the people to her Swiss bank account, there will still be Americans voting for Trump some ten, twenty years down the road, and probably even after his death.. maybe especially after his death.

“Godwin’s Law was never meant to block us from challenging the institutionalization of cruelty or the callousness of officials who claim to be just following the law. It definitely wasn’t meant to shield our leaders from being slammed for the current fashion of pitching falsehoods as fact. These behaviors, distressing as they are, may not yet add up to a new Reich, but please forgive me for worrying that they’re the “embryonic form” of a horror we hoped we had put behind us.”      Mike Godwin
…………………………..
veteran Remembrance Let politicians warLest we forget …. On this, and every Remembrance Day, I remember and thank my family for their sacrifice.
WWI: Uncle Len, Uncle Cecil
WWII: Uncle John, Auntie Anne, Auntie Pat
KOREA: Uncle Leo, my dad
and Uncle Dennis, who served in peacetime.

Politically Incorrect


In the mid nineties, my husband and I decided to do a West Coast trip. We were looking forward to reconnecting with a special family, and enjoying the beauty of California.

But there was one special stopover I was determined to make, one that I had pre-planned and booked as soon as we had decided on the holiday.

I wanted to watch a taping of an episode of Bill Maher’s Politically Incorrect.

 

 

In Los Angeles, people beg you to come and be a ‘live audience‘ for the shows being taped. But I’ve been on a ton of game shows, a reality show, and some comedy shows, so none of that appealed. Bill Maher, on the other hand …

I’d never missed an episode. Every week I waited anxiously for Friday night to come around, and was sure to be planted in front of the telly the moment it began.

yikes political correctnessThat series, Politically Incorrect, ran from 1993 to 2002, first on Comedy Central, and then on ABC. Ironically, the show was cancelled due to … political incorrectness.

Is that not the most delicious irony?

“In the aftermath of the (9/11) attacks, U.S. President George W. Bush said that the terrorists responsible were cowards. In the September 17, 2001, episode, Maher’s guest Dinesh D’Souza disputed Bush’s label, saying the terrorists were warriors. Maher agreed, and replied: “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, [it’s] not cowardly.”

Despite similar comments having been made in other media, advertisers withdrew their support and some ABC affiliates stopped airing the show temporarily. White House press secretary Ari Fleischer denounced Maher, warning that “people have to watch what they say and watch what they do.” Maher apologized, and explained that he had been criticizing U.S. military policy, not American soldiers.” (wikipedia)

Maher bounced back, with a new hour-long program on HBO called Real Time with Bill Maher, which premiered on February 21, 2003. Bill recently celebrated his 25th anniversary of on air political correctness, with a gaggle of celebrity friends. And I still watch the show religiously, every week that it’s on, and even when I disagree with Bill and/or his guests – which is quite often.

The term political correctness (adjectivally: politically correct; commonly abbreviated PC) is used to describe language, policies, or measures that are intended to avoid offense or disadvantage to members of particular groups in society.” (also wiki)

political correctnessIn the wild, as a concept … political correctness is a wonderful idea. It is an effort to put the spotlight on those unconscious biases that many of us grew up with, and sometimes find ourselves blurting out at awkward moments. It is an exercise in trying to dig out those prejudices at the root, and kill them forever. Many of the things we say without thinking betray unconscious biases, because we are the products of not only our society, but of the thoughts and opinions of our parents and grandparents, who lived in a much less permissive time, and who imprinted their preconceived judgments on our little psyches when we were at our most impressionable.

And the truth is, we allow those people whom we like or generally respect, to say all sorts of terrible stuff, not normally said in ‘polite society‘ … our ‘tribe’ gets a pass. Especially if our ‘tribe’ is a beloved parent or grandparent. We may shush them in public, but we know where their prejudice comes from, whether it is warranted or unwarranted.

how woke it isBut here’s the thing – some very well-meaning people have taken that lovely, Christian, politically correct, desire to make everything and every one equal, and run it into the ditch. And while those very well-meaning people may consider themselves pretty ‘woke’ … they are actually in a clear minority.

In fact, it’s getting to the point where they’re no fun anymore (to paraphrase Crosby, Stills & Nash.)

According to recent studies, “25 percent of Americans are traditional or devoted conservatives, and their views are far outside the American mainstream. Some 8 percent of Americans are progressive activists, and their views are even less typical. By contrast, the two-thirds of Americans who don’t belong to either extreme constitute an “exhausted majority.” Their members “share a sense of fatigue with our polarized national conversation, a willingness to be flexible in their political viewpoints, and a lack of voice in the national conversation.”

Most members of the “exhausted majority,” and then some, dislike political correctness. Among the general population, a full 80 percent believe that “political correctness is a problem in our country.” Even young people are uncomfortable with it, including 74 percent ages 24 to 29, and 79 percent under age 24.

On social media, the country seems to divide into two neat camps: Call them the woke and the resentful. Team Resentment is manned—pun very much intended—by people who are predominantly old and almost exclusively white. Team Woke is young, likely to be female, and predominantly black, brown, or Asian (though white “allies” do their dutiful part). These teams are roughly equal in number, and they disagree most vehemently, as well as most routinely, about the catchall known as political correctness.

Reality is nothing like this. As scholars Stephen Hawkins, Daniel Yudkin, Miriam Juan-Torres, and Tim Dixon argue in a report published Wednesday, “Hidden Tribes: A Study of America’s Polarized Landscape,” most Americans don’t fit into either of these camps. They also share more common ground than the daily fights on social media might suggest—including a general aversion to PC culture.

If you look at what Americans have to say on issues such as immigration, the extent of white privilege, and the prevalence of sexual harassment, the authors argue, seven distinct clusters emerge: progressive activists, traditional liberals, passive liberals, the politically disengaged, moderates, traditional conservatives, and devoted conservatives.

According to the report, On this particular issue, the woke are in a clear minority across all ages.”  (The Atlantic, October 2018)

 

 

 

It seems that 79 percent of white Americans, 82 percent of Asians, 87 percent of Hispanics, and 88 percent of American Indians believe that political correctness is a real problem in America.

If you happen to be a huge proponent of PC culture, that’s gotta come as a shock. But again… irony! … not everyone thinks the same way you do! Even those people whom you believe your well-intentioned political correctness is protecting – might be just as happy if you’d back the hell off, pardner.

I don’t think a lot of people can see just how extreme they’ve become in the pursuit of ‘social justice.’ It’s getting harder and harder to justify the micro-aggression of someone who attacks another person on social media over their lack of political correctness, without seeing that the criticism itself is a lack of political correctness.

Their virtue signalling becomes very like the thinking of the critters of George Orwell‘s Animal Farm, who started with the pledge of “Four Legs Good; Two Legs Bad, ” but soon find that motto a meaningless sound bleated by the sheep (“two legs baa-d”), and meant only to drown out any dissenters. “By the end of the novel, as the propagandistic needs of the leadership change, the pigs, who have learned to walk on their back legs, alter the chant to the similar-sounding but completely antithetical “Four legs good, two legs better.” (SparkNotes)

The propaganda of what is politically correct, or incorrect, is massaged into place to suit those to whom we’ve handed the power of cultural judgment.

(Don’t believe me? Google Scott Kelly/Winston Churchill.)

There is a danger in this deification of virtue signalling, the scouring and nitpicking of the words of allies, issuing ‘trigger warnings,’ and the compulsive polishing of a turd of correctness while ignoring giant piles of far more real and horrific shit going on everywhere else. All of that desire to be perfectly and pristinely correct places too much emphasis on protecting special interests, rather than the larger issues now effectively, and often literally, hobbled. (“I’d like to protest those babies in the Kiddie Koncentration Kamps, but someone on Facebook just called someone else fat!”)

This need to be more morally righteous than the rest of the world will be the death of the liberal movement. It’s not only the opponents of a PC agenda that find the mining of politically correct navel lint both contemptible and jejeune .. it is those possible allies being driven away by non-stop micro-aggressions targeting their every non-policed, casual word.

Last word goes.. as it should .. to Mr Bill Maher, and his thoughts on Halloween.

 

 

 

 

The Fall of Man


My apologies to faithful readers who may not agree with me – or who are easily offended. I’m very offended by anyone who can continue to to support Trump at this stage. This blog is NSFW. (Not Safe For Work.) You have been warned.

…….

A few years back, I used to write recaps of reality shows for a showbiz site. One of the hardest to sit through without gagging was Donald Trump’s ‘Celebrity Apprentice.’

Watching the D, E and F list celebs fawn all over the Cheetoh, and pledge fealty and allegiance to Trump’s superior business sense made me sick, and the end of each episode’s visit to the Boardroom, where Trump, with Thing 1 and Thing 2 seated stony faced to his right and left, levied his ‘justice’ upon the celebs, and chose who would be ‘fired,’ was always illogical, and unexpected only by those who don’t know the rules of Reality TV – keep those ratings coming.

“And when you’re a star they let you do it,” Trump says. “You can do anything.”

“Whatever you want,” says another voice, apparently Bush’s.

“Grab them by the pussy,” Trump says. “You can do anything.”

trumps-women-guarding-their-pussiesThere really is a delicious irony in the GOP’s recoil and revulsion at Trump’s latest faux pas – oh, sorry what I meant to say was, admission of serial sexual assault.

Certainly …  it could be argued that Trump AND the Republicans have said worse in the last few years, putting forward ideas and regulations that dehumanized and disempowered large groups of their own citizens, including minorities and veterans of war. And of course – women.

But apparently, all of these lawfully appointed representatives have to draw the line somewhere, and withdraw their support from Trump  NOW – just weeks before the election – because he’s revealed a truth they’ve danced around for years; that GOP stands for Grab Our Pussies.

gop-stands-for-grab-our-pussiesAnd it’s not because they’re embarrassed at his vulgarity. No, I think it goes way deeper than that. Trump just put into words what they have been putting into practice and law for at least a decade.

They’ve built a cult around appealing to the very people who regularly unleash legal fury on anyone who doesn’t follow Christianity as strictly as they purport publicly to do. All manner of evil and hypocrisy has been done in the guise of  preserving the women, the children, and the god fearing, from any hint of wrongdoing. America, they contend, has descended into a hellfire pit as horrific as the tales of Sodom and Gomorrah, where ‘fornication, going after strange flesh, sexual immorality, perverted sensuality, homosexuality, lust of every kind, immoral acts and unnatural lust’ has become the rule of the land.

donald-trump-rallyAnd, just as in the Bible, those most viciously condemned and punished are women. The Republican Party has effectively taken one giant step backward for mankind, a giant step forward for a Christian form of Sharia law.

Make no mistake; Republican lawmakers have been ‘grabbing our pussy’ for a very long time. They just disguised it in legal terms, and in vague protective cautions that alluded to, but didn’t quite come right out and say, that women were stupid, emotionally fueled creatures unable to either understand the dangers of sex, or to properly deal with the consequences.

It is paternalism writ large. “The policy or practice on the part of people in positions of authority of restricting the freedom and responsibilities of those subordinate to them in the subordinates’ supposed best interest.”

It has been laughable, watching Republicans attempt to distance themselves from Trump’s chauvinist misogyny.

Remember Mr. Binders Full of Women,  former presidential candidate Mitt Romney? Even he had to draw a line. “Hitting on married women? Condoning assault? Such vile degradations demean our wives and daughters and corrupt America’s face to the world.”

Paul Ryan, the Speaker of the House, and Mitt’s running mate in 2012, said he was “sickened” by what he’d heard and banned Trump from a political event in Wisconsin. This would be the same man who’s doubled down on women’s health issues, voting for a bill referred to as the “Let Women Die Bill” because it proposed to allow hospitals to refuse a woman emergency abortion care, even if her life was in immediate danger; co-sponsored a federal personhood bill that declared a fertilized egg that hasn’t even resulted in a pregnancy to be the equivalent of a living person, with all of the rights of federal law, which would mean that aspects of in vitro fertilization procedures and some forms of contraception would be criminalized, as would operations to save a woman’s life in the case of dangerous ectopic pregnancies that cannot be carried to term. Oh … AND voted against women receiving equal pay for equal work. That guy.

From Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus, who has stood by Trump uncritically through numerous controversies: “No woman should ever be described in these terms or talked about in this manner. Ever.”

(A 2014 report by the Crossroads GPS and American Action Network report found that women think the GOP is “intolerant,” “lacking in compassion,” and “stuck in the past.”)

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said the comments are “repugnant, and unacceptable in any circumstance” and made clear Trump’s brief statement would not suffice.

That would be the same McConnell that legislates against 2.2 million Kentucky women every day, and the women of his country year round, by voting against equal pay legislation, the Violence Against Women Act, and countless other pieces of legislation geared towards protecting the health and security of women. Yeah. That guy.

pence-is-a-bad-manAnd Mike Pence, Trump’s running mate for VP, has, as Governor of Indiana, been a huge proponent of controlling the pussies of Indiana’s women, insisting upon invasive medical procedures, (forced transvaginal ultrasound before having an abortion; state rape by any ones definition)  while ensuring a lack of access to the morning-after pill or abortion options. And as recently as March 2016, he signed a bill that required that aborted fetuses receive what amounts to a funeral.

Pence is not only a heartbeat away from taking over as President should a President Trump decline or be unable to govern,  he accepted the request to be Vice-President when told that the offer would make him “the most powerful vice president in history, in charge of domestic and foreign policy.”  (This was the offer made to John Kasich this past July, duly reported when Kasich made the terms public.)

Everything about Pence’s policies should frighten most people, as his gubernatorial practices have showcased the spectacular power available when a conspiracy theorist, who can be bought at a bargain price, gets into office.

Despite ample proof, for instance, that cigarettes are a health hazard, Pence has repeatedly sold himself (and very cheaply, I might add) to Big Tobacco, allowing Indiana, under his governance, to attain “the highest adult smoking rates of any state in the industrial midwest region and the seventh highest smoking rate in the nation. With among the lowest tobacco taxes of any state, public health experts warn the state is “really in bad shape.” Indeed a 2014 article noted that “17 percent of pregnant women smoke — nearly double the national average — and this has been linked to lower birth weights and higher rates of infant mortality. As a result, it noted, “the state spends $28 million a year on health costs for infants born to mothers who smoke.””

Moreover, he doesn’t believe in climate change, is vehemently against any LGBTQ equality, marital or otherwise, and we already knows how he really feels about women.  And this is the guy who’d be in charge of your domestic policies. How do you like him so far?

trump-logicSo spare me the pearl clutching, Republicans. Spare me the supposed indignation over Bill Clinton‘s CONSENSUAL if stupid fumblings with a starry eyed intern, and your belief that Hillary Clinton was his enabler, who should somehow have been able to control her husband, who was at the time the most powerful man of the land, and thereby disqualifying her from being President herself, two decades later.

That kind of thinking buys into two distinct feminine stereotypes, and you’re asking us to hold both of those ideas as reality;  there’s the poor, innocent young woman, who can’t be expected to control herself around a powerful man’s needs, and the harridan wife who, upon assuming marital status, wears the pants in the family and controls her bumbling husband’s indiscretions.

trump-outreachSee, that’s the thing, Republicans … women are people, not stereotypes. Sure, you can point to a woman or two that seems to embody the qualities you’re decrying, but that’s got as much relevance as saying that you saw a dog with three legs once or twice, so all dogs with four legs are anomalies. Stereotypes are personal observances rushed to judgment, nothing but ” a widely held but fixed and oversimplified image or idea of a particular type of person or thing.”

The bigger picture, revealed by Trump’s words, and his non-apology disguised as ‘sorry not sorry‘  if anyone was offended, implies that people like Trump and his supporters do not find his comments offensive, but that his words are rather the truth and reality of how men talk behind closed doors when they’re saying what they really mean about women.

It’s saying that those that are offended are somehow lesser beings, incapable of understanding the real trappings of wealth and power. It’s saying that they don’t care about your feelings at all, and that, in fact, they are annoyed that you had the nerve to call them on it. In fact – they blame you for having the nerve to be upset. After all .. it was just a bit of boyish banter, like all men do when they’re out of a woman’s earshot. Mostly.

It’s not an apology when you’ve no intention of either acknowledging your words or actions or changing how you’ll behave in the future. It’s saying that you’ll keep on doing these things in private, hoping you don’t get caught again.

trump-grabs-ivankas-assIt makes his repeated insistence that, “there’s nobody that has more respect for women than I do,” a cause for serious alarm.

It’s not like the leaked tape should have come as any surprise, really. Trump’s obsession with women, including his own daughter, is well known.  He’s treated women as disposable items throughout his entire life, taking what he wants from them, and then discarding them for younger models. He’s had hissy fit temper and twitter tantrums that called women ‘pigs,’ ‘dogs,’ and worse, describing reporter and debate moderator Megyn Kelly as having ‘blood coming out of her .. whatever’  in what was simultaneously the most prudish and repulsive manner possible. He’s held all women, no matter what their place in life or relationship to him, accountable to a high standard of … well, let’s face it .. fuckability. And when those women fall below his standards, they are summarily dismissed, like so much trash.

megyn-kelly-before-and-afterHis entire campaign has been built around a fairytale of his own making, insisting that America is “in such a desperate place that a wild card like Trump is worth the risk. Trump fans talk like they live in a western town, where the banditos are so out of control, only a maverick gunslinger can save them. A man with no tax code, the fastest tweet in the West, covered in man tan. ”

“But I give Donald Trump’s supporters a little credit. They know he’s an asshole. It is hard to hide. They just don’t care. Yes, he’s dangerous. And thin-skinned. And unhinged. And clinically insane. And an egomaniac, a compulsive liar, a charlatan, with the impulse control of a grease fire.  But we have to take the risk because America is hanging by a thread! How do we know it is? Donald Trump told me!”  (Bill Maher, Real Time)

Trump has proclaimed that America is a hell hole, in dire straits, where the ‘generals have been reduced to rubble,’ the American Dream is dead, the infrastructure is going to hell, aw hell, everything and everybody is living in hell! Yes, YOU, each of you!

trumpzombieapocalypseTrump’s vision of America resembles a zombie apocalypse, where the good townsfolk do battle against the bad zombies, killing with impunity, taking what they want or need when they find it, and yes, treating women as disposable chattel that the most powerful can have without any niceties.

When in fact,  America’s in pretty good shape. Violent crime is at it’s lowest since 1970; fewer Americans are without health insurance; cancer, alcohol abuse, and teen pregnancies are down; employment is up, as is the stock market. The ‘hated’ President Obama has an approval rating of 55%.

But a world where things are actually pretty good – that doesn’t work for a guy like Trump. Trump needs to live in a self-created chaos, where he can rule as the absolute final word on all within his sight.

Or his grasp. Of a pussy.

The second presidential debate  between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump will take place at 9 pm Eastern tonight, and be conducted in a “town hall” format featuring questions from undecided voters.

donald-trump-enragedAs the denunciations from his former supporters, and calls for him to quit the race continue to stream in, I’m fairly certain we can expect more of that doubling down that Trump does so well.

His rage toward those condemning his words – turncoats, in his view; the ‘gotcha’ media;’ women in general for making such a big deal about his words and actions, and Hillary in particular for being too smart for her own good, will be barely contained.

He’ll be defensive, only just containing his insecurity, and will take every opportunity to turn any detrimental comment into an attack on Clinton and the Democrats.

He’ll lie, bold facedly, and deny things he’s on record as saying.

And still there will be those supporters who will stand by him, essentially handing him the possibility of running America as his own little fiefdom.

And sadly … many of those will be women.

 

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/)

The Bare Necessities


(originally published August 8, 2015 – https://bobsegarini.wordpress.com/2015/08/09/roxanne-tellier-the-bare-necessities/ )

Happy Face RoxI woke up in a great mood this morning. With reason – the last few days have been filled with music and food and friends and more good food. I’m a simple person. My needs are few. Oh, I may grumble and stew and frown at times, but overall … I’m pretty much a human happy face emoji.

I fell off the career ladder at least a decade ago. These days, I can’t even manage the bottom rung. So, like so many others of my generation, I’ve got less work stress, but a heck of a lot more money stress. You take the good with the bad.

Not having a ‘real job’ means, unfortunately for those who read my columns, that I have a lot of time to spend on reading and researching and analyzing what goes on around the world. Not liking a lot of what I’m seeing, these days.

They say that time is money, but I don’t know that I’d make a very good rich person, no matter how I came by the moolah. Money’s pretty much useless once you’ve covered the basics, like water, food, shelter and clothing. After that, you have to make an effort to find things to spend on. It’s all relative. No shoes to new shoes is nice. No shoes to Louboutin’s is nice too, who doesn’t love a red sole? But shoes is shoes is shoes, really.

no shoesIn an ideal world, no one would go hungry or homeless. Sadly, our world is not ideal, largely because of a lack of empathy and a lack of will. If you see a homeless person begging for food, your empathic response may be mitigated by an inability or an unwillingness to help.

In an ideal world, people who amassed wealth would be spending their efforts and money on finding solutions to real problems, like inequality or climate change, rather than casting a gimlet eye on what others are doing with their bodies (and especially private parts,) that offends their senses. yoda offended

If what drives you to get up in the morning is a need to regulate other people’s uteri … get over yourself. If your face gets all red at the thought that there might be even one destitute person on welfare who’s using that whopping $25.00 a day to buy illegal drugs, you seriously need to re-consider calling yourself a Christian.

(Saddest of all – the average welfare payment in the U.S., at about $9,000.00 a year, is in the top 20% of all global income earners. That’s some pretty astounding inequality.)

California water not equalIn Friday’s closing monologue, Real Times’ Bill Maher talked about entitlement amongst the very wealthy, citing the Washington Post headline, “Rich Californians balk at limits: “We’re not all equal when it comes to water.”

“Now, I’m sure that the majority of very rich people have always been greedy and selfish, but, this crowd today takes it to a whole new level. Somehow it’s not enough to spend lavishly on themselves, they have to actively take from others;  their water, their benefits, the last bits of beauty in the world.

psychopathsIn his non-apology apology, Dentist the Lion Hunter used the word ‘legal’ over and over; what he did was ‘legal.’ Sure. Because the rich buy politicians to write laws to say that whatever they want, is legal. Like our elections now. More than half the money given to presidential candidates so far has come from just 400 families. Perfectly legal. But you know, for that kind of money, the rich shouldn’t just get to tell politicians what to do. I think they should get to hunt them. That would be the ultimate trophy to go with your trophy kill, and your trophy car and your trophy wife. What could be better than a trophy Republican’s head on your wall? Scott Walker’s eyes already look like cheap taxidermy, and Chris Christie’s leg would make a lovely umbrella stand. And if that sounds wrong, we’ll make a law that says it’s legal.”

The machinations of elections in the U.S. and Canada are in full swing. It’s interesting to see that the would-be leaders are more passionate about how they’d save the economy than bigger and more pressing issues like climate change and inequality. I believe neither issue was raised in the first presidential nominee debate, and in the Canadian debate, Harper could not have been more indifferent to aggressively tackling either.

No, the sexy issue on the table is ISIS. Fear mongering has replaced any pretense of responsible leadership. The horrors of potential terrorism on our own soil, as unlikely as being hit by lightning while in the process of cashing your winning lotto ticket, have superseded the harsh realities that we actually do live with every day. Draconian laws that take away our rights and freedoms; irresponsible spending of tax dollars on politicians’ egos, while our infrastructure crumbles; the very real consequences of ignoring climate change while forest fires rage in B.C. and severe drought in the Prairies threatens our breadbasket… Nope … let’s talk about terrorism, regardless of the facts that the odds are 1 in 20 million that you’ll be in a terrorist attack. Because … fear is a thrill, just like a roller coaster ride. rollercoaster fear

What successful politicians understand, beyond how to spend other people’s money, is the soft underbelly of the public. Capitalizing on what motivates every soul to get up and get through another day. As the great prize fighter Rocky Marciano once said, “Hit the heart and the head will follow.” We like to think we’re level-headed, intelligent people, able to logically decide who will next lead our country. But in all of our choices, there are really only two choices – the rational reason, and the real reason. And the real reason is always … fear.

sleazy sales dudePoliticians today work from the same Bible as super salesmen. Rather than have voters change their behaviour and opinions to adapt to their vision, they adapt to their constituents, learn their thought processes, and find out what keeps them awake at night. Sly, but effective.

Forget the separation of church and state, as important a concept as that may be. What we’ll hit ‘em with is fear. Fear that someone is doing something they shouldn’t be allowed to do, or that their home, family, religion, or money is under attack. And we’ll umbrella that message with a cry to patriotism, and a shout out to a God that is clearly always on our side. (He’s a multi-faced dude, that God.)    god on side

What that message means to every voter, whether in Canada or the U.S., is that the really important ‘things that really do happen and shouldn’t’ issues, are swept under the rug. Your odds of being in a terrorist attack are miniscule, but if you’re a First Nations youth, your odds of being fostered out from your family, or of your being arrested, are staggeringly high. In the United States, 49 percent of black males, 44 percent of Hispanic males and 38 percent of white males have been arrested by the age of 23. There’s some day to day stuff I’d rather see addressed.

I’m all for protecting the country, but not at the expense of the freedom of those of us who live here, and who physically and financially support the country. There is something indescribably obscene about a Prime Minister who fills Parliament and the media with carefully controlled images of himself, at a cost of billions of taxpayers’ money, while 1 in 7 Canadians (4.8 million people,) live in poverty.

Any would-be politician who told the truth to the people, who straight up said, “hey, we’re in big trouble. The party’s over. Time to clean up the mess,” would never get elected. Carefully controlled and contrived issues aimed at election and re-election sweep the bigger, inevitable crises in the making further under the rug, to be dealt with, sometime, somehow, by someone other than themselves.

There’s no better way to describe this sort of pandering and lala land thinking than with Donald Trump’s words on ‘ObamaCare’ at the debate. “It’s gotta go,” Repeal and replace with something terrific.”

trump-quotes“Something terrific.” Nothing that actually exists, or that may even be possible to create, just “something terrific.” I’ll get my interns on that , stat.

Here’s the thing. Politics used to be about choosing a leader who was smarter, more informed, with hopefully a better grasp on their emotions than you have, and a driving need to improve the well-being of their country. Now it’s about galvanizing dispirited, frustrated voters with rhetoric and appeals to base fears, by politicians who regard spending time actually running the country as detrimental to their real job of getting elected and then re-elected. It’s hard not to see the ridiculous squabbles in Parliament and Congress as anything but an unruly classroom of bratty twelve year olds, killing time until recess.

And what that ends up creating is a country where millions of voters can’t even cover the basics, like water, food, shelter and clothing. We’re so busy fighting an imaginary enemy that we don’t see the real adversary right in front of us; apathy, and surrender to whatever distorted messages corporations and politicians funnel into our increasingly empty heads.    milk on head

It’s remarkable, really. From prosperity to austerity, from hope to despair, from security to nameless fear and dread. Quite a feat, when the most that the majority of us want to attain is a relatively bump free ride from birth to death.

I’ll take my bare necessities, seasoned with music, good friends, and the occasional delight of a delicious meal. And I’ll wash that down with a cold beer and a gratefulness for what I have.