Elections and Their Consequences


Elections here, elections there… we’ve got elections everywhere!

trump painting satanWith the American midterms just two weeks away, It goes without saying that most liberal progressives, democrats and independents are hoping to see a ‘blue wave’ overturn the stranglehold the Trump administration has on all three branches of government, and the Supreme Court.

Widespread reports of gerrymandering and voter suppression, however, are indications that the Republicans, unable to run on their non-existent record, are ready to lie, cheat and swindle to keep their power. In previous decades and administrations, the Attorney General would have stepped in aggressively to stop this abuse, but under AG Jeff Sessions, the corruption ensues without check.

GOP old white men in undiesMany are looking to millennials to start that wave of resistance, but from articles and interviews I’ve read, a lot of millennials can’t be bothered; they think their voices will not be heard, and there seems to be a belief that the kids can take back the country once the last of the old white guys in power die off.

They’re not counting on the “farm teams’ .. the Kavanaughs and the Paul Ryans, ready to pick up the slack from the McConnells and Grassleys as they die off. And they’re counting on there being a country left when they’re finally ready to get involved.

We’ll have to keep all appendages crossed that there is still some justice and democracy left in America, that will see the election allowed to play out without chicanery. But I will not take any bets on that happening.

ford notwithstandingMeanwhile, I sure hope that most Torontonians and other Ontarian citizens are planning to cast an informed vote this week in our municipal elections. With all of the meddling that Ford did in cutting our city council in half, and with his nuclear use of the notwithstanding clause to force his will on the citizens of Toronto, not much time was left for some of the candidates to explain their positions on important issues affecting our city.

Ford gave incumbent mayor Tory the greatest gift of all when he tinkered with the electoral machine. With all of the confusion and chaos, it’s most likely that the great unwashed will do what they always do when their cheese is moved – simply vote for the person with the most recognizable name on the ballot.

And that’s a damn shame, because that’s essentially how our world has gotten into the mess it’s in today – voters who once made an effort to be informed and knowledgeable have been replaced with angry, populist, knee jerking votes AGAINST the status quo, rather than votes FOR progress.

I get it; we’re living in a world where we have to instantly react to once shocking events on an hourly basis. There’s just been too many non-stop fireworks going off daily since January 2017, and that makes it hard to be able to pin down the truth and the facts about atrocities most people of the west struggle to contemplate, let alone deal with mentally.

Remember when the ‘Resistance’ were warning the world that they must not ‘normalize’ Trump and his horrific, racist, bigoted ways? Well, it’s happened. That many haven’t yet realized that it’s happened is in itself proof that it’s happened.

jamal-khashoggiTake the disappearance of Jamal Khashoggi, the American resident and Washington Post journalist. At the beginning of October, he entered the Saudi Arabian consulate in Turkey. He was there to obtain a document verifying his divorce so that he could marry his Turkish fiancée. But like the old commercial once said, “He checked in, but he never checked out.”

Khashoggi had been persona non grata and self exiled from Saudi Arabia since November 2016, when he wrote a mild rebuke against the perils of a new president, Donald J. Trump. ” The expectation that ‘Trump as president’ will be starkly different from ‘Trump as candidate’ is a false hope at best,” were the words that Khashoggi wrote about Trump’s stance and rhetoric on the Middle East.

For this ‘crime’ he was banned from all social media, including journalistic writing, making television appearances, and attending conferences. He self-exiled to the United States six months later.

On October 2 he was lured to the consulate, where a team of 15 Saudi Arabians, including one autopsy expert with a bone saw, ‘interrogated’ (tortured) him to death, and then dismembered his body so that it might be disposed of more easily.

The grisly truth of his kidnapping, torture and murder are known to us thanks to what is most likely the ‘bugging’ of the Saudi consulate; Turkey originally claimed to have found the audio recording of the encounter on Khashoggi’s Apple Watch, but tech experts have said it is not very likely. However the information was retrieved, one thing is certain; the American government knew the truth about the murder almost immediately, but covered up the story.

investigating KhashoggiIn the three weeks since the murder, people have struggled to come to terms with this act of violence. Some can sort of understand bits and pieces of what happened, but balk at simple truths, like a photo from the Associated Press showing a cart filled with cleaning supplies that arrived at the consulate just hours before an investigation of the premises was due to occur. Spies, torture, dismemberment.. all of this they can swallow .. but a cleaning cart? That just butts up too closely to normalizing traumatic death, and their mental processes shut down rather than absorb the photo.

MBSBut the most shocking actions have all have been done by Trump and his administration, who have, from the beginning, and with full knowledge of not only the murder, but of U.S. intelligence intercepts showing that MbS had ordered that Khashoggi be lured to Saudi Arabia, known full well that the Crown Prince had ordered the detention, likely with an intent to torture and murder the writer. They later speculated that it was likely that his disappearance in Istanbul was a substitute plan that went sideways.

And yet Trump, with that knowledge, with audio tapes documenting the blood curdling sounds, pretended that he did not believe that MbS was involved, and actually offered a tentative excuse in advance of the Saudi’s excuses, that it might have been ‘rogue killers’ who did the deed.

This, despite solid information that the 15 Saudi Arabian assailants had arrived on private government planes, rode to the consul in diplomatic vehicles, were greeted and welcomed at the consulate by the officials in charge, and did the actual torture and murder in the consul’s own office, later returning to Saudi in the same manner they’d arrived.

The US president has deemed that the investigation that Saudi Arabia did into their own culpability in the murder is credible, and an ‘important first step.’

” The Saudi Arabian government announced Friday that Khashoggi died after a fistfight at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, and that 18 Saudis had been arrested for further investigation while Deputy Director of Saudi Intelligence Ahmed al-Assiri had been dismissed.” (CNN)

trump and saudi orbTrump’s not sure that the US should take action, but if they do, he doesn’t want it to impact the imaginary arm sales and jobs that he believes may be arriving, some time .. really soon .. maybe within ten years. But with nothing on paper or signed, and those imaginary job numbers rising by the day, it’s clear that his words are just more lies intended to protect his, and his son in law’s, personal financial relationship with the Saudis.

We’re now learning of a phone call, as reported by The Wall Street Journal, between Jared Kushner and Saudi Prince Mohammed bin Salman where the young prince asked “why the outrage?” (Wall Street Journal)

Other people are not at all sure that the Saudis should be allowed to skate on the assassination of an America resident.

“After 2+ [weeks] of dissembling, the Saudi ‘explanation’ is not remotely credible,” Suzanne Maloney of the Brookings Institution tweeted. “Nor is the MBS myth, at least not anymore.” She continued: “The end result of this horrific saga is a weaker, more isolated Saudi Arabia [and] a less effective US-Saudi partnership. And no justice for the innocent victim.” (Washington Post)

Even Trump’s own party is finding it increasingly difficult to defend this cowardice on the president’s part.

” New Jersey Sen. Robert Menendez, the top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said in a statement that the Saudi statement is “far from the end.”

“This is far from the end and we need to keep up the international pressure. Congress did its part when we invoked Global Magnitsky Act for a presidential determination. Now President Trump must follow the law,” Menendez said.

Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman Sen. Bob Corker warned against assuming that the Saudis’ “latest story holds water” and stressed that the U.S. must assess Khashoggi’s death under the Global Magnitsky Act, which sanctions human rights offenders. 

isis vs saudi“The story the Saudis have told about Jamal Khashoggi’s disappearance continues to change with each passing day, so we should not assume their latest story holds water,” Corker tweeted Friday.. “They can undergo their own investigation, but the U.S. administration must make its own independent, credible determination of responsibility for Khashoggi’s murder under the Global Magnitsky investigation as required by law.” (CNN)

trump msb bloodshake

However, for those for whom there is no bottom to a moral ground, they are carrying on blithely, raking in the dough. While Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin reluctantly cancelled his trip to the “Davos in the Desert’ conference due in November, he’s still set on going to an anti-terror finance meeting soon to occur in Riyadh. Now THAT is irony.

“There was no actual condemnation by the administration of this human rights atrocity, no defence of a free press, or of the right of Americans (residents or citizens) to travel safely. The administration looks feckless, and if it continues down this road, will earn the ridicule and disdain of Americans, our allies, and all free peoples.

In allowing the Saudis to delay this long, and failing to demand audio recordings allegedly capturing the murder, the administration has become an accessory after the fact, an enabler of nearly unimaginable evil.

What’s more, Trump looks pathetically weak. His childlike willingness to adopt a transparent lie so as to avoid taking action will certainly entice other despots to engage in similar acts of brutality.” (Washington Post)

But what’s going on back at Saudi Arabia HQ? Strangely – the crown prince may not be on as solid a ground as he once thought. The young prince – blood-thirsty and naive – may be the King’s favorite son – but he’s not the only son, or even grandson, available to carry on the legacy of the Sauds.

It would seem that MbS drastically misjudged how the world would react to the Khashoggi murder. And don’t forget that when the shit hit the fan, it was down to his daddy, 82-year-old King Salman, who had to call Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan, to explain why his ‘special’ boy should not be too harshly judged.

what they do to others they will do to youMbS has done some horrific things in his 16 month run-up to Monster In Charge. He has been given free reign to reshape the kingdom to his own vision, and along the way, has arrested and imprisoned scores of human rights and women’s rights activists, along with pursuing a war in neighboring Yemen where routine flouting of human rights and international battlefield rules have led to the death of at least 10,000 civilians and displaced an estimated 2

million overall.

King Salman has literally spent a ‘king’s ransom‘ to cement a strong relationship between Saudi Arabia and America, but MbS may have severed that connection with just one bone saw.

It is hard to predict what will happen next, to either the United States or Saudi Arabia. However, it is becoming increasingly visible that MbS may simply not be ready to assume the reins of power he so eagerly grasped just 16 months ago. And his daddy may be about to show him just what real power looks like when wielded by a real monarch.

 

Meanwhile.. back in Washington, DC ….

republicans spineless

 

 

May Day! May Day!


It’s May the first – a day when most of the northern hemisphere officially decides, “that’s it. Done with winter. Bring on the sun and the fun!”

I’ve always thought that May 1st would be a better start to the year then January 1st.No one feels much like kick-starting anything more than the snow blower in winter. May, on the other hand, is when you can shed the many layers you’ve bundled yourself into over the darkest months, like a snake sloughing off its outgrown skin.

naked gardeningEven the armchairiest of armchair gardeners eyes the sprouts of green peeking out of the earth, and tells themselves lies about the magic they’ll coax from the soil this year. Dreams of successful planting and transplanting, and visions of exotic fruits fresh plucked from your own trees, dance through your head like the sugarplums of Christmas. Garden paths that never overgrow! Bushels of perfectly formed, organic vegetables! Idyllic afternoons whiled away in draped pergolas, desultorily conversing with like-minded friends.

All of which lasts for about a week or ten days, before the great outdoors is abandoned in favour of a good book and a comfy couch safely indoors, where there are no midges or crawly things.

No one is immune from May’s siren call. Even Led Zeppelin couldn’t help but reference the occasion. “If there’s a bustle in your hedgerow, don’t be alarmed now, It’s just a spring clean for the May queen.”

Ai eee! Spring cleaning! Washing your winter-stained windows in order to let the bright spring sun illuminate the dust bunnies you’ve cultivated whilst cocooning. Many gallons of cleaning goop will be purchased and used in the next few days, in a frenzy of scouring away the winter blues. Followed by many doctors being consulted for pain killers to numb the injuries stemming from long unused muscles strained during that frenzy.

vulcan and maiaI would much prefer to just dance around a flagpole, dressed in a long gown and draped with flowers, vying to be crowned the Queen of May, as they do in Europe. I mean, the month of May was named for the Greek goddess Maia, who was identified with the earlier Roman goddess of fertility, Bona Dea, whose festival was held in May. I’ll even take the pre-Christian Roman celebrations that revolved around Flora, the goddess of flowers, or celebrate Walpurgis Night or Beltane with the witches. In any case, my first act upon being crowned Queen would be to dispense with ritual house cleaning, in favour of far more civilized communal celebrations, rejoicing at the promise of another sun-filled summer.  Vote for me!

The pagan holidays were sacrificed as Europe became Christianised, mores the pity. Traditionally, May Day was associated with fertility; the earth is reborn,  the cattle get frisky, and, with less clothing to get in the way, people tend to get a little friskier themselves. The church frowned on frisky.

But still, traditions remain. And some should be revived! In some part of the United States, early American settlers made small May Day baskets, filled with flowers or treats, and left them at the doorstep of someone they fancied. “The giver rings the bell and runs away. The person receiving the basket tries to catch the fleeing giver; if caught, a kiss is exchanged.” (Wikipedia) flaming dog poop

That sounds a lot more fun than leaving flaming bags of poop on the doorsteps of unfriendly neighbours.

If you were up very early this morning, you might have heeded the call sent by the Facebook group, Toronto Morris Men. “Sunrise in Toronto on 1st May 2016 is at 06:09. We’ll be at High Park, will you join us?”

Copyright ©2014 Ruth Lor Malloy

Copyright ©2014 Ruth Lor Malloy

It’s an old custom still celebrated in Ontario.  “In Toronto, on the morning of May 1, various Morris Dancing troops from Toronto and Hamilton gather on the road by Grenadier Cafe, in High Park to “dance in the May”. The dancers and crowd then gather together and sing traditional May Day songs such as Hal-An-Tow and Padstow.” (Wikipedia)

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

In the last century, and thanks to social democrats and unions, May 1 has become much less fanciful. Here’s a “did you know?” for you … What trade unions and labour movements now celebrate as the May 1st International Workers Day, started as a response to the annual holiday that stemmed from a union strike in Toronto. In December 1872, the Toronto Typographical Union staged a parade in support of the strike for a 58-hour work-week that had been going on since March of that year. George Brown (yes, he of George Brown College) was editor of the Toronto Globe at the time, and he called for the police to charge the union with “conspiracy,” which resulted in 24 leaders of the union being arrested. (Laws criminalising union activities had already been abolished in England, but were still on the books in Canada.)

It was the seven trade unions that marched in Ottawa in protest that finally pushed then Prime Minister, Sir John A. MacDonald, to repeal the anti-union laws, and pass the Trade Union Act in 1873. We have been celebrating the occasion on the first Monday in September ever since.

In 1882, trade unionists in the United States, inspired by the Toronto unions’ bravery and success, proposed a similar holiday. But the Labour Day holiday did not become official until 1894, and still did not quite address the spirit of the movement.may day solidarity

The May 1st International Workers Day evolved from the 1904 International Socialist Conference in Amsterdam, when the Sixth Conference of the Second International, called on “all Social Democratic Party organisations and trade unions of all countries to demonstrate energetically on the First of May for the legal establishment of the 8-hour day, for the class demands of the proletariat, and for universal peace.”

May 1st was chosen to commemorate the May 1886 Haymarket incident in Chicago, where a bomb was thrown at police attempting to disperse a public assembly calling for an eight-hour workday. In response, the police fired on the workers, and killed four demonstrators.

It might then be logical to assume that the term chosen to indicate a state of emergency (Mayday!) would have come from the Chicago incident as well. But it actually originated in 1923, when a senior radio officer at Croydon Airport in London, England, was asked to decide on a word easily understood by pilots and ground staff in an emeFrederick Stanley Mockfordrgency.

“Since much of the traffic at the time was between Croydon and Le Bourget Airport in Paris, Frederick Stanley Mockford proposed the word “Mayday” from the French “m’aider”, a shortened version of “venez m’aider” (meaning “come and help me”). (Wikipedia)

The term, always said three times in repetition, replaced the Morse code SOS. Calling Mayday!is now taken so seriously in the United States that it is a federal crime to make a false distress call, and will get you up to six years in jail, and/or a fine of up to $250,000.

may day 2016At the moment, it’s a gray, chilly morning in Toronto. I missed the Morris Dancers, (rats!) but if I hustle, I can get down to the square at Yonge and Dundas, where a rally and march will begin at 1:00 pm. This year’s theme highlights the struggles of resistance to anti-black racism, police brutality, and issues deeply affecting black communities, along with Indigenous sovereignty, gender justice, anti-poverty and anti-austerity organizations.

Or, in the spirit of my ancestors, I could find me a May Pole to dance around, and a hedgerow with a bustle looking for a May queen. I always did fancy being royalty for a day …

(first published at bobsegarini.wordpress.com/2016/05/01/roxanne-tellier-may-day-may-day/)

 

Empathy By Degrees


My cats hate each other, but they hate winter more. cats fightingBoth Big Blonde and the Black Whiner have finally come to one agreement; cold and snow are not to be tolerated.

My cats are very lucky. They live lives of relative luxury; they are loved, well-fed, and taken care of when they are ill or needy.

The two homeless men that died in Toronto during the cold snap of this week were not so lucky. As temperatures plummeted, the men – one found dead in a downtown bus shelter wearing only jeans, a T-shirt, and a hospital bracelet; the other found dead in an abandoned delivery truck parked in the city’s west end on Monday – were 55 and 60 years old.

There hasn’t been a lot of information released yet on these men’s backgrounds. homeless in toronto winterIt seems they’ve already been filed underhomeless,’ and for many people, that’s enough to make a judgment. “Those” people – those that have fallen through society’s cracks and who bother us by begging for spare change, or whom we step over as they sleep on heating grates in one of North America’s richest cities – rarely elicit more than a ‘tsk’ from those who have jobs, families, friends, and societal approval.

In Toronto, the Mayor’s office issues an extreme cold weather alert when the temperature plummets to –15 C, (5 below, in Fahrenheit,) or when Environment Canada‘s forecast includes factors like wind chill and precipitation. The city has to do so, as even if there were enough shelters to hold our most vulnerable residents, there are many who would still brave the cold rather than seek shelter. The cold weather alert releases additional resources, like warming centres, in those cases. homelessDSC00414

Despite the cold snap that descended on Toronto on Monday morning, the city did not call an alert. On Tuesday morning, temperatures reached -20 C with wind chill, but the actual temperature was -14 C, just above the range. Imagine being outside and homeless, chilled to the bone, teeth rattling as you shiver, and contemplating that one degree of separation.

Even though an extreme cold weather alert had not been issued by Toronto Public Health (TPH,) Mayor John Tory requested last night that the city manager open Toronto’s two 24-hour warming centres.

toronto-homeless1-622x414TWO warming centres, in a city with an estimated population of more than 2800 people living on the streets on any given night.

On the bright side, during an extreme cold weather alert, shelters are directed to relax service restrictions, allowing some homeless, known to be mentally unstable or disruptive, a chance to “warm up.” Transit tokens are made available at drop-in centres so that people can reach shelters, additional shelter spaces are made available, and there is an increase in street outreach and transportation services.

Gaetan Heroux, a member of the Ontario Coalition Against Poverty, organized a protest at City Hall yesterday, as the hashtag #CallTheAlert trended on Twitter. Toronto residents calling for action gathered outside the Mayor’s office criticized the city’s policy of 15C below. With two dead in two days, Toronto Public Health (TPH) still defended the -15 C threshold, saying that their conclusions are appropriate, and based on science.

Meanwhile, local radio and television statements urged pet owners to be diligent in keeping their furry friends indoors, as the cold could lead to frostbite and long-term health problems.

Environment Canada has issued an extreme cold weather warning for today, forecasting that the wind chill will make it feel like close to –30 in the afternoon and overnight.

My cats are lucky; they’ll be safe and warm, well-fed, and being cared for by people that love them. homeless in Toronto2But for the homeless in Toronto, there’ll be two warming shelters, begrudgingly allowing its citizens with physical, emotional or financial problems to “warm up,” – but only when it’s below 15C.

From the City of Toronto’s website: “If you see someone whom you think requires street outreach assistance, call 311. Note that 311 is not an emergency number. In an emergency, dial 911.”