The Past is Prologue


by Roxanne Tellier

… while those of us who DO remember the past, are doomed to watch those who DO NOT, make the same mistakes, over and over again….

One of the few benefits of getting older is having not only a lot of past to remember, but for some, the time to do so in a leisurely fashion, and with a philosophical bent. If we are lucky, and if we look back with clear eyes, we may actually begin to see where we’ve been, and maybe even to see how our past has impacted upon our present.

Lately I’ve been spending a lot of time wondering how and why so much of the civilized world, and North America in particular, has been working very hard to turn back time and progress.  

if you grew up in the fifties and sixties, you remember fighting for civil rights, equal rights for women, abortion rights, and so much more. My generation had an enormous impact on society.

So what went wrong? How is it that the despots of today are being allowed to turn back the clock to the ugly world of before?

I guess it could be argued that not every one was happy with the advances we made – that in fact, there were misogynists, xenophobes, bigots and racists that weren’t very happy at all with those advances.

Are those the people hell-bent on returning us to those days?

Children of the fifties and sixties were shaped by the dramatic events of our time. Since we’d never known any other kind of world, it felt relatively normal to us. But it was the most explosive, impactful, and eventful time in modern history.

Bear with me now – cast your mind back.

In the United States, Republican Senator Joseph McCarthy was shepherding a form of terror by government into place from the late 1940s through the 1950s, as ordinary citizens were accused of subversion or treason without any regard for evidence.  

70 years on we have replaced McCarthy with Attorney General William Barr, who has been stealthily ‘investigating the investigators’ of the Mueller Report, despite no evidence of impropriety.

Just a month after the United States tested the first atomic bomb, in July 1945 at Alamogordo, New Mexico, it used that same technology to obliterate Hiroshima and Nagasaki. A lot of us boomers had parents who’d been in WWII, or in Korea, and many of those parents brought back photographic images of the horrors on view in the destruction of occupied Europe and Japan. By 1949, the USSR had exploded it’s own atomic bomb, raising those stakes even higher.  It was only by a series of high level discussions, and the implementation of the  Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD) doctrine of military strategy and national security policy that we brought to an end a nuclear escalation that could have  caused the complete annihilation of both the attacker and the defender in a nuclear war.   

Today, many countries are moving towards nuclear armament, including North Korea, where a very miffed Kim Jong Un has been testing his arsenal of approximately 20 to 30 nuclear weapons, now deemed capable of reaching Washington, DC.

Back in the fifties and sixties, we were being flooded with a new wave of science fiction movies and magazines tasked with the job of distracting North Americans, and soon we were looking ahead to driverless, flying cars.

Remember Them! (giant irradiated ants, ) X The Unknown (radiation run amuck in Scotland,) and a host of other films in which radiation and/or atomic fallout caused the ordinary to radically change into mutant monsters?

“Some of these films envisioned a terrestrial holocaust destroying or threatening humanity as a result of nuclear testing or war [World Without End (1956), On the Beach (1959), The Day the Earth Caught Fire (1961), Crack in the World (1965)]. Nearly all of the atomic films centered on the strange powers of radiation.

This kind of radiation causes Douglas Fairbanks Jr’s duck to lay uranium eggs in Val Guests’s Mr. Drake’s Duck (1950), makes Mickey Rooney glow in The Atomic Kid, puts Peter Arne seven and a half seconds into the future in Timeslip, creates geniuses or zombies in John Gillings’s The Gamma People (1956), shrinks Grant Williams in Jack Arnold’s The Incredible Shrinking Man (1957), grows Glenn Langan in Bert I. Gordon’s The Amazing Colossal Man, revives a murderous native as a walking tree in Dan Milner’s From Hell It Came (1957), makes Japanese gangsters sentient slime in Ishiro Honda’s Bijo to Ekatai Ningen, turns Ron Randell to steel in Allan Dwan’s The Most Dangerous Man Alive and makes Tor Johnson into Coleman Francis’s The Beast of Yucca Flats (1961).” 

(read more here https://www.tru.ca/canfilm/essays/gargantuan_bugs.htm)

While titillating, these films really sought to make the impossible and the unreal – radiation, invisible yet deadly, that could change nor only our very own bodies, but the DNA of our flora and fauna; aliens, and future technology – into something we could accept as normal and even possible. 

These films turned what were real dangers – like radiation and the destruction of war – into the mundane, and therefore something that the average human could, with a little forethought and planning, survive. These movies didn’t challenge what was wrong with the politics of the countries that blithely obliterated millions of living creatures and their habitats, they instead focused our native paranoia and fear of otherness, by dehumanizing people and creatures unlike ourselves.

Or, as Susan Sontag wrote in 1964,  “Ours is indeed an age of extremity. For we live under continual threat of two equally fearful, but seemingly opposed, destinies: unremitting banality and inconceivable terror. It is fantasy, served out in large rations by the popular arts, which allows most people to cope with these twin specters. For one job that fantasy can do is to lift us out of the unbearably humdrum and to distract us from terrors, real or anticipated-by an escape into exotic dangerous situations which have last-minute happy endings. But another one of the things that fantasy can do is to normalize what is psychologically unbearable, thereby inuring us to it. In the one case, fantasy beautifies the world. In the other, it neutralizes it.”  

Sound familiar? You’ve been soaking in entertainment that attempts to prepare you for your future in exactly the same way. The tsunami of zombie films are a representation of immigrants and refugees, displaced through war or climate change, who the fearful imagine as innumerable, insatiable, and unstoppable creatures that are coming for your land and your food.

All of the Sharknado films, Geostorm,  WaterWorld, The Day After Tomorrow ….those films present a world in which climate change is a survival issue. Luckily for you, Hollywood’s obsession with global warming has conscripted top movie stars to show you how these problems can be handled without messing your hair.  

And the Mad Max films, along with so many others that envision life after an apocalyptic event, are all meant to lull you into a false security about an uncertain future. All you’ll need is enough ammo to bully yourself into power, right?

But in truth, the sci fi films of my day, many of which focused on monsters actually CREATED by that fall out and radiation, did little to prepare us for October 1962, and the days of the Cuban Crisis. Even if you’d only seen posters of those films, or heard parents or older siblings talking about them, it was stretching credibility for those of us who were school aged at the time to believe that our little wooden desks would protect us from bombs and nuclear fall out.

And in all of the films – either of the past or today – that are subtly meant to prepare this generation for climate change, floods of displaced people, possible nuclear attacks by foreign entities, or a civil war in which families battle each other .. not a single one of those films points to what will actually be the salvation of those remaining, or the rebuilding of society.

It’s not sexy – real life rarely is – but the only sort of society that will allow mankind to crawl out of whatever viper pit they’ve managed to fall into in a dystopic apocalypse is going to rely on only a few things.

And weapons aren’t high on that list.  After all, if you’ve just lost a large portion of humanity, every soul will be as precious as those fetuses the religious radicals revere.  Only this will be for real, not for show.

What will save humanity will be empathy, respect and regard for every person. Whomever can work compassionately and equitably with others will be a leader.

That leader will need the sense to scavenge not just the physical things needed, but the information held by elders, and in libraries. You’ll need to redevelop agriculture, and, without those tools farmers use today, you’ll have little time to do much else than farm.

You’ll need to reconstruct the calendar, in order to prepare for the seasons and survival, and to be able to predict best times for sowing and harvesting. In time you will also need to figure out how to make soap, windmills, steam engines, and all the myriad necessities we take for granted today.

And then, dear reader, you will look back to today, and call these times the good ol’ days …

Does this Mueller Report Make Trump’s Ass Look Fat?


by Roxanne Tellier

Please Note: I wrote this on the morning of March 24th, and, like all days since Trump’s inauguration, additional info, obfuscation, and possibly, even more obstruction in the Barr four page note on the Report, happened immediately thereafter.

If you’ve ever thought you’d like to be a blogger or a journalist, this time period is either exhilarating, or utterly exhausting… For me, it’s a little of both. Anyway…  here we go…

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FOX News is trying to spike the ball on it already, declaring total victory for Trump before anyone has even seen what is in the statement, and despite the results of a poll of their own viewers showing that a majority of Americans believe that the president tried to interfere in the investigation.

mueller report

In other news, the president has threatened the American people with his quasi Brown Shirts enforcement crews of military, police and motorcycle heavies, should the evidence contain anything that hurts his standing or feelings .. but mostly his feelings.

All because the Mueller Report dropped on Friday, This is the 500 plus page compendium that Mueller handed in to Attorney General William Barr, a Trump supporter, recently elevated to replace former AG Jeff “Keebler Elf” Sessions.

sessions barr AGTo recap, Sessions recused himself from the Trump-Russia probe on March 2, 2017, and then found he’d become the butt of Trump’s fury nearly every day thereafter, until he resigned/was fired on November 7, 2018.

Just as I was thinking to myself, hmmm .. wouldn’t you think that a pivotal post like Attorney General for all of the American people should be a bipartisan office?, this came over the social media transom ….

” … CNN reports that McGaughey, the husband of Barr’s youngest daughter, has been hired as an attorney in the White House counsel’s office, where he’ll “advise the president, the executive office, and White House staff on legal issues concerning the president and the presidency.” While the division is separate from the legal team that defends Trump in the Russia investigation—a group of leading lights that includes Rudy “maybe there was collusion” Giuliani—its work nevertheless does “intersect with the investigation.” (Trump reportedly blamed former White House counsel Don McGahn for failing to bring the probe to a close.) Meanwhile, Mary Daly, Barr’s oldest daughter, will be leaving her current job in the deputy attorney general’s office for a gig at the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN), which has had its own Russian intrigues.”

This is how potentially explosive political info is handled, in Trump’s Bizarro World. “Nice kids you got there.. would be a pity if something… happened … to him .. or her … “

Every day, in every way, the Trump administration is penning an alternative American history that weaves Mafia style organized crime intrigue along it’s white supremacist backbone. It’s like we’re living in a chronicle of our times in the form of a forced literary mating of The Godfather and The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich.

Be that as it may, Trump, his ‘friends,’ and those who profit from his administration, have softened the ground well in advance of the release of the report; they’ve made sure that his base and the undecided see any rejoicing over this report as a ‘piling on’ by the Dems, and a celebration prior to a launch of a charge of impeachment, rather than what it is … an attempt to pull back the curtain on a very real attack on the American electoral system – as broken as it may be – by a hostile foreign power.

trump not legit presThe Mueller Report’s primary question is, Did Donald Trump collude with Russia to win the presidency? 

And the follow up, unspoken but explosively critical second question would be, “If it is found conclusively that he did, is he actually the legitimate current president of the United States?”

At this point we have no idea if those questions have even been definitely answered. All we have is the hope of a hero, in the form of Mueller, offering us the reassurance that there can be a return to order, that real leadership is in our future, and that our faith can eventually be both earned and restored by those whom we have elevated to positions of great power.

To my mind, there should really never have been any confusion over whether or not Trump was working with the Russians. Prior to the election, he stood in front of a televised rally, and said, ” “Russia, if you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing.” It appears that they were, since that night, Russian hackers tried to get into Clinton’s personal email.

That’s what actually happened, even as Trump and his minions tried to laugh off the comment as a joke, and the hack as a coincidence – even as he continued to repeat the same request on Twitter.

donald_tweet Russia emails” What, you’ve never jokingly invited a hostile foreign power to compromise your nation’s cyber-security before?” (Vanity Fair headline)

And we also knew that they had indeed fiddled with the election .. by June 2017, it was being reported in Bloomberg and other major business and political journals.

putin hacked electionRussia’s cyber attack on the U.S. electoral system before Donald Trump’s election was far more widespread than has been publicly revealed, including incursions into voter databases and software systems in almost twice as many states as previously reported.
In Illinois, investigators found evidence that cyber intruders tried to delete or alter voter data. The hackers accessed software designed to be used by poll workers on Election Day, and in at least one state accessed a campaign finance database. Details of the wave of attacks, in the summer and fall of 2016, were provided by three people with direct knowledge of the U.S. investigation into the matter. In all, the Russian hackers hit systems in a total of 39 states, one of them said.

Now, make no mistake, the very idea that a candidate for president of the United States – or an actual president who blithely fires heads of justice departments, and discloses highly classified security information to Russian foreign ministers while they dally in the Oval Office – might be compromised by a hostile foreign power, should be of interest to the average citizen.

But sadly, that’s not really the case. Jane and Joe Citizen have a life to lead, kids to raise, a mortgage to pay. For most, political or military history is just trivia to everyone except aspiring Jeopardy contestants. There hasn’t been a ‘war’ on American soil since the Aleutian Islands Campaign of 1942. The Cuban Missile Crisis and the Cold War are baby boomer lore, and “Russia – tear down that wall!” is nothing but a bit of Reaganology.  In polls taken around 2016, 55% of Americans thought that Russia was America’s enemy and unfriendly, but 25% were unsure, and 19% thought Russia was a friendly nation.

America is just not that into Russia.

Russia, on the other hand, has a long history of anti-Americanism, a simmering, seething hatred of the United States, and a belief that the U.S. is Enemy Number One. Russia doesn’t forget easily, and Vladimir Putin, an ex-KGB foreign intelligence officer for 16 years, has no soft spot for America or her president, despite Trump’s belief that he and Vlad are BFFs.

Truthfully,  given Mueller’s mandate for the report, there should be little new information for anyone but those who’ve lived in an underground bunker since the summer of 2016.

Don’t be waiting for any juicy bits of gossip or innuendo about Trump’s money laundering or corruption – that’s the stuff that Mueller passed on to the Southern District of New York and other justice departments better able to service the subpoenas already issued, and the almost one hundred rumoured subpoenas still being held under lock and key for the gang that couldn’t shoot straight.. soon come, mon ….

Like Al Capone, whom the justice system pursued for nearly a decade before he was brought down for tax evasion, there’s an array of Trump/GOP criminality that has been, and is being, committed in plain view, every day, since the inauguration, and it’s only now that some of these tangled webs are getting straightened out. It’s exhausting, watching the swamp attain new depths daily. I think a lot of people started to believe it was unstoppable by anything but supernatural means.

“Mueller’s report is likely geared not towards telling a story, or answering non-criminal questions, but toward fulfilling the purpose of the regulation – that is, explaining his prosecutorial decisions. Unless Mueller understands his role especially grandly, the report is likely not designed to fill the oversight shoes of Congress, or to assist the legislature’s role in the impeachment process. Yet unless the report is particularly spare in factual detail, that will not stop politicians and commentators for redeploying it for all sorts of other purposes.” (Benjamin Wittes, Lawfare)

mueller takes down trumpToo many have been content to believe that it would have to be the Mueller Report, acting as a magic wand, that would finally stop the flow of corruption.

Instead, the reality is that all of the indictments, trials, and actual criminal records earned by advisors, his personal lawyer, and campaign manager, just to name a few, have to be served and serviced by the proper jurisdictions, advocates, and criminal lawyers charged with pursuing gross abuses of power and criminality. These are the people who will take down the bad guys, not Mueller

Mueller had his mandate, but, just like Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz, we have always had the power to ‘go home’ – we just kept waiting for a house to fall on the evil witch, rather than expecting our justice department surrogates to find their hearts, brains and courage, click together their legal heels, and start arresting these unusual suspects.

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And yet another of our priceless Toronto musical treasures, singer/songwriter Joe Hall, has left the building. Rest well, Joe.joe hall It is with profound sadness that I have to announce the death on Friday of my dear old friend and collaborator Joe Hall. We just brought out a new recording in December…in his opinion and mine, the best ever. He will be missed, he was unique. He was the only Canadian songwriter I would seriously compare to Leonard Cohen.” Tony Quarrington

From his website: ” He’s been compared to everyone from Frank Zappa to Tom Waits, but Joe Hall is a true original, whose sharp wit, insightful social commentary, and wildly entertaining stage presence made him one of Canada’s legendary folk rockers. A fixture of the 70s Queen St scene in Toronto with his band The Continental Drift, Joe has called Peterborough home for 25 years and continues to play, record and tour ”

 

 

Apocalypse Now?


Apocalypse Now?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Or better still, an escalator.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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