Smile Damnit. Smile!


by Roxanne Tellier  

To be honest, I haven’t much enjoyed the last five years or so. I’m not just talking about politics, though, if there was ever a time in which it became apparent how much politics affects every aspect of our every day lives, this was that time. 

I’ll bet even your grandmother learned how to use the “block” function on her Facebook page.

Almost imperceptibly, the world sustained a seismic fracture, dividing families, communities and nations into camps. On one side, those who believe in equality, and that everyone has human and civil rights. On the other side, those that SAY they sort of agree with those precepts, in theory – but have their reasons for why they really don’t. And, like door-to-door proselytizers, they’d be happy to bend your ear for hours on end, to let you know exactly why they don’t agree with what you’re saying. In progressively louder sentences.

I think the last eighteen months of COVID just did me in. It was the final straw. Eighteen months of fear, uncertainty, deprivation, and doubt. Eighteen months of never being sure what day or month it is. Eighteen months of not being able to come together to celebrate birthdays, weddings or anniversaries. No parties, no musical events, no theatre. And, perhaps the cruelest of all, no chance of gathering to bid a final goodbye to the loved ones we lost.

How could so many people that we love have died, and been buried, with so little recognition or fanfare? Some days, an old friend’s birthday circled on my calendar fills me with anxiety, as I wonder – did they make it through this year? Or were they one of the many who left our ranks with little to no fanfare?

Mustn’t grumble, we’re told. Yes, it’s all hard, but complaining won’t do any good. No, it won’t. Complaining won’t change a thing. It won’t bring back our dead, or our equilibrium.

But.

I’m sick of being expected to simply assimilate this decade’s horrors, compounded by all the crap that the Powers That Be rain down upon the masses, and just smile, smile, smile.

Smile as climate change burns one half of the planet to a cinder, while the other half drowns in torrential rains and melted ice caps.

Smile while our rich cities become unaffordable to the middle class, and smile as the city’s elected officials send hordes of police to evacuate and destroy the homeless camps that are filled with their fellow citizens, citizens who are financially unable to live in the cities they built with their toil and taxes.

Smile while the rich get richer at the expense of the poor, because only the wealthy can afford to run for leadership roles, get elected into power, and once in place, be relied upon to act to shore up laws and regulations that benefit the wealthy at the expense of the common people. 

Smile while federal and provincial leadership is so badly handled throughout a once in a lifetime global pandemic that, while half the city goes mad struggling to figure out how and where to get vaccinated, the other half holds anti-mask, anti-vax, super spreader rallies in the downtown core, unimpeded.

Smile as an orange madman’s most important legacy seems to have been his ability to teach his followers (in the US and Canada) two new commandments:

  1. call anything you don’t like or want to believe ‘fake news’, and,
  2. should anyone expect any accountability or ‘adulting’ from you, double and triple down on your ‘rights’ while denying any responsibility for your acts.  

It feels like there’s no one and no thing making much effort any more. Thanks to the internet, we live in a world where we’ve never been so aware of evil people and deeds, of corruption, of fraud, of social media voyeurs with a sadistic bent, of sickness, death and horror – present or impending – occurring on a global scale.

And yet, for the bulk of the population, rather than act, it’s a time to double down on escaping into the soothing waters of social media, where one can bathe in an uninterrupted stream of whatever turns your crank, until the day the grid topples.    

Apparently, it’s never the time to fight to change what seems an inevitable slide into the abyss. There’s something good on television, it’s too hot/cold/rainy out there, and what does it matter anyway? It’s not like anything I do can change the world, right? No, I’ll just stay home. And maybe sign this petition. It’ll be fine.

There is little to no response to any suggestion that our actions might have brought about the mess we are leaving to our heirs. The ability to feel remorse and/or shame seems to have been genetically modified out of our systems. Or have we just passed the buck for so long that we no longer remember what happens when we’re the last one’s holding it?

Our legacy of little horrors only begins with the hoards of useless and unrecyclable junk that broods in our basements and attics. Our children will live with their memories of a better planet. Our grandchildren will never know the world that baby boomers took for granted.

And I say to myself …. Where’s THEIR Wonderful World?

I will be honest; I don’t know where we go from here. The bus is on fire, and we may have missed our last chance to turn it around.

But I’m tired of smiling, and pretending that what we see happening around us, isn’t happening. That way madness lies.

All that’s left is to prepare in the way Maya Angelou advised, “Hoping for the best, prepared for the worst, and unsurprised by anything in between.”

What a Difference a Year Makes


by Roxanne Tellier

On January 25th, 2020, a Toronto man returning from Wuhan, China was the first presumptive COVID-19 case in Canada. By March, with the disease raging across Canada, the World Health Organization had declared COVID a pandemic, the NBA, NHL and most other sport leagues had suspended their seasons, while the Olympics were officially postponed to 2021, the Juno Awards were cancelled, Parliament went on break, and schools began to close from coast to coast.  

We went from zero to 60 in a matter of weeks, and many, many mistakes were made as countries and organizations began to try to manage this novel, and extremely frightening, attack on our health and ways of life. 

We began a global journey through a once-in-a-lifetime experience, which had much in common with the blindfolded fumblings of Sandra Bullock in the film Bird Box;   it’s a miracle either saga finally found a respite in which to take a deep breath, and you just know there’s still a further twist to the tale, which will involve yet more monsters.    

Mistakes were made. Many, many dumb and well-meant mistakes were made, by many very smart and well-meaning people. Remember when Dr Fauci told Americans that they didn’t need to wear face masks? As it turns out, that was because there were severe shortages of the personal protective equipment (PPE) needed to keep healthcare workers on the front line of hospitals safe. Some nurses and doctors had to resort to wearing plastic bags instead of proper gear, to try and protect themselves, and many died while trying to save the sick.

Sadly, experts like Fauci and the U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams knew that the same Americans emptying stores and hoarding toilet paper and hand sanitizer were likely to put masks on the ‘must have’ list, further endangering those health care workers. Were Fauci’s words a lie? A mistake? A true reading of the selfishness, greed, and lack of empathy they knew Americans were capable of exhibiting in a crisis?

16 months later there are anti-maskers pointing to Fauci’s words as justification for disobeying public health regulations currently in place, so I’m not sure that his impulse was his best career decision. It’s not right up there with injecting bleach into your veins, or shoving light sticks up where the sun don’t shine, but Fauci’s probably justifiably low opinion of his fellow citizens had a pretty serious rebound effect.

On March 30th, our PM Justin Trudeau announced a new wage subsidy program that would cover all businesses whose revenues had dropped by at least 30% because of COVID, and on April 14th, that aid was extended to nearly 5.4 million Canadians as CERB (Canadian Emergency Response Benefit)  Some received as much as $2000 a month, which, along with other pandemic discounts, like a reduction of primetime Hydro costs, allowed singles and families to limp along as stores were shuttered, and restaurants and bars closed their doors – some, forever.

For a very long time I kept a tally of the rising numbers of the dead, even as I noted in my calendar the passing of friends, whose lives were never officially celebrated, because of limitations on gatherings.  

Throughout the summer of 2020, families struggled to keep themselves and their kids occupied, as teachers frantically worked to put together some sort of curriculum that they still did not know if they would be presenting in person, or by ZOOM. Most teachers had to do double duty, and prepare prospectuses for both aspects.

At the beginning of October, as America neared the critical November presidential election, it was suddenly announced that then president Trump had tested positive for the coronavirus. He was whisked away for treatment, where a battery of specialists laboured to save his life. We now know that it was touch and go for him, and that he would not have survived had he been an ordinary patient without access to emergency and experimental medications. Still, insouciant and ungrateful, he was released from hospital within a few days, and triumphantly removed his face mask for the camera in a carefully posed for posterity, ridiculous, photo op. 

(And is it just me, or does that pic not scream it’s resemblance to the imagery and vibes of The Man In The High Castle?) 

Had he died, or had he finally told his followers how severe the disease was, and had he told them that simply masking themselves could help with slowing the spread, he might have saved hundreds of thousands of lives. But he did not, and the death toll in America soon hit a landmark figure – half a million American souls had died from this horrible disease.

Trump received 74 million votes, but there is no indication of how many of those were ‘mercy’ votes. Regardless, the tally was still lower than Biden’s, who received more than 81 million requests to take over before the ship of state went down for a third and final time.

The development of a vaccine was on the horizon. Although it normally takes about 10 to 15 years to produce a new vaccine, scientists had been working on something along the lines of COVID for a decade, since the SARS epidemic of 2009. Between that headstart, and the liberal application of government funding, at least three workable vaccines were produced in record time.   

On December 8th, the first Pfizer vaccine was injected into the arm of 91 year old Margaret Keenan, of Britain, and on December 14th, both Canada and the U.S. began administering vaccines to their citizens.  

But there’s a difference between having a vaccine available, and getting that vaccine out and into the arms of those who need it, and in this case, about 7 billion people needed two doses of it, and STAT. Many, many more mistakes were made.

While governments struggled to put schedules into place for the procuring and administering of the vaccine, the toll of the sick and the dead continued to rise around the world. Quebec and Ontario were hard hit, and curfews and stay-at-home orders took effect, restricting our movements.   

Winter dragged listlessly into spring. Time became amorphous, and most days, I didn’t know if it was a Monday or a Thursday. Nor did I care. I applauded those that took creative control of the lockdown and produced work, but refused to beat myself up for not being industrious in traumatic times.

On April 7, 2021, a much more vigorous third province wide lockdown went into effect in Ontario, and Ontarians learned a new term – ‘non-essential goods.’  We discovered that this covered children’s toys, books, underwear, shoes and sandals, hobby supplies, and non-garden centre gardening items.

Everyone had their high and low points; I’ll never forget the day I nearly burst into tears in a Dollarama because the foam mannequin head I needed for a craft project was deemed ‘non-essential.’  It wasn’t the foam head I was mourning, so much as the very idea of simply entering a store, choosing an item, and being allowed to freely purchase said item. That’s what I’ve done all of my life. Having that ‘right’ denied cut like a knife. I had had enough. I did not want to play pandemic any more. 

On the day that Ontario’s shopping lockdown was lifted, consumers headed out in droves to satisfy their itch to buy-buy-buy. There were lineups at every store, including the dollar shops and charity outlets. One morning I wanted to shop at a local charity store. About twenty minutes before the store was to open, there were 17 people in line ahead of me. When I asked some of the waiting if they had a specific purchase in mind, they told me that just being able to get into a store, to see what was available, and to freely touch the items was all they wanted.  

We are not just human-touch starved, it seems. We are also starved of the everyday, ordinary tactile experiences that we used to take for granted.

Because I have certain health issues, I made it a priority to get vaccinated as early as possible. Shawn and I had our first jab April 6th, and our second on June 7th. We’re now covered and eager to get back to some semblance of a social life in the near future.

well, not quite THIS social … 😉

But sixteen months after our COVID-19 journey began, the world has actually had more COVID deaths in 2021 to date than it did in all of 2020.  It’s NOT over. We, the lucky and the vaccinated in the West, can’t afford to rest on our jabbed laurels; the ill and the dying in less wealthy countries are producing variants that may be able to sneak past our vaccine defenses.

Where are we now? The Delta variant of the virus still poses a danger for the unvaccinated, and it’s apparently more contagious and deadlier than the previous version. The fully vaccinated are probably protected. This variant represents a phase of the pandemic that focuses on the unvaccinated.  

Even as the number of Canadian hospitalizations and deaths fall, people around the world are reimposing mask requirements and death tolls are rising. In Africa, a third wave is surging, and threatening to be it’s most devastating and worst wave yet. India has recorded over 30 million cases, and nearly 400,000 deaths. In Sydney, Australia this week, at least half a million residents have been forced into lockdown for yet another week.

And still there are no plans to shelve the Tokyo Olympics, which open officially in just four weeks. One option in play is a ‘no-spectator games,’ but the situation changes from day to day, and organizers need to remain flexible to changes. Since there’s already signs of a resurgence of infections (1% in the last week) athletes have to roll the dice to decide whether or not participation is a wise choice for their health and their careers. 

Last week, two members of the Ugandan team tested positive for the Delta variant upon entry to Japan. No matter how extensive the testing may be, there are 11,000 Olympian athletes and 4,400 Paralympic athletes entering Tokyo, along with the tens of thousands of additional participants amongst the coaches, judges, and federation officials. That’s a lot of testing. And a lot of room for error and mistakes.

Covid-zero nations are working diligently to eliminate the virus through isolation and mass vaccinations. Biden’s White House has said that it will provide Afghanistan with 3 million doses of the J&J vaccine, of which only one dose is needed, along with oxygen and other supplies, in an effort to help with an outbreak of the delta variant.

Overall, the United States is donating 55 million doses to the world. Canada has plans to donate 100 million doses as part of the G7 effort to provide a billion doses to low- and middle-income countries, but for now, we are donating 13 million ‘surplus’ doses, which are mainly comprised of brands which we are either having difficulty bringing into Canada, or which haven’t been authorized for Canadian distribution.

It’s been a devastating sixteen months, and it’s not over yet. We’ve seen the best in people, and we’ve certainly seen the worst come from the words and deeds of the selfish and the ignorant. Many of us seem determined not to give those who got us here their due; again, there have been mistakes made, but we’re still standing, and in Canada, we’re closing in on the finish line, with reasonable numbers to show for this unexpected and overwhelming calamity.

We’ve learned that being elected can’t turn a bad politician into a leader, and that leadership doesn’t come naturally to all contenders. And we’ve learned that we, as a nation, are strong enough to make it through a crisis that brought other countries to their knees.

And for that, at least, we can be justly proud.

Forty Acres and A Mule


by Roxanne Tellier     

President Biden’s declaration of June 19th as a new federal holiday – Juneteenth – is an incredible moment for a nation in recovery from a global pandemic. At least half of America is rejoicing at this leap forward in race relations in the nation.   

The other half – well, they wouldn’t be happy unless they were celebrating the cancellation of the Civil Rights Act itself, really. You know, the Civil Rights Act was very nearly not a thing. Fact. The Republican Party was adamant that the Act not be authorized, despite the original powers contained being quite weak. The House passed the bill (290-130) on February 10, 1964, and after a 54-day filibuster, the Senate voted 73-27, for. (The filibuster was led by Democrat senator from Georgia Richard Russell, who said, “We will resist to the bitter end any measure . . . to bring about social equality and intermingling.”) However, it was not until a further amendment was added that the Civil Rights Act was signed into law on July 2, 1964.

There was a similar foot-dragging that went on concerning Martin Luther King Jr Day in 1983. You see, a president (in that case, Reagan) can propose a federal holiday, but that doesn’t make it so in all of the states. Neither the president nor Congress have the power to declare a national holiday. That’s one of those ‘states rights’ things. Which is why it took 17 years, until 2000, before MLK Jr Day was actually a national holiday.  

In the case of Juneteenth, I’m guessing we’ve got at least that long to go, if not longer. After all, even as Biden signed the bill, the GOP were enacting legislation outlawing the teaching of Critical Race Theory (CRT.) Eight U.S. states have already enacted laws banning its teaching, and nine others are very close to joining them.

Juneteenth is … complicated. Juneteenth commemorates something akin to a sick version of “Finders Keepers.”  By which I mean, if the slaves didn’t find out they were freed, the bad guys got to keep ‘em.

Let me back up.

So, President Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation on September 22, 1862, which declared that all enslaved people in the Confederate States, and not in Union hands, were freed. That actually became effective on January 1, 1863, and there were many people of colour who awaited that day with baited breath, longing to be able to declare themselves free.    

However, it wasn’t until federal troops arrived in Galveston, Texas on June 19, 1865, that slavery was essentially ended. (I’ll explain that ‘essentially’ in a second.) It was believed that this was the last bastion of slavery in the nation, and that now, all of the original slaves were freed.

Which means that there were possibly thousands of slaves who were actually free men and women for two and a half years AFTER they had been legally freed by Lincoln, who remained in bondage, being used and abused by their owners, because no one had told them they were freed. Imagine being family to someone beaten or murdered in that time, believing their owners had the right to mutilate them or take their lives, because their lives were bought and paid for.

It would be akin to the concentration camps of Germany still operating in far reaching areas until 1950, because no one had told the prisoners that they were supposed to be freed, and the Kommandants and the SS were not going to be the ones that told them that the allies had won the war.

Anyway, the United States didn’t actually fully abolish slavery until the ratification of the 13th Amendment in December of 1865.  

But was slavery actually abolished? Sorta kinda. Because those people who made laws and had power at that time tended to be rich business people whose enterprises would be made vastly poorer if they had to actually pay the people who did the backbreaking labour on their plantations and businesses.

Slavery was not abolished even after the Thirteenth Amendment. There were four million freedmen and most of them on the same plantation, doing the same work they did before emancipation, except as their work had been interrupted and changed by the upheaval of war. Moreover, they were getting about the same wages and apparently were going to be subject to slave codes modified only in name. There were among them thousands of fugitives in the camps of the soldiers or on the streets of the cities, homeless, sick, and impoverished. They had been freed practically with no land nor money, and, save in exceptional cases, without legal status, and without protection.” W.E.B. DuBois

So, into that ‘emancipation’ law was snuck a little poison pill that far too many people of colour would be biting for decades to come.      

“Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.” 

13th Amendment to the United States Constitution

Since that would mean the paying of actual wages to workers, Southern states acted quickly to enact an incredible array of laws meant to criminalize nearly everything about the lives of former slaves. These were known as the Black Codes.   

Mississippi was first off the hop, when it passed an 1865 law titled, “An Act to Confer Civil Rights on Freedmen.”  This law would punish black workers for vagrancy, should they fail to contract themselves to white farmers by January 1st of each year.

“Blacks could be sentenced to forced labor for crimes including petty theft, using obscene language, or selling cotton after sunset. States passed new, strict vagrancy laws that were selectively enforced against blacks without white protectors. The labor of these convicts was then sold to farms, factories, lumber camps, quarries, and mines.  

After its ratification of the Thirteenth Amendment in November 1865, the South Carolina legislature immediately began to legislate Black Codes. The Black Codes created a separate set of laws, punishments, and acceptable behaviors for anyone with more than one black great-grandparent. Under these Codes, Blacks could only work as farmers or servants and had few Constitutional rights. Restrictions on black land ownership threatened to make economic subservience permanent.

Some states mandated indefinitely long periods of child “apprenticeship”. Some laws did not target blacks specifically, but instead affected farm workers, most of whom were black. At the same time, many states passed laws to actively prevent blacks from acquiring property.” (Wikipedia)

Far from the promise of ’40 acres and a mule’ being bestowed upon loyal workers post-emancipation, a world of hurt was about to descend, quite legally, upon those who had the misfortune to have so much as a drop of black blood in their veins.  

And it continues to this day. In the very much ‘for profit’ prison system in the states, people of colour are vastly over-represented amongst the millions who are used as – yes – slave labour. Since any one convicted of a crime forfeits their rights to freedom, and is technically a slave, wages paid to prisoners are … slave wages.

“Penal labor is economically important due to it being a source of cheap labor, with base pay being as low as 60 cents per day in Colorado.   …

Firms including those in the technology and food industries are often provided tax incentives to contract prison labor, commonly at below market rates. The Work Opportunity Tax Credit (WOTC) serves as a federal tax credit that grants employers $2,400 for every work-release employed inmate. “Prison in-sourcing” has grown in popularity as an alternative to outsourcing work to countries with lower labor costs.

A wide variety of companies such as Whole Foods, McDonalds, Target, IBM, Texas Instruments, Boeing, Nordstrom, Intel, Wal-Mart, Victoria’s Secret, Aramark, AT&T, BP, Starbucks, Microsoft, Nike, Honda, Macy’s and Sprint, and many more, actively participated in prison in-sourcing throughout the 1990s and 2000s. After the 2021 storming of the U.S. Capitol, it was noted that FPI would receive priority when the federal government purchases products such as office furniture to replace what was damaged in the riots.    

Critics of the prison labor system argue that the portrayal of prison expansion as a means of creating employment opportunity is a particularly harmful element of the prison-industrial complex in the United States. Some believe that boosting economic benefits at the expense of an incarcerated populace prioritizes personal financial gain over ensuring payment of societal debt or actual rehabilitation of criminals.”  (Wikipedia)

Many people of colour believe that the elevation of Juneteenth to a federal holiday is little more than a consolation prize; a day off work, though only for those employed by the government. Rather, many would prefer to see legal reforms, an end to the lack of accountability police unions enjoy, and an actual end to slavery, through a reassessment of the penal provisions in the 13th Amendment.

Institutional racism has been built into the United States since the first slaves were brought to its shores in 1619. That, and more, is what is causing so many Republican states to react violently against the concept of critical race theory.

The theory looks at how the law and legal institutions in the U.S. are inherently racist in how regulations and laws are enacted to maintain social, political, and economic inequality.

The very concept of the modern-day idea of ‘race,’ as a definition by which peoples can be enslaved and abused, without repercussion, really only came into general use alongside the formation of the United States. Prior to the 1500s, the term was rarely used, and then only to identify groups of people with a family relationship.

Our current definition of race refers to the identification of groups of people by their physical traits, appearance, and/or characteristics, and is an entirely human invention.

 In the 18th century, political and intellectual leaders began publicly to assert that Africans were naturally inferior, and thus best suited for slavery. This theory was gratefully accepted by Americans who had already decided that the native Americans who actually owned and lived on the lands the settlers coveted were weak, and unworthy of being part of this New Land. That sort of thinking allowed the settlers to ignore the horrors they inflicted on those they drove ever westward, to hellish reservation lands, and to eagerly accept the concept of slavery of Africans. 

Portraying those of different coloured skin as lesser-than, soon applied to any group that came or was brought to America. Slavery was a natural, and so cost effective. Exploitation of the First Peoples, of the Africans brought in chains, and then of refugees from other countries, most notably of the Chinese that built the railroads, brought enormous wealth to those that could not conceive of the humanity of any other than their own white, Christian brethren.

Critical race theory shines a klieg light on to the legal white racism that non-Caucasians have been subjected to for generations. The GOP wishes to condemn and cancel any talk of how the health, wealth and legal standing of people of colour are decided in their courts, but civil rights scholars have definitively shown that past and current American laws maintain white supremacy, and allow societal and structural racism.

The fight continues for equality. One small step at a time, we move forward … even if it means we do it under the burden of dragging the ignorant, the unwilling, and the racist on our backs to the finish line.

Happy Juneteenth!

Straight Outta Facebook Jail


by Roxanne Tellier

I’m happy to report that the rumours of my death were greatly exaggerated.  I’ve only been dead to the social media world for the last 30 days. 

But, let me tell you – if you’ve ever wondered if people would miss you after you’re gone, take a long Facebook break. The majority will most certainly not even notice your absence. It’s a fast-paced world, and either you’re in the fast lane, or you’re eating everyone else’s dust.

this is great – never knew there were two versions of this Canadian Classic!

Facebook has really been cracking down on its users over every little thing since the last time Zuckerberg had to explain Facebook’s ways to Congress.  Zuck’s been able to rely on Section 230, which allows social media companies to self-regulate. It shields the platforms from liability, shunting any blame to individual users, who can be sued for posted content, while granting legal immunity for good faith efforts to remove content that violates their policies.

The key part of the provision reads: “No provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be treated as the publisher or speaker of any information provided by another information content provider.”

While there have been small inroads into Section 230 protections, lawmakers have only been able to do so much. In 2018, a law was passed making it easier to sue internet platforms that knowingly aid sex trafficking, but there’s the rub again … define and prove ‘knowingly’ when a cadre of well-paid lawyers are claiming ignorance. Federal crimes and intellectual property claims are further exceptions, but again, there’s a rallying cry of ‘prove it!’ whenever the platform is charged.

Zuckerberg and Jack Dorsey of Twitter claim that their platforms could not exist without the protections provided under Section 230, but at the end of the day, what stays or goes on these platforms remains solely under their jurisdiction.

Which is perhaps why we’re hearing more and more horror stories from Facebook users who are being penalized unfairly, without recourse, and lately, even for offences committed four to seven years ago.

Musician/radio personality Bill King noted today that there doesn’t seem to be an actual court of appeal for unfair charges.

“I was there (FB jail) recently for a humorous post of which I challenged, won, and still got a week. I’m serving a 60-day sentence for something from 2020. This is crazy.”

The most famous North American repeat offender is, of course, Donald Trump. The former president was banned ‘indefinitely’ from all Facebook platforms after the Capitol riot of January 6th, when his supporters ransacked the hallowed halls in an attempt to stop the certification of Joe Biden’s presidential win.

The ban was a disaster for Trump, since social media played a huge part in his campaign and subsequent presidential term. He appealed, which resulted in his claim being kicked upstairs to Facebook’s Oversight Board. There, the suspension was upheld, but the board chastised the company for not having a clear policy, and for imposing an indefinite time period.

Facebook’s principals responded by creating new enforcement penalties that deemed Trump’s ‘severe violation of our rules’ to merit the highest penalty available – a two-year suspension, effective from January 7th. This would keep his account suspended until January 7th 2023, when it was determined that he would only get his accounts back if “the risk to public safety has receded.”

Naturally, Trump’s furious over being held accountable for his sins. Although he was a supporter in the good times, now, like a belligerent husband furious that the wife is refusing to iron his underpants, he’s determined to break Facebook and Twitter, by any means possible.

Trump’s response:  “What Facebook, Twitter, and Google have done is a total disgrace and an embarrassment to our Country. Free Speech has been taken away from the President of the United States because the Radical Left Lunatics are afraid of the truth, but the truth will come out anyway, bigger and stronger than ever before. The People of our Country will not stand for it! These corrupt social media companies must pay a political price, and must never again be allowed to destroy and decimate our Electoral Process.”

And then, in a separate statement, Trump again claimed fraud in the 2020 election, because of course he did.

Meanwhile, there’s a pretty solid front of both Dems and Republicans who believe that all of social media’s big companies have become too powerful, and need tougher regulations to hold them more accountable for policing content.

Democrats, led by Biden, want Congress to revise Section 230, considering the lack of liability a big gift to Big Tech. They want social media to be compelled to remove hate speech, proven falsehoods, extremism, and election interference.

Unsurprisingly, Republicans, led by Trump, are more concerned about the Orange One being banned, conservatives being censored, and a limit to political reach on social media platforms. Florida’s Ron DeSantis recently passed a law that cracks down on the Big Tech platforms, claiming that they are conspiring against conservatives, and their free speech.

This law would make it illegal for Big Tech to remove political candidates from their platforms in the runup to an election, while also making it easier for Florida’s attorney general and individuals to sue these companies if they felt discriminated against.

(But DeSantis DID exempt ‘companies that own a theme park’ – such as Walt Disney Co, which runs Disney+, a streaming service. He knows which side of the Floridian bread is buttered by the Mouse.)

There are so many holes in this law that I imagine there are ACL lawyers across America wetting their pants over who will be the first to challenge this snowflake fest. Firstly, it’s unconstitutional. The bill is a violation of the First Amendment’s ban on government controlling the free speech of private companies.

Corbin Barthold, internet policy counsel for the Washington, D.C., nonprofit group TechFreedom, wrote, “The bill is extreme. It’s a brazen assault on the First Amendment. DeSantis wants to compel websites to speak. He can’t. He wants consumer-protection law to erase free-speech rights. It won’t. DeSantis is attacking the very constitutional principles Republicans just spent four years putting conservatives on the courts to protect.”  

Beyond that, it would seem yet one more example of DeSantis currying favour with Trump and his acolytes, by standing by his man. The snowflakes are thick on the ground down in Florida, it would seem.

There’s a lot of other factors going on here as well, since, no matter how you look at it, Facebook is near to keeling over from ‘death by demographics.’ 10% of Facebook’s advertising audience are 55 and older, while Facebook remains the most popular social network for seniors. 62% of Americans 65 and older use Facebook. And – fun fact! Guess who shares the most fake news on ANY social platform? Seniors! We’re Number 1! We’re Number 1!

As is the case in Japan, people over 65 make up the brunt of Facebook’s population, and that number is rising. Meanwhile, the ‘kool kids’ bolted years ago, to the hipper pastures of TikTok and Instagram.

So why do so many stay on Facebook, despite the arbitrary updates of it’s interface, unreasonable banning, lack of customer support, or recourse for common errors? Basically, it’s all about sunk costs.

It’s a lot like changing jobs or moving house; when you’re younger, there’s always a greener pasture to be found. But the older you get, the less you want to gather up all the energy you’ll need to get up and out of that comfy chair. So we stay, year after year, and simply take whatever the social media platform gods dish out.

There aren’t a lot of platforms that ring the same bells as Facebook. The current ‘next best option’ is Liker.com, which bills itself as the ‘kinder, smarter, social network’. Liker has recently gone through a serious overhaul and revamp, further to being hacked in March of 2021 by ‘politically motivated trumpers’, and allegedly in retaliation for the Gab data breach and scraping of data from Parler.  

I have re-upped with Liker, and hope to be setting up a new home over there as soon as it’s back up and running. With Facebook now so hair-triggered, it can’t hurt to have somewhere else to go, especially for those days when you get kicked off the platform for the despicable crime of quoting Shakespeare.

So, a month without Facebook. It was fine, really. After the first few days of withdrawal, I started to realize how much free time I had, when I wasn’t constantly monitoring the freeform thoughts of the masses. In a way, it was sort of like those first few days after Trump was originally banned from Facebook – at first, you can’t put your finger on what’s not bothering you anymore. Then you realize – it’s the absence of the white noise that was constantly permeating your environment, keeping you slightly off balance at all times.

I’ve been reading all the books on tech and social media and current social issues that I can carry home from the library. I’ve spent a lot of time on YouTube, scarfing down educational programs, TedTalks, documentaries, music specials, and watching the antics of The Sorry Girls. I’ve redecorated the front porch, started working on sorting out the back deck and the shed, and have a couple of document files I’m about to rework into eBooks to see if I can make a few bucks off that tech writing certificate I aced decades ago.

And the funniest thing is, once you get off the Facebook treadmill, you soon start to realize how little ‘new’ there’s been for the average person to marvel over, since around 2015. It’s as though the world was so fixated on trump and politics that actual societal progress halted, while the right gloated over the one bill they passed in four years, that being the one that made the rich even richer, while doing nothing for the other 99.9%.

We’re still fighting old wars. We’ve gone through a global pandemic, serious incursions upon our democracy, and we are making tentative forays into re-entering this post-pandemic world, without many people even noticing that nearly six years have passed, but very little has changed.

Thirty days away also gave me perspective on how seriously too many people take their Facebook presence. For the average user, any social media platform should be either an escape, or a legitimate business outlet.  But many people get so addicted to the place that they have to share every minor moment and experience of their lives, along with what they ate for lunch. It’s almost as though they believe that nothing is real unless it’s seen by an audience.  

Then there’s the huge segment of people who seem to think that the expression of their thoughts and opinions is tantamount to a ‘job.’ Facebook isn’t paying anyone I know to tell them ‘What’s on your mind?’ No one pays me to curate news items, or to be first with a link to the latest Randy Rainbow video. The water cooler we gather around is virtual, as are most of our friends, and if there was a break room, your sandwich would already have been stolen by a troll.

And, let’s face it – Facebook is also where you go to ask random strangers whether or not you should bring a baby to a ‘no kids allowed’ wedding. Or to seek the seal of approval on your not wanting to get vaccinated before getting on an airplane and going to said wedding.

So, yeah, back again, sadder and wiser. Thinking I’ll use Facebook for my business social media purposes, maybe keep another account for private convos.

But there are still reasons – which have nothing to do with how FB is run – to be on Facebook.

One, is finding the little precious nuggets hidden on the internet … I’d never have found this video, or seen these incredible, sensual contortions, had I not been pointed in their direction by photographer Anne J Gibson ….

(The 13th Floor Elevators – Roller Coaster – Footage by exotic dancers Janik and Arnaut, 1954.)

And of course, I’ve got a lot of people I really enjoy seeing and interacting with on Facebook.

But let’s face it, the odds of me being a recidivist are pretty high. I’m a terror, you know, a wild one, a granny with a grudge, a troublemaker that just doesn’t learn. Odds are good it won’t be long until they’ve sent me back to the pokey.

It’s just the way I roll. Unrepentant. A Facebook Felon. You’ll never take me alive, copper!

Time Enough at Last


by Roxanne Tellier

When it comes to excuses, I’ve got a million of ‘em. Even now, as I should be writing this column, I am thinking of two dozen other things that I should be doing first – like alphabetizing the vitamins in the bathroom cabinet or swinging up to the grocery store for some spices that I won’t need until Halloween.  

Successful procrastination doesn’t just ‘happen’ – no, you have to work at it. I’ve made it into such a fine art that you can still find unpacked boxes from our 2017 move, marked ‘important’, underfoot and unopened. A tall bedroom dresser squatted in the living room from last November to last week. There are two shelves in the middle of the kitchen that desperately need to get gone, and I can’t decide where they’ll go. I mean, who’s gonna see it anyway, amirite?

The struggle to actually complete the multitude of tasks I set myself every day is real. Quite obviously, the smart thing to do would be to tackle one job, and keep at it until it’s done, damn the torpedoes. But there are so many other, more interesting things, I’d rather do.   

I honestly thought that the pandemic and subsequent ‘lockdowns’ would do the trick, finally forcing me to knuckle down and get stuff done, but no. Turns out, no matter how much time I have at my disposal, I’m capable of finding a multitude of unimportant, frivolous time wasting activities to steal that time and then, for those little niggling skivers to demand that I give them even more attention, ensuring that the timely arrival of this column, or indeed, trifling matters like taxes, is backburnered until sirens are blaring and the police car’s strobe lights are scaring the cats.

My lack of discipline has cost me tens of thousands of dollars over my lifetime, but apparently, I can’t be bribed or fined into completing tasks in a timely fashion. Nothing seems to work, though many have tried different tactics, from cajoling to yelling to threats of bodily harm. Nope. Unmoved. It’ll get done when it gets done.

My heel dragging and lolly gagging on some issues is in sharp contrast to my almost manic approach to fresh projects. If I’m fully immersed in a new venture, I’ll work 16-hour days for weeks, to birth this new interest as quickly as I can. Everything will be everywhere, but I’ll make sharp progress ….

Until the day I decide it’s time to take a break. And at that point, sorry, but I just can’t tell you when I’ll be ready to finish – or tidy – the mess that I started. Many times, I’ve considered speaking to the Pope about canonizing my husband for his saintly ability to simply dwell within the chaos, uncomplaining

On the other hand, he’s also long been the beneficiary of my need to “do it all myself,” AND to do it in the hours when he’s elsewhere, like at work. Thing is, since he retired, I tend to get a lot less done, because there never seems to be a time when what I’m trying to do won’t be a disturbance to what he’d like to do. And I really don’t like or want observers when I’m constructing or deconstructing a ‘thing.’  

Between a retired husband and two incredibly spoiled cats, I’m run ragged before I even add on any projects of my own that will take up time, space, and sound. It’s always something. Phones are ringing. Cats are yowling to be let out or let in. Delivery people pound on the door with packages for neighbours. Memes must be shared across a crowded room. It’s madness, I tell you!  

And living in a very tiny cottage with barely enough room to swing a cat, if one dared to risk the cat scratch fever, or could lift the weight of either of these spoiled felines, isn’t much help. All the articles on how to live in increasingly small spaces advocate using vertical space, but when you’re already surrounded by tall, filled to the brim, book shelves, it appears that the ceiling, rather than the sky, may indeed be the limit.

I really did think that having all sorts of spare time during COVID, what with the lining up to get into some stores, and the downright closure of so many places where I might have whiled away the time being coiffured, manicured, or massaged, not to mention the lack of places to dine, drink or dance, would have freed up so much time that I’d be able to finally set all earthly things to rights, while tossing off a magnus opus or two, without breaking a sweat.

Sadly, I was very wrong.

As it turns out, living through a global pandemic is a little tiring. Worry, fear, and depression can wear the edges off even the nicest, most positive, non-whining person you’ve ever known, so why would you think that someone like me could keep their sunny side up indefinitely? Have you met me?

We’re living through some really rough times, and even Canadians, some of the most easy-going and long-suffering people you could ever hope to find, are on their last nerve. They’ve had it up to their tonsils with poor leadership, restrictions that are often nonsensical and seem more punitive than effective, and the sense that those nominally in charge are in fact spinning completely out of control. Patience wears thin as Year One morphs into Year Two (second verse, same as the first.)

Even a mild form of depression will have an effect on what you’re able to accomplish, even if all you’re trying to do is just limp along doing routine tasks. The world is not easy to cope with, these days, and the things we used to do to cope, like going to a movie, hitting the gym, or enjoying meals with friends, aren’t there to relieve the pressure.

Hey, if this ‘pause’ has allowed you to learn a new language, write a book, or start a business, more power to you! But for many of us, in a world filled with grief, depression and anxiety, putting one foot in front of the other, and remembering to shower occasionally, is all we’ve got left in the tank. And that’s okay too.  

Realistically, we’re in unprecedented times, and we need to cut ourselves some slack. You’re allowed to slow down, rest and reflect, and to just say ‘no’ when someone asks you to take on some of their burdens to lighten their own load.

Sometimes we have to let some things go, in order to soldier on in difficult times. Can’t bear to wash another dish? Buy paper plates. Ignore the dust bunnies – they’ll still be there when you’re ready to vacuum.

It’s not only okay, it’s imperative that you make room for a little joy and self-care in your day. You can’t help others if you’ve let all of your own energy drain away. Take the time to pamper yourself a little, even if it’s just having a spa day in your own bathroom with those little face, hand and feet masques you bought for a rainy day.

Just as when, in a flight emergency, we’re told to put on our own oxygen masks before we help others, we’re in a time and place where we have to find ways to put our own mental health first, lest we be in no shape to help those we love when they need us.

In the wonderful “Time Enough at Last” episode of the Twilight Zone, our hero, Mr. Bemis, becomes the last person on earth, with all the time in the world to read without interruption. But he stumbles, and breaks his glasses, leaving him unable to do so, and in so doing, he learns that having time enough can be a curse, not the blessing he’d hoped for. He wanted solitude, not isolation.

This planet is in kind of a similar place right now. We’re discovering that there’s far more to life than we thought, and that time off the grid comes at a cost.  

Give yourself a Mental Health Day. Take a load off. Relax in a bubble bath. After all, it’s not like we’re going anywhere, anytime soon. Be good to you. You deserve it.

What Do You Miss the Most?


by Roxanne Tellier

A couple of weeks into the start of the COVID pandemic, I asked my husband if he’d have done anything differently before we entered lockdown, now that we had a little experience with this way of life. We kicked around a few thoughts, but it all being so new, he couldn’t really think of much he could have done to prepare.

We’re pretty low maintenance. We’re retired, have a very small place stuffed with the goods of a lifetime of (my) conspicuous consumption, and really don’t need much to get by. But need is not want, and want is what drives our capitalistic society, which we are all a part of, whether we want to be or not. 

The pandemic made me realize that what I missed most about my pre-COVID life was the ability to do the things I had taken for granted – the ability to move through my city freely, meet with friends and family when I wished, stop for a coffee or lunch break without having to check that the location was open, and shopping leisurely without worrying about having to line up for entry first.

Oh, and to find an open public washroom when nature called. That turned out to be one of the little amenities most of us had never had to consider in the past.

I’ve lived in Canada all of my life, and I’ve seen things come and go, as times and society changes. I remember ashtrays affixed to supermarket carts, and when you only had to look up and around to find a clock attached to a wall, or a building, ticking away the hours of our lives. But for all the changes, both good and bad, that I’ve seen, what I’ve never seen is a curtailing of the basic things that keep Canada in the top or near top of “Best Places to Live” in the world.

We take our freedoms and rights for granted, rarely acknowledging how much work has gone into making Canada the free country others envy. Our ancestors mostly chose to leave the evils of their places of birth behind, and instead, to work together to create the society we enjoy today. Decade by decade, election by election, those who came before us made the health and well-being of citizens a priority, and they did it with the politeness that Canadians have always been famous for. 

What is the difference Why is Canada considered a Cultural Mosaic and not a Melting Pot Why is this important to our country’s population

We became a nation of shopkeepers, not a company of merchants. We were the vertical mosaic of different ethnic, language, regional and religious groupings, rather than the melting pot of America, where immigrants are expected to adopt and follow the American way, however it is currently defined. We retained our cultures and beliefs, and in a crisis, Canadians pulled together.

After one year of a global pandemic, the veneer of that civility is wearing thin. Oh sure, we appreciated those who sacrificed to keep us going, in the beginning, but as the months wore on, and as the information meted out to us morphed and changed as new knowledge about the virus was obtained, a lot of us started to show our fangs.

The constraints put upon us, to stay inside, wear a mask, wash your hands, social distance, and get the vaccine when it is available, those strictures that once would have been the only responsible adult choice, have become just too ‘demanding’ for many of us to bear.

After a little more than a year of living under Covid, important lessons have been learned by some countries, and have been completely ignored in others.

A successful response to Covid-19 turned out to depend on more than a country’s wealth, scientific prowess and history of public health successes. The U.S. enjoys all of these advantages but mounted one of the worst responses to the pandemic: 1 in every 990 Americans has died from Covid-19 since the pandemic began. Bad politics, quite simply, can trump good public health.

Other developed countries that did well initially, such as Canada and some European nations, have faltered during the second or third surge of infections, because their governments and people grew tired of implementing effective strategies. In many Asian countries, it has long been common for people to wear masks when feeling ill, so they adopted masks early and widely. “ 

The Wall Street Journal, January 2021  

Taiwan profited from early action, and the provision of intensive financial support to the ill, and to contact tracing, which kept Taiwan to less than 800 cases by the end of 2020.

American Samoa never saw a single case or death from the virus, due to the territory calling a complete halt to all incoming passenger flights. While the 55,000 inhabitants have been isolated from the rest of the world, they have not had to implement any sort of closures, distancing, testing, or strain on their health care.  

New Zealand crushed the curve early, first, by being an island better able to enforce travel bans, and secondly, by an aggressive pandemic influenza plan that began in February of 2020. Implementing a country wide lockdown in late March of 2020 essentially eliminated the virus entirely. By June, New Zealand was pandemic free, with only a few cases coming from international travelers, who were kept in quarantine for two weeks post-arrival. Jacinda Arden, the NZ Prime Minister, must be congratulated for her use of clear communication that worked to increase her people’s willingness to cooperate for the betterment of the nation.

Finland, South Africa, and Germany fared well by relying on clear, concise communication, that allowed people to understand their risks, and shoved aside any acceptance of the concept of ‘fake news’ that would confuse their people. German Chancellor Angela Merkel called for her citizens to have “patience, discipline and solidarity,” the three essentials to an effective pandemic response.  

“The European Dream” prize winning photo … Andrei Stenin

Many other countries, like Brazil, Moldova, India, Czechia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Bulgaria, have suffered far worse, with thousands of deaths, all while suffering with little modern conveniences or health care to give any comfort.  

In Canada, a very large segment of Canadians, a very large and VOCAL segment, did not take much of a financial hit. Those who had a decent job, with benefits, were generally in position to simply move their office into their home, thru the miracle of the internet and ZOOM. In fact, that group is said to have accrued quite a lot of extra money they didn’t expect to have, due to the lack of restaurants to visit, vacations allowed to be taken, and a focus on shopping by mail, rather than in person.

Scotiabank polled over 1,500 Canadians to learn more about their saving and spending habits since the pandemic began and found that one in four Canadians (25%) have been able to save more because of reduced spending in other areas of their lives. Canadians who are saving more say they are spending less on: eating out (75%), entertainment (81%), clothing and apparel (58%), and commuting costs (41%).  Also, more than a third (37%) who are putting more money aside have made saving a priority since COVID-19.” 

(Scotiabank Newsletter, November 2020)

For the first time in 50 years, I stopped spending about $50 every four weeks to get my hair coloured, and discovered that my ‘real’ hair colour made me look like a cross between a Shih Tzu and Blanche from Golden Girls.  

Lots of other people – those whom we call ‘essential’ but pay as if they aren’t – were the human tinder we threw on COVID’s fire. In March of 2020, people all over the world were urged to ‘make some noise’ to honour healthcare workers, by going onto our porches or balconies, or throwing open our windows to cheer, applaud, and bang pots. That lasted a few months, but as time wore on, I guess we just decided we didn’t really care how many of those in the healthcare field were exhausted or dying from having to care for hundreds, then thousands, and eventually, millions, of sick people.

Hazard pay” for those low on the totem pole, but highly likely to become infected, was discontinued by the fall. We stopped being grateful for those minimum wage earners who staffed the groceries, pharmacies, and Big Box stores, and started demanding that they serve us as though we were management, and they were grovelling for a raise in salary.

We cared about the seniors and sick who were dying by the hundreds, until it meant that the day when we had planned to get a haircut was pushed forward, again and again, until many of us just took the clippers to our manes and had at it, because, really, who would see it when you hadn’t anywhere you were allowed to go?

The herd immunity that initially shocked people by it’s callous cruelty, started to sound good to those who didn’t care how many had to die to get there, as long as it wasn’t themselves, and it meant that they could get out to see a band or a sports match. 

For a very short time, some businesses cared about those who were chafing under the pressure, those who made their living doing jobs that barely covered their needs during normal times, now having their hours drastically cut, while still being ineligible for supplements like CERB.

Ontario Hydro lowered their rates, but decided, in the fall, that they’d done enough to help, and that profits over people were more important.

““Last fall, our government introduced customer choice for all Ontario customers; we encourage customers who continue to work from home who are still paying time-of-use electricity rates to consider switching to the tiered rate option, offering a flat rate at all hours of the day,” the spokesperson from the Ministry of Health told Daily Hive. 

They added that customers who are unable to pay their electricity bills due to COVID-19 can apply to the COVID-19 Energy Assistance Program (CEAP) through their local utility. We have recently expanded eligibility for the CEAP program and residential customers can now receive up to $750 in direct electricity-bill relief.” 

The Daily Hive

Rents and mortgage rates, controlled provincially, have been entangled in regulations that have left many wondering if that roof over their head would be there in the near future, and at what cost. Banks upped their rates, eagerly collecting all those one-dollar-a-transaction fees from those being asked to make their purchases with bank debit cards rather than cash.

As the new year dawned, many companies, large and small, raised their prices and rates to reflect that they’d suffered financial losses in 2020, while ignoring the corollary, that their users and buyers had suffered just as much, if not more, in a turbulent economy.

This week, Ontario’s Premier Doug Ford added even more severe restrictions on Ontarians, some of which make little sense, from the standpoint of those in the medical field already coping with a flood of sick patients. Social scientists and medical professionals have called his latest declarations “an abandonment of science and common sense,” and warn that we will see “a completely foreseeable and preventable tragedy play out in this province.” 

Like a bad parent, unable to control a wayward child, Ford’s reliance on the ‘grounding’ of citizens is backfiring. Continually backing people into a corner only works for so long, before even the meekest amongst us will come out fighting.

Tippy toeing around the necessity for masking, and waiving fines for the scofflaws not only not masking, but organizing large super spreader events, has made even the most compliant of good citizens show their teeth.

And here’s the problem – we don’t have any answers, any other options. All the things we shoulda coulda done from the onset, including school, business, and airport closings, were off the table from the start in an attempt to appease Big Business, and keep the economy chugging along. 13 months in, the virus has dug deep into the soft under belly of its victims, and thrown off new, even more contagious and dangerous variants. Now, all we can do is hold on tight til the end of the ride.

At this point, there’s little we can do to stop this third wave beyond shutting down non-essential businesses and services, enforcing the necessary health mandates of masking and distancing, and getting ourselves vaccinated as soon as possible.

But I’m growing concerned that our leaders are oblivious to the roiling anger simmering underneath our lip service to containment that prioritized business over people, and the lack of policing of those who openly and publicly advocate and display civil disobedience that may prevent our country from ever completely eradicating this plague.

That, along with the pandemic fatigue that has left so many in pursuit of unrequited self-determination, and the sister pandemic of selfishness, may well be the death of many more of us.

Meanwhile, I’ve discovered that what COVID stole from me, what I miss more than anything else, is the belief that, in a crisis, Canadians would always pull together for the good of their country, and of their fellow Canadians. That’s something that I never thought I’d have to question. But it seems it only took a year of belt-tightening and restrictions to bring out the worst in too many of us.

Denial Is Not Just a River in Egypt


by Roxanne Tellier

People are utterly fascinating, if you have the luxury of standing back and simply observing the way they think. Mesmerising, but oftentimes, head-shakingly and misguidedly, arrogant. Best to avoid them in groups.

Take this week’s Supreme Court decision on carbon taxes; in his decision, Chief Justice Richard Wagner wrote that “Climate change is real. It is caused by greenhouse gas emissions resulting from human activities, and it poses a grave threat to humanity’s future.” 

He added,”The evidence clearly shows that establishing minimum national standards of GHG price stringency to reduce GHG emissions is of concern for Canada as a whole. This matter is critical to our response to an existential threat to human life.” 

Supreme Court or Santas in training? Your mileage may vary.

Under the Constitution’s “peace, order and good government” clause, aka, POGG the federal government has the authority to enact laws to deal with issues that concern the entire country.

Despite complaints from the provinces of Alberta, Saskatchewan and Ontario, who argued that natural resources are the provinces’ jurisdictions, he ruled that it’s constitutionally permissible for the Feds to impose minimum pricing standards, based on the reality of climate change crossing provincial boundaries, and of being so great a threat that it demands a co-ordinated national approach. 

(I’m left wondering if he couldn’t have appended, “just like controlling this pandemic should be.” But that didn’t happen.)

Three of the Court’s Justices dissented, but not on the subject of climate change – that is simply accepted as fact. Rather, their concern was that the decision opened the door to further matters moving out from under provincial control, and into federalist control. In other words, the destruction of the planet by willful, but corporately profitable abuse, was, to their minds, of lesser concern than the provinces being allowed to maintain an exploitative control of power.

Flippin’ pancakes, hangin’ with the guys …

Minutes after his decision, the backlash began, not just from the provincial premiers who had launched the appeal, but from climate change deniers across the land. Although 97% of scientists believe that climate change is real and human-caused, one of our friends, who is on the side of the 3% who don’t, expressed outrage at the Court’s acceptance of human activities being responsible for the changes we’re seeing in our climate. He said he could produce at least ten articles from ‘learned professionals’ that disproved that fact. Hey – tell it to the Judge.

Well, tell it to the CANADIAN Supreme Court judges. In the States, newly confirmed Justice Amy Coney Barrett isn’t sold – she called climate change ‘politically controversial,’ at her confirmation hearing. She then added, “You know, I’m certainly not a scientist. I’ve read things about climate change. I would not say I have firm views on it.”   

In 2020, The majority of Canadians believe in climate change, but still debate how much of the damage has been created by humans.73 percent of Americans say that global warming is happening, and 62 percent of Americans accept that it is human caused.  

A lot of the blame for scepticism about the role humans play in environmental damage comes from people listening to politicians and thought leaders who downplay or outright deny eco-friendly issues. In 2019, after the leader of the People’s Party of Canada, Maxime Bernier, expressed doubts about the legitimacy of climate change, Elections Canada warned that discussing climate change during the upcoming federal election could be deemed partisan activity.

And of course, in the U.S. – trump. He believed climate change was a “Chinese hoax” and pulled the U.S from the Paris Climate Agreement. Getting America back in to it was literally one of the first things Biden did post inauguration.

Sure, Bernier and trump are not exactly MENSA members, but beyond that, it’s best to ‘follow the money, honey,’ because politicians tend to take environmental stances based on what the big donors to the party want done. In both Canada and the U.S., the corporations that most depend on producing carbon pollution for their profits never stop lobbying in their own interests. Damn the environment – full speed ahead!

Horrific natural events that were once limited to once a century frequency, are now yearly events. Whether it’s fires, flooding, or drought, the reality and impact of climate change cannot be denied if you’re impacted by the consequences.  

If the current situation at the U.S. southern border appears to be serious now, get ready for things to get a lot worse – and soon.

According to The Brookings Blum Roundtable of 2020, “the world is looking towards a future where these “unprecedented” storms are commonplace. This global challenge has and will continue to create a multitude of critical issues that the international community must confront, including:

Large-scale human migration due to resource scarcity, increased frequency of extreme weather events, and other factors, particularly in the developing countries in the earth’s low latitudinal band

Intensifying intra- and inter-state competition for food, water, and other resources, particularly in the Middle East and North Africa

Increased frequency and severity of disease outbreaks

Increased U.S. border stress due to the severe effects of climate change in parts of Central America

Climate change deniers will find the waters closing over their heads, like it or not, and whether they believe in it or not.  And if they’re Canadian, they might want to heed a recent scientific report from Environment and Climate Change Canada that reported that Canada is warming up twice as fast as the rest of the world and that this warming is “effectively irreversible.”   (climate change deniers underwater.jpg)

The only hope left for deniers is to print out their ‘evidence’ and stand on it. Maybe that will keep their heads above water for a little longer.

After the last decade of arguing with those who will gladly buy what conmen are selling, there are still times when I reel at how gullible even ‘book smart’ people can be at times.

Take the latest ‘former guy’ trump appearance on FOX on Thursday night. Trump had an interesting revision of the attack on the Capitol on January 6th. Despite every channel, including FOX, having aired live, unedited footage on that day, trump assured Laura Ingraham that his people posed ‘zero threat,’ even as he basically admitted to having sent them there, all hyped up from his speech earlier in the day. 

“Right from the start, it was zero threat,” he said. “Look, they went in — they shouldn’t have done it — some of them went in, and they’re hugging and kissing the police and the guards, you know? They had great relationships. A lot of the people were waved in, and then they walked in, and they walked out.”

140 injured police officers would beg to differ. One died after being assaulted, two others suicided days later, and yet another officer had an eye literally gouged out of his face. One officer suffered two cracked ribs and two smashed spinal discs after being beaten by flagpoles. Others suffered concussions, were punched, trampled, and sprayed with bear spray.

“I’ve talked to officers who have done two tours in Iraq who said this was scarier to them than their time in combat.”  Acting D.C. police chief Robert J. Contee III

No, trump, and Sen. Ron Johnson. These people were not cuddly patriots. They were seditionist rioters, intent on mayhem, and possibly murder, who could be heard chanting death threats against Vice President Mike Pence, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and several lawmakers as they rampaged. Had they been able to use the gallows they’d set up in the Mall to hang Pence, they’d have done so. And if they’d caught Ron Johnson instead, they’d likely have hung him in Pence’s place without a qualm. But whatever it takes for ol’ Johnson to sleep at night, I guess. 

“my life for you!”

Little lies and deceptions. Little twists in truth, the whispering of conspiracies about political enemies leading to bigger lies, and eventually the Big Lie, that simmers beneath Biden’s presidency.  America is on the brink of a Civil War, all because one man’s ego was unable to handle the loss of an election. Potential chaos is being catapulted forward by his cultist hordes who, like TrashCan Man in The Stand, whisper, ‘My life for you,’ as they torch their own families, jobs, and lives.

The Canadian Supreme Court’s decision on carbon taxes should be the definitive and final world on our country’s acceptance of the reality of mankind’s impact on the survival of this beautiful planet. Rightly or wrongly, that’s how democracy works; we appoint people who are deemed to be wise enough, and intelligent enough, to decide definitively what the country will stand for. Just as the information America received post-election should have put the stamp of respectability upon the Biden election win. But apparently there are still those who prefer their own interpretation of current events, no matter how skewed.

What scares me more than anything else about those that deny truth and reality, who refuse to take responsibility for the physical, emotional, or political future of their planet, is that I am just not capable of understanding that level of arrogant egoism. That kind of self-love is just so far beyond common narcissism, so mind-blowingly selfish and entitled, that it verges on an almost apocalyptic abuse of power. There is no defense.

When there are those that would condemn their own children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren to the possibility of a planet dying by their own hands, or a future in which their children are stripped of all rights, simply to prevent their own inconvenience in the present, I fear that it will take something even more dire than a once in a century global pandemic to put humanity back on the right side of history.   

Lockdown Letdown


by Roxanne Tellier

I don’t want to play Pandemicanymore. I really don’t. I’ve had enough of not seeing my friends and family, of scarcities and lineups that make me feel like I’m in post-Communist Russia, and of people being cranky. I’m sick of worrying about if there’s enough of this or that and if not, how to figure out when and where to get more, and I’ve had it with not being able to just go out to restaurants and socialize like normal people… I’ve had enough.

At this point, when I and most of the planet have it up to our teeth, and as the holidays loom, mere weeks away, and mainly due to the efforts of organized anti-maskers and scofflaws who endanger us all with their YouTube engendered f*ckery, we’re going back into another ‘lockdown.’

With just a few days notice, people are panic-shopping, the stores are jammed, there’s lineups around every block, and – maybe I’m going a little nutso with the panic buying. I mean, who really needs five boxes of Harvest Crunch? Apparently, I do.   

But what’s worse is that this lockdown is likely not even going to help much, but it may well ruin more small businesses, most of which have been barely hanging on by a toenail.  What’s the point of keeping restaurants closed when the schools are still open, and the anti maskers are out loud and proud every weekend with megaphones and free hugs, ensuring that we may never successfully emerge from this pandemic? And why aren’t the cops charging and fining every one of those scofflaws each time they’re caught maskless? Why are the rest of us having to suffer while these attention seekers get off scot-free?

I’m so done with these anti maskers, the selfish, self-centred covidiots. They are like the kid that murders his parents, and then throws himself on the mercy of the court, because he’s an orphan. It’s not down to them to decide that their YouTube research trumps actual scientific fact. Masks help to reduce transmission. There’s your fact. Denying it is the hoax.

This is a public health crisis, not 11th grade. I am SO done with these dangerous saps. Fine them into bankruptcy, and if that doesn’t stop them – well, even Typhoid Mary eventually got quarantined on North Brother Island for the last 23 years of her life. We have precedent for dealing with super-spreaders

Global daily deaths to Nov 11, 2020

We’ve now suffered eight months of this pandemic, and lost far too many good people before their time. It’s not just those old people housed in long term facilities, who didn’t deserve such ignominious and lonely passings; health care professionals have been decimated by the virus as well. The virus doesn’t ask to see your driver’s license, citizenship papers, or electoral choice – it kills indiscriminately.

The numbers are insane – in Canada alone, we’ve lost roughly 11,500 people. The US has now topped 256,000 dead, and there’s 1.34 MILLION dead around the world, with another 55.6 million infected. Don’t tell me that this is a ‘hoax.’ It’s one thing to believe that places might be faking the numbers of the dead, but it’s another thing entirely to believe that anyone is faking cremations. If you don’t believe me, try it for yourself.

To the south, Americans are just plain screwed. Severe lockdowns loom amid skyrocketing hospitalizations, with no financial relief in sight. And yet, apparently that’s not enough to stop many from jamming the airports and crisscrossing the country for Thanksgiving.

While Trump tries to hang on to a job he doesn’t really want anymore, he still won’t let Biden’s transition crew get in there and help the country. Trump’s painted himself into a corner, where he’s still enjoying presidential perks, but the rest of America is looking at ending the year sick, hungry and homeless.

Middle-class homeless in California

They desperately need another coronavirus relief bill, as the economy lurches into deeper economic depression. By the end of the year, about 12 million Americans will lose their unemployment benefits. Those who’ve been struggling just to keep afloat will find themselves on the streets – homeless and impoverished. 

At that point you can quit worrying about whether or not COVID is real, because 12 million hungry Americans forced to fend for themselves without any hope are not going to be ‘good neighbours.’

Trump’s biggest enablers, his buddies in the admin and his FOXy Friends, have begun to whisper that it’s time ‘someone’ did something, but their faithful followers aren’t likely to pay any attention. Fox viewers have been thoroughly indoctrinated into believing that Biden stole the election, and that the virus is a hoax, no worse than a flu. Biden beginning the transition into the presidency confounds what they’ve been lead to believe.

Biden being barred from normal transitioning means that medical and economic help will be delayed a further two months, and the situation will worsen. Plans for the vaccine? Back-burnered. A relief bill? No need; trump’s got this. Somehow. Right after this back nine…

There can’t BE a transition, you see, because trump says (without evidence) that’s there’s been widespread voter fraud, and he’s using that as leverage to suck the last few dollars out of his followers’ wallets, to pay for a team of double-talking, but ultimately useless, lawyers. Trump’s followers are fully invested in the hope that somehow, they’re going to overturn the Biden win.

You won’t want to be around trump’s ‘believers’ when their dreams come crashing down, and they find themselves sick, hungry, and homeless.

For those in the conservative media, or the Republican party, who half-heartedly want to encourage trump to do the right thing – concede, and allow work to begin on the pandemic – such talk is tantamount to committing a trumpian double sin. Firstly, they’re whispering that trump may not actually be president when work begins on distributing the vaccine. But secondly, trump has downplayed COVID 19 to his cult for so long, that the vaccine is not even supposed to be a big deal that needs to be addressed. He’s told them the pandemic isn’t such a bad thing .. look at how quickly he got over it! … so, no worries. Que sera sera. All in good time. Manana. Hakuna Matata, baby.

On Saturday, “the G20, the “Group of Twenty,” which consists of leaders of developed or developing countries from around the world, met virtually. After speaking briefly, Trump turned his attention back to tweeting false information about the 2020 election. Then, while members of the G20 began to talk about responses to the global pandemic, Trump went golfing. This was his 298th golf trip during his presidency. Today America surpassed 12 million coronavirus infections.”   (Heather Cox Richardson, historian-author)

The world is beginning to lose patience with America’s lack of response to the pandemic. Denial and dysfunction on an epic level have revealed that America, under trump and under pressure, was simply not up to the task of protecting their people and their economy. Any sympathy towards those caught up unwittingly in the cobwebs of this massive abuse of leadership is fading, after an election that showed that clearly half the nation was still on board with trump, and will follow him, even unto death.  

While the United States juggles both a health and an economic crisis. the nation also finds itself sharply split, politically. That polarization, combined with a public distrust of government institutions that plays into trump’s refusal to take simple health precautions seriously, would be enough to bring any nation to its knees. But now, as trump supporters refuse to believe the results of their election, United State’s democracy is truly under attack.

Today’s America – a nation sick, broke and broken, and fighting against itself. A house divided.

In the face of such a complete and total failure of leadership, golfing is all that trump has left. He failed the nation, and willfully ceded everything asked of a leader.

Fore!

Surviving a Plague


Hey! Did you ‘fall back’ this morning? Remind me why we’re still doing this antiquated clock juggling in 2020. It makes no sense to me. The wild critters milling about on my lawn, without a manufactured care in the world, still wanted to be fed when the sun came up, no matter what time you wanna call it.

Germany’s Madame Tussaud Dumps Trump

I’m as full of election hysteria as a goose pre-pate – I’m about ready to burst.  We’re now three days before “the most important election of our time!” as it’s being called.

Get a grip, says I; all that’s on the line is democracy, human rights, and the fate of the planet, for pete’s sake.  

Since I was a very lone dissenter in 2016 (I actually DID foresee trump winning) I hesitate to share my gut sense of what will happen with the 2020 election. While it looks like trump and his supporters are panicking over Biden’s lead in the polls, there’s many a slip twixt the cup and the lip, as the proverb says. I won’t release this breath I’m holding until I see Biden taking the presidential oath on the Bible in January.

So, let’s talk about the other elephant in the room – the global pandemic that has been our faithful companion since (depending on your country and inclination) February or March of 2020.  

Toronto’s Dundas Square, April 2020

What lessons have we learned, having lived through these ‘interesting times’ with which we have been cursed?

Like a divorce or a bankruptcy, it started out slow, and then happened all at once. One day you were going about your business like always – the next you were living under COVID, lining up for everything, and wondering where your next roll of toilet paper was gonna come from.

I think history will show that one of the biggest mistakes our governments made in handling the COVID-19 crisis was in making it political. Politics should never have had anything to do with how governments dealt with citizens; it is and has always been a universal public health care issue. Care and prevention have to be non-partisan, since this virus disregards our voting patterns, and is only manageable by health care experts.

With that in mind, it should never have become a left- or right-wing talking point, or something that the average citizen, bereft of scientific credentials, should have been attempting to deal with on a personal basis. A virus is not personal – it’s only purpose and goal are to infect humans. Like every other infectious disease, there are scientific ways to protect against infections, and then there are pseudo scientific, con man, weasel ways to pretend that we can magic them away.

Mandatory Credit: Photo by Everett/Shutterstock (10410768a) Spanish Flu Epidemic 1918-1919 in America. TO PREVENT INFLUENZA, a Red Cross nurse is pictured with a gauze mask over her nose and mouth. Text next to the image provides tips to prevent influenza. Oct. 18, 1918. From Illustrated Current News, New Haven. Photo by Paul Thompson, NY

In truth, the few real preventative measures remain the same:  

Wash your hands. Avoid touching your face.  Stay home if you can, but if you can’t, keep your distance from others. And wear a mask.

That’s it, that’s all.

America, led by the self-proclaimed ‘stable genius,’ has been pretending that COVID-19 never happened. Or that, if it did, it’s certainly not an issue any longer. On Thursday, Donald Trump Jr even told trumpCultists that “the number (of deaths) is almost nothing.

The number of deaths for just that day alone was 1004.

And those 1,004 are now part of the 228,000-plus Americans who have succumbed to the virus since it appeared in the United States in early spring. That number isn’t “almost nothing.” It’s almost four times the number of Americans killed in the Vietnam War. It’s almost double the number of Americans killed in World War I. And it’s 228,000-plus families whose lives will never be the same.” (Cnn.com)

Trump’s new pet non-expert, Dr Scott Atlas, a radiologist, has had the president’s ear on how to deal with the Coronavirus issue. He has also usurped the place of actual experts and scientists with years of specific training and expertise of infectious diseases.   

“As a White House advisor, Dr Atlas actually appeared on Russian state media on Saturday and criticized lockdown measures aimed at tackling the virus, saying they were “killing” Americans.

Atlas, a radiologist, spoke to RT, formerly Russia Today, which is funded by the Kremlin and has been accused of being part of organized Russian propaganda, according to the Internet Institute at the University of Oxford.”  (Newsweek.com)

Some might call Dr Atlas’ unprecedented foray into Russian propaganda treason. Nonetheless, he remains one of trump’s (and presumably, Putin‘s) most trusted agents.

Dr Atlas has also been a strong proponent of Sweden’s position on Coronavirus policy.

Sweden decided to go its own way, with so called ‘herd immunity,’ and they are now, and will continue for years, to pay for that decision in Swedish deaths.

As of Oct. 13, Sweden’s per capita death rate is 58.4 per 100,000 people, according to Johns Hopkins University data, 12th highest in the world (not including tiny Andorra and San Marino). But perhaps more striking are the findings of a study published Oct. 12 in the Journal of the American Medical Association, which pointed out that, of the countries the researchers investigated, Sweden and the U.S. essentially make up a category of two: they are the only countries with high overall mortality rates that failed to rapidly reduce those numbers as the pandemic progressed.” Time Magazine, October 2020

Based on a fair amount of research I’ve done on the concept of herd immunity; most people don’t have a clear understanding of how it works – and that includes actual scientific researchers. It seems that herd immunity is something that can be clinically observed only in hindsight; analysing the data after the fact, maybe from a historical distance of as long as ten years afterwards. That’s really the only way to see what happened, where, and to whom.

Herd immunity is not ‘magic.’  It happens when a virus can’t spread, because people are protected against infection, usually, but not always, by a vaccine. You don’t need everyone to be immune, but you need enough immune people, or people avoiding new infections, to allow the virus to peter out. The term should actually be ‘herd protection,’ because it’s not really about immunity to the virus, it’s about reducing risk to the vulnerable who might come into contact with those who have been infected.

And even in the case of high vaccination pockets, it’s still possible to have local outbreaks, despite having already sacrificed the most vulnerable in a society to the disease.

According to network scientist, Samuel Scarpino, Most of the herd-immunity calculations don’t have anything to say about behaviour at all. They assume there’s no interventions, no behavioural changes or anything like that,” This means that if a transient change in people’s behaviour (such as physical distancing) drives the Rt down, then “as soon as that behaviour goes back to normal, the herd-immunity threshold will change.”

If we accept that there’s no magic pill, no ‘herd immunity’ that will save us, sans maintaining the precautions we’ve been chafing under for the last eight months, then we must somehow learn to make peace with our anxiety. Despite the difficulties of dealing with COVID, worrying about the election, and generally trying to cope with all the chaos of winter nearing, uncertainties, even our own place in the universe, we are only in control when we accept that we are out of control, and experiencing anxiety overload. We’re not going crazy, we’re human. We need to self-soothe – no one else can do that for us.

That really is the size of it. Anxiety overload stresses out our adrenals. We want fight or flight, but who do we fight? and where can we go? When the stress builds up, we are prone to falling into a depression, or to lashing out blindly. Anti maskers, although they know logically that the virus is not to blame, will still strike out blindly, mourning the loss of their usual soft places to fall.

When fight or flight kicks in, the first thing to go is civilization. Kindness and patience become luxuries. Those gentle ministrations that help us through hard times fly out of the window, and may never return.

Another major mistake that governments made, which also plays into our anxiety and feeling of helplessness, was in downplaying the health issues that COVID sufferers went thru from the infection, as well as in not making the population aware of the horrible and lonely death that was in store for those who did not survive. 

A woman named Sonja Mally, a Torontonian tattoo artist, wrote a long description of her nearly eight-month battle with the disease on Facebook. Hundreds have now read about the hell she has gone through. The disease affects everyone differently. Her experience began mildly, and then torturously cycled through nearly every inch of her body.

The first round attacked my respiratory system. From there it worked its way into my vascular system and spread through my entire body.

This is what it the following half-year looked like….

In between relentless coughing fits I struggled to breathe as every inhalation felt like I was drawing in fluid. I was in and out of consciousness. When I was awake I studied the internal structure and function of the lungs and airways. I slept in prone position and used the postural drainage and chest PT techniques meant for coping with cystic fibrosis. I did breathing exercises. I ordered a blood pressure monitor and a pulse oximeter so I would know if I needed to call an ambulance. I followed a strict anti inflammatory diet and adjusted my supplements and fluid/electrolyte intake. My doctor ordered bloodwork and told me to continue to rest. I tried to make sure any messages from friends or clients I responded to were left off on a nice note, just in case. I waited for recovery but it didn’t come.“

She ends her long chronicle with this,

The local Canadian group I most frequent for Covid Long-Haulers had a handful of members when I first joined. Today they are over 7.6 thousand with new members pouring in daily. The focus is on sharing information to help others navigate this nightmare and conducting interviews with the media to help spread the word, so we can educate the public while we wait for the CDC and government to catch up. Like me, many of these “Covid long-haulers” were young, very active, fit and healthy with no pre-existing or underlying conditions. A notable number of them were athletes before they fell ill. As this is a virus that can travel through your entire body and affect any organ, no two cases or experiences are exactly alike. But we all share overlapping symptoms with one another. I documented 80 symptoms, from terrifying to extremely bizarre, and each one of those symptoms were reported by a significant number of other people in these groups.

Around this time last year I was running around the woods, climbing trees and making art. Now I’m trying to retrain my body to walk. I don’t know when I’ll be able to make art again. One step at a time. This is a “mild” case. I’m still one of the lucky ones.”

So many of us have had no physical interaction with anyone who has had the infection, so it’s not possible for us to imagine what it would be like, should we be one of those who are infected. Ms Mally cautions us to remember that, “There are hundreds of thousands more just like me. When I first got sick in March, nurses were already talking about having to prepare for the upcoming fall/winter/spring when the bad wave hits. We’re heading into it now. I am begging people to please be safe and do the right thing. I may lose “friends” for speaking up, but if this post manages to reach one person, helps to influence one decision, that in turn spares one life, it’s well worth it.”

The lessons are coming hard and fast now. Wear your masks, people. It’s our first, and maybe our last, best defense, in our hopes of surviving these times of plague.