A Rabbit and A Cautionary Tale


by Roxanne Tellier

Before we start pondering this wild new terrain they’re calling 2020, I need to know …

Why is Carnival Cruises using Jefferson Airplane’s White Rabbit as their new theme song? Is “Feed Your Head” a wink and a nod to the endless buffets? Or have they gone full hedonist and now include hallucinogens and your drugs of choice in the all inclusive, nonstop, eat til you burst smorgasbord? And that bartender mixing a cocktail – is he slipping something interesting into the pineapple and cherry garnished goodness of that woman’s rum punch? I don’t know if the song is meant to encourage a druggy intemperance, or if it’s meant to trigger the old hippie who, upon hearing the song, says to the spouse, ‘damn, the last time we dropped acid, this song was hot. How’s about we find us some electric Kool-Aid and blow the kids’ inheritance on crack and a Carnival Cruise?!”

Inquiring minds want to know.

Why is it that, no matter how many times Susan Collins pretends she’s thinking of going against the GOP to actually be bipartisan, we all believe that this time… THIS TIME … she’ll actually come through? 

Inquiring minds want to know.

And why is it that the right to free speech ends when you yell ‘Fire!’ in a public place, potentially harming other citizens, but your right to ‘bear arms’ doesn’t end when you use those arms against other citizens?

Inquiring minds want to know.

This year has really started off with a lot of bang bang. You have to wonder about scale, about where you go from here, when, just three days into the new year, you’ve already assassinated the second most powerful person in Iran, apparently on a whim, on a wish to distract trump’s reality show viewers from the machinations of the Impeachment trial, and on the whispered prayers of some of your party’s most fanatically religious hawks

If you’re a reader of apocalypta, a student of history, and a political junkie, it’s not all that hard to see that the speed bumps visible on the road ahead are landmines, and that it’s time to watch where you’re placing your feet and your future.

Certainly, 40% of currently serving Republicans would agree; they’ve opted to retire from politics, rather than to stand up to the Mean Boy who wants to rule the world.

Trump’s cruelty is sadistic, the viciousness of a twelve-year-old boy torturing creatures smaller than himself, just because he can. He started his ‘reign of terror’ just one week after his inauguration by implementing a cruel Muslim Ban that affected tens of thousands of travelers.

Executive Order 13769, titled Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry into the United States, politically labeled as a Muslim ban by detractors or a travel ban by supporters, was an executive order by United States president Donald Trump. Except for the extent to which it was blocked by various courts, it was in effect from January 27, 2017, until March 16, 2017, when it was superseded by Executive Order 13780. Executive Order 13769 lowered the number of refugees to be admitted into the United States in 2017 to 50,000, suspended the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program (USRAP) for 120 days, suspended the entry of Syrian refugees indefinitely, directed some cabinet secretaries to suspend entry of those whose countries do not meet adjudication standards under U.S. immigration law for 90 days, and included exceptions on a case-by-case basis. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) lists these countries as Iran, Iraq, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen. More than 700 travelers were detained, and up to 60,000 visas were “provisionally revoked”.”

Remember that? And how scary it was, and how pretty much everyone thought that this was way worse than what most people had envisioned, even under a maniac like Trump?  Feels normal, almost business like usual now, doesn’t it? 

achtung, baby ….

After all, the outrageous acts that followed, mainly scripted by Trump’s trained Nazi, Stephen Miller, just kept getting more sadistic and insane as the years passed, didn’t they? Once you’ve started rounding up immigrants and refugees, and children are dying in freezing camps under unsanitary conditions, while your air and water are daily treated as commodities to be sold but not enjoyed by the nation, it’s a little hard to believe that the GOP once tried to start a Civil War because the last president wore a tan suit and didn’t put down his coffee cup to salute a soldier.

More than three years into this abomination immigrants, minorities, the DACA kids, journalists, and anyone who has dared to speak up against Trump have learned the hard way that he is utterly merciless, and terrifyingly vengeful.

“When it first came out it was viewed as being far-fetched. However, when I wrote it I was making sure I wasn’t putting anything into it that humans had not already done somewhere at some time.”

When Kathy Griffin took the publicity photos that wound up derailing her life, upending her career, and costing her hundreds of thousands of dollars, she only meant to comment on Trump’s own nastiness in painting prominent women as ‘bleeding from their eyes, their whatever.”  Little did she know she was about to become the test case for how Trump could effectively and efficiently decimate his enemies.

This is what America has become: a place where in the wake of a single misstep, a single misspoken word, a career can be canceled. It’s now a place where the president of the United States can happily use the full power of his office to destroy an American citizen. Griffin’s booked gigs were all summarily cancelled, she was put on the no-fly list for two months, and remains on the Interpol border check list. Her lawyers confirmed that she was investigated by the Secret Service and the Justice Department. They considered charging her with conspiracy to assassinate the president of the United States, the sentence for which is life in prison.

Exhibit A: Halloween Mask and Ketchup

All for the crime of taking a photograph of herself with a mask drenched in ketchup. Which, I may add, she was assured over and over was a perfectly legal act.

Do yourself a favour – take the phrase, “only those that have something to hide, hide something” out of your lexicon. It can and WILL be used against you.

In a recent column, musicologist Bob Lefsetz noted,

“As a Jew you grow up learning about the Holocaust, and you wonder, would you leave? Looks all rosy from the other side, especially if you know history, but are you willing to give up everything, your house, your friends, your money, in order to try and preserve your life? And the emphasis here is on “try.” It’s like a human version of “Let’s Make A Deal.” And I’m asking you, do you feel lucky? I don’t.

Kind of how I used to talk to Republicans. I always tried to see their side, keep it calm, but the funny thing is they never tried to see my side. Oh, they thought they knew it and it was incorrect, so they had no time for it. But in the age of Trump, I don’t suffer them anymore.”

Consider what Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch has gone through in the last year, both in the Ukraine, where she was serving, and in the last few months since she testified at the impeachment enquiries. The tales that she told of feeling ‘unsafe’ and of being whisked away in the middle of the night after her manager heard of threats against her seemed unreal, and possibly exaggerated. Since the inquiry, she’s received death threats for telling her truth. 

Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch

And yet, recent information proves that she was very much in harm’s way, and completely unprotected – indeed, instead, targeted – by emissaries from her own country.

“All the president had to do was say he didn’t want me in the job, and I would have been gone.”

So why was Yovanovitch tormented, and threatened rather than just fired? And why did she ‘have to be’ removed? Sheer sadistic cruelty.

Trump told his Ukrainian counterpart in July 2019 that she was “going to go through some things,” according to a rough White House transcript of the presidents’ conversation — a message Yovanovitch said she found threatening.”

https://www.cnn.com/2020/01/16/politics/ukraine-investigation-marie-yovanovitch-surveillance/index.html

One of the little bits of news that flashed by last year without really being noticed was something so petty, and yet so vile, that it was hard to believe it could possibly be true. And yet, there it was.

“Trump’s administration and the Social Security Administration have been working closely together to cut down on the number of false disability insurance claims they believe are being filed. And the Trump administration’s newly proposed plan apparently involves studying the social media accounts of disabled people to make sure they don’t look active.  

Disabilities don’t all manifest the same way and definitely can’t be judged based on pictures posted to social media, a space where people tend to post images reflecting an idealized version of themselves and their lives. It’s cruel–not to mention inevitably ineffective–to essentially tell them they’re being watched to make sure they don’t appear too active, or possibly even too happy.”  (New York Times, April 2019)

Forget about checks and balances – the mad king is hellbent on destroying every last bit of happiness, health, and positivity in America. Just because he can. And keep in mind, we never know who’ll be next to be punished by this monster who demands total respect and loyalty from others, while he is incapable of returning the favour.

I wish I could be more positive about this coming year; I truly do. But I can’t, because history, and a strong sense of self-preservation, tell me that it’s not just Americans that will need to stay on their toes to survive until November 2020, and the election that may or may not succeed in removing this gross abuser of massive power.

Iran could tell you – it is the world that must be on alert.

…………………………………………………………………..

I don’t know Larry Cruse, but this post was brought to my attention a day or two ago, and needs to be read, far and wide.


“When Donald Trump says that he does not know Lev Parnas, I absolutely believe him. You can show me video after video, picture after picture, of the two of them together. You can show me articles like this, showing that Trump sent envoys to ask Parnas for his help. You could show me witness after witness who swears that the two of them were friends. It would not matter. 

When Donald Trump says that he does not know Lev Parnas, I believe absolutely that he does not know him.

Donald Trump is a narcissistic sociopath. His entire circle of friends and confidants consists of exactly one person, himself. He has no affection, no loyalty, no sense of obligation, no sense of friendship, no empathy, no respect, no admiration, no deference, no consideration, for anyone but himself.

Have you not been listening to anything he has ever said!?!?

This is a man who turns in seconds on people who have stood loyally by his side for decades. A man who changes wives like most people change Kleenex. A man who is so distant from his children that he cannot tell the difference between a daughter and a lover, because, frankly, neither a daughter nor a lover would mean anything to him. A man who has never in his life had any interaction with anyone that he did not regard as transactional, and limited to exactly the duration of the transaction. The idea that he would “know” any of the people with whom he has had such relationships is at best absurdly naive

The fact that he does not know Lev Parnas is obvious.

We joke that Trump is all about Trump. We joke at his class-clownish desire to be the center of attention in all things. But, in expecting him to own up to “knowing” Lev Parnas, we demonstrate our own horrifying inability to understand what that means.

Because a man who cannot feel loyalty to a spouse or a child most certainly cannot feel loyalty to a country. A man who has no friends cannot understand the basis for alliance between countries. A man who has no empathy cannot take care of the needs of our citizens. A man who measures every fact in terms of what is in it for himself at that specific moment, cannot serve the needs of anyone else.

A man who very clearly does not know the man who he tasked with destroying other lives lacks any of the emotional makeup that would normally be required of a president. He is, as his critics have said all along, “temperamentally unfit to be president.”

The reign of Donald Trump is not the term of a president. It is a deal, in which he gets to put taxpayer money into his pocket and his base gets a ruler with the power to put immigrants, people of color, and women, back into the subordinate role ordained for them by the Republican god. 

Donald Trump will take everything he can from the deal, and when it is over, or when he gets a better deal, the man who does not know his own children, the man who does not know Michael Cohen, the man who does not know Michael Flynn, the man who does not know Lev Parnas, will not know America either. He will not know his base. He will not know the people who elected him.

The transaction will be over. And the man who does not know, anyone, will have moved on.”

When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time.” ~Maya Angelou

Don’t Get Around Much Anymore …


Ach and oy vey! This house move is cramping my style, big time. Haven’t been able to get out to a lot of events, because time’s a ticking, and there’s only so many hours in a day. I’d like to say I’ve become more selective in my outing choices. But the truth is, moving and packing is a bitch. There just isn’t any time to gallivant around.

But let me tell you about two recent events I did manage to squeeze in. Both were wonders in their own ways.

Kensington Market Jazz Festival

molly johnson jazz.jpgA few weeks ago, I was having lunch with friends in the Market, when Molly Johnson came bopping along. Molly may be a Canadian icon – a singer, songwriter, broadcaster and philanthropist  – but that day she was a woman on a mission, distributing posters and postcards to the local shops, in aid of her latest project – the first annual Kensington Market Jazz Festival. It was the first I’d heard of it. When I asked how I could help, she asked if my friend Barbette and I would volunteer to handle door duties at some of the gigs.

Could I?  Well – time is tight – so, one gig was all I could commit to. And what a gig! The first act of the night at The Boat was an up and coming sax player. Alison Young. She and her quartet performed a strong, solid set. Loved it! She’s got a record coming out soon. .. and you should buy it.

A quick pause for the cause .. ran into Eric Alper hanging at the venue next door … and then we were on to the second set.

I’ve always considered The Shuffle Demons one of Toronto’s seminal acts, combining jazz and street wisdom in a playful, theatrical fashion.  And hot damn! Really good players.

So  I was thrilled to do door for the guys. Richard Underhill is, amongst other things, a past mayoral candidate. He’s a smart dude, a good dude, always on the ball. And a hell of a band leader.

As we took in the dough at the door … and it was very well attended, so we were kept very busy … I heard Richard say to his wife, “Just try to video our entry.”

I warned Barbette … we were in for some FUN!

And sure enough, The Shuffle Demons made an impeccable entrance, coming up The  Boat’s stairs in full regalia, tootling their tootlers, dancing with jin jinglers tied on to  their heels  They blew their hoo hoovers, they blanged their tar tinglers …  you get the drift.

It was just the start. Two hours later, I was exhausted! I had sung along, screamed along, danced along!

rox-barbette-richard-underhill-shuffle-demons-sept-17-2016-smaller-pic

I had a very good time.

Bohemian Embassy Redux

(all Bohemian Embassy artist pics are courtesy of Sue Peters, with thanks!.)

Friday past – An evening of memories, poetry, and wonderful song!

Way before I hit the Big Smoke, an actor/writer/poet named Don Cullen had staked out a turf he called the Bohemian Embassy.  You may also remember him from his 20 years as a regular on Wayne and Shuster.

His Bohemian Embassy was a place where musicians, artists, poets, and those with a theatrical bent, could come to test their fledgling wings. The Embassy moved around a bit, first appearing on St Nicholas Street, from 1960 through 1966, and then reappearing at Harbourfront, from 1974 to 1976.

Couldn’t happen today. We’re too busy converting our history into condos.

But back then, oh, it could. And it did happen.

bohemian-embassy-sept-2016-don-cullenDon Cullen was the Pied Piper of Possibilities, of that first break,  when the world was wide open to the new. New music, new sounds … whatever could be dreamed up, this was a place where it could be showcased.

The memories flowed from the speakers .. of the days when a young Margaret Atwood could read her first scribblings to a rapt audience; where Milton Acorn and Al Purdy found a place to showcase their poems;  where Lorne Michaels practiced his directing; where players as diverse as Gordon Lightfoot and Klaas von Graft could hone their craft, while Bob Dylan, famously, was denied a spot on the roster.

Several luminaries were unable to join the gathering, held at the Toronto Library Yorkville branch, including John Robert Columbo, Sylvia Tyson, and Ms Atwood herself (though she did send a beautiful floral bouquet, with a sweet note, signed “Peggy.”)

But those who came, and entertained us, included our hostess Linda Goldman (who also helped fund the reunion,) Mr. Cullen himself, Chick Roberts (The Sinners/The Dirty Shames,) Klaas von Graft and Beverlie Robertson (The Chanteclaires,) Judith Orban, Joanne Crabtree, Owen McBride, Sharon Hampson (Sharon, Lois and Bram,) Keith McKie (Kensington Market,) Riverboat performer Dede Higgins, poet and author Robert Priest, musician and satirist Nancy White, and Terry Jones and David Woodhead of Perth County Conspiracy, accompanied by Nancy Solway, and Bob Cohen.

And each one showed that the faith, and the talent that Don Cullen had seen in them, so many years before, had not been misplaced.

There was that old Yorkville hippie spirit in the room, as performer after performer trotted out their memories, talents, and affection for Cullen and the venue he created. Nancy White’s rendition of her song, “Popular Don Cullen,” had the audience joining in wholeheartedly, as did so many of the other performers’ classic Canadiana and folk offerings.

bohemian-embassy-sept-2016-keith-mckie

Keith McKie’s songs were  ethereal and timeless.

bohemian-embassy-sept-2016-perth-county

Perth County Conspiracy’s mini set was simply beautiful – the harmonies were sublime.

 

bohemian-embassy-sept-2016-robert-priest

 

And poet Robert Priest did not disappoint, as he read the first poem he’d written and debuted at the Embassy, and concluded with a new poem on social injustice that had the audience howling with laughter. Priest’s writing is sublime, and his reach wide. As a songwriter, he co-wrote (with Nancy Simmonds) the international hit, “Song Instead of a Kiss” for Alannah Myles.

I went to this event expecting a nostalgia fest, centered on a time before my own. Instead, I was enthralled, touched, invigorated, and thoroughly entertained by each of those who came to give of their time and their hearts to the “Popular Don Cullen.”

And now … back to packing up my world … if you need me, you’ll have to dig me out from under the hoard …

 

Rosemary Solway, Bob Cohen,Yorkville , Nancy White, Keith McKie, Perth County Conspiracy, Robert Priest , Nancy Simmonds, Alannah Myles.

If You’re Canadian – It’s Hard to Laugh


emperor HarperIt used to be so easy to mock the North American political process. Comedians had a field day, lampooning gaffes or silly political correctness amongst candidates and politicians seeking or in office. Most pols can be counted on to screw up at some point. The joker outing the naked Emperor poked fun without fear of reprisal.

That all changed for Canada, yesterday. Bill C-51 – the so called “Anti Terrorist Act,” was overwhelmingly approved by the Senate, despite vocal opposition from everyone from Margaret Atwood to Ralph Nader .

Harper secrecyOver nearly a decade, Canadians have seen Canada’s world image plunge from a once lofty high the envy of the free world, to a race to the bottom. Since 2006, the Harper government has governed with an iron-fist, hidden public information and political subterfuge in cumbersome omnibus bills or simple denials, and has become the most secretive administration in Canadian history.

How do you find anything funny about an increasingly militaristic and confrontational police presence that ‘serves and protects’ only those steely, unsmiling, hand-picked minions to the Prime Minister?

before-after-tar sandsWhere’s the laughs when our scientists have been muzzled, and precious and irreplaceable environmental books and documents have been trashed? Where’s the irony in watching the Boreal Forest, which represents more than half of Canada’s landmass, and which plays a critical role in mitigating global climate change, be threatened by logging, hydrodams, mining and the tar sands? (Industrial development and forest fires in Canada’s tar sands region has cleared or degraded 775,500 hectares (almost two million acres) of boreal forest since the year 2000.)

Aboriginal Affairs Minister Bernard Valcourt remained seated, silent, and cross armed while others broke out in a standing ovation at the conclusion of the six year study of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission to address the “cultural genocide” of Aboriginal peoples through Canada’s residential school system. The commission pushed for a national inquiry and adoption of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People, and requested 94 wide-ranging recommendations. Valcourt seated

“Federal Conservatives have suggested they will reject calls from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) for both a public inquiry into missing and murdered aboriginal women and Canada’s implementation of a landmark United Nations document on First Nations’ rights.” (Huffington Post)

It’s very hard to find something even vaguely funny about such overt contempt.Harper editorial cartoon Jeep splashing natives

gmo_appleAs people become more concerned about the very food they eat, the Conservative Party continues to support genetically modified foods and Monsanto, fighting tooth and nail against every citizen action requesting even so much as the labelling of foods. (Canada and the United States are the only two nations in the Free World that do not require GMO labelling.)

And then there’s Bill C-51 itself, an act so heinous that everyone from former prime ministers, to constitutional lawyers – and hundreds of thousands of Canadians – have begged, cajoled and screamed for it’s demise.

C51 6 waysThe Bill allows the police to ignore Canadians’ rights, and rides roughshod over civil liberties. It eviscerates the Charter of Canadian Rights and Freedoms, and inherently stomps on Canadians’ constitutional rights.

It defines ‘terrorism’ as “activity that undermines the security of Canada.” Those activities include advocacy, legal protests, threats to “public safety” and the “economic or financial stability of Canada.” It also creates a new speech-related criminal offence of “promoting” or “advocating” terrorism.

And it allows information sharing across very broad areas, from the Department of Immigration, to the financial sector, from the Department of Transport to your own doctor and Public Health, besides the usual suspects (the police, RCMP, CSIS, or Border Control.) Bill C-51 effectively neuters the core protections found in the Privacy Act, and also permits additional use and disclosure of information “in accordance with the law…to any person, for any purpose.”

Let me put this even plainer. If, for some reason, a conversation yoC51 Naderu have – in person, by email, or on social media – triggers the interest of ANY government official … or even a spurned lover or a miffed colleague with a grudge … you could be arrested and detained for up to seven days without charges on mere suspicion of future criminal activity.

“Bill C-51’s gives powers of “preventive detention,” which means jail time for individuals even when there isn’t any suspicion criminal activity has taken place.”

So, I’m finding it a little hard to laugh, or even smile. In what dystopia would these dictatorial and fascistic measures call for a chuckle?

Rick Mercer HarperOh, sure, we’ve got Rick Mercer’s weekly jabs and rants, but honestly – how do you poke fun at a Canadian government blindly led by an evangelistic dictator set on destroying the country he rules with an iron fist?

Our only hope for a re-discovery of our political comedy mojo under such an oppressive regime is a resounding “NO!” to Stephen Harper and the Conservative Government in the coming election.