A Taste of Spring


by Roxanne Tellier

Oh, it’s gorgeous on the porch this morning! The sun is shining, the birds are singing, and it’s not cold enough to kill you! It’s all good, says I and Lord Farlsworth. Bring on the Spring!

Of course, there’s that pesky little matter of having to deal with all the clocks. I’m on record as being very anti daylight savings, and it’s NOT just because I love clocks, and have several in every room. I checked; I’ve written about the madness of continuing this practice numerous times. Based on our records, many – hundreds! –  of you have read my ideas on changing this twice-yearly assault on our modern 24/7 economy, and STILL we continue to ‘spring forward, fall back.”

It’s as though all of my high-quality, painstakingly chosen, words are but farts in the wind! Is it possible my deeply considered, research-based opinions on politics are getting the same sort of non-response? Are my deep thoughts not being conveyed to Premier Ford, and past and present prime ministers, for their perusal?  Say it ain’t so!

I’m also shocked to tell you that there’s a women’s march going on downtown, even though I distinctly remember marching in several of these in the seventies, in both Montreal AND Toronto, AND attending a bunch of fundraisers AND buying International Women’s Day buttons, both to give away, and to wear myself! 

I’m sure it’s just a coincidence that we still don’t have a female president or prime minister (besides the nearly five months of Kim Campbell’s rule.) Yeah, we probably just need to wade through the turns of all those old, rich, white guys … a few gay males, maybe a trans male …  and then I’m SURE we’ll get to a woman we’ll consider ‘electable.’ Right?

Next you’ll be telling me that all of those protests, marches, petitions, and eventual 1973 decision of the US Supreme Court on Roe v Wade that decriminalized abortion nationwide is in the process of being re-litigated, and that Chief Justice Roberts has laid the groundwork to reverse that precedent!

I told you not to tell me.

Yeah, I don’t want to bring you down, on this beautiful, sunny Sunday, but seriously, now … why did we bother? Why did so many people care so deeply, work so hard, and ultimately succeed in getting a decision and Supreme Court ruling that allowed women to decide on the fate of their own bodies, if all it takes is one trump in the White House to tear it all back down, and leave American women once again to the tender mercies of back alley, coat hanger, abortions? 

Apparently there are several other, equally impactful, decisions resting on this trumpified Supreme Court, and America – I’m afraid you’re not gonna like the new look. Since Gorsuch and Kavanaugh were installed, tipping the balance to five right wing judges vs four leftish wingers, the walls are tumbling down faster than 86 year old Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg, and 65 year old Justice Sonia Sotomayor can prop them back up.

Your ‘swing vote’ is none other than Justice Clarence Thomas. And have you heard how his wife Gini has been spending her spare time lately? Seems she’s a huge trump fan, and so she’s opting to Big Brother her wifely role and become a key part of the conservative associates opting to send trump info so that he can weed out those not 100% loyal to His Majesty.

That just doesn’t bode well for Thomas listening to the dissents of Ginsberg and Sotomayor.

Earlier this year, the justices lifted a nationwide injunction against a sweeping policy that specifically targeted poor immigrants. The ‘public charge’ rule, put in place last August by the Department of Homeland Security, will allow officials to turn away anyone likely to become a ‘public charge’ by use of food stamps, housing vouchers, and Medicaid. This applies to immigrants wishing to enter the U.S., extend a visa, or apply for a green card.

It will also affect immigrants applying for temporary visas, even in the case of tourists, students, business travellers and skilled workers. 

Based on this rule, trump’s own mother and grandparents would not have been allowed entry. But it’s too late to close that barn door now – he’s here, and he’s not done yet.

Worse, denying entry to immigrants, and removing the right to a safe abortion, is just the New Trump Court warming up; after their summer vacation, they’re gonna rule on taking away whatever is left of the rotting corpse of Obama’s hard-won Affordable Health Care from about 20 million Americans.

And if trump gets another term, which at this point is looking like a good possibility, Americans will face very large cuts to their Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security.

I’ve got a question; if all we keep hearing about is what an amazing economy America has right now, of how it’s all looking up and everyone’s getting so much richer and happier under this president – none of which has been substantiated by actual fact or research – why can America no longer afford to be generous? I mean, okay, if you feel like America has been Daddy Money to the world for decades, and that it’s time others paid their ‘fair share,’ well, that’s one thing.

(“More than two hundred countries receive U.S. aid. (about $50 billion per year)  It disproportionately goes to a few, however, with the top five all receiving over $1 billion per year as of 2016: Iraq ($5.3 billion), Afghanistan ($5.1 billion), Israel ($3.1 billion), Egypt ($1.2 billion), and Jordan ($1.2 billion).” Cfr.ogr)

But how can a supposedly caring, nominally Christian, country simultaneously go from what they claim is a prosperous, booming economy, to a place where its dog eat dog for those not fortunate enough to be young and healthy, or conversely, old and rich?  Why are nearly a million Americans homeless?  If the country is so wealthy, why do so many Americans have to work multiple jobs, at minimum wage, in order to barely survive? Why are even government, civil service, workers kept at the lowest possible wage, while the number of American billionaires keeps rising?

(“In 2017, 80.4 million workers age 16 and older in the United States were paid at hourly rates, representing 58.3 percent of all wage and salary workers. Among those paid by the hour, 542,000 workers earned exactly the prevailing federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour.  BLS.gov)

There’s a strong streak of cruelty that’s always been part of the Republican mindset, even before trump. Despite repeated claims of fiscal responsibility, the GOP have always been more than eager to cut the taxes of the rich without cutting spending on already overly padded areas, like the military. But they just LOVE to cut anything that might help the poorest of their citizens.

Take the new rules on food stamps trump levied last year. Those cuts will hurt hundreds of thousands of children, veterans, and the disabled, while saving only tiny amounts that will be gobbled up just with the enforcement.

The GOP are so eager to be cruel that they will willfully damage their own, even when it won’t cost them a penny. Take Medicaid expansion, which, under the Affordable Care Act, was made optional, on a state by state basis. A no brainer, right? After all, it would get the federal government to pay 90 per cent… NINETY PER CENT  . of a state’s health costs, as well as producing indirect cost savings on previously uncompensated costs, and boosting a state’s economy, which raises tax revenues.

A no brainer – and yet one on which 14 Republican-controlled states, many of which claim the nation’s poorest citizens, took a hard pass. Why take care of your citizens, the ones that put you in office, when you have the option of making peoples’ lives so much worse?

It seems to me that Americans have found themselves in a very odd place in time. On the one hand, many, even previous trump voters, are determined to make him a one term, impeached memory. On the other, the fight for who will lead the Democratic party – really, the only other choice in what is essentially a two-party race – is becoming a death march to the finish for some of the oldest candidates ever to willingly seek elected office.

Two weeks ago, the will of the people seemed to be with Bernie, but just last week. it became all Biden, all the way

How do you counsel people to overcome their apathy and lack of interest in civics and politics when what they see with their own eyes confirms what they’ve sort of believed for most of their lives?

Spring – When the cats return to the trees, to sing their Spring songs!

It’s very hard to convince people that they matter, that their needs and values count, and that their vote makes a difference, when all it takes is one cretin winning the presidency to make all of their hard work seem to have been for nought.

Tough times, indeed. But today, there’s a promise of Spring in the air, and, for me, that always means it’s time for some Deanna Durbin. I can’t help singing!

From Godwin’s Law to Homo Sapien Redux


 

You know things have totally gone sideways when the fellow who coined Godwin’s Law tells you to feel free to compare Trump to Hitler.

Godwins Law“By all means cite GL if you think some Nazi comparison is baseless, needlessly inflammatory or hyperbolic. But Godwin’s Law was never meant to block us from challenging the institutionalization of cruelty or the callousness of officials who claim to be just following the law. It definitely wasn’t meant to shield our leaders from being slammed for the current fashion of pitching falsehoods as fact. These behaviors, distressing as they are, may not yet add up to a new Reich, but please forgive me for worrying that they’re the “embryonic form” of a horror we hoped we had put behind us.”  Mike Godwin, June 24, 2018.

I’m not gonna get into all of the reasons why the events of last week were enough to drive the Pope to drink – I’m sure you’re remembering a few priceless moments when you contemplated either getting started on that heroin addiction, slashing your wrists, or sending Peter Fonda off to the White House for a ‘midnight rendezvous’ with La Famille Trump.

peter fonda trump tweet(The thought of the 78 year old Fonda scaling the White House walls, with a dagger clenched between his dentures, gave me a little chuckle, but it scared Melania enough to sic her Secret Service onto the ol’ codger.)

You also have to have had a really good snigger at the draft dodger in chief saying he will commission a new military force – a space force – that he’ll use to militarize space.

Sure! Why not! Those 107 countries who signed a treaty to never weaponize space will be agreeable, I’m sure!

outer space treaty 1967

And I’m positive that there will be absolutely no resemblance in look or feel of Trump’s Space Force to the Mel Brooks‘ comedy, Space Balls … none what so ever … oh, who are we kidding? It will be TOTALLY like Space Balls …

Lord Dark Helmet: Who made that man a gunner?
Maj. Asshole: I did, sir! He’s my cousin.
Lord Dark Helmet: Who is he?
Col. Sandurz: He’s an Asshole, sir.
Lord Dark Helmet: I know that! What’s his name?
Col. Sandurz: That is his name, sir. Asshole. Major Asshole.
Lord Dark Helmet: And his cousin?
Col. Sandurz: He’s an Asshole, too, sir. Gunner’s made first class Phillip Asshole.
Lord Dark Helmet: How many Asshole’s we got on this ship, anyhow?
[All Asshole’s stand up and shout “YO!”]
Lord Dark Helmet: I knew it, I’m surrounded by Asshole’s. [Dark Helmet pulls down mask.] Keep firing, Asshole’s!

It’s one thing for this woefully incapable and useless dolt of a president to not know why there is no military in space … it’s another that NOT ONE of his many aides, with long military backgrounds and three and four stars on their lapels, appear to be just as unaware of the treaty. Or maybe they’re just afraid to tell him.

aliens won't pay for space forceWe can say one thing with complete assurance, however …

Meanwhile, I’m getting pretty damn sick of the stylings of mainstream media. I am sick of screaming at the screen as fools prate nonsense for the gullible to digest like unripe corn. Do they actually have people who have read history and politics, who can contradict the lies being t-shirt cannoned to the American people? We know they wear ear pieces; are they not getting fed the truth in real time? Because there’s a lot of days when I seriously doubt the journalistic abilities of those expressing their views on the day’s antics.

I feel like I’m Homer Simpson-ing (Doh! Doh! Doh!) through half of the news coverage on CNN or MSNBC News.

the mills of the gods grind smallIf they aren’t crowing over ‘breaking news!‘ they’re grinding the sexiest new tidbits of outrage into even finer dust. It’s like an enormous circle jerk where the safe word is “porn star.

And while they’re drilling down into the finer points of some insane indignation, there is an obliviousness to what is going on behind the curtain, and around the rest of the world.

Yes – Melania‘s jacket was a horror show and made her look as culpable as any of the other Nazis running the ‘tender age shelters.” But while we kept that frisbee in the air for 24 hours, the Republicans were proposing to defund Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security.

everyone gets a jacketOur outrage is valid. Anyone with a modicum of empathy is concerned about the human rights abuses going on at the Southern border. Denying these children the potential of asylum, or of even ever seeing their parents again, is the work of monsters. Of course it is. And our protests forced Trump to actually back down on his cruelty, rather than double down. And that’s a good thing.

But it’s a teensy, tiny thing. The jacket was a distraction. 99% of what Trump forces out between his loose fitting dentures are lies and distractions. There’s no ‘art of the deal’ going on here .. it’s that he’s very good at fooling you with his talent at obfuscation, his devotion to the carny’s law, ‘the hand is quicker than the eye.”

Meanwhile, CNN relies on the rush of panels and ‘breaking news,’ while actually doing little more than regurgitating op eds from the New York Times or The Washington Post, so that they can invite the writers of said pieces to appear on air to pontificate ad nauseum, regardless of ability or suitability, to champion their causes.

Listen, you career Talking Heads with the awesome resumes … . It’s great that, once upon a time, you were in a position of power, or were relevant. However this is now, and your in-fighting and fast talking have become annoying, childish, and a guarantee the channel will be changed. CNN needs to send the minor devil’s advocates of Jack Kingston, Paris Dennard, and Ann Colter off to join Jeffrey Lord in the purgatory of obscurity.

age of unenlightementWe seem to be revelling in a new age of UNenlightenment, where the goal of the game is to see what depths of ugliness and cruelty can be plumbed. There’s a shocking resentment for the marginalized, and a lack of compassion for those who cry out for our help and our consolation.

My pet theory is that we’re in a period of cultural evolution. Just as, hundreds of thousands of years ago, early humans in Africa split into several groups, (Homo sapiens, Neanderthals, the Denisovans) we seem to be splitting the planet into partisan groups with geometrically opposed philosophies and tenets.

It seems to be playing out in force with how we treat those in need. For a good chunk of humanity, immigrants and refugees represent a terrifying segment of humans, one that those who have enjoyed privilege for so long find an abomination, in fear that they will be made irrelevant. (Spoiler alert: They will. And sooner than they’d like.)

By vilifying those who flee their war torn or violence ridden countries, by denying them amnesty or asylum, we become monsters just as horrific as the monsters the needy fled.

trump deplorablesThose that post ugliness on social media, or who scream abuse at those who beg for the scraps that fall off our tables – the people who once dreaded having their “Drunk Uncle” spewing his hatefulness at the dinner table, but now embrace and join him in his most disgusting beliefs – the ‘patriots,’ filled with a fervour that pedestals God, Guns, and a bloated golden calf over, not just outsiders, but your fellow Americans – who embrace not only an acceptance, but a celebration of blatant corruption, constant lies, and zero morality ….

These are the unevolved, those that were able to conceal until now, that they only partially made the leap from caveman to homo sapien.

But when this time has passed, as all time does, we will need to try to find our best selves again, from beneath whatever couch cushion they’ve fallen under, and relearn how to live alongside each other in a civilized manner.

Luckily, it is believed by many that, by 2050, a completely new type of human will evolve. With radical new technology, behaviour, and natural selection, some humans will be well equipped to deal with a life completely different from what our parents and grandparents enjoyed.

Future of TechnologyThis new species will live longer, wait longer to have kids, and will be comfortable with robots and AI being ubiquitous in their world. They will likely spent most of their time relaxing in a virtual reality.

By 2050, many of us will have left the playing field, and this new species will come into play, with life expectancies that will reach into the mid one hundreds.

Fingers crossed for humanity to take the opportunity to live up to it’s full potential, and gave life to the better angels that I hope we all have concealed inside ourselves.

 

 

Has Democracy Become A Luxury?


With the onset of computers and advanced technology, the lines separating the haves and the have-nots have grown so far apart that 1% One Percentof the wealthy elite essentially controls the fate of 99% of the rest of the planet. The development of robotic manufacturing techniques has reduced the number of people necessary to run factories and plants. Access to cheaper labour in third world countries increases a corporation’s bottom line, at the expense of jobs in the corporations location. The rich get richer. But at the expense of the middle and lower classes.

Capitalism is a funny thing; at its best, capitalism should promote economic growth, as measured by a standard of living enjoyed across the whole of its extended reach. Proponents would argue that this give and take would bring about a better availability of food, housing, clothing, and health care, better education for children, and the ability to provide for the elderly and less fortunate. Capitalism assumes a level playing field, where more opportunities exist for individuals to create their own businesses or new professions.

99 percentBut in practice, “capitalist economies prioritize profits and capital accumulation over the social needs of communities, and capitalist enterprises rarely include the workers in the basic decisions of the enterprise.” (Tom Brass, author and academic, University of Cambridge.)

Modern day capitalism has its origins in slavery and indentured servants; “when historians talk about the Atlantic market revolution, they are talking about capitalism. And when they are talking about capitalism, they are talking about slavery.” (Greg Grandin, Historian.)

Politicians have pandered to the wealthy for decades. “Reaganomics,” or “the trickle-down theory,” posited that “tax breaks or other economic benefits for businesses and upper income levels will benefit poorer members of society by improving the economy as a whole. “ (Wikipedia)Trickle Down

It’s a lovely thought, but just a theory, I’m afraid. Corporate and personal greed eclipsed the high-minded ideals, and by 2008, after the spectacular 2007 global collapse of the banking system, economist Alan Greenspan admitted to the United States Congress that, “The whole intellectual edifice collapsed. I made a mistake in presuming that the self-interests of organizations, specifically banks and others, were such that they were best capable of protecting their own shareholders. … I was shocked.”

In 2013, Pope Francis issued an 84-page paper describing unfettered capitalism as “a new tyranny” and calling upon world leaders to fight rising poverty and inequality: “Some people continue to defend trickle-down theories which assume that economic growth, encouraged by a free market, will inevitably succeed in bringing about greater justice and inclusiveness in the world. This opinion, which has never been confirmed by the facts, expresses a crude and naive trust in the goodness of those wielding economic power and in the sacralized workings of the prevailing economic system. Meanwhile, the excluded are still waiting.” (Wikipedia)

crashSo, on the one hand, capitalism has the potential to benefit both the job creators and the workers, while raising the overall standard of living for society. On the other hand, capitalism can create economic and social instability, fiscal inequality, endanger or destroy the natural resources of its own or other countries, and has only to hold its own self accountable for how profits are distributed throughout that society, whether through payrolls, donations, or taxation.

Ah, what to do, what to do? In 2010, in the United States, politicians decided that giving even more power to corporations would benefit their parties.

“Still, for decades, candidate elections remained free of direct corporate influence under federal law. Only money from individuals and groups of individuals — political action committees — were permitted in federal elections.

citizensunitedThen came Citizens United, the Supreme Court’s 5-4 First Amendment decision in 2010 that extended to corporations for the first time full rights to spend money as they wish in candidate elections — federal, state and local. The decision reversed a century of legal understanding, unleashed a flood of campaign cash and created a crescendo of controversy that continues to build today.

It matters not, the court said just this year, that some speakers (corporations), because of the money they spend on elections, may have undue influence on public policy; what is important is that the First Amendment protects both speech and speaker, and the ideas that flow from each.” (http://www.npr.org/2014/07/28/335288388/when-did-companies-become-people-excavating-the-legal-evolution)

CRONYISMIn exchange for receiving personhood, corporations sponsor politicians. And the politicians slash tax rates and offer tax credits and benefits in response. It’s a perpetual motion machinery that keeps power and money in the hands of those already in politics or corporate businesses, and gives an unfair monetary advantage to the wishes of the wealthy, while muffling the voices of socially conscious citizens who believe in a democratic government.

In Canada, under the law, a corporation has the same rights and obligations as a natural person. It can acquire assets, go into debt, enter into contracts, sue or be sued, and even be found guilty of committing a crime. A corporation’s money and other assets belong to the corporation and not to its shareholders.

Our politicians, well aware that corporations have money to burn, have adopted similar tax cuts and incentives. Corporations are taxed at 38% of taxable income, which drops to 28% after federal tax abatement, and then drops again after general tax reductions. The net tax rate for corporations keeps falling, from 18% (2010,) to 16.5% (2011,) to 15% ( 2012,) For Canadian-controlled private corporations claiming the small business deduction, the net tax rate is 11%.

taxesContrast that with your personal tax rate for this year, which is 15% on the first $44,701 of taxable income, 22% on the next $44,700, 26% up to $138,586, and 29% of taxable income over $138,586.

Most Canadians believe that those with higher incomes ought to share a bit more of the tax burden than those with low incomes, especially businesses and corporations which rely on public infrastructure to do business. Taxation lawyers argue, however, that wealthy corporations taxed more than poorer ones will simply split themselves into smaller entities to avoid the higher taxation. And a smart high-income person with good lawyers and accountants will form small corporations to shelter their income.

The harsh reality is that Harper’s government has given businesses an extra $50 billion in tax cuts and credits in the last few years. And due to cuts to the GST, personal and corporate taxes, Ottawa now collects about $45 billion less revenue per year. Meanwhile, plans are in place to cut public health funding by $36 billion over the next 10 years. Retirement age will be raised to the age of 67. Education and child care are low priorities, and our veterans are disrespected by the very people they protected during foreign wars.

InfrastructureThe rate of economic growth, government revenues and employment could be raised by investing in infrastructure like mass transit, but where can you find the funds to do so when you’ve already spent the taxpayer’s funds on corporate incentives, security, policing, corrections, spy agencies and multimillion-dollar taxpayer-funded ad campaigns designed to get Canadians to vote Conservative in the next federal.election?

Capitalism appears to be trumping the objectives of democracy; the voices of the people are unheard, while money and power remain in the hands of the rich and the powerful.

It would seem that true democracy cannot co-exist with unrestrained Capitalism.

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