DBAWIS CMW, Jeopardy, and What the Heck is ASMR?


by Roxanne Tellier

cmw 2019

It’s that time again! Canadian Music Week .. CMW 2019 … starts tomorrow, and continues all week, with enough major stars and events to keep even the most jaded muso happy.

“Canadian Music Week’s 3 day Music Summit is designed for both industry executives and recording professionals focused on the business of global music. Encompassing 3 days of dedicated programming streams to Tech & Innovation, Live Touring, and Global Creators Summit, as well as keynotes, celebrity interviews, breakout sessions and workshops, it will provide you with the tools and knowledge to build your profile in the business and put you face-to-face with the forward-thinkers who shape the entertainment industries.” CMW intro

Tomorrow night’s kickoff party at the Phoenix Concert Theatre will feature Television, the punky rock band from New York City fronted by Tom Verlaine, that ruled our close n play stereos back in the late 1970s. The fun starts at 7pm.

Toronto’s CMW affiliated clubs will be chockablock with amazing line-ups of talent hailing from near and far, until Sunday, May 12th.

linda-perry cmwI’m always most interested in the conferences, and as usual, the choice of subjects and speakers means that I’ll be run ragged. I’d like to catch 4 Non Blondes Grammy Award-nominated producer and songwriter Linda Perry‘s Masterclass on Thursday the 9th, where she’ll be giving live critiques on a selection of songs by artists and producer-songwriters attending this session.

Perry is a Songwriters Hall of Fame Inductee (2015) and co-founder of WE ARE HEAR, a new company set up to empower artists and break the industry mold. Linda Perry/WE ARE HEAR is represented by peermusic worldwide.”

Tons of good stuff to see and hear, and you know the DBAWIS writers will be checking it out, and reporting back to you, throughout this week and next.

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alex trebekAh, Jeopardy … the trivia lover’s best friend. Hosted by Canadian Alex Trebek, 78, who holds a Guinness World Records™ record for Most Game Show Episodes Hosted by the Same Presenter, the show’s unique formula has kept viewers tuning in since 1984, a mind boggling 35 years of compering.

This March Trebek informed his fans that he’d been diagnosed with stage IV pancreatic cancer, with a poor prognosis, but that he intended to aggressively fight the cancer. After all, he added, his contract meant he was expected to keep working for another three years!

Enter James Holzhauer, 34, a professional sports gambler, who has been dominating the show for the last 20+ days, and racking up wins of over $1.6 million dollars. Holzhauer is a phenom, a packrat of minutiae, who has not only figured out how to most successfully play the game, but, using a data driven approach, has come very close to breaking the game by beating the system.

james-holzhauer 18 dayHolzhauer uses the odds, selecting and correctly answering, the harder, top dollar clues first, and then seeking out the “Daily Double” clues, and making huge bets. By the halfway mark of the game, he’s ahead of the other two contestants with an insurmountable lead, and the game is pretty much over, as he romps to the end and Final Answer.

I cheered him on for the first week or two – it was an amazing display of top level overall trivial knowledge. But by week three, I was tired of watching his opponents slink dejectedly out of the studio, their shot of a lifetime now little more than a memory. At around the eleven day mark, I began to search out older episodes of the show, where there was at least some chance of not knowing exactly how the game would inevitably end.

Prior to 2003, Jeopardy had a few rules that kept the game in check, including a five-show limit for returning champions. It was also an unwritten rule that contestants would generally start by selecting the easier, low-money questions first, and work their way up, while viewers played along, feeling a little more confident with their own responses as the questions got harder. The loosening of those rules changed the game by raising the stakes.

For now, Jeopardy is seeing its best ratings in years, similar to what they had some 15 years ago with 74 time winner Ken Jennings. But I have to wonder who will be interested in watching next season’s games, if every episode is essentially a foregone conclusion. I tune in both to see how many questions I can answer, but also for the fun of watching other trivia mavens strut their stuff. If there’s no real competition, I’m not sure I want to watch what is the human equivalent of the bully pulling the wings off flies.

Love you, Alex … but starting to seriously get sick of James ‘owning’ this season of Jeopardy.

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An old friend, who is also a brilliant novelist, lives in Princeton, NJ, and often hosts soirees that include guests whose names are regularly printed in bold face in the media. Sometimes those guests include one of her neighbours, the writer Chris Hedges, best known as the doom and gloom, Pulitzer Prize winning, highly political, writer, editor and founder of TruthDig.

chris hedges quoteLauren tells me that he often winds up sitting by himself in a corner, because people just can’t take his constant proclamations of political corruption, upcoming wars and the inevitable destruction of our planet through unregulated capitalism.

And I’m gonna say, being rather known as a doom and gloom type cynic myself, that I understand that people don’t always want to hear about ‘how the sausage is made.’ Sometimes you just want to talk about fun things and relax with friends. I totally get that. And I’ve even been known to actually do that.

not listeningBut here’s the thing … people are getting very, very bad at handling reality. It’s one thing to say, “not now, please – I’m enjoying this brie,” and another to simply close your mind to the facts and truth of your current political and physical environment.

Lately I’ve found myself doing the same thing – reading an article that is so filled with horrors to come, that I have to shut down the computer and go out for a breath of air. It’s like my brain can’t take any more, and a massive steel door clangs down, preventing me from absorbing any more information on yet another assault on democracy, or attempts of the right wing to suck the earth dry for profit.

trump won't leave officeTruth be told .. it’s as bad as it looks. Actually worse. It’s so bad that people are seriously asking what will happen after the next election, if/when Trump just won’t leave the office if voted out.

You are already living in a dictatorship if you live in fear of an out of control president who believes he is above the law, and will call for a civil war rather than descend the throne.

Looks like Bill Maher agrees, at least a little. Never been a fan of ASMR, but what the heck … Honestly .. this is brilliant … and Moby is a very capable foil as well!

My point – and I do have one – is that we can only hide from reality for so long. We may not like it. We may say that we have no interest in politics, but in point of fact, politics is taking an enormous interest in everything about you, by which I mean, how much they can take from you before you finally fight back.

Is there is any end to the avarice? As the stakes mount, in terms of what kind of planet we live on, and who gets to live or die, based on the up or down turned thumb of populist rulers, I have begun to believe the answer is ‘no.

The wealthy, having ‘won’ nearly all of the riches in the world, now find most of us nothing but an inconvenience to their reign. Can they not leave us one damn leaf or a bit of ground to call our own?

This avarice strikes home when I consider how much I love the greenery of the towns and cities of Ontario. Even within this bustling big city, I only have to take a short walk to find myself in a well wooded park.

I’ve never been one for camping, hunting or fishing, but I’ve known hundreds of people who love Ontario’s abundance. Our green space is not just our treasure, it’s also a huge source of provincial revenue through tourism.

And yet, our politicians want to monetize the place, open up the joint for ‘business’ – which at this point seems to involve bringing in trainloads of cheap booze, gambling, casinos, and ferris wheels with hot and cold running prostitutes.

They’ll just have to clear away your green spaces, and pollute the air and water to do so, but apparently, that’s not too big a price for YOU to pay. They’re sure you’ll be delighted with living on endless grey parking lots with a Starbucks on one corner, and a Shopper’s Drug Mart on the other.

nursery treeOne of the most recent cuts in the Ford government’s budget is to a long standing project called the 50 Million Tree Program. 

The goal of the 50 Million Tree Program is to plant 50 million trees by 2025. To date, with continued government support, we’ve helped more than 4,000 landowners get involved.

Planting trees is a practical way to get more from your property, give back to the community, and help the environment. Work with us, and you can increase the value of your land, improve the quality of your soil, increase wildlife habitat, enhance recreational opportunities, improve the overall health of the environment and leave a lasting legacy.”

The 50 Million Tree Program was started in 2008 and has planted more than half its goal to date. It cost taxpayers $4.7 million last year. The bulk of the work of planting is done by conservation authorities , and students in the summer. The end of the program will also mean job cuts to those in the field.

“Patchell described the government’s decision, announced the day after the April 11 provincial budget, as short-sighted. It will lead to more erosion in flood zones, poor air quality, warmer lakes because of the lack of shade and less habitat for wildlife.

“It’s ignoring the societal value of tree-planting and of taking care of the environment,” Patchell said. “Trees clean the air and maintain the water for all of Ontario – for everybody.” (Ottawa Citizen, May 4, 2019)

The costs for this were largely borne by the landowners, but of course, you have to get the trees from somewhere. One of those ‘somewheres’ was the Ferguson Tree Centre outside of Kemptville.

The centre will have to destroy more than three million trees, due to the cost of future maintenance, that were planted to handle the nursery’s commitment to the program over the next three years, but that will no longer be needed.

Elections have consequences, and as long as we shut our eyes and refuse to be informed, we will be bystanders to a world whose beauties are ravaged and sacrificed to the maws of big business and the corrupt politicians that serve them.

trees cut downFord’s vision ‘for the people’ of Ontario appears to be aimed at the needs of drunks and gamblers, not at the campers, hunters and fishers wanting to enjoy the splendour of our province.

You really don’t know what you had .. until it’s gone.

 

Don’t Call Me Stupid, Stupid


by Roxanne Tellier

Waking up on a Sunday morning to a world without Facebook. Oh my, it must have been at least an hour before it was back on line … such a long … lonely … hour …. Where were all of my … argumentative strangers?

leave britney aloneMeh. I’ve had a bunch of minor, irritating problems with my ‘puter over the last few weeks, so it was really nothing more than just another annoyance. But a quick Google check showed that millions of people, living all around the world, were missing their Facebook and social media fix. And they were NOT happy.

Facebook is as addictive as any drug. Don’t believe me? Try walking away.

facebook-is-a-hell-of-a-drugFunny, I’d been thinking recently about leaving Facebook. If you have an addictive personality AND are political, it’s not a healthy place. Sure, I love the animal videos, it is great to see how friends and family in far flung places are doing, and I enjoy being able to quickly get in touch with my ‘connected’ friends, but I don’t know if I can take much more of the 24/7 news stream of our current divisive, angry, confrontational times. It’s all too much.

 

brazil president rain forest

Lately, what passes for ‘information’ on Facebook is a steady stream of accounts of venomous actions being perpetrated on vulnerable people by people who should never have been given access to power. Trump’s American war on refugees is just a wisp of smoke and a few barbed wire rolls short of being as horrific as the Holocaust. Across North America, the battle to extract the last of the oil, destined to enrich a smaller and smaller group of people, threatens the extinction of wild life and sea life, and tramples on the rights of the indigenous. In Brazil, a rabid right vows to eliminate the rain forests of the Amazon, and to roust the last of their native peoples.

In Canada, the machinations of people WITHIN the Liberal party are even more vile than those of their political opponents. In the 2019 budget for Ontario, our premier mentions ‘beer’ and ‘alcohol’ 46 times, in his zeal to re-brand Ontario as a hard drinking, hard gambling, land of the never closed casinos. And in England, there’s a shocking deficiency of intellect being used in the negotiation of the wrong-headed Brexit.

I read today about a new procedural policy suggested by the Trump administration, proposing to monitor the social media accounts of veterans. If the veterans appear “too happy,” their disability pensions for PTSD will be reduced. Or if their photos or videos appear to show them enjoying physical activities, that might be grounds for cutting their disability benefits. In other words, the policy would create an environment in which first veterans, and then, possibly other groups that include disabled people, would need to self-censor what they share on social media with friends and family, lest the government decide to cut vital financial aid or medical care.

Facebook is really starting to dig a little too close to the horrors of a Black Mirror episode. Vulnerable people, those that are easily led, those than believe what they see and hear, indiscriminately, and spread disinformation to their friends, are enabling a world where ‘truth’ carries less weight than ‘opinion.’

Let me tell you about something that happened to me, just this week, because it rather shook my faith, or perhaps my assumption,  in the intelligence of people. In the aftermath of that horrific massacre in New Zealand, in which an Australian far right, home-grown terrorist murdered 50 people and injured dozens more, I received a private message from a fellow that I only knew from Facebook, but with whom I’d exchanged birthday and seasonal greetings for about six years. It contained a video of a Canadian (!) right wing, anti-immigrant, FOX styled ‘journalist,’ who was filming her interactions with the refugees and immigrants who live in the small neighbourhood of Lakemba, near Sydney, Australia.

Lauren Southern kicked outHis message exhorted me to ‘share this everywhere!!!!!!”

Henry is a Canadian who immigrated to Australia about 10 years ago. His wife is of European descent, and I believe she immigrated there shortly before Henry. Since their marriage, they’ve had a son, who is an all Australian boy in temper and manner. Henry and family, who are extremely Caucasian, have gleefully adopted most of what we would consider ‘Australianisms.’

Henry has worked very, very hard to make a place in Australian society for himself, and to support his family. Australia, at 7,692,024 km, is the world’s largest island, with a population of just 24.6 million…. much less than Canada’s population of 37 million. Yet Henry believes that allowing Muslims the same opportunity that he had, of immigrating to Australia for a better life, will lead to widespread Shariah Law and a lack of bacon in his MacDonald burgers. Henry is an entitled, hypocritical prick, and he is no longer my Facebook friend, because he is a stone cold racist, and I do not tolerate racists or racism.

trump I'm with racistsSadly, for many like Henry, a large part of the role that Facebook, Instagram, and other forms of social media play in their lives is the propagation and dissemination of racism. They are delighted to find the like-minded, tend to be tolerant and accepting of trolls and bots, and are willfully blind to any attempt to separate the truth from the lies. That’s most certainly NOT the average Facebook user, but it is a large, and extremely argumentative and vocal segment, thus, very easy to find.

There is, in fact, such a shocking lack of knowledge, wisdom, common sense and humility involved in the shriekings of the bigoted, xenophobic, racist, misogynistic, hoi polloi on social media that one can only sadly agree with British pundit, David Mitchell, who said of the willfully naif, that, “It would be a shame to trample on the fresh snow of your ignorance.”

Most of us are loathe to label the thinking of others as stupid or ignorant; it’s unkind, often misused, and certainly doesn’t lead to an equal sharing of information. However, years of austerity and tax cuts to education and health care, combined with poor diets, have actually begun to turn the clock backward on a common intelligence in first world countries. We are literally becoming dumber than our parents and grandparents.

When president John F. Kennedy decided in 1961 that America would put a man on the moon, it took them just eight years to figure out how. And that was in a time before email even existed. Humans excelled in the 20th century, achieving incredible breakthroughs in science and technology.

In Ontario, we’ve been trying to get a subway to the suburb of Scarborough for more than twenty years.

In previous decades, there was a steady climb in the average IQ scores in civilized countries, of about 3 IQ points per decade. This was called the Flynn effect — named after the work of New Zealand intelligence researcher James Flynn.

Yogi BearBut that increase topped out around 1975, with IQ’s steadily falling by an average of about seven points per generation since. The drop seems to be more about nurture than nature, and includes the impact of changes in how we teach math, science, and language.

“This establishes that the large changes in average cohort intelligence reflect environmental factors and not changing composition of parents, which in turn rules out several prominent hypotheses for retrograde Flynn effects.”

We WANT to believe that we, the citizens of strong, first world, nations are intelligent, thoughtful, free of ignorance, and that our country .. and Facebook … is filled with good people who reflect our own wholesome goodness and wisdom.

However in actual fact, we’re moving steadily, and very quickly, towards an Idiocracy. (This clip is from February 2016 – there has definitely been a further huge drop in our collective IQs in the last two years, from the drip, drip, drip of 24/7 mis and disinformation.)

 

So where to from here, folks?

 

 

That’s Enough Winning, Thanks


by Roxanne Tellier

A summer, probably around 1982. A small town – might have been Guelph – and a touring rock band from Toronto with time on their hands …..

performer banned posterI think Performer was booked in for the back end of the week, the Thursday Friday Saturday, at a local bar. I just remember looking out into the crowd and spotting a bunch of dusty, hard-drinking, guys and gals who were loudly enjoying the show, whooping it up like a bunch of sailors on shore leave.

The guys in the band were the first to find out that the ‘circus’ was in town; a Conklin‘s offshoot, complete with rides, a midway filled with games of chance, and all the vomit-inducing festive fair fare you could dream of.

conklin show logo

With an invitation for the whole band and roadies to come and enjoy the entertainment gratis, we assembled at the crack of two p.m. in our best spandex and leathers to brave the sun and the crowds.

It was hot and sunny that day, so the corndogs and cotton candy weren’t sitting quite as well as hoped. That’s when the fatal decision was made – four of us would share a ride on the tea cup carousel.

How bad could that be, you ask? Well, when the ride wrangler realized he had ‘show biz royalty’ in his care, he prepared to show us exactly what his ride could do in the hands of a ‘professional.’

VAC-L-MAYFAIRPREVIEW-0507-004It was the longest and most horrible ride I’ve ever experienced. At first it was fun, but soon enough, the speed, and the herky jerky movement of the ‘cups’ had us all regretting everything we’d eaten, not just that day, but that week. Maybe that month.

We held on for dear life and prayed for the ride to stop.

That’s sort of like America these days.

trump laughingWhen Trump warned Americans that a vote for him would soon have them begging for all of the ‘winning’ to stop, I flashed back on that sunny, but ultimately nauseating, day in carnie hell, and knew exactly what was in store for the citizens of the Ew Ess of Eh.

That’s not the way it’s supposed to be, you know. The cynical like to tell you that all politicians are the same, that ‘the left wing and the right wing still come from the same bird,‘ but that’s a lot of fancy mouth dancing to cover up the fact that we’ve somehow corrupted our politics to the point where too many are no longer aware that politics is the circus, and we are the rubes they’re here to fleece.

America is not so greatWas it always like this? Were all previous politicians just as crooked as the group we now have to choose from? I can’t believe that is true – if all previous governments had been as rapacious as this lot, there wouldn’t be a country left with resources so rich that it’s treasury was a lure to these shysters.

This kind of political deception is the end product of years of trickery, of sneaky, backroom deals, and the selective reading of scholarly documents that prove that the devil really IS in the details.

And that the right wing is very often not at all right.

 

Show me one election of the last decade or so, where you sincerely held a strong belief that the election of this person and this person in particular, would benefit the lives of you and most of the citizens of your country. It’s far more likely that your past votes were actually cast against another politician – that’s what we did when Harper lost and Trudeau was installed. That’s what it seems an awful lot of people did when they chose Ford over Wynne or even Horwath in the last Ontario provincial election.

And how’s that buck a beer thing working out for you so far, FordNation?

ford pig throne beer

In America, a large quantity of citizens who felt that they had been used, abused and forgotten in capitalism’s race to the finish, voted for a conman who embodied the complete antithesis of everything they claimed to have loved and believed in, as a nation, since 1776.

And an even larger quantity of citizens decided they’d just sit this ride out.

These elections bear no relationship to those halcyon days when we actually believed our chosen leaders would .. well.. lead. Instead, they have all the charm of a loveless marriage entered into just to show an ex-lover, in the cruelest way possible, that you never really loved or needed them in the first place.

That’s not winning either.

Do you wonder why the general tenor of political thinking ranges from the white hot rage of the pundits, to the stupor of the larger group of potential voters who just want to be left alone with their belief that their vote has no effect on how their country is run?

Are you sick of ‘winning’ yet?

Those people whom we are meant to respect and obey have asked us to believe so very many lies. And for the most part, the majority of us were happy to do so, and to defend the right of those with money and power to tell us those lies, and to tell us how to think.

alex jonesThe world changed a couple of decades ago, when computers became ubiquitous, and for better or worse, our ability to confirm or deny what we’ve been told has led to some pretty interesting confrontations. What exactly IS fake news, and will you know it when you see it?

This could be a time when, with access to all of the world’s combined information, we could aspire to become a race of super intelligent people, capable of quickly seeing through the flimflam artists and cutting through the jibber jabber of the fast talking cons peddling high tech snake oil.

Instead, there are still far too many people rushing to throw their money, hearts and minds into the gaping maws of these stealers of dreams.

But Spring is coming to America, and with it, another opportunity for people to see their world with fresh eyes. Those midterm winds blew a lot of brand new Democrats into Congress, and with a little luck, the Republican party may soon find out that, what goes around, comes around.

Sadly, it may be many more years before we see the extent of all the ‘winning’ that Doug Ford has planned for the province of Ontario.

And it looks like we don’t get to get off of this ride until he’s done.

doug ford

 

Daylight Savings And Other Idiocies


ENOUGH already with this daylight saving nonsense. The cost to the country, and it’s citizens, has been recorded and shown to be of little to no benefit to the nation.

daylight saving NativeI wonder if Ford has considered making this a pet project for Ontario. (Opting in or out of daylight saving is within a provincial premier’s purview.) It would fit into his stated platform, save money, and kill something that the ‘elites’ determined decades ago would be beneficial to the ‘little people.’ And, when he’s finally out of office, it will be one thing he can point to as having successfully and fairly easily accomplished.

Anyone got Dougie’s ear?

 

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Hey, it’s Indie Week! My colleagues have written a fair bit about what that means, musically, so I won’t belabour the possible tuneful delights that your wristbands can get you into. There IS a lot of great music, I assure you, a veritable cornucopia of raw talent.

But .. I probably won’t get to many of the shows. You see, I’m more like those people that buy Playboy for the articles.. I like the conferences. I like to learn from people with experience and stories to tell.

So, on Wednesday, you’ll likely find me checking out a forum on anxiety, depression and mental health, or taking notes at Martin Atkins’ discourse on “How to Make an Extra $100K in the Next Year.”

On Friday, there’s a seminar on Women Influencers, and another on “New Rules in the Music Industry.”

And those are the things that interest moi … but that’s moi. Why don’t YOU check out what’s available this week, and see what turns your crank? I’ll see you there!
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We’re now literally days away from the American midterm elections, when those who will exercise their right to vote will determine the arc of America’s future. It really is a critical moment in time. Voting Democrat will enable the guardrails to keep Trump and his madness in check. Voting Republican will tell Trump that his madness and rush to a fascist dictatorship is A-OK with the citizens of the United States

VOTING IS HOW YOU SEIZE POWER. And that’s why old people, rich people and people who are terrified of change… are ALWAYS voting, every chance they get. That is why there are old, rich, white men in power in the U.S., who’ve been voted back in every time those old, rich, white, scared people get a chance to enter the voting booth. That is why there is a lying, perjuring, accused sexual assailant on the Supreme Court.

Does your vote count? Damned straight it does! And mouthing off that it ‘won’t change anything anyway’ is not a ‘too cool for the pool,’ detached cynicism, it’s a naive, and entitled sentiment that betrays an ignorance of how democracy works.

Are you enjoying Trump’s America? Because, despite how many people tell me that I am incorrect about America sliding into fascism… it’s looking pretty textbook fascist-y right about now.

Fascism is a form of government which is a type of one-party dictatorship. Fascists are against democracy. They work for a totalitarian one-party state. This aim is to prepare the nation for armed conflict, and to respond to economic difficulties. Fascism puts nation and often race above the individual. It stands for a centralized government headed by a dictator. Historically, fascist governments tend to be militaristic, and racist. In the Third Reich German society was pictured as a racially unified hierarchy, the Volksgemeinschaft..” (wikipedia)

The country has been steamrollered under the armoured treads of an administration that has control of the House, the Senate, the Presidency, AND the Supreme Court. Except for the horrific tax cuts that sent billions of dollars to the 1 per cent, the majority of Trump accomplishments have come about through the high handed use of ‘executive orders,’ which, when used in lieu of democratic debate, compromise, and bipartisanship, are, of course, the way dictators govern.

Now, there may have been times in America’s history where one party having control of ALL aspects of government might not have been quite as frightening as it is in 2018. But the horrors that we’ve seen to date can’t hold a candle to what we’ll see in the future, if the midterms keep the power in the Republican party’s hands.

While you might have been aware that the Supreme Court newbie, Kavanaugh, has some interesting views on presidential reach and abortion, and that the other newbie, Gorsuch, has some equally interesting opinions on religious liberty and the rights of LGBTQ citizens …. did you know that the Supreme Court is about to begin debate on whether or not America will be maintaining a separation of church and state?

That’s kind of a biggie right there. What will be left of America, when it is only the furthest hard right thinkers who decide what citizens are allowed to do, in public, or in the privacy of their own homes?

Many of those who agree with the far right’s racism and xenophobia are not only falling prey to the president’s Hail Mary pass to save control of the House and/or Senate through terrorizing the people with talks of war and invasions, they’re whipping up even further paranoia by declaring that migrants have a super power that enables them to bring extinct diseases back into the American mainstream.

APTOPIX Central America Migrant CaravanAmerica needs a Zanax. Despite Trump’s assurance that the migrant caravan is an invading horde, his words, and those of the Foxy Friends who agree with him, are nothing more than a panicked attempt to continue their icy grip on America’s gonads.

Imagine the desperation that would make you gather up your family, what little you could carry, and force you to walk thousands of miles, to somewhere that you hoped .. didn’t know for sure, but hoped … would grant you sanctuary. This is an apocalyptic scenario. You’ve seen it in movies, in ‘after the end of the world‘ scripts, but this is real life for these migrants.

It is believed that there are two caravans, one traveling thru southern Mexico, and the other just now crossing Guatemala into Mexico. The second group is believed to be mostly the family members of the first caravan. The number of people in both of these caravans fluctuates daily, but is estimated to be between a thousand to five thousand people total. (And, bear in mind, neither of these groups would be converging at any one American border, all at the same time.)

Among the sympathizers to Trump’s cause and senile paranoia are the citizen militia, who, with significant armament, are hoping to join the even more heavily armed 15,000 troops, 20,000 border guards, and 10,000 Nation Guard members gathering to dispel .. with brute force and severe prejudice – the few thousand dusty, dirty, thirsty, tired refugees fleeing gang violence and government corruption in Honduras.

Sadly.. those migrants are walking right into the unwelcoming arms of America’s own home-grown violence and government corruption.

america is not the home of the brave anymoreThe sight of this gang of tens of thousands, shoulder to shoulder against these desperate people, should be the most humiliating spectacle that America ever hopes to see. Home of the Brave? No, it’s the land of the loose bowelled, chicken shits.

As of November 2nd, the caravans are in Matias Romero, a town in the southwestern Mexican state of Oaxaca. They are at least several weeks away from reaching the United States, although the Department of Homeland Security – well known for fudging and outright lying of facts – has said they could arrive at the border somewhere in between four days and two weeks from now.

I guess if they all grow wings it’s possible. But these are families, that include women, children, and at least one newborn who made her appearance just a day or two ago.

american gestapoI can draw a straight line from the ‘no room at the inn‘ prejudice and xenophobia of 2000 years ago to the cruelty and barbarism we’re seeing at the American border today. Two thousand years later, what these ‘warriors’ choose to cloak themselves in on a Sunday morning doesn’t look very much like Christianity at all.

This is Trump’s Last Stand, this desperate Mexican standoff, and he’s got all of his hopes pinned on his belief that America will believe the lies and hyperventilation that he, his administration and FOX News have poured into the far right’s ears like so much aural poison. I am hoping that Americans are smarter, and better human beings, than that.

World compassion

I want to believe that justice will prevail in America. I want to believe that there will be a fair election, and that America and the world will be able to believe that the results of the voting are just and true, and show the real will of the people.

That’s what I want to believe, America. That’s what I need to believe. All you have to do, America, is listen to your better angels. Listen to them now, while they still live.

 

The Very Bad, Icky, Nasty, Not At All Good Week


I am sick of living in interesting times.

I cannot make any sense of a world where good people hurt so badly that they have to take their own lives, while horrible, nasty, evil people appear to thrive.

it's called capitalismI am really sick of waking up to another day of learning about more atrocities going on around the world, with every day lived to the sound of the drip drip drip of bad and worse news.

My stomach hurts to see that the minds of basically decent people can be twisted and warped until they no longer see vulnerable innocents as needing protection, and instead decide that no punishment is too severe to unleash upon those whose crime is to seek sanctuary from the horrors of their own countries.

It nauseates me that, for all of my reading and study, it wasn’t until Trump got into office and began to abuse his power, that I realized how incredibly easy it is for the truly evil and motivated to take apart the ‘checks and balances’ of the democratic institutions and mechanisms that we thought impervious to treachery and treason.

I am exhausted by the slow and insidious normalizing of the abnormal. Every day, we can only helplessly watch the degradation of diplomacy and democracy going on in the United States. We are powerless to stop the domestic atrocities that, in the past, America would have been the first to condemn in other nations. Not any more. Now it is America that is the despot, sending children who have never known any other country than America back to Mexico to be murdered, and imprisoning children – babies! – in cages.

trump g7 hold your breath no more cookies June 2018I am tired of explaining to people of low or limited knowledge that their selfish entitlements will ruin the country they claim to love. It turns out that there is a whole sub-species of the chronically self-seeking that live amongst us, and they cannot understand empathy, or even long-term logic.

I am disgusted at those voters who self-righteously voted for an incredibly flawed candidate without a coherent and fully costed platform, based primarily on a campaign built around Ford’s openly stated ‘feelings’ and unproven ‘beliefs’ rather than reality. He’s onside with racial profiling, will reject safe injection sites for addicts, has thrown in with anti-choice pro lifers, has floated the idea of forcing teenagers seeking abortion to get parental permission, and is against the sex education program that might actually prevent some of those teens from needing abortions.

who voted for Ford Jun 2018Back in the day, as a Toronto city councillor, he claimed a home for autistic youths had ruined the community. He repeatedly denied and covered up the truth about his sadly and fatally addicted brother, leaving Toronto citizens at peril as Rob shambled mindlessly through his days as Mayor, and drunkenly tooled around the city in his minivan at night. And just a few days before the election, his sister-in-law filed a suit against him, claiming his abuse of the position of trustee in the administering of his brother’s will.

I’m only scratching the surface of Doug Ford’s ridiculously clear lack of ability and unworthiness to claim the Ontario premiership. It’s also beyond rational belief that Ontarian voters, having watched the last 500 days of madness in the U.S., would look at the horror being inflicted on it’s people and say, “mmm! I want me some of THAT!”

And yet 20% of Ontario did. And now 100% of Ontarians will suffer the consequences.

ford buck a beer. jpgFrom songstress Arlene Bishop: ” Goodbye libraries, daycare, nurses, clean water, bicycle lanes, decent minimum wage, reproductive rights, arts funding, sex ed, civility, sanity, and decency. Welcome to Ford More Years of self serving circus bullshit with you wondering why everything costs more, everyone does less, everyone’s consumed with daily scandals, government halls are filled with crooks, lawsuits are being threatened, and everyone’s got a catchy disrespectful nickname. Well done, f*ckers. Collect your beer.” 

I don’t want to hear the mealy mouthed explanations for WHY you chose Ford – I heard them during the whole election period. I heard you loud and clear when you spat out your condemnation of the last 15 years of a Liberal governance, and I noted every time you refused to listen to anything but the chatter that confirmed your prejudices and the lies that were repeated against other parties.

trump i didn't vote for himI don’t have to hear it, because I’ve been reading apologies and explanations for the last year and a half from Americans trying to absolve themselves of the guilt they now feel for having voted for Trump.

They still can’t quite grasp that their adored commander of cheese is in the process of ruining their lives thru a death by a thousand cuts, while he takes their country apart piece by piece, and feeds it to his rich cronies.

This is not a Randian world. Ayn Rand‘s theories, long debunked as useless and self-serving, appeal to the selfish teenager, flush with his/her own youth, energy and hubris. Eventually we all get old. Eventually we all will need help.

ayn rand welfareAyn Rand herself lived off the public purse until she died. Sure, we think we can take on the whole world when we’re young; but it’s when we mature and realize how much more important it is to come together than to live apart that we realize the strength and power of societal groupings.

From Clive Veroni, author of SPIN: How Politics Has The Power To Turn Marketing On Its Head:To pretend that the election of Doug Ford to the position of premier is a good thing for the province, or even the party, is to degrade the political culture.

To cheer the elevation to high office of a man who is a vulgar bully; a man who has shown himself to be deeply ignorant of provincial politics; a man whose brief tour through city hall exposed him as both lazy and disruptive; a man whose views on race are at best tone deaf; a man whose stint as a teenage drug pusher betrays a dubious moral character; a man who stands accused of being an incompetent business manager and a deceitful steward of his family’s fortune; a man of such slender intellect that he can barely string together a coherent sentence, is to degrade the political culture.

And to degrade the political culture is to degrade the culture as a whole.”

Yeah, I’m sick of it all. And try as I might, I can’t seem to find the lifelong Pollyanna in my heart that kept on believing that good had to eventually triumph, and that, no matter how bad things got, we could still count on common sense and common decency.

I can’t believe that anymore.

I can’t stop thinking about this clip, from Friday night’s Real Time with Bill Maher. As much as I want to believe it’s all gonna work out, I have to finally admit that I can no longer continue to think so in good faith.

“This country is in quite a pickle. Conservatives govern without shame, and Liberals shame without governing. We (Liberals) have lost the House, the Senate, the White House, the Supreme Court, Kanye…

Our symbolic victories are the only victories we get. They get to cut their own taxes, rip up the safety net, and make coal a vegetable. We get to banish actors.

In ten years the Tea Party went from nothing to controlling Congress and the White House. We made Trip Advisor stop advertising on the Laura Ingraham show.

Liberals control the culture .. yes. But right now, wouldn’t you rather control the border?

During the Obama years, Republicans converted over a thousand seats at State and Local levels. While we were putting vaginas in formerly male movies, they were putting dicks in State houses.

The Republicans put nine new Senators in office in 2017… that was their victory; we took Al Franken out. They succeed in suppressing the minority vote in 34 states; Meryl Streep got off an epic burn at the Golden Globes.

Our current and possibly permanent president can appoint Scott Baio to the next Supreme Court vacancy. He can pardon himself .. and I wouldn’t put it past him to try and cancel the next election. “

The night before our election, I was chatting with some people who, while agreeing with me on whom we’d like to see chosen to lead, were concerned that the rabid Conservatives would push their boy Ford into power. I could only reply that I would not be surprised if that happened. I would be deeply disappointed by the short-sightedness of the electorate, but not at all surprised.

I wasn’t surprised at all.

 

Free The Weed! Lift & Co Expo 2018


status of cannabis in CanadaAs Canada slinks towards that moveable feast, the day when cannabis becomes legal and regulated, a couple of conference groups have seen the future – and it is pot friendly.

” TORONTO – Canada’s top cannabis policy bureaucrat says every time he travels outside of Canada, he is reminded anew of just what a novel enterprise this country has embarked upon.

“Canada is moving into a place that no country — other than Uruguay, the only other country that has made recreational marijuana legal at the federal level — has ventured to go,” Eric Costen, director general for the federal government’s cannabis legalization and regulation branch, told a conference Thursday.

The world is watching Canada’s plan to legalize recreational marijuana, Costen said at the cannabis business conference in the Metro Toronto Convention Centre.

The federal government aims to have pot legal by this summer. The exact date is up in the air because senators now debating the Cannabis Act are expected to propose amendments.” (Ottawa Citizen, May 24, 2018)

I’ve put it out there before – I sincerely believe that the legalization and fair use of cannabis in Canada could save our country’s economic bacon. Oil is scarce, and costs billions to coax out of the earth. Pot plants grow and pay off year round. It’s crazy not to see the direction we could and should be heading. I am for dumping dilbit and bitumen oil … and picking up on medicinal oil.

Those who believe that this is about Cheech and Chong-ing the planet with smokeables have completely missed the boat on how much good full legalization can be for Canada, her people, and her financial future.

This weekend featured the Lift Expo, Canada’s premier cannabis event, at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre, where more than 60 speakers, and the industry’s most exciting movers and shakers, gathered with over 250 exhibitors from around the world.

“The Lift Expo has become a nexus for the cannabis industry,” says Lift’s CEO Matei Olaru, “We offer an educational and interactive experience unmatched in North America, for the burgeoning and established cannabis business, as well as canna-curious consumers.”

To my surprise and delight, the Lift people were gracious and generous in offering media a complete carte blanche entry to the conference and exposition, and including a media lounge, where we could relax with free wi-fi, and complimentary beverages. The inclusion of an interview area expedited thoughtful one-on-one voice or video taping for future broadcasts.

After picking up my pass, I headed for the escalator, en route to the show floor. The size of the exhibition was impressive, with booths stretching endlessly to the left and right of the North Building. When faced with that much ground to cover, it’s best to choose a simple walking pattern and keep your eyes, ears – and swag bag – open.

The Lift’s hundreds of exhibitors include all major licensed producers, growing supply industries, accessory lines, artisans, specialty medical cannabis products, advocacy and awareness groups, and more. Sponsors include Green Relief and the Jamaican Medical Cannabis Collective.

On the main stage, there’s everything from live cannabis cooking demos to a start up pitch competition. There will also be discussions on female representation in the cannabis industry, how to help your pets heal with CBD oils, craft cannabis products and the new wave of ‘bespoke’ brands. The event also boasts an onsite vapor lounge for medical patients to explore the latest and greatest vaporizers.

There is even a Cannabis at Work Career Fair, which features lightning talks on cannabis career topics, such as the training and experience most attractive to prospective employees, and how to build a ‘cannacentric’ resume.

big bambuThere’ve been slim pickings at a lot of the musical fests and conferences I’ve attended over the past few years, but the Lift Conference is filled with people brimming with excitement, knowledge, and faith in the future, and that makes their companies generous. Within a few minutes of arrival I was already struggling with a big bag of freebies, of everything from pot plant fertilizer to multiple cell phone accessories, to bottled water and water bottles, magazines, rolling papers, pens, candles, hats, t-shirts, and samples of non-infused goodies.

The most plentiful supply of all, however, is the information on the formidable breadth and depth of the cannabis trade, when exploited properly. Get your head out of the smoke of the Big Bambu and into big business, because the possibilities of the herb span everything from medical research, to an entire industry devoted to controlling insects naturally, improving green house and solar powered growing. The worlds of accounting, finance, and banking converge as legalization hashes through what happens when the current illegality of banking funds made from selling a controlled substance ends.

There are training programs and certificates available from accredited colleges, including KPU (Kwantlen Polytechnic University) where you can find out about cannabis career training.

Some companies .. and provinces! … are more into the idea of legalization than others. New Brunswick, for instance, is aiming to be a major Canadian player in the pot world.

The province’s 2016 Economic Growth Plan named cannabis as a priority sector, and business development experts at Opportunities New Brunswick predict a growth of 3,000 cannabis-related jobs by 2022.

Edison Cannabis Co is so eager to introduce the rest of us to their product and province that they’ve a wonderful contest going on, that will net you a personal guided tour of the Edison growing facility in New Brunswick, including round trip airfare, three nights accommodation, $500 in spending money, and double guest passes to the Harvest Jazz and Blues Festival. I’m in! (get thee to EdisonCannabis.Co to enter.)

abi roach hotbox liftI discovered booth after booth, filled with upbeat, positive business people (including our own Kensington Market entrepreneur, Abi Roach of Hotbox) who can see and appreciate that there is a lot of money to be made in giving the people what they want.

After all, as our own Captain Cannabis, Verne Andru, said to me, we were promised legal marijuana forty years ago, by Trudeau Senior, and here we are, 40 years later, watching Trudeau Juniorcapt cannabis 40th

dragging his feet on bringing this product to market. (Verne’s a brilliant artist, whose career animation assignments include Hanna Barbera‘s Saturday morning line-up, and work on Nelvana’s ‘Rock & Rule animated feature. Verne continues producing comics; illustrating stories for Phantacea, ink and colour on Captain Canuck, cover art for Charleton Comics Group and inking for Marvel Comics Group in addition to his own titles.

With so many economic and psychological benefits to be had by investing into cannabis research, it’s difficult to understand why the governmental reins are being pulled in so hard – aren’t most Canadians anxious to get into legal pot?

Well, as it turns out, not as many Canadians as you would think are on the Cannabis Band Wagon. Prohibition in Canada hasn’t worked; 30 per cent of Canadians aged 20 to 24, and 21 per cent of those aged 15 to 19 said they used cannabis at least once in the previous year. At least seven per cent of Canadians already use weed on a daily basis. And while that is a big market, it’s not close to counting those who are willing to try something natural to manage their pain, and even, potentially to help with getting off opioids and other more dangerous pharmaceuticals.

So while some worry that it will be a free for all once marijuana is legalized, the facts based on the 2016 data study conducted by Deloitte, and featured in the ‘Recreational Marijuana: Insights and Opportunities’ report is that attitudes may not be so easy to change.

For those of us who grew up in the heady sixties, our ‘will I/won’t I” try pot or hash moment was a long time ago. For those who didn’t have an opportunity to try it out then, there’s a natural and understandable fear that there might be a danger in even a medicinal puff.

“You would expect that when the stigma is removed of a criminal offence you may have more people who that would otherwise not be willing to take that risk might be prepared to,” said Chris Lavier, a criminal defence lawyer in Saskatoon.

Meanwhile, an IPSOS poll shows that about 34 per cent of Canadians will at least try smoking marijuana once it’s legal, as opposed to the just 12 per cent of users who currently smoke pot recreationally now.

legalization support in canadaBut the big draw will be the 29 per cent of those surveyed who have said they will be buying edible marijuana products, up from seven per cent now.

Too bad, so sad, and incredibly foolish, then, that the LCBO, who will be our main pot purveyors in Ontario, have decided against edible offerings for at least the first year of sales. Foolish, especially since there will be a market of about 9.6 million recreational pot users after legalization, and for many of them, edibles will be how they experiment to find what works for their own conditions and needs.

Where Ontario falls down in the support of what should be a viable competitive industry, is that they are trying to walk a knife’s edge. On the one hand, they will tell you that the purpose of legalization is to improve public health by minimizing cannabis use harm. No stone, no matter how irrational, has been left unturned by those who, quite frankly, fear what they do not really comprehend.

reefer madnessOn the other hand, they know very well that there are trillions to be made from all the aspects of selling hemp and cannabis.

There are concerns about security and policing in a post-Reefer Madness world. Strangely, though, the police departments, tribal reserve security forces, and our own RCMP have been strangely lax to begin these discussions on how to deal with Canadians under the influence. I have to wonder if this reluctance has to do with a belief that the legalization will be pushed back, and back, until it becomes just another Charlie Brown football in the next federal elections.

The government is betting on a legal cannabis market that will restrict use amongst young people, and will work to squeeze out the black market. But that’s unlikely to happen under the restrictions the vendors will labour under, which they say will prevent companies from educating consumers.

The government has also proposed plain packaging with prominent warnings about addiction and other health problems associated with cannabis.

“People will be going into stores and will have no idea what they are looking at,” said Cameron Bishop from cannabis company Privateer Holdings.

So, not to put too fine a point on it – Canada already knows that, like a Trump Casino, they’re gonna be watching the house lose for at least a couple of years. Poor planning means they will be looking at several years of multi-million dollar loss before they ever see a profit.

OCS Ontario Cannabis Store“The Ontario Cannabis Retail Corporation, an LCBO subsidiary created to manage sales and distribution of recreational pot in the province, is expecting an $8-million loss in 2017-2018, followed by a $40-million loss in 2018-19, largely due to initial startup costs to establish the retail network.” 

However, by 2019-20, the province is forecasting OCRC net income of $35 million, followed by $100 million in net income by 2020-21.”

So the tide will turn. Eventually legal cannabis will be as enshrined in Canadian society as those other monopolies, Labatts and Molson, and will feature many of the same players, and many soon to be millionaire pot dealers, most of whom are former and present members of the Liberal party, getting caught drooling over the profits they’ll be reaping in the very near future.

There are many groups that will help consumers who want to know more about the benefits of medical marijuana, or the recreational varieties that will be available. I’d also recommend an online magazine called BotaniQ, that has both industry and secular information on who exactly is on the cutting edge of pot technology and use. (http://botaniqmag.com/)

One of the products I was searching out at the Expo was edible CBD treats, and I was not disappointed. I am a huge proponent of CBD oil, since this is a product that walks the line on the benefits of hemp/pot; you won’t get high, but you’ll definitely get some physical relief. Used in everything from edible jelly babies to arthritis creams and body lotions, there is anecdotal evidence that the cannabidiol oil naturally helps with sleeplessness, depression, chronic pain, and PTSD.

” Thank you so much for telling me about this product. I can’t believe the change in me. Last night, I wasn’t that tired but decided I should go to bed at 11:30 anyway. I took a dropper of the tincture under my tongue and went to bed. I fell asleep almost instantly and slept for several hours before a bathroom break. Went back to sleep immediately too.

It has also helped with my depression. My depression was just getting worse and worse. I was beginning to think “not nice thoughts” even though I lied to my doctor. She has changed my meds several times and nothing has seemed to help. Today, I don’t feel depressed at all. Haven’t for several days, actually. I think this may be the answer. I am going to recommend it to my great nephew who suffers terribly from depression and his meds don’t’ seem to work either. One knows instinctively that medical doctors won’t recommend it as it is not part of the “big pharma lexicon”. What a shame.”

As I said last year after the first O’Cannabiz Expo, it used to be that, when I thought about legalization, my mind went back to the days of head shops, lava lamps, rolling papers, pipes and hookahs. Strolling down the aisle of the Lift Expo disabused me, once again, of those hippie limitations.

I’m encouraged by the existence of the Lift Expo, (and the Oh Cannabiz conference next month) and continue to have faith that this is, overall, the best and most sensible course Canada should be pursuing over the next few decades. More pot, please!

o canada cannabis

 

 

Where We Was, Where We Is, Where We’re Going


“Money – get back. I’m all right Jack. Keep your hands off my stack”

Inequality and economic distress – these are the biggest crisis’s our societies struggle with today.

It’s helpful to understand how we got here. We were conned, by some of the best conmen of all time. It took a concerted effort, and a lot of wrangling and wheeler dealing, but in a surprisingly quick and definitely hostile takeover, our 12,000 year old Agrarian Society was overthrown by a small group of people working hand in glove – the wealthy, the church, and the governments – who ushered in the Industrial Revolution somewhere around 1760.

economic history

Prior to that time, we’d peaceably lived alongside our crops and livestock, content to track our days with the movement of the sun and the changing of the seasons. We gave no thought to wages, earnings, salaries. Life was not always easy, but for most people, it was simple and understandable, from birth to death.

With the introduction of industrialization, all of that changed. Along came machines, and factories, and overseers, and owners who needed to make certain that the wheels of the machines were kept moving and well oiled. In order to do so, changes had to be made to the lifestyles of workers – the ‘cogs’ necessary to keep the machines – and the economic engine – working smoothly.

industrial-revolutionPeople had to learn a whole new way of life. They had to wake up and be somewhere for a set time, take their meals when a work break was called, and learn to use the bathroom only when their boss thought it appropriate. Decisions on what days should be honoured, for personal or religious reasons, left their hands, and became the prerogative of the owners. All of these changes ensured that there would be work for doctors, psychologists and life coaches for years to come.

Instead of taking care of their own homes and families, workers were made to believe that the only way they’d be happy would be if they earned a wage that increased with their loyalty to the firm. With no health and safety or child labour laws in effect, many families threw their lives, and that of their children’s’, into the machine.

What people could ‘earn’ in a week mattered more than before, because they were no longer tending to their farms and live stock .. now they needed to ‘make a living’ in order to pay for those things which they’d primarily provided for themselves before.

puritan work ethicAnd the churches played their part as well, by making the concept of work ‘holy in god’s eyes.’ The vaunted work ethic, that became synonymous with virtue, never applied equally to the families of the wealthy, who instead lived lives of ease and indolence, catered to by those who now needed to provide a livelihood for themselves, or their families.

The churches were richly rewarded by governments for their place in manipulating workers’ minds, generally by being made exempt from costly taxation.

(This distinction is why the ‘separation of church and state’ is such an important principle of a true democracy, since governments, often indistinguishable from business, know full well that having religion on your side can ease through a lot of concepts that the masses might not swallow if it just came from a government or a business.)

The Agrarian Society was overtaken by capitalism, when the existing powers – those with capital, religion, and later, governments built around capitalism – made it seem that capitalism was the natural culmination of a human inclination to buy and sell. In fact, capitalism simply replaced the agrarian age with it’s own requirements.

The ‘job creators‘ were deified, while the actual workers were continually judged as to worthiness. And the worthless were ruthlessly cast aside. A new caste system emerged, defined primarily by wealth, and what wealth could buy, be it more education for their own children, more factories, or more funds with which to persuade governments to make laws protecting the continued acquisition of wealth by those who least needed that protection.

look-job-creators-job-creators-3159518Workers were told that it was only by working hard that they would be proven virtuous, and achieve their just rewards. They were told that they needed to be independent, and ask for no handouts or help from those already successful, but instead that they must forge a righteous path to their own pinnacle of success. They needed to be daring and adventurous, and carve a path to the top, letting no person or soppy sentiment impede their progress.

In time, businesses began to be the unspoken, but overriding, partners of government. Laws and rules, better for businesses than for the masses who elected government, were made palatable by a constant drip of ‘patriotic’ economic theories that always landed firmly on the side of the owner class, rather than the worker class.

“Money, so they say, is the root of all evil today.
But if you ask for a rise, it’s no surprise that they’re giving none away”

It’s the economy, stupid,” was the rallying cry that allowed businesses to run roughshod over those who toiled in the businesses of the owner class. Inequality grew and grew, and as the world careened from the Great Depression to the Great Recession of 2008, the wealthy moved to the head of the table, while those who did the actual work, were told they had to settle for the crumbs that fell from the tables of the rich and powerful.

explaintrickledowneconomicssmallEconomic theories that favoured the already wealthy, like the ‘trickle down effect,’ or the tax scam bill recently forced upon the United States, were put into practice by governments who knew very well that the wealth would not only stay where it was, but increase the holdings of the wealthy, at the expense of the middle class.

 

The US Supreme Court’s decision to define corporations as people just sealed the deal that had been in play for generations – the corporations were now able to seat the government they had always wanted; one run by business and for business, rather than by  democracy or the rule of law.

Now, it could be argued that civilization grew exponentially and in a positive fashion, because of this Revolution. It is what we’ve been told was the way it had to be, for the planet to move ahead.

But in every advancement, there is the seed of it’s own destruction. Before factories were built, or mines dug, no one died in either one. Before trains were invented, there were no train wrecks. Before there were cars, no one had ever been run over by an automobile. And before there was capitalism, there was an agrarian society that worked very well on many levels. Not always, and not for all .. but I think the same could be said for capitalism.

As long as the backs and hands and eyes of workers were necessary, capitalism chugged along rather nicely. As the years passed, the workers and owners struggled for their places and for a more equitable pay structure, but workers remained the backbone of the economy. The middle class defined the country.

But then, along came a new technology, one based on information. The need for unskilled workers began to fall, as the need for a new skill set rose. Many of those who found themselves displaced by new technologies simply refused to translate their abilities to what society now demanded, and they, and their jobs fell by the wayside.

Hand holding smartphone with media icons and symbolMoving forward into the twenty-first century, those who nostalgically remembered a Golden Age where every one who wanted a job, could find a job, were increasingly threatened by a world where their backs and hands and eyes meant little to the owner class. Even worse, the service industry, once an important part of greasing the wheels of the economy, was increasingly threatened with automation.

Employment_by_Industry_in_the_US-2013 (1)

And in fact, newer, cheaper technology was intimidating many other professions, including the 1.7 million truck driving jobs that looked primed to be replaced by self driving vehicles. Not to mention the array of jobs that could be better and more cheaply handled by computers, like highly paid research jobs in legal and medical professions.

While the Agrarian Society had spanned 12,000 years, the Industrial Revolution lasted only about 150 years, before being replaced by the Information Age, which began roughly around 1945, and which we’re now exiting as we enter a new Post-Industrial Age.

So what does this mean to us, we who have to live in this Brave New World? Well, if you’ve been following the social media surrounding the January 1st minimum wage increase in Ontario, and the outrage and pushback by service industries who will be impacted by that increase … a whole heck of a lot.

In Coburg, Ontario, the billionaire heirs to the Tim Horton coffee chain immediately issued an edict to their minimum wage employees, decreeing that, from then on, their lunch breaks would be unpaid, they would be expected to pay a larger portion of government mandated benefits, and that they would lose personal benefits granted prior to the increase. The workers were informed that they would have to sign this new agreement, or forfeit their jobs.

boycottTimsPredictably, the internet went mad. Arguments were made for both sides of the dispute, most of whom wanted to send a strong message to the heirs and the coffee chain that they would not have government regulations manipulated to suit business. It is a tribute to our sense of justice that most Canadians found the Joyce/Horton’s highhanded demands a bridge too far.

But this wage increase, coming after years of employees being asked to tighten their own belts, for the sake of the economy, and to keep their jobs, coupled with the freeze of the minimum wage since 2007, is too little, too late.

The cries from the fiscally conservative, that this increase will decimate employment in minimum wage jobs – is hysterical and completely misses the larger point.

min wage earnersEmployees have been treated as little more than inconveniences for decades. Beginning with the corporate raiders of the eighties, who slashed and burned the employee rosters of major corporations in order to enrich stock holders and investors, followed by the well-intentioned, but ultimately cruel hobbling of staff who were asked to eschew wage raises and to double up their efforts as staff numbers diminished,  employees were always asked to minimize their own needs in order to further the economic needs of those for whom they toiled.

The economic crisis that collapsed the Greek economy was going on in North America as well, but our governments propped up failing businesses in the name of saving the economy, despite this coming at the expense of the workers. When businesses were told to tighten their economic belts, it was the workers who got smaller trousers, and less money in their pockets, or were dismissed, while upper management and stock holders incomes soared astronomically.

The austerity mentality that decimated the well paying jobs and sent many older workers home years before a well deserved retirement, had created an economy that saw, not value in the workforce, but a sea of gaping maws.

employee meatWhat had begun as a need for willing workers was now becoming an awareness of a glut of workers that wanted the jobs that paid for the basic needs of food, shelter and medical care when they were ill or old.

And when the big bosses looked around, they realized they no longer had the jobs to give them.

Those in power look at the conflicting and conflicted attitudes of the working class, and wonder how they will control the peoples’ needs, and how they can keep the people from recognizing that their needs have become a burden on the amassing of wealth by a very small percentage of the population. The workers have become a liability.

Capitalism is about supply and demand. The workers that were once valuable commodities are now in an oversupply and under demand position, as machinery replaces their roles.

The increase to the minimum wage was a paltry $2.40 an hour, but it might as well have been a rise to $50 an hour, or $100 an hour, because, as each year goes by, our oversupply of workers will increase, and the amount of jobs available will decrease. This long awaited wage hike will not matter in a very near future where most jobs have disappeared to technology.

We are engaged in a sound and fury that conceals the real basis of our fear and anger – we are many, but what is available to us is little. Today we fight for the staff of Tim Horton’s but tomorrow, we may be fighting for our own jobs and lives.

“Look, ” the stern faced keepers of the public purse tell us, “we need to give more money to the ‘job creators,’ so that they can make the jobs that will make you happy.  In exchange, we’re going to have to take away the social safety net. That seems fair to us.”

But the job creators always had the trillions of dollars necessary to create the jobs, either in their bank accounts or socked away in some tax haven. They just realized, a decade ago, that there was no reason to spend their own money to do so. They outsource the lowest paid jobs overseas, and patiently await the automation that will rid them of most other jobs.

VOLVO SWEDEN FORDIn times like this, we have to understand that fighting for the minimum wage of some not very desirable jobs is just one very small part of a problem that can only escalate. There are few solutions to that bigger problem.

So, despite our long term stakes and investment in the arc of capitalism that began somewhere around 1760, and that we’ve built with our own toil and sweat, what we should be contemplating is … what will be done with us when the need for our backs, our hands and our eyes no longer exists?

Can we count on those who hold wealth and power to provide some sort of Universal Basic Income? Or are our days numbered, as our value to ‘the machine’ dwindles down?

I’m just hoping our future wasn’t prophesied in the 1973 post-apocalyptic science fiction thriller, Soylent Green.

(that’s a joke! maybe … )