Meep Meep! and other Augusty Thoughts


No matter how you may feel about Senator John McCain‘s political past, with his recent demise, you cannot help but remember that he was a war hero, and a stand up guy. His passing leaves us short of what might have been the last real gentleman standing in the Senate. As his life becomes a memory, those who knew him well remind us of those moments that defined a Giant of the Senate and of a politician who frequently eschewed partisanship for a wholehearted defence of democracy.

Even in death, McCain holds firm to his principles. As I read this morning, “John McCain told friends months ago that he didn’t want Donald Trump at his funeral. Instead he wanted former President Barack Obama and former President George W. Bush to attend his funeral and deliver the eulogy. McCain famously lost to Bush in the 2000 Republican primary race for President, and then lost to Obama in the 2008 general election for President. Yet McCain chose these two men — one Republican and one Democrat — to eulogize him.

McCain thus ensured that his funeral would be bipartisan and inclusive, making it all the more glaring that current “President” of the United States wasn’t invited.”

Imagine what a horrific human being you have to be, to be barred from both McCain’s funeral, and the funeral of Barbara Bush. And this is the guy who thinks he deserves a Nobel Peace Prize. He couldn’t negotiate peace between the two types of candy in an M&M bag.

November can’t come soon enough ….

storms coming

 

In a week that hints of a possible end to the Trump administration’s reign of terror, it is a real comfort to know that the rule of law must ultimately prevail, even over an administration as venal and corrupt as this one.

And yet, there are still those that hold a grudging admiration for the Grifter in Chief, and his army of wily surrogates and spokespeople who seek to stop his feeling any sort of retribution for his heinous , malicious whims and vindictive executive orders.

wile e coyoteThey will assure you that they would never .. NEVER … vote for the Orange Manatee. But they just can’t help themselves from grinning – just a little – when he wriggles out of yet another moral or ethical dilemma.

It’s like Trump is the RoadRunner, constantly outwitting the smarter, but nonetheless ultimately hapless, Wile E. Coyote. 

For many who feel vaguely discontented with their lot, there’s a real anger towards ‘smart people,’ those who ‘caught the breaks,’ and are often considered part of a group that seems to be determined to keep the regular Joe down. There’s a resentment for those who have more success, and a belief that somehow, those guys had more, and unfair, advantages.

tall poppies 2Because of the tales and tropes we’ve grown up believing, there can be a real bitterness in some. It is as though they believe that intelligence is a negative characteristic, that should be hidden from others, or at least, played down with great modesty.

They believe that “Real Men” don’t have to study, let alone ‘think’ … Real Men just DO! They naturally have all the information they need to solve any problem, even if it’s not in their field, or their realm of expertise. They are simply born with that ability. It’s just something that ‘real men’ know in their always righteous guts.

So when a confident, if completely incapable, con man comes along – especially one that ticks so many of our culture’s other boxes .. he’s tall, he’s imposing, he takes no shit, he is in charge, he’s got a lot of women in his life, whether through matrimony or a lifetime of libertinism … those same people can feel like they’re looking at a man of action. If not a hero, then at the very least, an anti-hero, whom they can admire.

They look at this man who will literally shove aside other men to be fully spotlighted and in charge … and something inside them admires that brutality.

trump shoves PM of Montenegro

Mistaking recklessness for bravery, lasciviousness for virility, and self-preservation for selflessness, they are happy to carry the 72 Year Old Toddler‘s water.

The OranguTAN likes to come off as a sort of lovable rogue, always ready with a quip, even when it is completely inappropriate or critically cruel of others. It’s all about the luck, the wit, the simple act of being The Donald, rather than any sort of actual information, data or reality. He is completely averse to any pretension of knowledge, or the acquiring of same, disdaining his crucial daily briefs and demanding that they instead be solely bullet points and pictographs. Because a man of his stature, you see, must always be on the run, on the go, being a manly man, playing golf, grabbing pussies. Busy busy!

Eventually, of course, there will be retribution. But up until that fateful day, there will be many who will throw their careers and bodies in front of Mad King Donald, as he stumbles toward a possible impeachment and a probable indictment, believing that their loyalty will be rewarded, if not in the White House halls, than in the publishing offices where they will flog their memoirs for big bucks, in hopes of bringing joy to the slathering, puerile readers who will never come within a thousand miles of such proximity to ‘greatness.’

Until the day that the roadrunner catches Mr Wile E.

the muellering

……………………………………………………..

In the flurry of convictions, plea bargains, and requests for immunity this week, one long time comrade of the Gibbering Gibbon found his string of publications in the spotlight – and most definitely not in a good way.

David Pecker, notorious tabloid king, owns nearly every supermarket tabloid and gossip sheet in the United States, including the flagship publication National Enquirer. In an effort to get ahead of the rush of those seeking immunity deals, he’s admitted to having withheld stories detrimental to the Trump campaign, by using ‘catch and kill;‘ the practice of buying up a story and then burying it. This would very likely constitute an unlawful contribution to the Trump campaign of 2016.

He’s even admitted to having an office safe dedicated solely to stories and photos of Trump in flagrante delicto. This ain’t no Geraldo hoping for an Al Capone bonanza – this is the real deal.

But while we wait, and silently shudder at what might lie within the safe’s depths, I think it has to be noted that Pecker did not just hide Trump’s offences, he maintained a constant assault on Hillary Clinton throughout the course of the campaign, on his tabloid’s covers.

national enquirer hillary covers

Despite all this Democratic insistence of ‘going high when they go low,‘ this abuse of the public’s trust, in the lies and smearing of one presidential candidate in favour of the other, cannot be ignored. While the tabloids may be considered ‘entertainment,’ there are many parts of the United States when their words are considered ‘gospel,’ based mainly on how many lesser educated people were raised – to believe that words in print must be true, simply because they have been printed.

We already know a big chunk of Americans – the ones Hillary so rightly called ‘the deplorables‘ – did and do believe these accusations and lies. They continue to buy into Pecker’s steady drip of venom against Democrats, anti-gun activists, and civil rights advocates .. every damn Saturday when they pick up their groceries at the local Wegmans or Albertsons, and then trot down to the VA for a rousing chorus of “lock her up.’

If Hillary can’t bring herself to sue the bejeezus off this turd, a civil suit should be brought against his publications. His stories constitute a willful assault upon the attention spans of the ignorant and the poorly educated.

Lies, propaganda, and a relentless, overt attack on one candidate to assure the political success of another is not free speech – it is collusion between Trump and Pecker, and campaign meddling, and it needs to be acknowledged as such.

trump pecker enquirer

 

All The President’s Men


With two of Trump’s main cohorts, Paul Manafort and Michael Cohen, now actual convicted felons, it certainly looks like we’re nearing the end of a long and rocky road in American politics. Trump’s misdeeds are beginning to emerge thru the swampy miasma, and while he may continue to scream, “no collusion!” it’s becoming very clear that the ‘best people’ with whom he has surrounded himself, are not being ‘best’ at all. They are felons, and he himself is now the ‘unindicted co-conspirator‘ in the room.

The midterms will – if fair and unrigged – leave Trump in the same place Obama found himself after his first midterms … bound and gagged until his term peters out.

I wonder how these trump junkies are going to survive without their daily doses of vitriol and madness, from the twitler machine. His rage against .. well, everyone who is not him and who DARES to try and stop his putsch … is especially appealing to those who believe they’ve been ‘done the dirty’ by others. “How is it that everyone does not see my shining worthiness, and give me the respect I believe I’m due? ” these egotists wonder, these, the true “temporarily embarrassed millionaires” of whom Steinbeck wrote.

History and reality have no toehold here; the delusions run so deep that they are truly convinced that a loss of over 3 million votes still somehow guaranteed a mandate for their boy, and that ‘half the country’ wanted him .. instead of the barely 1/4th of the country that bothered to vote. Over 60 million people cast their ballots for Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton, while 59.8 million voted for Trump.

In truth, a total of less than 120 million our of the 250 million Americans eligible to vote in 2016, actually did, and out of that, he still lost. He has never had a majority .. no popular vote .. and certainly no mandate to reshape America in his gilded image.

They tell themselves that it was the ‘real American’ that wanted Trump .. the downtrodden, the grass roots, those left behind by the economy. But again, they are swallowing whole the lies fed to them by accomplished liars.

By income, Clinton led among voters with a 2015 family income of under $50,000 — a group that included 36% of the voters in the exit polls. In reality, Trump’s supporters were 70% white, and male, who earned, on average, between $80 and $90K a year.

Their votes were never about the economy, or the ‘good old days’ when America was ‘great’ .. it was about racism, and making sure that they kept themselves well fed, and that others had no place at the table.

It was about the Religious Right screaming about their own victimization, and their need to force their religious beliefs upon all Americans, like it or not.

It was about terrorizing a historically gullible nation, partial to conspiracy theories, by painting ‘the others’ – be they immigrants, refugees, Muslims or Mexicans – as a demonizing force, set on consuming America’s goodies like so many frenzied zombies.

They still insist that what they want is a better economy .. when they were already sitting on a terrific economy that is now being torn apart by foolish trade wars and a destabilizing of faith in America.

It was about painting ‘regular American’s’ as being taken advantage of by other nations, through globalization. The trade wars were put into place willy nilly, without foresight or forethought, or knowledge .. lead by Peter Navarro, a fool that Jared found on Amazon while he browsed for info on China, and whose theories have been soundly derided by any real economists.

But it made Americans feel good, because Trump told them they were victims .. and for some reason, being a victim that has evil done to THEM, rather than their being the one doing evil, is a historic change that makes a lot of Americans very happy.

They still insist that it is only the natives of other countries that ‘bought into’ the Obama story, regardless of the millions who march against their orange haired boy. They refuse to look at the millions of words written by economists, ecologists, and others far more educated and intelligent than themselves, to see that their boy lives in a fantasy world of his own making. (And it’s one that does not include them – never did, never will.)

advocates devilAs much as Trump’s ‘devil’s advocates‘ …. and has their ever been a truer name for those who twist and turn the law into something more favourable for their vile and demented client … attempt to ‘explain’ why every law, regulation, ethical consideration, or moral tenet he’s driven over actually ALLOWS him to have his way – the time is coming when, barring gerrymandering, vote rigging, and Russian interference … the evil spirit in the White House will be exorcised.

When that happens .. and it will … all of us who have been – willingly or unwillingly – jacked into politics, 24/7, are going to have to deal with a withdrawal from this poison. At first, it will seem like we want that intoxication back. Don’t kid yourself .. it’s gonna be a serious withdrawal.

But hopefully, little by little and day by day, we will eventually get back to a place where our days and minds are not continually hijacked by the worst president and horrific events that most of us have ever had to live though.

Hang in there … as with all addictions, it’s gonna be hard to get straight. But we can do it. The world needs us to do it.

 

You Get What You Give


neanderthalReally drastic times always have both positive and negative aspects. History is filled with major events that altered the path humans were on, and brought about new developments. The Black Plague. The Renaissance. Evolution itself, for that matter. We’re all happy homo sapiens now, but I’ll bet the Neanderthals weren’t too joyful when that branch of the family tree was sawed off.

We often bring on the catastrophes all by ourselves. I believe we’re bringing on some pretty serious alterations to our planet through climate change, and knowing that we did all of that environmental damage just by refusing to clean up after ourselves doesn’t make it any easier.

Sometimes the big bang that changes things illuminates how emotionally fragile humans really are, and how little they enjoy change of any kind. Oh, they say they want change, but actually dealing with alterations to the status quo gives them the heebie jeebies. They’ll second guess themselves into oblivion.

I don’t know about you, but I’m sick to death of hearing about how scared and confused American voters were, when they chose to elect a known – nay .. renowned! TV certified! … con man to run their country. How freakin’ delicate do you have to be to believe that someone, who has spent his entire life gleefully and repeatedly fleecing the rubes, really does have the answer to America’s problems? How emotionally unstable do you have to be to believe that a guy, who has nothing in the way of ideas or a proper platform, or experience in any form of politics, who has nothing but disdain for previous administration, will know how to deal with complex diplomacy? How incredibly naive are you to take the word of someone who promises to ‘repeal and replace’ the only health care insurance some have ever known, who claims that he, and he alone can ‘fix’ a broken America with a wave of his magic wand …. You wanted to be fooled, and you were.

What happened to that vaunted American Exceptionalism? When did it become more fashionable to play the victim than the victor?

Gimme that ol’ time religion ….

 

doug ford pussyDon’t get me wrong, I am well aware that it’s not just Americans who are that naive. There’s more than a few of these strongmen and wannabe or actual dictators scattered around the planet. Ontario may well be the next launching pad for another contemptible bozo who wears his racism, sexism and xenophobia proudly on his sleeve. Listen – I get it. You’re angry at Wynne, whom you feel has screwed up her time at the helm. So angry that you’ll throw away any progressive growth in the province in favour of a man who is the walking, talking embodiment of NIMBY?

You’ll get what you deserve, as the people always do. It’s not about electing the least offensive option, it’s about caring enough about your city, or province, or country to nurture safe, sane growth, while keeping those in charge accountable. You can’t wake up forty years down the road to ruin and ask, “wha’ happened?” We built this city and this country by turning a blind eye to suspect deals, cronyism and corruption, with each successive governance going further down the wrong path, and piling on more debt for our kids and grandkids. How many shady politicians have walked away from positions of power with full pockets and zero accountability for screwing over the electorate?

bullies on campusWhat you get instead of good candidates are guys like Trump and Ford, who are basically those asshat Big Men On Campus that you had to endure in senior high school or college. The big bullies who swagger down the corridors with their buddies, all of whom are both a little afraid and a little in awe of Biff’s cruelty, but who are far more afraid of getting on his bad side and having him lash out at them.

So they laugh when he shoves that kids with the glasses into a locker, or trips that nerd with a full tray in the cafeteria. They’ll guffaw when he spikes the punch, and talks smack about the cheerleaders, and leaves one or two of the girls pregnant. Because he’s got the power, they’ll go along for the ride, and reap what benefits they may from the scraps he leaves behind.

Of course, this kind of governance leaves behind damage far beyond Biff’s years on the football team, or Trump’s time in office. We’re still trying to get the science teacher’s Volkswagen down from the roof of the gym, and we may never get all that coal detritus out of America’s rivers.

new yorker quote Trump end daysAnd that’s assuming Biff leaves the building willingly …

We all must take responsibility for allowing the Biffs of the world to come to political power. We have to root out and trash the idea that the bullying, entitled, ‘big swinging dicks’ of the world have anything to offer the rest of us. They sneer at us, and view us with contempt. We are just the sheep they seek to fleece and lead to slaughter. They are the spoiled, the entitled, the corrupt, and they seek to profit from our naiveté. The tools that elect fools and criminals to office are our insecurities, fears, and prejudices, along with our willingness to let anyone else who’ll volunteer, to do the heavy lifting of keeping an eye on those who are supposedly running countries for the good of the people, and to make sure that they are not simply working for their own gain. These faults are what elect terrible people to the White House, or Parliament. Bad politicians are the reflections of our worst flaws.

bad choice worse choice. jpgIf we want better, we need to deserve better. And deserving better means actually caring about who is running your government. It means doing the research, understanding basic civics, having an opinion, and demanding that our elected officials listen to all of the electorate, not just the part that greases their palms. Elected officials need to be scrutinized as severely as any other public servant, because they ARE your servants, and they are well paid to do the will of the people. If we, as citizens, can’t be bothered to learn what it takes to run our cities or country, if we find it all too boring, and unimportant … then we’ll continue to be asked to choose between two or more terrible choices to lead.

Social media teems with trolls, rants, memes, and the lashing out of frustrated, angry people. It feeds the divisiveness and lack of empathy that will tear our worlds apart. Everyone has an opinion, but opinions are not facts. We now have solid proof that neither your drunk uncle nor your favourite armchair politician are actually the smartest, or the best qualified, to make the intellectual, diplomatic, decisions that enable countries to run smoothly.

We are not enabling our ‘better angels’ when we choose those who will control our governments by Facebook polls. If citizens truly want to have a say in how they are governed, they have to put in the work to be better citizens.

i love the poorly educatedAs George Carlin told us so very long ago, ” If you have selfish, ignorant citizens, you’re going to get selfish, ignorant leaders. Term limits ain’t going to do any good; you’re just going to end up with a brand new bunch of selfish, ignorant leaders. So, maybe, maybe, maybe, it’s not the politicians who suck. Maybe something else sucks around here… like, the public. “

t

Inaction and Consequences


There are risks and costs to action…But they are far less than the long range risks of comfortable inaction.          John F. Kennedy – 1917-1963, 35th U.S. President

Somewhere along the line – was it in the disco 70s? The ‘Me” decade of the 80’s? The Naughty 90’s? The despair of the Noughties?

Somewhere in there, we lost our way.rox-1964-5th-grade-lacademie-assomption

In the 1950s, we were all shook up, and in the sixties, we tuned in, turned on, and changed the world. We believed in ourselves and that our actions had global impact. And we were right.

But all that action was exhausting.  We couldn’t keep it up, and we were busy patting ourselves on the back for being so hip and cool and groovy. We had used our flower power to launch a civil rights movement, and to stop an unjust war! The U.S. landed a man on the moon! Now we dance!

civil rights 60s protest.jpgRetribution for the changes we had wrought came swiftly. Those who hate change targeted those who encouraged change. John F. Kennedy, Martin Luther King, Jr, Bobby Kennedy – all assassinated for daring to dream of a better world.

Racism and ignorance tore the bright and shiny dreams of peace and equality of the sixties into shreds, and now, it threatens to do so again. The way forward is not paved with bullets and brutality. The raised voice and fist of dictatorship enslaves;  it does not elevate a people or a culture, it tramples them into the ground.

Our years of ‘comfortable inaction’ have birthed some of the worst, most self-indulgent, and reprehensible political representatives of all time. Around the world, and at every level of government, the choices are dismal, with little to discern one corrupt, manipulative and greedy candidate from another.

Before you point the finger – know that you did this to yourselves. Know that wanting our own well-being at any cost, opting for indulgences as we decimated the middle class, slotting anyone who didn’t look or act like us into the reject pile of life … all of these ‘inactions,’  in the name of comfort, created the monsters we now see before us.

walle_interactionThe years of focusing on what made us happy; on choosing the cheap over the well-made (and in that group, I include the ‘heroes’ we pedestaled;) the crude and ugly brutality of racism and bigotry whipped up by leaders who chose fear of others as their platforms; the laziness of passionate if largely uninformed opinion over fact and reason; the years of “too long: didn’t read”  – all of those   combined – have given us the governments we deserve.

govt-we-deserveWe lost belief in ourselves, and demanded less of our leaders. We lost sight of the fact that every action we take has global impact. We refused responsibility. We chose comfort for ourselves over the welfare of the planet.

The actions we could have, and should have, taken in controlling our voracious greed for wealth and power, never happened.

And now we are reaping the long range risks of comfortable inaction.

Confronting the Higher Moral Ground


Rob Ford Funeral 20160328I’m taking a stand – against those who claim ethically superior principles based solely on their religious beliefs.  I’m sick of the mealy mouthed and the self-righteous who feel free to condemn everyone around them for not toeing some invisible moral line. Enough with placating the unplacatable; no one alive completely exemplifies what it is to be good in the eyes of all. Only the dead attain that status, and even then, usually only through memories conveniently fortified with whitewash, amnesia, and mawkish sentimentality.

sharia law anyoneSocial media and the ever slavering commercial media have been enjoying an all-you-can-eat outrage buffet this year, dining royally on the shock and awe of people actually daring to express and live their vaunted ‘freedoms.’ The last time I checked, neither Canada nor the U.S. were run by Sharia law, but there are days when you’d be hard-pressed to define what does make North America tick, from the hysteria of  the religious and sanctimonious morality squad.

Time and again the most publicly virtuous are exposed as privately lascivious, to our delight. What’s more fun than pointing out the hypocrisy of others, while we clutch our pearls in pretended disgust, and tsk tsk in clucking disapproval?

“Something tells me it’s all happening at the zoo. I do believe it, I do believe it’s true…”

We’re apparently still talking about the transgender bathroom controversy (and by controversy, I mean it’s been proven unconstitutional and condemned by the country, but a small group of people are still clinging to their mistaken and unproven belief that anyone with a different sexuality is evil and must be burned at the stake.)

The main proponents are self-styled experts with outsized holier-than-thou platforms, who have clearly neither understood nor even looked up the definition of transgender, which is; “denoting or relating to a person whose self-identity does not conform unambiguously to conventional notions of male or female gender.”

trans-v-transRather, these morons prefer to double down on their ignorance,  terrified and terrorized by the bad cross-dressers who live in the imaginary closets of their minds, not even realizing that for transvestites, it’s the dressing up that’s the fetish –  sorry, bud, you they don’t find attractive at all.

This very human propensity for characterizing and demonizing others isn’t new, but social media has added new fuel to the fire, since we can now share our disapproval lickety-split quick, and globally, to other people who haven’t time to ‘look into’ the individual offense, but will gladly scan the headline, kneejerk an opinion, add their own stamp of disapproval, and send it out to all those who have the misfortune of knowing them. Ah, brave new world!

It makes me tired. Countering resentment, bitterness, self-righteousness, and the envy of those who would act in the same way, given the same scenario and ability, if they could get away with it, is wearing me out. We publicly condemn the exposed, corrupt, billionaires, crying, “hang ‘em high!” while privately thinking that conning the poor and unfortunate was a pretty clever business plan – until they got caught.

shallow poolWe have become the equivalent of the crawl at the bottom of the TV screen, constantly commentating on what we shoulda woulda coulda done, had that bad thing happened to us.

These analysts cling to their opinions like their thoughts are official flotation devices, when in reality, they’re out of their depths in the shallowest of wading pools.

The only way to rationalize our instincts to do what feels good and makes us happy, despite societal restrictions, is to frame our requests in ways that dance around Bible Belt mentality. Legalize cannabis, because it has health benefits, we say. How can you deny the cries of the ill and injured?  Only a monster would withhold medication from those in need! Meanwhile, we downplay that pot can sometimes just be fun to ingest. Because fun … no no no! Give me a reason why you need pot, you filthy drug addict! Force me to reluctantly concede to make legal an herb that has been unfairly and falsely maligned for a century! (And then, once it’s as legal as alcohol and tobacco, we’ll all get together and indulge ourselves to our hearts content … no hard feelings, eh?)

No, this kind of soft policing by gossip, innuendo, and lack of evidence has got to stop. We have access to more information via our cell phones than any other civilization in history has ever had, and yet so many are backpedalling at top speed into wilful ignorance and pretended stunned condemnation of other people’s actions.

Celeb-Sex-Offender-ScandalsOn the one hand, we recognize that a shocking number of North American women – 1 in 4 –are sexually assaulted in their lifetimes, but when a beloved media icon is accused of assault, our immediate response is to reject the allegation, and find culpability in the actions of the victim, all the while spreading the word in hushed, salacious, tones.  For some twisted reason, we find it difficult to separate the creation and creators of art from the actions of abusers, even though history has shown us that celebrity does not guarantee innocence.

Here – I’ll prove it to you. These men have all been accused of, and either admitted publicly or in a court of law, that they were guilty, of abuse. I’ll bet at least one of these names will jump out at you, and propel you into a fit of injured defence: Bill Cosby, Woody Allen, Sean Penn, Eminem, Chris Brown, Mike Tyson,  Anthony Kiedis, Tupac Shakur, R Kelly, Jimmy Page, Michael Fassbender, Roman Polanski, Sean Connery, Tommy Lee,  Johnny Depp, Mystikal,  PeeWee Herman, Jeffrey Jones, David O. Russell,  Jared Fogle, Jerry Sandusky, Charles Dickens,  J.D. Salinger, Pablo Picasso.

And that’s before we even get to the more onerous, highly contemptible, disgraced politicians, like Dennis Hastert, former Speaker of the United States House of Representatives, who pleaded guilty to illegally structuring bank transactions  of $3.5 million to quash allegations of decades of sexual misconduct with students. Or the complete and utter hypocrisy of Bristol Palin, daughter of Sarah Palin, the Alaskan Bible Spice, popping out two illegitimate children while pocketing $1 million for promoting abstinence to American high school students.

That old reprobate, Newt Gingrich, illustrated beautifully the convoluted logic of these right wing politicians, caught in a web of discovered ethical misconduct, which nimbly deflects personal criticisms of wrong doing by taking a moral swipe at the dreaded liberal bogeyman

wrapped in a flag Palin “If we look at history from the mid-1960s, we’ve gone from a request for toleration to an imposition of intolerance. We’ve gone from a request to understand others to a determination to close down those who hold traditional values. I think that we need to be very aggressive and very direct. The degree to which the left is prepared to impose intolerance and to drive out of existence traditional religion is a mortal threat to our civilization and deserves to be taken head-on and described as what it is, which is the use of government to repress the American people against their own values.”

Separation of church and state be damned! Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain, or the flag he’s wrapped around himself.

Don’t even get me started on how many children’s’ lives have been ruined by the actions of those in religious authority. The insistence of those who claim to uphold ‘family values,’ while simultaneously playing the  divine, ‘get out of jail free card’ to excuse their own depravities, past and present, is beneath contempt.

Point being, there’s not just one or two bad actors out there, assaulting the defenceless – there’s an army of abusers who take whatever modicum of fame and power –  no matter how insignificant the power –  they possess, and misuse their authority.  We have to acknowledge that sex is only serendipitously the reason that there are 7 billion people on the planet –  sexuality is a driving force  that ensures the continuation of human life. anti masturbation crossBut it’s also the dynamic that compels some warped individuals to take violent sexual gratification from anyone or anything in their path. Rather than receiving the message that sex can be fun and fulfilling for the parties involved, as well as essential to procreation, they’ve had their own sexuality condemned as immoral and beyond control, leading those poor souls  to act out in ways that are truly immoral.

But we cannot address the sickness without addressing the root causes. The insanity of enforcing puritanical principles in a twenty-first century technology based world has to be laid bare, even at the cost of some offended sensibilities.

Is it too much to ask that humans, living in an unprecedented time of accessible information,  education and enlightenment, live up to their potentials? The modern world, so contemptuous of the presumed backwardness of Third World nations, needs to tell the mealy mouthed, fundamentalist critics to back off. There’s no moving forward for humanity as long as society has to pander to anti-intellectualism, hostility to science, formless fears, grievances, and the perpetually self-victimized walking wounded in the chronically under informed brigade.

Peter Cottontail Has Left the Building


cute bunnyThis week, leading up to Good Friday and Easter Sunday, has always been considered the Holiest of Holy weeks to Catholics. As a child, I looked forward to new shoes and a showy hat (women still had to wear them in church, back then) and a basketful of goodies – maybe even a chocolate bunny!

But that was then, and this is now, and it’s been a long time since anyone’s hunted for coloured eggs at my house. Peter Cottontail has left the building, and this week was a horror show all around, with bombings in Brussels, the ramping up of panic in America over both terrorism and Trump’s continued putsch to glory, interspersed with freezing rain, a dismal outcome (for many)  to the Jian Ghomeshi  trial, a Liberal budget that projects a $30 billion deficit, and a surprisingly negative response to the new Batman vs Superman movie. Oh, and the beer and liquor stores were closed for two days.

And you can add to that the shock accompanying hearing of the death of comedian Gary Shandling.  At 66, he was far too young, and we were not ready for his genius to leave us.

You will forgive me if this has been a week I’d prefer to forget.

The loss of another celebrity, former Mayor Rob Ford, also captured attention. I’ve written about him before, and my feelings about his tenure remain unchanged. So do the feelings of those who admired him. However, Torontonians who dared to pen anything more than a non-committal noting of his passing were soundly excoriated by their fellow citizens for not prostrating at his bier with enough respect.

rob ford dead headlinesThe world press had no such strictures.

Some people will try to convince you that their way to mourn is the only and correct way. I disagree. There is no ‘right way” to mourn, and demanding fealty at the point of a disapproving moral gun does not change the past. You would think that the unprecedented two day period of lying in state at City Hall (at the request of the family) would appease the bereaved, but apparently, that is not enough. Those who revered his blustering, bumbling ways would have us re-write history, in an effort to whitewash his misdeeds, and beatify him as Toronto’s savior.

MargaretThatcher 1992It’s all so very reminiscent of the post-death canonization of Margaret Thatcher. Reviled during her tenure for her hawkish policies, key role in bringing about the first Gulf War, and advocating  for the 2003 attack on Iraq, along with her ushering in of a period where the rich got richer at the expense of the poor, her influence negatively affected millions around the world. And yet, her canonization began just nanoseconds after word of her death hit the airwaves; she was lionized worldwide in the press, her state funeral cost Britain  £3.1 million pounds, and Iron Lady statues made of actual iron were erected in places as diverse as the Falkland Islands , despite Argentina’s fury.

Meanwhile, the song “Ding Dong the Witch is Dead” raced to the top of the British charts.

There’s a price to be paid for assuming a position of power – the admission includes having your life and history scrutinized and deemed worthy or unworthy, both by those who liked you and by those who didn’t, who still had to live with the impact of political actions. It is ‘misapplied death etiquette,’ as journalist Glenn Greenwald wrote, to be expected to apply the same moral high ground  we do to the deaths of private individuals as we do when considering the entirety of the life of an influential public figure.

There’s something distinctively creepy – in a Roman sort of way – about this mandated ritual that our political leaders must be heralded and consecrated as saints upon death. This is accomplished by this baseless moral precept that it is gauche or worse to balance the gushing praise for them upon death with valid criticisms. There is absolutely nothing wrong with loathing Margaret Thatcher or any other person with political influence and power based upon perceived bad acts, and that doesn’t change simply because they die. If anything, it becomes more compelling to commemorate those bad acts upon death as the only antidote against a society erecting a false and jingoistically self-serving history.”

http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2013/apr/08/margaret-thatcher-death-etiquettefacebook judges and lawyers.jpg

Ah, but the self-anointed social media judges and lawyers would disagree.

A video capturing an incident involving a young woman, confronted with parking in a handicapped space, went viral this week. Shot here in Toronto, in front of a Tim Hortons, the video showed her reaction to being caught – privileged outrage, threats, and the throwing of two cups of coffee at the videographer.

Surprisingly, many were more incensed by the videographer’s capture and sharing of the incident, than at the belligerent aggression of the scofflaw. Despite assaulting the photographer, and driving off in a huff, aiming her vehicle at the cameraman before swerving away, these commentators believed  she should not have been confronted, but rather, that the photographer should have ‘minded his own business.’

As the video went viral, international viewers were stunned to see her rudeness … aren’t all Canadians pretty much nice and polite people, they asked?  No, some, with possibly the best of intentions, are bullies.

Bullying in an attempt to force your morality, or personal and world views, onto others, is still bullying. I have one ex-Facebook friend who blocked my posts because her nephews follow her page, and she censors what they can see. Another Facebooker resented my questioning the morality of the actions of Israel towards Palestine, despite my information having come from a Jewish peace activist living in Israel.

And the culmination of the trial of Jian Ghomeshi unleashed some of the vilest comments I’ve ever seen directed at alleged victims of assault. The women were ‘liars,’ ‘manipulative,’ ‘shameful fame seekers,’ ‘femitards,’ ‘toxic bitches,’ and worse. Despite the fact that a total of 21 women had originally come forward to complain, with identical accusations, about Ghomeshi’s weird ideas on sex play, only three were brave enough to appear in court, and all three were pummeled with relentless demands to answer questions about, not just the attack, but trivial events of a decade past – what lawyers like to call ‘whacking’ – while Ghomeshi sat silent.  (ghomeshi cosby.jpg)

The judge’s decision acquitted Ghomeshi, but also noted that his verdict did not mean these events ‘never happened.’ The judge simply didn’t believe the women’s testimony, flawed as it was by misremembered events, private messages between two of the accusers, and contact with the accused after the fact.

For women of every political stripe, the decision was flawed, and the system biased. At City Hall, one naked protester was unnecessarily and roughly tackled to the ground, her nipples scraping the pavement as she was dragged away by the police. Despite nudity being legal in Canada, the uptight citizens must not be discomfited by the sight of a woman’s breasts.

From a story released by the CBC: “While former CBC Radio host Jian Ghomeshi’s acquittal has sparked protests, many within the legal community are praising the decision, agreeing with the judge that the complainants’ credibility issues raised reasonable doubt in the case.”

By implication, stating that “many within the legal community” support the decision, dismisses by extension those who found the decision as to be  ill-informed. In actual fact, many of those who have criticized the decision are academic and legal scholars.

Am I biased? Perhaps. Or is the system itself flawed? At the beginning of the month, a report filed by the Criminal Lawyer’s Association found that women were leaving the field of criminal law in dramatically high numbers, due to systemic discrimination.

 “It found low pay, lack of financial support for maternity leave and being treated differently than male peers by judges and court staff as some of the reasons so many women are leaving private practice of criminal law,” reported Maureen Brosnahan for the CBC. “Many women also reported a lack of respect and being treated differently than male lawyers by court officers, police, crown attorneys and judges. One reported being called “little lady” repeatedly. Others said they were chastised for asking judges for time to pick up children from school whereas their male counterparts who made similar requests were not rebuked.”

Whether or not it is possible to change how sensitive cases are handled in an atmosphere where women are routinely marginalized, it’s still time for an honest reappraisal of how sexual assault cases are conducted in Canada, especially in the face of the numbers.

“In Canada, the low rates of conviction for sexual assault are an indictment of the system itself. As a 2014 Toronto Star article revealed using Statscan data from 2004 and 2006, 460,000 women self-reported sexual assault: 15,200 reported to the police, 5,544 charges were laid, with 2,824 prosecutions and 1,519 convictions. Again, that’s almost a half million self-reported assaults, and 1,519 convictions. Something is deeply wrong.”

 Understandably – and not because we are stupid or legally naive, but because 1 in 4 women has experienced a sexual assault in her lifetime, and has a strong personal stake in how this case concluded – many women were incensed at the Ghomeshi decision.

Enter ‘mansplaining.’

Either unable or unwilling to see how angry and hurt many women are by the Ghomeshi decision, mansplainers flocked to the posts women made about their feelings on the ruling. “Read the decision,” they intoned, as though we were either too stupid to understand, or blind to the many gloatings of those who’d ‘called it’ from the beginning, and who were dancing in joy at both the decision and having been proved right.

Hey! Your side won! Now could you take your foot off my neck so that I can sympathize and empathize with women who feel as I do, stunned at the inevitability of once again, being re-victimized  post-assault?

Are you so utterly deaf to the agony of people in pain that your only recourse is to repeat incessantly that ‘justice has been done?’  willful blindness

Or as one woman keened in her blog, “How can you be so blind? How can you insert yourself into a woman pouring her grief out, to tell her that legally, she has no case? That what happened to her, didn’t factually happen. To throw a smothering blanket on the fire igniting in her. She has no reality. The law is the reality. It is the neutral, the official record. It is gas lighting on a massive scale.

So I know perhaps the evidence wasn’t there, or that the burden of proof wasn’t met. And I don’t fucking care. This isn’t about this one case. This case was inevitable, like watching a lemming marching to its doom.

It’s every fucking time. Every time. The mundanity of the oppression, the predictability of the reaction, the backlash that follows. “      (https://afateofpossibilities.wordpress.com/2016/03/25/this-isnt-about-the-ghomeshi-case/)

It is indeed gaslighting. It’s telling people that their emotions are invalid, that what they see and feel has no wegaslighting2ight. It’s a way to keep those who disagree with you off balance, wondering if perhaps what they perceive isn’t real, casting doubt on their mental stability, pointing to others that agree with YOUR beliefs as proof that THEY are in the wrong. It is psychological abuse. And it’s an ugly way to treat anyone.

The overwhelming miasma of this week – at least for me – has been one of outraged, self-righteous, phony, morality gone mad, and overwhelmingly imposed upon all in its path. Think as I think, believe as I believe, abandon your own truths and take on mine.

Whether it be Trump calling the beleaguered city of Brussels ‘a hellhole,’ or Cruz demanding strict policing of American Muslims in their own neighbourhoods; police manhandling protestors, or judges calling women deceitful and self-serving, it’s not been a good week to have a high Emotional I.Q., and a low tolerance for sanctimonious public principles forced upon the social order by the court of public opinion.

Speak-your-truth Ghandi

 

(first published  March  27/16 (bobsegarini.wordpress.com/2016/03/27/roxanne-tellier-peter-cottontail-has-left-the-building)

Interesting Times


May you live in interesting times.” Not a blessing, some say, but a curse, as though only times of peace and contentment are to be appreciated and enjoyed.

Perhaps we mean it ironically, as all times, across all eras, have had interesting aspects. Specific conditions change, but people still bend or break in reaction. Those who lived through the Great Depression, World Wars, Kennedy’s assassination, the Age of Aquarius, and the onset of the Computer Age, came out the other end either subtly or grossly altered. And those who look back fondly at rosy tinted times are prisoners of nostalgia, blinded by imaginings that neatly snip out the bits that disturb the dream.

beauty in chaosSo many dread and fear changes to their lives, and yet, there can be great beauty in chaos. Certainly, coping with new information can be problematic, but without profound change, we are static and boring. We even bore ourselves when life becomes nothing more than a forced march through our days, stuck deep in a rut of habit and preconceptions. Creativity demands a spur. You cannot rage against that with which you have not grappled.

We can try to hide away when change threatens our equilibrium. Or we can rush toward change, willing to embrace whatever life throws at us. Either way, change will come. The only difference will be in how you accept the inevitable.  Will you accommodate the newness, incorporating what is different, and weaving its strands into your existence? Or will you rail impotently at what is to come, in a foolish attempt to cling to the past, to slow down what cannot be stopped?  The present doesn’t care. The present continually dances to each new reality, with or without your approval.

The refusal to embrace change has reached its zenith in American politics. Long groomed by the Religious Right and a lockstep Republican party‘s fanatical refusal and repudiation of science and actual facts, a good part of the nation now stumbles along behind the Godzilla of Gaslighting, a man so devoid of empathy for his fellow man (or woman) that he feels free to tar whole segments of humanity with his own prejudices and biases. A textbook narcissist, willing to say or do anything to stay in the spotlight, and keep a constant stream of attention upon his silly self, he manipulates his followers through their nostalgic yearning for happier times … Make America Great Again, he cries, as though only he has Willie Wonka’s golden ticket to the future. The future he’s selling, though, seems to have to first detour through the past.

He wants to return America to the “good old days,” when life was simple. Well, simple for a certain segment of society, before civil rights and equal rights. Not so good, and a giant step backwards, for women, people of colour, or immigrants, be they legal or illegal.

we hope we despairHis followers yearn for an America that never existed except on film. They are led not so much by what he says, but what they fear – reality itself. They want to stop the world, just for a while, “just until we figure out what’s going on.”  He’s going to make life all better, more understandable, and “you’re gonna love it. There will be so much winning, you’ll get sick of winning.”

Like a slimy, used car salesman , the Sultan of Slurs seduces with words of no more than three syllables, absolutely devoid of facts or actual plans, and replete with self-aggrandizement. “I will tell you this, and I can say it with certainty: I will be the greatest jobs producing President that God ever created. I love the subject, I love doing it, and I love helping people.”

TheTrumpHouse.jpgDespite zero political experience, and a chequered, peppered with bankruptcy, past, he has nonetheless captured the lazy and the selfish, those who have yet to grasp that they are being sold a bill of goods. It seems almost preordained – behold your next President, brought to you by a media that prizes sound bites over content, the election reduced to a simple transaction between a seller and a buyer. And bought by those too foolish to grasp the precept, “if it seems too good to be true, it probably is.”

Meanwhile, politicians with actual platforms run smack into that same unwillingness to grasp change, or hope for the future. After declaring in Ohio that her coal plan would “put a lot of coal miners and coal companies out of business,” Hillary Clinton, with almost terminal foot in mouth disease, was soundly booed and condemned by coal country lawmakers.  Meanwhile, the $30 billion alternative being offered for investment in the clean-energy economy was completely dismissed. Because, yes, there will be more jobs in clean energy, but for those who’ve spent a lifetime in coal mining, it’s a leap too far, particularly for people with little confidence in current government And especially since, as former Representative Barney Frank put it, “the likelihood that 58-year-old coal miners are going to become the solar engineers of the future is nil.

That guy is more likely to be thinking, “if Black Lung and lung cancer were good enough for my dad … they’re good enough for me.”

nothing but a twigDespair. Fear.  Anger.  So much anger.  Anger that simmers just below the surface, until released in the form of the fist of a 78-year old man, sucker punching a young, black dissenter. A  mindless, impotent, unending anger against politicians, Wall Street, terrorists, immigrants snatching the few remaining jobs, governments kinder to corporations than its voting citizens. Anger against a dream denied, a life that might have been, a life ‘as seen on TV.’  An anger that is fear disguised as action and reaction.

This is an extraordinary time full of vital, transformative movements that could not be foreseen. It’s also a nightmarish time. Full engagement requires the ability to perceive both.” Rebecca Solnit

The stories that are told to us, and the stories we tell ourselves, about our pasts, our presents, and our possible futures, reflect only one aspect at a time. If the narrator chooses to emphasize the negative over the positive, our emotions can be twisted, causing us to accept or reject the narrative. It’s often very much in how you look at things that determines how the experience ends.opportunities

This same society, this same world, which can be perceived as cold and unforgiving, can also be a place of wonder and delight. Each step forward, plagued as it can be by those who resent change, represents shifts in ideas and perspectives. Social change is happening. The very framework of how we view sexuality is shifting.  There are progressive advances in the sciences that we would never have anticipated, even months ago. All of these marvels are going on in real time, minute by minute. But if your expectations are shaped by those who desperately cling to the past, you’ll be stuck back there with them. If all you are focused on is what is temporarily amusing, or that which jibes with your own, delicate, beliefs, you’ll blink and miss glimpses of your future.

We have little control over the times in which we live. Indeed, no one has total control of anything, or anyone, other than themselves, and even that doesn’t always run smooth. So you may as well surrender to uncertainty. When we are willing to step into the unknown, free from all preconceptions, those ‘interesting times’ become the opening notes to a symphony of possibilities.

 

(first pubished March 20/16: bobsegarini.wordpress.com/2016/03/20/roxanne-tellier-interesting-times/)

Legalize It!


charlie-brown-footballI’m sure it wasn’t the Canadian government’s intention to play Lucy snatching the football away before Charlie Brown can kick it. But it’s getting harder and harder to trust that the Trudeau government has any intention of following through on promises to legalize and/or regulate marijuana use, medically or recreationally.

Canadian voters feel betrayed. We all had our own reasons to reject the Harper government, but the Liberal election campaign put the pot issue front and centre as a large part of the Liberal Party policy initiatives, that “breath of fresh air” we were told was coming to Ottawa. A lack of action on this issue betrays the constituency that voted the Liberals into office, and paints the party as no different to the Conservatives, who at least made their rejection of legalization cut and dried.

Health Canada MMAR_CARDOn Wednesday, roughly 500,000 medical cannabis users in Canada over the age of 25 got a small reprieve from the fear of imprisonment for possession, when a Federal Court judge struck down a ban on home growing. The previous government had put that into place when Ottawa moved to a system of large-scale commercial producers, once more putting commerce before citizens’ needs.

Justice Michael Phelan ruled that those new bans were “over broad and arbitrary,” effectively forcing patients to choose between their medicine and prison, and added, “I agree that the plaintiffs have, on a balance of probabilities, demonstrated that cannabis can be produced safely and securely with limited risk to public safety and consistently with the promotion of public health.”

There are around two dozen commercial producers right now, who ship legal, dried marijuana and cannabis oils to about 30,000 patients. Even under the new math, that still means the other 470,000 patients are getting relief elsewhere.

One of the arguments put forward has been that if people are allowed to grow their own, ‘everyone’ will do it. Really? Just like ‘everyone’ brewing their own beer and making wine in their homes has decimated legal trade in alcohol? Neither the Beer Stormarijuana_poll_c_mfe nor the LCBO seem to be hurting for customers.

Having the right to grow your own doesn’t mean every user wants to do so. Not everyone wants to tend to plants, even if they’re looking forward to the harvest. The plants stink, for one thing, which might be a big deterrent to someone with cancer treatment induced nausea. And it’s hard to imagine that someone with a long-term or terminal illness wants to spend much of their precious time worrying that the plants are getting enough light, or that they’ve remembered to water and fertilize regularly.

But more importantly, a large percentage of Canadians admit to using marijuana, whether medically or recreationally, for the same reasons their parents used alcohol – relaxation and pain relief. The Liberals won the last election with a promise to legalize pot. We were told that process could take more than a year. What we didn’t expect was that Bill Blair, parliamentary secretary to the justice minister and Toronto’s former police chief, would be put in charge of the task force to consult and craft new laws around marijuana.

Blair, a by-the-books hard ass who famously oversaw the utilization of violent repression against protesters at G8/20, has insisted the government will take proper time to consult and proceed with caution — and he wouldn’t even commit to passing legislation before the next federal election.

At the same time, licensed producers have been lobbying the government for a role in recreational production. The big pharmacy chains like Shoppers Drug Mart are drooling over the chance to sell the drug. Municipalities, meanwhile, are dealing with the proliferation of illegal dispensaries.

Clive Weighill, president of the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police, is begging the government to clear up the confusion his officers are facing.

“Right now it’s just a big fog,” he said. “We know it’s going to be legalized, but we don’t know how it’s going to happen, who’s going to be consulted. If they could just come out with a real bare bones action plan, just so the Canadian public can say OK, these are the steps we’re going through.” 

cannabis-flag-crowds-560x420Enforcing a law that the government has declared it will eliminate is not just confusing, it’s unethical. There is no moral basis for enforcing a law that remains on the books, even as the government moves towards repeal. The people spoke to the ethical standards of the community when they elected the Liberal Party with a very strong mandate. I’ll say it again: It is unethical and immoral to continue enforcing a law that is in the process of being repealed.

As Blair fiddles, thousands of users keep getting burned for possession, and the black market continues to thrive.

BillBlairL4LBlair has said that the goal is to strictly regulate the drug, restrict its access to minors, and to take billions of dollars in black market sales away from organized crime groups. He’s just going to need … oh .. about four years … to do that.. Blair, it’s shit or get off the ‘pot’ time, indeed.

The Trudeau government needs to take a long, hard look at Blair, and admit he’s just not the right choice for the job. You’re allowed to make mistakes in hiring, as long as you admit to the mistake and correct it. Blair himself called the number of Canadians charged with possession “shocking,” noting that in 2014 alone there were 22,000 charges laid, and that minority and aboriginal communities are disproportionately affected.

alcohol-vs-marijuanaBlair says his concern is ‘public health.’ That flies in the face of science, as both Canadian and American scientists, amongst others, determined more than thirty years ago that marijuana was not dangerous and in fact had many scientifically-documented, medically beneficial, uses.

Ah, but it’s not that simple, says Blair. Why yes. Yes it is. It’s as simple as buying a can of beer or a pack of cigarettes. Alcohol and tobacco are 100% legal and have risks for ALL users, and often, those around them. But they’re legal.

It is that simple. This was a hot button, contentious, election promise and it needs to be kept. Sell cannabis at liquor stores or pharmacies or dispensaries, tax it, and require government issued ID to purchase it. weedmarket_29001We already have an existing legal framework for the regulation of alcohol and tobacco. States in the U.S. have hammered out regulations, and are reaping the tax benefits and new employment from the sales.

It took Colorado 34 days, from November 6th, 2012 when the citizens voted to legalize, until December 10th, 2012 when it became legal. This is not a four year process unless you make it one.

Crocodile tears don’t cut it, Blair. What’s the real reason you’re dragging your feet on this, beyond your own bias? What’s your basis for continuing to prosecute and persecute people who use a substance less dangerous than alcohol, tobacco, or even over the counter aspirin? pot-law-300

Cannabis activist Jodie Emery may have nailed the problem. “We need a moratorium on arrests and we need amnesty for two million Canadians since 1965 who have been given criminal records,” she told CBC News Network’s Power & Politics.

Well, that just flies in the face of our bloated, inefficient prison system, doesn’t it! Continued arrests and prosecution of cannabis are a waste of taxpayer money, but they sure do keep the police and prisons busy! Why aren’t the police instead focused on pursuing hard drugs like meth, and cracking down on large importers and its producers? Is it because the low hanging fruit just looks so much juicier? cannibis charges

And devising complicated new laws and regulations covering every possible misuse or abuse of marijuana is nothing but a ‘make work’ project. There are already laws in place that cover every possible scenario. Some kid creeps into your backyard and steals your plants? That’s trespass and theft. Charge the kid. Some guy has 100 stinky plants growing in his house, or gawd forbid, his rented apartment? That’s a commercial business, not allowed on personal property. And destruction of rental property carries some hefty fines, if not jail time. Step away from the grownup blowing a joint, and go bust the real criminals.

pot smoking mountieThis is not rocket science. Every nitpicking argument has been discussed and discarded, to the satisfaction of everyone but the most self-righteous and sanctimonious pearl clutchers. There will always be those who are against the legalization of anything, be it booze, pot, or completely naked strippers. Get over it. This is supposed to be a democratic nation, where adults make choices at their own considered risk. Continuing to ‘police’ the consumption of a drug less harmful than most of the ‘prescribed’ drugs on the market is outrageous and condescending.

Legalizing it should be done arbitrarily and without debate, the same way that it was originally criminalized in 1923, when it was added to the list of dangerous narcotics. High handed prohibition based primarily on a need to control and on personal bias, disregards the people’s right to self-determination and denies them the right to make personal choices in their own lives.

charlie brown Oh no not againSimply taking what was once illegal and rendering it legal by government proclamation has been done throughout Canada’s history. Dragging out decriminalization/legalization as a policy point necessary for re-election will ensure the Liberals lose the ground they won in the last election. Just another promise not kept, the voters manipulated for political gain. The current government ignores that reality at their own peril.

***

Speaking of ignoring the voice of the people, the ‘unelectable’ Bernie Sanders continues to pick up momentum in the United States, despite a media that focuses on an increasingly bombastic and power mad Donald Trump, who very much seems to be in the grip of a psychotic break.

Sanders’ followers are as desperate to get out from under their current government as we Canadians were during the last election. His latest campaign ad captures the excitement and creativity inherent in his promises. Is asking for transparency in government, and real equality for all, doomed to failure? I guess we’ll find out in November.

Bernie’s new campaign ad rocks!

 

(first published Fe 28/2016 -bobsegarini.wordpress.com/2016/02/28/roxanne-tellier-legalize-it/)

Music City My Ass


Every time I see an article lauding Mayor John Tory’s ‘inspired’ idea of turning Toronto into a ‘Music City,’ I get queasy. You see, I came to Toronto in 1976, when it really WAS one, and have watched succeeding local governments and well-heeled blue noses, waving the banners of political correctness and money over art, stomp the culture to death.

Being a great deal older now than I was then (it happens,) I understand, at least in part, why the city had to change from what – to me – was a cornucopia of musical delights, as dirty and scary as it was,, into what it is today … a staid dowager in corsets trying desperately to seem hip.

IYorkville disco 70sn ’76, the Yorkville of the sixties was already undergoing gentrification, with trendy shops springing up where head shops once ruled, and the few hippie hold outs clinging to their properties out of loyalty or desperation. Disco fevered platformed shoes trod the sacred ground in front of the Riverboat as  I’d wander through on the way to The Morrissey at Yonge and Davenport.

The scene had already moved on to other areas, with Yonge Street the main rock drive, and club after club rocking exceptional talent, with rarely a cover charge, six nights a week, cheek by jowl with strip clubs, massage parlours, peep shows, and sex shops. Sleazy, garish, lewd and loud, the Strip was very much like New York’s Time Square of the period, ugly and yet so seductive. And everybody smoked like chimneys – inyonge st pedestrians the clubs, the patios and the streets.

Gay men and women flocked to the Church and Wellesley area, where they could feel safer than on the butchier Strip. Although this year’s Pride Week and Parade celebrating sexual and gender identity will have sponsors as diverse as TD Canada Trust, Bud Light, Via Rail, and Google+, back then, openly gay people were widely marginalized, shunned, and attacked in the mainstream media and politics. bathhouse raids rageIn 1975, “tiny perfect” mayor David Crombie sent his best wishes to Pride’s organizers, but refused to officially recognize Pride, while City Council declined permission for a Yonge Street march .

And in 1981, Metro Toronto police made the second largest mass arrest in Canadian history when 306 people where busted in the infamous bathhouse raids. It was safer hanging out at `the steps` in front of the Second Cup on Church and Wellesley.

However heteros were in luck in 1975, when the city legalized full nudity for strippers. It became zanzibar1.jpgpretty common for the bigger bars to have strippers by day, and live bands at night.

Black American R&B and soul stars, sick to death of segregation and persecution in their own country, flocked to play the BlueNote, the Edison, and the Colonial Tavern, where they were enthusiastically received. the colonial

Prior to new hate-speech laws of 2007, the biggest reggae acts out of Jamaica would visit Toronto at least twice a year. Anti-gay language in many of their songs, while common in their country, was not welcome here.

The city was dirty, and exciting, and counter culture was hiding in neighbourhoods that were being redefined to suit their residents’ tastes.   Queen West was where you went to find head shops and record stores, and check out the Sally Ann for vintage clothing stores. Later, it was Toronto’s punk centre, as the kids from OCA made their own music. And later still you’d find Chris Sheppard spinning at Club Domino before heading up the long thin stairs to the Voodoo Club.

You could have shot a cannon along King West any time after business hours, and never hit a soul,in the late 70s. In the 80s and 90s, street kids and skin heads hung out at the Evergreen Centre, which, though nominally a drop in, support centre for kids, was actually where you went to score drugs. You could get a whole tray of draft beer at the Gasworks for about $5.00 if you bought it before the bands started, and cheap quarts fuelled a lot of rockers through the hot nights.

the-knobby-1.jpgOut in Scarborough, clubs like the Knob Hill boasted top local talent while the waiters, legends themselves, sold watery draft for a quarter a glass. In Richmond Hill, anyone who was anyone hung at the Black Hawk Motor Inn.

 

 

There really were so many amazing clubs in diverse areas, reflecting the different interests and sounds Toronto wanted to hear. And yes, there was a “Toronto Sound,” and you knew it when you heard it.

So what killed that diverse, energetic culture? Couple of things – and most involved the corporatization of the city. In a quest to bring in funds for the city, ridiculous and arcane licensing regulations picked the pockets of bar owners. It was only last year that the city issued a memo stating that music venues would no longer be ticketed for posters – usually posted by the bands desperate to market a rare gig – advertising their shows.

Yorkville fell to gentrification, and soon, anywhere that the kids flocked began to look like prime real estate. Watching Queen West change from funky to glitz was painful enough for those who’d loved its grunge, but harder still on the residents and business owners who’d made it what it was. Rents soared until a club was walking such a thin profit margin that an off winter could bury them. These days, a shop or bar owner in Kensington Market is looking at paying from $3500 to $9000 a month for basic rent, with virtually no owner maintenance applied. Riverdale , Parkdale, Dufferin Grove, the Junction – all fallen to gentrification that brings more big bucks to those who already have the big bucks, and leaves previous residents out of luck for a reasonable price on a place to live or play.

No one is FOR drunk driving, but the founders of MADD went a little mad themselves as they ground down and down to get to the current laws. Drivers under 21 cannot have ANY alcohol in their blood when driving. Over 21, you have to have a blood alcohol level that is lower than .05%, essentially what you’ll get from a non-alcoholic beverage. You don’t even have to be in a moving car to get an impaired driving violation. If you are sitting behind the wheel of a vehicle, moving or not, and have too much alcohol in your system you can get a fine, lose your license and face other penalties.

 And for all the fuss over drinking and driving, I’m trying to remember the last time I saw a club that gave free non-alcoholic beverages to a “Designated Driver”.

no smoking anywhere If you smoke in Toronto, good luck. It’s getting harder and harder to find a place, inside or out, where you can light up. When the new law of not smoking on patios took effect, I knew they’d gone too far. Can’t drink, can’t smoke … what do you do? Why go to a bar at all? May as well stay home – assuming your apartment or condo allows smoking – and drink without the hassle.

The whole corporate model of making money at the expense of art just doesn’t work long term, There’s less investment in the arts – last year, ScotiaBank pulled funding for Nuit Blanche, Caribana, BuskerFest and the CHIN International Picnic. Responding to the dog whistles of stockholders that must have their profits leads to the death of corporate sponsorship of the arts. And good luck with sponsorship of counterculture art. The Big Bop gets torn down to become an upscale furniture store. Liberty Entertainment closes alt-rock venue the Velvet Underground at 510 Queen West to focus on growing its portfolio of wine bars.toronto_opera2.jpg

While donating multiple millions of dollars’ worth of land and funds to conventional arts palaces like the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts, Toronto City Council quibbles over what constitutes sound restrictions applied to bars. Thou shalt have no music louder than 45 db after 11 pm. A library clocks in at 50-70, a restaurant with no live band at about 90-100. This is progress?

Municipal licensing issues debate over whether a venue is a restaurant with a bar attached, or an entertainment venue. Despite a 2012 report by lobby group Music Canada that outlined ridiculous restrictions to entertainment venues that give ample room for official interpretation (and fines,) the City still loves its condo owners a lot more than it does its club owners. You can read the full report here (http://musiccanada.com/resources/research/toronto-music-city/)

The ‘idea’ of making Toronto a “Music City” is great. In practice, there needs to be a great deal more cooperation on the part of the City in how it deals with current and future venues. What’s been forgotten in a lust for overall incoming revenue from ticket sales, corporate sponsorship and enhanced tourism is that you don’t just add water and stir up a musical culture … it’s made by musicians who fall far outside of the strictures imposed by those who can afford to attend the venues government has deigned to sponsor. It’s made in alleyways and smoky bars, it includes over indulgence in both legal and illegal substances, and it’s a cry AGAINST what Mayor Tory and his Council represent.

Music-City-panel.jpgIf Toronto is serious about doing more than endlessly discussing what they`d do for the city if they could, but apparently can`t, they`ll have to do better than the recent WaveLength panel on The Toronto Music Moment. The latest meeting, held on January 31st saw Jonny Dovercourt and moderator Emily Scherzinger along with Amy Terrill (Music Canada, 4479 Toronto), Daniel Silver (U of T Sociology, Chicago Music City researcher), Rolf Klausener (The Acorn, Arboretum Festival) and Ayo Leilani (Witch Prophet, Above Top Secret, 88 Days of Fortune) hash through basically the same points they did on previous gatherings, and presumably will rehash again at next year`s meeting.

Oh, sure, there are pockets of musical fun to be had in Toronto, and certainly, when the music fests start rolling out in a few months, there will be whole weeks where it seems like the city comes alive in technicolor.

But the following week, the smiles will drop from the faces of the law, the controls will snap back into place with a vengeance, and you’ll once more be unable to get ready public transit from point A to point B. The RIDE programs will stop a lot of entertainment seekers from having more than one beverage, and smokers will try desperately to find somewhere they can still indulge their (legal) vice.

You don’t get to have a clean, politically correct, easily controlled society and still call yourself a ‘Music City.’

(originally published Feb 2016 – bobsegarini.wordpress.com/2016/02/21/roxanne-tellier-music-city-my-ass/)

 

Are You For Real?


We’re in ‘the teens’ of the 2000s, but let’s not wait for 2020 to get some hindsight. We’re getting weirder, folks, weirder and less able to distinguish truth from lies, and fact from fiction. Could a Donald Trump, 100% fact free, have ever gotten a toe hold on an American presidential race in any other way or time?trump would own carson

Selective narrative, anecdotal evidence, weasel words, temporizing, fatuous politispeak, points that are true out of context or cunningly reframed to suit the narrative, the pedestaling of personal opinion over scientific fact … you’re soaking in it.

Exhibit A: THAT dress. A woman posted a washed-out photograph of a dress on Tumblr, sparking a flurry of 10 million tweets within one week. The picture and argument made its way around the world – was the dress blue and black, or was it white and gold? Why could we not believe our own eyes? white gold blue black dress

A 2015 scientific study with 1,400 respondents found that 57% saw the dress as blue and black, 30% as white and gold and about 10% as blue and brown, while approximately 10% could switch between any of the colour combinations. A small number saw it as blue and gold. Women and older people disproportionately saw the dress as white and gold. The scientists further found that if the dress was shown in artificial yellow-coloured lighting almost all respondents saw the dress as blue and black, while they saw it as white and gold if the simulated lighting had a blue bias.” (Wikipedia.com)

2015 was a year where people would fight to the death over matters big and small. In a time when it is possible to discover nearly anything about anyone, misinformation ruled and our minds reeled. brian williams ratpack.jpg

Respected NBC news anchor Brian Williams admitted to lying about an event he claimed to have been a part of during the Iraq War, and was suspended without pay from Nightly News for “misrepresenting.” Fair enough – who hasn’t beefed up an old story to make yourself look better? We tsk-tsked, but really … we didn’t care.

rachel-dolezalBut when Rachel Dolezal was outed for “misrepresenting” herself as a person of colour – boy did we care, even if we couldn’t really understand why she would choose to do so. Most confused were those who have actually spent their lives dealing with being born black in America. For them, there was no possibility of simply claiming to be white, for whatever reason. And yet, Dolezal, born white, lived as though born black, and became a leader of her local chapter of the NAACP. Was this cultural appropriation or a woman dealing with a severe mental issue? We cared, and we argued.

bruce caitlyn jennerBruce Jenner transitioned into Caitlyn Jenner, and became a cover girl and representative for an entire group of people many weren’t even aware existed. What was going on, we wondered? Was nothing as it appeared?

In the summer, pro-life activists claimed to have a video that showed a Planned Parenthood executive negotiating a price for fetal tissue, The footage was recorded secretly during a lunch meeting on July 25, 2014, between Deborah Nucatola, the senior director of medical services at Planned Parenthood, and two people posing as employees of a company looking to procure fetal tissue for research purposes. The video, as released, was heavily edited to cut out Nucatola repeatedly saying its clinics wanted to cover their costs, not make money, when donating fetal tissue from abortions for scientific research.

The full video shows that after Nucatola mentions the $30 to $100, she describes how those amounts would be reimbursement for expenses related to handling and transportation of the tissues. Nucatola talks about “space issues” and whether shipping would be involved.” (http://www.factcheck.org/2015/07/unspinning-the-planned-parenthood-video/)

planned parenthood health stats.jpgAt least three presidential candidates chose to misunderstand the issue, and to pander to their religious right bases. Despite the facts being “misrepresented,” Rand Paul claimed a video showing [Planned Parenthood]’s top doctor describing how she performs late-term abortions to sell body parts for profit!” and Carly Fiorina spat,This isn’t about “choice.” It’s about profiting on the death of the unborn while telling women it’s about empowerment.” Carly doubled down further, claiming to have watched a video, which exists only in her own inflamed mind, of a Planned Parenthood doctor saying they must harvest the brain of a fully formed fetus.

And that all led to a confrontation in September as Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, a pro-life supporter seeking to defund Planned Parenthood, produced an ‘official’ chart indicating that Planned Parenthood performed more abortions than “life-saving procedures” in 2013. In actuality, the chart was created by Americans United for Life, which is an anti-abortion group. Congress was willing to shut down the government rather than continue to fund Planned Parenthood, with little in the way of facts, but much in the way of righteous indignation.

trump piece of assPolitiFact, who has been documenting Donald Trump’s statements on their Truth-O-Meter, had little difficulty in bestowing the Politifact Lie of The Year award upon him. 76 percent of his pronunciations were Mostly False, False or Pants on Fire – a record no other politician could match. And yet his followers believe he’s authentic, a straight-talker, more truthful, and less scripted than traditional politicians.

Really? Like when Trump said that there were 6 million people over the age of 112, and that’s what was dragging down America’s social security?

Even Bill O’Reilly of Fox News – no stranger to “misrepresenting” himself, challenged Trump’s tweet of inaccurate murder rates. “Whites killed by whites — 16%. Whites killed by blacks — 81%,” said an image he shared on Twitter. FACT: Most people are killed by someone they know, and someone of the same race. The correct number for whites killed by whites was 82 percent in 2014, while the number of whites killed by blacks was 15 percent.”

donald trump carson solid pyramidsBut Trump responded by admitting that being accurate wasn’t the point: “Hey, Bill, Bill, am I gonna check every statistic? I get millions and millions of people … @RealDonaldTrump, by the way.”

Trump’s level of crazy has let other presidential candidates craziness slip by almost unnoticed. Well, except for Ben Carson, who, as a rabid Seventh Day Adventist, has theories that go completely against accepted scientific fact. Despite the mummies found within the pyramids of Egypt, Ben thinks the structures were actually large temples of grain. “I think that’s a plausible explanation to how they got built…I happen to believe a lot of things that you might not believe because I believe in the Bible.”ben carson and jesus

And you should believe him, because apparently he and Jesus have regular spa days together.

And in one of the most Machiavellian misuses of economic austerity, Gov Rick Snyder of Michigan poisoned an entire community in an effort to save money. By switching the Flint water supply from Lake Huron to the Flint River without adequately treating the water, the water pipes began to shed lead into the drinking water. Within months, the proportion of infants and children with above-average levels of lead doubled, prompting the state to declare a State of Emergency. From filmmaker Michael Moore: “To poison all the children in an historic American city is no small feat. Even international terrorist organizations haven’t figured out yet how to do something on a magnitude like this.”MichaelMooreGov Snyder

So it probably shouldn’t come as such a surprise that people are battling each other, on social and mass media, and defending their own strong opinions, even if their opinions would seem to be contrary to accepted fact, or actually just pulled out of the ether of their own confused rage and fear. “Fact” has been played with so fast and loose that what we believe today might be shoved under the bus tomorrow.

As John Lennon wrote, when you’ve stopped being able to believe in anything … “I just believe in me.”

—–

Motorhead’s Lemmy – the man, the myth, the legend. One of the very few metal frontmen iconic enough to be known by only one name. Gone December 28, 2015, at the age of 70.

“Who’d win in a wrestling match, Lemmy or God? Trick question – Lemmy IS God.” (Airheads

Here are two videos that bookend his musical life. Waaaaay back in 1964, Lemmy played guitar for Rev Black and The Rockin’ Vicars, a name then abbreviated to The Rockin’ Vicars, but in order to have a chance to get more gigs or even a record contract, they changed their name to “Rockin’ Vickers.”

This cover of Ray Davies’Dandy,” a song made popular by Herman’s Hermits, was released in 1966.

And this Finnish milk commercial, shot just a month before his death at the age of 70, was released this week. As the ad company said, “This is offered in celebration of the life of a lovely, exceptional man – a man who celebrated life so vibrantly himself. We were first shooting a remake of an iconic Finnish milk ad. The tone of this ad that was shot a month ago was changed to make it a heartfelt tribute, however modest. A take that came late in the shoot was selected – one of Lemmy’s brilliant improv moments that was never in the script. This was our magical encounter with a great man – and we’re honoured to share it with the world. Thank you, Lemmy.”

 

originally published as   bobsegarini.wordpress.com/2016/01/10/roxanne-tellier-are-you-for-real/