I’ll Take Mortality for $200, Alex


by Roxanne Tellier

When did people start ending every conversation with “be safe. Keep yourself safe”? Am I the only one that wonders when it was decided that we are living in a time of war or zombie attacks? And why is it so incredibly sad to know that the enemy we’re being cautioned against is a disease too often spread to us by our own loved ones and ‘friends’?  

Gary 17 pic by Lisa MacIntosh

The other day I suddenly thought about Gary ‘17’ Webb. For a few moments I wondered how he was doing, and what clubs he was monitoring for his webpage. And then I remembered that he’d passed in December of 2020 – not from COVID, but from another health issue.

It got me thinking about the sadly large number of friends and acquaintances that we’ve lost during this time. It’s an extensive list, and it continues to grow, from the pandemic, but also from the complications of health care in a time of ‘plague.’ Without funerals, and often with memorials and tributes put on hold indefinitely, how many of the dead will fade from our thoughts in the coming years? Humans need to gather to mourn; COVID took that away from us.

Greg Simpson pic by Chico Sanchez

We lost so many in our music/entertainment community over the last two years. And countless more in other fields and endeavors. Sometime in the future, someone will ask you when one of these luminaries passed, and you won’t remember, lost in the flood of the names of the famous and infamous whose leaving went almost unnoticed in the sheer volume of deaths recorded.

Humans are funny creatures. Of all of the living species, we are likely the only species that understands that we are finite beings. We are born, we live our lives, and at some point, we die. It’s the natural order of things; we see it in all of the living beings around us, in nature, in the seasons. We know without a doubt that we are finite. But most of us choose to pretend that we are not.

Society and civilization depend on the collective mind believing that there is a productive and better future to come. It’s our gamble. It’s why we buy insurance. There’d be no economic incentive to build cities or empires if we didn’t believe that our hard work and sacrifices wouldn’t ultimately pay off, for us, and for our heirs. We want a future; we can’t anticipate a time when there won’t be one for us. 

I recently read that a study in the New England Journal of Medicine found that the most productive age in human life is between 60-70 years of age. The second most productive stage of the human being is from 70 to 80 years of age. The third. most productive stage is from 50 to 60 years of age.    

Nicholas Brooks

That means that the best years of your life are between 60 and 80 years of age, and that, at age 60, you reach the TOP of your potential and this continues into your 80s.   

And yet, because of our submerged, unvoiced fear of aging and death, birthdays after 50 are too often greeted with sadness, gifts of tonics and hemorrhoid creams, black balloons, and cards that inform us that we’ve gone “Over the Hill.”

While we may have, in our youth, invested in collectibles, antiques and art, we are now informed that not all things increase in value with age. People, it would seem, diminish in worth.

But how can that be? In some societies, elders are revered as wisdom holders, the keepers of the culture, the teachers, the mentors, replete with the wisdom of a life well spent! In an ideal world, an elder that has walked the path in their field would be actively sought after for their insights.

In our modern world, long term care facilities are often modern-day ice floes upon which we place our old and sick, so that they might drift far away, and not disturb our fast-paced lives. During COVID, the Lieutenant Governor of Texas, Dan Patrick, even suggested that patriotic oldsters would gladly die to save the economy.  

But failing to respect and access the accumulated knowledge and experience that many elders possess is to potentially throw away some of the most valuable assets that we possess. Ideally, our society would accept and anticipate becoming a respected elder, who is available to provide valuable insights, based on their years of experience.   

Not all elders are wise, nor are they always right in their opinions. But no one is right, all the time, and even the wunderkinds don’t understand every field that exists.

There are some instances in which an elder should be discouraged from commenting, and in that, I would include technology that they have not yet encountered, understood, or conquered. It would be folly to ask, as members of the U.S. Congress did recently, that senior members, who are not fluent in current internet tech, rule on how technology will go forward in the years to come, when they will most likely not be around to live under those rules.

Each of us must respect the stages of life. We must also be aware that those coming up behind us will need the time and space to enter into the workplace and develop their own experience and wisdom. In time, their wisdom will be of use to the generation that is coming up behind them.

If we all could look forward to a beneficial aging, rather than a collective shunning, we could be more proactive in our ‘golden’ years.

It’s not a crime, or shameful, to realize how aging will affect us. While there will be a lucky few that escape the ravages of time largely unscathed, many of us already know what lies ahead, in terms of wellness and personal vulnerability.  

I decided long ago that I would be honest with myself about how aging and illness would affect my life, my living quarters, and my need for independence. 

A few years ago, I was contemplating the purchase of an e-scooter, something that I could use to do errands, and to maintain some independence from needing to use public transit or cadging rides from others. But the more I thought about a two wheeled scooter, the more I realized that it wouldn’t really suit my long-term needs. I needed something with room to transport groceries, or library items. I also worried about maintaining my balance on two wheels.

So, when I saw an ad for a beat-up old mobility scooter on the buy and sell board of my supermarket, I decided to go for it. It was going for much less than a scooter, new or used, and I figured it would be a good ‘first vehicle’ for me. And I was right. Learning to steer and properly drive any vehicle can be a period of trial and error, and it can sometimes turn deadly. I’ll be forever grateful that I chose to learn while I still have full use of my limbs and faculties.

Sure, it was a little embarrassing, buying into the whole mobility scooter look, but it freed me up to do my errands when I wanted, how I wanted. And that independence means a great deal to me. Had I waited until a mobility scooter was my only choice for transportation, I might not have had the flexibility to roll with the learning curve punches.

I’m under no illusions about aging. I look at my face in the mirror every day, and it’s not the face (or hair, or body) that once looked back at me. Aging is inevitable, and non-negotiable. This is where the GIGO ends; garbage in equals garbage out, and if you chose to fuel yourself with ‘garbage’ throughout your life, garbage is what you’re left with to negotiate your last years.

With that being said, it’s not only fun to soothe our egos with mementos of our glorious youths – sometimes it can be a life saver. The conceit that our past precedes us can do real damage in situations where our pasts are unknown.

When two of my doctors retired, exhausted from the restraints of COVID regulations, I was suddenly faced with entrusting my continued healthcare to a new doctor who had never known me as anyone other than the senior person they saw sitting in front of them. They don’t know my past experiences, which means that they can’t see how those experiences resonate in my choices of today.   

That’s why I brought along a portfolio of photos from my youth with me to my first face-to-face encounter with my new family doctor. She’s a busy woman, and I can’t expect her to waste her time in trying to imagine where my thoughts and feelings come from. So I showed her photos of myself on stage, in community settings, with my kids and grandkids. I let her know that I’m not just a new patient that falls neatly into a geriatric box, but rather, a person who has had a full and rewarding life, that’s not ready to be sloughed aside in any form of triage, based on age.

Reflections of the Past by Tom Hussey

Maybe I’m fooling myself, and those photos made no impression on her. All I could do was try and visually show her that my present visage may appear to be old and vulnerable, but my youth prepared me for a good fight to the finish.  

Bette Davis was right – old age is not for sissies. Having a full, rewarding old age takes work. But consider the alternative … it ain’t pretty.

Whose Rights Are They Anyway?


by Roxanne Tellier

The east end of Toronto has always been an interesting mix of peoples. Heavily treed and with many well tended parks, it’s a beautiful area, diverse and dynamic. 

As real estate mania crested, beginning in the ‘80s, the traditional division of what was considered the highly priced Beach kept moving northward from the original Queen Street East designator. I’ve seen homes above Gerrard and just below the Danforth being called “Upper Beach” housing. Madness. Big Money.

The homes, be they bungalows, duplexes, or single dwelling two- and three-story homes, have soared in value. Finding anything for sale for less than $1 million and a half is pretty much like a unicorn sighting. A tiny bungalow across the street from our rental bungalow was listed last year for about $699,000. It was snapped up within a week for a million more than list price.

The tenants of these homes are now a mixture of the original owners, and the new owners, those who can afford to buy into these lovely streets. And that can cause some interesting problems, depending on how the residents, both new and old, react to neighbourhood incidents.

Long term EastEnders tend to be old school, a little bit lefty, but very property proud. The newer residents are generally younger, and upwardly mobile. They have to be, in order to afford these prices.

A couple of years ago I noticed a torrent of messages in a page on Facebook that is populated by people living in the Woodbine and Danforth area. It was a lovely summer night. As the sun began to set, someone posted that a man and his son had erected a tent in the center of East Lynn Park, and were blasting tunes quite loudly.  

The poster’s concern was that they had just put their kids to bed, and that the noise was keeping the little ones awake. They also wondered what would prompt someone to treat a city park as a camp ground.

Within moments the chain of messages headed for AbsurdiaLand, as far left proponents speculated on the circumstances, and began a campaign to politicize the event. This was around the time when people were beginning to ‘occupy’ Toronto parks, in protest, and several people assumed that this was the case here.

The sign someone put up on Victoria Park Avenue didn’t last long

Others presumed that this incursion had to do with the man and his son being homeless and indigent; several proposed gathering up food, water, blankets, and other welcoming items for the two.   

Many respondents were angry with those who agreed with the first poster, that this was noise pollution. It soon became apparent that noise was the least of their worries, as comments soon appeared that noted that the boy, and the dog they had with them, were using the kiddie wading pool as a toilet.

And then there was the drink and drugs that were being used – hey, it’s legal now, said some. Others thought that the presence of a child, in a children’s park, indicated that this was not the right place in which to indulge such habits.

Hundreds of belligerent, and of escalating emotional messages later, the Battle of East Lynn Park concluded when it was discovered that the man and his son had rolled up their tent and left. The war of words had been fought in a flurry of suppositions and assumptions, because, as it turned out, the man and his son were simply nearby residents who had decided to play camp that night.

But following that evening’s arguments, many long-time neighbours began a cold war of resentment against each other’s political views.  

During the pandemic, something similar happened with the arrival of ‘porch pirates.’ While most people who had their deliveries of groceries or Amazon goodies pinched were justifiably angry and disturbed when things they ordered were stolen,  there was a very loud faction of residents in the East End who felt that exceptions must be made for people who might be stealing those items due to financial misfortune, or psychological impairment.  

One woman wailed that her delivery of groceries had been stolen off her porch in the time between when she’d received a phone call announcing it’s delivery, and her walk from her kitchen to her porch. No sympathy was extended to her, however, by those who felt that the groceries might have been righteously purloined by people financially inconvenienced, who might need that food more than she, a resident in a well-to-do neighbourhood, could ever be expected to understand.

No matter how egregious the actions, there was always a noisy faction that could find every conceivable excuse for the thieves, excuses that absolved the crimes, and placed the onus on the innocents who merely expected to receive the things they’d bought and paid for, in a time when many were afraid to leave their homes and mingle with the great unmasked.

As we near Halloween and the holiday season, people are starting to worry about teens looking to pull pranks on neighbours. Some pranks are relatively harmless, while others can be considered vandalism and malicious. We can’t write off the fears and damage done to residents and property by kids enjoying themselves by absolving the perpetrators, and blaming the victims for having the temerity to own homes in a desirable neighbourhood.

There have been incidents along Queen Street East, and into the Beach area, throughout the pandemic. There have been unsupervised bonfires, dogs being sicced on baby foxes, and reports of roving gangs of teens damaging property along the main street. In one well publicized incident, a rave up devolved into horror when a partygoer began running through the Leslie Spit, threatening people with a chainsaw.

Toronto police have not been very responsive, and can rarely be bothered to respond in a timely manner to residents requests for help. Add to that the far-left voices that seek to absolve the kids of their crimes, and who, remembering their own halcyon days of the toilet papering of neighbours and other minor acts of vandalism, chuckle that ‘it’s just kids!” and ‘boys will be boys!

Small comfort when it’s your porch that’s been trashed, your garden that reeks of urine, and your job to clean up the mess left behind by the youthful marauders.    

Now, here’s the thing. The demographics of the vocal minority of the left are surprisingly similar to that of the right; as a rule, those speaking in defense of minorities, the poor, and the disenfranchised are actually the better educated, wealthier people, in two-parent households. Couples who wait to have kids and buy homes tend to have higher incomes and better social mobility, and that can make them more attuned to the real or perceived lack of funds and rights of people struggling with less.

But that attunement can pitch them into a battle against the people on the right who feel no such empathy towards those who have, for financial, physical, or emotional reasons, eschewed the traditional paths of a family friendly agenda.

And it’s definitely causing huge divides, even between the centre left and the left, and that’s a battle that can lead to some pretty severe consequences politically, in time. While it’s currently more visible in the States, where the centre left leaning Democrats are battling with their own party’s far-left leaning members, to the detriment of the nation, we’re daily creating our own smaller divisions that are sending milder, less vocal, small and capital L liberals to the ‘other side.’

When people act in extreme ways, when we see the hysterics of the far right or the far left, we can easily see how off-putting this is to those whose beliefs and needs lie straight down the middle. What we often fail to see is that this can lead to the actual, less vocal, majority moving towards the conservative right, which has traditionally been the home of the politically conservative, veering towards regressive, voters.

That’s what’s happening to the Democratic party in the States right now. On the far left, the vocal majority is imperilling the good that could come from the Build Back Better Act by emphasizing tactics and ideology that repel the centre left. Centrists in the party believe that some of the demands of the younger, more progressive members leave them open to attacks from the Republicans, who will use the more ‘out there’ demands to paint the entire Democratic party as radical socialists, all of whom want nothing more than to enact far-left positions like late term abortions and defunding the police.

Democratic senators Manchin and Sinema, far to the right of centrism at the best of times, are able to ride that position in their own states to justify denying important infrastructure projects, on the grounds that their conservative viewpoints can’t accept using funds to help with college tuitions, childcare, senior care, and major action on climate change. Their decisions to deny funding anything they disagree with, will effectively kill any likelihood that all Americans will be able to profit from the use of their own tax dollars to improve their lives, when the Act has been ripped to shreds to satisfy the outliers, both on the left and the right of centre.

That’s what happens when we give extremism too much free reign. Many of us have solid opinions, and have strongly held views about our society and our neighbours, and that’s our right. What we don’t have the right to do is to quash other people’s opinions and views. In a civilized society, in a democracy, we all have rights, and the key to keeping things moving forward is balancing the right and the left, so that neither side is given too much sway in how we live our daily lives.

The place to start, where we begin to work together rather than to tear each other apart, is right in our own neighbourhoods.   

Having empathy and understanding means being able to hold two thoughts in one’s mind simultaneously. We need to be able to look at acts that threaten our values and rights in a balanced fashion. This means that those who commit crimes, regardless of the motivation, need to be held responsible for their actions. If their actions were compelled by socio-economic or psychological problems, their actions still endangered, or damaged property owned by another person, and there needs to be some justice done to mitigate that crime. We can talk about how we can help that bad actor to change their life path AFTER we address the damage that they have done to our society through their bad actions. No one is entitled to ‘more justice’ than the next person. Justice demands balance.

Can we really be living in a time when we’re addressing issues like the #MeToo movement, but simultaneously saying “Kids will be Kids… Boys will be Boys” and allowing them to engage in destructive and bullying patterns that will transition with them from childhood to adulthood?

Children who are indulged when they engage in pranking, bullying neighbours, or hurting animals are just kids in training for a future where they believe that bullying women, children, minorities and animals are fair game.   

It may be difficult to look at the young, shining face of a child or teen and find them guilty of harming others by what seems to be mere childish pranks, but for every kid that gleefully ran up to a door and rang the bell at midnight, there’s an adult who has spent hours finally getting a child to sleep; a senior suffering from a painful illness who just found a comfy spot in their bed; a beloved pet jolted from rest and into defensive mode at a sound in the night.

We shape our future society by what we teach our kids, and how we encourage them to engage with others. If we teach them to respect the needs, values and rights of others, we get a society we all enjoy. But if we allow our children and each other to selfishly demand that our rights and needs be given precedence over that of others, we choose a path of anger and chaos, and a society where we run the chance of people in positions of power taking away our rights, since we clearly aren’t able to handle them for ourselves.

The Long Strange Trip Continues


by Roxanne Tellier

If you had told me, twenty years ago, that this last decade would be one of the most terrifying/interesting/instructive/growth inducing periods of my entire life to date, I’d have laughed uproariously, and then kicked you out of the room. 

And yet – here we are. Whether you have been glued to media – either social or terrestrial – or have simply been putting one foot in front of the other for the last ten years, you’ve been buffeted by the winds of change like never before.  Or perhaps, like we’ve not seen since the sixties.

If you were around when the ‘youthquake’ hit in 1964, you’ll remember the ripples that spread mere hours after the Beatles appeared on Ed Sullivan’s Sunday night television show. Overnight, what had come before was overturned, and those that weren’t ‘hip’ to what they’d seen took out their shovels and began digging the Generation Gap that would divide the world into those that ‘got it’ and those who would try and hold back the tsunami of change.  

The Generation Gap

As Michael Nesmith put it in his terrific autobiography, Infinite Tuesday:

“It was unthinkable to everyone who had just fought World War II that the music, the fashions, the designs, the whole cultural imperative of the victorious warriors would be torn down by their kids as if it were ugly curtains in the den. Armed with originality and intention, the youth of America would take off their clothes, ties them in knots, and toss them into vats of dye with all the colours of the rainbow, then got skinny-dipping and make love while high on grass and LSD. Put any four in a room and they would start bands like the Grateful Dead. The generation gap was deep enough that one could die from falling into it.

The early rock and roll of the 1950s was subsumed and transformed by the rock and roll of the 1960s. How could this be? I asked a friend of mine at the time why he thought the Beatles had affected such a profound changed. He answered in one word: hair. It was a flip remark, but probably truer than either of us know. It shows how little anyone understood what had taken over.

Many said it was the music.  Many said it was the new drugs. Many said it was the new art. Many said it was television. Most said it was all of the above. Certainly, these forces all came together to create The Monkees.”

Something similar, though not nearly as edifying, happened in the mid 2010s. While the catalyst may have been Trump, the move towards a more militaristic society with autocratic governance in the United States had been creeping forward since Americans had had the audacity to elect a black man to the presidency, not once, but twice.

Someone was going to have to pay for that overturning of American history. Trump just came along at exactly the right time to push the already ripe for discontent, economically frustrated, closeted racists into joining a new cult revolving around his personality, that he would attempt to turn into a dictatorship within four years.

In 2016, Robert Kagan of the Washington Post, wrote:

What he offers is an attitude, an aura of crude strength and machismo, a boasting disrespect for the niceties of the democratic culture that he claims, and his followers believe, has produced national weakness and incompetence. His incoherent and contradictory utterances have one thing in common: They provoke and play on feelings of resentment and disdain, intermingled with bits of fear, hatred and anger.

….              What he has tapped into is what the founders most feared when they established the democratic republic: the popular passions unleashed, the ‘mobocracy.”

Where the Beatles had had magnificent hair, trump had an orange swirled haystack, but his trademark MAGA hats would hide his, and his aging supporters, lack of hirsute elegance. The Beatles brought laughter and intelligence to their interviews; from the beginning, trump’s interviews were laden with malapropisms, garbled slogans, and word salad. The Beatles wanted everyone to love everyone; trump brought the hate, channelling all of his supporters economic and political anxiety into a burning hatred of anyone that didn’t look and think exactly like he and his fan club did.

A broken mirror image, but with nearly the same outcome. Trump had a huge effect on society, but other factors were in play as well.

Prior to 2010, cell phones were gaining in importance, but by 2019, only about 4% of the population did not own a phone.  

Cell phones changed more than how we communicated with each other; they changed how people dated, as online dating became the primary way to meet a new partner. Apps that automated your cell phone made the remote control of your home’s lighting, media and security became common place.

The improvements made to those phones also allowed other societal changes; while MTV had first launched new musical acts, now it was YouTube and Vine that propelled the viral videos that made new stars overnight. YouTube and a profusion of specialty channels, also viewable on your phone, led many to ‘cut the cord’ and abandon their terrestrial TV and cable usage.

So much has changed, and yet we’ve barely noticed, as we have become more dependent on our social media, “Pictures, or it didn’t happen;” our new reliance on rebooted dramas or cartoon superheroes to populate our movie screens; a wide acceptance of the once verboten, but now legalized pot in our homes, and the growth of services like Uber Eats to call on when the munchies attack.  

Canada legalized same sex marriage in 2005, and the United States finally did the same in 2015, when the Supreme Court ruled that statewide bans on same-sex marriage were unconstitutional. That lead to members of the LGBTQ+ community, along with those that identified as pansexual, transgender, and non-binary to be more comfortable and visible in society.

The rise of the gig economy, along with a relaxing of work constrictions in the white-collar world, lead to a confusing place where would be entrepreneurs learned that working from home or as a contractor for Lyft or Uber meant never actually being ‘off the clock.’ With wi fi, telecommuting, or a ‘side hustle,’ people could work after hours, on weekends, and on their holidays, at least until they finally collapsed from overwork.

And, of course, Facebook morphed into an arm of the right wing, choosing to align with the most contentious of messaging, rewarding all those treasonous ‘likes’ with more exposure, and allowing gangs advocating hate and violence to be exposed to the most viewers possible within the network.

But, saddest of all, we broke politics. Where once it was possible to hope for hands across the aisle on important, national issues, partisan divide on basic issues like race, immigration, social services, and democracy are deeper than ever before. The right thinks the left is insane; the left thinks the right are nuts. You can’t successfully run a country with that kind of animosity.

For every bit of progress gained, there’s been enormous steps back, particularly in the U.S., but also here in Canada, where so many aspire to the same sort of politicking.

To add even more angst to the trump years, the pandemic came into play in 2020 and had a chilling effect on society and the economy. There will be long term consequences to the planet from the ‘pause’, and not just in terms of overall health.

Outbreaks are like black holes; all resources and all expertises are drawn into its maw. While we deal with the problem at hand, other agendas, like education, child survival, and even basic primary healthcare services are interrupted. Kids due for their measles and mumps jabs might fall between the cracks, as might seniors, who typically see their doctors more often as diseases of the elderly progress.

How we work has been forever changed. It’s unlikely big companies will return to leasing large office spaces for their employees to do the things they can do as well, if not better, at home. That will change those large business buildings in the heart of the city; will they remain empty, or be converted to more necessary uses?

Schooling from home has been a double-edged sword. Kids thrive on communicating and getting to know other people. Many kids flee to school for some of their basic needs, like food, and sometimes psychological aid. But for many kids, working from home, at their own speed, has actually enhanced their connections with their families, and allowed the student to learn at their own pace.  

Dealing with a deadly pandemic, while trying to right the economic vehicle is tricky, and not a job for the faint of heart. Watching Biden attempt to deal with all of the current societal ‘fires’ in his nation, while also respecting that ignoring COVID and its impact could destroy all they have worked for, has been a spectacle, rather like watching a world class juggler. The more items he’s given to juggle, the likelier that some will fall. But eventually, all the agendas will be back in his hands and moving smoothly.

I contend this last decade has been the most significant since the 60s. We’ve been forcibly required to acknowledge that inequality is rampant in our societies. It has become clear that those with wealth are the most likely to survive, assuming they take advantage of the healthcare and vaccines available.

We have learned that our essential workers are those most likely to make the least money, and to be the most likely to be exposed to the virus. It’s the people who had to keep working, relying on a daily wage, or those who live in crowded housing, that paid the highest price.

A lot of those minimum wage workers have learned that the small amount of pay they received for doing a necessary work was just not enough to warrant their continued labour or loyalty. Many of those workers used the pandemic down time to gear up for a change of career. It will take a few years for there to be people needy enough to queue up for low paying jobs with little future.

Around the globe, people in third world countries often are without access to clean water and soap, or able to enforce social distancing, and those countries are even less likely to be receiving the vaccines, or care when ill. In the case of forcibly displaced populations, like the Haitians fleeing their politics, or the highly vulnerable East Africans, the pandemic is just on more incredible challenge, which they will experience in overcrowded and under-resourced refugee camps, if they’re lucky enough to find themselves there.  

We have learned that we don’t need to buy so much ‘stuff’, but that it’s often fun to do so anyway. We’ve made trillionaires out of billionaires. We’ve seen some of the world’s wealthiest people push to the head of the vaccine line, and then use their largely untaxed dollars to build rockets meant for joyriding millionaires, but ultimately turned into machinery for the delivery of arms to other nations around the world.

Some parts of the economy were killed, and will never return, just as the once ubiquitous buggy whip companies saw their day come and go.

Now, in September 2021, Kagan returns to the subject of trump, his cult, and fascism, and makes these predictions:

“The United States is heading into its greatest political and constitutional crisis since the Civil War, with a reasonable chance over the next three to four years of incidents of mass violence, a breakdown of federal authority, and the division of the country into warring red and blue enclaves. The warning signs may be obscured by the distractions of politics, the pandemic, the economy and global crises, and by wishful thinking and denial…

The stage is thus being set for chaos. Imagine weeks of competing mass protests across multiple states as lawmakers from both parties claim victory and charge the other with unconstitutional efforts to take power. Partisans on both sides are likely to be better armed and more willing to inflict harm than they were in 2020. Would governors call out the National Guard? Would President Biden nationalize the Guard and place it under his control, invoke the Insurrection Act, and send troops into Pennsylvania or Texas or Wisconsin to quell violent protests?  Deploying federal power in the states would be decried as tyranny. Biden would find himself where other presidents have been — where Andrew Jackson was during the nullification crisis, or where Abraham Lincoln was after the South seceded — navigating without rules or precedents, making his own judgments about what constitutional powers he does and doesn’t have…

Most Americans — and all but a handful of politicians — have refused to take this possibility seriously enough to try to prevent it. As has so often been the case in other countries where fascist leaders arise, their would-be opponents are paralyzed in confusion and amazement at this charismatic authoritarian. They have followed the standard model of appeasement, which always begins with underestimation. The political and intellectual establishments in both parties have been underestimating Trump since he emerged on the scene in 2015. They underestimated the extent of his popularity and the strength of his hold on his followers; they underestimated his ability to take control of the Republican Party; and then they underestimated how far he was willing to go to retain power. The fact that he failed to overturn the 2020 election has reassured many that the American system remains secure, though it easily could have gone the other way — if Biden had not been safely ahead in all four states where the vote was close; if Trump had been more competent and more in control of the decision-makers in his administration, Congress and the states. As it was, Trump came close to bringing off a coup earlier this year. All that prevented it was a handful of state officials with notable courage and integrity, and the reluctance of two attorneys general and a vice president to obey orders they deemed inappropriate.”

Trump Rally, Perry, Georgia. September 25, 2021

It’s been an interesting decade … and it ain’t over yet ….

Fasten your seat belts. It’s going to be a bumpy ride.

A Voting We Will Go


by Roxanne Tellier

ELECTIONS! Whether we want them or not!

But first ….

FACEBOOK!  If you’ve been following my Facebook antics – or lack thereof, as I have sat banished and abandoned in Facebook solitary for the better part of the last six months – I am happy to report that I have been allowed to return to the site. Well, for the moment, anyway. I’m already getting warnings for doing really horrible things like posting links to how to determine if you might be addicted to social media.

If you’re using any social media on a daily basis, you probably are addicted, whether you realize it or not. Seeing those ‘likes’ on your posts are like hearing the cha-ching of a slot machine paying off, or the crinkle of a bag of potato chips; betchya can’t eat just one.

All that time in solitary was a very effective cold turkey method; I’m pretty much weaned off Facebook now, and intend to use it primarily for my business needs. That’s assuming the company doesn’t find some pretext for booting me off, just because they can.   

(yes, there IS a cold turkey app – getcoldturkey.com.  It bills itself as “the toughest website blocker on the internet,” designed for studying or focusing on work. It will block distractions like social media, games, apps, YouTube, or even the entire Internet. There goes your last excuse for finally writing the Great Canadian Novel/Song/App.)

Wrote this on Saturday to let the ‘FB Friends of Roxanne’ know what I’ve been up to.

“I’m poking my nose up to say ‘hi’ and to thank those of you who’ve posted messages of encouragement during my last 30 days in FB solitary. I missed you too. But, quite honestly, don’t expect me to be around here much. I can’t live in a gulag, and that’s what FB has become, sadly, for some of those voices that don’t just talk about the weather and post pics of their dinner and/or pets. I can’t tolerate that anymore. My every word is being scrutinized by either an out of control and unsupervised algorithm or malicious observers who get joy in reporting people with whom they disagree. That ain’t what I call fun. I’m too old and tired to fight anymore. You win, Facebook. I’ll shut up. At least when I’m on here.

Little by little, Facebook has moved the needle to the right, suspending and banning liberal voices, while encouraging and profiting from those who seek to overturn laws like Roe v Wade in the U.S., and to gather supporters for ‘protests’ that seek to overturn democracy.   

But most people who still call FB ‘home’ are boomers. The kids left long ago, for Instagram, TikTok, or any one of a dozen newer and more social social media sites.   

Boomers, on the other hand, are a little nervous about picking up and moving to another social media site; it’s just too much work. It’s a bit like trying to find a new place to live when you’re in your sixties – what you’re really trying to find is a place where people will leave you alone until you die. You can put up with a lot, if they’ll just leave you alone, and not make you confront your hoard, and heaven forbid, make you pack up all your baggage and move it to some other location.

While Facebook’s move to encourage and abet the spread of right-wing misinformation hasn’t gone unnoticed, nothing’s been done. Congress, old and out of touch with tech, simply pretends they understand Zuckerberg’s explanations, excuses, and promises to change and improve.

And like the sad victims of any kind of abuse, they swallow his words, and really believe that he’ll change. THIS time.

But, here’s the thing – he won’t. With all the money in the world, he’s simply too greedy to stop doing what buys him one more mansion or airplane. He’ll keep doing what he’s doing until the next time a Republican party gets into power, at which point, they’ll shut him (and Twitter) down aggressively and with malice, for denying their beloved leader a platform.

Until then, Facebook will continue along their merry way, warping the minds of kids, and supporting acts of domestic terrorism and violence.

Same as it ever was.”

Now about that election ….

VOTERS!  They would like us to believe that they are intelligent, well read, and rational. I so wish that were true.  

Most are not. They’re just not. They rail against System A until they get System B, at which point they whine and complain about System B until, inevitably, System A is returned to power, and we start the whole mess all over again. In the unlikely event that System C should win, proponents of both Systems A and B will make the leader’s life a living hell, and prevent System C from actually accomplishing anything worthwhile during their time in power, with the result that System C’s party will likely be shut out from getting another whack at governing for several decades.

And the losers are never any of the Systems; it’s always the voters. The ones that would like us to believe that they are intelligent, well read, and rational. Even when they’re not.

With that said – here we go again. It’s the election no one wanted, at a time when the precautions necessary to protect voters from COVID-19 are guaranteed to make the process as uncomfortable, maddening, and irritating as possible.  

I’m working this one as a Poll Supervisor. Which means that for about 16 hours tomorrow I will be supervising and filling in for Information Officers, Registration Officers, and Deputy Returning Officers, all of whom will also be working through a very long 16 hour or more day.

Most of the people working will have had about four hours of training. Many will have never worked at a polling station before. Few will be ‘political junkies,’ and none will be allowed to wax political during the day. In fact, they’d be booted out of the station were they to do so.

People working at polling stations must maintain neutrality; we’re not allowed to wear any clothing in the colours that the political parties claim. That means no red, blue, green, orange or purple is to be seen (although blue jeans are okay.) No political buttons, no banners, or posters for any party are allowed in the room.

Elections Canada sets out certain standards that have to be maintained throughout the course of an election. The voter’s privacy, and the secrecy of the vote are time honoured precepts. Accessibility needs must be met, and all voters have the right to interact with poll officers in either of our official languages. 

Health and Safety has always been a major concern, but this year, it’s changed the way a lot of things are done. For one thing, every polling station has to have a separate entrance and exit. Social distancing will be maintained, and there’s a strict, “No Mask, No Vote” rule in place. There will be no exemptions. Contact tracing will also be in play. I am really, really hoping that this does not prompt fanatics to add to what will undoubtedly be a challenge for many voters with protests or arguments with polling officers.

I’ve read complaints levelled against the slowness of the voting process during advanced voting days. I wish I could assure voters that this won’t happen on Monday, but I can’t. COVID-19 safety regulations have to be followed, and that’s slowing things down, but also, there’s been a change to what happens when you’re finally in front of the deputy returning officer, and ready to vote. In the past, there would have been two people at that desk, one doing the paperwork, and the other preparing your ballot. Under COVID laws, there is just one person doing both of those jobs. So please be patient.

There’s a lot of protocols in place for a safe and secure election. I consider Canada a beacon of sanity compared to the chaos that we see of voting in the United States. Our nationwide protocols are secure. We use the same electoral protocols right across the board, coast to coast, and, thru years of trial and error, we have created a system in which every Canadian can be assured that procedures are being properly followed, and that, at the end of the day, a winner is legally declared.

This Monday, September 20th is the day when Canadians all across the nation are asked to do their civic duty and vote for representatives and political parties that we hope will have the intelligence, strength, compassion, and leadership ability to guide us through what is hopefully the end of the pandemic, and into the economic recovery that will emerge after this healthcare crisis.

It’s not a time to hold on to petty grudges, or to ‘stick it’ to the people who, just like you, are fallible and capable of making mistakes. Voting is not just a civic duty, it’s a gift we give our children and our future – if we do it right.

Let’s be the example of how well a strong democracy works when the people actually want everyone in their entire country to succeed, now, and in the future.

Who Really Won the War on Terror?


by Roxanne Tellier

In 2001, I had a small eBay business that was doing pretty well. I had five people that worked with me to expedite the collectibles that I shipped around the world. About 90% of my business income came from American buyers. 

That summer had been slow, as summers were, but as we headed into September, and with the holiday season approaching, I wasn’t worried about ramping back up to pay my staff. In fact, in preparation for the busy season, my husband and I had planned a well-earned vacation to Western Canada, to see my family there. We would be flying out on September 13th.  

But, as the old Yiddish adage warns, “Man plans, and God laughs.” Well, God may have been laughing, but no one else was, on the morning of September 11th, 2001. A lot of people’s plans forever changed that day, and the world was never quite the same.

I was listening to the Howard Stern show that morning. When Howard first began to talk about the breaking news, there was an air of disbelief. Jokes were being made, and the conversation that Stern had been having with someone about trying to make time with Pam Anderson continued for another fifteen or twenty minutes.

When the second plane hit, the tone changed greatly, although no one had yet quite realized what had happened. One news anchor even suggested that “there might be some issue with the navigation systems on the planes that is sending them into the buildings”.

It was around then that the penny dropped, and Stern began to say that America was under attack. Viewing the video accompanying the breaking news, he declared that it was obviously a suicide mission, and that America was now at war. But with whom?

In the next few days, the nation grappled with the aftermath, and the information that they had been attacked by a group led by religious fanatic Osama Bin Laden, who, rather than resembling the sort of sophisticated, well-funded groups that films had taught them were what their enemy looked like, was instead a man in a robe and a turban, with a silly beard, who lived in a cave.

Or so we all thought. In actual truth, he was the multimillionaire son of one of the richest families in Saudi Arabia.

Bin Laden had previously attacked two American embassies, in Kenya and Tanzania, as well as sending suicide bombers to attack the USS Cole in October of 2000, while she was being refueled in a Yemen harbour. America was seemingly oblivious. After all, Bin Laden didn’t seem to be using any kind of military playbook that was respected in the United States; he wasn’t trying to physically invade the country, nor did he seem to be after our natural resources – as colonists and invaders tend to do. No, Bin Laden wanted to spiritually bankrupt America and wipe out the American Dream

And, as Michael Moore wrote recently,

He knew that unlike his own deep religious beliefs, ours were all talk, all show. He knew that our sect of Christianity is often just a big con — “love your neighbor” as long as they’re white like you; “the last in line (40 million in poverty)” shall be “first” and the Elon Musks and Mark Zuckerbergs “will be last.“ Ha! Never. “Blessed are the peacemakers,” as long they‘re not Chelsea Manning and Ed Snowden; “feed the hungry” (no raise in food stamps from1962 until last week. Last week!).

…. It was different for bin Laden—he wasn’t faking it. He knew the strength of his fundamentalism and knew that he could find some schmucks to sign up to fly planes into buildings in exchange for the promise of eternal glory. Bin Laden understood the way we used our Good Book — to ban abortion or police homosexuality — because bin Laden was doing the same thing, only even more capably and at an even more destructive scale.” 

Michael Moore, Substack, Sept. 2021.

Then-president George W. Bush first used the term “war on terrorism” on September 16, 2001, and then “war on terror” a few days later in a formal speech to Congress when he asked that America go to war in Afghanistan.  

Now the frightened and devastated citizens of America had a common enemy, and they would send all of their animosity (along with troops and trillions of dollars) to fight this adversary.   

Americans came together. They hugged strangers on the streets and on subway platforms, sent huge donations to missions meant to comfort the families of the missing and dead, and bought each other drinks in pubs.

The next time America would come together in such a fashion would be in the Spring of 2020, but, this time, it would only last for a few months.

In that fall of 2001, Americans came together in a dramatic show of patriotism. They were one people, regardless of where they came from, what sort of work they did, how much money they had, or what kind of music they liked. They drew together and found enormous strength in that solidarity. 

They came together so completely that they essentially forced out the rest of the world. I lost my little eBay company when the corporation put into place all sorts of perks for their American buyers and sellers. There were fees waived, and in many cases, the costs of shipping and handling were waived, if the exchange was being conducted within the United States.

Ebay-ers were encouraged to “Buy American!” And they did. And by the next spring, my little business was bankrupt. My staff actually fired themselves, knowing that I was paying their salaries out of my own pocket, not the proceeds of sales. And that was that. America came together, and shut out the rest of the world so that it could grieve and heal itself within itself.

Fast forward nearly twenty years to the spring of 2020, when North Americans became aware of a new enemy, a pandemic, which was named COVID-19. In the first few months of this new ‘shock and awe’, Americans pulled together to try and protect themselves, isolating and attempting to get a handle on how to protect themselves and each other. People went to great lengths to distance from each other. There was panic buying in the supermarkets, with people hoarding toilet paper and hand sanitizer. (I even bought a package of frozen pancakes just because there was only one package left, and I didn’t know when there’d be another shipment to my store.)

Remember how we’d bang pots and pans and make a ‘joyful noise’ to let first responders and health care workers know how much we appreciated the hard work they were doing to try and save the lives of our families and friends? 

How does that square with the anti mask/anti vaccine mobs who now try to block ambulances and health care workers from entering hospitals, to make their wrong-headed points?  

In those twenty years since 9/11, North America changed significantly. It wasn’t just the United States that was attacked that day; no one who was impacted on September 11th was ever quite the same again.

“The 9/11 attacks enabled Republicans to tar those who questioned the administration’s economic or foreign policies as un-American: either socialists or traitors making the nation vulnerable to terrorist attacks. Surely, such people should not have a voice at the polls. Republican gerrymandering and voter suppression began to shut Democratic voices out of our government, aided by a series of Supreme Court decisions. In 2010, the court opened the floodgates of corporate money into our elections to sway voters; in 2013, it gutted the 1965 Voting Rights Act; in 2021, it said that election laws that affected different groups of voters unevenly were not unconstitutional.

And now we grapple with the logical extension of that argument as a former Republican president claims he won the 2020 election because, all evidence to the contrary, Democratic votes were fraudulent.“ 

Heather Cox Richardson, Substack, Sept 11, 2020

North America changed – the world changed. Under the guise of protecting it’s citizens, actual rights and freedoms were cancelled in the U.S. and Canada, and never returned. A new suspicion and fear of immigrants, and of those who were of foreign descent reached its logical conclusion in America’s Homeland Security, which began as an agency created to protect America and her people, but evolved into a force whose prime directive was discovering and expelling people they suspected were in the country illegally. Could Trump have pulled off his Muslim Ban of 2017 without the fear of Islam that had been drummed into FOX viewers for over a decade? Unlikely. 

(That ban was only officially overturned after Biden took office in January 2021.)

The world changed, and we became harder, more cynical, and more suspicious of others. Over the last twenty years, the right and the left have become increasingly partisan, to the point where Biden’s hope of bipartisan governance in the U.S. is taken as a joke. We’re more likely to see a Civil War Part Deux than an America where Republicans let Democrats have a victory, even if they have to disenfranchise every one of their own voters to do so.

In the end, it does seem like Bin Laden actually won. His plan was to divide to conquer, and that has certainly happened. Politically, we are at war with ourselves. Inequality has never been higher, and democracy is on the table, with the Sword of Damocles dangling over its head.

And when North America was asked to pull together to defeat the common enemy of a global pandemic, a vocal minority screamed “NO!”

3,000 people died in New York City on 9/11, and that was enough to change the world. In the worst days of COVID-19, we lost 3,000 or more every single day. Where are their memorials?  

The easy way out would be to simply blame Trump, and his administration’s confusing and contradictory lack of a proper plan that the nation could get behind. Mistakes were made, because this is a ‘novel’ virus, but flip flopping on how to move forward as the numbers of the sick and dead rose did no favours to anyone.

I was talking with someone recently who, while masked and vacced himself, still has a soft spot for those who continue to behave as though the virus is a joke. He said that we have to allow those dissenters to have their opinions and ideas, whether or not we agree, in a free society.

All well and good, I said, but – I don’t see these ‘anti’ people coming forward with any positive and helpful suggestions as to how to stop the sickness or to help those who are ill or dying. In fact, they’re actively encouraging sickness and death with their rallies and protests.

Could we not have simply TRIED following the science, and have all of us joining in masking and vaccing? That way, if we did, and we didn’t end or drastically curtail the virus, we could try THEIR solutions. History has shown that a united front, that carries on together fighting a common enemy until they are defeated, is more likely to succeed and eventually win a battle. 

But he had no answer. Because those protestors have no solutions, only offended claims of victimisation, debunked theories and controversial, potentially life-threatening, alternatives to modern medicine.

Bin Laden may lie in a watery grave, but the damage done to North America by his actions has continued to resonate every single day since 9/11. So, who really won that war on terror?

It just doesn’t seem like it was us.

ANOTHER 30 Days in the Hole


By Roxanne Tellier

Apparently I learned nothing from my last thirty-day time out from Facebook, since it only took a few months for me to land up in solitary yet again.

I’m Facebook’s Cool Hand Luke, defiant and unrepentant.  

After my first 30 days in Zuckerberg’s version of Nuremburg, I felt a little reluctant to return to my usual activities of curating and opining on the site. After all, like Pavlov’s dogs, I’d learned that there was a sociopath running the place, who claimed to love us, but liked to ‘train’ us by burning our paws whenever we stepped out of line.

Facebook might have kept on ringing that bell, but I no longer salivated on cue.

So, what offense did I commit this time?

In a reply to a Facebook post in the first week of the American withdrawal from Afghanistan, I said that it seemed that Russian and Chinese interests were rushing in to fill a political void, sensing a chink in America’s armor. And BOOM!   Facebook’s algorithm kicked in, and decided that I was being politically incorrect, and thus must be ejected from the platform.  (The previous time I was incarcerated was for the sin of quoting Shakespeare during the impeachment trials – “first, kill all the lawyers“.)

(Apparently there was a kerfuffle in 2012 when the sports channel ESPN used the phrase “a chink in the armour,” to refer to a basketball game loss which they blamed on Jeremy Lin, an Asian player for the Knicks. Although the phrase had been used on the channel 3000 times previously, one of the employees responsible for writing the offensive headline was fired in a fluster of political correctness gone mad.)

The expression has been used idiomatically since around 1400 AD to mean ‘a crack or gap,’ but now, PC scholars have rushed to deem the term racist. And Facebook, bless its pointy little head, has decided that their site is too pure a place for racists, since they need all the elbow room they can find to accommodate their domestic terrorists and anti-vaxxers.  

There’s no appeal process on the site. You can say that you disagree with their decision, but all you’ll get in return is a sad face and a request that you honour their unhappy inability to hire enough staff to both censor AND arbitrate, due to COVID-19.  

Desolee, cheri – smell you around. Don’t let the door hit you on the way out.

A lot of Facebook’s glitter and gloss has rubbed off over the last five or six years. It started with the news that Zuckerberg played footsie with Cambridge Analytica, the data firm that Trump’s 2016 campaign used. Zuckerberg allowed CA, and thus the Donald, to use the private information of about 87 million Facebook profiles without the owners’ permission. Some believe that social media, and most especially Facebook, was the secret to trump’s success in 2016.

Once in power, it seems that Zuck liked trump’s politics, because FB continued to allow his administration and his followers to have free reign on the platform, even as dissenting views were hidden from view, or squashed completely.

Things have gone from bad to worse on the platform. Zuck throws his hands in the air and pretends that the people that he hires to police the site are just not capable of finding every little terrorist, anti-vaxxers, or seditionists looking to hook up with other seditionists to overthrow governments, but they’re right on top of anyone using a politically incorrect word or phrase.

Strangely, that’s not how others see the problem.

“(President) Joe Biden said social media platforms like Facebook are “killing people” because of (the spread of COVID disinformation.) The White House has also zeroed in on a clutch of accounts dubbed the “disinformation dozen” – Facebook accounts that have been shown to be responsible for the bulk of anti-vaccine misinformation on social media platforms.

Thursday’s developments came as the Federal Trade Commission filed an amended complaint in federal court to continue pursuing its claims against Facebook, saying the online platform maintains monopoly power. The complaint filed is a partially redacted version, which the FTC has requested must be under seal for 10 days.” 

(The Guardian, August 2021)

It would seem that everyone in any position of social media authority and/or the government knows exactly which people and groups are spreading disinformation, calls for violence against dissenters, and calls to overthrow the government – they just somehow can’t stop them from doing what they wish on social media.

Meanwhile, people like myself, my buddy Michael Scrivener, the American culture writer Jef Rouner, and even long-time social activist Michael Moore, continually find ourselves being sanctioned and banned for less and less worthy reasons.

Gotcha. We’re on “the List.” Just check out my permanent record. 

After spending the last couple of months biting my tongue and looking over my shoulder, commiserating with friends who’ve been banned for days, weeks, or months, I’ve had enough of this nonsense. I am not going to sit in the corner wearing a dunce hat. I’m not a bad person because I’m intelligent, well-read, and can write in full sentences and paragraphs. And I’m sick of fearing Big Brother, or his collaborators, who are always watching and waiting for one’s guard to drop. I can’t keep on hoping that my next comment on someone’s status or comment won’t find me once again condemned to another 30 days of modern-day shunning.

While I’m grateful for the ability to interact with my family and some interesting people I’ve connected with over the years, I’ve finally realized something that Facebook’s executive have not – their version of the site encourages a narrower and narrower segment of the population, and coincidentally, that’s a segment I generally try to avoid having to have contact with. FB doesn’t want smart people or intellectuals .. they want the (m)asses.

And the (m)asses are the people that Facebook loves, because, just like regular media loved trump and his band of cuckoos, the crazies are the drivers of the controversy and anger that makes people come back for more. Rile ‘em up, head ‘em out.

In truth, there’s something kind of creepy and Twilight Zone-ish about frequenting a place “where everybody knows your name,” and where everything you say and do is judged and talked about by other people, many of whom you may not know, nor want to know.

I don’t WANT to spend all of my time angry at the posts put up by people who are, if not clinically insane, certainly chemically adjacent. I don’t want to argue about politics, religion, or today’s news with the sort of loon that is addicted to the dopamine hit they get from the chaos that their misspelt and badly worded opinions cause. I have learned the hard way that there are crazy people out there, and I don’t want them in my home, nor do I want their rantings on my computer monitor.   

It does seem that nearly every Devil’s Advocate and wannabe intellectual on the planet has recently decided that their own versions of reality trump fact and/or science, and I’m done arguing with them. I am OVER it. Unlike Graham Chapman, I didn’t ‘come here for an argument”

Speaking of Monty Python, John Cleese is currently working on a television series that will explore “why a new ‘woke’ generation is trying to rewrite the rules on what can and can’t be said.”

John Cleese: Cancel Me will see the British comedian and actor meet various subjects who claim to have been “cancelled” for their actions or statements, and activists who have led opposition to various public figures.

In a statement, Cleese said: “I’m delighted to have a chance to find out, on camera, about all the aspects of so-called political correctness. There’s so much I really don’t understand, like: how the impeccable idea of ‘Let’s all be kind to people’ has been developed in some cases ad absurdum.”

“[Political correctness] stuff started out as a good idea, which is, ‘Let’s not be mean to people’, and I’m in favour of that despite my age. The main thing is to try to be kind. But that then becomes a sort of indulgence of the most over-sensitive people in your culture, the people who are most easily upset … I don’t think we should organise a society around the sensibilities of the most easily upset people because then you have a very neurotic society.

“From the point of creativity, if you have to keep thinking which words you can use and which you can’t, then that will stifle creativity. The main thing is to realise that words depend on their context. Very literal-minded people think a word is a word but it isn’t.”

 “I want to bring the various reasonings right out in the open so that people can be clearer in their minds what they agree with, what they don’t agree with, and what they still can’t make their mind up about.”  

(The Guardian, August 2021.)

It’ll be another two weeks before Facebook lets me back on to it’s whited sepulchre, but I’m not so sure I’m gonna return. I don’t mind having access to Messenger, to be able to quickly contact the few people left on the site that I actually like, but overall, living in the 1984/Big Brother version of Facebook in 2021 is just not to my taste.

Here’s the thing; Facebook has been around for nearly two decades, since 2004, and that’s forever in social media time. With more than a billion users since February 2012, when Facebook filed to become a public company, Zuckerberg is a billionaire many times over, and he doesn’t need my two cents.

I think it ‘s safe to say that the guy who dropped out of Harvard in his sophomore year is doing more than alright for himself these days

Sooner than later, Facebook will go the way of MySpace and all such fads. The kids left for sexier venues long ago. Most FB users are the middle-aged, and boomers happy to have a free way of keeping in touch with their friends and family.      

Time for a little break, and a step right off that social media treadmill. There’s a whole other world out there, but you’ll only see it if you lift your eyes off the screen.

Afghanistan Past Present and Future


by Roxanne Tellier

Afghanistan has a long history of defeating those that have tried to master her. As a strategic gateway sitting between Asia and Europe, the land has been targeted by conquerors as diverse as Alexander the Great, Genghis Khan, Britain, the Soviet Union, and the United States.    

But no one can make Afghanistan bend the knee for very long; it is an unruly country, peopled with warriors, fanatics, and militant religious zealots. No army, no matter how mighty, has ever been able to permanently alter the passionate character of the Afghan people.  

America’s attempt to bring a forced democracy to the country was doomed to failure from the beginning. Democracy is a system of government by the whole population or all the eligible members of a state, typically through elected representatives. Democracy must be something that ALL of the people want, not just those that wish to control them.  

But when Bush, both political parties, with few exceptions, and the voters of America, decided to commit to a war of retaliation, they refused to listen or to learn from history. And once America had foisted its army and hoisted their paid political stooges into place, it became impossible to leave gracefully. The chaos and horror we see there today would have happened had they left 18 years ago, or in five years from now.

Obama tried and failed to leave the country. Trump, first as a civilian Monday morning quarterback, and later as POTUS, put a plan into place that he would not be in office to see completed. The shocking thing is that Biden simply opted to stick to the plan and promises Trump and his administration had made, without considering options that might have lessened the disastrous outcome of August 2021.

Writer and minister Randy Weir wrote a succinct piece on Trump’s negotiations with the Taliban, and it’s so good, I’d rather insert it here than paraphrase his words: 

“In 2019 Trump entered into direct negotiations with the Taliban outside the presence of the Afghan government because the Taliban demanded it and Trump agreed. In these negotiations, Trump promised the Afghan government would release 5,000 Taliban prisoners if the Taliban would stop attacking US forces. So the problem began when President Trump undermined the legitimate Afghan government to negotiate with terrorists. This weakened and demoralized the Afghan government and strengthened and encouraged the Taliban.

In February 2020, Trump further agreed that the US would withdraw from Afghanistan in May 2020 if the Taliban would agree not to harbor other terrorist groups like Al Qaeda. This further legitimized the Taliban with the US assuming they would regain control of the country.

In August 2020, under pressure from President Trump, the Afghan government reluctantly released the 400 most controversial Taliban prisoners, including more than 150 that were on death row, and 44 who were involved in high profile attacks against US forces, including the deadliest attack of the entire occupation. Afghan President Ghani warned that these prisoners would pose a risk to Afghanistan and the world. So now we have a stronger Taliban, a weaker Afghan government, and we have the worst Taliban fighters and leaders out on the streets planning to retake the country when the US leaves.

On November 17, 2020, shortly after losing the 2020 election, Trump announced he would be withdrawing all but 2,500 US troops from Afghanistan. The withdrawal would happen on January 15, 2021—five days before Biden was inaugurated. Note that the National Defense Authorization Act passed by Congress on January 1, 2021 barred the Pentagon from reducing the number of soldiers in Afghanistan below 4,000, the number in place when the bill was passed, and Trump’s removal of those forces was in violation of that act.

So here’s where Biden comes in. Trump has weakened the Afghan government, strengthened the Taliban, and assumed the Taliban would retake Afghanistan. Trump had secured the release of the Taliban fighters and leaders who would work to retake Afghanistan, and Trump had already illegally withdrawn American forces who would have helped maintain the Afghan government. Biden looked at the options and concluded that Trump had stacked the deck against the US and the Afghan government in favor of the Taliban, leaving two choices: proceed with the withdrawal or send troops back into Afghanistan to re-escalate. Biden concluded that the latter would only postpone the inevitable and that it wasn’t worth wasting any more American lives to do that. He delayed the withdrawal so it could be accomplished more responsibly, then responded as conditions worsened by sending troops to assist with the withdrawal.

As the US began its withdrawal, the Taliban that Trump freed were the very people who fought and led the effort to overthrow the Afghan government. And it seems that even Donald Trump was smart enough to realize that this was exactly what would happen.

Why didn’t Biden cut a new deal with the Taliban? With what leverage? Trump had given the Taliban everything they wanted and the Afghan government was already so weakened that the Taliban have no reason to agree to anything he could propose.

Trump set the stage so that the Taliban would swiftly take control of the country and there was nothing Biden could do to stop it short of occupying the country.”

Randy Weir, Quora

Choosing to ‘keep America’s promises’ rather than to attempt to thwart the deals that had been put into place, whether known or unknown, guaranteed failure for the American military, and left the Biden administration with egg on their face.

The expensively trained and outfitted Afghan military caved because they were trained to behave exactly like American military, dependent on a large land and air force behind them, along with the weight and might of the United States. They had never been trained to stand alone as an independent force; their training was designed to keep them a cog in the American military industrial complex. When the Americans closed their military base, all pretense of that great power being behind them evaporated, and the disintegration of the Afghan military was inevitable.

While the media brings us scenes of chaos and devastation, many are simply not interested in the eventual outcome of military withdrawal. We’re shell-shocked and numbed from our own problems. Governments grapple with how to expedite a potential economic recovery, while they remain burdened with the reality of hundreds of thousands dead from COVID, and a potential Fourth Wave looming.

And though it behooves us to worry and tut-tut about what’s going on in Afghanistan, many people just can’t work up much concern. Prior to Biden’s moving forward on the troop withdrawal, polls showed that most people wanted America out of Afghanistan – period. By any means.

As scenes of the Taliban taking control of the country emerged, along with photos of people desperately trying to leave, and women once more becoming invisible, and as tales circulated of streetside executions and of young girls being snatched from their families to become unwilling child brides of the Taliban, American’s, overall, yawned and turned back to their smartphones for an update on the stock market and entertainment listings.

In the bigger picture, life in North America, and most of the Western Hemisphere, will simply go on. Talking heads will soothe or harangue, based on their political affinities. People in Afghanistan will suffer, and many will die, based on their religious AND political affinities. And Afghanistan will remain, as steadfast, stubborn, and high-strung as she’s been since 500 B.C.

In the perhaps smaller picture, this debacle will have a dampening effect on what Biden might have been able to accomplish in the United States during his term. Even those who reluctantly voted for him in 2020 were encouraged by the image that had been built over his first six months in office, of a leader firmly in control, in charge, and experienced in foreign affairs. Biden as POTUS has been a breath of fresh air, a 180-degree shift from the cruelty and power mad machinations of the trump administration. He’s been the nation’s loving, old-fashioned, grandpa, easily forgiven for the odd slip up, as the communal dread of a possible march towards civil war and/or dictatorship begins to fade.

Biden’s campaign leaned heavily on competence, compassion, and a humanity that the previous administration disdained. His current defiant stance lacks not only empathy, but any hint of contrition or humility, starkly at odds with his usual stated values.

Prior to this fiasco, and with a speed and alacrity that none would have believed, he was on track to rivalling the historic and progressive records of nearly all modern-day presidents, with the exception of Roosevelt, whose New Deal ushered in what some considered to be America’s greatest epoch.

With a razor thin Democratic majority in the House and Senate, Biden’s current power position could be derailed with just one nasty slip in the bathtub, one lung rattling COVID cough, or just one octogenarian Senator’s heart tiring of beating. His belief in the Republican party ever being willing to act in a bipartisan fashion that benefits ALL Americans, regardless of political affiliation, seems close to delusional, the dreams of another time, and unless he can bring some of his own far right and far left party into line, America may let some of the most aggressively positive, nationally beneficial, actions in nearly a hundred years slip away.   

With the military withdrawal from Afghanistan being painted as Biden’s baby, his approval rating is skidding downwards, and with every day, there is more danger of there being permanent damage done to the Democratic plan to ‘build back better.’

He’s now wagering on the better angels of the American people to believe that this withdrawal was and is the right thing to do, even if pulling off the war Band-Aid revealed the (bipartisan) political sepsis beneath.

The Run Down and the Wrap Up


by Roxanne Tellier

Ah, dang it. Like death and taxes, unwanted summer electoral politics are inescapable.  Rumour has it that our PM Justin Trudeau is determined to call a snap election, reportedly to be held on September 20th. Why? Because he believes that doing so at this time will ensure his party can win a majority government, allowing him to avoid what he has been calling “opposition obstruction.”

Trudeau had a majority in the House of Commons when he first came to power in 2015, but there’s been an erosion of confidence in the years since, leading to his party being reduced to a minority in 2019. I find it hilarious, how easily those that lean right can be manipulated. “Here’s a 20-year-old photo of a young man in black face!” “I KNEW IT! Hang him high!”

There have been rumblings for months that the Liberals would spring an election on Canada, two years ahead of schedule, in response to an unfavourable slate of choices available from the NDP or the Conservatives

In a summer fraught with tension over where the COVID virus could pop up next, and in what variant, the Libs are walking a financial tightrope. They’ve racked up record debt levels in an effort to help both the people and the businesses of Canada, but they have plans to inject another huge chunk into the economy – between 3-4% of GDP, or about $100 billion dollars. To do so, they’re going to need more than a minority government. And they would prefer not to have to count on the help of the NDG and the Greens to push thru legislation. 

A Conservative attack ad that hit YouTube on Friday night has even their own party members disgusted, calling the ad dumb, tasteless, and embarrassing. It’s a 37 second video that has a cut out of Trudeau’s face pasted over the face of spoiled brat Veruca Salt, in a clip from a scene from the film “Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory,” where the brat throws a tantrum in a song called “I Want it Now.”

With any luck, it’s already been taken down. Posting link for the strong-stomached.

Meanwhile, polls have shown that most Canadians have climate change on their mind, and are focused on a transition away from the fossil fuel industry. And the reports of summer’s horrific high temperatures and fires, here and around the globe, along with the UN’s newest report that global warming is “dangerously close to spinning out of control” would agree on that course.

“ Humans are “unequivocally” to blame, the report from the scientists of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) said. Rapid action to cut greenhouse gas emissions could limit some impacts, but others are now locked in.

The deadly heat waves, gargantuan hurricanes and other weather extremes that are already happening will only become more severe. “

On the plus side, August 13 came and went without trump being reinstated, as promised by the pillow guy, so that’s a win.

The rising tide of COVID in Florida, on the other hand, is most definitely a loss. There were over 151,000 cases in Florida, and 1,071 deaths in just the last week.

It’s so bad that doctors are warning patients seeking emergency help for their children that there’s simply no more staff, equipment, or rooms available, and parents will literally have to wait for some other sick child to die before their child can even be admitted to the ICU.

The Brookings Institute made an interesting observation on the Fourth Wave battering red states. They noted that

“It is rare that a politician acts against his own self-interest—but then again, Donald Trump is a rare breed of politician. No politician has made it a habit of acting against his own electoral interest like Donald Trump…

A total of 17 of the 18 states that voted for Trump in the 2020 election have the lowest vaccination rates. The exception was Georgia which went for Biden by a very small margin…

Historically, rational political calculus has been a bipartisan quality, but not in the Trumpified GOP. If Trump wants to preserve the lives of his best voters, he would turn his rallies into mass vaccination sites. There is still time, but it is running out for thousands of Americans.”

Brookings.edu, July 2021

Meanwhile, in Ontario, we have 111 people in ICUs around the province. 110 of them are either unvaccinated, or have only had one dose.

This week, hospital teams of doctors and nurses have literally been trolling the Danforth and Gerrard Avenue, trying to bring vaccines directly to people who might have used inaccessibility as an excuse to avoid the jab.

What is it going to take to shake these dreamers out of their reveries? Ah.. right … the carrots are not working, so here come the sticks.

The new travel vaccination policy will apply to passengers and workers in the federally regulated air, rail and cruise ship sectors. It will be enacted “as soon as possible in the fall and no later than the end of October,” the Canadian Treasury Board said on Friday.”

We need our kids back in school, our economy back in gear, and our hearts, minds and butts in restos, bars, nightclubs, theatres, and arenas. Come to the Light Side, you of the Great UnVaxxed.

Times have been hard for everyone, in the last year and a half. So much that has happened, that has upended our reality, our ‘normal,’ has been beyond our control, and due to its very novelty, often really frightening. We have been spoiled in the last 80 years; there’s been no war waged on North American land.

That’s made us quite spoiled, and sometimes very silly. Without an actual opponent, so many decided they’d make one up, turn mild adversity into a fear of escalating hardships. They created paper tigers of the innocent, blowing up the annoyances of inconvenience into firm red lines that must not be crossed. They salivated over fantastical and imaginary creatures, spent incalculable hours planning how they’d survive a zombie apocalypse, built bunkers and hoarded supplies against Armageddon.

But when a real catastrophe – a pandemic! – came along, few broke out those emergency supplies. Wouldn’t this have been the perfect time to extol one’s own prescience in prepping? How could it be that so many quite simply did not recognize a crisis when it actually came along and took a bite out of their lives?

We lived with loneliness. We lived with fear, anxiety, depression, and grief. We monitored our health, and the health of our loved ones, and when someone we loved died, we were told how and when to mourn, and how many of us would be allowed to share in that moment of remembrance. I often think about those we’ve lost, the ones we were told that we would have an opportunity to memorialize, ‘when this is over.’ That’s not how grief works. Grief cannot be put on a shelf until a convenient time arrives.

I often think about how we were encouraged, all this time, to simply ignore the sickness and death the pandemic brought. While I would have expected the media to spend hours of video on covering a world-wide disaster, there far more often seemed to be some sort of weighing of coverage, almost as though the media, usually quite open about ‘if it bleeds, it leads,’ was suddenly taking a stance more akin to trump’s pandering ‘good people on both sides.’

Perhaps it was that sloughing off of brutal truth and reality that allowed a segment of people to cease to care about their places in society, prioritizing their own opinions and wants over the rest of societies truth and needs.

That attitude spills over into all aspects of our lives. I find it heartbreaking that the people of Afghanistan are mere puzzle pieces in America’s ongoing war games. I expected the callousness of trump’s decision to leave Afghanistan; I am dumbstruck that Biden would be in agreement. When Biden first said that he’d follow trump’s lead, I assumed his reasoning was that if he didn’t, the GOP base would tear him to pieces.

But now I hear that this is simply part and parcel of a numb and hard-hearted populace who just don’t care about what is to come for the innocents of Afghan.

“…. There is, quite obviously, a calculation behind all this, which is that, after all this time and with more than enough blame to go around in both parties, Biden will not suffer politically from leaving behind an unwinnable war. Put bluntly, there is a strongly held belief in Washington that Americans simply do not care what happens in Afghanistan. Poll numbers back it up. “ 

“The Pentagon has warned every one of the last four Presidents that an abrupt U.S. withdrawal would lead to some version of the Afghan military debacle we are seeing this week.”

The New Yorker, August 12, 2021

Yep, we’ve been suffering through some very ‘interesting times.’ Sometimes, all you can do is keep looking for those odd bright spots that bring joy to your day and life.

During the pandemic, we’ve had a few cool things happen here at the old homestead, where ‘there’s always something happening, and it’s usually quite loud.”

This particular cool thing involves a video that the heymacs made five years ago. As one of the Mackettes who donned their fur coats, wigs, and high heels on that blustery morning, I certainly never dreamed that there’d come a day when we’d be ‘nearly famous’ in far away places with strange sounding names!  

From Macky’s notes:

“So, several years ago, the heymacs started stumbling into their first music videos, and one of us said “Let’s put them on the internet. All the kids are doing it” .

Someone else said “How’s anybody gonna know about them? There’s no cash to do promotion for our flicks”. Also brought up was the fact that the situation probably wouldn’t change, as we weren’t playing live to spread the word and, maybe, flog some T-shirts to aid with the cash shortage.

What’s more, there’s no friggin’ way any record company was going to sign a bunch of Rock’n Roll relics, and what band management company would waste their time on some guys whose main pass-time was hanging out in the alley behind the warehouse where they got together to plan what tunage to work on next. 

But, couldn’t hurt to give it a whirl, so we picked one we liked and stuck it out there. At first, nothing much happened . . yeah, it got a few more views on the yootooby every month, but the going was slow.

Then, suddenly a couple months ago, our cover of Ray Charles’ little beauty “Hit The Road, Jack” took off like a rocket! Ten thousand – – twenty – – then 50,0000 and 125,000 – – and, soon, a quarter-of-a-million – – and, at this moment 498,730

Well, it’s looking like it’s gonna cruise past 500,000 tonight, so the heymacs want to thank anyone who gave us a peek and supported the effort! Cheers, dudes & dudettes . . we like your taste in tunes !!“

Macky, of the heymacs

The heymacs cover of “Hit the Road Jack” hit the ½ million mark, and then just kept on climbing. 550,000 clicks as of this morning. And where it stops, nobody knows …

And that’s it, folks, that’s your wrap up and run down.

Happy Summer Folks!

CERBing the Beat


by Roxanne Tellier

COVID-19 hit Canada hard somewhere around the second week of March, 2020. I remember it well, because the shutdowns began in earnest just days before my husband’s birthday, and right about the time that Mirvish Theatre sent me an email advising me that I’d be receiving a refund for the tickets I’d purchased for a show that week. The theatre had gone dark, as had most of the city’s offices, stores, services, and restaurants. 

There’d be no night on the town, no birthday dinner or musical event for us that year – nor the following. And when you get to a certain age, you’re not sure how many more birthdays you’re actually going to get to have, so celebrating them should be a priority.

Because we are older, and retired, most of the aspects of the lockdowns had less affect on Shawn and I than they did on those who are still in the work force. Sure, it was inconvenient, and learning to get up early enough to catch the ‘senior hour’ at the few stores that opened at 7 a.m. wasn’t much fun. But really, those pension cheques, small as they are, just kept showing up in our bank accounts like clockwork, so our income didn’t drastically change in response to the pandemic.

For most Canadians, however, COVID hit hard, and it made a beeline for their wallets. Layoffs, combined with unexpected costs, sent fear through the hearts of those in the gig economy. People that had travelled out of the country, whether for business or pleasure, were suddenly finding themselves having to pay for pricey emergency flights back home, their work or tours cancelled without notice. 

It soon became apparent that the entertainment business had a much longer reach in our economy than we had previously realized. For every musician, actor, and performing artist in Canada, there is a support team that can encompass a few in their personal orbit, or can stretch to cover a small city’s population of ticket sellers, ushers, hair stylists, makeup artists, agencies, seamstresses, catering companies, lighting crews, sound crews, and so many more.

For every restaurant that closed, the layoff of people directly employed there created ripple effects that spread across the country, as food chains were broken, and farmers wondered how to plan that year’s crops.

COVID-19 did not just upend the Canadian economy; it turned the economy upside down and shook it hard enough to loosen every dime that might have been put aside for a rainy day.  For a large proportion of Canadians, financial security was revealed to be an illusion.  

Ironically, many of those hit hardest were those that had embraced the idea of entrepreneurship, of pulling themselves up by their own bootstraps, and who had kicked over minimum wage jobs for a chance at the brass ring of working for themselves.

As many businesses closed their doors, the few that were allowed to remain open had to adjust to the implementation and costs of new social distancing requirements. As unemployment soared, the Canadian government had to act quickly in an attempt to safeguard jobs, protect businesses, figure out how to get funds to the vulnerable, and hopefully, avoid the nation falling into a debilitating economic depression that would take years to overcome.

Canada wasn’t the only country that acted quickly to protect its people. In advanced economies with solid unemployment and benefit systems in place, there are already methods in place that could ensure our neediest had a chance to receive benefits to tide them over. There were, however, special problems in distribution at times, often, in part, because of a lack of staff available to help those who fell between the cracks.

In the first few months of the crisis, Canada, along with many other countries, moved quickly to put into place wage subsidies for salaried workers, and compensation for the self-employed.

In Canada, France, Australia and Ireland, a weekly wage subsidy was available for all employees whose livelihoods had been impacted by business closure. The US, instead, spent most of their trillion dollars in subsidies on businesses, with just a small increase, in some states, to their unemployment insurance measures available.

I won’t pretend to be fully conversant with the vagaries of CERB – it was rolled out quickly, and then rolled back a few times, turning into a Frankenstein monster as bits and pieces were added on and then removed, seemingly on whims. For those that had filed taxes for the previous year that exceeded $5000, they were eligible for about $2000 a month in emergency response benefits, capping out at a maximum of $8000 for the initial four-month period.   

 A lot of people didn’t know how to apply, or applied in error through both Employment Insurance and the CERB structure, and yes, mistakes were made. Some applied to receive benefits over and above other benefits they were receiving, and then discovered that getting that extra money meant that they were on the line for paying extra taxes this year.

CERB ended on Sept 26, 2020, and was rolled into an enhanced EI program for those that continued to be unable to work, due to their employment being closed under government regulations. The amount that people can receive has been decreasing for some time, and, as the new Canada Recovery Benefit, provides a flat rate payment of $300 a week for up to 54 weeks, until October 23, 2021. Not everyone receives that full sum.

Between March 15, 2020 and October 3, 2020, when changes were made to bring the CERB response into line with the Employment Insurance benefits that would replace those payments, the Canadian government handed out $81.64 BILLION dollars.

It’s estimated that COVID-19 will cost Canadian taxpayers about $400 billion in benefits and business supplements. And that’s assuming we get back to business soon, and the economy reboots in a timely manner.   

A once in a century pandemic was followed by something incredible – a “Great Pause” in which modern societies responded to a crisis by stopping and shutting down most social and economic activity. While it may have been inevitable, due to the public health crisis, this public policy crisis is an utterly unprecedented grand experiment, and we’ve not seen the end result yet.

It’s been a very expensive virus, for nearly everyone. And we’ll be digging out from under for years.

Except for the privileged few. Those people that worked in government never lost a penny. If anything, they had access to funds more easily than the Average Joe. People who worked in Big Business – especially those in upper management – pfft! If they even lifted their head from their tablets, it was to attend a ZOOM meeting. They worked from home, and most managed to save a ton of money from not having the costs of commuting to work.

Yes, there was a core of Canadian workers that actually profited, in small or large ways, from this pandemic. And those people … are the ones who are now fomenting anger against those who have chosen not to return to back-breaking, unsatisfying, dead end jobs.    

We need a new word to describe the sort of person who profits from a global crisis, and then mocks those who didn’t manage, as they did, to turn a profit on the screams and blood of the sick and dead. Something that sums up the gross entitlement and privilege that oozes from their pores as they troll those people still trying to get back on their feet after losing their jobs, and in some cases, homes.

I’m really glad and proud that Canada stepped up to help those people who would have been the hardest impacted by the government mandated closures of small businesses. The alternative would have been horrific, and something that no modern, civilized society should contemplate. We cannot have a large segment of our population going hungry or homeless, through no fault of their own.

But there are those who, without knowing much about what those workers have endured, are now frustrated at the workers who have had a change of heart about working in minimum-wage, low-paid, thankless, dead-end jobs. They want their haircuts, or their cold beer and wings, and they want it now! How dare these servers, hairdressers, and shop attendants not be on hand, ready and willing, to cater to these entitled swine?

They can’t envision, nor could they handle, the daily mental and physical assaults that those who serve the public endure regularly – a stream of abuse from customers, bosses and coworkers. No long term job security, no benefits, no holiday pay, or even a guaranteed holiday or weekend off. Little respect from the public, despite many servers being better educated or smarter than the customers they serve. I remember well those days when the tips were low, or the times I had to pay for someone’s Dine and Dish, but then still had to tip out to the rest of the staff. Yeah. Been there. Wouldn’t go back. 

I finally got a haircut the other day. It had been far too long. I enjoy the experience of being pampered, of having my head and hair washed and massaged. It’s calming, and a little bit of luxury I can afford. The young hairdresser and I chatted throughout. He told me that the “Great Pause” had been very hard on him, financially, but that the CERB had enabled him to spend some time enjoying his life, his family, his friend, and his city. He told me that, for many people his age, it had been a time when they had been able to re-evaluate their lives. It had been a time to reflect, and to get off the treadmill for long enough to see the other possibilities out there.

Millennials have a keen sense of right and wrong, and they know when they’re not being treated with respect. All workers deserve emotional, financial and legal respect, but in the past, a lot of workers have merely been surviving.

As the city begins to re-open, with more relaxed rules on how staff in hospitality and retail can interact with the public, there’s been a tendency to point an accusatory finger at the staff who previously filled the open jobs in stores, bars and restos, but are now reluctant to return.  

But there’s no hard data to support any claims of a labour shortage.

Wages in stores and restaurants remain very low, at around $15 an hour. If there were a true labour shortage, those wages would be rising. But they are not, because store and bar management are asking staff to return at low wages and rebuild the store or bars profits on their own backs. In truth, raising wages would only make it harder for management to recruit cheap, desperate, and often inadequate, labour.

Quote: “It’s no mystery how to recruit and retain a more stable workforce: offer better pay, stable shifts, decent benefits, and improved training and safety. Inadequate and irregular hours are actually a bigger disincentive than low hourly wages (almost half of hospitality staff work part time). Reorganizing schedules to allow predictable shifts and more full-time roles would support genuine career opportunities in these industries, rather than a culture of lousy precarious work.

…………………………………………

Other countries have shown that service sector work can offer stable middle-class career paths. Canada could do the same, but only if we prevent employers from taking the easy out — namely, providing them with still more desperate workers willing to work for any wage. If governments respond to complaints about a labour shortage by cutting income supports or importing migrant labour, that will only short-circuit the improvements in job quality these sectors ultimately need.

Only once did Canada’s economy truly run out of workers. That was during the Second World War, when a massive, government-funded war effort ended the Depression and put every able worker into a productive job. We aren’t anywhere near that situation today, but we could be, if we wanted to. We could launch an ambitious post-COVID national reconstruction plan, featuring massive and ongoing investments in green energy, affordable housing, and human and caring services. That would create hundreds of thousands of jobs, end mass unemployment and improve living standards in the process.“  The Toronto Star, August 2021.

Instead, newspapers like the Financial Post, itself a poster child for being dependent on government handouts to pay the bloated salaries and bonuses of it’s incompetent management, work to incite the anger of citizens who have no idea of how back-room businesses actually work.

While writing this column, I put up a request on Facebook for information on what is the current rate of CRB. I was immediately hit with a snarky comment from a troll who wanted to know why I wasn’t out patrolling the streets to find a new job. Yeah, he’s gone. And I’m retired. But if I were someone trying to get back on my feet after the lockdown, and the loss of income for the last 18 months, I would likely have felt assaulted and shamed for not fulfilling that idiot’s idea of what constitutes my right to live and work in this country.  

I don’t know how to explain to someone that vile how ugly, privileged and entitled they show themselves to be. Worse still, that they appear to wear that ugliness and ignorance with pride.

When we consider all that Canada and the world has endured during this time, when we consider where we’ve been and where we are now, it’s a real shame and a black mark on our society, that we have to factor in the likes of those trolls, who seek to foment yet more anger, and to further widen the inequality and inequity that diminishes any nation hoping to become a better place for all that live there.

It Ain’t Over Til It’s Over


by Roxanne Tellier

In 1865, after the collapse of the Confederacy, Confederate General Joseph O.Shelby, aka “the Undefeated” and his “Iron Brigade,” a band of about 600 soldiers, rode south to Mexico. There, after a grueling three-month slog through the desert, they offered their services as a ‘foreign legion’  to Maximilian 1, an Austro-Hungarian who had been installed as emperor of Mexico in 1864.

The emperor, perhaps unwisely, declined to accept, but graciously allowed the troop to form a small colony of Confederate expatriates. Unfortunately, Maximilian was overthrown and executed in 1867. Shelby and most of his friends, having never surrendered officially to federal forces, returned to the United States, and resumed their American lives, without penalty. In fact, Shelby was a critical witness for fellow ex-Confederate Frank James in 1883, (better known as the older brother of outlaw Jesse James) at James’ trial.  

In 2005, two Japanese men, both in their 80s, and former members of a division devastated in battle with US troops towards the end of World War II, emerged from the jungle of a Philippine Island, and confessed to having been in hiding for 60 years. They had secreted themselves in the jungle and mountains, possibly unaware that the war had long ago ended, and were still afraid that they would be court-martialled for desertion if they showed their faces in Japan.

Japan’s prime minister at the time, Junichiro Koizumi, intended to meet with the two, if their stories turned out to be true, and vowed that everything would be done to repatriate them, if that was what they wanted.

In 2020, the incumbent president of the United States, Donald Trump, was defeated in the presidential election, but insisted that the election had been fraudulent. He believed that he, not Joe Biden, was the legitimate POTUS. On January 6th, 2021, he incited his followers to mount an attack on the U.S. Capitol, in hopes of preventing his own Vice President, Mike Pence, from certifying the electoral results of that election. He has continued his claim of being the only legitimate American president for … what month is it now? July? Ok, so for nine long months and counting.  

At his latest rallies, his speeches reiterate the myth that he was improperly cast out of power, again asserting himself as a ‘victim’ in an unfair world, where a man who’s been a millionaire since the age of three just can’t catch a break. He’s a self-pity machine.

In the real world, trump lost, Biden won, and trump’s a very childish and spoiled sore loser embarrassing himself in front of a world that has largely moved on after the four-year nightmare that was his administration.

Many in the GOP covet his ‘leftover’ fanbase, and are gleeful sycophants encouraging this ‘folie a millions.’  They happily toe his party line, hoping to pass his litmus test of loyalty, and earn his endorsements, even as some plan to run against him for POTUS themselves.

Do you see a pattern here?  Delusion, based on a lack of information, or of intentional misinformation, is not a modern invention; there have always been some that refused to accept reality, and willing sycophants that will join in on the fantasy. At some point, it could even be said that a delusion that simply cannot be shaken with truth is a form of bullying, in that the deluded person is insisting that others enter into his delusion as a shared unreality.

In the case of the former president, however, his delusion poses a real threat to American democracy. His fan club still flocks to see their false idol, swallowing whole whatever version of reality he choses to sell them. And it IS about ‘selling’ – his fortune now depends on how much money he can siphon from the witless mob.

Former president Donald Trump’s political PAC raised about $75 million in the first half of this year as he trumpeted the false notion that the 2020 election was stolen from him, but the group has not devoted funds to help finance the ongoing ballot review in Arizona or to push for similar endeavors in other states, according to people familiar with the finances.

Instead, the Save America leadership PAC — which has few limits on how it can spend its money — has paid for some of the former president’s travel, legal costs and staff, along with other expenses, according to the people, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe the group’s inner workings. The PAC has held onto much of its cash.”        

The Washington Post, July 22, 2021

The people that rioted on January 6th believed what trump told them, despite there being zero possibility of Pence’s actions overturning the results of the election. And despite every thing that they’ve been told since then, despite the arrests of 400 people who willingly stormed the Capitol, despite every new video released, each more harrowing than the previous, and despite 6 months of nonstop actual facts, explanations, and rebuttals, they continue to believe the Big Lie. 

Watching Republicans without benefit of the trump Kool-Aid is sobering. The GOP, who, just a few short years ago, would have felt undressed without a pocket version of the Constitution in a breast pocket, seem to now be completely at sea on nearly every aspect and word within the tome, regardless of their own lawyerly or scholarly backgrounds.

The GOP now regularly misrepresent their sacred cows, the First and Second Amendments. Hearing even formerly respected elected representatives avow that their First Amendment rights have been disrespected by the actions of social media is headshakingly exhausting; how is it that more Canadians understand that the Amendment cautions against GOVERNMENT overreach, not the actions of business, than Americans? 

Hearing Marjorie Taylor Greene’s pearl-clutching admonishment that reporters asking her about her vaccination status is ‘a violation of my HIPAA rights,’ was another breathtaking moment. Who voted for this ignoramus?

“Greene’s comment — which, again, claimed that the ‘question’ itself violated HIPAA — was entirely inaccurate. Journalists are not banned, barred, or bound by HIPAA from inquiring about anyone’s health status or their vaccination status. It’s up to the individual to whom the question is posed to decide whether or not to answer. HIPAA does not ban journalists from asking about health information. Indeed, if it did, then the law would almost surely have been met with a vigorous First Amendment challenge.” 

Aaron Keller, Law&Crime

Are these elected representatives really that ignorant of their laws, and of their Constitution? Or are they simply playing to a base that believes that opinion trumps fact?

The Republican Party has gone beyond partisanship, and its representatives have sunk into a craven loyalty to Donald Trump, pretender to the presidency.

And that would be worrisome on its own, but their national gaslighting, which questions the very integrity of the country’s electoral system, is a clear and present threat to the United States’ democracy and constitutional order.

Trump’s ‘folie a millions’ has broken the democratic system for electing a president. Thanks to trump’s demagoguery, his manipulation of reality, and the endless flattery of the right-wing propaganda machine propelled by FOX and the OAN, lies and conspiracy theories are now the populist currency of half of America. 

“History is watching. Our children are watching. We must be brave enough to defend the basic principles that underpin and protect our freedom and our democratic process. I am committed to doing that, no matter what the short-term political consequences might be.”  Rep Liz Cheney

Eventually, this will have to end. The question is – how? Will trump and his cult accept defeat, or will the country split into two, forcing a new Civil War to erupt? There’s simply no possible way for the country to stagger along forever with half the country pledging their allegiance to one president, while the other half pledges their fealty to an imposter, and denies the reality of their electoral system.  

Regardless of our politics, all humans crave justice. We need to see an accountability, especially from those to whom much has been given. And people desperately need closure.  

 After World War II, Germany lay in ruins, physically and psychologically. Their reputation, now synonymous with the atrocities perpetuated by Hitler and the Nazis, was in tatters. Like America post trump, Germany realized that the way to return to their previous place of influence and trust was to confront the crimes that had been committed, rather than run from them.

The Frankfurt Auschwitz war crime trials of 1963-65 are believed to have been the catalyst to Germany’s current success in coping with it’s past, and returning to a place of confidence and trust in the world. These cases were not pursued by the Allies, who had won the war, but instead, by the German people themselves, intent on seeing that those who had served in the concentration camps were brought to justice.

I believe that America is in a similar position. It is only by analyzing the crimes and corruption of the trump administration, particularly in delving deep into the instigation and seditious actions of the January 6th insurrection, that they will finally lance the boil of the trump infection, and begin the healing procedure.

Now all the Democrats (and America) need do is find the courage to begin that process.