Notorious RBG and a Last Wish


by Roxanne Tellier

I was preparing dinner in the kitchen on Friday night, when Shawn came into the room and said, “Ruth Bader Ginsburg has died.”  

One hand flew to my mouth, the other to my heart, and I gasped in shock, a reaction that I know was echoed by many in the 24 hours following news of her passing.

How can it be that one small, 87-year-old woman, riddled with cancer, became the only check in the vaunted checks and balances meant to keep an entire nation democratic? How did she become the last bastion of sanity and decency in a country that claims to be ‘exceptional’? Why did it take the loss of her presence on the Supreme Court to wake hundreds of millions of Americans to the stripping away of civil and human rights that awaits them, as early as next month?  

While those who claim to be pro-life insist that their religious beliefs should trump the rights of all women to control their own bodies, the Trump administration is already lined up to strip away the health care rights of EVERY American – male, female, black, white, young and old – when their request to invalidate the Affordable Care Act is heard. Some 20 million Americans, many of them low income, will lose health care coverage, and be denied any form of coverage due to pre-existing conditions (something that every single American may have following the COVID pandemic), and will discover that these changes will also disallow children from staying on their parents health plans until the age of 26.

Trump has repeatedly promised that he has a ‘beautiful! New!’ health care plan in the works, but after more than three years of these idle promises, no one should be holding their breath for that to emerge.

Roe v Wade, the case that legalized abortion nationwide nearly fifty years ago, is also on the line. Tom Cotton, one of trump’s proposed new jurists, is on record stating that this would be his first priority.

Short of overturning Wade, there are still several cases in the pipeline that could effectively restrict access to the procedure, including one case already before the court in which the trump admin has asked the justices to overturn a federal judge’s decision that lifted restrictions on telemedicine abortions during the pandemic. And in terms of the most common second trimester abortion procedure, the D&C, (dilation and evacuation) at least 10 states are on record seeking to outlaw clinics providing this option.

Women’s rights to control over their own body is not the only controversial issue. There’s even talk of rolling back the landmark case, Brown v Board of Education (1954) which famously dismantled segregation. The more recent cases that decided on the rights of the LGBTQ, the handicapped, and other minority communities will also be on the table with a fifth Conservative Supreme Justice.  

One small, fragile, senior, woman held back that tide of discrimination, prejudice, and misogyny for as long as she physically could. But within two hours of her death, and in defiance of her stated last wish that her seat remain unfilled until a new president was in power, trump was already declaring his intent to fill her seat with a person of his own choosing.

And that follows in a horrific pattern in which four out of five of the conservative justices currently sitting on the Supreme Court (Roberts, Alito, Gorsuch and Kavanaugh) were nominated by Republican presidents who lost the popular vote

Two of trump’s most loathsome minions, who campaigned ruthlessly to prevent President Obama from appointing a Justice in his last year of office, have reversed their ‘hand on the bible’ statements from 2016.

And today ….

But they are not the only Republican Senators displaying blatant hypocrisy, and a lack of ethical morality, in their decision to blindly follow in their leader’s doddering steps.

The very idea that matters considered so integral to how justice is allowed or denied should be in the hands of judges who profess fealty to a specific political party boggles the mind. Having trampled upon any pretense of a separation of church and state, the modern Court openly skews either liberal or conservative, Democrat or Republican. That can’t be right. The law must be the law, not something that can be warped to suit the needs of the politicians currently in power. If the decisions are made based on party, then the decisions are only opinions, frothy and transitory, as worthless as the blatherings of a drunk at the end of the bar.  The justices lose all credibility, cease to be the ultimate legal decision makers, and are instead mere pundits. .  

“President Trump’s nominee will receive a vote on the floor of the United States Senate.”

Mitch McConnell seems determined to rush the seating of a lifetime justice, in hopes that, regardless of the outcome of this election, the conservative, Republican ideals will remain the law of the land for decades to come. McConnell is cementing his position as the man who broke American democracy, and brought the pillars of American justice down around it’s citizens, the modern-day Benedict Arnold, made mad thru his insatiable lust for relevance and power.

“According to American political scientist Larry Diamond, democracy consists of four key elements: a political system for choosing and replacing the government through free and fair elections; the active participation of the people, as citizens, in politics and civic life; protection of the human rights of all citizens; a rule of law, in which the laws and procedures apply equally to all citizens.”  (Wikipedia)   

During this administration, each of those pillars has been systematically mocked, repeatedly attacked, and is in peril of becoming a dead issue.

ONE: “ a political system for choosing and replacing the government through free and fair elections;

Despite having won (by Electoral College) the presidency in 2016, trump attacked all forms of voting, insisting, despite his own repeated investigations that found no tampering, that all American elections were fundamentally flawed and rigged. With the pandemic impairing the ability of citizens to safely vote in person, he then first verbally attacked mail-in voting, intentionally underfunded the Postal Service, and then appointed Louis Dejoy as Post Master General, who viciously decimated staff and equipment in the nation’s postal offices, bringing the mails to a slowdown unlike any in it’s history, and making the handling of the volumes of mail ensured by election mail-in voting nearly impossible to consider.

As some Americans opt for early voting in states like Virginia, trump’s goons are swarming polling locations and would be voters, in blatant acts of voter intimidation. Trump has already admitted that these acts of intimidation will be severely ramped up on Election Day, November 3. He has also admitted that he might challenge the 2020 election results, or even stay in the White House, despite a loss. It is quite likely that the final results may be delayed by days, or even weeks, based on these restrictions, and while a late decision on who has won is actually not illegal, trump’s mouthpieces are spreading disinformation on the legality of such a delay.

Two:  “the active participation of the people, as citizens, in politics and civic life; “

Trump’s first town hall meeting in, I believe, the entirety of his four-year term, was held just this past week. The people allowed to question him were thoroughly vetted, and most questions were fairly straightforward and logical. However, his answers merely echoed the beerhall rants familiar from his rallies – mainly incoherent, highly self-congratulatory, and rarely with any semblance to the real world everyone but trump is inhabiting.

Three: “protection of the human rights of all citizens; “  Since the first month of trump’s ascendency to the presidency, the rights of all citizens, American or otherwise, were secondary to his platform. Within hours of his first day in office, he began the process to repeal Obamacare, and within days, had put into place executive orders to set in motion travel bans and restrictions on refugees and immigrants from Muslim-majority countries. By April, 800,000 ‘DREAMers’ had their lives upended and their futures made uncertain.

By the spring, new armies of ICE agents began arresting and deporting many immigrants who were in the process of becoming citizens. And of course, the infamous border wall, persecution of would be refugees, and camps for kids weren’t far behind.  

Four: “a rule of law, in which the laws and procedures apply equally to all citizens.”  Ladies and Gentlemen, may I present Attorney General William Barr … personal lawyer to the POTUS, and expediter of pardons and the overturning of legal decisions.

America is in crisis. American democracy is on its last legs. And as the citizens limp towards the election, burdened with a lethal pandemic, massive unemployment, and the threat of homelessness looming over the heads of about 40 million people, they must also contend with almost daily revelations informing them of trump’s knowledge of exactly how deadly this pandemic is, and that he hid that knowledge from the people, for his own re-election plans.

Rather than shore up America’s defenses, rather than trust the people whom he took an oath to protect and defend from this deadly virus, trump has instead relied on the snake oil sellers he’s seen hawking junk on FOX to its addled viewers. And now, finally, he’s admitted … his plan is to not have a plan, but instead to gamble on ‘herd immunity’.

This new non-plan will kill as many as 3 million people. “Trump has a plan for coronavirus: herd immunity. Say goodbye to your parents, your neighbors, and your friends. Because the Trump plan will kill millions in the next four years.”

And in the midst of all of this madness, and with a plan that’s not a plan but rather an abdication to the power of the virus, trump has told the American people that he believes that he alone has the right to name yet another conservative judge to the Supreme Court, to join the previous two that were foisted upon the nation.

Despite the last wish of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who said, ‘ My most fervent wish is that I will not be replaced until a new president is installed’.

A NEW president. Not this used up condom of a failed, incompetent, wannabe dictator.

If Americans want to fulfill her last wish, with the added bonus of saving the nation from plunging into fascism, they’re going to have to vote like their lives depend upon it.

Because it does.

Use Your Power – Vote!


CANADA-2030Even those amongst us, who are tired of hearing about, and arguing about, politics and the economy know, deep down, that we must take responsibility for how Canada will be governed and represented to the world. It’s no longer enough to whinge and moan about the issues that have snuck up on us while we struggled to keep up with the cost of living; Canadians need to decide what sort of Canada they want to live in. And that means we have to vote.

10.-Represents-the-peopleWe have the right and a duty to vote, but voter turnout has been steadily declining in Canada and the United States, as well as in Western Europe, Japan and Latin America. The world’s highest voting rates, at 95%, are in Belgium, which has compulsory voting, and Malta, which does not.

(Other countries with compulsory voting include Australia, Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Greece, and Luxembourg.)

Voter turnout among Canadians is at an unprecedented low, and has been declining since the late 1980s. Voter turnout in the most recent election, at 61.4%, was the third lowest in Canadian history. Young voter turnout was 39% in the 2011 federal election. Canada’s youth will often say that there is little in politics that relates to them. If an issue catches their attention, they are more likely to participate in boycotts and demonstrations, groups with like-minded views and passions.

Screen shot 2014-10-23 at 14.12.48.jpgThere’s a general malaise about voting. As much as I adore the witty and eloquent Russell Brand, I find his disdain for voting appalling and unhelpful to his more impressionable followers. Even that old reprobate Johnny Lydon of the Sex Pistols, once famed as an anti-establishment rebel, has called Brand’s refusal to vote “the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard,” adding “You have to vote, you have to make a change. You’re given lousy options, yes, but that’s better than nothing at all.”

In 2013, Brand guest-edited Britain’s “New Statesman” and wrote at length about his views on politics, saying “I have never voted. Like most people I am utterly disenchanted by politics… I will never vote because, as Billy Connolly said, “It encourages them.””dont-vote

He has since moderated his words. “What I said was, ‘There’s nothing worth voting for.’ If there was someone worth voting for, I’d vote for it and I’d encourage other people if they think that there is a political party that represents their views; if they think there are politicians that are speaking on their behalf, by all means vote for them.”

We’re exhausted with the process. We’ve also lost interest in civic and social participation. Pre-1980’s, more of us were involved with our churches and schools, and we were more likely to be involved with professional or fraternal organizations. Before televisions and computers were available in every home, we met our friends and neighbours socially, to play bridge, or to pit our skills against each other physically in pickup sports and bowling leagues.

When pressed, those who can’t be bothered to vote will say that they’re just too busy. It may feel that way, but studies have consistently shown that we have the same amount of leisure time we have always had – we’re just using it differently.

Statist-voting-logicOthers will say that voting makes no difference; we’re only exchanging one self-serving politician for another. Since the early sixties, we’ve had less trust in government and in politicians in general. The rise of ‘attack ads’ and smear campaigns has left voters with a foul taste in their mouth about politics in general.

There’s an actual formula for figuring out the likelihood of someone voting.

PB + D > C.

P is the probability that an individual’s vote will affect the outcome of an election; B is the perceived benefit that would be received if that person’s favoured political party or candidate were elected; D is for democracy or civic duty, or any social or personal gratification an individual gets from voting, and C is the time, effort, and financial cost involved in voting. (Wikipedia.org)

One of the issues affecting voters in Canada and the States has been a sneaky tinkering with that C; in the name of efficiency and a feigned attempt to curb ‘voter fraud,’ politicians have made it more difficult for some groups to be heard.

election-fraud-for-dummiesVoter suppression, the ‘dirty tricks’ dreamed up to intimidate, or to make it inconvenient or impossible for citizens to vote are illegal activities. After the Canadian Federal election of 2011, the Conservative Party was accused of having used live calls and robocalls to tell voters that their polling station had been changed. Voters were directed to false addresses, often several hours away from correct stations. These calls claimed, illegally, to be from Elections Canada.

A federal court was asked by The Council of Canadians to look into allegations of Conservative Party voter fraud. The court concluded that fraud had indeed occurred, probably by someone with access to the Conservatives databases, but said that there was no direct proof that the Party or any successful candidates were either directly involved or profited from the fraud. Although the Conservative were criticized for making “little effort to assist with the investigation,” the court did not annul the result in any of the six ridings where the fraud had occurred, concluding that the number of votes affected had been too small to affect the outcome. (Wikipedia)

In 2015, changes to Canada’s voter eligibility have a new requirement, that each voter prove his or her physical address on paper. The long accepted practice of having a second person vouch for a voter’s address will no longer suffice.

native voice“The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms guarantees the right to vote to every citizen in Canada who is 18 years and older. While the Fair Elections Act doesn’t trump the Charter and render the right to vote for these groups null and void, the EFFECT of the Act could be just that. The Chief electoral officer Marc Mayrand reported in a CTV news article that removing vouch voting could affect over 100,000 people — particularly those who are Aboriginal and live on a reserve.

homeless votePeople who are homeless, whether on the streets, couch surfing or living somewhere temporarily, are also at risk of losing their ability to vote if voter vouching is dismantled. People who are homeless can experience theft, or sometimes misplace their personal identification because of housing instability. This shouldn’t hold them back from voting.

“Irregularities” have been noted with respect to voter vouching in the last election according to a report commissioned by Elections Canada. These irregularities are being touted by the current government as a reason to end voter vouching, however, the report actually states that these issues were ‘administrative’ and made by elections workers — not by voters themselves. In court cases that preceded the report, both the Ontario Superior Court and the Supreme Court of Canada agreed that, “there was no evidence of fraud or ineligible voters being provided ballots.” (Huffington Post Canada)

bc reserveThis change may also become a problem as physical mail delivery becomes a thing of the past. It will definitely be a problem for many First Nations people, who often do not have regular street addresses, and thus relied on vouching. Elections Canada now requires each person lacking identification that includes an address to have a different registered voter swear an oath as to the technical land description of their home or a letter from the First Nation confirming the location, along with a piece of identification with the voter’s name. Elections Canada will not accept Indian status cards alone.

voter-suppressionIn the United States, elections are locally administered, which has often been found to allow the manipulation of elections. Before the Voting Rights Act of 1965, poll taxes, literacy tests, and grandfather clauses were used to suppress poor and racial minorities from voting. Today, voter suppression is more subtle, but is an integral part of policy for the Republicans, who have championed voter ID laws, voter caging, and felony disenfranchisement. There is also a sad history of physical intimidation at polling stations, ranging from unauthorized security guards, to simply making voters wait for long hours in gruelling weather.

Some countries are working to improve voter turnout by increasing possible voting locations, requiring companies to give workers paid voting time off, or allowing voters to vote over several days, as they do in India. In France, voting is held on the weekend, so that most voters have no need for time off from work.

internet-voting1France, Switzerland, Estonia, Geneva and the United Kingdom also allow internet voting. The US Department of Defense has been looking into making internet voting secure, but no decisions have been made.

In Canada, federal elections still use paper ballots. There have been some efforts at the provincial level to allow internet voting, and some municipalities, including Peterborough, Markham and Halifax, provide internet voting as an option. We’re still a long way from being wired politically.

ask questionsNonetheless, and despite the best efforts of those who fear we’ll make the ‘wrong’ decision come Election Day, it’s still imperative that we use our votes to demand the changes we want to see in government. Voting is our power. By not voting, you cede that power to whomever’s voices are louder than the peoples, to further their own agendas and gain.

help wantedUnless we want a democracy in name only, we need to get involved, to seriously look at the candidates in our constituencies, and make an informed judgment on those who are seeking to work for us. Politicians are job seekers; they need to present a résumé and an outline of what they intend to do for us before being handed power. And they must be held accountable if they fail to perform up to their claims and our standards.

powerWhile they vie for their ‘job’ as your representative, you have the power. Once they’ve been elected, it’s out of your hands. So tell those who want your vote that they’ve got to work for it. Choosing not to vote, or to vote without understanding whom you’re hiring, only guarantees that Canada will find itself in the same place or worse by the next time the opportunity to make a difference comes along.

If you don’t vote, you just won’t matter. And all your complaints and demands will only be the wasted breath of the unheard and the unempowered.