Elections and Their Consequences


Elections here, elections there… we’ve got elections everywhere!

trump painting satanWith the American midterms just two weeks away, It goes without saying that most liberal progressives, democrats and independents are hoping to see a ‘blue wave’ overturn the stranglehold the Trump administration has on all three branches of government, and the Supreme Court.

Widespread reports of gerrymandering and voter suppression, however, are indications that the Republicans, unable to run on their non-existent record, are ready to lie, cheat and swindle to keep their power. In previous decades and administrations, the Attorney General would have stepped in aggressively to stop this abuse, but under AG Jeff Sessions, the corruption ensues without check.

GOP old white men in undiesMany are looking to millennials to start that wave of resistance, but from articles and interviews I’ve read, a lot of millennials can’t be bothered; they think their voices will not be heard, and there seems to be a belief that the kids can take back the country once the last of the old white guys in power die off.

They’re not counting on the “farm teams’ .. the Kavanaughs and the Paul Ryans, ready to pick up the slack from the McConnells and Grassleys as they die off. And they’re counting on there being a country left when they’re finally ready to get involved.

We’ll have to keep all appendages crossed that there is still some justice and democracy left in America, that will see the election allowed to play out without chicanery. But I will not take any bets on that happening.

ford notwithstandingMeanwhile, I sure hope that most Torontonians and other Ontarian citizens are planning to cast an informed vote this week in our municipal elections. With all of the meddling that Ford did in cutting our city council in half, and with his nuclear use of the notwithstanding clause to force his will on the citizens of Toronto, not much time was left for some of the candidates to explain their positions on important issues affecting our city.

Ford gave incumbent mayor Tory the greatest gift of all when he tinkered with the electoral machine. With all of the confusion and chaos, it’s most likely that the great unwashed will do what they always do when their cheese is moved – simply vote for the person with the most recognizable name on the ballot.

And that’s a damn shame, because that’s essentially how our world has gotten into the mess it’s in today – voters who once made an effort to be informed and knowledgeable have been replaced with angry, populist, knee jerking votes AGAINST the status quo, rather than votes FOR progress.

I get it; we’re living in a world where we have to instantly react to once shocking events on an hourly basis. There’s just been too many non-stop fireworks going off daily since January 2017, and that makes it hard to be able to pin down the truth and the facts about atrocities most people of the west struggle to contemplate, let alone deal with mentally.

Remember when the ‘Resistance’ were warning the world that they must not ‘normalize’ Trump and his horrific, racist, bigoted ways? Well, it’s happened. That many haven’t yet realized that it’s happened is in itself proof that it’s happened.

jamal-khashoggiTake the disappearance of Jamal Khashoggi, the American resident and Washington Post journalist. At the beginning of October, he entered the Saudi Arabian consulate in Turkey. He was there to obtain a document verifying his divorce so that he could marry his Turkish fiancée. But like the old commercial once said, “He checked in, but he never checked out.”

Khashoggi had been persona non grata and self exiled from Saudi Arabia since November 2016, when he wrote a mild rebuke against the perils of a new president, Donald J. Trump. ” The expectation that ‘Trump as president’ will be starkly different from ‘Trump as candidate’ is a false hope at best,” were the words that Khashoggi wrote about Trump’s stance and rhetoric on the Middle East.

For this ‘crime’ he was banned from all social media, including journalistic writing, making television appearances, and attending conferences. He self-exiled to the United States six months later.

On October 2 he was lured to the consulate, where a team of 15 Saudi Arabians, including one autopsy expert with a bone saw, ‘interrogated’ (tortured) him to death, and then dismembered his body so that it might be disposed of more easily.

The grisly truth of his kidnapping, torture and murder are known to us thanks to what is most likely the ‘bugging’ of the Saudi consulate; Turkey originally claimed to have found the audio recording of the encounter on Khashoggi’s Apple Watch, but tech experts have said it is not very likely. However the information was retrieved, one thing is certain; the American government knew the truth about the murder almost immediately, but covered up the story.

investigating KhashoggiIn the three weeks since the murder, people have struggled to come to terms with this act of violence. Some can sort of understand bits and pieces of what happened, but balk at simple truths, like a photo from the Associated Press showing a cart filled with cleaning supplies that arrived at the consulate just hours before an investigation of the premises was due to occur. Spies, torture, dismemberment.. all of this they can swallow .. but a cleaning cart? That just butts up too closely to normalizing traumatic death, and their mental processes shut down rather than absorb the photo.

MBSBut the most shocking actions have all have been done by Trump and his administration, who have, from the beginning, and with full knowledge of not only the murder, but of U.S. intelligence intercepts showing that MbS had ordered that Khashoggi be lured to Saudi Arabia, known full well that the Crown Prince had ordered the detention, likely with an intent to torture and murder the writer. They later speculated that it was likely that his disappearance in Istanbul was a substitute plan that went sideways.

And yet Trump, with that knowledge, with audio tapes documenting the blood curdling sounds, pretended that he did not believe that MbS was involved, and actually offered a tentative excuse in advance of the Saudi’s excuses, that it might have been ‘rogue killers’ who did the deed.

This, despite solid information that the 15 Saudi Arabian assailants had arrived on private government planes, rode to the consul in diplomatic vehicles, were greeted and welcomed at the consulate by the officials in charge, and did the actual torture and murder in the consul’s own office, later returning to Saudi in the same manner they’d arrived.

The US president has deemed that the investigation that Saudi Arabia did into their own culpability in the murder is credible, and an ‘important first step.’

” The Saudi Arabian government announced Friday that Khashoggi died after a fistfight at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, and that 18 Saudis had been arrested for further investigation while Deputy Director of Saudi Intelligence Ahmed al-Assiri had been dismissed.” (CNN)

trump and saudi orbTrump’s not sure that the US should take action, but if they do, he doesn’t want it to impact the imaginary arm sales and jobs that he believes may be arriving, some time .. really soon .. maybe within ten years. But with nothing on paper or signed, and those imaginary job numbers rising by the day, it’s clear that his words are just more lies intended to protect his, and his son in law’s, personal financial relationship with the Saudis.

We’re now learning of a phone call, as reported by The Wall Street Journal, between Jared Kushner and Saudi Prince Mohammed bin Salman where the young prince asked “why the outrage?” (Wall Street Journal)

Other people are not at all sure that the Saudis should be allowed to skate on the assassination of an America resident.

“After 2+ [weeks] of dissembling, the Saudi ‘explanation’ is not remotely credible,” Suzanne Maloney of the Brookings Institution tweeted. “Nor is the MBS myth, at least not anymore.” She continued: “The end result of this horrific saga is a weaker, more isolated Saudi Arabia [and] a less effective US-Saudi partnership. And no justice for the innocent victim.” (Washington Post)

Even Trump’s own party is finding it increasingly difficult to defend this cowardice on the president’s part.

” New Jersey Sen. Robert Menendez, the top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said in a statement that the Saudi statement is “far from the end.”

“This is far from the end and we need to keep up the international pressure. Congress did its part when we invoked Global Magnitsky Act for a presidential determination. Now President Trump must follow the law,” Menendez said.

Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman Sen. Bob Corker warned against assuming that the Saudis’ “latest story holds water” and stressed that the U.S. must assess Khashoggi’s death under the Global Magnitsky Act, which sanctions human rights offenders. 

isis vs saudi“The story the Saudis have told about Jamal Khashoggi’s disappearance continues to change with each passing day, so we should not assume their latest story holds water,” Corker tweeted Friday.. “They can undergo their own investigation, but the U.S. administration must make its own independent, credible determination of responsibility for Khashoggi’s murder under the Global Magnitsky investigation as required by law.” (CNN)

trump msb bloodshake

However, for those for whom there is no bottom to a moral ground, they are carrying on blithely, raking in the dough. While Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin reluctantly cancelled his trip to the “Davos in the Desert’ conference due in November, he’s still set on going to an anti-terror finance meeting soon to occur in Riyadh. Now THAT is irony.

“There was no actual condemnation by the administration of this human rights atrocity, no defence of a free press, or of the right of Americans (residents or citizens) to travel safely. The administration looks feckless, and if it continues down this road, will earn the ridicule and disdain of Americans, our allies, and all free peoples.

In allowing the Saudis to delay this long, and failing to demand audio recordings allegedly capturing the murder, the administration has become an accessory after the fact, an enabler of nearly unimaginable evil.

What’s more, Trump looks pathetically weak. His childlike willingness to adopt a transparent lie so as to avoid taking action will certainly entice other despots to engage in similar acts of brutality.” (Washington Post)

But what’s going on back at Saudi Arabia HQ? Strangely – the crown prince may not be on as solid a ground as he once thought. The young prince – blood-thirsty and naive – may be the King’s favorite son – but he’s not the only son, or even grandson, available to carry on the legacy of the Sauds.

It would seem that MbS drastically misjudged how the world would react to the Khashoggi murder. And don’t forget that when the shit hit the fan, it was down to his daddy, 82-year-old King Salman, who had to call Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan, to explain why his ‘special’ boy should not be too harshly judged.

what they do to others they will do to youMbS has done some horrific things in his 16 month run-up to Monster In Charge. He has been given free reign to reshape the kingdom to his own vision, and along the way, has arrested and imprisoned scores of human rights and women’s rights activists, along with pursuing a war in neighboring Yemen where routine flouting of human rights and international battlefield rules have led to the death of at least 10,000 civilians and displaced an estimated 2

million overall.

King Salman has literally spent a ‘king’s ransom‘ to cement a strong relationship between Saudi Arabia and America, but MbS may have severed that connection with just one bone saw.

It is hard to predict what will happen next, to either the United States or Saudi Arabia. However, it is becoming increasingly visible that MbS may simply not be ready to assume the reins of power he so eagerly grasped just 16 months ago. And his daddy may be about to show him just what real power looks like when wielded by a real monarch.

 

Meanwhile.. back in Washington, DC ….

republicans spineless

 

 

The Manipulators and the Manipulated


Why must summer always go by so quickly?  In two days it will be August, and then the rest of the year will race away before we can blink. I’m not ready to think about Christmas yet!

Politically, the planet just keeps getting hotter, as does the climate. As a kid, we looked forward to summer as a time when we could shrug off the shackles of school and teachers, kick back with our buddies and maybe find someone to snuggle with until it was time to “see you in September.”

But not this year. This year, no one is allowed to relax – ever! Even if you are not paying attention to the lout down south, Ontarians are dealing with a newly elected premier who is a wannabe tin pot dictator, hell-bent on giving Toronto a serious thrashing for not electing him mayor when they had the chance.

beach coffinWhether you follow regional, national, or world politics, what’s going on is a constant demand for attention from political bad actors. It’s like a painful IV transfusion, filled with acid and bile, that drips poison into our veins and our minds, and turns us against each other. And these egotistical blowhards are taking our summer from us with their narcissistic need to be constantly in the spotlight.

But I have not come here to bury Caesar .. or Trump or Ford … no, I have my rifle sights set – oh yes, again! – on the media.

I won’t go into my rant on the repeal of the Fairness Doctrine again – I’ve done that twice, and it still hasn’t been put back into place. (It’s like the Supreme Court are not even listening to me! Bastards!)

No, what is stuck in my craw is what repealing the Fairness Doctrine has wrought. It’s not just the crazies at FOX and Friends who treat the news like reality is debatable. It’s also the ‘usual suspects’ in the mainstream media.

It’s making me crazy – and it’s making us stupid.
Stormy and Trump 2
In One Year, MSNBC Covered Stormy Daniels 455 Times, War in Yemen 0

While we’d like to think that it’s the grownups in the room that present the news at CNN or MSNBC, the truth is that ALL of the channels, no matter how lofty the stated platform and mandate, have to pay the bills to keep the lights on. Like all entertainers, they’re playing to the audience.

The media is fixated on the news that is either sexy, or that can be spun as sexy. And that means that an awful lot of actual news never gets discussed.

At any given moment, there are events happening around the planet that impact millions. But, unless there is something interesting that North Americans can relate to, those moments will pass unnoticed. We need SEX! We need BLING! We need TRAGEDY!

Who would have ever thought we’d be so interested in the fates of the Thai soccer team? Why could we not stop watching the drama?

We are bears of little brain, it seems, with the attention spans of hummingbirds or goldfish. We constantly need to be tantalized, to have the glittery keys dangled before our eyes, or off we go, on to something that fires more neurons in our neural cortices.

There’s such a lot of spurious dealings going on in the States and in Canada, events that should be taking our full attention, and that, logically, should have citizens up in arms and marching in the streets … but that are instead being met with a collective sigh, and a sad little turning away from what is going on right before our eyes.

The kids in cages at the border; Kim Jung Un backing out of whatever the heck he and Trump had decided upon on nuclear disarmament; the U.S. president’s treasonous capitulation at Helsinki and whatever the heck he and Putin had decided upon for the fate of the planet; the consequences of Trump’s ridiculous trade war; Ford‘s assault on democracy in Ontario; all of these are stories that SHOULD be lighting real fires under our asses.

pay no attentionBut … look at Stormy! Listen to Avenatti! Laugh at Giuliani’s double talking defenses! And whatever you do .. pay no attention to the man behind the curtain …

Most of us are only just beginning to realize how manipulated we have been by not only those in power, but the one’s behind the curtain, that have put them there, by a media that ensured that some politicians received more attention than others. This gambit almost guaranteed that theirs was the name on the ballot that seemed the most familiar, and therefore, possibly the most reputable.

dont shoot the messengerBut instead of getting out the torches and pitchforks to roast the bad guys, we’d rather shoot the messengers who try to draw our attention to the manipulation going on in the background. It seems that most of us would rather pretend not to know how very helpless we are in the face of those who make and break the rules for their own benefit. It’s just so much more convenient and easier to go along with the crowd.

In the United States, which has spent the last two years dealing with an overt corruption and greed beyond their wildest dreams, we have seen an emergence of new, democratic voices, and there is hope that a midterm Blue Wave will overturn the stranglehold that the Trump administration has had on democracy to date.

With any luck, America may be able to place new and driven people, brimming with innovative ideas, into the White House. It would be good to see a move toward term limits as well, to ensure that elected representatives are truly representative of their constituencies. It’s time to turf out politicians who spend their time in office primarily in the getting, consolidation, and keeping of their power, rather than in working for the people who elected them.

Canada will undergo it’s own trial by fire in the next few years, with the election of Doug Ford. We can only hope that we’ve learned, from watching the rampant abuse of power down South, that giving power to bullies only encourages apathy and a destructive divisiveness in our most precious resource – our people.

 

 

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


I am sick of living in interesting times.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I can’t believe that anymore.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I wasn’t surprised at all.

 

Touring Murmuration Nation with Emily Saliers


If you came of age in the 90s, you’ll likely remember Amy Ray and Emily Saliers as the Indigo Girls. Their music was the background music of the indie lifestyle, and indeed, they seemed to be everywhere, racking up Gold and Platinum records, receiving a Grammy in 1990 for Best Contemporary Folk Album, and becoming part of our mass consciousness, referenced in such diverse environs as Stephen King‘s Rose Madder, and the television series, Will and Grace, South Park, and The Big Bang Theory.

With their first major hit, Closer to Fine, a collaboration with Irish band Hothouse Flowers, the Girls secured a place in the hearts of their followers. The first album was followed by a dozen more.

Flash forward thirty years, and Amy and Emily still keep the Indigo Girls flame alight, but both have also dabbled in other enterprises, including solo albums that allow each to follow their personal musical paths. While Amy’s on her seventh solo album, Emily has just released her first, Murmuration Nation.

Emily’s been involved in many non-musical ventures, including the co-ownership of Watershed, a restaurant in Atlanta, Georgia, and the co-writing of a book called A Song to Sing, a Life to Live: Reflections on Music as Spiritual Practice with her father, Don Saliers , a retired theology professor at Candler School of Theology at Emory University.

With so many diverse interests and abilities, touring the Indigo Girls was enough to keep Salier’s  musical itch in neutral, until about two years ago, when she began to ponder the source of her musical inspiration. Born in Connecticut, but raised in Georgia, her ‘white girl in a folk singer’s body’ is still infused with her first musical loves; rhythm and blues, soul music, funk and hip hop, the sounds that are at the core of her rhythmic centre.

The new album, produced by Lyris Hung, a classically trained violinist who has worked with the Girls for years, was conceived when Emily sent Lyris some musical bits and pieces that Lyris cobbled together, just for fun, into something wonderful in her home studio.

Inspired by the directions Lyris had taken the ideas, a project was born, and grew into Murmuration Nation. Recorded with an all-star band—including bassist Tim LeFebvre (David Bowie, Tedeschi Trucks Band), keyboardist Rachel Eckroth (KT Tunstall), and drummers Robert “Sput” Searight (Snarky Puppy) and Will Calhoun (Living Colour)—and featuring guest appearances from fellow luminaries like Lucy Wainwright Roche, Jonatha Brooke, and Jennifer Nettles, the CD is an always moving aural river of sounds, ideas and rhythms.

With dollops of social commentary, a hard nod to social justice, and an eagle eye to environmental issues, the songs flow naturally, commenting wryly on our past, present and future, the personal, and the impersonal. Deep thoughts, yes, but also gentle musings on the fascination of relationships, and always with a beat you can dance to.

Spider” kicks off the album in an explosion of pop/art rock, before settling into a hypnotic groove, setting the pace for the songs to come.

Growing up in Georgia meant being influenced by a myriad of musical styles, and rubbing shoulders with other musicians, including the members of country vocal group, Sugarland. A vocal romp with Sugarland’s Jennifer Nettles dazzles on the most commercial tune on the CD, “Long Haul.”

OK Corral is specifically about our mental illness with our relationship with guns. Even as kids we knew about gunslingers. But the wool has been pulled over some people’s eyes because of a very powerful group like the NRA. Those of us who want sane gun legislation are not saying ‘take ALL the guns away,’ we’re saying that when you have a country of people, many of them ill, and they have access to multiple weapons all of the time … something sets them off, and in a moment of impulsivity, lives are lost. We have to deal with that, on a legislative effort, and we have to start talking to each other about what sane gun legislation means.”

murmurationFly” was written right after the presidential election. “‘Fly’ is kind of at the crux of the album, ” Saliers explains. “A murmuration of birds is practically inexplicable to scientists, but it’s a very powerful thing to watch, and I see it happening in our country in an amazing way right now. From Black Lives Matter to the Women’s March to Standing Rock, there are all these grassroots movements starting to coalesce, and I take great comfort in the way people are instinctually moving together to fight injustice and hate.”

“I’m High I’m On High” looks to the roots of violent religious zealotry.

“Go find someone who’s got nothing left to lose
Brand him a hero, make him think he gets to choose
Between an earthly life of filth and apostates
Or a martyr’s lair where God and virgins wait”

This current tour takes Emily from Maine to Rhode Island, Connecticut and North Carolina, with a stop here in Toronto’s Mod Club on Tuesday, November 21. Expect an organic, audio/visual presentation, featuring stalwart player and producer Lyris Hung in a powerful five piece unit.

Saliers is looking forward to the Toronto visit, as she’s no stranger to the city. Her wife, former Indigo Girls tour manager Tristin Chipman, is an Albertan native who spent most of her adult life in Toronto, has also worked for CARAS, and was the Tragically Hip’s tour manager for their final tour.

“There are a lot of heavy, serious topics on this album,” says Saliers, “but there’s also a lot of whimsical groove and pop to it. That mix is important to me because it’s like the ebb-and-flow, peak-and-valley journey of life. I think this record is very reflective of my personality. I need fast and I need slow; I need grooves and I need a little bit of edge.”

Tickets are still available for Tuesday’s show, and doors open at 7 p.m. Saliers will be signing after the show, and hopes to see you there!

 

(addendum: This post was written prior to the Toronto show on November 21, and a terrible, no fun cold, prevented me from posting it in a timely manner, or getting to see the concert. However – the CD is terrific, and a worthy purchase. )

 

Mid August


Mid August, and most days I feel like, this year, summer never really got started. Maybe it’s the weather, or the political climate, but something feels off-kilter. My potted veg and herbs are in shock; it’s been either torrential rain or temps in the 90s – sometimes in the same 24 hours – every day since they were planted. Sodden pots sit cheek by jowl with containers so arid they threaten to burst into flame. There won’t be much of a harvest this year.

Mid August, and the back to school sales have started. Being an eternal student at heart, I always get really excited about 3 ring binders, coloured pencils, pencil cases, and the like. Which is probably why I have about ten boxes in storage of said items. I’m a victim of stationery covetousness.

The kids playing on the block look like they’re done with summer. Perhaps they are apprehensive about returning to the restrictions of another year of school, of seeing if their old friends have changed, and of having to meet new people who may be friend or foe. Or maybe they’re just caught their parents’ malaise. Either way, the little girl that pushes the doll stroller up and down the street while wearing her mother’s high heels just doesn’t seem to have as much enthusiasm for the task these days.

Mid August, when we postpone the reality of the coming chill with a two week, overheated, ExTravaganza! Yes, the CNE began on Friday, with Burton Cummings and the boys kicking it off with their usual flair.

CNE midwayThe Ex holds less appeal for me every year. I’m still mourning the loss of the Alpine Way, and my ears still keen to hear the dulcet tones of the barker demanding that we come to see the “Gorilla Gorilla Gorilla GURL!”

It’s all downhill after the Gorilla Girl leaves. I can’t even be motivated by fried chicken feet.

Mid August, and news that the legendary recording studio, Le Studio, in Morin Heights (about 90 kilometres north-west of Montreal,) has been destroyed by fire, possibly arson. This, coming just a week or two after news that a successful GoFundMe project had enabled musician Richard Baxter to begin renovating the old girl with a team of volunteers.

Founded in 1974 by Quebec record producer Andre Perry, the studio and residence was once the ‘go to’ spot for Canadian and international artists, including Rush, the Police, the Bee Gees, Sting, Roberta Flack, Cat Stevens, David Bowie, April Wine, Keith Richards and the Ramones.

But not me. I never even had the pleasure of visiting the place, which was a pity, because I spent some pretty formative years in the area as a teen. I’ve always liked to tell myself that Le Studio was built on the site of the old Alpino Lodge. I neither know nor care if that is true.

In the 60’s, my friend Marianne and I would camp by the little lake that wound it’s path around and about the Alpino, babysitting her younger brother, fishing for our food, and generally waiting for the weekend to arrive and the party to start. Those were the days when it was not only possible for a couple of 14 year old girls to be abandoned in the woods for a week at a time, near a lodge that catered to the wealthy and the jaded, with only an eight year old boy as companion and protector, but for said kiddies to not only survive, but thrive, and indeed have a very merry time.

true romance magWhat did we do all day, I asked myself recently. How did we fill all of the hours when we weren’t minding the brat, fishing, picking berries, tending the smoky fire, or reading soggy comic books and True Romance magazines? Mostly we talked, for hours at a time, about our dreams, hopes, and fears. Some days, I’d make Marianne laugh so hard that she’d pee her pants. If I was in a mood, I’d keep it up until her week’s worth of undies were all strung up on nearby branches.

And we’d wait for Friday night. On Friday night, Marianne’s mother and boyfriend would arrive from Montreal, bringing supplies, and freeing us from babysitting duties. On Friday night, we’d clean ourselves up as best we could, and present our under aged selves to the Lodge, where the full spectrum of Morin Heightians, converged for an evening of dancing and drinking. No one frowned on a young woman or man dancing with an older woman or man, or even a man dancing with another man. The point was the dance, the movement sparked by the music of a local combo giving it all they’d got. And no one asked for i.d.

When the night’s entertainment packed up, the teens that had been slouching on the lodge’s porch, smoking home rolleds and doobies that they would light with a wooden match struck on a boot sole or a pant zipper, would all pile into the back of some sixteen year old guy’s pickup truck. We didn’t need no steenback of pickupking seat belts! And off we’d go, the gang of us, with maybe a dog, and a musical instrument or two for company, headlong down the steep road, high as kites, heading for the dam so that we could continue the revelry, at least until the purple micro dots wore off and/or the sun came up.

(My daughter told me recently that she’ll not allow her eight year old daughter to walk the two blocks to school by herself until Kay’s about twelve. Or maybe thirteen. And then, only if there’s a friend nearby who’ll walk with her. In the daytime. Two blocks away. Different times.)

Mid August, and many of my friends are celebrating the fiftieth anniversary of the Summer of Love. I remember schoolmates who got caught up in the hoopla and abandoned the city for hippie dreams, disappearing in a puff of smoke and patchouli, heading for communal farms that put the lie to the middle class dream of suburbia and two car garages. hippies 60s communeI wonder what ever happened to Donna, the dreamy blue eyed beauty that loved the Monkees as much as I did, but chose a hardscrabble life mucking out barns instead, determined to stand by her longhaired, drug dealing, man. Is she still living in rural Canada or America, amidst macrame pot holders and peace symbols? Or did she wake up one morning and realize in a horror stricken panic that she could have been and done anything she wanted to, had she chosen differently?

Mid August, and my flabber is still ghasted when I contemplate the summer madness that allows some, in the U.S., and sadly, even in Canada, to agree with Trump that the removal of these ‘beautiful’ statues erected to honour Confederate generals would be a hardship upon those who might not otherwise have the opportunity to see such ‘works of art.’

Can you hear the dog whistle in that observation?

ugly confed statueBecause, it is implied, even if the art is not Louvre-worthy, that people of colour, and the inner city poor, should at least have the opportunity to feast their eyes upon such statuary. That the monument honours a man in support of slavery and a slave trade that treated the park’s attendees ancestors as human cattle, is a mere peccadillo in their eyes.

A year ago, Zyahna, a young, African-American resident of the city of Charlottesville, petitioned for the removal of one such statue, and to have the park she and her friends frequented re-named from Robert E. Lee Park to Lee Park, saying, “I am often exposed to different forms of racism that are embedded in the history of the south and particularly this city. It makes us feel uncomfortable and it is very offensive.

When I think of Robert E. Lee I instantly think of someone fighting in favor of slavery. Thoughts of physical harm, cruelty, and disenfranchisement flood my mind. … I am offended every time I pass it. I am reminded over and over again of the pain of my ancestors and all of the fighting that they had to go through for us to be where we are now. Quite frankly I am disgusted with the selective display of history in this city. There is more to Charlottesville than just the memories of Confederate fighters. There is more to this city that makes it great.

Let’s not forget that Robert E. Lee fought for perpetual bondage of slaves and the bigotry of the South that kept most black citizens as slaves and servants for the entirety of their lives. As a result, legislatures of the south chose to ignore and turn a blind eye to the injustices of African Americans from Jim Crow and anti-black terrorism to integrated education. These are all some things that this statue stands for. It is about more than just an individual, but rather what that individual believes in and the things that he stands for.”

In 2016, the petition fell just 270 supporters short of it’s goal of 1000 in concurrence with her appeal. A year later, the city council did indeed agree with young Zyahna, putting into motion a series of events that would ultimately lead to the death of one young woman, and two police officers.

bread and circusesMake no mistake; the decision to remove the statue was a democratic decision. The reasoning behind the removal was sound, fiscally conservative, and sensitive to ALL of the residents of the city, not just those who wanted it to remain.

The only ones incensed by the decision were those who continue to believe that the emotions and history of white Americans are innately superior to those of other colours. Even the sidestep, that defends the artistry of the statues while denying the inherent racism implied, revolves around the right of white Americans to continue fawning over defeated, racist and bigoted leaders over the sensibility of those who were physically, emotionally, and financially damaged by those same leaders.

“Two things only the people anxiously desire — bread and circuses.”

Will this cataclysmic rift in ideology tear the country in half, ending in a Civil War Part Deux? And, more importantly for we in the North, as we read the words of many Canadians on social media agreeing with this cockeyed rationale for racist ‘art’, is Canada moving relentlessly towards a similar, more openly racist and bigoted point of view?

Mid August, and it’s never felt so much like that black day in July, 50 years ago …

 

Boom Times in the Big Smoke


It’s Boom Town for realtors in Toronto these days. 243,400 houses were sold last year, and as of April of this year, the average residence in the city had a starting price tag of a cool $921,000.

378 East Sept 2016My old house in Scarborough, which we sold last July, was re-sold twice more by speculators before the year ended, each time jumping another $100K or so in price. It’s now been demolished and rebuilt as a monster home. I wouldn’t recognize the place, they tell me.

Fine by me. We sold, we moved, and I can barely remember the person I was when I lived in my big, old bungalow. Turns out it’s great not to have the onus of house maintenance, and the constant waiting for the next expense to drop. Renting, after 30 years of owning, may not lend the same sense of autonomy, but it also comes with a lot less responsibility and chores.

Taxes can be a burden on the home owner as well, since your residential tax is based on current value, not what you paid for the place at the time of purchase. If you lucked out in the eighties and bought your dream home for around $100,000, you might be considering a second job just to keep the taxes paid and the utilities flowing.

hawkstone-manorGood ol’ Rompin’ Ronnie Hawkins has his big estate, Hawkstone Manor, up for sale. Again. He tried to sell it for $14.9 million back in 2013, and failed. But it’s up again, this time listed at $4.3 million. If it goes to a bidding war, which is not out of the question, he could still get closer to the $10 million mark.

From the Toronto Star, April 2013:
“It’s a $100 house on a million-dollar property.”

The nine-bedroom, five-bathroom home is really only notable for the lifetime of memories that line its orange living room walls. A buyer would likely bring in a bulldozer.

But the house sits atop a rare piece of prime Kawarthas real estate — 165 acres gently sloping down to almost 4,000 feet of waterfront that, on these sought-after shores of the Trent-Severn Waterway, can go for $5,000 a foot.”

The Order of Canada recipient is 82, and not in the best of health. Whatever the final price, he and his wife will be able to cash out big and find somewhere a lot cosier to shelter them in their golden years.

sold over asking. jpgAnd that’s the ideal situation to be in, in the market right now. If you’re selling and have to purchase another place in the city – good luck to you. They want ridiculous money for so much as a garage, without a house attached. It’s madness. Tiny bungalows, like the one I’m renting, list for $800K and sell for over a million.

And when the interest rates rise in a bit, it’s gonna be even crazier. How can the average person buy so much as an entry home in the city, without a family income somewhere in the $300K a year range? It’s nuts. Rock, meet hard place. Rock musicians … move to Hamilton.

Funny thing, though, about this real estate madness – with hundreds of thousands of properties changing hands in the last two years, there have never been more paper millionaires minted in the city than it’s likely seen in it’s history. scrooge_mcduck

Not just millionaires – multi-millionaires. If you’re one of those lucky enough to have pretty much retired the mortgage, and are ready for retirement yourself, you could be walking away with more money than you ever dreamed you’d have. (Not me, I hasten to add – we did alright but didn’t hit Scrooge McDuck status. We’re barely McDucklings. We’re Ova McDuck, if anything.)

Barring a lotto win, which is unlikely, since I keep forgetting to buy a ticket, I’ll probably spend the rest of my days in rental properties, of decreasing proportions. Part of me would love to be a home owner again, but the rational, sensible part of my brain is quite comfortable with letting someone else worry about the roof, the septic tank, and the tyranny of ‘keeping up with the Jones.

I’m liking this downsizing, says the unrepentant hoarder. I’m liking trying to fit everything that once overflowed a 4000 square foot sprawler into this teensy tiny, less than 1000 square foot bungalow. It’s given me the chance to actually sift through all of these souvenirs and memories, and sort the metaphorical wheat from the chaff. I’m culling the hoard. It’s great to tear willy nilly through the detritus, and toss out the junk. It’s fun to put boxes of odds and ends on the lawn, under a big sign that says ‘Free!’ and watch cars screech to a halt, their drivers eager to find some little treasure to haul home.

1 800 got junkIt’s really heartening to go through all of the boxes of clothing, shoes, books, craft items, and linens, choose what can be redistributed within our family and friends, and then pass on the overflow to people who will appreciate what we’ve donated. There are so many who have so little, while others have three of everything. Distributing some of my bounty to those who can use it liberates my home AND my heart.

I didn’t need three apple corers. In fact, I have never even used one of them, not even once. Ditto the cherry pitter.

For the first time in my life, I’m no longer buying stuff ‘just in case,’ or with a view to some future purpose, because my future is now, and I want to be present.

I’m happy for those who are selling their properties for a tidy profit. I’m happy for those who are finding their dream homes. I worry about Torontonians who missed the real estate roundabout, and are now trying to find something affordable to rent. But this is all going on around me, and like you, I have very little say in what the Toronto of tomorrow will resemble.

Owning a home is not for everyone. It’s a very nice thing, and can certainly be wise and profitable in midlife. But when it comes time for retirement, home ownership is more like an anchor around your neck, keeping your proverbial boat stuck in one place. To enter new waters, you’ve got to haul up that anchor, and unfurl the sails, letting the fresh breeze take you somewhere new and exciting.

Avast, me hearties … I’m bound for uncharted shores!

 

Wild and Wacky Weathering


In June 2012, Amazon picked The Age of Miracles by Karen Thompson Walker as one of the month’s best reads. A combination coming-of-age story and apocalyptic page turner, the novel focused on how people would react to a changed world, where “the Earth’s rotation slows, gradually stretching out days and nights and subtly affecting the planet’s gravity. ”     
age of miracles
The book outlines how a young girl, along with her family and friends, cope with this adjustment, as the planet wobbles off to it’s slow demise.  Meanwhile, the best laid plans and schemes from governments fail to make much difference in how the Earth’s denizens cope with the disaster.

And that’s kind of where we’re at these days, isn’t it? We’re in a vague malaise, unable to confidently say what the weather will be like today or tomorrow, while hapless governments, even if they agree that there is a problem, struggle to find bandaid solutions to  the earths’ sores that have been left to fester for too long.
trump alone at G20

Except this guy .. this guy thinks he knows better than anyone on the planet, be they incredibly educated scientists or those who have spent their lives dedicated to studying the effect of climate change on people. This guy is an asshat.

It must really be pointed out how completely insanely and selfishly Trump and his band of reverse Robin Hood Merry Men are behaving. They’re hooting and hollering like ignorant hillbillies as they seal the environmental fate of those fools who voted for them to make life altering decisions, in the name of ‘economic change.’ These corporate raiders of the environment are convinced that money and power will save them from dying from a lack of clean air and water. But just them. The rest of us? Dream on. We’re all going down with this ship.

Remember when the first rumblings about a change in the planet’s clime began to hit the middle class consciousness? Those who could see the bigger picture were worried about how even a slight shift in warming could damage our environment, the least of our worries being an increase in natural disasters, as melting polar ice caps brought about flooding, and extreme weather swings were tempered with more frequent and deadlier droughts.

Others smiled at the thought of palm trees growing down the main streets of large northern cities. With a thorough lack of understanding of the fragility and interweaving of climate and landmass, some hoped this warming would bring about new tropical beaches in heretofore frigid areas. These foolish humans thought they could somehow control where and when climate change would happen, and bend it to their wishes.

All of their fantasies depended upon where they were located, and hinged upon a lack of empathy for those who would see the opposite of these desires. In order to have the tropics brought to your front yard, many countries would have to be completely displaced or disappear from their current sites. In order to have Floridian temperatures in Boston, New York or Toronto, you first have to lose Florida.

But, of course, they were attempting to take a world problem, and make it into a personal triumph.  Still, Man proposes, god and the environment disposes. You’ve only to look locally, to the disastrous flooding on the Toronto Islands and the economic battering Toronto is taking on this matter alone, to see that we have no control whatsoever when Mother Nature gets pissed off. Instead of a tropical beach, you have land masses swept away, along with coastal areas being eroded, possibly never to be returned in our lifetimes.

I wonder what Trump will think when his precious Mar-a-Lago is swallowed up by the sea? It will happen, and I can only hope it will happen sooner than predicted. Right about now works for me.

elephant left to rotAnd when I think about those who continue to claim that our actions are too miniscule to have any sort of immediate impact upon the planet, I’m struck dumb by the hubris, and the inability of some to look at the damage we all regularly inflict upon the planet, and not see how integral each and every living creature’s actions are to maintaining this delicate balance.  Where once we knew, instinctively and intuitively, that the lowliest butterfly snatched from our timeline could have an impact upon the food chain, we now struggle to throw off responsibility for the most damaging of indignities and raping of natural resources ever seen in human history.

But don’t we love to talk about the weather! Talking about it, singing about it, trying to forecast what might be on the horizon, and molding our protective coatings around what we hold precious … this is what we have always done, since caveman days. Through the centuries we learned more about how the planet moved through it’s cycles, and how the sun and moon determined how best we could use the land and waters around us.

We learned to measure how precipitation complicated the times when seeds could be planted, in order to feed our populations. We began to understand that chemicals, seeded into the lifeblood of the planet, the very earth and air, could and would damage the reproductive cycles of all living creatures. We learned how to forecast what the weather might be in coming days, and when we would need to protect our bodies with clothing that would keep us warm, or sunscreen that would fend off the increasingly irradiating rays of the sun, which were no longer impeded by the thick coating of ozone we had taken for granted.

All of these things we learned over time, through observation of the repetition of the seasons, we now blithely toss aside in favour of commercializing and exploitation of resources, an exploitation that seems less inclined to profit humanity, but certainly enriches corporations with no concern for the actual ‘owners’ of the lands they rape.

We looked to the seasons as metaphor for our lives. The cycles of the seasons echoed the natural order of life. Spring reflected our callow youth, and Summer mirrored the fullness of being an adult. We understood that the fall indicated a slowing of days, and winter … dark, cold, unforgiving winter … symbolized a time of aging, and eventual death. The days have the same length, but there are fewer of them.

When the natural order of the seasons is displaced, when you can no longer count on April showers bringing May flowers, our human minds have difficulty grasping that which we’ve always taken for granted – the flow of time reflected in our environment.

The impact of climate change doesn’t end with the physical damage that’s being inflicted on the world. Now, those who study our psyches are beginning to see a change in how humans respond emotionally to the trauma and shock of weather events. Even if we try to avoid focusing on the earthquakes, tsunamis, droughts, floods and landslides which now occur more frequently, our minds are aware of these catastrophes, and our ability to absorb these disasters is lessened. Our empathy is impacted, leading to a rationalization of isolation, and of a need to protect what we have from those displaced by events beyond their control.

We are, in effect, living in a state of post traumatic stress and shock. Some might feel a low grade sense of depression and anxiety, while others, perhaps more sensitive to this imbalance, may have behavioural issues, ranging from substance abuse, to interpersonal and job-related difficulties. Other symptoms can include a heightening of violence and aggression towards others. It is no accident that the rate of suicide has risen in the last decade, as some decide that there’s simply no reason to carry on, in a world so out of balance.

Climate change on our planet will eventually impact every one of us, wherever we live. In recent studies (Bryant et al., 2014,) (Simpson et al., 2011,) it was noted that,
Changes in climate affect agriculture, infrastructure and liveability, which in turn affect occupations and quality of life and can force people to migrate. These effects may lead to loss of personal and professional identity, loss of social support structures, loss of a sense of control and autonomy and other mental health impacts such as feelings of helplessness, fear  and fatalism.

Extreme temperatures in their own right have a unique influence on behavior and wellbeing. As research by Craig Anderson (2001) and Simister & Cooper (2005) has shown, aggression increases as temperatures rise. Thus as summers get hotter, so might our tempers — likely due, the researchers explain, “to the impacts of heat on arousal, which results in decreases in attention and self-regulation, as well as an increase in the availability of negative and hostile thoughts.” Heat can also impact our ability to think clearly, they add, “which may reduce the ability to resolve a conflict without violence (Pilcher, Nadler, & Busch, 2002).” Higher temperatures have also been found in other research to increase the risk of suicide (Lee et al., 2006).

ecoanxiety
Add to this mounting fear and anxiety derived from watching the world around us change in irreversible ways — coupled with the helplessness of feeling as if we cannot stop or reverse global warming— and you have another effect of climate change on mental health:

“Watching the slow and seemingly irrevocable impacts of climate change unfold, and worrying about the future for oneself, children, and later generations, may be an additional source of stress (Searle & Gow, 2010),” the authors write. “Albrecht (2011) and others have termed this anxiety ecoanxiety. Qualitative research provides evidence that some people are deeply affected by feelings of loss, helplessness, and frustration due to their inability to feel like they are making a difference in stopping climate change (Moser, 2013).”

While it may be expedient and profitable for climate change deniers to continue on the path to ecological destruction, those who deny what is happening to their own psyches are impeding any kind of healing for the rest of us.  Seasons change, and we must change with them. But more gently.