The Countdown Continues


by Roxanne Tellier

A few days ago, as I motored back from the grocery story with yet more packing boxes, I passed an old station wagon in the local mall’s parking lot. There were pillows, blankets, and clothing schmooshed up against every side window. And the front window was impressively ice encrusted.

I am not a wealthy woman. And I have not lived a particularly charmed or lucky life. I am just a little bit fortunate that my husband and I were careful with our money, despite a lot of economic ups and downs over the years, and that we managed to save enough to be able to afford a roof over our heads as we head into our senior years.

But it was clear to me that the people who were in that station wagon, for whatever reason, were not so fortunate.

I’m a mere 10 days out from a pretty epic change of circumstances myself, but I know that my move, although chaotic, likely done in snow and cold, to a background of fulsome curses, and with a future that will probably be filled with many surprises at the onset, is of our own choosing, and that the road we travel leads to a warm home with a roof (that needs repairs) to shield us from the cold and snow.

The snow and biting cold this morning was a nasty surprise. For days I’ve been warning my husband that we needed to get the last of the outdoor furniture, gardening supplies, and the like, under cover and out of the weather. I’ve had a persistent vision of the cursing that will ensure as we try to dig chairs and wheelbarrows out from under a foot of snow and ice, to pile them, dripping with icicles,  into the moving truck.

But even yesterday it was warm enough for me to be tossing around boxes in the shed without so much as a jacket. That’s not the case today, when January’s reality has arrived. The birds and squirrels were thick on the porch at feeding time, desperate for the seeds and nuts I provide. That food keeps them alive. I worry about what they’ll do when I leave, and their food source is gone. I’ll leave some provender behind for the next tenant to dole out, but I won’t be here to ensure it’s done on a consistent and timely basis. And that haunts me.

Our little cat also worries me. She has not been herself since she lost Farley, her lifelong companion, in November. She’s old, blind, and seems terribly depressed. Her habits have completely changed. She now wakes, screaming, from a troubled sleep every two or three hours, demanding food, and then has to be soothed back to another short period of rest before she wakes again, howling as she is reminded of her loss. This schedule is not particularly conducive to anyone – either human or animal – getting a good night’s sleep.

Ten days out from the move, I’m in that terrifying position of still needing to pack but a) having little space to put the packed boxes, and b) being pretty much down to the things that I thought I’d need in the last days here.

Of course, I grossly overestimated how much I’d need to keep on hand. I’ve got a king’s ransom of cleaning supplies. I’ve kept enough beauty supplies and clothing on hand to supply a cast of a Cecil B DeMille spectacle. I still have far too much food and drink on hand, though every day I make a dent in what’s been living in the freezer for the last many months.

I’m now at the Sophie’s Choice part of packing – what’s left must be packed, but must be chosen carefully. Essentials misplaced, if mispacked, will cause problems. When we sold our house in Scarborough, all of my shoes disappeared, and I spent six months wearing scuffed orange garden clogs. That’s a fate I wouldn’t wish on anyone, but most especially not someone from Montreal. The horror!

How do you decide what can be safely stowed, and what must be clasped tightly until safely deposited at the other end of the move?  I mean, besides the cat … of course the cat will be safely secured, along with her own collection of necessities. I am not at all looking forward to THAT part of the journey;

Today’s the second day of the new year. I’m doing a lot of sorting, a modicum of packing, and an infinite amount of worrying. Hoping all this rehearsing will mean that it’ll be ‘alright on the night,” as they say in the theatre.

Musings On Movings and Marijuana for Multinationals


by Roxanne Tellier

If it was a good enough moving company for Grandma …

Today is the 12th of December, and that means that Shawn and I are exactly one month away from the Big Move, from Toronto, to Windsor, Ontario.  The drive is a mere 230 in earth miles, but, in some integral ways, it’s also the equivalent of moving from the Moon to the Sun. 

Interspersed with frenzied packing have been ‘last lunches,’ and ‘quick meets for coffee’ that lasted long, lovely hours, and opportunities to visit audio and visual touchstones of my nearly four decades in Toronto. Like last week’s pilgrimage to The Rex, where Kevin Quain serenaded a few stalwarts that made their way through the wind and snow to enjoy his musical stylings on the Rex’s grand piano. He cut his musical teeth there, and his mix of originals and classics always hits the spot.

We’re heading into the meat of winter, and the snow has begun to fall, so I’ve been fixated on getting all of my outdoor and gardening necessities packed and protected from the weather. I work outside when I can, and then in the house, stuffing the interminable detritus of a life well lived into cartons that once held various liquors. There are nearly 200 boxes wedged into one side of the living room now, and another area holds the shelves that were once filled with books, art, and chotchkes.

And then there’s the plants …

Just packing up my hobbies and the bulk of my office will bring that box number to about 300. And then I’ll have to get serious about packing up the kitchen…

Oh yes, I’m busy. Most days I wake about 4 a.m., jerking bolt upright, tensed with anxiety, list of things to do, to remember, by my side, with new items underlined in red ink, and try to unclench my teeth and bones. I’m often dotted with medicinal A-535 patches, have a heating pad attached to my spine and a brace jauntily gracing my right knee. As the cat squawks in alarm, the day begins, a race from the start to the 8 or 9 pm finish, when I collapse back into the bed, unread book in my hand, and the reading lamp blazing, forgotten.

When I take a break from packing, I will usually relax with some entertainment I’ve PVRed, that I know I’ll be interested enough to watch for at least a few minutes before nodding off. My tastes remain eclectic, but something I’ve learned as my time becomes more precious, currently and in the bigger picture of life, is that I’m not terribly eager to embrace new casts of characters. I like the way old friends, both of the earthly variety and of those only known to us on our screens, fit my moods and needs.

Fr’instance, I really enjoyed binging the 10-episode arc to the new CSI: Las Vegas franchise. While there were new, young, hip main characters, my interest was in the inclusion of Sarah Sidle and Gil Grissom, an intriguing couple of scientists from the original; seeing them was like catching up on what’s been going on with chums I miss from the wayback.   

And having these remembered characters marvel at the new tech that’s come along since their own heyday seemed somehow so very right, in a time when extraordinary leaps of science are being rejected by those who would gladly pull the world backward to a darker, uglier time.

There’s no denying that we’re living in a very different world than the one we knew, even no further back than 2016. It’s gone topsy turvy, and, after 4 years of political madness, the cherry on top of our new reality was COVID, a global pandemic.  

But the good news is that, while the regressives struggle to pull us back, the progressives continue to pull us forward.

In 2018 I wrote a column about the Lift and Co Expo, held at the Metro Convention Centre, before Canada had actually legalized marijuana.  (https://tinyurl.com/yckurrur)

This year’s 2021 conference, held in mid November, outdid the previous years’ conventions by leaps and bounds. The exhibit floor fairly groaned with the weight of the enormous machinery in use in full scale production of the now legal pot. And the list of available seminars, which ranged from the technical to the opining on the future of the marketing of psychedelics in Ontario, was fulsome and fulfilling.

As I wandered the aisles, speaking to some of the friendly representatives of diverse companies that specialized in everything from gummies to the highest of high tech, my mind kept reaching back to the early days, pre-legalisation, when there was, at least for me, a sense that legalisation could still wind up a defeat snatched from the jaws of victory. A lot of the conversations I had in 2018 seemed to be of the breath-holding variety, that is, we could see a new horizon – but only if everything were to go right, in every way, from the conference, to the maneuverings of legislators and Big Business, all the way to Legal Pot Day.

But maybe I was projecting. After all, I was already 50 years past the first puff I’d ever taken, and those 50 years had seen so many smart and open-minded ideas be crushed under the iron fists of those that, to this day, fear cannabis as ‘the devil’s weed’, and who, even today, eschew any of it’s benefits to society.

At home with my swag bags, filled with goodies of all kinds from the generous retailer’s booths, I realized that cannabis’ future has very little to do with those ubiquitous corner pot shops that have popped up on every Toronto street. No, it’s not about the corner store at all; it’s about the future of every country that begins to look at the wonders of a natural herb for ways that it can benefit their societies medically, socially, and technically, rather than be the cause of crime and punishment. 

Some days I marvel at the possibilities that lie in store for my grandchildren. Much of what is to come is likely inconceivable today, just as the innovative technologies of the year 2000 would have dazzled my grandmother, had she lived to see them.

And that’s a good thing. As much as we may revel in the fun we had in the past, the old must be left behind in order to make room for the new. If we greet each new opportunity with an open mind and heart, there’s no telling what wonders may lie ahead. No matter how hard you try, you can’t hold back tomorrow, any more than you can hold back the tide.

“Life is a banquet, and most poor suckers are starving to death,” said Jerome Lawrence. To enjoy the banquet of life, you have to be willing to try those things that might first scare you a little – things like escargot, chocolate covered crickets … and moving to another city.

Giant leaps of faith are still the best exercise anyone can do, at any age.  

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 Wisdom of Our Elders


by Roxanne Tellier

What a difference a week makes! Since the inauguration, I haven’t had a single communication with another person that didn’t involve a distanced high five, and a recounting of how much better we’re all sleeping and eating since we saw the backend and ignominious departure of the previous resident of the White House.

Trump was that creepy uncle that you only saw once or twice a year, and learned at a young age to step lively around, lest he pinch you cruelly, and in a ‘private’ place.  His words were lies, his ‘truth’ nothing but narcissism and tales of his own greatness, believed only by the gullible.

Predictably the QCrazies are bereft, inconsolable, losing their minds, because, it seems the Kraken didn’t awake, the Storm didn’t break, and all the money they spent on champagne to toast a forever trump presidency is gonna have to paid for, so it’s back to the proverbial chain gang, trumpless.

There’ll be no pardons for those that opted to follow their leader’s words, and attempted to overthrow the government, just arrests, fines, and imprisonments to remind them that black out drunks and highs have consequences.

A new Biden administration toddles into place, just a few days old, and already under siege from a Republican party that believes their bluster will protect them from the wrath of not just the Democrats, now in a majority, but the millions of Americans who watched trump and his lackeys attempt a coup in broad daylight.

Gone, but not forgotten, America must now sift through the rubble left behind by a corrupt and criminally incompetent administration whose response to crises was to throw blame and shade on everyone around them, before taking off for some R & R on the golf course. There’s a lot of work – a mindboggling amount of work – to be done before America is back on track.

Yes, Creepy Uncle is gone. In his place, we have ‘No Malarkey’ Joe Biden, a man whose backstory would make an amazing made for TV movie. A dog lover, and a lover of trains, he’s a man who has spent the best part of his life in and around D.C., in public service.

It’s an interesting moment in time. The 74-year-old contender was beaten by a 78-year-old retiree. While the new vice-president, Kamala Harris, is just 56, Nancy Pelosi, who is third in the line of succession, will be 81 in March. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer is 70.   Mitch McConnell will be 79 in February. The incumbent Secretary of State, Daniel Bennett Smith, is 64. Many of the most prominent members of both parties are in their seventies and eighties, including Dianne Feinstein, 87, whose mental capabilities have been questioned in recent months, and Chuck Grassley, who is also 87, and who recently won yet another six years in office. Prior to last week, Wilbur Ross, 83, was the US Secretary of Commerce, when he wasn’t busy on his side hustle, as Jeff Dunham’s puppet, Walter. (Wilbur Ross Walter Puppet.jpg)

South Carolina’s Senator Strom Thurmond left office at the age of 100, after having served almost fifty years in power. West Virginia’s Robert Byrd died in office at the age of 93, as did Georgia’s John Lewis, at 80. Prior to the most recent elections, it was virtually unheard of that a Senator be under the age of 40.

The United States has, thus, for some time been effectively a gerontocracy.

“A gerontocracy is a form of oligarchical rule in which an entity is ruled by leaders who are significantly older than most of the adult population. In many political structures, power within the ruling class accumulates with age, making the oldest the holders of the most power. Those holding the most power may not be in formal leadership positions, but often dominate those who are. In a simplified definition, a gerontocracy is a society where leadership is reserved for elders. “ (wiki)

Under trump, that gerontocracy was in full bloom, as he placed into positions of power septuagenarians and octogenarians willy nilly. By contrast, the majority of Biden’s nominations look more like the average American than in any previous administration, with the exception of a few, like Janet Yellen, 74, who has been nominated to serve as Treasury Secretary.

And this, a younger, more diverse cabinet, is deeply needed, since the aging of the three branches of government has been repeatedly connected to the broader themes of American decline. 

How weird is it that, in a country where, clearly, we treasure the ‘wisdom’ of our elders, based on our electoral choices, where we only feel safe and in good hands with those as old as our grandparents and great-grandparents in the highest elected positions – that we also treat the poorer, less powerful, and frailest of our elderly with such dismissive contempt?

If we believe, as has been said, that the weight of years and experience is responsible for the wisdom, gravitas, and good-hearted balance brought about by decades of living, how is that so few of those opining on the ‘common sense’ approach of ‘herd immunity’ in dealing with COVID-19 feel absolutely no shame in expressing no regrets, publicly, that the first and most voluminous group of martyrs in such a program would be our elders? 

In Canada, COVID-19 has wreaked most of its wrath upon seniors, disproportionately affecting the elderly. In November, StatsCan reported that more than 52 per cent of those who had died from the virus were individuals aged 85, and older, while 36 per cent were aged 65-84. 88 per cents of our deaths have been in people over the age of 65. Only 12 per cent of the victims were younger than 65. 77 per cent of those deaths can be traced to long-term care, and senior homes.

95 per cent of deaths in the US were of people over the age of 50.

That we have failed so dramatically at protecting and prioritizing the health and care of our elders is a colossal moral failure. It appears that we only value people who are deemed economically productive. Once that time has passed, and regardless of how much we may have contributed to society throughout our younger years, people who are no longer economically productive are essentially perceived as worthless, and without further value.

In Ontario, twenty-five years ago, and under the Mike Harris government, hospitals were closed, and the jobs of thousands of nurses were eliminated, while the public role in long-term care was reduced, allowing corporate players such as Sienna Senior Living, Revera, Extendicare and Chartwell Homes to enter the game. Regulations were relaxed, and public oversight was reduced. Seniors would now have a range of options for assisted living and long-term-care housing, but at a significantly higher price.

In May of 2020, the Toronto Star reported that “three of the largest for-profit nursing home operators in Ontario, which have had disproportionately high numbers of COVID-19 cases and deaths, have together paid out more than $1.5 billion in dividends to shareholders over the last decade.”

The article added:

This massive sum does not include $138 million paid in executive compensation and $20 million in stock buybacks (a technique that can boost share prices), according to the financial reports of the province’s three biggest publicly traded long-term-care home companies, Extendicare, Sienna Senior Living and Chartwell Retirement Residences.”

A decent society resists the temptation to take the easy way out, no matter how profitable it may be. The elderly deserve more than warehousing, secured away from their loved ones, while they wait to see if they’re next to die. It shows a horrifying disrespect that we are not making more effort to protect them. 

Ontario may be the guiltiest province in Canada for hypocrisy. In April 2020, when the province wanted to appear ‘caring,’ they brought in the military to help with the abject neglect and chaos in long term care homes, brought about by those lax regulations, and poor staffing choices.

And yet, in June, and despite record-setting profits, the CBC reported that the majority of Ontario’s LTCs were still operating at 1972 structural safety standards.

Ontario changed its structural safety standards back in 1998 — mandating, among other things, that nursing home bedrooms should house no more than two residents.

Homes that didn’t meet the new standard were allowed to keep running as-is, with an expectation they would upgrade eventually. The vast majority of homes that haven’t yet upgraded are run by for-profit companies.

While non-profit and for-profit homes have been equally likely to experience outbreaks, those outbreaks have proven deadlier in for-profit homes. (CBC Canada, June 2020)

In January 2021, Mike Harris, who spent the last 25 years raking in profits from the long-term care system he helped create, and who is the chair of Chartwell Home’s board of directors, was nominated for the Order of Ontario, despite protests from numerous minority groups, most vocal of which have been the Indigenous communities of Ontario.

(“Between 1995 and 2002, Harris was premier during some of the province’s most notorious scandals in recent history, including the shooting death of Indigenous protester Dudley George in 1995 and the Walkerton water crisis five years after.”) from CTV News, January 2021

We believe that we live in lush capitalism, but that’s not true of all of society. In fact, we are in end-stage capitalism, where even the lions turn upon each other. There are homeless living in our parks, but millions in dollars in pandemic aid is going to corporations making healthy profits, who are paying out dividends with one hand, while receiving federal wage subsidies in the other.

In Canada, 53 public companies disclosed receiving more than $10 million under the Canada emergency wage subsidy program (CEWS). CEWS will have cost ALL Canadians more than $100 billion by the time it wraps up in 2021. But only a small segment – the wealthiest – will have received the most benefits from that and similar protection programs.  

While far right Republican and Conservative pundits clamour that the Democrats will ruin their economy with socialism, their parties actually preach and platform something more akin to dog eat dog, where people are only valued for what they produce. These groups advocate the removal of any sort of social safety net, in the form of Social Security or Medicare. What these politicians never acknowledge is that the removal of those nets will doom the elderly, the frail, the ill and the disadvantaged to spending their days in situations akin to that of the worst horrors of the 19th centuries poorhouses and workhouses, where society placed stigma and shame on those unable to support themselves.

The COVID-19 pandemic laid bare the truth in the social safety net, that it was never adequate protection in times of major risks like pandemic illnesses, because of the massive inequality of resources in capitalistic societies. If not addressed and amended, the worse is still to come.

I’ve long contended that the gerontocracy of the United States government is a negative factor, in terms of governance, primarily because those making the rules and regulations for the future have no stake in that future; they won’t be around to reap the rewards or punishments of their decisions. That’s on top of the fact that the majority of those in power are long term seat holders, who have amassed significant wealth and fulsome pensions and benefits, and so are unaffected by the ebb and flow of the average citizen’s lifetime.

They don’t look, act, behave, or earn like the hundreds of millions of Americans they represent. Yet they define the parameters for everything those hundreds of millions must do, from birth to death, and everywhere in between.  

Some have called me ‘ageist’ for this position, which is almost laughable, in that there is no ‘ist’ or ‘ism’ that takes away one iota of wealth or power from that most blessed group of elected fortunates.

But what do we call those who look at the opposite end of the age spectrum, at the people who are poor, sick, frail, and without any of those benefits, and deem them of no value to society?  Nothing that can be repeated in polite society, that’s for sure.

These last few years have been hard on all of us, in Canada, and in the United States, as we’ve struggled under circumstances made all the harder in the last year with a global pandemic. I want desperately to believe that there are better days ahead. I sincerely hope that Biden has begun as he means to go on, and that his successes inspire Canada and other countries to look in the same direction of progress, healing, and more equal opportunities for all, not just the privileged.

BONUS .. everybody sing along! 😉

How Much for Your Soul?


by Roxanne Tellier

On the day after 4 million students from all around the world marched to protest their respective governments’ lack of decisive action on climate change, Bob Lefsetz noted that the photos and the chatter had already been pushed off the pages of both terrestrial and online press sites. 

Just a few of those crazy 4 million kids who marched for climate change

Today I noticed several cynics on social media, who found the very idea of kids marching for climate change laughable. Rather than admire the strength and courage shown by Greta Thunberg and her supporters, they wallowed in the belief that there is no point in fighting those in power.

It’s like all the marches, the sit ins and bed ins and hunger strikes of the sixties never even happened. As though the broken heads and bodies of civil rights activists were a myth. As if the peaceful protests of leaders like Ghandi just didn’t matter. 

Listen. If protests didn’t work, governments wouldn’t be always trying to stop people from protesting.

When the people finally stand up and find their voices, the people can change the world. We boomers did; we stopped a war. Maybe these kids can save the planet. Maybe we can help them.

If we don’t then we’ve proved that this is how the world works now. We gear up towards an event, take our selfies, and then we’re on to the next crisis. Even if we really, really care about that event – a political debate, our children marching to try and save the planet – there’s always another spike, another shock, another jolt, coming at us before we’ve caught our breath from the last. Which means we never actually get anything done.

It’s exhausting. And it’s getting us nowhere.

All week long I’ve been trying to put my finger on the overwhelming atmosphere of our political environment. It’s exhausting. It’s depressing. It’s like we’ve had our adrenal glands hooked up to a milking machine. Our supply of fight or flight hormones are running so low now that many people would barely blink at a sharknado.   

While we can certainly point to the Mango Mussolini as the main culprit who has conditioned us to expect multiple adrenaline jolts per day, the media also bears a lot of responsibility for having married our emotions to this stressful world of social media and nonstop ‘breaking news!’

When I was growing up, the news occupied a sacred place in society. At fairly regular intervals, the citizenry would be asked to pause in what they were doing, and pay attention to the news of their country, and the world. Some read newspapers, some watched their televised updates at 6pm and before bed, but overall, most people had at least a vague sense of how governments ran. Sometimes we were told that things were good, and it was time to celebrate. Other times, we’d be informed of battles and wars that needed our attention, and sometimes, that required the service and sacrifice of our fittest young people. But overall … news was for grown ups, and it was important.

However, it was also something from which you could take a vacation, and return to, without missing much.

Those were the days when channels still ‘signed off’ for the night .. often with beautiful, patriotic, or regional slideshows. Remember CITY TVs paean to the city of Toronto?

That’s Toronto … People City ….

Good times.

But then, somewhere along the line, some edgy television exec decided that every broadcast moment had to turn a profit. Overnight, the sanctity of a news hour was discarded for the glitz and glamour of the tackiest of game show stages. Every decade, another of the venerable newscasters whom we’d come to trust and revere, was either rehabilitated into a botoxed, liposuctioned fashion plate, or unceremoniously shown the door for a younger, prettier, sexier, news reader.

On June 1, 1980, Ted Turner launched CNN, the first 24-hour cable news station. Headline News followed in 1982, .and MSNBC and FOX News were right behind them. News had effectively been monetized, and the world would never again be the same.  

I have to keep reminding myself that political junkies are only about 11% of the population. How are we supporting all of those stations?

It just seems like there must be even more of us. But that’s because social media – and a disturbingly populist wave –  has narrowed our visions. Everyone’s got an opinion on social media. But that doesn’t mean that everyone understands what they’re being force fed.

Right now, we in North America are awash in the hopes and dreams of political candidates, all of whom wish to steer their ships of state or nations.

But it seems that quite a lot of politicians – primarily those with a bend to the right – are more comfortable playing ‘gotcha!‘ with their opponents. Apparently that’s way easier than presenting a progressive, doable policy their party can follow, and their electorate can agree upon.

And many, many, many people are very easily lead. Once seeds of doubt and mistrust have been planted, social media is happy to keep watering those misdeeds with liberal tears.

A friend messaged me the other day, with this anecdote.

Who knew I never needed a head? or a brain?

“I was getting my hair cut, and they were all talking about Trudeau in blackface. I listened for about twenty minutes. None of them had seen the photo, but they were horrified. One had a friend that called her, crying.  When I explained that it was a picture of him at a party, dressed as Aladdin, and that he had darkened his face and hands, they all said, “ahhhh.. well that’s not so bad.” Then I quoted him as saying, “I am really pissed at myself.” They were all lovey dovey again until one of them started reading from her phone on why any colouring of the skin is racist and they were all up in arms again.”

It sure doesn’t seem like denigrating and mudslinging a political leader makes people very happy. In fact, it seems to only add to the miasma of uncertainty that so many have in recent elections.

Voters are already conflicted. Too many choose to vote against party leaders, rather than FOR a logical, progressive plan forward. Keep on tearing down those the voters want to look up to, and you’ll soon have an electorate that just can’t be bothered to vote at all.

That works out great for those parties that can’t win fairly. Those who choose to use dirty tricks, gossip and innuendo to attempt to sway swing voters towards their own party need to realize that these ruses serve to make voters even more distrustful and cynical of whomever is currently in charge of their country.  

Today’s smearing of Trudeau is tomorrow’s smearing of Scheer. And while both parties wallow in the mud, and try to defend themselves against attacks, neither party is actually working to make the voter’s life any better.

Most people are happiest when their country is chugging along, doing well economically, and not hurting those who are already hurting. Most people rarely think about hurting other people, just because they can.

But there are some people who will put financial gain above all else.

Today, the news is full of stories about American troops being sent to Saudi Arabia, to be used as paid mercenaries – soldiers of fortune against Iran. Trump says that America must put their own military on the line to die for ‘the kingdom’ because “Saudi Arabia pays cash.” 

The Saudis also paid cash to the murderers who perpetrated the attack on the United States on 9/11. And surely, their own dollars paid for the brutal murder and dismemberment of American journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

Can you buy a nation’s soul with cash? Apparently you can, in the United States. The Saudis ‘pay cash’ … so they’ve bought trump .. and America’s might and military.

Canadians will soon be asked to either reinstate Justin Trudeau as prime minister, or to choose another leader to fill that position. That next leader will have to work with the United States, both economically, and politically.

The question we need to ask ourselves is .. will  our next leader also believe that everything we hold dear can be bought? Our planet, our bodies, our morals – are they all for sale? How much for our country ?

The question we need to ask ourselves is which leader we believe we can trust to behave morally and ethically when they are asked to make decisions about our relationship with America and the other countries of the world.

How much for your soul?

Cabin Fever Smells Like Cold Turkey


A few weeks ago we had some snow that didn’t really stick. A few days later I saw a young father pushing his kid in a baby carriage. “Are the sidewalks clear?” I asked and he said … “yes .. FINALLY!”

In January.

He was a very young man.

toronto winter streetcarAnd then of course, along came February and THERE you are, you stinky Canadian winter, with your cold and your snow, and your ice hiding under the snow, and that wind chill. There you are, with the dark days and the early nights, and the winds that howl down alleys. I see you, there, with your mittens glossy from rubbing the snot from your runny nose. There you are, with the old peoples’ fear that one false step might be the one that breaks their hip. There you are with the isolation, and the inconvenience and the broken promises to get together.

The cats and I have Cabin Fever. We’ve had too much winter and not enough sun. We are all cranky, we are sniping at each other, and we are all a little depressed and taking it out on everyone else.

Every year I swear that I’ll go south, oh yes I will, and when I get there, there will be sand between my toes, and sea shells stinking up the balcony, and I’ll be warm and I will float in turquoise waters. Instead, I once again add ‘get a new passport’ to the endless ‘to do’ list, and pretend I’m not jealous when my friends post pictures of their adventures in sunnier climes.

And yet, this is also the time of year when Canadians can indulge in cuddles, all curled up under the covers or on top of the mound of blankets, as we watch crappy television for hours. Too much to do in summer. Winter is for snuggles.

These are the days when it is easy to embrace your inner caveperson, and feel that our lives and our world are stuck in a dark spiral, and that the warmth and light of summer will never return, thereby necessitating the sacrifice of some poor creature whose steaming entrails might appease the sungods.

But we are not cavepeople; we have Netflix.

toronto winter view from IslandI like to pretend that I will use those indoor winter months to organize my life, sort out the detritus of my life, do my taxes, and write something so incredibly precise and on the money that its wisdom and sense will reverberate through the ages ….

.. but that never happens. I’m more inclined to stare fixedly at a wall lined with items that need to be sorted, filed, categorized, discarded or at least moved to another room, and say .. ‘blue.. that wall would look so much nicer in blue …

This year I’ve made a special effort to take breaks from media of any kind. Our civilization seems to be rapidly unwinding, and as the end draws near, it’s best to take frequent respites from reports from the Front. So I’ll often hide away for a day or more, just to give my overtaxed brain and heart a rest. That, and a steady supply of edibles seems to help.

There is an unending stream of political, psychological, and philosophical nonsense constantly coming down the pike. We can debate endlessly, but sometimes in winter, you’ve just got to slow it all down and let the Muppets decide the subject of your column.

Cabin Fever is a real thing. I can’t even imagine how difficult life must have been for people back in the days before electricity, ski resorts, and hot chocolate. I’m gonna guess a lot of winters didn’t turn out so great for some of those little houses on the prairies.

Cabin fever themes have featured in Charlie Chaplin‘s 1925 film, The Gold Rush, Stefan Zweig‘s 1948 novella, The Royal Game, Stephen King‘s horror novel and film, The Shining,’ and a Simpsons‘ episode called “Mountain of Madness.”

https://www.dailymotion.com/video/x6wahwk

In 1984, The Journal of Social Psychology published a study called “The Meaning of Cabin Fever,” based on interviews carried out with a sample of 35 Minnesota men and women, ages 17 to 84.
cabin fever yay snowThe researchers wanted to know how Minnesotans, prone to being forcibly confined to their homes by bad weather for days at a time, survived with at least some salvation of sanity. While four of the respondents thought that ‘cabin fever’ might actually be a mania having to do with wanting to buy a forest getaway, most of the people surveyed were very clear that cabin fever was a condition they had experienced, created by confinement, bad weather, and a lack of stimulation.

Being physically unable to get away from the house and the people inside it made most people prone to depression, boredom, dissatisfaction, irritability, and moodiness.

Having to deal with a bunch of bored children also made the wintertime even more difficult for many respondents. On a ‘snow day,’ parents juggling the needs of the children often found it even more difficult to deal with their own feelings of isolation.

There are coping mechanisms that can help with the winter blues, including activities that can be done inside or close to the home. Some suggestions included resetting your expectations of yourself and others, by tossing out the alarm clock, playing quieter music, or making slow-cooked food. Dig out those board games or playing cards. This too shall pass.

Now, if you happen to live in Toronto, we’ve actually got some stimulation in the form of a bar that is – for reals! – called Cabin Fever. It’s at 1669 Bloor West, near Keele.

cabin fever bloor westSounds like a good hang. One of the reviewers who opined on yelp said, ” what’s not to love about quality vinyl, pinball machines, and tall boy beers for seven bucks, all packed into a little hole-in-the-wall spot??”

I’ve never been to the place, but it’s open today from four p.m. until two a.m. Locals swear by the ‘pinball, beer and music’ mantra. Might be worth a look see.

I’m just glad that February is almost gone, because my stash of chocolate, fudge, and almonds is at a very low ebb. Thankfully my coffee supply is holding up; I’m always grateful for small mercies.

There’s a pothole in front of my house large enough to swallow a large dog or a small car, and the bird feeder is tilting at a jaunty angle. I’ve had enough of winter, thanks. You can bring on the spring any day now … any day now ….

 

 

That’s Enough Winning, Thanks


by Roxanne Tellier

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

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

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

conklin show logo

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

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

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

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

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

That’s sort of like America these days.

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

ford pig throne beer

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

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

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

That’s not winning either.

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

Are you sick of ‘winning’ yet?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

doug ford

 

My City Was Gone


“Living just enough, just enough, for the city.”

The Big Cities of the past weren’t for everyone. In the hardscrabble days when I was growing up in Montreal or in Toronto, a city rat could always make ends meet, somehow, some way. There was always that neighbourhood where you could find a deal, that part of town where, while it might not be pretty, but, be it ever so humble, you could find a place to crash if you were short of dough. Or a place to score if you wanted to get high. You might not have a Rolex, but you could find a knockoff for a couple of bucks. k market 1976

When you’re really hungry, a bag of smelts tastes like caviar. And back then, the smaller, inner city groceries, run mostly by the children of immigrants, could always be counted on as somewhere to find something cheap and cheerful to feed the belly of the hungry.

 

 

But getting older often means learning the hard way that the city you once knew is gone forever, for good or for ill. Cities change, landmarks disappear, and the people’s needs change. Progress seeks to whitewash the reality of the poverty and the needy that always lurk in a big city’s depths. Your need to find a little corner of the metropolis to call your own won’t necessarily be fulfilled when you most need it, even if you’re willing to bend to nearly breaking point, just to stay where you’ve lived most of your life.

Life in the big city was never gonna be easy for everybody, but for those of us who came here chasing a dream, there was a time when it was easier to make it work. These days, the city rats have to give way to the up and coming high tech mice, who have the wherewithal to pay the big rents, the big mortgages, and who have enough of the ready to enjoy the best of the city that wants to be world class.

for sale signsWhen we sold our home in 2016, we didn’t worry about where we’d land up next. Surely we’d come up roses on a nice, new place to rent, someplace where we could keep our ‘stuff’ and exist comfortably for the foreseeable future.

But our search was far more difficult that we’d thought, and we didn’t find a cubby hole to curl up in straight away – there were a lot of twists and turns on the journey. And once here, the drawbacks of this particular rental surfaced, meaning that this isn’t where we’ll be staying long-term either.

But where we were lucky was in having a good credit rating, reasonably good health, and a couple of bucks in the bank. Not that any of that guarantees you’ll find a decent living space, but when you put them all together, it will help make the search just a little less frustrating.

There are several reasons why living in the bigger cities of North America has become harder for the lower to middle class. We’ve lived through decades of foolish governments who hung on to power by failing to increase taxes enough to keep the city running. Our infrastructure has been strained to it’s limits without the injections of cash needed to keep the trains going, or the hospitals able to handle an aging society.

Those same governments, as a rule, also tended to side with commercial leasing entities over renters, allowing businesses to take huge tax write offs on over priced properties that could stand vacant for months and even years, until a lessee with big dollars took occupation.

Real estate prices have soared in the last decade, until even the tiniest, most rundown, residential property in the city starts at a million dollars, and goes up into the stratosphere from there. Real estate agents are becoming the nouveau riche. Who can afford to buy those properties?

And yet the ‘for sale’ signs go up, and in days, come down, with the replacement sign reading, ‘sold over asking.’ How many of these buyers are house poor, I wonder? And how will they pay the overblown mortgage should one half of a couple lose their jobs or become ill?

straight outta scarboroughGentrification has been excising the more interesting parts of the city for at least the last thirty years. Within another three to five years, Yonge Street south of Bloor will be as nondescript as a Scarborough mall, packed with chain stores, fast food franchises, Starbucks, and a Shopper’s Drug Mart on every corner.

If I wanted Scarborough drab .. I’d go to Scarborough. “Cleaning up” Yonge street really means erasing our sense of history and place, and of sanding down the grit of People City, leaving behind the sort of bland, generic playground that is fit only for the children of the very wealthy.

dying from exposureI know that this is no longer the city that I came to conquer back in 1976; there are new generations coming up behind me, young and hungry, and eager to prove themselves in their fields.

But how are they to survive, when those with the ability to raise them up, choose instead to shackle these young spirits with internships and exposure? Where exactly are they to find the bootstraps these strugglers are supposed to pull up?

And most importantly… where are these young tyros supposed to live? And how are they to eat? When living is reduced to just surviving, there’s little time or will to create.

Once upon a time, those who yearned to enjoy and participate in Canada’s culture flocked to Montreal, Toronto, or Vancouver, and took their chances, clawing their way to success, or falling by the wayside. But international big money has taken that option out of the equation.

If you didn’t buy real estate twenty years ago, you’re going to have to be in rarefied company to be able to afford to buy today. Even your ability to rent in a ‘better area’ of the metropolises is an iffy proposition.

Globalization, gentrification … we’re moving from the end of the industrial age into the fullness of the digital, high tech world. And our cities reflect that change, just as at one point they reflected the scions who traveled in horse and buggy.

The cities have begun to depend upon video, cellular communications, artificial intelligence, and eventually, a robotics industry that will force countries to accept a basic income that will keep the lower and middle class in just enough financial stability to stay alive … though that life may not be what many would have considered livable even a decade or two ago. The digital elite will own the residences; the rest of us will vie for the privilege of renting.

tent cities 2018And those who fall between the cracks will live in the tent cities that are now springing up to house the homeless.

The cities, as we knew them, are changing. Some cities, like San Francisco and New York, are already gone. and it could be argued that Vancouver is next, with Toronto not far behind.

As much as we may yearn to keep this from happening, globalization is inevitable, and as unstoppable as a tidal wave.

And, for many, that wave is washing away the possibility of aging in place in the Big City.

 

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.