What’s Normal Anyway?


by Roxanne Tellier

People are funny; they want their lives to be interesting and noteworthy, but most of us are good for about 24 hours of novelty before we’re pining for ‘the good old days.’

What’s ‘normal’ anyway? Normal is whatever you believe it is, in your mind, in your life, and in your world. Normal is ‘the usual,” “my regular,” the commonplace, the typical thing that you like to do or say or eat or whatever it is you do in your spare time; I’m not judging.

What it isn’t, is exciting. It’s waking up at the usual time, having my regular breakfast, and then going to work or play in the way I do on a typical day. It’s going to the same places over and over, because you like what they serve, and it’s where “everybody knows your name.”

Before we moved in January, normal for me would have been reaching out to touch the odds and ends that used to live in and on my missing bedside table. Where it’s gone, nobody knows.

But in the bigger picture, on a scale of one to earthquake, my life, and the life of many others, has been less than normal for some time.

We have just celebrated the second anniversary of the onset of COVID-19 regulations, worldwide. Though I’m not sure that ‘celebrating’ is how most of us felt when we thought about two years of fear, discomfort, and hand sanitizer.

Brides Magazine says that “The traditional second-anniversary gift is cotton, making this the prime time to splurge on upgraded bedding or a cozy throw you can use when snuggled up together on the couch.”

Sounds about right. That was pretty much all that anyone did for at least the first twelve months of the plague: overeat and binge watch Netflix. Remember those heady first days, when we all masked up, avoided each other, sterilized anything that didn’t wiggle away from the Lysol spray, and prayed for a vaccine?

In those first few months, that was normal. It was also normal for us to bang pots and pans every night around dinner time, to encourage those health care workers that were (and still are) literally sacrificing their own health to take care of us.

In January 2022, a load of frustrated truckers formed a convoy and honked their horns 24/7 to protest for what they believed to be their rights – which included their right to NOT receive a vaccine – and THAT became normal, for the poor souls in Ottawa who had to deal with what the Convoy wrought, bouncy castles and all.

Over the last half decade, we’ve normalized things which we could never have dreamed of having to deal with. In this I include the disastrous tenure of Trump; a poor beginning to the handling of a once in a century pandemic, and the subsequent whining once a life-saving vaccine became available; an attempted overthrow of the American government in January 2021, followed by something quite similar, if veiled under a web of candy flossed hot tubs, masquerading as ‘freedom’ while demanding a parallel overthrow of the Canadian government in January 2022; and then topped with a drizzle of a Russian attack on Ukraine, completely with threats of nuclear war, that sent many Boomers scurrying to find a school desk to cower under.

So what’s normal, exactly?

Many of life’s aspects, that we would have considered normal pre-COVID, have shown themselves to work for some, but not for others.  For a while, it seemed like people realized the importance of community and mutual aid. When we were all pulling together, it did seem like we might be working towards a better normal.

But then, one day, that spirit of working for the common good began to splinter; some leaned into science, embracing vaccines, eager to see a world where everyone could be protected from a virus, while others opted to refuse the serum approved for use by every governmental and health agency in favour of quack cures and unproven placebos.

That was a normal that I really didn’t see coming.

For the majority of North Americans, normal is a world in which we’ve normalized one set of laws for the rich and powerful, and another set of far more extreme laws and punishments for those who are not white, cis, males.

All over the planet, normal is women knowing that they have to dress and behave in approved manners, if they want to avoid being attacked for the crime of being female. And normal is knowing that, if they are beaten, or raped, they cannot be assured that their story will be believed, or that their attacker will face any consequences. Normal is police stations filled with rape kit tests that pile up in storerooms, but are never prioritized for analysis.

Normal is people of colour knowing that there is nowhere that they are completely safe from assault, even in their own beds, in their own homes. Even if they are fleeing from a war, normal is knowing that white citizens will be prioritized in the rush to safety.

Normal is a complete lack of action or attention to the future of a planet where the Arctic temperatures are now routinely higher than the temperature in downtown Toronto.

Normal is watching the world’s richest individuals get richer during the pandemic, while the world’s poorest individuals fell further behind.

What we call ‘normal’ today is what we have decided to call normal. It wouldn’t be normal in any other space or time, but it’s what we’ve become used to living in and with, in order to be part of our society.

The unemployment rate in the United States, at 3.8%, is the lowest it’s been in history. Canada’s rate is 4.2%, and has traditionally been higher than in the U.S. or Europe, mainly because we have a higher proportion of seasonal industries, as well as a higher proportion of population in smaller, more isolated communities.

No matter where we live, there are many who are very nervous about returning to life, as it was defined, pre-COVID. The pandemic and our isolation revealed that our routines of commutes, office work, water cooler small talk, and the like weren’t necessarily conducive to a better quality of life. We discovered that many of us – mostly white collar workers – could work from home, in less rigid conditions that allowed those with physical or mental issues the space to thrive.

This year, 47 million people, mostly millennials, have joined the “Great Resignation” in search of better careers, with higher wages, remote options, and greater flexibility. It must be noted that they are privileged to be in higher end careers; these options are not available for the bulk of those who labour in minimum wage positions.

But for those that have this option, they’ve discovered that time is too precious to spend commuting, and that they want to work for a company that is as committed to finding a work-life balance as they are.

We have collectively learned that the ‘normal’ we are returning to, may not be so normal after all. Some things we can change, but many broad social problems are simply beyond our grasp at this time. For social change to happen, we will have to find a communal force of will in which we all refuse to return to the harmful systems that were highlighted by the pandemic.

To do that, we will need to re-learn the art of working together for a common good.

If we don’t or won’t demand change, we will have wasted what might be our last great opportunity for a societal re-set.

World Class Bullies and Where They Live


by Roxanne Tellier  

Last week I wrote about local bullies, and those that terrorize the citizens that elected them locally and nationally. More often than we might have thought, those elected bullies, unsated by the billions they suck from their people’s coffers, opt to extend their reign indefinitely. When they do so, they morph from being barely restrained autocratic bullies, into full-fledged, unrestrained, dictators. 

Let’s look at a shocking reality: based on the definition of a dictator being a ruler of a land rated “Not Free” by the Freedom House[1], there are currently 50 dictatorships in the world. There are 19 in Sub-Saharan Africa, 12 in the Middle East and North Africa, 8 in Asia-Pacific, 7 in Eurasia, 3 in the Americas, and 1 in Europe.

From Afghanistan to Yemen, and 48 places in between, these monsters hold the power of life and death over millions of human souls. Dictators not only do not love the people that put them in power, they don’t even see their people as human. Men, women and children are just numbers to be juggled, creatures to serve them and to be subjugated.

Class of 2022

We can reel off the names of some of these men (and they’re all men;)  Putin, Xi, Ortega, Maduro, Kim Jong-Un, el Assad, Erdogan … what they all have in common is the need to not just dominate others, but to crush them, to own their very souls. They are cruel, world class bullies, who have perfected what they likely began in the school yard … insulting, hurting, threatening others who are weaker, smaller, less powerful and more vulnerable. They seek to destroy any vestige of freedom or pride in anyone who dares try to stop them.    

North America’s 24/7 ‘breaking news’ media has kept us soaking in the bullying actions of Putin as he wreaks hell on Ukraine. But even as we gaze upon the horrors of Mariupol being pummelled into dust, dictators around the world have not stopped their assault on their own people.

As The Atlantic said recently, in an article entitled, “Dictators aren’t Pretending Anymore,”[2] autocrats now openly steal elections, stage coups, and invade other countries.

In the February 2022 Freedom House report on the state of democracy in the world, they stated that the world has entered the 16th consecutive year of what the political scientist Larry Diamond has termed a ‘democratic recession.’

“Democratic institutions and civil rights deteriorated in 60 countries, with Afghanistan, Nicaragua, Tunisia, and Sudan experiencing especially precipitous declines. At the beginning of the democratic recession, about half of the world’s population lived in a country classified as “free.” Now only two out of every 10 people do, while four in 10 live in “partly free” nations like India, and another four in 10 live in “unfree” nations like Saudi Arabia.”

In most of the last century, the enemies of democracy embraced the use of political violence, seizing power at the point of a gun. However, in the last few decades, dictators have generally first come to power democratically, winning seemingly free and fair elections, which they used as a jumping off point to concentrate power into their own hands, and eventually manoeuvred into a situation in which they could no longer be removed from office by democratic means. 

In the last few years, however, there has been a return to violence, with the number of military coups worldwide jumping to seven. Over the past year, Myanmar, Sudan and Mali, military officers have used force to install their leaders into dictatorship positions.  

The slow weakening of democratic norms, the slide into ‘fake news’ and ‘alternative reality’ has allowed those in high positions to kick away the illusion of a democratic legitimacy, and behave as ruthlessly as they wish. Laws meant to stop powerful people from abusing their power and authority have been so attacked and bowdlerized that it is increasingly unlikely that, even in a democracy, any elected official need fear an overlong prison sentence, if a sentence is given at all.

As we witnessed on January 6, 2021, social media worked alongside former president Trump and his enablers to ramp up allies when they attempted to overthrow the results of the free and fair 2020 election. More than a year later, Trump is preparing to run again, in 2024, despite laws that forbid anyone who was involved in an insurrection from seeking public office. And if he’s elected again, the path will be clear for him to ascend to dictatorship in the United States.

(*Section 3 of the 14th Amendment prohibits anyone who has violated their oath of office, by engaging in insurrection or aiding in a rebellion, from running for federal office.)

Canadians had a near miss this January with another sort of coup, an epidemic of full-scale bullying, when the Trucker Convoy blasted and blared their way into the news, and the downtown heart of Ottawa, with a headline concern of “Freedom” and a much longer manifesto that demanded, in small print that their supporters would never read, that all of the current federal government step down and be replaced with a governance of their convoy leaders’ choice.

These attacks on democracy are far too close for comfort. The enemy is not just on your wide screen, the enemy is at our gates. 

Putin has attempted to keep NATO and other countries friendly to Ukraine at bay by holding the threat of nuclear war over our collective heads. Many fear that appeasing his appetites at this time will merely sacrifice Ukraine, while enabling him to then continue gobbling up the rest of Europe. Certainly, it would appear that he is determined to win at any cost.

In June 2020, Putin signed a decree—the Basic Principles of the Russian Federation’s State Policy in the Domain of Nuclear Deterrencethat specifies two conditions under which Russia would use nuclear weapons. The first is unsurprising: “The Russian Federation retains the right to use nuclear weapons in response to the use of nuclear weapons and other types of weapons of mass destruction against it and/or its allies…” But that sentence ends with an unusual statement: “… and also in the case of aggression against the Russian Federation with the use of conventional weapons, when the very existence of the state is put under threat” [emphasis added].

In his February 24 speech, Putin echoed that unusual language to describe his Ukraine invasion.  The United States, he claimed, was creating a hostile “anti-Russia” next to Russia and in Russia’s historic land. “For the United States and its allies, it is a policy of containing Russia, with obvious geopolitical dividends,” he said. “For our country, it is a matter of life and death, a matter of our historical future as a nation. This is not an exaggeration; this is a fact. It is not only a very real threat to our interests but to the very existence of our state and to its sovereignty” [emphasis added]. Putin has defined the current situation as one in which, in line with the principles of its deterrence policy, Russia retains the right to use nuclear weapons.” [3]

That’s some world class bullying, right there.

But does all of this sabre-rattling lead to the conclusion that the only way to stop a bully is with a bigger bully?  That would depend on how we define our systems of justice.

Post World War II there were consequences for Hitler and his party. But the process of the Allies seeking justice in response to the atrocities of Nazi Germany were intended to establish a precedent that they hoped would prevent war crimes from ever occurring again. We’ve seen, in Putin’s criminal actions in the Ukraine, that the rules and laws will not stop a determined warmonger.

Nonetheless, democratic systems of justice, and criminal sanctions are not bullying; they are the way societies are governed, in order to protect all members of nations.

Without a crystal ball, I cannot say what will happen next in the Ukraine/Russian war. I do feel though, that whether we are ready to admit to it or not, we are already part of the launch of World War III.

“As Russian troops advance toward Kyiv, democracy is no longer the only game on the global stage. And so the coming decades won’t just pit democracies against autocracies in key territorial battlegrounds like Ukraine. They will also pit the defenders of democracy against those who blatantly reject the supposed decadence of popular self-determination in the sphere of ideas.” (The Atlantic, Feb 2022)


[1] https://planetrulers.com/current-dictators/

[2] https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2022/02/democracy-crisis-autocrat-rise-putin/622895/

[3] https://thebulletin.org/2022/03/read-the-fine-print-russias-nuclear-weapon-use-policy/?utm_source=Newsletter&utm_medium=Email&utm_campaign=MondayNewsletterPost03102022&utm_content=NuclearRisk_ReadTheFinePrint_03102022

The Age of Bullies : Part One


by Roxanne Tellier

Jodi, 2nd grade

As a child, my sister was often the target of bullies. Bullies sniff out the weak, the vulnerable, those who have already experienced the wrath of others. I spent a lot of my own childhood trying to protect Jodi from those who had nothing better to do with their time than to torment a shy, fragile, little girl.  

While I didn’t have much truck with bullies in school, once I was out in the work world, I quickly learned the Golden Rule; he that has the gold, makes the rules. Which meant that those who had better jobs, or more power in their position, could choose to use or abuse their underlings. I found it very hard to kowtow to people who were often not nearly as clever or capable as I was. Being a woman in the workplace last century was often an onerous, frustrating position. I’m sure for many women that it still is, in this century.

Eventually I chose to be an entrepreneur, to work for myself, rather than to work for others. It was just easier, being the boss. 

Generally, decent people are always trying to make situations work for everyone in a group. But whether you’re in the established business world, academia, the trades, or the arts, at some point, most of us will encounter grown up bullies who seem to thrive on making life miserable for others. Put a group of people together, and, sooner or later, someone decides they deserve a better, more special treatment than the rest of the gang.  

Some kids are just more aggressive by nature, but usually, bullies are made, not born. The behavior is usually learned very young, from an adult role model – a parent, a teacher, or a coach, for example – that is unable to handle anger well. A bully may have older siblings, who were bullied themselves, and so will bully a younger sibling to make themselves feel empowered. As a rule, a child learns to be a bully because he/she is not getting enough good parental attention, leading the bully to lash out at others for attention they need.

Grown up social bullies have poor self-esteem, although they’ll usually come across as narcissists with God complexes. They see the weak as contemptuous, and crave power and attention. They are unable to understand how their behavior makes other people feel, and simply don’t care about the feelings of others. They’ll dominate, play the victim, blame others, and never accept the consequences of their actions.

And that, in a nutshell, describes the political bullies that pull the world’s strings.

I first became interested in the stories behind the political news during the Stephen Harper Decade – he who was so convinced of his own infallibility and right to lead Canada that he literally rebranded the federal government the “Harper Government.” An excessively partisan break with tradition, and a slap in the face to the other parties that have helped shape Canada, taxpayers spent more than $85,000 in the first year alone of helping the Cons solidify their Golden Calf’s place in shredder history.

During Harper’s prime ministerial career, his bullying style attracted a lot of notice. The nature of his political discourse was belittling, contemptuous of the value of other political groups and ideas. By devaluing other parties, and brooking no collaboration with leaders with other input, he oppressed democracy in Canada, but so subtly that his enablers could paint Harper’s derision as simply ‘fighting back’ against his detractors.

Devaluing others is a product of insecurity, at best, and often grossly oppressive to the ‘out-group’ that is the target of the bully. When a country broadly paints another country as an ‘enemy,’ because of a warring history, or a current conflict, citizens pull together against a common enemy. But when that same contempt is expressed towards political equals, it becomes a form of bigotry, a marginalization of our own peers by denying or devaluing their abilities, and even their right to citizenship within their own country.

Harper regularly used bullying and open contempt in the attack ads used against opponents, from his slurs against Stephane Dion, then-Liberal leader in 2007, who dared to run against him, using ‘gotcha!’ video, and baritone voice-overs derisively asserting that “Stephane Dion is not a leader,” to his diatribes in 2008 against the sovereigntist Bloc Quebecois, whom he demonized as ‘the separatists.’    

And then, of course, there were the attack ads that branded Justin Trudeau as ‘just not ready,’ and a contrived ‘expose’ on young Trudeau’s participation in brownface makeup in an Arabian Nights themed event at the private school where he was a teacher in 2001.

I’m still hearing about that one from the Trudeau haters. There’s a fascinating 2019 article and investigation into that ‘scandal’ that was put together by Free the Press Canada. All signs seem to point to a high-level manipulation of information put together by powerful Conservative operatives.

When Harper was ousted from power in 2015, it felt like Canadians could finally take a deep breath of fresh, non-Harper air. But on June 7, 2018, one bully was exchanged for another when Doug Ford was sworn in as Ontario’s premier.  

Brother of bumbling Rob, Doug blew into Queen’s Park with a chip on his shoulder the size of the CN Tower, and a determination to make the city of Toronto pay for what he considered unfair treatment to brother Rob during his mayoralty. First off, and within what seemed like minutes of taking office, he was the first premier in Ontario’s history to use the Notwithstanding Clause to cut the number of Toronto’s city council – then in the middle of an election –  in half, an act of bullying so extreme that the City of Toronto appealed the law, arguing that it interfered with the rights to free expression and free and fair elections. (Follow up – the Supreme Court, in a split 5/4 decision, disagreed, on the grounds that the Charter Right applied only to federal and provincial legislatures, not to municipalities.)

Ford proceeded to throw his considerable weight around at Queen’s Park, ensuring that deep cuts to programs for Ontario youth, education, and health were passed, while ensuring that his long-time cronies found a friend in Ontario’s deep pockets and green spaces.

History will paint an interesting picture of Ford’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Ford’s bumbling reign came on the heels of Donald Trump’s rise to the presidency, and people often noted their similar natures. Born to privilege, and convinced of their own special ability to lead, Ford’s bullying nature paled, however, in comparison to the vigor of Trump’s.

And if Trump, a master bullier and wannabe dictator, soared to loftier heights of mock victimhood and ‘fake news,’  his gilded First Lady left the world speechless when she announced her “Be Best” anti-bullying campaign, based on her belief that she was ‘the most bullied person in the world.”

Next week: World Class Bullies and where they live

Highway to Hell in a Handbasket


by Roxanne Tellier

“This isn’t some grand, far-reaching cultural movement. It’s a handful of people who want to claim victimhood to recast their personal gripes into a heroic narrative.” 

Passage: RoundUp January 28, 2022

I haven’t put up a column in a while … moving and all that … but I have been compiling some thoughts on this truck convoy, and, with the help and inspiration of other people’s thoughts, would like to comment on the event.

I find it very interesting that the organizers of this rally – which is similar in tone to the ill-fated American attempt to overthrow the government on January 6, 2021 – do not seem to have attempted to contact any high-ranking governmental official in the proper manner. This is a democracy, which means that there are procedures that are followed, one of which is formally requesting meetings with elected officials. Instead, there seems to have been some sort of quasi manifesto posted on social media, which has more in common with the creaky old westerns of the fifties, in which the new gunslinger taunted the old gunslinger to a gunfight at High Noon.

In any case, they planned a rally for a Saturday (get real; the House doesn’t meet on the weekend, not even if you’ve dragged your butt all the way from BC on your own dime.)

Prior to their frenzied demands, there were already plans in the works ages ago for the PM and his family to visit BC. Takes a bit to organize the flight plans of a high ranking-official; more than once, my daughter has accompanied them, in her role as an RCMP officer. It’s a Big Deal.

So they’ve planned to show up on a day when Ottawa is typically closed for business, in a month when Ottawa is totally closed for dining and entertainment of any kind, due to COVID restrictions. That’s not very clever planning.

Trucks parked along Wellington in Ottawa Friday night. Photo by Nasuna Stuart-Ulin for The New York Times

They also seemed to believe that, after weeks of saber rattling, horrible threats and screeds on social media, and a plethora of signs saying “F*CK TRUDEAU,” that he would be delighted to walk down and greet them, and usher them into the Parliament Building for a nice cup of tea. An uninvited rally of angry, swearing, yelling, possibly weapons-wielding protestors, who have amassed a caravan of trucks, RVs, and cars WITHOUT a parade permit, actually expected that outcome?

“Aside from denouncing the vaccine mandate, it was unclear what form the protests would take. One group affiliated with the convoy intends to try, for a second time, to convince the governor general, Canada’s official (if ceremonial) head of state as Queen Elizabeth’s representative, and the appointed members of the Senate to strike down all pandemic laws and rules imposed by all levels of government — something well beyond their constitutional powers.

Others have called for protests outside politicians’ homes. But since the House of Commons is currently not in session — it resumes sitting on Monday — many lawmakers are not in town.”

The New York Times, Jan 29, 2022

Set aside the delusional aspect of their proposed ‘meeting’ for a moment, and let’s consider who is involved in this convoy.

90% of the Canadian Trucking Industry are fully vaccinated, and have condemned this rally. The two main organizers are well-known, anti-Canadian/anti-government protestors, one of whom has long been active in the “WEXit” movement, wishing to separate Alberta from Canada, and the other, a ‘yellow jacket’ who is against government of any kind.

They have managed to raise nearly $8 million dollars in a GoFundMe that has been frozen by GoFundMe, as it requires, “documentation […] about how funds will be properly distributed.”)

*GoFundMe has now released $1 million to the organizers.*

At the onset, there were lofty claims that the truckers would be reimbursed for their travel, but as time wore on, it became apparent that greed was setting in on the organizer’s part, and it now says that the funds raised, “ will be dispersed to our Truckers to aid them with the cost of the journey. Funds will be spent to help cover the cost of fuel for our Truckers first and foremost, will be used to assist with food if needed and contribute to shelter if needed.  Any left over donations will be donated to a credible Veterans organization which will be chosen by the donors.”

But in truth, the bulk of the cash will go to the two organizers, and most likely into their own pockets, and into their political coffers, in aid of dismantling our current government. Sadly, there’s always room for corruption when the money total gets high.

And ice cream at every meal, and no backsies!”
Photo by Nasuna Stuart-Ulin for The New York Times

To sum up, a group of people, some of whom are genuinely unsettled truckers (less than 200, at last count) and many people who are always ready to get out the pitchforks and torches, especially when there’s nothing else to do in winter anyway, are going to converge on Ottawa’s capital, which is essentially ‘closed for business,’ for a meeting with a PM who isn’t even in town.

There they will attempt to recreate a Canadian version of the US’s January 6 assault on the Capital. Many will be arrested, many more will likely be wounded in some manner, either by their own companions, or by the people trying to keep the peace in the Capital.

All in aid of attempting to get one half of a border equation, which is 50/50 controlled by the US/Canada, changed to suit their needs. In other words, even if they succeeded in forcing the PM to change the law, and allow them to re-enter Canada, unvaxxed, after an American run, they would not be allowed into the US to begin that run in the first place.

Most of these truckers will be out a lot of money at the end of this unpaid vacation, and if they think the rules and regs around getting money out of the gov’t are tricky, wait until they try and pry that money out of the hands of the organizers.

There’s no logic here, just ennui at a pandemic and rules that have infringed on what lazy, entitled Canadians think are their ‘rights.’

Sadly, I remember when Canadians gathered along roads and highways to cheer on the REAL Canadian heroes; … Terry Fox, who ran across Canada ON ONE LEG to raise money for cancer research. Or Rick Hansen, who did the same in a wheelchair to follow his dream of creating an accessible and inclusive world and finding a cure for spinal cord injury.

Remember how we lined the 401, the Highway of Heroes, to honour our dead soldiers? It seems we’ve changed whom we honour, in 2022. Now, we honour a small group of unvaxxed truckers and their supporters, who have been hijacked by a bunch of wobbly minded conspiracy theory idiots, and who are being funded by political disrupters, the likes of Trump, Tucker Carlson,  and Elon Musk – the very man who intends to end all truckers’ livelihoods with his automated delivery systems. Suckers!

These organizers, and the truckers, are just out for the ‘likes’ and the grift. The truckers are pawns being played by fools, to line the organizers pockets.

The convoy is not a protest, it’s a grift. Each of the truckers and their followers are only out for themselves, and would burn down the world to get what THEY want. It’s not about helping anyone … but themselves.

90% of truckers are vaxxed and out there moving the goods. 10% – a minority by any calculation – are whining about the cross border mandate .. which is effective on BOTH sides of the border.

“ The Freedom Convoy isn’t some benign oddity that deserves uncritical media attention. As with so many things that seem to germinate online, the convoy has obvious and deep links to the far right. While Mike Millian, president of the Private Motor Truck Council of Canada, told CBC Radio that the movement has “morphed into a kind of protest against all vaccine and COVID-related shutdowns,” this ignores the fact that the convoy has been associated with the far right from the beginning. Global News even reported that some supporters saw the convoy as a “January 6 event,” hoping to piggyback off the protest’s media success to stage a violent insurrection. “  Passage: Roundup, January 28, 2022

Can you still call it democracy when the minority believe their rights overrule the majority, and the lunatics have well and truly taken over the asylum?

Afghanistan Past Present and Future


by Roxanne Tellier

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Randy Weir, Quora

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It Ain’t Over Til It’s Over


by Roxanne Tellier

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Washington Post, July 22, 2021

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

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

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

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

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

Aaron Keller, Law&Crime

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I’ll Take White Fragility for $300 Alex


by Roxanne Tellier

Earlier this month a meme starting going around that made a lot of people feel uncomfortable. The meme asked people to acknowledge that overcoming inherent bias, prejudice, and all the ‘isms’ was an ongoing thing, and that we are all ‘works in progress.’

I’m so tired of those that virtue signal, with various #NotAllWhatever hashtags. To hear these paragons of wounded nobility talk, they are the ‘exception that proves the rule,‘ because they’ve always treated women well, and never failed to give anyone of any creed or colour whom they’ve encountered, the same pure and unadulterated dignity, respect and opportunities as those that look just like them.

I rather think that anyone who COULD claim such innocence, is unlikely to ever do so.

As quickly as the meme travelled thru the internet webs, it just as quickly disappeared, which is an interesting commentary on how society is struggling with what those on the political right are calling ‘cancel culture.’ 

Times change. People change. All of this foofaraw over Pepe le Pew and six Dr Seuss books going out of print is an acknowledgment that what was acceptable in the past is now, upon reflection, not the sort of inherent prejudices we want our kids to accept with their juice and Goldfish crackers. The images that march from books and TV screens to parade across the blank slate of children’s minds form the basis of how they will think of the world when they are adults.

Being of French descent, Pepe’s presence in the cartoons we watched was a pleasant surprise. The kids programs available in the fifties were overall white and bland, so hearing someone who had an accent like my family’s was comforting. But upon reflection, while being included allowed me to feel part of a larger culture, the image of a scheming, lascivious, old lounge lizard who refused to take ‘No’ for an answer wasn’t really a positive symbol of what it meant to have a French heritage.

It’s not ‘inclusive’ if the only time you see your families in a drawing or story is when they are being portrayed in a negative or stereotypical fashion. Asians don’t have bright yellow skin; people of colour don’t belong in zoos with monkeys. But there was a time when it was acceptable to say and portray minorities in that fashion.

Inclusion is critical in making children feel safe and respected. It was only fairly recently that children of colour could easily find pretty dolls that reflected their skin tones. Although there had been some European doll companies that manufactured black dolls, most were caricatures based on the perception of those who might never see a person of colour in their entire life.

In the 1890s, Carl Bergner of Germany made a three-faced doll “with one face a crying Black child and the other two, happier white faces.” The National Negro Doll Company was founded in 1911 by American entrepreneur Richard Henry Body “after he tried to purchase dolls for his children but could find none that were not gross caricatures of African Americans.”

Prejudices, stereotypes, caricatures. With very few people of colour around me in my early years, I saw nothing wrong with having a Golliwog doll, and reading books like Little Black Sambo.

Mattel released “Christie,” the first Black Barbie, in 1969, but didn’t officially release an “African-American Barbie” or  “Latina Barbie,” until 1980.  

Fitting in, being accepted, looking and acting like everyone else, enjoying the same kind of foods – when I was growing up, minority children didn’t often get to feel automatically included, just as they were.

But times change, and people change, hopefully in a positive evolution. The discrimination of the past, the things that ‘everyone says’ or ‘everyone did’ may now look offensive, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that you were a bigot when you said or did those things at the time. But it does if you continue to use terms that are cruel and offensive after society evolves and develops new language and terminology to reflect more inclusive views.

Much of the confusion over changes to our established culture is due to the Overton Window, also known as the window of discourse.  The Overton window is the range of policies politically acceptable to the mainstream population at a given time.

“The Overton Window is a model for understanding how ideas in society change over time and influence politics. The core concept is that politicians are limited in what policy ideas they can support — they generally only pursue policies that are widely accepted throughout society as legitimate policy options. These policies lie inside the Overton Window. Other policy ideas exist, but politicians risk losing popular support if they champion these ideas. These policies lie outside the Overton Window.

But the Overton Window can both shift and expand, either increasing or shrinking the number of ideas politicians can support without unduly risking their electoral support. Sometimes politicians can move the Overton Window themselves by courageously endorsing a policy lying outside the window, but this is rare. More often, the window moves based on a much more complex and dynamic phenomenon, one that is not easily controlled from on high: the slow evolution of societal values and norms.” Mackinac Center for Public Policy, mackinac.org

As what is deemed acceptable changes in our society, we may find that views we held previously are no longer appropriate. This means we have to rethink our own attitudes, and question how we came to those conclusions in the first place. Explanations – not excuses – for why we thought the way we did, when we didn’t know what we know now.   

People are tribal, at heart. We want our children to do well, our family to succeed, our ‘team’ to win. In a world where there are nearly 8 billion souls looking to get thru the day, it’s just easier if you know who is on your side, when the chips are down, and we like our clues to be shorthand.

My team must be the ‘good’ team, while the other side is, in our minds, framed as the competitors, and an impediment to our team getting what we feel it deserves. By definition, they are the ‘bad’ team.

Tribalism is at the core of every prejudice and bias known to man. Couple that with our brain’s need to categorize all the information thrown at it, and you’ll see how prejudicial attitudes tend to harden as we get older – with more contact with people that we feel confirm our initial gut dislike of the ways of the ‘other,’ we build a wall that keeps ‘our kind’ in, and ‘their kind’ out.  

Have you ever heard someone rail against the actions of another person who was preventing them from getting what they desired? Rather than realize that everyone works their own agenda, the righteously outraged loser of the situation will tend to categorize their opponents acts as archetypal of all people who are of the same race/colour/creed. They’ll come up with ‘facts’ supporting their right to denigrate ALL people from different geographic regions/ people of colour/Muslims because they’ve been thwarted from something they want, by one ‘representative’ of the group

When I was a young woman, there was an explicit bias against women in the work force. Older women had it especially bad, as they were often deemed of least value, and paid accordingly.

Good women didn’t ‘work,’ we were told, even when we could see with our own eyes that women never stopped working, whether it was in the home, in the field, or at a job, or sometimes, in all three. In many societies, it was ‘women’s work’ that literally kept the family unit alive.

And since women were not making the rules, or dictating policies, women who worked, willingly or unwillingly, had a long, slow stretch of years in which to slowly become a valued part of the workforce – as long as they would work for less than a man.

Times change. People change. There are now slightly more women on the planet than men. New statistics project that the United States will become ‘minority white’ in 2045, but only by a tiny percentage, since whites will continue to comprise 49.7% of the population. But the majority 51.3% is split up amongst Hispanics (24.6%,) blacks (13.1%,) Asians (7.9%,) and multiracial populations (3.8%.)

In other words, even the minorities are likely to be jockeying for position, while the previous white majority is already seething at ‘only’ comprising .3 per cent points less than half. And that is still 24 years away.

It almost seems to prove that those who, through a miracle of birth, were born exactly to the specifications their country demanded, have no intention of ever being treated …

… the way they’ve treated those born without those same gifts.

                     xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

A friend sent this link to me last week – lots of interesting ideas to mull over!

Lockdown Letdown


by Roxanne Tellier

I don’t want to play Pandemicanymore. I really don’t. I’ve had enough of not seeing my friends and family, of scarcities and lineups that make me feel like I’m in post-Communist Russia, and of people being cranky. I’m sick of worrying about if there’s enough of this or that and if not, how to figure out when and where to get more, and I’ve had it with not being able to just go out to restaurants and socialize like normal people… I’ve had enough.

At this point, when I and most of the planet have it up to our teeth, and as the holidays loom, mere weeks away, and mainly due to the efforts of organized anti-maskers and scofflaws who endanger us all with their YouTube engendered f*ckery, we’re going back into another ‘lockdown.’

With just a few days notice, people are panic-shopping, the stores are jammed, there’s lineups around every block, and – maybe I’m going a little nutso with the panic buying. I mean, who really needs five boxes of Harvest Crunch? Apparently, I do.   

But what’s worse is that this lockdown is likely not even going to help much, but it may well ruin more small businesses, most of which have been barely hanging on by a toenail.  What’s the point of keeping restaurants closed when the schools are still open, and the anti maskers are out loud and proud every weekend with megaphones and free hugs, ensuring that we may never successfully emerge from this pandemic? And why aren’t the cops charging and fining every one of those scofflaws each time they’re caught maskless? Why are the rest of us having to suffer while these attention seekers get off scot-free?

I’m so done with these anti maskers, the selfish, self-centred covidiots. They are like the kid that murders his parents, and then throws himself on the mercy of the court, because he’s an orphan. It’s not down to them to decide that their YouTube research trumps actual scientific fact. Masks help to reduce transmission. There’s your fact. Denying it is the hoax.

This is a public health crisis, not 11th grade. I am SO done with these dangerous saps. Fine them into bankruptcy, and if that doesn’t stop them – well, even Typhoid Mary eventually got quarantined on North Brother Island for the last 23 years of her life. We have precedent for dealing with super-spreaders

Global daily deaths to Nov 11, 2020

We’ve now suffered eight months of this pandemic, and lost far too many good people before their time. It’s not just those old people housed in long term facilities, who didn’t deserve such ignominious and lonely passings; health care professionals have been decimated by the virus as well. The virus doesn’t ask to see your driver’s license, citizenship papers, or electoral choice – it kills indiscriminately.

The numbers are insane – in Canada alone, we’ve lost roughly 11,500 people. The US has now topped 256,000 dead, and there’s 1.34 MILLION dead around the world, with another 55.6 million infected. Don’t tell me that this is a ‘hoax.’ It’s one thing to believe that places might be faking the numbers of the dead, but it’s another thing entirely to believe that anyone is faking cremations. If you don’t believe me, try it for yourself.

To the south, Americans are just plain screwed. Severe lockdowns loom amid skyrocketing hospitalizations, with no financial relief in sight. And yet, apparently that’s not enough to stop many from jamming the airports and crisscrossing the country for Thanksgiving.

While Trump tries to hang on to a job he doesn’t really want anymore, he still won’t let Biden’s transition crew get in there and help the country. Trump’s painted himself into a corner, where he’s still enjoying presidential perks, but the rest of America is looking at ending the year sick, hungry and homeless.

Middle-class homeless in California

They desperately need another coronavirus relief bill, as the economy lurches into deeper economic depression. By the end of the year, about 12 million Americans will lose their unemployment benefits. Those who’ve been struggling just to keep afloat will find themselves on the streets – homeless and impoverished. 

At that point you can quit worrying about whether or not COVID is real, because 12 million hungry Americans forced to fend for themselves without any hope are not going to be ‘good neighbours.’

Trump’s biggest enablers, his buddies in the admin and his FOXy Friends, have begun to whisper that it’s time ‘someone’ did something, but their faithful followers aren’t likely to pay any attention. Fox viewers have been thoroughly indoctrinated into believing that Biden stole the election, and that the virus is a hoax, no worse than a flu. Biden beginning the transition into the presidency confounds what they’ve been lead to believe.

Biden being barred from normal transitioning means that medical and economic help will be delayed a further two months, and the situation will worsen. Plans for the vaccine? Back-burnered. A relief bill? No need; trump’s got this. Somehow. Right after this back nine…

There can’t BE a transition, you see, because trump says (without evidence) that’s there’s been widespread voter fraud, and he’s using that as leverage to suck the last few dollars out of his followers’ wallets, to pay for a team of double-talking, but ultimately useless, lawyers. Trump’s followers are fully invested in the hope that somehow, they’re going to overturn the Biden win.

You won’t want to be around trump’s ‘believers’ when their dreams come crashing down, and they find themselves sick, hungry, and homeless.

For those in the conservative media, or the Republican party, who half-heartedly want to encourage trump to do the right thing – concede, and allow work to begin on the pandemic – such talk is tantamount to committing a trumpian double sin. Firstly, they’re whispering that trump may not actually be president when work begins on distributing the vaccine. But secondly, trump has downplayed COVID 19 to his cult for so long, that the vaccine is not even supposed to be a big deal that needs to be addressed. He’s told them the pandemic isn’t such a bad thing .. look at how quickly he got over it! … so, no worries. Que sera sera. All in good time. Manana. Hakuna Matata, baby.

On Saturday, “the G20, the “Group of Twenty,” which consists of leaders of developed or developing countries from around the world, met virtually. After speaking briefly, Trump turned his attention back to tweeting false information about the 2020 election. Then, while members of the G20 began to talk about responses to the global pandemic, Trump went golfing. This was his 298th golf trip during his presidency. Today America surpassed 12 million coronavirus infections.”   (Heather Cox Richardson, historian-author)

The world is beginning to lose patience with America’s lack of response to the pandemic. Denial and dysfunction on an epic level have revealed that America, under trump and under pressure, was simply not up to the task of protecting their people and their economy. Any sympathy towards those caught up unwittingly in the cobwebs of this massive abuse of leadership is fading, after an election that showed that clearly half the nation was still on board with trump, and will follow him, even unto death.  

While the United States juggles both a health and an economic crisis. the nation also finds itself sharply split, politically. That polarization, combined with a public distrust of government institutions that plays into trump’s refusal to take simple health precautions seriously, would be enough to bring any nation to its knees. But now, as trump supporters refuse to believe the results of their election, United State’s democracy is truly under attack.

Today’s America – a nation sick, broke and broken, and fighting against itself. A house divided.

In the face of such a complete and total failure of leadership, golfing is all that trump has left. He failed the nation, and willfully ceded everything asked of a leader.

Fore!

Mood Swings & Roundabouts


by Roxanne Tellier

What doesn’t kill us doesn’t necessarily make us stronger. Sometimes it still kills us; it just takes a little longer to do so.

I’m hearing from way too many people, from all walks of life, that they’re feeling utterly exhausted and unable to stay awake, and yet, when they finally fall into bed, they’re not making it to a good and lasting sleep place. And they’re waking up still feeling a little beat up.

Biden won, 2020 took its best shot, but it’s nearly over. Why this enervation now?

It’s because we’ve got a kind of psychic hangover. This malaise is about a long-term, exhausting, mental struggle that left our brains feeling ‘broken.’

We’ve been gaslit. It’s been an adrenaline high for nearly five years, from 2015, when the madness began, to last week, when we thought that our brutal emotional marathon had finally come to an end. We’ve been jacked into the media, battered by every new atrocity that’s rained down on us, reeling like boxers as we try to first understand what’s happening, and then to protect ourselves from those who tried to tell us that it was all good, and it was we who were crazy and over-reacting.

And Biden’s win, so ferociously denied by trump and his supporters, a continuation of the complete denial of reality, means that we’re still not able to take a deep breath and relax. Turns out that our tormentors, like every ruthless predator in a horror film ever, are not going away without a sequel.  

Trump is determined to hang on to his position, despite a decisive loss that is the exact mirroring of what he called a ‘landslide’ win, when he himself was on the receiving end of the same numbers, four years ago.

Then, President Obama was gracious to trump, despite wide-spread surprise over his election win, saying, “I want to emphasize to you, Mr. President-elect, that we now are going to want to do everything we can to help you succeed, because if you succeed, then the country succeeds.”

His main opponent in the 2016 election, Hillary Clinton, was gracious in defeat, calling him hours after the polls closed to congratulate him on his win, and then formally speaking to the nation the next day, from the Javits Center in New York, saying to her supporters, 

Our campaign was never about one person or even one election, it was about the country we love and about building an America that’s hopeful, inclusive and big-hearted.

“We have seen that our nation is more deeply divided than we thought. But I still believe in America and I always will. And if you do, then we must accept this result and then look to the future. Donald Trump is going to be our president. We owe him an open mind and the chance to lead.

“Our constitutional democracy enshrines the peaceful transfer of power and we don’t just respect that, we cherish it. It also enshrines other things; the rule of law, the principle that we are all equal in rights and dignity, freedom of worship and expression. We respect and cherish these values too and we must defend them.”

But trump doesn’t care about any of that. He doesn’t care about democracy, the rule of law, or that the nation has spoken; he is utterly classless. He won’t concede.

He’s refused to give the green light to the head of the Government Services Administration to acknowledge Biden’s win, and to release the necessary resources to help the new admin hit the ground running on January 20,2021. And that’s impeding President-elect Joe Biden, the man who actually CAN help the nation, from receiving daily security briefs on all the major security issues, along with all of the most up-to-date information on where the country stands on COVID-19.

In truth, the President, like any other citizen, has the right to petition the court. But he doesn’t have the right to hold up the formal transition process for Biden’s succession while he does so. He can’t ‘bookmark’ certain states, claiming them for himself, no matter how many ‘herebys’ he appends to his tweets. The world has already moved on with or without his approval.

He can kick and scream and call himself, ‘your favorite president,’ but in fact, he has now lost the popular vote twice. TWICE. Does he really want to go for a triple? Settle for being out on two strikes, bud.

It’s also become very apparent that a lot of his high-handed decisions, that seemed to be purpose-made to upset groups of people, to bring out those ‘liberal tears,’ or to punish those from whom he failed to receive enough grovelling loyalty, have backfired ‘bigly’ on him.

Trump’s belief that a calling to public service, or the military, was for ‘losers and suckers’ appeared to work against him when General Mark Milley, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said last week, “We take an oath to the constitution, not an individual. We do not take an oath to a king, queen or dictator.”

And the conventional belief that veterans and the military were largely conservative, and had a tendency to lean Republican, was proven very wrong, with an estimated 60% of those ballots choosing Biden instead. Amongst the reasons given for their choices, it seems that the main bone of contention was his selling out of the Kurds, a major ally for American fighting troops for more than 17 years.

The vaunted Million Maga March, meant to protest what he wants to be known as a ‘stolen election,’ fizzled out at a couple of thousand diehards, who showed up in classic clown gear. President ‘Law and Order’ did a drive by on his way to playing golf, giving blanket approval to his followers’ anger and their potential for armed violence. Geez, if only the motorcade had run someone over; it would have been the perfect metaphor for the trump presidency.

Trump’s crack legal team (!!) has had two weeks to find even the tiniest bit of evidence for any election fraud, and have failed. 19 out of the 20 court cases they have brought forward have been dismissed, failing spectacularly, with one judge going so far as to chide the lawyers for providing ‘inadmissible hearsay within hearsay,’ and further rebuking the campaign for failing to include required documentation.

Larry Wilmore on Voter Fraud in the 2020 Election

Off on the horizon, the spectre of ‘faithless electors’ staggering towards the Electoral College like so many Walking Dead extras has been pretty much debunked as being unlikely, and in some cases, blatantly illegal. So, at this point, the only way ‘faithless’ electors’ could be in play would be in the case of an outright, unlawful, coup. Is that possible? Anything is possible. But, again – highly unlikely.  

If, during this period, trump was frantically trying to help American citizens by encouraging Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to take up any of the bills brought to the Senate by the House for the nation’s good, including a coronavirus relief package, he might be thought of as genuinely believing that ‘only he could save the country.’   

But instead, all he’s done is golf, whine, doomscroll, throw tantrums, and vomit up bitchy complaints and smears on Twitter.

It’s not that he wants the presidential gig; it’s that he doesn’t want anyone else to have it either. And he sure doesn’t want to finally have to answer for all the crimes and corruption he avoided being accountable for, by dint of being a ‘sitting president.’

Even though most people like a good mystery, satisfaction only happens when all of the loose ends are finally tied up, and the bad guy is caught and made to pay for his sins. It’s maddening when that doesn’t happen. It’s exhausting.     

Everything about the trump campaign, from 2015 to now, is like a cheap horror film where the monsters are never vanquished. They just keep coming, despite having been shot, stabbed, speared, and set on fire. It’s like we’re in season 125 of the Walking Dead – when will they finally lay down and decompose?  

Round and round and round we go. Time for everyone to get off the trump roller coaster. All trump’s really proven to the world is that even the best carnival ride can make you nauseous if it doesn’t eventually come to an end.

Ding Dong Is That Witch Dead Yet?


On Wednesday, I began my column by saying “It’s nighttime in America.”

Today, I’m happy to report that at 11:30 am, on Saturday November 7th, the media called the 2020 US presidential election, and named as winners former Vice President Joseph R. Biden, Jr., and his running mate– the first woman elected to the vice presidency– California Senator Kamala Harris.

And suddenly – it’s a new day in America.  

(Paging Bill Barr… Mr. William Barr … has anybody seen the Attorney General? It’s been days!)

Ah, forget about him. Barr and the rest of trump’s cast of sycophantic minions are about to be returned to the reeking garbage scows from which they were so serendipitously plucked before being delicately mixed in with Washington’s miasma of swamp creatures. Today, I can finally say that I believe a day will come – very soon! – when we will be able to say, with true confusion … “Ivanka Who?”  

And to think, it all started with one broke man with a crazy dream, riding a golden escalator.

But for now, my friends, it is time to dance in the streets. Rejoice, righteously, for those who fearlessly stood up for democracy. It wasn’t easy. It truly has been America’s long national nightmare, four years that felt more like four decades, and it ain’t the COVID that has left most of us looking ten years older, and feeling twenty years older, than when it first began.

He told us who and what he was, but many didn’t believe him. Five years after that escalator ride, trump had showed the entire planet exactly who and what he was, and still, many don’t believe what they see with their own eyes. A dictator wannabe, lacking in character, incompetent, vengeful, sadistic. Also, a proven coward, apathetic and weak.

And yet, he nearly succeeded in ending democracy in America.

The next person hellbent on that kind of mission may not be so incompetent. He or she may have learned how not to telegraph every treasonous move. He or she may succeed.

Which is why – it’s not over. It’s never over. 

Politics is hard, and unending, when done right. So many of us like to slag off politics and politicians, branding them all useless and corrupt. And certainly, many are. We have stunning evidence of that, in history, and in current politics. But politics is not just those men and women who chose to enter the field – democratic politics, our preferred norm, actually DEMANDS that we all take an active part in a successful society. In other words, like it or lump it, you too … are in politics.

Surprise! Being a good citizen doesn’t end with casting a vote. It means actually knowing the issues on the table, being honest, trustworthy, and law abiding. It means being a good neighbour, of being respectful of the rights and property of others, and being a good global citizen, respecting nature. It means taking responsibility for your actions.

All of those attributes may seem quaint, but without the majority of us following those rules, our society falls apart. We’re stronger when we’re all together, working together, not against each other.   

It hurts to think that over 71 million Americans watched the evil trump and his administration perpetrated, and voted for more, and worse to come. 71 million voters were okay with kids being torn from their parents; with the DACA kids being cast adrift; with Russia offering bounties to Afghanis for American military scalps; with a lawless administration; with the only thing preventing a depression being bailouts to those nearly bankrupted by bad trade deals …. And by the reality of more than 230,000 Americans already in their graves, dead from COVID-19.

We already knew that, coming up, the least of the evils about to be visited on America, under a re-elected trump, would be the firing of Dr Fauci. On the agenda, under his packed and stacked Supreme Court were the final killing blow to the Affordable Care Act’s protection of those with pre-existing conditions. And he’d tentatively moved forward to dismantling Medicare and Social Security. No plans for stemming the tide of COVID deaths. Things were looking pretty bleak.

How bad was it? Enough to make a grown man cry.

But 71 million voters were okay with all of that, because they had a few more bucks in their pocket under trump’s reign.

As marketer Seth Godin said, “If your guiding principle is to do whatever benefits you right now, you don’t have principles of much value.”

It would appear that there are two diametrically opposed political ideologies in today’s America, and that it comes down to generations of right-wing media creating a fictional world that gives them comfort, clashing with those who are living in a reality-based community. Both sides believe they are right, but only one has the receipts.

So, there’s still much to worry about. There’s a long, hard, road ahead of us. Biden’s win is just the first step on that journey.  

I’m pretty sure that trump won’t be leaving behind a handy list of “All the Bad Stuff I Did.’ Instead, the new administration will have to figure out which Jenga pegs he pulled from which vital institutions, and try to plug those holes as quickly as they can, to prevent the tower from toppling.

Remember, there were people who died on battlefields, and in concentration camps, and yes, in cotton fields in the Deep South, after peace and freedom was declared. There are many who are suffering right now, who may not live long enough to see the end of this administration.

And though thousands of Americans are dying daily, needlessly, from COVID-19, which did not miraculously disappear on November 4th, as promised by trump, trump actually outperformed Biden in states like Texas, Florida, Iowa, Montana and both Dakotas, all of which had the highest numbers of new cases per capita in recent weeks. His followers seem unperturbed, which I can only compare to the mental gymnastics of groupies who are fine with the long-term effects of various venereal diseases, if they can proudly claim to have caught them from their teen cult idol.

Biden’s got a plan to beat the virus into submission, and it’s going into place this coming week. But it won’t be enough to save everyone from the months of neglect on disease containment.

Trump can, and will, do a lot of damage on his way out. That’s a given. He’s a man that can hold a grudge for decades, waiting for the moment when he finally gets to lower a (nuclear) boom. Look to history – dictators are not benevolent in defeat. Germany was bombed to smouldering rubble as Hitler ranted in his bunker.

Some in the Republican party have been pleading that the new administration go easy on poor old Donnie. They suggest we turn down the heat, and that Dems respect that this is all so very hard for a young and naive 74-year-old to deal with all at once.

Which brings us to the next conundrum:  what happens next to the boy who never wanted to grow up? Does he get pardoned? Plead insanity? It’s going to be pretty hard to pull off an insanity defense. In the case of COVID-19 alone, there are many hours of taped conversation between trump and Bob Woodward, in which trump bragged about lying about the virus to the American people. He knew, all along, exactly how virulent and deadly the infection would be, and did not act. It was a lack of leadership, and criminal negligence, that sentenced a quarter of a million Americans to death, not a ‘Kung Flu.’ Trump is a murderous sociopath, and it will only be by making an example of his sedition that another, more capable, traitor is prevented.

But Ding Dong, the Witch is Nearly Dead – the Empire has been saved – and it is right and just that those who worked to stop the fascistic arc, that those who voted to stop trump – rejoice! 

The long nightmare did not belong to America alone. This glorious moment, this breath of fresh air, belongs to us all.

Congratulations to former Vice President Joseph R. Biden, Jr., and his running mate– the first woman elected to the vice presidency– California Senator Kamala Harris.

“Rosa sat, so Ruby could walk, and Kamala could run. “