Corona My House, Baby


by Roxanne Tellier

So – that was a pretty wild month, right? Even for a leap year? At this time of year, I’m usually talking about cabin fever, and writing about ‘hygge’ and how to cope when winter just won’t leave.

But not this year! This will definitely be a February to remember. We’ve had early primaries and voting that’s driven some Democrats to the edge of hysteria – James Carville may never survive the Bern. Punxsutawney Phil didn’t see his shadow, so we can hope for an early spring. And Trump unveiled Kushner’s long-awaited Middle East peace plan, causing the Palestinian National Authority to cut all ties with the US and Israel.

Trump’s obsequious and sycophantic GOP acquitted him, despite pretty much all of the Senators agreeing that baby’d done a bad, bad thing.  I mean … COME ON, folks… Trump’s already so narcissistic he expects presents on Mothers Day. Now he believes he is America’s King and the presumed second coming of their Lord and Savior. He is a mad king, high on his own infallibility, trying, but miserably failing, to oversee a pivotal moment in history. We can thank the spineless, power mad, Republican party for this ‘very special’ moment in American history.

And – oh yeah, we got hit with a plague.

Whether you believe history repeats or rhymes, studying what’s gone before tells us much about where we are now. People smarter than myself have warned for decades that the planet was long overdue for a global pandemic. It’s a cycle, and one which has, in the last 12,000 years, killed between 300-500 million people. We’ve had cholera, bubonic plague, smallpox, and of course, influenza. Heck, the Antonine Plague of 165 AD is thought to have been either smallpox or measles, something the 5 million people who died in Asia Minor, Egypt, Greece and Italy had never heard of before it hit hard.

In the seven years that the Black Death decimated Europe, Africa and Asia, there was an estimated death toll of about 200 million.

Over the last two hundred years, we’ve had odd outbreaks of cholera and flu, but apart from the great flu pandemic of 1918 that killed about 50 million humans, there have been smaller death tolls, and a quicker response, saving millions of lives, through a wise and well prepared use of science and good health policies.

No matter when an epidemic appears, or where, there are two key measures necessary to halt the spread as quickly as possible, and to care for those who become infected by these diseases.  A society needs to be prepared, with prophylactic obstructions organized to routinely stop the movement of illness across borders. And once infected, a society needs to be kept informed as to how to protect themselves, how to care for those who fall to an illness, how to deal with the necessary complications of everyday life, and how to stop the spread of the illness to any vulnerable citizens.  

However, with this current epidemic, the trump administration has opted to politicize the response, and to muzzle trusted experts by insisting that they only report to VP Pence, who will, ostensibly, then bowdlerize whatever the experts say, and squeeze that through a funnel that may or may not be trump’s colon, before releasing it to an anxious nation.

The first problem with that ‘solution; is that no one believes or trusts, trump’s words. As of January 2020, he’d racked up almost 17,000 out and out disproven lies. Would you trust your life to this man?   

Pence and trump are willfully walking down exactly the same path that Iran did; when confronted with the virus, they attempted to deny the truth. And they should hope that they don’t get a similar outcome

In early February, as rumours about coronavirus cases and deaths started spreading in Iran, the Iranian regime went into full-scale denial mode and held the 40th anniversary celebrations for the Islamic Revolution. Hundreds of thousands marched on the streets, met, spent lots of time in very close proximity to each other.

And the Iranian Regime continued to deny any coronavirus cases despite being in the middle of an outbreak.

Last week, just a few days prior to their sham elections on Friday, it seems that the situation got so bad that the regime could not deny it anymore. They had to admit to numerous cases and deaths caused by the coronavirus. Nonetheless, they decided to go ahead with their sham election in the middle of an outbreak of a highly contagious virus.

The result has been that many in the Iranian Regime have been infected, including the vice deputy of health and one of the vice presidents. 6 parliamentarians have also been infected, with one of them having died already. It’s even probable that President Rouhani, who held cabinet meetings with some of the infected ministers, is also infected. It should also surprise no-one if many of the religious leaders are infected, as well.

Trump is actively making matters worse. After spending several years dismantling the government apparatuses that were set up to handle precisely this type of situation, he’s calling the epidemic a ‘hoax, ’ saying that it’s just another thing the Dems have cooked up to hobble his campaign.  

(kudos to the Dems for going all in on the hoaxing, right? I mean… talking China and North Korea into ‘faking’ their symptoms and all of those deaths, not to mention having the Iranian vice president hospitalized … that deserves a round of applause, at the very least!)

He’s made himself and his party the real victims here, claiming that the Dems are somehow complicit in ruining his re-election efforts. Doesn’t seem to register in his pea brain that the Dems are knee deep in their own election concerns, as the contenders vie for party leader in Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina.

Trump’s managed to maneuver several Republican led states into forgoing caucuses or primaries in 2020, so he essentially has no party competition between himself and a fall re-election. Nonetheless, he refuses to abandon his Nuremburg style rallies, in which both he and his faithful cult apparently seek a simultaneous climax through the mangling and ingestion of his tasty word salads.

In the face of the coronavirus, that fervor is quite likely to turn many of their gathering places into seething, simmering petri dishes of disease.   

Trump’s only interest is to protect himself, his money, his re election… the people aren’t even close to the top of his list of concerns. And that’s sad, because most of those people who follow him really love him, and they’re about to get sick, and maybe even die, as they follow his dance to the cliff’s edge. Sadder still – he just doesn’t care.

For the last three years, any laws, rules or regulations that would benefit the lower- and middle-class voters of the United States have been deregulated, cut, or have simply disappeared from the budget. Despite repeatedly swearing to his base that he would never take away their Medicare, Medicaid, or Social Security, all three of those are on the chopping block in the budget he and his minions are in the midst of preparing.

And, to date, he’s cut the working budgets of the CDC, National Security Council, (entire global security health unit) Homeland Security, and Health and Human Services.  

Not only that, “In its latest budget proposal, the Trump administration sought to cut CDC funding by 16% — even as Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar seeks emergency spending from lawmakers to combat the coronavirus.”

The remarks come amid warnings from CDC experts that the virus’ spread in the US was “inevitable” and urged Americans to prepare. But the Trump administration has spent the last two years gutting critical positions and programs that health experts say weakened the federal government’s ability to manage a health crisis.

In 2018, the White House eliminated a position on the National Security Council tasked with coordinating a global pandemic response. The CDC that same year also axed 80% of its efforts combating disease outbreaks overseas because its funds were depleted.”

The funds we used to spend on global pandemic preparedness were not wasted money – that was the nation’s first line of defense

And now clinics and hospitals face a shortage not only of face masks, but of working testing kits that would help them to identify new victims of the virus.

There are other issues here, though, and we need to be making a plan of what to do next. American citizens lack a lot of the amenities that might have made the handling of this health crisis a lot easier. Having a proper health care plan would have been good. Instead, we’re hearing that those who seek medical aid are being hit with bills of over $300, just to determine if they have the virus. How are they expected to pay for treatment, if it turns out they are infected? 

Minimum wage earners likely haven’t got the option of taking sick days, but they are also unlikely to have any extra money lying around to get them through a period of not working. What happens when cashiers, restaurant servers, cooks, bartenders, gas station attendants, and the like just stop going to work, either because of their own illness, or to help soothe the illness of a child or spouse?

What happens when restaurants and stores close, because there’s no staff, and there aren’t enough customers to keep the doors open? What happens when the “just in time” ordering that has kept businesses financially solvent for decades, comes up against China not having the people or resources to keep the supply chain lubricated?

The stock market lost $6 trillion dollars last week. How many people will lose their jobs due to that drop?

What happens to the homeless, who are already in poor health? What about the immigrants and refugees, mostly little kids, crammed together in camps around the nation? Those camps are ripe for spreading contamination.

It’s hard to believe, but even as America begins to count its own dead, the trump administration continues to call for funds – $3.8 billion this week – to be steered from other congressionally approved budgets, like the Department of Defense, to be used to build that infernal wall, instead of using any and all available money to save their own citizens.  

The Senate Majority Leader, Chuck Schumer, called for $8.5 billion in emergency funding to help fight the coronavirus, which was three times the $2.5 billion that trump had requested be released.  

Meanwhile, the head of Homeland Security told American citizens that a vaccine was at least ten or eleven months away, but when it was available, not all citizens would be able to afford it. (Although their taxes WOULD pay for the research and distribution of the drug.)   

And White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney suggested that Americans were guilty of paying too much attention to the small amount of information media was at liberty to give them. While he admitted that their everyday lives would be fraught with school closures and public transit issues, he thought it best the average Joe “turn off your televisions for 24 hours.”  After all, anyone concerned with school closures and public transit issues is hardly likely to be someone the trump administration cares much about, after they’ve got their vote.

These are scary times, all over the world. From Australia to Africa, Russia to South Korea, we’re worrying about ourselves, and each other, and wondering what happens next. Nothing we’ve ever known in our lives has prepared us for this.

Pretty sure that whomever can figure out some way to lift that Chinese curse about living in ‘interesting times” could retire a trillionaire.

In the meantime, all I have to offer is this information from WHO on how to properly wash your hands.

Last One Out, Turn Off the Lights


The Canadian relationship with winter and snow is a lot like marriage; some love it, and look forward to their time together. Others tolerate winter, but spend a lot of time apart during cold spells. Still others grumble, but it’s a loving martyrdom that takes the good (skiing) right along with the bad (shovelling.)

winter bench no snowBut one thing is certain – this winter, so mild and light on snow, is having an effect on the Canadian psyche. It’s as though we’re all a little off-kilter, a little crankier, testier, because we know something’s missing, but we’re not sure what it is.

The media’s always more than happy to give us something to talk about, but this year, even the media is freezing over. After Postmedia gobbled up all but four of the daily papers across Canada, it found it had actually bitten off more than it could chew. Godfrey looking like House of CardsWith advertising and circulation plummeting, there was only time to quickly give CEO Paul Godfrey his salary of $1.6 million (which included a special $400,000 bonus for being so … special?) before it started hacking away at those menial, blood suckers (like journalists) who were destroying the company. Still, Postmedia’s annual net loss for the financial year more than doubled to $263.4 million. Who knew journalists got paid so much!

Journalism is one of our primary democratic institutions, playing a major role in how Canadians learn about each other, and how to do stuff … like vote. During the Harper years, Godfrey worked a sweetheart deal that allowed him to bend regulations and sell 35% of Postmedia to the New York hedge fund , Golden Tree Asset Management.

“For generations, Canadian law has forbidden foreign ownership or control of Canadian cultural assets. But after permitting the sale to non-Canadians of practically the entire Canadian-owned steel and mining industries, then PM Stephen Harper’s government signed off on Postmedia’s creation as well. The Americans put a Canadian face on the deal by selecting Paul Godfrey, 77, as Postmedia’s CEO. Not by coincidence, Harper and Godfrey, a diehard Tory, are kindred spirits.

Though it was a thinly disguised foreign takeover, Ottawa didn’t object that Postmedia’s advent showed no sign of complying with Investment Canada’s one basic demand of foreign takeovers — that they be of “net benefit” to Canada.

Five years later, no one can credibly argue that Postmedia has been of net benefit to Canada. The most Godfrey can do, as he did recently, is insist that Canada is lucky that someone plucked the National Post, the Edmonton Journal and the Regina Leader-Post from the Canwest ruins, since no Canadian bidders stepped forward to do so.

That is a lie. There were at least two credible bids by Canadian interests, as Godfrey well knows. And the Canwest papers would not have perished in any case. They would have been auctioned, individually and as regional groups. That would have served readers better than the monstrosity of Postmedia. It’s Postmedia that is in financial extremis, not Postmedia’s papers…..

Postmedia is said to be lobbying Ottawa for a relaxation of Canadian ownership rules on cultural assets, since some of the deepest-pocketed bidders on a bankrupt Postmedia’s assets are likely to be foreigners.”

(http://www.thestar.com/business/2016/01/30/the-problem-with-postmedia-olive.html)

As it stands, industry insiders say that it looks like Postmedia will be forced to seek creditor protection, which means the company could be broken up and sold off to U.S. hedge fund creditors in a debt- for- equity swap. That would open bidding to the U.S. and other foreign interests.

canada-v-usAnd that move would put all but four of Canada`s daily newspapers, the supposed cultural and democratic voice of Canada, under foreign ownership. Writers, get ready to jettison your keyboard’s ‘u’ key, and learn the words to “The Star Spangled Banner.”

Just to give you some idea of how damaging losing control over our daily papers would be, think back to October 2015, when Godfrey imposed support for Stephen Harper on all of the major papers in the chain. Wasn’t the first time … Postmedia did the same thing during Alberta’s provincial election, forcing its papers there to back Jim Prentice’s Tories.

Sun 2015 Harper supportBut this time they also permitted the Conservative Party to buy yellow ads that covered the entire front pages of most of the company’s major daily newspapers. The ads were designed to appear as official electoral information, and gave ranting warnings about the folly of voting Liberal.

While not technically illegal, the endorsement was a shocking insight into who really controls a newspaper’s editorial voice, as staff across the country hurried to distance their own views from the ‘yellow journalism.’

Godfrey’s support of the Conservatives has been unwavering since before his days at the Toronto Sun, where he allowed only favourable stories or photos about then mayoral candidate, Mel Lastman to be printed. Reporter Don Wanagas was removed as a municipal columnist for the sin of writing unflattering pieces about Lastman.

godfrey lastman rogers.jpgNewly minted Mayor Lastman went on to preside over one of the most corrupt regimes in Toronto’s history. And as David Miller, elected mayor in 2003 on a platform of cleaning up Toronto’s city hall after Lastman, has said “There’s no question he was very influential with Mayor Lastman. I certainly knew as a city councillor that Lastman’s office was in touch with Mr. Godfrey all the time.”

Godfrey’s political machinations aside, his business reputation was cemented on iron-fist management and slash-and-burn job cutting practices. newspapers-dyingPrior to the purchase of Sun Media, Postmedia’s workforce had shrunk to 2,500 employees – from 5,400 five years before. Today, 2,826 people do all the heavy lifting cross Canada, from sales, to writing, to printing.

“NDP industry critic Brian Masse noted that the easing of ownership rules designed to guard cultural industries is a “fair discussion to have” in light of the emergence of digital news alternatives, but warned that foreign control could lead to an infiltration of offshore biases into Canadian editorial content.” 

No shit, Sherlock.

online-journalism-then-versus-nowGodfrey’s control of the press is by no means novel in these times of corporate greed gone mad. In the United States, 94% of the media is controlled by just 5 companies; Disney, ViaCom, CBS, News Corp, Time-Warner and Comcast. And that’s what they call the ‘liberal’ media; 94% of all your information and entertainment, owned and controlled by the 1%.

Can someone tell me when and how the voice of the people will be heard? It certainly has been, and will continue to be, drowned out by the voices of those with the money and power to impose their own visions onto an unsuspecting nation.

Democracy begins with freedom of speech in and of the press. It ends with corporate monopoly, and foreign ownership.

Bits and Pieces ….

lemeowI’ve mentioned this soul-jazz duo from Ottawa before. leMeow, comprised of Gin Bourgeois and James Rooke, and filled out with Jansen Richard on drums, Brent Hultquist on keys and Karolyne LaFortune on fiddle. released this YouTube delight recently. That’s My Man is the debut single from leMeow’s upcoming album, due in June 2016.

leMeow new single ….

sam taylor the sound cdSam Taylor has the musical honesty and enthusiasm of a young Jeff Healey, with a band (The East End Love ) that kicks out a bottom end reminiscent of Cream and the stop-on-a- dime dynamics of early Who. These up and comers are not to be missed.
And so it was that on Friday night, I found myself at the Only Café with Pat Blythe, meeting Sam and enjoying some hot blues on a cold night. Pat’s written at length about the band, which consists of drummer Jace Traz, bass player David MacMichael, and rhythm guitarist Will Meadows.

I found this fan video on YouTube that captures some of their ‘live’ excitement. From last spring, at a gig at Relish, on the Danforth.

Funny … back in the 80’s, Jeff Healey would occasionally play a Sunday night gig at Quinns, the old bar on the Danforth bar, where I then bartended. He’d often ask me up to join him for a tune or two. History repeated itself on Friday, when I got to share the stage with Sam and the band. Thanks, guys!

 

(first published Feb/2016-https://bobsegarini.wordpress.com/2016/02/07/roxanne-tellier-last-one-out-turn-off-the-lights/)