Plus Ça Change

Which One IsHiding The Pea?

Which One IsHiding The Pea?


An article in today’s Globe discusses a possible change in attitudes in a toney Nova Scotia town where, as they put it, the “gin and Jaguar” set is hosting a fundraiser on behalf on the current Liberal Leader, an unlikely occurrence given that the riding has elected only one Liberal in the last several decades. The Globe points out that this occurred in the context of the decimation of the Tories at the end of  the Mulroney reign, a grace period that lasted exactly until the next election, and the precedent is somewhat portentous for the rest of us: we should recall that Chrétien was elected on a platform of killing the GST, cancelling the helicopter contract and revoking NAFTA, and we all know how that turned out. This is basically a case of “here we go again”. A vast number of people might be disenchanted with the high handed, rather dictatorial style of Mr. Harper, and the anti-progressive and downright nasty way in which he rains on peoples’ parades and pulls the underpinnings out from under Canadian society. There are many rumblings about doing whatever it takes to rid Ottawa of the blight of CONservative government, including cross-party cooperation and strategic voting, as well as a concerted effort to get out the non-Con vote. In the face of all this effort, all the stirring of the electoral pot, and the strident calls to action, it’s hard to feature that the election of a government run by either of the other party leaders will be a great deal different. Both Trudeau and Mulcair seem wedded to the regimen of free trade documents that are currently blitzing the negotiating set, what with TISA,TPP, CETA, FIPPA and who knows what else might be emanating from the back rooms of the corporate dream factory, and it may be that Canadians don’t have the stomach for a platform that would reestablish some semblance of sovereignty for Canada and an economy that works for Canadians at home while working on diplomatic and economic initiatives abroad that would make staying home a viable option for all those TFWs, refugees, and whatever offshored jobs might be lost in the call centres of the underprivileged world. Canadians may not be capable of the adjustments in the way we live that would ensure that we use resources in a prudent and sustainable way, but, in any case, it seems unlikely that any of that will happen behind and of Doors 1, 2, or 3. The sad fact is that our current crop of leaders are all likely to lead us off a fiscal, social and environmental cliff, even though they may recognize that there are great minds telling us collectively that we need to re-educate ourselves quickly and act on our newly-gained tenets of wisdom. Would Messers Harper, Trudeau, and Mulcair be up to the challenge, once elected, of initiating that educational process? I would wager not, and not expect to get a lot of takers for that wager.


What Time Can Teach Us


(belongs to info

(belongs to info


Title from an article on the Globe & Mail’s site. I’m not going to read it:

The rise of the drones: Do privacy concerns outweigh the benefits of this burgeoning technology?

The obvious answer is yes, but not just drones: our lives are interlaced with a plethora of different technologies and their associated gadets, some of which may enhance our lives, but many of which have too much downside, and the sum of which amounts to an addiction to veeblefeetzers and goldbergian claptrap. We’ve been sold a load of not-so-goods that channel the way we live and bind us to the culture of consumption. It would be interesting to know what portion of the Earth’s human population is employed in the development, production and marketing of what are essentially toys: civilization seems to have structured itself to choke itself on stuff to the extent that our escape route is not entirely clear and becomes less so by the day.

I suppose the radio and television set the tone early on in the last century, a brilliant way of extending communication and a possible step in improving the human condition. What we got was the best pavlovian Bernays sauce of conditioning through limited discussion and debate reinforced with tsunamis of emotional drek and lowest-common-denominator views of society and its discontents. What started with the promise of a vehicle for the improvement of culture and the broad dissemination of information and analysis, became, with the television, the complete medium for the perpetration of a scheme of lies and salesmanship, promoting consumption, covetous desire for baubles and meaningless status, and the preeminence of an American dream built on the pillaging of other peoples’ resources. The culture, debate, information and analysis was there, but it took a skilled and dedicated seeker to connect with it,a task that became increasingly difficult as a compliant school system largely failed to give students the requisite questioning skills before trying them loose to be good producers and consumers.

I have been good at this sort of compliance, even in the face of an education, part of it in school, a lot of it from reading, from social interactions with peers and family and, finally, from recoiling from some of the anomalies in what I was hearing/seeing, and what I perceived to be a version of real events. Here I am working on a somewhat passé computer, using a browser and blogging software, so I haven’t escaped unscathed from the onslaught, but the ad below, for our provincial political masters, one of the sleaziest governments I’ve ever encountered in person or in story tells me that we haven’t learned much. We haven’t learned that any technology can be bent to the rules of crass commercialism  in the service of colonization by capital. The Internet, like radio and television, seemed to start out as a medium of contact and discourse, but has evolved into a maze of pornography, cute cat videos, a shitstorm of political venom and yet another bully pulpit for oil lobbies and other destructive groups.


This is not to say that there isn’t a ton of good material and fine journalism and rhetoric out there, that there aren’t loads of inspired images and sounds, some that go beyond simple entertainment to provoke thought and engage the viewer in a constructive interaction with others, but without actually putting the thesis to the test, a browse through a day’s Facebook posts seems to confirm it, as do the frequent arrests of people from all walks of life for charges relating to porn.

It is yet again an instance of doing what comes easily to us rather than tackling what really needs to be done.


Meanwhile, here’s a link to a video of the late Charlie Haden playing with none other than Ginger Baker (who’d-a thunk it) and Bill Frisell:


Nowhere To Run To



I got home to see this in my inbox and on Facebook. It’s the kind of shenanigan that makes people distrust political parties of any stripe. I’ve had dealings with Paul, all of them constructive. He has been a consistent advocate for democracy, environment and rule of law, including the fighting of discriminatory and corruptive legislation. However, he isn’t good enough to even present himself as a candidate for the NDP. Sad, and in particular because it highlights the current struggle in the progressive mind in the conflict between the desire to get elected and to hold the power to form government, and the adherence to ethic and principle. Ideally, the power of a party to educate citizens to the necessity of changing direction from our present self-destructive course would mean that this dichotomy wouldn’t be in play, but parties don’t seem to get that they need to be constantly schooling their prospective electorate. Paul has done much of this, but not in the quest for political power, but because he has seen the destruction wrought by our present lot of scallywags  and has foreseen the consequences of failing to make a radical course change. In this, the NDP has failed miserably and left it to Elizabeth May federally, and Andrew Weaver at the provincial level, to probe and elucidate the horrors being perpetrated in our name. Solution: vote Green? This is a tough one because Greens and Dippers don’t talk much to each other and increasingly it appears as though neither can unseat the incumbents whose cancerous tentacles seem to have sunk deep into the consciousness of Canadian voters, either to continue with Harper as the prudent fiscal manager he touts himself to be, or to give in to apathy and not vote at all. Trudeau is a younger, slicker version of the same corporate shill and, though most people don’t seem to see through the smokescreen, is, given access to a majority in the House, would likely follow in the footsteps of Stephen Harper, just as Barack Obama seems to have been largely unable to change course from the W era.





Backing Down, Spinning Around



This Janet Holder, the face of Enbridge’s Northern Gateway pipeline project. I wrote a post  a week ago or so before disappearing into the wilds of Southern Ontario for a family occasion, lots of schmoozing without song or strong drink, a ton of humidity and heat, but mostly pretty relaxed and in good company. I haven’t published the post because it might be too inflammatory a thing for pure opinion. Who knows? The gist of it was that Holder and all the other mucky-mucks at Enbridge, the NEB, the Conservative caucuses in both Alberta and Ottawa need to be issued hazmat suits and put on standby for the rest of their natural lives in preparation for working in the trenches of the world-class clean-up contingency crew when the inevitable eventually comes to pass. A big part of the problems  we face stems from the lack of personal responsibility for decisions that affect us all.

Then I get home to learn that we’re shipping yet another round of shipbuilding contracts for BC Ferries to Europe, specifically Poland. The curtain of deception makes it hard to see how they selected this group to do the building, but this is surely the forerunner of the whole procurement process inherent in the Free Trade agreements we seem to be signing without debate or even being allowed to see what benefits and constraints might be under that polished silver dome awaiting the unveiling of the main course. Do we need ferries? Build the suckers here, and, in the process, build capacity and skills to similar work in the future. I din’t particularly like Glen Clark, but his fast ferry fiasco included a lot of training for metal work, welding, fabrication, machining and what have you. Are there enough of these trained people around to work on new ferries and whatever the Royal Canadian Navy might need? Or have they all drifted into the Athabaska tar pits?

Australian solar power is already competitive with coal for generating electricity. I have a nephew who has a contract to place a couple of solar arrays on his “farm” for which he is paid $0.80/kw/hr. Go figure, I guess it’s a free market solution, now that Ontario Hydro has gone the same privatization route that BC Hydro suffered under the Campbell régime.

S.T., a member of our local Transitions initiative, sent this link to a TED talk that rings a responsive chord to thoughts over the last couple of decades.

…a recent brush with an updating of ancient history:



(click on the image to read the Tyee’s article)

Throughout my working years I was party to discussions about the role of unions in relation to their members and to the community as a whole. Some felt that the advancement of the economic well-being was paramount in the union’s business to the exclusion of all else. Of course, this being a teacher union, there was also a faction who felt that the social climate was of concern, given that there is so strong a link between the conditions of the learning environment and the well-being of the teaching force, not to mention parents and the broader community.  The Tyee has a piece today about the concerns of unions relating to jobs in the energy sector, a discussion that may drive the wedge that separates economic and environmental well-being in the debate about the construction of energy infrastructure. The trade-off, in the eyes of the energy companies, as in the vast majority of government circles, is that we have to accept huge environmental  risks if we wish to have the prosperity that the export of dilbit and LNG would supposedly bring to our province. Thusly stated, the dichotomy is false and avoids the discussion of who “owns” the economy as well as highlighting the short-sightedness of those leading the discussion.


Had we chosen to be serious about jobs and energy, we would long ago have adopted the construction of infrastructure for renewable energy, using public funds as well as reworked taxes and royalties on fossil fuel development to set in motion a transition out of the era of environmental degradation and the rapid use of finite resources for the benefit of a small minority of the population, and into an era of the deployment and maintenance of all forms of renewable energy, paired with a truly effective recycling program that would obviate the need to extract much of the mineral wealth that is currently mouldering in landfills around the country. It would also be reassuring to see industrial production focused on truly durable goods, items made to last a lifetime and more, goods that, when broken, can be repaired and which, at the end of their useful life, can be easily recycled back into remanufactured replacements.


A quick look at economic gains made by unions might very well show that they are rapidly eaten up by inflation and by new taxes and user fees imposed by governments looking to reduce the load on their business constituency. Gains in working conditions and environmental concerns encourage broader hiring, keeping benefits in the local economy and social gains for society as a whole. We have to remember that the terms of economic discussion have, for decades, been set by a consensus of people schooled in and attached to the Friedman/University of Chicago group of free market freebooters, a group who barely manages to hold back the tides of discontent as they move us from crisis to crisis and who have produced as great a disparity of wealth distribution as has been known in recent history. They have also been the crew that dispenses the results of their efforts and have not spared the froth in letting us know what a brilliant job they’ve done for us, but there is so little truth in most of the reporting that it’s hardly worth the effort it takes to read it. The bar has been set so low that it wouldn’t be hard for us to do better, all the while keeping in mind that we want to still have an economy in mid-century and beyond. Our current course will lead to disorder and destruction, and unions can step up to help alter the course so that our children, grandchildren and later generations will be the beneficiaries of a decent living space and some equality of opportunity to participate fully in the business of society.

Some Wisdom Shows Through



“Economics is a form of brain damage.”
–Hazel Henderson (economist)
The true civilization is where every man gives to every other every right that he claims for himself.
—Robert Ingersoll
These two people were guests on a forum from Boston organized by HuffPost: they are people who work within the current system, but who have drawn the wrath of much of the political class for advocating a return to some saner version of our current economic/social/political régime. Thomas Piketty got an earful from Kevin O’Leary, and it would seem likely that Elizabeth Warren scares the daylights out of even some of the Democratic caucus, as well as the entirety of everything farther to the selfish Right of the political spectrum. Why is that?, you may ask, when what these two are proposing is the rescue of our “civilization” from eating itself alive and taking much of life on Earth with it.  Fundamentally, they are proponents of redistribution of wealth in the opposite direction from what the Washington Consensus and the Reaganite/Thatcherite bunch have written as law in the post-New Deal/post-Great Society era, in effect the taxation of wealth beyond a certain level of absurdity, where wealth ceases to represent a comfortable living and starts to represent power across the spectrum of economics, social affairs and into the deepest recesses of politics and governance.
Piketty and Warren don’t necessarily have all the answers to all our ills, but the refreshing part of what they say is the reasoned openness of their critique of the corruption and misdirection of human affairs where the corruption becomes entrenched in the institutions that are supposed to serve society as a whole and where  moves are afoot to destroy the last vestiges of the commons, or the ability of society to come together to address the challenges that society has, by and large, created. This is evident in many spheres, but is particularly acute in the environmental field where the fossil fuel has drawn a verbal palisade around issues of energy, economy, and living space, including not only the buying of political influence, but the criminalization of revealing the nature of the damage being done by drilling, tracking, and mining of carbon fuel sources.
It would be nice if we had a special sandbox where the rich folk could hold sway and trade in luxuries as long as they didn’t encroach upon what the World needs to be doing to address inequality (especially inequality of opportunity) while the rest of us worked in a more constructive direction to rebuild a society where sense would be part of the commons and where we didn’t depend of stuff to define who we are. Sadly, the trade in luxuries tends to require an inordinate share of economic resources that will be needed to provide a decent standard of living for all of the rest of us.
Thanks to Crooks and Liars for the link to the HuffPo vid.

Lovely Surprises



We have a Bay Laurel in our yard that we got for a wedding gift from my grandfather. A curmudgeonly sort, I suspect, with no disrespect intended, that he sent money to my folks and asked them to get us something appropriate, so they got this tree, and gave us a healthy cheque to go with it. They also bought one of the trees themselves for their place on Old Scott Road, the Miniment. We planted it out the first spring we had it and it wintered over pretty well, something of a surprise for our climate, which is hardly Mediterranean: these things like to grow in Turkey, Greece, Italy, Spain, the South of France and similar mild climes. The next winter, we were horrified to see it die right back to the ground and conversely were overjoyed when we saw little sprouts ringing the part of the “trunk” that still stuck out of the ground.  Following that incident, it grew like crazy for twenty years until, about eight years ago, it got some snow stuck on it, followed by a hard freeze. At this point it was over twelve meters tall and beyond any shelter we could give it. It essentially died back to the ground and we whacked away the deadwood with a power saw. What a joy it was to see the little sprouts coming from both the ground and the stumps. We’ve covered it ever since and been fussy about who gets a branch from it: the leaves are a culinary delight, sweeter and more pungent than what you can buy in the store and we used to have a huge volume to spread around to friends and acquaintances, but wanted to ensure that the tree could flourish without being pillaged for leaves. I walked by this thing the other day on the way back from the chicken coop and got a whiff of something reminiscent of vanilla, cinnamon and mocha, but subtle in its sweet spiciness: the bay had bloomed again.



It has unprepossessing little flowers, and if you stick your nose right in them, there isn’t much to discover, but back away a meter or two, and there is this lovely perfume floating in the air, an enchanting reminder of the season and of the previous generations who bestowed the tree on us. It’s a real source of joy, reflection and reminiscence.


Easter Eggs? (when you’re not expecting them)



I was having another go at an episode of Foyle’s War last week, one in which a woman whose home was bombed out in London shows up looking for a place to stay for a bit, bringing her shell-shocked son with her. Turns out that she has a place in a London suburb called Clapton, and when we see the child taking refuge in the bedroom, he’s reading a Beano comic. So, many of us will know where this is going, but to refresh memory, here is Eric reading something along those same lines, though somewhat later…


bluesbreakers with Eric Clapton



So was this intentional?

Even A Broken (analog) Clock (with a quick update)

Update: Heavens to murgatroid! I agree with something from the IMF! So here it is, via the Tyee.


…is right twice a day. ( I wonder if this means that we have, through digital clocks, lost half our accuracy.)



The broken clock/record, in this case, is the Fraser Institute, that tireless advocate of all who champion less government, mostly on behalf of wealthy and corporate sponsors. Yet an article posted in this morning’s Vancouver Sun makes at least partial sense when it chronicles the vast amounts of money paid out by three levels of government over the period from 1981 to 2009. The surprising statistic is that the total of subsidies over that period exceeds the current Federal debt, and outlines some of the yearly costs to taxpayers as well as showing that some of the most egregious offenders were corporations that were already well-established and profitable. It also doesn’t account for loans, often forgiven, such as the $457 million paid to GM to upgrade plant facilities in Ontario (this was well before the last major meltdown and bankruptcy protection/bailout for GM) or the awarding of perhaps-fatter-than-necessary contracts for infrastructure and IT. It does include marketing management schemes like the Wheat Board, and the indications are that all governments at both Federal and Provincial level are involved. It would be interesting to see how the Rae government in Ontario handled this file, as well as the Doer régime in Manitoba, Romanow in Saskatchewan, and the Harcourt/Clark crowd in BC. I’m sure that there are good reasons for subsidizing some sectors of the economy to shelter them from predatory practices in the marketplace, providing some protection of the general citizenry from the vagaries of a sometimes twisted and tortured free-for-all in the business world. However it also seems clear that there are many instances where pork barrels are the appropriate metaphor and where, clearly, taxpayers are not getting good value for their taxes. For the most part, the Fraser Institute, through generous subsidies from their supporters who then write these contributions off their taxes as a business expense or as, ahem, a charitable donation, generally falls squarely in the category of an enterprise supported by people it seeks to disenfranchise.

Generally, subsidies ought to be used sparingly and only when there is clear benefit to the broad majority of citizens. Few citizens realize that they are not only paying high energy prices at the retail level, but that they are also subsidizing energy concerns through tax breaks, free use of infrastructure, exploration write-offs, and direct subsidies, not to mention the insane current levels of government support and media attention for energy megaprojects. The sad fact is that energy is more expensive than we’ve come to think, and a large part of that cost has been hidden in the tax bundle that we fork out, wherein we get to purchase at least part of the product, whether or not we use it. The same is true of the products of many agricultural sectors, meaning that it seems outrageously expensive to buy local produce because the price in the market is so much higher than an “equivalent” from the supermarket, and a great deal of the difference can be accounted for by that portion that was handed out as subsidies, meaning that you are paying the supermarket and the CAFO whether you eat the stuff or not. I suspect that many would make different choices in many domains were they confronted with the real price of the seemingly-cheaper goods, and this reckoning doesn’t yet take into account the costs of health, safety and environmental considerations.

Finally, it seems likely that many of the côterie of free market proponents wouldn’t be so keen to support a market that was really free based on broad knowledge of the practices of both business and government.

Again, the prescient wisdom of Mose Allison…Stop this world, let me off, there’s just too many pigs at the same trough.

At least it’s (sort of) honest…



Politicians of all stripes routinely skirt some of the more stunning moves they plan to implement if they get elected to office. I find it hard to praise someone whose program I dislike quite intensely, but it would be dishonest to refrain from tipping a hat to his seeming forthrightness, along the lines, in this case, of Grover Norquist (to my knowledge never elected to anything, but a huge influence on many who have been and who have made a valiant attempt to actualize GN’s thought) stating that he wanted to shrink government to the size of a baby so he could drown it in a bathtub. I speak of Tim Hudak, Conservative candidate for Premier of Ontario, who promises to cut 100 000 civil service jobs and to reduce corporate taxation by thirty percent if he becomes Premier. While this places him directly in the middle of promotion and defense  of and economic and social program that leads to complete collapse of all Earth systems, at least there is clear knowledge in advance for voters to consider in their choice. This has not been the case with, say, Stephen Harper, whose statements amounting to “trust me” conflict with his vague “you won’t recognize Canada when I’m through” statements when, in effect, he intends precisely what Hudak says he will do. Likewise, the case of our own provincial Liberals a dozen or so years ago, when Campbell and Company needed no policy statements to obliterate a stale and floundering New Democrat administration that tried to govern in a way that wouldn’t alienate the traditional business community rather than implement progressive economic and social policy. New Democrats had lied to themselves as well as to their constituents, and Campbell didn’t even need to lie. But lie he did, and his ministers and backbenchers alike, as to what their agenda was and as to the state of the province’s finances. The deception continues unabated pretty much everywhere and largely without regard to political, economic, or social orientation. John Horgan will perforce have to engage in massive tergiversation to get himself elected, I suspect, despite the contempt that so many have for the current régime, because the hard truth of our current straitened circumstances will be too much for the bulk of the electorate to stomach. Horgan may even believe that he can reconcile a vibrant energy sector with a fair deal of working folk and a program of environmental protection that can stave off disaster, but that would be inconsistent with everything we’re hearing from NOAA and IPCC, never mind the prophets of doom.


Just in case you didn’t catch all the lyrics, here’s a little helper so that we can appreciate the worth, in our present context, of something written decades ago. No, it likely wasn’t prescient, it’s just that things are even more Snafu’d now than they were back when our crises hadn’t become quite so acute.


If this life is driving
You to drink
You sit around and wondering
Just what to think
Well I got some consoloation
I’ll give it to you
If I might
Well I don’t worry bout a thing
‘Cause I know nothing’s gonna be alright
You know this world is just one big
Trouble spot because
Some have plenty and
Some have not
You know I used to be trouble but I finally
Saw the light
Now I don’t worry ’bout a thing
‘Cause I know nothing’s gonna be alright
Don’t waste you time trying to
Be a go getter
Things will get worse before they
Get any better
You know there’s always somebody playing with
But I don’t worry about a thing
‘Cause I know nothing’s gonna be alright