Food, Life, Profit

In an earlier post, the topic was the usurpation of control and decision-making via the magic of gadgetry, a phenomenon which, for many of us constitutes a step backward in the development of humanity and society. Often of late, so much of the vaunted innovation appears to be for the sake of innovation without a clear set of guiding principles regarding benefits and the recipients of those benefits. We do things because we can, often in the process neglecting more difficult and more pressing challenges, often those requiring sustained and/or concerted effort and little prospect of immediate profit.

The broad strokes of the division between those who would have mankind control all aspects of life on Earth and those who tend to work with and within the forces of Nature is summed up to a point in the following excerpt from an article in Quartz:

The modern food movement has brought us to a fork in the road. On one path are people who say it is enough to eat the fresh fruits and vegetables that spring from the earth, the milk from our cows, and the meat from farmed animals. Simplicity is the path to fulfillment, and sticking close to nature and whole foods is the safest bet for achieving nourishment.
The other vision prescribes that the best diet is one that is predetermined for us, collected by farmers and tinkered with by scientists to help us attain our maximum health and eventually prevent chronic illness. It is more obscure and decidedly high tech.
The argument on both sides of the dichotomy seems almost anodyne and relates to the quest for the ultimate scheme for human nourishment, and perhaps there are points to be made on both sides of the question, but it all falls apart when the underlying notion of the execution of the plan for measured, targeted and controlled nutrition turns out to be more in the interest of a small group than for the betterment of the lot of the majority of living creatures. At the root of the MTC clan is Nestlé, a corporation with a long track record of doing what is profitable, even when the profit is the only benefit and where the source of the profit may be deleterious to society as a whole, thinking of “interesting” recipes for baby formula, the promotion of sugary products and recent pronouncements, backed up by corporate actions, tending to reserve potable water use for the exclusive rights to bottle and sell by none other than Nestlé.
Whatever benefits are outlined in the Nestlé plan tend to induce some head-scratching simply because of the notion that something that might perhaps be for the overall benefit of society might be withheld from those unable to fill the coffers of Nestlé shareholders. It reminds me of a conversation I had with an acquaintance who returned from a retreat with an EST group, a person quite fired up about plumbing the depths and breadths of human consciousness and the attainment of enlightenment. These are laudable enough goals and it all sounded good until the question of “tuition” arose and it became clear that any achieved wisdom would be attained at the cost of a severely depleted bank account, and the sums in question were of a nature beyond keeping the enlighteners in reasonable comfort, and the whole issue sounded as though the enlightened were less concerned about the propagation of wisdom than they were about the accumulation of wealth. Such seems to be mostly the case with the “wisdom” of Nestlé, as well as other purveyors of exclusionary benefits.
It would seem especially and increasingly important that wisdom be shared freely as we approach the apocalyptic consequences of population and consumption overshoot and that we cease to allow the benefits generated by human endeavour to accumulate in the accounts of those who already benefit in outsize proportion to the contributions they make to the future of civilization.

Slapped on Someone Else’s Wrist

 

 

VSun reports that BC Hydro is facing large fines for environmental violations as part of the rush to get Site C beyond the point of no return, an event that must trouble Christy Clark and Jessica Macdonald no end. Firstly neither one seems overly troubled by the optics of blindly pursuing  a folly of pharaonic proportions, and, secondly, both are snickering that the paltry hundreds of thousands of dollars will be coming out of the hide of those same BC Hydro clients who will be forced to bear the burden of the cost of the dam, the cost of financing the dam and the cost of furnishing free electricity to the designated industrial beneficiaries, most of whom are found in listings of BC Liberal funders. It makes a person feel a little like a scapegoat tied up tightly with no recourse, especially for those who didn’t vote for the party of fiscal responsibility and business acumen. I know I prefer bungling to the downright nastiness and greed that seems to characterize out current régime.

Truth On The Loose

This article, as you can plainly see, is behind a paywall of Trumpian proportions, but we can let it engender a musing or two. Being a banking and fossil fuel insider, it’s likely that he will use a privileged pulpit to shill for development of fossil fuel resources. It just seems too blatant a shill for anyone to take it seriously. It’s rather like Global TV explaining that they should be the primary source of our questions about Why when they are a central pillar of the problem in the first place. But the gullible abound.

Look, Ma, Our Own Maginot Line

Part of the Maginot Line

Following the First World War, the French, thinking to forever ban the Hun from their fair soil, laid out and executed plans to build a line of fortifications that would keep them safe from the ravages of marauding spike helmets. There were voices who warned that this was fighting the last war, and that there was a good chance that their Maginot Line was an expensive folly that would solve nothing, especially since the French declined to wall themselves off from the Belgians, secure in the (?) knowledge that the Germans would never come into France through Belgium. We know how that worked out.

So here’s the latest plan from those in the Trudeau/Clark government bureau of Magical Maginot Musings, a great way to blow a big part of the loot allotted for protection from marauding Kinder Morgan tankers (the part being spend by Western Canada Marine Response Corporation, apparently not Trudeau’s $1.5 Bn-over ten years), a series of five oil-spill response bases, as outlined in this article from the Victoria Times-Colonist. These would be located at Ucluelet, Port Alberni, Beecher Bay, Saanich, Duncan, and Nanaimo, with an additional base on the Fraser River. These constitute a fabulous way of disbursing funds to Port Authorities, but there ought to be considerable skepticism about the effectiveness of these bases is redressing the effects of a middling to large dilbit spill along the tanker route through the Strait of Juan de Fuca and into the Strait of Georgia before entering into a terminal on Burrard Inlet or some such place. It really looks as though this plan has about the same real value as a pat on the head and a “There! There!” in averting the inevitablility of a discharge. Responsible people don’t talk about cleaning up oil spills, they talk about avoiding them. Those who do talk about cleaning them up are generally working hard to get to the money represented by the shipping of tar and are notorious for letting the dollar signs floating through their field of fantasy cloud the reality of an accident and a subsequent spill.

Our mayor’s quoted response is puzzling: Yes, he says he’d rather not have the tankers, but actually, we could do school tours through the facility and that would bring in tourist traffic and dollars. We can do better. Ruttan was at the forefront of efforts to protect the airshed when BC Hydro wanted to put in a gas-fired generating station, and an active participant in the fight to keep the coal port out of our community and to shut down the idea of the Raven Coal operation. Why so wishy=washy on this? It gives a glimmer of a somewhat unhealthy relationship that exists between the City and the Port Authority, where the Port Authority, as a proponent of all things Harperite, exerts almost total control over the waterfront and the City seems at least to be a weak sister in capitulating, and at worst to be an enabler to the kind of lack of long-term vision that would have the sense to eliminate the risk of dilbit spills by eliminating the tankers, by not approving pipelines.

The aforementioned lack of vision and the haste to get things in place has cost us dearly through history and continues to characterize our political and economic dealings, a phenomenon that is likely to continue until such time as citizens become aware that they can, and must, delay the gratification of all the shiny baubles and tackle the long, hard decisions first by working in concert with others of like mind.

Old School?

While I’m no longer an early adopter of new technologies, I find that I can adapt to and learn whatever of the shiny new gadgets I choose to incorporate into my own processes. However, there are aspects of new developments that I find somewhat disturbing and which, on the whole, might be taking us down a path to a learned helplessness and a loss of whatever shreds of control we might have had over our actions at whatever point in time.  Wired reports that all the biggies in the tech sector are hopping on the Personal Home Assistant bandwagon, likely because no one company can let any other company stake out a dominant position in a field where there might be chests full of pirate gold awaiting those who meet with early success. Everywhere, there are blandishments to adopt gadgets that let you lock your front door from your desk at work, check all those security cameras for intruders or partying teens, ensure that your progeny aren’t exceeding any speed limits, check out where your cat has roamed, and likely scan the inside of the fridge to put together a list of things you need to pick up on the way home from work. This is naught but an extension of the smartphone enabled digital life and will fit well with the checkout-less market and the self-driving car. At what point does the human will become irrelevant?

We bought a new car in 1993 and switched manufacturers because the model we wanted couldn’t be ordered with a standard transmission. My wife and I both prefer a manual transmission, not that we can’t drive the automatic, but we both feel that we have a degree of control with the manual that the automatic doesn’t necessarily make available. All of our cars since that model have come with a cruise control. We’ve both tried it out and mostly don’t bother, partly because of the kind of roads we have hereabouts, but also because it appears to be another layer of removal of the driver from the process of driving. And now, it seems, an increasing number of cars come with systems to alert the driver to wandering out of lane, to  traffic approaching from behind, and even apply the brakes should the driver fail to respond to a collision warning. As I see advertising for these features, I can’t help but think that the people driving the cars are either letting distractions interfere with their most important and immediate task, or are incompetent and ought not to have permission to drive a motor vehicle in the first place. I keep hearing how self-driving cars will revolutionize urban transport, but given the propensity of our advanced technology to succumb to the workings of Murphy’s Law, I’m not expecting that this will be a smooth transition and that there won’t be some twisted metal and blood on the streets before it’s too far along. I’m put in mind of the sea trials of a guided missile ship of the US Navy a decade or so ago where they ran the whole thing through a series of Windows NT servers, producing an early incidence of unrecoverable crashes which left the vessel dead in the water in the Chesapeake Bay in need of a tow. Likewise, it seems, with the newest vessel, the USS Zumwalt, recently shut down in Gatun Lake while in transit through the Panama Canal. Especially combined with the propensity of governments of all stripes to enact electronic surveillance and controls, I shudder to think of the possibilities inherent in driverless vehicles.

 

I really prefer to drive less, to share vehicles with other drivers, to walk, to bicycle, to ride transit, to stay at home, and do degadgetize to a great extent, just keeping well-built, high quality repairable and upgradeable tools in the shop, the yard shed and the kitchen. A modicum of comfort is definitely desirable, but the laziness of surrender to technological toys is beyond countenance.

 

 

 

F-35 Reflux

 

Interesting that a tweet from none other than Donald Trump takes Lockeed to task for the insane cost of the JSF program. Of course, everyone concerned knows that this has been an enormous pork barrel for decades now, and that there is considerable doubt about the “finished” product being able to effectively carry out several aspects of its broadly-defined bouquet of missions. The F-35 seems to stand at the top of that triad of principles that govern the cynic’s universe: Entropy (particularly as defined by Dave Small), The Peter Principle, and Murphy’s Law. As to the truth as spoken by the President-Elect, we must remind ourselves that even broken (analog) clocks tell the correct time twice a day.

I went looking for Dave’s Definition of Entropy and was not successful. This I recall from a computer magazine of c. 1987:

Entropy can be characterized thusly:

If you have a barrel of chickenshit and you add a tablespoon of fine Bordeaux wine, you have a barrel of chickenshit.

If you have a barrel of fine Bordeaux wine and you add a tablespoon of chickenshit, you have a barrel of chickenshit.

 

I’m not sure, but here is a page that may belong to THE Dave Small in question:

https://www.cise.ufl.edu/~dts/

Old Faithful Bites the Dust, Creates Turd Storm

fc

 

Castro finally succumbed to time, having dodged dozens of assassination attempts, an abortive invasion, a blockade, a missile crisis, and decades of animosity on the part of a colossus next door that remained overtly hostile for the whole of his tenure in the president’s chair and for all of his brother’s tenure, thus far, mild rearranging of relations of the past year notwithstanding. Dictator, yes, and a man who manufactured a bouquet of political prisoners along with other controversies, but also a man responsible for a régime that lifted his country out of the morass of inequality, ignorance and poverty that was bequeathed him by the Batista junta that preceded him and which has been the lot of, for instance, the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico and Haiti, all of which have evolved under the tender tutelage of he Washington consensus. The jubilation in the streets of Miami’s Little Havana shows the depths of bitterness felt by those dispossessed by the revolution, and that from a coterie that profited handsomely from the privilege that kept so many Cubans in poverty. It infuriates many that Castro delivered Cuba into the Soviet Bloc, but was it not the refusal of the US to back any meaningful change that forced the Cuban revolutionaries to seek economic aid elsewhere?

One has to wonder what might have become of Cuba had there been some accommodation on the part of the US administration,, but Eisenhower and Dulles would seem unlikely candidates for cozying up to anything that looked like social progress, especially given the tense nature of relations between the US and the USSR, along with the rabid Red Scare tactics of official Washington and the general my-country-right-or-wrong attitude of the general populace.

One of the real ironies emerging from the aftermath of Castro’s death is the heat JT is taking for not condemning the man outright, when, in fact, Trudeau The Lesser is striving furiously to establish his credibility as a Free Trader and Privatizer, meaning that any dealings with a post-revolutionary Cuba would likely mirror our tarnished and tawdry dealings with Haiti, but you won’t get to read about that unless you search out the work of Yves Engler and others who’ve made it a point to document how nasty we’ve been to our Caribbean neighbours.

 

Oh, and here’s a little ditty that comes to mind whenever I find myself contemplating the dawn of the Trump era:

 

Choices, Choices

molvote

The above picture depicts a vote in Moldova to elect a president with two candidates in play, one favouring the EU as an alignment the other wanting to take the country back deeper into the Russian sphere of influence. My understanding is that here, as in Bulgaria, pro-Russian candidates have come out ahead in the voting. It could be that the Russophiles have better campaign machines, and it’s reported that the pro-EU parties are considered to be “cleaner”, i.e., less corrupt. It matters little as these seem somewhat like the familiar choice that gets presented to voters in so many jurisdictions where neither of the options is likely to yield a particularly beneficent result.

There is also the question of the information available on which to make a decision, with neither country having a particularly sparklingly clean reputation for press freedom or integrity. This flows from the lack of integrity of the background organizations, the EU and Russia: it seems a choice between one oligarchy and another under either of  which small countries tend to get broken to the wheel of some sort of deep exploitation. It seems clear, in the aftermath of the US election, that many people voted against one or the other of the candidates, often with the sense that neither would be able to bring about an improvement of conditions for most of the broader part of society. Our own election of a year ago seems increasingly to have been fought mostly on a platform of smoke and mirrors, giving us a bit of a gong-show parliament in which the opposition criticizes the government for implementing the same policies that they followed for a decade, and the government plows ahead with the same destructive energy that they promised to alter with their real changes. There have been similar outcomes in Britain, and it looks as though the unSocialists in France are likely to go down in flames for having continued the Sarkozyst line of neoliberal pandering to large international business, to be replaced with some amalgam of rightist plunderers under the banner of Les Répubicains or some such thing.

There are some valiant efforts to relocalize as much of the peoples’ business, but a lot of this is being thwarted by meddling from senior levels of government who work to ensure that there is as little local economic autonomy as possible, leaving the initiatives under way as mostly debate clubs.

What happens when all and sundry find that the options are all being co-opted?

 

A brief post scriptum to congratulate Steve Darling on his exit from Global BC and subsequent joining of Jas Johal in the parade of press people enlisting in the Christy Clark crime syndicate. Perhaps Steve should read Laila’s List before enlisting, as we can never be too sure that those who read the news actually know what that news is, or what it means.

 

 

 

 

Lest We Forget, or Perhaps We Never Knew

rd

 

 

Just a note to say that, despite the outpourings of respect for those who fought in wars, the markets are open today as usual.

 

Comment from one of the wise:

I am a very privileged man. My son is the fourth generation of my family who has not fought in a war. I have family members though who have sacrificed lives, and or, their soul and families to war. For them, I remember and hold respect for them, not the politicians who created the situation they had to risk their lives to change. Please educate your child to make them aware of other people’s ways and differences and teach them to respect the lives of everything on this blue planet. Through love, respect, knowledge, acceptance of others, and equality we can make wars history. Lest We Forget.

 

From the lyrics bin (listen below, loud music alert)

Yes business as usual
And there’s people for sale
They’ll buy and they’ll sell you
They’ll fight tooth and nail
Cause business is business
There’s always the cry
You’re all caught up
In a network of lies

–Robin Trower

 

 

 

 

 

Dialogue de Sourds, Headbashing Forever

dotd

Milton Friedman and Friedrich Hayek, amongst others, have long taught that we need to live in a society of unfettered markets, markets defined by and tailored to suit the needs of those whose principal drive is the accumulation of wealth, and therefore power, in the hands of the same people writing the definitions and the laws and processes that derive therefrom. How is this working for you? How is it working for your neighbours, friends, colleagues and fellow citizens. Is it looking as though, words aside, it is taking us to a rosy future of economic, social and environmental security? We will have different answers, of course, and likely depending upon where we sit in the economic hierarchy, and many of us not only have never known any other model, but may also not have considered any other model, along the lines of Margaret Thatcher’s pronouncement about there being no alternative and Francis Fukuyama’s jubilant declaration that we’ve reached the end of history, what with the fall of the Soviet Union.

There are rumblings: Anonymous, Idle No More and a host of protests about particular issues and projects, as is the current No Dakota Pipeline movement in the Dakotas and fanning out into Indigenous communities, and, slowly it is dawning on some groups that they will continue to burn the soles of their feet stamping out wildfires as long as there is systemic creation of irritants. Most of us are so busy with the concerns of day-to-day life, paying the bills, raising the children, ensuring that work is going as well as it can and trying to maintain a decent standard of living with, perhaps, some recreation built into the mix, that we hardly have time to investigate matters of governance, of resource usage and allocation, of attempts to manage the living system that hosts us. Additionally, since our neighbours share the same concerns and burdens as we have, the larger topics are unlikely to make it onto the docket for Friday conversation over coffee, or beer, or dinner. It is no help that what confronts us when we dial in the television, the radio, or go to our favourite respected news site on the Web is an amalgam of feel-good human interest stories, cat videos, fluff posts about health studies, updates on distant wars and terror attacks, threats from asteroids and earthquakes, and inducements to buy as much as you can afford, and then some.

Perhaps everything, as the fictitious philosopher Pangloss oft iterated, is arranged for the best in this, the best of all possible worlds. There are those who suspect that there are several things rotten in the Kingdom of Figurative Denmark and whose fears might be quelled by some open dialogue that at least challenges the accepted doctrines of the Chicago School and the Washington Consensus. This falls under the heading of the life needing to be examined in order to gain legitimacy. The prescription is neither endorsement nor condemnation, but the examination through dialogue of what the possibilities might be.

To that end, I would like to invite all and sundry to an event, a ninety-minute film screening with the possibility of a conversation to follow in what seem to be rather convivial surroundings:

webneweconposter

The film is biased as heck in favour of co-operatives. No one has to agree, because alternatives have to withstand challenge. However the simple act of discussion might produce some interesting possibilities.  There is no cost to get in, and you don’t really have to buy anything, though I know Char would welcome your custom and support. No one is taking attendance, and you can leave at any time. Or you can stay and be a champion of your ideas.

Hope to see you there.