None So Blind As He Who Will Not See

3 monkeys 3


A couple of interesting reads at Common Dreams and DeSmog Canada stirred up the meninges this morning. The first outlines a choice that confronts shareholders at meetings of Exxon-Mobile and Chevron this coming Wednesday with regard to fossil fuels and climate disruption, the second outlines the somewhat disturbing message from Brad Wall’s recent Throne Speech in Saskatchewan as he undertakes another majority mandate.

It is sad that, following the application of major scientific resources to the question, including those of governments and fossil fuel companies, there are still legislators who can characterize climate change as “some misguided dogma that has no basis in reality.” The oil giants’ own documentation aligns closely with the reports of the IPCC, and given that these are the people who own so many governments, including, it would seem, that of Saskatchewan, Alberta and B.C., who, even with the introduction of a possible carbon tax in Alberta, continue to push for the construction of major fossil fuel infrastructure, meaning that they intend to get the stuff out of the ground and sell it off as quickly as they can (or as their proponents in private business can).

The fossil fuel industry continues to justify its existence on the basis of the economic activity it generates without mentioning that, for all the dollars it has spent on financing sales of trucks, RVs, ATVs, McMansions, and extended holidays in remote and romantic locations, it has taken out more than it has left. Despite the bleatings about the heavy burden of taxation imposed on fossil fuels, the corporations involved, as well as their executive suites, have made out like bandits, and the least subscribed beneficiary has been the public weal as a succession of federal and provincial régimes has deferred taxes and subsidized both directly and indirectly, those corporations who make such large withdrawals from the common resource. This doesn’t count the costs of remediation of the devastated landscapes of the Athabaska region, oil installations in Saskatchewan, Northeast B.C., along with coal mines hither and thither across the Canadian landscape and the potential for offshore spills in Atlantic Canada. The only reason this economic activity hasn’t been replaced with reconstruction and refinement of public infrastructure and the transition to sustainable energy is the set of close links between business and our various governments, leaving said governments to protect the privileged economic and social position of Bay Street and its equivalents in Montreal, Vancouver, Calgary and elsewhere. It has become abundantly clear that those in the executive suite have known for decades how harmful their activities are and have pursued those activities in spite of the message that they are literally destroying the common living space in a headlong rush to amass wealth before the whole show goes up in smoke. They have essentially taken out a mortgage on the future of humanity (and much of the rest of life on Earth) without having the least hope of paying it back.


The rest of us bear much of the responsibility for allowing this to happen. Just as the rise of idiot candidates for high office in many jurisdictions shows a lack of education and the fortitude to call out the insanity that fuels the inane behaviour of the political and mercantile classes, we, as a society, have in large part drunk the Kool-Ade, taken out loans even when we know that we likely won’t be able to pay them back, accumulated material wealth and the trappings of wealth without consideration for the consequences. Perhaps we can excuse ourselves with the idea that everyone around us is doing it: it’s difficult to live frugally in a society that prides itself on freewheeling because there’s always more where that came from, where the cultural norms are modelled around a high level of consumption. Like Cassandra in Greek mythology, telling unpleasant truths brings either disbelief or an unwillingness to act on the consequences of our actions. Repeated warnings about the dire consequences of our inaction on our climate (along with social and economic inequality, water shortages, myriad sources of pollution, toxic diet, nuclear weapons, epidemic outbreaks, genetic roulette, and the headlong rush into technologies whose outcomes are utterly unknown) have met by ordinary citizens (taxpayers, consumers, and the like) with the same contempt, deflection and denial that comes from our elected and mercantile representatives, as well as a sizeable portion of our spiritual advisers.

Over the last four or five decades, we have built an economic system that is willing to pretend that growth can continue uninterrupted ad infinitum and that money can create money. This is particularly evident in the need for people to save money to buffer their economic well-being through times of uncertainty and to ensure that there will be some sort of retirement available when work is no longer feasible for desirable. Both savings and pensions rely on investment, especially where the generation of serious gains is most achievable. The result is that many pension funds and investment vehicles are loaded up with, you guessed it, fossil fuel stocks, as well as arms manufacturers, tobacco, pharmaceuticals and investments in the financial institutions that promote overconsumption, excessive borrowing, occult financial dealings and tax avoidance, and the suborning of the electoral process. The idea that someone might act in the interest of society as a whole is a quaint anachronism, it appears, while it is accepted that doing anything for profit is the new norm, even if that profit derives from cost analysis that excludes “externalities”, including the possibility that the downstream effects of the activity in question might be deleterious to multitudes and span decades. Our work at reprogramming the Universe holds grave risks where it might better suit our purposes to sit back and contemplate the ramifications before charging ahead with all the genetics and  AI that might have disastrous results for life on the planet. The outlook is pretty bleak for those who take the time to connect the dots, and a lot of the bleakness stems from the willful ignorance of those who have taken the whole of humanity down the path toward an early exit from the rolls of the living.





(Don’t remember if I’ve used this before, but it seems apocalyptically appropriate)


You Have To Ask Yourself

Aerial view of Syncrude Aurora tar sands mine in the Boreal forest north of Fort McMurray.

Aerial view of Syncrude Aurora tar sands mine in the Boreal forest north of Fort McMurray.








Ok, so I just donated money to the Red Cross to help out victims of the current wild fires in and around Fort McMurray, but I do so with large reservations. First, there are parts of the Red Cross that have a track record for behaving badly with donated money, and I have a general distrust of large charities, given the level of funds that get plowed back into fund raising and administration, executive salaries being one of the most egregious fouls. I also find it difficult to conceive that our society is built upon such weak links that we have to appeal to people’s empathy to get us to pony up for emergency backstops when this should be a proud function of the common polity through our agent, the government. Sadly, we have too many governments that act as captured read pools for the privileged and who blithely spend money on destruction, administrative waste and subsidies to their sponsors, who even then manage to cook up little schemes such as those highlighted by the KPMG affair and the recent release of the Panama Papers to salt away large swaths of unearned wealth where the common polity can’t touch it and where it can do no good for the general citizenry, as would be the case where we had adequate (or better) resources to fight fires, and to ensure the safety of all those affected by disasters of this, or any, nature.

There is also some (guilty) delicious irony in the location and circumstances of these fires, though, particularly in the face of scientific probity and the more flagrant roadblock of denialism, to actually draw a causal link between the carbon generated by the mining of the Athabaskan Tar Sands and the record hot and dry weather currently contributing to the propagation of hellish levels of forest fire activity. It’s hard to fault those residents of Fort Mac who are the victims of the burn: who turns down the kind of remuneration that oil patchers have been making for the last however many years? But where is the reinvestment resulting from the wealth generated in Canada’s short stint and an Energy Superpower? Not in Canada, mostly, having been shipped out to Shanghai and Houston (Texas, not BC).

As usual, the people in question, in this case the residents of Fort Mac, along with the competent authorities, seem to have made a good job of getting all and sundry out of the place alive, and generally in good health and spirits, if we’re to believe reports in the media (another question entirely, and what else are they hiding under cover of the fire stories?). This speaks to preparation, calm, competence and cooperation, often the operating mode in disasters, per Rebecca Solnit’s A Paradise Built In Hell. The conversation about mutual aid needs to be part of our everyday discourse, particularly when we consider how vulnerable we are to all manner of cataclysms, and any safety net structures we can put in place, along with the attitude adjustment that should accompany that building, will likely stand us in terribly good stead as we get further into a destabilized climate and into the destabilized society that has been occasioned by the plundering of the greedy over, in particular, the last forty years.

(I may have used this before, due to its Karmic implications. Sorry.)

Another One Bites The Dust (Lonnie Mack Edition)

With all the (deserved) hoopla around the disappearance of Prince, it came to my attention this afternoon that Lonnie Mack had just died, and here is an player who was as consistent as consistent could be over a long and varied career, well-known to many who play guitar, less so to those who don’t follow the evolution of popular (and less popular) music over the years.

I heard Mack’s version of Memphis, the chuck Berry tune, on AM radio when i was in junior high school in San Francisco and fell in love with it. Sadly, it was the last I heard of him for a half-dozen years while I meandered through explorations in R&B, pop, psychedelic, jazz, classical, Latin and whatever else vibrated in and around my ears and fell in love with blues and blues-rock. I was on a visit to the Bay Area in 1969 when I bought a ticket to see Johnny Winter at Winterland, and was particularly curious to see what would happen with the opening act which just happened to be Lonnie Mack. It was a fascinating show, as Mack did Memphis and some other older things that I had never had a chance to hear because I had never seen the album that featured Memphis, and some entirely new material, including ballads, story songs, and a tune or two that bordered on religious. He seemed an imposting presence with a burly and hirsute look, vest and mush mouse hat with what looked like a ring of beer tabs. The crazy thing was watching Winter and friends emerge suddenly from the wings to check out this guy on stage because he could play stinging licks while still carrying a vocal line, and because he had a pitifully small amplifier in an era where banks of Marshall stacks seemed to be the norm: he just mic’d it into the PA and had his tailored sound sent out plenty loud courtesy of Bill Graham.

A couple of somewhat lacklustre albums followed, always enough to maintain interest, but sometimes tending toward the maudlin, and then Mack went truck driving and disappeared.

Mack burst back on the scene in the mid-80s in the company of none other than Stevie Ray Vaughan, at the time about the best endorsement a resurgent guitarist could desire. By this time I was thoroughly familiar with the early album he had recorded that produced the hit Memphis, but which also included Wham, Suzie Q., Chicken Picken, Turn On Your Love Light, and Farther On Up The Road, and it was rewarding to hear the versions that appeared as covers on SRV’s recordings and, finally, to see the product of some active collaborations.

I still love hearing Mack’s stuff, partly for nostalgic reasons, but also because I still find pleasure in his playing and singing just for what it is. It’s not a tragedy that Mack passed away at this stage as he was well into his seventies, but a little sad to think that there will be no more reappearances, and that there won’t be any new tunes from Mack in that style that he so favoured. So perhaps we can all just go and learn a lick or two in the Lonnie Mack style and so pass on what was best about what he did over so many years.


More More Plus Ça Change Stuff


First (in this round, anyway) it was KPMG setting up offshore accounts in the Isle of Man, and now 2.3 terabytes of material about people using shell corporations to hide funds in Panama. Does anyone think this is the last of these revelations? Un paradis fiscal, the French call it, and so it seems to be for those wealthy enough and with little enough sense of community to use these schemes to avoid paying for the privilege of living in a what was once a civilized society (or what at least had aspirations in that direction).

Part Deux: When was Wikileaks the big breakout story? Torture, cowboy justice, extrajudicial killings, cluster bombs, drone killings, massacres and a general attitude of we had to do it because they did it or because we are the good guys and it saves lives on our side and all manner of justifications for bad behaviour. Has anyone other than the few from Abu Graib gone to prison or otherwise atoned for the aforementioned bad behaviour? Not likely. Any consequences for bending and breaking the rules in the Crisis of 2007-09? Seems not. Any real penalties for the KPMG affair? Don’t see any on the horizon. Do you think RBC will be taken to task for the Panamanian Caper? Not holding my breath. You know, it’s just fiduciary duty to the client, maximizing returns.

Aside from the obvious tar-and-feather party, it seems only reasonable that anyone involved should be stripped of all assets, shipped off to Panama and forbidden to ever re-enter the country or to participate in any kind of business related to the jurisdiction they seemed so keen to short change. Still not holding my breath waiting for Real Change.

More Plus Ça Change, More C’est La Même Chose


A little item on the news this morning, that Catherine McKenna has green-lighted the Woodfibre LNG plant, with a note at the end of the item that a contract for the engineering had been let to Houston-based KBR.

Sound familiar? It should, since KBR is associated with Halliburton, hence inextricably linked with the shenanigans of one Dick Cheney, who had a few energy-oriented adventures in Iraq not so long ago. KBR was also a supply and infrastructure contractor for U.S. forces in Iraq, doing work that would, in times past, have been done by the grunts, but, hey, the grunts can just fight and KBR can do all the background work for a not-so-small premium.


Never mind that McKenna’s approval sets in motion a process that essentially negates her whole mandate and Minister of the Environment and Climate Change (at least in the way that I thought she would be attending to climate change), wherein she will not only blow through any promises made at the Paris climate talks, but also, given the fracking process to extract the NG, because she will become one of the proximate causes of the trashing of the environment in large swaths of rural Canada, particularly in BC.

It’s a rather ironic picture of Real Change and those who voted Liberal should be experiencing extreme cases of buyers’ remorse.










I Don’t Have To Write Most Of This Piece…



…thanks to, amongst others, Dr. Dawg, who beat me to the punch writing about the doings and skullduggery over at CRA with regard to KPMG and its Isle of Man Easter Egg Hiding Scheme. I recall reading some about this a couple of years back when it came to light that KPMG was fighting to keep docs away from CRA’s eyeballs and thinking, in a most un-justiceable sort of a way, something to the effect of there being fire in the proximity of smoke, and lo! the taxmen stumbled onto an inferno. Nice, but they agreed to let the arsonists off easy and throw a blanket of ND silence over the whole thing, so I get to bleat about being one of the fleeced rather than one of the shearers, along with the rest of the chatterers. The thing is, does anyone believe that the Isle of Man is the only haven for refugee tax-free cash? Is KPMG the only wayward “accounting” firm (shares of Arthur Andersen, aka Accenture, perhaps a good place to scout, were CRA to be interested). Are the KPMG clients the only miscreants looking to avoid paying for the lavish lifestyle lived by the DTES crowd or all those oil patch layoffs going home to the various bailiwicks of unemployment and precarity? Interestingly enough, I saw a report on France 2 a week or so ago where the French Ministry of Finance and shepherded 21 billion euros worth of UBS client money back into compliance from illegal offshore (Swiss have a loose definition of “shore”) in the last year, and they expect to do about that much business in the coming year as they engage with some of the big tech companies who have been profiting handsomely from some loopholes that turned out to me more loop than hole.

By all means, people can be forgiven for not paying Canadian taxes, as long as they don’t live in Canada or do business in Canada. Anyone who lives and/or works in Canada, anyone who benefits from Canada should pay a fair proportion of the cost. All those involved at KPMG should be rewarded with a long stay in the GrayBar Hotel, and the wayward clients, having knowingly participated in the export of cash, should bring it back, pay the interest and penalties in full, and a premium for the research and court costs, upon conviction, of course.

Hey! Just Like Mount Polley!








In Libération this morning, a little item that the French government is readying a law that would decouple the link between polluters and players when it came to assessing penalties for environmental damage. Our provincial government may not have done this in legislation, but they have surely accomplished the same end without bother of recourse to the law, given what has transpired in the wake of the Mt. Polley tailings dam breach and subsequent run-off. There are many other instances where the law is twisted, flouted or simply ignored, and it wouldn’t surprise in the least to have the CC gang simply change the law in their favour. They seem to have captured the courts, a group where certain strata of the judicial corps seem not to have heard of SC decisions regarding treaty rights. But, what the hell, with CETA and the TPP, the law is pretty meaningless in any case, sort of a glass case through which citizens can witness the destruction of civil society as it is dismantled by secret tribunals in another room, behind the curtain,

On Track









Following the surfacing of a video of a young teen having his bicycle stolen at gunpoint in Williams Lake, B.C., the city council voted unanimously to inject GPS tracking devices into the bodies of repeat offenders so that the community can feel more at ease knowing exactly where all the miscreants are at all times. Some might suggest that the councillors take the plunge first, but that would make them as silly as their intended victims. Mightn’t it be better to ponder why there are prolific offenders and what might be done to bring these people back into the main stream of community life? It seems unlikely that this initiative would go very far in any case, but it seems typical of the frustration that leads us to throw up quick and dirty “solutions” to problems that have deeper and more nuanced causes and where we don’t seem to have the capacity to develop the patience and insight to address the problems other than with band-aid ideas more likely to exacerbate the problem than to improve the situation. But let’s let this one slide right on by.

In With The Winners







Bill Gates has cast in his lot with the FBI in their spat with Apple with regard to opening a back door to an iPhone for the Department of Justice, according to ReCode. This is not surprising as we’ve seen the king of marketing cavort at Davos with the stuff that rises to the neck of the old milk bottle. Not a crowd I would choose, but they certainly wouldn’t choose me, so the feeling is mutual. Gates is also a big fan on GMO products and Monsanto, it would seem, so this is a minor black mark in the book I don’t keep on Bill.

He reminds me of a class of people like Wayne Gretzky who was happy enough to have the protection of the NHLPA as a player; he might have been against them all along, but he sure benefited from the groundwork they laid that allowed him to blossom as a player and a financial entity. The move to LA seemed to coincide with the adoption of the polo pony lifestyle and the attitude of floating above the vicissitudes that trouble the little folk. All just a personal reflection on what I’ve seen of Wayne since 1988, and I have to admit that he hasn’t occupied a great deal of intellectual, spiritual or emotional space in my own little world. He fits in well with other champions of the underclasses like Bono, Sepp Blatter, and any number of athletes who have drawn deeply from the chalice of public support in their quest to carve out a little niche in the pantheon of prolific pulchritude (see? Rex Murphy is paddling like hell to squeeze in!).

Much is made of Mr. Gates, mostly because he has so much money, the Foundation not withstanding, given how the funds seem to get doled out, to whom, and with what strings attached. This is a man who made a fortune of selling bugs as features, who has managed to make the blue screen of death into a daily phenomenon and who, along with Apple and a legion of lesser players, has turned a large segment of the populace into techno-zombies who are readying themselves to surrender their ability to drive, to communicate face-to-face, to distinguish data from wisdom and a host of other functions that link us to our historical selves, as well as any constructive evolutionary future selves. He’s the perfect P.T.Barnum stand-in and has managed to cash in big-time as the one-born-every-minute has accelerated into billions and billions served.

This phenomenon of rising to blend in with the forces of the most destructive reminds me of a song that I first heard on a Bonnie Raitt album in, I believe, 1974:


And I did follow it back to its N’awlins roots (RIP AT):

Was This A Carly Simon Song?

A-mal-ga-mation, that is.


Eric Plummer posted a piece over at Alberni Thrive this morning that raises a number of questions, spurs some observations, and, I’m reasonably certain, will raise some hackles into the bargain.

I have interspersed my observations (in red) between Eric’s paragraphs and appended a couple of graphics for the contemplation of interested readers:


Fragmentation is the state of being broken, incomplete, consisting of detached pieces. This could describe the current condition of the Alberni Valley. Despite having one chamber of commerce, one arena complex and one aquatic centre, it remains questionable with many people if the Alberni Valley is one community.

Fragmentation is your choice of word. We don’t all worship at the same altar: we are a diverse community, and to think that the chamber of commerce, the arena couple and aquatic centre are the touchstones of the community is a shaky premise.
The need for this area to find a collective focus becomes increasingly urgent with each passing year. A stronger partnership amongst the City of Port Alberni and the outlying electoral areas of Sproat Lake, Beaver Creek, Cherry Creek and Beaufort is needed – a fact that makes the amalgamation of these areas into a district municipality a necessary topic among civic leaders in the future.
We can have collective focus without necessarily amalgamating all functions, and this needs to be a strong consideration in any discussion about consolidating governing structures.
For those who enjoy the benefits of the outlying areas’ rural lifestyle, “The District Municipality of Alberni” is a phrase that could make some squirm with discomfort. A major fear is that the city would just swallow up the smaller electoral areas like a marauding beast hungry for more tax dollars. But there are several reasons amalgamation would bring savings for the whole Valley, and push the area to be a more cooperative, streamlined community with a refined focus to find its potential in the 21st century.
Cost savings can be an entire red herring and, further, Port Alberni within its own bailiwick, is hardly the cooperative and streamlined community that you envision. The lack of focus reflects considerable divergence in a view of what the community ought to be: discussions on refined focus seem to constantly end up in the same place, a place where a significant portion of the population of the Valley chooses not to go.
Port Alberni is one of the few municipalities of its size to boast a fire department entirely composed of full-time professionals. The all-pro payroll isn’t cheap, but the costs of running the volunteer fire departments that serve Beaver Creek, Sproat Lake and Cherry Creek actually cost more per home due to the small population sizes of these outlying communities – in fact the Sproat Lake Volunteer Fire
Department took up most of the electoral area’s budgeted costs in 2015. Amalgamation could still use the valuable services of these volunteer firefighters, but with more professional support from the city’s force.
We need perhaps to consider that it is a specious argument to work at saving money on the backs of firefighters. They do a job, they should get paid. Current mutual aid operations work well enough, but having staffed fire halls around the Valley would likely improve both response time and outcomes. Paying firefighters is somewhat akin to paying insurance premiums on which your deepest hope is never to collect.
For a community, no natural resource is more important than water. The city currently taps into one of the best systems on Vancouver Island, as was proven during last summer’s drought when restrictions were imposed earlier and more severely in several other municipalities. The city has not issued a boil water advisory since December 2007, and now Beaver Creek residents can feel more at ease since joining Port Alberni’s supply two years ago. Plans are underway that could lead to Sproat Lake doing the same, creating a regional water supply that also includes Sproat Lake as a source. A more collective system that encompasses the whole Alberni Valley is inevitable as global warming continues.
A Valley-wide water system with multiple sources and sufficient redundancy built into the delivery mechanisms makes a lot of sense, but, again, does not require that all administrative functions be rolled into the compact dysfunction of a central municipal council. The funding for such a system ought properly to be shared among the local governments, the province and the federal government where we derive some benefit from the broader base of taxpayers as others have benefitted from the taxes we have paid over the years,
The meaninglessness of the municipal boundary between Port Alberni and its surrounding electoral areas is again shown with the location of the Valley’s signature tourist attraction, the McLean Mill National Historic Site. The city owns and subsidizes the mill and its steam train, but a ride on the No. 7 starts in Port Alberni’s Harbour Quay, and ends at the McLean Mill in Beaver Creek. This historic asset is about the logging history of the whole Valley.
The signature tourist attraction for the Valley might be more about fish than about the Mill, but the Mill is a good start at bringing a recreational focus to what we do in the Valley. The anomalies of ownership mean little in terms of coherence of recreational objectives and there is little to indicate that Mill governance or attractiveness would improve significantly under a district municipality.
Before some rural residents clutch their wallets for fear of tax hikes, the point cannot be lost that we’re all in this together when it comes to shouldering costs and attracting development to the Valley. Some powerful lobbying is needed in the near future to make those in Victoria and Ottawa listen to Alberni’s needs.
Again, we don’t need a major overhaul of administrative structures to speak with a unified voice. One might posit that we are unlikely to be heard in Victoria and Ottawa until we have the good sense to elect a member of the party forming government. Oh, wait, that describes the situation at the federal level for the decade preceding last October’s election, as well as the Trumper years in Victoria. It doesn’t take a lot of research or imagination to know that direct benefits to the Valley under both regimes have been negligible.
For years residents have been pushing for an alternative highway to provide a safer route than the winding mountain pass through Cathedral Grove. Yet with cost estimates starting somewhere around $50 million, a commitment from the province has yet to materialize. An initiative to expand the Alberni Valley Regional Airport suffered three grant rejections from the provincial government and the feds, placing the financing of the multi-million-dollar project on the backs of taxpayers. A large portion of Port Alberni’s watershed is owned by a logging company, and although a boil water advisory hasn’t been issued in years, provincial law does not obligate Island Timberlands to inform the city of what its doing with our water source.
See the above. Our current economic and legal system makes no provision for local government to alter the status of forest/watershed ownership. In fact, it was our current provincial government that allowed said logging company to remove our watershed from TFL without penalty for the benefits they enjoyed under the years under the TFL regime.  As for the alternate route, it really looks as though the benefits of the route never rise to the point where they would justify the cost. This has been on the agenda since I arrived here forty years ago and has advanced only in the discourse of politicians attempting to curry favour and locals whose capacity for oneiric satisfaction displaces their connection to reality. Please see the attached bit about Dakota wisdom.
The list could go on for reasons a more collective government is needed in the Alberni Valley. According to B.C.’s Local Government Act, a vote involving affected residents with more than 50 per cent approval is required to make the district municipality happen. The issue needs to be considered by officials, then put to the electorate. Will our future be determined by fragmentation and fear, or the cooperative formulation of ideas that benefit the whole Alberni Valley?
By all means, let’s have the discussion, but bullying the outlying communities into a shotgun wedding with the city would be cause for considerable strife. There will have to be compelling evidence to convince those in outlying areas to join forces with the city, especially when cooperation on an issue-by-issue basis might produce equally good results.
An impediment to consolidation of local authority is the lack of trust engendered by a sense that the City is not well governed and I would like to offer the silly graphic below for contemplation in regard to the governance of any jurisdiction, Port Alberni being no exception (but how many cases of government do we know of that fall in that upper right quadrant?).

Dead Horse