People, Get Ready

Sao Paulo riots

The Disaffected Liberal   (I like the Mound of Sound moniker) has a post up about riots is Sao Paolo, Brazil, where, apparently, most of the city has no access to water. The country is in the midst of a nasty drought and the utility seems incapable of furnishing water for most basic tasks, leading to a government suggestion that people leave. A comment on the post suggests that the well-to-do neighbourhoods are doing just fine, thank you, which, if true, highlights a nasty aspect of how inequality will effect varying populations as we face increasing levels of privation and hardship. There isn’t much value in the hand-wringing and finger pointing over how we could have prevented much of this by limiting population growth and ecological impact: we’ve clearly set in motion a path of damage and destruction and what we’ve already accomplished seems to have fairly dire consequences, consequences that will only deepen with a failure to deal with them expeditiously.

While there is little that we can do about Brazil in the short term, it also seems fairly clear that all parts of our living space are connected with all the other parts, so that if we limit damage to the forests and rivers here, that effect will ripple out into the greater sphere of the planet, and, if enough people do the same, there is a good chance that the outcomes might be better than if we continue on our present course.

The Sao Paolo situation is an exaggerated version of what we might be facing soon enough right here at home. A drive up and down Vancouver Island shows little snow on any of the peaks that form the backbone of the Island, and anyone who knows anything will intuit that no snowpack equates to diminished water resources during those long dry periods of summer and fall. Even last year, there were problems on several Vancouver Island rivers with trying to get returning salmon to their spawning beds. The other side of this is that we have seen at least one major turbidity event possibly linked to poor watershed management, a boil-water order in the Comox Valley that lasted over a month. There seemed to be a lack of willingness to establish a link between decreased forest cover and turbidity with the blame being placed on what was characterized as an extraordinary rain event at the beginning of December. The caution would be to look back to November of 2009 when the area god something like half a meter of rain and during which there were no turbidity events: just a thought.


With the gracious permission of Mr. Raeside

With the gracious permission of Mr. Raeside

Locally, the logging on private forest lands in the local watershed has had downstream effects in both literal and figurative ways. The Health Authority has imposed a (not-so=) new set of guidelines for turbidity in drinking water supplies that means that boil water orders tend to be much more frequent. Much of the turbidity was once prevented by natural filtration through the forest before the water arrived at the reservoirs, and some jurisdictions, including new York City, have reacted to the possibility of tainted water by protecting watersheds in a meaningful way and by relying on nature’s processes to keep turbidity out of the system, meaning that current treatment schemes were adequate for the protection of drinking water resources.  This has not been done in a couple of local jurisdictions, largely because of conflicts with owners of private forest licences where private property rights trump public needs, and already, Beaver Creek has needed, through the Alberni Clayoquot Regional District, to build a hook up to the Port Alberni municipal water system to back fill in times of Stamp River turbidity. Lately, the Port Alberni municipal water system has itself had to begin construction on a water filtration system, at a cost of several million dollars, because its watershed no longer yields water of sufficient quality to meet 4-3-2-1 standards imposed by Vancouver Island Health.

Arguably, we have been living in a bit of a fool’s paradise in which water has always been plentiful and generally of excellent quality, such that winter’s plentiful resources have bridged summer gaps with some conservation measures, but without the need for significant upgrades to infrastructure. Circumstances would seem to be piling up in such a way as to ensure that such significant upgrades will be an inevitable necessity, and we seem ill-equipped to meet these challenges. It took forever to settle on what is mostly a stopgap solution to the Beaver Creek water problems, largely because of a huckster carpetbagging privatization scheme that was proposed by the Improvement District, and which highlighted the roadblocks to long-term planning and renewal of infrastructure. The privateers have access to a huge pool of capital unavailable to public entities, especially where senior governments refuse to backstop public projects and where the idea of public money, enterprise and ownership is anathema. There is a big question as to whether all the locally responsible jurisdictions will be able to join together on the kind of infrastructure that will make for long-term sustainability and for a reasonable supply for all constituencies and jurisdictions.

Thrown into the mix is the question of amalgamation, raised in several municipal areas across the province, including here in Port Alberni, by the somewhat ephemeral Alberni First cabal put together by Mr. Deluca during the run-up to last November’s elections. Victoria area also had a number of municipalities where the question was raised in the form of non-binding referenda, one would think in aid of eliminating duplication of services and thereby reducing taxes. Locally, pitched battles would seem to be on the horizon for those wishing to achieve true amalgamation into a single municipality with the strongest objection coming from outlying districts where taxes (and services) are much more restricted and within which there is a perception that municipal government is rife with bloat and waste with a clique of fat cats gorging at the public trough. It makes for some head-scratching at how anything could be done in the long term and on a valley-wide basis. The Beaver Creek experience might be instructive, where we have chosen to surrender autonomy over the water system, and to work out a collaborative arrangement with the ACRD and the City. I haven’t heard howls of protest over encroachment by big government, nor do the water tolls and taxes seem to have risen in an inordinate fashion, indicating to me that there may be room to have to “amalgamation” discussion without necessarily having to be all the same. Is there room for ambiguity in district-municipal relationships? Are there fair ways to finance and build infrastructure that will serve all of us long-term and without breaking the bank? If circumstances in Brazil and the American Southwest are any indication, it’s long past time to at least begin talking.

Inflation and Incredulity










Stats Canada released their latest inflation numbers, those for the month of January, which, according to a CBC report, showed inflation restricted to one percent this year over last year, largely due to the falling price of fuel. That is all well and good, but methinks they might have a problem with the weighting of items and perhaps with what they include and exclude from the “basket” of goods and services that they weigh in their calculations. The fuel price bonus has already largely been recouped by the gas companies, but the price of produce, meat, dairy, and even chick peas has increased substantially, and I saw another item this morning that olive groves around the Mediterranean are stressed and under producing with a thirty percent rise in price on the horizon. The hummus futures market is in total turmoil, I would imagine. Also on the rise are hydro bills, MSP premiums, drug costs, insurance rates and a host of federal and provincial fees and levies.

Much of the reasoning for the current methodology became clear when the Gregorman mentioned that this one percent figure would be used to calculate revised pension rates and cost of living adjustments in labour contracts. Once again, our reigning clique proves that inflation is no problem until it hits wages and salaries, then the war is on.

It’s About to Begin


Robin Trower, 1974, It’s About To Begin…


…except it was already happening, if the snippets I’ve read about the reaction (in more ways than one) to the defeat of Barry Goldwater in the 1964 American presidential election. There was this perceived excess of democracy at home and abroad as control of the economic and political processes slipped from the grasp of monied interests. Already plans were being put in place for a long-term strategy to ensure that the semblance of popular rule would return to and remain forever a semblance, and that there would be little chance that popular demonstrations and voter registration campaigns would have any meaningful effect on the stranglehold the wealthy and powerful would be exercising  over the affairs of the country and the world. My sense is that Bill C-51 is the most open manifestation of the will to openly and boldly exercise that control, particularly combined with the RCMP’s statement of the threat assessment that environmentalists pose to the fossil fuel business, making it clear that our PM’s version of prosperity (that lives in Houston, Texas) will take priority over the survival of life on the planet. As usual, there have been some really clear statements from various of the usual suspects (hasn’t that phrase taken a somewhat sinister connotation?), including this little bit from the Galloping Beaver. There is something in the lapsed Catholic part of me that cries out for some form of compensatory justice in relation to those who have perpetrated this fraud on humanity and who continue to do so under the guise of “sound fiscal management”, but, then, I guess the church would likely tell me that it is for God to judge and that we will all find our justice in the next life, rather like the promises of a burgeoning economy that will happen just after the next election. Watch for a good deal of this to be featured in the upcoming tilt for the PM’s chair this year.

Adam and Eve

Birds Of A Feather

Birds Of A Feather

There probably isn’t too much for me to add to what has been said by Owen Gray, or posted by Jim Scott, but I’m offended, as always, by the silliness that constitutes the dominant tenor of the discussions of events in the political landscape. Eve Adams’ defection to the Liberal Party smacks of political opportunism and her bleatings about being the victim of bullies and fear-mongering shouts of the hollowness of a message hollered down a bamboo tube. Did she not vote for all the regressive and destructive legislation that passed through the House during her tenure as a Conservative MP? Where was the crisis of conscience in the face of Omnibus Budget Bills, secret trade negotiations and the building of the structures of repression in Canadian law? She only left when it became apparent that she would not be running under the Conservative banner anywhere in Canada. Conversely, if the Liberal Party of Canada not represents her values, what does that say about what we might expect from a Trudeau régime? It’s a daunting prospect, one of those frying pan/fire dichotomies that clouds any hope of a return to some form of humanist hope for a society floundering in ignorance and lack of care for self, society and the environment. Of course, the media love the stuff: they can promote the ongoing soap opera of…


Ooops! Got busy, had to leave this and I’ve totally lost my train of thought. Who cares where Eve ends up? Who cares about Justin’s hair or his carbon tax? Mulcair’s daycare initiative is a vote-getting ploy. Ms. May stands up and says all the right things, but is this what her party stands for? I really like the idea of people like who are working to elect someone other than Harper, but I have a hard time at this point seeing how that would work without a load of cooperation on the part of the other three parties. They are like the Conservative, Reform and other splinters who floundered and fought amongst themselves, allowing for a succession of Chrétien governments which, in the end weren’t that much different from what Harper offers now. We just weren’t as far down the road of secret trade deals, the militarization of police forces, the suppression of dissent, the hollowing out of the real economy and the transformation of Canada into a beggared, oil-soaked dystopia (OK, not there yet, but the signs are pretty clear).  At what point do we get depressed and sneak off in a corner with a dozen IPAs in a vain attempt to dull the pain of watching anything civilized get trashed through a combination of mean-spiritedness and ignorance? I’ll (hips!) let you know when we get there.



Harper Has Moved Us

















According to our friends at the Globe and Mail, Stephen Harper has succeeded in moving Canada significantly to the right, to that place where we all function as rugged and moral individuals practicing free-market ideology and end-times Christian wing-nutttery so that the puppet masters behind the curtain can continue to profit mightily and lock down all the benefits of an ownership society. The real Government of Canada Action Plan even has arrows showing where all the wealth and power will go in our newly restructured gush-up model of wealth redistribution. The current administration in Ottawa, along with its provincial counterparts, has made ignorance fashionable, torpedoed both knowledge and responsible analysis, corrupted the English language with feel-good labels for pernicious realities, torn vast holes in the social safety network (that was already threadbare from the predations of Paul Martin/Jen Chrétien/Brian Mulroney) and trashed what was, at one time, a perception that Canada had a constructive rôle to play in international affairs. We have become more like our dysfunctional neighbours to the south whose system of governance has morphed into a perpetual politics machine, staggering through inaction and paralysis from one election to the next and much of whose discourse has become so biblically hide-bound as to lose the very nature of metaphor and the sense of what history might teach us. In effect, Harper’s move hasn’t so much moved us from left to right as it has from sane to wrong.


New Month

L'étau se serre

L’étau se serre



Newspapers are unable, seemingly, to discriminate between a bicycle accident and the collapse of civilization.

— George Bernard Shaw

Had family over for Sunday dinner and, heaven forbid, football and chicken wings, a lovely occasion, and I mostly managed not to spoil it until the end when the above quip slipped out of my mouth. My son’s in-laws might have been rolling their eyeballs, but there was some general agreement about the whole bread and circus spectacle we had just watched in relation to the sad goings-on in Ottawa and Victoria and the twin barrels of imminent war and climate disruption down which those paying attention are staring. Cheery little way to start the month, but it’s an interesting past time trying to balance the sense of gloom with local community building, music, cookery and maintaining a healthy relationship with family and friends.

Ok, short post. I’ve been locked out of the site for the whole month, finally found my key, so I’ll attempt something a little more reflective before too long.

A Taste In My Mouth



This is a time of year when the garlic gets a little easier to peel. This is the beginning of a casserole that will feature some Great Northern beans that I soaked all last night, a head of garlic, some of Pete’s chorizo, probably some onions, some of our bottled tomatoes and some greens scavenged from under the tents in the garden. I get to make this up as I go along. It’s a lovely change from the ruminations of yesterday, full of angst and murder. Angst and murder are always there, but this is what will fill the kitchen with aromas this afternoon, allowing for a little lightening of the general mood.

Wherefore Tolerance?



Today’s attack on the staff of Charlie Hebdo, as well as on the spirit of criticism in which they worked, brings thoughts of all those works of the Enlightenment in which tolerance was such a dominant theme. The illustration is from the cover of a recent pocket edition of Lettres persanes, by Montesquieu, in which he portrayed the foibles of contemporary European society as he would have imagined it to be perceived by a couple of visitors from the Levant, in effect mocking his own people. Montesquieu went on at some length in other works, notably L’Esprit des lois, about the need for separation of powers and about keeping religion out of the business of worldly government, a notion that seems increasingly imperilled all over the world, though not every so brazenly as seems to be the case with certain fundamentalists unable to close their eyes to an irreverent attitude on the part of those who don’t share their views of either the spiritual or the temporal world. When Charlie Hebdo first published images of the Prophet, it was clear that they had knowingly hit on a very raw nerve, and to those most offended, being an equal-opportunity lampooner matters little, underlying the sense that certain sects of almost all religions cannot and will not distinguish between the affairs of this Earth and those of whatever version of celestial existence is part of their credo. In addition, and this is where the real rub arises, they cannot and will not accept that what constitutes their own system of beliefs has no relevance for those of other systems of belief: they have all the right answers, and they have the answers for everyone, to the point where simple argumentation will not suffice for redress of transgression and all other dogmas must be extirpated. These are people who are not willing to let the elected and the damned be sorted at death, heretics must be expedited on their way to eternal damnation. Charlie Hebdo chose to be the burr under the saddle in a time and place where there was considerable risk of inciting the kind of violence that was visited upon them today, they knew those risks and chose to proceed. It’s a heavy price to pay and will only be validated if there arises a true spirit of willingness to tolerate diverging opinion. It is also a little painful to hear the commentary from folks like John Kerry and Stephen Harper, as well as other leaders who have been the beneficiaries of tolerant societies who rise up to pontificate on the values represented by a free and open press and the unfettered flow of information and ideas, but who support emasculated and feckless organs of a press establishment that consistently curries favour with corrupt enterprise in both the public and private sphere, and whose organs of government engage in prosecutions of whistleblowers and other truth-tellers, the rendition and torture of prisoners and the extra-judicial executions of those who either refuse, or even neglect, to follow their own social and economic dogma. It’s sad that we pay so little beyond lip service to the thought embodied in the works of Montesquieu, his contemporaries in the Enlightenment, and those who both preceded and followed up in the quest for tolerant pluralism.

Lovelier Thoughts, Michael


We listened to this endlessly when we were little tots. Strangely, my eldest brother was named Peter, and the sourpuss who couldn’t quite get the flying thing was ceaselessly exhorted to “think lovelier thoughts, Michael”, that being the name of my other elder brother who, being analytical from a young age, tended to express rather cynical thoughts on many scores. So over at The Tyee, Bill Tieleman posted a piece in which he points out that, upon meeting some political foes, he discovers that they have some common likes and that they might be human just like him and that perhaps we ought not to demonize these folks.

Perhaps demonize is a little too strong a term for what needs to be our outlook and how we ought to guide our actions, but a quick scan of the misery and misrepresentation spread by Jim Flaherty, I find that a shared liking for the Group of Seven isn’t enough to want me to treat him particularly kindly, that his behaviour is any more worthy of compassion than petty thugs (who at least can often plead need for their predations, or impulse). There is such a litany of double-dealing, prevarication, greed and grand larceny on the part of so many politicians, and so much of it fits a recurring pattern that belies the possibility that simple stupidity might be at the root of these misdeeds, that it seems difficult to avoid concluding that these folks have knowingly and intentionally engineered schemes to redirect public funds into private pockets and then to smile and cook up a wealth of rationalizations and justifications to cover their real intentions.

Therefore, we needn’t demonize these people: they’ve done that by themselves and anyone who treats them with deference and respect is putting on a display of connivance, or complacency, or ignorance, or some combination of the above. We might want to keep this little quip from Charles Dickens in the back of our minds as we deal with the current régimes in Victoria and Ottawa (and beyond):

I have known a vast quantity of nonsense talked about bad men not looking you in the face. Don’t trust that conventional idea. Dishonesty will stare honesty out of countenance, any day in the week, if there is anything to be got by it.
—Charles Dickens
And, sadly, as we reflect back on the year and consider what we were promised and what we got, we might want to hold this image close to our hearts.
Political Promises

Housekeeping and Hissy Fit

Broom and Dustpan













By way of an update to the last rant, we should take notice of the signature on behalf of the government on the letters discussed in relation to university mandates: Amrik Virk.His named come up in relation to some dubious dealings as a member of the board of Kwantlen College. As of today, he is no longer the Minister of AE, but still sits in cabinet. Sad.

Another thought was that Christy Clark could well be taking her cues from one Stephen Harper when it comes to controlling information of all natures from curriculum to FOI requests. It looks like a threat to public participation in the political process.

Here’s the hissy fit:

I understand that progressive organizations are starved for cash and that they rely on folks tossing some coin in the hat as they stroll by on there web peregrinations. I dutifully pony up in varying amounts to at least a dozen different sites and organizations. I can’t cover them all at any meaningful level and assume that some, especially the larger, better-known organizations will get funded by their broader readership. It irks me when I get repeated pleas from even the best of sites for donations that I have often already made because, let’s face it, they tug at the little guilty part of my heart, no matter how old and grinchv I get. It gets to look something like the charity dance where you give once to what seems like a worthy charity and find that you get monthly mailings, e-mails and phone calls soliciting further donations so they can keep right on tugging at your coat tails. I’m good at phone calls, where I tell them that if they are phoning, they aren’t getting and that’s just the first step in what will be a concerted campaign to keep them off my line.

(Too bad that the live version of this, from Birmingham in 1980, is embed-disabled)