Au revoir, Monsieur Nul, sans remerciements pour le poisson

Back when he was First Secretary of he Socialist Party, when his then-wife Segolène Royal was a presidential candidate, Hollande came across as a thoughtful if uninspiring technocrat who had a pretty good grasp of the divide in French society and some ideas about how to address the shortcomings of the Chirac years. Fast forward to the 2012 election, and all of a sudden he’s a candidate, he’s shed his wife (or she him, who cares), he’s found a voice and mouths all the right positions to get him just barely elected over Sarkozy, a plaything of the monied gentry whose hubris and tendency to lecture everyone else on how right he is about anything and everything helped mightily in getting him unelected. Hollande wasted little time in setting out on a course to alienate pretty much everyone, abandoning the workers at Florange, half-heartedly moving to stand down part of the French nuclear electricity generation infrastructure, instituting road taxes that amounted to an enormous burden on independent drivers and fleet operators with no counterbalance, and the quick embrace of the idea of making French industry more competitive, the dog-whistle word that signals that working folks are gonna get whacked again. Finance, the enemy of his campaign, regained status as his friend, and he ended his reign with unrest in the overseas départements of the Caribbean and the revision of the work laws that ensured that the little people would pay once again for flexibility and competition. And so he shuffles off to a degree of opprobrium and oblivion, likely to be noted as a non-leader, a man who accomplished almost nothing, and who was unable to pass along a legacy to a true successor, once the other Emmanuel (Valls) lost in the primary, and Hollande himself couldn’t bring himself to embrace the chosen candidate of his party, Hamon. So good luck to the French who will likely continue to struggle with trying to improve their lives without making the significant changes needed to build a more vibrant and inclusive society. Macron will be more of an obstacle than an expediter.

The Outsiders Have Won! (?)

Various news outlets have pointed out that the results of the first round of voting in the French presidential election show that the outsiders have won the day, and that the vote is a protest against the status quo: fairly shallow stuff, on the whole.

Marine Le Pen does represent a certain ras-le-bol (had it up to here) with the EU bureaucracy (never mind that LP sits as a Eurodeputy) and with all those brown people coming into France and tarnishing its very white, very catholic image. She comes close in many ways to the idea of making France great again. Macron certainly did not get the endorsement of Les Republicans (sarkozistas), nor of the Socialists, even though he had served in the Hollande cabinet :Hollande, of course, campaigned in 2012 on a socialist platform and, upon election, fell back in a rut that looked an awful lot like the program of his predecessor, Nicky Sarko (Sarkozy being the nec plus ultra of sarkozistas). Macron is a banker and an insider of the inner sanctum variety. So while the two “mainstream” parties failed to send a candidate to the second round run-off, the only forecast, barring some really silly happenings in the legislative elections, will be more of the same reign of finance and austerity, more of the floundering economy, and, should Le Pen win, the wrenching of an attempted exit from the EU.  Supporters of Fillon and Hamon have little to worry about, as their programs are fairly well represented somewhere in the Macron-Le Pen duality, along with those minority candidates wanting France out of the EU. Only those along the Mélanchon-Poutou axis will be left out with no good place to put their vote, other than, one might assume, barring the door to Le Pen’s racist rantings. It’s rather like trying to find a safe place for a vote in the last US presidential election, or like making a choice between Stephen Harper and Justin Trudeau, and it has echoes in our current BC election where people are tired of the squabbling between Liberals and New Democrats and want to vote their views with the Greens. Trouble is, there is a good chance that voting en masse mineure for the Weaver Gang is most likely to result in another Liberal government, not the real intent of those Green voters. Weaver does have a certain cachet due to his name, along with a thousand or so others, on a Nobel prize for Climate research, but his endorsement of the continued public funding for private schools and his love for IPPs has somewhat curdled the cream of his agenda. He also states that we need a less-polarized, more centrist approach to governing, but this reeks to me of more More-Of-The-Same: I don’t see that the problems that plague society in BC are likely to be addressed adequately without some serious restructuring of the economic and social pyramid. This seems to be lacking most everywhere (Christy would likely continue to steepen the pinnacle of the pyramid as she commits an increasing portion of the population to descend toward the base). I would love a plural approach to governing, but we can’t get to that with the current group infesting the Rockpile, and the surest way to fumigate the place is a crowd of Dippers, who, in their turn, need help to maintain focus. First acts should include fixing the electoral system with some form of proportional representation, public financing of campaigns, revamping the initiative and recall provisions so that they become viable, and then moving on to reform of tax legislation, retributive measures, rebuilding health and education and addressing the multiple environmental concerns that plague the province. If then, the Greens don’t like what the Dippers have on the docket, they can roll out the recall (I’m sure the Liberals will help, along with Post Media, Black Press and the entirety of the broadcast media) and look to elect a government of a different colour under the new rules (with, of course, no government advertising allowed (that should really annoy the above-mentioned press organs). Gee, I wonder what the odds are of any of this coming to fruition.

How To Shorten Debates

 

 

I didn’t watch or listen to the provincial leaders’ debate yesterday. I am pretty certain for whom I will vote and why, and, increasingly, I find this sort of exercise to be something of a waste of time where nothing of substance gets to the fore, where talking points are repeated and where the object is not to convince, but to score points. It is the very archetype of a “conversation” where the interlocutors listen, if at all, only to reply rather than distilling any useful information. In addition, there is considerable crowding of the oratory space of others in the debate, including, in this latest case, some physical contact that seems less than appropriate (this from a person who has a very warped conception of appropriate): in short, there is nothing either informative or polite about the discourse, and many people in these parts have commented on the distaste that this inspires for the political process and, by extension, the governing process.

I also eschewed the broadcast because I tend to react verbally and often using colourful language when the fanciful turns to the preposterous and this annoys my wife no end though she understands the roots of the vehemence and appreciates the recognition of falsehoods, half-truths, cherry-picked stats, deflections and non-answers. The solution to this problem? Pre-record the debate, fact check all the statements, edit our whatever doesn’t pass the sniff test, and broadcast the result. This would, in the short run,  make for less waste of time and valuable airing over the media and a clearer vision of what connection there might be with the reality faced by the electorate, and in the longer term, it might promote a desire on the part of some politicians to speak in a more straightforward and meaningful vein, especially after a couple of appearances where virtually everything she said fell on the cutting room floor (metaphorically speaking in the age of 1s and 0s.

The most essential gift for a good writer is a built-in, shockproof, shit detector.
— Ernest Hemingway

 

If Christy Were In Korea, Would Life Head South?

The Constitutional Court in South Korea has confirmed the impeachment and removal of the President, Park Geun-hye, as a result of her corrupt dealings with big business. This has been the result of a protracted and sometimes violently repressed series of mass protests, with the citizenry of the Republic of South Korea forcing the impeachment hearings who were confronted with pretty clear evidence of preferential treatment of those who fed the personal and party coffers of the outgoing administration. Does this have a vaguely familiar ring to it? While the multiple donations by lobbyists of funds originating from other donors may be the only legal line crossed, that can only be as a result of the current administration having kept the legal bar so low that it wouldn’t interfere with strawberry pickers, let alone cotton-pickin’ donors looking to circumvent the one person one vote system of elections.

One also might wonder what it was that mobilized so many Koreans to get out in the streets in what might seem like an overwhelmingly difficult task. Could it be the simple knowledge that their system of government was corrupt to the point that it no longer operated in the interests of the general population? Is this part of why people in Canada and, in particular in B.C., stay cozy in their beds and ensconced on their couches with a bowl of popcorn and the latest version of Survivor? The outrage that powered the Korean impeachment, like the movements of the original Arab Spring, the Maidan protests in Kiev. the Velvet Revolution in Prague and a host of other movements was based on knowledge of the corrupt nature and the lack of fairness and voice in the affairs of the various jurisdictions concerned, something that is sadly lacking in Canada for those who haven’t yet had that tingling sensation. that political spidey-sense that tells them that they have to branch out in their quest for what’s bothering them and who are unafraid enough to tumble into the maelstrom of on-line political discourse, armed, hopefully, with a fully-deployed and fine-tuned BS filter, considerable patience and massive doses of discernment.

The fate of Park Geun-hye should also be the fate of Christy Clark and of any person charged with the public well-being who turns instead to the perpetuation of personal aggrandizement and political power.

 

Toad of Toad Hall

 

 

Further Coleman

“The poor will always be with us.”

 

Deputy Premier gets to be himself today, because his very real lack of care for those who aren’t able to feed the Liberal Donor Bag makes him a perfect example of those who throw up their hands (and perhaps wink) while bleating the above utterance. There is a very clear primary cause for the continued existence of a segment of society that is consistently underserved and excluded, that being people like Coleman who are willing to rig the “Free Market” game so that there are many more aspirants than successes, and where the success of the new is determined by the amount of the productivity of society that they can sequester for their own use. He and his governing party, as is the case with almost all governments of our current crop, got to a dominant position not through virtue, intelligence, hard work, nor through any constructively creative problem solving, but through jiggering the apparatus of the state so that wealth flows from the lower strata up into the hands of the puppet masters. His “boss”, Christy Clark, has said in a blog post cited by Huffpo, that what women lack is  the confidence to compete and to win:

It starts very early. When I was growing up, we didn’t have a lot of mentors or even positive role models, showing us that women could compete and win in any field they chose.

So who would be such a laudable mentor that taught Christy that deceit, obfuscation and outright cheating were the path to success, and that success was best obtained at the expense of society’s most vulnerable?

Really, when it comes to a lament, better than today’s opening statement would be:

The rich will always be with us.

 

I wanted to embed the video 50/50 from the site below, but it appears not to be available. Here is the site, perhaps it will come up again later:

http://www.refinery29.com/tiffany-shlain-50-50-film

The Marie Antoinette Moment

It isn’t quite let-them-eat-cake, but it surely heads in that direction.

“We have to remember that a person on social assistance — a single person on social assistance in British Columbia — gets double the annual income of a person in the Third World. And we should remember that — not because we say it’s right but we should remember actually how good this country is.”

(From a Global News Report)

 

There seems to be more gold than Golden Rule in our current ruling clique in Victoria, but this struck me as callous and over-the-top in its lack of empathy and misdirection from the realities of what his government has done to the citizens of the province.

“The test of our progress is not whether we add to the abundance of those who have much. It is whether we provide enough to those who have little.

                                                     —Franklin D. Roosevelt

By Roosevelt’s measure, we in BC have bounded backward for the last decade and a half, and we weren’t doing all that well when Gordon Campbell ushered in his New Era in 2001.

 

What Deputy Premier Coleman misses is that our recipients of social assistance don’t have the luxury of flying off to Costa Rica or Nicaragua where their purchasing power might equate to a more reasonable lifestyle, and that they are facing an employment and cost of living situation that is at least difficult, if not hostile, a situation not improved by the use of temporary foreign workers to keep labour costs at a minimum, even though companies employing them are still selling into a market in the high-rent district. It’s rather like offshoring at home.

In addition, the goose and gander get somewhat separated when Minister Coleman’s salary has risen considerably over the time he’s been in government, and we can’t really say the same for social assistance rates, or for the level of service that the province provides to help its citizens find reasonable work that will meet the needs of those having to exist in cities that have become increasingly unaffordable.

The statement is typical of the total lack of care for anyone other than those on the donors’ list and the lists of approved contractors on mega projects.

 

 

 

Secretary of Ignorance and Blind Devotion

(The Senate has apparently confirmed DeVos as Secretary of Education: Hold onto your hats, this being like cherry-picking the worst traits of BC Ministers of Ed going back to Billy VDZ and rolling them into one Transformer-like incarnation of ignorant waste-laying)

 

Betsy DeVos is DJT’s nominee for Secretary of Education for the US. There are many objections to her confirmation, among them that she simply has no background in education, that she is a corporate shill for privatized education, a neanderthal on social issues, the sister of Erik Prince (Blackwater, Xe of mercenary fame) and part of the New Snopes group infecting the Washington swamp. The floor of the Senate has apparently been occupied overnight by a filibuster looking for time to scrounge up a couple more Republicans to deep-six Betty’s nomination because, in a tie game, Mike Pence casts the deciding vote and he just loves Betty and all that she stands for.

We might all fear, though, the prospect of Betty’s going down to defeat, not because any sane person would want such a nasty piece of work in charge of the indoctrination of the minds of the next generation or two of Deplorables, but because there seems not to be a shortage of plunderers and know-nothings willing to step up and do the bidding of the New Snopes Family (and their backers in the finance, pharma, fossil fuel and arms côteries), and do we have at our disposal the resources to fight every nominee to every cabinet post and every judicial vacancy?

There’s a little line or two from an old tune that I heard on a James Cotton album back in 1968 that intones:

Before I cut you loose, I know I wouldn’t shake that curse.

I’d fine me another little woman who’d be just as bad or worse.

We have the same phenomenon right here at home at various junior levels of government where successive mayors have continued the tradition of seeking to re-establish some of the industrial glory of the late 1970s, or have had to deal with a council that firmly blocked any initiative aimed at taking a different direction. Likewise, there was a time when it might have been thought that Gordon Campbell was the incarnation of all that was most exploitative, corrupt and vengeful, but lo! we have Christy Clark, who most deftly fills the rôle of that “other little woman” who is indeed, just as bad or worse.

Does anyone seriously think that getting rid of Clark would be the end of the corruption woes in BC? The first order of business of any new régime here has to be the legislative blocking, with the very sharp teeth of penalties and enforcement, of the kind of processes that allow money and privilege to magnify its voice at the expense of the common good and thereby, perhaps, decapitate the line-up to succeed Clark’s crowd at the trough.

 

 

 

(Apparently, the tune was written by Mel London and released by Ricky Allen in 1962)

Absurdities, Atrocities

 

As long as people believe in absurdities, they will continue to commit atrocities. 
 
—Voltaire
It would be no exaggeration to say that absurdities abound in our current social and political realm, and the atrocities, though perhaps somewhat distant and out of the sightlines of those who care to ignore them, are following suit nicely. Syria, Iraq, various South American countries and all over North America with drug wars, oil infrastructure, the sell-off of the commons, the financialization of everything and the rise of the New Selfishness should be enough to convince any sane person that we’ve stepped over a tipping point into something like a cross between Alice in Wonderland and your pick of Kafka’s novels. The responsibility is widespread and manifold: DJT and those who have blown into the Washington vortex as part of his backwash (or advanced guard, depending on your perception of which is the horse and which is the cart )may be more a product than cause, but Republicans of all stripes, as well as mainline Democrats, are very much on the hook for having pursued pretty much the same agenda in favour of the same constituency for decades, with the Dems getting extra credit for acute hypocrisy. The constant fawning over monied interests in pursuit of self-perpetuation in power seems common, even now, in the motivation of both “sides” of the political apparatus.
As Andrew Coyne pointed out in a recent piece about our own PMJT and his broken campaign promises, the fault is also ours for believing the absurdities (such as the idea that an elected politician might actually follow through on stump rhetoric, in this case relating to voting systems). Our behaviour that merits rebuke and reprobation is driven by our ignorance or our sloth, or both, as we don’t generally take the time to be active and informed on the nature of our own governance, sometimes because we just have more gratifying items on the agenda, sometimes because of the conflictual and unpleasant nature of much of the political activity in which we would be called to engage. Same onus for believing in anything but the hollowness of pretty-boy promises, though it must be said that the urgency of expediting an exit for the Harperites might have driven much of the (minority) of votes that JT garnered on his golden path to sunnier days and sunnier ways. Our failure to engage with others on issues of substance, combined with a tsunami of obfuscation and misdirection on the part of most “news” sources ensures that the options at the ballot are likely to be somewhat meaningless. Who knows what might have been better had we elected Angry Tom (anywhere there is Brian Topp, there is unlikely to be much of anything other than back room deals). Thus, we still have corrosive  trade deals, First Nations deprived of the basics of infrastructure that most of us take for granted, pipelines, tankers, fighter aircraft and overseas wars, expensive ancillary health care, rapacious financial institutions lining up at the infrastructure trough and a warped economy to accompany the petty bickering and corruption in legislative assemblies from coast to coast to coast.
Sadly, the time for deep and lengthy dialogue and reflection seems to shorten up constantly as scientific evidence piles up that our existential crises are converging and that their combined tipping points are approaching even more rapidly than we had been given to believe, or perhaps it was just vain hope. Doing nothing, or retreating back into the comfortable cocoon of self-interest are not options, neither does it look like a good option to engage in the kind of aggressive bullying, posturing, nastiness and violence that drives so much of what we call government. meaning that there is almost certain to be a degree of resignation present in any attempt to move people off positions defending a system that is patently in crisis, but that resignation mustn’t preclude steadfastness in whatever attempt is made to leave this place a little better than when it found us.
Valtaire also said, famously:
Il faut cultiver notre jardin. (We must cultivate our garden)
Now here’s what I wanted to contemplate before I go off to chase some of the sustainability, resilience and relocalization that seems so necessary as an antidote to our multilevel Washington-Concensus, Chicago School of Economics, Neo-Liberal, Neo-Conservative, Neo-Fascist way of doing business:
Several decades ago, I bought a used LP at Rohan’s Records on Fourth Avenue in Vancouver, a set by Thomas Jefferson Kaye, for which I paid the princely sum of $1.75, as still attested by the grease pen marking on the front of the jacket. I was initially drawn by the graphics and the name, but likely wouldn’t have bothered to buy it if I hadn’t noticed a couple of names in the liner notes, in particular Rick Schlossen, whom I had recently seen playing with Box Scaggs, and Rick Derringer. So I did buy it, partially because of the star power (my definition) and partly because I knew I could trade it in for most of its face value if it turned out to be a dog. It wasn’t everything I would have liked or anticipated, but it opened up some new doors and has turned out to be a long-time favourite of mine.
This month also brought out a new recording by Bill Kitchen, a twang-master alumnus of Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen, back in the depths of time. Kirchen’s somewhat virtuoso twanging combines with a sense of humour akin to Amos Garrett and Leo Kottke. I like this stuff a lot even if it’s not my main musical interest. Thing is, his new recording, Transatlanticana, also features keyboardist Austin de Lone, of whom I had never seen mention anywhere, but casting about, I did find a set of recordings he did back in 1991, so , with Kirchen’s de facto endorsement, I bought it: love at first listen and a great reward for following he connecting instinct.

Here’s some Thomas Jefferson Kaye with a little Derringer flash at the end:

Evoking Vietnam-Era Memes

In an article over on Common Dreams, we get to read the following:

New United Nations ambassador Nikki Haley arrived at U.N. headquarters in New York City for the first time Friday, and wasted no time in lashing out at the international community and U.S. allies.

 

“For Those That Don’t Have Our Back…We’ll Respond Accordingly,” she says, and goes on about “taking names”.

 

This reminds me of the Vietnam-era “My Country Right or Wrong” outlook which, ultimately ignores the founding idea of the U.S., a country forged to respond to a set of grievances relating to wrong-doing in the mother country.

It speaks to a very limited idea of what constitutes any notion of diplomacy and mature interaction with other nations and groups around the globe. Yes, a lot of traditional diplomacy is based on secrecy, subterfuge, dishonesty and backstabbing, but threats of this nature rarely produce constructive results, and the bluster that is here deployed speaks to a very unsubtle cowboy mentality which would only produce results via the unleashing of extraordinary force (move the Doomsday Clock even closer to midnight?)

It also reinforces the idea that we are dealing here with a pack of brats of varying ages and experience who make up in chutzpah what they lack in knowledge and wisdom and who are totally self-absorbed.

Cartoon by Clay Bennett Chattanooga Times-Free Press

 

Alternatively…

This was the end quote from yesterday’s edition of MIT Tech Review’s The Download mailing list:

The more voices of reason that the President hears, the better. Simply attacking him will achieve nothing. Are you aware of a single case where Trump bowed to protests or media attacks?”

— Elon Musk explains how he thinks people will have to approach negotiations with Donald Trump, in a conversation with Gizmodo about how useful climate change policies could yet be introduced under his administration.

 

As I have become older, a little more patient, a little more tolerant and more focused on outcomes than on personality, I would generally concur with Musk, but I find myself asking, in this case, a question slightly rephrased:

Are you aware of a single case where Trump bowed to logic?