The Wrong Message

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News comes this evening that the Liberal Government in Ottawa has signed an approval for a natural gas pipeline with its terminus at Lelu Island. This project, the Pacific Northwest LNG pipeline, was ushered through with Petronas, the Malaysian state-owned oil company that has seen its share of controversy of late through a web of what look like rather dubious payments to the highest echelons of governance in that country.

Current prices for LNG would indicate that there is little chance of this project going ahead any time soon. There is a glut on the market and, as many others in pertinent blogs have pointed out, BC is really quite late to the game. However, even if this is a clever ploy, approving a project that has little chance of coming to fruition so that the government can more easily reject others, it still sends a message far removed from the visionary pronouncements by Catherine McKenna and Justin Trudeau at COP 21 in Paris and leads us to believe that Trudeau will be to the Paris Agreement what Jean Chrétien and Paul Martin were to Kyoto: all talk and no action.

The message is that Trudeau will play politics with energy and environmental concerns, frittering away valuable time when he could be investing in infrastructure for renewable energy and conservation initiatives that might be contributing factors to setting us on a path to long-term survival. As it is, the window of opportunity is closing and, were we to believe a consensus of serious heavyweight scientists, the calculations give us less time than we might have thought, meaning that the current attitude of our “leaders” in Ottawa aligns with the destructive lot that currently inhabit the Rockpile on Belleville Street and who find community of interest with troglodytes like Brad Wall and Rona Ambrose, who now quips that she thinks that Justin now needs to be a champion for this project that will be a primary economic driver for the country.

In addition, there is the lurking approval of the Trans-Pacific Partnership which, if pushed through by Trudeau and his international trade minister Freeland, obviates the need to approve individual projects as it will bring us to a state where national and provincial governments will be largely rubber-stamp simulacrums of government and enablers for corporate profiteering at the expense of both labour and the environmen

Pretty sad stuff, all in all.

I couldn’t find a YouTube video of Stephen Bruton’s “The Clock”. Too bad, it’s a great ditty on fiddling while the planet burns.

A Rose By Any Other Name

 

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This morning’s Globe and Mail talked some about the possibility that the merger between Bayer and Monsanto might result in the disappearance of the Monsanto name, and quite possibly the baggage that accompanies that name.

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Said baggage consists of a history of developing technologies aimed at controlling the seed supply through patents and ownership of gene modifications that have been spread through the food production and distribution systems through heavy doses of lobbying, distraction, bullying and stealth, a litany of sins that doesn’t seem to have developed the least shame on the part of the perpetrators. Among those working for a more equitable and sustainable future, the name Monsanto is emblematic with pretty much all the sins of our current legislative, judicial and regulatory régimes.

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The name might disappear, but I doubt, and hope, that the awareness of the deeds will simply be transferred to the new parent company, Bayer, short of a radical turnabout in company policy. This turnabout seems like an unlikely happenstance, given Bayer’s already clouded name over both pharmaceutical marketing and development, and their long record of standing by neonicotinoid pesticides that seem clearly implicated in bee die-offs.

A shift to people-driven small-holding organic and permaculture processes in food production is advocated in a growing number of quarters as a tool in reintroducing a healthy diet and in controlling runaway climate disruption. This is antithetical to Big Ag, but represents the nature of the shifts that need to take place if we are to continue to inhabit this planet.

May we all stay aware and not be distracted by a corporate machination and a change of name while the underlying misdeeds continue.

 

 

Wherefore The CBC

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Lots of reaction to the news that Peter Mansbridge is stepping down as the figurehead on the bowsprit of the MothershipNews, most of it entreating said Mansbridge to spare himself from bodily harm from the swinging door as he leaves. My sense was that Peter had some credibility in his earlier days, but it became painfully clear once the CBC decided to refresh its programming and seek a younger demographic that he would have to tread carefully or risk being displaced by the news equivalent of Strombo and put out to the senior lecture circuit with a mandate to sell more dietary fiber.

I once thought it would be a good deal to replace Peter with Ian Hannomansing. I really liked his style of reporting when he was with CBC Vancouver, but, of late, he seems to have morphed into a creature of the Harper CBC and is harder to distinguish from the run of CBC faces and names. I’ve thought well of some of Mark Kelly’s investigative material, but what happens when you plunk him in the Big Chair? Rosie Barton looked fresh and stinging when she took over from Evan Solomon, but the gig seems to have rounded off the edges, and the discourse clearly misses the point of serious analysis and reportage.

So here’s a thought: CBC needs to pioneer a new and faceless news stream for serious journalism where the reader never gets seen on screen and where the news can reach into those areas where currently it isn’t considered worthy of television, or too scary because reporting on the item might get the whole crew fired. The names can appear in the cast and credits at the end of the show, or in a byline under the title of the presentation, but no faces.

In addition, with their unlimited resources, the CBC can have a People group on a different broadcast channel where people like Heather Hiscox, Wendy Mesley, Michael Serapio and the like could hold forth on the people and places, the car accidents, marital upsets and petty crimes that seem to be so much a part of what gets passed off as news. There would be a lot of human interest here, but with a real fluff factor.

A third stream would be where we could really connect with the fringe element of the news community, where Jian Ghomeshi could meet up with Ezra Levant, where Evan Solomon could resurrect himself and where Peter could reminisce by interviewing himself one-on-one, complete with Rodin Thinker-like pose. This stream could be sponsored by people who make medication for elevated levels of hypertension.

Given that the whole outfit is still run by Harper Holdovers (is it not? it sure looks as though that’s the case), i don’t see too much in the cards in terms of a constructive rebuild, and I’ll continue to spend more time complaining about the state of news than actually watching it or listening to it. I’m sure glad my parrot had found a worthy recycling use for the moribund newspapers I used to read.

 

Pot, Meet Kettle

This was on the Globe and Mail’s site, but the article beside Doyle’s piece was about making your own hair extensions. I had to update my screenshot utility and they changed it on me while I was away. Can’t think why…

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Also caught a minor bit of a clip of Justin going all Marc Antony on Stephen Harper. perhaps thinking ahead of the words he wants spoken over the coffin of his tenure as PM.

Along those lines, a friend of my wife’s brought me a copy of Alain de Botton’s book on NEWS, knowing that I’ve frittered a good part of my life chasing after a vision of what is really happening and why and what the hell can I do about it. It says all this stuff in here about the fluff nature of news and the scare factor that’s built into the broadcast and how it may not be a good idea to impute the capacity to fix most anything to any, I say ANY, politician or patriarch or whatever.

 

Troppo è troppo

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Two events this week have demonstrated how badly we’ve lost track of the measure of reason, of a sense of perspective of events in the larger scheme of whatever part of the universe we occupy. As I type this, the closing ceremony of the Rio Olympiad are unfolding, just the last paroxysm of blather, bluster and hyperbole in a two-week long assault on the media landscape. The most telling incident of the whole games for me, growling curmudgeon that I am, was the arrest of the Irish IOC rep for scalping, followed closely by the gratuitous frat-boy incident with the US swimmers.

 

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In terms of excess, the Olys are followed some ways back by the telecast of the final concert in the Tragically Hip’s current tour, met with a frenzied fervour inspired by Gord Downie’s recent (?) diagnosis of terminal brain cancer. Whether or not I like the music of the Hip is somewhat irrelevant to the fact that this event has been blown all out of its proportionate importance as a unifier of Canadians and as representative of all that’s good in Canadian culture. I get it that lots of people really like this band and its music, and that there is an outpouring of empathy for a group of people handling a difficult situation with grace and aplomb, but the transmogrification of that grace and aplomb into our own Velvet Revolution is, as the French say, “de trop”. The two really fine items springing from this event have gotten some attention: Gord Downie apparently having called out Justin Trudeau on his ongoing lack of progress on improving lives, specifically First Nations’, in the North, and a comment I saw echoed on Facebook this morning about a broadcaster that puts up an event on national television with no ad breaks, no ticker ads and extends the broadcast when it goes beyond its allotted time, demonstrating the value of a publicly funded, owned and directed national broadcast system.

Juxtapositions That Scare the Crap Out Of Me

The End

 

I read this piece from The Disaffected Lib, alias the Mound of Sound, one of the most thoughtful and trenchant of the blogging crew. It’s frightening mostly because it tells a truth that many of us seem to want to duck and delay. Then our Premier unveils a new climate plan that is, in effect, nothing but a stalling tactic to allow the friends of the current government to finish the final pillaging of the public weal. Knowing, and seeing daily, the degradation of the living space that is our planet, and knowing, and seeing daily, the willingness of those supposedly in positions of leadership to completely sidestep the crucial service that they owe to their electors, to future generations, and to all life forms on Earth is a jarring experience. Yes, Christy Clark is showing true leadership, but not of any sort worthy of admiration and emulation: she demonstrates perfectly what is necessary to embody the foot-atomping, fast-talking irresponsible truth-twisting and selfishness that will be the death of many in the short term, and of all of us in the longer term. Admittedly, she can’t accomplish this feat all on her own, but she is being ably abetted by our own Prime Minister of Canada, a suicidally compliant press corps and a business establishment that appears bent on dying young and leaving a big bank account (as a substitute for a beautiful corpse).

 

 

Unguarded Honesty, No Apologies Necessary

From Libération this morning:

Macron: «L’honnêteté m’oblige à vous dire que je ne suis pas socialiste»

Par Nathalie Raulin —  (mis à jour à )
Emmanuel Macron a rendu hommage à Jeanne d'Arc, le 8 mai à Orléans.
Emmanuel Macron a rendu hommage à Jeanne d’Arc, le 8 mai à Orléans. Photo Guillaume Souvant. AFP

En visite au Puy-du-Fou, le ministre de l’Economie n’a pas pu s’empêcher de lâcher une petite phrase.

This is the French Minister of the Economy allowing that he is not really a socialist, the flavour of the current French government. Ho, Hum! You see, neither are most of those sitting on the government benches and nor is the President of the Republic, even though whole herds of them belong to the Socialist Party. None of them lives up to the label, and it was known pretty much, even from the distant sidelines, that Macron was not even as much of a faux-socialist as Valls, the PM, or Hollande, the Prez. After 14 years of Chirac and five of Sarkozy, the French thought, perhaps, they might try the other side of the political spectrum. Turns out that there really is no other side, at least within the realm of electability. This, also, should come as little surprise, given that the preceding 14 years of Mitterrand produced the same level of fundamental change that the French have seen under the Hollande presidency. This is a stark reminder of the value of “Real Change” or “Hope and Change”, Chrétien’s Red Book or any other promise that there is anything good in store for the broad electorate, and something we might want to keep in mind as we ponder the possibility of a change in leadership here in Beautiful British Columbia.

 

All The News

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Traditional news outlets have gone a long way down the path to irrelevance, and the economic consequences are showing in a dire fashion, as outlined in today’s post from Norm Farrell over at In-Sights.ca (https://in-sights.ca/2016/08/11/one-way-or-another-well-pay/comment-page-1/#comment-13291). I stopped reading almost all traditional newspapers over a decade ago, and visit the front pages of sites on the web only to get a flavour of what’s being pasted up on their pages. They continue to spew the same line of corporate back-slapping, advocacy for corrupt sycophant politicians, a stubborn refusal to seek a broad spectrum of opinion, and, often, a tendency to be very select in their use of factual information. Good investigative journalism seems to have become almost exclusively, despite Keith Baldric’s cries of “foul!” and “Nay Nay!”, the bailiwick of a cadre of dedicated citizen journalists who pump out some pretty remarkable work on a series of blogging sites across the province, the country and the world. In a comment on Farrell’s latest post, Rafe Mair, a former Socred cabinet minister and general loudmouth whose image has gone from goat to god in the last decade because of his advocacy for ecological sense and a better degree of economic justice, suggests that newshounds need to morph into scanners, casting a wide net to get an accurate sense of where things are headed in any given domain. Some of the content will be available without payment, but you can bet that most bloggers of all stripes will have their hand out to catch any spear cash that might accidentally fall out of your digital pocket.

One of the recent twists in the saga of the transformation of information and its delivery is the appeal on the part of traditional news organizations for support from the public purse, lest the public be misinformed about the course of events by sourcing unvetted material from the Internet without the guiding hand of these same organizations who can best be characterized by Mark Twain’s quip about being uninformed if you don’t read newspapers and misinformed if you do. The same applies to pretty much everything in broadcast media as well. In essence, outfits like Torstar and Postmedia are victims of their own free market game. Funny how these folks are such admirers of a free market until they come out on the losing end, at which point they come to think of themselves as cultural icons worthy of public support. There should be an enormous hue and cry should the least little nickel of public funds find its way into the corrupt coffers of the aforementioned Journalist Masqueraders, a phenomenon that seems unlikely with the general level of apathy and ignorance that characterizes much of our population, and with the jolly abandon with which the elected governments hand over wads of your cash and mine to people who already have too much and can’t really even win at their own rigged game.

I find that I now probably spend more on news than I did back in the days of newspapers, even though many of the contributions are voluntary and intermittent, and I’m actually quite pleased to do so. There are expenses involved in investigative journalism, including hosting and other Web services, FOI requests and just keeping body and soul together in the case of those people who don’t have the luxury of a well-paid day job. It gives me some satisfaction to share some of my meagre resources with those who do such a vital public service and the neat thing is that I get to make the choice. I don’t feel too badly about supporting only those whose material supports a clearer vision of society, economy and ecology: those on the other side of the argument generally have access to ample support. I don’t want to live in an echo chamber, but it’ll be a frosty Friday in hell before before I hand any money over to the Fraser Institute crowd.

Do become a scanner. Substitute a read-around from a selection of the sites that grace the front page of In-Sights, and continue to follow links from those links. Bookmark those that seem promising and revisit them regularly. Should you come to appreciate a site, make a contribution to ensure that the author is feeling the support. As well, leave comments, questions and suggestions. Finally, as soon as you sense that you have the necessary background knowledge, start acting on it in whatever way you can (Oh, rats! that sounds a lot like activism. It is, and it’s good.) This is much more engaging and exciting than reality television or fantasizing about your favourite actor/actress, musician or other personality.

Now I’m going off to make a contribution to In-Sights because Norm made me think and got me up out of my torpor to write about something that’s been bothering me.

 

Not Just Here?

This my cousin Bill who lives, farms, cooks, does business and writes in the area around Burlington, Vermont. As with many of us, he is opinionated and not slow to make a comment when he feels it appropriate. Here’s his latest:

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What Are We Thinking?

I’m struggling to reconcile the unfolding Jay Peak scandal and the “we did a great job” remarks of our elected administration officials. According to the SEC, the developers misused $200M.

Politicians are concerned about injuring Vermont “business reputation,” but reputation is founded on integrity – which is not about controlling information, but about acting on it to ensure integrity.
If proven, this would be the single largest fraud in Vermont’s 225-year history, involving 700 immigrants from 74 countries. The State’s potential liability approximates 5% of our annual $5.5B budget and could, when all the criminal and civil actions are tallied levy a $200+M liability on Vermont’s 325,000 taxpayers. A lot is at stake.

Two vital tenets of democracy are transparency and accountability of elected officials. Press efforts to rightfully obtain public records through FOIA requests are being met with delays and price tags designed to stonewall disclosure. This isn’t transparency. The open talk about destroying executive branch emails should send shivers down the spines of Vermonters. Precisely because politicians are elected to conduct the people’s business, the people have a right to know why, how, and when. Civic shrugs, administrative backpedaling, and legislative ignorance combine to form a Petri dish for corruption, and corruption is much harder to root out than it is to prevent.

Some of this alleged fraud occurred under Secretary Pat Moulton’s watch. For her to now blame the U.S. Immigration Service for not responding to her request that investors’ requests “…be met favorably when these investors apply for their green cards,” seems both arrogant and naïve.

The EB-5 program, with all its ethical ambiguities, is a matter of law. Efforts by Vermont politicians to lower the blowback on themselves by demanding the Feds circumvent the program’s legal process in order to relieve defrauded and angry investors is reprehensible.

The investors are not the only victims. Unpaid contractors await payment of $4.5 million and the citizens of Newport have a collection of cellar holes as the centerpiece of their new downtown.

I applaud the press corps for doing its job despite the administration’s urging to back off. Every Vermonter should want the press corps to succeed so we understand what happened and why. This is not punitive. It’s responsible democracy. And that democracy – beleaguered as it might be at the moment – is ours.

Here is part of what he is on about in the comment:

Newport

We can deduce that a passel of immigrants were admitted on an investor status and the money that they plowed in to a certain development hasn’t worked out as advertised. This has the same kind of stink all over it, including stalled FOI requests and deleted e-mails, that characterizes so much of our province’s dealings. Oh, the horror! Ours is not the only jurisdiction where such shenanigans are the centrepiece of an administration that frequently touts its ongoing efforts at openness and transparency, as well as insisting that it is the group best apt to bring sound fiscal policy to its constituents. Is it any wonder that our society is falling apart, not only at the seams, but in the unravelling of the whole cloth.

Right.

People should worry about right & wrong instead of right & left.

As I answered to the above tweet from Norm Farrell, our current situation is based on how wrong the Right has been since the early hours of their administration in May of 2001, and how consistently they have been wrong. Both Campbell and Clark have subscribed to the cover ideology of fiscal restraint, a false financial conservatism based loosely on the Washington Consensus idea of austerity, generally based on falsehoods served up to the press, and generally aimed at enriching their friends and corporate sponsors. The very fact of the protracted and ongoing damage that this group has inflicted on both society and the environment is cause enough to seek the most immediate and credible alternative.

The hitch lies in what is perceived to be a very flawed record on the part of the official opposition, and a lack of willingness (I care not on whose part) to form a cooperative union of all the opposition. I personally feel very cheated of what should have been a decade of social progress from 1991-2001, but it looks, from all the evidence I’ve seen, as though the New Democrats of the day bore much more resemblance to Tony Blair than to Jeremy Corbyn, and that they had adopted the same stance as the Federal Liberal Party of Canada, shamefully campaigning from the Left, only to govern from the Right, embracing some Lite version of the corporatism and cronyism that characterizes the current rascals in  the Rockpile.

As in many jurisdictions, including the aforementioned Tony Blair’s UK, the U.S. under Clinton, France under Mitterrand and now Hollande, Germany under Schroeder, Spain under Zapatero, Portugal under Costa and lately Greece under Tsipras, what is supposed to be the social alternative turns out to be pretty much more of the same slash and burn, corporatism-in-the-guise-of-trade, trickle-down crumbs-off-the-edge-of-the-table kind of administration characterized by our own Stephen Harper and Christy Clark.

This lack of choice is the price we pay for a lack of vigilance and a lack of willingness to put the proverbial foot down when our elected representatives go astray into the fields of pork-barrel politics and cease to govern in the long-term interest of society. The Left and Right are labels that might have outlived their usefulness in the current context, because what we’ve really seen is Right and Right-Lite. The chances of our ever getting a sample of what a real leftist government should be look to be ephemeral at best, and even leaner as we see the possibility that our current mores will lead to a very short future, but that ought not preclude the effort to work for something genuinely better than that under which we currently labour.