Campbell Clark has an article in this morning’s Globe and Mail with the title Harper’s Economic Halo Is Hard To Dim. Mr. Clark likely hasn’t talked to the thousands being laid off from the Oil Patch who might still be gainfully employed if we were engaged in the clean energy transition that other countries are undertaking. He likely hasn’t talked to the multitudes stuck in dead-end low wage employment or to those who can’t afford to live in Vancouver, Victoria, Toronto or a myriad of other places where housing is out of just about everyone’s realistic financial grasp, or the TFWs that have been brought in to ensure that the wages will stay low. I doubt that many of those Canadians mired in gobs of oozing debt will see that halo encircling the holy pate of the Prime Minister. Even Stephen, the man himself, seems to be campaigning on other than his much lauded (can you hear the snickers from the peanut gallery?) economic acumen. The Globe outdoes itself in Kowtowing to the Conservative Côterie. And, in passing, is it just me, or does the juxtaposition of the author’s two names say something ominous to those of us in BC?
Les Enfoirés débarquent ce soir sur TF1. Ils sont le symbole de notre époque où la lutte contre la misère s’est transformée en charité organisée et en compassion planifiée. Les artistes, les communicants et les marques, aidés dans leur tâche par des médias peu cohérents, aiment aujourd’hui à afficher leur engagement humanitaire. Mais il s’agit de verser une petite larme et de passer rapidement à autre chose…
Interesting little piece over at Marrianne.net letting us know, in a somewhat circuitous fashion, that the telethon will be on one of the main networks in France tonight, but there is a good deal of chiding inherent in the message. First, the se of the word “enfoiré”, meaning, more or less, bothersome idiot, a term brought into current usage by Coluche, a comedian who stuck pins in a lot of society’s balloons and who founded les Restos du Coeur, a chain of eating establishments dedicated to feeding the poor and dispossessed at the height of the ’80’s recession. It was meant to be a stopgap measure, especially with the election of the Socialist Mitterand government, but the institution, and the problem endures today, and in a grossly exaggerated form (if this sounds familiar, it is because it is a phenomenon that exists in one form or another all over he world, and what happens in France is a reasonable mirror of how we attempt to deal with it here). Mitterrand, it seems, liked the name and the party, but really didn’t act as a socialist, as seems to be the case with the latest Socialist In Name Only, François Hollande. OK, here is a rough translation of the paragraph from Marianne:
The Idiots land tonight on TF!. They are symbolic of our times where the struggle against poverty has morphed into organized charity and planned compassion. The artists, spokespeople, and brands, helped along by the rather incoherent media, like to show off their humanitarian solidarity on this one day. But it’s really that we’re called on to shed a little tear and to move quickly on to other matters…
Everywhere people are called on to open their hearts and wallets to help feed, house and clothe those who seem not to be included in the golden dream that is our society. I can’t say that we actually designate certain people to be at the bottom of the economic and social heap, but by default, when some are allowed to corral an inordinate share of society’s riches, someone at the other end has to take less. As inequities have grown over the last forty or fifty years, there has been a multiplier effect where, for every Bill Gates, Warren Buffet or Carlos Slim, there are thousands whose livelihood is diminished, and, while these people may sell themselves as leaders and job creators, the vast majority of their wealth has been generated by people other than themselves, and their claims of increasing the size of the economic pie often ring hollow as the pie they expand is entirely based on monetary fictions, easily erased by economic contractions. In effect, we have seen no diminution of poverty or precarity, though often the stats can be manipulated to show whatever the current régime wants to put in front of the electorate (e.g., unemployment stats based on the number of job seekers registered with the authorities, rather than the actual number of people without meaningful work).
Here is a quip from Teddy Roosevelt, born to privilege, but able, at least, to articulate what it might take to reduce poverty, want, and precarity in a society that truly functioned as a society:
“The fundamental thing to do for every man is to give him a chance to reach a place in which he will make the greatest possible contribution to the public welfare…No man can be a good citizen unless he has a wage more than sufficient to cover the bare cost of living, and hours of labor short enough so that after his day’s work is done he will have time and energy to bear his share in the management of the community, to help in carrying the general load. We keep countless men from being good citizens by the conditions of life with which we surround them.” – Theodore Roosevelt
While you’re at it, go have a look at John Ralston Saul’s The Comeback, a reasonably detailed litany of the transgressions of the Crown (us) in Canada against First Nations and what it means for the sorry state of our government and societal institutions.
Bill Nye may be the Science Guy, but we have to wonder about the science of GMO when he appears to have reversed field following a visit to Monsanto, as outlined in an article on EcoWatch. He hasn’t published, that I know of, the changes he intends to make in his writings on the subject, but a lot of what he had previously written was pretty damning, as has been much of the literature written by those not sponsored by the gene-splicers. I have to admit to having and not-totally-open mind on the subject and I suspect it will take some serious convincing to get me to accept that what Monsanto, Bayer, Syngenta and the like have done is in the general interest of the public, that it contributes to the greater good without doing irreparable damage. First consideration has to be the stubbornness with which these folks cloak their doings in secret and gain legal approval through the purchase of political levers rather than convincing the public that they are acting in the interest of anything other than profit and, as it seems likely, the ability to choke and control much of the food supply. Their unwillingness to abide even labelling of their product speaks to a group that has something to hide. Second consideration is that, other than being able to drench landscapes in pesticides/herbicides, I don’t think that a convincing argument has been made for the necessity, or even utility of these genetic modifications. I’ve seen little evidence that more food is produced using large-scale agricultural methods with major inputs of chemical soil amendments and pest controls. Monsanto, in particular, seems to have done a woeful job of keeping their organisms under control in nature and may be doing a tremendous amount of harm through simple lack of oversight. I wonder how frank Bill Nye will be about his change of heart, and how much of a change of heart will he have had? Could be another icon of rectitude down the rectitube, so eyes and ears open seems to be the watchword.
A report in Libération this morning decries the sack of the ruins of the archeological site at Nimrod, using heavy construction equipment to destroy the heritage of earlier societies that they consider blasphemous, having already addressed, apparently, a wealth of societal treasure in the museum at Mosul. My father actually worked on digs around Mosul in the mid-Thirties, and somewhere in the family treasure, there exists a small trove of 8-mm. film of locals moving dirt in their burnooses, no bulldozers being available. I recently discovered some prints of RAF photos of the dig site, part of the stuff of Hank’s personal legend.
The reflection runs thusly: is it worse to desecrate to artifacts of the past than it is to ensure that all but selective material gets buried in collective ignorance and forgetfulness? I can’t think of a single constructive or positive comment to make about the beheaders, the desecrators and those who would establish a religious or doctrinary hegemony of any sort, and that includes those in our own society whose walled-in take on life looks to take us back to some new version of feudalism. The horror of ISIS should lead us to look at our own foibles and missteps a little more closely, particularly that seemingly insurmountable impulse to bomb anything that moves, each time sowing more dragon’s teeth with each bomb that falls. I wonder when we will realize that we’re still getting the same results with our repeated actions that clearly don’t work for the majority of us (or them) and down tools for a reassessment of links between our actions and what people do in response.
I don’t know if that will help bring those Assyrians up to speed with current Islamic thought, but it might to some distance toward setting our own society free from the constraints imposed by the greedy canyon-minds.
(…one way or another, this darkness got to give.)
A report from Bloomberg details how various corporations have stashed 2.1 trillion in profits in low-tax jurisdictions, including including another $69 billion in the last year. So the business plan is to mine, manufacture and market through the jurisdictions where labour is cheapest, ship and sell where product will generate the most profits, then export the profits to the jurisdictions where the tax burden will be the least onerous. It’s just business, after all.
How about we have a new system that states that the jurisdiction where you sell the goods dictates what you pay for labour, for materials, for shipping, for marketing and taxes. If the firm doesn’t want to, or can’t, then they can’t sell into high-priced markets.
And while we’re at it, the firms represented by the above three logos are a big part of generating mounds of electronic garbage through planned obsolescence and count on the largesse of society as a whole to clean up the mess made by the throwaway gadgets as well as the mountain of plastic packaging that accompanies the electronics themselves. The real price to society in clean-up costs ought to be added to the dodged tax revenue and the societal costs of poor working conditions of people employed to manufacture the items they often can’t afford to buy. Many of us might make different purchasing decisions if we had to pay the true price of many of the items we buy.
All this comes on top of recent revelations that HSBC has been actively helping monied clients to hide money from taxing authorities to the tune of a couple of hundred billions of dollars. Perhaps these people so averse to working as part of a larger society should be ostracized, excluded entirely from all the business of society, along with their friends at HSBC (and any other institution engaging in like practices), or just locked up and fined the same way that has been happening to Black people in Ferguson, Missouri, as a matter of “the way we do business”.
(Short Business from Jeff Beck’s Rough and Ready)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 Leadnow.ca 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.
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.