Dummies and Extras

ChCh

If you ever happen to be watching an American network in the next little while, you’re pretty certain to see some of this, in fact, a lot of this. It may not be this guy for much longer, but you can substitute the clown or your choice, because the clown car is pretty full right about now. Here’s my attempt to be even-handed:

BSa

In this case, for the purposes of this piece, we’re less concerned about the people in the foreground and their plenitude of pronouncements (Rex! where are you now that no one needs you?) than about the people who cluster around the speakers and either nod sagely or bobble their heads uncontrollably. Knowing that some of them are hired actors doesn’t make the silliness any more palatable as we watch people agreeing with some of the most patent dishonesty imaginable. It conjures up images of this, an all-too-frequent occurrence:

CCAnnounce

Sorry about not getting the hard hats.

This Is The Best We Can Do?

File 154

 

In a report released this morning, the Fraser Institute continues to build a legend around a theme of digging up novel methodologies for making reality fit their creed of greed (oh, and by the way, you don’t get any, but you don’t need to know that). The report ranks the provincial premiers on their fiscal acumen and, surprise, Christy Clark comes out as the winner. Please go read the whole thing as it encapsulates the decades of depredations occasioned by those who follow the tenets of this well-funded echo chamber of acolytes of the University of Chicago Economic Orthodoxy.

Preems

Isn’t it good to know that we’re number one at something other than the lowest minimum wage and the most child poverty?

Bennett Redux

BB

Evidently, we’re not done praising Mr. Bennett. A memorial gathering was held this past weekend in Kelowna and much praise was heaped on the now-deceased Premier. I know this from hearing some tasty clips on CBC Radio’s On The Island, clips from a couple of my favourite people, Pattison and Spector, commenting that Bennett seemed tough, but that it was tough love and that he always had the interests of the people of BC at heart, in addition to which, he had a knack for telling the truth. Yes, yes he did care about keeping the people of BC in their place as contributors to the Pattison economy, and yes, yes he did tell the truth, exactly as dictated by folks like Pattison and Spector (Spector who worked tirelessly for the likes of Billy Bennett and Zalm, friend to Campbell and to that stirling example of moral rectitude, Brian Mulroney). These people are so generous that they would save us from the sin of greed by being taking on all the greed they can and showing us the true path of poverty and obedience. So now can we call it a day and let Bennett stay dead?

Ripping Out A Heart

News
When a newspaper dies, a community is lesser for it, opines Roy Macgregor over at the Globe and Mail, and I would tend to agree, but the timing of the dying is connected to the definition of death. As one who always loved the idea of a weekend morning ensconced on the couch with a pot of coffee and at least one fat weekend edition, it has been wrenching foregoing that often somewhat masochist pleasure, and even the occasion for a few pangs of regret when the daily five-minute scan or our local rag was abandoned for a bouquet of reasons (price hike, less content/more ads, unending editorial spew) and finally had a stake put through its heart when Black Press shut the paper entirely as summer faded into fall this past year. Then yesterday, there was a lot of wiling and gnashing of teeth as the Nanaimo Daily News faded to Black (whew!) after a run of 141 years, amply demonstrating David Black’s utter contempt for anything other than profits and hatred for unions.

Macgregor’s pronouncement has some truth in it, but the reason these papers died was apparent long before management chose to right-size the local paper industry: as I said to the subscription folks locally on a number of occasions that the paper had morphed into utter irrelevance. It died when it ceased to serve the needs of the community, and it’s only now when there is no “paper of record” that people in these parts wander around with blank stares wondering how it is that we don’t have a central organ to connect citizens with each other and with a semblance of knowledge on which to base some form of wisdom and discernement. It reminds me of (wait for it) a line from an old song that Paul Butterfield sang in 1968: “Your mind is leaving’, but your body’s staying’ here.”

By the way, closing small schools is a good way to rip apart rural communities, and, I’ll wager, urban neighbourhoods. This is David Black working from the same plan as our provincial administration in the quest to turn us all into industrial ciphers.

We’re Number Nine!

CC

Actually, the is supposed to be good news, but, as is often the case, the joy or pain is related to how one views the subject.

This came up when scanning the Globe and Mail this morning, where Canada has been listed as the ninth least corrupt country in the world. I guess this is reasonable because we don’t have to deal with the level of garbage that happens in much of Africa, say, or the “Stans” (notwithstanding characterizations of Canada as Canuckistan), but with the B.C Rail deal, Site C, the Health Ministry Firings, Quick Wins, LNG, the Massey Tunnel replacement and everything else that just doesn’t smell all that clean, it would seem that someone missed something in this little corner of Canuckistan. Allison Redford showed us that our neighbours aren’t ready to let us steal a march on them, Kathleen Wynne is facing some sharp questions about her practices and those of her predecessors, and, certainly since the days of the Big O and the ’76 Olympics, there are few who would attribute lily-whiteness to Québec politics. For brevity’s sake, we need go no further, without even getting started with the Federal governments of many ages, in wondering if, since we’re so wonderful, how the hell does anyone get anything meaningful done anywhere else without a level of bribery and corruption that boggles the mind and bends the definition.

It’s a sad perversion of the idea of beauty being in the eye of the beholder and conjures up thoughts of the press saying anything it thinks would be cute, of ourselves being smug, and of a wilful ignorance on a grand scale.

StevieBibi

 

Piketty: «Les réformes promises mais non tenues tuent l’idée même de démocratie»

TP

 

For those whose French is a work in progress, the headline, from Libération, states that unfulfilled promises of reform kill the very idea of democracy. Of course, this is very true of the current administration of President François Hollande, as it is of Jean-Marc Ayrault and Emmanuel Valls, his two Prime Ministers, but it seems a recurring theme with governments both in Canada and abroad, and very much on point with current discussions of the signing of the Trans Pacific Partnership, where the meaning of the campaign slogan “Real Change” is shown for the hollow rhetoric that it is. Minister Freeland would have us believe that signing is not ratifying, but with a whipped majority and an ignorant electorate, ratification looks like a reasonably sure thing, showing to what extent the Liberal Party of Canada is in thrall to the same interests, if not exactly the same players, as the previous Conservative administration. Trudeau is looking increasingly like More Of Same rather than Real Change, in much the same fashion as the Hope and Change of 2008 morphed into Wall Street ever present in D.C., Guantanamo still open, another market bubble, increased wars and more carbon than ever pumping into the atmosphere. Is it any wonder why people seem reluctant to spend whatever minimal time it takes to get to the polls? It isn’t as though North America has a corner on the broken promises, given that the hope for a better future engendered by the formation of the EEC and then the EU has turned into a huge bureaucratic boondoggle and an entirely captured enterprise in the neoliberal mode. The rising tide of economic activity in Asia has failed miserably at making a decent life for most Asians, and Russia, post-USSR is a basket case with economic disparity on a level rivalling the Russia of the Tsars. The phenomenon occurs at all levels, not being restricted to national governments, as can be seen here in BC where our current administration wants to pull both triggers of the climate shotgun by giving pride of place to dilbit pipelines and LNG development, having first created conditions to ensure that none of the possible benefits stay here in BC.

Is democracy sacred? We look to find out fairly quickly whether its replacement will do better and creating conditions for inclusive well-being, a state that should be sacred.

 

“The illusion of freedom will continue as long as it’s profitable to continue the illusion. At the point where the illusion becomes too expensive to maintain, they will just take down the scenery, they will pull back the curtains, they will move the tables and chairs out of the way and you will see the brick wall at the back of the theater.”
― Frank Zappa

Snowed Under

BHouse-Snow

 

As last year(!) drew to a close, I found myself making like a BC Liberal flack and wearing out the <delete> key in my inbox. Both my wife and I, in our retirement, have taken it upon ourselves to be active in the community and beyond, in aid of creating a social and economic system that works on the principle of inclusion and that works toward a model of ecological regeneration, she from the standpoint of Christian obligation (as well as a generous nature), and I from the standpoint of a morality evolved through secular readings and observations. Our main focus is on our local community, which, it’s plain, is in need of an awakening to current circumstances and to a rebuild foundation for economic activity and reward, but she has ventured as far as Kenya with a women’s missions group, and we both maintain links to both national and international groups seeking to redress the worst (at first) of the world’s ills.

The sad parts that, once one has established a link to an organization, it seems that the relationship becomes one of lifetime support. My inbox has offered me more opportunities to donate in the last couple of weeks than I could ever hope to match, and there are many serial “offenders”, people who remind me several times daily about upcoming deadlines for tax receipts, or opportunities to meet matching donation quotas. The language has gotten progressively more florid as the deadlines approach, tugging ever harder at the heartstrings and guilt pangs to ensure the survival of each and every progressive social and ecologically-focused organization ready to vanish into the ether without my paltry donation.

I guess I can be a hard-hearted bastard when I need to: long ago, I learned to say a firm “No, thank you” based on the principle of being an active reader, seeker and link-follower. I can find the people with whom I need to connect to lend support and don’t need to be solicited with cold calls of one kind or another to prompt me, lest I forget to feed the machine: we do, of course, also get solicitations through Canada Post and via the phone, and my constant refrain when called upon, boils down to “don’t call me, I’ll call you: the best way to get left off the donations list is to ask.”

None of us can do it all, and it is precisely because we don’t seem to act in concert a good part of the time that concentrations of money an power find so ready a lever in the mechanisms of our current society, but I rue the day when we have a superstructure on the scale of the United Way for apportioning money donated to social, political and economic causes. Organizations of that nature seem to become self-focused and look after the organization itself before tending to the needs of the component causes. There is also a multiplicity of approaches that exist to deal with the inequity and iniquity of our current circumstances, some focused in the political realm, some purely ecological, some social initiatives, some squarely aimed at economic levers. I’m good at deciding where to put my time, money and words, and I don’t want people tugging at my sleeve at every corner, upsetting my internal harmony. I also know how fortunate I am in the circumstances of my birth, upbringing, career, cultural and social life, and to sense that my fortune should be everybody’s fortune, but please, a little decorum.

Two Very Telling Reports Say The Same Thing

FCDoc

One report was published by the Fraser Institute, the other by the Wait Times Alliance, and both outlined a rather dire situation for people awaiting referral to a medical specialist for treatment, delays that haven’t lessened despite injections of cash from whatever level of government. Global News aired the first report and followed up with a personal account in an on-line piece posted here (video also available).

The sum of the two reports is that we’re trying to achieve different results by applying the same processes and thinking, a mode almost universally acknowledged to produce little other than frustration. The underlying message, the same delivered several times in word and deed by Dr. Brian Day, is that we should carve out a rôle for the private practice of medicine in order to reduce wait times.

Certainly wait times might shrink for those who could afford to jump to the private side of the medical equation, but it would certainly torpedo any notion of universality and would, above all, line the pockets of some physicians and the investors who would expect to reap a benefit from the work of some and the misery of others. Piling on another ten per cent for investor profit seems a strange way to get out of the cash crunch unless the intent is to eliminate access for some clients while expediting the draining of the bank accounts of others.

There is an interesting benchmark that the two studies seem to have set for purposes of comparison: the baseline year being 1993. For those with short memories, this is the period immediately preceding Paul Martin’s book-balancing feats, accomplished largely at the expense of transfer payments, and specifically the unravelling of the universal health care system. My mother had a hip replacement in 1994 and my father had bypass surgery the same year. I don’t think either of them had time to get a referral before the surgeries were done to remedy the condition; in neither case did even a week lapse before the intervention took place.

These two reports smack of yet another stab at introducing the same chaotic and dysfunctional system of medical delivery that we see in the U.S., and what the reports scream at high intensity is that greed is the primary motivator of both these organizations.

 

 

I come to bury Caesar, not to praise him.

BB

It’s not a knee-jerk to speak ill of the dead, but when we see the wave of only mildly restrained praise for Bill Bennett, the Mini-Wack, on the occasion of his passing, it raises a concomitant tide of bile over the lack of willingness to point out the influence that this “titan” had on the lives of British Columbians, as well as the downstream effects that his administration has had all across the country as part of the tide of trickle-down or supply-side economics that were very much coming into fashion during the reign of Bennett II.

Bennett was well-placed in 1975 to shovel dirt on the grave of the Barrett régime when labour turned on Bullchip Dave and the media of record were full of reports of the provincial economy coming apart at the seams, all of it directly attributable to the Barrett tax-and-spend, a social-worker-on-every-corner, communist-at-the-door reign of terror.

Bennett is being hailed as an architect of fiscal restraint, meaning that he set us on the road to privatization, the swiss cheesing of the social safety net, the comforting of the comfortable and the afflicting of the afflicted, and the environmental degradation of pretty much the whole province. Some of this came briefly into sharp focus during the turmoil of a possible general strike and the resulting sell-out by Jack Munro when, for a brief moment, there was a pretty clear picture of the number of the potential dispossessed and the possible power to be wielded through unity. Didn’t happen: cold feet, trust in false idols, lack of trust, Bennett was a clear winner, and we’ve (almost) all been losers ever since.

Bennett came from a position of privilege and did all to protect and enhance that position for himself and the small élite of his ilk, and he set a pattern for a succession of premiers who continued the good work of the Rockefeller Republicans. When a person makes life so much more difficult for so many people, any praise ought to be verrrry muted and couched in the context of the deeds done.

UPDATE:

February 1, 2016

 

Evidently, we’re not done praising Mr. Bennett. A memorial gathering was held this past weekend in Kelowna and much praise was heaped on the now-deceased Premier. I know this from hearing some tasty clips on CBC Radio’s On The Island, clips from a couple of my favourite people, Pattison and Spector, commenting that Bennett seemed tough, but that it was tough love and that he always had the interests of the people of BC at heart, in addition to which, he had a knack for telling the truth. Yes, yes he did care about keeping the people of BC in their place as contributors to the Pattison economy, and yes, yes he did tell the truth, exactly as dictated by folks like Pattison and Spector (Spector who worked tirelessly for the likes of Billy Bennett and Zalm, friend to Campbell and to that stirling example of moral rectitude, Brian Mulroney). These people are so generous that they would save us from the sin of greed by being taking on all the greed they can and showing us the true path of poverty and obedience. So now can we call it a day and let Bennett stay dead?

 

Harping On A Theme

Double_harp

Obama is leaning on TPP potential partners to expedite the ratification of the agreement. Our own Chrystia Freeland has apparently muttered things about “parliamentary debate”, a debate which, given the majority status of the Liberal Party and the obvious support that the Opposition would lend to an agreement they negotiated, is likely to happen within the confines of the Liberal caucus. I would hope that the (Not So)New Democrats would have some barbed questions for both the other parties, and if I were a Bloc MP, I would be hopping to get in on this action: TPP might mean the end of any special status for Québec in Canada, as well as any meaningful notion of sovereignty in Canada itself. At least the Libs are not saying something such as:”Yes, sir, Mr. Obama, we’ll just deploy our best government-issue rubber stamp and move into the world of total corporate governance.” Whatever else, Obama has done, the worst damage may yet be to come from the enforcement of ISDS  provisions and the chill that would likely spell the end of the ability of communities all across the signatory states to protect their local economies and environments, leaving all resources and areas of endeavour to be run on a for-profit basis by those who have already managed to sequester an insane portion of the world’s wealth for their own use and abuse. So, to work, Chrystia Freeland (may your name be a reference to a reinforced democracy than to a nation given away for nothing).

CF