Troppo è troppo

Olys

 

 

 

 

 

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.

 

TH

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

TSPM

 

 

 

 

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:

bill-schubart

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

Faith That Mires, Faith That Inspires (If You Care To Look)

CCFAith

 

 

 

 

 

From the Vancouver Sun, a piece about how Christy Clark’s Christian faith protects her from insults and people who doubt her integrity.

in·teg·ri·ty

inˈteɡrədē/
noun
 1. the quality of being honest and having strong moral principles; moral uprightness.
  1. “he is known to be a man of integrity”
    synonyms: honestyprobityrectitudehonor, good character, principle(s), ethics, morals, righteousnessmoralityvirtuedecency, fairness,

    scrupulousness, sinceritytruthfulness, trustworthiness

    2.   the state of being whole and undivided.
    “upholding territorial integrity and national sovereignty”

There would seem to be some divergence on Ms. Clark’s part from any claim to the above definition of integrity, though there is another thought about the term as meaning consistent with itself, and on this score, our Premier scores quite high marks. She might well be concerned about perceptions regarding her character, but it doesn’t ring true that she would need the comforting of Christian principles to hold her ground, given how far from the purported message of Christ she has strayed in her doings since being elected to public office. She has consistently chosen the camp of the moneylenders, has steadfastly declined to take action to improve the lives of the downtrodden and less fortunate, and, above all else, seems to have considerable difficulty determining where any truth lies beyond her own self-serving version of making the difficult decisions, putting families first, and building the best economy for all British Columbians. Most of what she terms insults are simple statements of fact, the litany of injury done to the present and future of the province she leads. She reminds me of my reading of Tartuffe, both in high school and again in university, along with a host of other cautionary tales about people who become public figures to feather their own nests and satisfy their own need for recognition. How is it that a major donation of public money ends up in the hands of the religious institution on which Ms. Clark relies for her soul soothing?    It’s enough to drive people to some sort of deep cynicism about religion, though I happen to live with someone who takes the message of Christianity quite seriously,

That person shuns the spotlight, is generous to a fault and invests both time and resources in improving the lives of those not endowed with the advantages of birth, career, relationships and the temporal situation that allowed many of us now retired boomers to live a life of relative comfort and security. Certainly, all humanity gets a place in her prayers, and, despite the rigours of a strict Mennonite upbringing, this includes those of other faiths, those nullifidians (thanks, Anu) she encounters, people of all colours, creeds, political outlooks, social strata and sexual orientation. She has always been and remains a model mother for her boys and a loving and concerned grandmother to the next generation. She isn’t a saint, just an exceptionally considerate, gentle, helpful and hardworking woman who operates on a belief system deeply rooted in the teachings of Christ. It’s a big part of what allows her to live with a heathen like me.

 

 

The Mayor Helps

LH

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mayor Lisa Helps of Victoria spoke yesterday at a gathering to memorialize those killed and injured at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida, and to allow a space for those shocked and traumatized by the events. This is pretty standard procedure for politicians. She also made direct mention of her sexual orientation, something not heretofore known to be part of her rhetoric, though she noted that everyone at City Hall and most of the community had known all along. This is what struck me, and I hope I’m not reading too much into it, but here’s my thought:

Watch it! Gross oversimplification on the way, combined with personal perspective. Bear with me, please.

 

We are all, to a greater or lesser extent, sexual and social beings. Much of what we do, particularly in the long period between puberty and senility, is driven by what is essentially a need to reproduce. Many narratives have grown surrounding our reproductive activity, particularly once the survival of the species seemed to be assured, wherein folks began to focus increasingly on the possible pleasures of the reproductive act and the social aspects of that interaction and its place in social intercourse. This has generated, over the centuries and millennia, a variety of narratives that we use to define our sexual selves and a lot of our social interactions with other individuals and groups. These narratives have become so ingrained that they produce some pretty serious cognitive dissonance when they butt up against conflicting narratives. This might be pretty devastating, particularly where some of the conflict might be internal, and to pile that on the conflicts inherent already in many of the narratives, might produce considerable stress and frustration.

 

We seem to be in a period where there is either an increasing amount of sexual misconduct of various forms and at various levels of harm, or where said misconduct is more readily becoming public. The recent Stanford Rape case, compounded by parental enabling-after-the-fact and what looks a lot like judicial laxism and favouritism, seems typical of current revelations, but then, there are cases such as that of a British MP who apparently interfered with young girls for several decades, something just now coming to light. What makes is acceptable is some people’s minds to unload their sexual tensions on someone else without consent? There must be a story inside these heads that says to them that it’s all right to engage in this kind of conduct, mostly in full knowledge that the law says otherwise, and that it isn’t being done generally in society.

 

Much of the cultural narrative I saw in my formative years was a very traditional look at the roles of men and women, along with a heavy dose of courtly love propaganda. As a counterpoint, my parents shared some of the household chores, discussed issues as equals and clearly formed the closest mutual admiration society I’ve ever known. This held up even after Dad died and continued, as far as I can tell, until Maggie’s death some fifteen years later. So along with all the fiction I read, the television I watched ( I quit for about a dozen years starting around age twelve because I found so much of it to be embarrassingly stupid), all the paintings, sculptures, poems and songs from all the ages, I had a head full of mostly that image of a steadfast, courtly and passionate love, and it was definitely focused on women. As I got into my later teens, I got immersed in blues music, meaning that I also got a big dose of the chest-thumping machismo of many of the big-name artists, the sly references to carnality or Bessie Smith’s bust-outbawd, and this seemed to permeate much of the love ethos of the milieux in which I traveled, with the temporizing influence of parental observation always lurking in the background. Illicit love was cheating on your partner and there was no admission that your partner might be of the same sex. All those perverts out there remained marginalized and stayed on the periphery of consciousness.

As society has adapted, so have I, and I like to think that I might even have been a bit ahead of the curve, particularly as I learned that I had pervert relatives, friends and former girlfriends, people who continued to be, as ever, wonderful people, so hey! what does it matter. They weren’t”out” in the full sense of public disclosure. I was “out”, but as a flaming heterosexual, a label I likely wore proudly.

Here is what Lisa Helps did: she just is who she is, and broadly tolerant of what other people are, but she didn’t walk around with a sign indicating that she was, for instance. the gay city councillor, or the gay mayor. She was a city councillor and her sexual orientation had nothing do to with it. Same for mayorishness.

With all the conditioning that goes on, we have to wonder whether the expectations we get from the narratives that surround us lead us to wear labels in hopes that labels will lead us to the fulfillment of these expectations, cause us to buy into what the extant narratives are selling without necessarily knowing that this is a subconscious act that leads to conscious acts. Lisa Helps waited until it was entirely appropriate to make a grand statement, and there was no judgement, belligerence or hostility in that statement, insisting that we may be different, but that no difference should separate us as social beings if we’re willing to tolerate and embrace plurality and cease to accept that threatening someone else for the peaceful expression of their social mores serves no constructive purpose. It stirs up a good deal of reflection about how the Orlando massacre came to happen and what we need to do to move ahead. It was, I thought,  a pretty neat trick on the part of Her Lordship.

Apologies for the rambling and disjointed nature of the piece. It’s a fragment of a much larger contemplation on narratives that’s been kicking about on and off for a couple of decades and is still very much lacking focus and resolution.

A House Divided

BS

 

HRC

…and a good thing it is, too. I speak of the U.S. Democratic Party, which has gone to great lengths to show that it is anything but democratic. If, indeed, Hillary is the nominee, should she invite Bernie to be her running mate? Should he accept a role in the campaign to elect Hillary? No, because the man isn’t what makes the difference. For the first time in a long time, there has been real and substantive discussion about ideas and policy, and many issues have come to the fore in this primary campaign that seem to have been totally lacking in most previous campaigns, both in the US, here in Canada, and farther afield. Would those issues be addressed more efficiently and thoroughly in a Clinton White House were Sanders part of “the Team”? I think not. The rôle of the Vice President has been famously ceremonial, and might be a convenient place to put Sanders so that he can orate endlessly and harmlessly while lending some credibility to an administration otherwise woefully bereft of credibility on anything other than Wall Street plunder and eternal and universal war. There was, I seem to recall, a quip from the old Soviet days in Russian affairs that one should keep one’s friends close, and one’s enemies even closer. Following that line of thinking, it seems logical that Sanders should be trussed up as part of the Clinton package to appease the Berners and effectively neutralize the Bern.

 

Remember Obama’s soaring rhetoric of 2008? Do we feel fulfilled, do we sense that there has been a major shift in US and Western policy? Is the US a significantly more empathic and egalitarian place than it was when our second Black president took office? It isn’t, and the wife of our First Black President would like to keep it that way, so snuffing out the first wisps of the smoke and fire of a real re-writing of how we do things is likely high on her list of events to manage. Sanders needs to stand back from the coming storm (unless he gets nominated) and keep his powder dry.

 

Standing On Guard For All?

Bit of a ramble here because a lot of this keeps me scratching my head at the level of blind acceptance we accord to traditions, the protection of those traditions and the negative reaction to proposals to modify or extinguish anything even loosely defined as a tradition. The latest volley in the tradition wars is the proposal to change a line in our national anthem from”…in all thy sons command” to “… in all of us command”, part of a desire on the part of an MP to render the national anthem gender neutral and therefore more inclusive. Said MP is apparently on a fast track to an early expiration and seems to have engendered more bickering than sympathy.

 

There have been a ton of interesting and different renditions of national anthems over the years, most of the interest being generated in the name of being different, or sheer shock value.  The first shocker was the Hendrix rendition of the Star Spangled Banner at Woodstock, a somewhat different affair from the typical fare at sporting events where the reverence can be irreverent, but the tribute must be paid. Most renditions are pretty serious, but there are singers who just plain overdo the operatics and the embellishments and those who want to show how Country they are, and there may be disco, jazz, reggae, polka, trance, metal and other styles applied to anthem singing, but I’ve managed to miss them. In fact, as I’ve moved into serious curmudgeonness, I tend to screen out the anthems and, increasingly, the sporting events that follow.

 

 

 

I remember sitting through this, just stunned:

 

Carlos has come a long way since the early Fillmore/Mission District days:

 

The kicker is this lovely rendition of O, Canada, which, hopefully, does not indicate the level of respect for Canada from its border mate and largest trading partner:

 

 

I love where I live and I’m a great enthusiast for much of what passes for Canadian ethos and culture, though it often seems as though there is something of a discrepancy between who we are and who we think we are (was it Germans who started saying that the way to great wealth was to buy a Frenchman for what he’s worth and sell him for what he thinks he’s worth? Canadians are not alone in being blissfully unaware of much of what’s done in their names). I like the idea that we want to have symbols of inclusion in all that we do, particularly in those national artifacts that are supposed to be the greatest expression of the Canadian spirit, but I see almost daily and generally across the country where people are much more concerned about the image that we project than they are in living, as a population, up to our expressed and implied ideals. Let’s work at reversing that phenomenon and the cultural artifacts will take care of themselves.

 

Post Post Note:

I was travelling with family in the Massif Central in France at the time of Bastille Day in not-too-recent history, during which visit we attended several official celebratory functions. I realized at the end of it all that I had never once heard the singing of La Marseillaise, and if it had been sung, I would have heard it. So where was the Cocorico?!