Amid The Storms, A Tempest In A Tea Cup

(The title refers to this post about musings on things ephemeral, like taste in music, the viability of a particular commodity in the market, and individual people, even as we experience social and environmental upheaval all around us. Maybe this is my version of fiddling as Rome burns.)

I first picked up a guitar in 1967, having been a trumpet player of sorts up until that point. It was a Harmony acoustic and I had to look twice to figure out that my left hand was supposed to be the fretting hand. I’ve been a little crazy in love with music as far back as I can remember and grew up in a family where all of us were involved recreationally with music, and there was often music being played on the hi-fi when someone wasn’t blowing on something or another.

I went right over the edge listening to a plethora of fine guitarists in the time where we lived within easy walking distance of the Fillmore Auditorium and a short bus ride from the Avalon Ballroom, and guitars ruled the sonic world as the rock, blues and jazz idioms got stretched. I’ve never gotten over it, having lived through several iterations of the blues rising from the dead, of rock reinventing itself, of the integration of the many musics of the world, and all the crossovers that defy classification bursting forth. I even fell in love with some of the twang of Nashville, as well as classical music and bits of just about everything, but I keep close to some of that bluesy-rocky guitar-drenched sonic assault that first bowled me over as a teen, to the point where I actually laid out money for instruments and took to playing.

I abandoned any thought of seriously seeking performance options about the time that I started to learn more than a few chords and some melody lines. I had a ’61 Strat that I bought out of a used shop in Stockton on a visit to a friend at UOP in 1969. Poverty forced the sale of it a year or so later. It was candy apple red and a lovely instrument, as attested by the new owner’s refusal, flat out, to sell it back to me a year or so down the temporal road.

Duane Allmän and Dickey Betts were big favourites so it wasn’t a total surprise that I bought my Gold Top about the time Brothers and Sisters was released. I still have it, and still play it, though with little of the fire and flare displayed by Betts and friends (Les Dudek also played one at a show the ABB played at the Coliseum that year). That was also about the time that Robin Trower surfaced as a solo artist, highlighting the next phase of the Hendrix legacy. The list of players got longer and longer, and continues even today with players like Eric Gales, Gary Clark and the like.

So this one aggregator to which I subscribe, Next Draft, had this reference to the demise of the six-string electric, occasion for some reflection. The trigger seems to be a somewhat steep fall-off in the sales of electric guitars, and the sentiment on the part of the author that there just aren’t the Guitar Gods that studded the musical firmament during the years between 1950 and 1990, say. It’s true that few achieve that stand-out status attached to the playing of Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton, Duane Allman and the Eric Johnson/Joe Satriani, EVH crowd, but part of that is that there are elementary school students who can make a lot of the older folk sit up and take notice, at least in terms of navigating the fretboard with dexterity and speed. Then there is the so what factor, the been there, done that saturation of some forms of music with old-time guitar solos, riffs and fills, along with the yearning for something different. Some people will never appreciate the virtuosity of John McLaughlin because he strays so far from the simple-mindedness of pop hooks. His music requires attentive listening and associations with other phenomena than dating, so it’s just irrelevant to a lot of folks.

 

Sales might also be flagging because of market forces, such as the possibility that the market is just saturated. It doesn’t take too many years of selling a million and a half guitars to hit just about everyone who is going to persist at playing, and the antics of Jeff Beck in Blow-Up,

Jimi Hendrix at Monterey,

or some Pete Townsend stunts

are rare enough that most of these instruments persist out there in Nature, being bought and sold at a discount or a premium depending on name and provenance, in an eternal spiral of possession and relinquishment. The instruments after which six-string cognoscenti lust most have also become fodder for speculation with many of the most prized instruments ending up in display cases, never to be played again, while others might be subject to sales into collections where they will be played, but many of these collections are large enough that it’s unlikely that any but the most go-to instruments will see more than the occasional glimpse of daylight (stage spot?). There is a bit of a parallel with fancy cars of a sporting nature which really are meant for young folks, particularly the roosters on the way up saying something about their suitability for reproduction: those that can afford that luxury are generally old enough that they should be beyond trolling, just as many guitar collectors have become unsuitable candidates for seriously engaging with their instruments.

Last question (for now): does it matter? Music is based on change and we’re all witness to levels of change perhaps unprecedented in human history. Even at the small scale that popular music represents in the totality of human culture, itself an infinitesimally minor part of the universe we inhabit, this might signal nothing other than the passing of a generation into oblivion and its replacement with something else. I know I still love much of the music in question here, and that I have never taken to some of the succession of genres that have come along since it was new, ground breaking and fresh, but I wouldn’t ask anyone else to go down with the Guitar God Ship.

 

Bad Mouth

Politics is high school with guns and more money.
—Frank Zappa
Aside from the frightful causes of the rise of the current American administration and the even more frightful aspects of the administration itself, it is a telling spectacle to listen to these folks as they react to events such as a missile test on the part of North Korea. The tenor of the language is better suited to a clique of elementary schoolyard bullies than to international diplomacy. When Rex Tillerson sounds like a true elder statesman because of the bar being set so low, it’s clear that others, including the bully-in-chief, are going to leave much to be desired in the realm of linguistic capacity for conveying nuanced and thoughtful responses to crises of any nature.
That’s not to say that the traditional diplomacy, however eloquent, does not have much for which to answer, but the current crop are nothing of an improvement in any kind of substance that would counterbalance the vacuity and puerility of their language. It comes as no surprise that these folks are clearly out of their depth and damnably proud of it. It rather reminds me of another rather nasty little quip from Frank Zappa:
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 theatre.

Junk Science, Junk Journalism

The good news is that traditional media, long since captured by the forces of monied greed and power, are bleeding value in a way that, under normal circumstances, would presage their demise in fairly short order. The bad news is twofold.

Firstly, we seem to have a government with a tendency to prop up said media in the name of perpetuating “Canadian Culture”. This is the culture that gave us environmental devastation, residential schools, unending war, the security state, laughable levels of economic and political inequality, contaminated food and water, climate disruption (despite all the pretty words) and a willingness to ignore the ills that confront large segments of the population, and I don’t see that it merits any support from its victims, nor should the “winners” be allowed to redirect their largesse toward PostMedia and its homologues through tax deductions or preferential policy. In the Free Market (a chimera and a camouflage if there ever was one) they should fail and disappear, remaining only in history as a reminder to those that would make themselves irrelevant to a broad swathe of the population.

There certainly is another side to Canadian culture, the dogged persistence of Terry Fox, the  farmers who ponied up to ship hay from one end of the country to another in time of drought and shortage, the folks who scheduled holidays to go and help with recovery following floods, the CUSO crowd who went to Africa and elsewhere to teach and make a selfless contribution to the betterment of lives in underprivileged communities, the people of Newfoundland and Labrador who were so giving when disaster struck in New York City, the FN communities who flew to the rescue of passengers and crew of the Leviathan II , the communities and citizens who responded so generously to the appeal to support refugees and people who volunteer and donate to prop up the failing social safety net. Perhaps we could employ any contemplated funds destined for the press to repairing the tatters in the aforementioned safety net.

Sadly, secondly, it seems that Greenpeace, the target of Princess Margaret’s wrath, has indulged in some chicanery in enticing good folks to contribute to their fund to defend against Resolute Paper’s SLAPP suit. This would be entirely unconscionable were it not the norm, often in government circles, and frequently in the realm of commerce and finance. Our language and visual referents have been so twisted and diluted in the pursuit of commercial advantage as to border on incomprehensibility. People who do this at a personal level lose credibility and trust, eventually being shunned by those who practice a modicum of integrity in their dealings with others, while it seems normal practice in business where the caveats are buried, if expressed at all, in the fine print and legalese attendant on contracts and end user agreements.

Ms. Wente falls into her own morass when she allows her vituperative screed to be published under a headline that hyperbolizes Greenpeace as a menace to the world, after which she extends her hand to the Canadian public for alms to support her in the lifestyle to which she has become accustomed.

D’Ya Think?

 

Crap! reacting to headlines on MSM sites is likely about as real a waste of time as exists in this universe, but there’s this on the landing page of the Globe this morning:

On the verge of being dethroned, Christy Clark’s BC Liberals seek atonement

It remains to be seen whether Clark will actually move out of the way. Certainly the publication of a piece by the Times Colonist written by none other than Perhaps-Shoulda-Oughta-Be-A-Guest-Of-Her-Majesty Gary Collins is emblematic of the coverage given by Postmedia folks and their ilk of the hazards of the Dipper-Green Arrangement, and as a long and tainted history has shown us, most anything wrought by Clark & Co. is likely not at all what it seems. You can almost hear the little crabs crawling around under the rock over the noise of the tide clamouring for change.

There is talk of flip-flops on donations, Oh,well, what have we here? this is the same idea floated tin the legislature six times by the opposition and which polled a vast majority of support from friend and foe alike. but was rejected by those who benefit most, and, strangely enough, have continued to benefit since the election of May 9. It reeks of closing the barn door about the time that the last horse wheezes across the finish line, and that’s without the caveat so often in play with Miz Christy: When? You can easily feature the interior chuckle when this promise materializes in the Throne Speech with the unspoken little thought bubble hanging over her head reading; “When hell freezes over!” It’s also easy for us to visualize the crossed finger behind her back, right over the tramp stamp of a leech emblazoned with the family motto: “Sucker!”

The same applies to the revelation that there is a bit of an *ahem* social deficit stemming from the last sixteen years of corporate giveaways, environmental rapine, a general tapping down the heads of those Less-Fortunate-But-Always-Wtih-Us poor folks, a rise in whose rates would impede the dotting of the landscape with bloated and useless megaprojects dreamed up like so many erector sets for the SNC-Lavalin types and their brethren whose names so prominently grace the BC Liberal donor lists.

Patience. Vigilance. A hair-trigger on saying what needs to be said as a veritable tsunami of bluster, wishful thinking and outright lies washes over the province. I really would like to see Messers. Weaver and Horgan get to put their political experiment to the test. Another election right away? Not so keen just yet, but that would also get us a look at the underlying strength of the NDP-Green accord: how would these two and their henches work out some form of collaboration to ensure that Clark loses the keys to the kingdom and that they would be able to move forward with a mutually-agreed program of forward motion and redress of wrong doings by the current régime.

Bullshit Baffles Brains

Uniconformity? Photo by Scott Webb, via Unsplash (https://unsplash.com)

 

It’s no mystery that there is a serious crisis in the operation of human society, and there are many explanations for why this has come to pass, but it looks increasingly as though humanity may be nothing more than a failed evolutionary gambit and that we are about to bring our temple down around our own ears in the most Samson-like fashion, at least partly through a lack of ability to deploy the reasoning that was touted as the distinguishing feature of humanity (our opposable thumbs may have been the instrument of our undoing).

 

This thought got somewhat focused most recently via a piece from urban homesteader Erica Strauss about the fine experience she has had schooling her children at home. There are a couple of really important and relevant reasons why this works, and she lays all this out in a very readable and thought-provoking manner that leaves me with more questions than answers (as thought-provoking pieces should).

Reason number 5 is a good place to start, because it is at the source of all that ensues. Says Ms. Strauss:

The Vice Principal isn’t a bad person, but her world is juggling legally mandated administrative bullshit constantly. I have very little tolerance for administrative bullshit on a good day, and when I think it’s jeopardizing the safety of my kid…well, I know a few terms that describe how deep inside the administrator’s intestinal tract such concerns should be filed, but they might scorch the eyeballs of our more delicate readers.

The public education system has become increasingly tied up with administrative constraints as a succession of governments in most locales have become more prescriptive about what will and what will not be taught and about how student and faculty interactions will be moderated. This, of course, coincides with the rise of litigious behaviour on the part of most everyone concerned with education. In most jurisdictions, the clear trend over that last half century has been to standardization of both instruction and of evaluation and the questions and answers that guide the educational process have been increasingly written by people who know how to run a business within the current paradigm and are more concerned with perpetuating that paradigm than they are with providing an education that will produce a society whose citizens will have some sense of belonging to a common, yet flexible entity. The intellectual and emotional agility to navigate and sustain the sense of belonging and the flexibility to tolerate and encourage a multiplicity of approaches to participating in and shaping society is difficult to engender when the answers must be machine-scored multiple choice in nature, and often, if there is only one right answer, the question it asked would have been totally irrelevant. The saddest part is that the education system abhors unresolved questions and conflicts and enforces conformity of one kind or another using the biggest hammer it can find. It’s the kind of authoritarian treatment that many would like to be able to implement themselves, but that has produced a likely preponderance of students who come through the system with a sense of having survived rather than having been launched on a path to some version of fulfillment.

From this idea stems the rest of the reasons for keeping the kids at home. “It fits our lifestyle” may not be for everyone, especially a household where either or both parents (or a single parent) has an enforced schedule that precludes any thought of spending any substantial part of the day with the offspring, but obviously works for those who have created a life that revolves around the homestead and where both parents, in this case, can devote time to both direct instruction and to the creation of experiential learning events. If we consider that the whole of the school day can be devoted to a “field trip” where there are directed experiences and reflections, we are already likely to generate more curiosity and interest that we would with the typical day in public schools shuffling from one desk to the next, and the encouragement to reflection without outside direction gives the possibility of even greater exploration and synthesis.

A quick digression might be appropriate here, because this is not intended as a diatribe against public schooling. There are many teachers and administrators who go to great lengths to provide students with the opportunity to engage in experiences that will stimulate reflection and questioning. There are, thankfully, still field trips, visiting guest speakers, internet explorations, work experience and other vehicles deployed by concerned educators to flesh out the bare bones of an educational curriculum that is almost constantly in need of supplementation. These educators also know how to modify and adapt both standard curriculum to the needs, readiness and abilities of their students, and they also understand that the impact of the experiences may be delayed as students process and integrate what they have seen, heard, smelled, tasted, touched and shared with other students and staff. However, not all educators operate on this premise, and even those who do face enormous constraints in terms of time, resources and money, as well as strictures in operating procedures and militate against the implementation of anything that deviates in the slightest from the core curriculum and the published institutional routines.

Free from these strictures, parents can achieve what most educators can only admire from afar, and Ms. Strauss is quick to acknowledge that helping hands are readily available:

The resources for homeschooling in our area are incredible. We live in a little pocket of suburban Seattle with many homeschooling families and strong school district support for homeschoolers. In fact, there is a public homeschooling school – with a campus and everything – that we partner with.

If society encourages home schooling and fosters the initiative of parents by providing  resources and constructive guidance, and if there are other homeschooling parents willing to share resources and perspectives, the chances of desirable outcomes are considerably enhanced. This goes hand in glove with being curriculum nerds:

Tactically, we find the planning aspect of homeschooling just kinda…fun. My husband has his masters degree in Adult Education and designs educational curriculum for a living, and nothing makes me happier than a complicated, intricate project requiring nerdy research and multiple spreadsheets. Ask us to plan 4 years of classical high school education and we’ll call that date-night.

I suspect that the Strauss couple has much to contribute to the home schooling of other students in this little universe, endnote everyone would consider the development of learning maps for students to be pleasure on the “date night” scale, but almost everyone can have something to add to the resource pot and many can benefit from the expertise of those who know how to encourage and channel learning.  This is like public school with only the enthusiastic and knowledgeable educators and without the strictures and administrative bullshit.

The other two reasons fall into the general heading of a process that allows for allotment of time according to the needs of the student and the homeschooling parents:

 

Early grade homeschooling is more like one-on-one tutoring. Unless (student) is a giant ass, it takes us about 45 minutes a day to do a core curriculum – what we call “table work.” We cover math, phonics, handwriting, and reading. He’s 6, heading into 1st grade. That’s all he needs. Over the course of the day we also do history, some art, some science – but that happens more organically. That leaves him a lot of time to still be a kid and just play or deep-dive on his interests.

 

 

 

 

Homeschooling makes traveling with children so much easier. You can take advantage of off-season discounts and odd-routings to nab great deals on airfare, apartment rentals and more. You can hit popular destinations off-peak and spend less time battling crowds who all have the same 10 day spring break window.

 

There are some students who go through the standard school system as happy campers, navigating the shoals of curriculum, regimentation, staff and student personality issues and general growing pains with a minimum of fuss. For many, there are anxieties and conflicts to the degree where these vicissitudes can’t be seen as an opportunity to generalize and synthesize some constructive learning. and where the greatest need is for refuge: home schooling can provide that cocoon, but what Ms. Strauss shows is that there is more than shelter in the home school, that learning happens at all hours of the day and night and in physical surroundings far removed from the classroom. The outdoors can be the place and time for all manner of “curriculum fulfillment”, as can time spent at work with a parent, or a trip to the beach, or a visit to a local merchant, baker, or animation studio. Even those who are well-adapted to the maladaptive system often do a great deal of their real learning outside of the classroom, particularly once they can read, and as they learn to observe and interact with their surroundings, the whole world becomes the classroom in a way that is much less constricted than it has perforce to be for those spending the bulk of their days within the four walls of the schoolhouse. If a student doesn’t have to measure learning by keeping pace with his peers in a class, then time and space can be trump cards rather than limitations.

The fly in the ointment arises from this question:

If society is a common undertaking, how much commonality to we need to make it work?

A look at what goes on in what passes for society of late indicates that there is a lot of pull in different directions, intellectually, politically, spiritually and economically that makes us look more like cohabitants than social beings, and, with the “Let’s go to Mars first” crowd, we seem even less inclined to even cohabitate. The recent rise of the terms Fake News and Alternate Facts seems symptomatic of the splintering of any coherent knowledge that would bind us together as a society, and it looks, as times, as though there is an amorphous mass of humanity that is so deeply asleep as to be incapable even of denial of the need to establish common knowledge and, horrors, common sense. The way our current education system works, it seems unlikely that it can be much of a remedy for our current quandary, and the kind of home schooling undertaken by folks such as the Strauss family is great for those who have parents willing to shoulder the load, but for those students without such parents, the options close up quickly, and there will also be those who are homeschooled with the idea of narrowing the education to a set of tenets held closely and dearly by the educating parents who wish to isolate their progeny from the hurly-burly of broader society, meaning that there is a good possibility of cultivating citizens unwilling to participate and interact with all manner of groups in society that don’t share their world view.

There is, of course, no easy answer, and I fear that time and inertia will militate against our being able to achieve some sort of consensus balance in our educational endeavours, though Finland seems to have devised a system where they rely on a short school year, short school days, an inclusive and flexible curriculum implemented by concerned and involved parents and educators and which acknowledges the central rôle played by parents and students in engendering learning outside of school locations and hours. However, even the implementation of that sort of structure seems hard to envision in our current circumstances.

I, of course, have all the answers, but mostly, so does everyone else.

What Turns Up Sometimes

This was a comment left by Scotty On Denman. Given the long hiatus before the wars at the Rockpile start up again in earnest, I thought it worthy of a look.

 

Voters do not need to vote en mass for the Greens to end up with a BC Liberal government by way of splitting the vote: even if half of polled citizens who say they support the Greens actually voted for them, it would likely return the BC Liberals. All reasonable measures suggest Green support is very soft; sure, lots of citizens would like to vote Green, and probably for more than simply environmental reasons, but will vote strategically for the NDP which is the only party that has a realistic chance of beating the BC Liberals—besides, the parties’ respective environmental platforms are much closer together than either’s are to the BC Liberals’ who are essentially the environmental bad guys in this play.

No serious restructuring of the economy or society is on offer, nor are there compelling reasons for undertaking such before a return to observing laws that already exist happens. Many of the problems we have in BC are due to flagrant breaches of trust by the BC Liberal government that include breaking campaign promises in a very big way (eg. BCR, HST and LNG), blatant conflicts of interest, cronyism, secrecy and numerous negligence in enforcing all kinds of laws and regulations.

We already have a plurality system that rewards parties which build bigger tents through compromise. Otherwise there is no constitutional alternative allowed for the passage of bills, that is, by a simple majority of parliamentary votes. This is true regardless of electoral system, despite claims by pro-reppers that parliamentary voting will be somehow different under pro-rep; it wouldn’t be, and neither would the Westminster parliamentary system’s primary strength: confidence (pro-reppers have been known to make claims that ignore this immutable fact).

Everything you suggest should get done by an NDP government I agree with except for pro-rep. It’s the very last thing a new government should embroil itself in, especially in BC where there’ll be plenty of more important work in forensic discovery and remediation of BC Liberal damage to the public weal, and where STV was rejected twice, by twice the margin the second time as the first. We should take a lesson from the federal electoral reform debacle: never let partisans decide anything about electoral systems. In time an older NDP government might consider referring electoral reform to the proper agency, Elections BC, the only one with the proven impartiality and expertise to address reform to the extent voters want.

Although Citizens’ Initiative has frustrated many voters (reminding that it was designed by partisans under political imposition, not by an impartial agency like Elections BC in response to public will), it seems, with regard “Recall,” unreasonable to allow less than 40% of riding voters to overturn an election result (the designers couldn’t very well set the threshold at 50% because the target MLA could well have won the seat in the first place with less that 50% of the votes, nor could they very well allow only 30% to overturn an election else a revolving door of Recalls and by-elections interrupt with Westminster parliament’s prime directive to pass legislation whenever it’s needed and in a timely way (parliamentary confidence precludes legislative gridlock). No Recall has succeeded in BC despite over two dozen attempts.

The Anti HST Petition, on the other hand, was much more successful, in fact setting an important international precedent: it led to the first time in eight centuries of Commonwealth parliamentary history that a legislated tax was rescinded by force of popular measure. In BC that simply meant the HST was rejected at referendum—although that mail-in ballot voting system experience (not to be confused with electoral systems) should have taught us a lesson that such voting systems should not be allowed due to inherent veracity and fraud problems; banning online voting and mail-in ballots would be a welcome reform.

But these experiences have suggested improvements more practical than firing MLAs with ease. The Petition rules of CI do not include binding MLAs to a clear vote in the Assembly; Campbell could have legally addressed the Petition by simply introducing the matter on the order paper, the Petition only having legal force to make MLAs acknowledge it in session. Referendum is of course another way to address the Petition but, even then, Campbell set the threshold to a level he considered politic—50%—when he could have quite legally set it higher. Taking these kinds of discretions away from partisan politicians might be a worthy reform of CI.

The designers of CI also wrestled with California-style Propositions, but shied away, recognizing existing reticence among the electorate who were well aware of the excesses of such CI tactics in that state. These matters might be addressed in order to allow, but ameliorate the pitfalls of, Proposition rules such as we’ve seen down south.

In any case, as the words Citizens’ Initiative implies, it’s largely up to citizens to make it work, whatever the rules; they have to get involved—and no legislation will make that happen short of compulsory voting. Perhaps we could have a referendum—see how many turn out.

The easiest and quickest way to improve BC politics is to get campaign financing under control, and that means first getting rid of the BC Liberals who will never acquiesce when in power, and who might very well never get a chance, after forensic investigation of the books (assuming they lose), to win power again—if only they’re disconnected from it just once.

 

 

No original Dylan on Y’Tube, so Robben will have to do.

Comfortably Numb

Slacking off because things are busy, but also because I needed a bit of a break from the tension inherent in any discussion how we govern ourselves, the odd time when we get the opportunity.

So I got a notice that WordPress needed to update the site, and there was this comment awaiting moderation, from Scotty on Denman, a cogent bit that I will feature prominently if he gives permission. Crap! I’ve dropped the ball, so I guess I better pick it up, given that we continue to live in interesting times and there is still a crying need for perspective from the proponents of a generous and inclusive society.

Au revoir, Monsieur Nul, sans remerciements pour le poisson

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

The Outsiders Have Won! (?)

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

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

How To Shorten Debates

 

 

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

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

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