Tell the Truth?

I come to bury Caesar…

The outpouring of adulatory sentiment in the wake of the passing for former PM Brian Mulroney leaves me somewhat bitter and scratching my head. While not totally unmitigated, I can only see his time in office as a disaster. He was less elected in 1984 than John Turner was turfed unceremoniously from office  for leading a tired and scandal-ridden régime left in his charge by a Pierre Trudeau become arrogant frustrated, and impatient, promising a new government of openness, transparency and honesty. It was a manner of only weeks before the Oerlikon scandal broke, only the first in a long series that eventually consigned the Mulroney to a fate similar to John Turner in 1993, where the Conservative Party was reduced to two seats in Parliament. Despite shepherding some “green” initiatives and working to end apartheid in South Africa, Mulroney’s close relationship with a caustic US administration based on a personal relationship with Ronald Reagan and a community of interest in expanding unfettered capital dominance across North America and around the world worked to ensure that no meaningful action would be taken to mitigate most of the looming environmental crises or the damage to society from the privatization of public assets and the institution of Free Trade, NAFTA, and the GST.

Various laudatory bits on Briam Mulroney from the  Globe and Mail

Oh, Brian, did we really know ye?

A raft of politicians of many stripes ran to the  nearest microphone to sing Mulroney’s praises, but there was little mention of all the dark and dubious transactions that marked bhs time in office and the aftermath, wherein he continued to be a standard bearer in the international community for the Con program of privatization and austerity that continues to plague us with very real consequences to this day and well into the foreseeable future. As we can see from the front page of the G&M’s site, the same treatment is being prepared for out current PM, though he’s young enough that we have to wait some time to see the outpouring of fawning smarm.

This happened again recently with the passing of a local politician who was praised to the heavens for her profound influence on local politics… politics that have remained unaltered since long before her election to council and that are likely to persist well into whatever future we may face. This is not advocacy for speaking ill of the dead, but rather for telling true stories, however uncomfortable they may be. As long as we keep those rose-coloured glasses perched on the end of our noses, we are unlikely to engage in the hard work of facing down nasty environmental, social and economic quagmires.




…is, according to an article linked to the Globular Male front page, the most liveable city in Canada:

A fair city.

I’m reminded of the lyrics I first heard from Joan Baez long ago:

What hills, what hills are those, my love
That rise so fair and high?
Those are the hills of heaven, my love
But not for you and I

And what hills, what hills are those, my love
Those hills so dark and low?
Those are the hills of hell, my love
Where you and I must go.

The price of both rents and real estate ownership, as well as the disconnect between prices and current salary levels are an inhibiting factor in keeping people as far as possible from agglomerations with favourable climate, cultural depth and diversity, and security of life and limb. Victoria is also in the throes of becoming a victim of its own success, a process of Cory Doctorow’s enshittification and the fraying of the fabric of society.


Do ya think?

According to the Globular Mail, the competent authorities (already tells you something) have approved the takeover of HSBC by RBC. They likely have some justification or another but it really doesn’t matter. RBC wanted it, so it’s not a big surprise that after much hemming and hawing and seeming deliberations on behalf of the Canadian public, the green flag came out. Once again the system feeds itself, as it intended. Who knew?

Cause for Pause

You’re not supposed to get it!

Henry The K has left the building

Henry Kissinger doctored head shot

Listen to them fawn

Going about my business here at the old homestead,  I was treated to a snippet of news from our public broadcaster on the passing of Henry Kissinger, the puppetmaster of foreign policy under Nixon and Ford. The piece included a eulogy from Anthony Blinken, the current Secretary of State, extolling his influence on history, an influencer of which the current generation of media mongrels would have difficulty conceiving. Jaysus Murphy, they even gave the guy a Nobel Peace Prize. At least Obama got his before he started serious bombing operations.

Once Blinken was done with his little bit of praising Caesar, the news reader noted only that he had had the ear of powerful people right up until his death yesterday at the age of 100. They didn’t mention that he never did go to Oslo, and that this was due to the prospect of being arrested for war crimes. Kissinger was a major architect of US policy in the ’70s and particularly in Southeast Asia, although it seems clear that he might very possibly been at the root of the unceremonious unseating of the Allende government in Chile, as well as a good bit of the strife and instability that characterized life in most of Central America both during K’s tenure and after. But the CBC doesn’t see fit to mention any of what, for people who read a little more broadly, constitutes a legacy akin to Pol Pot, but which doesn’t quite rise to the glory of the Belgian monarchy, of Stalin, of Hitler, of Mao. His pals call him a master of Realpolitik. They are enablers of war criminals, and CBC, by its silence becomes, in however minor a way, complicit.

The more we sweep this stuff under the carpet, the more death and destruction we will be forced to endure.



Luke McQueary plays a T-style on stage

Luke McQueary


There is often either an overt, or sometimes tacit, link between music and political/social issues. what with the protest songs of the Fifties and Sixties, Woody Guthrie before that, the whole punk thing… I recall being thrilled to hear that Bonnie Raitt and John Hall had both been part of a No More Nukes benefit back in the late Seventies, and there have been whiffs of rebellion in the ranks from time to time in the intervening years, though none of it seems to have influenced those with influence to do the right thing.

So bear with me here, because there are some somewhat divergent threads that are coalescing in the meninges and the connections might not seem coherent from the outset.

So I play around with guitars, a lot of it pretty simple stuff, though there have been times when I actually pursued it and gained a bit of traction. I have also listened to a ton of mostly really wonderful playing and continue to enjoy a wide variety of (especially guitar)  music.

I played with some folks for a short stint over the winter of 93-94, in the course of which the host played us some Danny Gatton, brand new to me, partly because I had never been a fan of twang, and Danny’s stuff, covering many genres, always had that little taste of twang, even when he was pumping club jazz with organist Joey Defrancesco. Gatton was extra capable and would let you know it, often fierce and frenetic, but capable of playing pretty when the situation demanded. I went on a quest for all his stuff, and there’s a ton of it out there, more than enough of it on YouTube to satisfy most people’s curiosity, but I sought out all I could find on LP, on CD, on downloads.

Of course, contact with Danny Gatton lead to the discovery of a host of other fierce pickers, and recently, I’ve listened to a lot of Guthrie Trapp, and through him, Luke McQueary, both Telecaster Terrors operating out of Nashville (Go back and listen to the Lovin’ Spoonful’s “Nashville Cats” from about 1966), whose live recordings on Youtube are a treasure, sometimes exploring new tonal possibilities, sometimes revisiting a plethora of Merle Haggard, Jerry Lee Lewis, Buck Owens kind of tropes, most of which tends to float on the opposite end of the social spectrum from the snowflake sensibility sometimes ascribed to serious musicianship.

And so it came to pass that I kept looking at Luke McQueary’s videos until I ran across a quickie set he did with Kelly’s Heroes at the Ryman Auditorium (former home, for those who don’t follow this stuff, of the Grand Ole Opry) in Nashville, which seems a natural haunt for this crowd, the hitch (for me) being that it was closing out a talk by Dr. Jordan Peterson, a figure of some controversy, a person who, again for me, personnifies the desire on the part of those of privilege to eternalize that position in society. I disagree with him on most counts, but I know some thoughtful and intelligent folks who seem smitten with his aura.  In any case, it set me to wondering whether the presence of Kelly’s Heroes constitutes and endorsement of the Peterson Program, and sets off a niggling little voice in the back of my brain that says I shouldn’t listen to McQueary any more (all the more perplexing because I have watched the film “Kelly’s Heroes” several times and have always associated it with a level of quirk and nose-thumbing at the general establishment, particularly the Donald Sutherland character, that should place that cultural artifact squarely in the camp of the loose gooses).

Finally, I guess that I can’t be too wrapped up in such considerations, given the general state of the world.



My Eyes…

… are quite red from all the rubbing.

Here are a few items that have had my head swivelling back and forth, even as I rub my eyes:

Where’s the middle ground between authoritarianism and democracy?

As much as to say that you can neither be somewhat pregnant, nor somewhat fascist, and that that “fair and balanced” crap is just that, a fence on which to sit so as not to alienate anyone, especially paid advertisers.

Mussel Farming Is Healing the UK’s Coastal Food Chain

This resembles some of the work of the Savory Institute in rehabilitating land using integrated animal management to enhance the soil biome, increase plant diversity, deepen root masses and store carbon.

A figure from the past shows us something about the trajectory on which we find ourselves, in large part because of the influence of those bent on control and private gain, in this case, the military and arms manufacturers, in our current pass, those same as well as entrenched fossil fuel concerns, bankers, Big Ag, Big Pharma, Big Health, and a slew of governments and their attendant bureaucracies who are all too comfortable denying reality.

One of my primary bugaboos of late, wherein people directing society seem willing to slough of responsibility for the remediation of the ills created by a throwaway attitude towards whole segments of civilization and pass that on to the charity industry, composed of people wanting to do well for the less-fortunate, but having morphed into huge bureaucracies who look increasingly as though their real raison d’être is to ensure its own continued existence, rather than the elimination of the circumstances that cause poverty, homelessness, malnutrition, energy poverty and the like.

Owen Gray riffs on an article from Andrew Nikiforuk, an author not at all afraid of staying on point when the slogging is glum, frightening and depressing, on the state of our interactions with the COVID pandemic, and the willingness of our leadership to gloss over the harm for the economic benefits that wide-open business confers on us, or those that survive. There is also the little Montaigne quip in the header graphic about cowardice being the mother of cruelty that is worth a bit of contemplation in passing.

Rewilding the Political

Here is a piece that draws some neat parallels between some work that needs to be undertaken to ensure biodiversity in nature and how that approach might apply to a stultified and stagnant system of governance that builds in the exclusion of discussions of the most pressing problems and any likely real solutions, Much of this stems from the scaffold of regulation, law, and tradition put in place to support our current economic/social/environmental paradigm.

How do we address economic stress? We increase the tension, and in such a way that it had negative impacts on those most likely suffering already and leaves untouched the hoards of of them that’s already gots. This brings on a ton of thoughts about the nature of money and how it can be used as a weapon, as well as how we might revise our conception of wealth, its accumulation and distribution.

There is never a shortage of mental fodder for the serious grazer.


What?!! We’ve Been At War All This Time?


Recently, Canada and Denmark settled an outstanding dispute over the sovereignty of Hans Island, pictured above. The two countries decided to draw a line down the middle and split the island into Danish and Canadian zones. Until this settlement, there was apparently a rotation of visits by the respective navies of the two countries to substitute flags and leave a bottle of spirits for the other guys when they inevitably came on the same errand. Much was made of the peaceful nature of the conflict and the fact that it was finally settled through diplomatic channels rather than through the ruinous discharge of ordinance as is so often the case when international conflict arises, and not the least bit of irony seemed to leak into the announcements and the minor jubilation that accompanied the settlement.

The dispute and its settlement beg a few questions, the first of which is, who cares? I suppose the importance of the “territory” might touch on questions of control of navigation in Arctic waters, or of two hundred mile fishing boundaries, in which case there might be some question as to whether anything is truly settled. The second is enforcement: will there be customs and immigration stations set up to keep the Danes and Canadians on their own side of the island? Will Canadian mining interests begin drilling in such a way that it impedes the enjoyment of the Danes on the other side of the island?

Part of the charm of reading about the whiskey war was the patent and acknowledged absurdity of the affair, but the charm of the international farce is gone and we’re left with a feeling that a resolution better suited to our time of crises might have been an agreement that the island and the sea around it might have come under mutual protection and that people might actually stay the hell off it, leaving it to wildlife and protecting this and other areas from the predations of shipping, tourist and military traffic.

By Any Other Name

BC Liberals meeting in Penticton have accepted a motion to explore a name change, reminding me of how Arthur Andersen Accounting emerged from the Enron scandal as Accenture, and has been a burden on the public purse in that guise ever since. We must recall that the BC Liberals emerged under Gordon Wilson from the 1991 election that finally drove a stake through the heart of the Social Credit party, but the mantel of Liberal was soon cast aside in a palace revolt that brought Gordon Campbell to the leadership of the party, a man whose star rose with the advent of rampant crony capitalism and kleptocracy that will hobble the public treasury for decades to come.

It’s quite laughable to listen to the BC Libs in opposition as they not only switched sides of the house in 2017, but they now decry the same practices they instituted under Clark and Campbell, things like freedom of information, government advertising, and vanity projects requiring exorbitant spending. They’re sometimes right, because the New Dippers have turned out to be very much like the former governments in their disdain for the vast majority of the public and for the environment.

Rebranding is basically inferring that the zebra has changed his stripes and is substantially something other than what he used to be. I’m betting that the newly-named party will be very much the spitting image of the old in all manner of policy and execution, continuing the duopoly in BC politics, where the duality is mostly a matter of name and where good governance is hiding in the furthest corners of the back benches. Makes Furstenau and Olson look really good, but for their narrowest base of support.


Thanks to Anna Pavlin for posting this image at Unsplash.

“A rose by any other name would smell as sweet.”  –William Shakespeare

“Beauty’s only skin deep, but ugly is to the bone.”   —Alberto Gianquinto


Two Possible Paths

I live in a funny household. My wife is a devout Christian, I have no particular faith, and yet we live quite harmoniously.

She grew up in a Mennonite community and still has strong feelings of community relating to that crowd.

I was raised as a Catholic with decreasing strength of dogma as we all got older and the cognitive dissonance between the pulpit and reality became increasingly glaring.

Where appropriate, we support each others’ practices in search of making society a little better than it was when we first got here. We discuss, mostly in abstract terms, both religion and politics, but there never has been any proselytizing.

My wife is actively involved in several initiatives aimed at palliating the rampant poverty both at home and abroad. I pitch in occasionally, but I’ve long had the sense that charity is an excuse to continue with the outsized disproportion in economic benefit that characterizes our global economic and social system.

To that end, I have, for some decades now, been involved with groups whose aim is to build a more peaceable, caring and sharing system of distribution of goods and services, along with incorporating all people into the business of society with dignity and sense of belonging.

Both causes have, thus far, proven to be exercises in futility, giving rise to questions of the usefulness of both charitable work, and of efforts to eliminate the need for charity.

No answers, thus far, but we can let each other know when we find evidence of a better path.

Misplaced Priorities


So Mr. Horgan will spend the better part of a billion dollars on a rebuild of the Royal BC Museum and tout it as a vital step in reconciliation with First Nations…

I believe that it’s a good thing for a society to maintain artifacts that document its history and cultural antecedents, but this project speaks to a level of extravagance that defies comprehension. We have to wonder how much consultation there was with First Nations about the disposition of such a large whack of provincial funding at a time when the health system seems to be coming apart, when forestry is in ruins, when there are staffing crises in most sectors of the economy, and where civil service bargaining is on the horizon.

Is this the way that FN would choose to spend the loot? might there not be a need to reorient forestry and mining jobs to focus on a truly ecologically sound economy (Clean BC and current forest practices being basically business as usual)?

Here’s a cheap start: take the Royal moniker off the establishment. The Crown continues to be exploitative and contributes nothing other than some phony cachet to our institutions. We may not do so terribly well at governing ourselves (look at the two parties that have alternated in power and their tweedle-dee, tweedle-dum approach to multiple existential crises), but the need for this other layer of Crown interference perpetrates a long tradition of colonial exploitation and pomp that helps to exclude the little folk from the business of governing (as opposed to the political shenanigans that take up the bulk of question period).

Also, lest anyone think of this as an endorsement of any party currently active in BC, let the intellectual net be case a little more widely. The Green caucus has emitted a steady diet of common sense and bold initiative that is a marked contrast to either Liberal of NDP sludge, but a caucus of two and the lack of a coherent party apparatus (which may be what allows the quality of thought to seep through) eliminates the possibility of a government in any foreseeable future. The NDP has dropped the ball on so many fronts that they become almost indistinguishable from the Liberals who preceded them, and the current version of the Liberal Party seems to be just chomping at the bit to get their faces once again fully immersed in the trough of public largesse.

The prospects for both near and distant future become increasingly bleak with each advancing session of the legislature, and wandering off in the weeds with a cool billion is emblematic of our current willingness to bury our concerns in a stinking heap of indifference and vanity.

Addendum: note that Mr. Horgan, following cancer treatment is less filled out than he once was previously. This puts me in mind of a quip from Bertrand Russell that I quoted a couple of times to Scott Fraser when he was our MLA and held ministerial portfolios. The first time it was cautionary, the second in anger at the two-faced nature of the government in relation to Indigenous Relations and to all aspects of environmental policy. I’m feeling the same way with our current MLA and Minister of Municipal Affairs, Josie Osborne:

“No diet will remove all the fat from your body because the brain is entirely fat. Without a brain, you might look good, but all you could do is run for public office.”

“No diet will remove all the fat from your body because the brain is entirely fat. Without a brain, you might look good, but all you could do is run for public office.”

—Bertrand Russell