Perplexity over the Fiscal Cliff

Here we have a manufactured crisis whose downstream effects are likely being blown all out of proportion in aid of the expedited dismantling of social programs and the preservation of the legalized larceny produced by preferential treatment for the wealthy. The rhetoric is everywhere in the media and the same reliable sources trot out the same sham justifications, including a few gratuitous statements from Jordan Bateman of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation who is quick to assure us that any further load on either the wealthy or their corporations will impede the recovery, preclude job creation and stall a return to economic growth. Leaving the tangent growth discussion for the moment, it is clear that increased revenue for the wealthy and corporations does not equal job creation, that any job that can be outsourced will be outsourced, that the lowest price is the law in terms of the labour component of production. Much of this crisis was brought on by a series of tax cuts instituted during the Bush presidency, cuts that were of exclusive benefit to top income earners. Their puppets in the House of Representatives are fighting any return to a tax policy that would spread the load in a more equitable manner, holding onto that their greed generated and utterly unwilling to concede that they should surrender any of the economic privilege they’ve managed to build up. They also wish to cut entitlement programs, Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security, to privatize whatever they can so that the vast pools of taxpayer capital get turned over to the Wall Street bankers while at the same time further marginalizing the most vulnerable in society and all those who have paid relatively large amounts of their life earnings into these programs. The really sad part is where all the newspaper, radio, television and web networks continue to sow dread and uncertainty without explaining anything about the source of the potential upset: the same greedy folks who pillaged and plundered their way through the Bush years, the financial crisis (ongoing), TARP and subsequent bailouts, quantitative easing and the ongoing war dividend. The picture is clear enough: we can’t continue to take out more than we put in, and it’s the usual suspects that continue to be the embodiment of Dave Mason’s admonition in the title of a song: “You Shouldn’t Have Took More Than You Gave”.

Update: Lo! a more scholarly and in-depth analysis can be found at:

Go, Go, Go, Little Queenie (Pope Benedict, Stephen Harper, et al)

Queen Elizabeth has spoken in her traditional Christmas message, all surrounded with video clips, musical interludes and a glimpse or two into one or another of her royal residences in which choirs and chamber orchestras entertain her/us at her behest. She trumpets her sixty years on the throne and the efforts of the brigades of volunteers who allowed the staging of celebrations for her diamond jubilee, as well as the hosting of the summer olympic games and then launches into a homily about the arrival of Christ in the manger and how we should have a thought for those who suffer at this time of year from the loss of loved ones or who heed the call of duty to provide service to queen and country and are thus unable to spend the holidays with their loved ones. Pope Benedict takes a minute to comment on the plight of those in Syria and other conflict spots and much the same drivel popes have spouted for centuries about the need for piety and charity. Stephen Harper tells us he’s working for jobs and prosperity for all of us, though his twisted definition of prosperity for most of us may not coincide with what we might have had in mind. Does anyone else find it ironic and somewhat galling to have people who wield relatively vast power and wealth lecture the rest of us on the need to give? It seems clear that charity is the key to more charity: charity has become an industry, and an industry that supports hierarchies of people who shouldn’t be at the top of the list as beneficiaries. It seems, for instance, that Galen Weston has managed to direct a significant portion of donations to President’s Choice charities into management and further fund-raising, rather than to those in need. Likewise, Corus Radio, patrons of the Children’s Charity Fund, benefited from the charity to the tune of nearly a million dollars, and this in an economic climate where the numbers of children living in poverty is increasing (this information was from documents posted at Norm Farrell’s Northern Insights blog). While the pontifications on charity and goodwill ring out, these same folks are either directly responsible for, or complicit in, the ongoing pillaging of the African continent, a considerable portion of the chafing in the Middle East, heightened tensions in Asia and a plethora of nasty undertakings in Latin America.

Perhaps the following is not directly connected to the Christmas blather, but it certainly is another piece of the same puzzle picture: we’ve been bombarded recently with a series of ads sponsored by the Catholic Church in which lapsed Catholics are exhorted to “come home”. They probably hope to snare the odd other otherwise committed religionist with tales about how they are the largest charitable organization in the world, that they have educated more children than any other organization in the world … exactly the sort of half-truths that pervade the world of commercial promotion, coyly eliminating mention of the abuses suffered in parochial schools, both residential and otherwise, the phenomena of meddling in politics at all levels, the Inquisition and, perhaps more than anything else, the idea that these clowns have been around for two millennia and have still failed to resolve any substantive questions of poverty, war, disease, inequity and the unsustainability of our current economic paradigm. It’s difficult for people who exercise a bit of reason to take the lead from an organization that has, for centuries, impeded social progress, rejected equality for more than half of the world’s population, stifled initiatives to better the condition of much of humanity and actively supported régimes around the world and through history that have stood for none of the basic tenets of Christianity. We can say similar things about religious and political hierarchies all around the world, but these ads speak of a brazen and wanton disregard for history and current affairs in a most shocking way.

In contrast, there are groups like Strike Debt that are trying to do real good, albeit using what might be termed market solutions:

While this can be only a stopgap at best, it’s proof that there are people working creatively to build a more constructive approach to social and economic interaction. The end we should seek is not the forgiveness of distressed debt, but the redress of the circumstances that generated the debt in the first place. As long as we substitute charity for opportunity and bow down before the rich and powerful, there will be little in the way of a better world in this life, even if the Pope tells us that we will be better off in the next life. Personally, I’m unwilling to take that on faith, or to wait idly for the promised paradise. How we get to that society of opportunity and mutual support is a very large discussion, one that is happening in various places, and which is well understood by a minority, but it will take a considerable effort to overcome the inertia of current institutions and some courage, particularly on the part of the segments of the population that continue to live in relative comfort.


Tristones, or, Hometown Boy and Girl Make Good

... at The Puddle Duck

… at The Puddle Duck


Went to the Puddle Duck Pub, formerly the Arlington, last evening to catch a set by the Tristones, mostly because Trevor Falls, the drummer, is my godson, and his sister Lauren, is the bassist. In a way, this is a little funny, because both of these musicians have a strong background in many kinds of music, mostly jazz, but this seems to be what they do for a bit of fun over the Christmas break, when Trevor comes back to the Coast from Toronto and Lauren takes a break from her endeavours in New York.

So these three talented musicians played a lively set of a mix of original tunes and some covers, including a couple of my own favourites, Midnight Rider and an opener of Led Boots, from Jeff Beck’s ’70s repertory. Tristan Clark is a very capable guitar slinger an showed lots of chops right off the bat with Trevor and Lauren driving the whole thing along nicely.

The Puddle Duck is an interesting place, what with some seeming leftovers in the crowd from the old Arlie days, some casual business and, on this occasion, a lot of local supporters of the band. It’s fun to see who shows up to support the band, especially with all the connections that the Falls family has in the community.

It’ll be worth a look into their next performance at the Rainbow Room on New Year’s Eve, following a rather different show for Trevor and Lauren at the Cellar in Vancouver on the 29th and 30th with, amongst others, Seamus Blake. This is the Bop Tarts doing compositions by Lauren and her friend, Vickie Yang.

Lauren, Trevor and friends play in the Little Big City

Lauren, Trevor and friends play in the Little Big City

Idle Too Long

I watched a speech given by François Hollande in Algeirs yesterday in which he made it clear that he wouldn’t apologize for the colonial occupation of Algeria by France, but that the truth of the occupation needed to be spoken, made plain for all to see, that truth being that the colonial period was a period of brutality, exploitation, massacres and torture. His lack of willingness to apologize was linked to his being of a generation that was too young to have participated in the suppression of colonial peoples. We don’t have that luxury here in that “our” people have continued to pursue a policy of social, economic and cultural suppression right up to the present day, and the culmination of that policy is the passage of yet another omnibus budget bill by the Harper government in which they enforce a false accountability on First Nations to which they, especially do not adhere. The bill also contains further provisions to sidetrack and criminalize anything that inhibits the Wild West expansion of Canada’s energy infrastructure and mining undertakings, the benefit of which will be bled off to the U.S. and China with crumbs to the investment class here in Canada, and the downstream consequences of which will be shouldered by Canadians, and, disproportionately, by Canada’s First Nations as the whole idea of treaty rights goes out the window and land that should be set aside for First Nations gets dug up for bitumen, waters are drained out of systems on which First Nations depend and befouled in a way that threatens the health of wildlife and of the people who depend on those systems for their lives and livelihoods. This bill, it bears mentioning, will also move us closer to weather disasters occasioned by damage to the climate from the indiscriminate burning of fossil fuels, to continued extinction of species, and to economic and social disruptions to which no one will be immune, not even those deniers who will think themselves well-insulated in their armed and gated communities. First Nations have been positioned as the last best line of defines against the ravages of colonial industrial devastation, and bill C-45 is a stealth bomb intended to remove that line of defence. I guess I can’t apologize for anyone else, but I can express my regret that I’ve been part of a system that denies a reasonable life to many citizens, but none more consciously and consistently as the First Nations.

Papal Bull

So the Pope has wants to ally himself with the leaders of other religions to combat gay marriage. Isn’t it just sad that this crew are such bad stewards of what they call creation that they can’t think of anything better to address than who sleeps with who. It’s particularly galling when one of humanity’s greatest challenges comes from overpopulation and the Catholic Church has stood steadfastly on the side of exacerbating the problem, preventing birth control wherever possible and ensuring that women’s health initiatives that would lead to smaller families and poverty reduction are thwarted at every turn. In a world of violence, both casual and institutional, inequity, corruption and depravity, Rome remains fixated on whether homosexuals should have the same rights as heterosexuals. RESH; seems to be about all a body can do.

A Comment On Charity

I left this as a comment at Northern Insights:


Long ago, it dawned on me that charity was a way for people who had taken too much to organize the rest of society into giving time, goods and money to fill the gaps left by their own accumulations of wealth and power. This became particularly and painfully evident in some of the early rounds of trashing the contracts of health workers at the dawn of the BC Liberals new economic paradigm for BC, where the Salvation Army became a contractor taking over various services with stripped contracts, while at the same time holding onto large reserves of cash and property. In a sign of the irony of charities engaging in business, it was about this time that the SA became a listed entity on the NASDAQ: I’ll leave the religious niceties to others, but it was emblematic of the whole charity industry, where many good people work their hearts out in the service of outsourcing the principal business of society: making life livable for all, but whose efforts ultimately serve the desires of a small, greedy and uncaring minority. The rise of food banks in the early ’80s seemed like a lovely gesture, but the fact that they have become such a fixture and are so burdened with a constant stream of new clientèle and a reduced donor base speaks volumes for the direction that governance has taken at all levels of society. The sad part is that it is very difficult find productive outlets for effort and money to address the root causes of poverty and inequality because politics and the judiciary have been compromised and the public in general is held in thrall to a game of governance where there is no ethical choice: our collective ignorance perpetuates a fear-based participation in a vicious cycle of limited choices and no clear path to true social investment. The whole of an economy based on growth and consumption produces a soul-stealing inequality where those who “have” are driven to accumulate for fear of becoming one of those who “have not”, this dispossessed and disenfranchised whose designated image is that of social discard. I know people who are sponges, welfare bums and leeches, but they are few in relation to the overall ranks of strugglers, who, like most of us, need only a realistic opportunity to make a contribution to become constructive members of a larger community. Even one who writes very bad poetry or makes very bad music is less of a drain on society and the environment than someone who plies the same trade in aid of advertising campaigns to encourage further consumption, yet the Madison Avenue copywriters and jingle composers are well remunerated while we scrape to help look after those deprived of opportunity and a decent living. This rather long-winded diatribe hardly scratches the surface, and doesn’t deal with the pillage of resources outside out borders, thinking of Fantino’s recent pronouncements about how Canadian aid overseas should work, but even without looking outside our own house, there is enough of a pall to incite us to some form of constructive action beyond supporting charities of any stripe.

I saw this over at Libération this morning (not available to non-subscribers and not really accessible to those who don’t read French): the title says most of what we need to know and most of us can fill in the blanks. Pardon the substandard translations (I haven’t read a cereal box for decades)

«Respectés, les gens veulent s’en sortir»

When people are respected, they want to get back in the game.

Prix imbattables contre suivi individuel. L’épicerie sociale de Saint-Flour, dans le Cantal, cherche à rompre avec la «politique du don».

Unbeatable prices versus individual attention. The social grocery of Saint-Flour, in the Cantal, looks to break from the “policy of donations”.


For subscribers to Libération, the URL is:

And, for interest’s sake, here is a perspective piece from Rafe Mair’s site:

My mother died an activist, as did my father ( some time earlier: he missed the last decade of accelerating devastation both in the ecosphere and the sociosphere). I hope I have the cussedness to do the same.

Joseph Heller Couldn’t Have Written It Up Any Better

Israel and the Palestinian Authority are both the objects of largesse in the form of aid, though the vibrant Israeli economy would seem to indicate that there isn’t really a great deal of need (I suspect most of it goes down the armaments rabbit hole). Nonetheless, they get a significantly greater amount than their Palestinian friends, those who live is displaced poverty and whose resettlement areas continue to be gnawed away by Israeli settlements (fair dealing: those rockets that get lobbed at Ashkelon and Tel Aviv must eat up some of the funds, or constitute another form of aid from friendly states). But it seems the height of Catch-22 absurdity to funnel aid to Palestinians through the Israeli government where they can just cut off the flow of funds as they threaten to do in the wake of the UN acceptance of Palestine as a non-member observer. The Israeli and Palestinian friends seem to be going through a bit of a rough patch, and this arrangement would be like funnelling my allowance through my elder brother’s account, even as we might be coming to blows over the amount of space allotted to each of us in a shared bedroom. It says loudly and clearly that the donor states/organizations regard the Palestinian cause as immature and unworthy of control of its own resources, unless, of course, the Israelis are holding these donor states/organizations hostage in some way. Yossarian would be proud of these folks.

The Embarrassment That Is Rob Ford

There are a ton of people in the public eye who seem to have no shame and little sense that they need to separate their public and private livers: Rob Ford looks from here to be as much of an archetype as a body could want. Council meetings are so prosaic they put him to sleep, the cure for which seems to be missing them altogether, or leaving early to go coach a high school football team, a team that seems to have the benefit of TTC taxi service to the detriment of a swack of passengers removed from a city bus so that Ford’s team could have a ride. And what don’t we get about the need to pay attention on the road? Everyone else is at risk when a driver texts or reads behind the wheel, but it’s quite all right for Hizzoner. Whatever the whole sad litany turns out to be, Mr. Ford doesn’t seem to see what the problem is, even when he votes on money matters where he clearly has a stake in the outcome. Hmmm. Would that Mr. Ford be an exceptional case, but we seem to live in a world where sociopaths are thick on the ground, where none of these clowns is at all responsible for anything and where the public not only gets stuck with the downstream effects, but seems either silly enough or ignorant enough, or both, to hand the reins of power and pocketbook to legions of immoral twits. Given the propensity that much of the citizenry shows for lounging with reality television and spending themselves into debt while the commons disappears along with the biosphere, there doesn’t seem to be a lot for humanity (or the rest of life) to look forward to. You’d think Mr. Mayor could at least have the good grace to say “Oops!” and become a full-time coach and whatever else he did before he turned municipal politics into a gong show.