Doyle Cut Off



Yet another roadblock in the BC Rail affair: Justice Bauman of the BC Supreme Court has ruled that the Auditor General does not have a right to view all the documents relating to the $6 M settlement of Basi and Virk’s legal fees because it would breach solicitor/client provisions. These clowns have taken a plea, done light duty and escaped with their assets pretty much intact, it seems, while the citizens of BC look to have been bamboozled and robbed by the people who were supposed to look out for their interests. Everything about the whole process, the resulting raids and the ensuing judicial dance carries a whiff of barnyard mixed with brimstone, and at some point, having excused the accused from further prosecution, it seems like time to shine an array of lights under this rock. If there is nothing slimy there, we can put the rock back in place and leave it there, but there can be no accountability (a word so dear to Campbell and company) and no trust in the government or the political process as long as affairs are conducted behind multiple screens of secrecy by people who seem on the face of things to be as untrustworthy as a group could be. It will be interesting to see if a change of government in May produces a couple of results:

1) a complete reversal of the narrative of openness and transparency. Don’t say it, do it.

2) a complete reckoning with all and sundry involved in the privatization of common resources needed to keep the citizens of BC engaged in reasonable participation in their economy. Note that Liberals can’t even whimper about anything that any other government does, given their record of stonewalling.

Failure to follow up on these items will ensure that people will dissociate themselves from being part of the governance of their province, a short-term boon to those looking to profit from indifference and corruption, but a powder keg of discontent in the longer term.

A New Woman Premier


Congratulations to Kathleen Wynne on her election as the new leader of the provincial Liberal party in Ontario, meaning that she automatically becomes Premier of Ontario, the sixth woman in the current cohort of sitting Premiers. If we only counted Premiers, that would mean that we’re approaching fifty percent of the thirteen provinces and territories that are, putatively, governed by women. She is also the first openly homosexual person to be elected to such a high office, though we have had cabinet posts in Ottawa held by LGBTs.

Before proceeding, can we please stop and take a look at the difference between the rhetoric of Campaign Obama 2008 and the ensuing action? As we move into Obama’s second term in office, and as we reflect on another rousing speech at the Inauguration, do we seriously think that there will be the shift from the state surveillance, war, de facto austerity, Wall Street influence? It’s a big disappointment that the first Black POTUS raised our hopes (perhaps he could have been an inspiration to Harper-wait!- he has been) and then hired Tim Geithner, Eric Holder, Hilary Clinton, Arne Duncan and a bunch of other Wall Street/Inside-the-Beltway retreads to carry on the same old same old.

I wonder how people thought of Margaret Thatcher when she came to power? A woman in the PM’s chair? Hmmm… she outmanned the men, took an estrogen scalpel to the social safety net, marched off to war and helped set up an expanded role for the City in all things British, at home and abroad.

Kim Campbell here in Canada hardly counts. She was refreshing after the bluster and bullshit of Brian Mulroney, but never, even in her short caretaker tenure, made any moves to bring some integrity and humanity back to the office. Likewise for Rita Johnson, Socred stand-in to take the fall for Bill Van Der Zalm in BC in 1991.

And now Ms. Wynne joins an élite group of women around the Premiers’ table in Canada. Her companions include Allison Redford, who can’t seem to make the budget work in Alberta despite being awash in a sea of petrodollars (I guess the oily money is so slippery that it wants to head home to Houston) and Christie Clark whose BC Liberals are actually looking for campaign funding in Alberta because there isn’t enough in the CC4BC coffers or the government publicity budget to paper over the many and profound sins of her administration and that of her predecessor (currently languishing is golden exile in London as he represents the interests of the same folks on whose behalf he sacked the wealth of his home province). I can’t speak too much to what Kathy Dunderdale has done/is doing in Newfoundland and Labrador, nor exactly what might be the vision that Pauline Marois might have for Québec, other than an independent nation (no telling whether it would be a more nurturing nation for her efforts), and Eva Ariak of Nunavut hasn’t raised too many blips on the radar.

On the whole, the prognosis for women in power is not entirely positive, mostly because they seem, in large proportion, to govern from exactly the same stance as men, a phenomenon that shouldn’t surprise too much, given that the power that most often guides a government resides in the corporate boardrooms (Gwynn Morgan, how are things at Enbridge and SNC-Lavalin?) and that these boardrooms are dominated by ultra-competitive, testosterone-fired, single-minded greed. It seems to me that Margaret Thatcher, who so completely embodies the image of the woman in power, coined, if memory serves,  the phrase: “There is no alternative!”

There are so many counterweights to this stereotype (binders full?) that we could cite them for days on end, but people like Rachel Carson somehow don’t make it into the halls of power. It’ll be interesting to see how Hilary fares in her bid to become the next POTUS: we once got things like “It takes a village to raise a child”, but Clinton’s actions and speech as Secretary of State might lead us to believe that she will be, much like Barry Obama, pretty much the figurehead that all have been in recent history, feeding the Wall Street maw and cavorting with the Pentagon’s pets, Lockheed, Boeing, General Dynamics and the like as they sell the weaponry needed to protect the vital interests of BP, Exxon and Shell.

I wish Ms. Wynne well in promoting a different agenda than her predecessor and in making a clear distinction between her government and the pretender to the throne, Harper clone Tim Hudak. She’ll need lots of help, given that Dalton has already alienated what should be Wynne’s constituency.


Moody’s To The Rescue



The headlines read that Moody’s, one of the three major ratings agencies along with Standard &  Poors and Fitch’s, have downgraded the ratings of six Canadian financial institutions, the Bank of Montreal, National Bank, Bank of Nova Scotia, CIBC, TD Bank, and Caisse Desjardins. The action is due to the concerns that the agency has about exposure to household and consumer debt and the possibility that Canadians might nor be able to repay all of the money that they’ve borrowed for mortgages or the vast sums that consumers have posted on their credit cards and through home equity loans. This is particularly interesting in the wake of finishing Michael Lewis’ tome The Big Short, in the latter stages of which the role of ratings agencies in the the meltdown of the last five or six years becomes very clear. In effect, all the big Wall Street investment houses were able to convince the ratings agencies that many of the CDS and CDO instruments that they were floating around were worthy of a triple-A rating, even though they were essentially bundles of sliced and diced sub prime loans made to people known not to qualify for traditional financing. Without spoiling the story, it seems clear enough, if you believe Lewis, that the ratings agencies failed to research the instruments, or, because of the fees they collected, were willing to overlook the essentially inherent risk built into the underlying loans that was bound to affect the worthiness of the derivatives. I just fins it mildly ironic that anyone still believes any of what these people say.

However, this does not mean that we should have limitless faith in the above institutions, or any other such group, as likely, Moody’s is covering it’s posterior and the risk factors may be far greater than the ratings agency is willing to admit. Mark Carney, governor of the Bank of Canada, has touched none too delicately on this point on several occasions over the last couple of years, which is rather a no-brainer as real estate prices have continued to climb until recently while incomes have remained fairly static, and while the push has continued for the consumer to carry the weight for growth in the economy, particularly during the months leading up to the annual Christmas spending binge. Canadians are supposed to continue consuming, to buy increasingly pricey housing, and to contribute to RRSP, TFSA, and RESP accounts in a zero-sum income situation. Something doesn’t compute, but, then, most of what comes out of our current political régimes makes little sense.

Of course, as in the sub prime maelstrom, the current round of consumer and student debt might produce a round of defaults which, in turn might jeopardize the liquidity of the banking institutions to the point where we could have massive bankruptcy. But the banks seem not to worry: the Bank of Canada will step in, the taxpayers will pick up the tab and we can go back to rebuilding a bubble. Notice that no one, in the wake of the investment fraud that brought on the crisis of 2007-08 (and ongoing), went to prison, that the TARP funds and subsequent tranches of quantitive easing have largely served to prop up the same institutions that caused the mess in the first place, meaning that Goldman Sachs, Bank of America and Morgan Stanley have largely managed to substitute the real money derived from what people produce for the thin-air funds they created out of sub-prime loans. You have to marvel at the ingeniousness of the scheme and at the dullard taxpayers who put up with this sort of result. Letting the banks fail may not be an option when the real economy is still tied up in the ability of the banking world to extend credit and where governments and pension funds are dependent on the financial community to fulfill their obligations, but surely there needs to be some personal and corporate liability for the incompetence and malfeasance that produces such disastrous outcomes, and where the public who pay to bail out the bankers get control over the assets that should have been forfeit once to extent of the bungling and fraud was clear.

More Reflections on Film/Television Crews in B.C.



We just finished watching Season Two of Treme, the HBO drama highlighting the struggles of New Orleans in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in 2005, and, like David Simon’s previous series Homicide, Life on the Street, and The Wire, there are multiple and interlocking story lines to follow, as well as many questions posed in the course of the eleven episodes. We both felt, after watching the first season’s DVD, that this was less intense and focused than The Wire, and we still fell that way after the second season, but also that the diminished intensity and focus doesn’t really detract from the interest and entertainment value of this series, and that intensity and focus are sufficient to highlight the conflicts and questions of values raised by the show. As in previous works. Simon depicts the breadth and depth of corruption that accompanies the personal struggles of the various characters. Jon Seda’s portrayal of Nelson Hidalgo is a perfect fit for all of the shenanigans put in play to significantly alter the essential character of New Orleans following the flooding of poor neighbourhoods and the subsequent dispersal of a large segment of the city’s black population to other parts of the country. It seems clear that a certain group wanted to turn the city into something of a sanitized white-bread, Disneyworld-like haven for tourists and a gold mine of redevelopment schemes for sponging up recovery and rebuilding funds, as well as for selling a different city to a different clientèle. There are great scenes in clubs and on the street celebrating Orleanian culture, in particular the music, but without any rose-coloured glasses: there is ample portrayal of the tawdriness of much of life in the city, including the ever-present threat of violence visited on relatively innocent citizens. Included as part of the tension of living in NOLA is the oft-conflicted relationship between the NOPD and the citizens it purports to serve, making an interesting backdrop for several of the story lines. In addition, we’re offered spoiled and conflicted teen angst, hyper-testoterone fired lives, all the flakiness that comes with creative types, well-intentioned poseurism and lots of the confusion and lack of clarity that constitutes much of life for all of us. Simon doesn’t pretend to have any answers to any of this, being quite content to hold up mirrors to let viewers see what they will and decide whether or not any of these situations relate directly to the viewer. He does, however, offer a view of a world full of flaws venial and mortal and helps to formulated a series of questions that we can choose to address at or discretion. It could just be entertainment…

OK, the real reason I bring this up is that my concern for our local BC film and television industry is that they are pawns in a Hollywood game, a game where the Hollywood production people get to pretend and in which the crews on the ground get to be part of the stakes, along with considerable taxpayer funds. Hollywood has done a splendid job of finding the lowest common denominator, exploiting it to the point where they’ve lowered an already low standard, and they want us to forego even more tax revenue so they can continue to shovel out more of this drivel, the same tawdry content recostumed, updated, prettified and sleazified for injection into the already toxic content stream. David Simon’s work isn’t perfect, but it has some sensitivity and incites the viewer to reflect on more than the inadequacy of fortune or looks in relation to the latest crop of celebrities. Is there room for a huge increase in the volume of meaningful content? Probably not to the extent that trash is being created in whatever version of Hollywood exists either in SoCal, or Vancouver, or Toronto or whatever might be the latest incarnation of cheap remote location that turns Gastown or Hogtown into downtown Cleveland. I would love to see the Hollywood moguls go off in a little corner and visit their silliness on each other, but I fear that we live in a world that cannot physically stand that kind of a waste of resources. I certainly resent being forced to participate through government subsidy in the creation of this LCD slime. I’m willing to pay for decent content, and that’s how a market is supposed to work, but here we have yet another example of how the “free” market is rigged through the sale of the political will. At some point, there should perhaps be some sort of dialogue about the skills we possess and how best to deploy those skills in a way that ensures that people such as the film and television crews of BC (and all jurisdictions) can make a decent and stable living doing work that produces content with some lasting value beyond the kind of “sugar high” to which we could liken the majority of what comes out of studios.



Finance For Fun!


I just couldn’t wait to finish the book I’m reading to write about it: The Big Short, by Michael Lewis details a perspective on what brought us to the financial crisis that started in 2007 and which continues to plague us to this day. Lewis knows of what he writes, both through personal experience and through thorough research; what he has to say is devastating, detailing the reckless and risky behaviour of the big players on Wall Street and the total lack of oversight by any form of government. The book details the deviousness of the ploys used by players to create masses of credit default swaps, sub-prime mortgage bonds and CDOs to first hide, then slough off DOA investments on investors, institutions, and, eventually, on the general citizenry. The breadth and depth of the scheme is frightening, and the fact that none of these people has ever had to justify any of it in a court of law speaks to the penetration of corruption in high places. For all that the subject matter is depressing, at times esoteric, and rage-provoking doesn’t keep it from being terribly interesting, engaging, and even humorous at times:

“The argument stopper was Lippmann’s one-man quantitative support team. His name was Eugene Xu, but to those who’d heard Lippman’s pitch, he was generally spoklen of as ‘Lippman’s Chinese quant’. Xu was an analyst employed by Deutshce Bank, but Lipmann gave everyone the idea he kept him tied up to his Bloomberg terminal like a pet. A real Chinese guy–not even a Chinese-American–who apparently spoke no English, just numbers. China had this national math competition, Lippmann told people, in which Eugene had finished second. In all of China. Eugene Xu was responsible for every peice of hard data in Lippmann’s presentation. Once Eugene was introduced into the equation, no one bothered Lippmann about his math or his data. As Lippmann put it:’How can a guy who can’t speak English lie?’ ”


Lewis sis also responsible for Liar’s Poker, Moneyball, and The Blind Side, all fine books and worthy of a read.

A Different Life



As I start to think of preparing supper tonight, it’s nice to go down to the garage to retrieve an onion, some garlic and a pumpkin, then to tend to the compost in the yard and bring back fresh chard, beet and leeks, reaping the reward of last year’s labour and the covers I put over several of the garden beds to preserve some plantings from frost. This way, I know that there is unlikely to be chemical residue or genetic modification in our food and that it will have lost less nutrient value by making such a short trip from harvest to table. I’m sure that it costs us more to eat our own produce, exclusive of any illusory labour costs that we might factor into the equation, but it also means that the cost of the transport of seed was the only fuel that was burned to put these calories on the table.

Keep on Truckin’



WebDTRan across this interview on YouTube the other day:


It parallels to some extent some things Derek said in discussions contained on his Songlines DVD about reaching out across musical barriers and about honest music. He comes across in the interview like a very sincere, straightforward and hardworking man who is dedicated to his craft and his family. The music is not in the most popular of genres, and several of my closest associates really don’t like the brashness of some of his playing, but I like it when influences from Duane Allman to John Coltrane to Ali Akbar Khan, to King Curtis can somehow come together in a fairly harmonious whole. I go through these musings every time I hear about another musical awards show, or hear that this celebrity or than sang at an inauguration or some other significant occasion, reflecting on how much our taste is influenced, not only  by glitz and popularity, but also by the selling of the music and the self-promotion of the business of music. It’s reassuring that there are people who have achieved a measure of success while maintaining some personal and musical integrity and managing to eschew to fanaticism of the purist.

Cakewalk To Bamako

Over at the Globe and Mail, we have this clever fellow Jeffrey Simpson who’s keen to tell us that those French should be careful about undertaking foreign adventures from which they may have more trouble extricating themselves than they had in inserting themselves. Perhaps the readership is as short on memory as the French leadership, which all seems a little nonsensical given that the French only recently pulled the last of their troops out of Afghanistan after ten years of what can best be described as futility. We still have people there, though not in combat positions (is there anywhere in Afghanistan that isn’t a combat zone?) and who knows where all the Americans are these days. Given their jag of base building since March of 2003, I find it hard to believe that there aren’t still significant numbers of American military personnel in Iraq, which brings us to the instant parallel that came to mind when I read the headline on Simpson’s discourse:

This was around the internet just about the time W sent the boys off to finish Saddam Hussein, a sly little ditty from the man who recorded the Feel-Like-I’m-Fixin’-to-Die Rag as the Vietnam War raged, and so had a bit of a perspective on this here-we-go-again routine in 2003.

Cakewalk to Baghdad
Lyrics and music by Bruce Barthol © 2003I remember back, before we whacked Iraq
I was watching the news, were we gonna attack?
A man named Richard Perle came on and talked
He said going to Baghdad would be a cakewalkCakewalk to Baghdad,
Cakewalk to BaghdadIt went real easy,
Took a couple of weeks
Tore down that statue
Set those Saddamites free
The Frogs and the Krauts, they feel real bad,
They missed out cakewalkin’ into Baghdad

Cakewalk to Baghdad,
Cakewalk to Baghdad

Next we’re gonna cakewalk into Teheran,
Gonna cakewalk to Damascus and Pyong-yin-yang
When we strut on in,
Everybody’s gonna cheer
They’ll be wavin’ old glory,
We’ll have kegs of beer, just like that…

Cakewalk to Baghdad,
Cakewalk to Baghdad

Cakewalk to Baghdad,
Cakewalk to Baghdad

Now moms and dads don’t worry ’bout
Your soldier boys and girls
We’re just sending them cakewalkin’
Around the world
When the coffins come home and the flag unfurls
Cheer for Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz and Perle

Cakewalk to Baghdad,
Cakewalk to Baghdad

Do you think we’ll see those Bush boys patrollin’ the streets
Like our soldiers got to do in Basram and Tikrit?
We gonna see Richard Perle cakewakin’ ’round
The streets and alleys of Baghdad town?

Cakewalk to Baghdad,
Cakewalk to Baghdad

Easy to cakewalk in … not so easy to cakewalk out.

If you go to this page and click on Richard Perle’s face, you can listen to the song (I love it) via Real Player, and there is a version of it available through iTunes.


In any case, the French have Vietnam experiences of their own on which to base a certain sense of caution, along with the nastiness of the war in Algeria leading up to the Evian Accords of 1962, along with a bit of a misadventure in Rwanda in 1994 and the recently ended Afghan sortie.

Looking at the multiple recidivism of so many countries when it comes to intervention in foreign countries, we perhaps come to the conclusion that this is part of the scheme to drive the economy based on blowing things up, hopefully someone else’s stuff and in someone else’s yard, but as long as we can call them terrorists, we’re good to go. Meanwhile there are rumblings in the French press that the bigwigs in Bamako, on whose behalf our C-17 is ferrying French stuff to Mali to be blown up, are more concerned about the independence movement among the Tuaregs of the northeast than they are about Al-Quaeda au Maghreb Islamique in the northwest (who knows?) and perhaps the French have their own little agenda relating to gas, oil and uranium resources in the northern desert section of Mali.

Catholics, Come Home (or maybe just hang fire for a bit…)

More of same:

Seems that just about any time an organization proposes to direct our spiritual impulses, those impulses get largely misdirected. I’m not sure when exactly this happened to the Christian establishment, but I suspect that the adoption of Christianity as a state-sanctioned religion of the Roman Empire under Constantine and the acceptance of war as part of the Christian orthodoxy (Thous shalt not kill, unless…)

None of this poor, downtrodden, the meek shall inherit the Earth stuff.

So, I think I’ll just stay out in the cold.

Mose Knows


When I was in my late teens, I had one of those Proustian moments when someone played Mose Allison’s Parchman Farm on a local FM station and I was immediately transported back to the livingroom floor of our house in Tiburon where I would hang out with pencils and paper and draw whole dogfights on the vast expanse of the reverse of a discarded blueprint. I suspect that it was KPFA on the tuner, else it would have been an unlikely selection for radio, and likely still is. Allison (bio at: )

has done covers of some folks, and had many of his tunes covered by other folks, a lot of which missed the spirit of the original works, but, then, Allison is angular and understated, not attributes of the Who, John Mayall and others who’ve been inspired by Allison, thought I thought Bonnie Raitt’s cover of “Everybody’s Cryin’ Mercy” worked really well. I saw Allison a number of times, mostly in pretty relaxed and informal settings, in a club, with drinks, and while the experience was never astounding, it was always satisfying. Allison turned out to be a minor chronicler of American music, in somewhat the same way of Ry Cooder, Jerry Garcia and Bob Dylan, though in a much lesser scope. And the best thing is his wit, often tart and cutting, and as pointed today as it was when it was penned, reminding me of the experience of listening to the satire of Tom Lehrer from the ’50s and ’60s that still rings true today, perhaps moreso than ever.

A sprinkling of little gems:

-Stop this world, let me off. There’s just too many pigs at the same trough.

-I don’t worry about a thing ’cause I know nothin’s gonna work out right.

-A young man ain’t nothin’ in the world today: the old men got all the money.

-If silence was golden, you couldn’t raise a dime. Your mind is on vacation and your mouth is workin’ overtime.

-A bad enough situation is sure enough gettin’ worse. Everybody’s cryin’ justice, just as long as there’s business first.

All of this is just a bit of Friday inspiration, keeping all the vitriol in perspective.