Now The Fun Begins…

… and you’ll pay each of the teams for a ticket (at least if you’re wise).

(A big shout out to Dan Murphy, once of the Vancouver Province, now with Deep Rogue Ram, likely at least in part because his genius wasn’t welcome: it stated obvious and unpleasant truths.)

An item in the Globe and Mail from last night and this morning outlines how Ottawa (that is to say, our government) is preparing for the fight over the now-NEB-endorsed Northern Gateway pipeline. Those who have an inkling of the potential impact of this project, and others of the same ilk, as well as the drain it represents on the Canadian economy in favour of the international fossil fuel clique, will want to step up and throw something n the pot to ensure that it isn’t for lack of a dollar or two that we all get subjected to the degradation of the environment, the body politic, the real economy and the spirit that this project will represent.The sad part is that we will sure as hell be funding he Enbridge end of the fight, and, barring an election and a serious change of direction as well a government, we, the citizens of this once-fair land, will have no say in how deeply the government and its legions of lawyers and lobbyists will dip their oily hands in our collective pocket. Many of us have suspected since long before current revelations about CSEC doing industrial espionage in our name for the benefit of predatory mining and oil interests, that our elected government was very much in thrall to certain well-monied interest groups, but the current spate of moves on their behalf is so brazen as to defy any notion of conflict of interest. Not only to we pay exorbitant energy prices, we pay subsidies to entities that make huge profits and that are actively working to exacerbate the conditions that are likely to make our one planet uninhabitable. Makes great sense, does it not? When the long and largely abortive Treaty Process was at its height, there were many complaints about the money that taxpayers were furnishing to fight both sides of the case. In the true spirit of Catch-22, that user manual for modern society, we should expect that First Nations could have access to the same bottomless pit of legal tender offered to Enbridge, Kinder Morgan and the rest of their crew.

Lawlessness Via The Law

Any number of organizations may start out with noble goals but morph into entities that exist solely for their own self-perpeutation, rarely to the benefit of anyone outside the organization. A Mexican proverb states:

All revolutions degenerate into governments.

Governments are, by nature, regulatory, regulating in the interest of those who put them in a position to dictate the rules. In the interest of self-perpetuation, governments will do whatever they can to curtail behaviour that runs contrary to the interests of the ruling clique.

scales_justice

This form of rule can have nasty consequences for those who don’t subscribe to the MO and goals of the people in the governing seat, especially when they follow the dictates of the law, as all good citizens are bound to do. We have seen a flood of laws passed with the sole purpose of squelching dissent, allowing unimpeded progress toward the fulfilment of the government’s purpose. The most recent case of this is Bill 45 in the Alberta Legislature that imposes heavy fines on unions who express support for any illegal strike action. These penalties are for saying or writing anything, not even for engaging in the strike action. Leaving aside that this is part of a concerted effort to stamp out any ability of people who work for wages to coalesce in an effort to improve their lot, the bill clearly violates the rights of one group to free speech. There are many examples of governments using legislation to end union action and imposing hefty penalties for both unions and individuals who don’t immediately comply. Here we have an act that criminalizes the expression of thought that the legislation to curtail labour action. How long before the thought itself, or the suspicion of harbouring such thought, will also be criminalized, and no matter that prosecution would possibly be difficult, given that prosecution itself can be used as a form of persecution. What this hides is bad behaviour that belies the idea of democracy and the well-being of the entire population in what is purported to be a democratic system of government, what we call a parliamentary democracy. In Alberta’s case, it is the destruction of vast swaths of the landscape in the interest of extraction of fossil fuels for the benefit of a narrow segment of society, that which controls wealth and, through that wealth, power. It can only accomplish this through anti-democratic and heavy-handed legislation, backed up by enforcement by paramilitary-style policing, as we have seen at a succession of international conferences from which Canadians were excluded and kept outside wide perimeters, subject to arrest and detention and eventual prosecution for the expression of dissent.

An aside: it is interesting to note that Allison Redford recently attended the celebration of Nelson Mandela’s life, having worked as part of a Canadian legal team sent to help Mandela in his struggle against apartheid. I have to wonder what her role was in this caper, how much the Canadian contingent contributed to Mandela’s liberation and triumph in presidential elections. It seems more likely that they might have had a hand in ensuring that South Africa would remain a staunch defender of the kind of crony capitalism promoted by Mulroney and his pal Saint Ronald Reagan. Certainly her subsequent actions would indicate that our delegation was much more interested in perpetuating economic disparity than any actual substantive freedom.

 

Governments have successfully co-adapted and adopted one of the central tenets of most religions, that of life getting better, but mostly in some undefined future. Religions get to promise us a better afterlife, where governments must generally limit themselves to promises that usually are slated to come to fruition just before the next election, at which point they are deferred until just after the next election. Governments are built on promises, including openness and transparency, and largely on some version of “fair“. The are words that are no longer attached to a concept of action, as they have beed so widely spread without consequence that they have become essentially meaningless, another reason that Ms. Redford is nominated, along with Stephen Harper, Christy Clark, Gordon Campbell and the whole lot of like-minded politicos and their handlers and puppetmasters for inclusion in the special place in hell (oh, crap! there’s that muddy future again) reserved for people who misrepresent themselves in aid of plunder.

…in support of which, I submit the following video, in which Luc deal Rochellière sings:

Mon Dieu, promets-moi que l’enfer existe!

Dear God, promise me that hell exists!

 

The Rainbow Revolutions Continue

This is a screen snap from Libération, a Paris daily that is supposed to be on the leftish side of the political spectrum, about in the same way the Vancouver Sun might be, or somewhere between the Globe and Mail and the Toronto Star. The quote stems from a visit by Senator John McCain to the faction of the Ukrainian population demonstrating in favour of building closer ties with the European Union and moving farther from the Russian fold.

Now Here's Some Good News!

Now Here’s Some Good News!

It’s very sad that McCain rates anything like the attention he’s getting here, a son of Western privilege looking to fight the wars of the U.S. neocons on other peoples’ turf, after the fashion of Syria. His intent is to complete the Orange Revolution of 2004 and move the Ukraine definitively out of the Russian sphere of influence. McCain has been playing at this since his days flying for the US Navy over Vietnam, and it seems likely that part of the virulence of his campaign relates to having spent a stretch in the Hanoi Hilton when his aircraft was shot down in 1967. As with myriad US figures, he seems to operate on the premise that people care for his opinion. People who embrace John McCain’s dicta do so at their own peril unless they are wealthy American conservatives: anyone who can stand on the same stage as Sarah Palin with a straight face needs psychiatric help rather than an endorsement on policy.

In another situation where life for many of its citizens is difficult and where political circumstances can be troubling, Ukrainians find themselves caught between factions pulling in opposite geographic directions, but where neither choice is likely to provide better living and working conditions for the average citizen. Putin’s Russia has, under one leader or another, had many opportunities to build a thriving national economy and a society where debate and dialogue might be the norm. They didn’t, and there is ample discontent to attest to that lack of constructive action. Behind Door Number Two, Ukrainians can opt for closer ties to the European Union, where, on the face of it, there is freedom of expression, mobility, jobs, subsidies, the German economy and a perception that life will be considerably better than it is presently. Any reasonably astute observer will note that a good part of the EU is living a story of economic decay, of domination by the EU bureaucracy in Brussels, largely directed by large financial institutions and where neo-liberal economic theory, particularly austerity, is the rule. It could be that the right choice is neither Russia, nor the EU, but no one seems ready to propose this option which, admittedly, ensures at least short-term pain, but which gives a shot at real independence and freedom from the soul sucking ideologies of both other options. The very fact of the American involvement on one side of this conflict, and Russian on the other just might indicate the pawn status that should rightly be assigned to this, and other, revolutions with a colour assigned to them in the popular mythology.

Proxy wars are, of course, nothing new, and the Spanish Civil War is about as good a case study as any, wherein the forces of Fascism and Communism clash in someone else’s back yard as a prelude to more open and general conflict leading to the general devastation of large parts of Europe and other parts of the planet using the methods pioneered at the expense of the Spaniards. Did anything of real significance come out of the Arab Spring? See saw battles for power in Egypt, Libya under the rule of doctrinaire Islamist thugs, Tunisia rid of one dictator, quickly replaced by another oppressive régime, and Syria looking increasingly like the testing ground for a three-way tug-of-war between the US and its EU friends, Russia, and the Wahabist Saudi régime. No one is winning, but the Syrians are losing. There are attempts to make this conflict out, like so many others, to be a battle of good against evil, of the welfare of the population against either the invading hordes or the oppression of a dictator, and there is some justification in both cases, but the underlying notion of the conflict, and the reason it seems to have such staying power, lies in that same pawn status that the Syrians share with the Ukrainians, a status shared to some extent by all of us, on whatever side of whatever current divide we might live.

Update: Here is a video with some added perspective from The Real News network out of Toronto and Baltimore:

More at The Real News
Isn’t it a little bizarre that we are putting rovers on the moon and on Mars, fighting shooting wars all over the world and preparing to square off over what’s left of the planet’s resources while we seem to need the intervention of charitable organizations to look after the most basic needs of a good part of the Earth’s population? Merry Christmas.

 

Then, there’s this gem from Dan Hicks going back to the days of the Charlatans and the Hot Licks, specially dedicated to John McCain:

Let There Be No Doubt

 

 

tpp-protest

(Quick Addendum: this was over at Pacific Gazetteer’s place:

http://pacificgazette.blogspot.ca/2013/12/the-high-flyer-bruce-hyera-victory-for.html)

Thought you were living in a democracy? So we’ve been told. You remember the old refrain you probably tried out on your parents: “It’s a free country!”? Did it ever get you an extension on your bed time or permission to go out with that dodgy new friend? Likely not, but we liked to live with the idea that we would grow up to be autonomous be adults who would really have a say in how our free country was run. Too bad, so sad.

 

stop-ceta-_vector

 

Yes, you do get to vote for who will represent your views. Tough choice: it usually comes down to a holding of the nose and choosing the least of several evils, from those of commission who willingly tear apart the fabric of society and leave individuals to fend for themselves, to those of omission who simply neglect to nurture the public interest, and where the outcomes are similar to, if somewhat attenuated or delayed, those achieved with the first group.

What seems to be happening of late, with its roots in the Reagan-Mulroney loveliest that gave us the FTA, is a complete abdication of the public trust where treaties are negotiated between sovereign nations that essential raise private companies to equal status in dealing with legislation and its enforcement, where even the potential profits, dreamed up by private concerns, get preferential consideration and override concerns of public welfare or environmental well-being. It extends to all official dealings the doctrine that business must be done solely to produce a return to shareholders, and that no social or environmental restraints should impede the pursuit of shareholder return. Once this becomes the theme of government, there is no further restraint on the corporate cavalcade and those not in the investor class must simply take their lumps because, hey! it’s the law of the land.

 

FIPA

In the U.S., there is an additional mechanism for the abdication of responsibility to true citizens (as opposed to corporations and lobbyists) known as fast track authority, wherein the House of Representatives provides the negotiating team, through the President, I believe, the mandate to negotiate whatever they wish. In Canada, we call this a majority  government in a parliament where MPs are much more beholden to the party through the whip than they are to the people who elected them (not to mention those who happen to live in the riding who may not have voted for that particular candidate), but who are nonetheless constituents and entitled to consideration in the deliberations of the Chamber.

This is all supposed to be a boon to the economy, but we need to keep asking ourselves which economy we want to promote. Our current slate of leaders all subscribe to the Chicago School/Washington Consensus model which places money at the centre of the universe and has everything else subservient. This is particularly convenient for those who have wads of money and especially for those who have converted cash into political clout who are able to absolve themselves of any responsibility with the idea that the market decides what works and what doesn’t. Strangely enough, this market phenomenon is also a human construct and, like the legal fiction that is a corporation, it masks activity that is all too human, primarily greed, rapacity and the fulfilment of grandiose ego. The market vacillations are the product of human action, and the beneficiaries of this system are keen to ensure that the economic playing field is tilted so that the preponderance of wealth ends up under their control. Bad behaviour seems always to be laid at the feet of the market, or, failing that, of a few bad-apple corporations, entities that seem immune to any sort of indemnisation for misdeeds and completely devoid of any moral sense. Even the officers of the corporation skate on piles of sins, even when it’s clear that there is no victimless crime, particularly when economic pain is as deep and broad as that inflicted on all of us in the last five years. The irony of the freemarket freebooters is that they were more than willing to have the government interfere with huge infusions of taxpayer cash and managed to do with it what they wanted rather than perhaps inject it into the small-to-medium sized sector of the business economy in the form of loans. On top of that, much of the money was to be had a little or no interest, but would be either sent out as loans at a vast profit, or used to create more risky derivative investment vehicles that look a lot like the junk that brought the economy to a grinding halt in 2008-09 and has lead to depleted pension funds and bankrupt community organizations and cities who took it on faith of financiers and ratings agencies that this junk was really AAA-quality investment.

It rather makes your puny little vote look even less significant than you thought, particularly when the ballot often resembles one of those telephone surveys where they keep asking you questions that miss the point and offering only answers that represent something other than what you really want to express. These thoughts apply not only here in the frozen North, but I’ve thought that the poor folks in the Ukraine must be feeling a little deprived when it comes to having their say: they get either Timochenko or Yanukovich, European Union or Russia, neoliberal bureaucracy or autocratic oligarchy. There is another way, but it never seems to come to the fore, in part because there are forces at work behind the scenes from both sides trying to push the country one way or another, partly because the other options all require stepping back from both options which will create some dislocation and economic pain. The EU and Russian options will also produce dislocation and pain, and for whatever future is foreseeable in the way that Greece has fallen into the clutches of the EU vultures, but a non-aligned and self-directed economy might well produce better results in the long run than either of the other options. We won’t likely get to find out as Ukranians are little more in control of their fate than we are. The consolation for them is that they are at least aware that they have a crisis on their hands and are willing to get together to try and influence the outcome. In that there is a lesson for Canadians.

 

So, since this is my post, I get to add a little directed entertainment at the end in the form of another musical social commentator, Georges Brassens ( to go with a couple of Tom Lehrer vids that got appended to other posts). I first ran across GB in 1971, but he had been a figure in the French music scene since the Forties, I believe. My stepson endeared himself to me forever when he brought back a CD boxed set of GB’s complete works in 1991, an item that I had been vainly trying to purchase out here on the Wet Coast for several years. He pokes fun at a lot of folks, including himself, though he would likely have been the least deserving of his targets, from what I can say. Here’s a tune, just to get the flavour of it:

 

 

Here’s a version with sketchy, but essentially correct, subtitles and where you actually get to see Brassens play and sing:

http://youtu.be/f-ZPNtDVKW4

Exit the Postman

In the latest move in Canada Post’s drive to make itself totally irrelevant, the corporation has decided to end door-to-door delivery in cities. It is rapidly heading toward an existence akin to the rump of BC Rail, something of a holding company for what’s left of the assets that rightly belong to the citizens in general and which are very much in danger of being sold on the cheap to the friends of the government who bought off the politicians and now expect a rich return on their investment. This move is one of the purest expressions we’ve yet seen that the government exists not to serve the well-being of the electorate, but rather as a mechanism to move wealth from the lower and middle reaches of society to the investor class at the top of the increasingly steep economic pyramid. It is part of the bold and flagrant program of suppression of unions by the Harper government and a way of ensuring that the labour pool keeps expanding as the opportunities for work shrink, thereby ensuring a flow of cheap labour on the “open” market. And, with the disappearance of the letter carrier goes a wealth of cinematic and musical inspiration, thinking of items like “Please, Mr. Postman”, “Il Postino” and “The Postman Knocks Twice”.  Now I wonder if the price of a letter will decline…

 

And I can’t miss the opportunity to mark another sad exit, though it would be hard to argue that the man got cheated:

 

 

And a couple of longer items:

The Crumbling Tower of PISA

Self Correcting?

Self Correcting?

 

The educational world is all a-flutter about the poor performance of students on a recent battery of Math tests that were administered to fifteen-year-olds in various locations around the world. In my daily ingestion of “content”, I heard pretty much the same refrain from officials here in Canada, in the United States, and there was a feature report on the matter on the Journal Télévisé from France 2 in their daily 19-20 slot. There was a great deal of hand-wringing from official circles whose answer to poor test scores seems to be more testing, test prep, accountability, and choice, all mantras of a segment of the educational institutions dominated by market-driven precepts and the desire to standardize everything. The best of the reports of yesterday’s lot was some documentation in the France 2 segment wherein they compared student life in France to that of young people in South Korea, whose students scored excellent marks on the PISA. The first distinction mentioned was that Korean students spend, typically, sixty hours a week in school, whereas their French counterparts spend half that total. The Korean girl followed by the reporters started her day at six in the morning, went to school at eight and stayed there until ten in the evening, after which she attended private tutoring until midnight. She seemed quite comfortable with the situation, as did her parents, but I know I wouldn’t have done this to my own children, nor to students in general, given a sense that much learning takes place outside of school, particularly in terms of interpersonal relationships, life experience, and general cultural development. If the point is to become a drone in the commercial and industrial apparatus, the Korean/Singaporean/Japanese/Hong Kong model will serve well, I suppose, but in terms of building a sustainable and humane society, it’s likely that the hive mentality will leave serious shortfalls. PISA, the brainchild of the OECD, is aimed squarely at reinforcing the current economic paradigm, and it bending the drive of the education system worldwide to that effect, this being the paradigm in which growth in a finite living space has no limits and where we can create wealth out of thin air and distribute said wealth unequally to the point of ridicule. It favours a lock-stepped standardized, modular and cellular education that gives pride of place to narrowly focused knowledge of the quantifiable, and where progress is measured only on the basis of single-event high stakes testing, much of it framed as multiple-choice questions in the interest of statistical purity.

There has been substantial and well-documented push back against the tide of stats-driven education and the drive to turn education into a profit source, but it doesn’t often spill into the arena of public discussion, not surprising given the vested interest of the organs of the press in support of their own corporate model. Diane Ravich recently published an article on the Huffington post which I saw republished on Common Dreams, entitled “What You Need To Know About International Test Scores”, in which she cites an article from Phi Beta Kappan by Keith Baker (2007), saying the following:

 

Baker wrote that a certain level of educational achievement may be “a platform for launching national success, but once that platform is reached, other factors become more important than further gains in test scores. Indeed, once the platform is reached, it may be bad policy to pursue further gains in test scores because focusing on the scores diverts attention, effort, and resources away from other factors that are more important determinants of national success.” What has mattered most for the economic, cultural, and technological success of the U.S., he says, is a certain “spirit,” which he defines as “ambition, inquisitiveness, independence, and perhaps most important, the absence of a fixation on testing and test scores.”

Baker’s conclusion was that “standings in the league tables of international tests are worthless.”

Ms. Ravich draws some lessons from the test scores, mostly relating to the silliness of accepting that such a measurement would have any meaning other than all the programs aimed at improving test scores have been a dismal failure. My personal favourite, of course, is where she points out that having so many people living in conditions of deprivation does nothing to help test scores, or general education, to which I would add that the impetus to get educated seems increasingly tattered where an education seems more like a path to significant debt loads than to gainful and meaningful employment. Finally, it should come as no surprise that Democrats, both New and U.S., as well as Socialists-In-Name-Only all over the world have done little to nothing to lay the groundwork for a society where an education would be simply part of what the society does and where both work and rewards would be shared on a somewhat more equitable basis.

Please also take a minute to check out Henry Giroux’s writings in this vein.

 

 

Now What? The Real Thing, I Guess

Comment on FB from Laila Yuile:

The BC Liberals. Missing legislative sessions, missing information and now missing yet another important deadline. 

Also, Missing in Action…. period.

 

Well, no surprise there. It puts me in mind of something Paul Hawken said:

 

We know—you know in this room—how to transform this world. We know what to do. We know how to provide meaningful, dignified living wage jobs for all who seek them, how to feed, clothe, and house every person on Earth. What we don’t know, admittedly, is how to remove those in power whose ignorance of biology is matched only by their indifference.

 

This came to me via Information Clearing House:

 

 

Everybody knows that the dice are loaded
Everybody rolls with their fingers crossed
Everybody knows that the war is over
Everybody knows the good guys lost
Everybody knows the fight was fixed
The poor stay poor, the rich get rich
Thats how it goes
Everybody knows

Everybody knows that the boat is leaking
Everybody knows that the captain lied
Everybody got this broken feeling
Like their father or their dog just died

Everybody talking to their pockets
Everybody wants a box of chocolates
And a long stem rose
Everybody knows

Everybody knows that you love me baby
Everybody knows that you really do
Everybody knows that youve been faithful
Ah give or take a night or two
Everybody knows youve been discreet
But there were so many people you just had to meet
Without your clothes
And everybody knows

Everybody knows, everybody knows
Thats how it goes
Everybody knows

Everybody knows, everybody knows
Thats how it goes
Everybody knows

And everybody knows that it’s now or never
Everybody knows that it’s me or you
And everybody knows that you live forever
Ah when youve done a line or two
Everybody knows the deal is rotten
Old black Joe’s still pickin cotton
For your ribbons and bows
And everybody knows

And everybody knows that the plague is coming
Everybody knows that it’s moving fast
Everybody knows that the naked man and woman
Are just a shining artifact of the past
Everybody knows the scene is dead
But theres gonna be a meter on your bed
That will disclose
What everybody knows

And everybody knows that you’re in trouble
Everybody knows what youve been through
From the bloody cross on top of Calvary
To the beach of Malibu
Everybody knows it’s coming apart
Take one last look at this sacred heart
Before it blows
And everybody knows

Everybody knows, everybody knows
Thats how it goes
Everybody knows

Oh everybody knows, everybody knows
Thats how it goes
Everybody knows

Everybody knows

 

Yes, we may know and there is ample evidence all around us, but, to finish off with one last little quip:

Our ignorance is not so vast as our failure to use what we know.
—M. King Hubbert
In the meantime, I will now get out and enjoy some of this:
The View

The View

Now What?

 

I must have hit the wrong button.  Anyway, here is Garrison Fewell. Good listening, if this is a kind of music that you enjoy.

What the hell, here’s some more:

 

 

 

Now I’ll go find something to whine and complain about. CFN!

 

OK, here’s a slight reprise.

 

How Much Is A Little?

How Much Is A Little?

 

Given that the bells have been ringing for six weeks already, and that there are another three weeks before the hoopla even starts to fade, one has to wonder where the overdose level kicks in. I’m far past that stage, yet I know people who aren’t even approaching saturation. It comes down to the same conundrum as the generous person and the greedy person, where, in pure self-defence, the generous person must cease to be generous. This applies to tolerant people and the intolerant or to pretty much anyone who is willing to live and let live, as soon as that person is confronted by someone with a little too much courage of his, and everyone else’s convictions. So where can I sign up for a “little”?