Lovely Surprises



We have a Bay Laurel in our yard that we got for a wedding gift from my grandfather. A curmudgeonly sort, I suspect, with no disrespect intended, that he sent money to my folks and asked them to get us something appropriate, so they got this tree, and gave us a healthy cheque to go with it. They also bought one of the trees themselves for their place on Old Scott Road, the Miniment. We planted it out the first spring we had it and it wintered over pretty well, something of a surprise for our climate, which is hardly Mediterranean: these things like to grow in Turkey, Greece, Italy, Spain, the South of France and similar mild climes. The next winter, we were horrified to see it die right back to the ground and conversely were overjoyed when we saw little sprouts ringing the part of the “trunk” that still stuck out of the ground.  Following that incident, it grew like crazy for twenty years until, about eight years ago, it got some snow stuck on it, followed by a hard freeze. At this point it was over twelve meters tall and beyond any shelter we could give it. It essentially died back to the ground and we whacked away the deadwood with a power saw. What a joy it was to see the little sprouts coming from both the ground and the stumps. We’ve covered it ever since and been fussy about who gets a branch from it: the leaves are a culinary delight, sweeter and more pungent than what you can buy in the store and we used to have a huge volume to spread around to friends and acquaintances, but wanted to ensure that the tree could flourish without being pillaged for leaves. I walked by this thing the other day on the way back from the chicken coop and got a whiff of something reminiscent of vanilla, cinnamon and mocha, but subtle in its sweet spiciness: the bay had bloomed again.



It has unprepossessing little flowers, and if you stick your nose right in them, there isn’t much to discover, but back away a meter or two, and there is this lovely perfume floating in the air, an enchanting reminder of the season and of the previous generations who bestowed the tree on us. It’s a real source of joy, reflection and reminiscence.


Easter Eggs? (when you’re not expecting them)



I was having another go at an episode of Foyle’s War last week, one in which a woman whose home was bombed out in London shows up looking for a place to stay for a bit, bringing her shell-shocked son with her. Turns out that she has a place in a London suburb called Clapton, and when we see the child taking refuge in the bedroom, he’s reading a Beano comic. So, many of us will know where this is going, but to refresh memory, here is Eric reading something along those same lines, though somewhat later…


bluesbreakers with Eric Clapton



So was this intentional?

Even A Broken (analog) Clock (with a quick update)

Update: Heavens to murgatroid! I agree with something from the IMF! So here it is, via the Tyee.


…is right twice a day. ( I wonder if this means that we have, through digital clocks, lost half our accuracy.)



The broken clock/record, in this case, is the Fraser Institute, that tireless advocate of all who champion less government, mostly on behalf of wealthy and corporate sponsors. Yet an article posted in this morning’s Vancouver Sun makes at least partial sense when it chronicles the vast amounts of money paid out by three levels of government over the period from 1981 to 2009. The surprising statistic is that the total of subsidies over that period exceeds the current Federal debt, and outlines some of the yearly costs to taxpayers as well as showing that some of the most egregious offenders were corporations that were already well-established and profitable. It also doesn’t account for loans, often forgiven, such as the $457 million paid to GM to upgrade plant facilities in Ontario (this was well before the last major meltdown and bankruptcy protection/bailout for GM) or the awarding of perhaps-fatter-than-necessary contracts for infrastructure and IT. It does include marketing management schemes like the Wheat Board, and the indications are that all governments at both Federal and Provincial level are involved. It would be interesting to see how the Rae government in Ontario handled this file, as well as the Doer régime in Manitoba, Romanow in Saskatchewan, and the Harcourt/Clark crowd in BC. I’m sure that there are good reasons for subsidizing some sectors of the economy to shelter them from predatory practices in the marketplace, providing some protection of the general citizenry from the vagaries of a sometimes twisted and tortured free-for-all in the business world. However it also seems clear that there are many instances where pork barrels are the appropriate metaphor and where, clearly, taxpayers are not getting good value for their taxes. For the most part, the Fraser Institute, through generous subsidies from their supporters who then write these contributions off their taxes as a business expense or as, ahem, a charitable donation, generally falls squarely in the category of an enterprise supported by people it seeks to disenfranchise.

Generally, subsidies ought to be used sparingly and only when there is clear benefit to the broad majority of citizens. Few citizens realize that they are not only paying high energy prices at the retail level, but that they are also subsidizing energy concerns through tax breaks, free use of infrastructure, exploration write-offs, and direct subsidies, not to mention the insane current levels of government support and media attention for energy megaprojects. The sad fact is that energy is more expensive than we’ve come to think, and a large part of that cost has been hidden in the tax bundle that we fork out, wherein we get to purchase at least part of the product, whether or not we use it. The same is true of the products of many agricultural sectors, meaning that it seems outrageously expensive to buy local produce because the price in the market is so much higher than an “equivalent” from the supermarket, and a great deal of the difference can be accounted for by that portion that was handed out as subsidies, meaning that you are paying the supermarket and the CAFO whether you eat the stuff or not. I suspect that many would make different choices in many domains were they confronted with the real price of the seemingly-cheaper goods, and this reckoning doesn’t yet take into account the costs of health, safety and environmental considerations.

Finally, it seems likely that many of the côterie of free market proponents wouldn’t be so keen to support a market that was really free based on broad knowledge of the practices of both business and government.

Again, the prescient wisdom of Mose Allison…Stop this world, let me off, there’s just too many pigs at the same trough.

At least it’s (sort of) honest…



Politicians of all stripes routinely skirt some of the more stunning moves they plan to implement if they get elected to office. I find it hard to praise someone whose program I dislike quite intensely, but it would be dishonest to refrain from tipping a hat to his seeming forthrightness, along the lines, in this case, of Grover Norquist (to my knowledge never elected to anything, but a huge influence on many who have been and who have made a valiant attempt to actualize GN’s thought) stating that he wanted to shrink government to the size of a baby so he could drown it in a bathtub. I speak of Tim Hudak, Conservative candidate for Premier of Ontario, who promises to cut 100 000 civil service jobs and to reduce corporate taxation by thirty percent if he becomes Premier. While this places him directly in the middle of promotion and defense  of and economic and social program that leads to complete collapse of all Earth systems, at least there is clear knowledge in advance for voters to consider in their choice. This has not been the case with, say, Stephen Harper, whose statements amounting to “trust me” conflict with his vague “you won’t recognize Canada when I’m through” statements when, in effect, he intends precisely what Hudak says he will do. Likewise, the case of our own provincial Liberals a dozen or so years ago, when Campbell and Company needed no policy statements to obliterate a stale and floundering New Democrat administration that tried to govern in a way that wouldn’t alienate the traditional business community rather than implement progressive economic and social policy. New Democrats had lied to themselves as well as to their constituents, and Campbell didn’t even need to lie. But lie he did, and his ministers and backbenchers alike, as to what their agenda was and as to the state of the province’s finances. The deception continues unabated pretty much everywhere and largely without regard to political, economic, or social orientation. John Horgan will perforce have to engage in massive tergiversation to get himself elected, I suspect, despite the contempt that so many have for the current régime, because the hard truth of our current straitened circumstances will be too much for the bulk of the electorate to stomach. Horgan may even believe that he can reconcile a vibrant energy sector with a fair deal of working folk and a program of environmental protection that can stave off disaster, but that would be inconsistent with everything we’re hearing from NOAA and IPCC, never mind the prophets of doom.


Just in case you didn’t catch all the lyrics, here’s a little helper so that we can appreciate the worth, in our present context, of something written decades ago. No, it likely wasn’t prescient, it’s just that things are even more Snafu’d now than they were back when our crises hadn’t become quite so acute.


If this life is driving
You to drink
You sit around and wondering
Just what to think
Well I got some consoloation
I’ll give it to you
If I might
Well I don’t worry bout a thing
‘Cause I know nothing’s gonna be alright
You know this world is just one big
Trouble spot because
Some have plenty and
Some have not
You know I used to be trouble but I finally
Saw the light
Now I don’t worry ’bout a thing
‘Cause I know nothing’s gonna be alright
Don’t waste you time trying to
Be a go getter
Things will get worse before they
Get any better
You know there’s always somebody playing with
But I don’t worry about a thing
‘Cause I know nothing’s gonna be alright

Silence Like A Cancer Grows

Much ado in broadcast media about the doubling of the price of Dungeness crab in local markets (haven’t been down to the Codfather to ask Max about it) and the fact that we’ve entered into the era of the $50 crab, shell on, live and kicking. The explanation comes from a booming export market in China. In a roundabout way, oil exports finance inflationary pressures on local food wherein we send dilbit to China, they use it for fuel and to manufacture CPSFC* that we all run to WalMart to stock up on and the Chinese entrepreneurial class use the proceeds from all this to buy up crabs (they apparently call them golden crab, ironically enough) and they have so much money that they can pay prices that take local food right off the menu for the rest of us. It’s a true manifestation of what a global market system can do for us. We have to hope that, even if it is the Chinese entrepreneurial class that’s chowing down on the crabs, the fishery is being managed for long-term survival, or maybe that doesn’t matter, given that the “perpetuation” of this way of doing things will kill itself and all of us with it. It occurs to me that crab shells are made from the same stuff as scallop shells, and might therefore be subject to the same environmental perils as local scallops who can’t make enough shell because of ocean acidification that might be tied to carbon dioxide in the atmosphere that might, in turn, be tied to the manufacture of CPSFC* linked to petroleum and its uses.

As is often the case, this reminds me of a song I first heard on a Mose Allison record long ago, but penned by Charles Brown. The reference is to the days three decades ago when, of a Friday, a pickup truck would roll up to the parking lot of the school where I was working (or, alternatively,  the school where my wife was working: they were close and on the route of said pickup truck) and fresh, live Dungeness crabs would be dispensed to buyers at the princely sum of $2.00 each. Home to cook, clean, and ice the beasts, toss a salad, whip up some home made mayonnaise or aioli, crack a chilled bottle of Muscadet and tear hunks off a loaf of crusty bread.


Life was good for some of us. It still is, for some of us, but the great leveller (somewhat selective) is progressively removing an increasing number of these pleasurable and nourishing experiences from our domain.

*CPSCF=Cheap Plastic Shit From China, a term I first saw on Northwest Edible. It’s really a generic term that applies to disposable goods of any material from any jurisdiction. Nobody would be too offended if Stuff were to be substituted for Shit.


This was the centrepiece at a recent “Day Away” for religious women, specifically Baptists, I think, but the theme is common and speaks volumes to the immobility of religious organizations on the multiple and deadly crises confronting us. Taken to its extreme, it results in the End Times attitude of “bring on the apocalypse” because God will know his own and look after them.

There are pockets of constructive activity in the religious community, but, as with most initiatives for sensible economic and social policy, they never quite seem to hit the mainstream, often simply because they don’t conform to the social inertia of the current main stream of  (dare I call it…) thought.


(the picture links to the article)

But the lilies attitude might as well be the same outlook as the famous icon of North American culture:




There are also the crowd that goes well beyond a happy-faced m’enfoutisme (a lovely French term for I couldn’t give a f***-ism), as outlined in a letter recently posted by Cousin Bill in far-flung Vermont:

Men and Their Sacred Writs

I’m not a biblical scholar but there is a wonderful passage in Matthew called “The Woes of the Pharisees and Scribes,” in which Christ – the son of God in Christianity, and a revered prophet in Judaism and Islam – excoriates the leaders of the church and state for their sins. I’ve updated it somewhat:

Who are these feared and fearful patriarchs, these lawgivers, and porers over sacred texts?

… Middle-Eastern elders who find in sacred texts the right to sell their daughters in marriage to their friends and then to hunt them down and kill them when they flee in terror,

… African elders who find in tribal tradition the right to ensure their infant daughters never grow up to know the passion of their gender,

… modern day Scribes and Pharisees, who themselves survived the worst genocidal annihilations of the last century along with the Romany, gays, Poles, and Slavs – who then seek in their sacred texts the right to subjugate their women and daughters and to ensure their hegemony in lands and territories,

… popes, cardinals, and priests who debate “how many angels can dance on the head of a pin” and find in their sacred tomes a pretext for preventing women from dispensing sacraments or having their say in the perpetuation of the race, who in the face of poverty jealously hoard their wealth and, when confronted with their own sins of child sexual abuse, bury evidence,

… Christians who mine the Bible, a writ of other men, to justify hierarchies of race and gender and disguise their own terror of the full range of human sexuality,

… And the Supreme lawgivers of our nation whose male majority find in their “originalist interpretations” of our Constitution:

–  That money is now free speech, even if the result is that the rich can now drown out the voices of the poor,

–  That corporate enterprises of men are, in fact, men themselves and have the same rights, even though corporations are innately amoral and aspiritual, lacking intrinsic art or ethics,

–  That our emerging oligarchy, a concentration of power and wealth that those who wrote the Constitution strove to prevent in their nascent democracy, is now a good thing.

We must ask ourselves if Mohammed, Christ, Buddha, Jefferson, and Maimonides and the other prophets and freethinkers about whom men have written and argued since language and story began were here today, would they endorse such interpretations and find them the fulfillment of their hopes for mankind?

Who are these fearful men? And, I must ask myself, am I one of them?

We can choose to act based on a notion of what’s the right thing to do, and that can be a powerful motivator, but there are also those of us who have somewhat more selfish reasons to protect a viable and just society working toward some semblance of ecological harmony. These are my grandchildren, I want them to have  a chance at a reasonable life, and what I want for them, I want for all people.