Socialist In Name Olny

Like many, the early days of the Obama presidency brought with them expectation that we had lived through something of a nightmare and that it was time to move on to rebuild the shattered community. the economic landscaped, the tattered diplomacy and the crumbling environment that characterized the Bush years. Sadly, the glory of the Obama presidency has been more of same, the odd sop to progressivism and sound ecology, but more war, more torture, more violation of rights and more inequality. This situation is reflected all over the world, for me particularly in a land for which, thanks to my Dad, I have a strong predilection, France. There, following the disappointment of the two terms of François Mitterand, nominally a socialist, the French got two terms of Chiracism, the new crony capitalism in its nascent form with a strong dose of self-perceived De Gaulle ego. This was followed by the nastiness and arrogance of a term of Sarkoland where the lords of the towers of money really established their preeminence and life for the general populace seemed to spiral down the crapper. Sarkozy was removed in the general election of 2012, when François Hollande came to power with, of all things, a parliamentary majority, and with the support of the EELV, the greenies of the Hexagone. The greatest achievement of this formation has been the Pacte de Responsibilité (just what it sounds like) which bestowed some forty billion euros worth of breaks on the business sector without any established quid pro quo in terms of creation of employment or any other measure to improve the lot of the  working folk. Of course, the idea is to increase the competitive level of French business in relation to the rest of Europe and the World, meaning more stuff being made in France and more jobs. Sounds like straight Strauss to me and some of the elected Socialist Députés felt the same way. including the Minister of the economy, Arnaud Montebourg, who, this week, had the audacity to say something about it. Manuel Valls, the Prime Minister appointed by Hollande five months ago, wasted no time in inviting Montebourg and a couple of his colleagues to leave the cabinet. Montebourg was replaced as Minister of the Economy with a chap named Emannuel Marcon, a product of the Rothschild banking concerns. From this, we can see easily why people are more than a bit disappointed by the Hollande government and has a lot of people divorcing themselves from the political manoeuvres of both the Socialist Party and the UMP, looking to find solace in the arms of Marine Le Pen’s Front National or just calling a pox on all their houses.

As our own next federal contest approaches, I find myself asking if there is a choice worthy of a vote: Harper has devastated, physical, social and spiritual landscapes here in Canada, contributed to a new Dark Age of Ignorance, doomed to planet to war, pestilence and climate dislocation and created inequality in Canada on an unprecedented scale. Justin Trudeau wants to cast himself in the rôle of Saviour from all of the above, but is still a champion of pipelines, of the investment community, big pharma, the arms industry and a hawkish Israel and NATO. Mulcair seems unwilling to tell the nasty truth because he knows it won’t bring him to power. The prospects for responsible government seem to fade with each day. We can only hope that Mr. & Ms. Every(wo)man will begin immediately to scratch some part of another of the collective anatomy and utter the polite Canadian equivalent of WTF before starting to school whatever politician of whatever stripe about being accountable to those with little to lose and an allegorical pitchfork stowed somewhere in the closet.




I get semi-regular commentaries from Cousin Bill in Vermont. He’s written some interesting tomes, but spent most of his life doing business and trying to reconcile to American business model with care and responsibility. I never knew I had a cousin until I met him at Uncle Mark’s during a visit at Christmas, 1997. I actually got to visit the farmstead in Vermont in April of 1998 and we have sent the odd e-mail back and forth over the years, but I look forward to his commentaries, some about local Vermont issues, some with broader application. Here is the latest:


The Social Safety Net We Can Never Afford

We’re putting our future at risk. The current political stasis that ignores the needs of so many Americans and immigrants and refuses to fix broken systems is creating a new wave of troubled citizens who will only cost more to help in the future. If we think the safety net is expensive now…do nothing and see what awaits us in another decade.

About fifty million Americans live below the poverty line. Many of those are “working poor” and comprise the fastest-growing economic class in our country. Now consider that simply being poor can make you sick. Lack of safe housing, poor diet, high stress, lack of access to health care, substandard education and a greater risk of being a victim of crime, injury, environmental hazards or discrimination all affect health. Poverty breeds emergency room patients and other societal costs.

Many neighborhoods are more like apartheid enclaves than democratic communities. Gated communities, united by shared economic status, flourish far from low-income housing projects. Switzerland integrates low, middle, and high-income housing projects into single neighborhoods. Our egalitarian traditions would indicate a similar policy but our belief in wealth as privilege obstructs this.

Schools in poor neighborhoods struggle to make up for stress and unmet needs at home. Under-educated children may make poor choices and struggle to find meaningful work that might offer them a leg up to financial independence on the economic ladder.

While the rest of the civilized world has made access to health care a basic right of citizenship, our citizens must compete financially for access to the quality healthcare we brag about. The prognosis for those without access only gets worse and more expensive.

Then there’s incarceration. With almost 2.5 million Americans in jail, 100,000 of whom are kids, we’ve enrolled almost 1 % of our citizens in crime academies where they learn little more than how to become better criminals. We do little or nothing to reintegrate them into society.

We are quick-to-war, even though the last morally unequivocal war ended in 1945. Thousands of our young people enlist with the largely illusory dream of patriotism, respect, and expensive toys. Many return home unnoticed except by family, often physically or emotionally crippled, and some sexually abused or addicted to drugs or to the adrenaline of conflict.

Our obsession with gun rights has flooded our nation with weapons. Killing someone in a fit of pique is now as easy as checking your watch. The ubiquity of guns turns spontaneous rage into murder, most often among our children.

While politicians debate the red herrings of ideology, we’re creating a new wave of citizens who will need a social safety net we can never afford to build.

We know that prevention is more cost-efficient than cure yet we like to live in the moment. Thinking ahead is hard and requires some current sacrifice. But the mentality of “I’ve got mine. You go get yours, and don’t ask me to share” will surely bankrupt us in the future.

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Bill’s whole attitude is so Un-Harper like.
Besides, anyone who writes telling tales of local folk, appreciates good food and wine, loves the many manifestations of beauty, and knows French Literature can’t be all bad.

Big News:Pot Calls Kettle Black



Gwynn Morgan suggests, in a Globe piece, that oil sands foes (not the lack of tar) should use facts, not a popularity contest, to sway opinion. Do I really have to say more? This character drips crude and bitumen, spent time as head of Enbriidge, moved to become Christy Clark’s adviser on Northern Gateway (no conflict there) and has been a tireless shill for an industry that’s on its way to killing life on the planet. His idea of facts eliminates islands from Douglas Channel, touts world-class spill clean-up (ask people in Kalamazoo how they feel about that) and is the living incarnation of Mencken’s description of the political class:


“The government consists of a gang of men exactly like you and me. They have, taking one with another, no special talent for the business of government; they have only a talent for getting and holding office. Their principal device to that end is to search out groups who pant and pine for something they can’t get and to promise to give it to them. Nine times out of ten that promise is worth nothing.The tenth time is made good by looting A to satisfy B. In other words, government is a broker in pillage, and every election is sort of an advance auction sale of stolen goods.” –H. L. Mencken

(Thanks to Informationclearinghouse.com for the quote)

This, I think, reflects poorly on Morgan, but we should expect it of him: it’s his gig, bad as it may be. The real shame is on the Globe for giving him the pulpit and an air of credence to which he has no legitimate claim.




This somewhat ugly-looking concoction is eggs florentine in the making, with spinach harvested this morning and some of the lovely eggs we get from our hens. While I usually tend toward nuts and berries, this came to mine when Erica left a couple of egg yolks in the fridge from putting meringue on lemon pies for the local soup kitchen, and I noticed that a late planting of spinach was about to bolt. Rescue for rescue, it was delicious. She who is mistress of all things just whipped up a batch of pie-by-the-mile, the mennonite version of stöllen, complete with sour cherries. Yummy stuff. The other lovely aspect of this morning’s breakfast was that it was consumed al fresco, under the grape arbor on the sun deck, and there in the corner was this:



It’s a gardenia, an uncertain proposition, it seems, and particularly as a delayed action Valentine’s gift. The perfume from these blossoms is exquisite, but they seem to be finicky, particularly about conditions indoors, to the trick is to nurse them until they can go out on the sun deck.

I hate to spoil this with a sour note, but I see where people all over the world are calling attention to the centenary of the outbreak of World War I., just as official Ottawa decided that we should celebrate the War of 1812 a couple of years back. The sad part is that, looking around, we have learned nothing, and that “the war to end all wars” was more a blueprint for larger scale and more industrial destruction. With the annual breast-beating that is the Hiroshima commemoration, in which we suage our conscience and then go about our business for another year, sleepwalking toward oblivion.




What did I tell you?