A Certain Aura



Campbell Clark has an article in this morning’s Globe and Mail with the title Harper’s Economic Halo Is Hard To Dim. Mr. Clark likely hasn’t talked to the thousands being laid off from the Oil Patch who might still be gainfully employed if we were engaged in the clean energy transition that other countries are undertaking. He likely hasn’t talked to the multitudes stuck in dead-end low wage employment or to those who can’t afford to live in Vancouver, Victoria, Toronto or a myriad of other places where housing is out of just about everyone’s realistic financial grasp, or the TFWs that have been brought in to ensure that the wages will stay low. I doubt that many of those Canadians mired in gobs of oozing debt will see that halo encircling the holy pate of the Prime Minister. Even Stephen, the man himself, seems to be campaigning on other than his much lauded (can you hear the snickers from the peanut gallery?) economic acumen. The Globe outdoes itself in Kowtowing to the Conservative Côterie. And, in passing, is it just me, or does the juxtaposition of the author’s two names say something ominous to those of us in BC?

Les enfoirés, ou la charité d’une autre perspective

Hard at work for others

Hard at work for others


Les Enfoirés débarquent ce soir sur TF1. Ils sont le symbole de notre époque où la lutte contre la misère s’est transformée en charité organisée et en compassion planifiée. Les artistes, les communicants et les marques, aidés dans leur tâche par des médias peu cohérents, aiment aujourd’hui à afficher leur engagement humanitaire. Mais il s’agit de verser une petite larme et de passer rapidement à autre chose…

Interesting little piece over at Marrianne.net letting us know, in a somewhat circuitous fashion, that the telethon will be on one of the main networks in France tonight, but there is a good deal of chiding inherent in the message. First, the se of the word “enfoiré”, meaning, more or less, bothersome idiot, a term brought into current usage by Coluche, a comedian who stuck pins in a lot of society’s balloons and who founded les Restos du Coeur, a chain of eating establishments dedicated to feeding the poor and dispossessed at the height of the ’80’s recession. It was meant to be a stopgap measure, especially with the election of the Socialist Mitterand government, but the institution, and the problem endures today, and in a grossly exaggerated form (if this sounds familiar, it is because it is a phenomenon that exists in one form or another all over he world, and what happens in France is a reasonable mirror of how we attempt to deal with it here). Mitterrand, it seems, liked the name and the party, but really didn’t act as a socialist, as seems to be the case with the latest Socialist In Name Only, François Hollande. OK, here is a rough translation of the paragraph from Marianne:

The Idiots land tonight on TF!. They are symbolic of our times where the struggle against poverty has morphed into organized charity and planned compassion. The artists, spokespeople, and brands, helped along by the rather incoherent media, like to show off their humanitarian solidarity on this one day. But it’s really that we’re called on to shed a little tear and to move quickly on to other matters…


Everywhere people are called on to open their hearts and wallets to help feed, house and clothe those who seem not to be included in the golden dream that is our society. I can’t say that we actually designate certain people to be at the bottom of the economic and social heap, but by default, when some are allowed to corral an inordinate share of society’s riches, someone at the other end has to take less. As inequities have grown over the last forty or fifty years, there has been a multiplier effect where, for every Bill Gates, Warren Buffet or Carlos Slim, there are thousands whose livelihood is diminished, and, while these people may sell themselves as leaders and job creators, the vast majority of their wealth has been generated by people other than themselves, and their claims of increasing the size of the economic pie often ring hollow as the pie they expand is entirely based on monetary fictions, easily erased by economic contractions. In effect, we have seen no diminution of poverty or precarity, though often the stats can be manipulated to show whatever the current régime wants to put in front of the electorate (e.g., unemployment stats based on the number of job seekers registered with the authorities, rather than the actual number of people without meaningful work).

Here is a quip from Teddy Roosevelt, born to privilege, but able, at least, to articulate what it might take to reduce poverty, want, and precarity in a society that truly functioned as a society:

“The fundamental thing to do for every man is to give him a chance to reach a place in which he will make the greatest possible contribution to the public welfare…No man can be a good citizen unless he has a wage more than sufficient to cover the bare cost of living, and hours of labor short enough so that after his day’s work is done he will have time and energy to bear his share in the management of the community, to help in carrying the general load. We keep countless men from being good citizens by the conditions of life with which we surround them.” – Theodore Roosevelt


While you’re at it, go have a look at John Ralston Saul’s The Comeback, a reasonably detailed litany of the transgressions of the Crown (us) in Canada against First Nations and what it means for the sorry state of our government and societal institutions.


Did You Ever Have To Make Up Your Mind

Monsanto's Time Is Nye?

Monsanto’s Time Is Nye?


Bill Nye may be the Science Guy, but we have to wonder about the science of GMO when he appears to have reversed field following a visit to Monsanto, as outlined in an article on EcoWatch. He hasn’t published, that I know of, the changes he intends to make in his writings on the subject, but a lot of what he had previously written was pretty damning, as has been much of the literature written by those not sponsored by the gene-splicers. I have to admit to having and not-totally-open mind on the subject and I suspect it will take some serious convincing to get me to accept that what Monsanto, Bayer, Syngenta and the like have done is in the general interest of the public, that it contributes to the greater good without doing irreparable damage. First consideration has to be the stubbornness with which these folks cloak their doings in secret and gain legal approval through the purchase of political levers rather than convincing the public that they are acting in the interest of anything other than profit and, as it seems likely, the ability to choke and control much of the food supply. Their unwillingness to abide even labelling of their product speaks to a group that has something to hide. Second consideration is that, other than being able to drench landscapes in pesticides/herbicides, I don’t think that a convincing argument has been made for the necessity, or even utility of these genetic modifications. I’ve seen little evidence that more food is produced using large-scale agricultural methods with major inputs of chemical soil amendments and pest controls. Monsanto, in particular, seems to have done a woeful job of keeping their organisms under control in nature and may be doing a tremendous amount of harm through simple lack of oversight. I wonder how frank Bill Nye will be about his change of heart, and how much of a change of heart will he have had? Could be another icon of rectitude down the rectitube, so eyes and ears open seems to be the watchword.


One Way Or Another


Undoing What Was Done

Undoing What Was Done

A report in Libération this morning decries the sack of the ruins of the archeological site at Nimrod, using heavy construction equipment to destroy the heritage of earlier societies that they consider blasphemous, having already addressed, apparently, a wealth of societal treasure in the museum at Mosul. My father actually worked on digs around Mosul in the mid-Thirties, and somewhere in the family treasure, there exists a small trove of 8-mm. film of locals moving dirt in their burnooses, no bulldozers being available. I recently discovered some prints of RAF photos of the dig site, part of the stuff of Hank’s personal legend.

The reflection runs thusly: is it worse to desecrate to artifacts of the past than it is to ensure that all but selective material gets buried in collective ignorance and forgetfulness? I can’t think of a single constructive or positive comment to make about the beheaders, the desecrators and those who would establish a religious or doctrinary hegemony of any sort, and that includes those in our own society whose walled-in take on life looks to take us back to some new version of feudalism. The horror of ISIS should lead us to look at our own foibles and missteps a little more closely, particularly that seemingly insurmountable impulse to bomb anything that moves, each time sowing more dragon’s teeth with each bomb that falls. I wonder when we will realize that we’re still getting the same results with our repeated actions that clearly don’t work for the majority of us (or them) and down tools for a reassessment of links between our actions and what people do in response.

I don’t know if that will help bring those Assyrians up to speed with current Islamic thought, but it might to some distance toward setting our own society free from the constraints imposed by the greedy canyon-minds.

(…one way or another, this darkness got to give.)

If You Want To Do Business…

Corporate Citizens

Corporate Citizens


A report from Bloomberg details how various corporations have stashed 2.1 trillion in profits in low-tax jurisdictions, including including another $69 billion in the last year. So the business plan is to mine, manufacture and market through the jurisdictions where labour is cheapest, ship and sell where product will generate the most profits, then export the profits to the jurisdictions where the tax burden will be the least onerous. It’s just business, after all.

How about we have a new system that states that the jurisdiction where you sell the goods dictates what you pay for labour, for materials, for shipping, for marketing and taxes. If the firm doesn’t want to, or can’t, then they can’t sell into high-priced markets.

And while we’re at it, the firms represented by the above three logos are a big part of generating mounds of electronic garbage through planned obsolescence and count on the largesse of society as a whole to clean up the mess made by the throwaway gadgets as well as the mountain of plastic packaging that accompanies the electronics themselves. The real price to society in clean-up costs ought to be added to the dodged tax revenue and the societal costs of poor working conditions of people employed to manufacture the items they often can’t afford to buy. Many of us might make different purchasing decisions if we had to pay the true price of many of the items we buy.

All this comes on top of recent revelations that HSBC has been actively helping monied clients to hide money from taxing authorities to the tune of a couple of hundred billions of dollars. Perhaps these people so averse to working as part of a larger society should be ostracized, excluded entirely from all the business of society, along with their friends at HSBC (and any other institution engaging in like practices), or just locked up and fined the same way that has been happening to Black people in Ferguson, Missouri, as a matter of “the way we do business”.


(Short Business from Jeff Beck’s Rough and Ready)