On Track









Following the surfacing of a video of a young teen having his bicycle stolen at gunpoint in Williams Lake, B.C., the city council voted unanimously to inject GPS tracking devices into the bodies of repeat offenders so that the community can feel more at ease knowing exactly where all the miscreants are at all times. Some might suggest that the councillors take the plunge first, but that would make them as silly as their intended victims. Mightn’t it be better to ponder why there are prolific offenders and what might be done to bring these people back into the main stream of community life? It seems unlikely that this initiative would go very far in any case, but it seems typical of the frustration that leads us to throw up quick and dirty “solutions” to problems that have deeper and more nuanced causes and where we don’t seem to have the capacity to develop the patience and insight to address the problems other than with band-aid ideas more likely to exacerbate the problem than to improve the situation. But let’s let this one slide right on by.

In With The Winners







Bill Gates has cast in his lot with the FBI in their spat with Apple with regard to opening a back door to an iPhone for the Department of Justice, according to ReCode. This is not surprising as we’ve seen the king of marketing cavort at Davos with the stuff that rises to the neck of the old milk bottle. Not a crowd I would choose, but they certainly wouldn’t choose me, so the feeling is mutual. Gates is also a big fan on GMO products and Monsanto, it would seem, so this is a minor black mark in the book I don’t keep on Bill.

He reminds me of a class of people like Wayne Gretzky who was happy enough to have the protection of the NHLPA as a player; he might have been against them all along, but he sure benefited from the groundwork they laid that allowed him to blossom as a player and a financial entity. The move to LA seemed to coincide with the adoption of the polo pony lifestyle and the attitude of floating above the vicissitudes that trouble the little folk. All just a personal reflection on what I’ve seen of Wayne since 1988, and I have to admit that he hasn’t occupied a great deal of intellectual, spiritual or emotional space in my own little world. He fits in well with other champions of the underclasses like Bono, Sepp Blatter, and any number of athletes who have drawn deeply from the chalice of public support in their quest to carve out a little niche in the pantheon of prolific pulchritude (see? Rex Murphy is paddling like hell to squeeze in!).

Much is made of Mr. Gates, mostly because he has so much money, the Foundation not withstanding, given how the funds seem to get doled out, to whom, and with what strings attached. This is a man who made a fortune of selling bugs as features, who has managed to make the blue screen of death into a daily phenomenon and who, along with Apple and a legion of lesser players, has turned a large segment of the populace into techno-zombies who are readying themselves to surrender their ability to drive, to communicate face-to-face, to distinguish data from wisdom and a host of other functions that link us to our historical selves, as well as any constructive evolutionary future selves. He’s the perfect P.T.Barnum stand-in and has managed to cash in big-time as the one-born-every-minute has accelerated into billions and billions served.

This phenomenon of rising to blend in with the forces of the most destructive reminds me of a song that I first heard on a Bonnie Raitt album in, I believe, 1974:


And I did follow it back to its N’awlins roots (RIP AT):

Was This A Carly Simon Song?

A-mal-ga-mation, that is.


Eric Plummer posted a piece over at Alberni Thrive this morning that raises a number of questions, spurs some observations, and, I’m reasonably certain, will raise some hackles into the bargain.

I have interspersed my observations (in red) between Eric’s paragraphs and appended a couple of graphics for the contemplation of interested readers:


Fragmentation is the state of being broken, incomplete, consisting of detached pieces. This could describe the current condition of the Alberni Valley. Despite having one chamber of commerce, one arena complex and one aquatic centre, it remains questionable with many people if the Alberni Valley is one community.

Fragmentation is your choice of word. We don’t all worship at the same altar: we are a diverse community, and to think that the chamber of commerce, the arena couple and aquatic centre are the touchstones of the community is a shaky premise.
The need for this area to find a collective focus becomes increasingly urgent with each passing year. A stronger partnership amongst the City of Port Alberni and the outlying electoral areas of Sproat Lake, Beaver Creek, Cherry Creek and Beaufort is needed – a fact that makes the amalgamation of these areas into a district municipality a necessary topic among civic leaders in the future.
We can have collective focus without necessarily amalgamating all functions, and this needs to be a strong consideration in any discussion about consolidating governing structures.
For those who enjoy the benefits of the outlying areas’ rural lifestyle, “The District Municipality of Alberni” is a phrase that could make some squirm with discomfort. A major fear is that the city would just swallow up the smaller electoral areas like a marauding beast hungry for more tax dollars. But there are several reasons amalgamation would bring savings for the whole Valley, and push the area to be a more cooperative, streamlined community with a refined focus to find its potential in the 21st century.
Cost savings can be an entire red herring and, further, Port Alberni within its own bailiwick, is hardly the cooperative and streamlined community that you envision. The lack of focus reflects considerable divergence in a view of what the community ought to be: discussions on refined focus seem to constantly end up in the same place, a place where a significant portion of the population of the Valley chooses not to go.
Port Alberni is one of the few municipalities of its size to boast a fire department entirely composed of full-time professionals. The all-pro payroll isn’t cheap, but the costs of running the volunteer fire departments that serve Beaver Creek, Sproat Lake and Cherry Creek actually cost more per home due to the small population sizes of these outlying communities – in fact the Sproat Lake Volunteer Fire
Department took up most of the electoral area’s budgeted costs in 2015. Amalgamation could still use the valuable services of these volunteer firefighters, but with more professional support from the city’s force.
We need perhaps to consider that it is a specious argument to work at saving money on the backs of firefighters. They do a job, they should get paid. Current mutual aid operations work well enough, but having staffed fire halls around the Valley would likely improve both response time and outcomes. Paying firefighters is somewhat akin to paying insurance premiums on which your deepest hope is never to collect.
For a community, no natural resource is more important than water. The city currently taps into one of the best systems on Vancouver Island, as was proven during last summer’s drought when restrictions were imposed earlier and more severely in several other municipalities. The city has not issued a boil water advisory since December 2007, and now Beaver Creek residents can feel more at ease since joining Port Alberni’s supply two years ago. Plans are underway that could lead to Sproat Lake doing the same, creating a regional water supply that also includes Sproat Lake as a source. A more collective system that encompasses the whole Alberni Valley is inevitable as global warming continues.
A Valley-wide water system with multiple sources and sufficient redundancy built into the delivery mechanisms makes a lot of sense, but, again, does not require that all administrative functions be rolled into the compact dysfunction of a central municipal council. The funding for such a system ought properly to be shared among the local governments, the province and the federal government where we derive some benefit from the broader base of taxpayers as others have benefitted from the taxes we have paid over the years,
The meaninglessness of the municipal boundary between Port Alberni and its surrounding electoral areas is again shown with the location of the Valley’s signature tourist attraction, the McLean Mill National Historic Site. The city owns and subsidizes the mill and its steam train, but a ride on the No. 7 starts in Port Alberni’s Harbour Quay, and ends at the McLean Mill in Beaver Creek. This historic asset is about the logging history of the whole Valley.
The signature tourist attraction for the Valley might be more about fish than about the Mill, but the Mill is a good start at bringing a recreational focus to what we do in the Valley. The anomalies of ownership mean little in terms of coherence of recreational objectives and there is little to indicate that Mill governance or attractiveness would improve significantly under a district municipality.
Before some rural residents clutch their wallets for fear of tax hikes, the point cannot be lost that we’re all in this together when it comes to shouldering costs and attracting development to the Valley. Some powerful lobbying is needed in the near future to make those in Victoria and Ottawa listen to Alberni’s needs.
Again, we don’t need a major overhaul of administrative structures to speak with a unified voice. One might posit that we are unlikely to be heard in Victoria and Ottawa until we have the good sense to elect a member of the party forming government. Oh, wait, that describes the situation at the federal level for the decade preceding last October’s election, as well as the Trumper years in Victoria. It doesn’t take a lot of research or imagination to know that direct benefits to the Valley under both regimes have been negligible.
For years residents have been pushing for an alternative highway to provide a safer route than the winding mountain pass through Cathedral Grove. Yet with cost estimates starting somewhere around $50 million, a commitment from the province has yet to materialize. An initiative to expand the Alberni Valley Regional Airport suffered three grant rejections from the provincial government and the feds, placing the financing of the multi-million-dollar project on the backs of taxpayers. A large portion of Port Alberni’s watershed is owned by a logging company, and although a boil water advisory hasn’t been issued in years, provincial law does not obligate Island Timberlands to inform the city of what its doing with our water source.
See the above. Our current economic and legal system makes no provision for local government to alter the status of forest/watershed ownership. In fact, it was our current provincial government that allowed said logging company to remove our watershed from TFL without penalty for the benefits they enjoyed under the years under the TFL regime.  As for the alternate route, it really looks as though the benefits of the route never rise to the point where they would justify the cost. This has been on the agenda since I arrived here forty years ago and has advanced only in the discourse of politicians attempting to curry favour and locals whose capacity for oneiric satisfaction displaces their connection to reality. Please see the attached bit about Dakota wisdom.
The list could go on for reasons a more collective government is needed in the Alberni Valley. According to B.C.’s Local Government Act, a vote involving affected residents with more than 50 per cent approval is required to make the district municipality happen. The issue needs to be considered by officials, then put to the electorate. Will our future be determined by fragmentation and fear, or the cooperative formulation of ideas that benefit the whole Alberni Valley?
By all means, let’s have the discussion, but bullying the outlying communities into a shotgun wedding with the city would be cause for considerable strife. There will have to be compelling evidence to convince those in outlying areas to join forces with the city, especially when cooperation on an issue-by-issue basis might produce equally good results.
An impediment to consolidation of local authority is the lack of trust engendered by a sense that the City is not well governed and I would like to offer the silly graphic below for contemplation in regard to the governance of any jurisdiction, Port Alberni being no exception (but how many cases of government do we know of that fall in that upper right quadrant?).

Dead Horse


The Good News Is Everywhere



I had a little pass through the site of the Washington Post this evening. Very enlightening, though perhaps not in the intended message.  I just find that I have to spend some time away from the echo chamber of my own building to see what’s out there and how it’s being presented to what seems to be an audience that is content to assume they’re getting the whole picture from mass media.


An article that scores right up there on my own interest scale is the hammering out of an agreement that David Cameron can use to bolster the idea that the UK should avoid a Brexit, a departure from the European Union. On the face of it, the agreement gives special status to the UK in terms of retaining its own currency and making decisions about immigration and border matters (among other items), and this permits Cameron to pursue his policies of disaster capitalism without interference from the European Parliament. It also highlights what the EU has become, that being a vast neoconservative project to bring together as many European nations in a vast trading bloc where competition and flexibility of labour standards trump considerations of equity and well-being, human rights and the process of building a peaceful continent. It really is wonderful that France and Germany haven’t blown each other up for over seven decades, something of a rarity in the course of recent history, but a different kind of warfare is at work with the auto/technocrats centered in Brussels and following the lead of Chancellor Merkel working to ensure that Greek, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese and Irish assets fall into the hands of banking cartels, and that the large bulk of wealth continues to trickle up to those already on the winning end of the economic scale. At the same time, EU nations who once ruled vast empires, continue to plunder as much abroad as possible to feed the Euro version of the new empire, based partly on the same brute force of old empires, partly on the thumbscrews of capital and market access.


Elsewhere, Christine Lagarde has been reappointed as president to the IMF for a second five-year term. She was finance minister of France for a while under President Nicolas Sarkozy, a willing participant in rolling back workers’ rights, gutting protections for ordinary citizens, working to privatize pretty much whatever she could get away with and dodging inquiries into her dealings with Bernard Tapie, a once wunderkind of French business (sounds weird, doesn’t it?). As far as I can tell, she’s brought the same flair to her work at the IMF, continuing to push loans on poorer countries for projects that will benefit the larger concerns in international construction and finance ensure that the peasants everywhere are loaded down with debts they have little chance of paying off.










We might also recall that she was pressed into service when Dominique Strauss-Kahn was embroiled in a sex scandal in a New York hotel room in the days leading up to the presidential election in France, and election in which he was favoured to win the nomination of the Socialist Party and to very possibly oust Sarkozy. There was speculation that DSK had to go because he was making noises about a major shift in IMF policy away from the model pursued by Lagarde and those of her ilk. Whatever it was, he certainly left himself open to opprobrium and prosecution as multiple incidents of sexual bad behaviour seemed to pop up out of the woodwork like termites exposed to light, and DSK has been effectively sidelined, his place taken by Lagarde, that paragon of social rectitude and financial solidity.

The Post might define these two events as proof that the world is unfolding as it should, but those of us who live outside the fairy tale land defined by the Washington Beltway (and its equivalent at No. 10 Downing, the EU HQ in Brussels and the  Elysée Palace) might be more tempted to see said happenings as yet another shot across the bows of any meaningful undoing of the predations of the last forty years and a harbinger of yet more pillaging to come.

Meanwhile, here’s a little Pure Food and Drug Act from 1972 or thereabouts, Sugarcane Harris, Paul Lagos, Randy Resnick, Victor Conte and Harvey Mandel, something of an offshoot of John Mayall’s Blues Union outfit. Saw them do these tunes at the PNE Gardens about that time.  The second half of the vid has the intended message.

They also did a kind of a modal moan with lots of improv, the main lyric of which was something on the order of “Why don’t you cut that joker loose and come fly with me to L.A.”, I’ve never been able to find a recording and would appreciate knowing if it exists.



Not The Fourth, Not the First, Even


Heard CBC announcing again that DeJong had done this or that in his fourth balanced budged, no caveats anywhere, no commentary, just a simple statement of faith. Anyone who puts a lot of faith in the pronouncements of DeJong or any of the current crop of BC Liberal ministers is on a bit of a fool’s errand, but these little gems of chickenshit-that-passes-for-journalism are what keeps the circus in town, and it’s everywhere in the newspapers, on the radio and on television. Some of it is perhaps because of time and budget constraints, but I suspect that there is much of it that lies in direction coming from the top levels of the executive suite. It’s ugly stuff, it’s lying by omission, it’s a crime of lèse-société, and it does real harm to real people.Sadly, there seem to be no consequences for either the (lack of) reporting, or the underlying damage done by the pols in question.  Y’all have a nice day, now.

Dummies and Extras


If you ever happen to be watching an American network in the next little while, you’re pretty certain to see some of this, in fact, a lot of this. It may not be this guy for much longer, but you can substitute the clown or your choice, because the clown car is pretty full right about now. Here’s my attempt to be even-handed:


In this case, for the purposes of this piece, we’re less concerned about the people in the foreground and their plenitude of pronouncements (Rex! where are you now that no one needs you?) than about the people who cluster around the speakers and either nod sagely or bobble their heads uncontrollably. Knowing that some of them are hired actors doesn’t make the silliness any more palatable as we watch people agreeing with some of the most patent dishonesty imaginable. It conjures up images of this, an all-too-frequent occurrence:


Sorry about not getting the hard hats.

This Is The Best We Can Do?

File 154


In a report released this morning, the Fraser Institute continues to build a legend around a theme of digging up novel methodologies for making reality fit their creed of greed (oh, and by the way, you don’t get any, but you don’t need to know that). The report ranks the provincial premiers on their fiscal acumen and, surprise, Christy Clark comes out as the winner. Please go read the whole thing as it encapsulates the decades of depredations occasioned by those who follow the tenets of this well-funded echo chamber of acolytes of the University of Chicago Economic Orthodoxy.


Isn’t it good to know that we’re number one at something other than the lowest minimum wage and the most child poverty?

Bennett Redux


Evidently, we’re not done praising Mr. Bennett. A memorial gathering was held this past weekend in Kelowna and much praise was heaped on the now-deceased Premier. I know this from hearing some tasty clips on CBC Radio’s On The Island, clips from a couple of my favourite people, Pattison and Spector, commenting that Bennett seemed tough, but that it was tough love and that he always had the interests of the people of BC at heart, in addition to which, he had a knack for telling the truth. Yes, yes he did care about keeping the people of BC in their place as contributors to the Pattison economy, and yes, yes he did tell the truth, exactly as dictated by folks like Pattison and Spector (Spector who worked tirelessly for the likes of Billy Bennett and Zalm, friend to Campbell and to that stirling example of moral rectitude, Brian Mulroney). These people are so generous that they would save us from the sin of greed by being taking on all the greed they can and showing us the true path of poverty and obedience. So now can we call it a day and let Bennett stay dead?