Dialogue de Sourds, Headbashing Forever


Milton Friedman and Friedrich Hayek, amongst others, have long taught that we need to live in a society of unfettered markets, markets defined by and tailored to suit the needs of those whose principal drive is the accumulation of wealth, and therefore power, in the hands of the same people writing the definitions and the laws and processes that derive therefrom. How is this working for you? How is it working for your neighbours, friends, colleagues and fellow citizens. Is it looking as though, words aside, it is taking us to a rosy future of economic, social and environmental security? We will have different answers, of course, and likely depending upon where we sit in the economic hierarchy, and many of us not only have never known any other model, but may also not have considered any other model, along the lines of Margaret Thatcher’s pronouncement about there being no alternative and Francis Fukuyama’s jubilant declaration that we’ve reached the end of history, what with the fall of the Soviet Union.

There are rumblings: Anonymous, Idle No More and a host of protests about particular issues and projects, as is the current No Dakota Pipeline movement in the Dakotas and fanning out into Indigenous communities, and, slowly it is dawning on some groups that they will continue to burn the soles of their feet stamping out wildfires as long as there is systemic creation of irritants. Most of us are so busy with the concerns of day-to-day life, paying the bills, raising the children, ensuring that work is going as well as it can and trying to maintain a decent standard of living with, perhaps, some recreation built into the mix, that we hardly have time to investigate matters of governance, of resource usage and allocation, of attempts to manage the living system that hosts us. Additionally, since our neighbours share the same concerns and burdens as we have, the larger topics are unlikely to make it onto the docket for Friday conversation over coffee, or beer, or dinner. It is no help that what confronts us when we dial in the television, the radio, or go to our favourite respected news site on the Web is an amalgam of feel-good human interest stories, cat videos, fluff posts about health studies, updates on distant wars and terror attacks, threats from asteroids and earthquakes, and inducements to buy as much as you can afford, and then some.

Perhaps everything, as the fictitious philosopher Pangloss oft iterated, is arranged for the best in this, the best of all possible worlds. There are those who suspect that there are several things rotten in the Kingdom of Figurative Denmark and whose fears might be quelled by some open dialogue that at least challenges the accepted doctrines of the Chicago School and the Washington Consensus. This falls under the heading of the life needing to be examined in order to gain legitimacy. The prescription is neither endorsement nor condemnation, but the examination through dialogue of what the possibilities might be.

To that end, I would like to invite all and sundry to an event, a ninety-minute film screening with the possibility of a conversation to follow in what seem to be rather convivial surroundings:


The film is biased as heck in favour of co-operatives. No one has to agree, because alternatives have to withstand challenge. However the simple act of discussion might produce some interesting possibilities.  There is no cost to get in, and you don’t really have to buy anything, though I know Char would welcome your custom and support. No one is taking attendance, and you can leave at any time. Or you can stay and be a champion of your ideas.

Hope to see you there.


The Mouse That Mewled

Canada Makes The Big Time…

… for something other than the photogenic quality of its PM.



Reported in both the Glob and Male and here, in SF Gate, alternately Canada, or Freeland, walked out of talks with the Walloons (Franco-Belgian Region) in an attempt to bring them to heel so that the EU can sign off on CETA, officially the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement, the latest in a series of treaties aimed at removing barriers to corporate profit at the expense of pretty much everything, including sovereignty, way of life, culture, localization, the environment, sane fiscal policy, taxation, judicial matters, oh, and yes, it does reduce tariffs. However the agreement is dominated by the same ISDS clauses that make the treaty so odious in the eyes of those not likely to cash in on the corporate bonanza and also likely, through taxes, likely to pay for the rich settlements awarded by special tribunals for anything that constitutes a barrier to profits, real or merely possible (and sometimes not ever possible, but, hey!, you never know).

This situation is reminiscent of The Mouse That Roareda silly little bit of fiction from the mid-50s that was notoriously made into a film with Peter Sellers, prophetic is that the whole brouhaha centers on a trade dispute and has a ridiculously small and inconsequential jurisdiction holding sway over a much larger and more powerful entity. And it is likely to remain fluffy fiction, given the simple disparity in the weight of the parties in the international community and the rather narrow leverage at the disposal of the blocking party.

It is comforting to think that there is at least one government, even if only a small regional government, who, in the midst of the pressure from the rest of the EU governments and the establishment in Brussels (no small irony), has the fortitude to speak out in favour of its citizens. Many other EU nations have sizeable numbers of people opposed to much of what happens in the current anti-social iteration of the EU and to what compliant governments in component countries are willing to accept as part of what is supposed to be the economic cornucopia conferred by EU membership. The Greeks are likely the best, if not the only, constituency to poll on that score.

The other signatory to this document is, of course, Canada, and we don’t find much about opposition to this and other agreements in the press, likely because those who own and run the presses are happy to let the sleeping dogs lie and to abet the theft of sovereignty because said owners will be full beneficiaries of the shareholding class’s bonus. In addition, it should be noted that the Sunny Ways government currently installed on Parliament Hill has not been a model of communication or candour about the contents of the treaties they’re looking to sign into law, touting the reductions in trade barriers without mentioning the poison pills of dispute settlement, as well as constraints that will kill initiatives to build local economy or preserve some semblance of a livable environment. In this, as in other instances, Sunny Ways means pretty much the same sludge that we got from Harper and Company, regression rather than progression, profits rather than people, and a narrow circle of beneficiaries connected to Bay Street and the inner sanctums of the Liberal and Conservative parties.


Shakeout Shakedown (A Public Service Announcement)

Today was the great BC Shakeout, a drill for a seemingly likely major earthquake for which we, as BC residents should be as prepared as possible. Here’s the typical illustration of what to do:


There are many other preparations, including ensuring that we have a supply of food and clothing to last at least 72 hours, shelter provisions in case of catastrophic building failure and a means to receive communications from competent authorities.

What this illustration does not necessarily depict, but might, is what to do on the approach of the current Liberal crowd in residence at the Rockpile on Belleville. Sadly, there doesn’t seem to be any cover from this crowd:


And, oddly, on Global’s Noon Newsiness, there was a report on Keith Baldrey’s valiant work as a safety marshall wherein he put a yellow hard hat over his helmet and marshalled folks out of the building and onto the lawn because these people know he means business. The only problem, a situation that somehow was omitted from the report, was that the legislature isn’t sitting, and the government caucus is firmly ensconced in a series of cosy lunches and dinners meeting with certain of their constituents who recognize the value in having that well paid and often well remunerated contact with potential MLAs and particularly those folks likely to sit in a cabinet post. The rest of us are pictured above. Just my thought.




Look Who’s Coming (or not) to Dinner


Cue the speeches, Manuel Valls has come to give Justin some guidance on Canada’s return to a more active rôle in international affairs. Of grave concern are the possible deployment of Canadian peacekeeping contingents (most likely in Africa) and the hitches that are showing up in the deployment of yet another “trade agreement”, in this case, the Canada-Europe affair, CETA. There is substantial opposition to the treaty, principally because of what it does to the people’s voice in economic affairs and the eternal presence of the same Chapter 11-style dispute settlement mechanism pioneered in the FTA and consecrated in NAFTA, various bilateral agreements between Canada and South American nations, and firmly lodged in the text of the TPP. The centre of dissent at this point is a Belgian region, Wallonia, the French-speaking part, who apparently have some veto power over Belgium’s position and who are considerably less commercially oriented than their Flemish co-citizens. This is not to mention blocs of opposition in many other Euro countries (including France), with a very loud, and numerous, German crowd massing from time to time to voice their opposition and general dissatisfaction with Merkel’s neoliberal policies. The idea strikes fear into the hearts of politicians of Valls’ ilk because it gives dissident minorities tremendous leverage in directing the affairs of the whole EU, and besides, in May Valls’s crowd is up for re-election, or not, running on a record of dismal economic and social performance and general sell-outs to the financial establishment. Many people find it either perplexing or ironic that Valls’s figurehead, François Hollande, and his party get to carry the name of Socialists. But hey, it’s politics, and so, off with their heads!

Accompanying Valls, and not very closely, was this character:


French anti-globalisation activist Jose Bove smokes the pipe as he arrives to attend on October 20, 2008 in Paris a presentation of the alliance "Europe-Ecology rally". The rally gathers trends of the ecology politics to run for the EU elections on June 7, 2009. AFP PHOTO / FRANCK FIFE

French anti-globalisation activist Jose Bove smokes the pipe as he arrives to attend on October 20, 2008 in Paris a presentation of the alliance “Europe-Ecology rally”. The rally gathers trends of the ecology politics to run for the EU elections on June 7, 2009. AFP PHOTO / FRANCK FIFE

José Bové was actually denied entry to Canada the other day, likely because he is in some ways the conscience of whatever French government that is pursuing the environmental degradation of our common living space, and it’s likely that CBSA was alerted to his criminal record and that he might, during a visit to Canada, dismantle a Macdonalds restaurant in Trois-Rivières, or uproot some GMO corn elsewhere in the Eastern Townships or the Ottawa Valley. More likely, his refusal of entry was a sop to Valls so that there would be no countervailing voice in the discussions of peacekeeping in Mali, where, coincidentally, it seems, there are large stocks of uranium ore used by the French to fuel reactors to generate electricity and, coincidentally, create the warheads for the weapons that can be slung under the wings of the Rafale fighters that France is flogging wherever they can find the willing cash.

Bové was eventually admitted, I think, but there has been no reference to him in any source that I read (OK, I haven’t looked that hard), but I imagine that he might have a slightly more difficult time finding a podium and a wide audience than Justin and Manuel.

And while we’re at it, I’m sad to hear that Naheed Nenshi has taken to task those critics of the widespread mining and distribution of dilbit. This also happened to Rick Mercer, who may have redeemed himself somewhat with his rant against Nestlé, but the anti-anti-dilbit comments indicate people who might be a tad too comfortable with current arrangements and whose broader view doesn’t encompass a rapid transition to truly sustainable energy. We don’t expect this from Brad Wall, or from the Sparkle Pony LNG crowd that run the Rockpile on Belleville in our own fair province, but Nenshi and Mercer should be representative of a more forward-thinking view, or at least the ability to ask the questions and to tolerate diversity of opinion.

Role Models

An example to us all

An example to us all

I discovered Clay Bennet’s work around the time we saw the advent of George W. Bush in the Oval Office and have followed him ever since. When his gig at the Christian Science Monitor evaporated, he eventually resurfaced at the Chattanooga Times Free Press which has persisted in supporting his cartooning habit despite a fair level of vitriol in the comments section.

The Trump reference is telling, but no moreso than in the case of other leaders, and in my own mind, our own Christy Clark is top of the list. The example she sets for the people of her province and for all those who have to engage with us puts her squarely into Hillary Clinton’s basket of deplorable (a location Hillary should know well). With the old Biblical injunction about the casting of stones being the privilege of those without sin, it’s a wonder that Christy Clark gets to say anything at all. Shame on her for putting up this sterling example of general malfeasance and mendacity, and shame on us for putting up with this performance  and those of the rest of the gang at the Rockpile on Bellevue. We can only speculate as to whether we will come to our senses in time to undo the deep damages of the last fifteen years.




Who pays for this stuff?

What once might have looked like this...

What once might have looked like this…


...often ends up looking like this.

…often ends up looking like this.

Via Twitter feed this morning, several people have linked to this article in the Vancouver Sun:


Stephen Hume: Jordan River salmon wiped out by copper tailings


There are abandoned mine and petroleum drilling  sites that continue to dot the landscape and continue to do damage to the environment for decades or longer. This is a sad fact, but compounded by the increasing frequency of these disastrous incursions into the common living space. It would seem that there is rarely any serious and competent remediation that takes place, and the regulation of this phenomenon that does so much damage to what belongs to all of us doesn’t speak well for the people who are elected to look after the best interests of their constituents.

What is missing is a sense that those who broke it ought to be fixing it, and the power of the law should ensure that those who profited from mines and such should also figure in the costs of putting the land, sea, and air right before they move on to the next project. It appears that a set of moral values is not enough to see that this takes place, and, oddly, there seems not to be a process in law for bringing about the necessary remediation on the part of the perpetrators. This happens largely because of the laws regarding incorporation under which the law limits or absolves the miners (et al) of any downstream liability for the consequences of their actions. The standard line from the corporate sector is that these are externalities that have no business on the balance sheet, and that nothing would ever get done were the principal actors and shareholders held to account for ongoing damages.

Perhaps that is a message we ought to take more seriously: if a project can’t profitably be completely remediated, then the project isn’t profitable. Under current law, it is profitable, given that the wealth extracted goes to the principal actors and shareholders who are then allowed to walk away and leave the damages to the public. In the most dire cases, the corporation just declares bankruptcy and bids the whole affair adieu, or manages to gain a bail-out or subsidy of some kind from the government, again putting the commons in the bag for the consequences of private acts.

Dare we contemplate a slower, more broadly rewarding economy where no one escapes liability and accountability and where fewer of these projects happen without a complete plan for protection of the environment? Seems even the thought is beyond the powers now calling the shots, but perhaps as the consequences of fouling our nest become more apparent and unavoidable, a light will begin to shine, though probably too late to ensure a decent living space for all things great and small.

The Right Message



There is much in this cartoon from Graeme Mackay about how politics is practised in most jurisdictions with much room for commentary on how we should govern ourselves, what with politics having pretty much divorced itself from governance. The context for the cartoon could very well be explained in the blog post I read this morning from the Disaffected Liberal:

1.5 C by 2030. 2.0 C by 2050. Let’s Go Out and Get an Electric Car


I know people in our local community who’ve been working on the whole climate change file for a couple of decades already, and have made little in the way of inroads into the general consciousness. The sad fact is that even some of the staunchest proponents of reduction of atmospheric greenhouse gasses are still living a life that produces a healthy dose of said gasses, and no end in sight. In part, this could be attributed to the possibility of a complete loss of credibility in the eyes of Everyman in appearing to be too far out on the fringe, but I also suspect that some of it is just personal and societal inertia.

The Disaffected Lib’s words are important in that they are a warning and a reinforcement of the warnings of Bill McKibben, James Lovelace, James Hansen and the like that a crash is on the way, that we’re making the consequences worse as we fritter away time in political squabbles within an obsolete framework and shirk responsibility or just delay as we wait for the other guy to go first, or for some leader to step up and move the process forward with the expeditiousness appropriate to the situation.

This thought follows on the heels of a conversation I had with a certain local councillor that was more an exploration than a dialectic about the rôle that elected officials ought to play in society, a rôle that has a couple of channels. The first is to to get educated, and then to educate. Our adversarial system often leads officials  to work from a pre-set party platform, often the result of being beholden to a certain group of people in society, sometimes motivated by attempting to right the wrongs of previous groups of the elected, and, facts be damned, to work inside that administrative bubble that allows us to carry on with a dynamic balance that brooks no accounting for crises on the horizon, however close in that horizon might be.

Living as if there were no tomorrow, we are converting a carefree metaphor into a self-fulfilling prophecy.  
—John Whiting
Our own Christy Clark is a perfect example of an elected official who runs her show according to predetermined guidelines as set by her Liberal Party donor list and who wilfully ignores the evidence that cries out that her whole program is not only creating hardship for the majority of her constituents but is also hastening the onset of catastrophe, this in aid of keeping her in the limelight for another term. My sense is that she is at least somewhat aware of the hazardous path on which she has set her administration but that she is unwilling to acknowledge or act upon what she knows, indicating that her need to educate herself is more in the affective domain, in her need to develop empathy and a sense of general justice, than it is in factual scientific learning. Rachel Notley is another who seems more focused on staying in the driver’s seat than on doing what it will take for us to make the needed contribution from our little corner of the world. A clearer vision would see her educating her electorate in the benefits of a shift both immediate and radical to renewable energy and pipelines be damned. Not happening: it’s a daunting task in any jurisdiction, an eminently steeper climb in bitumen-soaked Alberta, especially given the nature of the fossil fuel business and its propensity to concentrate both profit and power outside Alberta. I don’t know if Brad Wall needs to learn the sad facts of physics or whether he is another who wilfully shuns knowdge in pursuit of long-term political power, and Manitoba’s Brian Pallister has, to the best of my knowledge, kept his head down somewhat, but with his party affiliation, it would be easy to plunk him squarely in the Brad Wall camp. Wynne and Couillard have opted for cap and trade schemes, a good idea, perhaps, but easily gamed. Nova Scotia and Newfoundland have a lot of skin in the petroleum game and are likely to be somewhat recalcitrant in coming to the table when it comes to climate disruption.
Sadly, even when there is the best of intentions on the part of those who govern to educate their constituents about the do-or-die circumstances in which we find ourselves, the electorate itself has proven to be resistant to stepping up to accept the new reality. We’ve allowed ourselves to take the path of least resistance, to be lulled into indifference by the press whose stories have, by and large, downplayed any sense of urgency with respect to climate action, and, apart some exceptions, we are either too busy trying to scratch out a living from our current economic mess or just too comfortable to make the effort to readjust our expectations and our willingness to be active participants in what looks to be a monumental and painful march to sanity.
We can all draw our own conclusions. However, possible future generations will not look kindly on the sort of mess we seem on course to leave to those who survive whatever period of readjustment befalls us.