09/28/14

Nuke Me Nuke You

 

NukeBlast

If you are thanking you’re lucky stars for being born in a commonwealth country such as Canada, Australia or New Zealand because, according to the release of The Economist – Intelligence Unit’s, “the best cities to live in the world” report, nine of the top eleven are in these countries, be glad and grateful. Based on stability, healthcare, culture, environment, and including such things as education, what type of crime is prevalent, levels of censorship and availability of good quality housing and goods, the top ten cities to live in the world are Melbourne (Aus), Vienna, Austria, Vancouver (Can), Toronto (Can), Calgary (Can), Adelaide (Aus), Sydney (Aus), Helsinki, Finland, Perth (Aus), and Auckland, New Zealand.  Such places are also some of the most expensive places to live in the world.

If you would like to gloat for awhile, please, I didn’t. Because in reality, no matter where one lives, many find life is a struggle most days, especially trying to keep ones sanity intact. But if you are jumping around and fist-pumping, the following article should perhaps not be read at such a time.

It is a piece that formed in my head August 6th, the day of remembrance of Hiroshima, and I started thinking about some research into radiation sickness I had been doing, my knowledge and research over the decades of the accuracies of World War II, and not the Hollywood version, and how in a heartbeat, everything could change, because a few countries have nuclear power in both warheads and reactors, with most of the reactors run past their forty year life-spans. So if you do not need distraction from your distractions, or your bubble popped, the following might be a downer. But then as stated, it could all shatter in seconds anyways.

Such a looming threat though should only make us more concerned into making each day count, for ourselves and those around us and within our communities, and to be aware of such threats, and most importantly, allowing ourselves to talk about such things. If you are going to venture forth and read further, next time you have to vote, think about to whom you will be bestowing upon such a right and who you are hiring, and that your concerns will be acknowledged.  It’s supposed to be our voice, not theirs. And if being the eternal optimists, to remember it is not too late to stop nuclear madness.


 

In the final months of World War II the States were in the process of becoming the new and dominant world empire, since the British Empire had torn her guts out over the course of two world wars and had roared its last hurrah. As for those still alive who actually think Germany would have stormed North America, and we’d all be speaking German are delusional. They could not even take Britain. As for the Japanese, they had no interest in North America, there plan was to delay the Americans, while they took control of the natural resources in Southwest Asia. They felt they had only about a year to sixteen months to take what they could, before the industrial might of the States would produce enough to stop them. They were correct. On a side note, if the American carrier fleet was not at sea the day Pearl Harbour was attacked; the Japanese might have had a few more months’ leeway, at the most.

All over the world, many countries were shaken to their cores, on their knees retching after the previous years of war. Some countries lost a generation of their population, especially when the majority of deaths in World War II, by far, were civilians. All together, including deaths from war-related disease, famine, and in captivity, 85 million people died in World War II, nearly four per cent of the world population at the time.

Military deaths totaled 22 to 25 million, the remainder, 55 million, were civilians. It was what war would become in the 20th century. Drop bombs on cities. Where destroying another’s industry, was deemed far more important than nearly exterminating entire populations. And as the war went on, the bombs became only bigger, and more and more civilians felt their wrath.

In Nov 44’ the Americans were close enough in their island hopping to begin fire-bombing Japanese cities. The majority of Japanese homes and businesses were made of wood and paper. It was a turkey shoot.

By March 45’ a typical bombing raid over Japan had escalated to operations such as Operation Meeting House, carried out that month, where 279 B-29’s, flying at an average altitude of about 2100m (7000ft) above Tokyo, would drop 1665 tons (3.3 million lbs) of incendiary bombs, mostly 230kg (500lb) cluster bombs, which would explode at about 659m (2250ft) releasing 38 napalm carrying incendiary bomblets.  The effect was total destruction.  Forty square kilometers (15.8 sq mi) of the center of Tokyo disappeared in firestorm tornados.  Twenty-five per cent of the city ceased to exist. Over 280,000 buildings and homes were destroyed.

At the time, Tokyo was the most densely populated area in the world, with about 103,000 people every 2.59 sq km (one sq mi). And while there is an array of estimated deaths, with such a density, logic would dictate that it was probably much worse than the estimated 90,000 to 150,000 deaths, and over 200,000 injured.  It would become the single most destructive bombing raid on a civilian population in history, more than even Hiroshima and Nagasaki, four months later.

By June 45’ sixty-seven cities had been firebombed in such a way, with over half a million civilian dead, untold numbers injured and burned, and over five million people homeless.  In contrast, and if you do not include the 9,500 members of the US Merchant Marine who died, the States lost only 2,500 civilians over the course of the entire war, while the Soviets lost over 19 million.

After breaking the Japanese military code in 43’ the Americans had been listening in on Japanese communications, and after June 45’ were receiving a lot of traffic concerning the Japanese perhaps surrendering.  Though officially the Japanese, like Winston Churchill, continued to give word that they shall never surrender, behind the scenes steps were being made towards peace.

The Japanese Islands were surrounded, with nothing going in and nothing coming out. Forty per cent of the urban areas of their largest six cities ceased to exist, with the guts of what remained of their industry totally devastated. And having lost nearly five per cent of their population, over twenty-five per cent of both their army and navy, millions injured, and cities no longer existing, there was no doubt the Japanese were losing the ability to continue or even defend their homeland.

Their last ditch effort kamikaze and banzai attacks, expending men, aircraft, and ships were their last gasps. It’s getting desperate when after losing one of the heaviest and most powerful armed battleships ever made, the Musashi, in Oct 44’ during the Battle of Leyte Gulf, sunk after absorbing seventeen bombs and being torpedoed nineteen times, the other, her sister-ship the Yamato, would steam out with a full complement of crew (3,332 men), and a full payload of ammunition on a one way trip to Okinawa in April 45’. The Americans were on her like a pack of wolves, and after eleven torpedoes and six bombs had crashed into her, she keeled over, her magazines exploded and scattered what was left of her into dust and pieces.  Of the crew there were only two hundred and eighty two survivors.

The Japanese and the Americans, also knew that Russia was on its way, with the Trans-Siberian railway running full out since the defeat of Germany in May 45’, as Russian troops and material were being priority posted to their east coast in preparation for the assault on Japan. The Japanese also knew that if the Russians were to assault them, Stalin would not worry about how many of his soldiers died to take Japan.  And no matter how well they defended their island, the Japanese people knew they would no doubt be nearly exterminated. As it turned out, over the coming months the Americans would give a shot at doing the exact same thing.

The Russians had already beaten the other Allies to Berlin, now their intentions were on beating them to Tokyo as well. This was something the American leadership could not accept. So in typical American logic, to speed up any peace negotiations, they decided to obliterate even more Japanese cities and force them to surrender to America alone. Further deciding to drop nuclear bombs instead of conventional bombs, and call them funny names like Little Boy and Fat Man.

But proving karma can very often be a bitch, after delivering parts and enriched uranium for the Little Boy atomic bomb (destined for Hiroshima) to Tinian, in the North Mariana Islands, the heavy cruiser, USS Indianapolis would continue onto Guam, leaving there on July 28th 45’ and steaming for the Philippines.

At ten minutes past midnight on the 30th, the Japanese submarine I-58 would put two torpedoes into the Indianapolis, and a mere twelve minutes later three hundred sailors would go down with her, while the remaining nine hundred went into the water. Four days would go by until by chance, a PV-1 Ventura, patrol bomber on routine patrol would spot men adrift. Doing a flyby, all they could do was to drop a life-raft and a radio transmitter and get the word out. Later that day a PBY Catalina arrived on scene, and against orders landed on the open sea, picking up fifty-six survivors. Thereafter, the destroyer Cecil J. Doyle would show up and begin coordinating the rescue. Within twenty-four hours, six more destroyers would show up to assist.

While nearly nine hundred went into the water ten days previous, by Aug 8th, when the search was called off, only three hundred and seventeen would come out. The sinking of the Indianapolis is the greatest single loss of life at sea in the history of the US Navy.

Meanwhile, on August 6th Little Boy had been put together, armed and loaded into a Boeing B-29 Superfortress bomber, named the Enola Gay. Named by its pilot, Paul Tibbetts, Jr, Enola Gay was his mother’s name, who he honored for her support and strength when earlier he had given up a medical career to become a military pilot. So instead of healing and caring for people, he could instead drop bombs on them.

Before this mission the Enola Gay had practised by participating in the fire bombings of Kobe and Nagoya, two of Japan’s most populated cities. To simulate dropping an atomic bomb, they dropped five-ton pumpkin bombs. Similar in size and shape, as well as ballistic and handling characteristics, they proved to be nearly as destructive, carrying 6,300 lbs of explosives each.

On August 6th, Tibbetts and a crew of eleven would take off from Tinian, and soon rendezvous with two other B-29s, The Great Artiste, carrying instrumentation, and the Necessary Evil, to take photos, because they still did not have any idea how it’d go and how destructive it would be, nor did anyone know anything about how radiation affected humans. They were like babes in the woods thinking they were explorers.

Hiroshima was selected because of the three possible choices, the weather was sunny and clear, which was excellent for the Americans because they wanted to take pictures and see what these atomic bomb things could do. Little Boy was dropped from 9,470m (31,000ft) and detonated at about 600m (1968ft) above Hiroshima, which at the time had a population of about 350,000. Though considered very inefficient, with only perhaps 1.7 per cent of its fissile material (140 lbs of uranium) fissioning, it still created a blast equivalent to sixteen kilotons of TNT (14.5 million kg / 32 million lbs).

One square mile of Hiroshima’s center disappeared, with resulting fires destroying an estimated 12 sq km (4.4 sq mi) of the city. 80,000 people would die, with more than 70,000 people injured and mostly burnt. Nearly 70 per cent of Hiroshima’s buildings ceased to exist.

The Enola Gay was 18.5km (11.5mi) away by the time they felt the shock waves from the blast. Looking back, pilot Tibbetts would describe what he saw as simply “that awful cloud.” It was undoubtedly the moment when some say that the possibility of the apocalypse was passed from the so called gods’ hands, and into our hand.

08/20/14

Teabags by Mrs. Henderson

 

 

Tilling the Soil

 

Whilst making my tea yesterday afternoon I was compelled to ponder. What effect did tea bags have on the staple  industry when our modern world discarded their trusty kettles and Brown Betty combinations steeped just right to perfection, to on the fly zap it in the microwave. Hence having glue fasten our strings on. How relieved must the string suppler have been. How rejoiced the glue factory must have been …. Did they see this shift in demand coming ?

 

 

 

 

08/13/14

Robin the Mensch

RobinWilliams

Robin Williams 1951 – 2014

“You’re only given one little spark of madness. You mustn’t lose it.”

At first I thought it was just me and my often silly human mind. But I felt the earth move yesterday. Not in the physical realm but in the global consciousness we all share. After bumping into people all day who are close to me, I found I was not alone. Prolonged hugs seemed to be the norm, instead of just saying see you later.

07/29/14

My “Peace in the Middle East” Piece

Quick as a bunny, where is this picture taken?

tehran

 

It’s not entering Vancouver BC, nor any other similiar city in the States. But it could be.

It is but a large, typical human city, with the only differences perhaps being in diet, language and skin color. But then in most major cities today around the globe, multiples of such differences are coexisting within their own populations, and makes such cities, as the one shown here, so cultural, vibrant and alive. People, who are young and old, whether man, woman or gay. Of different beliefs and traditions, yet still get along with one another. A few have too much; far too many have nothing at all, while some are actually comfortably happy in the middle. Such cities are populated predominately by good folk; whose lives sometimes only get disrupted by wayward souls not handling today’s society, elected officials, middle management, entitled and rabid by-law aficionados,  fools, or the occasional true bastard or bitch. Life in the city.

Most are not concerned with world affairs at all, because instead, they are trying to focus on their own life, their own world-view, and the lives of the individuals who make up their life. Just doing the best they can, and trying to make each day count, and perhaps mean something, for not only themselves but for their friends and family as well. Hoping to make a difference and being happy with what you got, and with what one can achieve. All the while simply trying to put food on the table and have a roof over your head where you can crash, quietly, securely and safely. And each day go out into the world and do whatever you need to do, just don’t hurt anybody or yourself doing it.

The picture above is of a city that once the Nazis get done with persecuting, starving and killing, especially those who resist and shoot back, the Jews held within the Warsaw Ghetto, then move into the realm of trying to exterminate them…….. Oh my, I am sorry, wrong century.

The picture above is of a city that, once Israel is done with killing as many Palestinians in the Gaza Ghetto as they can, and then afterwards continue to persecute and starve the survivors, because such people have been made into “the other”, thus looked at as less than human, much like they themselves once were, will be next on Israel’s agenda and list of things to do, and kill if they have to.

Making their enemies, less than, is why in Israeli mathematics, perhaps one, maybe two, Israeli soldier deaths equal, or as often the case, be of greater value than, five hundred Palestinian civilian men, women and children killed.  Or that they stress to the media that they warn beforehand a neighborhood which will be reduced to rubble and that for the Palestinian people to run and hide. Run to where?

The Gaza strip is surrounded. For all intents and purposes it is a large concentration camp. To their west lies the Mediterranean Sea, where offshore an Israeli Naval armada sits and pounds them daily. Their 11km (6.8mi) southern border is heavily fortified by Egypt, who doesn’t like Sunni Muslims, which make up much of the Gazan population. To the east and north is their 51km (32mi) heavily fenced, mined, and armed border with Israel.  While the sounds of jets, helicopters and drones, hum from the overhead sky 24/7. All together, the Gaza Strip is 41km (25mi) long, 6 to 12 km (3.7 to 7.5mi) wide, with an area of only 365 km sq (139 sq mi). Within this space 1.8 million people live, well sort of live, with over half under the age of eighteen. The density is 5046 people every squared kilometer (13,000 people every square mile), making it one of the most densely populated parts in the world. Somebody farts and others will smell it, so of course a tank round’s explosion will kill and maim everyone around it, whether one is hiding or not.

Because in reality, Andrew Exum, a former US army officer and defence department special adviser on the Middle East, and who has studied Israel’s military operations, says this about what is going on in Gaza today, and how difficult it really is to target individuals and not have any collateral damage, “There are good strategic reasons to avoid using air power and artillery in these conflicts: they tend to be pretty indiscriminate in their effects and make it difficult for the population under fire to figure out what they’re supposed to do to be safe.” 

Military analysts and human rights observers say Israel is still using predominately, unguided, indirect fire with high-explosive shells, which are totally inappropriate for use on the Palestinians in Gaza. Exum adds, “[Israel’s 155m howitzer] shells have a lethal radius of 50 to 150 metres and causes injury up to 300 metres from its point of impact. Furthermore, such indirect-fire artillery (meaning it is fired out of direct sight of the target) has a margin of error of 200 to 300 metres.” Obviously meaning, the Israeli’s are killing Palestinian civilians on purpose.

As for rockets fired into Israel, it’s a war; and being the elected body, Hamas is allowed to defend themselves and fight for the end of their apartheid, much like what went on in places like Soweto and Belfast back in the day. Besides, their crude rockets are often either shot down, land harmlessly in open areas, or yes sometimes, even fall short. As far as the Israeli population in range, all they really have to put up with is occassional falling from the sky debris, which has only killed three people. Meanwhile the Gazans are getting the holy book thrown at them. Military technology and hardware being tested, missiles, jets, cruisers, tanks, drones, helicopters, ever more heavily armed and supported ground troops, and who knows what, because this time, the Israeli’s are intent of finally ridding themselves of these lesser people they have locked up in Gaza. Especially the children.

According to Pernille Ironside, who runs the UNICEF field office in Gaza, it is estimated that so far roughly “373,000 Palestinian children have had some kind of direct traumatic experience as a result of the attack and will require immediate psycho-social support. This is in addition to the 408 children reported as killed and the thousands left wounded.”

After Gaza, and with flared nostrils, filled with racism and exceptionalism, Israel will no doubt once again focus and be obsessed with the city pictured above, and its country. But not before world leaders will stand in front of podiums, and in strong voices, once again announce that we must never forget what just happened in Gaza, but must remember it always, so that such a thing may never happen again.

Government controlled mainstream media in Israel, the States, and to an ever greater extent as of late, in Canada, already deems the country pictured above, “the other” as well. So when Israel actually does something, the no doubt disproportional casualties and destruction will be easier to swallow. If they do go in, I’m sure the States especially, but a few other countries as well, like Canada perhaps, will continue to obediently stand behind them in lap dog like support. Hopefully the saner people of these countries, as they are increasingly doing, will stand up and tell those whom they voted for to cease and desist, though I highly doubt such a fantasy happening.

As to the situation in Gaza today, it looks like I’ll sadly have to add an attachment to The Borborygmus Which is Palestine – An Essay on Apartheid, which I posted in December/2012, and after the human atrocities are over in Gaza, I will be able to compare it to the transcripts of the Nuremburg Trials, oops did it again, wrong century. Sorry. I mean compare it to possible future war crime trials against Israel. Though in reality, the States will never allow such a thing to happen, because they are complicit, with no one to hold them accountable for anything they do, much like the Israelis, nor do they both seem to even hold themselves accountable anymore, perhaps they can’t, I don’t know.

As a superpower the States does seem to be fading in many parts of the world, not so much militarily, but the disdain, lack of respect and actions other countries now show, and act upon, towards American diplomats, who are still clothed in attitude and so-called ideals, like so-called democracy, speaks volumes. Much of the chaos in the world today was created by the States, and many sociopathic hawks and beurocrats, running many governments all over the world, are not buying the American loud and proud bullshit anymore, and are willing to take the risk and simply take what they want. Alas, the madness which is human history continues.

 

The picture above………Tehran, Iran   Sept.2012    Photo: Fred Dufour/ AFP/ Getty Images

 

 

 

09/30/13

You have got to be kidding me – The 2013 Queens Jubilee Awards

 

Diamond_Jubilee_Medal_webOnce again, to honor and commemorate the 60th anniversary of Queen Elizabeth II ascension to the throne of the British Empire last year, Canada awarded another 60,000 “deserving Canadians” the Diamond Jubilee Medal. Each Member of Parliament will be giving 30 medals to their fellow citizens “for their contributions to the country, their province or their region.”

The medal honors those who have made significant contributions to their country, or achievements abroad which brought credit to Canada. It is an award that can honor anyone, from ditch digger to bureaucrat. Unfortunately, morality, maturity, character or ethics are not factors in the selection process. And one could only hope that 99% of the medals given out, from Haida Gwaii to Newfoundland, are for contributions to their communities and fellow Canadians, and are people who make a difference that they are here and alive, and assisting their neighbours in whatever way they can.

I wrote an article on the inaugural awards given out last year, and of my sheer amazement when a member of parliament gave medals to two anti-abortionists, prone to fire-bombing, with one of them in prison when given the medal. But since we must award ignorance and entitlement in equal shares, continue to enact laws and regulations simply to protect the stupid and the corporations, and to continue to have to suffer fools, some of the selections for the Diamond Jubilee Medal this year has made me mutter in my beer, you have got to be kidding me, really. I shake my head in befuddlement and embarrassment.

Lucien Bouchard is a lawyer and politician who up to 1990 was a member of parliament and held various positions in the Progressive Conservative government under the Prime Minister at the time, Brian Mulroney. Bouchard stepped down from the Conservatives in 1990 after the Meech lake Accord, which he felt wasn’t sufficient in determining the rights or distinctions of Quebecers. PM Mulroney would later state that trusting Bouchard as much as he had was his most costly and regrettable error as PM. Bouchard would go on to form the Bloc Québécois, and lead them in the 1993 Federal election where they won 54 out of 75 ridings in Quebec, giving them the second most seats in the House of Commons. It was the first and only time in the history of Canada that a separatist was the leader of the opposition. Bouchard quickly realized that most of the 54 elected Bloc members didn’t speak English well enough to participate on the Common’s floor in parliament so he declares that henceforth, Bloc members will only speak French, which they still do today.

In 1995 the Quebec referendum was held, which would decide whether Quebec would separate from Canada. How close was it? – 50.58% against separation, 49.42% for. The next year Bouchard was elected premier of Quebec and held the position until 2001. In 2002 to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the accession of Queen Elizabeth II, the QE II Golden Jubilee medal was awarded to those Canadians who had made “an honourable service in military, police, prison, and emergency forces, or for outstanding achievement or public service.” Bouchard received one, and today he receives another, proving being a monarchist or not, and wishing Quebec was separate from both the Queen and Country is not a criteria.

Then we have Alfonso Gagliano, former accountant and politician, who worked in government as a Liberal, from 1984 to 2002 in various capacities, including Minister of Labour, Canada Post, Minister of Public Works and Government Services, and Political Minister for Quebec. It was always whispered that he had links to Montreal and Quebec organized crime, but to-date Gagliano still denies any involvement. In 2002 he was given the post of Canadian Ambassador to Denmark, but in 2004 was dismissed for being perhaps involved in the “sponsorship scandal.” The scandal involved Gagliano when he was Minister of Public Works, and a $100 million program that was set up intending to raise the federal government’s profile in Quebec, but instead simply went to Liberal friendly ad agencies.

With an overall operating cost of $14 million, the Gomery Commission was established to conduct a public inquiry into the scandal.They would find that $2 million in contracts were given out without any bidding process, $250,000 was found to be added to one contract for no additional work, and $1.5 million was awarded for work that was never done. At the conclusion of the inquiry, Gagliano would be the highest ranking Liberal to ever be charged with deliberate dishonesty, rather than negligence. Soon after, Liberal Premier Paul Martin expelled Gagliano from the Liberal party for life. But this year Gagliano has won a Queens Jubilee Medal, for being an outstanding Canadian, and instantly tarnishing all those who actually deserve the award.

Another Jubilee winner this year is Pamela Wallin, a television journalist and game show host, who in 2002, was appointed Canada’s Counsel General in New York City by Liberal Prime Minister Jean Chretian. She held the position for four years, then in 2006, sat on the board of Bell Globalmedia. A year later she would be sitting on the board of Oilsands Quest Inc., Gluskin Sheff & Associates Inc., an investment and wealth management firm, and on the advisory board of BMO Harris Bank. As a bonus, the same year, she was appointed an officer of the Order of Canada.

In 2009, on the advice of Conservative Prime Minister Stevie Harper, Wallin was appointed a Canadian Senator. Four short years later, in 2013, she would step down from three paid positions she held outside of the Senate, when she became embroiled in the Senate expense scandal, where in Feb. 2013, Senators Wallin, Patrick Brazeau, Mike Duffy, and Mac Harb were forensically audited on suspicion of fraudulent claims. In May 2013 Wallin resigned from the Senate Conservative caucus, and in August was ordered to pay back $121,348 in improper expense claims. In September she would write a check and pay it off. The case has been referred to the RCMP, and Wallin is under a continuing investigation.

Coincidently and astonishingly, fellow Senator Brazeau, also won the Queens Jubilee Medal this year. A Quebecer, Brazeau was the National Chief of the Congress of Aboriginal Peoples (CAP) from 2006 to 2009. In 2009, amidst a sexual harassment complaint brought against him to the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario, and facing allegations of improper spending of funds received by CAP for aboriginal health programs, Prime Minster Stevie Harper recommended Brazeau to become a senator, and so he became. At the time Brazeau tried keeping both, his senator’s seat and his national chief of CAP job, thus collecting two publically funded six figure incomes. He wilted quickly and the next day resigned from CAP.

While sitting as a Senator, Brazeau had one the worst attendance records of all 105 members. From June 2011 to Apr. 2012 for example, the Senate met 72 times; Brazeau was absent 25% of the time. As Deputy Chair of the Human Rights Committee he was absent 31% of the time. On the Senate Standing Committee on Aboriginal Peoples he was absent 65% of the time. Enough said.

In Feb 2013, he was kicked out of the Conservative Party after being arrested for assault against a woman. Recently suspended as a Senator, Brazeau is also under RCMP investigations into housing expenses and tax-filings, prior to him becoming a Senator, as well as currently under RCMP investigation for Breach of Trust.

Other recipients of such an honour, were 36 year-old Ray Novack, who lived above Harper’s garage for four years when Harper was serving as leader of the official opposition, and who is now Harper’s brand new Chief of Staff, after Harper lost his old Chief of Staff to the Senate scandal. And, also brand new, Deputy Chief of Staff, Jenni Byrne, who also won the Jubilee Medal. And heck, why not? Justin Beiber also received the Queens Jubilee Medal. Methinks for being a cartoon character.

I myself know a fellow who is into car crime. Enjoys smashing windows, stealing cars then destroying them, but who also happens to keeps dozens of Canadians in work, from cops to insurance companies, tow-truck drivers, mechanics, jail guards and repairmen. It’s like he creates an economy around him, helping other Canadians provide for their families. He has been staying home over the past few weeks waiting for his own Queens Jubilee Medal to come in the mail, and is confused and worried because it hasn’t arrived yet.

 

08/22/13

Dreams of Inheritances and Lotteries

While reading the daily rags a few weeks ago, on scan and bee-lining for the crossword, a smidgeon of information passed my way and halted my progress. At first I feigned surprise, recent surveys show that nearly half of Canadians are relying on either receiving an inheritance or winning a lottery for their retirement, with similar numbers showing up in other developed countries as well. My surprise died when I realized holy shit, I am one of those people. And then, as I happen to be currently reading up on social contracts, I wondered in a most dedicated and peculiar way, are lotteries and inheritances becoming but another interpretation of unrealistic hope subsidizing the con of what has become familiarly known as the “American dream”?

The seeds of the dream could be traced back to the concept of Res Communes (common things), from the Roman Justinian Code, issued in 535 AD. Res Communes were all the things owned by no one and subject to use by all. “By law of nature these things are common to mankind – the air, running fresh water, the sea, and its shores.” It would become known as the Public Trust Doctrine, where “a state serves as a trustee for such things on behalf of the present and future generations.” Today, International law recognizes all those things that lay outside of the political reach of any one nation state, but belongs to all people, as the global commons; the high seas, the atmosphere, Antarctica and Outer Space. To ask how this particular human contract is going we’d have to stand in front of a mirror before we answer, and then lie to our own face.

A thousand years after Res Communes, the contract had an amendment attached to it. During the Renaissance in the 15th and 16th centuries when birth was given to humanism, there came a new way of thinking about humans and their place in the universe, that people’s actions were not directed by God, but instead, people are responsible for their own lives.

In Europe, in the 17th and 18th centuries, the Renaissance would evolve into the Age of Enlightenment, where philosophers, artists, and scientists discussed the theory of a social contract, made up of unwritten constitutions of nature and society. Such a social contract was theorized to be the blueprint for modern society, where individuals are suggested to surrender certain definitive freedoms and submit to the authority of a ruler, in exchange for protection of their remaining assumed rights. Consent is given to be ruled by an executive power, though consent to be a part of society is not necessarily consent to such an executive. As Thomas Hobbes wrote in 1651, a social contract should be “a mutual exchange of benefits necessary to the formation of a valid contract.”

The deal would become where the ruling state would provide a neutral authority to act to protect the lives, freedoms and property of its citizens, and that justice was to be for all. The citizens on the other hand would promise to avoid doing harm to others, to not interfere with each other, and would be recognized to possess natural unalienable rights. The problem with this concept was that there was no shaking of the hands to seal the deal because it is a theory, and the authority of the state had nothing above it to control it. And most importantly Res Communes began to become privatized. Democracy was the promised placebo to deal with such lack of accountability, but alas it has failed. And though hundreds of millions of law-abiding citizens over the centuries have sacrificed their lives, and even more than that, in fulfilling their duties and their part of the deal to their state and country, the state hasn’t had to sacrifice anything. If such a social contract was indeed co-operative, changes would then  have been different than the present, and once again, collapsing of the middle class and the ever widening problem of distribution of wealth.

As to the planet, according to the international sustainability think tank, Global Footprints, August 12, 2013 marks the day when humanity has used up all the natural resources and waste absorption that the earth can provide in a year. Our human consumption and waste for the remaining four and a half months will be borrowed from future generations. This day has arrived three days earlier each year since 2011. Global Footprints have calculated that if everyone in the world consumed the same as the United States; it would take four Earths to sustain the global population.

The social contract theorized during the Enlightenment would eventually arise in the American Constitution, and would expand out globally and became everyone’s dream. Though it wasn’t until 1931, and historian James Truslow Adams’s book “Epic of America”, that the American dream became popular with the masses in North America and Western Europe. He felt the American dream, was the “dream of a land in which life should be better and richer and fuller for every man, with opportunity for each according to his ability or achievement….. It is not a dream of motor cars and high wages merely, but a dream of social order in which each man and each woman shall be able to attain to the fullest stature of which they are innately capable, and be recognized by others for what they are, regardless of the fortuitous circumstances of birth or position…. The American dream that has lured tens of millions of all nations to our shores in the past century has not been a dream of merely material plenty, though that has doubtlessly counted heavily. It has been much more than that. It has been a dream of being able to grow to fullest development as man and woman, unhampered by the barriers which had slowly been erected in the older civilizations, unrepressed by social orders which had developed for the benefit of classes rather than for the simple human being of any and every class.”

The dream was then interrupted by the Great Depression, which brought a deep understanding of deprivation. Soon after, World War II and its untold hardships and death on a massive scale erupted. After the horror and madness, those who survived returned and reunited, after sometimes years of separation, with their loves and families, all the while held intact through simple monthly letters. With many of the men, and no doubt much of the populations in many countries, suffering post traumatic shock. Never being able to tell their stories of what they had seen and done. They dreamed of a calmer life, where they felt safe, could toil in meaningful work, and aspire to educate themselves, get married, buy a house and raise kids in it. For decades on end working long full days, putting each of their children through school, and who after graduating, would themselves take on the responsibilities and accountability of being an adult, and stand on their own two feet. One’s dream in life was to be achieved based on individual talent, energy, perseverance, audacity, and a little bit of good luck once in awhile. But the reality of life dictated such a dream could not be for everyone, though generations have tried.

The dream would supposedly continue until the day came to retire and then life would become days of gardening, reading, playing crib, and knitting, baking, and puttering around aimlessly. Maybe obsessing over a lawn, or practising a craft, and if blessed, seeing the grandkids from time to time. Golfing, playing bingo, meeting with friends once a week, and every year going on a little vacation, by plane, train or automobile, to visit family, with the rest of the time spent watching a lot of television. This was not so much how people thought and hoped for; it was what was taught to us, rather advertised to us. Today, the end game of retirement isn’t something people necessarily look forward to at all; instead, for far too many individuals it has become a very, very scary thing. In Canada, 32% of 45 to 64 year olds are expecting lotteries to support them in their retirement, while only 34% of those who do retire have either relied on their savings and investments, or had a pension to achieve it. So for about six out of ten Canadians, retirement is not becoming an option.

Over the past forty years the one dream has morphed into four dreams and has laid waste through our societies at an ever accelerating rate. Writer and Professor of history, Ted Ownby, identifies the four dreams as, Abundance; of material goods, The Democracy of Goods; access to the same products for everybody, regardless of race, gender, ethnicity, or class, Freedom of Choice; where everyone can fashion their own lifestyle, and Novelty; of ever changing models and products and “expanding the consumer experience and fine tuning people’s purchasing skills and awareness of the market.”

Our societies have become top down structures of capitalistic enterprises, with no one above them to curtail their greed and ego. They have skillfully revised the social contract into being all about maximizing corporate profit at the expense of the citizenry. For all intents and purposes the social contract is now null and void, and we’ve allowed it to happen, for we have been sufficiently distracted enough from reality that we continue to buy into the con, that we can have anything we want, be anybody we want to be, and be able to fulfill all our desires, whether self-indulgent, degenerate or with the best of intentions. Any changes to the contract have not been co-operative in any way, shape or form, and instead have been dictated to us.

Thus, inheritances and lotteries have become a part of the dream, subtly replacing jobs and opportunities. Where all we’ve got to do is buy a ticket and dream, while cruising through the nicer areas of town, doing the slow looki-loo drive by, ogling all the homes and finely kept lawns. Dreaming of what it would be like sitting inside that house, with an even bigger screen TV, an even more expensive couch, and a big truck, Sea-doo, Ski-doo and a ride-a-mower parked in the garage. Dreaming of the opportunity to live in a luxurious way, by not dedicating oneself to education and working hard and having the discipline to do so, but instead simply by winning the lottery, or with about the same odds, becoming a sports hero or celebrity. So wrapped up in technology and upgrading it every few months that we’ve become Star Trek’s, the Borg.

Many think that when they win, which they actually believe will happen, eventually, they will be able to expand their material wealth and instantly retire and do nothing in particular. Bigger house, a few vehicles, and month long travel vacations, with the destinations prone to be places one can shop. Some also believe they will, perhaps, maybe, probably win, but are thinking of the freedom it would bring. To finally go buy a guitar, get that easel you’ve always wanted and spend a couple of hours in an art supply store picking out tubes of oil paints, writing a book, or perhaps even going back to school or finally getting your teeth fixed, making a difference in one’s community, or finally being able to help out a friend or family member. Paying it forward in meaningful ways to people who truly deserve it, all the while not even carrying a phone, but for most of us this is all but a dream.

While in the reality of our daily lives we, and those who are supposed to lead us, have together accumulated debt on a massive scale, which has overshadowed and distracted us from seeking and finding true abundance, which is good health, education, family, friends, a healthy natural world and meaningful work. Instead we are searching for meaning and acceptance through what we consume. It’s like people actually seem to believe if you are rich you are automatically accepted as being successful, smart, honorable, and someone who should be looked up to. Even if what you do to make a living goes against all that is moral and right. It seems we have become simply paychecks, and are defined and accepted as such. If indeed this is the case, then of course inheritances and lotteries are important dreams for many people. They have become key to any long term financial security, especially considering that getting or winning such a windfall saves us from having to work for it in a job that isn’t there anymore. People feel they will gain importance and be more than who they are, but don’t understand its nothing but window dressing for what’s really inside. We have reached the point where we have become so successful at being consumers we haven’t the wherewithal to even retire, unless of course, as mentioned, we win this week’s lottery or someone close to us dies and leaves us the money to do so.

Inheritances

Of all the Canadians who have received an inheritance, nearly half preferred not to divulge how much. Of the rest, 47% said they received an average $57,000, one in five said they received $100,000 or more, while one in four received less than $5,000. Higher up the ladder, 36% of the wealthiest families have received an average of $136,000 inheritance, with this figure predicted to swell to about $300,000 in cash, real estate and other valuables, but then assuming and knowing can be the defining difference between fantasy and reality. It’s like the reports today concerned with climate change, worried that when the earth’s ecosystems collapse it’ll cost us tens of trillions of dollars. With the question instantly coming to mind, who’ll and how many will be left to pick up the tab? And who’ll care?

In a perfect world where all goes well, the economists and soothsayers estimate that Canadian seniors and boomers will leave nearly a trillion dollars to their offspring. On the other hand this estimate is in constant flux, as much of the bulk of inheritances is tied up in homes and property. Those lucky enough to have bought their house in the seventies, and stuck it out, now find the place’s worth has risen 300%. But there’s that second, perhaps third, mortgage that was taken out a decade ago for the $60,000 update on the kitchen. Before that the roof had to be replaced, then the trip to Europe, the loan to your kid so he or she could purchase their first home, a 550 square foot “condo”, the new car loan, thankfully now able to be amortized over 84 months, so that some money is left over monthly for buying other stuff, like food, and every year Christmas is finally being paid off in April. Over the past ten years, such home equity lines of credit have risen 170%. This is why today, about 68% of home owners have, on average, only about 34% in equity in their home.

In 1980 the average home was about $100,000, with an average household debt to income ratio of 66%. Meaning for every $1000 a homeowner earned, $660 went to the bills; mortgage, household expenses, food and such, while $330 was left over for savings and frivolous spending. Today the average house in Canada is about $353,000, over 11 times the median family income, with an average household debt to income ratio of 161%. In other words, the average Canadian household debt, as of 2013, is about $1650 for every $1000 of disposable income. Even crazier, more than one in eight homeowners’ debt to income ratio was 250%, meaning two and a half times their annual income went to mortgages, credit cards and other forms of debt, creating -you guessed it- more debt. It’s a similar system to how many governments work their books.

Canadian house prices today have doubled since 2002, and over 13% since 2008, but seem to now be bogging down; you can just about hear the balloon stretching if you’re quiet and turn the TV down. The only reason the Canadian housing today has stayed fairly steady is because we are buoyed up somewhat by the continuing global economic crisis. Meanwhile the most expensive homes, condos and properties in the major cities are being gobbled up by foreign buyers. The average house value in BC today is $498,000. In Vancouver it’s $684,000. Ontario’s average is $369,000, but $479,000 in Toronto, with Alberta’s average house value at $363,000, $420,000 in Calgary.

It is estimated that over the next ten years, house prices will rise perhaps 2%, barely keeping up with inflation, and while current debt and housing levels are ever more unsustainable, when the lending rates rise, and they will, they’re be hell to pay for many. Economists suggest that with only a half of one percentage point increase in the lending rate there would be an immediate drop of about 10% in house sales and over a 3% decrease in prices. A mere 1% increase in borrowing rates would drop house sales over 15% and decrease the price of the home by more than 7%. For many Canadians, they will not be able to  afford to live in the homes they own.

But over 80% of Canadians aged 18 to 29 years, still continue to expect an inheritance, especially those who attended post-secondary school, are savvy to the real estate market and the value of their parent’s home, and who are graduating with an average of $28,000 in student loans into a world where there will never be enough jobs or opportunities. While only 48% of the 45 to 64 year old baby boomers are expecting an inheritance of some sort, because they understand the fact that people are living longer and spending more in retirement, and are seeing firsthand how tough it’s going to be as we age. Boomers in particular are becoming more concerned with debt reduction than retirement and leaving an inheritance, and it’s highly likely we may well be one of the last generations to inherit anything. As to how much wealth is transferred to the next generation, it’s changing all the time, because of the high costs of living in one’s final years, especially if you want to live with a better than average standard of living. The reality will be mostly determined by the actions of the real estate market. As it is, forty-five percent of those 60 or older are going to need their savings to fund their retirement, with only one in four willing to make personal sacrifices to ensure an inheritance for their family. At the same time, only four in ten Canadians actually have a will.

Baby-boomers’ parents were unique, in that they grew up with a very deep understanding of deprivation, untold hardships and World War Two. When and if able to leave an inheritance, they feel compelled to provide financial assistance to their family. Boomers on the other hand have grown up in a relatively peaceful and affluent time, and a life of abundance. They are compelled more to treat any monies or property that they leave to certain people or charity and non-profit organizations, as a bonus, instead of a requirement. Of course that’s only if there is anything left after keeping us in diapers and well medicated in our final years.

Another generational difference is that no longer do the majority believe in a life after death, instead it’s now all about holding on to this one, even to the point of sculpting and altering one’s body to give the impression “age doesn’t mean anything”. Holding onto all we have, and getting as much of it as we can. Never going airborne to look down and see how massive our herd has become and how so alike we look.

At one time we used to inherit the best of family legacies, traditions and values. Perhaps an old watch or chiming clock, an antique dining room table with ornate chairs, perhaps a cache of recipes or a set of dishes and a tea set, or maybe some small plot of land and/or the family home, which was built to raise a family in and not just another investment. Or more importantly such things as honour, the level-headedness of one’s grandmother, the reason people respected your grandfather, having a good work ethic,  being taught etiquette, things like poise and reservation, or how to respect each other even if you don’t like each other. There are also other traditions and values that have been passed on which humanity could do without, such as out-dated social and religious values. But nothing lasts anymore, so there is less to be passed on. Even antiques will soon be no more, and more expensive, for I highly doubt an IKEA bookshelf or Wal-Mart writing desk will be around for auction in seventy years. Our legacies will be plastic effigies of ourselves.

Unfortunately, much of the best of past legacies, traditions and values have been replaced with economic inheritance. Which itself is based on the soft and shaky ground called real estate speculation, a global economic crisis, diminishing ecosystems, and a declining number of people who have planned for retirement, in non-existent or non-sufficient savings, tax, and insurance plans. As for stocks and bonds being a part of one’s inheritance, about 90% of all stock, including bonds, is owned by the top 15% wealthiest individuals. I know, made me cry too.

A few final thoughts on inheritances and why they are diminishing, debt is rising, and the ever widening gap between those with and those without continues. Between 1976 and 2010, Canada’s middle class saw their income grow only 7% when adjusted for inflation, which is about 0.2% per year. The top 20% of earners saw their incomes rise more than 40%, while those in the top 5% saw their incomes rise by that much annually.

Then there is the makeup of the average Canadian family today, where it’s not simply the married for forty years parents passing away and leaving their wealth for their two children and three grandchildren. Today if there is a pot left behind to be pissed in, it might well have to be divided between two or three unmarried and/or sometimes remarried spouses, children from the various relationships, siblings, next of kin, and of course creditors. This issue also appears when someone wins a lottery, and the relatives and friends start appearing out of the woodwork for their cut, whether entitled or not.

Most sadly, where grandparents were once very important within the family makeup, experience and values, especially to their grandchildren; far too often the thread of this legacy is rare or non-existent today. At the same time more and more parents and grandparents are dipping into their savings and retirement funds to financially help their struggling adult children who are finding it difficult to get jobs or meaningful work. But then, for three generations now, around the globe, television and mainstream media have far too often been the parents minding the children.

Reality is, for the majority in the present world, people need to keep for themselves what they would have left as an inheritance to finance their senior years, and/or need to keep working past the American dream’s unnatural sixty-five years old deadline. I wouldn’t be surprised to find that such a deadline is perhaps the reason for the rapid growth of people today developing Alzheimer’s disease or other types of dementia. Preventing mental decline is all about keeping physically active, socially connected and mentally challenged; while drooling over daytime television sitting in a lazy-boy rocker, in a small apartment, taking your meds, smoking your reefer, or drinking enough so that you may sleep that night, does not. People should be able to work as long as they physically and mentally can. Today most have to, before having to spend their final years, often in decrepit, unsafe, and vulnerable situations, or having to rely on Government assistance and eating cold soup out of the can over the kitchen sink. All the while the body and mind deteriorate and one becomes ever more alone and frightened. Many thank God for bringing contemplation, forgiveness and erasure of sin before going to heaven, others now thank god for lotteries, for all the same reasons.

Lotteries

Once upon a time, when we began to jam ourselves into villages, then towns and cities, we slowly stopped believing in ourselves, we also stopped using both sides of our brain at the same time. But we had to believe in something to get through our daily lives, doing those things we usually didn’t want to do, so we came up with the concept of religion. Today we have lotteries.

Any local convenience store clerk will tell you they can actually see the physical and mental reaction a person goes through when coming in to check their tickets. Some people are either cheery, feeling that positive vibes will help their chances, or glum and quiet, hoping and praying under their breath. The “sorry not a winner” from the clerk, is followed by the customer exhaling all their air, shrugging and slumping their shoulders, dropping their heads, and feeling beaten down again. But then the moment they decide to spend the last toonie to their name on a “scratch and win”, voila, hope is restored. The ticket will be taken home or to a place where the aura will make the scratching almost ritualistic and holy. Or by using “reverse psychology’, they scratch the ticket immediately, like they don’t care if it’s a winner or not, and then nonchalantly wading it up and dumping it in the trash bin. The hope, loss and recovery are quickly experienced, as they then continue to go on about their day. For most, even a free ticket win nearly brings out the choir. The dreams a major lottery creates, believing if you don’t play you’ll never win, could put a spring into one’s step for a whole week. People will spend hundreds on Keno or pull-tabs, drinking coffees or beer specials for hours, chatting within their like-minded group, and win fifty bucks and feel like a million dollars. The altar is no longer in a church, it’s in a casino.

Meanwhile, the odds of dying in a terrorist attack in North America are about 1 in 20 million, while travelling abroad these odds drop to 1 in 650,000. In Canada, we have the lowest risk of dying from terrorism out of all the Western economies in the world, about  1 in 14 million, about the same odds of winning the national Lotto 6/49, which odds can be, on average, anywhere from 1 in 14 million to 1 in 28 million. In the States, the chances of winning one of their Powerball or mega-millions state lotteries is about 1 in 175.7 million. A typical, two dollar, thousand dollar prize scratch and win, where the odds of winning a thousand dollars is about 1 in 960,000 is similar to the odds (1 in 1 million) of being killed by flesh-eating disease. So getting beheaded in a terrorist attack, and winning a major lottery have about the same chance of happening in one’s life – interesting. Yet in Canada, we’ll drive at least 16 km (10 miles) to get our lottery ticket, consuming gas worth more than the ticket, and its 3 to 20 times more likely for us to be killed in a car accident than winning a lottery or being car bombed.

The odds of being killed by a bee sting or a snake bite are about 1 in 100,000. Dying in a plane crash 1 in 360,000, becoming a pro athlete 1 in 22,000, getting a hole in one in golf, 1 in 5,000, the same odds for getting injured or dying sometime over the next year. Then raw reality lays bare the odds of getting cancer – at least once in our lives – 1 in 2.

As to the Canadian lottery, Lotto 6/49, if you spend two dollars a week on one set of numbers you’re likely to win $10 at least once every 13 months. Another study found that spending $25 per week for 20 years on lottery tickets, you could make over a third back, occasionally winning in increments of either $10 or the 4th place range of $75 The odds of winning a free ticket are 1 in 8; winning ten to twenty dollars, 1 in 77. The average Canadian spends $257 per year on lottery tickets. British Columbians spend the least at $240, while 45 to 64 year old men spend the most at $880 per year.

One of the largest lottery jackpots won in the world was in March 2012, in the States, where three tickets shared in a $640 million cash payout. After taxes each of the winners shared $474 million. In the US, the federal individual income tax rate is 35-39.6% on taxable income above $400,000 for a single and $450,000 for a couple, plus state and municipal taxes. The highest combined federal, state and city tax rate paid by someone winning the lottery is in New York State at 48.5%. In Canada there are no taxes on lottery winnings, but there are on interest earned from them.

One of the highest lottery prizes in Canada was in April 2013, where there were four winning tickets sharing $63 million. Which was $15.8 million per ticket, but one of the winners had two winning numbers, because eccentrically, for 30 years he always purchased two identical sets of the same numbers, doubling down each time, thus he was able to pocket $31.6 million.

The good thing about the lottery is it’s like the left-brain right-brain thing. It gives hope, some solace during the week perhaps, where one walks a bit straighter, and a humbled confidence could even enter their realm. And in most cases it only cost two bucks. Then there’s the view of where does the money go, won or lost. The winners more often than not are broke within five years, while the money pooled by the lottery corporations, surprisingly, is often money well spent or at least it’s what we are led to believe.

Lotteries in North America are a fairly recent addition, and unfortunately governments have become enamoured with lotteries and casinos, because instead of some of the escalating revenues going to actually help communities, as has been the case, the monies they receive now are put into general spending, most often to cover their, but really our, growing debt. One can also say that lotteries give false hope, a release valve for the population, so that there is less pressure on political leaders, to remedy the growing inequality of modern society. But then these negative aspects of a lottery have been used for thousands of years, and as mentioned, have only been recently accepted, when governments wanted a piece of the action once controlled solely by the underworld and despots.

Evidence suggests lotteries began in China over four thousand years ago, with the first recorded signs of a lottery during the Han Dynasty between 205 and 187 BC. It’s believed lotteries were created to finance government works, such as the Great Wall of China. Gambling has gone on as long with the Egyptians, who became notorious dice players three thousand years ago. The first known European lotteries were during the Roman Empire. By 1400, many communities of Europeans would hold lotteries for needed public works.

Gambling, lotteries and sweepstakes were illegal in many countries, including Canada, the US and most of Europe well into the early 20th century. Gambling Mecca’s were always elsewhere, Havana, Beirut, Monte Carlo…. It wasn’t until the sixties that casinos and lotteries began to push for amendments in both Canada and the US.

In Canada, it wasn’t until 1969, when the Criminal Code was amended, that the federal government and the Provinces were allowed to operate such “lottery schemes.” BC offered Canada’s first lottery in 1974, with everyone else soon following. There are five lottery corporations in Canada today, covering all the provinces and territories; Atlantic, Quebec, Ontario, Western Canada and BC. Combined they bring in $8.5 billion in revenue annually. In the US there are forty-four States or Territories which offer government operated lotteries.

In 1985, selling under the umbrella of the Western Canada Lottery Foundation, BC opened its own lottery, the British Columbia Lottery Corporation (BCLC), which today is the largest net income generating commercial Crown Corporation in BC. But like the BC Transit Corporation, it is placed outside of direct government oversight. In 2011/12, over 5,000 community and charitable organizations received a combined $134 million in Community Gaming Grants for arts and culture, youth and disabled sports, public safety, environmental groups, animal welfare agencies, fairs, festivals, museums and for people in need. A further $100 million went to local governments that host casinos and community gaming centers and local economic development projects. With 900 employees, its revenues for 2012-13, by operating 2.5 lottery machines per 1000 people in BC, were $2.76 billion. While $624.5 million was paid out in winnings (39%),  total expenses were $910 million. Net income was $1.2 billion, of which $100 million in taxes goes to the BC government, hopefully going where it’s supposed to go, which is support for health care services and research, and a consolidated revenue fund to support other health care and education programs. Of the remaining monies, $128 million goes to debt; $116 million goes to Capital expenditures and finally the federal government gets its $9.1 million share. Millions also are allocated to gambling addictions. The bottom line is that, for every one dollar gambled in BC, eighty-seven cents goes back into BC. Funny enough, so do most of the prize payouts.

Twenty-five per cent of Canadians consistently play the lottery, while it’s estimated that more than 60% of Canadians will plunk down at least two dollars on any lottery which prize has grown to mega-million size. And like all big business the push is always on. Previously noted, subsidizing a government’s lack of fiscal restraint means the revenues from gambling are paying for the services the government can no longer afford to provide, and of course the push has reached mainstream radio stations, where the evolvement of never ending contests has reached a place where if you win, you will receive $100 to play Lotto, plus have an on-line account set up for you, so that “you never have to worry you don’t have a ticket ever again”, and as a special bonus you will receive an e-mail notification when you win, oh yes, when you win! So all that is needed is to sit in front of the television, mouth agape, watching regular programming, drooling in front of the computer, or playing video games until three am, and simply waiting for the phone to magically ring, and will change your life.

Nine out of ten winners of $100,000 or less spend all their winnings in five years or less. Researchers have offered a few theories as to why so many winners blow it all rather quickly. Theories abound that most lottery players have below-average incomes and education and are highly likely to be financially illiterate and that winners might also engage in something behavioral economists call “mental accounting”, where a person treats their winnings less cautiously than they would their earnings, because the winnings are something they didn’t have before. And of course some people simply develop a taste for luxury goods that outlasts their money. Just like any other addiction.

According to a study by the Statistic Brain, compiled from 34 national lottery winners (8 male, 26 female, with an average age of 46), and who averaged $175,000 in winnings, suggests that 55% were of course much happier after winning, because of improved financial security, 65% were less worried, could purchase anything they wanted, and that 23% felt their life became easier, while 43% of the winners felt no effect on their happiness. Other studies suggest that such happiness, on average, ebbs over time. Interesting effects from this study include, 58% of winners’ families claimed to be happier, 40% increased their contributions to charity, 38% have moved since winning, 48% were in a career job before and are still there, 15% started a new job, 30% started their own business, and 32% have gained weight. The average number of friends that male winners gave money to – three; the average number of friends female winners gave money to – one; while 44% would spend their winnings within five years, and the probability that any such new wealth will be gone by the third generation (grandchildren), is 90%. Of course, all these numbers are dependent on the amount of money won and who the people were.

As for multi-million dollar winners, at least those who have a head on their shoulders, who are happy with who they are, thus, are well grounded, American Brad Duke of Star, Idaho, could be used as an example. When he realized he had won the $220 million Powerball jackpot in 2005, he kept it to himself and went about his daily routine. The breakdown of what he finally did with the loot, when he finally went public; $45 million invested in safe, low-risk investments such as municipal bonds, $35 million in more aggressive investments such as oil, gas, and real estate (personally, real estate for sure, oil and gas, not even if my life depended on it, which it does. I’d go solar and wind alternatives), a $1.3 million family foundation, $63,000 spent on a trip to Tahiti with 17 friends, he paid off the $125,000 mortgage on his 1,400 square-foot house, paid off his outstanding student loan of $18,000. As a mountain bike enthusiast he spent $65,000 on new bicycles, bought a used black VW Jetta for $14,500 and now gives an annual $12,000 gift to each family member.

But it’s all relative, depending on the winner’s sense of well-being, which doesn’t fundamentally change, and their current situation which will most certainly exaggerate. If you are unhappy, can’t manage money and you’re surrounded by people you do not trust, winning millions of dollars will probably make your problems worse. If you are happy with your life, it fulfills you, you are careful with your money and you have strong relationships in your life, a lottery win is likely to build on those strengths. We are who we are.

The downside of it all is that many people’s lives have become nearly entirely economic, and lacking any depth whatsoever. We believe we have very healthy relationships with our stuff, while our human relationships become ever more dysfunctional. And is perhaps why dog ownership is growing in leaps and bounds; people seeking unconditional love, acceptance and forgiveness. This gets us back to the idea of the American dream, discussed earlier, and how it has evolved into simply being the best consumer you can be, all the while, it is clearly warping our senses and human values. It has become the way of the world, for it keeps the global economy going. The 1% who run the world, control us by constantly reminding that if we buy, use, discard, then buy some more, all is well. If we do not, the economy will die. Meanwhile fossil fuel limits, environmental limits and debt limits are all being reached, and no heed is taken, and if it is, its then quickly squashed. It seems the only dying that’s going on here is us and all the other species that live on this rock.

In the US, it’s becoming blatantly obvious such a way of living is not working. A recent report out of Oxford University, estimates 80% of Americans (four out of five adults) will suffer the hardship of joblessness, near-poverty or reliance on welfare for at least parts of their lives by 2030. In 2012, 33 million American adults, 15% of the population, and only two million fewer people than Canada’s entire population, who were responsible for a family of four, saw their annual income fall below the poverty line of $23,021.

So if after eking through life and getting cancer, a hip replacement, suffering depression, getting hit by lightening, having a parasitic worm gnaw its way through your body, getting into a traffic accident where somebody died, becoming a superstar, writing a novel and fourteen million other things, you actually do win a lottery or receive an inheritance, be cool, chill for awhile, take your time and keep it to yourself. Yes, this will be very difficult, but so is life, and if indeed you won and if you play your cards right, it could get better.

Put one or two steps between you and your ability to spend the principle. Surround yourself with people you trust, whether a lawyer, financial advisor or even a committee of three of those closest to you. Meet with estate lawyers, accountants and financial advisors, and when you meet them do not let on you have fourteen or so million sitting in your savings account. See if they will show you respect thinking you’re just regular folk. Provide for your children with savings accounts; hold off on giving money to anybody else until you have a financial plan in order. Set aside a small amount as crazy money, but set a very small limit, do not dwell on it, and don’t hurt anyone.

Winning a lottery is much more than just money and managing it though. It is also very much about managing one’s behaviour. A real bitch or prick filled with self-indulgence, hate, greed and zero empathy living in a hovel, will no doubt be of the same character and possess the same attitude, if living in a castle. For as they say, doing the same thing and expecting a different result is a sign of utter madness.

As for the American dream, many citizens today the world over, are realizing that such a dream is becoming unattainable, and perhaps it never was, as George Carlin eloquently deadpanned, thirty years ago, “It’s called the American dream because you have to be asleep to believe it.”

No matter if one wins a lottery or has an inheritance thrown into one’s lap, or not; making a difference in your life has got nothing to do with money. Money simply gives one the freedom to do more. Our stuff does not define us. We are who we are. And we don’t change as much as we think we do.

Though I have no pension, nor substantial savings, and will never be able to retire, I don’t care. I’m a writer and though I don’t make money doing it, I wish it was all I had to do. But I continue to work, have a roof over my head, be fed and I’m blessed with family, trusted friends and acquaintances. I accept and deal with the dark days as they periodically appear, and enjoy the good ones, one at a time. So yes, I will still saunter over to the corner grocery store once a week, grab some chocolate milk and eggs, smell the smells, sample some freshly made pakora’s, gratefully take a small container of chutney, chat with the merchant and his family, smile at people there and back, perhaps shove my face into a blooming Lilac bush, and spend five dollars on BC/49. Because you never know, and no matter the truths written above, if five dollars is what it takes, in this economic world of ours to inject some confidence in looking forward to the future, and the freedom it would bring, and be able to dream of things outside our boxes and daily routines, without harming ourselves or others, I figure it’s money well spent.

 

 

06/17/13

An Essay on Democratic Dysfunction, the 2013 BC Election, Lack of Voting and Status Quo.

“Bad politicians are sent to government by good people who don’t vote.”
William E. Simon, philanthropist, businessman, and Secretary of Treasury of the US from 1974 to 1977 during the Nixon administration.

“In a democratic government, the right of decision belongs to the majority, but the right of representation belongs to all.”
Ernest Naville, 1865.

victoria legislature

One hundred and forty-two years after John Foster McCreight (1827-1913), an MLA (member of legislature) for Victoria City, was elected British Columbia’s first premier, of its first parliament, Premier Christy Clark and the Liberal Party of BC, which is not affiliated with the federal Liberal party in any way, shape or form, nor the federal Progressive Conservatives, and quite unlike the Provincial Conservative Party, but a little like the old Social Credit party, won BC’s 2013 provincial elections. They rejoice with their hands in the air, goofy soma-like smiles on their faces, yelling the sound-bite, “the people of BC have spoken,” and proud that they now have the mandate to govern as they see fit. While in actual fact not very many British Columbians had actually voted for them.

But for the fourth consecutive time, the popular vote within our current voting system has declared them a majority government, and it’s once again status quo, here we go. It is not so much the idea that not very many people have to vote anymore to achieve such status quo, it’s that unfortunately, here and elsewhere, when using the first-past-the-post system of the Westminster form of government, the majority of the people who do get out and vote don’t count.

Federally it’s just as bad. The current Harper Conservative government are an absolute majority government even though, of those who actually voted, only 39.6% voted for them, which meant over 62% of all eligible voters were pushed aside. The fact is that at all levels of government across Canada the norm is about 30% of the population have the majority of representation in the legislatures, while 70% of Canadians do not. And it’s been going on for quite awhile.

In 1972, in British Columbia, Dave Barrett formed the first BC NDP (New Democratic Party) government with just 39.6% of the vote. In 1991, New Democrat, Mike Harcourt formed government with 40.7% of the vote. In the next election, the NDP under Glen Clark received the majority of seats (39) yet were second in the popular vote, losing 12 seats to the Liberals, under Campbell, who had gained 16 seats with 41.82% of the vote, but only won 36 seats and became the opposition. In 1999, Glen Clark resigned over the “fast ferries” and bribery scandals, and the respected New Democrat Dan Miller, followed by Ujjal Dosanjh, adeptly stepped into the breach as interim leaders and ran the province until the next election in 2001, where the Liberals, again under Campbell, won all but two seats of the then 79 seat legislature, with 57% of all the votes. By 2009 the NDP under Carole James would get back up to 35 seats but still lose to Campbell’s 49 seats.

Since the sixties, the pattern has been that the NDP get about 40-41% of the vote, while the Liberals consistently get about 45% of the vote. There have been only two anomalies, in 1972, where the NDP under Dave Barrett earned 38 seats and in 1991 with the Mike Harcourt led New Democrats, winning 51 seats. The highest per cent age of voters the NDP have ever received was in 1979 with 46% of the vote, but still lost the election, while their lowest was in 2001 where they dropped to 21.65% of the vote.

After the election, Clark jubilantly announced, with that ever effervescent smile and giggle, as if she had just gotten high, “We can now change the future of our country. We can become the economic engine that drives Canada, and for the first time in the history of Confederation, we can step up and punch our weight in this Confederation. We can be the ones who lead this country for the first time in British Columbia’s history and it will be up to us, because British Columbians want that. That is what they voted for. They didn’t vote for perfection, they voted for hope.”

From here on in, I will be bringing up even more numbers, sorry, but we are talking politics here. Problem is once you bring up numbers and percentages, people’s eyes begin to glaze over. I see it all the time and get kidded by my friends when I bring them up. I am told in equal representation that the numbers are confusing me from seeing reality, that the status quo way of doing things, in this case, as to how our electoral process works, is “just the way it is”, and that besides, “it’s all we got.” I don’t buy that and feel such dysfunction is not written in stone, but is merely what’s been advertised as such, because we allow it to happen. With this I am told I’m being un-Canadian. But just like a great picture, numbers can also bring about a thousand words, though I shall not be so well winded. Though I must admit, far too often, my spinnaker is billowing out too forcefully in front of me to back off.

Though the Liberals were re-elected as the “majority government”, their leader, Christy Clark, lost her riding, and is currently not an elected official. In fact and oddly enough she has never been elected by the populace to be premier, but she is BC’s 35th premier, of its 40th parliament, and representing more than 4.6 million British Columbians. Of these, 3.1 million are registered voters, but only 1.6 million of them (54% of eligible voters) made the effort and voted, 706,240 (44.14%) of which voted Liberal, which gave them 49 seats, and a 58% majority of the 85 seat legislature. The NDP were given 34 seats, with 39.7% of the vote, the Green Party had 8.1% of the votes and gained one seat in Oak Bay-Gordon Head riding, and the final seat went to re-elected Independent Vicki Huntington in Delta South, who received 4.8% of the total votes. Interestingly, other than the Green Party’s Andrew Weaver in Oak Bay-Gordon Head, this is exactly how the last election in 2009 ended up.

Born in 1965 in Burnaby BC, Ms Clark attended Simon Fraser University (SFU), the Sorbonne, in France, and the University of Edinburgh in Scotland, never graduating with a degree in anything. She was the MLA for Port Moody-Burnaby Mountain from 1996 to 2005, serving as Deputy Premier under Gordon Campbell in his first term as leader, from 2001 to 2005.

In 2001, as Minister of Education, she introduced changes that proved to be very unpopular, with teachers, parents and the public at large. The changes were challenged by the BC Teachers Federation through the court system, and eventually found to be unconstitutional. In 2002 Clark introduced Bills 27/28 forcing striking teachers back to work, and it would take the BC Supreme Court nine years to arrive at the decision that Clark’s decision to do so was also unconstitutional. During the BC Rail scandal, Clark was deputy premier, and though there were allegations that she participated in the scandal, nothing has been proven or tested in a court of law, and it was deemed that there was no need for a public inquiry.

BC Rail was a BC Crown Corporation and was promised numerous times by the government to never be sold. But after decades of shoddy and somewhat unscrupulous bookkeeping, and the public being told that it was always losing money, it was put up for sale. There were many bidding for the purchase, and the shady bookkeeping spilled over into shady dealings and lobbying. It ended up being sold/ leased for 990 years to CN Rail for $1 billion, though the actual track and other assets such as real estate and a marine division remain in public coffers. Miraculously, since CN Rail took control of the line, it generates profits of about $25 million per year.

In 2003, due to suspected improper conduct and corruption by government officials, including Premier Gordon Campbell, deputy premier Christy Clark, and their advisors, search warrants were brought about and executed on the legislature of BC. Among others, ministerial aides, David Basi and Robert Virk were charged in 2004 with two counts each of Breach of Trust, covering their nefarious behaviour, leaking insider information, and for receiving bribes. The next year Clark resigned her position and left politics to become a radio talk show host, after first trying to run for mayor of Vancouver, but losing to Sam Sullivan in Sept. 2005.

The Basi-Virk trial took six years to get underway. As the trial started in May 2010 a publication ban was put on it and then, the day before the trial was to end in Oct 2010, Basi and Virk both pled guilty to lesser charges and sentenced to two years less a day house arrest, with Basi being fined $75,600. With a straight face and hidden tongue in cheek, Premier Campbell angrily announces that “they’ve (Basi /Virk) spent the last seven years claiming to be innocent when they know they were guilty, costing taxpayers literally millions of dollars, when they knew they were guilty.” He punishes them, by of course not only having to pay his government’s prosecuting fees of $14 million, but also paying Basi and Virk’s $6 million in legal fees too. In Jan 2013, the B.C. Supreme Court dismissed auditor general John Doyle’s application for government documents concerning the paying of Basi and Virk’s fees, because it would be an invasion of solicitor-client privilege. So we will probably never know what really transpired.

At the same time, Mr. Campbell was also feeling the heat and backlash of promising in the previous election that he would not bring about a consumption tax, called the HST (Harmonized Sales Tax), but soon after he was elected he came out and indeed implemented it. He then dismantled the Children’s Commission, which pushed 700 unfinished child-death review cases into a dark closet.

In early 2011, a few months after the Basi/Virk trial ended, Campbell, leader of the BC Liberal Party for 17 years and premier for nine resigned his position. Six months later, in Sept. 2011, it was announced that he would be received into the Order of British Columbia, for “demonstrating the greatest distinction and excellence in a field of endeavour which benefits the people of BC.” The same month he was given the role of Canadian High Commissioner to the United Kingdom, and moved to London, family in tow.

After Campbell announced his resignation, Clark pushes aside her microphone at the radio station and declares that she wants to be leader of the Liberal Party and premier, though at the time not even having a seat in the legislature.

At a Liberal leadership meeting in March 2011, the party membership voted for Ms Clark to be their leader and swore her in. Still needing a seat in government, a by-election was run in ex-premier Campbell’s old riding of Vancouver-Point Grey, and Clark beats New Democrat, David Eby by 595 votes. It’s the first time a governing party had won a by-election in 30 years.

David Eby is a civil rights lawyer, Professor of law at UBC, and a research associate with Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives. He has also served as president of the Canadian HIV/Aids Legal Network and is the past executive director of the BC Civil Liberties Association. And tit for tat, two years later, in the election just completed, Eby defeated Clark by more than a thousand votes, leaving Clark once again with no seat.

In June 2013, re-elected Liberal MLA, party whip, and millionaire wine-maker, Ben Stewart stepped down so that Clark could possibly be elected in his riding of Westside-Kelowna in an up-coming by-election. Westside-Kelowna is a good location for Clark’s attempt to be elected. Stewart won this year’s election with over 58% of the votes, but the riding, a land of vineyards, retirement communities and a large Native reserve, also had one of the lowest voter turnouts in the province, with just over 40%. So all Clark needs is for two out of every ten eligible voters to vote for her and she’s in. Until such time, she is not permitted to enter the legislature, but oddly enough can still dictate policy, and still receives a paycheck. Because in 2007, all of the MLA’s at the time got together and implemented a new plan for severance pay for those who lose their ridings or retire. Soon after, everyone’s salaries magically increased 29% and their infamous gold-plated pension plans were restored. Five years later, amidst a recall vote over the HST mess, in 2012, the MLA’s at the time secretly met once again, and voted to extend the severance to also include any member who happens to be recalled for dubious behaviour.

Update: July 10th, 2013. Ms Clark wins by-election in Westside-Kelowna. With 46,000 voters eligible to vote, only 17,012 (37%) made the effort. Clark recieved 10,666 votes, 62% of those who voted, but only 23% of all registered voters (less than one in four of eligible voters). Great for Clark and the Liberals, not so much for democracy.

Eligible MLA’s receive their $101,859 base annual salary ($6,790 per month) for 15 months, while they look for other work. With Clark losing her seat, the transitional allowance automatically kicked in, but three weeks after the fact, she announced that she will pay back what has been paid to her since that time. Meanwhile she continues to be paid a $91,673 annual salary that comes with being the premier. Perhaps this is another reason she’s smiling all the time and so bubbly.

Two incumbents in the past election, New Democrats, Joe Trasolini and Gwen O’Mahoney, were on the job only 13 months and were defeated in their ridings, but both are eligible to continue receiving their hundred plus grand salaries for the next 15 months. As to just regular folk working as government employees, when their jobs are terminated they receive four weeks’ severance for every four years worked.

Of the three other major parties, the leader of the BC Conservatives, John Cummings was defeated in his riding of Langley, while the leader of the BC Green Party, Jane Verk, was defeated in New Democrat Carole James’ riding of Victoria-Beacon Hill. Currently the only party leader to actually hold a seat in the legislature is the NDP’s Adrian Dix, because enough people actually voted for him.

Mr. Dix was re-elected MLA for Vancouver/Kingsway, getting 57% of the votes in his riding. He has been the riding’s MLA since 2005. As a thirty-five year old, chief of staff to Premier Glen Clark from 1996-1999, he was dismissed for back-dating a memo, and went on to become a political commentator until 2005, when he first ran in Vancouver/Kingsway. Though not necessarily possessing much charisma, or a Clark smile, it’s been said he is deadpan funny man and thinks before he speaks. Fluently bilingual, having lived in France, Dix is afflicted with type-1 diabetes, and was born and raised in Vancouver. Married to a poet and writer, he studied history and political science at the University of British Columbia. He ran for the leadership of the NDP party in 2011 on a platform of rolling back reductions in the corporate tax rate, supporting the redirection of carbon tax revenue to pay for public transit and infrastructure that reduces greenhouse gas emissions, supporting an increase in the minimum wage rate, creating a provincial child care system, restoring grants to post-secondary students, reducing interest on student loans, and restoring the corporation capital tax on financial institutions.

A week after the election he addressed the media for the first time, admitting that he and his party simply did not do their jobs well enough, especially when it came to holding the Liberals accountable for the flaws in there definition of policy, and for taking the “high road” and not calling the Liberals on their attack ads and smear campaign. He promised a comprehensive review, stating “I can assure you this review will spare nothing and no one, least of all me.” Saying he is but a servant of his party’s caucus and members, he hopes the party will learn the lessons before them. Staying on as party leader until the mandatory leadership review in November allows his party to decide the future and direction in which they feel they should go.

Overall the BC election was of the vein of judging candidates by their charisma, personal charm, and personality, instead of the issues in our lives. Liberals were allowed to advertise any way they liked, even if much of it flew in the face of truth or reality. The NDP didn’t question or respond to the Liberals advertising, no matter how low they went, which in the end might have been what would have made a difference. The Liberals went with the “Strong economy. Secure future” as in securing their place as a party associated with business, capitalism, status, success, and wealth, no matter how much a pipe dream it has become, with climate change and the planet’s environmental crisis, never entering the picture.

For the most part the election campaign played out like a really bad reality show and often seemed surreal. It’s like you see their lips moving but just can’t pickup what they are saying, though you do notice their smile and what they are wearing and feel you know them because you have watched multiple times, the ads they produced and acted in. Learning about the candidates and not the issues, in ten second sound bites and then on game day, not even bothering to vote.

This is the problem with politics in most developed and supposedly democratic societies. As Bill Durodie, the program head of Conflict Analysis and Management Programs at Royal Roads University’s School of Peace and Conflict Management, has said, in many of these countries, especially at the local, municipal, and provincial/state levels, “none of the major parties could even manage 10 per cent of the available votes, and end up effectively representing nobody but themselves.” He believes society has become disengaged from politics, which we have, and that the fundamental problem for modern politics is that, “there are few with any resolute and identifiable principles anymore, either among the parties or the voters.” All over the developed world, the people that do vote do so based on their feelings about the candidate and their party and what is reported about them, with “image and style trumping insight and substance at every turn.”

As mentioned earlier, in this election 54% (1.6 million) of eligible voters made it their duty to vote and be engaged. Nearly one and a half  million others decided to sit this one out, meaning only 54 of every 100 eligible voters actually did so. Out of these 54 citizens, not even 24 of them voted Liberal. In all, 706,240 people voted Liberal, only 22% of all eligible voters, or about 6% of the population.  Breaking it down even further to make it more Orwellian, less than three out of ten eligible voters voted for the current majority government. Winning a popular vote with two out of ten people voting for you seems more like a dictatorship than a democracy. But once again, status quo, don’t you know. Interestingly enough, status quo comes from the Latin phrase “in stat quo res errant ante bellum”, “in the state in which things were before the war.”

Geographically, the interior and North East areas of BC, where the dams are built, the jobs are, where the pipelines hopeBCMapto run, the fracking for natural gas continues, and the fresh water supply becomes ever more toxic, voted Liberal. As to the 59% of BC’s population who live in the Lower mainland, Downtown Vancouver, East Vancouver, New Westminster and Vancouver’s eastern suburbs voted BC NDP, with the Fraser Valley, Richmond and parts of Delta all voting Liberal. Vancouver Island and BC’s coastline ridings were overwhelmingly, either NDP or the Green Party, except for the Comox Valley and Parksville-Qualicum, who voted for Liberal candidates.

On Vancouver Island, where 16% of the population of BC live, there are 14 ridings, eleven went NDP, including ex-premier Carole James, in her riding of Victoria-Beacon Hill, two went Liberal, and one went Green. With a population of 344,630, Greater Victoria and its city, Victoria, the capital of British Columbia and where the legislature sits, will not have a voice at the government caucus table for the first time in 60 years. But then even in the upper chamber of the Federal government, in the appointed and not elected Senate, there is no one representing the 750,000 people of Vancouver Island, yet comparatively, Prince Edward Island has 145,000 people and four senators. New Brunswick has the same population as Vancouver Island and has 10 senators.

As to the exact goings-ons of our latest attempt for democracy in BC and how it all went down per individual ridings, those who gathered the most votes in their ridings include Liberal Stephanie Cadieux, in one of the largest ridings, Surrey-Cloverdale, with 59.46% (18,000) of the votes from a total of 51,000 registered voters, second was Liberal Rich Coleman, Fort Langley- Aldergrove, with 15,989 votes, and third with most votes, was Liberal Ralph Sutton, in West Vancouver-Capilano, with 15,777 votes.

As to the largest share of the votes in a riding, the just mentioned, Ralph Sutton was at the top with 67.03%, but was followed closely by NDP Jenny Kwan, with 64.32% of the votes in her riding, Liberal Andrew Wilkinson in Vancouver-Quilchena with 64.32%, NDP Katrine Conroy in Kootenay West with 63.04%, Liberal Bill Bennett in Kootenay East with 63.01 %, and NDP Bruce Ralston of Surrey-Whalley with 61.43%. Those close to 60% were NDP Shane Simpson of Vancouver-Hastings (59.46%) and Liberal Stephanie Cadieux Surrey-Cloverdale (59.46%). Interesting about the Kootenays, Kootenay West had the fourth largest share of votes in a riding and went NDP, while the fifth largest share of votes happened in Kootenay East, and went Liberal.

All parties picked up more votes than in the election in 2009. The BC Conservatives led, picking up 51,332 more votes, to go from 2% of the votes in 2009 to 4.8%, Liberals received 44,285 more votes, but dropped from 45.8% of the total votes in 2009 down to 44.1% this year. The NDP received 24,435 more votes, but dropped to 39.7% this year, and the Green Party had 11,991 more votes than they did in 2009, but went from 8.2% of the votes to 8.1%.

The top two ridings for voter participation were ridings where there was a strong Green candidate running. Most fully engaged was Oak Bay- Gordon Head with 71% voter turnout and where Green candidate, Andrew Weaver, was elected as MLA.

Mr. Weaver is one of Canada’s top scientists and is a Fellow of the American Meteorological Society, the Royal Society of Canada and a member of the Order of British Columbia. He holds the Canada Research Chair in Climate Modelling and Analysis at the University of Victoria. In 2007, Weaver was a contributing member of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, and who, along with former US vice president Al Gore and others were awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. Now deputy leader of Canada’s Green Party, since Jane Sterk was unable to land a seat, he and Green Party leader, MP (Member of Parliament) Ms Elizabeth May, are Canada’s only Green Party elected representatives.

Ms May, executive director of the Sierra Club of Canada from 1989 to 2006, was elected in 2011 in the Saanich-Gulf Islands riding, as MP. She is a respected environmentalist, writer, activist, and lawyer. Her permanent residence is in her riding, the town of Sidney, just up the road a bit from Oak Bay-Gordon Head. She was recently voted “Hardest Working MP” and “Best Constituency MP” by fellow members of the Federal government, which makes sense considering that though she alone sits representing her party, she seems to make more of a difference with her time in parliament than most all of the silenced backbenchers combined, especially the Conservatives. Being open and transparent, having moral rectitude, a backbone, character, and thinking before speaking in a language a non-politician can actually understand, goes a long way it seems.

Second best voter turnout was in Saanich North and the Islands with 70.02% of eligible voters making the effort. It was a very close race, with all three candidates picking up over 10,000 votes each, with the margin between first and third only 379 votes, and was between NDP, Liberal, and Green. New Democrat Gary Holman was awarded the seat.

Third in turnout was in Delta South, where independent Vicki Huntington won re-election with a 69.03% turnout. Of the top five highest turnouts, four were on Vancouver Island.

Meanwhile many of the largest populated ridings had the lowest voter turnout. And I’m just saying, but it could be because of language barriers and cultural differences. Worst voter turnout, at 43%, was Richmond Center, followed by Surrey-Whalley, Richmond-East, Kelowna-Lake Country, Burnaby-Deer Lake, Vancouver-Kingsway, Burnaby-Edmonds, and Westside-Kelowna, all having well below 50% turnout. Hovering at 50-51% voter turnout were Vancouver-Mount Pleasant, Vancouver-False Creek and Vancouver-West End.

The Liberal’s list of promises during the election was lengthy and was never questioned enough, especially by the NDP. Most of the promises were based on the assumption, and myth, that capitalism and unlimited growth work will win the day. Her party’s platform is based on increasing natural resource development, especially liquefied natural gas (LNG), and holding the line on taxes, by not expanding the carbon tax, or instituting a capital tax on financial institutions. She also promised a five-year freeze on personal income tax, with the exception of the highest income earners, a $250- per child back-to-school tax credit for parents, a $500 tax credit for teachers who coach, dropping the small business tax from 2.5% to 1.5% as of 2017, dropping the corporate tax rate down to 10% by 2018, training more doctors, increasing hospice spaces, expanding the BC Training Tax Credit, opening a BC film office in L.A California, and to conduct annual forest industry trade missions to Asia.

After the Liberals won, Clark stated that her economy driven mandate will only work if her MLA’s start saying “no a lot more than they say yes.” She has promised economic security based on new jobs, infrastructure, investment and royalties. To build the province’s “new economy” the Liberals are banking on the LNG industry, and the revenues from which they say will pay down BC’s debt within 15 years.

The day after becoming an MLA, someone who knows a bit about the world’s natural resources, Green Party’s Andrew Weaver, declared that the current predictions of provincial revenues from natural gas are a “fantasy” and it makes no sense to invest in the expansion of natural gas with the intention to sell to Asian markets, because Russia, which has 20 times the natural gas resources of Canada, has just recently signed long term export agreements with China and other Asian countries.

There are of course plenty of other Asian markets that are perfectly willing to buy up all of our limited natural resources. Though the question remains, what happens to us when the resource is gone, forever, in 20 to 30 years? But then look at BC’s forestry business, where instead of more wood products, such as furniture or lumber that a British Columbian could actually afford, and not have to buy plywood from North Carolina or some other place instead because it’s cheaper, no, we chop down our trees, take off the limbs and send the whole log overseas.

Though I’ve got to hand it to Clark, after being elected, she did declare opposition to the proposed Enbridge oilsands crude pipeline, that would run 1600 km across BC, pumping 550,000 barrels per day to Kitimat, on the coast, then perilously make its way by tanker to open water and beeline for China. A parallel pipeline would run back to Alberta, carrying imported diluents, a flammable liquid mixture of hydrocarbons, which will help the heavy sludge of oilsands crude flow along the pipeline. Clark declared there are simply too many unanswered questions about how Enbridge will respond to a spill. Though she also left the door open to see what Enbridge’s response will be to her opposition. Which is very noble and all, especially considering most British Columbians do not want the pipeline. But in reality, whether a pipeline is built or not in BC is not up to us, it’s up to the Harper Federal government. Clark and the Liberals gave up the right to have more influence in the matter over a year ago. In spite, I suppose Alberta could now decide to start charging BC for it’s already in place LNG pipelines, running from Northern BC across Alberta to the United States.

The centerpiece of the Liberal’s platform is debt reduction, and they have promised to dedicate half of future surpluses to it, enact more balanced budget legislation, and include penalties for ministers who do not meet their budget targets. But no matter what is promised as to balancing the budget or not, or controlling spending or not, the reality is that in most industrialized and democratic societies, the amount of debt and spending is over the top, and there is nothing more corrosive to the future of any economy if debt continues to accumulate through a succession of operating deficits. And as in most other industrialized countries, whether at the federal or local level, government is creating huge debt, and will continue to do so because they have all become so concerned and preoccupied with salaries, pensions and perks, instead of infrastructure and the needs of the people.

Over the past ten years, if you factor in both operating expenses and capital spending on schools and infrastructure, the BC Liberals have over spent $14 billion, bringing BC’s total accumulated operating and capital debt over the past fifty years to nearly $40 billion, or $8,300 per British Columbian, and which has been determined to have a 54% chance of defaulting within 30 years. Our current overall debt is more than $62 billion. Interest charges alone are about $1.9 billion per year, more than the entire budget for the Ministry of Children and Family Development. But Clark promises balanced budgets in each of the next three years. Great idea, except it will mean borrowing another $3.5 billion to do so.

Clark would later announce straight-faced, that the government’s budget will also be based on three themes, “giving children more opportunities than we had, caring for those who cared for us and leaving BC as beautiful as we found it.” Oxymoron doesn’t even get close to explaining this comment.

But then our economy is mostly determined by what happens elsewhere in the world anyways, no matter what three year plan the Liberals have, because nothing in government is long term. As we all know their wheel is geared to run for about three years then switch and spend the final year campaigning.

In the very near future, the economic reality for Canada and the world will have everything to do with the emerging countries in Asia, Africa and Latin America, who today combined, represent a third of the world’s economy. The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), the international body which promotes policies that they feel will improve the economic and social well being around the world, estimates that in seven years, in 2020, these countries will be the second biggest driving force of the world’s economy.

Capitalistic democratic countries such as Canada, the United States and those in Europe, operate with such short term focus because they judge time quarterly, perhaps proving that the concept of living for the moment is actually something really irrational. Government is now big business, unfortunately it’s not run by business people, but by lawyers and bureaucrats, and without the profit part. They are also forgetting that life is about people and with continuing high unemployment and growing income equalities; you’d think they would worry about that. But then, heck, they even ignore the fact that the Earth is but one planet.

And yes, of course economic development is important, but it must also mean sustainable development that respects the wishes of all those who live there, and the environment in which they live in. With most of voters in the most recent election voting for either the New Democrats or the Greens, this obviously shows that the majority of people in BC want investment and jobs that produce clean energy. But if the goal is not to reverse the destruction of the earth’s ecosystems, all else, including life, becomes moot.

The only thing decided in the 2013 BC election was that we will be maintaining things as they were, with a few deciding its status quo for everybody. Just like most all levels of government in Canada, where we are ruled most often by simple reactionary governments run by despots, who possess far too much power for anyone’s good. Just like the Romans, you would have thought we had learned that lesson and gotten past it, silly us. Leaders who have their own mandates, and who keep their members in check and obedient by the unelected party whips, by being told how to vote, what questions to ask, and how to beg and bark like a dog. Their governments far too often, will only consider action on just about anything until the corporations, financial institutions or foreign interests, whom already own too much of Canada’s resources, say so.

The BC Liberals will continue to protect the existing systems of power and the future of the economy, they will promise accountability and sustainability and truly believe that capitalism’s economics will win over good sense and foresight when it comes to coping with any problems along the way, arrogantly believing that the ability of engineering and technology will save the day. Much like the thinking of CEO Rex Tillerson at Exxon-Mobil’s 2013 annual general meeting, “What good is it to save the planet if humanity suffers?” obviously not aware whatsoever that a simple share dividend or larger market share, doesn’t mean anything, if it has no planet to survive on.

In reality the continuously expanding bubble is actually beginning to hiss and becoming a permanent contraction. The essential resources for economic expansion and survival, that are abundant, accessible and safe to obtain, are nearly all gone. Our government knows this, but will never admit it. But then we don’t want to admit it to ourselves either it would seem. For many it’s far too much to handle, we are overwhelmed. And is undoubtedly one of the main reasons of low voter turnout, and for the acceptance of our current voting system as “oh well that’s just the way things are.” More like it’s just the way the government likes it. There are alternatives of course, there always are.

More than 33 countries worldwide use the Westminster form of government. This democratic parliamentary system of government is where there is an executive branch which derives its democratic legitimacy from, and held accountable to, the legislature/parliament. Amongst these countries there are at least four different voting systems used.

In 2005, and recommended by the BC Citizens’ Assembly on Electoral Reform, 57% of British Columbian voters, voted to get rid of our current first-past-the-post (FPTP) system and replace it with the proportional voting system, the single transferable vote (STV). However, just before the final vote was to be taken, the majority government, who were elected as such with only 45% of the votes, and somehow gained 97% of the seats in the legislature, declared that a 60% minimum threshold was needed, so the idea was rejected. Another vote for STV was taken in 2009, and was nothing but a misinformation campaign, using words, numbers and grammar improperly and making it perhaps too complicated in its description for most people, and there was mass confusion, especially for non-English speaking citizens. It also failed.

Operating a first-past-the-post system, with just one winner in each riding means half of voters don’t actually elect anyone. In the 2011 Federal election seven million votes elected no one. In the 2008 Federal election nearly one million people voted Green, yet no one was elected, while in Alberta alone, about 700,000 voters allowed Harper’s Conservatives to gain 27 seats in parliament. In the Prairies, the Conservatives received nearly twice as many votes as Liberal and NDP combined, but somehow took seven times as many seats. In fact, that same year, more Canadians voted in the finals of the Canadian Idol TV program, than had in the election.

Thus our provincial and federal governments have no idea what the majority of Canadians need and want, nor who we are, especially with them also getting rid of the long-form census. Sadly, even if more people voted using our current voting system, it would still not create fair representation of the majority of the people.

Comparatively, in 2011, in Ireland, and using the STV system, only 18% of those who voted did not have a candidate that won. The same year in New Zealand, and also using the STV, only 3% voted for losers.

The STV system works with voters in combined local districts getting to elect anywhere from five to seven representatives instead of just one. On each ballet is listed all the individual politicians, from all parties, of that local area. A voter then lists these candidates by order of preference, 1st choice, 2nd, and so on. If your first choice doesn’t have enough votes to be elected and sure to lose, your vote is then transferred to your 2nd choice, and so on. Similarly, if your first choice has more than enough votes to win, your vote is transferred to your next favorite candidate, and so on. Each vote ends up where it’s most needed to get the group of representatives most wanted. No vote is wasted on a candidate that has no hope in being elected, and with every vote having an equal impact on the outcome, one can vote their conscience. All results would be totally proportional. The best person that represents the needs of the community is chosen, not the person who best represents their party. The legislature and parliament would represent nearly everyone, which is called a democracy.

Such proportional representation, awarding seats in the legislature on the percentage of votes received, equals fair representation. Over 80 countries use elements of proportionality in their voting systems. Australia has used such a system since 1918, and is used at all levels of government, including their senate. No candidate can win if they do not have a true majority of over 51% of the vote, and there cannot be a majority government with less than 51% of the vote. Compulsory voting was enacted in 1924, and began with an average of 95% of registered voters doing so. If one fails to vote and is not able to provide a reasonable explanation for not voting, they are fined $20. But like elsewhere, Australia has been seeing a drop in the numbers of those who vote. In the past few elections, some municipality’s votes are down to 80-85 %, which is still far better than Canada’s (50%) ,which ranks among the lowest in voter turnout in all the industrialized countries of the world. In contrast and besides Australia, Belgium and Denmark have 80% of the voters showing up.

According to Fair Vote Canada, if the proportional STV system, based on fair representation, was used in the 2013 BC election, the vote would have been 41 Liberal seats, 33 NDP, six Greens, and four Conservatives, instead of its outcome of 49 seats for the Liberals, 34 for the NDP, one Green, one Independent, and zero Conservatives.

Online voting, meanwhile, is a good idea because we’d then be able to be more informed, as an uninformed choice is not a choice at all, and we’d be able to vote on other issues as well, instead of just once every three to four years. But voting should never be taken for granted nor should it simply become an inconvenience, where in-between tweeting and texting friends every four to five minutes, answering e-mails, or playing with you new phone app, you have to take a second to vote, just to get it over with. Voting should be both, a right to fair representation and a duty to participate.

But whether proportional voting, first-to-the-post, online and/or mandatory, they are all simply systems trying to deal with the same problem, which is not enough people vote to properly determine our futures. Standing by and allowing a very few to make the decisions for us, and tell us what road we will travel, and how we are to behave is so bovine. If only but a few of us vote, the people elected, whether ruling or opposition, go to government and vote according to their party and their ideology, and not to the wishes of the constituents, who really, don’t number that many anyway. They decide what the interest of the people shall be. If this is the case, it is not a democracy but a republic.

It seems that British Columbians will occasionally, about every ten years or so, get riled up enough to go to the polls and hope for change or salvation. Unfortunately this is not the place where such things reside anymore. Another reason so few vote anymore is because we are busy in our own lives and place in society and have realized that voting doesn’t change anything, especially when over 70% of the population’s votes don’t mean anything when they do. We have become alienated and disaffected from the whole political process.

It also doesn’t help that the country to the south of us is so dysfunctional and spiralling down a toilet, and that whenever they speak, especially if it’s a Republican senator, it is filled with contradiction and ignorance, and everyone looks at each other, asking, did they just say that in their out-loud voice. They feel they can run around and try to control the world when they can’t even control themselves, while in reality they are controlled by an “intelligence community” and Wall Street. They make democracy something obscene; with the way their citizens have given up their rights and freedoms in order to feel secure and safe, but unemployed, dissatisfied with life, violent-prone, fat and hungry.

If we continue to become disengaged within our own communities, how on earth are we to become engaged in politics, when it has simply become another reality show, with really bad actors, using the same old script?

Integrity and character has been replaced with entitlement and personality, with too many politicians possessing the charisma of street walkers and used car salesmen, but unlike such working citizens, believing they are not accountable at all, and are so very far out of touch. They are often having difficulties with their expenses, which any politician has a right to claim, but they instead ignore the obligation of disclosure to whom pays the bills, which is we the people, and through it all, a never ending stream of scandal, with one abuse of privilege after another.

Consider those who vote the least, 18 to 24 year olds. Less than a third of them vote, while in 1980, two-thirds of the same age group voted. The difference is that today any expectations for “participation, self-realization and control over their lives” cannot be gained through our current electoral machine. Many see that besides the erosion of democracy, the basics of society, such as freedom of the press, having a system that is not corrupt, the right to peaceful protest, and having a rule of law which is the same for everybody, are being undermined, and they understand that ultimately elections do not usually affect such things.

We have become either not interested, too busy, or simply don’t care to vote anymore, by not being informed rationally or honestly, thus not being motivated to vote. This is good for the one party who operates within a system where, once again, as long as they get 2 or 3 people out of 10 to vote for them, they’re in. We’ve become disgusted with a politician’s behaviour, lack of scruples and integrity, sociopathic tendencies and sense of self entitlement. A sense of powerlessness pervades over us, but is kept at bay with a status quo of style over substance.

In BC and Canada, and other than the couple of Green members and a few independents, the leaders of both the ruling and opposition governments and their ministers, chiefs of staff and party whips, nearly every other MLA or MP backbencher, sit back like trained seals, occasionally roaring out “hear hear”, stomping their feet or pounding their desks. Their sense of entitlement gained from a, “set for life pension”, excellent pay and all the most lavish of perks, is actually the near rotten fish tossed their way, which they have eagerly gulped back.

The elite of the world and the governments they control are simply out of control. And really don’t care if the great curtain of Oz is lying on the floor like a dirty rag. Far too often the stench of blatant corruption, immorality, greed and a total lack of empathy permeate everything they do, say and touch.

In Canada the government mimes other capitalistic democracies by slashing guidelines for corporate behaviour, removing any accountability that they might have, and are ever more controlled by corporate lobbyists to micromanage the provinces and country. They would also like to privatize everything as soon as possible, which is not a bad thing, except the fact the privatizing is going to foreign interests. As to public service, it is becoming both private and secret.

Frustration reigns supreme above all else because the economic standing that a large lower-middle class, and working class once had has been slowly erased over the past thirty years. At the same time “the wealth and income derived from labor, which is how we citizens pay our way, has been transferred to capital, while the growth of productivity doesn’t translate into wage gains anymore”, because it’s usually transferred overseas.

Further frustration comes from the myriad of contradictions in government spending, such as, in BC, each MLA receives $19,000 a year for accommodation in Victoria when the legislature meets. Over the past few years, on average, they gather together about 40 days a year. Staying in a nice place on the inner harbour for 40 nights, using the “government rate”, costs about $8,000. Meanwhile a British Columbian living on disability income is expected to find accommodation with $4,500 per year; or that the chiefs of staffs and some MLAs are making upwards of $10,000 a month, while the majority of the province are trying to make do with $28,000 a year; or that BC has the lowest corporate tax rates in Canada, as well as having, for over ten years now, the highest child-poverty rate in Canada. In reality there is really no poverty per se, in any democratic country, just poor distribution of the wealth.

Our current democratic dysfunction is affecting the pulse of our collective consciousness. Instead of meaning and purpose it’s leaving us awash in a feeling of emptiness and unease. The distractions put in our faces are gladly taken, but deep down we are longing for change and reform. The distractions paralyze us to act for the now, not even wanting to think about the future. The only two roads being offered are either just sucking it up, turning ourselves off and pretending that everything’s okay, or standing up and acting. Unfortunately standing up and being heard can bring much to bear against you, too much than most people are willing to absorb and pay for, especially if it disrupts their daily lives or takes away any of their stuff. It’s why there is a lack of leadership in the world today. For anyone who is truly righteous and who stands up for others, we have a tendency as a society to marginalize, ostracize, defame and/or assassinate them, before they do too much damage to the status quo. And we must especially remember that whenever the word revolution is bandied about, there must be a very concise and exacting explanation for what that means.

Because our corporate governments are mostly being driven by capitalistic greed, the powers that be and who control them, will never allow their power to wane. Indeed many of the largest controlling institutions are, as they say, too big to fail. But capitalism gets away with its growing violence to both the environment and the fabric of our societies, much like the Bible got away with its extreme violence, degradation of women, and declaration that the planet’s resources are god given and meant to be used up as it see fit, because most times governments back it up, through repression of their people.

Far too many of us actually believe we can successfully, psychologically ignore and deny the planet is changing. Where escalating heat waves, droughts, floods and destructive mega storms have simply become natural events, and we are more mesmerized by the latest fashion or phone app. But it has been proven that messages based on fear, such as climate change, can cause people to feel dis-empowered and less likely to take action at all. That is why governments always promote a fear of something, whether it’s the Huns, Nazis, Communists, terrorists, crime, drugs or other religions and races.

Those who have just given up, have not only given up on themselves, but have also damned their children and their grandchildren as well. We have raised the standards of living so high over the past fifty years, and so gorged on the earth’s limited resources that future generations have no hope in hell of living in similar high fashion.

There is also the train of thought that there is such low voter turnout here in Canada, and elsewhere, because it’s a sign our political system is stable and that nobody votes because we are all relatively happy with our government; that life isn’t so bad and people do not see much significance in what the government is doing, and as long as we can continue to cheaply fill our gas tanks, we’re good to go.

The only problem with people today going merrily on their way seeking happiness is that most often we are seeking it in all the wrong places. Deep down we are all so very terribly bored, and so we think by making everyday distractions important they become a part of our daily routine, which makes it easier to get through the day. As deep is the reality that, as a biological species we simply need food, water, a roof over our head, and to be loved. But as long as we keep giving ourselves over to booze, pot, pills, celebrity fascination, the hope of winning a lottery ticket, that our car defines us, and that as long as we are able to maintain all of the other material comforts of our lives, we’ll accept most things without complaint.

So it comes down to, people don’t vote because they are happy with their lot in life, as long as something doesn’t happen in their own backyard, or understand that elections don’t really change anything in their daily lives, unless one becomes ill, hurt, abused or assaulted, of course, and can’t pay for the repairs. Or people don’t vote because they don’t give a shit and usually live their lives as such. Or people don’t vote because they look at the candidates and their parties and nothing meaningful is there to vote for. This I feel is the biggest reason many don’t bother to vote, for though society is crying out for leaders, there aren’t any.

What is needed, especially today when decisions are often needed to be made quickly for our futures sake, are individuals who bring forethought to the changes needed in our modern society and changing planet, and who understand what it might mean for democracy and basic human rights. Leaders willing to do battle in the only war any civilization needs to fight today, the one between the public good and private profits. It’s too bad that very few politicians today draft and pass mandates with positive results, which become a part of their legacy long after they are gone from office. Needed are leaders who are willing to bring about reform, no matter how bumpy the road might be, nor how many arrows glance off their brows. Men and women who are willing to speak for all citizens, not only those that support them, and who understand the importance of transparency and accountability, and who will promote policies that will improve the economic and social well being of the world. Someone who doesn’t cheat, steal or lie would be a huge evolutionary step forward.

In the 2013 BC election there were many talented individuals who were able to gain a seat in our legislature. Many are very qualified people, with business degrees and political science majors, and who are accountants, lawyers, and managers. All I’m sure having the best of intentions, and are very intelligent, which is often the problem, because more often than not it’s the really smart individual that is needed instead. And yes, there is a difference. But of all of those elected, there weren’t very many leaders. Someone the true majority of British Columbians believes in.

Premier Christy Clark may be the leader of the BC Liberals by way of our current voting system, but is she really the honourable leader we need in this changing world, or just the CEO of the government of BC, who on the world stage is a somewhat charismatic, teen-like, bubbly, minor celebrity with a nice smile who may or may not make any difference at all.

No matter Ms Clark, or the Liberal party’s intentions, are they strong enough in their convictions to represent all British Columbians, or just the princes of capitalism, or will they succumb to the problem that has followed politicians around since the first civilizations, in that power nearly always corrupts. As the Greek historian, Herodotus, explained in the 4th century BC, “Even the best of men, were he granted such power would alter the train of his thoughts. Insolence will be engendered in him by the advantages of his position, and envy …With these two in his soul he is filled with every wickedness, for insolence will cause him to break into many acts of wantonness, and envy into many more.”

I’ll end this essay with the issues of our sense of being overwhelmed, and the common adage, why bother to vote when it won’t mean anything. In our current voting system this is true, as is the reality that whoever of the two or three mainstream parties are in power in BC, nothing will change. The Liberals will continue to sit in the back seat of the speeding capitalism high-end sedan, as it hurls towards the edge of the cliff, with them all fighting over who can sit up front, and the New Democrats won’t stray too far from the middle of the road in their mid size “working man’s” pickup truck. Neither is what we need nor want, for we need action and reform. Meanwhile the Greens will cruise along in the latest hybrid, giving sage advice and sound alternatives.

But at any intersection, with the light switching to amber, the Greens slow down and stop just as it turns red, and take a look around. The New Democrats weave around them, quickly look left, then right, and boot through the amber. A few seconds after the light turned red, the Liberal sedan comes racing through the intersection nearly clipping an elderly man using a walker, just missing running over a university student, and nearly t-boning a local beer truck, but without even a glance or acknowledgement continues on, leaving the chaos in their dust.

Over the past hundred years, societies have had to deal with many issues, each separate and distinct as they usually happened piecemeal, from world wars to civil rights, the right to vote, women’s rights and the environment. Today is like a perfect storm arising seemingly just off in the distance, while in actuality is closer than we think. Income and wealth disparity, lack of accountability, corporate generated repression, blind greed, entitlement, consumerism, endless war, too big to fail institutions, crumbling infrastructure and climate change, all blending into one all-encompassing planetary crisis. Issues that need to be confronted by strong leadership and a populace willing to change, not for our sake, for we will be dead before it gets totally out of control, but for our children and their children. It would be completely irresponsible, immoral, suicidal, and just plain mean to leave such societal and political dysfunction and a deteriorating planet to future generations.

Distractions indeed have kept us busy. Our repression of anxiety, anguish, grief, and our natural human instincts and feelings, have sucked any courage we might have had right out of us. We have become, what was once sung “comfortably numb.”

We must not lose sight of the concepts of one small step at a time, but at the same time admitting that we must also confront the issues before us rather quickly, and have the courage to do so. For every action there is a potential reaction, with the future not yet written nor known. We must never forget that you who are reading these words, matter, we matter, and we are never too old or young to act, stand up and speak. Most importantly we must remember that hope is harvested, not given nor elected.

 

Further perusing – Tom Englelhardt  “Acts Of Courage”   TomDispatch.com

 

04/16/13

One Day in the US of A

April 15th 2013

Of the 2.5 million Americans who die every year, the approximately 6,850 Americans who died this average day, 45 of them were murdered, 31 of them by gun.

As well, there were 72 deaths attributed to alcohol.

95 were killed in motor vehicle accidents.

105 killed themselves, 50 of them used a gun.

110 deaths by overdose and drug induced.

234 people died in unintentional accidents.

1,580 deaths attributed to cancer, 25% of them lung cancer.

2,150 people died because their hearts gave out, blood pressure was too high or other cardiovascular illnesses, nearly two people every minute.

569, mostly women, were raped or sexually assaulted, about one every minute.  At least those are the reported cases, it is estimated that 63% of all rapes or sexual assaults go unreported, so the actual number is probably much higher and closer to 1,500 women raped each and every day.

 86,575 people injured themselves today someway, somehow………………..

Meanwhile, 3 deaths and 176 injured in bomb attack at the running of the Boston Marathon and the world mourns. While the country screams out for vengeance. Very much unlike their reaction after the Newton massacre last December, of 20 first-grade six year olds and six of their teachers, when many Americans refused to even glance into the mirror. Though in this instance they might have to start.

Postscript;

Father’s Day weekend, June 15th + 16th, 2013, Chicago, Illinois, 7 dead and 31 wounded in over 50 unconnected shootings.

July 4th weekend, 2013, in Chicago,72 people, including children, shot. 12 killed.

Iraq 2003-2011, 4,422 American troops killed. Chicago 2003-2011, 4,265 people murdered.

 

04/8/13

Costs Of Living – Inequalities, Poverty Levels, and the Cost for one Person to live in Victoria BC

“Everyone who works has the right to just and favourable remuneration ensuring for himself and for his family an existence worthy of human dignity”  U.N. Universal Declaration of Human Rights


 

While we have been busy climbing ladders, wishing we were someone else and purchasing our personalities, the basics of life have become much more than simply the costs of living, and are in fact taking much more from us than just income and capital; it’s taking away the planet we live on as well.

To exist as a biological species we need safe drinking water, food, clothing, a roof over our heads, and sex. To be human we need someone to love, someone to love us, friendship, an individual talent which gives us self worth and the ability or opportunity to question. To keep humanity’s greatest resources, imagination and ingenuity, in proper context, we need what Albert Einstein called “the principles of free and responsible development of the individual so that he may place his powers freely and gladly in the service of mankind.” To keep ourselves mentally healthy is to relish each one of these essentials. But each one of these essentials, especially over the past thirty years, has now become nearly entirely privatized, as we stare like deer caught in the headlights.

Today such basic needs and rights also include education, health care, parks and recreation and freedom of speech, all of which are now packaged into products to be simply bought and sold, with many of these rights easily taken from us. Obtaining them is now based on who can pay the most, because anything good, important, healthy or reliable costs more.

The cost of living before agriculture and civilizations was called life and death. Then about twelve thousand years ago, after seventy thousand years of our current mutation as modern humans; we began to domesticate animals and invented agriculture to feed them, eventually feeding ourselves as well. We also began to live communally in larger numbers, which rose exponentially after such villages became cities. The cost of living became income. At this time the characters bearing psychopathic tendencies, such as “self-esteem derived from personal gain, power, or pleasure; failure to conform to lawful or culturally normative ethical behaviour; lack of concern for feelings, needs, or suffering of others; lack of remorse after hurting or mistreating another; exploitation is a primary means of relating to others; deceit; the use of dominance or intimidation to control others and misrepresentation of the self”, were finally able to rise to the top, feeding on their thirst for power, to control the food source, and demand tithe for doing so. Where once there was enough for everyone slowly became never enough. The seeds of inequality among humans began to quickly sprout and split into the haves and the have-nots.

At the same time, laws were formed by the individuals who controlled the wealth to control the public and soon the populations began to lose the opportunity to be noble or heroic, with everyone’s destiny and position in life laid out for them. Distractions such as literature, theatre and sports quickly followed, becoming the places where we could live out an honorable life, through someone else’s actions.  To further control the masses the elite created capital, usury, then debt, by imposing scarcity on their own populations, and any conquered ones, thus causing inequality which created poverty. To keep at least a wee bit of hope, religion was created.

Eventually the distractions and illusions became what they are today, sports heroes, movie stars, politics, and numerous economic theories that only exist on paper and which keep us focused on anything other than our own lives. Ideas such as GDP, which we base our economic worlds and societal success on, but which have nothing to do with our personal well-being or the planet’s. It operates under the illusion that unlimited growth under free market capitalism, operating on only one delicate and finite planet will work, and that a person’s well-being has all to do with material gain and how much one consumes. As it devours our social and natural environments it has us thinking that money will bring us happiness, where instead life should be doing that.

But we do not live in a world where the economy understands that there are now over seven billion people living on a single and finite planet and concerns itself with the importance of everyone getting along, the welfare of each individual, and having enough for everyone, even future generations, by caring for the earth’s resources. Instead we have an economic system, neo-liberal capitalism, which only generates extreme wealth for a very few individuals and is destroying the planets ecosystems by replacing the earth’s resources with waste, and controls the majority of the human race using nationalism, intolerance and oppression by economic means. For instance, if every country on earth were to consume resources and generate as much waste as the United States, we would need five planet earths.

Meanwhile we are extolled through the corporate government media machine that we should worry about events in far-flung places, rather than what’s happening in our own communities, ignoring the depravity within our own society by watching it happen somewhere else. More often than not, global mainstream media is not the real world; our everyday lives are not filled with horror, crime, and continuous bad news nor are they filled with the need to always exact revenge. Most all news stories are about things we cannot influence, and the daily repetition of such things we cannot do anything about, makes us passive. It is grinding us down and is undoubtedly one of the core reasons for the widespread disease of depression which is ravaging our societies. Media could and should, put life into better perspective though in many instances it is verboten to do so and now simply sticks to peddling the ideology of the corporate state.

We are further led to believe that lavish spending and waste makes one a better person somehow, to be a true human you need stuff, especially stuff you don’t need. That what one is wearing or what vehicle one drives denotes their personality and that money is everything. Even assets and debts are to be carried over, and still to be paid after we die. We are bludgeoned and brow beaten about debt and how much is owed, numbers in the billions and trillions on the national level and which we have no hope of ever relating to. On a more personal level we simply try to ignore the amount we ourselves are amassing.

We are also told that having a distinct personality is imperative to be the most powerful, invincible, admired, sexy and unique, yet our daily lives are interactive and interdependent worlds, as are most all species whether animal, bird or fish. No matter the distraction or how far one buys into it, the underlying questioning of what we are told to do, say, act and buy, goes against the reality of who we are. And it’s confusing the hell out of us.

For generations’ topics such as religion, politics, what one does for a living, inequality and sex were simply not spoken about or brought up. Climate change and the current economic crisis can also be added to this list. Yet these are all things we should be talking about, because they are the causes of the abuse we are doing to ourselves and the planet. We get upset when talking about such issues because it’s taken personally, thus we become emotional and offended. Talk about any other fundamental global issues today and people really get their hairs up and knickers in a twist, and either emotionally expounds their personal world-view at you or simply doesn’t want to talk about it and quickly changes the subject. The main reason for this is because it gets too close to the bone; we are hurt emotionally because our inaction, obedience to the system, and denial are complicit with the digression of our unequal societies and destruction of the earth’s eco-systems.

It is getting harder and harder to differentiate between truth and fiction so we interpret reality through illusion, believe what we want to believe, and are quickly rid of anything unpleasant, instead of learning to cope. Our comfort zones have been separated from reality, with the media working their best for their corporate masters, to ensure that they shall never meet. The paradox today is that people have to be far enough out of touch with reality to function and yet acknowledge reality to survive.

The separation between reality and illusion is a thin veil and is creating so many contradictions in our lives that many people today, especially in the developed countries, simply can’t cope with daily life. Each year the United States and Canada consumes more than two-thirds of the world’s pharmaceutical anti-depressants, the bulk of the global cocaine supply and have some of the highest rates of alcohol abuse in the world. Not to mention deteriorating physical and mental health. There is a reason for this.

We have become a public overwhelmed, numbed, and weary of the stories and realities of climate change, unwinnable wars, whether drugs or terrorists, and the ever worsening global economic recession and the strain it’s putting on our lives. No matter how much one becomes distracted, such issues weigh heavily upon us. For many, worrying about where the next meal will come from creates stress and worry, which affects our health, therefore also becomes one of the costs to live today.

Underlying our human madness is the reality of each day in an individual’s life and the fact that our basic, modern needs, and fundamental requirements to exist as a healthy biological species, along with, income disparity and the lowering of our morals, are all becoming more expensive and much more than we, as well as the planet, can afford.

It is estimated there are billions of people in the world living on less than $2.50 per day. Most are indeed poor, but then again there are also some peoples and places on the earth, where consumerism and capitalism haven’t become a belief system, nor has the surrounding environment been eroded or poisoned. In such places $2.50 a day is all you really need to fulfill one’s daily need for water, food and a roof over your head, with lives which are just as fulfilling, loving, rich and rewarding as anywhere else. But for much of the planet’s populations, one’s life is determined by how much money one makes and what you do with it.

Today the cost of living is based on what is called the “poverty level”, which is the minimum level deemed adequate to afford the essential resources an average human being needs to consume in one year. It is based on a human’s basic food and water requirements necessary to exist.  With food, a human’s health is determined by what’s called “body-mass index”, which is a human’s body shape based on an individual’s weight and height. The minimum “allowed” body-mass index is 16, although the more accurate and real body-fat % number is being used more often as the scale, with the highest percentages being in North America. The BMI is still used globally, with the lowest BMI scores, averaging 19, are found in many of the poorest countries, especially Eritrea, Congo, Bangladesh and Ethiopia, and Southeast Asia. The highest rates are Tonga, Micronesia and Samoa, with an average of 32. As a rule a BMI of over 25 puts one overweight.

Though there is no standard caloric intake list, a person needs a minimum of 1500-2000 calories of food per day. With the actual number of calories each individual needs depending on multiple different factors, including age, gender, height, weight, lifestyle, availability and metabolism, and that not all calories are created equal, so it depends more so on what kinds of calories you eat.

The minimum amount of water our bodies need, in a moderate climate and average activity level, is about 5 litres (1.3 gal) per day, while the minimum water needed for drinking, cooking, bathing and sanitation combined is about 50 litres (13 gal) per day, per person. In perspective, Americans and Canadians use 250-300 litres (65-78 gal) of water per day per person for drinking, cooking, bathing, flushing toilets and watering lawns. In the Netherlands, they use 104 litres (27 gal) per day, while in Gambia, in Africa, they use only 4.5 litres (1.17 gal) per day. The poverty level minimum water needs also states that every person must have safe drinking water available less than 15 minutes away. And although 70% of the earth’s surface is water, less than 2% of it is fresh water, of which only a few hundredths of a per cent is actually drinkable.

As for food and water, these minimums are scary as in many parts of the world they are still not being reached, and in fact are declining, with the supply of these basic needs being the most affected by climate change. The UN estimates that there are 925 million humans with insufficient food, 1 out of every 7 people, with over half of all the children in the world today living in poverty. Global fresh water is dwindling quickly, not so much from drinking, but from growing food, while the acidification and oxygen depletion of the earth’s oceans, lakes and rivers, drought, severe weather, glaciers disappearing and rivers drying up continue unabated.  We whine about what a litre of gasoline costs, yet are paying sometimes twice as much for the same amount of water in a plastic bottle. Heck, in Victoria we are paying fifty-cents to simply put air in our tires.

The poverty level provisions must also include proper sanitation for our biological waste, health care for serious illness, injury and pregnancy, and shelter, where fewer than four people live in each room with at the least a floor and a roof.  Next up is education, where each person is able to read and write, thus learn. Finally, the poverty level includes that everyone should have the modern essentials of having information at hand, whether in books, magazines and news sources, as well as access to services such as further education, health advice and care, legal assistance, social services, and financial services such as credit unions.

While in reality many of these minimum requirements can never be reached by someone actually living at the poverty level; with many of them slowly being erased or priced too high and out of reach for the majority of humanity.

Before we continue I would like to emphasize that I understand very well there will be a wide range of circumstances when further discussing the cost of living, and to some extent income inequality, but I’m just going for an average, ballpark figure of an average Canadian, with the odd comparison to the Americans. I’m not really comparing but generalizing, because there are so many variables, such as where one lives – city, small town or suburb. Are they male or female, single or have a large family, or two people sharing expenses and with a joint income of $40,000 and having a higher standard of living than two individuals living alone on $20,000 each, with all sorts of intangibles in between.

In Canada the after-tax poverty thresholds are $18,421 for one person, $34,829 for a family with two children. One in ten Canadians live at or below these levels; 3.2 million people, of whom 634,000 are children, with British Columbia continuing to have the highest child poverty rate in Canada. In the US the poverty level is $11,344 for one person, and $22,133 for a family with two children, with more than one per six Americans living at and far below these levels.

Such income levels have not changed much over the past 30 years, though the actual costs of living and the income of the top earners have risen dramatically. Consider that in 1982 the median income of an average Canadian was $28,000 annually after taxes, while the income for the top one per cent was $191,600 after taxes, seven times higher. Fast forward to today where our economy has grown twice as large, the richest one per cent now report a median income of $283,400, nearly 10 times higher than the median income of the other 99% of Canadians whose median income has only risen to $28,500.

Income inequality is even more disturbing in the US. In 1980 the average CEO’s annual pay was 42 times more than the average worker. By 2011, their pay was 340 times more, regardless of business performance or shareholder value.  As to income growth over the past 45 years and adjusted for inflation, 90% of Americans annual income, has risen a mere $59 per year, while the top 1% of the top 1%’s annual income has risen to $18.7 million. To put this in perspective, for each dollar that an average household’s income rises, the household incomes of the top 1% of the top 1% rises $311,233 annually.

In Canada the top 100 CEO’s earn an average of $6 million per year, while the average minimum hourly wage in Canada is nine dollars, in the US its $7.25 per hour. The lowest minimum monthly gross income in Canada, working a 40 hour work week, is $1,631 per month. To currently live in Vancouver B.C. an individual needs to earn at least $18.81 per hour and work a 40 hour week. In 2012, the average weekly wage in BC was $860.57 before taxes, with an hourly average wage of $23.53. In a nut shell, more than half of all Canadians are living on less than $25,400 per year after taxes and would need to work one month to make the same amount a top CEO makes in one hour.

Out of the pie, 51.9% of Canadians make $29,299 a year or less, 48% make more than $30,000 per year, and the final 1% makes $169,000 or more a year, with 0.1 % of these individuals making an average of $30 million a year. Breaking it down further, if you make more than $60,000 per year you are in the top 19%; above $120,000 per year you are in the top 5%. As for weekly income, the top 10%, who are mostly just the managers of the top 1%’s industries, governments, corporations and wealth, and who are really just commodities themselves, average $6,000 per week. Their bosses make about $160,000 per week.

The disappearing middle class in BC have individual earnings between $40,000 and $125,000, while in the US their middle class is determined to be those earning $36,000 to $57,657 per year. In both countries it’s becoming blatantly clear, yet readily ignored, that the bulk of the populations of both are below middle class, with a few at the very top.

The latest employment reports show that since the economic downturn in 2008, 60% of all jobs lost during the subsequent recession paid middle income wages, while 60% of jobs gained are low paying jobs in the accommodation or fast food industry. Declining traditional middle class jobs include executive assistants and secretaries, construction laborers, carpenters, bookkeepers, accountants, telephone operators, general maintenance and repairmen, and reporters and correspondents.  With the biggest drops in employment occurring in utilities, public administration and especially manufacturing. Although actual manufacturing sales are rising, the higher paying manufacturing jobs are disappearing quickly, and being replaced with low paying service jobs. Staying stagnant are jobs in business, trade, and information, culture and recreation, while rising employment opportunities are in education, health, and as previously mentioned, the fast food and service industry, which is growing four times the overall rate. People are getting jobs but staying poor, because the increasing low-wage jobs don’t pay enough to live off of.

Besides income disparity, wealth inequality is equally outrageous. The richest 300 people in the world have the same wealth as the poorest 3 billion. In Canada, the top 1% possesses more than 45% of the wealth, while eight out of every 10 working Canadian share 7% of the wealth between them.  As for who actually has the wealth, meaning who has the share of money, gold, real estate, stocks and bonds, not very many. In 2012, Canadians with more than $30 million in assets numbered only 4,922 individuals, with a combined worth of over $148 billion. In 2010 the population of Canada was 43 million people, yet only 164,000 individuals made more than $250,000, while in BC there were only 18,810 individuals making that much, and once again, possessing nearly 45% of the wealth.

In the US, the Walton’s, heirs to the monolith that is Wal-Mart, are worth a combined $110 billion, more wealth than the bottom 42% of Americans combined. If Wal-Mart was a country it would be the 26th largest economy in the world, with yearly sales exceeding $444 billion, $20 billion more than Austria’s GDP.

The problems with such growing inequality are that most of the wealthy do not even invest their wealth back into where they live; instead they move it offshore as quickly as possible. There is no trickle-down effect. Record profits in the private sector haven’t led to an increase in wages, but rather quite the opposite, less wages along with fewer jobs.

After all that, and taking a deep breath, we come back to how much does it really cost for somebody to live. In BC the average working stiffs, putting in 40 hour weeks, with no dental plan and no pension plan, other than what the Canada Pension Plan eventually pays when we are 65 years old, gross median annual incomes, range from the ticketed master carpenter making $50,070, to a construction labourer averaging $36,147, an apartment manager making $32,300, a bartender $23,198, to a waitress making $22,242, while a bookkeeper makes on average about $17.95 per hour,  a pharmacy technician, $15.91 per hour, and someone working in retail/fast food $10.25 gross per hour. Currently, the before taxes, gross median annual income in Canada is $30,800.

The poverty level mentioned earlier, supposedly is the least one needs to survive as a human being in a developed nation. In Canada, as earlier noted, it is $18,421 per year after tax, while one’s actual cost of living is determined by how much of a consumer you are and how much of the bullshit do you buy into. In Canada, in 2012, for every $100 an average Canadian family earned in disposable after-tax income they owed over $164 in market debt.  Why this is so, is in part because many of us are buying stuff we don’t need, and with stagnant wages for the past few decades the basics are costing so much more.

An example; a single male living in Victoria BC in 2012, pulling in $24,000 a year gross, whether $2000 per month salary or working 40 hour weeks for $12.50 per hour, is determined to be on the poverty level.  Off the top goes $3600 (15%) to Federal taxes, $1214 (5.06%) to Provincial taxes, $1080 (4.5%) to Canada Pension Plan, and about $360 (1.5%) for unemployment insurance. Using public transit with a bus pass costs $82 per month ($984/year) and living in a one-bedroom apartment costs an average $830 per month ($9960/year).  Cost of consumables such as food one only makes at home and personal care averages $280 per month ($3000/year). BC Medical (health care) is $55 per month ($660/year), $66.50 per month if you make over $30,000. Some sort of Life insurance, Critical Illness insurance or even savings, will cost at least $40 per month ($480/year), and that’s if you don’t smoke. Though I will not be adding such a cost to total when complete, a pack of cigarettes averages $9.30, a pack a day habit will cost you $279 per month.

Apartment insurance is about $15 per month ($180/year); the average cell phone costs are $71 per month ($852/year), though a basic land-line phone on one’s home runs about $26 per month.  Very basic cable is about $38 per month, including taxes ($456/year), while having an internet connection is about $40 per month ($480/year).  The cost of electricity for an apartment, with free hot water with heat registers, is on average $18 per month ($216/year), if it’s electric heat, $50+ per month. Entertainment is going out for a dinner for two ($50) once a month, grabbing the $10 burger and beer special once a week at the local pub, buying a bottle of cheap wine ($10), a new book ($15) and perhaps going to a movie once a month ($12), will total about $127 per month ($1524/year).

After paying these costs of living, the single person living in Victoria will be left with nothing, in fact they will be in arrears $1046, and still have to cover any clothing expenses, stamps, laundry, newspaper and occasional coffees, and emergencies. While the two week holidays one gets annually, never really includes an actual vacation. Such things as owning a car, paying for its gas, smoking, having a drug problem, eating out and being an obedient consumer is simply not possible. Though many cut corners and/or borrow to do so, a minority steal to do so. With over half of Canadians making less than $30,800 net per year, the poverty level is not so far away for the majority, and it is very true that “most everyone is a couple of paychecks away from being on the street.”

Many people whose income is $60,000 a year are also living paycheck to paycheck. The more you make, the more you spend, most times on frivolous and disposable stuff that has no actual value, and on such things as a bigger car loan or lease, a mortgage, higher credit card debt, purchasing higher end stuff and more of it, such as phones, clothing, TVs and shoes, personal loans, eating out more often, expensive holidays, TFSA’s, RRSP’s and savings, maintenance of home and a higher standard of living. It’s all relative. Though of course, no matter how much a person makes still does not guarantee them happiness.

The proverbial wrenches thrown into the cost of living are the facts of life that drop in and disrupt our lives from time to time, the stuff that happens in between paychecks. One’s mother dies on the other side of the country. Can one afford to fly there and bury her? One breaks their collarbone in an accident at home and has to go on six weeks unpaid leave, or someone has the flu and can’t afford to take the time off work. The car needs new tires, or one who has no dental insurance needs a tooth pulled, a root canal, or heaven forbid needs a crown.  It is estimated that 60% of all the people in the States who go bankrupt each year, have done so because they had a medical crisis and huge medical bills and costs.

As it is, wages have been stagnant for thirty years, which we have compensated with debt. Our society is becoming ever the more insecure, living in fear of losing one’s job, not being able to provide for family and the worry of losing one’s stuff. Stuff which we have been programmed to believe that we simply could not get by without, but which has no value whatsoever. Yet our response to the madness continues to be, think me and mine.

We have been told to do things in our lives that make us feel important, more independent, vital and valued. Interacting in the world of my daily life, I see so much of it, where people have taken what should be self confidence and empathy, and instead have created a profound sense of entitlement and a drone like stare. But no matter the cape one wears, we are all having a hard time of it mentally and emotionally. Though we try to smile and coo that everything is alright, we are actually barely putting up with the arrogance and ignorance of our fellow human beings, including ourselves.  But then this should not be surprising considering its now three generations of people, in Canada, the States, Europe, et al, who have been raised by television, and we are never wrong.  History has also proven that the worse society becomes the more delusional they become.

Ever since television, the powers that be have worked very hard at selecting for us what decisions we make. Forty years on, most of our decisions are already made for us well in advance and the income equality and wealth distribution gaps have widened to a point never seen in all of human history. Meanwhile the majority of us are finding it ever more difficult in bearing the brunt of what the cost of living today is demanding from us.

With any society truly only “three meals away from a revolution,” the trigger point for change in how our economic and social worlds operate is nearing. But when people rise up because their child is starving and they themselves have no prospect of an advancement or job, because as our population grows there will never be enough jobs for everyone, will pharmaceutical drugs and the gods of consumerism replace the most powerful drug we possess, which is hope?

Extreme wealth and social inequality is nothing new, nor is the inability to afford the cost of living. It has happened more than a few times over the course of human history. Each time there was ever worsening of physical and mental health, shorter life spans and more criminal behaviour, especially among the wealthiest, because unfortunately, when life gets hard, living wrong is easier than living right.

But when we cannot feed ourselves or get access to drinkable water anymore, enough will then be enough. And there will be change. Such crises in the past have touched off revolutions, which more often than not are led by middle class, educated leaders, doctors and teachers; though the problem with revolution has always been that they are messy and very violent affairs. For to achieve true change, the system must not only be beheaded, the base has to crushed and swept away as well. Leaving it and just getting a new head, operating within the same system, same rules and regulations or lack thereof, eventually fails as well, because the system is broke, and has never worked. At that time the step will have to be made to cross the great divide between being aware of our current dysfunction yet only standing back and pontificating about it, and start acting on the dialogue about alternatives and solutions to the problems and becoming involved in its reform. It’s why many of the earliest civilizations had laws where wealth would be distributed anew and all debt erased every seven or so years.

Today I fear that I myself am caught up in the current age of myth and capitalism and that as a people we do not have the courage to rescue ourselves from ourselves anymore. It has become too easy to shut out the madness of our corporate governments and oligarchs with sports, movie stars and reality TV. I sit here and peck away on the computer analyzing, researching and giving an opinion about problems that thousands have already and quite often have done so more eloquently and intelligently, but I feel this is all I can do. Of course it is not.

The proof in the pudding will be when enough of us scream “time out”, get up from our couches, step away from our routine distractions, put one foot in front of the other, get out onto the street and make our voices heard, and come up with options and alternatives as to how we currently operate as societies. Instead of future generations cursing our names, we should at least give them the impression that we tried the best we could, and for once stopped thinking about me, myself and I. How can we expect any hope for our children and our children’s children if we do not?

The height of ignorance would be for us to continue to operate on self-denial, excess and self-indulgence and believe it’s all about us, with no thought to our children and grandchildren and what type of world they will be allowed to grow old in. The epitome of ignorance personified is to actually think the ecosystems and weather patterns of the earth, which we have greedily altered, care if we can cope or change our ways, or not.

After forty short years, the reality being proven in most developed countries is that in general, and not through a lack of trying or working hard, but because we are operating within a flawed system and have become distracted, we won’t do better than our parents, and our children will not do better than us. Heaven help our grandchildren.

 

 

 

01/7/13

Idle No More and Attawapiskat Chief Theresa Spence

Right off the bat I’d like to say that I am all for the growing, Idle No More movement, which is protesting environmental and human rights issues, not only with First nations, but all Canadians. The Harper government simply cannot keep going down the road they are leading us, eliminating environmental regulations so that we can whore our natural resources to the highest bidder and create an ever widening gap in equality in Canada, where child poverty, polluted lands and water, and a fragile economy take a back seat to the desires of the irrational and greedy fossil fuels industries and foreign corporations.

Many Canadians have a problem with such things as the Alberta Tar Sands, the proposed Enbridge pipeline and twinning of the Kinder Morgan petroleum lines and we all should be concerned about our personal rights being eroded piecemeal.

As for the problems that First nation peoples have, there are many very complex issues, and it will take exceptional leadership and empathy, which is seriously lacking in Canada, to remedy over a century of ignorance, greed and sloth.

First Nations Chiefs indeed speak out against the assault on our environment but when it comes to their own tribe, it is another thing altogether. Yes some of them make their concerns known about their people, while others do not because they do not want to rock the boat and would like to keep what they have acquired.

Like I said I’m all for speaking out against the Harper government’s insane and asinine decisions. If you have read some of my posts you pretty well know my feelings as to the rape of Canada. I do worry and have an issue with the Idle No More movement continuing to hang their hat with Attawapiskat Chief Theresa Spence.

Yes, many First Nations communities live in squalor and poverty, with unsafe housing and water supplies. But a trait they seem to have is that no matter what the chief says or does, no one in the tribe speaks their own voice. Everyone plays the ingrained, I am a victim card. They accept the way things are and refuse to speak out against those who rule over them, not only the Harper government but their own leaders as well.

The Idle No More movement will be in dire difficulties looking for support if they and the corporate media continue to dance with Theresa Spence, treating her as though she is representative of all First Nations people.

Enough bullshit I say. Her faux hunger strike is basically a diet she obviously needs. I could live for years on fish soup, herbs and tea, as well, would be detoxified of all the poisons we ingest each day. As far as her home village of Attawapiskat, it is a typical native community, where there is little or no running water and basic services, multiple health and safety issues, and most of the tribe live in poverty, even though the federal government gave $7.9 billion last year to the Aboriginal Affairs department, which oversees the just over one million First Nations people of Canada. Attawapiskat alone has received over $104 million since 2005.

The community itself has about 300 homes, with a population of 1549 people, one-third of which are under 19 yrs old. They also have their own health authority, school board, power and development corporations, and a corporation to run their hockey rink. They also have an unbelievable, 21 full-time and well-paid band councillors/politicians; one representative for every 71 residents.

In 2006, De Beers, the world’s largest diamond mining corporation moved in nearby. Besides polluting the land and water they pay for the pillaging handsomely. Between the federal government and De Beers, the money pouring into Attawapiskat works out to be about $250,000 per family per year tax free, with $450,000 a month going into the community, in welfare payments alone.

Then we have Chief Spence. In the fall of 2011 she declared a state of emergency for her community. The media were all over it. While the “crisis” was going on, Attawapiskat purchased a new ice cleaner for their hockey rink for $96,000. Today Chief Spence makes about $70,000 a year tax free and drives a $60,000 Escalade. In 2011 the band spent $200,000 on gifts and $36,000 on goose hunting. The same year, acting manager, Wayne Turner was paid more than $68,000 for travel expenses over a two month period. Currently, Chief Spence’s boyfriend, Clayton Kennedy, holds the title of town manager and earns $850 per day tax free, making over $250,000 a year.

As a corporation Attawapiskat is doing very well. While their people keep their lips sealed and heads in the sand, Attawapiskat’s worth consists of over $9 million in stocks in Apple, Disney, and Chinese cell-phone companies. In 2010 they made $2.7 million in profits, while in 2011 profits were $3.1 million.

Very recently the Harper government tried to audit Attawapiskat, to no avail, as over four-fifths of their paperwork was either entered wrong or is missing.

All of this does not surprise me. A native community is just like a non-native community, or rather any human community. It’s all about the money, how to get it, and most importantly how to keep it. And then of course how to spend it. Many leaders of First Nations communities are very similar to Harper’s puppets in parliament. Mum’s the word, so that they can keep what they have, immorally taken from those who they supposedly represent, whether its handouts, salaries or pensions, and pleasantly smile and say everything is all right, yet wishing they could tell us all to just fuck off and mind our own business.