08/16/18

The Life and Times of James Bond

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One of the most iconic, cool, competent, cocky but confident, fashionable, and well mannered, truly psychopathic and ultimate protagonist characters has to be James Bond. Created by Ian Lancaster Fleming (1908-1964), English author, journalist, and naval intelligence officer, Bond appeared for the first time in the novel Casino Royale, published in 1953. Until his passing in 1964, Fleming would write another twelve novels and two short story collections about the spy James Bond, with his wartime service and his career as a journalist providing much of the background, detail, and depth of the James Bond novels.

The Bond character was further developed by the over two decades now perseverance of the Broccoli family of American film producer Albert R Broccoli, and dozens of writers and screen writers. The first Bond film Dr. No was released in 1962, when I was four years old and I’ve been hooked ever since. I have read all of Fleming’s books and some of the books that have been written since his passing, by new authors that are carrying on the Bond folklore. President John F. Kennedy was also a James Bond fan, and watched a preview screening of From Russia with Love at the White House on November 21st, 1963. He was killed the next day in Dallas.

The following is based on the combined facts of Bond, in literature and filmdom, with a “wee bit of artistic wherewithal”, said of course in a Scottish accent, with beer foam dripping from my moustache. Chronologically, I try to follow Ian Fleming’s books as they were written, but also for continuity, use some of the release dates of Bond films including those not associated with Fleming/Broccoli, and to a very small extent, the books written by various authors of the “young” Bond. I’m sure loyal James Bond aficionados, may take issue with the continuity of this story, but the recent Daniel Craig as Bond series of films throws a wrench into things by rebooting to the beginnings and Bond’s first missions. While Fleming’s introduction of Bond was Casino Royale, in film Bond was introduced in Dr No, Fleming’s sixth Bond novel. As far as M goes, M was Rear Admiral Bernard Lee for the first eleven missions. After his death, Robert Brown took over for four, and then M Judi Dench was brought on for Bond’s next four missions, and then was transported back in time for Bond’s last four films, which chronicle his first few years with MI6. There are also too many Alex Leiter’s, Moneypennys and Blofelds.

Then there is the dilemma that there has been numerous individuals who have played Bond, but then this issue can be dealt with sensibly, by suggesting that since Bond would be recognized fairly quickly, as he was well known to the underworld and most all intelligence and secret service organizations, so to further the secrecy and stealth needed to carry on such heroic and often insane actions as he does, and have to infiltrate their organizations, every so often Bond gets a face replacement. In this scenario Bond has had seven face transplants and still looks good. Rumour has it that in a few years from now, Bond will be undergoing not only another face transplant but a skin transplant as well, for a mission, which as of yet remains undisclosed. The story to follow is not sensible so there are no face alterations, rationally on the other hand, Bond probably looked like Daniel Craig at the start of his MI6 career but as he aged he started looking more like Sean Connery.

All of these things make it difficult and confusing to get some sort of continuity in Bond’s career timeline, but I have simply done the best I could and tried to stay with what makes sense, and lean towards Fleming’s novels as to storyline and details. And mean him no disrespect whatsoever of his original brilliance.

 

Beginnings

 

James Bond was born in Germany to a Scottish father, Andrew Bond of Glencoe, Scotland, and Swiss mother, Monique Delacroix, and spent much of his first ten years abroad, as his father was a Vickers armaments company representative. The Bond’s traditional family motto is Orbit Non Sufficit, the world is not enough.

Bond became multilingual in German and French at an early age. Sadly his parents were both killed in a mountain climbing accident that orphaned him at age 11. After their deaths, a friend of Andrew Bond, Hans Oberhauser, became Bond’s temporary guardian. Oberhauser had a son, Franz, and though older than Bond, he began to resent the way his father was treating Bond as if he were his only son, and felt he was being ignored. But soon Bond was placed with his full-time guardian, his aunt, Miss Charmian Bond, in the village of Pett Bottom, Kent, England, where he completed his early education. Supposedly on a holiday to Paris when he was sixteen years old, he loses his virginity. Throughout his childhood, he and Miss Charmian would spend time each year at Skyfall, the Bond family estate in the Scottish Highlands.

Bond briefly attended Eton College, but was expelled over an alleged incident with a maid, and eventually graduated from Fettes Collage in Scotland, the same college his father had attended.

At about the same time, on the continent, Franz Oberhauser had already killed his father over the animosity felt towards Bond when they were younger, had staged his own death and adopted the name Ernst Stavro Blofeld. Over the years he would control the underworld, with his tentacles reaching into state intelligence organizations, trade unions and criminal cartels. Eventually he would create Spectre (Special Executive for Counter-intelligence, Terrorism Revenge and Extortion) , Smersh, and Quantum, and come up with all sorts of schemes to take over the world, and most importantly, to never give up on one day killing Bond.

After graduating from college, Bond enlisted in the British Navy as a commando, and participated in an unknown number of clandestine foreign military engagements, eventually becoming a Royal Naval Reserve Commander. In his early twenties (some have suggested when he was twenty years old), the 183 cm (6 ft) tall and supposedly still, 76 kg (170 lb) Bond, already an expert boxer, pistol shooter, scuba diver and knife thrower, applied and was accepted to join the British intelligence division of MI6 as an agent. His qualities of strength, action, confidence, and brutal violence if needed, were attractive to them. Much like his raw masculinity, being dangerous, confident, suggestive, calm, polite and smart was attractive to both women and men whom he would meet.

His first control officer in MI6 was Cmdr. Ian Fleming of Naval Intelligence, who would go on and become MI6’s chronicler and historian, and followed Bond’s career in particular, as they quickly bonded, as it were, and stayed lifelong friends. Fleming was supposedly very impressed when Bond showed up for work his first day in MI6, in an immaculate 1964 Aston Martin DB5. Bond still owns the Aston but it now spends its time in a storage locker. Over his career he has driven a plethora of vehicles, including the Aston Martin DB Mark III, a Lincoln Mark VII, various 1930’s Bentleys, a BMW 750iL, Yamaha XJ650 turbo motorcycle, dunebuggys, a double-decker bus, a Russian T-55M5 tank, hovercraft, numerous boats, and has flown gyroplanes, Cessna’s, and a Harrier T4 jet, to list but a few.

The head of the British Secret Intelligence Service at the time (M) was Royal Navy Rear Admiral Judi Dench, who had held the position for the previous ten plus years. As with all other heads of MI6, before her and since, they tend to be serious, efficient, no-nonsense authoritarians. M’s Chief of Staff and overseer of the 00 division was and still is, Bill Tanner, while MI6’s quartermaster (Q), Major Desmond Liewelyn, ran the research and Development Division. The Principal Secretary of the “Double O” division of MI6, and M’s personal secretary was Ms. Loelia Ponsonby. She would soon be replaced with MI6 agent, Mary Goodnight, who would occasionally, continue to assist Bond on assignments. Interestingly, noted neurologist Sir James Moloney, was frequently employed by M and MI6, but then as you will soon find out, one can see why.

Eventually Bond became one of perhaps nine agents to earn the designation double O, meaning they had a license to kill, or the “the authorisation to, at their own discretion, commit acts of assassination and other controversial activities in order to complete their missions, without having to first seek permission from headquarters”. The true number of how many agents are designated double 00 may never be known, but rumour has it there are three double 00 agents left, while some say Bond is the only 00 agent.

When he started, Bond was issued a .25 ACP Berretta 418 handgun, which was smaller than what he had been used to in the military, but found it a weapon that was easy to conceal, especially when using a shoulder holster, and considering Bond’s penchant for well cut tuxedos, and business suits, while wearing loafers.

Bond’s designation was awarded to him after his first assignment, which there are two different versions of. Perhaps, one was a false flag operation to hide something else that went down, with the other closer to the truth, who knows. One story goes that he got it after killing two enemy agents, a Japanese spy on the thirty-sixth floor of the RCA Building at Rockefeller Center (then housing the headquarters of British Security) in New York City, and a Norwegian double agent who had betrayed two British agents. The other story was on a mission that brought him to Prague, he assassinated Dryden, the traitorous MI6 section chief stationed there. He then traveled to Lahore, Pakistan, where he kills Fisher, Dryden’s contact with criminal organizations, after a violent and intense hand to hand fight to the death in a rundown apartment, ended when Bond strangles him. From there Bond tracks down a corrupt Greek official, Alex Dimitrios in the Bahamas, who in a matter of hours, loses his car to Bond in a poker game, Bond sleeps with his wife Solange, and then he gets killed by Bond in a crowded museum.

Regardless of what actually happened, after returning to London, Bond receives his 007 designation but gets read the riot act by M who sternly established her authority. Besides berating him for breaking international law, M also made it known she felt Bond was a “sexist misogynist dinosaur”. But then considering he is maybe twenty-two to twenty-three years old at the time, what can one expect his attitude to be, considering killing in cold blood doesn’t seem to be a problem for him, yet at the same time he’s funny, smart, confident, and with the amount of experience already under his belt at such a young age, would seem to confirm one of Cmdr. Fleming’s favorite sayings “I shall not waste my days in trying to prolong them”.

Bond’s first mission “officially” was the Casino Royale operation. With British treasury agent Vesper Lynd, at his side, they were tasked with trying to bankrupt Le Chiffre, a terrorist financier and paymaster for the Russian counter-surveillance agency, Smersh, which also controlled some of Europe’s largest trade unions, and other divisions of Russia’s secret service.

Bond and Vesper attend a game of Texas hold-em poker at the Casino Royale in Montenegro. CIA agent Felix Leiter was also in attendance, and would become one of Bond’s very few friends throughout their careers. Also in attendance, including those actually at the table, were members of various countries’ intelligence and secret service organizations.

After losing the bulk of the money Vesper had brought with them and to stay in the game, Felix and the CIA bankrolled Bond the rest of the way. In the final hand it was all in, $115 million. Le Chiffre topped all the other hands still left at the table except Bond’s, who beats him with a straight flush.

After blowing such millions of dollars that was not his, Le Chiffre became a cornered animal, rare for a Bond villain. Kidnapping Bond and Vesper, Le Chiffre viciously tortures Bond, but a Smersh hit squad led by a Mr. White suddenly breaks in and assassinates Le Chiffre and his henchmen, and since the contract did not include Bond or Vesper, the assassins release them, though not before cutting a Cyrillic “LLI” into the back of Bond’s hand, signifying the Russian word shpion (spy), and Vesper making a private deal with Mr. White, the money Le Chiffre lost in exchange for Bond’s life.

Sharing a suite in a Venetian hotel while they recovered, Vesper would be the first woman Bond fell truly in love. Bond confesses his love to her as does she, and actually resigns from MI6 so that they can have a normal life together. But unbeknownst to Bond, in order to save his life Vesper had agreed to assist in the transfer of the money won at the Casino Royale, into Mr White’s and Smersh’s hands. After catching her in the act and feeling as though he had been played, his heart probably felt ripped out of his chest. They end up in a sinking building in Venice, with Vesper trapped. With all he had Bond valiantly attempted to save her but the building soon sinks underwater, and though Bond still did everything he could, Vesper refused his attempts and allowed herself to drown.

Later Bond discovered a text message left for him by Vesper, with Mr. White’s name and phone number. Bond tracked him down and kidnaps him, but instead of killing him he hands him in to the authorities. Every year since Vesper’s death, Bond still visits her grave in Cornwall England. It has been said that after losing Vesper, Bond would slowly begin to, instead of doing his job because of his principles; he began to use his job more often than not, in pursuing personal battles.

After surgery on the back of his hand to try to erase the inscription carved into it, and months of recovery time, the loss of Vesper lay heavy upon him. Bond eventually took on another minor mission which ended in Nassau, Bahamas. Taking a few days off, he was invited to a dinner party held by the Governor. After the guests all leave, the Governor and Bond retire to his den for a cigar. There Bond created what he would call the Vesper; three measures of Gordon’s Gin, one of Vodka, and half a measure of the wine-based aperitif Kina Lillet, shaken and not stirred, until its ice cold, then add a large thin slice of lemon peel, and served in a deep champagne goblet. This drink would be his usual, and often. And though Bond also enjoys expensive wine and champagne, especially if any caviar happens to be lying about, he also enjoys the occasional neat whiskey or scotch. It was estimated by fellow agents and the few friends he has, that his weekly alcohol consumption is about five times the recommended amount, yet incredibly his alcohol intake doesn’t seem to affect his performance. As for non-alcoholic drinks he stays away from tea, once blaming it for the downfall of the British Empire, and instead prefers coffee, dark and thick. Coincidently perhaps, from what we will learn of Bond, a Vesper martini has approximately 130 calories, which on average is what men burn during sex.

Bond also became a very heavy smoker, averaging about 60 custom-made cigarettes a day (3 packs). Over time he would cut that vice down to the occasional cigar, and since, has been able to quit cigarettes altogether.

As they sipped and smoked, Bond asked who the boring couple at the party were. The Governor began by telling the story about the relationship between fellow Brits, civil servant Phillip Masters and air hostess Rhoda Llewellyn. After a brief whirlwind romance they married and moved to Bermuda. Early into the marriage Rhoda began a long open affair with the son of a rich Bermudian family. Philip was devastated, his work began to slide, and eventually he suffered a nervous breakdown. Taking the time to recover he traveled a bit, then returned and divided his home into two sections, his and hers. In private they did not acknowledge each other, in public they simply pretended to be a couple. Eventually Phillip divorced her and moves back to the UK, leaving Rhoda with all their debt, and stranded in Bermuda. And though Phillip was successful in his plan of avenging Rhoda, emotionally he never recovered, while Rhoda remarried a rich Canadian. The “boring couple” were Rhoda and her Canadian husband.

The Governor explained the point of the story as being, when you don’t  have a quantum of solace in a relationship, defined as “a precise figure defining the comfort, humanity, and fellow feeling required between two people for love to survive”, it’s time to end it and give it up. As soon as lack of respect for each other rears its ugly head, it’s over, simply walk away. I’m sure, and it has been said, that Bond thought long and hard over that story. Perhaps flying back to London was enough time to think about his and Vesper’s relationship, where their quantum of solace ended with her dying, and he began to focus on seeking revenge for her death.

Returning to London, Bond finds out Mr. White had escaped and there had been an attempt on M’s life. Chomping at the bit he was given a mission that was possibly related to such events.

The assignment was to eliminate wealthy businessman Dominic Greene, who intended to stage a coup d’état in Bolivia to seize control of their water supply, and who was, whether by twist of fate or happenstance, a member of the Quantum criminal organisation. Bond was assisted by Bolivian agent Camille Montes, who was plotting revenge for the murder of her own family. Also helping was MI6 agent Strawberry Fields, who Bond seduced, but unfortunately she was subsequently killed working undercover. The mission would become known as one of Bond’s most violent, as he destroyed Greene’s plans and captured him, then left him in the middle of a desert with nothing but a can of oil. M later told Bond Greene was found with two bullets in his chest and his stomach held a can of oil. Bond simply shrugged and thought, Greene’s boss no doubt.

M asked where his loyalties lay and was he mentally able to continue doing his job, Bond replied he never left. Besides, Bond felt the mission wasn’t yet completed, and on his own time flew to Russia and tracked down Vesper’s former lover Yesef Kabira, who was now involved with Smersh and Quantum, and had been involved in the blackmailing of Vesper, thus, indirectly responsible for her death. But once again, instead of a double tap to the forehead Bond allowed him to live and be arrested.

Another mission around this time took Bond and fellow agent 006, Alec Trevelyan, to infiltrate a Russian chemical weapons facility. There they were attacked and captured. During the struggle 006 was shot and left for dead, while Bond made his escape. In actual fact Trevelyan had faked his own death and would spend the next nine years creating what became known as the Janus crime syndicate. Oblivious to such knowledge, until nine years later, when Bond meets the attractive psychopath and sadist Xenia Onatopp in Monte Carlo, and soon finds out she is a member of Janus. He also finds out she had recently killed a Canadian Admiral by crushing him between her thighs while having sex. Though knowing all this, Bond still seduces her and while undressing for bed, and removing his jacket, Onatopp notices his shoulder holster and tells him that “you won’t need a gun”, Bond replied, “well that depends on your definition of safe sex”. A downright scary individual, she visibly experienced an orgasm whenever she killed someone. But then, at the same time, this mission would be Bond’s most violent operation to-date, where he personally killed 47 individuals.

Bond also finds out that Janus’s leader is none other than the now scarred and disfigured Trevelyan, whose plan was to steal the command codes and hardware to control two electromagnetic pulse weapons (GoldenEyes) mounted on orbiting satellites. During the theft Onatopp excitedly killed every individual in the scientific faculty that built them, except for one lone survivor, Natalya Simonova, a skilled programmer who hid and lived. Simonova ends up with Bond and after becoming lovers, she helps him complete his mission. Onatopp on the other hand ends up fighting Bond, and died crushed against a tree by a crashed helicopter. In the end, Trevelyan asked Bond, “I might as well ask you if all those martinis ever silence the screams of all the men you’ve killed or if you find forgiveness in the arms of all those willing women for all the dead ones you failed to protect”. A mirror of each other, their fight to the death was extremely brutal, until Trevelyan was dropped seventy meters onto a satellite dish.

A few months after the mission where he had taken the air out of the tires of Dominic Greene’s and Quantum’s grandiose plans, Bond found himself in New York City, investigating the deaths of three MI6 agents over a 24 hour period. With friend CIA agent Felix Leiter at his side, they investigated a couple of Harlem nightclubs, but were kidnapped by a Mr. Big (short for Bonaparte Ignace Gallia), a ruthless gangster and drug dealer, who owned a chain of New York, “Filet of Soul” dinner clubs. After some torture, carried out by Mr. Big’s henchman Tee Hee Johnson, who had a pincer for a hand, Bond told their mundane made-up cover story. To determine if Bond was telling the truth Mr. Big brought in the beautiful, Simone “Solitaire” Latrelle, so named because she excluded men from her life. She was a tarot card reader and possessed the power of obeah, a voodoo cult of the West Indies. She was said to be able to see the future and events in the present. She lied to Mr. Big saying Bond was telling the truth, so he and Leiter were released, though not before Tee Hee breaks one of Bond’s fingers.

Leaving Mr. Big, Solitaire was seduced by Bond, and gladly helps him complete the mission, though by doing so she would forever lose her powers. With Solitaire’s assistance, Bond tracked Mr. Big down to the small Caribbean island of San Monique, where he ruled over his people using voodoo and the occult. To his people he was known as Dr. Kananga. His big plan was to distribute, free of charge, two tons of heroin, through his chain of “Filet of Soul” restaurants, thereby increasing demand by creating more addicts. Bond killed Mr, Big, by blowing him up with compressed air, and his remaining henchmen, Mo Thing, Sam Miami, The Flannel, and Blabbermouth Foley, then burned the island’s poppy crop to the ground.

In between missions, and considering his exploits in far off exotic locations, and trysts with beautiful women, when Bond  was back in London, he was actually very routine driven. Bond lived in a flat off King’s Road in Chelsea, and was looked after by an elderly Scottish housekeeper named May Maxwell.

Some people who knew him at the time, thought there was a slowly, seeping “sourness” to him. When in town Bond showed up at his office at MI6 headquarters, at about ten and be gone at about six, Monday to Friday. Most of his evenings were spent at the pub playing cards with a few close friends, with his card game of chance being baccarat and not poker.

To Bond, his increasing alcohol consumption meant “relaxation, ritual and reliability”. Rumour had it that he had had rotating affairs with three similarly disposed married women, each one used strictly as cold passionate release. Then, and for quite awhile, his off and on regular love interest when home was Sylvia Trench, who he had met playing baccarat at a club. She would endear herself to Bond from the time they first met, when she shook his hand and confidently said, “Trench. Sylvia Trench”. Bond would reply in kind, and keep the greeting as his own, which at times would seem odd. Considering that over time, every time he’d be trying to fly under the radar, to be secret, as it were, he would blow his cover by declaring his name out loud upon introduction each time he meets a bad guy, “Bond… James Bond”.

On an even more personal note, when at home, Bond’s favorite foods were grilled sole and baked oeufsen cocotte (eggs and crème fraiche), eggs Benedict, and cold roast beef with potato salad. When on a mission, however, Bond ate far more extravagantly, as it was then on MI6’s credit card.

Bond rarely listened to music, and if he did, only when he was home. Though his housekeeper once admitted his musical tastes run the gamut, from orchestral compositions by John Barry, David Arnold, George Martin and Thomas Newman to the singers Shirley Bassey, Tom Jones, Nancy Sinatra, Dusty Springfield, Louis Armstrong, and Lulu. He seemed to prefer female singers such as Carly Simon, Rita Coolidge, Sheryl Crow, Gladys Knight, Alicia Keys, Sheena Easton, K.D. Lang and Adele, but also enjoyed listening to the Pretenders, Duran Duran, Chris Cornell of Soundgarden and Audioslave, Jack White, Sam Smith, Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass, and Moby.

Bond’s next assignment began when a hard drive containing the details of undercover agents was stolen by a mercenary, by the name of Patrice. Bond and experienced fellow MI6 agent Eve Moneypenny, track Patrice down to Turkey, where he and Bond get into a fight atop a moving train, with Moneypenny set up as a sniper, but from afar. She was ordered over her headset by M, to take out Patrice. But Moneypenny missed and hit Bond instead, who fell off the train and dropped over 91 meters (300 ft) into a raging river, while Patrice got away. Bond was presumed dead after search attempts found nothing.

Three months later, M’s outspoken nemesis in meetings, Gareth Mallory, the chairman of the British parliament’s Intelligence and Security Committee, was pressuring her to retire. Amidst this, MI6’s computer servers were hacked, with M receiving a taunting message, just before MI6 headquarters in downtown London exploded.

With everyone thinking he was dead, Bond had used the presumption to stay off the grid, but when he learned of the attack on MI6 he returned. And though Bond failed a series of physical and psychological examinations by Dr. Moloney, M approved his return to the field. His job, identify Patrice’s employer, recover the stolen hard drive, and kill Patrice. Ordered to MI6 Q’s office, Bond’s Berretta was replaced with a 7.65 mm Walther PPK (the same handgun Hitler used to kill himself). Eventually Bond would be issued what he uses today, the 9 mm Walther P99.

Bond found Patrice in Shanghai and they fought once again, but this time Patrice falls about the same height that Bond fell from the train, unfortunately Patrice does his header off a tall building. Bond ended up in Macau, where he met the lovely Sévérine, an accomplice of Patrice. A former sex slave who worked for a Raoul Silva, she collaborated with Bond to show him where Silva’s base of operations was and to kill him.

While travelling to a small island off the coast on Sévérine’s yacht and becoming lovers, she and Bond were captured and taken to see the man himself, Raoul Silva. Who turns out to be, Tiago Rodriguez, a disgruntled ex-employee, former MI6 agent, now working as a cyber-terrorist, and the one behind the hacking and attack on MI6 headquarters. He also carries a deep resentment of M, because years ago, she had turned him over to the Chinese in order to save six other agents. Silva shot Sévérine in the head while she was tied to a statue, while the bound Bond could only watch. But Bond eventually takes Silva down and he was brought back to London.

At MI6’s new underground headquarters, Q attempted to decrypt Silva’s laptop, but unknowingly gave the laptop access to the MI6 servers, which allowed Silva to escape. During a government inquiry into MI6’s, and M’s in particular, handling of the stolen hard drive, Silva attempted to assassinate M, but Bond arrived in the nick of time, though not before Mallory would be the one to take a bullet, saving M’s life. Bond quickly hustled M into a waiting car and they made their escape. Bond and M travelled to the Bond family estate Skyfall, in the Scottish Highlands, and met up with the estate’s gamekeeper, Kincade. They quickly prepared booby traps around the property and house, expecting Silva to show up, because Q and Bill Tanner had led an electronic trail for him to follow, like breadcrumbs.

A group of Silva’s men slither in but Bond, M and Kincade killed most of them, though M took a bullet but concealed it from Bond. Soon enough Silva showed up himself by helicopter, with more men and heavy weapons. Bond sent M and Kincade off through a tunnel to a chapel on the grounds and fought a delaying action. Soon he had to also escape down the tunnel, but Silva showed up at the chapel first, and held a gun to M’s temple as he pressed his up against hers, pleading with M to kill them both. Finally Bond appears and throws a knife into Silva’s back killing him. Cradling M in his arms she would succumb to her wound and breathe her last breath.

Following M’s funeral, Eve Moneypenny would retire from field work to become secretary for the newly appointed M, Gareth Mallory. And Bond would once again try to hide extreme loss through booze, women, gambling and increasingly, mixing Benzedrine, an amphetamine, into a glass of champagne every now and then.

A few days after M’s funeral Bond would receive a posthumous message from her detailing a terrorist bombing plot going to be pulled off by terrorist leader Marco Sciarra in Mexico City. After foiling the attempted bombing, Bond confronted Sciarra, and before he kicked him out of a helicopter for him to fall to his death, Bond took Sciarra’s ring, which was emblazoned with a stylised octopus. He would soon find out that it is the emblem for a group called Spectre.

When he returned to London, Bond was suspended from field duty by the new M, but Bond disobeyed M’s orders and traveled to Rome to attend Sciarra’s funeral. There he seduced Sciarra’s widow, Lucia, who tells him Marco belonged to an organisation of businessmen with criminal and terrorist connections. Bond used Sciarra’s ring to infiltrate a meeting to select Sciarra’s replacement, where he identified the leader as Franz Oberhauser. The meeting also included talk about putting a hit on someone, who Bond surmised to be Mr. White, and whom Bond knew very well. Bond’s cover was blown at the meeting and he ran for it, followed by the assassin Mr Hinx, who he loses. Bond contacted Ms. Moneypenny to find out who Oberhauser really was, considering he was presumed dead years earlier. Moneypenny in return found out that the previously known Mr. White was a former member of Oberhauser’s organization’s subsidy Quantum, but who was now in hiding.

Bond tracked White down in Austria, where he was dying of thallium poisoning. He tells Bond all about Oberhauser’s organization, called Spectre, short for Special Executive for Counter-intelligence, Terrorism Revenge and Extortion. It was run as a commercial enterprise, with the executive made up of three from six of the world’s most notorious organizations, including the neo-Nazis, jihadists, drug lords, arms dealers, terrorist organizations and mad megalomaniacs. Not aligned to any nation or political ideology it was all about money and power no matter what it took. White asks Bond to find and protect his daughter, Dr. Madeline Swann, a psychiatrist working at a private medical clinic and who could help him find Oberhauser. After Bond promised to do so, White committed suicide. Bond finds Swann and they become lovers.

Soon Bond and Swann are captured by Oberhauser himself, and taken to his base of operations in the Sahara desert, where he admits he now goes by the name Ernst Stavro Blofeld, and as he tortured Bond he tells him of their connection so long ago and the deep resentment he still felt. Bond also finds out that many of his past villains, including Le Chiffre, Dominic Greene, Raoul Silva, and Mr. White, were actually all agents of Spectre, running its various umbrella organizations.  Bond and Swann eventually escaped and blew up Blofeld’s base, leaving him to his death.

Back in London, a couple of weeks later, Bond and Swann are kidnapped separately. Bond is taken to the ruins of the old MI6 building, scheduled for demolition after Silva’s bombing. A disfigured Blofeld showed up in a helicopter and told Bond that he must escape before explosives are detonated or die trying to save Swann, who is also somewhere in the building. Bond breaks loose and after finding Swann, they escaped by boat as the building collapsed around them. Bond then shoots down Blofeld’s helicopter, which crashed onto Westminster Bridge. Bond pulled the injured and disfigured Blofeld from the wreckage and allowed him to be arrested. Of course, the bald Blofeld would eventually escape, and continue acting on his lunatic fantasies of taking over the world. Most often while stroking a Chinchilla Silver Persian cat purring on his lap.

Over the next few months MI6 itself seemed splintered, as to loyalties and resentment, and along with a disturbing rise in failed missions and agents deaths, the powers that be finally decided that M Mallory was to be replaced by British Navy Rear Admiral Bernard Lee.

Having individual introductory meetings with his agents, M Lee tells Bond his latest physical assessment was poor because of his excessive drinking and smoking, and sent him off to re-hab at the Shrublands Health Clinic near a UN airbase. There Bond noticed a tattoo on a fellow patient indicating he was a member of a Chinese criminal organization, and had something suspicious going on with another patient whose head was covered in bandages. Bond was caught searching his room and after a brief struggle the man with the tattoo tried to kill Bond using a spinal traction machine. Bond was saved by his physiotherapist, Patricia Fearing, whom he then blackmailed into having sex in exchange for not telling her employer about the incident. The man with his head wrapped in bandages was Spectre pilot Angelo Palazzi, whose face was being surgically altered to match French Air Force pilot François Derval, who was also staying at Shrublands.

By the time Bond returned to London he finds out that an RAF Avro Vulcan strategic jet bomber loaded with two atomic bombs was stolen from the base that was nearby the clinic he had just returned from, and that the French pilot who usually flew her was found dead.

At a meeting at MI6, all agents were informed that Spectre was demanding $400 million in diamonds from NATO in exchange for the bombs, or else Spectre would destroy a major city in either the US or the UK. The plan was overseen by Blofeld, but carried out by his number two, the eye patch-wearing, wealthy playboy, and head of Spectre’s Extortion Division, Emilio Largo.

The Americans and British launched “Operation Thunderball” to take Spectre down and return the two atomic bombs intact. Acting on a tip, M sent Bond to the Bahamas, who hooked up once again with CIA’s Felix Leiter. In Nassau, Bond met Dominique “Domino” Derval, Emilio Largo’s mistress, and soon after seducing her, Bond informed her that Largo killed her brother (the pilot killed at the clinic) and recruits her to spy on Largo. But while doing so Largo captured her in the act and tortured her by burning her with a cigar for heat and then using ice cubes for cold. Domino eventually escaped and told Bond the two bombs are onboard Largo’s yacht, the Disco Volante, so Bond contacted MI6 and soon an American nuclear submarine showed up to assist. The crews of both vessels engaged in an undersea battle, while Bond, who was weakened after disabling the bombs, fights Largo who quickly gets the upper hand and just before finishing off Bond, Domino showed up and shot Largo in the back with a spear-gun.

Bond and Domino escaped, along with Largo’s nuclear scientist Dr. Ladislav Kutze, who in the end had turned on Largo and assisted Bond to save the day. While travelling in a boat in their escape he innocently admitted he can’t swim, Bond pushed him overboard. He and Domino end up convalescing in the same hospital.

Altogether there were seven operations against Spectre. For Bond, perhaps the toughest of these was when he was once again, on her majesty’s secret service, and trying to thwart another Spectre plan run by Blofeld, who this time was brainwashing patients to distribute bacteriological warfare agents throughout the world. While Bond was trying to track down the lunatic, he ran across the Contessa Teresa di Vicenzo, who preferred to be called Tracy, on a beach and saves her from committing suicide by drowning. It is said it was love at first sight. No doubt the experience affected Bond considering the suicide by drowning of Vesper earlier in his career. With the assistance of Tracy and her father, Marc-Ange Draco, the head of the European crime syndicate “Unione Corse”, they are able to attack Blofeld’s Swiss Alp’s lair, and foil his plan though once again Blofeld escapes.

After the mission and smitten by the resourceful, headstrong yet vulnerable woman, Bond proposes marriage and she accepts. They were married in Portugal, and driving away to I’m sure a very wonderful, exotic honeymoon somewhere, when Bond pulled over and got out to retrieve some flowers from the car, just as another car driven by Blofeld pulls up and Blofeld’s partner Irma Bunt, opens up on them with a machine gun. Bond survives, but Tracy is killed in the attack. Blofeld would escape and Irma Bunt would disappear, and be the only villain to have beaten Bond, leaving him broken and human. It would also be the only time Bond ever married. Word has it that when the first policeman showed up a tearful Bond was cradling Tracy’s body on the side of the road, and told the officer, “It’s all right. It’s quite all right, really. She’s having a rest. We’ll be going on soon. There’s no hurry you see, we have all the time in the world.”

Eight months after the murder of Tracy Bond, Bond was drinking and gambling heavily, and beginning to make mistakes, even confined to his desk  in MI6’s diplomatic branch, where he had been temporarily been transferred to. M saw a depressed man in mourning and as a last resort sends Bond to Japan on a semi-diplomatic mission. There Bond was to simply trade some information from radio transmissions captured from Russia, with the head of Japan’s secret intelligence service, Tiger Tanaka, who would provide information in return. The deal fell through when Tanaka revealed that they had already penetrated the British information source and gotten the information themselves. But Bond and Tanaka immediately connect, and Bond decided to stay another couple of days as Tanaka introduced Bond to the Japanese lifestyle, which began to make an impression on Bond, in a good way some have said.

After many conversations over sushi and plenty of sake, one day Tanaka tells Bond that an NASA spacecraft was hijacked from orbit by an unidentified spaceship and that it might have landed on the small isolated Japanese island of Ama. Tanaka asks Bond to help investigate and with permission from M, they come up with a plan to infiltrate the island, which had nothing more than a couple of small fishing villages, and an extinct volcano that dominated the island. After a few flybys of the island it was determined that the spaceship had to have landed inside the volcano. On one of the reconnaissance missions Bond was captured by a Mr. Osato, a Japanese industrialist rumoured to be working with Spectre. And that, lo and behold, the true mastermind behind this operation was Ernst Blofeld, who had been hired by the People’s Republic of China to start a Soviet-American war.

Bond woke up, tied up, in an opulent cabin aboard a yacht. Spectre operative number eleven, Helga Brandt, entered and interrogated Bond but he somehow managed to seduce her enough for her to kiss him, and who then ended up freeing him in order to have sex. After spending the night together, Brandt would change her mind and try to kill Bond but he escapes. Brandt meanwhile, would be dropped into a pool of piranhas by Blofeld for her failure.

Back in Tokyo, Bond began training with Tanaka’s ninja troops, and made to look Japanese in order to disguise himself as a fisherman alongside a wife, who would act like newlyweds and spend their honeymoon on the island in order to infiltrate it. The woman chosen, Aki, one of Tanaka’s assistants, would play the role of the wife, and of course became romantically involved with Bond. Unfortunately she was poisoned by a Spectre assassin, who’s target was actually Bond. Quickly moving on, Tanaka selected Kissy Suzuki, an intern in the service, who entered into a fake marriage with Bond, who began to look more Japanese each day. Tanaka renames Bond “Taro Todoroki” for the mission.

After arriving on the island, Bond and Suzuki established that the mouth of the volcano was indeed a disguised hatch to the secret rocket base. Tanaka and his ninjas attack, and in the ensuing battle Bond faced off with Blofeld in the control room. Some say Blofeld activated the base’s self-destruct system, and escaped. More credible sources say Bond finally killed him, strangling him in a vicious rage. Whichever the case may be, Bond, Suzuki, Tanaka, and his surviving ninja troops escaped, though in the confusion when in fact the entire complex did explode, Bond and Suzuki became separated from the main group.

While escaping, Bond had suffered a head injury, leaving him an amnesiac. He and Suzuki made their way to another small fishing village, with Bond believing he was a simple fisherman. Kissy conceals his true identity to keep him forever to herself. And once again, the rest of the world believed him to be dead, with his obituary appearing in the newspapers. Many who knew him were body-slammed by the news.

Soon Suzuki becomes pregnant, but doesn’t tell Bond, hoping when she does tell him he will marry her for real. Though now a peaceful, loving and simple fisherman, Bond would have flashbacks of things he could not understand and confused over the fact he had no memory. But for all intents and purposes he was a happy man. He had a renewed sense of humour and a purpose in life and becoming healthier each day.  Even dabbling in Haiku (Japanese poetry), and supposedly written by or in the style of Japanese poet Matsuo Bashō, “You only live twice. Once when you are born, and once when you look death in the face.”  (You Only Live Twice, Chapter 11)

Reading a newspaper one day there was a reference to Vladivostok, Russia, which touched a nerve, making him wonder if the far-off city was a key to his missing memory. Bond told Suzuki he must travel to Russia to find out. It was a sad parting of ways but Bond was adamant, and left a crying Suzuki, who had decided to keep her secret to herself, and become the only woman to bear his child. Suzuki and the baby’s current whereabouts are still unknown.

Finally making his way to Russia, Bond was kidnapped by their secret service, tortured, then brainwashed into assassinating MI6’s head M.

A year later a man claiming to be the presumed dead Bond appears at MI6 headquarters, in London, and demands to meet the head of the Secret Service. Bond’s identity was confirmed, but during his debriefing interview with M, Bond tries to kill him with a cyanide pistol, but the attempt failed. MI6 doctors, medical specialists and psychologists swarm Bond over the next few months, and find out he had suffered the loss of his only wife and biggest true love, a head injury which caused amnesia, lived as a Japanese fisherman for several months, and had been tortured and brainwashed in Russia, but they could cure him they frowned, and so they say they did.

De-programmed, Bond is given another chance to prove his worth as a member of the 00 section, and once again to be the best tool in their toolbox. He is soon is sent to Jamaica, with the seemingly impossible mission of killing the world’s most professional and feared assassin, Francisco (Paco) “Pistols” Scaramanga, a Cuban assassin who was believed to have also killed several British secret agents. He was known as “The Man with the Golden Gun”, because his weapon of choice was a gold-plated Colt .45 revolver, which fired silver-jacketed solid-gold bullets.

Tracking Scaramanga down to an island off China’s east coast, and Bond being Bond, he seduced Scaramanga’s mistress Andrea Anders. Afterwards, and in front of Scaramanga, whom he had just met, she entered the room they were in and Bond looks at her and said, “Miss Anders, I didn’t recognize you with your clothes on”.

MI6 agent, former personal secretary and friend Mary Goodnight, also appeared and assisted Bond in his endeavors, while still having the time to strike up a romance together. Bond and Goodnight foiled Scaramanga’s terroristic plans, with Bond facing off against him, and though Bond takes a shot in the arm, Bond killed him with two shots to the chest. And instead of killing Scaramanga’s sidekick, the short person Nick Nack, Bond cages him. It would be Bond’s only mission in which he only kills once. But after this mission it is said that Bond became ever more cold and emotionless.

His most recent missions, at least what has been leaked, include one run by M Brown, which brought Bond and CIA friend Felix Leiter, to Key West to initially take out drug lord Franz Sanchez. They quickly captured him, and soon after, Bond is best man at Leiter’s wedding. But a crooked DEA agent allowed Sanchez to escape, who quickly sent his crew to ambush Leiter and his newlywed. Felix is lowered into a tank occupied by a Tiger shark, while his wife is raped and killed. Bond showed up later to Leiter’s home and finds his friend maimed and wife killed. First going after the DEA agent, Bond found him and killed him by dropping him into the same shark tank Felix had been dropped into, but this time not letting him out. Before following the trail to Sanchez though, M showed up and reassigns Bond to a mission in Turkey, but Bond refused. M suspends him and revokes his 00 status. No matter, once again Bond goes rogue.

Assisting him in taking out Sanchez was ex-CIA agent and pilot Pam Bouvier, who he met of course, in a Bimini bar. They fly to the Republic of Isthmus, where Bond put out the word to Sanchez that he was an assassin for hire. But just before Bond gets close and assassinates Sanchez, two British Hong Kong Narcotics Bureau agents, along with MI6 agent Fallon, sent by M to arrest Bond, capture him. Thinking the agents are assassins, the paranoid Sanchez kills them all, saving Bond so he could hire him.

After Bond met Sanchez’s girlfriend Lupe Lamora, who was visibly attracted to him, Bond finds out the trick in Sanchez’s successful drug business was that his scientists had figured out how to dissolve cocaine in gas, and sell it to Asian dealers disguised as fuel. Bond and Bouvier systematically took down Sanchez’s empire. Bond kills Sanchez’s three main henchmen, by using a pressure chamber, wood shredder and harpoon. Finally facing off with Sanchez, Bond was caught in a bad spot and about to be attacked with the a machete wielding, covered in fuel madman, but at the last second Bond pulled out the lighter Leiter had given him for being best-man and lit Sanchez up.

Partying afterwards at Sanchez’s estate, with Lupe now the host, Bond gets a call from Alex telling him M was trying to get a hold of him and asking for Bond to return. Hanging up Bond politely rejected Lupe’s advances and romances Bouvier instead.

A few months later it was off to Hamburg, Germany, where Bond was ordered to investigate Elliot Carver, a psychopathic media mogul who planned to provoke global war to boost sales and ratings of his news divisions. There Bond bumps into Paris Carver, a former girlfriend of his who was now Carver’s trophy wife. He seduced her by relighting old flames, to get information on Carver. Then afterwards and with the assistance of Colonel Wai Lin, a Chinese spy, who Bond also seduced, together they destroy Carver’s plans and kill him, and most of his henchmen, unfortunately, not before one of them killed Paris.

The next mission to arise out of the dirt was germinated when a dear friend of M, Sir Robert King, a British oil tycoon, was assassinated by Victor “Renard” Zokas, a former KGB agent turned high-tech terrorist. Bond chased down the assassin, hired by Renard to do the actual deed, but she died during the chase. Getting first aid on a few minor injuries absorbed during the chase, Bond seduced Dr. Molly Warmflash, an MI6 agent and doctor assigned to examine him. Bond’s assignment then became to protect King’s daughter Elektra, who had previously been held for ransom by Renard. But soon Bond doubted where Elektra’s loyalties exactly lie.

Bond unraveled Renard’s scheme to increase petroleum prices by triggering a nuclear meltdown of a submarine in the waters of Istanbul, Turkey. Assisting Bond was Dr. Christmas Jones, an American nuclear physicist. Elektra eventually revealed that indeed, she and Renard were co- conspirators, and that she had had her father killed as revenge for using her as bait for Renard.

Elektra ends up abducting M, whom she resented for advising her father not to pay the ransom money, and imprisoned her in the one thousand year old, Maidens Tower, which lies on a small islet located at the southern entrance of the Bosporus strait, off of Turkey. Bond and Christmas were then captured by Elektra’s henchmen, and while Christmas was taken aboard a submarine, Bond was taken to the tower where Elektra tortured him with a garrote. But allies of Bond seize the tower and free Bond and M. Bond and Electra would face off and after getting the upper hand on her and pointing a gun at her head, Electra smiled at Bond and told him that “he would be unable to kill her because he’d miss her too much”. Bond smiled back “I never miss”, and promptly shot her in the face.

Bond gets aboard the submarine, frees Christmas, gets into a fight with Renard, who was killed by being impaled by a plutonium rod shot out of a sub’s reactor core at high speed, and finally, he and Christmas set the sub to safely implode underwater. They both escaped from the submarine via the torpedo launcher. Supposedly after the mission, Bond and Christmas would spend a couple weeks holed up in Bond’s London flat “recovering”.

Bond’s most recent assignment, and perhaps his last, was no doubt one of his most brutal. After infiltrating a North Korean military base, which was suspected of being the base of operations for a Colonel Tan-Sun Moon, who was trading weapons for conflict diamonds. Someone rats Bond out, and Moon attempted to kill him, but after a chase ended with Moon’s apparent death, Bond is captured by his father General Moon. Bond is kept in captivity for fourteen months, interspersed with seemingly endless torture sessions. It has been rumoured that Bond went mad.

Eventually Bond is traded in a prisoner exchange, sedated and taken to Hong Kong, where M suspends his 00 status under suspicion of having leaked information under duress. Bond believes he was set up by someone in the British government, and as Bond does, he decided to avenge the betrayal. And but yet again escapes MI6 and goes rogue.

He soon learns of agents connected to the supposedly dead Colonel Moon operating in Cuba. There Bond met American NSA agent Giacinta “Jinx” Johnson, with whom he immediately seduced. Afterwards they made their way to a gene therapy clinic, where patients can have their appearances altered through DNA restructuring. Bond confronted a Korean agent, who escaped, but which led Bond and Jinx to a cache of diamonds bearing the crest of the company owned by British billionaire businessman Gustav Graves. They learn that Graves only appeared a year prior, seemingly out of thin air, after apparently discovering a vein of diamonds in Iceland, which led to his current wealth, celebrity, and philanthropy from its assets.

Back in London Bond meets Graves, along with his assistant Miranda Frost, who was also an undercover MI6 agent. After a fencing duel between Graves and Bond that nearly got out of hand, Graves invited Bond to Iceland for a scientific demonstration. Bond gets a phone call from M who told him that MI6 had doubts about Graves, restored his 00 status and offered all the assistance he needed.

At his ice palace in Iceland, Graves unveiled a new orbital mirror satellite, “Icarus”, which is able to focus solar energy on a small area and provide year-round sunshine for crop development, but in actual fact his plan was to use it to cut a path through the Korean Demilitarized Zone with concentrated sunlight, allowing North Korean troops to invade South Korea and reunite the peninsula by force.

Jinx infiltrated Graves’ command centre, but was captured. Bond rescued her and later discovered that Colonel Moon was still alive, because he’s Gustav Grimes, via gene therapy to change his appearance. Bond confronted Graves, but Frost arrived to reveal herself as the traitor who betrayed Bond in North Korea. Bond escaped only to return in an Aston Martin V12 Vanquish to rescue Jinx, who had been captured once again within the palace. After she almost drowned, Bond saves her by using CPR, then simple kissing techniques, while Graves and Frost escaped to their C-130 cargo plane and headed back to North Korea, with the Icarus weapon on board. But totally unaware that Bond and Jinx had stowed away on board as well.

After Graves tells his father General Moon, who was also onboard, of his diabolical plan, his dad was horrified by the plan because it would cause a nuclear war with the United States. Graves shoots his father dead. Bond and Graves then engage in a fist fight, while Frost attacked Jinx. Getting beaten badly by Bond, Graves attempts to escape by parachute, but Bond opened the parachute, and caused Graves to be pulled out of the plane and into one of its engines, killing him and disabling the Icarus beam. It is said Bond yelled out after him, “time to face destiny”. Jinx meanwhile had killed Frost, and they escaped from the disintegrating plane in a helicopter from the cargo hold, carrying away Graves’ stash of diamonds in the process. And once again Bond ends up with a beautiful woman for a week or so long sexual affair, this time in a South Korean Buddhist temple located on the slopes of a forested tranquil valley.

Love interest, sidekick or foe, and whether or not he is on a mission or relaxing, or dealing with the demons inside his head, Bond has no qualms about sleeping with beautiful women. Most are “ubiquitous symbols of glamour and sophistication”, and seem to always have splendid figures and tend to dress in a “slightly masculine, assertive fashion, wear little jewellery and they generally use little or no makeup and no nail polish”. Whatever the variation in dress they are always very beautiful. Many of the women Bond beds have some sort of independent job or even career, with some involved in intelligence or law enforcement. Even those who were criminals tended to be similarly independent-minded in how they approached their work.

Other than the ones already noted, his little black book also includes, Tiffany Case, who is a good example of the type of women Bond was attracted to. Bond first met Tiffany on one of many earlier operations against Blofeld’s Spectre organization, this one, infiltrating a diamond smuggling ring connected to Blofeld’s plan of destroying targets in China, the United States and the Soviet Union with a laser satellite he had created, and then propose an international auction for global nuclear supremacy. Tiffany was one of the members of the smuggling gang, and had developed an antipathy towards men after being gang-raped as a teenager. Many women Bond has been with have had similar experiences, as many of them had risen up from being either sex slaves or sexually assaulted and gravitate to becoming a mistress or aide to the man running the organization, simple self preservation. Like many women Bond came to admire, Tiffany was tough, but lonely and insecure, and like many others, felt more confident in themselves when with Bond. Who himself hoped he could at least align them with a more honest lifestyle. Bond fell in love with Tiffany, the first time he had done so since Vesper and Tracey, even though he did fit in a quick affair with a similar beautiful woman with a similar background, by the name of Plenty O’Toole, who unfortunately would be killed soon after.

After the mission was completed and another Blofeld plan had been thwarted, Tiffany moved in with Bond back home, but eventually she left him to marry an American business man, and is now supposedly a very loving and happy wife and mother to three children. Alike was Honeychile Rider, a shell diver who was making a living by selling Jamaican seashells to dealers in Miami, when she met up with Bond. After being sexually abused for much of her young life, then assisting Bond on a mission and becoming his lover, she would move to Philadelphia, where she married a doctor by the name of Wilder and had two children with him.

Others in his book include, Fatima Blush, Holly Goodhead, Chow Mee, Gala Brand, Countess Lisl von Schlaf, Melina Havelock, Lavender Peacock, Penelope Smallbone, Jill and Tilly Masterton, Fiona Volpe and wealthy business woman and smuggler, Octopussy. He has slept with women on trains, planes, in a forest, a stable, a motorized iceberg, in hospitals, a submarine, and a dinghy, and even on the space shuttle, along of course in multiple suites of fine exotic hotels and inns. Rumour has it that when Bond and a woman are kissing, making love, or implying he will do so, they nearly all purr “Oh James”.

Bond has had an estimated 78 sexual encounters over his career so far, but actually has had sex with only 55 of them. Unfortunately 75% of the women he sleeps with attempt to kill him, and that one of every three women he beds dies. Of his main love interests, whom some within MI6 have called “Bond Girls” only two have died. Both, being the ones Bond loved the most, the previously mentioned Vesper Lynd and Tracy Bond.

As to his day job, to-date Bond has over 378 kills and the cause for nearly 1,000 collateral damage deaths. On the flip side it was estimated that he has been shot at over 5,000 times. Since his medical records have never been released, he has taken who knows how many bullet and knife injuries along the way, as well as all the mental and physical damage from being tortured on a fairly regular basis.  Supposedly Bond has a habit of laughing hysterically when being tortured, and there is no doubt being held by the North Koreans for so long had to have affected him, but supposedly he has always been that way. When being tortured by Le Chiffre on his first mission, by being tied to an open bottomed chair naked, and having his testicles hit with a carpet beater, it is said Bond laughed in Chiffre’s face, spitting at him “that the whole world will now know that you died scratching my balls.” By happenstance Le Chiffre is killed soon after. It is also said by those who know him or have faced off against him that Bond also has a dry wit about him, especially after many of his kills, and as we have touched on throughout, seemed to be a master of the one-liner.

Today he has a scar down his right cheek and left shoulder, with visible plastic surgery on the back of his right hand. It has been estimated that he has had at least sixteen, maybe more, severe concussions over his career. As to PTSD, one would think his case would be severe, but then I don’t know, can psychopaths be afflicted with such a disorder.

One would also have to consider some of his foes that he has fought, other than those already mentioned. One of the most formidable would have to be the mercenary henchman, Jaws. Standing 217 cm (7.1 ft) tall with steel capped teeth, he was big and very strong. The first time they fought, Bond found himself in an unbreakable death grip and about to be bitten, and only got out of it by pushing a nearby broken electric lamp up against Jaws teeth, stunning him. Jaws also had an uncanny ability to survive any misfortune seemingly unscathed, in this one mission alone he survives an Egyptian structure’s collapse on top of him, being hit by a van, being thrown from a rapidly moving train, sitting in the passenger seat of a car which veers off a cliff, a battle underwater with a shark, and the destruction of his employer, scientist and anarchist Karl Stomberg’s base of operations.

On another mission Bond and Jaws faced off once more, and after falling over one thousand meters (several thousand feet) after accidentally disabling his own parachute (he falls through a circus tent and lands in the trapeze net), a later crash through a building inside a runaway cable car, and finally going over the over 300 m (1000 ft) Iguazu Falls, in Brazil, Jaws turns on his latest employer and helps Bond complete the mission. Perhaps because of a growing respect for each other or because Jaws realized he was working for a madman named Hugo Drax, who’s plan was to stuff every space shuttle available with hand-picked, genetically perfect young men and women of varying races, then poison all of humanity, but leaving the other animals alone, then repopulating the planet. In the end Bond cornered Drax in the International space station’s airlock, shoots him with a cyanide-tipped dart, then ejected him into space. Speaking of the space shuttle, Bond has had many operations and associations with the US manned space program, including the projects Mercury, Gemini, Apollo, and the Space Shuttle program.

Other foes include the Korean manservant of greedy megalomaniac Auric Goldfinger (who wanted to control the world’s gold supply), the bald and deadly Oddjob, who wore a steel razor sharp brim on his bowler. There were the mobsters Sol “Horror” Horowitz and “Sluggsy” Morant, who Bond killed with shots to their foreheads. On another mission, two of Bond’s antagonists were a pair of gay hit men, Mr. Wint and Mr. Kidd, and a pair of female body guards, Bambi and Thumper. The girls fought Bond wearing bikinis until they all ended up in a pool and Bond held their heads underwater until the second before they drowned and released them. The girls were arrested, while Wint and Kidd were blown up later.

Bond’s toughest foe pound for pound, was undoubtedly Donald “Red” Grant, a viscous Spectre assassin possessing Bond’s ugliest traits and relenting toughness. A ruthless hand to hand fight came to an end with Bond garroting him to death.

The villains and the henchmen that Bond has faced run the gamut, with most of them seemingly very over-ambitious. Nearly all were snobby, intellectual, and geniuses and scientists with elaborate island fortresses and lairs, all trying to take over and control the world in some sort of way. Many also have some sort of strange physical disfigurement, and were all pure megalomaniacs, perfectly blending ego and viciousness. Interestingly the only American villain Bond has faced was Brad Whitaker, a loud, obnoxious and brash American arms dealer, working out of Afghanistan. Go figure. Bond killed him by activating a bomb disguised as a key chain, which dropped a large statue of 18th century British general, Duke of Wellington onto his head crushing him. With Bond remarking that the poor chap, “had met his Waterloo”.

There also has been a litany of female antagonists who could also hold their own against Bond. Spectre assassin Fiona Volpe wounded him severely in a fight and actually cornered him, but just as she went in for the kill she herself is killed. One of the toughest female foes, and the boss of one of Bond’s toughest male foes, the already mentioned Red Grant, was Rosa Klebb, number three at Spectre.

After killing Red Grant, Bond tracked Klebb to a hotel in Paris, where she was to rendezvous with Grant at the conclusion of his mission, and where Bond finds out that she and Red have been trying to kill him in revenge for him killing Dr Julius No, during his previous mission. Dr No was also a tough opponent, being nearly 2 m (6’6”) tall, steel pincers for hands and having Dextrocardia, where the apex of his heart was located on the right side of his body, and not on the normally left. To end their final fight Bond tossed No into a vat of nuclear reactor cooling water, where he boiled to death.

Back in the hotel room, Klebb battled Bond solo, and after failing to kill him with a gun hidden in a telephone, she successfully poisons him by means of a fugu venom-laced blade hidden in the toe of her shoe. Bond slowly collapses to the ground and begins to die, but Rene Mathis, an agent of the French secret service DGSE (General Directorate for External Security) breaks in and captures Klebb. Mathis was a long time friend of Bond, and had both worked together on numerous few missions, including a few with Bond and Mathis’s other long time friend Alex Leiter. Here, Mathis perhaps saves Bond’s life, as he relentlessly performed CPR on his friend until the paramedics arrived. It took Bond months to recover.

Another time, while taking out Max Zorin, a psychopathic industrialist, and the product of a Nazi genetic experiment who attempted to destroy Silicon Valley and take over the microchip market, Bond came up against Zorin’s lover and chief henchwoman, the extremely powerful May Day. Her bodyguard detail included the assassins Jenny Flex, Pan Ho, Alison Doody and Papillon Soo Soo. As the mission neared its end, May Day is abandoned by her lover Zorin and would turn on him, and help Bond complete the mission. As we have seen, Bond has the uncanny ability to seduce many former female foes in turning and helping him instead. During the “Goldfinger” operation, Bond’s foe was Pussy Galore, who was the leader of Pussy Galore’s Flying Circus, a group of women aviators working for Auric Goldfinger, and who happened to be lesbian. By the end of the mission, they end up in bed, where Bond asks, “They told me you only liked women,” Pussy purred in her reply, “I never met a man before.”

So far details of 25 missions have been leaked or hacked then leaked, with who knows how many we will never know about or if the information was even correct. No doubt many of them as Bond the catalyst to all sorts of goings on. Strangely, though Bond’s missions have taken him to over 60 countries, as well as outer space, and he has saved the world numerous times, there would be only two films ever made about his exploits.

The Casino Royale operation would be the basis for one of only two films ever made about Bond, and Hollywood being Hollywood, would make the story a “spy-comedy spoof”. The other film made was a version of MI6’s Thunderball mission, called “Never Say Never Again” which was released in 1983, and starred Sean Connery (in his mid-fifties) as Bond, who comes out of retirement for one more mission, Barbara Carrera as Fatima Blush, Kim Basinger as Domino Petachi, Klaus Maria Brandauer as Maximillian (instead of Emilio) Largo, and Max von Sydow as Ernst Stavro Blofeld. The movie was mostly filmed in the French Riviera and the Bahamas.

The farcical “Casino Royale” film on the other hand, was an ensemble affair done entirely tongue in cheek. Released in 1967, its cast included David Niven as Sir James Bond, Ursula Andress as retired British secret agent Vesper Lynd, who was forced back into service in exchange for writing off her tax arrears, Peter Sellers as baccarat master, Evelyn Tremble, who would be recruited by Vesper to challenge Le Chiffre at Casino Royale. After the game Le Chiffre hallucinogenic ally tortures Tremble, but Vesper rescues him only to kill him. Barbara Bouchet plays Bond’s new secretary Miss Moneypenny, the daughter of the original Miss Moneypenny. Joanna Pettet played Mata Bond, Bond’s daughter by the famed spy Mata Hari, and Jacqueline Bisset played Miss Goodthighs. The extremely Scottish, Duncan Macrae, played the French agent, Rene Mathis, forcing the confused Evelyn Tremble to state his concern that despite being a French agent Rene spoke with a Scottish accent, Rene replied, “Aye, it worries me too”.

Other cast members included William Holden as CIA executive and agent, Ransome, Daliah Lavi, as British secret agent The Detainer, John Huston as M, who dies from an explosion caused by his own bombardment of Bond’s estate when the cross-spy-agency team visits in the beginning of the film, Terrence Cooper as Coop, a British agent and karate expert who begins training to resist seductive women, and Orson Welles as Le Chiffre, Smersh’s financial agent, who is desperate to win at baccarat to repay the money he has embezzled from the organization.

Its premise was that the criminal organization Smersh was going around assassinating intelligence officers all over the globe, primarily because of their inability to resist sex. It got so extreme that M would lead a contingent of heads of secret service agencies, including French Intelligence, the CIA, and the Russian KGB, to try to talk Bond, retired from the secret service 20 years previously, to help them out. When they all meet on Bond’s estate, a bomb goes off and M dies in the explosion. Ironically he was the culprit behind the attack. Bond comes out of retirement to head MI6. The film’s tagline: “Casino Royale is too much… for one James Bond!” refers to Bond’s ruse to mislead Smersh by having six other agents pretending to be James Bond.

A high-stakes baccarat game was arranged at the Casino Royale, in Royale-les-Eaux in Northern France, and was located atop a giant underground headquarters run by the evil Dr. Noah, who secretly was Sir James’ nephew Jimmy Bond, and played by Woody Allen. Noah was once an MI6 agent but had defected to Smersh to spite his uncle and destroy him by discrediting his “celibate image”.  His plan was to use biological warfare to make all women beautiful, and kill all men over 137 cm (4 ft 6 inch) tall, leaving Noah as the “big man” who gets all the girls. Jimmy captured The Detainer, and pleads with her to please be his partner. She agrees then cons him into swallowing an “atomic time pill” he had developed, making him a walking nuclear devise.

After also being kidnapped by Noah, Bond, Moneypenny, Mata and Coop escape and fight their way back up to the casino. The casino is then overrun by secret agents from many organizations, including British, American, Russian and French support troops. It was chaos in the casino and surrounding grounds. Elsewhere Noah is counting down his nuclear explosion, by his hiccups. When he reaches his last hiccup the pill explodes and vaporizes Casino Royale, killing everyone. Bond and all of his agents then appear as angels flying up into heaven, while Noah is shown falling backwards into hell.

Its main theme song, the instrumental “Casino Royale”, written by Burt Bacharach, was performed by Herb Alpert and the Tijuana brass, while the hit song to come from the film was Dusty Springfield singing “The Look of Love”. The soundtrack album became famous among audio purists for the excellence of its recording. It then became a standard “audiophile test” record for decades to come, especially the vocal performance by Dusty Springfield.

Rumour has it that Bond is now retired, after purchasing a 61,000 sq m (15 acre) patch of land on Oracabessa bay, on the northern coastline of Jamaica, earlier in his career. The former site of a donkey race track, Bond would eventually build a three bedroom home, every window louvered, on a cliff overlooking a private beach on the property which he called Goldeneye. It is said his companion is Dominique “Domino” Derval, the woman he first met years ago during the Thunderball mission. Maybe he’s writing his memoirs, or staring off into space sipping on a Vesper, or painting pictures, but no doubt heavily medicated and hurting aplenty getting out of bed each morning, considering the damage his body has taken. And though the life and times of James Bond seems fictional, regardless, there is no doubt a team of clinical psychologists would have a field day with Bond… James Bond.

 

 

 

 

 

Sources

Ian Fleming, “James Bond” Novels – Casino Royale, Live And Let Die, Moonraker, Diamonds Are Forever, From Russia With Love, Dr No, Goldfinger, For Your Eyes Only, Thunderball, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, You Only Live Twice. Pan Books Ltd: Toronto, 1964. And from the memories of watching, numerous times, every Bond film ever released.

http://www.ianfleming.com/james-bond/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Outline_of_James_Bond

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/James_Bond_(literary_character)

http://www.uselessdaily.com/movies/james-bond-43-interesting-facts-about-the-movie-series/#ixzz5NwGeFFVp

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=19bA1jN2sKk

https://ca.ign.com/articles/2012/10/24/25-things-you-probably-didnt-know-about-james-bond

 

06/22/18

How Combinations of Letters Work Sometimes

When words become sing-song,

Osama bin Laden, Barack Hussein Obama, Joe Biden, Saddam Hussein.

National Hockey League players, Zac Rinaldo, Rocco Grimaldi, Jarred Tinordi, all signing one-year deals with the Nashville Predators on the same day in July 2018.

Leading scorers of the Los Angeles Kings early in the 2018/19 season, Alex Iafallo and Tyler Toffoli.

Just saying.

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.