2010-11-20

Abbaqaqqit?

Before it acquired the connotation of city kids asking for "half-a-dollar", was the original meaning of this phrase, "Can I have half?"

What are the other pre-suppositions underlying Inuktitut sharing protocols? Or even trading? Is there an assumption of exchanging only in proportion to what is actually available at any given moment as opposed to grabbing control or hoarding?

Qallunait often deride a failure to hoard as a failure to plan, but what if the Inuktitut intent were that sharing/distribution should be measured only in proportion to what is actually available? What if that rule were essential to survival during cycles of diminishing resources?

How do we distinguish between hoarding and storage? Is the former inherently unsustainable, eventually endangering the survival of the whole?

After a recent plentiful hunt and community feast, local Inuit took from the remains only what they or their family could immediately use. They filled just one small (a meal's worth) plastic Northern Store bag. Nobody showed up with a 20 gallon cooler on a wheelbarrow!

Might there be similar metaphors and analogies for finance and climate based on Inuktitut technology?

A qallunaattitut wooden sled is made rigid using nails and screws, but is so brittle it disintegrates within a few meters of pounding in the pack ice. Conversely, viewed from behind, an Inuktitut qamutiik has independent runners that predate torsion-air suspension by 4,000 years. Each runner navigates its own path through the uneven ice thanks to flexible ugjuk-hide lines that allow the whole qamutiik to flex and give with the terrain.

Qallunait weld ships with inches-thick steel plates to fight the ice, yet the hulls still split and rip apart in conditions where an Inuktitut qajaq or umiak gives and flexes, once again thanks to knots of flexible hide allowing skin covered frames to bend and slip through the ice.

In the case of "Abbaqaqqit?", is the older connotation "Let's share?" What is the embedded ISV? "Remove from circulation for personal use only that which can be sustained by the whole system?"

And what about "AKILITSAQ" . . . Are there a better English equivalents than 'owe'? Is there perhaps a term with more connotations of mutual interdependence rather than one-way charity or debt? Can you suggest some synonyms and their subtle differences?

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2010-11-01

Bye bye Barack-bird ...

.It's over.

Setting all other issues aside for a moment, (health insurance, credit crisis, two wars etc.), my one hope was that President Obama would sacrifice any hope of re-election in order to speak the simple truth for four years.

To look the world in the eye and warn us the global financial and chemical lobbies were bald-faced lying to us.

Instead, he took his eye off the ball, in overtime, of the last match, of the last series, between Haliburton and Michael Ruppert.

"Collapse" indeed!

There are only two issues left folks. Compound interest and drought.

Wealth and water.

Riots in the streets by 2020.

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2010-10-30

One Last Swim

. A bleak grey day, but only if you don't look carefully.

Temperature at -1C. Gentle breeze from the south veering around Apex Hill helping the incoming tide press the first slush of freshwater ice back into the mouth of the creek.

But the salt water bay is still liquid. Looks so inviting. With the boat already ashore for winter, the open water tugs at me hard.

Wasn't always like that. I used to thrill at winter approaching, diving into it with relish and hardly a thought, wondering if I could get a caribou this early without ripping track and skis all to hell on the rocks. But this year, for the first time, about mid-September I caught myself holding on to Fall a bit, bargaining with Nature for a few more days. "C'mon Sol, old buddy, just another week? I’ll be good. How about I promise to clean a bit more garbage off the beach?"

We're going to reach November 1st with temperatures just flirting with freezing, nowhere near the usual -15C for late October with land-fast ice already well established.

So I think I’ll go for one more swim. Just can’t stand the thought of that glorious seascape turning to stone without dipping my toes in one last time. If I don’t do it, I'll regret it all winter. I won’t have bid 2010 a proper farewell before giving Brother Brrr his rough welcome handshake.

Frickin’ salt water freezes at -4C. Ouch!

I made it in up to my knees. Could have gone all the way, but found myself wading along the shore, examining the bottom. Don't know how long it lasted, but a burning ache in the arches of my feet suddenly broke through my reverie and jolted me back to reality.

Scurried up onto the sandy beach, dried my tootsies, slipped my boots back on and started collecting garbage. An hour later, dripping with perspiration, I was back in the water again for a minute to cool off. With the Fall ritual finished properly this time, I headed for my favourite rock outcrop a hundred feet away to sit and stare at the sea a while, what Uncle Frank used to call "communing with Nature".

That’s when the sky suddenly morphed into an extraordinary pastiche of cloudy hues extending all the way across the Bay to the highest mountains 40 miles away. They've been snow covered for over a week.

Damn, just realized the bare granite is leaching heat from my butt at a horrific rate. I've begun to shiver, my eyes are watering, and I need to wipe my nose. Trance is over.

I’ll pick up a few more tidbits of trash on the way back to the house for a cup of Niam's finest Cuban roast. Timmy Horton is a wuss. You have to try Niam coffee right here in Apex.

Next week, I'll wear long sleeves… bring a cushion… and pretend government is relevant again.

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2010-09-26

Influential Liars

Time to resume after a month's break. It was good to stand back and see my blogs as a reader for a bit rather than as their author. After reviewing your many thoughtful comments, I have noticed two threads of opinion.

First, regarding Nunaview. I had originally hoped it would convey an idea of the Nunavut Territory as a relatively non-partisan perch from which to observe governnents, the press, and the effect each is having on North America's current self-image. Seven months later, some of my fellow Nunavummiut would prefer this blog focus on our own governments, our own press and our own life, not the rest of the world. More than that, they are desperate for a more constructive description and analysis of what is going on right here at home.

From a second group of readers, one that includes several prestigious members of the established press in both Canada and the United States, I have heard that most blogging is a mere echo, a stream of parasitic opinion feeding off harder, genuine 'news'.

That comment cuts deep. It speaks to the original intent of this blog, which was to expose and analyse the debilitating hidden assumptions underlying much purportedly harder journalism from our so-called 'mainstream media'.

I'm not sure what else to call elements of our contemporary press who have voluntarily donned a straightjacket of the narrowest possible scope. Their Pablum of permissible talking-points ensures only a few tightly controlled self-perpetuating biases are eligible for coverage.

There was so much truth in each of the above two criticisms, that I split my blogs for a few months. Nunaview remained as a more recognizably Nunavutian view of itself, Nunavut, where I encouraged readers to continue checking for more homey and culturally focused posts, but for more general news junkies, or those who enjoy my ornery analysis of the misleading assumptions and distortions propagated by our political leaders and news media, I launched a separate effort called "Influential Liars".

While trying that form of bifurcated blogging, however, I found it difficult to keep the two themes separate. Nunavut has its Influential Liars galore and the wider world benefits from the more intimate chat that occurs around Nunavut's rural kitchen table.

So I have decided to recombine the two, risk some temporary confusion, and unapologetically allow each thread to enrich the other.

With regard to the broader political theme, lets admit the discipline we can learn from 'hard news' is important. It is indeed time to move beyond simply stating that we are being lied to and to show exactly how it is being done. With your help, I'll include more specific examples from now on.

We all crave an alternative to the dreary inventory of social scars heaped on us by local and national publications. We expect more from our intellectual leadership than streams of rhetorical band-aid. Our cream-hued institutions, including our press, are developing an increasingly assimilationist complexion that only disguises the festering post-colonial angst that plagues our best of intentions.

Every time a news report frames a challenge in our communities in a narrative that despairs of a solution, let's expose it. The time has come to throw off such shackling mindsets.

A tall order. I know. We will be amateurs, both of us, dabbling where the professional wolves dominate and are so expert at mocking and belittling such attempts as ours. It might take a year or two to hone our skills and our instincts.

But our firm intent should be to gradually retell Nunavut's more useful story, using all the same truths, using all the documented history those nay-sayers love to wallow in, but to reweave that cloth into a map of a way forward, not one that keeps us going 'round and 'round an endless Ring Road of frustration.

Care to join me?

2010-08-24

The Power of Brevity

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My overly wordy rants about the hidden distortions and presuppositions in mainstream media have been put to shame by Jay Rosen's frugal summaries.

His recommendations for four segments on CNN during prime time better express what I have tried to convey over recent months.

Here are his mouth-watering descriptions:

7 pm: Leave Jon King in prime time and rename his show Politics is Broken. It should be an outside-in show. Make it entirely about bringing into the conversation ... people who are outsiders to Beltway culture and Big Media and who think the system is broken. No Bill Bennett, no Gloria Borger, no "Democratic strategists," no Tucker Carlson. Do it in the name of balance. But in this case voices from the sphere of deviance (to) balance the Washington consensus.

8 pm: Thunder on the Right. A news show hosted by an extremely well informed, free-thinking and rational liberal that mostly covers the conservative movement and Republican coalition… and where the majority of the guests (but not all) are right leaning. The television equivalent of the the reporting Dave Weigel does.

9 pm: Left Brained. Flip it. A news show hosted by an extremely well informed, free-thinking and rational conservative that mostly covers liberal thought and the tensions in the Democratic party…. and where the majority of the guests (but not all) are left leaning.

10 pm: Fact Check An accountability show with major crowdsourcing elements to find the dissemblers and cheaters. The week’s most outrageous lies, gimme-a-break distortions and significant misstatements with no requirement whatsoever to make it come out equal between the two parties on any given day, week, month, season, year or era. CNN’s answer to Jon Stewart.

11 pm.: Liberty or death: World’s first news program from a libertarian perspective, with all the unpredictablity and mix-it-up moxie that libertarians at their best provide. Co-produced with Reason Magazine.

Now that is a line-up that could rival Al Jazeera's equivalent, program's like Listening Post, People and Power, Riz Khan One-on-One and Rageh Omaar.

All that would be missing then would be an equivalent to AJE's Witness.

We would finally have an effective antidote to what Ashis Nandy calls "a world where the idiom of dissent is increasingly being defined at the centers of conformity."

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2010-08-14

Knock Knock. Hugo's there?

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Remember when Hugo Chavez wrinkled his nose from the podium of the United Nations General Assembly and claimed to detect a whiff of sulphur in the room? A sign of the recent presence of the imperial devil in the form of George Shrub (Bush Jr.)?

Three-quarters of the assembly giggled loudly, as was intended. They recognized the Michael Moore or Jon Stewart style of irony. The entire American delegation walked out, however, in what was obviously a rehearsed and planned move. They then launched a ferocious campaign depicting Chavez as some sort of unstable whacko. He must be bi-polar at least, right?

Can you imagine what hemispheric relations might be like if an American President had the presence of mind to join in the laughter and invite Hugo to Washington for some tough minded honest debate? Do you really think the likes of Cuba's Fidel Castro and Brazil's Lula da Silva could spend hours in conversation with an idiot, if Chavez were just that idiot? There must be something more to the fellow than we are led to believe by our mainstream media.

One possible source of additional information, Oliver Stone's new documentary "South of the Border", isn't showing anywhere near me yet. The DVD won't be out until October. Funny, I had no problem getting to see Michael Moore's "Sicko" when it was released. Care to speculate on the difference?

In the meantime, assuming neither Oliver Stone nor Michael Moore are scheduled to read this blog today, I will ask anyone who knows them both to make the following suggestion.

Take one part "Inconvenient Truth' using the format of a TED-like lecture with giant graphs showing the numbers, perhaps with Paul Krugman playing the part of Al Gore; add a zest of man-in-the-street or women talking around a kitchen table interviews to illustrate the realities of life, somewhat the way residents of France did in "Sicko"; now add a double shot of Oliver Stone doing the kind of intimate interview with Paul Volker that he did with Fidel Castro in "Comandante'; juxtapose that segment with Fareed Zakaria facing a panel of three: Michael Moore, Oliver Stone and Jesse Ventura, not as the host, but as the guest for a change, with Fareed on the hot seat to answer questions concerning his own proud capitalistic economic assumptions; and finally, perhaps as a special feature on the eventual DVD release, have Noam Chomsky lay down a voice-over audio track analyzing and restoring the deep structure underpinnings of a good number of the ambiguous statements likely to merge from all the preceding.

Oh, what is the theme for all this you ask?

I suggest the title be 'Confounded Interest' and that the task be to show the role and impact of compound interest on human behaviour. Whether on credit card debt, national and international debt, mortgage debt, or the crowbar wielding friendly neighborhood loan shark.

Oliver, Michael, I dare you. Nobody could do it the way you two could. Jesse is there to protect you.

Don't worry about distribution.

I'll pitch it to Tony Burman for you.

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Why Fidel? Why not Lula instead?

Friends are asking why I follow Fidel Castro's blog so faithfully and why people like Oliver Stone are giving the likes of Hugo Chavez any benefit of doubt. Why not Lula da Silva instead, the remarkable President of Brazil?

That is a legitimate question, more subtle than we think.

Is my harping on Fidel naïve or ignorant of reality under that controversial regime?

I certainly hope not. For those who might not know, I speak Spanish fluently and the perspective of Cuba in this blog is based on pretty close interest since 1962.

I am not oblivious to the fact that a significant minority, perhaps even a majority of Cubans are keen for domestic change. The same old faces and political leadership can seem pretty dreary to us after as little as eight or ten years, let alone after 51 years, which is the case in Cuba.

What I still find fascinating in the midst of this disquiet, however, is how insightful old people can become when they no longer need to embellish the truth for tactical effect. They begin to tell it as it is. That is what I am hearing from friends in Cuba who are old enough to remember life before the revolution, some who have supported the revolution, grown fed up with it at times, but still see powerful and truthful elements in its rationale.

Now even Fidel has begun to comment more philosophically on foreign policy at least. Few of us ever expected him to soften because he has been so stridently defensive about his domestic record over the years, but he is surprising us recently with some pretty pithy cracks about his own political naïveté, especially as a proxy during the Cold War.

I think his speech to the National Assembly on August 7th should be taken in that context, as one more in a sequence of recent blogs he's written that differ substantively from anything prior.

The speech was framed as a direct plea to President Obama to deviate from standard military dogma on nuclear confrontation, especially when married to the Bush-Cheney approach to pre-emptive intervention. Fidel pleaded with Obama to explore alternative scenarios that include more third-world and southern hemispheric perspectives.

What seems sincere in Castro these days is his placing such pleas in a context of environmental and historical concern typical of someone who is now looking beyond the immediate, someone considering longer term human and planetary considerations. He is indeed sounding more like an old warrior digging deeper into even his own motives and earlier justifications for the preemptiove use of force.

In a somewhat ironic twist, I think he has been influenced as much by the likes of Lula da Silva and other modern southern leaders as he might have once inspired them.

A whole new generation of leaders has emerged in the southern hemisphere and in parts of Asia that the industrial empire and media have yet to understand and that emerging alternate information channels such as Al Jazeera English and Internet social media are now by-passing.

Yes, Obama recognizes the inherent danger of so many nuclear weapons and he has made efforts to reduce that arsenal. But his most ardent supporters are concerned by the apparent impact on him of the remorseless daily briefings from a Defence establishment permeated by precedent, wealthy vested interests and, most of all, deep secrecy camouflaged from civilian oversight.

Hence the drama over the recent WikiLeaks documents.

The reason WikiLeaks so easily fought off ferocious accusations of betrayal and troop endangerment last week is the sinister and cynical disregard for the truth to which the world grew accustomed during the Nixon and Cheney dynasties in foreign policy. Truth be known, the deception has been pervasive in all imperial regimes and we goof badly by dismissing such allegations as mere neo-con ranting or off-beat whacko conspiracy theory. A case could be made that only Eisenhower and Carter were honest American brokers in the last century

Careful semantic, syntactic and logical analysis of the utterances of our current crop of leaders and their legions of lobbyist sponsors would expose an immense subconscious maze of pre-supposition and deception to which we, the consumers of that propaganda seem oblivious.

That stupor is the cause of my increasignly strident diatribe against our press and commercial massmedia. If this blog has any dominant obsession, it is that our paid language professionals are failing utterly in their duty to expose the underlying presumptions and breaches of logic in the public and democratic dialogue.

The challenge for me in this blog, now that I've identified that as a scope and theme even when I no longer have such an easy target as Lou Dobbs to pick on, is to gradually morph from merely saying the media are perverting democratic dialogue to explicitely demonstrating how they do it.

That is what I aspire to over the next two to three years, drawing examples from local, national and international reportage.

In the interim, placing the contemporary speeches of Fidel Castro side-by-side with those of other world leaders is not a bad place to start given the themes Fidel has decided to highlight in his 'legacy' years.

2010-08-02

21st Century Treason - Sins of Omission


It's getting harder and harder to turn back to CBC/ABC/NBC/CBS, CNN, or even BBC after watching the English version of Al Jazeera for a few weeks.

It's not so much the news casts at the top of each hour, although they are a breath of fresh air too. It's the in-depth follow-through documentaries that run from the bottom of each hour that remind us of what journalism used to be like when the news could be bad, yet the reports reassuring in their honesty. Fault Lines, Witness, The Vault, Inside Story, Empire, People and Power, The Rageh Omaar Report, 101 East, Riz Khan's One-on-One.

The only program I can't bear to watch is "Inside Iraq". The host is irritating, obnoxious and shrill to the point of blocking out any meaningful content from the invited guests. (Note: the female anchor of the last two weeks seems an improvement, perhaps even an over correction. She's a little too bland. Not sure whether she is permanent or merely convering for an absence.)

Either way, a week's exposure to AJE will leave you in a state of shock on discovering all the stuff our broadcasters leave out. It's as if a veil were lifted (pardon the horrible pun) to reveal the lies and misinformation we are routinely fed.

I could illustrate the point with examples from each of the above programs covering issues from Iran to East Timor, from Myanmar to Afghanistan, climate, energy, finance, food and pharmaceuticals, from Beijing to Mumbai, then London and finally back to Washington again. Like a fish who remains oblivious to water until it lands on the angler's hook, you would feel like you'd been pulled out into air and then released back into the water again, wondering, "What the hell was that?!"

The most revealing of all is AJE's coverage of the press itself. That is my passion. That is what, in our western media, keeps me burning inside.

It isn't any one incident. It isn't the embroidery. It isn't just the suface assertions we get from our own broadcasters. The shock of a week waching AJE is the devastating contrast between it and the all pervasive fabric of lies about the rest of the world that our own northern media sell us on behalf of their political and commercial sponsors.

How much time have you spent over the last week listening to accounts of Shirley Sherrod being fired? Endless streams about what the NAACP said, what the USDA said, what Barrack Obama is imagined to have said.

None, I repeat, none examined in detail what Ms. Sherrod had actually said or compared it to what the neocon attack dogs said she had said. Not a single mainstream press outlet in all of North America transcribed the two versions, mounted them side by side on the same page, added bright clear highlighting to show the differences, and demonstrated exactly where the liars had altered Ms. Sherrod's speech.

Instead, the very programs that are supposed to critique the media and hold them to a higher standard proceeded to commit the same treason of ommision themselves. With insufferably self-exculpatory tones of tut-tut and oh-my-gosh, they castigated the USDA, the NAACP and the White House for not going to the source, for not exposing the deceivers.

In other words, these mainstream media critics did exactly the same thing themselves!

Neither Howard Kurtz with his clique of like-minded word merchants on CNN's 'Reliable Sources' nor Noel Sheppard billing himself as a 'News Buster' in his 'Media Research Center' bothered to detail the actual crime. Not even the usually reliable Huffington Post. They were too preoccupied with reposting ad nauseam the likes of Naim Saban's vitriol against Oliver Stone.

No, Euro-America's vaunted media critics did nothing but repeat the sin of ommission they decried in everyone else.

They diverted our attention onto derivative incidents, onto circus performers and talking heads, and completely avoided the root cause. The details of what Shirley Sherrod had actually said and the treasonous agenda of the GOP and neocon warriors who edited her into saying something else, were neither emphasized nor explicitly examined.

And in that omission, you have the sine qua non of No We Can't, Never Under Obama, and Siempre Nada, the dreary anthems of the GOP armies and their barely arms length Rush-to-the-Tea-Party-Limbaugh logic vandals.

And why, you might ask, would all these media dilittentes so determinedly avoid covering this root cause?

Because it is the very basis of the entire Euro-American and northern hemispheric media cabal that they do it every day on behalf of their stakeholding business sponsors and they are terrified that we, the great unwashed electorate and consuming public might wake up to how deeply we have been betrayed.

Pick your topic of choice. Any one will do. Public option health insurance, the role of nuclear technology in electricity production, our disappearing aquifers (water tables), the looming water-related violence coming soon to a city near you and, above all, compound interest gathering on debt that is keeping the world's working and middle class people in a state of perpetual employment anxiety in order to perpetuate macro-economic deception.

The mainstream democratic public square in which we are supposed to be able to talk to each other honestly is now broken at its core, poisoned with the bias of its criminally self-centered corporate stakeholders. Howard Kurtz and his carefully chosen little clique of pretend analysts are only rhetorical whores hired to divert our attention away from the underlying deceit into the circus of talking heads and soap suds.

There was a time when I might have expected more of Frank Sesno.

Now I can only recommend AJE's "The Listening Post", hosted by Richard Gizbert, as a partial antidote and urge you to supplement your reading with social media rooted in alternate points of view.

AJE is available in North America over the Internet through Livestation. You can safely download the free Livestation Desktop Player as there is zero garbage attached. Then simply add AJE to your carousel of available channels. There is also a free Wifi App on the Apple iPod and iPad. Finally, if you are lucky, AJE might be available through your cable TV provider, such as Ch 516 on Bell Expressvu in Canada.

If you have any residual doubts about the legitimacy of AJE or wonder about the integrity of those who try to dissuade you from it, I strongly recommend listening to this discussion with its Managing Editor, Tony Burman.

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2010-07-28

Jews, News and the Imperial Monologue: In Defense of Oliver Stone

Oliver Stone recently implied the proportion of Jews working in Euro-American news media sufficiently exceeds their incidence in the general population as to require professional journalistic disclosure.

Touchy subject.

Is there any professional context within which this question can properly be asked?

When Mel Gibson rants about Jews in Hollywood, we know what to expect.

When Oliver Stone draws distinctions among Hitler’s victims, albeit "clumsily" (his words), I’m tempted to beg leave from the Jewish community to ask for a more nuanced explanation.

His record of films about other biases in American media warrants more diligence on our part before we cast stones for blatant anti-Semitism.

In fact, Stone’s remarks come amidst increasing diligence among political pundits in the northern hemisphere to examine the concentration of influence and ownership in the media, both European and American.

Sixty-five years after the Holocaust, our awkwardness about this topic actually worsens the risk of anti-Semitism rather than guarding against it. To borrow from Ashis Nandy, the average consumer of Euro-American news media has a civic duty to question whether "the idiom of dissent is increasingly being defined at the centers of conformity".

Would any of us deny each other the right to ask similar questions concerning the Cuban trade embargo, the public Health Insurance option, or Banking reform?

Of course not.

Among professional journalists and academics outside North America, Stone might even derive increased credibility for admitting his empire's most influential news outlets are managed by a discernable minority: CBS by Tish. ABC by Iger. NBC by Zucker. Fox by Rupert Murdoch. US News by Mort Zuckerman. The New York Times by Sulzberger. The Los Angeles Times by Sam Zell. The Washington Post by the Katherine Meyer / Graham family. Facebook by Mark Zuckerberg.

Even the rest of us, the plebian unwashed, might be forgiven for wondering about the cumulative impact of personal preferences among Wolf Blitzer, Howard Kurtz, Larry King, Candy Crowley, Aaron Brown, Andrea Mitchell, Jessica Yellin, Mary Snow, Barbara Starr, Ben Wideman, Jim Bitterman, Alan Chernoff, Elizabeth Cohen, William Cohen, Robert Rubin, Madeleine Albright, Sandy Berger, James Rubin, Jeff Greenfield, Andrea Koppel, Gary Tuchman, Bob Franken, or Alan Derschowitz, when reporting on Arab-Israeli politics.

And that’s just CNN.

The equivalent observation was finally heralded in Hollywood years ago when A&E produced "Hollywoodism: An Empire of Their Own - Jews, Movies, and The American Dream" (1998), which chronicled the amazing success of the half-dozen Jewish families who created the movie industry and the studio system that spawned the moguls of Hollywood during its Golden Age.

In a previous Nunaview post, even I explored the general phenomenon of diasporic minorities such as the Chinese in Polynesia, Indians in Africa and Jews in Euro-America, and suggested they should justifiably boast about their accomplishments rather than disguising the celebrity and influence they have garnered.

But Oliver Stone’s remarks are different. Very different. So are Michael Moore’s. So are Noam Chomsky’s.

Each in his colourful non-conformist way suggests there is a journalistic ethic at play here that goes far, far beyond artistic license, or business acuity. It concerns a potentially egregious violation of journalism’s core claim to truth in transparency. It reaches to the very foundations of representative democracy, public dialogue, and electoral politics.

We send UN observers all over the world to determine whether corrupt dictatorships manipulate electoral results after the votes are cast. Stone, Moore and Chomsky are warning us that our opinions are being manipulated before the votes are cast.

Ordinary viewers will have noticed how frequently CNN anchors, most notably Wolf Blitzer, make a fuss about CNN being owned by Time Warner when reporting on a Time Warner related story. They are also downright rude at times in their manner of interrupting a guest to point out that guest's personal connection to stakeholders in the issue being discussed.

That notice is itself entirely proper, but the strident manner of its delivery is designed solely to profer CNN’s claim to neutral reporting. It is part of a self-serving campaign to dub themselves "The Most Trusted Name in News" and we are supposed to conclude that CNN discloses all background relationships that might constitute a risk of bias.

It is therefore CNN's very own insistence on this principle that opens them up to analysis and accountability for their own performance in this regard.

Every sophomore journalism student learns the rationale for this professional code of conduct. They are taught that the viewing public must be cautioned, explicitly, to raise their pre-suppositional antennae against even the appearance of bias. Not just gross prejudice, but for the more subtle, inadvertent and even innocent bias that reporters might miss in themselves, so ingrained is it in their personal history or basic human preferences.

Are allegations that CNN distorts staff biographies accurate? Did Wolf Blitzer really work for radically pro-Jewish and activist pro-Israel publications and lobbies for much of his career prior to joining CNN? If that allegation is accurate, then CNN is egregiously derelict in its duty to the American democracy when omitting those facts from their online backgrounders and biographies of Wolf Blitzer.

In the context of its coverage of stories that involve stakeholders in the Middle East, in Palestinian activism, or in reports of anti-Semitism in American society, Mr. Blitzer’s personal history is itself a factor that should be addressed with sufficient frequency and transparency as to discharge that journalistic stricture and obligation to the global audience. Oliver Stone has only had the nerve to suggest the same applies to the alleged disproportion of Jews and converts among CNN's editors, anchors, pundits, reporters and invited guests compared to their numbers in American society in general.

CNN claims not to be Fox. The standard, if they aspire to that level of trust, is higher.

If you have any doubt about the legitimacy of this tenet of professional journalism, I dare you to spend a week, just one single week, watching America's mass media as if you were Chinese, Venezuelan, Muslim, Cuban, Pakistani, Arab-Israeli, Palestinian, or just a truly independent American elector.

How ironic that so reserved a professional as US Defence Secretary Robert Gates regularly feels the need to refer to the "people in between" when speaking of those skilled at manufacturing conformity of opinion by way of deception.

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2010-07-17

Conservatives: Fiscal, Social, or Foreign

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Arianna Huffington recently penned a eulogy for left-right dialectics, declaring them to be inadequate - going on useless - as a tool for political analysis in the 21st Century. Conversely, one of the better status reports on the US Republican party made pretty good use of it to send Sarah Palin and Pit Bull Romney to the penitential corner of our democratic classroom for an overdue time out.

Truth is, most of us have no trouble at all deciding whether a politician is a fiscal or social conservative. We are even pretty good at mixing the two. "Oh he's a (lower-taxes-no-matter-what) fiscal conservative, but he's an (innocent-children-of-immigrant-abortionists-might-need-welfare-for-a-while) social prograssive

The one that keeps us all stumped, however, is foreign policy.

Arianna Huffington's hunch from the middle is nearly correct, but she's still holding onto the fence a little.

You see, the further East we go, we find people are more protective of their privacy. Europeans might live next door to each other for three generations and never see the inside of their neighbour's living room or kitchen. Centuries of war and invasion have left them thinking that sovereignty is epitomy of peace and respect. They were so reluctant to internvene in Kosovo.

But as you travel further West, especially into George Bush and Dick Cheney's wild West where survival more recently depended on blurring those boundaries a bit, people don't need an invitation to charge into a neighbour's house to help extinguish a fire, or rescue an invalid, or punch a bully in the mouth for beating up his children. A certain amount of vigilante collective action has been more acceptable in the wild West as a way of dealing with both tyranny and tragedy.

If George W. Bush had stuck to those cowboy roots of his and simply belted Saddam Hussein one right in the kisser and walked away instead of proliferating such weapons of mass distrust, how differently might the world feel right now?

In fact, I bet Europeans and North Americans would be having a much more intelligent discussion about whether our species on this planet can succeed in dealing with global issues on a purely bilateral basis rooted in concepts of national sovereignty. Might we not agree that there are some issues facing the planet right now that warrant the occasional Neighborhood Watch type action where free people might nonetheless sometimes impose a minimun standard of decency when rogues threaten our children's right to a little peace and quiet?

That is where the confusion comes from, between left and right, between east and west, between Republicans and the Tea Party, and between Muslims and modernity.

The American Empire made a terrible mistake when they allowed their admirable penchant for wild west generosity to be co-opted and misused. Rather than keeping Neighborhood Watch strictly en garde, to be used solely on occasions of universally recognized brutality or disaster, they have twisted the meaning of 'freedom' and premptive deterrence into a missionary mandate to dictate self-serving terms for global commerce.

We keep hearing claims that a rogue minority have hijacked global Islam. Ok. What of global Christianity?

And there you have it. Collossal Weapons of Mass Distrust. (C-WMD)

Just when the world most desperately needs a trusted kind of global Neighbourhood Watch to lend a hand with environment, energy, female genital mutilation, and usurious international bond bandits... nobody trusts anybody.

That is the real legacy of the recent American Empire. Insufficient trust for humanity to collaborate on issues that simply cannot be resolved unilaterally or bilaterally.

Gawd forbid I should have to quote Hillary Rodham Clinton, but dammit, it does take at least a village!

As for my beloved Canada, we do have conservative politicians, mostly wed to the Bond and Data Bandits. Bad enough that they want to stop collecting census data lest that expose their weak policy arguments, now we learn they have knowingly shredded the final report on the Tar Sands?

In whom do we trust?

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2010-07-08

Popping the Fiscal Balloon

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It was one of the most electrifying moments in modern political television... for those who had ears!

"Should we lower the debt or flood the world with trillions of dollars in cash?" asked Fareed Zakaria.

In the red corner, Nobel sanctioned economist Paul Krugman was advocating more money, lots of it, now. In the blue corner, word-merchant historian Niall Ferguson countered for immediately reducing the debt.

In case you missed it... and many did 'miss it' even though they watched it on CNN's GPS, here's the layman's translation.

Imagine your brain sprung a leak to the outside of your skull, you would die if the hole weren't plugged. On the other hand if only one artery developed a bubble inside your skull putting pressure on the surrounding tissue, you would poke a hole in the bubble, relieve the pressure, then strengthen the artery so it wouldn't happen again. That's called an embolism. The rest of the brain would be fine. Embolisms can be fixed.

In economic terms, Ferguson is warning us that rampant debt is a financial leak threatening the entire system.

Krugman, on the other hand, counters that debt is just part of the economy. The real threat is cumulative charges, interest and profit on the debt, an expanding embolism, susceptible to regulatory popping and remedial cauterization.

But Krugman goes farther. Much farther! He calls it the "phantom in the room".

Brrr, feel the chill of fear?

The financial community is loath to talk about this ghost because we ordinary mortals might actually begin to understand. The high priests dare not give it a simple name, like profit, for fear we masses will lose faith.

Like a magician who slips and nearly reveals how a trick is done, Ferguson almost blew it. He euphemized so accurately, so close to the truth, you could almost feel the collective fiduciary scrota shrinking around the globe. Millions of high finance testes running for pubic cover, wincing in anticipation of this catastrophic blow to their semantic groin.

"Fiscal Credibility", Ferguson intoned. "Nasty Fiscal Arithmetic". "Domestic appeasement of local interest (lobby) groups". "Once you find interest rates rising..."

The phantom stirred.

Then Zakaria rescued him. "So what's the solution?"

Caught in his own dangerous rant, Ferguson scrambled for cover. "Radical fiscal reform". "Flat tax". "Cut entitlement programs". Gawd forbid we should reduce our profit. A flurry of semantic transformations to re-bury the deep structures of the daemon he had nearly exposed.

The world's banks must have heaved a huge sigh of relief. Krugman wasn't in the studio at the same time to pounce on the gaff, to expose the lie, to dress the naked emperor.

An embolism of what ... greed? Good grief!

What might Krugman have said?

Except for natural disasters like the recent one in Haiti, countries rarely fail to repay their real debt, the actual amount they initially borrowed. Every other instance of fiscal collapse in the history of the world has stemmed from an inability to keep pace with ballooning compound interest on the debt, not the debt itself.

Insatiable greed.

Krugman had been brutal in anticipation. He whisked so close to naming the beast himself. "Bond Vigilantes" he called them at one point. The viscerally corrupt curia of collusion among the banks and the insurance companies who are siphoning the wealth of humanity into gated backwaters of privilege and impunity.

Of course, there are legitimate costs incurred by those who lend and those who insure us against unforeseen misfortune. They are also entitled to make an income. However, those costs should be calculated transparently based on the true actuarial risk of default or accident. Far from such a fair return, the current banking and insurance industries, no matter how low interest rates appear to be right now, continue make obscene profits from the cumulative effect of compound interest. Interest upon interest, upon interest... ad infinitum.

That is the phantom in the room!

It is the omnipresent and never-to-be named threat, not from the borrowers, not from the actuarial risk of capital default, but from the arbitrary whim of exponential greed that cranks the interest rate up to whatever the market will bear in good times, or simply threatens to do so in bad times.

Krugman's "Phantom in the Room".

Decades of political advocacy and activism haven't a fraction of the power and influence of thirty seconds of reversing an embedded pre-supposition.

Fareed, I dare you. Just one minute a week. Have an impartial and professional semanticist analyze a single utterance from the week's news coverage. Maybe just before your closing soliloquy and book recommendation. You might go down in history as having single handedly rescued democratic dialogue, and governance..

It's time someone stuck a linguistic finger down our throat and induced a little purge to clear the bullcrap.

..

2010-07-07

Creeping Yellowknification

. Forty years ago Kenneth Boulding cracked up Toronto's York University audience with an opening sequence to his celebrity lecture there. "I couldn't help but wonder at the architecture as I drove in." (a few snickers in the audience)

"I had some trouble, at first, placing it in the correct period." (more chuckles and a few outright guffaws)

"Then it came to me," he said. "Early Brutal!" (pandemonium of uncontrolled laughter.)

"I will suggest to you that it falls into the broad contemporary trend of creeping Wichitization, that remorseless and rather disconcerting pressure where Bangkok, Bombay, Beirut and Budapest become more and more like Wichita." (No more laughter.)

Twenty years later, in a column for Yellowknife's News North amidst the struggle for division of the old Northwest Territories and creation of Nunavut, I borrowed from Boulding by describing Yellowknife as a victim of creeping Sudburization. A tendency for once predominantly aboriginal communities across North America to become more and more like Sudbury, with increasingly white, Euro-Canadian administrations and business communities supplanting increasingly marginalized aboriginal and Métis inhabitants.

I concluded with a fervent plea to our N.W.T. neighbours to admit the demographics were hopeless in the West, to graciously relinquish the fractured and bare aboriginal majority they could only temporarily maintain with Inuit influence, and to allow the Eastern Arctic to go its own way in order to benefit from its overwhelming majority Inuit electorate.

They did. A deliberate and noble sacrifice. Surprising and historic.

So "Here's the question", as Jack Cafferty would say. What do you detect in the following sequences of names?

(1) Carmen Levi, Rosemary Keenainak, Koovian Flanagan, Alooki Rojas, Victor Tootoo, Melinda Janes and David Akeeagok, et al;

(2) Bob Long, Janet Slaughter, Kathleen Lausman, Louise Wasson and Markus Weber, et al.

That's correct. They have all been appointed Deputy or Assistant Deputy Ministers with the Government of Nunavut at some point.

Yet there are other thought provoking patterns that emerge. One group consist entirely of beneficiaries to the Inuit Land Claim, the other none, and the other has largely replaced the one.

Coincidence? Possibly. A sign of the times? Probably. Creeping Yellowknification and Ottawization? Almost certainly. Discouraging? Can the Nunavut and Tamapta dreams survive it? Too soon to tell.

Our kids will decide.

Meanwhile, we do need to clean up our finances, housing, health, educational effectiveness and the environment. Leona, Eva and Elisapi seem sincere in their desire to provide better governance and services to citizens in each of these regards.

But you tell me. Are the cultural distinctions, the deeper IQ, the language, the precious payload of Inuktitut Social Values slowly slipping away as an inevitable part of the process?

Say it ain't so. ..

The Spilsbury Underground

. Facebook had a precursor in Nunavut When the Government of Canada began rounding up Inuit from their ancestral homes in the 1950s and locating them in fabricated settlements, many families continued to escape at every opportunity to slip back out 'on the land'. Some only went a few feet each Spring, pitched a tent right beside their settlement house and lived in it until Fall. Others hightailed it back to their accustomed family areas to hunt and trap and gather until winter threatened.

A determined few didn't bother coming back. They resumed living on the land again all year round.

The Government took to calling these Outpost Camps, a very settlement-centric thing to do. When Brigitte Bardot, the aging Caucasoid Tart of European Imperialism outgrew her own role as purveyor of other furry artefacts, she set out to destroy the value of seal products. Canada graciously (sic) responded by creating programs to supplement Inuit subsistence with a few dollars for fuel, equipment and the odd emergency medivac by helicopter.

Which raised an interesting point.

How were outpost camp dwellers to call for that emergency medical assistance? The answer lay in what was to become the bright orange talisman of every outpost camp evening. The Spilsbury SBX-11A SSB transceiver. Nothing was more characteristic of the outpost auditory environment than the gentle background hiss of static weaving in and out of murmuring family chat. Qilujak and Lucaatsi providing life's play-by-play commentary, boiling tea, a Coleman lamp. It is one of the warmest Inuktitut experiences available. Intimate and secluded.

Until the Spilsbury crackled!

"Inukikunnut, Inukikunnut, qajaqtuqtulirijiit, naalappisi? Uuva!" Or if Qilujak was the caller, more like "UUUuuuuUUUUVA!!!!"

Suddenly a whole other world sprang to life. A virtual reality that, especially in its later years, settlement-bound folks hardly knew existed unless an elder kept a Spilsbury in the bedroom, with an inverted-L antenna slipping out the window to a couple of oars propped up with rocks and nylon guy wires.

I thought it was gone. There are so few, perhaps even no truly permanently occupied outpost camps at all anymore. Is there no similarly sane alternative to town-bound inanity available any longer?

Then along came Spilsbook or is it Facebury?

A new Inuktitut underground is emerging. Not the dreary qallunaattitut litany of "I'm making pancakes now", "think I'll go to a movie", but the new soul of Nunavut. An alternate community is floating gently up above the concrete day-to-day of Town life. The word 'virtual' doesn't fit. It's too laden with wispy, ephemeral connotations of artificial realities. The Spilsbury Underground is not only real, it is the very substance of Inuktitut, the way of being, not just the language.

Take a deeper look at Nunavummiut on Facebook. They are already creating something so different from Town-bound culture, so much more like the old Spilsbury Underground, something to which the rest of the community are still oblivious. The quality of life, the way of treating each other, the subtle access into English of concepts that were previously only possible in Inuktitut, the language, so many elements of culture that until now were slipping away, appropriated by well meaning politicians, bureaucrats and policy wonks into stillborn IQ platitudes, the modern equivalent of an earlier and equally insulting equivalent, 'Cultural Inclusion'.

One does not subsume an entire cultural into an element of curriculum, or policy! It is the curriculum and the policy that are mere elements in an overarching culture.

Keep it up you guys. You are Inuit Qaujimajaqtuqangit. You are breathing it into this new community, this late evening social chatter, the new Spilsbury Underground.

For people like me, who understand just enough to lurk and notice, it is a delight. But for your contemporaries and offspring, and for generations world-wide after that, it will be the breath of life.

The attitudes capable of helping humanity navigate the next hundred years of crisis are not surfacing from the First and Second Worlds. They are gurgling and nurturing and re-emerging from the Third and Fourth Worlds.

Keep refining it. The time is coming when it will quietly produce real concensus and influence, the kind that can sway elections and reform planetary discourse.

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2010-06-19

Broken Policy - Broken Promises

What happens to courageous thinkers when they enter politics?

Michael Ignatieff, author of The Lesser Evil: Political Ethics in an Age of Terror, morphed from deep-thinker into some sort of Justin Trudeau Lite as soon as he became leader of the Liberal Party of Canada.

Barack Obama, barely eighteen months in office, and he's already reading most answers directly from The Compendium of Annoying Platitudes for Every Occasion rather than calling us to arms with blunt sincerity.

Each was elected against huge odds when disenchanted voters thought they saw independent men who might speak the truth regardless of the effect on their chances for re-election. They were going to change politics forever simply by speaking their unconventional mind.

Instead, they've settled for superficial compromise with vested interests, avoiding fundamental reform, desperate to claim they have 'moved the yardsticks'. It's called the status quo.

Dangerous stuff. Betrayed promises lead to broken policy and the greater the broken promises, the greater the failed outcome.

Public dialogue through the mass media is so broken right now, it is the issue facing democratic society. Without it, attempts to manage debt, aggression and the environment are doomed ahead of time. We need a couple of world leaders willing to take four years off from partisan politics and to simply tell the truth.

Forget all the posturing intended to garner votes or get legislation passed. Give us four years of openly proving you don't give a damn whether you get elected for a second term. Four years of sheer defiance in the face of normal politics to demonstrate and remind the world what plain-speaking leadership looks and sounds and feels like.

Some time before the last presidential election, Jimmy Carter was interviewed about the catastrophic plunge in trust the rest of the world felt towards the US. The planetary bastion of human integrity and sincerity lay in shambles thanks to The Shrub and Cheney's lies and deceit.

The interviewer asked Carter how long it would take for the world to climb back from such a terrible political deficit.

"About six minutes!" the elder statesman replied. "This travesty of greed and bullying could be stopped and reversed within mere paragraphs of the new President's first speech."

Indeed!

Things looked promising at the University of Cairo. A world yearning for a global 'Mandela' rather than a mere national or continental one, dared to hope.

Then came Health Insurance!

Obama took his eye off the ball and gave in to the temptation of thinking he could actually achieve something in Health Insurance itself. He dove in head first and, predictably, within just a few weeks, he was tied in knots, stuck in the weeds of lobby-logic. He chickened out. Couldn't bring himself to yell "Liars!" when they fibbed about the public option.

Never mind the fundaments of health insurance reform, he didn't change the rules of public debate! He let them get away with bold faced lies. What a blow to all our hopes.

The man had a opportunity to reset the very tenor of Earthian conversation, the human narrative for us all. Not just health insurance. Not terrorism. Not global warming. Not fossil fuels. Not China's currency. Not the Middle East.

It's the platitudes stupid! It's the false presuppositions.

Ironically, plain talk would simultaneously fix the policies. Straight talk restores trust.

Middle East

"Hey Hamas. 'Sup y'all? Here's my Twitter address. Chat anytime. Political jurisdictions and borders have come and gone throughout human history. Some justly, some not. Your debate can go on as long as you like about how modern Israel came to be. Fact is, she's there now. We can discuss borders and stuff, but Israel is a fact for as long as I can see ahead at this stage. So, Hamas, here's the deal. If you state publicly and unequivocally that Israel exists, the entire economic, political and military might of these United States will be available to you to intercept and inspect ships on the high seas, ensure they are carrying only non-military goods, and escort them directly into Gazan ports. That's all. Nothing else for now."

Cuba

"Hey Fidel. 'Sup man? How about those Lakers, huh? By the way I'm ready to make a few changes around here and could use your help. I don't give a rat's fart what economic system you prefer anymore. Run the whole damn island like a farming co-op if you prefer. Even feel free to block our seditious harassment and pharmaceutical propaganda from your airwaves if you like. Michelle and I do the same to protect our daughters most evenings. Limited TV hours. The foxtrot I like. Intellectual Fox Rot we can do without. So Fidel, here's the deal. How about unrestricted access to the Internet? That's all. Nothing else for now. Continue to block consumerist badgering from pushing TV lies into Cuba if you want, but allow ordinary Cubans to pull alternate information in the other direction by choice. The Internet versions of Al Jazeera, TeleSur, the Open Data and Electronic Frontier foundations, anything they like. The moment you announce that policy, the Helms Burton Embargo goes into the dumpster of historical absurdity. I'll even encourage international donors to help you pay for the fiber optic cable if that helps. That done, your excess sugar, doctors and brilliant generic pharmaceuticals will be welcome in the US. Care to give it a try it for a few years, see how it goes?"

Iran

"Hey Mahmoud. 'Sup Dude? You got any kids? Any of them interested in nuclear physics? Vlad Putin and Bob Gates have an absolute sheitload of weapons grade material they'd like to reprofile. Can those facilities you're building to enrich uranium run backwards instead? So Mahmoud, here's the deal. Help me reverse the process so we use and re-use that stuff to generate seven cents per KW electricity and you can power all of Europe and Africa until the spent fuel is sufficiently depleted to store more safely,. That's all. Nothing else for now. Unless you want to help with Cuba's Internet. (see above) Your people seem to have Twitter pretty well figured out. I'll get my girls to suggest Fidel and Raul send you Facebook Friend Requests."

Etc

It's called the quip pro quote strategy of bilateral pattern interruption. A fundamental re-rap (paradigm shift) on foreign policy.

Of course the details will get complicated eventually. That's what an improbable second term is for, or even another President if need be. But can you imagine the change in world affairs and in mass media relations if we could manage just four short years of two-point policy statements? A single 8.5 x 11 sheet of paper. Anything more risks propelling us towards global thermonuclear war and environmental oblivion.

I don't know about those other characters, but Fidel usually welcomes this sort of clarity. Let's poke him before it's too late.

2010-06-10

Oliver Stone and Jesse Ventura

Beginning with his 2003 documentary on Fidel Castro, Oliver Stone went from being a film maker to becoming a journalistic legend.

There is no more poignant moment in the history of modern documentaries than when Castro asked him if he had ever experienced deadly combat. Stone's response and El Comandante's visceral reaction transformed a mere film into history in its own right, perhaps even literature. His follow-up study of Hugo Chavez will further the task of restoring American journalism to legitimacy.

Harold Bloom might have to canonize him as the first entry in the era of Web 3.0 and Jesse Ventura is ready to make him a mandatory part of high school curricula throughout the United States. Even more gratifying would be to see Howard Kurtz, CNN's self-congratulatory parody of mass media conscience, succumb to the same devastating comparison as destroyed Lou Dobbs when Fareed Zakaria hit the air waves. Kurtz's 'Reliable Sources' is Pablum and deception, if only by ommission.

The issue, of course, is what Ashis Nandy calls "a world where the idiom of dissent is increasingly being defined at the centers of conformity."

Our mass media.

As if to highlight the fact, nearly every major US network rushed to interview Maziar Bahari last week, taking great pains to celebrate the first aniversary of how social media like Twitter and Facebook allowed coverage of the riotous aftermath to the Iranian elections last year. None has reported the same syndrome at the heart of their own coverage of American health insurance, interest on international debt, the Helms-Burton sabotage of Cuba's basic livelihood , or the depletion of major aquifers. This isn't just ironic, it is blatant deliberate hypocrasy.

The whole charade will come to a full head a year from now when Oliver Stone releases his next major work, 'The Secret History of the United States'. The ten hour extravaganza will expose over a century of comprehensive manipulation of mainstream media, a betrayal of democracy and Western civilization that is all the more insidious for being deliberately disguised, self-imposed and perpetuated by the media empire itself.

It might further transform Oliver Stone, the mere film maker and literary critic, into the 21st Century's first prophetic historian. (sic)

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2010-06-05

"Follow the Money Stupid!"

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Bloated fat cats living in a gated community on the hill, while emaciated hoards struggle in the desiccated, drought-plagued valley below.

Anything wrong with this picture? It defies gravity, right? Must be a vacuum pump somewhere pushing water uphill?

Does that scenario remind you of the current financial markets?

It leaves me wondering whether there might not be some sort of jolt available to shock the entire financial matrix back into equilibrum?

I'm lucky you see, I don't know enough about economics to not ask such a question.

I do remember in 1972, when the US was in a threatening debt situation, Nixon sent everyone home at 1700 hrs one Friday, devalued the dollar by a whopping 10% over the ensuing long week-end, and reopened for business at 0800 hrs Tuesday while thumbing his nose at the creditors.

Now, I understand that in order to pull off such a stunt, the devaluing country must be able to withstand the backlash. To devalue one currency in the absence of a neutral standard, such as gold was back then, means that all other currencies appreciate relatively. But that was an eon ago when 'globalization' didn't even apply to the World Cup yet, let alone the World Economy.

I mention it now only as an example of a time when we dared shake up the world's extortive shakedown system. What wild, out-of-box, shock could we use today to reset the very meaning of 'money' itself to some kind of start-from-scratch tabula rasa. What tactic of global economic policy would be the equivalent of turning off the aforementioned pump, even temporarily?

Individual sectors of the world economy are rife with local and hemispheric collusion, of course, but these are only mini-tycoons on local hillsides. What about the planetary petro-pharma-agri-banco-insurance 'cartel'? It doesn't even act like a cartel anymore. That word implies a gathering of at least several actors. These buggers act as one highly integrated central vaccuum.

Their insidious gleaning machine permeates from the marrow of our bones to the farthest reaches of our economic vascular system, into the very meat of the Earthly being itself. It vacuums our taxes, profits and bonuses through a venous capillary system that sucks us dry to feed a single narrowly held capital escrow.

Make no mistake about it, the process is indeed venous, not arterial. The net traffic is 'return', toward the center. It was designed from the start to feed that gated and privileged reservoir at the top of the food chain.

That is why the main symptom of this current economic disease is not edema (swelling from excess fluid at the periphery), but ischemia (lack of circulation and oxygen in the economic muscles that move us.)

This isn't the first time it has happened. Each of history's great revolutions has posed the same question to petrified privilege. Has the time come to sabotage the pump? Are the hoardes determined to see the water flow back downhill for a while until nature and cyclical evaporation can restore regular rainfall to the valley again?

The difference, despite the broad availability of small arms, is that we, the valley riff-raff, are unlikely to launch any sort of guerilla revolt this time thanks to the pharmacopeial and misinformation-induced stupor into which we have fallen.

Instead, the pump that is sustaining the uphill flow of wealth and privilege is about to fail all on its own. It is running dry naturally and, once it has, the diaphragm will perforate and the shrinking gaskets will fail to seal the valves that currently ensure a one way flow.

That flow, on which the accumulation of plutocratic power and priviledge depend is called 'interest' in the case of banks and 'premium' in the case of the insurance companies. They are wealth-diverting and concentrating strategies that no longer bear any relation at all to the actual costs of managing currency or actuarial risk.

Only a very few prophetic voices among us seem able to step off the consumerist presuppositional treadmill long enough to even notice what is happening and, predictably, we dismiss them as platitude-spouting old socialists from a bygone era. There is no Twenty-First Century Deep Throat willing to blow the whistle.

Nobody wants to hear a prophet whine.

instead, a necessary seismic upheaval is on the way that will not be of our deliberate chosing or design, not this time. We are functionally incapable of a well-crafted deliberate change of direction. There will be no brilliant, game-changing Obama-led end-run around the debt markets some Monday morning to shock them and draw the planet away from the brink.

Crisis averted? Water flowing with gravity again? Not a chance. Not with the whole shamozzle compounded by the percentage of the world economy that is off-book, a narco-criminal 'black market' and informal economy that runs parallel to and increasingly unconnected to the 'legal' (i.e. taxable) economy.

Instead, in the absence of a deliberate act of human will and communal planetary sanity, Mother Earth herself is going to take over and teach us a bitter lesson. Our behaviour as a species on this planet is unsustainable. We are stark raving mad. BP and Grecian fiscal policy are only tips of the melting iceberg.

And where I live, fellow drones, that iceberg is no friggin' cliché!




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2010-05-29

Baker Lake Uranium

. I caused a bit of a storm a year ago with some tough comments on generating electricity in Nunavut. I should have spoken to the people involved first and made sure they understood what I intended before lambasting their ideas in public. My mistake, but theirs too. None of us distinguished sufficiently between electricity and the methods we use to generate it. During that debate, my every mention of hydro generation as a way of extracting energy from gravity was interpreted as advocating a particular community's least preferred reservoir location. Every mention of wind generation was interpreted as wanting to impose massive noisy turbines in someone's back yard. Every question of nuclear generation was interpreted as advocating uranium mining near Baker Lake. Unfortunately, the best intentions don't matter a damn. No matter what we say, the true meaning of our communication is the response we get. Judging from the resulting furor, I expressed it very poorly then. Let's try again. Energy is energy. Period. Just pure oomph. With four important considerations ... (a) there are several different sources that contain energy; (b) there are good and bad ways of extracting energy from a source; (c) there are good and bad ways of transporting the extracted energy closer to where it is needed; and (d) there are different jobs we want to do with that energy once it gets there. It pays to keep these four catagories straight in our thinking. For example, we might easily agree that Sun light is an ideal source, but question whether chopping down trees, to plant corn, to be converted into ethanol, to be transported in trucks, ships or pipelines, to be burned by internal combustion engines, to generate electricity, to power our appliances, is the ideal way of capturing the sunlight (corn), transporting it (ethanol), to generate electricity (diesel generators), to run our applicances (stoves and toasters). The same logic applies to Gravity. What are the wider consequences of piling up water, exposing it to increased evaporation, removing it from adjacent aquifers, dropping it from great heights onto the blades of a turbine (extraction), pushing it over thousands of kilometers of towers and poles as high tension electricity (transportation), and then transforming it for lower voltage use in our appliances? How about a Nuclear example. Whence the uranium and how do we mine it (source), reactors to convert it to electricity (transportation), how is it stored until needed for our appliances (stoves and toasters). We need to think this thing through... properly. We almost never do. The elements are all tangled up and tied to each other. It's hard work dammit! Our only hope of sorting this all out is to learn to discuss each of these components clearly, separately, deeply and, as often as possible away from the threats and whinning of lobbyists for vested political and commercial interests. Lobbyists occasionally bring useful technical and governance expertise to the table, but they wrap it in so much bullshit. It's just another kind of mining we have to learn, how to extract the warp and weft of wisdom's cloth from their tightly spun and twisted 'yarn'? (pun intended) All of this to say that the hydro project once contemplated for Iqaluit had some serious aquifer management and transportation problems. A tidal source might avoid both extraction and transporation difficulties, but what about ice and salt corrosion. Even much maligned nuclear alternatives should be considered. If mined uranium is an undesireable source, if current extraction technology risks filty toxic impacts on Baker Lake's aquifers, if newer technologies to downgrade and recycle weapons waste aren't ready yet, these factors should be examined honestly. Our final goal should be kept firmly in view, however, no matter how energetic the discussion gets. We want to transform Nunavut society forever into all of that Pinasuaqtavut and Tamapta describe as social and economic outcomes and contribute to them by heating our homes and powering our vehicles on clean, 7 - 10 cents per kilowatt electricity, rather than perpetuating the Petrified Oleum Pandemic. Think that's foolish utopianism? Have you the guts to pretend it isn't, temporarily? Care enough to join me in looking foolish for 36 months while we independently pursue unbiased answers to these questions rather than being herded by mantra-spouting lobbyists with a vested interest in the status quo? .

2010-05-27

All Potholes are Global

. A recent letter to the editor of the Nunatsiaq News got me thinking. "Worst Iqaluit Roads in 53 years", the headline raged. I suspect it was based on the state of the one hundred meters of the Apex Road directly in front of the author's house. Are all politics that local? With apologies to Tip O'Neill, I'm going to suggest it's t'other way 'round. Potholes can be global ... when placed in their proper context. Iqaluit roads have never been so well maintained. In my thirty-five years here this is the first winter that snow removal on the Apex road has begun before people went to work. It is the first time in those same thirty-five years that snow removal on the Apex Road continued after people got home safely. Somebody at City Hall re-discovered shift scheduling and applied it to the core mandate of any municipal government: deliver the water, remove the sewage and garbage, and clear the snow so the ambulance and fire trucks can get through! Not stopping there, they paved streets throughought the city last summer, nothing less than a godsend. The number of vehicles in Iqaluit has increased so dramatically over the last few years that residents were experiencing acute respiratory problems from the perpetual cloud of dust that enveloped the city from dawn 'til dusk, six months a year, especially in Apex. City officials warned ahead of time that not all neighbourhoods could be done in a single year. They even showed good sense in their selection of areas to be done later. Heeding the common sense observation that "huge trucks, fully loaded, cause a lot of the problems," City staff decided to wait until major work on the infamous sinking Arena was finished, before paving that particular stretch. Yep, you guessed it. The letter writer lives right next door to the arena. The work has since been completed. Care to guess where the paving starts this summer? The lesson to be learned from all this, of course, is that too local a context can be very misleading. Dreadful as some 2010 potholes have been in specific locations, they do not constitute the worse regime of road maintenance in Iqaluit for 53 years. Where, you might ask, is the global aspect in all this? Truth is there are very few 'local' issues these days. Even potholes occur in a wide ecological context. Impatient for global warming to reach Iqaluit, perhaps the author travelled to warmer climes this winter? He ignores this having been the heaviest snow accumulation in at least 53 years, by a huge margin. Despite this unprecedented threat, spring runoff caused only a fraction of the typical damage of recent years precisely because drainage ditches and culverts were so much better planned this time, before the extensive paving program began. As for the ridges of frozen sand and ice that accumulated at some intersections, they were presumably left for a week or two to melt naturally because any attempt to remove them using brute force and heavy equipment would indeed have damaged the brand new pavement underneath. All of which leads to the global 'local' question. Why do we so rarely bother to simply ask for an explanation? Me included! Many years ago, when I was the ignoramus shooting my mouth off cursing the state of the roads in Frobisher Bay, I decided to stop Town foreman Art Barrieau as he drove by in the truck he practically lived in. "Sir Arthur, what's up with the roads?" I asked. "Damn grader broke a blade on ice-locked rock," he replied. "The boys are welding it in the garage right now to get us through until a new one gets here." I only needed to ask. So simple. Which raises the one issue Mr. Pearson got right this time. (He's been right before by the way. He was openly laughed at for putting down the first thin layer of pavement as Mayor of Frobisher Bay years ago. The stuff lasted for decades.) Where he hits home this time is in suggesting that, with Saali Sagiattuk gone, our new and younger City staff would do well to ask more experienced folks where common snowmobile trails need to cross Iqaluit streets when returning from a long hunting trip. The evident disregard snow crews have shown for those longstanding access points when approaching Town from Imiqtarviminiq, or near the airport, or coming in through the pack ice, is disrespectful in the extreme towards the very people Iqaluit and Nunavut are all about. Next time on the global local beat, we'll revisit Baker Lake aquifers and uranium mining. .