Image: Stairway to Heaven

January 21, 2016

Stairway To Heaven


Night Music: Lonely No More

January 20, 2016


Night Music: A Thousand Years

January 20, 2016


Image: Two Windows

January 19, 2016

two_windows


14,000 Days

January 19, 2016

14,000 days ago, Elvis Presley had been dead four days and Groucho Marx for one; Jimmy Carter was into the eighth month of his presidency and serial killer Son of Sam had just been captured. On that day, August 20 1977, Voyager 2 was launched into space.

This morning, 14,000 days later, she is almost 31 light-minutes away from earth, still heading out beyond the Solar System, and still sending us valuable data every day.

Voyager 2 was built in 1976-1977 with tools that we would consider archaic today, and yet these days we have trouble keeping a toaster alive for more than six months!

It has been a glorious and useful and enhancing project and I hope it has many more thousands of days to chat with us.


Night Music: The Weakness In Me

January 18, 2016


Night Music: Queen of Hearts

January 18, 2016


Triage

January 18, 2016

 

Losing a lover is like

losing a limb

or a necessary organ:

take whatever drugs you want

to ease the pain,

it still hurts like hell

in the morning

alone.

 

Taking a new lover is like

another transplant:

the dose of anti-rejection drugs you need

just grows and grows.

And as the skin thickens

it takes a harder push

each time

for the needle’s point to pierce your cover;

and each drop of blood seems redder

and more precious

than the last

until you decide

at last

that the payoff is not worth the pain

and you consign that part

of you

to an oblivion

that is not complete

to a decision that is not whole-hearted

to a diagnosis that hurts

like a lover leaving.

 


Goodbye GWAC?

January 18, 2016

In our 120 year history, there have been a number of organizations seeking to “improve” Grandview. For example, as I note in another place , today is the 105th anniversary of the founding of the Grandview Ratepayers Association.  The fortunes of that organization waxed and waned all the way into the 1950s. It was the stepping stone to bigger things for Harry Rankin when he revived the group in 1952 and led campaigns for civic improvement in the 1940s and early 1950s.

However, by the early 1960s, when the United Services welfare agencies were reorganizing their work into “neighbourhoods”, and the “community” of Grandview-Woodland was officially created, the Ratepayers seem to have disappeared. As the United Services’ Woodland Park Area Resources Council (WPARC) led by welfare and health professionals,  morphed into the community-led Grandview Woodland Area Council (GWAC) during the mid-1960s, it was GWAC that took up the role of community champion.

It was GWAC and GWAC people that were centrally involved in the Info Centre, MOSAIC, REACH, Consumer Help, the provision of a local library branch, and the development of the Britannia Centre. In those good old days when the Feds spent money, GWAC had a number of paid staff who did wonderful work in community development. But those golden days soon passed.

The first Grandview Community Plan in the late 1970s saw GWAC split around the issue of down-zoning the apartment area, with executives resigning and meetings in disarray.  It would never be the same again.  There were brief resurgences of interest – such as opposition to the plan to put towers at Broadway and Commercial in the early 1990s, and a few insurgent movements in the very early 2000s – but the organization never again developed the levels of interest and influence that were a feature of its first fifteen years.

Since then, GWAC has limped along without any influence at City Hall and with a collapsing membership.  The Constitution, which gives all power to the Directors and none to the members, has been a serious barrier to any renaissance.  Despite all efforts by new blood on the Board (including the current Chair, a few Directors, and me) to turn the ship around in the last few years, the old hands insist on grounding the vessel on the reef of irrelevance.  They insist on maintaining a privileged Country Club hierarchy, where the Board accepts no restraints on its power from the membership between Annual General Meetings. In fact, many Board decisions are not even discussed at the open monthly meetings.  This allows any insurgent group who takes over the AGM the ability to do anything they like for the following twelve months in the name of our community without the hindrance of membership complaints.

It has been claimed, by those who would retain GWAC in its present ossified, ignored, and irrelevant form, that GWAC’s position should NOT be to represent the community by adopting positions on issues or problems, but rather to act as a meeting room where a sort of kumbaya consensus can be maintained without stepping on any toes and smothering all action in a meaningless blah. But even in this project they fail, with tiny attendances, irrelevant subjects, and no observable follow-up.

The problem with GWAC is not that it does bad things; it is that it does nothing at all of any importance, and thus allows bad things by others to go by without public complaint.  This is achieved by the dead ducks on the Board refusing to make decisions, or deliberately not showing up to Board meetings so that a quorum cannot be reached, and then complaining loudly when the active Directors take necessary actions.  (It was this kind of game playing that forced me, when Chair of GWAC, to set up an entirely new organization to deal with the Community Plan in 2013 as the majority of the Board refused to be involved).

It is worth noting that GWAC has almost no public presence in the community. If you were to stop a hundred people on Commercial Drive and ask them about GWAC, ninety-seven or more would have no idea who or what it is. They essentially have no social media position, their website is rarely visited, and their once-monthly email newsletter is less than inspiring.  Several of the Directors rarely show up to Board meetings (some for years in a row) and thus hinder positive action by GWAC. It is clear that some Directors just want the title (for whatever reason) without putting any serious effort into the organization. That is pathologically sad, and allowing it to continue for so long is a clear sign that a group has moved well beyond its best-before date.

I guess it is possible for an activist and progressive group to win control of the Board at the AGM in March, but they would need to win seven or eight seats to ensure quorums at Board meetings. In addition, they would need to update the By-Laws to return GWAC to a truly representative democracy.  But, under the current conditions, it would be equally possible for, say, a group subsidized by developers to seize power and pretend they speak for us on important topics such as the Community Plan that will finally come to fruition this summer.

In the wider world, Councilor Andrea Reimer has on a number of occasions dismissed GWAC as irrelevant and unrepresentative of the community. She and Councilor Meggs have harangued the present writer about this at Council hearings where I was speaking for GWAC. Influence with City Hall is key to the kind of community improvement a group like GWAC could and should achieve. As GWAC has clearly lost that influence, perhaps we should take our lead from Meggs and Reimer and abandon the sinking wreck.  After all, the world is littered with the remnants of once-great institutions that have not survived numerous attempts at rehabilitation. It is usually best to sweep them away altogether and start afresh.

Therefore, in the absence of a community-worthy takeover and a change in the By-Laws, I would urge the rapid organization of a new Grandview Residents’ Association, with a progressive and democratic charter, accountable to the membership, as a community group that will speak for the people, will take stands on important issues, and will make governments know we are watching them.

 


Wise Words From MLK

January 18, 2016

Wise Words


Beyond Manifest Destiny

January 17, 2016

On this date in 1893, American business interests overthrew the monarchy of Queen Liliukalani, established their own elitist junta, and demanded that the US annex Hawaii, which (surprise, surprise) they did.

After the completion of the militarist-imperialist-racist campaign known as Manifest Destiny — which had stolen most of North America and exterminated the native populations in an officially sanctioned program of genocide and ethnic cleansing — the takeover of Hawaii was one of the first warnings that the US was moving towards a hegemonic control of the globe.

Most of the western world at that time was focused on the growing military strength of Germany and Japan.  They may have been wiser in the long run to have looked over their shoulder.


Image: Lighthouse Park #1

January 17, 2016

Lighthouse Park I


Image: Hawaiian Ferns

January 17, 2016

hawai'ian ferns_small


Night Music: Paradise By The Dashboard Light

January 16, 2016

The full live version!


Image: Wall With Window

January 15, 2016

Wall With Window


Remembering Rosa Luxemburg & Karl Liebknecht

January 15, 2016

Karl_Liebknecht_und_Rosa_Luxemburg

On this day in 1919, the Spartacist heroes Rosa Luxemburg and Karl Liebknecht were tortured and murdered by fascist Freikorps mercenaries of the German social democratic government.

Who remembers that government today?  No-one. But the memory of the two heroes lives on.  As Luxemburg wrote on the day of her death, speaking as the embodiment of the masses: “I was. I am. I shall be!”


Night Music: “Anyone Who Had A Heart”

January 14, 2016


Bureaucrats v The Poor

January 14, 2016

In a disgraceful and wasteful move, the unelected Metro Vancouver Board has decided to spend $200m of taxpayers’ money on new offices for their bureaucrats.  Metro’s current offices are perfectly good and fit for purpose but they prefer to spend $200m for show rather than use those funds to help the homeless, the mentally ill, and those working poor who cannot afford to pay market rents.

Metro says they will save $1 million a year on operating costs once the move is completed.  Sounds good.  However, if the building costs $200m and they can sell their old spot for $80m, the break-even point on this transaction won’t come for another 120 years!

Typical inability to focus on genuine priorities.


The Money Pit of Bombardier Financing

January 13, 2016

The (in)famous Canadian company, Bombardier, is the perfect example of how large companies — those who chant the benefits of “free enterprise” and deregulation — cannot survive without huge interventions by taxpayers. They have slopped up billions upon billions of our money, and keep asking for more.

I was reminded of this when watching “Power and Politics” yesterday during which one of their expert panels discussed the company’s latest demand for $1.6 billion. These experts spent a lot of time explaining that it could be a loan, a grant, an equity investment, and why it is was vital — for Quebec employment and national pride and politics — that the cash be forthcoming.

My own position is that no privately held company should receive public funds, period.  However, until we straighten out our economy to be self-supporting, I would be prepared to lend Bombardier the money they need, but only under conditions that never came up in yesterday’s discussion.

  1. The company cannot issue dividends or share buy-backs or any other kind of profit-sharing until the loan is repaid in full;
  2. No executive bonuses or similar payments to be paid until the loan is fully repaid;
  3. No executive salaries or other payments to be increased until the loan is fully repaid;
  4. If the company goes bankrupt (or similar), the taxpayer loan is in first place for repayment after wages and salaries.

Who on earth could object to this?  It gets the company the cash it needs and gives executives every incentive to repay the taxpayer as quickly as possible.  I would push this idea for any and all companies seeking tax-payer assistance.


Image: I Left You A Message

January 13, 2016

I Left You A Message