Friday, November 14, 2014

Prince George's Mayor - Choosing between Tweedle-Dum and Tweedle-Dee

Tomorrow municipalities across BC go to the voting booths to select the benighted souls who will lead (we hope) our communities for several years. Exercising my mandate is something I have never shirked from. Indeed a dozen years or so back I stood for and won a seat on the the Central Coast Regional District as "Director" for Area D. There followed two tumultuous years that happened to coincide with the massive Great Bear Rainforest campaign and the shutdown of two of Bella Coola's major employers, Interfor and the BC Ministry of Forests office. But I enjoyed being of some use immensely and would still be trying to serve had we not upped stakes and moved to Prince George.

Here, I have watched as a succession of mayors, none of whom have electrified me have come and gone -- I arrived when Colin Kingsley was at the helm and his can-do rightist politics left me nauseated, though never so much as when after retiring he soon became the regional mouthpiece for the Northern Gateway pipeline. He was followed by the affable PR-pro, Dan Rogers, who I liked personally but, unsurprisingly, given his professional background, never could really sense what if any purposes he had in mind for our city. The last and soon-to-be former incumbent of the big chair was local retailer Shari Green whose reign has proven to be Hobbesian: poor, nasty, brutish, and (mercifully) short. Shari seemed from the start to be rather too close to some of what in the old days would have been called the "vested interests." Her major preoccupation was pure "Tea Party" as she set about not so much to govern as to gut governance through the useless, single-minded and expensive "Core Review" designed principally to back up her (and her back-room boys') neoCon desires.

Her departure, alas, seems less to have been prompted by the incompetence she showed than by her lust for an office with far more perks - filling the miniscule shoes of our long-sitting MP Dick Harris. Getting the Conservative nomination may be challenging for her, but if and when she is the Harper designate in the riding of Cariboo-Prince George, you have a victory guaranteed. For as I have oft-opined the Conservatives could run a moldering corpse here and win (indeed, some might be excused for saying that that is exactly what we have had from here on the backbench for too many a year).

Ah but I digress though I can still stay with the theme of worse-than-useless politicians while returning to the topic at hand. Now, to be very clear some fine folks have stepped up for the city council positions, people like current councillor Murry Krause, former councillor Deborah Munoz and the unique gay, part native, part Asian drag queen Travis Shaw AKA Foxy De-Rossi.

But at the top of the ballot, there is vacancy, utter vacancy. Two dreary ex-councillors who have appeared often in the past few weeks, managing to say essentially nothing memorable except one of them's -- Don Zurkowski -- hearty endorsement of the Northern Gateway pipeline (This actually could have surprised no one given that lurking about at his candidacy announcement several months ago was the ruddy-faced promo-man ex-Mayor Kingsley).

Zurkowski's mug is everywhere and he has certainly mouthed middle brow slogans about engaging the community. But when the rubber hits the road, folks, he keeps his campaign vague and innocuous, close to the chest on most anything except that pipeline. Take for example, a worthy special section that the Prince George Citizen prepared asking all candidates for mayor and for council the same four questions which ranged from an open invitation to pontificate -- "Why Should Residents Vote in the November Election?" (be still my racing pulse!) to the not so vapid, indeed potentially controversial retrospective on whether candidates would have supported siting a women's rehabilitation centre near an outraged city neighbourhood. Tough and potentially damaging as a response either way risked, almost every candidate provided a reasonably clear answer. But then there was the man who opinion polls show to be ahead for mayor, Don Zurkowski answering thus:

"I was not on council at the time and did not attend the public hearing: as such I do not have all the information and will not state a position."

How very engaging Don!

Unfortunately this kind of dodgy substance-avoidance appears to be how the would-be leader likes to work. This morning the Prince George Citizen reports (and editorialized) their fruitless effort to get Zurkowski or his opponent, Lynn Hall to reveal their campauign funding sources. Zurkowski responded, to quote the report's paraphrasing, "any disclosure prior to the election would be incomplete, and so wanted to wait until the full filing was made." This filing is not due until February -- an incomprehensible flaw in its design -- and therefore we must take it on faith that nothing untoward -- such as a revelation that some of those vested interests like Enbridge have undue influence -- has transpired.

Despite having enough moolah to have a double-sided insert advertisement in the local newspaper yesterday (Nov 13), Zurkowski is mute about the source of sufficient "support" for such multi-thousand-dollar one shot ad. Even with that amount of space available to him, Zurkowski's pages gave almost no specific and substantive indication of where he would take this municipality. Other, that is, than pushing Prince George to grow its population from the current approximate 75,000 to 100,000. How? Unclear but even more important, why? Are we not living in an age when the dogma of endless growth has been amply shown to lead down a path to environmental and thereby social destruction? Read Naomi Klein's recent award winning tome, This Changes Everything and you will see but the latest of a lenghty and growing body of analyses critiquing growth as a goal in and of itself. To be spouting on about such a meaningless, unjustified target as the lead point in one's campaign reveals a candidate who ought to be an historical figure of the naive early post WW-II boom years not 2014.

How lovely it would be if his opponent, Lyn Hall could in fact lead a charge against some of the vulnerable vapidities of Zurowksi. Show same fortitude and character something that just might be needed in the coming years! But Hall says almost nothing about Northern Gateway, falls in line with his adversary when it comes to hiding important information about campaign funding and generally has put on a mutual good-ol'-boy chummy show whenever the two have -- top use a highly exaggerated phrase. "squared off" in public discussion or debates. Again the Prince Geroge Citizen commented on this pleasant jibing and camaraderie which we get here in lieu of any real choice. One of their columnists put it nicely that it was like cornflakes clashing - soggy ones, I would add.

So tomorrow, I will do what I never have never before done: oh, yes, I will go to the poll and I'll give the aforementioned would-be councillors my "X", along with some strong school board trustees who were nominated. But regretfully I must leave the circle beside our propsective mayors' names as empty as these men themselves have been in their spiels through the campaign. There is no good way to pick when it's Tweedle-Dum against Tweedle-Dee.


Not that a myriad of readers have been sitting around breathlessly waiting for the moribund Grouse to stir himself and say something but, Lyn Hall won, which brought mild grousian relief at the time, given Zurowski's slipperiness. That was in December 2014. In the years since, I feel proven wrong about the guy. He's been a solid, no-frills mayor, quietly and steadily doing what he was elected to do. And as leader of the city's finest hour (at least that I have witnessed)—the overwhelming support for our Cariboo neighbours who have had to evacuate due to wildfires this summer (2017), Lyn has been damn near Churchillian, minus the cigar.

Saturday, November 08, 2014

It Lives !!! The Grouse's Return (Again)

My alter-ego, the Grouse, had gone off into the woods after a brief return in May 2012, and seemed to have expired amidst the busy-ness of dissertation-making (of which more below). Also, it had suffered a seemingly-fatally whiff of grapeshot from the dominance of post-bloggian and more contemporary forms of online socializing and opinion-spouting. After all, when one can annoy hundreds of friends on Facebook with one's palaeolithic sentiments and tweet to many more, why spend the much greater time needed to compose and post a blog which, even at its peak, was never deluged with visitors. Fewer yet were substantive comments despite the intentionally offensive postings -- for every one of the few who took the time to tell me what an a**hole I was in a nice personal manner, there were countless more offers for organ-enlargening supplements or ostensibly buxom Belorussian pen pals.

So to repeat, like an old soldier, the Grouse did not so much die as fade, fade away. And as I sat at my predominantly dissertational desk, I ignored the plaintive death rattles of an ever-expiring gallianceous provocateur. I was sure, at last, he had gone never to return.

But then one fine day in late July of this year, I waddled to the microphone in Dayton, Ohio and was passed a scroll and duly convocated by Antioch University, a doctorate in Leadership and Change, based largely on my dissertation which, in typical grousian fashion, was narcissistically about myself, as a prototypical would-be friend to the First Nations an "empathic settler" as the title put it. For the light and disturbed sleepers among you, head on over to Antioch's e-library where you can watch a video intro to this and if really insomniacal, download and peruse the tome itself!

But, as always, I digress. Fact is that the Grouse is needed more than ever as the mass idiocy of the US mid-term elections and Canada's irreparable elevation of a mid-levl oil advocate to the Prime Minister's office -- with the consequent rubber-stamping of hideous mega-projects, well reveals. Free of the aforementioned scholarly endeavour, I have the time now to take on issues tiny and huge, spanning (as they will), matters as local as the current utter non-choice my domicile city of Prince George has between mayoralty candidates to the much-travelled but essential topic of climate change denial, in which, in a forthcoming column. I will try get my mind around why every mid-sized city like here, seems to have been allocated its own bevy of unpaid bloviating denialists.

I mean, I really get why the petroleum giants spend lavishly on creating the false sense that there is still scientific controversy about global warming. But why do retired independent duffusses sit at home with barely contained excitement and anticipation for the latest reports from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change so that they can grab their proverbial dull pencils and write angry, deconstructions of what people who know what they are really talking about say on greenhouse gloom?

Ah, but there I go giving too much away ahead of the upcoming full article on local denialists. Do stay tuned. I mean, really, friends, get ready. The ground above where we thought the Grouse was permanently interred, shudders; a familiar if partially decomposed avian visage bursts forth; it's back! It's back!

Monday, May 07, 2012

As Spring Brings Forth the Grouse

My goodness. It is almost 11 months since the Grouse pecked away at anything. One of its longest hibernations, brought on, methinks, because of how much easier and more readily accessible to my countless fans, Facebook is. When that urge comes to call attention to some egregious or just plain old dumb happening within my purview, it's all too simple to just open up Facebook and rant out a few lines to ease the stress of having heard the latest malfeasance of Harper and his claque, the Vancouver Canucks, so-called scientific experts, the endless stream of Canadian and other western pols who continue to suck up to the tyrants who run China -- or whomever else has earned my spleen for the day. But with the spring, I, like the pilgrims seeking grace in Chaucer's time, having "sleepen all the night with open eye," have had my courage pricketh-ed and now am ready, again,"to seeke strange strands... in sundry lands."
Where to begin? Where to begin? Just this morning we are waking up to the unsurprising return of the tyrant Czar Vladimir and no less bothersome, the unsurprising news that the Greek electorate have voted heavily for candidates who want to tear up IOUs which have accumulated because that same electorate has been living beyond its means. I have found it an intriguing idea which I should perhaps adopt with Revenue Canada next time they assess me back taxes: just say no to debt, tell your creditors that after careful consideration you have chosen not to pay them what you borrowed. I suspect that Germany and European banking institutions are going to be no more sympathetic to this innovative debtor stance than RevCan would be with me. Anyway, I am going to have to get warmed up and re-start (again!) the Grousings which y'all so appreciate and anticipate. Please stay tuned.

Monday, June 27, 2011

On the Lighter Side...with Beethoven

I cannot not enter a contest, especially CBC's and especially when the first prize is an all expense paid trip to my favourite Canadian city, La Grande Dame, Montreal! The network's excellent well-balanced classical request show, Tempo is the perpetrator of the latest way for me to waste my time. They have called on listeners to pen limericks about Ludwig Van Beethoven's whose 9th Symphony, comprising the ubiquitous "Ode to Joy" highlights opening night for the new home of the L'Orchestre Symphonique de Montréal. That's more or less concurrent to my own immortal beloved and me marking 18 years of marriage. So who can resist? Not me for sure.

Here then 10 entries for your possible amusement

Ludwig B___, a musician from Bonn
Would practice piano ‘til dawn
“To get the tune right
I insist on moon light!”
He declared as he stifled a yawn.

Young Ludwig composed very well
Yet when flattered by his clientele
He would often exclaim
“I deserve no great fame --
For this piece is a mere bagatelle.”

Napoleon to Ludwig once said
“Though most of great Europe I’ve led
When I sit down to play
Josephine will not stay
Sometimes even my valet has fled.”

While at work on his latest great opus
Bee-tho-ven shouted out “This is hopeless”
My “beautiful” waltz
is nothing but schmaltz
Proving I’m just a musical mopus*

*(Note: “Mopus” is an archaic expression for simpleton or ineffectual perso – see Oxford English Dictionary and usage by Johnathan Swift)

Van Beethoven’s brand new serenade
the young orchestra so badly played
But a more seasoned trio
covered it with such brio
That he said: “t’is for you gents, it’s made.”

Beethoven once said to his chef
“Great torte ! - but your viola clef
Sounds so misbegotten
Like a pate turned rotten
Looks like you, pal, not me, who’s gone deaf!”

Ludwig for his girl named Therese
Wrote a beautiful score, her to please
But she turned down his hand
For a far richer man
So he lied and said “T’was Fur Elise!”

While at work on his famous sonata
Ludwig B. polished off the dolmathas
Then that piggish ‘composa “*
Ate all the samosas
to become a persona non grata.

* to be read with an English or New England dropping of the r from composer.

Immortal beloved – how romantic!
Ludwig B. wrote some woman, so frantic.
But just who “beloved” was
Still has scholars a-buzz
as they argue their viewpoints pedantic.

Old Ludwig woke up in a sweat
‘Bout a project he’d not started yet.
Had he been far too rash
to accept advance cash?
This would truly be a Late Quartet!*

[There being a set of such quartets that the man composed in his old age and which are collectively known as the “Late Quartets”]

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

I'm Sorry - Nobody Truly Rioted

I'll keep this short because it's just an extrapolation on the immediately previous screed. I need to express bemusement bordering on amusement at the massive and ubiquitous denial about the ugly activity last week when Vancouver went down to the Bruins. I've already mentioned that the next day Lotusland bystanders, politicians, the media etc. reacted to the rioting with comments to the effect that this is not really Vancouver. That has been dealt with (see the final words of my column, "Victorious Boston...")

Many radio talk-shows later, I continued to hear similar clap-trap but then learned from no less authority than the vanquished Canuck team itself that the hooligans were not "true Canuck fans". They may have worn the blue and green and been seen doing rather fan-like things -- booing Boston's surprising finesse and unsurprising roughness, cheering the Canucks at least until the 3rd Boston goal, and then turning sullen en masse -- but, no, they weren't really fans, not "true" ones whatever that means in the luminary lingo of Luongo, manager Mike Gillis etc.

To ice the cake, now one of the do-badders, a well-heeled young fellow from Maple Ridge, has fessed up to having attempted to incinerate a cop car. Nathan Kotylak bravely came forward -- well, after photos of his deed went viral on the internet. He turns out to have been a high-achiever academically and in water polo, though, one must surmise, not actually a "true fan." But, after his very public tearful admission of his very public crime, along comes his dad, Greg, a general surgeon, and - echoes of all this massively accreting denial - asserts: "that night does not reflect his true character."

In conclusion the whole schmozzle has taken us into the far reaches of postmodernism where what is true is no longer what is true. We seem to be sliding down into a muck of Orwellian public discourse where slogans proclaim the exact opposite of reality.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Victorious Boston, Riotous Vancouver

The Boston Bruins won the Stanley Cup! I think I need to say this because, thanks to the "exuberance" of innumerable poor losers in downtown Vancouver, That hard-earned triumph had to play second fiddle to riot trash talk. In fact, the hooligans accomplished, albeit incidentally to their purposes, the feat of distracting Canadians from the real and durable story Wednesday night - towering Chara hoisting the cup and, giving credit where due, the BC fans inside, staying on and showing genuine appreciation for the guys that had just tromped their idols. But in the media hype the next day this stunning win just didn't compete with burning cop cars in the heart of the world's most self-admiring city.

So I will make a modest correction of this and devote my opening paragraphs to that Bruins' win, commenting as I did to an embittered friend who called this a victory for "thuggery", that, no, it was heart beating ego. It wasn't quite the miracle on ice as when the U.S. Olympics squad upset Russia. But, especially if you lived and listened in British Columbia these past two months of playoff hockey, you would end up almost as dumbfounded as that fabled story way back in 1980. The Cup finals were supposed to be a coronation, a royal ceremony acknowledging that the Canucks like the city they play home games in, are best in every way. Indeed, the faithful frothing fans could not have been more surprised if - say - back in April, Kate Middleton had suddenly dumped Willy at the altar and leapt into the waiting arms of Tim "The Tank" Thomas.

In fact the Bruins earned the victory the old fashioned way. They were not thugs and though they are rough-and-tumble, nothing they did in the whole series to the purportedly faster, more sophisticated Canucks, compares to the vicious high hit, away from the play, that ended both perp Canuck Aaron Rome and victim Bruin Nathan Horton's 2011 finals.It had been a homey's series 'til then - indeed the Canucks' flop at the hostile Boston Garden was one of the battery of excuses that their supporters yanked out to explain the non-sweep. Ah, but back in GM Place, the Crown Princes of Lotusland would have their day. But, by mid way through the second period, badly outplayed and out-coached, Vancouver was a wind-bag with the air leaking out fast.

And, truth be told, how could that surprise very many partisan or not? Even going into the last game, the Bruins had outscored Vancouver 19-8; had the Canucks won, they would have set, by a country kilometre, the record for the worst goals' deficit by any Stanley Cup chumpion (did I misspell that?) ever. Boston, however, kidnly spared them that ignominy.

That's when the real civic ignominy took over by the milling mob outside. Already before the glass and debris was even cleaned up Thursday, Vancouver's spin doctors were predictably spewing out the "bad apple" theory story with many an indignant local adding to this over and over ad nauseum, to the effect that these aren't real Canucks fans, they were just a few bad and heavily marinaded twits; hell, they were probably mostly from Surrey!

Well, yes, in most any show of public violence whether by sports fans or pro-democracy demonstrators from Bangkok to Tunis, it is always a minority who go the furthest and start burning or throwing stuff. But let's not kid ourselves: there a lot of hoodlums on the loose.Of course, they had been stirred up to a fever pitch and milling about for days loudly insisting "it's our turn." The media had been trumpeting this for weeks; being a CBC listener I got a daily overdose locally, provincially and even nationally, as citizens were enjoined to support "Canada's team!" Rather presciently, the owner of the Canucks, Francesco Aquilini, even issued "a call to arms" in cajoling nationwide support for his team before Wednesday's match.

Like spoiled children who really thought it was "their turn", but who got queue-jumped, a rage of denied entitlement swept through that mob, a gigantic throng that had been encouraged to come on down for the party, while fore-notice was also trumpeted that the liquor stores would be closing early - like saying "Hey, stock up ahead!". Many injuries, arrests and millions of property damage resulted as did the predictable indignant proclamations "This is not the real Vancouver!",

And, sure, it was laudable that many locals turned out to help clean up and give with assistance to the police and business owners who got caught in whirlwinds of drink-stupefied disbelief and sore loser-ship.

But please: let's not pretend that this ugliness was just a few drunken idiots some of whom even came prepared to do damage. This, folks, was just as much the real Vancouver as all those mountains and early blossoms its inhabitants are so fond of condescendingly pointing out to the rest of us.

Monday, April 04, 2011

Smart is as Smart Does - Rex, Iggy & the Other Guys

As usual our revered Newfie broadcaster Rex Murphy has started out the current Canadian federal election, by clearing away every worthy, possible discussion topic so he and other at least temporarily parochial commentators can have the venerable Cross Country Check-Up all to themselves for their latest fix of Can-Pol junk. For those who may not know this program airs every Sunday, live across Canada. The topics range from the good fun of summer book selections to the most serious and deadly of world issues. And Rex, who uniquely combines a homey squid-jiggin' dialect with Rhodes scholar intellectual agility, is never at a loss for words or facts. Definitely worth a listen for anyone not yet familiar.

Well, usually worth a listen except for these periodic Canadian federal elections when his addiction to the small talk and smaller issues of our frozen Dominion swamp his good judgment. I refer primarily to the obsessive, repetitive insistence on covering the election despite ample more important issues. This week for example, it might have been rather important to consider the future of Western aid and presence in Afghanistan where mobs murdered selfless UN workers in response - get this! - in protest of a wing-nut Florida preacher burning a copy of the Koran. A lot of Canadians, including yours truly, might have wished to discuss these atrocities and what it says about putting our youth's lives on the line and our economy in debt to spend so thankless a decade among the Afghans. But no, we had to suffer through 2 hours of hearing about Elizabeth May being shut out of a televised debate or, the pros and cons of Harper's unfounded rants about hidden agendas and coalitions. (For podcast of this, the April 3 episode of Cross Country Check-up, click here)

And as if the choice of topic was not bad enough, Rex Murphy somehow got himself into saying some very strange things about Michael Ignatieff, the Liberal leader. Kicking off the program with a discussion with Rob Russo, Ottawa Bureau Chief of the Canadian Press, these two luminaries hastily reached concurrence that "Stephen Harper is very very smart" and that, on the other hand, (I directly quote from the podcast) for Michael Ignatieff,

Russo" "...the expectations are so low that if he'd put subject and predicate together, put one foot in front of the other he would have exceeded those expectations."

Rex:"Very true...I subscribe to the analysis that you've just laid out, I have no dissension on it all"

Now let me get this straight: Stephen Harper, Master's in Economics from the University of Calgary whose pre-political work experience was following the well-oiled (pun intentional!) path of his Dad at Exxon's Canadian branch plant, Imperial Oil -- is the "very, very smart" one of our principal combatants for Prime Minister.

And the inarticulate bumbling one to be facetiously congratulated, as Rex would later put "because he put two words together that had a sequence that is allowed by logic" - that's Ignatieff?
You know, the guy who holds a doctorate in history from Harvard and held teaching posts over the years at the University of British Columbia, Harvard, Cambridge, Oxford, the University of California, the University of London and the London School of Economics. Yup, that Ignatieff, the former student and biographer of Isaiah Berlin, author of 17 fiction and non-fiction books, one of which, Virtual War: Kosovo and Beyond, won the George Orwell Prize while another, Scar Tissue, got shortlisted for the Mann-Booker. Poor tongue-tied Iggy was also a BBC broadcaster for a while, writing and hosting the award-winning series Blood and Belonging: Journeys into the New Nationalism, which probably helped land him on Prospect Magazine's list of the world's top 100 public intellectuals (Very, very smart Harper has yet to appear, nor have Murphy and Russo). Oh, I almost forgot: he also somehow managed to handle a few subjects and predicates in a logical-enough order to be Massey Lecture laureate on Rex's own home network, CBC, in 2000.

Mind you, Rex ain't no slouch either on the brain side. He was a Rhodes Scholar at Ignatieff's Oxford - never completing a degree, mind you, but that hasn't impeded his stringing together those circumlocutory sentences that we all so love, has it?