Sunday 9 October 2011


irritable, bad-tempered, angry; also, ailing, injured, disabled. (OED, Australian & New Zealand slang.)
When his mum went crook, and swore, he was too aware of teeth, the rotting brown of nastiness. (Patrick White, The Burnt Ones.)

Up, Down, Appendices, Postscript.

It has been a while since I read The Burnt Ones. Sometime in the 70's or 80's - I remember being put off by the homosexuality. Time to read it again.

Patrick White's anti-elect.

And a bit of some doggerel (also found via the OED citations):
An' there I'm standin' like a gawky lout,
An' wonders wot 'e's goin' crook about,
Wiv 'arf a mind to crack 'im where 'e stands.
Mom was 'crook', in both senses (and more) with her Alzheimer's; but it was infected teeth she died of in the end.

(And yes, I b'lieve we'll have a bit of muzak here tonight, from the 2005 Cream reunion: Crossroads.

¡Ya basta!Two things happened up there on Parliament Hill a few weeks ago ... well, more than two, but among them these:

1. Irrelevant: We climbed over the fence. We were polite and deferential. After a long day in the sun we permitted ourselves to be shooed away like flies.

The sunburn is now flaking onto my keyboard here. I went to the demonstration and all I got was this ... dandruff.


2. Timid & Cowardly: Whenever I see an RCMP there is one question in my mind - Why didn't you speak up when they killed Robert Dziekanski? But I am always afraid to ask it. I am not as afraid of any reponse the Mountie might have as I am afraid of myself. (In Ottawa I was also under the constraint of approximate & zero-tolereance pacifism but that's just a lame excuse.)

Even so, I was working myself up to it as we waited there, behind the fence. And then they sent us off home ... and away we went.

Class dismissed!

Minority government in Ontario. Good. That's the best you can hope for from an election these days.

My riding is Beaches-East York: (details here)
73,832 voters   
52% turnout
   NDP 24% =
   Lib 19% +
   PC   7% -
   Grn  1% -
72,170 voters   
55% turnout
   NDP 24% -
   Lib 14% -
   PC   9% -
   Grn  7% +
69,080 voters   
60% turnout
   NDP 31% +
   Lib 15% +
   PC  12% -
   Grn  3% +
As I mentioned last week, my old friend Crowbird says, "Let's see ... 42% of the people aren't voting and aren't paying attention to elections - we only have 58% more to convince that there's nothing happening here."

Less than half of 'em left to convince as of today, in Ontario at least - the provincial average turn-out was 49%.

Argyle Sweater.There was a time, not so long ago, early 60's (well after women got the vote) when election turnout was pushing 80% in k-k-Canada. Lester Pearson, John Diefenbaker, Tommy Douglas: these were the guys on the go at that time - and they pretty well cover the spectrum eh?

So what happened do you think?

I voted. If that makes me a dinosaur - well, call me a dinosaur then. I would rather be that kind than Stephen Harper's kind. My son, on the other hand, and all of his friends (he tells me) did not vote. And before you jump to conclusions, remember that he came all the way to Ottawa with no sleep to give those Ottawa dinosaurs a message (which message, the fucking maggots did not even deign to receive).

Toxic k-k-Canada.TOXIC?

Some scientist thinks he has figgured out that Alzheimer's is catching. Maybe so, maybe not; but waddabout all these new-age hippies? Is negativity catching? Or just among those who fear despair?

I am still plumbing depths, any sort of epiphany is possible - but my observation & interrim conclusion is that despair won't stop you unless you let it. No virtue implied in this y'unnerstan' - just digging out of the hole I happen to be down in, one shovelful at a time.

I despair daily, yet somehow in the last months I have dragged my gouty old ass to Washington & Ottawa to have it arrested. And that despite 'encouragement' from the sweet mavens of correctitude to STFU, and being shunned by the cognoscenti and the connoisseurs of green. QED.

Scott Vaughan.Scott Vaughan.I am even (still) able to recognize hopeful signs when they appear.

A-and ... there are hopeful signs (two at once in this case):

here (thanks to the Canadian Climate Action Network CAN), and,


here (thanks to JP).

Let's hear it for the Environment Commissioner, Scott Vaughan.

And more: Paul Krugman put his thinking-cap on a few days ago and came up with this: Confronting the Malefactors. Now, if he would just stop using the 'G'-word in any kind of association with 'remedy' or 'solution' he might really start making sense. (Growth, that is.)

¡Ya basta!And the best for last: Despite interest by labour unions and the odd politician trying to hijack the cause (see here), Occupy Wall Street carries on.

This comes dangerously close to hijacking as well it seems to me, being a curmudgeon, not trusting Christians ... and so on ...
Naomi Klein spoke in Liberty Square a few days ago. You can see the video (25 min.) and begin to appreciate how different communication can be when you really change the paradigm; or read the text of her speech: The fight against climate change is down to us – the 99%.

Another good video here (6 min.).

Occupy Toronto.What about Occupy Toronto?

There seems to be some confusion: the original site has disappeared (?); another one,, has appeared (?); and yet another, Operation Maple (?); and they seem to be picking up the slack - but they do not have the same flavour (?); and this one looks right - but there has been no traffic there for several days (?) and you have to sign up for Tumblr to use it (?).
Sunday 11-10-09 evening - OK. Sorted: (Not!) Looks like the site is (though I can't get the 'Register' feature to work). So, down to King & York on the 15th (no time given yet), and Occupy Toronto.
Monday 11-10-10 - Will-o'-the-wisp: It's gone again. All roads lead to the Tumblr page ... whatever.

Tuesday 11-10-11 - Up & down like the proverbial drawers:, and a General Assembly at OISE Thursday October 13, 2011 at 5 PM (map).

Hi. I'm a technologist - and I'm here to help you: "Bandwidth Limit Exceeded."    D'oh?!

And after that (if there is an 'after that') back to Washington (still looking to find the good in Bill McKibben) on November 6th to help levitate the White House.

Dan Wasserman.

1. Friends of the Earth: First Release 'Internal State Department docs regarding the Keystone XL pipeline raise concerns, new questions about interactions with TransCanada lobbyist Paul Elliott' September 2011.


2. Washington Post 'TransCanada pipeline lobbyist works all the angles with former colleagues' September 22 2011.


3. Friends of the Earth: Second Release 'New FOIA [Freedom of Information Act] docs reveal smoking gun regarding State Department bias' October 3 2011.


4. New York Times 'Pipeline Review Is Faced With Question of Conflict' October 8 2011.


The language in the NYT article says it all - not the content exactly, but the language. You can read it and see what I mean, or not.

André Dahmer, Malvados.André Dahmer, Malvados.I too want to work at something that makes the world a better place - but I need cash for the rent.

I wonder about Paul Elliott and Marja Verloop and Terry Cunha, and the rest of the TransCanada functionaries & sleveens. There don't seem to be any pictures of them on-line. They are able to discern where they think their interest lies and exercise personal prudence over medium-term privacy - exemplary ... I guess.

Chris Christie & Barack Obama.The picture of Chris Christie & Barack Obama has nothing much to do with this. Barack's smile seems forced - maybe something to do with the myth of Robert Johnson making a bargain with the devil. (Or an echo of Oscar Wilde's The Picture of Dorian Gray.)

Liverwort by Robin Young.
Liverwort by Robin Young.
I thought Barack Obama himself had the discretion to sign or not sign the Keystone XL permit. Now it appears to be more in the bailiwick of Hillary Clinton & the State Department. I don't know.

Even so and even now he could tell it like it is and make the change he promised. Live up to his Nobel prize.

So, to Washington on November 6th to levitate the White House ... "Oh Alabama, you got the rest of the Union to help you along. What's going wrong?"

Quaking aspen leaf (Populus tremuloides) 4x by Benjamin Blonder & David Elliott of the UofA in Tucson.
Quaking aspen leaf (Populus tremuloides) 4x by Benjamin Blonder & David Elliott of the UofA in Tucson.
They posted some pictures at

Looking at them I found myself musing around the real forces of biology - 'red in tooth and claw'. I will just post two of them (both plants, only slightly red - and that through stain not proclivity): a magnification of a Liverwort by Robin Young at UBC - because Liverworts sometimes propagate by 'death from behind', a process which fascinates me; and a Quaking Aspen leaf magnified 4x by Benjamin Blonder & David Elliott.

I keep this photograph of a jaguar/onça by Araquém Alcântara as my 'desktop' to remind myself constantly of just how mother nature sets things up. Not so murky after all, crystal clear in fact. (Eh?)

Or ... we could trace notions of vegetable love from, say, Andrew Marvell sometime in the mid-1600's ("My vegetable love should grow vaster than empires, and more slow.") through D.H. Lawrence in The Rainbow in 1915 (and Women In Love in 1920) ... and beyond.

A grandson is talking with his grandfather who has recently moved into an old-age home. Eventually the conversation turns to sex. "Do you still have a sex life Grandad?" And the grandfather replies, "Yes I do, son; things change and slow down as you grow older, but I still sometimes have Coyote love."

"What's that?" the boy asks.

"Coyote love," answers the old man, "is when you just lay around the hole and howl."

Girl, Thierry Le Gouès.(Here's something like the original from Robert Johnson and one from Jimi ... if you're up for it. ... and just one more, Eric Clapton.

              "You can run, you can run ..."
              [but you can't hide.])

May the Forza Gnocca smile upon you, today and every day.

Be well.


A few cartoons for y'all. Bob says, "Sometimes I think there are no words but these to tell what's true." But he was talking about the dreams of his lover, and these are more like nightmares. All the more reason to want a laugh is my guess.

Tony Auth - 'Occupy Wall Street' indeed! Don't they know who we are!? ...Brian Gable - Go long in truncheons.Joe Heller - I'm confused ... What's a Ponzi scheme again?Glenn McCoy - Lord, if you think we're not doing a good job, please give us a sign.Glenn McCoy - I'll tell you my plan next week.
Glenn McCoy - Don't follow the money.Roberto Devido - China finally decides to secure its 1.173 trillion holdings of U.S. debt.Rudy Park - Want fries with your terror?Tom Toles - If only there were an alternative!Tom Toles - Just asking: How's that been workin' out for ya?

(From: Tony Auth at NYT, Brian Gable at G&M, Joe Heller, Glenn McCoy, Glenn McCoy, Glenn McCoy, Roberto Devido / Politicomix, Darrin Bell and Theron Heir / Rudy Park, Tom Toles at NYT, Tom Toles at NYT)

Camila Vallejo Dowling:

Camila Vallejo.Camila Vallejo.Camila Vallejo.Camila Vallejo.A bit of background.

The Guardian article I saw first: Camila Vallejo – Latin America's 23-year-old new revolutionary folk hero, Jonathan Franklin, Saturday 8 October 2011.

Her blog: Camila Vallejo Dowling (in Spanish), and via Google Translate (just slightly better than nothing).   23 years old - dig it.


1. Confronting the Malefactors, Paul Krugman, October 6 2011.


1. The fight against climate change is down to us – the 99%, Naomi Klein, October 6 2011.


Confronting the Malefactors, Paul Krugman, October 6 2011.

There’s something happening here. What it is ain’t exactly clear, but we may, at long last, be seeing the rise of a popular movement that, unlike the Tea Party, is angry at the right people.
Fred R. Conrad/The New York Times

The protesters are getting more attention and expanding outside New York. What are they doing right, and what are they missing?

When the Occupy Wall Street protests began three weeks ago, most news organizations were derisive if they deigned to mention the events at all. For example, nine days into the protests, National Public Radio had provided no coverage whatsoever.

It is, therefore, a testament to the passion of those involved that the protests not only continued but grew, eventually becoming too big to ignore. With unions and a growing number of Democrats now expressing at least qualified support for the protesters, Occupy Wall Street is starting to look like an important event that might even eventually be seen as a turning point.

What can we say about the protests? First things first: The protesters’ indictment of Wall Street as a destructive force, economically and politically, is completely right.

A weary cynicism, a belief that justice will never get served, has taken over much of our political debate — and, yes, I myself have sometimes succumbed. In the process, it has been easy to forget just how outrageous the story of our economic woes really is. So, in case you’ve forgotten, it was a play in three acts.

In the first act, bankers took advantage of deregulation to run wild (and pay themselves princely sums), inflating huge bubbles through reckless lending. In the second act, the bubbles burst — but bankers were bailed out by taxpayers, with remarkably few strings attached, even as ordinary workers continued to suffer the consequences of the bankers’ sins. And, in the third act, bankers showed their gratitude by turning on the people who had saved them, throwing their support — and the wealth they still possessed thanks to the bailouts — behind politicians who promised to keep their taxes low and dismantle the mild regulations erected in the aftermath of the crisis.

Given this history, how can you not applaud the protesters for finally taking a stand?

Now, it’s true that some of the protesters are oddly dressed or have silly-sounding slogans, which is inevitable given the open character of the events. But so what? I, at least, am a lot more offended by the sight of exquisitely tailored plutocrats, who owe their continued wealth to government guarantees, whining that President Obama has said mean things about them than I am by the sight of ragtag young people denouncing consumerism.

Bear in mind, too, that experience has made it painfully clear that men in suits not only don’t have any monopoly on wisdom, they have very little wisdom to offer. When talking heads on, say, CNBC mock the protesters as unserious, remember how many serious people assured us that there was no housing bubble, that Alan Greenspan was an oracle and that budget deficits would send interest rates soaring.

A better critique of the protests is the absence of specific policy demands. It would probably be helpful if protesters could agree on at least a few main policy changes they would like to see enacted. But we shouldn’t make too much of the lack of specifics. It’s clear what kinds of things the Occupy Wall Street demonstrators want, and it’s really the job of policy intellectuals and politicians to fill in the details.

Rich Yeselson, a veteran organizer and historian of social movements, has suggested that debt relief for working Americans become a central plank of the protests. I’ll second that, because such relief, in addition to serving economic justice, could do a lot to help the economy recover. I’d suggest that protesters also demand infrastructure investment — not more tax cuts — to help create jobs. Neither proposal is going to become law in the current political climate, but the whole point of the protests is to change that political climate.

And there are real political opportunities here. Not, of course, for today’s Republicans, who instinctively side with those Theodore Roosevelt-dubbed “malefactors of great wealth.” Mitt Romney, for example — who, by the way, probably pays less of his income in taxes than many middle-class Americans — was quick to condemn the protests as “class warfare.”

But Democrats are being given what amounts to a second chance. The Obama administration squandered a lot of potential good will early on by adopting banker-friendly policies that failed to deliver economic recovery even as bankers repaid the favor by turning on the president. Now, however, Mr. Obama’s party has a chance for a do-over. All it has to do is take these protests as seriously as they deserve to be taken.

And if the protests goad some politicians into doing what they should have been doing all along, Occupy Wall Street will have been a smashing success.

The fight against climate change is down to us – the 99%, Naomi Klein, October 6 2011.

Our movement differs from previous anti-globalisation protests. To change society's values we must stay together for years.

If there is one thing I know, it's that the 1% loves a crisis. When people are panicked and desperate, that is the ideal time to push through their wishlist of pro-corporate policies: privatising education and social security, slashing public services, getting rid of the last constraints on corporate power. Amidst the economic crisis, this is happening the world over.

There is only one thing that can block this tactic, and fortunately, it's a very big thing: the 99%. And that 99% is taking to the streets from Madison to Madrid to say: "No. We will not pay for your crisis."

That slogan began in Italy in 2008. It ricocheted to Greece and France and Ireland and finally it has made its way to the square mile where the crisis began.

Many people have drawn parallels between Occupy Wall Street and the so-called anti-globalisation protests that came to world attention in Seattle in 1999. That was the last time a global, youth-led, decentralised movement took direct aim at corporate power. And I am proud to have been part of what we called "the movement of movements".

But there are important differences too. We chose summits as our targets: the World Trade Organisation, the IMF, the G8. Summits are transient, they only last a week. That made us transient too. And in the frenzy of hyper-patriotism and militarism that followed 9/11, it was easy to sweep us away completely, at least in North America.

Occupy Wall Street, on the other hand, has chosen a fixed target. And no end date. This is wise. Only when you stay put can you grow roots. This is crucial. It is a fact of the information age that too many movements spring up like beautiful flowers but quickly die off. It's because they don't have roots. And they don't have long term plans for how they are going to sustain themselves. So when storms come, they get washed away.

Being horizontal and deeply democratic is wonderful. These principles are compatible with the hard work of building structures and institutions that are sturdy enough to weather the storms ahead. I have great faith that this will happen.

Something else this movement is doing right: You have committed yourselves to non-violence. You have refused to give the media the images of broken windows and street fights it craves so desperately. And that tremendous discipline has meant that, again and again, the story has been the disgraceful and unprovoked police brutality.

But the biggest difference a decade makes is that in 1999, we were taking on capitalism at the peak of a frenzied economic boom. Unemployment was low, stock portfolios were bulging. The media were drunk on easy money. It was all about start-ups, not shut-downs.

We pointed out that the deregulation behind the frenzy came at a price. It was damaging to labour standards. It was damaging to environmental standards. Corporations were becoming more powerful than governments and that was damaging to our democracies. But to be honest with you, while the good times rolled, taking on an economic system based on greed was a tough sell, at least in rich countries.

Ten years later, it seems as if there aren't any more rich countries. Just a whole lot of rich people. People who got rich looting the public wealth and exhausting natural resources around the world.

The point is, today everyone can see that the system is deeply unjust and careening out of control. Unfettered greed has trashed the global economy. And we are trashing the natural world. We are overfishing our oceans, polluting our water with fracking and deepwater drilling, turning to the dirtiest forms of energy on the planet, like the Alberta tar sands. The atmosphere can't absorb the amount of carbon we are putting into it, creating dangerous warming. The new normal is serial disasters: economic and ecological.

These are the facts on the ground. They are so blatant, so obvious, that it is a lot easier to connect with the public than it was in 1999, and to build the movement quickly.

We all know, or at least sense, that the world is upside down: we act as if there is no end to what is actually finite: fossil fuels and the atmospheric space to absorb their emissions. And we act as if there are strict and immovable limits to what is actually bountiful: the financial resources to build the kind of society we need.

The task of our time is to turn this round: to challenge this false scarcity. To insist that we can afford to build a decent, inclusive society – while at the same time respect the real limits to what the earth can take.

What climate change means is that we have to do this on a deadline. This time our movement cannot get distracted, divided, burned out or swept away by events. This time we have to succeed. And I'm not talking about regulating the banks and increasing taxes on the rich, though that's important.

I am talking about changing the underlying values that govern our society. That is hard to fit into a single media-friendly demand, and it's also hard to figure out how to do it. But it is no less urgent for being difficult.That is what I see happening in this square. In the way you are feeding each other, keeping each other warm, sharing information freely and providing health care, meditation classes and empowerment training. My favorite sign here says "I care about you". In a culture that trains people to avoid each other's gaze, to say "Let them die," that is a deeply radical statement.

We have picked a fight with the most powerful economic and political forces on the planet. That's frightening. And as this movement grows from strength to strength, it will get more frightening. Always be aware that there will be a temptation to shift to smaller targets – like, say, the person next to you. Don't give into the temptation. This time, let's treat each other as if we plan to work side by side in struggle for many, many years to come. Because the task before us will demand nothing less.

Let's treat this beautiful movement as if it is the most important thing in the world. Because it is.

It really is.


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