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Porches…

February 27, 2017

My grandfather’s lament was that Nature no longer cared about the fate of man. That It no longer interfered – to guide or to oppose.

He said he could still hear it whispering, but (as he smoked from his pipe) h  said he no longer had the language to speak or to listen. He said that it seemed like everyone today only wanted a piece of the end of the world. Glory, glory, hallelujah! And all that other bullshit, he would say.

I was twelve years old in those days when we would sometimes sit on the porch together. I was usually too busy chasing my brother around the yard, or playing baseball, or climbing the tree in my grandfather’s yard, to bother just sitting on the porch. It was so boring!

But then something started to happen to me around the age of 12. I’d catch glimpses of his face as I came out of the house, or when I raced around the corner of the house, as I sat on a limb in the tree and watched him smoke his pipe through the leaves.

He started emerging out of the hazy form of my formless grandfather, to take on a person-hood that I had not seen before.

One day it just seemed to dawn on me that my grandfather had brown’ish skin – why hadn’t I noticed this earlier?

One day I realized that he was the same man who was also the soldier in the WWII picture that hung on the wall in my mother’s bedroom.

It was much later before I knew my grandfather was 1/2 Mohawk. When I was a boy it was still considered abhorrent to openly admit that there was “Indian” blood in the family.

Now I watch an Ancestry commercial with my mother and people are scrambling, hoping, to find any trace of Indigenous blood in the old family tree. My 76-year-old mother wants to know when “Indians became cool?”

I mumble some stuff about post-colonial hipster neo-colonial access to previously colonized peoples, but she stops listening and goes back to watching her curling match.

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 Excerpts from “Letter to Silicone Valley”, by Kate Crawford, visiting professor at MIT, and NYU, and principal researcher at Microsoft Research. (Harper’s Magazine, Feb 2017)

“In 1880, after watching a train conductor punch tickets, Herman Hollerith, a young employee of the U.S. Census Bureau, was inspired to design a punch-card system to catalogue human traits.

The Hollerith Machine was used in the 1890 census to tabulate markers such as race, literacy level, gender, and country of origin. During the 1930’s, the Third Reich used the same system, under the direction of the German subsidiary of International Business Machines (IBM), to identify Jews and other ethnic groups. Thomas J. Watson, IBM’s first president, received a medal from Hitler for his services…Within in the decade, IBM served as the information subcontractor for the U.S. government’s Japanese-internment camps…there was both profit and glory to be had in providing the computational services for rounding up the state’s undesirables…

Ginni Rometty, the current CEO of IBM, was the first to make her position clear, in an open letter in which she congratulated Trump on his victory and offered to “work together to achieve prosperity.”

Peter Thiel, the chairman of Palantir and a board member at Facebook, offered advice, as well as his own employee’s time, to assist the president-elect on defense…Not everyone has been so quick to cooperate, though. Jack Dorsey, the CEO of Twitter – who was not invited to the White House – swore to use his position to speak truth to power and to work for the common good…

It is difficult to take a public stand, and it can come at a cost. yet the decisions made by individual engineers and programmers matter. An IBM employee has already quit in response to the company’s support of the Trump administration.

And some tech workers have signed a public pledge to refuse to build tools that could be used to assist mass deportation.

If this gesture seems small, it’s worth remembering that back in the 1940’s, when everything looked hopeless, the Resistance leader Rene Carmille sabotaged the Hollerith infrastructure in occupied France by leaving the eleventh column of the punch cards, which indicated Jewish identity, blank.

Carmille has been described as the first ethical hacker.

When the unreasonable demands come, the demands that would put activists, lawyers, journalists, and entire communities at risk, resist wherever you can…Provide end-to-end encryption in as many of your services as possible…

History also keeps a file.

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Intro to the poem Remainers, by Graham Frost. (Harper’s Magazine, Feb. 2017)

When I went out to kill myself

I thought only the world

could possibly be more thorough-

hear me out miracle,

my first first sentence in a year-

and soon thereafter felt

not loved exactly, but dreamt of,

and called up afternoons

that in their moments had meaning.

 

 

From the Book of Memories…

February 22, 2017

_DSC6027There is an ancient wisdom teaching, from the very earliest days when Taoism and Buddhism were virtually the same thing in China (2nd and 3rd century BC).

The teachings goes like this:

Two monks are walking down the road. It is late-winter, there is much snow around them, it is sunny, and the first melt of the season is on. The first monk is in his 60’s. The second, is little more than 21.

IMG_0655I am the monkey that happened to be sitting up in the tree, when they walked by underneath.

I didn’t catch all of their chattering, but this is what I heard:

“What is more sacred, the real or the remembered? 

I love walking on an old country road during the spring melt. Entire river systems, from the mountain top, to the floodplanes, all playing themselves out before our eyes. I see all-time and all-things. Lau Tzu, and all of the other Masters, loved to come here to meditate, and to play.

_DSC7165This road ends at a T. Shall we go North, or South? Take your pick. There are a 1/2 dozen roads like this, criss-crossing the Highlands.

They say that it takes new folks about a year to finally know their way amongst them, without getting lost.

DSCF0050Poleless[1]But you didn’t answer my question. Which one is more sacred? The real or the remembered?

Iconography can be difficult to explain, without sounding ridiculous.

A 1/2 moon behind the white birch, the sun blazing over a snow-covered field.

What else can I say, or show you?”

Lin Tzu 213BC

 

 

When it smells like bullshit…

February 18, 2017

My daughter is at the University of Waterloo, and so periodically we drive west to take her out for lunch, buy her some groceries, and see how things are going with her.

It’s easy to forget how much of a car culture we live in until you hit the 401, and drive the length of the GTA, from Oshawa to Waterloo. Depending on your point of view it is either a nightmare or a mystical experience to enter that first glimpse of the 3pm rush-hour madness that rises around you like a Tsunami. Soon it is stop-and-go traffic; brake lights disappear into the horizon. From Ajax to Guelph to Hamilton, and all points in between.

In those moments I have no problem understanding the concept of paying a carbon tax. We need to be accountable for our sins!

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Bow Lake – November, 2015

My 81-year-old uncle’s father started keeping track of the dates when the ice first went on, and off, of Bow Lake (on 28S). So we know that relative to 100 years ago, the ice now covers the lake about 3 weeks later than it used to, and is off about 3 weeks earlier as well. That’s 6 weeks of winter that doesn’t exist in Bancroft anymore.

Any of you who grew up here in the ’50’s, ’60’s, and ’70’s, know that it was quite usual to have a whole month in late-January and early-February when the overnight temperature fell to -40. (Do you remember the Christmas of 1980, when it dropped to -54C?)

I don’t think we’ve had even one night this winter at -30.

I read that when the red-breasted robin was first spotted migrating into the far north of Canada (a decade ago), the Inuit had no word for it, as they had never seen a robin before.

When do we start paying for our wasteful lifestyles?

But Kathleen Wynn’s new carbon tax reeks of disingenuousness.

Like Trudeau, who came in on a youthful tide of environmental political responsibility and then immediately approved three new pipelines, Wynn loves to speak out of both sides of her mouth at the same time.

She’s disingenuous because while she taxes us for our so-called bad behavior, the Liberals also approve a multitude of new highways in and around the GTA. The cost is in the billions.

As we drive to Waterloo we see that there are three new multi-million dollar interchanges being built on the 401, between Ajax and Pickering. New multi-lane highways that cut north through the cornfields and into the new suburbs to come.

We are slowed by construction west of the city where the 401 is being expanded. Wynn announced a few weeks ago that the Don Valley Parkway is also having more lanes added to it. As is the Gardner Expressway.

Highway expansion is happening all over the GTA as politicians give the developers what they want: more highways for more suburban development.

The great urban planner Jane Jacobs noted decades ago that more highways do not mean less congested traffic. More highways do not increase the flow of traffic.

More highways simply means there will be more cars on the road. Traffic commute-times remain the same, and only get worse with time as more and more cars pour out of the ever-increasing  suburbs.

Wynn’s smart enough to have read Jane Jacobs. She also read the university studies and urban planning reports supporting new tolls on the freeways coming into Toronto. She knows that the City of Toronto is spending 20% of its entire budget trying to keep its massively overburdened public transit system up and running.

She knows that if we were actually going to get serious about dealing with carbon, the province would be pouring $1 billion a year into Toronto’s public transit system. (Rather than Toronto remaining the only city in North America who has to pay for its own subway system.)

Like all Liberal politicians Wynn thinks that she can buy votes from both sides of the fence. Add a carbon tax to appease the environmentalist Left, and build more freeways to win the vote in the conservative 905 suburbs.

What, in fact, she and Trudeau are doing though, is just buying more voter apathy as young voters realize the political system is rigged against them.

There is hardly a young person under 30 who isn’t half-scared witless that the environment may collapse on their head sometime in their lifetime.

Who wants to be around to see what happens when the Yangzi River in China and the Ganges River in India both dry up this century? Miami City Council has been told that their city only has another 15-20 years before it is submerged and uninhabitable. New York might have 50 years left. San Francisco has already banned any new development on its waterfront. Bangladesh now builds its schools on house boats.

The synonyms for disingenuous are:  insincere, dishonest, untruthful, deceitful, and duplicitous.

Take your pick.

They all apply to Kathleen Wynn and her new carbon tax.

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

 

Sunday morning walks…

February 12, 2017

It’s been one of the cloudiest winters on record in eastern Ontario…but it hasn’t been entirely bad…

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Death by gentrification…

February 11, 2017

Patient: Downtown Toronto (Beaches to Bloor West Village)

Diagnosis: Terminal Gentrification

 

Death by Gentrification – 2017

Jilly’s

Honest Ed’s

Come as You Are

Brunswick House

Dangerous Dan’s

 

Endangered Species List:

Kensington Market

Little India

Parkdale

Regent Park

Yonge Street

All cafe patios (city is proposing a 1,000% increase in patio taxes)

 

Area of Concern:

Chinatown

 

Anniversaries:

Yorkdale (50 yrs)

The Beaches (40 yrs)

High Park/Bloor West Village (30 yrs)

Queen St. West (25 yrs)

King Street West (20 yrs)

Yonge/Eglington (10 yrs)

Leslieville (5 yrs)

the lying lies of politicians…

February 9, 2017

often, other people says things much better than I do…

http://www.cbc.ca/news/thenational/viewpoint-trudeau-s-indigenous-betrayal-1.3971671

Trump, baseball, and the last farmer standing…

February 8, 2017

I’m in Toronto for the weekend and the free subway newspaper has a profile on the last standing farmer working within Toronto’s city limits. (https://www.thestar.com/news/gta/2017/02/06/two-centuries-and-counting-for-torontos-last-farming-family.html)

He is a man named Dale. He has 350 acres in Scarborough. The land is worth millions to developers. He prefers to grow crops. The farm has been in the family since 1805.

The last farmer.

We have given up on these men at our own peril. Our faith in an international – global – food system absolute.

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With Trump now in charge, and with a Presidential approval rating among Republicans that soars somewhere into the clouds, we sleep a little less easily, for we are now just imagining what even a little fascism can do.

I think very soon, we are going to find ourselves to be in the same position as this year’s Toronto Blue Jays – not the best team in baseball, though not the poorest either – not as talented as last season’s team (which was less talented then the year before that) – with some explosive starters – but with no relievers and middling bench strength.

We have forgotten that good pitching always beats good hitting.

I think baseball was so popular in the heartland of America, where the last farmers live, because farmers much more so understand the strategy of good pitching. That one’s real strength is knowing there is a good bullpen behind you.

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 The poor people of rural Ontario, people living in places the Toronto Star once called the Ozarks of Ontario, have been protesting the high cost of electricity (known in Ontario as Hydro One) ever since Hydro service was semi-privatized a couple of years ago and prices started to jump.

Thousands of rural people suddenly found themselves disconnected.

But “rural Ontario” may as well be in the Appalachians as far as politicians and the media care.

Which made yesterday’s front page story on the high cost of Hydro in the Toronto Star that much more ironic.

“It’s crazy,” cottage owner says of shocking hydro delivery charge.” (The Star’s headline read.)

You see, “rural Ontario” is not known to urbanites as rural Ontario – a place where people live and work and have families, grow old and die. Rural Ontario has been transformed into “cottage country” by city-centered people.

Cottage Country: the place where you have a 2,500 sq ft cottage on a lake, where the sun shines and the children swim, where you drink a beer and your wife has a cranberry cocktail while you watch the latest Netflix offering on the flat screen, while a loon calls in the night.

The front page story was about a computer programmer from Toronto who had to pay a $82 delivery charge to get his $1 of electricity to his unused cottage in the Muskokas.

To add another layer of irony to the story, Premier Wynn, who sold off part of Hydro One and who’s polling numbers are the worst of any Premier in Canada, after months of selling to the public the positivities of privatization, now stands faux outraged at the podium and tries to echo the voice of the old NDP Party.

“Every month people in our community are struggling to cover the total cost on their bills,” she said.

Whatever Kathleen.

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Wouldn’t it be great if we could send politicians like Wynn, and Trudeau back to whatever hole they came from. At least with Harper we knew what we were getting, there was no bullshit.

They think that just because they support Gay Pride, anti-racism, or multiculturalism, that is all that is required to make them fit to lead.

They do whatever the Bankers tell them to do, because, well they are the so-called experts on such things.

Our farm dog can smell the scent of wolves long before he watches as they cross the back of our fields at night.

Well, we have all caught a whiff of the lies that are daily sold to us as our own good.

The privatization of essential government services, Trudeau’s support of pipelines and Bill C-51.

It’s really starting to stink.

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Trump outed the courts on the weekend as the supporters of terrorism, in a chess game that has America drifting ever closer to the end of the idea that we should be ruled by laws and constitutions, and towards the petty dictates of a Dictator.

The fascist strategy always involves the removal of the courts as the law of the land. When the people have collectively agreed to uphold Constitutions, Bill of Rights, the United Nation’s Proclamation on Human Rights, and that this is supposed to be the first and solemn oath – then the courts are the first that have to go.

With Sunday’s federal appeals court decision to stay Trump’s Islamophobic anti-immigration act, they have effectively set up a show down with Trump’s White House.

Any Muslim terrorist attack within the USA (real or manufactured) will now be blamed on the Courts. American deaths will be laid at their feet.

When that happens, Trump will walk through the doors to their chambers and throw the judges to the streets to be mauled by the masses.

How long, do you think, it will take a pharmaceutical company to figure out a pill for our impending collective freak-out?

(And don’t think Canadians are exempt. A Federal Court recently ruled that the federal government has been illegally spying on Canadians – at least for the last 10 years. And for the second time in the last three years CSIS has violated its legal responsibilities by lying to the courts. The Liberal government refuses to rule out changing the laws to make these crimes legal.)