Should Remembrance Day be a Canadian Holiday?

My “let’s have a parade” colleague wants to make Remembrance Day a national holiday. He suspects that bigger, more overt displays on Remembrance Day might intensify our appreciation of the sacrifices made by those who went before.

But would it? A national Remembrance Day holiday might actually diminish our appreciation, or worse, change it.

To justify a national holiday we would need more and bigger national ceremonies. We’d need more fly pasts, more flags, and more pomp and circumstance. We’d likely no longer be able to avoid the kind of hyperbole of heroism and romanticising of war we hear emanating from south of us.  We might unwittingly turn Remembrance Day into a celebration.

And Canadians don’t celebrate Remembrance Day, we observe it.

So I hope we don’t change Remembrance Day – because it’s a day Canadians really get right.

The first, mid-October poppies on lapels; silent, symbols which multiply as Nov. 11 approaches; like those in Flanders field;  such a powerful statement.

The placing of wreaths at cenotaphs, the twenty-one gun salute in Ottawa, the moment of silence on the eleventh hour of the eleventh month; it’s so solemn and poignant.

Thirteen years of Remembrance Day assemblies in our schools have helped each of us accept the solemnity of the day, allowing Remembrance Day to strike a balance between our deep appreciation for military contribution and our strong abhorrence of war.

Nov. 11th was declared a “day of remembrance” in1931. It was the very fact that it wasn’t declared a national holiday which forced Canadians to observe the day together in workplaces, offices and schools and develop our respectful observance of the day.

If we declare Remembrance Day a national holiday, Canadians would have time to organize Remembrance Day hockey tournaments, annual fishing trips, or shopping outings across the line.  No one is against hockey tournaments or fishing weekends, but I’m not sure that a part of the value of Remembrance Day should be to provide time off for recreational opportunities.

The way we observe Remembrance Day doesn’t require intensifying or improvement. The solemn balance Canadians have achieved in our observance of Remembrance Day is maintained by deep tradition, tradition that expresses the respectful remembrance of Canadians with perfect pitch and volume.

More isn’t better and louder isn’t stronger.

 

 

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FSA Tests are a Political Football

AS I SEE IT – Jim Nelson

So the annual hand wringing over the Foundation Skills Assessments tests begins again: Why are teachers so dead against them? Is it just that awful B.C.T.F. being radical again?

Should we keep our children from writing thePhoto tests?

The trouble with the FSA is not the tests but how they are used.

F.S.A. exams are the B.C. banner of the accountability movement in education, a movement that has ruined American public schools over the last 20 years and yet is catching on in B.C. despite its disastrous effect on U.S. schools.

The accountability movement started in the U.S. and was born of the American tendency to analyze, regulate and measure things.

A good example of this is the development of American football.

Now, I enjoy an NFL game as much as much as the next person but a look at American football’s metamorphosis from rugby is instructive in understanding the development of the accountability movement in education.

Americans didn’t play rugby for long; rather, they quickly felt the need to change it, to regulate and delineate the hell out of it. They divided the field into one-yard segments with 200 hash marks, added five officials, helmets and padding, statistics, instant replay, score clocks and down chains. They broke the game into quarters. Time-outs, huddles, motion rules, penalties — with designated yards for designated offences — all marched off precisely. There are signals for everything, a ritualized kicking game and 300-page playbooks with X’s and O’s and arrows.

Instead of rugby, with one ball, one referee, an emphasis on spontaneity and creativity, and an almost chivalrous adherence to fair play, our southern cousins ended up with football, a testament to rules, measures, specialization and intervention. I reiterate that I love watching NFL football.

But back to the analogy.

Unfortunately, the same cultural compulsion that changed rugby into American football proved unhelpful when applied to education.

Because education is more like rugby than football. It is interactive, free-flowing, spontaneous and creative. It’s not easily quantifiable, pre-packaged or measured. It is too complex to be judged by a standardized measure, no matter how strong the cultural imperative may be to do so.

How can a standardized test measure the “A-ha!” moment when a student suddenly appreciates the brilliance of Shakespeare? How can it measure the ability to co-operate or persevere or to help another student?

Learning takes place through relationships with peers and teachers. It can only be measured somewhat accurately using an aggregation of many and varied assessments, both objective and anecdotal.

We all wish it was simpler, that we could judge how students are doing with a simple urine sample or a multiple-guess test.

My opinion, although I’m a bit radical, is that an even more accurate indication of how well your child is learning is whether they are happy at school, whether they feel safe, are confident and engaged at school. If they “like” the teacher, have friends, feel good about their studies and enjoy school, they are learning just fine.

The B.C.T.F. is dead right on this issue. Although the union brings up red herrings such as how the poor children suffer undue stress when asked to write tests or how the poor teachers have to mark them, or the time it takes out of the curriculum or that the reason they are no good is because of demographic differences, yada yada yada. These are peripheral reasons for objecting to the FSA.

Teachers and the B.C.T.F. know viscerally that trying to legitimize standardized measures is harmful to our schools and, thus, our children’s learning. They are the only ones standing against the accountability movement.

As a former school principal in the Tri-Cities, I applaud this stance. Were my children in Grade 7, I would encourage them to not write the F.S.A. exams. Had I a child in Grade 4, I would send him to school and quietly but firmly instruct the school that he is not to write the F.S.A. exams and that perhaps half an hour in the gymnasium or on the playing field might be a good alternative.

Jim Nelson is a retired Tri-City teacher and Principal.

And so now District #43 teachers and Adminstrators – sing along.

Following is “Turfin’ FSA,” sung to the tune of the Beach Boys’ “Surfin’ U.S.A.-by Jim Nelson and Dennis Secret:

Turfin’ F.S.A

If everybody had a notion, ’round District 43,

We’d call BS on the testing and we’d go on a spree,

We’ll throw ‘em all in the dumpster, autonomy has its day,

Tell the super we’re turfin’, turfin’ FSA

We’re giving testing the boot,

’Cause it just don’t compute.

And then we’ll set our sights on, the Fraser Institute.

Every district in B.C. will see us leadin’ the way,

Tell the super we’re turfin’, turfin’ FSA

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“Gas Prices Up This Long Weekend? Oh, it’s the Eclipse”

 

 

$1.37 per litre for gas this long weekend. Oil company apologists have absolutely abrogated any responsibility for this, outright gouging of Vancouver drivers.

The price of gas has plummeted from $100.00 plus in 2010 to a little more than $45.000 in 2017.

Gas prices in Vancouver at the peak of oil prices (when oil was $110.00 per barrel) was $1.50 per litre. The price of oil has dropped more than 50%, while the price of gas at the pump has dropped 13%.

Now that oil prices are down more than 50% of 2010 levels, one would think gas at the pump would be about $.75 per litre or so.

But clearly, we don’t understand the sophisticated pressures on oil companies.

I see a hurriedly called brainstorming session of gas suppliers to come up with more creative excuses for their long weekend cash grab.

  • We’ve used the Cherry Point refinery’s having a particularly difficult maintenance period – can’t use that old chestnut.
  • We’ve blamed unrest in Venezuela – a couple of rebels feeling a bit lathered. But we kind of like these latest rebels ( they are against a left wing government), and that was a weak excuse anyway.
  • We’ve carefully explained that Vancouver’s oil comes predominantly from the U.S. ,so the demand is greater, except in Abbotsford and Silverdale who can quite easily sell gas at 15 cents cheaper to compete with their local American gas competition. No one believes that one anymore.
  • We’ve explained ad nauseum about the added gas tax we pay ( damn guvmn’t) but that’s dangerous because if anyone actually looks at the gas tax paid they would see that Vancouverites pay 11 cents more than other BC jurisdictions, while our gas prices are 30 or 40 cents higher, and even more on long weekends. They might also notice that gas taxes aren’t moving up on long weekends. We’d better gloss over that excuse.
  • We’ve tried patiently explaining that sometimes we buy too much inventory at a higher price and so prices can’t go down until that inventory is use up. Unfortunately, we never buy too much when the price is lower so any excuse for an increase is immediately reflected in the price at the pump- so , people are becoming wary of that line.
  • We’ve used the lower Canadian dollar excuse haven’t we? But that doesn’t explain why it’s just Vancouver we choose to punish each long weekend.

“ Come on people, think outside the box…”

We need a new excuse – a beauty, one we haven’t trotted out before, one that will explain why perennially low oil prices are never reflected in Vancouver prices and why we jack up prices at the pump every long weekend as high as we can crank them.

“I know”, says a small, ambitious voice in the background.
” We can say that the upcoming eclipse is causing an increased demand for gas, and that’s why the price went up ten cents on this particular long weekend!”

“Surely they’re not that stupid, are they?”

Well, if they swallowed the Cherry Point Maintenance excuse, they’ll believe anything”

“OK. Brilliant” says the brainstorming circle.

“Right, Sally, you work up some nonsense on the eclipse – once in a lifetime , people will be driving everywhere, demand up, yada yada. Throw in a mention of high taxes and we’ll get someone who is an “industry expert” to trot it out ASAP. And we’ll get that reporter, what’s her name again? She’ll make it sound objective.

“Don’t forget everybody, the excuse this time is :“

“Eclipse causing high demand, high gas taxes because of Mayor Moonbeam, and it’s too complicated to expect prices at the pump to match the international price of a barrel of oil “ (that is, unless the price of oil goes up, in which case there’s an absolute relationship between oil prices and prices at the pump)”

“OK. Get out there and crank up those gas prices – we’ve only got another 10 years or so to gouge the bastards – oh and remember, we’re not colluding”

 

 

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Hamburg’s Weekly Magazine “Der Spiegel” Rips Donald Trump

Here’s the pertinent bits of Der Spiegel’s Trump indictment,which is both bacterial and viral!

 

“The U.S. elected a laughing stock to the presidency and has now made itself dependent on a joke of a man. The country is, as David Brooks wrote recently in the New York Times, dependent on a child. The Trump administration has no foreign policy because Trump has consistently promised American withdrawal while invoking America’s strength. He has promised both no wars and more wars. He makes decisions according to his mood, with no strategic coherence or tactical logic. Moscow and Beijing are laughing at America. Elsewhere, people are worried.

“Donald Trump is not fit to be president of the United States. He does not possess the requisite intellect and does not understand the significance of the office he holds nor the tasks associated with it. He doesn’t read. He doesn’t bother to peruse important files and intelligence reports and knows little about the issues that he has identified as his priorities. His decisions are capricious and they are delivered in the form of tyrannical decrees.

“He is a man free of morals. As has been demonstrated hundreds of times, he is a liar, a racist and a cheat. I feel ashamed to use these words, as sharp and loud as they are. But if they apply to anyone, they apply to Trump. And one of the media’s tasks is to continue telling things as they are: Trump has to be removed from the White House. Quickly. He is a danger to the world.

“The first is Trump’s resignation, which won’t happen. The second is that Republicans in the House and Senate support impeachment, which would be justified by the president’s proven obstruction of justice, but won’t happen because of the Republicans’ thirst for power, which they won’t willingly give up. The third possible solution is the invocation of the 25th Amendment, which would require the cabinet to declare Trump unfit to discharge the powers of the presidency. That isn’t particularly likely either. Fourth: The Democrats get ready to fight and win back majorities in the House and Senate in midterm elections, which are 18 months away, before they then pursue option two, impeachment.”

“Fifth: the international community wakes up and finds a way to circumvent the White House and free itself of its dependence on the U.S. Unlike the preceding four options, the fifth doesn’t directly solve the Trump problem, but it is nevertheless necessary – and possible.

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Four Reasons Why Losing the Courtenay/Comox Recount Might Help the N.D.P.

 

If the BC(neo)Libs overturn the result in Courtenay /Comox, the parliament seat count would be 44- 40- 3.

That looks like a majority, but another election would soon result, as the BC(neo)Libs have few policies even close to palatable to the Greens or the NDP and their vote lead would be so scant. But regardless of the outcome of the recount there will be another election soon.

Although the recount result might have little legislative significance, it could have considerable political significance that could ultimately help the N.D.P.

 

1) It may keep Christy Clark as B.C.(neo)Lib Leader
Looking past Christy Clark is not something the B.C. voter is used to, but it’s not difficult to see the vultures gathering.

Kevin Falcon and perhaps even James Moore are circling the carrion of her BC(neo)Lib leadership. Either of them could resurrect BC(neo)Libs ,with Ms.Clark’s myriad controversies and missteps purged by her downfall.

If Ms. Clark can claim “A majority government”, she can hang on to the Premiership and party leadership for the brief period it will take for the government to collapse. If she leads the government into the next election, the electoral message may likely be “perhaps you didn’t hear us on May 9th
2) It would make the Greens position even more stark.

Were the seat count 44- 40 -3, once a speaker was appointed, the voting MLA count would effectively be 43-40-3 – a deadlock should the Greens vote with the N.D.P. True, the speaker can vote in a “tie” situation, but repeated tie breaking votes would soon rob the speaker of any appearance of parliamentary objectivity.
With a virtual tie in the house, the government could pass any legislation not voted against by all three Green MLAs. making Greens appear responsible for the passage of any regressive legislation, even if it’s a trade off situation.

While N.D.P. opposition is expected, the Greens would only have the power to allow passage of bills or force a tie breaking vote, a weaker and more stark position than the balance of power situation they are currently in.

3)It would likely strengthen John Horgan’s Leadership

Were a minority B.C.(neo)Lib government to limp along, John Horgan would get media coverage that he didn’t get during the election. The more people see of John Horgan the more they like him. A Christy Clark “majority” government would give him more media exposure and more opportunity to explain his party’s platform.

The N.D.P. would be expected to oppose the BC(neo)Lib legislation and would not be blamed for their imminent downfall – the three Greens would wear that,as the party that could prop up the government but didn’t.
Mr.Horgan would be able to both court and criticize the Green Party for dithering or vacillating on marginally acceptable legislation.

 

4) It would likely reinforce the anger of the B.C. electorate towards Christy Clark.

The overwhelming message of the May 9th election was “we’ve had it with Christy Clark, her dishonesty, her scandals, and her pay for play government.”

If she can limp along with a “majority” government, an angry electorate will speak even more loudly in the next election, likely identifying the N.D.P as the real opposition to smiling Christy ,especially given that Weaver has been courting the B.C.(neo)Libs so openly of late.

 

 

 

Of course this is all speculation. We’ll have to wait to see what happens in the imminent recounts. Yes, yes, it will “be interesting”.

But one thing is sure. For the N.D.P, facing a B.C. (neo) Lib. Party led by Christy Clark is politically and strategically a better option  than having a minority government fall in weeks and facing a B.C.(neo)Lib party purged of all sins by dumping Christy Clark for the people’s saviour, Kevin Falcon or James Moore.

 

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Looks As If Greens are Feeling Premier Clark’s Love

It appears as if  Andrew Weaver’s Greens will likely go for BC(neo)Libs.They’ll not likely “join” them, just agree to a couple of policy changes in return for supporting Premier Clark’s revised “Green” budget.
Greens seem more angry with the NDP for suggesting that the splitting of May 9th’s  election vote would hand the election to the B.C.(neo)Libs than they are with the sixteen years of odious government rejected by 60% of British Columbian voters.

Andrew Weaver has bit of a Napoleonic streak , and would love to be a Cabinet Minister with an extension of the media love and policy clout he’s currently enjoying.

There are lots of advantages to this agreement/arrangement between Greens and BC(neo)Libs.

Premier Clark knows that without Green support, Kevin Falcon or James Moore will have her job quicker’n you can say “Leadership review.” She has to get Greens on side or she’s done, as Premier and party leader.

She’ll sell the farm to hold onto power – she’s in a very weak bargaining position.

And what do the Greens want from her.?

Party Status? I’m sure Premier Clark has “already giffen ze order…” This can’t even count as a demand.

Big money out of politics? That’s easy if you have a huge war chest left over and corporations and unions can easily turn big corporate donations and much smaller union donations into myriad “personal ” donations – no biggy.

Proportional representation? Gee, that assures a three party system in B.C.,  with two progressive party’s splitting the “hell no , not Christy” vote. Done deal.

Kinder Morgan? Environmentalists will likely stop Kinder Morgan anyway -if she can just stall a bit, this could be done.

Premier Clark can get the Green’s “big three” demands in the bag without any financial budget effect and with little fuss.

So Mr. Weaver can easily extort his big three;  big money out of politics ,a promise of a “re- look” at pipelines,and a referendum on proportional representation. Premier Clark gets  off cheaply –  the deal is done.

But more important,and the real motivator for Mr Weaver’s BC(neo)Lib sellout, will be the fawning street cred he’ll get as a “negotiator.” Just think…

” Mr. Weaver got more out of Premier Clark than the NDP could in 20 years – all because he’s reasonable and not combative and ill tempered like the NDP’s John Horgan.

“Weaver Catches More Political Flies with Honey…”

The script reads beautifully – the media will report on it daily for months and the “Weaver’s a brilliant negotiator” narrative will join, perhaps even supplant , “fast ferries” and “the 90’s” as the go to anti NDP mantra in B.C’s right wing election lexicon.

Both BC(neo)Libs and Greens will be able to point to what’s possible if one collaborates on issues rather than just saying no all the time, like the NDP does.

If ( when) this happens, Weaver will have cynically chosen personal and party ambition over his progressive agenda,not one plank of which matches the BC(neo)Lib agenda, the first plank of which is to “control spending.”

But we likely won’t notice this and it won’t be reported on.

What remains to be seen is whether the sixty percent BC(neo)Lib  rejectors, in BC will buy this  Macbeth -like move by Mr. Weaver or choke on the photographs of Premier Clark welcoming him into the fold.

Personally ,I’m preparing a friend to perform the Heimlich maneuver on me when I see the smiling pair of them shaking  hands collaboratively..

* Author’s note.
My apologies for the use of the term “BC(neo)Lib. I can’t bring myself to call our provincial government party “Liberal”, as I feel they would have to lurch to the political left to even  be considered “conservative”.

I used “Socred” for a while but many, quite correctly, pointed out that there are no longer Socreds out there and that I shouldn’t tempt fate by ever mentioning the organization again. Hence, I settled on B.C.(neo)Lib. as a more accurate description of the party.

Should you be so inclined, I urge you to use the term too –  liberally. 
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So, in the U.S., Who’s Left to Call B.S.?

Can Americans not see what’s happening to their democracy?

The U.S., by ceding control of its institutions to their President, is seemingly enthusiastically moving towards becoming a third world junta.

With the summary firing of F.B.I. Director James Comey, President Donald Trump further consolidated his power, by reigning in one of the last non-partisan checks and balances to administrative excess – an independent intelligence community.

We’re lucky there’s no Reichstag to burn down.

If  Trump’s campaign  colluded with Russia to win the U.S. election, as the schoolyard bully would say, “whatya gonna do about it…?”

Indeed, with the F.B.I. effectively silenced, who or what is left to stop Donald Trump’s excesses?

Donald Trump controls the Executive Branch of government,including the power of executive order, policy veto, control of foreign policy and the military,as well as the bully pulpit.

Donald Trump controls the Legislative branch of government; the House of Representatives and the Senate, the country’s law making bodies.

Donald Trump controls the judiciary branch, having appointed a conservative to complete the right wing majority. While it’s true that some local and regional judges can and have slowed some arbitrary fiats, they can’t stop them, with the right dominated Supreme Court as the final arbiter.

Donald Trump controls the media. His rhetoric, with complicit right wing outlets and shock jocks, has greatly reduced the power of a  major check and balance to executive power. The media is now seen by the masses as an enemy of the people. Gallup says only 32% of Americans have “some or great” trust in the American media and 47% believe that the media makes up “fake news” to make trump look bad.

Donald Trump controls the military, not just because he is Commander in Chief. He has solidified his control by filling his Cabinet with retired generals to shape and support foreign policy without pesky congressional oversight. His determination to increase military spending buys the allegiance of the U.S. military but also elevates his right to fire should he be questioned or disobeyed.

Donald Trump controls Wall Street. Promises of corporate tax cuts, eliminating regulation, a turn towards protectionism, and a willingness to use his office to punish or reward individual businesses or industries will keep corporate America enthusiastically in line.

Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin may well control the world. Many posit, and the facts are beginning to substantiate , that Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin are fashioning an Ike-like worldwide military industrial complex- an oligarchy to control the world.

If world domination is a bit far fetched for you,at least consider this:

With  F.B.I Difector Janes Comey’s firing, Donald Trump now  controls the Intelligence Agencies of the U.S., and will  have appointed Trumpsters to head National Intelligence, N.S.A., C.I.A., and now the F.B.I.

So with Trump having control of the Executive, Legislative, and Judicial branches of the US government, the military, the N.S.A., C.I.A. and F.B.I., who is there left to indict him or even investigate him should he commit indictable crime?

Given all this, what’s left of the checks and balances the U.S. fathers fashioned to curb executive (Presidential) power?

Any young Woodwards or Bernsteins out there, who progressively unearth the full scope of Presidential transgressions will be easily shouted down.

Congress? The US Congress has shown itself to be spectacularly blind to Presidential transgression – willing to sacrifice country for party and personal political expedience.

So; who or what is left to throw the President in the slammer? Or out of office?
Even if Robert Mueller supplies incontrovertible evidence of collusion, obstruction of justice, contravened emollients clauses, sexual abuse practices, or tax fraud, will Americans accept it, believe it, or care?

Given that Donald Trump controls all U.S. power sources and their checks and balances, who’s left to call B.S.?

I’m not confident there is anything that can stop this President should he choose to become the Supreme Leader of an oligarchic, military, theocracy.

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