Tuesday, 1 November 2011


Yes, this is my kind of story.

Even though it is not about Bears.

This time, it is about Elk. (Some of my best friends are Elk.)

Oh, and make sure you've got your sound turned on, so you can hear the Elk conversation (and other things).

This really Bears noting.

Tuesday, 20 September 2011

EMPLOYMENT ISN'T WORKING (Nor is Unemployment)

Now, here is a challenging thought.

In the United States, 64 per cent of people living in poverty have full-time jobs.

I was a bit hard-put to believe this. But apparently, it's correct. And in some cases, it's a couple of part-time jobs, which may add up to more than a full-time job.

Moreover, I know people in that category.

Now, more news. Among young families (meaning families under 30), 37 per cent are living in"economic distress." Meaning "poverty." That's up from about 25 per cent through the first decade of this century. For elderly families the poverty rate is about 5.7 per cent.

Back in the 1970s, the poverty rate for younger families was only slightly higher for families headed by someone aged 65 or older.

But now, having six young families in poverty compared to one elderly family in poverty, is the new norm. It means a huge social change.

First, there was a major shift back in the 1980s, with more money allocated to older citizens. Then, with welfare reform in the 1990s, there was less money to help poor families, which often have only one parent-wage earner (usually a woman). It's those latter families, and high-school dropouts, for whom there are no jobs, even for those who want to work.

The proverbial pigeons have come home to roost. And they're creating a mess, as pigeons usually do.

The change emphasizes the class distinctions (some say "class warfare") in the U.S.

Until meaningful and sustainable employment can be found for a lot of Americans, many will be locked in poverty. And when people are locked in poverty, they cannot spend money on houses, appliances, cars, and the like. That is spending the economy needs to see in order for real economic grown to take place.

"Buddy, can you spare me a job?"

Note: These are American figures, so this is not directly applicable to Canada. But I wonder if the numbers would be significantly different in the "true north strong and free."

Tuesday, 13 September 2011


I haven't written anything here, but I have three items related to 9/11 on my Chrome on the Range blog. If you haven't checked my "Chrome" blog, I would encourage you to do so. That's my main blog. 
(Those items begin here.)

Monday, 29 August 2011


A beautiful Memorial Service for Jack Layton was held on Saturday in Toronto. I saw most of it on television. (It was broadcast live, then re-broadcast later in the day.)

Family and friends were on hand, as were political rivals like Prime Minister Stephen Harper. So were thousands of ordinary people — people like you and me.

I've included some of the details of the service so you can get a sense of what happened. There are also some video and still pictures.

Though I never had the privilege of meeting him, I followed along with his life and work. He truly was a prince of a man, so dedicated was he to others.

I'll conclude with the final paragraph of his last letter, written to Canadians while on his death bed.

My friends, love is better than anger. Hope is better than fear. Optimism is better than despair. So let us be loving, hopeful and optimistic. And we’ll change the world.

Thursday, 25 August 2011


This past Monday, we learned of the death of Jack Layton. Mr. Layton was the head of Canada's New Democratic Party. He was also the Leader of Her Majesty's Loyal Opposition in the House of Comons.

I intuitively posted about Mr. Layton's death on my Chrome on the Range blog. But I thought I should add a note here as well.

A state funeral is planned for Saturday afternoon in Toronto, beginning at 2:00 p.m. (Eastern time).

Sunday, 21 August 2011


I don't know if I'm getting sillier as I age, but I've really come to almost to loathe television.

We get it here, I think, mainly because of programs which would be of interest to our grandchildren. Or so we tell ourselves. They don't have television at home. It does teach them, and us, some new things.

But really.

Back in January, Maria (at cats, crafts and penguins) turned a delightful phrase, describing television as "endless commercials interrupted by bad shows." My heart instinctively said, "Yes!"

The thing about television is that it's a one way communication. Unless you yell at it when someone says something stupid. Which means Bear is yelling at the television quite frequently, when he watches it. I don't consider that to be a useful form of communication. Yelling at the tv makes as much impact on the whole television businesses as ants make on dry concrete. And writing to broadcasters only invokes a stale, tired, meaningless "thank you for your comments" letter. To which one is inclined to say, "Bah! Humbug!"

Aside from a few cooking shows which my beloved J sometimes watches, sometimes the weather channel, and occasionally the news, we hardly watch the tv. I mean, what is worth watching? Except when one is too tired to read, but not quite ready for bed. (In which case, almost anything is watchable, unless it produces nightmares after the fact.)

I'm a firm believer in the potential of the medium. Particularly to educate us, to bring us things that challenge our thinking or encourage our values. It brings one "up close and personal" when there is some breaking news. Or a Royal Wedding. Or a state funeral. But even those things tend to be overdone, sometimes. Though they are about the only true "reality tv," more or less

So, some questions.
• How much do you watch tv?
• What kinds of things do you watch?
• Are you satisfied with the quality of the programming you receive?

Friday, 19 August 2011


"First, we traded wisdom for knowledge, then we traded knowledge for information." ~ Anon.

That's how we got to the "information age."

And now, as Da Blog Fodder has pointed out, we've exchanged information for data.

Sigh! When will this ever end?

Monday, 15 August 2011


Yup. Bear's blog is going in for a re-make, re-do re- um, well, whatever. (Actually, I've already started; not sure what things are gonna look like when I get finished.)

Thoughts would be appreciated.

Bear is not a Boar (or is it bore?); freshness can be exhilarating. Emphasis on "can be."

End of message.

Saturday, 6 August 2011


While American stock markets are down, they are not alone. Canadian markets are down, too, following the American lead. To put it simply, I'm losing my retirement savings, along with a lot of Americans.

The current American difficulties are certainly not President Obama's fault. He inherited a huge mess from the Republicans, particularly Bush the Younger (meaning Dick Cheeney). The Republicans were committed to increasing spending while not increasing taxes; they still hold that kind of approach. That is simply living in a fool's paradise. If a government doesn't have the tax money, it can never repay its debts, and the nation is eventually strangled, economically, and then socially.

People are getting edgy, not just about the debt problem in America, but the debt problem in Europe as well.

Within the European Union, five countries on the edge of default: Greece, Portugal, Ireland, Spain and Italy. It is noteworthy that Greece, even with it's austerity measures passed, is still a concern. Many key leaders now fear that Greece may not have done enough. Iceland is still in trouble. Even Britain is having difficulties; continuing difficulties.

Nobody in Europe seems to have a handle on just how bad things could be over there, or if the current "fixes" will really fix anything.

So this isn't just an American problem. It's a problem of lavish spending through programs which were not set up in a sustainable manner, in many countries.

And with the loss of jobs in America, largely due to outsourcing, the world continuing to see the emergence of a new phenomenon. Incomes in other countries, such as India and China, are starting to rise, particularly in urban setting. The emerging nations of Asia are well along the path towards having economies as strong as the United States.' Some of the emerging nations in Africa are moving up as well, but they're still well behind the Asian nations.

What will happen depends on the speculators and traders, who effectively control the stock markets. I believe we are going to see a second dip of recession, or, at the very least, a very long-term recovery. Canada, while burdened in the 2008 recession, has strong banking regulations, which helped blunt the blow. Yet our unemployment rate is just over seven per cent, down from almost nine per cent in 2010. America's unemployment rate is just over nine per cent. It was above ten per cent a while ago, nearly double the post-World-War-Two average of 5.7 per cent.

I don't know where this is going to end. But we "ordinary people" in North America are going to see a lot more problems before real stability returns.

So, for the foreseeable future, I expect most of us will continue to be lumped in the group of "not amused."

Friday, 5 August 2011


The US Congress seems to have settled its debt ceiling problem. For now. But this is just the beginning of bigger problems.

The Representatives and Senators may feel they've done their bit for their friends (oops; I mean for their country). But how do the people of the country feel about the government of the people, by the rich, for the rich, and other political nonsense?

As the title says, not thrilled. Not by a long shot.

"How bad was the response?" you ask.

In a survey of Americans after the political brouhaha in the Capital, the people of the country have given Congress an 18 per cent approval rating. Only 18 percent. Meaning that 82 per cent were somewhere between "very displeased" and "as mad as hell, and I'm not going to take this any more!"

All this in the New York Times of August 4th.

So, the yaddering about the national debt level, which almost tipped the country into fiscal default, has given Congress the lowest approval rating on record. In light of the continuing recession, a lot of people are saying that job creation should be the priority. But that would have increased the debt, not reduced it.

And if the polling done for the Times is right, more than four people out of five who were surveyed thought that "debate" (a polite term for the "unfriendly verbal engagement") was more about trying to develop some kind of political advantage than about doing what the country really needed. And about three-quarters of those interviewed felt the "debate" had hurt the image of America around the world.

That, I guess, is the expense of "politicking." Of making sure your party "wins," whatever the outcome. Though I can hardly see how anyone could win anything meaningful in this situation.

And it showed how much trouble the Republican party will have with it's Tea Party set. Same for the Congress, overall.

There have been two major financial responses.

First, the Dow Jones has reported a sharp decline — basically meaning that many companies are worth a lot less. As are many people's stock portfolios. It's a Bear market. Over which this Bear has no control.

Second, Standard & Poor’s (the credit-rating agency) removed the US federal government from its list of risk-free borrowers. To put it in other terms, American bonds are a long way from being junk, but they are heading in that direction. S&P made the move because of its worry about the size of the government's long-term debt. Congress cut that debt by about $2.1 trillion; S&P would have preferred a decrease of about $4 trillion.

So, can you say "double-dip recession"? Sure you can.

And, while America has focused on its debt reduction debate, other factors have made the world economy even worse. I'll deal with those tomorrow.

Tuesday, 2 August 2011

MISCELLANEOUS INFORMATION (More news than fits the print)

Well, the United States government managed to get the federal debt ceiling raised. But, I'm still wondering about it.
1. How is the government going to get enough money to pay its bills in the long term?
2. How will this development effect someone with little money? (I ask that because a person living in Georgia, and making minimum wage at a full-time job, earns about $11,000 a year. I'm sure some people make that in a week, or less.)
Interesting: I saw President Obama on television, talking about this "manufactured crisis." This almost-disaster, that didn't need to happen, and sets a difficult tone for future days. Sadly.

In the midst of the fray, Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Arizona) returned to the House for the first time in many months, and cast her vote on the budget plan. This, after being shot in the head last year. She gave no advanced notice of her return. But she was greeted warmly by other members of the House, from "both sides of the aisle."
An amazing recovery she has made! With help from a lot of wonderful and talented doctors, and nurses, and technicians, and, . . .
I wonder if that person in Georgia, earning $11,000 a year, would get the same treatment for a gun shot in the head.

The weather today started out sunny and fair. Not a cloud in the sky. Then, at supper time, dark clouds rolled in. We were promised thunder showers all night, and more rain tomorrow.
About an hour after that, the sky was bright, with only a few fluffy clouds.
Which proves that, each day, all we get is a 100 per cent chance of weather.
Better than previous, though. On this day in 2002, the high temperature was zero. Or 32°F, if that' how you measure things. We Canadians can be cool customers, even in the midst of summer.

Ann Marie (as in The Rev. Ann Marie) is the priest at an Anglican (Episcopal) congregation which I attend from time to time. (It's not really where I belong, so to speak; it is a good place to be.)  The gospel text for last Sunday came from Matthew's gospel, where the writer shared the story of Jesus feeding five thousand men, plus women and kids. Ann Marie spoke of abundance that we have, and our need to share that, in simple but significant ways. This, in a very working-class neighbourhood on the traditionally poorer side of River City.
Earlier in the week, I had been thinking about abundance, too. In relation to a book on Celtic Christianity by J. Philip Newell, where he was touching on "the fecundity of God."
I haven't got my head wrapped around those two elements, yet. But I understand, intuitively, they are inter-related, in a very important way. 
So my "Woke up Sunday Morning. . . ." post is going to have to wait a while.

And, that's the news.

OH, WAIT — this is the wrong day at this blog. You see what happens when they throw a holiday into the week, just to confuse Bear? Bear gets confused. Very, confused.

Friday, 29 July 2011


"What Bears Noting?" asked Bear.

Well, a guy named Bonehair (or something like that) got his buddies together and ran something through a House, that was designed to upset and frustrate the President, and a whole lot of American people. Mr. Bonehair couldn't even get all his buddies on side with it, but whipped enough to get whatever through. (Not a good situation for him in the long term, though.)

Then the Senator people started looking at what had been dragged through, and in. They thought it was kinda odd, like a

Dead skunk in the middle of the road
Stinkin' to high Heaven.

So they decided to leave Mr. Bonehair's stuff alone, and get on with something called a debt ceiling. (That's when you plaster your worthless stocks and bonds all over the ceiling, I think.)

Now, you would wonder why a Canadian would be worried about the drama, drama, drama in the US Congress.

Well, think about being something the size of a Beaver, that's sleeping beside, say, something the size of an Elephant. Every time the Elephant rolls over, the Beaver gets bounced around. And when the Elephant gets a cold, the Beaver starts sneezing.

Americans are Canada's main trading partners, and vice versa. If the American economy gets unsettled by something some people are doing in the USA, we Beaver-people get upset. When American stock markets get the shivers and shakes, Canadian markets start looking for a warm sweater.

That's why something big in US of America Bears Noting up in Canada.

And, that's the news.

~ 30 ~

Tuesday, 26 July 2011


One just never knows what is going to happen next.

I hadn't planned to say more about poverty this soon, but the following story was too good, meaning too bad, to pass up.

A report by the Salvation Army shows that myths about poverty are rampant in Canada. Myths are rampant.

I find that incredibly sad. I actually thought Canadians were better informed than that. I guess I am wrong.

More than half of Canadians think a family of four can get by on $30,000 a year, or less. (That's a bit less than £20,000.) A similar number of Canadians believe that if poor people really want to work, "they can always find a job."

I can't believe that. Has nobody heard that unemployment in Canada is up at nine per cent?

Other "delights" in the Salvation Army's report:
• 43 per cent of Canadians agree that "a good work ethic is all you need to escape poverty,"
• 41 per cent believe the poor would "take advantage" of any assistance given to them and "do nothing."
• 23 per cent say poor people are in that position because they're lazy,
• 28 per cent say the poor have "lower moral values."

And so it goes. Myths.

An Army spokesman provided a valuable insight. "I don't think Canadians are mean-spirited. I don't think they are not compassionate," says Andrew Burditt. "Sometimes those of us who don't have problems are far enough removed from the struggles of everyday life that it's too easy for us to say, 'Just get a job.'" I understand that all too well — how easy it is to blame the victim. I think it's time for us to do a collective "reality check."

The Salvation Army says about one Canadian in eleven (9 per cent) is living in poverty. I can well believe that. If anything, I'd say that's a bit low. Certainly it would vary from region to region.

In the meantime, the lives of good Canadians are bedevilled by myths.

Sunday, 24 July 2011


Lost or stolen or strayed,
One big, friendly, old Bear,
Seems to have been mislaid.
Last seen wandering vaguely
Quite of his own accord,
All around the south side of town,
Forty Shillings reward.
(with apologies to A. A. Milne)

Of course the British don't use Shillings any more; it's simply Pounds and Pence. Nonetheless, forty Shillings (which sounds like a lot initially) is actually two Pounds Sterling. (I remember that from a long time ago; don't ask why.) That's CAD$3.10 today.

From which you might assume that Canadian Bears come pretty cheap. Especially those who are wandering about vaguely, instead of working diligently at their computers to meet a deadline.

Oh, but the indignity of it all!

Tuesday, 19 July 2011


"If you think the cost of education is high, think about the cost of ignorance." ~ Anon.

A recent report says that poverty in British Columbia costs the government $8.1 to $9.2 billion a year. It also says reducing poverty significantly would cost the government about a half to a third of that: $3 - $4 billion a year.

The report comes from the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (CCPA). It's title: The Cost of Poverty in B.C.

B.C. is the part of Canada which rubs up against the Pacific Ocean. (It's sometimes called British California.) By comparison, it is larger than every U.S. state except Alaska. The population is about 4.5 million, roughly the same as Louisiana.

The cost of poverty, as reported by the CCPA, works out to about $2,100 for every man, woman and child in BC, or $8,400 for a family of four, every year. That's a significant amount of cash.

Where are those costs? Health care is huge. Poor people are usually hungry and malnourished. I've seen numerous health agency reports (including one by the Health Region based in River City). Malnourished people are sicker than the average, because poor eating lowers a body's defences to fight off illness. Poor people don't pay as close attention to their physical or mental health — they seek help from doctors and dentist less often than others. And so it goes.

Then there is the cost of ignorance — unemployability. There is lower or lost worker productivity. There is increased crime. There is homelessness or terrible housing, which often makes people sick.

I'm sure none of this comes as a surprise to any of you.

The report ends with a strong conclusion:
Purely on economic grounds, it makes more sense to tackle poverty directly than to continue to pay out year after year for its long-term consequences. The real question is not “Can we afford to reduce poverty?” but “Can we afford not to?”

But solving the problem is not as simple as it sounds. There is a lot of bias, strong bias, against the poor.

The poor are blamed for their poverty. That's like blaming a fish for being born in water. The continuing cycle of poverty means many or most poor people have no idea of how to be non-poor; poverty is the only thing they know — it's a learned response to life. And when you add the people de-employed by the 2008-09 financial disaster, the number of unemployed people is pretty high. Unemployment is about one worker out of ten in the U.S, almost as high in Canada. Many hard-working people are out of jobs through no fault of their own. Many have fallen into real poverty. But somehow they are made to feel the job loss is their fault.

Fortunately, there are programs for helping people. Unfortunately, those programs are so limited in terms of the number of people they can help, they make little significant difference.

So I keep coming back to that quote about the cost of education. It's a lot less than the overall effect of ignorance. The same holds true for the cost of keeping people in poverty, instead of helping them find ways to get out of it.

Saturday, 16 July 2011

Are Things Really Amazing?

Victoria, over at Beauty in the Ordinary, has providing me with some interesting food for thought. In this case, it's "Louis C.K." appearing on Conan O'Brien's show.

Louis comments on the amazement of flying, the old way of doing this with credit cards, super-fast touch tone phones and hand-held devices, that take a second or two, and goes on to talk about how people complain when these things don't work perfectly and immediately. His point is that so many things in life are amazing, but nobody is happy, despite all these "amazing" things.

Somehow, I feel a misplaced sense of amazement. My question in response: Do these amazing things really make life better? What qualities of life — what core qualities of life — are improved? Love? Joy? Peace? Patience? Compassion? Kindness?

I guess I feel electronic gadgetry and high-flying aircraft may be amazing one one level, and not amazing at all on a much more profound level. To me, it seems like a miss-match.

Consider this. On its first night, the new Harry Potter movie took in about $43 million. Not bad for a movie, I guess. (Yes, I know Potter has a cult-like following, which accounts for this phenomenal income. I can virtually hear the "Oohs" and "Aahs.")

But my next question is: How much of that $43 million was sent to feed, house and provide medical care about ten million people, including two million children, who are hurt and starving in the drought-torn "horn of Africa"? (It's along Africa's east coast.) It is a huge humanitarian crisis, to which most people are only beginning to awaken. And there are predictions that the civil war and drought in Somalia may drive even more thousands into Nigeria. It is currently dealing with almost 400,000 refugees, who could entirely overwhelm Nigeria's strategy and ability to cope.

Ironically, we have extravagant pleasure and enormous pain existing in our world, at the same time, virtually side by side. The "electronic gadgetry" has brought those two things together. But if we have a narrow focus, we can miss the pain and hunger, or dismiss it as something inconvenient to our lives. Electronic gadgetry does not necessarily serve us well in this regard, nor does it necessarily serve those who suffer.

We might rightly be amazed but scientific advances, but do they make us more human, and more sensitive to the needs of others?

Friday, 15 July 2011


Bear had promised
to provide something insightful
on his blog, today.

Bear is "indisposed,"
and will be delayed
making this deadline.

He will be publishing his notes
either later this evening
(as in much later),
or maybe even
tomorrow morning.

We apologize on
Bear's behalf.

We trust,
in the meantime,
that you will have
an opportunity to peruse
the re-design of 
Bear's blog.
If you have a thought
on the matter,
please relay it
to the Bear.

~ The Editorial Committee

Tuesday, 12 July 2011

Well, . . .

It's like this.

I was planning to have something worthwhile here today. Hopefully thoughtful; possibly provocative.

But that's not going to happen.

I have been busy with some other very worthwhile work, but it isn't something that I can post here. Not today; perhaps not ever.

You realize, as do I, that this kind of thing isn't supposed to be happening. I'm retired. I have not appreciable work to do.

Alas; I'm not a very good manager of my existence. The unanticipated has an "interesting" habit of sneaking in where and when lest expected.

"Life happens while you're in the process of making plans."

Ever had that problem? I suppose you have.

So, to keep you from getting completely bored, here are some questions.

Can there be such a thing as a moral economy? If such a thing existed, what might it look like; what would be the key characteristics? Would it be consumer-driven? Would it be focused on the needs of people, or focused on the needs of business?

That'll keep you thinking for a few minutes at least.

(Hint: I'm going to be getting on to the idea of a Moral Economy. I'll explain on Friday. That will have something to do with a series of newspaper columns I have written over the last eight years, and the thinking that has gone into the whole concept.)

Thank you for your patience.

Wednesday, 6 July 2011


I once heard it said that the only constant in change. It's true. Lots of things keep changing. People come and go; seasons wax and wane; heat, rain, snow, and cold surround us at different times.

Another change is going to happen, here.

I've decided to use this blog more than I have in the recent past.

I'm going to post some ideas from long ago and not so long ago.

Every Tuesday and Friday, I'll have something, starting later this month. As in next week. Perhaps.

On Mondays and Thursdays, there'll be something new on my other major blog, Chrome on the Range, to which I've already introduced you (below).

Hope to see you at both places.

Please Bear with me during this period of reconstruction.

Thursday, 23 June 2011


If you have come here, thinking this is my main blog, I'm sorry to disappoint you. This isn't, though it used to be. This blog is about to take on a new life. But that won't happen until sometime in July, 2011, at the earliest.

If you're looking for "what's happenin' now," you need to head over a couple of roads from here, and drive down to the end, where you'll view the open range.

Hop the fence, and feel free to wander around at your leisure. Nothing over there is particularly dangerous. St. Patrick got rid of the snakes for me. You'll perhaps find some gophers, or even an antelope, or some gentle bull.

Probably the most dangerous creature you'll meet at that spot is a Bear — the same Bear that is here, but a bit different in his behaviour. If cornered, he may start quoting A. A. Milne to you, or drive you to distraction with eloquent puns.

I'd say, "Please drop over for a visit," but I think I may have scared you off already. However, if you're a truly adventuresome soul, and really are up for an interesting experiences, do come on over.

Thank you.