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.