Curiosity is terminal

Tuesday, 16 October 2012

Foreign Workers

I'm trying to read the Canada-China Foreign Investment  Promotion and Protection Agreement. Its kind of tough slogging. I'll try to comment on it after I get through it and write to my (not) MP about it. 

 In the meantime I have some questions for our rotten governments about the whole foreign worker thing:

1.  If these are skilled workers, why are we allowed to pay them less than 15% of the prevailing wage? 
2.  Which prevailing wage? The prevailing wage for that skill? Or the prevailing minimum wage?
3.  Why are these workers being brought into the country as foreign workers rather than being allowed to immigrate? (Maybe the answer is so that their employers and this rotten government can hold the threat of deportation more emphatically over them. If so, why is that okay?)
4.  What exactly are the oh-so-technical skills in a mine that Canadians are incapable of learning?
5.  Why the sudden need for so many workers?
6.  Why is it so important to get so much of our resources out of the ground and shipped off somewhere else in such a hurry?
7.  Do you really believe that there are no workers anywhere in Canada who are willing and able to do those jobs?
8.  What exactly do you have against Canadian workers?
9.  For that matter what is it that you have against workers, no matter where they come from, that  you want to treat them like shit? 
10.  Are you really so stupid that you think this whole economic house of cards can stand if the people who do the work earn so little that their income taxes are insignificant and they cannot afford the things that bring you sales taxes?

There are fewer and fewer reasons to be proud of my country all the time. The notion of inviting people who are in desperate straits in their own countries to come here for work only to be treated poorly and paid poorly in order to bring down the wages and the working conditions for everyone in a country that was once known for its humanity is positively evil.

Monday, 15 October 2012

Well, How About That?

A day or two ago I posted that the whole Enbridge spectacle was starting to look kind of farfetched to me. And that all that attention focused in one place made me nervous about what we were not supposed to be looking at.

Could it be what Andrew Nikoforuk is talking about here in the Tyee about the "Agreement Between the Government of Canada and the Government of the People's Republic of China for the Promotion and Reciprocal Protection of Investments?" (Its on the government of Canada's website on the Foreign Affairs and International Trade page.)

This agreement was tabled on September 26, with virtually no fanfare, except that Elizabeth May noticed it and has written about it on her website. I am absolutely sick about this. This gives Chinese companies the right to use only materials and workers they specify on projects they would own. It gives them the right to sue provincial and municipal governments in Canada if they pass regulations that hurt their projects or profits. It offers them protection and security from domestic opposition to their projects. Plenty has been written about current foreign investment in the oilsands. Chinese oil companies already own a good sized chunk of them , and if CNOOC is allowed to take over Nexen, they will have a larger chunk. They own the tankers and the refineries Enbridge is proposing to use for its bitumen. And there is some discussion about whether Chinese companies might be interested in building and operating the Northern Gateway. If this agreeement goes through on October 31, the work that so many British Columbians have done to protect our coast,  rivers,  rainforest, watersheds, habitats and communities might well be for naught.

The Council of Canadians is on this,too, with a letter you can send to all MPs.

What can we do to stop this?

h/t The Disaffected LibThwap

Sunday, 14 October 2012

Resources and The Gifts of The Magi (picture heavy)

Here in Atmon, we are surrounded by a wonderful abundance of wilderness. There are lakes and forests all around, and it can be beautiful indeed. I was depressed most of the summer because it felt as though I was alone in my alarm about the massive growth of resource depletion around me. I spent a lot of the summer looking at the world like this:

I had the opportunity to go to Terrace and Kitimat for work. I had never been. It was really beautiful and I fell in love with the Coast Mountains. This is the Douglas Channel. Note the islands:

 I spent some time on horseback in Jasper, looking down from a ridge on Pyramid mountain:

I went on a wildlife tour and  I watched this bear and her baby browse on buffalo berries for at least a half hour. There were tourists from Germany, Israel and Brazil in our group and they were enchanted by their first sighting of a live bear. I live in the forest and while bears are not an everyday sight, they are by no means a novelty to me, but I was no less thrilled than our multicultural guests:


On the way to Jasper we stopped at the Ancient Forest. It's 102 km east of Prince George, with a small parking area just off the highway. The trail is a loop and both ends are right at the parking area. It's quite wonderful. You walk for a few minutes and everything looks like this:

 And then the path heads up and around and it looks like this:


Which maybe looks just like any tree in a photograph like that, but when you see a little context...

There is a meadow with ferns as tall as me. I'm not tall, but still. 

I also went on a small trip with my baby goat before she went off to the other side of the country to continue her pursuit of a cool future, and I was in Salmon Arm and Revelstoke for the first time in my life too. There was a pretty sunset and small drizzle that we enjoyed from the pier on Shuswap lake when we got into town.

 We went to the Meadows in the Sky parkway in Revelstoke for a walk and Revelstoke looks like this from the mountain:

I spend a lot of time with a couple of groups who are working to make sure that the Northern Gateway pipeline doesn't happen. When I was in Kitimat and Terrace, the locals told me they don't want the pipeline or the tanker traffic.  I am on the periphery of a group that is trying to make sure that the Site C dam in The Peace doesn't happen. (damming the Peace River for a massive hydroelectric dam which will flood the Peace Valley, which happens to be significant farm land.) I have petitioned against the Fish Lake mine in the Quesnel/Williams Lake area which will dump toxic tailings either into Fish Lake or upstream of the lake. (They have offered to build an artificial lake to compensate.) In Revelstoke, I went to the Farmer's Market and met young people fighting to stop a mine in their area which will also dump tailings into a sensitive eco-system. I have been following, with increasingly sinking heart the nonsense of the Timber Harvest circus, in which they are now threatening to log old growth forests. No one on that committee appears to have heard that trees take CO2 out of the air and return oxygen.

I am reminded of the O. Henry Story the Gifts of The Magi. You know, the one where the young wife sells her beautiful hair to buy her husband a fob for his treasured pocketwatch, and he sells the pocketwatch to buy combs for her hair?

Here in BC we shall have JOBS! JOBS! JOBS! and prosperity (for someone. You and me? Perhaps not.) but we will have no clean water, air or farmland on which to grow our food. To say nothing of habitat for bears. Tragic.

Saturday, 13 October 2012


A young woman has died. She was bullied to death. She was followed, taunted and abused by inhuman young people who practically commanded her to kill herself. Subsequent news items are full of inhuman comments that somehow this young woman deserved her fate.

A young woman gives birth in jail, while prison guards and nurses taunt and abuse her. Subsequent news items are full of  inhuman comments that somehow this woman and child deserved this cold and unwelcoming birth, and perhaps even worse.

I am reading "A General Theory of Love" by Thomas Lewis, Fari Amini and Richard Lannon. It is about the biochemistry and  biopsychology of love. It begins with a description of Paul McLean's triune model of the brain, in which there are three distinct parts of the brain- the early "reptillian" brain; the limbic brain wrapped around the early one; and the newest part, the neocortex, wrapped around that. Each part is mostly responsible for a certain part of our existence - the hindbrain responsible for such physical necessities as breathing, eating and running away from danger, the limbic brain responsible for our relational lives, and the neocortex giving us language, speech, math, reasoning abilities. None of these parts operates completely independently- there is overlap and communication between the three, and the book describes an evolutionary hypothesis for these three structures. As I am in the beginning of my scientific education, I do not yet know other hypotheses that refute this one, though the authors hint at the existence of such and argue for McLean's model:
"The scientific model of separating neocortical from limbic brain matter rests on solid neuroanatomical, cellular, and empirical grounds. As viewed through the microscope, limbic areas exhibit a far more primitive cellular orgainization than their neocortical counterparts. Certain radiographic dyes selectively stain limbic structures, thus painting the molecular dissimilarity between the two brains in clean, vivid strokes. One researcher made an antibody that binds to the cells of the hippocampus-a limbic component- and found that those same fluorescent markers stuck to all parts of the limbic brain, lighting it up like a biological Christmas tree, without coloring the neocortex at all."
And there are behavioral distinctions as well:
"Remove a mother hamster's whole neocortex and she can still raise her pups, but even slight limbic damage devastates her maternal abilities. Limbic lesions in monkeys can obliterate the entire awareness of others. After a limbic lobotomy, one impaired monkey stepped on his outraged peers as if treading on a log or a rock and took food out of their hands with the nonchalance of one oblivious to their very existence. . . After limbic ablation, adult hamsters ignored the calls and cries of their young: a limbectomized pup would repeatedly walk on top of others "as though they did not exist."  In addition to erasing the recognition of others, removing limbic tissue robbed these mammals of responsiveness to the playful overtures of normal littermates."
A few pages previously in the book, while discussing the evolutionary emergence of these three parts of the brain, the authors say:
" Many people conceive of evolution as an upward staircase, an unfolding sequence that produces ever more advanced organisms. From this perspective, the advantages of the neocortex-speech, reason, abstraction-would naturally be judges the highest attributes of human nature. But the vertical conceptualization of evolution is fallacious. Evolution is a kaleidoscope..."
It seems to me there is an alarming lack of kindness in the media. And it seems like there is a preponderance of attention concentrated on people with a severe inability to behave humanely, who have the ability to just use and disregard others as if their being or desires were  of no matter. And I worry about how successful our popular culture deems these persons.
I wonder about the cerebral anatomy of these persons. Specifically, I wonder about their limbic makeup. I wonder if we are evolving into psychopaths.

Friday, 5 October 2012


About a hundred years ago (Hyperbole 'R' Us)  I waited tables in a kind of hoity-toity joint where I had to toss the caesar salads and carve the chateaubriands at the guest's tables.  I liked doing it because it gave me more chance to talk to the guests. 
So one night I am tossing salads for these three nice guys, a bit older than me (who was maybe not legal in the states yet) but not by much. They're friendly and well mannered and very interesting and well spoken, and somehow I get them to tell me that they work for a circus and they are the magic show. So I let them tell me about that for a while, and then I ask them to teach me some sleight of hand so that I can make the salad bowl empty and its contents "appear" on my guests plates. They laugh and look around and decide that my best bet would be to break a window or something because a good illusion depends on the misdirection of the observer's attention.

I have stopped paying very much attention to the circus that is Enbridge. Because the spectacle seems to be growing, and some of what they have contributed is beginning to look rather incredibly farfetched. Some of it looks even, dare I say, amateur. As if, maybe, it was never intended to be taken seriously.

 I find myself looking around a lot. And wondering where I am not supposed to be looking.