Saturday, January 31, 2009

Will George Bailey Tell Mr. Potter Where To Go...

...During The Superbowl Halftime Show?

I dunno for sure.

And I must confess, I'm a little ambivalent about having the idol of my teenage spirit climb atop the hype-heap to sing, sandwiched between the latest 30 seconds of shill swill from the likes of InBev's BudLightLime and Cash4Gold's Promoification of the profit to be made panning through Grandma's jewelry, about the dilapidated 'Mansion on the Hill' that his country has become.

But, then again, Mr. Springsteen is, at the end of the day, an entertainer.

And, besides, as he said, apparently somewhat sheepishly, at a pre-game press conference on Thursday....

"We have a new album coming out...."

Meanwhile, rumour has it that they closed down the autoplant in Mahwah late last night.....


Later last night I was perusing the pages of the real paper/dead tree edition of Friday's New York Times ($3.18 Cdn, thanks for the gouging Pacific News Distributors) when I stumbled across the following from one of my favorite sportswriters, Harvey Araton:

".....who knows, maybe we'll get lucky and there will be at least one bold moment Sunday night when Springsteen goes rogue and rails against - oh, I don't know - offensive Wall Stret bonuses, $18 Billion worth.

Go ahead, Bruce, make those corporate fat cats squirm on their sofas. It's a one-time forum - make a lasting impression....."


And if Bruce were to go rogue and spout something that made Woody and Pete, and maybe even Pete's hat, proud?


Then he and his Buddies from the Boardwalk days could probably launch into 'Born In The USA' without even a trace of irony or, even better, a crass car commercial, in sight.

Although, personally, I'd much prefer a ripsaw rendition of 'Johnny 99'.


And if not a requiem for that Johnny, well, how about the one for this one.
Here's the real thing about Mr. Springsteen for me.....
sure he's not perfect...and sure, he does kinda/sorta still works for the man...and surer, he never actually really knew all that much about '69 Chevvies or Racing in the Streets....and even surer, there was that thing with Ms. Phillips.....but in the end, even as I now age faster than him despite being a full decade younger.....well....unlike the other spirits of my teenaged night, Bruce has never let me down....(and my kids like him too!)
Photocredit: Jim Ritland's fantastic concert photography.
Just a note for Bev time in the Bloggodome will be light for awhile....Science geek stuff beckons....even more so since Diamond Jim and our own Little Stephen told us all to go to hell earlier this week....And make no mistake about it, the country formerly known as Canuckistan is in the grips of a truly evil coalition now....And if Mr. Ignatieff thinks he's going to effortlessly shed the LibCon label down the road, he's clearly drinking Mr. Kinsella's KoolAid by the bucketfull (and/or he really is a republicant reptile from outer space).


Sunday, January 25, 2009

The Church Of The Sacred Bleeding Traffic Report


Bear 604 is not a member of the congregation.



Saturday, January 24, 2009

Saturday Night's Alright For....

....Uke (Cover) Fighting

First, the original, from Feargal Sharkey et al., getting their then still teenage Ya Ya's out......

Next, the cover, from Great Britain's Uke Orchestra still doing their damndest to get their Kicks In....

When I was a no-longer-quite teenager
anymore, circa 1979/80, my boyhood friend S. was going to school in the Big City. One weekend when I was over visiting from the (not-so)Big Smalltown across the water we got up, hungover, to head for Quintessence Records because S. had decided he had to buy something from any band at all called 'THE' somethings. Not sure, why that was, exactly, but as a result he bought the latest from 'The Rezillos' which proved ultimately unremarkable, not to mention forgettable. What did I get? Why, 'The Undertones', of course. After all, I already had 'The Buzzcocks'.
UkePegPhotoCredit: LosAngelino PhotoDiva EllenBloom.


CanWest May, Or May Not, Be Doomed...

....But The Sun Run Will Go On Forever!

Well....actually.... it hasn't at this very least not know.....cancelled or anything.....

Which is precisely what VSun Editor Kirk Lapointe told the GStraight's Charlie Smith yesterday.

That it's not currently cancelled I mean.


Why all the concern in the first place?

Well, apparently it had something to do with some folks (and some of them proMedia journos?) confusing the words of the internal CanWest memo leaked by Bill Tieleman which said that the parent Corp would no longer pay for employees to have lavish parties in hotel rooms when they (the employees, not the public), participate in the annual fun run of the waffle-shoe set through the streets of Lotuslandia.

Meanwhile, CanWest stock held steady as the Rock of Gibraltar yesterday.

At a whopping 45 cents a share.

Those Magnificent AsperSons.....

They sure are doin' a heckuva job.


Our take on what would happen if CanWest were to wash its hands of all its Inkstained Wretches is here.
Photo credit,
Vancouver blogger and photographer Sebastian White


Come Saturday Morning....

....There Will Be No Ukes!

But there will always be The Weakerthans.

The video above is a live version of 'Relative Surplus Value' from the boomtimes (eg. 2007).

But it pretty much perfectly captures the world we now live in.....

Just the lead-in is enough to make me swoon, purely for the gold-bricked, wordsmith-driven operatic-image-conjuring nature of the thing:

...Find the airport at 7 a.m.......My heart pumping pure mini-bar..... Sit on the concrete by the carts, and some girl throws a dime in my lap..... You won't be laughing ....when you hear..... How this one ends....

And you won't.

Be laughing, I mean.

But that's not the least of a tune that's got an entire world packed into it.

In just two minutes twenty-three.

And a beat you can almost, but not quite, Pogo to.

Bloody amazing that.

And the studio version is even better. So go buy the bloody album. In fact, go buy two bloody albums on small independent labels right now. And a book too. And while you're at it go buy three newspapers (one has to be one you've never read). C'mon, what the heckfire are you waiting for? It's Saturday morning! Get out and spend some money on stuff that matters. Goose the economy by helping build some real infrastructure that no pavement-pouring-project will ever match for real output and true, non-surplus, but highly relativistic value. Go..... Now!
Oh, and I have I mentioned recently that John K. Sampson is a genius, not to mention an ingenious and maniacal infrastructure builder himself?
Here's an entire recent set of the boys from Winnipeg and points East from Berlin.
Bigger E and me are heading out the door right now....on our bikes....we're gonna buy stuff....but first we're gonna get our hearts pumpin'.... pure..... sans mini-bars...Bye-bye....


Friday, January 23, 2009

What Would Happen If CanWest Were To Wash All The Inkstained Wretches From Its Hands?


Mr. T, Bill Tieleman, has posted a revealing internal CanWest memo that demonstrates just how difficult things have become for the current publisher of The Vancouver Sun, The (no-longer-Vancouver)Province and The Victoria Times-Colonist.

It's from CanWest Pub's head honchos Dennis Skulsky and Doug Lamb to their employees asking the latter to scrimp on everything from meals to travel to marketing to, get this!, slo-pitch softball tournaments.

The Glimmer Twins then go on to suggest that if every single employee can:

" $1000, the collective savings would amount to 10,000,000!"

Now, exclamation point aside, given that the parent CanWest Corp reported a $33 million loss in the last quarter alone, it is not clear to me how a measly $10 million can possibly save them.


Maybe the employees should, instead, immediately start spending like there's no tomorrow.


Because that just might help speed the sell-off of the individual CanWest newspapers they work for, piece meal, to pretty much any willing bidder.

I mean, just imagine what it would be like 'round here if The Sun, The Province and The Times-Colonist were each suddenly in separate hands.

I, for one, think that would be faaaaannnnntastic!

Or some such thing.


I'm being (kinda/sorta) facetious with my comments here of course. After all, I sure don't want to see anybody lose their jobs.....and I really want all three papers to survive.....I'm just saying that it might not be a bad thing if CanWest no longer owned them, in whole or in part, by the time the Olympics arrive (or even better, by the time of this spring's provincial election campaign cranks up).....And, ya, I realize it is much more likely they would just be sold off to some other member of the Media Monopolist's League with a smaller current debt load than the (notso)Magnificent Aspersons, but even that, I figure, would likely be preferable to the current situation (as long as the buyer is not some new-fangled GreatWhiteNorth branch plant version of Big Rupert's evil empire).


Hey Gordo.......He Likes It!


Do you have a residential construction project that needs a big whack o' cash to get done?

Does your project have a huge social component that includes a majority of 'resident-restricted', 'rental' and 'hostal' units that dwarfs a small minority of market-based condominiums.

And finally, are you a non-profit organization rather than a big-time developer?


With all that socialism-type stuff in mind, where are you going to go to get the money to complete the project.

Banks?.......At a little over prime?.....


Hedge funds?.... At a billion over prime?.....

No stinkin' way.

Hey! I know.

Let's ask Gordo.


Gordo won't lend it. He hates everything.

Everything socialist, that is.



"Whistler Olympic Village officials have quietly negotiated a $100-million loan with an interest rate of just 1.585 per cent, one-sixth the rate charged to developers of the controversial Vancouver Olympic Village project.

The three-year, floating-rate loan expires on Dec. 31, 2011 and was provided by the Municipal Finance Authority of B.C., the province's local government financing agency.

The money is being used to fund the $161-million, 350-unit Whistler athletes' village, due for completion in October."

Clearly, in Gord's new five-ringed, circus tent gone-wild world, granite countertops just don't cut it anymore.

Details of all that socialist-type housing are in Bruce Constantineau's most excellent VSun piece that is linked to above....It really is interesting to me how this is being played as a 'Vancouver is stunned, Whistler gets it done' kind of thing in the 'Lectronic Lotuslandian media while so little attention is being paid to the extreme irony.


Thursday, January 22, 2009

What's Next....

.....The Seeger 'Hat' Sessions?

I, for one, sure hope so.

For the story of Pete's hat, check out the great work of Los Angeles photo-diva Ellen Bloom.


Pols Are People Too.


I very rarely agreed with the policies or the politics of Stan Hagen, who passed away tragically, and unexpectedly, earlier this week.

But, regardless, as a long-serving provincial politician Mr. Hagen pulled his weight, big time, as Paul Willcocks makes clear here:

"...(T)his isn’t St. Stan stuff. I remember being terribly frustrated with Hagen’s evasions when something had gone wrong in his ministry of children and families. In part, because I expected better.

But I also remember talking with him in the corridor outside the legislative chamber, when he said he’d told Gordon Campbell he wanted to stay as children and families minister after the 2005 election. The work was so important, he said.

That is one brutally hard job. But Hagen wanted it. He could see the children whose lives were changed, maybe saved, by the ministry’s workers. The families kept together.

And he did have a certain freedom. Hagen held 10 different portfolios during his time in provincial politics. He was 69 when he died. He could say what he thought...."

Mr. Hagen was also one heckuva of a stand-up guy, as Jody Patterson makes clear here:

"Twenty-eight years ago, on one of the worst nights of my life, Stan Hagen was there for me.

I've never forgotten his random act of kindness that April evening at the Nanaimo White Spot, and only wish I'd told him that before he died this week......


....I knew Stan and (his wife) Judy because I taught piano to two of their children. We weren't close pals by any means, but we exchanged pleasantries at the door whenever they brought their kids for piano lessons, and they were regulars at the twice-yearly piano recitals I held in my living room for my little clutch of students.

That night at the White Spot, I was on the run: From my marriage; from the Comox Valley; from the terrible question of whether I should leave my kids behind. I had driven down Island that April evening in a wild and grief-filled panic, knowing only that I needed to get out of town for a night and think....


I walked in and there was Stan, eating by himself. He asked if I wanted to sit with him. If I'd been a bolder type, I probably would have said no, because just about the last thing I wanted at that moment was to have to make polite small talk with the dad of one of my piano students. But I couldn't bring myself to be so rude, so I joined him. He was a religious man, and I was reluctant to answer the inevitable question about what brought me to Nanaimo that night. I was worried he'd judge me for leaving my marriage, let alone contemplating leaving my children, too.

But I was too young and wounded to be able to pull together a quick cover story, and pretty soon I'd told him what brought me there. The funny thing is, I don't really remember anything of the conversation that followed, except that Stan listened without one shred of judgment. I left the restaurant a couple hours later deeply grateful for his brief company, and feeling better equipped to deal with the painful decisions I faced....


After I moved to Victoria, we'd meet up maybe once a year to have lunch together, and almost never talked politics. I never took Stan's measure as a politician, and won't now. What I do know is that he was a good man, and that I'll miss him. Godspeed, Stan."

Clearly, Mr. Hagen will be missed.

By many, many British Columbians regardless their political perspective or point of view.

And even though I never met him in person, thanks to the work of folks like Mr. Willcocks and Ms. Patterson I now feel I know the real Stan Hagen a little better.

And, as such, I can better appreciate the fact that he was a public servant who tried to do just that.

Serve members of the public I mean.

Which is a very good thing, indeed.



Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Barry('s) Town


In San Francisco, Bush Street runs pretty much the entire gamut of 'The City'.

At least if you're thinking of the part of the city that is North of Market.

In fact, Bush begins by running diagonally off Market deep within the Financial district. It then squeezes between Union Square, Chinatown and the Tenderloin as it skirts the lower edges of Nob Hill before coming down in the Fillmore and the Western Addition.

Which is the way I think of it.

Because when I walk through San Francisco (which I love to do) that's the way I usually go, from downtown outward.

But the weird thing about Bush is that is a one-way street, and the traffic actually flows the other way....which means that most people using it move from one of the least affluent parts of town back in towards all the glitter that is still, for the most part, gold.

Which is fitting somehow.

Especially given what folks moving along Bush Street noticed yesterday morning, Inauguration Day, as they made their way to work, school, play, or whatever.

Which was that every single 'Bush' street sign along its entire length, no matter which end you were at, had been changed.

Changed to 'Obama'.

Imagine that.

Big, Big Tip O' The Hat, to the guy who keeps on driving further , and who also happens to be the Bay Area's biggest poetry arsehole, Jon, for the heads-up.
The SF Chronicle actually does what it's name says it does on this one, here. (I think, maybe, I smell a Morford piece comin'.....).
Update: Here's the 'Obama St.' photo pool on Flickr.....Brilliant!


Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Sure Thing, But Can We Trust Anything BC Ferries CEO David Hahn Says?


Why do I ask?

Well, apparently, the relentless (and real) reporting of Andrew MacLeod in The Tyee has gotten under the CEO's skin.

In a radio appearance today, B.C. Ferry Services Inc. president and CEO David Hahn challenged the accuracy of a recent Tyee story.

B.C. Almanac host Mark Forsythe noted that even some B.C. Ferries employees refer to the new German-built Super C-class ships as “gas guzzlers.”

Hahn responded, “"That's from The Tyee, and we can't believe anything they publish......"

Sure thing Mr. Hahn.

But does The Tyee have any, you know, actual evidence that BC Ferries employees have been calling the ferries that were built offshore with our money (but not by our workers) 'gas guzzlers'?

Well, actually, yes.

Not to mention evidence that at least one of Mr. Hahn's minions has ordered the workers to cease and desist.

It's all in the form of an Email, "from Barbara Britton-Wilson, the director of catering services, to the catering departments on 16 ships......"

(click to enlarge)


Call in the Watercarriers!


And don't forget, the actual evidence that the ferries built offshore with our money (but not by our workers) are, indeed, gas guzzlers was first provided in a memo from Mr. Hahn to the Minister-In-Charge-Of-Pavement, Mr. Kevin Falcon......OK?


Olympic Village Boondoggle: But What Would All The Pundits Do?



All the non-FABulist pundits at least....

Jeff Lee, on his VSun Blog, has the almost, maybe, kinda/sorta story:

"Those darn pesky in-camera leaks! You just don't know when they'll be a problem.
I gather that Vancouver Councillor Geoff Meggs now wants to become something of a plumber; he's asking the city's legal services director Frances Connell to review and release all of the confidential documents, minutes and motions around the Vancouver Olympic Athletes Village development. (City finance gury Ken Bayne is also expected to give an update on the Millennium/Fortress situation, although no one expects him to spill secrets about the internals of the negotiations.)....."

Mr. Lee has more...And while not fully in the clutches of the 'Market Bounce-Back Brigade' he, at the very least, seems to think they just might turn out to be right.


Inauguration Smackdown


Correct me if I'm wrong, but....

During his first speech as president (who-was-actually-elected), did Mr. Obama call Mr Bush and associated cronies 'children'?

(ie. "the time has come to put away childish things" etc....)


Inauguration, Schamuaguration!


Sure, sure, Obama is a pretty big story today.

But the really big story?

Of what folks can get done if they just keep on keepin' on?

Three groups of folks....

Booker T. Jones.

Drive-By Truckers

Neil Young.

One album.

Oh boy.

And, oh ya
......pretty sure all concerned wouldn't have minded adding a cut or two with Lynyrd Skynyrd, if they could....after all, ol' Neil really does remember....


Monday, January 19, 2009

Olympic Village Boondoggle: Is Fortress On The Brink?



Apparently, as Frances Bula puts it, 'Penny Ballem is now locked in a room with Fortress' trying to make a deal.

Or some such thing.

Which is, I guess, what the all-night Carte Blanche DuBois tryst at the Ledge on the weekend was all about.

But, before anybody makes any further deals with the Boys from back east, they just might want to read Michael Wolff's piece that just came out in Vanity Fair.

The lede itself pretty much says it all:

"Here’s a parlor game, played best by the people who are in it: Which private-equity firm’s going bust first? Carlyle? Fortress? K.K.R.? Cerberus? Apollo?...."

In fact, I would suggest all we non-referendumistas (ie. all the potential voters in Lotusland) should read Mr. Wolff's piece so they know just who it is we are trying to give our money to.

And what type of financial shape they're in.

After all, despite the Property Endowment Fund smokescreen puffed our way by the local market bounce-back brigade late last week, we do know that any money that does go to Fortress if a deal is made will be our money.

We do know that, don't we?


Thanks to commenter for Shepsil over at FABula's for bringing the Wolff piece up.
And I would be remiss, if I didn't point interested readers toward Geoff Dembicki's excellent Tyee/Hook piece on a potentially 'teetering' Fortress from 10 days ago.


Neil Young Was Right About Skytrain....


Or, at the very least, Shakey was right about Skytrain's need 'For The Turnstiles'.

What the heckfire am I talking about?

Well, as much as it pains me to say it because it may put more non-lobbitarian cash money in a certain content consultant's pockets, I think that Translink needs to put turnstiles in all of it's MetroVancouver Skytrain stations right now.

If not yesterday.


To help stop crap like the following from happening:

New Westminster, Jan 17/09 CPress -- A fight over an unpaid transit fee in New Westminster ended with the fare evader being jolted with a taser and a police officer suffering from head injuries.

Transit police said the man was found on a SkyTrain without a fare and when the train stopped at the next station he tried to flee the police.

A fight broke out on an escalator and one officer fell down the moving stairs, cutting his head.

Police said they had to use the stun gun twice to subdue the man, who was carrying a knife that fell out of his clothing during the scuffle. They said they dealt with the same man two weeks earlier for the same offence and he had to be physically restrained....

And I'm not just talking about stopping whackos with knives from doing things they never should do.


I'm also talking about the 'good guys' with weapons being forced to chase people and become involved in violent situations for ridiculous things like fare evasion because, let's face it, with the wide open system we have now folks are pretty much being dared to cheat.

In addition to the turnstiles, I would also most humbly like to suggest that there should also be real people there at the gate that can give change and/or directions and/or help and/or any other assistance required to all members of the public that pass on through.

At all times.

At all gates.

And at all stations.

These same helpful folks would also be able there to recognize many, many troublesome problems, and the troublemakers involved, before they become violent.

In that vein (ie. having people around that can help in addition to good guys with weapons), I was astonished to hear a Translink Spokeslackey recently on one of the local 'lectric media babble on about how 'fortunate' it was that the snow just melted had forced the corporation to temporarily have drivers on the trains.

Why was the Spokelackey babbling?

Because, in addition to driving, one of those temporary drivers was also able to help when an unrelated safety issue arose.

Imagine that.

Here's Neil, no longer all that young, with 'For The Turnstiles'......


Sunday, January 18, 2009

Olympic Village Boondoggle: Prove It All Night


Last night, after littler e. and I were done posting up the latest 'Uke Cover Kung-Fu Fighting' post, I took Frances Bula's advice and shut it down for awhile.....

As a result, e. went off to watch Freaky Friday (again) with Mom, C., and I hunkered down to scrutinize, backwards and forwards, the commentary on the 2001 edition of Catch 22 (with the teacher Mike Nichols and student Steven Soderbergh who takes the professor to school....would have loved to hear Buck Henry in the mix too).

So, because I hadn't really been paying attention to anything topical at all for about 8 hours, it was a bit of a surprise to see the following float on by just before I went to bed:

Just who might still be hanging 'round the Ledge as midnight approached on a Saturday, I wondered.

Had Cinderella-Dipper stopped by?

Strange, I thought, as I drifted off while trying to read Rod Mickleburgh's oddly puffy piece in the day's Globe.....


This morning, I was noodling around while listening to Mr. Holman et al. (send Sean money!) and saw a whole bunch more visitors from the place that Gord Holds Hostage.

That's when I remembered what was really going on, an event which was soon wired all over the world, including to Hunter S. Thompson's* last publisher, ESPN:

VICTORIA, British Columbia -- The city of Vancouver will borrow more than $360 million to ensure the $800-million athletes village will be built for the 2010 Winter Olympics. British Columbia politicians voted unanimously Sunday to support legislation that allows Vancouver to borrow the money without going to a public referendum.

Politicians debated the bill for about 20 hours straight. Opposition New Democrats had accused the government of hiding the costs of the Vancouver Olympics.....

More on all this to come?

Bet on it.

After all, you didn't think I was going to stop now did you?

And besides, I don't give a hoot-in-heckfire what Marcella Munro says.

The good Docktor Thompson, was no stranger to the fights against the land-rapers and the greed-heads, including those that involved Corporate owners of Ski Resorts etc......
Oh, and before I forget, my take on 'FABula' v. 'The Spamaloteers' coming soon as well....


Saturday, January 17, 2009

Saturday Night's Alright....

....For Uke (Cover) Fighting!


First, the Original, from the then still kids from Forrest Hills.....

Next, the Cover, from Gus and Fin from Glasgow with, get this, wavering* harmony!.......


They do the coolest things.

*Which, of course, is probably exactly what Phil Spector wanted, but Johnny wouldn't let him (or Joey) have....
Runner-up on this one was 'sumakichan' who does a wicked Sheena on the 'lectrified Uke....His 'KKK Took My Baby Away' in, get this Japanese! is something to behold.....Still, I can't get me enough of all things Gus & Fin. Or, even Gus and......Duglas......It's DIY Heaven!
I remember the night Jeff Hyman passed away.... I banged out Sheena at bye-bye lullaby time for the two E's.....littler was then 2....Bigger was 8....Think they were probably asleep by then...all the better....
To see someone work who is very rapidly (and most deservedly so) getting way, way past DIY you can watch an entire set of Ms. Nunes (without George Singin' Quimby) in London(!), here.
UkePegPhotoCredit: LosAngelino PhotoMaven EllenBloom.


Olympic Village Boondoggle: Who Didn't We Hear From Yesterday On The CBC?



Who owns the CBC?

I think it's still us, right?

And, as far as I know, The Mo'Co' hasn't made any significant contributions to the BC Liberal Party of Mr. Gordon Campbell of, say, $50,000, unlike a certain other proMedia outlet around here not so long ago.....



Why do I ask these annoying questions?

Well, yesterday morning, the Lotuslandian version of CBC Radio One's "The Early Edition" spent their entire three hours discussing Vancouver's 'Olympic Village'. I have already commented on the majority of the content, most of which was, in my opinion, decidely less than stellar.

However, here I would like to focus not on what we heard, but instead on what we didn't.

Didn't hear, I mean


In one segment of yesterday's CBC Morning Edition program the host, Mr. Rick Cluff, talked to British Columbia's current Finance Minister Colin Hansen, a member of Mr. Gordon Campbell's B.C. Liberal government, about the extraordinary opening of the Legislature which will happen later today, ostensibly to pass provincial legislation that will change the City of Vancouver's charter such that we (ie. the taxpayer's of Vancouver) will be able to borrow a big whack o' cash, referendum-free, to pay for the next stage of the Olympic Village Bailout.

You can hear that conversation, in its entirety here (Real Audio 1:08:00 to 1:14:00........).

Nothing really remarkable there, as per usual when Mr. Cluff is interviewing a person in power.

But what is remarkable, at least to me, is that we did not hear from a member of the provincial Opposition on this issue.

After all, I would presume that they, too, will be allowed to enter the provincial legislature when Mr. Campbell unlocks the doors at noon today.


How come the provincial Opposition was not on the 'people's broadcaster' to give us their views, which might, I would guess, be somewhat different than Minister Hansen's, on this matter of considerable import to the people of Vancouver and British Columbia?

Especially given the fact that Mr. Cluff, when he was speaking to Mr. Hansen, asked a question that involved the leader of the Opposition, Ms. Carol James' reported views on the matter and also stated that the Opposition was 'steamed' because, apparently there will be no question period associated with the extraordinary legislative opening.

So (again).....

Were members of the Opposition unavailable for comment?

Were there technical difficulties that kept scheduled members of the Opposition from commenting?

Did a member of the Opposition sleep in?


Did the producers of CBC British Columbia's Morning Edition refuse British Columbia's official Opposition's request to come on the show and state their views?

I dunno for sure.

But an anonymous commenter very explicitly stated that he or she thinks it was the last, bolded possibility, above.

Now, I, for one, most definitely hope that was not the case.

As such, I have sent a request to CBC British Columbia asking if this was did, in fact occur (or did not occur).

I'll let you know what the response is when I hear back.


Friday, January 16, 2009

Olympic Village Boondoggle: Just How Much Cash Money Is In That Endowment Anyway?


In the moving target that is the endgame of the 'Don't Worry, Be Happy Brigade', the latest is actually an old saw that was first unsheathed (at least in the context of the Boondoggle) by former Vancouver NPA mayor (three times removed) Philip Owen, as recorded by FABula, just before the last election:

"As a Councillor and Mayor, I participated in numerous “in-camera” or confidential council meetings concerning the City’s Property Endowmnt Fund.

This fund was established to generate income for the City through land investments and through sound management has grown to over $2.7 Billion in assets. The largest land owner in the City … is the City.

Confidentiality in all real estate transactions is essential until the completion date , which is after all the lawyers sign off on the tranaction. When and if this is done, all the details about the Olympic Village will be made public......"

Now please remember, Mr. Owen's highly illuminating (ie. not in any way misconstrued as being 'dim') statement was made just before the last civic election, when the carcass of the NPA was sliced into a red rump roast shadow of its former glorious developer-friendly self.

Which made it all the more surprising that the property endowment fund saw suddenly started cutting wood again this very morning when it became a tool in the hands of failed NPA council candidate (and friendly developer) Michael Geller while he opined, together with former NPA councillor Gordon Price, essentially unchallenged on CBC Radio's 'The Early Edition' (Real Audio @ 1hr 50 min):

"The worst case scenario is that we do take a hit in the property endowment fund, which is financing this, which was at $2.7 billion and may drop down to $2.5 billion....."

Finally, failed NPA mayoral candidate and former city Finance Committee chairperson Peter Ladner sent the saw flying across cyberspace so that it could make a safe landing in the Mother Corp's lap when he, Mr. Ladner, sent the CBC a copy, either in whole or in part, of his coming 'press release'/'editorial' which was later posted on the MoCo's website a little later on this morning (ie. the same day as Mr. Geller's very fine PEF-inspired tool work appeared in audio form):

"This project will not land on the taxpayers. It is being financed under the property endowment fund, worth $2.7 billion at the peak of the market, and will be able to buffer the taxpayers from any possible losses — just as it grew to $2.7 billion without any call on the taxpayers...."


Now, that $2.7 billion 'buffer' certainly sounds very impressive indeed.

But just how much CASH, exactly, is currently in that fund that could be used to immediately 'buffer' Vancouver taxpayers against the mounting costs of the Boondoggle?

Well, we're not sure exactly.
But, if Ms. Bula was right at the time, there were exactly ZERO DOLLARS in the 'buffer' a scant two months ago when we went looking for the first $100 million in during the first stage of the Boondoggle Bailout:

"Vancouver didn't raid the city's much-valued Property Endowment Fund as a source for a potential $100-million loan to the builder of the city's Olympic athletes village.

That's because the fund's almost $200-million in cash reserves have already been depleted to pay for what the city has to build on the site."


If the cash-strapped fund did not bail us out last fall when we needed extra money to pay for the Boondoggle's first call then , how the heckfire is it going to 'buffer' us now?

I mean, has the City suddenly sold off huge tracts of land from the fund to raise extra cash that we DON'T KNOW ABOUT?

And should the City even consider suddenly selling land from the endowment when prices are PLUMMETING?

Are these fund-flinging tool makers, all of them NPA people, even SERIOUS?

Somehow I doubt it.

On all three counts.


Given how important the 'cash' component of the endowment is, especially if it is to be used to 'buffer' us when Old Man Margin comes calling, you'd think that Rick Cluff, the host who was interviewing Mess'rs Geller and Price on CBC Radio this morning and/or the Weblackeys who posted-up the undigested chunks of Mr. Ladner's 'editorial', unbylined, would have asked about it. Neither did. As a result I posted a registered comment in conjunction with the Ladner piece asking why not. The comment has yet to see the light of day.
Oh, and one last thing......based on some discussion on the comment threads today, I'll soon be posting up on 'who we DID NOT hear on the CBC Radio One's Early Edition this morning.


Olympic Village Boondoggle: The Puffmaster v. The Mace Man


While the back end was a snoozefest, the front end of this morning's CBC Early Edition with Gary Mason was, according to a number of accounts from readers like GWest, spartikus and anon(#37453), actually pretty good.

Despite the best efforts of the Puffmaster Flash....

Real Audio of the entire show is here (Mr. Mason a grand total of 6 min 00:35 to 0041)

(gotta run.....transcript coming later....)

Again, remember that the best stuff
is at the beginning (sorry Ms. Bula, but that last 13 minutes just didn't quite cut it for us...although we did like it when you threw Mr. Cluff's first softball tossed your way right back at him.... high and hard).


Olympic Village Boondoggle: The Market Bounce-Back Brigade


And the next member is.......

Pete McMartin?





Olympic Village Boondoggle: The Pushback Begins In Earnest


Shorter Peter Ladner:

"Granite counter-tops for the Spec-U-Vestive few good.....Social amenities for all Vancouverites bad...."

Heckfire - the actual money quote is even worse:

"The time crunch was hugely exacerbated by the COPE council's seven-month revamping of the official development plan in 2004-05 to add tens of millions of dollars in social amenities which we now know the city couldn't afford."

Tens of millions?????

Tens of millions that we couldn't afford..... to add those evil social amenities????

(most of which were chopped out immediately after Mr. Ladner and Smilin' Sammy's Fabulists took power in late 2005)

But we can now afford hundreds of millions for those countertops that 99.99% of us will never get to chop our vegetables on????

Not to mention the extra millions being poured down the gullet of a reportedly dieing Hedge Fund we will likely never even see again.

Super sheesh.

Thanks to reader Spartikus for the heads-up to the CBC's posting of unquestioned pull quotes from the press release/'editorial' from Mr Ladner...... I left a comment there about that (the unquestioned posting of the pull quotes), but it has yet be posted (the comment, not the pull quotes, I mean)....


Olympic Village Boondoggle: The Apologists


Hours and hours of 'em.

On CBC Radio One (690am; 88.1FM) right now (Friday morning).

If you can stand it.

Geller and Price right now.

Can't you just understand?

It's all for the families.


Update: GWest informed us, in the comments, that Gary Mason was up early with the Cluffmaster and was most definitely NOT playing the role of the apologist.....Hmmmm....wonder why they buried the Mace Man at the front end....Me, at that time I was listening to 'hard' news up the dial (ie. the gnashing of teeth-assisted breakdown of the collapse of the Canucks -my take "subtraction by addition", especially where chemistry is concerned....and I'm not just talking about Mats Messier)...Anyway GW promised more later and I'm waiting for the arrival of the pod, which will show up here.....


Olympic Village Boondoggle: Charter Change, Sans Questions


A couple of days ago we suggested that the early opening of the B.C. Legislature on Saturday to change the City of Vancouver's charter might be a chance for the Opposition to raise the issue of helping to fund something useful (ie. something other than stainless steel fridges and marble countertops) during the Olymic Village construction completion (see Housing, Social).

Anyway, forget about all that.

Because, according to Sean Holman at least*, there will be no questions.



But, don't forget.....

...Those trains, the ones that are no longer ours.....they're still runnin' on time....


*Which almost invariably actually means 'for sure'.


Thursday, January 15, 2009

Olympic Village Boondoggle: Whose Uanimous Now? (Part Deux)


This time it's a memo instead of minutes.

And that memo was, apparently, written by former City of Vancouver CFO Estelle Lo and sent to former City Manager (and June 2007 game-changing quarterback) Judy Rogers outlining numerous concerns about the Olympic Village Project's financing.

The date?

Oct 2008.....

And how long had Ms. Lo been concerned?


Once again, 'The Receiver-In-Chief", Gary Mason, has the story in the Globe. Here's his lede:

VANCOUVER (G&M Jan15/09) -- The financial viability of the developer of the Olympic athletes village, the future of the city's credit rating, the increased risk to taxpayers and soaring construction costs were among the many concerns the city's former chief financial officer had months ago about the project, The Globe and Mail has learned.

In an extraordinary memo Estelle Lo sent to then-city-manager Judy Rogers in October, 2008, the since-departed CFO outlined a string of worries she had about the project - many of which have since been validated.

A couple of weeks after sending the memo, Ms. Lo was approached by Ms. Rogers and given an ultimatum: resign or be fired. Ms. Lo would resign with a one-year severance package, and Ms. Rogers would be removed on Dec. 12, 2008, by newly elected Mayor Gregor Robertson.....

Again, Ms. Lo was not present at the Oct 2008 at the 'In Camera' council meeting where folks apparently voted 'unanimously' to approve the initial $100 million dollar bailout.

If you read nothing else today, read the rest of the Mace-Man's column.

And for those of you that dislike Propammon, feel free to ask yourself, once again, what is it, exactly, that the Spamaloteers are flinging?
Update: Well whaddy'a know.....It's looks like the Spamaloteer's are now pinning their hopes on their old arch-nemesis, the bicycle rider.


Ponzi, Ponzi On The Wall....

......Which P3 Is Next To Fall?

Fowlie/Culbert, VSun Jan 15/09: The private consortium chosen as the best suited to twin the Port Mann Bridge is struggling to raise money for the project, and has told the B.C. government it needs more time before it can finalize a deal.

The deal -- a public-private partnership or P3 -- was supposed to be completed earlier this month, but on Wednesday, Transportation Minister Kevin Falcon confirmed the deadline has been extended to early February.

Meanwhile, The Minister In-Charge-Of-Pavement, Heavy Kevvie, says everything is fine, just fine:

"Obviously, it's a difficult market out there," Falcon said, referring to constraints in the global credit market.

However, he said he remained confident the deal will go ahead.

"What they tell us is, they remain confident that they can pull it together, but they needed more time," he said.

Sure thing Mr. Falcon.

After all, every economic indicator is saying things are going to get way, way better in the next month.



We've said it before and we'll say it again......

Mr. Campbell built his province, the province that used to be ours, for good times.


What will happen if things go bad?

Looks like we just might be about to find out.

But at least the trains, trains that are no longer ours, will keep on running on time. Right?


Boss, Boss The Plane!


My kids don't remember Ricardo Montalban as Mr. Roarke in Fantasy Island.

Or even as some quasi-scary good/bad guy in some of the crummier Star Trek Movies.

Heckfire, it would be more likely that, given that we are a song and dance household, that they might know him from old, old MGM musicals made after he first came to Hollywood from Mexico in the 40's and 50's.

But I don't know that for sure.

There is one thing I do know, however.

Which is that my kids definitely know Mr. Montalban as the Grandad in the Spy Kids franchise, which is the brainchild of Mexican-American Cinema Wizard Robert Rodriquez, a guy who goes out of his way to use Latino actors as both good and bad guys in his movies.

Which is somehow fitting given the fact that, in addition to acting, Montalban also did this a long time ago:

In 1970, Montalban organized fellow Latino actors into an organization called Nosotros (“We”), and he became the first president. Their aim: to improve the image of Spanish-speaking Americans on the screen; to assure that Latin-American actors were not discriminated against; to stimulate Latino actors to study their profession.

Montalban commented in a 1970 interview:

“The Spanish-speaking American boy sees Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid wipe out a regiment of Bolivian soldiers. He sees ‘The Wild Bunch' annihilate the Mexican army. It's only natural for him to say, ‘Gee, I wish I were an Anglo.”


They do the coolest things.

Mr. Montalban passed away at the age of 88 on Wednesday.


Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Olympic Village Boondoggle: Jim Dandy To The Rescue?


Or, to be more precise, Gordon Campbell?

To the rescue I mean:

G&M Jan 14/09: The B.C. legislature will hold a special session before the regular sitting of the legislature on Feb. 10 to deal with a request by city of Vancouver to allow it to borrow almost $500-million for the troubled Olympic Village project, Premier Gordon Campbell says.

The premier made the commitment Wednesday following a speech on another topic in Vancouver.

“As a government, we want to do everything we can to help and we will do it as quickly as possible. There are some significant economic downsides to dithering on it,” Mr. Campbell said....

Now, at this point there is no reason to think that this will involve anything more than the charter change that Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson asked for earlier in the week so that we, the citizens of Lotusland, can borrow a big whack of cash to pay off the usurers from Fortress.

But what if.....

Lotusland had something more to offer Mr. Campbell?

Something that would make him a champion of the underdogs and the downtrodden rather than stainless steel fridges and marble counter tops?

Like, say, a real mixed community in South-East False Creek that everyone, not just Spec-U-Vesters, could be proud of.


If you don't mind too much, I shall digress for a moment....

Earlier today a(nother) pretty interesting discussion broke out over at Frances Bula's place after she asked:

"What might the project have cost if it had gone ahead as one-third social housing, one-third market rental, and one-third market condos, as COPE/Vision originally planned?..."

Now, based on the other stuff she brought up in the post, I think Ms. Bula was making the point that jumping all over the previous one-term NPA/Sullivan regime for all the mistakes made in the Boondoggle is not quite fair.

Which is not a point I am yet willing to surrender entirely.

However, I have been thinking of pretty much the same question, but for a different reason.

As a result, I left the following comment on the thread:

"I very much agree with Frances that it would be very useful if we had a good cost analysis of all the various component parts of the project.

However, persuant to VHB’s point that speculating on a market bounce is very possibly folly, I think it would also be very useful if we started to seriously retro-analyze what it would cost to alter the parameters of those component parts, in various degrees, perhaps even all the way back to the 2005 proposal (ie. 1/3 each of social/market rental/marked condos).

Would the resulting numbers be crazy?


But if there were things in it for other government bodies other than the CoV to support (ie. governments that may soon change and/or are looking for ways to spend components their infrastructure/stimulus packages that are coming online), well……"

Are you getting my drift here?

Stimulus packages are being readied....Mr. Campbell is exposed on his left flank, which normally might not matter much to him except that there is an election coming and the polls are narrowing....Therefore, maybe there are mutually beneficial things that could be worked out/brokered by principled folks that want to get good things done for all the right reasons.

Folks like, say, this.


At the very least, I would think that the Opposition might want to consider raising the issue when Mr. Campbell does, indeed, open the Ledge for the 37 extra seconds it will likely take to change the charter.
For the record, nobody over at FABula's took my bait....All the other commenters are too busy discussing whether the market will bounce back and/or how developers and developments work in a free vs. regulated market....which is not to say that it is not a good discussion - it is...and many of the folks there, folks like VHB, are very knowledgable....It's just that I think that making things attractive for other governments, governments that need to spend money on infrastructure/stimulus packages at the moment, could be a hail-mary game changer here.
In case you missed's the link to Gary Mason's live chat from earlier today....not a whole lot new there, except the Mace Man's teaser that tomorrow's story might have more on the allegedly non-compliant CFO story.
Finally, for those of you that maybe thought this post was actually going to have something to do with Southern-Fried StoneGlamHenge Rock...well.... here it is.


Olympic Village Boondoggle: Meanwhile In Chicago...


...City Council is already pledging a $500 million guarantee on any cost overruns that will be required to build and operate an Olympic Village if they are granted the 2016 Five Ringed Circus.

And how are they going to finance the thing?

Why, by Spec-U-Vesting, of course.

To the tune of $1.1 Billion:

"...If Chicago wins, the Olympic Village will be built on the Near South Side on the site of Michael Reese Hospital. The city recently agreed to buy the property for $86 million and plans to sell it to a developer. The 2016 bid team has estimated the cost of privately developing the village at $1.1 billion...."

Welcome to SuckersVille Chicagoans!


Olympic Village Boondoggle: Where's Reimer?


I was wondering why we've heard so little from Vision Councillor Andrea Reimer since the Boondoggle Imbrogglio really started heating up after the holidays ended.

Well, Mike Howell of the Courier looks to have figured out why just by watching:

Vision Vancouver Coun. Andrea Reimer didn’t want the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver.

She voted against it in the Olympic plebiscite in February 2003.

But, as she said at Monday’s council meeting on the boondoggle that is the Olympic Village project, she respects that a majority of Vancouverites wanted the Games.

Reimer didn’t make a big speech about her decision. Nor did she go on about how the previous NPA-dominated council effectively agreed to become the project’s developer—and put taxpayers on the hook for $1 billion.

She left that to Vision Coun. Geoff Meggs who suggested “the city may face the largest financial loss in its history” and pointed to the NPA majority’s decision to take on the project.

COPE Coun. David Cadman also weighed in. So did NPA Coun. Suzanne Anton and COPE Coun. Ellen Woodsworth, who also voted against the Olympics.

It was too much for Reimer.

“My hope is that we stop the blaming, get on with financing the project in what ever way that we can find to finance it and get it done,” she said.

In other words, the election campaign is over, and the Olympic Village on 17 acres of city land is supposed to be completed in 10 months and handed over to VANOC for the Games.

As Reimer sat down, a couple of “good for her” comments erupted from the gallery.

It's all coming back to me now....How Ms. Reimer managed to stick to her principals AND get things done when she was, essentially, an independent on School Board awhile back.

Should be really interesting to see what she gets up to, and how she does it, down the road.

Update......Oh boy....and this is almost scary.....looks like I kinda/sorta almost agree with the Spamaloteers on this one....although I think Mr. Howell's take has a few more shades of grey than does Mr. Fontaine's.


Olympic Village Boondoggle: The Eleven Percent (non)Solution


I dunno about you, but I was shocked when Miro Cernetig suggested last week that Fortress was getting something in the order of 'eight percent or more' per annum on the money it's already on at least $200 million of the loan that we, the Citizens of Vancouver are apparently on the hook for already

But yesterday Rod Mickleburgh, in the Globe piece that wasn't written by Gary Mason, slipped in the following bombshell that few seem to have noticed:

"Gaining extra borrowing powers would give the city a chance to seek alternative funding at a better rate than the 11-per-cent interest Fortress is charging on the $317-million it has advanced to date, and thus reduce financing costs....."


Freaking Eleven!!!

Who do the Hedgie Boys think they are?

Nigel from Spinal Tap?

And if we are getting stiffed with eleven
when our credit rating is A+ up the wahzoo, what the heck is going to happen if the rating is downgraded?.....And don't give me that codswallop about how the downgrading wouldn't have happened if only everybody had kept quiet because, I for one, do not want to be a citizen-participant in a local version of a Madoffian-like Ponzipalooza....Now that it's all coming out, it sure would be interesting, given the timing of it all (eg. Sept 2007 to early 2008), if somebody were to ask Peter Ladner if, perhaps, the looming spectre of the Boondoggle Rising was the real reason he jumped in to put an end to Spamalot.


Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Olympic Village Boondoggle: Neither Standard Nor Poor.


Well, well, well.

Is this what Peter Ladner was really afraid of if news of the boondoggle were to 'leak' out?

Jan. 13 (Bloomberg) -- Vancouver’s debt rating may be cut by Standard & Poor’s after the Canadian city agreed to cover a funding shortfall on construction of the athletes’ village for the 2010 Winter Olympics.

Vancouver stepped in as manager and financier of the C$1.1 billion ($900 million) development after New York-based Fortress Investment Group LLC stopped advancing money for construction.

“Depending on the scope of the city’s financial obligation, we believe Vancouver’s potential debt burden might not be consistent” with its AA+ rating, the credit rating company said today in a statement.

Thing is, are these not the same fine folks that told everybody to keep giving money to Hedgie Boys like Fortress 'till the Cows and/or Reality came home?


Olympic Village Boondoggle: Are The Good Folks At The VSun Serious?


Or are they just joking?

Why do I ask?

Well, because in their Editorial today, the good folks at the Sun made the following statement regarding the billion dollar boondoggle:

"As far as we know, the developer is still solvent and contractually obliged to deliver the project on its own....."

Sure thing Vancouver Sun Editor-Thingys.


If that's the case, why are they kinda/sorta suspending projects left, right and center*?

The 'developer' I mean.

And even more to the point, with all that apparent solvency flying around, why did the developer need $100 million of our money just to keep operating for the last three months?


*Here's an example of the developer's kinda/sorta 'Nanaimo Problem'.
On the plus side,
at least the VSun didn't say that the developer is in an 'enviable position'.


Olympic Village Boondoggle: Whose Unanimous Now?


So, here they would appear to be....The smoking gun minutes of another leaked Vancouver City Council meeting....

This time they're from way back when.

Back when we were still being told that everything was still booming along.

Which would be 2007 to be exact.

Once again the leak receiver is Gary Mason.

Here's his lede:

VANCOUVER -- Vancouver City Council knew as far back as the summer of 2007 that the Olympic athletes village was in jeopardy and that the city's own financial investment in the project was at risk, The Globe and Mail has learned.

At an in-camera meeting held that June, staff informed councillors that project developer Millennium Development Corp. was in "anticipatory default" - in other words, it was anticipated the company would not be able to meet its financial obligations to the city, according to minutes of the meeting.

At that point, Millennium owed the city $193-million for the land on which the village was being built. At the June meeting, staff recommended that the city accede to a request by Fortress Investment Group to guarantee $200-million of the $750-million loan that the New York-based hedge fund had made to Millennium because of concerns the lender had about the developer's financial situation.

Out of that meeting, the Non-Partisan Association party majority on council agreed to provide Fortress with the loan guarantee and a completion guarantee, obligating the city to complete the project in the event Millennium was unable to. That also meant the city would be responsible for paying the Fortress loan in the event Millennium defaulted.

Councillors for Vision Vancouver and the Committee for Progressive Electors voted against approving the loan and completion guarantees.....

Spin that Spamalot!

As a reminder, the following spring, the spring of 2008, senior city staff, including the then City Manager, apparently began shunting Chief Financial Officer Estelle Lo off to Buffalo. That story came to us by way of Mr. Mason also, back in November of 2008, and I blathered on about it over at FABula's recently. As a result, Ms. Lo was not at the fall 2008 meeting where council then reportedly voted unanimously to give Millenium a hundred million to help with, as we were told after the story broke, 'cost overruns' (ie. before the November 2008 election we were most definitely NOT told that it was to prop Millenium up because Fortress had pulled out completely).
One last thing... According to Mr. Mason's latest missive, the City does not plan to interview Ms. Lo about the matter. That is one thing that is buggin' me about what his Gregorness and the Meggs Man are up to. Here's hoping that somebody in the proMedia does (like, say, FABula or Mr. Cernetig who really know the entire history). Oh.... wait.... there's that little matter of the gag order on Ms. Lo's severance package (which was drawn up by who, exactly?)..... Sheesh.....Maybe if the Ontario teachers finally made that deal for BellGlobeCTVTSNRDICHUMTEAMTorStarMedia, the G&M might be able to come up with the cash for the scoop?....Not that I would be endorsing cheque-book journalism or way.....after all that would be way too 'speculative' for my tastes....As for CanWest, well forget it....Heckfire, they are so cash-strapped they'll probably have a hard time even matching the 50 large they coughed up for the LINO's in the run-up to the last Provincial election....