Saturday, August 24, 2013

This Day In Snookland....The Bonfire Of The Harmonies.


Bob Mackin, writing in The Tyee, has the story of the payout for recently severed Snoodlandian Deputy Minister, Mr. Graham Whitmarsh.

The number is $461,643 which, of course, is all that you will hear from any and all screamers that follow up on this story, however briefly, over the weekend-deadened newscycle.

But, to his credit, Mr. Mackin (who we assume was under the thumb of that 72 hour FOI release rule thingy and was thus forced to publish today or get scooped on his own stuff come Monday) goes a little deeper:

...Whitmarsh (then Deputy Finance Minister) and David Loukidelis, deputy attorney general, were involved in the controversial $6 million deal to pay Dave Basi and Bob Virk's legal bills in October 2010, triggering surprise guilty pleas by Basi and Virk in the corruption trial related to the privatization of BC Rail...

Which is good to know.

But in our opinion the normally very thorough Mr. Mackin missed a spot.

Specifically, Uncle Bob neglected to note that the very fine fellow who was scheduled to take the RailGate stand back in the fall of 2010 when the Geoff Plant-defended six million dollar deal went down was a most excellent former public servant named Gary Collins.


When Mr. Collins suddenly resigned in the wake of the Ledge Raids way back in the first term of our Gord, he almost immediately went to work for a now-defunct airline named Harmony.

And guess who else also once worked for Harmony and it's owner, an uber fine fellow named Mr. David Ho?

Well, that's a story we have hidden away in our PublicEye-assisted, cultish, whiny and extremely sanctimonious archives:

....Former RailGate era Finance Minister Gary Collins once worked for David Ho's now defunct Harmony Airways.

....Current Deputy Finance Minister Graham Whitmarsh, who helped Deputy AG David Loukidelis put together the super-secret $6 million dollar plea-copping bonus-baby deal that ensured that former Minister Collins would never have to testify, under oath, in front of transcripts of RCMP surveillance wiretaps, at the RailGate trial, also worked for Harmony back in the day.

But here's something we didn't know, courtesy of Sean Holman's fantastic archives over at Public Eye.....

.....Current Deputy Finance Minister Whitmarsh was 'relieved' of his duties at Harmony on Nov. 30th 2006.

....Former RailGate era Finance Minister Collins resigned from Harmony just one day later on Dec. 01 2006.


As you might expect learning of the business connection between Mr. Collins and Mr. Whitmarsh led me to ask the following question of Mr. Whitmarsh's then boss, the finest of all fine men who ever worked for our Gord, Mr. Colin Hansen, on the very last day of 2010:

"How, exactly, was it NOT a conflict of interest to have Mr. Graham Whitmarsh, who is a former business associate of Mr. Gary Collins, work out a deal that prevented Mr. Collins from testifying in open court, under oath, about his role, or lack thereof, in the (now established) illegal leaking of documents and information to private concerns regarding the longterm leasing of public assets then under the control of BC Rail?"


To the best of my knowledge no answer was ever provided.

Which is not the least bit surprising.

But what is truly astonishing is that a question such as this was never, again to the best of my knowledge, ever put to the good Mr. Hansen by a member of the Lotuslandian proMedia.

'Nuff said?

Regarding the cult of whine and the sanctimony?....This...And, of course, this!


That Thing That Long-Haul Bloggers Must Know In Their Hearts.


From the apparently feedless blog of one of the kings, James Wolcott, on the end of TBogg (and others):

...I'm going to miss TBogg, and not just because I stole from him so shamefully. His surrealist spoofing and damning ridicule was flat-out funny (as opposed to just snarky), sometimes two or three wisecracks detonating in the same sentence, and the sentences gathering momentum until the deceptively offhand powerhouse payoff. A blog post that begins "National vodka repository Peggy Noonan..." restoreth one's faith in comedy, and mankind. But it also wearying for a blogger such as TBogg to know that no matter how devastatingly a Nooner is zinged, there's no getting rid of her, just as there's no getting rid of David Brooks or Newt Gingrich or any other of the media pestilents that have been plaguing us since Ronald Reagan bronzed his hair. After awhile making fun loses some of its fun, and a blogger is danger of becoming bitter, and no one should become a bottler of Bitter Ironies, not when there's life to be led...

Hang on a second while I go check my own empties...

(I think they're right over there, hanging from the hat rack)


Sub-header comes from a great tune by one of the finest young independents that I know of...
Never bitter, ironically or otherwise, the always straight-ahead Norm Farrell has more up on why it is that the apparently always fine and always very charitable folks from the Fraser Institute are still able to get their 'studies' in front or our ears and eyeballs....


Friday, August 23, 2013

My Morningsong Ride.


The wind that is supposed to bring an end to the Lotuslandian summer whipped up just I was leaving the Near Eastern Townships this morning.

Which is likely going to be crummy weather-wise.

But it made for easy biking westward across town with that breeze at my back.


I stopped just long enough to take the image above using the north wall of Carnarvon Elementary on 16th avenue.

The 'Anti-Loitering Devices' did not even register on these old years.


Actually thought of covering the song below back at the beginning of the summer when littler e. brought her very first high school yearbook home.

It's appropriate at this end of the summer too I reckon...

And darned if Karen doesn't have some sort of weird, supernatural 'Ghost in the Balsillie' explanation for all the listens that have been piling up on Setlists past...


Thursday, August 22, 2013

A 'Somewhat Popular' Blogger Has (Almost) Left The Building.


And here are a few things TBogg suggests his readers remember when he is no longer there and the going gets really Reblunderdumbest:

  • If Ross Douthat offers some vague promise of respect if you’ll just hand over the keys to your vagina… don’t do it. It’s a trap and he’ll only end up calling you a whore and fat in his next book: Fat Whores I Wouldn’t Fuck With Your Dick No Matter How Much They Look Like A Celebrity: A Journey Of Faith
  • McMegan will write something about public policy that will be completely wrong because she will be “unconvinced” due to the fact that the numbers fail to translate into cups, tablespoons, pinches, pounds, and liters … and also because she is paid to be wrong. But even if she weren’t paid to be wrong she’d still get it wrong.
  • Someone will continue to fund because it is better than having their staff wandering the streets screaming “STOP RAPING PEOPLE!” at symbols of government over-reach like, for example, mailboxes.
  • Andrew Breitbart will remain dead.
  • Always apply the 24-Hour Rule to every overly-hyped story whether it is revelations about the NSA or the IRS, or news about a spontaneously combusting baby …  although that one seems for real.
  • Lastly, we call them ‘libertarians” because ‘sociopath’ is such an ugly word.

I, for one, will miss him.

And I will also miss some of the greatest collective commenters, who are often more than the sum of their individual parts, ever.

(really old, first generation Billmon/Whiskey Bar comment thread makers excepted, of course)


Fraser Institute Hands Poor Families Their 'Get Out Poverty Free' Card



Whaddya know.

The fine folks at the Fraser Institute are saying that the 'prevailing estimates' of what it costs to raise a child are bunk:

...Prevailing estimates of the cost of a child for Canada and the United States, currently, tend to be in the range of $10,000 to $15,000 per annum. These cost estimates have a distinct middle class bias and do not reflect the reality of raising children in lower income and newer immigrant households... 

Why are they saying this?

Because the same fine folks from the Fraser Institute have just published a research study that backs them up one hundred percent (if not more):

...Examining the basic marginal costs necessary for the healthy development of a child, this paper finds that an annual outlay of $3,000 to $4,500 (depending on the community or region and the age of the child) would be sufficient...


I have never been a peer reviewer for these fine folks who say that they utilize a process that is 'rigorous' to review the studies they publish, this despite the fact that they also state that the process is overseen by in-house 'directors of the Institute's research departments'.

But even I, who am no social scientist, was left wondering why the study's author, Professor Chistopher Sarlo, did not include the cost of child care (or the cost of lost income if one parent stays home to provide the child care) as part of his 'annual outlay' estimate.

Well, here is what Professor Sarlo had to say about that in the published report, on pg 40 (careful: pdf):

...The exclusion of daycare costs from the list of needs using the budget standard approach is not because daycare is not a legitimate expense for households with children but mainly because many families with children will have little or no daycare costs...

Then, in the next paragraph, Professor Sarlo writes the following, on pg 41:

...For all couples with one child, the average spending on child care is about $1,800. (Statistics Canada, SHS, 2009; calculations by author)...


Leaving aside for the moment the 'calculations by author' notation (in the absence of any, you know, actual 'calculations), this second statement is something that peer reviewers in any field flag would flag as a major contradiction that would lead to concerns about the validity of a study's major finding.

Interestingly, Professor Sarlo then tries to wave away the contradiction with the following passage, also on pg 41:

...There certainly will be unavoidable child care costs for some families; however, it is preferred to add in a budgeted amount only for those families for which this is a relevant expense rather than impose the average on all families across-the-board...

As best I can figure it this bizarre final argument is based on other passages in the report wherein Professor Sarlo makes the case that families of means spend more on childcare than those who can't afford it. Thus, childcare is neither an expense for, nor is it required by, the latter group.


Perhaps Professor Sarlo should try that neat trick with nutritious food as well.


The point here is that, in my experience such major contradictions in a research study (which are sometimes called fatal flaws), invariably lead rigorous, arms-length peer reviewers to reject a study for publication. It is also my experience that truly independent editors of scholarly journals (i.e. not in-house directors of departments of the Institute publishing said study) agree with them.

The rigorous peer reviewers I mean.


Now, why might a think-tank with the motto "A free and prosperous world through choice, markets and responsibility" want to publish and wurlitzer such a study in the public prints and the electronic media?...Well the following is my opinion...If your ideological approach to prosperity is not working out quite as planned, and more and more families are starting to wonder if they will ever climb above the poverty line, why not just convince everyone concerned to move the line down so that everyone is suddenly prosperous, regardless whether or not they still need important stuff they cannot afford...Or, put another more direct and practical way...No childcare?...No problem!
The Exile takes a very hard look at this and comes to a slightly different, but not necessarily mutually exclusive, conclusion.


Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Translink To The Poor...We Really Don't Want You Anymore.


Travis Lupick has the latest in the GStraight:

The Carnegie Community Centre Association’s Tamara Hermanexplained that some organizations working in the Downtown Eastside give people FareSaver tickets for transport to important meetings like medical and counselling appointments, job interviews, and court appearances.

“With the Compass cards, we are not going to be able to buy them at $6 a card every time we need to give somebody a bus ticket,” she told the Straight. “It is really going to put a strain on our already strained budgets and just make that impossible.”

TransLink recently announced that it is phasing out FareSaver booklets, packs of 10 tickets purchased for the price of nine. If travellers want a similarly discounted fare, they will have to purchase a Compass card for $6, and load it with enough money to pay for a ride...


...Susan Henry, a legal advocate with the First United Church Community Ministry Society, told the Straight that she expects the introduction of the Compass system to hamper services provided by a number of community organizations.

“We will not be able to assist people [with transit] anymore,” Henry said. “Right now, it’s costing us the equivalent of $2.10 to help them for a single zone. If it’s going to cost us $8.75 [$6 for a Compass card plus $2.75 for a one-zone fare], we’re not going to be able to do it.”

And what does the Translink Spokesthingy have to say about this?

Well, he goes back to that old 14% solution he and his have offered up already:

...Derek Zabel, a spokesperson for TransLink, said that meetings with stakeholders are ongoing. He argued that the Compass card will come with benefits for low-income earners, explaining that it will provide a 14-percent discount compared to cash payments...


Now, as we have pointed out already....

Even coming straight off the top of $2.75 without factoring in the extra six bucks for the compass thing, the fourteen percent (non)solution doesn't get you back down to the $2.10 it costs per one zone fare with faresavers right now.


It's not just the really down and out who are getting screwed here.

It is also the working not-rich who will have to buy two fares at $2.35 (i.e. a greater than 10%  increase on current costs) to get to and from their jobs every day who are getting the shaft.


Laila also wrote about the egregiosity (new word!) of the 14% non-solution in her 24 Hours column earlier this week...
At a time like this, it sure would be nice if someone were to look into who is actually making (or has already made) the real money on this 'deal'.


Monday, August 19, 2013

Detainment At Heathrow....The Sending Of A 'Message' (Of Intimidation)


The chilling 'message' in the detainment of Glen Greenwald's partner David Miranda at Heathrow Airport yesterday is becoming clearer and clearer.

The following is from Mark Hosenball's follow-up report from Reuters Monday night:

...On Sunday, British authorities detained for nine hours the domestic partner of Glenn Greenwald, a Guardian writer who met face to face in Hong Kong with Snowden and has written or co-authored many of the newspaper's stories based on his material.

The Guardian reported, and UK authorities subsequently confirmed, that David Miranda, Greenwald's Brazilian partner, was detained by British authorities under an anti-terrorism law as he was in transit from Berlin to Brazil and was changing planes at London's Heathrow Airport.

One U.S. security official told Reuters that one of the main purposes of the British government's detention and questioning of Miranda was to send a message to recipients of Snowden's materials, including the Guardian, that the British government was serious about trying to shut down the leaks...

This really is only one step away from the worst of the worst case scenarios.


Need more detailed background?...Mr. Greenwald's original Guardian report on the 'detainment' (and the 5,000 attached comments) is here....The Guardian's initial follow-up from Alan Rusbridger, which makes it clear that Whitehall had already come calling with multiple 'messages' that culminated in a hard-drive stomping in the basement of the paper's offices in London, is here....And don't worry, you won't use up your views going to the read Guardian stories because they have no paywall....As for being tagged by someone for doing so?...Well...That's a different story...The good news there, I suppose, is that their readership has gone through the stratosphere because of the work of a (former) 'blogger' and his whistleblowing source...Imagine that!


Why Is The Chairman Of The Board Of BC Ferries Hiding?


Couldn't help but notice this little tidbit in Rob Shaw's VTC story on Friday about the latest round of really super-duper (and board approved) executive compensation packages at BC Ferries:

"...Board chairman Donald Hayes was not available for comment..."

And today?


Mr. Shaw is telling us, via his Twittmachine feed, that the good Mr. Hayes is refusing to give interviews on the matter.

We note, with interest, that Mr. Geoff Plant is also a member of the unelected and, apparently (based on recent events), unaccountable BC Ferries Board...Perhaps Mr. Plant would like to rectify that situation (the accountability one at least) by offering us a blog post to explain things to us in, say, the manner in which he also explained the six million dollar payout to Mess'rs Basi and Virk awhile back....


The Boxing Of Translink's 200 Million Dollar Compass


Update, Monday Aug 19th....This was originally posted last Thursday...I've moved it to the top for those folks flocking over from Laila Yuile's most excellent piece in 24 Hrs...


We now know the Compass thingy will cost, when all is said and done, around $200 million.

Which is $200 million that will never be recouped by the nailing of those awful evil ne'r do wells known as fare evaders (and/or poor people).

We also know that the entire thing could have been done without turnstiles that would have saved oodles of money and cut down on the coming congestion (can't wait to see all the folks lined up in the morning at the King Ed Canada Line station trying to get through three, count 'em, three! gates).

And we know that Cubic, the company that is raking in that $200 million, actually makes mag-strip readers.

And yesterday we learned, via an excellent piece from Michael Mui in 24 Hours, that run-of-the mill folks (i.e. the members of the public who are actually paying the $200 million that will not do one single thing to increase Translink's public transportation capacity) who buy a ticket on a bus (rather than first buy a six dollar Compass Card AND a bus fare prior to going anywhere near a bus) will not be able to transfer onto a train because, of course, Translink doesn't want to pay to install mag-strip readers (that read bus transfers) at the train stations where those uber-expensive turnstiles will be.

Which, of course, is the item that is getting all the play (and a petition) today.

But there was something else buried in Mr. Mui's piece that is worth noting:

...(Spokesperson Derek) Zabel said TransLink expects most customers to use the Compass Card instead, as monthly and pre-loadable options offer a discount of up to 14% as a further incentive to buy...


We noticed the killing of the Faresavers (= discounted 10 packs of fare tickets) a couple of weeks back and we were waiting to see what the 'incentive' would actually be given that a 'stored value option' euphemistic mollifer was waved in our faces by the flack-hackery as a 'don't worry, be happy' flag at the time.


In the place of the Faresavers we now know that Translink will now offer a discount of 'up to' 14%, presumably for purchasing multiple trips on the six dollar Compass card.

Let's see...

A 14% reduction on a $2.75 one zone fare would bring things down to $2.35.

And the current cost of one zone Faresaver ticket?

Well, that would be $2.10.

So the increase for moving to the Compass thingy, on top of the $200 million, is actually a hike of more than 10% of the current Faresaver price for a one zone fare.

Which is a drop-in-the bucket right?

Sure thing.

Unless, of course, you are just scraping by and you have to take public transit to get to and from work on a regular basis.


The upshot of all this is that I think Vancouver councillor Andrea Reimer may have been right when she tweeted the following a couple of weeks ago:

Especially those of us that need to take it most.

Take public transit, I mean.


And, as a post-script, I think it is very important to again note, for future reference (particularly given the past performance of the associated flack-hackery), that there is an 'up to' qualifier linked to that 14%.


Sunday, August 18, 2013

Is The BC New Democratic Party A Movement Or An Institution?


Corky Evans, in an Email that has been making the rounds, says it has become the latter. He also thinks that is the root of the problem:

...The only way I can think of to describe our problem is to say the Movement that we were has become the Institution that we are.


...Please do not misunderstand my intent. I do not wish to denigrate the folks who dedicate their lives to make us function. They Are Us. Our problem is not ”who” they are, it is that they exist in critical mass and their voice is perceived to be our voice and their voice is not interesting. It is an institutional voice. It is pretty much like listening to the Ford Motor Company or the BC Medical Association...

Ian Reid feels very differently:

...Here’s what I believe. The BCNDP isn’t the movement. It is the electoral ally of a series of movements that have at their heart ordinary people trying to live whole and fulfilling lives against all odds. As well it is the electoral arm of a series of movements that have at their heart our planet and the way those ordinary people wish to steward that planet for all.

The BC NDP’s job is not to be everything to everybody. It’s job is not to be “the movement”. That is so presumptuous and self-important.

The BC NDP’s job is to get a group of people who share the above values elected in enough quantities to form a government and to do something....


Why does this stuff matter?

Because, regardless your point of view on the real politick of the thing, it is critical for the NDP to both want to do the right things and to put together the infrastructure so that it can actually win.

And it has got to do this fast.

Because, if it does not, I fear that we will wake-up one day soon and find ourselves living in a....

And, ya, I do have enough raw material in the can (finally) for a new Sunday Setlist (old ones archived here)...Just have to go through it all now and find out what stays and what goes...


Saturday, August 17, 2013

Why, Indeed?


Today, among other (important) things, Sooey says this:

"...Why are we so focused on who will pay to clean up Lac Megantic when 47 of our sister and brother human beings are dead and their deaths are a direct result of ideologically-driven decisions made by currently governing politicians?

You know, everybody complains about politicians and the decisions they make but nobody ever seems to hold them to account for them. And no, I’m not talking about two years from now at the ballot box. I’m talking about the fact that the men in office right now made a policy change that allowed industry to cut an important corner and pay just one engineer instead of two to operate its deadly accidents waiting to happen.

I mean, if governing politicians didn’t expect business owners to take advantage of the opportunity to reduce their costs, they wouldn’t have made the policy change that allowed them to do it. Cripes, one of the policy changers didn’t even take a day off between resigning his seat in Parliament and joining up with his friends in business, ferchrissakes.

I thought there was a cooling off period between making the rules and financially benefiting from them but I must be thinking of another country. The Sudan or the Virgin Islands or Switzerland..."

To which I respond....




And, off-topic (but not really), who, exactly, threw the long Lobb bombs that led to the $200 million turnstiles 'round here anyway?...And who, precisely, ran the initial interference in the long march that led us all down the road to the evil demons  that we all now know as 'fare-evaders' (as opposed to poor people)?...More on that later...


Friday, August 16, 2013

If You Can't Transfer Between A Bus And A Train...


Shouldn't, as per a comment from 'an omaly' tacked onto a solid piece by Miranda Nelson in the GStraight, the new name for the Lotuslandian public transit system be...



When The Going Gets Big, The Really Big Get...


In the end, Charles Bukowski became more than just a self-made man.

In all kinds of ways.

One of which was that he lived long enough to see his life's work start to pay-off.

So much so that big publishers started offering him real money to write stuff.

In advance.

But that doesn't mean he forgot the folks that helped him through the lean years.

Case in point, the following is a from a letter Bukowski wrote to one publisher that came calling in February of 1993, one year before he died:

Hello Daniel Halpern:

I'm glad that 'musings' worked for you.

Update bio? Harper-Collins to issue RUN WITH THE HUNTED, a Charles Bukowski reader, April 1993. I am about 2/3rds finished with a detective novel, PULP, "dedicated to bad writing."

Thank you for the thought of doing a book of "musings". But all my work is promised John Martin and Black Sparrow Press. He was there when nobody else was, I can't forget that. On the Harper-Collins book they simply purchased rights to rerun certain portions of work already published by Black Sparrow, crediting John Martin as editor. I am glad that "musings" workd well for you and I am still honored and look forward to seeing them in Antaeus...

Helluva a guy, as well as a kinghell of an artist, I'd say.

And he turns up in the following song, written by Sean Kangataran, that I covered awhile back...

And go read the letter in full, posted up here by the WSJ's Barbara Chai early today (which would have been Bukowski's 93rd birthday), to read about what he thought of makers of music vs. makers of literature...


Thursday, August 15, 2013

The Greatest Show (Not) On Earth


I was 10 the summer that Apollo 11 happened.

And, like all kinds of kids everywhere, I thought that nine day mini-series was the best thing ever.

And when the big show wasn't on the television I spent most of the rest of the flight in my closet, which I had converted into a fairly decent replica of the inside of the Command Module, with faux controls and everything.

I'm pretty sure I even slept in there.

The thing is, the Command Module (CM; which is the bit that looked a cylinder with a pointy cone at one end) did not land on the moon.

Instead, it circled luna with Mike Collins in it, waiting to do the pick-up, while the other two guys went down in the Lunar Excursion Module (LEM; which was the part looked kind of like a stubby-legged spider) so that they could walk around and take pictures and stuff.



Somebody on the Twittmachine (sorry, can't remember who) pointed me towards a reverse-time-lapse of the launch of the big Saturn V rocket that hauled the then conjoined CM and LEM up into space from the perspective of the actual launch pad floor itself (which is the opposite view of things from that shown in the image above).

The movie is a really freaking amazing back-stage, nuts and bolts 'this is how the thing actually worked' -type thing that it is nothing like anything that the two Wallys (Schirra and Cronkite) and Arthur Clarke babbled on about, pretty much non-stop, on the idiot-box at the time.

On the day of the moonwalk itself I distinctly remember something that actually had nothing to do with space....But it did have quite a bit to do with time (and what would soon become a continuum) ...It all started when the two Wally's began to pontificate on what the future would hold...And the thing distinctly rememberd?...Well, I recall being struck dumb by the realization that in the year 2000, in addition to flying cars and regular flights to Mars,  I would be 41 years old...At the time I had no trouble conceiving of winged vehicles in the driveway and/or interplanetary travel taken in an economy class seat...But... I could not even begin to fathom the possibility that I would ever be that old...Well....Ha!


Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Could The Good People Who Ask You If You 'Want Fries With That'...

...Be The Ones Who Finally Stop Our Race To The Bottom?

From Josh Eidelson in Salon:

...In each (American) city, (fast food) workers are demanding a raise to $15 an hour and the chance to unionize without intimidation. With fast food jobs becoming increasingly prevalent in — and representative of — the U.S. economy, and embattled unions exploring and experimenting with tactics like those the fast food workers have taken up, their showdown has far-reaching consequences...

And it's even happening in the South.

Somehow, I figure this one could actually transcend race.

And it will be very hard for the screamers and the media maw to belittle and dismiss these folks as  'lazy, dirty rotten hippies' as was done with the members of the  Occupy movement.



A Summer Story Song.


And this story, which unfolded 32 years summers ago now, is all true.

Every last word of it.

Everybody else, except the Whackadoodle and me, was at the Folk Festival last night...So, with thesis reading all done, I was actually sitting down to record the next Sunday Setlist when this just came pouring out...An hour later it was all written, and in another it was recorded...The story happened here....
And, for those in the know (or who are wondering about the drawl)...I didn't mean to rip-off this guy...Honest.


Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Wallinville...The Assistance Of All The Assistants.


From yesterday's thumb-driven Twittmachine feed...


If true, would this not be the ultimate in getting 'clean'.

As for the 'plural' when it comes to the mention of the assistants?

Well, how could the Senator from Potash....errrr....Saskatchewan possibly survive without a whole passel of them?

But, seriously, what justification could there possibly be more than one?

To take care of travel expenses, I mean.



This Day In Snookland...In Which Mr. Smyth Gets Tough...

...On Sparkle Ponies.

From today's Aug 13th column in The Province:

...British Columbia's accumulated debt stands at $56 billion, and the government expects it to go even higher before the natural-gas miracle makes it all disappear. According to the government's June budget update, the debt is scheduled to hit nearly $70 billion by 2016, which would then leave only 12 years for Clark to achieve a herculean task that would make even Hercules nervous.

How to sop up all that red ink? The government says it will use revenue from proposed liquefied natural gas exports to create a $100-billion "Prosperity Fund" that would wipe out the debt forever.

But how can that happen without taxing the nascent LNG sector to the hilt? And exactly how big is that tax bill going to be anyway? That's what big oil-and-gas companies want to know before they decide to invest here.

"Those details need to emerge," Andy Calitz, vice-president of Shell-led LNG Canada, told the Wall Street Journal last week.

"We need to know with certainty about the level and the stability of that (tax issue) by 2014."...


Given that this issue was fully in play two months ago, I've just got to ask (because I'm just so sanctimonious and whiny)...

Why the heckfire wasn't this column written on May 13th?

(assuming, of course, that the good Mr. Smyth doesn't have to get his Lotuslandian political info, and his cups of courage, from the pages of the WSJ)

Wondering about all that was truly most sparkly and ponylicious (and also unquestioned) back in the day?....Well.....This.
And, don't know about you, but I could have sworn I heard the newly-minted Snooklandian Minister for Advanced Education tell Ms. Gretzinger that he could quite literally see fields and fields full of non-existent job training programs from his house on the MoCo this morning.


Sunday, August 11, 2013

My Evening (Ferry) Ride


C., the two E's, their Grandma, and me went to see the Victoria HarbourCats play the Bellingham Bells down at the Royal Athletic Park last night.

And, as far as minor-league 'experiences' go, it was, overall, a little too cookie-cutter/khaki-short/casual-corporate for my liking.

But still, the kids on the field, who are all college-aged playing their first wood bat summers while preparing for a (hoped-for) shot at the pros down the line, gave the solid crowd of twenty-five hundred a good game for their 10 bucks, give or take, depending on their seat*.

And just how wide-eyed and not jaded were those kids?


After the game they all flopped down on the grass in front of their respective dugouts and watched the entire post-game fireworks show with the rest of us.


While littler e. and C. are going to stay over on the Island for a couple of more days, E. and I caught the 6:00pm ferry back across the water early this evening.

It was one of the old boats, the Queen of New Westminster, which I remember much more fondly than soccer game Saturday afternoons at Royal Athletic Park as a kid, and even though it was a little cloudy we set up shop and got our instruments out, up top, just behind the bulkhead on the port side.


About halfway through the trip a gaggle of kids from that Bellingham baseball team, who finished their 54 game season earlier in the afternoon against the HarbourCats, came up and sat down right next to us.

And that's when we saw that they really were just kids, many actually younger than E. is now, and who, just like her, will soon be heading back to school. And let me tell you, those kids were really friendly, and they gave us lots of encouragement when they got up and headed back down to their bus one last time.

All of which, I guess, is just another way of saying...

The boys and girls of summer are going fast my friends.

So give your best to all of them before they are gone (or fully grown) and the rains come back again.


Still have a bit of tough time swallowing what the Harbourcats charge for something that is way below 'A' ball, but I get it that it is a tough go, what with those extra ferry trips and the long bus rides that the team has to pay for, both going and coming...This is something I've gotten into with one of their many number #1 fans, Tom Hawthorn, who wrote about the team (and the wood bat league they play in) as well as other, older Victoria baseball teams earlier this summer in The Tyee...By way of comparison, we went to a July 4th game in the same league down in Klamath Falls, Oregon last summer for two bucks a pop.
And ya,  just in case you were wondering, Mr. Hawthorn was at the last game of the season today with his daughter...We, instead, went to visit the other two grandparents of the E's earlier this afternoon... A good time was had by all, regardless location and/or venue.
Image At Top Of The Post....Is from years gone by... Taken out back of Martin Luther King Junior High School just up the street from our old house in Berkeley California...littler e is now 14 and Bigger E. is 20...They will still come out to play with me....Occasionally....Which, of course, means that I am a very lucky man.


Luckily, Kerouac Never Became A Sportswriter


On a recent HST Friday we noted  Dr. Thompson's flip-flopping on the genius that was Jack Keroauc.

The much more venomous comments came from a young, pre-docktoral HST just after he got out of a forced hitch in the Airforce, which he managed to get through by becoming a weirdly wired sportswriting Grantland Riceian-type figure.

Or some such thing.

Kerouac himself also spent a stint in the forces.

But Kerouac's time in the Naval Reserve was much more short-lived. Miriam Kleinman tells the story in the US National Archives 'Prologue' magazine:

...Kerouac enlisted in the U.S. Navy Reserve (then called the U.S. Naval Reserve) during World War II (at the age of 21 - see image above). But he never left the United States, never saw action, and never even completed basic training.

In all, he lasted 10 days of boot camp before being referred first to the sick bay and then the psychiatric ward for 67 days. Kerouac's extensive medical and psychiatric evaluations produced both a large file and the conclusion that he was "unfit for service."

The qualities that made On the Road a huge success and Kerouac a powerful storyteller, guide, and literary icon are the same ones that rendered him remarkably unsuitable for the military: independence, creativity, impulsivity, sensuality, and recklessness...

And thank the goddess for all that, eh?

Remember all this from the Vanity of Duluoz, but got onto the picture and Kleiman's story through the wonderful Open Culture blog which is worth a visit every single day.
Speaking of Jack....This.
And, just because it's Sunday....There is more than a little bit of self-interest in this one, but Paul Wells has a good piece up on the shift away from the funding of pure basic science in this country.


Friday, August 09, 2013

Op-Eds Say The Darndest Things.


Historian Henry Yu had an excellent Op-Ed in the VSun yesterday about 23 'children playing' signs that will no longer be required along the soon-to-be car-free section of Point Grey Road.

It was an interesting piece, and it had me thinking about how much Knight Street is still neither child nor bike friendly.

And then, near the bottom of the piece, out of nowhere, came the following:

"...Democracy does not require an equal distribution of wealth among all citizens. But it does require that great wealth not become synonymous with unchecked power..."

Couldn't agree more.

In fact, it strikes me as a motto of reasonableness to aspire to in all realms, including the political.


Another Communications Provider Just Says 'No'.


First it was Lavabit that said no to invading the privacy of it's clientele.

Then it was Silent Circle.

And now?



But, more seriously, Mr. Greenwald just asked Mr. Snowden, who apparently had been using Lavabit's secure Email service recently, what he thinks:

..."Ladar Levison and his team (at Lavabit) suspended the operations of their 10 year old business rather than violate the Constitutional rights of their roughly 400,000 users. The President, Congress, and the Courts have forgotten that the costs of bad policy are always borne by ordinary citizens, and it is our job to remind them that there are limits to what we will pay.

"America cannot succeed as a country where individuals like Mr. Levison have to relocate their businesses abroad to be successful. Employees and leaders at Google, Facebook, Microsoft, Yahoo, Apple, and the rest of our internet titans must ask themselves why they aren't fighting for our interests the same way small businesses are. The defense they have offered to this point is that they were compelled by laws they do not agree with, but one day of downtime for the coalition of their services could achieve what a hundred Lavabits could not"...

There is that, of course

But there is also the matter of how much business the big American companies will lose if run-of-the-mill users (i.e. people like you and me) decide that we don't trust our data in their clouds.


Thanks, once again, to our friend Bob for the heads-up on the Greenwald piece in The Guardian.
Oh, and just in case someone out there is not familiar with the concept of the Bananaphone...Here it is...As a Uke Cover.


All The Sanctimon(e)y That Fits.


Oh boy.

Look what Norm has done...



Thursday, August 08, 2013

Who Is The Best I Ever Saw?


There is scene in the movie 'The Right Stuff' when former test pilot Gordon Cooper (Dennis Quaid) is asked who was the best he ever saw.

At first Cooper starts to answer truthfully but after he is interrupted he grins and turns the spin back on himself.

Because, of course, by then Cooper was something that Chuck Yeager never would be.

Which was a side of spin-recycled astronautical 'spam-in-a-can'.


In the realm of the thing that I am lucky enough to do for a living, I can say unequivocally that the best I ever saw was a guy named Tony Pawson.

And now, very sadly (and very suddenly) he's gone.


The Highway Of Tears...Is There A Five Percent Solution?


Norman Farrell thinks there is.

And I think he might be right.

Head on over to Norm's place and see if you agree with him.


The Lesson That The Owner Of Lavabit Has Learned.


Lavabit is a US-based Email service that purports to be more secure than those other commercial services that you and I most often use.

And, thus, it was, apparently, used by a fine fellow named Mr. Snowden.

And now it turns out that the owner of the service, Mr. Ladar Levison, has been 'forced' to pull the plug on the entire operation.

Essentially (and this looks like it is likely the real story), it would appear that Mr. Levison has chosen to shut his business down rather than fork over the personal data of his clientele.

Mr. Levison also says this:

"...This experience has taught me one very important lesson: without congressional action or a strong judicial precedent, I would _strongly_ recommend against anyone trusting their private data to a company with physical ties to the United States..."

Most interesting (and sad),  all that....


Will soon become a big story, I'm pretty sure...For the moment, there is more at Boing-Boing.....
As for companies trying to sell folks like you and me pieces of their 'cloud'?....Well....This.


Wednesday, August 07, 2013

Listen To What The Keef Says...The Cultists Get A New Moniker.


Leaving aside the notion of pots and kettles, and all that, for the moment...

As a card-carrying member of the old Railgate Cult Brigade, I've got to ask...

Are all things (eg. attempted bribery, serial smears, fake budgets, non-existent jobs and training programs whose ads cost millions, Vegas casino company subsidies, eight figure dance parties, trillion dollar sparkle ponies, the destruction of our public utility, a billion dollar ferry deficit, pay-for-play everything) just trivial moves in a political game that are washed clean with each election as far as Keef is concerned?

Because, if that is, indeed, the case it sure would explain a lot.


My Morning Ride...The Drying.


For some reason I thought there was supposed to be some cloud cover this morning.

So I actually had long sleeves on that had to come off as soon as I crossed the mighty Fraser.

And then, about halfway in (just after a pickup truck refused to stop for a bike in a traffic circle on a bike route) I started wondering...

How long can this possibly go on?

And why has there been so little talk of water shortages etc., this summer?

I mean, did we really store up that much of the stuff during that awful, now long-gone, June?

Anyway, when I got in I checked the long-range forecast...

Supposed to be another 10-12 days of sun.


If we do get to, say, the 20th with nothing appreciable in the way of precipitation can't help but wonder if the extreme weather event/drought talk will begin.

*Think I might have been fooled by the fact that Rosie and I saw something we thought might have been a little high frontal edgy cirrus in the setting-sun sky above the cemetary on our walk last night.


Tuesday, August 06, 2013

The Problem With Pork Barrels Is That They Can Roll Over...

...And Squish Things That Actually Matter.

In response to a post on Snooklandian pork-barrelling gone berserk earlier today, reader S.H. left the following comment:

With apologies to sweet piggies everywhere--the oinkers are getting fat at the expense of our highly trained (self-financed) part-time paramedics.

Curious that the CBC posted this on a long weekend, then quickly closed the comments. Who is pulling the strings?

The province enjoys the comfort of pulling on the teat of essential part-time-rural-rescue-cows for the insult of $2.00 an on-call hour.


And now this...

From the CP:

Two paramedics in the District of Stewart quit their jobs as of July 30, including unit chief Cindy Ellwood who said she’s fed up with disruptions that mean the nearest ambulance is hours away...


...She said the service is asking Stewart paramedics to go further — sometimes a three-hour drive away — to help people

“I didn’t sign up to go out there and sit with somebody in a critical state while I’m waiting for an ambulance to either fly in if I’m lucky, or somebody to come in from either Kitwanga, Hazelton or Terrace which is … three, four hours (away).”

Ellwood said before she and her co-worker quit, they had six people on staff. Now, there is one paramedic and three are ambulance drivers.

For the last year, Ellwood said she’s driven an ambulance out to emergency calls by herself and then relied on a responding fire-rescue operator at the scene to drive her back in the ambulance while she tended to the patient.

She said work is picking up in the area and all those fire-rescue volunteers aren’t available any longer.


...“That’s where I’m fed up, because they’ve pushed us aside and said ‘you know what, we just don’t have the budget to send somebody up for you.’”....

Belt tightening and all that, right?



And, of course...



This Day In Snookland...If Citizens (Really) Scream, Will She Listen?


Remember how Ms. Clark announced massive post-election pay raises for 'key' staffers?

And remember how Ms. Clark rescinded those massive pay raises a few days later?

And soon thereafter fired a high-ranking apparatchik for, apparently, doing exactly the same thing?


In the interim, according results of an FOI request filed by the Province's Cassidy Olivier, a whole lot of British Columbians sent scathing messages Ms. Clark's way (via official government Email, btw).

Here is just one of many from folks purporting to be BC Liberal Party supporters.

And then there's this one, also copied to Mr. Coleman and Ms. Polak:



Now that the by-election-driven 'listening-to-the-people' period has passed, how will the raises finally roll-out we wonder?


Could there, perhaps, be a 'team' working on the logistics?

And if there is (or soon will be) such a 'team' in place that is/will be tasked with charting a course of 'fairness!' and 'fiscal feasibility for all!', we're absolutely certain that all of their Email correspondence will be available for future FOI requests....



Why Did McClatchy Publish The Names?


Regarding the interception of communications between a couple of bad guys that has led to the closing of a string of American, and one Canadian, embassy....

The NY Times and CNN censored themselves.

McClatchy News did not.

And, thus, McClatchy named names.

Here's why, according to McClatchy Washington Bureau Chief James Asher (in an EMail to the HuffPo):

"...Our story was based on reporting in Yemen and we did not contact the administration to ask permission to use the information. In fact, our reporter tells me that the intercept was pretty much common knowledge in Yemen.

On your larger question about the administration's request, I'm not surprised. It is not unusual for CNN or the NYT to agree not to publish something because the White House asked them. And frankly, our Democracy isn't well served when journalists agree to censor their work.
As I've told our readers in the past: McClatchy journalists will report fairly and independently. We will not make deals with those in power, regardless of party or philosophy..."

Don't know about you but I've gotta wonder...

If fine news organizations like the NYT and CNN (and many, many others) had made like McClatchy/Knight-Ridder in, say, 2003....Is it possible that thousands and thousands of people might not have died in Iraq for, essentially, no good reason at all?

Need more background?...A Bezos-free Dan Froomkin's got it.


Monday, August 05, 2013

This Day In Snookland...Is The Solution To The Private Email Problem Really Just Mo' Blackberries?


Paul Ramsey, who really understands this stuff, has has an excellent post up over at the Clever Elephant in which he describes how the BC Govt Email system sucks both historically and functionally. He also notes that the system doesn't have to suck but that it does anyway, including at the highest levels.

And while Mr. Ramsey gives examples of how this 'defective-by-design' paradigm can be exploited by those in government who may wish to do so, he does fail to get to the historical root of one other way that these same finest-of-the-very-fine folk can sneak around FOI requests and such.

Which is to, as outlined in what many dubbed the 'Dobell Doctrine' back in the Halcyon Days of Our Gord (eg. 2007), never actually write Emails in the first place.


Need background to the 'more hardware (and a bunch of other stuff) will help fix everything' part of this post's header?...It's here.


My (BC Day) Morning Ride.


One of the things I like about banksters's holidays is that they make the preceding Sunday a lot more relaxing.

And, for the most part, yesterday was.

Except that E. had procured a gig down on Granville Island (that she was excited about because it allowed her to skirt the ridiculous busking rules down there) and she wanted me to play with her.

Which meant I had to actually practice and, worse, get nervous.

In the end there was no need, especially after an old fellow came up to congratulate us on a particularly rocking version of 'Crash on the Levee' (which is tune #6, here) and we counted up the cash in the case at the end before giving half back to the art kids from Emily Carr who invited us down in the first place.

There was also a first for me (although I'm sure it happens to E. all the time)....After they had dropped a five, a couple listened for awhile and then asked, in the fading echoes of a long medley in E (Darnielle, The Frames, The Parting Glass, Mic Christopher, Neville Brothers) that Em had to finally put a stop to because she knew I wouldn't, if 'we knew any Beatles?'.

Luckily, E. did.

Because I, unfortunately, or fortunately (depending on how you look at) do not.

But enough with all the digressive clauses....

Here's our song, re-worked from a tune by Phil Ochs, for a BC Day we hope is coming in, say, 2017...

Today's image....Road patches along the bike route along 'The Valley' between 21st and 20th avenues.