Category: effluvia

Deep thoughts on Postmedia and the long, slow death of print media

So over the last 24hrs there have been 3…no, wait, 4 stories that caught my eye. The first is Rogers media is overhauling it’s magazine business, which means amongst other thing that publications such as Macleans go from being weekly to monthly.

The second is that Postmedia owned 24hrs Vancouver will close it’s Vancouver office, laying off local reporters, and keep printing “without original reporting from 24 hrs reporters and editors. Instead, it will re-circulate other Postmedia content printed in local papers like The Vancouver Sun and The Province.”

Speaking of The Province, this pterodactyl scream op-ed by editorial page editor Gordon “Gordzilla” Clark, is the third item that caught my eye. Now one could spend some time dissecting the details of this column, such as the insinuation that an op-ed by the CTF’s Jordan Bateman published in his newspaper about the City of Vancouver’s plan – in an effort to address climate change – to be powered by 100% renewable energy by 2050 influenced a decision by the B.C. Utilities Commission to deny an application for a “district energy system” by a financial backer of Vision Vancouver (how? why? The Commission cites concerns about a monopoly rather than the source of the power, etc). But really it’s about the big picture in all this. Which brings us to story four:

Earth is on track to sail past the two degree Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) threshold for dangerous global warming by 2050, seven of the world’s top climate scientists warned Thursday.

A team of top scientists is telling world leaders to stop congratulating themselves on the Paris agreement to fight climate change because if more isn’t done, global temperatures will likely hit dangerous warming levels in about 35 years.

Six scientists who were leaders in past international climate conferences joined with the Universal Ecological Fund in Argentina to release a brief report Thursday, saying that if even more cuts in heat-trapping gases aren’t agreed upon soon, the world will warm by another 1.8 degrees Fahrenheit (1 degree Celsius) by around 2050.

Now I can’t help but reflect on how this is all related. Sure, the loss of revenue from classified ads as such things moved to Craigslist has never been replaced digitally. And you can overstate the influence of editorial direction of a particular publication. But it seems clear that the strategy of The Province in particular and Postmedia in general is to staunch the bleeding by appealing to the concerns of the past rather than addressing the concerns of the future. I’m sure there are good financial reasons behind this but it strikes me as an attempt at prolonging one’s death through clickbait-ey rage inducers rather than preventing it altogether through renewal and reinvention.

But hey, in a world full of angry old white men screeds what’s one more?

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Christianity? What’s it all about? Christy Clark edition

If only we had guns to deter the government from seizing our guns

RCMP seize guns in the evacuated town of High River1, ostensibly to keep the guns safe from theft but in reality to prevent residents from arming themselves to breach the RCMP checkpoint to return to a still flooded and dangerous area.

“This is the reason the U.S. has the right to bear arms,” said Charles Timpano, pointing to the group of Mounties.

1 Folks in Alberta are obviously under a great deal of stress right now and deserve our help and compassion…but this really is illustrative of the failed logic of the gun rights movement.

The spirit of City Caucus lives on!

Its purpose was never to do real research; it was always a propaganda arm of the movement. But it was supposed to create a plausible illusion of intellectual rigor, good enough to take in gullible journalists.

Paul Krugman

As they seem to do ever year, the Canadian Federation of Independent Business released a report last week on “ballooning” municipal spending. Yawn. B.C. municipalities pushed back a little harder this time, pointing out the downloading of costs onto them from senior levels of government (amongst other things). None of this is new.

But I get the sense, as judged by the talk on the Twitter, that the CFIB’s repetitious and easily disputable anti-government message is wearing out it’s welcome in many places.

Thus bring on the pushback on the pushback, starring the two founders of the former City Caucus – whose philosophy has always been why exaggerate a little…when you can exaggerate a lot!

For example, Mr. Mike Klassen (now employed by the CFIB) on the matter of senior government downloading:

Which I’ll give marks for brazenness, given that the CFIB’s Executive Vice President Laura Jones participated in the Ministry of Finance commissioned Expert Panel on Business Taxation whose final report released last September contained the following passage:

Recently municipal costs have been growing faster than the combined rate of inflation and population increase. In many cases, these costs are driven by decisions that are outside the direct control of a municipality and require some form of collaborative action with other governments.

And she signed her name to it and everything. Mr Klassen occasionally makes the mistake of forgetting we have Google. And memories.

And there was Mr. Klassen’s op-ed in the Vancouver Sun in which he attempted to dismiss criticism of the CFIB’s report as “name-calling”.

In their efforts to debunk the Big City Spenders report issued by the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, local politicians and their representatives resorted to name-calling instead of engaging in a conversation.

Now name-calling in debate is actually a thing: The ad hominem fallacy. However this is usually meant to describe the attempted dismissal of an argument by attacking the character of the arguer. For example: The report is garbage because the CFIB are a bunch of idiots [end rebuttal]. 

This is not considered an acceptable response in debate.

To whit, Mr. Klassen notes:

Mayor Gregor Robertson of Vancouver called the report “bogus” with “no basis in reality” and labelled the idea that cities are overspending as “hysterical.” Vancouver Coun. Raymond Louie labelled CFIB’s findings as “lazy sensationalism,” while Burnaby Mayor Derek Corrigan blasted CFIB’s researchers as “simpletons.”

Now it should be noted it’s perfectly acceptable to describe a report as “bogus”, “hysterical” and “lazy sensationalism”….because a report can be bogus, hysterical and lazy. As long as you explain why. And of course Mr. Klassen, in true City Caucusian style focused on the adjectives while eliding over the explanations for the adjectives.

Ex.

Vancouver Coun. Raymond Louie, a vice-president of the FCM, said he appreciates the CFIB’s message that governments need to be careful about how they spend their money. But he called the study “lazy sensationalism” that doesn’t reflect the realities local governments face, from constant downloading of federal and provincial services to costly replacement of infrastructure and increases in utility fees.

Louie said in Vancouver’s case, the city has already adopted many changes that have saved taxpayers millions of dollars and is constantly sharpening its budget pencils to whittle away more. Council began a core review of services in 2009 that identified duplicated services, combined departments and cut off marginal programs. One very small example, he said, was consolidating a separate park garbage pickup service with the general neighbourhood pickup.

“What we’ve done, for example, is the Vancouver service review where we went through every department looking for efficiencies. We turned over every stone and we intend to do it again,” he said. “We’ve got to move away from the misleading numbers they are putting out there and look at the actual hard numbers instead of this lazy sensationalism that is coming out of the CFIB.”

Louie said some of the largest increases in wages are a result of adding police and firefighters to meet basic protective service demands. Water and sewer upgrades and utility rates set by Metro Vancouver have also driven costs the city can’t control.

Klassen focused in on two words of the above and ignored the rest. Which is unfortunately typical of the gentleman.

Not to outdone, the other City Caucus founder Daniel Fontaine pens this today in 24hrs Vancouver. I noted the following:

Ten years ago, my monthly property tax installments were pegged at $324. Last week I was advised by city hall I now have to pay $515 each month. That works out to an eye-popping increase of 59% during the last decade. By comparison, the annual rate of inflation in the last several years has hovered around 2%.

Did the amount of services my family received from the city increase by 59% during the same period? The simple answer is no.

Now if New Westminster taxpayers were being charged a flat rate per household, this would indeed be outrageous. But even the most somnolent observer might note that’s not how property tax works.  You are charged a percentage of the value your property is assessed at. And if your property value goes up then so does your tax bill. That Mr. Fontaine goes without mentioning tax rates or property values and attempts to pass off the 59% increase to his property tax bill as solely the result of increased municipal spending is ridiculous to the point of comical. And also unfortunately typical of the gentleman.

(New Westminster housing prices have risen dramatically. According to the City of NW  “detached homes increased by 113%, attached homes by 92%, and apartments by 122%” for 2001-2007. Yes they declined in the recession, but only 7.5% of their high-water mark in 2008).

Mr. Krugman above was describing the Heritage Foundation. But he could just as easily be describing the Canadian Federation of Independent Business. Or the Canadian Taxpayers Federation. Or the Fraser Institute.

Given the quality of output from said groups lately, you’d have to be extremely gullible to be fooled by any of this anymore.

The Conservative Party of Canada’s worldview, in one sentence

Last Friday,  Human Resources Minister Diane Finley outraged the opposition and organized labour in a response to Chris Charlton (Hamilton Mountain, NDP), who condemned the Conservatives for reducing EI eligibility at a time of widespread job cuts.

“With respect to the employment insurance program,” Finley replied, “It is very important to note that, once again, the NDP is supporting the bad guys.”

Got that? Forget fluctuations in world markets & the business cycle. If you lose your job it’s not only your fault, you are also a moral failure and may in fact be evil. And you deserve to be punished.

And your children.

Because economics is a morality play of good guys vs. bad guys.

This was a common 19th century worldview, if not an 18th century one.

Waldorf Salad

The latest little brouhaha in #vanpoli is the saga of the Waldorf Hotel, one which continues to twist and turn. So it’s probably wise to wait until the dust has settled and the, you know, full facts are out in the public domain before charting a course of action.

So Mike Klassen weighs in. He’s got some ideas on how cultural venues can flourish without taxpayers footing the bill.

The hotel’s staff is unionized, which likely removed the flexibility around pay and benefits that a small business needs to achieve profitability.

Gut wages and benefits!

Onerous building code standards have made renovating old spaces needlessly costly and cumbersome. No one can afford hundreds of thousands or even millions to bring buildings up to code.

Gut safety regulations!1

Only when business has the ability to build ramshackle venues staffed by minimum wage slaves will civic culture be unleashed.

Adios, NoFunCity! Hello, Artytropolis!

1Details, of course, pending.

A SFU Public Square: City Conversation: “IT”S NOT ABOUT THE BIKE: THE SOCIAL FACE OF CYCLING:

Price Tags

SFU Public Square: City Conversation

IT”S NOT ABOUT THE BIKE: THE SOCIAL FACE OF CYCLING

When: Thursday, November 1

Time: 12:30 to 1:30pm

Where: Room 1700,  SFU Vancouver Harbour Centre

This is a free event.

 

You can be sure to generate a heated conversation by mentioning “bike lanes” at a dinner party.  But what’s really going on out there?

Somehow cycling has converged with change in our culture, change in our demographics and change in our environment.  Iona Bonamis (Stantec) and Brian Patterson (Urban Systems) will spark the conversation.  They’re two consultants in the private sector whose jobs are both to understand the physical infrastructure we need and to navigate the politics and cultures involved.  To get beyond the cliches in order to discuss where we’re heading on two wheels.

To PT readers: please circulate this notice on your networks.

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Compare and Contrast: Just who is the zealot?

That’s Prime Minister Stephen Harper weighing in on Iran’s alleged pursuit of nuclear weapons with Peter Mansbridge. In addition to this interview, Mr. Harper was equally unambiguous with the Globe:

Mr. Harper said he has no doubt that Iran is developing nuclear weapons. “There is absolutely no doubt they are lying,” Mr. Harper said, referring to statements by Iran that the nuclear program is for peaceful uses.

The evidence is just growing overwhelming. This is not, as was the case of Iraq, merely the opinion of allies,” he said.

It echoes, almost note for note, Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu’s. As I’ve mentioned before it echoes, almost note for note, Harper’s certainty in 2003 that Iraq was pursuing nuclear weapons:

I noted that there is no doubt that Saddam Hussein operates programs to produce weapons of mass destruction. Experience confirms this. British, Canadian and American intelligence leaves no doubt on the matter. Saddam Hussein’s continued non-compliance and non-cooperation with the United Nations only confirms this information.

This runs contra the opinion of the IAEA, U.S., and Israeli military and security services. What’s more, U.S. and particularly Israeli military and security officials are no longer being subtle about their disagreement with leaders like Harper and Netanyahu on Iran.

[H]ead of Israel’s military, Lieutenant General Benny Gantz, declared that the Iranian leadership had not yet made a decision to build nuclear weapons, that it was unlikely to go this “extra mile”, and was composed of “very rational people”. “Decisions must be made carefully out of historic responsibility but without hysteria,” added Gantz in a not-too-subtle dig at his political masters.

And…

[F]ormer head of Shin Bet (Israel’s MI5), described Netanyahu and Barak as “not fit to hold the steering wheel of power“. He went on: “I have observed them from up close … They are not people who I, on a personal level, trust to lead Israel to an event on that scale and carry it off … They tell the public that if Israel acts, Iran won’t have a nuclear bomb. This is misleading. Actually, many experts say that an Israeli attack would accelerate the Iranian nuclear race.”

And…

Dagan’s predecessor, Efraim Halevy, has said “it is not in the power of Iran to destroy the state of Israel”, and that “the growing Haredi radicalisation poses a bigger risk than Ahmadinejad”. Then there is the current head of the Mossad, Tamir Pardo, who is said to have told an audience of Israeli diplomats in December that a nuclear-armed Iran would not constitute an “existential threat” to Israel.

The U.S. military leadership is also circumspect:

General Martin Dempsey, chairman of the US joint chiefs of staff, said in a television interview that it was “not prudent at this point” to attack Iran, and “a strike at this time would be destabilising”.

But in a comment likely to fuel speculation about Israel’s military plans, he added: “I wouldn’t suggest we’ve persuaded them that our view is the correct view.” The two countries were having a “candid, collaborative conversation” which was continuing, he said.

His concerns were echoed by William Hague, the British foreign secretary, who said it was “not a wise thing at this moment” for Israel to launch military action against Iran.

All of this says a lot about Benjamin Netanyahu. But it also says a lot about Stephen Harper. In fact this, more than any other questionable thing he’s done while in power, reveals the most about the man’s soul. And it is, in my opinion, truly frightening.

It speaks to a black and white, Manichean worldview. It speaks to the dismissal of the advice of experts. It speaks to governing by faith…to whatever end.

This is social conservatism at its absolute, dangerous worst.

At it’s hypocritical worst.

“As a concerned Israeli citizen who lives in the state of Israel with his family and all of his children and grandchildren,” he said, “I love very much the courage of those who live 10,000 miles away from the state of Israel and are ready that we will make every possible mistake that will cost lives of Israelis.”

Ehud Olmert, former Prime Minister of Israel. NY Times.

It’s very easy to be brave when you don’t have skin in the game.

It really speaks to how the Harper Government[tm] makes decisions from top to bottom on anything.

Notable Linkage: STRUCTURAL INDICATORS ON THE ENTERPRISE POPULATION [PDF]