Commonewealth Games, Halifax

Oh, that pesky $425 million!

A group of local business people wants to breathe life into Halifax’s abandoned bid for the 2014 Commonwealth Games.

Chronicle Herald, March 30

Apparently, the information released in the day(s) leading up to the dissolution of the Games bid got some local businesses excited, and there is talk of an attempt to resurrect the bid. The bid committee, which effectively put a bullet in its own head by treating everything it did as a state secret (“Logan, Scott Logan”), has been downright effusive this week (why they even drew pictures!), and this has got the business community all hot and horny for the Games again. I guess I over-estimated the intelligence of our business “leaders” once again.

Dumb, dumb, dumb. I hereby promise to never again over-estimate the intelligence of the business community or, for that matter, to under-estimate their desparation to get their hot little hands on free government money.

In the couple of weeks since the province announced its pull-out, Logan’s gang have trimmed over a half-billion dollars, apparently fluff, off of their budget, so now Sue Uteck, who has had her panties in a bunch all along, is trying to rouse interest again. “Leadership”, I guess.

What does this mean? Did the bid committee have to be threatened with loss of allowance or desert? Are they really children? (My children?)

One thing the article doesn’t mention is the hundreds of millions of dollars the local business community is now willing to pony up for the benefit of the community. Such an oversight on the part of the Herald; tsk, tsk.

I was just goofing around there for a minute – the business “leaders” are leading the charge with/for our money again. Golly.

If this stupidity gets started again, and if, if Halifax won the Games, I’ll eat the computer that I am typing on right now if the budget didn’t inflate magically back to the previous numbers or worse before we get half-way to opening day. This is just more smoke and mirrors to try to keep the bid alive to judgement day, after which point it would be really, really difficult to pull the Games out of our wallets. If Sue Uteck thinks Halifax got bad press two weeks ago, what would she do if we had to drop the Games after winning the bid and the ensuing tax revolt?

Bush, Mid East, United States

Is Bandar no longer a loyal Bushie?

Is it possible that the United States is losing grip of the one Arab state that it has managed to maintain as an ally for the past generation? If this report is correct, then relations with Saudi Arabia, a friend the United States cannot afford to lose, are beginning to freeze up.

In recent weeks, the House of Saud has determinedly not fallen in line with Condoleeza Rice’s “realignment” of Arab nations, instead it has been attempting to open relations with Iran and Hezbollah. And more recently, the US occupation of Iraq has been called “illegal” by none other than King Abdullah.

And now it appears the King is unable to attend an April 17 gala celebration in his honour planned at the White House. Jim Hoagland (Washington Post) thinks that this is further demonstration that even friends of the United States are fleeing the sinking ship that is US foreign policy. (I suppose this makes keeping your enemies closer easier. Sorry, couldn’t resist.)

Hoagland concludes that this might be the result of the Saudis seeing the writing on the wall for the Bush administration and everything it is associated with and they are willing to hedge while the Bush presidency limps to a close amid scandal and corruption.

I wonder if the American public is looking forward to hitting the fast-forward button to 2008? For the sake of international relations, getting rid of this administration quickly is quite possibly the most important thing the Democrats could do. One might argue that pussy-footing around like they are is a crime against humanity.

Maybe they could arrange for some young White House intern to “take one for the team” to make Bush impeachable.

Commonewealth Games, Halifax

Requeim for a bid…

Scott Logan is so full of shit I have to wonder what his morning toast tastes like. In what will hopefully be the last press report about the failed Commonwealth Games embarassment bid, he said:

To my grave, I will say that the responsible thing to do was to give accurate information for accurate decision-making and I’m very proud of the fact that that’s exactly what we did.

This from the head of the committee that lost the public’s trust by doing exactly the opposite, maintaining all along that it would be a “competitive disadvantage” to divulge costs and budgets. Unless of course he was referring to giving the provincial and municiple governments accurate information, as they would be the ones handing over our money. However, if I remember correctly, city and provincial officials were still in the dark about the actual numbers until the days leading up to their eventual pull-out.

Well, if little white lies like this are what helps Logan sleep at night, fine – he’s wasted enough taxpayers money and I don’t want us to have to foot health care dollars because he turned into an alcoholic or something in his guilt. However I don’t think I want him so much as planning my next vacation to PEI. Wherever he came from in the bowels of the provincial government is welcome to have him back – give him his parking spot, Blackberry and upholstered chair back.

In addition to his little mea non-culpa, the committee released pictures of what the facilities they had dreamed up might have looked like. I’m not sure if that was done in petulance (“Nyah nyah nyah – look what you’re not getting!”) or an attempt to show us what they did with their allowance for the past two years. Man, what am I going to do without my velodrome?


Time to go…

The recent behaviour of Jason Cherniak has pissed me off enough that I think it’s time to remove blevkog from the sainted ranks of Liblogs. There really is no point in itemizing the incidents, they’ve all been covered by those more intimately involved than I; it would only be redundant, and ultimately a disservice.

Last year when I started blevkog, I invited Dan, graven, briguy, and flash on board because we share a left-of-centre political worldview. We often disagree on specific issues but there is a sense of common cause. Inhabiting that side of the political spectrum in Canada is the NDP, sometimes the Liberals, and a host of other smaller parties like the Green. We decided to join the ‘dippers and Liblogs aggregators because our views sometimes aligned with either of the parties, sometimes both, sometimes neither. Also, it seemed more open, more fair, to be members of more than one party listing – I have voted all over the map in my day and I feel no reason to become a “party man” now that I’ve begun to blog.

I must admit, when I first found the ‘dippers and Liblogs, I found what I felt are earnest people interested in real discussions about issues that I felt were important and interesting, kindred spirits if you will. There are many blogs that I continue to frequent for whom this is very true.

Unfortunately, Jason Cherniak himself is not one of those people. He is quite the opposite, in fact – a political fanboy eager to hold the coat of whoever will lift him up a little bit higher in the party apparatchik. He is also a sophist, for whom rumour and truth are tools to advance his own ambitions one argument at a time. If he believes in something outside the importance of his own career, it is no greater than the political health of the Liberal Party, his chosen vehicle. He’s the Liberal party’s Adam Daifallah, and they can keep him.

For what it’s worth, I’m fine with that. The world is full of careerists in every walk of life, and our party-based political system unfortunately needs such people to function; flag-wavers and door-holders.

They do not, however, need blevkog to advertise for them any longer.

Nova Scotia, politics

Rodney and the looming environmental disaster…

He nearly lost an election called after two months of steady money-shovelling. He weathered the scandal over a plum patronage appointment, placing a campaign croney in a new position to which she was about as qualified as I. (Rodney, if there are any more of those 130K jobs kicking around, just comment here and I’ll get in touch.) Then he helped try to cover up a drunk-driving accident involving a cabinet minister that he put in office after his predecessor kicked him out for either idiocy or larseny (take your pick – Fage chose A).

Well, it appears Rodney DangerfiMacDonald is finally learning the ropes. He, or at least his handlers, have learned the first rule of things turning to shit when you touch them: When everything you touch turns to shit, stop touching things. For the past few months we’ve seen relatively little of Rodney – he went to ground recently and just kind of let things cool down a bit.

The big question posed to the handlers then became – how to reintroduce our new hero to the province that barely gave him the nod last spring? While cancelling the Commonwealth Games? Nah, too negative – just do a quick press conference and let Peter Kelly screw things up and take the heat. “Oh wait”, I can hear them say, “the federal budget, there’s the chance.” So, this past week we get to see Rodney in his new gunslinger stance (cue Ennio Morricone refrain) as he manly meekly takes on Stephen Harper as he sodomizes Nova Scotia and other poor provinces on the receiving end of transfer funds.

Heaven help us, but I’m afraid that this image is supposed to indicate the new Rodney will defend us.

“Okay, we’re back in the papers”, says Handler A, “what next?”.

Handler B strokes his chin, pipe clenched tightly between his teeth. “Leadership, think we can fake a little leadership? Obviously everything this government has done until now has been pooched, so it’ll have to be something new.”

“Yes, yes, that’s it! B, you’re brilliant! But how, we have no money?”

“Well that’s easy, A, we simply need a motherhood announcement of some kind. The question is, about what?”

Then, a small, quavering voice from the back of the room said “Global warming – it’s what all the kids are talking about.”

B’s mouth quickly unclenched, “Who’s that, the intern kid from the Mount? That’s brilliant! Hey kid, you’re my kind of marketer – you’ll get along fine here at Repeat, Rephrase, and Rehash. It’s got everything – it sounds resolute and we can put dates on it that make it unmeasurable within the regular election cycle. Hell, let’s keep it going until after I retire – I need a new boat!”

And so, in that vein we have this week’s announcement that Nova Scotia will become “one of the cleanest and most sustainable places in the world by 2020.”

Programs to that end will could include deposit fees on recyclable material like coffee cups, regulations suggestions that wetlands destroyed by developers “be replaced”, and an increased funding for reliance on energy from renewable resources by 2013.

Environmentalists are justifiably encouraged by this announcement, but, as they say, the devil is in the details, and with this government please permit me a moment of doubt. The upcoming budget will show us whether this government is actually serious about any of these proposals. Changing long-established patterns of consumption and material use will take time, but that does not mean we begin “sometime in the future” – we must begin now.

I will applaud any tangible steps taken toward these laudable goals, but not based on a single press conference.

entertainment, media

The Quality of Mercy

Once in a while, a story comes along that, as my Granddad would have said, “gets my dander up”. This story in the Globe & Mail is one of them.

Evidently, an overweight (400+ lbs.) woman recently gave birth. Not notable in itself, but the twist comes from the news that she didn’t realize that she was pregnant – again, not unheard of, particularly among women with weight problems. The real problem I have with this story is the reaction she received from people on the internet. She was mocked ruthlessly, belittled and humiliated by hundreds of people she had never met.

Again, we are revisited by the ghost of civility past. It was certainly more difficult to make fun of someone when they were present and could rebuke you for it, or cause you guilt or remorse by their reaction. Those days are long past.

Look, I’ll be the first to admit – I’m as ‘programmed’ to appreciate certain aspects of physical appearance in a woman as the next person. The initial reaction to seeing someone who is morbidly obese is to blame them, to think them less of a person. I should know better. My Mom, a few years before she passed away, was over 300 lbs. at one time, and worked long and hard to lose the excess weight. She was happy and proud, and so was I. The point here being, I should know better, but my initial reaction is still toward the negative.

Which, I suppose, doesn’t necessarily make me a bad person. I try not to judge, but sometimes I do. I’m human, and I’m OK with that. Mainly because I keep it to myself. I don’t feel the need to make myself feel better by belittling someone else.

And that, I suppose, is the point. We have, as I ranted about here, lost the intangible connection we once had with each other. Intangible, but very important, comprised mostly of a recognition that, no matter how we differ from one another, we’re all human, and we’re all along for the ride as this little ball of dirt hurtles headlong through the void. The new generation of emotionally distant, self-centered narcissists that has been bred by the rise in personally customizable technology has no connection to anyone, and could probably survive indefinitely with no human contact, as long as they were sufficiently entertained. I look around, and all I see are MP3 players – everyone is lost in their own personal world of songs that they chose to make them feel good. I’m not criticizing the appreciation for music, and the right to have favourite songs – heck, I have an MP3 player myself – but it’s become less of an enjoyable pastime than a barrier to human contact. The rest of the world becomes, in the age of instant entertainment, instant communication and instant gratification, an inconvenience. Why would you want to speak to a real human when you could be doing something more entertaining?

The need, or from an anthropological perspective, a desire to be creative and entertain or be entertained, is a hallmark of humanity – mice don’t wear tap shoes (there’s an image for you). The problem is, technology has slowly been drawing out of us the need to be creative – music videos made music less of an effort, since you had the images provided for you. Video games, which I remember in their infancy, has gone from a collective endeavour (remember Pong? Can’t play that by yourself), a social entertainment, to predominantly a solitary exercise. But Flash, you say to yourself, I play video games with other people online. Which, if you think about it, is a funny thing to be saying to yourself.

Online games are great – if you haven’t had the ability to interact socially in person with others sapped from you by isolation. The most well-adjusted people I know (counting my amigos here on the ‘Kog and longtime reader Alex [shout out!]), play games online, but they are also capable of making intelligent conversation with a real person. Younger people, who react to people as mere obstacles between self-indulgent entertainment experiences,  don’t perceive people as any more real when they compete with them online. To the narcissist, there is you, and there is a persistent buzzing noise from those things around you that cater to your needs immediately if not sooner.

It is the loss of the social skills we once had, the lack of meaningful interaction, that makes people the way they are, and makes them comfortable in online communities. There, all bets are off. Anything you don’t like about yourself doesn’t have to apply anymore. In the absence of visual cues, we can all be six feet tall and bulletproof, or blonde and perfect. You can be anyone you want – which means you can say anything you want. These aren’t real people, they’re handles or screen names or aliases with no emotional reality – or, in some cases, the emotion can become hyper-real, with no human reactions from which to judge.

Let me ‘splain.

Remember your first date? I sure do. Captain Awkward, that was me. All feet and twisted tongue, with sweaty palms, desperately trying to impress the girl I was with. She, no doubt, was much the same, and in subsequent years, on other ‘first dates’, it helped to dispel the nervousness to actually admit to being nervous – it put us on solid footing, so to speak. The whole thing was a process of finding out who this person was, what they liked, how they reacted when you do X, and so on. Honest reaction, and honest interaction, meant that you got to know someone naturally and gradually.

In the absence of this, boom! People are in love and buying plane tickets to Helsinki in less than 24 hours. In seeking out human contact, we have found voices, but not humanity. If the voice is all we have, it’s easy to decide whether you like or dislike someone  very quickly.

And if you dislike the disembodied voice with nothing but emoticons to judge by, what’s the harm in insulting someone? They’re not real, they don’t have feelings like you did when you were made fun of as a kid. Plus, there are no repercussions. The trucker from California can’t retaliate when the nerd from Crotchton-on-Stoat insults his intelligence, or mocks his photograph, or gets others to help humiliate them. They’re not real like actual people are real. If they’re real.

But they are, folks. These people you flame, or denounce as ‘liberals’ (where have I heard that before?) are actual human beings, with loves, needs, desires, problems and joys like you. We once shared a common set of values and rules of etiquette, but, once your world has a population of one, the rules are what you say they are.

Do we need a ‘code of conduct’? Not really. We already have one, and it’s called civility. Every once in a while, just take the time to realize that all of these shapeless blobs around you, the ones on the other end of the computer, the ones who are victims of misfortune or accident, are just like you.  ‘There but for the grace of god’ and all that.

We share a connection, and it’s not there because of a phone company.


Flash spreads his wings…

Our compatriot and good friend in blogging, Flash, has started up a new blog, flash and substance wherein he will pontificate and philosphize on things scatasociological. Since he has managed to not only snag a graduate degree in sociology and a job using it (who knew?), his new blog is something for which he seems destined, nay, created. He maintains that he will still post here, and I’m going to hold him to that promise, but I suspect that his output here will be somewhat diminished with the new endeavour.

I have placed a link to his new site over on the side and I have every intention of going over there and asking really, really stupid questions from time to time. Best of luck, Flash!