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Battle-Scarred Atlantica: Episode 2

This evening, my friends, as your faithful correspondent, I met an idealist of the rarest sort: a political idealist. He is thoughtful, and as near as I can tell, sincere. In politics, if you can fake that, you’re in.

It is obvious that the Atlantica Party website doesn’t do their position justice. Yes, they are advocating political union of the four Atlantic provinces, but that isn’t their only position, contrary to the impression I came away with after seeing the television interview with the leader of the party, Jonathan Dean. They also advocate a system of proportional representation which would ensure that the democratic ideal of ‘every vote counts’ actually meant something. Related to this is the idea that citizens could actually feel engaged in the political system again by directly influencing government policy, a position that certainly doesn’t work too well now. This party has ideas, and energy, and they are being met thus far with a rousing wave of…

…Indifference.

Which is a shame, really. It’s obvious that the idea of proportional representation alone would ensure real citizen involvement in the political process. That in itself would go a long way to combating the unfortunate sense of hopelessness that lies at the center of the Atlantica Party’s philosophy.

I’m not sure whether the reforms that are being proposed can ever realistically come to pass, and I’m not entirely convinced that some of the ideas in the party platform are as practical as they seem on the surface…but I can tell you this, as your humble correspondent: I walked away from the meeting (sadly, not well attended – I was 1/3 of the people in the room, including Mr. Dean) thinking about what I’d heard. Actually thinking about the political ideas presented in that room, because they had obviously been thought about and considered. It’s been a long time since I walked away from any political context without a sense of frustration, so something has been accomplished. This idea is not nearly so half-assed as it may seem. There’s something here worth thinking about, even if that’s as far as it gets.

Even if it’s just an idea that makes us stop taking our democracy for granted, that idea is worth considering. Because it’s an actual idea. About how to make things better and to engage citizens in their own governance. I may not be a ‘convert’ to the cause, as I remain skeptical on some points, but at least it kicked my brain into gear. That’s something.

Stay tuned…

2008 leadership

Is an Obama surge beginning?

Are we starting to see Democrats beginning to line up behind Obama? The Gallup daily poll now has Obama 10% ahead of Clinton nationally, which, while statistically significant, might still be a blip. I have a feeling, however, that more and more Democrats are beginning to worry about the ultimate result of a fight-to-the-death showdown on the convention floor, and are beginning to line up behind the front-running Obama. If this trend continues, and with the news that Obama is opening up a big lead in the very strange Texas delegate selection process, the tenacity of the Clinton campaign will be harder to justify, a win in Pennsylvania or no.

As I’ve written before, I do not believe Clinton should quit – I think it’s important to have (at least) two viable candidates up to the convention, but if her desire really is about what is best for the party, it would be to her credit to limit the campaign to attacks on the very-easy-to-attack John McCain and the Necropublicans, rather than helping Rove and the boys by doing their knife work for them on Obama.

Fighting a pitched battle in a losing cause can be considered noble in some circumstances, but if it leads to a badly split party going into the election campaign, it is worse than folly. The Democratic nominee will have to face the Rovians soon enough, there’s little to be gained by a trial by fire now.

2008 leadership, willful blindness to absurd extremes

John F McCain?

One has to wonder what the voters of his home state must think of Joe Lieberman. I mean, how retarded does one have to be to see John McCain as Kennedyesque?

Except for the age, the near-total lack of personality, and the dearth of a compelling vision for the country, he’s nearly not at all the same! Wait – bipedal, carbon-based, male. Okay, now I’m onboard.

I’ve got to think that he’s angling to be the first person to be the failed vice-presidential nominee for two different parties.

gonad-free and high on life, Liberal

Stephane Dion tells the country – “I have balls!”

Stephane Dion has called for party discipline amid open discussion of his unfit leadership of the natural governing party of Canada. In an attempt to tell his party insiders to sit down and shut up, he has merely confirmed that he has little control over the party – that in fact, he has no balls.

Riddle me this – can you imagine Stephen Harper calling for party discipline? No, he would simply raise one pudgy arm and send the offenders out of caucus never to be a Tory again. Say what you want about Harper’s ability to lead this country (he can’t) and his vision for it (ummm… Victorian?), he has balls and can lead his party. Or should I say Party?

Dion has none and can’t. I’ve no idea what his real vision for Canada is, but it won’t matter, because he is as close to power as he’s ever going to get.

CBC

CBC runs to the concert hall doors…

I’m absolutely certain the announcement today that the CBC is killing its Radio Orchestra, combined with its earlier announcement that it is “revamping” its Radio 2 schedule in no way means it has lost its commitment to classical music in Canada. Why am I certain? Because Jennifer McGuire of CBC English Radio said so:

We know for example that for a concert that we fund through our CBC Radio Orchestra, we can extend our reach to three by doing it through other musical organizations

See? It’s all about efficiency – more classical music per dollar spent, in this case three classical music units (CMUs) per concert dollar spent.

And why stop at increasing efficiency at mere money when you can extend it to time? That is exactly what the previously-announced gutting revamping of the schedule is all about. Where currently you turn on the radio during the day and hear clearly inefficient classical music, you will soon be able to listen to obviously more efficient (in CMUs per hour) programs of pop, jazz, and classical hits programs.

A quick view of the new schedule might lead one to the incorrect conclusion that there is actually going to be less classical music on the air, not more, but this would be a misreading – these programs are more efficient and can deliver more music in less time by concentrating on the “hits” – the classic classical. That’s two “classics” in one piece – two CMUs for every ditty, as long as we stay away from any of those less “accessible” by composers whose names aren’t Mozart and Beethoven (and Vivaldi at the equinoxes).

CBC is obviously maintaining its commitment to classical music. And pigs will obviously come winging out of my asshole any minute.

Atlantica

Battle-Scarred Atlantica: Episode 1

So, on my television this morning, we had the leader of the Atlantica Party explaining (vaguely) his idea of the benefits of Atlantic Canadian union. He indicated that the idea for the Party originated when he returned from Out West, and “fell in with a bunch of freethinkers”.

I am somewhat troubled by his reference to ‘freethinkers’. In a democracy, aren’t we all theoretically free thinkers? Granted, not everyone avails themselves of the right to intelligently dissent, but the label ‘freethinker’ strikes me as being elitist and arrogant on first blush. The name also gets applied to purveyors of useless ‘alternative’ or ‘new age’ medicines who claim to know things THEY don’t want you to know about – the THEY being those parts of the government charged with the safety of consumers. How dare they impose on the freethinker’s useless ideas?

The idea also carries baggage in reference to the proposed union of the Atlantic Provinces, implying that this is a new idea – far from it, it’s a concept that has naturally been discussed over the past few hundred years. The similarities of industry, culture, geography, demographics and so on have prompted this discussion every fifty years or so – I guess it’s time. I would argue, however, that time has marched on, and the idea is outdated and simplistic.

I decided to visit their website, and I found it interesting that they see Atlantic Canada as having ‘no future’ and being ‘impoverished’, something that uniting the provinces would supposedly rectify.

Taking the ongoing demographic change in Atlantic Canada as but one example, I would expect that people would leave Atlantica about as fast as they are leaving the individual provinces, they’d just have a bigger province to come back to when they retire.

Anyway, as intriguing as this all is, the Party is holding an event on March 31 at my local library. I plan to attend, if only to gather more blog fodder. Consider me your humble correspondent, and I expect a few of my compatriots from the ‘Kog will join me in my quest for…whatever I seem to be questing for. If a total of four people show up for this meeting, as was the case at the last meeting, I think ‘Kog writers will for once constitute a political majority. We need to enjoy that while it lasts.

What will we encounter when we confront the Freethinkers? Truth? Maybe. Entertainment? Definitely. Stay tuned.

Halifax, Nova Scotia, urban development

Decreasing traffic by increasing traffic… thoughts on Halifax’s future

I noticed in yesterday’s Chronicle Herald that Halifax city planners are once again considering to alleviate traffic congestion in the city by building a third harbour crossing, this one from Woodside to around the South End container pier. CBC is also carrying it here.

My immediate instinct is that this is a bad idea. I seem to remember hearing and reading in a number of places that increasing the traffic network simply delays the traffic problem a couple of years and that this is a bad idea. A few years after the third crossing is built and Eastern Passage becomes the hot new residential area and Porter’s Lake gets dozed by one of those goddamned development companies that brought us the disaster that is Hammond’s Plains and Timberlea and voila, traffic is as bad as ever. My first instinct then goes on to say “wouldn’t it be more useful to actually plan urban development with extending public transit in mind rather than building more suburbs?”. Isn’t building a new highway or bridge just a band-aid?

I mean, a billion dollars can make enough buses that even the fat-ass city councillors who whined and moaned about parking at City Hall might even find it convenient enough to use.

Right?

Thus, me and my first instinct head to the internets to find a pithy quote proving my thesis when I come across this arresting quote by the late Jane Jacobs:

It’s really surprising how few creative, important cities Canada has for its size, its population, and its great human potential and attributes. There’s a whole region of Canada, the Atlantic Provinces, that has a lot of pleasant little places but doesn’t have one single really significant creative city. And the whole area is very poor as a consequence. It would be like a Third World country, that whole area, if it wasn’t getting transfer payments and grants of various kinds from the rest of Canada.

Woah, there, woman, that’s my homeland you’re talking about.

Umm, is she right?

The fact of the matter is, I don’t know diddle about urban development, except that which I’ve witnessed personally. I have seen the HRM council hand out development rights to huge parcels of land that have basically turned Halifax into an aglomeration of hideous taupe suburbs (with streets named after the trees, creeks or hills that used to be there) connected by roads on which passengerless vehicles pass near-empty buses on their way to work in Burnside or downtown. I have heard the councillors, amid howls of protest, propose turning Chebucto Road effectively into a highway at the expense of front lawns, to provide better connection between the unrestrained growth of Bayers’ Lake (and the suburbs surrounding it) and the downtown. I have seen the downtown gutted by lower-tax shopping malls, which in turn are decimated by still-lower-tax big-box behemoths on both sides of the harbour. (In fairness, at least you can get a bus to the new one in Dartmouth.)

All of this development points to one thing – poor urban planning has our elected representatives repeatedly bending over for the monied developers, chasing new developments with services that are much more expensive to provide suburbs than cities. Meanwhile, they provide retail space in low-tax districts that further increase the city’s service load while simultaneously reducing it’s tax base. All of this gets made up by little residents like me with their ever-increasing property taxes. Oh that my salary increased at the same rate as my taxes have!

And this doesn’t even touch on the environmental load this kind of development carries. Shopping in Bayers’ Lake effectively requires a car, as buses are as rare as good food out there. (Sorry folks, Montana’s sucks ass.) Metro Transit provides bus service to most suburbs, but buses come rarely enough that actually using them requires serious life-altering adjustments in habit that only $2 gas will provide. Soon, my pets, soon.

So I throw this out to the public sphere, to those that I hope know more about this than I: How do we create a city that is vital and creative while at the same time makes sense at economic and environmental levels. More ferries? Bike paths? More buses? Congestion tax?

Somehow I don’t think it involves the Commonwealth Games or building a tunnel to Woodside.