The Election Races Forward

September 17, 2018

I seem to have been writing, on and off, about the 2018 Vancouver municipal election for months. But now we finally find ourselves with the full list of registered candidates and only just about a month before the big day.

We finished up with a record number of contestants for this election: 21 people standing for the Mayor’s job alone (with only one winner), along with 71 wannabe Councillors (just 10 to be chosen), and another 33 each vying for Parks Board and School Board, which have 7 and 9 seats respectively. There will be a lot of disappointed candidates come October 21st, but at least Vancouver’s voters will have been given a wide choice — no bad thing.

Just to make things a little more complicated, the candidates for each position will not be listed in alphabetical or party order. Apparently it was thought that candidates with names beginning with “A”, “B” or “C” have an advantage over those with names starting with “W” or “Y” or “Z”.  Therefore, the candidates will be listed in random order in a draw to be made soon.

I understand the reasoning for this change, but I don’t agree with it.  Listing the candidates in random order — especially when there are so many in each category — guarantees that name recognition and/or party slate voting will play a larger role than it should.  I believe the dangers of that are at least as great as having to deal with lazy voters who don’t look beyond the first half of the ballot.

My selections may change over the next month, but as of today, my plan is to support David Chen for Mayor and the following Council candidates (in alphabetical order):

  • Sarah Blyth
  • Christine Boyle
  • Adriane Carr
  • Pete Fry
  • Lisa Kristansen
  • Rob McDowell
  • Derrick O’Keefe
  • Mirza Rezel
  • Anne Roberts
  • Jean Swanson

Although I recognize their importance, the fact is I just don’t follow School or Parks Board, so I don’t feel comforable selecting favourites.


Image: Pathway In Fall

September 17, 2018


Keeping Banks Safe For Our Money

September 17, 2018

As anyone who has read the papers or seen the news in the last few years knows, banks around the world have broken numerous serious laws, have had to be bailed out with taxpayers money, and yet still pay millions of dollars to inept executives and billions more to stockholders. Many of their problems involve their connection to complex financial transactions that do nothing but make money for already-rich individuals. There has to be a better way, and there is.

I would oblige all banks to become credit unions and I would strictly limit their functionality.

Credit unions are not-for-profit institutions cooperatively owned by their members. They operate solely for the benefit of their members rather than for outside shareholders, of whom there would be none.  Their senior management is elected by the members and their policies are offered up for approval at regular meetings of the membership. Senior management remuneration would require members’ approval. The billions of dollars that are currently paid out in dividends to outsiders would be used to increase services and lower costs for the members. Any surplus could be re-paid to the members or added to the credit union’s capital.

I would limit their functionality to the taking, managing and disbursement of members’ deposits, and to the issuance of personal loans (including credit cards) and personal mortgages.  Any member or corporation that required business loans, corporate mortgages, investments or insurance would turn to investment companies, mortgage brokers and insurance companies designed specifically for that function.

No one would be limited in their desire to engage in stock market or other investments.  But these would be handled entirely by companies separate from banks.   No longer would bank depositors’ cash be at risk in the marketplace for derivatives, for example.

Competition between credit unions, if such were needed, would become a function of service and accessibility.  I believe this would get us more branches on the streets and a more personalized service between member and bank.  It would bring banking back to the people, to a smaller scale that we can understand and control — after all, it is our money they are using.

 


Poem: Creating Collage

September 17, 2018

 

we sleep together,

for sure,

but mostly we share together,

cutting out our memories

from the bark of life’s tree

 

— like pieces of collage

laid out on the floor

before an exhibition

celebrating our anniversaries –

 

unhurriedly pasting them together

 

— refocusing colors and shapes

and forms –

 

until it is late again

and again

for sure

we sleep together

 

 


Night Music: Old Friends/ Bookends

September 16, 2018


Beanz

September 16, 2018

One of the joys of a full English breakfast are Heinz baked beans. At college, beans on toast were the staple supper whenever money was tight (like always). I doubt there is a larder in England that doesn’t have a can or two on a shelf.

I always assumed that the “Beanz Means Heinz” slogan pre-dated me but that is not so; I was in my late teens when Maurice Drake came up with one of the most durable of advertising lines in 1967. I know this now because of an article in the incomparable Creative Review.  From the same place I learn that Selfridge’s department store has made the bean can a feature of its displays this spring.

 

When I first arrived in Canada, it was a grave disappointment to me to find that cans of Heinz beans in North America were not the same as the English beans I grew up with.  However, I am glad to say that the original English flavour is now available here, if you know where to look — SuperValu on Commercial, for example.

They are one of life’s simple pleasures.

 


This Sporting Summer

September 16, 2018

This morning, the British cyclist Simon Yates won the Vuelta a Espana grand tour. That event capped off a wonderful summer of sport — in cycling and cricket, at least — for British fans.

Simon Yates

Yates majestic victory in the Tour of Spain meant that all three of cycling’s Grand Tours — Giro d’Italia, Tour de France, and the Vuelta — were won by British riders in 2018; and that three different riders (Chris Froome, Geraint Thomas, and Simon Yates) accomplished this shows the depth of British cycling these days.  Six of the last seven Tours de France have been won by Brits (Wiggins, Froome & Thomas), while Froome and Yates have taken the Spanish title for the last two years. This is a level of dominance at the top by one country that we haven’t seen for a while.

Now, for the fall, we look forward to the World Championships.

Joe Root, ENG Captain

Last week also saw the last cricket Test Match to be played in England this year. England played five Tests against India and won the series 4 games to 1. Earlier in the summer a 2-Test series against Pakistan was drawn 1-1.  I love our team right now — they are unpredictable and exciting; sometimes they collapse in a heap, sometimes they reach the pinnacles of the sport, but they are finding ways to win. And many of them are young. With the last ball of the last Test, England’s James Anderson took his 564th Test wicket, making him the greatest fast bowler in the history of the game.

In October and November, England tour Sri Lanka, including 3 Tests. In January, England travel to the West Indies to play a full series of 3 Tests, 5 ODIs and 3 T20Is.  That’ll be a good winter’s viewing.

Mitakeumi

Sumo has been especially interesting this summer. There are now a number of YouTube channels that feature all the day’s bouts which we can stream while we have breakfast instead of staying up until 2 each morning. That helps. More importantly, the upper ranks of sumo seems to be undergoing a periodic renewal, with older rikishi fading away and bright newcomers (such as Endo, Mitakeoumi, and Abi) moving up the ranks. In fact, the young Mitakeumi won the last tournament in July. But, it has to be said, that was partly because the three yokozuna (or “grand champions”) failed to show up: Kisenasato and Hakuho deliberately sat out, while Kakuryu was injured early on). But the hesitations of the yokozuna have made the tournaments (or basho) a lot more open and interesting.

We are now half-way through the September basho. All three yokozuna showed up, and two of them are currently leading.

I haven’t seen much boxing this year, but I did manage to catch the magnificent World Middleweight title fight last night in which Canelo Alvarez barely beat Gennady Golovkin to take the title.  Skilful scientific boxing from both instead of the brawling we often get these days.

Finally, I caught the second half of the rugby game between the All Blacks and South Africa a day or so ago. It was an historic win for the Springboks and, more importantly, allows all us others to believe that the All Blacks are not invincible.  It makes the northern hemisphere Test season something to look forward to.


Image: Still Life #2

September 15, 2018


Twenty Two Years and Counting

September 15, 2018

Yet another year without cigarettes. Twenty-two years today, wow.

It might seem tedious to keep harping on this year after year, but frankly I think giving up smoking after 35 years of two-pack-a-day slavery to the habit was the smartest and bravest thing I ever did. And I know for a dead certainty that I would not be here writing this today if I had continued smoking the way I did.

So I’ll keep celebrating my freedom, year after year!


Night Music: This Girl’s In Love With You

September 14, 2018


Image: Florida Market Fall

September 13, 2018


Night Music: Champagne and Reefer

September 12, 2018


Lascaux

September 12, 2018

On this day in 1940, the Lascaux caves in central France were discovered by four teenagers. As they entered the long shaft down into the cavern, the boys saw vivid pictures of animals on the walls.

 

When the site was made available in the later 1940s, this cave art was wildly popular with the public. More importantly, it allowed everyone, both public and scientists, to understand more clearly that the so-called “cave men” were far more than the mindless brutes of previous imagination.

At about 17,000 years old, the Lascaux images are far from being the earliest known cave art today — several caves in Europe and Indonesia have art from about 40,000 years ago, and a recent “sketch” on a rock in South Africa may be much older.  However, the enormous trove of images (more than 900 animals identified) at Lascaux combined with the encouragement of tourist traffic to the location has allowed this cave complex to become the best known of all cave art.

Today marks an important anniversary in our understanding of who we are and where we came from.


Wise Words

September 12, 2018


Beware The Resurrection of Andrea Reimer

September 12, 2018

The thing about Dracula is that he never really dies. It doesn’t matter how long he lies cold and dusty n his stone tomb, there is always some idiot who will come along and somehow set him free again to wander the earth on his deadly journey.

That image — stark and fearsome — came into my head last night as I read that, with the sudden withdrawal of Ian Campbell from the Vancouver mayor’s race, Ms. Reimer was contemplating putting herself forward for the job.

I wrote the following about a year ago when Reimer’s retirement from Council was announced. I think it bears repeating.

_________________

 

I came across Charlie Smith’s hagiography of Andrea Reimer from the Straight. It was a hard read for me because my experience of Reimer was so different, so negative.

We started off badly, back in early 2012, when I spoke before Council in opposition to the design of the Baptist Church’s proposed building at First & Victoria. In her self-proclaimed position as Councillor for Grandview, she asked me a few questions after I had had my allotted five minutes. She was arrogant, assumed I knew little of Grandview, and the tenor of her questions clearly indicated a predetermined yes vote for the development regardless of any arguments that might be presented. Things only got worse when the Grandview Woodland Community Plan process began.

A central paragraph in Smith’s column asks us to remember

“Reimer’s credibility with the environmental community, her appeal to residents living in the Commercial Drive–Trout Lake area, her stunning work ethic, and political radar that may only have been matched on council in recent years by Geoff Meggs, who’s left municipal politics.”

Problem for me was that I didn’t recognize any truth in most of those statements about her.

I wondered whether my early experience with Reimer had clouded my opinion of her, allowing me to miss the good she was doing. So I asked a number of my friends and acquaintances whether they had opinions on her years as Councillor. By the time I am writing this, more than half have responded and they are all overwhelmingly negative in their judgement.  Many described her as “manipulative,” and as “an opportunist … only interested in her own career.” None believe that she ever genuinely represented any constituency here in Grandview, and that her demeanour was often “officious” and unpleasant. I share all of those views.

When City Planning’s “Emerging Directions” document became public as a draft Community Plan in the spring of 2013 an uproar of complaint erupted from the residents of GW, most especially as “Emerging Directions” included dozens of pages on rezoning the neighbourhood that had never been raised or discussed in any of the public meetings over the previous eight months. While Mayor Robertson admitted the process had not been a good one, and Planning boss Brian Jackson considered it a disaster, Reimer was still giving interviews praising Vision’s handling of community planning.  At the massive community meeting held in early July that year to protest the Grandview Plan, Reimer came late and hid in the back of  the crowded room. When finally shamed into speaking, Reimer ignored everything residents had passionately spoken about for an hour or more, asking for understanding as she was currently being evicted (which, it later turned out, was something of a permanent status for her).

She was an instigator and heavy supporter of the benighted Citizens’ Assembly process deliberately designed to exclude the majority of Grandview’s residents from participation in a vital community project. On the several occasions that I spoke to Council during the Community Plan period, Reimer (along with Geoff Meggs) generally led the attack on me and GWAC or whoever else I was speaking for. She argued against community representation, calling local groups irrelevant and claiming them to be “unrepresentative”.

When the final Grandview Community Plan came before Council, it was Reimer who proposed a last-minute amendment that — against the professional advice of Planning — granted several extra stories to the highly controversial Boffo Tower monstrosity proposed for Commercial and Venables.

And it wasn’t only Grandview she screwed. After years of discussion and community debate, the DTES Community Plan was brought before Council for approval. It was loyal Vision foot soldier Reimer who, again at the very last hour, showed up with a lot of scribbled pages that changed substantial and substantive portions of the Plan, that no-one had a chance to digest before Vision voted it through …

Wherever she ends up I’ll be glad to see the back of her (except, of course, the Mayor’s chair).


Image: City Walk In Fall

September 11, 2018


9/11 and the Death of Democracy

September 11, 2018

Forty-five years ago, on 9/11 in 1973, the US-financed-and-organised plan to overthrow the legally elected government of Salvador Allende in Chile was put into action.

Crowds in Santiago celebrating the electoral victory of Salvador Allende

During the violent military assault, the President died (assassinated or committed suicide to avoid capture) and over the next few years of the vicious and inhuman dictatorship of US-supported Pinochet, thousands of Chileans were imprisoned, tortured, and killed.

allende

 

What happened in New York on this day 28 years later was also vicious and inhuman. However, it is about time for some reconciliation and regret for the extraordinary litany of war crimes the US has committed. If any US network or major media even mentions the Chilean anniversary during what will almost certainly be today’s spasm of Trump-like breast-beating, that would be a tiny start.


Dinner Tonight #49

September 10, 2018

 

Tonight I made a meat and potato skillet gratin, which is the best form of shepherds pie I ever had (and I love shepherds pie).


Night Music: Erik Satie

September 10, 2018


Poem: Complaints Desk

September 10, 2018

 

She fumed

and fumed loud.

 

And as she

disabused me

of my place

in the human

race — given

my lineage

must be replete

with morons and

monkeys —

her otherwise neat

and clipped

peroration

was interlarded

with sailors’ slang

and potty talk,

and ended with

a red-faced

squalk.

 

“Fair dinkum, gal,”

I replied,

smiling the smile

that’ll usually

sink ’em.

Stonefaced,

nothing.  I sighed

and completed

the refund

that would send

her away.

 

Thank God,

I’m stoned

all day.