November subscription drive
It’s time for our annual November subscription drive, so all month I’ll be banging the subscription drum a bit more frequently and a bit louder.
The Halifax Examiner is just over four years old. As owner, I run this business very conservatively. The Examiner is financially sound, there’s zero debt, all taxes are paid, and there’s money in the bank. The Examiner doesn’t pay me much, but our one employee is paid a living wage and gets health benefits, and freelancers are paid well and quickly.
The Halifax Examiner has no advertising and no annoying pop-up ads. We don’t sell or give away your personal information. It’s only subscription revenue that keeps us operating.
There are significant costs to this operation: the above payroll and freelancer costs, web hosting and tech costs, and other business costs, for computer equipment and repair and the like.
Your subscriptions make the Examiner’s investigative work possible. This past year, your subscriptions paid for Joan Baxter’s Fool’s Gold series, which took a deep look at mining in Nova Scotia. Your subscriptions paid for Linda Pannozzo’s Dirty Dealing series, which unpacked the environmental and regulatory issues at the Northern Pulp Mill. Your subscriptions paid for El Jones’ invaluable and irreplaceable work on prison and social justice issues. Your subscriptions paid for Jennifer Henderson’s and other freelancers’ ongoing reporting and commentary. Your subscriptions paid for columnists Stephen Kimber and Erica Butler. And your subscriptions paid for my work.
One big budget line item over the past year has been for legal costs. A big chunk of that involved going to court to get the search warrant documents related to the security failure of the Freedom of Information website. We were successful, and we moved that story along. But there have been and will be other legal costs for things readers don’t see; I can’t detail those here, but in 2018 legal costs were higher than in previous years. That’s just the cost of doing this kind of work.
I’m not a hard sell. I hardly ever make these direct appeals for subscriptions. I don’t check to see who is subscribing or not, as I don’t want such knowledge to interfere with my interactions with people. But I do know that the large majority of people who read Morning File are not subscribers. And if just 10 per cent of the people now reading Morning File who are not subscribers subscribed, we’d be able to hire a full-time reporter.
I won’t belabour the point. We need your money. It makes the Examiner possible.
A subscription doesn’t cost much — $10/month for a regular subscription, $5/month for a low income or student subscription. You can get a discounted annual subscription for $100, and if you do so this November, we’ll mail you a fantastically fashionable Halifax Examiner T-shirt. (All prices include sales tax.)
Click here to subscribe. If you don’t have or don’t want to use a credit card, we also accept cheques, email transfers, PayPal, and cash.
As has become the custom, we’ll have a subscriber party this month. I’ll have more details about the party soon, but I’ll tease you with this: we have lined up a high-profile guest speaker you won’t want to miss.
To those of you who are already subscribers: It means more to me than you can possibly imagine that people out there in the world find this work valuable and worth supporting financially. Honestly, on those days when I find it hard to get out of bed, when I worry I’m wasting my time, I think of you. And that keeps me going. It makes me get to work. It makes me think about what else we can do with the Examiner. And that’s a good thing. Thank you!
1. Bullshitter of the day: Jacques Dubé
I’ve said it over and over again: the word “innovative” is a bullshit tell. When you hear politicians or bureaucrats employing “innovative,” know that there is major spin going on, and hold onto your wallet.
During the council discussion of the proposed stadium, Halifax CAO Jacques Dubé employed the word a half-dozen times, and he’s since repeated it in radio interviews. The tax increment financing (TIF) proposed for the stadium is “innovative financing,” said Dubé.
“Innovative” probably once meant something real. I think of it as meaning a creative new approach to something. Here’s the Oxford Dictionary definition:
Innovative — (of a product, idea, etc.) featuring new methods; advanced and original
So what’s “innovative” about tax increment financing?
“The first TIF was used in California in 1952,” Wikipedia informs me. “By 2004, all 50 American States had authorized the use of TIF. The first TIF in Canada was used in 2007.”
I regularly reported on a particular TIF used in Chico, California in the 1980s and 1990s. Technically, the state limited TIF to “blighted” areas, and so TIFs were governed by what was called a “redevelopment agency.” But the city of Chico had declared a stretch of natural grassland and swamp at the foot of the Sierra as “blighted” so it could pay for the streets and other public works needed to service the privately developed Chico Mall. The city council declared itself the redevelopment agency, and so during meetings, council would adjourn, all the councillors would spin around in their chairs and reconvene as an entirely separate governing board known as the 20th Street Redevelopment Agency. At its best, the RDA funded a few units of low-income housing, a bike path through what used to be a lake, and some much needed street trees that cast shade to give a break to the otherwise unrelenting California sun; but for the most part, the RDA was used to pay for roads to access private businesses that the businesses should have been paying for themselves. California has since outlawed TIFs.
My point is that TIF is not a “new method,” and there is absolutely nothing “advanced and original” about it. It is not “innovative,” by anyone’s definition of the word.
Understand that when Dubé uses the term “innovative financing” to describe the proposed stadium TIF, his intent is not primarily to lie to us (even though there’s no truth to the statement); the report outlining the TIF proposal is factually accurate, and Dubé and staffers answered reasonably truthfully to councillors’ questions about the TIF (although there were many lies of omission). So I wouldn’t flat out call Dubé a liar on this. Rather, his intent is to rhetorically pull on our sensibilities, to leave us with a vague feeling that this TIF is a creative way to approach this stadium financing thing, and maybe it’s something we can support. “Innovative” is a good-sounding word, empty of meaning, that is in the air today, and so Dubé uses it reflexively, over and over again, to get us into his camp.
That is: Dubé is bullshitting us.
Let’s consult the expert. Princeton University philosopher Harry Frankfurt wrote the now-famous essay “On Bullshit,” which attempts to develop a theory about the phenomenon of bullshit. He writes:
What bullshit essentially misrepresents is neither the state of affairs to which it refers nor the beliefs of the speaker concerning that state of affairs. Those are what lies misrepresent, by virtue of being false. Since bullshit need not be false, it differs from lies in its misrepresentational intent. The bullshitter may not deceive us, or even intend to do so, either about the facts or about what he takes the facts to be. What he does necessarily attempt to deceive us about is his enterprise. His only indispensably distinctive characteristic is that in a certain way he misrepresents what he is up to.
This is the crux of the distinction between him and the liar. Both he and the liar represent themselves falsely as endeavoring to communicate the truth. The success of each depends upon deceiving us about that. But the fact about himself that the liar hides is that he is attempting to lead us away from a correct apprehension of reality; we are not to know that he wants us to believe something he supposes to be false. The fact about himself that the bullshitter hides, on the other hand, is that the truth-values of his statements are of no central interest to him; what we are not to understand is that his intention is neither to report the truth nor co conceal it. This does not mean that his speech is anarchically impulsive, but that the motive guiding and controlling it is unconcerned with how the things about which he speaks truly are.
It is impossible for someone to lie unless he thinks he knows the truth. Producing bullshit requires no such conviction. A person who lies is thereby responding to the truth, and he is to that extent respectful of it. When an honest man speaks, he says only what he believes to be true; and for the liar, it is correspondingly indispensable that he considers his statements to be false. For the bullshitter, however, all these bets are off: he is neither on the side of the true nor on the side of the false. His eye is not on the facts at all, as the eyes of the honest man and of the liar are, except insofar as they may be pertinent to his interest in getting away with what he says. He does not care whether the things he says describe reality correctly. He just picks them out, or makes them up, to suit his purpose.
This describes Dubé to a T, in this case to the T in TIF.
As for the TIF, Chronicle Herald reporter Francis Campbell called up the always affable Moshe Lander, an economist of sport, to ask him about the Shannon Park site for the proposed stadium, and about the TIF:
Lander said the financing model Dubé described is a popular way to build arenas and stadiums but it is still a municipal subsidy.
“That’s a government subsidy, money that would have gone into government coffers for schools, roads, hospitals, what have you, and it’s money that now is going to be diverted into potentially a private enterprise to subsidize them for a stadium. When they say this is new money, OK, fine, it’s new money that could have been spent elsewhere or on other things. Giving it to a commercial enterprise that is a for-profit organization is a little hard for taxpayers to accept and deal with.”
Lander said promised economic potential of developments near the stadium will not be realized.
“The sooner they accept that, the sooner they can at least have a legitimate discussion about do you still want to go ahead with it anyway. Disposable income dollars are finite. I just can’t make up disposable income out of nowhere. For them to say in that proposal that is on the city council website that this is going to create $100-some-odd-million a year in economic activity, that is just totally wrong. If I decide that I want to flash out on CFL tickets, then that means I’m taking money away from spending down at the harbourfront. It’s not like it’s new disposable income. It’s not like I’m going to take on a second job to come up with CFL money. All it’s doing is displacing economic activity from one part of greater Halifax to another part of greater Halifax.”
In other words: the whole thing is premised on bullshit.
2. Cecil Clarke, the non-leader
“Well, that’s all she wrote, folks,” writes Mary Campbell, proprietor of the Cape Breton Spectator:
CBRM Mayor Cecil Clarke’s pursuit of the provincial Progressive Conservative Party leadership ended after the first ballot on Saturday, when rival Tim Houston came within 54 points of winning and Clarke bowed out.
It was an abrupt ending to a campaign that seemed like it would go on forever — in Clarke’s case, one that had begun officially back in February (but that obviously was in the works from the moment Jamie Baillie announced he was resigning in November 2017).
I wasn’t sure how to mark this momentous occasion, but then the CBC’s Information Morning Cape Breton aired a 10-minute, post-convention interview [by host Steve Sutherland] with Clarke on Monday and I had my answer: I’m going to play ‘Okay, Stop’ with the interview, which has been posted on the CBC website.
Read the whole thing for yourself, but here’s the takeaway moment:
Sutherland: Yeah, thoughts on the campaign?
Clarke: Oh, you know, people send notes and they’ve been so kind so, you know, I’m heading home head held high and no regrets whatsoever. I think we’ve brought Nova Scotia forward in terms of issues of the day that have been affecting not only the Cape Breton Regional Municipality, but all Nova Scotia municipalities, and it’s been a great learning opportunity for me, personally, and it’s something that will carry forward in that strength in my work as mayor. It’s renewed my commitment and belief in the things we can get done. But it also means you’ve got to add a voice to those things that need the advocacy and I’ll be out there doing that. Next month is the annual meeting for the Nova Scotia Federation of Municipalities, which I was very pleased to be president of, and we’ve got to make sure that the issues that are affecting our municipalities are dealt with in a constructive way, and if that means being a stronger voice to do it, I now have a better background to do just that.
Clarke seems to be casting his pursuit of the PC leadership as some sort of work-sponsored, eight-month, skills development course, conveniently ignoring the fact that if things had gone his way, he wouldn’t just have new skills, he’d have a new job. Trying to spin a failed eight-month leadership campaign as a win/win for himself and the municipality he was ready to abandon is a bit rich.
Also, he was, indeed, president of the Nova Scotia Federation of Municipalities in 2016-17, during which time you’d think he would have learned more than he’d ever wanted to know about the issues facing Nova Scotian municipalities, but maybe it’s just more compelling coming from Tories who might vote for you.
As with the Examiner, the Cape Breton Spectator is subscriber supported, and so this article is behind the Spectator’s paywall. Click here to purchase a subscription to the Spectator, or click on the photo below to get a joint subscription to both the Spectator and the Examiner.
3. Audrey Parker
Canadian Press reporter Michael MacDonald interviews Audrey Parker, who will go through with a medically assisted death today:
The problem, Parker says, is that people seeking medical assistance in dying must meet a set of criteria that she says appear to make no sense.
Applicants must be in an advanced state of decline and experiencing unbearable physical or mental suffering caused by a grievous, irreversible medical condition, which means their natural death “has become reasonably foreseeable.”
Parker, diagnosed with Stage 4 breast cancer in early 2016, meets all of those conditions.
But there’s a catch.
Under the law, she must be mentally competent immediately before she gives consent for her assisted death.
If her painkillers or cancer render her unconscious or mentally incompetent before that crucial moment, the procedure must not be carried out. A medically assisted death under those circumstances would be illegal.
The existing law doesn’t permit the use of what are known as advance requests — written instructions for a medically assisted death that must be implemented whether or not the person is able to consent.
The law was written to ensure that vulnerable people who are unable to speak for themselves are not put in a position where someone else decides whether they live or die. When the law was being drafted, some outspoken advocates for people with disabilities made it clear that protections had to be put in place.
4. Racist image
“The Nova Scotia Community College has apologized for a door decoration at its Burridge campus in Yarmouth, N.S., saying the image was ‘inappropriate and racist’ and should never have been put up,” reports the CBC:
Rosalind Penfound, the vice-president of organizational development at the NSCC, told CBC’s Information Morning that they were “shocked” by the image, which was created by members of the early childhood education class.
“We work hard to be a diverse community,” Penfound said, “but we know we can do better and we know that this has been hurtful to a large number of people.”
El Jones wrote about the image and the history of such images here.
5. Roy père
CTV reporter Laura Brown interviewed Corey Roy, the father of ne’er-do-wells Damien Roy and Bailey Roy:
“They have no respect for law enforcement whatsoever,” said Roy. “They go for the reaction. That’s about the best thing I can say about it, because it doesn’t seem to stop them.”
6. Kids are terrible
“Threats of a purported gunman looking ‘to do a clean-up’ of a northern New Brunswick high school that prompted the closure of 18 schools Wednesday have turned out to be a Halloween hoax,” reports Brett Bundale for the Canadian Press:
Police said their investigation is now revolving around “acts of public mischief,” and that they are continuing to interview people who may be able to identify those responsible for the calls.
Police said a first call was received at 5:34 a.m. Wednesday by a man who said that his son’s friend intended to go to Edmundston’s Cite des Jeunes A.-M.-Sormany High School with a rifle.
A second anonymous call at 6:15 a.m. indicated that a male student was carrying a rifle in a guitar case.
Police sought to reassure parents shaken by the threats, saying Halloween trick or treating could be held with “complete peace of mind.”
Well, until the trick-or-treaters start sticking needles in their candy bars…. I predict the first report of tampered Halloween candy will hit the suppertime news.
— Calum Johnston (@comxguy) October 30, 2018
Appeals Standing Committee (Thursday, 10am, City Hall) — here’s the agenda.
Environment & Sustainability Standing Committee (Thursday, 1pm, City Hall) — no agenda posted.
Point Pleasant Park Advisory Committee (Thursday, 4:30pm, City Hall) — here’s the agenda.
Harbour East Marine Drive Community Council (Thursday, 6pm, HEMDCC Meeting Space, Alderney Gate) — the agenda.
Port Wallace PPC Meeting (Thursday, 6:30pm, Helen Creighton Room, Alderney Gate Library) — no agenda available.
Public Information Meeting – Case 21389 and 21795 (Thursday, 7pm, St. Peter’s Anglican Church Hall, 3 Dakin Drive, Halifax) — a day care out in Kearney Lake.
No public meetings.
No public meetings for the rest of the week.
The Future of the Ocean? (Thursday, 4pm, University Hall, Macdonald Building) — a panel discussion and book launch for The Future of Ocean Governance and Capacity Development: Essays in Honor of Elisabeth Mann Borgese (1918-2002). Panelists include Paul Withers, Tony Charles, Lucia Fanning, David VanderZwaag, Wendy Watson-Wright, and Boris Worm. Info here.
Brain Health (Thursday, 6:30pm, Halifax Central Public Library) — Tony Hakim, neurologist and author of Save Your Mind: Seven Rules to Avoid Dementia, will speak.
The Wake of the Whale: Hunter Societies in the Caribbean and North Atlantic (Thursday, 7pm, Ondaatje Auditorium, Marion McCain Building) — Russell Fielding from the University of the South in Sewanee, Tennessee, will speak.
Cyber Systems Arms Races (Thursday, 7:30pm, Potter Auditorium, Rowe Management Building) — Una-May O’Reilly from MIT will speak. From the event listing:
In cyber space attackers are constantly adapting to ever improving network defenses. On the flip-side, anti-virus detectors must be retrained as attackers enhance their malware using adversarial examples that attack the vulnerabilities of Machine Learning-based models. Resulting in an arms race as defender sna attackers on both sides take turns crafting new responses to each other’s actions.
In this talk, Una-May O’Reilly will give insight into this fascinating topic and discuss the work her team at MIT undertakes to develop new techniques for computationally modeling cyber security arms races – resulting in robust defensive solutions and an improved understanding of adversarial dynamics.
Canadian Celebration of Women in Computing (Friday, 10am, Halifax Convention Centre) — from the event listing:
CAN-CWiC is the premiere Canadian computing conference for women in technology. The conference annually attracts over 400 female students, faculty and industry professionals for a two-day networking, learning, sharing and mentoring experience.
CAN-CWiC embodies the mission of encouraging curiosity and awareness for the digital innovations that change the communities and world around us. Bringing together leaders in research, education and industry from across Canada.
$150, register here.
Calligraphy demonstration (Friday, 11:15M, Room 2018, Marion McCain Building) — with Master Calligrapher Lei Jiang.
Guaranteed Income and Health (Friday, 12pm, Room 104, Weldon Law Building) — Kwame McKenzie from Wellesley Institute and the University of Toronto will speak.
The Structure and Function of the DNA Quadruplex Helix ‑ G Quadruplex (Friday, 1:30pm, Room 226, Chemistry Building) — Shankar Balasubramanian from the University of Cambridge will speak.
A Composite Problem (Friday, 3pm, Room 227, Chase Building) — Asmita Sodhi will speak. Her abstract:
In this talk we journey to the land of integer-valued polynomials, introducing them first for a subset of the integers along with defining Bhargava’s p-orderings and p-sequences, before extending the concept to integer-valued polynomials over the ring M_n(Z) of n × n integer matrices. We will discuss a construction by Evrard and Johnson which provides results for M_2(Z), and see how this construction can be used for M_p(Z) with p prime but will (sometimes) not work in the case of M_n(Z) with n composite. In particular, we will look at the structure of the problem in the 4 × 4 case, and the issues that arise there.
Reviewing the Review: the Canadian Historical Review at its 100th Volume (Friday, 3:30pm, Room 1170, Marion McCain Building) — Shirley Tillotson will speak.
Decoding Human Genomes on a Population Scale (Friday, 5pm, in the auditorium named after a bank, Marion McCain Building) — Shankar Balasubramanian from the University of Cambridge will speak.
Hazardous climate: How climate change undermines human well‑being and what we can do about it (Friday, 5pm, Ondaatje Auditorium, Marion McCain Building) — Camilo Mora from the University of Hawaii will speak.
In the harbour
00:30: Rt Hon Paul E Martin, bulker, sails from National Gypsum for sea
03:30: Atlantic Sea, ro-ro container, sails from Fairview Cove for Hamburg, Germany
06:00: AS Felicia, container ship, arrives at Pier 42 from New York
06:00: Atlantic Huron, bulker, arrives at National Gypsum from Sydney
06:00: Horizon Star, offshore supply ship, moves from Pier 9 to Pier 27
07:00: Selfoss, container ship, arrives at Pier 41 from Argentia, Newfoundland
07:00: Oceanex Sanderling, ro-ro container, moves from Pier 41 to Autoport
07:00: Nolhanava, ro-ro cargo, arrives at Pier 36 from Saint-Pierre
07:15: Silver Spirit, cruise ship with up to 648 passengers, arrives at Pier 22 from Sydney (eight-day cruise from Montreal to Boston)
10:00: MOL Partner, container ship, arrives at Fairview Cove from Norfolk
11:00: Selfoss sails for sea
11:30: Oceanex Sanderling moves back to Pier 41
13:00: Tidespring, British naval vessel, sails from Dockyard for sea
17:30: AS Felicia sails for Kingston, Jamaica
18:00: Silver Spirit sails for Bar Harbor
Did I mention the subscription drive? Please subscribe.