1. Gary Burrill
Gary Burrill won the NDP’s leadership race Saturday. The victory, notes Michael Gorman in Local Xpress, “was the best possible outcome” in terms of party cohesion:
While no one will acknowledge it on the record, there was growing friction between [Dave] Wilson’s and [Lenore] Zann’s supporters in the final month or so of the campaign. Some campaign team members went as far as describing the situation as toxic.
And so it’s reasonable to think that had either Wilson or Zann won, a good portion of party supporters might have taken a step back from the NDP, which picked up 900 new members during the leadership campaign.
In Burrill, however, the party has a leader whose beliefs line up very closely with the other two camps and whose supporters were mostly removed from backroom fighting.
Which may be true, but the real reason Burrill’s victory is the best possible outcome is because he is on the right side of the most important issue of our time: austerity. As soon as he won the leadership race, the NDP sent out a press release with just a two-line quote from Burrill:
“The Liberals only have one idea for Nova Scotia — austerity — and it’s wrong. We believe in something so much better: public investment for public purposes, especially the purpose of decent incomes and widening opportunities for people,” said Burrill.
“Burrill says he sees no evidence there’s any fundamental conservatism in Nova Scotia,” reports Gorman, quoting Burrill:
“I think we see lots of evidence in the last couple of years that there is a burgeoning and a simmering hunger for a politics that talks straight about the fact that the one per cent in this city make $330,000 while the average income for 90 per cent of the people in Nova Scotia is under $27,000.
“Something’s wrong somewhere, I think there’s a general understanding about this.”
It’s unlikely we would have such talk were Dave Wilson, a Dexter government holdover, the party leader. Zann is finding her ideological legs, and I like a lot of what I hear from her, but she couldn’t possibly match Burrill’s reputation as a dyed-in-the-wool progressive.
Interestingly, here’s something Burrill wrote in 1984 that’s been floating around Facebook the last couple of days:
We are all acquainted with the contradictory phenomenon of the right-wing, conservative person who is, for all that, a pretty nice guy. Many people are also familiar (though, understandably ashamed, they usually keep it to themselves) with the opposite problem — the socialist who, despite the importance of basic decency in the outlook we share, has the social skills of an amphibian.
It is, sad to say, quite common. All things considered, would you want to be stranded on a desert island with most of the people you’ve met over coffee and doughnuts during breaks in the action at solidarity symposia on the struggle in Central America? Is discussing “late capitalism” over cocktails with delegates at the Learned Societies’ Committee on Socialist Studies your idea of a good time? Likely not. And if you’re like many others on the left, you choose the people most important to you personally from the ranks of those who are unconcerned whether capitalism is late, early, or right on time.
There’s a good reason for this. Too many socialists are like Peter Sellers’ Panther — they’re great at being pink, but not much else, especially when it comes to personability. Instinctive character warmth, though it ought to be, is not always the left’s strong suit.
This is a big problem. Niceness, after all, is not without its political economy. Working-class culture is to a great extent made up of the ways working-class people contrive to celebrate their socialness in the midst of circumstances that are both isolating and difficult. In the Maritimes this is made especially clear in the distinctive style (nonetheless real for being inaudible to the untrained ear) that people have of talking to one another. It’s characterized by a certain self-deprecatory grace, an easy weaving of conversation around sidetrips into the inconsequential.
Middle-class conversation has its own style, too. It’s a battle zone. Each response is carefully assessed before being sent forth as a bargaining chip in negotiations over esteem, prestige, and power. And, though packaged with the measured amiability of the herbal-tea-and-salad, so-nice-to-meet-you world, it is by very nature spoken through clenched teeth.
Make no mistake about it. When a person who’s used to talking in the first of these two styles hears so much as a hint of the intrusion of the second, he is gone. The distancing language of self-protection — unfriendliness — lands on the ears of most working-class people in the Maritimes like frost-bite, rendering forever inaccessible that part of a person that extends enough trust for anyone ever to be able to change their minds on anything. This has always been the source of a great deal of confusion, as the poet Milton Acorn pointed out, since the working-class person always continues in these situations to ‘weave a tissue of talk’ around his insensitive associate, who is hardly ever aware of the disappearance that has just taken place.
The phenomenon of the likeable conservative is the result of the near-total dominance in our society — stretching into all kinds of cultural nooks and crannies where it has no natural home — of capitalist ideology. The dilemma of the diffident socialist is the flip side of that process.
Socialists have no business wearing calculating looks. Distancing phrases like “quite frankly” and “to be quite honest” should cleave our tongues to the roofs of our mouths. Our conversations cannot afford the quasi-competitive air of the upwardly mobile.
Rooted radicalism scares the powers-that-be to death, and its heart and soul is an easy-going, sincere humility. Do the class struggle a favour — lighten up. Unkindness is the enemy within.
2. DEAD WRONG
I’m still working on the DEAD WRONG series, and am making good progress on Part 5. To recap, let me summarize the series.
Part 1: The War of the Roses looks at the murder of Brenda Way, and the relationship between Brenda, Glen Assoun, and Robin Hartrick. Towards the end of Part 1, I discuss how Glen is arrested for Brenda’s murder.
Part 2: Trial and Error follows the trial and conviction of Glen Assoun.
Part 3: If Glen Assoun Didn’t Kill Brenda Way, Who Did? asks that question, and introduces us to a rogue’s gallery of the violent men who surrounded Brenda. Part 3 also draws some conclusions about why and how Glen was convicted and served 16 years in prison for a murder he probably didn’t commit.
Part 4: Channelling Kimberly McAndrew shows how Dave MacDonald, the lead investigator in the Brenda Way murder, was also assigned to investigate the disappearance of Kimberly McAndrew. Frustrated with an investigation that was going nowhere, MacDonald hired a psychic; I obtained and published the recordings of the psychic’s sessions with MacDonald, and show how MacDonald’s apparent belief in the power of psychics not only side-tracked the investigation of Kimberly’s disappearance, but also may have led to the wrongful conviction of Glen for Brenda’s murder.
I’m still working on Part 5, but when complete, it will show that MacDonald investigated still another murder that may have resulted in yet another wrongful conviction. It’s important that I not rush into publication before I track down all the important relevant details. This is taking longer than expected, but that’s how it goes sometimes.
I’ve also outlined Part 6, which as of now is the last planned part of the series. Part 6 will tie up some loose ends and show how indifference to the murders of women and girls living on the margins of society leads to continued tragedy.
Today, the Canadaland podcast features DEAD WRONG, and so I’m expecting new interest in the series. Between that and the delay of publication of Part 5, I’ve taken Part 1 from behind the paywall. I hope people who read Part 1 for the first time will find the series engaging and will want to subscribe in order to read the rest of the series.
3. Examineradio, episode #50
This week we’re excited to welcome noted journalist and author (and semi-regular Halifax Examiner contributor) Evelyn White. She talks about a career that includes a stretch at the San Francisco Chronicle and her time as Alice Walker’s biographer.
We also speak with NSCC journalism instructor Erin Moore and student Kristen Brown about the program’s groundbreaking investigation into land titles in the predominantly African Nova Scotian community of North Preston.
Also, Gloria McCluskey announces her retirement, prominent Chronicle Herald reporters flee for better gigs, Andy Fillmore is still MIA, and Examineradio turns 50, so we engage in a bit of navel-gazing and back-slapping.
“A new sign at a Dartmouth dog park is getting a rough reception,” reports Zane Woodford in Metro:
“If your dog barks it can disturb neighbours and other park users,” reads the sign at the off-leash area at Shubie Park, which dog owners at the park say was put up a few weeks ago.
“Please do not use this area if you can’t control your dog’s barking.”
At the top of the sign are the words, “Courtesy Matters,” and at the bottom of the sign is a hashtag, #Respect, and the Halifax logo.
Also, if you could please keep your kids from babbling on nonsensically and repeatedly asking “Why? Why? Why?” it’d be much appreciated.
Noting that striking journalists Dan Arsenault and David Jackson have left the Chronicle Herald for more security and respect elsewhere, Stephen Kimber comments that:
If the Halifax Herald’s owners don’t soon make peace with what’s left of their newsroom, the newspaper that traces its own ink-on-paper beginnings back 142 years, will disappear or — perhaps worse — become totally irrelevant.
I’d say we’re already past that point. After a decade covering Province House, Jackson had moved up to an editing position at the Chronicle Herald and no doubt shaped the news coverage in all sorts of important ways not readily observable from the outside.
Arsenault’s departure, however, is already noticeable. He was an old-school police beat reporter, hitting the pavement in the middle of the night, working his cop sources, digging through court documents. That work is rarely glamourous, but it’s needed. And now it’s gone: Arsenault has taken a job at allnovascotia.com’s Newfoundland bureau.
Already there’s a hole in police and crime reporting; the CBC’s Blair Rhodes is on the court beat, but he doesn’t much dig into the police side of things, and no one has the local knowledge and experience that Arsenault had.
As the Chronicle Herald implodes, we’ll see more and more gaps in reporting. Scab freelancers simply can’t replace professional, experienced journalists.
2. Hiring people with disabilities
“There are a ton of rather desperate efforts to re-envision the Nova Scotia economy, with sort of pathetically hopeful notions of Nova Scotia’s future and their ability to change it,” writes Gus Reed “It’s like listening to Donald Trump without the bad language. We’re going to make Nova Scotia great again.”
Reed goes on to look at the makeup of the four organizations that purport to be changing the way we do things:
Reed points out that hiring people with disabilities saves taxpayers money. But beyond that, ignoring them as a recruitable pool of people is simply wrong.
3. Cranky letter of the day
I recently received a phone call from an 86-year-old lady.
She asked me to write a letter for her and some of her friends who said they’re lonely as family and friends don’t spend much time with them.
In addition, some family and grandchildren who do visit spend most of their time texting. Technology never gets out of their hands. It’s everywhere, even at funerals and churches. There’s no respect or communication anymore.
Adults, children, people in nursing homes and hospitals and others alone in their homes are neglected. It’s an addiction. People don’t go out to visit or go to dances or phone family.
More attention should be given to family, spouses and especially children and friends. People should put their thinking caps on and spend more time with family and friends. I feel sorry for the lonely people.
When people read this letter they may realize life is too short. When a person is gone, they’re gone.
If you go to a seniors and pensioners club you will meet nice people. Even if it’s just to sit and listen to music.
There are some people in their homes alone with a disability. Family and friends should be there more for them. Try being warm instead of cold-hearted. Some people can’t even eat at a restaurant without texting. Try sitting and talking for a change. I know a lady in a nursing home who sits at the front entrance to see if somone comes in she can talk to.
I find people today just think of themselves and don’t even realize how much they can hurt people. I hope this letter helps the 86-year-old lady and her friends who called me and anyone else who is lonely.
Mrs. Mickey Bushnik, Sydney Mines
North West Community Council (7pm, that four-pad arena in Bedford with the name of a fucking bank plastered on it) — a public hearing on proposed zoning changes in Bedford West.
No public meetings.
Thesis defence, Pharmacology (9am, Room 3107, Mona Campbell Building) — PhD candidate Robert Laprairie will defend his thesis, “Biased Agonists and Allosteric Modulators of the Type 1 Cannabinoid Receptor: Potential Treatments for Huntington Disease.”
Phylogenetics (3:30pm, Colloquium Room #319, Chase Building) — Bui Quang Minh, from the University of Vienna, will speak on “Stochastic approaches for phylogenetic inference and sequence evolution”:
Despite having been studied for a long time phylogenetics is still facing major challenges. The rapid accumulation of phylogenomic data slows down computer-intensive approaches to infer maximum likelihood trees and to estimate the reliability of clades via phylogenetic bootstrapping. Moreover, this data accumulation increases the need for more realistic models of sequence evolution, which, for example, capture heterogeneous evolutionary processes along genomic sequences.
To address these challenges I will present a new efficient tree sampling method (implemented in IQ-TREE), that reduces the risk of being trapped in a local optimum and at the same time estimates trees even for large data sets. Moreover, during the tree search we estimate the bootstrap probabilities, by applying the so-called UFBoot approach. While UFBoot is surprisingly fast it also appears to be less conservative than the standard bootstrap.
In the second part of the talk I will present a versatile model selection procedure that searches among commonly used evolutionary models and also non-standard models like the free-rate model for the best fitting model. I will discuss some results and their biological implications. Finally, I will give perspectives for future researches.
Bartender/ author/ great guy Kris Bertin is having a release party for his book Bad Things Happen tonight, 7pm, at Bearly’s. Writes Parker Donham:
This just might be the 2016 Nova Scotia event you’ll want to brag about having attended 30 years from now, when Bertin is a celebrated Canadian of letters.
Bad Things Happen is edited by Alexander MacLeod, published by Biblioasis, and celebrated in the Toronto Star, which named Bertin one of 10 young Canadian writers to watch.
In the harbour
We’ll publish Erica Butler’s transportation column early this afternoon.