1. Glyphosate and the Politics of Safety
A few weeks ago, I asked Linda Pannozzo if she could turn her attention to the glyphosate issue. On Friday, she returned with an astoundingly thorough piece of research.
There’s much information in her article, but I think it’s particularly important to note the devolution of the regulatory regimes, and how they have been captured by industry.
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2. Examineradio, episode #82
Halifax Examiner contributor El Jones speaks with Jim Walker, a noted History professor at the University of Waterloo and a member of the Order of Canada. Walker is the co-author of a recent (auto)biography of iconic black activist and lawyer Burnley “Rocky” Jones.
Copies of Revolutionary: Burnley “Rocky” Jones can be ordered through Fernwood Publishing.
Also, The Borg Ship has stalled out on Argyle Street, with an announcement last week that the beleaguered convention centre won’t meet its projected April 1 opening date. This is the third deadline that developer Joe Ramia has missed. Ships may start here, but apparently conventions don’t.
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3. Convention centre delay and the provincial surplus
Finance Department spokesperson Marla MacInnis writes:
Your piece on the Halifax Convention Centre suggests that the provincial budget is no longer in surplus. That is not correct.
September’s Forecast Update projects a surplus of $129.2 million but a net position of $18.9 million. Because $110.3 million of our revenue was anticipated to be funds from the federal and municipal governments for the Halifax Convention Centre, a decision was made to put this amount on our debt to create future fiscal capacity for the QEII project. If the $110.3 million for the Halifax Convention Centre does not flow into the province this year, as per our September Forecast, we still have a net position of $18.9 million.
4. Pedestrian struck
An RCMP release from Saturday:
At 2:29 p.m. yesterday [Friday], Halifax District RCMP and EHS responded to a report of a vehicle-pedestrian collision on Forest Hills Parkway.
The investigation determined that a 59-year-old female from Cole Harbour was walking in a cross walk in the mall parking lot when she was struck by a vehicle. As a result of the collision the female was taken by EHS to Dartmouth General Hospital with minor injuries.
The driver of the vehicle, a 55-year-old male from Lake Loon, was charged for failing to yield to a pedestrian in a marked crosswalk. If convicted, the driver faces a $697.50 fine. The investigation is continuing.
5. Bryozoan colony
A weird thing found in a lake in Yarmouth is a bryozoan colony, reports Eric Bourque for the Yarmouth Vanguard:
“They almost always wrap themselves up around sticks (as in this case), but sometimes they are free-floating,” said Duncan Bayne, DNR regional biologist in Tusket. “The gelatinous mass is made up of thousands of individual ‘animalcules.’ A frequently common name is ‘moss animalcules.’”
6. Fenwick Tower
A fire department release from yesterday afternoon:
Halifax Regional Fire and Emergency Services are advising residents and motorists that several south-end Halifax streets are currently closed to vehicular and pedestrian traffic at this time due to falling debris from nearby Fenwick Tower.
The area encompassed by Fenwick Street, South Park Street, South Street, and Queen Street will remain closed until such time that emergency personnel deem there is no further risk to public safety.
Halifax Regional Fire and Halifax Regional Police personnel are on-site and will direct traffic around the area as needed. Motorists and pedestrians are advised to take alternative routes until these streets are re-opened.
Residents currently in this area are asked to remain inside until current high winds improve, and this area is re-opened to traffic by Halifax Regional Fire personnel.
The wind yesterday was crazy. But you know, stuff isn’t supposed to fly off from near the top of a 33-storey building to the streets below. It’s a miracle no one was killed.
Fenwick is currently under reconstruction by owner Joe Metlege. As I wrote last month, after Metlege bought the St. Pat’s – Alexandra property:
Metlege seems to be in a holding pattern. The promised rebuild and expansion of Fenwick Tower in the south end has been drastically scaled back and is moving slowly.
And Metlege acquired the Trinity Anglican Church property on Cogswell Street in 2008 with the intent to build a 19-storey building; eight years later the land is being used as a parking lot.
Yesterday’s incident at Fenwick Tower might just be a one-off. It may have been the result of an oversight by an otherwise worthy contractor.
But my worry is that debris flying off a 33-storey building reflects a developer on the ropes who is cutting corners a little too closely financially.
Stephen Archibald is back!
Typically, when Archibald has a new post he drops me a DM on Twitter at 2am to alert me of it. Yesterday, however, I got the DM at 6pm. Is something wrong?
Indeed, something is: “Pneumonia has struck!” he writes.
“But,” continues Archibald, “I’m on the mend which got me thinking about some delightfully mended objects we have around the house.”
Archibald goes on to show odd photos of various pieces of pottery he has lying around the Raiders of the Lost Ark warehouse he calls home; the pottery has been broken and then mended with various techniques. Interesting stuff, truly, but I was most fascinated by his postscript:
Recently we spent a couple of weeks in Copenhagen. One museum we visited was the Glyptotek, which houses a large collection of Greek and Roman sculpture. Many ancient marble sculptures have lost arms and legs and especially noses.
Turns out that up until the end of the 19th century it was traditional to replace limbs and provide new noses and ears. Tastes change and these later restorations were seen as hiding the “true” nature of ancient works and were removed.
A collection of marble and plaster restoration noses (nasothek) removed from the museum’s collection was a very popular display!
[Y]ou see, teachers are used to governments not listening. They are used to poorly-thought-out, top-down initiatives enacted for political gain. They are used to poor working conditions, helicopter parents and hungry kids. And they will usually tolerate it all in relative silence.
But when the McNeil Liberals opened this round of bargaining, they came in with guns blazing, and treated every benefit we have as if it were an undeserved perk. As if we should be thankful that we are given time to set up our classrooms for kids instead of having to do it on the weekend. As if we should be thankful that we are allowed to do professional development during the school year and not during an unpaid holiday. That we should be thankful to the minister of education for capping class sizes, as if that were a benefit for teachers as opposed to a benefit for the kids.
Essentially, the Liberals came into this treating teachers as if they were the enemy.
And teachers, it seems, have had quite enough of that.
People are always asking me about the American election, as if just because I come from the place it gives me some special insight into the craziness. Alas, I have no decoder ring to help understand this stuff.
There’s one issue that particularly worries me, however: the precarious position of reality.
You’ll recall that in 2004, reporter Ron Suskind wrote about a conversation he had with with a White House aide, later identified as Karl Rove:
The aide [Rove] said that guys like me were “in what we call the reality-based community,” which he defined as people who “believe that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernible reality.” … “That’s not the way the world really works anymore,” he continued. “We’re an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you’re studying that reality — judiciously, as you will — we’ll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that’s how things will sort out. We’re history’s actors…and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do.
And isn’t this what this election is all about — the triumph over the “reality-based community”? Trump asserts bullshit, complete fabrications, even contradictions of things he did or said previously that are well-documented, and a good section of America happily follows along. It’s even worse than Orwell’s Ministry of Truth, which had to at least scrub the historical record.
There are now millions of Americans who have no concept of rationality, basic reasoning and logic, cause and effect, and, essentially, in Rove’s words, “discernible reality.”
How did we get to this point? Or is it that the dumb and anti-realityists have always been among us and the internet is now giving them voice?
I think a contributing explanation is that the managerial and political classes who understand reality have manipulated it for their own purposes at the expense of the vast bulk of the population. Credit and financial schemes were invented to wring profit out of every social transaction. The public wealth was privatized and given to the connected. The future was mortgaged. In short, the powerful have behaved as if those without power are a resource to be exploited.
But the powerful made the mistake that all who exploit resources make: they failed to see that they and the resource are part of the same ecosystem. You can only dig the mine so deep before the costs of pumping the shafts exceeds the profit of the coal sold. You can burn oil for decades, but eventually the greenhouse gases will destroy your world. And you can exploit the non-powerful until finally they refuse to play along and anti-realityism takes root: We might be dumb, but we ain’t buying what you’re selling. The discernible reality baby gets thrown out with the financialization of everything bath water. And now we have Donald Trump.
Perhaps if the powerful had instead used their power to improve the material lot of people instead of robbing them of jobs, equity, and hope, we’d be in a different position.
Regardless, once we’ve lost reality, we’ve lost everything.
Harbour East – Marine Drive Community Council (7pm, Old School Gathering Place, Musquodoboit Harbour) — this is a special meeting called to consider a staff recommendation to approve “42 townhouse style units on Brian Dickie Drive in Musquodoboit Harbour.” This is not far from where Highway 107 ends at the old Highway 7.
Centre Plan launch (7pm, Alderney Landing) — this is “the first comprehensive plan we’ve created in over 30 years to guide development in the Regional Centre and it will serve as a blueprint for smart development.” You can go listen to politicians and planners and other allegedly smart people tell you how this will solve all our problems and then you can fondly recall how HRM By Design was going to save downtown Halifax and how they built the downtown-destroying Nova Centre right into the thing. Then, you can cross the street and go to the Celtic Corner and drown any hope you have for the Regional Centre.
Economic Development (1pm, One Government Place) — As of Sunday, when I’m writing this, the committee hasn’t found anyone to question. Maybe they can get Mike Campbell and Lil MacPherson in to explain how if we build yet another convention centre, the economy will boom even more.
Thesis defence, Engineering (Tuesday, 10am, Room 3107, Mona Campbell Building) — PhD candidate Greg Potter will defend his thesis, “Analytical and Nanotechnological Methods for Detection of 3-OH Oxylipins and Cell Ultrastructure in Fermenting Yeasts.”
Whales (10:30am, Theatre D, Tupper Building) — Lori Marino, the founder of the the Kimmela Center for Animal Advocacy and the Nonhuman Rights Project, will speak on “The Challenge of Dolphin and Whale Brains.”
A few years ago I had the great pleasure of being invited to a talk by Hal Whitehead, the whale guy at Dal. As I remember it, Whitehead explained how the whales he was studying had a strange language, and that male and females travelled independently from each other and used different songs in their roamings, but somehow the two sexes managed to work it all out at mating time. Without a doubt, this was the single most captivating academic lecture I’ve ever attended, and I’ve attended hundreds. After he detailed the complexities of whale-speak, Whitehead said (I’m paraphrasing, but not loosely), “I don’t know what the hell is going on.” I remember a distinct shrug.
I bring this up because Sunday in the New York Times, Shane Gero, who’s the whale guy at Aarhus University in Denmark, wrote about the work he does with Whitehead as part of the Dominica Sperm Whale Project they co-founded. It’s a great essay, and one that I can’t do justice to by excerpting it. So, read the whole thing.
And today, Marino is giving her lecture. This is exciting work — I was about to write “it gets at understanding…” but it’s more about standing open-mouthed and gaping with no understanding at all at the intelligence and languages employed by other species — and Dalhousie researchers are at the heart of all this open-mouthed gaping. I’m rushing off to be there, and hope to report back.
The Rimers of Eldritch (Tuesday through Saturday, 7:30pm, David Mack Murray Theatre, Dalhousie Arts Centre) — Lanford Wilson’s 1966 play, directed by Rob McClure. Here’s how Russ Hunt at St. Thomas University describes the play:
One of the most surprising things about Lanford Wilson’s durable The Rimers of Eldritch is how often such an overwhelmingly challenging script gets produced — mainly by regional theatres and schools and universities. Unlike Thornton Wilder’s Our Town, to which it is often compared (and with which it’s occasionally paired, as in Theatre Saint Thomas’ current production), its difficulties are immediately apparent on the page. Overlapping, elliptical, and sometimes choral dialogue, a radical disregard of chronology, and a deeply ironic stance toward the material, which renders both cast and audience in ethical positions which are the furthest thing from comfortable: all this combines with a challenging set of stage conventions (beginning with the one that provides that all seventeen actors — none of whom are in safely minor roles — are on stage the entire time).
One reason for its enduring reputation and popularity is, of course (like Our Town) the size and range of the cast. Another seems, oddly, to be its appeal to young people’s frequent sense of being confined in a hypocritical world where moral pretense and selective blindness mask an underlying, repellent savagery. It would make sense to expect that this savage satire, so clearly a product of its time (the play debuted in 1966) might feel pretty dated. Somehow, though, it still resonates, with its appalled take on the life of a small, decaying town in the American Bible belt — and also in the rust belt, a coalmining town whose coal has run out — with its shrinking population clinging to a sanctimonious hellfire and damnation faith. It’s a faith which believes, in the view of the Preacher / Judge who is the dominant voice of the play, that to assume guilt for an act is to accept that you should have noticed a potential evildoer and expelled or expunged him before he had a chance to do the evil. When the Preacher excoriates the congregation for “the laxity with which we met the obligations of our Christian lives. The blindness from which we allowed evil in our lives,” he clearly means that the potential evil person should have been preemptively identified, shunned and cast out. A good, solid rush of contempt for hypocrisy is always a good feeling, and especially good if you’re young and don’t quite realize the extent of your own hypocrisy yet.
So your choice tonight is to go to Dartmouth and watch the Centre Plan launch, a real-life but fictional description of saving a downtown, or go to Dal and watch Rimers, a fictional but real-life description of the destruction of a downtown.
I’d choose Rimers.
Politics and sex (Wednesday, 1pm, Library Room LI135) — with impeccable timing, Edna Keeble, from the poli sci department, will discuss her new book, Politics and Sex: Exploring the Connections between Gender, Sexuality, and the State.
In the harbour
2:30am: Rotterdam, cruise ship, sails from Pier 22 for Sydney
7:30am: Disney Magic, cruise ship, arrives at Pier 31 from New York with up to 2,456 passengers
8am: Atlantic Conveyor, container ship, sails from Fairview Cove for New York
8:30am: Anthem of the Seas, cruise ship, arrives at Pier 22 from Bar Harbor with up to 4,180 passengers
8:30am: Carnival Sunshine, cruise ship, arrives at Pier 20 from Saint John with up to 3,000 passengers
10am: Common Venture, bulker, arrives at anchorage from IJmuiden, Holland for bunkers
10:30am: Berlin Express, container ship, arrives at Fairview Cove from Cagliari, Italy
11:30am: Theban, car carrier, arrives at Autoport from Southhampton, England
11:30am: Triton Leader, car carrier, sails from Autoport for sea
6:30pm: Anthem of the Seas, cruise ship, sails from Pier 22 for Saint John
7pm: Carnival Sunshine, cruise ship, sails from Pier 20 for New York
8:30pm: Theban, car carrier, sails from Autoport for sea
They say it rained over the weekend.
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