1. Mark Lever and sins against journalism

Unionized Chronicle Herald newsroom employees went back to work last Tuesday and spent the rest of the week in “orientation” — learning new software and newsroom procedures that were implemented since the workers went on strike 19 months ago. The union members start doing the actual work of reporting, editing, and photographing today, and we’ll start seeing their bylines appear online later in the day today and in the paper tomorrow.

But will anyone read it?

When the strike started, the union urged readers to cancel their subscriptions in solidarity and as a way to pressure the company into settling with the workers. Such calls for boycotts are common during labour actions; typically, after an agreement is reached and the strike is over, the union calls for the public to end the boycott and support the business again as a way to support the unionized jobs. In this instance, however, the Halifax Typographical Union hasn’t called for readers to resubscribe to the Herald, and the union is only reluctantly removing disparaging comments about the company from social media:

What about the rest of us? Will readers return to the paper?

It’s unscientific, but as of this morning 442 people have responded to my Twitter poll asking that question. Here are the results:

Of those who responded, only a third of those who say they unsubscribed are saying they will resubscribe. Two-thirds who say they unsubscribed have such ill-will for the company that they won’t return as subscribers.

Admittedly, my Twitter followers are hardly a representative sample of Nova Scotians generally or of Chronicle Herald readers specifically, but there is evidently much disdain for the company.

And that disdain is well-earned. Not only did company president Mark Lever position himself as the worst sort of anti-worker boss, but during the strike the paper was an embarrassing mess of mistakes and downright unethical “reporting.” Remember the anonymously sourced article attacking immigrant children? Remember scabs handing stories to government communications workers to edit?

There’s a lot of stagnating dirty Herald water, and no bridge has been constructed for it to pass under.

Stephen Kimber suggests the first stone in that bridge:

If Mark Lever really wants to restore public confidence in his post-strike Halifax Chronicle Herald, he could begin by acknowledging — and publicly apologizing for — some of the newspaper’s most egregious sins against journalism during the past 18 months The problem is that Lever — the failed-businessman-turned-newspaper-magnate — would need to have the first clue about the ethos of journalism and why facts and integrity matter. He doesn’t.”

Click here to read “Mark Lever and sins against journalism.”

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For myself, it comes down to the quality of the journalism produced by the post-strike Herald. The newsroom is today a tiny fraction of its former self, and no matter how good some of the returning workers are, they cannot possibly produce anything like the pre-strike paper. The Herald was never a great paper, and that pre-strike paper was itself already a pale shadow of the best days of the Herald, when the company put more resources into the newsroom to compete with the now-defunct Daily News. Now, with Lever slashing salaries and staff and consolidating operations across Atlantic Canada, the prospects for sustained good journalism are not bright.

Still, these Morning Files are dependent on the work of others, and so I’ll resubscribe to the Herald in order to collate content and comment on it. It’s just another business expense, like the web hosting bill and the five bucks I pay to file a freedom of information request.

The rest of you are on your own.

2. Examineradio, episode #125

Afua Cooper. Photo:

Historian Afua Cooper is on the show this week to talk about racism, slavery, and Lord Dalhousie, the university’s namesake. She’s the James R. Johnston Chair in Black Canadian Studies at Dal. She has a few things to say about the statues coming down. Plus, Tim and Terra discuss the latest rally at the Cornwallis statue, the Bloomfield property, and the Chronicle Herald.

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(direct download)
(RSS feed)
(Subscribe via iTunes)

By happenstance, as I was interviewing Cooper about Lord Dalhousie, Examiner contributor El Jones was writing about how King’s College was founded in part on the proceeds of slavery.

3. Solitary confinement

The Burnside jail. Photo: Halifax Examiner

“Close to a quarter of solitary confinements in Nova Scotia’s jails are due to medical issues or protection from other inmates, according to recent figures offering a glimpse of why offenders in the province spend weeks buried in virtual isolation,” reports Michael Tutton for the Canadian Press:

Experts say the statistics are worrying, especially when isolation is used for non-disciplinary reasons.

“You’re denied access to human interaction, you have very limited access to the outside world. It’s a very austere form of confinement,” says Howard Sapers, who recently prepared recommendations for reforms on the use of segregation in Ontario.

“Segregation is not therapeutic,” said the former Correctional Investigator of Canada.

The list of “closed confinement” cases from February to June this year show about 80 confinements out of 600, or about 13 per cent, are for medical reasons. In addition, more than one in 10 cases of the solitary confinements were for “protection of the offender,” which often means an offender risks violent attacks by other prisoners.

4. Jail mail

Prisoners in all of Nova Scotia’s jails did not receive mail for four days last week, confirms Justice Department spokesperson Sarah Gillis. 

The delivery stoppage was “due to the possibility of a drug in a piece of mail, but it has since resumed,” said Gillis via email.

I’m told that a single piece of mail sent to the Northeast Nova Scotia Correctional Facility in New Glasgow contained Fentanyl, so therefore all mail to all prisoners across the province was stopped. I can’t yet confirm it, but I’m additionally told that mail delivery will now be weekly in prisons.

Letters from family and friends is necessary to maintain some connection to the outside world, which is important if we want prisoners to rebuild successful lives after they are released.

5. Macdonald Bridge

Motorcade inaugurating service on the Macdonald Bridge, April 1955. Image: Nova Scotia Archives

“Motorists will be able to put weekend closures of the Macdonald Bridge in Halifax in their rear-view mirror by the middle of September, but nighttime closures will still be happening until late fall,” reports Pam Berman for the CBC.

Do we still call it the Old Bridge?

6. Pedestrian killed

The RCMP issued this release yesterday:

August 20, 2017, Liverpool, Nova Scotia… Queens County District RCMP is investigating a fatal collision between a pedestrian and a vehicle.

Yesterday at approximately 5 p.m., a white, Ford Taurus collided with an 83-year-old Bridgewater man in a parking lot on Queens Place Dr. in Liverpool. The man was pronounced deceased at the scene. The driver was not injured.

EHS, the Liverpool Volunteer Fire Department and an RCMP Collision Analyst attended the scene. The collision remains under investigation.

7. Passenger killed

Another RCMP release from yesterday:

August 20, 2017, Kempt Head, Nova Scotia…Baddeck RCMP is investigating a fatal motor vehicle collision on Kempt Head Rd.

At approximately 4:30 p.m. yesterday, RCMP responded to a fatal single vehicle collision involving a white Toyota Corolla in Kempt Head. Four occupants were in the car at the time of the collision.

As a result of the collision, a 22-year-old man who was a passenger in the vehicle was pronounced dead at the scene. Two other passengers — a 27-year-old man and a 22-year-old man — were transported to Cape Breton Regional Hospital with non-life threatening injuries. The driver, a 24-year-old man, was arrested on scene without incident. Charges are pending in relation to the collision.

The vehicle was seized and the investigation is ongoing.

Victoria County District RCMP, an RCMP Collision Analyst, EHS, and the Boularderie, Bras d’Or and Ross Ferry Volunteer Fire Departments attended the scene.


1. More on Richmond memorials

The Civil Rights Monument in Richmond, Virginia. Photo: Stephen Archibald

“Looking at at photos from our trip to Virginia in 2009 I realized we saw a number of statues that have become more interesting in these iconoclastic times,” writes Stephen Archibald.

Archibald goes on to comment about the Civil Rights Monument, “an example of accessible, contemporary sculpture” at the State House, and other statues he finds more worthy of veneration than those commemorating Confederate generals.

The memorial to Confederate dead in Hollywood Cemetery. Photo: Stephen Archibald

Along the way, Archibald discovers the memorial to the 18,000 Confederate soldiers killed in one of the Battles of Bull Run. “The size communicates the enormity of the loss,” he comments.

I remember this monument. I lived in Richmond for about five years. I was in my goofy, awkward 20s, a loner with no social skills; I had no sense of myself, and no clue about the world or my place in it.

But as I do now, I liked to walk. And my walks would often bring me to Hollywood Cemetery, which sits on rolling, tree-covered hills that overlook the falls of the James River. There are something like six presidents (one or two might be Confederate presidents) buried at Hollywood, and odd-ball memorials like that of a dog buried with his master. The place reeks of history and of faded, stupid glory; the crumbling tombstones and gnarled trees make it all the more sad.

I had probably walked around the cemetery a dozen times before one day venturing down a path I hadn’t previously explored and finding the memorial to the Bull Run casualties. I don’t remember that there were any directional signs to it, or that it showed up on any tourist map. It was just stuck in an obscure corner in the back of the cemetery.

Archibald’s photo doesn’t do the memorial justice. As you walk through a lawn around the memorial, there are concentric rings of eight-inch-high stones, each with a range of numbers on it: “101-200,” “1501-1600,” “12301-12400,” and so forth. In fact, the memorial sits on a mass grave.

When I realized that, I thought of what it must have been like as wagonload after wagonload rushed the thousands of dead bodies from the battlefield, through the city streets, and to Hollywood to be dumped in the hastily dug pit before the rotting corpses spread pestilence among the living. The dead were too numerous to attend to individually, there were no coffins, no plaques with names, no dignity. Just a giant pit of stupid, dead glory.

That was the day I became a pacifist.

2. Those other people who lived in the Confederacy

Barry Sheehy, who has been hired on to market the Port of Sydney to the world, has also written a book, Montreal, City of Secrets: Confederate Operations in Montreal During the American Civil War, writes Mary Campbell in the Cape Breton Spectator.

The book was previewed by Le Devoir reporter Jean-François Nadeau. Writes Campbell:

Sheehy waded into the Charlottesville issue during the Le Devoir interview. How deeply he discussed it with the reporter I have no idea — Nadeau included only one quote on the subject. Here’s the translated version:

“You must remember that, during the civil war, the Southern States counted 6 million inhabitants. At least 350,000 soldiers would be killed or wounded. That means about 40% of the men of fighting age are affected. It’s enormous.”

The memory of that wound, Sheehy told Nadeau, helps explain what happened in Charlottesville last week.

Hmmm, what’s missing from this account of the Confederacy during the civil war? Oh, I know — black people. According to the US National Park Service, the population of the Confederacy was 5.5 million “free” people and 3.5 million “enslaved” people. In other words, black slaves accounted for 40% of the Confederate population.

And those 350,000 killed or wounded soldiers represent 40% of the white men of fighting age — black men were not permitted to join the Confederate army until the final year of the war, 1865, and very few did.

Sheehy is focused so intently on those dead white Confederate soldiers, he doesn’t have to admit that the South started the civil war or that it did so to defend the institution of slavery (as Ta-Nehisi Coates has documented quite devastatingly).

Sheehy has neatly removed race from the equation, leaving only Southerners mourning their battle dead — but does that really explain what happened in Charlottesville last week? Does that explain why a white supremacist from Boston like Richard Spencer was there? Does it explain the Nazis? (Unfair question — nothing can explain the Nazis.)

Let’s hope Sheehy the historian actually offered a much deeper, more nuanced take on Charlottesville which Nadeau reduced to one, unfortunate quote.

Click here to read “Our port marketer’s new book.”

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White space

The Moon

Scientists think that 4.5 billion years ago Theia, a giant planet or asteroid the size of Mars, slammed into the Earth, ejecting much of the Earth’s crust into space; that material then coalesced into the moon.

At formation, all those four billion years ago, the moon was much closer than it is today — about 30,000km away then as opposed to 384,000km away now — and therefore much larger in the sky. If we were standing on the surface of the Earth four billion years ago, the moon would appear huge in the sky — maybe 10 times larger than the sun.

By the force of gravity, the moon pulls the ocean water on Earth towards it, causing the tides — two bulges of water, one on each side of the Earth. A stylized version of the tides looks like this:

Graphic: Forbes

Those two bulges of water work like brakes on a car tire; they serve to slow down the spin of the Earth. Back when the Earth was young, one spin of the Earth, a day, was just a few hours long, but the moon braking system slowed the spinning down — 600 million years ago, a day was 21 hours long; when the dinosaurs died 65 million years ago, a day was 23 hours long. Now of course a day is 24 hours long, but the spinning Earth will continue to slow down. A billion years into the future a day will be 30 hours long.

Through a rule of physics called the conservation of angular momentum, as the spinning Earth slows down, the moon has to move farther away from the Earth. The distance between the two increases about an inch and a half per year, so as the billions of years have passed, the moon has gotten smaller and smaller as seen from the Earth. While the moon appeared to be 10 times the size of the sun four billion years ago, billions of years in the future,the moon will appear to be half the size of the sun. We just happen to be around right at the moment when the moon appears to be the exact same size as the sun. That’s why we have total eclipses.

I find this exceedingly weird.

The moon and the sun being the exact same size has inspired creation stories. The Mayans believed that the Hero Twins defeated the Death Lords of the Underworld in a ball game, and to celebrate their victory became the sun and the moon. In Norse mythology, the brother and sister gods Sol and Mani took their places as sun and moon. The Inuit, too, had their brother and sister gods, but in their case the boy, Anningan, was the moon, while the girl, Malina, was the sun.

Because women’s menstrual cycles match the lunar cycle, women have long been associated with the moon.

The moon is the subject of love poetry, the inspiration for religion. The Catholics calculate the date for Easter as the first Sunday after the first full moon after the equinox.

Crime rates go up in the full moon, and we speak of lunatics roaming the streets.

Shakespeare was wary of the moon: “O, swear not by the moon, the fickle moon, the inconstant moon, that monthly changes in her circle orb, Lest that thy love prove likewise variable.”

Maybe there’s something to that wariness: a billion times over today, we’ll be warned not to look at the moon lest we go blind.

There’s no other planet in our solar system that has a moon the exact same apparent size as our sun. Venus doesn’t have a moon at all. Mars has two pea-sized moons that couldn’t possibly have inspired long-gone Martians to write poetry or found religions or do anything much else. There are no lunatics on Mars.

There are 200 million stars in our Milky Way, and it now looks like pretty much every one of them has planets swirling around them. We’ve only found a few thousand of those planets so far — a bunch of “Super Jupiters,” a few dozen “Jupiters,” and a handful of “Super Earths” — but undoubtedly there are a gazillion Earth-sized planets out there. Maybe some of them have people, or something like people, staring up in their sky in wonder. What they won’t have, however, is a moon that is exactly the same size as their sun. For that, we are probably unique.




Board of Police Commissioners (Monday, 12:30pm, City Hall) — here’s the agenda.


No public meetings.


No public meetings until September.

On campus



Thesis Defence, Earth Sciences (Monday, 9am, Room 3107, Mona Campbell Building) — PhD candidate Jason Loxton will defend his thesis, “The Late Ordovician and Early Silurian Graptolite Record at the Blackstone River, Yukon.”

A Restriction Categorical Hike (Monday, 11am, Room 319, Chase Building) — Robin Cockett of the University of Calgary will compare math to hiking at this mathematics colloquium. His abstract:

Mathematics is a bit like hiking in the mountains: some hikers get distracted by the wild flowers in the meadows on the way, others get mesmerized by the pristine mountain lakes and waterfalls, while some are never satisfied until they get to the high points where the broad mountain vistas open up. A hike has the potential to surprise and inspire awe at many different levels.

This talk is about a hike I did (some time ago) with Richard Garner to show how restriction categories can be viewed as being categories enriched in a double category. We are not going to get there … rather we are going to look at the wild flowers and admire the waterfalls on the way! Our aim will be to show how our perspective changes as we hike this particular trail. On the way I plan to introduce some of my favourite restriction categories and to point out some of the side trails which are less heavily travelled.

Thesis Defence, Sociology and Social Anthropology (Monday, 1:30pm, Room 3107, Mona Campbell Building) — PhD candidate Catherine Bryan will defend her thesis, “Transnational Migration and Social Reproduction: Filipino Hotel Workers in Rural Manitoba.”

Watch the Eclipse! (Monday, 2:30pm, outside the Dunn Building, west side) — Several telescopes with proper solar filters for safe, direct viewing will be set up. The Sun’s image will also be projected onto a screen. Instructors at hand.

In Halifax the partial eclipse begins at 2:42 pm and ends at 4:59 pm; maximum obscuration (48%) at 3:53 pm.


Thesis Defence, Biochemistry and Molecular Biology (Tuesday, 9am, Room C140 – Collaborative Health Education Building) — Masters student Shannon Sibbald will defend her thesis, “Symbiosis and its Impact on Eukaryote Evolution.”

Theis Defence, Chemistry (Tuesday, 9am, Room 1016, Kenneth C. Rowe Management Building) — PhD candidate Ryan Fielden will defend his thesis, “Layered Titanate Sodium-Ion Battery Negative Electrodes.”

Thesis Defence, Psychology and Neuroscience (Tuesday, 10am, Room 3107, Mona Campbell Building) — PhD candidate Austin Korgan will defend his thesis, “Male Experience, Female Investment and Offspring Anxiety Behavior: Where Father’s Nature Meets Mother’s Nurture.”

Thesis Defence, Mathematics and Statistics (Tuesday, 2pm, Room 3107, Mona Campbell Building) — PhD candidate Alanod Sibih will defend her thesis, “Non-Effective Orbifolds and Double Categories.”

In the harbour

The seas around Nova Scotia, 9:30am Monday. Map:

0:30am: YM Express, container ship, sails from Fairview Cove for Norfolk
6am: Pigeon Point, oil tanker, arrives at anchorage for inspection from Norfolk
6am: Vega Omega, cargo ship, arrives at Pier 42 from San Juan, Puerto Rico
8am: Veendam, cruise ship with up to 1,350 passengers, arrives at Pier 22 from Bar Harbor
1pm: Pigeon Point, oil tanker, sails from anchorage for sea
5:45pm: Veendam, cruise ship, sails from Pier 22 for Sydney
9pm: Atlantic Sail, ro-ro container, arrives at Fairview Cove from Liverpool, England


Don’t look at the moon!

Tim Bousquet is the editor and publisher of the Halifax Examiner. Twitter @Tim_Bousquet Mastodon

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  1. ‘When I became a pacifist’.

    ‘WHEN DID I BECOME A PACIFIST?’ In my father in law’s case it was when as part of the Canadian Contingent to Normandy and France he was part of an action to take the occupied Channel ports including Dieppe.

    The thousands of graves of Canadians were freshly dug only two years ago on that action which saw greater losses of Canadian troops than any other during the Second War.

    As a soldier the waste and sorrow of war came home to him and after he came back and resumed his life as a teacher he only ever attended the Vets for Peace marches and not the others which appeared to glorify victory.

  2. There is an interesting ethical question of the HTU being willing (and anyone, anywhere), essentially editing history by deleting tweets, unliking posts.

    Social media is a new combination of ephemeral stream of conciseness *and* a permanent record. The HTU and their members *did* make disparaging comments about the CH, etc. Deleting or unliking may be allowed by the technology, but that doesn’t make it right.

    I have a passing thought that the All Holy King’s Educated Providers of Truth For The Peons might see it as OK for *them* to edit and suppress history.

    Perhaps a thesis topic for someone.

    1. Except for your King’s comment, I wholeheartedly agree. Am stunned and disgusted that the Union was asked and – boggles the mind – agreed to make the deletions. Peripherally, while I’m a union supporter in principle, the public is not a monolith to be manipulated for-and-against as the “cancel subscriptions” and now “resubscribe” appeals suggest. I shall return later to read the remainder of today’s Morning File – once I absorb and cope with the fact a union involved in disseminating truth – and commentary was reality and contextual truth – agrees to obliterate it when it becomes expedient and inconvenient.

    2. I don’t think our society is too big on objective truth, but rather expedient speech which facilitates the interests of those who control our media.

  3. I read something a few days ago that stuck with me, and I think it’s appropriate to share it on the day of an eclipse.

    “The gods were everywhere, and they mingled in all the events of daily life. The fire that cooked the food and warmed the bodies of the faithful, the water that allayed their thirst and cleansed them, the very air they breathed, and the light that shone for them, all were objects of their adoration. Perhaps no other religion has ever offered to its votaries, in so high a degree as Mithraism, opportunities for prayer and motives for veneration. When the initiate took himself in the evening to the sacred grotto concealed in the solitude of the forest, at every step new sensations awakened in the his heart some mystical emotion. The stars that shone in the sky, the wind that whispered in the foliage, the spring or brook that hastened murmuring into the valley, even the earth which he trod under his feet, were in his eyes divine, and all surrounding nature evoked in him a worshipful fear of the infinite forces that swayed the universe”

    – Franz Cumont in The Mysteries of Mithra, as quoted in another book.

    Seneca agrees:

    “When you enter a grove peopled with ancient trees, higher than the ordinary, and shutting out the sky with their thickly intertwining branches, do not the stately shadows of the wood, the stillness of the place, and the awful gloom of this domed cavern then strike you as with the presence of a deity? Or when you see a cave penetrating the rock at the foot of an overhanging mountain, not made by human hands, but hollowed out to a great depth by nature, is not your soul suffused with religious fear? We worship the sources of great rivers, we erect altars at the place where a sudden rush of water bursts from the bowels of the earth, warm springs we adore, certain pools we hold sacred on account of their somber darkness and their immense depth”

    I think we’ve cut ourselves off from part of ourselves, and the modern reductionist viewpoint of human experience as nothing but the rational mind and the physical body & the sensations it produces is tragically wrong. Nothing just is anymore, everything has to be viewed in terms of some ideology or another, and the results usually suck.

    I also found this interesting:

  4. I am incredibly impressed that the Halifax Examiner is providing a forum through which El Jones is able to fill in some gaps and in many ways correct our history here in Nova Scotia. The African Canadian community and the heritage of many, many Nova Scotians from that robust community is a massively under-told story. El’s tireless research has established a solid connection and wider understanding of the wrongs committed by colonialist “founders”. With a heritage dating back to the 1700’s, isn’t it about time we officially acknowledge that African Nova Scotians are truly and fully part of our founding peoples?

  5. To the Herald journalists – good luck and do good work.

    To Mark Lever rot in San Simeon and may all the wine in your cellar turn to piss.

  6. I was wondering if there would be a call to support the workers by subscribing to the Herald.

    I am not one to boycott just because of a strike, and then to support the business just to support the workers. I can understand why people involved with labour do this though, and I don’t blame
    them, it gives them a lever (no pun intended).

    However, it will take quite a long time for me to forget how poorly Herald management treated its employees, and how it was satisfied to sell news of dreadful quality over the last 18 months. Maybe then I might start reading it again. But not now.