In the harbour
1. Oxford School
“Recommendations from a Halifax Regional School Board committee include a new consolidated junior high school as well as renovations to three existing schools,” reports Rebecca Dingwell for Metro. “But the suggestion that Oxford School close proved controversial.”
The committee wants to build a new school on the Bloomfield property.
Dingwell focused her reporting on parents opposed to closing Oxford, but Paul Palmeter, reporting for the CBC, took the opposite tack, looking at those in favour of a new school at Bloomfield.
2. Liz Feltham
My former colleague Liz Feltham was the excellent and long-time restaurant critic at The Coast. She’s always been gracious and kind to me, and I wish I had gotten to know her better before she moved to the west coast a few years ago.
Over the weekend Feltham announced the horrible news that she’s been diagnosed with ALS. “Writing, for me, is both cathartic and essential to processing information, and so I’ve chosen to share this news, and my journey moving forward,” she writes, linking to her poignant blog post:
And the question yet to be answered, the biggest question. I’m not scheduled to die tomorrow. I have a few years. That can seem like an eternity, it can pass in a flash, but it’s still the same amount of time. I know that in the next few days I need to unfreeze myself, to make the most of what time I have, no waste.
And there’s the question, the one yet to be answered: How do I live while I’m dying?
I got a couple of things wrong yesterday: the National Observer article on the Irvings was not the second in a series but rather the first (which was taken down in March and reposted Monday), and Nancy Rubin’s communication to Chris Lambie came via Twitter direct message, not email.
The mistakes are regretted.
1. Street design
“Will Halifax join the new North American standard on street design?” asks Erica Butler. “And if we do, will the provincial government update our legislation to match?”
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I thought yesterday was Monday, so I missed Stephen Kimber’s Tuesday column. Better late than never, I suppose.
In the column, Kimber reviews the recent history of Nova Scotia premiers — one from each party: MacDonald, Dexter, McNeil — who have sliced and diced the electorate into ever more tiny demographic categories and adjusted their campaigns to appeal to a winning mix:
If you believe the media punditi, McNeil is now gearing up to ask us for a new mandate — two-and-a-half years before its time — based on yet another happy-talk, election-year, faux balanced budget, based on over-stated revenues, public sector contracts not signed and enough cupboards-no-longer-bare, fiscal jiggery-pokery to fund a new hospital, more money for child care and a chicken in every microwave.
It may work long enough to count the ballots, but it will not really work. And voters — who should also know better — will only become more cynical.
The political cynicism that permeates our culture, says Kimber, is responsible for the rise of Donald Trump.
I’d go one step further: the cynicism is the inevitable result of the triumph of neoliberalism. The sanctification of the market leads necessarily to the atomization of society — hence Margaret Thatcher’s insistence that “there is no such thing as society; there are individual men and women, and there are families,” echoed by Stephen Harper’s refusal to “commit sociology.” We people become not a collective with shared aspirations and common purpose, but rather mere individual consumers with individual tastes and preferences.
One very positive aspect of the celebration of the individual is that young people (we can’t say “the younger generation” because they don’t view themselves as a collective) are much more progressive on human rights issues. When I was young, gay rights was a fringe social movement; now gay people are mostly accepted as just part of the community. Likewise, young people especially have a tremendous awareness of trans issues and sexual violence, and have built the Idle No More and Black Lives Matter and so many other social campaigns. There’s still a long way to go on these issues, but we’ve come so tremendously far on them, and that’s a good thing.
I worry, however, that these aren’t so much civil rights campaigns as they are individual rights campaigns — we are all worthy, not as part of a collective society, but only as individuals.
And the loss of the collective can prevent us from challenging, for example, the rigged rules, skewed tax policies, underfunding of needed government programs, and attacks on unions that benefit the 1% at the expense of everyone else. The individualism is so engrained that my oft-repeated comment that “if only everyone were paid less, we’d all be rich” isn’t so much of a joke as it is a reflection of widely held views. Trickle-down economics and austerity policies have time and again been proved failures, but they so fit into the individualized, atomized worldview that’s been foisted upon us over the last 35 years that we don’t have the skills to fight them.
I have a lot of faith in young people. They’re smart, aware, and want to do well by the world. So maybe they’ll figure this out. But I can’t see a solution to the cynicism of our times that doesn’t reject the cult of the market.
3. Atlantic School of Theology
Stephen Archibald and his wife, Sheila, visited the Atlantic School of Theology as part of the Doors Open weekend, and of course he took all sorts of interesting photos of the place. But the coolest is definitely the photo above, of which he writes:
The person who greeted us on Saturday asked if we had visited the School before. The only building we had been in was the chapel. That’s where we got married in 1979. A beautiful location.
Weddings were so much simpler in those days. We got married at 4pm on the Friday of Labour Day so we wouldn’t mess up our guests’ long weekend.
It’s a slow news day, so let’s get wowed by something astronomical. Here’s a photo of the Horsehead Nebula taken by the Hubble Telescope:
Open House (7–9pm, Lunenburg Room, Westin Hotel) — Paul Skerry Associates Limited will present its plan to tear down the historic Elmwood Apartments at South and Barrington Streets (across from Cornwallis Park) and put up a crappy, non-distinct, six-storey apartment building.
Public Accounts (10am, Province House) — Auditor General Michale Pickup will release his June report.
Climate Change in Nova Scotia: Are We Ready? (7 pm, Scotiabank Auditorium, Marion McCain Building) — with panel members:
• Richard Zurawski (Chair) — Meteorologist, radio host and author
• Blair Greenan — Research Scientist & Head of Oceanography & Climate Section, BIO, DFO
• Georgia Klein -— Lecturer, College of Sustainability, Dalhousie University
• Tim Webster — Research Scientist, Applied Geomatics Research Group, NSCC
• Shannon Miedema — Manager, Energy & Environment, HRM
In the harbour
5am: NYK Deneb, container ship, arrives at Fairview Cove from New York
6am: ZIM Alabama, container ship, arrives at Pier 41 from Valencia, Spain
6:45am: NYK Rumina, container ship, sails from Fairview Cove to sea
9am: Nolhanava, ro-ro cargo, arrives at Pier 9 from Papeete (Tahiti)
4:30pm: ZIM Alabama, container ship, sails from Pier 41 to sea
5pm: NYK Deneb, container ship, sails from Fairview Cove to sea
6am: Oceanex Sanderling, ro-ro cargo, arrives at Pier 41 from St. John’s
7am: Vera D, container ship, arrives at HalTerm from Leixoes, Portugal
6pm: Etoile, French Navy sail training vessel, arrives at the Tall Ships Quay on the boardwalk from São Vicente, Cape Verde Islands and stays through Sunday
I’ll be on The Sheldon MacLeod Show, News 95.7, at 1pm.
I’ve lived within earshot of the harbour for 11 years, but the fog horns have never been as loud and persistent as they were this morning. I think it must’ve been the NYK Deneb and associated tugs making their way to Fairview Cove.
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Your theory resonates with me, Tim. I totally agree with it and its existence, though I think the concept, the reality of it is much more subtle, more diffuse in Canada than the U.S., and is, therefore, more malignant, more hazardous to our society. As a political junkie [because of political effect/impact on our lives] I recoil each and every time I hear American pundits, journalists, politicians openly refer to “the black vote,” “the Hispanic vote,” “women,” “whites,” dividing citizenry into segments. It’s not done that way here, at least not overtly, though Harper attempted it last election with “old stock Canadians,” the niqab issue and the “barbaric cultural practices line.” The Liberals have finessed fragmentation and citizen self-interest more successfully, but with no less impact, using public-dollar-distribution as their tool and weapon. Sadly, the NDP lost their way in the election home stretch, federally, in pursuit of power, as Dexter actually did governing. The American charge by some against Trump, that he’s not a true conservative, is equally, contrarily, ironically, applicable to Dexter’s NDP regime, who governed as one. But how do we right the listing ship? The cynicism? It begins with better public education, the teaching of critical thinking, and the importance and value of skepticism and dissent. Cult-like devotion to political party affiliation and loyalty must also be exposed, confronted, and broken. Politicians are exploiting our passivity, our avoidance of conflict, and our good manners.
Donna, I find the cynicism and fragmentation disturbing too. Democracies typically collapse once people start voting for more government money to be given to the particular category of person they belong to or sympathize with. Eventually, once the government runs out of other people’s money (or can’t print more), it goes after property. Of course, this never works out – the property always seems to end up in the hands of Party insiders, whatever that party happens to be. Lots of people found this out the hard way during various ‘worker’s revolutions’ – they just had new titles, and new masters.
Of course, unfettered capitalism is no better, and really is just a natural part of the cycle of collectivism – when wealth is so concentrated that very smart people can use the underclasses as tools to take power for themselves, that’s often what happens.
One common thread I can see in these toxic ideologies that are used by cynics and demagogues to take power is the way that apostates, or presumed members of the collective who dissent are treated. For example, a working class person who disagreed with communism on intellectual grounds was considered to be a greater enemy of the Party than the bourgeoisie because he was a class traitor. Similarly, whenever a religion is a tool of the powerful, an apostate is considered to be worse than a nonbeliever.
In regards to the school review process, I have found it to be frustrating. Four options have been presented, one of which is status quo. We were told that the process is based around savings money but there has not been an analysis done to determine whether any of the other three options will actually save money. We know that each of the 5 schools requires $500k-$1.2m in repairs so you can avoid spending close to $2m by closing two schools in the proposed option if you pay $15-$20m for a new school. We need to know more information to make an informed decision. What about annual maintenance costs, operations costs, etc. needed to look at a 25 yr life-cycle cost.
Secondly, If you want to maintain walkabiliy to encourage an active lifestyle and reduce GHG emissions, a report commissioned by the province of NS stated that we should plan for 1.0km maximum walking distance for Elementary students. From my house, the closest school would be 1.3km if Oxford closed.
Directive B of the HRSB Recommendations to review Citadel High School Family of Schools says “A review should include all schools that could be impacted by the outcome of a review or could expand the range of options for consideration”. If Oxford were closed, the surrounding schools would be impacted but they didn’t consider the impacts on them.
Oxford School uses the P-9 model rather than utilizing separate elementary and junior high schools. Studies have shown a loss in achievement, a drop in extracurricular participation and leadership behaviors and an increase in suspensions when they made the transition into middle school or junior high which is not seen when they stayed in the same school through grade 8 (this is based on Us studies which have grade 9-12 high schools). Districts in Cincinnati, Baltimore, Philadelphia, Boston, Tennessee and Oklahoma City have transited to K-8 schools in the past 15 years and it worked well. Chicago has always been K-8. K-8 were common in North America before the 1940’s and are common in Europe today. Junior High’s were introduced when P-8’s became overcrowded but we eventually realized that they were a mistake.
Why are we building a larger central Junior High?
That Cynicism section was incredibly well written and articulated!
Tim, I would argue that if the neoliberals like a social movement, they are either pandering for votes or money or they see it as a useful distraction. Neoliberalism does not care what colour you are or what your sexuality or gender is, it cares what your market value is. Neoliberalism would embrace a white supremacist, natalist movement just as enthusiastically as it has embraced other social movements if that was what was currently beneficial to neoliberalism – it’s a formless empire of nothing.
Neoliberalism will quickly call you a racist (there would be some other -ist if this weren’t convenient) for criticizing Chinese investment in Canadian property but will call you a domestic terrorist for protesting fracking. Notice the different levels of success organizations that only demand that members of some biologically determined group have an equal right to participate in the market economy vs. groups that are opposed to the market economy. Imagine if Idle No More’s sole demand was that oil companies hire a certain number of native americans every year – oil companies would love them! There would be PR events, spokespeople would have speeches, maybe even some suit dummy would awkwardly participate in some tribal ritual or something.
Meanwhile we argue about transgender washrooms.
Neoliberalism can embrace anybody and anything if it pays its bills on time: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/jan/23/lagarde-king-abdullah-advocate-women-driving-ban
Hey – the more fighting that happens in the middle east, the better for neoliberalism? Didn’t you know APCs like the ones we’re selling to Saudi cost money?
Think of the positive externalities!
I would add globalization as an adjunct to neo liberalism as a clear and present evil.
In theory it provides employment to citizens of disadvantaged countries. In reality it is an amazing way for multinationals to avoid high local labour costs, nuisance labour standards, skirt local taxes and maximize profits all while fleecing the very people who are supposedly to buy their insanely marked up sneakers and digital devices.
No wonder investors without ethics love it.