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News
Views
Government
On campus
Noticed
In the harbour
Footnotes


News

1. Mass shooting

Lindsay Souvannarath

More details have emerged about the people who allegedly were plotting to shoot up the Halifax Shopping Centre. Judging by their internet presences, they were immersed in a culture that celebrates violence and death. Lindsay Souvannarath, the 23-year-old Geneva, Illinois woman charged in the plot, has a Tumblr page called cockswastika, with the title “school shooter chic,” and explaining that “violence is the aesthetic.” The page includes graphic video of the Columbine shooters and other murderers in action, and Nazi and neoNazi imagery.

Elsewhere on the internet, Souvannarath appears to be known as SnoopyFemme, a poster who has made such sickly droll comments as “My path is Judgment, and my sword is Hatred” and “Hate speech is the new heresy. But I will not bow down. By the power of the will, I shall die with my axe in my hand. My brothers shall wrap me in the flag and bury me in Sparta.”

Souvannarath was a creative writing student at Coe College, a Presbyterian school in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. She published a short story in the Coe Review, the student magazine called “My Pet Skeleton,” which ends on the note:

It’s weird. But I guess it’s not every day that you see a skeleton walking about. Sometimes I wonder if he wishes he had skeleton friends to play with. A frolic of skeletons. They’d all run off to a graveyard and dance to xylophone music, because that’s how skeletons frolic. I think. But I’d never know, because my skeleton’s the only one I know, and he doesn’t talk.

Everyone else’s skeletons are locked up in closets. Most people think they should stay there. Maybe you do too. But I wouldn’t say anything bad about skeletons. There’s one inside you.

In 2007, when she was in high school, Souvannarath wrote that “Free speech is dead. That’s why we need people like David Duke to bring it to life again.” The Kane County Chronicle reports that:

Michael Sunderman, who was in Geneva High School’s Class of 2010 with Souvannarath, described his former classmate as a lonely person who would talk about Nazis and Adolf Hitler but would become uncomfortable and change topics when confronted about her beliefs.

“She had a macabre and dark sense of humor to her, but at the time it never seemed violent,” Sunderman said.

Sunderman said Souvannarath came to mind even before authorities released the identities of those connected to the foiled shooting at a Canadian shopping center.

“Of anyone I know, it sounds like her,” he said.

The two Halifax men alleged to have been involved in the plot were known as nice people. A neighbour to 19-year-old James Gamble, who was found dead in his Timberlea home, told the Canadian Press that she knew the Gamble family through her Seventh Day Adventist Church. ““This is really shocking,” she said. “The parents are good people. They attend church. It’s a nice family.’”

Randall Shepherd, the 20-year-old man charged in the plot, was a regular at Gus’ Pub. A friend said that “Shepherd had appeared to him to be a ‘happy guy,’ who was ‘rocking out his hair at the bar.’”

But their real life personas did not reflect their internet presence, which like Souvannarath’s were immersed in violence. Shepherd’s Tumblr page is called genesistogenocide. As Brett Bundale reports:

Although many of the details surrounding the planned mass murder remain unclear, the online connections between Shepherd, Souvannarath and Gamble are revealing.

All three seem to have posted or shared images related to Nazis, swastikas, fascism, white power, heavy metal and mass shootings, including the Columbine High School massacre.

I don’t understand the logic that says the planned attack wasn’t “culturally based” or wasn’t a terrorist plot because it wasn’t political in nature — there’s a very definite culture of violence at play here, and is Nazism not political?

People seemed to have missed my point Saturday, probably because I expressed it badly. More briefly, I think that there are simply people in the world who are attracted to violence. That’s their primary motive, and they find whatever ideology or culture that is convenient to justify it — it can be radical Islam, right-wing politics, left-wing politics, celebratory Columbinism, nihilism, anarchy, nationalism of various sorts, or what have you. But the ideology is just the excuse. Really, they just want to see people die.

2. Divest Dal

The student group Divest Dal took a Valentine’s Day-themed protest directly to the offices of President Richard Florizone. This article, by the Examiner’s new education reporter, Moira Donovan, is behind the Examiner’s pay wall, and so available only to paid subscribers. To purchase a subscription, click here.

3. Ice

But you knew that.

4. Sex education

Carmella Farahbakhsh is reclaiming sex education, writes Moira Donovan:

These models, they added, take up space in the way we think about sex, which is why changing understanding of our bodies to include diverse notions of sexuality is a necessarily ongoing project, even for experienced sex educators such as Farahbakhsh. “I want to relearn today a sex-ed to fit our desires and our bodies and talk about how that intimacy is valid and powerful.”

This article is behind the Examiner’s pay wall, and so available only to paid subscribers. To purchase a subscription, click here.

5. Wild Kingdom

A seal was waddling down Highway 19 in Newton Saturday. The RCMP put the beast in the back of a pickup truck and drove it to the Port Hawkesbury wharf, where it was released. Evidently, the law requiring that dogs riding in the back of pickup trucks be leashed doesn’t apply to seals.


Views

1. Storm porches

Photo: Stephen Archibald

This Stephen Archibald post has everything: the invention of #stormchips by Stephanie Domet, a poster by Mary Sparling, “the director of the Mount Gallery (and grandmother of Allison, one of the Queens of Twitter),” and of course the subject of the post, storm porches:

If you know the the old South End and the old North End you have passed scores of these side-entrance porches. They are wonderfully functional in our climate creating an airlock where you stamp the snow off your boots before entering the hall. An unheated public space where you can talk to the Heart and Stroke canvasser without having to invite them into your private sanctuary. Often with large windows they are bright projections that give you a vantage point to look up and down the street.

2. Hockey history

Dartmouth hockey historian Martin Jones, father of Dartmouth historian David Jones, was featured on the $48 dollar NSF Fee Hockey Day in Canada.

3. The sad state of media news

Dan Leger chronicles the many media scandals, and hopes for a better future.


Government

City

Halifax and West Community Council (6pm, City Hall)—in 2011, council approved a development agreement for Templeton Place Ltd.’s redevelopment of the Fenwick Tower property. That plan called for increasing both the width and height of the 33-storey tower (Halifax’s tallest building), adding a 10-storey building on South Street, an eight-storey building west of the main tower, a four-storey “townhouse style” building along Fenwick Street, and constructing a pedestrian passageway connecting Fenwick and South Streets.
But it’s been four years, and Templeton hasn’t started construction and now the company is bringing forward a new plan for the property. The revised plan is significantly altered, and so will require a new public hearing before it can be approved. Here’s how city planning staff explains the changes:
The applicant no longer intends to increase the size of Fenwick Tower, and also wishes to relocate the commercial mews/public pedestrian passage. These changes represent a departure from the overall building design and site design permitted by the existing agreement, and thus are the primary changes. However, the applicant is also seeking additional changes, including:
• changes to the form, and unit mix of the Fenwick Street Townhouse Style Building;
• changes to the form, and unit mix of the South Tower;
• reduction of overall residential and commercial density;
• reconfiguration of 2-bedroom units throughout the development; and
• reduction of on-site parking.
Cornwallis Park—the city has issued a tender for redevelopment of Cornwallis Park. The document explains the origin of the park:

Cornwallis Park is a 0.8 ha urban park located in the historic Barrington Street South precinct in downtown Halifax. It was built by the Canadian National Railway in the 1920’s as an integral part of the new train station and hotel complex in the south end of Halifax. Very much influenced by the City Beautiful movement, the CNR developed the grounds around the train station to be a great civic space with Beaux-Art buildings set within a majestic park setting with formal path layout, trees, flowering shrubs and geometric planting beds. Ideas of nation building, the founding of Halifax, and creating a best image of the city for visitors from the railway station played into the design of the park. The park was designed as an aesthetic front lawn foreground for the train station and the former Hotel Nova Scotian (currently the Westin Hotel). The commissioned statue of Edward Cornwallis, the founder of Halifax, anchors the civic space. The park was an integral piece of the train station development providing a positive image and good first impression to travelers and immigrants arriving in Halifax.

The playground in the park is 30 years old and needs replacing, so planners are using that as an excuse to revamp the entire park, as follows:

The key features of the plan include:

  • Formal Park in the northern section of the site: preserve the original layout of the central promenade, diagonal pathways and plaza space around the Cornwallis sculpture. Provide a higher quality of materials, lighting, park amenities and landscaping, with more open, flexible hard surface paving that can host a variety of public activities.
  • Widen the sidewalk along Hollis Street for food vending and sidewalk activities
  • Develop an elliptical path that unifies the circulation, introduces more seating along the edges, and begins to organize future commemorative elements and public art pieces from various cultural groups (as started with the Ukrainian Immigrants Vytaiemo Memorial)
  • Special Event area – re-grade the former playground area in the southeast corner to create an amphitheater with terraced lawn seating and hard surface paving for a small scale performance area. This space is to be flexible and multifunctional for events and also be enjoyed for more passive activities on a daily basis.
  • Playground – develop a themed playground that fits with the aesthetics of the urban park and heritage area, and offers unique play experiences.

It’s good that some attention is being given to the park; it feels tired and neglected. But the main problem with the park is outside the city’s control: the sea of concrete across the street that is the Superstore parking lot. I don’t know what was on the site before the Superstore, but the park needs framing. The train station and hotel are nice, and it looks like the rebuild of the burned out South Street buildings will work, but the parking lot makes the entire park seem like an afterthought, a wide spot next to a highway. I guess it’s too much to ask Loblaws to tear down the store and build it right — put the building at the street with a nice facade, with the parking lot behind — so the park is doomed, no matter how nice the plan for it.

The grand park was built in the age of train, and the age of the automobile has destroyed it.


On campus

Dalhousie

Data stream mining (Tuesday, 11:30am, Slonim Room (430) – Faculty of Computer Science)—PhD student Behrouz Haji Soleimani Mamaghani explains:

In the last decade, the amount of data that is generated every day is growing rapidly. This has led to an increasing interest in big data and data stream analysis. When the data is becoming available gradually, we are dealing with a data stream. In this situation, we cannot once build a model from the data and use it afterwards. Instead, we need to develop and build the model incrementally and adapt the model based on the new incoming instances. Moreover, we usually do not have enough resources to store all the incoming instances. Therefore, some kind of summarization can be also useful in order to keep a summary of the stream up to the current time, so we can run the analysis on the summary. We are especially interested in unsupervised analysis of data streams, namely data stream clustering. This task is usually broken up into two main pieces: a summarization technique and a top level clustering on the summary. In this talk we will briefly overview the micro-cluster sum! marization techniques. Afterwards, we will talk about some of the state-of-the-art clustering methods including spectral clustering and density peak clustering and how to modify them in order to use in the streaming data. 

Pariah (Tuesday, 5pm, Dalhousie Art Gallery)—Pariah is a 2001 film by director Dee Rees. “A sensation at Sundance, Pariah is a lyrical coming-of-age story of an African American adolescent struggling with defining contemporary sexuality.”

Wednesday

Surviving racism (Wednesday, 4:30pm, Tupper G-36)—prof Barbara Hamilton-Hinch works “with a number populations, particularly the African Nova Scotian community, LGBTQQ community, and Persons with (dis)Abilities.” She’ll be talking about women of African ancestry living in Nova Scotia.

http://youtu.be/aCSseobduQ4

The Brasher Doubloon (Wednesday, 8pm, Dalhousie Art Gallery)—the 1948 film noir by director John Brahm is an adaptation of Raymond Chandler’s The High Window:

Philip Marlowe gets involved when limp-wristed and snidely Leslie Murdock steals a rare doubloon from his mother to give to a newsreel photographer in exchange for film that is being used for blackmail purposes. Marlowe’s involvement has him encounter a girl who goes into hysterics when touched by a man; a husband-killing woman; three corpses; a couple of scuffles in which he gets his clock cleaned; a secretary who thinks she has killed her boss, which is the reason Raymond Chandler called his story “The High Window”, and a son (who qualifies as a S.O.B. by two definitions) who blackmails his widowed mother. So, what’s not to like.


Noticed

Maybe this would be a good time to revisit nonviolence. In the New York Times, Tina Rosenberg interviews Serbians Srdja Popovic and Slobodan Djinovic, the leaders of Otpor, the movement that led to the overthrow of Slobodan Milosevic in 2000:

Nonviolence is not just the moral choice; it is almost always the strategic choice. “My biggest objection to violence is the fact that it simply doesn’t work,” Popovic writes. Violence is what every dictator does best. If you’re going to compete with David Beckham, Popovic says, why choose the soccer field? Better to choose the chessboard.

[…]

But that is Popovic’s point: violence often brings devastating results. The scholars Erica Chenoweth and Maria J. Stephan analyzed campaigns of violent and nonviolent revolution in the last century (their book, “Why Civil Resistance Works,” uses Otpor’s fist as its cover image) and found that nonviolence has double the success rate of violence — and its gains have been more likely to last.


In the harbour

The seas around Nova Scotia, 7am Tuesday. Map: marinetraffic.com

Ocean Crescent departs for Portsmouth, Maine


Footnotes

Sorry about the lateness of this post.

 

Tim Bousquet

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

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  1. There was an Esso Service Station prior to the Superstore, at the location where the present gas station is now.

  2. Halifax Media Co-op reports that the CBC & Chronicle Herald have been downplaying the white supremacist views of the gun people who were plotting to murder consumers at the Halifax Shopping Centre.

    http://halifax.mediacoop.ca/blog/robert-devet/33121

    This is unfortunate because Halifax was founded by white supremacists and the public has a right to know what is going on when racist ideology & violence resurface in the city.

    The CBC & Chronicle Herald have been echoing a government statement that characterizes the gun people as “misfits.”

    But Lindsay Kantha Souvannarath flew to Halifax from Chicago to engage in mass murder on Mi’kmaq territories. Souvannarath used the tag “cockswastikwa” in a poster promoting the planned attack. Halifax was a destination for a white supremacist with an intent to kill.

    In his book “We Were Not the Savages” Dan Paul tells the story of how the white supremacist Lords of Trade in London plotted to exterminate the Mi’kmaq people in the 18th century. Dan reminds us that Cornwallis – the “founding father” of Halifax – wrote that he did not want the war with the Mi’kmaq to end with a peace treaty. “It would be better to root the MicMac out of the peninsula decisively and forever.”

    Dan quotes the financial language used by the white supremacists from London to set the extermination of the Mi’kmaq people in motion. The 18th century language foreshadows the process of industrialized murder that swept over Europe during the second world war.

    “… the General Assembly of this Province have voted, that there be granted to be paid out of the Public Treasury to any Company, Party, to Person belonging to and residing within this Province who shall voluntarily & at their own proper cost and charge go out and kill a male Indian of the age of twelve years or upwards …. the sum of one hundred pounds in bills of credit of this Province … and the sum of one fifty pounds in bills of said bills for women, and for children under the age of twelve years killed in fight …”

    In the 18th century the Mi’kmaq people were living on the land that is now occupied by the Halifax Shopping Centre.

    Is it possible that Halifax is predisposed to breed and attract white supremacists in the 21st century because the city has a history of ethnic cleansing and openly celebrates Cornwallis, an 18th century manager of a neo-liberal style death market?

    London prefigured neo-liberal thinking by 200 years when it offset the cost of a socialized death machine with public money to protected private enterprise from the financial cost of mass murder, which was required to start up the colonial marketplace.

    ” … to be paid out of the Public Treasury … at their own proper cost and charge go out and kill a male Indian of the age of twelve years or upwards … and the sum of one fifty pounds in bills of said bills for women, and for children under the age of twelve years …”

    Dan Paul has written eloquently about the importance of removing all references to the white supremacist Cornwallis from the city of Halifax. Here is a passage from “We Were Not the Savages”:

    “Although Cornwallis’s barbarity is well documented. much of it by his own hand, up to the year 2000 no White jurisdiction had ever condemned him for it. In fact, only honors have been given by authorities in Nova Scotia and Canada to the memory of the author of the 1749 inhuman scalping proclamation. A statue of him is displayed in a park located across from the railway station in Halifax, and schools, streets, ships, a naval base and so on have been named after him. In view of this, I ask, and will continue to ask, how my country, which claims to be civilized, award such honors to a man who authorized ethnic cleansing?”

    http://www.amazon.ca/Were-Not-Savages-Collision-Civilizations/dp/1552662098/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1424154419&sr=8-2&keywords=we+were+not

    Perhaps the name & image of Cornwallis should be removed from the city in the interest of public safety, as well as human decency.

    The Halifax Media Co-op story about the local press downplaying the white supremacist views of the gun people makes a me wonder if white supremacist views are widely held in Nova Scotia and if Nova Scotia has the potential to become a destination for white supremacists.

  3. If the Geneva Convention requires some command structure for soldiers to be considered combatants, it is not unreasonable that a command structure be required to be declared a terrorist.

    (Of course, the effect is reverse. If you are a combatant, the worse they can do is send you to a POW camp. If you are a terrorist, have fun in Guantanamo).

  4. “The parents are good people. They attend church” seems to come up regularly in situations like this as if church attendance makes one a good parent.