Canada’s Reputation in the World

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#Occupy Vancouver: Out of Sight, Out of Media

Less than two months ago, the #occupy movement captured the hearts and minds of people around the world. Tent cities sprang up in cities everywhere, and idealistic videos like “Women of #Occupy Wall Street” (above) wistfully showed articulate young people to be quite the opposite of the entitled, apathetic losers the media often likes to paint them as. The positive public reaction was sincere, widespread and powerful.

But somewhere around the beginning of November, public opinion began to change. As Naomi Wolf’s excellent Guardian article points out here, there was a concerted effort to discredit the tent city occupiers, and turn the general public against them. Vancouver city officials and police admitted to being privy to continental-wide conference calls between #occupy cities, which were organized by the US Department of Homeland Security, about how to deal with the tent cities. Clearly, there was serious concern in high places, if Homeland Security was getting involved. The fact that our “progressive” civic officials took part in this, and, after some delay, caved in and went along with this propaganda effort against the most progressive movement in decades, speaks volumes about how progressive they really are. (Quisling comes to mind.)

So not coincidentally, during Remembrance Day week, police departments across North America began issuing form letter-like media press releases claiming that violent, Black Bloc anarchists had infiltrated the tent cities (supported by no evidence whatsoever). The media in every #occupy city in North America lapped it up without ever bothering to check to see if it was true. Fire and public health concerns were constantly raised. Drug use and overdose deaths were signs that anarchy was prevailing. Surrounding businesses were reportedly losing money. This peaceful, non-violent protest was suddenly being portrayed as a dangerous shit show, and calls for it to be shut down grew louder by the day.

It was, undoubtedly, one of the best-orchestrated propaganda campaigns of recent decades.

Regardless of who actually was in the protest camps, those tent cities were a symbol of the seething discontent prevalent today, and the possibility and hope that maybe, just maybe, the pendulum of avarice, greed and conspicuous consumption that has dominated the west since the 1980s had finally reached its extreme, and was about to swing back hard.

And as long as those tents remained, the debate about what they represented went on. The media, slow on the uptake at first, began pumping out stories and column inches debating the movement. People from all strata of society were engaged. Everyone had an opinion and seemed to care, one way or the other.

And for the corporate agenda, that is probably the scariest world imaginable: people questioning their ethics, the ponzi scheme they have created, the corruption that has infiltrated the pillars of democratic society.

People talking about change.

And so the symbol of the movement — the tent cities — had to go.

It’s been barely two weeks since the #occupy Vancouver tent city was dismantled, and, not surprisingly, media stories about income disparity, Wall Street ethics, campaign finance reform, progressive taxation, have all but completely vanished. #Occupy might as well have happened in 1968 it seems so distant now, since it has been virtually expunged from the public discourse.

It was swift, often brutal, and entirely effective. Erasing the key symbol was like dropping a nuclear bomb to end the war for public opinion. Time will tell if it really was a death blow to the movement.

Vancouver Election’s Biggest Winner: The Condo King

Well, this mock political ad pretty much says it all. As I’ve been ranting for years now, Vision Vancouver, for all their “progressive” branding, have turned out to be exactly the same as any right-of-centre free market party in the one policy area that matters most to urban sustainability: development.

Vision may differ from the right-leaning NPA party in some benign environmental policies such as allowing backyard chickens or building separated bike lanes, but when it comes to land use policy — the one area which most directly relates to the United Nation’s overarching goal of SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT — they are just as beholden to developers as the NPA, and in fact have been actively pushing unsustainable development policies such as the Historic Area Height Review (HAHR) and Short Term Incentives for Rental Housing (STIR).

Both of these Vision-endorsed development policies amount to little more than paving the airspace above the city. They are not “green”, “progressive” or “sustainable development” policies. They do not provide provide affordable housing or rental stock, or in fact achieve any of the policy aims that are used to justify them. All they do is pave the way for developers to build new condo towers.

Furthermore, in an effort to stimulate the development industry and market housing growth in Vancouver, these Vision policies specifically reduce the Community Amenity Contributions (CAC) developers normally make to the City when building condo towers. CACs help pay for daycares, community centres, heritage preservation, new green spaces, public art, social housing. All things that make cities “livable”.

I don’t know how much money was spent developing and consulting on Vision’s Greenest City Action Plan. But what I do know is that none of its 10 core recommendations is focused specifically on the issue of land-use planning.

That’s not just an oversight, it’s an environmental travesty.

#1 Reason to Grow a ‘Stache for Movember: Get Lucky!

Let’s face it, mustaches went out of style for most straight guys sometime in the early 1980’s. Nowadays, us heteros associate lip sweaters with gay men and cops. Van Dykes became popular again in the 90’s, thanks to grunge, and meterosexual stubble soon followed suit with the proliferation of Calvin Klein models moodily posing topless with waxed and oiled torsos.

But the days when chest hair was a sign of virility are long gone, unceremoniously shaved and plucked into oblivion, just like the disco bush. Along with musicals like Hair, the mustache died a pretty horrible death, and has never really recovered. Although lately there’s been a bit of a resurgence in mutton chops, beards and afros, the mustache just seems to have too much baggage to make a comeback.

Still, one has to admire the Prostate Cancer awareness campaign, Movember, that started nearly a decade ago in Australia, and has since spread to Europe and North America. Grow a mustache and raise awareness for cancer, what a great gimmick, given how men with mustaches are so conspicuous these days.

But now the ladies have apparently gotten on board, too, and no longer are studiously avoiding mustachioed men like the plague. That’s right, for one day a year at least, the women are actually urging their sisters to Have Sex With a Guy With a Mustache on November 18th.

If this catches on, expect to see a lot more men participating next Movember!

Why I’m Voting for “Good Guy Gregor”

I have to admit, amidst all the violent crackdowns in #occupied cities, Mayor Gregor Robertson – despite taking a lot of flack from conservative pundits (and the opposition NPA’s mayoral candidate, Suzanne Anton) for not quashing Vancouver’s tent city – is starting to look like one of the more civilized mayors in North America.

While New York City’s Mayor Bloomburg called in bulldozers, pepper spray, water cannons and riot police in the dead of night to address “fire and safety concerns”, our own city officials went in and had a chat, negotiated the removal of a few obvious problem structures, and got the VAG grounds cleaned up nicely. No trampling of Charter Rights, no barring the Free Press, no mayhem or arrests.

So yeah, I back the Juiceman.

Wordsworth Retweeting

“On the day when you again allow abominable men to confiscate your freedom, your money, your lives, your private property, your manhood and your sacred honor, in the name of “security” or “national emergency’” you will die, and never again shall you be free.

If plotters again destroy your Republic, they will do it by your greedy and ignorant assent, by your disregard of your neighbors’ rights, by your apathy and your stupidity.

We were brought to the brink of universal death and darkness because we had become that most contemptible of people — an angerless one.

Keep alive and vivid all your righteous anger against traitors, against those who would abrogate your Constitution, against those who would lead you to wars with false slogans and cunning appeals to your patriotism.”

— Taylor Caldwell, The Devil’s Advocate (1952)

The 99%

It took three days for any mainstream TV or news media outlet in Canada to even do a story on Occupy Wall Street. A friend of mine trades stocks, and monitors the business news daily. About a week into the protests, as her portfolio shrank daily, I mentioned that maybe the New York traders were getting jittery with the demonstrations outside gaining momentum. Her response: “Huh? What protests?”

It has taken weeks for the story to filter its way into into regular news cycle, and only then the corporate anchors and columnists begrudgingly report the unions joining, the Ground Zero heroes they used to lionize marching on the street. They were once the symbols of patriotism, now they are treated like children who have lost their way.

What is it that the corporate news outlets don’t want us to see? Perhaps just how terribly awry the post-war dream has gone; the failure of a meritocracy that rewards greed and consumption, that eats itself.

And, after nearly three decades of political rhetoric about “Family Values”, look at how just how little value families have left in this world:

Is it any wonder there is so much anger and frustration?