Tag Archives: Globe and Mail

Why people are so fearful of bike lanes?

Excellent piece in the Globe and Mail by Gordon Price

Why do bike lanes proposals create such reaction? From Wall Street Journal editorial writers to hundreds of Point Grey homeowners, the battles over bicycles have created unprecedented levels of passion. A ‘First-World’ problem, to be sure, but clearly something is going on – and it’s about more than just bicycles.

It is, perhaps, a signal of a change in our way of life that some – in particular, aging boomers – see as a threat.

We have spent most of the last century building car-dominant urban regions. Every stage of the transportation network was designed to lead, without congestion, to a garage in every home or a parking space near every business and destination.

To ensure smoothness in the vehicle flow meant, for safety reasons, keeping other modes like bicycles off the vehicle rights-of-way. The result: almost everyone drives, almost everywhere, for almost everything. And because driving is so prevalent in the absence of alternatives, it follows that drivers deserve the greatest recognition – and the budget allocations which follow.

And they have.

So when the assumption of car-dominance is threatened – particularly if it looks like it might cause inconvenience for drivers – it feels for many that there is something inherently wrong with this, that the natural order of things has been disrupted. Arguments are then assembled to make the world right – even if it means turning it upside down: By encouraging cycling, we increase pollution. By encouraging healthy activity, we increase accidents. By making the city a better place, we make it worse.

The conclusion: No intervention should be made where it might add to congestion. Those plans that put walking and cycling first are therefore meaningless, and only tolerated when they have no impact on motor-vehicle flow. Anything else is declared a ‘war on the car’ and used to divide the electorate for political advantage. Hence the ginned-up passion, often media-amplified, over these issues.

But here’s the irony: Bike lanes and pedestrian priorities don’t create congestion no matter how often it’s predicted (and it’s been happening since the 1970s in Vancouver). We’ve been reallocating road space, introducing traffic calming, closing off blocks, reducing parking, and yes, adding more bike lanes – and what happens? Traffic quickly adjusts, and over time driving diminishes, even as the number of trips grows.

Traffic volumes into downtown Vancouver, for instance, are now down to 1965 levels, even though population, jobs and tourism have roughly doubled – the result of better transit, changing work and residential patterns and, yes, more walking and cycling. In the case of the Point Grey corridor, the shift of vehicles to other arterials will only return them to levels previously experienced, and will likely drop from there if recent trends continue.

So why the anxiety? Is it because those who are car-dependent fear someone might force them out of their cars, make them feel guilty for their habits, or above all, inconvenience them for the sake of those who have traditionally been of lower status or who, more annoyingly, flaunt their fitness and the traffic laws with impunity and who, don’t in the minds of vehicle owners, pay their way?

The Ford’s radio show is a bunker in which they can regroup

From the Globe and Mail

For the past 15 months, the brothers Ford have spent two hours on Sunday afternoons moonlighting as comically pugnacious AM radio talk jocks, jawing about key issues – fiscal restraint, lazy politicians, the primacy of subways – and shining a light on important community causes.

As they are targeted by aggressive local media, especially in the past two weeks as allegations of drug involvement swirled about them and the mayor’s office suffered some key departures, their Newstalk 1010 show, The City, has proven a comfortable bunker where they can shut out their naysayers and regroup.

And while they may infuriate critics by using the show’s bully pulpit to beat up opponents, the station’s management intends to keep them on the air for as long as it can without running afoul of Canadian election law. If they delay registering their candidacies for the 2014 election, it may be difficult to remove them until late in the race. (Mayor Ford has said he will be registering “the first day I can possibly register” in early January next year.)

Newstalk 1010 hatched The City in the fall of 2011, with centrist councillor Josh Matlow as host because, according to the station’s program director Mike Bendixen, “a lot of our listeners were fed up with just hearing about all the screaming and yelling and nonsense that was happening at City Hall.” Six months later, after an overture by someone on the mayor’s staff, Mr. Bendixen handed the show over to the Fords.

Critics instantly howled, but many of them have helped give the show a wider resonance than it might otherwise have. Twitter traffic during the shows overflows with mockery of the Fords, an apparent love-to-hate phenomenon. What are deemed as outrageous comments are dutifully reported, echoing out across social media.

That may be in part because sitting mayors hosting radio shows are rare in Canada. They are far more common in the U.S. One of the most high-profile examples was New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani, who regularly antagonized enemies and common folk alike who dared call in during his Friday morning radio show.

So the situation in Toronto seems to be resolving itself nicely

From the Toronto Star on Rob and Doug Ford’s radio program today.

Two Star reporters viewed the video three times, a Gawker journalist once. The video appears to show Ford smoking crack and uttering an anti-gay slur. However, the Star could not verify its authenticity.

Doug Ford, as he did on Saturday, vehemently denied a Globe and Mail article that reported he had been a dealer of hashish in Etobicoke when he was in his teens and early 20s. “I was not a dealer of hashish in the 1980s,” Doug Ford said.

Rob Ford fired his chief of staff, Mark Towhey, without public explanation on Thursday. He said Sunday that he would not discuss “personnel issues.” He did deny a Star report that he had fired Towhey in part because Towhey had rejected his demand to seize thousands of dollars of football equipment he had donated to Don Bosco Catholic Secondary.

Rob Ford was dismissed Wednesday as Don Bosco’s volunteer football coach. He said on the show that he had Don Bosco players “over at the house” after his dismissal. Though council loyalists have long advised him to quit coaching to focus on government, he also said he will now consider coaching offers from other schools.

“People keep coming up to me, saying, ‘Have you retired from coaching? Are you getting another coaching job?’ As of now, I don’t have a job. So if something comes up, you never know. But I really want to concentrate on getting, basically, our platform through,” he said.

Rob Ford read out the names of councillors who handed him another legislative defeat last week by voting against allowing expanded gambling at Woodbine racetrack. Doug Ford said the “vast majority” of councillors “couldn’t get a job” outside politics. He also pledged to reveal damaging information about any councillors who criticize him and his brother.

“I can go through all 44 councillors right now, folks — and I’m sure I could do it, but I’m not going to. But I have a message for the councillors: you want to keep throwing stones, I’m going to throw boulders right back at you. It’s very simple,” Doug Ford said.

The Ford’s aren’t happy with the media either.

The mayor called reporters a “bunch of maggots,” describing them as relentless and telling listeners “no matter what you say… you’re never going to make them happy.”

His brother, Councillor Doug Ford added that only “80 per cent of them are nasty son of a guns.”

As for the denial of the video, Warren Kinsella’s column reminds us of this

Arrested in Florida for drunk driving and drug possession; pleaded no contest on the former charge; denies it during the 2010 Toronto mayoralty race, until presented with the evidence by the Toronto Sun.

He has denied his past behaviour before.

As someone quipped on Twitter, Toronto is stuck in an abusive relationship with its mayor.

Why MPs don’t need or deserve bulk mailing privileges any more

The Globe and Mail has a strong opinion on ten percenters

Parliament should abolish politicians’ bulk mailing privileges. Between the serial abuse of the privilege by MPs and the fact we live in an era of ubiquitous digital communication, there is no longer a justifiable reason for taxpayers to be getting flyers and other assorted political epistles at their own expense.

Where even 10 years ago it was reasonable to have taxpayers pay the cost of receiving mailed information about the doings of their elected representative and the latest business of the House of Commons, in the digital age it is a redundant waste of money and resources. Let’s be honest: How many Canadians spend any time at all reading the flyers their MPs, provincial representatives and municipal councillors print up and send to them at taxpayer expense? The vast majority of the flyers end up in the recycling bin in mint condition.

To add insult to injury, MPs in particular have made a sport of abusing their bulk mailing privileges. This week, Conservative Party MPs have been asked by party officials to send their constituents a flyer that is nothing more than an attack ad targeting Liberal leader Justin Trudeau. It is scandalous, but it is only the latest such outrage.

Three years ago, after MPs had begun flooding their opponents’ ridings with partisan flyers, they agreed to a ceasefire: MPs would only mail flyers to their own constituents. This was quickly undone, however, when MPs began using their so-called “franking” privilege – the right to send a letter anywhere in Canada at no cost in an envelope bearing the MP’s name – to carpet bomb targeted opponents’ ridings with yet more partisan attacks, this time on letterhead.

It is an entirely uncomplicated fact that taxpayers should never bear the cost of printing and receiving partisan mailings. Yet MPs continue to spout utter nonsense in their efforts to muddy the crystal-clear waters of common sense. “It’s entirely appropriate for Canadians to be informed about those contrasting aspects of leadership they have available,” Government House Leader Peter Van Loan argued in defence of the bulk-mailing of the Trudeau attack ads, and thereby missed the point. It is within the current rules, perhaps. But playing up the strengths of a party leader at the expense of a rival is not an appropriate use of public money – especially not in a democratic country that purports to make a distinction between the wellbeing of any one political party and the general wellbeing of the taxpayer.

The collapse of the Irish Tiger

Doug Saunders writes in the Globe and Mail that the government in Ireland has collapsed.

The party oversaw an escalating series of austerity bills during the past three years that failed to alleviate a crisis driven by over-leveraged private banks. It sealed Ireland’s fate with a 2008 bill that used state funds to bail out the banks, turning a single-industry crisis in a country with an otherwise well-run economy and government into a state-wide fiscal emergency.

As a result, Fianna Fail’s poll ranking has plummeted from 42 per cent in 2007 to a historic low of 8 per cent this weekend.

The opposition Labour Party had promised to table a non-confidence bill on Wednesday, and with the Greens now part of the opposition it would certainly pass, leading to an immediate election and to a likely fiscal emergency if it caused the bailout funds to be cut off.

He wrote this about Ireland in 2010 and it explains how Fianna Fail went from 42% to 8%

Ireland’s experience this week was much like what people saw in Nigeria in 1989 or Britain in 1976: First, the country discovers that international bond markets, frightened by its unstable economy, will no longer lend it money at a price it can afford. So the IMF team from Washington checks into the expensive hotel across from the finance ministry, pores over the books and then delivers a Structural Adjustment Program – drastic reform that turns the country’s whole economy into a debt-repayment machine.

Government is gutted. Taxes rise; subsidies and grants vanish; social programs are pared back; state companies are sold; wages are slashed. Ideally, debt drops and investors regain confidence. But the poor and middle classes pay the price for mistakes made by governments and bankers. Cue rioting and electoral defeats.

Some IMF bailouts – economists call it conditional lending – do help to turn countries around. Brazil and Turkey (which this year ended 50 years of IMF stewardship) have built economies with real social benefits, though the process has often been calamitous.

Blackberry Curve Build Out

Blackberry Curve 8530 from Koodo MobileOn the 27th I went to Best Buy to take a look at DSLR’s on sale.  I didn’t see any DSLRs but while I was there, I saw that Koodo had dropped their price on Blackberry Curves to $150 and no contract.  I had thought about getting a LG Rumor 2 this year but after looking into it, we decided to get the Curve.  I had been quite happy with Virgin but I have had technical problems with my account for two years and it was getting worse.  While Virgin’s tech support and customer service staff have been really helpful, they still could not fix the problem so I finally decided to make the move.

Blackberry by RIMI took the phone home and started to set it up.  Here is how I put it together.

The first thing I did was get my Curve set up to our wifi connection in the house.  That wasn’t working that well.  Then I realized my router was about a billion years old (it was a 801b router) and it needed an upgrade.  Since my new router was on my desk, it was pretty easy to upgrade.  The Curve, my iPod Touch, and our notebook suddenly worked a lot faster.  I upgraded my old router’s firmware and will give it Computers for Kids and if they don’t want it, it can go to SARCAN.

Here is are the apps that made their way onto it over the last couple of days.

Utilities

Social Networks

  • foursquare app for the BlackberryFoursquare | It doesn’t yet use wifi but it allows you to check in and out all over the place.  It’s one of those apps that doesn’t make sense until you use it and then you love it.
  • Twitter | Umm, it’s one of the main reasons why I upgraded to a Blackberry.
  • Facebook (one the off chance for some reason I need to actually log in sometime… maybe in 2012)
  • Flickr | It’s an uploader that uploads my camera phone shots to Flickr.  It rather annoyingly resizes them but I’ll deal with that later.

News and Sports

Am I missing anything?  Let me know in the comments.

Why the Globe and Mail is making a mistake

in charging $160/year for their online content.  Warren Kinsella has the reasons.

6. Newspapers have to realize – but never will – that their news content is the best advertising for them. That’s what good, solid journalism is: good. It makes a case for itself. When MSM mavens hide content, people will mosey off elsewhere for news content that isn’t hidden. News is like water: it flows. It seeps out.
7. Google is the boss, not the news providers. If Google won’t agree to facilitate charging for news, that’s the end of the discussion. And Google won’t ever, ever charge: it’s contrary to its entire business model.

It’s an odd decision to make, instead of stepping on the neck of Canwest when they are down, they are tossing their entire network a lifeline.  If that is where the free content is, that is where we will go.  The Globe and Mail risks changing from Canada’s newspaper of record to being the newspaper that no one cares about.

Counterpoint

General Motors has released a video showing how important they are to the North American economy.
Of course the question isn’t that the automakers need help, the question is what steps make the most sense and I am not convinced that a bailout will do anything than prolong the inevitable.  The video above came embedded in a AP story posted on The Globe and Mail.  Since when are propaganda videos embedded in news stories?