Thursday, March 31, 2011
Sunday, March 27, 2011
Gaddafi 1, Harper 0 - Canadian Parliament rubber stamps a 2nd WAR and then collapses into another bullshit election
Few Canadians watch Parliamentary Debates on television, and even fewer read. So they only know, because their TV screens told them, that our military has been thrust into the Civil War in Libya. Do you, innocent Blog reader, have any idea what the "leaders" of the four political brands (Tory, Liberal, NDP and BQ) had to get off their chests before rubber stamping their support for "our troops" and then slinking off on yet another soulless federal election? Do you? No you don't.
On Monday, March 21, the Opposition Parties granted the Harper government permission (post facto) to broaden it's involvement in the Libyan Civil War. In gratitude, the Harperites promised to return in three months time to renew the mandate of the House. That satisfied the "Official Opposition". In order to limit and bury the sordid story, on the eve of yet another election, Parliament agreed to the Defence Minister's brilliant dodge - that they end Question Period and the House declare itself to be sitting in "Committee of the whole on Government Business". They could discuss the Libyan civil war and burble to their hearts content, and then proceed to rubber stamp the war on Gaddafi without going on record. Thus if HMCS Charlottetown takes as a silkworm cruise missile in its bowels, none of them can be held accountable by cranky voters. Mackenzie King would be so proud of these despicable cowards.
The Defence Minister, Peter Mackay, opened the friendly forum and put a name on our compassionate aerial assault on Libya - Operation ODYSSEY DAWN. He reminded the committee that Canadians don't start fights, but do retaliate against those who provoke us. "In fact, we have never attacked or invaded another nation in anger or without provocation." Well it is a fact that Canadian politicians expect our soldiers to fight like emotionless cyborgs. Dare any of our troops flash a "V" for victory gesture after a firefight in Afghanistan, or have the gall to take a photo standing over a dead enemy combatant, they will be cashiered. Yes, in many respects we are a childlike nation.
Jack Harris, (a Nfld MP) was second to the microphone, speaking for the NDP. He let the cat out of the bag. "We have already agreed on a motion to be passed later on today." Translation - this is all window dressing Peter. We don't give a shit what you're doing in Libya because we are going to knock you out of your job before the week is out.
Bob Rae (Liberal) reminded his colleagues that Gaddafi "took power illegally by destroying the monarchy in Libya" but thankfully, he fell short of calling for a restoration of the Libyan monarchy. Rae was the only MP to be a little honest and drop the pretense that there had been a spontaneous civilian uprising in Libya. In fact there is a military coup underway. "It was a movement of people that obviously had some military support from an army that was clearly divided..." Exactly. Point out Harper's obvious lie that Gaddafi was oppressing unarmed civilians, and planned to massacre them. Gaddafi knows exactly the kind of rebels he is facing. They are same ruthless fascists who helped him maintain power, but now they have aligned with Al-Qaeda and militant fascist Muslims. If anyone is going to be massacred Stevie, it is Gaddafi's tribesmen, after the Americans and Europeans have disarmed them.
Last week the German government pulled its aircraft and ships out of the NATO task force, pointing to the fact that its European neighbors had no interest in the welfare of the Libyan people, but great interest in safeguarding their supply of Libyan oil. During WW2 Rommel's AFRIKA CORPS controlled all of Libya. Germany is not keen on fresh Libyan adventures.
Mr. Jean Dorion, a Bloq Quebecois Separatist made it clear that his party was in a bind. They don't support the ALLIED + NATO war on Gaddafi, but don't wish to be the only registered political party opposing the Canadian intervention in North Africa. "We support the sending of CF18s because that intervention is consistent with a value that is fundamental to Quebeckers: that military intervention must be carried out in a multinational framework. ... The Bloc is also against the notion of preventive war... of course in the absence of an established and imminent threat, a country cannot go to war against another country merely because it harbours misgivings in respect of that country."
Paul Dewar (NDP) referred to private briefings given by a cadre of government bureaucrats to all MPs, earlier that day. His contribution was to make the plea that "... it is absolutely critical that we do not engage in rhetoric that talks about regime change and getting rid of leaders. ... I urge the government and all ministers to check their rhetoric and to ensure that not only is it not said but that it is not implied." A reasonable request, and one in keeping with the wording of the U.N. Resolution.
So what happened next? Mr. Dewar sat down and Lawrence Cannon, the Tory Minister of Foreign Affairs, stood up in full splendour and majesty. You can almost hear his thoughts about Dewar in words which echo King Henry in the movie THE LION IN WINTER. "I've got you boy! The NDP and Liberals are in my pocket. To these eyes this is what winning looks like boy!" What Cannon actually said was: "Canada's approach... has been to isolate the Gadhafi regime, cut it off from its financial resources, deprive it of its legitimacy and ensure that there will be no impunity for crimes against humanity.... blah. blah, blah." and finally "We sincerely hope that Gadhafi does decide step down." Well now, in a month's time, Canadian voters, in this very limited democracy, will have the opportunity to practice a little "regime change" of their own, and perhaps "deprive [the Tory party] of its legitimacy." Any gang of scoundrels which wages war (in two countries no less), and then has the temerity to insist that health care spending is the primary "issue" facing Canadians, deserves to be executed for gross deceit, contempt of parliament and abuse of power.At a roadblock in the Libyan desert, a group of devoutly-democratic rebels take time out from their daily routine to thank Allah for the support of Stephen Harper's Tory government.
John Baird then spoke for the minority Tories, "Mr. Speaker... I believe you will find consent for the following motion. I move ... [there followed 200 dishonest words which recorded that Canadians forces are now engaged in a legal intervention, in support of a rebel faction left UNNAMED, commanded by leaders left UNNAMED]. And not one single MP registered in HANSARD a shred of doubt about what they were rubber stamping. You can read HANSARD here, for yourself.
The decent, principled thing to do in the coming election is to boycott all of these illegitimate parties, and let the bureaucracy run the machine for a few years. (Canadian Socialism could easily run on autopilot. The cheque writing machines are oblivious to elections.) To do anything other than boycott this election is to rubber stamp a fraud, which we are assured is "democratic choice". It's not democracy when there is nothing offered to us on the ballot beyond the same old buffoonery which extends back to the Canadian Confederation of 1867.
UPDATE - On March 22 the Canadian military brass announced a suitably bilingual, ie. (English/French) name for the "Canadian component" of the N.A.T.O. interdiction in Libya. It is called OPERATION MOBILE. There is already a Wiki Page for it.
Sunday, March 20, 2011
I don't trust what Canada is doing in Libya, any more than I trust what they are telling us about present and future military operations in Afghanistan.
It's interesting that Russia didn't use its Security Council veto at the United Nations to stop the "so-called "NO FLY ZONE", but Moscow has now condemned the massive air and sea bombardment. Early Monday media followed Vladimir Putin to a ballistic missile factory where he gave a speech. He said the UN Resolution on Libya is licence for the Allies to do as much as they please... "It allows everything. It resembles medieval calls for crusades."
On that first night three U.S. submarines and a half dozen surface vessels fired 120 Tomahawk cruise missiles into Gaddafi's country. Wow. That's $750,000 Barack bucks per missile! I find Russia to be super-hypocritical in all of this. Moscow condemns America's every military move and yet is a war profiteer, of critical importance to moving vital equipment directly from America to the war zones. American taxpayers are footing an enormous bill for the purchase of Russian machine guns and helicopters being delivered to Kabul, and also to charter huge Russian Antonov transport aircraft which regularly fly into neighboring Washington State. Previous An-124 flights out of McChord AFB carried loads of military helicopters, including UH60s, OH58s and CH47s. The Antonovs regularly fly to the US Superbase at Kandahar, Afghanistan. There are websites where (if interested) you can follow aircraft movements worldwide, and I note that two Antonov's which loaded at McChord today flew directly to an airbase in the U.K. No doubt they were carrying ordnance to be dropped on Libya later this week.
Friday, March 18, 2011
Shooting holes in the sky - METROPLACE - Prices that give local buyers pause, don't scare wealthy Chinese. But should they?
"Sustainable" this, "sustainable" that, "sustainable" everything. Sustainability... it's the most annoying catchphrase in B.C. since NDP Premier Glen Clark had EVERYBODY in the province mouthing his pat phrase at every interview, "At the end of the day". Well now, doesn't it begin to look like some of our condo developers and our municipal governments are counting on BIG Chinese money, or rather an endless stream of Chinese real estate Buyers, to become a "sustainable resource"? It seems obvious that the Chinese are becoming a natural resource to be exploited, right up there with mining and forestry.
I don't want to pick on the folks at Intracorp, but their 46 storey METROPLACE Tower will be the next venue for a feeding frenzy. I'm sure they can rationalize their pricing a dozen different ways - "Quality", "Demand", "Location", "Development Fees"...take your pick. But what they can't explain away is the fact that they are squeezing people into ever smaller units, while jacking up the prices. Bottom end units in METROPLACE tower are 491 sq ft and 500 sq ft, with one open room shared as a kitchenette and living room. Townhouses at the base, are another matter. How about putting in one less unit per floor, and giving people some leg room?
METROPLACE Type B - 491 sq ft "All starting from the $250's". Well.... yeah, there will be a dozen of these given away, if only to make the advertising legal. But for most bottom end units, teensy weensy units you can expect to pay a cool $300K when you've covered everything, including your lawyer and other incidentals.
What do super towers like SOVEREIGN and METROPLACE do for us in Metrotown, besides shooting holes in the sky? They offer us fewer chips in the bag, while boasting of the flavour.
I call it the "Cherry Blossom Syndrome". Few immigrants know it, but Canada once used Imperial measurement, as the Americans still do. One of the economic "legacies" of the Trudeau Era was the imposition of the metric system. Canadian children suffered the metric conversion even more than adults, because it allowed the greedy businessman to victimize us. Candy, potato chip and pop makers were very quick to reduce our favorite treats to much smaller sizes (offered in grams) but not one reduced their sell price. My weekly sugar fix was the Lowney Cherry Blossom, a delicious mound of chocolate with a whole cherry in its centre. The metric Cherry Blossom was a pitiful thing, and I never bought another one. With real estate being what it is, an added advantage to current runaway prices is, the kids won't notice you made the candy smaller.
Ten years ago 700 - 730 square foot units were the average sized, one bedroom condos being sold in Metrotown. I do fear the arrival of these 490 -500 sq ft units at SOVEREIGN and METROPLACE are establishing a benchmark low, which will persist. We'll soon see, as new designs for shorter towers will be approved over the next 36 months. This morning I had a look at measurements for the MONARCH, a popular condo tower on Hazel Street. BOSA built it, and it has one of the best reputations in Metrotown. For one thing, it's not a "leaker". The MONARCH was built in 1999 and its one bedroom units averaged 712 -722 square feet. A one bedroom and den usually measured 769 square feet ("All measurements subject to Buyer verification.") The point is, the shaving down of unit size is just a significant factor in repulsing local Buyers as the sky high prices fueled by offshore money. Chinese VIP customers brought in on purchasing junkets may not care, but the rest of us have to. If you are at all curious about Price History to go with the MONARCH floor measurements, you can have a look. [MLS Search result]
I suppose we can consider another time, what government-imposed costs (GICs) are doing to drive up local condo prices. That's also a scary subject. Now on the lighter side...
Here we see Metrotown, Burnaby as depicted in Microsoft's Flight Simulator X. That is Deer Lake down slope, (the redeveloped site of the former Oakalla Prison), and the runway shaped Burnaby Lake in the distance.
Thursday, March 17, 2011
Increasing the B.C. Minimum Wage - and twisting that knife which protrudes from the belly of the Provincial NDP
It's about time that the people who talk for a living lose some of their power and influence over those who labour for a living. I can't help recalling my first minimum wage job in 1971, which was wiping down cars and cleaning windows in a car wash. I worked after school for $1.25 an hour. That was in the Province of New Brunswick, where the minimum is now $10 per hour. (I preserved my first T4 Slip to serve as a reminder, as I work my way through life.) Our single-parent family didn't even own a car, and there I was washing the cars of "the rich". Certainly our Canada has vastly improved since the 1970s, but there are hundreds of thousands of young workers in B.C. today, who are bloody scared for their futures. Believe it!
It's easy to detect the deep political calculation behind the Minimum Wage announcement made by Christy Clark, B.C.'s unelected Premier. The fact that she is staging it, in three incremental jumps, indicates that she wants it all - the votes of the working poor and the cash contributions of the business community.
When the story broke this morning, news readers began posting their partisan opinions, and many of them were appropriate. I decided to scrape the comments of "Cheryl in Canada" as being most representative of the lot. Long after the YAHOO News and the Vancouver SUN have deleted "Cheryl", her words will be archived here. She doesn't lie. Surveys and commissioned reports frequently do.
CHERL IN CANADA posted March 17, 2011 in YAHOO NEWS
Tuesday, March 15, 2011
Windows of the burned out unit on the 27th floor, PANARAMA building on Grange Street, Metrotown. (photo by Curtis Kreklau) Nine Burnaby firetrucks responded to the blaze, but none of the B.F.D. aerial ladders extend to such a height. It is unknown what special provisions are being made to accomodate fire-rescue services for the SOVEREIGN and METRPOPLACE super-towers which will be completed in 2014.
A recurrent problem with Metrotown Condos and high ratio rental towers, besides all the break-ins, is the ongoing presence of members of drug gangs who take up residence. There presence sometimes paralyzes the weaker condo associations. Burnaby Detachment RCMP will not go into buildings with their dogs unless actively chasing suspects. As a consequence, over the last 24 months some condo managers have taken to doing secret sweeps of properties with private security companies who offer canine service. It's an interesting phenomenon and I plan to interview one of the 'sniffer-dog for hire' investigators in the near future.
One thing is for sure - the Burnaby Fire Department will be giving thought to its ability to attempt fire-rescue at even greater heights, now that we have approval for two 45 to 46 storey towers in Metrotown.
Update - This afternoon the B.F.D. released details of the arson. There are four 3-bedroom apartments on the 27th floor of PANARAMA. The attacker ignited combustible material outside a door, and the flames burned through and into the apartment. An attempted multiple murder it would seem. I put in a query to the B.F.D. seeking to confirm this a height record for fire rescue, but did not get a response.
Friday, March 4, 2011
METROPLACE - 46 floor Burnaby skyscraper is intended to spearhead mega-development south of Metrotown Mall
Is it just me, or have you too noticed that life on the Pacific Coast is getting truly, truly surreal? I don't refer merely to the skyrocketing cost of living, but to all of the little things. The fixation on hand-held electronic gadgets, the mania to be a Facebook "friend", and the high school science teachers who prefer to screen BACK TO THE FUTURE in their classrooms, rather than bore their pupils with the Periodic Table. In Burnaby high schools even the Chemistry teachers show Hollywood feature films.
Recently I decided on purchasing an investment condo, and suddenly I began to notice plenty which I used to put on ignore. An example is our shared race to adjust to a massive and significant demographic shift in our resident population. I welcome it, but there is no doubt it will be even more consequent than the many social changes we underwent during the "Countdown to Hong Kong 1997". Twenty years ago BCTV News used to impress us with images of quaint Chinese urban lifestyle. Remember those video clips of Beijing streets awash with hordes of commuters on bicycles? Remember those shots of pencil-thin Hong Kong apartment towers where whole families lived like rabbits in less than 500 square feet? Where are we today? The "people's cadres" running Vancouver City Hall are tenaciously tearing up the traffic grid and installing bicycle paths. Utopia demands its concessions. In "suburban" Burnaby in 2011, ALL new towers offer affordable "homes" of less than 500 square feet. Extraordinary! Come to think of it... we are rushing back to the future!
Last month I had the opportunity to interview Maurice Pez, who is SVP Development at INTRACORP. He is spearheading the development of Burnaby's second new skyscraper - METROPLACE. In my preliminary research I read the Municipal website and the newspaper archives. Only one paper had been covering the project. Wanda Chow of the BURNABY NEWSLEADER attended council meeting and provided a thumbnail history in her story filed on November 4: 46-storey highrise pitched next to Metrotown station Much of the tower site is currently operating as BURNABY STORE - ALL, renting storage lockers. Intracorp has "been in partnership" with the owner of the property for about six years. Big projects have a very long time-line.
Mr. Pez exuded confidence in his project, which has passed Second Reading and was eager to give a great deal of credit for its genesis to City of Burnaby staff. I wanted to know if he felt well received when he presented METROPLACE at a meeting of open council, but he had no impressions to offer. "We were asked not to present." Who then had "pitched" the proposal to the city and the television audience? Basil Lufkin - Burnaby Director of Planning, a man whom Intracorp meets with regularly. Pez was also very generous in his praise of the Planning Committee. They intend that Intracorp's 46-storey tower be the catalyst for a sweeping redevelopment of the entire Maywood neighborhood, south of Metrotown Skytrain station. "It's their vision...their committee has driven this... they told us - 'You have to hit this out of the park - or we won't bring it forward'." This will necessarily entail the demolition of a few older apartment blocks but Pez doesn't see this coming over the horizon for 5 to 6 years. METROPLACE Tower will front on Beresford, and Pez revealed that Intracorp is already working on a second, shorter tower which will also front on Beresford. It's too early to discuss that project, but I predict that if METROPLACE sells out in a day, emulating the success of Bosa's SOVEREIGN, there is no doubt METROPLACE'S little brother will be fast-tracked.
I asked Pez how they had come up with such a bland name as "Metroplace", and he assured me that it was the result of very careful deliberation. I was reminded of the name "Centrepoint", an earlier Intracorp project in Metrotown, of which I'll have more to say in PART TWO of this Blog article. The architect for METROPLACE tower is Busby Perkins + Will, which is no surprise, as they have been working for the City on planning Maywood's future and other transit-centric proposals. Mr. Pez, who is himself an architect, assured me that METROPLACE is going to turn heads when completed. Pez disdains the "cookie cutter" designs of Intracorp's rivals and wants to present designs which are fresh. [Mr. Pez explains what makes a great building on an Inttracorp video, here.] The municipality he says, has always been self conscious of Burnaby's lack of a pedestrian friendly "High Street" and they envision Beresford after a 2011-2014 growth spurt, as morphing into something akin to Vancouver's Robson Street where "ceremonial events" can be staged. I enjoyed our conversation.
This CGI rendering of MetroPlace Tower shows the building looming over the current Metrotown Skytrain Station. Beresford Street and the station will each be getting a total rebuild. [Image courtesy of Intracorp]
The METROPLACE Tower site is currently hosting the Burnaby Store-All, located at 6541 Telford Avenue (not "Street" as I mis-labeled this photo). In the background squats the Metrotown Skytrain Station. That much criticized station is a pedestrian bottleneck, and also a constant magnet for the drug trade and assorted petty crime. The train station and the adjacent bus loop will be completely rebuilt, in concert with the construction of METROPLACE Tower. Buses will get curbside access on the south side of the station. [Image via Google Street View]