Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Vancouver's Olympic Village fiasco - the Globe and Mail says the City Government can't handle (or offer) the truth

Gary Mason of The Globe & Mail today fired a broadside into the drifting hulk of Vancouver Olympic Village loss projections. It's a fast read, and very informative. I urge you to invest five minutes, by jumping to the full story and then perhaps even taking advantage of the full City of Vancouver presentation, dated April 8, which the Globe & Mail makes available to us.

You can jump to Gary Mason's full article here: - Olympic Village hidden costs.

Mr. Mason makes pointed reference to an allegedly deceptive Power-Point presentation given to reporters by the Vancouver City Manager, Penny Ballem.
I couldn't recall much about Penny Ballem, beyond recent press coverage of Bob Rennie's efforts to help the new regime at Vancouver City Hall, salvage as much as it can from the Olympic Village development fiasco. For my money, CBC News had some of the most insightful coverage. I assumed Ms. Ballem had a Wikipedia page, and that proved to be the case. BALLEM WIKI
To judge from the tone and personal content, I assume that the creator of the Wiki page does not like Ms. Ballem. At least it was interesting to be reminded that (past tense) served on the VANOC Board of Directors. She was handpicked by the current Vancouver Mayor, for the post she currently enjoys.

The GLOBE & MAIL offers a wonderful interactive graphics page in support of its Vancouver news coverage. For the False Creek graphic go to VANCOUVER INTERACTIVE after reading Gary Mason's article. Several of Mr. Mason's earlier stories are also archived on the GLOBE website.

CHANCELLOR Tower Metrotown - Polygon's strategy averts sidewalk mayhem, but what precedents are being set?

I chose not to attend Polygon's sneak preview of the CHANCELLOR tower. The event hosted Vancouver area Realtors, and was held yesterday in the ballroom of the Hilton Hotel in Metrotown, Burnaby. As with the previews of SOVEREIGN and METROPLACE, hundreds of Realtors attended. And as with the Super-tower projects, few of those Realtors will be able to compete with the "In-house" sales force of the developers. But hey, you play the cards you're dealt.

In an earlier Blog article I considered Polygon's problem of how to deal with the place-holders who were squatting on the block in front of the building site. I asked the question "Taping your business card to a plastic kitchen stool, and lining them up in front of a major developer's sales center - ONE WEEK BEFORE SALES DATE. Is that all it takes these days to guarantee the chance of writing a contract with condo sales staff?" I got my answer yesterday from May Kam, Sales Manager at CHANCELLOR.

The answer is YES ! - any licenced Realtor who wants a piece of the action with Polygon, Intracorp, Bosa, et al, better be willing to hire a dozen human traffic cones, and get themselves to the nearest Canadian Tire to invest in a dozen plastic stools. The next tower feeding frenzy is just over the horizon. ... But of course there is far more to flash condo marketing than creating buzz or convincing wealthy Chinese to line up at your sales center. "Inside Sales" is also a thorn in the foot of Jesus. Insider trader is illegal on Wall and Bay Streets, but property developers kiting the value of projects, and then permitting internal sales staff to buy choice units and later flip, is an old Vancouver tradition. I'm not pointing fingers at any particular developer, but I could.

We will witness holes shot in the sky all along Metrotown ridge, as new and higher towers are approved. But there will also come a reckoning. And surely the City of Burnaby must ponder the problem and innovate a solution to a problem the municipality is contributing. Does every highrise tower site have to end up looking like a U.N. Feeding Centre, and every licences realtor have to become a part time labour contractor in order to do their jobs for their clients?

UPDATE April 13, 2011 - Here a bit of good news - the elected government of Burnaby (its Council) has asked city legal staff to "develop a policy" to deal with the current phenomenon of flash marketing, which is creating disruptive lines of place holders in front of developer sales centres in Metrotown. A good start! I'll have a few further suggestions as we get closer to the Municipal election.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Polygon's CHANCELLOR development in Burnaby, Metrotown - for the record

A reader query asks "Why do you put Polygon's CHANCELLOR Tower at 4860 Bennett St., when their Facebook page says "4880" ? Good question. The truth is that of the three major tower developments marketed this year in Burnaby, Metrotown - Bosa's SOVEREIGN, Intracorp's METROPLACE and Polygon's CHANCELLOR, Polygon has run the stealthiest operation. If you look at the photo I took at 3PM today you will see what is posted at the building site behind Metrotown Mall. . Polygon's proposal got third and final reading - officially termed Reconsideration and Final Adoption, at the Burnaby City Council Meeting on Monday, April 4. It was actually just a formality - one of several document sets which were pushed through in two minutes, with a unanimous vote. [For those who don't know Burnaby politics, we have a single municipal party holding all of the municipal seats. Almost all matters are passed unanimously, with little discussion, unless one of the BCA alderman is having a grouchy day.] . Up until the very last, at Monday nights' Council meeting, Polygon's development project has been identified as "Metrotown Tower - Burnaby B.C." and never as Chancellor. Further, the civic addresses for the building site - on all documents reads "4860 Bennett Street and 6535 Nelson Avenue". No doubt Polygon has applied for and will receive the civic number "4880" (a valuable Chinese lucky number) and they feel entitled to call it theirs, but I can't publish it in this Blog until confirmed.

CHANCELLOR Tower, Metrotown - the madness begins. Will POLYGON do as good a job with the queue as BOSA SOVEREIGN ?

The CHANCELLOR Tower building site, 4860 Bennett Street, Metrotown. It's April 10th, at 3PM. Realtors have hired these placeholders to stand in line in April showers - for the coming week! The City of Burnaby has deployed plastic barriers to keep passing traffic from hitting pedestrians heading for the Mall or Bonsor Community Centre. The sidewalk is fully covered by real estate squatters.

It was 3PM and I was standing in the pouring rain in Metrotown. My camera didn't like the weather so I had to be fast. Approximately 40 Chinese men and women, many middle aged, covered the sidewalk sheltering under umbrellas or barbecue shelters in front of POLYGON's building site at 4860 Bennett Street, Burnaby Metrotown. An elderly gentleman approached to ask why I was taking photos. He had been here awhile, and was a wealth of information. The line he said, began to form on Saturday. He had counted approximately 100 chairs and stools deployed from the front door of the newly constructed CHANCELLOR Sales Centre to the corner, of which 75 or so have Realtor business cards affixed. He had spoken to several umbrella people in the queue, and all had been promised money by Realtors to stand in line. I photographed a few of the business cards.

These are two of the Realtor business cards taped to chairs at 4860 Bennett Street.

Last month I witnessed the chilled lineup of placeholders in front of SOVEREIGN Tower, Metrotown. BOSA did a superb job with crowd control, before the jostling and angry words could turn uglier. POLYGON will have to hustle because this crowd has assembled much earlier, and so many realtors missed out on selling anything at SOVEREIGN and METROPLACE Towers, that there is a great deal of "face" at stake with exasperated clients.

Taping your business card to a plastic kitchen stool, and lining them up in front of a major developer's sales centre - ONE WEEK BEFORE SALE DATE. Is that all it takes these days to guarantee the chance of writing a contract with condo sales staff?

In my opinion, the extraordinary demand for units in these large tower projects in Metrotown, is encouraging a "feeding frenzy" style of marketing which the City of Burnaby should have foreseen, and which certainly is getting out of hand. (Yesterday's frenzy at METROPLACE was nothing short of bizarre! as were the secret sales the night before.) That left many shaking heads. We are in dire need of municipal Bylaws to govern flash condo sales on this scale. The word of mouth around Burnaby is that Developer Tactics and the Municipal responsibility to manage the boom in Metrotown development, will certainly be an ELECTION ISSUE in 2011.

V for Victory. These happy place-holders are close to the front of the line at the CHANCELLOR building site, in Metrotown.

City of Burnaby employees have deployed plastic barriers to create a space for Metrotown pedestrians to walk around the hundred or so place-holders who have taken the sidewalk. This is a very busy block, and the entrance to Metrotown parking is directly across the street from these ladies.


Wednesday, April 6, 2011

THE TALIBAN SONG and other fun stuff from Afghanistan. Also enjoy the comedy stylings of the Three Stooges in Kevlar

As Canadian folk songs go, it's not exactly Stan Rogers, but hey! ... I wouldn't want to write song lyrics in a cruddy bunker in Afghanistan. Not with the Taliban bouncing RPGs off the roof! THE TALIBAN SONG is fun stuff, sung to the tune of Bob Marley's Buffalo Soldiers. It's hosted at LIVELEAK for all to enjoy.

THE TALIBAN SONG plays online here.

While you visit LIVELEAK why not also enjoy the comedy stylings of Gypsy, Whiskey and McMuffin, three Canadian soldiers who make the best coffee since BLACKHAWK DOWN:

Making coffee Canadian style - is a fun little video created by Three Stooges in Kevlar. Watch it here.

The Stooges in Kevlar really hate that "Beef Macaroni Chinese Style" but find uses for the efficient heat pack.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Big Brother telescreen for sale in London - expected to fetch more than 5000 pounds at auction.

An historic piece of television gear is coming up for auction this month in London. The earliest surviving British television set, it has a 12 inch B&W screen and a hardwood table top cabinet. In order to get a true image, the picture was reflected off a mirror set in the top of the wooden lid. In late 1936, when this TV receiver was purchased, there was one channel available in London, and that for only one hour per day. When war was declared in September 1939, BBC television was switched off. Broadcasts only resumed in June 1946. By then George Orwell had pondered the potential of television and how quickly the technology would seep into every home. In his chilling novel Nineteen Eighty-four, automobiles have no role in people's lives and are virtually absent, but the telescreen is ubiquitous and a vital instrument of government repression. This is a 1936 Marconi Model 702. It was purchased new for just under 100 British pounds. It has had two owners, and has been kept repaired and in full working order for 75 years. The set predates George Orwell's two-way, wall mounted telescreens by twelve years. It will be auctioned by Bonhams and is expected to sell for over 5000 pounds.

At the time this television set was sold, George Orwell was involved in the Spanish Civil War, where he learned the true nature of communist and fascist ideology and witnessed their competition for a mass audience. It was also in Spain where Orwell was shot by a sniper; a nasty bit of life experience which few urban wordsmiths manage to pick up. During WW2 Orwell wrote for and read on air for the B.B.C., England's government broadcaster. All of his scripts were filtered by censors, every word and phrase having to be checked for security reasons and for his adherence to official policy. It is no accident that Orwell's literary masterpiece is a story which tells us we are doomed if we let governments mess with our language and set the narrative.

In the grim novel Winston Smith sits in a shallow alcove, to hide his first act of defiance against Big Brother - writing in a diary. Of course he must conceal himself from the telescreen, which is both a viewer and a surveillance camera. Nineteen Eighty-four has been filmed many times, but no director has ever thought it necessary to recreate the alcove, or to illustrate Orwell's point that much can be deduced from body language and posture.

One of the great ironies of modern political literature is that television, as an instrument of repression, is identified with the British, and not with Stalin's Russia or Nazi Germany. This is largely do to the power and worldwide influence of Orwell's dystopian novel. It is also a fact that while the Nazis used television to spread propaganda, they never considered it as a tool of surveillance, as it certainly became and still is used in England. There is no question that television became more advanced in Germany during WW2 while the Brits had their transmitters turned off. The German people were still able to watch television programs in their homes until 1944, at which time the Allies began crossing their borders. Hundreds of hours of Nazi television news and dramas still exist, and a sampling is available on Youtube here.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

WIkileaks hints U.S. Planned the War in Libya long before any "popular uprising", and now U.S. Government sources have confirmed it

It was revealed this week that C.I.A. Special Operators were on the ground in Libya, along with British S.A.S. hit teams, well in advance of B.H. Obama's signing a Presidential Order legalizing the murky covert operation. The C.I.A. station in Tripoli, Libya was of course evacuated before the "uprising". DEVKAfile among others have reported on covert C.I.A. operations in Libya.

Where to start in trying to understand what the Obama administration wants to accomplish in Libya? Perhaps start with a New York Times report (March 30) C.I.A. Agents in Libya Aid Airstrikes and meet Rebels Then make your way to THE TELEGRAPH which offers a cache of State Department cables furnished by Wikileaks:

The latest Wikileaks on Libya were published on March 31st in THE DAILY TELEGRAPH, (DOCUMENTS). The secret cables contribute to the growing evidence that we are witnessing a War on Libya, planned by the C.I.A. for at least two to three years, and carefully staged to make it appear that a popular uprising has taken place.
. A report to State Department January 27, 2010, by Gene A. Cretz, U.S. Ambassador, Tripoli. The Ambassador is "exploring engagement" not with a ranking ("GOL") Government of Libya official, but someone we in Canada would describe as 'a leader of the extra-Parliamentary opposition'. An opposition which has, at its core, a contingent of disaffected Libyans whom the C.I.A. has nurtured for more than two decades.

The "Jibril" mentioned in the State Department cables offered to us by WIKILEAKS, is Mahmoud Jibril, America's pet dog in Libya. For a profile of the fellow turn to this CBC page. Jibril is a cultured academic who meets regularly with Hilary Clinton. He harbours very bitter feelings toward Col. Gaddafi.

The helpful website look4leaks. net allows you to access many more State Department cables which show which reveal how the U.S. government has been working to contain and ultimately overthrow the Gaddafi government. You can JUMP to look4leaks.net and type in the word LIBYA.

Those of us who work for a living scarcely have the time to keep up with events in our own country, much less keep a score card for the wars, revolutions, concocted uprisings and political assassinations taking place at a frenetic pace. Tunisia, Libya, Egypt, Bahrain, Yemen, Jordan, Syria, Iraq.... just in the Middle East, and just since Christmas! NATO, Ottawa and the Obama White House make and break policy statements so often that our media don't even attempt to report or keep up. The UN resolution was (allegedly) intended to keep Gaddafi's Air Force on the ground so he couldn't "murder" innocent civilians. Our pompous P.M. alleged that one of Canada's generals, a senior ranking helicopter pilots was assuming command of the NATO Air-Sea operation in Libya. In fact the Canadian general is dangerously out of his depth, and the Americans have little use NATO now that their secret operation in Libya is exposed. There is now such urgency to strike Gaddafi a fatal blow before he works out a political stalemate, that even as I write this, U.S. Spectre gunships and Warthog antitank jets are flying ground attack missions in support of the rebel offensive.

Now that B.H. Obama has signed a Presidential decree allowing the C.I.A. to plant American "boots on the ground", we are catching glimpses of secret operations in almost twelve countries in the Middle East and Central Asia. It must be said that U.S. planning is astonishing in its complexity and scope. Consider just one recent revelation involving U.S. Army Special Forces - "U.S. Special Forces have permission to enter Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan on a 'case-by-case' basis when conducting counter-terrorism operations, US Central Command has confirmed." In fact there are no spots on this planet, including Ottawa or Beijing, which the Americans do not have some political or economic interest at stake, and a willingness to intervene, if necessary. Sooooo, here we are running a national election in Canada. Clearly it is in Washington's interest that Harper's Tories should win this contest. Here is my $100 to the first Runagate reader who can get me a photo of 'Granny in combat boots', skulking at the back of a political rally in your town or city.


Among the worst coverage of events in Libya has been that of the American news network CNN. At times it has appeared that they were running a disinformation campaign for the White House, but usually on-air talent, including the incredibly obnoxious Wolf Blitzer, were simply full of themselves. Finally though, we see a CNN report online with some meat in it, concerning the cabal of Libyan emigres which the C.I.A. has been nurturing for many years. Read - CNN REPORT and watch this video report. It's very illuminating.

CNN sources WIKILEAKS - rather amusing this screen. CNN selects and underscores the key point. The American Intelligence behemoth has been preparing this "democratic uprising" in Libya for many years. But just as the puppet regions in Baghdad and Kabul prove to be grotesquely unreliable partners, the coming puppet regime in Libya with bite Barack on the behind, just before he vacates the Oval Office.