Notes on a community in transition.

Wither thou goest I may or may not follow.

Monday, April 30, 2007

More from the Water Watchers

Comment on Proposed Water Transfer Legislation in Ontario
Cut and Paste the last paragraph below from the Wellington Water Watchers site into the Governments 'comment' box.

The Ontario Provincial Government has proposed a law to control water transfers out of the 3 watersheds in Ontario. There is an exemption for bottled water in containers less than 20 litres. Please use the sample comment below to state your objection at the Ontario Environmental Registry web site.

I am opposed to the section of Bill 198 that deals with exemptions to water transfers out of the originating watershed, Section 34.3 (3).1. This section exempts transfers of containers having a volume of 20 litres or less. However, I see no difference between a truck loaded with 1,000 bottles of 500 ml each (500 litres) and a tanker carrying 500 litres in one container leaving the watershed. Please close this loophole that permits water bottlers to drain our watersheds.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Salsateria Club and the Woes of Downtown

Back in January or so Rudolpho decided he wanted to expand the Salsateria from its little retail/wholesale operation on Cork and move it into the old Aquarius Cafe space, which sits on the second floor above My Friends Kitchen, in a building that has access from both Carden and Wyndam streets.
Possessing one of the largest kitchens in downtown Guelph, the Aquarius space has been empty for awhile now, and the fact that the building has new owners made the idea of signing a lease for the space a lot more attractive than it would have been if the Salsateria had to sign with the old landlord, one of the most notorious and least-liked property owners in Guelph.
Rudolpho and his business partner Mike had all the city departments in to look at the space before they signed the lease and the city signed off on all the approvals. The lease was signed and about $90,000 in renovations were poured into the space. The idea was to create an actual club in Guelph, one that was built around a solid dining room and a well connected live music scene. As most downtowners know, Rebel Foods, the company that owns the Salsateria, has a long and central role in both music and food in this city.
About 27 days into the 30 day period set aside for objecting to the issuing of a liquor license, Bill Hulet, Stan Kovacs and Bruce Matheson each filed an objection.
Their concern was rooted in the out of control downtown night scene in Guelph. With the permit tagged with three objections, an official hearing was forced into motion, and so was a grass roots counter offensive from the city's musical community. In the meantime someone in the city realized that a bylaw was on the books that made it impossible for the city to grant a liquor license to a second floor establishment, specifically one that didn't already have a ground floor license.
Enter the Salsateria's lawyers to protest the city's duplicity.
The Downtown Board of Management has yet to officially speak on the matter but I have it on good report that most of the members think the club will be good for the downtown.
Apparently the three objectors, Hulet, Kovacs and Matheson have removed their objections, not doubt based on the realization that the club is something quite distinct in nature from the dance hall nonsense that is making the city the place of near-riotous activities night after night.
The city however is stuck in a potential lawsuit, since the lease was only signed after the the city departments had all given their approval to the project. Bob Bell the anti-license point man on council was button-holed at last weekend's eco-fest and couldn't believe how quickly the pro-Salsateria supporters were mustering, so I suspect he too has begun looking for a win-win situation.
Of far more concern to me than a club like the Salsateria, are the dance clubs, which should be moved up the university and out of the downtown, like the campus police deal with the violence and the petty crime. The Salsateria, as a genuine nightclub is precisely the kind of club we need downtown.
The other thing the city needs to do is to clean up the disgraceful crack cocaine activities that operate with impunity in the downtown, in some cases not much more than a hundred yards from city hall. The police know who the crack dealers are, and they know who is behind the crack dealers. We have crack being sold on Alice Street across from the Catholic Church and school. Clearly organized crime is behind the scene, and yet just as clearly, it cannot be Guelph's old Morgeti gangsters, since their place in the local Italian community would be utterly threatened if they were behind such activities near businesses and schools and churches. Which tells me that some other organized crime group is operating crack houses in Morgeti turf to spite the Calabrians.
Move the dance clubs up to the university, clean out the downtown crack businesses, and let clubs like Rudolpho's flourish.

Battle Against Water Privateers escalating

When the Wellington Water Watchers set itself in motion about three weeks back organizers were hoping to get 151 people to challenge Nestle's application to remove 3.5 million litres of water a day from the aquifer used by the city of Guelph and Puslinch. As predicted on this blog at the time, this issue would galvanize the environmental movement. The deadline for submitting an objection to the water-taking permit has been extended to May 11 and the form can be accessed via the Water Watchers website
Curiously, there is website that appears to be set up by the spring water industry.
Elizabeth May spoke forcefully on the issue in Guelph last weekend and on Wednesday May 2 Maude Barlow will be in Guelph discussing the issue. She'll also be discussing the Security and Progress Act which is little more than a corporate pillage-the-commons agreement between Canada, the US and Mexico (which is little more than a narco-State run by organized crime and a corrupt military.)

Hillside Ticket Price Up

Hillside tickets prices are going up again this year, and the festivals alleged commitment to include 70% Guelph musical content continues to dwindle. Early bird ticket sales begin on Tuesday May 1st.

Ticket Prices 2007 (all prices are inclusive of GST)
Early Bird Weekend $75.00
Regular Weekend $95.00
Early Bird Friday Evening $40.00
Regular Friday Evening $45.00
Early Bird Saturday $55.00
Regular Saturday $60.00
Early Bird Saturday Evening $40.00
Regular Saturday Evening $45.00
Early Bird Sunday $55.00
Regular Sunday $60.00
Early Bird Sunday Evening $40.00
Regular Sunday Evening $45.00

It will also be curious to see if the festival creates a massive plastic water bottle waste stream like it did last year via it's relationship with water privateers Nestle's.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Liz Sandals Stuff and Nonsese

According to this article in the Guelph Tribune Liberal MPP Liz Sandals wants environmental activists to become back-off-of-its, and to believe her when she says that the rights of commoners to the water held in the Public Trust aren't worth the commons they're written on if the scientists say so(I'm paraphrasing.) But that ain't so, and thousands of years of common law say the water belongs to the commons, not to the scientists to give it away.
Her scientists remind me of the court prophets in the bible who would tell a monarch whatever the monarch wanted to hear, while the real prophets were out in the wilderness railing against those who were damming the flow of the river of justice.

The Provincial liberals have no credibility whatsoever. And they will betray the people of this province if we let them. This is a fight for the shape of the future and she had better get out of the way if she won't lend a hand, because this time, the times really are a changing. We have no more time for flak catchers like our local MPP.

Babylon Liz,
get your sandals on,
'cause you're just babblin'
to the rabblin'
who got no patience
for your all your
sycophantic rantlin'.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Gay Lea Applies for 10 year Permit

Ward 2 posted
Thursday, April 19th, 2007...1:48 pm
Gay Lea applies for Permit to take Water
Many of you have been following with great interest the application by Nestle to renew their Permit to take Water (PTTW) from the Guelph aquifer.
On April 17th Gay Lea submitted an application for a PTTW renewal.

The company describes itself on their website this way.

For almost 50 years, Gay Lea Foods Co-operative Ltd. has provided a vital link between Ontario dairy farmers and consumers located across Canada. Gay Lea Foods is Ontario's largest dairy co-operative owned and operated by milk producers. The Co-operative's producer members represent approximately 1,250 DFO milk licences or roughly 26% of the dairy farms in Ontario. Established in 1958 to process and market milk related food products for the Co-operative's members, today Gay Lea Foods processes approximately 15% of Ontario's milk and enjoys a respected position as a major contributor to the success of Ontario's and Canada's dairy industry.

The major difference between this permit and the Nestles permit is that the water does not leave the watershed and thus returns to the ground water cycle. Even the water that went into the cows that made the milk goes back into the watershed.
The ten year plan disturbs me a little.

If both Gaylea and Nestle get their permits a full 10% of Guelph's daily usuage would be equalled by those two permits alone.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Green Grow the Guelph Greens-o

I went to the local Green Party's Annual General Meeting at the Norfolk St. United Church because I had a pressing question: I'd been listening to CBC radio and they'd done a story on the recent arms dealer convention in Ottawa (undoubtedly because we now have our very own Minister of Arms Dealers) and the CBC interviewed a man who was producing lead-free environmentally-friendly bullets and I wanted to know if the Greens would endorse the use of such bullets in a third world military coup or revolution. It turns out they think war is BAD ! Apparently arms dealers will not be allowed to wear It's Not Easy Being Green buttons or other party paraphernalia.

According to a survey I did with some interloping NDP'ers, the Greens have the prettiest women, I didn't bother for objectivity by asking the women who had the best looking men. That's blogging for ya.

If any local Greens were upset about the Dion-May deal I didn't hear a whisper about it. A friendlier bunch of people you couldn't ask to meet. (well yes, you could ask, and you might even meet them, but the were a friendly bunch anyway.) A good time was had by all. More than 100 people turned up for the AGM, and the party's 1000th member had signed up earlier in the day so they now know that the green movement is not only growing to the point that shysters have begun shilling everything even vaguely green, but that the party itself is growing.

The referendum over proportional representation in Ontario to be held next October is a vote they want everyone to support in the name of democratic renewal.

It's the second time I was in the Norfolk United Church in the last week. Last time was for the Wellington Water Watchers campaign to stop Nestle from taking 3.5 million liters a day from the local aquifer. A spokesman for the campaign found a room full of support. It looks like the campaign is spreading all over the province. The 'unprecedented numbers' the organizers were hoping for will easily exceed 150 + 1...

On another Green front entirely, my son sent this to me in an email and I linked it to an article.

Chimp Actor Cheeta Is Going To Outlast All Of Us

Happy belated Birthday to Cheeta, the chimpanzee from such esteemed works as the original Doctor Doolittle, Tarzan's New York Adventures and Tarzan Finds A Son!. The great ape and fine actor turned 75 on Tuesday, April 10th, continuing his reign as the world's oldest living chimp. The monkey played Tarzan's best friend and sidekick Cheeta in five Tarzan films between 1932 and 1942. He currently lives at the Creative Habitats and Enrichment for Endangered and Threatened Apes (C.H.E.E.T.A.--see what they did there?) where he paints and signs head shots.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

An Open Letter to Frank Valeriote (Slightly revised)

As you are probably aware, my book Legends of the Morgeti takes note of the fact that the Valeriotes have their own legends, and something of a myth about themselves. (I use the word myth as a mystical story not as a synonym for something false.) Undoubtedly you know the story well. Your ancient ancestor Valerius, a Roman Senator, was a kind of Moses who led the Morgeti out of the ruins of their Grecian captivity in Sicily and back to their old homeland in Calabria in 300 AD. The 2nd set of 'legends' involves your grandfather Michaelangelo who led them out of the poverty of San Giorgio to Canada in the early 20th century.

And for the record, none of my research in old or new newspapers has produced a single story in which a Valeriote has appeared as having committed a crime, at least not in Canada, and even then, there is only one story of a San Giorgiosi Valeriote involved with the 'ndrangheta and that was back in the 1970's. So I won't hold him against you. The only Valeriote I've met is Puss and I liked him.

Originally when you won the nomination I thought you couldn't hold the centre left, but John Williams, who ran against you appears to think highly of you, as does a woman I respect in the Green Party. I spoke again to John tonight and learned that you left your lucrative criminal law practice fifteen years ago against the advice of your peers because you couldn't take having to tell anymore lies, so I'm beginning to develop the feeling that if you have a sense of calling, you might well be the one to lead the Morgeti in Guelph and Ontario and throughout Canada out of the 'ndrangheta, and to help redeem alot of Italian-Canadians trapped in organized crime. Needless to say I have a proposal on how you might do that.

I also think you can redeem the Liberal party in the process. I'm not one of those who think the Liberals are the only party with links to organized crime, the Conservatives have all kinds of right wing gangsters as friends, just like Giuliano Andreotti did, whose Christian Democrats ruled Italy for decades with policies that were only a few degrees closer to the centre than Mussolini's had been, and whose links to crime groups were extensive.

Right wing Eastern European mafiyas are conservative. And of course labour racketeering gangsters have poisoned the NDP well more than once.

You can ignore me of course, I'm just one vote, but here's my suggestion on how to become the third pillar of the Valeriote legend, it's a proposal which you may have seen since it is the last appendix in my book.


Under contemporary rights and freedoms the police must adhere to strict 'rules of evidence', and rightly so, which means that the police are incapable of stopping gangster capitalists. Equally, Royal Commissions which are created to investigate narrowly defined aspects of criminal activity like the construction industry et al, may shed light into a field of crime but they do little else than cause the darkness to retreat elsewhere, while creating problems for ongoing police investigations. I tend to agree with St. Paul that, "There is no salvation in law." The law cannot save society from the sins of its members, least of all from gangsters. All the law can do is to define right and wrong and create penalties for doing wrong.

A third way is required, one that makes use of generations of police work to support evidential trails that will allow communities to redeem families from criminal societies. My book traces the history of organized crime in Guelph via specific clans because I want to make the case that we need to create a legal definition of a Criminal Family. The designation would enable us to use the more pro-active tools of Family and Civil law, and combine them with the power of the Criminal Court. Public accessibility to court-administered Crime Family databases could be secured in Public and University Libraries, Archives and Museums and be available in hard copy and online. That way consumers would have the ability to know where there money is going to, and citizens could understand the ay their communities have been run.

A Criminal Family designation would combine generations of investigations and convictions with the sweeping power of Royal Commissions to shed light on crime activities in not just Guelph or Canada, but in a system that could extend to Italy itself.

Italy has been begging for action from Canada lawmakers, because gangsters so easily hijack our rights and freedoms, and have turned us into a conduit for the global drug trade. We need a way out of the 'revolutionary/gangster' revenge cycle in which drugs are sold to buy guns to fight battles so that political issues can be addressed in places where democracy has little traction, like Afghanistan. Those vendetta cycles not only lead to the corruption of the global democracy movement but they ensure the vitality of gangster capitalism.

A Crime Family designation would allow communities to seize the assets of such families and put the seized properties and monies into two trusts. One trust would be designed to ensure the survival of future generations of the families as they attempt to redeem themselves from their pasts. The other trust would be used to restore the integrity of local economies while preventing opportunities for other criminal groups to step into vacuums left by dismantled crime families. Some of that second Trust's money must also go into drug rehab programs, both for users, and for the farmers in various parts of the world who make their hard-scrabble livings growing coca for cocaine, opium for heroin/morphine, marijuana etc. If you go to, you can see some of the extraordinary things they are doing in Italy in this regard. (For any non-Italian speakers who want to go there click on the English flag and you will get the site in translation.)

Appeals processes would be available to ensure that innocent households of any given family can defend their innocence. A moratorium on prosecution, based on the confessions of any elder of any given Crime Family would also be made available. It is not condemnation but redemption we're after here, grace not law. Of course there are always the unrepentant who will not only choose to always live by the sword but to die by it, and for them we cannot pretend that grace or law will have much effect.

In recent years Italy has been redeeming itself from its criminal societies by the use of peniti - penitents who, for one reason or another, confess to the various crimes of their clans. Those confessions tend to be made on the basis of personal survival, but just as often, there is an undercurrent of genuine confession involved, rooted as it so often is in the horrific consequences of vendetta, the shedding of the blood of the innocent and guilty alike, often family members.

A Criminal Family designation is not designed to crush crime families; it is designed to free them, not without consequences, but responsibly, whenever possible.

So that's my challenge, but I only have one vote. So you don't have much to lose.

To the voters of the centre-left I say that if Frank doesn't take up this challenge, then don't vote Liberal, not because his refusal means he's a gangster (which he's not) but because we don't need a developer 'friendly' pretending to be green. I can think of a number of reasons why Frank wouldn't take this challenge. And I won't hold it against him if he doesn't. I just won't vote for him, and again urge you not to do so either.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Frank Valeriote Wins Liberal Nomination

The Liberal Party in Guelph has opted for a millionaire businessman with a record for charity work. A friend of many of Guelph's largest land developers, he is clearly from the right side of the Liberal camp, which will leave him and Brent Barr splitting the city's right-wing vote, with each man holding their hard-core-partisans. Barr will take the majority of small-government libertarians and Valeriote will take the money votes, with neither being able to take anything from the centre left.
The centre left race will be fought between NDP Star candidate Thomas King and Green Party environment critic Mike Nagy. Valeriote has no constituency beyond those who supported him tonight multiplied by a few thousand old school Catholics who will vote for him because he is the only Catholic in the race; his considerable family connections will also likely rally around him. (His grandfather was the first Valeriote to come to Guelph from San Giorgio Morgeto, Calabria, and between Frank's several great-uncles he is probably related to every Sangiorgiosi in Guelph. That won't win him the election however.)
Every environmentalist and social activist in the Liberal party is probably already packing their bags. In the privacy of the polling booth Valeriote probably won't even get the votes of those Liberals he ran against tonight.
The centre left liberals will not remain partisan because they will do what Dion did today with Elizabeth May, put the environment before the party. There isn't a chance in hell of Valeriote passing himself off as a friend of the environment, certainly not with Nagy in a debate.
If the Greens can take away progressives from the Conservative Party (who know that their party's commitment to the environment is as shallow as Valeriote's) Nagy will again benefit.
In the end, with Barr and Valeriote splitting the right wing vote, King may take the seat, with the Greens picking up vote share, and the Liberals and Conservatives losing it.
This was not a strategic move by the Liberal Party, it was a party takeover by the Sangiorgiosi in order to erase the embarrassment they went through during the November municipal election when voters tossed out favourite sons Rocco Furfaro and Ray Ferraro. They must have signed themselves up as party members in the hundreds.
Marva Wisdom was the only candidate who could have taken votes from Nagy and King and Barr. Valeriote will backfire on the Party. Dion won't get any help from Guelph in forming a government. But neither will Harper get help from Barr.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Fire Video

This video of the fire was apparently shot around 3:00 Am. While the views aren't the clearest, what is clear is that the fire entered the Gummer around 3:00.
I was told that it was phoned in at 1:10 AM. The department would have been on the site almost immediately thereafter.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Gummer irony

Something I find ironic about the Gummer fire is that if it was a new building faced in stone the place would be a complete ruins. It's against the building code to build stone buildings in the old style, stone upon stone, despite the fact that there are stone structures all over the world still standing from centuries ago, and will still be standing centuries from now, long after modern buildings have fallen into ruins. Now all you can do is brick-tie a thin stone facade onto a wooden interior wall. The frame burns, the ties fall out and down comes the wall, just like the 1950's brick wall in behind Stelle, it has to be torn down. The Gummer is a testament to the stone mason's craft and art.

Safety in City Hall Construction

Is it just me, or does that the fact that there is a crew of masons working on restoring the old market facade for the new city hall, while the derrick inside the wall moves everything from cement boats full of wet concrete to scrap bins full of debris to pieces of pre-fab wall right over top of the workmen, not concern anyone
else ?
As far as I'm concerned it's a disaster waiting to happen.

Fire Update

The Guelph Mercury has a story on the conditions of all three buildings.
Renovations appear certain for all three.
The West End Bakery building had no occupied apartments and the bakery itself suffered only water and smoke damage.
The famous wooden elevator shaft has been destroyed, but the elevator itself, if it can be hauled out the basement intact may be gifted to the museum.

Monday, April 9, 2007

Liberals think King will quit if Marva gets Nod

According to Shoshana Berman of the local Liberal Party, workers for riding candidate nominee Marva Wisdom believe that recently appointed NDP candidate Thomas King is such a fan of Marva's that he will step down rather than get in Wisdom's way. Berman made the comments on the blog of Toronto Liberal Michelle Oliel. When pressed Shoshana claimed that Wisdom had the support of Guelph's social activists, as well as many conservatives. It is certainly true that a great many of Guelph's activists think highly of Wisdom. When told that Liberals believe that King will step out of the race if Wisdom wins the Liberal candidacy, Phil Alt, former NDP candidate burst out laughing, and said, "That's what they want you to think."
I guess we'll see on Friday morning if Wisdom wins Thursday night's contest whether King abdicates.


Saw Tom King at the Wellington Water Watchers event and he too laughed at the suggestion that he would step down. He did say he liked Wisdom

Fire Department being raked over coals -REVISED

While the fire department is being congratulated and thanked for their considerable efforts in saving the buildings, they do have their detractors.
It is beginning to appear that the fire department is coming under increasing heat in the street for the way it ALLEGEDLY allowed the fire to climb through the second floor ceiling above the Asylum store where it started, into the third floor, up onto the roof, and then in through two windows looking out of the Gummer building onto the roof of the Asylum building. Once inside the Gummer building the fire devoured the fourth floor and spread through the roof and into the brick building behind Stelle.
That brick building is unsalvageable.
The photo below shows the roof-line of the Asylum and the fourth floor of the Gummer six or seven hours later hours after the fire got into the building.

photo by Downtown Lynn

The stone walls between the Gummer and the Asylum building prevented the fire from entering the Gummer on the second and third floors. At the front of the building only the fourth floor of the Gummer was fire damaged, the lower floors however are severely water and smoke damaged.
People who were on Douglas and Wyndham streets AND OTHERS WHO WERE IN OR ON BUILDINGS on Thursday morning in the A.M. say they were surprised that the fire department wasn't more aggressive with their fire fighting, and that the firemen APPEARED TO THEM to be 'milling about' outside the building AND APPEARED TO BE operating on the assumption that they had put the fire out. The Gummer building wasn't effected at all at that point because of the stone walls, but nor - IT IS ALLEGED - was it soaked with water as a precaution. The department's highest ladder was in the shop for repairs, which may have complicated things.
An hour or so after having watched the fire above the Asylum and the firemen ALLEGEDLY 'milling about' on the street, the people I spoke to say they came back to the site to discover that the Gummer building was blazing.
It seems that a number of people have been discussing these facts for two days now and are profoundly unhappy with the fire department.
The actual sequence of events that led to the spread of the fire has yet to be detailed. Neither has the cause of the fire been made known.
I heard a lot of unkind things said about the department today, and that just makes this whole scenario that much more distressing. And yet, just because it is distressing to think about doesn't make it impossible. And the act of risking ones life in a job doesn't mean human error can't happen. The question is, did it.

Privateering the water

Saturday, April 7, 2007


Kudos to the Guelph fire fighters who fought the Gummer fire and thought of both the past and the future, by avoiding water-blast damage to the stone work.

Douglas street has been closed to traffic but pedestrians can still use the other sidewalk, protected from potential wall-fall by fencing.

Kudos also to the Downtown Board, aka staff boss Audrey Jamal and her trusty sidekick Downtown Lynn and board president Cornerstone Mark who are going out of their way on a holiday weekend to help those businesses that were burnt-out but who need to get up and running ASAP. The downtown business community is getting some genuine leadership and those effected will probably be hanging shingles back up around downtown early next week.

Friday, April 6, 2007

History of the Buildings effected

Ward 2 posted this history of the three heritage buildings effected. The smallest needs steel girding to keep the stone facade from collapsing.

Mercury Reports 2nd Good Friday fire being fought.

At 3:36 the Guelph Mercury posted a news update to say that there was a new fire being fought by the department this time on Manitoba Street in the Ward.


The second fire drew trucks and crew away from the down town fire.

According to the Fountain Pen
the second fire started in the basement and the fire chief does not regard it as suspicious. The photo has a burnt out bed in the foreground, and driving past the site a day later, the burnt out bed was still there, so smoking in bed may have been the cause of that fire.

Stories from the Gummer fire

One who was on site this morning says the fire may have started among the wigs on the second floor. Only the stone is still standing. The Gummer Block is otherwise destroyed. Clothing from And Venus Smiled was extracted from the shop with only water and smoke damage. The West End Bakery shop is smoke and ceiling and water ruined. Goldfinger's is gone. Barking Dog Studios are gone. So are the law offices. The apartment dwellers all escaped unharmed and were bussed away by the city to temporary accommodations. The first I heard of it was on Ward 2's blog.

Photographers have filled Flikr with images, many of which are being posted to Blog Guelph. The Guelph Mercury has a story on its cover.

2 nd fire downtown in a week

The Ward 2 website has posted pictures and a press release about a fire in the Gummer Building this morning at about 2 am. Over a million dollars in damage is being reported. Police are treating it as suspicious.
For information contact:
Chief Shawn Armstrong
Guelph Fire Department

Wednesday, April 4, 2007

Revenge of the Lawn

I can tell I'm getting older because I've stopped trying to hide how cranky some things make me. Lawns. Lawns are the most insidious weed patches in North America. They're surreal: reflections of minds so deep in denial about what is happening to this planet that the multi-billions of dollars and resources wasted on maintaining the appearance that everything is just-fine-thank-you-very-much, may just as well end up flushed down the toilet. Except of course, that that much flushing would have a negative impact on water supplies.(Though still less of an impact than lawn watering.)
This desperate need to keep up appearances while massive starvation and ecological collapse threatens humanity makes me despair that we will find the will to act before it is too late. This culture of denial will end-up shredded to pieces until even the deniers will finally be forced to wonder what happened to their lawns and how they dried up and got covered with dead things.
I almost wish it would happen just to watch the stupefication settle on their faces, only I can't bring myself to wish that much harm. But go ahead, keep your vanity on display, because when things fall apart your dead lawns will be how we'll know that those within can not be trusted near the food or water supplies, but should be fenced in with their toxic wastes.


Monday, April 2, 2007

Guelph's ticky tacky housing inventory

The builders of Guelph's ticky tacky housing sprawl don't want any brakes on their voyage to hell in a hand basket. They want to build their unsustainable subdivisions on the 1950's picket-fence Anywhere North American model, like some bacterial colony on an agar plate devouring everything in its wake until it dies in its own wastes. And they want to be allowed to do so because the market should be allowed to decide, only now they are using pretend environmental arguments to suggest that people will have to commute to Guelph to work because there won't be enough housing here.
A lot of small builders care deeply about the land and the water and the air, but I've never seen a single subdivision in Anywhere North America that was built by a large builder that came close to showing concern for anything but making as much money for as little work and little quality as possible.
Unless you build in Muskoka, where the Canadian Shield protects the land from being destroyed to suit some unimaginative landscape architect's prettification plans, here the land is bulldozed out of existence and reconstructed in tidy packages so that people afraid of catching life can live in the delusion of security.
What is this 'unseen hand' of the market that is so good at deciding what's good for us ? It's an unseen hand full of cash and speculative ambition, it's a hand that is seriously contaminated with organized crime money, it's a hand that feeds only certain mouths, it's a hand that passes the buck of hard decisions to the future.
In the end though, to someone like me, who insists that people need to understand that human beings are symbiotic life forms, with zillions of proto-bacteria in our cells breathing for us, metabolizing our food for us, the "unseen hand" is made up of the array of bacterial symbionts alive in every human cell. It is an array that is adept at transmitting and receiving myriad bits of energy-information, but in the end it has the understanding of a bacteria. Humanity derives mutual benefit from their existence in our cytoplasm, but human ingenuity in service to basic bacterial imperatives are what has brought us to the edge of the ecological Armageddon facing humanity.
And rest assured, bacterial symbionts will survive the disappearance of humanity, they are in every other life form on the planet.
The unseen hand of the market is mindless because it has the brain of a bacteria, it is unseen because we don't look for it in biology, in life, we look for it in economic abstractions.
The unseen hand of the market is simply bacterial life intent on eating and drinking and consuming every resource required by an organism like a human being, and when the species dies in our own wastes the free-range bacteria will take over, and other large multi-celled organisms will inherit the earth, ones that lack the ingenuity of humanity to hasten the turning of the earth into its own grave.
Controlled urban planning is no different than controlled eating or drinking, or controlled tempers, or controlled this, that or the other thing.
It is the nature of the control that is at issue: it can be extreme or it can be moderate. From my perspective, council is attempting to moderate the future, to facilitate a life that might survive. This council happens to consist of people who have thought long and hard about best practices for environmentally sustainable alternatives. To get lectures on sustainability from builders who have laid waste to the beauty of Ontario causes me to control my righteous indignation.
I'm something of a crank however, it's the Groucho Marxist in me, I think Anywhere North America is the most self-satisfied, arrogant empire the world has ever known, and much of what passes for life in it, is lifestyle, a style created by the corporate buck-passing manageriat parodied in Dilbert, full of stuff and nonsense our children will have to deal with. The sorting out of 'the stuff and the nonsense' however has started, the need and greed cycle is ending. It has to. Pride cometh before a Fall.

Sunday, April 1, 2007

Gloria Kovach revisited

I found this post of Darren McEwen's while searching Gloria's story in the blog world and came across this

"And another thing...

She said she took an unpaid leave of absence from her nursing job to take on the FCM presidency, which has no salary.

Yet on her website bio (which has since been removed) it claimed Kovach left her nursing job when she became a city councillor (which was in 1991), citing privacy and conflict of interest concerns. She became the FCM President 14 years later in Decmember 2005!

Jack Layton is a former FCM President but never sought federal office or a federal nomination during his tenure at the top.

Winnipeg's Gord Steeves is now the FCM President. He's a former Liberal candidate. Note the emphasis on former ... as in 11 years ago."

According to the FCM website she left off working in her private medical enterprise
when she became president of the FCM, which is where the 16 months leave come into it.

There was certainly some grumbling reported in town around the time that Gloria sought the nomination, to the effect that she was hedging her bets too much.
And that she should have stood down from the presidency of a non-partisan national federation while running for the candidacy of the local federal conservative party.
Maybe she needed the money (assuming the presidency is even a paid position) (she had just financed her successful municipal re-election bid before having to finance her candidacy campaign.) And she wasn't making money as a nurse anymore.
From my perspective there was no malice, unless there was malice in slagging Dion in an a moment of lost control when she lost both her dreams of a federal career and the the presidency of the FCM in as many days.
There were two months left in her mandate. Clearly the wisest thing to have done was to have resigned the post when she decided to try for the conservatives. It's even conceivable that she lost support among conservatives precisely because she was hedging her bets. She had won municipal re-election with a large plurality, she may have damaged her own win-ability factor with conservatives by not resigning, an action that made her look either small minded, arrogant, or not nearly as confident as she pretended to be, all of which might have made all the difference between the win accredited to Barr's organizational work and conservative hopes for winning the riding. She shot her own win-ability in the foot !
Then too there is the question of the progressive and conservative factions in the local tory population, Barr allegedly representing the conservative factions. I don't know enough about Kovach's conservative politics to know if she represents Harper's side of the party or the Blue Machine's side, but basically she ran against the Blue Machine and lost. From that perspective it seems to me that her attack on Dion is not unlike Harper's attacks on Dion, except that it was possibly less intentional, but no less reactionary in its own origins.
As for the FCM, what lesson have they fired across the bows of federal wannabes except 'not while you're our president you don't', 'the issues are more important than the enlargement of your fiefdom.'
If the FCM does something different if a liberal president does what Kovach did, then we can speak of hypocrisy but not before.


The Ousting of Gloria Kovach

There is something odd about the way in which Guelph councilor, Gloria Kovach, the elected president of the Federation of Canadian Municipalities, was removed from the head of that association during a conference call that no one in the federation, including Kovach, can talk about because it was an 'in-camera' meeting.
She herself is blaming Liberal Leader Stephan Dion, because she says that staff of the Canada-wide organization received a phone call from Dion's office following a meeting she had had with Dion about pre-budget discussions. According to her, Dion voiced objections about her to the federation so they got rid of her. Dion's office says that no such objections existed and that they had nothing to do with her ousting.
Prior to the incident, Kovach had just run and lost a race for the candidacy of the local federal Conservative Party, following her decisive re-election as a councillor last fall.
Clearly something happened somewhere along the way. Animosity existed among the conservatives and liberal reactionaries in former mayor Kate Quarrie's camp and Kovach, an animosity that led to Kovach being unable to attend an important Federation meeting a year or so ago because council refused to reschedule a meeting, despite the fact that Kovach was president of the federation and Guelph ended up looking small and ridiculous.
Kovach says she can't imagine Stephen Harper flexing his muscles the way Dion did. I can't say I agree with her on that assessment since Harper is a known control freak, but the fact remains that something happened. And I trust for her sake, the truth will make its way out of the shadows sooner than later.