The Vancouver Scrum

On the move!

Agh! You’re still here? My new site and weblog, is now up and running; new posts are building up over there, never to be mirrored here. Go! What are you waiting for? All the stuff worth keeping has been migrated over to the new server, and I don’t anticipate making any more posts here.

Bloggers and webmasters: Update your links! Simply replace with in your blogrolls or bookmarks to point to the new site. Old posts will remain on this server for as long as the people at Blogger/Google allow them to remain; unfortunately, I’m not going to bother to come up with any way of converting permalinks on this blog to their corresponding posts on the new site. Yes, I plead laziness. I also realize the irony of switching away from Blogger just it starts to add features that the demanding blog nerds insist upon.

Thanks for reading and linking, and see you over at!

—Ian King, December 13, 2004

Monday, June 30, 2003


Sheeple may be people, but they ain't no friends of mine...

If you ever wanted an example of what sort of person is a real threat to that oft-abused word, “freedom,” here’s a good one. Another hand-wringing suburbanite says she’s got no problem giving the State powers of arbitrary search and seizure in order to nail marijuana growers.

Recently, I decided to attend a Surrey town meeting about grow-ops in our neighbourhoods. I learned a lot.

The panel kept discussing privacy and freedom and how the police’s hands are often tied and how grow-ops are using this to their advantage…

I have no problem with someone coming in to inspect my home. I have nothing to hide. I feel that the people who fight these “violations of privacy” have something to hide.

Well, I’ve got news for you, honey. I do have something to hide—my personal life and what goes on inside my house. Am I doing anything illegal? Probably not (although there may be some obscure section of some law pertaining to my porn stash.) That’s beside the point, which is that it’s none of the police’s business what goes on there unless they can take it to a judge and show him or her some probable cause that illegal activity is going on and that a search is justified.

The old “if you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear” argument isn’t exclusive to the police and their witless accomplices in the general public. It was also a favourite of totalitarian states, who used it to justify the State’s intrusions into its residents’ private affairs with no explanation or consistent reasoning. Unfortunately, there are too many people who would submit to those measures in the mistaken belief that this will make them more secure.

Speaking of privacy, the Vancouver Police Department has revived its plans to install a network of two dozen surveillance cameras to monitor the goings-on in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside. The VPD brass were emboldened by the dismissal of a lawsuit by former federal privacy commissioner George Radwanski against the Kelowna RCMP’s downtown surveillance camera. Putting spy cameras into Vancouver’s most notorious neighbourhood was an idea presumed dead after the COPE party, skeptical of if not opposed to the cameras, swept last fall’s civic election. This hasn’t kept the VPD from quietly pushing the idea even as the new city council has indicated that it’s not likely to give the police department the budget to set up and staff the system.

Of course I’m opposed to the cameras. The message that installing them sends is clear: citizens who live or work a certain part of town will be subject to police surveillance that they would not face in the other 98% of the city. The decision to scrutinize these people has nothing to do with the individual except for their presence in a designated area—nothing about their past record or current status factors in the decision to watch a person in the camera zone.

People choosing to shop along Powell or Hastings (don’t laugh: the DTES boasts the Sunrise Market, Rice World, and two of the cheapest butcher shops in Canada) will be under the VPD’s automated eye, while the folks who can afford to patronize Capers and Urban Fare won’t. Is it discriminatory? Yeah. Going into a designated zone in a public area shouldn’t mean that you automatically consent to being watched by the State. Entering a private shop and being under the owner’s eye is one thing, but this is state surveillance in a public place, and often a place where people have no choice whether they enter the space or not.

Vancouver’s police have recently reduced the open drug dealing near the corner of Main and Hastings without such intrusive measures. By adding more foot patrols and some horseback presence (with a few problems, granted), they’ve made the police more visible and able to respond to altercations and violence instead of just watching. Police officers “on the ground” get a better sense of the situation and the people on their beat in a way that a guy staring at a dozen screens can’t. If the city wanted to put more full-time officers down there, I’d have no problem as long as the officers behaved within the law. Whether they always do is contentious; on the other hand, the Vancouver Police gets as much public scrutiny as the other forces in British Columbia combined. The combination of the press’s presence in the city proper and organizations like the Pivot Legal Society sticking up for the ‘dregs’ of society tends to keep the VPD in check.

Given that the city’s police have been getting good results using techniques that don’t always alarm civil libertarians or intrude on basic legal rights (including privacy), they should quit lobbying for the cameras unless the situation in the Downtown Eastside deteriorates dramatically.

Fight the Sheeple. They’re a more immediate threat to your freedom that even Kim Jong-Il. (but if he launches a nuke, it’ll be flyin’ over my head on its way to wherever…)


Be Careful What You Wish For

Vancouver writer/goofball Steve Burgess (known to "sophisticated" Canadians as the host of CBC Newsworld's @ the end) encourages America to make Canada its next regime change target. (Salon Premium article, sit through the damn commercial to view.)
There are plenty of reasons to invade your passive-aggressive northern neighbor... but never mind -- thanks to the lessons learned in Iraq, reasons are no longer necessary. The Bush administration's labored justifications for the Iraq invasion, served up as convincingly as a chocolate-smeared 6-year-old's explanation of where the cookies went, proved to be utterly irrelevant. Most Americans, it turned out, were only too happy to kick some non-American ass and didn't really require an explanation.

Don't mistake Burgess for one of those Canadian rightwingers who would be happy seeing the country overthrown by a certain foreign power and a new governemnt installed. (This may be the Canadian right's best hope for power in the near future.) Then again, our government's sheer impudence lately -- Harm reduction! Gay marriage! Decriminalizing pot! Asking for credible justification for invading Iraq! -- is plenty of fodder for wiseass writers.

Keep it up, Jean! Commentators from coast to coast are depending on you!

Wonder what Burgess would have done in the days of say, Louis St. Laurent? Well, at least B.C. had Wacky Bennett to fill the void while L.St.L. was boring the rest of Canada.

Sunday, June 29, 2003


For my fellow HTML-challenged netizens...

Ikram Saeed shares a few tips for those who are more comfortable with making blog content than making code. I’m definitely in that camp.

My cluelessness is not due to any sort of aversion to things computational—it’s more like web rustiness. When I started blogging last year, I hadn’t written a snippet of HTML since 1997. Most of the tags that I used in my postings were from those days when the (much smaller) web community were ooohing and aaahing over then then-new <font size=""> and colour tags (and the hated BLINK.) If you asked me last year about CSS, RSS, XHTML, or any of what’s now considered de rigeur on the Web and in the weblog world, I’d profess ignorance. Now, I’m catching up to the web of 2003. Interesting to say the least.

NEXT PROJECT: setting up an RSS feed through David Janes’s BlogMatrix so that you’ll be able to read up in your aggregator of choice. The Scrum has already found its way into BlogMatrix without human intervention, so I suppose that it’s time to take advantage.

UPDATE: The long-contemplated RSS feed is set up. I think. I’m pretty sure. At least I think that I’ve followed the directions. If it works—or doesn’t—in your aggregator, send me some e-mail (the commenting system is still out of service.)


Another warning to Paul Martin

Province national-affairs writer Jim McNulty is another voice picking up on the very real danger to the federal Liberals if party leader (and Prime Minister) in waiting Paul Martin decides to call a snap election in spring 2004.

Well… duh!

The Martinis’ thinking is that if the Liberals with a shiny new leader go to the polls during the “new leadership” honeymoon, with Canadians happy to see the back of Jean Chrétien, voters who hadn’t voted for the Liberals in the last couple of election would surely do so now.

Not so fast, guys.

As I’d written before in this space, a spring election means that the new federal representation order is delayed until the next general election. British Columbia and Alberta will have to wait another 3 1/2 years or more to get the additional House seats in the new order. When the opposition parties and the Liberal-hating punditry gently remind Western voters of this fact, the voters will respond, and the result won’t be pretty for the Liberals and Martin, both of whom were counting on making significant gains in Western Canada.

Sure, any failure to realize gains in the West can be offset by the prospect of another two dozen seats in Quebec. Doing so, though, does diddly-squat to bridge the West-Central divide, and leaves the opposition Canadian Alliance with more fuel for its founding argument that the Liberal Party exists to exploit everything this side of Dryden for the benefit of the fat-cats of central Canada. Not healthy.

Under-representation is a chronic complaint out here; on a strict rep-by-pop basis, BC should have around 40 seats, Alberta 30 (and Ontario 114.) It’s been a surefire hot-button issue for the regionalists in the Canadian Alliance to use when inciting the voters to go out and give the “Eastern” parties hell. The current formula discriminates against the fast-growing provinces, but the idea that Central Canada conspires to screw “the West” out of seats is an easy sell in these parts.

Come to think of it , when BC’ers whine about their under-representation in the House, they always like to compare the number of people per MP to PEI (an egregious example) or New Brunswick. Oddly enough, Saskatchewan has fewer residents per MP than New Brunswick, but you’ll never hear a commentator out here complain about Saskabush getting too many seats—or, for that matter, Ontario getting less than its fair share. Never let the facts get in the way of a good rant. (I’m pretty sure that that’s Vancouver Sun scribbler Barbara Yaffe’s motto.)

Sorry for harping on an old hangup. If Martin does call an early election and disaster ensues, I reserve the right to say “I told you so!”


Testing with Textile

This is a dangerous time. As regular readers will note, I’ve swapped the blog template after some 11 months using the same one, and now enter the dangerous and scary world of CSS. Or, as the true savants would say, “It’s about fucking time, you felonious bastard!”

Meanwhile, I’ve also been busy playing with “real” CMS tools (one ubiquitous, the other one less so) as I try to free myself from Blogger, and its myriad shortcomings. This explains why I’ve been geeking and sufing through techy instead of newsy web sites. Thus, less newsy blogging. For some reason, techy stuff would just seem a little odd here. Damn the lack of content categories!

Friday, June 27, 2003


Blogger Headaches

Okay… looks like publishing’s back up for now. Will work on rebuilding the old template with all those snippets of code for things like commenting (BlogOut is still shut down due to a lack of disk space), stats tracking, and of course that hand-coded blogroll.

Jeez. After neglecting the blog for darn near a month, I then get bogged down in the Blogger migration and some sort of God-unknown publishing hangup when I’m actually readdy willing and able to post. Blog-karma? (Author then slaps own head, realizing that he’s used some overly cutesy “blog------;” term in violation of whatever sensibilities he may still possess.)

UPDATE: Template should now look like the same one I’ve used (with modification) since this thing launched back in August 2002.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Well, that template’s gone, replaced with one designed by Martijn ten Napel. I’ve modified it a little, but credit where it’s due—he did the hard work on a bang-up template called Luna Park. Like it? He’s come up with a bunch of useful templates, all free for the taking.

More Blogger publishing troubles. I've tried switching the template and other stuff.. no joy.

UPDATE: If you're reading this post, then the thing must be publishing. Since the thing was migrated over to the new Blogger platform, all my attempts to republish (including template switching, re-archiving, and everything else in my rather small toolkit) had failed, so I waited ad absurdum for a fix to come through.

Wednesday, June 25, 2003

Two quick bits before I run off for the day:

The somewhat contentious "safe injection site" pilot project for Vancouver's Downtown Eastside, one component of one part of an ambitious strategy to deal with the city's injection-drug problem, in one step closer to opening. Health Canada has approved the site; provincial funding should come along shortly. The first site wil be located at 135/139 East Hastings, and be open 18 hours a day. Anyone want to take bets on which hours of the day the site will be closed?

Ikram Saeed warns those of us in the Rest of Canada that Toronto is no longer the Centre of the Universe. Agh! He's got a point, though. T.O. does get the screw, especially from Queen's Park. Besides, a strong, healthy Toronto gives those of us outside Hogtown something worthwhile to bitch at, therefore contributing to national unity through the oh-so-Canadian sport of whining.

Note to Colby Cosh: No, I didn't have any love for the Report's politics, but there is no great pleasure in seeing media outlets fold -- especially when there is no real replacement on the horizon. And yes, you're right: "Readable" is some sort of euphemism for "pretty darned good, actually."

More later.

Monday, June 23, 2003

I'm back!

3 stories worth having a look at today...

In Canadian politics, federal privacy commissioner George Radwanski has stepped down after several days of pressure surrounding his expense account. Radwanski's expensive taste in hotels , food, and booze probably isn't what killed him; it was the fact that he tried to hide the real bill from Parliament.

Unfortunately for Canadians, Radwanski's downfall means that they have lost one of the fiercest advocates for their personal privacy. He was one of the few people who was willing to warn against the excesses of anti-terror laws enacted in the aftermath of September 11, 2001 -- a time when too many people were willing to cede the State powers of search and surveillance that would ordinarily be considered unacceptable.

Radwanski's personal excess should not make his criticisms of an intrusive government any less valid. I fear, though, that some interests whom Radwanski has been critical of (law enforcement and their organized lobby, Customs, and those who advocate ever more registries and databases on Canadians) will use his downfall as an opportunity to rubbish his arguments.

Here's hoping that the next privacy commissioner is just as much of a hawk as the recently-departed commissioner.

Meanwhile. B.C.'s "Smoking Judge" Mary Southin has made the news once again over some smokable substance. Southin wrote in a recent judgment that she does not believe marijuana violations to be as serious as they were once seen to be.

Seems that she had some harsh words for Parliamentarians who defend the old laws, too.

"I have not yet abandoned my conviction that Parliament has a constitutional right to be hoodwinked, as it was in the 1920s and 1930s by the propaganda against marijuana, and remain to be hoodwinked."

Never let it be said that members of the judiciary can't pull off the occasional zinger in their reasons for judgment.

Southin was last in the news when it was revealed that her chambers had been refitted with a special ventilation system to allow her to smoke in her chambers. B.C. taxpayers had to cough up close to $19,000 for the retrofit to satisfy the self-described inveterate smoker.

Of course it took the Canadian Alliance's numero uno self-promoter, Randy White, no time at all to scream bloody murder over the ruling. No doubt White was angered by any suggestion that the laws on Mary Jane are irrationally draconian. White, for those readers unfamiliar with his past record, thinks that former U.S. drug czar and recently disgraced public scold William Bennett was a bit of a wet on the whole drugs thing.

White has long defended the right of elected officials, not judges, to make drug policy. Then again, he also hasn't been above criticizing his fellow elected pols over the decision to decriminalize marijuana. He also warned Vancouver mayor Larry Campbell not to go ahead with a series of harm-reduction initiatives to deal with the city's injection drug problem.

Never mind the fact that White's constituency is nowhere near Vancouver culturally, and only somewhat close geographically, and that the people of Vancouver voted in their new civic government by a sizable majority. The rules about elected officials making those decisions are different here, you must understand. The fools in the City of Vancouver (including your correspondent) can't be trusted to elect their governments, and our government needs the wisdom of Randy White.

If that's the case, then maybe Randy should have stood for election in Vancouver in 2002, and let the people of Vancouver decide on the merits of his ideas for a drug strategy. Five dollars says that Randy and Company wouldn't have done too well in the big bad city.

Grandstanding over principle, eh. That just about sum it up, Randy?

Finally in media news, the bilious voice of knuckle-dragging Alberta conservatism is no more. The magazine best known as the Alberta Report is going to cease publication, mainly for financial reasons. Seems that there weren't enough advertisers and subscribers to keep the darned thing afloat.

My goodness -- it appears that the magazine that promoted the primacy of the free market in matters economic (and some sort of conservative Protestantism in matters social) has been given the middle finger by Adam Smith's invisible hand.

Maybe they should have kept on sucking on the federal teat after all. Say what, you say? Until earlier this year, the Report was getting nearly $400,000 annually from Heritage Canada's Publications Assistance Program. In other words, a magazine that regularly derided government support of the arts and culture through grants was... a recipient of a sizable grant designed to support Canadian publications. Earlier this year, the Report's owners announced that they were no longer going to take the grant money -- in part to appear less hypocritical.

So for now, we in the media biz bid adieu to the finishing school for many of Canada's conservative journalists, writers, and opinion-mongers.

Citizens Centre press release announcing that the fill-in-the-appropriate-name Report has pulished its last.

Reactions: Report senior editor and blogtopia celeb Colby Cosh gives his quick take on the end of the Report and his new status as a freelance journalist. Given Cosh's tremendous output (and skills at research and putting together readable pieces), I suspect that he'll be in decent stead. Perhaps the National Post could use a new columnist, now that Christie Blatchford's jumped ship to the Globe and Mail? Hey, there's also pogey, and surely one's employer folding is a decent reason to submit an unemployment claim.

Apologies for the absence. Blame a busy schedule and the excellent weather in Vancouver over the last four weeks. When it's this nice out, the last thing that I want to do is sit around indoors and stare at some computer screen blogging. Maybe if I had a laptop and unlimited high-speed wireless Internet... a guy can dream, can't he?

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