Monday, February 27, 2006

Is the middle east still relevant?

Amid the latest bombings in Amman, the civil war in Iraq, the permanent discord in the Israeli/Palestinian dispute and a host of perhaps lesser yet equally and seemlingly solutionless issues, does the middle east have any relevance in the gobal village? Has the daily menu of dead women, children and the elderly simply become as dull to TV and internet audiences as say a soap drama that has run on too long?

George Bush may be accused of many things, but foresight would not be one of them.

He foresaw that he could somehow save the world and enrich his supporters in the oil and gas industry in one move. Now he foresees that he needs to cozy up to the United Arab Emirates for reasons known only to himself' perhaps it is the simple fact that for all the chaos we see in the middle east it is also home to many businessmen who could run circles around any US business on any given day. For a man who acts out with such purpose on our TV monitors every day, it is clear now (to some it has always been clear) that he has no purpose at all. He is of little use to his own nation and is simply an irritation and an embarrasement to those nations who are forced to feign friendship out of legacy to the United States. Americans today must be counting the weeks and days to his departure from public life and the world stage.

Regretably, once he is gone, his own legacy will be that he spent $3 trillion dollars on removing a single man from power, Saddam Hussein. Economists and even humanists may find this price a trifle rich. And for all of that where exactly is Osama Bin Laden holed up. The safety of the six ports that the Dubai-owned company wishes to acquire is safer than congress thinks as it may well be that Bin Laden through the normal mechanisms available to international entrepreneurs, is a shareholder of P&O. Bush is surrounded by men and women who, one would have thought, have been trained to "think things through". While this may work for some, it is of no significance if the boss sees thinking as an impidement to "mission accomplished."

If Bush had been thinking from the outset he would have, for instance, been a promoter of fuel conservation rather than fuel invasion. The question is not; why did the US elect George Bush? The real question is; why did the Republican Party allow Bush the candidacy? Notwithstanding the difficulties the US has as a nation (now so more than ever) how is it that from battalions of highly educated and skilled men and women they cannot find an individual who can lead with confidence, not arrogance, and kindness, not patronage?

The US and Britain, along with a handful of smaller players, has left the middle east in disaray. The sooner they remove themselves from the middle east theater, the sooner calm will return. There can be little sense in fighting when the goal is pride. What would constitute a victory for the coalition? US style democracy? Just how democractic is democracy in the US? Should we believe that life in the US is somehow more enriching and fulfilling than life in say Europe, South America, Australia? What is it that makes regime after regime in the Whitehouse believe that we should all follow their lifestyle? And if Iraq is an example of the price for this privilege, I'd warrant that the price is simply too high.

The middle east is relevant as partner to the west, but it needs space to determine its own future. The lessons of the past have not been learned; Iran, Iraq, Israel, Palestine should never have been influenced by Europe, particularly the British. It is too late for the those who have died over the decades, but it will never be too late for the west to remove itself and its archaic ideas from the middle east.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

The Zoo

I went to the zoo.

It's a jungle in there.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

A BETTER MAPLE RIDGE 2010? And other musings.


Public Areas

1 All overhead wiring needs to go below grade (Hydro, Telephone, Cable and ancillary).

2 All street lighting needs to be upgraded throughout the District – current lighting standards are hazardous to old and young as the many deaths on our streets testify. There is not enough light on the street, making it easy for crime and hazardous for foot traffic (given that the district is part of a campaign to make Maple Ridge ‘walkable’ one would think that it would pay more attention to detail such as lighting).

3 Crosswalks need to be properly lit and signposted – this is obvious – it is only a matter of time before the next person is killed on a crosswalk – blame will be put on the driver or the pedestrian whereas the real blame lies with the District for poorly designed crosswalks.

4 General road repairs need to be undertaken all over, and while this being done to some extent, the program needs to be accelerated for the town to be up to snuff for 2010.

5 Shop keepers and landlords on the niche retail strip on the Lougheed need to add hanging baskets, awnings and similar devices to make the downtown shopping area more attractive.

6 Permanent task force hired by the District employed to do nothing more than remove shopping trolleys and sundry unsightly garbage from the streets.

7 The District urgently needs to change its attitude towards financing sidewalks. Over the years a policy of coercing developers into carrying the financial burden of sidewalks has become part of the District’s culture. This needs to change so that public sidewalks and services are constructed in a planned, consistent and contiguous manner and that the financial burden is born by the District/Tax payer.

The Development Community

1 Construction standards in Maple Ridge meet the allowable standards under Building Code in BC and generally comply with Canadian standards. As result new home buyers are not receiving value for their money. “Adequate” simply won’t do in the future. Far above adequate is where architects, developers and builders should be aiming. The current construction boom is having a negative impact on standards in BC – Maple Ridge seems content to follow the herd on this. It is unlikely anything is going change and home buyers should be prepared for lower standards as time progresses. We are seeing smaller livable areas, poorly built (if not hazardously built), using cheaper materials and sold at higher prices. Home buyers are being taken to the cleaners.

2 It may be tempting to think that homes are improving – dollar for dollar we are worse off than ever – overpaying for below standard homes. At the same time neither developers nor builders are making much more than net 10-15% on a home, so there do not appear to be any winners – excluding the lenders of course.

3 The age (beginning in the pioneering era) of combustible construction should be drawing to an end, but on the contrary is accelerating – this needs urgent attention. On a similar note – in the UK for instance, certain groups are trying to encourage similar construction that practiced in Canada. Presumably this is because timber-frame is quick and cheap, thereby reinforcing that buyers are indeed not getting value for money. If developers prefer ‘quick and cheap’ then that is what the buyer is getting; a product that is quick and cheap. This holds little promise for the neighbourhoods built in this way. Local government has to ask itself what these neighbourhoods will look like in 50 years. Interesting that we plan for the future through such devices as the livable regions plan, OCP and so on, but we never ask ourselves ‘how will what I am doing today (as opposed to planning) look in decades to come. Our perspective is narrowed and limited by the fact that we find it hard to extract ourselves from the present when we plan. We respond to our present instinctively. Land owners, developers, realtors, builders, consultants are interested in today’s profits as much as local government is focused on fiscal health. Government competes with companies and individuals for the same pot – often the community suffers as a result.

Friday, February 10, 2006