Archive for category Idiots

Inappropriate & disproportionate cultural appropriation

If it weren’t for Ashu Solo, recognition for Saskatoon’s most stupidly sensitive person would have to go to Erica Lee, who objected to a Hawaiian-themed fundraiser because, well, let her tell you:

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The poster showed a darkhaired, bikini-clad, apparently American tourist – an image the group took from an old airline advertisement for Hawaii. Within 12 hours, a new Tropical Night poster instead featured a palm tree.

U of S student Erica Lee, an Idle No More activist and one of the event’s critics, said she might not have realized the problems with Hawaiian imagery had another student not brought it to her attention.

“It’s something that’s so pervasive in our culture. We think of Hawaii and we think of flower leis, we think of grass skirts and sexy hula girls,” she said.

“It’s like having any other racial or ethnic groupthemed party. It’s something that seems like a fun and harmless idea but there are Hawaiian scholars that feel really passionately about not being represented in such a commercialized way.”

The history of Hawaii includes aboriginal people who were violently settled and had customs banned, she said.

The hula dance was formally banned for a period in the mid-nineteenth century following pressure from Christian missionaries, and later regulated by the state.

“For so long we oppressed them and didn’t let them do it, and now people in the West will take that and commercialize it.”

Oh, for crying out loud. Let’s ban any event just in case there’s someone who might possibly be offended because of past injustices.

So long, St Patrick’s Day, as it might (and probably does) offend an Irishman (sorry, Irish “person”).

Do pobačennja to Saskatoon’s “King of Kielbasa” festival, just in case this sausage celebration might harbour up grim memories of the Ukrainian famine.

Skuttle all Dragon Boat races. Don’t you know the Chinese were culturally exploited?

Don’t you dare forget about the debilitating effects of alcohol on those indigenous people who were forced to sell their island to the Dutch the next time you order a Manhattan cocktail.

And considering the culturally-appropriated name of this shitty, racist, Eurocentric hellhole, if you want to set off fireworks this Canada Day, you should take off, you hoser.

Racist.

Racist.

I’d like to think I’m being facetious, but considering that this topic produced an “uproar” (which the media defines as one person making a big deal out of nothing), I wouldn’t put it past Ms. Lee to keep raising stinks on such matters.

Notice that she doesn’t have an issue with indigenous cultures appropriating and benefiting from the trappings of “European” culture, such as medical immunization, or forged steel, or parliamentary governance, or central heating. No, her concern is limited to the appropriations by the “privileged” from the “unprivileged”, regardless of how the unprivileged might have benefited from the exchange, as if they would be, by net, better off had the cultures never merged or conflicted at all.

Perhaps she’s right on this, that indigenous cultures are presently, on the whole, worse off because of colonialism, etc. And as such I patiently wait while the non-European indigenous cultures around the world shed their woven-textile garments, shut off their electric lights, park their cars, and return to the land.

In any event, the article noted that the images and language used by the Arts and Sciences Students Union wasn’t exploiting the indigenous Hawaiian culture but was pointing back to the idealized island culture of the 1950s or ’60s. Her argument is akin to criticizing fifties-era sock-hops because white kids like Sam Phillips appropriated rock ‘n’ roll from African-Americans. In other words, it is so removed from the actual incident of injustice as to be ludicrous.

Even if you don’t agree with her precise concern, one might argue that all she wants to do is “create a dialogue,” as seen below:

But that doesn’t work either, because usually a “healthy dialogue” between two parties doesn’t start with a premise that one side is racist, QED.

In the end, Ms. Lee isn’t fighting for a “healthy dialogue” and her issue isn’t with the existence of disproportionate power, but rather that this power isn’t hers:

As a political studies and philosophy major at the U of S, Lee is living what she studies. She says her school work hasn’t suffered despite immersing herself at the very root of this national grassroots movement. Lee, who is the first person in her family to finish high school, refuses to let her grades slip.

“It’s important for me to finish and get into a position of power,” Lee said.

Indeed, and as this incident has shown, she’s well on her way.

UPDATE: Speaking of cultural appropriation, this is pretty funny.

As is this.

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Straw-man con man

David Simon, television producer of The Wire and a noted economic philosopher (but I repeat myself), has something to say about the evils of capitalism, which is the sole source of all the evils of society today.

Evil capitalist, as portrayed by David Simon

Evil capitalist, as portrayed by David Simon

In a recent rambling presentation, he tells us his solution to the “horrors” of society is a mixture of capitalism and socialism/Marxism, which makes about as much sense as you might expect. Here’s a snippet:

Mistaking capitalism for a blueprint as to how to build a society strikes me as a really dangerous idea in a bad way. Capitalism is a remarkable engine again for producing wealth. It’s a great tool to have in your toolbox if you’re trying to build a society and have that society advance. You wouldn’t want to go forward at this point without it. But it’s not a blueprint for how to build the just society. There are other metrics besides that quarterly profit report.

As if, in a capitalist society, people only care about the bottom line to the exclusion of all else. A straw-man argument if there ever was one.

I discovered Simon’s diatribe on the Facebook page of an old friend, a Rhodes Scholar, proving once again that one would have to be highly educated in order to believe something so stupidly incoherent.

I’d say read the whole thing, but I am not a cruel man.

Instead, the antidote comes from this must-read post by Roger Kimball:

As F. A. Hayek points out in Capitalism and the Historians, an extraordinary collection of essays he edited and published in 1954, “The widespread emotional aversion to ‘capitalism’ is closely connected with this belief that the undeniable growth of wealth which the competitive order had produced was purchased at the price of depressing the standard of life the weakest elements of society.” This picture of economic depredation, notes Hayek, is “one supreme myth which more than any other has served to discredit the economic system [capitalism] to which we owe our present-day civilization”…

Not a day goes by without lamentations about the evils or limitations of capitalism emitted by some of capitalism’s most conspicuous beneficiaries. Barack Obama, for example, speaking in Kansas a couple of weeks ago, chided the “certain crowd in Washington” that believed “the market will take care of everything.” Of course, that is rhetorical overstatement; we all know what he means. Do we want big government, high taxes, and intricate regulation, or do we want lean government, low taxes, and the minimum regulation consistent with public safety? Or consider Does Capitalism Have A Future? a collection of essays by “a global quintet of distinguished scholars,” published by Oxford University Press, arguing that the capitalist system is teetering on the brink of collapse and it’s a good thing, too, because the socialist system that may ensue will be far better. It’s an hysterical (not in the sense of “funny”) volume, full of tired Marxoid clichés about the “internal contradictions” of capitalism and impending ecological crisis, but it is also a thoroughly typical product of the comfy intellectual caste that has enjoyed all the benefits of capitalism without bothering to understand what has made those benefits possible.

Despite this anti-capitalist narrative, however–a narrative we hear repeated by “progressive” politicians and iterated in more barbaric, polysyllabic strains by academics everywhere–the capitalist system has made possible over the last century, and especially in the last several decades, the greatest accumulation of wealth in the history of the world. England was the crucible of this modern prosperity in part because of the freedom of economic activity that it, unlike the states of continental Europe, enjoyed. And that freedom, in turn, and again unlike the continent, was underwritten by the limited government England also enjoyed. “The rapid growth of wealth” in England in the early nineteenth century, Hayek observes, “is probably in the first instance an almost accidental byproduct of the limitations which the revolution of the seventeenth century placed on the powers of government.” We’ve been working diligently in this country to remove those limitations. How far will we have to sink before the people once again rise up and repudiate the elites who wish to fetter them in manacles forged by statist overreach?

Kimball quotes T.S. Ashton on the Rev. Philip Gaskell, saying he is someone “whose earnestness and honesty are not in doubt, but whose mind have not been confused by any study of history.”

Which we could easily apply to Simon.

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Letter to the Editor

Saskatoon’s most sensitive man lectures us on freedom of expression (published Dec. 28, 2013):

In response to my civil rights case about Saskatoon Transit putting Christmas messages on buses, local churches have purchased Christmas advertisements to be placed on transit vehicles.

I support them being able to do that. I think this is a good alternative to the city promoting Christmas and Christianity on its own. Now that churches are buying their own ads to promote their religion, they shouldn’t care if Saskatoon Transit Services doesn’t promote Christmas on programmable bus signs.

There are more than 10,000 religions, 150 of which have one million or more followers not including branches of each religion. The city can’t promote all religions or promote all religions equally, so it should promote none. Also, people’s taxes should not go toward promoting a religion they don’t believe in.

Like churches, if other religious groups or individuals want to buy ads that promote their religion, they should be free to do that. Likewise, the Centre for Inquiry Canada should be free to buy ads that promote atheism. That’s what freedom of expression is all about.

Ashu Solo

Mr. Solo’s support for freedom of expression would have more credibility if he wasn’t also threatening to use the power of the state to silence the voices of duly elected officials such as Randy Donauer.

Also misguided is Mr. Solo’s view on the so-called “separation of church and state”. He seems to believe that this principle ought to ensure the state has nothing to say or do with religion whatsoever.

This is completely wrong. What this principle suggests is that the state should not coerce citizens to practice a particular form of religious belief. If a government wishes to endorse a certain religion over another, it may do so as long as it does not hinder a citizen’s right worship as he or she chooses. If citizens feel the government should not observe religious practices, the remedy can be found in the ballot box.

It is this distinction which Mr. Solo fails to appreciate in his campaign to wipe out any form of religion in public life.

Be that as it may, the city of Saskatoon is hardly “promoting” Christianity with its bus banners as much as it is commemorating a beloved cultural institution which transcends Christianity and is celebrated throughout the community by Christians and non-Christians alike. (Note that this would be different if the banners read “Have a Merry Christmas … or else!”)

If Mr. Solo truly believed in his cause, he would focus his intolerance on actual state-coerced religious observances, such as the mandatory Christmas Day holiday. Good luck to him on that one.

UPDATE: The letter was published on January 3.

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Henry Louis Gates, Jr. is sophistry gone berserk

Capitalism was slavery gone berserk.

Only a Harvard-tenured professor could say anything so stupid and unmoored by reality and get his own documentary series on PBS.

For many of us, Henry Louis Gates, Jr. was the guy who over-reacted to a police officer responding to a call at his door and ended up having a beer with the president for some bizarre reason.

"Down that beer like you down the chains of social injustice."

“Down that beer like you down the chains of social injustice.”

For the cultural and academic elite, Skip Gates is a distinguished scholar and social critic with impeccable credentials in blaming Whitey for everything.

His documentary follows this tack:

Slavery in the United States was once a roaring success whose wounds still afflict the country today.

So says Henry Louis Gates, Jr., who examines both its success and shame in The African Americans: Many Rivers to Cross, his new PBS documentary series that traces 500 years of black history. “Slavery is a perfect example of why we need limits on the more unfortunate aspects of human nature,” he says. “Slavery was capitalism gone berserk.”

Here is Gates’s reasoning: capitalism is bad, slavery was bad. Ergo, capitalism = slavery.

He is a lot more nuanced than that, of course. He sees that one group makes a lot of money during slavery, therefore capitalism was involved in some way. QED.

One could just as easily say that “slavery was socialism gone berserk.” You see, on a small scale, a plantation was like a place where everyone worked for a higher purpose, and everyone (save for the minority elite) was treated exactly the same. It’s a specious analogy, yes, but so was Gates’s.

Or, you could say that “slavery was communism gone berserk.” No one, save the elite minority, had rights and everyone worked “from each of his abilities” to the “needs” decided by the central authority. This analogy holds more true than the previous one, because where ever it was implemented, communism was essentially slavery.

Slavery – “the supreme hypocrisy” – was always an essential ingredient of the U.S. experiment. White Americans always drew heavily on the labour, culture and traditions of blacks while denying them due credit in exchange, not to mention their human rights. The father of the United States, George Washington, was one of its largest slave owners, even as one of his slaves, Harry Washington, understandably fled to join a British regiment and fight against the patriots.

Gates lives in a world without objectivity. Otherwise, how else could he redefine “capitalism” to mean work without wages, where parties don’t freely exchange goods, services or resources?

“Because of the profound disconnect between principles of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution and the simultaneous practice of slavery, we’ve had historical amnesia about slavery,” Gates said in a recent interview. “We still see the effects, and feel them.”

Even the site for the U.S. capital city – Washington, D.C. – was chosen to accommodate the mighty bloc of Southern slave owners.

The African Americans doesn’t fall prey to white scapegoating. For instance, Africans practised slavery long before white Europeans cashed in, and Gates journeys to Sierra Leone, where he visits with Africans whose forebears profited from it.

And therein lies the weakness of Gates’s argument. There were Africans who profited from slavery, then as well as now. Yet places like Sierra Leone never flourished economically, either during the slave trade or after. Slavery never brought prosperity in Africa.

Likewise, slavery wasn’t a product of capitalism in the United States (nor was it socialism or communism). The institution was a part of the agrarian, mercantilist, neo-feudal South. Slaves played the part of indentured servants, plantation owners the minor feudal lords.

Wealth came about via ownership of fertile property, and despite slavery, not because of it. Initially, the prime agricultural areas of the South created plenty of valuable products and fostered a fast-growing population.

However, the Industrial Revolution coincided with the American, which led to the North’s economy booming past that of the South. Slavery kept the South from succeeding. Not only was the institution abhorrent in both nature and practice, but it was counter-productive to the ends of its proponents.

The fact that the abolitionist North far outpaced the slave-owning South eludes Gates. He simply doesn’t see his contradiction, nor does he consider how true “capitalism gone berserk” in the North during the latter half of the nineteenth century created wealth and opportunity for everyone, including those blacks escaping the Jim Crow South.

Speaking of Jim Crow, does Gate even realize that those laws were passed by government because legislators sought to restrict berserking capitalists from hiring or serving the upstart black population?

Sorry, that was a stupid question. Of course he doesn’t realize this, because to realize this would up-end his grand narrative, not to mention his plan to indoctrinate every schoolchild in America with this historicistic tripe.

Gates should stick to drinking beer.

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Kooky Suzuki

David Suzuki, not satisfied with merely taking Canadian taxpayer’s dollars in order to spew his misanthropic stupidity, participated in a public question-and-answer forum recently on the taxpayer-subsidized Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

Humans are maggots, baby

“Humans are maggots, baby.”

Posted below are a few snippets of the reaction to the appearance.

From the left-wing Media Watch:

The Canadian geneticist was given the podium to himself, in an honour previously granted only to Bill Gates and a handful of Australia’s political leaders.

And even his supporters must have been disappointed…

When challenged on the claim that global warming appears to have slowed or paused over the last 15 years Suzuki seemed somewhat surprised… So why was Suzuki given the stage all to himself if he is not a climatologist and is not across the subject?

Suzuki supporter davrosz:

Love David Suzuki, but sad ABC #QandA is spreading doubt about climate science again. Why do we keep having this ridiculous conversation.

The Daily Telegraph‘s Miranda Devine:

David Suzuki’s appearance on the ABC flagship program Q&A spelled the death of any credibility left in the fag end of the climate alarm movement.

The Herald Sun‘s Andrew Bolt:

The only rational response to Suzuki’s astonishing admission of utter ignorance would have been to say to him: “Sir, you are a phony and imposter. Get off the stage and don’t waste our time for a second longer.”

Anthony Watts at Watts Up With That?:

How in God’s name could people take this man seriously?

Climate blogger Joanne Nova:

The man is emphatically an activist who might as well be innumerate. He is unburdened by data, evidence or logic. Why is the ABC giving him such a hallowed space, which is usually only given to PM’s?

Australian blogger Don Aitkin:

What in blazes does he know? And why on earth is such a know-nothing given pride of place on a top ABC talk show? I expected a tough, well-informed, competent scientist. What I got was a feeble apologist. From a sceptical perspective the event was a success: Suzuki is such a dreadful exponent of the faith that  I would think he loses twenty supporters every time he answers a question.

The Sun News Network’s Ezra Levant:

Last week in Australia, David Suzuki did something he hasn’t done before: He allowed himself to be interviewed in a situation he did not control.

It was a disaster.

Saving the best for last, don’t forget to check out Ezra’s beautiful five-part summary of the Suzuki appearance (part 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5).

Insert your favourite responses to the Suzuki meltdown in the comments below.

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And those who can’t teach?

Well, pace Woody Allen, they still teach.

I’m Facebook-friends with my old hometown high school science teacher, Steven Allen (no relation to Woody), who also doubled as a vice-principal at the time. He’s a nice enough guy and have nothing against him personally. But I never thought much of him as a teacher nor as a vice-principal. He always extolled the virtues of David Suzuki and the leftist cause (later he became very active in the Saskatchewan Teachers Federation), and his theories on student discipline were often dubious and occasionally mocked.

It was in no small part due to Mr. Allen that I left home and attended a private Catholic residential school (at considerable cost to my parents), which resulted in a dramatic turnaround in my academic performance and my eventual acceptance to engineering school. So thanks for that, Steve.

A couple of years ago, he sent a friend request, so I accepted. Because I’m friendly. He just posts the typical radical leftist drivel you’d see at any union rally, universities and other conformist progressive camps: “Harper is evil,” “Bush is evil,” “inequality is evil,” etc. Don’t get me wrong — reading this stuff doesn’t really bother me because I like to know how the other half lives and thinks. I just don’t agree with one iota of propaganda he’s pushing, and I tend to leave his commentary be.

Today, Mr. Allen linked to this opinion piece on how Bill Gates and his zeal for standardized testing are destroying education or something.

Mr. Allen posted a quote from the article on his Facebook page and, instead of getting into an argument on his Facebook page, I thought I’d paste the quote here and then rebut below:

Gates seems not to know or care that the leading testing experts in the nation agree that this is a fruitless and wrongheaded way to identify either good teachers or bad teachers.

So how do we identify good teachers or bad teachers? No one seems to know.

Student test scores depend on what students do, what effort they expend, how often they attend school, what support they have at home, and most especially on their socioeconomic status and family income.

Not “most especially” on what they do or how hard they try; it’s about the money, honey.

Test scores may go up or go down, in response to the composition of the class, without regard to teacher quality.

If teacher quality doesn’t matter, then why don’t we outsource public education to Mexican immigrants and save us a few bucks?

Students are not randomly assigned to teachers.

No, just arbitrarily by the year in which they happened to be born.

A teacher of gifted children, whose scores are already sky-high, may see little or no gains.

What about those gifted students who are getting poor marks because of a lousy teacher? And what if sky-high marks are because of a certain teacher?

A teacher of children with disabilities may be thrilled to see students respond to instruction, even if their test scores don’t go up.

Because the primary goal of education is to “thrill” teachers.

A teacher in a poor neighborhood may have high student turnover and poor attendance, and the scores will say nothing about his or her quality.

Coincidentally, Mr. Allen criticized the cancellation of the mandatory long-form census.

But all will get low marks on state evaluation systems and may end up fired.

Because the other primary goal of education is to prevent teachers from getting fired.

Look, I’m no expert. I’ve worked with enough statistics to know that data is useless unless it’s treated carefully. It’s not the quantity or quality of information that’s available but, rather, how it is applied toward a particular end.

If standardized testing were the only method being used to evaluate educational performance then, yes, I’d agree that it wouldn’t be the best tool or even a good one. But I hardly would think that this data would be used in this manner.

If the data found, instead, that there were trends (key performance indicators or KPIs, in corporate lingo) which pointed the way to a possible problem and potential solution, then why not test to certain standards?

Put it this way: teachers already assign midterm and year-end finals, don’t they? Wouldn’t these tests be considered “standardized” if they are exercised annually by the same teacher using the same course material? Even if we recognize that these particular tests would be performed locally, they still would be used on different cohorts which, as Mr. Allen pointed out, may vary based on their composition. So what’s the difference?

The difference is, of course, that standardized tests could actually point out to taxpayers and parents that some teachers aren’t as good as others and, as Mr. Allen put it, we’d consider firing “them all.”

Another consideration is that teachers aren’t compared to their counterparts in comparative schools. Not only does this imply a lack of accountability, but it doesn’t also help the teachers who are struggling in their role, who might need more resources for skills training to do their jobs better or to provide a stronger educational environment.

After all, if an industrial corporation finds a lagging KPI, they don’t just fire the person responsible. They would look at the underlying causes, such as the person’s level of skill, oversight, or resources to do the job. This way, if the problem persists, the accountability would start from the CEO and work its way down to those implementing the program. The whole company would be invested in the solution.

But since teachers are told by their union that they’re somehow special, that these tried-and-tested methods don’t somehow apply to them, our schools aren’t going to get any better and the kids will continue to suffer.

And those shitty teachers will continue to teach until they exercise their defined-benefit pension plans.

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Creative Dissonance

If you ever want to know if Gerry “The Finger” Klein wrote the StarPhoenix editorial (and who wouldn’t?), just look for the buzzword “creative” or its variants in the text. The Finger is a disciple of Richard Florida, the increasingly discredited “creative cities” “expert,” and as such uses every opportunity to propagate the ideology.

Here’s what The Finger wrote in the September 18 editorial:

The mayor’s other defence of the automobile – that the only way to convince more people to live and play in the downtown is to have more cars on its roads – is counterintuitive to anyone who has walked in a successful urban centre. It is when there is a dearth of automobiles that streets come alive. That’s when there is more room for street vendors, outdoor restaurant tables, more casual walking. However, even successful urban cores require access for people who live in the periphery. And in a city such as Saskatoon, which is still a long way from having the kind of rapid transit options available in Calgary or Edmonton, which can bring people to the core without their cars, there will long be a need to facilitate the automobile.

Check out the “dearth of automobiles” in the living streets of New York…

nyc times square

“Hey, I’m walkin’ heah! I’m walkin’ heah!”

…or Tokyo…

Granted, they're driving on the wrong side.

Granted, they’re driving on the wrong side of the road.

…or Las Vegas…

"Yeah, but the real fun is downtown," said no one ever.

“Yeah, but the real fun is downtown,” said no one ever.

…or, closer to home, Edmonton’s Whyte Avenue…

where they only burn phone booths during Oiler playoff runs (i.e. once a decade)

where they only burn phone booths during Oiler playoff runs (i.e. once a decade)

…or Calgary’s Red Mile.

Ditto for the Flames

Ditto for the Flames

If anything, it’s a dearth of dearth of automobiles.

It’s obvious The Finger doesn’t get out to successful urban spaces much, but does he even read his own paper? This is from the September 5, 2013, StarPhoenix:

"Pedestrians cross at a crosswalk on Second Avenue between 20th and 21st Street East in Saskatoon, August 24, 2013. "Photograph by: Liam Richards, The StarPhoenix"

“Pedestrians cross at a crosswalk on Second Avenue between 20th and 21st Street East in Saskatoon, August 24, 2013.
“Photograph by: Liam Richards, The StarPhoenix”

It is dusk on Second Avenue, and the air smells of cigarettes. Groups of young people gather outside the pubs and restaurants that line the street, laughing and chatting. A woman in a dress sits on a nearby bench asking for change in a high-pitched voice. Cars circle the block looking for a parking space.

It’s a Friday night, and this street is alive and buzzing. The after-work drink crowd is slowly being replaced by nighttime revelers who have chosen this street — and more specifically this block — for a night out on the town.

Again, emphasis mine.

What The Finger and other “pedestrian-friendly” advocates don’t get is that the walkways themselves aren’t the destination. They’re a means to an end. What draws people to urban spaces are their own desires and goals: a night out with friends, a new movie at the multiplex, a great band coming to town, a fancy dinner.

They need to get to these places.

A fancy new ped- and cyclist-only bridge would be fun for those wanting to go for a nice outdoor jaunt, and I get that. But that in itself doesn’t make a space “come alive.” This goes especially for a ped bridge that would merely connect an older residential neighbourhood filled with people who look like this to the downtown. And even then only when the weather cooperates.

Not shown on the bridge: hordes of pedestrians and cyclists

Not shown on the bridge: hordes of pedestrians and cyclists

Every new bridge has to be accommodating to pedestrians and cyclists. I agree with that sentiment. And I also don’t have any problem with creating public infrastructure with a pleasing aesthetic, especially if it is to be a particular landmark near the centre of the city, even if it costs (a little bit) more.

My issue is with those self-anointed elitists who adhere to a particular lifestyle that suits them to the disregard to others. For me, I want to get downtown, and I’m not about to ride a bike or jog just so I can have a few beers with the boys.

The best use of public funds is to ensure that public infrastructure benefits citiziens in the broadest way possible. Excluding the 90% of people who wouldn’t cycle or walk downtown normally is a poor use of taxpayer dollars.

Not that this would concern the “green” lobby one iota anyway.

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