November 26, 2016

The Better BC Rally ~ the first of the campaign

It was billed as a Better BC Rally and it came at the end of a Provincial Council meeting of  New Democratic Party leaders and activists from throughout BC (of which your faithful scribe is one).

Over five hundred people queued outside Ballroom A at the Pinnacle Hotel in downtown Vancouver. It was hot in the lobby, but that was nothing like the heat felt inside the ballroom once things got going.

We were greeted by a sign that will become ever more common at public events in the coming years, especially at political rallies where the public is the actual backdrop for the event itself. No longer are there any places in which to feel a sense of privacy because there are cameras everywhere and everyone is sharing photos without getting anyone's permission. Still, the sign did seem a wee bit harsh to our lawyer, and friend, B.T. Mendelbaum (disbarred).

The crowd was warmed up with speeches by new candidate Anne Kang, and the young-but-not-new MLA Spencer Chandra Herbert. Anne is running in Burnaby-Deer Lake, while Spencer rules the West End.

Jinny Sims spoke, given the difficult task of asking for money. Asking for donations is unfortunate, but essential, especially in a province where foreign donors, wealthy Realtors and rich corporations buy their audiences with the Premier. That's one of the reasons this huge crowd showed up ~ to work to end the influence of big money in politics. So, Jinny was given a tough job, and she did it with style and humour, and on May 9th she will become the new MLA for Surrey-Panorama.

Finally, about the same time as B.T. Mendelbaum almost passed out from the heat, the star of the afternoon appeared, our next premier, John Horgan. And the phones were busy.

John is an interesting guy. He appears to be very comfortable in his role as leader, and he shines when speaking one-on-one or in small groups. In larger settings, like this one, he delights in the energy of the crowd. In this speech, at the first big rally of the campaign, John was easy-going to the point of diverging from the teleprompter on occasion and simply riffing about the topic at hand. Nice touch that.

His speech hit the key points that mattered to this crowd, and probably to most of us: jobs, health care and education, affordability, good government and the environment. 

John's address was serious, angry at times, delivered with a great sense of humility and a natural sense of humour. Brilliant thought B.T. Mendelbaum, regaining their composure and glad they were dragged to this thing after all.

The end of the rally came with John's obligatory selfie, trying, as always, to get as many people in the picture as possible. And after sixteen years of an entirely different approach to government... that's a refreshing concept.

Photos by Jeem. Copyright 2016 by Jim Murray.

November 05, 2016

Fear and loathing America

All of us knew this would be a strange presidential election.

We knew it when Bernie Sanders refused to allow the established order to anoint one of its own, and a bunch of kids joined his crusade. It reminded me of Gene McCarthy's kids in 1968. Bernie's campaign was probably the best thing that happened in the strangeness of this election cycle.

We had to know that something terribly wrong was happening to American politics when a band of right-wing lunatics challenged the Republican Party establishment, and won. It wasn't just the rise of Donald Trump, in fact in those early days, he seemed almost moderate in comparison to the strangeness of Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio and Ben Carson.

And now, just days away from the presidential election, there is a sense of panic, uncertainty and fear. The racism and sexism that infects and fuels Trump's campaign continues to ratchet up, and we are anxious.

In recent weeks a Ku Klux Klan newspaper endorsed Trump and white supremacists across America announced their plan for voter intimidation. At Trump rallies, supporters have shouted antisemitic abuse at reporters. In Greenville, Mississippi the Hopewell Missionary Baptist Church was set afire and 'Vote Trump' painted on its walls. Women have come forward accusing Trump of sexual assault, and a Republican official in Texas used the c-word to describe Clinton in a tweet.

Walls to keep some people out. Banning other people from entering. Criminalising abortion. That so many Americans would actually support such a deplorable candidate is mind-numbing. This is no longer a political divide between Republicans and Democrats, liberals and conservatives. No, this is an issue of decency and morality that all of us should understand.

We all know that bigotry and misogyny have been part of the US since its beginning. It's the bedrock upon which the nation was built, and it continues to this day. But to see this vileness in the mainstream of political discourse, is something else again. This is not a bad dream we can shake off the next morning. The people who feel they no longer need to hide their hatred aren’t going anywhere after election day, and the political masters who tapped into this marketing goldmine won't disappear either.

Obama and Clinton have suggested that America is better than all the hatred, racism, sexism and xenophobia that comes from Trump and his supporters. But it isn't. And no matter who wins this election, the nation remains the same. It's not Trump I fear, but America itself. It's not the day of the election I'm worried about, but all the days after.

Copyright 2016 by Jim Murray.

November 01, 2016

Matchstick Coffee on Main Street

Matchstick Coffee is a Vancouver roastery and coffee shop with three locations. The newest is referred to as Riley Park on their website, and it's within walking distance of Nat Bailey, the winter famers' market and Hillcrest Community Centre.

There's a Winnipeg thing going on here, or maybe the trendy coffee shops in Winnipeg have a Vancouver thing (Thom Bargen in Winnipeg serves Matchstick coffee).

Clean, relatively unadorned, minimalistic. Friendly staff, highly efficient and dedicated to the art of coffee making.

Matchstick Coffee Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Pastries are baked on site and the croissants are excellent ~ maybe not the best in the city, but excellent nonetheless. The coffee is superb. Not the most comfortable seating.

Photos by Jeem. Copyright 2016 by Jim Murray.