Fast & Curious: Short Takes on Random Things

C’mon MANS

I’ve been noticing the Mining Association of Nova Scotia (MANS) tweeting up a storm lately. The tweet threads — some of which are as long as my arm — can be divided into two main categories:

The first — I’ll call it the “Ain’t minerals grand?” category — involves insinuating that if you oppose the mining of anything, anywhere at anytime what you are actually opposing is the things we require minerals and metals to produce: tinfoil, electricity, Oscars, the gold-plated copper records we sent into space on in 1977 “to teach aliens about Earth.”

This last is a particularly fine example of the genre:

Thanks to indestructible gold, the records are expected to last forever, making them the longest-lasting objects ever crafted by human hands.

Except, they were “crafted” in 1977 and they have not yet lasted “forever,” so if you still have that ashtray you made in industrial arts in 1976, you’re winning this competition.

Also, MANS is literally arguing that mining is important because it supports our efforts to communicate with aliens.


MANS’ other theme is the glorious history of mining in this province. The problem with this (I bet you already see it coming) is that the history of mining in this province, like the history of mining everywhere, is pretty grim and even MANS, which never met an open pit it didn’t love, can’t do much to dress it up.

Take, for example, the multi-tweet account of mining in Port Hood it churned out on Feb 8, highlights of which included deaths, floods, explosions and mine closures. (To its credit, MANS at least seems to know better than to celebrate the halcyon days of low wages, long hours, child labor and environmental degradation, none of which get a mention.)

That mining eventually came to be a safer and better-paid occupation in this province was thanks to a combination of union representation and government ownership, neither of which MANS is likely to celebrate — in fact, MANS would be more likely to give you an argument about this because the other thing about the MANS twitter account is that it really likes to argue. (I had found a good example of this, MANS telling a woman if she didn’t like “Nova Scotia trivia” — i.e., the fun fact that Sydney Mines used to be called “Lazytown” because the women would go back to bed “for some extra sleep” after sending their men off to the mines — she should probably not follow them. Unfortunately, when I went to copy the tweets, I found they had been deleted.)

Weirdly, MANS isn’t the only quarrelsome extractive industry social media account on my radar this week — the head of Alberta Premier Jason Kenney’s energy ‘war room,’ the Canadian Energy Centre, had to apologize for (and delete) tweets from the Centre’s account attacking the New York Times for a story about “global financial giants” backing away from funding oilsands projects.

I hadn’t realized what a stellar reputation @CDNEnergyCentre, which claims to speak on behalf of “the energy resources” of Alberta, has been building for itself:

The MANS account doesn’t let the curtain slip quite this badly — it sticks to the royal “we” and claims to speak for the 5,500 people employed in Nova Scotia’s mining industry rather than for the minerals and metals themselves.

MANS also differs from Kenney’s outfit because it is not an official arm of the provincial government, although MANS (and its offspring, MRANS, the Mineral Research Association of Nova Scotia) do receive generous financial support from the Province of Nova Scotia (see this November 2019 Joan Baxter article in the Halifax Examiner), some of which is used to lobby that same provincial government.

Frankly, I’d be more worried about MANS if I thought it were good at what it does, but it’s really not. If your raison d’etre is convincing Nova Scotians that mining is great, reminding them that an explosion in a Port Hood coal mine once killed 10 men — four of whom were Bulgarians so newly arrived no one knew their names or how to get in touch with their families back in Bulgaria — is a strange tack to take.

But maybe the hearts and minds of the people aren’t as important as the ear of the provincial government, which MANs certainly does seem to have.


Golly, Bloomberg

Michael Bloomberg’s entry into the race for the Democratic presidential nomination has left me as close as I ever get to speechless.

All the numbers involved are basically beyond my comprehension — I can’t wrap my brain around an out-of-pocket $350 million advertising blitz let alone a $60 billion personal fortune.

But beyond the dizzying numbers, I’ve also been puzzled by the number of US mayors who have endorsed Bloomberg — including three in California, a state where, according to the Guardian, 85% of residents have a negative opinion or no opinion at all about the former New York mayor.

The explanation, it turns out, is that Bloomberg has been feeding and watering a little crop of mayors for years, waiting until the time was ripe to harvest their endorsements. As the New York Times explained back in December:

As Mr. Bloomberg traverses the country as a presidential candidate, he is drawing on a vast network of city leaders whom he has funded as a philanthropist or advised as an elder statesman of municipal politics. Bloomberg Philanthropies, which has assets totaling $9 billion, has supported 196 different cities with grants, technical assistance and education programs worth a combined $350 million. Now, leaders in some of those cities are forming the spine of Mr. Bloomberg’s campaign: He has been endorsed so far by eight mayors — from larger cities like San Jose, Calif., and Louisville, Ky., and smaller ones like Gary, Ind., representing a total of more than 2.6 million Americans.

Bloomberg also funds the Bloomberg Harvard City Leadership Initiative, which the Times describes as “a prestigious boot camp at Harvard that gives the mayors access to ongoing strategic advice from Bloomberg-funded experts.” Each year since 2017, 40 lucky mayors from around the world are chosen (by the gold-ticket-in-chocolate-bar method, I believe) to undergo an entire year of instruction from Mike and his experts.

Bloomberg’s goal is to train 240 mayors from all over the world, which sounds like dystopian science fiction to me — 240 sleeper Mini-Mikes, just waiting to be called into action.

If it does prove to be a Bloombergian plot for world domination, we’ll have a front row seat because Halifax Mayor Mike Savage. attended that prestigious boot camp in 2018 (look closely at the picture above, the shot of what seems to be the “angry surfing” class).

In July 2018, Mayor Savage joined the Bloomberg Harvard City Leadership Initiative, participating with 39 other cities from around the world in a collaboration among the Harvard Kennedy School, Harvard Business School and Bloomberg Philanthropies to equip mayors with the tools to lead high-performing, innovative cities.

And last October, Bloomberg Philanthropies picked up the tab to fly Savage to Washington, DC for something called the CityLab/Mayors Innovation Studio:

Calgary’s Naheed Nenshi, Saskatoon’s Charlie Clark, Winnipeg’s Brian Bowman and Edmonton’s Don Iveson have also been chosen for the program, but looking the map of participants to date, I say whatever Bloomberg has planned starts on the Eastern Seaboard.

You have been warned.



School’s out

I have a strange relationship with poetry.

It’s one of those things I just don’t get the way many people do. This makes me jealous and vaguely cross (I’m not proud of this, I’m just keeping it real).

As pre-teens, my cousin and my sister and I, inspired by L.M. Montgomery’s heroines who could recite poetry like it was their job, decided to each commit a poem to heart. I — for reasons I cannot begin to fathom — chose “The Charge of the Light Brigade.” (It’s one of those facts about my younger self that make me think I could pass her on a narrow foot bridge and not recognize her.)

Along the way through high school and university, I would occasionally encounter a poem (“Out, Out--‘ by Robert Frost,”Dulce et Decorum Est” by Wilfred Owen, “An Arundel Tomb” by Philip Larkin) that I really liked and that gave me hope that my taste for poetry might be like my dreamed-of vegetable garden — something I will cultivate when I retire.

So I was very pleased this week to encounter another such poem, courtesy of another cousin, who posted it to Facebook.

It’s a nice reflection by poet Brad Aaron Modlin on the things you don’t learn in school called, “What You Missed That Day You Were Absent from Fourth Grade” and I’m feeling cheeky, so I’m dedicating it to anyone who gets bent out of shape about snow days…