Fast & Curious: Short Takes on Random Things

In love with Mary Brown?

It is far too early to announce the winner of the “Weirdest Result of COVID-19” award but Wednesday’s announcement by Postmedia — the American hedge fund-owned, Canadian government-assisted, 200-plus outlet media chain that includes the National Post — is on my longlist for now:

Like most news organizations, we have been asking our readers to support our journalism by paying to access our content online. The only exception has been coverage of the coronavirus pandemic, which we have been offering outside our pay wall as a public service.

Now, we are pleased to offer all of our relevant, credible news and information free of charge, thanks to a partnership with the Canadian company Mary Brown’s Chicken, which is based in Markham, Ontario and has about 170 locations coast-to-coast…

Thanks to Mary Brown’s partnership, you can consume as much content as you want without being asked to pay until the end of April.

I like the implication that readers will still be asked to pay for all its non-relevant, incredible news and information.

Postmedia offered no details on the “partnership” — as some have noted, it might involve payment in chicken for all we know — but this isn’t an April Fool’s prank, the content is free and Postmedia is somehow being compensated for making it so. It’s churlish, I know, but I would suggest Postmedia’s hedge fund owners could probably manage this without the support of a purveyor of fried chicken — they’ve probably figured out a way to profit from the pandemic by now. That is, after all, what hedge funds do — see “activist” investor Bill Ackman’s spectacular $2.5 billion coronavirus win.

I’m curious as to what this means for media outlets like SaltWire that pay for Postmedia content (although I’m not seeing much Postmedia content in the Cape Breton Post these days — just Reuters — which is probably all I need to know to satisfy that curiosity).

I hope Mary is treating her workers right — paying them well, supporting them if they need to self-isolate, ensuring cooks and delivery workers take all possible precautions and have all possible protections.

If she’s not, I don’t imagine we’ll be hearing about it from Postmedia.



What better way to pass your time at home than by learning about Modern Monetary Theory (MMT)?

Described by Bloomberg Businessweek as a “once-fringe school of economic thought that’s suddenly of the moment,” MMT represents a “paradigm shift” in the way we think about debt and deficits.

Here’s how Bloomberg describes it:

MMT proposes that a country with its own currency, such as the U.S., doesn’t have to worry about accumulating too much debt because it can always print more money to pay interest. So the only constraint on spending is inflation, which can break out if the public and private sectors spend too much at the same time. As long as there are enough workers and equipment to meet growing demand without igniting inflation, the government can spend what it needs to maintain employment and achieve goals such as halting climate change.

If you’ve heard about MMT at all, then you’ve heard about one of its chief proponents, Stephanie Kelton, a professor of economics and public policy at Stony Brook University.

I really recommend the lecture below, in which Kelton introduces the concept and explains how both the political right and left in the US (and elsewhere) are in thrall to what she calls “the deficit myth” and how we can break the spell.



Ocean playground

Moira Donovan has a thoughtful piece in the Halifax Examiner about coastal access in Nova Scotia.

She takes the COVID-19 pandemic (which I had hoped to avoid discussing in Fast & Curious this week, but which keeps forcing its way into everything) as a starting point, but then moves beyond it to a broader discussion of ocean access in this province.

Bras d'Or Lake

Donovan writes:

Two weeks ago, as normal life began to shut down and Nova Scotians flocked to beaches for weekend distraction, many people pounced on pictures of long lines of cars at Crystal Crescent Beach and elsewhere as a sign of people failing to respect social distancing…

But while these measures are necessary to protect public health, some are asking whether the images of crowded beaches — and the government restrictions that followed — are also highlighting the ways in which Canada’s Ocean Playground is not living up to its name.

Donovan quotes a statistic I knew but that astounds me anew each time I read it: nearly 90% of this province’s 13,300 kilometers of coastline are privately owned.

So some people are able to take solitary walks on the beach — an excellent thing to do when the world around you is in turmoil — but most must make do with post cards from Key West.

I think about this a lot in terms of the Bras d’Or Lake, because I travel between Sydney and St. Peter’s frequently in summer and I notice how little access the public has to this beautiful body of water: you can go to East Bay beach or Big Pond beach, but other than that, I can think of only one stretch of that roughly 65-km drive where you can stop your car (or your 18-wheel truck) for a quick swim.

Donovan’s article explains how the province once attempted to address this, developing plans “that would increase access to, and recreational opportunities on, the coast,” and how these plans came pretty much to naught.

It’s a very good piece.

And it really made me want to go to the beach.