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Business Items

30 Nov. 08: Kwantlen Polytechnic University is proposing a new "farm school" in Richmond. Dr. Kent Mullinix, of the university's institute of sustainable horticulture, told city council members that the school would be "the only program of its kind in North America" and that it would address the drastic shortage of new farmers in the Lower Mainland. Read the entire story here.


24 Nov. 08:  Great news for Kwantlen Polytechnic University: The university has received a $250,000 donation from The Richberry Group. The gift marks the single largest donation received by Kwantlen Polytechnic University and the Institute for Sustainable Horticulture. Peter Dhillon, the president and CEO of the Richberry Group of Companies, remarked, “We are very pleased to announce our continued support towards agriculture with our donation today to Kwantlen Polytechnic University.” Dhillon, Canada’s largest cranberry producer, is one of the largest shareholders of Ocean Spray Cranberries Inc. — a co-operative that generated US$1.68 billion in 2006 and has a 70 per cent share of the global cranberry juice market. Read the entire story here.



10 Nov. 08:
The bloodbath continues on the TSX Venture Exchange.



12 Oct. 08:
What's going on with the Canadian dollar?



11 Oct. 08: The banking crisis has been hitting the TSX Venture exchange hard, as investors are dumping their investments to get whatever cash they can, leaving with tax losses they can write off with Revenue Canada or the IRS. With gold prices at historic highs, though, there are good bargains out there in the natural resource sector.


23 Sept. 08: I agree with Open Left: Things are getting a little suspicious about this "crisis."
  1. Why is it that the Bush administration declared "crisis" suddenly appeared during the final two weeks when Congress would be in session before the election? Is it maybe because, after the election, Congress would know it wasn't dealing with Bush anymore? This is, keep in mind, the final week when Congress has to deal with Bush at all.
  2. If this is such a sudden crisis, why is it that the Bush administration was drawing up the plan for this bill for months beforehand?
  3. Why is it that Congress is supposed to bail out many banks and firms that are actually quite successful and profitable right now, and not just those that are failing?
  4. Why is Paulson blatantly lying to Congress about oversight?
  5. Where did the $700 billion figure come from?
  6. Why is Paulson urging that debate on the matter be held after the legislation is passed?

The burden of proof should always be placed on those who are demanding a huge government bailout, not upon those who are skeptical that one is needed. And yet the questions keep mounting, with no answers in sight.

I am not saying that there is no need for government intervention. I am saying that the case for a $700 billion bailout is far from being made. Until the case is made, there is no need to go forward. We will elect a new President in 42 days. We will have a new Congress in 103 days. What is the rush? Why does this all of a sudden need to be done while the Bush administration is still in charge? The case hasn't been made, and answers are slow in coming, if they come at all.



17 Sept. 08:
Some of my departmental colleagues at Kwantlen Polytechnic University have been having a spirited discussion regarding an upcoming International Association of Business Communicators conference. The conference's theme: "Corporate Social Responsibility."

My colleague and mentor David Wiens shot off this email:
I cringe every time I see one of these 'Corporate Social Responsibility' seminars. The sole purpose of any business is to concentrate on delivering a product or service to customers at prices that create profit for shareholders/owners. Anything that weakens that focus hurts the company AND the way in which it already makes significant impact for good on society – good quality products and services at affordable prices; wages to employees; taxes to government. And how does one define 'social responsibility'? Any of the examples I’ve seen of so-called 'corporate social responsibility' is nothing more than feel-good window dressing to make leftist activists get off the company’s case. Not surprised IABC is going down this road because it is in fashion now, but it’s a waste of time in my view and shows a fundamental misunderstanding about how business impacts any society for good.

I tend to agree with David. I wrote him and my other colleagues: "
Right now I'd be happy with corporations showing *corporate* responsibility. The banking / insurance calamities in the United States are giving me the heebie-jeebies." Although I am not against corporations putting together enlightened social intiatives,  these initiatives do not interest me much, as far as business goes. My interest is in corporations following the rules already on their books.

Here's why: The Bre-X  fraud killed off a number of companies and almost killed off mine, my brother's, my clients'. Its directors neglected their corporate fiduciary responsibility as laid out by Canadian securities laws. Tens and tens of billions of market capitalization just vanished. People didn't have the money to invest and, if they did, they were too wary to do so for years. It was an awful time. (I started returning my own beer bottles! *smiles*)

Then the TSX and BCSC dramatically increased oversight -- but not so much regulation -- and, eventually, confidence in the market grew.

With the US banks and insurance companies, management and the directorship broke their own rules of governance by not acting on behalf of their shareholders: plain and simple. The problem wasn't lack of regulation but lack of oversight. 

One big problem with the current system in the States is that management is rewarded according to annual performance. The decision to go with subprime loans paid off for a couple years, beautifully so, and managers made a ton of money. This year their companies go out of business and nobody has to give the compensation and bonuses back.  Such a system makes short-term thinking and bad decisions too tempting.


10 Aug. 08: Coast Mountain Geological Ltd., owned and run by my brother -- Chris Basil -- and Gary and Heather Schellenberg, lost an employee, Frank Moehling, in a helicopter accident this week about fifty kilometres northeast of Prince Rupert, B.C. The accident also took the lives of the pilot, David Jeffrey Reid, and drillers Walter and Nicholas Bodnar. My prayers are going out to all of their families and to my pals and colleagues at Coast Mountain.



2 Aug. 08:
Mantle Resources Inc.'s 2008 diamond drill program, with two drill rigs, is well under way on its 100-per-cent-owned Akie zinc-lead property in northeastern British Columbia. To date, three holes (A-08-54, 55 and 56), for a total of 1,180.15 metres, have been completed, and two new holes (A-08-57 and 58) are currently drilling ahead at depths of 175 and 161 metres, toward proposed final hole lengths of 335 and 500 metres, respectively. The Cardiac Creek deposit has successfully been encountered in each completed hole over intervals ranging from 20 metres to 24 metres (core length). At present, one drill rig is tasked with testing the updip extent of the Cardiac Creek zinc-lead mineralization while the second is investigating the continuation of the deposit along strike to the southeast. The key objectives of the 2008 drill program are to determine both the updip and on-strike extent of the deposit as well as to better define the orebody in key areas. Information gained from this work will assist in planning for the 2009 exploration program that may include advanced underground drilling and sampling activities. It is anticipated that this year's drilling campaign will encompass approximately 10,000 metres of drilling in 15 to 20 holes. The contractor for the program is Rodren Drilling Ltd. of West St. Paul, Man.



1 July 08: Kwantlen Polytechnic University's first big news splash after receiving full university status: It bars a professor from conducting controversial research that had been approved two years earlier. Yeesh! Students are rightly supporting the professor and his work.  I love Kwantlen, but its administration has made a short-sighted move on this one.



13 June 08:
TNR Gold Corp's operator on the Los Azules property, Minera Andes Inc., has extended the area of copper mineralization 400 metres further to the north, on the portion of the property that TNR optioned to MIM Argentina Exploraciones SA (Xstrata Copper). Drill hole AZ-08-37A encountered 112 metres of 0.98 per cent copper within a larger zone of 217 metres of 0.77 per cent copper. This hole represents the largest interval of primary copper mineralization identified on the property to date. TNR Gold presently maintains a 25-per-cent conditional back-in right on the portion of the property TNR Gold optioned to Xstrata Copper.




27 April 08: New World Resource Corp. (TSX-V: NW) recently announced that it has commenced a regional exploration program on the Bonete concession of the company's Lipena copper-gold project. The work consists of a combination of geophysical and geochemical surveys, as well as prospecting and geological mapping. A minimum 260-line-kilometre ground magnetic survey is under way, and will cover the entire 6,000 hectares on 200-metre-line spacing with readings taken every 50 metres along the lines. Further detail gridding and measurements will take place over identified magnetic anomalies. Data from the initial ground magnetic survey (which covered the balance of the project area and was completed in 2006) indicate that the quartz tourmaline breccias of the Lipena project have a distinctive geophysical signature. The geochemical survey consists of rock, soil and stream sediment sampling, and is expected to be completed shortly.

In January it was announced that New World signed a joint venture agreement with Corporacion Minera de Bolivia (Comibol) with respect to approximately 6,000 hectares of Comibol's Bonete mining concession. The relevant portion of the concession surrounds, and forms part of, the company's Lipena copper-gold project. Comibol is the Bolivian government entity that controls all mineral exploration on state-owned lands. This partnership with the Bolivian government entity provided New World with the confidence it needed to resume exploration on its Lipena project.



22 April 08:
Premier Gordon Campbell came to campus today and announced that Kwantlen University College has been granted full university status. Its new name: Kwantlen Polytechnic University.
Time for new business cards!

School President Skipp Triplett said, 
“As a university, Kwantlen will be able to attract more charitable gifts, a larger share of research funding. Our new status will also help with faculty recruitment and it will improve our graduates' access to advanced degree studies. As a university, Kwantlen will play an integral part in Metro Vancouver’s Livable Region Strategy. By granting Kwantlen university status, the Government of British Columbia has brought multiple benefits to the fastest growing region in B.C. and will help B.C. achieve long term growth and prosperity.”



19 April 08: The Surrey Leader notes, "Students at Kwantlen University College have voted to remain members of the Canadian Federation of Students (CFS)." KSA Chairperson Nathan Griffiths had proposed Kwantlen leave the federation but said, “KSA is fully committed to respecting this democratic decision. We will ensure that Kwantlen students make the most from their membership in the CFS.” Mr. Griffiths is one of my students -- an excellent one. Although students voted against his cause, his campaign galvanized student debate at Kwantlen in a way I have never seen before. That is the real victory, in my opinion.



3 April 08:
Long-time Basil Communications Inc. client TNR Gold Corp. has announced the appointment of Kwantlen University College alum Jerry Huang to oversee its corporate communications activities. Jerry graduated with a Bachelor of Business Administration at Kwantlen and has had a successful career in private and publicly traded companies in a marketing, service and sales capacity. Prior to this appointment, Jerry was a senior advisor with a major Canadian bank, generating over $40 million dollars of secured equity and investments in 2007.




22 April 08: Premier Gordon Campbell came to campus today and announced that Kwantlen University College has been granted full university status. Its new name: Kwantlen Polytechnic University. Time for new business cards!

School President Skipp Triplett said, 
“As a university, Kwantlen will be able to attract more charitable gifts, a larger share of research funding. Our new status will also help with faculty recruitment and it will improve our graduates' access to advanced degree studies. As a university, Kwantlen will play an integral part in Metro Vancouver’s Livable Region Strategy. By granting Kwantlen university status, the Government of British Columbia has brought multiple benefits to the fastest growing region in B.C. and will help B.C. achieve long term growth and prosperity.”



19 April 08: The Surrey Leader notes, "Students at Kwantlen University College have voted to remain members of the Canadian Federation of Students (CFS)." KSA Chairperson Nathan Griffiths had proposed Kwantlen leave the federation but said, “KSA is fully committed to respecting this democratic decision. We will ensure that Kwantlen students make the most from their membership in the CFS.” Mr. Griffiths is one of my students -- an excellent one. Although students voted against his cause, his campaign galvanized student debate at Kwantlen in a way I have never seen before. That is the real victory, in my opinion.



3 April 08:
Long-time Basil Communications Inc. client TNR Gold Corp. has announced the appointment of Kwantlen University College alum Jerry Huang to oversee its corporate communications activities. Jerry graduated with a Bachelor of Business Administration at Kwantlen and has had a successful career in private and publicly traded companies in a marketing, service and sales capacity. Prior to this appointment, Jerry was a senior advisor with a major Canadian bank, generating over $40 million dollars of secured equity and investments in 2007.




23 Feb. 08: 
Today five stalwart, former students of mine (Oscar Astete, Kyle Mitchell, Cindy Parry, Jessica Tengco, and Agata Zasada) competed in the first round of the Canadian Evaluation Society's Student Case Competition. My role as "coach" in the dry runs was to give these young pros very basic support: a table, some food, some feedback, a bit of strategy. I had faith that they were educated, aware, and experienced enough to figure everything out after that.

I have had a recurring dream, over the past few weeks, in which one of the characters says, "You don't need supervision; you need *support*." During the competition today, alas, that support came from a distance: My students worked out of Kwantlen's Student Psychology Society office in Surrey. I've been sick, so I aimed my best vibes in their direction from my West End pad, providing advice via phone and email.  It could take about a month before we all find out whether the team makes it to the Finals in Quebec City. I've read the result of their work today, and I believe the five certainly deserve to go.





7 Feb. 08:
Northern Lion Gold Corp. (TSX-V: NL) has commenced a 3,000-metre diamond drill program on the company's 95-per-cent-owned Cercal licence and is continuing the 5,000-metre diamond drill program on its 100-per-cent-owned Moura licence, both located in southern Portugal. The company currently has three diamond drills running, with two situated within the Cercal licence and one on the Moura licence.




21 Jan. 08:
This morning the Board of Governors at Kwantlen University College announced the appointment of Dr. David W. Atkinson as the incoming President of Kwantlen University College effective July 1, 2008 for a five-year term. Dr. Atkinson’s university experience includes that of President and Vice-Chancellor at Carleton University in Ottawa, Ontario and prior to that, President and Vice-Chancellor of Brock University in St. Catharines, Ontario. (He left the Carleton position under mysterious circumstances.) He will replace Kwantlen’s current President, Skip Triplett, who has served as Kwantlen’s President since 1999 and is retiring on June 30, 2008. Dr. Atkinson says he was attracted to Kwantlen for several reasons: “It is a very exciting time to join an institution poised to become a very different and innovative university which places the needs of its students at the forefront of its activities. With outstanding programs in trades and technology, sought-after career-focused diplomas, and a broad range of undergraduate degree programs, Kwantlen defines a new kind of comprehensiveness that responds to the needs of students, the demands of the marketplace for skilled and educated graduates, and the interests of the communities which it serves. I feel enormously privileged to continue the momentum initiated by Skip Triplett.”




17 Jan. 08:
New World Resource Corp. (TSX-V: NW) has signed a joint venture agreement with Corporacion Minera de Bolivia (COMIBOL) with respect to approximately 6,000 hectares of COMIBOL's Bonete mining concession. The relevant portion of the concession surrounds the company's Lipena copper-gold project in southeastern Bolivia. COMIBOL is the Bolivian government entity that controls all mineral exploration on state-owned lands.


John Lando, the company's president and chief executive officer, commented: "Signing this agreement represents the culmination of months of negotiation with COMIBOL and the beginning of a very exciting chapter for New World. It is also a strong indication that the Bolivian government respects, and is encouraging, private investments within the mining sector. We believe our partnership with Bolivia's national mining corporation will strengthen the company's overall position in Bolivia. Equally exciting to New World is the fact that this part of the Bonete mining concession surrounds the company's Lipena project, which has shown very promising results from drilling completed to date. New World has the right to acquire a 75-per-cent interest in a joint venture on the Lipena project from EMUSA, a privately owned Bolivian mining company."




15 Jan. 08: The career of esteemed Vancouver securities lawyer Paul MacNeill, who died in December at the age of 53, is described in Stockwatch. Readers comment.



10 Jan. 08:
Since 1960, Big Sisters of BC Lower Mainland has been committed to enhancing the confidence, self-esteem, and well-being of girls through supportive friendships with caring women.  The Big Sisters program is aimed at prevention and intervention as research has shown that a warm, supportive relationship with a caring adult is a key factor in helping children overcome challenges in their lives over which they often have no control such as poverty, family distress, abuse, or loss of a loved one. Volunteer with Big Sisters and become a part of a young girl’s life. In the traditional Big & Little Sister Program, girls (ages 7-17) are matched with Big Sister volunteers (age 19 & up) in one-to-one friendships. Each Big & Little Sister match gets together once a week for 3-5 hours a minimum of one year. They spend time together doing fun activities they both enjoy such as crafts, sports, baking, watching movies and simply hanging out and talking. Attend the next Big Sisters Information Session to find out more – call 604-873-4525 ext. 300 or visit here for details.



 


 



Notes & Miscellany

31 Dec. 08: This has been a happy year for me. I'm very thankful for my friends (new and old), for my family and students and colleagues, for my nifty neighbors in Vancouver, and for the city itself.


26 Dec. 08:
I fall more deeply in love with Vancouver every day. It is completely enchanting covered by all this snow. The photograph below is the view of False Creek from the desk in my West End apartment. It's snowing so hard you can barely see the water.



25 Dec. 08: It's easier to forgive than to trust. (Jesus didn't trust Peter.)


21 Dec. 08:
I'll be making a quick trip to New York City next month to attend the wedding of two very dear friends. The ceremony and reception are being held in a posh French restaurant on the upper east side of Manhattan. The bottom of the invitation reads: "Cocktail Attire." When I first saw this, it occurred to me that this was a rare instance in which, while I did know the meaning of each individual word in the phrase, I did not know what the phrase itself meant. Usually as in the phrases "snow shovel," "vanilla extract," "artist-in-residence," "bowel movement," and "banana bread" the individual words point me toward the phrase's meaning safely.

At any rate, I assumed "cocktail attire" probably did not mean "wear what you normally wear when you are drinking cocktails," because that, for me, would mean a T-shirt and jeans, or, these days, a T-shirt and long underwear. Research has confirmed my assumption. Thus: It is time for me to visit The Bay department store. During this visit I will be wearing "Comfort Attire": ragged old black pants, a Kwantlen T-shirt, and a hoodie.



17 Dec. 08:
Overheard: Man: "When I take my bag of bottles and cans out to the back alley, I shake it and make a racket, then see which homeless guy runs the fastest." Woman: "How is it, then, that we are sharing a table?"



7 Dec. 08:
I've changed my primary email address to ProfessorBasil at gmail dot com



3 Dec. 08: Overheard: "Your goal is to say something as directly as possible, without saying anything of the sort."


25 Nov. 08:
Stanford University alum Richard Rodriguez is interviewed by Salon this morning. He discusses the mingling of religion, ethnicity, the family, and gay rights: "If the Hispanic Catholic and evangelical churches really wanted to protect the family, they should address the issue of wife beating in Hispanic families and the misbehaviors of the father against the mother. But no, they go after gay marriage. It doesn't take any brilliance to notice that this is hypocrisy of such magnitude that you blame the gay couple living next door for the fact that you've just beaten your wife.
" The entire interview is illuminating.


16 Nov. 08:
There was a demonstration yesterday at the Vancouver Art Gallery in support of gay-marriage rights. This view comes via Andrew Sullivan: "The speeches were heartbreaking today. One guy just left his brother newly diagnosed with cancer and a father diagnosed with a terminal heart condition and moved here. Why? Because his non US partner was not allowed to stay in the US with him. So they chose to move to Canada to be with each other. As for me and my partner, we are one of the 18,000 couples who recently married in California. As we are both US citizens, unlike many of our friends, we can live together in the US. However, until the day comes when we have equal civil rights as our straight neighbors, thanks but no thanks. Canada is now our new home. I cannot tell you how good it feels to have equal civil rights under the law.  It is more profound than I had ever expected or can explain in a few short words."



11 Nov. 08:
It has been slim pickings around basil.CA lately, I know. My workload at school -- teaching plus extra projects -- practically doubled in September and October.
(You can see the result of one project I helped coordinate recently here.) But now it looks like an actual vacation is about to begin. I am really going to enjoy this one. Primary goals (beyond getting some rest) include: Learn a bunch of new piano pieces; get a major writing project going; write more here; help a couple former students get some worthy websites up and going; oh, and lose some flab.


12 Oct. 08: 
Happy birthday, Jen!



8 Oct. 08: Facebook has hired as its new chief counsel the guy who was chief of staff to former U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez. If Facebook users didn't have privacy concerns before, they might entertain them now. (Hell, why not just shoot the moon and hire Gonzales himself? He's looking for work.)


7 Oct. 08:
Watching the Red Sox these days is like watching a sibling  for whom, after decades of psychotherapy, a suggestion has happened to have made sense.


23 Sept. 08: My son, Miles, turns 22 today. I'm very proud of the big guy. He's good to people and he works hard.


8 Sept. 08: 
I usually agree with Mike Niman.



3 Sept. 08: I like to read happy stories about my other hometown, Buffalo NY. Here's one called "Where the Urban Dream Is Going Cheap: What could possibly make someone want to leave New York and move to Buffalo?" In short, Buffalo gives you culture, smart people, opportunity, and very inexpensive rent and housing prices. Says one new Buffalonian: "I don’t miss my old life in New York. I only miss the life in New York I know I never would have had."


30 Aug. 08: The real name of Vancouver's notorious, night-crazy Pigeon Park is "Pigeon Square." It's certainly no park.  But it is a *place* to park: to park oneself, as it were. People do need that place.


22 Aug. 08: I like the Olympics, especially the track and field events. When the great Jamaican sprinters won the 4-by-100-metre relay yesterday, they broke a 16-year-old record held by Carl Lewis, Mike Marsh, Leroy Burrell, and Dennis Mitchell. Although Lewis dominated his events for fifteen years, winning medals at four Olympics (taking the long jump gold each time), he never set an individual world record. His insufferable egotism and rumoured homosexuality ruined his attempts to cash in on his achievements in the 1980s, but he kept on running and jumping and winning. He was beautiful to watch. (And he never dropped the baton.) I'm sad he lost his record.


17 Aug. 08: "Submission is one's only refuge against the wrath of God," someone told me in a dream this morning. (The rest of the dream seemed to be about beer.)


6 Aug. 08: “It is rare that your little blog, among the many things I read every day, is the item that makes me see red,” writes a long-time reader, referring to Jay Rosen’s critique of ABC News reporter Brian Ross, below. "Oh, well. It is still early.” Our reader explains:

I don't accept the assumption that government officials ‘misled’ Ross. As you know, I think the debate surrounding the decision to go to war in Iraq -- and the debate surrounding the debate -- is one of the most interesting and deliberately misconstrued arguments of our time. The second order of debate -- the debate surrounding the debate -- is all about how media and partisan spin has replaced a story that, in and of itself, was flawed. The intelligence was bad, but so far we have never been able to discover any government official lied -- i.e., deliberately chose to tell a falsehood, knowing they were misrepresenting facts believed to be known at the time. Yes, some spokespersons engaged in hyberbole (e.g., Rice's future conditional "mushroom cloud" reference), but the underlying threats of WMD were there -- at least the documentation of them.  That that documentation (the intelligence) was wrong, proving the arguments to be profoundly flawed, is entirely different than anyone lying. I loathe the "Bush Lied, People Died" meme, and all those who promote it.  

At the time of the anthrax attacks, there was open source speculation that the quality of the anthrax was sufficiently fine enough (allowing it to go easily airborne) that the milling required limited the possible production suspects.  Some speculated Iraq had that capability. I would bet you a dinner in your favorite Vancouver haunt that the government officials who talked to Ross SPECULATED this.  

Much worse, in my opinion, than the occasions of hyperbole by some government officials is the hyperventilating of such speculations by a stupid and irresponsible media. The whole exercise of your buddy is about going down a tendentious blind alley, while ignoring the completely disreputable practices and lack of professional norms of the contemporary media.



4 Aug. 08: Old buddy Jay Rosen is going after ABC News for having broadcasted government-provided lies about the 2001 anthrax attacks in the United States. He has three questions he wants answered:

1. Sources who are granted confidentiality give up their rights when they lie or mislead the reporter. Were you lied to or misled by your sources when you reported several times in 2001 that anthrax found in domestic attacks came from Iraq or showed signs of Iraqi involvement?

2. It now appears that the attacks were of domestic origin and the anthrax came from within U.S. government facilities. This leads us to ask you: who were the "four well-placed and separate sources" who falsely told ABC News that tests conducted at Fort Detrick showed bentonite in the anthrax sent to Sen. Tom Daschle, causing ABC News to connect the attacks to Iraq in multiple reports over a five day period in October, 2001?

3. A substantially false story that helps make the case for war by raising fears about enemies abroad attacking the United States is released into public debate because of faulty reporting by ABC News. How that happened and who was responsible is itself a major story of public interest. What is ABC News doing to re-report these events, to figure out what went wrong and to correct the record for the American people who were misled?


9 July 08:
The extradition of U.S. Army deserter Robin Long (below) to the United States is a dark moment for Canadian culture and law.



26 June 08: I was lucky enough to develop and teach a class called "Writing and the Bill of Rights" while at Stanford University in the mid-1990s. Now, so many years later, and happily living in Canada, I still (a) obsess over U.S. Supreme Court rulings and (b) test the patience of my best American friends on the subject of the Second Amendment, commonly known as the "right to bear arms" Amendment.  This morning's have-it-both-ways ruling on District of Columbia v. Heller is making me remember, with some emotional force, some old arguments.  Here is what the text of the Second Amendment says in full: "A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed."

It has always been suprising to hear
educated people argue that the word "regulated" meant the same thing in 1789 that it does today. It didn't.  A "well regulated militia" meant a militia that was properly equipped and "ready to go," as it were, not one that was expertly controlled by the government. The words "regulated" and "regulation" started to mean what they mean today only with the reformist administration of Theodore Roosevelt in the first decade of the 1900s. [Note to readers: Mr. Basil is not big on guns, just big on reading. -- Ed.]



13 June 08:
A pround son of Buffalo has left this mortal coil. Godspeed, Tim Russert. My prayers go to your family and to your colleagues at NBC, who must be beside themselves in grief right now.

Update: My friend Elizabeth Wilner, who was Political Director at NBC News from 2003 to 2007,  just emailed me this:  "
Something about the presidential race is going to feel unofficial from now on. It's like the biggest game ever played taking place without the ref." Update II: The City of Buffalo's flags have been ordered to fly at half staff. There is going to be a lot of drinking, and toasting, in Buffalo tonight. Russert was the epitome of Buffalo's spirit.


1 June 08:
Robyn Crook, a student of my sister Jennifer Basil, a biology professor at CUNY/Brooklyn, is in the science news. Jen's a magical teacher and mentor.



20 May 08:
That's my son, Miles Basil, summoning energy for last Saturday's commencement ceremony at SUNY/Geneseo. He graduated magna cum laude with a degree in biology. It was a very wonderful day.



10 May 08:  Can a person be vain about his or her own goodness and still be truly good? I have wondered about this for years. I think the answer is yes.


1 May 08: I'm looking forward to seeing my son graduate from SUNY Geneseo in a couple of weeks, but I'm not looking forward to crossing the border. An article by Edward McClelland, titled "So Long, Canada," in today's Salon describes what Canadians and Americans have lost with the United States' increasingly stringent border-crossing requirements. The author writes: I called Dick Hirsch, a public relations man who's lived in Buffalo all his life, and asked whether the stricter border had changed his habits. "Years ago, when I had clients fly to Buffalo, we would drive over to Canada, go to a Chinese restaurant, have lunch and be back in an hour or so," Hirsch said. "They were impressed with that. I am currently hooked on some cookies sold in Canada. When I exhausted my supply, I would drive over to Fort Erie. Not anymore. I now have a cookie connection, a guy who lives in Canada but works out in the gym I use." Maybe that's not $11.5 billion in lost trade. But it's one more American who no longer goes to Canada.

When I lived in Buffalo, first as a student and then as a young author and editor, my friends and I made that trip to Fort Erie for Chinese food all the time. The trip made for a fine date.


28 April 08: It was bound to happen: A professor sues his students for defamation. A snippet from a story in yesterday's Arkansas Online:

By last summer, on the same campus where he received high honors for teaching, research and public service during his 10 years as a law professor, Richard Peltz began feeling like “a pariah.”

His frustration over what he calls “false allegations of racism” by students and others had snowballed to the point that last month Peltz - a statewide authority on freedom of speech - filed suit against two of his students and others, alleging, among other things, defamation of character.

Academic freedom experts say that action demeans the protection of speech on college campuses. But according to e-mails and other memos written by Peltz and other faculty, the suit simply represents the latest move of a man determined to preserve his reputation.

Peltz, a professor at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock’s William H. Bowen School of Law since 1998, declined to talk about the case, as did his attorney, John E. Tull III, who occasionally has represented the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. None of the defendants, including two students, a representative from the school’s black law student association, the state’s black lawyer’s association or its president would comment specifically about the lawsuit.

Valerie Nation, one of the students being sued by Peltz, did say in an e-mail: “I am shocked and disheartened to learn that I have been sued by one of my professors at the Bowen School of Law.”

Peltz alleges that he was punished for views opposing affirmative action and for coming to the defense of a student who had been accused of racial discrimination.

“I am treated as a pariah. I am presumed guilty of the defamatory charges that have been leveled against me by students,” he wrote in a Sept. 13, 2007, e-mail to professor Ken Gallant, obtained by the Democrat-Gazette through a Freedom of Information Act request. “Students’ defamatory allegations, which the dean permits with impunity, are taken as gospel truth, and I am spat on.”



27 April 08:
Look at what my students will be learning this summer.


23 April 08:
I've been rated.



19 April 08: According to 24, the Vancouver Police department is preparing to hand out free wallets in the Downtown Eastside in an effort to curb bank robberies. "'There's an easy message to get: 'Rob a bank, go to jail,' [Police Deputy Chief Doug] LePard explained. 'We know a lot of these people aren't going to read the newspaper or watch the news, so this is our way of getting the message to them.' There's no guarantee the inexpensive public awareness campaign will work, but LePard said Vancouver police are 'willing to try anything.'"  Just like a tweaking drug user.



15 April 08:
From this morning's "Hit and Run": "A father-of-three who was found with a microscopic speck of cannabis stuck to the bottom of one of his shoes has been sentenced to four years in a Dubai prison." God knows what you'd find on the bottom of my shoes, considering where I stroll. You could probably have a party.



10 April 08:  This is my brother Chris' daughter Zoe on a recent trip into central BC to see Chris, a VP of a very successful mineral-exploration company, at work for a client. Click on the photograph to see the entire drilling crew. Zoe's a dynamo.




6 April 08:
Yabba Dabba Doo! The Stanford Women's Basketball Team beat favoured Connecticut tonight to make it to the NCAA Championship game. Because the game was not broadcast in Canada, I "watched" it via espn.com updates, and it was still thrilling. At Stanford in the 1990s, I had a lot of athletes in my classes -- they tended to be very good students -- and I followed many of the teams closely.

One of my star students, Marvice Thornton, now a successful elementary-school math teacher in the Renton School District in Washington state, managed the Women's Basketball team and generously provided her "Writing and Critical Thinking" instructor with tickets for floor-side seats for home games at Maples Pavilion. Those were, and these are, happy times. (Here and here are videos of Marvice talking about a recent, enlightening educational exchange with schools and students in Jordan.)



1 April 08: I had brunch on the Drive this Sunday with my buddies Shayne Forster and Jack Fox, founders of T-Bodies.ca. They're putting together a 12-month "Transman" calendar for 2009 "to promote trans awareness among all communities. We aim to highlight what it means to be a transman in our society, and the joys and struggles that go with it. We hope that showcasing female-to-male transgendered models using pictures and bios will provide some education into the lives of transmen."

When Shayne and Jack came to the table I showed them this weekend's cover-story in The Province, which explained that "Victoria is paying thousands of dollars in extra costs for B.C. patients to get sex-change surgery at a private clinic in Quebec, while a specially recruited Vancouver surgeon has been denied operating room time for more than two years." Shayne and Jack were well aware of this crazy, insulting system, of course, but the story gave our lunch its own odd flavour: some bitterness toward our government's bigotry, some hope that the lead story might itself "promote trans awareness" in our province. No link to the story's available, but Jack has typed it into his blog here.


21 March 08: Every time I take a night-time ride on the Skytrain, I have to remind myself of this fact: I get very little information regarding the character or the intentions of people by looking at them. Let me amend that: I get very little information that I can rely on to guide my actions intelligently or safely. My friends and intimates have always been much better at discerning a person's motivations visually.

Last night, on the train-ride back from school, I remembered an example of this. Years ago I had planned a delightful evening: I was going to introduce my fiancee to one of my best friends, who was in town for a visit. The three of us would meet up at a hole-in-the-wall music club in the Allentown district of Buffalo, NY, and have some drinks. We arrived at the club simultaneously and found a table. After my friend and my fiancee sat down, I asked them what they were drinking and went to the bar. Before the third bottle of beer was placed in front of me, my fiancee was tugging on my arm, complaining about my friend in very harsh terms. Then I noticed that my buddy was no longer at the table. We'd been at the bar for less than thirty seconds! What the hell happened?  I located my buddy, who in great detail tore apart my fiancee's character. Neither one of them recalled the other even saying a word.

Just by looking at one another, each antagonist had assessed the vices and the vanities of the other, with startling precision. It was almost like magic, even if neither saw any of the good that was also there in the other.

Oh:  Before the evening was over, my friend and fiancee came to agree, if separately, on one thing: My affection for the other demonstrated a terrible flaw in my own character; maybe they'd been wrong *about me* all along.  This has become a memory I savour.



17 March 08:
Pickings have been slim around basil.CA recently, I know. I've been doing a lot of reading, teaching, talking with neighbors, commuting, fiddling around, sitting on the couch next to my cat, obsessing about American politics, and playing the piano (Protestant hymns have been a recent obsession). But I haven't been writing much, even when it comes to email, my favoured mode of relating to the world. I also haven't been taking photographs, visiting the beach a block away, experimenting with soup recipes, or reliving my past. The change of seasons has come early into my life this year.


7 March 08:
Happy birthday, Mom!



24 Feb. 08: My department purchased Dragon Naturally Speaking software for me recently. This is a program that types up your words as you speak them. It is pretty cool, but I stopped using it after a couple of afternoons. I found that it was struggling to adapt to my vocabulary (that is, words I use sound like other words stitched together) -- and that, apparently, I say words differently depending on the moment's barometric pressure. I can type as fast as I think, so the software didn't make my life more efficient. I cannot, however, think as fast as I can *talk*, which explains what happens when I'm in front of my classes: Words are coming out in a loud rush while I clutch my water bottle, and I doubt anybody knows how surprised I am that they form sentences on occasion. I don't especially want to know what I do, and I certainly don't want to understand how it happens. Vanishing self-awareness has been the most magical part of getting older for me.


5 Feb. 08: "When you can't blame everything on being too busy, a lot of shit comes up."


24 Jan. 08: There are two kinds of hypochondriacs: Those who believe they are ill when they are not, and those who believe they are dying when they are merely under the weather. I am the latter kind, sometimes unpleasantly so.


15 Jan. 08:
When it comes to fostering moral and humane conduct, courtesy is superior to compassion. It certainly springs from a deeper well.



6 Jan. 08: My buddy John Glionna's recent articles on China, published in the Los Angeles Times, have taught me a lot.  This morning, in a story about capital punishment in that country, we learn that "Facing pressure before the Olympics, Beijing's policy is to 'kill fewer, kill carefully.'" Glionna adds (subscription required): "[S]tudies [by criminal justice experts], relying on interviews with lawyers and defendants, paint a bleak picture: There are no juries, police have unchecked powers and forensics are rarely used in reaching verdicts that vary wildly depending on region, party influence and a defendant's connections. Sixty-eight offenses, including such nonviolent crimes as tax evasion and pornography distribution, carry the death penalty. Officials are considering reducing the number of crimes punishable by execution, but say corruption, bribery and national security violations might still lead to death sentences."


3 Jan. 08: As this website enters its seventh year, I've updated the basil.CA archives.


 


Arts & Letters

18 Dec. 08:
Ted Rall's work is universally dyspeptic. His comics remind me of H. L. Mencken, whose contempt for American culture and politics somehow never depleted the creative joy found in all of his work. (Mencken once wrote, "Every decent man is ashamed of the government he lives under.
")



8 Dec. 08: Because of my unusual teaching schedule this school-year, I am starting a two-month break.  My goals: Learn some new piano pieces, write a ton, work with some former students getting websites going, and play with my new video-camera, the Flip. An early, very humble effort is called "Dig's Domain."



2 Dec. 08:
My buddy Richard Chon once described two of his former housemates as "mutually supportive jackals." I have always adored that phrase, and think of it when I run into bohemian couples on the make.  (In "The Scripture of Golden Eternity" Jack Kerouac wrote, "A big smile is nothing but teeth."
Ed.)


1 Dec. 08: Stanley Fish's essay collection "Is There a Text in This Class?: The Authority of Interpretive Communities" was a favourite of mine in my early days at grad school.  In his New York Times blog this morning he reviews UBC Professor (and Stanford PhD) Dennis Danielson's "prose translation" of John Milton's "Paradise Lost." While Fish cannot point out a single sentence in Danielson's translation of which he approves, Fish nonetheless recommends the work as a useful teaching tool and a "nice bargain in this holiday season":

The edition is a parallel one — Milton’s original on the left hand page and Danielson’s prose rendering on the right. This means that you can ask students to take a passage and compare the effects and meanings produced by the two texts. You can ask students to compose their own translations and explain or defend the choices they made. You can ask students to look at prose translations in another language and think about the difference, if there is one, between translating into a foreign tongue and translating into a more user-friendly version of English. You can ask students to speculate on the nature of translation and on the relationship between translation and the perennial debate about whether there are linguistic universals. In short, armed with just this edition which has no editorial apparatus (to have included one would have been to defeat Danielson’s purpose), you can teach a course in Milton and venture into some deep philosophical waters as well.



25 Nov. 08:  Jack and Shayne are on a roll.




11 Nov. 08:  My 12-year-old niece wrote this Remembrance Day poem last year and was kind enough to let me publish it here. An encore:

POPPIES

by Jade Dervla LaBelle

The poppies grow
atop the graves
The soldiers
with hearts so brave
Lie below
the ground and sleep
Where once dead
they're buried deep

The poppies grow
amid the death
where those long dead
breathed their last breath.
The sun shines now
as it did then
Over the heads
of those poor men

The poppies grow
on an old battlefield
The war-pocked earth
to flowers must yield
And the doves fly freely
above the ground
These peaceful symbols
in numbers abound.





8 Oct. 08: Jonathan Mayhew describes major changes in popular music.


30 Sept. 08:
I love Tom Tomorrow.