Characterized by long words; long-winded:
The sesquipedalian prose of scientific journals
Characterized by long words; long-winded:
The sesquipedalian prose of scientific journals
This. This is true.
not sure if that’s an accurate characterization of how “normal people” do it, but that’s exactly how I walk when I get water at night.
We knew it was time to curb Pickles’ Xbox time when he kept stealing strangers sleds.
I am not an expert on crowd control, police tactics, law enforcement, or the VPD. Neither are you. So neither of us should pretend that we know the first thing about how to assess how the VPD did the other night. Nonetheless, I am going to do exactly that.
First thing’s first, I believe that everyone, everyone, suffered from this ridiculous delusion that the city had “matured” a lot since 1994. Matured? What does that even mean? It’s not like we sent 1994-era Vancouver to military school to knock some sense into it. A city does not mature. A city is lines on a map. I’ll admit, somehow I managed to subscribe to this weird belief prior to Wednesday night. I thought that somehow, in some abstract and ill-defined sense, that the city had collectively grown older and wiser since 1994. It’s a lovely notion, the idea that we’ve all grown up a little since then, and we can look back at our former selves and laugh at the way we used to be. But Metro Vancouver is two million people, hundreds of thousands of whom were not even born yet in 1994, and hundreds of thousands more were under ten years old. “Vancouver” isn’t the same people that it was in 1994. It’s a completely different set of people. To say that an ever-changing set of millions of people has collectively “matured” over time, if you really think about it, just seems like a misuse of the word “matured”.
And we fell for it. Everyone did. Here’s mayor Robertson from the May 29th Globe and Mail:
I think the VPD have really got the security thing under great stewardship right now. From the Olympics, they learned a great deal about how to be positive and how to welcome people and make sure it’s a respectful energy on the street. I’m confident the VPD have that managed. The people of Vancouver, I think, have matured a lot since 1994. Although there’s a lot of tension and expectation here, I think everyone wants to make this a positive experience.
In hindsight, it’s so obviously delusional nonsense to pretend that a city has collectively matured past the point of riots. Most of the people involved Wednesday night were not involved in the 1994 riots; in fact they were probably not old enough to drink (if they were even born yet). They don’t remember anything about it. What is the mechanism by which we imagine that these people learned some kind of lesson? Can it be described? A person learns a lesson. A city does not learn a lesson any more than happiness thinks or the number four falls in love.
So that weird misconception damaged our ability to plan effectively a little bit I think. From what I’ve read, the VPD were ill-equipped to handle a 100,000-strong mob jammed into a four block rectangle. The head of the Vancouver Police Union claims that there were no more than about 700 cops. If that’s true, then the cops were outnumbered more than 100-to-1 in the downtown core. For comparison’s sake, there were “16,000 police, military and private security personnel” on hand for the Olympics. Maybe that had a little more to do with our good behaviour in February 2010 than any amount of “maturing”.
It’s tricky though. What if the police presence was higher Wednesday night? What if the police were more visible? What if there were enough police to quell disturbances before they collectively metamorphosed into a full-blown riot? Luckily, the Olympics provided for us a fine natural experiment—there were lots of cops, and no city-destroying riot following the big game. Here’s the ever-terrible Georgia Straight with its commentary on how the VPD performed for that event (“Olympic no-fun police strike again in East Vancouver after Canada’s gold-medal win”, 2010/03/01):
The Vancouver Police Department further solidified its buzz-kill rep with its show of force in East Vancouver following Canada’s gold-medal men’s hockey win over the U.S. Sunday afternoon. Sidney Crosby had barely dropped his stick after his overtime goal when cops showed up on every intersection on East Hastings Street from Nanaimo to Renfrew. Some were in cars, and some were just standing on the corners.
[…] Vancouver Police Chief Jim Chu might be able to justify his nanny-state liquor-store closures by citing “family-friendly” platitudes, but nothing can justify the jackboot presence of police in a neighbourhood peacefully celebrating a national victory.
Our message to the VPD is clear, and I am sure that they hear it: “we hate you no matter what you do”. Really, if it is the case that the police presence was inadequate, we shouldn’t be surprised. As a city, we basically told them go fuck themselves for doing such a bang-up job at the Olympics. We told ourselves that our good behaviour was a result of the world-classness of our city, and how we were all so much older and wiser than we had been in 1994, and that the last thing that we needed was more police officers ruining our fun. For the record, I was downtown following the gold medal game, and in my opinion, the mood was enhanced by the police presence, despite how some people might have been mad about liquor pour-outs. I high-fived more cops than I think I’ve ever seen in my life.
Setting aside all of the speculation on whether there should have been more or less police presence Wednesday night, there does remain one fact which I believe speaks volumes to the performance of the VPD Wednesday night: no one died. I can’t believe that everyone isn’t talking more about this. Watch this video, and tell me that you would expect to hear that no one died:
I was listening to TEAM 1040 yesterday, and they had a remarkable call-in. A firefighter called in, who was assigned to work during the riot. He had special insight into what exactly the VPD was up to Wednesday night. His claim was that the VPD was absolutely invaluable in helping him to perform his job amidst the chaos. He talked about a car that had been set on fire directly underneath a power transformer in a back alley. He said that the police prioritized and got people out of the way of that, and cleared the way for them to deal with this incredible safety hazard relatively unfettered. It is unusual for fire crews to be given such hostile treatment as they work to save people’s lives, and it’s not easy for them to work while people are throwing cement at them, which he said that people were.
And that got me thinking. You see a car on fire in the middle of Granville street, and you think “this place has gone to Hell, where are the police?” But I think it’s possible that, as scary-looking as a car fire on Granville is, if it is relatively contained, and as long as people stay a few feet away from it, it is unlikely to cause injury or any more damage, relative to other threats. A car fire underneath a power transformer where people are actively trying to prevent firefighters from working needs police attention now; a car fire in the middle of Granville street, visible and scary and symbolic of chaos and mayhem as it may be, can wait until later. The VPD claims that they had a plan, and that they stuck to it. I believe them, and I believe it worked. They had limited resources, and some things are important to respond to than others. As far as I can tell, anyone who was injured made it safely to hospital, which means that emergency routes were kept clear. Car fires stayed car fires; they didn’t spread to destroy anything else. And the chaos was confined to a very small section of the city. The VPD succeeded in doing the things that prevent people from dying. And sure, the police may have been more effective if there were more of them, and the damage is devastating and embarrassing and generally hard for us to even understand, but I don’t think that anyone but the police can be assigned responsibility for the fact that no one died.
Watching the live riot footage from a friend’s apartment in Yaletown, I was shocked. I could not believe that this was happening to Vancouver again. Prior to it becoming a riot, the plan had been to go back downtown and experience the crowd, but we decided to kibosh that idea after the first few car fires started. Eventually though, the time came to go—we needed to catch the last Skytrain. So at around 11:30, we headed out into the abyss. And here’s the thing: it was fine. Don’t get me wrong, it felt surreal, but it didn’t feel dangerous. We walked from Yaletown down Richards to Dunsmuir, and once we got past about Robson street, the place looked like a war zone. There were riot cops everywhere, fire alarms were going off in what seemed like every building, the street was littered with broken glass and smouldering upside down cars (seriously), and for a good block and a half at around Dunsmuir and Richards, the windows of every single business were smashed in and merchandise strewn all over the street. But before we hit about Robson, Vancouver didn’t really look all that different. The damage really was contained to a pretty small area of the city. And as distressing and weird as it all was, I never felt like I was in danger. The rioting had stopped. Police were basically in control, and there were a lot of them. As long as you watched for broken glass on the road, it wasn’t really hazardous. And this was only about three hours after the rioting had started. I’m living proof that if you had just gotten out of the area for a few hours, whether you left Vancouver or just walked over to the West End or Yaletown or literally anywhere except Granville and Georgia, you would have had a perfectly riot-free experience. Hell, it was still light out. You could have gone to the beach and had a perfectly nice time. Anyone who claims that they stayed in the riot because they were blocked from leaving is full of nonsense. Maybe getting on the Skytrain at Granville station wasn’t easy, but you didn’t have to stay where the riot was. All you had to do was stay out of this little square:
In my view, and I should remind you that I don’t really know the first thing about police or crowd control, the VPD were hugely successful. That riot was extremely scary to everyone, but I believe that they controlled it admirably. There are approximately zero credible reports of police brutality or wrongful arrests or any of that stuff. The damage, while significant, was confined to a small area downtown. Most importantly, out of a hundred thousand people or more, only a few hundred were injured and not a single person was killed. I don’t think there is any greater testament than that to the admirable service that the Vancouver Police Department provided to the idiot people of Metro Vancouver.
I’ve seen this thing posted a few times in various places:
with the implication being that people from Surrey came downtown (how dare they), rioted, looted the Louis Vuitton store, and are now selling the stolen merchandise. So I checked to see if that makes any sense:
Nope. Turns out today and yesterday have been below average days for postings that match the search term “louis vuitton” in general, and not unusually high for postings from Surrey/Delta/Langley.
So stop it. Lots of people were culpable for what happened last night, and they came from all over Metro Vancouver. Many were from Surrey. Many were from Coquitlam. Many were from Vancouver (gasp!). None of us has any way of knowing whether any one group was overrepresented compared to another group, and while it might be fun, turning Surrey into a scapegoat obscures the issue. The issue becomes “how do we stop all these Surrey people from coming into our home and ruining everything” instead of “how do we stop everyone from going completely fucking crazy over the score of a hockey game?”
Lots of people argue,
It’s not true Vancouverites who were looting last night. Why would they? This is their home. It’s got to be the people who commuted here from the suburbs.
Well I have news for everyone: unless you live in the Fairmont Hotel Vancouver, the intersection of Georgia and Granville is not your home, even if you live in the City of Vancouver. It’s where people from all over Metro Vancouver come to get smashed. So stop pretending that it couldn’t be Vancouverites who were smashing in windows and setting cop cars on fire. You have absolutely no reason to believe that beyond some kind of tribalistic scapegoating.
Edit: fixed typos, wording
As you may have already read, I went to an HST open forum-debate-event-thing the other day. If you weren’t there, just watch an episode of Parks and Recreation where they have a town forum to get the gist.
The other day I pointed out one of the sneaky and underhanded ways that Bill Vander Zalm sneaks misinformation past an unsuspecting audience (ironically and unfortunately, I firmly believe that the people most fooled by these kinds of tricks are the very same people for whom HST is a superior option). Today I would like to talk about another.
Here is a quote from the Fight HST website, which is Bill’s podium to the world:
The HST always goes up
Once the initial inflationary adjustment from the HST is met by increasing wages, HST caused inflation can remain static until the tax is increased again – and it always increases.
In Europe, the HST (VAT) started at about 6% in most countries and now averages around 20%. In places like Denmark, Hungary and Sweden it is as high as 25%. Each successive increase in the HST (VAT) has set off a new round of inflation, and wages always lag behind the cycle of tax increases.
Ignoring the sourcelessness of the claims about the economic impact of the VAT’s in various European countries, why are we even talking about Europe at all?
The (extremely weak) link between the HST and European sales taxes is that they are both what are called a “value-added tax”. PST is not technically a value-added tax (although it is not that far off—more on that below). Bill’s logic is this:
1. Some European countries use a VAT
2. Some of those countries have a high rate of taxation
3. HST is is a VAT
4. Therefore, if we implement the HST, we will have a high rate of taxation.
Now, setting aside the structural invalidity of this argument (you can’t generalize from “some A’s are B and some B’s are C” to “all A’s are C”), the missing link in this argument is an explanation for why “VAT-ness” should lead to higher taxation relative to a different type of sales tax. In the same way that you can’t conclude from data on pirates and climate change that a decrease in pirates has led to an increase in world temperatures, you can’t conclude from the fact that these countries have both a VAT and high taxes that the VAT causes the high taxes. When event A happens at the same time as event B, it could be that A causes B, or that B causes A, or that C causes both A and B, or it could be a coincidence. In order to determine which of these you’re looking at, one of the best things to do is to try to imagine HOW one of those could be true. So to understand whether a VAT causes a higher rate of taxation, we should really try to come up with a story for HOW a VAT would cause a higher rate of taxation.
To do that, we need to be clear on what a VAT is. A value-added tax is, essentially, a tax on the final step in the supply chain. In principle it works like this: the farmer mills the wheat, and then sells the wheat to the baker, tax-free. The baker turns the wheat into bread and sells it to the grocery store, tax-free. The grocery store then sells the bread to me, and I pay HST on that final sale. Contrast that with PST, which in principle works by taxing each purchase in that chain, so that by the time the bread reaches my mouth, it has been taxed 3 times. Now in practice, that’s not exactly how PST works because the existing PST system has thousands of exemptions, so that lots of bakers and grocery stores have permission from the government to make their purchases tax-free as well. In fact, as an aside, these exemptions are implicit admission that a value-added tax is superior to a flat sales tax like the PST; if it wasn’t then there would be no exemptions.
There isn’t really anything specific about a VAT that shows why we should expect taxes to be higher with a VAT relative to PST. Like, I mean, the tax rate could go up, but it seems to me that there’s no reason to draw a direct causal link between the “VAT-ness” of a tax and whether the rate is high or low. It seems to me that a much more plausible reading of the situation in, for instance, Sweden, is that there is some third factor causing both the VAT and the high taxes. We could, for instance, look at the fact that in Sweden, government expenditure makes up over 50% of GDP—in other words, more than half of all the stuff bought and sold in Sweden is bought by the government. Being that the government has exactly one source of revenue—taxes—it makes sense that the rate of taxation should be high, regardless of whether their sales tax is a VAT or a different system like PST.
The most absurd thing about this particular facet of the Zalm’s ongoing assault on rational thought is that THE GST IS A VAT!! So, he is simultaneously arguing against a VAT, the HST, and arguing in favor of a VAT, the GST. Every single point that he uses to argue against the HST on the grounds that it is a value-added tax can equally be applied to the GST, which he favors. On top of that, as I mentioned above, there are all kinds of exemptions built in to the PST so that producers can get out of paying PST at intermediate levels in the supply chain. In other words, the PST is basically an inconsistently applied VAT itself.
I guess when you’re in politics for long enough, the part of your brain that hurts when you simultaneously believe two contradictory statements gets numb.
So I met Bill Vander Zalm yesterday at this HST public forum thing that they held at my school. He’s a pretty friendly guy. I noticed a lot of things about him, his argument, and the event itself, that I will go over in another post, but I think that this one thing deserves particular attention. Bill Vander Zalm loves the logical fallacy of equivocation. Let me explain.
Bill loves to talk about the fact that “the average person will pay $350 more per year in HST”. It’s a powerful sentence, and the source of its power comes from its equivocal nature. Equivocation is, as Wikipedia explains, “the misleading use of a term with more than one meaning or sense (by glossing over which meaning is intended at a particular time)”. The equivocal term in question is “the average person”. That term means different things in different contexts and to different people. Informally, the word “average” means something like “having qualities that are typical of one’s group”. I’m pretty average, I would say: I go to college, I drink coffee, I have an iPhone, it takes me about half an hour to run 5k, etc etc etc. I’m nothing special, just a pretty average guy. I think by this definition, and almost tautologically, everyone is “average”. That is, everyone belongs to a group, and that group is made up of people who have qualities that are typical of that group. College students are friends with college students, plumbers are friends with electricians, lawyers are friends with doctors, and any individual pulled out of one of those groups will by definition possess qualities that are typical of that group. So everyone can honestly say “I am an average person”, and it would be a true statement.
However, when Bill talks about “the average person” paying $350 a year more with HST, the source that he is quoting did not mean “average” in that way. “Average” in this context has a strict definition, and so the sentence means exactly this: “50% of British Columbians will pay more than $350, and 50% will pay less”. Of course, as Bill goes on about how much more “the average person” will pay under HST, he talks about all kinds of averagey stuff: how he goes to the supermarket with his wife, how he grows plants, how he watches the Canucks. Talking about these kinds of things reminds people that they are all “average people”, in the first sense of the word average. Once he’s primed your sense of averageness, he then reminds you that the “average person” will pay $350 more. You, having just reaffirmed that you are “average”, are now convinced that you will pay $350 more.
Unfortunately this trick works, and it works really well. The fact is that “the average person” in the second sense, by definition, makes $67,000 (source) in British Columbia. That is to say that 50% of British Columbians make less than $67,000, and 50% make more. So when Bill is talking about “the average person” who pays $350 more in that sense, he almost certainly is not talking about you. This is especially true given that his rhetoric is geared almost exclusively towards low income people—remember, if you’re low-income, then by the strict definition you are not average. I am fairly certain that there was almost no one at the event last night (Bill Vander Zalm excluded) who made more than $67,000 a year. So when he parrots this near meaningless fact about the $350, it doesn’t even apply to any of the people that he is talking to.
If Bill Vander Zalm were honest (he isn’t, and I am going to take this opportunity to insert the phrase “Bill Vander Zalm liar” right here in case anyone Googles that search term) he would say “Certain reports suggest that you will pay an additional $350 in HST this year if and only if your salary is $67,890”. That is a lot less vague about who it affects, and it is true. But Bill will never ever say that, because British Columbians who make $67,890 per year are not his target audience, and fighting an extra 95 cents per day in taxes for people who make almost 70 grand is really not a very compelling cause.