February 2011 edition

Re: Blue Bridge Coverage, 2010

Your solid reporting on the issues surrounding the Johnson Street Bridge replacement was a credit to the city. You provided vitally important, unbiased information that was blindly overlooked by other local media. I profoundly admire the stand taken by the editor and the magazine in response to the propaganda spread by the Victoria Chamber of Commerce. You have earned a dedicated reader with your journalistic integrity.

Anita Willis


Re: Secrecy and City Hall, January 2011

Although I do believe that we are well along the road to total control and are mired in pervasive manipulation of a passive population by government at every level, and that access to information by citizens and journalists is no longer possible without individual whistleblower action, reading “Secrecy and City Hall” recharged my sometimes completely depleted belief that change is possible. (I just don’t know how, yet.)

Along with Rob Wipond’s analysis of the Ministry shell game (“A Mess Fit for a Fascist”) that has been played for so long by Gordon Campbell et al to make information retrieval impossible, and to defeat citizens who attempt to track which Ministry of the Week is responsible for what in British Columbia, the January issue solidified my growing conviction that Focus has become a major journalistic force in Victoria, continually solidifying its status as a leader in journalistic integrity and courage. 

Thank you to Focus writers and contributors. Because of you, I look forward to every issue. I know it will be well-written, well-researched and fearless. 

Diane McNally


Re: A Mess Fit for a Fascist

Excellent summary of ministry reorganizations: expensive, demoralizing, inefficient, and done for hidden motivations. I went through many over the course of several decades working for, or contracting to, the government of BC. I would be quite surprised if anyone has actually done a cost study on these, but I am sure that the costs for even a one-ministry reorganization would appall people. The computer reprogramming costs alone are very high. That is at least a measurable sort of cost. The lost efficiency would be much harder to quantify.

Mike Zimmer


Re: Things To Come, January 2011

Few even of our avowed “realists” are brave enough to talk the truth, the reality of the time. In his January piece, Gene Miller has given us another fine though sobering column, coupling his appreciated flamboyance with, to me, an obvious truth. A simple question is posed for all of us: How would we respond to the type of invasion by desperate survivors of the collapsing American culture he describes? 

Roger Smeeth


I’m dismayed that one of Focus magazine’s regular contributors could provide its readers with such a distorted vision of what we Canadians can expect to come in future decades. In Gene Miller’s dystopian vision of the future we are warned that a host of despicable human beings straight out of the backwoods of the movie Deliverance are going to be surging across the border “by the millions” once the American political-economic system collapses (as though, if it did, ours wouldn’t!). These dreadful American immigrants will include “mouthbreathers...weaponized nuts with NRA bumper stickers, Republicans...and spooky evangelical Christians.” (The latter two groups get lumped in with drug dealers, “prison refuse” and “psychopathic road-freaks in Mad Max.”) 

Surely this piece has got to be one of the most vituperative, anti-American essays we’ve read in a long time. What kind of ivory tower does Mr Miller live in that he can believe this nonsense? Does he ever take a walk downtown on a summer’s day and observe the numerous American tourists who pay us the compliment of visiting our city and pouring millions of dollars into our local economy? Yes, a lot of them may be Republicans and a lot of them may be evangelical Christians (so what?), and the overwhelming majority of them are well-intentioned, decent, generous people. 

It’s truly remarkable how such a seemingly intelligent and well-informed person as Mr Miller could subscribe to such a distorted worldview about our southern neighbours.

Barry Gaetz


Gene Miller Responds: I’m a stand-up catastrophist and often stretch a point to make a point. If you peer beneath this carefully-crafted literary persona as a doomsday hysteric, you will find the true, roiling pessimism that undergirds it; and whether mine is a “distorted worldview” or a clear-eyed view of a distorted world remains to be seen. Upon digesting the selfsame column, my friend Jim wrote to me: “I’ve just finished James Lovelock’s final book, The Vanishing Face of Gaia. Lovelock wanted the subtitle, Enjoy Her While You Can, but the publisher refused, so he used A Final Warning. His conclusion is that perhaps a few million people will survive the disasters coming in this century, in the few habitable places left on Earth, fighting off the billions of desperate people with the resources to travel to these places.”

Anyway, I’m no more critical of the majority of Americans (I am one, by the way) than Rolling Stone’s Matt Taibbi is of bank tellers when he calls Goldman Sachs a “great vampire squid wrapped around the face of humanity, relentlessly jamming its blood funnel into anything that smells of money.”


Re: The surprising (and welcome) emergence of B Channel

Thanks for the heads-up on B Channel and congratulations to Andrew Ainsley and Chris Johnson and their team. Boy, do we ever need something different from what we’ve got now.

I seldom watch broadcast/cable TV. There’s so much more to learn out on the web. But every once in awhile, like on a recent visit to my parent’s home, I find myself in front of the box and, let me tell you, it’s a jarring reminder of why I cut TV out of my media diet.

A few months back, I was watching CHEK’s local evening news at my folks place. We were watching while eating dinner; a terrible habit, I know. CHEK was showing some minor local event, somebody broke into a neighbor’s house in Nanaimo, or something like that. I got up to clear the table and when I came back they were doing a piece on fish farming. I was surprised at how long it went on and how biased it seemed to be. It appeared to be what we might call a “documentary,” but it was filled start-to-finish with apologists for finfish aquaculture.

Well, this went on for half an hour until I finally realized we were watching an “infomercial.” An entire half-hour of the so-called “newshour” had been bought and paid for by a controversial industry that was extolling its own great environmental and economic virtues. It would have been natural for anyone watching to think they were viewing a documentary put together by CHEK’s journalists. It was unethical.

I have great hopes for the future, and part of my faith comes from knowing there are people like B Channel’s Ainsley and Johnson, guys who have the smarts to build a new media system from the ground up. I wish them success.

Robin Wilson


Re: City of Victoria priorities

I find it perplexing that Mayor Fortin has put commuter rail at the top of his priority list for 2011. I doubt many of us in the City of Victoria will use commuter rail. I feel we have a terrific transportation system within the City itself. I am not saying commuter rail should not be a priority for those in the region; however for those of us who live in the City of Victoria I think our priorities lie elsewhere, such as making our downtown core more attractive and affordable, meeting the needs of the homeless, and moving to a regional policing governance model.

The same logic can be applied to establishing rapid transit lines along Douglas Street for the benefit of commuters from outside of Victoria, yet to the detriment of Victoria businesses along Douglas Street. Or how about the City’s willingness to fully bear the cost for replacing the Blue Bridge whose use is of most benefit to those in other municipalities?

I believe it is time Victoria City Council begins to focus on the priorities of our City rather that those of the region as a whole. As Mel Couvelier, former mayor of Saanich, recently said, “The downtown ambience has been—and continues to be—destroyed by successive Victoria councils.”

Paul Brown


Omission: Credit for the painting in Hemp & Company’s December advertisement should have been given to Jeffrey Boron.