Ethan Cox on the July 27th FMA

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Ethan Cox came on the show this week to discuss his new article at in which he assigns grades to the various Quebec political parties based on their use of social media. We then went on to talk about the upcoming Quebec election in general and the best possible outcome for students.

Read Ethan’s piece:


Steph Guthrie and Emma Jenkin on the July 20th FMA

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This week was Comic-Con, the Dark Knight Rises came out yesterday and The Avengers is far and away the biggest movie of the year. The last release of the Call of Duty game franchise grossed $400 million dollars in its first day. By any measure, geek and gaming culture has escaped the basement. Despite its broad popularity, nerd culture doesn’t have a great track record when it comes to the depiction of women. Maybe you noticed that Scarlett Johansson was the only one on the Avengers poster whose rear-end was so prominently featured.

On the gaming side, the problems are well known. Many games, like the aforementioned Call of Duty series, don’t feature women at all. And then there are games like Grand Theft Auto where women are featured, but not in an empowering way.

In the last couple weeks there have a been a few examples of nerd culture showing is dark side and today’s guests found themselves right in the middle.

Stephanie Guthrie has, for the last couple weeks, been near the centre of a broad discussion on the gaming community’s attitudes toward women. She outed the maker of a game promoting violence against women and has spent a considerable amount of time since making her case to the trolls and goofballs of the interwebs. She’s a writer and organizer who founded WOMEN IN TORONTO POLITICS, a group which aims to generate ideas about how to include and support more female voices in online and offline conversations about Toronto politics. And Steph Guthrie is on the line from Toronto.

Emma Jenkin also knows what it’s like to experience the Internet Toughguy. Last week, a retweet from a high priest of geek religion led to flurry of abuse. She’s an accomplished designer, arts worker, and a marketing and communications specialist with a very impressive list of degrees. And, if I’m not mistaken, Emma is also a board member (coincidentally) of WOMEN IN TORONTO POLITICS. She also joins me from Toronto.


Blaming a House Fire on Wood

Having a 2 week old around the house doesn’t leave a lot of time for blogging, but there’s a piece on OpenFile Toronto’s site that’s been driving me nuts for the last few days, it’s clear that I can’t clearly state my objections on Twitter, and so I’m taking advantage of nap time to compose a quick response.

Also, and I say this regularly, I rarely comment on my own business and specifically, I haven’t said too much about the Downsview collapse. This is in deference to the friends and colleagues who worked on the show and my other close friends who are safely and successfully pulling off shows just like the Radiohead gig day in and day out.

But the piece up on OpenFile Toronto (link) (and the Rolling Stone piece it references) is so full of bad conclusions I have to weigh in.

There are 3 main points I want to address from the article:

  1. Aluminum is an unsafe building material
  2. Steel stages are safer than aluminum ones
  3. The number of contractors involved in building a stage necessarily has an impact on safety.

The above image is featured on the OpenFile site at the top of the story in question and it shows part of the stage structure at Downsview after the collapse. The opening line in the piece, found directly below this image is, “It’s all your fault, aluminum.” The author (Jamie Bradburn) then goes on to quote an old Rod Stewart roadie who opines that aluminum is too flimsy to meet the weight requirements of modern rock shows, and that steel is a better material for this kind of work.

Here’s the problem: the structure in the above picture, at the Downsview site, is almost certainly made out of steel. Whether or not the central roof portion was made out of steel is to be determined, and no roadie (no matter how good) can tell the difference just by looking at it.

What we can tell is that the majority of the structure is comprised of all-round scaffolding, which is a steel product. (If you want to see a huge example of all-round steel scaffolding in action, go down to the Indy site. It’s used to build all the massive bleacher units.)

My first job in the Toronto entertainment industry was working for Optex, the contractor who it’s reported supplied the stage at Downsview, and I’ve lugged enough all-round to know the difference between aluminum and steel. That heavy stuff is steel. Anyway..

Without the guidance of a structural engineer, it would be irresponsible to suggest that any one form of structure might have better survived the windstorms in Ottawa, Indiana or Alberta than any other. And since we don’t know why the Downsview roof collapsed, it’s impossible to know if another material might have prevented tragedy.

Also unsaid by the author and the Rod Stewart roadie is that the Downsview stage, the Ottawa stage and the Indiana stage are all different types of stage. The Ottawa stage was a large truss-supported mobile stage, while the Indiana stage was a truss roof system. They sound similar, but are actually quite different. Certainly different enough in their design and construction to call into question any easy attempt to relate their failures.

So, while it’s true that both Ottawa and Indiana used aluminum, it’s not apparent in either case, nor to the best of my knowledge has it been reported, that an alternate material would have better withstood the wind. So, despite the thin reasoning of the author and the Rod Stewart roadie, there’s no EVIDENCE that any material would have prevented the weather-related collapses in Ottawa, Alberta, or Indiana. And since we can’t even seem to agree (prove) what material was used in the Downsview stage, arguments for or against the structure don’t carry much weight.

The second point about whether or not steel stages are safer than aluminum ones is a bit of a canard, since there is a large number of both in use today and both have suffered collapses. The Pukkelpop stage, for example, was a steel all-round scaffolding stage that was felled by weather. The OpenFile story goes on to site a statement by the Ottawa Bluesfest saying that they’ll be using a different structure this year. The statement seems to indicate that the stage will be steel all-round scaffolding, and I suppose we’re meant to believe that it will be much more resistant to environmental factors. But, don’t tell that to people at Pukkelpop.

The point is, whether steel is better than aluminum is better than steel, blaming a stage collapse on aluminum is like blaming a house fire on wood. Material does not misuse itself. Since we’re reasonably confident the Downsview stage was not felled by wind; whether it was improper loading, incompetent construction, old gear or bad luck, in the absence of acts of God, we can conclude that it was the use of material that caused the failure. Using a material that can better withstand improper loading doesn’t change the fact that it’s improperly loaded. Build a stage out of whatever you like, wrong remains wrong.

The problem is therefore not the material, but how it’s used. The Rod Stewart roadie almost comes to this conclusion, but instead of acknowledging that sometimes you have to work within material constraints, he instead suggests we change the material. Again, there’s no evidence that would make a difference, but it sounds like progress.

Unable to prove its points about material choice, OpenFile suggests that the number of firms involved in a project may also have created a safety hazard; which is absurd. A major construction project can have dozens or hundreds of contractors involved and as far as I know, there’s no upper limit at which the number of contractors is automatically considered a safety risk. Much like the material, it’s not what you use but how you use it.

How do huge building projects keep it together even when they have more than 2 sub-contractors working on one job site at one time? It’s the job of the General Contractor (GC) to organize, and the city building department and Ministry of Labour to oversee. The question we should be asking in the Downsview case is, who was the GC (hint: technical requirements start with the band’s British design team and are managed through the promoter) and where were municipal or provincial inspectors before the show?

I have worked in the entertainment business for 15 years now and have done fairly well for myself. I’m currently a designer and project manager for Cirque du Soleil (whose views I do NOT represent here) and have worked on more hot, sweaty outdoor shows than I care to remember. As I mentioned above, I’ve built stage exactly like the one at Downsview and in all my time, on all my shows I have never met with a building inspector. Ever. Electrical Inspectors from Ontario’s notoriously strict Electrical Safety Authority are a regular sight at big shows. But structural…never in my experience.

I agree with OpenFile’s conclusion that stronger standards are required. But we should not conclude that Ontario entertainment industry is unsafe.

When a young man, working on a large rock show, fell from a considerable height at Skydome back in the 90’s and was killed, the Ministry of Labour suddenly realized there was a huge industry operating without regulatory oversight, and they stepped to affect change. Now we all wear our hardhats, steel shoes and safety harnesses. The regulators woke up, the industry woke up and now Ontario’s entertainment business is among the safest, best educated in North America. (Something I suspect will be proven out when the story of Downsview is told in full.)

Yes, there are fly-by-nighters out there who rent gear cheap and pull off shows without much thought to standards. They are not the majority, they wouldn’t have been anywhere near the Downsview show, and there are whole lot less of them than there was 20 years ago. Why? Because of the Ministry of Labour’s efforts to regulate and monitor entertainment work, and the Electrical Safety Authority’s mission to rid Ontario of crappy lighting and electrical gear. If OpenFile or Rolling Stone are really concerned about the safety of temporary stages, maybe they should been looking at local and provincial government, who are completely absent on this issue. More regulatory oversight drives up the insurance rates, which in turn pushes up rental rates, and nothing’s more effective at getting shifty characters out of our industry.

It’s simply too easy to blame the inanimate material. Aluminum, it’s not your fault. You’re just a metal, after all.

Action Items – A Few Light Topics

From the April 27th edition of the Friday Morning After on CKUT 90.3FM in Montreal and worldwide at

How do the police determine when a protest has become a riot? Why does the legal definition of violence differ so greatly from the way the word is used in the media? In the first part of this week’s Action Items, we crack open the criminal code and discover all the ways in which both the police and the media are getting it wrong.

In part 2, we tackle Bill M312, the private member’s bill that seeks to reopen the abortion debate. Is there something hypocritical about demanding Stephen Harper quash the discussion? How do we balance the desire for an open Parliament against the risks of reopening critical rights issues?

For more information on the Morning After shows, go to

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The Gazette vs. Red Square

…this time it’s personal!

For reasons I can’t explain, the first article my sleepy finger chose to click on this morning was the latest spilled-ink by The Gazette’s Don Macpherson. I’d been following Mr. Macpherson on Twitter, intrigued by his recent dust-ups with fellow media personalities, and I suppose I wanted to see who or what he was fighting with today.

Whatever the reason, there I was laying in bed stumbling through the latest in a series of anti-student strike screeds by Montreal’s most put-upon victim of Francophone oppression, Mr. Don Macpherson.

I’m sorry, that should have read, “the latest anti student ‘strike’ screed”. Mr. Macpherson insists on putting quotes around the word strike, I suppose in an effort to create some doubt around the credibility of the student action. Sure, it’s a strike, but it’s a real strike? I mean, c’mon, there are strikes and then there are “strikes”. Am I right?

Anyway. There are two things you can glean from any of Mr. Macpherson’s recent articles on the strike. First, the strike is becoming increasingly violent. It’s counter-intuitive (read: false) statement, but it’s working for him despite the weeks of peaceful actions attended by hundreds of thousands of peaceful participants. But hey, man…someone thinks they might have maybe seen a red square of the jacket of the person who might have thrown that smoke bomb last week that may or may not have had anything to do with anything. Case Closed.

Secondly, you’ll learn that Mr. Macpherson isn’t too happy with the closure of Montreal streets caused by student action. A complaint which begs the question, does Mr. Macpherson live Montreal? I know I’ve only been here for a couple of years, but as far as I can tell, Montreal is the global capital of closing off streets. Whether it be for street festivals, marathons, construction, concerts, national celebrations, and yes, protests, this city of festival doesn’t seem to have an overwhelming issue with the concept of the “detour”.

Then again, when road closures are in support of a movement the Gazette would like to see ended, blocking a thoroughfare becomes a big problem.

It’s worth taking a moment for a quick aside to mention that to the best of my knowledge, no violence has been committed by anyone related directly or indirectly to the student strike. While it’s true that some mischief has been committed and some of that mischief may have been committed by members of groups associated with the strike, mischief is not violence. Some might see that as an insignificant legal distinction, but it’s really not. Mischief is breaking a window, or throwing a smoke bomb, or even tipping a police car when the Habs lose a playoff game. Violence is beating or pepper-spraying protestors (or even Habs fans) in the streets. Mischief is an act against property. Violence is an act against another person. Neither is socially acceptible (unless the police to it to those damned hippie kids, am I right??), but the distinction is nonetheless important.

Moving on…

If Don Macpherson were to read this far into the piece, he’d probably be saying something like, “I never implicitly said that Red Square protestors or student strikers had anything to do with the smoke bomb. In fact, I said that because of the non-verbal nature of the red square patch as a symbol, it might be easy to assume a supporter of the strike was involved and that by extension, anyone wearing the square might be seen to support that action.”

If you pay attention to Mr. Macpherson, you quickly learn that this kind of passive language is the cornerstone of his writing. And to back up his passive accusations, Mr. Macpherson has been citing a recent Leger poll, originally printed in the Journal de Montreal, (a paper you’d think the self-described #BadAnglo would avoid) which conveniently provided him with the following bon mot: “The Québécois don’t like disputes, so seeing a movement become more radical risks displeasing them…”

The Quebecois don’t like disputes? The Quebecois…don’t like…DISPUTES?!?

I guess that’s why every July 1st the Quebecois have a big Canada Day parade through the centre of Quebec City, because they don’t have a taste for conflict or resistance. Those two referendums were really about national sovereignty, they were about declaring the positive, beneficial and overall super-awesomeness of Canadian federalism!!

What fatuous nonsense. Whether you agree with the nationalist movement in Quebec or not, you have to admit that for the last fifty years or so, the Quebecois haven’t been afraid of a little dispute. Or a big dispute, for that matter.

As for the supposed radicalization of the student strikes. Hell, the Quebecois might not like a dispute (*cough*), but they don’t seem to have a problem with broad generalizations and false assumptions.

While using a poll as silly as that one undermines Mr. Macpherson’s point (not to mention his #BadAnglo credibility), it does serve to expose his motivations for opposing the strike, even if he’s only implying that he opposes the strike. Or implying that he’s implying…whatever…

It doesn’t take a cartographer to map this all back to his feeling of victimization as anglo in Montreal and his deep fear that a PQ government would have him lined up against a wall and pelted with cheese curds until he can sing the Top 10 Francophone pop songs while standing on his head. Mr. Macpherson, and the Gazette in general, don’t oppose the strike because they really believe an affordable education is a ridiculous request. Rather, they oppose the strike because they fear the harm it can do to Premier Jean Charest and that any further damage to the embattled Liberal will surely lead to a PQ government.

They’re not stumping against students, they’re stumping against sovereigntists.

And that exposes the real problem with the Gazette in general and their mouthpiece-of-the-moment, Mr. Macpherson. On the issue of the strike, or the Charest government, or his fear of the PQ, Mr. Macpherson doesn’t seem to have the courage to come out and say how he really feels. Instead he hides behind bullcrap polling numbers and oft-repeated innuendo about who might or might not have been responsible for recent mischief in the city, all the while defending his fearful, thinly-veiled drivel as “Journo 101” (a term he used frequently in his recently argument with Mr. Ghomeshi).

It’s no secret newspapers use columnists to push their political agenda. Sure, the paper will tell you columnists are there to provide contrasting viewpoints and to expose the meat of any particular matter. They’ll even trumpet their bravery when hiring columnists from opposite ends of the political spectrum to offer more well-rounded coverage, as Quebecor often does with Warren Kinsella. But it’s all nonsense. When you really read what these folks are writing, you realize they’re all cogs in the influence machine. The Gazette does not want to see an end to the Liberal government in Quebec City and writers like Don Macpherson are dutifully pushing that agenda.

(Every once in a while, for cover, a columnist write a piece with an opinion contrary to the paper’s agenda, just in case someone has the temerity to point out their crap. Then the columnist can self-righteously say, “You must not read my column regularly, or you’d know…blah blah blah.”)

Whatever the piece, be it the oppression of anglophones or the supposed dissolution of the student strike into “violence”, you can bet it’s all about making the next election harder for the PQ. And if you have to spread a bit of innuendo or suspicion or make broad assumptions in the name of the cause, what’s the big deal, right? It’s just a column, and like this one you’re reading now, it’ll be relevant today and old junk tomorrow.

The point is not to know when you’re being led (always), but where you’re being led. The media’s job is to make the path to the cliff as attractive as possible. It’s that last step they don’t talk about that’s the real doozy.

Father Knows Best… “Blame the Boomers”

Occasionally, my Father and I have little email exchanges in which we debate some matter of the day. This week’s example actually started a couple weeks ago with a segment I did on my radio show about the 2012 budget (link here) in which I explained how increasing the retirement age was actually not a slight against the elderly, but against the young. Well, that got Dad’s dander up a bit and he wrote the following:

From: Dad
To: Josh

Hey Josh,

I’m working my way back through your Friday shows, and the March 30th show on the Tory budget seems to take a lot of unfair swipes at my generation in particular and the pensions for which we have worked. I have paid into UIC (EI) and CPP all of my working life, which in my case started at 16, and we working stiffs, both represented and unrepresented (from an organized labour standpoint), have planned our retirements around that 30 year investment. Even in the represented groups, of which there are a diminished number now, deferred wages in lieu of a pension plan included the provisions of CPP and OAS to defer costs to employers and make more money available to younger workers should the company go out of business.

But now the Reform-a-Tories change the rules without much thought as to how old farts such as me get back into the work force to augment our OAS losses. I should like to remind those starting out that it was this much maligned group that did their best for their children in the hopes that they would achieve more than we did. Sadly, that seems to be a failing prospect. The problem is with the money-grubbing capitalists and their boot-licking politicians more so than the Boomers.. However, It is handy for the government to pit parent against their children to deflect attention from what they are doing.

You were quite right to advise your generation of voters to get to the ballot box if they want better representation. They will have to wrestle for their power and it will not be an easy struggle.

Ok so much for my morning rant…… I’m am really enjoying your show.

Love you,

From: Josh
To: Dad

I think you’re a little quick to take umbrage.

Certainly the baby boom generation is the one that helped to create the social state in which we now live and prosper. They are also, quite ironically, the ones who now overwhelmingly vote against that very state. Not only is your cohort the largest single demographic voting block, they’re also voting Conservative in ever-increasing numbers.

If my notes from that show are to be believed, the point I was making was not that the baby boomers either did or did not earn their right to a pension. Certainly, anything paid should be, in due time, repaid. You have paid into a system and should expect a reasonable return. Also, I was certainly not arguing that the baby boomers were responsible for a pension crisis, because I don’t believe there is a pension crisis.

I do, however, believe that the baby boom generation is, as Tom Mulcair said at the start of my segment, leaving less for the next generation than was left for them by their parents; less in terms of economic prosperity, employment diversity, employment opportunity and wage levels. In fact, the leavings for the next generation in their working years are so much less promising than those left to you by the WWII generation, who can even bother to worry about the absence of public pension or OAS we’re like to expect in our older years. And it won’t be gone because it’ll be untenable to maintain the program from an economic standpoint, but rather because it will have been sacrificed on the alter of ideology. And while I know you still hold onto to the collectivist ideal, you are the minority in your cohort.

The point, as I think you took it, is that OAS or CPP won’t be there because the baby boom will have spent all the money and left naught for us. But you’ve misread me. My point is that OAS and CPP won’t be there because the baby boom generation, which currently dominates government, will either kill the programs or hobble them to such an extent that they’ll exist in name only.

And how can they do this? Well, because your cohort votes in larger numbers than mine and in much larger numbers than those behind me. And while it would be political suicide to kill the entitlements of your largest voting block, there’s little harm is screwing over the people who aren’t likely to vote for you anyway.

Weakening entitlements, increasing the retirement age, and incentivizing the baby boom generation to work longer, reduce opportunities for young people. And none of these things can be blamed on a broken system, because the system isn’t broken. The money won’t be gone because, as the Conservatives claim, the money is gone. It’ll be gone because your cohort overwhelmingly voted for a government inclined against state-sponsored social programs.

The baby boom generation is the generation in power. They are the generation that’s moved North American society inexorably to the extreme right. They are the generation that are, for the first time in Canadian history, leaving less than they were given, both in economic prosperity and social programs.

Accepting this, I would caution members of your generation against talking in broad, generic terms about the baby boomers, because when taken generally, they don’t look so great. These capitalists and moneygrubbers and fixers that have ruined our economy…how old are they, exactly? The captains of banking and industry have white hair, as they always have.

It would be far more useful for the members of the baby boom generation who are getting screwed just as hard as us kids to delineate themselves through social strata, rather than generational lines. That you are of the baby boom generation is less relevant than you being a member of the manufacturing class, for example. My being of Generation X/Y (the bridge cohort for people born at the end of the 70’s) is far less relevant than my being a child of the middle class, who was given much, but not nearly as much as some, a fact reflected in my current social standing. Being from an affluent family has always been a leg up, it’s a much longer leg now.

Ironically, when you attempt to defend the baby boom as a generational whole, you are defending the very people you and I equally blame for our troubles. Impossible as it is to believe, our Prime Minister is a Beatles-loving baby boomer; later in the cohort than you, but still solidly within the range. He is, for lack of a better term, the younger brother if the early cohort boomers like you.

I too have been paying into CPP and OAS since my teens, but it’s impossible to ignore that my contributions are rapidly becoming sunk costs; money that I am obligated to spend, regardless of my expectation of return. And it would be disingenuous to argue that my generation has the same expectation of return as yours.

When I’m 69, or whatever the retirement age is when I get there, I won’t care what generation did what to whom when, I’ll just wonder where my 50 years of investment went. By then, it won’t matter who I blame. It’ll be gone all the same. Spent on planes and hunting for diamonds and whatever other bullcrap the Conservatives think up in the next 3 years.

And like it not, these turkeys and Reformatories are your generational brethren. Might be time to disown yourself from the baby boom. They’ve no better to you than they’re being to me.

OK…enough of my response to a rant. I gotta get back to work.

Good chat.

Love you,



Action Items Easter Spectacular

Looking for something good to listen to over the holiday weekend?? Of course you are!

Well, look no further. Download this week’s special double-edition of The Action Items from the Friday Morning After on CKUT 90.3FM in Montreal.

First, it’s the April 6th Action Items in which I lay bare the F-35 scandal and reveal some information you’re not going to hear in the mainstream media.

Second, from the March 30th show, I dissect the 2012 Conservative budget and reveal why it’s such a bad deal for young Canadians.

For more information on the show, go to

To Download, right click on the player and choose “Save Link As”.

AM Radio – Episode 1

Today, we recorded the first episode of “AM Radio”, a 1hr podcast dealing with news, politics and whatever else we want to discuss. It features me, Sharlanne McStay and Jeff Norris. It’s coming to iTunes soon, but in the meantime you can download it right here.

Episode: 0001
Title: Episode 1: Mega Strollers, Santorum and Ford Hates Drivers
Hosts: Joshua Hind, Sharlanne McStay, Jeff Norris
Synopsis: On this week’s show, Jeff discusses his disdain for oversized strollers at brunch places, Josh gets robocalled, the group takes some shots at Santorum, plus we hear from former President Kennedy, current Mayor Rob Ford and Josh belches twice.

To Download, right click on the player and choose “Save Link As”.

Action Items – The Vic Toews Rap Edition

From the February 17th edition of the Friday Morning After on CKUT 90.3FM in Montreal and worldwide at

It’s been a tough week for Public Safety Minister Vic Toews. Not only is he responsible for a bullshit portfolio, he thought it would be a good idea to suggest that anyone not in favour of Bill C-30 support child pornography. While breaking down the bill, it occurs to me that this bill (or any bill) can’t prevent disturbed people from doing disturbed things. If that’s the case, who is this bill really targeting?

Stay tuned after the Action Items for a full-length version of the Toews Rap!!!

For more info on the Morning After, go to

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Action Items – Jan. 27, 2012


From the January 27, 2012 edition of the Friday Morning After.

Things are heating up in London, ON, and this week we revisit the ElectroMotive lockout and compare the demands Caterpillar is making on their workers with the company’s fiscal reality.

Also, a bonus look at the recently signed defence agreements that will bring the militaries of Canada and the US even closer together.

The Action Items can be heard every Friday around 8:40am on the Friday Morning After, CKUT 90.3FM in Montreal and online at