Saturday, November 28, 2009

Not keeping the waters pure

"The only security of all is in a free press. The force of public opinion cannot be resisted when permitted freely to be expressed. The agitation it produces must be submitted to. It is necessary, to keep the waters pure." --Thomas Jefferson

Journalist Amy Goodman was detained by border services officers when she entered Canada Wednesday night. After extensive questioning and searches of her notes and computers, and those of two colleagues, CBSA allowed her to enter but issued Goodman an order to leave Canada within 48 hours.

Ms. Goodman was scheduled to lecture at the Vancouver Public Library for an event co-sponsored by Simon Fraser University. The event was advertised as:
  • Award-winning journalist Amy Goodman, host of the daily, grassroots, global, radio/TV news hour Democracy Now!, is on a national speaking tour to mark DN!'s 13th anniversary and launch her new book, Breaking the Sound Barrier.
Ms. Goodman says that Douglas Crossing border agents questioned her and searched her vehicle and computers intensely. They demanded her speaking notes and persistently asked about the 2010 Games in Vancouver.
He said, 'You're saying you're not talking about the Olympics?' He was clearly incredulous that I wasn't going to be talking about the Olympics. He didn't believe me.

I am deeply concerned that as a journalist I would be flagged and that the concern -- the major concern -- was the content of my speech."

American sports journalist Dave Zirin called this an example of Canadian paranoia, wedded with arrogance. He also wrote that, leading up to the Games, Canada “stifled civil liberties and harassed local activists. The last thing they want is someone like Amy Goodman telling the world.”

So, who is this individual so dangerous to Canadians that she had to be sent packing?

Amy Goodman, 1984 graduate of Harvard, is a best-selling author of four books and host of Democracy Now!, a daily one-hour news broadcast, syndicated to more than 800 outlets in North America. Her audience numbers in the millions, including a podcast edition that Time Magazine named its “Pick of the Podcasts."

This is a partial list of awards honoring Amy Goodman during her distinguished career:
  • 2008 Right Livelihood Award "...for developing an innovative model of truly independent political journalism that brings to millions of people the alternative voices that are often excluded by mainstream media."
  • Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Award for International Radio;
  • Park Center for Independent Media Izzy Award, 2009 for special achievement in independent media;
  • Communication for Peace Award from the World Association for Christian Communication, 2008;
  • ACLU-NCA Henry W. Edgerton Civil Liberties Award, 2008 for a distinguished career as an active defender and supporter of civil liberties;
  • George Polk Award for Radio Reporting;
  • Paley Center for Media to honor women creating radio and television;
  • Gracie Award for American Women in Radio and Television Public Broadcasting, 2007 Individual Achievement for Outstanding Program Host
  • James Aronson Award for Social Justice Journalism, 2007 Career Achievement;
  • Ruben Salazar Journalism Award Outstanding Commitment to Preserving the Integrity of Journalism;
  • Alfred I. duPont-Columbia Award Excellence in Broadcast Journalism;
  • American Women in Radio & Television - Pinnacle Award for Radio Programming;
  • National Catholic Association of Broadcasters Best Documentary and Best Religious Documentary;
  • The Newswomen’s Club of New York Front Page Award for Distinguished Journalism.
After the CBSA initially declined comment, a low level spokesperson for the agency tried to suggest the event was simply routine, something that all visitors might face. Field Marshal Bud Mercer, commander of armed forces ensconced near Vancouver to secure the Games, says "his people" do not have lists of people who are persona non grata because of the Olympics. He didn't suggest there is no list, only that his people didn't have it, now.

It would be interesting to know who did alter Amy Goodman's file, putting her on a watch list as a potential enemy of Canada. Two things come to mind.

First, the decision was a blunder so egregious that people responsible should be stripped of authority. The Olympics, already suffering with unsold tickets, tells the world that Canadian authorities are determined to interfere with civil rights and press freedom. These dummies target a highly respected individual who is read and heard by millions of our neighbors, a person who has been honored by the most prestigious institutions of her profession. Think that has a negative multiplier effect? Damn right. VANOC clowns want publicity but they're getting the wrong kind.

Secondly, the Harper Government demonstrates again that it is philosophically and ethically allied with George Bush's failed Administration. While the evidence builds of complicity in Afghani torture by the military, senior politicians and diplomats, Conservatives defend themselves with misrepresentation, blame shifting and outright prevarication, all techniques of the disgraced Republicans.

This Amy Goodman incident reminds us of how the Harper Government welcomed George Bush to Canada, without a moment's hesitation. We hold hands out to war criminals but abuse the civil rights of an acclaimed journalist who has always supported human rights, peaceful process and non-violent rule of law.

How did Canadian values become so confused?

"Our liberty cannot be guarded but by the freedom of the press, nor that be limited without danger of losing it." --Thomas Jefferson
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Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Monumental monumentality

Alex G. Tsakumis, online journalist, describes Gordon Campbell and doing so, provides a text book example of word economy.

When the American Psychiatric Association, which knows naught about word economy, describes Narcissistic Personality Disorder, it may connect more to A.G.T.'s description than we care to admit.

A pervasive pattern of grandiosity, need for admiration, and lack of empathy as indicated by five or more of the following:

  • has a grandiose sense of self-importance;
  • is preoccupied with fantasies of unlimited success, power, brilliance, beauty, or ideal love;
  • believes that he or she is "special" and unique and can only be understood by, or should associate with, other special or high-status people (or institutions);
  • requires excessive admiration;
  • has a sense of entitlement, i.e., unreasonable expectations of especially favorable treatment or automatic compliance with his or her expectations;
  • interpersonally exploitative, i.e., takes advantage of others to achieve his or her own ends;
  • lacks empathy: is unwilling to recognize or identify with the feelings and needs of others;
  • is often envious of others or believes that others are envious of him or her;
  • shows arrogant, haughty behaviors or attitudes.
It can be difficult to establish the line between healthy narcissism and pathological self-importance and political leaders hang toes over the edge often. But, as careers extend, the likelihood grows that lines of demarcation blur or vanish.

Has Gordon Campbell toppled over his precipice? Or, does he only hear people handsomely paid to say:
Indeed, the emperor’s new suit is incomparable! What a long train he has! How well it fits him!”

Dare anyone close say he has nothing on at all?

Many British Columbians believe that he is victimized by the unchallenged regality of his position. One of those people is Gerry Hummel of TERRACE DAILY ONLINE. The artist provides us with his definitive opinion.

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Tuesday, November 24, 2009

They gots some 'splainin' to do

The platinum crew on the bridge of the good ship B.C. Ferries has got some 'splainin' to do. The provincial comptroller-general reported that executive salaries and director's fees, which exceed public-sector guidelines, are too high at the publicly owned corporation.

Admiral David Hahn replied curtly, “I'm not a public-sector employee . . . " That might surprise B.C. citizens and taxpayers who have owned and financed the fleet for, oh, about 50 years.

Last summer, we reported that David Hahn, B.C. Ferries CEO, guided the company to declining ridership and rising fares but earned $1,034,680 including salary and bonuses during fiscal 2009 while Executive VPs Michael Corrigan, Glen Schwartz, Robert Clarke and Trafford Taylor had compensation packages for the same period that ranged from $485,509 to $561,747.

Washington State Ferries, USA's largest ferry system, operates 24 vessels and has plans to build 13 new ships in the next few years. They hired a new CEO, David Moseley, in 2008 to guide the modernization. He is reputed to earn $140,000. Moseley's former position as City Manager of Federal Way WA paid $110,000, including expenses.

KiwiRail is a state owned enterprise that manages the rail and ferry businesses owned by the New Zealand government. Employing more than 4,000, it manages the operating divisions of rail and Cook Strait ferry services. The CEO of KiwiRail earned $475,000 according to the current annual report.

BC Liberal backers defend senior salary levels and Hahn's entire reign, claiming the alchemist has transmuted lead to gold, or, at least, silver. We've argued that is not the case. Ridership declined for the first time in five decades and new fleet acquisitions were bungled. For example, the new German built ferries fail to match the service utility of older B.C. built Spirit Class ferries.

Now, an early winter storm demonstrates that the Northern Adventure ferry is unsuited to exposed waters between Prince Rupert and Haida Gwaii. CBC reports:
I've said before that this ferry is not suitable for the north," said B.C. New Democrat MLA Gary Coons, who represents the riding of North Coast. "It's great for the Mediterranean."Coons said the Northern Adventure has a reputation for instability, even in calm waters.

This ferry has had a litany of concerns, right from the very beginning, when it was known as the 'vomit comet'," Coons said.
Concerns have been raised before now about suitability of the ship. In March 2009, Andrew MacLeod of the Tyee wrote:
A senior B.C. Ferry Services Inc. worker, since promoted to a management position, ripped the company for putting a new vessel into service before it was ready. He compiled a long list of safety issues and called the federal government inspectors who allowed the ship to sail "negligent."
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Global TV, one thumb up

I complained repeatedly about reporting inadequacies of Vancouver's Global TV News so, to be fair, I'll say well done for tonight's story reporting on West Vancouver School Superintendent Geoff Jopson. Strangely, the story is not carried on the Global BC website, at least on Monday evening or Tuesday morning.

Global should continue to explore double dipping public sector executives and their expense accounts but go beyond soft targets in schools administration. The Province of BC and its myriad of crown corporations and agencies provide many candidates for review.

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Monday, November 23, 2009

Patronage, applied Liberally

Northern Insights recently reminded readers about the BC Liberal Gravy Train that rumbles through obscure and remote locations, boarding a few special travelers.

Despite disposition of its main operating assets in 2003, executive compensation at the near defunct British Columbia Railway Company, caused public outrage. The Times Colonist noted last year that management remuneration was astounding because this company employed only 30 full time equivalents to "run a railway that's a piddling 39 kilometres long."

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Sunday, November 22, 2009

Don't miss the parade

Laila Yuile's How many police officers does it take to get an Olympic torchbearer across the road.

If you read nothing else today, read this and watch the video.

Canada landed fewer troops at Juno Beach than were mustered here to protect the misshapen spliff. Reinforcements had to come from all over.

Will this armed battalion be on parade each step of the way? The entire 106 days, elbow to elbow, butt to butt, in a herd of 12-passenger vans? These may truly be the Green Olympics, green from motion sick.

We should be happy about something. VANOC and the Sicherheitspolizei prepared for almost all contingencies. They can defend against everything but mockery.
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Friday, November 20, 2009

Sell Out

"Sell Out" is a song by fabulous California ska punk band Reel Big Fish, released as the first track on their 1996 album Turn The Radio Off.

It may be a good title for a post some day but nothing in the news seems to fit this succinct phrase, especially on a slow news day like Friday, when nothing much happens.

I thought about writing a story on new appointments to the provincial government's green energy advisory task force. Then I found that, as he often does, Sean Holman had the scoop at Public Eye.

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Justice still waiting - Why?

October 25, 2009 was the one year anniversary of Orion Hutchinson's death. There are still no charges against the driver of the car that struck the young cyclist. Attorney General of BC has neither approved nor declined prosecution, despite having received recommendations long ago from Delta police for a charge of impaired driving causing death. Will the offender avoid accountability because of delay?
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Wednesday, November 18, 2009

The transparent fog

Bob Mackin writes at The Tyee:
VANOC's last board meeting opaque.

His piece is longer but this interested me:
  • On May 16, 2007, VANOC pledged to increase transparency by posting agendas before and summaries after meetings.
  • VANOC's last annual general meeting before the 2010 Winter Olympics is Wednesday, but it's behind closed doors.
  • The agenda also includes ratification of minutes for a secret meeting Oct. 16. No prior notice of that meeting was published.
  • The last regularly scheduled meeting of directors for 2009 immediately follows.
Good thing these directors are well paid. That's an onerous pace they're setting. Managing so transparently must be stressful too.
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Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Falcon's cry - updated

Qu'ils mangent de la brioche!

BC Liberal privateer Kevin Falcon has no sympathy, he says, for paramedics who should work overtime whenever demanded. Falcon accused the paramedics of jeopardizing patient lives by refusing overtime and leaving the ambulance service short staffed. Does Falcon hold himself accountable for jeopardizing patient lives by refusing to hire sufficient staff to keep the ambulances rolling without forced overtime?
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Nov. 17/09 UPDATE from BCCLA

This is a development that adds information to the Northern Insights article Kinder, gentler mold.
The Vancouver Police Department has responded to BCCLA demands that it refrain from using their newly acquired LRAD sonic gun as a weapon against protesters by disabling the device’s weapons feature, according to a media release issued today.
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Saturday, November 14, 2009

About a pointless pickle

Allen Garr of the The Vancouver Courier recounts a tale worth reading. It is the story of Tom Prendergast, TransLink CEO, a transit manager with an established record of success, fast tracked out of town by a control-freak politician who tolerates only hirelings who kiss his hand and say, "Yes, Minister."
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Poverty - parent of revolution and crime

The title to this piece was written in the 4th Century BC by Greek Philosopher Aristotle. It speaks a lesson still unlearned. Perhaps not entirely unlearned because democracies mimic totalitarian regimes in various ways. Building defenses, leaders act out of fear for themselves and the wealth possessors they serve. Instead of striving to correct root causes of gross inequalities, authorities gather armaments to protect the status quo.

America suspends judicial protections, disdains treaties and conducts torture. The right of habeas corpus applies to all, but only until decreed that it does no more. Canada sub-contracts ill-treatment of political prisoners - or at least condones it - in Afghanistan and elsewhere. Innocent men die at the hands of police but justice stays idle and blind. Canadian authorities aim to use secret testimony of a witness hidden from view, in a political trial where foot soldiers are prosecuted and their masters untouched. Corruption abounds unchecked and the people are taxed to pay for giant distractions.
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Thursday, November 12, 2009

Gentler, milder mold

Soon, Sgt. Pepper and his virile squad of spraying constables may represent a kinder, milder mold. Weapons technology is advancing rapidly and the 2010 Olympics provides Canadian police with opportunity and funding to experiment broadly.

Vancouver City Police rolled out one new toy this week. It is the MRAD, a Medium Range Acoustical Device or, as the VPD prefers, a "public address system." That it doubles as a narrow beam sonic cannon, powerful enough to cause permanent hearing damage, pain or worse to people assembled nearby is a bonus.
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Sunday, November 8, 2009

Taking the gravy train

Sorry for the photo. Every train expert knows that Gordon is blue, not red.

A reader of Northern Insights provided this link to a Washington Post article. It seems timely, given recent evidence that BC Liberals have been overstating economic benefits from the 2010 Winter Games. Later, I'll provide a condensed version of "Myths About Landing the Olympics." First though, let's recap recent Olympic financial information.
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"Prudent management of your tax dollars"

The 2009 BC Liberal platform makes broad promises and one of them provides the title for this piece. Their platform offers this additional reassurance:
. . . expenditures, backed up by a detailed business plan for every ministry. But our record shows that we have the competent team and credible plan to get it right.

Does that give you confidence tax dollars will be managed prudently? Perhaps we should examine BC Liberal announcements for one ongoing mega-project, BC Place Stadium.
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Thursday, November 5, 2009

Join that War on Terror

BC Liberal Burquitlam MLA Harry Bloy said in the legislature Monday:
. . . that 200-odd group of terrorists who came to Victoria from across Canada to interrupt the games. Anyone who could support this group should be ashamed of themselves.

. . . They do not understand, these terrorists, the potential goodwill and economic benefits that come from these games, because they have a limited intellect and do not understand how the world truly operates.

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Worthwhile reading

You Don’t Have to Sell BC Hydro to Give it Away


Dr. Marvin Shaffer

Consulting Economist 
specialized in
energy, transportation and environmental economics
Adjunct Professor
SFU Public Policy Program 


Policy Note

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Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Falling down on the job

Jonathon Narvey at the Vancouver Sun website asks, "What are the Olympics Protests Really About?" His main point, a good one, is that coverage of protests aimed at VANOC is unbalanced. He points to an incomplete report published, he says, in the Ottawa Citizen after rent-a-crowd demonstrators behaved badly during the Victoria Torch Relay:
Isn't the traditional media falling down on the job here in terms of probing the protesters with basic questions?

. . . we're treated to a story in which Olympics protesters are mostly made to look like incoherent lunatics bent on little more than venting anarchic rage against the cops (which undoubtedly some members are -- but all of them?).

Narvey is s a freelance journalist so I presume Sun Editors are allowing a little gentle self-criticism without turning one regular Canwest staffer against another. Perhaps the possibility of internal tension is why Narvey blamed the distant Ottawa Citizen for the weak article even though it originated at the Victoria Times Colonist. That might have been hitting too close to home.
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Monday, November 2, 2009

More Olympic history

Avery Brundage became President of the U.S. Olympic Committee in 1929 and later took the IOC appointment of an American expelled for advocating a boycott of the Berlin Games. Brundage opposed the boycott, publicly praised the Nazi regime and led the second largest team, after Germany, to the 1936 Olympics. He was unrepentant thirty-five years later when he claimed, "The Berlin Games were the finest in modern history."
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Origins of our traditions

Excerpts from the New York Times, Hitler's Berlin Games Helped Make Some Emblems Popular:

"The torch relay is so ingrained in the modern choreography that most people today assume it was a revival of a pagan tradition - unaware that it was actually concocted for Hitler's Games in Berlin," the author Tony Perrottet wrote in "The Naked Olympics" (Random House, 2004).

The modern tradition of spiriting the Olympic torch to the main stadium did not become a fixture until 1936, when a 12-day run opened the Games in Berlin.

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