Thursday, May 28, 2009

We don't see nothin' wrong

Some articles here are critical of police - particularly the RCMP - and, by implication, political leaders who fail to legislate effective oversight. Of course, the problem is truly not with leadership. It lies with citizens. Some of us want effective modern policing and a justice system beyond reproach. But, our whole society may not care enough to go there.

Obviously, the subject is large and influences deeply entrenched. Present practices are not easily altered, nor will they be in the future. The law and justice industry is dominant, wealthy and resistant to change. Before anything else, citizens must rise beyond complacency. If we don't, our society will become either more lawless or more authoritarian.

The Economist, a news magazine published in London for more than 165 years, recently accused Canada of being “…as shockingly slow as many in Latin America when it comes to dealing with allegations of corruption and white-collar crime.”

They pointed at the judicial inquiry about Brian Mulroney and Karlheinz Schreiber, noting the matter under investigation dates back to 1993, when Mulroney accepted the first envelope stuffed with cash. It is six years since these payments became widely known but the affair could drag on for several more years.

The Economist states that delay was standard in the case of Garth Drabinsky and Myron Gottlieb, two theatre impresarios convicted of fraud in Canada, 10 years after they were indicted in the USA and fled to Canada.

The magazine compares how Canadian sloth is matched by American zeal. “Conrad Black was jailed for fraud south of the border but was never charged in his native Canada, although some of the press baron’s offences were committed there.”

While noting differences in legal systems, they blame Canadian attitudes, saying that Canadians tend to defer to authority and trust institutions. Outrage is rarely provoked. “Canadians are complacent about these things,” says Tony Coulson of Environics.

In a May 2009 article, The Economist describes Vancouver as a distribution hub in a global drugs trade. It says gangs ship out cannabis, amphetamines and ecstasy made in BC, importing cocaine, heroin and guns, fighting over a business worth an estimated C$7 billion a year.

“That they do so in broad daylight demonstrates the feckless response of the provincial government and police, despite reports dating back more than 30 years giving warning of the growth in organized crime. According to SFU criminologist Rob Gordon, the current effort at collaboration, led by the Mounties, is “riven with conflict.”

The magazine closes with this observation, “Despite some recent high-profile arrests of gangsters, Vancouver’s local police admit they are not winning the war. They complain of having fewer officers per head of population than other big Canadian cities. The provincial government is planning a C$20m cut in annual spending on police and the courts by 2012. The gangsters, by contrast, are well funded and have little trouble replacing those lost in shoot-outs. “
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Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Dziekanski - much is clear now

Facts, while not officially reported, have been firmly established at the Braidwood Inquiry into Robert Dziekanski's 2007 death. Clearly, as an organization, the RCMP failed to act with care and probity from the beginning of the incident. In fact, the police force's failure of integrity continues today.

RCMP senior managers, overly tolerant of wrongdoing and falsehood, have broken public trust. Additionally, we learned that prosecutors, relying on the flawed RCMP investigation of itself, erred naively when they excluded charges in the homicide. Criminal negligence causing death and obstruction of justice likely occurred.

The Braidwood Inquiry listened as independent medical experts described mechanisms of death from conducted energy weapons. Vancouver cardiology specialist Dr. Charles Kerr stated "there is a very high probability that the multiple Taser applications were instrumental in the development of malignant ventricular arrhythmias and death." VGH researcher and epidemiologist Dr. Keith Chambers said two factors contributed to death and he found the five Taser shots more responsible than physical restraint by four Mounties.

Dr. Zian Tseng, a San Francisco cardiologist and electrophysiologist, testified that conducted energy weapons pose potentially fatal heart risks by inducing cardiac arrhythmia. He said any normal, healthy person could die if the shock was given in the right area of the chest and during the vulnerable point in the beating of the heart. He said the number of jolts a person receives increases the likelihood of serious health consequences.

Dr. Tseng told the Inquiry he began investigating Tasers in 2005 and after making his research public, he was approached by Taser International. The company asked him to reconsider his public comments and offered to support research by giving him grant funding. Tseng refused. However, the Braidwood Inquiry did hear from a number of witnesses more closely associated with Taser. Oddly, they generally disagreed with the independent experts.

Three junior police constables were led to YVR by a member who a previous commanding officer had recommended for termination. Instead, the force's senior staff promoted and transferred Monty Robinson from Merritt to Richmond, apparently disregarding his personal and professional issues. Less than 12 months after Dziekanski's death, the Merritt Staff Sergeant who favored dismissal was proven correct again when Robinson, in a DUI related collision, killed young motorcyclist Orion Hutchinson.

Police actions at the airport were indefensible from the beginning. Arriving without a plan, four officers behaved like cowboys, jumping over the handrail, rushing to confront the subject within seconds. Maybe they were trying to impress the dozen or so airport operations and security staff who stood watching nearby. The first RCMP efforts could have been quiet and calming but instead, they applied severe force almost immediately, with no effort to evaluate, deescalate or give warning beforehand. Outrageously, after injuring the man, they provided no first aid and refused to remove handcuffs so firefighters could put the comatose body in proper recovery position for emergency treatment.

The Taser was activated for 31 seconds, fired 5 times at a man downed by the first shot. Perhaps the weapon toting constable panicked during this, his first operational use of the device. The victim's involuntary muscle spasms were considered aggressive response by his attackers, justifying even more forceful treatment. Almost a year and a half later, each policeman testified he would do nothing different today. Sadly, each of these characters remains in the RCMP although Robinson is suspended with pay following last year's DUI incident.

One arguably could blame Dziekanski's death on poor training and bad judgment in a stressful time. But, the RCMP's action during the past 20 months has been a calculated effort to evade responsibility and harm the victim's memory and his survivors. For that we can blame the entire hierarchy, from the media spokesmen who gave out false information, to the use of force instructors and other trainers who, despite contrary evidence, defended death-causing violence and to the Commissioner who telephoned the killers to assure them of complete support. We must also condemn IHIT investigators who made no serious effort to uncover truth. Most of all, Superintendent Wayne Rideout and his superiors earn disapprobation for managing this long, failed cover-up.

Police psychologist Mike Webster had his lengthy relationship with the RCMP terminated after he publicly blamed Mounties for using excessive force, even saying that he was embarrassed by the force's willingness to use Tasers with so little regard for the risks. In an effort to further punish Webster for his opinions, RCMP lawyer Ravi Hira tried to attack him personally and professionally at the Braidwood Inquiry, suggesting that Webster's status as a behavioral expert should be discounted.

RCMP misdeeds continued to the last days of the Braidwood Inquiry public hearings. Police brass approved extra funding to hire video specialist Grant Fredericks for one last gasp of evasion. Fredericks was promptly eviscerated by lawyer Donald Rosenbloom and more qualified responding witnesses. Hiring Fredericks at the last minute came at the same time a FOI action by CBC disclosed RCMP spent almost $60,000 traveling to Poland to seek information they hoped would discredit the dead man.

Remember too that the top Mountie, Commissioner William Elliott in Ottawa, told Parliament that rules for Taser use had been tightened. When the public got to read the revised written instructions, the force instead had eased rules by removing warnings to avoid multiple applications of conducted energy weapons.

When tested, the RCMP lied at the lowest levels and lied at the highest levels. This is unacceptable to ethical Canadians who expect honorable behavior from the national police force. About four hundred deaths have been associated with Taser use in North America. How many more will die before the rules of use are severely restricted?

Lawyers Walter Kosteckyj and Donald Rosenbloom deserve thanks for their persistence and willingness to act in this case on behalf of the mother and the Government of Poland. Apparently, Kosteckyj started even with no assurance of payment. Each of these men showed dogged determination and I believe they made truth available to the Commissioner and the observing public.


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Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Disgracing M.O.M.

Can you believe it? During the time he was the RCMP's officer in charge of the Dziekanski cover-up, Superintendent Wayne Rideout was accepting appointment to the ORDER OF MERIT OF THE POLICE FORCES and the right to use post-nominal letters M.O.M.

Imagine the pomp and ceremony. Honored guests and media gather in the ballroom of Ottawa's Rideau Hall. The Governor General arrives, makes her speech and presents the insignia. The national anthem is played and media gathers to interview the honored recipients, some of them true heroes.

The Order was created in October 2000 to recognize conspicuous merit and exceptional service by members and employees of the Canadian police forces whose contributions extend beyond protection of the community. The commissioner of the RCMP, the principal commander of the Order, submits recommendations for appointment to the governor general.

Superintendent Rideout testified May 6 at the Braidwood Inquiry that correcting details police initially gave the media about the incident would have jeopardized any potential criminal investigation by opening up a public debate about what happened. Other RCMP members had testified earlier that no criminal investigation was ever conducted, the incident was reviewed only as an in-custody death.

Speaking about the four officers involved in the homicide, Rideout said "We would not want to be caught in a position where we're defending or rationalizing any of their action." However, a month after Dziekanski's death, Rideout authorized a release that claimed the four Mounties had continuously monitored Dziekanski before he died. That was stated despite contrary information from Richmond firefighters, paramedics and other witnesses.

Rideout approved self-serving statements of exoneration and commanded his underlings to leave false public information uncorrected. We can safely assume that he and the Commissioner level officers above him prevented and still prevent the force from dealing with this situation honestly and fairly. They made the choice to defecate on Dziekanski's reputation in a failed effort to preserve the force's public image. In doing so, they also defecated on the Canadian public.

Superintendent Wayne Rideout should resign the appointment given him by Governor General Michaëlle Jean. He disgraces the Order of Merit of the Police Forces.
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Power from the powerful

I listened to CKNW’s Bill Good interview private power producers at a recent energy conference. Good was a cheerleader determined to broadcast a story that reflected positively on his guests. He helped push the story that BC Hydro has too little financial and intellectual capacity to be an effective power producer and that private companies are best able to meliorate environmental risks.

Is this the same BC Hydro that operates more than 30 hydroelectric facilities and contributes billions to the public treasury by generating and distributing low cost power throughout 95% of this province? And would that be the same private sector that so reliably remediated polluted mining sites such as Britannia and voluntarily eliminated serious air pollution by smelters, gas plants and pulp mills?

When a caller pointed out that BC Hydro is banned from developing new power sources and the private projects depend upon advance public agreements to purchase expensive power, Mr. Good “didn’t have time for speeches.” Nor, on April 11, did Sean Leslie and Gordon Campbell have time to answer a caller's allegation that Campbell associates, former ministerial aides and advisers, left government to work for Plutonic Power Corp.when government approved numerous private power developments by the company.

Public Eye Online editor Sean Holman writes that private power producers have employed numerous Liberal insiders to further their development projects. Holman aptly titles his comment From one power source to another.

Bill Tieleman's May 5 blog lists reasons why Campbell Liberals should be booted from office. One comment attached to Bill's entry provides interesting detail of Liberal apparatchiks who fit Holman's description.
Why have so many BC Liberal insiders moved to the IPP industry where they have dished out $30 billion in contracts for electricity that BC Hydro could produce at a fraction of that?
  • Geoff Plant, former BC Liberal Attorney General, now chair of Renaissance Power.
  • Mark Grant, BC Liberal executive director, resigns December 12, 2008 to join Rupert Peace Power.
  • David Cyr, former Assistant to BC Liberal Minister Mike de Jong, is now a director at Plutonic Power.
  • Robert Poore, recently worked under the Provincial Revenue Minister of the Province of BC, now is a senior director at Plutonic Power.
  • Tom Syer, who has held a variety of senior positions in the BC Government including Gordon Campbell’s Deputy Chief of Staff, is now a director at Plutonic Power.
  • Bill Irwin, after holding key positions in the BC Ministries of Land and Water, and Crown Lands, now is a director at Plutonic Power.
  • Bruce Young, has held several high profile positions with the BC Liberal party and lobbied his own party on behalf of Katabatic Power is listed as a director of Atla Energy.
  • Stephen Kukucha, former senior policy advisor for the BC Ministry of Environment, is now president and CEO of Atla Energy.
  • Paul Taylor, after his work as President and CEO of crown corporation ICBC as well as high level positions in the BC Government, is now President and CEO of Naikun Wind Energy Group.
  • Michael J. O’Conner, former President and CEO of Crown Corporation BC Transit, now holds senior positions at Naikun.
  • Jackie Hamilton, formerly held various BC Government environmental assessment and regulatory management positions, is now a VP at Cloudworks Energy.
  • And last but not least, Bob Herath, former Assistant Regional Water Manager for the BC Ministry of Environment is now with Syntaris Power. Bob Herath signed water licences in 2006-7 that are now owned by the same company he left gov't for in 2007. Syntaris Power
I remember the days of misguided youth when I was too involved in party politics. While I raised funds to subsidize Young Liberals traveling to a national leadership convention, an MP gave me a list of federal contractors who could be counted on for support. It seems that if one was, say a dredging contractor growing fat on public service, you were expected to spread cash around when the party came calling. Mind you, those were small sums. Real opportunities were always reserved for the favored few.

Well connected Liberals have a long and proud history of maximizing personal opportunities. They know how to make meaningful asset transfers with great discretion. After all, that is the fundamental purpose of an unprincipled political party.
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Monday, May 4, 2009

Mitch Benn - Stay Afraid lyrics


Stay afraid, stay afraid.

Think of all the weapons

The Iranians could have made.

And while you’re frettin’ over that,

You’d better not forget

The nuclear bombs that they might make,

But haven’t yet.

Live in fear, live in fear.

Fixate upon the terrible things

That could yet still appear

And fill your sleep with nightmares

And convince yourself we’re cursed.

And spend all day imagining the worst.

Cuz, if we drop our guard for just one second,

Armageddon will have beckoned

And we’ll all be blown to heck and back.

So watch your neighbours, watch the skies.

They’re terrorists, be terrorized.

And sit and dread the next surprise attack.

Stay afraid, stay afraid.

The news is good, the coast is clear.

But, hey, don’t you be swayed.

Just stress and worry

Over what the future might yet bring.

Cuz if we don’t have fear,

Then we don’t have a thing.

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"Stay Afraid", "State of Emergency", "Happy Birthday War".

Mitch Benn - this English singer/comedian is a regular on BBC Radio4 "Now Show"


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Have we already lost net neutrality?

We need a concise and precise understanding of why alternative media truly matters. I can hear rumblings of the ruling classes preparing to bring the Internet to heel.

Outraged moralists warn us to fear pornographers, youth corrupters and the godless. Copyright holders complain about alleged theft of intellectual properties. The tax and spend crowd see the Internet as an untapped source of huge government revenue. Nationalist mavens warn that home grown culture is threatened. Radio and TV broadcasters, grown fat during easy times, cry out against unfair competition. The corporations charging us for access complain that additional investment will be required unless they can limit traffic.

The answer to these "problems" is to tame the Internet through regulatory control. The radio industry began with countless low-power broadcasters operating without regulation. Today, the industry is so completely managed that only wealthy corporations and rich institutions can afford licenses. I've noticed recently that pages that should be available to my browser are off limits because of where I live. That means network hardware is looking inside data transmissions to evaluate my browsing habits. Is net neutrality already lost?

Contrarians may be hard to locate in today's media but, if we lose free access to the Internet, alternative opinions will be near impossible to find.

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USA Canada border is shameful

My father was an American who joined the Canadian war effort before Pearl Harbor. When peace came, he stayed in Vancouver to raise a family. Partly because of American roots, I condemn U.S. Government actions to harden our border.
Throughout my working life, I traveled regularly to the US for professional reasons. I also crossed the border often with my family for sports and recreation. Shared hospitality was a positive influence for many and border crossings were seldom problematic. They usually involved a short conversation with an affable agent, an ID check and perhaps a cursory inspection, occasionally a more detailed one. Border agencies staffed crossing points according to the flow of traffic. Delays were rare.
Today, the border is different. Extended holdups are commonplace, sometimes intolerable. People are adversarial instead of neighborly. Tempers rise and formerly polite exchanges are contentious.
Canada and the U.S. have always been active trading partners. In fact, our trade is the largest between two nations. We are interdependent in many ways but have stopped behaving as close friends.
In contrast, while driving in southwestern France a while ago, I turned south instead of east. We eventually noticed that commercial signs were written in Spanish, not French. Sure enough, our misdirection had taken us to Spain across an unmarked border. In fact, people travel throughout the nations of Europe with little involvement of government officials. This happens despite long histories of warfare between the peoples.
The current situation across the USA-Canada border is shameful.
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Sunday, May 3, 2009

Corky Evans departs

Political columnist Charles Campbell says, "It doesn't matter who gets elected on May 12. The B.C. legislature will be significantly poorer for the absence of Corky Evans."

According to Wikipedia, "Evans is noted for his folksy and homespun yet politically sophisticated oratory."

Speaking during legislative debate on March 12, retiring Evans proved both statements correct.

"A whole new group of MLAs, I hope, will work here, joined, I hope, by a younger generation. I have just a little bit of advice for that new group of MLAs.
  1. When you get here, love the building and respect the people who work here, regardless of their station or their beliefs. You came here to argue your ideas and for your constituents, not to assume that you are more right or more important than anybody else.
  2. Refuse flat out to make decisions about land you haven't seen or communities you haven't visited. Go there, and then decide.
  3. Refuse to say words that are not your own. You are not an actor; an election is not a screen test. You wouldn't let anybody else put you in a box, so don't do it to yourself.
  4. Respect the other side. This place doesn't work when there is only one point of view. We found that out from 2001 to 2005. If the other team didn't exist, we would have to split in half and send a faction over there just to have somebody to bounce our ideas off.
  5. Find another way to measure the success or failure of the governments that work here in future than gross domestic product. That measurement belongs to an era that needs to be finished now for the sake of the earth.
  6. Listen up. What you cannot fix, leave alone. If you sell it or give it away, you foreclose the options of future generations.
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Saturday, May 2, 2009

He can't handle the truth








Before he was elected Premier, Gordon Campbell wrote, "When government does its business behind closed doors, people will invariably believe that government has something to hide. Secrecy feeds distrust and dishonesty. Openness builds trust and integrity."

Another time, Campbell said, "Information rights are meaningless if disclosure timetables cannot be met because there aren't enough staff to do the job."


In his 2001 victory speech, newly elected Premier Campbell said, "We will bring in the most open and accountable government in Canada. I know some people say we'll soon forget about that, but I promise that we won't!"

Since then, Gordon Campbell's Liberal Government has:

• Passed amendments to make the FOI process more difficult and time consuming.

• Been rated second-worst province in Canada for responding to freedom of information requests, according to an audit by the Canadian Newspaper Association.

• Slashed the Information and Privacy Commissioner's budget and refused to fund staff needed to meet FOI disclosure timetables.

• Extended cabinet secrecy to several Liberal caucus committees, without consulting the Information Commissioner.

• Removed B.C. Ferries from the scope of the act and refused to include VANOC, the Olympic organizing committee

• Tried to pass a bill to allow final reports of public inquiries to be kept secret.

• Introduced a B.C. Community Charter to allow municipal councils to place many more subjects into closed meetings. There are no rules setting out what B.C. school boards, colleges, universities and some other public bodies can place in-camera.

• Initiated a review of the FOI act by bureaucrats in 2005 instead of adopting the many pro-FOI recommendations of the 2004 special legislative committee. This review of government openness was itself secret. To avoid public disclosure, no written report was delivered to government by the consultant who reported on the secrecy process.

• Failed to respond to urgent calls to clarify the abused section of the FOIPP act relating to policy advice so that only true advice and recommendations can be withheld, not background documents.

• Attempted to pass a bill in 2006 that would have exempted designated contracts and projects with private sector partners from FOI requirements.

• Routinely made excessive fee estimates for access to records in order to dissuade requesters.

• Routinely engaged in political interference with FOI requests. In February 2009, Commissioner Loukidelis called on government to cease using sensitivity ratings, whether these are applied to types of requesters––for example, media, political parties and interest groups—or to complex or otherwise difficult requests.

• Been asked by Commissioner Loukidelis to begin meeting the statutory obligation to report annually to the Legislative Assembly on administration of the FOI law. This accountability duty has been fulfilled only once.
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On April 29, 2009, the Campaign for Open Government published the following:

Two identical FOI requests filed on the same day with the offices of Washington Governor Christine Gregoire and BC Premier Gordon Campbell got very different results.

The Freedom of Information and Privacy Association filed the requests for information about intergovernmental meetings related to the new RFID equipped drivers’ licences now being phased in across the province. The licences are designed to meet the requirements of the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative (WHTI) which will require a passport or other authorized ID to enter the United States starting June 1, 2009.

Governor Gregoire’s office responded in full in less than a month. Copying costs were US $5.30.

The Office of the Premier didn’t provide their initial response until after the Washington Governor’s office had sent all the requested documents. They still haven’t provided any documents, but did send a bill for C $620.
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