Friday, April 30, 2010

Keeping up with the Brits

Does the British election hold any interest? Comedians Steve Punt and Hugh Dennis present a nightly satirical round up of election news and comment from comedians, journalists and commentators. I recommend it.

The Vote Now Show

BBC ensures that all parties gain coverage during the election. So, on one show, John Finnemore looks at the manifestos of single issue parties often overlooked:
  • The New Adventure Playground for Plymouth Party
The are hoping for a big swing.
  • The Chairs not Benches for Barnaby Town Hall Party
They’re contesting multiple seats.
  • The Improved Facilities for Overweight Trainspotters Party
They’re standing on a broad platform.
  • The Fair Deal for Amnesiac Sperm Donors Party
They’ll be lucky to not lose their deposits.

There is also The Tautology Party which promises,
"Our party is the party we are in and, if you vote for us, we promise we will be the party you have voted for."
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"More regulation and smarter regulation"

New York writer Joe Conason is one of the sharpest political commentators around and one of the most accessible. Here he writes at Truthdig.com, an online news magazine for progressive voices:
. . . the best course is to ensure that we avoid future subsidies to the undeserving rich. That means more regulation and smarter regulation, not less—and a direct repudiation of arguments advanced by politicians of both parties in the not-so-distant past.

Today’s ideological divide is between Republicans who encourage anti-government fervor and market worship, and Democrats who insist that government can and must balance corporate power by acting when markets fail. No honest observer can still believe—as many once did—that the unbound self-interest of financiers will correct excesses and direct capital to the benefit of the broader economy automatically. No less a libertarian ideologue than Alan Greenspan, the economic “maestro” who drew his inspiration from the writings of Ayn Rand, admitted almost a decade ago that such blind faith was naive and dangerous.

So it is important to cut through the fog of militant ignorance represented by the tea party movement. If the public actually wants to stop bailing out rich brats who make stupid and destructive bets in the Wall Street casino, government must be empowered to oversee derivative trading. And if the public wants a national economy that provides decent jobs and useful goods—rather than super-profits for financial firms—then government should encourage production and construction while sharply regulating speculation. . . READ MORE
As always, painful lessons in America apply with little change in Canada. For example, independent power producers wanted to gamble on the profitability of new power sources but they didn't want to gamble with their own money. Instead, they purchased a sure bet from the BC Liberals, transferring financial risks to BC Hydro through long-term take or pay contracts. Profits guaranteed by the public no matter what happens; sweet for those few who get the deal.

We have our own institutions of militant ignorance. More sophisticated than teabaggers, and better funded, they are libertarian ideologues protecting interests of the undeserving rich.
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Two hits and a miss

A two day visit to Victoria this week allowed me to gather information that will prove useful to future writing in Northern Insights. I met people who were informative and furthered my insights and helped understanding of fundamental issues.

I spent an hour talking with Kash Heed in the government caucus building. I've watched his career as he rose through the ranks at the Vancouver Police Department. Along with other senior officers, Heed modernized the VPD after years of painful management. The pride that citizens had in the VPD performance during the Olympics did not come accidentally and five years ago would have been impossible. Compare it to earlier crowd control problems in Vancouver streets or the deadly performance of the London Metropolitan police force during G20 protests in 2009.

Heed was a finalist in the selection of Vancouver's current police chief. It was no shame to finish behind Jim Chu, a man who has already demonstrated that he is Vancouver's best ever chief of police. Heed later spent time in the troubled West Vancouver police force but sought the opportunity to wield wider influence through political service in Victoria. He had begun excellent work as Solicitor General and spoke out clearly and quickly on important matters, particularly related to making RCMP contract policing subject to the same rules as municipal police agencies.  Heed's success in imposing strict term terms on the RCMP was recognized when other provinces assigned negotiation leadership to British Columbia in discussion for new RCMP agreements.

Unfortunately, Heed's work is sidetracked now by political controversy but he's confident that his own integrity will remain intact. I expect that to be true because Liberal dirty tricks were not confined to Heed's riding. Duplicity in multiple ridings is assurance that guiding hands are in the provincial Liberal campaign leadership. I would love to see an explanation of why the RCMP had not investigated thoroughly when the wrongdoing was brought to their attention by Elections BC before voting. Is the RCMP acting with clean hands? We may never know.

I didn't address those campaign misdeeds with Heed because years ago, I had exposure to political tricks when I worked on both provincial and federal campaigns for the Liberal Party. Crappy little election deeds are the products of back room losers, not high status candidates recruited for their admirable reputations.

I will add though, that Heed did the right thing by stepping aside while this examination proceeds. The situation is not without danger to him either because as Solicitor General, he was stepping on the toes of the organization conducting the investigation. Truly, a situation that Lewis Carroll might have written.

However, the point of my discussion with MLA Kash Heed was to talk about the principles of two matters that he has spoken about regularly. These are police governance, in the most broad terms, and drug policy. I am seeking to learn more about these subjects from viewpoints that include practical elements of street enforcement and the theoretical reviews of planners and academics. Heed was helpful in steering my inquiries and I look forward to further contacts that assist my writing.

Another pleasant and informative experience arose from meeting the entire Independent Caucus of the Legislature. Whip-smart readers of Northern Insights will know I mean that Vicki Huntington generously agreed to a meeting. I don't know how anyone can fail to admire the effort of this Independent. She recognized that her community had been badly served, and perhaps worse, was taken for granted by the ruling BC Liberals. She's a long time participant who knew the pulse of her riding before the election and will provide principled representation of South Delta residents.

I had already concluded that the present party system is harmful to good government. Ordinary members are ignored and ill used. The main contribution of most Liberal members is mindless desk thumping in response to any words of a designated speaker from their side. When the opposite side talks, they provide juvenile catcalling throughout even the most carefully constructed presentations.

Remember though that, when the sides were reversed, the system operated the same way. NDP provided government and Liberals provided opposition. Different folks but same result. Trouble is, this is not mere theater, this is the real thing. These people don't retire to committee rooms and conduct extensive and diligent examination of issues and legislation. All of that is left to the Premier's people and the lobbyists.

I understand the theoretical value of political parties. But, that's been lost through assumption of almost all power by leadership, particularly by politicians like Gordon Campbell with no ethical base, only the unrestricted commitment to expediency. Leaders demand loyalty in almost every circumstance. An MLA owes allegiance to the party not the electorate.

I am convinced a solution requires additional principled independents sitting in the legislative chamber, people that will deliver exclusive loyalty to citizen electors. Vicki Huntington and staff shared thoughts on the role of independents and the need to elevate the influence and contributions of individual members. Party leadership inevitably will resist this sort of change so it has to originate in the grass roots and that includes you and me. I'll write much more about this subject later.

By the way, I did attempt to connect with the NDP opposition but whereas I got undivided attention of the Independent Caucus, I got no attention from the NDP Caucus. Maybe, another day.
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Looking back and ahead

First, as April draws to a close, again I want to thank readers.  Northern Insights reached its own record readership this month. In fact, it topped every other month more than a week ago. Part of that growth came after plugs at Huffington Post and elsewhere.

I don't want to make too much of this but, when I began the journal a year ago, someone joked, "If you are like most bloggers, you'll double readership by convincing your wife to read the blog."  Well, she still doesn't read it but she inspires it through her own thirst for knowledge and fascination with travel and the study of people, art and history. Gwen's interests are broad but not limited to current partisan politics.  She's more likely to be reading about looting of resources that enabled indigenous cultures,  about governance of 15th century Florence or the impressionist movement in 19th century Europe.

Nevertheless, I enjoy the writing experience and it provides stimulation to learn more about the workings of our province. I hope to build on the recent experience and focus even more on fundamental principles of democracy, stimulating a search for ways the public can turn government from master to servant of the people.

This week provides two egregious examples of Gordon Campbell's deceit and corruption. Make no mistake; he is the author and master of sleaze and it is accelerating. Meanwhile, flaccid Liberal members check their brains at the door of the chamber and the government side sits empty of intellectual dignity.

The latest act of deceit is HST closure. Introduction this week of the Clean Energy Act proves unrepentant corruption. Unfairness of the $2 billion annual shift of taxes can be undone by the next administration but the wholesale destruction of energy regulation throws even the pretense of independent oversight to the curb. The province will suffer for it forever as thieves convert public assets into private. More later about this legislation. One MLA already labeled it among the most dangerous acts ever tabled and, after my first read, I conclude that to be a true statement.


Many readers know that Sean Holman hosted an informal accountability session last night, providing his subscribers opportunity to talk about the independent journalism of Public Eye Online. He is the only political writer in town who would dare to do this. I was fortunate to attend, ask questions, learn interesting background information and meet others who value Sean's work.

One viewpoint universal among those of us who met is that non-partisan, on-the-scene reporting of government is essential to making sense of Victoria. We shared the opinion that traditional media offers inadequate political coverage and the certainty this will be worse when new press ownership sends in corporate consultants to invoke major downsizing.

Another common expectation is that television and print journalism will degrade as budget pressures mount and commitments to hard news fade. Broadcasters would rather offer you more news from TMZ and the fake news of pre-packaged video news releases, TV ads disguised as news reports.

If you think political reporting is bad now, wait two years. People who signed up to support Public Eye Online recognize its vital role now and after. But, we who care about what BC will become must raise the level of support to ensure Sean's continuation. He won't say this is urgent, but I believe it is. I'm happy to report that a number of readers of Northern Insights already made commitments but this can only be the beginning. Much more is needed.

People, please understand this. Plutocrats and the corporate oligarchy already own this provincial government. They are suffused with entitlement and their greed is without limit. They put down millions to buy agents to enact laws and they are funding overt and covert public relations campaigns to mislead the citizenry. One egregious example of professional sock-puppeting (If that's a new expression, look it up) recently referred to Alexandra Morton as a "rich American acting as a poor, lonely citizen." I was targeted on one site where words of outrage were falsely attributed to me.

I learned in Victoria this week that the fish farm industry is frightened by the prospect of thousands joining Alexandra as her Walk for Wild Salmon progresses southward on Vancouver Island, headed for Victoria. People have been hired to circulate slanders and libels of this professional biologist who leads the fight to compel federal officers to enforce fishery law. In 1984, Alexandra entered the grand isolation of Broughton Archipelago to study orca, observed ecological changes surrounding open net fish farms and raised her voice in opposition. The farm lobby now aims to soil her reputation, hoping to strip away her credibility. The captive media cooperates with the oligarchy and the complete ruin of our coastal wild fishery will allow industry unlimited expansion.

After the fish farmers, will come the oil and gas rigs to BC's coast. Look at that present disaster in the Gulf of Mexico and imagine crude oil fouling our coast from Point Atkinson to Haida Gwai. The industrialists and the Campbell Liberals don't care. When they ruin this, they'll tell us it was for our benefit.

The only long term opportunity to protect our province lies in gaining citizen control. To do that, people must know truth and the only chance for truth lies with independent journalism. Public Eye Online is British Columbia's leading source of independent professional news gathering about government. But, Sean Holman cannot fund this effort endlessly. He is a man of experience, integrity and capability. We must provide the tools for him to carry on.  Join in the effort. Maybe you can only afford $10, maybe you can add zeros. Do your best; it will be worthwhile.
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Thursday, April 29, 2010

Reader contribution

Curtis & Leroy saw an ad in the Quesnel Advertiser Newspaper in Quesnel, BC and bought a mule for $100.

The farmer agreed to deliver the mule the next day. The next morning the farmer drove up and said, "Sorry, fellers, I have some bad news, the mule died last night."

Curtis & Leroy replied, "Well, then just give us our money back.."

The farmer said, "Can't do that. I went and spent it already."

They said, "OK then, just bring us the dead mule."

The farmer asked, "What in the world ya'll gonna do with a dead mule?"

Curtis said, "We gonna raffle him off."

The farmer said, "You can't raffle off a dead mule!"

Leroy said, "We shore can! Heck, we don't hafta tell nobody he's dead!"



A couple of weeks later, the farmer ran into Curtis & Leroy at the Co-Op grocery store and asked:

"What'd you fellers ever do with that dead mule?"

They said, "We raffled him off like we said we wuz gonna do."

Leroy said,"Shucks, we sold 500 tickets fer two dollars apiece and made a profit of $898."

The farmer said,"My Lord, didn't anyone complain?"

Curtis said, "Well, the feller who won got upset. So we gave him his two dollars back."

Curtis and Leroy now work for the BC Liberal government.

They're overseeing Campbell's Harmonization Sales Tax plan.
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Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Best way to rob a bank is to own one, an anti-regulation story

PBS program Bill Moyers Journal has been available by broadcast, podcast and online transcript. Moyers is proudly a long time bane to public injustice and America's military industrial complex. Also, of course, to latter day tea baggers who dangle on the line between sanity and insanity.

In 2003, Bush appointee Kenneth Tomlinson, chair of the CPB, claimed liberal bias at PBS. In the name of balance, he wanted progressive voices replaced by business advocates from the Wall Street Journal and right wing toadies such as Tucker Carlson. He targeted Moyers for removal as the most striking example of left wing bias.

Tomlinson had his own problems and met his political end after a critical report by the Inspector General and accusations that he misused federal funds. Moyers returned to PBS. However, nearing age 76, this week he is taking retirement to pursue other interests. He assures loyal listeners that, this time, he is not being pushed out the door.

Personally, I'll miss Moyers, although I admit to skipping most of his recent programs while he listened to Americans argue endlessly over healthcare changes. April 23, the next to last program, was an example of his fine journalism.

Despite evidence of history's greatest frauds during recent years, almost no Wall Street criminals have been held to account. On the contrary, many used public funds to further enrich themselves. William K. Black is a former bank regulator. He was testifying to Congress last week about the failed financial firm, Lehman Brothers. He sat down with Moyers.

I urge readers to listen to the podcast or read through the transcript HERE.  Excerpts follow:
WILLIAM K. BLACK: Fraud is deceit. And the essence of fraud is, "I create trust in you, and then I betray that trust, and get you to give me something of value." And as a result, there's no more effective acid against trust than fraud, especially fraud by top elites, and that's what we have.

. . . Lehman's failure is a story in large part of fraud. And it is fraud that begins at the absolute latest in 2001.

BILL MOYERS: Bill Black is with me now. One of the country's leading experts on crimes in high places he teaches economics and law at the University of Missouri-Kansas City, and wrote this book, THE BEST WAY TO ROB A BANK IS TO OWN ONE.

BILL MOYERS: What did you think of the President's speech late this week?

WILLIAM K. BLACK: It's a good speech. He's a very good spokesman for his causes. I don't think substantively the measures are going to prevent a future crisis. And I was disappointed that he wasn't willing to be blunt. He used a number of euphemisms, but he was unwilling to use the F word.

BILL MOYERS: The F word?

WILLIAM K. BLACK: The F word's fraud in this. And it's the word that explains why we have these recurrent, intensifying crisis.

BILL MOYERS: How is that? What do you mean when you say fraud is at the center of it?

WILLIAM K. BLACK: Well, first, when you deregulate or never regulate, mortgage bankers were never regulated, you effectively have decriminalized that industry, because only the regulators can serve as the sherpas, that the FBI and the prosecutors need to be able to understand and prosecute these kind of complex frauds. They can do one or two or maybe three on their own, but when an entire industry is beset by wide scale fraud, you have to have the regulators. And the regulators were the problem. They became a self-fulfilling prophecy of failure, because they, President Bush appointed people who hated regulation. I call them the anti-regulators. And that's what they were.

. . .And you might especially think that, if you knew that [Edward] Gramlich, one of the Fed members, went personally to Alan Greenspan and said, there's a housing bubble. And there's a terrible crisis in non-prime. We need to send the examiners in. We need to use our regulatory authority. And Greenspan refused. Lehman was brought down primarily by selling liar's loans. It was the biggest seller of liar's loans in the world.

And when we look at these liar's loans, we find 90 percent fraud. 90 percent. And we find that most of the frauds are not induced by the borrower, but they're overwhelmingly done by the loan brokers.

BILL MOYERS: And liar's loans are?

WILLIAM K. BLACK: A liar's loan is we don't get any verified information from you about your income, your employment, your job history or your assets.

BILL MOYERS: You give me a loan, no questions asked?

WILLIAM K. BLACK: No real questions asked. Certainly no answers checked. . .  Who got in trouble at Lehman? You got in trouble if you told the truth. They fired the people who found the problems. They promoted the people that caused the problem, and they gave them massive bonuses.

BILL MOYERS: I watched the testimony where you were present the other day in the Lehman hearings. And there was a very moving moment with a former vice-president of Lehman Brothers who had gone and tried to blow the whistle, who tried to get people to pay attention to what was going on. Take a look.

MATTHEW LEE: I hand-delivered my letter to the four addressees and I'll give a quick timeline of what happened, May 16th was a Friday, on the Monday I sat down with the chief risk officer and discussed the letter, on the Wednesday I sat down with the general counsel and the head of internal audit, discussed the letter. On the Thursday I was on a conference call to Brazil. Somebody came into my office, pulled me out, and fired me on the spot with out any notification. I stayed, sorry.

BILL MOYERS: Matthew Lee, vice-president of Lehman Brothers, fired because he tried to blow the whistle. What does that say to you?

WILLIAM K. BLACK: Well, it tells me that they were covering up the frauds, that they knew about the frauds and that they were desperate to prevent other people from learning.

BILL MOYERS: Matthew Lee told the accounting firm Ernst & Young what was going on. Isn't the accounting firm supposed to report this, once they learn from somebody like him that there's fraud going on?

WILLIAM K. BLACK: Yes, they're supposed to be the most important gatekeeper. They're supposed to be independent. They're supposed to be ultra-professional. But they have an enormous problem, and it's compensation. And that is, the way you rise to power within one of these big four accounting firms is by being a rainmaker, bringing in the big clients.

And so, every single one of these major frauds we call control frauds in the financial sphere has been-- their weapon of choice has been accounting. And every single one, for many years, was able to get what we call clean opinions from one of the most prestigious audit firms in the world, while they were massively fraudulent and deeply insolvent.

BILL MOYERS: I read an essay last night where you describe what you call a criminogenic environment. What is a criminogenic environment?

WILLIAM K. BLACK: A criminogenic environment is a steal from pathology, a pathogenic environment, an environment that spreads disease. In this case, it's an environment that spreads fraud. And there are two key elements. One we talked about. If you don't regulate, you create a criminogenic environment because you can get away with the frauds. The second is compensation. And that has two elements. One is the executive compensation that people have talked about that creates the perverse incentives. But the second is for these professionals. And for the lower level employees, to give the bonuses. And it creates what we call a Gresham's dynamic. And that just means cheaters prosper. And when cheaters prosper, markets become perverse and they drive honesty out of the market. . .
Read on at Bill Moyers Journal.  It describes  outrageous frauds, but where is the citizen outrage?  Can British Columbians learn anything from this or will we allow our own commercial criminals to steal the legacies of our children?
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Russian rebellion

As British Columbian's learned during the Olympics, important people must never waste time standing in lines or sitting in slow moving traffic.  That is for people of lesser purpose.

Muscovites know this too. Their elites equip cars with flashing blue lights, which give them rights to ignore traffic laws and, even more importantly, serve as unmistakable status symbols.

So, when it is time to cut through traffic jams on their way to posh cottage settlements to the west of the city, on come the blue lights.

The Committee to Protect Drivers' Rights represents people unhappy with privileges for a few. Their plastic bucket solution mocks the blue light advantage. The elites are not amused so police are taking action.

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Final solution

Item: Vancouver school year shortened 10 days to deal with a budget shortfall.

Item: Between the 2001–02 and 2008–09 school years, 176 public schools in BC have been closed, unprecedented in BC public school history. More schools are due for closure in coming years.

Item: BC Education Minister Dr. Margaret MacDiarmid announced that BC Liberals are planning a new strategy to resolve school funding problems permanently.

MacDiarmid said the plan involved  permanent and temporary public school closures and new homeschooling initiatives. Liberals expect that, with the public system sufficiently compromised, growth in private school enrollment will accelerate.  Dr. M added the new program was not actually a change in policy, saying, "Under BC Liberals, private schools have had ten years of unbroken growth and this now allows us to begin shutting down the public system, at least for all but the misfits unacceptable to private schools."

In 2011, the academic year in public schools will be reduced to one week, during which children will be bused to regional schools to take standardized reading, writing and math tests and to pay school fees. Summer vacation and spring break will be extended to 51 weeks but parents will be actively encouraged to provide alternative home schooling.
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Monday, April 26, 2010

Leadership race warming?

Victoria pundit Les Layne says,
"Before she became a very adroit politician, [Carole] Taylor was a veteran broadcaster. She never says anything by accident."
B.C.'s Carole Taylor joins outcry against HST
By Justine Hunter, Tuesday's Globe and Mail

Former B.C. finance minister Carole Taylor has joined the chorus of critics of the harmonized sales tax, adding to her successor’s woes Monday just as the government prepares to cut off debate on its tax legislation this week.

“This particular tax takes the tax off businesses – it takes $1.8-billion off of businesses – and puts it on consumers,” Ms. Taylor told a CTV News panel last week.

“But I think the bigger issue is that [Premier Gordon Campbell] promised that they would not – they would not – do the harmonization of the sales tax. And then right after the election, decided to do it.”

Her comments stand out because of her failure to offer support – or even sympathy – for Mr. Campbell, her onetime boss.

However, the Premier may be sending his own message via the Globe and Mail, using Gary Mason to tell BC, "I'm not going anywhere.
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Sustainable salmon farming

Farm-raised salmon has long been the poster child of unsustainable aquaculture practices. Issues of escape, pollution and inefficiency have plunged it deeply into the "avoid" territory of environmental groups—until now.

In a report released January 14, the Monterey Bay Aquarium's Seafood Watch program is taking the unprecedented step of approving a particular method for farming Pacific coho salmon that is currently employed exclusively by the Rochester, Wash.–based AquaSeed Corp. The sustainability nod from the consumer education group means that these salmon also will be assigned a green "Best Choice" rating on Seafood Watch's Web site. The approval follows several months of intensive site visits by Seafood Watch scientists and reviews of the company's production facility, feed ratios, fish contaminant and pollution discharge levels, and more.

Read more at Scientific American 

and at David Suzuki Foundation
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Billions and billions

More news of the 'Trust Us' folks, from the world of deregulation:

WASHINGTON — Goldman Sachs reaped "billions and billions of dollars" by betting on a housing market crash in 2006 and 2007, but the secret wagers put the firm in conflict with the interests of clients who were still buying its risky mortgage securities, Senate investigators said Monday.
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Thursday, April 22, 2010

Markets - incorruptible gods, unless they are not

Indisputable evidence that self-regulation leads to disaster, one more example:
From McClatchy Newspapers, Apr 22/09
WASHINGTON — A Senate panel investigating the causes of the nation's financial crisis on Thursday unveiled evidence that credit-ratings agencies knowingly gave inflated ratings to complex deals backed by shaky U.S. mortgages because of the fees they earned for giving such investment-grade ratings.

The Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations will . . . introduce email records in which executives from Standard & Poor’s and Moody’s Investors Service acknowledge compromising the integrity of ratings in order to win business from big Wall Street firms.

“They did it for the big fees they got,” Sen. Levin told reporters on Thursday . . .
BC Liberals believe that commerce and industry should be managed through self-regulation. Accordingly, they now do minimal inspections and auditing of forestry, mining, petroleum and other industrial sectors. They also gutted the ability of the civil service to enforce environmental laws. Public guardians have been terminated and sent home.

We have numerous examples that prove deregulation is bad public policy, particularly in matters financial and environmental. There are zero examples showing routine self-regulation to be wise and workable public policy.

Update:

When politicians aim for deregulation, they can eliminate the departments that conduct oversight, or leave them in place to pretend that oversight continues. The Bush Administration specialized in the latter, often by appointing heads of agency who were unqualified and philosophically opposed to  objectives of the organization.

The remaining employee re-purposed their activities. Apparently, at the SEC, porn helped to pass time between pay cheques.
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Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Site C - first purpose

On April 10, Northern Insights reported that Liberals will force BC Hydro to provide firm-power to private producers for export. Privates want a choice of selling to BC Hydro or contracting with their own customers. However, they cannot guarantee availability of their own power on a continuous basis and the market value of  interruptible power is unsatisfactory. The ability  to make up shortages by accessing electricity from BC Hydro solves a major problem for private companies.

This information was contained here:
Not merely consistent with guilt but inconsistent with innocence

Now, despite claims that Site C's 900-megawatt capacity is needed for domestic use, government intends to proceed so that it can facilitate power exports.

The first element of this policy is confirmed by the Globe and Mail's Justine Hunter in Site C dam laying groundwork for surge in energy exports.
The publicly owned utility, BC Hydro, is expanding clean power purchases from independent power producers, but many of those projects, such as wind power or run-of-the-river, do not provide the reliable capacity that exporters want. By having a greater supply of so-called firm energy from large hydro-electric dams, the province will be in a stronger position to sell its power to other western provinces and the United States.
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Modern public service

Justice Department lawyer Alain Prefontaine would not provide a date for the Military Police Complaints Commission as when it could expect the release of documents relating to the transfer of prisoners by Canadians to Afghan authorities.

Prefontaine told the commission that the "documents will be given to the counsel when they are good and ready."

Liberal defence critic Ujjal Dosanjh slammed Prefontaine's comments.

“It is reprehensible for anyone to make those kinds of arrogant and offensive remarks to a quasi-judicial body which is engaged in very important work," Dosanjh told reporters in Ottawa.

"I think his apology doesn’t cut it, because this is in keeping with what he has been doing. He is essentially the lawyer for the government, obstructing and hindering the work of this commission every step of the way."

Read the whole story at CBC News.
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Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Voters have not forgiven . . .

On April 17, AngusReid Public Opinions published a poll on the British Columbia political scene.

BC Liberals Plummet as HST looms; British Columbians Want a New Party

This is the analysis provided by Hamish Marshall, Research Director, Public Affairs:
Voters have not forgiven the BC Liberals for their decision to bring the HST. Public outcry has not subsided over the past month. In fact, many British Columbians are now willing to sign the petition to repeal the tax if a person shows up at their doorstep with it.

Carole James has gained momentum over the past few months, while Gordon Campbell continues to be rated negatively by a majority of respondents.

The idea of a new party is welcomed by half of respondents, but electoral success appears to hinge on ideology. A centre-right party will hurt the BC Liberals and facilitate a victory for the NDP, in a situation that recalls the 1990s. However, a new centre-left party would take votes from both established parties and would head to the next election with a six-point lead.
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Running from confusion

The Gazetteer, fellow truth-seeker RossK, recapitulates the entire story that describes actions of the PurveyorsOfPublically-PromotedPleasurePalaces, or, as RossK also calls the story, Casino Royale.  The evidence of influence peddling is clear, the conflicts of interest are clear. Business is operating as usual in Gordon Campbell's world.

Maybe Justice Braidwood needs a break after finishing his report on the YVR incident and all that accompanies it. However, citizens need a person of high reputation to examine this affair.  Braidwood could be that person. We know that the people in the provincial government who ordinarily control administration of the justice system are also those who have subverted it. BC Liberals have no role to play in investigating the frauds of BC Liberals.


Start on the home page and follow the links step by step through this marathon.
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Campbell kleptocracy is not unique or original

TomDispatch.com calls itself A REGULAR ANTIDOTE TO THE MAINSTREAM MEDIA.  I doubt that anyone can go there and read The Business of America is Kleptocracy by William J. Astore, retired lieutenant colonel (USAF), without sensing lessons to be learned for Canada. Will Canadians learn the lessons? Not the people who rely on traditional media but the greed all around us swelled so large that news can be contained no more.

AngusReid Public Opinion shows in a recent survey of British Columbians that the governing Liberals would be supported for reelection by less than 30% and that 81% of residents support the petition to repeal HST. Gordon Campbell, Colin Hansen and their sponsors have lost ground steadily on this issue, despite the complicity of biased media and the multi-million dollar resources of the Public Affairs Bureau (PAB).

Modest online news and opinion sites such as Northern Insights and others linked here revealed the truth. HST is a huge transfer of money from pockets of consumers to pockets of big business. Hansen knows that world markets establish commodity prices, that fuel and electricity pricing has nothing to do with PST. Sure energy companies will save billions in provincial tax over the years but that will have zero impact on prices determined internationally.

Imported consumer goods carry next to zero provincial taxes, that even if markets were competitive, there would be no measurable price reductions. Hansen claims that funeral costs will not rise because, while undertakers will add 12% HST to the entire bill, they will save the provincial tax paid whenever they replace the carpets. Only a fool could accept that dishonesty or similar dishonesty repeated by those using Liberal talking points.

Liberals have no right to proceed with any business of the province. No Site C dam, no long term private power commitments, no further reductions in energy royalties or new exploration credits, no new stadium roof, no megaprojects, no giveaways.

The only mandate from citizen that Liberals hold now is the right to resign and go away. Not too far though, some will be hearing from process servers.

Please visit Laila Yuile's pages and read "The worst is yet to come . . .
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The fix was in

Harvey Oberfeld may be the éminence grise of the western Canadian blog world. Or, perhaps I should rephrase that to the more respectable 'world of online journalism.'  He says he writes now for fun and that may be. For the rest of us, his writing has more value.

Respected as a professional journalist for asking hard questions, Harvey still operates that way. Even better, he provides analyses of issues without  contamination of partisan orthodoxy. For example, Harvey knows the real issue over HST implementation. It is the one that Liberals wish to ignore.

Read Democratic Integrity Tops H-S-T Itself and examine reader comments. Together, they expose the issue that will mark Gordon Campbell's legacy. He tried to tie his reputation to the Olympics, appearing at every photo op wearing every costume on which he could lay his hands. In the end, though, he is tainted by the odor of corruption and plain, old fashioned lack of believability.

These are excerpts but go to Harvey's Keeping it Real . . .
I will sign the anti-H-S-T referendum petition.


That doesn’t mean I think the H-S-T is a bad way of regulating our tax structure or bettering our economy: it does mean I see protection and preservation of the integrity of our democratic system as a much higher priority.


Right from the start, I have always said I was willing to weigh/listen to advice from the economists and experts (even those from the government) on the H-S-T issue. I’m sure no expert myself.


But then came the election .. or I should say the post election.


The government’s “turnaround” on the issue … telling many people/groups it had no plans to introduce the H-S-T before the vote, but then doing just that a few weeks after the vote. That really bothered me … as it did most of you, I’m sure.


And then came the latest reports that Victoria was talking to Ottawa about bringing in the H-S-T ONLY THREE DAYS after the election.


It’s clear … the FIX was in.


Liars! Deceitful elected representatives! With an arrogance that absolutely reveals disrespect for even those who voted for them!


. . . To find out where you can sign the petition, go to the website: http://fighthst.com and look for the scheduled signing locations for your riding.


Let’s send the politicians a lesson they will NEVER forget.


Harv Oberfeld
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Monday, April 19, 2010

Sandler said, "I can't stand the abuse of power. . . '

Northern Insights / Perceptivity repeatedly directs readers to ProPublica, an American non-profit investigative news agency. I link to that site because it is one of the most useful sources of original news. As a proof of status, Sheri Fink was honored with a Pulitzer Prize for investigative reporting on deadly choices in New Orleans.

ProPublica has an unusual view of copyright protection. The organization invites others to "Steal Our Stories" without payment. All they ask in return is credit. Rather few sites of professional news gathering operate that way, particularly ones with excellent work. Most are designing barriers and pay-walls.

Readers of this blog are information gatherers who draw their own conclusions. I offer my opinions but want readers to examine issues from many points of view. I dislike knee-jerk responses that assume one is married to a place on the left-right spectrum. Besides, ethics, honesty and protecting nature should be unrelated to conservative or progressive points of view.

Howard Kurtz, media columnist with Washington Post writes 'ProPublica's non-profit's news gathering pays off for partners. He provides background and notes that top-tier media partners are participating in and benefiting from ProPublica, a center of public interest journalism growing in influence.

This is the new model we must implement in Canada. Vested interests already own messaging machines.  The Fraser Institute spends over $1 million dollars a month, most of that in western Canada, selling messages to privatize and defund government and trust industry self-regulation.  They distribute ready-made media content, something always enjoyed by budget starved news editors operating with slashed resources.

The same message is pushed by associated 'think tanks' who are funded not only by the mega-rich but by every citizen through deductions from tax of contributions to charities and foundations. The Fraser Institute has more financial resources, in relative terms, by itself than does ProPublica, in an economy more than ten times larger.  Add in the budgets of the CD Howe Institute and the Atlantic Institute for Market Studies, Conference Board of Canada and others with similar aims, the big business point of view is well funded, even without considering who owns media corporations.

Herbert Sandler
Labor unions compete with their own different messages, albeit without luxurious funding.  I believe that Canada needs a broad approach to journalism in the public interest. The ProPublica model presents a workable approach for this country. We need people like its original funding partner. Herbert Sandler, a 78-year-old former banker, is contributing generously to the venture. He says his motivation is simple:
"I can't stand the abuse of power. I can't stand corruption. I can't stand the powerful taking advantage of those with less power."
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Friday, April 16, 2010

Crown Prince of Untruth speaks

Backed against the wall, British Columbia's Crown Prince of Untruth complains about Vander Zalm's veracity? It could only be more absurd had King Gordon spoke those words.

Absurdity, thy home is British Columbia!

Anti-HST claims anger B.C. minister
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When regulators do not believe in regulation - Updated


I began writing an article about tobacco companies convicted of multi-billion dollar fraud through smuggling schemes to escape punitive taxation of poisonous products sold to slow-witted youth and the addicted. I thought this was a perfect example of corporate morality, or lack of it, and demonstrated how wrong the BC Liberal government is to allow self-regulation in resource activities.

I was going to complain about BC Liberal's mock transit experts spending $171 million to save $4.38 million annually in fare evasion while they slash the budget for protecting the environment, the regulation budget that declined as need for regulation increased. Does not this perfectly demonstrate Gordon Campbell's attitudes? Tighten the screws on poor people riding transit while loosening the bonds on industrialists and resource exploiters.

I see a painful divide where the BC Government treats the weak badly and the most well off citizens, even non-residents, harvest an ever-greater share of provincial wealth. At my age, this is not a cry for changes to benefit me. It is a message to people that British Columbia is capable of so much more. The spirit of our people on the streets during the Olympics demonstrated a capacity to share and spread joy. We cannot let the greedy impose a hierarchical society that will ultimately result in destruction.

As written here previously, Nobel winning economist Paul Krugman warned about, "dangers created when regulators don't believe in regulation." Does that apply to Gordon Campbell's troops? Well, yes and no. To rephrase WAC Bennett's statement about socialism, BC Liberals believe in regulation when necessary but not necessarily regulation. Campbell and his clients in commerce and industry value regulation in certain circumstances. They despise it in others. We know that Liberals don't operate according to principle or philosophical commitment, they are the party of special interests. In the land of greased palms, theirs are the most oily.

For example, government maintains many products sold to consumers at high prices through supply management schemes. Anyone wish to grow cranberries? Those sour little price-controlled berries are grown in BC only by multi-millionaires. Without sufficient wealth, you are limited to growing your own in a backyard garden. The high costs of quotas established by government preclude new commercial growers. The Environmental Law Centre at U Vic concluded:
. . . the supply management system in BC creates legal barriers for local food production and distribution because small-scale, local producers cannot afford or obtain quotas to produce their goods, particularly when competing with large, corporate producers.
Of course, that is one form of regulation favored by many in business. Professional trades provide other examples. Experienced consultants could incorporate a federal or provincial company inexpensively but, without being a lawyer, would soon be in trouble. Provincial laws protect other professions including physicians, engineers, accountants, teachers, notaries, etc.

We cannot buy a transmitter and start broadcasting television or radio or offer satellite internet access or movies. We cannot import French cheese or small-batch Kentucky bourbon to resell without satisfying restrictions. Actually, you can never import French cheese because quotas are in the hands of a few wealthy eastern importers who exercise unassailable franchises, kept exclusive and valuable by well-rewarded federal politicians.

If there are scientific tax credits, tax rebates, subsidized financing, property tax holidays, grants, research aid and other corporate welfare, business is happy with government activities. While big business enjoys regulations that limit competition and maintain high prices, the worms turn if regulations interfere with profits. The mantra has been, "Reduce cost, gain efficiency. Trust us. Allow self-regulation."

We all understand the bitter fruit of financial deregulation. Whether in London, New York, Hong Kong, Singapore or Zurich, massive financial institutions trembled or crumbled while ordinary people funded government to provide backstops to ensure the rich stayed rich. The roots of disaster depended on a climate of deregulation. Businesses that said, "Trust us" proved unworthy of trust and pernicious conduct went unnoticed or ignored. Through undue influence in high places, most criminal and immoral acts remain unpunished.

Have these trillion dollar catastrophes taught anything? We should have learned that, when fortunes are at stake, few humans can be trusted to act appropriately without oversight. Business will not operate exclusively in the public interest without regulation yet Canada has the weakest anti-competition laws in the developed world. After the largest, wealthiest, most established international financial empires proved themselves without morality, we can never rely on industrialists to protect Canada's environment without careful monitoring and public supervision.

Yet, Gordon Campbell and BC Liberals embarked on a program to allow unprecedented exploitation of provincial resources while inversely decreasing regulation, inspection and oversight. Evidence grows that open net fish farms destroy wild fisheries, sour gas poisons the air and hydraulic fracturing pollutes groundwater throughout gas fields, logging old growth forests devastates irreplaceable ecosystems and widespread power projects effectively privatize vast areas of BC wilderness.

A government trusted by few aims to remake the roles of public watchdogs. Instead of complying with existing law, the Liberals intend to change the laws. Before appointment as Premier, Campbell promised the most transparent and accountable government in provincial history. Instead, he lies repeatedly and follows courses opposite from those he pledged to follow.

Since Campbell will not depart voluntarily, his Liberal colleagues should remove him from office, not for the good of the Liberal Party, but for the good of British Columbia.

* * * * *
Further to the central thesis here that corporations cannot be trusted to operate in the public interest without close regulation, read the New York Times for information about the super-connected Wall Street firm - and major Canwest participant - Goldman Sachs.

Trust me, readers. These people knew what they were doing. So did John Paulson's Hedge Fund, which made BILLIONS while suckers were going down.

We also have always worthwhile ProPublica weighing in on the major financial crisis fraud of 2007, before and after.

And, another of my favorites, Chicago's This American Life gives us show #405: Inside Job. Don't miss it.

ProPublica follows on with Other Major Banks Did Deal Similar to Goldman's

I would appreciate being educated by any reader who studies the noted links and returns here to explain why citizens should maintain confidence in a deregulated economy and how the course being followed by BC Liberals is appropriate in today's circumstances.
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BBC Radio 4 - audience participation

I get a political fix from the BBC Radio4 Now Show

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Thursday, April 15, 2010

When the lead story is nothing at all

Would you be surprised if the federal government announced they were going to begin checking airliners for missing jet engines, pilots for defective vision or horses on the payroll for signs of life?

Were you surprised by today's news story that the Industry Minister "made an important announcement regarding . . . gas inspection . . ."

According to Tony Clement, Government has taken measures to protect consumers from inaccurate measurement when purchasing gasoline or other measured goods.

What were they doing before?  This is from a brochure dated 2006:
Measurement Canada tests prototype measuring instruments (scales, electricity and natural gas meters, gasoline pumps) for compliance . . .

Measurement Canada inspectors and Authorized Service Providers inspect and certify thousands of weighing and measuring devices, and verify millions of electricity and gas meters . . .
Another current example comes from Finance Minister Flaherty, who says he will hold his breath and count to a hundred if bankers don't comply with a voluntary code of conduct for credit/debit cards. CBC brings you the story.

Actually, none of this surprises. These are merely tricks of politics, ones understood by every spin master and phony "news" person who plays the game, keeping always a straight face while reading meaningless bumf. This is the rule followed by the Harper Government:
If you are not doing something useful, at least pretend you are doing something.
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Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Influence byond reason - Rerun

Update:
People involved with a certain unnamed think tank have been making noises about articles in a certain unnamed blog. They are concerned about that which is politely called "publication of allegedly defamatory expression on the Internet."

For convenience and to avoid the need for searching through more than 300 articles, I bring forward a piece written in 2009. Information in it was gathered from public sources.

The articles attached to this link discuss, in at least a minor way, one think tank of my acquaintance. The blogs are worth review.
search/label/Fraser%20Institute
* * * * *
Our betters at the Fraser Institute believe in freedom. Not freedom from fear, hunger, ignorance and disease; they want freedom from interference with private holdings of wealth. They would eliminate or minimize public assets and services, environmental laws, public education, universal healthcare, progressive taxation and approximately all business regulations. They believe in free markets but not free competition. Growth is a cardinal objective and the benefit of wealth is due, not to its creators, but to those who finance its creation.

Markets are incorruptible gods to be worshiped and obeyed. They shall:
. . . answer the basic economic questions such as what is to be produced, how it is to be produced, how much is produced, and for whom production is intended.
The Fraser Institute is ideologically bound, unable to consider the possibility of error in their anachronous vision of unregulated capitalism as a system where rational individuals operate veraciously within perfect markets.

In How Did Economists Get It So Wrong, Nobel Laureate Professor Paul Krugman wrote this about sacred markets:
Unfortunately, this romanticized and sanitized vision of the economy led most economists to ignore all the things that can go wrong. They turned a blind eye to the limitations of human rationality that often lead to bubbles and busts; to the problems of institutions that run amok; to the imperfections of markets — especially financial markets — that can cause the economy’s operating system to undergo sudden, unpredictable crashes; and to the dangers created when regulators don’t believe in regulation.
Fraser Institute analysis starts with immutable assumptions and its conclusions are predictable results of these axioms. If favored theory does not fit fact, it is not wrong, it is inappropriate to that particular situation, due to regulatory interference.

By inflexibility, the Institute is ill-equipped to examine 21st century civilization and advise on political economics. Why? Because, they adulate an unjustified conviction that western civilization must continue along the same track of growth and expansion. It cannot.

Undeterrable terrorism, resource scarcity and irreversible climate change challenge us in unprecedented ways. In addition, accelerated technological change from quantum computing, genetic engineering, nanotechnology and other applied sciences demand radically new direction of industry and commerce.

The Fraser Institute's purpose is to preserve the present order, complete with its structural disparities of wealth. Unfortunately, the organization wields powerful political influences that will inhibit flexible responses to unique problems confronting western civilization in the next 50 years. The Fraser Institute is incapable of assisting in development of new socioeconomic protocols simply because, representing today's wealthiest corporations and citizens, it is their diehard partisan.

* * * * *
J.M. Keynes wrote in 1923:
Economists set themselves too easy, too useless a task, if in tempestuous seasons they can only tell us that when the storm is long past the ocean is flat again.
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Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Other inconvenient truth

Alex G. Tsakumis is using his opinion site to pummel a few people at Vancouver City Hall. He's pounding the lightweights but also the presumed heavyweights. Truth is they have all been outclassed by a man modestly self-described as thin, quiet and easy to miss in a crowd.

The issues began by an examination of building inspection practices, schemes designed at the highest level of civic bureaucracy.  The City's initial response was casually disingenuous. However, because Alex had evidence and pertinacity, the spontaneous reflex changed to a demanding defense of disinformation.  They were caught out when the fired Chief Electrician cagily interpreted his settlement agreement as preventing him from voicing opinions, but not facts. That left the politicians sputtering.

In my little experience dealing with civic authorities, an overreaching strategy has been clear. Municipal governments formerly employed inspectors who did something less common today. They actually inspected sites, first hand, and they had the skills to separate good work from bad. Homeowners depended on inspectors as guardians, ensuring that contractors were doing what was intended.

However, municipal lawyers started to worry about liability and exposure. They said, "Look, if the city inspects an installation and approves it, a court might hold that the homeowner has a right to assume the work meets codes and industry standards."

A moment's thought presents the quandary. City folks want the building done properly and large permit fees but they don't want exposure when things go wrong, as in leaky condos. So they decided to remove themselves, as much as possible, from the inspection game. However, as Alex points out, inspections are important revenue centers, so they can't simply withdraw.

The brilliant solution is to require significant projects to have independent professionals "sign-off" on any work subject to inspection. This means for example that engineers hired by the contractor must state that every bit of work was done as it should be. In fact, the city staff cares more about seeing the professional's certificate of insurance than the construction site. If a building fails now, it is the engineer and other professionals who defend the lawsuits.

Beyond the untruthfulness of public officials and their lackeys, is an important issue of public safety and asset protection. Safety is self-evident. Examples:
NEWARK, April 12 - Engineers spent the day assessing and inspecting the damage at Mt. Vernon High School. An exterior wall of the auditorium collapsed on Monday, sending tons of bricks and cinder block crashing down in what the principal said sounded like a bomb. . .The auditorium is capable of holding hundreds of people. Luckily at the time of the collapse there were no students inside. (School not pictured.)

NEW YORK, April 13 (UPI) -- One apartment building in New York's Chinatown gutted by a deadly fire had more than two dozen open violations for hazardous conditions, officials said.
Believe me, I could put up countless examples of endangerment from faulty construction. But, asset protection is significant as well. This may not cause direct loss of life but families can be financially destroyed.  Example:
SEATTLE – A nine-year-old high-rise near downtown Seattle with hundreds of residents and dozens of retailers will soon be nothing but a hole in the city's skyline. The 25-floor McGuire Apartment building at Second Avenue and Wall Street – built in 2001 – already has to come down because it soon will be declared unsafe for occupancy by the city.
I suspect that Ark Tsisseriev was discharged because he wanted his department to final inspect Olympic facilities and City Manager Penny Ballem simply wanted them released for occupancy. The risk to safety was less important to the bosses than the inconvenience of Olympic facilities delayed. The honorable engineer took his professional obligation seriously and would not yield. As happens in such situations, they pushed him aside and were forced to pay severance. With his long service and stellar reputation, the city was certain to lose a wrongful dismissal suit. Besides, they didn't pay Tsisserev with their own money so it was painless to Ballem who apparently has her own contract with an unusually generous termination clause.

What is clear to me is that senior city officials, with complicity of Burgess Robertson, didn't want the real story told but misjudged the power of the new media.  One journalist took the lead and refused to let the lies stand.

Alex, cast your eyes on Victoria and raise the heat on another set of prevaricating monsters.

Meanwhile, in Toronto. . . 
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Life summarized by four bottles


Thank you David R., who, incidentally, was an actually funny class clown 50 years or so ago.

He says, "Shit, we're on #3!"

Priceless.
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Monday, April 12, 2010

Now is not the time to talk

Standing in the legislature, the place of the people's business, Kevin Krueger says now is not the time to talk about the people's business. Not here, not now. Hark there BC Rail fans, do you hear an echo?
Freddy refuses to discuss T. Richard Turner or anything the former BC Lottery chief, ICBC chairman, investor in gambling operations, Liberal donor and unregistered lobbyist did or said to the Minister about a mushroom cap. It seems that Mr. Turner's named and unnamed gambling associates wanted that new half billion dollar sports stadium roof or else. Else, they would take their new casino elsewhere where they have other bands of friends.

I'm so old, I remember when the only business connecting sports and gambling was conducted by shady characters sitting quietly in a darkened bar chatting with friends who each stopped to pay a loan, an old debt or something.
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Why independent online journalism matters

For profit potential, newspapers are not attractive investments today. In fact, operating returns, if they exist at all, are ancillary. The primary purpose now is to affect public opinion and leverage that influence for benefits quite distinct from journalism.

Years ago, wealth managers, consolidators and speculators began to succeed proprietors who focused on journalism. Families like the Grahams, Sulzbergers and Chandlers prepared for retirement while would-be publishers like Zell, Black and Asper, operating on a wing, a prayer and massive greed, steered the properties onto unseen shoals.

Angelo, Gordon and Co. has a senior debt position in troubled Philadelphia Media Holdings LLC, publisher of the Inquirer and the Daily News. The private investor also has a big stake in the Tribune Company, which owns The LA Times and The Chicago Tribune; Freedom Communications, which owns The Orange County Register; and The Star Tribune in Minneapolis. The companies also own a multitude of other media properties including newspapers, radio and television stations.

Philly newspaper man Brian Tierney says Angelo, Gordon & Co. is:
“a secretive hedge fund that has its fingers on the throat of The Los Angeles Times and The Chicago Tribune and will someday, they hope, basically control the news in three of the four largest news markets in the country if they are able to capture Philadelphia as well.”

Addendum:
Ian from the blog EastoftheSun asked, "Is there a more wretched newspaper than the Vancouver Sun?" Read: Fox News, Vancouver Style and consider if real news coverage is important to senior non-journalists of Vancouver media.

I added a comment at EastoftheSun that includes this:
Ian Haysom, that prized investigative journalist who is news director for Global News in BC writes a regular column. The last few include, listing back from the current one, whether Ricky Martin’s music will be affected by his coming out, how we should remember the resurrected Jesús, memories of Davey Crockett and the cowboys and golfing in Arizona.
Is this funny, crazy or both? Of course, Haysom approved the recent Global TV "scoop" providing a series of manufactured pieces doing a pre-release of Kevin Falcon's latest move toward privatization of healthcare.

I suggest the remaining professional journalists in this town have little self-respect if they avoid speaking out. These people are like passengers in a sinking rowboat who have stopped bailing and are simply waiting to swim away at the best moment.
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Happy birthday to us

On today's first birthday of Northern Insights, we've had more readers than ever before and also enjoyed a record for weekly readership this past 7 days.

I'm proud to have participated in a strong community of British Columbia bloggers. Many people have inspired me but no more than two women who set the standard for diligence and humanity: BC Mary and Laila Yuile.

But, thank you to all readers.
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Friday, April 9, 2010

One more raygun with scary sound fx off the street

We learned this week of four brave gun-toting Quesnel RCMP officers doing a violent take-down of 90 pound Rodney Moffat, a disabled, mentally challenged, 49 year-old man.

Someone had reported Moffat might have a gun in his pocket. He did, a bulbous plastic space ray-gun, complete with scary sound effects.

Karl Moffat has complained that his son suffered bruised ribs and has pain in his wrists and lungs because police used too much force by tackling him to the ground.

Does anyone else notice the similarity between this incident and the one that left Robert Dziekanski dying on the floor at Vancouver International Airport?  There too, four RCMP officers preferred violence as the first response. Luckily, the Quesnel 4 had no taser to deploy.

Unfortunately, we have too many hormone pumped police officers who believe the first response should be force. Far better for them to engage their brains first. As the father asked, what happened to the concept of observation and determination that should precede every action?

Another example of brawn before brain.
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Thursday, April 8, 2010

Quid pro quo: softball treatment of Liberal improprieties

Today, Global TV is applauding their 'exclusive' role in broadcasting the Kevin Falcon press release news story about patient centered funding in hospitals. Global says big changes are coming that will be announced next week to less friendly media.

In reports, Global is conflating disparate issues. Thursday News Hour introduced a man who had successful spinal surgery at Lions Gate Hospital. They showed LGH surgeons and claimed this great care was achieved by the results oriented funding that is proposed for much of BC's hospital system. I had a total knee replacement at LGH in 2007 and they were already running a fast track surgical joint replacement clinic, without benefit of this so called new funding system. I was in and out of hospital in less than 48 hours.

While I'm sure the Minister and advocates of a private health system were pleased, I see this as irresponsible, agenda driven reporting. It is prima facie evidence that the BC Liberal Government is in league with Canwest Global news operations, in print and in broadcasts. Here is a story about public business dealt out as an exclusive by Kevin Falcon, Mr. Big of BC political manipulation. Apparently the quid pro quo that Global TV paid was more softball treatment of Liberal scandals.

Tonight, Keith Baldrey barely mentioned the Casino influence peddling story, using 11 seconds to report the NDP will raise the controversy in next week's question period. No detail, no timelines, no background. Global TV is almost ignoring the scandal, which The Gazetteer calls 'Casino Royale'. This is the treatment they gave BC Rail, "Move along folks, nothing to see here."  In Casino Royale, the house has been exposed; caught red-handed, cheating in a rigged game.

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Drilling for truth

The BC Government won't give it to you. Canwest Newspapers won't give it to you, nor Global TV.

The truth is out there. 

From ProPublica:

On April 30, 2001 a small drilling company now owned by the Canadian gas company Encana fractured a well at the top of Dry Hollow, a burgeoning field in western Colorado that has seen one of the fastest rates of energy development in the nation.

The well sat at the end of a dirt drive among pinion pines and juniper at the crest of a small mesa overlooking the Colorado River. It was also less than 1,000 feet from the log farmhouse where Larry and Laura Amos lived.

As usual that day, water trucks lined up like toy soldiers on the three acre dirt pad cleared for drilling just across the Amos’ property line. They pumped 82,000 gallons of fluids at 3,600 pounds of pressure thousands of feet into the drill hole.
Suddenly the Amos' drinking water well exploded like a Yellowstone geyser, firing its lid into the air and spewing mud and gray fizzing water high into the sky. State inspectors tested the Amos well for methane and found lots of it. They did not find benzene or gasoline derivatives and they did not test fracking fluids, state records show, because they didn't know what to test for.

The Amoses were told that methane occurs naturally and is harmless. Inspectors warned them to keep the windows open and vent the basement, but they were never advised to protect themselves or their infant daughter from the water. It wasn't until three years later, when Laura Amos was diagnosed with a rare adrenal tumor, that she started challenging the state about the mysterious chemicals that might have been in her well. . .
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Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Save Your Skin Foundation - RERUN

I am discouraged by near endless stories of people who wrong society and care little because they value financial gain above all. It doesn't matter if it is an unethical business person or a dishonest politician dealing out favors or a person in authority using influence to escape consequences of wrongdoing.

I read about nefarious activities and write about them too often. That led me to examine the archives where I recalled this feel good story. It is about a woman who is about as opposite as one can get from the sleaze bag influence peddlers who play their lives on a much different ball field and play a much different game.

This was first published on Northern Insights in September 2009.  In the intervening time, Kathy Barnard's foundation has helped many to get on with life and consoled the families of those who did not have that choice. It is spring time, good moments to read about this cause and appreciate a fine hero in our community.

* * * * * * *
Good fortune on occasion will present to us a person able to reveal and demonstrate powerful elements of human character. Not by ostentatious actions, nor simple affectations. Instead, through fostering knowledge, educating people and working selflessly to mitigate pain and, most importantly, inspiring others, friends and strangers alike.

By serendipity, one of those people crossed my path last evening. Again.

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Breaking news of broken government

Readers can read a fine example demonstrating why I subscribed to Sean Holman's Public Eye Online and why I asked others to offer similar support.

BCLC chair had stake in Alberta casino development
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Industry strongly opposes the USA approach . . .

During a time when energy companies are rapidly expanding efforts in BC's Horn River Shale Basin, the Liberals are slashing funds for environmental oversight and inspection. Cuts in the latest budget plan occur despite mounting evidence that new production techniques carry special dangers. In BC, activity levels soar and regulatory efforts plummet.

In the 2008 Budget Fiscal Plan, expenditures in the current (2010/2011) year were planned to be $360 million for environment, energy, mines and resources. In the most recent plan, the budget for those same programs is $221 million. Expenditures originally planned for this fiscal year were 163% higher than funds now budgeted.

With private river and wind power projects planned all over the province, increased mining activity and higher natural gas production in the northeast, regulatory capacity is crippled by budget cuts. This reflects the Campbell government's aversion to environmental enforcement and willingness to accept industry self-regulation.

In the USA, the regulatory situation respecting shale gas production is reversed. Because of known dangers and apparent risks, the EPA is acting aggresively.  More news from ProPublica:

A federal study of hydraulic fracturing [1] set to begin this spring is expected to provide the most expansive look yet at how the natural gas drilling process can affect drinking water supplies, according to interviews with EPA officials and a set of documents outlining [2] the scope of the project. The research will take a substantial step beyond previous studies and focus on how a broad range of ancillary activity – not just the act of injecting fluids under pressure – may affect drinking water quality.

The oil and gas industry strongly opposes this new approach. [emphasis added] The agency’s intended research "goes well beyond relationships between hydraulic fracturing and drinking water," said Lee Fuller, vice president of government affairs for the Independent Petroleum Association of America in comments [3] (PDF) he submitted to the Environmental Protection Agency.

The "lifecycle" approach will allow the agency to take into account hundreds of reports of water contamination in gas drilling fields across the country. Although the agency hasn’t settled on the exact details, researchers could examine both underground and surface water supplies, gas well construction errors, liquid waste disposal issues and chemical storage plans as part of its assessment.
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