Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Disgrace rooted in greed

No person acquainted with the young Gordon Campbell is surprised that his political career is ending in disgrace rooted in greed. Without a patriarch, the Campbell family struggled, not in abject poverty, but in living the elegant Point Grey style of their neighbors. The young ones learned firsthand how social status ultimately depended on money. They vowed to secure status that could not be denied.

As adults, both Gordon and brother Michael value wealth and influence as the prime markers of success. These are not humanists aiming to improve the lives of humble folk. They do not spend time volunteering in slums or empowering disadvantaged youth. They deal with human detritus as if litter, to be removed or screened. The important people to the Campbells are the wealth creators accumulators and backroom rainmakers. The brothers value money above all, not for its ability to do good works, but to purchase comforts, to enable disregard for the commons and to ensure status among society's exclusive layer, the same folks annoyed by the young Campbell family struggling to live above their means long ago.

I have heard Gordon Campbell's early pals amuse social gatherings with reckless stories of his youthful impulses and willingness to do deals with pals for joint rewards. Once Mayor of Vancouver, he chose friends carefully and treated them well. These tales are important because they foreshadowed a turn toward darkness when the man gained control of enormous public wealth.

The BC Rail Corruption is the most easily understood but the greatest larceny involving public assets is happening with BC Hydro. Campbell wanted to privatize the agency but that was politically impossible; it had served people of BC too well for too long. Instead, Campbell's puppet masters concocted a scheme to privatize BC Hydro's revenue streams. They sold a "green" power plan to the public as the key to provincial self-sufficiency, replete with images of benign river developments operated by deserving First Nations people and Mom and Pop entrepreneurs from local communities. That the Mom and Pop operations turned out to have names like General Electric and Epcor Utilities was minor. If multi-national corporations help us create energy independence and autonomy, so be it. If those international companies must be guaranteed markets at high prices and assured generous profitability for decades to come, that is simply how private capital operates. It is not as if business should have to take risks to earn profits. Besides, we cannot release the full details because competitive reasons dictate privacy. Nevertheless, trust us. Have we ever lied before?

Globe and Mail columnist Margaret Wente wrote about
"the wacky world of green power, where misguided governments have sparked a massive corporate feeding frenzy (at taxpayers' expense) to achieve little or nothing of any social benefit."
However, those are complicated deals, to be paid for partly by people yet unborn. Even accountants and economists struggle with the details. The same people, the smartest guys in the room, who negotiated the sale - not-a-sale - of BC Rail for a billion - or, perhaps a few million - will ensure that public interest is served similarly, whether in railways or electricity, convention centres, healthcare agencies or education.
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The blossom and the fading flower


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Ferry Master David Hahn guarantees on-time, on-budget fleet renewal




Improved loading and unloading facilities are pending.
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Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Analyze this

Perhaps Jeff Lee and his Van Sun colleagues will consider the sources tainted, but I'd say that RossK at The Gazetteer demonstrates clearly that Liberal versions of the BC Rail sale do not reflect reality. That fact should make Old Media uncomfortable and, judging by recent slanders and libels pointed at bloggers, they appear to be feeling the heat.

I was interviewed by an American reporter recently who had noted the vibrant blog scene covering British Columbia's regional politics. He wondered why. My answer is that the lazy professional media largely abdicated the role of independent commentary and analysis because ownership has a quite different agenda and the BC Government uses massive spending power to reward and punish.
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Saturday, September 18, 2010

Land of opportunities, or land of entitlements?

Paul Willcocks again writes a piece that should outrage each one of us. Yet, how can we be surprised?
It was probably just a sideshow in terms of the B.C. Rail trial.

But Brian Kenning's time in the witness box offered an interesting look at the deep divides in B.C. these days.

Kenning is a Liberal supporter who was appointed a B.C. Rail director after the 2001 election. He was part of the board that recommended selling the railway. That happened in 2003.

But in 2004, the shrunken corporation spent $72,276 on Canucks tickets. In 2005, the Crown corporation spend $29,000 on BC Lion's tickets. In 2006, $45,349 for prime Canucks seats.

Companies buy hockey tickets in an attempt to influence customers. It wouldn't be seemly to offer the purchasing agent for a client $300, but tickets to a Canucks-Canadiens game are OK.

B.C. Rail really didn't have any potential customers to woo.
Continue reading at Paying Attention
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Friday, September 17, 2010

Dying in increments and OK with that - From Feb/10, brought to the top once more

People with conspicuous courage or ability are admired as heroes for deeds and qualities. In these days of super-rich athletes and undistinguished celebrities famous mostly for their fame, the word is applied too readily. Yet, hero well describes the rare one who personifies extraordinariness.

To me, such a man is Roger Ebert. I've enjoyed reading more of his words than of any other writer. (To be accurate, I read more of mine but enjoy more of his.) Although available in newspapers, books and by the Internet, he's known to many as a television film critic. With Gene Siskel, he pioneered Sneak Previews, America's first regular TV show about the movies. It premiered nationally with PBS in 1977 and continued there until shifted to commercial syndication. Despite Siskel's death in 1999, Ebert continued regularly until ill health forced his departure from TV in 2006.

Ebert is much more than a movie critic. He is an essayist and social commentator who happens also to be a reliable arbiter of film arts. He is credited with numerous books, many that are collections of selected writings, but his work is freely accessible online. He interacts with readers at rogerebert.com, which presents reviews, essays and his Movie-Answer-Man feature, and at Roger Ebert's Journal, where he writes about any topic.

Whatever flows from Ebert is about love and joy, people and passion, his land and ours, the real world and those fantastical. His journalistic expertise is unquestioned. For example, read The London Perambulator, a discourse on an imaginary walk through parts of London. Yet it is more. Much more.

Ebert reminisces and muses about people and places, youth, innocence, literature, traditions and topography, mortality and immortality. After reading this piece, I understood why artist Verrocchio reacted as he did upon examining the angel painted on the Baptism of Christ by pupil Leonardo da Vinci. Knowing himself unable to match that work of genius, the older man never painted again. Ebert's London Perambulator transcends typical travel journalism.

Those who follow the great writer's career will know Ebert has been challenged to an extreme by health issues. Recurring cancer is gone but he lost the ability to eat, drink and speak. He's not often seen in public but he's not homebound either. And, his words flow with more power, grace and beauty than before.

Esquire Magazine presents Roger Ebert: The Essential Man. Writer Chris Jones backgrounds Ebert's present condition and celebrates the man's spirit and determination to keep life meaningful. Jones particularly admires Roger Ebert's Journal, telling of how :
It has become his life's work, building and maintaining this massive monument to written debate — argument is encouraged, so long as it's civil — and he spends several hours each night reclined in his chair, tending to his online oasis by lamplight. Out there, his voice is still his voice — not a reasonable facsimile of it, but his.
As I wrote at the top, hero is a word too frequently used. But, if it is one who inspires others and exhibits the finest human qualities, Roger Ebert is a hero. Visit his journal regularly and share in a monumental project.
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Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Photos from a land where people help and care for each other


One day, I'll add the story.
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Saturday, September 4, 2010

Piling on

From Michael Smyth in The Province:
"Hansen revealed to reporters this week that the government spent $780,000 on pro-HST brochures that will now be fed into a paper shredder instead of being mailed to B.C. homes as planned."
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Porn for old folks

Tony Bourdain, exuding uncontrived deference atypical of New Yorkers, shared a table with Korean-American food superstar David Chang. They were at Chang's  momofuku ssam bar, one of the most in-demand pleasure houses in Gotham. Bourdain says:
"David Chang is changing the entire landscape of dining in America, serving radically different, unusually inexpensive, fearlessly creative food.
After plates of Peking style roasted pork belly, Bourdain mused:
I would cheerfully dispense with any number of my early sexual experiences in favor of a good hunk of pork like this.
Yes Tony, it's changes in latitudes, changes in attitudes. Nothing remains quite the same.
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Another possible HST scenario

Georgia Straight's Charlie Smith poses the possibility that Colin Hansen was excluded from HST decision making and unaware the Premier had set the policy in motion through Graham Whitmarsh, Campbell's 2009 appointee as Deputy Finance Minister.

This version is not helpful to Hansen's reputation since a Finance Minister with working cojones would never tolerate being kept in a quiet corner while underlings busily cobbled fundamental tax changes. No matter what details finally emerge, Colin Hansen will soon be selling pennants at the in-law's flag shop.
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Friday, September 3, 2010

Another uncensored briefing for citizens

Doing political analysis, Rafe Mair swings a hammer. Paul Willcocks, on the other hand, prefers a scalpel. His blog Thursday at Paying Attention, HST saga gets still worse for the Liberals, quietly makes government supporters squirm because it demonstrates that Liberals are lying when they say they have not been lying:
The FOI documents raise other questions.

Campbell told the legislature that B.C. officials did not even discuss the HST with their federal counterparts until well after the election. Hansen said the same thing in answer to a specific NDP question. There was absolutely no contact of any kind between federal and B.C. officials until late May, he said.But there was. The documents show discussions and e-mail exchanges between the B.C. officials long before the campaign began.
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HST was not on Hansen's radar, it was on his desk!

Rafe Mair has a voice that makes higher purpose people nervous because he articulates uncomfortable truths with brutal honesty and little regard for the comfort of former friends. His experience as a successful Cabinet Minister in William Bennett's government makes him uniquely worth listening to:
"Colin Hansen, our Finance Minister, not only isn't telling the truth about the HST situation, he is a sniveling, cringing coward to boot. . .
"Folks, the plain truth is this: Colin Hansen asked for the [HST] briefing note more than two months before the election and the issue was not only "on the radar screen", it was well on its way to becoming government policy - a policy that Campbell and Hansen hid from the people during the election. . ."
Or, as Ian Reid contributed, "HST wasn't on Hansen's radar, it was on his desk."

Read more by Rafe Mair  HST Briefing Memo: Hansen & Campbell Caught Red Handed
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Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Still smokin’

I did write earlier that my hiatus might be interrupted if the good ship BC Liberal, foundering in the sea of inveracity, appeared finally ready to go under with all hands aboard. That moment has arrived.

Documents newly released through FOI make it certain that a campaign of lies, considered and centrally controlled, has been underway since the day smirking Campbell and simpering Hansen announced HST as a fait accompli. Have Liberals become careless, moronic or both? These documents suggest the all-inclusive option.

We can only wonder if they abandoned principles, or whether they ever had any. No one is surprised about Campbell but I find it sad that Colin Hansen, supposedly an honorable man before government, made his Faustian bargain. Perhaps through this, Hansen will learn one of life's hardest lessons, that is a person's ethics on and off the job cannot be separated.

Mark Twain, one of my favorite iconoclasts provides advice to politicians. Our erstwhile friends in Victoria learned well when Twain wrote:
"Get your facts first, then you can distort them as you please."
Campbell and Hansen have had their facts straight on HST. They appointed proxies to negotiate with Ottawa and Ontario. They also knew the immediate political damage that HST implementation would cause if announced before the 2009 election. These arrogant politicians had lied so often with success, the course was clear. Proceed as you wish, but distort the facts with impunity when pretending to be accountable to the public.

The Campbell government has moved slowly on all other matters of policy. Remember when First Nations reconciliation was a priority? Reform of policing in British Columbia, urgently needed, has been studied and delayed for years. Major revisions to the School Act, kicking around endlessly, were shelved in 2010 because the government lacks courage and credibility for another divisive campaign to please right wing ideologues. Nothing significant happens quickly in government. Civil servants study simple programs extensively, analyzing strengths and weaknesses. Politicians might be impulsive in announcements but never in implementation of major policies.

The Liberal leaders wanted us to believe that, with no political direction, civil servants pressed forward to implement a fundamental policy change and failed to discuss the massive tax change with any elected authority, but within days of the election, they went to their political masters and the stage was irreversibly set for HST to be effective in weeks. Newly released documents prove Colin Hansen was indeed notified in writing of ongoing negotiations well before the election. He claims he did not read the memos and never spoke with his loyal deputies about their unusual activities. As I said before, "Colin Hansen, your pant are smokin'."
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