Monday, January 31, 2011

They don't need us anymore

Harold Meyerson, an American journalist and opinion columnist, was named one of "the most influential commentators in the nation" by the Atlantic Monthly in 2009.

Editor-at-large of The American Prospect, he wrote Business is Booming in which he argues that leading American corporations have found a way to thrive even if the American economy doesn't recover. Meyerson warns, "This is very, very bad news."
When he was CEO of General Electric, in 1998, Jack Welch pithily summarized his vision for corporate America: "Ideally, you'd have every plant you own on a barge to move with currencies and changes in the economy."

Since then, corporations have discovered that they don't need barges in order to unmoor themselves from the American economy. As corporate profits skyrocket, even as the economy remains stalled in a deep recession, Americans confront a grim new reality: Our corporations don't need us anymore. Half their revenues come from abroad. Their products, increasingly, come from abroad as well. . . . continue reading

Caution, you may not want to read Meyerson's article if using an iPad.
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Is there truly an ocean of apathy?

On the preceding article Ole left a comment that ended:
". . . If only more people would become engaged, but sadly I look around at an ocean of apathy."
My first prideful response is that things are changing. Blogs like this speak to audiences that grow from week to week. Online magazines The Tyee, Vancouver Observer and Georgia Straight provide alternative opinions on news, albeit in an eclectic mix of infotainment. We also know that traditional media has lost readership and influence. Public reaction to HST demonstrates this clearly. Despite support of all mainstream influences, public opposition to transferring tax burden from business to individual consumers was overwhelming. Not because it was poorly explained by government, rather because it was well explained by new media.

However, the elites fear Internet based commentaries put their authority at risk. The Wall Street Journal presents the most recent example of an unsurprising response:
The one remaining Egyptian Internet service provider was just shut down. . . The Noor Group, an Egyptian ISP that remained live throughout the nation’s Internet blackout that the government ordered last Thursday, no longer provides Internet service . . ." 
Canada is not autocratic and comparable to Arab states. Nor is it democratic in the sense of political control being exercised by common people rather than any privileged class. Without doubt, this country is a plutocracy, accelerated through centralization of power by heads of government, federal and provincial. The increase in concentration of power at the center is unhealthy. It cedes authority of elected representatives to the leader's entourage and key central agencies responsible to him or her.

Egyptian autocrats shut down the Internet quickly when resistance to authority began. Well, people, we're on that road in Canada too. Plutocrats grow more nervous as they lose control of political messaging. They want Internet privacy eliminated and gateway controls. Electronic communication is already prospected for information of interest to authorities operating in total secrecy.

Interest in controlling the Internet is also economic, aimed at protecting financial interests of powerful cable suppliers such as Shaw, Bell, Telus, Videotron, etc. For example, Netflix Canada recently offered unlimited downloads of movies and TV programs for $8 a month, about the cost of a single HD movie rented from a cable company's video-on-demand. That quickly led to Internet companies moving toward metered billing with easy approval from government regulators.

NDP digital affairs critic Charlie Angus said the CRTC’s decision to allow usage-based Internet billing will unfairly hit Canadian consumers in the pocket by limiting competition from online viewing sources.
“We’ve seen this all before with cell phones. Allowing the Internet Service Providers to ding you every time you download is a rip-off. Canada is already falling behind other countries in terms of choice, accessibility and pricing for the Internet. The large ISP-broadcast entities now have a tool for squashing their main competitors – both in internet and video services. We need clear rules that put consumers first.”
However, the relationship between governments and Canada's integrated media giants is close. Each side serves the other, in ways obvious. Competition is limited and media profits are extraordinary, helped further by direct subsidies such as those paid to Rogers. Despite immense profits of monopoly cable providers, they pay less and less tax as both Victoria and Ottawa hurry to lower corporate income taxes. There is no wonder that media companies are locked in full embrace with government. The plutocracy looks after itself.

If ordinary citizens wait for someone else to resolve these problems, we will wait for ever, while those with power work to enlarge their own wealth, power and influence. The question remains: if our society fails, what will be left for their children and grandchildren?
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Thieves get rewarded even when thievery goes awry

A charitable group I follow is Coffee Kids, an organization that works in Latin America to improve education, health awareness, microcredit and food security in small coffee-farming communities. An item in the regular CK newsletter caught my interest because it relates to a broader subject of mounting concern. I quote from that item:
"Lately it seems that coffee prices are steadily climbing. To really understand what’s happening, we have to understand the market, how prices are decided upon and how this affects those involved, especially those who are often overlooked—the coffee farmers.

". . . Coffee prices, and therefore coffee farmers’ income, are affected by a number of factors, such as world market prices, climatic issues, supply and demand, speculation, political unrest, transportation costs and a host of other often unpredictable variables. . .

"One of the more recent and influential factors in the coffee market is speculation. Before the deregulation of the 1990s, speculation had a place in the commodities market. It was reigned in because classic laws of supply and demand still controlled market prices.

"Then, as a result of the tireless efforts of banks, hedge funds and politicians, regulations were systematically discarded, leaving us with an all but imaginary market in food speculation, controlled by people who have little to do with agriculture. . .

"John Vidal’s article in The Guardian succinctly explains the effect of speculation. It is estimated that between 70 and 80 percent of the food market is now speculation. . .

"Recently, a wave of investors has had a disproportionate influence on prices within many of the commodity trading markets. These speculators, who often have no commercial interest in the industries in which they invest . . are able to turn a profit on market movements in either direction. This takes markets outside of the realm of simple supply and demand and makes them much more unpredictable.

"What we have then, are groups of farmers working to produce coffee for an extremely volatile market that is even more so today due to the intervention of speculators that may or may not have anything to do with the coffee trade. It becomes clear who benefits from the system and who is often left behind."
Historically, sudden price rises have been blamed on product shortages or unusual changes in consumption patterns. According to John Vidal at The Guardian,
"A new theory is emerging among traders and economists. The same banks, hedge funds and financiers whose speculation on the global money markets caused the sub-prime mortgage crisis are thought to be causing food prices to yo-yo and inflate. The charge against them is that by taking advantage of the deregulation of global commodity markets they are making billions from speculating on food and causing misery around the world."
We have become subject to an elite class of business manipulators who earn immense personal wealth while creating no national wealth. They care precisely nothing about creating tangible properties. They deal in primary securities and generations of near incomprehensible derivative instruments. They manipulate and manage, profiting whether prices go up or down. In the event of disaster, the finance industry is too big, too important to fail. Rescue plans bail out the biggest and richest investors, with the ordinary public protecting them from the risk of losses.

Public rage is the only force able to impose meaningful checks on pillaging manipulators and the corrupt institutional supporters and politicians who are the fundamental enablers of financial crimes. Yet the bodies that should focus and amplify citizen anger, the media and the justice system turn away, too dependent on political largess for their own comforts. American commentator Glenn Greenwald described the situation:
It's a universal dynamic that elites want to keep the masses in a state of silent, disengaged submission, all the better if the masses stay convinced that the elites have their best interests at heart and their welfare is therefore advanced by allowing elites -- the Experts -- to work in peace on our pressing problems, undisrupted and "undistracted" by the need to placate primitive public sentiments.

While that framework is arguably reasonable where the establishment class is competent, honest, and restrained, what we have had -- and have -- is exactly the opposite: a political class and financial elite that is rotted to the core and running amok.
Keep these thoughts in mind when you see and hear radio, television and newspaper accounts telling you that all is well, there is no need for a BC Rail inquiry or an examination of tens of billions of privately produced electricity purchased with certain cost but uncertain value. Remember, the pundits say there are no burning questions to be asked.

Ian Reid did the Corus Radio transcription for last week. It reinforces much that I have written here before:
"Vaughn Palmer started by asking a caller 'what would you ask a public inquiry? What questions would you ask?'

"Keith Baldrey followed with the same thing. 'What are the burning questions?'

"And then Palmer elaborated on the theme 'A lot of the questions I’ve seen so far Bill, are beside the point, or they draw on things, on allegations that the defence made in court that were never proven one way or another and no evidence….' "
Please read Ian's entire post at The Real Story. The three pundits strutted on their Friday stage but all they achieved was to demonstrate their critics are correct. Ian provides further proof.
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Sunday, January 30, 2011

A shepherd persuades sheep their interests and his are the same

Ten days ago, I offered Twit, piled higher and deeper in which I took a shot or three at the Global TV news operation. My blog indicated that in the Kash Heed stories, the Sall/Urquhart email would test the core strength of Global's ethicality. They failed, to the surprise of no one.

Even Liberal party members readily admit they benefit from Global's friendly inclinations. That was not Urquhart's personal policy, it is corporate policy of Global BC and its corporate sister Corus Radio. Also, it was Global Canwest Newspapers policy and remains, at least with their largest BC properties, the policy of successor Postmedia Group.

BC Liberal operator Barinder Sall's email to Catherine Urquhart could easily have referred to Global TV News, saying instead:
"Your stories, coverage and timing give Liberals a flattering profile and built a following from day 1 and then leading into the elections."
In the review by the unnamed senior director of editorial policy, Global faulted only the reporter's failure to maintain plausible deniability. They were not troubled with her acting as Barinder Sall's "communications director." The employer was troubled that she left unchallenged evidence of the role.
"Ms. Urquhart was bound by accepted journalistic principles to negate or dispute Mr. Sall's email comments because of the seriousness of the allegations. In failing to do so, Ms. Urquhart created the appearance of a partisan conflict of interest and thus put at risk the reputation of Global News for balanced reporting."
Tsk. Tsk. She forgot that troublesome emails sometimes emerge. As they did in the Basi/Virk case where recovered electronic messages embarrassed many and led to the $6 million sweetheart deal with the defendants. By the way, I searched for other activities of Global's 'senior director of editorial policy', hoping to attach a name to the position. All recent accounts found through Google refer to the title, not the person. Could it be that Ian Haysom, the only senior Global manager named in any Urquhart stories, is also the senior director of editorial policy?

Did mainstream media seek the source of the exculpatory statement they reported? Did they raise questions about thoroughness, or independence, or merely repeat without examination, as modern stenographic reporters do? According to Sun columnist Daphne Bramham, the media is quick to castigate one of its own when breaches become public. Sorry Daphne, I could not find any castigation of Urquhart from the media, except by wing-nut bloggers. From paid writers, I found plenty of justification and numerous references to your own sympathetic excuse making for Urquhart. And, of course the hard-hitting pundits of Friday morning radio were quick to deny any possibility of friends gaining sympathetic coverage. Sure.

I would love to complain that ethics of today's journalism compare badly to earlier days. That is impossible to prove, broadly. However, in the case of Global BC TV News, that is true because their predecessor in the Burnaby studios was the unbeatable BCTV News. Do you suppose that Cameron Bell would employ editors or producers that allowed this on-air statement from a reporter on January 29?
"Police believe the murderer either knew Tyeshia, just met her or was a total stranger who preyed on a vulnerable girl  . . ." 
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Saturday, January 29, 2011

. . . on whether BC Rail was a steal.

North Van's Grumps is a diamond digger, extracting gems from institutional effluent that others ignore.

Don't miss this one.
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Friday, January 28, 2011

Dirty business that blackens Canada's name

Policy Note, the blog of The Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, noted last summer that, with attention focused on HST, few observers noticed the latest Carbon Tax increase and its regressive nature.
"When it was introduced back in 2008, the carbon tax dedicated about one-third of revenues to a low-income credit (the remainder going to personal and corporate income tax cuts). This was a big positive with households in the bottom 40% of the distribution slightly better off on average, with credits exceeding taxes paid. Alas, last year’s increase to $15 a tonne wiped out that gain because the low income credit barely increase in value (from $100 per adult to $105), while the carbon tax grew by 50%. The new 2010 increment to the carbon tax will make the whole regime regressive – meaning a bigger hit to low-income families relative to their income; they will be absolutely worse off even after considering the credits.

". . . Like the HST, the carbon tax brings a windfall to business, with a large chunk of this year’s revenue going to corporate income tax cuts. Back in 2008, the projected recycling to business tax cuts in 2010/11 was estimated at $333 million. In the 2010/11 budget that amount has been souped up to $412 million – more than half of the anticipated $796 million in carbon tax revenues – to add onto savings coming from the HST.

"Since all taxes are ultimately attributable to households, corporate tax cuts are essentially upper income tax cuts."
In fact, the Carbon Tax is not intended to reduce greenhouse gases. It is a method of financing cuts to corporate income taxes, cuts to gas royalties and increases in tax credits to oil and gas producers. If BC Liberals had a real interest in reduction of the human carbon footprint, they would oppose the Enbridge pipeline from Alberta to a new oil export port in Kitimat. And, they would multiply the capacity for environmental oversight, regulation and inspection in BC's northeast oil and gas fields.

Liberal and Conservative politicians, both federal and provincial, pay lip service to environmental issues. But, that is all. Stephen Harper claimed that Canada promotes "truly global action against global warming."  Gordon Campbell's government said,
". . . Earth’s climate is changing because of human activities. The effects will continue to worsen if no action is taken. That is why the B.C. Government has taken action by introducing the revenue neutral tax on carbon emissions."
Yet, Liberals and Conservatives encourage huge increases in tar sands production, enabling massive exports to countries that will burn oil free of carbon tax. And anyone, anyone with cash, is welcome to do the dirty business that is blackening Canada's name. We set no ethical minimums.

In late 2010, French oil giant Total announced a $1.75 billion partnership with Suncor to develop Alberta tar sands production. That followed Total's earlier $1.5 billion acquisition of a prized tar sands property from Calgary's UTS Energy. Total has other tar sands assets in Alberta and has plans to invest $20 billion in Canadian oil production. Almost all of its projects in Alberta are opposed by environmental groups because of greenhouse-gas emissions and water pollution.

We should know the kind of company welcomed to Canada's dirty business. The following is from High Friends In Low Places by :

"Christophe de Margerie, the chief of French oil and gas giant Total, says that as long as he's around Total will make deals with anyone (perhaps even the devil?) to keep the hydrocarbons flowing. Strongmen and dictators, corrupt regimes, presidents and prime ministers--they're all on his call list.

"A $2.25 billion shale partnership with U.S. gas giant Chesapeake Energy in Texas (and an option in New York) has slowed because of concerns about the rock-splitting technique called hydraulic fracturing. Environmentalists are also trying to scotch the construction of pipelines that would carry oil sands crude to U.S. refineries from Canada, where the company has sunk $5 billion in recent years to acquire undeveloped acreage.

"His favorite pet? Russia, where his relationship with Putin and Deputy Prime Minister Igor Sechin is "of the highest importance." . . . De Margerie's other major focus: Angola. Total gets a third of its daily output from Africa, more than any other supermajor. While Nigeria is the single largest contributor, it's a security nightmare; . . .

Elf's Floch-Prigent taken to prison near Paris
"In 2003 three [Total subsidiary] Elf Aquitaine executives were convicted of funneling $16 million a year to heads of state in Gabon, Cameroon, Congo and Angola. Elf's former chairman Loïk Le Floch-Prigent was given five years in jail for facilitating $300 million in payments in the 1980s and 1990s.

"Iraq and Iran, by contrast, are its crown of thorns. In the 1990s both Total and Elf negotiated with Saddam Hussein's henchmen for rights to develop the Majnoon and Nahr bin Umar megafields. At the time De Margerie was head of Total's upstream division and the point man for talks. Saddam was eager to get the French to sign a deal that would violate the sanctions against his regime. Total did, however, transport and market a lot of Iraqi crude during the U.N.'s oil-for-food program. In 2006 French authorities held De Margerie for questioning over payments allegedly connected to Saddam's siphoning of cash during that time.

"Iran has a fresher odor of scandal. In March 2007, a month after taking over as CEO, De Margerie was hauled in by French authorities for 36 hours of interrogation over a $2 billion deal with Iran in 1997 to develop its massive Persian Gulf gas field. In a 2007 interview with Petroleum Intelligence, De Margerie confirmed that he authorized payments of $40 million (for consulting and lobbying efforts) to middlemen--allegedly associates of former Iranian president Ali Akbar Rafsanjani and his son.
"The company is already doing so with rogue regimes like Burma and Venezuela. Since cutting a deal in the mid-1990s, Total has been developing and piping natural gas to Thailand, earning profits estimated at more than $200 million over the last decade and helping to prop up Burma's junta with an estimated $4 billion in revenues."
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It is one thing to get growth going, another to share that

News item:
Egyptian security forces have used rubber bullets, tear gas and water canon in running battles with tens of thousands of anti-government demonstrators demanding that Hosni Mubarak, the president, step down.

The demonstrations, the fourth consecutive day of protests in Egypt, started after Muslim Friday prayers, with the most serious clashes taking place in the capital Cairo.
Egypt's day of fury: Cairo in flames as cities become battlegrounds. Hosni Mubarak regime left reeling as thousands defy curfew. Police fire baton round volleys into crowds unwilling to retreat. . . 
News item:
From Amman to Sana'a, wave of protest spreads across Arab world. Tunisian unrest continues, while protesters in Jordan and Yemen demand leaders' resignation
News item:
Tunisia's protests spark suicide in Algeria and fears through Arab world Man burns to death in Algeria in echo of man's death that began Tunisian protests while Arab states are nervous . .
News item:
Hedge fund manager John Paulson personally made more than $5 billion in profit in 2010, which may likely be the largest one-year earnings in investment history, the Wall Street Journal said.

Paulson's latest profit has trumped the nearly $4 billion he made with his "short" bets against subprime mortgages in 2007, the Journal said.
News item:
"The Obama administration's pay czar said Friday that 17 banks receiving taxpayer money from the $700 billion financial bailout made "ill-advised" payments to their executives. But he stopped short of calling them "contrary to the public interest," language that would have signaled a fight to get it back."
News item:
"World Economic Forum. . . an unrestrained affair: loud bands, drunken, middle-aged dancing and massive amounts of free booze. Most of those elements will probably still be there tonight. But in these more straitened times, Davos is getting a bit self-conscious about drunken revelry. . .

"The annual Davos ball almost seems to invite satire. But then the same thing could be said about the entire World Economic Forum. There is something faintly comic about seeing so many important people (and vast egos) crammed into a small Swiss ski resort, slithering and sliding their way along the same Alpine streets in garish anoraks and newly purchased snow-boots.

The earnest mission statement of the World Economic Forum – 'committed to improving the state of the world' – sits uneasily alongside the reality of the forum, much of which is made up of frantic networking, self-promotion, deal-making and social climbing. . . "
News item:
  • Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou said the global crisis had led to an "unsustainable" race to the bottom in labor standards and social protection in developed nations. "Politically, I believe we are at a turning point where... there are signs in Europe of more nationalism, more racism, anti-Muslim, anti-Semitism, fundamentalisms of all types," he said. "We need to look to a different model."
  • "Maurice Levy, chairman and chief executive of French advertising giant Publicis said, "We have been led by greed. We have been led by only the bottom line, the profit and we have sacrificed the workers in order to please the stockholders."
  • Former U.S. President Bill Clinton said tackling income inequalities was essential to future growth and needed to be part of the core of doing business in the 21st century.
  • U.S. economist Nouriel Roubini predicted a backlash against budget cuts in Europe if there was no rapid return to economic growth. "People are willing to do austerity, willing to do sacrifices and reform as long as there's light at the end of the tunnel," he said.
  • With unrest in Tunisia and Egypt a major talking point in Davos, the Chief Economist for the African Development Bank predicted more trouble ahead if the fruits of growth were not shared more evenly:
  • "If you are not even creating jobs, not even sharing the economic growth that is coming through, then there will be push-back," he said. "It's one thing to get good growth going. It is another to share that."
WEF founder Klaus Schwab says the world's top bankers did not travel to Davos to discuss the troubled world economy but to celebrate lavish luxury parties,
Secretarial pool.
"The crisis in financial markets is also a crisis of the World Economic Forum in Davos. Today, at the height of the worst financial crisis in decades, most top banks did not come all the way to Davos to listen to the warnings of critical contemporaries - but to have fun and to court customers. The parties have become, little by little, out of hand. . . We let that get out of control."
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And justice for all

I argued here that BC Liberals provided Basi and Virk with a sweetheart deal in exchange for guilty pleas that allowed their trial to be ended. Here is more evidence - if we need any - that the Liberal Government's deal with Basi and Virk was corrupt, aimed at stopping the trial from proceeding.

News item, January 28, 2011:
"A Victoria woman who faked a series of life-threatening illnesses in order to pay for her gambling addiction has been sentenced to three years in jail. Tina Sammons, 37, pleaded guilty in November to four counts of fraud in which she swindled $350,000 from her husband's parents, her brother-in-law, sister-in-law and her husband's best friend . . .

"She was arrested in November after her brother-in-law hired a private detective to investigate her, which led to the exposure of the 18-month spree.

"Sammons's husband . . .asked provincial court Judge Adrian Brooks to allow Sammons to serve two years less a day at home. But Brooks ruled Sammons must do jail time to demonstrate how seriously society views such cruel deception. . . "
We shall examine the differences.
  • Sammons' crimes in 2009 and 2010 were against friends and family, not against the trust of the entire public;
  • The victims conducted their own investigation so there was relatively small cost to the crown;
  • The perpetrator pleaded guilty so there was no extended use of trial courts;
  • British Columbia did not pay millions of dollars to the guilty defendant or her lawyers.
In another case reported this week, telephone scammer John Raymond Bezeredi, 46, of West Vancouver was sentenced in a US court to nine years in prison for fraud. He was ordered to pay almost $5 million in restitution.

What was the sentence for Basi/Virk case that cost taxpayers well more than $10 million? Less than two years of modified house arrest that enables the convicted men to live almost normal lives with absences allowed for work, family, recreation and religion. Thanks Mike de Jong, as Attorney General, the chief law enforcement officer of the province.
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Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Don't drink the water

This issue is vital to British Columbians.

Hydraulic fracturing will play an important role in northeast shale gas fields. Despite known and probable risks, BC Liberals have ceded oversight of the environment to producers in an industry with a record of carelessness and frequent mishaps. Though risk has been rising dramatically, the BC Liberals steadily reduced protection resources. This is done for their corporate sponsors who demand self-regulation, a policy that will lead to unprecedented disasters.

The Financial Times reports that today "Gasland, the environmental documentary about the effects of shale gas extraction, has been nominated for a “best documentary” Oscar. The makers are, of course, buzzing, but, predictably, gas campaigners are livid.

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What has never been gone into impartially has never been properly gone into

Though the mills of God grind slowly,
Yet they grind exceeding small;
Though with patience he stands waiting,
With exactness grinds he all. 
 (von Logau / Longfellow)
Most devout folk, even dedicated agnostics, hold confidence in the Law of Karma, the view that every act provokes an ultimate and appropriate consequence. Yet most prefer that justice be served in the present day, not the hereafter. However, as I've claimed here repeatedly, the staff at the Criminal Justice Branch, such as Assistant Deputy Attorney General Robert W.G. Gillen. Q.C., seems OK with the longer process.

Ian Reid at The Real Story examines performance of the Special Prosecutor system that, two years after allegations were raised, is still examining alleged election fraud by BC Liberal campaigners including MLA Kash Heed. Reid smartly focuses on Stephen Owens' analysis, by which he determined the Special Prosecutor system, which he designed, is functioning appropriately. The Vancouver Sun reported Owens' conclusions:
" 'The strong opinion of many senior people working with the system is that it meets the overriding public interests of fairness, accountability and public confidence in our criminal justice system,' concluded Owen, after interviewing current and former players in the system as well as key critics from outside. 'There is pride and confidence in the special prosecutor system, which is unique in Canada.' "
Pay attention to the wording, he talked to the people involved plus "critics from outside" then reported he found [at least] some "pride and confidence" in the system. Of course, had AG staff and contracted lawyers said the opposite, they would have indicted themselves. We have a similar example in Global TV's internal report that found reporter Catherine Urquhart, despite breaching journalistic principles, provided "fair and impartial" reporting. Also, in an RCMP report, which indicated the Mounties have confidence in their investigation of the Pickton murders, a conclusion directly opposite to that of the Vancouver Police Department, which did an honest self-evaluation following arrest of the serial murderer.

In today's Times Colonist, Lindsay Kines wrote about the RCMP internal review:
"The report states that the RCMP devoted adequate resources to the case, that working relationships with other police agencies were excellent, and that the force attempted to exhaust all investigative avenues."
I share Ian Reid's lack of confidence in Stephen Owen's work. It may have served interests of the Attorney General but not the interests of British Columbia's citizens. Reid observed:
"With the new allegations against Heed that have emerged it’s hard not to question both the terms of Owen’s appointment and the conclusions he came to.

"In other words, with every new allegation Owen’s appointment and report looks like a whitewash."
That term is not necessarily critical of Stephen Owen's work. Probably, he did exactly what he was hired to do. Had Attorney General Mike de Jong wanted a real examination of the Special Prosecutor system, he would not have hired the former Deputy Attorney General who designed the procedures. Owens, ex-employee of this government is now VP of an organization dependent on the same government. He lacked impartiality and independence. Any adverse finding would have required Owens to find fault with his own system design and or fault with its implementation by people who essentially are his colleagues.

Pundits of the mainstream media have not not addressed this defect of impartiality and independence and I am certain they will continue to ignore similar imperfections. One example is taken from writing of Vaughn Palmer. In reviewing the Owen report, Palmer set an uncritical tone when he reported:
". . .  the government accepted the recommendations of a review by a widely respected lawyer and former public servant, Stephen Owen."
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Christy won't look back

Gerry Hummel toots for Christy Clark
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Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Climate Benefits of Natural Gas May Be Overstated

by Abrahm Lustgarten  ProPublica, Jan. 25, 2011, 10:36 a.m.
The United States is poised to bet its energy future on natural gas as a clean, plentiful fuel that can supplant coal and oil. But new research by the Environmental Protection Agency—and a growing understanding of the pollution associated with the full “life cycle” of gas production—is casting doubt on the assumption that gas offers a quick and easy solution to climate change.

Advocates for natural gas routinely assert that it produces 50 percent less greenhouse gases than coal and is a significant step toward a greener energy future. But those assumptions are based on emissions from the tailpipe or smokestack and don’t account for the methane and other pollution emitted when gas is extracted and piped to power plants and other customers.

The EPA’s new analysis doubles its previous estimates for the amount of methane gas that leaks from loose pipe fittings and is vented from gas wells, drastically changing the picture of the nation’s emissions that the agency painted as recently as April. Calculations for some gas-field emissions jumped by several hundred percent. Methane levels from the hydraulic fracturing of shale gas were 9,000 times higher than previously reported. [emphasis added]
. . .  Read more
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Small Hydro Power from Tom11 Films on Vimeo.
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Circle the wagons, blame the victims

The BC Civil Rights Association has formally complained about public statements of the RCMP following their violent arrest of Buddy Tavares. The Kelowna man was kicked in the face by Cst. Geoff Mantler even though Tavares was on his hands and knees, unarmed and not resisting. At least four other officers were with Mantler at the scene. The detainee posed no threat so Mantler's kick to the face of his victim was undeniably gratuitous; it resulted in a potentially serious eye injury.
Tavares was jailed, Mantler returned to work but, as video of the assault went viral, he was transferred to administrative duties and later suspended with pay by E Division HQ. The junior constable is also under investigation for an earlier assault on a person in custody. In that, a man repossessing a boat on behalf of his employer was accused by the debtor of having stolen it. RCMP stopped Jeremy Packer as he towed the boat to Tru Northwest RV, Auto, & Marine Ltd. and beat him during the arrest. Packer says he did not resist and he was not charged with any offense.

At a news briefing following Tavares' arrest, Superintendent Bill McKinnon stated the man was jailed because of a domestic violence investigation, part of a golf course incident that resulted in police accusing him of careless use of a firearm. However, both Tavares and his ex-wife deny any domestic dispute was involved and said that Tavares ordinarily used a shotgun with blank shells as part of his bird control duties at the closed course. McKinnon refused to provide additional details.

BCCLA spokesman David Eby, comparing the RCMP response to disingenuous statements following Robert Dziekanski's death, told Global News,
"Mr. Tavares is subject of a video tape that looks very bad on the RCMP but if they release information that he has domestic assault issues, then it makes the RCMP look a little bit better in these circumstances."
Eby wrote in a letter to the Commission for Public Complaints Against the RCMP:
"Casting aspersion on any person complaining about RCMP members could easily be seen to be a form of retribution for filing a complaint, or as a character smearing engaged in to improve public perceptions of the police version of events."
David Eby, by the way, understands retribution for offending police. Riding his bike recently, he observed two VPD members "poking around" a truck/camper in East Vancouver. Assuming a truck dwelling homeless person was about to be hassled, Eby stopped to observe. That apparently raised the ire of police. Result: a $100 ticket for missing a bell on his bicycle.

Kelowna RCMP refused to respond when Global TV reporter Blaine Gaffney raised the BCCLA complaint, asking
"But, you not going to respond to allegations about unfairly sullying his reputation or perhaps an act of retribution or anything like that?"
Today, I raise no complaint about Global's news content but, were I inclined to be a Grammar Nazi, I might bother about Gaffney saying "Casting aspirations on any person complaining about RCMP members . . ." instead of "Casting aspersions . . ." and I would mention the title card that misspelled 'Commission'. Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear.

BCCLA Tavares Complaint
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Friday, January 21, 2011

The biggest problem is YOU !

I notice today the BC Business Council summoned Colin Hansen to receive instructions today on new policies. In the new compact Liberal cabinet, Hansen is Minister of Finance, Minister of Small Business and Minister of Health. Does that tell you anything about the strength of the Liberal backbench? Luckily for Gordon Campbell, Mr. Dependable's loyalty to the Premier goes beyond dedication to the public interest. That amorphous concept is too old fashioned for this gang.

News from the event today reports the Business Council is complaining about the lack of worker productivity in British Columbia. Finally these experts discovered the problem with British Columbia`s economy. It is not declining purchasing power, lack of business competition, high consumer prices, inadequate education and training resources or globalization. It is lack of productivity among workers.

The problem, my friends, is you and your lack of productivity.

Of course, the Liberals are exempt from productivity ratings of the Business Council. They must be exempt because, if Jock Finlayson and friends checked government productivity, they would reconsider the immense financial support they provide to BC Liberals.

For example, the Liberal Ministry of Children and Family Development is still struggling to implement governance and efficiency recommendations the Auditor General made four years ago. However, no ministry is worse than the Attorney General, a department with a horrendous record of effectiveness, despite employing some of government's highest paid professionals. In the worst of the worst cases, the AG has had the file open regarding Frank Paul's in-custody death for more than 12 years. Following is a list of cases from a Northern Insights article in March 2010. Unfortunately, the list is not complete:
  • MV Queen of the North, a single charge for criminal negligence laid four years after the sinking.
  • RCMP Cpl. Monty Robinson was charged with obstruction of justice, but not impaired driving, 13 months after the traffic death of Orion Hutchinson. His defense was accepted by the CJB despite rejection of it by a judge reviewing an administrative suspension of Robinson's license for driving while impaired.
  • A decision to lay no charges was made 27 months after Vancouver PD shot and killed Paul Boyd even though Boyd was shot repeatedly while disarmed, on the ground, not resisting.
  • A decision to lay no charges was made 82 months after a Special Prosecutor was appointed to review possible charges against people associated with the defence team of Inderjit Singh Reyat.
  • A decision to lay no charges against RCMP Cst. Ryan Sheremetta was made 52 months after the shooting death of Kevin St. Arnaud.
  • An independent prosecutor made no decision for more than 24 months after appointment to review the investigation of former Solicitor General John Les. No charges were laid against Les.
  • After 39 months, no charges have been filed against RCMP officers involved in the death of Robert Dziekanski even though the Braidwood Inquiry made clear the homicide was unnecessary.
  • In 1998, Frank Paul was dragged by constables from Vancouver City jail and dropped in a wet cold laneway, propped against a wall, where he was found dead of exposure the next day. The Attorney General's Criminal Justice Branch refused to approve charges against the police officers who contributed to Paul's death. The Davies Commission of Inquiry sought to compel evidence about the CJB's decision. The Branch argued against explaining its actions, appealed to the Supreme court, lost and took the case to the Court of Appeal. It lost there and appealed again, this time to the Supreme Court of Canada, where they lost again. More than 12 years after Frank Paul's death, the BC AG continues to battle against disclosure of information that might be embarrassing to the Department. The Paul Family and natural justice continue to be abused.
  • Of course, the infamous BC Rail case dragged on for almost seven years after RCMP raided the Ministries of Finance and Transportation. It ground to a halt without satisfactory resolution when the government paid the defendants $6 million and allowed them an extraordinarily inconsequential non-custodial sentence, an unprecedented act given sentencing guidelines for the offenses.
The BC Business Council is mostly worried they will lose the HST windfall provided by the Liberals so, in reality, discussion of productivity is only a diversion to make us feel sorry for the bastards.

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Horgan speaks wise words

Academic economists, those not doing Faustian deals with the likes of the Fraser Institute or Colin Hansen, determine that consumer taxes such as HST can be a worthwhile element of fair taxation. However, each states that fairness requires a balance of different taxes, that one should not be dramatically changed without considering the overall impact of the entire tax system. That has been one of my problems with implementation of HST in British Columbia.

Today NDP leadership candidate John Horgan issued the best policy announcement we have seen from either government or opposition. The highlights:
 John Horgan announced that under his leadership, government would establish a Fair Tax Commission responsible for examining and reporting on the total impact of the HST, provincial taxation, user fees, licences, natural resource royalties and the range of other government imposed costs on citizens and businesses.

“For the past decade, the BC Liberals have made income tax and business tax cuts that benefit the wealthy few, while boosting the burden on ordinary British Columbians with the HST, MSP premium increases, hydro rate hikes and a whole host of licensing and user fees,” said Horgan. “This reliance on taxation-by-stealth is both bad public policy and breeds contempt for our public institutions.”

The Fair Tax Commission would produce a comprehensive report on how government raises the revenues it needs to pay for vital public services and ensure that citizens, small businesses and corporations have a full understanding of what they contribute to the province’s coffers.

“The negative impact of the HST and the uncertainty over the future of the tax undermine consumer confidence, small businesses and the investment climate,” said Horgan. “Should the tax be repealed this year, government will need to develop a smarter plan for how it is going to raise revenues without simply shifting costs onto ordinary citizens.”
Horgan's statement stands on its own so I will not add comments except to repeat that this is the best policy proposal on the table by any BC politician.
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Thursday, January 20, 2011

Twit, piled higher and deeper

A comment by unionwill at the post Twit happens stirred my interest.  We were directed to a whinge by Keith Baldrey the Global TV porter I sometimes refer to as a BC Liberal spokesman.

First, examine the comments by Spartikus HERE then consider this recap of Baldrey's lament:
"A lot is being said and written about the decline of civility in our political culture these days. It's time we confront this disturbing problem.

". . . one doesn't have to dig very deep in our own political culture to find rhetoric that is beyond "overheated" and inflammatory attacks that go well beyond what is acceptable in a fair and just society.

". . . the fact he [Craig James] needed security was actually reported some weeks ago by the Globe and Mail. . . More than 150 comments were posted. Almost none of them expressed any kind of sympathy at all for James. . .

"This brings us to a key part of the growing problem: the anonymity of the Internet, which allows anyone the chance to smear another without having to be held accountable for his or her actions. If I (or any other reporter or editor at this newspaper) were to libel someone, the consequences would be harsh. The aggrieved party would sue, and there's a good chance the offending writer would pay a significant financial penalty.

"But on websites and blogs, people are allowed to post the most outrageous, libelous, threatening and inaccurate comments and because they do so under the cowardly cloak of anonymity (or pseudonyms) they face no consequences.

"Yet, their comments hang in the air and get traded back and forth. . . no matter how much evidence shows those views to be wrong or inaccurate or based on hate or prejudice.

"Newspapers and other media outlets should return to the days of the rigid letters-to-the-editor policies that took steps to ensure all published comments were accurately signed.

". . . don't think for a moment the extremists who have poisoned political debate in the U.S. don't also exist here. They can be found in Canada, on the left and right, and they are mostly on the Internet. If you don't believe me, just ask Craig James."
Notice again that Baldrey says,
". . . on websites and blogs, people are allowed to post the most outrageous, libelous, threatening and inaccurate comments and because they do so under the cowardly cloak of anonymity (or pseudonyms) they face no consequences."
Keith Baldrey has been a professional journalist for the better part of 30 years. He is aware that if people make death threats in any fashion to Craig James, including by email, they will be investigated by police and charged. Punishment would be severe.  Baldrey's universal statement about blogs and websites is wrong, pure and simple. Criticism and impolite comments are not libel. Also, it is inconceivable that he so misunderstands the law that he would honestly make such untrue assertions regarding libel.  I think his statements are considered and purposeful but the intention is not what he claims.

There is no cloak of anonymity provided by the Internet to a blogger or any online journalist. The people responsible for offending sites, even those using pseudonyms, can be determined through identification of Internet Protocol (IP) addresses and a bit of gumshoeing. Many bloggers make it easy by using real names, honest email addresses and even pictures. Does anyone imagine that I am not subject to libel laws at Northern Insights? Only ignorant fools.

Baldrey must know that I can be sued for damages and/or restraint if I libel someone, or if I publish libelous content from others. I explain this occasionally to contributors after blocking comments because they are or might be unfairly malicious. I recognize also a moral responsibility, beyond the legal, to not assert as true information that I know to be untrue. Regular readers know that I might be prone to ironic comments or quirky statements but that is pretty obvious to anyone exercising thought.

Similarly, newspapers provide for moderation for the most part and blogs that deal in controversy pay attention to rules of fair comment and are responsible for anything published. CBC, Global, Postmedia, Globe & Mail all moderate comments and typically require registration. Unfortunately, a small lunatic fringe has always been with us but who gives them any credibility? Blog readers are often sophisticated news junkies who want commentary based on fact, not on fantasy.

Baldrey wants people unfamiliar with online journalism to imagine the Internet largely provides "outrageous, libelous, threatening and inaccurate" commentary. One reason he might want to sell that false image is that he worries about how the mainstream media is losing readers to the online world. Baldrey is also saying that he does not like to be criticized and held accountable for inaccurate expositions.

Keith, if you aim to be respected, stop being an extension of PAB, treat all sides with doubt and wariness, don't advance interests of the powerful, be prepared to make them uncomfortable if deserved, be transparent about potential conflicts involving you and others close to you, be knowledgeable and impartial. If your employer won't allow this, go public, force change. Your employer once had a reputation for outstanding work, it does no longer.

Global BC, for whom Baldrey is the chief political reporter, has been caught this week in a demonstration of partisan bias. They've been accused of prejudice before, at Northern Insights and elsewhere. Their sneering responses have always been denials. Of course, content itself has demonstrated partiality but now bias is confirmed by court documents that reveal Global news reporter Catherine Urquhart worked with BC Liberal Kash Heed's senior advisors to promote the politician's public profile. This is from the Vancouver Sun's report of the correspondence between Liberal backroom operator Barinder Sall and the Global reporter:
“I can honestly say Kash would not be SG [solicitor-general] today if it hadn’t been for some key people behind the scenes,” Sall wrote to Urquhart on June 10, 2009.

“There were only truly 3 people that played a major role: Me, Peter Dhillon and yourself and Kash knows this,” he added.

“Peter was the money guy, I’m the brown tanned James Bond strategy girl-chasing guy and you were like the communications director . . . your stories, coverage and timing gave Kash a lot of profile and built him a following from day 1 at West Van and then leading into the election.

"In response, Urquhart wrote: 'Hey . . . that’s really sweet of you . . .' "
Remember, Urquhart did not prepare and broadcast this friendly material by herself. It passed by all the others working in the Global studio whether editors, reporters, technicians or management. Approval was explicit and implicit. That it was aired demonstrates Global was taking care of business as usual, promoting BC Liberals. I suggest that trust is a major issue for both Global TV and Keith Baldrey. As chief political reporter, he would have known about the campaign to raise Heed's status.  Should we have confidence in any statement by Baldrey or Global or assume they generally report that which pleases their favorites? Given the inaccuracy of his allegations noted here, Baldrey should reconsider his approach to political reporting.

A further test of Global TV comes from their treatment of the issue. Will they continue to blame only Ms. Urquhart or will they admit to their systemic bias and change. So far, the company response is not admirable. Ian Haysom is still at work and Catherine Urquhart is suspended.
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The fix is in. Thank the mainstream media.

Rafe Mair, writing at The Common Sense Canadian, has a great analysis of BC politics. Follow the link to read the whole article; there is more than these highlights.
"Let’s start with BC Rail. The lies are firmly on the record. . . .Not only did [Campbell] lie, the deal does not, to say the very least, pass the smell test.

"Now lets look at the Campbell lies during the 2009 election about the financial affairs of the province. . . The lies by toady Hansen and Pinocchio Campbell on the HST need scarcely need repeating. . .

"Campbell and Hansen also lied through their teeth on the broad issues of energy and the environment. . .

"Many environmentalists closer to issues than I have spoken out on the assault on the Agricultural Land Reserve, the desecration of wilderness, and consequent massive assaults on the atmosphere. . .

"How to begin the defence of our rivers and the saving of BC Hydro? . . .

". . . private power is for the most part generated during the Spring run-off when there is sufficient water for them to produce. This is precisely the time BC Hydro doesn’t need power yet they must take it anyway under the agreements they’ve been forced to sign.

"Here’s the skinny. BC Hydro must take private power on a “take or pay” basis, meaning it must pay for power it doesn’t need. Now here comes the neat part – the price BC Hydro must pay is 2-3 times what it can export it for! Or about 12 times what it costs them to make it themselves!

". . . Traditionally BC Hydro has paid a dividend to our government to build hospitals, schools and so on. Now they will have no profit so no dividend because all the profits are going to large corporations. . .

". . . It’s Bilderberger, Davos stuff. It’s the New Order, Corporate World. It has nothing whatever to do with the good of the people. The same people bundling sub-prime mortgages, going broke, taking government handouts then paying themselves million dollar bonuses are running things all over the world.

". . .  Read Vaughn Palmer, Mike Smyth, listen to Bill Good or Christy Clark and tell me when over the past decade any of them covering BC affairs as an editorialist have truly held the government's feet to the fire on the issues I’ve raised here.

"There are only two answers – either all the fighters I’ve mentioned are full of crap, or the fix is in."
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Twit happens

One potential difficulty when old media uses new media to communicate is that it leaves an easily examined record. No person is strong enough to search the web to find and read old newspaper columns written for Canwest by Keith Baldrey, or sit through hours of Shaw's Global TV News video, but a moment with Keith's 140 character pearls of wisdom something is another thing.

With him using Twitter, we're presented with an interesting and short form record of Baldrey's work. Spartikus at The Exile, a site to which you should be subscribed, provides the link at Twitverse: The tweets of Keith Baldrey
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Palmer gives us laugh lines and party lines

Vaughn Palmer remains respected by many of his colleagues in the mainstream media. At times though, I wonder if he stood too long near the mosh pit at an early eighties Motörhead concert in Kerrisdale. Perhaps, repeated exposure to the world's loudest band resulted in the former rock critic's fuzzy headed thinking today. Either that or he has gone unashamedly partisan.

This week, one of his columns was a hit piece on Adrian Dix, not for the NDP leadership candidate's performance as an MLA and front bench critic of vital ministries. Instead, Palmer reached back to the nineties to describe Dix's work on behalf of the NDP, which valued him as a leader of their political staff.  Palmer relates Dix's involvement in various duties but these were jobs in which anyone would expect the party's chief strategist to play a lead role. An example was the NDP defence against a broad recall effort funded by business organizations.

Palmer states "this had to be done on the sly" because "recall legislation imposed strict spending limits." The column says there was an arrangement "that saw the labor movement quietly cover" several expenses. The clear implication is that Dix and the labor unions cheated on financial matters, yet Palmer doesn't say that directly because that would require evidence.

Nor does Palmer say in a stenographic piece about Kevin Falcon that the Liberal organizer led the “Total Recall” effort in the late nineties, while claiming the effort aimed at every NDP member was not a Liberal initiative. One day before his Dix article, Palmer wrote repeated lines about Falcon with not a single reference to anything the hit man has done in the past. Nor did Palmer state or imply that Falcon allowed and encouraged the Canada Health Act to be systematically broken, for which there is ample evidence. Refusal to enforce rules under that statute remains a Liberal policy today, one strongly supported by Falcon.

Today, Palmer makes light of the Kash Heed predicament and news the Liberal MLA and former cabinet minister is suspected by the RCMP of both financial and election fraud. This set of charges, by the way, is not a sly implication by a columnist intending mischief; it is derived from court documents filed by police.

So, I guess we are supposed to be a little outraged and fearful regarding ancient acts of Adrian Dix but merely amused by one more Gordon Campbell protégé gone wrong in the present. Warren White, a thoughtful Northern Insights contributor, nailed Palmer for his journalistic failings with a comment posted on the Vancouver Sun website:
"When in doubt, make a joke about it?

"The information just released could lead in many directions for a real journalist Why is Kash Heed still sitting as an MLA? Why hasn't the special prosecutor moved on this yet? What role did a Global TV reporter play in the possible fraudulent election of a prominent MLA? What rules govern the conduct of media in political campaigns? How does an acting CEO of Elections BC make crucial decisions on whether MLA's have breached their duties to the public when he has to return to a job in the legislature?

"Instead of these, we get laugh lines..."more like a candidate for a glue factory..."

"Wake up Palmer - you can't just gloss this over - Kash Heed should be going to jail.

"Warren White"
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Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Like babies, promises easy to make, hard to deliver

Paul Willcocks asked at his blog Paying Attention why MLAs don't get more respect. He then proceeds to give a number of good reasons, including this:
"MLAs do have a high opinion of their own value. They can claim up to $19,000 a year for a capital residence if they're from outside Victoria. That's four times as much as a single disabled person gets in income assistance for shelter. Chong's meal claims were just slightly less than a disabled person gets for all expenses except housing for an entire year. And MLAs increased their pay 34 per cent in five years, while the average wage in B.C. rose 12 per cent."
Willcocks reminded us:
"MLAs have refused to reveal their expense claims - how much they get for food, housing in the capital and other costs. They promised disclosure last May. In July, it became a big issue when filings required by cabinet ministers revealed Ida Chong had claimed $5,921 in meal allowances - even thought she lived 10 kilometres from the legislature.

"But the good news was that the controversy forced MLAs to promise an end to secrecy by last September. . . It's January. Disclosure was supposed to happen four months ago. In the real world, that's a problem. There is no commitment on when taxpayers will get the facts."
There is also a platinum-plated pension available to MLAs with as little as six years of part-time backbench service. To average British Columbians, retroactive employer-paid pension benefits on the scale arranged by BC Liberals for themselves in 2007 are similar to a major lottery win. The Tyee told us this:
A retroactive pension windfall worth an average of more than $800,000 per member will go to just 41 lucky MLAs, almost all of them BC Liberals!
Mr. Willcocks is too polite to draw a line between recent expense scandals of British parliamentarians and the refusal by BC MLAs to release expense details. British MPs did not want their expenses released either but whistleblowers relieved politicians of the decision by leaking full expense details to The Daily Telegraph newspaper. Even cynical old political observers like me were shocked at the breadth and boldness of the frauds.

Many resignations and repayments resulted and tainted politicians who did not leave public life voluntarily were sent packing by voters. Four are in the courts facing substantial jail terms. This was an all inclusive scandal, from lords to commoners, from lowly backbenchers to the Prime Minister and Opposition Leader.

A few bizarre British claims:
  • Conservative MP Sir Peter Viggers repaid £30,000 for gardening expenses, including £1,645 for a floating “duck island” in the pond at his Hampshire home.
  • Douglas Hogg, Eton-educated barrister styled Viscount Hailsham. Married to the independently wealthy Baroness Sarah Hogg, economist and former BBC governor. He claimed £14,500 for a housekeeper and £2,000 to clear the moat of his sprawling medieval estate.
  • David Heathcoat-Amory had to repay £30,000 he charged for gardening and cleaning, including £380 paid for horse manure.
  • Anne Cryer and son John, who were both MPs, each claimed parliamentary allowances for a flat owned by John Cryer's sister and her husband, which they later sold for a big profit.
  • Lord Taylor of Warwick who actually lived in London is in court for claiming allowances and expenses because his main home was said to be in Oxford. He did not own that home nor had he lived in it for even a single night. His defence was that he thought cheating was acceptable because others made similar claims.
  • MP David Chaytor has been jailed for 18 months after claiming bogus expenses worth £22,650. Last week he was beginning his sentence at Wandsworth Prison in south-west London, where he was strip-searched, photographed and fingerprinted before being issued with prison clothing.
Since all promises are broken for a reason, we can safely surmise that BC Liberal MLAs have concrete reasons for backtracking on expense publication. In politics, good news hits the public forum with audacity while bad news faces hesitation, reluctance and objection. Citizens start with a sense of pessimism based on history and experience elsewhere and, if all we see is foot dragging, non-compliance and broken promises, is there any doubt about where this is headed?

 British entertainer Sue Perkins recently said that politicians:
" . . . backtrack quicker than a million moonwalking Michael Jackson impersonators."
Jeremy Hardy spoke on the same subject, saying,
". . . they fight, they fight tooth and nail before capitulating on all of their principles."
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Tuesday, January 18, 2011

A sincere apology

Contrary to a comment by a reader posted at Northern Insights today and now removed, Victoria journalist Sean Holman's spouse does not work for the provincial government or the Public Affairs Bureau (PAB). I know of no conflict involving Sean or members of his family.

Despite having had a few minor differences in news judgement, I respect Sean Holman and the important work he has done over a long period. I apologize that I did not check that allegation before posting. I should have done so and, because Sean has always been easily accessible, I have no excuse.
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Who represents true conservatives?

The Liberal leadership campaign moves about the province but stays always in safe zones and comfortable environs, such as their proud flagship monument, the billion dollar convention centre. Unfortunately, despite there being capacity for thousands of warm bodies in almost half a million square feet of function space, Tuesday's rally of Liberal leadership candidates did not allow ordinary citizens to attend, just 350 invited guests of the BC Chamber of Commerce. You are welcome to pay for the convention facility but only special people got to use it on this day, no doubt facilitated by a sweet rental deal.

Not that most citizens would want to attend one of the business love-ins where BC Liberals get their marching orders. The most significant statements made Tuesday were by George Abbott who warned his associates their right wing coalition is fragile, at risk of coming apart because the party, having given up the middle and left parts of the political spectrum, will now compete with new conservatives, who might actually be conservative.

We must remember that BC Liberals are a party of big business operators, whose objectives are the accumulation of assets for themselves, without regard to whether those come from the private or public sectors. The party is not conservative in the traditional sense. While that concept is easily abused, conservatism is typically defined as:
  1. a political preference for maintaining established institutions and customs and changing only gradually, or the acts and practices resulting from this preference. 
  2. a general preference for the traditional; disinclination to change.
This government has little respect for established institutions and customs and it has accelerated change in its rush to privatize as many public assets as possible. Preserve the wilderness for future generations? Hell no, give it to General Electric to build dams on public lands so they can generate electricity with public water for guaranteed profits when they sell the power back to the public? Is that conservative?
  • Would a conservative government generate public debt faster than any regime in BC history?
  • Would conservatives hide expenditures to favored corporations by misstating financial reports and refusing demands by the Auditor General to correct the faults?
  • Would a conservative administration deal out massive increases to management salaries or allow a few executives to be paid twice the approved level?
  • Was it conservative to reward 41 MLAs, almost all Liberals, with $800,000 each in retroactive pension benefits despite the fact that most MLAs carry on their regular careers and serve the public part-time?
  • Would a conservative government pay $6 millions to their political assistants who plead guilty after years denying guilt for bribery and fraud while conducting public business?
  • Would conservatives borrow money to build an extravagant convention centre, proudly claim the tourism industry would pay a substantial part, then quietly cancel that provision for user payments?
  • Would conservatives force Fraser Valley commuters to pay tolls but spend close to a billion dollars on a highway to Whistler and charge vacationers no tolls?
  • Would conservatives plan to allow generators on over 8,000 public river sites throughout the province so that a privileged few can sell electricity back to the public?
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Vultures or Falcons - any difference ?

Since Laila Yuile has already done the work, I suggest readers look at Laila's article on Kevin Falcon.

Clearly, he intends to carry on in the Gordon Campbell tradition. But then, don't they all in the BC Liberal Party?
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Protection from incapacity within the judiciary

One of my information sources is ProPublica an independent, non-profit newsroom that produces investigative journalism in the public interest. Following my article that questioned the suitability of a particular judge of the British Columbia Supreme Court, ProPublica published a report on judge suitability in the USA, focused on age related dementia. I would add dementia is not simply a disease of old age. We also need procedures to recognize and deal with early onset dementia.

ProPublica discusses the issues of senility and dementia among judges here. Some excerpts:
Sometimes, when judges stay on the bench longer than they should, no one questions their fitness. And most courts have no systemic way to deal with judges with age-related cognitive problems. "We are the worst fraternity in the world about this,” said Judge Boyce Martin, chief judge of the Cincinnati-based 6th Circuit Court of Appeals from 1996 to 2003. . .

The judiciary does not assess the competence of its senior judges. The courts have no formal policy requiring, or even recommending, that judges receive medical checkups or consult with geriatricians. Instead, the institution relies on other judges to monitor colleagues, and, working discreetly behind the scenes, to push out enfeebled judges gently. . .

Why do judges outstay their welcome? Longer life spans and attachment to the job play a role. Another factor, judges and experts say, is that in some ways the job has gotten easier [with better support staff and services].

. . . formal remedies have little effect. The last impeachment for mental incapacity was in 1803. Judges also can be stripped of their dockets if a committee of their peers votes to issue a certificate of disability. That has happened just twice in the last 20 years. Fewer than 1 percent of the 5,277 complaints from litigants and lawyers against judges, filed from 2000 to 2005, involved allegations of mental disability. Generally protective of the bench and fearful of a backlash, lawyers rarely complain.
In Canada, we too should be aware that fellow members of the legal profession are unlikely to sound alarms when they suspect incapacity of judges through health issues or substance abuse. Therefore, the public needs assurance that judges are subject to a regular health review process. If they are not, they should be.

I am sending a copy of this article to the attention of the Chief Justice of the British Columbia Appeal Court, Lance S.G. Finch. I will ask for a description of measures in place to protect the public against mental or physical incapacity within the judiciary.
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The public, what public?

There is no better example of where the BC Liberal Party owes allegiance. The leadership candidates refuse any venue where ordinary citizens can make contact or ask questions of them all, preferring to spend time with their real employers, the business groups who Gordon Campbell serves and for whom HST was established.
"The candidates are gathered at a sold out B.C. Chamber of Commerce meeting where they're weighing in on issues such as transportation, energy policy and taxes."
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