Thursday, March 31, 2011

Disagreement and debate

The Internet should facilitate debate but too often encourages unfocused argument. By reading mainly opinions and versions of fact from those with whom we are likely to agree, our intellectual inquiry is unfinished. I'm not suggesting that one needs to spend time on the loony fringe but mainstream, respected writers exist on all sides of most subjects and it is worth searching for them.

This is particularly true when our own sense of right and wrong is challenged. For me, Libya is an example. Is the American led effort appropriate or merely setting the stage to replace one despot with another while preserving the flow of oil to Europe? Salon writer Glenn Greenwald, one of my favorite contrarians, examines the process of his own decision making.

I am impressed with, and try to be guided by, this statement of Greenwald:
"... he's one of the people I read when I want to be challenged in my opposition, as his arguments are usually well-reasoned and always in good faith."
The remainder of the Salon article is here at Question for Juan Cole. You should read Greenwald regularly, particularly if you generally disagree with his conclusions. He argues with facts.

From Salon.com:

University of Michigan Professor Juan Cole, for whom I have a lot of respect, has become one of the left's leading advocates of American involvement in the war in Libya. I don't agree with his arguments -- for reasons set forth here, here and here, among others -- but he's one of the people I read when I want to be challenged in my opposition, as his arguments are usually well-reasoned and always in good faith. During the Iraq War, Cole was responsible for one of the most humiliating massacres ever seen in an online debate, when he exposed Jonah Goldberg's war advocacy as the know-nothing, cowardly, adolescent tripe it was. During the course of that debate, Cole wrote this:
"Although I do not believe that everyone who advocates a war must go and fight it, I do believe that young men who advocate a war must go and fight it. . . . I don’t think there is anything at all unpatriotic about a young man opposing a war and declining to enlist. But a young man (and this applies to W. and Cheney too) who mouths off strongly about the desirability of a war is a coward and a hypocrite if he does not go to fight it."
Note that this was not a principle specific to the Iraq War; it was expressed as a universal principle applying to wars in general. My question for Cole is this: does this principle apply to supporters of the U.S. war in Libya? ...
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Wednesday, March 30, 2011

The Big Lie

From a German book published in 1925:
"All this was inspired by the principle--which is quite true within itself--that in the big lie there is always a certain force of credibility; because the broad masses of a nation are always more easily corrupted in the deeper strata of their emotional nature than consciously or voluntarily; and thus in the primitive simplicity of their minds they more readily fall victims to the big lie than the small lie, since they themselves often tell small lies in little matters but would be ashamed to resort to large-scale falsehoods.

"It would never come into their heads to fabricate colossal untruths, and they would not believe that others could have the impudence to distort the truth so infamously. Even though the facts which prove this to be so may be brought clearly to their minds, they will still doubt and waver and will continue to think that there may be some other explanation. For the grossly impudent lie always leaves traces behind it, even after it has been nailed down, a fact which is known to all expert liars in this world and to all who conspire together in the art of lying."
Rafe Mair says Gordon Campbell not only used the 'Big Lie' technique, he has been much aided by a tame if not captive media.
"It’s important to note this, for one can fool the public either by dealing with the issues thoroughly or not at all. The BC mainstream media has chosen the latter method and it’s worked magnificently for Campbell."

British Columbia's mainstream media used and use the latter technique with respect to the dishonest sale of BC Rail, the efforts of Victoria developers to corrupt processes of the Agricultural Land Commission and the related trials of Basi and Virk. They use this technique as well respecting the production of northeast gas with hydraulic fracturing to which the province has dedicated vast resources of fresh water without appropriate economic return.
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A sad and dangerous trend

This follows my post of the Ralph Nader video. I have read much lately about the growing unfairness of income distribution in North America and the organized efforts of our richest citizens to accelerate the trend. Super-rich like David and Charles Koch are not content with the concentration already achieved, they aim to make it worse by passing laws to destroy unions and collective bargaining and remove workers' rights. Another objective is to defund government and privatize public sector services and enterprises.

 An American survey completed in 2010 (Norton & Ariely) determined that most citizens have no idea just how concentrated wealth has actually become. The inequality is striking and has become worse in the last decade. This is a dangerous trend because a peaceful democratic society can not survive with this imbalance. Inequities have been the engines of revolution throughout history.

In British Columbia, we have seen a 10-year freeze in the minimum wage, reductions in labor standards, limitation of workers' rights to bargain contracts and unilateral agreements imposed by law. There has been a steady decline in union membership as the province de-industrializes and focuses instead on service businesses and bulk commodity exports of minimally processed goods.

If current trends continue, we will be building houses with imported lumber milled in China from exported raw BC logs. The houses will be plumbed with pipes manufactured in the USA from Canadian petroleum and the houses wired with electrical cable made in China with copper refined there from Canadian ore.

In a Labour Day piece, I wrote about my own experience growing up in a BC coastal mill town, the economic basis of which was typical then. Sadly, these towns survive in far different forms today, if at all. This is an excerpt:
"In modern times, the Canadian union movement has lost power and influence so it's easy to forget that unions enabled a broad middle class. Workers in unionized company towns in BC's 20th century resource economy set the bar for others. They showed how positive full employment with good wages enables high quality life for the entire community.

"I experienced that because I was schooled in Powell River and what was then the world's largest pulp and paper mill provided good jobs and reasonable supports to almost any local family with a member who chose to work there. High school graduates - well, males anyway - were almost guaranteed summer employment if they went on to university. Countless people who became lawyers, engineers, accountants and other professionals had their higher educations enabled. Not just in Powell River either. Other single industry towns, with workers benefiting from healthy union wages, were similar.

"These communities had comparatively few social problems, little poverty and excellent facilities, from schools to recreation centres. My wife and I recently attended our 45-year high school reunion in Powell River. People returned from all over to join with those still resident in the coastal town. Interestingly, over 90% of our class survive and hold happy memories of our youth. Sadly, the great employment opportunities we had are mostly gone, with the paper mill now a shadow of its former self. It offers fewer than 15% of the jobs that it provided in 1964 and none of those are secure."
Further reading:
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Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Attacking the middle class

Famed international journalist Riz Khan talks to legendary Ralph Nader. Follow this link to the video.

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Open letter to Jane Sterk

At the blog politics respun, Peter Prontzos has this to say in an open letter to Elizabeth May, leader of the federal Green Party in Canada:
"... Canadians are facing a more immediate crisis, one which also has grave implications for our future – the potential re-election of Stephen Harper as Prime Minister. I certainly don’t have to tell you how disastrous that would be for Canadians, not only regarding the environment, but also for health care, pensions, education, and so on.

"At this critical moment, I believe that every Green vote is, in effect, a vote for Stephen Harper. Why? Because Green supporters could either vote for candidates who actually might defeat their conservative opponents – or they could vote for someone who has, realistically, no chance of being elected..."
Environmentalists in British Columbia should send a similar message to Jane Sterk, leader of the provincial Green Party in BC:
"... British Columbians are facing an immediate crisis, one which also has grave implications for our future – the potential re-election of the BC Liberals with Christy Clark as Premier. I certainly don’t have to tell you how disastrous that would be for British Columbians, not only regarding the environment, but also for health care, public power, taxation, education, and so on.

"At this critical moment, I believe that every Green vote is, in effect, a vote for Christy Clark. Why? Because Green supporters could either vote for candidates who actually might defeat their BC Liberal opponents – or they could vote for someone who has, realistically, no chance of being elected..."
The next election presents a fine opportunity to send BC Liberals to permanent obscurity, along with their policies of environmental destruction throughout the province.

The 2009 Canadian Water Attitudes Study included a poll by Ipsos Reid that found:
"The majority of Canadians (53 per cent) rank freshwater as the country's most important natural resource; ahead of forests (20 per cent), agriculture/farmland (14 per cent), oil (eight per cent) and fisheries (two per cent), according to the 2009 Canadian Water Attitudes Study released today.

"Ninety-five per cent of Canadians believe it is important to conserve freshwater on an ongoing basis."
Despite this, BC Liberals are giving away rights to massive quantities of public fresh water, for use in power generation and energy production, with both largely foreign owned industries targeting export markets. Even worse, they do this through secret contracts that fail to recognize the great value of fresh clean water. This could be the worst environmental disaster of all.

Send Jane Sterk and the BC Greens a message before their May 7 Annual General Meeting.
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Monday, March 28, 2011

Spreading democracy by atrocity

Rolling Stone, iconic magazine of pop culture, presents a shocking Special Report, The Kill Team.
". . . While the officers of 3rd Platoon peeled off to talk to a village elder inside a compound, two soldiers walked away from the unit until they reached the far edge of the village. There, in a nearby poppy field, they began looking for someone to kill. . .

". . . The two soldiers, Cpl. Jeremy Morlock and Pfc. Andrew Holmes, saw a young farmer who was working by himself among the spiky shoots. Off in the distance, a few other soldiers stood sentry. But the farmer was the only Afghan in sight. With no one around to witness, the timing was right. And just like that, they picked him for execution.

"He was a smooth-faced kid, about 15 years old. . .

". . . the soldiers began taking photographs of themselves celebrating their kill. Holding a cigarette rakishly in one hand, Holmes posed for the camera with [Gul] Mudin's bloody and half-naked corpse, grabbing the boy's head by the hair as if it were a trophy deer. Morlock made sure to get a similar memento.

"No one seemed more pleased by the kill than Staff Sgt. Calvin Gibbs, the platoon's popular and hard-charging squad leader. "It was like another day at the office for him," one soldier recalls. Gibbs started "messing around with the kid," moving his arms and mouth and "acting like the kid was talking." Then, using a pair of razor-sharp medic's shears, he reportedly sliced off the dead boy's pinky finger and gave it to Holmes, as a trophy for killing his first Afghan. . . "
Famed correspondent Seymour Hersh wrote in the New Yorker:
". . . killing itself, whether in a firefight with the Taliban or in sport with innocent bystanders in a strange land with a strange language and strange customs, has become ordinary… This is part of the toll wars take on the young people we send to fight them for us."

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Not even a tawdry veil of objectivity

In October, Sun pundit Vaughn Palmer wrote that if Carole James were to resign as leader, the NDP would become involved in "a bitter, divisive contest" leading to selection of a leader "who might very well be no more acceptable to voters (and perhaps less so) than the likable, experienced James." At that point, Palmer was claiming James as the safe, decent, perhaps only, choice for NDP leader because there was "no appealing candidate" to replace her, particularly one acceptable to the party's lefties who lamented "the dismantling of the Berlin Wall."

I suppose Palmer and his colleagues still see no worthy candidate to lead the NDP. That would explain why they are all but ignoring the leadership race and its surrounding issues. One would think a bitter, divisive contest would attract the attention of he who claims to be the "eyes and ears of British Columbians."

With less than three weeks before voting and the all-candidates debates completed on subjects of Education, Justice, Poverty and Families, coverage in the mainstream media is almost absent. After Thursday's debate in Nelson, the Vancouver Sun published a short piece, barely 400 words, accompanied by an old file photo of a single candidate. The report was from, not one of the Sun's political reporters, but a local freelancer who writes for the Slocan Valley Current, an online "magazine blog."

That coverage was a step up for the Sun. Jonathan Fowlie had written an anticipatory article before the debates but BC's largest newspaper has committed almost no resources to covering the NDP leadership. Perhaps, they have simply been too busy shilling for the woman who couldn't get elected Mayor of Vancouver when she last faced voters. Now that she has the backing of Kinsella, Morgan and the think-tank cabals, the Sun treats their media star to near endless coverage.

For example, a Google News search matching the term "Vancouver Sun" with "Clark" yielded 164 hits from the past month. By comparison, changing "Clark" to the name "Horgan" produced 3 hits, "Dix" and "Farnworth" each produced two hits. Not very scientific but quite revealing of what the Vancouver Sun is covering.
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Sunday, March 27, 2011

An alternative view of Vancouver

From Rail for the Valley:
". . . You don't meet people of substance here. You meet flakes. The press is dominated by yellow journalism. Rarely if ever have I read a real piece of investigative journalism. You do not meet people who form their opinions based upon facts.
"When you encounter Vancouverites and engage them in the discussion of social issues the argument usually become circular and they end of talking only about themselves. There is a kind of deep insecurity that comes from profound feeling of self loathing that is hard wired into the political culture here. Narcissism is the dominate religion and worshipping at the Temple of Mammon – real estate speculation is the Holy Grail.

"People here (generally speaking of course) are stuck up, materialistic yuppies. The downtown scene used to have decent variety, now it's full of "cookie-cutter" clubs and bars that cater to Armani clones. . ."
A little too harsh on Vancouver citizens. Correct though regarding journalism, press and broadcast. In television, standards have fallen so low now that a 60 minute newshour is reduced to about 35 minutes when you take out the ads, teasers and repetitions. Remove sports, weather and fluff and you are under 10 minutes and part of that is dedicated to infomercials posing as news: stealth advertising.

There is a reason why those cookie-cutter clubs and bars catering to Armani clones spread through the city. Whether for investors or clients, they are dependents of British Columbia's largest untaxed industry: the drug trade. Watch for the group of roided-up young males sitting backs to the wall with eyes on the front door.
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Saturday, March 26, 2011

One dirty secret of industrial food

Paul Kamon's foodie site Urban Diner is great for news about local dining. At the UD Forum, most participants are professionals, including owners, chefs, servers and other industry insiders and suppliers. There are a few folks, like me, who are consumers, observers or wannabes but, unlike me, they are informed and engaged.

Mostly, Urban Diner is a fun look at trends in BC food and wine but this week an issue surfaced that seems worthy of discussion here. The connection is my consistent view that citizens need watchdogs to ensure the safety of manufactured products and foods that we routinely use and ingest. Without help of impartial oversight, how can citizens protect their families from whatever industry throws at us.

In a discussion of meat glue — "the meat industry's dirty secret" — one UD contributor wrote this,
"FFS, is there an end to the endless lies we are subjected to in the name of profit?"
The subject was transglutaminase, smething classified as a GRAS product. OK, you might be asking, "FFS, what does that mean?" GRAS is a regulatory term "generally regarded as safe." According to the American FDA, transglutaminase, or meat glue, is GRAS. Health Canada also approves the product, although not without criticism.

FAIR (Federal Accountability Initiative for Reform) asks "How effective is Canada’s meat-inspection system?"
More controversy has surrounded “meat glue”. The “glue” is a natural protein derived from cow or pig blood. It allows meat processors to stick together various lumps of meat into a regular-looking steak, roast, or kebab. In the meat business, it’s known as “restructured beef”.

Canada allows the product to be sold here, but the European parliament rejected it for sale in the EU in May because of concerns that artificial steaks could mislead the public. “Consumers in Europe should be able to trust that they are buying a real steak or ham, not pieces of meat that have been glued together,” Jo Lienen, chair of the parliament’s environment committee, said during debate on the issue.

The glue also raises food-safety issues, says Keith Warriner, an associate professor of food science at the University of Guelph, in a phone interview from his office. If there is a bacteria outbreak, it’s much harder to figure out the source when chunks of meat from multiple cows were combined.

Also, the products need to be fully cooked, like ground beef, to kill bacteria. A regular steak is safe to eat medium-rare because only its surface has bacteria. But when different cuts of meat are blended together, the product may have contaminated surfaces on the inside, and it has to be cooked to an internal temperature of 71 ° C (160 ° F). This, Warriner says, could lead to confusion among consumers used to cooking their steaks medium-rare (63 ° C, or 145 ° F).
The lesson is know your food supplier. Deal with folks like the family at Moccia Urbani Foods at 2276 East Hastings. Their real business is dry cured natural products - simply fabulous - but three days a week, their small store opens for retail sales. Please though, do not buy the last of the pork belly or bacon. Leave it, in case that's my day to shop. BTW, at Moccia, for their products, they can can name the breed of heritage animal and the farm that produced it. Or, if that East Vancouver supplier is not convenient, ask around for a similar one. We must support the ethical food providers. That may not even cost more when you factor in shrinkage and waste.

Wait for the short advertisement to finish then watch this five minute news feature from Australia.


A balanced view of meat glue at Cooking Issues.
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Friday, March 25, 2011

Bringing good things to life — like no taxes

Rafe Mair likes to remind citizens that when preference for private power generation became BC Liberal policy, they talked about "Run-of-the-River" projects. The implication was that small, benign installations would be community based mom and pops, providing jobs and investment opportunities to locals.

Who could object? The product would be green electricity serving local needs, engaging community members, especially First Nations, leaving no deleterious footprints on the environment. Small coastal villages had survived forever by sharing and protecting resources, matching one need with another. How could this go wrong?

It went wrong because the images of mechanical technology in harmony with nature were fraudulent. So were the concepts of mom and pop, locally based initiatives. It turns out the largest participant in British Columbia's private power generation is General Electric. And, who is GE? The world's second largest corporation, according to Forbes.

From the New York Times, G.E.’s Strategies Let It Avoid Taxes Altogether
The company reported worldwide profits of $14.2 billion, and said $5.1 billion of the total came from its operations in the United States.

Its American tax bill? None. In fact, G.E. claimed a tax benefit of $3.2 billion.
These words are from blogger Dave Johnson's Today's Plutocracy Post:
In 1983 NY hotel-chain-owning billionaire Leona Helmsley said, "We don't pay taxes. Only the little people pay taxes..." As our country migrates from democracy to plutocracy, this more and more appears to be official policy. Again and again we see tax cuts for the wealthy few, tax breaks and subsidies for the big corporations that operate as fronts for those wealthy few, and budget cuts for the things We, the People (government) do to empower and protect each other.
Welcome to British Columbia Mr. General Electric. Have at it.


The Dave Johnson quote is from the PM Update of Campaign for America's Future. You can subscribe for free.
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politics respun

More quality journalism in the blogosphere at politics respun. You will find many examples at this group blog but here are excerpts from an example by Stephen Elliott-Buckley:

New Premier, Same Dismissive BC Liberal Insensitivities
". . . since the BC government will collect more in tuition fees next year than in corporate income taxes, we’ve gone fully through the rabbit hole of fair taxation [Did you know BC's corporate tax rate hits zero percent next January for the first $500,000 in revenue?]. The BC Liberal brand has a new spokesperson/premier, but it is the same dismissive insensitivity we’ve seen for a decade. Let them eat cake/coffee/whatever. . ."
". . . Not only is it cynical to celebrate the reversal of her own party’s anti-social funding cuts, the restoration of just 5/12 of the money stripped allowed everyone to focus on the glass that is still 7/12 empty as $21 million remains stripped away. Why not restore it all?"
:. . . But most galling is that the anti-social, poor bashing policies of a decade of misery with this government have led to record child poverty, a stalled minimum wage, depressed social assistance rates, increased user fees and stripped advocacy services for the poor. . . "
". . . The new premier might smile more, deliver announcements in as many child care centres as she wishes, but she will still be peddling the same brand of BC Liberal misery that has been destroying the social fabric of the province for years. . . "
Read entire article
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Sordid politics

An advisor to  Stephen Harper left the PM's office in 2008 to become executive director for the Canada School of Energy and Environment, a "think-tank" begun with $15 million in federal money. Bruce Carson used government funding to work with Canada's biggest energy companies to improve the image of Alberta's tar sands. The 66-year old influence peddler also allegedly pulled strings to gain a lucrative contract for his 22-year old girl friend, a former prostitute.

Carson is now at the centre of a growing Tory scandal. The Tyee today offers Scandal Rocks Key Player in Canada's Oil Sands PR Push

However, a real leader in putting the spotlight on this sordid affair is an online journalist at The Sixth Estate, the go-to place for extensive details about Bruce Carson.
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Thursday, March 24, 2011

Arch-conservative fox in BC henhouse

Province columnist Ethan Baron bluntly questions suitability of a BC Liberal insider acting as key advisor to Christy Clark. Online magazines and blogs including this one, have been warning about former Fraser Institute Vice Chair Gwyn Morgan and his role with the new Premier.

Morgan has an undeniable conflict of interest because companies with which he is associated have large financial interests with provincially owned agencies. Additionally, he was the founding CEO of Encana, a major player in BC's oil and gas industry and part of the plan to have supertankers travelling narrow Douglas Channel to a Kitimat petroleum port. As regulator and fiduciary for the public interest, the BC Government should not be populated with principals of regulated industries.

Financial benefits are probably Morgan's real interest in government. He is not likely motivated by a sense of public service since he may not even believe in democracy. I wrote last week about Morgan's worry that aging Arab despots will be abandoned and left to the mercy of Middle East reform movements. He warned they must be supported "even if it means compromising democratic ideology with the reality of preventing global economic meltdown."

Ethan Baron tried to ask Christy Clark why she wanted a rabid right-winger at her side but the Premier declined to answer. She was busy holding photo ops like the one at the Surrey Hospital where Liberals had the thirteenth media event announcing expansion since 2004.  (Despite all the shovels for TV cameras, site work on the expansion finally got underway a few months ago.)

About Clark's refusal to discuss Morgan, the Province columnist concluded,
"Considering his contribution to her campaign, his company’s intensely close financial ties to her government, and his inflammatory political views, I’m not surprised.

I am, however, a bit surprised that Clark would so quickly demonstrate such a lack of accountability to British Columbians as to select an adviser who is obviously in a conflict of interest."

* * * * * * * * * *

As of April 2012, the linked article is unavailable so, as a favour to Postmedia, I repeat the full text here:

BY ETHAN BARON, THE PROVINCE, MARCH 23, 2011

The fox is in the B.C. henhouse: Premier Christy Clark’s new transition adviser chairs a company that does hundreds of millions of dollars of business with the provincial government.

Arch-conservative Gwyn Morgan heads the board of SNC-Lavalin, the Montreal-based firm that built the $1.9-billion Canada Line and will run it for more than 30 years, that has a $587-million contract to expand the Waneta Dam hydro-generating facility in the West Kootenay, and that maintains all B.C. Ferry terminals for a price the provincial ferry corporation won’t disclose.

Industry Canada describes B.C.’s transportation ministry, Canada Line and the ferry corporation as “key clients” of SNC-Lavalin. Adding to the unsavouriness of Morgan’s position with the Clark government is the fact that he donated $10,000 to her leadership campaign.

Clark’s selection of Morgan — the retired founding CEO of natural gas giant Encana — as the man to guide her into her new job says a great deal about her political plans.

In 2006, Opposition MPs on a Commons committee found Morgan “unsuitable” to serve as voluntary chief of a new patronage-watchdog office, because of comments he’d made about immigrants and multiculturalism.

The previous year, in a speech at B.C.’s Fraser Institute, Morgan had blamed immigration for violence in Toronto and Calgary. In a subsequent speech in Toronto, Morgan suggested multiculturalism was the cause of rioting in France and Australia, and warned Canadians to beware multiculturalism doesn’t become a divisive value.

In a September column in the Globe and Mail, Morgan attacked Canada’s public health care, arguing for private delivery of publicly funded care plus a two-tier system allowing Canadians to buy entirely private care. Those who would oppose his ideas were “monopoly-loving union leaders and their left-wing sycophants.” In another Globe column, he described unionized public-sector workers as “abusive” toward the citizenry, and insisted that unionized workers providing “important” public services should be forbidden from striking.

I wanted to ask Clark why she decided a rabid right-winger was the best pick to help her lead B.C. And I especially wanted to ask Clark how she could possibly justify bringing on an adviser who leads a company heavily dependent on B.C. government contracts. She didn’t call me back. Clearly, the premier doesn’t want to talk about Morgan.

Considering his contribution to her campaign, his company’s intensely close financial ties to her government, and his inflammatory political views, I’m not surprised.

I am, however, a bit surprised that Clark would so quickly demonstrate such a lack of accountability to British Columbians as to select an adviser who is obviously in a conflict of interest. If I were the chair of a corporation that was making a mint off B.C., there’s no place I’d rather be than by the premier’s side, steering her along.

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Greens should stand aside when Clark seeks election

The BC Green Party sent out notices this week, reminding of their upcoming AGM and campaign school. Greens also had this to say about a by-election that may happen, if Christy Clark's tasseography provides the right answer.
"We are anticipating that Christy Clark will run for the seat in Vancouver Point Grey that Gordon Campbell has vacated. We expect a by-election could be called soon. We’re excited that a well-qualified person has stepped forward to seek the nomination. Look for an official announcement about our candidate soon! We’re looking for members and volunteers to help campaign."
This is an unfortunate mistake. To protect and preserve the our province's future, we must eliminate the BC Liberal majority government. People who care about British Columbia ought to coalesce to end the environmental vandalism of BC Liberals.

Christy Clark and the Liberals should be held accountable for BC Rail and the Basi/Virk scandal. She should answer for the pending destruction of BC Hydro so that Liberal associates receive guaranteed profits selling the public electricity generated in public rivers. Liberals can explain why highly profitable oil and gas producers need subsidies, vast quantities of free water and roads built to service their wells. She should justify ordinary citizens paying HST and carbon taxes to fund billions of corporate tax cuts while transit funding goes begging throughout the province.

Clark should also tell us why tolls might be acceptable for two ancient Vancouver bridges while government pays contractors secret tolls from general revenues on the Bennett Bridge and the Sea to Sky Highway. Of the old bridges now proposed for tolling, one was built in 1958 and the other in 1937 and paid for twice already through tolls. The North Shore has had no new road access in 50 years and the BC Liberals reneged on an election promise to add a third sea bus to ease over crowding on the present service.

Let the BC Liberals put up Christy Clark while the Official Opposition puts up their finest.  Clark would not escape being accountable for the deplorable policies of her party. Liberals will try to evade, hoping that numerous candidates will fracture the opposition vote, allowing Clark to sneak into the Legislature with 38% of the vote. Liberals will again drag out turncoat environmentalists who have forsaken their interest in the land for interest in their bank accounts. Faux environmentalists working for independent power producers helped the Liberals to victory in 2009. The party will employ similar strategy in Point Grey.
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New York town moves to protect water supply from fracking

Awareness builds elsewhere but the BC Government subsidizes hydraulic fracturing and enables the gas industry unprecedented access to fresh water, while ignoring the economic value of this precious resource. And they claim to be competent managers of the public business:
Wales, NY (WBEN) -- The Town of Wales is poised to adopt a law banning the controversial gas-drilling technique of hydraulic fracturing, more colloquially known as hydro-fracking.

The concern is that hydro-fracking could inadvertently lead to the contamination of the town's water supply.

"The Town of Wales relies 100 percent on well water. We have no public water available to us," explains town Councilman Michael Simon, who helped write the proposed legislation.

Simon says he didn't know very much about hydro-fracking until recently, when he started doing some research. The more he learned, the more worried he became. . .

H/T to reader J.W.
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Good reading

I want to remind readers again to add The Sixth Estate to your regular reading. It is informative, logical and delightful. Recent examples:

March 23, 2011
Seriously. What is with this array of pundits and chatterers who oppose elections in Canada? And on the bogus grounds that they’re worried about cost, no less?

I have an idea. Suspend the implementation of the Harper corporate tax cuts for one month. That will
pay for the election.
March 23, 2011
"I was going to take an in-depth look at the new Harper Government™ budget, but I don’t think I’ll bother, since it’s almost a dead letter already anyways.

Except to point out that the piffling new tax breaks ($450 for firefighters, $2 a day for the poorest seniors, and $75 for children in arts programs) are not only less than the $6 billion corporate tax cut which has been scrupulously scrubbed from the pages of the budget announcement, but also less than what the Harper Government™ blew on its two-day G8-G20 lovefest in Toronto last year.
The Sixth Estate also provides an occasional reading list with gems like this:
  • Conservative aide turned green energy astroturfer Bruce Carson is gone, gone, gone (see BigCityLib and Politics and its Discontents). I like to think I played some small role in this, although in truth the heavy lifting was done by APTN.
  • A new Frontier Centre for Public Policy study recommends the Harper Government™ claw back its targeted “boutique” tax cuts for public transit, children’s fitness, and students, somehow managing to lump the first and third of these into the “middle class.” The Frontier Centre is mostly funded by wealthy corporation owners via private foundations, so it’s unsurprising that it doesn’t point out how much money we could save by ending the charity status of think tanks.[emphasis added]
  • Quite coincidentally, no doubt, the C.D. Howe Institute has also published a tax analysis, arguing that raising corporate taxes won’t work, either, and instead calling for an increase in sales taxes. The Howe Institute is also funded predominantly by corporations who oppose corporate tax increases.
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Wednesday, March 23, 2011

"It would probably be appropriate for you to post an apology on your blog"

Mainstream media, through industry associations, promise to be accurate, unbiased and accountable to readers, viewers or listeners. However, in words of Hamlet,
". . . it is a custom more honour'd in the breach than the observance."
This is not a hugely egregious example but it is illustrative. A publication slants news by headlining a personal opinion that is given more than deserved weight by exaggeration of the source's credentials. The quoted authority, it turns out, rather than being a professor of TRU as stated by the newspaper, is a retired instructor, teaching part time to cover temporarily for illness. In the ordinary use of the word, professor is a teacher of high rank at a college or university. These are the usual ranks of university teachers:
  • Professor
  • Associate Professor
  • Assistant Professor
  • Lecturer or Instructor
Probably, Mr. Pillar should have been referred to as a Sessional Instructor or Sessional Lecturer. The news writer does not balance, examine or evaluate Pillar's opinion, he simply repeats it because it serves the purpose, in this case, of giving readers a negative vision of the New Democratic Party. Then, as the correspondence below reveals, the respondent editor seems deliberately obtuse and in effect thumbs his nose at disapproval.

This my correspondence with Kamloops Daily News regarding their story headlined: "Infighting, lack of platform crippled public interest in NDP, says political scientist":

Me to Kamloops News, March 22, 7:20 AM:
I believe you may have misidentified Ray Pillar in this article. It needs correction and a notice to readers of the error.

Me to Editor Mel Rothenburger, March 22, 1:16 PM:
I submitted a question about your source for a particular story headlined: " Infighting, lack of platform crippled public interest in NDP, says political scientist"

Are you not prepared to answer questions about your source? That calls into question your headline. That would seem to contravene the Canadian Newspaper Association statement of principles, which include:
" to be accessible and accountable to the readers it serves."
If I hear nothing, I will deal with the BC Press Council instead.


From Rothenburger to me, March 22, 4:21 PM
What was your question?

From me to Rothenburger, March 22, 4:26 PM:
Above message forwarded.

From Rothenburger to me, March 23, 12:32 PM:
Could you clarify in what way we have misidentified Ray Pillar?

From me to Rothenburger, March 23, 12:39 PM:
The headline is drawn from comments by one Ray Pillar, who is identified as a Political Science Professor of Thompson Rivers University, perhaps known to some as Cariboo College. I looked for information about Professor Pillar but found almost none. There is no one by that name listed on the college's website, even on the faculty list for Philosophy, History and Politics.

The term "Thompson Rivers University professor" causes a reader to infer that Pillar is an active faculty member, with professor ordinarily defined as:
" a teacher of the highest academic rank in a college or university, who has been awarded the title Professor in a particular branch of learning;"

From Rothenburger to me, March 23, 12:54 PM:
Good afternoon, Mr. Farrell. I've just had a phone conversation with Ray Pillar and you may wish to contact him with your questions, since you claim you haven't been able to locate him. His email address is as above, or you can call him at TRU through the switchboard . . .  It would probably be appropriate for you to post an apology on your blog.

Me to Rothenburger, March 23, 12:56 PM: 
Are you in fact saying that Pillar is a Thompson Rivers University professor?
As opposed, say, to a part-time instructor?

Rothenburger to me, March 23, 1:30 PM:
Well I suppose you could track this down by checking with the union on whether Prof. Pillar is a designated professor under the contract, as opposed to a designation by this newspaper and the general public based on the fact he has instructed political science classes for years (one definition of professor being an expert who teaches in his area of expertise, commonly applied to those in universities), has been a resource person for local media on political matters for several years as well, and while he has officially retired currently instructs a number of political science courses due to an illness within the political science faculty at TRU. When he returns to full retirement at the end of this semester, we will likely continue to rely on his expertise and insights into matters political, and will refer to him as a retired university professor.
Me to Rothenburger, March 23 1:36 PM:
Thank you. I think you know that Mr. Pillar, no matter how valuable a resource you find him, is not a professor of TRU in the usual meaning of the term and that identifying him as such misleads and was done to lend meaning to his disputable opinion. I think that is a failure of journalistic ethics by your newspaper.

I don't know for what you think I should apologize to Mr. Pillar since my words have been precise, accurate and not defamatory.
By the way, in checking, we determined that Mr. Pillar himself did not exaggerate his qualifications. While retired from his job of a TRU administrator, he is teaching two sections for an instructor who is on medical leave. I do not imply here that Pillar has been anything but honorable nor does he represent himself inappropriately. The ethical failing here is with the newspaper, particularly editor Mel Rothenburger.
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The real news gets ignored

On the day George Abbott became the first Education Minister to speak at a convention of the teachers' union since Gordon Campbell's election in 2001, BC Liberal media focused less on the warm response from educators than on what they say is a coming confrontation.

TC columnist Les Leyne headlines, "a battle is looming." The Globe and Mail says "strike looms", Global TV News leads "Strike by school teachers in this province seems unavoidable." CTV's Jim Beatty led with "A teachers' strike is a good possibility."

Instead of aiming to be inflammatory, CBC offered a balanced report. The Canadian Press did as well, for example:
"Abbott told the teachers he will always listen to their views, even if they do not agree on the many difficult issues facing the two sides as they prepare to sit down and hash out a new contract for the 41,000-strong federation.

" 'We will have lots of things that will divide us in the weeks and months ahead there is no question about that,' he said. 'Labour relations alone will be an area that will be fraught with many challenges I'm sure on both sides of the table.' "
Leyne says that after his speech, Abbott was "peppered with" observations from two people,
"about how unsupported teachers are in dealing with special needs kids, sometimes violent, semiliterate, emotionally fragile, suffering from fetal alcohol syndrome problem children who populate many classes in increasing numbers.

About all he could do was nod in sympathy."
That should have provided the headline derived from Abbott's visit. Special needs children are there today, lacking resources. Instead, we get speculation of strike or job action that can not occur until the next school year and which everyone knows will result at worst in another imposed contract if mediation and conciliation fail.

Highlighting potential job actions might seem more dramatic but they are far-off and rather meaningless. In doing so, media downplays substantive issues that should be at the forefront of discussions. Do we want our education to be effective and accessible or, ultimately, do we want to turn our schools into American style guarded camps that worry more about protecting students from gun and knife violence than preparing them to be contributing citizens.

I disclose a bias in this discussion. Among my children and their partners, we proudly number three school teachers. These young people are well educated professionals (six degrees between them) who focus their lives on improving educational experiences of children in their care. Our relatives occasionally miss family events because out-of-school duties such as preparation, marking, writing reports, doing extracurricular activities and professional development consume time that is unseen by students and parents. Teachers spend their own money for supplies, field trips, computer programs and equipment and even for necessities and rewards to needy or deserving students.

I do not know the present salary levels of these three people. I did know the entry salary my son earned when he started teaching after two degrees and a number of years working as a scientific researcher. It was an appalling low annual salary that started with the number three. I suspect most of our MLAs receive more in expenses. These young teachers, while not talking about salaries to us, do talk about the difficulties faced from crowded classrooms and about special needs students, about poverty and drug addiction and deficient parenting skills, etc.

I think media focuses entirely too much on the wrong issues in today's education. Much goes right with our schools as well. A few years ago, I had the honor of presenting scholarships to graduating high school students on behalf of the Pacific Coast Amateur Hockey Association. At awards nights of secondary schools, boys and girls of outstanding achievements are recognized, not just in academics and sports but in an amazingly broad series of community and personal activities. Those teenagers accomplished more in a few years of maturity than others do in a lifetime. All deserve the best education we can provide.

Society benefits in the long run. The richest nations also have the best systems of education. That is not coincidence; one leads to the other.
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Efficiencies or surrender?

Cuts announced in Tuesday's federal budget are "the result of identifying efficiencies in operation", says DFO Minister Gail Shea. By 2014, almost $57 million will be trimmed from Fisheries and Oceans. Read more about Shea here.

British Columbia Finance Minister Kevin Falcon said, "From a B.C. perspective it’s a good budget."

This came after testimony in the Cohen Inquiry shows DFO has ignored and downplayed science that fish farming contributes to destruction of the wild salmon fishery. The Harper Government provides no evidence of efficiencies, only evidence of surrender. DFO is assigning our coastal waters to multi-national fish farmers.

Alexandra Morton is a more trusted observer than political partisans in Victoria and Ottawa who fix their eyes on cash that slimes the paths to Parliament.

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Monday, March 21, 2011

Watchdogs against evil, not

This is from the Statement of Principles of the Canadian Newspaper Association.
"However, the operation of a newspaper is a public trust and its overriding responsibility is to the society it serves.
"The newspaper plays many roles: a watchdog against evil and wrongdoing, an advocate for good works and noble deeds, and an opinion leader for its community.
"The newspaper should strive to paint a representative picture of its diverse communities, to encourage the expression of disparate views and to be accessible and accountable to the readers it serves, whether rich or poor, weak or powerful, minority or majority.
"When published material attacks an individual or group, those affected should be given an opportunity to reply."
In my experience, Postmedia Newspapers choose to be unaccountable to the readers it serves. The Vancouver Sun editorial page discourages expression of disparate views. The paper provides a direct pipeline to ideologues favored by the editors, most particularly the Fraser Institute. The Sixth Estate described this well in an earlier comment at Northern Insights:
"The proliferation of think tanks over the last decade -- MEI, AIMS, Frontier Centre, Macdonald-Laurier Institute -- implies a diversity of views, but in reality they're all dependent on virtually an identical small base of donors and are expressing more or less the same views."
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More woes in media

In addition to stenography, media damages the quality of information through misleading headlines. Here is an example sent to me by a Northern Insights reader. It is a Kamloops Daily News article written by reporter Jason Hewlett. The headline:
 Infighting, lack of platform crippled public interest in NDP, says political scientist.
The headline is drawn from comments by one Ray Pillar, who is identified as a Political Science Professor of Thompson Rivers University, perhaps known to some as Cariboo College. I looked for information about Professor Pillar but found almost none. There is no one by that name listed on the college's website, even on the faculty list for Philosophy, History and Politics.

Additionally, an extensive Google search produces no papers authored by a political scientist of that name. Yet, his comment is headlined despite the general context of the article suggesting something different. I wrote the newspaper asking for comment about their source but heard no response. I also left this opinion on the Kamloops Daily News website.
"Pillar speaks one person's opinion, his own version of truth, to which he is entitled. However, he has not been paying attention if he thinks there are no discussions of policy underway in the NDP leadership campaign. There are many great proposals which would reverse the corrupt give-aways of public assets that BC Liberals engage in.

"John Horgan, for example, wants a fair taxation commission so that, instead of focusing on a single tax (HST), we review the entire revenue structure of government, including medical fees, ICBC rates, BC Hydro rates, property taxes, user fees, water and gas royalties (or lack of), federal transfers, personal income taxes, corporate income taxes, etc. Anyone who thinks that fair taxation is only about a yes or no on HST is uninformed.

"Adrian Dix has talked about making post-secondary education accessible to all and talked of a program to reform delivery of public healthcare. All candidates want to see improved environment oversight and scientific evaluation of hydraulic fracturing in the province's northeast. They also question the spending of public funds to build roads and other facilities for the gas production industry.

"The entire NDP wants to see an honest and independent examination of government corruption related to BC Rail and the Agricultural Land Reserve. They want to see an end to secret no-bid contracts for multi-billion dollar projects like the Port Mann Bridge and they want BC Liberals to reveal the details of hidden shadow tolls on the Sea to Sky Highway and the Bennett Bridge.

"Ray Pillar may think the NDP remains divided and has no platform but he could not be more incorrect. If he is indeed a working political scientist, he does disservice to his profession for such an inane opinion. I also suggest that this piece by Jason Hewlett is a perfect example of stenographic journalism as discussed here."
Another example of an hysterical and misleading headline was this one by CNN:
"Tests detect radioactivity on 17 U.S. Navy crew members in Japan."
The actual story was this:
"Tests detected low levels of radioactivity on 17 U.S. Navy helicopter crew members when they returned to the USS Ronald Reagan after conducting disaster relief missions in Japan, the military said Monday. No further contamination was detected after the crew members washed with soap and water, the Navy said."
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"Are we missing something?"

I've discussed stenographic journalists who publish statements without appraisal, fact checking or balance, even when controversial or questionable allegations are repeated. The usual justification is that somebody said something and reporters merely repeated the words. Of course, the choice of those words is not random or accidental, the words are selected for a purpose. In good journalism, that purpose is to inform about all sides of an issue. In bad journalism, the purpose is to influence for an undisclosed beneficiary.

Bad journalism led Global TV News talking head Ted Chernecki to begin his News Hour report Tuesday March 1 stating that the Canadian medical system was,
"ranked one of the worst in the world when it comes to bang for your buck."
There was no context, no attribution and no balance to the statement. When challenged about his source, Chernecki said,
"Here's the whole report. Cheers."
The report was circulated and promoted by the Frontier Centre for Public Policy, a Winnipeg based neoliberal "think tank" funded by private foundations and corporations. It is typical of "research" operations funded by business through astroturf organizations. Spartikus has noted,
". . . as the Fraser Institute's credibility crumbles with the public, look for "replacements" to step in. The FCPP is one of those."
I quoted a requirement of the Canadian Association of Broadcasters to Global's Chernecki,
"It shall be the responsibility of broadcasters to ensure that news shall be represented with accuracy and without bias. Broadcasters shall satisfy themselves that the arrangements made for obtaining news ensure this result. They shall also ensure that news broadcasts are not editorial.

"News shall not be selected for the purpose of furthering or hindering either side of any controversial public issue, nor shall it be formulated on the basis of the beliefs, opinions or desires of management, the editor or others engaged in its preparation or delivery. The fundamental purpose of news dissemination in a democracy is to enable people to know what is happening, and to understand events so that they may form their own conclusions."
After delay and some prodding, Chernecki returned,
"There is no way any journalist can scrutinize all sources. We do however seek out others who are more informed on detailed specifics such as those presented in this report. What you appear to be suggesting is that we commission our own study to assess veracity. Not going to happen.

"In this case, the findings of this study were raised with Colin Hansen. He gave me no indication that his Ministry found the conclusion of this study to be suspect.

"In past experiences, when we report findings of a particular study (and there are THOUSANDS we deal with) - generally if someone more intimate with subject than us has an issue - they raise those concerns and we take them into consideration.

"In this case if the Health Minister expressed no concern about the report. You may not like/agree with the results and that is your prerogative.
Not satisfied, I addressed additional comments to Chernecki and then heard from Global News Director Ian Haysom,
"We're obviously confused by your requests. I'm away this week but happy to chat upon my return to see exactly what you're seeking. Ted has sent you the basis for his statement. Does that explain things? Or are we missing something?"
My response to Haysom,
"Journalists have an obligation to report issues accurately and free of bias. This statement is surprising: "There is no way any journalist can scrutinize all sources."

"That suggests you take no responsibility for accuracy and bias for a report you use as a primary source, without even identifying the party that provided the material and the fact they hold highly controversial positions about public healthcare.

"I believe it is inappropriate for media to treat think-tanks as independent, scientifically qualified and scholarly when they are primarily agents for their sponsors. You are obliged to scrutinize these sources even more closely because their financial sponsorships are not transparent.

"The issue that I intend to continue raising relates to the statement that you cannot scrutinize all sources to ensure your report remains accurate and free of bias."
Apparently my words remain misunderstood or confused. Ian Haysom and Ted Chernecki have broken off communications.
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The power of one

People without substantial individual resources who act together multiply the power of one. We can enable those who despoil the world for private gain or we can build bridges to knowledge and respect for nature and the rights of future citizens to enjoy a world not ruined.

Responding to online discussions finding fault with the balance and fairness of broadcast and print media, one reader of Northern Insights took action. That person shares it with us and you are invited to follow suit.

This a letter sent by a potential customer to an advertiser:
My name is xxxxxx xxxxxxx, my address is XXXX XXXXXXX XXX, XXXXXX

I am looking to purchase something similar to the Model XXXXX, sold by your company. This is a purchase I intend to make in the near future.

I would like to make you aware that I have been very displeased with the quality of journalism and proper coverage of news events in BC on radio station CKNW [or Station X or newspaper Y]. The programming is heavily slanted in favour of the current government and offers no alternate points of view....thus the general public is not aware of many important issues that are adversely affecting out province.

As you advertise on the CKNW website [or other place] I will look elsewhere for the product I wish to purchase.

Thank you for your consideration of my thoughts on this.

Yours truly,


XXXXXXX
Citizen
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Saturday, March 19, 2011

Mythbuilding through stenographic journalism

The Globe and Mail, courtesy of Justine Hunter and Ian Bailey, provides a fawning profile of Christy Clark, complete with this unchallenged quote,
"There is a lot of appetite … for a little bit of honesty and straight talk about where we are at, and I think that's what people expect of me.”
I left a comment similar to this on the Globe and Mail website:

Stenographic journalism at its best.

"After studying French at the Sorbonne, religion at the University of Edinburgh and political science at Simon Fraser University"

Where is the but. . . ? If she visited Cambridge MA and looked carefully at the architecture, would you say she "studied at Harvard?"

Firing Colin Hansen took courage? Would that be the same Colin Hansen who claimed not to know that his officials were negotiating HST, a tax he and his boss counted on for over $20 billion in their four year term? No, Hansen buried himself and his career by being "economical with the truth." It took no courage to discharge the person who, more than any others, was the face of the Gordon Campbell regime, which fell as low as 8% in the approval ratings before caucus gave him the boot.

Appointing Kevin Falcon to the Finance Ministry made happy  Christy's top advisor and financial backer Gwyn Morgan, of Encana fame. That ensures give-aways to the super rich continue, like the water being licensed for fracking by gas producers or the roads built at public expense to service the gas fields.

Appetite for honesty? How about answering the Tsakumis documents that prove Clark and her coterie were very much a part of the corrupt sale of BC Rail? Then commission a real inquiry into the whole sordid scandal and cover-up.

And Ms. Hunter and Bailey could find no alternative views of Christy Campbell? Gwynn Morgan, the father of her child and Ian Koenigsfest, the pro-BC Liberal CKNW manager whose employer depends on the provincial government for millions in advertising, are good objective choices?

The Globe and Mail has been consciously pulling punches on its coverage of BC Liberals. They should declare the value of free advertising given the BC Liberals on their news pages, as should the Postmedia papers. This is more illustration of how Canadian democracy is tainted by wealth and media control.
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DFO ignores science to protect political interests

Alexandra Morton reports on testimony at the Cohen Inquiry that suggests a concerted effort by Fisheries and Oceans Canada to ignore and undermine science, even their own, if it points to fish farming as a source of viral disease in wild salmon. Under cross-examination, lawyers discomfit Dr. Laura Richards, DFO’s Director General of Science for the Pacific Region.

DFO - in the business of truth? by Alexandra Morton  

Excerpts:
"Dr. Kristi Miller, has indeed found evidence suggesting a virus, potentially Salmon Leukemia, could be having a devastating impact on the Fraser sockeye. Dr. Miller studies genomic profiles. Basically she reads the pattern of genes that have been switched on and off, a sort of living Braile that records the experiences of individual living creatures.

"This is a new field of science, but Miller’s work is so good it has been published in the world’s leading scientific journal, SCIENCE. When Miller reads the genomic profile of the Fraser sockeye, it says “retrovirus.”

"When Miller published her paper DFO would not allow her to speak to the press. . .

". . . she notes Salmon Leukemia (called Marine Anemia by fish farmers) began spreading through fish farms in the early 1990s, (which is when the sockeye decline began). She reports that Salmon Leukemia can spread vertically, through the eggs, and also fish to fish.

". . . Since Miller believes this is Salmon Leukemia, a virus that has been epidemic in salmon farms, this information runs counter to DFO policy that salmon farms have no impact. Is this why we were never told? . . ."
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Socialism for big investors, capitalism for everyone else

Risk, Radiation and Regulation, by Nancy Folbre, Economics Professor, University of Massachusetts

The New York Times, March 18, 2011

Early warnings about potential nuclear dangers in Japan and about Wall Street’s propensity for risk-taking without liability were both dismissed as paranoid anticipation of low-probability events. With both disasters, regulatory failures set the stage, and taxpayers will end up paying most of the social costs.

Effective risk management is central to economic efficiency. Yet major players in both crises have insisted that they should not be held accountable for risks they underestimated.

. . . Many economists, including my fellow Economix blogger Simon Johnson, argue that deregulation weakened the very foundations of our financial system.

. . . In my view, many social engineers, including economists, deserve the larger blame. The widespread view that capitalism is an automatically self-regulating system has weakened the checks and balances — the feedback mechanisms and control rods — that are crucial to the long-run viability of our operating system.

The threat of social meltdown arises not from excessive growth of the state and its regulatory role but from its capture by groups able to translate market power into political power: socialism for big investors, capitalism for everyone else.

. . .  Effective regulation requires effective containment of disproportionately powerful economic interests that can potentially contaminate both public policy and public debate. Considerable evidence suggests that this containment has been breached.



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"Even if it means compromising democratic ideology"

Christy Clark's financial backer and key advisor Gwyn Morgan contemplates the difficulties faced by autocratic rulers in the Middle East:
"Only a few weeks ago, instability in the House of Saud seemed inconceivable. But the generational divide that is driving regional protests is perhaps greatest in Saudi Arabia. Nearly half of its people are 18 years old or younger, and 40 per cent of Saudis ages 20 to 24 are unemployed.

"At the other end of the divide, the country's top three rulers are ages 76 to 83. Saudi activists want jobs, democracy and greater rights for women . . ."
His solution? Don't abandon the aging despots,
"even if it means compromising democratic ideology with the reality of preventing global economic meltdown."
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If you want to hear the leadership debate first hand

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"Lowered the environmental bars . . ."

Extracts of testimony to the Standing Committee on Natural Resources, House of Commons, February 3, 2011

Will Koop (Coordinator, British Columbia Tap Water Alliance):

. . .  the rush to develop B.C.'s non-renewable deep shale gas is occurring without cumulative environmental effect studies: “Northeast British Columbia's shale gas race will undoubtedly become and remain one of the most significant environmental and public planning issues facing First Nations, the Province, Regional Districts, regulators, communities, and residents alike”. Given the backdrop of ever more lax and non-existent legislation regulations, these developments can be understood as distinct social and political failures.

    Since 2003 the government has leased thousands upon thousands of hectares of public lands to energy companies without conditions to conduct cumulative effect studies and without consulting the public. . .

    . . . the cumulative effects issue is further complicated by the fact that the B.C. Oil and Gas Commission has provided little accurate or comprehensive data on public resource issues . . .

    This long list released by the B.C. Oil and Gas Commission regarding companies operating in the Horn River basin failed to provide accurate information, incorrectly suggesting that little water was needed for the fracking operations from 2009 to 2010.

    I wrote in my last report that Encana had apparently conducted the world's largest fracking operation on multi-well pad 63-K , in the Horn River basin, next to Two Island Lake, doubling the resource figure that Apache Canada had given earlier, when it announced the world's largest fracking operation a few kilometres away.

    I estimated that Encana used about 1.8 million cubic metres of fresh water, . . . And I said that this operation might be a template or an indication of many more operations in the future.

    The absence of long-term, integrated, strategic cumulative effects planning, the lack of accurate resource-use data by the Oil and Gas Commission, and little governmental oversight or monitoring of the energy developments in northeast B.C. are not the only concerns.

    Many landowners who are directly affected by the energy developments have told me of their concern that they seem to have few rights and stakeholder privileges. They state, for instance, that high-pressure toxic gas facilities should not be established so close to residences. Air quality standards are deficient. There are few or no air-monitoring systems. Water tables used for residents and agriculture are changing. B.C.'s mining legislation gives priority to developers to access and develop private property.

    The concerns . . . about legislative and regulatory deficiencies and monitoring oversight in British Columbia are not isolated. . .

    In British Columbia? The Environmental Assessment Act process and legislation was introduced in 1995. When the B.C. Liberal administration came in, they started to remove things and water it down. There was a tremendous amount of pressure by companies to do so, and they're sympathetic to that, so they started doing that. And they did it across the board. So we have an atmosphere in British Columbia where we've gone back in time. We've gone back to the 1980s with the Social Credit government. We're headed backwards--sorry about that.

    What I'm saying is that this has become a problem. And there's a bigger problem. What we also see is we see the tar sands, we see the federal government allowing things to go on to the Fisheries Act, etc. The way I'm looking at it now is that the tar sands have lowered the environmental bars and are creating kind of a ripple across Canada. In British Columbia there's apparently very little that the public thinks it can do with the government to change these things. They're very concerned about what's going on, but they seem very powerless.

    . . .  There's a big rush to develop all these things. Let's slow down, let's take a look. . .
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Friday, March 18, 2011

Politicians "too managed"

Simi Sara, speaking with John Horgan on CKNW, made a plea for politicians to speak clearly, from their own hearts:
"I'll tell you what I don't like, having done this for a long time, is when you talk to a lot of politicians, you feel like you are getting something rehearsed. You feel like you are getting the line, or the talking point, or whatever.  . . .just get out in front of it and explain it so that people know. Because the more you talk about it, the less of a problem there is. Why can't politicians understand this?"
Horgan, in response:
". . .  [Harry Bloy] just kept repeating the last words his handler told him to say and he looked foolish, and Harry's not a foolish fellow. But, he sure looked like it . . .

Talk from your heart. Say what you mean and people will embrace that. If you make a mistake, admit it and they'll probably forgive you. . .

". . . The repetition of the message box bores me to tears . . . "

Visit CKNW's Audio Vault and listen to the 2pm hour,  March 18, particularly the discussion of fair taxation near the bottom of the hour. Horgan also talks about inability of the utilities commission to examine important issues related to BC Hydro and rate increases.

Excellent interview.
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Horgan questions Clark's priorities


Read more here:
“In her first opportunity to raise issues of concern to British Columbia, did Premier Clark discuss the likely fallout from the June 24th referendum on the HST?” asked Horgan.

“Did she raise earthquake preparedness in B.C. or how the Sendai earthquake will impact one of our biggest trading partners? Did she press for the need to ban tanker traffic on the North Coast?

No, she asked the Prime Minister to revisit plans for a copper mine that even his government decided would cause too much damage to the environment.”
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Sharks don't circle for long

News item, The Star, Encana to buy stake in B.C. liquefied natural gas terminal
"CALGARY—Canadian natural gas giant Encana Corp. is looking to tap into lucrative overseas markets by taking a 30 per cent stake in an export terminal planned for the northern British Columbia coast. . . "
News item, The Globe and Mail, Encana's backing bolsters case for natural gas export terminal:
. . . The first phase of the terminal is expected to load 700 million cubic feet of gas a day on tankers bound for Asia. Having Encana’s volumes available helps firm the business case for the terminal, which could begin construction by next year and start shipping gas in 2015.

Encana’s investment comes little more than a month after it signed a $5.4-billion partnership with PetroChina to develop some of its land in northeastern B.C. PetroChina has also been building a series of LNG import terminals along China’s eastern coast. , ,
Background Part 1: The Tyee, The Gwyn Morgan File, Rise of a Shale Gas Baron
"Gwyn Morgan's emergence as a political advisor to BC Liberal leader and premier designate Christy Clark not only reflects the province's growing dependence on shale gas revenue but her party's formidable indebtedness to petro politics.

"Morgan's calculated political ascension, which should prick the interest of every British Columbian, also illustrates the growing ambition of the country's petroleum elite. . . "
Background Part 2: The Tyee, The Gwyn Morgan File, Encana's Grip on BC
"Although Morgan boasts "a strong bias against government intrusion into any industry," he championed Gordon Campbell's heavy subsidization of natural gas drilling in the province or what Morgan dubbed "an encouraging policy environment." It included "streamlined" regulations; low royalty programs for shale gas as well the public construction of roads and infrastructure for shale gas companies. "From EnCana's perspective, many of the right things are being done by the province," said Morgan in a 2004 speech.

"A year later Morgan bluntly laid out the company's extraordinary grip on the province's economy:. . . "


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Happening here too

From: Documentary Storm, Free Streaming Videos

Gasland, a film by Josh Fox  (Use this link, not embedded one in photo below.)

H/T John W.
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