Sunday, April 29, 2012

The car-crash-that-never-ends

Liberals across Canada are being hoist with their own petard, Brian Topp, The Globe and Mail, Apr. 29, 2012
"Meanwhile, the car-crash-that-never-ends that is the premiership of British Columbia’s Christy Clark is now apparently thrashing around to the view that it needs to scrub the Liberal brand off itself, to fight off both a principled and a strategic voting pitch aimed at its voters from both the left (the B.C. NDP) and the right (the B.C. Conservatives)."
Meanwhile, leaks reveal that BC Liberal MLA's, unhappy with oversight failures during the leadership vote, forced a purge at party headquarters. The official position, reinforced Saturday by NW's loyal partisan Sean Leslie while chatting with Liberal insider Mike Morton, is that changes result,
"Just 'cause they're young people moving on."
Yeah, right. Executive Director Chad Pederson, appointed to the position in December 2010, under fire for oversight failures and worse during the leadership vote that installed Christy Clark, departed without even a gentle nudge toward the door.

Sean Leslie knows about issues of internal conflict but, like his Press Gallery colleagues, blithely reports the Liberal party line.

As comment writers note, Toronto based Brian Topp missed the obvious. BC Liberals and Christy Clark are involved in a never ending train crash.


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Mostly, it's the schlemiels paying tax

Many working stiffs watch a third and more of every extra dollar earned disappear as income tax. Then, we're hammered again with user fees and consumption taxes when we spend shrunken dollars to buy goods at prices far higher than what our neighbours pay for the same items south of the border.

A prime reason that ordinary folks feel financial pain is that multinational corporations and global capitalist jet setters don't pay much in the way of tax. Analysts predict Apple could earn over $45 billion this fiscal year, which would be an American business record. Despite incredible wealth, across the world, Apple will pay a minor fraction of its profits in taxes.

How Apple Sidesteps Billions in Taxes, Charles Duhigg and David Kocieniewski, New York Times, Apr. 28, 2012
"...Setting up an office in Reno is just one of many legal methods Apple uses to reduce its worldwide tax bill by billions of dollars each year. As it has in Nevada, Apple has created subsidiaries in low-tax places like Ireland, the Netherlands, Luxembourg and the British Virgin Islands — some little more than a letterbox or an anonymous office — that help cut the taxes it pays around the world...

"...Apple was a pioneer of an accounting technique known as the “Double Irish With a Dutch Sandwich,” which reduces taxes by routing profits through Irish subsidiaries and the Netherlands and then to the Caribbean. Today, that tactic is used by hundreds of other corporations — some of which directly imitated Apple’s methods, say accountants at those companies..."
Of course, businesses typically do not pay consumption taxes like Canada's HST, so the total tax bills of large corporations may be a tiny fraction of each sales dollar, particularly if business is conducted across national borders.

Little wonder the average CEO pay of companies in the S&P 500 Index rose to $12.94 million in 2011. Overall, the average level of CEO pay in the S&P 500 Index increased 13.9 percent in 2011, following a 22.8 percent increase in CEO pay in 2010


Of course, among the one percenters, tax avoidance is a long established habit. The Guardian revealed this month that British Prime Minister David Cameron's father set up offshore investment funds which explicitly boasted of their ability to remain outside UK tax jurisdiction.

Cameron family fortune made in tax havens, Ed Howker and Shiv Malik, The Guardian, April 20, 2012
"...the dramatic growth of such offshore financial activity has raised concerns that national tax authorities are struggling to pin down the world's super-rich.

"Ian Cameron took advantage of a new climate of investment after all capital controls were abolished in 1979, making it legal to take any sum of money out of the country without it being taxed or controlled by the UK government.

"Not long after the change, brought in by Margaret Thatcher after her first month in power, Ian Cameron began setting up and directing investment funds in tax havens around the world..."
Cardinal accuses David Cameron of 'immoral' behaviour and favouring rich, Shiv Malik, The Guardian, Apr. 29, 2012
"One of Britain's most prominent religious figures, Cardinal Keith O'Brien, has attacked David Cameron for immoral behaviour and for favouring rich City financiers ahead of those struggling on lower incomes.

"Speaking to the BBC, O'Brien, Scotland's most senior Roman Catholic authority, said: "The poor have suffered tremendously from the financial disasters of recent years and nothing, really, has been done by the very rich people to help them.

"I am saying to the prime minister, look, don't just protect your very rich colleagues in the financial industry, consider the moral obligation to help the poor of our country."
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
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Saturday, April 28, 2012

"Call falsehoods precisely what they are"

Don't miss The Gazetteer today. RossK offers What's That You Say...Both Sides Don't Do It?, providing this advice to MSM:
"...We understand the values of mainstream journalists, including the effort to report both sides of a story. But a balanced treatment of an unbalanced phenomenon distorts reality...

...Our advice to the press: Don’t seek professional safety through the even-handed, unfiltered presentation of opposing views. Which politician is telling the truth? Who is taking hostages, at what risks and to what ends?..."

Or, put another way, call demonstrable falsehoods precisely what they are.

Everytime.

OK?
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Guest Post - Ben Isitt

Over time, we have seen employer and government initiatives to replace the self-activity of workers with cumbersome bureaucratic procedures.

Too often, these new procedures are designed to serve the interests of employers, rather than workers.

For example, Workers’ Compensation emerged a hundred years ago to limit the legal liability of employers.

Workers and their families lost the right to sue employers for damages, for death or injury arising from negligence.

More than 400 coal miners had been killed on Vancouver Island in the decades leading up to this legislation, as employers such as Robert Dunsmuir cut safety procedures to boost production and maximize profits.

* * *

Today, in the drive for cost-cutting, “restraint” and “austerity” – we see the same basic problem – employers who are quick to ignore safety warnings, saving costs while threatening the life and wellbeing of workers who make their profits.

As an elected official, let me start by thanking CUPE Local 50 and the Victoria Labour Council for organizing today’s event.

They have reminded us that the health, safety and wellbeing of workers must remain a central concern and responsibility of the labour movement itself.

* * *

The investigation of the Prince George explosion is ongoing, but I believe we may find that this was a preventable tragedy – that warnings relating to sawdust were ignored by the employer.

It is often more convenient and profitable to cling to a “business as usual” approach.

But workers and their families can be devastated as a result.

The Prince George incident suggests we need much stronger enforcement of workplace safety, and potentially stiffer penalties – both criminal and financial – against employers whose actions or negligence contribute to the death or injury of workers.

* * *

At the same time we fight to strengthen laws, we need to remain vigilant in defending the principle of the right to refuse unsafe work – whether or not this principle is sanctioned or not in provincial statute or in the language of collective agreements.

There was an era of “labour before the law,” when all actions by unions to advance the interests of workers were deemed criminal and punished with fines, injunctions and jail terms.

Sometimes, basic humanitarian values – most notably respect for human life – run up against laws enacted in employer-friendly legislatures.

Such moments underscore the need for working class self activity to uphold community values.

* * *

IN CONCLUSION, thanks again to CUPE Local 50 and the Victoria Labour Council for reminding us that workers cannot always look to government or employers to help them.

In this era of “austerity,” the need for working-class self-activity and solidarity to improve conditions of life and work will become increasingly clear and increasingly essential.


Elected as a City Councillor and Regional Director in November 2011, on the promise to make city operations public, open and cost-effective and contribute to a fair, safe and green Victoria. Ben Isitt has a background in history, law and journalism and holds a PhD and an LLB and is author of two books that challenge how we think about BC politics and Canadian history,

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Friday, April 27, 2012

The power of new media

Paula Simons of the Edmonton Journal writes of tweets posted April 14 that might have started the downward spiral of Danielle Smith's Wildrose Party Alliance:
"The first read: "A blog by Wildrose candidate @allanhunsperger where he calls #yeg Public Schools "godless" for being tolerant." The post included a link to a column Allan Hunsperger, the candidate in Edmonton-South West, had written for his church website, in which he opined that homosexuals would burn in a lake of eternal fire and that the Edmonton Public School district was wicked for bringing in a policy to protect gay students and staff from discrimination...

"Things might have ended there. But that Monday, Danielle Smith came to meet with the Edmonton Journal editorial board. Instead of using the opportunity to voice support for gay rights, she constructed a narrative in which Hunsperger, not gay children, was the victim of intolerance and persecution. The remarkably tone deaf response haunted her for the rest of the election..."
Twitter message writer Blake Robert, the Tory campaigner behind the initial Twitter messages, claims he was motivated as a new parent to expose Hunsperger:
"People are entitled to believe what they want to believe. But when someone's running for public office, they have to be accountable for what they say. I'm a new parent. I don't know what my kid is going to grow up to be. But I want her to grow up in a society where she's accepted for who she is."
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Longest undefended border in the world

U.S. Customs & Border Protection
Predator Drone Was Used in Brossart Arrests, WDAZ Television, Dec. 12, 2011
"Armed with a search warrant, Nelson County Sheriff Kelly Janke went looking for six missing cows on the Brossart family farm...

"...Fearful of an armed standoff, he called in reinforcements from the state Highway Patrol, a regional SWAT team, a bomb squad, ambulances and deputy sheriffs from three other counties.

"He also called in a Predator B drone.

"...Local police say they have used two unarmed Predators based at Grand Forks Air Force Base to fly at least two dozen surveillance flights since June...

"...The drones belong to U.S. Customs and Border Protection, which operates eight Predators on the country's northern and southwestern borders to search for illegal immigrants and smugglers. The previously unreported use of its drones to assist local, state and federal law enforcement has occurred without any public acknowledgment or debate...
"
First Man Arrested With Drone Evidence Vows to Fight Case, Jason Koebler, U.S. News & World Report, Apr. 9, 2012
"...Currently, about 300 law enforcement agencies and research institutions—including the Grand Forks SWAT team—have "temporary licenses" from the FAA to use drones. Currently, drones are most commonly used by Homeland Security along America's borders.

"We've had a relationship with Predator operations for three years, we've provided training for them and received training on the basic capabilities of the predator," he [Bill Macki, head of the Grand Forks SWAT team] says. "We've established a relationship with [Homeland Security]. Through that relationship, we've learned drones' capabilities and when we can or cannot use a drone."
The Coming Drone Revolution: What You Should Know, Jason Koebler, U.S. News & World Reports, Apr. 5, 2012
"...Experts predict as many as 30,000 unmanned aerial vehicles in a couple years—they'll be owned by journalists, police departments, disaster rescue teams, scientists, real estate agents, and private citizens.

"...The UAVs can stay aloft for long periods of time, and unlike helicopters, they can't be easily detected. "People behave differently when they know they're under surveillance," says Catherine Crump, of the American Civil Liberties Union. "We are not opposed to the domestic use of drones, but we're concerned that they could become tools of general or pervasive surveillance."

Death from the Skies: An Overview of the CIA’s Drone Campaign in Pakistan - Part One, Brian Glyn Williams, Global Terrorism Analysis, Sept. 2009
"...more than six hundred people have died in these unpredictable aerial strikes that have killed both high value terrorist targets and innocent civilians. ..

"...On January 13, 2006 several drones firing up to ten missiles destroyed three homes thought to be housing Dr. Ayman al-Zawahiri (al-Qaeda’s number two) in the village of Damadola in the tribal agency of Bajaur. Eighteen people, including numerous women and children, were killed in the strike, but al-Zawahari was not there. This bungled attack caused thousands to protest across Pakistan and led to official condemnation of the attack by furious Pakistani officials.

"...success has come at a high political price in the form of hundreds of civilian bystanders who have been killed in the strikes. The strikes may have turned many Pakistanis into enemies and might thus represent a strategic defeat in the greatest battle in this front-line country, the battle for the hearts and minds of the Pakistani people."
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Deregulation and death

Government Press Release, January 2012:
"Finance Minister Kevin Falcon has won the Canadian Federation of Independent Business Golden Scissors award for cutting red tape for business by more than 40% ..."
I wonder if CFIB hero Kevin Falcon and his wealthy business and real estate developer backers plan to attend a Day of Mourning ceremony this weekend.

After all, "red tape" cutters who promote limitation or elimination of workplace inspections have had much to do with tragic events that immediately precede mourning.
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How bigotry survives

For more than 25 years, the Catholic Church has been entangled in sexual abuse scandals, costing billions in settlements, debasing the church and wrecking the faith of many devout members.

BBC published a lengthy list: Catholic Church sex abuse scandals around the world and a common thread is maintenance of a culture of concealment. Evidence continues to surface showing the church hierarchy remains consciously committed to this culture and it discloses continuation of their own unhealthy attitudes toward human sexuality.

Pennsylvania: Nun Testifies About Being Fired, Jon Hurdle, New York Times, Apr. 11, 2012
"A Roman Catholic nun testified Monday that she was fired from her job as director of religious education at a Pennsylvania parish after reporting her suspicions about a priest who had been convicted of receiving child pornography..."
Commencement invite to gay speaker withdrawn, The Times Herald (Michigan), Apr. 27, 2012
"An aspiring actor and graduate of a Michigan Catholic school will not be allowed to speak at next month’s senior class commencement because he is openly gay.

"The Mount Pleasant Morning Sun and The Saginaw News report Friday that the Catholic Diocese of Saginaw decided that Sacred Heart Academy in Mount Pleasant would withdraw its offer to Dominic Sheahan-Stahl.

"Sheahan-Stahl graduated from the school in 1998. His youngest brother will graduate at the May 20 commencement."
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Fraud, fear and greed

If Romney Hates Government And Its Workers So Much Why Is He Running For President?, Dave Johnson, Campaign for America's Future
Mitt Romney says government workers are paid too well and in general government is a bad thing. But he wants to run it. Romney made his fortune by buying companies, laying off the workers, and keeping the money they were making for himself. He apparently thinks everyone but the 1% are paid too well. So maybe that's the plan.

The American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) President John Gage had a few things to say about that:
"...Do you think the meat and poultry inspector who earns less than $32,000 a year while protecting Americans from E. Coli and other deadly diseases is making too much? How about the correctional officer who earns less than $39,000 a year while guarding ruthless gang leaders in understaffed federal penitentiaries? And do you really think that the VA nursing assistant who earns just over $27,000 a year providing care to veterans who have come home with serious psychological trauma is living the high life?"
For Romneys, Friendly Code Reduces Taxes, Nicholas Confessore and David Kocieniewski, New York Times, Jan. 24, 2012:
"Mitt Romney and his wife, Ann, made $27 million in 2010. They held millions of dollars in a Swiss bank account and millions more in partnerships in the Cayman Islands. His family’s trusts sold thousands of shares in Goldman Sachs that were offered to favored clients when the storied investment house first went public. The couple’s effective federal tax rate for the year worked out to 13.9 percent, a rate typical of households earning about $80,000 a year."
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Thursday, April 26, 2012

Public consultation without the public

More fine work from the The Victoria Times Colonist. Katie Derosa explores the provincial government's fake public consultation about police reform.

Province's policing consultation called a 'farce':
BC Liberals consult on policing plan
"The Justice Ministry on Wednesday announced its "public engagement" strategy - consisting of closed-door meetings with invite-only stakeholders and a blog that is not yet set up - to support the development of a 10-year policing plan.

"...About 40 people - mostly the region's police chiefs and politicians and B.C. police union representatives - were at the Victoria meeting.

"...Robert Gordon, a criminologist at Simon Fraser University, called the strategy "a farce," saying it is the government's way of appearing to ask for public input while gathering information that will affirm the status quo or support incremental changes..."
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New footwear makes everything seem right

Stories that will leave you wondering about the direction Canada is taking under Stephen Harper. This is not the Canada we once knew... nor the one we voted for.

Unraveling File # 8-10-(2012-06), Michael Harris, iPolitics, April 26
"At the federal level, it’s getting to be the kind of country Joe Stalin might have liked. The Harper government continues to perform information liposuction on the body politic, dispense its own justice, and mint its own facts."
The Tories are targeting unions. Who’s next?, Gus Van Harten, The Province, April 26
"...The Harper government has a strange approach to openness. For years, the government has dragged its heels in reporting about its use of public money. Now it is poised to put stringent reporting requirements on organizations that spend private funds, especially labour unions.

Bill C-377 is the private member’s bill of South Surrey-White Rock-Cloverdale Conservative MP Russ Hiebert that the government has allowed to pass second reading. It proposes to amend the Income Tax Act by subjecting all labour organizations in Canada to onerous accounting requirements. At significant cost to taxpayers, it would load red tape on the government’s political targets..."
Fraudulent election calls 'widespread' in 7 ridings, poll suggests, Laura Payton, CBC News, April 24
"A group supporting a Federal Court challenge of the election results in seven ridings says a new poll it commissioned shows fraudulent election calls were widespread and targeted at people previously identified as Conservative non-supporters."
Elections Canada diving into phone records to track suspicious election calls, Glen McGregor and Stephen Maher, Postmedia News, April 25:
"...On election day, after he had voted, Ferance, 66, received a call from a 647 area code — in Toronto — that claimed to be from Elections Canada, telling him that his polling station had moved to a location about 20 kilometres away.

"I said to him you're obviously a government employee, because that information is totally wrong," said Ferance. "It's wrong because A, I just voted, B, I live next door to the voting station, and C, I can still see people coming and going."

"Ferance said two Elections Canada workers at the polling station told him other voters reported receiving the same kind of call..."
Tories again show their contempt, Colin Mackay, Intelligencer Writers Group
"The F35 scandal that has found the Conservative government in contempt of Parliament highlights their contempt of anybody that dares to challenge their political actions or motives.

"The F35 scandal also shows how deceit and deception has crept into federal politics at an alarming rate and the arrogance of the Conservative government. Their condescending attacks toward their challengers highlights an attitude — that we are always right, just let us do what we want.

"Essentially, they show utter contempt toward the majority of Canadians because our opinions do not matter..."
Abortion motion will be debated in Parliament Thursday, Tobi Cohen, Postmedia News, April 25
"The abortion debate has actually never been closed,” [pro-life backbench Conservative MP Stephen] Woodworth said Wednesday after a caucus meeting..."
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Worksafe BC, not net-zero land

In its mandate, Worksafe BC lists a cardinal purpose:
"To promote the prevention of workplace injury, illness, and disease."
Following the Burns Lake and Prince George sawmill explosions, both in 2012, it is certain that Worksafe failed in this purpose. As a result, four forest workers are dead while others suffer with painful injuries and countless families face financial hardship.

To people studying workplace risks, dust explosions are well known hazards that can occur where any powdered combustible material is present in an enclosed atmosphere. Usually, protective strategies are in place and risks tempered. For example, the last significant grain dust explosion on Vancouver's waterfront was 37 years ago.

Fine airborne dust was rarely, if ever, a concern throughout the history of British Columbia sawmilling. Green wood logs and hydraulic barkers produced low levels of potentially explosive very small particles. That changed when highly automated modern mills began processing old beetle-killed wood. Two catastrophic dust explosions in three months prove high risks.

It is early in the review process but blame can be reasonably assessed. Clearly, management of Babine Forest Products and Lakeland Mills deserve a share but I see the major failure resting with Worksafe BC, the public agency responsible for regulating workplace safety.

According to a Twitter post by Rod Mickleburgh of The Globe and Mail:
"WCB inspection report of Lakeland Mills found wood dust throughout the mill, this was two weeks after Burns Lake explosion."
Worksafe BC should have been aware of dust explosion danger and they were aware of dust accumulation in the Lakeland Mills. Despite that, no remediation was ordered. I predict though that none of the agency's very well paid senior officers will pay a price for the agency's failures. Life in net-zero land has been good for them recently and, based on typical accountability of provincial executives, nothing will change.

Let's have a look at the four senior executive who manage day to day affairs of Workplace BC and how the BC Liberal policy of net-zero has affected them:


2011 Remuneration report not published at time of writing.

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Wednesday, April 25, 2012

The rest of the story

Monday's Lakeland sawmill tragedy provides evidence that British Columbia's hospitals are routinely stressed to the breaking point and incapable of responding adequately to a major emergency.

Monday's sawmill fire resulted in 24 casualties. Six were hospitalized in Prince George and 13 were treated and released. Four others were airlifted to intensive care units in Vancouver, Victoria and Edmonton.

That health authorities were forced to transport seriously injured people to three separate facilities, each about 700 km from the accident scene, indicates the paucity of emergency resources in British Columbia's interior. However, it also demonstrates that lower mainland facilities have little or no idle capacity for response to disaster, whether natural or caused by human activity.

Overcrowded ERs may be the most visible but intensive care units in and near Vancouver routinely operate at, or over, capacity. Were a 'Code Orange' event, one involving mass casualties, to occur, medical personnel and facilities would be overwhelmed. There is no spare capacity for appropriate healthcare response to disaster.

This duplicates the provincial government's earthquake preparedness in schools.  Their main action is to pray that no event occurs to test the readiness for any form of calamity.

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Covering for mistakes, folly & stupidity

Palmer: Taxpayers overpaid by millions to prevent more Liberal dirty laundry from being aired in court, Vancouver Sun, April 24, 2012
"After months of delay, the B.C. Liberals finally released Tuesday a trio of evaluation reports that predated their $30-million payout for the cancelled Boss Power uranium mining claim.

"The pictured painted by the 800 or so pages of documentation was not a pretty one for taxpayers, giving the appearance that the government had overpaid by as much as $21 million to keep the proceedings out of court...

"How did the B.C. Liberals manage to “wrestle the company to the ceiling” on compensation, as Opposition energy critic John Horgan put it during question period Tuesday?

"No plausible explanation was forthcoming from Energy Minister Rich Coleman. He told the house the Liberals had acted on internal legal advice, then segued into a beside-the-point exhumation of various NDP sins from the 1990s.

"But the settlement, executed on the proverbial steps of the courthouse, ensured that there would be no witnesses called in connection with the extraordinary contents of a government affidavit that came to light only after the fact..."
"Settled... ensuring that there would be no witnesses called." Sound familiar? Remember former Liberal minister Gary Collins being saved from appearing in Supreme Court over the BC Rail affair. That settlement however cost only $6 million.

I alter only slightly Andrew Nikiforuk's words from The Tyee
"British Columbia's Liberals cover up mistakes, folly and stupidity by writing cheques."

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Austerity and recession, invariably linked

UK is back in recession, OECD says, Phillip Inman, The Guardian, March 29, 2012
"The UK is heading back into recession and will be among the slowest of the world's largest economies to recover in the first half of this year, according to a study by the Paris-based thinktank, the OECD.

Only Italy will struggle over a longer period to return to growth, highlighting the difficult situation confronting the British government as it battles to boost confidence and get the economy back on track..."
UK economy sinks back into recession, Norma Cohen, Economics Correspondent, Financial Times, April 25, 2012
"Britain’s economy slid back into technical recession in the first quarter of this year, with the contraction led by a decline in the construction sector, official data show.

"Britain’s economy contracted 0.2 per cent in the three months to the end of March on top of a 0.3 per cent decline in the last quarter of 2011, providing two successive quarters of a decline in output, which many economists would describe as a recession..."
The European, a German online magazine of opinion this week published an interview of economist Joseph Stiglitz, American economist and professor at Columbia University. He is a recipient of the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences (2001) and is a former senior officer of the World Bank.

The following is excerpted from Austerity, and a new recession, April 23, 2012:
The European:
"Four years after the beginning of the financial crisis, are you encouraged by the ways in which economists have tried to make sense of it, and by the ways in which those insights have been taken up by policy makers?"
Stiglitz:
"Let me break this down in a slightly different way. Academic economists played a big role in causing the crisis. Their models were overly simplified, distorted, and left out the most important aspects. Those faulty models then encouraged policy-makers to believe that the markets would solve all the problems...

After the crisis, you would have hoped that the academic profession had changed and that policy-making had changed with it and would become more skeptical and cautious. You would have expected that after all the wrong predictions of the past, politics would have demanded from academics a rethinking of their theories. I am broadly disappointed on all accounts."
The European:
"So let’s take a longer view. Do you think that the crisis will have an effect on future generations of economists and policy-makers, for example by changing the way that economic basics are taught?"
Stiglitz:
"I think that change is really occurring with the young people. My young students overwhelmingly don’t understand how people could have believed in the old models. That is good. But on the other hand, many of them say that if you want to be an economist, you still have to deal with all the old guys who believe in their wrong theories, who teach those theories, and expect you to believe in them as well. So they choose not to go into those branches of economics..."
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Ethics and competence not germane

Phil Hochstein is worried about the politicians who served his interests so well in recent years. In present form, most of those men and women now seem unelectable. As a result, Phil sniffs the winds of change. His plan is to rename the BC Liberal Party and merge it with BC Conservatives.

Christy Clark is OK with that, as long as people remember that she is leader of BC's free world and intends to continue. Conservative leader John Cummins has different ideas. One of them being the quaint notion that government ought to be run by people who are competent and ethical.

Details like that don't trouble Mr. Hochstein. He has a simple agenda. It involves massive building of infrastructure to keep his construction members busy in a non-union, unregulated, low tax, balanced budget economy. He doesn't add the obvious but elimination of social spending, particularly public education and healthcare, would be the result.

So, Hochstein tells politicians they can call themselves the Upside-down Ferris Wheel Party as long as they adopt the agenda demanded by people providing the bankroll. He says,
"If it about a name or label, then change it."
The simplicity of his statement speaks loudly of Hochstein's contempt for BC voters. I think it will take more than a name change to alter my voting intentions.
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Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Connecting actions to results

A few days ago, a Postmedia telemarketer called, aiming to revive a subscription cancelled years ago. "For less than 50 cents a day..."  I declined, despite knowing the contributions of excellent newspapers are inestimable. Here are examples, one LOCAL and another from BRITAIN.

However, while laudable wordsmiths struggle to produce valued content, bean counters at their publications see newspapers as nothing more than advertising delivery vehicles. Consideration of and service to readers ranks last on the list of priorities. Example:
Postmedia Network Taken Over* By Hyundai Canada
April 23, 2012 (TORONTO)
In the first massive takeover of its kind, innovative automaker Hyundai will take possession of the most prime real estate Postmedia has to offer. On April 24 (April 25 in Alberta) Hyundai will own the front page of every Postmedia digital, print and mobile platform for an entire day in support of its award-winning line up of automobiles. Offering the largest one day audience reach to a single marketer in the history of Postmedia, this new advertiser program named Launch Pad heralds the arrival of a newway to accelerate audience reach.

“Take a bold advertiser with a big story to tell and a media partner with the creativity, products and the most coveted audience around and you have Launch Pad,” said SimonJennings, Chief Digital and Revenue Officer, Postmedia Network. “Advertisers want high-impact creative solutions to meet their marketing objectives. Our goal is to provide themwith not only innovative solutions but seamless execution and outstanding customer service. And have fun doing it.”
Anyone surprised at where the newspaper industry ranks on this chart?



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A new new name?

A twit from Victoria reports:



I thought they'd already changed. It is the BC Christy party now, according to the LINO website.




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Secret shared

Jim Newell, Salon.com
"The dirty little secret about political punditry, that is not actually a secret to anyone who watches and reads it, is that it’s all lies. It requires very little knowledge or skill, and there are no consequences for being wrong.

"For a major newspaper to fire one of its columnists for getting something wrong would bring down the whole pundit industry, as that logic would necessitate the firing of them all. Every election pundit is wrong about everything, nearly all the time, and there’s usually a direct correlation between a pundit’s frequency of wrongness and his or her status — see the Washington Post’s stable of columnists for a prime example. The entire punditocracy is a sham, but thank you for reading anyway."
Yes, thank you for reading. I bought into poll results and talked to a few Albertans whose judgement I trust. That personal, not-at-all scientific feedback reinforced the polling. I was convinced that a reputation for arrogant entitlement would bring down the ruling Conservatives, helped by Premier Redford's less than strong performance.

I haven't heard explanations yet from the professionals but one plausible idea is that social media has gained sufficient strength to change expected results, something that can occur right up to the moments votes are cast. Some Wildrose supporters were proposing radical alterations to the social order, with many driven by intolerant religious views. Additionally, the fuzziness of Libertarian objectives is confusing, if not scary. Are they really about personal liberty and freedom from bureaucratic oppression or is that merely cover for the most powerful to grab all they can as their own. I suspect that many people see advocates of unregulated business and free markets as servants of wealthy economic interests and primarily responsible for growing income inequality.

Social media has broken the information and opinion monopoly long held by relatively few companies. Concentration and convergence of mainstream media set the stage for a new order but its influence is not yet proven. I wrote earlier about the BC Liberals sagging steadily despite support from the traditional establishments and I credited new media for that. Perhaps, the Wildrose failure is another example showing that collective attitudes are now forming in unusual ways.

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Monday, April 23, 2012

Disappearing punditry

Before the vote counting began.
"Unless something astonishing happens, the Wildrose Party will form the next government of Alberta: all that remained at time of writing was to discover whether it would be a minority or majority.

"...Never mind that it has never governed, or has only ever elected one member of the legislature. The party did not even exist until about four years ago.

"Yet it will have taken down one of the most powerful political empires in the country's history: the Progressive Conservative Association of Alberta, fourth and greatest of the succession of dynasties that have governed the province... Astonishing doesn't begin to describe it..."
I'd provide a link to the whole article but this is what you'd find:

After the results were in.

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Pardon?

Liberal MP Carolyn Bennett, speaking in the House of Commons:
“(Aglukkaq) has cut programs for diabetes, youth suicide, Aboriginal health human resources. Can the minister explain to this house why her cuts target the population with the worse health outcomes in Canada, the Aboriginal people of Canada.”
Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq,
“As an Aboriginal person, I take that type of line of questioning to be unacceptable."
Health Minister Aglukkaq accuses Liberal MP of crossing racial line during House of Commons questioning, aptn National News, April 23, 2012
"Health Canada cut all funding to the National Aboriginal Health Organization, effectively shutting it down.

"Aglukkaq has also overseen 100 per cent health funding cuts to the Native Women’s Association of Canada, the Metis National Council and the Congress of Aboriginal Peoples.

"Health Canada also cut 40 per cent of its funding to the Assembly of First Nations and the Inuit Tapriit Kanatami, which serves Aglukkaq’s own people, the Inuit."
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Raeside scores

Adrian Raeside has been drawing cartoons portraying the ferry fleet for over thirty years. From breakdowns, groundings, the Fast Ferry Fiasco, the Sunshine Breakfast, German-built ferries, the Million Dollar Man (David Hahn) and fuel surcharges, Raeside has covered it all in his unique style. The best of these hilarious and sometimes poignant cartoons are for the first time compiled into a book, a unique chronicle of our ferry fleet and a must-read for anyone who has ever endured a two-sailing wait at a ferry terminal.



Adrian Raeside has created a magical tale of adventure for pet lovers of all ages in The Rainbow Bridge. Using his gift for creating spunky characters, Raeside has created a valuable fable for anyone who cherishes the companionship of a family pet.

Seven-year-old Rick and his beloved dog Koko are inseparable. They cavort in the swimming hole, chase each other through the fields, play fetch and wrestle. But their relationship changes as Koko grows old and his health declines.


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A challenge to corporate media

British Columbia's inept Liberals slide toward oblivion and Alberta's long reigning Conservatives are already at the brink. No doubt, social media and online commentary contributes by impacting political dialog but the output of corporate media, with few notable exceptions, is limited by commercial interests, a situation made worse by today's concentrated ownership.

Canada is leaning toward the American experience where choice is between milquetoasts afraid of offending elites or empty headed blowhards determined to offend polite society. We get little communication both robust and thoughtful .

Former New York Times correspondent Chris Hedges writes of the depressing experience of empty dialog:

The Globalization of Hollow Politics, Chris Hedges, Truthdig, April 23, 2012
"The emptying of content in political discourse in an age as precarious and volatile as ours will have very dangerous consequences. The longer the political elite—whether in Washington or Paris, whether socialist or right-wing, whether Democrat or Republican—ignore the breakdown of globalization, refuse to respond rationally to the climate crisis and continue to serve the iron tyranny of global finance, the more it will shred the possibility of political consensus, erode the effectiveness of our political institutions and empower right-wing extremists. The discontent sweeping the planet is born out of the paralysis of traditional political institutions."
The Hedges item was recommended by reader Susan Heyes. Another reader contribution came this morning from Lew Edwardson. He is circulating a request to numerous corporate media folks, challenging them to debate issues they prefer to ignore. I'll write later about the specifics of Mr. Edwardson's comments but the need for his action demonstrates the hollowness of issue examination in MSM. This is the beginning of Lew's well crafted and widely circulated message:
"Many significant issues publicly raised by responsible local bloggers are not being covered by traditional news organizations in BC for some reason. When inquiring about it I’ve either been met with silence, or in the case of CKNW, claims by a senior legislative reporter that the stories are crap, lies, and fabrications. I challenged him with real story examples for confirmation and a request that the statement about lies and fabrications be justified with specifics. After all, CKNW is “BC’s News Leader”. Silence ensued. Now this: Twitter Time.

'Hopefully Mr. Woodford will deal with the examples below to prove his point, but just in case this is my plea to others in the traditional media.

"I am wondering if at least one amongst you is up to the challenge. Specific determination of why the issues raised below are true or false and how you know either way would be very much appreciated. Many other issues have gone unreported, but if you would humor me with answers to just these few recent examples I would be most grateful. Even a “yes” or “no” and how you came to your answers would provide some understanding..."
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Dare we trust Enbridge with BC coast?

Sex, Oil, and Videotape, Ted Genoways, Mother Jones
"...Almost every day for more than a year, this had been [John] Bolenbaugh's daily activity—shooting video of the slow-going cleanup of one of the worst inland oil spills in American history. And on that day he wanted me to see "ground zero," the exact spot where, in late July 2010, an underground pipeline owned by Canadian-based Enbridge, Inc., ruptured and spilled more than a million gallons of crude derived from the Alberta tar sands—enough to flow out of this pond into the distant creek and on to the Kalamazoo River. A former cleanup worker himself, Bolenbaugh was fired in October 2010 by Enbridge contractor SET Environmental, because, Bolenbaugh says, he refused to follow top-down instructions to cover up oil.

"His whistleblower lawsuit, which accuses SET of wrongful dismissal, went to trial last Wednesday...

"...Bolenbaugh, for his part, has been single-minded about proving his claims. He has doggedly patrolled sites already certified as clean by Enbridge and the Environmental Protection Agency, regardless of whether the land is public, owned by Enbridge, or otherwise privately held. Enbridge swore out a warrant for trespassing against Bolenbaugh shortly before I met him in November—and had him taken into custody by a county sheriff's deputy immediately following the hearing on December 12 at which Judge Kingsley decided there was enough evidence for Bolenbaugh's lawsuit to proceed. (The trespassing charge was eventually dismissed.)

"But what has drawn the most attention from Enbridge has been Bolenbaugh's uncanny ability to win the trust of private landowners who fear that officials from the oil giant are lying to them; his access to their land has allowed Bolenbaugh to mount a one-man watchdog campaign via his YouTube channel."

Read extended coverage at ONEARTH

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Morton's Fork, Alberta

In the politics of Alberta, Abraham Lincoln's Gettysburg vision has been bastardized to become "government of business, by business, for business."

April 23, voters can re-elect a tired, incompetent and corrupt Conservative government which, according to Alberta journalist Andrew Nikiforuk, does:
"a much better job representing the interests of Suncor, ExxonMobil, CNRL, Husky, Cenovus, Enbridge and EnCana than they do Alberta taxpayers."
Or, they can elect Wildrose, the alternative, described by Nikiforuk as:
"a political upstart made up of largely angry white people, sketchy Tories and climate change deniers."
Led by a former Fraser Institute intern who was an associate of MP Rob Anders, Wildrose is fielding candidates accused of radicalism, homophobia and racism. One said gays and lesbians will be condemned to a lake of fire and another claimed, as a Caucasian, he is better able to represent a community than would be a Sikh or Muslim leader. The party intends further deregulation of industry and promises to leave more money in the pockets of oil barons and reduce oil land reclamation obligations. They plan decreased funding of healthcare, education and other activities of the Alberta government.

When she was a Calgary Herald columnist, Wildrose leader Danielle Smith called for no integration of technology in school rooms, larger class sizes, an end to all day kindergarten and elimination of dedicated teacher assistants. In fact, she asked for an end to free public education, suggesting annual tuition of $1,000 for each child.

Her overall attitude was summarized in a column dated October 29, 2003:
"it is the responsibility of individuals to provide for themselves, their families and their dependents."
Smith's writings as a columnist likely provide a more honest reflection of her attitudes than carefully crafted statements vetted by campaign officials to avoid controversy. Looking through her old Calgary Herald pieces, I found this gem:
...it's obvious the goal of a smoke-free society is unachievable.

...The WHO [World Health Organization] claims "there is no safe level" of tobacco consumption. But that does not appear to be true, and even if it were, the evidence shows moderate cigarette consumption can reduce traditional risks of disease by 75 per cent or more. Shouldn't smokers be told?

It should be a foregone conclusion that many lives were thus lost to an intransigent anti-smoking crusade in the last quarter of this century," writes Gori. "Who should bear witness to this tragedy?"
Try telling that to your family doctor on the next visit.
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Sunday, April 22, 2012

Signs of protest

Our Coast Our Decision, a slideshow by Robin Rowland



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Friday, April 20, 2012

We'll tell you what you really, really want

Is Times Colonist becoming BC's newspaper of record? It might be the go-to place to follow BC current events, except for political commentary provided by that guy whose son toils professionally for the BC Liberal Party.

RossK offers applause to TC writer Lindsay Kines in This Is What Public Service Journalism Looks Like. I add my salute to both newspaper and writer because this truly is work that makes a difference to our community.

Rob Shaw is another fine writer at TC. His blog discusses the crass efforts of federal Conservative, now provincial Liberal, apparatchik Ken Boessenkool to remake the LINOs in a style designed to please the Fraser Institute, C.D. Howe Institute and other neo-liberal activists from his circle of friends.

In theory, a political party convenes persons with common opinions and facilitates collective interest articulation. By joining a political party, individuals attempt to influence policies pursued by the state. In healthy democracies, ideas and policies originate with the rank and file. In totalitarian states, ideas and policies are imposed upon the rank and file by elites.

Former Enbridge lobbyist Boessenkool, with a background in radical-right political movements populated by elites, apparently doesn't believe in remaking the BC Liberal Party or the province's Conservative Party through participation of its members. From Rob Shaw's Inside the B.C. Liberal reach-out:
...Here’s an interesting account from a Times Colonist interview with Jeff Bridge, the Conservative party’s deputy campaign manager, who got a call from Premier Christy Clark’s chief of staff, Ken Boessenkool, around 9:30 a.m. Friday.

“They say they got a list of names from guys in the [Liberal] cabinet of people that are involved in the senior level of the Conservative party and want to know if we’d be interested in listening to them and working with them and avoiding a vote split in the next general election,” said Bridge. “In other words they want to merge the parties.”

“I said, ‘Look you’ve got a knucklehead for a leader why would I want to do that?’ We’ve already gone down the path with the B.C. Liberals, some of us, we’re not doing it again. I have no interest...
By the way, as Boessenkool was dialing for Tories, Premier Photo-Op was telling Global TV's Jas Johal,
"I don't think British Columbians respond very well to backroom deals. I don't think people wanna see politicians cooking up deals behind closed doors"
More evidence to prove my March article: Premier Photo Op is a compulsive liar

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Toward a certain end

Lights are out on election night 
My point to CKNW radio reporter Shane Woodford in the twitter exchange discussed in an earlier post was that too little attention has been paid to the reasons why public approval of BC Liberals has dropped from a high of 58% in 2001 to 31% in last night's by-elections.

Liberals experienced this substantial drop despite unremitting support of British Columbia's establishment, including its dominant economic forces and major media groups. The government also spent millions of public money and millions more in party funds promoting various policies and strategies. The Premier employs an unprecedented staff of minions, minders and media has-beens to supplement the Communications and Public Engagement staff placed throughout government ministries.

LIberals enlisted supports from think tanks and managers of public agencies, also from industry groups like the Chambers of Commerce, Vancouver Board of Trade, BC mining and forestry associations and, of course, the infamous ICBA of anti-NDP activist Phil Hochstein. The provincial government has had extraordinary support and cooperation from the Harper federal government and Conservative stalwarts.

So, despite near total control of the public agenda, almost unlimited financial resources and unfettered access to and sympathetic coverage from media, the Liberals have been unable to stem the ebbing tide of voter support.

Why? The answer I believe reflects exactly what John Cummins has been saying. In interviews with the CBC and The Tyee, BC's Conservative leader says the Liberals have been abject failures in matters of both competence and integrity. He calls them a discredited organization and despite his own social and economic conservatism, selecting between Liberal or NDP in 2009, he chose to vote NDP. Faced with a choice of expedience or conscience, Cummins chose the latter. Bravo.

Independent online journalists have raised powerful questions of political larceny and fraud that remain unanswered and unresolved by the Liberals. Clark's government, although claiming cooperation with the Auditor General, continues doing everything possible to avoid explanation or accountability over the Basi Virk settlement. They want the files destroyed and the records expunged - a self granted pardon before conviction.

Largely, the corporate media is prepared to excuse Liberal faults and ignore suspicions accounts of fraud. As CKNW's Friday morning pundits say, BC Rail is an old story, unlike Adrian Dix's backdated memo of a decade earlier. Voters think differently and, delivering an unmistakable verdict, agree with John Cummins that BC Liberals are discredited. The rot is so complete that a name and costume change won't do. The trend is clear.



top photo credit: Bob Mackin

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Twitter time

After last night's by-election results were in, I had a twitterverse exchange with CKNW's Shane Woodford:
Woodford:
The big question in Chilliwack Hope is, can the bcndp keep the seat when we go to a Prov. elxn next year?
Farrell:
Maybe the question is "Why did/does MSM underestimate/ignore public anger over ethical failures of BC Libs?"
Woodford:
that's crap pure and simple I hate the rag on the "MSM" crap it's tea bag in the ocean weak
Farrell:
Which part crap? Ethical failures? Public anger? MSM downplaying both?
Otherwise occupied, I didn't bother with broadcasts of play by play analysis during the vote count but I did enjoy twitter feeds discussing the outcome. There is something seductive about a form that limits communications to 140 characters.

I'm reminded of Dr. Johnson's words,
"Depend upon it, sir, when a man knows he is to be hanged in a fortnight, it concentrates his mind wonderfully."
Were he around today, Samuel J. might have written,
"Depend upon it, sir, when a man knows his message is to be unmercifully abridged, it focuses his missive marvellously."
Twitter is an art, art not particularly indicated in the exchange noted above. The microblogging service began in 2006 and I managed to ignore it for five years. I now see its power and I've moved from John Stewart's position:
"For the uninitiated, here’s how Twitter works – I have no f***ing idea. I have no idea how it works – or why it is"
to that of Harvard law professor and Internet expert Jonathan Zittrain:
“The qualities that make Twitter seem inane and half-baked are what makes it so powerful”
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Thursday, April 19, 2012

Your day without shoes is coming

A.A.A.D.D.
KNOW THE SYMPTOMS!

Thank goodness there's a name for this disorder.
Age Activated Attention Deficit Disorder.
This is how it manifests:

I decide to water my garden.
As I turn on the hose in the driveway,
I look over at my car and decide it needs washing.

As I start toward the garage,
I notice mail on the porch table that
I brought up from the mail box earlier.
I decide to go through the mail before I wash the car.

I lay my car keys on the table,
put the junk mail in the garbage can under the table,
and notice that the can is full.
So, I decide to put the bills back
on the table and take out the garbage first..

But then I think,
since I'm going to be near the mailbox
when I take out the garbage anyway,
I may as well pay the bills first.

I take my check book off the table,
and see that there is only one check left.
My extra checks are in my desk in the study,
so I go inside the house to my desk where
I find the can of Pepsi I'd been drinking.

I'm going to look for my checks,
but first I need to push the Pepsi aside
so that I don't accidentally knock it over.
The Pepsi is getting warm,
and I decide to put it in the refrigerator to keep it cold.

As I head toward the kitchen with the Pepsi,
a vase of flowers on the counter
catches my eye--they need water.

I put the Pepsi on the counter and
discover my reading glasses that
I've been searching for all morning.
I decide I better put them back on my desk,
but first I'm going to water the flowers.

I set the glasses back down on the counter,
fill a container with water and suddenly spot the TV remote.
Someone left it on the kitchen table.
I realize that tonight when we go to watch TV,
I'll be looking for the remote,
but I won't remember that it's on the kitchen table,
so I decide to put it back in the den where it belongs,

but first I'll water the flowers.
I pour some water in the flowers,
but quite a bit of it spills on the floor.
So, I set the remote back on the table,
get some towels and wipe up the spill.

Then, I head down the hall trying to
remember what I was planning to do.

At the end of the day:
the car isn't washed
the bills aren't paid
there is a warm can of Pepsi sitting on the counter
the flowers don't have enough water,
there is still only 1 check in my check book,
I can't find the remote,
I can't find my glasses,
and I don't remember what I did with the car keys.

Then, when I try to figure out why nothing got done today,
I'm really baffled because I know I was busy all day,
and I'm really tired.

I realize this is a serious problem,
and I'll try to get some help for it,
but first I'll check my e-mail....

Source unknown, H/T Chris M.
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Grown too rich, too powerful to punish

According to the Washington Post, Google has been under scrutiny in the U.S., Canada, France and the Netherlands for charges that it illegally collected WiFi data using its Street View cars.
"...the company said the cars, which roam the world taking pictures for its location-based applications, scarfed up e-mail addresses, URLs and passwords from residential Wi-Fi networks they passed by in dozens of countries.
The American Securities and Exchange Commission fined the company $25,000, saying,
“For many months, Google deliberately impeded and delayed the Bureau’s investigation by failing to respond to requests for material information and to provide certifications and verifications of its responses.,”
Let's try to put than penalty into more understandable perspective.

Google had $72 billion in assets at the end of 2011 and HRSDC reports the median assets of Canadian families at $229,930.

Punishing Google with a fine of $25,000 is equivalent to charging a Canadian family eight cents.
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Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Willing buyers, willing seller

“There are two things that are important in politics. The first thing is money, and I can’t remember what the second one is."
- Mark Hanna, campaign architect, ca. 1900

David D. Kirkpatrick of The New York Times wrote in 2010:
"Private influence-seekers shower big contributions on politicians because they want to gain access and shape policy; they would not spend the money if they got nothing in return."
Of course, all willing purchasers require a willing seller and never has British Columbia had a government more willing to dump public treasure on its friends. Despite claiming superior business skills, BC Liberals turned Kirkpatrick's statement on its head. They spent public resources and got close to nothing for the public in return. At least, nothing that is disclosed on the record, in Canada.







I emphasize that numbers reported above are incomplete. Elections BC reporting facility is primitive, providing search intelligence that would have made a database manager proud, in the early nineties. Slightly different search criteria shows another $31,225 not included in the above.


If one searches for political contributions made by Peter Bentley, Chairman Emeritus of the Board of Directors of Canfor (formerly Canadian Forest Products), or current Board Chair Ron Cliff, results depend on punctuation:



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Harry Bloy's Entabulator

REPLAY FROM SEP 17, 2011

A source in Victoria leaked information to me explaining why Harry Bloy wants to redirect government spending away from small scale projects like the Richmond Recycling Depot. Bloy thinks that government needs to put real money into a real project that might make a real difference.

Bloy thinks he has found the right one, a real one, and this is it:



Hat Tip to reader Susan H.

UPDATE:

Bloy must leave B.C. politics for the good of all, Times Colonist Editorial, April 18, 2012
"The backbench isn’t far enough back for Harry Bloy. The B.C. legislature — and all of British Columbia — would be better served by his absence from provincial politics...

He has said he will not run in the May 2013 election, probably an unnecessary declaration at this point — what thinking, rational party leader would approve his nomination?

The sooner he is out of the legislature, the better."
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Premier Photo-Op and friends


The candidates here holding Christy Clark erect represent two of the primary supports relied on by Patrick Kinsella's creation and her BC Liberals. Dennis Marsden is a former President of the Chamber of Commerce and Laurie Throness represents the right wing fundamentalist segment of the Harper Government - the paradise pavers.

These two men want to join Premier Photo Op's government. We should wonder why.

To correct its course or put their own fingers into the public's pot of gold?

I wonder if they intend to represent all citizens of the constituencies that might elect them or would they be surrogates for land developers aiming to convert farmland to industrial and promoters of foreign owned pipeline companies, multi-national mining consortia and New York investors who see BC Hydro as a monopoly still with parts to pick.

They took all the trees
And put them in a tree museum
Then they charged the people
A dollar and a half just to see 'em
Don't it always seem to go,
That you don't know what you've got
'Til it's gone
They paved paradise
And put up a parking lot

- Joni Mitchell, video:
Big Yellow Taxi
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