Saturday, August 31, 2013

Labour Day - Canadian heritage moment - Rerun

First published here in 2009

I was flipping the radio dial on Labour Day and noticed that CKNW's Christy Clark featured a guest who seemed a strange choice. It was a Fraser Institute automaton, there to talk once more about our "unsustainable medical system." This is content that the silver-spooned Shaw Family, owners of Corus Radio, want you to focus on during the day set aside to honor the Canadian labour movement.

How fortunate we are to have the Fraser Institute available on this statutory holiday. Here to counsel us about social programs. Under the chairmanship of one of BC's lesser billionaires, with a who's-who board of preciously rich folks, where anyone whose wealth can be measured with fewer than nine digits before the decimal is patronized, the Fraser Institute steps forward to tell us we don't deserve universal medical care.

After tossing my radio over the fence, I reflected on what Labour Day means to me.

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 about 15% of the jobs that it provided in 1964 and none of those are truly secure.

On Labour Day, more than most days, we should remember and reflect upon a page of history.  Inspired by the nine-hour movement in England, the Toronto Printers' Union asked for a reduced workweek in 1872. Employers called the demand for six 9-hours days foolish, absurd and unreasonable. George Brown, a “Father of Confederation” and leading Liberal, was also founder of the Globe newspaper. He wrote:
It is utterly ridiculous to talk of the rapacity and despotism of the employer. The tyranny of the employed over his master would be an infinitely truer version of the case. Proprietors have suffered for years from intolerable and increasing oppression.
Unwillingness to compromise led to a strike although timid supporters of the action warned against “obstinate dogmatism”, “ruffianism”, demagoguery and revolutionary ideas. Using a law from 1792, newspaper owners launched a legal action against the union for "conspiracy" and police jailed the 24 member strike committee.

Thousands of working class citizens took to the streets. Public outrage encouraged Prime Minister John A. Macdonald to rescue the imprisoned men by passage of a Trade Union Act, which legalized and protected union activity. However, alongside the Trade Union Act, Parliament passed the Criminal Law Amendment Act which made demonstrations and picketing illegal. And while unions were now legal, employers did not have to recognize or negotiate with them.

The first mass Canadian workers' movement had a lasting legacy and it was celebrated annually in Toronto. Under pressure, the Canadian government made Labour Day a national holiday and the celebration spread across Canada and the continent.

Labour Day in the United States began in 1882. After the deaths of workers by the hands of the military and US Marshals, American leaders desired reconciliation with the Labour movement. In 1894, fearing further conflict and worrying about American alignment with international May Day workers' events, Congress passed legislation making the September Labour Day national holiday.

2011 Addition:

A Vancouver memory: The Battle of Ballantyne Pier  (H/T The Exile)

September 3, 2011, Robert Reich, former secretary of labor, now a professor at the University of California, Berkeley, presents an opinion piece in the New York Times, The Limping Middle Class. It presents material worth focusing on for Labour Day this year. (H/T Chris M.)
"THE 5 percent of Americans with the highest incomes now account for 37 percent of all consumer purchases, according to the latest research from Moody’s Analytics. That should come as no surprise. Our society has become more and more unequal.

"When so much income goes to the top, the middle class doesn’t have enough purchasing power to keep the economy going without sinking ever more deeply into debt — which, as we’ve seen, ends badly. An economy so dep"endent on the spending of a few is also prone to great booms and busts. The rich splurge and speculate when their savings are doing well. But when the values of their assets tumble, they pull back. That can lead to wild gyrations. Sound familiar?

"...The economy cannot possibly get out of its current doldrums without a strategy to revive the purchasing power of America’s vast middle class. The spending of the richest 5 percent alone will not lead to a virtuous cycle of more jobs and higher living standards. Nor can we rely on exports to fill the gap. It is impossible for every large economy, including the United States, to become a net exporter.

"Reviving the middle class requires that we reverse the nation’s decades-long trend toward widening inequality. This is possible notwithstanding the political power of the executive class. So many people are now being hit by job losses, sagging incomes and declining home values that Americans could be mobilized.

"Moreover, an economy is not a zero-sum game. Even the executive class has an enlightened self-interest in reversing the trend; just as a rising tide lifts all boats, the ebbing tide is now threatening to beach many of the yachts. The question is whether, and when, we will summon the political will. We have summoned it before in even bleaker times.

"As the historian James Truslow Adams defined the American Dream when he coined the term at the depths of the Great Depression, what we seek is “a land in which life should be better and richer and fuller for everyone.”

That dream is still within our grasp."

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Friday, August 23, 2013

Make the news, then report the news

After The Fraser Institute reported it's never been easier financially to raise a Canadian child, Business in Vancouver surveyed Twitter response to the think tank's featherbrained newspeak and found "considerable" controversy,
"Yesterday, the Fraser Institute released a study they say shows the cost of raising a child is not the $10,000 a year assumed by other experts, but a mere $3,000. The total left out extra housing, transportation and child care. Some Canadian parents had their own take on FI's calculation..."

Readers won't be surprised by my sympathy for the messages here but I have to note the opening Tweets in the BIV article were composed and posted by BIV writers. I suppose that creating evidence of controversy is more efficient than doing research to establish it.

By the way, for a few good smiles, read Twitter entries with the hashtag #FraserInstituteKidTips. Most Fraser Institute material has little worth for anyone beyond the creator and Sourcewatch provides a succinct explanation,
"Research from think tanks is ideologically driven in accordance with the interests of its funders."
Chris Sarlo's The Cost of Raising Children provides amusement but its greatest value may be in providing irrefutable evidence of the Fraser Institute's deceptive and valueless research.

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Bring on the consultants - Replay

How CEOs Jack Up their Pay, Kimberly Weisul, Editor & Founder of One Thing New:
"Poor, downtrodden, underpaid CEOs finally have someone they can turn to in their hour of need: compensation consultants.

"...there's a simple way to boost their pay. Just call in the compensation consultants--the more, the merrier.

  • "On average, when a firm adds a compensation consultant, CEO pay rises by 8.5%.
  • "Companies with larger boards pay CEOs more.
  • "Firms with larger compensation committees tend to employ more consultants.
"Cutting the CEO's paycheck, the researchers note, doesn't seem like a very good way to win repeat business or to get hired to consult in any other areas."

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Thursday, August 22, 2013

News reporting or press release reading?

On CKNW's August 22 afternoon news, Marcella Bernardo reported this about Verizon, the American cell provider that may offer service in Canada,
"Last year's [Verizon] revenues of 116 billion dollars were more than double the combined profits of Rogers, Bell and Telus."
Had Ms. Bernardo been comparing like for like — profits for profits, that is — she would have reported,
"Last year's Verizon profits of 2.2 billion dollars were about one third of the combined profits of Rogers, Bell and Telus, even though Verizon's revenues were almost three times larger than the combined revenues of Canada's big 3 communication companies."
It's no surprise that major cell service suppliers are campaigning against an American competitor coming here. The dominant Canadian players love things the way they are and, to convince us that all is well, they're running a PR campaign. They're advertising that Canadian cell rates are lower than rates of American suppliers selected for comparison. Guess who made the selections?

Bell Canada profited almost $4B on revenues near $20B, a handsome 20%. Verizon earned $2.4B on revenues near $111B, a much less handsome 2%. Despite Bell's rate of return, its business units in BC have been laying off staff and utilizing unpaid interns in operations. One Bell radio station in Vancouver promised in its license renewal to:
a. Provide a commitment to a minimum level of local programming to be broadcast in each broadcast week: 00 hours 00 mins.
Bell is happy to offer round-the-clock sports radio shows by looping content from American networks Fox and ESPN. That helps Bell stay wildly profitable. However, Bell, along with Rogers and Telus, thinks that Canadian content should be mandatory when it comes to provision of cellular service in this country.

Marcella Bernardo's report today was worded to suggest that Canadian providers are disadvantaged compared to Verizon. In fact, they're collectively more profitable and they enjoy returns on revenue substantially more than does the American company.

I'd wager that CKNW was simply reading from a press release supplied by the public relations group that is organizing opposition to competition in Canada's cell phone industry.

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Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Transnational racketeers at work

Barrett Brown, Glenn Greenwald, and the Mafia State, DS Wright,
" should know what Western states like the United States and the United Kingdom have become in the world today – hit squads for a transnational elite, the global 1%. They have no allegiance, they have no care for legality, and they have no real legitimacy. And what’s more, they know it. It’s about power, which is an end not a means to an end.

"This political and economic system is most comparable to how the Mafia is organized, in essence we live in a protection-racket state. The racketeers on Wall Street and in the corporate sector chisel money out of the economy using various scams a part of which is then funneled into campaign contributions for politicians who make sure the security forces – DoD, NSA, FBI – get nice budgets. The security forces secure the business interests of the racketeers at home and abroad. One hand washes the other..."
Cameron Proves Greenwald Right, Andrew Sullivan
"When the NSA leaks burst onto the scene, I was ... queasily sympathetic to a program that relied on meta-data alone, as long as it was transparent, had Congressional buy-in, did not accidentally expose innocent civilians to grotesque privacy loss, and was watched by a strong FISA court.

"...almost all the checks I supported have been proven illusory. The spying is vastly more extensive than anyone fully comprehended before; the FISA court has been revealed as toothless and crippled; and many civilians have had their privacy accidentally violated over 3000 times. The president, in defending the indefensible, has damaged himself and his core reputation for honesty and candor. These cumulative revelations have exposed this program as, at a minimum, dangerous to core liberties and vulnerable to rank abuse...

"If a system is ripe for abuse, history tells us the only question is not if such abuse will occur, but when...

"I can say this to David Cameron. Thank you for clearing the air on these matters of surveillance. You have now demonstrated beyond any reasonable doubt that these anti-terror provisions are capable of rank abuse. Unless some other facts emerge, there is really no difference in kind between you and Vladimir Putin. You have used police powers granted for anti-terrorism and deployed them to target and intimidate journalists deemed enemies of the state.

You have proven that these laws can be hideously abused."
The Real, Terrifying Reason Why British Authorities Detained David Miranda, Bruce Schneier, The Atlantic
"...those in power were angry and impulsively acted on that anger. They're lashing out: sending a message and demonstrating that they're not to be messed with -- that the normal rules of polite conduct don't apply to people who screw with them. That's probably the scariest explanation of all. Both the U.S. and U.K. intelligence apparatuses have enormous money and power, and they have already demonstrated that they are willing to ignore their own laws. Once they start wielding that power unthinkingly, it could get really bad for everyone..."
The global 1%, hirelings and admirers aspiring to be included, are at work here too. They are served by federal and provincial governments of Canada, facilitated by media that care more about self-interest than public-interest and enabled by a largely disengaged populace.

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Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Head shot to disarmed, injured man, updated

Sunday, September 18, a 95 y.o. man assaulted another senior at the residential care facility of Vernon's Jubilee Hospital. The victim died and within hours, the elderly culprit was arrested, taken into court on a charge of murder and remanded in custody. He remains in jail. (Wednesday, CBC's Brady Strachan (@BradyStrachan) tweets "He's in a psychiatric centre now. Crown says likely be found not criminally responsible by mental disorder.")

The old man didn't have the benefit of what, in the final report of the Frank Paul death inquiry, Justice Davies called "preferential treatment in police-related cases."

Vancouver Police Constable Lee Chipperfield received preferential treatment. After killing Paul Boyd, he was neither charged nor disciplined. Instead, he continued working as a Vancouver City policeman. He and the police colleagues who watched Mr. Boyd die would have put the incident behind them except that tourist Andreas Bergen came forward with a video after he heard the Police Complaint Commissioner had ruled there was insufficient evidence to fault police.

As now MLA David Eby said,
"There is something about seeing a man crawling across the street to be shot in the head surrounded by police officers when he’s fully disarmed..."
James Forcillo, the Toronto police officer who killed Sammy Yatim also had that benefit. He was not arrested after the shooting nor was he arrested after Ontario’s Special Investigations Unit decided to lay a murder charge against him. Forcillo was allowed to surrender on Tuesday morning, appear in court for a bail hearing shortly after and depart about an hour later in a waiting SUV.

Twenty-three days after the fatal shooting of a youth contained within an empty streetcar, authorities charged Toronto Police Const. James Forcillo with murder.

Sammy Yatim shooting: murder charge for Toronto officer, CBC News, Aug. 19, 2013
A Toronto police officer has been charged with second-degree murder in the death of Sammy Yatim, the 18-year-old shot and killed in a streetcar last month.

A statement issued Monday from Ontario’s Special Investigations Unit — the province's police watchdog — says the actions of Const. James Forcillo in the downtown Toronto incident this summer justify a charge of second-degree murder...
Almost 2,200 days after Vancouver Police Const. Lee Chipperfield administered a kill shot to the head of unarmed and defenceless Paul Boyd, as the wounded man crawled on hands and knees on Granville Street, the killer has not been charged or disciplined. British Columbia prosecutors continue to examine the homicide, more than six years after the execution.

Vancouver Police officers who stood on the street within steps of Boyd's killer took no action and facilitated the subsequent cover-up orchestrated by Police Chief Jim Chu. Unfortunately, abuse of authority, including violence and homicide, is an accepted part of the culture of policing. Canada is only different by degree from Mexico, Egypt, North Korea, Russia and other states that instigate or excuse brutal policing.

Enhanced video of Paul Boyd homicide.

The above is an update to the following version of this article from July 18.

A June 26 release by the BC Civil Liberties Association:
VANCOUVER – The BC Civil Liberties Association and the family of Paul Boyd are pleased with the BC Criminal Justice Branch’s decision to appoint a special prosecutor to reconsider the laying of criminal charges in the police shooting death of Paul Boyd in August 2007. The appointment comes two years after the Criminal Justice Branch originally refused requests from the BCCLA and the Boyd Family to appoint a special prosecutor, saying that it would not be in the public interest.

“We are encouraged that the Crown is finally taking action to reconsider laying charges in the Boyd case,” said Josh Paterson, Executive Director of the BCCLA. “The evidence that Boyd was not a threat to police when he was shot and killed has been known for years. Justice requires that an independent special prosecutor take a hard look at this tragedy. This is a positive step.”

A year ago in May 2012, the BCCLA asked for this case to be reopened after a video came to light confirming that Boyd appeared to be crawling at the time he was shot by police. The BCCLA was pleased at the time that the BC government, the Vancouver Police Department, and the Office of the Police Complaints Commissioner quickly responded by asking Alberta’s Serious Incident Response Team (ASIRT) to open an investigation. ASIRT has now reported back to BC Assistant Deputy Attorney General M. Joyce DeWitt-Van Oosten, QC, who has appointed a special prosecutor in response..."
While appointment of respected lawyer Mark Jetté is appropriate, the record of special prosecutors in British Columbia is not a good one. Because many law firms and senior lawyers have regular business relationships with government, they are not free from prejudice and favouritism. They tend to deliver results desired by the ministry that hires them.

Police accountability for wrongful deaths and major misconduct fails routinely because senior police and public officials close ranks to protect wrongdoers with whom they are associated. The response occurs because the consequences of full and frank disclosures of wrongdoing would be costly and damaging to reputations of agencies and institutions. They choose instead to let individual families suffer tragedies.

* * * * *
Kim Bolan, Vancouver Sun, May 31, 2012
"…And [Chief Jim] Chu confirmed that Const. Lee Chipperfield, who fired the fatal shots at a crawling and wounded Boyd, is still on the job and carrying a gun…"
* * * * *

The following article was first published here March 24, 2012. With the homicide of Paul Boyd back in the news, it's again worth a read.

Paul Boyd
August 13 2007,  39-year-old Paul Boyd, a successful animator who suffered bipolar disorder, created a disturbance on Granville Street. When police arrived, he struggled with them, reportedly armed with a bicycle locking chain, and failed to follow instructions. VPD Constable Lee Chipperfield shot Boyd repeatedly, dropping him to the ground. The wounded man, now disarmed, struggled to get up. Chipperfield shot an eighth time, a fatal round to Boyd's head. The policeman fired despite his partner calling out, "Hold your fire."

Days later, CBC reported one witness saying the man's death was like an execution, claiming Boyd was on his knees when the last shots were fired. Jonathan Menzies said:
"They had made a decision to kill this man and they shot him and shot him and shot him until he could not do anything at all"
Fifteen months later, prosecutors issued a decision:
"An exhaustive review, involving senior prosecutors within the Criminal Justice Branch, has resulted in the conclusion that there is insufficient evidence to establish that the officer's use of force was excessive in the circumstances."
CBC reports from the Paul Boyd inquest:
The Vancouver police officer who shot a mentally ill man up to eight times three years ago on Granville Street says he didn't realize his police partner had already disarmed the man.
Shooter Lee Chipperfield at the coroner's inquest into the August 2007 death of Paul Boyd:
"The fact that someone's been shot three times and is still able to get up . . . it was shocking to me. The threat was still there."
The Province, March 19, 2012:
"Stan Lowe, the Police Complaint Commissioner concluded that there is no evidence that showed Chipperfield used unnecessary or excessive force during the tense incident. ...the OPCC has made the decision to conclude the matter and take no further action."
BC Civil Liberties Associations questions OPCC:
Mentally ill man killed by “inattentionally blind” police officer
The BCCLA is questioning a five year delay, and unusual expert evidence, in a new report that again clears the VPD in the shooting of Illustrator Paul Boyd. Boyd was shot eight times by police in August, 2007, with the last, and fatal, shot coming after Boyd had been disarmed.

The OPCC attributes part of the five year delay to bringing in an expert psychologist to examine the event, in particular to opine on why the officer kept shooting after Boyd was disarmed of a bicycle lock chain...

The BCCLA is also questioning the way in which the report was written by the OPCC, noting that a key detail – that Boyd was disarmed when he was shot fatally in the head – was not mentioned until the second last page, and that the entire process from beginning to end took almost five years.

“We imagine the OPCC put on page six of a seven page report that Mr. Boyd was disarmed when he was shot by an officer blind with an ‘intense emotional reaction’ because that fact is incredibly embarrassing when placed beside their conclusion that the officer did not breach any policy or use of force rule,” said Eby. “A five year wait for this? The only result of this five year long investigation is ever more tortured explanations for an officer’s actions in shooting a disarmed and badly injured man in the head.”
With hundreds of police involved fatalities over the last 15 years, B.C. has the largest number of deaths per year of any of the six provinces and territories for which numbers were available. Part of the reason for that is the near complete absence of accountability when police officers shoot citizens.

A new method is planned to examine deaths resulting from police actions. Don't expect any change in results though. Government has a financial interest in exonerating public servants as long as government pays resulting damages awarded.

Further reading: Police involved deaths - the need for reform, BC Civil Liberties Association, 2012
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Monday, August 19, 2013

That was then; this is now

Much of my youth was spent in the coastal mill town of Powell River. Paying excellent wages, the pulp, paper and lumber company directly employed almost 2,500 workers. It hired the town's young people and provided trades training through apprenticeships and skill development programs. Managers and supervisors were promoted from the regular workforce. Retirees lived their final years with reasonable pensions that included extended healthcare and pharmaceutical coverage.

Small enterprises in Powell River had the company as their best customer because it bought many supplies and services from nearby businesses. It paid substantial property taxes to the municipality and contributed to medical facilities and community sports, recreation and culture. Young men who left high school for university enjoyed summer employment in the mill, making post-secondary education affordable without debts or major family contributions.

The company and the community had a mutually beneficial relationship. One was loyal to the other.

But that was then; this is now. The Guardian describes today's style of doing business:
"The UK-based mobile phone group [Vodafone] used an Irish subsidiary, which employed no staff between 2002 and 2007, to collect hundreds of millions of pounds a year in royalty payments from operating companies and joint ventures around the world. By 2007, Vodafone Ireland Marketing Ltd, a company registered to an industrial estate in the Dublin suburb of Leopardstown, was reporting a turnover of €380m (£320m) a year.

"During a four-year period, these royalty payments, collected from most countries except the UK and Italy, have helped Vodafone send more than €1bn worth of dividends to the low tax jurisdiction of Luxembourg from Dublin..."
This is 21st century capitalism. Downsizing, outsourcing, tax evasion and tax avoidance are bywords of business. Greed, facilitated by political influence, trumps ethical, honest and responsible conduct. It's a road to ruin for us all.

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Friday, August 16, 2013

Sun Media provides platform for racism

I realize the Sun Media Corporation markets itself to rednecks and racists, but this comment attached to Cold Lake Sun article Man dead after being shot by RCMP on Cold Lake First Nations should have been too much even for Sun Media:

© 2013 Cold Lake Sun. All rights reserved. The Cold Lake Sun are members of Canoe Sun Media Community Newspapers.

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Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Twitter feed for your consideration

Canadian citizen Maher Arar has lived in this country for more than 25 years. He has an undergraduate degree from McGill and a graduate degree in telecommunications, is married and father of two children. Until the infamous ordeal of 2002, he had never been charged with any offence or been principal target of any investigation. RCMP officers had been interested in interviewing Arar as a witness in a security case but they did not consider him a suspect or a target of their investigation.

Report of the Events Relating to Maher Arar by Justice Dennis O'Connor
"On September 26, 2002, Maher Arar arrived at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York on a flight from Zurich, Switzerland. He had started his trip in Tunisia and was connecting through New York on his way to Montreal. Upon his arrival at the airport in New York he was detained by American authorities.

"On October 7, the Regional Director of the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) issued an order finding Mr. Arar to be a member of al-Qaeda and directing his removal from the United States. On October 8, 2002, Mr. Arar, still in American custody, was flown to Jordan. A short time later he was driven to Syria, where he was imprisoned for almost a year.

"...I do conclude that it is very likely that American officials relied on information the RCMP had provided to American agencies in making the decision to detain Mr. Arar on his arrival in New York. I refer here to information about Mr. Arar, some of which was inaccurate, that was given to the American agencies at different times in the months preceding his detention in New York... It indicated that Mr. Arar had been in the vicinity of Washington, D.C. on September 11, 2001, which was false...

"American authorities very likely relied on that same information in deciding to remove him to Syria... American officials have consistently said that American agencies were interested in Mr. Arar because of information provided by Canadian officials..."
Maher Arar was a victim of America's program of extraordinary rendition. Contrary to international law, he was removed to Syria, where he was detained and abused for almost a year before Bashar al-Assad's dictatorship allowed his return to Canada.

A Canadian commission publicly cleared Arar of any links to terrorism, and the government of Canada paid a multi-million dollar settlement because the RCMP had facilitated, perhaps initiated, Arar's arrest and torture. In addition, Prime Minister Stephen Harper issued a formal apology to Arar for Canada's role in his "terrible ordeal".

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“From One Second to the Next” is a 35-minute documentary German filmmaker Werner Herzog produced for AT&T’s “It Can Wait” campaign about the lethal hazards of texting while driving.
"The only thing moving was the horse."

From McClatchy:
Director Werner Herzog's unflinching film examines aftermath of texting while driving.

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Five Myths of Terrorism

From Michael Shermer, monthly columnist for Scientific American, a respected science magazine founded in 1845. Link to Dr. Shermer's complete article, Five Myths of Terrorism. It is worth reading, particularly if you wonder if actual risks justify wholesale trampling of human rights and freedoms.
  1. The myth of pure evil, which holds that perpetrators commit pointless violence for no rational reason.
  2. That terrorists are part of a vast global network of top-down centrally controlled conspiracies.
  3. That terrorists are diabolical geniuses.
  4. That terrorism is deadly.
  5. That terrorism works.
Shermer notes that America averaged 13,700 death by homicide in the years following the terror events of 2001. It also averaged about 40,000 traffic fatalities annually since 9/11. According to Shermer, deaths from terrorism are "statistically invisible, with a total of 33 in the U.S. since 9/11."

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Monday, August 12, 2013

Dirtiest residue from dirtiest oil on earth

Alberta lands may be temporarily disturbed by tar sands activity but a site of extraction undergoes active reclamation and, like a phoenix rising from the ashes, gains new life. At least, that's what the oil industry and the governments of Canada and Alberta want us to believe.

They prefer we associate tar sands with pastoral scenes like the one above from Suncor's research wetlands. They don't want us to think about the "long overlooked byproduct of Canada’s oil sands boom.

A Black Mound of Canadian Oil Waste Is Rising Over Detroit, Ian Austen, New York Times, May 2013:
"Detroit’s ever-growing black mountain is the unloved, unwanted and long overlooked byproduct of Canada’s oil sands boom.

"And no one knows quite what to do about it, except Koch Carbon, which owns it.

"...The company sells the high-sulfur, high-carbon waste, usually overseas, where it is burned as fuel.

"An initial refining process known as coking, which releases the oil from the tarlike bitumen in the oil sands, also leaves the petroleum coke, of which Canada has 79.8 million tons stockpiled. Some is dumped in open-pit oil sands mines and tailing ponds in Alberta. Much is just piled up there."

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Sunday, August 11, 2013

Gwen Real-Dolt

Follow Ingrid Rice by subscribing to her work at The Cagle Post

More works of Ms. Rice found in articles of Northern Insight

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Thursday, August 8, 2013

Sanctimonious, who me?

RossK at The Gazetteer notes one particular whine of one particular practitioner in the corporate media,

Sanctimonious was an interesting choice of word by this guy but it better fits a message he sent to me last month. (Its definition relates to hypocritical righteousness.)

My response is pictured below. The second part quoted from the code of ethics of The Association of Electronic Journalists, which I discussed in the article No free lunches... ever:

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The real change is to Oppal's wallet

As a companion piece to the preceding article, I republish another from December 2012:

It's not our fault, we're awesome
Wally Oppal's report on missing and murdered women runs 1,638 pages. It is filled with politically correct dialogue that spreads blame so far and wide, it has little focus. Almost none is aimed at the BC Liberal government that presided during most of the murder spree he studied. Oppal gives advice to people who shouldn't need advice, the technocrats we pay handsomely for alleged expertise.

The Liberal's man for all seasons blames us all, even victims' families and human rights advocates — the people NW's Bruce Allen calls "poverty pimps" — whose pleas for action fell on deaf ears. Also included would be Kim Rossmo, the VPD profiler who warned of serial killing but was systematically undermined and harassed by superiors and chased from the department.

Oppal doesn't deny racism and sexism; he calls it inevitable:
"Law enforcement agencies mirror the society they serve. Thus the historic and continuing racism and sexism within Canadian society is likely to be reproduced in discriminatory policies and practices within law enforcement..."
I believe it proven long before Oppal's tome that the root causes of atrocities played out from the epicentre within Vancouver's downtown eastside are similar to those behind the unsolved murders on the Highway of Tears between Prince George and Prince Rupert. The causes are persistent unwillingness to deal with both poverty and substance abuse, a common response in lives filled with pain.

Of course racism and sexism amplify the willingness to exclude poor women at the dark margins of Canadian society. But, we expect police and social service managers to meet the highest standard. It is not acceptable to justify racism and ignorant acts by the leaders because there is racism and ignorance among the followers.

Primary response to Highway of Tears symposium
Six years ago, 33 recommendations were drawn up by participants at the Highway of Tears symposium. In 2012, almost none of those suggestions, mostly prevention measures, have been followed. We cannot suppose that Wally Oppal's lengthy report will make any real difference. This provincial government is more focused on shifting profits of liquor distribution to their supportive friends than applying those profits to ameliorate the social devastation from alcohol abuse. They give billions to private power producers but won't spend a tiny fraction on secure and affordable transit across Highway 16.

We've hundreds of thousands of dollars each for police chiefs, deputy Justice ministers, judges and court officials, special prosecutors, public relations staff and others. But, we've little money to provide the poor with safe transportation, emergency communications and prevention programs. This Liberal government is the one that has closed or reduced substance abuse programs throughout the province.

If the root causes of murder and mayhem are to be addressed, we need to divert spending from gold plated pensions for politicians and senior bureaucrats, fancy offices, convention centres, spectator sport palaces and other non-necessities. Instead of arming police with modern weaponry, arm them with the skills needed to treat everyone with maximum humanity.

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Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Where does the money go? (Dec. 2012 article updated)

For BC Liberals and their best friends, the gravy train is an express. In his blog, lawyer Cameron Ward offers Missing Women Commission of Inquiry: Some well compensated, but not women’s families:
"When the Missing Women Commission of Inquiry was established on September 27, 2010, many observers felt it might be a waste of time and money. It concluded its work on November 22, 2012 when the Commissioner delivered his report recommending, among other things, that the “Provincial Government establish a compensation fund for the children of the missing and murdered women” and “a healing fund for the families of the missing and murdered women”. At this point, more than eight months later, the funds have not been established and the children and families of the missing and murdered women have yet to receive a dime of compensation for the losses of their loved ones. One could say they have been forsaken yet again by a government that does not care a whit about the disadvantaged and marginalized.

"Some others were well funded by the government, however..."
The following was published December 18, 2012 but numbers for the fiscal year ended March 31, 2013 are added.

Two years ago, Attorney General Mike de Jong picked his predecessor to lead the Missing Women Commission of Inquiry. Oppal was a safe choice politically, which is the reason BC Liberals made the appointment.

Let's not pretend they needed to pay millions to Oppal and friends to learn anything about missing and murdered woman. The BC Civil Liberties Association, Pivot Legal and countless social service agencies and aboriginal groups had been speaking to deaf ears about the issues for years.

Oppal's exercise was window dressing, aimed not at achieving results but pretending government cared about the weakest people in our society. The provincial government signed a 20-year RCMP contract with no significant change in local accountability, it fought against being accountable itself before the Davies inquiry into the Frank Paul homicide. In various actions, BC's provincial government has stood strong with police against victimized citizens.

However, for the handful of folks managing the Oppal commission, people who live in fine homes and drive fine cars, this was a real opportunity for personal achievement. There was money to be made. Big money.

We're left to wonder how an inquiry conducted by a very few people can cost $9 million or more in two short years. If we visit the website of the Missing Women Commission of Inquiry, we don't find any financial disclosures and today, in response to a question about cost of Oppal's epic, Minister of Justice Shirley Bond refused to answer.

By searching the Detailed Schedules of Payments, we can find a few details.

Remember, information is only available to March 31, and the numbers continued upward in the 8 1/2 months since. In addition, these amounts do not reflect expenses paid by the Commission to facilitate work of people it employs. Fiscal 2011 and 2012 (with fiscal 2013 now added) show the favoured few earned:
  • Wally Oppal, $ 434,935 plus $405,000 in fiscal year ended Mar, 2013, total of $839,905
  • Art Vertlieb $ 680,912 plus $219,744 in fiscal year ended Mar, 2013, total of $900,656
  • Jessica McKeachie $ 237,612 plus $105,524 in fiscal year ended Mar, 2013, total of $343,136 (She was called to the bar May 2011, worked for Oppal while articling, typical salary in Vancouver = $45,000, most first year associate lawyers dream of earning $ 90K)
  • Melina Buckley $ 219,246 plus $503,326 in fiscal year ended Mar, 2013, total of $722,572
  • Karey Brooks (Her law firm, Janes Freedman Kyle, billed $ 577,710 plus $373,920 in fiscal year ended Mar, 2013, total of $951,630)
  • John Boddie (An associated firm, Boddie & Associates Ltd., billed $ 400,313 plus $268,352 in fiscal year ended Mar, 2013, total of $668,665
This is not a comprehensive list but it should be enough to stir outrage. Particularly, because today, RossK, The Gazetteer, is reporting that the BC Liberal government told social workers they are not allowed to purchase Christmas gifts for the children in government care and that any gifts already purchased must be returned. By mid-afternoon the ministry is claiming this policy was a mistake, now rectified. Ah, the power of social media. Thank you readers.

I paraphrase Joseph Welch,
Have you no sense of decency, Premier? At long last, have you left no sense of decency?
Laila Yuile checks in with her comments on this subject: Three very important questions for our families first premier… if she isn’t too busy Christmas shopping, that is…

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Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Global TV featured infamous hate monger speaking for a phantom group

REPLAY, from August 2010, worth reading again to consider if the situation has improved or degraded in the last three years. Providing a platform for Paul Fromm and his hater friends was inexcusable but I'd say, with exceptions like Jas Johal, the trend has continued downward.

The most effective critic of news media in British Columbia's today is Harvey Oberfeld. He has particular qualifications since he spent his career in print and broadcast journalism. Indeed, for many years, he was a key participant in the team that made BCTV an unquestioned leader among local television news providers throughout North America.

That group may never be matched again. Clearly, quality started in the Boardroom where Chairman Frank Griffiths had a reputation for allowing professional managers to manage with budgets sufficient to meet the highest professional standards. Ray Peters was one of the suits who understood that product quality mattered every moment the BCTV News logo went on screen.  That meant money for skilled people behind the scenes, most with names unknown to the public, as well as for a crew of experienced reporters who had freedom and time to develop stories.

When I was a UBC student, I had good fortune to know Keith Bradbury. He was then completing a law degree but fairly soon after graduation was drawn to broadcasting. BCTV didn't hire Keith for good looks; he was bright, well educated, experienced in journalism and savvy about politics, including events happening behind closed doors. Cameron Bell was the News Director then and, after a time, the duo of Bradbury and Bell were seen as the brains behind a highly respected and profitable news room employing close to 100 people.

Time moved on; so did the owners. Following the death of Frank Griffiths, new management began to squeeze mercilessly. No one cared about product quality or long term goals, the guiding aim was enhancement of shareholder value in the here and now. Of course, those rising values gave dim-witted corporate speculators the idea that upward trends were inevitable. Pay too much for an asset? Time will cure all, just tell the beancounters to squeeze harder.

That is the scenario that led to British Columbia losing the finest local TV news operation in the country to have it replaced by a sad semi-professional operation using the name Global TV News. Today's news provider sees its primary role is delivery of weather forecasts, hockey highlights and stealth advertising.

Harv Oberfeld made important points in Truth a Casualty of Inexperienced Reporters, including this:
The downside though [of young, enthusiastic new reporters] is that almost none of them have the historical knowledge of most of the subjects they cover; they seldom get any time to research their subjects before being sent off to cover a press conference or happening; and their questionning skills are underdevoloped, to put it mildly.
If you want to see a perfect example confirming Oberfeld's diagnosis, look for Global's report on a "citizen's demonstration" opposed to allowing 490 Southeast Asian refugees, including about 50 children, to land in Canada. Spokesperson for the Canada First Immigration Reform Committee was Paul Fromm, an inveterate committee former who wants non-white and third-world immigration stopped. No mention was made of Fromm's past associations or that this sad collection of protesting relics numbered precisely seven.

We can assume that the pretty faces reporting for Global TV don't know that Paul Fromm's involvement with the radical racist right dates back over 40 years and includes contacts with the most reprehensible bigots exposed in Canada. Fromm has been kicked out of legitimate political movements for his agenda, the last time by Preston Manning. How the hell does Global TV give a platform to a tiny hate group with absolutely no context for their prattle?

Global routinely ignores real stories involving, for example, incidents of government corruption and dishonesty but gives camera time to an infamous hate monger representing a non-existent citizen's movement. Here is a screen capture showing the contemptible crew that led Global's report on the Asian refugees.  This is news?

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Monday, August 5, 2013

Police officers can be victims too

The sudden death of RCMP Sgt. Pierre Lemaitre was probably in mind when posted the video embedded here. More than a few people believe that Lemaitre was misused by his superiors after four RCMP officers ended Robert Dziekanski`s life by homicide. Then an E Division media spokesperson, Lemaitre released information provided him by a more senior Mountie. When video evidence proved the account was materially incorrect, Superintendent (now Assistant Commissioner) Wayne Rideout took over media relations for the case and prevented Lemaitre from correcting the record. To the public, he was made to look a prevaricator. Lemaitre cared about that but apparently his superiors did not.

There is no certain evidence on the record but it does seem that, while the officer who preferred misinformation to truth was promoted, the misused media spokesperson was kicked to the curb by RCMP management. What does seem certain is that, when his life ended suddenly, he was on stress leave and the police force had been pressuring members in that situation to leave the force, through resignation or involuntary termination.

Read the comments at and you may conclude that Lemaitre`s death — and the deaths and abuse of others — might have been prevented if the RCMP exercised enlightened human resource management.

More mentions of Wayne Rideout in these Northern Insight discussions of the RCMP.

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