Thursday, October 31, 2013

The real silence is that of victims

In the preceding article, I mentioned the assistance to John Furlong provided by "compliant media friends." Bob Mackin gave an example in his J-Source article, Furlong drops suit against Georgia Straight for story accusing him of abusing students:
"The [Global] BC1 interview was recorded in the Gastown office of Furlong's public relations representative, Twenty Ten Group...

"Gailus said during a preview interview with Unfiltered host Jill Krop that Global was chosen for its high ratings and because of his past working relationship with one of Furlong's 'closest advisors.'

" 'I think that Renee said Chris Gailus is the guy to do it,' he said.

"Renee is Renee Smith-Valade, the former VANOC vice-president and BC Hydro senior-vice-president who is now vice-president of customer experience with Air Canada Rouge."
Webster Award winner Simi Sara provided a unique perspective by interviewing Georgia Straight editor Charlie Smith. He said he laughed when he heard one of the stations say that John Furlong was breaking silence to talk about his case,
"He held a news conference on the day the story was published, in front of the country. He followed that up a few days later with a statement. He issued a statement when he filed his Statement of Claim. There was a subsequent statement issued by family members following the reply filed by Laura Robinson...

"Then he issued another bunch of statements this week and then this is characterized as breaking his silence..."
Sure enough, despite evidence to the contrary, the website of Global News continues to make this incorrect claim:


The statement is intended to create sympathy for a man accused of abusing children years ago who is now charged with besmirching the journalist who enabled powerless people to raise complaints against the powerful. Those rural folk have no public relations agents telling their story but the flacks working on Furlong's behalf have spread misinformation widely.

The Globe and Mail offered John Furlong breaks silence over physical, sexual abuse
"Former VANOC head John Furlong is breaking his silence about allegations of physical and sexual abuse."
Maclean's Jonathan Gateway wrote, John Furlong breaks his silence:
"...For 17 months, John Furlong has been silent about the allegations of physical and sexual abuse that have been levied against him. But now, the man who was the guiding force behind the Vancouver 2010 Olympics, says he can no longer bite his tongue..."
CBC News published 'Enough is enough,' John Furlong says of abuse claims
"Former Vancouver Olympics organizing committee CEO John Furlong, who has remained silent for the past year in the face of allegations in the media and in lawsuits that he physically and sexually abused former students, says he can no longer stay quiet."
The sports website Inside the Games headlined,
"Furlong breaks silence on "completely unfounded" abuse allegations."
Clearly, reporters didn't chase this story down and decide independently to give it a spin sympathetic to John Furlong and indifferent to his alleged victims and Laura Robinson. No, this was a series of planned and organized spin events created by people well accustomed to spinning the pseudo-journalists who have too much influence in today's newsrooms.

There is a certain irony that while tales and tall tales about John Furlong and Laura Robinson ricocheted through Canadian media, the Webster Awards were honouring real journalism. Many of the same people who criticized Straight editor Charlie Smith and took sides with plaintiffs, applauded Sun business reporter David Baines who told the gathering that he had been sued 20 times for his diligent work.

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Battles of unequals

More admissions and allegations came to light this week in John Furlong's campaign against people who claim to be his victims, writer Laura Robinson and the Georgia Straight, publisher of an atypical piece, one not layered with reverence for VANOC's former chief.

I have sympathy for the accused and for his accusers. Passage of time since the alleged acts, while problematic for prosecution of criminal behaviour, also prejudices the defence. Yet, as I was once a child victimized by assault, I understand how difficult it is to raise painful memories, particularly when there is concern about being believed and no expectation of holding anyone to account. The history of children victimized in residential and church schools conditions aboriginals to that conjecture. In the nineties, an RCMP task force investigated thousands of tips regarding assaults on First Nations children and it identified more than 120 suspects. Some of the convicted were serial offenders who moved from one church institution to another.

In Furlong's time under Bishop Fergus O'Grady, the stated aim of Catholics was to "integrate" white and Indian students. However, the real objective was to assimilate First Nations into a Catholic way of life, not to foster mutual understanding and respect for cultural differences. Sto:lo elder Joe Aleck, after most of a life involved with schools serving First Nations, said, "They were trying to eliminate our culture."

The Irish church that fostered young John Furlong before he moved to Canada was infamous for abuse of thousands of children between the 1930s and the 1990s. In 2010, Pope Benedict wrote a pastoral letter that included,
"I am truly sorry" for the harm done to generations of Irish Catholics who suffered 'sinful and criminal' abuse at the hands of priests, brothers and nuns."
Claims that school children in northern BC suffered abuse in the days new immigrant Furlong served his church are indisputable but remarkable because of his current profile in the community. Before joining the 2010 Olympics organization, Furlong served as General Manager of the posh Arbutus Club, playground of Vancouver's crème de la crème. His admirable performance during the games resulted in numerous gainful opportunities. His prospects, he claims, are harmed by Ms. Robinson's reporting.

Furlong employs one of the province's top lawyers but his actions since Georgia Straight published Robinson's story seem more driven by public relations strategists than legal experts. After great huffing and puffing against the newspaper after its September 2012 feature, the paper published this today,
"THE FORMER CEO of the Vancouver Olympics, John Furlong, won’t proceed with a defamation suit against the Georgia Straight, publisher and editor Dan McLeod, and editor Charlie Smith.

"Less than a year after filing his claim in B.C. Supreme Court—and before the case had reached examination for discovery—Furlong filed a notice of discontinuance in B.C. Supreme Court on October 29..."
Furlong emphasized in interviews that he intended to focus efforts on Laura Robinson. Yet, he's done little to further the legal action since it was filed against her. Little, that is, besides chatting with compliant media friends. (See Bob Mackin's contribution at J-Source.)

I'm troubled by this Furlong claim, made during an interview with CTV's Lisa LaFlamme.
"I'm going to escalate this... I'm going to try and get this into a courtroom... It's been hellish for me, my family... And now, the RCMP have come to a conclusion and they've concluded I've done nothing wrong."
This latter assertion seems based on an email dated six-month ago from Cpl. Quinton Mackie, the content of which is shown below. Furlong's claim was quickly disavowed by police who stated the file is still open.

The former Olympics executive also damages credibility in responses to questions about rewriting the history of his arrival in Canada. The insistence that his book aimed to avoid biographical detail is belied by the book itself.

Perhaps Furlong's PR/legal team will claim Robinson the reporter deserves special attention because she is waging a “personal vendetta” against him. That's been their allegation but my review of the record finds it unproven. When a commentator faults policies and actions of a public figure, that is not a vendetta unless bias, deliberate inaccuracy and persistent malice can be demonstrated. I find disagreement and reluctance to praise but not malice.

Ms. Robinson's reporting in the Straight was backed with affidavits sworn by people claiming to be victims. We're left wondering if the decision to leave her as the lone defendant is related to her admitted lack of financial resources for a defence and her vulnerability to extended delays in process. This week's attempt to block Robinson from appearing before a Danish sport conference might be interpreted as an effort to cause her financial harm. In fact, she says a claim for damages may be initiated.

It's unclear how this situation will proceed. I can't see that Furlong's reputation will be much further damaged; he has many influential friends and a sympathetic BC media. His opponents in present legal actions are unable to proceed on their own resources; they are not persons of means. As a result, I expect the Robinson effort will end in due course and the plaintiff will explain that the case is not worth pursuing because the amount that might be realized is less than the cost of action.

In politics and law, advantage never goes to the poor.

* * * * *

From: QUINTON MACKIE (mailto:Quinton.Mackie@rcmp-grc.gc.ca)
Sent: April-12-13 3:04 PM
To: STORROW, MARVIN
Subject: Sexual abuse allegation


Good day Mr. Storrow

As per our conversation earlier today:

With respect to the sexual abuse allegation brought forward by Beverly Abraham through Laura Robinson. I can tell you that the RCMP have concluded their investigation into that matter and have found nothing to substantiate the complaint, as a result there will be no report to Crown Counsel forwarded.
The RCMP continue to speak to people that were mentioned in Laura Robinson’s statement of Defense. I will update you on this matter once all have been spoken to and a determination has been made with respect to any criminal wrong doing.

Best regards

Quinton


__________________________________________________________
This message may contain confidential or privileged material.
Any use of this information by anyone other than the intended recipient is prohibited. If you have received this message in error, please immediately reply to the sender and delete this.

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Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Has Edward Snowden already gained victory?

From Jay Rosen's Press Think, Edward Snowden, meet Jeff Bezos:
"...It’s not enough to defy the government and reveal what it wants to keep secret. When you go up against the most powerful and secretive forces on the planet, you have to try to win. It sounded kooky at first, or completely outrageous, but after President Obama’s August 9th press conference it was difficult to deny that Snowden had won — not a complete but still a significant victory.

"Congress had woken up to its oversight responsibilities and was finally debating the limits of the surveillance state. Lawmakers in both parties were advertising their doubts. Other parliaments around the world were asking questions they had not asked before..."
It is clear to many Britons that official concerns about Snowden leaks were not about national security; they were about worries the extent of domestic spying would be revealed to the public. Because that was disclosed, political leaders are now forced to examine the issue.

From the The Guardian, October 17:
"Nick Clegg has welcomed the decision of parliament's intelligence and security committee (ISC) to launch an inquiry into the extent and scale of mass surveillance undertaken by Britain's spy agencies.

"The deputy prime minister said it was right to assess how "big, new, powerful technologies" are used by the intelligence agencies..."
The topic is hotly discussed in Mexico, throughout Europe, in Brazil and other South American nations. Canada seems an exception although Opposition Leaders Thomas Mulcair said he thought leaders everywhere would put away their cellphones.

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Mistruth and consequences


Note: In the course of the interview, North Carolina Republican precinct chairman Don Yelton referred to "lazy blacks" that want "the government to give them everything," while also arguing that neither he nor the law he supported were racist. Later, Yelton resigned.

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Conflict of Interest Code for Senators

Questions to be answered:
  • Was the payment of $90,000 to Senator Mike Duffy reasonably considered to relate to the Senator's position or, since the related expenses had been rejected by the Senate, to Duffy's personal affairs?
  • When the Conservative Party of Canada paid $13,500 for his legal expenses, was that related to business of the Senate or Duffy's personal affairs?
  • Is the total of $103,500 paid to or on behalf of Duffy taxable income or taxable benefit, as it almost certainly would be in the private sector?
  • Did Senator Duffy file require disclosures with Senate Ethics Officer?
Extracted from the Senate's Code of Ethics:
Prohibition: gifts and other benefits

17.(1) Neither a Senator, nor a family member, shall accept, directly or indirectly, any gift or other benefit, except compensation authorized by law, that could reasonably be considered to relate to the Senator's position.

Exception

(2) A Senator, and a family member, may, however, accept gifts or other benefits received as a normal expression of courtesy or protocol, or within the customary standards of hospitality that normally accompany the Senator's position.

Statement: gift or other benefit

(3) If a gift or other benefit that is accepted under subsection (2) by a Senator or his or her family members exceeds $500 in value, or if the total value of all such gifts or benefits received from one source in a 12-month period exceeds $500, the Senator shall, within 30 days after the gift or benefit is received or after that total value is exceeded, as the case may be, file with the Senate Ethics Officer a statement disclosing the nature and value of the gifts or other benefits, their source and the circumstances under which they were given.

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Saturday, October 26, 2013

Bridge for sale, cheap

Province columnist Michael Smyth is technically correct about the status of the corporation, when he writes,
"B.C. Ferries is a private company that acts independently of government, even though the government still technically owns it."
But, if he believes the statement to be accurate, I'd like to offer him a great investment opportunity, the Lions Gate Bridge, which I'm willing to sacrifice for a one time cash payment of $10,000. Act quickly, Mike.

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Watch this before it disappears

One of the most effective reports on business news and, near the end, another revelation of Jim Cramer's narcissistic idiocy:



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How dare he speak!

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Friday, October 25, 2013

Friday's session with Ian Jessop on CFAX 1070

Today, we talked mostly about provincial revenues from natural resources. I'll be back with Ian next week to talk about BC Ferries. You can listen at the CFAX 1070 website or here:


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Thursday, October 24, 2013

Hansard, February 13, 2013

Hon. Thomas Mulcair (Leader of the Opposition, NDP):
"Mr. Speaker, in the Senate, the more things change, the more they stay the same. Senator Pamela Wallin claimed more than $300,000 in travel expenses in the past three years alone. Less than 10% of these expenses were for travel in Saskatchewan, the province she is supposed to represent. Senator Wallin is using taxpayers' money to travel around the country and to star in the Conservative Party's fundraising activities.

"Does the Prime Minister believe it is acceptable for taxpayers' money to be used to raise money for his political party?"
Right Hon. Stephen Harper (Prime Minister, CPC):
"Mr. Speaker, I reject that characterization.

"In terms of Senator Wallin, I have looked at the numbers. Her travel costs are comparable to any parliamentarian travelling from that particular area of the country over that period of time. For instance, last year Senator Wallin spent almost half of her time in the province she represents in the Senate. The costs are to travel to and from that province, as any similar parliamentarian would do."
* * * * *
From the August 13 report of The Standing Committee on Internal Economy, Budgets and Administration:
"Deloitte ascertained that over the 1,369 days of the review period, Senator Wallin had spent 22 percent of her time in Ottawa on Senate business; 27 percent of her time in Saskatchewan; and 35 percent of her time in Toronto..."

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The Ferry Advisory Committee Chairs

submitted the following document to the provincial budget consultation:

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Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Resources giveaway

After Telus, Teck Resources Limited ranks as the largest BC company, by sales. In three years 2010 to 2012, Teck booked revenues of $31 billion, almost half from the sale of coal exported from BC. According to audited financial statements, Teck accrued resource taxes of less than $600 million, under 2% of gross revenue. Of course, unlike BC schools and hospitals, Teck paid no carbon tax on the billions of dollars worth of carbon rich coal they exported as fuel for Asia's ancient mills.

In the same period, 2010 to 2013, the British Columbia government collected $8 billion from all exploitation of resources, including metals and minerals, oil and gas, forestry, water, land tenures and other.

Some denounce redistribution of wealth from rich to poor but fall silent when public wealth transfers to the rich. Here is a graphic that compares one company's resource revenues to those realized by the province of BC.


By no conincidence, Teck and associates are the largest financial supporters of the BC Liberal Party.

Vancouver Sun link

By Ingrid Rice, from Cagle Post

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Friday, October 18, 2013

FYI

The tobacco industry is being sued by Canadian provinces that aim to recover more than $100 billion in healthcare costs associated with tobacco related illness. British Columbia is one of the plaintiffs.

Despite those principled actions, the BC Investment Management Corporation is continuing to increase its holdings of common shares in tobacco companies.




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Tuesday, October 15, 2013

My opportunity to say thanks

A few educators are on the list of unforgettable characters encountered in my youth but none stand ahead of Frank Gumley, my home room teacher in grades eight and nine. This week, a number of his former students, including wife Gwen and I, gather in White Rock to celebrate Frank's 90th birthday. I imagine he'll still command the room, still refer to me as "No-man" and still demand my shirt be tucked-in. Perhaps we'll get a few new illustrations of applied science from his RAF days. He never called himself a hero but we knew that having been at the centre of every significant battle and vital operation, he must have been one. The fact he was 16 when WWII began never seemed too significant.

Mr. G's nominal specialties at Brooks Junior High School in Powell River were math and science but his real forte was challenging kids to explore worlds previously unknown. He taught us that seemingly obscure things learned today would be the basis of critical knowledge we need tomorrow. With his genial style, learning was never arduous, it was satisfying, even delightful.

I got after-hours exposure to Frank because I palled with his oldest son and frequently spent time in his basement, listening to records sent from England by my friend's grandmother. We regularly played the first album from a Liverpool group that soon achieved a fair degree of success. We also spent hours spinning two Peter Sellers disks, one with Sophia Loren in which something went boom, boody-boom, boody-boom and another recording, Bridge on the River Wye, from the Goons along with Peter Cook and Jonathan Miller. My lifelong fascination with British comedy was formed in those days.

Being in the Gumley classroom was life changing for me in a unique way. Students were seated alphabetically and that caused Ms. Farnden to sit immediately in front of Mr. Farrell. Fortunately, she always did homework and prepared for class. More importantly, she collaborated with the slacker behind who did not. That same good woman has been my wife for now more than 44 years so I'll tell Frank Gumley that at least one person was impressed by my presence, if he wasn't.


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Things we know, or should know

Robert Fulghum grew up in Texas, worked as a ditch-digger, newspaper carrier, ranch hand, and singing cowboy. After college and a brief career with IBM, he completed a degree in theology. For 22 years he served as a Unitarian parish minister in the Pacific Northwest and taught art, music and philosophy.

Fulghum has written eight best-selling books. The most famous, published first in 1988, is All I Really Need To Know I Learned in Kindergarten. In it, he gives simple instructions for a good life, all worth remembering.
  • Play fair.
  • Don't hit people.
  • Put things back where you found them.
  • Clean up your own mess.
  • Don't take things that aren't yours.
  • Say you're sorry when you hurt somebody.
  • Live a balanced life - learn some and think some and draw and paint and sing and dance and play and work every day some.
  • Take a nap every afternoon.
  • When you go out in the world, watch out for traffic, hold hands and stick together.
Fulghum focuses attention on things we learn as children. We are better people if we live by these deceptively simple precepts. However, the less naive among us may learn additional things after kindergarten. A few of those have been stated by sages of the past:
  • Don`t worry about avoiding temptation... as you grow older, it will avoid you.
  • There are very few honest friends - the demand is not particularly great.
  • One machine can do the work of fifty ordinary men. No machine can do the work of one extraordinary man.
  • Some fellows get credit for being conservative when they are only stupid.
  • There is only one way to achieve happiness on this terrestrial ball, and that is to have either a clear conscience, or none at all.
  • Character is much easier kept than recovered.
  • The surest way to be deceived is to consider oneself cleverer than others.
  • Always do right. This will surprise some people and astonish the rest.
  • It is better to keep your mouth closed and let people think you are a fool than to open it and remove all doubt.
  • Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities.
Another list that caught my eye is from Wichozanni Village:
"Wichozanni is a lakota word meaning "Live in Health". We believe that we can and will live happier and healthier lives by preserving our Earth, our Culture and our Traditions through the Teachings and Ceremonies of our Indigenous Ancestors.

The 7 Spirit Given Teachings
:
  • Live in health
  • Remember the generations
  • Live quietly
  • Live happy
  • Help each other
  • Walk with the power of the great spirit
  • Honor and respect."
Joe Oliver and Stephen Harper would find the above to be radical and dangerous teachings. The world now prefers slogans attuned to accumulation and consumption:
  • Live in wealth
  • Reward your inheritors
  • When you’ve got it, flaunt it.
  • You are in a beauty contest every day of your life.
  • Get more out of now.
  • If it feels good then just do it.
  • I'm only here for the beer.
  • Live richly.
  • Live today. Tomorrow will cost more.



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Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Of business, by business, for business

British Columbia's revenue from natural resources totalled $4 billion in fiscal year 2001. The Bank of Canada inflation calculator shows the equivalent in current dollars is $5 billion.

Natural resource revenue received by the province in fiscal 2013 was $2.5 billion, half the value, in constant dollars, returned to the province by the resource sector when BC Liberals took office.

Petroleum, natural gas and minerals returned $1.3 billion in 2013 compared to $2.4 billion in 2001, adjusted for inflation. That seems strange considering commodity prices are up by well more than inflation. Examples:

BC coal production: (source)
2001 - 25,680,900 tonnes worth $959 million
2012 - 28,578,000 tonnes worth $5,060 million
<< Increase: 11% in volume, 527% in value >>
BC metals production: (source)
2001 - worth $1,394 million
2012 - worth $2,453 million
<< Increase  76% in value >>
BC industrial minerals: (source)
2001 - worth $296 million
2012 - worth $472 million
<< Increase  60% in value >>
BC construction aggregates: (source)
2001 - worth $217 million
2012 - worth $328 million
<< Increase  51% in value >>
During their time in office, BC Liberals chose to shrink the public share of produced resources. This provided huge benefit to such as the Teck Resources group, a major producer of coal and metals. Their sales in 2011/12 were six times sales of 2000/01. Operating profits were up more than 1100%. Teck gained rewards worth billions and passed a few millions to the BC Liberals. The list shown here includes contributions from 2005. The Teck group is the BC Liberal's largest contributor but other mining and energy companies have been generous supporters. Clearly, it's good business for business to do business with the political party owned by business.

Unfortunately, that leaves the public treasury short of money for essential services. Representative for Children and Youth Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond has been pushing the government to protect the province's most vulnerable children. Years after promising significant improvement, the Ministry of Children and Family Development still fails to meet its own standards. There continues to be insufficient resources.

Addendum:
I've had messages saying this article ignores the downward trend in natural gas prices and this contributes to reduced government revenues. Here is the Stats Canada graph of prices. I think it reinforces my basic position.


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