Life Degraded: Pickton's Entourage
Sadly, in this case, so far, all witnesses for the crown have had their credibility shattered. This is a result of their rampant drug use and alleged criminal histories. Their criminal ways have been exposed, including assaults, welfare and credit card fraud, drug trafficking, violence with a weapon (gun) and it goes on and on.
For certain, drug addicts are very sick people and I agree we should be treating them medically for their conditions. Having said this, we simply cannot overlook or dismiss their criminal ways. I hate to say it because, I do not want to be seen as attacking drug addicts, however, their lives are full of lies, deception and criminality.
The Pickton trial simply re-affirms to the public that drug addicts and drug addiction are harmful to society. So many lives have been ruined and destroyed as a result of drug mis-use and in the aftermath of the Pickton carnage, we are witnessing the complicity of many individuals in what have been serial killings (murders).
For those of us who strive for the elimination of sanctions against personal drug use, these cases are a disaster. I have no answer, but I'm glad she made me think about it again.
Update: I have uploaded here the Special Report on Vancouver recently issued by the UN Population Fund. It makes for unpleasant reading.
Today, the Downtown Eastside is home to an estimated 10,000 people—many of whom are homeless, drug or alcohol addicted and/or mentally ill. The majority of residents supplement their miserable existence by scavenging for recyclables, stealing or selling their bodies for drugs and/or food ... [and more]
Sicko Is Superb, Should Bring Revolution
I suspect that, with a single major exception that I'll discuss below, most of us -- and most Americans -- already know about the failures of the US healthcare system. What Sicko does is to contrast and compare it, in depth, with the successful systems in Canada, the UK, France and Cuba. The differences will probably come as a true shock to most Americans (because they have been lied to by both politicians and insurance carriers): every other Western country has universal and free medical coverage, with complete choice of doctors and procedures, paid for with a tax system that is no more onerous (perhaps less) than what Americans pay for taxes plus incomplete insurance today. And every other Western country has smaller percentages of their populations afflicted with the major diseases than does the US, and their populations live on average several years longer.
Michael Moore's interview with that old British Labour warhorse Anthony Wedgewood-Benn was perhaps the most important segment in terms of explaining the differences. Benn recounted how, in 1948, the British National Health System was established. Remembering the billions upon billions of dollars the Brits had managed to raise to defeat the Germans in the War, he recalled that the post-war leadership realised that if one could spend that kind of money to kill people, then you could equally well spend that kind of money to make people better. And thus was born the concept of free health coverage for everyone, rich or poor.
It was also Tony Benn, I believe, who pointed out that the significant political difference between Europe and America is that in Europe the politicians are afraid of the people, while in the States most people are afraid of the government. As he said, even that generally-insensitive doyen of the British right wing, Maggie Thatcher, would never have dared to try to eliminate the National Health Service.
My only complaint about the movie is in the marketing. The ads have one viewer saying it is "hilarious", and another saying that he couldn't stop laughing. Well, I have no idea what movie they saw. Moore is often sarcastic and certainly likes to point up the ludicrousness of the American situation but, in a crowded theatre yesterday, I heard nothing even approaching a chuckle. The situation is simply too dire for that. Moreover, the section of the movie where Moore takes American 9/11 first responders who cannot get treatment in the States to a Cuban hospital actually brought me to tears. The compassion shown by the superb Cuban medical team is in such stark contrast to the terrible treatment these people suffered in the States that I was overwhelmed.
I mentioned above that generally the bad state of American healthcare is well known. Most of us can recall reading stories about US insurers refusing treatment. However, I suspect that most of us will be shocked to the core, as was I, to see elderly and desperately sick patients being dumped out of cars in the Los Angeles' skid-row neighbourhood by a hospital who had evicted them for inability to pay. The picture of an elderly woman, very sick and completely disoriented, shuffling along the street wearing nothing but a thin hospital gown should be branded on the foreheads of every HMO CEO.
If the American people don't see this film and use it as the kickoff to a mighty revolution in US healthcare then, frankly, they don't deserve anything better than the crappy system they have today.
I'm probably going to draw a lot of venom from my liberal friends, but I find myself in full agreement with one -- just one -- of the US Supreme Court's rulings this week. In the majority decision on racial quotas for schools issued this morning, Chief Justice Roberts said:
"The way to stop discrimination on the basis of race is to stop discriminating on the basis of race."
I couldn't agree more. By this decision, the Court has forbidden school boards from trying to integrate schools by force of law. Even Justice Kennedy (who voted with the majority but with significant reservations) was obliged to acknowledge that quota systems and similar schemes:
"... threaten to reduce children to racial chits valued and traded according to one school's supply and another's demand."
And, unlike the over-reactions that have been published in the immediate aftermath of this decision (such as this, for example) I don't believe this comes close to overthrowing Brown v Board of Education. Brown did not require quotas, busing and all the other paraphernalia that was erected in an attempt to remedy the historical wrongs of racism. What Brown says is that school districts cannot discriminate on the basis of race, but for the last 40 plus years liberal society did exactly that, excusing itself because they were on the "good" side of the debate. Poppycock.
Discrimination on the basis of race is wrong, no matter who does it, and I am glad to see the Court end the bullshit.
The Sweet Smell of Corruption
In most civilized jurisdictions these days, the general public has demanded the right to know exactly who is funding politicians' political campaigns. Having the names and amounts of donations made public goes some way to reducing the chance that a politician's vote will be bought by outside financial interests.
This public accountability is required in the United States, in British Columbia, and in Canadian federal politics. But not so in Vancouver. As Allen Garr's column in the Vancouver Courier last week pointed out, civic politicians in our fair municipality can raise all the cash they want prior to the year of the election and keep it all secret. And Mayor Sam Sullivan has been going all out, apparently having raised at least $300,000 since the last election. The next mayoral contest is at the end of 2008, so anything Sullivan (and others) raise before January 1st next year can be kept completely under wraps.
And this isn't the first time our Mayor has used this provision notes Garr:
When Sullivan spends that money on hiring staff any time before 2008, according to the city clerk, he doesn't have to report it. The same holds true for a poll he carried out last year and the public relations firms he regularly hires. As a result we may never know who donated any of that $300,000 or how it was spent. That same provision in the Vancouver Charter allowed Sullivan to refuse disclosing who supported his anti-ward campaign in 2005. As the city clerk explained, the anti-ward campaign preceded a "referendum" and not an "election."
.... it was rumoured that a large donation to the anti-ward campaign caused Sullivan to change his vote and support slot-machines. He denies this. He also refuses to tell us who his donors were ... Sullivan's $300,000 in donations came from many business people, any one of whom may need council's help to get a development approved between now and the next election.
The provincial government controls the Vancouver Charter. Both the governing provincial Liberals and Sam Sullivan are neo-con cousins of the first degree, so there seems little likelihood of getting the Charter changed in the near future. But, as Garr puts it succintly:
[T]he chronic lack of disclosure caused by a secretive mayor and caucus taking advantage of a weak law leaves a bad smell.
Sushiyama Gets Better AND Bigger
The quality of the food and service at what is probably Vancouver's very best informal Japanese restaurant -- Sushiyama -- just keeps getting better. The fish we had last night was like butter melting in the mouth, and the gomae continues to be the best anywhere I've ever tasted.
Bad news: next week the restaurant is closed. Good news: when it opens in July it will be bigger!
Ever since it opened, Sushiyama has survived in a tiny space on the corner of East Broadway and Brunswick, opposite Kingsgate Mall. Lineups out the door have been endemic for months and the recent move to accept reservations has only eased the problem a little. Now, they have taken over what used to be a convenience store next door and they are actively working to link the two spaces.
I have every faith in Alex and his young crew. I don't expect quality to suffer with the expansion; clients will just have a more comfortable space to relax and enjoy the superb food. I can hardly wait until we go back!
Charity Should Begin At Home
There has been a ton of talk today about what a grand chap Frank Giustra is for donating $100 million to Bill Clinton's foundation for solving poverty in South America, and for arranging similar large donations from other rich folks. I agree it is an interesting gesture, but I do have a couple of points to put on record.
One, Giustra is only as rich as he is because he played the capitalist game of keeping for himself the excess value of the labour of others. If he had paid his people better and given them better benefits and conditions, the actual wealth creators would have had their proper share of that $100 million and could themselves help others.
Second, Vancouver has at least a $100 million poverty problem which Mr Giustra's donation will do nothing to help alleviate. I would guess that $100 million would go a long long way to eradicating the obscene degree of homelessness we see on our streets. That kind of money could help turn those helpless souls into productive members of society allowing them to help others in their turn.
I applaud Giustra for doing something. I just wish it had been the right thing.
James Green Redux
A question for my Vancouver readers: do you remember James Green? No, not Jim Green. the downtown east activist. I'm talking about the James Green who came third in the civic election last time behind Sam Sullivan and Jim Green, receiving more votes than any independent candidate in the city's history.
Many commentators said that he did so well in the last election simply because voters were (deliberately?) confused about the name, and that many of them had really meant to vote for JIM Green. However, a woman I know who's opinion I respect told me she actually voted consciously for JAMES Green as a protest vote because she couldn't bear the thought of voting for either Sullivan or the other Green. I bet there were quite a few others like that.
Anyway, I hear strong rumours that JAMES Green is putting together the beginnings of a campaign to make another run for the mayoralty in 2008. I have read some of the material he is circulating to gather early support and, to be honest, I am still a little unclear exactly where he fits on most issues. However, I'm sure he will clarify his positions once his campaign team is more firmly fixed; we are, after all, still about 16 or 17 months away from the election.
As we all are probably aware, it is sex that drives the development of the Internet. All of the non-sex sites merely bob on the waves of the all-powerful ocean of sex movies and images that dominate the net. But even I was surprised when I was checking my user logs this morning.
I get quite a few hits based on google (and other) searches. My logging program allows me to see what search terms were used to find me. Of the last 100 search-based hits (covering a day and half), a full 25% were sex-based, including 15 for "shrek porn" and another 2 for "disney porn". (Three years ago I wrote a piece about Shrek as a capitalist tool; I guess the searches are feeding off that reference).
What the heck is Shrek porn anyway?
Rates of Infant Genital Mutilation Fall in US
There is, at last, some good news out of America -- the number of baby boys who are genitally mutilated is falling. The revolting surgery of infant circumcision is, it seems, finally falling out of fashion. Thank God!
I have nothing at all against circumcision for those who are adult and religiously inclined; it shows a true commitment to their beliefs. But the genital mutilation of baby boys without, of course, their consent should be a serious crime -- no different than scalding a baby or shaking them -- and the perpetrators, parents and doctors, should be sent to prison for long periods.
It is a relief to see that many new parents agree with this philosophy.
Props to these guys for showing up at the No-Car Festival today. I hope they have a huge market share of that rather esoteric niche comprised of "bike lawyers".