Friday, February 29, 2008

Why I Love The People's Republic Of Berkeley


I once lived there and would move back yesterday if I could.

For all kinds of reasons.

Including stuff like this:

BILL O'REILLY: Well, now The San Jose Mercury News is reporting that some companies and business people are actually boycotting Berkeley.

Joining us now from the Bay area, Melanie Morgan, a talk show host on KSFO Radio, who is closely following the situation.

So the report in The San Jose Mercury, not a conservative paper by any stretch of the imagination. What's going on?

MELANIE MORGAN, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: Well, first of all, let me tell you that the attack on an iconic symbol like the Marine Corps has hit Americans in the gut, Bill. I am telling you that this has had such a visceral effect that not only has it touched conservatives, but liberals, Democrats, and moderates are all responding to not only calls for a boycott, but they're getting involved in signing our petition at

So far, in the past 24 hours, we've had over 25,000 signatures, a total of well over 50,000 in the past few days. The response has been simply stunning.

O'REILLY: Now the petition says what?

MORGAN: The petition demands an apology from the Berkeley City Council, not only to the Marines, but to the Marine Corps family members, which have been gravely insulted.

Their men and women are overseas, a half a world away, living, fighting, and dying for their freedoms, for the rights of the Berkeley City Council to get up and act stupid in front of the rest of the country.

O'REILLY: Now, if they don't apologize, is there any other action you guys want to see?

MORGAN: We are — you know, this is like a cancer, an epidemic spreading across the country by the hard left, the Code Pink, and their enablers, the people who support the Berkeley City Council.


Bill-O and the screamers are threatening them.

They'll be Dancing In The Streets of Telegraph tonight!


How Come?


Given that he has come to be known, in some media circles at least, as 'Sir Spam-A-Lot', we've recently been wondering.....

How come Vancouver Mayor Sam Sullivan hasn't yet posted-up a 24/7 'Sammy-Cam'?

I mean, how else are we going to find out if he 'loves the smell of Nabob in the morning'?

Great class presentations up at (Ab)F.A.B.'s place on the city's Ecodensity hearings. Essentially, Ms. Bula has councillors Heather Deal and Suzanne Anton doing her job for her (which means that they are, themselves, are doing the writing and feeding her the good stuff).


Thursday, February 28, 2008

RailGate's Limited Hangout....

.....Are Lotusland's Pro-Pundit's Buying It?



We're talking, here, about the notion that the waiving of 'cabinet' privilege might actually be a ruse to allow for the continued suppression of a select group of 'sensitive' documents that are critically relevant to the guilt or innocence of the accused in the RailGate case.

This issue has come to full flower because British Columbia Deputy AG Allan Seckel wrote the following in yesterday to opposition MLA Leonard Krog in response to questions raised in the Legislature the day before:

"I am satisfied that as of [today] there are no documents that have not been disclosed based on any assertion of cabinet privilege."

First it was Mike Smyth that, despite questions about the process, seemed to accept the limited 'cabinet' privilege hangout that was first invoked by Premier Gordon Campbell in the Legislature last spring.

And now, based on his column today, it appears to be Vaughn Palmer's turn:

(But) my reading, the deputy attorney-general's letter has diminished one of the outstanding concerns in this case, that cabinet secrecy would be invoked to prevent evidence from being aired in court.

And as for that doppleganger called 'solicitor-client' privilege that still hangs over the accuseds' heads?

Well, apparently, that is of a lesser consequence.

Again, from Mr. Palmer's column:

And the prospect, acknowledged by Seckel, that some material may be withheld on grounds of solicitor-client privilege.

On the latter point, Seckel says "there has been no attempt by anyone to influence my decisions on legal privilege, either."

Sure thing.

But what, exactly, are those decisions Mr. Seckel? And why, given that the deal was agreed upon in late 2003 and finalized in mid-2004, are they even an issue?



The Revenge Of The RailGate Nerds.....

.....DIY Edition


Yesterday was reasonably interesting from a RailGate point of view.

Which is kind of strange if you stop to consider the fact that the court proceedings themselves are, once again, nowhere to be found.

Anyway, first there was Mike de Jong's total eclipse of the reality sun-type response to Leonard Krog's point of privilege in the British Columbia Legislature (see line 1815).

Then there was Tom Hawthorn's profile of the hardest working man in the RailGate press gallery, blogger Bill Tieleman, in the Globe and (nolongerEmpire)Mail.

One of the things I liked most about the piece was that it laid Mr. T's political affiliations out on the table but did not denigrate them:

In between bouts of journalism, Mr. Tieleman worked as communications director for then-NDP-premier Glen Clark for six months and handled communications for the B.C. Federation of Labour for six years. He will mark the 10th anniversary of launching his West Star Communications consultancy later this year.

Which is quite a contrast, indeed, to the insinuations of another commentator also writing in the Globe not so long ago that we have already discussed at some length.

There was even a little, 'ahem', slightly off-colour humour in the thing which, if it were to occur, would probably do for RailGate what the 'duet' between Sarah Silverman and Matt Damon has done for the career of Jimmie Kimmel*.

Heckfire, Mr. Hawthorn even went out of his way to mention Robin Mathews and our own favorite Ms. Mary.

But still, I couldn't help but note the condescension in Mr. Hawthorn's words when he said:

Mr. Mathews's cynicism about the judiciary is never far from the surface and BC Mary's conspiratorial musings about the motives of CanWest journalists are pointlessly distracting.

Which, of course, is codwallopicism in the extreme.

Because I could pick through the stuff of any of Lotusland's pro-media columnists, or radio talk show hosts, over the last year and-a-half or so (ie. the approximate length of time that Mary's place has been going flat out) and I could dig up literally dozens of examples of ridiculous opinions, or worse, that were based on little or nothing at all.

Which definitely has not been the case re: Mary's opinions about the press coverage, or lack thereof, of the Railgate proceedings.

And the thing is, the pro-journo people are paid to do what they do.

And they have researchers and producers and editors and publicity machines to help people pick up the phone and answer their calls.

Whereas, all a blogger has is what they, and their audience, can do, to do it DIY.

So the decks are all stacked against them from the beginning.

But if they're good they'll have staying power.

Which is precisely what both Mr Tieleman and Ms. Mary have.


*The actual Silverman/Damon coupling can be found at the tube of you - but be careful because it is most definitely NOT keyboard safe. It is, however, hilarious (as for the comeback with Ben Affleck?......not so much).


Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Inside Of A Dog, It's Too Dark To Read


Will the Rev ever get to bat a thousand?

Find out now!


When Did The RailGate Deal Really Go Down?



The matter of documents, and in particular Emails, that current RailGate judge Elizabeth Bennett has already viewed and ruled could determine at least one of the defendent's guilt or innocence all comes down a matter of 'privilege'.

Not 'Cabinet' privilege, which British Columbia premier Gordon Campbell and government lawyer Mr. George Copley have already told everyone who will listen is not what is at stake for either the innocent or the guilty.

Instead, the thing that is, apparently, holding back the full and unfettered release of the Emails to the defense is a matter of 'Solicitor-Client' privilege.

What the heckfire is that you may be asking?

Well, we're not entirely sure, but in reading something called the 'Fairness Advisor's Report' (ie. a document commissioned by Mr. Campbell et al. that supposedly makes it clear that everything was on the up-and-up) we think it has something to do with preserving the confidentialty of advice given to the government by bankers and lawyers in the run-up to the deal going down.

And just who was giving that advice - well, here it is from the final Adivisor's Report:

For the BC Rail Freight Division restructuring process, the Province retained two key
transaction advisors. It retained CIBC World Markets (CIBCWM) to manage the transaction
process and Borden Ladner Gervais (BLG) to act as legal advisor.

Why was preserving the confidentiality of this advice so important?

Well, it's difficult to find that in the final Fairness Advisor's report (which itself is not easy to find - I have copies on my hard and thumb drives sent to me by Anon-O-Mice), but if you read the 'interim' report carefully it would appear that the confidentiality was required to make sure that none of the bidders on the deal at the time (ie. CN Rail, CP Rail, Omnitrax) received an unfair advantage from insider (ie. 'privileged') information:

Except for the initial RFP (Request For Proposals), which was made public, all other information was provided toproponents subject to the conditions of the confidentiality agreements they had signed. We understand that there were occasional concerns that a proponent had possibly contravened its confidentiality agreement. In each of these instances, the concern was investigated by CIBCWM (CIBC World Markets) and the proponent was formally reminded by CIBCWM of the terms of the confidentiality agreement, the importance of adherence to its conditions, and the potential sanctions for breaches.

Now, when you've waded through all of this stuff, it's hard not to ask yourself the following question:

"What's all the fuss about?"

Or, put another way, now that the deal is done, why do we need all this secrecy based on confidentiality and 'Solicitor-Client' privilege when there is no longer any competitive advantage to be gained by any of the bidders all these years later?

Well, we're really not sure, but according to what Deputy Attorney General Allan Seckel told Les Leyne of the Victoria Times Colonist earlier this week there most certainly was a need to keep the secrets by instituting a 'protocol' during the period immediately after the police raids on the BC legilslature:

There's actually a five-step process that was put in place in January 2004 to determine what information would remain secret.

That protocol involved reviews by the associate chief justice of any documents in dispute, and reviews by the deputy cabinet secretary to confirm they should remain confidential. It also provided for the deputy cabinet secretary asking permission of the chief justice to discuss a confidential matter with the cabinet.


Dragged into the fray, (Deputy AG) Seckel said Monday the protocol was set up soon after the raid because the B.C. Rail deal was still actively under consideration by cabinet. It hadn't been decided yet.

Which all seems very reasonable and sensible, right?

But, here's the thing.

As RailGate expert BC Mary has pointed out, this explanation makes very little sense at all if you've actually been paying attention, because......

The deal, in which BC Rail was sold to CN, was announced by the BC government on Nov 25, 2003 while the legislature raids, which resulted in the RailGate charges being laid, occurred on Dec 28, 2003.

Now, unless we've missed something, those dates would indicate that when the 'protocol' was set up the deal was most definitely NOT 'still actively under consideration by cabinet'.

Looks like somebody has some 'xplaining to do.

Of course, perhaps what was really under consideration by Cabinet at the time immediately after the Raids was not the Big 'mainline' deal but rather the smaller deal for the Roberts Bank Spur, a deal that was never consumated. And that, we would humbly suggest, just might be at the very heart of the matter.
Regardless all this, why, as Mike Smyth (but not Les Leyne), recently asked, was the above-mentioned 'protocol', in which Cabinet-oversight was most definitely a component, used for a further three years after the completion/cancellation of both deals?
There is one other wee thing of note regarding the 'protocol' ......At the time, judge Patrick Dohm was supposed to review documents them before passing them to cabinet secretaries to consider. In the case of at least some of the Emails under question it would appear that Mr. Dohm never saw them according to a previous report from Bill Tieleman (scroll down to the bottom).
Speaking of Mr. T (and Mary too).......


Tuesday, February 26, 2008

RailGate Rising


Did British Columbia Deputy Attorney-General Allan Seckel just tip the government of Gordon Campbell's hand in the RailGate case?

Mary has all the info.

I'll have a more detailed comment, both on her thread and here, later.


Which Is More Dumber.....

.....Blocking The YouTube Or Blocking The BoobTube?


YouTube was back up two hours after Pakistan, in an act of information provincialism, inadvertently made the video-sharing site inaccessible to users around the world Sunday afternoon.


The incident began Friday, according to reports, when the Pakistani government of Pervez Musharraf became worried that a video clip attacking Islam might generate widespread unrest among its Muslim population. The government asked the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority, which oversees the country’s Internet providers, to cut off access to YouTube for the country’s estimated 8.2 million Internet users.

New York Times, Feb 26, 2008


A television station in Huntsville, Ala., offered viewers nothing but a black screen for 12 minutes Sunday night — at the exact time that the CBS News program “60 Minutes” was broadcasting a report about potential political skulduggery involving the former Bush administration official Karl Rove in the conviction of a former Democratic governor of the state.

New York Times, also Feb 26, 2008


Which one really is dumber, not to mention more anti-democratic?

You decide.


Monday, February 25, 2008

Did Smilin' Sammy Just Take Off The Gloves?


Once again, if you're not getting your Lotuslandian civic election news from Frances Bula's Blog, you're just not getting it.

Because, here, apparently, is part of the text of message just sent out to the flock from Sir Spam-A-Lot:

As you are likely aware, Mayor Sam Sullivan is being challenged for the leadership of the NPA. If you support progressive government at City Hall and a Mayor who has demonstrated his ongoing commitment to the NPA and our City, the time for your voice to be heard is now.

Mayor Sullivan has recently decided to not follow the “green light” process, but to instead seek the nomination through an all-out nomination process. This morning he sent a letter to the board, explaining why.

To which we can only say, Wow!

Looks like Smilin' Sammy is all set to use some of that $500K pre-election war chest so that he can start stomping on a certain would-be rival's throat right here and right now.

And, no, there is no truth to the rumour that a very fine fellow bearing an uncanny resemblance to Andy Kaufman by the name of Piotr Ladner from Latvia was spotted trying to rent a campaign bus this morning.

Which is all very strange, indeed, because just this morning the I-Ching King and I were ruminating on whether or not Mr. Sullivan would be able to successfully pull off the Opie Taylor act this time around.
Update: Miro (never a minderbinder) Cernetig reports that poor Mr. Sullivan was 'bleary-eyed' as he read his letter to the assembled throngs.


Sunday, February 24, 2008

Beaming From The Gallery



When you're Song and Dance* Dad you spend a lot of time sitting in audiences watching other people's kids.

And sometimes one of those kids can really knock your socks off with a performance.

And last week, in a darkened high school auditorium, imagine my surprise and pride when I suddenly realized that the kid knocking knocking everybody's socks off was my own kid, Bigger E.

Pretty cool, eh?

*Which is kind of like being a Hockey Mom, except instead of driving to and from ice rinks & arenas you drive to and from dance/acting/singing classes & performances.


Attack Of The Killer Bula Bots!


"??? at I have no clue who this is – a prof or college instructor of some sort -- but clearly not an NPA fan either. Some civic politics, though not as much as other sites. (Have I been influenced to list this blog because it referred to my blog as “really, really fantastic”? You decide.)"


That was a surprising, and unexpected, little tidbit tacked to the bottom of Ms. Bula's post on Mayoral Facebook Friends and Vancouver Civic Politics Bloggers (I was over there looking for Gregor updates).

So for all those BulaBots and the curious Pols that have swarmed over, here are the goods........

Ms. Bula is correct in surmising that I am not a fan of the NPA. However, to be more specific, if there are, indeed, 578,041 people living in the City of Vancouver proper you might not be too far off the mark if you came to the conclusion that 578,040 of them have a more positive opinion of Mr. Sam Sullivan's performance as a civic politician than this particular blogger.


In my humble opinion there are a few more folks with Vancouver civic politics stuff up in the Toobz worth considering that Ms. Bula did not mention.

First, there is SM Holman who, despite the fact that his perch is in Victoria, still manages to post-up nuggets of VanSmackdown Gold like this with some regularity.

Second, there is Picket Boy, who no longer posts, but whose past posts are a vital record of what really went on during Smilin' Sammy's (alleged) Garbage Strike Conspiracy of 2007.

Finally, Mr. David Berner, whom Ms. Bula tagged but did not mention. Personally, while I find that he does occasionally have pithy things to say about politics in our town, I'm much more partial to Mr. Berner's reportage on tennis.

And I would have mentioned the IChing-King, Mr. Ian King, whose insight into municipal politics is top of the pops. Only problem is..... now that he has a paying pro-journo job he doesn't often write about that kind of thing for free much any more (or post-up pictures, apparently, like this).


The Lobbyist, The Marauder, The Not So Magnificent AsperSons And...

.....The Straight Talkin' Senator?



Oh boy.

Never underestimate the follow-up power of emptywheel.

I mean, who else would have unearthed this little nugget:

On July 31, 2000, Alcalde & Fay--and their lobbyist Vicki Iseman--terminated their lobbying activities for CanWest, a big Canadian media company. That day, CanWest had achieved the goal Alcalde & Fay had been assisting with: the acquisition of much of Conrad Black's media empire in Canada.

Iseman and her colleagues had been lobbying the FCC, the House of Representatives, and the Senate (including John McCain, with whom McCain's advisors believed Iseman had an inappropriate relationship at the time) to win approval for the foreign purchase of American broadcast companies--that is, Conrad Black's properties, which were headquartered in Chicago.

And that is only one of a number of media consolidation deals that Ms. Iseman and her bosses have been involved with over the years.

Kind of changes one's perspective about how quickly so many Media Co's have closed ranks behind their charges since the 'Romancing The Lobbyist Stone' story ran in the NYT last week, eh?



Saturday, February 23, 2008

Exalting The Stupid



Because of my job I maintain discussion boards where students can ask questions like:

"Can G-proteins remain coupled to activated seven-pass membrane spanning receptors after the latter have been heterologously desensitized?"

You know, stupid stuff like that.

Why would I want to do a thing like this?

Well, it helps keep 'em out of my office at all hours of the day (and sometimes night), especially around exam time.

It's also my job - and I like it.

But here's the thing.

Sometimes, the TA's and I are off doing other things for a day or two, which means that the kids have to make a go of it on their own for awhile.

And most of the time they work things out just fine by themselves - which is a pretty cool thing to see.

But every once in awhile they just go round and round telling each other crazy stuff about something that means less than zero in the big picture of things.

Because usually this circular jousting has nothing to do with an actual scientific question that can be found on Pubmed, or even Wiki, but instead is focused on a trivial topic that the lecturer mentioned once, for about 1.3 nanoseconds in class, and then only in passing.

Of course, such trivial topics often make for the best exam questions.

Worth the most marks.

On the Final.

(just kidding)


Anyway, a little Intraweb site where uniformed opinions about trivial topics lead to easily corrected misunderstandings is one thing.

But when a national 'news' service does the same thing in an attempt to influence an upcoming presidential election it is quite another:

Who does Usama bin Laden want to be the next president? More (American) people (polled) think the terrorist leader wants Obama to win (30 percent) than think he wants Clinton (22 percent) or McCain (10 percent). Another 18 percent says it doesn’t matter to bin Laden and 20 percent are unsure.

The Fauxian stupid.

So toxic it is burning huge holes in the fabric of a society that, while it sometimes became a little frayed at the edges, used to be pretty darned exceptional.


Original toxic link source: C&L


What If All Of The Carbon Tax Deniers Are Wrong?


A couple of days ago, I voiced my skepticism about B.C.'s soon to be invoked Carbon Tax.

Especially the revenue neutral part.

Well, Declan, who found himself staying up all night because of this, has some pretty interesting, and convincing, things to say about that (amongst numerous other things):

"One other comment I have, which (public transportation guru Stephen) Rees makes as well, is that people really don't seem to get the idea of a revenue neutral tax. I've heard many many folks talking about the increased costs from the carbon tax and how they will be passed on to the consumer, but almost nobody who mentions the flip side which is that with other taxes dropping to offset the carbon tax, those businesses with a small carbon footprint (the ones we want to encourage to grow) will have lower costs, which they too will presumably pass along to customers."

Pretty good argument.

Don't you think?


Friday, February 22, 2008

Why Does Stephen Harper Hate Canadian Science So Much?


In case you were wondering, there is a very tall ladder in science.

What the heckfire am I talking about?

I'm talking about the ladder of science journals - those 'magazines' that publish peer reviewed research.

Now, you hear a lot about how important the 'peer' review is to the advancement of science.

And it is, because peer review is the process by which other scientists vet a fellow science-geek's work before it gets published in such a journal.

However, like anything else, there is sloppy peer review and there is truly rigourous peer review.

And the journal with one of the most rigourous peer review processes of them all is the journal Nature.

As such, Nature consistently prints papers that are of such a high quality that they are the ones that are most often cited by other science geeks when they write follow-up papers.

And it is this follow-up 'impact factor' , which is kind of like the scientific equivalent of the Nielsen ratings, that is one of the critical measures that helps put Nature at the top of the science journal ladder.

And the top of that ladder just whacked Stephen Harper up the side of the head in an editorial published in today's issue.

One of the issues that Nature has taken Mr. Harper to task over, which is the thing that is getting all the pro-media play today, is his disregard for climate change science:

"Since prime minister Stephen Harper came to power, his government has been sceptical of the science on climate change and has backed away from Canada's Kyoto commitment. In January, it muzzled Environment Canada's scientists, ordering them to route all media enquires through Ottawa to control the agency's media message. Last week, the prime minister and members of the cabinet failed to attend a ceremony to honour the Canadian scientists who contributed to the international climate-change report that won a share of the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize."

And I agree that is a very bad thing, indeed.

But the thing that makes rank and file science geeks even more worried is the following passage from Nature's editorial:

"There are deeper and more chronic problems for Canadian science. On the surface, funding for university-based research seems strong. The annual budgets for the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) and the National Sciences and Engineering Research Council tripled and doubled, respectively, between 2000 and 2005. The government has also supported new science projects through government-created corporations such as Genome Canada and the Canada Foundation for Innovation, and has recruited and retained promising young scientists through the Canada Research Chairs programme.

But Genome Canada funds only half of the cost of a research project — scientists must seek the remaining cash from elsewhere. Last year, the CIHR was able to fund only 16% of the applications it received, and cut the budgets of successful applicants by a quarter, on average."

Why is this passage so worrying?

Well, because the first paragraph of good news and good programs all happened before Mr. Harper came to power. As for the second paragraph, well this has happened since, and, essentially, it illustrates Mr. Harper's Reservoir Dogs approach to trashing independent scientific enquiry in Canada. Specifically, the CIHR (Canadian Institutes of Health Research) funds the true R&D of biomedical research in this country through a very rigorous peer review process of it's own. When Paul Martin left office the funding rates for this vital science engine, which does not easily lend itself to hype heap-assisted photo-ops, were approaching a very healthy 30%. Now, at Mr. Harper's 16%, the true innovation spigot has pretty much been shut off - especially when you consider that even the 16% that were successful also had their budgets cut considerably.

So, while I, myself a proud Canadian science geek, am quite happy to see that the top of the ladder just whacked our current prime minister on the head, I am also very concerned that if he remains in power much longer Mr. Harper will continue to do his best to throw Canadian Science off the ladder completely.


As a public service (in case anybody can't get deep into Nature) we are publishing the entire editorial, in full, below:


Nature 451, 866 (21 February 2008) | doi:10.1038/451866a; Published online 20 February 2008

Science in retreat

Comparisons of nations' scientific outputs over the years have shown that Canada's researchers have plenty to be proud of, consistently maintaining their country's position among the world's top ten (see, for example, Nature 430, 311–316; 2004). Alas, their government's track record is dismal by comparison.

When the Canadian government announced earlier this year that it was closing the office of the national science adviser, few in the country's science community were surprised. Science has long faced an uphill battle for recognition in Canada, but the slope became steeper when the Conservative government was elected in 2006.

The decision in 2004 by the then prime minister Paul Martin to appoint a scientist for independent, non-partisan advice on science and technology was a good one — in principle. Arthur Carty, the chemist who secured the position, duly relinquished his post as president of the National Research Council Canada, which he had revitalized.

But his new office was destined to fail. The budget was abysmal and the mandate was vague at best. After winning power from the Liberals, the Conservatives moved Carty's office away from the prime minister's offices to Industry Canada. In 2007, the government formed the 18-member Science, Technology and Innovation Council (STIC). Told that the government would no longer need a science adviser, Carty offered his resignation. From March, the STIC will provide policy advice and report on Canada's science and technology performance. It can be expected to be markedly less independent: although it is stocked with first-class scientists and entrepreneurs, several government administrators also hold seats.

Concerns can only be enhanced by the government's manifest disregard for science. Since prime minister Stephen Harper came to power, his government has been sceptical of the science on climate change and has backed away from Canada's Kyoto commitment. In January, it muzzled Environment Canada's scientists, ordering them to route all media enquires through Ottawa to control the agency's media message. Last week, the prime minister and members of the cabinet failed to attend a ceremony to honour the Canadian scientists who contributed to the international climate-change report that won a share of the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize.

Harper sees himself as the leader of a 'global energy powerhouse' and is committing Canada to a fossil-fuel economy. More than 40 companies have a stake in mining and upgrading the bitumen from the oil sands in Alberta and churning out 1.2 million barrels a day. This activity generates three times as much greenhouse gas as conventional oil drilling. Emissions from Canada's oil and gas industry have risen by 42% since 1990.

There are deeper and more chronic problems for Canadian science. On the surface, funding for university-based research seems strong. The annual budgets for the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) and the National Sciences and Engineering Research Council tripled and doubled, respectively, between 2000 and 2005. The government has also supported new science projects through government-created corporations such as Genome Canada and the Canada Foundation for Innovation, and has recruited and retained promising young scientists through the Canada Research Chairs programme.

But Genome Canada funds only half of the cost of a research project — scientists must seek the remaining cash from elsewhere. Last year, the CIHR was able to fund only 16% of the applications it received, and cut the budgets of successful applicants by a quarter, on average. And earlier this month, the country's top scientists and university officials warned that they were short of funds to operate multimillion-dollar big-science projects such as the Canadian Light Source synchrotron.

What's to be done? Canada has made good investments in its science infrastructure and its future research leaders. The present government might be dissolved after a vote of confidence next month, which could in itself lead to a change for the better. But in any circumstances, Canada's leading scientists can be public advocates, pointing to the examples of other countries in urging the government of the day to boost their country into a position of leadership rather than reluctant follower.


Thursday, February 21, 2008

The Return Of King George.....



Apparently, the treachery of Prince Peter has set Vancouver's ruling junta reeling.

So much so that they've gone to an unimpeachable source to prove to the peons that their attempts to put the boots to a democratic mayoralty nomination process are on the up and up:

“In my 48 years as an NPA member I cannot recall an instance when an elected Mayor was not automatically endorsed as the NPA candidate if he indicated he would run for re-election.”
Former NPA Councillor George Puil

Yes, that's right.

The president of the Vancouver civic NPA has decided that the time has come to pull out the venerable King George to placate the membership.

The Madness!

Original Link Source: Frances Bula's Blog, which is really, really fantastic. Check out the uneditted transcript of the media scrum with Prince Peter after his big announcement earlier today - priceless.


Creme Gone Wild....


Peter Ladner is in.

And that splattering sound you hear all over Vancouver's tonier neighbourhoods is the sound of the creme de la creme hitting the floor.

Here's hoping it turns out to be deja vu all over again (think Jennifer Clarke vs. Philip Owen).

Can't wait!

One of the best, if not the best, places in town to keep up with all the machinations, is Frances Bula's VSun blog.


The Carbon Tax, What Is It Good For.....

.....Absolutely Maybe Sorta Not-Quite Nothing?




I'm at home with littler e. today because she's sick (but starting to get better).

And I'm pounding away on the box working on science geek stuff while she sleeps (while simultaneously wondering/worrying if Steve-O's latest strategy to pour money into big-box sci-fi hype machines is going to mean trouble for the true innovation incubators otherwise known as peer-reviewed non-photo-operating grants to individuals) and on comes Mark Forsythe's lunchtime call-in show on Lotusland's regional CBC radio station.

Now, I like Forsythe, mostly because he actually listens to an interviewee's answer before he asks the next question.

But today, I must confess that I could make neither heads nor tails from his interview/call-in segment with representatives from the B.C. Business Council and the Suzuki Foundation.


Because both groups apparently like the British Columbia Government's new Carbon Tax.

Now, the fact that these two groups agree on something is bizarre, in and of itself.

But I guess, at least from a PR point of view, this could be seen as a real victory in compromise for Premier Gordon Campbell.

The thing is, the more I listened, the more I couldn't help but notice that there appears to be no there there.

In other words, because of the revenue neutrality gimmick, it appears that the monies generated from increased fuel prices will not be used to directly fund new technologies and/or increased efficiencies to decrease greenhouse gas production.

So what the heck is the tax really and truly good for.

Well - in reality it appears nothing.

Except, as Paul Willcocks notes, the fact that it is a 'start' is something important in and of itself.

And I can see his point.

It's just that I wish that the thing was really designed to do something.

After all, isn't that what taxes are for?

I mean, can you imagine paying your property taxes and being told that they would not be used for community centers, policing or garbage collection?



Tuesday, February 19, 2008

The Privilege Lists



Thanks to the tireless efforts of private citizen Mr. Robin Mathews, the Railgate Defense Team's voluminous application for disclosure of Jan 4, 2008 has now been made available to the public. Bill Tieleman has posted the entire thing, all 15 pages and 83 points of particulars. Our favorite so far is # 76, which is a request for:

"An Order that the Special Prosecutor provide the witness statement described by the Special Prosecutor as "an interview with a member of the public who provided the RCMP with his opinion of two witnesses on the condition of anonymity".

When Bill Tieleman and Robin Mathews reported yesterday that George Copely, a lawyer acting on behalf of the executive branch of Gordon Campbell's British Columbia government, announced that 'a number' of documents sought by the defence in the Railgate Trial would be waived from cabinet privilege, we were immediately concerned that some obfuscatory cherrypicking might be going on here.

Specifically, we were concerned about the possibility of a significant difference between the term 'a number' and the term 'all', particularly as they pertain to the entirety of the documents being sought by the defence (especially all of those documents that Judge Bennett has already deemed to be relevant to the question of guilt and/or innocence of the accused).

Well, according to Mark Hume in today's Globe and Mail it appears that our worries of continuing obfuscation may, indeed, be warranted.


Well, it appears that there is a list of documents that will be waived and a list of documents that will not.

Not be waived, that is:

Kevin McCullough, the lawyer for Mr. Virk, told the court over speaker phone from Victoria that he has lingering concerns about the disclosure process.

"I don't want you to think that everything's fine there," he said.

"No, I didn't think that," Judge Bennett replied.

Mr. McCullough said he is concerned because the Crown initially gave the defence two lists: one of documents that were available for disclosure and one of documents that would not be disclosed.

All of which is troubling enough.

But what is even more egregious, if it is true, is the possibility that there is a third list of ghost documents that are not on either the waived or the unwaived list.

Again, from Mr. Hume's report:

Only later did the defence learn there were relevant documents that didn't appear on either list and it's not yet clear exactly how many documents might have fallen between the cracks.

Finally, Mr. Hume, like us, concludes that even if there are no further delays (ha!) the real trial will not start until June at the earliest.


You may be wondering why relied so heavily on Mr. Hume's report. In part it is because Mr. Hume does good work. However, we would once again be remiss if we did not note the dearth of reporting in the rest of Lotuslandia's pro-media on the subject. Then again, this is perhaps not unexpected, what with the all that time and space that had to be filled with stories of green shoes today instead.


Monday, February 18, 2008

Is Somebody Trying To Turn Out The Lights On Railgate Party?


Or is everybody playing out the clock?

Bill Tieleman has the story:

BC Supreme Court Justice Elizabeth Bennett was told that pre-trial disclosure hearings previously scheduled for March will instead begin on May 5 with the agreement of the Crown and defence counsel for David Basi, Bob Virk and Aneal Basi.

And George Copley, a provincial government lawyer, told Bennett that cabinet privilege will be waived over a number of documents related to the $1 billion BC Rail privatization, giving the defence access to them without a court ruling.

But a dispute over other documents the government has refused to release, citing solicitor-client privilege, has not been resolved.


Another delay in the trial may come from a Crown appeal of Bennett’s ruling that the defence can be present in court when a secret witness gives testimony. Special Prosecutor Bill Berardino said a B.C. Court of Appeal hearing will be held June 9 on the matter.


It appears that all this means that the real trial won't start till late Spring at the earliest which means that the government of Gordon Campbell will once again escape having its stinky feet, not to mention dirty laundry, held to the fire during a legislative sitting.

And then, it will be summer.

And once again the pundit class will start bleating about how this is all old news and nothing really matters anymore because we've got those five rings looming on the horizon.

On the plus side, at least head prosecutor Bill Beradino was actually in court today.

Which has us wondering if, perhaps, the Double-B got a little mixed-up, what with his double duty assignment protecting the good name of Smilin' Sammy Sullivan, and has concluded that the new TransLink board renumeration schedule applies to S.P.'s as well.

After all, as stormin' Norman Spector likes to point out - S.P.'s, like the nouveau TransLink Board, are appointed by the powers that be in this province.


Citizen court watcher extraordinare, Mr. Robin Mathews, also filed an excellent first person account of yesterday's Railgate hearings over at Mary's place. It's very much worth the read - and not just because Mr. Mathews tells the real story about why the Double-B was not available to speak to the assembled throngs (ha!) after the exhaustive (45 minutes, double ha! ha!) proceedings concluded.


Regulation Schmegulation.....


Sometimes the race to the bottom can be downright deadly.

Like, apparently, when you build blood thinners down on the killing floor:

A Chinese factory that supplies much of the active ingredient for a brand of a blood thinner that has been linked to four deaths in the United States is not certified by China’s drug regulators to make pharmaceutical products, according to records and interviews.

Because the plant, Changzhou SPL, has no drug certification, China’s drug agency did not inspect it. The United States Food and Drug Administration said this week that it had not inspected the plant either — a violation of its own policy — before allowing the company to become a major supplier of the blood thinner, heparin, to Baxter International in the United States.

Baxter announced Monday that it was suspending sales of its multidose vials of heparin after 4 patients died and 350 suffered complications. Why the heparin caused these problems — and whether the active ingredient in the drug, derived from pig intestines, was responsible — has not been determined.


Wonder how many monetary Friedman Units Baxter International saved by contracting out to an unregulated, and apparently unregulatable, Chinese factory?

Meanwhile, US regulators and the Kooky-Cons are still doing their darndest to keep those bad Canadian drugs out of the hands of the American senior citizens in the border states.


Meanwhile, Canuckistan's new top banker is busy running around telling anybody who will listen that globalization is really, really good for us.


Monday, February 11, 2008

Let The Real Stonewalling Begin!


"I want you all to stonewall it, let them plead the Fifth Amendment, cover up, or anything else,"


A Lotuslandian pro-media outlet came right out and said it.

We're talking about the Victoria Times Colonist's recent editorial accusing Mr. Gordon Campbell's British Columbia government of 'stonewalling' when it comes to withholding legitimate evidence that is being sought by the defense in the BasiVirk Railgate proceedings:

Justice Elizabeth Bennett, who has reviewed some of the potential evidence, says it has "significant relevance" to the trial that she is supposed to preside over next month. One e-mail could affect the finding of guilt or innocence, she said last week.

Yet the government is arguing that it has the right to keep this evidence -- almost 100 e-mails -- secret. It is claiming lawyer-client privilege, a legal principle intended to ensure that people can communicate freely with their lawyers without fear that any conversations or letters will later be used against them.

The principle is important to protect the rights of the parties in a legal case. But there is no requirement that solicitor-client privilege be maintained; it is not law. The government is not a defendant in these proceedings.

It could choose to be open, transparent and co-operative and provide the evidence.

Instead, it is seeking to withhold the evidence."

To which we say, "Good on ya!" to Editor-In-Chief Lucinda Chodan and the folks at the Times Colonist.*

But we also figure this is only the first brick in the wall.


Because as we've pointed out in the past, 'lawyer/solicitor-client privilege' is likely only the first in a series of limited hangouts by Mr. Campbell, his deputies, and his flack of 'Order-In-Cabinet' public (dis)information officer seagulls.

Which, I suppose, is to be expected

After all, transparency often goes the way of the Dodo when it's buried under a mountain of seagull dung.**


*And here is the place where we would hope that Ms. Chodan would consider making good on her promise of sending somebody over to cover the trial for real now that there does appear to be a real there there, at least as far as real 'news' is concerned.
**Luckily for us (ie. the people of British Columbia, if not pundits with a purported predilection for the dung of the flack-hackery), our good friend Mary and her Anon-O-Mice are always willing to drill through he muck towards the light of the clear.


Sunday, February 03, 2008

Blame Everything On Karl Heinz Schreiber


The good folks who dole out money to science geeks had my mind in their Vulcan death-grip for the last couple of weeks.

As such, my carbon-footprint is now enormous, with bunyons.


Because I've been forced to climb into the cigar-tube to criss-cross a frozen Canuckistan repeatedly.

And almost everytime it has been in a crate stamped 'Airbus'.

Yesterday it was one of those lumbering A-330's.

Well, actually, for almost three hours the thing didn't lumber at all.

Instead, it sat on the tarmack next to that enormous toothless tusk of white elephanstalintine ugliness known as Pearson International's Terminal One.

The delay was caused by a mellastian blast of the white stuff. It was endless and I was sardined into seat 24C located directly in front of the bathroom and directly below the blower that was sending all of the exhaust and the de-icing fumes straight to my pulmonary alveoli.

There was one saving grace, however.

It was so bad that the couple returning home from their time-share in Castro's Cuba (weird that, eh?) forced a move and I suddenly had an entire row of seats to myself.


To tell you the truth, most of the time, I actually like flying.

Because, unlike Lotusland's former King George, I can actually work when I'm sitting in economy.

And once the geek-junk is done in the absence of the toobz there is no choice but to make like the old days and read the dead-tree versions of newspapers cover-to-cover.

Yesterday, being Friday (ie. movie day), I read the NYTimes ($1.40 in T.O vs $3.18 in B.C.) all the way through.

And I did not like what I saw.

First, there was that cover story of and shopped-up image to give the illusion of a freshly kerrytoxed Hilary facing-off against Obama in the CNN debates.

And then there was more of that "Bill screwed-up in South Carolina codswallop" (real story?......Camp-Hill knew they were doomed in S.C. from the get-go so they engaged in a little race-baiting innoculation for a Still-Scared-Shiteless-Of-SistaSolja-at-General-Election-Time Nation)

Bobo, with the annointing of McCain, made me positively ill (maybe because I can smell the huge mountains of oh-so-sensible centrist bullshit located just over the horizon that will soon be shovelled, hand over fist, onto a willing St. John and his soon-to-be-sidekick Holy Joe by the likes of Tweety and Mr. Timmeh).

Even Mr. Krugman left a sour taste in my mouth, what with his column on the importance of John Edwards' 'ideas' (if those ideas were so important for Democratic renewal and issues positioning why didn't Edwards rebuff the buy-off and stay out there on the campaign trail for the duration to flog them).

Anyway, there was one teensy bit of reporting/editorializing that I did enjoy, both for its style and its elan - even if it was only tongue-in-cheek.

It was an unbylined bit in the business section titled 'A $7 Billion Question' that discussed the down-grading of a big, steaming pile of 'assets' owned by investment banker Morgan Stanley into the Nintendo-world accounting status of 'Level 3'. Why the reclassification? Well, apparently, it's because turns out that the actual valuation of the paper is:

'based on inputs that are unknowable'

The truth; sure is a strange thing, indeed.

In the meantime, of course, the other big news is that Bernancke and the Fed have made damn sure that, as the pyramid crumbles at the bottom, more fool's gold will continue to be piled ever higher on top of Scheme Ponzi.


Re: the footprint......Will work to shave it down with pumice and bike-riding - promise.
As for the movies..... I'm very much looking forward to taking the girls to Persepolis.
The Divine Ms. 'Z', by way of a piece from Robin Morgan, tells us why she is ready to go all the way for HRC.