Friday, October 31, 2014

Dark Money....Something Really Spooky This Way Cometh.


Don't look now, but...

Texas is actually ahead of us now in trying to get rid of secret money to influence local and state elections.

David Saleh Rauf of the San Antonio Express-News has the story:

Texas’ campaign finance regulator is set to shine a light on secret spending in state elections.

The Texas Ethics Commission in a unanimous vote Wednesday approved a new regulation to require politically active nonprofits to start disclosing donors if they spend more than 25 percent of their annual budget on politicking.

The measure takes aim squarely at so-called dark money groups that are allowed under federal rules to play in the political arena without having to disclose where their money comes from.

“In Texas, where there are no limitations on contributions or no limitation on expenditures, disclosure is the only protection the public has,” said commission Chairman Jim Clancy...

Why ahead of us, given that we actually have laws on the books about 3rd party influence peddling....errrr....advertising?


It's not like Kinder Morgan is getting away with anything in the run-up to municipal elections 'round here.


The irony here, kinda/sorta?....Turns out Bobby Kinder was one of the original  'Bush Rangers' from the Lonestar State....And, ya, we do know 'bout The Armadillos!


This Day In Snookland...Some Elephants Are Whiter Than Others.


Still catching up and noticed that, before he helped blow the whistle on Vision's pay-to-play deal, Uncle Bob Mackin had the following lede up at the Tyee:

The new roof and renovation of BC Place, paid for by the citizens of British Columbia, spiraled over its stated price by nearly $200 million in the first year it was announced, 2009.

It looks like the budget blowing didn't stop there, according to figures released by B.C. Pavilion Corporation (PavCo), the crown corporation in charge of the project.

Numbers just made public, added to earlier accounts, show the biggest contract for the renovation of BC Place Stadium appears to have gone $80 million over budget...

But here's the thing, back when that 'original' $300 million plus budget for the magic carpet atop BC was announced just before the 2009 election a big selling point, shilled to the hills by the sportsmedia sycophants 'round here, a big selling point, was the extra $100 million dollars in revenue that would roll in every single year.

Of course, as those who were paying attention to PavCo's shenanigans at the time, that $100 million a year was completely bogus, in every way imaginable.


That roof is a heckuva catch, that $640 million dollar catch, that is now being used to force a subsidized Casino-Industrial Complex down our collective throat.

Sometimes it really does seem like Milo Minderbinder is the real wizard hiding behind the Knotty Gordian/Snooklandian curtain.


How Much Extra Are Those P3's Costing Us?


How's this for a money shot:

...(W)hile government’s weighted average cost of borrowing is approximately 4%, on the $2.3 billion that government borrowed through public private partnerships this is 7.5%..


Who said that?

Was it some whacko-commie BC Liberal/Socred hater who just makes things up to rile The Keef on the Twittmachine?


Actually, it comes straight from the keyboard of British Columbia's Auditor General, Carol Bellringer.

Although, to be truthful, the money-shot was dug up by that noted whacko-commie-pinko labour guy Keith Reynolds writing on the CCPA blog.

And how much are those extra borrowing costs yanking from the public purse?

How does hundreds of millions of dollars sound?

As for money for schools 'n stuff...

Well, you know, that's commie-pinko super-whacko monkey business that we just can't afford.



Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Maybe It Should Be Re-Named 'Not' Elections BC.


Given the stand of the mayors of both Vancouver and Burnaby it would seem to me that all that pipeline expansion stuff is clearly and squarely an issue in the upcoming municipal elections.

Which means that, given the focus of their current advertising blitzkrieg, Kinder Morgan should have to register with Elections BC as third-party advertisers, right?


The CP had the story recently:

...Jodi Cook, Elections BC manager of provincial electoral finance, said in a letter (to Burnaby MP Kennedy Stewart) that Kinder Morgan's advertising doesn't meet the definition of election advertising.

"Therefore, there is no requirement for Kinder Morgan to register as an advertising sponsor at this time," the letter states...



With this ruling Kinder Morgan will not have to disclose how much it is spending to try and influence our pre-election opinions.


Meanwhile, of course, the federal NEB has granted Kinder Morgan trampling rights in the Burnaby Mountain conservation area...


Tuesday, October 28, 2014

My Favourite One Minute And Nineteen Seconds Of All Time.


Just about to climb back into the cigar tube for the trip home.

Had a little time at the end of the science geek bunker bashing in Montreal this afternoon so I wandered out onto the Plateau to find a coffee before heading to Dorval.

It was chilly and rainy, and leaf-blown and nice.

Which, for some weird reason got me to thinking of an evening quite awhile ago when I was noodling away on the box cheating on Mic Christopher's greatest.

Unbeknownst to me at the time, Bigger E. was singing away behind me the recorder going.

It was recorded back during our Busking Year up at the top of Queen Elizabeth Park on a blustery winter night.

I know I'm biased but I really and truly think that it resulted in a darn fine 1'19":


Why Does Chevron Want To Get Into Our Schools So Badly?


It would appear that Chevron won't take no for an answer.

Because when the Vancouver School Board decided, quite rightly in my opinion, voted not to allow Chevron to dole out $475K for technology-ish projects that teachers would have to apply to...

Well, Chevron went straight at parents.

And whadd'ya know.

They got the reaction, and the press action that they wanted. Wanyee Li had the story awhile back in the Courier:

...After the school board rejected Chevron’s proposal, Chevron approached the Vancouver District Parents Advisory Council. The parents had concerns about schools being associated with a potentially divisive company like Chevron.

But corporate donations can look appealing when schools consider cutting programs such as athletics and music due to budget restraints.

“I would like the policy reviewed so that there’s access to additional money for classrooms, and so that corporate funding was offered to all teachers,” said Monica Moberg, chair of the District Parent Advisory Council...


Do these people have to co-opt everything?

The real question, I guess, is...If corporations paid their historical levels (i.e. fair share) of taxes, would we be in this constant funding bind for public institutions and programs?


Sunday, October 26, 2014

Rushing Towards The Flickering Light Way Down At The End Of The Winter Solstice Tunnel.


We spent the last weekend of our summer holidays in the Ballard district of Seattle.

Amongst the Swedes and the canals and the street fairs and the kids returning for college.

And we spent it with our good friends F. & L., who utilize a pre-dinner Cinq-A-Sept happy hour better than anyone we know.


A great time was had by all.

And it was the last bit of real fun, especially the busking with E. in the leafy late-summer heat, I've had since then.

I've just been so darned busy running as fast as I can to try and stand still the last couple of months that I haven't had time for much free-wheeling fun at all, including this throwing stuff up at this place and, worse, making music.

Anyway, don't cry for me Argentina, because most of the time I like what I do.

I really, really do.

And this early Sunday morning in late October I'm sitting in YVR getting ready to climb into the cigar tube one last time this fall.

Which means that it's just about time to start paying attention to the news and the Snooklandians, and Pointy and Gregor, and all that obvious stuff again.

Be back, and hopefully back at it, in a few days....Here's something to tide you all over if you choose to punch it up (a little different vibe - was Zimmerman making fun of the Boss' method, or was it homage?):


Tuesday, October 21, 2014

This Tuesday In Science Land...The Spinal Cord Correction.


That big stem cell spinal cord regeneration story you've been hearing so much about in the public prints and the sound-bite landscape for the last couple of days?


BioSciBlogger extraordinaire PZ Myers does a very good analysis of the study. Here are a few chunks:

...The basic procedure is straightforward. There is a population of neural cells in humans that do actively and continuously regenerate: the cells of the olfactory bulb. So what they did is remove one of the patient’s own olfactory bulbs, dissociate it into a soup of isolated cells, and inject them into locations above and below the injury. They also bridged the gap with strips of nerve tissue harvested from the patient’s leg. The idea is that the proliferating cells and the nerves would provide a nerve growth-friendly environment and build substrate bridges that would stimulate the damaged cells and provide a path for regrowth...

...Now here’s the clinical assessment. Three patients were operated on; T1 is the one who has made all the news with the most remarkable improvement. There were also three control patients who showed no improvement over the same period.
Neurological function improved in all three transplant recipients (T1, T2, T3) during the first year postsurgery. This included a decrease of muscle spasticity (T1, T2) as well as improvement of sensory (T1, T2, T3) and motor function (T1, T2, T3) below the level of spinal cord injury.
A marked decrease of muscle spasticity of the lower extremities was observed in Patients T1 and T2 from the first day postsurgery and remained unchanged throughout the next 12 months. In Patient T1, the mean Ashworth score decreased from 1.25 to 0, and in Patient T2, from 3.25 to 1.12. Spasticity in lower limbs did not change essentially in Patient T3. Mean Ashworth score increased from 2.0 to 2.5. In contrast, there was no change of the Ashworth grade in patients from the control group after 12 months of rehabilitation.
The Ashworth scale measures the rigidity of the muscles — a zero is normal tonicity, while a high score of 4 means the limb is rigid and resistant. That two of the patients showed a marked decrease in score is good news.
In Patient T1, the first symptoms of recovery of sensation below level of injury were noted at 6 months post- surgery. The patient reported tingling in the dermatomes S4–S5. This impaired sensation turned to a sensation of light touch or pin prick by 8 months post-cell grafting. In the same period, the patient gained voluntary adduction of lower extremities (2 points in the Medical Research Council Scale, MRC), and at 12 months, a slight voluntary flexion of the right hip (MRC 1), indicating conversion of the ASIA grade from A to C.
Patient T2 showed also symptoms of recovery of sensation in dermatomes S4–S5 at 9 months postsurgery. We also noted an increase in the strength of abdominal muscles in this patient, but as this type of motor function is not included in the ASIA score, we classified him as ASIA B.
After an initial decrease of the sensation concerning mainly the sensory level and the zone of partial preservation on the right, noted in the first 3 months after surgery, Patient T3 recovered sensation at 4 months to the state before surgery. In addition, new areas of sensation covering the dermatomes from T9 to T11 on the right side were noted 12 months after cell transplantation, and a slight increase in the strength of abdominal muscles was observed in the period from 4 to 12 months. As this type of neurological improvement is not scored in the ASIA classification, this patient was assessed as ASIA A.
The ASIA scale is a measure of the loss of motor and sensory function. An A is bad; it means there is no sensory/motor ability below the lesion site. A B means some sensation is retained, but there is no motor activity. A C means you’ve also got partial recovery of some muscle activity. A D (none of the patients reached this level) means that more than half the muscles are responsive. An E is normal function.
So the end result is that one patient upgraded all the way to C, another made it to B, and the third patient showed no significant recovery, although there were hints of some restoration of activity.
I think there’s good reason to be optimistic and see some hope for an effective treatment for serious spinal cord injuries, but right now it has to be a realistic hope — progress has been made. A cure does not exist...

The link to the actual paper is here.

Upshot...This clinical research did not spring up in an operating room out of nowhere...The fundamental stem/olfactory ensheathing cell stuff was done in basic biology and biomedical labs funded by you and me.


Tuesday, October 14, 2014

We Interrupt This Mini-Bloggiatus...

...To tell you that, if you are in Victoria and surrounding environs on Thursday evening, you should go see our favourite SouthVanIsle blogger and man-about-town, Mr. Paul Willcocks, kinda/sorta flog his first ever book:

...And there has been ‘the book.’ The real title is Dead Ends: BC Crime Stories, but for a long time, as I laboured away, it was just ‘the book.’

It’s my first, published by the team at the University of Regina Press. I researched and wrote about 40 B.C. crimes from the 1860s to today. I knew the stories would be great, and the characters fascinating. But I didn’t anticipate that the crimes would reveal so much about us and our history...

{snippety doodle-pre-Halloween-candy-dandy}

...On Thursday (Oct 16th), at the Bard and Banker pub in Victoria, there’s an official launch party. It will be low key. We have the comfy Sam McGee room. I’ll talk a little bit about writing the book. 

Copies will be on sale for $20, with $8 going to Cuso International and Casita Copan, an amazing project to support homeless kids and struggling families in Copan Ruinas, Honduras, where we spent more than two years. But it doesn’t matter if anyone buys books. There’s a piano, if you want to play...

No word, yet, on whether or not there is a story in there on the great Lotuslandian Railway Robbery

(maybe Mr. W. is saving that one for the second edition)


Tuesday, October 07, 2014

This Day In Snookland...Big Rich Smacked Up The Side Of The Head By A Sparkle Pony On Life Support.


In the wake of Petronas' PR carpet bombing of the Snooklandians throne speech yesterday, the Minister-Responsible-For-Everything-That-Doesn't-Belong-To-Cookie-Dough-Mike had the following rejoinder according to the VSun's Vaughn Palmer:

...(T)he Liberals tried to put the best face on the Petronas decision to upstage them. “I was expecting it, it wasn’t a surprise,” said (Minister Rich) Coleman, adding that the company had given him a “heads-up” before putting out the release....


It's not possible, is it, that there is a wee bit of agreed-upon footsy being played here is there?

After all, if somebody doesn't play hardball, up front and on the front pages, how else will the Wizards behind the curtain be able to justify the giving away of everything down the line.


They wouldn't ever think of selling us down the river like that...

Would they?


Monday, October 06, 2014

This Day In Snookland...The Greenhouse Gasless Gaseous Gashouse Gang.


From Justine Hunter's latest in the Globe:

...The province, which has spent many months in secretive negotiations with prospective investors, doesn’t like that solution. Rather than forcing an unwelcome restriction on an industry that can easily walk away and build elsewhere, the government has signalled that it will let each company make its own decision. More than that, the province has declared that natural gas burned to make LNG will be exempt from the Clean Energy Act, treating these emissions as somehow benign...

And don't forget, Ms. Say Anything already said the following almost exactly one year ago today:

...“My commitment is to have the cleanest LNG facilities in the world,” Ms. Clark told an editorial board meeting of The Globe and Mail on Tuesday.

The Premier has made that promise to British Columbia repeatedly, a commitment that could have repercussions for natural gas producers if it applied to extraction of the raw resource.

“We have set a goal to have the cleanest LNG in the world,” the Premier told the World Economic Forum in Tianjin, China, last year...

Then came an attempt to obfuscate obtusely when it came to the reality of the thing, also straight from the mouth of the  'Say Anything' Premier herself:

...(Ms. Clark) clarified on Tuesday that she never intended for that commitment to capture the emissions produced upstream.

“We don’t produce LNG in the northeast, we produce natural gas. We will produce liquefied natural gas in the northwest, so that’s what we have been talking about,” she said. “There is no ‘L’ in LNG until it gets to Kitimat or Prince Rupert.”...



Saturday, October 04, 2014

Hey, Look!....BC Rail Was NOT In The News This Week.


But that does not mean that there weren't things going down.

Or not going down as it were.

Norm Farrell, with an assist by reader Lew, has the story.

Here's a chunk of that story (but I highly recommend you go read the entire thing):

This week, NDP MLA Kathy Corrigan, a member of the Public Accounts Committee, made a motion,

"That Mr. David Loukidelis and Mr. Graham Whitmarsh be requested to appear before the committee with respect to additional questions relating to the committee’s continued consideration of the Auditor General’s report titled An Audit of Special Indemnities."
The vote, with NDP MLA Bruce Ralston in the Chair, was predictable, with BC Liberals against and others in favour:
  • - LIB, Maple Ridge-Mission
  • - LIB, Shuswap
  • - LIB, Prince George-Mackenzie
  • - LIB, Port Moody-Coquitlam
  • - LIB, Vancouver-False Creek
  • - LIB, Chilliwack-Hope
  • - LIB, Richmond-Steveston
  • - NDP, Burnaby-Deer Lake
  • - NDP, Vancouver-Point Grey
  • - NDP, Coquitlam-Maillardville
  • - NDP, Vancouver-Hastings
  • - IND, Delta South
Ms. Huntington, a thoughtful and effective independent MLA, said this to the committee,
"Undoubtedly, the Auditor General's office did an enormous amount of work. It was with a narrow question in mind, however. It did not pursue the relationship between the plea bargaining and the lifting of the indemnity — or the indemnity. Thus, it leaves open the questions that are being pursued right now.

"All that being said and my discomfort that this committee would be pursuing it in this manner, I do think there are issues here that have never been explained to the public, which the public is deeply concerned about — always have been and still bring it up if the issue arises in any way, shape or form, at least to me.

"I think there is an issue of transparency here that if we can resolve would be to the benefit of the public. As difficult as the decision has been to me, I will support it — the motion — because I believe the public deserves the transparency that this discussion might provide them."
Lew, a reader and occasional commenter, has been following this issue closely and expressing himself to members of the Legislature. I think his recent correspondence is worth repeating:
"This is written in regard to the September 30, 2014 proceedings of the Select Standing Committee on Public Accounts considering the Auditor General Report: An Audit of Special Indemnities. You have all been previously copied on my January 20, 2014 letter to the Auditor General, and I wrote you on July 07, 2014 with further observations and questions, so I will not repeat them here.

"When I wrote him with questions on his report, the Auditor General responded that he was not at liberty to provide any answers except to the Select Standing Committee on Public Accounts, within the scope of the audit or his mandate. I therefore forwarded my questions to the Committee with a request that my questions be asked. To this date the questions have not been asked of him, nor of any other persons before the Committee. In addition, several members of the Committee have expressed that they have outstanding questions. This is obviously a very unsatisfactory situation given the public’s right to know.



What's it all about this time Alfie?


It's about that small matter of what is supposed to have, and what is supposed to have not, been a prior inducement for Mess'rs Basi and Virk to plead guilty according to all kinds of fine folks, including Mr. Gordon Campbell's former Attorney General Mr. Geoffrey Plant, who wrote the following on his 'blog' (gasp!) back in the spring of 2012:

..."The defendants pleaded guilty. What is clear is that there was no legally binding deal. There couldn’t be. The waiver of recovery of fees was not and could not be an inducement to plead guilty. As a matter of law they were not connected. But that was of course the outcome. It was done very, very carefully, to make sure the rules were followed."...

Most interestingly, Mr. Plant also wrote the following, which is something I, and Paul Willcocks too, took great umbrage to at the time:

..." But it was understood that with guilty pleas, the claim to fee recovery would be waived."...

And never forget the following....

Which is that this 'deal' came down just as the good Mr. Gary Collins, who went to work at the very same private company that the above-named Mr. Graham Whitmarsh in the wake of his quick exit from Mr. Gordon Campbell's Railgate government, was set to take the stand.

And finally, ask yourself the following...

Did the judge in the case know about the prior understanding and the six million dollar chunk of change that underpinned said understanding  when she accepted the plea deal that kept Mr. Collins from taking the stand and answering direct questions from the defense in open court while under oath?

(not to mention the rest of the Railgate Top 40)

As for the sub-header to this post....Well....You know.