Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Check it Out!

Monday's post called "Taxi!" is all about the failure of the local transit system.

It has generated 15 comments to date, which may be a record for this blog.

The posting and especially the comments are very much worth a read.

More On The Newspapers

Ross Howard is an award-winning journalist, a marvelous intructor at Langara College, and a good friend. He spends considerable time in Africa and other remote regions teaching journalism. The following is an email he sent earlier today. (Tuesday, October 21/08)

David: while I agree with your excoriations of The Sun's latest putative improvements, I think in your criticisms and polling you have to sharpen the audience's understanding of what appears to be going on.

The Sun is not sacrificing local news and god forbid, enterprise reporting because the newsroom is populated with wholly incompetent reporters and idiot editors. Left to their own and professional instincts they would generally prefer to be doing more, better work.

However, the latest redesign yet again appears to reflect a corporate imperative to maximize profit by spending the least possible on content improvements as opposed to cosmetic rearrangements of limp content.

In some ways its not fair to beat up on journalists. They don't run newspaper anymore, in many cases (especially most big dailies.) .

Bean-counters, accountants, media corporation managers are the ones dictating the underlying impetus for such changes, which is to treat news production as a profit centre, not as a public service.

Within a generation, perhaps within five years, even in Canada where the newspaper crisis is different, weak papers like The Sun risk a real collapse in their readership numbers (old habits eventually die, young ones go online) because of the irrelevancy of the paper edition as useful (aside from reassuring status quo ideas) to readers young and old. Belatedly then the corporate directives may encourage the remaining Sun journalists to rediscover relevance and perhaps modestly invest in the pursuit, but it may be too late.

To belabour my point: it isn't journalists who are killing the print media in Canada. It is the owners.

Ross Howard

Secret Formula Discovered


I get it.

It took a while, cause I'm not too swift, eh?

But now I got it.

The Sun's new page design means that we will be blessed with a columnist taking up the bottom half of the front page.

I'm guessing that this means they think they are competing with or getting in synch with blogs.

They think we rush to read other people's opinions.


Some of us like to read this odd thing called THE NEWS.


There are only a few oddities about the case of David Shearing that need be noted.

Shearing killed six people, but he was convicted in each count of second degree murder.

Which should open a twelve hour discussion about what constitutes pre-meditation.

In this case, I suppose someone argued, or the judge istructed, that the accused seized an opportunity, rather than planned anything, as he apparently came across these two families camping and then destroyed them all.

A fine point no doubt.

So what are the time limits for pre-meditation? You have to devise your murders months - or minutes - in advance to qualify for first degree murder?

Then, there is this small oddity.

Shearing has been in prison for many years now, but in 1995 he married a lady from Prince Albert. Her name is Heather. You cannot write material like this.

And finally, the parole board must now go through the charade of considering this nut job for various of their forms of freedoms.

Let us all pray together. We know about the efficacies of the parole board.

And so it Goes

RCMP's E Division should stand up for itself

Margret Kopala, Citizen Special

Published: Monday, October 20, 2008

The RCMP has its problems but nothing justifies cowering before special interest groups. This time, it's E Division that's under fire from the Pivot Legal Society in a Vancouver battleground where electoral politics has nothing on the politics of supervised drug injection.

The Downtown Eastside's Insite is on the brink of becoming Canada's worst public policy disaster, yet last week the Pivot Legal Society called for Canada's auditor general to investigate the RCMP's authority to commission research into the facility's effects on crime and associated issues.

The problem? First -- and despite the information being available on one website over a year ago -- Pivot alleges the research was "secretly" commissioned; secondly, though two reports were favourable to Insite, two were critical: one by Garth Davies, a professor at Simon Fraser University and the other, the now seminal analysis titled A Critique of Canada's INSITE Injection Site and its Parent Philosophy.

Written by Dr. Colin Mangham, a veteran of nearly 30 years in substance abuse prevention and a former professor of health education at Dalhousie University, the critique painstakingly questions studies suggesting Insite either saves lives, reduces crime and disease transmission, or encourages treatment. It also exposes the facility's parent philosophy that drugs are a lifestyle choice, a premise whose ethical contradictions can only be resolved by legalizing drugs or, as the city of Oslo recently determined, by closing its injection facility.

Dr. Mangham confirmed to me this week that nothing in his paper has been disproved or even specifically challenged. Instead, and given its status as the new four-letter word, it is being dismissed as "ideologically" biased though as someone once observed, name-calling is the last refuge of the intellectually bankrupt.

It's not the first time. Like Davies and Mangham, Health Canada's panel of experts summarized first the studies' positive findings then their methodological and design flaws. Among many qualifications to the studies' assertions, the panel noted how only five per cent of drug addicts in the area were using the facility and of those, only 20 per cent on a regular basis.

Its report was promptly dismissed as "political."

And when addiction treatment specialist Dr. Donald Hedges attempted to appear before a parliamentary committee to argue Insite is encouraging risky behaviour (the heroin addict needs progressively higher highs), he was harrassed and intimidated by demonstrators.

Thug democracy rules and now it's the RCMP. Never mind the quality of the work, just question the right of a beleaguered institution to undertake it. To make matters really interesting, point to derogatory remarks coined by a retired constable about the B.C. Centre for Excellence in HIV/Aids which nonetheless powerfully symbolize the deep chasm between the epidemiologists who dominate Insite scholarship and officers who must work in an area which after five years of Insite remains an open-air lavatory. Literally.

Let's be clear. All experts, however narrow their disciplines, have important contributions to make. Those with experience in the field are no less important than those in academe. But there is good reason why neither should dictate public policy which must save lives, reconcile competing interests and address complex issues. Only the citizenry through its elected representatives can do this.

Still, if the Pivot Legal Society wishes to involve the auditor general, so be it. Transparency is always a good thing. And while she's at it, why not open the books of all the service organizations in the Downtown Eastside. Why not reveal the names of board members, peer reviewers, their fees and salaries, spousal relationships, political connections and who, in what government department, motivated by what rationale, is authorizing payment for all this.

Better still, why not just concentrate on ending drug use and addiction.

As the RCMP begins its internal review into this matter, let E Division stand tall for its own area of expertise. Since access to drugs is the biggest challenge to recovery from addiction, no treatment or prevention agenda is possible without a law and order agenda. Sweden's zero-tolerance model and mandatory treatment for addicted repeat offenders should also be considered.

Margret Kopala's column on western perspectives appears every other week.