Wednesday, February 10, 2016

They're Americans, Not Idiots - Despite Support for Donald Trump, Buying More Guns After Mass Shootings, Etc.

Donald Trump - America's next and greatest president?
Bill Tieleman’s 24 Hours Vancouver / The Tyee column

Tuesday January 12, 2016

By Bill Tieleman

"Don't wanna be an American idiot / Don't want a nation under the new mania."

- Green Day, "American Idiot," 2004

Are Americans idiots?

It's a question many Canadians are asking as they watch Republican presidential nominee candidate Donald Trump gain more popularity with each more outrageous statement.

UPDATE: Donald Trump easily won the New Hampshire primary on February 9 and leads in several polls as the contest heads to other states.  As Britain's Weekly Standard put it: 

"Every Republican candidate who finished first and second in Iowa and New Hampshire has won the presidential nomination. Having done so, Trump is now in a class with Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, Bob Dole, George W. Bush, and Mitt Romney." 

Or when a bunch of ornery yahoos occupy an Oregon wildlife refuge with guns aplenty but not enough food to last any longer than the Alamo.

Or when the American response to a mass shooting like those at San Bernardino or the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut is to buy more guns in a country with 89 guns per 100 people.

For Canadians who love their neighbours but seriously question their intelligence at times like these, it's a troubling thought.

Politics beyond parody

Unfortunately, the easy way out is to simply ridicule those who live south of the world's longest, friendliest border.

Canadians can't seem to get enough of U.S. late-night television hosts delightedly denouncing Trump's travesties. We guffaw at the overwrought but underfed occupiers in Oregon, or cringe watching

President Barack Obama openly cry at his country's astonishing lack of gun control, even as school children are massacred by monsters.

And admittedly, the idea of a President Donald Trump running the most powerful nation in the world is both absurdly humorous and frighteningly possible.

But to simply scoff and write off the support Trump enjoys, the backing Oregon militiamen actually have, and Americans' love of guns from our superior northern vantage point would be ignorant on our part.

A smarter approach is to look at why Trump appeals to many U.S. voters -- and could win the Republican nomination, possibly the presidency.

More frightening possibilities

Trump is a rich, self-serving windbag who will say almost anything to earn headlines -- from promising a literal wall to keep out Mexicans border jumpers to temporarily banning Muslim immigrants and refugees from entering the United States.

And with quotes like this, he alienates entire countries: "When Mexico sends its people, they're not sending their best... They're bringing drugs. They're bringing crime. They're rapists. And some, I assume, are good people."

Yet each time Trump blows up another media controversy bomb, his popularity explodes.

But behind the hype is a truism -- that Americans are deeply worried about terrorism killing them and immigration taking away their jobs in a troubled economy.

Trump intuitively gets that fear and plays to it brilliantly in his campaign, reinforcing negative stereotypes while disregarding plain truths.

And that doesn't matter -- because the alternatives seem far worse and more suspect.

The other Republican nominees are lacklustre losers compared to the billionaire blowhard -- can Canadians criticize Americans for backing Trump when the other choices are Ted Cruz or Ben Carson or Marco Rubio or Jeb Bush?

Cost of doing business?

Trump is also using his wealth as an advantage -- paying the full bill for his campaign instead of depending on the insanely expensive American political system that is dominated by giant corporations and the rich -- whether the candidates are Republicans or Democrats.

The Oregon occupiers mine a similar turf -- right-wing distrust in big government combined with anger at national parks expanding to take away land used by ranchers.

And those Americans buying more guns to protect themselves in a country with an insane number of gun deaths -- 33,636 in 2013 -- are expressing their disbelief that government can protect them from terrorists and gangsters.

And I say that as someone with a restricted weapons license who is not anti-gun.

Obama's failed efforts to control guns have only resulted in more Americans packing heat -- the share value of major gun makers Smith & Wesson and Sturm, Ruger & Co. have gone up an amazing 900 per cent since he took office in 2009.

Compare that to Standard & Poor's 500-stock index, which only rose 147 per cent in the same period.

"Mr. Obama is the best gun salesman on the planet," said Louis Navellier, chairman of the Nevada investment firm Navellier & Associates, which bought firearm stocks heavily and is profiting as a result.

Off that high horse!

Are Canadians really so different and more sensible?

One of the key factors generally acknowledged in Liberal Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's election win was his celebrity status -- he has 1.25 million Twitter followers.

And Trump has been a celebrity for decades -- but his 5.6 million Twitter followers are proportionately far less than Trudeau's despite being in a country 10 times larger.

Let's hope we are immune to a Canadian version of Trump. 

But don't condemn Americans as "idiots" simply because some desperately support what we see as terribly faulty solutions to very real problems.

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Friday, January 29, 2016

Five Vicious Attacks in Five Days: Ban Dangerous Dogs - Especially Pit Bull - in BC Now!

Pit bulls account for most fatal attacks on humans
What will it take for politicians to find the courage to act?

Bill Tieleman's 24 Hours Vancouver / The Tyee column 

Tuesday January 5, 2016

By Bill Tieleman 

"It was worse than a horror movie. It was like something out of a nightmare. There was blood absolutely everywhere."

- Sheryl Elgie, daughter of pit bull attack victim Robin Elgie

Five people in British Columbia have been viciously attacked by pit bull and Rottweiler dogs in five days -- two very seriously injured -- and yet not one provincial or municipal elected official dares to speak out on the obvious need to protect the public.

Is it not overwhelmingly obvious when Robin Elgie lies in a hospital bed facing the possible amputation of both hands after two pit bulls invaded his Fort St. John home on Christmas and ripped him to shreds in what he called "a shark attack" before RCMP shot them -- that something must be done?

Is it not obscene that after Kati Mather received 100 bites, a separated bicep and fractured arm from a Rottweiler-Husky cross breed attack while defending her three-year-old nephew in a Richmond park, no elected representative calls for new laws?

Three other people were also attacked in the two incidents, suffering serious bites.

So does a child have to be killed by a dangerous dog and the public totally outraged before politicians finally find the courage to act?

I deeply fear that is likely, because elected officials appear to be more afraid of dog owners and their fearsome lobbying organizations that fight proposed laws restricting pit bulls and other dangerous breeds than they are of a fatal dog attack.

Echoing past BC attacks

Neither B.C. nor Canada keep detailed statistics on dangerous dog attacks that identify breeds, but in the United States in 2015 there were at least 32 human fatalities, with the majority coming from pit bulls, followed by Rottweilers and other breeds or mixed breeds, according to the advocacy group Dogbites.org, which meticulously documents each attack.

In 2014, the last year with complete statistics, there were 42 U.S. dog attack fatalities. Sixty-four per cent, or 27 attacks, were by pit bulls and 10 per cent, or four attacks, were by Rottweilers -- meaning three-quarters came from just those two breeds. The numbers are similar for previous years.

It's why groups like BanPitBulls.org call for breed specific legislation in both the U.S. and Canada.

The group points out that between 2007 and 2014, pit bull attacks in the U.S. rose by an astonishing 773 per cent and that most fatalities are children.

That has very nearly happened several times in B.C. already.
In January 2015, a six-year-old Vancouver girl was attacked in Crab Park by a pit bull, requiring 14 stitches to her face and leg, with her mother telling me exclusively that the dog came at them "like a shark."

And a New Westminster woman suffered "life changing" facial injuries when a pit bull attack sent her to hospital in July 2015, while a man in the same apartment was also bitten.

New Westminster had previously repealed bylaws restricting pit bull and other breeds. Despite the July attack, a spokesperson told me that month there were "no plans" to reinstate the vicious dog bylaw.

A nine-year-old girl in Penticton was also the victim of an unprovoked pit bull attack in June 2015, requiring five stitches on her arm when the dog lunged for her face.

These are just the human attacks in B.C. -- many helpless pet dogs and cats have been killed by raging pit bull attacks.

A man whose cocker spaniel puppy was allegedly "ripped apart" by a pit bull in June 2015 is suing its owners, alleging they failed to muzzle the dog as ordered by the City of Vancouver after it had previously attacked a small dog. He's also suing the City for not having the pit bull euthanized as a dangerous animal. None of the allegations in the lawsuit have been proven in court.

'They just ate him'

It's not just this province -- a 22-year-old man in Lancashire, England was mauled to death by his own pit bull cross on Jan. 1, 2016.

The same day police in Edwardsville, Pennsylvania shot a pit bull attacking a 10-year-old boy outside his apartment after Tasering the dog failed.

On Jan. 2 in Big Bend, Wisconsin, four people including one child were sent to hospital after a pit bull attack.

And on Dec. 2, 2015 in Detroit, four-year-old Xavier Strickland was killed by four pit bulls while walking on a residential street with his mother.

"They pulled him from me and (dragged) him under the fence. They just ate him," said Lucille Strickland. The dogs had previously gotten loose and attacked children, the Detroit News reported.

Bring on the ban

While most jurisdictions look the other way, Winnipeg has banned pit bulls since 1990 and Ontario since 2005 -- with significant drops in dog bite attacks, while Burnaby has upheld strong restrictions on "vicious dogs" that include muzzling in public and higher licensing fees.

To be clear, no pit bulls were killed in Winnipeg or Ontario under the ban, but they were not allowed to breed and no new dogs can be imported.

Pit bull owners and organizations are very aggressive in opposing such laws and angry each time I write about them, with responses ranging from polite to obscene and some bordering on threatening.

We have an obvious problem in B.C. with ongoing dangerous dog attacks injuring children, adults and pets. We also have a clear solution -- legislation to ban the breeds most responsible for fatal and serious injuries that has worked elsewhere.

What we don't have is the political will to stand up for the silent majority of British Columbians who want dangerous dog breeds banned.

Let's not wait for a child to be killed before politicians finally take action.

Tell them to do it now, before it's too late.


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Criminal Charges Against Former BC Liberals Executive Director Laura Miller a Big Blow to Christy Clark, Party

Now ex-BC Liberal Executive Director Laura Miller 
Laura Miller resigns, party again rocked by issue of deleted emails.

Bill Tieleman's 24 Hours Vancouver / The Tyee column

Tuesday December 22, 2015

By Bill Tieleman

"Integrity is doing the right thing, even when no one is watching."

- C.S. Lewis, Irish author

Last week Premier Christy Clark's BC Liberal Party was rocked when executive director Laura Miller resigned after being charged with breach of trust and mischief in Ontario over alleged destruction of government emails and computer records.

The case, though unrelated, echoes the BC Liberal government's own email deletion scandal.

Miller must be presumed innocent, and the Ontario Provincial Police allegations against her have not been proven in court. In a public statement, she promised to "vigorously defend" against the charges.

If convicted, Miller -- former deputy chief of staff to then-Ontario premier Dalton McGuinty -- potentially faces up to 10 years in jail over allegations that government records regarding the $1.1-billion cancellation and relocation of two natural gas power plants were destroyed.

UPDATE:  A lawyer representing Laura Miller appeared in an Ontario court, where the next hearing date was set for February 24, 2016.

But a 2013 hearing in the Ontario legislature related to the gas plant cancellation decision where Miller testified under oath before an investigative committee, along with other previously disclosed information, show that B.C.'s is not the only provincial Liberal government having a serious problem with top political officials deleting emails and other public records.

During that hearing, Progressive Conservative Member of the Provincial Parliament Victor Fedeli said to Miller: "So what you're saying is you deleted your emails to do with the gas plant? That's why you have none..."

Laura Miller: "I would delete political, personal and transitory emails..."

Fedeli: "You had none because you deleted your emails."

Miller: "If I had those records, I would have provided them to the freedom-of-information request."

Fedeli: "I have the records now; don't worry. We have them now. We know you're in this up to your forehead in this gas plants scandal."

Miller: "I don't really feel that I am, but thank you for that."

BC's triple-delete scandal

Last week, former B.C. information and privacy commissioner David Loukidelis issued a government-commissioned report recommending that the BC Liberal government stop its own practice of triple-deleting of thousands of emails and destroying government documents to avoid them being released in freedom of information requests.

Loukidelis also recommended that destruction of emails directly or indirectly to avoid an FOI request be made a firing offence for any government employee.

Clark responded by promising to end the email deletion practices and study a "duty to document" law recommended earlier this year by current information and privacy commissioner Elizabeth Denham -- whose earlier report exposed massive violations of existing rules after a staff whistleblower contacted both her and the BC NDP opposition.

Tellingly, Clark's own deputy chief of staff Michelle Cadario was found by Denham to be deleting almost all her email daily, as was Transportation Minister Todd Stone.

It was email deletion by Laura Miller in her previous deputy chief of staff role in Ontario that first gained public attention.

Miller served as former Ontario Liberal premier Dalton McGuinty's deputy chief of staff, while her co-accused David Livingston was chief of staff when the gas plant scandal erupted. Livingston also denies any wrongdoing. Both will appear in court Jan. 27, 2016.

Ontario Provincial Police have alleged that Miller's partner Peter Faist -- a computer technology expert -- was wrongly brought in to "wipe" government computers of emails in McGuinty's office.

Faist does not face charges and an OPP "information to obtain" a search warrant shows Faist told them he used a software product called White Canyon to erase computer records.

Miller, who filed an official complaint previously over police conduct in the investigation that was partially upheld, now says the OPP did not use "impartiality and fairness in police charging decisions" and vows to clear her name.

Clark defends Miller

When Miller first got into hot water in 2014, initially refusing to speak to police without written assurance information divulged would not be used against her, Clark leapt to her defence.

"She is a person of absolutely sterling character, and she works incredibly hard for our party and our province," Clark told reporters in Ottawa. "She is a person of the utmost integrity and we're really, really lucky to have her in B.C... of course, you know, she is not the target of this investigation."

Not so really, really lucky now that it turns out Miller actually was a police target.

After Miller was charged last week, Clark again rushed to her defence, saying: "In British Columbia, Laura Miller is known to her colleagues as a person of integrity..."

The issue will now be determined in court. But Miller's integrity was certainly tested in the Ontario legislature in August 2013 when she testified about her role in the gas plant cancellation decision and was severely cross-examined by Conservative MPP Victor Fedeli.

Fedeli: "Okay. These are not political or personal. There are emails that I've brought forward to you that are clearly gas-plant-related documents, including your Outlook calendar. Is it systemic through the Liberal associates to delete their email? Is that why we don't have any from you?

"You deleted them and felt safe to tell the freedom-of-information people, 'I don't have any,' because you did tell the truth: You didn't have any; you'd deleted them all? All 1,000?"

Miller: "When I delete emails, I do not have the ability to go back. Perhaps it's a lesson learned that the government can take back, in terms of maybe it shouldn't be political staff who search their emails; maybe it should be an individual in the civil service who has access to inboxes and sent-mail folders and deleted archives --whatever it is -- to conduct the search. But at the time--"

Fedeli: "You know the lesson learned? The lesson learned is, you thought you deleted your emails permanently and they weren't deleted permanently. Only when the Ministry of Government Services looked 'under the hood' did they find your emails that you thought were safely deleted. Is that true?">

Miller: "And I'm glad that they found them. I'm absolutely glad that they found them."

Fedeli: "I'm glad they found them, too, because you told the freedom-of-information request you had no responsive records."

Miller: "Well, let's be frank. If I had those records--"

Fedeli: "You had none because you deleted your emails."

Miller: "If I had those records, I would have provided them to the freedom-of-information request."

NDP MPP Gilles Bisson also took a hard run at Miller during the hearing.

Miller: "We're completely accountable."

Bisson: "Boy, you have a funny way of showing it. You won't release documents, you hit the 'delete' button, you think you've covered your getaway, and it turns out in fact there were backup tapes of the backup tapes, and you got caught. The fact is, you did not release documents when this committee--"

Miller: "We produced documents in July, after we had reached a negotiation on Mississauga. We produced documents in September, after we had reached a negotiation with Oakville."

"At the end of the day, political staff are told to manage their inbox in a certain way, so that requires that duplicate, personal, transitory, political emails be deleted. I did nothing wrong."

Blow to Liberal fortunes

Regardless of what the court decides, Miller's fate will impact BC Liberal fortunes in the 2017 election, not to mention that she is unlikely to take back the party helm while the case is pending -- and even if found not guilty, the Liberals may be reluctant to take her back.

That means organizationally the BC Liberals' formidable fundraising machine -- which under Miller raised $10 million in 2014, over half from corporate donors and triple the BC New Democrats' $3.4 million -- could be missing its captain.

And the party's campaign arm suddenly lacks leadership just as Clark must call two critical byelections that will test the government's popularity -- in Vancouver-Mount Pleasant and Coquitlam-Burke Mountain. The BC Liberals have no chance in the NDP's Vancouver stronghold, but a loss in one of their previously solid suburban ridings would be disastrous.


The loss of Miller alone would be a blow to the BC Liberals' prospects in the 2017 provincial election -- that it is connected with the issue of deleting emails in Ontario and the echo in the B.C. government scandal only adds dry wood to the fire.

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