I listened to the BC election leaders debate this morning on CKNW. I thought all of them, Carole James of the NDP, Gordon Campbell of the Liberals, and Jane Sterk of the Green Party, came across well.
James made one mistake that women leaders sometimes make though. She occasionally used an 'up-talk' style: when making an assertion, she would end the sentence as though she were asking a question. This can make a leader come across as less than confident in their own positions. But James didn't use that style consistently, just occasionally. Jane Sterk never used that style.
I thought the CKNW moderator Bill Good revealed bias against Carole James. It showed up after James stated during the debate that the NDP had decided that during this election campaign, they would be "tough on the issues" but would not resort to "personal attacks". Bill Good then asked James if she had not been engaging in personal attacks toward Gordon Campbell during this debate. She responded firmly, "No". Then Good allowed a long, long, long pause, so long that it made a statement in itself. Then, in discussions with four voters -- these voters seemed stacked against Carole James -- after the debate, Good stated that he felt James had been resorting to personal attacks against Gordon Campbell throughout the entire debate.
He was wrong.
A personal attack is an ad hominem attack or gratuitious criticism of another politician that has little to do with the issues. An extreme example would be past federal Conservative Party TV ads criticizing the facial paralysis of Jean Chretien. During this morning's debate, James was simply being intensely critical of Liberal policies; each time she was asked about an issue, she would criticize the Liberal record on it and use the name "Gordon Campbell" when she did it. For example, when a caller accused James of misleading the public by saying that the Liberals had sold assets such as rivers when in fact they had leased them, James retorted that when "Gordon Campbell" gives a company a 49 year lease on a river or a 99 year lease on BC Rail, the result is esentially a sale. That response was typical of James' responses throughout the debate. She was on the attack, but not in a personal way.
I found it interesting that while James repeatedly emphasized the name "Gordon Campbell" when answering debate questions, Campbell avoided using James' name and consistently referred to her as the "the leader of the opposition." But he called the Green Party leader, "Ms. Sterk".
I'm not a defender of Carole James or the NDP. But I think if CKNW is claiming to be hosting a neutral debate and re-cap, they should make every effort to ensure it is neutral. After the debate, I had little doubt that Good was a Liberal supporter.
Are you happy? That's the question on promos in Vancouver stores where Mayor Gregor Robertson's Happy Planet Juice is sold.
No, Gregor, I'm not happy. In fact, I'm right pissed off that you still have on the payroll a woman who was in a supervisory role in relation to Carnegie Center fraud, disenfranchisement of voters -- Don't like who got elected to the Board? Bar him from the building -- and chronic civil liberties abuses including the City's own brand of sharia law for women.
There is evidence at Carnegie that a woman can be barred from City facilities for showing confidence in relation to a man and that, in the Carnegie "court" in which the decision to bar her is made, a male's testimony is considered to carry much more weight than the female's, so much more in fact that it is not necessary to even speak to the female. Classic sharia. Sharia is so entrenched at Carnegie that even a man who has been accused of sexually harassing the female defendant in the past is allowed the privilege of advising Carnegie security on what punishment she should receive.
In one case that lacked witnesses, the claim that "15" anonymous witnesses existed was entered into the "security" report. In another case, when the CBC asked Carnegie Director Ethel Whitty why an elected official was barred from Carnegie, Whitty concocted a story about him being a WorkSafe risk. There had been no mention of a WorkSafe risk in the City letter barring him. Judy Rogers knew of these and other examples of fraud at Carnegie.
But Judy Rogers, who we all thought had been fired, is still on the City payroll. Judy Rogers is happy.
CKNW has learned the details of Rogers' severance package. She got $572,000 and she will continue to get a car allowance, health and welfare benefits, and will remain on the City payroll until the end of May, unless she gets another job.
Who would give her another job?
At least one of the victims' of the City's brand of sharia law practiced under Judy Rogers has now taken her case to the new City manager Penny Bellum. It is going to be interesting to see whether Bellum, a lesbian feminist-type with a boyish hair cut, is going to rubber stamp sharia at Carnegie the way Rogers did. The impression I get from talking to this victim -- she started calling her treatment "sharia" after learning the term from bloggers -- is that she is going to consider her case outstanding until it is resolved, no matter how long it takes. Rogers may as well put this case on her resume because it's going to follow her around like Carnegie "security" reports follow Downtown Eastsiders.
What is it with the City's reward miles plan for abusers? City managers or co-ordinators can be caught commiting fraud or grave breaches of public trust -- like Carnegie Security boss Skip Everall caught on tape barring a woman from an entire City building to teach her a lesson for daring to ask him his name so that she could appeal a barring -- and they keep on going and going and going on the City payroll. They're a variation on Timex watch commericials: they give you a lickin' and they keep on tickin'.
Bellum has specifically been asked not to renew Ethel Whitty's contract as Carnegie Director. Once it is clear that you have been supervising fraud -- there is as much evidence against Whitty as there is against Rogers -- your career with the City should be over. Over.
After covering these cases, I can no longer drink Gregor Robertson's Happy Planet juice. Just seeing a bottle of it on a store shelf makes me gag.
Photo: Ellen Woodsworth (left) speaks at Carnegie Center during civic election campaign in Nov. 2008
I was at the Pacific Hotel having a beer with a friend this evening and some Downtown Eastsiders were looking at the Courier newspaper and laughing at the latest from Ellen Woodsworth, a COPE City councilor.
Woodsworth told the Courier that she had spoken out against City staff's plan to cut $200,000 from the budget of the Gathering Place, a drop-in center on Granville St. modelled on Carnegie but catering to a younger crowd. Woodsworth said she opposed City staff's original plan to cut staff right across the Board; she believes that some communities can absorb staff cuts easier than others. "But not filling a vacancy at the Gathering Place or at Carnegie [Center] means a loss of help for people with addictions or with mental health problems," Woodsworth said. "Those services are already in crisis and they'll be impacted even more. Then people will be on the street and calling out in ways other people find difficult to understand."
We're not wolves, Ellen.
Don't be fooled by the "mental health" mantra. The constant portrayal of members of Carnegie as having "mental health problems" is a means of attracting funding. The majority of people who use Carnegie Center do not need mental health intervention. People drop in to Carnegie to buy a coffee or a cheap meal, read a free newspaper, use the much-in-demand public-access computers, or participate in the music program. Exactly what happens when funding for Carnegie services does not reach Downtown Eastsiders has already been determined: for years on welfare day and the week following welfare day, staff would drastically cut back services (until the DTES Enquirer relentlessly exposed this rip-off) and Carnegie members did not end up "on the street and calling out in ways other people find difficult to understand."
Rather than the loss of a staff position at Carnegie meaning a "loss of help for people with addictions or with mental health problems", as Woodsworth claims, a person active in their addiction or acting like a real nut case is unlikely to even be allowed through the doors of the Carnegie Community Center by security guards who stand at the front -- and Woodsworth knows that as she used to work next door.
Poor does not mean crazy. Yet I rarely hear a povertarian talk about the poor on the Downtown Eastside without repeating the "mental health" and "addictions" mantra. The late activist turned City Councilor, Bruce Erikson, initiated a largely successful effort to discourage the media from repeating the "skid row" stereotype of the Downtown Eastside. It's time media like the Courier stop uncritically repeating the "mental health" mantra which Downtown Eastsiders are left to live down as cash-addicted povertarians drive home to their own neighborhoods.
This comment was left today on an earlier DTES Enquirer post, "Murder on the Right Side of the Tracks". It was a response to my point that the murder of Wendy Ladner-Beaudry in Pacific Spirit Park on the west side park has 75 police officers working on it while Downtown Eastside murders, such as the murder of a young woman at the Cobalt Hotel, seem to get less resources.
"I was very upset by your post. I resented the comparison. But you are right to a degree. A straight living woman (or man for that matter) murdered in the downtown eastside deserves the same investigative efforts as anyone. I just don't understand why people need to shove comparisons in our faces. There doesn't seem to be any consideration for the person killed or their family; just an opportunity to point out perceived social inequity.
The Cobalt situation is a poor comparison in my mind because the individuals involved have already rejected society's rules. Why should society exhaust itself untangling their nasty web. They were participating in illegal acts so they deserve less of our resources. Honestly, I don't even care who committed that murder. It's one less drug user/seller to deal with.
But when a presumably "straight- living" woman is attacked and killed in a normally safe public park it does raise alarms. Hundreds of people use that park each day, not to sell drugs or practice prostitution but to get exercise, walk their dogs and socialize peacefully each day. Most women don't enter the park alone but now NONE can without very real fear.
Maybe part of the problem is that we desperately need to believe and preserve areas as safe in a city where so much has become almost forsaken. I was born and raise here, I've lived on the eastside and the westside as well as some suburbs and I definitely need to feel like there are areas that are "sacrosanct". Untouched by violence, drugs and all the other negative and destructive forces at work in this town. We used to shop at Army and Navy when I was a kid. Back then the people you saw were down and out, some were alcoholics, but I wasn't afraid. Now it has become a total hell whole, drugs everywhere. I actually worry that my shoes might be penetrated by a needle if I'm not careful of where I step.
I really don't think it is such a bad thing for people who make different choices in life to want and even expect to be able to feel safe."
There is something so Canadian about the reactions of women runners to the murder of Wendy Ladner-Beaudry in Pacific Spirit Park at UBC. Over and over again, women have been telling the media that they will get a whistle. One woman said she will be giving out whistles. American women would be holding taser parties or applying to get real guns. But Canadians seem to be long past thinking along those lines.
Except for Sharon Gregson.
Gregson, a Vancouver School Board trustee, caused a furor when she posed on the cover of a gun magazine and stated that she believes that women should be allowed to carry guns for personal protection.
Actually, if there is anyone who should be feared it's Sharon Gregson. Canadians Opposing Political Psychiatry have a paper trail of evidence establishing that Gregson is one of the trustees who has been covering up the use of criminal tactics and political psychiatry by the School Board to deter bullying complaints. These tactics are behind the current international boycott of Vancouver School Board diplomas. Gregson is not roaming the woods ready to pounce and murder but the tactics she has tolerated at the VSB, particularly smear tactics involving the manufacture of psyhiatric and police records to destroy the reputation of a complainant, could conceivably result in the death of a targeted citizen. But when it comes to Gregson's gun stance, I'd like to hear more from her.
Over the past month, the American radio show Coast to Coast radio has twice had a guest -- I'm trying to remember his name -- who did his Ph.d research on gun violence. He claims that gun men on shooting sprees in the U.S. consistently choose places where guns are prohibited; unarmed people make easier victims. In Vancouver yesterday, the would be jewelry store robbers on Robson St. ran out of the store immediately after the owner fired one shot. I was surprised the owner even had a gun.
Dr. Laura has a gun. She's a karate expert but she's not relying solely on that to protect her if she is a victim of crime. She has a problem with California's gun law though, that requires that you keep your bullets separate from your gun. Dr. Laura makes fun of the fact that when being attacked you have to stop and load the bullets into your gun. That's about as effective as jogging in Pacific Spirit Park with a whistle. A whistle is better than nothing, but I think women jogging should at least carry a knife; afterall, they have to have something on them to carve up the apple they take with them for a snack.
On Friday, Karen O'Shaughnessy, Executive Director of the LookOut Shelter, was given the CKNW "Unsung Hero" award as part of the Pheonix Project for her work combatting homelessness. There was no mention of the fact that O'Shaughnessy gets a regular big cheque for her work. It's easy to fight homelessness when you're well paid to do it.
O'Shaughnessy and her staff do reportedly do a competent job running the LookOut shelter. I know a guy who recently stayed at the LookOut for a couple of months. His description of their anti bed bug strategy reminded me of Castro talking about the Kennedys. They even put poison powder in his shoes.
CKNW's Christie Clarke interviewed O'Shaughnessy on her show on Good Friday and asked a good question: When people on the street ask us for money, should we give it to them knowing that they may use it to buy "drugs or beer? Is that the right thing to do?" O'Shaughnessy responded with a firm, "Yes." She added, "If they want to go spend it having a beer, then let them." She admonished, "Let's not judge".
The same people come into local coffee shops month after month hounding and hounding and hounding customers -- even poor customers -- for money which I know for a fact is going to a crack dealer. I see them buying crack just off Hastings. One regular aggressive panhandler who always says "God Bless" to coffee shop customers who buy his line about being an orphan and give him money, was recently yelling "Fuck Off!" to a driver who nearly hit him when he walked into the street after buying crack near Pigeon Park. He cons and harasses people daily and gets high daily. But Karen O'Shaughnessy doesn't want the public to judge.
When it comes to what O'Shaughnessy and her staff have to put up with though, she does judge. Anyone who fails to act in a civil manner at the LookOut Shelter is not allowed to stay there. They're very strict.
I was listening to CBC yesterday and a reporter was summarizing Saturday's memorial for Wendy Ladner-Beaudry at UBC. He said the message was "Don't mourn her loss", celebrate her life and cherish those you love in your life.
This is a fashionable approach to death, but I'm suspicious of it. I don't have a problem with celebrating the life of a person who has died, but at times it seems like an attempt to do an end run around mourning. The attitude seems to be -- I'm not talking specifically about Ladner-Beaudry's family here -- that mourning is a downer so focus instead on the positive of the deceased person's life and get on with yours. But there is no substitute for deep mourning.
Sometimes there is nothing to do but cry.
Tears not cried don't conveniently evaporate; I can name more than a few therapists who would agree that they simply get repressed. I read a therapist's account of a depressed man who entered therapy as an adult. When asked about his mother dying when he was a child, the depressed man said that it hadn't affected him all that much, that he hadn't cried. So the therapist walked him through the actual moments in which as a young boy he was told that his mother had died. He saw himself looking down at his little shoes and he saw big tears splashing onto them. For a moment as a child he had done what the body does naturally, cry profound tears. But he had soon forgotten that he had done that; he had too soon repressed his need to cry and had gotten on with life.
When therapist Theresa Shepperd-Alexander's mother died, she didn't look for short cuts. She later wrote that she had grieved long and deep. Despite her thorough grieving though, a remnant of her grief caught up with her years later when she was an out-patient at a hospital. Something a nurse said, the way she said it, triggered Shepperd-Alexander's grief about her mother and her eyes filled with tears. Grief left unfelt continues to try to be expressed.
It seemed a tad air-headed of a Province reporter this weekend to write that people had gathered at Ladner-Beaudry's memorial "to remember not what they lost but what they had". This modern celebratory approach to an ended life may work fine for an hour-long memorial, but it can never outsmart the body's physiological need to grieve long and grieve deep. Jenna Beaudry said at the memorial that her mother "reminded me every single day that she loved me." Her mother will never again be around to tell her that. Sometimes there is nothing to do but cry.
On Monday, the CBC website printed this about Friday's murder of Beaudry-Ladner in Pacific Spirit Park at UBC:
"Dozens of RCMP homicide investigators continued to scour a heavily forested urban park in Vancouver's west side on Monday, searching for clues in the killing of a jogger."
On Tuesday, Metro News printed this: "About 75 police officers are working around the clock to gather evidence and interview witnesses in the murder of Wendy Ladner-Beaudry, who was killed while jogging through Pacific Spirit Park."
Seventy-five police officers?
If a woman on the Downtown Eastside, whether white or aboriginal, was murdered, there is no way there would be dozens of homicide investigators scouring the area for clues. You wouldn't see that on the day of the murder and you wouldn't see it four days later.
Take the young white woman who was allegedly shoved out a window of the Cobalt Hotel during a dispute over drugs. A man who lived down the hall said a homicide detective knocked on his door and asked him if he had heard anything. He said he hadn't. But later he recalled that he had heard what sounded like a cat screeching and had peeked out the door. He remembered too late though. That homicide detective was gone never to return. And there weren't dozens of investigators combing the Cobalt for evidence.
I can understand why women who live high risk lifestyles get less sympathy from the cops and the public when murdered than a straight-living jogger. I don't agree with it -- murder is murder -- but I can understand it; if you treat your own life like it's cheap, then expect other people to treat it as cheap too. But even if a straight woman living on the Downtown Eastside, not into drugs or the sex trade -- and there are many such women on the DES -- was found dead and bloodied in Crab Park like Wendy Beaudry-Ladner in Pacific Spirit Park adjacent to million dollar homes, do you think there would be "dozens" of homicide detectives scouring the scene for clues? Then you're on drugs.
Another thing. After the murder of Ladner-Beaudry, there was speculation that the attacker could have been a homeless man in the park. A neighbor said she had seen an "unusual" looking man in the park who was unwashed and smelled.
But police know that statistically women are more likely to be murdered by an intimate male partner than a stranger. At the press conference yesterday, the victim's husband Michele Beaudry provided himself with an alibi. "I was at Whistler having lunch", he said with a short laugh. I'm not saying he was involved, but he knows he's being looked at.