Thursday, January 25, 2007
He knew better.
Jim has lived at the Cobalt Hotel for almost a decade. He is occasionally bothered by other tenants knocking on his door to ask for a light for a crack pipe. Once he returned to his room to find a woman rummaging through his things. She took off and his large collection of tapes of Art Bell radio shows took off with her, even though she would get nothing for them on the street.
Jim would like to move from the Cobalt Hotel, although he has enjoyed the view of the False Creek sunset until it was obscured by a new condo building that went up. He’s been on the waiting list for social housing at the Downtown Eastside Residents Association for six years but his name has never come up. He lacks the real politik prerequisite: he sits for example at Carnegie, within earshot of DERA people, loudly complaining, “That gaaaaaaad dammed Libby Davies; she’s destroyed this neighbourhood.” His name will never come up.
I know about Jim’s potatoes because he told many of people at Carnegie what had happened. Knowing Jim, he may have spent the last few dollars in his pocket for the potatoes. Smoking and knocking back a few beers at the Pacific tend to take priority over food.
For Jim, potatoes are a full meal. He cuts them into long strips, bakes them in the toaster oven. As he waits for them to bake, he smokes cigarettes and listens to Art Bell or George Nori on Coast to Coast radio. When the potatoes are ready, he sprinkles them with a little oil, salt, pepper, and garlic.
After returning to his room from the washroom, “I was looking forward to having some potatoes,” Jim later recalled. He looked around for the potatoes. He kept looking. The potatoes were gone.
Tuesday, January 16, 2007
After 20 years of involvement with the Carnegie Centre, Sarti and Sigurdson are moving to Hornby Island. A party was held for them in the theatre of the Carnegie Centre on Saturday night.
See article on NowPublic.com
The message was:
"DRUNK EITH (sic) PUSSY PISS POWER!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Thursday, January 11, 2007
Just hours after the article, "Homeless man barred for blogging, Part 2", was published on the Downtown Eastside Enquirer blog and NowPublic.com, a hacker struck. The hacker was obviously displeased with the article which exposed the Carnegie Learning Centre, operated by Capilano College and the City of Vancouver, for barring a homeless man for daring to blog. The hacker attempted to discredit Simpson by criminally libeling him.
The hacker periodically altered text in the article. The article opened with Simpson being falsely identified as a "child porn watcher". His website, timetender.ca, was falsely identified as "yougboyz.ca".
Here's another example of altered text:
Original text: Simpson was a computer student, showing up regularly to teach himself how to build a website.
Altered text: Simpson was a computer student and a racist, showing up regularly to masturbate himself....
Simpson wasn't the only student at the Carnegie Learning Centre to be maligned. The word "fat" was inserted in front of the name of another student mentioned in the article. This indicated that the hacker was not an outsider, but someone familiar with the student body inside the Carnegie Learning Centre.
In addition to altering text of current postings, the hacker added their own posting, claiming, "BILL IS A FAG!". For the record, Simpson is a heterosexual guy with an ex-wife and two grown children. The imposter signed the posting with the name of a person who originally set up the Enquirer's blogger account, a name that had not previously been made public.
Even the news site NowPublic.com, which gave the Enquirer article exposure and ran a photo of Simpson, was hacked into. The "homeless" blogger became the "homo" blogger in the blurb promoting the article.
A racist comment was also inserted on NowPublic.com by the hacker. Breaking into an account held by "jr" who posts articles from the Enquirer, and signing with Bill Simpson's name, the hacker suggested that Carnegie: "Ban some of those chinks for gambling and drunk Indians."
The Downtown Eastside Enquirer has had an ongoing problem with a hacker, since criticizing the Carnegie Centre and the poverty industry on the Downtown Eastside. Last fall, the name of the blog was tampered with and two postings deleted. When the postings were restored, the hacker returned and deleted the entire blog. Due to the level of defamation this time around, it is being treated as a criminal matter.
The Enquirer is also asking Google blogger.com to take an interest in this professional hacker making a mockery of their system. When the hacker originally struck last fall, Google was notified but gave no help in restoring the deleted blog postings -- even though they have a copy of everything. Some old postings have still not been restored. The Enquirer did, on the advice of Google, change the password - but a password is a mere speed bump to a skilled hacker.
Downtown Eastside sources to the Enquirer insist on anonymity, claiming that people who speak up about the Carnegie Centre or the poverty industry on the Downtown Eastside are vulnerable to harassment. Their fears do not appear to be unfounded.
[Part one of a two part series]
Note: A hacker has changed text in this article. It's being corrected but if you come across offensive language, please ignore it.
A homeless man, Bill Simpson, has been permanently barred from the Carnegie Learning Centre. For daring to blog.
On Friday, Simpson was informed by Lucy Alderson, a teacher in the Learning Centre – an informal adult learning centre jointly run by the Carnegie Centre and Capilano College – that he was being barred because he had been observed using one of their computers to work on the Downtown Eastside Enquirer blog.
The blog has been critical of the poverty industry on the Downtown Eastside, and the scripted messages fed to the media to ensure constant injections of funding. The Enquirer has specifically criticized staff at Carnegie who earn a good union wage yet too often allow doors to remain locked, literally, to taxpayer-funded education and computer services for the poor.
Simpson insists that he is not the Downtown Eastside Enquirer blogger. And he is not one of the “reliable sources”, the term with which all postings on the Enquirer blog are signed. But so what if he was? He has the right to freedom of expression.
A witch hunt. That’s how one Carnegie member summarized activities leading up to Simpson’s barring. After bouts of verbal harassment by a Carnegie Board member, interrogation of a Carnegie volunteer tutor and an attempt to turn him into an informant against a longtime DTES friend, obstructionist tactics by CUPE members who staff Carnegie, misrepresentation of witness testimony (alleged by the witness after the barring), Simpson was found guilty in absentia of being the Downtown Eastside Enquirer blogger.
Since the barring, Simpson has continued to be denied due process by the Carnegie Learning Centre and the Carnegie Centre as a whole. For over 3 weeks, Simpson has been completely ignored after submitting a verbal, then written, request to have the decision to bar him put in writing so that he can launch an appeal.
While barring Simpson from the Learning Centre for having dared to blog where no man has blogged before, Alderson taped eye-catching, yellow posters to the desks: “Would you like to write about your life?”
Early censoring of the Downtown Eastside Enquirer
Months before the alleged blogger was targeted personally, access to the Downtown Eastside Enquirer had become mysteriously restricted. Last summer, Downtown Eastside residents noticed that the Downtown Eastside Enquirer could no longer be accessed by simply typing in key words on Carnegie public access computers.
Access to Enquirer articles opened up more when those involved discovered NowPublic.com. Enquirer articles were posted on NowPublic via an account held by one of the reliable sources, “jr”. A blogger going by the name “I SHOT JR” on The Downtown Eastside Avenger, responded by attempting to discredit the Enquirer by claiming it was composed of “radical shit disturbers led by Bill”. It’s not.
In December, just days before, Simpson was targeted for barring, the Enquirer was targeted by a hacker. Select articles were deleted. When they were restored, the blogger returned to delete the entire blog. The hacker cannot be linked to Carnegie but the timing was suspicious.
“Out the snake”
One of the early articles appearing on the Downtown Eastside Enquirer and NowPublic.com was titled, “CBC duped about Downtown Eastside homeless”. The author pointed out that comments made to the media about a Carnegie theatre production, like so much other information fed to the media by the poverty industry, were misleading. The CBC was left with the impression, according to an article on their website, that the cast was “mainly homeless and low income” members of the Downtown Eastside community when, in fact, only one cast member was homeless, homeless by choice, and several were homeowners from more affluent neighbourhoods. Carnegie postmodernists were outraged when they were exposed as importing the other from another neighbourhood.
The Downtown Eastside Enquirer received a message from an anonymous individual with intimate knowledge of the Carnegie theatre crowd, stating that the article had created tensions: “Not a good situation for a community, unless they find the snake and out him or her."
The hunt was on.
[Update: Carnegie Board member Gena Thompson later took credit for this comment when she accused the DTES Enquirer on NowPublic.com in 2007 of having "deleted" her. This comment was actually deleted when a hacker tampered with the DTES Enquirer.)
“Tattle tale Queen of the Carnegie!”
Carnegie Board member Bob Sarti suspected Bill Simpson of being the Downtown Eastside Enquirer blogger. On Dec. 6th, just hours after the Enquirer article, “Carnegie Director accused of failing to deliver tax payer funded services to poor” appeared on NowPublic.com, Sarti gave Simpson a tongue-lashing.
Simpson was outside the 3rd floor Learning Centre when he was spotted by Sarti, who was sitting at a table with a few Carnegie coordinators whose failure to consistently keep services open had been criticized on the Enquirer. Sarti jumped up out of his seat, hollering: “Tattle tale Queen of the Carnegie!” Wagging his finger at Simpson, Sarti repeated this accusation several times: “Tattle tale Queen of the Carnegie!”, “Tattle tale Queen of the Carnegie!…” Simpson, a laid back guy from Saskatchewan – he lived for years in Tisdale on which Corner Gas is based -- responded, “You’re just mad because you got caught with your pants down.” Bill firmly asserted, “I didn’t write that blog, but I wish I had. That author has my full support.”
Sarti managed to interject one more insult, “Everybody knows you’re a parasite!" From comments Sarti was heard making later to a Carnegie member, he was under the impression that Simpson was on welfare. Simpson isn't. That's why he sleeps in a nearby park.
A Carnegie regular who knows Sarti was just around the corner when this verbal attack occurred, and was left slightly shaken. Simpson was just walking across the lobby “minding his own business”, the witness said, when Sarti attacked him. Sarti too may have been left shaken as another witness saw his hand trembling slightly as he held a cup afterwards. As the story of Sarti’s “Tattle tale Queen of the Carnegie” tirade circulated, Carnegie members chuckled, many surprised at Sarti’s rancor as he is generally an affable guy.
Simpson reported Sarti's verbal attack to one of Carnegie's security guards, Trey. Trey assured Simpson that he would take his complaint seriously and see that Sarti was spoken to. Simpson hoped this would put an end to such harassment. It didn't.
“Sid Slick, oilier than a dipstick”
Here’s the mystery. Sarti worked for 30 years as a Vancouver Sun reporter, so why does he seem so hostile to Downtown Eastsiders getting their share of freedom of the press via Google blogger and NowPublic. Perhaps finding oneself on the wrong side of the printed word takes getting used to. Sarti’s name, first name only, had come up in blog criticism of Carnegie for too often failing to deliver taxpayer-funded education and computer services to the poor. Board member, “Bob”, it was reported, had walked past a group of low income students locked out of the Carnegie Learning Centre, entered the Learning Centre to get a prop for an “agitprop” skit, then locked the door again in their faces. The skit, about welfare rates, was called The Price is Wrong, with Sarti playing “Sid Slick, oilier than a dipstick”.
“Finally, some free journalism on the Downtown Eastside.”
Shortly after being called the Tattle Tale Queen of the Carnegie, Simpson was walking up the stairs inside Carnegie, when he ran into Paul Taylor. Taylor sits with Sarti – the two go back a long way; both are American Vietnam war resisters -- on the Carnegie Newsletter Committee. Simpson ribbed Taylor: “Finally some free journalism on the Downtown Eastside."
Taylor, who was sole editor of the Carnegie Newsletter for much of its 25 year history, until an editorial committee was created on which he still sits, is accustomed to such barbs. The Carnegie Newsletter, presented as the voice of the poor, is notorious for censoring the poor who aren’t in lock step behind Libby Davies, the NDP Member of Parliament who helps finance it. The Enquirer is not in lock step behind Libby Davies.
Round two: “Tattle Tale Queen of the Carnegie!”
A couple of days after Sarti’s first verbal assault, he spotted Simpson coming into the stairwell behind him, slowed down to let him catch up, and then started in on him again: “Tattle tale Queen of the Carnegie, Tattle Tale Queen of the Carnegie….”
Simpson, who says he was by this time fed up with absorbing abuse, shot back: “Commie Bob!” “KGB Bob!” Simpson was referring to the left wing Carnegie Centre Association which Sarti helped build – but Sarti has never been known to refer to himself as a Communist. He was involved with Anarchists in his youth and in recent years has enthusiastically hung balloons at Anarchist conventions held in the Carnegie theatre.
Sarti’s history as an anarchist makes his hostility to a homeless blogger even more mysterious to those at the Downtown Eastside Enquirer: blogging is a Anarchism in action. Blogging disseminates the power of the press into the hands of ordinary people.
“I don’t think Bob is that kind of Anarchist,” an acquaintance of Sarti’s told the Enquirer. “He’s an anarcho-syndicalist; they seem more like Maoists to me.” Another credible person, an intellectual, says that years ago Sarti joked that he saw the Downtown Eastside as a Maoist Liberation Zone. Ignore that: hearsay can’t be given much weight. But don’t ignore this: the DTES is beginning to feel like a Maoist Liberation Zone.
The Downtown Eastside is actually Libby Davies’ riding and Sarti is one of her political operatives. For years, he has worked under the radar to keep his NDP pal in power. This is no secret. Look at the Carnegie newsletter; Davies is even identified in the back as a donor. The entire Carnegie Centre is Libby Davies' political machine.
Letter to Carnegie Director: “…please call the mad dog off”
After being verbally attacked a second time, Simpson wrote a letter -- his letterhead reads William B. Simpson, Home-free, Vancouver, B.C. -- to Carnegie Director, Ethel Whitty, complaining about the conduct of “your esteemed Board member”. In his letter, Simpson outlined the previous verbal assault by Sarti as well as the most recent, at times being colourfully descriptive: “his hair looked like he (sic) had been just styled by a lightening bolt, his body shook with the wagging of his finger.” Carnegie members insist that Sarti, whose hair usually looks normal, is not prone to such angry outbursts. But people closer to him may know different, according to teasing comments made in this month’s Carnegie newsletter by his ally Paul Taylor: “Bob is known to argue and even yell at staff when they just try to work around his quirks/idiosyncrasies/weird stuff….”
One thing that can’t be made light of though are “more wild accusations” Sarti made during the second attack according to Simpson’s letter to Whitty, “something about ‘looking down women’s dresses.’” Friends and acquaintances of Simpson are nonplussed by this accusation, saying they have never seen him sexually harass anyone.
Simpson’s ultimate purpose in writing to Whitty was to request that she “please call the mad dog off.”
Obstructionism by CUPE members
In his letter, Simpson told Whitty that immediately following Sarti’s second attack, he again reported the incident to Security. But Security guard John Dunnings, whom Simpson described as having an “English” accent, refused to write it up. Dunnings’ conduct can been seen in hindsight as part of an emerging pattern of obstructionism by CUPE members to ensure that Simpson is left unprotected.
When Simpson dropped off the letter for Whitty, Donna, the Carnegie receptionist, refused his request for proof of receipt. “I’m not signing for it,” she told him in a testy tone. Donna, who is usually congenial, told Simpson that she would simply put the letter with Whitty’s other mail.
There would be more uncooperativeness and hostility by CUPE members to come. Could this be related to the fact that the failure by a few CUPE members to consistently keep services at Carnegie open for the poor had been criticized on the blog?
Bill’s friend shows courage to take a stand
Frank, a man who sometimes volunteers in the Learning Centre and the Computer Room, told Sarti that his verbal assaults on Bill were “unfair”. It was Friday, Dec. 8th and Frank had stopped by the Carnegie newsletter office. He pointed out that Sarti did not know for certain that Bill had even written “that article”. Presumably Frank was referring to the “CBC duped” article which had caused the most furor. Sarti reportedly responded, ‘So Bill is sending his friends to threaten me now.’ I’m not threatening you, Frank assured him. “I feel threatened,” Sarti responded, adding that he did not even know Frank. Frank reminded him that they interact in the cafeteria, where Sarti does a stint once a week as a volunteer cashier, all the time: “You’re always telling me I fill my coffee cup too full.” Sarti then launched into a taunt: “Coffee thief! coffee thief! coffee thief….”
Three Security men arrived. One, whose name is better left unspoken, reportedly joked to Frank, “You sure pushed his buttons.”
It was not Sarti who called the “coppos” but Wendy Pederson, a community organizer who sits in the office. Pederson works in the newsletter office with anti-poverty activist and American ex-pat Jean Swanson. The two write for the newsletter and work on campaigns pertaining to the poor – welfare rates, shopping cart confiscation, homelessness, lack of affordable housing. Lack of free speech hasn’t made the list.
Bharbara Gudmundson calls Bill Simpson a “liar” and a “coward.”
Next, it was a woman who tore into Simpson. As he walked to the washroom on the same floor as the Learning Centre, he passed Bharbara Gudmundson, who was waiting for an elevator. Gudmundson confronted Simpson about writing the blog article, “CBC Duped about Downtown Eastside homeless”, in which comments she made in a CBC interview were scrutinized. She called him a “coward” and a “liar”. Simpson responded, “It was you who got caught in a lie to the press.”
Gudmundson told Simpson that his familiarity with the article – in which she was never explicitly accused of lying – suggested that he had written it. She would later make this case to another Carnegie member when recounting her confrontation with Simpson: how come he is so familiar with the article if he didn’t write it? He could have read it, of course.
Simpson returned to the Learning Centre where he told Chad, a volunteer tutor who comes from Deep Cove once a week, “Bharb abused me in the hallway.” Simpson heard Gudmundson’s voice at that point and turned around to see her in the Learning Centre, grinning at him. She started in on him again about the article. “Bill was minding his own business,” Chad said later, using the same words as those used by another witness describing Simpson’s behaviour prior to being attacked by Sarti.
Both Gudmundson and Simpson raised their voices during the exchange so Betsy Alkenbrack, a teacher on staff, told them that they would have to stop or go outside. Simpson immediately stopped, according to Chad, and went back to doing his work. But Gudmundson wouldn’t let up. Chad told her multiple times to stop or she would have to leave. Bharb responded, “I’ll leave when Security kicks my ass out.”
Eventually, Gudmundson walked out and button-holed Colleen Gorrie, the Volunteer Co-ordinator who has an office across the hall. Gorrie had become cool toward Simpson in previous weeks, he had noted to friends. “Colleen has stopped saying hello to me.” That was shortly after criticisms of Gorrie appeared on the blog – although she had not until now been identified by her full name, only by her first name or her job title. Criticisms of Gorrie were similar to those made of Alderson and Whitty, centering around the too frequent locking of DTES residents out of publicly funded services, always with the same excuse, “The volunteer didn’t show up”.
After listening to Gudmundson’s account of events, Gorrie talked to the teacher, Alkenbrack, who in turn barred Simpson from the facility for the day. “You’re going to allow this abuser to do this?” Simpson asked Gorrie, referring to Gudmundson. “You’re the biggest abuser in the Carnegie,” Gorrie responded.
A witness overheard Alkenbrack justifying the barring by saying that if you ask one to leave, you have to ask both to leave.
Mike McCormack, a volunteer tutor who has been at Carnegie for years but may not have been officially on duty at the time of the barring, said, “This is politics, I don’t want to be involved.”
The barring did have the stench of politics. Chad doesn’t want to be involved in internal politics at Carnegie either, but he was the classroom supervisor at the time of the barring and couldn’t see any justification for it based on Simpson’s behaviour – and he later told Director Ethel Whitty that.
A little courage
When Chad saw Whitty outside, he told her, “Bill complied.” Chad took the position that when a student is asked to be quiet and they comply, they don't deserve to be barred. But Whitty would hear none of it; her position was that both Simpson and Gudmundson had been involved in the argument so they should both be barred. Whitty’s unwillingness to allow Chad’s eye-witness account of the situation to interfere with the decision to bar Simpson came as no surprise to members of Carnegie. Politics trumps facts every time.
Chad, like Frank, was amongst the small number of people with the courage to speak up when he believed Simpson was being treated unfairly. It has been chilling to see how many people have been willing to go along to get along.
Gudmundson returned to Carnegie the following day. Odd, since she is not often seen at Carnegie as she does not live on the Downtown Eastside. She met with Alderson. And she met with Colleen Gorrie. Jerry Santino, a kitchen staff person who had also been criticized on the blog also attended the meeting in Gorrie’s office. “They’re plotting,” Simpson speculated as he looked out the window of the Learning Centre.
Bill gets barred permanently
On Friday, Dec. 15th , Alderson met Simpson at the door of the Learning Centre and asked him to accompany her to the downstairs Security office. With Skip, the new head of Security listening, Alderson informed Simpson that he was permanently barred from the Learning Centre for being the Downtown Eastside blogger.
Alderson emphasized that Simpson had been observed by a witness in the Learning Centre blogging on the Downtown Eastside Enquirer. That witness is a “a bald faced liar”, Simpson insisted. “Or you’re the liar,” Alderson responded. The witness, Alderson said, was a “long term volunteer” whom she considered “very reliable”.
Alderson told Simpson that the Downtown Eastside Enquirer was “derogatory”. Could Alderson have been referring to the article in which the blogger exposed her for sitting in the locked Learning Centre in the middle of the afternoon by herself as students peered at her through the plate glass windows: “She was hired as a teacher in the Learning Centre but today she was a sea otter in the aquarium.”
Simpson’s claim that he is not the Downtown Eastside blogger is gaining traction. Since the barring, a long term volunteer who is believed to be Alderson’s “very reliable” witness has contradicted her.
Carnegie witness contradicts Alderson’s claim that Simpson was seen blogging on the Downtown Eastside Enquirer
Alderson did not adequately cover for her “long term volunteer” witness and it took Simpson about five minutes to clue into who it probably was. He suspected it was C.M., a long term tutor in the Learning Centre. Simpson shared his suspicion with a friend of C.M.’s who in turn asked C.M. about it. C.M. recalled being called into the office of Alderson and Alkenbrack, and interrogated as part of their effort to determine the identity of the blogger. Whitty had later spotted him at Carnegie, taken him into her office, “closed the door behind her” and subjected him to a second round of interrogation.
“Have you seen Bill blogging?” Whitty asked C.M. He acknowledged that he had seen Simpson blogging or at least working on a web site of some sort. “Can you prove,” C.M. recalled Whitty asking, that Simpson was blogging on the Downtown Eastside Enquirer? “No, I can’t prove it,” C.M. claims to have responded. “I don’t look over his shoulder, I’m not a spy.” Not long afterwards, Whitty approved the barring of Simpson for having contributed to the Downtown Eastside Enquirer.
It doesn’t actually matter who Alderson, Alkenbrack, and Whitty slot in as their “reliable” volunteer witness, Simpson insists nobody could have seen him blogging on the Enquirer because he is not a blogger. But blogging on the Enquirer, a legitimate news and opinion site, would not constitute grounds for a barring without warning anyway.
To be continued. . . .
In part 2, get more details of Carnegie's harassment and barring of the homeless blogger:
- Carnegie Director, Learning Centre teachers, and Volunteer Co-ordinator, are exposed as showing reckless disregard for the support system of a long term DTES resident by pressing him on three occasions to act as an informant against another long term DTES resident and close friend. Despite his insistence that his friend was not the blogger, they have persisted, interrogating him as recently as January 2/07, at considerable cost to his psychological and social wellbeing.
- Carnegie denies Simpson due process by failing to provide him with written notice of the reason for the barring
- The Carnegie newsletter, partially financed by Libby Davies, gives Bob Sarti credit for tracking down the identity of the “bozo blogger".
- Blogging at the Enquirer doesn’t cease. Doubts arise about whether Carnegie nailed the right blogger. At a Carnegie staff meeting, an individual announces that they intend to contact a relative at CSIS (secret police) for help in tracking down the blogger.
Wednesday, January 10, 2007
[Note: Shortly after this article was posted, a hacker altered text, inserting libelous phrases like "child porn watcher", etc. etc. These criminally libelous insertions are being removed, but if you come across any that have been missed, please ignore them or notify us using the comment section. Thanks.]
An afterthought. . . .you're not a real student
After emphasizing to Bill Simpson that he was being barred from the Learning Centre for blogging on the Downtown Eastside Enquirer, even claiming to have a "reliable witness", teacher Lucy Alderson tossed in something else, almost as an afterthought: “You’re not a real student.”
Alderson didn’t push the latter point though. But she could be tempted to do so in the future, now that she is becoming a laughing stock for barring Simpson for blogging on the Enquirer.
Arguing that Simpson is not a real student is sure to become a quagmire for Alderson. First, Simpson is a registered student, which is more than can be said for some of the people using the Learning Centre. But even if he weren’t a registered student, that would not be grounds to bar him from the entire Learning Centre. Non-students have privileges in the Learning Centre; there is a steady stream of people from the street coming in to use the free public telephone or read the public access newspapers lying on the table.
But Simpson is not even allowed to access services available to non-students. An educated guess is that Alderson doesn’t want Simpson around to make a mental note of her occasional decisions to lock students out or evacuate them during prime school hours. When it comes to Simpson, Alderson wants to be out of sight, out of mind – and off the blog.
Singling out Simpson as falling short of real student status will be difficult in a Learning Centre designed to create almost no barriers for underclass people wishing to get onto a learning curve. Anyone can walk into the Learning Centre and say they want to learn a few computer skills. And Bingo, they’re a student. They’re given a little card to write their name on and assigned a peer tutor.
Simpson was a computer student, showing up regularly to teach himself how to build a website. He now has his website, timetender.ca, up and running. His volunteer tutor is Chad, the guy who comes in once a week from Deep Cove.
If Alderson and Carnegie staff claim that Simpson is not a real student, they can be accused of applying a stricter standard to him than to others.
Is Diane Wood a real student? Wood, a low income DTES resident, who uses the Learning Centre, is part of the inner circle at Carnegie. She hosts the Downtown Eastside Poets night in the Carnegie Theatre once a month. She is also involved in the Cultural Sharing program and a women’s sewing group – they’re working on a project related to the murdered women -- which Simpson dubbed ‘The Seamsters’ when they cleared the men out of the basement lounge. Like many Carnegie members, Wood does little more in the Learning Centre than write e-mail or type documents. But her politics are more aligned with those of the Carnegie staff and Association than Simpson’s or the Enquirer he’s accused of publishing. That’s why he’s barred and she isn’t.
Is Rick a real student? He sits in the Learning Centre and talks about DVDs he’s been watching, while he waits his turn to surf the net. He has been disappointed at times when arriving to find the Learning Centre door locked, but he believes it is futile for members to change that. Rick is a Libby Davies supporter too. He’s not a political thorn in anybody’s side. That’s why he’s in and Simpson’s out.
The ‘not a real student’ argument has actually been tried previously and failed. According to a tutor, there was an attempt to get Marilyn, a middle aged woman from Kitsilano who walks with a cane, barred from the Learning Centre computers on the basis that she was not a real student – although she was not being barred from the Learning Centre as a whole. Marilyn, an American ex-pat who went to school in Berkley in the 60’s, fought back. She wrote letters of complaint to assorted authorities, the tutor recalled, and made the situation uncomfortable enough for the Learning Centre staff that her privileges were re-instated.
The tutor's story about Marilyn has not been verified with Marilyn herself. But what is an indisputable fact -- Marilyn is vocal about it -- is that she uses the Learning Centre computers to disseminate material she produces to raise awareness about policies of the Harper government. Although she may be taking up a seat at a computer, the effort to clear her out was not as persistent as that faced by Simpson; she is not seen as threatening to the status quo at the Learning Centre, which encourages the production of anti-Harper material.
In fact, Marilyn has proven useful in this regard. James, the coordinator of the Canada Council funded Homeless Nation website, which last year made it’s home in the Carnegie Learning Centre and recruited students there, asked Marilyn to appear on a video. James had overheard her sitting at her computer talking about disseminating information on the internet critical of Harper for disallowing recipients of government grants to in turn use them to finance government lobbying. So he asked her, in front of several witnesses, to repeat her criticisms of Harper on a video for the Homeless Nation. “We have to get the word out,” he said. The Enquirer is getting the word out on Libby Davies but that's not welcome.
An afterthought: one of the skills the Homeless Nation was offering to teach students in the Learning Centre was blogging.
In preparing to bar Simpson, Whitty pressed a long term DTES resident to act as an informant against another long term DTES resident and close friend, permanently damaging their support system
C.M. and a neighbour on the Downtown Eastside have been best friends for a decade. The fact that C.M. and M.R. have been an important part of one another’s support system for a long time is well known at Carnegie; the two are often seen together at Carnegie or inside the Learning Centre. Rather than respecting this support system, Director Ethel Whitty, teachers Lucy Alderson and Betsy Alkenbrack, and Volunteer Co-ordinator Colleen Gorrie attempted to exploit it for their personal political gain – damaging it in the process.
When Whitty interrogated C.M. in preparation for the barring of Simpson, she announced that MR “has been seen with Bill”. Is MR the blogger? Is MR blogging on the Downtown Eastside Enquirer? Carl gave Whitty a flat “No” in response to these questions. Whitty was fishing: she would have been aware that C.M. had already eliminated MR as a suspect when he was earlier subjected to the same line of interrogation by the two teachers across the hall.
When C.M. was being leaned on by Alderson and Alkenbrack to provide information about his friend, he mentioned medical-related work he had known MR to do on the internet, although not in the Learning Centre. MR had considered this information confidential. But C.M. felt that if he threw something to the Guantanamo gals – not his term – to bite into, they would be satisfied.
The teachers were not without leverage against C.M. as he is reliant on their approval to keep his $100 per month welfare top up for volunteering in the Learning Centre. This was never mentioned during the interrogation, but everyone in the room knew that he could not afford to lose it.
Is it time to revise the BCTF ads from “Teachers Care” to “Teachers Scare”?
What did Whitty, a former social worker, achieve by working with the teacher and the Volunteer Co-ordinator to manipulate a low income man’s critical support system? For starters, C.M. and M.R. stopped talking to each other for a week. C.M. got depressed and went on a long drinking binge and spent a chunk of the limited spending money he had for Christmas. But he pulled himself out of it by telling himself, “I’ll feel bad later if I let my Christmas be ruined.” Whitty earns $104,000 a year and this is how she’s spending her time.
The reckless disregard for this low income man’s support system has continued. On January 3, 2007, Volunteer Coordinator Colleen Gorrie nabbed C.M. in a hallway and questioned him about his close friend M.R. Gorrie noted that M.R. “seems to be really friendly with Bill”. Then she asked, “Are they blogging together?” C.M. told responded, “No.” But he told Gorrie that he was starting to find this stressful: “It’s taking it’s toll on me; I don’t want to be involved.” Gorrie said, “OK.”
“What about the community!”
Truth is, C.M. sided with Alderson, Alkenbrack, Gorrie, and Whitty. He didn’t at first. Ironically, he was the first person at Carnegie to point out that even though Simpson got on his nerves – he calls him Birdcall Bill for occasionally whistling in the Learning Centre – he had a right to freedom of expression: “It’s free speech”. After being interrogated, though, C.M. dropped this stance and began saying emphatically, “What about the community!”
This is the essential tension on the Downtown Eastside – the individual’s right to free speech vs. the community’s almost total reliance on government funding which could be jeopardized by an individual getting off message in the media.
The workers who flock to the DTES each day for hefty pay cheques have, with the help of the Carnegie newsletter, worked to ensure that they are viewed by the underclass as part of their community. Article after article in the newsletter encourages the underclass to believe that their quality of life will deteriorate without these workers. They have convinced C.M. An attack on one is an attack on all.
Former Director Michael Clague was a master of this false consciousness, even inserting the term “Carnegie family” on posters. Anyone doubting that this is false consciousness need only look at the attack on the support system of a man on welfare by Whitty, Alderson, Alkenbrack, and Gorrie when their own class interests were merely challenged on a blog.
“empowering learning centre” propaganda accompanies muzzling of homeless blogger
As the witch hunt at the Carnegie Learning Centre resulted in the barring of Simpson and the placing of others under surveillance, the Carnegie newsletter did not for moment veer off message. The propaganda machine continued to go through the loops, like the 9/11 message on the intercom as the trade towers burned, the one assuring people that their environment was secure and they could carry on as usual.
Sandy Cameron was like that drone on the intercom when he praised Bob Sarti in the Carnegie newsletter for helping to build an “empowering learning centre” – that was in the same issue in which Sarti was praised by Paul Taylor as an “unsung hero” for hunting down the “now verified” blogger. Cameron, who writes Downtown Eastside social history in the working class hero genre, was in a position to know about the blogger witch hunt from the get go. He’s tight with Sarti and the other comrades; he has huddled with them for years in the newsletter office; his spouse, anti-poverty activist Jean Swanson, currently works in the newsletter office on campaigns to increase welfare rates and reduce homelessness. But Cameron can be counted on to stay on message.
Carnegie continues to deny homeless man due process
In the handling of Simpson’s case, Carnegie has continued what is a longstanding tradition of lack of due process for low income people who cannot afford lawyers. For 3 weeks now, they have ignored his requests – first made verbally, then in writing – that the reason for the barring be provided to him in writing, to aid him in launching an appeal.
On the day the barring was executed, Simpson e-mailed friends about being “banished” permanently from the Learning Centre” and one encouraged him to, “Get it in writing”. Later that day, Dec. 15th, Simpson returned to the office of Skip, the head of Carnegie Security and requested that he put the reasons for the barring in writing so that he could appeal. Skip refused. “This has nothing to do with me,” Bill recalled him saying in a defensive voice tone. You were the primary witness, Bill told him. “I’ll talk to Lucy,” was the most he could get from Skip. Nobody got back to Simpson.
A week later, Simpson wrote a letter to Alderson repeating the request that the reason for the barring be given to him in writing so that he could appeal it. He dropped the letter off to her in the Learning Centre on Dec. 21st, in front of two witnesses. “She just smiled when I gave it to her,” Simpson said. Alderson would be at Carnegie for the remainder of that day as well as another full day before leaving for Christmas holidays, but she gave Simpson nothing. And she apparently did not arrange for Director Whitty to respond to the request, even though Whitty was scheduled to take much less time off during the holiday season.
Permanently barring a citizen from an educational institution funded by the Canadian state is serious business. Yet due process has been completely lacking every step of the way: the barring of this homeless man began as a star chambers affair with a secret witness an no right to a defense; his requests for written confirmation were evaded; his ability to appeal was stalled for weeks as he looked through the window of the Learning Centre, sneaked in for five minutes on a Saturday to use the precious phone, or stood in the doorway trying to get the attention of a friend who accompanies him to the free food joints.
Alderson and Skip pump union dues into the BCTF and CUPE, which in turn finance campaigns accusing Israelis of disregarding human rights and human dignity. Meanwhile, back at the ranch….
Who you gonna call? A relative at CSIS
After Simpson was barred, there were rumblings at Carnegie and on the Downtown Eastside blog about Carnegie getting the wrong man. On Wednesday, Dec. 27th, at a staff meeting in Colleen Gorrie’s office -- although Gorrie was off that day -- the need to track down the blogger was discussed.
On individual at the meeting announced that they intended to call a relative who worked for CSIS to request help with this matter. So they’re seeking the aid of Canadian Security Intelligence Services, the secret police, to deter freedom of expression by citizens on Google blogger in Canada. There’s that Maoist Liberation Zone again.
The “pest” is at risk of being barred from additional Carnegie facilities for continuing to blog
Something strange happened on the way to extinguishing Simpson’s Charter-protected right to freedom of expression. Skip did an end run about a Carnegie policy. Members are reminded of this policy through posters: If you’re barred from computers in one area of the building, you are automatically barred from computers in other areas of the building. So people at Carnegie who had pressed to have Simpson barred wanted an explanation as to why Skip had ignored policy.
An individual from outside the neighbourhood article who had been upset about the “CBC duped” article, had been given an explanation: “Skip is waiting to see if he can behave.” Translation: Skip is waiting to see if Simpson voluntarily extinguishes his Charter-protected right to write about Carnegie and the Downtown Eastside.
Another individual not mentioned on the blog made a similar comment about the Simpson decision: “Skip decided to give him a chance”. When asked if this was speculation or if Skip had actually said this, the individual responded, “Colleen told me”. Colleen Gorrie had wanted Simpson’s banishment from the Learning Centre to be extended to the third floor and basement computer facilities, this individual explained, but Skip had wanted to hold back. This is the same Skip, incidentally, who earlier told Simpson that his barring “has nothing to do with me.”
But as Paul Taylor had predicted in the Dec. 15th Carnegie newsletter, the blogger would “continue being a pest.” Fresh postings continued to appear on the Enquirer after Simpson was barred.
What was to be done about this run-away free press?
There were indications that Skip had not abandoned the idea of barring Simpson from other computer facilities. On Thursday, Dec. 28th, Skip read through the log book kept in the 3rd floor computer room in which notes are kept by monitors on misconduct by users of the computer room. Skip didn’t seem to find anything that interested him in the log. A theatre person who had been angry about the “CBC duped” article said to Skip, “Well, I hope you get to the bottom of it.” Skip responded in a jocular tone, as if pretending to be a detective, “I’m on the case.” “Where they talking about you?,” an individual who heard this conversation later asked Simpson. “It sounded like it was you. I thought they were finished barring you.” Simpson did not believe they were finished: “Skip can’t look me in the eye.”
It's time the Vancouver Public Library took an interest in efforts to prevent Simpson from blogging. The computers he has been barred from in the Learning Centre and is at risk of being barred from in other rooms are operated by the Vancouver Public Library and Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation in conjunction with the Carnegie Centre.
Elvis sighted at Carnegie ... and he's blogging
Elvis, a 40 something native guy who is often in the Carnegie basement playing pool or using the internet, told Simpson that efforts have been made to censor him too. "He has a blog or something," Simpson says. "He writes about the Downtown Eastside."
Elvis' most recent experience of censorship occurred when he was typing an e-mail. A security guard came up behind him and said, "What are you writing. You can't write that here." Elvis, who claims that Assistant Director Dan Tetrault is aware of the security guard's conduct, believes that the names of certain computer users have been red flagged for surveillance.
A woman who heard about Elvis' experience had no trouble believing it. She told Simpson that in the first week of January, she was using a computer in the basement and got up to buy a coffee on the other side of the room. When she turned back, she saw a security guard bent over slightly, looking at her computer screen.
"I'm the blogger."
Word is spreading on the Downtown Eastside about the barring of the blogger. Dave, a Dukabour man at Carnegie who knows Bob Sarti, told Simpson, “Tell him I’m the blogger.” Dag, an immigrant from Idaho, raised on the First Amendment, said, “I’m the blogger. Give them my name.” Too late. The Carnegie newsletter claims that Sarti has verified the name of the blogger.
“The now-verified blog bozo”
In the December 15th issue of the Carnegie newsletter, Paul Taylor called the blogger a “blog bozo”, “slimy”, a “blank”, a “pest”. Others described the blogger as a “neighbourhood snitch”, a “dismal excuse”. Never in the newsletter was Simpson called what he is well known to be: homeless. His homelessness is an awkward fact for the newsletter committee and staff working out of the newsletter office on projects to pressure governments to be more sensitive to the needs of the homeless and the poor.
What Taylor did acknowledge was that the blog – the actual blog name, Downtown Eastside Enquirer, was censored in the Carnegie newsletter – had a humorous side: “Now I don’t want to ruin any laughs that Bob and Muggs [Carnegie Vice President who is also Bob’s spouse] get out of all of this stuff….” Sources at the Downtown Eastside Enquirer got a few laughs too. Like when they read comments by individuals who criticized the blogger for remaining anonymous and then signed, “anonymous”.
Or when Taylor, in his editorial in the newsletter, seemed to be getting into a pissing match after truepeers left a comment at the Enquirer.
truepeers: Love your blog, RS; i'm much pleased a friend sent me this way today; this is what blogging is all about and why it just might change our world. It's great to see you have some people pissing their pants....
Taylor: "I'll put the blank back in the well-deserved category of a four year old spoiled brat pissing in his pants."
One part of Taylor’s article in the newsletter that was not funny, though, was his revelation that Bob Sarti had been a central figure behind the witch hunt: “…Bob is one of the unsung heroes for getting to the bottom of this guy’s attempts to remain anonymous….” [Bob Sarti, incidentally, wrote for years under pseudonyms in the Carnegie Newsletter, even after he had retired from the Vancouver Sun.] The witch hunt had now, without a scap of credible evidence, been brought to a conclusion with Taylor referring to the “now-verified blog bozo”.
Security was called yesterday on Simpson who dared to enter the Learning Centre
Since being barred, Simpson has been known to use the free telephone just inside the door of the Learning Centre when staff aren't looking.
That may have been what he was doing yesterday afternoon, January 9, 2007, when he forgot his coat in the Learning Centre. He ducked back in to get it and within 30 seconds had ducked out again. Not quick enough. Colleen Gorrie, who has an office across the hall, spotted him and called Security. There was concern that he would be barred from the entire building, but he wasn't.
The establishment at Carnegie and on the Downtown Eastside can no longer tightly control the message
M.L., a DTES resident who has been going to Carnegie Centre for 20 years, has been watching the unfolding saga of the “blog bozo” in the Carnegie newsletter. He has a grade 6 education but as a daily internet user, he is aware of the futility of attempts by the Carnegie staff and Board to “villify” a blogger and silence him. “They have to learn to accept criticism,” he said, “valid or otherwise.” He added, “Don’t tell them my name; I don’t want them coming after me.”
It’s a new world. The underclass are going to be on the internet more, not less, interrupting the tightly controlled message of the left-wing establishment at the Carnegie Centre and on the Downtown Eastside in general. As Peter C. Newman, author of the Canadian Establishment, says, the internet is the “great democratizer”. People are on it “knocking down the walls of the castle.”
Friday, January 5, 2007
“Supporters also say the centre has reduced …the number of discarded syringes in public places….”
There is no doubt that many people who walk into InSite to inject drugs, walk out without a syringe to toss on the street. But for the record, the reduced number of discarded needles in public spaces can also be attributed to the fact that people are paid to walk the streets day and night picking them up.
The Consumer Health Board, which is housed in the same building at Hastings & Main as the Health Contact Centre, pays $28 for people to put in a four hour shift picking up needles and doing other assigned tasks. Vancouver Area Network of Drugs Users [VANDU] pays $10 for people to spend two hours picking up syringes. This is under the table income, at least in the case of VANDU members.
A VANDU member whom I know works picking up syringes at night. I sometimes pass him walking along Main St. with his specially designed bucket with a slit across the top. He says hi.
Here I’ll toss in something for Ripley’s Believe it or Not. Despite the fact the wages for these needle collectors comes from the government, it is next to impossible for a Canadian to get one of these jobs if you aren’t at least an occasional drug user. If you’re the type of person who has resisted sticking a needle in your arm or picking up a crack pipe, you won’t make the cut.
Another reason for fewer discarded needles in public places is that in recent years, boxes for discarding needles have been placed in both indoor and outdoor spots throughout the Downtown Eastside. The Carnegie Centre, like other major organizations, has installed these boxes in every toilet stall on every floor; they couldn’t stop drug users from sitting on the toilets to shoot up so they provided them a place to at least drop their needles. Street Program workers, paid union wages, are regularly seen entering these washrooms to empty the boxes into a safe bucket.
The boxes can also be seen in a few alleys; one box is attached to a fence at Oppenheimer Park, a notorious gathering place for junkies and dealers.
Yet another contributing factor to the reduced number of discarded needles in public places is the United We Can alley-cleaning program. It's a government funded program in which low income people are paid by the local bottle recycling depot to walk around in packs cleaning the alleys and sidewalks. They pick up litter, including needles.
That’s the whole story.
Tuesday, January 2, 2007
It's the new year and time to buy a new $1 membership card at the Carnegie Centre. That's what an elderly Chinese-Canadian woman had in mind on New Year's day as she headed up the front steps with a $20 bill in her hand
A guy snatched the bill and ran.
A bystander with crutches chased him but he was no match for the thief. The thief ran into the building and out onto the outdoor smoking patio where he must have jumped the fence by Chinatown to escape.
Someone standing on the sidewalk might ask under their breathe if you want to buy crack or morphine or something. But if you ignore them, they don't persist.
The media's tendency to make the people on the Downtown Eastside seem to be living dangerous, degenerate, desperate lives in a hell is sometimes called "poornography". Anti-poverty activists criticize the media for doing this but they do it themselves. It attracts more funding.
A former Vancouver Police officer who now works for the Los Angeles police told a Vancouver newspaper that the Downtown Eastside is not a dangerous place for police officers to work. He took alot of flack for saying that because comments like that can undermine requests for increased funding. But that officer was telling the truth.