Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Rainbow at Main & Terminal

On Tuesday evening I was walking by the Ivanhoe Hotel and it was raining and the sun was shining.  I thought, "There's gonna be a rainbow."  By the time I got to Main & Terminal, there it was.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Is the Fix In? Vancouver Canucks vs. Chicago Blackhawks

There's a book out called, "The Fix Is In: The Showbiz Manipulations of the NFL, MLB, NBA, NHL and NASCAR", by Brian Tuohy.  I've heard the author interviewed a couple of times by Ian Punnit on Coast to Coast, and once on a Vancouver radio station too.  He convinced me that there's fixing going on, even in the NHL.

So I didn't think it was just sour grapes when I watched GM Mike Gillis' at a press conference today, after the Vancouver Canuck's loss to the Chicago Blackhawks on Sunday, saying that the officiating has been highly suspect.  He said the number of calls against the Canucks is making it almost impossible for the Canucks to win.  Gillis said that in the last four games, Chicago has had 69% more power plays than Vancouver. In the last four games when the score has been tight, a one or two goal difference, Chicago has had 100% more power plays than Vancouver.  As Gillis read a list of statistics to support his claim that there has been nowhere near "a level playing field", I suspected, "The Fix Is In".

Here's an excerpt from Gillis' statement at the press conference that I pulled from the CBC website:

"One of the most difficult things to understand is why there has been such a power play discrepancy in the series. The Chicago Blackhawks have had 11 more power plays and a penalty shot. No other series has a disparity which is even close.

"I'm not sure how you explain that discrepancy," Gillis said. "We're going to be very hard-pressed to win hockey games if through an entire series when the score is tight, they get 75 per cent more power plays than we do. That's just the reality and the facts we're facing. When you break down the [Sunday] video, there are some extraordinary plays to explain with what has gone on.

"I don't know how to explain it. I'm just giving you the facts. It's easy to stand here and be emotional and look at the hit like the Bickell one on Bieksa and jump up and down and scream and yell. These are facts. They're undeniable. People think we don't have a killer instinct. It's pretty tough to have it when you're killing penalties all the time."

I'd like Tuohy to take a look at Gillis' statistics.

Sports is a business after all and there was a powerful economic incentive to stretch the series between Vancouver and Chicago out into 7 games.  The 7th game is generating massive excitement and media coverage and will attract a massive number of viewers.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Speech Police Order Comic who Insulted Lesbian to Pay $15,000, and Ban him for Life from Performing "Similar Acts" in BC

Photo: Lorna Pardy at BC Human Rights Tribunal

In March 2010, I sat through a four day hearing at the BC Human Rights Tribunal of a complaint by a lesbian that she had suffered discrimination based on sex and sexual orientation by a comic in Zesty's restaurant on Commercial Drive in Vancouver. (See coverage "Ugly Dyke" and "Dildo" Insults by Comic Leave Lesbian Attempting to Replace Human Right to Free Speech with Bogus  Human Right Not to be Offended.)  Last week, the BCHRT awarded Laura Pardy $22,500 in damages: the comic, Guy Earle, was ordered to pay her $15,000 and Sam Ismail, the owner of Zesty's, was ordered to pay her $7,500.

I haven't had a chance to read the judgment but I listened to Ezra Lavant interview Earle on Sun television.  Lavant, who is a lawyer as well as a television talk show host, said the judgement effectively subjects Earle to a lifetime ban on performing in British Columbia by prohibiting him from committing "similar acts".  Earle's stand-up comedy act is not dissimilar to the comments he hurled at the lesbians; one young comic from Zesty's testified that Earle's style is to shock people.  Earle has repeatedly defended himself by pointing out that customers were forewarned that they could be offended by what they heard; he had posted a sign on the door of Zesty's that night announcing, "Triple X, the Edgiest Show in Town."

Earle says the insults he hurled at the lesbians from the stage in his role as MC of a weekly amateur comedy night at Zesty's, were simply an attempt to silence their heckling.  He admits he drank too much that night.  Pardy, a meteorological technician at YVR, says she had been drinking beer but was not drunk.  Witnesses had vastly differing accounts of how much heckling had gone on.  My sense from listening to the witnesses at the hearing was that there were insults going back and forth between Earle and at least some of the women at Pardy's table.

Zesty's was known as a lesbian-friendly establishment.  A lesbian group performed there weekly. So  it appeared that this was an isolated case of insults erupting late at night, when the owner wasn't around.

The coverage of the case has at times been comical.  Levant pointed out that in the judgement, it was noted that hecklers had accused Earle of having a "small dick."  Levant told Earle that if this accusation was true, he could lay a human rights complaint against the women for discrimination "based on disability".

The government used tax dollars to pay for two BCHRT lawyers and other staff to hold a four day hearing and produce a 100 page report in their role as the speech police.  The accused got no financial assistance.  Ismail said at the hearing that his business had gone downhill after the BCHRT complaint.  

Earle's lawyer argued on the first day of the hearing that the BCHRT did not have jurisdiction in this case, that Earle's right to freedom of artistic expression, even offensive expression, is guaranteed by the Charter of Rights & Freedoms. Pardy's lawyer has taken the position that Earle was not actually engaged in an artistic performance at the time he insulted Pardy.

Earle says he won't pay the award to Pardy and will be taking the case to the Supreme Court.  That's exactly what critics of the BCHRT want to see happen, in the hopes of putting an end to their role as censors. The BCHRT have previously attempted to punish McLeans magazine for an article they published by writer Mark Steyn, an article about how rapidly growing Muslim populations can be expected to alter western democracies (in a way that will be less welcoming to Lorna Pardy and her galpals than Zesty's.)

The problem with going to the Supreme Court is that Earle has no money and "a family to support."  This case has over the past four years made him almost unemployable as a comic, as owners of establishments are afraid that if they hire him, the gay and lesbian community will organize a boycott of their businesses.  "I haven't had a pot to pee in for the last four years and I'm scrapin' it", Earle says.  He says he hates to ask for donations for the legal case but if you wish to help him, you can donate at his site  And if you wish to help Sam Ismail, stop by Zawa's -- he renamed Zesty's after the human rights complaint -- for a beer and a burger.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Van Gogh at the Ivanhoe

A friend took this photo today of a painting of the Ivanhoe Hotel that hangs in the Ivanhoe Hotel. The artist's name was too smudged to read. The style reminds me of Van Gogh.

When I left the Ivanhoe Hotel about 5 p.m. today with my friend and walked up Main St., an unmarked car with a red light on top stopped at the intersection at Main & Terminal. There were four stiff looking men in dark suits with gold badges, two in the front seat, two in the back. I couldn't stop staring at them, trying to figure out what kind of police they were. My friend said they looked "lifeless". Then my friend said, "Oh, it's Harper!" Stephen Harper's bus was following them, his blue bus with "Harper for Canada" written on the side.

If Harper had stopped at the Macdonald's at that intersection, he could have mingled with our burgeoning population of masked women. They remind me of bank robbers. There is a cluster of these masked people that go to that Macdonalds now, where Downtown Eastsiders regularly have coffee. I never saw any until this year. They may have gotten into social housing in the area since they turn up there semi-regularly on weekends with their kids. They even eat under their masks. I was looking at one a few weeks ago and her husband made a point of glaring at me; I thought he was going to punch me.

I would have liked Harper to stop and answer a question: Exactly how do people wearing masks pass our points system for immigration? We don't allow Klu Klux Klan followers under hooded masks into Canada because we know they hate Blacks. So why do we allow people into the country who hate women to the point where they believe they should be hidden under hooded masks.

Harper did tweak immigration policy to tie it more to the needs of Canada's labour force. South Vancouver MP, Ujal Dosanjh, said on CBC this week that if the Liberals are elected, they will reverse Harper's changes. More masks in Macdonalds.

Another thing: it seems to me that it's more often men than women who are taking stand against these masks. Like Lowell Green who wrote the book, "May Day, May Day."

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Mayor Robertson Accused of Pay Off to Police Chief Jim Chu who was Supposed to be Criminally Investigating him

This is something you might expect in the Chicago political establishment. Mayor Gregor Robertson is accused of giving a payoff to Vancouver Police Chief Jim Chu, while Chu was continuing to evade a request for a criminal investigation into evidence of criminal activity on the part of Robertson. At the very least, Robertson 'rewarded' Chu with a five year contract extension worth over one and a half million dollars for a job well done during the period in which he was stalling on investigating Robertson.

In May 2010 a request was made to VPD Chief Chu to arrange for an external police force to investigate evidence that Robertson, City manager Penny Ballem, and two security guards at Carnegie Centre were involved in the manufacture of a fraudulent security report and a pre-meditated plan to bar a Carnegie member under fraudulent pretenses, a barring which involved assault and extensive public humiliation. One of the guards involved, who the victim had never seen before but who had clearly been incited to target her, implicated Robertson and Ballem in comments he made at the time.

For some time, evidence has been reported on this blog of efforts by City staff to "bar" people from Carnegie who have complained of abuse, particularly those who have made their experiences public by talking to bloggers. We have reported that these barrings often involve public humiliation as well. When we reported this targeting of individuals who take their stories to the media, we could not have anticipated that evidence would eventually surface that Vision Vancouver has a "media hit list" along with a plan to ridicule people creating negative impressions of Vision in the media. Former 24 Hours columnist Alex Tsakumis broke the story. Mike Magee in the Mayor's office has denied the existence of any such hit list.

Despite the request being made in May that Chu arrange for an external police force to investigate Robertson -- Chu can't investigate because of conflict of interest due to Robertson's role as Chair of the Police Board -- Ballem, and two Carnegie security guards, the investigation has not yet been carried out. There is no doubt that Robertson knew that the investigation had been requested. Immediately after the request was made in May, Robertson reportedly held a secret meeting at Carnegie with witnesses and offenders. He interfered in a pending police investigation into himself.

By September, Chief Chu was continuing to stall in arranging for an investigation into his boss, Robertson. It was in the midst of this stalling that Robertson gave Chu a five year extension to his contract, at over $300,000. Now, seven months later, the case against Robertson and Ballem has still not been investigated. Are you surprised?

It is easy for Chu to treat Downtown Eastside women as though violence against them doesn't matter, because he knows they can't afford lawyers. Now a lawyer has offered to meet pro bono with the victim in this case to discuss how to proceed. He will review the evidence in the case, including a photo of the bruise the victim received. But that won't occur until the beginning of July when the lawyer returns to Vancouver from China.

Watching Chief Chu "on the take", benefiting from monetary and other rewards from a man into whom he is supposed to be arranging a criminal investigation, has led to distrust on the part of the victim. Even if Chief Chu was to suddenly meet his professional obligation to arrange for the investigation, she will be having no further contact with the VPD about this case without a lawyer present. Since not much happens over the summer, estimates are that there will be no progress on this case until September or October. A press conference will be held by the lawyer to update the public when a decision is made about how to proceed. (No further information will be released until that time.)

This case highlights the hypocrisy of Robertson and Chu on the issue of violence against Downtown Eastside women. Chu held a public meeting earlier this year at Carnegie to talk -- in front of media cameras of course -- about how committed he is to ensuring that violence against Downtown Eastside women is seriously investigated. To get into that meeting in the Carnegie theater, Chu had to walk by security guards at Carnegie that he was supposed to be investigating.

Chu would no doubt say he didn't take a pay off from Robertson, that he was due for a contract extension. But Robertson had an obligation to at least recuse himself from the decision. And Chu should have at least asked him to. An extension requires a performance review. How did Robertson manage to conclude that the Chief is doing a fine job when he knows the Chief is sitting on evidence of criminal activity against him.

Also at fault here are Police Board members. Why did Glenn Wong tell the media that he agreed with Robertson and other Police Board members that Chu was doing a fine job and deserved an extension of his contract. Did it ever occur to Wong, who told the media that Chu often calls him at home to talk, to ask Chu to avoid taking any form of reward from a government official he was supposed to be investigating. If Wong claims he didn't know about the investigation requested into Robertson, then he didn't do due diligence before approving Chu's contract extension, as the requested criminal investigation was a matter of public record.

Allan Garr, a columnist with the Courier newspaper, said in a column earlier this year that the Vancouver Police Board tends not to provide effective oversight of Chief Chu and his officers. Garr said the Police Board are more "lapdogs" than watchdogs.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Young Man Stabbed at Balmoral Hotel

A 24 year old man was stabbed at the Balmoral Hotel on Hastings St. on Friday night at about 11 p.m. He was reportedly trying to break up a fight on the dance floor.

As I look at these photos of police officers at the Balmoral after the stabbing, I'm reminded of something I've been noticing over the past couple of years: female police officers seem short to me, considering that there is a large pool of big women to hire from. I mentioned that to the late Tom Green, who was caretaker of Strathcona Park and then Robson Park, and he said that was because there's a lot of nepotism at the VPD and they're hiring one another's daughters. The lower height requirement also allows them to hire more Asian officers, male and female.

On a positive note, the woman who sent me these photos reported that police didn't bother her when she was taking them. It's been a struggle, but the VPD under Chief Jim Chu are getting more respectful of the Charter right of citizens to take photos at crime scenes. In the past many VPD officers didn't want their photos taken and photographers were being harassed, even grabbed.

Man Attacked while sitting in front of Waves Coffee Shop at Hastings & Richards

A man got a bloody forehead when a bunch of guys attacked him as he sat in front of Waves coffee shop at Hastings and Richards on Saturday at 3:30 a.m. The attackers were banging up against the window of Waves, according to the Downtown Eastsider who submitted these photos. A group of police officers arrived almost instantly and broke it up; somebody had apparently called them earlier. Police spoke to several witnesses. Women went into Waves afterwards, crying.

A server at Waves said these brawls happen every weekend, often started by people who have had a few drinks at the nearby bars. The victim in this case was tended to by ambulance workers but from this photo, it looks like he'll be ok.