Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Crossing Class Lines in Paris

Middle-Class French Join Sleep-In Over Homelessness
by Craig S. Smith

the New York Times
Tuesday, January 2, 2007 by

PARIS - Hundreds of people emerged from tents beside this city’s Canal St.-Martin to greet the chilly New Year with a hot lunch from a nearby soup kitchen. But not all of them were homeless.

Dozens of otherwise well-housed, middle-class French have been spending nights in tents along the canal, in the 10th Arrondissement, in solidarity with the country’s growing number of “sans domicile fixe,” or “without fixed address,” the French euphemism for people living on the street. The bleak yet determinedly cheerful sleep-in is meant to embarrass the French government into doing something about the problem.

To highlight the plight of the homeless, some have traded the comfort of their apartments for cold tents along the Canal St.-Martin in Paris. (Photo: François Mori/Associated Press)

“Each person should have the minimum dignity in a country as rich as this,” said Bleunwenn Manrot, a 28-year-old with a newsboy cap on her head and a toothbrush in her hand. Ms. Manrot drove more than six hours with friends from her home in Carhaix, Brittany, to spend New Year’s Eve along the canal.

The demonstration has drawn enough media attention over the holidays for President Jacques Chirac to acknowledge it during his traditional New Year address to the nation on Sunday. He asked the government to work in the coming weeks to “put in place a truly enforceable right to housing” that would give the homeless the legal means to demand a place to live.

Given France’s well-financed social services, the country’s homeless problem is relatively mild — the national statistics bureau estimated the number of people living without a fixed address on any one night at 86,000 for all of France in 2004, about equal to the number of homeless in Los Angeles alone.

But even that number is disturbing for the socially active segment of France’s population. In December 2005, the French affiliate of the international charity Doctors of the World began distributing nylon pup tents to people who sleep on Paris’s sidewalks and beneath its bridges. The movement took hold, and since then the tents have become a fixture in odd corners of the city.

In an effort to increase pressure on politicians, another group, Don Quixote’s Children, marshaled some of the tent dwellers last year to set up their tents along the Canal St.-Martin, in the heart of “bobo” (short for bourgeois bohemian) Paris. The canal was dug by Napoleon to supply Paris with clean drinking water. Since mid-December, the encampment has become a happening in one of Paris’s most happening neighborhoods.

“There are 250 tents now,” said Jean-Baptiste Legrand, the organization’s president. “The people keep coming, and the tents are full.”

The protest has started to spread to other cities, including Orléans, Toulouse and Lyon, and has been picked up by politicians as the presidential campaign gets under way.

François Hollande, the leader of the Socialist Party, and Bertrand Delanoë, the mayor of Paris, have signed the group’s petition calling for a solution to the housing problem. Both of the leading presidential candidates — Nicolas Sarkozy, of the governing Union for a Popular Movement, and Ségolène Royal of the Socialists — support the cause.

Catherine Vautrin, the minister for social cohesion, met with Mr. Legrand and other members of his group and last week announced a tenfold increase in spending to help the homeless, to $92 million from $9 million. She said the money would allow homeless shelters to stay open around the clock on weekends and extend their weekday opening by three hours a day.

But a legally enforceable right to housing is the biggest prize sought by housing activists, including Don Quixote’s Children, and they remain skeptical of Mr. Chirac’s New Year promise. France already has a hard time housing new immigrants and asylum seekers. Fires in overcrowded, substandard lodgings have caused scandals in recent years. Finding a place for the hardcore homeless is certain to complicate those problems.

“Chirac’s speech means nothing,” said Ms. Manrot, the Brittany protester.

Such comments suggest that the long camp-out will continue. Organizers have arranged portable toilets and a soup kitchen to keep the ad hoc village operating. Vans of blankets and other supplies arrive regularly, much of the material donated by Parisians. Volunteers sweep the canal-side cobblestones to keep the area clean.

“I like the protest because it’s nonviolent,” said another protester, Renaud Huvé, 39, a photographer. “It’s a citizens’ call.”

So far, the authorities have been tolerant, though they have quietly evicted tent dwellers before, when the news media were not watching. The police broke up one encampment under a bridge farther north along the canal in October.

Magali Marx, 23, a sales assistant in a clothes shop, expressed the laissez-faire attitude of the neighborhood’s residents as she passed by. “It’s a bit of a pain for the people who want to walk along the side of the canal,” she said. “But then, these people don’t have a roof.”

Not all of the homeless are down-and-out French. A group of immigrants continues to live farther up the canal beneath what people in the area have dubbed “the bridge of the Afghans.” The government says that a third of the country’s homeless hold jobs.

The homeless who make up the bulk of the canal-side campers are thankful for the attention. “Let’s hope it makes a difference,” said Jean, a middle-aged man who said he had been living on the streets of Paris for eight years.

But staying on the street is anything but restful for those who have a warm bed waiting at home. Rain and high winds dampened the canal-side New Year’s Eve celebration. Ms. Manrot and her boyfriend, Franck Renardineau, ended up sleeping in their car.

“I sleep in one of the tents,” Mr. Legrand said, rubbing his pale, exhausted face. “But I’ve stayed at home a couple of times. We’ve got a lot going on.”

Jethro Mullen contributed reporting.

Copyright 2007 The New York Times Company


GE Cows to the Rescue

Young bulls were genetically engineered to be prion-free.

By Elizabeth Weise, USA TODAY

Scientists at a South Dakota biotech company have genetically engineered cattle that appear to be resistant to mad cow disease, a paper published in the Monday issue of the journal Nature Biotechnology reports.

Although similar genetic engineering had been done in mice, this is the first time it has been accomplished in cattle.

The team of scientists first genetically engineered a cell line in which the gene that produces the infectious protein that cause mad cow disease — prions — was disabled. They then used those cells to clone 12 bulls on the theory that the genetic engineering will prevent them from making the protein that, when "misfolded," causes prion diseases such as mad cow.

Those 12 bulls are now two years old and so far appear to be perfectly normal, says James Robl,. president of Hematech Inc.. in Sioux Falls, S.D., a biotech firm owned by the pharmaceutical division of Japanese brewing giant Kirin..

Although misfolded prions are not alive in the conventional sense, they can cause other proteins they come in contact with to misfold as well, creating the holes in the brain that characterize bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE, or spongy brain disease) in cattle and variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob. disease in humans and other mammals.

When scientists took brain cells from the resistant cattle and mixed them with prions in a test tube, the cattle brain cells did not misfold. Brain cells from normal cattle did. "That's a pretty good indication that they will not be able to contract the disease, nor would they be able to pass the disease on," Robl says.

Researchers have now injected mad cow-infected brain cells into the brains of some of the resistant cattle to see whether they develop mad cow disease.

"In one and a half years we'll have an answer," because prion diseases are so slow to develop, says Jürgen Richt,. a co-author on the paper and veterinary microbiologist at the National Animal Disease Center in Ames, Iowa.

The bulls appear to be developmentally and reproductively normal and should be able to breed true, creating a line of mad cow-resistant cattle, says Robl. Because they are still adolescents, they have not yet been bred, but their semen appears to be normal.

Because the animals are only two years old it's not certain if they might begin to show signs of difference as they live out their natural lifespan, which in cattle is about 15 years, says Richt.

In general the animals are no different from regular cattle, he says.

"They're more friendly than the other because they have been bottle fed and they had a lot of human interaction when they were calves. But they do seem more nervous." However that could simply be that the original bull they were cloned had a nervous disposition, he says.

Some scientists have argued that because the gene for creating prion proteins is so common in mammals and hasn't mutated, it must have some critical function that researchers don't yet know about.

Whether it's that the gene actually isn't important, or if there are redundant systems within the genome that take over when it's gone isn't known, Richt says.

At least for now the cattle are not meant for human consumption, says Robl. Instead, if they prove incapable of getting mad cow disease, they could be used to produce products important to industry, such as blood serum used in making pharmaceuticals and collagen for cosmetics. Because of concerns about mad cow disease, many companies have been scrambling to find cost-effective replacements for these, often with little success.

George Seidel, a expert on cattle reproduction technologies at Colorado State University in Ft. Collins, CO, calls the research "elegant" but with mad cow disease so rare in North America, he says it's more a niche market.

"There are much easier ways to deal with mad cow than to make transgenic cattle," he says.



Monday, January 01, 2007

A Forgetting of Convenience

Conveniently forgotten

Saddam committed most of his crimes when he was an ally of those who now occupy his country

By Tariq Ali

01/01/07 "The Guardian" --- It was symbolic that 2006 ended with a colonial hanging - most of it shown on state television in occupied Iraq. It has been that sort of year in the Arab world. The trial was so blatantly rigged that even Human Rights Watch had to condemn it as a travesty. Judges were changed on Washington's orders, defence lawyers were killed and the whole procedure resembled a well orchestrated lynch mob. Where Nuremberg was a relatively dignified application of victor's justice, Saddam Hussein's trial was the crudest and most grotesque to date.

The great thinker-president's reference to it "as a milestone on the road to Iraqi democracy" is as clear an indication as any that Washington pressed the trigger. The leaders of the European Union, supposedly hostile to capital punishment, were passive, as usual.
Although some Shia factions celebrated in Baghdad, the figures published by a fairly independent establishment outfit, the Iraq Centre for Research and Strategic Studies, reveal that more than 80% of Iraqis feel the situation in the country was better before it was occupied. (The ICRSS research is based on detailed house-to-house interviewing carried out during the third week of November.) Only 5% of those questioned said Iraq is better today than in 2003; 12% felt things had improved and 9% said there was no change. Unsurprisingly, 95% felt the security situation was worse than before.

Add to this the figures supplied by the United Nations high commissioner for refugees: 1.6 million Iraqis (7% of the population) have fled the country since March 2003, and 100,000 leave every month - Christians, doctors, engineers, women. There are 1 million Iraqis in Syria, 750,000 in Jordan, 150,000 in Cairo. These are refugees who do not excite the sympathy of western public opinion, since the US - EU-backed - occupation is the cause. Perhaps it was these statistics, and estimates of a million Iraqi dead, that necessitated the execution of Saddam.

That Saddam was a tyrant is beyond dispute, but what is conveniently forgotten is that most of his crimes were committed when he was a staunch ally of those who are now occupying the country. It was, as he admitted in one of his trial outbursts, the approval of Washington and the poison gas supplied by what was then West Germany that gave him the confidence to douse Halabja with chemicals in the middle of the Iran-Iraq war. Saddam deserved a proper trial and punishment in an independent Iraq. Not this.

The double standards applied by the west never cease to astonish. Indonesia's Suharto, who presided over a mountain of corpses, was protected by Washington. He never annoyed them as much as Saddam.

And what of those who have created the mess in Iraq today? The torturers of Abu Ghraib; the pitiless butchers of Falluja; the ethnic cleansers of Baghdad; the Kurdish prison boss who boasts that his model is Guantánamo. Will Bush and Blair ever be tried for war crimes? Doubtful. And former Spanish prime minister José María Aznar? He is currently employed as a lecturer at Georgetown University, in Washington, where the language of instruction is of course English - of which he hardly speaks a word.

Saddam's lynching might send a shiver down the spines of the Arab ruling elites. If Saddam can be hanged, so can the Egyptian president, Hosni Mubarak, the Hashemite joker in Amman and the Saudi royals - as long as those who topple them are happy to play ball with the United States.

Tariq Ali is the author of Bush in Babylon: the recolonisation of Iraq - tariq.ali3@btinternet.com

Sunday, December 31, 2006

RCMP Raids on B.C. Legislature Offices (Dec. 28, 2003)

Fifth Part
RCMP Raids on B.C. Legislature Offices (Dec. 28, 2003).

Hearings. Delays. Obstruction in the Basi, Basi, Virk case.
Journalistic cover-up. The collapse of responsible journalism in Canada.

Robin Mathews
Dec. 29, 2006

Gary Mason, special B.C. columnist for the Globe and Mail, has written one of the silliest and - at the same time - one of the most disturbing columns a Canadian might imagine. It was published to mark the third anniversary of the December 28, 2003 "raids" by RCMP on B.C. Legislature offices. It is based upon a face to face interview with the three men, David Basi, Aneal Basi, and Bob Virk, charged, variously, with a total of 14 criminal offenses, largely related to the dirty sale of B.C. Rail by the Gordon Campbell government.

The three men and the charges against them are, you might say, the tip of the huge iceberg of suggestions, allegations, and factual revelations of corruption in the Gordon Campbell government.

The silly report by Gary Mason might be acceptable if the Globe and Mail was doing anything like reasonable coverage of the thickening corruption in B.C. government. It is not. Mason is what I call "Gordon Campbell's personal representative at the Globe and Mail". He manages to make the Campbell government look good in everything he writes. Or he manages to leave it out of stories in which it should figure importantly - like this one. Recently he wrote a front page story on the complexity of Gordon Campbell's policies, never once referring to (a) the unflagging policy of destroying medicare in B.C., (b) the policy of removal of safety legislation all over the province (c) the policy of privatisation and sell-out of B.C.-owned wealth-assuring operations to large private (often foreign) corporations (d) the policy to downgrade and destroy protection of all kinds for all vulnerable people in the province (e) the policy to destroy the ownership of B.C. rivers by British Columbians and to hand ownership (in fact) to large corporate foreign control and ownership. What then did Gary Mason write? Fluff.

He is not alone. In a front page story (Globe and Mail, Dec. 11 06 S1) Mark Hume wrote a laudatory piece about the miraculous transformation of Gordon Campbell under (violins are heard playing softly here) the soothing guidance of a woman. All is beautiful, Hume tells us, about Native/B.C. government relations - never uttering a word of the information to appear a little later in this column. Vaughn Palmer I call "Gordon Campbell's personal representative at the Vancouver Sun." Why? Let me use one "for instance".

For instance, Vaughn Palmer has written column after column on the Native land claims in B.C.and about Gordon Campbell's sudden and stunning enlightenment and humanity on the whole question of Native rights. It took B.C. Mary, a serious non-journalist Canadian who is disturbed about the corruption in B.C., to point out that the recent Tsawwassen proposed treaty uses Agricultural Land Reserve territory to pay off the Natives AFTER they have given up some key treaty rights so they may be pushed into development games with private entrepreneurs probably to lose everything they have.

"The Tsawwassens have agreed to give up their Reserve status". The land they will receive has been removed "from the Agricultural Land Reserve making it OK to pave the richest, blackest soil in B.C." "So what seemed like a long-awaited treaty settlement is really just another part of Gordon Campbell's plan to sell off B.C. Rail and everything connected to it. Why else are there 185 spin doctors in the employ of the government, at the Ministry of Finance (See Order in Council #656 dated 12 Sept. '06)? " I quote BC Mary there to show what Palmer, Hume, Mason and the rest of the servants of the Private Corporate Press and Media fail, almost doggedly, almost devotedly to report.

B.C. Mary (not Vaughn Palmer! Not Mark Hume! Not Gary Mason!) revealed Campbell can attack the ALR preserves (and is doing so), destroy them, take in the Native peoples, rub out their historic defenses, and turn over land he has intended for Private Corporations to those Corporations under the guise of following a just and progressive policy.

Column after column from the major news journalists on Native Land Claims, and not a word of what B.C. Mary revealed. Two very simple questions offer themselves. If Gordon Campbell is doing his utmost to sell out every asset belonging to the British Columbia people and is doing so with secrecy, deceit, false advertising, and barbarous legislation, why would he work sincerely and humanely for the Native people? If he is permitting (and in fact earlier constructing) a ministry of Children and Families involved in the needless deaths of Native children, why would he be working for the future good of the Native people in B.C.? Are the journalists of the private corporate press really so stupid they don't look into real Native policy? Into the real designs of Gordon Campbell? Surely not. Then we must conclude their nonsense writing about Native policy and Gordon Campbell's enlightened humanity arises from other motivations. What are they?

On the legislature raids, from the allegations (true or false) against the three men named and the dirty sale of B.C. Rail, the focus shines hard down on B.C. affairs so that - played out in any reasonable way - the trial should threaten the very existence of the Gordon Campbell government. Is it fair to say the private corporate press and media are "employed" in covering up any information that may point to that central fact?

On the eve (?) of the trial of the three men Gary Mason secured an intimate interview with them. The three men came together in one room with Mason. Two of them even posed for a photograph "at play" at Bob Virk's home. That's called, in the trade, a "human interest" shot.

How did Gary Mason get the interview? Why did the men agree to do it? What negotiations did the Globe and Mail have with the Defence lawyers? They must have been involved. What Globe and Mail executives were involved in any negotiations? What guarantees were given that Mason would not ask certain questions? Did the Globe and Mail consult Martyn Brown, Gordon Campbell's chief of staff - the man who fired Dave Basi the day of the raid on the legislature offices? Was the Special Prosecutor, appointed by cabinet in fact, consulted? Who vetted the "story" before it was published - who read it pre-publication?

Clearly, the interview and story resulting from Gary Mason's meeting are considered important - or those events would never have happened. Who considers them important? The Defence team? The Special Prosecutor? Martyn Brown and Gordon Campbell? The purchasers of B.C. Rail? Who? Who else?

Not a word on any of that from Gary Mason.

Early in Gary Mason's story, we are told that Dave Basi "was an aide to the then-finance-minister Gary Collins [in 2003]. He [Basi] was considered the most powerful ministerial assistant in the B.C. government. Mr. Basi was also a political operative of some renown in both federal and provincial wings of the Liberal Party, highly prized for his ability to sign up large numbers of Indo-Canadian members." Bob Virk was assistant to Judith Reid, transportation minister.

We know, too, that Martyn Brown sent an early message, after the first Campbell victory, telling cabinet ministers, in fact, they were front-men only. Real power would be in the Campbell-appointed deputy ministers. I quote Charlie Smith in the Georgia Straight, 2003-12-31: "On June 25, 2001, Campbell wrote a letter to all cabinet minsters telling them that [Martyn] Brown would arrange the 'structuring and staffing' of their offices. Campbell also instructed ministers not to act like the chief executive officer of their ministries, adding that this role should be performed by their deputies who would be selected by the premier's office." That was the building of a despotism under the pretence of conformity to parliamentary democracy, a despotism in which all decisions of significance were to be made by one person: Gordon Campbell.

In despotisms the despot is the person responsible for government crimes and wrong-doing, for he is, in fact, the sole power-holder. Gordon Campbell, therefore, is implicated in every crime and wrong-doing of the present B.C. government. He has to be because of the structure of power he, himself, has instituted.

We know, too, because Dave Basi tells us in the interview, that Martyn Brown phoned him on December 28, 2003, and fired him. Note carefully that his apparent employer, Gary Collins, didn't fire him, the minister for whom he apparently worked. Martyn Brown fired him. And he did so by saying, "We're going to have to rescind your OIC [Order in Council] immediately".

Was he not saying, in effect, that Gordon Campbell and I hired you, and we're firing you, now? He seems to be saying, in effect, "You don't work for the minister, Gary Collins. You work for Gordon Campbell and me, and we're firing you". Was he saying more things?

We all know the questions that should come out of Gary Mason's description of Dave Basi as "the most powerful ministerial assistant in the B.C. government" and the rest quoted about him above.

What were Basi's duties? Just what did he actually do? From whom did he take instructions? To whom did he report? To Collins? To Martyn Brown? To Gordon Campbell? What relation did he have - as the most powerful ministerial assistant - to other ministers, other aides and assistants? What "political work" did he do from the ministerial offices? And who directed him in it? What role did he play in the dirty sale of B.C. Rail? How did he "sign up large numbers of Indo-Canadian members" to the Liberal Party? Who paid for the memberships? Where did the money come from? What, in short, did he do as apparent aide to "then-finance-minister Gary Collins"?

From Gary Mason, not a word, not a question. If Mason had asked the questions, we would have the answers. If he didn't ask the questions, the "interview" was a game, nonsense theatre, smoke and mirrors. And if he asked them and answers were refused, he should have told us that.

At the general time covered by the Gary Mason "story", Herb Dhaliwal is reported as saying David Basi was instrumental in his [Dhaliwal's] loss of his federal Liberal candidacy. Bill Tieleman (The Tyee Nov. 30 2006) quotes Dhaliwal directly: "I was concerned that people in Victoria were involved in meddling in my riding….I was the senior minister for B.C. who was working closely with the premier, and they had their own political staff trying to undermine me. I find that incredible."

Notice: "they had their own political staff involved in meddling in my riding." That would be Dave Basi among others, would it not? Who were the others? Is it not obvious that Gordon Campbell would have to have been closely linked to such activity (as the employer of Dave Basi)? To what other dubious activities was and is Campbell directly or closely linked?

There was, indeed, so much open talk and reporting of fraudulent bulk Party membership gathering that some of us acted. Nineteen others and I wrote a joint letter to the Chief Electoral Officer of Canada, Jean-Pierre Kingsley, and his office asking for an investigation of improper Party membership gathering practices in B.C. (Remember - see Fourth Part - Judy Tyabi Wilson reports that Gordon Campbell himself (earlier) allegedly floated to the leadership of the Provincial Liberal Party on what were alleged to be untraceable bulk Party membership votes.)

The Chief Electoral Officer - I believe - stalled and obstructed our request. He or his office wrote to say investigation is not in his hands. (Is he, or is he not, Chief Electoral Officer?) He referred us to another office and suggested we make our request there. Since the office was in the same building and part of the same operation, I wrote and said, in effect, "carry our material across the hall to them". Since the Chief Electoral Officer could hardly refuse to do so without looking like someone clearly attempting to obstruct, that was done.
The officer in charge of investigations refused to investigate and wrote - as I remember it - that if WE would get evidence of wrong-doing, he might act.

You could believe from that information that the Chief Electoral Officer and his offices cover for the dubious behaviour of the Liberal Party. But pause. They are not so exclusive. Remember when Peter MacKay broke his written promise to David Orchard not to integrate the Progressive Conservative Party into Stephen Harper's reactionary formation. Remember that MacKay then integrated with Harper, and the new force decided to call itself the Conservative Party. There were good grounds to fight both the integration and the choice of name - before the Chief Electoral Officer and before the courts - if the opponents moved fast.

But Harper, MacKay, and the Chief Electoral Officer moved faster. The Chief Electoral Officer extraordinarily opened his office on a Sunday and granted the Harper forces the status they wanted when the courts, of course, were not open to challenge the procedure, and most of the opponents probably didn't even know the Sunday meeting was being held.

Now, Jean-Pierre Kingsley has announced his resignation as Chief Electoral Officer after "a dustup with the federal Conservative party over political financing rules …whether the party broke the law by failing to disclose more than $500,000.00 worth of political donations." (Vanc. Sun, Dec 29, 06 A4) Jean-Pierre Kingsley seems to have won that round. Is he being forced out by Stephen Harper because he did so and wouldn't okay wrong-doing? We can only hope so. If that is so, we might be convinced that even Jean-Pierre Kingsley has limits beyond which he won't go.

Strangely, none of that kind of information is even hinted at in the Gary Mason "story" called "There is nothing to these charges". And, indeed, no investigation has been conducted (as far as we can know), and certainly no charges have arisen from fraudulent bulk Party membership gathering which appears to have been an intense, illicit operation conducted in the surround of the Gordon Campbell cabinet and related circles at the time.

There is not much reason to write about the seemingly staged chatter presented by Gary Mason in the "interview". But a few things may be said. David Basi protests about the charge against him (later dropped) and the media fuss made over the tenant in his rented house being charged with running a marijuana grow-op there. Basi says: "How many landlords ever got charged for grow-ops in rental homes?" Very few, we can easily reply. But reasonable Canadians may ask how many landlords of grow-op rental homes can claim to be "the most powerful ministerial assistant in the B.C. government", hired by the premier himself, and active in political candidacies both legitimately and, allegedly, otherwise?

Reasonable Canadians might say: "If you have such a publicly important and responsible job, you don't let marijuana growers rent your revenue house, do you? And if you do, should you be surprised that the situation causes a storm?" Dave Basi seems to think so, perhaps showing a dangerous kind of naivete about his actions and actions occurring around him.

Clearly Gary Mason was on an inside track when he conducted the "interview" and wrote the "story". He knows just what to include and what to leave out. Mostly. I call him in these columns "Gordon Campbell's personal representative at the Globe and Mail". He continues to suit the description. He slips a little, however, in his text. In his third anniversary story, before the January 15, 2007 hearing before Madam Justice Elizabeth Bennett, Mason tells us that the trial of the three men "is expected to begin next Spring". Obviously, Mason has consulted - with whom?

With Madam Justice Elizabeth Bennett? She is the only person who can rule on the trial date. Or perhaps there were negotiations among the Globe and Mail, the accused, the Defence lawyers, the Special Prosecutor, Martyn Brown, Gordon Campbell - and who knows what others? Could it have been the Defence Counsel, or the Special Prosecutor, or even Gordon Campbell who said there will be no trial until next Spring?

We have to face painful facts about the trial. To begin, the disclosure of evidence, it is argued, was obstructed by the RCMP and by the Department of Justice. The Special Prosecutor, appointed by the Attorney General with whom he had once been in partnership, appears to have done very little to produce evidence for the Defence in a clear, timely, and efficacious fashion. The Associate Chief Justice of the B.C. Supreme Court, Patrick Dohm - who interested himself in the proceedings, and the trial judge, Madam Justice Elizabeth Bennett, did not act quickly, surely, and insistently to make sure (over two years following the laying of charges) that all processes moved swiftly and with efficiency. The Associate Chief Justice, in addition, has put in place a set of protocols governing the release of public information concerning criminal trials which is an insult to democratic society.

Madam Justice Elizabeth Bennett acts - in relation to this trial - as far as this observer is concerned, not as if she is presiding at events that bring into question the legitimacy of the whole Gordon Campbell government, but rather as if she is dealing with a rather annoying case involving break and entry to a street-corner pizza parlour.

Let it not be forgotten that the former Appeals Court judge who dropped into Gordon Campbell's cabinet in a move that violates the prudent and necessary separation of the courts and political power has taken on the mantle of Attorney General of the province. As such, Wally Oppal recently made irresponsible remarks which, plainly, served (whatever his intentions) to call into question the legitimacy of the Basi, Basi, Virk trial.

Altogether too much about this case reveals activity and behaviour that many reasonable and prudent Canadians would not in any way condone.

One item of Gary Mason's information - as I have pointed out - is the casual announcement that the trial date of the three men is now "expected" to be Spring of 2007. Each delay, of course, brings closer the date upon which the Defence can claim that the accused have suffered so much by delay the judge must declare a mistrial and release them from all charges. For that reason Madam Justice Bennett must declare that the trial will go ahead very soon because it relates to the very fundamental basis of governmental behaviour in a free society and because it is a trial of deep concern to every British Columbian. Other commitments, other plans must be put aside by all parties concerned, and the trial must be undertaken before the end of January. If Madam Justice Elizabeth Bennett does not insist on such a procedure, Canadians may assume that law, justice, and the proper conduct of public officers are, for her, a silly, old-fashioned joke.

The last small insight in Gary Mason's "interview" comes from Dave Basi's conversation about Eric Bornmann, "the Crown's star witness, against the word of the two Basis and Mr. Virk. Mr. Bornmann has told police he paid Mr. Basi money for confidential information related to the sale of B.C. Rail. One of Mr.Bornmann's clients, OmniTRAX, was a bidder for the rail line."

No one at OmniTRAX, not Mr. Bornmann, nor lobbyist Brian Kieran - the last involved with giving Basi and Virk "benefits" - is charged with anything. That point has been made before and may, usefully, be pointed out again.

But what is also interesting is Dave Basi's and Bob Virk's familiarity with the characters involved. Basi refers to Bornmann as "Erik", and to Kieran as "Brian". Indeed, Erik Bornmann sent an effusive card and "the largest bouquet of flowers Amy Virk had ever seen" when her daughter Aleena was born. That, according to Virk, happened well after Bornmann had alleged to police the information which makes him "the Crown's star witness" against Basi and Virk.

Gary Mason probed none of that. Nor did he ask what other people might be implicated in the kinds of criminal actions about which the three men claim absolute innocence.

The foolish, silly, smoke-and-mirrors "interview" by Gary Mason is another indication of the collapse of responsible journalism in Canada. It, however, opens two questions. First: how much is the so-called trial of the three men charged (altogether) with something like 14 criminal offenses a sham, a farce, a smoke and mirrors performance, a piece of ugly and ridiculous theatre never intended to have an end but to be, somehow, aborted? Secondly, Mason's interview opens another question - opens it widely without, apparently, Mason even intending it to do so. Who, from Gordon Campbell himself down through government and associated ranks outside, should be facing criminal charges arising out of the particular corruption related to the dirty sale of B.C. Rail, to dirty party membership gathering, and to general and widespread B.C. government corruption elsewhere?

Those are not questions Gary Mason poses, or even intends, it seems. But they are the questions that just won't go away no matter how much he and his private corporate journalist associates try to paint Campbell and the Campbell government in rosy colours - to, it seems, cover for their every dirty deed. The questions that Gary Mason and his private corporate press and media associates absolutely refuse to ask are the ones that, fairly answered, would very likely bring the Campbell government crashing down.
Robin Mathews can be contacted at: