Supreme Court Burns Tobacco

Contrary to popular belief, Glen Clark's NDP government did more than build fast ferries, share a joint chequing account with the BC Federation of Labour, and hire suspicious individuals for home renovation projects. In fact, in 1998, the Clark government passed the Tobacco Damages and Health Care Costs Recovery Act. This legislation allowed the province to sue tobacco companies for damages (such as lung cancer or heart disease) inflicted on British Columbians as a result of smoking.

After seven years of court battles, the Act was upheld today by a 9-0 decision of the Supreme Court of Canada. This opens the door for potential claims totaling more than $10 billion against big tobacco, which could wipe out the leading cause of cancer among Canadians. Health Canada estimates the current cost of treating tobacco-related illness at around $4 billion annually.

One would think that Ottawa would be quick off the mark to pass similar legislation, but Health Minister Ujjal Dosanjh has more or less thrown out that idea and stomped on it like some many ashen butts: "I don't think that one views these kinds of issues as cash cows...It is never the intention of any government to bankrupt any companies." It's this kind of amoral spineless toadyism that cost this province an Official Opposition in 2001 when Dosanjh was the outgoing Premier, and why no one in the NDP misses him.

Ujjal might just be bitter because this ruling could shed a more positive light on the Glen Clark legacy, and may remind some people about who stabbed Clark in the back shortly after this legislation was passed. Hopefully when his bitter smoke cloud clears, he'll remember that he's the Minister of Health and Welfare, not the Minister of Corporate Welfare, and do the right thing.


Burning Down The House Leader

House Leader Tom DeLay (R - Texas) has been indicted by a Texas Grand Jury for a criminal conspiracy surrounding campaign finance.

DeLay, George Bush's legislative pointman, blames his troubles on Travis County District Attorney Ronnie Earle, a Democrat. He describes Earle as a "fanatic", "shameless" and a "rogue", which pretty much describes the protagonist of any John Grisham novel. If you haven't read any Grisham, don't read the end of this sentence (SPOILER): the kooky, crazy lawyer always hands his opponent his ass. Two words for Tom DeLay: plea bargain.

After the chaos of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, I'm sure the Republicancers are happy to see politics as usual on Capitol Hill.


Installation complete. Scanning for errors...

Former broadcaster and separatist sympathizer Michaelle Jean was sworn in as Canada's 27th Governor General today.

Watching the installation ceremony, this page is left wondering if the country is not in for five flaky years at Rideau Hall. Jean not only abandoned the dress she planned to wear to the ceremony after its designer revealed the outfit to the media last weekend, she also managed to ditch her French citizenship and her crush on Quebec sovereignty. This page has no problem with her choices, but some rationale is always enlighting and builds trust with the public. Confirmation hearings anyone?

The ceremony itself, which was big on touchy-feelyisms and folksingers wandering the Senate aisles, reminded me of those weddings where the couple writes their own vows, and the best man gets a phone call at 3:00 AM before the ceremony asking "Dude, what rhymes with radiant?" It also reminded me that if Jim Green thinks out loud even once about bringing back the folk festival refugees to open City Council meetings, I'm flushing my ballot for Mayor of Vancouver.

What also made watching painful was the CBC lockout, leaving the viewing public to the devices of CTV. This had two effects: One, the unavailability for comment by anyone who used to work with the new Governor-General, and two, Count Floyd Robertson repeatedly asking about how 'vivacious' Jean is. I didn't realize this was a qualification to be Governor-General: how vivacious was Jeanne Sauve? Ed Schryer? Georges Vanier? Lord Stanley of Preston?

Adrienne Clarkson didn't get off to a great vice-regal start either, but she gained tremendous credibility towards the end of her term for hanging out with our men and women in uniform and giving our troops their props. As someone who fled a military dictatorship in Haiti, I don't see this happening with Jean, so she'll need to gather an agenda on her own, maybe something using her chops as an anti-poverty activist. Otherwise, her job only goes as far as making Paul Martin look good for picking her to 71% of Quebeckers. Several swing ridings in La Belle Provence make the difference between an upgrade to a Liberal majority or Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

As for the rest of Canada, the latest former CBC stalwart in Rideau Hall will be given a chance. However, I am loathe to this trend if the Fifth Estate abandons its vigilance against the state just because someone among them could be its next titular head.


Can't spell "Same" without "Sam"

NPA warhorse/councilor Sam Sullivan knocked off Christy Clark for that party's mayoral nomination on Saturday.

Clark made a name for herself as Gordon Campbell's first term go-to girl, and by pissing off BC teachers at every turn as Education Minister. Thinking that she could follow in the footsteps of her former boss and jump from the Vancity Mayor's chair to the Premier's, Christy paid little attention to the fact that her driver's license reads PORT MOODY, nor did she consider recent history: the last NPA golden girl (Jennifer Clarke) led her party straight into the devastation of Hurricane DaVinci.

Sullivan, for being able to put a priority on policy rather than finger pointing photo-ops, is a trade up, but not by much. Having been around the NPA as long as he has, he offers not much more than what's been on the NPA menu for decades: more sucking up to developers, less affordable transit, more financial choking of municipal programs, and midnight squad car rides to Stanley Park for those who don't behave, complete with a little nightstick reflexology.

Sam is a little deluded in thinking the race between him and Clark is good for the NPA, given that Christy's taking her ball and going home to Port Moody. Anybody she brought into the tent won't be inclined to stick around. By contrast, COPE and Vision Vancouver have worked out a velvet divorce to the point of not stepping on each other's electoral toes. That gives small 'p' and large 'p' progressives a huge drop on the rest of the field. The centre-left gets a choice between 'Classic' COPE and 'Diet' COPE, the right gets stuck with the same old NPA.

That being said, I do credit Sullivan with one very positive thing: the fact that Christy Clark and I won't be neighbours anytime soon. This page advises interested buyers to contact their real estate agent immediately.


More Flirting with Disaster

As much as I feel sorry for those stuck in the parking lot between Houston and Dallas as Hurricane Rita approaches, I have to wonder if in some respects, they have themselves to blame. I'm not trying to be an S.O.B. here, but when traffic is moving (as CNN reported overnight, at 1 MPH) you're moving at least twice as fast if you get out and walk.

This is a clear illustration of what's wrong with North America's automotive fetish and our cult of the individual. I'm looking at this traffic jam like I do any other traffic jam: How many of these people are in their cars by themselves? Could they have rode in a vehicle together? Could they have used public transportation?

Is this page being unrealistic? I don't think I am if one applies the laws of physics. The rule that two objects (or people) cannot exist in the same space gets thrown out when 4 or 5 people can exist in the same carpool or three dozen can exist on the same bus. The smallest bit of coordination and reaching out to others could have created a lot more space on the Interstate than there is now.

Also, there may have been a little more gas left in the pumps. Like Katrina, Hurricane Rita is certain to drive up gas prices. You know what else drives up gas prices? Those oblivious to the laws of supply and demand who line up at the pumps to fill up because they think the price will go up again. You know what causes these severe hurricanes in the first place? Many of these same people who don't need to drive but do, which accelerates global warming, and heats the Gulf of Mexico so it acts like a rocket booster once a hurricane passes through.

In the long run, if you want to help the situation, put down the car keys and find another way to go: walking, cycling, public transit. You do have choices, your mobility is a right. Owning an internal combustion engine that emits greenhouse gases is not as much of a right as it is a problem.


This is only a test. If this were a real emergency...

In his usual direct, blunt, tell-it-like-it-is sort of way, Retired Major General Lewis MacKenzie has been pointing out holes in Canada's emergency preparedness. In our usual oblivious, ignorant, la-la-la-I-can't hear you sort of way, Canadians, particularly those in leadership positions, haven't been paying attention.

MacKenzie pointed out in today's Vancouver edition of Metro that the Canadian Armed forces should deploy a ship to Coal Harbour to function as an emergency command centre in case a major earthquake hits the lower mainland. The General points out that in the event of a major disaster in Vancouver, the nearest military response would be coming from Edmonton, over 1000 KM away. Given that Vancouver's major airport is located on what is essentially sand out in Richmond, that response would more than likely be in the form of a convoy down the Yellowhead Highway, turning the City of Vancouver's estimate of citizens needing to look after themselves without help for three days into unsettling myopia.

Hurricane Katrina has taught us all about what happens when governments overlook essential public infrastructure and services for the sake of tax cuts (and military adventurism). It would be great to have an emergency command ship docked downtown for an earthquake. It would be great to reinforce our bridges and tunnels. It would be great to have relief and support for the potentially thousands of displaced Lower Mainlanders to help them get on with their lives. The funny thing is, no one's really willing to pay for it, because there's the outside chance it could mean raising taxes. What's worse for our corporate "citizens", it could also mean that governments could no longer turn a blind eye when companies like Telus steal the jobs of their employees, ship them to places like the Philipines, and rip away part of Canada's tax base.

Global warming and international terrorism are raising the bar for what the public expects from those who govern us, and until governments are willing to divert the agenda from aiding and abetting no-holds-barred capitalism, we all remain in jeopardy. Tax cuts and higher dividends on our mutual funds are not going to protect us from disaster, and the invisible hand of the markets won't be pulling me out from under what's left of my condo.


Things I Learned On The Couch Today
  1. A Category 4 hurricane becomes a Category 5 hurricane when its winds reach 156 MPH.
  2. The French Monarchy was abolished 213 years ago.
  3. Bols Cherry Brandy can be used as a flu vaccine.

Note: Item 3. was discovered through independent research conducted by this page.


Aquilini's Air Ball

The NBA's New Orleans Hornets have agreed in principle to temporarily relocate to Oklahoma City. After aggresively lobbying the NBA to bring the team to Vancouver, Canucks owner Francesco Aquilini has been left fuming at the end of the bench. Outside of Aquilini's imagination (and Provnice hack Tony Gallagher's), did Vancouver really have any chance of returning to the NBA? In the reports that led up to the OKC announcement, no media outlet outside the 604 even mentioned Vancouver as a contender.

For the record, this page had season tickets to the Vancouver Grizzlies, and makes it to a Sonics game or two. I was one of the 13,000-14,000 who, according to the hockey-centric local media, weren't showing up to support a team which at best won about 20 games in a season, a loyalty-to-futility ration seldom matched in professional sports. A lot of people would love to see the NBA return here. However, basketball fans in Vancouver weren't that enthused about Aquilini's bid this time around. It could be his enthusiasm to swoop in and take away another city's team rubbed us in a Bill Laurie/Michael Heisley sort of way.


Fuck Hu

Chinese President Hu Jintao concluded his Canadian visit with a luncheon hosted by Prime Minister Paul Martin at the Westin Bayshore on Saturday.

Am I alone in asking why our provincial and federal governments bend over backwards to accommodate a regime that denies its own citizens basic human rights, bullies its neighbours, and refuses to abandon an illegal occupation of a sovereign country? Am I also alone in believing that the Beijing-sponsored 'demonstrators' (who were only there to drown out the Tibetan, Falun Gong, and Taiwanese communities) need a serious bitchslap?

To the knee-jerk anti-Americans among you, I realize those sentiments are more than familiar. However, Americans can exercise their inherent right to turn their own government around in congressional elections no later than November of next year. Chinese students tried working towards that same right in the spring of 1989, and were either gunned down or rolled over by tanks. Over the subsequent 16 years, that desire for democracy and freedom was subverted by Beijing's finger-pointing patriotism and bribery through name-brand consumer goods. The only marketplace that isn't open in China is the marketplace of ideas.

Observers/apologists like to qualify The PRC's behaviour by emphasizing the country is still in a period of development. China's development is that of a vicious, unrepentant juvenile delinquent spoiled by its sudden economic wealth and the laissez-faire parenting of the global community. How many times have Western leaders claimed human rights would be on the agenda at a summit with the PRC, and what guarantees of better behaviour did those leaders walk away with? Why is it that since those 'discussions' about human rights, people I know are threatened with arrest for taking a photo in a Beijing Starbucks, or denied visiting rights to the village near Shanghai where they were born and raised out of fear they may be arriving from Taiwan?

At this rate, it will take years before relations with the West and China can be harmonized, so that all of us can enjoy cutthroat capitalism and brutal totalitarianism...


Vonne-gut Check

I was lucky enough to be tuned into Comedy Central yesterday to see Kurt Vonnegut's appearance on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. Even in his twilight years, Vonnegut remains a titan of satire, and trading riffs with America's current court jester was a wonder to behold. For the record, this page has copies of just about everything the man has written, and is much looking forward to his latest book, Man Without A Country.

The highlight of the Vonnegut interview had to be his comparison of attempting to install democracy in Iraq with its installation in the United States. He advised the audience to be patient: "In a democracy, you don't have to give up your slaves until 100 years after you start one. You don't have to give women the vote for 150 years..."

Unfortunately, Vonnegut and Stewart ran out of time before the authour could get to his list of Liberal Crap I Never Want to Hear Again. As Stewart promised, The Daily show has it posted here.


The Red Shoe Diaries

In advance of today's BC budget, Finance Minister Carole Taylor summoned the media to inform the public of two items:

1. The province is running a surplus
2. She bought a new pair of shoes

In the case of item 1, when a government rakes in record commodity prices, dumps crown corporations like BC rail, and spends next to nothing on education, health care, and the environment, why would running a surplus be news?

As for item 2, I'm not sure what brand of shoes those were, but after seeing them on TV last night, this page is guessing President's Choice Memories of the Davie Street Stroll. Earlier this year Taylor opted to coast on the reputation as a former CBC President (The CBC's reputation, not hers) and whore herself to the province's Liberal corporate overlords as Gordon Campbell's "star" candidate. Obviously, the shoe fits.

While the syncophanterati were getting their foot fetish on, Taylor was heard to pun "This budget's got sole!" Tee hee. Of course this comes from a woman who in her CBC days thought the Royal Air Canadian Air Face was funny.

Oh...and hardballing the Canadian Media Guild. She thought that was funny too.
What's That Smell?

It's time to test your olfactory reflexes. Of the following items, which stinks the most?

a) The Burns Bog Fire
b) The sale of Terasen Gas to Kinder Morgan
c) Christy Clark's bid to become Mayor of Vancouver


Kicking off a culture shift

Sunday's fourth anniversary of the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon were overshadowed by relief efforts in New Orleans. This page will always be sympathetic to those who lost love ones on September 11, 2001, but remains anything but sympathetic to those who try to turn Post Traumatic Stress Disorder into government policy.

The most visible sign of America shifting from a "post-9/11" to a "post-New Orleans" era was at National Football League stadiums around the country, as the pre-requisite military cheerleading was resigned to a backdrop for the various pre-game shows, and the players emerged from locker rooms without being led by the stars and stripes. In the case of the New Orleans Saints, they took the field at Raleigh's Alltel Stadium for their game against the Carolina Panthers with many of them holding hands.

If the NFL is an American cultural barometer, perhaps the imperial maxim of "You're either with us or against is" is graciously eroding towards "We're all in this together".


Exorcise causes brain damage?

The Exorcism of Emily Rose opens in theatres today. This page usually rolls his eyes at these kinds of movies, but Sony Pictures promotional campaign caught my attention, and refuses to let go.

In one of the 'Emily' trailers, Sony uses the phrase phrase "based on a true story". Those of us jaded by the reality TV of Big Brother, Survivor, and Weapons of Mass Destruction in Iraq understand that "based on a true story" can mean just about anything. In this case, it refers to the Roman Catholic church actually recognizing the demonic possession of a 19 year old woman a few years ago, and the court case that followed after Emily died during the course of the exorcism.

The true part is more than likely the court case, but Sony mentions nothing about that part in the trailers, just the scary possession/exorcism stuff. Are they trying to pass off Demonic Possession is a "true" story, or is Sony just pandering to the winners of America's culture wars? A lot of Conservative Catholics have joined their Evangelical soulmates in believing those bedtime stories about demons, angels and that Saddam was in on 9/11. And didn't the Catholic Church also bring us such wonderful fables as "Your World is Flat", "Latex Ticket to Hell", and "Never Touched an Alter Boy"?

In the real world, "true" implies an objective standard, not the imposition of one's beliefs, be it Angels, Goblins, Trolls, Gnomes, Orks, Sith Lords, Republicans, or Demons. 'Emily' may have thought she was possessed, but a 15-year-old Japanese schoolgirl falling down a well doesn't make
InuYahsa a true story either.


S.U.V. - Stupid Useless Vanity

Ford Motor company has announced the fifth largest recall is U.S. auto history, recalling nearly 5 million SUVs and trucks. Consumer Advocate/Presidential Election Spoiler Ralph Nader says that the faulty, fire-starting cruise control switch could be currently installed in over three times that many Ford products.

This isn't necessarily bad news - Ford appears to have joined a growing portion of the public in (at least partially) recognizing that after their impact on the environment, urban planning, transportation costs, foreign policy and public safety, SUVs really ARE dangerous.


Unfinished Business

A couple of things I'd like to take care of:

1. I would like to call upon any and all individuals or groups, with such an inclination, to take out Pat Robertson. Not only does this hate-mongering charlatan encourage the Bush Administration to break international law by assassinating Hugo Chavez, his 'Operation Blessing' also stands to profit handsomely from donations intended for the victims of Hurricane Katrina.

Oops...did I say "take out"? Does that mean I want him dead? Wait...I can play the backtrack game just as well as Pat does on the 700 Club...I meant take him out...to the ballgame! Yeah, that's it! Buy him some peanuts and Cracker Jacks - I don't give a f**k if he ever comes back...

2. Although I will have to wait until the 69th Amendment is passed (the one that allows foreign-born persons to run for President, it comes after all the amendments permitting and denying same-sex marriage), I would like to announce my candidacy for the Presidency of the United States (pause for emphasis).

My platform is simple - I will run on the pledge to not go on vacation during the month of August. I will remain at my post in the Oval Office rather than puttering around America's buttplug (Crawford, Texas). I will be there to pay attention when people like Military Intelligence and the FBI, or the National Weather Service and the Army Corps of Engineers tell me something really, really, really, really, really, really, really bad is going to happen during the first two weeks of September, and I will do something to knock off a few "reallys" before the bad actually hits.


Rally Recap, or "Telus" the Truth!

I attended yesterday's Labour Day rally in front of Burnaby's Swangard Stadium, across the street from Telus (the truth!) headquarters. The Canwest Global cabal put the crowd at about 2500, which is a lowball given one could gauge the turnout against the Stadium grandstand (which seats almost twice that). Several municipal councillors, a solid handful of newly-minted NDP MLAs, and a trio of MPs (Libby Davies, Peter Julian, and Pat Martin) were on hand. This page is unimpressed that after trying to court union backing, no one from Jim Green's Vision Vancouver slate could be bothered to attend.

Representatives from the Telecommunications Workers Union, the Canadian Media Guild, and the United Steelworkers (on strike against BC Liberal Sugar Daddy Teck Cominco in Trail) addressed the gathering, and we were treated to the music of singer-songwriter/activist mascot Valdy. Viewers of the BCTV "News" on Global were later treated to a song and dance by Telus PR flak Drew McCarthur, who, while looking out on the sea of humanity his company has maliciously pissed off, cried about how Telus wanted to make their workers the best paid and most secure in Canada.

Given that Telus is looking for the right to fire and contract out anyone and everyone without cause or notice and bypass any notion of negotiation, mediation, or arbitration to get their way, the retail value of McCarthur's claim can easily be calculated by placing one's index finger to one's thumb and applying substantial pressure.

The best line of the day had to come from BC Fed President Jim Sinclair, who, in reference to CBC's hard line on replacing full-time workers with temporary staff, conducted an impromptu poll: "Anyone here have a temporary kid they can get rid of if they no longer have work? Anyone have a temporary mortage they can forego if their job ends?"