This conversation is over. Already.

Gordon Campbell wants to have a "Conversation on Health Care" with the people of British Columbia. Just when this page thought the BC Lieberals were going into hiding after shutting down the Legislature for the rest of the year, Campbell's twisted, perverted version of democracy rears its ugly head.

The highlight of the $10 million "Conversation" is a series of regional forums, where interested participants are required to register on-line with the government, and from those registrations, invitations are sent out at "random". In today's Globe & Mail, a BC Health Coalition spokesperson describes the process as "suspicious". This page describes it as "obvious".

Remember another of the drunk driver's pet projects, The Citizen's Assembly on Electoral Forum? It had people chosen "at random" from all 79 ridings to pick a new system of electing MLAs. This page lives in Vancouver Mount Pleasant, a riding that has one of the lowest per capita incomes in BC, and about 70% of residents are visible minorities according to the 2001 census. We were "represented" by a WASP who spends most of his time in Whistler selling high-end furniture. That kind of recruiting (mixed with a manipulative parade of 'experts' and the worst groupthink this side of Reality TV) led to the Assembly rejecting what was easily the most popular electoral model, Mixed Member Proportional Representation and recommending the convoluted "BC-STV" system which serves to do the little than give the right wing a permanent lock on power. More like rigged than random.

You read it here first. If you register to participate in the "Conversation", you will be excluded if you are a member of HEU, BCNU, HSA, CUPE BC, or the NDP. Even if you are not a member of those groups, you will be excluded if you do not match the demographic profile that votes Lieberal. Most importantly, don't even think of being invited if you have studied anything about the benefits of Canada's public health care system - Campbell wants as clean (read: dumb) a slate as possible to fawn over the lackeys from American corporate health providers and the Fraser Institute.

The rest of us will be left to sit back and watch $2.5 million worth of TV commercials about how health care spending is out of control, complete with syncophantic squealing without context from Canwest Global's lie pushers. For those of you scoring at home, context here means that the Lieberals spend less on everything else and forego revenue by dishing out corporate tax cuts: Of course health care's piece of the pie is going to look the biggest when the rest of the pieces are being cut smaller and smaller!

Hopefully, like the Citizen's Assembly and the disastrous "consultation" on treaty negotiations with BC First Nations, there will be enough British Columbians to call the Drunk Driver's bluff and tell him there's a time and a place to discuss these kind of things, like in the Legislature. Now.


Breaking News: Racist Demagogues breathe air too

California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has signed legislation which turns that state into its own Kyoto Accord. Committing to reduce greenhouses gases by by 25% before 2020 is a significant endeavour which no doubt required significant political courage on the part of the Governor.

Unfortunately, Schwarzenegger didn't find the same courage to grant clemency to Tookie Williams. Don't even think about nominating The Terminator for a Nobel Prize for his climate change effort when he had no qualms about having another Nobel Prize Nominee murdered by the State of California last year.


Billion Dollar Bastards: you call these "small" cuts?

Last week, this page promised to tell you this week what a deluded malevolent prick Stephen Harper is. Unfortunately, this page gets to deliver this week. As illustrated, what constitutes "small cuts" is really in the eye of the beholder. The Conservatives' yanking of a billion dollars in program spending may appear insignificant in Ottawa's big fiscal picture, but to the Canadians who rely on those programs, that billion was going a long way up until the axe fell.

canceling the Court Challenges program renders the Charter of Rights and Freedoms useless if one can't afford to access the Supreme Court of Canada to defend your Charter Rights. That move foreshadows the hate-minded agenda of a Conservative majority government, as do cuts to women's programs and research into medicinal marijuana use. A billion dollars is a small price to pay for the advance campaign to outlaw same-sex marriage, criminalize a woman's right to choose, and kick off a Reagan-style war on drugs that only drives dealers into a harder, more lethal trade and further underground.

Another area where a little goes a long way (at least all the way to Kandahar) is Canada's military. Remember how pleasantly surprised we were when the first thing out of the new PM's mouth was committing to asserting Canadian sovereignty in the Arctic? canceling a radar early warning proves the Conservatives never had any intention of following through on standing up to the Bush Administration. That commitment is just like their "commitment" to reducing hospital wait times or universal child care, so I guess that makes them equal opportunity offenders. The Arctic may be remote and inhabitable for most of us, but at least its Canadian territory and spending defence dollars there won't prop up the opium trade and America's perpetual war war machine like it will spending them in Afghanistan.

These "small" cuts show Canadians the big picture: this is a government intent on playing to its right-wing fundamentalist base and doubletalking swing voters in order to gain a mortal lock on Parliament. Hopefully, the cuts to Harper's caucus will be a little more severe after the next election.


The Green Carr parks

Adrienne Carr has stepped down as leader of the BC Green Party. This page is somewhat, if Green Party supporters will pardon the expression, stumped as to how to summarize her tenure as the party's leader. Under Carr, the Greens moved from fringe party status to... fringe party status in the course of two elections.

In 2001, the Greens fed on the anti-NDP electoral bloodlust and bragged openly about replacing the New Democrats as the Official Opposition. The boast flew in the face of a campaign dynamic that already handed Gordon Campbell's Liberals a majority, leaving Carr to sounding almost identical to Campbell: "We trust business to do the right thing" she said about pay equity. "Get back to work" she implored striking nurses. She backed the Liberals on taking away teachers' right to strike, and she wanted it taken from Translink bus drivers too. At the time, this page shredded many copies of the Vancouver Sun in fury, as the pundits chimed about the Greens splitting the "left-wing" vote. Rather than supplanting the NDP as the Official opposition, the Greens' ended up seatless and the vote splitting left British Columbia with no
Official Opposition.

Carr did, however, set the tone for the political left in BC in the four years that followed. Her petition to force a referendum on mixed member proportional representation put the issue of electoral reform front and centre, and in hindsight it was the right model, especially concerned to the Byzantine BC-STV model drawn up by a dubiously representative "citizens Assembly" who were hand-held throughout the process by Liberal supporters. The electoral damage leveled by the Greens at the NDP forced New Democrats to look in the mirror and recognize that the votes against Howe Street could no longer be taken for granted.

To this end, New Democrats realigned their relationship with the Labour movement, giving a stronger voice to progressive unions like CUPE BC and muzzling the IWA: tuning out BC's largest forestry union bought the NDP credibility on environmental issues. After enduring the combative Glen Clark and the defeatist closet Liberal Ujjal Dosanjh, The NDP took another page from the Green playbook and elected a strong, articulate woman of their own as party leader in Carole James. The move to the centre attracted strong candidates like Jagrup Brar and Gregor Robertson. During the 2005 campaign, the NDP usurped the Greens anti-polarization stance with the the slogan "Because Everyone Matters".

Adrienne Carr said that she wanted to move BC politics closer to the centre. She punched above her political weight, and unfortunately for herself and her party, the result was to squeeze the Greens out as both the Liberals and the NDP moved to the centre themselves. In 2001, the Greens had split votes in six ridings which cost the NDP official party status. On election night in 2005, the Greens had been marginalized to the point that Carole James was six seats away from becoming Premier.


Did Boeing make a splash or what?

This page is relishing a brief ray of sanity during our new dark ages. It could be that the Bush Administration is heartened by the gathering rumours of the death of Osama Bin Laden, or their realization that the human body is 70% water. Either way, the Department of Homeland Security and the Transportation Safety Agency are allowing liquids and gels on commercial flights as carry-on items again.

Since 9/11, have there have been any credible threats to commercial aviation in North America? Once you've sealed the cockpit door, put an armed air marshall on every flight, and racially profiled the passenger list, face it, anything else is politics. This time around, it looks like the politics of fear have reverted to the good ol' fashioned politics of pork. If Washington is looking for a deal on a high-tech border security system, would it not help to offer a company with a vested interest in commercial aviation a break at the security gates?


Fuzzy Bunnies are Nice

It has been suggested by some of this page's inner circle that recent editions of The bear604 Show have been too vitrolic, strident, petulant, bellicose, intemperate, and not very nice.

In response to these charges, this page presents the first in a series of features on Fuzzy Bunnies:

Fuzzy Bunnies are nice. They have floppy ears and love to hop around in the grass. Fuzzy Bunnies like to eat carrots and make Baby Fuzzy Bunnies. Everybody would love a Fuzzy Bunny for a pet. Fuzzy Bunnies make for very poor guard dogs, but they are ideal Nannies for Guinea Pigs and Gerbils.

This concludes the first part of The bear604 Show's look at Fuzzy Bunnies. Join us next week for the latest on Fluffy Kitties, Precious Puppies, and what a malevolent deluded prick Stephen Harper is.


The Buf Stops Here

Dan "Buf" MacLennan resigns as President of the Alberta Union of Provincial Employees (AUPE). Yesterday's article in the Globe and Mail declared MacLennan the "bad boy of Alberta labour". This page at one time was active in Alberta's labour movement, and met the outgoing AUPE President on numerous occasions. I found him not so much a 'bad boy' as a man who just didn't get it. Simple trade union concepts like "An injury to one is an injury to us all" or "solidarity" were completely lost on him.

After the 1993 Alberta election, President Carol Anne Dean fashioned AUPE into the only real Opposition to the "Klein Revolution". When MacLennan staged his coup in 1997, the union quickly threw out any notions of grassroots democracy, political action or social responsibility in favour of top-down, collaborationist business unionism. When the Klein Tories sought to privatize hospitals through Bill 11, only a handful of AUPE activists showed up at the Legislature rallies in Edmonton and joined the fight for public health care. Under MacLennan, the rest of AUPE treated the crisis as an opportunity for organizing health care workers, whether or not they were already members of another union.

This page shudders to think how MacLennan, if he was President of BCGSEU instead of AUPE, would have handled the fallout from the Campbell Liberals' Bill 29, which decimated the ranks of the Hospital Employees Union. Whereas George Heyman had the common sense and the wherewithal to tell the Liberals and the Health Authourities to step off, this page is certain that MacLennan would have been viciously elbowing Dave Haggard and the IWA out of position to sign up the 'new' cleaning and kitchen staff at BC hospitals.

It's ironic for Ralph Klein to say that MacLennan refrained from being "adversarial", when in fact, MacLennan's tenure as a prison guard set the tone for his adversarial, polarizing leadership. "Buf" surrounded himself with syncophants from his own Local 3 (Corrections), repeatedly called down members of the Provincial Executive who disagreed with him, traded on his personality cult with Alberta's right-wing media, and used the convention podium as a bully pulpit. Even if he relished playing the stereotypical "union boss", MacLennan seldom if ever went after employers. Instead, "Buf's" favourite targets were CUPE, the Alberta Federation of Labour and the NDP. MacLennan's lack of confrontation with employers could be because that in 2000, while his union was signing up record numbers of new members in a booming Alberta economy, AUPE was insisting on bargaining concessions from their own support staff.

As a result of his celebrity and reputation for being someone the Old Boys Club could play ball with, MacLennan's name was repeatedly mentioned in Alberta's political circles as a potential member of the Legislature or Parliament. It must be disappointing for his supporters to watch the President of Canada's largest public sector company union take on the role of a corporate head hunter. However, given his disdain for progressive trade union principles and his proven ability at hunting heads to swell AUPE's ranks, "Buf" is certainly the right man for the job.


Leave the man alone with his pain

This page is recovering from back spasms which were bad enough to hospitalize said page last weekend. Unless I find a keyboard I can use lying down, don't expect much by way of dispatches to this site for the next few days.

Note to ER attending physicians and pharmacists: warning a patient that medication may be addictive doesn't register if you tell them to take it for 2 or 3 days, but prescribe a supply that will last 2 to 3 weeks.


Conservative majority gunned down at Dawson College?

How many Conservative MPs does it take to screw in a light bulb? If your light bulb has just gone out and you're asking this question to Stephen Harper, don't expect a straight answer. Just like the Tories refused to grant a stay of execution to Vancouver's safe injection site while Toronto was hosting a major international AIDS conference, Harper has made it clear he won't be moved by yesterday's school shooting in Montreal to seriously address gun control.

While the Reform/Alliance/CRAP ancestors to the current Conservatives orchestrated the national chorus of bitching about the Liberals' particularly federal gun registry, the fact remains that most Canadians want some kind of gun registry, particularly in Quebec, which now has seen three different Montreal campuses (Ecole Polytechnique, Concordia, and Dawson College) terrorized by gunmen. Since it will take about a dozen new Conservative MPs from Quebec to screw in that light bulb in the next election , it's imperative for the Prime Minister to look like he's dealing with the firearms issue.

Unfortunately for yesterday's victims, their families, and all Canadians, Harper's promise of "more effective legislation" is no different than calling a token hundred dollars "universal child care". Harper has no policy vision beyond stealing the next election from an unsuspecting public who have yet to learn that catch phrases and manipulative rebranding aren't real policy. The Conservatives don't want to improve or replace the federal gun registry, they just don't want gun control but are too gutless to admit that to Quebec voters. Given the choice between Harper's doubletalk and Gilles Duceppe's vow to keep the federal gun registry, concerned Quebec voters may have the Bloc Quebcois pull the trigger on a future Conservative majority government.


NDP: "Support our Troops: Bring Them Home"

In pointing out that the best way to support Canada's Armed Forces is to remove them from the Afghan killing fields, Jack Layton and the New Democrats are liberating some valuable language from Stephen Harper's war party. During the first Gulf War, "Support our Troops" became code for "shout down the peaceniks before somebody actually starts to think about what's really going on!" The second Gulf War saw "Support our Troops" retain some of its original denotative quality, but only because the families of American soldiers had to buy body armour for them.

Corporate Canada considers "Support our Troops" to mean little more than a freeze-dried cup of Tim Horton's coffee and a pat on the back. Actually, make that a shove into an ill-defined combat mission that serves no purpose but to grease U.S. trade relations by positioning this country as serious about terrorism. Canada's corporate leaders have gone so far as to buy ads on the Washington D.C. Metro system showing Canadians doing their part in the "War on Terror". Is this about hunting down Osama Bin Laden, helping the Afghan people, or Bay Street and Calgary's Oilpatch showing the Bush Administration that we know how to play ball?

If you're looking for a way to support our troops yourself, this might be the best way possible.


How to screw the Mermaid

'Starbucks' now equates with coffee in the same way 'Tylenol' equates with painkillers or 'The Bush Administration' equates with evil. Somehow over the past couple of decades, the caffeinated corporate colossus has pulled a sort of reverse Wal-Mart: somehow they can run over the neighbourhood coffee shop and do it with a more expensive product.

The secret is in the branding: the Starbucks faithful believe their patronage gives them an urban hipster cache in the same way Starbucks' Seattle home evokes Kelsey Grammar's swanky TV apartment or Tom Hanks late night phone calls to Meg Ryan. This page spends a lot of time in Seattle, and the real Seattle has perpetual traffic jams, an army of panhandlers, a broken monorail, and an NBA franchise packing its bags for Oklahoma.

The real Starbucks equates not as much with coffee as they do with hypocrisy. No wonder the original store at Pike Place Market never joined the chain (the mermaid in their window is topless). For all of their progressive/liberal trappings, Starbucks only pays lip service to offering organic and fair trade coffee. The company may offer slightly higher wages and benefits than other service industry behemoths, but only as a last-ditch attempt to fight off organizing drives like those seen in Vancouver with the Canadian Auto Workers or in
Chicago and New York with the IWW. If the Wobblies are coming back to sign up the baristas, the Mermaid seriously needs to surface and look at her reflection.

Which brings this page to the title paragraph of this piece.
Starbucks management, through their more syncophantic employees, are complaining about customers cheating them by purchasing cheaper items (like espresso shots) and building their own versions of more expensive items (like lattes) using the free milk. This page applauds this kind of innovation: it saves money for the consumer and takes money from Starbucks. In Canada, Starbucks has a number of locations in Chapters bookstores, a retailer which also has a reputation for screwing over its employees and crushing mom and pop competition. After a five-finger discount latte, why not read a few best sellers and put them back on the shelf?


Quick! Look busy...and ethnic!

Vancouver is a cosmopolitan, diverse city with people from a wide variety of ethnic and religious traditions. Unless you're trying to impress a Federal Cabinet Minister.

How anyone could question Vancouver's ethnic and cultural diversity and crack the management ranks at City Hall is beyond belief for this page. If you're smart enough to give orders to municipal workers, you should be smart enough to know about Chinatown, Punjabi Market, Commercial Drive, the Powell Street Festival, Greek Days, Channel M, The rotating troops of ESL students, the lack of Conservative Members of Parliament...

It could be that the Fairview neighbourhood around City Hall is pricing itself into being another Shaughnessy, or the cancellation of last weekend's Vancouver Culturefest. For whatever reason, City of Vancouver officials felt they had to move a substantial number of visible minorities to the front of the shop and ask them to pretend that they worked there.

Federal Labour Minister Jean-Pierre Blackburn had stopped by City Hall as he was in town to discuss diversity and multiculturalism with local officials. This page hopes that after this unnecessary and pathetic window-dressing exercise, a definition of tokenism was on the agenda for Blackburn's meeting.


Also on this day in history...

In Santiago, Chile on September 11, 1973 the democratically elected government of Salvador Allende was overthrown in a bloody coup d'etat led by General Augusto Pinochet. Much of the coup was organized and financed by the Central Intelligence Agency, acting on the Nixon administration's belief that a popular socialist government in South America undermined American authourity in the region.

General Pinochet would go on establish an brutal dictatorship which lasted 17 years, threw out democracy, catered exclusively to the rich, and killed over 3,000 of its own people: for those of you scoring at home, this page does count the "disappeared" in that number.

28 years later to the day, about the same number would be killed in Al-Qaida's terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. In both instances, American interventionist foreign policy failed to take into account its own instability, leading to tragedy and violence.


Are ya ready for some BULLSHIT?!

The Walt Disney Company caused a stir in TV circles a few months ago when they announced that Monday Night Football was being moved from their major network ABC to cable sports outlet ESPN. ABC plans to air Desperate Housewives on Monday nights, but next week the network will be airing something truly desperate, opportunistic, manipulative, and vile.

America has become a veritable Fourth Reich under the Bush Administration, and beginning Sunday, Americans will have the propaganda to match. Josef Goebbels would have given a body part to produce something like The Path to 9/11, a miniseries which is little more than an infomercial for the War on Terror (tm) and a last-ditch attempt to turn the tide for the GOP in this fall's Congressional elections.

At the heart of this production is some deeply disturbing historical revisionism which places the bulk of the fault for 9/11 on the Clinton Administration, claiming that the former President was soft on terror. The real evidence illustrates anything but softness, and in fact, Slick Willie wanted wiretaps long before Dubya. Also, it wasn't Clinton puttering around his ranch in Crawford for the entire summer of 2001 and hanging up on the FBI.

After 9/11, the National Football League began treating their opening weekend as one big star-spangled orgy. Compared to the propaganda being offered on ABC, Sunday night's Colts-Giants tilt and the Vikings-Redskins/Chargers-Raiders double-header Monday night might seem almost countercultural, at least until the recruiting ads at every time out.


2026: Down with King Charles?

This weekend in Quebec City, New Democrats will debate the abolition of the monarchy in Canada. This page is certain that sometime over the next few days, this resolution will be used a few right-wing talking hotheads as an excuse to shut up Jack Layton about an exit strategy in Afghanistan.

Some elements within the NDP are trying to play down the resolution and hoping it won't reach the convention floor, believing it may come off with the same veneer of wackiness as when the party advocated withdrawing from NATO at a convention over 20 years ago.

Then again, what's wrong with being ahead of the curve once in a while?


Spinning Easy

Don has returned from his hiatus to bring us more Revolutionary Moderation, which is a good thing as this page is starting to get a little writers' block.