Liberals harness bullsh*t as energy source

B.C. Energy Minister Richard Neufeld announced yesterday his government's plan to introduce sustainable energy sources and make the province energy self-sufficient by 2016. For those of you scoring at home, 'sustainable' refers to steadily increasing rates for BC Hydro customers, and 'self-sufficient' means that the Gordon Campbells of the world can live comfortably off their Alcan shares.

This page has his own goal of pointing out that British Columbia was energy self-sufficient in 1996. As some of you may recall, BC Hydro ran record surpluses and sold kilowatt hours by the bushel to California and Alberta, two jurisdictions that drank the toxic, battery-acid laced Kool-Aid of electricity privatization and deregulation. Look in your shoebox or behind the fridge for your old BC Hydro bill from before the Liberals took power in 2001 and have been giving us little sips of the same poison since. Notice that part on your old bills that says "rate freeze" or "rebate"?

If you destroyed all records of that period because the Vancouver Sun and Global TV declared it the "decade of decline", "dismal decade", or "NDP Holocaust", you'll just have to take this page's word for it. Believe it or not, there was a time when Hydro was allowed to build their own plants (so we weren't importing 12 to 15% of our power as Neufeld claims), you weren't being billed from a numbered corporation in Bermuda, and the Ministry of Energy didn't set goals we had in truth accomplished a decade earlier.


Let's all go to the lobby...

And now for a movie actually worth seeing. The Five Ring Circus premieres this weekend at the Rio Theatre (Broadway & Commercial). The film chronicles the sinister political manuring...er...manouvering around Vancouver's 2010 Olympic bid, and the ensuing fallout.

Recently, in my babble persona as Ursa Minor, I participated in an discussion thread entitled Let's Boycott the Vancouver Olympics. I suggested that it was possible to appreciate the Olympic games and remain opposed to the social and environmental beat down being inflicted by the NPA, the BS Fiberals and the Harpercons passed off as preparations for the Games. I'm looking forward to seeing this film, and finding out if that position will change as a result.

BTW, if you are going to the Rio this weekend, check your receipts from the Commercial Drive Safeway. There may be a coupon for a free small popcorn and soda on the back.


America: the yellowish, blinking, buzzing beacon of Democracy

Vancouverites who have been routinely pummelled by the jackboot-style of economic development practiced by the NPA and the BC Liberals can only watch developments just 200 miles to the south of them with a sense of distraught amazement. It appears that in Western Washington, there is something that still resembles a system of checks and balances when it comes to building and financing controversial megaprojects.

Let's compare the developments leading up to the construction of Vancouver's Canada (formerly RAV) Line, and the debate surrounding the fate of Seattle's Alaskan Way Viaduct. In Vancouver, Gordon Campbell's BC Liberal government was bound and determined to build a privatized rapid transit system to Vancouver International Airport in time for the 2010 Winter Olympics. The board of directors for the regional transportation authourity, Translink, opposed the project because the new line would not deliver a significant number of passengers at the cost of cannibalizing the regional bus fleet. After the Translink Board voted the RAV line down twice, the Liberals in Victoria got their way on the third try, and only because they passed The Significant Projects Streamlining Act, which empowered them to shove any pet projects they chose down the throats of objecting municipal governments.

In Seattle, the Alaskan Way Viaduct has provoked similar, if not greater volumes of debate given the number of commuters, truckers, and travellers who use the earthquake damaged artery every day. Governor Christine Gregoire and the Democrat - controlled State Legislature in Olympia wants to exercise the cheaper option of simply rebuilding the viaduct, much to the chagrin of Seattle City Council and Mayor Greg Nickels. Nickels (and this page) see the Viaduct as a big, noisy eyesore which cuts off Downtown Seattle from its waterfront. His alternative is to replace the Viaduct with a tunnel, and is putting the issue to a referendum, even if the Washington State Department of Transportation has already rejected the tunnel concept.

Direct democracy doesn't always work perfectly in Seattle - if it did the proposed monorail would have been built and Safeco Field wouldn't have. However, it is comforting to know that somewhere out there, there are local and regional governments who are willing to take into account what the voters and taxpayers think, rather than impose their will through parliamentary hegemony or the pulpit bullying of media toadies. 65% of Vancouverites voted in 2003 for a Winter Olympics bid because it included provisions on Social Housing and Sustainability. Since the right wing ambushed and extinguished the COPE City Council that insisted on the vote two years later, it will probably be the last time that kind of democracy will be practiced in this city in our lifetime.


And the nominees are....uh....

The 78th
Academy Awards take place this Sunday at the Kodak Theater in Hollywood. That's pretty much all this page knows about the Oscars.

This page doesn't get the Oscars in the same way some people don't get the Super Bowl. There are many people who will be glued to their TV's to see if they can pick the winners and cash in on their Oscar pool entries. In football, the teams that scores the most points win. At the Oscars, the movies that strike the right thematic (read: political) tone with the judges while retaining a requisite of technical merit win. If the winner of the Super Bowl was picked the same way the Oscars are, it would have been the New Orleans Saints hoisting the Lombardi Trophy this year.

There are others who see the awards as an exercise in liberal cultural elitism, particularly in recent years with
Michael Moore calling out George W. Bush, or the flurry of nominations for Brokeback Mountain. This page enjoys a good Bush - bashing or cowboy coming out as much as the next person, but I find that far too much of the celebrity soapbox is mounted on issues that aren't that immediate to most people. I'd like to hear something from the Extra/Entertainment Tonight crowd about public transit or trade unions or socialized medicine. Why should I care when Pamela Anderson yelps about boycotting fur when I can't afford to wear it in the first place?

I see an elitism, but it's a different elitism. To really appreciate the Oscars, one would need to see all the nominated pictures, which means putting up with perpetually increasing prices for tickets and concession items: religion is not the opiate of the masses, it's a $4 bag of popcorn. The movies are probably the only entertainment venue in North America where the cost of the product bears no relation to the cost of producing the product. You pay the same ticket price to see a small, independent film like
Little Miss Sunshine as you do to see a big budget extravaganza like Pirates of the Caribbean. By comparison, I pay $6 to see the Vancouver Canadians play baseball in the Northwest League, which is short-season class A, entry-level professional baseball. I pay $20 to see the Seattle Mariners in Major League Baseball. The Mariners have a payroll of $100 million, while the Canadians play for meal money.

The "masses" go to "franchise" movies like Pirates, as well as the other escapist fare based on comic books and fantasy novels because they know that somebody put a lot of time and money into them, so they can expect to be entertained and get their money's worth. That doesn't make these people stupid or "dumbed down", it just makes them smart shoppers, especially since most of these movies are released in the summer, the perfect time for three hours in a large, dark, air-conditioned room.

These people find the Super Bowl more interesting than the Oscars, largely because they can see all the NFL playoff games leading up to the Super Bowl on television for free. I'm one of these people, and on Sunday night, rather than subject myself to the hypocrisy of Al Gore's acceptance speech/surprise 2008 Presidential campaign launch for An Inconvenient Truth sandwiched between SUV commercials, I'll actually watch
a movie on TCM



Stop the "Best Place on Earth", I want to get off

This page is sick and tired of the bizarre alternate mirror evil universe that the BC Liberals have created in British Columbia, and quite frankly, it may not be long before I set out to find my way back to a life based on truth and justice rather than the greedy musings of a fascist elite. Yesterday's Provincial budget is a solid illustration of just how far the rabbit hole we've gone down since Gordon Campbell's bloodless propaganda coup of 2001.

Only in British Columbia can a budget anchored to further tax cuts for the rich be considered "holistic", when in reality, lower income groups will see their tax cuts erased by increases to BC Hydro rates and ICBC premiums. Only in British Columbia is a $50 a month increase to welfare rates "significant". It's significant for slum landlords who will now in turn raise rents by that amount and more. Taylor hinted that there would be money for the homeless in yesterday's budget, and guess what? She delivered on a funding formula to create more homeless people in BC.

The budget's housing package has only one real objective: to perpetuate Greater Vancouver's highly flammable and increasingly toxic real estate market. Taylor put just enough money on the table for the brainwashed to keep believing that the 300 sq. ft. box in Yaletown of their dreams is just out of reach. This is a government that has tried their absolute hardest to kill industries like forest products, shipbuilding, and the wild salmon fishery, but when it comes to keeping the real estate carpetbaggers who bankroll the BC Liberals happy, this government spares no expense.

As for any follow-through from the greenwashing rhetoric of the Speech From the Throne, it amounted to sweet organic recycled f*ck all. I guess we're left with the sophisticated high-tech monitoring of traffic shoving itself through the Gateway Project that the Liberals honestly think is a solution, so we'll know exactly how much we're being poisoned.

In her remarks yesterday, Taylor claimed that she wanted to "reward hard-working families who play the rules". Of course, it helps when Liberals keep changing the rules when it comes to things like drunk driving and insider trading. The Finance Minister also claimed that the booming economy will attract more people to BC, so that British Columbians can soon enjoy the same lack of basic infrastructure and public health care that our Alberta neighbours do

Taylor concluded with the Liberals' embarrassing rallying cry (which if they ever put on license plates will cause a rash of out-of-province car "accidents") of "this is the Best Place on Earth". British Columbia is not "The Best Place on Earth"(tm). However, thanks to work of Carole Taylor, Gordon Campbell, and the Liberals, BC is in the running for the title of "Most Corrupt, Dishonest, Brutal and Selfish Place on Earth".


Blame the Unions

Much of this page's hiatus last week was taken up with a considerable amount of soul-searching. Actually, if you're a regular reader and saw the CUPE BC and NDP links disappear from my sidebar, you know that the soul-searching has been going on for a few weeks now. This page is angry and frustrated by the labour movement's lack of ability and/or interest in attacking the BC Liberal agenda, particularly when it comes to the issues of poverty and homelessness is British Columbia. When people have to shove their way to the mic at the latest Olympic announcement or shackle themselves to each other on the floor of a cabinet minister's office, you know how hollow the words "An Injury to One is an Injury to All" are ringing these days.

Everything I learned in Labour History class leaves me pissed off with the BC Fed and my own Union. Why bother Organizing the Unorganized when our self-absorbed Baby Boomer membership (and leadership) each received $3,000* in pre-Olympic hush money...oops... signing bonuses from Carole Taylor? So much for any solidarity with the Anti-Poverty, First Nations, and Environmental movements who stood with us on the front lawn of the Legislature in the dark weeks of February, 2002. I know from experience that my fellow union members are people who will sit in rapture listening at the Union's convention to Stephen Lewis talk about fighting AIDS in Africa but at the same time shrug when Stephen Harper's troglodytes move to shut down the Safe Injection Site in Vancouver's Downtown Eastside.

Much of the fightback against the Lieberals during their first term came from members of the Hospital Employees Union (HEU), who were mostly front-line workers, immigrants, and women. HEU workers struck after Bill 29 demolished their collective agreement, and my union told its members working that they shouldn't cross the picket line, but they didn't have to march with HEU members to get their strike pay either. That one CUPE guy in front of UBC Hospital? That was either me, or the other guy - everyone else stayed home and watched it on TV. The HEU members weren't white middle-class baby boomers, and neither are the Anti-Poverty activists desperately struggling to maintain social housing, welfare rates, and opportunities to break the cycle of drugs, prostitution, and violence. Why does one of the most powerful labour movements in North America turn its back on the people most likely to back the ideals of the labour movement?

Today the self-interested silence from Big Labour towards the people at the margins is still deafening, and disturbing. The kinds of people who are flocking to the ranks of the Anti-Poverty Committee in 2007 are exactly the kinds of people that Unions like the Industrial Workers of the World were organizing in 1907. Where's the coalition-building? Where are the community campaigns? Last spring the BC Fed could have used public sector bargaining to not only leverage a comprehensive labour accord for the 2010 Olympics, but comprehensive social and environmental accords as well. If our public sector jobs were worth a General Strike three years ago, then affordable housing, decent welfare, real training opportunities and a public transit system to reach them are worth a General Strike now.
*For those of you scoring at home, I didn't get the signing bonus, thanks to my Union refusing to grieve my placement rights from a Medical Leave at the time.


The devil wears Gucci, and damns us all.

Yesterday the Anti Poverty Women's Committee staged an occupation of Finance Minister Carole Taylor's office to draw attention to the BC Liberals' ongoing neglect of the province's poor. The news of the occupation interrupted Taylor's pre-budget Marie Antoinette turn with the ever-fawning media synchophants, who praised the poor little dear for re-using the same pair of shoes from her budget speech last year.

If you'll notice in the link, the CBC has already whitewashed Taylor's reaction (their former boss still appears to have her well-manicured fingers on the right buttons), stating that "most people in the province don't believe aggressive demonstrations are the way to talk about serious issues." Watching Canada Now at 6:00 PM PST last night, this page distinctly heard the Finance Minister say "These kind of protests should be condemned."

NON-VIOLENT PROTESTS SHOULD BE CONDEMNED??! If a small group of women sitting on the floor of Ms. Taylor's office armlocked together warrants being "condemned", what rhetorical ammunition would the Finance Minister have left if the growing Resistance to the Liberals' agenda of manipulation, greed, and hatred resulted in her office being trashed, or worse, blown to pieces? The use of the term "Condemned" doesn't really leave the aggrieved party anywhere to go.

Memo to the Finance Minister: Stop acting like a spoiled little girl playing dress-up games, and put on some responsibility with a nice matching conscience for a change.


Erin Watada: American Hero

Despite yesterday's declaration of a mistrial in 1st Lt. Erin Watada's court-martial, it's still possible the 28 year old war resister from Olympia will still end up facing up to six years in prison. Watada was not willing to deploy to an illegal and immoral war in Iraq, but he is willing to sacrifice his personal freedom for his beliefs, and the beliefs of a growing majority of Americans.

The chickenhawks will squawk that Watada gave up any choice when he enlisted with the Army, which of course belies the notion of a "volunteer" army. This page has noticed a dearth of coverage in the Watada case outside of the Northwest, which leads me to believe that someone doesn't want to remin the American public of their inalienable right to become informed, and on the basis of that information, change their minds.

By all reports, Watada is the first officer to publicly refuse deployment to Iraq. If the Army does in fact have an officer corps recruited on the basis of intelligence and sound judgement, he won't be the last.


The real dirty words

Bill Bennett is on the outside of Gordon Campbell's cabinet looking in after his e-mail abuse of an constituent showed up at a prominent political blog.

This page contends it's not Bennett's caustic tone, nor the off-colour language that landed the now former Mining Minister in such trouble, but rather these particular words: "It is my understanding that you are an American, so I don't give a sh*t what your opinion is on Canada or Canadian residents..." To the Campbell Liberals, Bennett's real offence is that he forgot that this government, as a matter of fact, does give some serious sh*t as to what Americans think, especially the Americans who run Accenture, Omnitrax, Weyerhauser, the folks at Maximus who have our medical records...

Really, it's Bennett's own fault: He of all people should know that this Bennett's day when smack-talking MLAs let us run our own railroads and generate our own electricity are long gone.


Dog bites man, MP crosses the floor...

This time it's Garth Turner, who unlike David Emerson, had enough ethics to sit as an independent for a while after he was expelled from Stephen Harper's Conservative caucus. Turner thought briefly about giving the Green Party their first MP, but in the end opted not to upset the perpetual rule of the business class two-party oligarchy.

Ever notice how no one from the NDP or the Bloc crosses the floor? Ujjal Dosanjh and Bob Rae don't count - they were both Liberals in denial when their provincial NDP governments crashed and burned, long before they became MPs. Lucien Bouchard would count, but he jumped to the Bloc Quebecois on principle, unlike the hordes of career opportunists routinely circulating from one engine of Canada's corporate political machine to the other.

It's like Tommy Douglas said, black cats and white cats...


Shake it baby

According to Seismologists at the Geological Survey of Canada, Vancouver will be in a window of potential earthquake activity over the next week.

This page reminds area residents to be prepared, as emergency services may not reach you for at least 72 hours. Of course, you will need something to entertain yourself in the meantime...

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Side effects of blood transfusions

The seizure of three sextuplets born last month at BC Children's and Women's last month may have briefly split up the Jehovah's Witness family they were born to, but the ensuing court challenge may create a bigger split in the right-wing BC Liberal coalition in charge of the BC government who seized the babies. For most people, giving much-needed blood transfusions to premature babies is a medical matter of course, unless one's IV is attached to a plastic bag filled with a religious solution. The Carole Taylors and Colin Hansens of the world will sleep tonight believing that their government did the right thing, but the Rich Colemans and Mary Polaks will be stirring in the wee hours for a few nights to come.

That stirring could also stir the hard political right in British Columbia, who latched on with the BC Liberals under Gordon Campbell in an attempt to cripple their common enemy, the NDP, from any position of influence in the body politic. Fringe elements like BC Unity, Reform BC, and the remnants of Social Credit that weren't assimilated by the Liberals, all trade on the hinterland resentment of the urban, the unfamiliar, and the Godless. A government full of big-city rich folk treading on the religious freedoms of simple people by stealing their babies is too tempting a Goliath for these Davids not to load the slingshot for, and Goliath is already reeling from scandals only beginning to catch up with him. They may not knock the giant down, but they could soften him up for their socialist enemies to strike the final blow.