Estoy fuera de aquí.

This page is on his way to Mexico with Walnut Boat.

For those of you scoring at home, this is my first visit to Mexico. Not so long ago under Vincente Fox and the much more southern exposed Bush White House, it appeared that Mexico was about to nudge Canada out of the position as Uncle Sam's favorito.

However, after Iraq, the leftward tilting of Latin America's politics (including a near victory for the left in Mexico) and the incessant bellowing of Lou Dobbs, Mexico's centre-right regime under Felipe Calderon seems to be taking un paso detras from deep integration, at the same time Stephen Harper is shoving Canada towards it. For all the post - 9/11 security hysteria at most of the world's airports, this page looks forward to disembarking in a country where searches are conducted on the honour system and a passport is optional. While the religious right continues to wreak havoc on the Constitution and steal Americans' human rights, Mexico is slowly but surely making progress on gay rights and a woman's right to choose, despite being the bedrock of Catholicism in the Americas.

Regular episodes return April 10. Adios paha ahora!


Don't touch that dial

The CRTC is conducting a review of what should constitute basic cable television service in Canada. For those of you scoring at home, this page already weighed in on this issue when Angus Reid called me last week: seriously, does anyone consider this page as part of the "media" and ineligible to answer poll questions? At present, eight cable channels are fighting to remain on basic cable while three are looking to join the basic cable party. What's unclear is whether or not the losers will be moved to the programming of "extended" basic cable, or the digital tier where cable networks go to die. Among the potential cuts:

CBC Newsworld - Putting Newsworld on the block is a disgusting outright sop to private broadcasters, particularly Bell/Globemedia, whose CTV Newsnet can run unopposed.

YTV - YTV fills a valuable programming niche in providing shows that tweens, teens, and older types like this page in search of an anime fix will actually find entertaining, as opposed to the pablum Disney cooks up for Family Channel.

MuchMusic - Bell Globemedia bought MTV Canada from Craig Broadcasting, then they bought the CHUM/CITY menagerie, including MuchMusic. Is anyone surprised Much is on the block? MuchMusic still shows music videos. MTV has 'reality' shows which make you wish your remote had a 'flush' button.

Vision TV - God, no: and I can't tell if the pun is intended! A national, accessible, multifaith TV network is easily important enough to be left on basic cable. Polls consistently show that most Canadians believe in some kind of God. Vision broadcasts the word of some kind of God, or Gods, so why not give the people what they want?

The Weather Network - There's a few things I like about the Weather Network, mainly that they branched out a little into being 'The Environment Network'. What I can't stand is when they go to commercial, they pull the local temperature & forecast 'bug' (the little graphic), so I can't see what it's like out just before heading out the door. For those of you scoring at home, I can't explain, but looking out the window doesn't work in my specific locale. I need this channel.

Many of the new channels looking get on basic cable repeat existing programming mandates: is a national Metis network necessary when it could find a home on APTN? Doesn't a National Broadcast Reading Service do the same thing as Voiceprint (available via SAP) does? What does the CANAL multicultural channel offer that local multicultural access channels (or in Vancouver, Channel M) don't already?

What the CRTC needs to realize is that Canadians have a largely democratic view of basic cable. They expect basic channels to have majority appeal, with established space where minority and special inter views can be heard. If the CRTC wants to establish a basic cable tier that reflects a democratic, populist, egalitarian sensibility, consider pulling bourgeois hobby channels like Home & Garden Television, The Food Network, and the infernal combustion engine that is Speed Network. The one question the CRTC should also ask is that if the basic cable tier is so valuable, why do American network affiliates get guaranteed spots for the sole purpose of letting Canadian private broadcasters simulcast popular American shows and take in twice the ad money?


B-Line to tragedy

This page never ceases to be amazed how quickly Vancouver has devolved into a police state in the time I've lived here. Translink will be placing armed officers on Coast Mountain Bus Company's 99 B-Line route, the busiest transit route in Greater Vancouver. While 241 assaults were made against bus drivers last year, just how many of those warrant gunning down the perpetrator? Most assaults occur when brown-nosing drivers take it upon themselves to enforce Translink's extortionary fares, when their union has made it clear to them on more than one occasion that it's not their job.

The 99 B-Line deployment is an accidental shooting waiting to happen. The route stretches from Broadway/Commercial Drive Station to the University of British Columbia campus, with most of the city's major health care facilities at VGH in the middle. Sooner or later, a student activist, maybe with the Bus Riders Union, a psychiatric outpatient, or just somebody who's having a really bad day is going to get on the overcrowded bus and cross an overstressed bus driver.

This situation plays itself out just about every day in this city and is usually resolved without much trouble. Now you have men with guns involved.


Le fin de la revolution tranquille

It's election day in Quebec, and while the polls foretell a minority government with the Union Nationale...er....Action Democratique de Quebec holding the balance of power, it's more than apparent that such a result means all of Quebec loses.

Perhaps it was reading too many plays by Michel Tremblay or watching Gilles Duceppe take his opponents to school in the leaders debates, but this page has always empathized with the Sovereigntist cause. Canadians, particularly in the Alberta where I was born and raised, like to believe that Quebec should conduct herself like any other province. Such a sentiment might find a hearing with this page if Quebec hadn't been treated like English Canada's colony from the Plains of Abraham to 1976. Andre Bosclair's comment about service at Eaton's only being in English? He wasn't making that up.

Things started to change around the 1960's when Jean Lesage declared that Quebecers would be "Maitres chez nous" (Masters in our own house) and started creating institutional counterweights to the power of Anglophone capitalists and their sycophants in the Catholic Church. The Quiet Revolution turned up the volume when Rene Levesque and the Parti Quebecois won the 1976 election: for the first time Quebeckers could talk about building thier own nation without fear of being sent to prison like some of them were in October of 1970.

The psychodramatic carousel of accords and referrenda that followed has nothing to do with the fact that over the past few decades, Quebec has been building a nation relatively free of old world influence. It was under Levesque that Quebec took control of its immigration policy, and to the chagrin of "pur laine" Quebecois, declared that a "Quebecker is a Quebecker is a Quebecker", whether they hailed from Mont-Blanc or Morocco.

Unfortunately, the carousel ride has made some Quebeckers a little too dizzy to remember that tradition of tolerance, and are rallying to the anti-immigrant xenophobia of Mario Dumont and the ADQ. There is something seriously wrong when a culture that historically portrays itself as a victimized minority turns around and victimizes another minority, ie. Muslim immigrants. Standing up for the stupidity in Herouxville while pursuing a Stephen Harper - friendly economic platform makes Dumont into something of a Petit Duplessis. Lysiane Gagnon can claim in today's Globe & Mail that Quebec's progressiveness was aways "a myth", but compared to Mike Harris, Ralph Klein, or Gordon Campbell, that myth defaults to the truth.

Here's hoping that strategic voting and vote splitting condemns those furthest on the right (the Liberals & the ADQ) to watching a surprise PQ majority that will have everyone (including a would-be unhappy Stephen Harper) screaming for proportional representation.


Passports? We don't need no stinking passports!

Washington's State Legislature has poked the first hole in the Bush Administration's ongoing efforts to choke America's borders. By approving an enhanced driver's license and obtaining assurances that neighbrouing British Columbia will follow suit, it appears that at least one checkpoint between Canada and the United States may operate at level something close to business as usual.

For those of you scoring at home, there has only been one reported terrorist incident at the B.C. - Washington border, when the Millenium Bomber was captured in Port Angeles. Most border problems have been the result of police chases in Washington ending up at the unarmed (and very quickly unmanned) Canadian checkpoints, or smuggling, which ranges from the petty to building your very own drug tunnel under the border.

Homeland Security's insistence on passports, and the Harper Conservatives' acquiescence of passports, fails to reflect the shared commerce and culture between people in Washington and B.C. Many Point Roberts residents work in Vancouver. Quick Shuttle takes air travellers looking for cheap flights from the Lower Mainland to Sea-Tac airport daily. Seattle Mariners' games are broadcast on local TV and radio stations around B.C. during the summer. This page has spent a few delightful hours over beers with members of the Pacific Northwest Labour History Association who hail from B.C., Washington, and Oregon. Having spent over half a decade in this part of North America, this page feels more at home in Seattle or Portland than I do in Calgary or Edmonton.

The enhanced Driver's License is a step in the right direction. The next step is for Homeland Security to remember why it's the longest undefended border in the world



With Liberals like Joe, who needs Tories?

Thunder Bay MP Joe Comuzzi has been expelled from the Liberal caucus for supporting the Conservative budget introduced in the House of Commons on Monday. For those of you scoring at home, Comuzzi was supporting a budget that Liberals would have had no problems supporting until Stephane Dion told them not to. Budget 2007 has a stench porky enough to send Paul Martin on the first steamship out of town.

The falling out with the Liberals actually started well before the budget, when they were still in power and Commuzi resigned over same-sex marriage legislation. Like a number of Liberal MPs, Commuzi has doesn't grasp that as a "Liberal" MP, one has to toe the line on liberal issues like equal marriage. If Mr. Dion wants a caucus of real Liberals, the next step may be to ask Tom Wappel and his troglodyte ilk what they thought of the budget.


I thought Skytrain ran on an elevated track, not the Napoleonic Code...

Translink has been recently campaigning against the re-selling of transit fares. This page grudgingly concedes the rationale behind this campaign, but would like to point out that ideally, all public transit should be directly subsidized though tax revenues. Every UBC student has to pay for a U-Pass, but because every student pays it's only $22 a month. Imagine the price and the level of service if a that kind of funding was available across the Lower Mainland.

Dictating that passengers buy their fares from authorized sources only makes sense in that the money goes directly back into the transit system. However, this page takes exception to Translink's prohibition against giving away fares. Possession of my bus transfer or SkyTrain ticket being 9/10 of the law, who has the right to tell me what to do with it when I'm done with it? If somebody convinces me that they desperately need a ride somewhere, why should Translink stop me from helping that person out? Assuming that I'm giving a ticket to someone for resale equals an assumption of my guilt and the guilt of the person I give the ticket to.

The last time this page checked, Canada's legal system still ran on the pretext of being innocent until proven guilty. Translink may need to protect their revenues, but in doing so they must respect the rights of the people using the system, including those who may not be able to afford to, and those who want to help them on their way.


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

Over at RevMod, Don is rightfully poking at Elizabeth May's foibles for running against Peter McKay in Central Nova. However, Don loses this page when he remarks "I'm no friend of the Green Party. I think the last thing the left in this country needs is to split their vote". Although it appears that yesterday's Federal Budget will pass with numbers somewhere around 175 - 132 thanks to the support of Bloc Quebecois, this page feels its important for all like-minded correspondents to be making accurate commentary.

I'm only going to say this once (I hope) so that all of us are on the same page: The Green Party is not a left wing party. A left wing party does not believe that solutions to the problems of the environment will be found in the markets. The leader of a left wing party does not fudge on issues like a woman's right to choose. A left wing party does not have a significant portion of its membership at odds with the Labour movement. A left wing party does not court Garth Turner to represent them in the House of Commons.

If there's going to be any vote-splitting, it's because the corporate media (who are only comfortable backing the Liberals or Conservatives) will repeat the charade of a leftist Green Party. Six years ago, British Columbians were duped into thinking that the Greens were left - leaning and could possibly replaced the wrongly vilified New Democrats. This falsehood perpetuated itself even though the Green's leader, Adrienne Carr, trumpeted her ability to "trust business to do the right thing" and screamed at striking bus drivers and nurses to "get back to work". The subsequent vote-splitting cost the province its Official Opposition in the Legislature, allowing Gordon Campbell to freely swing a tax-cutting axe at valued public institutions and what remained of B.C.'s social safety net.

I can let Don's comments go if he promises to re-read his Marx and stand me a Flying Frog (assuming Brewsters is still open) the next time I'm in Edmonton (sometime this summer). For everyone else, let's be careful out there: the next trip to the polls will be tighter than the hairpiece on Stephie Wonder's head, so read the labels carefully, and be careful when applying them.


Toys 'R' Screwing Us

The Vancouver Police Department has decided that after recent anti-Olympics demonstrations and seeing their request for more officers shortchanged at City Hall, they need something that will make them look like they mean business. Of course, nothing says 'we mean business' than their very own tank.

This page recalls being in Calgary during the 2000 World Petroleum Congress. I remember three things about that week: there was another summit going on somewhere back east which severely cut into the ranks of the demonstrators, A restaurant owner on the Stephen Avenue Mall called me a "f**kicing socialist" and told me to go back to Vancouver (I went "back" to Vancouver when I moved here four months later), and the Calgary Police Service bought their own tank for the occasion. The Calgary Police never actually used the tank at any of the protests, they just put it on the front page of the Calgary Herald to scare the small handful of protesters in town that week.

The VPD wants their new toy (or a set of them) in time for 2010. Their tank, or "armoured rescue vehicle" as they're calling it, is to be used against heavily armed suspects. What heavily armed suspects? This page questions the mortal threat to Vancouver police officers when it seems more suspects have been dying in police custody over the past few years than police officers. Of course, one can't spell "armed suspect" without the letters APC -
It's not about protection, it's about intimidation.

Inevitably, the VPD will need to come up with an excuse for their overpriced hardware, in the same way Calgary police used their HAWC I helicopter to entertain school children and harass the gay stroll in Stanley Park (there's a Stanley Park in southwest Calgary, it even has a pool and a tennis court like the real Stanley Park). The reactionaries and hotheads will drool at the VPD's shiny new toys, and the rest of us who don't relish living in a police state will die inside a little more.


Pat Martin needs goggles

To stop Stephen Harper and the CPC from putting down roots as a government, Winnipeg Centre MP Pat Martin is advocating "
an informal coalition" between New Democrats and left-leaning Liberals.

For those of you scoring at home, Pat Martin is not a suck-up, sell-out sack-o-sh*t like Bob Rae or Ujjal Dosanjh. He was one of the strongest voices for C-257, which would have prohibited the use of scabs during strikes at federally-regulated workplaces (Dosanjh and the rest of the Liberals voted against it). Martin also authoured the Workers First bill, which put employees ahead of creditors or investors when the remains of failed companies are divvied up. When Pat Martin talks about a coalition, he's either seen the NDP take one too many punches at the polls or he's that scared of Stephen Harper. That other Martin, Paul Jr., wasn't scared in 2005 when he equated a Conservative victory to the end of civilization, he just liked the fear-mongering because it helped him steal NDP votes .

Martin says he'd rather "stick pins in my eyes" than work with the Liberals, but this page has the impression that someone must have done something similar already. If the Member for Winnipeg Centre was able to see clearly, he would notice that there are no left-leaning Liberals. Anything resembling a left wing was purged when Paul Martin was anointed as their saviour, and for all the hot air and good intentions wrapped in a green scarf, it's not like Stephane Dion is going to stand up to Bay Street, the banks, the multinationals, or Alberta's oilpatch either.

If anyone's noticed since the change of leaders, people like Sheila Copps still won't be seen anywhere near the Liberals, so it doesn't make much sense that New Democrats should be anywhere near them either.


Flagging Dissent

On Monday night the Olympic flag returned to City Hall in a ceremony marking the three-year countdown to the Parlympic Games. The event was attended by dozens of police officers, hundreds of protesters, and a few representatives of the general public. Those not in uniform who attended were treated to random illegal searches and be corralled into holding pens to watch the proceedings, whether or not they were supporters or opponents of the upcoming Winter Games.

For those of you scoring at home, John Furlong and the Vancouver Olympic Organizing Committee (VANOC) are as street-smart as Kevin Falcon's Hummer, and probably as thick. Rather than showing some initiative and trying to meet with environmental, aboriginal, and anti-poverty groups, Furlong waves them off as an annoyance and lectures at them through a local media which is more than happy to comply. If Furlong had the stem cells to pick up the phone and ask these people what they want, at least VANOC could distance themselves a little from the corporate-controlled, right-wing elected dictatorship at every level of government. Here's a hint for Mr. Furlong: start thinking out loud about how Vancouver allocating its Olympic Legacy (read: Sullivan Slush) Fun for social housing wouldn't be such a bad idea.

VANOC also appears to have no idea that these kind of events are supposed to be fun, not pleasing one's political masters. If you're so upset about protesters drowning out a children's choir, maybe you should be booking louder musical acts: one can't throw a rock without hitting a decent up-and-coming band in this town. That might bring the kids out, and people might have some fun. Ever think about free hot dogs, face painting for the kids, that kind of thing? By the way, people hate Sam Sullivan, Gordon Campbell, and David Emerson, why can't you invite speakers that the crowd might like? How about someone like Trevor Linden, who competed at the 1998 Games in Nagano? If more 'regular' people turned out, the presence of police and protesters wouldn't seem so heavy..

VANOC wants the Games to be popular, but refuses to take any kind of a populist stance. Everything they do is poisoned by their Point Grey/West Vancouver elitist venom. The public knows this, which is why they're tuning out the Olympic countdown as it disintegrates into a screaming match between the disenfranchised and the sneering corporate oligarchy that runs this province.


Ethanol: the alternative fuel for those who say there is no alternative

Last week President Bush celebrated the signing of an ethanol agreement with Brazil. The deal establishes the sharing of ethanol-producing technologies between the two countries, but falls far short of opening the U.S. market to Brazilian ethanol. For those of you scoring at home, American ethanol is made from corn, while the Brazilian product can be made from sugar cane which distills far more efficiently than corn does.

If anyone believes that the Bush Administration's promotion of ethanol proves they're starting to pay attention on the global warming front, turn off Fox News, put away your NASCAR toys, and pay attention. Among the growing number of fossil fuel alternatives, ethanol isn't the panacea its promoters make it out to be. The current technology the Brazilians signed on for is a choice between using crops for food or using them for fuel. Wow. What an age we live in.

This agreement is an echo of what's happened in Iraq, except that instead of energy policy masquerading as foreign policy, this is foreign policy masquerading as environmental policy. Bush would not be concerned about Brazil's dependence on foreign oil if that oil was coming from somewhere besides Venezuela, since Rethuglicans have pencilled in Hugo Chavez to replace Kim Jong-Il (or the recently-erased Saddam Hussein) in the Axis of Evil. It's not the wealth that makes Chavez evil to American Imperialists, it's the fact that he's willing to share the wealth and run over the Washington Consensus in the process.

This page contends that food is for eating, not for driving. If it's a choice between a bag of tortilla chips or a ride home, hand me the chips and I'll walk, thanks.


"Surprise" Quiz

Of the following events which took place last week, which did you find the least surprising?

a) 78 year old Betty Krawczyk's 10 month prison sentence for her part in the Olympic-related protests at Eagleridge Bluffs, just prior to the arrival of the International Olympic Committee inspection team in Vancouver?

b) Transportation Minister Kevin Falcon's announcement that Translink would be overhauled with an unelected Board of Directors and a 'Council of Mayors' from Pemberton to Hope (further drowning out transit dependent Vancouver & Burnaby), just days after Translink had announced that ridership would have to double by 2020 in order to avoid a regional transportation crisis?

c) The Basi - Virk trial still hasn't started yet, and only one local daily bothers to report on the legal maneuvering to stop a trial which could shatter the BC Liberals, and their federal counterparts?

d) Among Sam Sullivan's buzzword-tainted pet projects passed by his NPA majority on Vancouver City Council, (Eco-Density, Project Civil City and the Olympic Legacy Fund) none of them have allocated funding for social housing?


Nice pom poms, Gary

The only thing worse than a crappy sportswriter is a crappy sportswriter who actually thinks he can write the news. Former Vancouver Sun jocksniffer Gary Mason has been a political writer at the Globe and Mail for some time now, but disingenuous pandering like today's "Abbott refreshingly candid about private health care" (BC Edition, Page S3) proves that Mason may have changed his game, but he's still not that good at it.

Mason repeatedly treats the BC Liberals like the "home team", believing that he gets better access if he puts the hard questions away. His piece on the BC Health Minister's love of health care profiteering reads like the sycophantic post-game tete a tetes he used to have with Markus Naslund . In fact, Mason allows the minister to claim that the 2004 strike by members of the Hospital Employees Union was a positive in that it allowed the Health Ministry to experiment with contracting out a number of surgeries.

If Mason were an actual journalist, he would have pointed out that the Liberals started the whole mess when Gordon Campbell ripped up HEU's collective agreement (which he explicitly promised not to four years earlier), rammed Bill 29 through the Legislature (which would have, among other abuses, forced HEU members who were fired under the same legislation to rebate their salaries), and almost pushed BC into a General Strike. Intimidation does not equal innovation, but tell that to someone who made his living sucking up to the likes of Donald Brashear and Todd Bertuzzi.

Mason parrots the Minister's harrumph that too much emotion resides within the debate about the fate of B.C.'s health care system. Unfortunately, Abbott and Mason don't apply the same argument every time Carole Taylor whines hysterically that Health Care is taking up an increasing share of the province's budget, and soon there will be nothing left. Health Care does take up a bigger piece of the pie, but only because the pie shrinks every time the Liberals forgo vital revenue in order to dish out tax cuts to their rich friends. Never let the facts get in the way of a good fear-mongering.

There are good sportswriters at the Globe and Mail, particularly Stephen Brunt and Eric Duhatschek. Don't count Mason among them, because even the die-hard fans need a little objectivity.


Survey sez...

This weeks Mustel Group poll indicates that the BC Liberals second honeymoon with the electorate is long over.

After bribing public sector union members, greenwashing their lack of coherent transportation policy, and handing out tax cuts like they so many cheap plastic 2010 Olympic label pins, the Liberals have dropped 8 points over the last seven months. Meanwhile, the NDP holds steady at 38%, which may give pause to the hard-left activists pushing the panic button over Carole James' low-key, slow burning approach to leading the party.

The biggest gain is for the Green Party, which once again proves the power of the right political brand. It's unlikely that that support will translate into MLAs on election day two years from now, but with even Stephen Harper wanting to be recognized as "green" one would think the Greens could at least be beating the BC Marijuana Party at T-shirt sales...


Flagrant Foul

In an article this week, Seattle Times sportswriter Steve Kelley points out that two members of the Seattle Supersonics ownership group, Aubrey McClendon and Tom Ward, have had no problems putting huge money where their homophobia is. Like principal owner Clay Bennet (who negotiated the deal with Starbucks' big barrista Howard Schultz), McClendon and Ward hail from Oklahoma City, a place where groups like "Americans United to Preserve Marriage" have no problem attracting fans. Seattle, however, is a different kettle of smoked salmon - in the aftermath of the 2004 election, the flagship weekly The Stranger advocated Seattle joining other Blue State metropoli in seceding from the Union.

The problem for McClendon and Ward is that the Sonics are trying to attract fans to Seattle's Key Arena, and state legislators towards handing over $300 million for a new arena in suburban Renton. These same legislators tend to be Democrats, and stiffen at the sight of big money Red State intolerance. It probably doesn't help that these new Sonics owners also gave generously to Swift Boat Veterans for Truth in 2004.

The National Basketball Association itself is somewhat conflicted when it comes to issues of tolerance and diversity. The league didn't officially recognize John Amaechi's coming out, but they did tell Tim Hardaway to stay away from Las Vegas during last month's All-Star Game. A major factor in the survival of the WNBA has been the support of the Lesbian community in a number of key markets, including Seattle. If the Sonics do relocate to Oklahoma City as many have speculated, it's highly unlike that their sister team, the Seattle Storm, will be coming along.

Which brings this page to what this might be really about. Kelley's piece may really be a planned leak to help drive Olympia and King County taxpayers further from supporting a new arena, making it all the more easy for Bennett and his troglodyte associates to pack up the hardwood and go home to Oklahoma with a shiny new major league sports franchise (the area's first) in tow. Just prior to the news about McClendon and Ward's investments in intolerance, Bennett made it clear that his group would by no means be responsible for cost overruns on the new Renton arena. In order to allow relocation, the NBA needs proof that the Sonics owners have done everything they could in Seattle, and so far, they've done everything they could...to turn Seattle off of the Sonics.