Bob Broughton's Blog about British Columbia politics

Organ Harvesting in China: followup

The Epoch Times has run another article about the use of political prisoners as a source of organs for transplantation. The issue has attracted some attention in Canada. Former Secretary of State for Asia-Pacific David Kilgour and human rights lawyer David Matas want to go to China to investigate the allegations, but are getting the official run-around. Kilgour went to a visa office to apply for a visa, and was told, "I don't deal with visas." The article is China Embassy Dodging Organ Harvesting Probe, Says Ex-MP, by Masha Loftus.

Update on July 7: Here is the report by Kilgore and Matas: http://www.david-kilgour.com/2006/Kilgour-Matas-organ-harvesting-rpt-July6-eng.pdf.
Extensive story in the Epoch Times: Kilgour-Matas Report Confirms Organ Harvesting in China

The origin of "jumped the shark"

This story falls into the "you learn something new every day" category. I was listening to airamericaradio.com today, which is something I do pretty often. The subject of discussion was former Florida Secretary of State Katherine Harris, who is currently running for the Senate, and headed for a dismal defeat. Harris gained considerable notoriety for her role in stealing the 2000 presidential election, although, in the interest of fairness and balance, I'll point out that if Gore had managed to carry his home state of Tennessee, what happened in Florida wouldn't have mattered.

It seems that Harris has been going around saying that Florida's Democrat members of Congress are telling her privately that they hope that she wins. This claim is being dismissed as complete nonsense, and Air America Radio commentator Sam Seder said that Harris has "jumped the shark".

My reaction was to start wondering where the expression "jumped the shark" came from. Thanks to Google, I was able to find out in about a minute.

It's a Hollywood term, and it originated with the Happy Days sitcom. This show deteriorated badly during the last couple of years that it was on the air, and during this period, the character Fonzie (a greaser played by Henry Winkler) jumped over a shark while water skiing. The expression "jumped the shark" came to apply to the point where a TV series has been on too long, and gotten stale or silly. The best example that comes to mind is the last season of Ally McBeal.

There's a jumptheshark.com site which contains viewer evaluations of 2,500 TV shows, and visitors can vote and comment on the moment when their favorite or detested show jumped the shark. This Hour Has 22 Minutes is listed; there are 17 votes for "when Rick Mercer left the show", and 17 for "never jumped". There are 50 voters who say that Desperate Housewives has "never jumped", and 19 for "the second season". There's also a "bait shop" where you can by a book with the title Jump the Shark.

Another Linux installation experience

After several years of procrastination, and some unsuccessful bids on eBay, I finally got a laptop computer. It's a Dell Latitude, and it came with a 650 mHz processor, a 12 MB hard disk, and 128 MB or memory.

"Only 128 MB of RAM," you say? Hell, I got by for years with a Commodore Amiga that had "only" two MB. I wasn't worried about this because my plan was to install Linux on it, and knew that Linux would work with this configuration.

So, after switching on the power and making sure that I got what I paid for, I proceeded to install RedHat Enterprise Linux Version 4. For a personal-use computer, it might have made more sense to install Xandros or Ubuntu, but I already had a copy of RH Enterprise on hand; somebody gave it to me at the recent LinuxFest in Bellingham. RedHat has another important advantage; it's easy to find RPM's for updated software.

Organ Harvesting in China

The April 20-26 issue of The Epoch Times has this article on the front page: Good Organs for Sale - but You Have to Hurry, written by Mary Silver.

This article makes a very serious accusation: kidneys, livers, and other organs available for transplants in Chinese hospitals have been involuntarily harvested from practitioners of Falun Gong. Falun Gong (also known as Falun Dafa) is primarily an exercise regime that incorporates some principles of Buddhism. It has become a target of the government of China, primarily because it's something that exists in China that they don't control.

China is a major trading partner of Canada and the United States, and a major supplier of cheap consumer goods. Officials of federal, provincial/state, and municipal governments frequently visit China to drum up more business. The 2008 Olympic Games are to take place in Beijing. If the Chinese government is, as alleged by The Epoch Times, facilitating Nazi Germany-style medical practices, the involvement of North American governments in trade relationships with China is totally inappropriate.

An editorial in the same issue, An Open Letter to Our Colleagues in the Media, calls on the media to allocate an appropriate amount of investigative resources and time and space to this issue. This blog isn't the New York Times or CNN, but I'm willing to give the same weight to atrocities in China as is given to atrocities in Iraq, Rwanda, and elsewhere.

Political alternatives to the Gateway Project

Look out, here comes argument number 223 in favour of implementing proportional representation in British Columbia.

Both the Green Party of BC and the Democratic Reform BC parties have spelled out alternatives to the government's Gateway Project. The Green Party's is at http://www.greenthink.net/, and DRBC's is at http://www.drbc.ca/download/DRBC-Gateway.pdf.

Both proposals call for revival of light rail transit east of Surrey. The DRBC proposal is more specific about this and other transit improvements. It also contains a novel proposal for a rail and truck bridge in the Port Mann vicinity. This deserves a lot more public scrutiny; the Fraser River rail bridge (next to the Patullo Bridge connecting New Westminster and Surrey) is 100 years old, and needs to be replaced soon. (Yes, there are safety concerns.) This is going to be an expensive project.

In the tradition of holism, the Green Party proposal also addresses the effort by the provincial government to pave over Eagleridge Bluffs and the Larson Creek wetlands, which the Green Party opposes.

Neither of these parties are currently represented in the Legislative Assembly. This is yet another example of why this should change; opening up the Legislative Assembly to more voices will ultimately give us better government.

A related article that I wrote: Eagleridge Bluffs and Olympic sustainability

How George W. Bush really feels about the War on Terrorism

I learned at a young age that talk is cheap. U.S. President George W. Bush learned this sometime during his life as well, but Bush has made radically different use of this awareness.

The most prominent example of this is Bush's talk of hunting down Osama bin Laden. There's the saber-rattling directed at the United Nations and defiance of the Geneva Convention and various other treaties. Then, there's this War on Terrorism we keep hearing about.

This week, we got an unpleasant and under-reported example of how Bush and the people who pull his strings are the wrong people to be entrusted with this effort. You can read about it in the Feb. 17, 2006 issue of the New York Times: Despite Fears, a Dubai Company Will Help Run Ports in New York (You need to register to read this, but there's no cost.) The story is, there's a British company, Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Co., that manages the Port Newark Container Terminal, and five other port facilities in Baltimore, New Orleans, Miami and Philadelphia. This company was recently bought out by another company called Dubai Ports World.

This arrangement got some scrutiny from the Commander in Chief of the War on Terrorism. Dubai Ports World is controlled by the royal family of the United Arab Emirates, and they are not nice people. Their banks were used to transfer money to the hijackers of the 2001 World Trade Center attack. They did not cooperate with the U.S. Department of the Treasury's effort to track down bin Laden's bank accounts. They were one one of three governments in the world that recognized the Taliban as the legitimate government of Afghanistan. You can read more about it on the Think Progress and Daily Kos sites.

Ports, especially container ports near large centres of population, are a very attractive terrorist target. Any objective person would conclude having such facilities under foreign administration is a bad idea, and having them administered by a company like Dubai Ports World is an extremely bad idea.

The Bush administration saw it otherwise. A committee of White House officials, including Condoleezza Rice and Donald Rumsfeld approved this arrangement and asked few questions about it.

Appalling, yes, but not a surprise to those familiar with the Bush family history. Prescott Bush, George W.'s grandfather, was a shareholder of the Union Banking Company, which was seized by the U.S. government in 1942 for trading with the enemy. Prescott said that his involvement with the Union Banking Company was a “courtesy to a client”. Given the Bush family's involvement in the oil industry and their ties to various oil princes, I suspect that the approval of the Dubai Ports World deal is another example of the same sort of courtesy. Here's a sobering thought; suppose that someone like George W. Bush had been President of the U.S. during World War II?