Bob Broughton's Blog about British Columbia politics

The Grim Reaper attends the Terry Fox Run

ImageI accompanied the Grim Reaper at the Terry Fox Run in Port Coquitlam on September 18.

The Grim Reaper has a long history of showing up wherever the consumption of tobacco products is being promoted. A few years ago, he was a regular at the Benson and Hedges Symphony of Fire and the Du Maurier Jazz Festival. He also showed up when former UK Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, who became a consultant for Philip Morris after she left office, came to Vancouver for a speaking appearance.

The consumption of tobacco certainly wasn't being promoted at the Terry Fox Run. Locating a lit cigarette there would have been a challenge. The Reaper's visit was prompted by the presence of Gordon Campbell, who has a deplorable record on tobacco issues, and Paul Martin, who is a former employee of the tobacco industry.

One of Martin's first acts when he became Finance Minister in 1993 was to reduce taxes on cigarettes. It wasn't enough just to reduce federal taxes on cigarettes, either; he pressured Ontario and Quebec to reduce their taxes on cigarettes, too. The excuse for doing this was that reducing taxes would reduce smuggling. However, the cause of the smuggling was the tobacco industry. RJR employees have served time in jail for their involvement in it, and JTI-Macdonald was recently taken to court by the federal government in an effort to recover $10 billion in lost revenue due to smuggling.

As always, the response to the Grim Reaper from passers-by was overwhelmingly positive. There were, however, a few people who complained that the Terry Fox Run is not a political event. Sorry, but the presence of Martin and Campbell makes it a political event. And since the Terry Fox Run is about finding a cure for cancer, it's entirely appropriate to raise the issue of Paul Martin's involvement in the leading cause of cancer, which is cigarettes.

ImageThere were also some people who questioned the effort by the Grim Reaper and Airspace Action on Smoking and health to draw attention to the cause of cancer instead of the cure. Well, I have no doubt that the money raised by the Terry Fox Foundation is well spent. I know that the Foundation provides substantial funding for the BC Cancer Agency.

Airspace, along with similar organizations like Physicians for a Smoke-Free Canada and Americans for Nonsmokers' Rights, has a different emphasis. Cigarette smoking is the single most preventable cause of premature death. The blame for this has to be placed firmly upon manufacturers of cigarettes and those who collaborate with them. This is the message that the Grim Reaper and his acolytes brought to Port Coquitlam on September 18. It's a message that makes some people uncomfortable. Perhaps that's because it's a message of common sense; the most effective way to reduce the incidence of cancer is to reduce the amount of carcinogens that go into peoples' bodies, and that includes cigarette smoke.

Airspace Action on Smoking and Health
Grim Reaper Society
The Terry Fox Society

Paul Jay essay on media coverage of Hurricane Katrina

Paul Jay is the founder of Independent World Television News, and an award-winning documentary filmmaker. I commented in support of this effort a couple of months ago; see An international PBS.

Jay has written an essay, Apres Moi le Deluge, which, among other things, compares the Bush administration to 18th century France. It's good.

United Negro College Fund You can help Hurricane Katrina victims by contributing to the United Negro College Fund.

What if it had been a terrorist attack?

The destruction of the World Trade Center in 2001 had a huge impact on the political landscape of North America. It gave us the Department of Homeland Security, yellow, orange, and red threat levels, the National Response Plan, and the Patriot Act.

The damage that these measures have done to civil liberties is not today's topic. Instead, I'll pose this question: do you feel safer?

You shouldn't. Hurricane Katrina has done far more property damage than the 9/11 attacks did. When they finish counting the bodies, Hurricane Katrina will have caused the loss of a larger number of lives.

There hasn't been a terrorist action in history that has caused the same level of destruction, although and attack on a nuclear power station or the detonation of a suitcase-sized nuclear bomb would be in the same ballpark.

My point is, four years after the World Trade Center attack, the Bush administration has a real domestic emergency to deal with. His administration has been incompetent to deal with it, and the legislation and additional bureaucracies set up in 2001, 2002, and 2004 have not helped the situation.

I was prompted to write this by an article that I found on the TPM Cafe site. The title is Criminal Negligence and Katrina?, and it was written by Larry Johnson, an expert in counter-terrorism and forensic auditing. It's worthwhile reading, and there's a lot of good comments posted, as well.

United Negro College Fund You can help Hurricane Katrina victims by contributing to the United Negro College Fund.

George W. Bush and Hurricane Katrina

U.S. President George W. Bush has been quoted in the press as saying that his administration is moving quickly to save lives, evacuate people and provide sustenance to victims of Katrina. His administration has outlined a massive disaster relief plan, vowing to "work tirelessly" in the aftermath of the hurricane.

According to Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff, "The president has been unambiguous in his mandate that we leave no stone unturned, and leave no efforts unexhausted in proceeding to do whatever we can to rescue people and alleviate suffering."

If, indeed, no stone is to be left unturned, will he bring home the 141st Field Artillery unit of the Louisiana National Guard, which is currently stationed in Iraq?

Update on Sept. 1: OK, I don't hold out much hope that Bush will divert some of the billions of dollars being handed to his buddies at Halliburton to feeding and clothing hurricane victims in his own country. What I'll do, instead, is join the ranks of bloggers who have recommended charities capable of helping. (See the list at

ImageThe one I'm advertising is the United Negro College Fund. This is a charity that has been around for a long time, and three of its members, Dillard and Xavier Universities in New Orleans and Tougaloo College in Mississippi, have been severely damaged. The UNCF has set up a special fund to help these schools. To contribute, click here.

KVOS taken over by Clear Channel

I checked the TV schedule last night, and it said that KVOS in Bellingham (channel 23 on cable, or channel 12 on the airwaves) was showing the film "A Soldier's Story", starring Howard E. Rollins Jr. This is a good one, so I sat down in front of my TV at 8 PM, and put it on channel 23. A voice came on the air telling me that "A Soldier's Story", a World War II story about a black officer who has three days to solve a murder case, is coming up next. When the opening credits start, however, the film is a completely different one, starring Liam Neeson.

I can rent "A Soldier's Story" from Blockbuster or Rogers Video any time I want to, and see it uninterrupted by commercials. However, the story behind this blunder hasn't gotten much attention in the local media, so I'm going to let you in on it.

KVOS was bought by the media conglomerate Clear Channel a couple of years ago. They recently eliminated most what was already a small production staff in Bellingham. Now, most of the programming that KVOS broadcasts originates at Clear Channel's headquarters in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Some wires got crossed between Tulsa and Bellingham over what film was to be shown Saturday night, and there probably wasn't anyone around to phone the head office and tell them that they sent the wrong film.

Before Bill Moyers retired from PBS's "Now" program, he did frequent and hard-hitting stories on concentration of media ownership in the US, and and specifically about Clear Channel, which owns over 1,000 radio stations.

It's understandable that happenings at KVOS are not going to turn heads within their market area, which is the Lower Mainland. After all, KVOS had little local content before Clear Channel bought it. It's worth knowing, however, that Clear Channel is the major (possibly only) funder behind "Rally for America", which mobilizes support for the war in Iraq. Clear Channel then reports "Rally for America" activities as news, effectively creating a closed loop. While KVOS doesn't broadcast news programs, I'll be surprised if they air "Three Kings", "Bulworth", or any of Michael Moore's films anytime soon.

I'll leave you with a URL, for a Seattle-based organization, Reclaim the Media:

Story from the Bellingham Herald: KVOS-TV lays off 6 station employees

Philip Morris and animal testing

People for Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) has discovered plans by Philip Morris/Altria to build a new reasearch and development facility in Richmond, VA, and the research to be done will include animal testing. Here's PETA's story: Philip Morris to Build New Research Facility—Bad News for Animals.

The story also reveals that Philip Morris is getting huge tax break from the City of Richmond for this.

PETA is correct in pointing out that this is "bad news for animals". Unfortunately, PETA suggests that Philip Morris do their research on human volunteers instead. This would be bad news for humans.

The tobacco industry has been heavily involved in animal testing for a long time. RJR had a Biological Research Division, more commonly known as "the mouse house", in Winston-Salem, NC. They shut it down in 1970, and fired the staff, killed all the lab animals, and forbade their employees from talking about it. You can read about it here.

We already know that cigarettes kill, and so do the tobacco industry's own scientists. There isn't any compelling need to add to the body of knowledge that already exists on this subject.

Some reviews of books about baseball

One of the many web sites I maintain is, a site for fans of the successful University of British Columbia baseball team.

College baseball has a long off-season. This wasn't a problem this time last year, because there was plenty of late-breaking news about UBC alum Jeff Francis' rise to the Major Leagues. And (grr!) being deprived of a chance to win an Olympic medal in the process.

In order to keep putting fresh material on this summer, I've written up reviews of five high-quality books about baseball. Click here to read them.