Bob Broughton's Blog about British Columbia politics

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 instapundit.com.)

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: http://www.reclaimthemedia.org/.

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 http://tbirdbaseball.net/, 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 tbirdbaseball.net this summer, I've written up reviews of five high-quality books about baseball. Click here to read them.

$10-billion "wake-up" for tobacco companies

JTI-Macdonald is being taken to court by the Federal government and the governments of Ontario and Quebec to recover the tax revenue lost by these governments due to JTI-Macdonald's corporate role in cigarette smuggling during the 1990's.

Story from the Globe and Mail: $10-billion "wake-up" for tobacco companies

One thing missing from the media coverage of this (so far) is Paul Martin's role. When Martin took office as Finance Minister, he was responsible for reducing Federal cigarette taxes (and leaning on Ontario and Quebec to do the same) as a "solution" to the smuggling problem, a problem that Martin's buddies in the tobacco industry created.

An appeal for improved passenger train service

The recent attempt by George W. Bush and his Secretary of Transportation Norman Mineta to shut down Amtrak was a failure. One of the sillier ideas to come out of this administration was blocked in the House of Representatives by Republicans from the rural U.S.

Although Amtrak was established by a Republican administration (Nixon), Republicans from Reagan to the present have had Amtrak on their hit list. “$2-per-gallon gasoline? No problem, we'll shut down your passenger trains.”

The reason I've chosen to take up this particular topic is because I'm a regular user of Amtrak's Vancouver-Seattle service. From the comfort standpoint, I much prefer trains to buses, and Amtrak's fares are in the same ballpark as Greyhound's.

It's in the interest of the governments of both British Columbia and Washington State to encourage people to use public transportation instead of driving passenger cars, and moving people between Vancouver, Seattle, and Portland is part of this picture.

Washington State has done a good job with this. They fund the Vancouver-Seattle train, another train from Seattle to Bellingham, and they just announced the addition of a third train to the Seattle-Portland route. (this doesn't include the Seattle-Los Angeles train, which Washington State doesn't contribute to.) Washington State has also been funding track improvements, which will reduce travel times in the Bellingham-Portland corridor. New stations have been built in Bellingham, Mount Vernon, and Everett, and the King Street Station in Seattle is getting a renovation.

The new stations in towns north of Seattle are an obvious indication that Washington State wants more trains running through them. What's the holdup? The B.C. government.

The Amtrak people want track improvements in Delta, but the B.C. Government, borrowing a page from the Bush administration, is more interested in shutting down passenger trains than subsidizing them. One could try telling them that passenger trains from Seattle would be helpful in bringing people here for the 2010 Olympics, but this line of reasoning didn't stop them from discontinuing passenger service on the B.C. Rail line from North Vancouver to Whistler. What might help is some more prodding from Vancouver and other Lower Mainland municipalities, and from the tourism industry.

Here's another problem that affects me personally. There are no stops for picking up and dropping off passengers between Vancouver and Bellingham. This means that every time I take the trip to Seattle, I have to take the Skytrain from New Westminster to Main Street, get on the train, then ride it back to New Westminster. (The Amtrak trains cross the Fraser River using the old railroad bridge next to the Patullo Bridge.) The Vancouver-Seattle trains that existed prior to 1981 made stops in New Westminster and White Rock. The passenger stations that were used are still there. The one in White Rock is a museum, and the one in New Westminster, which is within walking distance of the Braid Skytrain station, is used for office space by Burlington Northern Santa Fe.

Let's put these facilities back in use, and make travelling by train between the Lower Mainland and Seattle more convenient for more people. The existing Amtrak Cascades service has reduced carbon monoxide and nitrous oxide emissions by hundreds of tons per year. Everybody benefits from this.

Article from the Washington State Department of Transportation: Second Amtrak Cascades Train to Canada

Amtrak Cascades site: http://www.amtrakcascades.com/

Barisoff turns "lodges for high rollers" into "modest hostels"

A letter to the editor I wrote, which was published in the Royal City Record on March 19, attracted a response (published March 30) from Bill Barisoff, Joyce Murray's successor as Minister of Water, Land, and Air Protection. You can read Barisoff's letter by clicking here (PDF); my original letter appears below.

Barisoff wrote that I "couldn't be more wrong". Well, Bill, I have to go with the information I have available, supplemented by common sense. This is the first time that I (or anyone else) have heard the words "modest hostels" used in connection with the Liberal initiative to put lodges in provincial parks.