Bob Broughton's Blog about British Columbia politics

The Virginia Tech massacre was four years ago

The Yellow RibbonIt has now been four years since 32 students and faculty members were killed on the Virginia Tech campus.

I earned a B.A. Degree from Virginia Tech in 1972. I have lived 2,500 miles from Blacksburg for the past 30 years. This doesn't matter. I attended many classes and labs in Norris Hall. Ambler Johnston Hall was completed during my sophomore year; I never lived there, but I visited many friends and acquaintances who did. Whenever I'm in touch with my fellow alumni, the topic of the massacre comes up. Some of them have children who were students at Virginia Tech when the massacre took place.

What has changed since April 16, 2007? Unfortunately, things have gotten worse. The killing of a federal judge, a nine-year-old girl, and four other people in Tucson, AZ in January caused the subject of gun violence to resurface briefly. Nothing changed. Instead, the State of Utah passed a law designating the Browning M1911 semiautomatic pistol as the official state gun. Arizona is considering legislation to make the Colt single action army revolver the official state firearm; it hasn't passed yet, but it has enthusiastic support from gun nut groups. In Virginia, a law was passed last year to permit the carrying of concealed weapons in bars. (More than 40 states have similar legislation.) Virginia also considered legislation to close the “gun show loophole”; it didn't pass, and one of the key opponents was State Senator John S. Edwards, whose district includes Blacksburg.

Jose Figueroa: Another Canadian "Public Safety" embarassment

This is a story that has appeared here before, with different names and places. Jose Figueroa has lived in Canada (currently Langley, BC) since 1996. He isn't a drug kingpin, or have some other sort on involvement in organized crime. He, his wife, and their three children are all Canadian citizens. So, the Federal Ministry of Public Safety wants to deport him.

The problem that The Harper Government has with Figueroa is that he spent the first part of his life in El Salvador. During the 1980's, there was a civil war going on there. Figueroa supported what eventually became the winning side, the Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front (FMLN).

The Harper Government considers the FMLN to be a terrorist group. Well, in civil wars, terrible things happen. However, the current president of El Salvador, Mauricio Funes, was a candidate of the FMLN. Presumably, Funes wouldn't be any more welcome in Canada than Figueroa is.

Figueroa has the support of three MP's, Conservative Mark Warawa and NDP'ers Don Davies and Peter Julian. A couple of support websites have been set up, http://wearejose.wordpress.com/ and http://helpjose.blogspot.com/.

Jose's current effort is to travel from Vancouver to Ottawa. When he gets there, he will present a petition of support with at least 1,200 signatures (he'll be collecting more on the way) to Prime Minister Harper. This journey will start on Friday, March 18, with a rally of support at the Vancouver Public Library (350 W. Georgia St.) at 1 PM.

Jose's journey requires some financial support. Contributions can be mailed to Jose Figueroa c/o Walnut Grove Lutheran Church, 20530 88th Avenue, Langley, BC V1M 2Y6.

The loss of US sovereignty

I lived in the Virginia suburbs of Washington, DC in 1979, and during this period, I looked up several old friends of mine who had jobs as Congressional aides on Capitol Hill. Some of these people worked for Republican Congressmen, and some of them worked for Democrats, but the story I got from all of them was the same; half of the Members of Congress are crooks. This information was a minor factor in my decision to relocate in Vancouver instead of Seattle or Portland.

The situation in Washington hasn't improved since then, and the elevation of John Boehner to Speaker of the House is a new low.

I have been aware that Boehner was scum since 1995, when he got some press coverage for passing out cheques from Philip Morris on the floor of the House of Representatives. Matt Taibbi published a thorough expose of Boehner in Rolling Stone: The Crying Shame of John Boehner.

It's a long story, and well worth reading. I'll give you a quick summary: Boehner plays 100 rounds of golf a year, and attends an average of 1.25 fundraisers a day. This means that he spends hardly any time at all doing the job he gets a government salary for. He's basically a trained seal; his staff puts a script in front of him, and he reads it.

However, Taibbi points out in the first two paragraphs that people like Boehner are the norm rather than the exception in Congress, and makes the case that those who believe that “Washington is occupied by an unbreakable bipartisan conspiracy of favor-churning hacks” have got it right.

After you get through the Taibbi article, consider these facts: Fox News is owned by an Australian, and the second-in-command there, Alwaleed bin Talal, is a Saudi Prince. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which has Boehner in its pocket, gets heavy funding from outside the US. They spent $75 million on attack ads during the 2010 election campaign, and refuse to disclose how much of this $75 million came from foreign sources. The US is heavily dependent on Saudi Arabia for its oil supply, and heavily dependent on China for the financing of the $14 trillion national debt.

What this all adds up to is, the US electorate no longer has any real control over the Federal government. Members of Congress and the President need whackloads of money to get elected, and they're going to listen to the people who pay the bills, not the voters. The Boehners of Washington certainly don't have any conscience to listen to. And if somebody in a position of influence gets uppity enough to criticize this situation, it's not very difficult to recruit a fanatic to shoot him or her.

The people of the US will wake up one morning and discover that they have lost their country. It wasn't lost due to a military invasion; it was sold.

The institutionalization of fiscal irresponsibility

The deal that Obama made with the Repugnikans to extend the Bush administration's tax cuts is a really bad idea. What I find especially unfortunate about the debate over these tax cuts is, very few members of Congress are saying the obvious: why are we even talking about tax cuts when the Federal government is already running a deficit of $1.42 trillion? It seems that both Democrats and Repugnikans have institutionalized the idea of continuing to borrow money from China to keep the U.S. government afloat.

I also think it's an outrage that any elected politician, especially the incoming Speaker of the House, would talk about raising the age for eligibility for Social Security to 67 so that rich people can keep their tax cut.

The Progressive Change Campaign Committee has stepped up to the plate with this TV ad:

You can help keep this ad on the air by clicking here.

Mary Elizabeth Lewis Broughton, 1920-2010

Elizabeth Broughton

My mother Elizabeth passed away in her sleep after a brief illness on November 22, 2010, at the age of 90.

Elizabeth was born and raised in Bloxom, on Virginia's Eastern Shore. Her ancestry there dates back to the late 1600's. Her father, Stanley Lewis, was a gregarious and well-respected person. He owned a store during the Great Depression, and was willing to extend credit to customers who were having hard times. The family had some land, and Elizabeth was able to earn some spending money by collecting eggs and selling them. She had excellent grades in school, and was able to pursue higher education at Virgina Intermont College in Bristol, VA (a women-only junior college at the time) and earned a Bachelors degree at the University of Mary Washington in Fredericksburg, VA in 1942.

This was the start of a very long teaching career, which started in Newport News, VA during World War II. There, she met her husband, Henry, and William Styron, author of Sophie's Choice. Elizabeth and Henry settled in Fredericksburg, and Elizabeth proceeded to become an institution, teaching sixth grade a Maury Elementary. She later moved to the Fredericksburg Middle School, then, when she was in her 50's, earned a Master of Education from the University of Virginia, in 1973. She finished her career as a guidance counselor in Loudon County, VA.

Elizabeth's life spanned most of the 20th Century. (She had an uncle who was a victim of the great flu epidemic that took place in Europe in the aftermath of World War I.) The house that I grew up in outside of Fredericksburg had some land that was used for raising beagles and an assortment of fruits and vegetables. I have early memories of Elizabeth and the neighbours getting together and canning preserves, using wax as a sealant. This is an art that was lost for a while, and is now making a comeback. Another common activity was making ice cream, using a hand-cranked device containing ice with the temperature lowered with rock salt. Elizabeth was active in the local garden club for a while, and she and Henry were avid bridge players.

Because of the value that she placed on education, there never was any doubt that my brother and I would continue our education beyond high school. I got a BA degree from Virginia Tech, and Bill got a BA from William and Mary, and a law degree from the University of Miami.

Elizabeth and Henry retired in the mid-1970's, and made very good use of their time. They travelled extensively in Europe and North America. They spent a month on Mallorca. Elizabeth especially enjoyed a couple of trips to Hawaii. She paid me a visit when I was living in Oslo, and fulfilled a long-term dream of travelling on Norway's Hurtigruten, a ferry that traverses the west coast.

In 1987, Elizabeth and Henry decided that they wanted to spend more time with their granddaughter, Darcy. So, they sold their house in Front Royal, loaded up the Buick, and moved to Bremerton, WA. This was a very positive step for Elizabeth. She was a huge help in raising Darcy and two more grandchildren, Jacqueline and Michael. She also helped many more local children learn to read. She participated in many elderhostels in the Pacific Northwest.

The last two years of her life were not very pleasant. She was wheelchair-bound, and lost Henry and both of her sisters, Violet and Nancy. Even so, she never lost her appreciation for a good latte, one of many interests I share with her. She was an avid reader for all of her life. She was a huge influence in my life, and thousands of others.

Obituary in the Kitsap Sun

Vancouver-Seattle passenger trains saved, but let's look forward

The Province columnist Jon Ferry wrote a worthwhile column about the future of Amtrak's Seattle-Vancouver service, Foot-dragging feds slow train service to Seattle.

A few comments on points that Ferry made:

  • A target of four trains a day is entirely reasonable. Long before Amtrak existed, Burlington Northern (now known as BNSF) was running four trains a day between Seattle and Vancouver, at a time when the population in the Tacoma-Seattle-Everett-Mount Vernon-Bellingham-Vancouver corridor was much lower.
  • The actual mover and shaker for the existing service is actually the Washington State Department of Transportation; Amtrak runs the service under contract. WSDOT has started talking about a third daily train. I hope that they at least take a look at an overnight Vancouver-Portland train, with sleeper cars. The idea would be to reduce the demand for plane flights in the corridor. If market studies show that there's no demand for this, OK, but at least do the studies.
  • Ferry mentions running high-speed trains via Abbotsford instead of White Rock. This is the first I've heard of this. Running high-speed trains around Crescent Beach certainly doesn't make any sense, but BNSF's long-term plan is to create a new set of tracks running east of White Rock.

Message to wingnuts about Manhattan mosque

1. This mosque is not at Ground Zero. It is two blocks away.

2. This project, officially known as the Cordoba Initiative, is a lot more than a mosque. It will be 13 stories, and includes a performance-art center, a gym, and a swimming pool.

3. The person behind the Cordoba Initiative is Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, who is the founder of the American Society for Muslim Advancement. He is the Imam of a mosque in Manhattan that is 12 blocks away from Ground Zero. The stated objective of the American Society for Muslim Advancement is to bring Muslims and non-Muslims together through programs in academia, policy, current affairs and culture.

4. Michael Bloomberg, the Mayor of New York, is Jewish and Republican, and he has no problem with this project. So why do you have a problem with it?

5. Iman Feisal has as much right to put up a religious centre on Manhattan as you have to put one of your churches in my neighborhood. If you have a problem with this concept, take it up with little Mormon boy Glenn Beck.