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Bob Broughton's Blog about British Columbia politics

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

Some opinions on the 2010 U.S. election

I've mailed in my ballot. I went out and knocked on some doors in Bellingham on behalf of Rep. Rick Larsen, and I'll be doing this again on Election Day. I made a donation to his campaign. I wish I could have done more, but doing work I get paid for sometimes interferes with this sort of thing.

I'll use this space to dispense some advice. I've been paying attention to U.S. election campaigns since 1960, and I have never seen this level of mean-spiritness. This is not the U.S. that I grew up in; it's the U.S. of Rupert Murdoch, the foreign-funded Chamber of Commerce, and the mostly foreign-owned petrochemical industry.

I heard a high-profile political consultant say, a few years ago, that the purpose of negative campaign advertising is not to get people to vote for your candidate; it's to get them to not vote at all. Don't fall for this.

The events of the past few months (remember that mosque that wasn't really at Ground Zero? I guess Fox Noise didn't get what they wanted out of that one) bring to mind three films I've seen.

Bob Roberts: Kentucky Republican Senate candidate Rand Paul isn't a singer-songwriter, but I don't doubt for one minute that if he thought that faking the loss of the use of his legs would help him get elected, he would do it. Paul needs some lessons in how to be a human being.

The King of Comedy: Rupert Pupkin (the character portrayed by Robert De Niro) didn't actually want to be a comedian; he wanted to be a celebrity. If you've seen this film, you'll recall that during his first meeting with Jerry Lewis, Lewis offered to help Pupkin get some gigs in comedy clubs, and Pupkin wasn't interested.

Pupkin eventually got what he wanted; a talk show on TV. Sarah Palin, who gets bored by studying up on the U.S. Constitution and basic geography, already has a couple of TV shows. Christine O'Donnell will get one after this election is over.

Being There: Chance Gardener, the moron portrayed by Peter Sellers, doesn't have anything useful to say about economics or foreign policy; he just babbles calmly about gardening, and nobody asks him any questions that would bring out the obvious, that he doesn't have the slightest idea what he's talking about. This is why Palin and Nevada Republican Senate candidate Sharron Angle avoid talking to reporters. I can't help but wonder whether Sellers, Hal Ashby, and Jerzy Kosinski believed, at the time this film was made (1979), that it was a vision of the future.

I can't vote in Nevada or Kentucky. If you can, and you're thinking about giving this election a miss, ask yourself if Angle or Paul represents your values.

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.

Republican Party owned by Murdock and Alwaleed

Prince Alwaleed bin TalalIf you watch the Fox Network or Fox News, you may know who Rupert Murdoch is. Do you know anything about the person whose picture appears to the left?

You should. He is Prince Alwaleed bin Talal. He owns 7% of Newscorp, the company that owns the Fox Network and Fox News. He is Newscorp's second largest stockholder; Murdoch, of course, is the largest.

Alwaleed is a prince in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. You've heard of Saudi Arabia, right? That's the country that was home to Osama bin Laden, and 15 of the 19 airline hijackers in the attack on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon on September 11, 2001.

The same Newscorp contributed one million dollars to the Republican Governors Association in June, 2010. The means that Murdoch and Alwaleed effectively own the Republican Party; this was the largest-ever contribution the Republican Governors Association. Click here to view an explanation by Jon Stewart on The Daily Show.

Jon Stewart shows the connection between Fox and the Pepublican PartyWhy, then, are we hearing so much from Fox News and the Republican Party about the Cordoba Center, the proposed community centre at the former location of the Burlington Coat Factory in Lower Manhattan?

I'll answer that question shortly, but I'll ask one more question first; what sort of values are taught by television programs on the Fox Network such as "The Family Guy" and "Lone Star"? Christian values? American values? Conservative values? Of course not. Republican values? If you're talking about South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford, maybe. If you're talking about former Idaho Sen. Larry Craig or former Florida Rep. Mark Foley (to give just two examples), probably not.

Getting back to my previous question, you wouldn't expect Murdoch and Alwaleed to care about the First Amendment to the Constitution of the US. Murdoch is Australian, and Alwaleed is a prince in a country where religious freedom is literally a foreign concept.

Alwaleed, however, certainly cares whether you continue to fill your car's tank with gasoline made from oil from Saudi Arabia. So do lots of Republicans, including the Bush family.

Other than that, however, you can take this to the bank: Murdoch and Alwaleed don't care about you. Neither do any of their employees; Limbaugh, Beck, O'Reilly, Crowley, Palin, Hannity, you name them. The only thing these people care about is themselves. They worship money. If you worship something else, they are laughing at you behind your back.

The human race reaches for help in all the wrong places

This article was published on Progressive Alaska, a blog that I read several times a week. The author is Philip Munger, an Alaskan (don't forget, they're our neighbours) musician. I'm giving it a shout-out because I agree strongly with the points he makes:

A Planet-Wide Explosion of Religious Nutcases - The Human Race, Facing Possible Extinction, Reaches for Help in All the Wrong Places

Key excerpt: "Where has our sanity gone?

"If all this nuttery was happening in some kind of vacuum it would be bad enough. But here we are, facing a serious global environmental catastrophe reaching the point of no return, and all our large-scale information inputs are consumed with jibberish not much more advanced than what Aztec priests must have uttered to justify tearing the hearts out of their trophy victims.

"Why isn't memeorandum linking to the outcry about misinformation on the BP Gulf disaster, instead of the mosque bullshit?

"Why aren't more media stories directed toward the acidification of the oceans, which is approaching the point of irreversibility?"

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.