Bob Broughton's Blog about British Columbia politics

Columbine was eight years ago

VT Yellow Ribbon - 04/16/2007

Prior to being non-elected President, George W. Bush was the governor of Texas for six years. It's legal to carry concealed weapons in Texas, so there's no reason for anyone to expect him to take any position on gun sales that would make the gun lobby unhappy.

Since the massacre at Columbine High School in Littleton, CO in 1999, Republicans in Congress have made at least two legislative efforts to make handguns and and semiautomatic weapons easier to obtain. Specifically, they have tried to repeal a District of Columbia law banning handguns and semiautomatic weapons, and they were doing so with full encouragement from the National Rifle Association.

Bush can go to Blacksburg, pray, and offer condolences, but it won't bring any of the 33 dead back to life. The adoption of changes to make events like this less likely will require a wholesale turnover of legislators in Washington. The current bunch obviously failed to learn any lessons from the Columbine High School massacre, and it's time to start placing serious blame. I believe that the public is way ahead of the politicians on this issue.

Bowling for Columbine Wikipedia entry

The bodies weren't even cold yet...

... when the Bush administration felt the need to reassure the gun nuts.

"The president believes that there is a right for people to bear arms, but that all laws must be followed." - White House Spokeswoman Dana Perino.

I went to Virginia Tech a long time ago. I attended many classes in Norris Hall, and visited many friends in Ambler Johnston Hall.

Robert Broughton, class of 1972

Good news about Vancouver-Seattle passenger trains

A brief article from the Seattle Times: Deal for second train from Seattle to Vancouver B.C. announced

A second daily train from Seattle to Vancouver, B.C., could begin service next year, following a deal announced Thursday by the provincial government.

A passing track will be added to the BNSF corridor just north of the Canadian border. Currently, there is only one daily Amtrak round trip a day. Buses substitute for the train at other times.

"Hopefully, we can get up to four trains by 2012," said Bruce Agnew of the Seattle-based Discovery Institute's Cascadia Center, a longtime advocate for regional rail connections.

A provincial spokesman, Mike Long, said additional trains aren't planned now, but even a second train would help people reach the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver.

Gordon Campbell and global climate change

How serious is all this talk from Gordon Campbell about addressing climate change? Well, the Throne Speech still included the claim that “The Gateway Project will reduce congestion, improve traffic flow, and reduce emissions from vehicle idling.”

This is silly, and deserves to be identified as such. I'll start taking Campbell's talk of concern for the environment seriously when he announces that the Port Mann Bridge/Freeway Expansion project is being scrapped, and the $1.5 billion allocated for this project will be spent on transit in the Fraser Valley instead.

There's also those two coal-fired power plants in Princeton and Tumbler Ridge, which the government now seems to be backing away from. And what about offshore oil and gas drilling, an idea supported by Energy minister Richard Neufeld? Neufeld is also a champion of coalbed methane, another loosely regulated and environmentally destructive technology.

Talk is cheap, Gordo. Let's see some actual changes.

Is Gateway a goner? Comment from The Republic

Government's coalbed methane spin Comment from Will Horter of the Dogwood Initiative

Bombing My Son-in-Law

Lynn Moyers of Portland, OR, who has been a "guest blogger" here before, has another story to tell.

A bomb exploded literally next to the trailer where my son-in-law lives in Iraq, inside the "safety" of Baghdad's Green Zone. Fortunately, he is okay but to say he was scared s--tless is an understatement.

I wish all the people who love and support this war had their sons and daughters over there getting the s--t scared out of them, maimed, or killed. Imagine the Bush twins in fatigues instead of getting drunk and chasing boys in Argentina. Would change the calculus a bit, methinks.

Was very glad to see Sen. Gordon Smith (R-OR) stand up on the floor of the Senate and call the war "criminal". Finally, someone call this thing what it is.

God, I hate this stupid war.


The draft resurfaces as an issue

I've been traveling to Seattle frequently over the past couple of years for family reasons. I made a trip for U.S. Thanksgiving, and as usual, once I get as far as Ferndale, WA, my car radio stays mostly on AM 1090, Air America Radio's Seattle affiliate.

On this Thursday morning, the program was Thom Hartmann, and the subject was a bill that will be coming up in the next U.S. Congress to bring back the draft.

It's being promoted by Rep. Charles Rangell (D-NY), and Rangell will be the chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee. His point of view on this is pretty straightforward; he believes that white people should fight wars, too. His proposal is specifically for a year of universal military service.

Hartmann was editorializing in favour of this. He believes that if a larger area of the socioeconomic spectrum was in uniform, U.S. military actions like the one in Iraq would be less likely. Hartmann also likes the idea that Rangell's proposal differs from the last draft (discontinued in January, 1973) in allowing “alternative service” for conscientious objectors to military service.

Hartmann and Rangell make a pretty good case for this, but, having spent a good part of my life thinking about the draft (and sometimes even doing something about it), I disagree with them. Here are my reasons:

Civil liberty – I never got drafted, owing primarily to a student deferment that kept me out until 1972. I got close enough, however, to be called into the pre-induction physical. I say that any government that can herd you into a room full of people that you don't know, have you strip to your underwear, then make you bend over so that a doctor can stick his finger up your ass, is a very powerful government. If you believe that governments should generally be less powerful, bringing back the draft is an obvious step in the wrong direction.

Ways and means – People in uniform cost the government money. It isn't just the uniforms, the barracks, the food, and wages. You're also taking millions of people off the tax rolls for a year and making them postpone higher education.

You can certainly argue that there are benefits to this. I think that society could benefit from instilling the idea in young people that there's more to citizenship than going to the mall and buying stuff.

Governments have to set spending priorities, however, and the financial recklessness of the Bush administration has put the U.S. in a deep hole. It looks like there's an opportunity now for the U.S. to finally get universal health care, something that's very important, but also very expensive. I would like to put the question to Rangell himself, as the chairman of Ways and Means: can the U.S. afford both universal military service and universal health care, along with some other obvious priorities like fossil fuel alternatives? No, I don't think so. Would you really choose universal military service over universal health care?

There are additional costs for the alternative service. People doing alternative service would still have to be fed, clothed, and housed. There would also have to be a large bureaucracy to locate alternative service opportunities, and to monitor the people doing alternative service to make sure the alternative service requirement is actually met.

The Draft and armed conflict – Thom Hartmann argued that having children of the well-to-do (and specifically of members of Congress) doing military service would make adventures like the one in Iraq less likely; these people would be less likely to support wars if it meant that their own children might get killed or seriously injured. Maybe, but I argue that the opposite is the case. I think that the lesson of history is that having a large standing army increases the temptation for politicians to use it. Did the presence of draftees in the U.S. military in 1964 give Lyndon Johnson pause to consider the political cost of sending these draftees to Vietnam? I don't think so, although it certainly played a role in his loss of his job four years later.

And look at the present situation; if the U.S. had a significantly larger number of people in uniform, wouldn't that increase the likelihood of these people being sent to Iran or Venezuela? I think that in this day and age, having fewer people in uniform would make the world a safer place.

The difference between Kim Jong Il and Saddam Hussein

Kim John Il currently lives in an official residence in Pyongyang. Saddam Hussein currently lives in a jail cell in Baghdad.

Why? Because Kim Jong Il had weapons of mass destruction, and Saddam Hussein didn't.

If you were the dictator of a medium-size country that doesn't get along with the U.S. Government, the lesson here should be obvious to you; your personal quality of life will be much better if you have WMD.

Jong Il and the physicists who work for him have made the world a more dangerous place to live. They have had plenty of help in this, however. Jong Il's comrades in China didn't do much to discourage him from this adventure. However, the Bush administration played right into his hands.

Bush can't really talk to Jong Il about the “court of public opinion” when Bush's foreign policy has been “we'll do what we want, and if you don't like it, too bad”. Bush also has no grounds to talk about violations of international agreements, since he has thumbed his nose at several of them, including the Geneva Convention, and, more pertinent to the North Korean situation, the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) treaty.

The breakage of the ABM treaty was a particularly stupid move on Bush's part, and he didn't get anywhere near the criticism he deserved for it. If any mainstream media reporters had bothered to actually read the ABM treaty, they would have learned that the treaty permits each party to set up one ABM installation. (The Nixon administration set one up, and it was shut down in 1978 because it was judged by Congress to be a useless waste of money.) So, if Bush had been truthful about his motive for continuing with ABM's (as in intercepting single missiles launched by rogue states such as North Korea), there would have been no need to abrogate the treaty. The abrogation made Russian President Vladimir Putin look bad, and this new problem with North Korea is exactly the sort of situation where The West needs the help of people like Putin.

So, how do we go about getting Jong Il to listen to reason? The United Nations would be the obvious organization to do it, but there we have another problem. The Neo-Con agenda has had the UN on the hit list ever since Reagan became President in 1981. Jong Il doesn't need to listen to the UN, because it doesn't have any clout. The reason it doesn't have any clout is because the Reagan and Bush Administrations have acted to weaken it.

Now, the fact is, there are a lot of problems with the United Nations. Anyone familiar with Gen. Romeo Dallaire's bad experience in Rwanda knows this. But if you hear anyone tell you that the UN should be put out of business, your first question should be, “what would you replace it with?” The Neo-Con answer to this question was, “everybody will just do what we tell them to.” We now see that this approach has failed, and it's a failure that is dangerous to all of us.

The foolishness of the Bush Administration has put us in a situation where we have to hope that the government of China will give Kim Jong Il a strong enough slap on the wrist so that he will stop testing nuclear bombs close to the North Korea-China border. We may get by this time, but we should hope that the next time a problem like this comes around (and it will), there will be more sensible people minding the store in Washington.