Bob Broughton's Blog about British Columbia politics

A US battle against nature in the Galapagos Islands

Sea lions on San Cristóbal Island - photo courtesy of CruiseMapperAn announcement came out on June 12, 2019 that an agreement had been made between the governments of the United States and Ecuador that would allow the US military to extend the runway of the airport on San Cristóbal Island, then use it as a base for AWACS surveillance planes, specifically the Lockheed AP-C3 Orion and the Boeing E-3 Sentry (derived from the 707).

San Cristóbal Island is the easternmost of the Galapagos Islands, and is the second-most populous, with 5,600 people. Like all of the Galapagos Islands, it has a huge population of sea lions, birds, marine iguanas, and tortoises. The airport is one of three in the Galapagos Islands; the other two are Baltra and Puerto Villamil. There are commercial flights to the San Cristóbal airport from Quito, Guayaquil, and Baltra. The runway is 1,900 meters (6,230 feet) long.

The entire Galapagos Islands are an Ecuadorean national park and marine reserve, and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. UNESCO has previously expressed concerns about the impact of human activity on San Cristóbal, at the airport in particular. Any expansion of this airport will reduce wildlife habitat, and any increase in air traffic will damage the bird population. Long story short, this is one of the most ecologically sensitive areas on this planet.

The stated purpose of the AWACS planes is "the fight against narco traffic".

Book Review: Tone, Twang, and Taste: A Guitar Memoir, by Pete Kennedy

I first heard the term "Americana music" about four years ago, and it's convenient, because it includes a lot of music I like: folk rock, folk, bluegrass, outlaw country, and Grateful Dead.

When I was first exposed to The Kennedys, I thought of them as a folk rock group, and specifically, a successor to The Byrds, a band that I liked a lot in my youth, and still do. However, "Americana music" appears quite a few times in this book, and during Pete Kennedy's long musical career, he has been in the thick of it. The long list of people he has worked or jammed with includes Emmylou Harris, Chet Atkins, David Bromberg, Charlie Byrd, Roger McGuinn, Dave Carter, Steve Earle, Danny Gatton, Doc Watson, Tom Paxton, and Eric Andersen.

I think that the most important lesson in this book is just how much hard work it takes to be a professional musician like Pete. In addition to the long hours of practice and jamming, he took lessons from Joe Pass and Johnny Smith.

If you've heard the phrase, "life begins at 40", that is about how old he was when he went on his first full-scale tour, with Mary Chapin Carpenter's band. That led to another gig with Nanci Griffith's band, the Blue Moon Orchestra, and ultimately meeting his wife, band mate, and songwriting partner Maura Kennedy.

I'm going to pass along two anecdotes from this book that I especially liked. When he was a teenager, his garage band chipped in and bought a copy of "Are You Experienced?", Jimi Hendrix' first album. After listening to it, they concluded, "this is what we're going to sound like from now on." The drummer said that he was going to have to quit, because he felt that there was no way that he would ever play that well. The rest of the band talked him out of it.

Why I walked away from Daily Kos

Tina EnglerI first thought that something was wrong when comedian Bill Maher was invited to give the keynote address at the University of California Berkeley commencement in December, 2014. A small group of Muslim students there didn't like it, and several articles in Daily Kos took up the "islamophobia" cudgel.

One question you could ask is, if you're not a student, a member of the faculty or staff of UC Berkeley, or even root for their athletic teams, why is their choice of a commencement speaker even any of your business? Another valid question is, what exactly is this "islamophobia" that is a common insult hurled at Daily Kos?

If you were to ask Salman Rushdie about it, he would tell you that the religion of Islam is something to be afraid of. So would the employees of the Charlie Hebdo magazine. And the friends and relatives of people killed in the September 11, 2001 attack. And women forced to wear burqas and put up with all sorts of other restrictions on personal freedom.

Further, Maher has had several Muslim guests on the show in recent years; Maajid Nawaz, Nayyera Haq, Asra Nomani, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, and Keith Ellison.

This doesn't matter to the Haters. And although the stated objective of Daily Kos is to "elect more and better Democrats", it doesn't matter that Maher contributed a million dollars to the Democrats in 2012, and has committed another million to the Democrats for 2018. I wrote this article in response to the UC Berkeley dustup: Maher spoke at UC Berkeley commencement, world still turning

Two Mexican journalists banned from the US for five years

Hérica Martínez Prado

A resolution by San Miguel Center, PEN International

Endorsed by PEN México

Hérika Martínez Prado and Luis Christian Torres Chávez are Mexican journalists. Sra. Martínez Prado works for the France Press Agency (AFP) and the newspaper El Heraldo de Mexico. Sr. Torres Chávez works for the Xinhua News Agency.

They were working on a story about the detention center for migrant children in Tornillo, TX. On June 18, 2018, they accidentally strayed across the Mexican-US border south of Tornillo while attempting to take pictures of the detention center. This was an understandable mistake. In that area, the border is the Rio Grande, and at the time, the Rio Grande was a dry gravel bed.

Martínez Prado and Torres Chávez were arrested by agents of the US Border Patrol. They were detained for 16 hours, and released after signing a “voluntary deportation” order. They are now banned from entering the US for five years. This is in spite of the fact that both of them had valid B1/B2 Visa Border Crossing Cards; Sra. Martínez’ card was valid through November 11, 2020.

Martínez Prado and Torres Chávez are journalists with jobs to do. As an organization supporting the rights of journalists, the San Miguel de Allende Center of PEN International calls for lifting the travel ban immediately. We also call for an apology to these two journalists from the government of the United States.

Free your vote 2.0

Guest blog by Paul George

“Your input will help shape the future of our democracy,” declares a November 17 BC government press release. The release announces the BC government has introduced legislation to hold a referendum in the fall of 2018 through a mail-in vote that will ask voters to decide whether BC should keep our current voting system (First-Past-the-Post) or move to a system of Proportional Representation.

It also introduced a public engagement process with feedback via an online questionnaire to help shape the referendum. Public input ends on February 28, 2018 at 4PM, after which the input will be compiled into a report by the Ministry of Attorney General and made public.

But before the government’s process was even launched, the BC Liberals were vigorously fighting against any electoral reform. Why? Why not give the process and ultimate proposal a fair hearing?

The Liberals had a different tack after they won the 2001general election. That election blatantly illustrated the unfair results that a first-past-the-post voting system can deliver in multi-party democracies. The Liberals, with 57% of the popular vote, elected 77 MLAs, a whooping 97.5% of the seats in the legislature. The NDP, with 21.5% of the vote, won just two seats (Joy MacPhail and Jenny Kwan). The upstart Green Party, with 12.4% of the popular vote, got no seats, no representation and no chance to present its ideas in the legislature for debate.

Book review: Private Places, Public Spaces: a woman at home in the world, by Lucina Kathmann

This is a collection of 22 non-fiction essays, written over a period of 20 years, some of them previously published. Some of them are based on the author’s long involvement in PEN International. One such essay is “The suffering word: cases of repression of women poets in Mesoamerica”, in which she documents massacres of the Maya community in Guatemala and imprisonment of women writers in Cuba.

Ms. Kathmann tells us quite a bit about herself in “Maru’s door” and “The currency of love”. Maru was a neighbour in San Miguel de Allende who died in childbirth. Lucina and her husband Charlie adopted her six children. Why? “I saw that there was no other way.”

“Social siege: African women writers” tells three stories. The first is about Awu, whose husband died in an accident, and thus became the “property” of his brother. The second is about Doshi, whose father sold her to be the fourth wife of a very old man. The third is a poem, “A mother’s lament”, by Fatou Ndiaye Sow, a very touching and sad piece about a mother whose son has been taken away, permanently, to attend a Koranic school. It’s a type of school where students learn very little, except how to be cannon fodder for somebody’s wars.

The story I enjoyed the most, though, was “Destination Kurdistan”, although I can’t easily explain why. The author documents a two-week tour of Kurdistan, eastern Turkey, and northern Iraq. She describes an area and a people that the rest of the world knows little or nothing about. She describes towns that are thousands of years old, and the gracious people she met, who are making a valiant effort to build their society after being oppressed by Turkey and Saddam Hussein.