Friday, June 30, 2006

Papers Please, Monsieur Sunbather!


So, just how long is it going to be before you need to submit to a criminal record check to spread out your blanket at the beach?

VANCOUVER, British Columbia (Reuters) - Many Canadian port workers will have to undergo criminal background checks similar to those now used at airports under a national security plan unveiled on Wednesday.

The rules would require special security clearance for workers at cruise ship docks and in areas that control the movement of cargo and containers, as well as for ship pilots who help navigate vessels into port, Transport Canada said.

Federal Transportation Minister Lawrence Cannon said the plan, which has been under consideration for at least three years, reflects Canada's commitment to "secure our borders and strengthen national security."

Sure hope this doesn't bring the Screamers down on my head for giving away National Security Secrets, but if anybody wants to get down to Vancouver's Waterfront Docks to watch the sunset or buy fish, just tell the guards you're going to The Cannery for dinner.


We are succumbing to madness.

Have fun at the beach, the mountains, the prairie, or wherever else you may roam this CanadaDay/FourthOfJuly DoublewideWeekend.

C., Big E., Littler E. and me are all heading to the lake, Okanagan Lake that is, for the duration.

Sure hope the VW (notso)Microbus makes it back in one piece.

Adios Amiga/os!


Thursday, June 29, 2006

But Mr. Bush, They're Your Activist Judges!


Believe it or not, the Supreme Court of the United States has smacked down trial by hood and torture:

WASHINGTON June 29/06 - The Supreme Court ruled Thursday that President Bush overstepped his authority in ordering military war crimes trials for Guantanamo Bay detainees, saying in a strong rebuke that the trials were illegal under U.S. and international law.

OK, OK, OK. It was actually 5-3 and Bush appointee/Chief Justice John Roberts had to recuse himself because he had already done his water carrying when he ruled in favour of the government on this issue back when he was an appeals court judge.

So let's make it 5-4. Which is actually pretty darned scary and demonstrates why everything progressive that has ever happened in America is slated for destruction if the Replicants hold on for one more round of SCOTUS appointments.

Glenn Greenwald, who really knows what he's talking about has the best analysis anywhere on the nuts, bolts and anti-monarchial implications of the decision.


Sartorial Smackdown Of The Smear


I have been listening to a guy named Bernie Ward, on and off, for quite awhile now.

In fact, I'm listening to his talk show from San Francisco right now.

Mr. Ward, who is a former Franciscan priest and an unabashed liberal, has been an outspoken opponent of his country's immoral occupation of Iraq since the beginning.

And as you might imagine he was often pilloried for speaking truth to power back in the darkest of dark days before the shiny black propaganda wall began to crack.

But Ward has never wavered, and in the last year or so many have begun to take him and his message more seriously, so much so that occasionally the Media Megalopolists now call on him to give the so-called progressive side of the story against a designated screamer.

Which is what happened earlier this week on CNN when Ward went up against a screamer named Chris Baker in a 'debate' about the NYTimes/BankSpy/FreedomOfSpeech issue.

And it was magic. Ward, who never backs down, stayed on message and just kept asking Baker if he wanted the government to decide what the NY Times can and cannot print. Baker refused to give a straight answer and finally began to make fun of Ward's weight before he stormed off the set because he knew that if he answered in the affirmative he would be confirming that he and all the other screamers, including the Cheney Administration itself, are actually calling for the abolition of the 1st Ammendment of the US Constitution. Here is the final exchange just before Mr. Baker turned tail and ran.

Baker: Don’t put words in my mouth…

Ward: You don’t have a mouth to put it in. You just said you want the government to determine what’s national security…

Baker: I got one chin man, I mean Jesus (garbled) Christ man, what do you want? Why don’t you just surrender. Just surrender.

Ward: It’s simple. Do you want the government to tell news papers what to do or not?

You can watch the entire thing here, but be forewarned, it's not for the squeamish or, to be more precise, progressives who think that we will ultimately prevail if we just keep on making nice with a ruthless propaganda machine.

And the best thing about all of this is that the pushback is no longer restricted to the small audience/regional guys like Ward or the satirists like Jon Stewart because folks like Keith Olbermann are going at this thing hard. All of which makes one wonder if James' Wolcott's Press Poodles have been sent to the kennel where they belong so that the real dogs can start to do a little bit or real investigative reporting.

Which would be a very, very good thing indeed.


Wednesday, June 28, 2006

The Gouging, Re-Visited


I had missed this little nugget last week from B.C. Ferries flack-o-tron Deborah Marshall:

VANCOUVER/CKNW(AM980) June 20/06 - If gas prices go down, B.C. Ferries will eliminate its latest fuel surcharge forcing travelers to pay at least three per cent more for every trip.

Deborah Marshall with B.C. Ferries confirmed that today while appearing on CKNW's Morning News with Philip Till. “If fuel does come down, we do have to take off the fuel surcharge,” Marshall said. “We appreciate it's frustrating, but unfortunately, as I say, we just don't have control over the cost of world prices.

Sure, they might not control world oil prices but they sure as heck control the price of their ridiculous, and unilaterally imposed, reservation fees.

Thirty-five stinking dollars we pay them just to make their job easier every time we take a round-trip on a major route.

And if you don't do it, you are pretty much guaranteed to wait because they have jacked the percentage of 'reserved' spots into the stratosphere.

So why do they do it this way?

Apparently because this is not officially considered a 'fare increase' and thus it does not have to go through the increasingly toothless Ferries Commissioner.

But, then again, maybe I shouldn't be complaining.

After all, they have given us those shiny new widescreen TV's to keep us all docile and happy.

That way, who cares if a propellor falls off during docking, because that just means you'll get to watch an extra episode or six of Sponge Bob Square Pants.

So, come to think of it, maybe we should just privatize everything while we still can.

How else can we possibly hold the line by increasing reservation fees on, say, hospital visits?

Update: I had forgotten that Paul Willcocks wrote an excellent piece awhile back wherein he delved into the "reservation fee is not a fare" issue in some depth and pointed out that the Ferry Commissioner has asked the government to change the legislation so that it can be regulated.


Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Three Dots In The Fountain



Maybe not in the fountain.

But how about the sprinkler?

I have to say, coming home to water the garden is not something I look forward to with great anticipation, but once I get at it there is something cooly meditative about it on a warm summer evening.

And it's even better if one of the E.'s comes out to help and we super-soak each other.

Which is what Little E. and I did tonight.

Bigger E. stayed inside, flopped out exhausted on the sofa. Today was her grade seven graduation and, believe you me, the younger they are the harder they fall.

And besides, it seems like only yesterday that she was sitting in the igloo cooler on the floor of our kitchen in Berkeley California pretending it was choo-choo train spaceship to Sammygitgo*.

At least 50,000 Iraqis have died violently since the 2003 U.S.-led invasion, according to statistics from the Baghdad morgue, the Iraqi Health Ministry and other agencies -- a toll 20,000 higher than previously acknowledged by the Bush administration.
San Jose Mercury News, June 2006

"If our response to terrorism is merely to terrorize other people in return, we are not in fact fighting terrorism at all, we are creating yet more terrorism for the future."
Paul William Roberts, In: A War Against Truth, pg 135
After Returning To A Bombed And Occupied Baghdad, April 2003


"Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired, signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and not clothed. This world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children."
Dwight D. Eisenhower, Former Republican President Of The United States
And Liberator of Europe, 1963

The federal government is set to go on a defence spending spree this week, but it falls short of a Senate committee's proposals and in some cases the military's wish list. Almost all of the $15 billion of capital purchases -- ships, aircraft, helicopters and trucks -- were either promised by Stephen Harper's Tories in the last federal election or planned by the previous Liberal government.

Canadian Press, June 2006

If only I could just permanently soak my head 'till waterlogged so that I can become a......

....Stepford Dad.

Because sometimes paying attention is just too much work, especially in the Summer heat.

*aka 'San Francisco' when you're not quite two years old.


The Ballem Letter


Thousands of words, foot upon foot of column inches, film at 8am, noon, 6pm, 11pm over and over and over again.

And yet, in the case of British Columbia's now former Deputy Minister of Health Penny Ballem, the crux of her sudden departure appears to come down to just two sentences in her letter of resignation to Premier Gordon Campbell dated June 22, 2006.

As I have advised you, the plans that you and your Deputy Minister have established for the organization of the Ministry of Health are unsound and reflect a lack of confidence in my leadershop on your part. This, combined with the lack of satisfaction that you have expressed in the work the Ministry has brought forward to Cabinet, has clarified for me that it is time I moved on to continue to make a contribution to British Columbians in other ways.

Which leads to four questions, none of which has been answered so far by any of the blathering in the local corporate media.

1) What, precisely, are 'The Plans' that have been established by the Premier?

2) Why is the Premier's Deputy Minister, Jessica MacDonald, setting Health Policy?

3) Where and when was the 'lack of satisfaction' expressed by Mr. Campbell*?

4) Where is Mr. George Abbott (ie. the supposed Health Minister) in all of this?

Regardless the answer to any of these questions, the way this affair has played out can only make a reasonable person wonder if Cabinet Ministers have any power whatsoever in the government of Mr. Campbell.

And if they do not, well, that would make his government, what, exactly, for all intents and purposes?

OK, OK, OK. I guess that means there are five questions I would like to the bigshot journos get some answers to.

*If the 'lack of satisfaction' was voiced at last week's not open/not transparent (as previously promised) cabinet meeting it sure would have been interesting to have been a fly-on-the-wall. Why? Well, in the past Mr. Campbell has demonstrated that he is not averse to being quite, shall we say, 'derisive' in closed door meetings towards women who are working with him:
"One story about Campbell’s behaviour to women did have some basis in fact.
That was the incident between the premier and Surrey MLA Elayne Brenzinger.
A lot of women felt a little uncomfortable when Campbell agreed with Brenzinger that during
one caucus row, he had told her to “F**k off” – even though he said it was basically a joke."
Barbara McLintock, The Tyee, April 2005


Sunday, June 25, 2006

I'm A Song And Dance Dad


Here's something you might not have guessed if you've stopped by here before.....

I grew up in a family of three boys that bashed the crap out each other at every opportunity.

Because it was all sports all the time.

Of course, there were the organized games and teams. Football and rugby in the fall, hockey in the winter and lacrosse in the spring/summer. Somehow basketball snuck in there too, and a little volleyball, but baseball was verbotten because it was a sissy's game.

But on top of all that there were the games at home. One of the best was called 'Cream-'Em' where essentially whoever had the ball got pummelled until they gave it up whether they were on the bottom of a dogpile or not. And then there were the soccer games in the backyard. Usually these were two on two affairs, with Dad included. They went on and on and on and on, so much so that there were huge mud holes in front of the side of the garage (big goal) and the picket fence that separated us from the neighbours, Mr. and Mrs. Childs (small goal). Those games were rough and tumble too, with more than their share of viscious tackles, taunts and elbows and Mom constantly hollering at us that it was time to come in for dinner.

All of which was king heckfire fun most of the time, but in retrospect might not have been the best thing for our youngest brother who, in the end (and probably the beginning) decided he wanted to be a muscician.

Anyway, now that I have two kids of my own the strangest thing has happened.

I have almost no sports in my life whatsoever.


Because these days I am little more than a Song-And-Dance-Dad.

Not that I'm complaining or anything.

Take the last couple of weeks for example. I've had a blast at my wife C.'s Broadway Showtune Revue, my oldest kid E's fantastic, show-stopping, musical theater performance in a modified and very funny version of the Pirates of Penzance and, finally, my youngest kid, Little E.'s, absolutely fantastic Tap Dance Extravaganza.

All of which beats sitting in a sweltering arena in the middle of summer screaming 'Check! Check! Check!' during the South Vancouver Island Bantam 'A' Lacrosse finals.

But here's the weird part....During an epiphanic moment that came just after the intermission of Little E's show, I was struck dumb by the knowledge my brothers and me would have had a riot doing the tap dancing thing because those young boys get to go absolutely bonkers with percussion, controlled mayhem and athleticism. Not to mention the fact that they get to wear all these wild costumes, some of which resemble early James Brown, that I just know my youngest brother would have had a gas flashing.

But just to show that the world really does go round in beautiful circles, last week both of the E.'s asked me if maybe we should get a family soccer ball.

So, yesterday, I stopped at Cheapskates on the way home from the lab and picked up a garish little number, all black and shiny and show-stopper fancy.

And now?

Well, you'll have to excuse me 'cause I've gotta go outside and play.


Bubble Boy North?


In the past I've been quite critical of Bell Globe Media's senior political/gossip columnist.

But in her column in yesterday's Globe* Jane Taber actually took a real shot at Little Stephen (although she had to quote the heebie-jeebieized Western Standard to do so):

In the latest issue of the right-wing Western Standard, Mr Harper, in an interview entitled, "I've got more control now", criticizes the left-wing ideologues" in the official Ottawa media. He says those ideologues in the press gallery are dictating the rules for the majority of members.


"I'm free to pick my interviews when and where I want to have them," he (Harper) says. "They say if I don't do it their way. I'll somehow gain more control over my media relations. Well, I've got more control now." He said that the media's intransigence may be the gallery's undoing and it may be a good thing. "I think if we can break that up in any way that it is helpful for democracy."


Three things.

First - Notice the framing. Anybody that doesn't give Mr. Harper a free ride is painted as an ideologue. This is emerging as a well used Luntzian Theme that is designed to cut-off any legitimate investigatory journalism at the knees.

Second - Check out the obfuscatory Orwellian doublespeak in which subverting a central tenet of democracy (ie. a free press) is actually 'helpful' for democracy.

Third - Remember this story to see if Ms. Taber is willing to stand on principle or if she caves and jumps at the next chance for an 'Access of Evil' interview. That said, good on her for telling it like it is this time around.

*No link: behind the subscription wailing wall
*Whoops:In the first iteration of this post I confused the Weekly Standard with the Western Standard which, of course, is kinda like mixing up David Frum with, well, David Frum. Anyway, thanks to A. for noticing.


Friday, June 23, 2006

Michael Winterbottom Goes Deep


First off, let me say right off the top that I think Michael Winterbottom is absolutely brilliant. His range as a film maker is, in my opinion, astonishing.

I recently watched 'In This World' for the second time and was again shaken to the core. And not just by the movie because the story of the making of the movie about two refugees that flee Afghanistan for England overland was also fantastic. That script itself was fictional but the film's two leads were actually Afghans, and one of them, a young kid, did eventually apply for refugee status in Britain. But what I found really fascinating was the fact that the movie itself was made by the cast and crew taking the trip that was actually depicted in the movie.

And now it looks like Mr. Winterbottom has taken it all one step further with 'The Road To Guantanomo'. This time he has used fact and the fictional retelling of those facts according to the principals involved to the tell the story of the 'Tipton Three' who were wrongfully jailed, tortured, and degraded for two years at the Guantanamo Bay Concentration Camp.

Here is a bit of today's review by A.O. Scott in the NY Times:**

It should be emphasized that the movie, directed by Michael Winterbottom and Mat Whitecross, is not a documentary. It does rely on talking-head interviews with the former prisoners — Shafiq Rasul, Asif Iqbal and Ruhel Ahmed, known collectively as the Tipton Three for the town in northern England where they grew up — and faithfully reproduces their version of events. Most of what the audience sees on screen, however, is a re-enactment, conducted mainly by nonprofessional actors. By the time the action reaches Guantánamo — those scenes were shot in Iran — the artifice is unmistakable, since no camera could have penetrated the actual isolation cells, interrogation rooms and chicken-wire cages of Camps X-Ray and Delta. But earlier sequences in Pakistan and Afghanistan have the shaky, grainy urgency of real life captured on the fly.


There may still be some die-hards who respond to pictures of hooded prisoners and detailed accounts of physical and psychological abuse with accusations of anti-Americanism. The filmmakers and the Tipton Three are fairly circumspect with regard to their own political beliefs, but their ideological commitments are really beside the point. A news clip shows President Bush referring to the Guantánamo detainees as "bad guys," and it is not necessary to believe that the Tipton Three were good guys — one of them had a police record in Britain — to be appalled at their treatment.


The facts on which "The Road to Guantánamo" is based are horrifying, and in its most effective moments it provokes strong feelings of helplessness and dread. But by far the scariest thing about this movie is that, for too many people in this country (the United States) and elsewhere, it may already have lost the power to shock.


*I do not mean to besmirch the work of Mr. Moore here because I do believe that his best work has considerable merit. It's just that I see Mr. Moore as a provocateur who makes you think while Mr. Winterbottom adds an air of true artistry to the mix that really who makes you feel.
**Because of my disgust at much of the stenography that is being done at the New Pravda these days I am now down to just one print day a week, which is pretty much always Friday - for the movie reviews and Krugman (Herbert alone is just not reason enough to shell out $2.50 CDN on other days).


With Friends Like These, Who Needs Reporters


Last Friday morning (June 16th) I listened incredulously to the 'Cutting Edge of the Ledge' as Vaughn Palmer, Keith Baldrey and Bill Good all dismissed, out of hand, any serious concerns about safety procedures or protocols at BC Ferries. More specifically, all three of them downplayed former safety officer Darin Bowland's Statement of Claim and Mr. Baldrey even raised the spectre that it is all just a desperate act of a disgruntled former employee looking for money . Interestingly, however, there was no serious discussion of the 'Benign Bombshell' also known as the Transport Safety Board's defacto interim report letter that was sent to BC Ferries CEO David Hahn specifically raising safety concerns.

Anyway, with so much else happening this past week, including Little E's really, really big Tap Dance Show, I promptly forgot all about it.

But tonight, after checking my notes, I decided to go fishing around the outer reaches of the google cache and came up with this, from Mr. Baldrey, published on March 29, 2006, just two days after the sinking of the Queen of the North.

Early last Wednesday morning - just after 2 a.m. - my home phone rang. That's usually a reason for concern - the first thing that springs to mind is a family emergency somewhere. But this call was about another kind of emergency. 
"Keith, it's Dave Hahn. Sorry about the early call, but I thought you should know. One of our vessels has just gone down north of Vancouver Island. I'm trying to get an update on the passengers. I'll keep you informed, but I thought you might want to get going on this." 
It was a startling phone call, to say the least. Startling because the ferry had only sunk about an hour before, startling because of the potential magnitude of the ferry disaster, and startling because of the forthrightness of the man who runs BC Ferries. 
Mr. Hahn and I talked several more times in the early hours of that morning. He would phone with updates - the most important of which was about the state of the passengers - and try to provide as much information as possible.
As the morning went on, he started appearing seemingly everywhere - one minute on CKNW, the next moment on CBC Radio, the next on Global TV. BC Ferries had hastily chartered a plane to fly Mr. Hahn and Premier Gordon Campbell to Prince Rupert to meet the Queen of the North's passengers. He invited me and a Global cameraman to accompany them. 
As this potentially giant crisis was still developing, Mr. Hahn was front and centre with the public. Rather than hiding and adopting a bunker mentality when faced with a disaster for the company, he was out in front of the story, trying to provide information as quickly as possible.
In other words, he was behaving exactly the opposite of how most politicians act when faced with a crisis. The usual experience, from this reporter's perspective, is having to wait for hours outside a cabinet minister's office (or a premier's office) as nervous aides huddle, trying to figure out a damage control plan before saying anything publicly. 
Not so with Mr. Hahn. 
It's a refreshing approach from the head of a large company, and one that I suspect resonates well with the general public. I ran into Mr. Hahn at a Victoria gas station this past weekend, and attendants there were congratulating him for "being upfront" about everything. The radio phone-in shows have also reflected positive reviews - not scientific research, I admit, but my instincts tell me the approach is working.
All this injects yet another perspective into the ongoing debate over the privatization of BC Ferries. I have a very hard time believing information would have been forthcoming so quickly in the wake of this kind of disaster if BC Ferries were still run by the provincial government.
There are valid concerns about the need for public accountability when it comes to BC Ferries, since the company basically controls the transportation ability for thousands of people who rely on the ferry system for travel, commuting or the shipment of goods. 
For example, the company is exempt from B.C.'s freedom of information law, which shields it from a significant level of scrutiny. 
There are certainly parts of privatization that trouble many people. But in terms of accountability in the face of a disaster as large as the sinking of the Queen of the North, I'll take Mr. Hahn's approach over his predecessors - as in cabinet ministers - any day.

Keith Baldrey is chief political reporter for Global B.C.

Now, after reading that, I have two questions.

First, the obvious: Why, exactly, does Mr. Baldrey automatically conclude that persistent attempts at PR Spin = Accountability?

Second, the less obvious: Why, exactly, does Mr. Baldrey not recognize when he himself is, perhaps, being spun?

With respect to the latter question, could it be that Mr. Baldery likes it that way?

And could it be that Global TV viewers like it that way too?

After all, they wouldn't want to be faced with the spectacle of Mr. Baldrey having to actually get out there and dig for the story so that that he could come to his own conclusions based upon the 5 W's now would they?

No, of course not.

And neither, apparently, would he.

Because if he did that he might not get those special phone calls in the middle of the night or offers of super-duper seats on special charter flights.

Or, worse, the tap of free and easy info flow might dry up completely.

Just like it did for a real reporter named Chris Montgomery who tried like heck to get behind the spin and the freedom of information shield now protecting BC Ferries, the private corporation.

And here's what happened to her:

In the days just following the ferry sinking, Chris Montgomery, a Province reporter who has long led the pack in maritime news, broke stories about the Queen of the North's delayed decommission date and the inaccurate passenger manifests. But after Montgomery co-wrote a story claiming an RCMP investigation into possible criminal negligence by B.C. Ferries was underway, Hahn publicly took issue with the claim that B.C. Ferries was itself the target of the investigation. An RCMP representative told The Tyee the difference of opinion between Montgomery and Hahn is one of "semantics," though a criminal investigation can not be formally announced until the TSB issues its report, possibly years away.
In the meantime, B.C. Ferries no longer returns Montgomery's phone calls.

Now this is no laughing matter, because as long as spinmeisters are able to hook lazy journos with promises of special, unlimited access they can effectively shut out the real reporters, the ones who are actually out there trying to get to the bottom of things.

And when that happens the public is never well served or served well.

Oh, and just so you know, this wasn't the first time Mr. Baldrey went to bat for Mr. Hahn after an accident. He also had some very flattering things to say about Mr. Hahn's willingness to put himself 'front and center' after the Queen of Oak Bay had a mechanical failure and drifted into the Marina at Horsehoe Bay last summer. Which is a very strange thing indeed, because while Mr. Baldrey might have had to wait for Ministerial announcements and the like in the 'bad' old days, I cannot remember ever having to wait for a ferry because it completely lost power and drifted over pleasure craft while trying to dock. Not once. Not ever. 


Thursday, June 22, 2006

What Did He Know And When Did He Know It?


Like they always said about Richard Nixon, it wasn't the crime it was the cover-up.

Which, of course, was a crock.

Regardless, Ron Susskind's new book is going to have a lot of folks asking what the Shrub knew and when he knew it. Take this for example:

The book's opening anecdote tells of an unnamed CIA briefer who flew to Bush's Texas ranch during the scary summer of 2001, amid a flurry of reports of a pending al-Qaeda attack, to call the president's attention personally to the now-famous Aug. 6, 2001, memo titled "Bin Ladin Determined to Strike in US." Bush reportedly heard the briefer out and replied: "All right. You've covered your ass, now."

Ya, but that was then and this is now.

And in this now it's an entirely different derriere that needs a whole lotta covering.

Or not.


Wednesday, June 21, 2006

It Couldn't Happen To A Nicer Guy


Some things events require no comment whatsoever.

(U.S.) Federal prosecutors accused former Hollinger International Inc. Chairman and Chief Executive Conrad Black on Monday (June 19) of providing financial information replete with "inconsistencies and half-truths" to help secure approval for his $20 million bond.

In a motion that revealed some of the former media magnate's financial dealings, Assistant U.S. Attys. Eric Sussman and Jeffrey Cramer asked the court to modify or revoke Black's bond.

In a separate motion, prosecutors sought a court order directing the sale of Black's $32 million Palm Beach estate because he has defaulted on his $10 million mortgage.

The default jeopardizes the estate's availability to be used for bond should Black fail to appear for trial next year, prosecutors told U.S. District Judge Amy St. Eve.

OK, OK, OK. I can't resist.

Translation...... Patrick Fitzgerald (yes, that Patrick Fitzgerald) is trying to get Conrad the Marauder's bail revoked because the mansion he put up for collateral is as empty as many of the shell companies he allegedly looted.

Man, I sure hope the Canadian Opera Company cashed that big cheque before they gave His Lordship in the Crosshairs his tax receipt.


The Joke's On Dad....


I know that Father's Day has come and gone but fellow bike commuter and Vancouverite DPU has a really great story up about his, with a bizarre double entendre and everything.

Actually, I don't know if double entendre is the correct term.

Let's just say that it is not the Focks that Rocks in the DPU household.


Say It Ain't So Dave, Say It Ain't So


OTTAWA - CP (June 20/06) -- A final agreement on softwood lumber between Canada and the U.S. appears unlikely before fall, Trade Minister David Emerson suggested yesterday.

Meanwhile small but vital reporter Victoria Penner and her side-kick from the Globe and Mail's gossip pages could neither confirm nor deny the rumo(u)r that Mr. Emerson dropped this bombshell as he was boarding a chartered jet that would take him to Whistler so he could check out the gold-plated rivets on a $378,586,938.28 Olympic Luge run that is on time and on budget.


Monday, June 19, 2006

Why Did Bowland Really Leave BC Ferries?


So why did the newly hired BC Ferries Safety Officer leave the corporation two days after the sinking of the Queen Of The North back in March.

Clearly, from his Statement Of Claim, Mr. Bowland has taken exception to the Corporation's Press Release at the time* that stated he resigned for 'personal reasons'.

And for his part, once again demonstrating his penchant for the 'benign' obfuscation, BC Ferries CEO David Hahn apparently had this to say when questioned about the specifics surrounding Mr. Bowland's 'resignation':

"I'm not going to answer that question...." Hahn said. "You know, there are all sorts of e-mails around that stuff, there's documentation on all that and I think we have to leave that to the court."


And in the meantime Mr. Hahn is preparing to ram through his third fuel surcharge in the past year which, when coupled with the unregulatable increases in 'reservation fees', pushes a weekend round trip for a family of four with the car between the Mainland and Vancouver Island ever closer to the magic $200 mark.

And even more fantastical, this has all been done without an 'official' fare increase.


Oh, and how much are those German Ferries that are being built with our money, but not our (unionized) workers, going to cost us anyway Mr. Hahn?

*Searched high and low on the BC Ferries website for that original press release, but I sure as heck couldn't find it. In fact, if you type 'Bowland' into the site's search engine you come up with exactly zero entries.


Beneath The Valley Of The NewbieCons


Ian Welsh has a great guest post up at Firedoglake in which he breaks down the current Winger Taxonomy.

Essentially, he divides them into the seven 'Stations of the Cons':

1) TheoCons
2) NeoCons
3) CorporateCons
4) RichCons
5) LibertarianCons
6) PaleoCons
7) MilitaryCons

Jokingly, I suggested that he missed the 8th cluster, otherwise know as the 'NewbieCons' which are being generated by junk websites like the one I mentioned in this morning's post.

But more seriously, and more importantly, for us, the Canuckistani people, is figuring out how many of the Seven Stations Mr. Harper has already managed to fully ingratiate himself with.

I have it at as at least four, maybe even five.


All Your Kids Belong To Us


At first I thought this was a joke.

But as far as I can make it out, it's true.

The NSA has a gamesite for kids (click through with caution - it's not like might track you or anything).

Yes, that's right, the National Security Agency of the United States has a website where it invites children to come and practice being codebreakers.

And best of all they use proprietary language software called 'Rosetta Stone' to get them going.

There is an upside to this thing though.

Only one of the cute and cuddly characters is actually wearing a Brownshirt.

*Sure, go ahead and laugh, but your kid turns you in for kerning, well......


Sunday, June 18, 2006

For My Dad


I really do live a charmed life.

I have a wonderful wife and two great kids.

I also have a job I actually like, where most of the time I get to do what I want to do.

And that job pays me well; not fantastically well, but well enough that we were able to buy a house in the city of Vancouver last year which, considering the prices, is pretty darned well.

In fact I am upwardly mobile enough that I am one of those people that actually benefits financially from some of the greedheaded policies of Mr. Harper and Mr. Campbell et al.

So, given all that, you might be asking why I'm not one of those 'ladder puller-uppers'?

You know, somebody who's got theirs, and now says, "Screw you Jack," to everybody else.


I'll tell you why.

It's because of my Dad*.

Believe it or not the piece below has become a bit of tradition, if that is even possible in the bloggodome.

I wrote it two years ago and it is one of the first things I ever posted here.

If anything, it means more to me now than it did then.

My Dad turned 65 this year. He's done with tugboats now, but he sure as heck is not done with the kids or, even more so, the grand kids.

Not now. Not ever.

Here goes.......

My old man was a Union man.

And the folks in the Union fought like bastards...and they fought constantly, usually for the tiniest of things in each successive contract...things like an extra quarter percent on a COLA clause, or one little add-on like an extra free filling per year on the dental plan.

And when I was a kid, especially during that time when I was a barely no-longer-a-teenager-aged kid, I thought the folks from the Union were just a little bit off their nut....all that energy going into what, exactly?

After all, it was the 80's, and Dave Barrett and the Socialist Hordes were long gone, and the Wild Kelowna boys were rolling along, and Unions were bad, and Expo was coming, and Trudeau was going, and John Turner was hiccupping, and Mulroney was lurking, somewhere off in the distance....

....And if you were a half-bright, apolitical science-geek kind of kid like me, breezing your way through college and thinking about graduate school, you laughed when you saw the boy wonder from Burnaby, Michael J. Fox, shirk his Family Ties and ape the young Republicans while making fun of his willfully neutered Leftie of a Dad on the TV screen...

....And if you were that kid, you thought that you were living in a golden age that was tied, not to the social democratic reforms of the past, but to the coming of Free Trade and the promises of the Reaganites from the South...

...And from that perspective you sure as heck didn't get the irony of Bruce Springsteen singing about the plight of the working class in 'Born in the USA'.

But now that I have spent a good chunk of time in USA where I started a family of my own before coming home, I do get it.

I understand that my Dad spent his entire adult life hauling logs up and down the West Coast, working his guts out to help keep the robber baron families rich because he had to make a living to support his own family....

....And I get the fact that, because of the Unions, my family's standard of living gradually improved, bit by bit, over the years so that by the time I had grown up to be that callow young man described above my parents had saved enough to help me go to University....

....And I get the fact that I was the first one in my family who got to go to University.... ever..... and it wasn't because I was so damned smart....

....And I get the fact that, while my parents' limited financial help and support was important, it would never have been enough to get me into the same good schools if I had arrived on the scene a single generation earlier or, perhaps, later....

....And I get the fact that those Wild Kelowna Boys, and all the other neo-cons that have come since, have been doing their damndest to destroy the dream of a University education for all, and instead have instituted an elitist education for some and one-trick-pony Technical training for everybody else.....

....And I get the fact that, if it wasn't for folks like my Dad and the other lefties of his time, my current world, one in which I make a living with my eyes and my mind wide open, would not be what it is today.....

....And most of all, I now get the fact that my Dad was, and is, my hero.

*Of course, it's also because of my Mom too! Gotta go now, promised to take the youngest, little E., to the park this morning to practice bike riding.


Saturday, June 17, 2006

Softwood Talks Are Off But.....

....GordCo's Still Carrying Water For Little Stephen

VANCOUVER (CP) June 17th - B.C. Premier Gordon Campbell says working through framework agreements is what's stalling the Canada-U.S. talks on softwood lumber.

The premier says the break in negotiations does not mean anyone has walked away from the table, adding lawyers are carefully going through the deal reached in April and that takes a lot of time. The agreement between Canada and the U.S. would replace punitive U.S. import duties with a Canadian border tax or quota system but yet to be signed.

Campbell reiterated that the province would walk away from the deal if it was not right for British Columbia.

It's not known when negotiations on finalizing the agreement will resume.

Again, there are knowns that we know and unknowns that we don't know.

And then, of course, there are knowns that we won't know are unknowns until they resume being negotiated at an as yet unknown date that will maybe be known in the future.

But there is one thing we do know for sure - a deal that does not exist is still not a deal, no matter what the neandercons say.

*And don't forget - There are congress critters who want our wood.


The Shrubbery And Me


Dear Di,

Brian warned me about talking to wordsmith weinies like Peter C., but if I can't trust Kenny W., who can I trust?

You, I guess.

Anyway, July 6th is coming up fast and it looks like I might not be able to give George W. a woodie.

So, instead, do you think that $254 million will be enough to make him happy?


What if we give all the airline ticket agents and busdrivers retinal scanners and stun guns?

Still not good enough?

Maybe we could force RIM to send every single Blackberry ping to the NSA?

Whaddya mean we're doing that already?

Has anybody told Sandy yet?

Ooops.....somebody's comin'.....under the matress you go.....G'nite Di......


This Week's Favorite New Sites


From North of the 49th, it's Rusty Idols. He's succinct, he's good, and he's not afraid to go where many on the left fear to tread. As an example, he was willing to look critically at the discussion around 'problems' with theTommy Douglas docu-drama as they pertain to the characterization of former Saskatchewan premier James Gardiner:

I get that it never pretended to be a 100% accurate historical record, but we are specifically talking about having a real person (Gardiner) who lived only a few years ago and who's family are still alive, say things he didn't say, drink when he didn't drink, condemn trade unionists in a speech when he wasn't even in office, appear to be anti-immigrant when he wasn't...

I'd be ticked if he was my grandfather.

Cliff, the proprietor of RIdols, then goes on to discuss what he feels should be done to rectify the situation (morally, not legally). Now, you don't have to agree with him on this, but you have to admire his honest feelings on the subject, not to mention his willingness to look at things with a critical eye. These are two qualities, I think, that separate the good stuff in the bloggodome from the junk.


From South of the 49th we have The Next Hurrah. This isn't actually a new one for me, it's just that I've been too lazy to get it up over on the sidebar. It's a group blog, it's highly political, and most all of which is good, but my favorite correspondent is Emptywheel (who I have even more respect for after hearing her speak on FDL's PlamePanel last week).

Emptywheel is the kind of blogger we all want to be, but never can be because we don't have unlimited time, smarts, and/or imagination. She is probably best known for her complete dissection of the motivations behind the travesties of Judy Miller, but recently she pointed me towards this fantastic piece she wrote a few months back about that wiley wizard of waygone wingnuttism, Michael Ledeen.

Michael Ledeen is regularly haunted by a crazy old ghost. Not just any ghost. He's visited by the longtime head of US Counterintelligence, James Jesus Angleton (JJA), conjured up through an old ouija board he bought in New Orleans. Or at least that's what Ledeen contrives in a series of columns.

He first used this device, I think, to give himself cover for exploiting current events to make great paranoid claims. Want to turn the Chandra Levy murder into a case of international espionage? Conjure JJA to tell you that Gary Condit was a double agent--blackmailed into trading intelligence in exchange for silence about his multiple affairs. When Levy threatened to expose her affair, she threatened to ruin the double agent arrangement. Want to use the DC Sniper case to drum up fear about Islamic terrorists? Have JJA explain to you that Mohammed's attacks were done at the behest of an Islamic terrorist group who was actually probing US defenses. Want to exploit the anthrax attacks in your attempts to launch a war against Iraq? Make JJA explain how, contrary to all the evidence, the attacks were obviously a plot of Saddam's.

You see, by the end of his life, JJA was absolutely fricking nuts. He had spent his life hunting double agents--heck, he even was a close friend of Kim Philby. And by the end, he had been seeing double for so long he had by most accounts become certifiably paranoid. By invoking JJA, Ledeen allows himself to posit all manner of wacky plots without damaging his (in some crowds, anyway) considerable credibility.

Character, narrative, drama, action, intrigue, historical perspective, backstory, and downright engaging......To use a stupid sports metaphor that I'm sure she would hate, Emptywheel's blogging is the complete package*.

*Speaking of which, she has a very provocative piece up right now about who she thinks might be the next smear target(s) of an apparently newly unleashed Karl Rove.



Friday, June 16, 2006

Up Is Down....

......Black Is White


Because British Columbia Premier Gordon Campbell says so:

Premier Gordon Campbell last week suggested that his government’s $3 billion Gateway Project will help cut greenhouse gas emissions by reducing traffic congestion on the Lower Mainland’s highways.

Yes, that's right.

Our man in Havana..... errrrrr...... Victoria, Mr. Campbell, is saying that building more freeways will actually decrease smog.

Next thing you know he and his minions will be telling us that the 2010 Whistler Olympics are on time and on budget.




Give It To Filkins, He'll Print Anything


That was then:

The military's propaganda program largely has been aimed at Iraqis, but seems to have spilled over into the U.S. media. One briefing slide about U.S. "strategic communications" in Iraq, prepared for Army Gen. George W. Casey Jr., the top U.S. commander in Iraq, describes the "home audience" as one of six major targets of the American side of the war.

That slide, created by Casey's subordinates, does not specifically state that U.S. citizens were being targeted by the effort, but other sections of the briefings indicate that there were direct military efforts to use the U.S. media to affect views of the war. One slide in the same briefing, for example, noted that a "selective leak" about Zarqawi was made to Dexter Filkins, a New York Times reporter based in Baghdad. Filkins's resulting article, about a letter supposedly written by Zarqawi and boasting of suicide attacks in Iraq, ran on the Times front page on Feb. 9, 2004.

This is now, with Mr. Filkins is still acting as the willing shill, once again on A1, above the fold, in the NY Times.

BAGHDAD, Iraq, June 15, 2006 — American military officers on Thursday put a face on the new chief of Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia, releasing a photograph and details of the man they say succeeded Abu Musab al-Zarqawi after he was killed in an airstrike last week.

n a news briefing, Maj. Gen. William B. Caldwell IV, the American military spokesman here, identified Mr. Zarqawi's successor as Abu Ayyub al-Masri, an Egyptian who he said had trained in one of the terrorist camps in Afghanistan run by Al Qaeda in 1999.

Mr. Masri, he said, was a "founding member" of Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia and had become one of Mr. Zarqawi's "closest remaining associates." The group is believed to be responsible for dozens of suicide attacks and car bombings across Iraq that have killed hundreds of Iraqi civilians.

So, what all began with Rhoda following the departed Mary, has all come down to this. A villianous sequel show slickly produced to sell a never-ending war to a TV-addicted nation.


And I thought Billmon was just joking.


Thursday, June 15, 2006

Frame It, Baby, Frame It


With a softwood lumber deal that never existed apparently unravelling Stephen Harper has decided it's time to shift into Luntzian neoconbabblespeak and out of the blue start blaming, get this, lawyers:

Harper dismissed the notion the negotiations are stalled, saying complex legal discussions take time. "This deal is clearly better to the only alternative that the leader of the Opposition and his lawyer friends have to offer; and that is, endless litigation in American courts," Harper said.


Couldn't Mr. Harper find any activist judges, married gays, homegrown terrorists and/or crack-addled street racers to blame his stillborn deal on?

Whoops, forgot arborshun doctors.

After all, they hate trees, don't they?


Bowland Responds To Hahn


There sure was a huge media stampede to repeat and whirlitzer-up David Hahn's statement yesterday that former BC Ferries Safety Officer Darin Bowland is, to put it mildly, truth-challenged.

Heckfire, even we had something to say about it.

Funny though how few corporate media outlets have commented, even in passing, on Mr. Bowland's response, which was also made yesterday.

So, in the interest of fairplay, not to mention to help try and get everyone's statements on the record for the day of reckoning which is sure to come, here is the press release from Mr. Bowland's lawyers.

VANCOUVER, June 14 /CNW/ - On behalf of Captain Darin Bowland, Lawson
Lundell LLP has filed a lawsuit in BC Supreme Court against BC Ferries. The
Statement of Claim was widely circulated by the media yesterday.
The President of BC Ferries, David Hahn, was interviewed on The Bill Good
Show (CKNW) this morning about the lawsuit and we have now had an opportunity
to review his comments.
Our response at this time is to simply state that: (1)Captain Bowland is
recognized as having an impeccable reputation in relation to maritime safety
matters; (2) Captain Bowland stands by all the allegations made in the
Statement of Claim;(3) Mr. Hahn's statement that Captain Bowland did not
advise senior management of the company about his safety concerns is totally
inaccurate; and (4) we are confident that the litigation discovery processes,
both documentary and oral, will fully support Captain Bowland's position.
In the meantime, Captain Bowland continues to cooperate with the official
investigations underway by the Transportation Safety Board of Canada and the
RCMP, as he is anxious to have the very serious concerns about the safety
protocols and practices at BC Ferries fully addressed and dealt with by the
appropriate authorities.

Please note point #3.

That is all.

For now.


The Fifty Percent Man


Mark Hume has the latest from B.C. Ferries CEO and all around benign-o-phile David Hahn:

VANCOUVER -- Amid a growing debate about safety issues, David Hahn, the president of B.C. Ferries, has flatly contradicted key allegations made by a safety expert who says his warnings were ignored prior to a disastrous sinking.

On Tuesday, Darin Bowland filed a statement of claim in the Supreme Court of British Columbia in a wrongful-dismissal suit, in which he said senior management at the company ignored his warnings that "there was a strong likelihood of catastrophic incidents" if safety practices were not immediately improved.


Although B.C. Ferries has not yet filed a statement of defence, Mr. Hahn responded to Mr. Bowland's charges yesterday while being interviewed by talk-show host Bill Good on Vancouver radio station CKNW.

"We reject all of his allegations," Mr. Hahn said. "I think what's interesting [is] he never set foot on the Queen of the North during his time here, never was on the Queen of Prince Rupert [a sister ship], was never in Prince Rupert or Port Hardy on any business from B.C. Ferries.

Now, I heard that interview, on the replay during a fit of insomnia at 3:30am this morning, and the softballs that Mr. Good repeatedly lobbed up to the plate were unbelievable.

And even when he pretended to be coming with the occasional high hard one, Mr. Good was really doing little more than serving up gopher balls.

Exhibit A:

"Best as I know," Mr. Hahn continued, "he was only on four or five shifts during that period of time that he was here. I have no documents, or he never came to see me expressing any of these grave concerns nor [did he speak to] any of the senior officers that report to me."

Mr. Good replied: "He does say he warned that there was strong likelihood of catastrophic incidents if the ferry didn't improve safety practices. Did you know that? Did you ever hear that phrase, 'catastrophic incidents?' "

"Not at all. And nor, I would argue, has any senior member at B.C. Ferries," Mr. Hahn answered.

Notice that the way that Mr. Good 'reverse-parsed' the question to make it incredibly easy for Mr. Hahn to completely avoid the substance of the issue which is whether or not Mr. Bowland raised significant safety concerns that were ignored by the corporation.

Luckily, one lone caller did do Mr. Good's job for him when they asked about Mr. Hahn's bonus package.

Turns out that it's 50%, a number previously unheard of at B.C. Ferries.

Given that, it is extremely difficult, if not downright impossible for inquiring minds not to wonder how much cash Mr. Hahn would ultimately save himself if he could fully discredit any significant safety concerns, be they from the FederalTransportation Safety Board, Mr. Bowland, or the B.C. Ferries rank and file.

Or, put another way, when your ultimate compensation package depends on the outcome of a successful public relations campaign is there not, at the very least, a perceived conflict of interest in the making?

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

What, Me Hurry?


Other than raw politics, I could never figure out why Stephen Harper would put Canadian Softwood Lumber negotiators in such a bad bargaining position by putting them up against his own self-imposed deadline.

But now this pops up:

OTTAWA -- Prime Minister Stephen Harper, facing new resistance from the B.C. and Ontario governments to the proposed softwood lumber agreement, rejected Tuesday opposition allegations that his government is trying to push through an inadequate deal just so he can celebrate the accord at a July 6 meeting with President George W. Bush.

"Obviously, finalizing an agreement that is so complicated takes time," Harper told the House of Commons. "We're taking the time we need to complete this work."

Sure thing.

And sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.

Regardless, again, if time is what is really needed, how could Mr. Harper have been so negligent as to take that away from his negotiators. Not to mention the fact that by removing the requirement for the Americans to deal with previous NAFTA rulings against them he actually gave our Elephantine neighbors to the south all the time and leverage they needed to screw us over.

I know it sounds crazy, and it very likely is, but this is the kind of stuff that starts to make you wonder if maybe Mr. Harper is actually a Bush Family mole.

Guess maybe we'll really start to wonder if Mr. Bush and Mr. Harper come striding out of that July 6th meeting arm and arm, holding hands like, say, this.


Red Rover, Red Rover, We Call Karl Over!


So, at least according to his lawyer, noted leakologist Robert Luskin, Karl Rove will not be indicted by Patrick Fitzgerald and a Washington D. C. grand jury.

That sound you hear is the air rushing out of scores of blogistani hot air balloons.

There have been at least three notable exceptions, however, in the form of speculation from Jane Hamsher from Firedoglake, Emptywheel from The Next Hurrah, and Billmon.

Each has come up with a decent rationale to suggest that perhaps Mr. Rove has turned from rat to ratfink.

If that's true, it would mean that the Cabal has finally decided to cut Richard B. Cheney loose.

Now that would be pretty darned interesting.


Tuesday, June 13, 2006

When Does Bullsh**t Finally Have To Walk?


In an interview last week with Vancouver Sun columnist Vaughn Palmer before the contents of the (Transportation Safety Board) report were made public, BC Ferries president David Hahn characterized them as "benign."
Vancouver Sun Editorial, June 7th, 2006

"[But] our investigators turned up a safety deficiency . . . and we are telling B.C. Ferries about what we uncovered," he said.

"We don't wait for the final report if something needs to be done. We haven't drawn any conclusions, but we've seen this thing, and it's starting to quack like a duck."

Canadian Transportation Safety Board spokesman John Cottreau, June 7th, 2006

"I think that's a bunch of B.S."
BC Ferries CEO, David Hahn
Emphatically responding to employee safety concerns, June 08, 2006.

BC Ferries' former head of safety is suing the corporation for breach of contract, accusing the company of ignoring his warnings about safety problems in the days before a ferry sank in March (2006).

Capt. Darin Bowland, who resigned just after the Queen of the North sank with two passengers missing and presumed drowned, has filed a lawsuit in B.C. Supreme Court.

Bowland, an experienced master mariner, was appointed director of safety, health and environment for BC Ferries in February (2006).

His contract said ensuring the safety of all customers and staff would be a primary concern. But his statement of claim says the company wouldn't let him do his job. The writ, made public on Tuesday, says he reviewed the company's safety practices and found them "woefully inadequate." And Bowland says he warned senior management "there was a strong likelihood of catastrophic incidents" if those procedures were not improved.

CBC British Columbia, June 13, 2006

"After the allegations in Borland's lawsuit surfaced today, David Hahn and the people from B.C. Ferries were no where to be found. "

Michael Smyth, 'Nightline B.C.', CKNW Radio, June 13th 2006

To be honest, I'm not exactly sure what to really make of all this.

But in considering Mr. Bowland's latest claims, ask yourself this (leaving the Queen of the North sinking out of the equation for the moment)..... How many times can you remember B.C. Ferries vessels losing power and/or propellers and drifting over pleasure craft and smashing into docks before the era of privatization?


BC's Minister Of Forests And Rangeland Security Backs Off


Earlier today we reported on a previous report that, reportedly, British Columbia's Minister in charge of The Lumberman's bad deal that doesn't actually exist was previously behind the thing, at least as his words were previously reported in the past.

Now though it looks like Rich Coleman is having second thoughts about whether, indeed, a Softwood Lumber deal does actually exist.

Here's the lead from a report by Gordon Hamilton and Peter O'Neill in today's Vancouver Sun*.

The United States must give if there is going to be a softwood lumber agreement, B.C. Forests Minister Rich Coleman said Monday (June 12th, 2006).

Coleman acknowledged that a weekend deadline to reach a deal had passed, with the U.S. still insisting that this province's market-based timber pricing system be subject to anti-circumvention language in the softwood agreement.

Negotiations are taking place in Washington.

"That's our deal-breaker. We are saying market-based pricing has to be recognized. Period. End of story," Coleman said in an interview.


Has Mr. Coleman suddenly decided to gather up all the gumption he can muster on this issue and call a spade a spade?

Or, is he just lowering expectations so that he too can claim victory when the capitulation with The Lumberman's self-imposed negotiating position-killing deadline comes to pass?

Who knows.

Either way, however, Mr. Coleman can't lose.

Because he and fellow British Columbia cabinet member Mike de Jong, who, apparently is no longer the minister in charge of Teacher Union capitulation, have already helped to make sure that Weyerhaeuser will get theirs, regardless.

*The entire thing is worth a read. I must say Mr. Hamilton has not been one of the press poodles on this story. He has been digging and getting people on the record, one way or the other, rather than just acting as a stenographer for government and industry honchos.



The Congress Critters Want Our Wood!


Wow! The 'Lumberman of the Year' and MP for Canforcouver Kingsway must be ecstatic about this latest development:

WASHINGTON, June 13 /PRNewswire/ -- Today Rep. Jim Kolbe (R-AZ), along with Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-MD), Rep. Jim Ramstad (R-MN), Rep. Joe Knollenberg (R-MI), Rep. Mark Souder (R-IN) and Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-NY) sent a letter to President Bush, U.S. Trade Representative Susan Schwab and Secretary of Commerce Carlos Gutierrez, asking for free market treatment of Canadian softwood lumber imports. Below is the text from the letter.
(as prepared)

Dear Mr. President:
As the U.S. and Canada conclude final details on a resolution to the softwood lumber
dispute, we are writing to express our continued interest that the free market
be allowed to operate with respect to lumber imports. We should strive to provide
the best price to consumers for lumber.....

What's the problem?

Mr Emerson always said he runs his constituency office in a non-partisan manner.

And if four Republican congressmen and a couple of Democrats aren't non-partisan in the extreme, what the heck is?

What's that, you say?

There are residency rules for constituents?

Don't be ridiculous!

After all, we are all North Americans now.

Aren't we?

*For a graphic illustration par excellence see Alison's place.
**Well, technically, it's a Softwood-assisted pension as opposed to straight pay from Canfor, a corporation that will almost certainly do well if there is, indeed, an agreement/capitulation, regardless the terms.


Mr. Coleman Chimes In


British Columbia's Minister of 'Forests and Home On The Rangeland Security', Rich Coleman, has given the Softwood Lumber 'A Deal Is Imminent' Whirlitzer his own little crank.

VICTORIA – The Canada-U.S. softwood lumber deal should be done before the end of the month, B.C. Forests Minister Rich Coleman says.

As the source of more than half the country’s lumber exports south of the border, B.C. has been a key player in the negotiations. Coleman has been kept busy with industry and ministry staff meetings to finalize the framework agreement that was reached in April. That framework calls for the return of $4 billion in U.S. duties charged to Canadian producers in recent years, in exchange for a new system of volume limits and variable border taxes.

Coleman said in an interview Thursday that most of the outstanding issues have been worked out.

I for one, sure am glad to hear that Mr. Coleman is continuing to do his best to give away everything he can to the Americans.

After all, he and his predecessor, Mike de Jong, did a great job giving $200 million dollars of free money to Weyerhaeuser recently while simultaneously chucking tree farm licenses and raw log-destroyed jobs right out the window on Vancouver Island.

Paul Willcocks has that story.

VICTORIA - It’s not as if Weyerhaeuser made any sort of case for a $200-million gift from B.C. taxpayers.

But the Liberal government gave them one, without getting any identifiable benefit in return.
And both Mike de Jong, forest minister at the time, and Rich Coleman, in the job now, have not been able to come up with any answers to explain the gift.


Why did the government do it? De Jong wouldn’t respond to questions. Coleman isn’t offering any answers. A deal was done, he says, but that’s it.

It’s none of your business.

Yesssssirrreeee, Bob.

It's none of our business, because what used to be ours is now theirs.

And they're giving it away.

All of it.

So, while it appears that the people of British Columbia got absolutely nothing (say it again!) in return for this corptactular giveaway, what of the members of GordCo Inc and their friends and uncles (and maybe even their brothers)? Well, we can't actually say because, as Mr. Coleman says, the 'deal' is done and it's a secret.


Monday, June 12, 2006

Breaking The Deal That Never Was


(Updated to correct my original Freudian slip in which I called 'Accidental Deliberations' Accidental Liberations - sorry about that, especially because it is a very interesting site)

Now it's Ontario's turn according to this 'update' from the Globe and Mail the evening of June 12, 2006.

Ottawa — The Ontario government is warning it may withdraw support for the Canada-U.S. softwood truce if Ottawa can't solve two “deal breakers” that have arisen in the rush to seal a deal before the summer break.

And one of the things that really bugs their Natural Resources Minister Charles Ramsey is the following:

Ontario's second major concern is that the United States is pushing to divide Canada's export quota into monthly allotments, Mr. Ramsay said. If companies don't meet their monthly share of the cap, they would lose the unused quota room, unable to carry it forward.

In other words, as blogger 'Accidental Deliberations' so aptly points out:

So having successfully capped Canada's share of the U.S. market isn't enough: now the U.S. also wants to set caps within the cap, and ensure that Canadian producers can't make up for slow months or take advantage of positive market conditions. (Speaking of comical attempts at a straight face, keep an eye out for Bush's next admonition that the U.S. is trying to lead the way toward free markets.)


Of course, right at the end, the Globe and (nolongerEmpire) Mail can't help themselves from saying:

Ottawa doesn't need Ontario's support to sign the final version of the lumber deal reached in April.

To which we respond to their press poodle Steven Chase, whose byline appears above the piece - what deal? Or, put another way, show us the evidence of a deal that has been made based on a single agreement agreed to by both sides.

After all, isn't that what a deal actually is?


If A Deal Falls In The Forest....

.....Does Anybody Hear?

Or, put another way, as we said in the last post and in numerous other ones before that - how is it that we have a freaking deal if there are two unagreed upon proposals, one Canadian and one American?

By definition, does that not mean that there is no deal?

Here's the latest, datelined today, Monday June 12th, 2006:

VANCOUVER CP -- Prime Minister Stephen Harper and his trade minister defended the Conservative government's strategy in negotiating a softwood lumber trade deal with the United States on Monday as the clock ticked towards a late June deadline to get related legislation through Parliament.

Federal negotiators missed a key benchmark Sunday when a final legal text was not completed.

Sources say the two sides are deadlocked on several key issues, including treatment of the B.C. government's market-based timber pricing reforms and Quebec and Ontario concerns over the agreement's quota provisions.

Ontario Natural Resources Minister David Ramsey said his province supports the Canadian draft proposal but "it's the American one that's nickel and diming us to death.''

Again, notice the statements. There is no deal. The reality, as ever, is that there is an American proposal and a Canadian proposal and the twain have never yet met.

So, the real question that the press poodles should be asking is the following: Why have Little Stephen and his 'Lumberman of the Year' (a.k.a. as the MP for Canforcouver Kingsway) put us in the propaganda bind of fixing a deadline on a deal that does not exist?

Could it be that they are actually trying to railroad the Canadian public into accepting anything as a 'victory' when in fact it is really a capitulation to the Bush Cabal who, apparently, have already been set free from their previoulsy ruled-upon NAFTA obligations by the 'Lumberman'.


Sunday, June 11, 2006

Quelle Surprise


VANCOUVER (CP) - Federal efforts to wrap up a softwood lumber deal with the United States by Sunday apparently hit a snag, sources told The Canadian Press.

Government negotiators talking to their U.S. counterparts in Washington twice postponed conference calls with officials from lumber-producing provinces and forest industry executives.

Those calls were now expected to happen on Monday, sources said.

It was not clear what difficulties forced Ottawa to miss its self-imposed deadline of Sunday evening to arrive at a draft text that was mutually agreeable with U.S. negotiators.

Not clear?

Not freaking clear?

Well, how about, this?

"I can confirm there are two drafts [from the two governments], and that they are radically different," (John Allan, president of the B.C. Lumber Trade Council) said in an interview Wednesday (June 7th) after addressing a House of Commons all-party committee on softwood lumber.....


The Canadian draft states that the tax would be applied to the value of timber produced by the first mill to saw the logs. The U.S. draft contains the first mill principle, but then defines an independent producer in language that would exclude virtually every independent B.C. remanufacturer from the clause.

"The U.S. is imposing conditions on us so that almost nobody would qualify [for the reduced tax]."

Is that clear enough for you?


And where, pray tell, is the 'Lumberman of the Year' on this one?