Friday, February 25, 2011

Deserting the Desert, or Who We Should Be Worrying About

Perhaps it is simply the inevitable occlusion of media that we are now hearing more from and about the political leadership of Canada on getting our nationals out of Libya than any other of the many urgent matters. Likewise there's been a flood of the almost automatic inevitable bitching from stranded Canadians and media hype pejorative of the undoubtedly overwhelmed Canadian embassy staff in Tripoli. No one can ever be doing enough for these benighted souls somehow stranded in North Africa. Somehow?

As this scramble for means of evacuation so publicly continues, almost no one is asking the obvious companion question: why are there so many Canadians in Libya who suddenly need our government and our tax dollars for their salvation? Why are they there? Why - I'll ask with feigned momentary naivete - are they so plentiful in a bleak desert country in North Africa that there is such massive demand for rapid egress? Or, equally rhetorically, why so much Canuck ingress in the first place?

Of course the one word answer is oil as it is the massive Libyan petro fields that brought in foreign nationals and, more to the point, foreign development in the first place. If we allow ourselves one more rhetorical, to what extent has it been the presence of western money, western oil companies and all those now anxious to desert the so lucrative desert who have been the willing and well recompensed bulwarks of the Brotherly Leader and his henchmen. Where would Qaddafi have been in the 42 years of his tyranny without the steady support of major firms like Shell, Conoco, Husky and the Italian giant Eni. But even more pervasive are the countless small to medium sized oil and gas supporting cast whose ancillary services range from catering to heavy equipment repair to helicopter transport to the secondary and tertiary thriving nationalized businesses whose existence, to repeat, is all about oil.

Canadians have been prominent in blithely joining this workforce and thereby taking strong supporting roles in maintaining Qaddafi's primary source of money and might. At the same time, Europe, followed by the USA fell for Qaddafi's newfound, strategic, but shallow "reasonability" by buying more of his oil, investing in his regime, and generally welcoming Libya back into the fold of respectability needed for ever-widening globalization. "Complicity" is way too passive and gentle a word for all that was done since the early 2000s to suck up to Qaddafi's propaganda and his petroleum.

So as the real victims in this sordid situation - the innocent and courageous native Libyan men, women and children - cower in their unlit and unprovisioned hell-holes, while Qaddafi's oil-funded goon squads roam the streets, should we not be asking more critically who is deserving of ours and other western government's primary attention? Should we be preoccupied with rescuing our "own," most of whom gladly and for their own enrichment, went to Libya, thereby rather obviously propping up Qaddafi all these years? Or should, we instead be focused, with other NATO allies, on firm intervention to put an immediate stop to audacious slaughter? We need to save people who are not only Qaddafi's but our victims, those who have endured a tyranny partially of the making of foreign nationals now scrambling for cover. Is it just too hard to admit that the "mercenaries" in this tragic situation, are not just the paid thugs roaming Tripoli's bloodied streets? Many are standing around airports and seaports, suitcases in hand, waiting to desert Qaddafi's sinking ship.

Qaddafi, seems to be holed up in Bab al-Azizia, the same compound that NATO blasted in 1986 with far less justification than freeing an entire long-suffering populous. You do the math.

Tuesday, February 08, 2011


How time flies! Here we are a year since the Lower Mainland of British Columbia (the province's richest region) got a two week party thrown for it by the rest of BC and Canada. Apparently the CBC is revving up a television special with all the tedious hoopla replayed while the City of Vancouver, which got the lion's share of any the debatable long term benefits, ramps up for an anniversary celebration

But to their credit, the CBC, through The Fifth Estate and news coverage this week, has also been instrumental in unearthing the fatal incompetence of the Olympiad's luge track and the disgraceful story of how one company purged its surplus inventory, to wit, healthy huskies, once the party was over and the anticipated tourism dropped off.

Here then, that Olympic legacy that us doubters never anticipated...

IN MEMORIAM 1: The 100 or so huskies butchered by an outdoor adventure company that ramped up sled dog numbers for the Olympic bubble and, then, when the inevitable drop-off in demand followed, executed them. These victims should become the logos for the preposterous ill-founded claims that the Olympiad perpetrators and their lap-dogs continue to make for its economic and "psychic" benefits for Canada.

Georgian Luger Nodar Kumaritashvili whose deadly practice run was quickly hushed up by the Vancouver Organizing Committee whose head honcho denied any conceivable inklings of the track being too fast. Now CBC's The Fifth Estate has unearthed emails from Furlong which, to the contrary, show that there were warnings and, further, that he well understood the liability this could have created long before the Nodar was killed.

I guess all you can say to the Olympic organizers and the countless Canadians who swallowed all the patriotic blather that continues to be pumped out about this costly, but trivial pursuit, is bloody Happy Anniversary to ya!

Wednesday, February 02, 2011

My Come-Uppance on CBC about Cell Use While Driving

The sheer annoyance factor of seeing drivers on cell phones was captured satisfyingly in the earliest day's of the device in the 1990 comedy, Crazy People. Allegedly going crazy, ad-man, Emory Leeson (Dudley Moore) manifests his breakdown by jumping out of his car, wrenching a nearby driver's clunky old fashioned car phone from his grip and tossing it off the Brooklyn Bridge (you can see this most gratifying scene at the beginning of the movie's trailer). Seemed very sane to me even at the time and today, should merit some kind of good citizen commendation.

Indeed, jurisdictions all over the world have recognized the incompatibility of cell phone use and safe driving, lessons derived from countless tragedies. Stunningly,with the advent of texting, ubiquitous half-wits have added this activity to their repertoire of pastimes done while behind the wheel. In British Columbia, where I live, a law prohibiting all of this came into effect a year ago but it has been widely observed that while there may have been a brief period of abiding by the new rules, recidivism is high. And so it is estimated that in the vicinity of 50 deaths and who knows how many injuries have been caused by the now illegal activity here in BC alone. The world figure of course is in the the 1000's with texting having dramatically increased fatalities.

BC Alamanac CBC's once-excellent noon call-in show observed the one-year anniversary of the law on Tuesday (Feb 1) by bringing in RCMP Superintendant Norm Gaumont, who has been a lead spokesman on this issue in BC's Lower Mainland. . Clips were played from a riveting documentary prepared, interestingly enough, by AT & T; Mark urged listeners to call in with ideas on "what more could be done to stop" this. He then turned to Supt. Gaumont to expound more knowledgeably on the dire consequences of this incomprehensibly dumb and now illegal activity.

There followed several calls confirming full agreement among the guest, the host and the callers of this increasingly frequent and often tragic scofflawing. You could hear the veritable hand-wringing!

But what to do about it? There were mutterings of raising the fine from its current $167 although no one seemed to have much expectation that that would have a measurable positive effect on seemingly incurable and often terminal driver stupidity. Well, as unusual I held some strong opinions not only on this practice but what could be done to stop it: I called in and suggested that anyone caught in the act should have her or his phone forfeited. What with the rising infatuation for high cost iPhones and the like, this seemed not only a fitting measure to me but one likely to give even the most asinine compulsive texter, pause for thought as their stupidly-used smart phone vanished forever.

To my surprise Supt. Gaumont dismissed the idea out of hand with the incisive explanation that people including politicians wouldn't like it. Golly gee. You know just like if you caught an armed mugger and took his gun away, he wouldn't like it. Yet cell phone drivers kill roughly the same number of innocent victims annually in our province as do those with firearms.

At that point Mark hit the button for the next call without giving me a moment's opportunity to engage the good policeman on the possible logical and moral errors of his blithe and presumptuous rebuff.

So I am left only repeat here the point that it is an entirely fair consequence when one perilously misuses a device, breaking a law and mortally endangering others, to forfeit the offending item. I would further argue that laws and regulations be enacted so we could ban repeat offenders from even owning a phone for some substantial period. Lives would be saved but, oh my goodness, Supt.Gaumont doesn't think think that the moronic scofflaws would like that.

As long as the primary enforcers like Supt. Gaumont, who know all too intimately the blood-stained impacts of cell-crazy drivers, maintain such craven and occluded views, closing their minds knee-jerk to alternatives, this problem will simply grow.

By way of addendum, may I also grouse -- as is my entitlement -- about the way that Mark Forsythe, the long time and, in my view, once-excellent host is now handling calls. As mentioned, when I advanced my view and Supt. Gaumont so cavalierly tossed it aside, Mark had already cut me off which meant no chance to challenge the guest's feckless, knee-jerk reaction. This is utterly inadequate and disrespectful of authentic public discussion. It privileges the so-called expert while reducing anyone who goes to the trouble of dialing, to the short shrift of studio guests' one-liners.

Back when BC Almanac was two hours long, you usually had a chance to make at least one rebuttal point and not be left sounding like some know-nothing whose hare-brain thought is unworthy of further talk. That's the way dialogue still goes on on the national call-in show, Cross Country Check up on Sundays. To pretend that what Almanac is doing now is real public deliberation is delusional. Mark and his producers should either fight to get back the full time period - I'll help! --or altogether drop this phony phone discourse. We, the great unwashed could then just sit up straight with hands meekly folded, listening to our betters, just like the literally dumb little creatures we are being treated as.