Sunday, September 20, 2009

Elizabeth May's Nomination: Challenges and Opportunities

Whooee! Well friends an' foes, the gal I adore, Earth Mother Lizzie May, got the nomination to run out on Vancouver Island in the Saanich Gulf Islands riding. Green Party blogger Camille Labchuk wrote up a blog on it and there's some comment action over there. Commenter Mark Francis brought up a couplafew points regardin' Ignatieff's less-than-stellar environmental stance vis-a-vis the tar sands, incumbent Gary Lunn's vulnerability and the need for getting "boots on the ground." Here's my response recycled:

Mark makes some good points. Every candidate will have some baggage. For the Libs, Ignatieff’s environmental intransigence will be serious baggage for small-g green voters. He’s on record supporting nukes, too. His militaristic support for Bush’s Iraq invasion/fiasco doesn’t really speak well for his international savvy, either, and won’t play well with the stereotypical west coast flower children. Hetherington will be saddled heavily with her un-green leader.

Lunn is vulnerable on Chalk River. As Minister of Natural Resources, he was the guy who fired Linda Keen so ignominiously in the middle of the night. He was responsible for restarting the limping reactor that is now giving Canada an international black eye in the medical isotope department. So hapless was Lunn that he was relieved of that portfolio and it was handed off to the even more hapless Lisa Raitt.

Elizabeth May’s biggest piece of baggage seems to be the parachute label. If she can wrap herself in SGI issues and make herself visible enough between now and whenever the Cons get too unpalatable for Layton, she may be able to shake that off. Her environmental credentials and those of the GPC are impeccable. For small-g green voters, she should be able to capitalize on the Liberal leader’s poor environmental stance.

The Herzog flair-up will be seen by most as a sour grapes thing; internal, riding-level party power politics: no worse, better or different than what happens with every party. Elections Canada will not find anything amiss with the riding funding plan and despite some valid concerns regarding top-down party management, Herzog’s complaints will not continue to play a significant part in an election campaign.

Have the NDP nominated anyone? BC voters have the advantage of having had a provincial NDP government by which to judge the NDP’s commitment to the environment. Sure, federal NDP does not equal provincial NDP… except when the NDP wants it to.

I’m a longtime GPC member and EDA exec. I wasn’t too keen on the SGI choice but now that it is a done deal, I’ll be putting my support behind Elizabeth. The decision to run her wherever she is most electable wasn’t a top down decision but was endorsed by the rank and file. My biggest concern centres around the availability of SGI foot soldiers. When Elizabeth ran in London, the foot soldiers flocked in from Toronto and elsewhere in densely populated southern Ontario to knock on doors. I fear that sort of feet-on-the-ground support will be much more difficult to muster in SGI where the doors are further apart and the population nearby is sparser.


Friday, September 18, 2009

Electoral Reform in My Lifetime? I Doubt It.

Whooee! Well friends an' foes, I was just over to POGGE's fine boog an' left me a bigass comment on the troublems with our dumbass electoral system. One o' the commenters by the name o' Greg said he figgered he only had 3 parties to choose from an' that got my Green Party hackles raised up so I lit in with a ramblin' diatribe. Here it is:

Greg said: Finally, I could withhold my vote...

There is another party that runs in all ridings and has remained steadfastly in favour of PR. While the Greens have not elected anyone, GPC support has been steadily growing and the unfairness of FPTP is driven home to more and more voters after each election.

NDP and GPC voters tend to have a better grasp on the problems with the current system simply because we are the ones most victimized by it. The two leading parties are the main beneficiaries of the unfair FPTP system and find it very easy -- and self-serving -- to deny that any problem exists.

I worked alongside my GPC candidate in the 2008 election. She was a big Fair Vote Canada campaigner and worked tirelessly in the Ontario referendum. Whenever she would bring up electoral reform, it would end up working against her. After a few such debacles, it was decided to keep the issue low key. It just didn't resonate or else it was deemed too complicated -- or a dead duck done deal due to the resounding defeat in the referendum.

Attempting to get votes, knowing full well that your party doesn't stand a chance in FPTP, can be frustrating. People will ask, "Why bother?" One of the best reasons has to be the mere fact that once a person sees his or her vote declared essentially meaningless due to FPTP, they will be more receptive and more vocal about the inherent unfairness of the current system.

When enough people start asking why a party that gets 8% or 9% of the popular votes gets 0% representation, we might stand a chance of changing the system. And, it's not just the disenfranchised GPC and NDP voters who can see the discrepancy.

Obviously, the main beneficiaries will be loathe to change a system in which they are the main beneficiaries. I'm not sure we can change that. A Liberal or Con MP who votes for a system that will deprive his party of seats will quickly be dropped from the party.

In the meantime, all we can do is vote our conscience and do our best to inform the public that we have a patently unfair system. I'm 60 YO and have lost all hope that the system will change within my lifetime. That won't stop me from pushing for change. Hey... I'm still pushing for world peace, too.


Friday, September 11, 2009

Depleted Uranium Weapons: Cancer and the Canadian Connection

Whooee! Well friends an' foes, I sure ain't been doin' too much boogin' lately. I been doin' some twitterin', though. This mornin', I tweeted:

Soldier's cancer death linked to depleted uranium (DU): UK court - - Canadian DU connection -
Them there links got clicked 20 times in the first few minutes so I reckon there's some point in the Twitter. I been skeptical about Twitter but I thought I'd give it a chance after havin' a live-in-person chat with Stageleft a coupla weeks ago when I was up in Ottywa.

I ain't so sure about carryin' on conversations 140 characters at a time, so I figgered I'd expand (expound?) here on my boog where I can blather on as long as I want.

Anyways, here's a little more about how depleted uranium killed a Brit soldier.
The death of Stuart Dyson, a 39-year-old former soldier, from a rare from of cancer was caused by his exposure to depleted uranium used in military munitions, an inquest jury ruled.

The jury heard that Mr Dyson, a lance corporal in the Royal Pioneer Corps, cleaned tanks after the first Gulf War during a five-month deployment to the war zone.

His widow Elaine told the hearing that her husband's health had deteriorated after he left the Army in 1992 and that he was diagnosed with colon cancer, which spread to his liver and spleen, in 2007.


Giving evidence at the inquest, Professor Christopher Busby, an expert on the effects of uranium on health, said Mr Dyson's cancer was "more likely than not" caused by ingestion and inhalation of the substance during his service in the Gulf.


Professor Busby said he had visited Iraq in 2000 and had personally found particles of depleted uranium with dangerously high radiation levels near the wrecks of tanks destroyed during the 1991 war.

Keep in mind that DU ammo is also being used in Afghanistan and now that the US is stepping up its involvement, even more DU is likely to be used.

Also keep in mind that coalition soldiers are far more likely to get medical treatment and diagnoses than Iraqi or Afghan civilians living in the zones where this radioactive hazard is being dispersed. Destroyed vehicles and former battle grounds are routinely scavenged by children and others looking to pick up a few pennies from salvageable parts.

There's a Canadian connection to DU.

While the U.S. appears to be on the verge of attacking Iran just for having a nuclear reactor, Washington and its allies continue to be the biggest nuclear proliferators in the world. Chief among these nuclear allies is Canada, which provides up to 40% of the world’s uranium, the largest amount. Eighty percent of Canadian uranium is exported, with 76% going to the U.S.

Canada has long been the main source of uranium for the U.S. nuclear arsenal, globally the largest and deadliest at 10,000 warheads and bombs. Washington has a first-strike nuclear policy and is actively preparing for nuclear war. It is also the only country that has actually used nuclear weapons--not once, but twice, on Japan in 1945.

Q: How is Canada violating the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty?

Harding: Canada signed this treaty in 1970 and claimed that it would not be using uranium for weapons production. We now know that uranium out of Saskatchewan has been diverted through the depleted uranium (DU) system and has been fuelling the weapons stream. The public, I think, is largely unaware that we are still complicit directly in the weapons stream. It’s a tricky thing to track, but it goes something like this: After refining the uranium at Port Hope, we send it to the enriching system in the U.S. This system integrates both the military and the industrial uses of nuclear power. The U.S. Department of Energy and the Pentagon both take uranium from this system.

The uranium that is to be used in electrical generating nuclear reactors is concentrated to about 5%. This is uranium-235. About nine-tenths of the mass of what’s left after enrichment is called depleted uranium. This is then available to the Pentagon to use for weapons. And it’s not really depleted. That’s a misnomer. It’s still uranium. It’s primarily uranium-238, which can be put into Pentagon reactors to create plutonium. All the Pentagon needs to do is bombard the depleted uranium with neutrons and it can create a plutonium stream for weapons. Also, the depleted uranium is the packing on the H-Bomb. What makes the H-Bomb the mega-bomb is the amount of packing of the depleted uranium around the plutonium trigger.

Then the various weapons-producing companies such as Aerojet and ATK take this uranium and make the conventional depleted uranium weapons that are now contaminating probably the last four war zones in the Middle East and Southern Europe. Uranium out of Canada that’s got into the depleted uranium stream has already been dropped on Iraq during the U.S. invasion. So the weapons connection got obscured when the Non-Proliferation Treaty came, because technically the uranium is shipped to the U.S. for their reactors, but in fact the depleted uranium that’s left is then in the control of those countries. So it fundamentally abrogates the intentions of the Non-Proliferation Treaty, but not technically.

Q: What are the implications of Canada’s continuing support for U.S. nuclear militarism?

Harding: It’s frightening stuff to think about. We’re really talking madness here in terms of the capacity. How few of these mega-bombs it would take to create a catastrophe that makes climate change look insignificant! The U.S. had 37,000 nuclear weapons during the 1980s, armed and ready to go. And we’re talking about using a very small number of those and having disastrous global implications.

When you dig below the surface, the complicity issue is always there. It was there in Vietnam, in terms of companies in Canada exporting armaments and even chemicals that were used in the napalm bombing. And in Canada we’re still doing that around depleted uranium. It just tends to be hidden behind the public statements of us being a non-nuclear power and having made the decision to focus on exporting medical isotopes and not nuclear weapons. This is an effective PR and propaganda system, but it just doesn’t happen to be true.

Q: What are the effects of depleted uranium on humans when it is used in conventional weapons, aside from immediate death and injury?

Harding: The number of cancers and death by cancer are significantly greater (than if the depleted uranium were not present), as are permanent sterility, birth deformations, and death from birth deformation. Depleted uranium affects the whole embryonic development, as well as increasing the risks of thyroid leukemia and other childhood cancers. They are seeing increases in a number of cancers in Basra and in other areas where they know there were high levels of depleted uranium weaponry used.

There's plenty more in that interview.

I watched David Akin, Steve Paiken and a couple of nuclear proponents on TVO's The Agenda a couple nights ago. The topic was Canada's Nuclear Future. While they spent about two-thirds of the hour discussing Canada's role in the medical isotope business and the rest of the hour on nuclear energy issues, the topic of nuclear proliferation and Canada's role in supplying the raw material for nuclear weaponry was not mentioned, at all.

We cannot keep our heads buried in the sand. Canada is complicit in the proliferation of DU weaponry. Twenty or thirty years from now, some future Prime Minister will be issuing another meaningless apology and claiming we didn't know what was happening and sorry about all the cancer deaths. We do know.