Radio Freethinker

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Posts Tagged ‘Panda Politics’

Best of RFT – the 200s

Posted by Don McLenaghen on July 30, 2013

dewar cartoon july 24 2013 col.jpg

This week a recasting our some of our best bits from episodes past:

  • Librarians and loyalties,
  • Panda Politics,
  • Suing for information
  • The Parliamentary Budget Office – pillar of democracy

Download the episode here!

Librarians and loyalties

Ottawa,fonction publique,Mix & Remix,pastiche,Elizabeth II,Stephen HarperDon reviews changes to the Code of Conduct for Library and Archives of Canada. The insistence of a ‘duty of loyalty’ to the government as opposed to the nation of Canada strikes as tones of totalitarianism. In the light of many other policies, decisions and legislation  one can not help but get the feeling Harper things HE is the nation, civil servants can’t be trusted and the less the people know the better for the government.

Find out more:

Panda Politics

547676_584686418216612_1260358425_nPandas has been an intricate part of Chinese diplomacy for centuries. Since the 1970’s the People Republic has used them to open the doors to the non-communist world.

Two of the bi-coloured fur balls are not in Canada; what does it mean, why did we get them and what did we give up? Could our Prime Minster spend his time doing something more important than pimping Pandas?

Find out more:

The Parliamentary Budget Office – pillar of democracy

Direction,budget,ParlementCanada’s first Parliamentary Budget Officer has recently stepped down. It is likely that his office will be “wound down” because it proved to be too embarrassing for the Harper Government even though it was the Conservative Governments own creation. We discuss what it did, why it did it and  why you should care.

Find out more:

Suing for information.

101007InformationcWe discuss the efforts of Canada’s Information Commissioner, Suzanne Legault to investigating whether the Harper government is living up to the law of the land. Legault is currently suing the DOD over a 1100 day extension on a 30 day Access to Information Request which she claims is deliberately obstructive and violating the principles of the Access to Information act.

We talk about how the Harper government has systematically restricted our access to information and the people who make it. As well as the push back by Legault as well as Democracy Watch and U of Vic’s Environmental Law Clinic.

Find out more:


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PandaGate – Panda Pandering

Posted by Don McLenaghen on April 21, 2013

Okay last of three,  this time we talked about how Canada got our panda loan.


We have already talked about pandas and how the Chinese government has used them as an aspect of their foreign diplomacy. This leads us to the big question…

So, why did Toronto get some panda?

harper-as-nixonWhen Nixon went to China, it was a political gambit. The relationship between China and the Soviet Union was at a low and this was seen as a good time to widen the wedge between the world’s dominant Communist nations.

web-tueedcar26co1In hindsight, it seems to have worked.

Harper has put economics ahead of politics, in hopes of creating a “strategic partnership” with China.

HARROP-TOON-chinaTo put it in the devils…er, I mean Harper’s words…
“Our country is looking for new markets for our goods and services and…is an area of tremendous opportunity…We hope to expand on our strategic partnership with China and, in particular, we hope to deepen the economic and trade ties between our two countries.”

CHINA-CARTOON-2Peter Harder, a former Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs and now president of the Canada China Business Council put it like this “I would attach great significance to the fact that China would place in Canada’s care the pandas that are coming…It’s a signal of their desire to have economic as well as cultural and people-to-people relationships, and to that extent, I think it’s a significant development.”

The Panda Politic in this case has been thrown in reverse. Instead of China seeking the favour of a foreign nation with the offer of Pandas, Canada is attempting to show it is willing to play ball with China. Pandas now being lent to nations that have pleased the Chinese government as a sign of fealty.

DEW3241.pvwSome observers, notably the Financial Post, see it as an economic sellout to China that has too much influence in Canada already with little regard to playing by ‘western’ rules such as intellectual property rights or industrial espionage.

Is it appropriate for Harper to greet the Pandas while ignoring ‘more important’ events?

There has been a lot of criticism about Harper’s taking time out of his schedule to ‘officially’ welcome the landing of the Pandas. They will not actually be viewable for several weeks as they spend time in standard quarantine.

mi-ott-nishiyuu-parliament3It is a question of priorities. What is more important? The issues of the nation or Harper’s personal legacy of sowing sufficient fidelity to the Chinese state?

While in Toronto, Harper missed a chance to address a crowd of thousands of the Idle No More movement as they welcomed over 400 “Cree Walkers” who traveled by snowshoes to Ottawa, some from over 1600 Km away.

Aboriginal Affairs Minister Bernard Valcourt, did say he will eventually meet the Cree Walkers to hear what they have to say.

DEA3795sq-1024x1024Another criticism was of Harper being able to clear time for the Pandas but has not placed the same importance on meeting with the provincial Premiers as a group to discuss the economy, healthcare…anything really. He actually snubbed the Premiers late last year when they held their annual meeting on provincial affairs.

It might have been nice for him to get some face-to-face opinions about the then upcoming but just recently presented budget or shall we say ‘Economic Plan’.

PandaSARRecent leaks and document releases have shown that when it comes to Big Oil and other corporate interests, the Harper government seems to take great effort and time to ensure they serve the needs of the business class. Likewise, the main function of the mission to China a year ago was not to get pandas but to ensure that China knew Canada was for sale…er, open for business. The Pandas were the reward for confirming Canada was a vassal, er…compliant…er, I mean a nation ‘Open for business’.

It seems that the successful request for the Pandas came directly from Harper but under the ‘implied’ condition by the Chinese government that Harper travel to China to make the announcement personally.

RTXXX1KSo far it seems the arrival of the Pandas is a perfect photo opportunity for Harper…a man known to manufacture stage sets to make him look more…more…um, more human. So far so good…for him.

One could wonder what else was put on the table to entice the Chinese, who had been refusing earlier requests for over a decade, to loan us the pandas?

murphy_fipa2Correlation, not causation, shows that Canada has signed the China-Canada Foreign Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement, which many on the left, right and center complain is very one sided. It strengthens Chinese private and state owned corporation’s rights at the expense of Canadian sovereignty.

web-jenkins-norther-gateway30China in the middle of last year purchased a major player in the Tar Sands, much to the consternation of those who worry about a foreign nation owning a Canadian resource in the purchase of Nexen for over 15 billion by China National Offshore Oil Corporation.

Encana sold half its share in Alberta Shale gas to PetroChina just prior to the Chinese changing their mind on the Pandas.

friedcar03-030212China Petroleum & Chemical Corporation purchased for 2 billion the Canadian oil and gas firm Daylight Energy about the same time. It previously got the Harper Government approval for a 4.65 billion stake in Syncrude Canada, one of the world’s largest producers of synthetic crude oil from oil sands and the largest single source producer in Canada. At the time, many commentators worried about the influence of the Chinese government had over Canada…and its politics.

Well, it seems things have gone quite well…for China, but at least we get to look at some Pandas (not without a hefty price tag) for a decade…YEAH Harper…NOT!!

Canada's Economic Action Planda 2



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PandaGate – Panda Politics

Posted by Don McLenaghen on April 20, 2013

Okay, in part one we talked about what IS a panda…next we shall talk about how pandas have been used for politics.


So, what is panda politics?

It seems that the Chinese have known for a long time that the Pandas have a direct line to the cute centers of the human brain.

To that end, China has used its monopoly of the ‘supply’ of pandas as a way to gain favour with other nations who just can’t resist the monochrome little fuzz balls.

As far back as the 7th century the Chinese emperors had given a pair of pandas to Japan’s ruling class to cement diplomatic ties.

The modern practice arose after the Chinese Civil War. From 1958 to 1984, China gave away 28 pandas to 8 countries. The first was the Soviet Union in 1958, North Korea received several over the next decade.

nixon-and-maoThe most famous give though went to the most hated Politician in the US after George Bush…maybe Obama…if Fox News is correct. No, the most hated politician (not one of the two impeached – Johnson & Clinton) was Nixon (he quit before he was impeached).

Yes, when Nixon went to Communist China to open diplomatic relations, the Communist Government gave him the most famous pair of pandas Ling Ling and tSing tSing.

8-1972-04-26To help grow ties with the “West”…acknowledging China although communist has always had a love/hate relationship with the Soviet Union. So after the Americans got their pandas in 1972, Japan, Germany, France and the UK also got some.

After 1982, China changed from giving Pandas to loaning them.

The terms of the loan was for 10 years at a cost of $1 million a year (for a pair)…so the Chinese government earns 10 million for loaning the pandas to Canada. As well of course the host nations must still provide room and accommodation for the ‘guests’.

Room and board, paid for by the Toronto Zoo, is 8 million for the house and 2 million a year for ‘board’ and maintenance.

540012_4195351334705_1711239485_nIn the US, fears that the Chinese government was simply pimping its pandas led to a lawsuit by the World Wildlife Fund resulting in a US law stating that if the US hosted pandas at least half of the money paid would go towards panda conservation.

It is now assumed that the 10 million goes to Panda Conservation in China.

Now, there are current politics involved. In 1998 China offered 2 pandas to Taiwan but Taiwan rejected them when China responded to the CITES that the transfer was a domestic activity and not international.

Oh yes, CITES stands for Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species and is the body responsible for policing the various endangered animal treaties.

ChinaTaiwanAnyway, Taiwan considers itself an independent nation, while mainland China has always considered it a wayward province. So, Taiwan rejected the panda twice…in 1998 and again in 2005.

In 2008, after a political change in Taiwan to a pro-China Government, the offer of the pandas was accepted.

pvp20030105But even then, when CITES stated it considered the transfer an ‘internal matter” and thus did not fall under its jurisdiction, the Taiwanese government quickly issued a rebuttal to CITES and stated that they had followed all the regulations required when endangered animals are moved from one nation to ANOTHER nation.

So, Pandas are both cute (in their looks) and fuzzy (in their politics). In the past there was an implicit ‘tit-for-tat’ wherever China ‘gifted’ a Panda to a nation…that Pandas were seen as a reward to ‘services rendered’ to the state of China. This leads into my next post, why did we get a pair of Pandas?




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PandaGate – Panda Primer

Posted by Don McLenaghen on April 19, 2013

This is a three part series about pandas, their politics and the Canadian connection.


In case you missed it, Er Shun, a 5-year-old female, and Da Mao, a 4-year-old male, ‘guest’ panda’s from China will spend five years at the Toronto Zoo and then five years at the Calgary Zoo. This will be the first long-term stay for the monochrome fuzzies in Canada. The Toronto, Calgary and Winnipeg Zoos played host to bear pairs for a few weeks in 1985, 1988, and 1989 respectively.

Zoo Atlanta, giant panda Atlanta USA giant panda endangered species giant facts about pandas bear habitat panda bear panda migration travel destination beautiful amazing zoo panda animal picture panda imagesThis led me to a couple of questions…some innocent…other less so. So, what is a panda and what’s up with the term Panda Politics? In another post I will address why WE (i.e. Canada, Harper, et al) are playing Panda Politics.

What are pandas and why does anyone care?

Although very iconic, my first thought was besides being black and white and bear all over…what are they?

red-panda-sleepingThe pandas we got are of the giant panda kind, in contrast to the Red Panda. The giant panda is a bear, as opposed to its name sake which is actually related to the raccoon.

They are native to central-western and south-western China. Of course we all know the iconic image of the black and white fur balls.

Interestingly enough, although a bear and thus a member of the order carnivore, Giant Pandas eat about 99% bamboo; they are the vegans of the bear world. You find very little of the carnivore (i.e. meat) in their diet.

2009-01-02-pandasThat said, they will in the wild munch on other plants…like grass or tubers…and if opportunity arises will chow down on a bird or rodent…and are not above nibbling on a bit of carrion if given the chance. Maybe not so much Vegan but a really lazy carnivore?

In captivity, they may be fed honey, eggs, fish, yams, shrub leaves, oranges, or bananas along with specially prepared food and of course bamboo which will be flown in twice weekly from Memphis.

Why Memphis? Well they have a couple of Pandas who will be returning to China this year. Also bamboo grows better in Tennessee than Ontario and they already have the “bamboo plantation”…I hope we get a discount on the “Fed-Ex” shipping considering their name was ALL over this transfer…more so than either China or Canada. Viva the corporatization of environmentalism?

Your typical panda lives about two decades in the wild and a third decade in captivity with the oldest one living to 34.

IUCN-ListPandas are an endangered species which is not as bad as it may sound. They are at risk of extinction in the near future but in the scale of risk established by international treaties…kind of like a scale of 1 to 7…they are only half way to extinction.

It’s kind of weird system, established by the treaties. You have 7 classifications, two are not really at risk, two that are already extinct…from the wild and from the planet…then they have a set of three in the middle which are the ones we often think about.

endangered-species-cartoonThere are those who are vulnerable…so, creatures that could go extinct if we don’t keep an eye out in the future…think flying squirrel or harbour seal.

There are the critically endangered, who are likely to go extinct very soon…game over man…think Java Rhino or Mountain Gorilla which may already be extinct by the time you read this…REALLY!

3932397_origThen you have the Panda…right in the middle being JUST endangered…not in immediate risk of extinction but all signs point to that in the near future. It could be a goner. Although considering its celebrity status it’s unlikely to go the “way of the dodo”. It is one of almost 4000 animals on the list. All of which are more likely to go extinct…less cute and cuddly?

The wild population of panda is believed to be less than 2000 and a captive community of about 300.

The biggest threat to the panda population is loss of habitat and their puritan values.

What is that you say? Puritan values?

epun9lWell, besides being famous as lazy bamboo chompers…it seems the reproductive instinct in the Panda is how shall we say…a tad on the sluggish side.

The female goes into estrus for 48 hours, plus or minus, a year…so, you’d think the males would be…well eager for the event.

It seems, at least in captivity, the males are more interested in lying around than LAYING around (wink wink-nudge nudge). Desperate, conservationists have resorted to artificial insemination, keeping the perspective couple in very close approximation. They have used Viagra on the males and even resorted to panda porn.article-2293312-18A796E1000005DC-402_634x549

YES, panda porn…I suspect some of you are right this moment checking it out.

Now, they have improved their technique by studying the Black Bear population and it seems the females are really only interested in sex every couple of years…a very British sounding couple.

Okay, so now you know WHAT a panda is. Next in the series we will discus how Panda’s have become an integral part of China’s diplomatic team.



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Radio Freethinker Episode 204 – Panda Politics Edition

Posted by Don McLenaghen on March 26, 2013


This week:
– New Pope old problems,
– Creationist’s $10,000 challenge,

– Librarians and loyalties, and
– Panda Politics

Download the episode here!


New Pope old problems

76228_600We originally thought the new pope, although having his own baggage, was not tainted by the ‘hiding pedophile priest’ scandal. Well, new report shows that even this humble friar had his role in covering up and moving around disgraced clergy.

Find out more:

Creationist’s $10,000 challenge

edgeDr. Joseph Mastropaolo is offering $10,000 to any individual (who is willing to put up their own $10,000)  who can “prove that science contradicts the literal reading of Genesis”. If you win, you get the $20,000. If on the other hand, they prove “proves that science indicates the literal reading of Genesis” they win.

Find out more:

Librarians and loyalties

Fullscreen capture 02072012 25803 PM-001Don reviews changes to the Code of Conduct for Library and Archives of Canada. The insistence of a ‘duty of loyalty’ to the government as opposed to the nation of Canada strikes as tones of totalitarianism. In the light of many other policies, decisions and legislation  one can not help but get the feeling Harper things HE is the nation, civil servants can’t be trusted and the less the people know the better for the government.

Find out more:

Panda Politics

DEA3795sq-1024x1024Pandas has been an intricate part of Chinese diplomacy for centuries. Since the 1970’s the People Republic has used them to open the doors to the non-communist world.

Two of the bi-coloured fur balls are not in Canada; what does it mean, why did we get them and what did we give up? Could our Prime Minster spend his time doing something more important than pimping Pandas?

Find out more:


Skeptical Highlights:

Medicines from the Ivory Tower


The Istituto teams up once again with ARPICO, the Society of Italian Researchers and Professionals of Western Canada, to present a fascinating talk celebrating the 50th anniversary of the awarding of the Nobel Prize to Italian scientist Giulio Natta. Organic chemistry, the branch of chemical science that focuses on carbon-based materials, permits the conversion of basic resources, such as petroleum and coal, into valuable end-products that are the hallmark of technologically advanced societies. Organic chemistry enabled Giulio Natta to usher in the era of advanced plastics. Today, researchers rely on organic chemistry to create the medicines of the future. This talk by UBC’s Prof. Marco Ciufolini will briefly highlight the work of Giulio Natta, before illustrating how advances in organic chemistry are spawning the therapies of the 21st Century.


Istituto Italiano Di Cultura – 500W. Hastings, Vancover


Wednesday, MAR 27, 2013, 6:15 PM



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