Saturday, May 26, 2007

Conservative Party to Facebook: "Talk to the Hand"

Conservatives limiting their networking options

Over the past couple of years, Facebook has slowly been building a reputation as one of the top social networking sites (websites whereon people can create profiles, build networks of friends and acquaintances, and share photographs and blog postings) in the world.

Along with Myspace and Nexopia, Facebook attracts thousands of users.

Some of Canada's political parties have taken advantage of the broad networking opportunities that Facebook, in particular provides. Stephane Dion has a profile with 7,940 supporters. Jack Layton has amassed 3,220 supporters via Facebook, and Green party leader Elizabeth May has a less public profile with 530 supporters.

Conservative party leader (and Prime Minister) Stephen Harper has no official public profile. In a move that underscores this fact, the Conservative party recently banned many of its staff members from using Facebook.

The ban has been supported by some on the basis of message control. This may be a fair assessment. That being said, this does take a powerful communications and networking tool out of the hands of the Conservatives, and abandons it to their opponents. That is not a wise political move.

While strict message control may be key to any successful political campaign, the fact remains that the ultimate point of those campaigns is getting that message out, and getting people to engage with it. While the blogging features offered by Facebook may represent a risk in the hands of party staff who may or may not be prone to poor discretion, the communications tools offered by these sites allow -- and encourage -- a two-way dialogue between politicians and their supporters. Facebook allows politicans a unique opportunity to disseminate and discuss their ideas and policies with their supporters. It allows them to spread the message, grow the message, and potentially expand their support.

Even the "grouping" features offered by Facebook allows politicians to identify interest groups, make appeals to them, and build the coalitions of voters that are so necessary to winning elections.

The Conservative party is making a considerable error by choosing not to embrace this potentially powerful tool. They may come to regret it come election time.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Pollster Reveals Canadians Woefully Uninformed About War in Afghanistan

Lack of support for Canada's mission in Afghanistan due to lack of information

For those addicted to the mystical world of poll watching, the Strategic Councel's polls on Canada's deployment in Afghanistan have been a real eye-opener. In their most recent poll, the Strategic Councel concluded that 62% of Canadians support negotiating with the Taliban.

The same poll determined that 55% of Canadians opposed the mission -- a 2-point drop from previous polls -- while 40% of Canadians support the mission -- a 4-point increase from previous polls.

For many of the Afghanistan mission's opponents, these recent polls have been treated like mana from heaven. Yet an interview Charles Adler conducted with Tim Wollstencroft (of the Strategic Counsel) today has uncovered another aspect of the issue -- Canadians are woefully underinformed regarding the mission, and about the Taliban in particular.

In the interview, Wollstencroft agrees that a lack of knowledge about the Taliban has an impact on such studies. "Whether you know a lot about the Taliban or little the fact is that there's a sense of unease about the war in Afghanistan, and there's a desire to see some sort of diplomatic initiative."

He also admitted that the polls themselves are largely conducted in an information vacuum.

Although this is a proper polling technique -- to provide any sort of specific information during the polling process risks unduly manipulating the results, as is the case with push polling -- it does reflect the poor basis from which many Canadians are making decisions about whether or not to support the mission.

A conversation held with an opponent of the Afghanistan mission held via an internet message board reflects the uninformed nature of much of the war's opposition. In the course of the conversation, DerbyX asserts that opposition to the war represents opposition to Conservative party policies (despite the fact that it was the [i]Liberals[/i] who deployed Canadian forces to Afghanistan), is indistinguishable from the US war in Iraq, and is essentially an act of imperialism.

Yet, as previously mentioned, it was the Liberals, under Jean Chretien who deployed Canadian troops to Afghanistan. It was the Liberals, under Paul Martin, who deployed Canadian troops into the combat mission in Kandahar. The war in Afghanistan is a multilateral affair, conduced under UN mandate, with solid intelligence backing it. Finally, the goal in Afghanistan is to rebuild the country and leave, not rule it permanently.

All the while, the war's opponents often demonstrate their lack of knowledge regarding the mission. "I guess it just hasn't occurred to you that [Liberals] don't want to see young Canadians killed in a fruitless cause."

Yet, the many successes of the mission, Including 17,000 Afghani girls who are now attending school seem to be lost on these individuals. This defies the categorization of Afghanistan as a fruitless cause.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Will Canada's Lebanese Community Please Stand Up?

Will Canada's Lebanese population protest this slaughter of civilians?

Let's all take a trip in time to last year.

On July 12, 2006 Israel dispatched combat forces into Lebanon to engage Hezbollah terrorists. Hezbollah had recently kidnapped two Israeli soldiers, and had been spending weeks prior launching rocket attacks on Israeli civilian neighbourhoods.

During the early rounds of that conflict, Prime Minister Stephen Harper surmised that Israel's response was a "measured response".

Members of Canada's Lebanese community furiously protested Harper's comments, citing the deaths of civilians killed by Israeli attacks on Hezbollah positions, who were using Lebanese civilians as human shields.

Now, it's day two of a feirce battle surrounding the Nahr El-Bared Palestinian refugee camp. The Lebanese military has opened fire on Fatah-Islam, an Isamic militant group suspected to have links to Al Qaida, with M-48 battle tanks, with the camp caught in the crossfire. There have been civilian deaths, although the precise number of them is as yet undetermined.

The battle is apparently the result of a gun battle in a neighbourhood in Tripoli, which followed a Saturday bank robbery.

Reports indicate that hundreds of Lebanese cheered and applauded as the tanks opened fire.

One wonders: will the Canadian Lebanese community stand up as they did last year, and protest their homeland's slaughter of civilians, or will they remain largely quiescent because Israel is nowhere to be found in this conflict?

The lack of protest raises an interesting question: were last year's protests about civilian deaths? Or were they simply about Israel?

This conflict actually seems to be a legacy of Lebanon's civil war, in which Syrian-backed Islamic militants waged war against the country's Christian population. Fatah-Islam is also believed to be linked to the Lebanese government's pro-Syrian opposition.

Yet the fact remains: the Lebanese military has clearly done absolutely nothing to avoid civilian casualties. They have recklessly opened fire on a refugee camp with tanks, when they could have avoided civilian deaths by entering the camp with infantry units instead.

At least jet bombers allow for a measure of precision -- even if this has so rarely been the case, particularly if targets are mis-identified. If Israel was guilty of a degree of recklessness -- and certainly, they were -- then Lebanon seems at least equally so.

Will Canada's Lebanese community please stand up?

Sunday, May 20, 2007

The Conservatives Have Made Themselves Look Stupid

Committee obstruction manual nothing short of boneheaded

The Conservative party sustained a serious black eye this week, with the leak of a handbook distributed to Conservative committee chairpersons showing them how to manipulate and obstruct the activities of those committees.

The leak comes in the midst of a firestorm regarding the disintigration of the committee on Official Languages, and sustained pressure applied on the government over the Afghan detainees issue.

And while the opposition parties have engaged in their own share of obstructionism -- especially in the Liberal-dominated Senate -- this incident only proves that the Conservatives have not been above petty partisanship.

Naturally, the opposition jumped all over the document. Liberal house leader Ralph Goodale cited it as evidence that "the government's deliberate plan is to cause a dysfunctional, chaotic parliament."

And while the Liberals have done more than enough themselves to cause the notably chippy environment on Parliament Hill, the fact is that the Conservatives have been caught red-handed doing something that every minority government in Canada does -- although most of them are smart enough not to write it down.

Frankly, the Conservatives seem to have forgotten what they were elected to do -- namely, to govern. It's the government's responsibility -- especially in a minority parliament -- to make the best effort it possibly can to govern, and let the opposition parties try to obstruct the political process.

Even many Conservatives are admitting that the Tory government is "running on fumes". It has finally met its first five priorities, as laid out in January 2006: passing the Accountability Act, cutting the GST, introducing new crime legislation, the child care tax credit, and the health care wait times guarantee.

Now, it needs new ideas. To make matters worse for them, the Tories have found their stock of political and moral capital being slowly drained by a number of unforeseen events -- the leak of this "obstruction handbook" is only the latest of them.

With poll numbers beginning to slide, the Conservatives desperately need to recapture the trust of Canadians. They've already done this twice before, and can do it again, but the shenanigans need to stop.

Among the party's most grievous needs? A lesson in political crisis management, less partisanship regarding the war in Afghanistan, and a credible policy alternative to the court challenges program.

Fortunately, the Conservatives have caught a break with this one, as this story has only broken as parliament has entered its summer break. By the time MPs return to Ottawa, this little scandal will have faded in memory enough for the Tories to get on with governing.

But before they'll be able to do that, they'll need to get their own house in order, and that will take some hard work.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Eco-Hero or Eco Ego? Vol. 2 - David Suzuki

Our recent "Jeffrey Monaghan: Eco-Hero or Eco-Ego?" article has inspired a new feature here at the Nexus, one aimed at facilitating some clarity in the ongoing climate change debate.

This new ongoing feature will be called the "Eco-Hero or Eco-Ego?" series, and will feature profiles on environmental activists.

Certainly, there are some eco-heroes out there -- good people, fighting for positive change that protects our natural environment. God bless them. After all, the human race won't survive very long without a healthy planet to sustain it. Eco-heroes deserve our respect. It should also be noted that like any true hero, eco-heroes usually aren't terribly likely to describe themselves as such.

Ego-egos, on other hand, very much do think of themselves as heroes. Yet their motivations are typically very, very different. These people aren't really motivated by visions of environmental security. They have various different interests -- political, social, and personal. These people are among the rogue's gallery of the environmental battle.

In order to best explore the true intentions of environmental activist, particularly in regards to climate change, it's very important that I myself explain my views on climate change.

Climate change activists insist that climate change is caused by human activity. They're partially correct.

It's well known that the combustion of fossil fuels produces greenhouse gases, which produce the greenhouse effect. Given the level of human fossil fuel consumption, there is no question that human activity has an impact on climate change. There is a question regarding how much of an impact human activity has.

The other portion of the science on climate change -- the portion that insists that climate change is due to natural variations -- clearly makes a solid point as well. The variation of the climate throughout history has been solidly demonstrated. According to scientists who support this position, there are various natural processes that cause an increase in climate temperature.

As such, it's entirely plausible that there's nothing we can do to stop climate change. We can certianly slow the process by reducing the amount of impact human activity has on this phenomenon, but to believe we can stop the planet's demonstrated natural cycles is nothing more than a delusion.

Each side of the debate -- and yes, there is a debate, like it or not -- has its merits. Strict dogmatic adherence to either side will not do the debate any good. This is why it's so important to expose the eco-egos for what they are. It's important that the amount of influence these would-be demagogues can exert is lessened so that a real scientific discourse -- free from political manipulation -- can unfold.

The environmentalist villains of the drama -- the eco-egos -- don't want this debate to ever happen. They claim that it's "over". It isn't. Meanwhile, the heroes amongst the environentalists -- the eco-heroes -- are helping to facilitate this debate in their own way (although they clearly have their own beliefs to support).

Hopefully, this new feature here at The Nexus can help people separate the two.

David Suzuki: Icon of Canadian scientific community, or junk science demagogue?

David Suzuki is, without a doubt Canada's best-known scientific mind. CBC viewers named Suzuki the ninth greatest Canadian in history. He has hosted CBC's The Nature of Things for more than 30 years. He is also widely recognized on the international stage.

Suzuki is Canada's foremost climate change activist. He has managed to turn his celebrity and the admiration that he has earned by revealling the wonders of science to generations of young Canadians into a strong base of political capital from which he can address the issue.

As the founder of the David Suzuki Foundation, Suzuki has encouraged activism on numerous environmental issues, while keeping himself out of the political arena.

Unfortunately, Suzuki has indulged himself in some rather partisan loud-mouthery. In a clip used to promote CBC's The Hour, Suzuki tells host George Stroumbouloupolis "he [Australian Minister John Howard] is so far up mr Bush's backside that he can't back out."

Interestingly, the CBC's ad spots don't make any note that the comment is about Howard, not Harper.

Here in Canada, Suzuki has often complained that Prime Minister Stephen Harper hasn't met with him in person -- further demonstrating the sense among many celebrities that they should be entitled to meet with heads of state at their leisure. In a more public event, Suzuki approached Environement Minister John Baird at a Green Living Show in April, following the release of the Conservative party Green Plan and told him, "it's a disappointment, John. Please come see us."

Despite a number of outbursts, Suzuki has favoured cooperation over confrontation.

Suzuki differs from many activists by turning down the terror alert level and providing people with an astonishing variety of things they can do to reduce their carbon footprint.

Yet, there is one element of his approach that Suzuki needs to ammend, and that is his insistence that the debate is settled. In February, Suzuki walked out of a radio interview after the host suggested that the debate wasn't settled. Suzuki would have done better for himself by admitting that the debate is not settled, or at least defend his belief that it is. On this occasion, he refused to do either, electing instead to retreat.

There is one other weakness to Suzuki's activism -- Suzuki is not a climatologist, nor does he study a related field. He's a geneticist by trade. If criticisms of credentials apply to scientists who dissent from the climate change dogma, then certainly they must apply to Suzuki as well.

However, as a spokesperson, Suzuki is superb. And even if his personal grasp of the issue can be questioned based on his credentials, the fact remains that Suzuki is only so outspoken because he genuinely cares.

While hardly a paragon of virtue on the subject, Suzuki certainly qualifies as an eco-hero.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Pair of Senators Fans Embarrass Country

Apparently a couple of tough guys in Ottawa could use a run-in with Georges Laraque

In Canada, hockey is a big deal. Any Canadian knows this. In fact, anyone, anywhere in the world, who can find Canada on a map probably knows this.

Canadians are passionate about hockey. But the recent behaviour of a pair of Ottawa Senators fans is beyond the pale.

According to news reports, two Senators' fans attacked a female Buffalo Sabres fan after she told them they could "put [their] brooms away." According to her husband, Sean, Renee Luck was pushed to the ground, then punched in the face repeatedly after the incident.

"One of the gentlemen -- actually, I can't call him a gentleman -- pushed our friend down, then pushed my wife down," Luck explains. "She got up and said, 'are you kidding me?' That's when the other guy hit her probably four or five times in the face."

"What kind of person does that?" he asked.

Obviously, the kind of person who takes a hockey game way too seriously. Also, a person who probably isn't all that bright. While a 3-0 lead in a playoff series always puts the sweep possibility in play, a team like the Buffalo Sabres simply isn't going to be washed out of the playoffs in four games. Especially not in the conference final.

While revolting, the incident really underscores the situation in the Eastern Conference final. No matter who wins this series, the fans of the team that loses are going to be extremely, extremely angry. Ottawa has been to the Conference finals before, in years they were expected to win the Stanley Cup, and lost. The Buffalo Sabres were so terrible for so long that their fans expect nothing less from the Presidents' Trophy winners -- especially given that, with Daniel Briere and Chris Drury set to become unrestricted free agents come July 1, it is very unlikely that the Sabres will be able to ice this line-up again come October.

All this aside, the behaviour of the fans in question -- who have been taken into custody, although charges haven't necessarily been laid yet -- is absolutely inexcusable.

Unfortunately, inexcusable behaviour seems to have become synonymous with playoff success in Canada. Last year, Oilers fans tore up Whyte Avenue in Edmonton following Oilers victories. In 2004, Flames fans in Calgary did the same to the Red Mile (although their fans won't admit to it).

Personally, I never thought I would say this: but perhaps Canadians could stand to take hockey a little less seriously.

A league in which millionaires get paid to play a children's game simply isn't worth fighting over.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Breaking News: David McGuinty Living in Fear of Political Opponent

Flying McGuinty brother apparently afraid of 60-year-old man

David McGuinty may well be a pussy.

Given the gravity of the exchange between David -- one half of the flying McGuinty brothers -- and Royal Galipeau today in the House of Commons, perhaps that isn't the politically correct way to describe him, but it may be accurate.

McGuinty, while addressing a fairly politicized question regarding the Official Languages Act and the repeal of the Court Challenges Program, apparently questioned Galipeau's credibility as a francophone.

According to all accounts, Galipeau stood up and walked across the floor to the opposition benches, and right up to McGuinty.

"The member was clearly out of control," McGuinty complained. "Using unparliamentary language, and in a threatening fashion, [he] grabbed my left shoulder and only left me side when when several of my colleagues urged him to stop and leave, but he wouldn't."

For the record, David McGuinty is 47 years old. Royal Galipeau is 60.

"He was really completely out of control, raising his voice, flailing his arms, gesticulating in a threatening fashion and making wild accusations," McGuinty insisted.

According to an interview he did with David Akins, McGuinty was comparing Galipeau's work on behalf of the Montfort Hospital, Ontario's only Francophone teaching hospital, to the Conservatives repeal of the Court Challenges program, and asked the Speaker of the House to investigate Galipeau's activities.

"I raised it, reminding people that when the member, Mr. Galipeau, was not a Member of Parliament, he ferociously fought for the keeping open of the Montfort Hospital but since becoming a member in this government he has done precious little, if anything, to fight for the program that was cut, les contestations judiciaires, as they say, the whole court challenges program," McGuinty explained.

But what does Montfort Hospital really have to do with the Court Challenges program?
In 2002, Montfort Hospital successfully used the court challenges program to resist restructuring of the Ontario health system that may have threatened Montfort's existence as a francophone hospital.

Yet Galipeau protested the Ernie Eves government -- the Progressive Conservative government's move to threaten Montfort.

It is in this sense that McGuinty may have a point. Perhaps cases such as Montfort Hospital do demonstrate the value of some sort of court challenges program -- but not necessarily the court challenges program that has been repealled. Perhaps a new court challenges program could be started, one that, instead of directly funding court cases, a program could be started that would instead reimburse successful challengers after the case is decided, in order to cut back on the number of frivolous cases being funded on the Canadian taxpayer's dime.

All the same, David McGuinty has no place challenging Royal Galipeau's solid record of defending francophone rights -- especially as a significant portion of that record was accumulated while Galipeau was a Liberal.

"I was surprised that an MP that I’ve always treated with respect should attack me," Galipeau retorted. "I’ve never, since my election, said a single partisan word in that House, not at the Chamber of Commerce, not at the Canadian Legion, not anywhere. So it just took me by surprise that a Member of the House would attack me and on what issue? That I don’t defend francophone rights? I’ve been defending francophone rights longer than he’s been alive!"

For his part, Galipeau admits he blew his cool. Yet, it's Galipeau's closing comments that best reveal the absurdity of McGuinty's complaint. "How can I be threatening to him? He's bigger than I am, he's stronger than I am, he's younger than I am."

Point taken, Royal. Apparently, David McGuinty is just a pussy.

Colbert Misses the Point on University Movie Protest

Colbert Not Quite Savvy Enough About his Inconvenient Truthiness

Let me start off by saying how much I actually like Stephen Colbert. His neocon character surely infuriates some views -- particularly president George W Bush -- but he aptly exposes the hypocrisy of the kowtowing American "conservative" media (I would argue that many of these outlets aren't pandering to conservatives per se, so much as they're pandering to the administration in general).

Let it also be known that he can identify a true neocon when he sees it -- thus, his "Tip of the Hat" to the Liberal party for their infamous "soldiers with guns" ad in early 2006.

But the human condition being what it is, even the most astute observers will be wrong from time to time. As was the case on last night's Cobert Report broadcast, when he commented on the case of Barry Lucier, a Roger Williams University student who was forced to watch An Inconvenient Truth for course credit.

As Lucier describes it, in order to graduate, he was required to take a lab course wherein one of the mandatory lab sessions was replaced with a screening of Al Gore’s film (presumably still mandatory, but explicit details are scant).

Colbert describes the entire situation in fairly cut-and-dried terms (provided one can read past the subtext), "at a 'college', Barry was forced to learn about something he didn't already think," Colbert lampooned. "When you confront young people with information that doesn't jibe with what they already believe they can get confused."

Colbert’s implicit theory: Lucier came to university to learn. Suck it up and go to class.

"He's enrolled in a class where the teacher thinks he knows more about the subject than the students," Colbert quipped.

Yet, if the professor in question -- or Colbert himself -- knew more about the film itself it's unlikely that Colbert would make such a joke.

While controversial on its own due to the “heated debate” that surrounds the climate change issue, Gore’s film courted further controversy by also being extremely inaccurate. Various observers have dug into the film and found it wanting on the scientific facts. In the film, Gore also exaggerates some of the potential consequences of climate change.

Gore even cranks up the climate change terror alert level by citing 9/11. This is actually a very sophisticated psychological technique whereby Gore can predispose his audience to become terrified of climate change by reminding them of the fear they felt on September 11th, 2001. Gore also proves that nothing is sacred by trying to forge a bizarre link between climate change and a near-fatal accident suffered by his son.

But perhaps the greatest disservice that Gore and Colbert do to the climate change debate is exaggerating the amount of consensus there is regarding the issue. In the film, Gore claims that no peer-reviewed publication has published anyone suggesting climate change is due to anything other than human activity. Colbert -- perhaps jokingly -- makes his own estimate about the proportion of scientists who disagree, “Sure, there’s a vast consensus of global warming science, but doesn’t the opposing five percent deserve fifty percent of the time?”

Au contraire: while it can be demonstrated that the various exhaust gases produced by human activity (particularly the combustion of fossil fuels) lead to a demonstrable greenhouse effect, the natural variations in the planet’s climate have been demonstrated as well. Gore’s film was found to have ignored key variations over the past 1000 years in order to portray the “hockey stick” model that suggests there has been little variation.

The claims on behalf of climate change alarmists that the opinions of such scientists are invalid unless they study a field directly related to climate change notwithstanding, the alarmists have their own problematic members. Aside from Gore (who is not a scientist), George Monbiot -- author of Heat doesn’t study a directly related scientific field. He’s a zoologist.

Where they haven’t successfully managed to dispell dissent with science, alarmists have resorted to declaring dissent ”immoral”, or outright slandering their opponents by giving them “awards” that suggest they believe the earth is flat.

Despite all the basic academic issues surrounding the film, and ethical issues surrounding the debate, Colbert dismisses Lucier’s concerns as “rigidity”. “The Barry Luciers of the world are entering a mindfield of knowledge. Who knows what destructive information they’ll be confronted with next?”

Then again, when one spends as much on tuition as one does at an American post-secondary institution, one also expects that everything they will be taught will be accurate. Gore's film politicizes the contentious science surrounding climate change -- using his film to try and teach the subject only politicizes the classroom. Unless a direct effort is made to debate the film -- which, in all fairness, may have occurred (again, details are scant).

“He might double-plus think despite unwell school.”

Whereas Colbert should double-plus think despite unwell movie.

Monday, May 14, 2007

More Ignatieff Hypocrisy Regarding Afghanistan

Pot, meet kettle

Michael Ignatieff has a way with the truth.

Or, perhaps it should be said, Michael Ignatieff often tries to have his way with the truth.

Perhaps Ignatieff should adopt a new personal slogan: "if you're talking dishonesty, you're talking about me."

In a recent news report, Ignatieff claims that Prime Minister Stephen Harper's "partisan attacks are undermining support for the mission."

That's a pretty interesting claim.

Frankly, what's more likely to undermine support for the mission: Stephen Harper suggesting that the opposition parties should support Canadian soldiers (who support the mission), or the Liberal party desperately trying to make political hay out of torture allegations that are more solidly linked to the Liberals than to the Conservatives? Perhaps the Conservatives securing the equipment necessary for the Canadian Forces to do the job that the Liberals committed Canadian troops to in the first place while the Liberals falsely claim that "the mission has changed".

For the record, Canadian forces have been in combat operations in Khandahar since August 2005 -- while the Liberals were still in power. Facetiousness, thy name is Liberal.

What's more likely to undermine support for the mission: the Conservatives espousing a commitment to remain in Afghanistan until the country is stable, or the Liberals introducing a motion to force Canadian troops to withdraw from Afghanistan in 2009, even after a significant portion of their caucus (led by Ignatieff) voted in favor of extending the mission?

The frankly embarrassing nature of some of Harper's attacks notwithstanding, Ignatieff and his Liberal party are doing a much better job of undermining support for the mission than the Conservatives are.

Perhaps the same could be said about the NDP, but at least the NDP is honest about their position, which is something that absolutely cannot be said about the Liberals.

While Ignatieff denounces Harper for his "partisan attacks", perhaps Ignatieff should remember that his party's recent criticism of the Afghan conflict is entirely partisan, as well.

Then again, that would be truthful -- not like Ignatieff lately.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Uniting the Left Untenable

But Don't Ask the CBC

Anyone who tuned into CBC's The National on May 10, 2007, was treated to a unique postulation on behalf of the CBC about the possibility of a united left. In the piece, "The Divided Left", Leslie McKinnon explores the idea of a united left, compares it to the united right, and wonders just why they can't seem to "get the job done".

McKinnon points to the recent non-competitive pact between Stephane Dion and Elizabeth May as "the first tentative step" toward a merger of (allegedly) leftist parties in Canada.

It's hard to see where McKinnon herself stands on this particular issue, if the piece is examined solely for explicit statements. If one reads into the subtext, however, it begins to seem as if McKinnon is very much in favor of, if not an outright merger, at least cooperation between the various parties. At the 3:32 point of the segment, McKinnon even explains how voters could accomplish such a goal.

"The truth is, if progressive voters want to stop vote splitting in order to prevent another Conservative government Green Party numbers are too small," McKinnon explains. "The vital player that these voters need is the NDP."

She then seems to level the finger of blame at the NDP for the current government. "Last election, it was abundantly clear that cooperating with the Liberals is not in the NDP's game plan."

"Far from it."

In the 2006 election, the NDP locked their sights firmly on the Liberal party, urging Liberal voters to cast ballots in favor of the NDP. Knowing how many ridings were capable of swinging based on a defection of voters, Layton convinced Liberal voters in many ridings to switch their allegiances -- whether permanently or temporarily. The result was 10 additional seats.

This, however, was a reversal of the 2004 election, wherein the spectre of a "scary" Conservative government enabled then-Prime Minster Paul Martin to rustle up extra seats at the NDP's expense, using precisely the same mantra of strategic voting. Naturally, having won power on the back of this tactic, the Liberals went right back to the well in the next election, with far less success.

One of the segment's talking heads, University of Victoria Political Scientist Reg Whitaker notes, "[The NDP] have defined themselves essentially as in a death struggle with the Liberals to command the centre-left and if the collateral damage is that the Conservatives get a majority then so be it. That seems to be the thinking."

McKinnon also points the finger of blame at Ed Broadbent for not "siding with the anti-free trade Liberals" in the election of 1988.

For the record, The Liberal party would eventually switch to a pro-free trade stance, (just as the then-Progressive Conservatives had previously opposed it).

Broadbent netted 43 seats for the NDP. According to Whitaker, "that was a success but the result was they divided the anti-free trade vote, which actually represented the majority across the country and reelected a [Progressive] Conservative majority which then enacted free trade."

McKinnon insists that "ancestral resentments and intense party loyalties keep [the four centre-left parties] apart."

In reality, the divided left remains divided by issues of principle and political culture.

The NDP -- arguably portrayed as the villains of the segment -- were founded as an outright social democratic party. Originally estabished as the Cooperative Commonwealth Federation, a party designed around the protestant social gospel, the party combined with the Canadian Labour Congress, largely divested itself of its religious underpinnings, and founded a broader social democratic party.

Although often taking arguably anti-business positions, the NDP has sought to become a party for middle class Canadians. As a result, it has often struck anti-elitist positions and advocated for wealth redistribution from wealthier Canadians to poorer Canadians, in combination with an expansive social safety net.

The Bloc Quebecois is, by nature, a Quebec separatist party. With the secondary purpose of representing Quebec's interests in Ottawa, the BQ's first goal is to advance the cause of separatism from Ottawa.

The Green party, for all its futile efforts to broaden its tent, is strictly an environmental party, although Elizabeth May does hold some very interesting views regarding abortion.

The true misnomer in the idea of a united left is the Liberal party. While purporting itself to be a left-of-center party, the fact is that there is very little in the Liberal party's record to account for that claim. Throughout the party's history, it has proven just as conservative as their primary Tory opponents. On the few occasions in which the Liberal party has enacted truly left-wing policies, it has always done so as a result of pressure from the NDP.

The Liberals have proven adept at following the Mackenzie-King model of "swing" politics, in which the party "swings" left to relieve pressure applied by a powerful NDP, or "swings" right to alleviate pressure applied by potent right-wing parties.

When "swinging" to the right, the Liberal party has often proved beyond conservative. The Liberals' budget-slashing endeavours following the 1993 election have been described by many observers as text book neo-conservative fiscal policy.

But that isn't where the Liberals' flirting with neo-conservatism ends. The party has always endorsed a Straussian view of elite rulership, while most recently spreading the "noble lie" of the Conservative hidden agenda. In fact, when compared to the ideological underpinnings of Straussianism, the Liberals meet a remarkable portion of neo-conservative criteria.

So, in essence, the four players of McKinnon's dream scenario match up like this: socialists, separatists, environmentalists and neoconservatives. However, it is much more complex than this.

The socialists dislike the neoconservatives, for obvious reasons. The neo-conservatives and the environmentalists are quite amicable to each other (despite the failure of the neo-conservatives to address the issues favoured by the environmentalists, or even keep that issue under control). The environmentalists see the socialists as not left-of-centre enough for them, while the separatists have a long-standing rivalry with the neo-conservatives. To top this all off, the separatists want to separate from all of them.

If that doesn't seem like a recipe for political disaster, it isn't immediately apparent what would.

How will, for example, the Liberals, NDP and Greens accomodate the BQ within this new party? Will the new party advocate separatism, or at least accept it within their ranks? Will the NDP and Greens adopt an elitist stance to match that of the Liberals? Or will the Liberals divest themselves of their elitist tendencies?

These questions have no suitable answers. Despite all the pie-in-the-sky dreams of the "unite the left" movement, this is an impossible goal.

But it isn't the goal that makes the "unite the left" movement dangerous.

In the end, the entire "unite the left" movement has one underlying goal: ensure that a Conservative government never again comes to power. Those who single-mindedly advocate for this union prove themselves more than willing to disregard the principles of each particular party involved in order to make this happen. And why not? When one is power hungry, nothing appeals more than a stranglehold on the political system.

How can any political movement that chooses to disregard issues of principle in order to unite in pursuit of a monopoly on political power represent anything more than the political enslavement of anyone who chooses to disagree with that movement?

Even under Elizabeth May's "virtual merger" vision of a European coalition wherein potential swing ridings held by left-of-centre candidates are kept safe by the absense of competing left-of-centre candidates, uniting the left can only result in a political environment that is less competitive, and fundamentally unjust for all Canadians who disagree with a potential united left-wing party.

McKinnon notes that, in Canada, the majority of voters traditionally support these left-of-centre parties. In a democracy, the majority rules.

But then again, what Dion, May, McKinnon, and all those who share their vision of Canada want isn't majority rules. It's majority dominates. It's a betrayal of the principles the country was re-founded on, both prior to and in 1981.

The healthiest democracies are the ones in which power alternates between competitors. Yet advocates of the "unite the left" movement seem intent on preventing this from being the case in Canada.

One actually wonders what they're afraid of.

Update: Kevin Potvin Still Pouting

Life's tough, Kevin: Get a Helmet

The sad, sad tale of Kevin Potvin whining about the widespread censure (not censor) that Kevin Potvin recieved over his controversial and boneheaded 9/11 comments continued this week, with the most recent issue of his Republic of East Vancouver "newspaper".

The May 10th issue of Potvin's throw-away bi-monthly rag features the most recent of numerous tirades against those who Potvin feels are so "unjustly" "oppressing" him. In previous tirades, Potvin outwardly raged against his opponents, points the finger of blame at the NDP for allegedly "leaking" the original article (which, for the record, was willingly published for public consumption), and accused the "corporate news media" of "censoring" him.

In his most recent article, Potvin publicly lodges complaint about the fact that his attempts to extend his own 15 minutes of fame by lodging complaint were cut short. He accuses his detractors of "turtling" by refusing to respond to his purile attempts to stir up further controversy by waging a private war with the "evil" "corporate news media".

He relates the tale of his complaint against Ian King, the writer of what Potvin refers to as "a late hit", an article that compared Potvin to Doug Collins, the would-have-been candidate for the Reform party who was expelled from the party by Preston Manning for espousing racist viewpoints on a radio program.

Potvin claims the comparison is "defamatory". Yet, one can easily find the comparison between Kevin Potvin, a candidate who stirred up unwelcome controversy for his party by expressing celebratory views regarding 9/11 -- and no matter how he may try to deny it, this is precisely what he has done -- and Doug Collins, a candidate who stirred up unwelcome controversy for his party by making racist comments, as well as trivializing the Holocaust. Both would-be candidates were removed by their respective party leaders.

Where, precisely, is the comparison defamatory? If by "defamatory", you mean "true", Potvin may be on to something. Otherwise...

(Fortunately Potvin's readers are at hand to keep his head on straight...)

Continuing our "tragic" little tale, Potvin notes that his complaint was directed to SUN media's lawyer. After being informed by Potvin that he "wouldn't be speaking through a lawyer, but rather through [his] readers, so nothing would be off the record", Potvin was simply told "no dice".

SUN's lawyer refused to be drug into Potvin's sad little media war. Apparently, to Potvin, this is "turtling" as well.

His complaint with the Vancouver Sun didn't even get that far. When he demanded an apology for an allegedly "defamatory" (again, actually "true") headline describing his column as pro-9/11, he was simply told "move on with your life. The rest of us have."

According to Potvin, this unqalified rejection of his complaint is "turtling".

He also complained that the writer in question, who in an email described Potvin as "fundamentally a prick" referred him to the Sun's lawyer as well. In Potvin's eyes, this is "turtling" as well.

In the absence of such a lawyer, Potvin was referred to the deputy managing editor. Potvin then launches into a long, rambling complaint about how David Suzuki, editor-for-a-day entirely ignored Potvin's plight in his "Green edition" of the Vancouver Sun. He also whines that Suzuki made no mention of neo-imperialism, war in Africa or the Middle East, or (predictably) 9/11.

Hoo boy. Not only does Potvin expect everyone to participate in his little media war, but he also expects David Suzuki, of all people, to participate in his 9/11 conspiracy crusade.

Hoooooo boy.

He also suggests that by ignoring his plight, both Suzuki and Green Party leader Elizabeth May are in league with "the unelected corporate board rooms and their media organ, the National Post).

Hoooooooooooo boy.

Yet as he often does, Potvin saves the greater hilarity for last. He not once, but twice refers to himself as "the only Green party candidate in the country who could potentially win a seat". Even after the Green Party's second-place finish in London Centre, Potvin has deluded himself to be the cream of the crop of Green Party candidates, the only one electable among them.

This, despite the fact that he is entirely unelectable.

Perhaps Peter O'Neil is right. Kevin Potvin's 15 minutes of fame should be mercifully allowed to expire. Fortunately, despite his desperate efforts to keep the mainstream media's attention wired inexorably on him have largely failed.

While he continues his sad little crusade against the "corporate media" in his little "newspaper", Kevin Potvin might remember a popular adage: "if you're gonna be dumb, you gotta be tough".

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Jeffrey Monaghan: Eco-Hero or Eco-Ego?

Monaghan first target of Witchhunter John?

The story of an Environment Canada contractor arrested yesterday became a good deal more interesting today as the contracter, Jeff Monaghan held a press conference on Parliament Hill.

While decrying his arrest as part of a "witchhunt", Monaghan failed to confirm or deny that he leaked the draft copy of the Conservative Party Green Plan. Monaghan was arrested in the office he worked for Environment Canada in, as a "clipper" -- someone paid to monitor newspapers for mention of the department, and catalogue information about how the department is being portrayed in the media.

Monaghan, in his press conference, noted that he was hired as a contractor in order to "skirt government hiring policies". Listed as a temporary employee, he worked at Environment Canada for four years. Interestingly, he was hired under the Liberal government.

While Monaghan wasn't forthcoming regarding his potential guilt (he left the press conference without answering any questions from reporters), he did take the opportunity to vent his criticisms at the government. "The leak under investigation is the first explicit document of the government of Canada that states clearly that it has no intention to follow its legal responsibilities."

"That document cynically reframes our country's legal commitments within a 2006 evaluation framework, which is essentially abandoning the 1990 standard," he said.

In a note attached to the leaked document, the leaker wrote, "Your source objects strongly to the secrecy of the Harper government, its continuous PR campaign and the abandonment of international standards for [greenhouse gas] emissions."

In his press conference, Monaghan "coincidentally" complained about the secrecy of the government. It's not quite a smoking gun, but it's awfully close.

Perhaps the most ironic thing about the entire issue is that Monaghan worked for two years under a Liberal government, seemingly holding the same PR-related job, and never complained. Until the Conservatives came to power. Now he's complaining.

Many public servants and opposition politicians are complaining that Monaghan's arrest may have been planned as a deliberate act to intimidate a public service that the Conservative party still feels is partisan.

Perhaps one of the more interesting facts of this story is that Monaghan worked for the government at all. A member of an anarchist collective, one might have expected that Monaghan would be disqualified from government employment if it were known that he holds anti-government views.

Earlier in May, Monaghan was even involved in the organizing and opening of an anarchist book store.

While it could be argued that Monaghan could have been dealt with in a different manner, the fact of the matter is very simple: Monaghan broke the law. As an employee of the government, he leaked confidental government information. The government was not breaking any laws. In fact, the information that Monaghan "allegedly" released would have been released no more than a day later.

Monaghan was not acting as a concerned employee blowing the whistle on illegal or unethical government activities. He leaked government information as an activist.

If Monaghan wants to be an activist, he'll likely have a lot of time on his hands now. Which is fine. It's his right to express his opinion as a private citizen. But as a government employee, he had no right to leak such confidental information to the news media.

Monaghan is not quite the eco-hero he would like to believe himself to be. Eco-ego? Perhaps.

CCPA Passes Gas Regarding Fuel Prices

Left-leaning think tank targets oil companies

The news media is abuzz today over allegations that oil companies are gouging consumers at the pumps.

If many people had to sum their thoughts up on this matter, one way or the other, they could likely do it in two words: quelle suprise!

According to a study released by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, Canadian oil companies may be gouging Canadians by as much as 20 cents per litre. For Canadians enraged by the outrageously skyrocketing price of gasoline, this comes as little surprise. Conversely, Canadians who work in the oil and gas sector will likely be a little more skeptical.

In the sudy, economist Hugh Mackenzie compared the per-barrel price of crude oil to the comparitive value of the American dollar in order to calculate what he considers the "normalized cost" of gasoline (82.8 cents, by his estimation).

Naturally, the Canadian Petroleum Products Institute begs to differ. According to Tony Macerollo, increased demand, and the postponed improvements on American refineries (further impacting the relatively low supply of fuel) account for a portion of the price increases.

It should prove no surprise that the CCPA is targeting oil companies. The left-leaning think tank has consistently adoped a beligerent stance toward the petroleum sector. The CCPA has leveled its sights both at the Fort McMurray oilsands, and at foreign investment in Canada's energy sector in general, advocating protectionist measures.

The fact that, historically, Canadian businessmen were so uninterested in western Candian oil reserves that foreign investment as very much a necessity in order to develop these resources, it isn't hard to imagine that the CCPA would politically manipulate its economic studies in order to transform it into a bombshell.

While it is questionable whether or not the CCPA's estimate of profit margins is entirely accurate, even Macerollo admits that they have increased, which will certainly led credence to the CCPA's claims.

There are other questions that could be directed at major oil companies as well: namely, have they done enough to control their own costs before passing them on to the consumer?

These questions aside, controversy over this issue could also prove politically perilous to Prime Minister Stephen Harper. While in opposition, Harper once called on the government to alleviate gas prices by eliminating the GST at the pumps. Given that the taxes levied on gasoline (10 cents by the federal government, and 14.5 cents by provincial governments) stand at an even quarter (25 cents) per litre before provincial and federal sales taxes are added, the government essentially collects an additional .87 cents in taxes per litre.

Does it seem inconsequential on its own? Certainly. Will it add up over time? Absolutely.

Now that Harper is in government, he should certainly take the opportunity to do what he advocated as leader of the opposition. This being said, he didn't do this last year, and probably won't this year.

Is it hypocritical? Perhaps. All the same, the relief of one cent for every litre of gas purchased doesn't seem like such a huge savings at current prices.

Unsurprisingly, the Liberal party has raised the banner of increased regulation of the petroleum sector. "[Oil companies] have a classic oligopoly, and it's important for Ottawa to get its collective head out of the sand," Liberal MP Dan McTeague declared. It's actually unsurprising from a party that remains smug over having never paid a political price for its consfiscatory (in the words of Hugh Segal) National Energy Program.

In some ways, however, the rising price of gasoline could prove to be a blessing in disguise. The higher price of fuel should prove a boon to the climate change-obsessed environmental lobby, as it should convince people to drive less, thus lowering their greenhouse gas emissions. If anyone actually needed an excuse to walk to the corner store for a package of cigarettes or a slurpee, this could prove to be precisely that incentive.

Of course, not all Canadians will be so fortunate. As is often the case, rural Canadians will suffer significantly more than their urban counterparts. For them, walking to the grocery store simply is not an option. Furthermore, for them the purchase of fuel represents an absolute necessity, one that literally fuels their livelihoods.

Whether the defining factor in fuel prices is truly supply and demand, or merely the greed of major oil companies, the solution to the problems posed by rising fuel costs will not be found easily.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

The Injustice of it All: Paris Hilton is Going to Jail

Boo Fuckin' Hoo

Ah, the life of a Hollywood socialite. Awesome parties, excitement, sex, drugs, rock & roll, prison...

...Well, for Paris Hilton, at least.

Yep. Paris Hilton is going to jail. But farbeit for her to go quietly, with some dignity. Nope, she's going to kick, scream, whine, complain and cry the whole way. Apparently, the rest of us are supposed to feel sorry for her.

For anyone following the supermarket tabloids or late-nite "infotainment" programming, the situation facing Paris Hilton has become quite familiar indeed.

The rest of us care far, far less -- or at least should.

Hilton not only blew her second chance, when she was caught driving on a suspended licence after being released on probation following a September 7, 2006 DUI charge, but she also blew her third chance, after being released on her own recognizance.

This, of course, hasn't stopped Hilton from whining. "I feel that I was treated unfairly and that the sentence is both cruel and unwarranted," Hilton complained, while Shanna Moakler stood behind her, playing the world's smallest violin.

In kind, the douchebags of the world have responded, starting an online petition to "FREE PARIS HILTON", noting "she provides hope for young people all over the US and the world. She provides beauty and excitement to (most of) our otherwise mundane lives."

Hoo boy.

I personally shudder to imagine how dismal and bleak the life of anyone who depends on Paris Hilton for inspiration must be.

The site also insists that Hilton is "notable for her leading roles on the FOX reality series The Simple Life and the remake of the Vincent Price horror classic House of Wax. In addition to her work as an actress, she has achieved some recognition as a model, celebrity spokesperson, singer, and writer."

Feel free to vomit at your own discretion.

Apparently, there are people in the world who are stupid enough to think that Paris Hilton's position in society is the result of whatever talents she has, instead of a fortuitous birth to one of the world's richest men, coupled with the equally fortuitous genes provided by his equally fortuitous trophy wife.

Poor baby. Apparently, we're supposed to feel sorry for her somehow. Maybe she's too pretty for the Century Regional Detention Center", where the inmates will pass her around like a bag of Oreos.

That is, if she wasn't going to be kept in segregated confinement. Knowing Paris Hilton, though, she'd just videotape any molestation and "leak" the tape onto the internet to make herself even more money.


Fortunately, Arnold Schwarzenegger isn't going for it. "We'll treat this as we would any other case of this nature," a spokesperson for the govenah's office announced.

In other words: in absence of a judicial miracle in a court of appeal, Paris Hilton is going to jail.

It's almost like the old Jimmy Stewart movie: every time a dumb bitch learns she can't take a free ride through life just because she's really pretty, an angel gets its wings.

Monday, May 07, 2007

What the Fuck!? Files Vol.2 - American Defence Contractors Apparently Retarded

American Defense Contractors Watching Too Many Bad Bond Flicks

In the most recent event in the chronicle of US security-inspired lunacy, it has been revealed that Canadian quarters are not outfitted as espionage devices.

In other words -- Canada is not spying on the US.


The story revolves around quarters released by the Canadian mint in 2004, with a coloured poppy in the center, to commemorate Remembrance Day. After discovering the coins in their pockets after a trip to Canada (quelle suprise!), the military contractors in question resorted to examining the quarters under a high-powered microscope, after deciding the coin's centre looked like it might be some sort of nano-technology.

You read it here: a nano-technology gap has emerged between the United States and Canada. In case of a Borg attack, the United States will be right royally fucked.

In 2004, the mind produced 30 million of these coins. In the eyes of paranoid military contractors, that's 30 million nanite coins just waiting to be smuggled into Area 51 -- or something.

But Cindy McGovern, a spokesperson for the Defence Security Service, has the whole matter cased. "We know where we made the mistake. The information wasn't properly vetted. While these coins aroused suspicion, there ultimately was nothing there."

No shit, sherlock.

But this isn't an isolated case of security-inspired lunacy in the United States. In February, LED signs promoting Turner Broadcasting's Aqua Teen Hunger Force were somehow mistaken for bombs. (Apparently, whoever reported the devices weren't Adult Swim watchers).

So, this is clearly a case for the "What the fuck!?" files. While the Department of Homeland security keeps cranking up the terror-alert warning over potential attacks from Osama bin Laden, Americans are shitting their collective pants over Igningot, Err and Canadian Quarters.

What the fuck...

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Elizabeth May Supports "Climate Change"

"Climate Change" not Just for global warming any more

If the recent controversies surrounding the Green Party were a Michael Creighton novel, the plot twist would clearly be the best part.

While addressing the Nova Scotia Green Party convention in Cornerbrook, May promised the Green Party wouldn't campaign based on negativity or fear.

Yet, a look at the Green Party website tells a different story.

In one particular blog post, Wence Horak warns that we are "RUNNING OUT OF TIME" (capital letters his). "Anyone, including ms May, who read George Monbiot's Heat will know that we would have to reduce the greenhouse gas emissions by 90% by 2030, to (perhaps) prevent a "runaway" greenhouse effect from taking place, while maintaining the current living standards and level of consumption. Yet, even mr Monbiot does not really believe such a reduction is possible."

Yikes. The sky, as it were, is truly falling. Or so it would seem.

Monbiot's credentials? A zoology degree (albeit from Oxford). Given the environmental lobby's tendency to dismiss the credibility of scientists who dissent on the topic of climate change by noting whether or not they are climate scientists, this should give individuals such as Horak pause, but I digress.

On May's own blog she describes the Conservative party's foreign policy as "the aye, aye, sir approach" (clearly implying the Conservative government kowtows incessantly to the world's number one bogieman, George W Bush), while declining to mention that she so recently struck a non-competitive pact with the party that committed Canadian troops to combat operations in Afghanistan in the first place.

To paraphrase Bob Dylan, "the climate, she is a-changin'." Feel free to roll your eyes at your own discretion.

Perhaps it's best not to pay too much attention to all of this. After all, May's going to "change the climate in parliament". "We are not going to be telling people how bad everything is, how scared they should be -- we'll leave that to the other parties," May announced. "We're going to be talking about how we have it in our power to have a better world."

Frankly, it is all to reminiscent of American Republicans' promises to "change the tone". They made this promise even as Karl Rove planned a series of electoral campaigns that would become infamous for their outright partisan viciousness.

If comparing the Conservative party's environmental plan to the appeasement of Hitler (which is precisely what Elizabeth May has done, whether her Green Party cronies will admit this or not) can be described as anything other than vicious, it isn't immediately apparent.

Now, is that changing the climate, ms May?

Did anyone think it would change?

If not, they were actually mistaken. See, the climate (or tone) has been changed.

...By "Jack Layton and the NDP". A few scant weeks ago, the NDP released a series of ads outlining what they consider to be the most important goals of the NDP. On the topics of environmental leadership, better health care and the "prosperity gap" (whatever the heck that is supposed to mean), the NDP has indeed changed the climate, from the attack ads released by both the Conservative party and the Liberal party. A marked improvement in the cimate (tone), indeed.

Yet, May has verbally committed herself to changing the climate. "I think a lot of Canadians are horrified and disgusted by what they see as behaviour in the house of Commons," May insisted. "They'd like to see a party committed to respectful discourse, to advancing solutions, to be willing to work with others."

In this, May is absolutely correct. But so long as May is indulging herself in Munich pact analogies and allowing members of her party to manically spread panic over climate change (that is, the changing climate, not the climate to be changed...), she won't be able to lay a credible claim to this.

Activists Seemingly Favor Open Door Immigration Policy

Hooooooooo Boy...

Every so often, when one fnally begins to forget some of the absurdities of the far left, they do something to remind us.

This is something they have in common with their brethren on the far right, but I digress.

On Saturday May, 6, the controversy over illegal (or undocumented, as you may prefer) workers that has preoccupied the United States spread to Canada. In Montreal, hundreds of individuals identifying themselves as civil rights activists marched in protest of recent deportations of illegal immigrants and refugees.

According to Aaron Lakoff, up to 500,000 residents of Canada may be undocumented immigrants. Seemingly, mr Lakoff feels they should all be instantly granted resident status, regardless of the customs and immigrations laws they have broken, in the name of civil liberties.

In the end, it all comes down to what one considers a "civil liberty".

In no orderly society, anywhere in the world, should the ability to skirt the means for legal entry into the country be considered a "civil liberty". If anything poses a greater risk of resulting in a lawless society, not many of them are immediately apparent.

If undocumented individuals want to remain in Canada, they should apply through the proper legal channels. A short period of amnesty from deportation for anyone who has yet to do so may be a constructive step in the right direction, but outright absolute amnesty should be considered immediately out of the question.

In the meantime, renewed debate about the role of humanitarianism in Canada's immigration policies should be considered welcome indeed. Take, for example, the cited case of Abdelkader Belaouni, a blind Algerian diabetic who has been hiding from Immigration authorities in Montreal's St. Gabriel's church. A deportation order -- accompanied by an arrest warrant -- was drawn up for Henaway in January.

If anyone should qualify as an immigrant in Canada, surely a blind immigrant must fit the bill. Belaouni fled Algeria's civil war in 1996. While it may certainly be true that Belaouni is unemployed (as are many blind people), and may have no family in Canada, surely there should be some means by which he could stay.

Perhaps members of the many activist groups that have written letters in Belaouni's support could sponsor him, and agree to support him in his life in Canada.

In the absence of this commitment, one should wonder how Belaouni would survive in Canada without any family to support him. While in this specific case, activists should put their money where their mouths are, the Belaouni case clearly uncovers some inadequacies in Canada's immigration policies, particular in regards to refugees.

In the meantime, however, the law is the law. If undocumented immigrants want resident or citizen status, they should earn it like all other immigrants do -- by flipping burger's at your local McDonald's.

(...Okay. That was just a joke...)

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Kevin Potvin - Victim! (of Censorship?)

May Want to Double-Check the Meaning of "Censorship"

As surely as history repeats itself -- and recent repetitions have been unwelcome ones for Elizabeth May and the Green Party -- some people never learn from their mistakes.

Cue Kevin Potvin.

After having been the subject of fierce media criticism as a result of his boneheaded comments on 9/11, Potvin has indulged himself in half-minded self defenses and outright temper tantrums in his independent weekly newspaper, The Republic of East Vancouver.

In his most recent issue, Potvin is at it again, this time making the laughable assertion that he has been "censored by the corporate media".

Potvin muses that the censorship in question revolves around two articles he printed.

The first of these articles, naturally, is his "Revolting Confession" article in which he discussed the "beauty" of 9/11. The other was an article in which he tried to explore the deeper motives of the 9/11 hijackers, concluding that we "share common cause with the Islamists". It was particularly in the former that he made some of the most boneheaded comments ever submitted to the public record regarding 9/11.

In Potvin's mind, nothing he said was boneheaded at all. In fact, he's a victim. "My essay was deliberately mischaracterized as a perverted celebration of mass murder," he complains.

Hilariously, Potvin exhibits an inability to learn from his mistakes. Earlier in the article, he writes, "One article, published over four years ago, revaled some of my conflicted inner thoughts on that incredible morning of 9/11, one of which was to marvel at the beauty of the spectacle of those monumental symbols of commercial and military power crumbling to the ground." Potvin claimed the meaning of his article was "symbolic", and that he didn't mean to celebrate the deaths of 9/11's victims. Yet Potvin can make a comment such as this -- twice! -- knowing full well that the World Trade Center and the planes crashed that day were all full of people.

More than all of this, Potvin is a mind reader. "We all know the conflicted and contradictory feelings we experienced watching 9/11 unfold on our television screens that strange morning." Apparently, Potvin is sitll convinced that everyone, like him, had sociopathic little voices in their head screaming "beautiful" while watching the towers fall.

As we speak, Kevin Potvin is reading all of our minds (we'd better get to work on folding some tin foil beanies), including those of his critics. "Anxious to deter the notion that other commentators besides me should be suspected of harbouring similar thoughts -- anxious because they do harbour such forbidden thoughts -- some found it prudent to be seen on the public record taking kicks at me," Potvin whines.

Unfortunately for mr Potvin, not everyone shared his perverse reaction to 9/11. To some, human lives are more important than ideologies. Potvin may want to consider that before continuing to portray himself as a martyr.

In recards to his second article, Potvin complains about a percieved tendency among media commentators to dismiss Islamic terrorists as "insane." "We are asked by our governments to consider the Islamists simply insane," Potvin insiststs, "their acts of terror simply mad. But even the most cursory familiarity with the political and economic history of the Middle East leaves one suspicious that the picture includes a few more colours than just madness."

Yet the (naturally) most outspoken world leader on the subject today, has clearly outlined what he believes the grievances of individuals such as Osama Bin Laden are, and "insanity" is rarely among them. Bush does, however, promote a fairly naive version of these individuals' motives when he describes their hatred of freedom. Although this is true -- they do hate freedom, and their desire to impliment oppressive theocratic regimes throughout the world is ample evidence of this -- these terrorists also have a laundry list of social, political and economic grievances as well. Potvin actually does well to point to this.

However, he is hardly alone in this regard. Many individuals on the public record -- and just as many among the corporate media -- have commented on the various grievances Islamic terrorists hold against the western world, and the United States in particular. Potvin is hardly any kind of visionary to suggest such things.

In fact, Michael Ignatieff -- the deputy leader of the party with whom the Green party struck a non-competitive pact while Potvin was still a candidate -- perhaps came closest to describing Islamic terrorists as such when he described them as a "death cult"(1).

Ultimately, Potvin may want to double check his rhetoric. The fact of the matter is that Potvin hasn't been censored by the media. He's clearly been censured by the media, and rightfully so.

If only Potvin could reconcile his ego against reality long enough to understand this, he would be well on his way to learning from his mistakes.

Apparently, the one question that Potvin can't answer is this: how does the "evil corporate media" censor someone who owns his own newspaper?

1. Mr Potvin knows this, as well. I told him as much, in the comments section of his own website.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Elizabeth May Steps in It, Tracks Into the House

Poor thing. She's the victim of "inflamed rhetoric"

One of the well-known facts about history is that, occasionally, it repeats itself.

On May 10, 2006, Bob Rae, then a candidate for the leadership of the Liberal party, compared the then-recent Canada/US agreement on softwood lumber to the Munich pact. In the following days he was accused of comparing George W Bush to Adolf Hitler, and Prime Minister Stephen Harper to Neville Chamberlain.

Almost a full year later, it's happened again, and effectively to the same party.

On April 29, May gave a sermon at a London, Ontario United Church, wherein she insisted that the Conservative party's Green Plan "represents a grievance worse than Neville Chamberlain's appeasement of the Nazis."

Also mentioned in her sermon were evangelical christians. "They are waiting for the end time in glee and they unfortunately include (U.S.) President (George W.) Bush," May announced. "[Some] believe Joan of Arc was Noah's sister."

Since then, the proverbial shit has hit the proverbial fan, and a bewildered May can't seem to figure out why.

May has insisted that her comments were distorted "in order to create a firestorm of controversy designed to distract attention from their failure to live up to Canada's Kyoto protocol commitments."

May -- who recently cut a deal with a party that failed to live up to Kyoto commitments that it itself made -- has defended her comments by noting she was quoting George Monbiot. Monbiot recently identified Harper, Bush and Australian Prime Minster John Howard as an environmental "axis of evil".

The Canadian Jewish Congress condemned May's comments as trivializing the Holocaust. May countered that she "wasn't referring to the Holocaust". Merely Hitler, of whom the Holocaust was his brainchild. Swift one, that Elizabeth May.

Chattering with glee in the midst of all this must be the Green Party's disavowed candidate for the Vancouver-Kingsway riding, Kevin Potvin, who declared the Green Party "not ready for prime time politics" following his removal as a candidate over his outrageous comments regarding 9/11. No sooner has the media firestorm -- a well-earned media firestorm at that -- died down than May has provoked a similar one herself.

Elizabeth May declared she had "irreconcilable differences" with Potvin over his offensive comments. One wonders whether or not she will now have irreconcilable differences with herself. Likewise, one wonders if demands for Kevin Potvin's removal as a candidate will now be replicated in the form of demands for Elizabeth May's resignation as Green Party leader.

On a statement released on the Green Party website, May came close to expressing some genuine regret, writing, "I deeply regret that the inflamed rhetoric around this issue has caused pain or offence.”

Of course, there is one question that May has yet to answer: if comparing another party's environmental policy to the appeasement of Hitler doesn't qualify as "inflamed rhetoric", what does?