Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Bloodsport Politics and the Monkey in the Middle

David Karwacki prevents Calvert/Wall showdown

Generally speaking, there is a generally-accepted wisdom for third-party leaders in the middle of an election they won't win: when it comes time to debate, be obnoxious and loud.

That was precisely the tactic that Saskatchewan Liberal leader David Karwacki took last night, launching zingers, and interrupting his competition, NDP leader and incumbent premier Lorne Calvert and Saskatchewan party leader Brad Wall.

In a night in which everyone was expecting a grudge match between Calvert and Wall, Karwacki kept himself active enough to keep the two apart, and keep things interesting.

Karwacki, whose party currently holds zero seats in the Saskatchewan legislature, announced that Calvert needed "a $15 prescription for truth serum", and predicted that his party would make up the official opposition following the election. "Thankfully I'm going to be holding Mr. Wall accountable on this particular issue because I don't believe that you're going to form the next government," he told Calvert.

Of course, Karwacki would actually need seats in the legislature before he'll be leader of the opposition.

Furthermore, he has a significant bridge to cross, as only 10% of decided voters in Saskatchewan intend to vote for his party, as opposed to 35% for the NDP. That's a big gap to close.

Fortunately for Karwacki, however, there is an opportunity. 31% of those polled were either undecided or unwilling to participate.

The experience of past leaders, however, may give Karwacki pause. During televised debate in the course of Ontario's 1995 provincial election, then-Liberal leader Lyn McLeod was considered to have significantly harmed her party's chances in that particular election with her disruptive debating tactics.

Ironically, in that particular case, the election was expected to be primarily fought between McLeod's Liberals and Bob Rae's NDP -- in this particular case McLeod allowed the Mike Harris Tories, powered by their Common Sense Revolution electoral platform, to come up the middle and form a majority government.

In the end adopting a disruptive approach to televised leaders' debates may seem promising to many political leaders, but it's extremely risky in the sense that it very seldom works. It may bring attention to a leader and their party, but it's rarely the right kind of attention.

All too often, such tactics turn the electorate off from that leader and their party.

As for Calvert and Wall, they butted heads throughout the night over numerous issues, particularly each party's prescription drug plan -- the NDP's would cap prescription drug costs at $15 for every resident of Saskatchewan, whereas the Saskatchewan party's plan would do so only for children, seniors, and those below a certain income bracket.

"This is a pretty competitive blood sport and they weren't about to back down," said Ken Rasmussen, a political scientist at the University of Regina.

If Karwacki's interjections accomplished much of anything, he at least forced his opponents to conduct themselves with more civility than they otherwise may have. Brad Wall, for one, had his particular axe to grind.

"I wanted to deal squarely with some of the fear tactics we have seen and I think we were able to do that as well and hold the government accountable -- they have a record," Wall said after the debate. Certainly, he may have gotten some of his points across, but likely not as much as he would have liked to.

By not allowing his opponents to savage one another, however, and by calling the election in favour of the Saskatchewan party, Karwacki has ruled out the possibility of coming up the middle to form a government. If he's able to swing any significant portion of the province's undecided voters, he might be able to determine who will govern and who will sit in opposition, but he's likely cost himself the opportunity to contend.

In Saskatchewan's realm of bloodsport politics, David Karwacki has settled for being the monkey in the middle.

Yep, That Wasn't Predictable At All


So, if one were to ask Martin Rayner, apparently there is no issue whatsoever underlying the Troy Scheffler affair about "little things" such as freedom of speech.

In no democracy in the western world is freedom of speech expected to be afforded in accordance to how politically correct the views of a particular individual are. It's expected to be universal. Scheffler's views themselves should be considered largely immaterial. The heavy-handed manner in which his views were addressed is a very serious matter indeed.

The ironic thing, vis a vis Martin Rayner, is that Troy Scheffler could have chosen to address his comments toward the University Administration by way of an anonymous letter. Instead, Scheffler wrote to the univeristy under his own name, and took responsibility for his comments.

For some reason, Mr Rayner is all too eager to defend his cohorts when they attack largely innocent people anonymously, and refuse to accept responsibility for their comments.

So, when Rayner's hateful compatriot launched a vicious attack on a grieving mother, and hid behind the cloak of anonymity (or, more pointedly, pseudonymity) in order to do so, Rayner was OK with that. Yet when Troy Scheffler sends an email containing some politically unsavory comments, Mr Rayner feels that justifies suspending him from school.

Apparently, Mr Rayner (who until recently posted only pseudonymously as "Red Tory", and actually still attempts to despite his identity having been revealed) thinks that freedom of speech should be reserved only for those who comment anonymously.

In other words, Mr Rayner believes in freedom of speech for him and his, not for the rest of us.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

"Conservative Adscam" A Dead-End Issue

More philosophy at heart of "in and out" scandal than actual malfeasance

In today's National Post, Don Ivison comments on the political dead end that is the Liberal party's recent reliance on the so-called "in and out" scandal in which the Conservative party is accused of violating spending limits by dressing down national advertising spending as regional advertising.

"Just Stephane Dion's luck. The Liberal leader picked the Conservatives' alleged "in and out" election spending scandal as his signature issue to attack the government. The public gave a collective yawn, apparently unconvinced Stephen Harper had "bilked taxpayers for millions of dollars," as the Liberals claim."
This particular scandal -- referred to by many Liberal partisans as "Conservative adscam" -- has, despite the Liberal party's best efforts, failed to take on the spectre of the sponsorship scandal in the public eye.

There is a reason for this, as Ivison alludes to:

"Since Parliament returned this month, the Liberals have been using Question Period to attack Conservative accounting practises during the 2006 election. It's an eye-glazingly complicated tale that has failed to gain any traction in the national media, but which boils down to the allegation that the Tories exceeded election spending limits by more than a million dollars.

A Liberal party brought low by Adscam would dearly love to uncover a Conservative corruption scandal, but this ain't it. The allegations centre on the Tories passing off national advertising costs as regional ads for local candidates. It is being looked at by the Elections Commissioner but even a cursory reading of the Elections Act suggests the line between "national" and "local" is cloaked in hodden grey.
Ivison goes on to address the recent allegations made against West Vancouver-Sunshine Coast MP Blair Wilson. We'll part at this particular fork in the road, and look at the "in and out" scandal itself.

In the end, much of the complaint regarding this particular issue seems to boil down to a differing in political philosophy, one that raises the question of whether or not the local candidates, in particular, benefited from this particular advertising.

While the Liberals would certainly insist that it didn't, the truth is that they know better.

Canadians are currently living in an era of a Consumerist democracy, wherein image often trumps substance, and branding serves as a key political tactic in virtually every campaign. To put it simply, each political party has developed a brand, much like the consumer products found on the typical store shelf. Each one espouses a core package of values, ideology, and promises that they invite consumers -- in this case, voters -- to purchase (in this case with their vote).

Each local candidate for each party benefits from the promotion of his or her party's brand, much like each individual McDonald's franchisee benefits from the larger corporation's advertising. Thus how the Conservative party, seizing on a legal loophole that defines local advertising, in rather nebulous phrasing, is that which benefits the local candidate, can insist that they're well within the straight and narrow. In the age of consumer democracy, national advertising does benefit the local candidate, particularly in a political age where -- for good or ill -- many Canadians tend to vote for parties above candidates.

Of course, the Conservative party knows it's exploiting a loophole. This portion of Elections law was clearly written with yesterday's political climate in mind, one where (in theory, at least), voters voted for individual candidates over parties.

At the same time, the Liberal party has to know full well how branding can affect the fortunes of their candidates. In Canada, they pioneered it, when they embraced John F Kennedy's image-based campaign model and applied it to Lester Pearson, and (more successfully) Pierre Trudeau.

Dion himself has attempted to benefit from image-based branding, donning Green scarves throughout his leadership campaign to underscore his overrated reputation as an environmentalist.

In this particular case, it's obvious that the letter of the law doesn't reflect the intent of the law. That's an issue that will clearly have to be resolved in Parliament.

In the meantime, Ivison offers astute insight as to why this particular tactic is proving disastrous for the Liberals:

"Mr. Dion must take the heat for this fixation of the "in and out" scam. It was raised in the House again yesterday, to the great glee of Government House Leader Peter Van Loan, who rose to answer in the Prime Minister's absence.

Liberal MP Marlene Jennings said Mr. Wilson had done the right thing by stepping aside and called for a number of ministers "implicated" in the election saga to do likewise. Hardly able to contain himself, Mr. Van Loan pointed out that the "Blairwitch" project had been well-known to the Liberal party, who only forced Mr. Wilson to resign when it became front-page news.

He then proceeded to read all the allegations into the public record, pointing out that their stark nature was a far cry from the confusing muddle of accusations levelled against various Conservatives. By this point, it was all over for Liberals, who were forced to defend the position of their leader and their member.

The whole thing makes a mockery of the parliamentary process. I know it's Question Period, not Answer Period, but surely it's not too much to expect that it is the Opposition that thrusts and the government that parries.

At the moment, the Liberals are behaving like the crack suicide squad from Monty Python's Life of Brian, who attack by impaling themselves on their own swords.
Unfortunately for Stephane Dion, not only is the "in and out" scandal not the scandal he and his party want to make it out to be, but much more serious violations have not only sunk the Liberal party's fortunes recently. Worse yet, more of the same may (or, in all fairness, may not) be yet to come.

The Liberals need to make a tactical shift. With Gilles Duceppe and Jack Layton currently duelling over who can usurp him as at least the spiritual leader of the opposition, Dion is running out of thime.

But they won't find any extra time by running head-long into a dead-end... or by impaling themselves on their own swords.

The Fascism! It Burns!

Be forewarned: you totally won't be surprised

Sometimes irony is clearly lost on the loonies of Canada's hateful left.

Take, for example, the most recent debacle circling around the spiritual leader of Canada's hateful left, Canadian Cynic.

The matter revolves entirely around a recent incident in the United States wherein Troy Scheffler, a student at Minnesota's Hamline University, was recently suspended from school and ordered to undergo a psychological evaluation after writing a politically-charged letter to university president Linda Hanson.

Hanson would claim that the letter itself was threatening. Yet, in the letter itself, no trace of a threat can be identified:

"I was wondering why a swastika painted by some frustrated ladies in their bathroom turned somehow into red flags of a hate crime but you dont consider an asian guy admittedly killing people because he hated them not hate motivated... Anyhow, in response to your most recent email concerning a vigil for people most likely nobody in the school knows; I would like to comment on your claims of upped “security”. I attend a MPLS cohort so I dont see any security in the area ever. Infact it seems the dirty bums on the street are the only ones patrolling anything. I would suggest if you are truley concerned about student security, you lift a ridiculous conceal carry campus ban and let the students worry about their own “security”. VA Tech just recently passed their conceal carry permit ban; we can all see how well that worked for criminal minds. Ironically, many students from VA Tech are in online forums which I can direct you to complaining that 32 people wouldnt have died in the students rights were not infringed by banning their legal right to carry their arms on their person. They take the argument that they would have shot the guy before he was able to massacre that many people; I on the other hand would argue that the guy wouldnt have even attempted this atrocity not only if we didnt pay for everybody and their mother to come here for free to soak up tuition funds but also that by knowing law abiding citizens carried weapons to defend themselves that criminals wouldnt be so bold to commit crimes against them...

As usual, Im sure this plea of common sense will fall on deaf ears as I recently responded to a general email notifying students of the conceal carry ban...

On a lighter note... For a “Christian” university, I am very disappointed in Hamline. With the motif of the curriculum, the atheist professors, jewish and other non-Christian staff, I would charge the school with wanton misrepresentation.

Yes, I obviously feel that Hamline has been a serious let down, so far I am almost finished with half of my MAPA degree and havent even cracked a book. All the books that came in plastic wrap are still in plastic wrap despite the ridiculous amounts students are charged. I have yet to hear a student in my cohort that is happy with the curriculum or quality of professors. Why does this school charge so much for such a substandard education?

Furthermore, why are you diversity initiatives anti-Euro American (ie white folks)? All over the university grounds I see loads of leftist propaganda, why not warn a student before they enroll at Hamline? It took me complaining to a few different people before even the hamline website finally included white people in the random pictures on the main page. If I remember corrextly it was like 1 white in a picture out of like 12... Now it is obviously better but just goes to show how biased this university is and the painstaking efforts of diversity pandering it does at the expense of people that are actually planning on contributing back to the TAXPAYERS that are footing the bill for your iversity initiatives. In fact, 3 out of 3 students just in my class that are “minorities” are planning on returning to Africa and all 3 are getting a free education ON MY DOLLAR. I bet the staff here is wondering how a swastika ended up in a bathroom... More people than you can imagine are tired of this all. It’s just sad that they resort to petty vandalism rather than speak their mind like I am.

Please stop alienating the students that are working hard every day to pay for their tuition. Maybe you can instruct your staff on sensitivity training towards us “privilaged white folk”. If your staff is going to continually berate the evil white male for this privilage and his racist tendencies, at least have them explain where to find the privilages and point out the evil people that are ruining the world. Strange for how horribly racist Europeans and other white people are that everyone seems to want to exploit our generosity. Maybe someday the favor will be returned but I doubt it seeing what I have so far...

Thanks for your time...


Troy Scheffler"
Admittedly, there are numerous political statements in this letter that Hanson clearly wouldn't agree with -- in fact, that most people likely wouldn't agree with. Yet, the last time anyone checked, the United States is a Democracy, wherein people are not only allowed, but actually encouraged, to hold differing political beliefs.

Among the various sock puppet's dancing to Cynic's tune is Pharyngula, who argues that Scheffler should be required to get psychological help because his letter is "disjointed and rambling".

Clearly, Pharyngula (aka PZ Meyers, writing via Science Blogs) has never bothered to acquaint himself with psychological science. While there is a detectable undercurrent of distress in Scheffler's letter (to which the "disjointed and rambling" nature -- which one can read into the letter if they overlook the various common transition phrases such as "furthermore" and "on a lighter note" that denote a change in topic, but don't let that get in the way of a good white washing -- can be attributed), distress alone does not denote a conclusive symptom of any kind of mental illness under the DSM-IV.

Anyone who performs more than a cursory reading of Scheffler's letter is also led to suspect that Scheffler may have led something of a sheltered life before coming to Hamline. This would actually explain his distress -- leaving a sheltered, white bread home life to enter into the typically-diverse community of any modern University would present something of a culture shock. Once again, there are many remedies for this particular affliction -- suspension from school pending a psychological evaluation is not one of them.

Cynic himself takes the specious comedy one step further when he performs some "research" and determined that Hamline University is affiliated with the Methodist Church, and basically concludes that it can't be that liberal if it's affiliated with a church (liberalism and religion allegedly being diametrically opposed).

Yet, if Cynic had really done some research, he would have discovered the Methodist church has been espousing liberal social action for the past 50 years.

Furthermore, he probably would have learned that not all Methodists are happy about that, as the church has developed a significant conservative-liberal split.

Now, information on Troy Scheffler's own religious affiliation has proven to be hard to come by. But if Scheffler does indeed to turn out to be a Methodist himself, his treatment could almost certainly be directly attributed to the political division within the Methodist Church.

Cynic is right about one thing: Hamline University clearly can't be all that liberal. But it isn't because of the "religious bent" of the University. It's because they suspended a student for having differing political views. That's as anti-liberal as it gets.

Of course, it's unsurprising that the individual who thought it was OK to tazer a student for asking John Kerry a question, and thought it was hunky-dory to tell the mother of a dead soldier to "fuck off" for political reasons would completely fail to understand the very concept of liberalism.

It could be considered very ironic that Cynic and his merry band of so-called "progressives" more often espouse beliefs that are akin to fascism.

But this irony is truly lost on Cynic and his hateful little pack of creeps, despite the fact that it's entirely of their own creation.

Monday, October 29, 2007

A Much Overdue Mention in Passing

RIP Ross Moroz

It was with a good deal of regret that I learned today of the passing of a former colleague of mine, from my time writing for the University of Alberta Gateway.

I wouldn't go so far as to claim any close personal friendship with Ross. That being said, I believe fellow Gateway alumnus Caitlin Cranshaw said it best when she wrote, "I had a lot of respect for Ross and his remarkable originality. He was always the coolest guy in the room, as someone else put it, but was surprisingly modest and kind."

At times, Ross could be a little much to take. The rest of the time, Ross possessed a unique gift for passion and eloquence. He loved what he did, and did it as well as anyone, anywhere. He had a very bright future ahead of him, and it's unfortunate that a great many people probably don't realize what has been lost in Ross Moroz's sheer potential.

Of course, Ross wasn't perfect. Unfortunately, there has been some impertinent speculation as to the manner of his unfortunate and sudden passing. But nobody deserves to die young, and those who knew Ross even passingly knew that he lived life to its fullest.

They say that only the good die young. For those who knew Ross, it isn't hard to recognize his inherent goodness.

Rest in peace, Ross. While the world may be a little bit poorer for your absence, all of those who knew you know you're in a better place now.

Lack of Arms Export Transparency Disconcerting

Canada rated just better than Iran in terms of arms control

As it turns out, Canada's burgeoning arms industry has become one of its best-kept secrets.

An increase in weapons exports over the past ten years leaves Canada as the world's sixth-largest exporter of military hardware, representing an increase of $374 million annually between 1997 and 2004 alone.

Perhaps the natural impulse is to view this information as good news for Canada's defense contractors, and it is. But, as with most issues, there is actually more to be considered here.

A CBC investigation has discovered that it's very hard to determine to whom these weapons were actually exported. Over at least the past four years, no detailed report regarding these exports has been released -- not even to Parliament.

According to a spokesman for the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade, "technical glitches" in an online reporting system are to blame for the lack of transparency. Four years of them (at least).

If one were to think that claim stretches the margins of credulity, they probably wouldn't be alone.

Small Arms Survey, a Geneva, Switzerland-based group, recently rated Canada's transparency regarding arms sales a mere 11 out of a possible 20. Iran has a rating of 10.5.

When one considers that Iran was recently busted trying to smuggle F-14 components through Canadian territory, this rating is a very ominous matter indeed.

Revelations such as this would be alarming under any circumstances. When one considers, however, that Canada is currently at a state of war, it becomes even more worrisome. After all, Taliban forces in Afghanistan are clearly being equipped by someone. While the majority of the actual weapons themselves are known to have been left behind by the Soviet Union following their disastrous Afghan quagmire, the ammunition itself is an entirely different matter. After more than 25 years of fighting, one could expect that Soviet-era ammunition stockpiles would effectively be depleted.

When one considers that ammunition, in particular, is one of the hardest defense articles to track (and for obvious reasons), this particular issue represents an intolerable shaking of Canadian faith in Canada's ability to regulate its own arms industry.

We can probably rest assured that Canadian firms are not selling to the Taliban. That being said, the Canadian public apparently can't determine who Canadian arms contractors have been selling to, or ascertain the fate of those weapons once they reach their destination.

In particular, weapons exports to the United States aren't tracked at all, due to secrecy guarantees dating back to the 1940s.

When one considers that the US' annual surplus auctions are among the poorest controlled arms sales methods in the world today, this is cause for alarm as well.

The time has long passed for Canada to step up to the plate and start regulating weapons sales properly. Particularly when Canadian soldiers are risking their lives in a foreign war zone (as well as on a number of peacekeeping missions), it is the responsibility of the Canadian government to ensure that weapons and ammunition sold by Canadian firms don't find their way into the wrong hands, and the public has the right to be assured that the government is doing this.

Proper transparency regarding Canada's arms industry is the best way to start.

After all, as in most things, when you're doing only marginally better than Iran, something is clearly wrong.

Out of the Mouths of Babes

Naivete at heart of Canadian "peace" movement

When Robert Batsch brought his daughters Jamie, 18, and Robyn, 12, to Saturday's "Pan-Canadian Day of Action Against War in Afghanistan", he probably thought he was making some kind of grand point.

"War is not the answer. You don't fight to create peace," he insisted.

His older daughter, however, made a far more interesting point.

"[The government] shouldn't be making decisions that not everyone agrees with," Jamie Batsch announced.

This particular comment really only marks a growing trend toward institutionalized naivete within Canada's so-called "peace" movement (which, as alluded to in a previous post, becomes highly suspect when the "peace" it envisions doesn't really resemble anything like peace).

The incredibly naive suggestion that the government should require complete consensus before making any kind of a decision (when, precisely, will everyone agree with a decision that has been made?) notwithstanding, what is truly surprising is that this naivete is only echoed in the words of the elder Batsch. One can expect such naivete from an 18-year-old with little surprise. It's when one hears it from a 49-year-old that it becomes alarming.

Jell-O Biafra once said that "fighting for peace is like fucking for cellibacy."

While to Biafra and those who think like him, such a statement may seem like a truism, the fact is that history entirely contradicts it.

While Biafra, Batsch and their cohorts may loathe to admit it -- often engaging in protracted rhetorical gymnastics in order to avoid doing so -- history has proven to be full of beligerents who simply had to be fought. Those who suggest that peace can be attained simply by not fighting has clearly neither dealt with a schoolyard bully, nor paid sufficient attention to their history books.

It should be unsurprising that those who espouse pacifism would have difficulty measuring their beliefs against the shadow of a belligerent. Yet, some pacifists have managed to find the wisdom necessary to do so.

Consider the example of Freeman Dyson, who had to resolve his own pacifist beliefs against the threat posed by Adolph Hitler. He relates them in Weapons and Hope:

"…We had made our break with the establishment and we were fierce pacifists. We saw no hope that any acceptable future would emerge from the coming war. We had made up our minds that we would at least not be led like sheep to the slaughter as the class of 1915 had been.

We were not so na├»ve as to blame our predicament upon Hitler. We saw Hitler only as a symptom of the decay of our civilization, not as the cause of it. To us the Germans were not enemies but fellow victims of the general insanity. … We did not bother to read
Mein Kampf.

We seized upon non-violence as the alternative to never-ending bombs and death. We were not sure whether Hitler could be successfully opposed with non-violence and turned from his evil ways, but at least there was a chance. With bombs and guns we were convinced there was no chance. If the worst came to the worst, if we opposed Hitler non-violently and he killed us, we should be dying for a good cause. That would be better than dying for Mr Churchill and the empire.

We had grand visions of the redemption of Europe by non-violence. The goose-stepping soldiers, marching from country to country, meeting no resistance, finding only sullen non-cooperation and six-hour lectures. The leaders of the non-violence being shot, and others coming forward fearlessly to take their places. The goose-stepping soldiers, sickened by the cold-blooded slaughter, one day refusing to carry out the order to shoot. The massive disobedience of the soldiers disrupting the machinery of military occupation. The soldiers, converted to non-violence, returning to their own country to use on their government the tactics that we had taught them. The final impotence of Hitler confronted with the refusal of his own soldiers to hate their enemies. The collapse of military institutions everywhere, leading to an era of worldwide peace and sanity.

…If our program did not make sense in terms of immediate practical politics, the idea of fighting World War II in order to save the Czechs or Poles or the European Jews made sense even less. We could see clearly that however badly we might suffer in the coming war, the Czechs and Poles and Jews would suffer worse.

…Above all, we were strengthened by the certainty that our program was moral and the society around us was immoral.
Just as Canada's so-called "peace" movement would surely insist, Dyson and his cohorts at the time believed that only they had learned the lessons of history, and only they, with their pacifist beliefs, could claim a moral position during this time of conflict.

However, as the war progressed, Dyson and his friends changed their minds, in part because of the concessions their fellow pacifists made to the belligerents of their time:

"Our little band of pacifists was dwindling. … Those of us who were still faithful continued to grow cabbages and boycott the OTC, but we felt less and less sure of our moral superiority.

For me the final stumbling block was the establishment of the Petain-Laval government in France. This was in some sense a pacifist government. It had abandoned violent resistance to Hitler and chosen the path of reconciliation. Many of the Frenchmen who supported Petain were sincere pacifists, sharing my faith in non-violent resistance to evil. Unfortunately, many of them were not. The worst of it was that there was no way to distinguish the sincere pacifists from the opportunists and collaborators. Pacifism was destroyed as a moral force as soon as Laval touched it.

Gradually it became clear to me that what had happened in France would also happen in England, if ever our pacifist principles were put into practice. Suppose that we succeeded in converting Mr Churchill and a majority of the British people to the gospel of non-violence. What then? We would nobly lay down our arms and impress our moral superiority upon the German invaders by silent noncooperation. But the English equivalent of Laval would soon appear, to make a deal with the Germans and make us contemptible in their eyes.
Unfortunately, activists such as Batsch doesn't share Dyson's wisdom. They lack his ability to measure their beliefs against the realities of the conflict at hand, and choose the lesser evil over the greater.

Few will answer that war is not an evil in and of itself. War is what Michael Ignatieff would describe as a moral hazard, and it in turn leads to other moral hazards.

However, there are times at which war, as a moral hazard, is necessary because the alternative, as physical hazard, is not permissable.

Allowing the Taliban to rule Afghanistan so they may continue to harbour terrorists as a passive-aggressive act against the Western world is no more permissable than allowing Adolph Hitler to sieze control of Europe so he may do as he wills.

Furthermore, neither of these alternatives to war -- in present as in history -- actually qualifies as peace. Therein lies the quandry for the pacifists among the modern peace movement, well-intentioned though many of them may be, and are.

So just as young Jamie Batsch doesn't seem to understand the concept of democracy -- only democratic paralysis results when the government is obligated to act only under conditions of complete public agreement -- the elder Robert Batsch doesn't seem to truly understand the concept of peace, and fails to comprehend that while fighting is not a peaceful act, sometimes not fighting is actually less peaceful.

And while he may have thought that he was making some kind of grand point by parading his young daughters in front of newspaper reporters, in the end, he's really only demonstrated the remarkable ability of two generations of Batsch's to miss the point.

So much for truisms.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Canadians Should Have to Lift Their Veil Before They Drop Their Ballot

Veiled voting not compatible with democracy

Amidst the increasing controversy regarding the issue of veils and voting, the Conservative government has introduced a bill that would require Muslim women to remove their veil for the purposes of identification before they may vote in an election.

Predictably, the bill has brought accusations of racism from many of the usual sources.

Unfortunately for these individuals, the issue really has nothing to do with racism, or any other form of discrimination, at all. This issue is about Canada's electoral security.

"During the recent byelections in Quebec, the government made it clear that we disagreed with the decision by Elections Canada to allow people to vote while concealing their face," the bill's author, Peter Van Loan, said.

The government was right do disagree with the ruling by Elections Canada. Not only was the ruling untenably wrong, it was also extremely irresponsible.

The fact is that one of Elections Canada's prime responsibilities is to ensure the electoral security of Canadian elections. In order to ensure this, it is of paramount importance that all those casting ballots in Canadian elections can be identified as registered voters.

There is nothing racist about that -- nothing intolerant about it. However, proposals that veils should be banned in all public places clearly are intolerant (freedom of choice has to include the freedom to choose to wear the veil).

Naturally, amidst some of the meaningless outrage, there are a few insightful criticisms of the bill abound. Consider analysis by Lolita Buckner Innis, who notes that mail-in absentee ballots are still counted, despite the fact that it's impossible to be certain whether or not the person who cast the ballot was actually a registered voter or not.

That's a very fair point, and reveals a very serious loophole in elections law, one that should be closed for the same reason why Muslim women should be required to lift their veils for purpose of identification.

The day of the mail-in ballot should be over, as should be the days of veiled voting. The alternatives to mail-in ballots are certainly more expensive, but the ability to assert absolute, unassailable confidence in Canada's electoral process is well worth it.

There is nothing unreasonable about expecting Canadians to identify themselves prior to voting. In fact, it's the alternative that is unreasonable -- and to cast away Canada's electoral security in the name of spurrious political correctness would make it all the more unreasonable, and extremely irresponsible.

Of course, let it be known that there are other ways to seriously harm Canada's electoral security -- voting via internet, and the electronic voting machines so popular in the United States, stand as prime examples.

Asking Muslim women to identify themselves prior to voting doesn't even represent a minor inconvenience.

Perhaps the most compelling aspect of this controversy is that it reveals how little it takes to provoke a major controversy in Canada.

Speaking of Loonishness...

Since mr Rayner's still running his mouth, let's remember a few of his more entertaining episodes:

Canadian Cynic telling Wanda Watkins to "fuck off" is like Alexander Hamilton writing The Federalist Papers

"Somehow, the person who's points I can't refute is the one who's stupid

"This is stupid, too. Why? Um...

Werner Patels is a jerk, too.

Then again, messing with Werner Patels may have been one thing that the little crybaby may have wanted back.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Carter to Canadian "Peace Movement": Put That In Your Pipe and Smoke It

Mission in Afghanistan "critical": Nobel Peace Laureate

Sometimes, one has to wonder about Canada's so-called "peace movement".

With mere days to go before staging another series of underattended "Canada out of Afghanistan now!" rallies, a winner of the Nobel Peace Prize has come out... in favour of the war in Afghanistan.


Jimmy Carter, who won the prize in 2002, at least partially for his efforts to facilitate a peaceful resolution of the Israeli/Palestinian conflict (culminating in the signing of the Camp David Accords), would have been a man the Canadian "peace" movement should have considered a principal ally.

But apparently not.

Carter has described the Afghanistan conflict as a rare one he supports.

"The primary role in Afghanistan is still a very important one: just to maintain peace, with the hope that we could have a free and democratic society there," Carter announced following a meeting with United Nations secretary general Ban-Ki Moon.

"Now it's pretty much a holding game and I'm not sure about the progress, but I think it's important that Canada and others participate," Carter added.

One has to consider that this is coming from the man who devoted his presidency to fostering peace between Israelis and Palestinians. It takes a very solid commitment to peace to even think that what is so widely considered a lost cause would be worthwhile, let alone wagering his place in the history books upon.

Of course, it isn't as if Carter is a stranger to the issue of Afghanistan. During his presidency, he authorized aid to the muhajadin groups fiding the Marxist PDPA (People's Democratic Party of Afghanistan) government and the Soviet troops sent to reinforce them.
The PDPA had come to power by overthrowing the previous government, headed by Mohammad Daoud Khan, a progressive leader who was deemed insufficiently Marxist by the Soviet Politburo.

Contrary to commonly-espoused public belief, the Taliban was not among these mujahadin groups funded under Carter's administration

Now that one of the world's leading advocates in favour of peace has come out in favour of the war in Afghanistan, one has to wonder about what the issue is really about to Canada's co-called "peace movement", and whether it's really about peace at all.

At this point, it's a widely known fact that the Taliban -- the party we are trying to prevent from returning to power in Afghanistan -- harboured Al Qaida terrorists, as well as allowing terrorist training camps to flourish. Following the events of 9/11, it was quickly determined that Al Qaida, led by Osama bin Laden, planned and executed the attacks and that while the perpetrators were predominantly Saudi (though not in good standing with the Saudi government, essentially branded as outlaws), that the safety provided to these terrorists by countries like Afghanistan was instrumental in the training of these terrorists.

A world in which any country constantly lives under the shadow of terrorism is not a peaceful (or stable) world. President Carter understood this when he went to such lengths to foster an accomodation between Israelis and Palestinians. He understands this still when he acknowledges the importance of the Afghanistan mission: peace under terrorism is not peace, and even the most fickle so-called "peace" activist should be able to recognize this.

So, then, what's really at the root of Canada's so-called "peace" movement?

Their posters provide a clue.

In large letters on these posters, "Harper and Bush" are instructed to get "out of Afghanistan and Iraq now!"

Maybe it isn't about peace after all. Maybe it's more about politics.

After all, to point the finger of blame in the vicinity of these two men alone (overlooking the fact that it was a Liberal government that committed Canada to Afghanistan and the war in Iraq was initiated with widespread support from the Democratic party), is fundamentally a political tactic, one that overlooks important details of the issue in order to score some quick and easy points.

Surely, there are some among Canada's "peace" movement whose motives are largely apolitical, and geared entirely toward the promotion of peace. But there has been a very palpable strain of manipulation used by the politically-minded "peace"niks (many of them affiliated with certain political parties) that has led some of these indviduals to spurn an international order that actually qualifies as peace and favour one in which the threatening anarchy perpetrated by extreme elements (actually of varying stripes) is ignored in the name of ill-defined global utopianism.

Fortunately, Jimmy Carter is not so afflicted with such a naive point of view. Carter's dissent from Canada's so-called "peace" movement should give some of them pause to reconsider.

Not that we actually expect them to.

A Quick Lesson in Libel: Clownshoes Edition

But thanks for reading, Marty

In a recent post, Martin Rayner lobs some rather odd accusations toward the Nexus:

Not exactly drawing on “reliable sources” here (considering that the individual in question persistently vilifies and libels me without cause)

Well, my "reliability" as a source aside (the story is fully referenced, he can take issue with the reliability of the Saskatoon Star Phoenix if he wants to, but my hands are clean), Mr Rayner is apparently in need of a lesson in the meaning of libel.

Libel and slander are legal claims for false statements of fact about a person that are printed, broadcast, spoken or otherwise communicated to others. Libel generally refers to statements or visual depictions in written or other permanent form...

...In order for the person about whom a statement is made to recover for libel, the false statement must be defamatory, meaning that it actually harms the reputation of the other person, as opposed to being merely insulting or offensive.

Now, perhaps it may be true that I've been insulting or offensive toward the "esteemed" mr Rayner. But I would challenge him to produce proof of his so-called libel.

Near as any rational individual could tell (and we've certainly learned not to count mr Rayner among the ranks of the rational), this could come down to one of two issues: one passage in which I suggested that Martin Rayner may not be his true identity (although this was confirmed by way of this letter written to Keith Martin and reproduced on his blog). If this were not his real identity, then he would in effect be cavorting under the identiy of someone else, in effect stealing their identity. Although we know this to not be true now, at the time it was a perfectly legitimate expression of opinion, which is not libellous.

Other than that, perhaps mr Rayner's panties are in a knot over my suggestion that he needed to start a paypal account to accept donations on account of an inability to pay his bills. When one calls their paypal account the "Red Tory sustainability fund" (suggesting his use of a free service is not financially sustainable), one wonders what else mr Rayner would have expected. Once again, it's a valid statement of opinion, one that he himself has fuelled via his own indiscretions.

Whereas, on the other hand, mr Rayner's refusal to admit that whomever was posting on his blog under the alias "number four" was clearly not myself (which has been confirmed through photographic evidence, and can further be confirmed by examining the guest list of the Conservative party function I was attending at the time), does qualify as libelous, because he has, all along, refused to amend his position.

On that note, we also note that the learning curve among Rayner's various cohorts and groupies is rather steep. I've been informed that my name has been dropped at least one other time as the presumed identity of another dissenting poster on Rayner's blog.

In other words, they weren't smart enough to feel stupid the first time they did so and were proven wrong, so they certainly weren't smart enough to feel stupid when they did it again -- which ironically doesn't prevent them from looking stupid nonetheless.

Some people just never learn, no matter how many times you teach them.

As for villifying mr Rayner? Well, one of the two of us found the wherewithall to defend Canadian Cynic over his vicious attack on Wanda Watkins.

I don't need to villify mr Rayner. He does a good enough job of villifying himself.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Reality to Jeff Potts: Karma's a Bitch, Ain't It?

NDP candidate caught in some of the most vicious lies in Canadian political history

In politics, as in life, one simply has to get dirty if they want to play in the mud.

This certainly turned out to be the case for now-disavowed Saskatchewan NDP candidate Jeff Potts, when some blatantly libellous comments came back to haunt him during the ongoing Saskatchewan provincial election.

On 15 October, Potts posted a message on the left-wing message board, wherein he claimed that John Wall, father of Saskatchewan Party leader Brad Wall, had posted Saskatchewan party campaign signs on various low-rent properties that he owns in Swift Current, where he also sits as a city councillor.

A few hours later, Potts took his slander a step further. "Further to my previous point, there is a Brad Wall sign [rental property] on a known crack house."

This is really only one among a number of colourful, libellous, vicious, and what can really only further be described as hateful accusations on the part of Potts. In previous posts on the site, Potts had previously accused Wall of stealing $15,000 worth of liquor from the provincial liquor board in order to entertain guests at his wedding in 1991. At the time, he was the assistant to the minister in charge of the liquor board.

Wall has actually been quite gracious in addressing these accusations. "When I ran for politics back in 1999, I accepted the fact that I had to deal with this sort of thing as the person whose name is on the ballot. But it is profoundly disappointing to think that my family would have to, either my wife in the case of what's talked about in terms of our wedding day, or my dad," he stated.

If Jeff Potts had any sense of personal shame, the Wall family never would have had to endure this.

Unfortunately, Potts doesn't, and has offered perhaps the most pathetic excuse in defense of one of the most vicious lies ever uttered in Canadian political history. "I did not allege that it was Mr. Wall's property ... I did not say they had any knowledge of what was going on in this house. What I am saying is they are more concerned about putting up the sign than they are about the people living in the house. They should check, before putting up the signs on the rental properties, maybe they should check with the people who are renting them," said Potts. Which, by the way, is just a little more lying to top off his already-impressive repetoire of willful mistruths.

Most comicly of all, it turns out that John Wall doesn't own any rental properties. Potts has since tried to claim he didn't know that, despite the fact that he levied the accusation in the first place.

To say that Jeff Potts is a pathetic liar would be accurate with or without the word "liar".

"When I reviewed it, I believed it to be inaccurate and inappropriate," said Saskatchewan NDP leader Lorne Calvert. "I recommended that Mr. Potts withdraw from the race, withdraw as our candidate."

Yet, this is a public embarrassment that Calvert really has called upon both himself and his party. When the NDP decided to launch the "wolf in sheep's clothing" ad campaign against the Saskatchewan party (actually beginning weeks before the election call), Calvert had to have known that some of his more vicious and unscrupulous candidates were going to pull something like this.

This is a man who, with his party 18 points behind his principal opposition, even resorted to naming his campaign RV after the battle of Jericho, a biblical chapter in which a Jewish army, led by Joshua, laid waste to the city of Jericho and slaughtered its inhabitants because of religious differences.

When a party leader insinuates that he has god on his side by naming his RV after a biblical battle in which the victors won because they had god on their side, it shouldn't come as a great surprise when someone like Potts is willing to do something as incredibly immoral as he's done.

And his allegedly voluntary withdrawal aside, one shouldn't think Potts feels bad about what he's done. In fact, he's complaining about the injustice of it all. "What I've been told is that they will not muzzle their candidates. Their candidates are free to speak, this is a democracy and the last time I checked personally, people have the right to speak freely," said Potts, probably unaware that the freedom of speech doesn't apply to malicious lies. "As long as I can provide source material for what I've said, they'll back me up."

But Potts has yet to produce such source information. Which is probably appropriate, because it probably doesn't exist.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Yep, That's Just What We Need...


If there's anything members of the Liberal party can be said to almost universally love, it's Pierre Trudeau.

One could be forgiven for being unsurprised, then, to learn that Mario Silva, the Liberal MP for Davenport, has tabled a private member's bill that would recognize every October 18th, the anniversary of Pierre Trudeau's birthday, as "Pierre Trudeau day".

"Trudeau was a symbol of Canada at its best and as Prime Minister he moved Canada forward into later part of the 20th century with vigor, innovation and daring," Silva insists.

Yet, while Silva notes that Trudeau's accomplishments include "the patriation of Canada’s Constitution, the introduction of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, enshrining both our nation's official languages in law and establishing multiculturalism as an official policy of the Government of Canada," his portrayal of Trudeau falls a little flat once one considers the broader facts of the matter.

Trudeau's Constitution, patriated without Quebec's support, has left the door open to an eventual secession of Quebec from Confederation. His Charter of Rights and Freedoms can be ignored by any provincial government by envoking a clause within the Charter itself. (Ironically, more legislation has been passed "notwithstanding the Charter of Rights and Freedoms" than was notwithstanding John Diefenbaker's Bill of Rights.) While enshrining French and English as official languages sounds good in Quebec, the enshrinement of these two languages has actually come at the expense of Canada's many other linguist groups -- the Constitution defines Canada as bilingual, when in fact Canada is multilingual. Of Trudeau's accomplishments, perhaps official multiculturalism (as contentious as it may often be) and his omnibus bill stand alone as largely unassailable.

Yet when one consider's Silva's list of Trudeau's accomplishments (Silva didn't list the state-has-no-place-in-the-bedrooms-of-the-nation omnibus bill), as flawed as they are, constitute the near entirety of Trudeau's accomplishments.

For a man who spent nearly 18 years in power, that's a very short list.

So, we may ask, what of Trudeau's other promises? What about his so-called "just society"? He merely noted that Jesus had promised it first (though, at the time of the asking, was not alive to answer for it, while Trudeau certainly was). What about his "participatory democracy"? One had better have bought a Liberal party membership if they wanted to benefit from that. What about his "war on deflation"? That was a bit of a disaster.

The Liberal party love of Pierre Trudeau aside, this really is little more than an attempt by mr Silva (at least) to further the myth of Pierre Trudeau that has reigned in Canada for decades, and especially since his passing.

It isn't as if there aren't other Canadian Prime Ministers whose accomplishments eclipse Trudeau's and deserve the recognition much more.

Trudeau's predecessor, Lester Pearson, won the Nobel Peace Prize, one of the highest honours western society at large affords to anyone.

Sir John A MacDonald served as Canada's very first Prime Minister, having founded the country. Surely he deserves a holiday more than Trudeau.

William Lyon MacKenzie King, despite all of his bizarre occult antics, led Canada through one of the darkest chapters of history, the Second World War. As for Trudeau? He oppposed that war.

Whereas Trudeau can count among his accomplishments a happy shiny vision of Canada and a law that allows Canadians to hump blissfully as they may. While these are both laudable contributiosn (although only one of them offering any practical benefit), they aren't enough to justify either the Trudeau myth, or a holiday that would entrench it.

Fortunately, the "Trudeau day" private member's bill will almost certainly suffer the same fate as the attempt to rename Logan's Peak after Trudeau.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Stephane Dion to Canadians: No Election After All

But can Canadians trust him?

Deciding that discretion is the better part of valour, Stephane Dion has apparently decided that he will not vote in favour of his stated convictions, and will instead pull some slick political maneuvering in order to let the throne speech pass.

Good news for Canada, but bad news for Stephane Dion.

After all, the Kyoto protocol has been the centrepiece of Dion's policy platform, both before and after his ascension to the leadership of the Liberal party.

Yet Kyoto will be a no go under the government's new legislative agenda, as foreshadowed in the throne speech. "Canada's emissions cannot be brought to the level required under the Kyoto Protocol within the compliance period which begins … just 77 days from now," Governor General Michaelle Jean announced during the speech.

Suddenly, Kyoto has become less important to Dion than avoiding an election he has to know he can't win.

Yet, Dion's earstwhile bosom buddy, Elizabeth May, was eager to see the government toppled over the speech.

"Most Canadians do not like Mr. Harper's policies. Most Canadians are desperate for leadership that really speaks to issues and is respectful about them. Most Canadians want a politician who keeps his word, or her word. They don't see that in the Harper government," May insisted.

May also remains committed to Kyoto, despite its unattainability. "We'll never get near it if we don't begin," she pouted.

Apparently, Dion doesn't share her commitment -- although he'll certainly insist that he does.

But Kyoto isn't the only issue that Dion has vaccilated on.

Afghanistan -- particularly the mission in Khandahar -- has been an issue that Dion has indulged his indiscretions on.

It's amazing how easily Liberals have forgotten that Stephane Dion was in Jean Chretien's cabinet in 2003 when Canadian forces were sent into Afghanistan, and again in 2005 when Paul Martin sent them into Khandahar. It's amazing how easily Dion himself has forgotten.

In fact, in March 2006, Dion was recorded as saying "it's a very important mission and we want to be there." A few days later, he supported the mission again. "will succeed in Afghanistan if we show a lot of determination. We need to be resolute and to succeed."

Yet Dion would later vote against the extension of the "very important mission". It wouldn't be the last time Dion voted against something he supported -- at least verbally.

If one were to ask Dion for comment on the matter, he would insist that Canadians don't trust Stephen Harper. As a matter of fact, he has.

Yet, one should wonder if Canadians trust Stephane Dion as he lags well behind in leadership polls.

Given his proclivity for voting against issues that he claims to support, they shouldn't.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Stephane Dion's Political Career On the Line Over Throne Speech

Judgement day looms for Dion

Just when one thought things couldn't possibly get any worse for Liberal leader Stephane Dion, they apparently have.

The Quebec wing of the Liberal party has found itself effectively crippled today, as Dion's Quebec lieutenant, Marcel Proulx, and the party's provincial director, Serge Marcil, have both resigned from their posts.

Proulx is believed to have resigned regarding the party's recent disastrous performance during a trio of Quebec byelections, in which the traditional Liberal stronghold in Outrement was razed by the NDP.

Denis Coderre and Pablo Rodriguez were reportedly offered Proulx's job, but have decined.

To top it off, Jamie Carroll, the party's former national director, resigned on 10 October, amidst insistence that the party had defamed him.

To top it all off, Stephane Dion reportedly remains committed to toppling the government over the Throne speech, especially if it contains limits on spending powers and rejects the Kyoto protocol as unattainable.

The Liberal party is simply not prepared to fight an election. However, by failing to defeat the government on its proposed agenda, Dion would risk not only his credibility in the eyes of the environmental movement, but also his alliance with Green Party leader Elizabeth May in their desire to see Peter MacKay defeated in the next election.

In other words, everything Dion has worked for is very much on the line, and under the worst possible circumstances.

To make matters worse, the NDP and Bloc Quebecois have also pledged themselves to vote against the throne speech. Dion's fate is entirely in his own hands, but he simply may not have a viable option before him: defeat the throne speech and lose his leadership, or vote in favour of it and lose his reputation.

On top of all this, his party doesn't want to defeat the government on the throne speech. Many of his MPs have publicly insisted they won't force an election that "Canadians don't want" (it seems they never do when the Liberals will lose). In a pre-throne speech caucus meeting, only 6 of 30 speakers were in favour of defeating the speech.

Down in the polls, down in Quebec, and down on his luck, Stephane Dion simply may not have any options left. In short, Dion has simply met his political nadir, and the Liberal party is facing it right along with him.

Should the Liberals find themselves choosing a new leader within the next year, this throne speech will, one way or the other, likely be viewed as the beginning of the end for Stephane Dion.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Harper Risking Legacy of Stanfield Loyalty Over Bill Casey

Beth Stanfield may not support federal Conservatives in next election

Depending upon who you asked, dark, foreboding clouds have been gathering over Prime Minister Stephen Harper's head for the duration of his tenure as Prime Minister.

Many comentators (conveniently from the Liberal party) have spent a good deal of time speaking about the "control freak" Stephen Harper, who's been courting disaster by gagging his cabinet ministers and caucus while iron-fistedly dictating his government's agenda.

Many of them took the expulsion of Cumberland-Colchester-Musquodoboit MP Bill Casey as a sign of this. Casey, representing a Nova Scotian riding, voted against his own government's budget over complaints regarding the Atlantic Accords.

Now that Nova Scotian premier Rodney MacDonald has struck a deal on the equalization front, many apparently expected that Stephen Harper would allow Casey back into caucus.

No dice.

Casey may not have done himself any favours when he accused Harper of breaking the trust of Nova Scotians despite the deal.

On the other hand, the Cumberland-Colchester-Musquodoboit Conservative riding association endorsed Casey as their candidate for the next election.

That won't be happening.

"[Casey] will not be a candidate," said Conservative party spokesman Ryan Sparrow. "With his budget vote, Bill Casey joined with [Liberal Leader] Stephane Dion in voting non confidence in the Conservative government and his Conservative colleagues. He made his choice."

Casey will run as an independent in the next election.

Yet, Harper's stance regarding Casey is risking more than simply Casey's riding. It's also risking the stalwart Conservative party loyalty of the Stanfield family.

Robert Stanfield, former premier of Nova Scotia, formerly led the Conservative party, serving as leader between 1967 and 1975. In 1974, he came within a hair's breadth of defeating sitting Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau, and was actually officially declared the Prime Minister prior to a recount that delivered a narrow minority government to the Liberals.

Among Stanfield's political qualities was his party loyalty (perhaps second only to his stridently non-partisan approach to the Prime Minister's office and the business of government). To Robert Stanfield, it has been said, there was only one Conservative party in Canada. He believed in complete unity, across both federal and provincial politics.

He was also one of the fabled "Dalton's boys."

Beth Stanfield, however, is prepared to do what her husband would have considered unthinkable, and break ranks with the federal Conservative party. However, she certainly hasn't done so lightly.

"It's a hard place to be right now," said Stanfield. "I've been such a party person. I have always worked for the Conservative Party."

Ironically, Stephen Harper presided over the dedication of the Halifax International Airport as the Robert Stanfield International Airport. Now, he's risked the loyalty of family of the most dedicated supporter the Conservative party has ever known.

This certainly doesn't look good on the "new" Conservative party, one born of both the Burkean theory of conservative politics and the Manningian populist model favoured by the Reform party.

While Casey certainly did vote no-confidence in his own government (this must be remembered), the party members in Cumberland-Colchester-Musquodoboit have spoken. They want Casey as their candidate. They obviously believe in the man, and agreed with his stance regarding the Atlantic Accords (even if other politicians have turned out to be more moderate on the issue).

Harper would be justified in perhaps keeping Casey on a shorter leash, but keeping him out of the party caucus is difficult to justify in the new, more popultist Conservative party.

Then again, once the bond of trust between a candidate and his party is broken, the party certainly isn't obligated to extend trust where cause for that trust simply isn't present.

But these are two very serious prerogatives -- that of the party leadership, and that of its riding association -- that the Conservative party must try to juggle in this situation. Not an enviable task.

If Stephen Harper wants to insist that Casey not be allowed to run as a Conservative party candidate, he's certainly empowered to do so, and perhaps even justified. But if he does, he'll simply have to accept the consequences.

The legacy of the Stanfield party loyalty is a very steep price to pay.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Of Hawks and Doves

Sticks and stones...

In the battle to depoliticize the war in Afghanistan, one should expect that the newsmedia would serve as something of an intermediary between opposing political camps. Reporters, it's expected, should be able to recognize the grave importance of war and not seek to politicize it. Right?


Perhaps not so much. In a recent CTV article regarding Stephen Harper's new five-person commission regarding the war in Afghanistan, an unidentified copywriter has resorted to calling names.

"Harper picks Liberal hawk to head Afghan panel," the headline reads.

If one subscribes to some of the conventional wisdom regarding defense policy, all too often wrapped up in bird metaphors, this would seem appropriate.

Yet one should be very cognizant of what they mean before they label someone a "hawk".

This particular issue arises out of the tendency of many individuals to label others as either "hawks" or "doves". "Doves" should require little explanation; it envokes an image of an indivudal devoted to pacifist idealism out of what they would describe as a love of hate and abhorrance of violence. "Hawks", on the other hand, are portrayed as bloodthirsty and prone to combativeness.

In short, "doves" are often portrayed as good. "Hawks", we are meant to believe, are bad.

Yet in Fear's Empire, Benjamin Barber interjects a third concept into the bird analogy camp: that of "Owls". To Barber, an "Owl" represents individuals who, while prepared to fight if necessary (an owl is, after all, a bird of prey), are wary of the consequences of battle, and always seek to temper any eagerness for battle with wisdom. They are forward thinking, and wary of both the potential results of using force and its consequences.

One of the individuals Barber explicitly refers to as an "owl", Michael Ignatieff, currently sits as a member of the Liberal party caucus. And while "hawks" and "owls" both seem to be endangered species in the party caucus, Manley ensures that Ignatieff is at least not alone in this regard among Liberal party members.

Often, one of the most valuable tools in terms of classifying an individual are his public comments. Manley has been very vocal regarding Afghanistan, so this shouldn't pose an insurmountable challenge.

When, following 9/11, he was asked about the prospect of casualties in Afghanistan, Manley was entirely unhesitant. "Canada does not have a history as a pacifist or neutralist country," he retorted. "Canada has soldiers who are buried all over Europe because we fought in defence of liberty, and we're not about to back away from a challenge now because we think somebody might get hurt."

While this certainly does seem like brash or macho comments, further exploration of Manley's previously-recorded comments yields some more interesting results.

Once again, Manley's comments in Policy Options magazine were paraded out as proof of "hawk"ishness. Yet, a more complete reading of the essay in question yields some very different results.

In the essay, he writes, "There is progress by some measures, but progress that is threatened by the security situation, by corruption and by the difficulty convincing Afghans that they should trust the determination of their foreign liberators to see their task through to the end."

"The promise of 2002 has thus far largely been unrealized in the establishment of a true system of rule of law and the creation of sustainable Afghan institutions," he continues. "Police lack adequate training and equipment and are frequently corrupt. Detention facilities are disorganized and inadequate. Courts to try those accused of criminal activity are as scarce as are trained judges to preside over them. The poppy trade proliferates. And most important, the attention of Western governments that was so focused at the time of my visit in 2002 and in the period following has been largely dissipated by the folly of Iraq."

"What is unchanged is that security is the major issue, including for NGOs," Manley explains. "While I did not enjoy the protection of a large band of JTF2 (Joint Task Force 2) soldiers on this trip as I had in 2002, Janice and I were made to understand that security was a total preoccupation."

"It did not take long to understand the essential dilemma facing both NGOs and military forces in Afghanistan," he continues. "Without an acceptable level of security, development is very difficult to bring about. However, unless there is some sign of development progressing, the sympathetic support of the Afghan civilian population is difficult to maintain. In addition, NATO operations that have resulted in civilian casualties have seriously eroded support among Afghans who had hoped for more immediate progress on development following the downfall of the Taliban."

"Regrettably," Manley muses, "history teaches Afghans that foreigners don't have much staying power in Afghanistan. So what clear-thinking Afghan will risk being too closely identified with the 'outsiders'? If they leave in due course as the Soviets and the British have done before, then the consequences for those who cooperate with ISAF for with international non-governmental organizations could be severe, to say the least."

Far from meeting the macho, belligerent stereotype of the so-called "hawks", Manley's essay actually considers a wide range of concerns about the situation on the ground in Afghanistan: the kind of consideration truly wise men afford to any truly important issue.

To Barber, one of the most important traits of an "owl" was the use of wisdom to temper their pugnaciousness.

Wise men know never to negotiate with evil, and certainly not with those who harbour evil.

"Civilized societies have learned many times before that there is only one way to deal with evil," Manley announced as Canadian troops arrived in Afghanistan in October 2001. "We cannot reason with it, we cannot negotiate with it and we cannot buy time to find a better solution. The only way to deal with evil is to strike at its root, to destroy it and to move on."

While "hawk" may be a convenient label for a journalist looking to put a political slant on his story, John Manley is simply not an appropriate recipient for that particular label.

In the meantime, Canadians would be better served by a newsmedia that simply reports on the news, instead of stooping to calling names.

Harper 1, Partisanship Zero

Harper moves to overcome partisanship regarding Afghanistan war

The need to define the war in Afghanistan for the future took a huge step forward today, as Prime Minister Stephen Harper appointed a five-person commission to review and issue recommendations about the war.

The commission will consist of five members: Paul Tellier, a former Privy Council clerk, Jake Epp, formerly a PC cabinet minister, broadcaster Pamela Wallin, Derek Burney, formerly Canada's ambassador to the United States, and commission chair person John Manley, once a deputy Prime Minister under the Liberal party.

The commission will explore four options. Option one entails training the Afghan army so it can take over pending a Canadian withdrawal in 2009. Option two tentails focusing on development work in Khandahar, while ceding combat and security operations to other NATO forces. Option three entails shifting Canadian operations to other regions of Afghanistan, while the fourth option is a complete, unconditional withdrawal.

"In carrying out our work the panel will be cognizant of the sacrifice Canadians have already made in helping the Afghan people, as well as progress achieved and challenges remaining," Manley announced.

Manley, for his part, has previously made his opinion regarding Afghanistan publicly known. "Mounting insecurity, violence and a civilian casualty and death toll that is paralleling the initial days of the war are undermining hope for a more positive future," he wrote in an essay. "Both the insurgents and NATO itself have come under repeated criticisms for failing to stem the tide of civilian casualties. Opium and criminality have soared in the new democratic Afghanistan and it is said that some in Karzai's cabinet are more interested in retaining their own power base and regional control than in seeing the apparatus of the state take hold in their home areas."

“There is no possible way to separate development and the humanitarian mission from the military one.” he concludes. “We often seek to define Canada’s role in the world. Well, for whatever reason, we have one in Afghanistan. Let’s not abandon it too easily. But let’s use our hard-earned influence to make sure the job is done right.”

In other words, Manley favours Canadian involvement, but not under the status quo. By recognizing the value of the mission while also recognizing the social and political nature of the situation on the ground, and its oft-detrimental effect on the mission, Manley has positioned himself to make an assessment of the mission that is implicitly honest and non-partisan.

While many Liberal partisans have already begun to circle Manley, prepared to cannibalize him in the name of politicizing the mission, the fact is that Manley, with Harper, has moved to depoliticize the war (which shouldn't be considered a partisan issue in the first place).

Many would be quick to dismiss the appointment of this commission as a political stunt. However, they are overlooking the amount of risk that Harper has assumed by appointing it.

Should the commission issue recommendations that contradict the Harper government's policy plans for Afghanistan, Harper will find himself in a very tenuous situation. Having appointed this commission, it wouldn't be unreasonable to expect Harper to follow its recommendations.

In other words, a significant amount of organizational impetus will exist to strongly support the implimentation of its recommendations.

In appointing the comission, Harper has done what other leaders would not: he has chosen to rise above the partisan rhetoric being flung about over the war in Afghanistan, and in doing so, has taken an important step in continuing to define the war for the future.

Considering the crucial junction the mission has reached, he couldn't have possibly done so at a better time.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Equalization Ball in Williams' Court

Ball officially in Danny Williams' court

There's something to be said about being able to campaign against a proxy instead of your opponent.

So far this year, it's already worked for Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty when he campaigned, at least in part, against both the federal Conservative government (on gun control issues), and against the Albertan Progressive Conservative government (regarding climate change issues). It also worked for Newfoundland Premier Danny Williams, in regards to the so-called "broken promises" by Prime Minister Stephen Harper and the federal Conservative party over off-shore oil revenues and equalization.

Admittedly, in both cases the opposition had a hand in their own downfall. Ontario PC leader John Tory provoked a wave of postmodern religious intolerance when he proposed extending public funding (already extended to Catholic schools) to other sectarian schools, while the Newfoundland Liberal party wasn't much of a factor in the election at all (their leader lost his own seat).

Yesterday, however, Williams was stripped of his metaphorical running mate in the campaign against the Conservative party's new equalization formula when Nova Scotia premier Rodney MacDonald publicly struck a deal with the federal government.

Provided with a choice between the old equalization formula combined with the agreements under the Atlanic Accords and a new equalization formula promising more guaranteed funds (although these funds would be adjustable if oil and gas revenues exceed a certain level), the government of Nova Scotia has chosen the latter.

However, they also retain the option of reverting back to the old equalization formula, including the Atlantic Accord, if it's losing out on any monies.

MacDonald has, oddly enough, finally "secured an agreement" that won't cost the province "a red cent" -- although that offer was on the table from the very beginning of the dispute.

"It has never been this government's intention that Nova Scotia, or Newfoundland for that matter, would lose benefits agreed to under the Atlantic Accord," Harper announced on Wednesday. "It's up to Premier Williams whether he accepts the reconciliation or not."

Danny Williams, unsurprisingly, was not amused.

"Stephen Harper has decided he's going to try and pit provinces against each other, which he's very good at," Williams insisted. "I don't think that does much for Canadian unity."

"It just shows the pettiness of the man," Williams added. "It shows what he's all about. ...We can't trust him. ...We'll fight him all the way."

It's unsurprising that Williams would make such promises: he had done so all election long.

"Just because people don't have the cash to challenge something that's wrong in a court, Stephen Harper is going to say, 'Well, we're not going to give you the money to find out whether the government is right or wrong,'" Williams said in one particular election speech. "...Of all the things that he's done, I think that's one of the most significant things."

Perhaps its understandable that Williams would take on the federal government during the election, considering the weakness of his own opposition, clearly needing some way to make Newfoundlanders excited about his government.

In responding to the Nova Scotian government's deal over equalization, however, Williams directed his barbs at both the federal and Nova Scotian governments. "The bottom line here is that Nova Scotians have said yes to less," he announced. "Stephen Harper has a way for preying on the weak. ... He sees in Nova Scotia a minority government that is in difficulty and he's talked them into taking this," he added, seemingly intending to remind premier MacDonald of his political situation.

Williams insists that taking him on over equalization amounts to challenging all of Newfoundland. Yet at least one of his cohorts in his ongoing feud with Ottawa doesn't seem to feel the same way -- at least regarding his own province.

Now, however, the ball is in Danny Williams' court. Rodney MacDonald may have tipped the hands of both men by admitting how implicitly reasonable the Conservatives' equalization formula really is. He can feel free to try and dribble the ball out, but he'll now find himself at least one teammate short. With his other teammate, Saskatchewan's Lorne Calvert, on rather shaky political ground himself, he may soon find himself in a very solitary position.

There's no "I" in team. However, that may well be the position that Danny Williams will soon find himself in, and he may find the equalization ball very difficult to move.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Dion Pretends He Doesn't Want An Election

The rest of us pretend to believe him

If one takes Stephane Dion's words at face value, one would believe he really doesn't want an election.

"We have not been obstructionist and we do not intend to be," Dion insisted. "We will assess very carefully how well [the speech] addresses what Canada needs. If the prime minister wishes to reduce Parliament's role to a rubber stamp, he alone will be responsible for bringing Canada into an election. ...If there is an election, we'll be ready, we will win this election."

Of course, the election speculation is centred around speculation that the Conservative party may be trying to engineer an election by making the throne speech as unamicable to the opposition as possible.

But anyone who believes Dion doesn't want an election must have an awfully short memory. In fact, no sooner did Dion win the leadership of the Liberal party than was he clamouring for an election. "Stephen," he said to the sitting Prime Minister, "If you're listening, we are counting the days until the next election."

In fact, if there's anything Stephane Dion has done exceptionally well, it's pledging himself and his party to opposing legislation that he has yet to see. He promised to oppose the last federal budget months before it was scheduled to be tabled, parting ways with veteran MP Joe Comuzzi over the matter.

Now, he's pledged to oppose the upcoming throne speech, again, before he's even seen it.

For a man who doesn't want an election, Stephane Dion sure spends a lot of time promising to vote against motions and legislation that are necessary to ensure the continuation of the current parliament.

Most comicly, Dion insists that Canadians don't want an election. Whether or not that has anything to do with the most recent polls placing the Conservatives once again ahead of the Liberals, at least partially due to the Liberals' recent state of disarray. But one has to wonder if Dion believed Canadians wanted an election any more when he was trying to defeat the government at every opportunity.

Yet, if one took Stephane Dion's words at face value, one would suspect that Dion at least believes he has some sort of sixth sense regarding the opinion of the Canadian electorate.

But like so many things, Dion seems to be confused about what his presumed "sixth sense" is telling him regarding whether or not Canadians want an election. When it would benefit him for Canadians to want an election, he seems to want one. When it doesn't...

As for the Conservatives, there's probably a reason why all of that prior election speculation has come to nothing, even when the party had cracked open a lead that placed them on the verge of a majority government. While some of the usual suspects have denounced the Conservatives' so-called ploy as mere bullying or sabre-rattling, it all comes across as a little less than convincing.

Of course, there has been a good deal of sabre-rattling in the course of the present parliament. But when one makes an attempt to acertain the source of the offending noise, it always seems to be Stephane Dion's hand on the grip, even while he tries to pretend otherwise.

Stephane Dion is once againg pretending he doesn't want an election. Frankly, it's getting awfully hard to pretend to believe him.

Saturday, October 06, 2007

United they Stand?

Unity '08 campaign seeks to do away with divisive presidential politics

Although the kickoff of American presidential primaries is still at least three months away, speculation regarding who will contest the 2008 presidential election is already in high gear.

The general consensus among those doing the speculating is that the Democrats will field a Hillary Clinton/Barak Obama combination (although the actual president/vice-president ordering is clearly undetermined), while the most recent polls cast former mayor of New York City Rudy Giulliani as the Republicans' front runner, with Fred Thomson running a fairly close second. Speculation suggests that Giuliani's running mate could be anyone ranging from one of his opponents to his wife, Judi.

A Obama/Clinton campaign alone would make the 2008 presidential campaign a compelling one, regardless of who the Republicans select as their candidates. But the die is far from cast yet, and the Unity '08 campaign wants to make things a little more interesting.

Citing an an op-ed article co-penned by Democrat Mario Kuomo and Republican Tom Kean, the Unity '08 campaign believes that never before has the United States faced a political landscape so rife with conflict.

They believe that the answer is to field a combined Democrat/Republican presidential ticket in the 2008 election, and they've promised to select just such a ticket through an "online convention".

Clearly, a major strength of the Unity '08 campaign is its ability to attract compelling celebrity spokespeople. Perennial character actor Sam Watterson has long been acting as a front man for the group, and 84% of respondants to an online poll has suggested Stephen Colbert should run for president.

But Unity '08 promises other benefits as well.

While some dismiss the Unity '08 movement as one that will nominate "sad sack politicians who couldn't make it through the primaries", Unity '08 will certainly serve as an opportunity, for at least two politicians, to overcome some of the political roadblocks that have stood between them and a presidential ticket.

There are a good number of promising presidential candidates who have, in the past, been unable to secure a nomination due to a lack of funding. The primary system the Democrats and Republicans use to choose their presidential candidates clearly benefits the candidates with the most money to spend.

Candidates can also find themselves kneecapped by elites and special interest groups within either party.

An unfortunate reality of modern politics is that the best candidate is not necessarily the candidate that is elected -- or in this case, even nominated. In the hands of the right candidates, Unity '08 could turn out to be the dream second opportunity for one of these candidates to actually get their chance to be elected president.

This, however, begs an important question: which two candidates would make the best Unity ticket for 2008?

There are two individuals who fit the bill of an ideal Unity candidate: intelligent, promising and, most importantly, willing to overcome partisan divides.

These two men are John McCain and Howard Dean.

Both have, in the past, stood a very good chance of winning a presidential candidacy. Both men have proven they can make compelling candidates, although the lustre of each has worn off at the polls somewhat.

Both have previously fallen victim to the slings and arrows of outrageous politics. Although McCain was able to win a few primaries (in New Hampshire, Michigan, Conneticutt, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Arizona), he was eventually forced to withdraw his candidacy due to lack of funding.

On the other side of the coin, Howard Dean led all Democratic presidential nominees in fundraising, but fell short in the race itself, winning only in Vermont and the District of Columbia.

Each candidate also fell victim to some dirty attacks. Howard Dean fell victim to some ill-advised (and, as Joe Trippi suggests, formulated by Democratic party brass) attack ads launched by General Wesley Clark, while McCain fell victim to some rather vicious tactics suggesting he had fathered an illegitimate black child.

Although, in fairness it should also be remembered that each candidate had a hand in their own defeat, as John McCain waffled regarding his opinion of the Confederate flag, and Howard Dean managed to embarrass himself with an oft-lampooned rallying cry following his defeat in the Iowa primary.

Of course, the compatability of McCain and Dean can only really be determined by their policies on the issues of the day.

While there are many differences, they could find a good deal of common ground.

The two can find common ground on a good number of issues: for example, both McCain and Dean favour actual fiscal conservatism, as opposed to certain American administrations that have campaigned on fiscal conservatism, then abandoned it. Both support abortion rights (although they differ on how deeply abortion rights should be legally entrenched), and both support stem cell research. Both have taken strong stands regarding campaign finance reform. Both favour reforms to military spending.

Each man also holds policies that could be considered complementary to the other: Howard Dean prefers prosecuting dealers to prosecuting users, while McCain's drug policies are geared toward cracking down on import and sales of drugs. Dean favours increased education spending, while McCain's policies are geared toward ensuring competency of teachers and streamlining education spending.

The two would also find a few policy matters on which they would have to find a compromise: for example, Howard Dean favours environmental provisions in free trade agreements, McCain doesn't. McCain is a good deal more hawkish (or perhaps owlish) in his foreign policy outlook than is Dean. Dean favours immediate further integration of China within the international system: McCain feels they should be granted entry into organizations such as the World Trade Organization depending upon what human rights concessions they're willing to make.

There are also some important issues on which Americans could expect little movement from these two, universal healthcare being perhaps the highest-profile among them (neither of them fully support it).

It shouldn't be said that McCain and Dean would be able to work together in perfect unison: to suggest so would be approaching the very idea of a Unity '08 ticket from a very naive point of view. McCain, for his part, would probably have a much easier time working with John Kerry -- a fellow war veteran with whom he has also worked in the past.

But if the idea of a Unity '08 ticket is to unite Americans by ensuring the administration represents a wider variety of Americans' views, then McCain and Dean, should they find themselves so disposed, may well be the two best men for the job.

Most importantly, Dean's fundraising acumen, combined with McCain's demonstrated electoral appeal, could be the answer to what could otherwise be an acrimoniously partisan electoral showdown over the war in Iraq.

If the Green party were to field a Ralph Nader/Jell-O Biafra ticket, the upcoming presidential election could prove to be even more interesting.

...But that's an article for another time.