Thursday, January 31, 2008

McCain Bulldozer Gathering Steam

McCain quickly outpacing his GOP competitors

If one could judge who will be the Republican Party's candidate for president from endorsements alone, this would already be considered a closed contest.

Arnold Schwartzenegger. John Danforth (former Senator from Missouri). Rudolph Guliani. Joe Lieberman. Rick Perry (governor of Texas). Sam Brownback. If history repeats itself, a Fred Thompson endorsement may be just around the corner.

Add this to endorsements from varying media outlets, and with primary victories in New Hampshire, South Carolina and Florida, it's safe to say that John McCain can look forward to February 5th's Super Tuesday primaries with confidence, if not necesssarily outright comfort.

The picture is becoming abundantly clear: with Republicans desperately needing to shake soft Democrat votes loose in order to maintain control of the White House, McCain just may be the only man for the job. As it currently stands, he's the only GOP candidate who has yet to find a Democrat willing to endorse him (albeit only one, to date), and has even managed to wrangle an endorsement out of the remarkably liberal Republican governor of California.

Certainly, conservative Republicans will have to swallow their pride in order to cast their vote in favour of McCain. His bipartisanship and tendency to put pragmatism before ideology have turned core Republican voters off in the past.

Not to mention the fact that his success to date is far from a guarantor of future success. When high-profile endorsements start to fly, the knives tend to come out (one recalls how quickly an Al Gore endorsement of Howard Dean in 2004 led to mutual-campaign-killing attack ads by General Wesley Clark).

With high-profile endorsements piling up in McCain's corners and Super Tuesday just around the corner, his opponents (especially Mitt Romney) certainly must know that the time to go after McCain is now or never.

Unless they can find some way to stem McCain's momentum, Romney and Mike Huckabee may as well be preparing their concession speeches. But for now, they're still in the race, and presumably still in the race to win. One should expect something from either camp (or both camps) soon.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Would You Like a Diploma With That?

Oh, those crazy Brits?

It's a sad, sad state of affairs when working at McDonald's is viewed as equivalent to a High School Education.

Race you to the suicide booth!

Dumbing Down the Abortion "Debate"

Jonathon Kay takes us inside the pro-abortion camp

In an op/ed article published on the National Post's Full Comment website, Jonathon Kay takes his readers on a journey to the University of Toronto's "Symposium to Mark the 20th Anniversary of R vs Morgentaler".

It isn't always a pretty picture.

First off, one may have expected that such a symposium would mark a valuable opportunity for pro-abortion (an infinitely more accurate description than "pro-choice") activists to refine their arguments for the future.

Yet Kay encountered a very different scene, one that he notes is very reminiscent of what passes for "debate" regarding abortion across the spectra of interested parties:

"Abortion is the one subject on which otherwise tolerant, open-minded people cannot agree to disagree. If you truly believe that life begins at conception, then what happens in Canada’s abortion clinics and wards approximately 100,000 times every year is, quite literally, a species of genocide. If you take the opposite view — that a fetus is a component of its female host without legal rights or human identity — then your opponents will strike you as nothing but ignorant misogynists. That is why we have precious little “debate” on the subject of abortion. Instead, we have sloganeering by two distinct and mutually hostile ideological tribes."
To this end, Kay is absolutely correct. The rhetorically-charged perceptions borne by the most militant of those on either margin may seem outragenously crazed by the measure of a rational person, but one has to keep in mind that these are not rational people.

"On Friday, Canada’s pro-choice movement convened what could best be described as a convention of tribal elders — middle-aged and elderly champions of the movement, including Henry Morgentaler, whose victory in the Supreme Court of Canada served to dismantle the entire criminal-law regime surrounding abortion 20 years ago today.

The University of Toronto Law School’s “Symposium to Mark the 20th Anniversary of R. v. Morgentaler” was an odd event. On one hand, it was organized by, and sponsored by, the law school’s own faculty — and so took on the superficial trappings of a normal academic symposium. But since not one of the 15 abortion doctors, scholars, writers and politicians who spoke took a pro-life stand, or even dealt in any serious way with pro-life arguments, the event was actually more of a pro-choice pep rally. On the few occasions when the existence of a pro-life camp was even acknowledged, it was invariably dismissed as a cadre of retrograde zealots plotting to undermine the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

For these true believers, opposition to abortion is a mental defect, not a bona fide policy position. Osgoode Hall Law School professor Shelley Gavigan, the most militant and stereotypically feminist of the conference panelists, declared categorically that “The unborn child and the pregnant mother speak with one voice — and that voice is hers.” The fact that some of her students didn’t see things her way only meant that “I have some work to do on the pedagogical front.”
Or, conversely, that fact could be seen as proof that there are, as much as Gavigan would surely prefer otherwise, people afoot who can recognize abortion as a real issue that affects real people.

It could just so happen to be proof that Gavigan's premise is inherently flawed. If, as she asserts, pregnant mothers and unborn children do indeed speak with one voice, that would seem to be an implicit admission that abortion is an issue that deals with not merely one body -- but two: the mother and her child. The two may indeed speak with one voice. But by the same token, the unborn child doesn't really have a voice yet -- this is one of the handicaps of being unborn.

Furthermore, who is Gavigan to suggest that, in a matter pertaining to the life and death of the child, that the unborn child shouldn't have a say in the matter?

Unfortuantely, as morally satisfying as the certain inability of Gavigan and those who think like her to answer this question would be, it does make a real abortion debate unbearably complex.

Then again, what could be more unbearably complex than moral ruminations over the end of -- what at least would be -- a human life?

Perhaps there are good reasons why pro-abortion activists seem so unprepared to answer these questions.

" writer Heather Mallick likewise expressed approval of student associations that cut off funding to pro-life groups — because “the rights of Canadian women “are not up for debate.” She also theorized that pro-life stirrings in the mainstream media were mostly the result of over-the-hill male editors seeking to control through repression the lithesome bodies that, in their decrepitude, they could no longer enjoy in the bedroom. And Liberal MP Carolyn Bennett put up a slide entitled “Role of an elected official,” which declared that politicians have “no right” to oppose abortion — because “That is the responsibility of women.”"
Once again, these pro-abortion zealots simply drag up a host of philisophical quandries.

If the rights of Canadian women are not up for debate, why are the rights of the unborn child? Does Mallick really want to suggest that Human Rights is a zero-sum game, in which unborn children can only make gains at the expense of their expecting (or even unintending) mothers?

And who is Carolyn Bennet to suggest that politicians have no right to oppose abortion? Is the right to an opinion on the matter dependent upon support of abortion?

There are significant portions of the Canadian population who oppose abortion as well. Are they unentitled to their opinion? Are they unentitled to support political candidates who support their views?

Isn't Canada a Democracy?

These are the wrong questions for the pro-abortion movement to get stuck trying to answer. Yet they seem to be the questions they're content to provoke.

Fortuantely for them, however, they do have the wisdom to (largely) make such arguments in private, far away from the prying ears of anti-abortion activists (a label infinitely more accurate than "pro-life"), where such questions won't be asked of them.

"If anyone in the audience disagreed with any of this, you wouldn’t have known it. When the time came for questions, there were a few fawning queries, but no sparks. The intimidating-looking plainclothes security fellow who’s apparently been hired to hustle overeager pro-lifers out of the room never had to stir from his seat.

And yet, beneath the veneer of tribal sisterly celebration, I did manage to detect a strain of underlying tension. It came out on those few occasions when one of the speakers made oblique allusion to that taboo question in the pro-choice camp: How late is too late?

This should be a question of special interest to anyone who’s managed to escape the tribal polarization of the abortion debate. Squeezed between the two tribes are a few of us (including me) who think a woman should have a broad right to abort her fetus when it is an insentient bundle of cells, but are appalled by the fact that Canada — alone among industrialized nations — permits “socially motivated” abortion in the second and even third trimesters. Yet in a full day of presentations purporting to comprehensively evaluate the state of abortion in this country, no one at this symposium took on this one disturbing, and truly unique, feature of our country’s legal landscape.
This is probably for good reason: the current lack of limits on when a fetus may be aborted is a debate topic on which, frankly, the pro-abortion lobby doesn't stand a rat's ass of a chance.

"Even in the Q&A, the issue came up only twice — and then, only obliquely. The first came when an audience member bemoaned the fact that most doctors in Western nations wouldn’t perform abortions after 24 weeks — and asked, with apparently genuine curiosity, why this was so. The panelist who answered, National Abortion Federation director Dawn Fowler, refused to supply a reason, merely demurring that “It will be interesting to have the physicians appearing later today [as speakers] comment on that.” (None did.) A few hours later, a male student rose during the Q&A to broach the issue indirectly with legendary Canadian abortion doctor Garson Romalis. The student asked whether late-term unborn children should be supplied pain-killers as part of the abortion procedure. Romalis (who, by way of background, has survived two murder attempts by pro-life fanatics) dismissed any evidence that aborted fetuses feel pain, and with it the entire issue, in a single sentence. And that was it."
On the particular question of whether or not aborted fetuses feel pain -- or at what stage they would -- Romalis seems to have recieved a free pass. The factual science on the matter is incredibly difficult to tell apart from the rhetoric on the matter. (Although there are some prime examples of some remarkably specious claims afoot.)

But the most interesting thing about late-term abortions is that, in Canada, they may not be such a serious concern (perhaps even due to possible ethical concerns on behalf of those doctors who would be performing such abortions).

"The interesting thing is that several of the symposium speakers — most notably, University of Toronto Law School professor Joanna Erdman — vigorously assured the audience that very few abortions take place in Canada “for social reasons” beyond 20 weeks, and none beyond 24 weeks.

No doubt, the data show this to be true. But why was this fact so important as to deserve emphasis? Similarly, why did Gavigan take such pains to dismiss anecdotes of women having abortions for capricious reasons (e.g., looking good in a bikini on an upcoming vacation) as “preposterous misogynistic fables.” If it is really true that “the unborn child and the pregnant mother speak with one voice,” then presumably they have the right to assume a voice that is selfish and vain. If the “dominant ideology of the unborn child” is nothing but a misogynistic construct invented by patriarchal moralists, why does it matter if that so-called unborn child weighs one pound — or five? Why strike such defensive postures against a issue that no one in the room would even discuss?
Well, Gavigan may have dismissed such anecdotes because they are just that -- anecdotes. Perhaps when such women can be convinced to make such comments on the public record they would be considered legitimate fodder for public debate. In the meantime, they're simply stories, which may or (more importantly) may not be true.

Who would know?

Perhaps the seeming percieved necessity to address such matters is indicative that these may be more than merely stories. Then again, perhaps the American fascination with conspiracy theories suggests that maybe the CIA really did order the trigger pulled on John F Kennedy.

Anyone rational care to take that one on?

Didn't think so.

"The answer to this last question, I think, is that these women are not as doctrinaire as they pretend to be. Within their own minds, they do wrestle with these important moral questions. But when in public, none of them feel comfortable exploring them. Locked in what they feel to be a tribal culture war against pro-lifers, they allow themselves no nuance. That is why on Friday, by unspoken agreement, they eschewed the opportunity for real intellectual give and take on the one fundamental aspect of the abortion issue that has needed to be addressed since January 28, 1988, and instead focused on self-congratulation, paranoia and sisterly bonding. It is no exaggeration to say that the middle-aged women behind the podium at this conference are the reason we have no abortion law: Any stirring of legislative action arouses among them such tribal war fury as to send politicians scurrying.

As for the next generation, I am more hopeful.

The Gavigan-Mallick-Bennett generation came by their militancy honestly: by witnessing the truly Byzantine and unconscionably arbitrary barriers to early-term abortion faced by Canadian women in the pre-Morgentaler era. They also bore witness to the hideous medical carnage caused by self-induced and back-alley abortions (a phenomenon Romalis described in detail in what was easily the most powerful presentation of Friday’s symposium). For these pro-choice advocates, there will never be compromise. Behind every law, they will see the hand of the old patriarchy.

But the same isn’t true for today’s 20- and 30-something Canadian women, who have grown up in a Canada where accessible, state-funded abortion is generally taken for granted. Perhaps this new generation will be the one to strike the sort of proper moral balance reflected in the legislation of most European countries. In 10 years, I like to think, I’ll be attending a “Symposium to Mark the 30th Anniversary of R. v. Morgentaler” where the participants will be trading not only slogans, but morally serious ideas as well.
Perhaps the Gavigan-Mallick-Bennet generation did comeby their militancy honestly. However, they've also passed that militancy along to the next generation, of whom Kay says he is more hopeful.

Yet, that same generation has been indoctrinated into the militant pro-abortion dogma since a much younger age. As is the case with all such things, the effects would be much harder to overcome, and even if they were, to what end?

Does Kay (or anyone else, for that matter) honestly believe that the abortion debate will ever be subject to compromise? Or even that it should?

Frankly, the only compromise what will ever bear productive fruit in regards to the abortion debate will be a compromise regarding the terms of debate. Other than that, the specific questions at hand in the abortion debate -- the rights of women, the rights of unborn children, term limits on abortion, post-abortion issues, and an infinite myriad of others -- are all simply too complex to ever simply "meet in the middle".

Abortion is a hopelessly complex issue. The solutions will either be hopelessly complex, or non-existent. There is simply too little middle ground, and too little will to debate to fill it.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

And Now, Finally, the Manley Report

Blueprint for Canada's role in Afghanistan promising and pragmatic

When Stephen Harper established an Independent Panel on Canada's Future in Afghanistan and appointed former Liberal deputy Prime Minister John Manley as the chairman of it, people knew the results would not be pretty.

The Manley report has become every bit as politicized as the war in Afghanistan. As such, it's provoked responses ranging from approval to cautious optimism to sheer disdain, and, in some cases, even intellectual dishonesty.

The report has made a number of recommendations.

The report has called for more military hardware in Afghanistan (including addtional helicopters and unmanned aerial drones), as well as renewed focus on training the Afghan army.

The report has also suggested that CIDA focus its aid efforts on projects that will provide immediate and tangible benefits to the Afghan people, an idea the former director of CIDA rejects.

Most promisingly, the Manley report has dismissed the Liberals' proposed 2009 withdrawal from combat as an "artificial deadline" with "no operational logic."

In other words, Canada's exit strategy should be based not on chronological considerations, but rather on accomplishing goals in the field. This is precisely as it should be.

However, the report has suggested Canada's combat mission in Kandahar should end unless more of our NATO allies contribute troops to that mission, probably for reasons made evident by Jonathon Kay vis a vis the free-rider principle:

"A quick, back-of-the-envelope calculation helps illustrate the larger inequity at play. At 33-million people, Canada’s population represents less than 4% of NATO’s 880-million total. Yet our forces constitute about 8% of the total combat troops actively engaged with the Taliban. Like the United States (34% of NATO population, 73% of engaged troops) and Britain (7% of NATO population, 19% of engaged troops), we are doing more than our fair share.

An even greater discrepancy applies in regard to fatalities. Canada has suffered 77 KIA in Afghanistan, 10% of NATO’s total. This is an extraordinarily tiny number of dead by historical war-time standards. Still, compare the 77 figure to, say, Germany, which has a population two-and-a-half times ours, but has suffered only 25 dead. This is mostly because Germany’s substantial force of 3,500 soldiers is operating mainly in the largely peaceful, northern part of Afghanistan.

While one does wonder who Manley believes will replace Canadian troops in Kandahar should they be withdrawn (not necessarily more British and American troops), one must recognize the lop-sided effort being put forth. That needs to change.

The report has called for 1,000 more NATO troops in Kandahar alone -- a fairly modest assessment compared to analysts who suggest the current troop level should be doubled.

Manley himself has also had a few tough questions to answer, and has taken them all in stride.

When asked earlier this week whether or not his report was in touch with Liberal party traditions, Manley insisted it is.

"Absolutely this is in the Liberal tradition," Manley insisted. "I think that countries like Canada have an important, meaningful role to play in protecting our values, standing up for the rights of individuals [and for] the human security of people whose government can't protect them -- that's something we as Canadians have talked a lot about."

"We're a rich country, we've got to do some of this stuff ... The world isn't a pretty place but I happen to believe that the people who came before me in the Liberal party believed in a strong role for Canada on the international stage and would say there are times when we have to be counted, times when it matters."

Naturally, not everyone agrees. Green Party leader Elizabeth May, rarely one to shy away from borderline religious bigotry in order to score a point, had the following to say: "The Manley Report fails to consider that the recommendation of more ISAF forces from a Christian/Crusader heritage will continue to fuel an insurgency that has been framed as a ‘Jihad’. This, in turn, may feed the recruitment of suicide bombers and other insurgents."

(Of course, never mind that the Crusades very much were a religious war, while the war in Afghanistan very much is not.)

The debate over the Manley report will likely continue for a long time, as will debate over the war in Afghanistan. This is actually precisely how it should be.

But like the war in Afghanistan, the value of the contributions to that debate should be assessed based on its recognition of the facts of the case (in this case, the content of the report), not on its rhetorical quality.

Friday, January 25, 2008

And So The Story Begins To Emerge

But key questions remain unanswered

In a recent post to his CBC editor's blog, John Cruickshank has publicly offered such some snippets of the story surrounding Krista Erickson and the conduct that eventually got her reassigned to Toronto.

"When, as in the present instance, it is revealed that a reporter has been collaborating, even if only obliquely, with one party or another, an appearance of partisanship emerges that cannot be dispelled by claims that this is how political reporters interact with their sources.

In this case, our reporter provided questions to two Liberal MPs using her BlackBerry in the hope that these would be put to the former prime minister during the committee hearings.
According to Cruickshank, Erickson did in fact submit the offending question to two Liberal MPs (she also did it via Blackberry which leaves a trail of electronic correspondance that can be followed). One of them was clearly Pablo Rodriguez.

Who was the other Liberal MP? Was is Paul Szabo?

That could prove to be a serious breach of conduct for Mr Szabo, who evidently willfully allowed the Commons Committee he chaired to breach its mandate in pursuit of a non-existent news story that would just so happen to be damaging to the Conservatives.

Will a House of Commons Ethics Committee be called into his conduct? Perhaps it should be.

Also, a question for Pablo Rodriguez: why'd you lie?

Remember that Rodriguez claimed he wrote his questions himself, as he allegedly writes all his questions. Yet, John Cruickshank has clearly determined otherwise.

Rodriguez should be challenged on the public record. In fact, the extent to which he himself has benefitted from such misconduct on behalf of media personell before should be throughly investigated.

"I accept the reporter's explanation that she did not do this to advantage the Liberals or hurt the Conservatives — that she just wanted answers for her story.

She believed it was permissible to create a temporary alliance of convenience with the Liberals if it would help determine whether Brian Mulroney had lobbied a Tory minister on a recent matter.
Alliances of convenience do pose a serious threat to journalistic credibility.

Yet, if Erickson believed that was permissable, something probably gave her that impression. How prevalent are such "alliances of convenience" at the CBC?

Are they really temporary alliances, or are such "alliances of convenience" perhaps a sign that activist journalism -- wherein reporters intentionally work hand-in-hand with politicians they support in order to damage governments they oppose -- has truly taken root at the CBC?

"But in this kind of information sharing, reporters can become part of the story they are covering, which is not our role. Any time a reporter plants a question and covers the results, they are deceiving their audience about their detachment and fairness.

For our reporters, this makes cultivating sources problematic. We can't make deals that leave us beholden either to members of the government or any opposition party.
Yet it's entirely possible that the only difference between Erickson and other CBC reporters who may (or may not) have made similar arrangements is that she got caught.

Will there be a full-scale investigation into such practices at the CBC to determine who else, if anyone, has used such means to cultivate sources? If so, will anyone else found to have done so be disciplined?

A public inquiry into such practices at the CBC may still be in order. However, if John Cruickshank has yet to percieve the wisdom of calling for such an air-clearing process, it's at this point unlikely that he ever will.

Which is rather unfortunate. While Cruickshank and CBC Ombudsman Vice Carlin have answered some key questions, it seems that many more will remain unanswered -- maybe even formally unasked.

The CBC is far from clear of any doubt.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Mr. Ignatieff, I'm Coming For You...

Even if its only to make this douchebag cry

That's right.

When Michael Ignatieff attends my humble post-secondary institution -- and future alma mater on Friday, 1 February, I will be in attendance.

However, I'm not attending as a partisan heckler.

I have some crucial questions for Mr Ignatieff. Among them:

-What is his stance on the potential official establishment of an independent and sovereign Kurdistan? Pro or con? Should Canada be supportive of it?

-Who among the insurgents in Afghanistan should be negotiated with? Under what conditions would we negotiate with them, and what sort of terms should we be willing to accept?

-Should NATO and the Kabul government be prepared to accept a potential partitioning of Afghanistan (a la Pashtunistan)? If so, under what conditions?

Hopefully, the Nexus will bring you the answer to these questions and more on Saturday, 2 February.

Stay tuned.

Why Doesn't the United States Have a Stable, Viable Social Democratic Party?

An unlikely source provides the answer

If there is one great unanswered question about American politics, it's probably "who really killed JFK?"

At least, if you're a nutbar.

If, like the rest of us, you aren't a conspiracy-peddling, Manitoba-cigarettes-smoking weirdo, that question is probably "why doesn't the United States have a viable, stable social democratic party?

A passage from Al Franken's The Truth (With Jokes) ironically provides an answer -- and it's an answer that "progressives" like Franken probably won't like.

Starting on page 119, and continuing onto page 120:

"It is actually illegal for tax-exempt religious organizations to engage in partisan political activity. But that didn't stop the Bush-Cheney campaign from encouraging clergy in battleground states to do their civic duty. In Pennsylvania, for example, recieved this e-mail from a Bush-Cheney staffer:

"Subject: Lead your congregation for President Bush

The Bush-Cheney '04 national headquarters in Virginia has asked us to identify 1600 "Friendly Congregations" in Pennsylvania where voters friendly to President Bush may gather on a regular basis. In each of these friendly congregations, we would like to identify a volunteer coordinator who can help distribute general informatinon to other supporters. If you are interested, please email Luke Bernstein at your name, address, phone number and place of worship.


Paid for by Bush-Cheney '04, Inc
Jesus Christ! And this from a Bernstein?!

Look. Churches are always going to be involved in social justice issues, on one side or the other. Just as Dr. Martin Luther King (for) or Dr. Jerry Falwell (against). ANd some congregations certainly have a political bent, such as Our Lady of Gun Control in Bayside, Queens. But this was ridiculous. Even the campaign's allies thought the White House had gone too far, considering the state of the law at the time.

There was only one solution. Change the law.
Oooh! Those dastardly Republicans, right?


Hold that phone.

"In early June 2004, Republicans in the House Ways and Means committee added an ammendment to H.R. 4520, the American Job Creation Act of 2004 (which cut corporate taxes, thereby creating jobs for people who gild bathroom fixtures), that would allow churches to commit three (count 'em, three) "unintentional violations" of legal restrictions on political activites each year without losing their tax-exepmpt status. I call that the "four strikes and you're out" law. Even more exciting, clergy would now be allowed to endorse candidates, as long as they made it clear they were acting as individuals and not on behalf of religious organizations.

Thankfully, when even the Southern Baptist Convention said the Republicans were getting a little too cute, the "Safe Harbor for Churches" amendment died a quiet death.
Hooray! A victory for the separation of church and state, right? Right?

Well, that is important. But, at the same time, there are numerous questions. What about the right of Pastors to express their opinions (politically or otherwise), alternately known as free speach? What about the right of religious congregations to organize as they see fit (again, politically or otherwise)?

Of course, these are important questions, but not necessarily pertinent for our purposes here. For that, we have to turn to the development of Canada's social democratic party, the New Democratic Party. (While the Bloc Quebecois often claims to be a social democratic party, they don't count because they are founded almost entirely on an exclusionary racial ideology.)

The NDP was formed in 1961 as a political merger of the CCF (Cooperative Commonwealth Foundation) and the Canadian Labour Congress. The annointed leader, Tommy Douglas (quite possibly one of the three best Prime Ministers Canada never had) was actually an ordained Baptist minister. (That's right, you read it -- Baptist.)

Both the CCF and the NDP after it were based almost entirely on the Protestant Social Gospel. The Social Gospel advocated that Christian values demanded a more generous and inclusive society (aforementioned by Al Franken as social justice).

It probably helped that in Canada churches were allowed to hold and express political opinion. An obsession with politically marginalizing religion certainly isn't anything that has never manifested itself in Canada (see: modern NDP), but it has yet to establish the stranglehold on religion that exists in the United States.

Comparing the two case studies, one can't help but draw the conclusion that the failure of the United States to produce a relevant social democratic party is at least partially due to its legal muzzling of religious movements.

Of course other factors, such as an obsessive, fearful suspicion of communism (although suspicion certainly was warranted, at least on a limited basis -- read: not McCarthy-esque) certainly played a role, one has to wonder what would exist today.

Maybe -- just maybe -- a stable, viable social democratic party.

(If you're reading this, Ralph Nader, you don't count. And it certainly was a shame that Howard Dean -- whom history may recognize as one the best Presidents the United States never had -- was judged to be too scary by Democrats.)

Naturally, the blending of politics and religion can go too far, and George W Bush is a fairly decent example of that (although most of the Republican party's intractable opponents find Mike Huckabee even more threatening). But one should also keep in mind that a liberal mixing of politics and religion can also have positive results.

Canadian public health care is, without a doubt, history's greatest example of this.

But before the specific values of the Social Gospel can take root, as they have north of the 49th parallel, religious organizations have to be allowed to at least knock at the door. It's ironic that some of those who most decry the lack of social democrats in the United States are the ones most determined to see that this is never allowed.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Krista Erickson: Busted!!!

CBC lives up to some of its big talk, but more is needed

One probably shouldn't be surprised to see Liberal MP Pablo Rodriguez waving goodbye to CBC Krista Erickson today, as the CBC has announced it's transferring her from Ottawa from Toronto.

Conservatives, meanwhile, probably hate to see her go, but love to watch her leave.

Well, probably at the least the "love to watch her leave" part.

"Following an investigation by senior management of CBC News, we have determined that our reporter Krista Erickson did, in fact, provide questions to a Member of Parliament in the lead up to the Ethics Committee meeting in
December," CBC news editor John Cruickshank wrote in a letter to Doug Finley. "Those actions, while in pursuit of a journalistically legitimate story, were inappropriate and inconsistent with CBC News policies and procedures."

"Our investigation determined there was no bias in related news coverage. However, our reporter, acting on her own, used inappropriate tactics as a result of journalistic zeal, rather than partisan interest," Cruickshank wrote.

Well, of course it did.

"Given the potential risk to the journalistic credibility of our Ottawa bureau, its reporters and CBC News generally, we have chosen on an exceptional basis to make the detailed outcome of our disciplinary process available to you, our employees and the public at large."

"I trust this addresses your concerns."

Actually, not quite.

As previously mentioned, the allegations of collusion between the CBC and any political party raises some serious questions about the CBC, and shakes public faith in the public broadcaster's ability to operate in a non-partisan matter despite the notably lopsidedly partisan character of the board of directors.

The only way to restore public faith in the CBC and answer the questions so many Canadians have come to ask is to hold an investigation in the public eye. A public inquiry is needed.

While admittedly, the break with CBC policy insisting the identities of disciplined personell would not be made public suggests the reported conclusions are indeed genuine (it's a tremendous show of good faith), Canadians also deserve certainty.

The conclusions simply do not deliver in this regard.

John Cruickshank should encourage Stephen Harper to call a public inquiry into what will likely henceforth be known as the "Krista Erickson affair" so that it can be determined how, if at all, prevalent indiscretions similar to Erickson's are amongst CBC staff, and if any CBC staff are acting in benefit of any political party, regardless of which party that may be.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

When Incompetent Dumbfucks Collide

Lunn, Keen wrangle for last word before parliamentary committee, but what the fuck does it matter?

The latest news to come out of the Chalk River reactor fiasco is a bombshell-and-a-half.

Linda Keen will get the last word before the special House of Commons committee called to investigate Lunn's push to fire Keen. Conservative MPs and Opposition MPs had been scrapping it out over who would get to testify second.

And this matters precisely how?

Anyone paying attention to the Chalk River debacle may, at this point, have learned that the incomplete upgrades at Chalk River are a problem that has persisted throughout Keen's tenure as Nuclear Safety Commission president and beyond. Yet Keen did nothing until November.

But in the most astounding dumbfuckitude surrounding this matter, Atomic Energy Canada Ltd, the crown corporation that operates Chalk River, has accused the CNRC of issuing misleading statements.

"The commission made a decision and in retrospect, in light of all this evidence, we have shown it was a wrong decision and the reactor's extended outage could have been prevented," AECL spokesman Dale Coffin announced.

You probably just read that correctly: the crown corporation that failed to complete the safety upgrades in question has admitted that the reactor's extended outage could have been prevented.

He's right, too. You know how? If AECL had completed the work in the first fucking place!

Conversely, it could have been prevented if the CNRC had forced AECL to complete the upgrades!

So now Gary Lunn and Linda Keen are going to appear before a special Commons Committee to fight over who should be fired, much like a pair of Apprentice contestants who are mutually responsible for the failure of some insipid business deal.

Donald Trump never had the option of firing both on these occasions on the show. Fortunately for Stephen Harper, he does.

Hopefully, Harper has better taste in civil servants than Trump does in hairdressers.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Karzai to Dion: No Dice

Afghan government rejects Liberal plan for Afghanistan

When Stephane Dion and Michael Ignatieff met with Afghanistan president Hammad Karzai last week, they must have imagined the outcome would turn out to be a little different than it's turn out.

Table an ambiguous proposal, spout some platitudes, and Dion and Iggy are done here.

Surely, the not-so-dynamic duo must have thought, Karzai would indeed turn out to be a "reasonable" man (in this case, reasonable being a word that means "utterly pliable to the political considerations necessary to impliment a largely infeasible plan").

As it turns out, perhaps Karzai and the Afghan diplomatic corps aren't quite as "reasonable" as Dion had hoped.

In fact, Dion was reportedly advised prior to his meeting with Karzai that any passive mission plan would not be supported by the Afghan government.

Karzai noted that terrorism must be fought "head-on".

Edmonton Center Conservative MP (and former Canadian Forces fighter pilot) Laurie Hawn agrees. "Here's a newsflash, Mr. Dion, the Taliban are not seeking peace but victory over the Afghan people."

"The Afghans do not want a relapse, especially to pre-9/11 conditions," said Omar Samad, Afghanistan's ambassador to Canada. "This type of threat, in the form of terrorism and extremism, needs to be dealt with directly and head-on. That point had been made by the president."

"The events of Sept. 11 serves us well in reminding ourselves that not fighting terrorism head-on can have disastrous consequences for Afghanistan, the region and the world at large," Karzai announced.

Furthermore, Hawn would remind Dion that taking a passive role in Afghanistan is actually contrary to Canadian interests. "It is in Canada's national interest to not let Afghanistan become a breeding ground for terrorism again. Afghans also deserve a chance at the values we enjoy - freedom, human rights, rule of law, opportunity. And, if we abandon Afghanistan to a Taliban fate, who should ever trust us again? Mr. Dion may be willing to accept that. I am not."

While allowing Canadian Forces to take a sabbatical from front-line combat duties may actually be a very good idea, Dion needs to remember that a rotation is just that -- a rotation. Canada would be called upon for combat again -- as it eventually should be.

Dion has done his plan no favours by failing to make a few details available: such as, precisely how long he thinks the Canadian rotation out of a combat role should be. That's a very important detail.

Dion's recent plan represents nothing more than the latest chapter in a pervasive story of double-speaking to Canadians on the Afghanistan issue. That he would take that double-speak abroad to the head of state of a foreign country is a very disturbing omen for Dion's ability to be a statesman.

Fortunately, Hammad Karzai isn't falling for it.

Neither should Canadians.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Ezra Levant: Angry, Angry Man

Levant rages against the HRC machine, posts video to the internet for posterity

A long and sad chapter of the varying controversies surrounding Canada's Human Rights Commissions took an interesting twist today, as Ezra Levant, subject of a complaint by the Islamic Supreme Council of Canada and Syed Soharwardy, posted video of his hearings to YouTube.

Through the course of the videos, a hapless Human Rights Commissioner is subjected to a stern lecture on the nature of freedom of speech and the various failings of Canadas HRCs.

In his opening statement, Levant voiced the full measure of his distaste for the HRC.

"When the Western Standard magazine published the Danish cartoons of Muhammad two years ago, I was the publisher. It was the proudest moment of my public life," Levant announced. "I would do it again today. In fact, I did do it again today. Although the Western Standard sadly no longer publishes a print edition, I posted the cartoons this morning on my website,"

"I am here at this interrogation under protest. It is my position the government has no legal or moral authority to interrogate me or anyone else for publishing these words and pictures. That is a violaton of my ancient and inalienable freedoms: freedom of speech, freedom of the press and in this case, religious freedom and seperation of Mosque and state. It is especially perverted that a bureaucracy calling itself the Alberta Human Rights Commission is the agency violating my rights."

Levant went on to outline the origial purpose of the HRC, and how these Commissions have been subverted by special interests.

During the statement (at one point of which he stops to thank all of his supporters who read The Western Standard), Levant rages against the HRC Commissioner who alternates between shuffling uncomfrotably and shuffling angrily in her chair.

Levant certainly hadn't come to make any friends.

"We published those cartoons for the intention and purpose of exercising our inalienable rights as free-born Albertans to publish whatever the hell we want no matter what the hell you think," Ezra insists. "It's my right to do so for reasonable intentions and its my right to do so for extremely unreasonable purposes. I refuse to concede to you that what my political thoughts are in my mind and in my heart are will determine whether or not an artifact is legal or illegal."

Of course, Levant is right about this last part. The cartoons in question were part of the story the Western Standard was commenting on -- the rioting of Muslims over the cartoons published in a Danish newspaper. Levant and the Standard had every right to do cover that story, and bore no responsibility to cover any part of it up.

At points, however, Levant veers strongly into the perversity of unrestrained freedom, particularly when that freedom is unrestrained even by the better natures of the person exercising them.

"I published it without reservation. I published it in the most unreasonable manner," Ezra insisted. "Whatever offends you, I reserve the right to publish it for whatever offensive reason I want."

"I reserve the right to publish those cartoons for exactly what they complain about. I reserve the right to publish the cartoons to do every offensive thing they claim is in my heart."

At its most base level, Levant is right. But those offended by him also have the right to censure him, and to seek censure from other sources. While they are absolutely abusing the system in attempting to use the HRC to do this using the strong arm of the law, Syed Soharwardy has every right to be offended, and has every right to protest.

In part three, however, Levant really turns up the heat:

When asked about claims that publishing the cartoons inspired hatred and hostility toward Muslims and put them at risk, Levant draws blood for the first time when he notes that nowhere in Canada has a conclusive hate crime been committed against Muslims.

However, he notes that hate crimes have been perpetrated in Canada by Muslims against other identifiable minorities.

In particular, he notes the firebombing of Edmonton's Beth Shalom synagogue

"This dumb, radical, fascist, Muslim, arab from Jordan firebombed my synogogue in Edmonton. So when Larry Shayman cries wolf he's just a fibber. He's crying wolf. The last house of worship torched in Edmonton was my synagogue. It's not these cartoons that create hatred. It's radical muslims who blow things up. Who torched my synogogue. Who file nuisance suits. They're the ones who make people hate Islam."

"When these radicals start trying to import their values whether its violence, or honour killings like Asqua Parvez or torching synogogues like the Beth Shalom that make people say 'I hate you'."

The complaints of imminent threat directed toward Muslims and other minorities tend to fall flat when that violence so often fails to materialize.

Then again, when one ignores incitory factors until such violence manifests itself, one begins to fall under an immense moral hazard. Such violence could be prevented, if only those inciting it could be stopped. However, this is a very thin line to walk: perhaps one that HRCs have proven themselves unable to walk.

When asked about Charter limits on freedom of speech, Levant once again unloads:

"I do not believe their should be any limits whatsoever on political or religious speech that doesn't fall into the categories of incitement to riot or conspiracy to cummit murder," he insists. "It is the bedrock of our western liberal society, that unreasonable speech should be permitted. In fact, unreasonable speech is the only reason we've ever had progress. People who offend the order, whether it's women offending the patriarchy to get the right to vote for suffragists. Whether it's Martin Luther King offending white society for black equality. Whether it's homosexuals who offend norms in order to get equal rights. No liberal progressive cause has ever advanced except for through offending the order. And many of those offences used quite rude language, or at least language that was regarded as quite rude in the day."

Of course, comparing himself to Martin Luther King or Nellie McClung may not seem quite as accurate as Levant would like to think, even if he considers it personally flattering.

Mostly because King, McClung and their historical compatriots (to whom Levant alludes) all fought for justice not merely for themselves, but for entire groups of people.

Levant's fight is almost entirely for himself. He wasn't protesting a great historical injustice when he published the cartoons in question, he was essentially -- whether rightly or wrongly -- accusing an entire culture of barbarism.

Yet Levant makes a very strong point when he notes the absurdity of ordering apologies.

"For them to want the state to compel me to utter words I don't believe is Orwell at its apex. For me to say words I don't mean. Paul Bernardo and Karla Homolka, the most heinous criminals in this country, convicted of mass murder, the state cannot order them to apologize. It's cruel and unusual punishment. More to the point, people know they wouldn't mean it. What's the use of an apology if they wouldn't mean it? A convicted murder cannot be ordered to apologize, but a convicted publisher can be ordered by the state to apologize."

"I'll rot in hell before I use my mouth to say those fascist words with [the commission] as an instrument to compel me."

Levant's lecture on freedom of speech, however, misses an important element: that of responsibility.

Levant does, indeed, have the right to say what he wants. However, he is also responsible for what he says, and what he publishes. While in this particular matter he was actually acting entirely responsibly, there is no guarantee that he can say or publish whatever he wants in future without facing any kind of consequence.

Unfortunately for Levant, one of the reasons he can't esscape responsibility for his comments is because of his own success. He has managed to earn for himself a position in the public discourse where he is well known and (by some) respected. When Ezra Levant says something, many people listen. A few people even reach for their phones and dial up the HRC.

Another reason why Levant cannot escape responsibility for his comments is because he possesses the courage to allow his comments to be identified with his own name. Particularly on the internet, there are some cowards who will spurn responsibility for their comments simply because they lack the courage to accept responsibility.

Hopefully, Levant's appearance before the AHRC will bring this sad, sad chapter of the abuse of Canada's HRCs to a close. Perhaps it will even provide the impetus for those with the power to do so (are you listening Stephen Harper? Ed Stelmach?) to fix the problems with Canada's Human Rights Commissions once and for all.

Not by abolishing them, as some self-interested individuals would insist, but by reforming them to operate like a real court of law, rule of evidence and all.

In the meantime, Levant actually has every right and reason to be angry.

Dion's Doublespeak Continues in Afghanistan

If Dion gets his way, Dreamland foreign policy is here to stay

If Stephane Dion's recent severe rhetorical blunder over the Chalk River reactor conroversy says anything, it's that he thinks he can fool Canadians quite easily.

Yesterday, Dion took that deceptive show on the road, perhaps thinking that Afghan president Hamad Karzai is just as gullible.

In the course of a meeting between Karzai and Ignatieff and himself, Dion insisted his party remains committed to the Afghan mission, but also insisted he wants "balance".

"We are convinced after the day we've had that we will have plenty of things to do that will involve, yes, to take risks, but anywhere we will go whether Darfur or Haiti, there are always risks," Dion announced in Kabul. "We are not afraid of the risks. But we want to sure that we have a balanced mission after 2009 that will be optimally helpful for the people of Afghanistan."

"The Liberal Party of Canada is very proud of the contributions our men and women in uniform have made to try to bring peace and stability to this region," Dion announced.

"We had a very fruitful discussion about the NATO mission in Afghanistan and Canada's role in it. I hope it was the first of many more to come," added Ignatieff, the man who helped extend Canada's combat mission to Khandahar in the first place.

At the end of the day, however, the issue regarding Dion and Ignatieff's meeting with Karzai is very simple: Dion and Ignatieff are either committing themselves to the support of Afghanistan state, or they aren't. They're either willing to see Canada do what is necessary to ensure that state-building in Afghanistan succeeds, or they aren't.

Reportedly, Dion "believes in the principle of rotation." "After three years of a combat mission, it's normal that Canada would say 'we want to do something else,'" Dion asserted.

The rotation of combat responsibilities is an important issue in Afghanistan, and Dion is not remiss to raise it. However, establishing a rotation on countries assuming front-line combat duties means that Canada will eventually be required to take its turn once again.

When one considers that Dion has taken every opportunity to decry the combat mission as "unbalanced" (despite reportedly supporting the continuing use of artillery and air strikes that invariably kill many more civilians than ground combat), one also wonders if they're aren't forecasting what Dion's attitude will be when it's Canada's turn to return to the front lines.

And while reconstruction and development efforts in the stable Kabul region may mesh more effectively with Dion's preferred dreamland fantasy of Canadian soldiers being -- as JL Granatstein would suggest -- glorified social workers, there is no question that such a mission would be critically unbalanced when one considers the presence of Taliban insurgents who want very little more than to kill NATO troops.

In pretending that Karzai hadn't even considered the possibility of a Canadian mission devoted entirely to reconstruction, Dion only continues to allude to his belief in the general naivete of Canadians.

Canadian troops on such a mission, in Dion's words, would not be "proactively looking for interaction with the enemy." Which seems to mean, essentially, that Dion would prefer the enemy come to our soldiers instead, and reap all the advantages that come with being on the offensive.

That is a recipe for disaster.

If Dion wants to be taken seriously on the war in Afghanistan, he needs to dispense with all the double-speak, and start offering up some details regarding what he would do differently and, more importantly how. Otherwise, all of his big talk on Afghanistan essentially boils down to typical Liberal promises of "visionary" change that somehow always seems to very closely resemble the status quo.

If Dion wants Canadians to consider him to be a credible alternative Prime Minister to Stephen Harper, he needs to cut the double speak and start offering Canadians an alternative plan.

Otherwise, he just may find out -- to his detriment -- that Canadians aren't as guillible as he seems to believe.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Dave Cournoyer: Not a Victim

"Debt-ridden university student" is doing this to himself

If one were to ask former University of Alberta Students' Union Vice President External Dave Cournoyer, being a 24 year-old university student entitles one to do certain things.

Including, apparently, misappropriate the name of another individual in order to boost traffic to his blog.


Yep, if you haven't already read it elsewhere, you're reading it here. "24 year-old university student" Dave Cournoyer checked last year to see if Alberta premier Ed Stelmach had registered his name as an internet domain name. Discovering that he hadn't, Cournoyer decided to help himself to it.

Cournoyer set the address to forward to his blog.

Shortly before Christmas, Cournoyer recieved a letter from Tyler Shandro, a lawyer representing Stelmach, instructing him to stop using the address to forward traffic to his blog (which reportedly had actually already done a mere week previous to recieving the letter) and surrender ownership of the domain name to Stelmach.

Now, one may think that a "debt-ridden University of Alberta student" would take the letter as an opportunity to avoid doing himself further financial harm. Instead, Cournoyer is basking in all the fickle glory offered by the attention this has gotten him. Just look at him there, to the left, holding that letter and scowling. My oh my, he certainly means business.

"I think this thing is pretty bizarre and pretty ridiculous, but I am taking it seriously," Cournoyer said. "It’s a pretty threatening letter."

It might even be easy to forget that Cournoyer is actually entirely in the wrong. By using Stelmach's name to funnel web traffic to his blog, Cournoyer was, in fact, misappropriating Stelmach's identity in order to garner more attention for himself and his opinions.

Given that Cournoyer's website is so often critical of the "36-year-old Progressive Conservative governement", it's pretty safe to conclude that Cournoyer's views certainly don't represent Stelmach's.

So here the situation lies: Cournoyer, the person who has actually done something wrong, accusing the government of bullying him because Ed Stelmach -- as an individual -- has gone out and hired a lawyer to right the situation. Meanwhile, Cournoyer, as Executive Director of PC Alberta Jim Campbell notes, is trying to provoke a controversy. "As I understand it, the letter provides Mr Cournoyer a number of options to avoid litigation. Those options are still open to him," Campbell said.

Not only has Cournoyer had his opportunity to comply with Stelmach's requests, but he has an opportunity to do it still.

If he doesn't, well, he doesn't stand a snowball's chance in hell of winning this case, having no legal legs to stand on. He may provoke a short-term and minor political controversy that will simmer in the minds of Alberta Liberals and New Democrats, but being an entirely irrelevant figure in Alberta politics (the peak of his career, to date, has been his aforementioned astoundingly ineffectual tenure as U of A SU VP External), it's almost entirely certain he won't get anything concrete -- political or otherwise -- out of the matter.

The Liberal love of politicians who spend their tenure accomplishing absolutely nothing aside, he certainly won't be able to use it to launch a political career -- at least not a successful one.

Cournoyer is marching this dispute over a domain name that he himself misused entirely voluntarily, and when whatever damages a court may decide to assess swell his debt load, he'll have no one to blame but himself, scowling pictures and all.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Stephane Dion on Chalk River: "Uh-Oh! Spagetteos!"

Liberals -- as per usual -- up to their knees in -- you guessed it -- hypocrisy

When Stephane Dion addressed the national media recently demanding the resignation of federal Natural Resources Minister Gary Lunn, he was all fire and motherfuckin' brimstone.

“This government has difficulties to understand when partisanship must stop and what [it] means [to be] an independent administrative tribunal,” Dion announced. He accused the government of "threatening democracy" by recommending that Linda Keen, a Liberal appointee to the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission, be fired.

Naturally, Liberals thought they had hit a home run with this particular scandal, which even precipitated various blogsophere dumbfucks into saying dumbfuckish things.

Then Greg Weston's most recent opinion article went to press, and holy shit! As it turns out, the problems at Chalk River turn out to be yet another Liberal party mess that continually percolated during the entirety of the previous Liberal government, despite very similar warnings (read: identical) directed toward then-Natural Resources Minister Herb Dhaliwal. Despite being given various warnings about the state of the Chalk River reactor and various invitations to meet with Auditor General Sheila Frasier to discuss the matter, Daliwal shrugged it all off, writing, "As your report was quite clear and acceptable to me, I felt no need for us to meet at this time. I was particularly pleased that you saw evidence of strong leadership ... and found that good systems and practices existed in several key areas."

Which, as Weston discovered when he examined the actual memo from Frasier, wasn't what it said at all. In fact, the memo said (among other things):

"-Health and safety hazards were "likely to become significant in time."

-A "reduction of environmental risk is necessary to reduce the significant probability of increased environmental contamination."

-"Regulatory, safety review committee or executive concern has been expressed about AECL inactivity, and there is a risk of a public outcry.

Worse yet, Frasier added, "Some members of the (expert) panel concluded that the risks to ... health, safety and the environment were substantially more severe than these descriptions indicate."

Holy shit!

Naturally, there's only one place these revelations can lead to: yet another Liberal flip-flop on the entire Chalk River matter. One remembers that first it was a travesty, according to the Liberals, that the Chalk River reactor was being shut down, leading to this press release. Then the Conservatives ordered Chalk River to be started up again, and it was still a travesty.

Of course, Dion is right about one thing: Gary Lunn should be fired (or resign), just as Herb Dhaliwal should have been fired (or resigned) before him. Nuclear Safety is no laughing matter, even if the most partisan Liberals are absolutely creaming their pants at the prospect of a nuclear disaster they can blame the Conservatives for.

All the same, the stage for Lunn's incredibly incompetent and irresponsible mismanagement of the Chalk River fiasco was set by the Liberal party and its 13 years of deliberate inaction in regards to the matter.

But the possible firing of Linda Keen isn't the reason why Lunn should resign. Keen was appointed in 2001, and somehow six years managed to pass, under Liberal party inaction, until she could finally be bothered to step in and deal with the Chalk River situation.

She should have done that bright and early in 2001. For her (quite possibly politically-motivated) inaction, she too has earned a pink slip. She simply didn't do the job she was paid to do.

She, and the Liberal party, are no less responsible for Chalk River than the Conservatives. Actually, they're a good deal more responsible for it.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Why Stephane Dion Really Needs an Election in 2008

Submitted for your approval...

This is the world as you "know" it: the Canadian Liberal party shares its most natural affinity with the American Democratic party, while the Canadian Conservative party is more closely acquainted with the Republican party.

Now, imagine a world wherein a Conservative government in Canada and a Democrat government in the United States could get along.

Don't be so quick to assume you've stepped into the Twilight Zone. This very plausible scenario may well partially be behind all the rush by the opposition parties to attempt to force a 2008 election.

A recent poll, conducted by the Canadian Press and Harris Decima, has concluded that most Canadians will support virtually any Democrat who contests the presidency in November 2008. It doesn't even matter much if Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama get the Democratic nod. If Canadians were allowed to vote in the presidential election, they could count on a significant bounce at the ballot booth.

Of course, Canadians can't vote in the American election.

Canadians polled preferred Democrats to Republicans at a ratio of 4 to 1. 49% of Canaidans described themselves as fond of Democrats, compared to a mere 12% for Republicans.

Part of these results can certainly be attributed to the sometimes-exagerated but not-entirely-unjustified perception of George Dubya Bush as an international bogeyman. When you're probably the most unpopular man on the planet, it wil certainly in time rub off on those you associate with.

And therein lies the dilemma for Stephane Dion, Jack Layton and Gilles Duceppe. So long as they can find something -- anything -- to equate Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Bush as closely as possible, they risk losing a massive messaging advantage over the Conservatives -- one that may well account for the Tories' inability to make way into majority government territory.

As such, there is one thing that these three men need -- an election, and pronto. A rhetorical disaster could emerge should Stephen Harper be seen by the public at large having a constructive relationship with a Democrat President.

That would certainly represent eight years of hard rhetorical slogging swirling right down the political drain.

Of course, should they lose a 2008 election (that, let's remind ourselves, is far from guaranteed to occur) this is a scenario that could come true regardless. With Stephane Dion himself languishing in the polls right along with the Conservatives -- in a statistical tie -- Dion needs to find a winning issue with which to defeat the government.

He may have a few at his disposal. Afghanistan, climate change and nuclear safety could turn out to be quite good choices to frame the next election around. Then again, considering the Liberal party's commencement and continual support of the Afghanistan mission, failure on global warming, and astounding flip-flops on the nuclear safety issue, none of these should be considered safe choices.

The Liberals will have their work cut out for them. But the opposition will only have to work that much harder should the Conservative government survive beyond November 2008.

It'll be harder for them to reinvent the world as we "know" it should they fail to prevent its unravelling.

Monday, January 07, 2008

DeSmog Blog Shows Its True Colours

DeSmog cannibalizes its contemporaries, gets indigestion

If there's anything climate alarmists have embraced as their top tool of intimidation, it's the awarding of "prizes" to prominent people who either disagree with them or don't quietly go along with their political agenda.

The DeSmog blog's SmogMaker awards have turned out to be a prime example.

Who won? Well, predictably, the Canadian government won in the governmental category for "environmental hypocrisy". The award organizers showed the restraint of criticizing the government's inaction as an institution, as opposed to slinging partisan mud, noting the failings of both the sitting Conservative government and the preceding Liberal government.

They should be applauded for that.

Toyota was named Industry's worst polluter. Again, this may be a fair assertion.

However, once one gets past these two justifiable awards, one gets a real idea of how the publishers of the DeSmog Blog think, and unfortunately, it isn't a very pretty picture.

In the media category, Rupert Murdoch was "honoured". Despite noting that Murdoch has recently expressed concern about climate change, DeSmog gave him the media award apparently for failing to fire Brit Hume and Steve Milloy, who runs the news aggregator.

Apparently, failing to correspond to the DeSmog publishers' belief that anyone who disagrees with them should be fired earned this particular award.

Two of the awards, however, demonstrate nothing less than the proclivity for some people who would probably describe themselves as progressives to cannibalize their own, and in the end prove themselves to be a good deal less than progressive.

In the "non-profit" category (quotation marks as original), the Copenhagen Consensus and its organizer, Bjorn Lomborg, were awarded for disagreeing with climate alarmists about whether or not Kyoto represented the best choice for spending money to help people. In fact, the Copenhagen Consensus ranked Kyoto as the worst choice, and spending money on fighting AIDs as the best choice.

They reached these conclusions via a cost-benefit analysis. Their conclusions have consistently been very damaging to the Kyoto protocol, so naturally DeSmog's publishers have been very annoyed -- to say the least.

Perhaps where the DeSmog publishers overreached the most, however, is in naming Barack Obama the SmogMaker of 2007.

This was the category where, quite frankly, the said publishers simply demonstrated that they aren't the smartest people, when they castigated him for treating climate change as a political issue. "Global warming is an environmental problem, not a political one. And people who try to ‘solve’ it with political or public relations spin are just making the problem worse,” said James Hoggan, DeSmogBlog co-founder.

This despite the fact that the DeSmog blog has been linked to David Suzuki who, despite the entirely benign intent of his lobbying, has very much treated climate change as a political issue (and rightfully so -- because regardless of whether or not one buys into the panic, it is a political issue). Also, despite the fact that the DeSmog blog is a prime supporter of the Kyoto protocol -- a political "solution" to an environmental problem.

They also hammered Obama for his support of the coal industry, despite the fact that coal can be used to produce the clean-burning fuels that climate alarmists should favour, even if they lack the mental acuity to recognize it. Obama is a strong supporter of developing such technologies.

Yet going after legitimate progressive and golden boy of the hour, the illegitimate progressives at the DeSmog blog must have found the resulting backlash simply too much to handle, as they fucked off, kissed ass, and apologized.

They made the claim that they were attempting to highlight the lack of attention given to climate change during the ongoing presidential campaign. Yet it seems much more likely that they were attempting to give a boost to the most likely alternative to Obama, Hillary Clinton, with whom DeSmog's golden boy, Al Gore, would most certainly hold the most sway.

The SmogMaker awards has rendered the DeSmog blug utterly transparent: no debate regarding climate change can be tolerated, even amongst those who agree on the science, and political preferences always trump the facts.

That isn't how real progressives would conduct themselves. To real progressives, debate is always welcome. To real progressives, the facts matter. To stifle debate or disregard the facts for political gain is actually regressive in nature.

The DeSmog blog's desperate need to stifle debate and disregard fact seems only to demonstrate that they feel whatever scientific advantage they felt they hold in the climate change debate -- and like it or not, children, there is and will be debate on the matter -- is slipping away.

The DeSmog blog's true colours may well be green, but it's a much darker shade of green than they would otherwise like to think.

Peter Popoff Scares the Living Shit Out of Me

Just look what he's peddling now

This may or may not be old news. All the same, Peter Popoff scares the living shit out of me.

Sunday, January 06, 2008

God Love Him, But He Doesn't Stand a Chance

Perhaps in a perfect world Christopher Walken could be president

Christopher Walken is running for President of the United States of America.

We shit you not.

Christopher Walken, star of stage and screen, "has realized that the state of his country is in dismay, and the politicians in charge care less for the citizens they serve and more about fattening their resumes and campaign chests. Having residences both in rural Connecticut and upper-west Manhattan, he sees that all walks of life are becoming disgruntled and apathetic towards the American government, and feels a duty, as a child of the American public, to restore the peace, prosperity, and greatness of the United States."

God love him, the man is a fantastic actor, perhaps one of the best ever. But he doesn't have a snowball's chance in hell of being elected President, although one can't blame him for trying.

There are numerous reasons for this. First off, considering that Walken hasn't declared any party affiliation yet, one assumes that he's planning to run as an independent. Unfortuantely, independents just aren't viewed as credible presidential alternatives, especially not in the hyper-partisan politican environment of today's United States.

Running as an independent candidate will also place Walken at a massive financial disadvantage, with no sophisticated party fund-raising machinery to raise the billions of dollars necessary to wage a successful presidential campaign.

Secondly, while other candidates who will have this advantage are battling it out for a nomination in the high-profile primary races, Walken has yet to even fully define what is platform would be. As it stands right now, Walken seems to want to campaign on the military, campaign finance reform, and stem cell research. (He supports all three.)

It isn't as if politics is entirely alien to Walken. And truth be told, he wouldn't make a terrible president -- certainly not so much as the president the United States has right now.

There's something to be said for someone who could scare the living shit out of Osama bin Laden just by talking and, at 65 years of age, could tap dance a storm around the Oval Office. Someone who, after enduring years of mockery on SNL, possesses the sense of humour necessary to put up with anything The Daily Show or Colbert Report could send his way. Someone who could make Bill Maher shit his pants on command.

He would certainly be the coolest president in recent history.

Then again, being cool isn't what the United States presidency is about. Christopher Walken can't win the presidency. Still, one can't fault him for trying.

Saturday, January 05, 2008

Star Reader Misses Point of Letter

Star readers asleep in Michael Byers' dreamland

Michael Byers' recent opinion article in the Toronto Star has managed to send a few ripples across Canada's political discourse.

Following the letter, Foreign Affairs minister Maxime Bernier naturally found it necessary to respond. In a 3 January letter to the editor, he wrote:

"This article by Michael Byers is so one-sided and lacking in objectivity that I feel compelled to respond. Let me first dismiss his claims about the recent Bali conference on climate change. Canada played a constructive role in Bali that resulted in an agreement that recognizes that all major emitters, like China, India and the U.S., all need to be on-board to reduce emissions.

It's also interesting that Byers quotes Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd. In Bali, Canada and Australia held the same position and agreed on the final language that was adopted.

I also found Byers' claim that our government has "picked unnecessary quarrels" with China, Russia and Iran to be particularly risible. Our government is guided by Canada's key foreign-policy values of freedom, democracy, human rights and the rule of law. I don't understand why our insistence on standing up for these values seems to make Byers so upset.

Finally, that he would see something sinister in the U.S. ambassador to Canada accompanying Defence Minister Peter MacKay to view American contributions to the UN-authorized, NATO-led mission in Afghanistan verges on the paranoid. Under the previous Liberal government, Canada's global influence declined while it diverted energy away from the important work of diplomacy and toward soft-power fantasies.
Bernier's letter is quick, concise, and covers the key points.

Yet it seems that, unsurprisingly, a few Star readers are willing -- seemingly even eager -- to swallow Byers' tripe. Such was the point of Tom McElroy's 5 January letter to the editor:

"I was amused by Foreign Affairs Minister Maxime Bernier's response to the opinion piece by Michael Byers. It is rather representative of the current government's use of rhetoric in place of logic in responding to the needs of the country. First, Bernier opens by accusing the writer of being "one-sided and lacking objectivity." This accomplishes two things in the propaganda battle. It suggests that the writer (Bernier) has the moral high ground in objectivity. It also suggests that Byers is in some way a flawed person. In fact, an opinion piece is not expected to be objective; it is supposed to express a viewpoint and promote the discussion of other options.

With respect to the Bali meeting, the comment about having an agreement with all nations on-board is one of the government's slickest pieces of rhetorical fallacy. Yes, we need everyone on-board in an agreement. But emerging nations cannot be compelled to agree to something they don't like. There must be an international agreement that everyone is prepared to live with (read compromise) and that provides a level playing field for international trade and development.

Bernier (re-)states the apparently reasonable view that "all need to be on-board" and leads the public to think that they are trying hard when, by demanding across-the-board, immediate cuts from nations with emerging economies, they are, in fact, undermining the concrete steps needed to be taken. This is a position that is immoral, unreasonable and impossible – in short, they are still rejecting the reality of climate change in favour of the economic development of the oil patch in Canada.

Canada seems to have become very flexible on where it is upholding moral principles these days. The minister is being deliberately obtuse in responding to Byers' claim that the government provoked negative reactions from China and others. Some details here are necessary to define exactly what the minister means before any credence can be granted to his statement. Finally, Bernier would do well to remember that Canadian soft power earned Lester Pearson a Nobel Prize.
First off, it's interesting that someone would accuse the government of "using rhetoric in place of logic" in defense of an article that is so wrought with factual errors, half-truths and rhetorical dead ends. And while McElroy may actually be entirely right in asserting that objectivity isn't expected of opinion articles -- the exact opposite, in fact -- McElroy declines to address why Byers' piece can't even maintain rhetorical coherence.

He then indulges himself in accusing the government of using Byers' piece as an opportunity to engage in a "propaganda war" despite the fact that Byers' article fits so neatly into Noam Chomsky's propaganda model, vis a vis historical engineering.

McElroy then actually resorts to making the government's argument for it -- that we need climate change agreements on which all countries can agree before dismissing the need for developing countries to also commit to fighting climate change as "immoral". Perhaps mr McElroy is entirely comfortable with manufacturing jobs migrating from developed countries to developing countries pumping the atmosphere full of the very same greenhouse gases the Kyoto protocol addresses, only in different countries, and to no net effect overall.

Then again, we aren't supposed to ask serious questions about Kyoto.

To top it off, McElroy insists that Bernier should conjure some details before dismissing Byers' complaints over the "negative reactions" "provoked" "from China and others". Yet Byers' article skimps on details in the first place, and with reasons that eventually became obvious -- his arguments collapsed under their own rhetorical weight once details -- or any facts whatsoever -- were added to the equation.

If Bernier's objections should be granted little credence, than it should be doubly so for Byers.

Last but not least, one would remind McElroy that the purpose of Canadian foreign policy is to represent and support Canadian interests abroad; it's not to win Nobel prizes for Prime Ministers, or make Canada seem "cool".

Sense of Humour Not Included

In her quest to find something to bash her political opponents for, the Canadian blogosphere's mentally unbalanced (to a spectacular degree) Kate Blanchett wannabe apparently can find nothing better than this.

Maybe it explains why she's constantly vaguely threatening to kick people with really pointy shoes. Of course, it all goes downhill from there:

Canada Four-peats at World Junior Hockey Championships

Let the drive for five begin

It took a little bit of extra work, but Canada defeated Sweden 3-2 in Overtime to claim its fourth consecutive World Junior Hockey Championship.

Congratulations, gentlemen. The country is truly proud of you -- again.

Friday, January 04, 2008

Iran/Afghanistan Border Needs Extra Attention

Border security remains a serious issue

As concern over whether or not Iran is supplying Afghan insurgents continues to accumulate, Canadian military officials are once again stressing that, while they have their suspicions, there is little solid evidence to support it.

"There were parts [of Improvised Explosive Devices] coming from Iran, there was parts also coming from other countries" says Brigadier-General Guy Laroche. "I cannot say from what I see on the ground that Iran is behind that."

Yet, NATO command staff do know that weapons and ammunition have crossed into Afghanistan from Iran. And while NATO commander General Dan McNeil has noted the lack of conclusive evidence, he has also expressed doubt -- very reasonably -- about whether or not the Iranian government can reasonably claim ignorance on the matter.

In short, what is at stake in this particular matter -- at the very least -- is actually border security.

"The border between Iran and Afghanistan is relatively porous and we have noticed that weaponry and ammunition does come across that border," says Antony McCord, a NATO spokesperson.

NATO countries must pressure Iran to properly secure its border with Afghanistan. If Iran declines to do so, it will certainly be up to NATO forces to secure that border -- at least on the Afghan side.

As for the suspicions being cast on the Iranian government, it would be easy to allow the matter to devolve into a rhetorical matter.

It would be easy to, like Iran's consul in Khandahar, dismiss these concerns as "American propaganda being repeated by Canada". In fact, some people have.

Yet the aforementioned Iranian consul in Khandahar claims that the presence of NATO troops in Afghanistan destabilizes the country (despite the fact that Afghanistan is currently no less stable than it ever has been -- perhaps even more so), and pose a threat to Iranian national security. Clearly, he feels it would be in Iran's best interest if NATO troops were driven out.

Furthermore, at least one Khandahar warlord admits to meeting Iranian emissaries who encouraged him to start a jihad against NATO troops.

Cutting off the supply of arms to Afghan insurgents will prove to be a key to victory in Afghanistan. Addressing the influx of weapons and IED components from Iran will be crucial in stemming the tide, as will be stemming the tide of arms and support from Pakistan.