Monday, June 30, 2008

Prime Minister Obama, Anyone?

Why not? It's hard to dislike the guy

If Barack Obama doesn't quite manage to defeat John McCain in a presidential campaign that could easily go either way, he should at least be comforted to know his advancement opportunities won't quite stall on him.

In a recent poll, the Strategic Counsel found that not only is Obama more admired in Canada than his presidential opponent, but he vastly out-scored all of Canada's own leaders, as well.

Claiming the number one spot with 26% support was Obama. Stephen Harper was within striking distance with 21%, and well ahead of John McCain's notably anemic (to put it lightly) 3%.

In fact, McCain ranked last. He was even doubled up by the implicitly unlikable Gilles Duceppe.

This, of course, is the least of McCain's polling troubles. In the early going of the 2008 presidential contest, McCain is trailing Obama in the vast majority of public opinion polls, in some cases by double digits.

Of course, a lot can happen between now and November, and the American Electoral College far from guarantees that mere popularity will determine the President.

In another interesting tidbit from the poll, Stephane Dion managed a mere 5% support.

But to treat this as an indictment of Dion's leadership would be to misread the poll. There is undoubtedly significant cross-border partisan support for both Obama and Dion: and the poll fails to account for the number of Obama supporters who also support Dion, just as it fails to account for the number of Harper supporters who also support McCain.

At least in terms of a Conservative/Republican and Liberal/Democrat divide, the poll very much could be read as a near dead heat between the two cabals, with the Liberals/Democrats nursing a seven point lead (but only if one transplants all of Obama's supporters into the Liberal margin -- an unlikely event considering the number of NDP and Bloc supporters who would undoubtedly support Obama as well).

And if one pays close enough attention to Obama -- in particular words -- he does hold a notable resemblance to certain political leaders Canadians have witnessed before -- although, ironically, some of these particular leaders weren't particularly popular.

Notably, Obama mixes the political monism of Preston Manning with the idealism of Pierre Trudeau, with the passionate commitment to social justice of John Diefenbaker, and more charisma in his pinky finger than these three men combined enjoyed in their entire bodies.

That would be a tough combination to beat on either side of the 49th parallel.

Naturally, the very idea of Prime Minister Obama is simply too much to ever fully imagine -- but it is fun to ponder.

No More Vietnams -- Certainly Not in Canada

Matt Bin reminds Canadians of the importance of taking care of our own

Sometimes, even the most vapid, empty and hateful little toilets on the internet can gurgle up some worthwhile ideas.

And while no one with a lick of sense actually expects the regular contributors to the Canadian Cynic Temple of Sychopantic Groupthink to ever produce anything of actual value, special guest contributer Matt Bin (who would actually do well for himself to maintain his own blog rather than choosing to associate himself with a known hatemonger) reminds us of the all too easily forgotten side of the war in Afghanistan: taking care of our troops when they get home.

"A new report shows that Canada is not taking care of its wounded soldiers and their families. Oddly, this isn't mentioned anywhere in the gushing praise for the outgoing Rick Hillier -- a Liberal-appointed CDS who became the poster boy for the war on Afghanistan.

I've been saying since the start of our work in Afghanistan that the price of this war isn't tallied today, but starting ten years from now and carrying on to the end of this generation. We've sent thousands of Canadians into an intense war zone -- many of them reservists -- and we must bear the cost of dealing with the consequences of our little national adventure as great and as long-term as those costs might be.

Indeed, the recent report is extremely disheartening. The men and women who choose to enlist so they may defend their country abroad are all too often finding the covenant made with them -- by extension -- that they be taken care of if they come back physically or psychologically wounded from service.

But unfortunately, this is really nothing new. Throughout Canadian history there have been numerous shameful examples of the violation of this solemn obligation to our serving men and women.

From Romeo Dallaire's battle to make Post Traumatic Stress Disorder an honourably-regarded ailment to the plight of servicepersons exposed to Agent Orange at CFB Gagetown to the still-sluggish response to Gulf War syndrome, Canada simply hasn't done the best job it can of taking care of our servicepeople when they return from duty.

In particular, the scourge of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder has taken an untold toll on our veterans since it wasn't recognized as a psychological disorder until 1980. Numerous terms for a similar mental afflictions -- such as shellshock -- had been bandied about for decades before hand, but all too often were regarded as base mental frailty, not as the after-result of participating in the extremely stressful rigours of armed combat.

It's a shameful non-partisan legacy that needs to be halted immediately.

Unfortunately, Bin seems to miss the point that this very much is a non-partisan legacy of failure, as he seems to go out of his way to tether it as closely as possible to Canada's sitting government (overlooking the fact that their primary competition has governed Canada for nearly 20 of the past 30 years).

"If we don't actively and cheerfully bear those costs, if we don't care for the mental, physical, and emotional well-being of the wounded and their families for as long and as far as they need us, then we have failed as a nation. The "support the troops" brand of politicization, crude and inane as it might be, requires those who subscribe to it -- most notably our current government -- to actually put in place the infrastructure and mechanisms by which these troops are actually supported."

Unfortunately, Bin -- oddly enough for someone who himself is a veteran in the armed forces -- doesn't seem to understand that supporting the troops also requires supporting their right to believe in the missions they undertake, if they so choose -- and Canadian troops have overwhelmingly pledged their support to the mission itself.

But the simple fact of the matter is thus: the shocking and alarming lack of support for Canadian servicepeople after they return home from the battle front -- one with a long historical precedent -- demonstrates that some of those who admonish Canadians to support the troops don't quite get the concept either.

Of course, some improvements have been made:

"The military is doing better than it was, say, 15 years ago, when there was no individual counselling for returning peacekeepers and no treatment available for PTSD. But without the political commitment -- which in this case means money and effort -- to maintain the standard of living for wounded soldiers and their families at least at the average for other soldiers and veterans, our government has failed those soldiers. It won't be long, at this rate, before the Afghanistan mission's image is an aging panhandler -- similar to the image of Vietnam veterans in the USA today."

Which is war Matt Bin hits the proverbial nail on the head. If there is any conflict in history that reminds Canadians precisely why taking care of our wounded is so critically important, it very much is the conflict to which opponents of the Afghan war so often draw comparison: Vietnam.

We as a country simply cannot survive with our identity intact if we allow the condition of our soldiers returning from Afghanistan to devolve as the Americans allowed to happen to their Vietnam veterans.

Bin is precisely right when he notes that the true cost of the war in Afghanistan will be tallied within the next generation: or at least will be, if Canadians don't ensure that some preventative measures -- ample disability pay, generous pensions and diligent medical care (for both physical and psychological ailments) are not put in place.

We as Canadians cannot allow that to happen. We owe it to our serving men and women, and it's non-negotiable.

Unfortunately, the very larger and more important issue here doesn't prevent Bin from attempting to unduly politicize a prior friendly-fire incident:

"Our current government has already failed once -- an abject, tragic, and shameful failure -- to support our soldiers deployed around the world. Afghanistan is poised to become a much larger failure, whose consequences will be borne throughout Canadian society for many years to come."

But other than the occasional hiccup, Bin's post reminds us of the importance of taking care of our own: they pledge their lives and well-being to the defense of our country.

The least we can do is ensure they'll be well taken care of. Considering the risks that our serving men and women agree to take upon themselves, Canadians of all walks of life should be more than happy to cut that particular cheque -- even knowing that no amount of money, no amount of medical treatment, and no amount of support can ever give them back the lives they had before going into combat.

It's the absolute least we can do.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

CHRC to CIC: Put a Sock In It

Human Rights Commission refuses to hear Steyn complaint

One of the many ongoing controversies swirling around the Canadian Human Rights Commission drew nearer to a close yesterday, as it dismissed the complaint raised by the Canadian Islamic Congress against Maclean's magazine.

The complaint stemmed from Maclean's publishing of "The Future Belongs to Islam", an excerpt from Steyn's (actually counter-factually titled) America Alone which insists that Muslims are a direct threat to the Western world due to higher birthrates and antithetical values.

The Commission did take some of the objectionable nature of the article into account when rendering their decision.

"The writing is polemical, colourful and emphatic, and was obviously calculated to excite discussion and even offend certain readers, Muslim and non-Muslim alike," wrote Commission secretary Lucie Veillette. "Overall, however, the views expressed in the Steyn article, when considered as a whole and in context, are not of an extreme nature as defined by the Supreme Court."

Naturally, the CIC has its own opinion regarding the decision.

"We are disappointed that the Tribunal made this decision without hearing the compelling evidence of hate and the expert testimony we recently presented to the British Columbia Human Rights Tribunal," CIC lawyer Faisal Joseph said in a news release. "The Commission’s decision contradicts the findings of its own Investigator’s report which states that this Article contains hallmarks of hate identified by the Commission in its earlier case law."

While Steyn's article is, indeed full of some rather alarming generalizations, the CHRC's decision should serve as a reminder to the most litigious amongst Canada's Islamic community that, when confronted by sensationalist commentaries that do, unfortuantely, contain kernels of truth (no matter how small or potentially distorted), the onus remains on them to rebut it -- not on human rights law to insist that some unpleasant kernels of truth about Islam may never even be spoken.

Of course, Steyn and various individuals like him have their own fair share of questions to answer about Islam and their treatment of it.

For example, one wonders what they would have to say about Muslims Against Sharia, a blog run by moderate Muslims -- the very moderate Muslims that many of those who subscribe to Steyn's teachings insist don't exist -- that has actually supported them in the past.

But so long as Islam, and its impact upon Canada, remain controversial the debate will very much remain necessary. The CHRC's decision in this case is a welcome one, although the triumph is far from complete: this case is still being considered against Macleans in the British Columbia Human Rights Commission.

Hopefully, the BCHRC will make the right decision as well.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Canadian Cynic and Lulu's Hysterical Hypocrisy for Today

Previously on Hypocritical Groupthinkers Gone Wild: "It's classless to comment on the marriage of a political opponent."

This week: "Unless it's us doing it. Then, it's all hunky dory.

As a side note:

Congratulations to Kathy Shaidle on her marriage. Hopefully, her typically (and incredibly) classless detractors won't spoil it for her.

Pentagon Report Changes Little

Pentagon report doesn't undermine importance of Afghanistan mission

As surely as dark clouds inevitably bring rain, a recent report out of the Pentagon concerning the war in Afghanistan will bring triumphant cries from opponents of the mission.

"We are losing," the critics will insist. "We need to get out now."

And as disheartening as the Pentagon report on the war effort seems -- portraying the Taliban (and their various allies) as having developed into a "resilient insurgency" -- it ultimately changes very little. It does not one thing to make the war in Afghanistan any less important than it already is.

Preventing the Taliban from returning to power in Afghanistan, opposing their oppressive rule over the Afghan people and providing safe havens for terrorists will remain key to not only Canada's national security, but global security in general. As much as many of the critics of the Afghan war would like the government to admit defeat and withdraw, it's simply something that Canadians cannot afford.

And while, operating out of safe havens in Pakistan, the Taliban has undeniably grown in strength recently, strategically, the outlook of the conflict on the ground has actually changed fairly little.

"The Taliban will challenge the control of the Afghan government in rural areas, especially in the south and east. The Taliban will also probably attempt to increase its presence in the west and north," the report says.

Which, for those who have paid close attention to the Afghanistan conflict, is almost precisely the situation from day one in Afghanistan. In the end, very little has changed.

One thing that has changed, ever so slowly, is the commitment of Pakistan to securing its own territory. Today, Pakistani forces attacked suspected Taliban strongholds in the Peshwar region, saving Afghan president Hammad Karzai the trouble of having to send his own forces into the region -- a prospect that seems to be becoming more and more inevitable (in one form or another) as the war progresses.

As has been suggested by some other commentators, perhaps the time for the international community -- perhaps the Commonwealth -- to take some interest in the deteriorating conditions in south-western Pakistan has finally arrived.

One way or the other, it's clearly time to start addressing some of these concerns on the ground in Afghanistan.

Critics of the war may insist we're losing to their heart's content. But the simple fact of the matter is that we haven't lost yet, and while there remain significant challenges on the ground, we must maintain faith that our Canadian forces and our NATO allies (at least those actually engaged in Afghanistan) are up to the task.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

If At First You Don't Succeed

Try, try again -- unless you're Kevin Taft

It's probably unlikely that Alberta Liberal leader Kevin Taft is a Nexus reader.

But if he were, he'd find some of the best political advice he's ever recieved here: quit as leader of the Alberta Liberals.

It shouldn't be all that hard to understand: during two elections serving as leader of the Alberta Liberals, Kevin Taft has yet to achieve that big knockout blow to the provincial Tories that he's clearly been yearning to deliver.

In lieu of this, Taft has resorted to some rather typical sour grapes politics: "if you can't beat 'em, write mean things about 'em".

In fact, during his tenure as leader of the Albertan Grits, Taft has demonstrated himself to be so inept as a political leader that he can't even peddle fluff effectively. His recent suggestion that rodeo be made Alberta's official sport elicited nothing more than a disinterested yawn from Albertans, who judged the very suggestion to be disingenuous.

It's time for new leadership in the Alberta Liberal party. If the Liberals ever do manage to defeat the Stelmach Tories -- or the Tories under their next leader -- it certainly won't be with Taft at the helm.

It certainly isn't fair to pretend that Kevin Taft has nothing to offer Albertan politics. In fact, quite the contrary. His most recent book, Democracy Derailed, while often awash in the aforementioned sour-grapes politics that has become his personal trademark, proposes various important systematic reforms for the Albertan government, including legislative protection for whistle blowers and non-partisan methods of making key government appointments, including that of the Auditor General.

But Taft himself is simply in no position to put any of these reforms in place. A leadership review, at the very least, is clearly in order for the Alberta Liberals. But unfortunately, they have another problem:

A near complete lack of credible alternatives.

In fact, of all the individuals who could, potentially, at least save the party from complete irrelevance, only one -- Calgary mayor and often-suggested Liberal leadership contender Dave Bronconnier -- comes to mind. And he certainly won't leave his comfy perch in Calgary's mayor's office until he can be certain he can win.

But the fact of the matter is the Alberta Liberals are in desperate need of a nearly complete overhaul from the top down. Even a merger with the provincial NDP -- a hot topic lately in Albertan politics -- could provide such an overhaul, and in time prove to be nothing short of revolutionary.

But Taft's best place in Albertan politics will likely remain where it has always been: working behind the scenes, generating ideas that could potentially transform Alberta's government, making it as transparent and accountable as any government needs to be.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Waving Goodbye to a Golden Opportunity

Cross-border partisanship hampering our relations with our biggest trading partner, defense ally

It's entirely possible that when John McCain visited Ottawa this past Friday, it may have been merely a preliminary visit to his first visit as President of the United States of America.

So when McCain came north of the 49th parallel to address free trade, one would have thought it would be an excellent opportunity for Prime Minister Stephen Harper to, at the very least, meet with a presidential candidate to discuss matters important to Canada.

But apparently not, as Harper and other members of the sitting Conservative government seem to have deliberately made themselves unavailable.

Of course, there are other matters at stake other than simply an opportunity to touch base with a possible president. Opponents of McCain -- who so often tend to be opponents of Harper's as well -- have been bending over backwards to portray McCain as "George Bush the third". For Harper, whom these individuals do everything they can to associate with George W Bush as closely as possible, meeting with McCain -- who is recieving the very same treatment -- could be handing them too much ammunition for his liking.

Which would be fair enough, if reminding a potential American president of the importance of the Canada/US relationship and discussing relevant policy wasn't as important as it is.

Even a desire not to appear as if Harper were getting too involved in cross-border partisan politics could have been mitigated by extending an invitation to Democratic nominee Barack Obama to come meet with Harper as well, and to discuss the very same crucial issues -- ranging from free trade to defense policy to border security.

This represents yet another golden opportunity that Harper and company have effecitvely discarded through simple lack of foresight: an opportunity to start building some bridges between Canadian Conservatives and American Democrats, and start to break down the walls of petty cross-border partisanship.

If Liberals are allowed to flaunt their close ties with Democrats --- as they certainly did when Howard Dean addressed their leadership convention -- then certainly they cannot fault Harper for deciding to form a few of his own.

It's more than a little unfortunate even as the Conservatives have waved good-bye to this golden opportunity that the Liberals, currently Canada's alternative government -- seem all too determined to do likewise. According to the National Post, a Liberal party aide dismissed the McCain speech as a "a neo-con jamboree," suggesting that there are clearly some ideological limits on how a Liberal party government would choose to associate with a prospective President McCain.

It's rather unfortunate how deeply this cross-border partisanship has crept into our politics: so much so that our government seems terrified to be so much as seen with the individual who may well become President of our biggest trading partner and most important defense ally come November, and that our opposition parties scoff at the very idea.

Sad indeed.

Smell That? It's the Sweet Smell of Defeat

Savour it deeply

As is so often the case with the terminally intellectually-cowardly Martin Rayner, one supposes that his most recent post -- a rebuttal to a previous post here -- will just need to be tucked away in the "truth hurts" files.

At the end of the day, regardless of whatever excuses he may offer, Mr Rayner settled for controversy mongering on a day when a discussion about how and why Canada's aboriginals continue to live in horrific poverty should have been welcome to anyone.

But it really just goes to reinforce the known truth of Mr Rayner's character: he prefers empty words, particularly at a time when ideas -- the very things he is so terrified of -- are what really matter.

So he can continue his ineffectual attempts at muck-raking and ridicule. Martin Rayner has had countless chances to step up to the plate and live up to his self-proclaimed billing.

Instead, he waved the white flag -- something those that are on to him are unlikely to ever forget, even if the group-thinking weasels he surrounds himself with will bend over backwards to pretend differently.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

You Knew That It Was Bound to Happen...

Marty Rayner cries "no mas"!

When addressing Martin Rayner (aka the fallaciously-pseudonymed "Red Tory"), one has always had to appreciate his unique talent for living in a fantasy world.

He imagines himself to be an "intemperate" -- yet jumps on the back of every inflated pseudo-controversy he can find. He pretends to be an "original thinker" -- yet echoes the hateful bile offered by his lord and master at the Canadian Cynic Temple of Sychophantic Groupthink. He pretends to be an intellectual -- then stalwartly refuses to ever debate a real issue.

Writing from a personal note, I recieved a rather unique birthday present today -- a tacit admission from Martin Rayner that he simply isn't up to the task of actually debating an issue:

"So let me get this straight. You write long, pretentious articles and post them on a shitty, broke-ass little blog that precious few people read and nobody comments on, then you skitter over here and start name-calling.

I think you should seek some counseling. Or better yet, get a life? a girl/boyfriend, or whatever. Guess there's not much shakin' out there in Saskatchewan, huh?

Go pester someone who gives a shit.

p.s. You're banned. I don't have time for your bullshit.

Apparently, debating real issues is "bullshit". So what if thousands upon thousands of aboriginal Canadians continue to live in desperate, griding poverty on reserves despite the billions of dollars the federal government spends per annum to try and alleviate it?

Better to call Pierre Poilievre a douchebag for even daring bring up the idea that maybe, just maybe, money isn't enough to solve that problem.

And if someone dares challenge you to discuss the real issue -- the poverty, and the people living in it -- well, fuck that. Fuck them. Better to turn your back on those thousands of people living in poverty than to ever dirty your hands ever talking about how to solve that problem.

Instead, Rayner tramples the very principles he claims to stand for, and does so while other people suffer under the blight of an issue that he insists we dare not even talk about.

It's really almost a shame. But if Martin Rayner wants to live as a chariacture of his own personal fantasies, no one's ever going to stop him from doing that.

What more do you expect of a guy who deleted the previous incarnation of his blog lock, stock and barrel?

You certainly don't expect a discussion of facts. We're reminded that this is an individual who thinks that facts are below him, and dispenses with them whenever at all possible.

Take, for example, the old topic of the Nexus' readership. Marty insists that nobody reads the Nexus. Yet the facts state otherwise.

That's an awful lot of "nobodies". But then again, who needs facts when you have ideology?

Who needs to actually adhere to the principles of the noble tradition of red toryism when you can simply trample it to death while insisting that you don't need to behave like a red tory if you can only claim you embody that tradition?

It's hard to feel bad about being banned from the website of an individual who has built up his blog and his reputation off hatemongering, intellectual dishonesty, intellectual laziness, and outright philosophical fraud.

If Marty thinks that banning me from his halsoscan will change anything he's dead wrong.

At the Nexus, I'll always be here. And I'll never stop pointing out every fallacy and dishonesty offered by Martin Rayner. If he wants to indulge his fantasies within the comfort of the Martin Rayner/Canadian Cynic echo chamber of politically-motivated hatred, he's certainly free to do that.

It's more than merely a personal hobby -- it's a public service.

Human 2.0 Presents an Incredible Dilemma For Arms Control

The Incredible Hulk is a hyperbole for a problem policy makers will be facing sooner than we realize

Right now, on movie screens across the world, a mighty green behemoth is smashing his way into the public consciousness.

The Incredible Hulk, Marvel films' attempt at a gimme on 2003's previous and widely-unpopular Hulk film (titled simply Hulk), stars Edward Norton as Bruce Banner, an idealistic young scientist who, in the course of testing his scientific work on himself, transforms himself into a massive, beastial creature whenever his heart rate gets too fast.

With his ex-girlfriend Betty Ross (played by an implacably dull Liv Tyler) in tow, Banner embarks on a quest to excise the Hulk from himself before General Thaddeus "Thunderbolt" Ross (played by William Hurt, who was clearly phoning this performance in) gets his hands on it and tries to weaponize it.

Banner's worst nightmare eventually comes true when Ross imbues career soldier and tough-guy Emil Blonsky with the same experimental gamma radiation technology that eventually transforms him into the Abomination.

The "god-like" power that Blonsky covets will give him the ability to remain an incorrigible tough guy well into the waning years of his military career. Unfortunately, he has little interest in maintaining the level of discipline necessary to continue that career, and quickly becomes the ultimate loose cannon, fighting anyone and everyone in his way, including, eventually, the Hulk.

To the average, implicitly disinterested, viewer The Incredible Hulk seems like nothing more than another sci-fi fantasy/monster flick.

However, to those who have paid even passing attention to science's emerging "human 2.0" movement, the film turns out to be quite prescient: a cautionary tale about science run amok with no will to constrain itself within traditional means or ethics.

One thing that we have slowly been discovering over the past 30 years of human history is that weapons are already hard enough to control. But the burgeoning revolution in bio-engineering is only going to make it much, much worse.

It's one thing when the weapon in question is an old Soviet stock AK-47 in the hands of a terrorist footsoldier, rebel fighter or child soldier. The weapon can always be taken away with relative simplicity.

But when the weapon is the person themselves -- enhanced with a variety of occular implants, cybernetically enhanced brains, and post-birth genetic treatments -- it's much harder to take that weapon away, so to speak. Not only do such human weapons pose a serious challenge to our ability to control them -- there's only a certain extent to which human behaviour will tolerate being controlled, particularly when an individual's personal resources in terms of resisting that control have been exponentially expanded -- but they pose a singular threat to the very principle of human sovereignty over the self.

Once militaries begin to weaponize the otherwise-promising advancements offered by human 2.0, this scientific movement very much will begin to pose a dilemma for foreign policy thinkers.

Norton plays Banner as an idealistic young scientist who flees to Brazil in order to prevent the government from weaponizing the results of his accident. But as Dr Samuel Sterns (played by Tim Blake Nelson), Banner's unscrulous "mr Blue" compatriot, reminds us, some scientists don't adhere to conventional ethics or idealism.

As difficult to control as the new human weapons the military applications of human 2.0 will eventually spawn will be, it will be even harder to control these scientists, who all too often are inspired not by the desire to improve the quality of life of all people, but simply to make exorbitant amounts of money and acquire exorbitant amounts of personal glory.

Frankly, the ethical concerns posed by human 2.0 are as stringent as those imposed by human cloning, although it certainly lacks the sensational quality of those posed by cloning.

The time to start constraining this movement within conventional scientific ethics is now. The ethical dilemma posed by human 2.0 could even pose a threat to the extremely important medical advances offered by stem cell research.

To pretend that the human 2.0 (or primo posthuman) movement will spawn armies of Hulks that will proceed to smash their way through major urban centers is a fantasy that, fortunately, defies credulity.

But there are potential consequences that are, in their own way, every bit as bad if not far, far worse -- conequences that even the most imaginative comic book writers could likely never imagine.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Heh. One Wonders...

Why Canadian Cynic cohort Lindsay Stewart (also known as "pretty shaved ape") wouldn't be welcome at the 2008 Conservative Party Convention.

Might it have something to do with this? Or this? Or maybe this?

It's pretty apparent as to why Lindsay isn't welcome at the Conservative Party Convention -- or anywhere else where people don't eat with their fingers.

But to point out the many, many outrageously objectionable things this irredeemable cretin has passed off as political discourse actually just obscures the larger point: Lindsay simply isn't up to snuff in terms of hobnobbing with "high-minded" individuals like Myron Thompson or Rob Anders.

Friday, June 13, 2008

More Light Blogging Ahead

Going out of town to work again. Will be back in one week (hopefully).

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Obscuring the Point With Manufactured Controversy

The wolves are out for Pierre Poilievre -- never mind that he has a point

The Canadian political landscape is awash in outrage over some comments made by Nepean-Carleton Conservative MP Pierre Poilievre just hours before yesterday's historic residential schools apology.

In a radio interview with CFRA News Talk Radio, Poilievre questioned how effective the billions of dollars spent on reducing poverty on Canadian Indian reservations has been.

"We spend 10 billion dollars -- 10 billion dollars -- in annual spending this year alone now, that is an exceptional amount of money, and that is on top of all the resource revenue that goes to reserves that sit on petroleum products or sit on uranium mines, other things where companies have to pay them royalties," Poilevre noted. "And that's on top of all that money that they earn on their own reserves. That is an incredible amount of money."

"Now, you know, some of us are starting to ask: 'Are we really getting value for all of this money, and is more money really going to solve the problem?"

Of course, some people predictably don't like Poilievre's comments -- or, rather, like the opportunity to excoriate the Conservatives for a politically-incorrect gaffe.

In particular, Liberal Indian Affairs critic Anite Neville denounced Poilievre's comments as "ignorant" and "disgraceful".

"I invite him to take a tour of many of the First Nations communities in this country and see how people are living," she announced.

Now, there may be much to said about the timing of Poilievre's comments, or about his specific prescriptions for solving the problem (notably "hard work" and "independance" and "self-reliance").

But the real unfortunate twist -- for everyone involved -- in this particular controversy is that Poilievre hasn't said anything that Canadians don't already know: that our federal government spends billions of dollars per year on Indian reservations, with no discernable result to show for it.

Most Indian reservations are as impoverished as ever. Money alone hasn't solved this problem.

Canada's poverty-fighting measures on Indian reservations reflects William Easterly's two tragedies of poverty fighting. The first tragedy is the poverty itself, as poverty always is. The second tragedy reflects the fact that, for all the billions of dollars spent, there has been little discernable improvement in conditions on the reserves.

The sad truth of the matter is that Canada's Indian reservations have all too often been treated as a money pit in which various politicians and commentators have been more than content to pour billions of dollars into without any kind of accountability (accountability for how the money is spent, or even accountability for results) because, by golly, they don't have to live there.

A methodological shift is clearly needed regarding how Canadians approach poverty on Indian reservations.

The money, for the most part, should actually be treated as a non-issue. Fighting poverty costs money. How the money is actually spent is where the shift will be necessary.

It's impossible to believe that Canada's aboriginal population is so impoverished because they're all shiftless and lazy. In fact, many people who have actually worked with aboriginal people in the workforce know things to be quite different: like any other group of people, work ethic isn't a cultural trait -- it's a personal trait.

On Canada's Indian reservations there are thousands of individuals eager to build a better life for themselves, their families and their neighbours. They simply lack the resources to actually do it.

As Poilievre himself notes, a shift in spending away from funds being put into the hands of Band leadership -- who all too often turn out to be almost entirelty unaccountable -- is necessary. Instead, larger portions of federal funding should go toward microfinance that would allow those aboriginals so inclined to start small businesses and, in time, provide stable employment where it is needed the most.

By its very nature, this would also engender a shift in decision-making ability away from government bureaucrats and toward aboriginal community members who know best what their communities need.

In short, what is needed are fewer planners -- government bureaucrats who make funding decisions based on what they think is best -- and more seekers -- individual community members who know what their needs are, and just need the resources to meet them.

We as a country also need to realize that, no matter how much money is spent on fighting poverty on Indian reservations, there is no miracle cure for it. The dilemma of poverty on Indian reserves simply won't be solved tomorrow. Wiping out poverty on Canada's Indian reserves should be viewed as a 100-year project -- one that would have long ago been conluded if we had started on 1 July 1867 -- but one that we need to start making progress on now.

Poilievre is right to be alarmed by the amount of money spent on Indian reservations with no discernable improvement in conditions. Anite Neville should be, too, but unfortunately there's too little political gain in saying "I'm concerned about that, too."

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Those Who Forget History

Are destined to remain clueless while it repeats itself

If we at the Nexus have learned anything, it's that as far as being a political commentator or historian goes, Lindsay Stewart makes a really bad actor (presumably a decent enough waiter, though).

A few days ago (while we were otherwise indisposed) Stewart decided to take aim at the recent "Stephane Dion's tax trick" ads being offered by the Conservative party:

"The Stephen Harper Party of New Canada is set to launch yet more attack ads in their permanent and constant election campaign. We've grown used to seeing the shrugging visage of hapless Liberal person-that-is-supposed-to-be-in-charge, Stephane Dion in the Con's endless efforts to blame the state of their nation on the other guys. This time the Cons have targeted the gas pump. Their new ads will be a brightly coloured blamefest, designed to take advantage of consumer anger at the spiraling price of fuel.

All of this trouser dampening and fear mongering is aimed at Dion's terrifying carbon tax proposal. You know, nothing says Conservative quite like the reek of stale urine, well, except for estrangement from the truth.

"However, Jane Taber and Craig Oliver, co-hosts of CTV's Question Period, noted that the Liberal tax -- which hasn't been formally presented yet -- rules out an additional tax on gasoline."

Details, bitches. Let loose your bladders and join the widdling chorus of Conservative he-men and women. What ever you do, don't pay any attention to the fact that it is during Conservative rule that those fearsome prices have gathered. That the Harper Conservatives are at the helm as auto sector jobs vanish and food prices sky-rocket, that means nothing. Shiny thing ADSCAM shiny thing."

One wonders precisely where to start.

Stewart wants to draw the readers' attention toward various "facts" and impel them draw some extremely dubious conclusions regarding them.

Namely, that if gas prices rise, auto sector jobs disappear and food prices rise while the Conservative party is in power, then, by golly, they simply must be to blame!

Pay no attention to the fact that rising oil and fuel prices have much more to do with increased demand for oil from China and India and its accompanying increase in speculators.

Pay no attention to the fact that the coming cuts in auto manufacturing actually have more to do with ever-increasing market competition between North American, European and Asian car makers, as well as recent dips in demand for uneconomical makes and models of cars being produced in Ontario plants. And certainly don't blame Ontario's McGuinty government for being "at the helm" in Ontario while job losses menace the population. They surely have nothing at all to do with it.

Pay no attention to the fact that the increase in food prices has more to do with increasing demand and transportation costs then any Harper government policy.

(Also pay no attention that the most striking food shortage in the world today is a shortage of rice -- which virtually no one is using for biofuels.)

Pay no attention to these facts.

"Oh yes, fellow Canadians, cower in fear before the tax and spend Liberals. Dread the party that balanced the federal budget. Fear the wicked men and women that brought us the sinister and awful budget surplus. Take solace in the doughy embrace of the bold Conservatives who have cut some taxes and presided over the decimation of the terrible surplus. Rejoice friends, soon with Conservative governance, diligence and care, we will return to the comfort and security of deficits and the slashing of ever more social programs. Infrastructure is for pussies. Why, Dion wants to tax something and all taxes are tools of the devil. He wants to take your money and give it foreign talking atheist abortion lesbians that are married.

"In addition, the carbon tax is supposed to be "revenue neutral" -- meaning revenue raised by the carbon tax is to be offset by accompanying cuts in income and other taxes, Taber said."

Don't pay any mind to the facts. We can't change tack, not now, not ever. Trust Stephen, he is large."

Ignore the fact that the Liberal party balanced the federal budget by slashing and burning public healthcare and education. Ignore the fact that the Liberal party built huge surpluses off of high taxes and the exporting benefits of a devalued Canadian dollar.

Ignore the fact that Liberals diverted billions of dollars away from gas taxes intended to help the provinces maintain infrastructure to fund their own pet projects and left provincial governments holding the bag for the maintenance of streets and highways (who, in turn, increasingly left municipalities holding the bag).

Pay no attention to these facts.

"He knows that doing anything to hamper the strip mining and carbon spewing filthy habits of his backers will destroy the economy. ADSCAM. Working cleaner, living smarter, why that's commie talk. Innovation and change will mean the end of everything as Stephen Harper knows it, the way he likes it and the way he wants to keep it. Fuck the fucking climate, screw the stupid rivers, lakes and waterways. There is money in them thar poisoned hills and ain't nothing more important than harvesting money for corporate profit. In this era, to be Conservative is divorced from conservation, let's call it unreconcilable differences shall we. Tomorrow is just a lie that keeps us from the rapture and Stephen and Stockwell are always at the ready to saddle up their dinosaurs and ride us off the cliff into the pretty, poisoned sunset."

Ignore the fact that the promise of a "revenue neutral" carbon tax (as Stewart constantly alludes to but never quite gets around to actually addressing) is far from innovative, and when one examines some basic political history, it's quite similar to promises we've heard before.

The idea is that the Liberal party will cut income taxes and "other taxes" in order to offset the cost of a carbon tax and prevent the necessity of additonal taxes on fuel.

We've heard similar promises from the Liberals before: namely, in the leadup to the 1993 federal election, when Jean Chretien promised the Liberals would abolish the critically-unpopular Goods and Services Tax. Liberal deputy leader Sheila Copps even promised to resign if the Liberals failed to do so.

As those who are familiar with Canadian political history will recall, the Liberals failed to do so, and Copps resigned -- only to immediately seek reelection in a by-election in a Liberal stronghold riding.

Flash forward 15 years in the future, and Liberal leader Stephane Dion -- the very same man who's promising a "revenue neutral" carbon tax -- has become a strident defender of the GST, not only opposing an abolition of the tax, but also opposing any cuts to it, decrying the very same "lost revenue" that Stewart laments.

Then one remembers the promised structure of the so-called "revenue neutral carbon tax" -- wherein taxes would be shifted away from income tax, and Canadians would instead be taxed for their carbon emissions -- taxes they could theoretically reduce by reducing their carbon emissions.

It would be a brilliant proposal if Canadians could actually trust the Liberals to keep such promises.

Yet as Canadians cut their emissions, reducing their tax burden, the government would eventually face billions and billions of dollars in lost revenue, facing a potential Liberal government with the very same cash flow problems they claim the Conservatives are causing for the country.

How to deal with that? Simple: shift tax receipts increasingly back toward income tax, slowly wiping out the carbon tax savings of Canadians with increased income taxes.

It's a clever tax trick, but it remains just that: a trick.

Beyond that, there's a huge question of who, precisely, will bear the burden of the carbon tax. Will it be shared equally by citizens and business, and by all sectors of the Canadian economy?

Not bloody likely. Anyone who honestly believes that the party of corporate Canada will impose an equal carbon tax burden on sectors such as the Ontario manufacturing sector need to give their head a shake. There's very little question that the Liberals very much miss the support of their corporate friends, and are eager to find a way back into their good books.

Which almost certainly means that citizens will bear a disproportionate share of this tax burden, and will likely see this manifest itself at the fuel pump, which will inevitably manifest itself in increasing costs -- and thus prices -- for everything.

Lindsay Stewart believes he can obscure the issue by never really addressing it, then dressing it up with various empty ruminations about how simply awful he believes the Harper government is.

What he doesn't seem to want to address is the fact that, when it comes down to tax-related promises, Canadians have precisely zero reason to trust the Liberal party, given the litany of their previously-broken promises.

We've also seen what they do with our tax dollars: when they aren't stealing them, wasting them on various pet projects.

It's previously been noted that the Carbon tax is "big-game politics". And it is.

Unfortunately, Stephane Dion and Lindsay Stewart are both betting on the ignorane and naivete of Canadians in playing this hand.

Only time (and an election) will tell if Canadians will call their bluff or not.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Lowballing Themselves Into Irrelevance

Hockey theme debacle demonstrates futility of CBC

In a surprising turn of events yesterday, it was announced that, in the midst of a last-minute push by the CBC to secure the rights to the Hockey Night in Canada theme song, CTV swept in and ferried the iconic tune away in perpetuity.

The song will now be used for TSN's expanded coverage of the NHL.

Of course, the move doesn't come without some degree of controversy -- no matter how manufactured.

"The two sides were so far apart and there was so much bad blood that we knew a deal would be difficult," insisted CBC Sports Director Scott Moore. "The reality is it takes two sides to do a deal and we tried everything we could to do a deal. We offered arbitration, mediation — we offered to meet their price. On Friday, when it came right down to it, we never got a response from them on our latest offer and find out, in the meantime, they appeared to be negotiating with CTV."

Of course, Moore's claims defy credulity. If the CBC had really offered to meet the price being asked by Copyright Music & Visuals on Dolores Clayman's behalf they would have had what people with any kind of business background whatsoever refer to as a "deal".

Instead, "the Hockey Theme" has found a new home on CTV, and egg has found a new home, too -- on the CBC's face.

Of course, the entire debacle really only serves to underscore various difficulties the CBC has had over the last few years, and the most difficult is continuing to justify its own existence in an environment in which it's becoming harder to justify.

Part of the CBC's mandate is to preserve Candian culture and identity by producing and promoting Canadian programming and keeping various broadcasting traditions alive.

Yet when it comes time to pony up some dough to maintain an iconic Canadian tradition -- the opening of Hockey Night in Canada with a song that has become one of Canada's greatest cultural touchstones -- the CBC lowballed itself into an extremely embarrassing situation where, instead, a rival network has become the steward of this cultural icon, established under the Mothercorp.

Not to mention an even more embarrassing situation in which the CBC was profiting off downloads and ringtones of the song without giving a portion to Clayman.

Public broadcasting in Canada is quickly approaching a crisis point -- one that it seems ill-equipped to handle. It has various important roles in Canadian society, and yet continues to undermine both.

The maintenance of Canadian culture is one.

Another is broadcasting into remote regions of the country and providing the residents of such areas with news and information about the outside a world -- a role that is drastically harmed by the numerous journalistic scandals that have enveloped the CBC over the past couple of years.

A large-scale overhaul is needed at the CBC, and the window of opportunity to do it is beginning to close.

Sunday, June 08, 2008

Light Blogging Ahead...

...The Nexus will be dipping off this week, as your not-so-humble scribe will be headed out of town for work.

Be back Friday (at the latest).

June 2008 Book Club Selection: The Audacity of Hope, Barack Obama

Better know a would-be president vol 2: Barack Obama

Due to the concession of Hillary Clinton, the three-part "better know a would-be president" series will have to be amended into two parts.

Now that the Democratic presidential nominee has been decided, many people will finally be taking their first long, hard look at Barack Obama wondering what kind of President he would be.

Bringing equal parts optimism and idealism to the table, as well as a remarkable historical precedent, Obama is a candidate who will only continue to turn heads as he proceeds to campaign against John McCain.

The Audacity of Hope is Obama's second foray into the published word, following Dreams From My Father. It's equal parts personal memoir and political opus.

Obama tackles all the expected topics: his youth in Hawaii and Indonesia, race, and his encounters with the man he hopes to succeed as President of the United States -- who he alarmingly regards as rather likable, despite his unpopularity.

He offers harsh criticisms, not only to George W Bush and the Republicans, but also to his own party. The Republicans he denounces as divisive and alarmist (although he often uses similiarly macho language in terms of national security). He cautions the Democrats about their recent tendencies toward reactionary politics.

All throughout, Obama gives observers a unique window into his political mind. The deeply-rooted Monism of his political philosophy -- a trait he intriguingly shares with Canadian reformer Preston Manning -- gives one the impression of Obama as a president who would spend a great deal of time trying to turn the American people on to his agenda and his principles, and very little time seeking the kind of compromise that would allow him to actually impliment them.

Yet to describe Obama as rigid would be an obvious mistake. Such a trait is due less to stubbornness and more to his deeply-rooted sense of conviction -- the sense that the principles he holds are preeminent principles, and all that is necessary is for him to convince others of it.

The book also reveals a certain note of irony in Obama's nomination for President. His mastery of the Senate via mastery of its precedents would actually make him an ideal candidate for Vice President.

The Audacity of Hope presents an inspiring vision for the future of American politics. However, considerable doubt remains that Obama himself is actually the man to bring that vision to life.

Only time, November's election, and (potentially) the years to follow will tell.

By the Way, Lindsay...

Table five needs some napkins. Chop chop!

Mea Culpa

I would like to issue a formal apology.

Since posting the video below, I've come to realize that it could be misconstrued as an attempt to make mockery of terrible, terrible actors.

That is not and never was my intention.

I'd like to sincerely apologize to all bad actors who, like Linsday Stewart, are a miserable failure at their chosen profession but, unlike Lindsay Stewart, aren't a miserable failure at life, and at being a human being. It certainly wasn't my intention to insult them by comparing them to the contemptible waste of human existence that is Lindsay Stewart.

The Lindsay Stewart Acting Troupe

Saturday, June 07, 2008

...And That's a Wrap!

Clinton finally throws in the towel

It's finally official: Barack Obama and John McCain will face off against each other in the 2008 Presidential Election.

After a week of speculation, expectation and secret meetings, Hillary Clinton has finally announced her withdrawal from the contest for the Democratic presidential nomination, and offered Obama her unqualified support.

"The way to accomplish our goals is to do all we can do elect Barack Obama the next president of the United States," she announced. "I endorse him and throw my full support behind him."

And while the agreements stemming from the Obama/Clinton meeting -- rumoured to be anything from a Clinton Vice Presidential bid to numerous policy platform planks -- continue to remain secret, there's no question that many Democrats are finally feeling secure enough to look ahead to John McCain.

The party has its own challenges to deal with -- ranging from fundraising issues to policy issues -- but Barack Obama can still win this race if he plays his cards right.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Bill 26 Long Overdue

New day dawning for labour rights in Alberta

You mess with the bull, you get the horns -- or so the saying goes.

When the Alberta Federation of Labour and Alberta Building Trades Council oonstituted their "Albertans for Change" front group and aired ads accusing the Stelmach Conservatives of (among other things) being corrupt, they must have imagined that the government would look into some of their own practices and start dealing with some of their corrupt practices.

Now, that time is fast approaching as Bill 26 -- the Labour Relations Amendment Bill -- is set to be debated in the Legislature.

Among other things, the Bill designates Ambulance workers as an essential service, makes it unlawful for individuals who have been employed at a workplace for less than 30 days to vote in a certification vote, provides new opportunities for the revokation of a Union's bargaining power, and outlaws "Market Enhancement Recovery Funds".

Naturally, Alberta Federation of Labour is outraged, insisting that Bill 26 is an attack on workers' rights:

"The Bill does three things to attack worker rights:

1. It restricts the rights of construction workers to choose union representation. In the name of banning so-called "salting", the bill prohibits workers who have worked for a construction company for less than 30 days to participate in a certification vote. It also gives 90 days following the vote for workers to "change their mind" about joining the union.

2. It outlaws employer-paid wage-subsidy funds negotiated between employers and building trade unions. Market Enhancement Recovery Funds (MERFs) are a srategy employed by construction employers and unions to help unionized contractors win bids against non-union contractors. The Bill outlaws these legally negotiated funds.

3. It strips the right to strike from ambulance workers. Ambulance workers will now be forced to use binding arbitration, like the rest of health care workers, rather than be allowed to engage in a legal strike.

These particular objections really show a person where organized labour's priorities are in this particular situation.

First off, the practice of "salting" has long been a method by which Labour Unions have artificially expanded their membership by engineering a favourable confirmation vote. Now, Labour Unions will have to organize the old fashioned way: by convincing the employees of a workplace that Unionization is for them, as opposed to merely stocking it with their own people.

Secondly, the 90-day period in which workers may -- by majority vote -- reovoke a certification vote gives them an opportunity to prevent any unpleasant surprises being sprung on them, such as a Union immediately re-staffing a workplace with their own workers on the basis of seniority.

The AFL is also conveniently overlooking the fact that Bill 26 also requires that any employee voting in a certification revokation vote have been employed by that company for more than 30 days, preventing employers from stocking their workplace with their own people in order to engineer a de-certification.

Third, outlawing MERFs takes away an unfair advantage that Unions are using to render the contracting market less competitive. Now non-Union workers will have a greater opportunity to compete with Unionized labour: surely an unwelcome prospect for Unions that have often used their collective power to protect substandard workers.

Fourth, whether the AFL likes it or not, Ambulance workers are providing an essential service. That is a simple fact.

But the AFL's objections to Bill 26 go beyond that. They seem to be very worried about the prospect of actually having to compete with their competition:

"Bill 26 is a gift to the Conservatives' friends in the construction industry - a group of anti-union contractors and an "alternative" union have been agitating for these changes to hamstring the building trades unions in the construction sector.

The Merit Contractors Association and the Progressive Contractors Association (PCAC) have been lobbying for restrictions on certification votes and the elimination of MERFs for almost a decade. Both are avowed "open-shop" associations, which seek to undermine union representation and enhance employer rights in the construction sector. Members of both organizations are closely connected to the Conservative Party in Alberta.

A direct beneficiary of the changes will be the Christian Labour Association of Canada (CLAC), an employer-friendly "alternative union" that preaches a more cooperative, collaborationist version of unionism. Because CLAC works more closely with employers, they stand to benefit disproportionately from employer-biased rules.

Perhaps if the AFL had spent less time campaigning and more time making itself legitimately competitive, it wouldn't have to feel so threatened by Bill 26.

In the end, Bill 26 is almost assured passage from the inability of the AFL and ABTC to organize an effective response to it.

Which is fine in the books of many Albertans. Certainly, workers do have the right to unionize. However, that right doesn't spare them the "indignity" of having to be competitive in the work market.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

It's All Over But the Crying

Obama declares victory, but Clinton won't concede

As of today, the Democratic party seems to finally have its Presidential nominee, as Barack Obama claimed the majority of delegates necessary to claim the nomination.

"Our primary season has finally come to an end," he announced. "I will be the Democratic nominee for the presidency of the United States of America."

In Obama, the Democrats have made a very worthy choice in nominees. If anyone can give John McCain a run for his money, it will be Barack Obama.

But he'll have an uphill battle to fight. While the Democrats have been slugging it out with one another, McCain and the Republicans have been raising funds and putting their larger campaign strategy in place. And while Obama is considered by many to have the advantages of youth and charisma, one also remembers that it's McCain who's being seen in all the right places.

While the Demorats had a monopoly on earned media, they had an opportunity to diffuse McCain by ignoring him, and portraying the race for the Presidency as between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton as much as possible.

They blew that opportunity by taking turns trying to play the tough guy with John McCain.

When addressing McCain this evening, Obama struck all the right chords, equating McCain as closely with Bush as possible. Which is easy to do so long as McCain insists on giving the man hugs.

There's no question that, from this point up until November, the campaign for the Presidency of the United States of America will be a dog fight. Obama has yet to ever be in a feirce one. McCain has before, and may hold an edge in this department.

Certainly, Hillary Clinton has yet to concede. But that's largely immaterial. Just as Mike Huckabee refused to drop out after McCain claimed his majority, it will be less than shocking if Clinton does likewise.

One thing, however, is certain: the real contest begins now. It's all over but the crying.