Sunday, August 31, 2008

Barack Obama's Speech to the DNC

Obama brings the house down

In 2004, Barack Obama's political star inexorably rose with a fantastic speech at the Democratic National Convention.

In 2008, Obama, then a candidate for the Senate in Illinois and now candidate for the Presidency of the United States of America, once again rolled out a magnificent performance.

The extended standing ovation he recieved is certainly equal parts genuine enthusiasm and calculated partisan cheerleading. But very rarely has politics witnessed such a transparent effort to create a political mythology.

Obama wisely began by referencing back to his widely acclaimed speech to the 2004 DNC, hinting back to the long-developing fervour that has led him to his nomination for the Presidency.

His 2008 speech addressed the same themes as virtually every other speech at the 2008 DNC: the allegedly disappearing American dream, the honourable service record of John McCain and their views of the George W Bush presidency.

"America is better than these last eight years," Obama entoned as he recounted the numerous failings of the Bush government: its treatment of war veterans, its health care crisis and its failure in the face of Hurricane Katrina.

"Enough!" Obama cried as he pointed to November's election as an opportunity to drastically adjust course.

Obama boldly declared that the time for the "discredited Republican philosophy" of the "ownership society" to "own their failures" has definitely arrived.

One thing that is quickly emerging as observers watch the Obama candidacy proceed is what may be one of the most determined efforts to concoct a political mythology in recent political memory.

The 2008 DNC has proven to be a pivotal moment in the birthing of this mythology -- a "modern day Camelot" as many commentators have described it. Ted Kennedy's "last-minute" speech to the DNC -- clearly planned well in advance but one still has to applaud the ailing senator's performance, all things considered -- the glowing support support of the previously-intractible Clintons and the set change for Obama's big address to the convention have all been clearly calclulated to transform Obama from a run-of-the-mill politician -- even if a spectacularly charismatic one -- to a political keystone for a new generation.

They certainly imagine that bringing together the Kennedy and Clinton legacies together to support Obama will transform his candidacy into a powerhouse, if not an outright juggernaut.

And they just might be right.

With the Democratic National Convention concluded, many people will be looking forward to the Republican convention to see if, even as Hurricane Gustav bears down on the Gulf coast, the Republicans can manage to match a spectacular Democratic convention.

Their work will certainly be cut out for them. Obama's speech alone was everything Democrats were expecting of it -- a sheer masterpiece.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Biden pick alienating anti-war movement?

Nomination of Biden a "betrayal"

Coming once again via the Real News Network, Stephen Zunes highlights what some have viewed as the refuttal of the anti-war movement inherent in Barack Obama's nomination of Joe Biden as his Vice Presidential ticket.

Zunes gives voice to the distress of many self-styled progressives at Obama's embrace of various conservative Democrats -- whom Zunes describes as "hawks".

Of course, Zunes is overlooking a key element of electoral politics -- the fact that, at one point or another, a candidate simply has to play to their base.

Obama has clearly sought to embrace the American progressive movement as his base. But with Ralph Nader and the Green party in the race, Obama cannot count on American progressives to support him exclusively against John McCain.

After all, thousands of people cast their ballots in favour of Ralph Nader in 2004 -- even after Bush's popularity numbers tanked so spectacularly.

In the end, whether the progressive movement likes it or not, Barack Obama's base will be the Democratic party. As such, Obama needs to unite liberal Democrats -- who oppose the war in Iraq -- with conservative Democrats -- who support it.

Nominating an individual like Joe Biden was the best way to accomplish that task.

Last but not least, it wouldn't be the first time in history that a presidential nominee has thrown the progressive movement under the bus in order to help achieve a presidential victory -- although it still could turn out to be history's most spectacular example of this exploding in a candidate's face.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Biden's Speech to the DNC

Biden takes moment in the spotlight as an opportunity to fade into the background

Of the numerous speeches being delivered at the Democratic National Convention, that of newly-nominated Vice Presidential hopeful Joe Biden was almost certainly one of the most anticipated.

In delivering the speech, Biden had his work cut out for him: former President Bill Clinton delivered a barnburning speech, complete with his traditional campaign song ("Don't Stop Thinking About Tomorrow" by Fleetwood Mac) and a trip to "a place called hope".

In the course of his speech, Biden hit on all the basic themes: the disappearing American middle class, the war on terror, loss of international trust in the United States, and the fading of the American dream.

But instead of making his case to be Vice President of the United States, Joe Biden instead took the opportunity to denounce "his friend" John McCain and cheerlead for Barack Obama.

Which is rather unfortunate. Many of Biden's policies (including his support for the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq) have posed serious philosophical challenges for the Democratic ticket.

Biden certainly couldn't have helped his reception amongst the anti-war movement when he referred to American military personnel as "the bravest warriors in the world".

Nor would his story about his mother telling him to "bloody the nose" of neighbourhood bullies be likely to win them over. After all, a hawkish mother would almost certainly be expected to raise a hawkish son -- at least in the perception of the anti-war movement.

These are questions the Obama/Biden ticket will need to answer if it expects to continue benefiting from the "progressive infrastructure" previously described by Naomi Klein.

Which is unfortunate. There's a general belief that the Vice Presidential candidate on a ticket tends to be unimportant during a Presidential Election. Yet when a President is rendered unable to continue in office, the Vice President takes over as President.

Joe Biden may prove to be a rather disconcerting figure for the anti-war movement should any misfortune ever befall Barack Obama. And unfortunately, one plot against Obama's life has already been uncovered.

In the end, the only way Biden could top Clinton's speech is with a "surprise" appearance by Barack Obama -- one that had been speculated on hours in advance.

The Irony of It All

Will They or Won't They?

Brison, Dion confusing their Green Shift message

One of the key promises surrounding the Liberal party's "Green Shift" carbon tax plan is that it will not levy additional taxes on energy.

Yet Liberal leader Stephane Dion and Scott Brison (one of the architects of the Green Shift) seem to have differing opinions on the matter.

As reported by the Halifax Chronicle Herald, in June Brison told the paper's editorial board that the Liberal party carbon tax would lead to higher electricity costs for Nova Scotians because of the additional costs a carbon tax would impose on the production and purchase of coal.

"A Dion government would sit down with the provincial government and engage both the government of Nova Scotia and Nova Scotia Power in a constructive discussion on how to help Nova Scotia (make the) green shift, and we would invest in it," Brison promised.

However, since then Dion has helpfully assisted mr Brison in doing an abrupt about-face on the matter: there will be no side deals with provinces.

Of course, Brison's admission to the Chronicle Herald editorial board raises some rather important questions about the proposed Liberal policy.

Namely, if the Green Shift will lead to higher electricity prices due to the increased cost of coal, how can we expect that the Green Shift won't lead to higher gasoline prices due to the increased cost of oil?

Of course it will. And while the Liberals can insist their plan won't apply a new tax directly to gasoline, it certainly would inflate the cost of gasoline by applying additional costs (or, as the Liberals describe it, "shift the tax burden") to the production of fossil fuels).

The companies producing and refining petroleum certainly won't absorb all of that additional tax without passing the cost along to the consumer. Unfortuantely for the consumer, to do so these companies would be breaching their responsibility to the their shareholders. The lost profit could actually result in these companies being sued by their shareholders.

Considering that the largest portion of investment capital in the world today is controlled by various retirment funds, for these companies to breach their responsibility to their shareholders would hurt many, many average Canadians.

In other words, Canadians would pay for the Green Shift, one way or the other.

Of course, the less said by Scott Brison about these shortcomings of the Green Shift, the better -- at least if you're Stephane Dion. It's better for Brison not to talk about the inevitable higher costs of energy (and, through it, the higher costs of everything else) at all than to talk about solutions to such a problem.

Thus the about face -- one not terribly atypical of Brison.

"This is really what I would call quite predictable from Mr. Brison. He states a position; then it changes, he pouts and then he goes personal and attacks people as he’s doing now with the premier," remarked deputy Prime Minister Peter MacKay.

These are the questions the Liberal party has to answer about the so-called Green Shift: will the Liberal party admit that it will lead to higher energy costs -- costs that will find their way to consumers -- or won't they?

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Harper Out to Crush Liberal Party

Tom Flanagan reveals a key piece in Harper's election puzzle

Stephen Harper insists that his intent to call an election is not for partisan gain.

How could it be? The Conservatives and Liberals remain statistically tied in the polls, and another minority government -- be it Liberal or Conservative -- remains a near certainty.

Harper has also indulged himself in some intellectually dishonest excuse making for his relentless push to call an election before 2008 finally writes itself into the history books, but his true intent remains something of an enigma.

The alleged need for a renewed mandate does indeed make a lot of sense. Then again, so do the clues offered today by University of Calgary political scientist (and former Harper adviser) Tom Flanagan.

Namely, that Harper is out to score another TKO over his Liberal rivals.

“I don't think Harper has to be thinking about a majority at all,” Flanagan told the Globe and Mail. "Strategically, this is sort of a prolonged war of attrition.”

Flanagan historically divides Harper's ongoing battle with the Liberals into three acts: act one took place in 2004, when Harper rendered Paul Martin's inherited majority government into a minority. In 2006, Harper won a minority government in act two. Now, in 2008, Harper thinks he's ready for act three.

Of course, the third act is the one that really matters. Few people remember acts one and two. But everyone remembers act three.

As such, Harper has only one option: victory.

“You can fight a war with some objective less than total victory,” Flanagan said.

Of course, a victory in an upcoming federal election will almost certainly represent significantly less than total victory. It certainly won't destroy the Liberal party, but it will give the numerous Liberals who want to dump Stephane Dion an excellent opportunity to do so.

Such a victory "would be enough to throw the Liberals into turmoil and give Harper ... a virtually free hand in Parliament for quite a while and really handicap his main opponent.”

Much of this holds true. After all, the Conservative government was at its most effective when the Liberal party was leaderless in the commons. Even though replacing Dion will almost certainly pave the way for a stronger leader -- likely Michael Ignatieff or Bob Rae -- the Conservatives would have a much easier time in the Commons.

Not that this is a reasonable excuse to trample his own fixed election date legislation.

But a desire to utterly crush the Liberal party seems to underly many of Harper's move. Consider the promised lawsuit against the Liberal party for the excesses of the Sponsorship Scandal. If the Liberal party were held responsible for all the funds stolen under Adscam, it would certainly be a significant setback for the cash-strapped party.

It would possibly even cripple the party in the long-term.

In fact, Harper has an often-disturbing proclivity for wanting his political opponents utterly destroyed.

Flanagan's musings about Harper's motivation should give many Canadians cause to think twice about Stephen Harper's leadership of the Conservative party -- and whether or not they're still comfortable with him leading the country.

Barack Obama: Progressive Messiah or Johnny-on-the-spot Benefactor?

Naomi Klein: does Obama have progressive street cred?

Coming once again via The Real News Network, Naomi Klein asks an important question about Barack Obama:

Is he the best benefactor for the collective energies of the American progressive movement? Or is he merely being embraced as the last, best hope of an alternative to ongoing Republican rule?

According to Klein, the gatekeepers of the "progressive infrastructure" in the United States have "suspended their critical thinking skills" in order to prevent John McCain from coming to power. In Klein's mind, the progressive movement is risking its honesty and integrity in singlemindedly becoming cogs in the "Obama machine".

"War mode" thinking has arguably led progressives -- not just in the United States, but in fact worldwide -- to embrace Obama as an anti-Bush figure.

Many of the organizations backing Obama -- such as MoveOn -- have campaigned for Obama relentlessly despite the fact that his policies don't necessarily match their expressed interests.

Unfortunately, this isn't such a big trick for many so-called progressives. Despite the fact that the actual behaviour of such regimes entirely contradicts their expressed beliefs, many so-called progressives will rush to the defense of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Vladimir Putin and the Taliban.

They'll conveniently overlook the fact that in Ahmadinejad's Iran homosexuals are brutally whipped (even as he denies the very existence of Iranian homosexuals on the world stage), in Putin's Russia opposition parties are ruthlessly squeezed out of politics, and women were brutally oppressed in Afghanistan.

The effect is even more profound when they rush to defend individuals who belong to their own movement. Consider the slavish defenses of individuals like Canadian Cynic -- individuals who, through their own behaviour prove themselves antithetical to what the progressive movement is actually supposed to stand for.

The rationale for this is actually quite simple -- and fickle -- indeed:

Anybody who conservatives dislike must automatically be good.

Many of these so-called progressives will immediately ignore the fact that progressives and conservatives often have many interests in common -- so much so that many people embrace socially progressive views while espousing fiscally conservative beliefs.

There are many things that, in fact, conservatives and progressives believe in common: beliefs such as the importance of human rights.

Yet as soon as a conservative politician condemns human rights abuses in Iran, many progressives feel obligated to rush to object. Iran isn't so bad, they insist, the brutal beatings, by Iranian police, of women lobbying in favour of women's rights to the contrary.

If conservatives say that Iran is bad, then Iran must somehow be good.

According to Naomi Klein, the same logic seems to apply to the Barack Obama candidacy: if Obama is running against John McCain, then Barack Obama must automatically be good -- regardless of whether or not he actually embodies the beliefs the progressive movement espouses.

There is no question Barack Obama will be a far more liberal President than John McCain.

But Naomi Klein just may be right: progressive voters may want to be very careful when deciding whether to cast their vote for Barack Obama or Ralph Nader. A vote for Obama may bring them less than they bargained for.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

For Fuck's Sake, Stephen

Harper offers specious argument in support of contravening his own fixed election law

Many Canadians, Conservatives and non-conservatives alike are all asking themselves the same question right about now:

How can it be so hard for Stephen Harper to abide by his own fixed election date legislation?

The answer according to Harper: the fixed election law only applies to majority governments.

To a certain extent, this argument could ring true. After all: a minority government could be defeated at almost any time -- a lesson former Prime Minister Joe Clark learned the ahrd way -- triggering an election. A fixed election date law could certainly be viewed to be rather empty.

But then one should be asking how it is that Harper would bother passing legislation fixing the next election date at October 19, 2009.

Clearly, Harper intended the legislation to apply to his own government. After all, he knew full well that he had a minority government when he set the next election for October 2009. There is simply no question of this.

So one has to ask themselves why Harper would want to call an election right now.

After all, the latest polls reveal the Conservative party to still be short of majority territory. (His quest for a majority still provides Harper with no excuse for violating his own legislation.)

Meanwhile, the Conservatives maintain a very slim four point lead over Stephane Dion's Liberals -- the kind of lead that could quickly disappear during an election, leaving Canada staring down the barrel of the Liberals' Green Shift policies (policies the Canadian people cannot trust the Liberals to implement as promised).

Harper may be closer to the truth when he refers to the apparent need for a renewed governmental mandate.

"I think you really have increasingly in Parliament two different visions of where we should be leading the country, particularly during challenging economic times, and that's something I'm going to have to reflect upon," Harper mused. "It's not a question of wanting to go to an election, it's the reality,"

Harper may be right. There may be a need for a new round of elections in order to clear the air and clarify the national agenda.

But many Canadians may understand the realities of minority government quite differently, and Canadians know it works something like this: the government tries to govern, the Opposition opposes. If an impasse between the two emerges, the government will be defeated and the Canadian citizenry will judge the merits of that impasse in an election.

But, frankly, parliament hasn't reached such an impasse. Right now Canada has a government that will not effectively cooperate with the Opposition, an Opposition that will not oppose the government (choosing instead to abstain from various confidence motions instead of voting against the government).

Harper will have a hard time trying to sell the Canadian people on the notion that parliament is in crisis. And even if parliament is in crisis, most Canadians realize that Harper has as much to do with it as his Opposition colleagues.

Ken Epp Stands His Ground

And he won't back down

With an election call seemingly only days away and spurious opposition to Bill C-484 -- the Unborn Victirms of Crime bill -- stubbornly refusing to abate, the Conservative government is moving to try to disperse what it seems to fear is a coming storm.

"We've heard criticism from across the country, including representatives from the medical community, that Mr. Epp's bill, as it is presently drafted, could be interpreted as instilling fetal rights," announced Justice Minister Rob Nicholson. "Our government will not reopen the debate on abortion."

Bill C-484 would, indeed, introduce fetal rights. However, because of the fact that the bill contains an explicit clause forbidding its use in cases of abortion or against any act (of commission or omission) of the mother, those rights would not supercede a preggnant woman's right to choose an abortion. The fetal reights recognized by Bill C-484 would begin and end with an unborn child's right to be protected from crime.

Naturally, the fundamentally intellectually-dishonest pro-abortion lobby refuses to acknowledge this.

Nicholson has promised new legislation that would require judges to consider a woman's pregnancy during the course of sentencing. Right now judges can, and often do, but law still cannot recognize the tendency of many offenders -- such as Jared Baker and Gary Bourgeois -- to target unborn children intentionally.

Fortunately, however, Bill C-484 is not a government bill. Rather, it's Elk Island MP Ken Epp's private member's bill. He isn't obligated to withdraw it, and it's the last thing he plans to do.

"I definitely will not be withdrawing my bill," Epp announced. "They're quite different. I don't intend to let up."

If Nicholson is looking for an easy way out, he isn't going to find it. His government will either have to stay the course with Bill C-484 and endure the (actually very necessary) debate over abortion, or defeat its own member's bill, as it did with Leon Benoit's Bill C-291.

Ken Epp is well within his rights to stand his ground will Bill C-484 and not allow the government to introduce a watered-down bill protecting the unborn. This bill has passed two readings already -- in a parliament devoid of ideologically-grounded party discipline, this bill very much could pass.

Yet the Conservative government seems to be intent on ducking the abortion/fetal rights debate in the name of winning an election it isn't supposed to be calling in the first place.

Fortunately, Ken Epp isn't backing down. Nor are the other supporters of Bill C-484.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Are They Ready to Govern Again?

Democratic National Convention under way with pomp & grandeur -- but are they ready for business?

It's about to become official.

As the 2008 Democratic National Convention gets underway, Barack Obama is about to make the formal transformation from presumptive nominee into the real deal.

But as a noted rock concert atmosphere settles into Denver's Pepsi Centre, all the pomp and grandeur expected of an American political convention is underway. But one question must still be asked: are the Democrats ready to govern again?

As the 2008 DNC gets underway, there seems to be a cognizance of the need for the Democrats to pose a real alternative to government by their Republican rivals.

"America realizes we can't four more years of the same ineffective governing," announced party chairman Howard Dean.

In order for the Democrats to end the Republicans' eight-year reign, they'll need to put away any and all dissention within their ranks -- something that will reportedly be accomplished by the party allowing a few States to vote in favour of Hillary Clinton as the Democrat nominee before asking the remaining states to unanimously support Obama.

Among the other featured events of the Convention will be a well-deserved tribute to Edward Kennedy (who may also try to address the Convention), an address by former President Jimmy Carter, and a keynote address from Michelle Obama outlining what kind of first lady she would like to be.

For the Democrats, the success of this convention will determine whether or not they're viewed as being capable of governing.

Separatist Movement Continues to Splinter

Marois, Legault at odds over state of sovereigntist cause

In the year since the 2007 Quebec Provincial election, it has become increasingly evident that the Quebec sovereigntist movement is becoming increasingly splintered.

In the 2007 election, the Parti Quebecois was oustered from the seat of Official Opposition, replaced by Mario Dumont and the Action Democratique du Quebec. In the same year, the PQ lost their previous stronghold in Saguenay to a Conservative candidate.

Now, admidst piling electoral losses, the PQ are now facing dissention within their own ranks regarding the future of separatism.

Veteran PQ MNA Francois Legault sewed some doubt about the prospects of a future referendum.

"You have to be realistic," Legault said, noting that Quebeckers are losing faith in politicians. "People are not ready to have collective projects proposed to them because they've lost confidence in politicians. If we want to be able to sell to people the importance of having one state, they have to have confidence in the state. Right now, I see a lot of cynicism."

For her own part, PQ leader Pauline Marois disagrees.

"I don't feel that there is that cynicism," Marois argues. "On the contrary, I feel people are searching for new challenges, they yearn to mobilize around new projects that will lift them up."

For his own part, Legault imagines a two-part solution to the conundrum being faced by the separatist movement. "There's a loss of confidence in all the political class so, unfortunately, we have to perhaps go in two stages: re-build confidence, propose an alternative as government to deal with health problems and better deal with the economic slowdown," he says.

But the most recent polls demonstrate sagging support for the PQ's federal counterpart, the Bloc Quebecois.

As such, Mario Dumont may be spot-on when he notes that "It sounds like Francois Legault listened to Quebecers better than his colleagues over the summer. When he turns up at his caucus saying Quebecers don't want a referendum and for us (politicians) to work on other things, I think Francois Legault has made an accurate assessment of what Quebeckers expect today."

With the separatist movement in Quebec clearly splintering, now may be the perfect time for federalist politicians at all levels of power -- Stephen Harper and Stephane Dion federally and Jean Charest and Dumont provincially -- to go on the offense against separatism in Quebec.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Think Twice, Stephen

Conservatives seem set to trample their own fixed election dates law

Upon taking office as Prime Minister, one of the first things Stephen Harper did was declare his intent to set a fixed date for the next federal election (naturally precluding the possibility of a governmental defeat).

"Fixed election dates stop leaders from trying to manipulate the calendar," Harper announced. "They level the playing field for all parties."

However, if recent developments represent anything more than mere rumour, innuendo and sabre-rattling it seems that Harper may not be comfortable with a playing field that's a little too level.

"The only way we can have justice is to have a fixed election date, because an election without a fixed election date is a tremendous advantage for the party in power," Harper insisted.

Apparently, his previous comments to the contrary, Harper is intent on reserving that "tremendous advantage" for himself and going to the polls in defiance of his own party's legislation.

Despite having expressed his intent to meet with his fellow party leaders -- Liberal Stephane Dion, New Democrat Jack Layton and the Bloc Quebecois' Gilles Duceppe -- before making such a decision, word circulating South of the Queensway is that Harper very well may pull the plug on Parliament before it reconvenes on September 15.

Parliament could be dissolved shortly after Labour Day.

Naturally, a great many people are up in arms over this turn of events. It seems that a considerable loophole was written into the legislation in question which renders it effectively meaningless. In other words, this legislation was rather disingenuous in first place.

It seems that if Harper wants to go ahead and call a federal election, the ball is entirely in his court -- his previously-expressed sentiments and own legislation to the contrary.

But if he goes ahead and does it, he'd better be ready to pay the political price.

If Harper is truly counting on the Liberals' ill-concieved Green Shift to sway undecided voters toward his party, he may want to think twice. A recent study conducted by the University of Western Ontario and the University of Padova has suggested that even reportedly undecided voters have deeply-held biases that may serve to swing their decision.

Considering that polls have determined that most Canadians prefer the Liberals to the Conservatives on environmental issues, this study should give Harper pause to calling an election in which environmental policy will surely be front-and-centre.

The political price in question may very well wind up being the loss of his own government.

Even if Harper emerges victorious from an election, he has to consider what this would do to his credibility. After all, the fixed election date legislation was at least partially an olive branch offered to the NDP's Ed Broadbent, considered by many to be Canada's top expert on electoral reform.

Such an olive branch would be needed in the nearly certain event of a minority parliament.

Although Harper may know something the rest of us don't -- or at least have confidence in his party's ability to pull out another electoral victory -- calling an election before October 2009 is almost certainly a no-win scenario for Harper.

So he'd better think twice before doing it. Then think again.

Congratulations to Our Victorious Athletes

...And even to those who weren't. Thank you for giving Canadians everywhere a sliver of pride in the otherwise shameful affair of the Beijing Olympics.

Ezra Levant Obliterates Ian Fine

One has to hand it to Ezra Levant.

When the Canadian Islamic Congress filed a complaint against Levant for his publishing of the Danish Prophet Mohammad cartoons, one may have expected that the typically lopsided enviornment of a CHRC hearing room would have discouraged him just a little.

Forget that.

Given the rather severe beating he heaped upon the hapless Human Rights Commissioner who drew his case, one may have wondered what would happen if he could set his sites on a CHRC official in open field.

Now we know the answer to that.

One almost has to feel sorry for Ian Fine. He's so utterly defenseless against the revelations of the intransigent indiscretions of his organization that all he has to respond with is pure ideological rhetoric.

Certainly, everything Fine says about the CHRC rings true. But his refusal to speak to the allegations levelled against the investigators working under his employ in favour of spouting empty platitudes doesn't say good things about the CHRC's willingness to address the very serious problems within that organization.

Which is why one almost feels sorry for Ian Fine. But doesn't. Not quite.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Which Deficit Would That Be Again?

Forecasted federal deficit fails to materialize, ideologues set to eat words

In politics, there are few things more satisfying than seeing a fervent ideologue get theirs.

Today, Liberal MP (and former Finance Minister) Ralph Goodale should be getting ready to eat some of his words, as news has broken that, despite recording a $500 million deficit for the first two months of the 2008 fiscal year, federal receipts have bounced back with another surplus.

"When you look at the deficit that was reported on Friday, now, as a former minister of finance, I would say don't jump to conclusions but this is a worrisome trend," Goodale said in July, "especially since, in the analysis that the Department of Finance put out, they said the reason for this two-month deficit of some $500 million, was erosion of the tax base and increased spending."

"Well, those are the two things that we've been warning the government about for a long time, that they were running very close to the edge in terms of Canada's fiscal situation," he continued.

"We have been solidly in the black for the last decade. If now there are signs that the government's management style and ideology is about to push the country into the red once again, there will be deep concern among Canadians about that."

If the deficit of Ralph Goodale's imaginings had actually come to fruition, that would be one thing.

But today the numbers for the complete first quarter of the government's fiscal year were released, showcasing a $1.7 billion surplus.

Which should leave Ralph Goodale feeling kind of silly. But what should be said about fervent ideologues who aren't smart enough to eat their words?

Consider the recent ruminations by Lindsay Stewart over at the Groupthink Temple:

"In the actual free market, a drop of that scale in projections would be a flaming disaster. Flaherty has played at cutting taxes, thus diminishing revenues all as the American and global economies turned sour. Difficult to practice foresight with one's head tucked up the nether tube. That's the trouble with blinkered ideologues like Flaherty. All evidence to the contrary they will do what will not work because they are believers. Faith has never been kind to the foolish. Canada is now likely to record a budgetary deficit for the first time in over ten years. Any self respecting CEO would have tossed the ambulance chasing fool out onto the sidewalk and beaten him with a stapler for screwing the simple shit up, spend less than you bring in."
The "flaming disaster" Stewart is referring to? A .6% reduction in projected economic growth. That's right -- a whole 60% of a single percentage point.

Which actually has more to do with the flagging US economy than any of this government's policies. But leave it to Lindsay Stewart to continue to cling to the prospects of a deficit even after it's evaporated.

That's the trouble with blinkered ideologues like Lindsay Stewart. Fact doesn't factor very deeply into their ruminations. Not when they've invested so much time and mental energy in flinging accusations of "Canada hatred" at their political opponents.

Of course, both Ralph Goodale and Lindsay Stewart could have saved themselves the embarrassment if they had waited for a deficit to actually pop into existence before ranting and raving about it.

At the very least, Goodale's and Stewart's comments should make for a fairly substantial meal.

An Interesting Proposal for Electoral Reform...

Friday, August 22, 2008

If We're Doing This For the Kids...

Then we have to do this for the kids

The recent deaths of three Canadian soldiers in Afghanistan has greatly saddened all Canadians.

The remarks of one of these men, in particular, however, has reverberated through the public consciousness.

Corporal Dustin "Wozzy" Wasden was known for his love of working with children, and was said by his colleagues as having asked on numerous occasions, "Are we not doing it for the kids?"

Certainly, a Democratic post-war Afghanistan will be better for the children of Afghanistan than a Taliban theocracy.

But if we're in Afghanistan -- even partially -- to help its children, then Canadian troops are simply going to have to do that. That means doing a number of things that might make them unpopular amongst some of their allies.

Such as preventing the sexual abuse of Afghan children, something that Canadian soldiers have reportedly refused to do.

The sexual abuses perpetrated against Afghan children has been anything but a secret to many of those familiar to the mission. In fact, Canadian soldiers in Afghanistan have an adage: "in Khandahar, women are for procreation, children are for recreation."

Standing up to Afghan soldiers, in particular, may make Canadian soldiers unpopular amongst some of our Afghan allies there. But there are some things that Canadians simply cannot tolerate, and the sexual abuse of children by our allies is one of them.

The best way to honour the memory of Cpl Wadsel is to ensure that Canadian troops put a stop to this atrocity, just as they should have been doing consistently for the last seven years.

Sometimes, what is right must be substituted for what is pragmatic. This is one of those times.

Nothing to Say About a Lot

Dear Ken Epp,

Aw, hell. I'm just going to go ahead and call you Ken.

By now you may or may not have read the letter Lulu, the perpetually-crazed matriarch of the Canadian Cynic Temple of Sycophantic Groupthink, wrote to you about Bill C-484.

And I'm imagining that if that is the case then right about now, you and I must be thinking approximately the same thing.

How someone could build their entire objection to the Bill in question on a refusal to listen and somehow actually be proud of that really is almost inconceivable to the rational mind.

But, then again, these aren't rational minds we're dealing with, are we?

After all, the "Abortion Rights Coalition of Canada's false claims about Bill C-484". Is a fairly stolid rebuttal of the misinformation the pro-abortion lobby is using to promote their extreme agenda in regards to the Unborn Victims of Crime Act.

And their response to it is precisely what? "Lalalalalalala... I can't hear yooooouuuu". If one couldn't rest assured they were dealing with grown adults as opposed to pre-schoolers, one would wonder.

After all, it's remarkable how so fundamental fact as the fact that Bill C-484 contains an extremely explicit clause stipulating that the Bill may not be applied to abortion, or any other act (of commission or omission) by the mother is entirely ignored by these people.

Yet they somehow manage to produce such fallacious bombshells as "You can commission and release all the official documentation in the world, Ken, but it will never change the fact that C-484 is a back door attempt to recriminalize abortion in Canada."

Apparently, despite the fact that the legislation expressly forbids the use of the bill as such, Bill C-484 is "a back door attempt to recriminalze abortion". And nothing changes that. Apparently, not even the facts.

How can one deal with such people, Ken? Eventually, one has to realize that you cannot deal honestly with people incapable of honesty, and cannot deal logically with people incapable of logic.

Unfortunately, however, your political opposition is willing to do so.

Presumably, mr Dion has read the legislation in question, and understands fully that the legislation explicitly stiupulates that it may not be used in cases where abortion is involved. Yet, he wants to take it as a golden opportunity to rally Canada's pro-abortion lobby to his side, and emulating Paul Martin's failed 2006 election gambit in the process.

Meanwhile, he's overlooking an important fact:

Numerous members of his caucus voted in favour of Bill C-484.

Will he ask Raymond Bonin to publicly discuss his views on abortion? How about Derek Lee? Paul Steckle? How about the star of the Liberal attempts to smear Brian Mulroney, Paul Szabo? Or any of the other Liberal MPs who voted in favour of BIll C-484?

I'm not holding my breath on that one, Ken. Somehow, I doubt you're holding yours, either.

Once again, Ken, these are facts. Just as the "fact" that Bill C-484 is a backdoor attack on abortion "rights". Despite the fact that the bill itself forbids its usage as such.

It's an incredible age we're living in, I think -- an age where rhetoric formulated in express willful ignorance of facts has somehow become fact, and the facts themselves apparently something else.

All the same, Ken, we really can't let the bastards get us down. We have to remember what is at stake.

See, Ken, people like Lulu and her cohorts have long ago convinced themselves they're entitled to ideological dominance on the topic of abortion -- so much so to the extent that they honestly believe that no one who disagrees with them should be allowed to voice their opinion on the matter.

That's what the opposition to Bill C-484 is about. It isn't about abortion -- it's about trying to prevent anyone who doesn't agree with the extreme agenda of the pro-abortion lobby doesn't even dream of attempting to even discuss the matter, let alone ever try to act according to their convictions -- in this case, that those who murder unborn children in the course of murdering or assaulting their mothers should be punished for it.

A wondrous age, indeed, Ken.

But not all is lost. After all, polls have consistently indiciated that the majority of Canadians favour protection for unborn life. So long as that remains a fact -- an actual, honest-to-god fact, rather than rhetoric cavorting as fact -- an end-run around the extremists and around the politicians who are so eager to pander to them will remain possible.

Which is precisely what you have to do, Ken. But your work is cut out for you.

It will be hard work, but stay the course Ken.

Yours in solidarity,
-Patrick Ross

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

International Olympic Committee Embraces "One China" Policy

No flag, anthem -- or even country name -- for Taiwanese Olympians

Those who have been paying close attention to the Beijing Olympics may have taken notice of a country that they otherwise may have been unaware exists.

Mostly because it doesn't.

As this Al Jazeera report notes, "Chinese Taipei" may seem like the name of some fledging new Asian state, but it isn't. Rather, "Chinese Taipei" is the name imposed by the IOC on Taiwan, whom China regards as a "renegade province". The IOC even took the liberty of giving the Taiwanese team a new -- distinctly non-Taiwanese -- flag for the duration of the 2008 games.

Countless events leading up to the 2008 games have put the lie to the IOC's insistence that hosting the games would help China improve its human rights record. Now, the IOC's treatment of Taiwan -- under pressure applied by the Chinese state -- has put the lie to the notion that hosting the Olympics will give China incentive to improve its foreign policy stance.

In this case, the policy imposing itself on the Olympic games is China's contentious "One China" policy. Of course, Taiwan has its own One China policy, in which its government insists that it is the legitimate government of China.

Historically, this goes all the way back to the struggle between the Communist Party of China, who succeeded in seizing control of mainland China, and the Kuomintang who, defeated in the Chinese Civil War, sought refuge on the island of Taiwan.

For the IOC to effectively take sides in the One China controversy -- telling Taiwanese athletes they aren't allowed to compete under their own flag, or hear their own anthem after a victory -- shows just how pervasive the effect of China's influence over the games has become. It's undermined one of the Olympics' most fundamental traditions -- competing in the name of one's country.

It's yet another black eye the IOC will have to find a way to erase.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Thanks for Calling, Jean...

But we'll wait for someone with credibility to speak up

When considering relations between Canada and China, one has to wonder just how far Canadians would really agree with a man who couldn't even bring himself to say the words "human rights" to the Premier of China.

After all, Canada is a country that respects human rights. China? Not so much.

So when such a man -- a former Prime Minister of this country -- cannot bring himself to talk to Chinese leaders about their myriad human rights abuses, one has to wonder precisely how in touch with Canadian values he really is.

When that man is Jean Chretien, the very man who insisted on using the rather ambiguous phrase "good governance and the rule of law" in lieu of "human rights", it just so happens to say a lot about how deeply he shares the values of most Canadians, particularly when it comes to relations with China.

Recently, as the Beijing 2008 Olympic games are underway, Jean Chretien had a good deal to say about current Prime Minister Stephen Harper's absence at the games. None of it was good.

"Starting with Diefenbaker, Trudeau and all of us, we established very good relations, relatively speaking, with China," Chretien boasted. "And suddenly, you break the bridge. It would have been easy just to be there."

"Look at the speech by Sarkozy on China," Chretien said. "He had to swallow himself whole and he went there. The Chinese are like that. `OK, fine, you don't like us, we're not buying French food'."

Of course, Chretien has his own justification for his comments -- most of them economic.

"It is the second biggest economy in the world, and in 50 years it will be the biggest," Chretien insisted.

Chretien's attitude is that Canadians should simply swallow their pride in order to sell our products to China.

"Look at the speech by Sarkozy on China," Chretien said. "He had to swallow himself whole and he went there. The Chinese are like that. `OK, fine, you don't like us, we're not buying French food'."

Of course, wherever Chretien imagines China will get enough food to feed nearly 1.5 billion people if it stops trading with any country that criticizes it is probably best left unimagined -- in a perverse sense, it really isn't all that different from David Tsubouchi's insistence that Ontario's poor could feed themselves by buying dented cans of Tuna.

The fact is that an economy like China's -- currently growing faster than any other economy in the world -- is in desperate need of resources. It's not likely to hamper its ability to acquire those resources over some wounded pride. In modern China -- under a communist regime willing to skimp on the actual communism in order to assure its own survival -- pragmatism will prevail.

Chretien also insists that China has made progress on human rights.

Perhaps he should try telling that to John Ray, a British reporter who was arrested for merely covering a Free Tibet rally. Or Naomi Klein, who notes the shocking breadth of the police state China has built around the Beijing games.

Stephen Harper, for his part, insists that his absence at the games was merely due to a scheduling difficulty. Which, in and of itself, is rather unfortunate. One should hope that Canada's Prime Minister would stand up to China on human rights.

But Stephen Harper should take few lessons from Jean Chretien on how to deal with China. Chretien peddled his credibility away for a few measly trade agreements.

Monday, August 18, 2008

The CPSO Has Your "Pro-Choice" Right Here!

College of Physicians and Surgians of Ontario moves to deny doctors choice

Frequent readers of the Nexus will almost certainly recall a recent response to a challenge by a pro-abortion blogger in which the philosophical quandry of the so-called "pro-choice" lobby opposing legislation that would protect the rights of doctors to refuse to perform abortions for moral, religious or ethical reasons was brought to her attention.

According to a column published in today's National Post, it turns out the issue is worse than previously thought.

The CPSO has proposed new guidelines that could result in doctors who refuse to perform abortions, refer women for abortions, perscribe the morning after pill, or perform any number of medical procedures they find objectionable for any reason being stripped of their credentials.

The CPSO frames these proposals against a doctor's responsibility to their patients, postulating that a "physician's responsibility is to place the needs of the patient first, [so] there will be times when it may be necessary for physicians to set aside their personal beliefs in order to ensure that patients or potential patients are provided with the medical services they require."

As Gunter notes, one may have questions about at one point an abortion is or isn't a "necessary" service.

Perhaps one of the most recent Order of Canada recipients, Dr Henry Morgentaler, can provide us with a clue.

"We don't abort babies, we want to abort fetuses before they become babies," Morgentaler told CTV in 2004. "Around 24 weeks I have ethical problems doing that."

Morgentaler used his ethical concerns about late-term abortions as a reason to refuse to perform late-term abortions. "What we do at our clinics is if we have a problem like that we usually council the woman to continue the pregnancy and put it up for adoption if she is unable to care for it," Morgentaler noted.

Morgentaler's clinics were only performing late-term abortions in cases where the woman's life was imperiled by her pregnancy, or when a child would be born facing serious health concerns.

That most physicians refuse to perform abortion was cited by Morgentaler as a reason why no rules regulating late-term abortions are necessary. The argument in 2004 was, essentially, that doctors were regulating themselves.

Now, the CPSO is moving to refuse doctors in Ontario the right to refuse to perform an abortion or refer for an abortion.

It was bad enough when the pro-abortion lobby was merely opposing legislation like Bill C-537. Now, one can fully expect that the pro-abortion lobby will inevitably flock to shower praise on the CPSO for passing guidelines that will essentially grant women in Ontario the right to demand abortions (or, at the very least, referrals for abortion) from doctors who would otherwise be unwilling to perform them.

Even while they parrot Dr Morgentaler's insistence that regulation of late-term abortion is unncessary because doctors can refuse to perform them, they'll happily support the CPSO in making that very costly, indeed.

Unfortunately, it isn't at all like the pro-abortion lobby to gut their own logic in support of their cause.

But when the pro-abortion lobby's support of the CPSO emerges -- and it inevitably will -- Canadians will once again have their confirmation that, for the so-called "pro-choice" lobby, the issue isn't about choice at all.

It's about abortion. So much so that they believe that doctors should be denied the right to choose as punishment for the "egregious crime" of opposing abortion for ethical, moral or religious reasons.

One has to wonder, however: how will the "pro-choice" Dr Morgentaler respond if the CPSO makes it impossible for his clinics to refuse to perform abortions it would otherwise refuse to perform for ethical reasons?

Ultimately, Morgentaler himself has a great deal to lose if the CPSO gets its way.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

An Alternative View of Stephane Dion's Green Shift

It was recently brought to my attention that a good personal friend of mine -- and U of A Gateway colleague -- Jared Milne recently published an article in the Edmonton Journal commenting on Stephane Dion's Green Shift.

Those following the story here on the Nexus are well aware of the criticisms previously offered here. That being said, let it never be said that we at the Nexus are afraid of offering a dissenting opinion. On that note, here is what Mr Milne had to say about Dion's Green Plan:

"Dion's Green Shift offers a place to start

Even if you don't believe in climate change, plan would address many problems

Liberal Leader Stephane Dion's Green Shift plan for the environment has stirred up much controversy in recent months, not the least of which are the West's concerns about the plan's impact on the region's natural resources.

Some fear a repeat of the dark days of the national energy program, and others are raising the spectre of yet another national unity crisis.

Other parts of the country, such as Nova Scotia and the governments of the northern territories, have had similar reservations about Dion's policy. But before the debate becomes polarized, both sides need to take a look at each other's points of view.

For example, even if you don't believe in climate change, Alberta still faces a host of problems related to the development of the oilsands: the ecological devastation and the strains on our water supply, concerns noted by both right-wingers like Peter Lougheed and left-wingers like the Parkland Institute; serious medical problems among the aboriginal people of Fort Chipewyan resulting from contamination of their food supplies; the outsourcing of our bitumen and related jobs to the U.S.; the anger of some landowners over pollution of their property from sour gas wells and other problems, and their frustration over government activities related to the oilpatch, like the EUB scandal; inflation and a superheated economy putting a serious strain on ordinary workers, as Peter Lougheed has pointed out; and air and water pollution in general.

Unlike Stephen Harper, Dion is actually proposing concrete measures to try and respond to these problems that affect us all as Canadians. All of these things could be incorporated into a national green plan, which can propel it beyond the polarized debate on climate change.

And western concerns are very real, especially given the greater concentration of industrial emissions in the West, and the role of oil and gas development in the region's economy.

Some westerners even compare the Green Shift to the national energy program of the early 1980s, blamed by many for worsening or even causing Alberta's economic woes of that era. And their critics rightly point out that we're hardly the only polluters in Canada -- will the Green Shift have more of an impact on western resource development, than, for instance, Ontario's heavy industry or its coal-burning power plants?

The rhetoric on both sides doesn't help, either. Did Ken Boshcoff honestly think that his foolish blogging about a transfer of wealth from the West to the East would help Dion's cause? All that has done is fuel western suspicions, and made it that much harder to find an honest solution.

Besides, whether it's through the interest-free grants and loans Lougheed made to financially strapped provinces in the 1970s, up to the centennial scholarships organized as one of Ralph Klein's final gestures in office, the idea that Alberta is always selfish and uncaring is just plain ridiculous.

By the same token, however, any refusal to co-operate on Alberta's part and, even more so, any talk of western separation in response to the Green Shift won't help matters, and just gives ammunition to people who say we're greedy and uncaring.

Such issues as landowner anger over the Energy and Utilities Board scandal, and contamination of their land and property, and the sharp criticisms made by Peter Lougheed, show that not only left-wingers and Liberals are worried about these things -- they're problems that affect everyone, regardless of political affiliation.

Lougheed, the grandfather of Alberta conservatism, the man who brought the Conservatives to power in the first place, has stressed the need for an "olive branch" to the rest of Canada -- if the federal Conservatives aren't going to do anything about pollution, then doesn't it make more sense to try and cooperate with Dion and the Liberals if they actually are trying to find a solution, and make it stronger and better with our own input, rather than simply refusing to speak to him because of his party affiliation?

Lougheed has said that the oil projects in Fort McMurray should be slowed down -- maybe this slowdown can take some of the pressure off both our ecology and our economy, and buy us some time to deal with everything from the pollution at Fort Chipewyan to runaway inflation to the strain on our water tables, to finding a solution to the problems with the Energy and Utilities Board and pollution of public and privately owned land, without crippling the oil industry and putting Alberta in the poorhouse.

At the same time, we could make a strong statement to the rest of Canada by pointing and helping with other problems, like Ontario's continued dependence on heavily polluting coal plants.

Prominent Liberals and Conservatives like Dion and Lougheed are discussing many of the same issues -- if anything, the East and West probably have more common ground than they realize.

From there, a competent federal government can act as mediator between the provinces, developing a pan-Canadian environmental strategy that combines policies that apply to Canada as a whole in with variations that take provincial differences into account.

Whether or not the Green Shift is the solution to Canada's environmental woes, at least it's a start.

If Canadians co-operate with and listen to one another, and make an honest effort to see each other's points of view, maybe we can come together to do something great for the landscape we love.
Update: The man himself has some more points he'd like to add about the article in question:

"I am not so much endorsing the Green Shift so much as I am urging people not to dismiss it out of hand. I'm trying to show Westerners, especially Albertans, the other side of the story, and some of the reasons why people feel a need for this type of legislation. It's especially important not to dismiss Dion out of hand just because he's a Liberal-he's trying to do something about pollution, problems we're dealing with in Alberta."

"That said, the critiques offered by people like Rajiv Sinha (in the Sunday, August 17 edition of the Journal) are quite right. One important thing I wanted to do in the article was get people to consider Alberta's point of view, and just why we're so leery about the Green Shift. I wanted to put more emphasis on the comparison to the NEP, and Alberta's connection between that program and the Green Shift, in the original version, but I had to reduce it owing to the editor's changes. Like I said in the article, if we're going to tackle pollution, we have to do it in a way that minimizes the risk of putting Alberta in the poorhouse. After all, many Westerners have pointed out-and quite rightly, I might add-that Alberta's serving as one of the country's major economic engines, and we're already sharing a lot of our wealth in transfer payments. From Lougheed to Klein, Alberta has always been there to lend a hand in one way or another, and portraying us as blue-eyed sheiks, or comparing us to Quebec separatists-thank you very much, Garth Turner, we really appreciate it-doesn't do a damn thing to help out. Damage Alberta's oil industry, and what will happen to the rest of the national economy? Harper's tax cuts and squandering of the federal surplus have left us with little cash to draw on in case of an economic crisis-and wrecking one of our best industries doesn't help one bit if another such crisis does come."

"Like I said, the Green Shift is a start. I don't really think it's the be-all and end-all of environnmental policy-indeed, it might have sold better in Alberta if the emphasis wasn't just put on climate change, and steps were taken to mediate the Shift's regional effects. Harsher environnmental fines, subsidies for R&D in energy-efficient technology, and more support for public transit could all fit into a national green policy, and gain more support in the process, including in Alberta. As it stands, the Green Shift's impact is going to have the biggest impacts in Alberta, Saskatchewan and Newfoundland, and its effects are going to be unevenly distributed across the country. Don't get me wrong, it's extremely important that we restore at least some of the social safety net, as the Green Shift proposes, but the "transfer of wealth" that Ken Boshcoff stupidly advocates isn't the way to do it."

Open Letter to the Taliban

Taliban issues "open letter" to Canadians

On August 15, the Taliban issued an open letter to Canadians urging them to pressure their government to withdraw troops from Afghanistan.

In the letter, the Taliban promises more attacks on Canadians:

"Afghanistan has to try to have good relations with you, but if your government continues a reversed policy, the Afghans will be obliged to kill your nationals, in revenge for their brothers, their sisters, and their children. Events such as Logar will happen again, because occupied Afghanistan looks at all actors that are established in the interest of America with an eye of hostility.

Therefore, you have to convince your government to put an end to the occupation of Afghanistan, so that the Afghans are not killed with your hands and so that you are not killed with the hands of the Afghans.

The Canadian people have to realize if their sisters, their brothers, and their children are being killed in Afghanistan, it is because of the wrong policy of the government of Canada and their falling under the influence of others when they sent occupation soldiers to Afghanistan.

The Canadian people, when they express condolences for the death of two Canadian women in Logar in Afghanistan, and consider themselves grieved, they have to know that the Canadian forces, under American command, handicap tens among the Afghan people every day to this kind of condolence, and they kill, in addition to men, numbers of women and children, as well.

The Afghans did not go to Canada to kill the Canadians. Rather, it is the Canadians who came to Afghanistan to kill and torture the Afghan, to please the fascist regime of America. Your government did not take into account the national interests of Canada, and did not follow a neutral policy. It sacrificed its national and international respect and standing in service of the interests of America.”
The letter mentions the deplorable Logar incident in which three female aid workers were ambushed and brutally executed by Taliban fighters.

It was rather "thoughtful" of the Taliban to send us this letter. Frankly, it would be rude not to write them back.

As such, here is the
Nexus' response to the Taliban letter:

Dear Taliban,

Thank you so much for your thoughtful letter of 15 August.

But upon reviewing the contents of said letter, many Canadians simply have no choice but to say "thank you, but no thank you" to your "generous" advice.

If anything could demonstrate precisely why you cannot be allowed to return to power in Afghanistan, your letter has certainly done so.

First off, given the history of your regime, one has to question your definition of "good relations". Are we to believe that you were maintaining good relations with Canada when you allowed Osama Bin Laden and Al Qaeda to plot the 9/11 attacks which, along with 2,974 other people, took the lives of 24 Canadians?

At best, that was an act of astounding irresponsibility on your part. At worst, it was purely an act of passive-aggression.

Either way, Canadians cannot trust a Taliban regime, and certainly not to maintain "good relations" with us.

We also sincerely appreciated your disingenuous envokation of the Logar incident. If Canadians needed any more proof of what the Taliban thinks of both women and the Afghan people, it would be hard to imagine how. After all, not only do you apparently not understand the difference between aid workers and combatants, not only do you not seem to differentiate between men and women, but you also don't seem to feel any compunctions about assassinating people who have come to Afghanistan in order to help your fellow Afghans.

Not only did you not make an honest effort to fight poverty within your own country, but you're now apparently willing to kill those who've come to help them.

Which, believe it or not, is actually a step down from killing them your yourselves.

Few Canadians will pretend that no civilians have ever been killed in the course of the Afghanistan conflict. But we also recognize that there's a huge difference between accidentally killing Afghan civilians in the course of pursuing the Taliban (or when they fail to respect the rules established to ensure the mutual safety of Afghan civilians and NATO troops) and deliberately targetting them for terrorist attacks.

In fact, if the brothers, sisters, parents and children of those killed in Spin Boldak ever decide they want to take revenge for the deaths of their loved ones, odds are they're going to come after you.

You might want to stop and think about that.

Many Canadians will also remind you that our brothers, sisters and children whom you are killing in Afghanistan volunteered for that job and overwhelmingly support it. The families of our service men and women have also tended to overwhelmingly support the mission.

In short, Canadians are willing to pay the price for ensuring your brutal regime never returns to power in Afghanistan. Appealing to our grief for the loss of those you kill as a motive for capitulation is a poor gamble indeed.

We Canadians who support the mission will honour the sacrifice of our service men and women by continuing to support the cause they believed in -- namely, ensuring that you cannot return to power so you can continue to brutalize, terrorize and denigrate the Afghan population.

Canadians did not go into Afghanistan in order to kowtow to the American regime. Rather, Canadians have gone into Afghanistan because we have recognized a severe threat to global peace and security in your previous regime, and in the potential reestablishment of another.

We do not intent do withdraw from Afghanistan until we've assured that you cannot return to power there.

But we appreciate you taking time out of your busy schedule -- spent devising new ways to kill Canadian troops as well as Afghan civilians -- to talk to us.

But there really isn't much to talk to you about.

In the meantime, you may want to spend your time wondering how many of your allies you can really trust. After all, should NATO forces withdraw from Afghanistan tomorrow, who do you think Gulbuddin Hekmatyar is going to look at next?

Just think about that.

-Patrick Ross

The Reports of Sinfest's Demise Are Greatly Exaggerated

Thank god

But previously expressed sentiments stand.

Friday, August 15, 2008

RIP Sinfest (?)

"Webcomic to end all webcomics" comes to an end

All good things, it is said, must come to an end.

After nearly nine years, it seems Sinfest creator Tatsuya Ishida has decided to conclude his opus in typically cryptic fashion, leaving his legion of readers asking "is this really the end"?

The seemingly final comic features the recently-added Grim Reaper recurring character:

If that represents anything other than a conclusion of this comic, it's hard to tell what would.

It's rather unfortunate to see Sinfest finally conclude. Ishida combined supreme artistic talent -- originally masterfully emulating Calvin & Hobbes creator Bill Waterson and later adding strong Osamu Tezuka influences to his style.

More important than the artwork, however, is the writing. Combining post-90s slacker/stoner/hedonist characters with varying Biblical figures, Ishida produced a whimsical postmodern spiritual masterpiece.

Ishida masterfully wove together not only postmodern ennui with Christianity, but Christianity with various other spiritualities. What emerged is a webcomic presenting one of the purest Christian messages on offer amidst an epicurean bohemian fantasy world.

Of the countless comics produced by Ishida during Sinfest's run it would be hard to select only a few highlights. Regardless, here are a few.

Such as his poignant post-9/11 tribute:

Or his gifted ability to parody the most puritan elements of Christianity:

...While often providng an uplifting and often inherently Christian message:

...And still poking fun at quaint notions of good and evil:

Most of all, Ishida's work provokes the question of what one would say to God if only they, like Slick and company, had a hill where they could walk right out and converse with him. (Hopefully it would be better than this:)

And all of this from an individual who has actually given slim reason for one to suspect that he, himself, is factually a Christian.

If by some stroke of luck Sinfest is not concluding and will instead continue, many, many people will be better off for it.

But one may search the cryptic words of Ishida himself and find some sort of clue:

"Whenever I peel an orange, I save the stem end for last. There's something about pulling out the spine that is very satisfying. Texture-wise, visually, the little plucky squirty sensation, it's a fun little operation to cap the peeling process. That's sorta my modus operandi when it comes to food. I leave the best for last. When I have a chicken pot pie, for example, I eat all the carrots and peas first, and leave a stash of chicken for the big finish. When I have a sandwich I work my way around the crust to the middle. I have this shit down to a science. Sometimes, though, it's not so smooth. Things can get complicated. Like, when I'm eating a pancake breakfast with hash browns, bacon, and eggs, I can't decide what my favorite thing is. I panic a little in my heart because I don't know how it's gonna end. But that's what life is all about. Thrills, man. Thrills. I start out all confident that I'll end with a bite of bacon but then, the sweet syrupy pancakes start to win me over. Then the hash browns, that unassuming dark horse, makes a comeback. And then the eggs are like, "Hey, we're the pure unblemished souls of chicken! Recognize!" At that point, all bets are off. It's anybody's game. I might go with bacon. I might not. Nothing's set in stone. Anything can happen. I know what you're thinking. You're thinking, "Tat, You crazy fool! You HAVE to have the last bite planned out AT ALL TIMES!" But I like to live on the edge, Jack. I take chances. I flirt with danger. That's how I roll."
If these words are to be taken at their rather apocryphal meaning, then it's clear that, unfortunately, Sinfest has, indeed, concluded.

Which is unfortunate. But Tatsuya Ishida is too brilliant an artist to sit idle for long. Whatever his next venture may be, one should expect nothing but the highest standard of artistic quality.

David Orchard to Give it the Old College Try -- Again

Orchard reclaims Saskatchewan nomination

Breaking news out of Ottawa is that David Orchard -- the man previously spurned by Stephane Dion in the recent by-election in Saskatchewan -- has been nominated again in Desnethe-Missinippi-Churchill River riding of Saskatchewan.

His Dion-mandated replacement in that by-election, Joan Beatty, lost the riding to Conservative Rob Clarke.

"Many of the people from the highest reaches of the party told me that they felt they'd made a mistake and they wanted to make it right. If they want to win the riding, I don't think they could've gone any other way," Orchard announced.

While some may wonder precisely how Orchard -- an invidual who made perhaps his most prominent stand in politics against Free Trade can comfortably find a home in a generally pro-Free Trade party.

The answer turns out to be fairly simple: Orchard plans to make a little noise within the party on such topics.

"I think the essence of a vibrant, national party is you would have to encompass a wide range of views. Probably one of the worst things [is] a monolithic party where everybody stands up and nods at the same time and says the same things," Orchard insists.

Orchard also claims he wants to help take the Liberal party in a more populist direction. "I strongly believe that we have to open up the party to the ordinary people, the grassroots, and we have to touch a chord if we're going to be effective as a national party," he said.

Of course, one also remembers that Orchard's other prominent political stand was fighting tooth and nail to prevent a merger with the Canadian Alliance, a populist party.

Unsurprisingly, Orchard may be in favour of populism -- just not with what he deems to be the wrong people.

In the upcoming election -- when it finally arrives -- Orchard's mission will be simple: end Ralph Goodale's tenure as the only Liberal MP in the province by adding another tally in his party's ledger.

His work will be cut out for him. In Rob Clarke, Orchard is confronting an individual elected with more than 50% of the vote in a riding nestled in the heart of a province that seems to be on the verge of joining Alberta as Conservative territory.

Of course, that was only in a by-election, and one will have to wait to see what will happen in Desnethe-Missinippi-Churchill River when the real deal -- a federal general election -- finally arrives.

Until then, one has to hope that Orchard won't get too comfortable in his role as the Liberal candidate there -- it seems he can't quite trust Stephane Dion not to intercede.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

The Seeds Are Planted

Now Stephen Harper needs to see if the plant will grow

With the summer slowly drawing to a close, Prime Minister Stephen Harper seems content to continue to push Liberal leader Stephane Dion toward defeating the government and triggering an election.

"I think that Dion will have to make up his mind and I think quite frankly I'm going to have to make a judgment in the next little while as to whether or not this Parliament can function productively," Harper mused during a visit to Cupids, Newfoundland.

"I do think it's fair to say that in the past few months, and particularly over the summer, we have seen increasing signs that this Parliament is really not working very well anymore, it's becoming increasingly dysfunctional," Harper announced.

Of course, the opposition parties don't agree over who is making parliament "increasingly dysfunctional".

"A major part of whatever is dysfunctional is coming from the government side. He is choosing to cover over that, which is another reason why people don't trust Mr. Harper," asserted NDP leader Jack Layton.

"It's Mr. Harper and his house leader and his whip who have been orchestrating the dysfunctionality of this particular parliament," added Ralph Goodale, the sole Liberal MP in Saskatchewan.

Of course, there's plenty of blame to go around. Harper is absolutely correct to note the legislation currently being stalled by the Liberal majority in the Senate. Then again, plenty of people remember the sad, sad tale of their infamous obstruction handbook.

But even while the party struggles to stay ahead of the Liberal party in most polls, a recent poll has given some hope to the Tory faithful, showing that Canadians prefer the Conservative party to their opposition on a number of matters.

First off, leadership. Once again, Stephen Harper edged out Stephane Dion by 21 points in the question of who would make the best Prime Minister (43 to 22).

The Conservatives were judged to be the better of the two parties in addressing the economy (40-22), taxes (41-20) and crime (29-18).

The survey concluded that Canadians prefer the Liberals to the Conservatives on two issues: the environment (36-24) and poverty (32-25) -- both of which are addressed in Stephane Dion's "Green Shift".

If the Conservatives can find a way to convince Canadians to place more trust and faith in their agenda, they just might be able to parlay these numbers into another government -- possibly, if they're savvy enough, a majority.

The seeds for another government have been firmly planted. Now, the Conservatives need to water them -- and fast. If Stephane Dion follows through with some of his recent comments, they may not have much time.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

David Emerson Made His Bed

Now he'd fucking well better lay in it

When David Emerson won his Vancouver-Kingsway riding in the 2006 federal election, he promised to be Stephen Harper's "worst nightmare".

Instead, he crossed the floor to sit as Harper's Minister of International Trade and the Pacific Gateway. Eventually, he would be promoted to Foreign Affairs.

Shortly after crossing the floor Emerson suggested he wouldn't run again.

Now, he's changed his mind again. He "might" run again in an upcoming election. He just can't quite decide where.

Word is, he won't run in Vancouver-Kingsway. And, honestly, why would he? He provoked a great deal of outrage, including calls for a recall. This should come as no surprise, considering that he was elected as Liberal, then promptly turned his back on his constituents in order to further his own career.

There has been talk about Emerson running for reelection in a Conservative stronghold -- possibly even in Edmonton.

But to the very idea of this, Edmontonian voters should have only one thing to say to David Emerson: fuck off, David. You made your bed, now you have to lay in it. Go back to Vancouver-Kingsway and take your fucking medicine like a good little boy.

Canadians across the country should have better taste than to allow David Emerson to slither his way out of the electoral mess he's made for himself in Vancouver-Kingsway. He's now well into his third year as a cabinet minister. He's enjoyed the spoils of his duplicity, and eventually he's going to have to pay the price.

If he won't do so in Vancouver-Kingsway, hopefully Canadians of all partisan stripes -- Conservatives especially -- will have the good sense to administer that medicine wherever he may land.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Beijing Olympics Helping to Snuff Out Torch of Human Freedom

"McCommunism" providing disturbing new model for authoritarian rule

In the many months leading up to the 2008 Summer Olympic games in Beijing, the Chinese state has made one thing perfectly clear:

China isn't going to put up with any shit.

The intention to take no shit was underscored decisively yesterday as several Canadian protesters were deported from China. Reportedly, Chinese officials took Steve Andersen's credit card from him in order to purchase his own plane ticket home.

Over the past several days, the Real News Network has been featuring a fascinating series of interviews with Naomi Klein, wherein she discusses precisely how this authoritarian regime -- which Klein dubs "Police State 2.0" has come to fruition:

Klein proposes an interesting thesis: that the record $12 billion expenditure on securing the Beijing Olympic games has been done in order to "advance the goals of global capitalism".

One may agree or disagree with this thesis. In fact, the very ostentatiousness of the opening ceremonies, in particular, seems intended to impress upon the world the grandeur of modern China -- a common attitude within China throughout history (urban legend continues to assert that chopsticks, in particular, were invented for the near-sole purpose of humiliating foreign diplomats).

On the other hand, there's no question that China -- with a population of nearly 1.5 billion people -- has been a tremendous benefactor of capitalism. Meanwhile, the Chinese Communist Party -- with a clear incentive to keep itself in power and clearly having learned the lessons of its former compatriots in Russia -- clearly benefits from the sheer vastness of the resources that eager capitalists have funnelled into populous China.

The bigger question is whether or not the Chinese state is intending to use all this security to create a "consumer cocoon" or whether China's Communist regime (although Communist only in name) has merely used the Olympics, coupled with the current national security culture that has swept the post-9/11 world, as a pretext to give itself the means to sustain itself in power indefinitely.

In Shock Doctrine, Klein argues that post-WWII capitalism has used various disasters -- of one form or another -- to advance itself throughout the world.

In the post-9/11 world, Klein argues, the threat of terrorism has become this disaster -- or rather, potential disaster -- that capitalism has used to promote itself.

Klein notes, however, that a particular threat has long menaced Chinese society -- that of overpopulation. This, coupled with a government-mandated policies limiting the number of children married couples are allowed to have, has given rise to a natural surveillance culture within China. Klein argues that the unparalleled security measures put in place in advance of the 2008 games are simply a "technological upgrade" of this surveillance culture.

Klein notes that the number of migrant Chinese (130 million at most recent count) has posed a challenge to the natural surveillance culture. As such, the "technological upgrade" was necessary just for Beijing to maintain its oppressive grip.

Klein notes that we see many such surveillance systems in western culture, particularly in airports -- although there is a big difference between such surveillance being present in an airport and being present on a public city street.

Klein notes that the Olympics have been a fantastic loophole for China to get its hands on security tools barred from export to China after the Tiananmen Square massacre. This is being done in the name of securing the games for international spectators, athletes and VIPs.

One has to think that Chinese organizers were well aware of this when submitting their bid for the 2008 Olympic games.

There is no question that Democracy has not followed Rupert Murdoch's introduction of Satellite Television into China.

Murdoch likely never contended with the will of western telecommunications firms to do whatever is necessary to gain access to the Chinese market. Klein astutely notes that many of these firms have been complicit in the construction of the police state infrastructure in China.

However, China's bending of the global capitalist economy to its will -- rather than vice versa -- undermines Klein's original thesis.

When the Olympics were awarded to China, it was expected that western civilization would be able to export its ideals into China.

For Naomi Klein, however, the trend has allegedly been the reverse: instead, Chinese-style repression is exporting itself into western society. The arguing points for this remain fairly obvious ones: the widespread legislation of various anti-terror acts that allow governments to curtail civil liberties when they feel it to be necessary.

However, it took 9/11, 7/7 and more than twenty years of terrorist attacks (including Canada's own Air India bombing) for such legislation to even become viable in western civizilation. China, meanwhile, has maintained its current brand of totalitarianism for one year shy of six decades.

And while its interesting to note how Chinese communism has evolved over these 59 years -- for example, Maoism enshrined ruralism, whereas modern China has, as Klein notes, made use of 130 million displaced rural Chinese in order to build its modren prestige cityscapes -- the authoritarian nature of its regime has not changed.

The 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre only underscored the regime's intent to never change any more than necessary.

If anything, the 2008 Beijing games risks fomenting tolerance for the authoritarian tendencies of the Chinese state.

The Olympics once stood for something better. The Olympics were once argued to promote peace and acceptance amongst differing countries and cultures. The Olympic Torch was argued to represent human nobility. The spirit of international competition was intended to promote freedom and human rights.

Instead, China has taken up the Olympic Torch as a pretext to impose an ever more oppressive grip on its society.

The 2008 Beijing games will remain a black eye on the face of the Olympic movement. Its legacy will be the further oppression of the citizenry of its host nation, the the fire of the Olympic torch will remain forever diminished.

But not in the name of capitalism, as Naomi Klein insists. Rather, it will be in the name of totalitarianism for the sake of totalitarianism.