Tuesday, March 31, 2009

This Day in Canadian History

March 31, 1984 - Steve Fonyo re-starts Terry Fox's journey

In the legendary story of Terry Fox and his Marathon of Hope, a name forgotten all too often is Steve Fonyo.

On March 31, 1984 Fonyo, who had also lost a leg to cancer, started re-tracing Terry Fox's path across Canada by dipping his prosthetic leg in the harbour at St John's, Newfoundland.

Fox had passed away just under three years previous. A year before his passing Fox had been forced to abandon his Marathon.

On May 29, 1985 Fonyo concluded his run in Victoria, BC. The beach on which he concluded his ride is now named after him -- as are numerous other landmarks across the country.

Fonyo succeeded in raising $13 for Cancer Research, and was named to the Order of Canada within a year of completing his run. Sadly, Fonyo's father, Steve Fonyo sr, would die of lung cancer later in that year.

Fonyo would repeat his incredible feat by running across Britain in 1986 and '87.

Unfortunately, in 1997, Fonyo's life would tumble from the inspiring heights he had achieved when he was charged with assault with a deadly weapon, a firearms offense, theft, and fraud. He would recieve a suspended sentence of 18 months.

Fonyo would eventually go on to earn a helicopter pilot's license.

Fonyo evidently didn't possess all the qualities Canadians continue to righly credit to Terry Fox. But one thing he evidently did share with Fox was the determination to make a difference.

MacKay's NATO Bid Not Over Yet?

Secretary General speculation continues

Despite Peter MacKay's numerous insistences that he isn't seeking the job, speculation about the Defense Minister's near-frontrunner status in the campaign continues.

Even putting his repeated announcements that he isn't pursuing the job aside, MacKay's chances of winning seemed dim after Anders Fogh Rasmussen, the Prime Minister of Denmark, was rejected by Turkey.

Turkey has reportedly decided to back MacKay.

Polish Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski, the strongest candidate aside from MacKay, also dropped out of the race recently.

Like Sikorski, however, MacKay's potential ascension to the office of Secretary General may be complicated by recent antagonisms with Russia.

All of this continues to rely on whether or not MacKay is seeking the office at all. MacKay may simply wait for other candidates to draw criticism from their potential rivals. Then again, at this point, only MacKay himself really knows.

Other bloggers writing about this topic:

Jeff Jedras - "Turkey and Poland: We'll Take Peter MacKay to Block

Monday, March 30, 2009

The Dilemma of Public Risk, Public Reward

Normally, it would be considered an honour to be asked a question by one of the world's top academics.

That is, unless the question isn't really a question at all, but rather a thinly-veiled criticism. That was the case at a recent Council of Foreign Relations conference in New York, as Benjamin Barber addressed a question to US Secretary of the Treasury Tim Geithner regarding who will profit from the publicly-funded bailouts being assembled for various large companies.

The controversy surrounding this has reached a fever pitch lately in the wake of revelations that AIG was poised to use bail out funds to pay bonuses to their executives.

At a time when public funds are so clearly being misappropriated for private profit, one can count on Barber -- one of the world's top democratic thinkers, who has offered cogent criticisms on capitalism's effect on democracy -- to take a stand on the issue.

"I'm a political theorist, not an economist," Barber begins. "When I teach the theory of capitalism it suggests that profit is the reward for risk."

"What seems to have happened recently is that whenever someone talks about nationalizing the banks people scream 'socialism' but the current administration seems to be wanting to socialize risk but keep profits private," Barber explains. "That seems to be the new capitalism in the United States, where the taxpayers take a lot of the risk but the market continues to enjoy profit should there be any. The real question is whether there are mechanisms to allow, if taxpayers are going to take the risk, for them to enjoy all, not some of, the profits rather than a system in which you're trying to revive the markets on the taxpayer's back."

Geithner explains that, whenever markets are unwilling to take risks, the government is obligated to do so in order to help repair the damage.

Geithner also rejects the idea that the government should accept all the risks, and suffer all the losses, forthcoming from such an effort. But to Geithner, it seems that the reward for accepting these risks is what he describes as a "firmer foundation for repair".

It's easy to fall into the trap of thinking of profit merely in monetary terms. There are important other ways in which the public could profit from these bailouts, particularly in terms of economic and job security.

One would expect that, in a capitalist economy, the government wouldn't have to use a potential bailout as leverage in order to prevent business executives from making stupid decisions. One of the most important conditions for a bailout of any industry -- particularly the automotive industry -- is that the continuing exodus of jobs overseas has to be halted.

For the average business executive, this shouldn't be a difficult concept to understand. Certainly, an automotive company that ships its jobs to markets in the developing world reduces its cost of production.

But it does leave behind, on a continuing basis, thousands upon thousands of people who can no longer afford to purchase their product. When one slowly decimates their own market in the quest for lower and lower production costs -- and higher and higher profits -- the business model has clearly committed itself to a self-destructive cycle.

Stopping that exodus of jobs overseas may require autoworkers' unions to renegotiate the extremely generous collective agreements they've negotiated with carmakers over the past several years. Some concessions have been made already, but the restructuring effort hasn't gone far enough.

It's important to remember that the automakers themselves aren't the only private interest involved in bailing out automakers. Unions often disguise themselves as public interests very effectively, but at the end of the day each and every individual union represents a comparatively small and limited group of people.

Unions must also share in the risk that, if they make concessions, conditions may never improve to the point where those concessions can be profitably reciprocated.

By the same token, however, the government must ensure that it legally obligates carmakers to reciprocate any concessions made by unions should their companies ever return to profitable status.

Episodes in which unions make concessions to companies who later unilaterally refuse to reciprocate them cannot be tolerated. An undeniable role of any government is to ensure that they cannot do such things with impunity.

Once again, such behaviour becomes a problem for companies that, in the future, may have to go back to their unions in search of further concessions. With the memory of past screwjobs firmly in memory, such companies shouldn't expect concessions.

As before, no one should expect that the government would have to legislate in order to prevent such companies from shooting themselves in the foot. Then again, there is too often a massive difference in life between what should be and what actually is.

As it regards the potential nationalization of banks, those in favour of such a move must recognize the fact that if the government nationalizes significant portions of the financial sector it will have to accept all the risk related to those sectors.

While the public should be able to reap all the rewards, it would also have to absorb all the losses.

This is one of the best reasons to keep government and commerce as far apart as efficiently regulated markets and industries will allow.


PETA takes an awfully heavy toll on animal life

A news story emerging out of Britain today paints a not-so-rosy picture of PETA's operations in that country.

According to figures released today, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals has collected up to five animals per day at its offices, and subsequently helped find homes for a grand total of seven of them. In a full year.

The rest of these animals -- 2,124 of them -- were put down.

This means that PETA has a %0.003 success rate in sparing the lives of animals turned over to it.

As it turns out, despite the fact that it collects 25 million Pounds Sterling in donations a year, PETA doesn't run a single adoption shelter in Britain. Nor does it operate one anywhere else in the world. Not one.

It's long been known precisely how disingenuous and hypocritical PETA really is.

They continue to slaughter animals at an unconscionable rate, making no effort whatsoever to spare them, but god forbid that someone, somewhere in the world eats a hamburger.

PETA's priorities aren't simply supremely fucked up. They're pretty much non-existent.

M Bantha Pudu

The Land of Possibilities

Anything is possible for Canada, if only Canadians believe it

For many years, many Canadians have feared a crisis of vision in Canadian politics.

Canada has come a long way since the heady days in which men like Pierre Trudeau, Lester Pearson and John Diefenbaker spun glorious visions for Canada. Over the past 30 years Canadian politics has largely been reduced to ruminations over competing economic programs. Commerce has come to embody the visions Canada's leaders offer Canadians.

Liberal MP Ken Dryden, for one, has become wary of the acquiesence of all too many Canadians to a small vision for their country.

“We are more, so much more, than we are willing to see and know,” Dryden recently mused. “That bothers me because this understanding hammers into place in our country’s life a ceiling that is so limiting, so beneath what we can do and be.”

Dryden seems to think that this stems from what has emerged as an educational tradition in this country: teaching Canadians that their country is, by historical standards, a small country that has settled for a supporting role, second to larger and more powerful countries like the United States and Britain.

Yet Canadians have led on the global stage in many ways, and on many occasions -- something that Canadians all too often forget.

“If you have the wrong story, you get the wrong answer,” Dryden explained. “It’s time for a new story, because none of us can do the jobs the way they should be done without it.”

“Emerging out of World War II, the US was a country of greatness realized on the way to something greater," he continued. "Canada was a country of greatness imagined and greatness imaginable.”

Giving a voice to this kind of optimistic hope is something the Liberal party has long done much better than their premiere rivals, the Conservative party. This isn't to say that the Tories lack this belief in Canada.

Stephen Harper's great love of and faith in Canada is evident to those who actually listen to his words. These qualities are obscured by Harper's undeniably stuffy nature and by those who vacuously accuse him of wanting to transform Canada into the United States.

Most Liberal politicians clearly possess greater talents in terms of expressing an optimistic vision of Canada's future.

Ken Dryden is evidently no exception to this fact.

Moreover, he's right.

Canadians have fostered a vision of their country as one of the world's supporting countries. For too long Canadians have imagined their country as one that follows, as opposed to one that leads.

But Stephen Harper's words -- which all too often ring short of inspiring -- provide us with many reasons why Canadians should think of their country in grander terms.

Canada is an energy superpower. Between the oilfields of Western Canada and Nova Scotia, the hydroelectric resources of Quebec and British Columbia, and Saskatchewan's uranium, Canada can produce enough energy -- much of it renewable energy -- poises Canada to be uniquely influential in the global order. Candians only dare be bold enough to exert that influence.

Canadian researchers continue to lead in fields such as robotics and stem cell research -- both fields which will be increasingly important in future.

As a member of the G8, Canada has one of the largest and most productive economies in the world. The institutional infrastructure of Canada's economy has received high praise in the midst of the ongoing global economic crisis, meaning that Canada has partially insulated itself against the pitfalls that continue to suck other countries deeper and deeper into the ongoing calamity.

Even in the midst of the ongoing crisis Canada has an excellent base on which to continue building its future.

But mesmerized by an image of their country as a global bit-player, Canadians seem reluctant to imagine the kind of grand visions a country like Canada can embody.

This is something that needs to change. Canadians need to be taught that their country is more than a mere middle power. Canadians need to start thinking of themselves as a middle power with superpower amibitions, even if -- and especially if -- this doesn't embody becoming a military superpower.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Mos Def Old Schools Bill Maher

Mos Def comes correct, Bill Maher not so much

One of Real Time host Bill Maher's greatest talents is consistently getting the last word on any particular topic.

Like comedians, rappers also thrive on getting the last word. Appearing on a recent installment of Real Time, renowned and revered battle rapper Mos Def managed to walk away with the last word on the topic of education.

Mos Def can often seem more than a little radical. On the topic of Osama Bin Laden he suggested that Bin Laden has become a mythical character, and while the deeper implications of his comments -- that Bin Laden isn't worth pursuing -- should be firmly rejected, he may nonetheless be right about Bin Laden's new-found mythological qualities. He approaches many topics with a wisdom that exceeds that generally credited to rappers.

At one point of the discussion, Mos Def notes the number of school teachers who are currently being fired in the United States, and suggests -- again, quite rightly -- that this is a much bigger problem than Osama Bin Laden.

Maher responds by insisting that "sometimes the way to fix the educational system is to fire bad teachers."

As Jean Scheid notes, Maher couldn't be expected to know which teachers have been fired and how good they were at their jobs. It's likely that many good teachers have been laid off under current economic conditions, and because most school systems are unionized it's likely that many bad teachers have kept their jobs based on seniority.

Even under ideal conditions Maher only has it half right. Bad teachers shouldn't merely be fired, as he insists. Rather, they should be replaced with good teachers.

Benjamin Barber has often insisted that education is one of the most important tasks of any democratic state, as education is one of the most important tools of any fully-engaged citizen.

Good education makes for good citizens. Likewise, poor education makes for poor citizens -- in more ways than one.

For any country wishing to maintain a high quality of life, as well as a high quality of democracy, education has to be priority number one. As one looks further down the list of things the United States should consider a priority, capturing Osama Bin Laden appears further away from the top of that list as it's ever been.

This doesn't mean that the United States shouldn't pursue Osama Bin Laden or fight terrorism. It must continue to do both.

But it must also keep its priorities in order. The United States cannot afford to pursue Osama Bin Laden or right terrorism if it's at the direct expense of its most important functions.

Mos Def seems to get this. Unfortunately for the Real Time host, Bill Maher doesn't seem to.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

A Dr Strangelove For All Times

Stanley Kubrick laughs in the face of nuclear war

For nearly 50 years after the conclusion of World War II, the world lived in fear of nuclear holocaust.

It was at the very height of this fear -- in 1964 -- that Stanley Kubrick produced Dr Strangelove: Or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb.

In this classic film, Kubrick made the case that the terrors inspired by nuclear weapons were minor compared to the fear that should have been inspired by the human frailty, stupidity and greed of those in control of the world's nuclear arsenals.

The film begins auspiciously, as orders to attack the Soviet Union are issued to American bombers circling at their advance staging points.

When told to issue attack orders Captain Lionel Mandrake (played by the incomparable Peter Sellers) is immediately skeptical. When he's told orders to go to condition red are not an exercise, he seems perplexed by the very idea. Later in the film he insists that the orders simply must be an exercise.

His suspicions that General Ripper (Sterling Hayden) isn't on the level eventually lead him to confront him. When he deduces that Ripper is acting under his own prerogative Mandrake insists on calling the bombers back under his own authority.

Ripper has prevented this, but Mandrake displays what may -- in its own way -- be the only sane response to the prospect of nuclear war. Disbelief is the only sane response to the prospect of initiating nuclear warfare with its inevitable promise of mutual annhiliation.

There's certainly something both unsettling and contradictory about the notion of "nuclear combat", as expressed by Major TJ "King" Kong (Slim Pickens).

Nuclear war promised little resembling combat, instead merely offering a mutual exchange of overwhelming firepower.

In the situation room at the Pentagon, General "Buck" Turgidson (George C Scott) seems to buckle under the weight of the stupidity inherent in the system's design. In an effort to take human judgement out of the realm of decision making in regards to nuclear war the chiefs of staff have left themselves entirely unable to recall the bombers. Having sacrificed command in control ironically in the name of command and control, they've rendered themselves almost entirely impotent in the face of impending disaster.

The idea that a pair of doomsday weapons could actually be less destabilizing than common human frailty and stupidity is an unsettling (if amusing) idea, but that is precisely the idea Kubrick puts forth with Dr Strangelove.

When confronted over the United States' own doomsday device by Soviet Ambassador Alexi de Sadesky (Peter Bull), President Muffley seems to legitimately believe there is no such device. Hilariously, Sadesky says his source was the New York Times.

Then again, after the long and arduous ordeal that was the George W Bush Presidency, it seems far less than implausible that a newspaper would know more about that's going on in the United States than the President.

More humourously yet, the Soviet doomsday weapon is designed to detonate not if anyone activates it, but if someone attempts to deactivate it. The idea seems rather simple -- that, left unimpeded, doomsday devices would provide a stabilizing influence over nuclear affairs. In fact, the attempts to contravene nuclear holocaust lead instead to an increasing threat level.

As Freeman Dyson has noted, efforts to contravene nuclear holocaust through projects such as the Strategic Defense Initiative had not the stabilizing influence its designers would have hoped, but rather a destabilizing influence -- leaving Soviet leaders with few viable alternatives other than to build enough missiles to overwhelm SDI in order to eliminate the possibility of a retaliation-proof American attack.

(It's important to remember that American nuclear doctrine allowed for first use of nuclear weapons, while Soviet doctrine did not.)

SDI clearly wasn't a doomsday weapon. However, like a doomsday machine, SDI reveals the shortcomings of the notion of deterrence. Deterrence, as described by Dr Strangelove (Sellers again) is the production of fear in the minds of the enemy -- making them too afraid of retaliation to even dare a first strike.

Making the enemy too fearful only spurs them to create new weapons in order to reestablish a balance of power -- or even to re-tip the balance of power in their favour.

In the end, this kind of fear leads to a state of affairs in which annhiliation is nearly inevitable.

The same vein of thinking applied to the construction of nuclear arsenals can also be applied to the post-war environment, just as Dr Strangelove does when he dreams up a plan in which survivors of a nuclear war would take refuge in mineshafts, under conditions in which women would drastically outnumber men, and be encouraged to breed vigorously.

In the end, President Muffey and his administration simply allow the weapon to detonate, revealing another factor that led to a destabilization of the global nuclear order -- the belief that one could establish a favourable post-holocaust order, even one beneficial to oneself.

In Dr Strangelove, Stanley Kubrick reminds us that the only thing more terrifying than nuclear weapons are the people who were given control of them.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Undemocratic, Not Prudent

Tories make it harder to contest nominations

Most Canadians have long been fed up with Conservative MP Rob Anders.

A recent bid by Donna Kennedy-Glans to challenge Anders for his nomination has, unfortunately, hit a snag as the Conservative party national council issued a rule change requiring a two-thirds affirmative vote by the members of a riding association's membership in order to have a nomination challenge.

In Calgary, Anders must be breathing a sigh of relief.

But in Vegreville-Lloydminster, where local MP Leon Benoit is at no risk of a nomination challenge, Conservative riding association Danny Hozack doesn't like the change. Despite the fact that his MP is beyond secure in his nomination, Hozack has his concerns about the change.

“Imagine if the equivalent happened at a federal election,” he mused. “We just want to make sure everyone gets out and votes.”

“We spend a lot of time convincing people to become involved,” he added. “At least before they felt included, some might find the change offensive.”

If one accepts the rationale of Conservative party President Don Plett, the move was simply to keep Tory MP's attention focused on the current economic crisis.

“If we don’t do something like this then the incumbent doesn’t know whether he or she will be challenged and so they have to spend an unbelievable amount of time in the riding securing their own job if you will and not doing the work they were elected to do,” explained Plett. “We had nominations less than a year ago in many of our ridings across the country.”

“At a time like this when we are focusing so much and working hard with a serious financial crisis, it’s hardly time to take our attention away to fight nominations,” Benoit agreed. “I know the Prime Minister was very concerned that MPs [would] have their focus taken away from the business at hand."

"[My last nomination] a little more than two years ago was a very clear decision," Benoit added. "I’ve had five nomination races in my 15 years and none of them have been really heavily contested lets just say.”

All of this is well and fine for someone like Benoit who has served his constituents honourably.

But as it regards an individual like Anders, who has embarrassed Canadians on numerous occasions -- including denouncing Nelson Mandela as a terrorist -- this move may prove unwelcome to his constituents.

While Don Martin continues to hold out hope that Conservatives in Calgary West may yet get to Anders by throwing out the riding association board of directors that supports him, a two-thirds affirmative vote to challenge his nomination may be difficult to muster. A simple majority may not be.

If the Conservative party were really prepared to live up to the populist credentials its roots in the Reform party would otherwise demand it would scrub rule changes such as this and allow members of riding associations to make their decisions unencumbered by the fiat of the party's national council.

Other bloggers writing about this topic:

Buckdog on Politics - "Trouble Ahead for Rob Anders"

Pierre Trudeau is my Homeboy - "Does Stephen Harper Support Rob Anders?"

Calgary Grit - "Closet Liberals"

Evolution is a Fact

Someone please alert Zorpheous

Some may recall the witch hunt that ensued even after Canadian Minister of State for Science Gary Goodyear affirmed his belief in evolution.

Various ridiculous excuses have been offered for the continuing witch hunt well after such hysteria may have been warranted. Some attempted to argue that because Goodyear spoke about adaptation he wasn't talking about evolution -- some of those individuals ahve been forced to eat their words after admitting that not only is adaptation central to the process of evolution, but that the specific examples cited by Goodyear fit squarely within that context.

Another, particularly insipid, argument is that Goodyear merely accepts adaptation but not the common ancestry of species. This argument basically amounts to the argument that, because Goodyear didn't speak about common ancestry, he's a secret creationist.

But the most humourous argument raised was put forth by Wingnutterer and general Sycophantic Groupthink worshipper Zorpheous:
"One does not believe in Evolution, one either accepts it as the a Scientific fact, or at least as the best Scientific theory, or you don't. 'belief' is for the sky fairies.

I do not believe in Newton's Laws of Motion, I accept them as being fact and true (with in a Newtonian frame of reference). I accept The Laws of Thermodynamics as fact, no belief is required.

Also Goodyear's clarification demonstrates that he doesn't have a freaking clue about macro and micro evolution, and most like doesn't even under either and their place in complete Evolutionary Model.

In short, Goodyear only confirmed his ignorance.
The overwhelming stupidity of Zorpheous' argument is apparent almost immediately, the instant that one considers the meaning of the word believe.

It's amusing to hear someone who devotes so much of his time trying to label the entire conservative wing of the blogosphere as stupid insisting that one cannot "have confidence or faith in the truth" of a fact, or that one cannot accept a fact as "true or real".

Not to mention the fact that it can be confirmed that human adaptation to sun intensity -- as alluded to by Goodyear -- has an evolutonary basis.

As Ryan Gregory notes, these things are facts. One can only wonder how it is Zorpheous can imagine that one cannot believe in fact.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Regress This, Lawrence

Lawrence Martin takes issue with Harper government's foreign policy

Writing in an op/ed article in today's Globe and Mail Lawrence Martin has some poignant words about the Harper government's foreign policy.

He doesn't like it.

In Martin's opinion the Harper government's foreign policy has been much too confrontational, not committed enough to environmental issues, and too grounded in the present:
"Stephen Harper has been taking a lot of flack from his right-wing base. The red-meat eaters say he's a lousy excuse for a conservative. But, on this one, the base is off-base. On fiscal matters, the Prime Minister may have demonstrated a liberal side. In these tottering times, most every leader is doing that.

But look at the other indicators. Check the law-and-order fixation, the leisurely approach to the green file. And look at the record on foreign policy – Mr Harper has surely earned his hard-line stripes. Previous Conservative governments showed some progressive strains abroad. Not these Regressive Conservatives. With Russia, with China, in the Middle East, they harbour old confrontational attitudes. There's no new outreach as there is in Washington, no new thinking for new times.
Interestingly enough, as one continues to trudge their way through Martin's column one quickly notices how much Martin's new thinking is like the old thinking of Martin's beloved Chretien-era Liberal party.
"A month ago, there was that soft-sounding summit with President Barack Obama. It was barely over before the Conservatives tried to get Cold War juices flowing, accusing Moscow of encroaching on Canadian airspace with their bombers. Since the flights were in international airspace, the anti-Red rhetoric fizzled.

Mr Obama is trying a more reasoned approach with Moscow, as he is with Tehran. In Iran's case, he has opened the doors to dialogue and diplomacy. Not so Team Harper.
This, naturally, would depend on how one defines "reasoned".

One may ask Martin how "reasoned" it is to allow Russian bombers to skirt Canadian airspace, or how "reasoned" it is to allow Iranian prison guards to rape and beat Canadian citizens to death without so much as a hiccup in diplomatic relations between the two countries (the latter of the two propositions appears to be a core belief of the Michael Byers school of international relations).

For any country that values its national sovereignty, or expects foreign countries to respect its passports, neither of these propositions comes even remotely close to qualifying as a "reasoned" foreign policy.
"With regard to the hellhole at Guantanamo, Washington is moving to shut its doors. Conservatives in Canada – witness the case of Omar Khadr – have hardly had a bad word to say about the place."
Martin could perhaps also be troubled to note how few Conservatives have anything positive to say about Guantanamo Bay.

Beyond that, Martin should also keep in mind that the United States has some serious national security issues at stake in the trial of various detainees at Guantanamo Bay and elsewhere.

The Harper government has been waiting for the Obama administration to decide how it wants to proceed on the matter of these detainees, and waiting for the Obama administration to ask it to take Khadr off of their hands.

If anything, Obama has been dragging its feet on the Khadr case -- which will ultimately decide whether or not individuals like Khadr should be treated as child soldiers are terrorists -- Martin's complaint rings hollow in the echo of his high words for Obama.
"Traditionally, Canadian governments pursue disarmament. A good question is whether there's ever been such silence on nuclear proliferation and arms stockpiling as we've had from Team Harper. It's like it's not a problem."
To pretend that Harper's government has done nothing on the topic of nuclear proliferation and disarmament. Harper's government supported UN sanctions against, of all countries, Iran -- one of the countries that Martin seems to disfavour confrontation with.

Meanwhile, Martin may want to take note of the fact that the Cold War -- and the looming threat of nuclear holocaust -- is over. And it was Martin's favoured Liberal party that was in charge while Pakistan and India were developing and testing nuclear weapons.
"Much has been written about our exceedingly slow boat to China. The PM can't seem to shake off old attitudes. He has yet to even visit the Middle Kingdom, despite its gigantic stature in the world economy."
While Harper's to-date failure to visit China is absolutely free game for criticism, one also has to remember that Harper's approach to China has proven superior than that of his predecessors, Jean Chretien or Paul Martin.

Harper hasn't allowed economic concerns to dissuade him from addressing China's atrocious human rights record. Chretien was notorious for being unable to even utter the words "human rights" in regards to China.
"In the Middle East, Ottawa has often taken a commendable pro-Israeli tilt. But our government has never been entirely one-sided. The Harper Conservatives have ended that tradition, becoming practically more pro-Israeli than Israel. They make no effort to bridge the Middle East divide. In the House of Commons this week, Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon sneered at Liberal critic Bob Rae for making a stopover in Syria on a recent trip. Mr Rae, a supporter of Israel, was trying to gain an understanding of other points of view. Mr Cannon should try it some time. Couldn't hurt."
At the same time, however, if one is looking for fresh perspective on Israel and its treatment of the Palestinians, one may want to look somewhere other than Syria, with its own incredibly questionable record regarding the treatment of Palestinians.
"In their most recent Jurassic Park vignette, the government barred George Galloway, the gadfly British MP, from entering Canada. This move found even some of the PM's most ardent supporters opposed. It followed an entry ban in January issued against William Ayers, an American advocate of violence in the 1960s who has since become a distinguished professor of education sought after by dissertation committees at Canadian universities. The Harper government continues to deport American conscientious objectors to the Iraq war."
George Galloway is a strange hill for any left-wing thinker to choose to die on.

Does he really want someone who accepts money from Saddam Hussein admitted to Canada? How about someone who donates money to Hamas? In the casea of Bill Ayers, how about someone who plots terrorist activities against his own government -- a government that is, by the way, Canada's most important ally.

Martin may also want to keep in mind that the conscientious objectors being deported back to the United States are not draftees, as was the case during the Vietnam war, and that many of them enlisted after the Iraq war began. Last but not least, current Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff has already ruled out supporting American war resisters in their bid to remain in Canada.
"On Afghanistan, the PM is showing some well-advised flexibility, and Defence Minister Peter MacKay has earned some plaudits. But, by and large, Ottawa is ignoring causes for which it would usually be engaged. Africa is largely forgotten. In Darfur, the International Criminal Court is pursuing a sitting head of state in connection with genocide. But as former justice minister Irwin Cotler points out, Canada – a force in creating the ICC – has shown little interest. The same, he says, is the case in Rwanda, where our foreign assistance for the indemnification of the horrors of 15 years ago has been cut."
The Sudan is an important situation for Canada to address.

But at the same time, Canada cannot be everywhere at once. Canada's foreign policy must focus on places where it has concrete interests -- be it security, economic or otherwise -- at stake. With few of those interests at play in Darfur and Canada fully engaged in Afghanistan, Canada has very few resources to devote.
"The Conservatives are in the midst of slashing the foreign affairs budget by $639-million from 2007 levels, while increasing spending on the military by $2.4-billion. If their creed is that guns trump diplomacy, it is being well-heeded."
Diplomacy remains as important as it ever was.

But Martin needs to remember that there are many things that diplomacy simply cannot accomplish. Whether he likes it or not, guns are sometimes very necessary.
"Criticism comes not only from opposition parties but from the likes of a former Conservative foreign minister, David Emerson, who cites our failures to appreciate and exploit Canada's place in the world. While other Conservative governments, particularly that of Brian Mulroney, showed a more open-minded side, today's government keeps its eyes wide shut.

On fiscal matters, it may be that our PM has become more moderate. But as for world affairs, there's clearly no need for his party's hard-liners to be rolling over in their caves.
Lawrence Martin has evidently chosen to take a very limited view to Canada's foreign policy, it's international interests, and how best to achieve them.

Other bloggers writing on this topic:

Montreal Simon - "Harper's Apocalyptic Foreign Policy"

Closing The Books on Petro-Canada

20 years later, Petro-Canada goes away quietly

The recent announcement of a merger between Petro-Canada and Suncor made news internationally.

More than simply a monster merger in the energy industry, the merger also marks the final closure on a long chapter of Canadian history.

Petro-Canada was founded in 1975 as part of Pierre Trudeau's scheme to partially nationalize the Canadian oil industry. It was founded in 1973 as a response to the quadrupling of world oil prices. Working in close cooperation with the NDP -- who actually tabled the bill to create the company -- the Liberals created the company, and placed more stringent controls on it than was usual for a crown corporation. The goal was to use the company as a policy tool.

The company was also the beneficiary of a surcharge at all the country's gas pumps, which was used to finance Petro-Canada buyouts of foreign-owned oil companies.

When Joe Clark arrived in office in 1979, his first goal was to eliminate this surcharge -- a goal he attempted to achieve in his ill-fated first budget. However, Clark also proposed an 18% tax on gasoline as a deficit-fighting measure. The Liberal party officially insisted that they defeated Clark's government over this fuel tax hike.

But Trudeau had also warned Clark against dismantling Petro-Canada. His proposed elimination of the Petro-Canada surcharge seemed to be a prelude to dismantling the company.

When Trudeau, returned to government, introduced the National Energy Program in 1980, Petro-Canada was used to administer it, making the company even more unpopular in Western Canada -- particularly in Alberta.

In 1991 Brian Mulroney finally began to privatize the company. Now, only a regulatory approval by Stephen Harper's government stands between Petro-Canada and its absorption into Suncor.

It's taken 20 years and the efforts of three different Prime Ministers to finally ferry Petro-Canada into the turning pages of history, but the task has finally been finished.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Polygamy Isn't the Problem

Tories addressing wrong issue in polygamy ban

As controversy surrounding the Winston Blackmore case continues it heat up, it seems that the governing Conservative party may envoke the notwithstanding clause in order to maintain polygamy as a criminal offense in Canada.

Blackmore's lawyer has publicly announced that he'll cite the religious freedoms guaranteed by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms -- and through it the constitution -- in order to defend Blackmore and his co-accused, Jim Oler.

Memos obtained through the Access to Information Act suggest that the Tories will not allow this to happen.

"Canadians of all backgrounds share some basic values, like a belief in human dignity, equality between men and women and the rule of law. It is these values that unite us as Canadians," states one of the memos prepared for Justice Minister Rob Nicholson. "The practice of polygamy represents a clear challenge to those unifying values."

Ironically, many were fearful that the Conservative party would envoke the notwithstanding clause to outlaw same-sex marriage. They didn't. But Blackwell's lawyer, Blair Suffredine, actually envoked same-sex marriage as a reason for polygamy's acceptability.

"It's pretty hard to justify why gay marriage is OK and polygamy's not," Suffredine mused.

And while many social conservatives will point to Suffredine's rationale as evidence that same-sex marriage does indeed undermine traditional marriage in Canada, the hysteria is at lest partially just that: hysteria.

Frankly, there's nothing wrong with polygamy when it's practiced between consenting adults. Polygamy itself isn't the problem.

The problems with polygamy surface in cases where underage girls or non consensual.

The state really doesn't have much business intervening in polygamist marriages unless either of these two conditions is present.

In focusing on polygamy itself, the Conservatives have missed the real problem. Unless a polygamist man's wives are underage or not consensually married to him, cracking down on polygamists very much is religious intolerance.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Not Your Grandfather's Party?

Mike Duffy hails the Tories as the party of the future

There's certainly something ironic about being told the Conservative party "is not your grandfather's party" by someone old enough to be almost anyone's grandfather.

Yet that was the scene at a recent Conservative party fundraiser in Wendover, Ontario when Conservative Senator Mike Duffy promoted his party as the party of the future.

“The Conservative Party is not your grandfather’s party, it is the party that will take Canada into the future," Duffy announced. "You have many achievements to be proud of.”

Duffy alluded to a few specifically: Canada's first Muslim MP, Canada's first black MP, Canada's first female Cabinet Minister, and the first French-Canadian Governor General.

It's true that the Conservative party has accomplished far more than it tends to get credit for. Progressive Conservative Prime Minister John Diefenbaker eliminated racial criteria from Canadian immigration policies. Fellow Progressive Conservative Prime Minister Brian Mulroney was instrumental in leading the international charge against South African apartheid.

Yet Duffy's insistence that the Conservatives are the party of tomorrow falls fairly hollow when one considers that the party doesn't have a youth wing.

It does have various campus organizations at Universities across the country, but there's little question that the party is neglecting to develop the talents of its youngest members and supporters.

Certainly Preston Manning's Manning Centre for Building Democracy does a lot of valuable work in this regard for Canadian conservatism in general. Furthermore, the Tories do have a number of rising young stars in their caucus, both in the House of Commons and the Senate.

But if the Conservative party wants to be the party of tomorrow, it needs to start building for tomorrow today. A national organization would allow young Conservatives to gain valuable experience in the party and begin the arduous climb up the party ranks.

The Liberal party and NDP both have youth organizations to build for the future. In not having such an organization the Tories have placed themselves at a distinct disadvantage.

If the Conservative party wants to escape the fate of being the Grandfather's party of Canada it needs to start incorporating its grandsons and granddaughters into its organizations.

The establishment of a youth wing would be a pivotal start.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Well Done, Peter

MacKay elicits apology from Fox News personality

If there's anything everyone knows about Fox News personalities, it's that they know how to keep things classy.

When they aren't berating their guests and cutting off their microphones, they tend to indulge themselves in the kinds of shit shows seen on Greg Gutfeld's Red Eye recently, wherein Gutfeld and his guests mocked the Canadiam armed forces.

While Canadians mourned the loss of another four soldiers killed in Afghanistan, Gutfeld and his guests took to poking fun at the idea that the Canadian forces may need to take an operation sabbatical from the region.

"Once their Afghan mission winds down sometime in 2011, certain members of the Canadian military are looking to take a much-deserved break. And by certain members I mean all of them," Gutfeld said. "Meaning, the Canadian military wants to take a breather to do some yoga, paint landscapes, run on the beach in gorgeous white Capri pants."

North of the border, no one has found Gutfeld and his ignorant cohorts funny. And rightfully so.

Defense Minister Peter MacKay answered the call on behalf of all Canadians when he publicly demanded an apology from Gutfeld.

"It's crass, it's insensitive, it's in fact disgusting given the timing where Canada is just receiving back four fallen heroes here at CFB Trenton," MacKay fumed. "There should be an apology -- to the families in particular, and to the Canadian Forces and to Canada generally -- given the sacrifice and the commitment that we've demonstrated in Afghanistan."

"What could anybody with common sense say about his kind of trash? It's ignorant, it's inappropriate, it's insulting," added Conservative strategist Geoff Norquay. "It's insulting to the 116 Canadian troops who have given their lives and paid the supreme sacrifice while we've been in Afghanistan."

Gutfeld has responded by issuing a less-than-heartfelt apology.

"I realize that my words may have been misunderstood," he wrote in a statement. "It was not my intent to disrespect the brave men, women and families of the Canadian military, and for that I apologize. Red Eye is a satirical take on the news, in which all topics are addressed in a lighthearted, humorous and ridiculous manner."

This follows an earlier twitter in which Gutfeld mused "My apologies to the Canadian military, they probably could at least beat the Belgians."

Gutfeld's apology has gotten a lukewarm response from some Canadians.

"I think it's very nice and all that they did apologize. It just goes to show you that they were just a bit reckless, I guess," said Jim Davis, the father of slain soldier Corporal Paul Davis, and a man who has worked tirelessly to help drum up support for the mission.

"It's a very solemn moment," Davis said of the arrival of Canada's most recent fallen. "When you look at the seriousness of that moment, and you look at the foolishness of those comedians, well, what a difference."

"It was total ignorance, poor taste and wasn't funny at all," Davis said about the comments themselves.

Getting an apology -- even a rather disengenuous one -- out of a Fox News personality is no short order. Canadians should feel at least some measure of satisfaction, although it's only a matter of time until some other idiot at Fox opens their mouth and says something stupid again.

Prelude to Senate Reform?

Reform may be on the horizon for Canadian Senate

When Stephen Harper closed out 2008 by appointing 18 new Senators he was accused of sounding the death knell for his own Senate reform agenda.

Instead, it seems that the move may have been a prelude to some smaller reforms.

Among some of the reforms being considered include a proposal to abolish the $4,000 property ownership requirement, as suggested by Liberal Senator Tommy Banks. Conservative Senator Hugh Segal believes Senate proceedings should be televised. Bert Brown and David Oliver are suggesting reforms to the Senate committee system and possibly even abolishing question period in the Senate (certainly a questionable move).

With 18 new Senators in the ranks, however, Harper and the Conservatives certainly have renewed strength in the Senate to help push through their reform agenda.

But if renewing efforts to institute Senate elections and term limits isn't on the Harper government's immediate agenda, they'd better get on with it.

Alberta's senators in waiting Link Byfield and Betty Unger have been touring the country urging provincial leaders to choose their recommendations for future Senators before any future appointments can be made -- or before the Tories lose office.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Well, That's Money Well Spent...

Raymond Lavigne draws fat paycheck to stay home

Being suspended from the Canadian Senate has proven to be quite lucrative for formerly Liberal Senator Raymond Lavigne.

Over the last two years Lavigne, who was expelled from the Liberal caucus over accusations of using Senate resources for personal gain and later placed on a pseudo-suspension after being charged by the RCMP, has collected his his total salary of $130,400 a year.

The charges stem from an incident in which Lavigne was accused of using a Senate staffer to cut down trees on his property in Lakefield, Quebec.

Since then Lavigne has been under an informal suspension. He was asked to not report for work in the Senate. His absences have been credited as "public business" (which one presumes involves mowing his own damned lawn), and as such is attendance record in the Senate is actually being treated as perfect.

If the proper penalty for his absence were applied a penalty of $250 per day would have been applied after 21 days of absence. (Interestingly, if non-sitting days were counted, a full year's absence would still leave Lavigne collecting nearly $40,000 per annum.)

"This guy is a disgrace," said Canadian Taxpayers Federation federal director Kevin Gaudet. "[He] is a poster child of the need for elected senators and accountability in politics."

Liberal Senataor Joan Fraser disagrees. "In this country you are presumed innocent until proven otherwise," she explains, objecting that it wouldn't have been fair to deny pay to a Senator not yet convicted of a criminal offence.

What Fraser is seemingly forgetting is that a June 2006 Senate committee determined that Lavigne had, indeed, misused Senate resources, and ordered him to repay $23,666. The committee itself referred the matter to the RCMP for further investigation.

If the Senate was able to determine that evidence was sufficient enough to order Lavigne to repay the funds it doesn't take a significant leap of the imagination to consider that Lavigne should have been suspended outright for his actions and denied his pay.

Raymond Lavigne should have been outright suspended from the Senate when the RCMP pressed crominal charges against him. If the rules regarding the suspension of Senators was prohibitive, as Conservative Senator Consiglio Di Nino suggests, then these rules are simply another example of the reform so desperately needed in the upper chamber.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

A Dr Strangelove For Our Times

Warning: the following post contains significant spoilers about the film The Watchmen. Those still interested in seeing this film should consider themselves forewarned.

Threat of nuclear holocaust looms over Watchmen

As time passes since the end of the Cold War, nuclear weapons have drifted further and further from the human imagination.

Since the prospect of nuclear holocaust has become a thing of the past the perceived relevance of nuclear weapons to international affairs has diminished.

The recent release of The Watchmen -- originally written by Alan Moore during the Cold War -- may inspire the reemergence of nuclear weapons back into the human imagination.

The ticking of the doomsday clock hangs heavily over The Watchmen. Woven immaculately in with the film's plot against the hunt for a hero killer is a plot about an alternate history Cold War in which the fate of the world hangs over jockeying between the United States and the Soviet Union over Afghanistan.

In this history, Richard Nixon has been elected President for three consecutive terms -- despite the unconstitutionality of the proposition -- the United States won the war in Vietnam, and Dr Manhattan (Billy Crudup) keeps a protective vigil over the world, wielding powers that conceivably allow him to avert a nuclear war.

Dr Manhattan essentially represents the ultimate Doomsday weapon. Throughout the film, he is credited with preventing the Soviet Union from carrying out the full extent of its ambitions for fear of the United States launching a nuclear reprisal with near impunity.

To emulate the language used in Dr Strangelove -- and reiterated by Freeman Dyson in Weapons and Hope -- Dr Manhattan presents both a doomsday gap and a superhuman gap which the Soviet Union cannot fill. The United States even uses him to win the Vietnam war -- many of the Viet Cong insist on surrendering to him personally, believing him to be a god.

This sentiment is echoed by a nuclear scientist in the film who insists that "...'God exists and he's American'."

However, he takes that sentiment to a logical conclusion when he adds, "If that statement starts to chill you after a couple of moments' consideration, then don't be alarmed. A feeling of intense and crushing religious terror at the concept indicates only that you are still sane."

In many ways, the existence of an interventionist God could -- and maybe even should -- terrify even the most faithful religious believer. The notion of God as a citizen or even partisan of any particular country should be considered even more terrifying.

The film presents Dr Manhattan as humanity's only hope -- the one thing that prevents the two most powerful forces on the planet from unleashing nuclear armageddon upon the planet. Dr Manhattan replaces the doctrine of MAD -- Mutually Assured Destruction -- with a doctrine of Unilaterally Assured Protection.

Yet the principle of Unilaterally Assured Protection does nothing to avert nuclear proliferation. If anything, UAP encourages further proliferation. As a fictional version of Eleanor Clift notes at the start of the film the idea that Dr Manhattan will prevent nuclear holocaust provides both Cold War beligerents with the motivation to make an open-ended commitment to nuclear proliferation.

The United States can do so secure in the notion that, if a nuclear war were to occur, they could expect Dr Manhattan to protect them first. The Soviet Union can be expected to do so out of fear -- hoping that they can build enough bombs to overwhelm Manhattan and the United States in a preemptive strike and destroy the entire American nuclear arsenal before it can be launched in retaliation.

(Although it's imporant to note that the nuclear doctrine of each country -- Soviet doctrine allowing for first strike but not first use of nuclear weapons and American doctrine allowing for first use of nuclear weapons but not first strike -- could have been expected to prevent such an outcome, provided they do not change.)

Even under Manhattan's protection, as Adrian Veidt (Matthew Goode) notes, there are no guarantees. Even if Dr Manhattan stops 99% of the bombs, the remaining 1% would still kill every living thing on Earth.

It's worth noting that Dr Manhattan's promise of Unilaterally Assured Protection renders him akin to the Strategic Defense Initative -- the United States' proposed anti-nuclear missile shield. Freeman Dyson noted that techologies such as SDI led to three possible futures: an arms control future, a technical follies future, and a "live and let live" future.

In the real world, American commitment to the SDI led to enhanced tensions between the United States and Soviet Union that led to renewed commitment to anti-proliferation and arms reduction treaties.

In Watchmen, however, Dr Manhattan -- the god-like missile shield in human form -- upsets the delicate balance of power maintained in the real-world Cold War. Yet what emerges isn't an arms control future, a technical follies future (the extent of Dr Manhattan's power renders him immune to technical folly) nor a "live and let live" future.

Instead, Dr Manhattan's existence leads to a desperate future in which each side measures their ability to sneak enough atom bombs through the protective shield to annhiliate the other side.

The existence of the ultimate deterrent -- Unilaterally Assured Protection -- does nothing to reduce tensions.

But protection which is unilaterally assured can also be unilaterally withdrawn. Resultingly, humanity would be faced by a continuing need to ensure that Dr Manhattan continues to care about humanity. But there is no guarantee that anything that powerful would continue to care. It most certainly wouldn't need to.

When Dr Manhattan and Silk Spectre (Malin Ackerman) split up, Manhattan retreats to Mars where he indulges himself in the watch building exploits of his past.

With his last human link to the world severed, Dr Manhattan seems to feel no more motivation to protect the world. The protection he once unilaterally assured is now unilaterally withdrawn.

In the absence of the ultimate deterrent, the Soviet Union makes their move on Afghanistan. In response Nixon sets a two-day deadline for Dr Manhattan's return -- something considered akin to setting a deadline for God's intervention -- after which Nixon will give the order to launch a nuclear barrage of the Soviet Union.

In the end, Adrian Veidt seems to conclude that the only way out of the dilemma is to convince both sides to become united in their terror of Dr Manhattan -- something akin to uniting rival believers in terror of God. Oddly enough, Dr Manhattan reaches agreement with him. One could only wonder if an interventionist God would be so generous.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Not Much of a Threat

George Galloway not much of a security risk

It seems that members of Canada's "peace" movement attending Monday's Resisting War from Gaza to Kandahar conference in Toronto will be disappointed. One of their star speakers, British RESPECT unity coalition MP George Galloway won't be admitted into Canada for the event.

According to Immigration and Citizenship Canada -- the department headed by Jason Kenney -- Galloway has been ruled inadmissable due to his sympathy for the Taliban and for financially supporting Hamas, which appears on Canada's black list of terrorist organizations.

Clearly, the latter issue is of much greater import than his sympathies for the Taliban. While his financial support of a terrorist organization does and should give one pause, it's also believed by a vast majority of Canadians that our country stopped holding one's sympathies against them when the Cold War passed into the pages of history.

George Galloway is an outspoken critic of the war in Afghanistan. This is no secret. He's also famous for insisting that Taliban are not his enemy.

If he has any reservations about what the Taliban did when they were in control of Afghanistan -- oppressing women, ethnically cleansing portions of the country and destroying other culture's religious iconography -- or the things they would do if allowed to return to power, he's certainly kept them to himself.

But in Canada, our Charter of Rights and Freedoms supports one's right to freedom of conscience and belief. Our government is expected not to bar people from entering the country based on their beliefs unless it poses a threat to the country.

Galloway has donated thousands of British pounds to Hamas. This makes barring him from the country more palatable on legal grounds, but it really doesn't make him much of a threat.

"This decision, gazetted in Rupert Murdoch's Sun, is a very sad day for the Canada we have known and loved – a bastion of the freedoms that supporters of the occupation of Afghanistan claim to be defending," Galloway insisted. "This has further vindicated the anti-war movement's contention that unjust wars abroad will end up consuming the very liberties that make us who we are."

"This may be a rather desperate election ploy by a conservative government reaching the end of line, or by a minister who has not cottoned on to the fact that the George Bush era is over," he continued. "All right-thinking Canadians, whether they agree with me over the wisdom of sending troops to Afghanistan or not, will oppose this outrageous decision."

Many Canadians will certainly oppose this decision, and they won't be wrong to do so.

Then again, there are some who will argue that someone who financially supports terrorists should be barred from entering the Country.

That being said, Galloway doesn't pose much of a threat to Canada. While barring him sends a strong message to those who financially support terrorism, it does little to make Canada more or less secure.

George Galloway is not much of a threat to Canada.

Conservatism's Man to Watch

If Arnold Schwarzenegger can survive economic crisis, conservatism can too

Of all the conservative leaders staring down the barrel of a deepening economic crisis, few have more reason to sweat than California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger.

When Schwarzenegger won the 2003 recall election replacing then-incumbent Governor Gray Davis he did so with widespread public support for two ballot propositions. One, Proposition 57, authorized the government to borrow $15 billion to pay off operating deficits. The other, Proposition 58, required the government of California to run balanced budgets.

Schwarzenegger has already had to address significant challenges in his tenure. Perhaps the most threatening was a confrontation with California teachers wherein circumstances forced him to abandon a deal he had struck with teacher's unions.

The deal allowed Schwarzenegger to cut $2 billion from the state's education budget in order to make up for shortfalls in state revenues related to an economic downturn. In exchange, Schwarzenegger promised not to challenge a law guaranteeing annually increasing funding for kindergarten through grade 12 and to restore the money in the next year's budget.

California's economy failed to improve, forcing him to abandon his promise under peril of running a deeper deficit.

The episode led to confrontations with nurses' and firefighters' unions and halved Schwarzenegger's approval ratings.

Schwarzenegger found his political capital depleted and was unable to successfully front several other ballot measures, although he still managed to get reelected with a greater portion of the popular vote in 2006 (it helped that he didn't have to compete against another Republican).

Now, Schwarzenegger is pushing six ballot initiatives that would help him deal with California's deficit. Among other things, the initiatives would cap state spending based on the state's revenue between 1998 and 2008, institute a new rainy-day fund, and borrow against various state programs, including state lottery earnings.

Schwarzenegger is facing opposition from state legislators who worry that his measures would handcuff the state of California in addressing future needs. They also worry about the risk inherent in borrowing against future lottery earnings, considering that there are no guarantees that lottery earnings will match Schwarzenegger's borrowing.

Schwarzenegger is pushing the initiatives as part of a broad approach to balancing the budget.

"Those who say we could have balanced the budget through spending cuts alone are guilty of political cynicism at its worst. Those are not serious people," Schwarzenegger recently said. "Those who say we could balance the budget through tax increases alone reveal their total economic ignorance and lack of math skills. Their grasp of economics must come from living on a hippie commune or something like that".

Schwarzenegger's approach to balancing his state budget is a delicate balancing act, but one that keeps in mind that economic health depends on long-term balanced budgets, even if that has to be accomplished at the expense of short-term deficits.

Schwarzenegger does enjoy the luxury of billions of incoming dollars in expected federal stimulus spending, but if he can successfully launch a fiscal and economic recovery in California, he'll provide a valuable model for other conservatives to follow.

Schwarzenegger has always proven to be a flexible conservative, carefully bridging pragmatic fiscal policies with socially liberal policies such as support for stem cell research.

Schwarzenegger feels optimistic about his opportunities for success.

"Sacramento may be an immovable object, but together we can be an irresistible force," Schwarzenegger mused. "With this reform, we can regain control over our budget."

If Schwarzenegger can indeed get a handle on California's economic situation he could supplant Ronald Regan as North America's model conservative, and conservatism would be the better for it.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Warning: Witchhunt in Progress

Evolutionary theory being bastardized in the name of manufactured scandal

A controversy was recently sparked when federal Science Minister of State Gary Goodyear recently refused to answer a question about whether or not he believed in evolution.

"I'm not going to answer that question. I am a Christian, and I don't think anybody asking a question about my religion is appropriate," Goodyear explained.

"I do believe that just because you can't see it under a microscope doesn't mean it doesn't exist. It could mean we don't have a powerful enough microscope yet. So I'm not fussy on this business that we already know everything. I think we need to recognize that we don't know," Goodyear later added -- a comment that some individuals have jumped upon as apparent proof that Goodyear believes in creationism.

Yet in a later interview, Goodyear further explained his refusal to answer the question.

"I didn't answer the question because it's not relevant to the portfolio, it's not relevant to what we have to do, [to] what Canadians are worried about," Goodyear explained on CTV. "It's unfortunate a reporter has chosen to take this as something of interest when in fact the focus should be on ...creating jobs and securing our economic future."

"The interview was about our science and tech strategy, which is strong," Goodyear added.

When asked in that interview whether or not he believes in evolution, Goodyear confirmed his belief.

"Of course, I do," he said. "We are evolving every year, every decade. That's a fact, whether it's to the intensity of the sun ...or to the effects of walking on concrete. Of course, we are evolving to our environment. But that's not relevant."

Many of the most intellectually dishonest among those who are out for Goodyear's head are insisting that Goodyear's latter comments reflect an understanding of adaptation, not evolution.

The fact that they're ignoring is that, as a fundamental principle of the theory of natural selection, adaptation is also a fundamental principle of the theory of evolution.

It's very interesting that PZ Myers, a blogging biologist who has helped spread this controversy, has yet to acknowledge Goodyear's comments or correct any of his followers who are twisting evolutionary theory in order to preserve the controversy.

Unshockingly, the usual suspects think they have a real winner on their hands.

As usual, they'll ignore facts -- and apparently even bastardize the theory of evolution -- in order to enjoy a hollow triumph.

Canadians who aren't indulging themselves in willful ignorance will recognize Goodyear's comments for precisely what they are: affirmation of his belief in evolution.

Other bloggers writing about this topic:

Larry Moran - "Gary Goodyear 'Clarifies' His Stance on Evolution"

Pearce Richards - "Gary Goodyear - National Embarrassment"

Ian Bushfield - "I'm Not Buying It Gary"

What, No Klav Kalash?

Pakisanti stick food will remain strangely under-represented on Toronto street corners.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Just Another Reason Why Unions Should Leave Political Campaigns to the Pros

With a provincial election just around the corner, the Canadian Office and Professional Employees union is gearing up to take a serious run at Liberal BC Premier Gordon Campbell.

Their message for BCers is actually a simple one: Gordon Campbell may possibly hate you.

In an ad recently uploaded to YouTube, COPE seems to poke fun at some of bombastic messages of amateur political ads. An obnoxiously-loud voice asks "did you know", then lists off a litany of imaginary Campbell offenses -- trying to "kill your grandma", "is fighting a secret war against wild salmon and river otters", and "eats children" while a more moderate and evidently skeptical voice questions the assertions, although noting that Campbell has closed down hospitals, approved hydro-electric development and ignored child poverty.

A myriad of poorly-photoshopped images flash by on the screen, including one of Campell firing a gun off into the air while flames engulf fish and otters.

Yet at the end of the ad, the one assertion that seems reasonable is that "Gordon Campbell hates you".

"Hmmmm," the narrator's seemingly-more moderate foil muses. "That actually seems reasonable, based on everything he's done so far."

"Maybe everyone should be asking 'does Gordon Campbell hate you?'" he concludes.

While it clearly has an amusing edge to it, the ad's conclusion clearly falls well short of its evident goal of parodying childish political rhetoric. When the ad concludes that all BCers should wonder if Campbell hates them, the ad's attempt to counter-brand Gordon Campbell as antithetical to the ads' evident targets values instead embraces that childish rhetoric.

The ad is reminiscent of the Albertans for change ads -- which were bankrolled by Alberta unions -- in which some "ordinary Albertans" were shown professing distrust for Premier Ed Stelmach with smiles on their faces.

The ads were a flop, as Stelmach was reelected with a dominant majority government.

COPE's ironically petulant anti-Campbell ad could turn out having the same effect. This, along with CUPE's recent anti-Israel debacles and then-CAW President Buzz Hargrove's 2006 self-humiliation, is just another reason why labour unions should leave political campaigning to those who know how to do it.

Hilarious addendum - It's amazing what can turn up in the "related videos" section:

Happy St Patrick's Day!

Leave No Afghan Behind?

Hugh Segal calls for Afghan collaborators to recieve preferential treatment

As Canadians look ahead to the 2011 withdrawal from Aghanistan, Conservative Senator Hugh Segal is looking ahead to a potential influx of Afghan immigrants to Canada.

Segal is calling on the government of Canada -- whoever that may be in 2011 -- to give Afghans who have helped Canadian forces preferential treatment when considering applications for immmigration.

"It is important for us to signal as a country ...that we understand that a lot of Afghans have taken a lot of risks to help our forces," Segal mused. "It's very important they know we have no intention of leaving them behind."

Segal is reportedly preparing a motion calling on the government to "develop and implement a program to facilitate the settlement in Canada of Afghan nationals who have helped Canada during our engagement in Afghanistan."

Which isn't a bad idea, but it does have two problems with it.

First off, 2011 remains two years off. If a purported American surge in Afghanistan has the same overall positive effects as it had in Iraq, Canada may yet be able to leave a stable Afghanistan behind when if leaves, with little need to absorb a mass of refugees.

Secondly, it's well known that there are, indeed, unsavoury elements in the Afghan government. Afghans who have been involved with former warlords could attempt to use such policies in order to enter Canada. Any Afghans who've been deeply involved with the Afghan heroin trade, for one thing, should certainly be refused entry to Canada under any circumstances.

But for those law-abiding Afghans who've helped Canadian forces and wish to come to Canada at any point in the near future -- not merely post-2011 -- preferential immigration policies aren't merely a good idea, but they're very much in order.

Such policies could even encourage other Afghans to support Canadian efforts in Afghanistan.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Sure, Buddy, We Take You Seriously

Iranian Vice-President says Afghanistan makes Canada look bad

Ever since Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad insisted that there are no homosexuals in Iran many people have had a hard time taking Iranian politicians seriously.

So when Iran's Vice President, Esfandiar Rahim Mashaie recently suggested that Canada's role in Afghanistan is hurting its international reputation, one could be forgiven for not taking him seriously.

Ironically, Mashaie offered the sentiment during an unofficial visit to Ottawa meant to improve relations between the two countries.

Indeed, Canada is in Afghanistan refusing to allow the Taliban to return to power so it can oppress women, ethnically cleanse and harbour terrorists. And that hurts our international reputation.


"It's good news that Canada is leaving in 2011 and we welcome that," Mashaie noted.

Given the amount of material support Iran has provided the Taliban with, there's little question that Iran would prefer that Canada leave the country. Little more question that they would rather have an Islamic fundamentalist government in power in Afghanistan than a democratic regime friendly (or at the very least not hostile) to the west.

For his own part, Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon notes the internationalism of the mission, and how it reflects on Canada's positive role in that country. "Our engagement has earned the praise of international partners, most recently from [U.S.] President [Barack] Obama," Cannon notes. "The people of Iran stand to benefit greatly from a secure and stable Afghanistan. We will continue to encourage the government of the Islamic Republic of Iran to play a constructive role in the affairs of neighbouring countries. Canada has urged the government of Iran to take appropriate measures to ensure that no support is provided to any insurgent group in Afghanistan."

Mashaie also complained about some comments that Prime Minister Stephen Harper recently made about Iran.

"It concerns me that we have a regime ]in Tehran] with an ideology that is obviously evil," Harper mused. "My government is a very strong supporter of the state of Israel and considers the Iranian threats to be absolutely unacceptable and beyond the pale."

"Anti-Semitism is a pernicious evil that must be exposed, that must be confronted, that must be repudiated, whenever and wherever it appears," Harper continued. "Under our government, Canada will remain an unyielding defender of Jewish religious freedom, a forceful opponent of anti-Semitism in all of its forms and a staunch supporter of a secure and democratic state of Israel."

Mashaie complained that Harper's suggestion that Iran's government is "evil" were evidence of "weakness".

While Harper's comments certainly exaggerate the Iranian state's comparative malevolence, who could possibly think a country that beats and rapes the citizens of a foreign country to death, brutally whips homosexuals (then denies their very existence), and sends police to brutalize womens' rights protesters could possibly be evil?

One can only wonder if the Iranian administration actually wonders why no one takes them seriously.

Whimsical, Racist, Sexist, Homophobic Fratboys?

Dancing fratboys greet Westboro Baptist Church at University of Chicago

One of the best ways to deal with hatemongers effectively is to refuse to take them seriously.

That was the scene at the University of Chicago this past week, as protesters from the Westboro Baptist Church were met not with the usual derision and outrage, but rather with revelry.

Among their reception at the University of Chicago was a bake sale raising funds for a GLBT charity, and members of the Alpha Delta Phi fraternity, who danced in their underwhere to "I'm Coming Out" by Diana Ross while flying a "no tolerance for intolerance" banner from their house.

Ever the faux-optimist, Shirley Phelps Roper tried to put the best face on their reception. "It is so awesome when you juxtapose this little group of servants of God with this restless mob of humanity. The little girly boys up there with their clothes half off gyrating around--they might as well flip off their God."

First off, the Westboro Baptist Church aren't servants of God -- they're slaves to their own hatred.

But secondly, when a college fraternity -- organizations that have a reputation for homophobic behaviour -- has the moral wherewithal to oppose Phelps and the WBC's promotion of intolerance, one knows that times are changing.

To those familiar with college fraternities this is far less surprising. The homophobic stereotype of fraternities is one that has slowly ceased to fit, as fraternities have quietly been initiating gay men into their ranks for years.

It must be disappointing for Roper to find that an organization she must have expected to be a natural ally for her and her hate cult instead opposes her so vociferously.

The What the Fuck!? Files Vol.6: Riot Against Police Brutality

Montrealers certainly have a knack for protesting effectively.

200 protesters were arrested in an annual event in Montreal protesting police brutality which has routinely ended in bouts of vandalism.

According to CTV, video of the event has surfaced showing Montreal police tear gassing protesters who were throwing rocks and bricks at local stores.

Which is really the best way to protest police brutality: by acting like goonish dipshits and forcing police to use force to avert acts of vandalism.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Shooting the Messengers

Tommy de Seno calls for John, Meghan McCain to leave the Republican Party

As one continues to assess the current state of the American Republican Party, one can't help but think that some honest, heart-felt criticism is certainly in order.

The Republicans have lost the White House and lost control of both Congressional houses. To make matters worse, far-right ideologue Rush Limbaugh seems to have seized control of the party's public image.

At a time like this, when times are so dark for the Republican party, Justified Right's Tommy de Seno wants to drive some of the party's most concerned supporters out.

John and Meghan McCain are in de Seno's sights. Their unforgivable sin is purported to be criticizing the American conservative movement and working with the enemy.

"I grew tired of McCain fighting our agenda, voting against tax cuts, bowing to global warming loons, insulting Christian leaders, ganging against us with his liberal 'Gang of 14' and passing useless laws with liberals like Senator Russ Feingold. — Not to mention snubbing CPAC," de Seno writes.

"The press rewarded McCain’s behavior by labelling him a “maverick” for bashing the Republican Party (if a Democrat bucks his party, like Lieberman, the press paints him as a traitor, not a maverick)," he continues.

De Seno then goes on to address Meghan McCain, who recently took on Ann Coulter in the press.

"Now comes his daughter Meghan McCain, proving the old adage that the poop doesn’t fall far from the pig’s rear end, Meghan has joined her father in the Republican bashing business," de Seno writes.

"Writing on The Daily Beast, an Internet blog, she takes on author Ann Coulter," he continues. "She says she 'straight up doesn’t understand' Coulter (probably all those big words Ann uses). She labels Ann’s followers part of a 'cult' (Meghan must be reading the papers — that’s how media refers to our whole party!). She takes a swing at CPAC, too (chip off the old block, that Meghan)."

If Meghan McCain doesn't understand Ann Coulter, she certainly isn't alone. In a blog post on the National Post's Full Comment blog, John Moore notes that Coulter's current rhetoric is incredibly out of sync with the comeuppance the GOP recieved in the recent election. Ironically enough, de Seno credits himself and his likeminded ilk for that comeuppance, when he notes their refusal to support the elder McCain.

"It’s painfully clear she has crossed the threshold of her half life," Moore writes. "Her mantra that liberals are pitiable, conniving, traitorous losers and that conservatives are valorous, patriotic administrative geniuses plays poorly against the backdrop of the hand-over from George W Bush to Barack Obama. Imagine penning a panegyric to dirigible travel while crossing the Atlantic on the Hindenburg."

Yet de Seno seems to think that criticizing Coulter -- who, along with Limbaugh, currently remains one of the best reasons not to support the GOP -- should be considered off-limits for Republicans.

Quite the contrary. What the Republican party needs more than anything is a critical voice from within the party to remind it that people such as Limbaugh, Coulter and de Seno are leading the Republican party too far into the political fringes for it to even possibly remain viable.

In the world of politics, some times one's worst critic is their best friend. Sadly, individuals like Tommy de Seno are all to eager to push any critical voice out of the Republican party.

Shooting the messengers will not solve the Republican party's problems. Unfortunately, individuals such as de Seno are afflicted with itchy trigger fingers.