Monday, November 30, 2009

Are They Protesting Because They're Women, or Because They're Civil Servants?

Public Servant Alliance protests abolition of long gun registry

There's something about the long gun registry that renders Canada's left wing entirely irrational.

This was prominently on display recently, as the Public Servant Alliance of Canada protested at the office of Sackville-Eastern Shore MP Peter Stoffer (NDP), who recently voted in favour of abolishing the long gun registry.

The problem is that the small crowd of 25 women -- chanting "we will not be silent," -- pretended they were protesting Stoffer's vote under the pretenses of feminism.

"To think that a woman's life might be worth less than being able to bag a deer easily is unreal and it's a sad state of affairs that we're in this year marking the 20th anniversary of the Montreal massacre by abolishing the long-gun registry," complained Lori Walton, who is also planning a commemorative vigil for the victims of the L'Ecole Polytechnique shooting.

Walton and the PSAC aren't the only ones to try to make this argument. Antonia Zerbisias recently attempted the same feat, less than a month after a column in which she fibbed about the weapons used to kill the Mayerthorpe four.

Zerbisias argued that "Poll after poll has shown that women, including rural women, overwhelmingly supported the long-gun registry."

But polls have also shown that the majority of Canadians favour abolishing the registry. Only in Quebec did a majority favour maintaining it.

And just while only in the minds of Zerbisias and her followers do the various insular activist groups who purport to speak for all Canadian women actually represent all of Canada's women, only in the mind of Zerbisias should a majority of women count for more than the majority of all Canadians.

But even while the protesters at Stoffer's office pretended that they were there as women and not as public servants, they made their true motivations perfectly evident -- all while pretending that the gun registry is actually a tool of gun control.

"Dangerous people are refused their guns, which is what we should be doing. So yes, she does tell me a lot about the good that's coming out of it," said Anne Faban-Wood.

Of course, the fact that the gun registry doesn't keep guns out of the hands of dangerous people -- the perpetrator of the Dawson College shooting perpetrated the act with a registered weapon -- seems entirely lost on these people. But even in the face of this inconsistency, people like Faban-Wood make themelves entirely transparent.

The "she" Wood talks about is actually her sister, who works on the registry.

Which is really what the long gun registry is about to the Public Service Alliance of Canada.

While, to people like Antonia Zerbisias, the long gun registry is a program of left-wing ideological welfare, to the PSAC it's simply a matter of bureaucratic welfare.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Dalton McGuinty Tightening the Screws on Government

HST would eliminate options for an incoming government

A frequent criticism of Stephen Harper's government in Ottawa has been accusations that they're "tightening the screws" on government.

These were actually
the words of Tom Flanagan, who argued that the Conservative Party's tax cuts would limit the ability of future governments to start new programs.

Now, with Dalton McGuinty's Liberal government about to harmonize their provincial sales tax with the federal Goods and Services Tax -- with the help of Harper's federal government -- the Ontario Progressive Conservative Party, led by Tim Hudak, is opposing the move.

McGuinty seems to have found what he thinks will be his answer to the matter: challenge the Hudak Conservatives to commit to overturning the Harmonized Sales Tax should they form the government after Ontario's next election.

"I think Ontarians would be interested in knowing why it is that the leader of the Official Opposition is not prepared to repeal the HST," McGuinty recently told Queen's Park.

Of course, what McGuinty isn't giving the HST issue credit for is that, if implemented, it represents a negotiated tax agreement between the federal and provincial government. Each government receives a share.

Because the tax represents an agreement between the two government, it hampers the ability of either government to make reductions in that tax.

So, in its own sense, the passage of the HST -- whether it's a sound econcomic policy or not -- represents a tightening of the screws on government, committing the provincee to a particular taxation regime.

There's a very good reason why Tim Hudak and the Progressive Conservatives can't commit to abolishing the HST -- it's because the collaborative nature of the tax limits the options to do so.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Take a Fucking Chill Pill, Buddy

Murray Dobbin doth protest far too much

In a recent column published on the ideologically parochial, Murray Dobbin decries the "Republicanization of Canadian politics".

He claims that recent efforts by the Conservative Party to minimalize the increasingly-suspect testimony of Richard Colvin and recent mailings by the Conservative Party accusing the Liberal party as anti-Semitic are the signs of an unprecedented level of nastiness in Canadian politics:
"Watching the sickening performances of the Harperites in the House of Commons this week -- out right lying, bullying, slander, contempt for the public and parliament, and a stunning disregard for the public good -- brings home a hard reality: we are witnessing the Republicanization of our political culture. And it's not just the torture issue -- it's the Conservative labeling of Liberals as anti-Semitic -- a kind of shit-house rat politics virtually unknown in Canadian political history. It wouldn't surprise me to find that Karl Rove is on the PMO's payroll; his disciples certainly are."
But the truth is that Dobbin, like any good ideological fundamentalist, doth protest way too fucking much.

The truth is that there's far more afoot on either one of these issues than Dobbin would like to let on. Just like any good ideological fundamentalist, he's more than happy to omit any little facts or details that don't support his worldview.

Most obvious about Dobbin's rantings is the absurdity of opposition parties trying to tar the Conservative Party with torture allegations in the first place. Individuals like Dobbin expect Canadians to conveniently forget that it was the Liberal Party who had negotiated the prisoner transfer agreement under which these abuses were allegedly taking place. ("Allegedly" being the key word.)

Dobbin is much closer to a justifiable argument on the anti-Semitism issue. Michael Ignatieff and Bob Rae are both known as good international friends of Israel. Irwin Cotler's efforts in support of Israel, as well as in support of the effort to bring Nazi War Criminals hiding in Canada to justice, are well-known and well-documented. To accuse the Liberal Party of being institutionally anti-Semitic simply stretches credulity.

But, then again, many of Dobbin's contemporaries have delighted in accusing the Reform Party -- one of the predecessors of the modern Conservative Party -- of being instituionally racist. They did this despite the fact that the Reform Party consistently presented the most racially-diverse caucus in the House of Commons, and did so without any kind of nomination quotas.

This particular fact didn't stop Gordon Laird, one of Dobbin's premier contemporaries, of fictionalizing racist incidents in his book Slumming It at the Rodeo.

In fact, accusations of racism have often proven to be very effective bread-and-butter issues for critics and opponents of the Conservative Party. To date, Dobbin's objection to this have been slim and none.

Perhaps Dobbin considers anti-Semitism to be a special and privileged breed of racism, of which no one may be accused if those accusations cannot be justified. Or perhaps he's simply content to smile wistfully to himself while similar accusations -- which are similarly unjustified -- are flung at his ideological rivals.

One of the leading purveyors of racial outrage for political benefit has been Warren Kinsella. Kinsella has specialized in an "even if they can show they aren't racist we can still peddle innuendo" argument.

Furthermore, Kinsella has written not one, but two books -- Kicking Ass in Canadian Politics and The War Room -- bragging about his role in bringing US-style attack politics to Canada.

Kinsella was also willing to dabble in a form of bigotry that Dobbin himself was extremely eager to engage in -- anti-religious bigotry.

For Kinsella, the target was Stockwell Day. For Dobbin, it was Preston Manning.

To pretend that the Conservative Party has never indulged in attack politics current Conservative Senator and former Party President Doug Finley is perfectly willing to admit to this.

"We built our brand while trying to damage theirs," Finley recently said. "Stephane Dion was a candidate from heaven. I would say our brand has gone from 17% (core support) to 30%. In other words, that percentage of voters will wake up in the morning and say they will vote Conservative. The Liberal brand has fallen from the mid-30s (core support) to about the mid-20s. As you can see, we have successfully branded Michael Ignatieff as out of touch and in it for himself. We have stopped him right in his tracks. And he hasn't helped himself with some of the gaffes he has made. He's a typical academic. He puts his nose up and talks without really thinking of the consequences of his words. I don't think they did due diligence on this guy."

But considering the depths to which Dobbin and his contemporaries on Canada's far left -- and among the campaign teams of Canada's mainstream left -- are willing to stoop, it's impossible to take him seriously.

After all, it's definitely wrong to baselessly accuse one's political opponents of being anti-Semitic. But it's also wrong to baselessly accuse one's political opponents of plotting to transform Canada into a military police state.

Dobbin's response to that? Again, slim and none.

Fortunately, the ad proved to be the death knell for the 2006 Liberal campaign. But previously, Canadians had swallowed this particular bit of fear mongering.

These facts made Gerard Kennedy's accusations that the Conservative party was campaigning based on fear purely laughable. And they make the next portion of Dobbin's rant seem even more so:
"There is no obvious way to deal with overt and unapologetic political thuggery. Fighting back in the same manner actually plays into the thugs' hands because part of their broader objective is to poison the well of public discourse. The ferocious partisanship of the Harper Conservatives -- who should really be called the Libertarian Party as there is nothing conservative about them -- is designed to drive ordinary citizens away from politics. I can barely stand to watch and listen to the vitriol and lies and I have spent my whole life observing and analyzing politics. I try to imagine what people who have very limited for it must think when they see this performance. But there is no question that it partly explains the fact that 42% of Canadians didn't vote in 2008 -- a huge advantage for the Libertarians."
It takes a special kind of demagogue to pass off that kind of incoherent nonsense as high-minded commentary. Not to mention the fact that Dobbin has to omit huge swaths of recent Canadian political history in order to make that argument.

The truth is that the political thuggery that often characterizes Canadian politics already has been emulated by its former victims -- its former victims being the Conservative Party, both prior to and after the merger of the Progressive Conservative Party and the Canadian Alliance.

Certainly, that doesn't excuse the Conservative Party from following the same path. But, then again, there's a big difference between pointing out the lack of leadership skills of a Party leader (Stephane Dion) and impugning the citizenship of another (Michael Ignatieff). The latter is certainly far worse than the former.

But, by the same token, there's a bigger difference still between impugning the citizenship of a political leader and insinuating that one is planning to implement a military police state. Whether or not the latter is worse is a matter of some debate.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Hell is For Child Porn

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Thank You For Your Advice, Sarah...

...But Canadians will make our own decisions about health care

Ever since she was vaulted into the international spotlight during the 2008 Presidential Election, Sarah Palin has made a bad habit of coming out on the wrong end of interactions between herself and various comedic pranksters.

In November, 2008, Palin was pranked by a Montreal radio host.

Just over a year later, Palin has now been burned by Mary Wash, also known as This Hour Has 22 Minutes' Marg Delahunty, who solicited some health care-related advice from Palin.

"We told her we're from Canada, and we're just looking for a few words of encouragement for the Canadian conservatives who have worked so tirelessly to destroy the socialized medicare that we have," Wash later recounted.

Palin's answer was frank.

"Canada needs to dismantle its public health-care system and allow private enterprise to get involved and turn a profit," Palin replied during a later encounter (the first one was ended by the intervention of security).

"Basically, she said government should stop doing the work that private enterprise should do," Walsh added.

But even as Canadians' attitude toward private health care has apparently softened -- a recent survey indicated that 56% of Canadians support increasing the number of private health clinics in Canada, so long as they operate alongside -- and do not adversely affect -- public health care.

And while many Canadians may forget that Canadians were initially as resistent to the introduction of socialized health care as the United States has been -- then-Premier Woodrow Lloyd and then-former-Premier Tommy Douglas were burned in effigy during the health care debates in Saskatchewan -- Canadians have embraced public health care very deeply.

Many Canadians are in favour of reforms -- and sadly, Canada seems to be wasting this goden opportunity to discuss the options -- but abolishing public health care is on the agenda of very, very few, even among conservatives.

And while the very idea of Mary Walsh speaking on behalf of conservatives is perverse and laughable, that is, in its own sense, the purpose of comedy.

(It's also worth reminding people like Walsh that it was the Liberal Party, not the Conservative Party, who last slashed billions of dollars from public healthcare.)

Outside of the world of comedy, Walsh would have no such place. Just like Sarah Palin has no place telling Canadians what we shoud do with our health care.

Other bloggers writing about this topic:

The Intrepid - "Sarah Palin Tells 22 Minutes' Marg Delahunty That 'Canada Needs to Dismantle Its Public Healthcare System'"

Dan Shields - "FunnierThanGerryDeeNotAsFunnyAsCancer"

The Philosophical Dilemma of "Pro-Choice"

"Pro-choice" movement decries doctor's right to choose

While the topic of abortion has proven to be a matter of intense interest for a great many Canadians, the topic of the rhetoric surrounding the debate can prove much more interesting still.

The people most emotionally invested in the issue have divided themselves up into opposing camps, calling themselves "pro-choice" (those favouring legalized abortion) and "pro-life" (those who oppose it). Conversely, each lables their opponents as "anti-choice" or "anti-life".

Each label is designed to give its camp a rhetorical advantage. The "pro-choice" movement insists that what they are really is in favour of is freedom, and their opponents reject it. The "pro-life" movement insists that what they are really in favour of the preservation of human life, and that their opponents are inhuman nihilists.

Each label is, in its own small way, a canard.

For example, the "pro-choice" movement isn't always fully in favour of choice and freedom. While they favour women's freedom to seek an abortion and the ability to legally receive one, they don't always necessarily favour freedom on this topic. For example, they tend, oddly enough, to not favour doctors having the right to choose whether or not they'll administer abortions, or whether or not they'll administer any particular abortion.

In the city of Saskatoon, in particular, many doctors have placed a 12-week limit on abortions, after which most doctors will decline to perform the procedure.

Naturally, some members of the "pro-choice" movement don't like that.

"I speak to women on a weekly basis who pass the cut-off and have to go out of the city," explained Evelyn Reisner, the executive director of Saskatoon's Sexual Health Centre.

"It can be quite a problem for low-income women," Reisner continued. "The reality of the situation is that it becomes a scramble. If a women needs an abortion, she'll make it happen ... often in an unsafe or illegal manner."

And while many members of the "pro-choice" movement refuse to support the notion that a doctor should have their right to choose protected. Moreover, they've often suggested actions -- such as entrenching the "right" to an abortion in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms -- that would make protecting a doctor's right to choose not to perform an abortion they consider to be unethical, or otherwise objectionable.

Fortunately, not all members of the "pro-choice" lobby are so resistant to other people's right to choose. For her own part, Evelyn Reisner seems to believe that the solution to the effect of these 12-week limits on abortion is for more doctors to choose to extend it.

"More pro-choice doctors need to consider making [abortion services] a part of their practice," Reisner suggested.

Which would seemingly make Reisner something of a rarity -- an actual, honest-to-God, pro-choice activist -- as opposed to those who would selfishly strip doctors of their right to choice, who could be described as pro-abortion at best.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Canada's Ideological Divide, In a Nutshell

In Canada, it can be amazing how quickly a basic issue can quickly become clouded in the eyes of the common ideologue.

Sad as it may seem, the Conservative Party's recently-announced anti-child porn legislation is one of those examples.

But issues like this are also an opportunity for Canadians to examine Canada's ideological divide for precisely what it is. In this case, one has the opportunity to examine where each particular ideological camp has situated themselves.

Naturally, both CTV and CBC have reported on the matter. But what's even more interesting than the story itself are some of the reactions to it.

Some Canadians, bizarrely enough, are somehow opposed to these efforts to curb child pornography. The comments section of the story offered by both CTV and CBC have offered not only these individuals an opportunity to voice their opinion on the matter, but through a thumbs up/thumbs down system, have allowed other readers to give an opinion on each readers comments.

Consider the following comment from the story, as posted on the CBC website:It isn't hard to begin unraveling some of the problems with this particular reader's comments.

First off, there's only a certain extent to which proxies and encryptions can protect any particular individual from identification. And while an wifi connection could certainly be hijacked for the purpose of locating and downloading child pornography, an accused individual could quite quickly be cleared through something so simple as an examination of their computer's hard drive.

(There are, naturally, privacy concerns related to police searches of a computer hard drive that may not be sufficiently covered by current legislation, and may require further legislation. That, by its own merit, is actually a rather fair argument.)

As anyone can see, this particular comment was given 22 "thumbs up" (individuals agreeing with the comment), compared to only two "tumbs down" (individuals disagreeing with the comment).

So on that note, it's interesting to see how a dissenting opinion is treated by CBC readers:Certainly, no one is obligated to agree with this particular reader. But it's worth noting that very few Canadians have anything to hide in this particular matter.

The legislation in question isn't an attempt to restrict the civil liberties of Canadians. It's an effort to shut down criminal activity that, by its very nature, preys upon children.

Not that commenters like this one, from CTV, will understand this:Surely, almost all Canadians recognize that child pornography is not a matter of "artistic expression", and that the exploitation of children has no "artistic merit".

That is a basic, fundamental truth that simply requires no explanation. This comment was treated with the amount of merit it deserves -- it received 100 "thumbs down" votes to an inexplicable seven "thumbs up" votes.

Closer to the mark is this reader, who simply pointed out that child pornography is actually a non-partisan (if not a non-ideological) issue:This comment received 44 "thumbs up" votes to a mere three votes down.

Sadly, not everyone will agree that this is a non-partisan issue. The Conservative Party's 2004 attack on Paul Martin is frankly hard to forget.

It will certainly be interesting to see how the House of Commons votes on this issue. To anyone with an ounce of sense, it isn't hard to figure out that this is a bill that should pass unanimously (with fools like Libby Davies in the Commons, it's hard to say if it will).

Whether or not Canadians can put petty politics aside long enough for the bill to pass is another matter entirely.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Stupid, Stupid University Professors

This is what happens when wishful thinking trumps reality

University Students across Canada -- except, perhaps, at Laval -- ought to be very thankful today as they read the Facebook note recently written (and deleted) by Janine Krieber, the wife of Stephane Dion.

Krieber, who teaches political science at Laval University, wrote a leter insisting that the Liberal Party simply didn't comprehend the "political genius" that is her husband.

"If the Toronto elites had been more in tune, humble and realist, Stéphane would have been willing to take all the time and absorb all the hits needed to rebuild the party," Krieber wrote. "But they couldn't swallow the 26%, and now we are at 23%."

"The Liberal Party is falling apart, and will not recover," Krieber fumed. "Like all liberal parties in Europe, it will become a weakling at the mercy of ephemeral coalitions. By refusing the historic coalition that would have placed it at the helm of the left, it will be punished by history."

Yet when one looks back at the brief episode that was the Liberal/NDP/Bloc coalition, this merely reveals precisely how out-of-touch Krieber is with reality.

Not only did Canadians vehemently reject the notion of a Liberal/NDP coalition, but that coalition -- involving a party that has, as its goal, the separation of Quebec from Canada -- could never have survived.

The trouble with the Liberal/NDP/BQ coaliton (and, despite the dishonest objections of the pro-coaltion crowd, the Bloc Quebecois very much was part of the coalition) was that its greatest weakness -- the national unity issue -- was a wedge built directly into the coalition.

All it would take is a single unity-related issue -- such as a confidence vote on the government's ability to enforce the Clarity Act -- to reveal the extent to which the Liberal/NDP/Bloc coalition would have been an absolute betrayal of Canada. Some would likely suggest that the introduction of such an issue by a Conservative Party looking to break that coalition would be irresponsible. By point of fact, when faced by a government mortgaged to a separatist party, it would actually be the only responsible thing to do.

Yet Krieber insists that the party should have continued to support that coalition -- which would have quickly ended in an absolute disaster -- out of mere ideology.

Ironically, Krieber writes that "I will not give my voice to a party that will end up in the trashcan of history."

Yet it's her husband's ill-conceived coalition -- which she herself endorses in her note -- that would have committed the Liberal party to the ashcan of history.

Not that Michael Ignatieff has done any better. He accepted the Party leadership after the party aborted a critically necessary leadership convention in lieu of a comprehensive rebuilding process.

But at least it's possible that the Party will survive -- and possibly even succeed, in time -- under Michael Ignatieff. Under Stephane Dion, the Liberals would have been finished long, long ago.

The ideological-at-the-expense-of-reality musings of Janine Krieber, in their own way, help to confirm this.

Other bloggers writing about this topic:

David Climenhaga - "Has Dion's Wife 'Gone Rogue'? Gone Rouge, More Like It!"

Canadian Thinker - "Mrs and Mrs Krieber-Dion"

Accidental Deliberations - "Real Reason to Smile"

Yappa Ding Ding - "Response to Janine Krieber"

Lewis Black, The Limitation of Human Understanding & Reasons to (or Not) Believe

Those who listen to Lewis Black's comedy may be forgiven for initially assuming that he's an atheist.

In many of his religious beliefs, Black seems more like an agnostic, although he never goes so far as to outright declare himself one.

Black instead believes that organized religion simply limits the ability of humanity to understand whatever supreme force exists in the universe -- whether it be a God or something else -- it almost certainly exceeds the limits of human imagination.

More interesting still is Black's list of reasons to believe in God and reasons to not believe in God.

Among reasons to believe, Black mentions a woman's breast, sausage gravy and that his mother doesn't. Among Black's reasons not believe is God's inability to reveal himself, ticks, and the laughter of a child.

Certainly, not everyone makes their decision on whether or not they believe God exists on such frivolous and facile grounds. But there's little question that some people do make this decision based on these kinds of criteria.

Interestingly, there seems to be a tendency among many people to disresepct the decision of a religious believer to believe for these kinds of reasons, but more reluctance to disrespect the decision of an atheist on similarly paltry grounds.

Of course, there's no reason to expect that the imaginations of atheists are any less limited than those of religious believers (exempting, of course, any artificial limits, like -- if one accepts Black's thesis -- organized religion).

It isn't to say that the decision of an atheist to not believe God exists shouldn't be subject to any more respect than the deciision of a believer to believe, or vice versa, but merely that the reasons themselves don't necessarily deserve the same amunt of respect.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

But Will They Answer the Door?

Opportunity -- in form of Liberal weakness -- knocking for NDP

If hiring Peter Donolo to serve as Chief of Stafff of the Office of the Leader of the Opposition represents Michael Ignatieff and the Liberal party pressing the panic button, they may have pressed it just in time.

A recent poll has the NDP holding the support of 19% of Canadians, compared to 24% for the Liberals.

Meanwhile, the Conservative party has maintained the support of 37% of Canadians.

If the Liberals and NDP each continue following this momentum, the NDP could, in time, eclipse the Liberals to, for the first time in history, become the Official Opposition.

Of course this isn't the first time in Canadian history that the NDP have flirted with such heights. Once, briefly before the 1988 election, Ed Broadbent was believed to be in a position to lead his party to a minority government. Even when Broadbent led the party short of that mark, he still led it to its best federal results in history: 43 seats.

Now, under the leadership of Jack Layton -- who has succeeded Broadbent in way that neither Audrey McLaughlin or Alexa McDonough ever could -- the NDP is back on the cusp of some serious federal success.

Opportunity is knocking for the NDP. But will they answer the door?

"If the NDP come forth as a reasonable party with a platform that resonates, I think they could overcome their traditional shackles and go above what they did with Broadbent," explains former Liberal Party President Stephen LeDrew. "There's no question, given the current state of disarray with the Liberals, and the fact that the Liberals have yet to explain why Canadians should vote for the Liberals, that the NDP can see the vacuum in there and if they fill it the right way I think they'll be rewarded."

As LeDrew notes, Liberal weakness alone isn't enough for the NDP.

In order to truly capitalize on the current weakness of the Liberal Party, the NDP has to truly deliver moderate policies and convince broad cores of voters that they have the lunatic fringe in their party under control -- an effort that is invariably foiled at each NDP convention.

"The opportunity that we have is to go to traditional Liberal voters and Progressive Conservative voters and say, politics is changing in this country," agrees NDP national director Brad Lavigne. "The things that you loved about your party for years, progressive values, can now be found in a bigger, modern New Democratic Party under Jack Layton's leadership."

Of course there are risks that come with this kind of approach. In order to court Liberal or progressive conservative voters, the NDP will have to demonstrate that it can not only be progressive, but also conservative. It has to be able to show that it can temper its progressive impulses with fiscal and social responsibility.

Some provincial NDP governments have, in the past, shown that they can accomplish this goal, even if in a flawed manner.

However, some members of the NDP don't seem prepared to accomplish this task. Janice MacKinnon, a former NDP Finance Minister of Saskatchewan, chaulks Tory regional strength up to the NDP's inability to promote its stance on regional issues. Her example is the long-gun registry.

Yet 61% of Canadians outside Quebec believe getting rid of the long-gun registry is a good idea. Only in Quebec did a slim majority support the registry.

Of course with the nature of Canadian politics, "regional issues" is often just another code for "wedge issues". If the NDP wants to campaign across Canada with a wedge issue that will only appeal to Quebeckers, they'll likely find themselves disappointed with the results.

The NDP recently opposed the abolition of the long-gun registry. So this begs an even more important question of whether or not the NDP will answer the door upon which opportuniy is knocking.

The more important question is: can they answer the door?

Other bloggers writing about this topic:

Dan Shields - "NDP Soaring in Public Opinion Polls, Tory Party Fading"

ThreeHundredEight - "New AR Poll - 15-point Conservative Lead"

The Politics of (Recognizing) Genocide

Produced by the BBC, The Betrayed is a documentary that examines the matter of the Armenian Genocide in Turkey, and the efforts to have that genocide recognized in other countries.

The Armenian Genocide, beginning in 1915, was actually the first of what was expected to be a three-pronged program of ethnic cleansing in the declining Ottoman Empire. The plan was to first eliminate the Armenians, then eliminate Kurds, and eventually even eliminate Turkey's Greek population.

Perversely, the Ottomans used their next target, the Kurds, to massacre the Armenians, coercing entire battalions of Kurds to act as death squads.

Just as Turkey continues to deny the Armenian genocide, they also continue to deny the national plight of the Kurds. Despite the fact that Turkey currently occupies a large portion of historical Kurdistan (Iraq, Iran and Syria, occupy the rest), Turkey continues to insist that the land ever existed.

Turkey's Kurds have coped with their complicity in the Armenian genocide by casting it as a far-off event, occurring far beyond the boundaries of the formerly-Armenian villages populated largely by Kurds today.

Turkey has historically treated efforts to recognize the genocide as a diplomatic outrage. On some occasions, foreign countries have cowed to the pressure, agreeing to not recognize the genocide officially.

We may not like to admit it, but there very much are political considerations to whether or not a country will recognize that a genocide has occurred in a foreign country.

Over the last several years, scarecely-reported diplomatic progress with Syria was facilitated by Turkey, as Turkey helped Syria in its attempts to negotiate Trade Associate status with the European Union.

The original deal -- which would have helped to pull Syria out of Iran's orbit of influence -- was scuttled when the United States moved to isolate Syria as a terrorism-supporting state.

Efforts to formalize such a deal have resumed, but seem much less promising than before the 2004 intervention.

Recognition of Turkish atrocities could potentially jeopardize Turkey's invaluable role as intermediary between the Middle East and the Western World.

No one likes this -- nor should like it. But it seems that pragmatic politics can often trump historical truth in the lands of realpolitic.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Michael Byers: Nutty Professer or Nuttiest Professor?

Byers would be a disaster for Canada

Nearly two weeks ago, Michael Byers fired an ideological shot across the bow of reality.

In an op/ed article published in the Toronto Star, Byers proposed that the Liberal party and NDP combine their efforts to block a Conservative majority government -- by delivering a majority Liberal government.

(This despite the fact that the last thing the NDP wants is a Liberal majority government.)

Byers' piece was widely mocked by those who recognized how unfeasible, politically selfish, and (frankly) stupid it is. It was widely applauded by ideologues willing to overlook these shortcomings.

The Ottawa Citizen's Leonard Stern has since offered one of the better responses to Byers' article:
"Byers is an eminent political scientist in Vancouver (and an occasional contributor to the Citizen's opinion pages). He's well known as an academic-activist, who situates himself firmly on the Canadian left. No pretense of scholarly objectivity from Byers, at least not in his role as public intellectual. In the last federal election he ran — and lost — for the NDP in the riding of Vancouver Centre."
Stern chalks the vehemence of Byers' opposition to Harper up to a Derangement Syndrome:
"Many leftist intellectuals despise Prime Minister Stephen Harper, in no small part because they see him as a traitor to the educated class. Harper — who has a graduate degree in economics — has never identified with the liberal elites who traditionally dominate political life in the major urban centres of Canada. It's one thing to be a conservative if you just got off the turnip truck — liberals can tolerate and even expect that. But a clever, policy-wonkish conservative like Stephen Harper represents a serious threat to the received order. Harper's electoral success drives leftist intellectuals such as Byers dangerously close to madness.

Byers is so disoriented by the prospect of further Conservative victories that he is proposing a radical subversion of democracy. Byers wants the NDP and Liberal parties to collude, whereby they'd agree not to run candidates against each other in the next federal election. He outlined his idea in this op-ed in the Toronto Star. In every single riding across the country, either the Liberals or NDP would agree to not run a candidate, based on which party fared worse in the last election. This is necessary, he says, in order 'to prevent a Harper majority.'
When Byers' article quickly faded from the public imagination, one would expect that Byers would reconsider his ideas. But, as Stern points out, Byers is as stubborn as any ideologue:
"In a CBC interview Sunday, Byers went on about how a Conservative majority would be a tragedy for Canada. Basically apocalyptic. The end of our country as we know it, he seems to think."
The "disaster for Canada" argument was trotted out repeatedly by ideologues of Byers' ilk long before Stephen Harper ever became Prime Minister. But it's obvious that fewer and fewer Canadians share the opinion of Byers and his fellow fearmongers.

But it's even more interesting to look back at some of Byers' ideas and appraise who would really be a "disaster for Canada".

In a New Year's Day 2008 op/ed column, Byers denounced Harper for -- amongst other things -- recalling Canada's ambassador to Iran and interrupting diplomatic relations with that country.

What Byers failed to mention that Harper recalled the ambassador as a protest over Iran's handling of the Zahra Kazemi case.

Byers is often promoted as a foreign policy expert, and if the NDP were ever able to win government -- either as a majority or minority -- one would have to consider Michael Byers to be a candidate for Minister of Foreign Affairs.

The notion of a Foreign Affairs Minister who believes that foreign countries should be able to beat and rape Canadian citizens to death without so much as a diplomatic hiccup between the two countries is largely self-explanatory. It would lead to oppressive countries -- like Iran -- believing they can do absolutely anything they feel like to Canadian citizens with impunity.

Michael Byers can white and cry about the "disaster" that is Stephen Harper to his heart's content. Canadians who have familiarized themselves with Byers' ideas know who the real disaster for Canada would be.

It's the professor nutty enough to believe that the government should interact unblinkingly with countries who abuse Canadian citizens.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Some Things Just Aren't About Same-Sex Marriage

Carrie Prejean's teenaged sex life is one of them

As the political left continues to drag Carrie Prejean's kicking and screaming personal life into the spotlight, a somewhat surprising figure has entered the fray.

Writing on the Daily Beast, Meghan McCain complained that Sean Hannity didn't rake Prejean over the coals enough in regards to her sex tape.

"This was Prejean's first stop on her book publicity tour, and when the sex tape came up, he proceeded to ask her if she was 'in love with her boyfriend at the time that she made [it].' I'm sorry, why would being in love matter when it comes to filming yourself in a sexual context?" she asked.

Sadly, one would expect that the answer to this question wouldn't so elude a woman who describes herself as pro-sex.

The better question, for McCain and for those who intend to use the video in question for rhetorical advantage, is this:

What does Carrie Prejean's video have to do with same-sex marriage? Or even with her position on same-sex marriage?

The answer, or course, is simple: the answer is "absolutely nothing".

McCain's confusion over this topic became evident as she continued writing:

"The problem I have with my fellow Republicans is why gay marriage is the trump card in any situation," McCain continued. "It seems that as long as you are against gay marriage, any scandal in your life can be overlooked or overcome. When you are in favor of it, however -- and I have been very vocal about my support -- that position defines you."

Many conservatives understand what Meghan McCain evidently does not -- that while the Prejean tape certainly serves the purposes of the scandal-mongering attack machines of the political left, it has absolutely nothing to do with the issue at hand: same-sex marriage.

McCain's support for same-sex marriage, however, very much is relevant to this issue (duh. -ed) and, rightly or wrongly, this is one of the issues that is causing McCain such difficulties within not only the Republican Party, but within conservative circles as well.

Meghan McCain certainly isn't obligated to agree with Carrie Prejean -- this author, in particlar, certainly doesn't.

But if anything, McCain ought to sympathize with Prejean. After all, it wasn't even that long ago that the left-wing hate machine heaped its vapid attentions upon her.

November 2009 Book Club Selection: Attention Deficit Democracy, James Bovard

In Attention Deficit Democracy, James Bovard outlines the way that an unprecedented growth in the size of American government -- under Democrats and Republicans -- has been accompanied by the reign of structural dishonesty over American politics.

Bovard notes that this dishonesty harms politics by promoting cynicism that encourages citizens to disengage from politics. This disengagement and lack of attention to politics allows governments to grow beyond the ability of the citizenry to control it.

Bovard envokes Thomas Hobbes' description of big government as "Leviathan" to describe what Barry Cooper would describe as the embedded state.

Just as Cooper remains a semi-peripheral figure in Canadian political thought, so does Bovard, who associates not with the Republican or Democratic parties, but rather with the Libertarian Party.

Strains of libertarian thought run deeply through Attention Deficit Democracy. This shouldn't be surprising. Libertarian politics require a level of citizen autonomy that demands honesty from government and politicians.

Monday, November 16, 2009

A Living Legend has Passed On

With Remembrance Day behinds us, one story didn't seem to get much coverage, namely the passing of Col. Lewis Millett (1920-2009) on November 14th of the United States Army. Odds are you've never heard of this man, so I'll give you the summary of his life.

- Left High School and joined the American Army because he wanted to fight the fascist in World War 2. When it became clear to him that the United States was not going to join to war anytime soon, he deserted the army and joined the Canadian Army to fight the Nazis.

- When the U.S. did join in the war, they did court martial him for desertion and he was found guilty. The penalty was a $52.00 fine.

- After the Second World War, Millett go on to fight in the Korean war and win the Medal of Honor and have a road named "Millett Road" in Korea for an incredible bayonet charge. Here's the citation:

Capt. Millett, Company E, distinguished himself by conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity above and beyond the call of duty in action. While personally leading his company in an attack against a strongly held position he noted that the 1st Platoon was pinned down by small-arms, automatic, and antitank fire. Capt. Millett ordered the 3d Platoon forward, placed himself at the head of the 2 platoons, and, with fixed bayonet, led the assault up the fire-swept hill. In the fierce charge Capt. Millett bayoneted 2 enemy soldiers and boldly continued on, throwing grenades, clubbing and bayoneting the enemy, while urging his men forward by shouting encouragement. Despite vicious opposing fire, the whirlwind hand-to-hand assault carried to the crest of the hill. His dauntless leadership and personal courage so inspired his men that they stormed into the hostile position and used their bayonets with such lethal effect that the enemy fled in wild disorder. During this fierce onslaught Capt. Millett was wounded by grenade fragments but refused evacuation until the objective was taken and firmly secured. The superb leadership, conspicuous courage, and consummate devotion to duty demonstrated by Capt. Millett were directly responsible for the successful accomplishment of a hazardous mission and reflect the highest credit on himself and the heroic traditions of the military service
- In addition to his Medal of Honor, Millett also won Distinguished Service Cross, Silver Star, Legion of Merit, Bronze Star, Air Medal, Purple Heart, Vietnamese Cross of Gallantry and Vietnam Campaign Ribbon (Yup, he also fought in Vietnam), the Ranger Tab, US and Thai Master Parachutist Badges.

Why a movie about this mans life has not been made yet is beyond my understanding.

A Look (Deep) Inside

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Worshipping Hate, Redux

Barack Obama becomes a target for hateful elements of religious right

When the Westboro Baptist Church recently held a protest outside of Sasha and Malia Obama's school, anyone who has paid even a minimum of attention to the Church knew that a rather spectular display of malice would be on display.

Fred Phelps and the WBC have long become a symbol for Christians who have chosen to disregard the message of Jesus Christ and worship their own hatred in its stead.

"Quakers?! Are you frigging kidding me?" Phelps wrote on his website. "You pretend to be all non-violent, and you allow the most bloody, deceitful, evil, murderous bastard and his shemale sidekick to place their satanic spawn within your four walls?”

Among the signs held by protesters outside the Obama daughters' school was one reading "God is Your Enemy" -- a message certainly at odds with the beliefs of many Evangelical Christians who voted for Obama.

But Phelps isn't the only preacher on the hateful fringes of the religious right to use their religious beliefs as an excuse to encourage hatred of Obama and his family.

In August of this year, Pastor Steven Anderson addressed his congregation with a sermon entitled "why I hate Barack Obama".

"I hope that God strikes Barack Obama with brain cancer so he can die like Ted Kennedy and I hope it happens today," Anderson said. "I'm gonna pray that he dies and goes to hell when I go to bed tonight. That's what I'm gonna pray."

Anderson said his sermon was part of a campaign of "spiritual warfare" against Obama.

That individuals like Phelps and Anderson would call themselves Christians while showing such contempt for the compassionate Jesus Christ -- who was, among other things a healer -- really only demonstrates precisely how far out of touch these individuals are with their fellow Christians.

Fortunately, groups like the Westboro Baptist Church and individuals like Fred Phelps and Steven Anderson remain marginal within religious circles, even if the amount of press hateful demagogues like this can generate threaten to conflate their significance.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

The Sound of Revolution

Covering the development of American punk rock from California outward, American Hardcore examines punk rock as a reaction to the social vagaries of the Ronald Reagan era, not only in the United States, but in other places as well.

(The film frequently mentions Vancouver, BCs DOA.)

Many commentators in the film -- and it's always entertaining to witness how much individuals like Henry Rollins have mellowed in their old(er) age -- suggest that for many people punk rock served as the alternative to the organized left. Many of them go further still to suggest that there was no organized left during the 1980s.

But this is almost certainly an exaggeration.

As President, Reagan succeeded Jimmy Carter, whose policies had made him not onloy a darling of the American left, but also one of the more spectacular failures as the President of the United States.

When Carer was unable to secure the release of American hostages during the famed Iran Hostage Crisis, it was Ross Perot who eventually intervened to stage a dramatic rescue. While Carter remains well-regarded by he political left by virtue of the breakthrough that was the Camp David Accord.

But the political forces that helped Carter win the election were evntually marginalized -- partially by the failure of so many of Carter's policies, and partially by the social climate of the 1980s, which is remembered -- particularly in films like American Psycho -- as the yuppy age, when the famed "me generation" ranged supreme.

But moreover than this, the political left of the day represented everything that punk rockers were rejecting. It was institutionalized, organized, and outwardly taking on many of the same characteristics that punk rockers found so revolting about the culture of 1980s America.

But with that institutionalization and organization came a seeming lack of energy in the United States' mainstream political left. It wasn't until the mainstream political left began to take on some of the energy that characterized punk rock in the 1990s -- and again later in this decade -- that it became successful once again.

But deeper changes may be afoot today.

As Byron York notes in Vast Left Wing Conspiracy, the United States' modern-day political left has begun to institutionalize organizations that otherwise could (and should) be considered part of the far left. By doing this, American progressivism was able to build an elaborate political infrastructure they could use to campaign for any candidate or cause of their choice.

Conventional political wisdom would suggest that political parties should make use of this infrastructure, but keep it at arm's length.

The true genius of the Barack Obama campaign was in using those politically and socially diffuse elements -- such as the hip hop community -- within his campaign, thus harnessing the youth vote like never before.

But the American left needs to beware. In movements like the Tea Party movement and (shudder to say) the 9/12 movement, American conservatism seems to have found its own way of harnessing energies that may otherwise be considered marginal.

When next the sound of revolution is heard, it may sound more like John Rich or Tobey Keith than Black Flag.

Democracy: Coming Not-So-Soon to a Senate Not-So-Near You

Doug Finley forecasts incremental changes for the upper chamber

After Prime Minister Stephen Harper appointed 27 Senators in less than a year, one may consider it to be ironic to find one of his new Senators -- moreover, the most blatantly partisan Senator he has to date appointed -- discussing the topic of Senate reform.

Yet former Conservative Party President Doug Finley did precisely that recently, as he noted that it would be small changes that would eventually make Parliament's upper chamber more democratic -- changes that would not require constitutional amendment.

"I'm told a number of changes could be made to the Senate without opening the constitutional grab bag," Finley insisted. "Individual provinces can tell Ottawa how they want to be represented. Personally, if we can get to the point where we have elected senators, I believe we would be where we have to go."

Of course, whether or not elected Senators will be part of that for all of Canada's provinces.

In Ontario, Conservative MPP Bob Runciman recently introduced a bill to have Ontario's Senate nominees elected. His bill was defeated during a Queen's Park sitting in which only 36 members bothered to show up.

A Liberal MPP present argued that Ontario had no role to play in Senate Reform, a suggestion that flustered Runciman.

"To say that the largest province in this country, the most populous province in this country, doesn't have a role to play in this is just bizarre," Runciman said, and noted that he plans to make Ontario's role in Senate reform an issue during Ontario's next election.

For his own part, Finley says that he firmly believes in the importance of the Senate. It's the importance of the Senate that demands it be reformed.

"I believe strongly in the traditional senate role -- sobre, second, independent thought," he continued. "But I believe in an elected Senate. If I have to legislate myself out of a job or run as a candidate, I would be more comfortable with that."

It's big talk coming from a Senator appointed by a Prime Minister who swore he would never appoint Senators -- even if political reality has forced him to do so.

Hopefully, Doug Finley is sincere about Senate reform. That's more important than ever during a time in which Canadians have begun to doubt the sincerity of Stephen Harper on this matter.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Why Sarah Palin is Wrong About "Death Panels"

Sarah Palin peddles "death panels" absurdity at doctors' peril

Regardless of what many people -- liberals and conservatives alike -- seem to think, Sarah Palin is not nearly as intriguing an individual as many seem to think.

But one thing Palin certainly has a gift for is provoking controversy then not backing away -- which is precisely what she has done since stirring up a hornet's nest with her "death panels" remarks over the summer.

In a recent post on her Facebook profile, Palin has pushed that button once again.

"We had been told there were no 'death panels' in the bill either," Palin wrote. "But look closely at the provision mandating bureaucratic panels that will be calling the shots regarding who will receive government health care."

As was noted when Palin originally brought up the issue, what she's actually referring to are panels providing counselling on end of life issues.

Rarely has the reason precisely why Palin is so wrong on this issue been made as crystal clear as in a recent episode of House MD.

In the episode, Dr Greg House (Hugh Laurie) and Dr James Wilson (Robert Sean Leonard) travel to a medical conference where Wilson plans to recite a paper about the need for support for doctors who may need to consider helping a terminal patient end their own life.

As the episode points out, it's simply naive to believe that doctors who deal with the most agonizing and deadly illnesses don't practice euthanasia, and it may even simply be dogmatic to pretend that it isn't the humane thing to do.

On that note, it's actually extremely inhumane to leave doctors with nowhere to turn when forced to make the decision between helping a patient end their own life or forcing that patient to live out the last hours of their life in agony.

Whether Sarah Palin wants to call them "death panels" or not, the fact is that these boards are badly needed. Not merely in the United States, but everywhere in the world.


Gilles Taillon resigns as leader, party fades into history books

If there was any doubt that the Action Democratique du Quebec is all but officially dead it was almost certainly wiped away when Gilles Taillon resigned as leader less than a month into his tenure.

Taillon's resignation quickly follows the departure of Eric Caire and Marc Picard from the party.

But there may be even more afoot. Taillon has suggested the ADQ may have links to a controversial Quebec construction magnate, and is apparently planning to call the police in to investigate.

"I intend to push my observations further and will probably demand a meeting with the authorities at the Surete du Quebec," Taillon announced.

That wasn't all.

Taillon -- who won the party leadership by a single vote (once a fraudulent vote is removed from his tally -- blamed the federal Conservative party for engineering a rebellion against him within the party.

He had met with Tory Senator Leo Housakos (who himself has been embroiled in the recent controversy) and told him the ADQ was going to sever ties with the federal Conservatives.

"I clearly told Senator Housakos that I had nothing against Conservatives or Housakos himself," Taillon said. "But I also told him that if I ultimately became leader, the ADQ would work only for Quebec and without any attachment to any of the federal parties."

He also insinuated that Mario Dumont was involved in the plot against him.

"I understand today, with the public comments of the former 'owners' of the party, with Mario Dumont at the helm, that my election to the ADQ leadership for these people signalled an end to this 'untouchable alliance,'" Taillon continued. "From that point, Gilles Taillon could no longer be leader of the ADQ, despite being the democratic choice of party members."

But for his own part, Dumont outright dismissed the idea of a Conservative plot against Taillon.

"It's understandable - this man is dealing with a personal failure, and it's difficult," Dumont said of his former Deputy Leader. "It's understandable from a professional standpoint: he built a brilliant career, and he's dealing with a difficult failure this week. I don't think that's any reason to be casting about for such a meticulously orchestrated plot."

The ADQ once had a proud history as the conservative federalist alternative in Quebec.

Now, just as the leadership campaign Taillon won in order to become party leader was one of the most meaningless and acrimonious in history, the party's dissolution may be one of the most meaningless and acrimonious in history.

Other bloggers writing about this topic:

ThreeHundredEight - "The ADQ Self-Destructs"

Dan Shields - "If the ADQ Was a Dog We'd Shoot It"

William Norman - "ADQ Disintegration Watch"

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Jean Charest Offers to Nail ADQ Coffin Shut

Charest offers welcome to ADQ defectors

With the Action Democratique du Quebec still reeling after the departure of defeated leadership candidate Eric Caire and former house Marc Picard from its ranks, Jean Charest has evidently detected the opportunity to lay the ADQ to rest for good.

He's offered Picard and Caire -- as well as any other ADQ MNAs -- the opportunity to join the Liberal Party in the National Assembly.

"Politics is the art of inclusion," Charest announced. "For us the door has always been open, from all time. It is an open party and we will not change, but we will respect the choice of each MNA."

However, Charest has made no move to formally recruit Caire, Picard, or any other member of the ADQ.

"I can tell you from experience that if a member decides to make a change in his situation, whether to become an independent or to go elsewhere, if has to come from him," Charest added. "We are putting no pressure on the ADQ MNAs and yes we have known one another for a long time and that doesn’t prevent us from encouraging one another."

Not that Charest hasn't been talking to any of them.

"In fact I spoke to Mr Caire after his defeat," he said. "I also spoke to [Christian] Lévesque to congratulate him."

But one has to wonder whether or not all the members of the ADQ would be welcome to join Charest's caucus. After all, Charest has been threatening former ADQ interim leader Sylvie Roy with a libel suit for claiming that three of his cabinet ministers had met with a controversial construction magnate aboard the man's private yaught.

Then again, for the opportunity to put his conservative opposition to rest permanently, Charest may be willing to swallow his pride, and see if Roy is willing to do the same.

Rarely before has a long-established political party collapsed so quickly after managing to become the Official Opposition. But the ADQ has managed to accomplish this task.

The ADQ has evidently reached the end of its story, and Jean Charest is perfectly content to write its eulogy.

Monday, November 09, 2009

Less = More

Less activist government expects more of citizens, not less

If Canadians were beginning to wonder precisely how Justin Trudeau intended to follow in his father's footsteps, few would blame them.

While Trudeau has enjoyed a middling profile in the Liberal party, he has yet to truly establish himself as a heavyweight in Canadian politics. To date, he hasn't offered much more than the typical partisanship Canadians have come to expect.

During a recent speech in Brantford, Ontario, Trudeau didn't divert much from this trend.

Speaking to a partisan audience, Trudeau insisted that Stephen Harper's Conservative Party won its minority government by utilizing wedge politics and divisive attack ads.

(What he chooses to omit is that it was his own Liberal Party that lost two consecutive elections with ill-conceived wedge politics, and that their 05/06 campaign featured the most divisive attack ads in Canadian political history.)

Trudeau accused Harper's government of disempowering Canadians.

"For the past four years, a government has been convincing us to expect less," Trudeau told his audience, "and worst of all, to expect less of ourselves."

But what Trudeau doesn't seem to understand is that a government that is less active in attempting to mould the country's social order to its own ideology isn't a government that is teaching Canadians to expect less of themselves.

It's a government that is teaching Canadians to expect more of themselves.

One of the great achievements of the Harper government has been to significantly pare back the programs the Liberal party has traditionally used to advance its own ideological agenda.

By cancelling the court challenges program (although the Conservative government has yet to propose a badly-needed alternative) and shifting the mandate of the National Committee on the Status of Women, Stephen Harper eliminated programs that weren't only being used as tools of what Barry Cooper describes as the embedded state, he also eliminated programs that were being used as tools to embed the ideology at the core of the embedded state.

In doing so, Harper replaced a notion of public virtue wherein the basis of public virtue was the government's funding of often-narrow ideological advocacy with a politics of public virtue wherein the basis of public virtue is the government's ability to actually help its citizens when and where needed.

This isn't to say that there isn't a place in Canadian policy for portions of Justin Trudeau's vision of public virtue. In particular, his youth initiative would be of incredible benefit to Canada.

But Trudeau even seems to misunderstand his bill's place within a political order in which citizens have begun to expect less of their government.

"They want to make a difference in the world," Trudeau continued. "But they're not entirely sure that politics will make a difference. Young people have gotten a lot more empowered with information. The problems they want addressed are very big but the capacity of the politicians has not been there."

Trudeau seems to misunderstand that this reflects a growing trend -- one encouraged by Trudeau's colleague Romeo Dallaire -- in which youths are beginning to expect less of their government, and more from themselves.

It isn't a trend exclusive to Canada, either. As Adam Curtis notes in The Power of Nightmares, people in numerous countries have lost faith in ideologies and grand visions such as the ones that the Liberal party has continually sought to offer Canadians (and just as often declined to deliver on).

This has led to the rapid proliferation of Non-Governmental Organizations, wherein citizens take direct and personal responsibility regarding the state of the world, and their ability to effect it.

That isn't Canadians expecting less of themselves. It's Canadians expecting less of their government, and more from themselves.

In any healthy, strong (in the Barberian sense) democracy, that is what citizens do.

Waking the (Un)Dead, Part 2

When a blogger insists that they're reaching to to an "intellectually mature" audience, one also imagines that it isn't too much to ask for that blogger to actually discuss the ideas they would like to critique.

It seems like a perfectly reasonable expectation.

Such is the expectation that an intellectually mature audience should expect of Enormous Thriving Plants proprietor Audrey, who has apparently taken quite the exception to the ideas of Jonah Goldberg.

Unfortunately, the problem for Audrey is that she continues to neglect to offer any kind of a cogent criticism of Goldberg's work, and has instead simply opted to ridicule it (possibly not understanding that ridicule is actually not an argument).

As mentioned during a previous attempt to coax Audrey into offering a more cogent critique of Goldberg's work by sharing with her some details of what his book actually contains, Goldberg also offers a critique of some fascist elements within conservative thought, including noting the fascist characteristics of some movies typically enjoyed by conservatives.

One of those movies is Death Wish. Like Dirty Harry, Death Wish spawned a whole series of sequels, creating a film franchise in which a vigilante exposes the inadequacies of the social order.

In Death Wish, Paul Kersey (Charles Bronson) is an ordinary man whose wife and daughter are both killed during a home invasion. The police prove incapable of brining the guilty to justice, so Kersey doggedly pursues the guilty on his own.

Like in Dirty Harry, the social order in the Death Wish franchise has been subverted by weakness, and that weakness allows violent outsiders to flourish.

Moreover, these outsiders -- very often (but not always) members of racial minorities -- excel at turning the weakness of the system against itself. In Death Wish IV an elderly man uses a gun to drive home invaders from his apartment. His assailants call the police, who come and seize his gun under a handgun ban in the city. The very same night, his assailants return and murder his wife.

Dirty Harry's Harry Calahan can at least defend himself under the pretext of being an authority of the system. Paul Kersey is a vigilante, pure and simple.

His actions are even more threatening to the system than Calahan's, as he operates entirely outside of it. As a result, Kersey's actions may have even greater potential to be truly transformative.

Neither Dirty Harry nor Death Wish seem like films that liberals would enjoy. Jonah Goldberg admits as much in his book. Individuals like Audrey may have known about this if they had read the book.

But they evidently haven't. It's the kind of thing that should seriously call into question their ability to criticize his work.

It should, but considering that the best rhetoric they can muster to date is to accuse him of "doubling down on dumb", one shouldn't expect an argument that demonstrates any actual knowledge of Goldberg's arguments. At least not until after a lot more coaxing.

...And speaking of "doubling down on dumb", this is an individual who apparently thinks that the proper way to approach Goldberg's work is to mock him for ignorance of "astrological phenomonon" like the Jovian gravity well. And presumably, Taurus.

Sunday, November 08, 2009

Two More Nails in the ADQ Coffin

Caire, Picard split from ADQ

Gilles Taillon's efforts to salvage the Action Democratique du Quebec from the ashes of its drubbing in the 2008 Quebec Provincial Election has just become much more difficult.

Eric Caire, Taillon's primary rival for the ADQ leadership, and Marc Picard, the party's former House Leader, have both left the party to sit as independents.

This is only one more merciless blow to a party that has already suffered a continuous stream of defeats. In 2008, they were punted from Official Opposition status with a 34-seat loss.

Mario Dumont -- previously the only leader the party has ever known -- resigned from the leadership quickly after.

On June 22, 2009, the party lost Dumont's seat in the National Assembly to Liberal Jean D'Amour.

The party went on to conduct a long, drawn-out and often vicious leadership campaign in which policies and ideas took a back seat to personal and ad hominem attacks.

Now, fully one third of the parties MNAs have left their caucus.

Caire -- who, after his narrow defeat, stressed the importance of the party supporting Taillon -- complained that Taillon was pulling the party too far away from its conservative principles.

“It is no longer the party I joined,” Caire complained. "That ADQ no longer exists for me."

Caire even took the opportunity to lob one more hand grenade Taillon's way before departing from the party. "I think that the future of the ADQ depends on the leader of the [party]," Caire insisted, knowing full well that his departure effectively cripples the party.

He also blamed poor leadership qualities.

"[His is] a reign without teamwork, without having either the qualities or the charisma to do it," Caire added.

When a leadership campaign turns as deeply personal as the ADQ campaign did, it's only natural that the winner and losers will find themselves unwilling and unable to work together.

As Jean Lapierre has noted, the ADQ's failure to have a proper leadership contest has effectively spelled its end.

The ADQ's time has seemingly come. With it, so has the time for a new conservative party in Quebec.

Other bloggers writing about this topic:

Top Can of Contemplation - "Sore Loser Syndrome"

Enshrinement of Half-Truths Makes For Bad History

Comfort, Cameron, Stein and critics all indulging in revisionist history

As Kirk Cameron and Ray Comfort continue their campaign to distribute copies of Charles Darwin's The Origin of Species with a specially-written introduction, many of those who are concerned about their campaign are still struggling to formulate a fitting response.

Randy Olson seems to have predicted that particular response.

Well, maybe predict isn't the right word. As Olson notes, the response to the kind of ideas proposed in Comfort's introduction -- blaming Darwin's theory for the Holocaust and for the Eugenics program carried out by Nazi Germany -- has been seen before.

It was seen throughout 2008, as critics vented their spleen at Ben Stein's Expelled.

"Both Stein and Cameron invoke the dishonest and inaccurate suggestion that Darwin inspired Hitler," Olson writes. "Both are celebrities playing the lead role for the anti-evolution forces. And both will elicit the same response from the world of science: thousands of furious, hateful comments on the science blogs crying foul -- and in both cases, all that ranting and rage won’t compete with the anti-evolution messaging."

There's a reason why all that ranting and rage won't compete with the "anti-evolution messaging".

It's because in this case, the anti-evolution messaging is true. Or, rather, half-true.

Individuals like Olson seem to be operating under a wishful delusion. They insist that Darwin's theories didn't inspire Adolph Hitler to lead Nazi Germany in the planning and execution of its atrocities. Oddly enough, their insistences are also half-true.

But history rarely copes well with half-truths. Wherever someone chooses to tell only half of any story, the other half forever remains to put the lie to the conclusions these individuals draw.

Olson -- and a great many other commentators omitting fully half the story -- choose to overlook the fact that Darwin's theories weren't only central to Hitler's atrocities, but central to the very idea of eugenics as a whole.

The problem for these arguments -- as forwarded by Cameron, Comfort and Stein, among others -- is that these programs have always been based on a very selective reading of Darwin's work. These selective readings often omit entire sentences from within the passages they use to justify their plans. In other cases, they're based on wishful and self-serving interpretations of what is actually there.

What is quickly emerging is one of the more insidious elements of many modern debates: history is being subverted for the purpose of rhetoric, with competing revisionist histories -- each predicated on half-truths -- vying for dominance.

It's becoming clear that the appropriate response to the efforts of individuals like Cameron, Comfort and Stein may not come from the scientific community. Rather, the appropriate response will ahve to come from those who are willing to embrace all the facts surrounding this controversy, and present history as it actually happened, not as either side wishes it did.

The ongoing debate between the pro-evolution and anti-evolution camps is simply not worth suberting history for.

Saturday, November 07, 2009

Jesus For President

In a certain sense, it may have been only natural that a Presidential candidate who campaigned on a message of hope would embrace -- and, in turn, be embraced by -- a religion whose message so often aspires to be a message of hope.

The de-hijacking (or perhaps re-hijacking) of Christian faith from the religious right certainly came as a surprise for those who had long grown accustomed to the association of Evangelical Christianity with conservative (and particularly Republican) politics.

But there were clearly large portions of the American Evangelical vote that were simply waiting to be de-hijacked.

In Like Father, Like Son (a book actually about Ernest and Preston Manning and the religious themes within their political careers), Lloyd Mackey splits Evangelical Christianity into seven categories. These categories demonstrate the oft-ignored variety amongst Evangelical Christians.

Mackey's first category of Evangelical Christians was Mainstream Evangelical Churches,

The second category is the Penecostal assemblies (featured so prominently and comically in Borat), who use emotion as a tool of worship.

Simililar to Penecostal assemblies, Evangelical Churches of the Charismatic Tradition also use emotion as a tool of worship. The key difference is that while the Penecostal assemblies developed out of distinctly Protestant traditions, Churches of the Charismatic Tradition derived from Catholic traditions.

A large portion of Evangelical Christians (particularly in Canada, but also in the United States) are Evangelicals in mainstream churches, who promote Evangelical traditions within the Catholic, Lutheran, Anglican and mainstream Baptist churches.

Reformed Evangelical churches are heavily influenced by the Calvinist philosophy, which believes that God's outreach is irresistable, and thus that God chooses whom to reach out to -- who invariably believe -- and whom not to.

Evangelical churches stemming from the tradition of Holiness include the Salvation Army Church. These churches tend to subscribe to the Social Gospel. (Interestingly enough, George W Bush's United Methodist Church subscribes to the social gospel.)

Mackey also classifies Evengelicals who immigrate from other countries -- Ethnic Evangelicals -- as their own particular segment, and notes that Ethnic Evangelicals have traditionally supported whichever political party is in power then they arrive in the country.

In paying attention to Obama's campaign style, it becomes immediately apparent that his campaign offered a great deal of appeal to Penecostal Assemblies, Ethnic Evangelicals and Churches of the Charistmatic and Holiness Traditions.

The de-hijacking of the Evangelical vote was certainly abetted by John McCain's reluctance to pursue the religious vote, in particular vast portions of the Evangelical vote.

But it's apparent that Obama is the kind of leader who would simply appeal to large portions of Evangelical Christianity, as defined by Lloyd Mackey.

Hopefully, the swing of so many Evangelical Christians toward Barack Obama will promote better understanding of the nuances of Evangelical Christianity.