Tuesday, August 31, 2010

The Last Resort of the Downtrodden & Desperate

There's a reason why so many Hollywood films are fascinated with the topic of vigilante justice -- because public sympathy exists for it.

From films like Harry Brown to films like Death Wish, audiences seem to find a great deal of sympathy with the visions contained in those films: worlds where crime has grown so out-of-control that ordinary citizens have become powerless to stop it, even with the meagre help offered by the law.

Two of the most recent films to address this topic, Defendor and Kick-Ass -- each of them brilliant in their own way -- have approached this topic with a tongue-squarely-in-cheek attitude, and yet haven't shied away from the central tenet that makes these films so appealing: that there very much does seem to be a problem.

In Defendor, Arthur Poppington (Woody Harrelson) is, by day, an extremely unassuming construction worker. He stands by the roadside all day, and holds a sign directing traffic.

By night, however, Poppington is Defendor, a vigilante who fights crime in his own way. His arsenal of weapons ranges from marbles (with or without a slingshot) to jars of wasps. Then there's his standby, a WWII-era trench club.

Poppington does, however, have one other problem: he's either mentally ill, or developmentally challenged. (The film doesn't explain which.)

His chief (imagined) adversary is Captain Industry, the man he holds responsible for his mother's death. (The film's twist on this particular delusion is so predictable as to actually be an afterthought.)

Hunting for Captain Industry eventually leads Poppington to cross paths with Chuck Dooney (Elias Koteas), a legitimately corrupt undercover cop working for Kristic (Alan C Peterson), a Serbian national (former war criminal) who trafficks in humans and drugs.

Dooney is legitimately a dangerous individual. Even after taking a beating at his hands, Poppington is permanently set across his path when Kat Debrofkowitz (Kat Dennings), identifies Kristic as Captain Industry. Her true intention is to take advantage of Poppington (he pays for $40 a week for information about Kristic, but she steals much more than that), but in time he comes to view her as a friend.

Following an arrest for assaulting Kat's father -- who he believes has abused her -- Poppington and Defendor become front page news. An enterprising graffiti artist even paints a gorgeous mural of him, emblazoned with the words "Fight Back".

In Kick-Ass, Dave Lizewski (Aaron Johnson), a naive high-schooler hopped up on too many comic cooks, decides to don the guise of Kick-Ass (no shit, that's his real name) and fight crime.

After being stabbed by a pair of assailants and run over by a car (the driver leaves the scene immediately after), Lizewski is essentially rebuilt like the $6 million man.

As a result of the metal plates used to rebuild him, Lizewski is now more resilient to pain than he was before. He can now absorb some fairly epic beatings in the course of his activities as Kick_Ass -- a prerequisite for any superhero.

Lizewski's exploits as Kick-Ass win him many fans and admirers. It also attracts the attention of Big Daddy (Nicholas Cage, channeling Adam West) and Hitgirl (Chloe Moretz).

Unlike Lizewski, who's basically just a dumb thrill-seeking teenager, Big Daddy and Hitgirl are the real deal. They dispatch members of the criminal underworld with extreme prejudice and zeal. Where Kick-Ass uses a pair of twin billy clubs, Big Daddy and Hitgirl prefer shotguns and katanas.

Big Daddy and Hitgirl, however, share something in common with Defendor's Poppington that Lizewski doesn't -- a grudge against a local crime boss.

As a police officer, Big Daddy was known as Damon Macready. In order to get him off the case, a crimeboss by the name of Frank D'Amico (Mark Strong) sets Macready up. While Macready is in prison, his wife turns to drugs, and eventually dies of an overdose -- but not before giving birth to Mindy.

After being released from prison, Damon resolves that he will raise Mindy to be the absurdly lethal Hitgirl -- a character so casual and efficient in her extermination of criminal scum that she managed to offend many commentators.

What Poppington and Damon Macready ultimately share in common is a pure social desperation that sets them on the path of costumed vigilantism. Poppington because he has no other way of dealing with the world he is confronted with; Macready because he has been stripped of the most lawful means of going after his adversaries.

There are few things more desperation-inducing than watching the community in which one lives degenerate into a criminal cesspool. Not only do some people really live in neighbourhoods as beleaguered by crime as those in Kick-Ass and Defendor.

Like Arthur Poppington and Damon Macready, many of them long for the means to fight back.

And citizens can fight back -- but not by dressing up as a costumed vigilante. That's just stupid.

Rather, citizens can fight back by refusing to allow a single crime to go unreported in their communities. They can fight back by refusing to vote for a single political candidate who refuses to adopt a realistic attitude toward crime.

That means voting for no candidate who doesn't accept that punishment of offenders and protection of society from them is every bit as important as rehabilitation and crime prevention. They can even join a political party and demand that none of the candidates shall be soft on crime.

They can keep pressure on politicians in their communities, and demand that before they attempt to fund their personal pet projects, they fund the hiring of more police officers to protect their communities.

Even left to their own devices, the desperate and downtrodden can fight back.

But they need to refuse to take no for an answer.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Is Hollywood Really Anti-Christian? (Part One)

An argument has long existed that Hollywood is anti-Christian.

Many of the portrayals of Christians in Hollywood films are far less than flattering. Meanwhile, a perception exists that films that present Christianity in a positive light tend to get a bad rap from so-called Hollywood elites (unless there is some kind of controversy involved).

To Save a Life is such a movie, and at least one of the actors cast in the film seem to think the film has gotten a bad rap.

To Save a Life opens with a funeral. Jake Taylor (Randy Wayne) is mourning the loss of a friend whom he turned away from in High School. His social circle is a simple one: his girlfriend Amy (Deja Kreutzberg), his best friend Doug Moore (Steven Crowder), and -- because Jake is the star of the school basketball team -- everyone else in the school.

Jake is naturally troubled, considering that Roger (Robert Bailey Jr) shot himself right in front of him.

He's eventually pulled into the orbit of Chris Vaughn (Joshua Weigel), a local pastor, and decides to change his life, even over the objections of his friends.

Criticisms of the film are apparently disquieting at least some of the film's cast months later.

Moore isn't a particularly appealing character, and it would be hard to pretend that other actors haven't played such characters better. But a January, 2010 review of the film in the New York Times seemed to offend Crowder enough to write a column on it for Fox News -- eight months later.

In the column, Crowder treats the review as symptomatic of anti-Christian hostility:
"The Hollywood elitists hated it. Surprisingly in most of the nasty reviews, the arrogant critics praised the film for its high-production quality and more than capable cast. What they had a problem with…was its Christian message."
Depending on the eye one has for such details, there may very well be enough in the review to justify Crowder's response to it -- although one may also argue that an actor taking the time to single out and respond to a bad review is rather unbecoming.

The review does suggest that the film has an agenda, but doesn't go so far as to state what the author -- Anddy Webster -- thinks that agenda is. He accuses the film of exploiting school shootings in order to advance that agenda; although the shooting portrayed in the film is more of a "Jeremy"-style suicide than a Columbine-style mass murder.

To Crowder, these kinds of reactions to the film isn't stemmed in the comparative merits of the film -- or whether the critic liked it. For Crowder, the response to the film is stemmed in anti-Christian hostility rooted in liberalism:
"There’s really only one answer. The movie’s message of salvation is decidedly Christian. In the film, the main character, Jake, turns his life around through his relationship with God. Not only God, but the worst kind of God as Tinseltown would see it… the evil, Judeo-Christian God. – Cue the dramatic chipmunk.

You see, See, Jesus to liberals is like the squat-rack to metrosexual gymrats; they avoid it like the plague. They hate it, because it’s a lot of work. Whether you see Jesus as nothing more than a mythical figure or not, there’s no doubt that living your life in a Christ-like manner is a lot harder than the hedonistic lifestyle reflected in Hollywood.
Certainly, this conflicts with at least one particular genre of film: the stoner film, in which characters who would (for lack of a more appropriate term) be considered losers find ways out of their problems without ever changing the lifestyle habits that have led their lives to the sorry state they're in.

Changing a lifestyle is hard. Some film genres have given their characters the option of taking the easy way out. In the end, the characters haven't improved their lot at all, yet have solved their problem of the day. Then again, these films don't tend to do very well with the critics either.

Vaughn challenges Jake to explore his spiritual side without sacrificing his sense of self. However, it becomes clear to Jake that he has to make soem changes in his lifestyle.

Jake eventually has to confront Christian philistinism not only in those in the church, but also in himself.

Everyone is familiar with the Christian philistine: a selfish, self-righteous, judgemental and hypocritical individual who considers thsemelves to be "saved", and has nothing but contempt for those who are not.

Hollywood films are full of them.

To Save a Life seems to acknowledge the existence of such Christians. Moreover, it actually confronts that kind of individual, and challenges them to be more the way they believe they want to be.

There's a reason why the judgemental, hypocritical and holier-than-thou Christian is so popular in many Hollywood films -- such as the upcoming Easy A. It's because such Christians exist. They should by no means be taken to represent the whole of Christianity, but they very much do exist.

Critics whose personal impressions of Christianity are married to this preconception will find To Save a Life particularly challenging.

Those most decidated to maintaining their preconceptions typically don't enjoy challenges.

Many Christians themselves may find it even more challenging. They may enjoy the challenge even less.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Tea Party of the North? Or Reform Party of the South?

Tea Party bears marks of Reform Party influence

CNN actually has the question backward: is the American Tea Party a Reform Party model?

The parallels are, admittedly, startling: each started out as a revolt against the perceived failures of the established conservative politicians of the day, and each to confront the looming excesses of the left.

Each has faced similar challenges: a membership speckled with individuals with troubled histories, vapid accustaions of racism from a left threatened by their ideas, and limited involvement by individuals whose racial attitudes invite such suspicions.

Each has produced figures whose policies were judged to be extreme by who considered themselves to be mainstream political figures. In many cases such individuals were shocked with an unwelcome dose of reality -- that these allegedly extreme positions are actually shared by more people than share allegedly "mainstream" positions.

Most strikingly, the Tea Party has a need it shares in common with the Reform Party: a need to reach out to their fellow conservatives. Depending upon the circumstances, this can be extremely challenging.

"It's hard to reconcile them all," says Reform Party founder Preston Manning, speaking of his experience trying to unite Canadian conservatives who were divided by minor political differences. "The argument we used is that you all need each other. You do agree on a whole bunch of other things."

As Manning points out, there's a danger in allowing such minor differences to divide conservatives.

"I argued they were not philosophically incompatible," Manning explains.

Some never came around to this line of thinking. Former Prime Minister Joe Clark never did. Would-be Progressive Conservative kingmaker David Orchard most certainly didn't. Garth Turner flirted with this line of thinking just long enough to get elected as a united Conservative Party MP before being cast out of caucus.

Manning stresses that open and inclusive debate remains the key to building strong coalitions among individuals who favour differing "flavours" of conservatism. In Canada alone, conservatives need to find consensus among seven distinct sub-groups: fiscal conservatives, social conservatives, democratic populists, British tories, libertarians, progressive conservatives, and paleo-conservatives.

This makes democracy and open debate within the party especially important.

"If we can't apply democracy to reconcile these differences within the party, then why should the public believe we can do this on a larger scale?" Manning asks.

Manning suggests that political circumstance may hamper the ability of the Tea Party to affect change within American politics.

"These people are trying to build a coalition in a political culture that tends to favor polarization," he muses. "That does make it difficult, because people want to go to their corners rather than come together in the center of the ring."

Of course, this may have overlooked the detail that many of the Republican Party's leading candidates are either strongly supported by the Tea Party, or subtlely allude to policy influences from the Tea Party.

In the face of policy over-reach by the administration of President Barack Obama, the right in the United States is already uniting. A few figures, such as Senator John McCain, remain divisive for American conservatives. But Republicans don't seem to be rejecting the Tea Party out-of-hand; nor does the Tea Party movement seem to be rejecting the GOP.

If the Reform Party truly influenced the Tea Party -- and it seems clear that it has -- it isn't the first time the Reform Party influenced American politics.

In fact, Republican braintrust Newt Gingrich very publicly acknowledged Manning's influences on his own politics.

There's a reason why so many in the Canadian left seem to genuinely fear the Tea Party: in it they see the echoes of a movement whose ideas they feared, and they see an American left trying -- and failing -- to use the same culture war tactics that they resorted to, and failing.

Coincidence, Providence, or Scientific Determinism?

A popular fallacy about the world is that chaos is the natural state of the world.

But when one considers some of the basic scientific truths at play in the universe: the laws of physics, the laws of thermodynamics, as well as the ever-espanding bodies of psychological and sociological knowledge, it becomes clear that the natural state of the world is actually order.

But because the various forces at work in the universe are so numerous, it's an order that resembles chaos.

Science hasn't deciphered all the natural laws of the universe. By no means is it even close.

But it may be worth asking if, should one possess enough knowledge of the various forces at play within the universe -- both environmental factors and those related to human behaviour -- if one could in turn predict the future.

The problem is clearly that one could never possess enough such knowledge in one particular moment (one would need to know the inner thoughts of incomprehensible numbers of people). Nor could the human mind manage all of this data.

Prophecy may, in fact, be possible, if not even remotely probable.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Labour Party Needs Its Civil Society Fix

Labour Party addicted to big government

As British Prime Minsiter David Cameron continues to slowly roll out his Big Society policy package, the Labour Party has evidently found itself at odds with the new government's views on civil society.

Following a party audit of the to-date relesed or promised Big Society policies, the Labour party claims the policy is undermining civil society in Britain.

Labour has identified what they believe are core policy areas for the Big Society, and have pointed out that the Tories have cut 6% of the funding to these areas. Among these cuts are:

-370 million Pounds for the Future Jobs program, which had pledged to create 200,000 jobs, including 120,000 job grants for civil society organizations.
-95 million Pounds from affordable housing.
-14 million Pounds from the Youth Commnity Action programme.
-7 million Pounds from the Prevent programme -- designed to combat violent political extremism.
-4 million Pounds from the Cohesion programme -- a program to do pretty much the same thing as Prevent.

"What people want is not the vacuous promise of a big society but a good society where everybody does their bit and is helped to do so to improve their community and create benefits for everyone," said Tessa Jowell, Labour's shadow Cabinet Office minister insisted. "But a big society that cuts people loose, leaving them to stand on their own, will never work."

The detail that Labour lost the 2010 election, and so can hardly claim to know what Britons want, is one thing.

Labour's clear big government vision of civil society is entirely another.

Each of Labour's criticisms can easily be answered in kind:

-First off, a civil society organization that is funded by the government is not really a civil society organization: it's a QUANGO.
-Many communities, such as Crosby Ravensowrth, are funding their own affordable housing projects.
-The Prevent Programme was a particularly troubled one that had been caught spying within the communities in which it was active.
-The Cohesion Programme seems to have been a duplication in efforts from the Prevent Programme.

The Labour party has made its view on civil society quite clear: it prefers a big government approach so thorough that arms of its so-called civil society policy can even justify espionage against the communities in which they operate.

If Prime Minister Cameron were to embrace that particular vision, it would ultimately be self-defeating toward the goals of the Big Society programme.

Fortunately, David Cameron doesn't seem to share Labour's addiction to big government.

Someone is Out to Kick Obama's Ass

One of the Democratic Party's favourite themes since the 2008 election of President Barack Obama has been to accuse the Republican Party of being "extreme".

In an ad entitled "Extreme?", the National Republican Senatorial Committee takes that particular theme for a walk -- and then crams it down the Democrat's throat.

The ad begins with a television screen on which the predominant talking heads of the American left -- Rachel Maddow, Howard Dean, and even Obama himself -- discussing how extreme they want Americans to believe the Republican Party is.

The ad then begins to hit back with some polling numbers that are, to say the least, inconvenient for Democrats:

-57$ of likely voters think the Democrat agenda is "extreme".
-60% favour the repeal of Barack Obama's health care reform legislation.
-56% disapprove of Obama's performance.
-61% favour an immigration law similar to Arizona's in their own state.
-68% oppose the Ground Zero mosque (which Obama supports).
-65% are angry at federal government policies.
-65% of polled Americans believed the United States is on the wrong track.

The ad then cuts to polling comparisons of Democrat stalwarts and the so-called "extreme" candidates running against them -- many of which are either leading their Democrat opponent by double digits, or are in a statistical tie with them.

The then cuts again to Howard Dean, declaring that Republican candidates are "way outside the mainstream of what Americans want", and then hit back:

-Suing Arizona
-Siding against 9/11 families
-$3 trillion tax hike
-$1.5 trillion deficit
-$13 trillion debt
-$2.5 trillion healthcare takeover

"Mr President, that's extreme," the ad concludes. "Don't believe us? You'll find out November 2."

The ad brilliantly turns the Democrats' own rhetorical themes against them, and counter-brands them as the extremists in Washington.

After all, if Obama's administration and his policies were really so moderate, really so within the mainstream of American desires and expectations, the polling numbers wouldn't have turned so clearly against him -- and they wouldn't be worsening.

Simply put, the Republican Party has set out to turn Barack Obama's 2008 electoral triumph into the swiftest kick in the ass in American political history -- and with messaging like this, they just might pull it off.

You Mean Like This? Still No?

Canadian Muslim Congress denounces radical Islam

In the wake of arrests involving a suspected terror cell in Ottawa, various Canadian bloggers have called for Canadian Muslims to denounce terrorism.

The Canadian Muslim Congress has done precisely that.

"This is not something that comes as a total surprise," says the CMC's Raheel Raza. "We have a problem."

"There is a serious problem among Canadian Muslim youth and if we don't address this now, it can culminate into something dangerous," Raza continues. "We have to stand up and tackle this."

Raza doesn't seem to be concerned that her admissions of concern would attract attention from Islamophobes.

"There are always going to be bigots, we can't stop speaking out against radicalization just because we are afraid of a few bigots and hate-mongers," she continues. "Those people who are sensible ... will understand what we are talking about."

This comes hot on the heels of a declaration by the Canadian Council of Imams denouncing radical Islam -- one that was met with cynicism by Canadian critics of Islam.

Sadly, it's unlikely that Raheel Raza's concern about the radicalization of Muslim youths -- and her organization's efforts to stop it -- will be met with similar cynicism.

How the Canadian Left Waged Inception Against the Public

In Inception, Dom Cobb (Leonardo DiCaprio) is an extractor. With the use of specialized equipment, he can slip into the mind of another individual and steal their secrets.

With a little more work, he can even plant ideas within the minds of his subjects.

The Canadian left has managed just such a feat within the minds of Canadians. But unlike Cobb, who uses a sleep-induction/mind-link machine, the "specialized equipment" of the Canadian left is the state itself.

The Canadian left long ago stumbled upon a subtle means on inception -- quietly installing their agenda as public policy, then allowing the Canadian public to justify it to themselves after the fact.

They accomplished this through a combination of expansion in the size of government and the subversion of civil society in order to meet specific ideological ends.

Barry Cooper refers to this as the "embedded state" - state organs dedicated to increasing the reach and influence of government throughout Canadian life.

Through a variety of QUANGOs -- quasi-autonomous non governmental organizations -- the Canadian left has embedded their own ideology within this embedded state.

They've used Canada's Secretary of State -- a rarely-scrutinized office empowered to disperse funding to civil society organizations -- to accomplish this end.

This began during the Prime Ministerial tenure of Pierre Elliot Trudeau. As Prime Minister, Trudeau directed the Secretary of State to fund and, if necessary, create NGOs.

This had two consequences. It eliminated the need for sivil society organizations to appeal to private citizens for financial support, and allowed the government to make choices that would ideologically benefit the governing party.

A key example is the public funding of pro-abortion organizations while denying funding to their anti-abortion opponents.

The result has been a status quo on abortion where Canada has no abortion law whatsoever. Abortion Rights Coalition of Canada national director Joyce Arthur suggests that groups that plan to change this should not only be denied public funding, but should also be denied the ability to raise funds as charitable organizations, while pro-abortion organizations should be allowed these privileges because their goals are "not political" because they reflect the view of "mainstream Canadians".

But according to a recent poll on the topic of abortion, that mainstream may be much smaller than Arthur believes.

A recent poll concluded that only 21% of Canadians are even aware that Canada has no abortion law.

According to that poll, sampled Canadians believed:

-41% of Canadians believed that abortions are only available within the first trimester.

-15% of Canadians believed that abortions are only available within the first trimester if a woman's life is at risk, if she was raped, or if her unborn child will be born with serious complications.

-10% of Canadians believed that abortions are only permissable if a woman's life is at risk, if she was raped, or if her unborn child will be born with serious complications.

Only 27% of those polled favoured the status quo.

Conversely, Arthur believes that abortion should be formally legalized within Canadian law, but that no restrictions should be placed upon it. She declares that restrictions on abortion would be "unnecessary, cruel, and discriminatory".

Clearly, 73% of Canadians disagree with her -- which would mean that, according to Arthur's bizarre definition of "mainstream" Canada, only 27% of Canadians are within that mainstream.

When polled, Canadians do voice their support for the status quo. The problem is that they don't know what that status quo is.

Arthur further insists that anti-abortion groups cannot justify charitable status based on their educational efforts. She declares them to be deceptive; propaganda. Yet, it seems that the "educational" efforts of groups like the ARCC are a good deal more deceptive.

The National Action Committee on the Status of Women funded many pro-abortion groups who have helped foster this particular rhetorical environment.

It's no wonder that so many Canadians seem to think they share what are actually the ARCC's extremist views on abortion: groups nestled close to the core of Canada's embedded state have spent a long time convincing them that they do.

That the Canadian government has been providing funding to such organizations created an artificial sense of respectability for them -- and considering the iron-fistedly censorious nature of Arthur and the ARCC (they've been involved in efforts to ban anti-abortion groups from University campuses), any respectability afforded is purely artificial.

The Canadian left resorted to these tactics because they must not have known that they couldn't achieve their agenda without monopolizing support from the state.

After 40 years of this kind of subtle manipulation, it's no wonder that the left has managed to convince Canadians that they share their agenda -- even when they apparently aren't fully aware of what that agenda really is.

As Stephen Harper continues to tighten the screws on this kind of ideological self-indulgence, Canada's left will have to begin to find its own resources, and start forging its own reputation as opposed to piggy-backing their message on the back of the government.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Don't You Love it When a Plan Comes Together?

Especially when that plan is Mark Holland's ineptitude

As debate surrounding Canada's long-gun registry continues to heat up, the governing Conservative Party has pointed out a little detail about Michael Ignatieff's proposal to make possession of an unregistered long-gun a ticketable -- as opposd to criminal -- offence:

It's actually unconstitutional.

"What he [Ignatieff] has proposed stomps on jurisdictional powers under the constitution -- it's absolutely unconstitutional," explained Conservative MP Shelly Glover. "The provinces would have to buy in and we already know there are three attorneys general who have spoken out very clearly they're not buying in.”

For his own part, however, Public Safety Critic Mark Holland isn't convinced -- and doesn't seem terribly concerned about the Constitution.

"It is true that it would require co-operation on the part of the provinces," Holland retorted. "We would have to work collaboratively with the provinces, but there isn't a necessity for a constitutional change."

"You'd need to have the charge laid under a different [provincial] act," Holland concluded.

And, as Glover has already pointed out, therein lies the rub.

In order to effectively abolish the gun registry within their own provinces, all any one province -- Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba -- would have to do is not pass a provincial law.

This would force a Liberal party federal government to either step in more forcefully and trample provincial jurisdiction -- as they have often done in the past, so it isn't out of the question -- or accept the de facto abolition of the long-gun registry in those provinces.

Tgnatieff's proposal would thus make the registration of long-guns a matter of provincial jurisdiction. It's on that note that the Tories would be well-advised to consider adopting it -- and not for the reasons Mark Holland would prefer.

Holland, after all, seems to think that this proposal would preserve the long-gun registry across the entire country. This proposal should be considered because it simply won't.

Holland goes on to accuse the Conservatives of wanting to "confuse" Canadians. Yet it's clear that it's Holland himself who is confused.

"I think they're losing the battle and they're getting desperate to create facts," Holland mused, in a bout of his typical demagoguery. "They're trying to use the boogeyman of the Constitution in a last-ditch effort to torque the debate."

Yet it's individuals like Holland who have done anything possible to create facts to support the long-gun registry, which they cannot show to have prevented a single crime, and they cannot show to have saved so much as a single, solitary life -- and it can be shown to have failed to do either on numerous occasions.

Michael Ignatieff's and Mark Holland's plans seem to be coming together nicely. Unfortuantely bor both, the plan seems to be complete and utter ineptitude.

Remember Everyone, It's Conservatives Who are Thuggish and Violent... Right?

Freedom Works assailed with death threats

As talk of the Tea Party continues to dominate the political discourse in the United States, it's hard to forget the effort that many among the United States' left wing went to in order to portray the Tea Party as thuggish and violent.

Yet in Washington, DC, Freedom Works, a group led by former Republican majority leader Dick Armey has been the target of numerous threats.

The group supports Tea Party activism.

"FreedomWorks and Dick Armey receive dozens of threatening and harassing calls and E-mails each day. Many imply violence and use of weapons," said Freedom Works spokesman Adam Brandon. "As we get closer to the election we expect the harassment to increase."

The group has responded by moving its headquarters to a more secure -- and more expensive -- location, and by hiring extra security.

However, that means that the group will have less money to spend on its Get Out the Vote efforts on election day.

"Unfortunately, we may have to use resources for security guards that we would rather use for GOTV," Brandon added.

Some of the threats are directed toward Freedom Works staff, or Tea Party figures. Others are directed toward conservative figures.

"Now, we are going to destroy and obliterate Rush [Limbaugh] and Sean Hannity," one callter threatened. "Those two guys are dead."

Unfortunately, this extra spending on security, and the diversion of funds away from their election-day activities was probably the ultimate goal of this intimidation campaign against the organization.

With things going badly for President Barack Obama, the left's desperation is beginning to show. This thuggish behaviour may be more of a symptom of that than a cause unto itself.

Toronto: Welcome to the Dictatorship of the Proletariat

Panicked city councillors express contempt for democracy

As the October 25 date for Toronto's mayoral election draws closer, so does the prospect of Rob Ford becoming the city's mayor.

The most recent polls have Rob Ford holding the support of 32% of Torontonians. Former frontrunner -- and Liberal candidate all-but-officially -- George Smitherman is running second with 21%.

Many members of Toronto's City Council are rather alarmed that Ford may well be the next mayor. Some of them are all but planning a revolt.

“I hope that the citizens of Toronto wake up," said soon-to-be-former City Councillor Kyle Rae. "I can’t believe Toronto is prepared to do it.”

Rae insists that Ford has no record of accomplishments for the City of Toronto.

“All he has done is attack and vilify other members’ work, he has got nothing he can point to,” Rae insisted.

“Most thinking people in Toronto would be so embarrassed by him being mayor that there would be an obligation on council to do something,” he concluded. "In my opinion, if Mayor Ford is elected, city council will have a caucus meeting and they will choose their own mayor and he will be the mayor in name.”

It's worth noting that Kyle Rae is the individual who threw a $12,000 goodbye party at taxpayers' expense. This in a city where Ford is being ordered to payback $3000 in charitable donations solicited with stationery bearing the letterhead of his Council office.

It's also worth noting that Ford is the one who blew the whistle on Rae.

But it seems that the fiscal priorities of Toronto City Council are an absolute joke: $12,000 parties for themselves, while Councillors whose politics they disapprove of are ordered to repay $3,000 in charitable donations.

Other comments offered by Councillors at this Council's final meeting also smack of elitists who think they know better than the citizens of Toronto.

Others have chosen to take a negative view of politics -- focusing more on what he wants the citizens of Toronto to vote against, rather than what they might be voting for.

“The ballot question has been framed, ‘Rob Ford? Yes or no,’” said City Councillor Adam Vaughan. “It’s just a question of where the no vote moves now.”

But all this apparently seems to be the attitude of Toronto City Council -- where individuals who declare themselves to represent the "thinking people" of Toronto claim the privilege of governing the city however they see fit, and what individuals think voters are voting against is more important than what they may have voted for.

They believe it to be a dictatorship of the proletariat in Toronto -- and Toronto City Council seems to have decided that they are the proletariat.

Drug Cartels Represent a Clear and Present Danger

In 1994, it was widely believed that Central American drug cartels represented a clear and present danger to the United States.

16 years later, it may have gotten worse yet.

In Clear and Present Danger (released guess when?), Tom Clancy creation Jack Ryan (Harrison Ford) is handed one of the most dangerous jobs an American intelligence operative could be given: go to Colombia and get a handle on the drug cartels there.

When the government freezes assets held by the Colombian cartels in American financial institutions, druglord Ernesto Escobado (Miguel Sandoval) orders his lieutenant, Felix Cortez (Joaquim de Almeida) to launch a devastating retaliation in which Ryan himself is nearly killed -- from which he narrowly escapes.

What Ryan doesn't know is that CIA operative John Clark (Willem Dafoe) is leading a secret mission to kill Cortez and Esbobedo. But when an airstrike aimed at killing Escobado also kills women and children at the site of the attack, attention is drawn to this black op that was never supposed to have taken place, but was quietly authorized by National Security Advisor James Cutter.

When Ryan begins to pick up the trail of the op, the special forces unit in Colombia is cut off from assistance and overtaken.

The only option left is for Ryan and Clark to team up in order to rescue the remnants of the unit -- a mission which will lead them into a direct confrontation with Esbobedo and Cortez.

16 years later, the situation on the United States' border with Mexico continues to deteriorate, as drug-related violence spills over the border and US citizens come under fire.

The security of the US/Mexico border has deteriorated to the degree that armed Mexican Bavy helicopters have been spotted in US airspace over Texas.

This could have catastrophic consequences for the United States.

For example, should the US attempt to help get a handle on Mexican drug cartels by freezing their assets, the likelihood that a retaliation similar to the one depicted in Clear and Present Danger occurring is more and more likely. It's also more and more likely that such a retaliation could occur within US sovereign territory.

The time for the United States to get a handle on their border security -- and start pressuring the government of Mexico to more robustly pursue their country's drug cartels -- is now.

This clear and present danger cannot be ignored any longer.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

What's the Matter With Heather Mallick?

Panic clearly building at Toronto Star

When Heather Mallick agreed to write for the Toronto Star, the editorial board of that newspaper must have had one thing to say to her:

"Welcome home, Heather. Welcome home."

It would only be a matter of time before the Star would gleefully provide a willing forum for Mallick's famed political invective -- the one that eventually earned her a very short leash at the CBC.

Then, it was a disgusting hit-piece on US Vice Presidential candidate Sarah Palin.

In that tirade, she compared Palin to a pornstar, denigrated her family, and in the depths of feverish lunacy, suggested that Palin isn't even actually a woman.

It's in the spirit of such invective that Mallick has approached the ongoing election campaign to decide who will be the next mayor of Toronto. With polls suggesting that conservative candidate Rob Ford has pulled ahead of his competition, the Toronto Star has gone into full-blown panic mode.

It isn't a pretty sight.

In a column entitled "Rob Ford as Mayor? Are We Nuts?" Mallick doesn't provide any real logical reason why anyone in Toronto shouldn't want Ford as their mayor. Instead, she tries to needle long-simmering feelings of resentment against, of all things, gym teachers into a full anti-conservative boil:
"I have a degree of sympathy for Ford. We all knew him in high school. He was our gym teacher, the kind who laughed when the slender shy boys got their hair entangled in the trampoline netting."
Mallick being Mallick, that naturally isn't the full extent of the mud directed in Ford's direction. Mallick also pens the following:
"-He is what he is and, unlike most people, makes no attempt to conceal it. What I doubt is that he is like you. Have the police been called to your home to resolve a dispute with your loved one? Do you have a mug shot?

-Voters allegedly like candidates with whom they could happily sit down and have a beer, as was said about Bush. But you couldn’t drink with Bush. He was an alcoholic who no longer drank. And you wouldn’t drink with Ford because he gets angry rather than amiable as, in just one instance, some people in a neighbouring box at the Air Canada Centre discovered in 2006.
Mallick doesn't elaborate very far on either one of these two issues. There may well be good reason for this. Judging from this article by Linda Diebel -- who seems to have been pulled off her national affairs beat to help bolster the paper's anti-Ford efforts -- the official editorial line at the Toronto Star currently seems to be that they'll happily spread innuendo about Ford, but not make any concrete accusations:
"And that thing with his wife?

'Nothing happened. My wife got mad at me. She made an allegation that wasn’t true and the charges never even got to court ... I’ve never laid a hand on a woman in my life. Rule No. 1 in the Ford family: You never touch a woman.'

Other incidents seem muddier.

Did he tell a couple at the Air Canada Centre that the wife should 'go to Iran and get raped and shot?' He says he didn’t, but doesn’t clarify. In a letter to city hall, they claimed he did. He apologized.

'That was just stupidity. I feel terrible about it. My wife and I had a little bit too much to drink ... I made a mistake that will never happen again.'
In fact, it eems to be one individual -- city councillor Kyle Rae -- who is publicly pusihing the "buffoon" angle.

Which is actually rather ironic. After all, it's Mallick herself who has earned herself a reputation as a very public buffoon. And it's in vein of realizations like this that the following pair of passages become actually rather comical:
"I am wary of the political truism that voters prefer candidates who resemble them. If a candidate resembles me, he’s a bookworm racked with emotion. I wouldn’t vote for me. Run away!

...Why should a politician’s notional resemblance to you recommend his candidacy? If you suspect that people find you buffoonish and a bit of a bully, would voting for your clone make it better to be you?
Ironically, it's Mallick's reputation that establishes her as a buffoon and a bully. Even according to the reputation she'd like to think she has, the emotions Mallick is "racked" with have so often proven to be extremely ugly ones.

All of this is, of course, the public face of the Toronto Star's anti-Ford efforts.

Behind the scenes the Star has been editing Wiklpedia entries about the candidate and then attempting to disavow any responsibility.

So the question remains: what's the matter with Heather Mallick? A lot of things.

But those things also tend to be wrong with the Toronto Star. There's a reason why she seems so at home there.

Medal of Honor: Digital Dilemma

With Medal of Honor set for release in less than two months, the most recent edition of the game is becoming more and more controversial -- and for good reason.

The game is set in the ongoing war in Afghanistan. More shockingly, the game's multi-player mode allows players to assume the role of the Taliban and fight NATO troops.

It's a provocative and challenging element of the game, and has naturally elicited some strong reactions from political leaders in countries currently involved in the war.

"The men and women of the Canadian Forces, our allies, aid workers, and innocent Afghans are being shot at, and sometimes killed, by the Taliban," fumed Defence Minister Peter MacKay. "This is reality. I find it wrong to have anyone, children in particular, playing the role of the Taliban. I'm sure most Canadians are uncomfortable and angry about this."

Britain's Minsiter of Defence, Liam Fox, took an even stronger stand; he wants the game banned, or at least boycotted.

"At the hands of the Taliban, children have lost fathers and wives have lost husbands," Fox spat. "I am disgusted and angry. It's hard to believe any citizen of our country would wish to buy such a thoroughly un-British game.

"I would urge retailers to show their support for our armed forces and ban this tasteless product," he concluded.

A certain level of disgust with Medal of Honor may well be warranted.

Call of Duty: Worlds at War has already taken the nearly-unprecedented step of allowing players to play as Nazi Germany during its multi-player mode. It goes without saying, however, that it's no longer the 1940s, and that Canada is no longer at war with Nazi Germany.

(Thanks to Canada and its World War II allies, Nazi Germany no longer exists.)

In an electronic medium that has already allowed players to play as the most evil regime of the 20th century, it was only a matter of time before they had the opportunity to fill the shoes of the some of the runners-up.

Banning or boycotting Medal of Honour isn't really the answer.

For one thing, if the game presents an honest depiction of the Taliban and its tactics, the game could remind those who play it of exactly what is currently being fought in Afghanistan: theocratic tyranny at its most savage.

A suitably honest depiction of the Taliban will make it difficult for even today's tuned-out generation of video gamers to turn a blind eye to their true nature.

It's worth repeating that in the storyline mode of gameplay, the Taliban will remain the villain. Left-wing peacenik fantasies don't translate very profitably into combat-oriented video games.

Playing as the Taliban in multi-player mode wouldn't symbolize any sympathy for the Taliban or its goals. And for the prospect of turning video gamers on to the resolute evil of the Taliban, it's well worth the perversity.

Patriots & Citizens

There's something to be said for an international thriller author so well-respected that American administrations have asked them for advice on the topic of national security.

Tom Clancy is just such an author.

Through his novels, Clancy has often directed attention to many of the dark corners of the world.

In Patriot Games -- produced as a movie in 1992 -- Clancy examines Irish Republicanism and the Irish Republican Army.

In Patriot Games, Clancy's chief protagonist, Jack Ryan (Harrison Ford) is taking a working vacation in Russia when he witnesses an assassination attempt on a member of the royal family by IRA terrorists.

Though retired from the CIA, Ryan bolts into action. He seizes a weapon from one of the terrorists and shoots another dead. British police quickly intervene and capture Sean Miller (Sean Bean).

Despite the best efforts of a particularly sleazy British lawyer who blatantly lies in suggesting that Miller was merely a ski-mask wearing bystander who was assaulted by Ryan.

Upon being led out of the courtroom, Miller swears revenge against Ryan. Following a violent rescue from British custody, he travels to the United States to make good on his threat. He targets Ryan's wife and daughter, and very nearly succeeds.

Ryan responds by returning to the CIA to help work the case.

The battle between Ryan and Miller is a confrontation between patriots. But it's by no means a battle between good citizens.

Miller is a patriot, as all the members of the IRA -- and Sinn Fein -- were.

Patriotism is considered by many to be a key element of good citizenship. But patriotism alone doesn't necessarily make good citizenship.

Miller may be a patriot, but he is not a good citizen. By turning to terrorism he has abandoned the tools of the citizen -- democracy and the rule of law. He has given up making his arguments in the course of democratic discourse and has decided to attempt to take what he wants by intimidating the British.

Some of the members of Sinn Fein -- a political party closely linked to the IRA, although often against the better desires of individuals such as Gerry Adams -- were good citizens by virtue of substituting political action for terrorism. Those such as Paddy O'Neil (Richard Harris), who funnelled funds raised under the guise of Sinn Fein to the IRA unequivocally were not.

Jack Ryan, meanwhile, is a good citizen.

Though, by his occupation, he must often engage in acts of violence, he does so firmly within the rule of law, even when those more powerful than him threaten consequences if he does.

Many would argue that the cause of the IRA and Sinn Fein was actually just. As a Canadian of predominantly Irish ancestry, this author admits to feeling some degree of sympathy for the aim of such individuals, even if rejecting the means by which they pursued it.

The tools of citizenship will always remain the best and most just means of pursuing any political end.

Although they are often patriots, terrorists are, by their very definition, not good citizens.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

France Planning to Shrink Deficit So it Can Grow

France getting tough on deficit spending

After proposing a constitutional amendment to limit debt, France is continuing its debt-fighting measures.

In a country that, in the eyes of many, helped pioneer tax-and-spend welfare politics, the challenge to adherents of conventional welcare politics is stark:

Your time is almost up.

French Budget Minister Francois Baroin -- who, as an interesting fiscal innovation, works at arms-length from their Finance Minister -- is touting the French government's commitment to reducing their deficit to 6% of its Gross Domestic Product by 2011, and 3% by 2013.

France's deficit is currently 8% of its GDP.

According to Baroin, deficit-fighting is key to France's aspirations to grow its economy, and with unemployment that averages 10%, the French economy desperately needs to grow.

"Everything must be directed towards this aim: we are obliged to return as quickly as possible to the pre-crisis levels of deficit," Baroin insisted. "It is an essential issue for our economic growth."

But as it turns out, economic growth will be a troubling factor for the French budget.

"They are being a bit optimistic," explained ABM Amro economist Joost Beaumont. "France has quite a track record of pencilling in too high growth in its budgets."

Moreover, according to Beaumont, France actually risks reneging on these commitments, and lagging behind other European countries -- such as Germany, where a similar constitutional amendment has been proposed.

"France has a very poor track record in sticking to its deficit commitments, and if you look at the details of how they plan to do it, it is still not clear," Beaumont continued. "They have a lot of work to do and so far they are the only [European] country just paying lip service to austerity."

If Francois Baroin and Finance Minister Christine Lagarde make good, however, it will set the table for France to make tremendous progress tackling its problem of traditionally-high unemployment.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Hard Labour Ahead for Labour's Finances

Labour party 20 million Pounds in debt

The Labour party leadership won't be the only office the Labour Party will need to fill this year.

A far-more-quiet campaign has been ongoing to choose a new Treasurer for the party.

Lord John Prescott is running for that job, and he's dropped a bombshell: the Labour Party is at risk of going broke.

Prescott notes that Labour's 2010 election campaign was funded largely by a single billionaire donor, and that the party's finances have been degraded by a double squeeze on party finances.

One such squeeze is a declining party membership. The other squeeze is spendthrift party leadership.

"The treasurer has got to say to the central body, you cannot keep on spending, we haven't got it," Prescott insisted.

Moreover, Prescott has said that a strong leadership drive will be key to helping the party manage and retire its 20 million Pound debt.

"We want a strong treasurer who's involved in the membership drive, putting a proper financial account into the party," Prescott announced.

Moreover, Prescott noted the Labour party has frequently abandoned the organizational end of the party in favour of the political pursuit of power.

"The politics of organisation are equally as important as the politics of ideas," he added. "We forgot about the organization bit."

Prescott is promising to make badly-needed changes to the manner in which the party is funded and organized.

"You can go on if you like and just have somebody doing what's always been the way," he told the Labour party membership. "Well, we cannot continue to finance a political party in that way."

Nor can the Labour party afford to continue relying on a billionaire to finance their campaigns -- especially if some of its candidates intend to continue to relying on rich-versus-poor class warfare as part of their politics.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

As Green Party Leader, Queen Lizzie's Top Priority Is... Queen Lizzie

Elizabeth May's sole priority is herself

If anything could be said about Elizabeth May as an individual, it's that she has her priorities in order.

Unfortunately for the Green Party -- of which May remains leader after -- her top priority is not the party itself. Her top priority is herself.

Under May's leadership, the top priority of the Green Party will not be building the strength of her party, recovering the party members lost during the last year, or even electing a number of Green MPs, Under Queen Lizzie, the party's top priority will be Queen Lizzie herself.

Speaking from the Green Party convention, May re-affirmed this commitment to herself, over and above all else.

"The party has a fully prepared campaign plan," May announced. "The party has made priority decisions around, for instance, that getting the leader elected is the top priority. It had not even been on a list of priorities that the leader getting elected had any particular importance, so this is a big change for us."

Of course, it isn't actually a change at all. Elizabeth May has long stated that her number one priority as the leader of the Green Party is to get the leader elected. It must certainly help that the leader is herself.

In fact, electing May was already the Green Party's top priority in January when Murray Dobbin was harping about May's "master plan".

(Go figure. They're master planners.)

It isn't the first time that May has disingenuously peddled lies to Canadians.

But this is Elizabeth May. The political amnesiac. The clueless dictator. The would-be democrat who endorses a decidedly undemocratic coalition government over the objection of Canadians.

Leading up to the Green Party election, May has exploited the privileges of the office of Green Party leader into steamrolling her opposition -- just as she did to secure her nomination in Saanich-Gulf Islands.

Now, May has arranged for herself to remain leader by way of a constitutionally-dubious vote at the convention that will allegedly eliminate fixed terms.

Elizabeth May's top priority isn't her party. Nor is it her party's rules. Elizabeth May's top priority is herself, and nothing but herself.

Her leadership. Her election.

There is nothing else. There is Lizzie May. And after that, nothing.

Miliband: Labour Needs to Do Better Politics

David Miliband syas Labour needs to abandon crude politics

As the Labour leadership race enters its final leg before ballotting begins on September 1, many of the candidates have declared that Labour must do politics differently if it is to rebuild.

For Miliband, this means going back to the party's principles, and to stop pandering to specific portions of the British electorate.

Miliband argues that Labour's approach to politics had become ill-advised from its very get-go, and that parties that base their politics on polls and demographics deserve to lose.

"When your starting point is polling numbers, rather than principle and policy you end up with transparent positioning like 'British jobs for British workers'," Miliband explains.

Rather, Miliband insists that Labour must focus on appealing to Britons as a whole.

"Labour lost in 2010 because its appeal collapsed across social classes," he continues. "And the political coalition that in 1997 united all shades of opposition to the Conservatives -- centre and centre-Left -- broke down."

Miliband blames an ideologically insular approach to politics, one that frequently either targetted the interests of Britain's middle class, or cast aspersions on their ambitions and aspirations.

Labour had fooled itself into believing that it didn't need the middle class. In Miliband's mind, this is what cost the party the election.

"You just can't craft an election majority out of a minority," Miliband says. "It is dangerous to pretend that we don't need the middle classes."

That means that Labour needs to permanently abandon any pretenses of class warfare, such as the kind that former leader Gordon Brown tried to wage during the lead up to the 2010 election.

It means that comments such as those by fellow candidate Diane Abbott -- who declared Prime Minister David Cameron and Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg to be "posh white boys" -- must also be abandoned in future.

David Miliband has promised that Labour will do politics differently. He's declared the need for Labour to do politics better.

If he's elected leader, it will be up to him to deliver on both.

Moderate Islam: Like it or Not, it Exists

Islamophobes are wron to deny existence of moderate Islam

With Cordoba House becoming increasingly controversial, the matter has become a focal point for debate of radical Islam, with the Imam leading the Cordoba group being accused of being an Islamic militant.

This despite the detail that he has given help to the FBI's counter-terrorism division.

Opponents of the Mosque have trafficiked in guilt by association -- noting his membership on the board of directors for an organization that provided funding to Gaza blockade-runners -- and statements critical of American foreign policy.

All this while they demand that Muslims denounce Islamic radicalism.

The trouble is that Muslim groups have periodically denounced Islamic extremism. This is something that the Jihad Watch crowd continually refuses -- simply refuses -- to acknowledge. Making declaration such as "Muslims take honour in deceeiving non-believers", Islamophobes have given themselves all kinds of excuses to ignore these denunciations.

A recent declaration issued by the Canadian Council of Imams has been similarily ignored.

In the declaration, the Imams throoughly denounce Islamic radicalism:
"1. We believe in the oneness of Allah (God) and in the oneness of humanity and that all the Messengers of God, including the final Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), have taught human beings how to come closer to God and closer to one another. Islam is a religion of nature and humanity, one that teaches that a person cannot be a good Muslim until he/she becomes a good human being. All human beings are equal, and all of them are the children of Adam and Eve (peace be upon them). The best Muslim is the one who is good to his/her family and neighbors and one who avoids harming others with his/her hand or tongue.

2. We believe in peaceful coexistence, dialogue, bridge building, and cooperation among all faiths and people for the common good of humanity. Islam does not permit the killing of innocent people, regardless of their creed, ethnicity, race, or nationality. The sanctity of human life overrides the sanctity of religious laws. Islamic rulings do not – and should not – contradict natural laws. Islam is a religion that promotes peace, justice, equality, dignity, and freedom for all human beings.

3. We believe in the preservation of all the necessities of life. Islam upholds the sanctity of religion, life, intellect, family/society, and property.

4. We believe that the well-being of our fellow citizens is the well-being of Muslims, and that the well-being of Muslims is the well-being of our fellow citizens. Being law-abiding people is part of the Islamic practice, and following the pristine teachings of Islam leads to good citizenship.

5. We believe in gender equity and each man and each woman’s divine right to education, social contribution, work, and treatment with respect and dignity. Men and women complement each other, and healthy relationships between them are essential to a healthy society.

6. We believe that it is the right of every individual adult person to determine for themselves their conduct towards and within their society (for example, in matters of dress or good manners), and their personal conduct in matters of faith and belief as well, as long as their conduct does not threaten the common good. Likewise, we believe that every society must be allowed to express and celebrate humanity’s profound cultural diversity, as long as the expression of that diversity does not include the compulsion of any individual to violate their own human rights, or their personal values, or their human nature, or otherwise threaten the common good of all people.

7. We believe and strongly encourage Muslims to seriously engage in civic life and contribute to their communities and society as much as they can.
Naturally, this is a statement that Canada's Islamophobes have chosen to ignore, even as they demand that Muslims denounce radical Islam.

Arguments have been raised by those who deny the existence of moderate Islam that religious training centres are breeding grounds for radical Islam.

As it turns out, those worried by Islamic terrorism should want more, not less, religious training for Muslims.

A recent report from Duke University has found that Muslims who have received religious training are the least likely to be radicalized.

Denunciations of radical Islam, self-policing, and the creation of an identity as Muslim-Americans rather than simply as Muslims have figured largely into the effort of American Muslims to combat radicalism.

These are facts taht, sadly, those who have based their knowledge of Islam on individuals such as Mark Steyn and Robert Spencer simply choose to ignore.

But whether they like it or not, moderate Islam exists -- not that they'll ever admit it.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Elizabeth May and The Clueless Dictatorship

Elizabeth May continues disingenuous sanctimony at Green convention

Despite the fact that the matter of her leaderhsip is not yet fully resolved, Green Party leader-in-clinging Elizabeth May seems clearly intent on pretending as if it were.

Following a vote in which the "85% support" she received only accounted for 15% of her party's total membership, May seems to want to treat the whole matter as if it were definitively settled.

“I think that there's really no question that any leadership questions are behind us and I will continue as leader of this party through the next federal election at least,” May insisted.

Apparently, no one bothered to tell would-be challenger Sylvie Lemieux, whose motion to hold a leadership contest, as mandated by the Green Party constitution, is to be debated at the convention.

Lemieux pointed to the Green Party's membership numbers -- the party has hemorrhaged members over the past year -- as a matter that needs to be addressed, and something that a leadership contest could help solve.

“We also have a discussion on the vision because a lot of people have had this discussion the last few years,” Lemieux explained. “This discussion, I think, is required for us to grow.”

“We have a lot of strengths but I'm not seeing these strengths on the radar of Canadians right now,” she added. “We're more than what's there right now.”

The party's leadership numbers should be alarming to any member of the Green Party, and would be of concern to any responsible leader.

Just not to Queen Lizzie.

Moreover, the tiny portion of Green Party members who bothered to vote on the online measures should also be worrisome to a leader who frequently expresses alarm at declining voter rates.

Apparently, for Queen Lizzie, those numbers are not of concern if they are within her own party, and they benefit her.

May is clearly not interested in these things. She's more interested in spreading panic about the governing Conservative Party.

In a detour into pure comedy, May declared that the governing Conservative party is a threat to Canadian democracy -- an accusation that, at this point, doesn't even come close to passing the laugh test.

“This is not the same country that I've known," May complained. "We are seeing changes that are so deeply dangerous and they are fundamental to the very fabric of our democracy, and we must not let that happen."

“It's such a barrage of body blows that things that happened three years ago, you almost stop caring about how bad that was because you have to adapt and respond to the next series of things,” May continued. “I say these things because I don't think Canadians hear them enough, and I don't think we have a strong enough sense as a citizenry that this isn't just more of the same.”

Frankly, May's comments, at this point, should elicit nothing more than a yawn. After all, this is a person whose continuing leadership of her party violates the party constitution.

Under Elizabeth May, the Green Party leadership has become what one could describe, in Jeffrey Simpson-esque terms, a clueless dictatorship.

A Strange Movie to Pick a Jingoism Fight Over

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

To the tune of $35 during its opening weekend, movie audiences seem to be enjoying The Expendables.

Film critics like the LA Times' Steven Zeitchik, not so much. In a blogpost that continues to draw more and more attention to itself, Steven Zeitchik casts suspicious aspersions on what he terms the alleged patriotism of the film.

What ensues is enough to make one doubt if Zeitchik even boethered to see the film before writing about it.

Exhibit A for Zeitchik seems to be a remark made by General Garza (David Zayas), the military dictator of a tiny (and fictional) Central American island.

In the film, Garza declares that "we will kill this American disease". Zeitchik either didn't pay attention to the seconds before this announcement, or simply never saw the film.

This statement immediately followed a tense confrontation with James Munroe (Eric Roberts), a former CIA agent gone rogue who is financing Garza's regime in return for a share of the cocaine he plans to export from the island.

During the confrontation, Garza returns Munroe's money, and accuses him of hiring Barney Ross (Sylvester Stallone) and the Expendables to kill him.

Zeitchik denounces the film for allegedly casting the villain with a lack of post-war moral ambiguity. But how's this for moral ambiguity? Crushed by rejection by his daughter Sandra (Gisele Itie), Garza begins to feel ashamed of how he has been running his country. Garza apologizes to his men for his selfishness, and promises that he will rid his country of the influences that had led him so astray: namely, Munroe.

Moments before his balcony address, Garza tells Sandra "you are who I should have been."

The General's reign ends with Munroe himself shooting him in the back. If the bullet didn't kill him, the long fall to the ground that follows certainly does.

Whether or not Garza's conscience attack would have taken will thus not be seen. He could spiral back into tyranny. Or he could transform himself into a benevolent ruler.

In the case of Munroe, at surface there seems to be no moral ambiguity -- until one considers that he originally built this operation for the CIA, and merely cut them out when he realized he wasn't going to get a share.

Moreover, Church -- the Agency broker -- hasn't hired Ross and company to kill Garza (and Munroe) as an act of benevolence. Rather, they want to get back in control of the island and the drug operation.

Ross and company -- who, upon appearances, may also feature a British and Chinese national, and so couldn't strictly be described as American -- may well have delivered the island into the hands of its people and a new era of freedom.

Or, they may have simply set the island up for the installation of a new dictator by the CIA.

Zeitchik's screed against the film has even driven Sylvester Stallone onto FOX News' O'Reilly Factor, in which he is forced to defend his film for its alleged patriotism. His initial statement, "I didn't do nuttin'", is really all the defense that is required.

As it pertans to Steven Zeitchik, he's clearly offered criticism about a film he hasn't yet seen. If there is any greater statement on the sad state of film criticism -- where denouncing a film without having seen it is deemed acceptable -- one would struggle to imagine what it is.

Awaiting Justice For Neda

On June 20, 2009, an Iranian woman by the name of Neda Agha-Soltan was participating in a protest against the blatantly-rigged Iranian Presidential election.

During that protester, Neda -- an unarmed woman -- was shot in the chest by a sniper and died within seconds.

A bystander filmed Neda's death on a celphone camera and smuggled the video out of the country. Everything since has been history.

A commentator in For Neda, an HBO documentary about Neda and about the state of women's rights in Iran, declared the Neda video to be the most successful viral video in history. Within hours of the video being published, it had been viewed by millions.

The video of Neda's passing went viral faster than the famous video of China's tank man at Tiananmen Square.

Yet, like the tank man, Neda shares a common tragic legacy. While each video drew attention to the true nature of oppression in the country they originated from, each has -- to date -- failed to force the regime in charge of each country to change its barbarous ways, or respect the human rights of its citizens.

Not only has the Iranian theocracy not changed its ways following the release of the Neda video, it targetted Zahra Soltani, a woman unfortunate enough to share the name "Neda" as a nickname, and eventually drove her into exile.

Neda's murderer has never been brought to justice. She is not alone.

On July 11, 2003, Zahra Kazemi, a dual Iranian-Canadian citizen, was beaten and raped to death in an Iranian prison. Her crime was to have taken a picture of Evin prison, where Iran keeps its political prisoners.

Prior to Kazemi's murder -- which, like the killing of Neda, the Iranian regime attempted to cover up -- little public attention had been paid to the treatment of Iranian nationals in Iranian prisons.

Like Neda Agha-Soltan, there has never been justice for Zahra Kazemi. If the regime in Tehran has its way, there never will be.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Are the Democrats Experiencing a Deficit of Hope?

The second ad in the Republican Party's "Deficit of Hope" ad campaign, entitled "Crazy" opens to an animated Air Force Once sitting on the tarmac preparing for departure.

"Attention passengers, fellow Democrats, we're just about ready to depart DC and go on my national fundraising tour to your homestates," an animated Barack Obama, dressed as a flight attendant, announces to the passengers. In his hand he holds an itinerary of his destinations, with revised unemployment rates -- all of them climbing -- on a clipboard.

"That's right, I'm coming to your hometowns," Obama announces.

At which point an emergency exit slide bursts forth from the jet, and the Democrats evacuate the plane.

In a television appearing on the bottom right corner of the screen, a series of newsclips are shown in quick succession. Viriginia Governor Tim Kaine is shown declaring Democrats who are distancing themselves from party leadership to be "crazy", while newsclips describe the growing discomfort Democrat politicians are beginning to show with Obama.

For good measure, it even includes former Democratic National Committee chairman Howard Dean's infamous scream from the 2004 Presidential primaries.

The ad presses a worthy question: are the Democrats themselves beginning to experience a deficit of hope? And for how long?

That the Democratic Party themselves adopted Spencer Ackerman's now-famed weaponized racism tactic indicates that they may have lost faith in their ability -- and that of their President -- to win the political debate by legitimate means.

Now that the race card is famously maxed out, the Democrats have been robbed of what they must have expected to be one of their greatest assets under Barack Obama.

With the political climate in the United States increasingly turning against them, it's becoming clear that the Democrats are experiencing a deficit of hope.

Two Men, No Conscience

Is George Galloway really the real deal?

Based on this segment from his TV program of the same name, the answer must be, emphatically, "no".

In his interview with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Galloway shows himself to be not only an individual who is himself bereft of conscience, but more than willing to provide an open forum to an individual who is even more so.

In the first portiono of the interview, Galloway wavers back and forth between self-aggrandizing talk of "breaking the siege of Gaza", and of the prospects for "American aggression" against Iran over the nuclear issue.

If the first portion of this interview weren't bad enough, the second portion will make any proper-thinking individual want to punch Galloway as well:

In the second portion, Ahmadinejad dismisses the Green Revolution as foreign stooges, just before he declares them to be insignificant.

With a smile on his face he declares that his country will decline an invitation from the President of Brazil to allow an Iranian woman convicted of adultery to go into exile in Brazil rather than be viciously stoned to death.

Throughout it all, George Galloway repeatedly declares himself to be a supporter of Mahmoud Ahmaedinejad, his farce of a reelection, and his government.

Frankly, when two individuals as bereft of consciecne as Galloway and Ahmaedinejad meet, it's hard to avoid the conclusion that they really do deserve one another -- and George Galloway certainly deserves his reputation as a ready boot-licker for all sorts of tyrants.