30 June 2006

The Decline of Politics

With the first draft, and thus (hopefully) the heavy lifting, of my thesis completed, I've taken to reading books for pure enjoyment and intellectual stimulation again. I do still take notes occasionally, just in case, though. I'm in the midst of reading Fareed Zakaria's The Future of Freedom, a very thoughtful and engaging study of the need to promote liberal democracy abroad while strengthening it at home. The first half deals largely with the former, and includes a survey of the need to build constitutional liberalism and democratic institutions in such happy places as Egypt and Saudi Arabia (see last post).
The second half is equally engaging because it hits a lot closer to home. Though Zakaria is talking about the decline in American politics, a lot of the issues there are very pertinent here: lower voter turnouts, decreasing satisfaction with the working of government and the practice of politics, over-emphasis and reliance on polls (think former PMPM), and the various other maladies that are negatively affecting our political institutions. The fifth chapter of the book is required reading for anybody who is interested at all in politics and improving our political system. In the fall semester in my Canadian politics seminar we spent a couple of classes examining the Canadian polity and its shortcomings, and they really come through in the book. There is an incredible quotation of JFK in there that really sums up a lot of my issues with governing today, which really deserves printing here:

"The voters selected us because they had confidence in our judgment and our ability to exercise judgment from a position where we could determine what were their own best interests, as part of the nation's interests. This may mean that we must on occasion lead, inform, correct, and sometimes even ignore public opinion for which we were elected."

Can you just imagine a politician getting up today and saying such a thing? Probably not, because to do so might have an effect on their polling and cost them 100 votes. For me, I like to hear politicians speak plainly and with substance, not vacuous statements that might as well be said by a Hollywood "activist" or a Miss America contestant. A couple weeks ago the Prime Minister stated that he felt that many Canadians were "naive" about the War on Terror and our participation in Afghanistan. Predictably, Liberals were all over this statement and took great pains to slam Harper for making a truthful statement that contradicts a very simple 'rule': politicians must always speak of how intelligent or insightful the Canadian people are. Simply put, a lot of people are not aware of the importance of our presence and participation in Afghanistan and how important it is that we seek to promote universal (I refuse to say 'our' or 'Canadian') values of human dignity, liberty, and political freedom.
Seeing my former party being so ambiguous on Afghanistan, and their increasingly venomous rhetoric about the supposed 'Americanization' of our efforts there, is disheartening. However, it is not entirely surprising. They probably conducted a poll or two or read the TorStar and saw that the Canadian public's support is either waning or soft, and they're looking to use that as an issue to reclaim Parliament. There are two kinds of liberals when it comes to foreign affairs and international relations: moralists, who seek to change the world and make it a better place, and hypocrites, who talk about making the world a better place but don't do anything to achieve it.
Too many of Canada's Liberal MPs fall in the latter category. They talk a good game, but they don't walk it. Kyoto? Darfur? Responsibility to Protect? 0.7%? All of these ideas, had there been policies crafted and strenuous efforts to implement them, could have been resounding triumphs for Canada and established us as a truly credible leader in the world. Let me assure you, we would not be General Custer charging blindly into the abyss. Instead, there's a lot of pronouncements about feel-good plans and ideas but no follow-up. More than any stupid spiel or misguided approach, this is why I left the party late last year. And now I see that a friend of mine, who was deeply involved in the party since he was 13, has had enough too. We are far from the only ones. Just before the leadership convention in 2003, it was reported the party ranks had swelled to over half a million people. In an era in which peoples' distaste for politics and political parties was at a peak, there were folks flocking to the Liberals because there was an incoming leader who talked the talk and appeared as though he would walk the walk. Not even three years later, the disgust with that very same, now former, leader is sufficient to the extent that he's a non-entity backbench opposition MP. And thus the cycle of cynicism continues.
Political parties are increasingly irrelevant, and have been relegated to the status of election fundraisers. A former OUC colleague of mine back in Kelowna was a member of the Reform, and then Conservative, Party for years. The only times she ever heard anything from them was when they needed money. Never got an invitation to any events, never heard about high-prolife Tories/Reformers coming to town (back when Belinda Stronach was still something of a celebrity, during the Conservatives' first leadership campaign, she came to Kelowna, and my friend didn't hear about it until the next day when I asked if she went to the thing), it was just "we need money." The Liberals treated me a little better than that, but in the end I was just another member of the Youth Wing and I'm still getting bombarded with campaign donation requests. The apparatchiks of the party are all yes men & women; if you disagreed with the Board (PMPM's coterie) you got marginalized. Same thing with the Youth Wing, which was and still is dominated by Martinites. I argued till I was red in the face more than once about how to approach the BMD issue, but folks were dead-set on opposing it with irrational and ill-conceived plans that lacked any depth and thought beyond "It's George Bush's plan, he's going to put weapons in space!" After the policy convention of Feb. 2005, the emails and invites for party events slowed considerably. The money requests kept coming though.
I've enjoyed the past six months in the wilderness. It's fun in an echo chamber where you can yell and critique and advise, and nobody really listens because you're on the outside looking in. There have been times where I've been close to signing on with the Conservatives, and even a moment or two where I considered re-joining the Liberals so I could work on the Ignatieff campaign, but there's so many cons to having a party affiliation. Because I'm 25, I'm still slotted in with the youth wing of the Liberals, which means I'm identifiable with a group that supports legalizing prostitution and marijuana cigarettes. No thanks. The Conservatives have a good political strategy going, but I'm wary of being kept at arm's length, like my friend was, and there's just some lingering Liberal rhetoric in me that acts as some sort of wierd barrier for me. Thus I shall remain a voice in the wilderness until such time as I feel comfortable putting a party label on me--it worked well for Churchill didn't it?

28 June 2006

Easy Money, Sponsoring Terrorism, and Preventing Democracy

The moral bankruptcy of the Saudi Arabian regime should be a surprise to nobody. The House of Saud has exploited its vast oil wealth largely for its own benefit and for projects that do little to assist the lives of its own citizens. Extravagant palaces, automobiles, a life of luxury; these are but three aspects of being a part of the governing class of that country.
Contrast this high life with the plight of the country's citizens, many of whom are uneducated, illiterate, and living in relative poverty. One in five Saudis over the age of 15 cannot read or write. The literacy rate for women is particularly sad to note; at just under 71%, this figure is 14% lower than the male literacy rate. The country may have one of the highest GDP-per-capita rates in the Middle East ($12,500), which is well over the threshold for what many analysts believe should be sufficient to support an enduring democratic system, but the state remains fundamentally non- and anti-democratic. There are no political parties, there is no political representation, and suffrage extends only to males over the age of 21. A fantastic summary of the regime's view on economic and political participation within the state is as follows: "We don't ask much of you economically and we don't give much to you politically."
Human rights abuses are prevalent: arbitrary arrest, prolonged detention, and physical abuse of prisoners, including torture, are three major failures of the Saudi justice system. Because the rule of law does not exist, these abuses largely occur with the acquiescence, if not outright support of, the regime, which also regularly cracks down of freedoms of expression, association, and religion. To apply Natan Sharansky's "town square test," if a young woman were to walk into the middle of Riyadh's town square and make a political statement, she would likely be imprisoned and subjected to much abuse from agents of the state.
Moreover, the Saudi regime engages in state sponsorship of terrorism to an extent that some analysts have argued they deserve their own place in the axis of evil. Even before 9/11, actions such as the following should have raised alarm bells:

"The Saudi government has been the principal financial backer of Afghanistan' s odious Taliban movement since at least 1996. It has also channeled funds to Hamas and other groups that have committed terrorist acts in Israel and other portions of the Middle East.
Worst of all, the Saudi monarchy has funded dubious schools and "charities" throughout the Islamic world. Those organizations have been hotbeds of anti-Western, and especially, anti-American, indoctrination. The schools, for example, not only indoctrinate students in a virulent and extreme form of Islam, but also teach them to hate secular Western values."
(Ted Galen Carpenter, "Terrorist Sponsors: Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, China")

Given the Bush Administration's stance on terrorists and the regimes that harbour them, it is a glaring inconsistency that America continues to rely on this corrupt and anti-democratic regime in the name of "stability." In my thesis I argue forcibly that espousing democracy promotion and supporting illiberal authoritarians such as the House of Saud are incompatible policies. You should be able to guess with little difficulty which of these two options I feel is the one that has to go (hint: keep supporting democracy!), and I reiterate here the need to close the gap between the rhetoric and the reality. Discard the Saudis. Criticize them for their horrific human rights record. Demand that they open up political participation to all citizens and make that participation legitimate and meaningful.
There is absolutely no reason to believe that, given the opportunity, Saudi Arabia could reform itself into a liberal democracy. It has a strong middle class and a young population that can be mobilized to support greater freedoms. The median age in the country is 21; they are young, vibrant, and many are desirous to work hard to earn their keep (again, a stark contrast to the regime). It is generally assumed that once GDP-per-capita hits $6000, democracy becomes enduring once introduced. Saudi Arabia has double that number, and is being held back by a decrepit autocracy that exploits the country's oil wealth for the maximization of its own power instead of creating people power. They realize that to do the latter would result in a limitation of their authority and monopoly on the ability to control. This is all the more reason for democracies to stand up and speak out against the House of Saud. They have not earned their legitimacy, they have bought it with the oil wealth of the Saudi people; seeing the West grovel and make concessions to this despotism because we need access to their oil sickens me. It is well past time to stop supporting this regime and start supporting its people to acquire their liberation.

26 June 2006

Back to Normal....whatever that means

As you all know, I'm a graduate student. Since classes ended in early April, I've been working feverishly on my Master's thesis, an examination of the Wilsonian current in American foreign policy that links (of course) Woodrow Wilson, Harry S. Truman, and George W. Bush. I'm happy to report that the first draft is complete and that I have submitted it to my supervisor. Yay me! This project has been virtually all-consuming as far as my academic energies go, and as such my blogging has been sporadic in recent weeks. I'm hoping that with the initial conception of the thesis out of my hands, I can do some more posting here and share more of my political thoughts. There's been a lot of stuff that I've wanted to discuss but honestly, after working on the thesis for X number of hours beforehand, my brain and wrists are both spent by the time I find something that I'd like to discuss at length. It's amazing I don't have carpal tunnel, the word count on the project is much higher than anything I've ever written, and a lot of stuff that made it on paper didn't make it to my computer screen. So yeah, I'm going to take the rest of this day off, listen to some Metallica, eat some dinner, and spend some quality time with my darlin' Anna Lou.
Thanks to everybody in the universe that has given me inspiration in the past few months, and more especially to all of those who have let me bounce ideas off them and bounce some stuff back at me. Special H/T to Natan Sharansky and David Frum for your kind words in response to my admiration for your respective works. It's a very cool feeling to receive emails of support from an Israeli cabinet minister and George W. Bush's former speechwriter.
And lastly, a very big thank you to my amazing girlfriend for all her love & support, and not getting mad while I've hogged the computer for hours on end because I felt the need to find whatever exact Wilson/Truman/Bush-related quote entered my head, or whatever article from whatever year in whatever journal I thought was important, on any given day. I couldn't have done this without you.

24 June 2006

Razorblade Romance

Last week, in order to take advantage of Shoppers' 20x Optimum points deal, I picked up the new Gillette Fusion razor. Now, I've long been of the thought that three blades is enough; it's why I've been using the Mach 3 for years now (with a notable break between January and April 2006). At some point, there's enough metal there, and it all becomes redundant. When will each blade have a specific purpose, one to raise the hair, one to cut it, one to get a little more, one to make sure, one to take off the first layer of skin, one to get the hair growing there, one to talk to whatever folicles remain in order to give them therapy, that kind of thing.

But I tell ya, the Fusion is nice. It's probably the cleanest shave ever. I think the magic comes in blades four and five, whom I shall refer to as the Truth and Reconciliation blades. These two blades know their stuff and will stop at nothing to make sure that your face is set on the straight and narrow course. And if they don't get you, the single blade on the other side will; Major Precision is his name. So yes, the new Fusion razor = good. You can now go about your day.

22 June 2006

Clinton and Canada-US Relations

He may only be the third-best living President of the United States, but he's the only one that's coming to Halifax this summer to give a talk on one of my favourite subjects in all the realm of politics: Canada-US relations. And I've got a ticket to partake in the event. I'm not expecting anything earth-shattering to occur in the course of the evening of 26 July 2006, but that doesn't mean it won't be fun. Frank McKenna and Peter MacKay are also going to be there, so that's interesting too. Should be a fun night and I'm looking forward to it. With a smidge of luck Bubba will do a book signing somewhere in town to do the ever-rare photo op with the masses. I'm not a huge fan, but still, it's the man that Saddam Hussein ranks as being "okay" (contrasted with his appraisal of the Bushes: "no good") and how often does one get the chance to share a room with the leader of the free world?
Kinsella hits one out of the park in today's Post column. Unfortunately, it is behind the paid wall, but if he puts up a link on his site I'll be sure to include it. Major kudos to him for slamming yet another hypocritical self-defined "feminist" journal that claims it is against oppression yet devotes its back pages to prostitution, which, the last time I looked, was exploitation. A brief but excellent quote:

"Some might hesitate to call what Torstar is doing “pimping” — you know, people with power procuring whores for dirty old men — but across town, at the offices of rival Toronto weekly Now, editor Alice Klein cheerfully admits that, yes, indeed, the prostitution advertising in Eye and Now helps to eliminate the unsavoury pimping middlemen."

Right, get rid of the "unsavoury pimping middlemen" so that the young women can go directly to the unsavoury exploiting johns. Today's article is just one of the many reasons that I like Kinsella.

21 June 2006

Summertime in the Void

OK so now the playoffs are over, I'm told that eventually summer will come to Halifax, and I'm just frustrated in general with the near-total lack of quality television available. I don't know if it's that the networks are actively trying to put out as much awful programming as possible to deter viewers or simply that my tastes have changed such that I have a very difficult time finding something enjoyable to watch. We've talked about getting rid of the digital cable for a while and just really scaling it back, and I'm hoping that things come to a head fairly soon.
I went over to Eastlink's site today to check the basic cable rates and packages. They're very clever in the manner in which they arrange everything. For instance, if I want CNN I have to buy the whole package that includes: Spike TV, the Infomercial channel, TV5 (a French-language channel), and MuchMusic. That's four channels that I essentially never watch (I keep flipping to Much hoping desperately for something that isn't the manufactured, mass-produced garbage that is flooding the market and making the industry truly bloated and awful, but to no avail) that I MUST have in order to watch CNN. On the upside, the pack comes with TLC, so I can watch Trading Spaces (when I remember), and W (Anna Lou likes Gilmore Girls). So to get 1 channel and two shows, I'm saddled with loads of terrible television.
Moving along the line, if I want to get TSN or Sportsnet to watch the odd Jays game or find out what's happening in the NHL off-season, I also have to get, among others: the Speed Channel, the Golf Channel, TVTropolis, Star, BET, Space, and Outdoor Life. That's 7 channels I NEVER watch. For those keeping track, I'm at a total of 3 wanted channels, 2 television shows, and 11 completely undesired attachments.
It's a farce that we as consumers are forced to accept this. When it comes to digital cable, you can actually pick and choose certain channels that you want. Why can this not be done for regular TV? Why must I be made to pay for a disproportionately high number of channels that I will never, or at best, very rarely, watch in order to have the "luxury" of CNN or TSN? They oughta make it so that you can cherry pick this stuff, $1 or $2 per channel per month or whatever. They charge something like $3 for the premium stuff on digital (RDS and such), so it shouldn't be a stretch to get the basics at a much lower rate. Anybody else think that we're getting a raw deal from our television service providers here?

18 June 2006

Imagine the Dumbest Thing You Could Say

I did that tonight. It's not a pleasant feeling when you realize that you've said the dumbest thing you possibly could to the one you love. It took all of about .001 of a second after saying it. There's no amount of "I'm sorry"'s that could really make up for it, but it does bring into pretty stark clarity the gap between my normative version of myself and the one that exists. Much work to be done...

16 June 2006


A good sign that you're doing well in the world of public discourse is that your critics will use ad hominem attacks against you. Case in point, this response to my letter in yesterday's National Post.

Letter writer Richard McAdam will have to apply himself more carefully to his reading if he wishes to earn his MA. Both Ms. Kay and Mr. Dutton made it quite clear that they were talking about partner abuse or, in Mr. Dutton’s terminology, intimate partner violence. Mr. McAdam may be quite correct that 86% of the reported sexual assaults target women. I would also lay odds that 99% or more of the perpetrators are male, but that is not the subject of the discussion. Kendall Carey, Toronto.

Unfortunately I don't have the means to get in touch with Kendall Carey of Toronto, so if anybody does, please let that individual be aware that my dedication to applying myself carefully to my reading has resulted in a bibliography for my MA thesis that is almost frightening in both quantity and quality. Please also inform Kendall Carey of Toronto that in the cases where women are targeted for sexual violence, 80% of sexual assault survivors knew their abusers. About 10% were assaulted by a friend and 41% were assaulted by an acquaintance. 28% were assaulted by a family member, while the remaining 20% were assaulted by a stranger. (Statistics Canada, 2003). If he were to do the math, that's a very high number of women, out of the total number of reported (key word is reported) sexual assaults, that are being sexually assaulted by partners, family members, and friends. Also mention that there is a nearly 4:1 ratio of women to menbeing killed by their spouses over the period 1974-2000 in Canada. (Stats Canada, Assessing Violence Against Women: A Statistical Profile, 2002). So if Kendall Carey of Toronto wants to discuss levels of violence among intimate people, the numbers will quite clearly demonstrate that women, who constitute the largest segment of the population targeted for sexual violence, often experience it at the hands of the ones they love. Finally, please let Kendall Carey of Toronto know that this field of study has nothing to do with my MA studies, given that I primarily study American foreign policy, and everything to do with my belief that we have a long way to go before we can, as Barbara Kay did in her article, proclaim that we live in a matriarchal society where women are accorded the same measure of respect and human dignity as men and do not have to be constantly vigilant against sexual assaults from people that are close to them. So yeah, if you can pass on that message, that'd be great.
Are we still in the part of the book where we harp on Americans for not signing onto Kyoto? Jason Cherniak seems to think so. In yet another yawning round of Bush-bashing, he cites a bunch of Al Gore quotes to arrive at the following conclusion: it is clear that people who see a similarity between Stephen Harper and George Bush are not being "anti-American." I've lost track of the number of times I've had to try and explain to people that Bush does not have the constitutional authority to ratify Kyoto; the US Senate does, and they indicated in the Byrd Resolution that they unanimously rejected Kyoto. Canadians love to criticize Uncle Sam for not signing Kyoto, but why do we still see fit to pat ourselves on the back for signing it and then tossing it into the garbage before the ink even dries?
Look, kids, when people talk about a mature Canada-US relationship, posts such as this do not embody that spirit. When I "read between the quotes," the only thing that becomes clear is that someone handed Al Gore the Liberal Party's talking points on Kyoto; it is the only plausible explanation to suppor the idea that he actually believes we have done something on achieving the Protocol's requirements. Listening to the ongoing Liberal rhetoric that Harper is somehow responsible for the Chretien-Martin failure to develop a coherent and workable strategy for the environment is nothing short of hypocritical. As if the country woke up on 24 January 2006 and suddenly developed a "global conscience" when it came to environmental issues and is pursuing this crusade anything but cynically.

15 June 2006

Nationally Posted Letter #3

I've done it again! The fine folks at the National Post saw fit to print this in their Letters of the Day section, a shortened version of yesterday's post. Now I just have to go find a copy, which is difficult these days in Halifax. Enjoy!

I couldn’t believe my eyes when reading these columns, and the myths they attempt to perpetrate.
It is dangerous and outright false to suggest that we live in a matriarchal society when more than half of the women in Canada have experienced at least one incident of sexual or physical violence and 86% of the reported sexual assaults in Canada have targeted women. While Ms. Kay asserts that women are not the sole targets of sexual violence, they are still more than four times more likely to be sexually assaulted.
Also, radical feminism is not predicated on the view that women are “helpless victims.” I’ve spoken with a number of radical feminists who have been sexually assaulted, and none of them have labelled themselves as “victims.” They are survivors and they are striving to bring about a world that is more truly equal and representative of the values espoused in such documents as our Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
Professor Dutton’s article is just as damaging and misleading. It is true that a small number of women are the offending parties in domestic violence, but to hold up this type of story as reflective of the real world is complete malarkey. Again, I point out that 86% of sexual assaults target women. His effort here is nothing more than an attempt to prop up a myth so cherished by the patriarchy: Women do it too.
When rape, sexual assault and domestic violence target men at the same levels as women, this discussion may be more appropriate. Until that time, these are mere deflections to cover up the continuing systemic levels of violence against women.
Richard McAdam, MA candidate (political science), Dalhousie University, Halifax.

14 June 2006

I cannot believe what I my eyes were seeing when reading the two editorials in Wednesday's Issues & Ideas section of the National Post (B. Kay, "Welcome to the Matriarchy" and D.Dutton, "Domestic Violence isn't One-Sided"); reading these two articles was shocking and grossly misleading in the myths they attempt to perpetrate. It is dangerous and outright false to suggest that we live in a matriarchal society when over half of the women in Canada have experienced at least one incident of sexual or physical violence and 86% of the reported sexual assaults in Canada have targeted women. It does bear mention that a very low percentage of women who have been raped or assaulted actually do report the crime, for fear of being subjected to humiliation and public degradation (viz. the Duke rape case). Thus while Ms. Kay's assertion that women are not the sole targets ofsexual violence, they are more than four times more likely to be sexually assaulted (based on the inaccurate reported figures) than a man. How on earth can anybody with a shred of common sense suggest that this society even approaches being a matriarchy when women are subjected to such violence? A final note on Ms. Kay's highly damaging article: radical feminism is not predicated on the view that women are "helpless victims." Far from it; having spoken with a number of radical feminists who have been sexually assaulted, t oa woman none of them label themselves as "victims." They are survivors and they are striving to bring about a world that is more true equal and representativeof the values espoused in such documents as our Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
Professor Dutton's article is just as damaging and misleading, and sadly, to be expected in its conclusions given that it comes from a man who is seeking to undermine womens' causes to retain the status quo. It is true that a small number of women are the offending parties in DV, but to hold up this type of story as reflective of the real world is complete malarkey. Look at the figure I cited above: 86% of sexual assaults target women. And that's just the beginning: 80% of sexual assault survivors knew their abusers. About 10% were assaulted by a friend and 41% were assaulted by an acquaintance. 28% were assaulted by a family member, while the remaining 20% were assaulted by a stranger. His effort here is nothing more than an attempt to prop up a myth so cherished by the patriarchy: women do it too. To turn the issue around is to deflect and ignore the real problem that is domestic violence against women. His casual dismissal of women who are murdered by men and mourned by those who truly care about all human life is appalling. When rape, sexual assault, and DV targets men on the same level that it currently targets women, this discussion may be more appropriate. Until such time, these are mere deflections to cover up the continued and ongoing systemic levels of violence against women.

METRAC, Sexual Assault Statistics
National Post Editorials: Dutton article; Kay article is behind the paid wall.

13 June 2006

What If There Was an Election and I Didn't Care?

I guess I now have the answer. The Nova Scotia provincial election was today, and the results are on all the Canadian networks tonight. For the first time I can recall when it comes to an election, I'm just not interested. It's likely due to the fact that I'm not going to be in Nova Scotia beyond the next two months, but that's kind of mitigated by the fact that I cared a good deal about the BC election last year. I'm just not attached to this city and province at all, and that reflects by the approximately 28 seconds I've spent following the campaign (I couldn't find the remote during a commercial run and there was a Conservative ad). I'm glad that it's happening, regular exercises in democracy are a good thing, but I'm simply not interested in participating. Good luck to whoever wins, I know that won't be the Liberals; apparently their leader didn't even win in his own riding. Whoever it is, they've got some work to do.

12 June 2006

...And Justice for All?

I've been meaning to do this post for a few days now, but the new stories just keep piling up. There has been an increasing level of sexual violence without just repercussions of late. The stories which follow are disturbing not only because they occurred but because courts have gone out of their way to impose sentences that take the rights of the attacker and put them on a higher pedestal than the rights of the victim. This is the type of thing that can make someone who believes in justice go bonkers.

Case 1: The Little Rapist

A 50-year old Nebraska man named Richard Thompsonwas recently convicted of raping a 13-year old girl. The usual penalty for such a grievous offence is 10 years in a maximum security prison. I could go on a diatribe about how that itself is not enough of a penalty for shattering a person's life--an event that will forever alter their perception of humanity and in many cases deprives them of the ability to trust another person--but Thompson ended up receiving 10 years of probation. The reason? He's about 5'1" and the judge believed that he would be on the receiving end of a lot of abuse from his fellow prisoners, to the extent that his life could be in jeopardy. Now, I realize that everybody is entitled to the right to life and I believe that no criminal should die for their actions, but this is not justice. Why is the judge giving this little rapist a free pass on account of his size? He's clearly tough enough to rape a 13-year old girl, why should he not have to try defending himself against some proportionally larger than him? Oooh vigilante "prison justice." Anyways, justice is supposed to be blind to these types of considerations; if you do the crime, you should face the consequences for your actions. How on earth is it just for the 13-year old girl that he raped to know that this man is still walking around on the streets and may rape another young woman with the knowledge that his height is now a de jure get out of jail free card?

Case Two: The Repeat Murderer

This one truly disgusts me. A man is currently on trial for murder after he brutally beat a woman and left her to die at the bottom of a stairwell because she refused his sexual advances. You read that right: a man actually believed he had the right to have sex with a woman on penalty of death. This is the worst manifestation of male entitlement and the belief that women are lesser beings here on earth only for the sexual gratification of men. This in itself is despicable and should never have happened. Had justice been served properly a few years ago, this woman would still be alive. Only now is he on trial, for he wasn't punished to the maximum extent of the law when he stabbed his girlfriend numerous times and slit her throat. Yes, you read that right. This man brutally murdered his girlfriend and essentially walked away. Why did he do this? Because she refused his sexual advances. Why is it that a man such as this is allowed to continually flaunt his male entitlement at the expense of women's lives? Because the judge in the original case believed that there were too many Aboriginals in prison and didn't want to add to their over-representation. Instead of being locked up because he's a murderer, this individual got a free pass based on the colour of his skin and promptly proceeded to kill again. Justice is supposed to be blind to all colours, creeds, and religions. The system has failed two women on this man's behalf. Murder is murder. Period. Exclamation point.

Case Three: The Parent Who Sexually Assaulted His Child and Put It on the Internet

Possibly the most horrific thing one can imagine: a person using their own child for sexual exploitation and gratification. The man would sexually assault his daughter over a period of two years from the time that she was 2 years old and broadcast it on the Internet. He was initially given the maximum fifteen year sentence (again, another major shortcoming of the justice system that could be a post in itself) but it was reduced by the judge on this basis:

"There was no violence, such as gagging, threatening or hitting the child," Judge Lise Côté wrote.

There are not words in the language that accurately capture the extent of my outrage over that statement. No there wasn't the violence indicated, but this man raped his own daughter! How does the judge ignore that violence! How! He used his position of power against a defenseless child, his own child, to exploit her, assault her, and probably traumatize her for life. Another factor in the judge's decision? He'd only ever had one other criminal offence--he sexually assaulted another youth while he was 17. A "person" with a history of sexual offences against the most vulnerable members of our society is somehow entitled to leniency. Because of the judge's "benevolence," this man will be free when his daughter is 13 years old. I can only hope for her sake that is living far, far away from him when he gets out of jail.

These three cases are but a very small snapshot of the violence that men perpetrate against women and children. There are countless other examples, whether it be the Duke lacrosse team or the teacher who feels it is appropriate to touch and kiss his "favourite" students, of men using their power for violence and sexual gratification at the expense of women and children. This must stop. When people in other societies criticize us for our internal shortcomings as we attempt to spread "our" values to other regions, these three cases are the type of stories they will cite as our internal hypocrises. Many well-reasoned academics believe that the best example of power countries like Canada and the United States can provide is the example of our freedoms, liberties, and adherence to the rule of law--the shining example of the city on a hill. It is true that our societies are more free, more open, and more just than other societies, but they are far short of perfect. Political equality in our society does not exist; it should and it must. I will not stand pat and be silent when issues such as these arise; to do so is to implicitly state that everything is hunky-dory and the system doesn't need to change. It does. We cannot have true justice when men such as the ones above have an escape hatch that allows them to avoid the consequences of their violent actions.

09 June 2006

A fantastic message to all those who would seek to exploit the freedoms of our democracy to bring about their dark agenda. Click on the logo to go to the website and see what all the buzz is about in the aftermath of the foiled terrorist plot in Canada. Canadians are not afraid, I am not afraid. We will live up to the creed of our national anthem and remain vigilant in the protection of our democracy, our liberty, and our way of life.

O Canada, we stand on guard for thee.
Doesn't look like a reptilian cat-eater to me

Cats are awesome, and I'm glad to see that the Prime Minister likes them too. Once upon a time, there may have been a caption contest here (I can just imagine some of the entries from Liberals..."Think the cat is scared now? Wait till he sees the hidden agenda"-type stuff), but times change and so have I. Because it wouldn't be good of me to get a real cat for the apartment only two months before I leave and move to who-knows-where, and since Frosty (Anna Lou's cat) has returned to await our arrival, I've had to restrict myself to getting stuffed ones from Build-A-Bear. So I'd like to introduce you to Hairy Truman.

08 June 2006

Zarqawi Killed

Excellent news from Baghdad this morning. If you don't know about it already turn on the news, you can't miss it. The death of this thug will have a profoundly positive effect on the coalition's mission to build a peaceful and sustainable democracy in Iraq. No longer will Zarqawi be able to orchestrate the beheadings of innocent people, no longer will he be able to direct suicide bombers to kill civilians in the streets and undermine the authority of the Iraqi government, and no longer will he be able to obstruct the establishment of a free society in Iraq. The people of Iraq have largely spoken, and they have chosen freedom over fear. Zarqawi's message is morally bankrupt and this has become increasingly clear in recent months, as the government has developed a foundation for democratic principles and the rule of law. Zarqawi's only rule was the rule of fear, a feature Iraqis are sadly all too familiar with, having lived under an oppressive dictatorship of Saddam Hussein, who ruled through fear and violence for a generation. The Iraqi people do not want to live under a fear society, the elections and growing support for the unity government plainly demonstrate this. They will not be forced back under the heel of a Zarqawi. Excellent news and excellent work by the coalition in Iraq to help bring true stability and order.

A Note to the Oilers (and their fans)

I was going to post this originally, but then I turned on the TV and the news of the day is obviously a dominant feature. Thus I addressed it first. After the 5-0 loss last night, many Oilers fans will no doubt be devastated and worried about the coming days. To them I say only this: you aren't really in trouble until you lose a game on home ice.

04 June 2006

Terrorist Attack Thwarted

I've been thinking about what to say in a post such as this since I first heard the news on Friday night that authorities had arrested 17 people in a counterterrorism action. I've also been waiting for some details to emerge as to the specifics of what happened. Now that some more information has been made available, it's a little easier to discuss it and what it means. First, the facts:

+ 17 people were arrested, including 5 minors
+ All of the people arrested were Canadians
+ They had procured 3 tonnes of ammonium nitrate, the same material used by Timothy McVeigh in the Oklahoma City bombing -- but three times the amount

That Canada nearly became the victim of a "homegrown" terrorist act should shock and jar a lot of people out of their complacency in the War on Terror. For too long comments such as "soft target" or "it could never happen here because we're not in Iraq" have been thrown around. This quote from Jack Layton epitomizes everything that is wrong with the mentality of some Canadians: "The idea that people would be planning a bombing in our country is simply shocking."
If you read this message from 12 November 2002, it wouldn't be. If you were aware that bin Laden links supporters of the Afghanistan war to his list of targets, it wouldn't be. But this is Jack Layton, and I've wasted enough time talking about him already, so I'll turn my focus to serious people.

I truly hope that a lot of Canadians will wake up and realize that we are neither a soft target nor are we beyond the scope of potential targets for Osama bin Laden and his followers. He's publicly made known a list of 20 states that are targets for their efforts in Afghanistan or their general support of the United States. 18 of those states have been attacked by al Qaeda. Canada is one of the two that has not. Was this foiled plot a first attempt to make Canada #19? At this point, we don't know. CSIS and the authorities involved are rightly not leaking too much information on this case; national security trumps the "right to know" at this early stage.
The dynamic of the plotters all being Canadian citizens is deeply troubling. As was the case with the London bombings, that all the participants were domestic--not foreign--terrorists, this is a great source of concern because it demonstrates that even in democracies where freedoms are granted to all citizens, there will be those citizens who seek to exploit those freedoms for dark ends. As the people from CSIS said yesterday, “Any movement that has the ability to turn people against their fellow citizens is obviously something that CSIS is very concerned about.” These people have somehow been brainwashed into giving up their liberties and freedoms enjoyed in Canada to carry out acts inspired by an ideology that has no place for either, relying on false promises of heaven and glory in the afterlife for murdering innocent civilians.
It is disheartening to me on a personal level that our Prime Minister and counterterrorism officials have to tell people that "Canada is not immune" to attack from al Qaeda or those inspired by al Qaeda. Knowing as much as I do about bin Laden's network (and I don't think I could classify myself as an "expert" on them; I've simply read a few books on them) and his intentions, Canada is a natural enemy of al Qaeda. Far from being "immune," our beliefs and our actions have made us almost-certain candidates. To hear people be surprised to hear CSIS folks say that an attack is "not a question of if, but when," that suggests that we simply haven't taken the necessary steps to make the public aware of the threat that we are susceptible to from al Qaeda.
This is not to suggest that government officials go out of their way to instill fear in Canadians. But it does mean that they should tell Canadians on a regular basis to remain vigilant to protect our democracy from attack by those who do not believe in it. The arrests in this plot should not be seen as some form of anachronism, but as a harbinger. Bin Laden is notoriously determined to succeed in achieving his goals against his targets. That's why they went back to the World Trade Centre in 2001 after failing to achieve maximum destruction in 1993. If this was, in fact, an al Qaeda plot, there will be a second attempt. I'm not trying to scare the hell out of anybody, but to prepare them for what may yet be to come. The last line of our national anthem is so beautiful, so moving, and truly central to what we must do to protect our democracy and our citizens: "O Canada we stand on guard for thee."