31 December 2006

The Last Post of 2006

Final thoughts for the year, and a brief glimpse into 2007:
  • When it comes to Saddam Hussein, I'm more in line with Kinsella than my old Dal colleague Riley. The hideous crimes that he committed far outweigh whatever ghastliness there is surrounding his own execution. Generally I'm not for capital punishment, but there are certain circumstances where I have a hard time squaring what (Mass) Murderer X did and having to pay the government to keep him alive for the rest of his days. Willie Pickton, I'm looking directly at you as I type that.
  • This past year has not been a good one for the Bush Administration. Since Katrina, there is almost an inexorable turn against him, and he has been unable to get his message out with the force and clarity that is required of a POTUS.
  • Stephen Harper's first year as PMOC has been a good run. I still believe that the Status of Women Canada file may bite him in the future, it all depends on what happens in the coming months regarding it and how mobilized the various groups opposed to his actions get.
  • Being a pro-feminism male can be an awfully lonely road sometimes. Luckily, there are good men like Robert Jensen and others out there who get it. I've found in the past year that it is much easier to stick one's head in the sand or erect a straw-feminist argument than it is to get people to understand and empathize with what it is that women are fighting for. From being told that I'd "love living in Iran" because I'm anti-pornography, to seeing the hatred that some men spout when a woman raises an opinion on the internet, to being told that being concerned about 1-in-3 women being on the wrong end of male violence means that I'm "not, ah, realistic," I've seen an awful lot of stuff this year that is both depressing yet motivating at the same time. It is a hard path, but it is the right path.

2007? More of the same around these parts. A few thesis excerpts, more feminism postings, more foreign policy/international relations, more Habs, and more of whatever else I feel like talking about, even if it's considered part of a "red herring tour." Don't like it? Too bad. It's my blog.

I do plan to talk about something I've been fiddling with called "The Sources of Canadian Conduct," a rather in-depth look at Canadian foreign policy, its objectives, its foundations, and the three C's--commitment, capability, and credibility--that go a long way in determining how far Canada can go in achieving those objectives.

And, who knows, maybe I'll have an election to discuss. And pick sides.

28 December 2006

You Know What Really Grinds My Gears?

The price of books, both in relative and absolute terms. As the post two or three down suggests, I like books. I like reading them, I like writing them, I like looking at them on my shelf. But I hate paying as much as I do for them.

It all starts when I open up the front cover and look at the American and Canadian prices. A book that is only 22 bucks in the States costs 30 dollars here. Now, back when the Canadian dollar was comparable to Monopoly money in terms of both pretty colours and value, maybe I can understand that. But currently the loonie is worth around 86 cents of a US greenback. That's a 1.16 exchange rate. Yet the scenario above--which does in fact apply to a book that I wanted to buy this morning at Chapter's called Ethical Realism (sounds to me like the realists are looking to inject some values into their thinking...isn't that just democratic realism, then?)--has an exchange rate of 1.36. Another book I saw that costs $25 in the US is $36 here, an exchange of 1.44. Tack on the GST and we're being gouged yet another 6% Mercifully they don't add the PST to books, or it would be even worse.

That's the relative portion of book costs. Now the absolute. $30 for a little 150-page hardcover? Come on! I know that Chapter's, the book publisher, and the author(s) all gotta get paid, but the cost of paper is quite small and it's not as if these large industries are paying through the nose to get their binding done in their own publishing houses. I don't have much problem paying a little bit to gain the insights and knowledge of others, but the costs on some books are absurd. It's bizarre to me that I bought Harry Truman's biography for 25 bucks, but a professor's book (actually collection of speeches of Canadian political thinkers) runs closer to 50. The biography was a purchase of choice, but if I want to get within half a point of an A- I have to buy the book (long story that I won't go into here). Take a guess which one I got a lot more enjoyment out of. Given the priority which we place upon knowledge in this society as a foundation for a successful life, it would make some sense to lower the costs somewhat in order to encourage more people to make the purchases.

Really, the relative thing drives me far more bonkers than the absolute. Because most books are written and published in the United States, it's sensible that the cost in Canada be slightly higher (shipping, international book deals, etc.) to buy American books. But at a rate of 33% to 44% higher when the exchange rate is only 1.16? Malarkey, says I. And that's what really grinds my gears.

27 December 2006

How Does This Doo-Hicky Work!?

The bird has been devoured, there's still a bunch of chocolates around, and a little bit of egg nog to boot. Yes Christmas has come and gone for another year, and what a seasonal festivity it was!
Tasha & I had our second Christmas together here in Halifax. As was the case with last year, we really missed seeing everybody at home, all the moreso because of the condition of my grandmother. I truly hope that there will be one more Christmas on this Earth she can be a part of, because both Tasha & I have said that we'd love to be back home next year.

I, of course, was the first to wake up and convince her to get out of bed. The fun started at around 7:45am and we were done opening the treasure trove of presents under our tree about two hours later. Lots of really great stuff under the tree, and the biggest hits appear to be the Super Nintendo that I got for Tasha (does anybody out there have Super Mario All-Stars and would part with it?) and the 30GB Video iPod that Tasha got for me. No more DiscMan for me; I gots me an iPod! It took the better part of a couple days to upload all my CDs to get on there, so far there's over a thousand songs and still a bunch of other stuff I'd like to get put on there. One issue that I'm having is the video feature. It won't let me upload anything from the digital camera, which is a pain because I've got my Stones stuff that I'd like to put on there. I'm sure I'll figure it out. Check out the initial reaction to the iPod:

I really need to find those cartoon eyes to really complete the popping out of head look. You'll notice in the background a box with a cutout shaped like the Stanley Cup; that's because there's a mini replica of the Cup with a 1993 Montreal Canadiens pewter medallion. Beside that is a 3-pack of Habs figures--Koivu, Aebischer, and Ryder--and to my left is an original Star Wars soundtrack LP. That's some really cool stuff. One item that managed to avoid photography for most of the morning was my brand-new Team Canada jacket, courtesy of Tasha's parents. I'd like to put up a pic, but Blogger simply refuses to cooperate at this time.

Other fantastic presents included: Mark Steyn's America Alone, a Habs optical wheel mouse, chocolate galore, a new wallet, some body spray stuff (is that a hint that I smell, S&C?), new gloves, cash, two really nice sweaters, a Darth Vader coin bank and a couple mini-puzzles and a couple action figures.

We had a really fantastic time. Tasha loved (I hope) all the presents I got her; I really like the Happy Feet PJs and the cat book, among other things. We talked to the families, we ate dinner, we went to bed a very happy couple.

Best of the holiday season to everybody out there. I hope that it's been a wonderful time with friends and family, and that you all got what you wanted from Santa. I may or may not be posting in the next couple days, so if not, best wishes for a Happy New Year to all. May your 2007 be even greater than 2006.

21 December 2006

Favourite Books in 2006

I read a lot of books. I've never really thought to rank all the great books that I've read over the years, but 2006 is a pretty special year for me in terms of some of what I've read and the influence that these books have had on my political thinking. Not all of them were written in 2006, I just got around to reading them this year. As you'll see, and as the CTV guy noted back in the summer when he interviewed Tasha & I about the sun and its potential to cause cancer, I have a rather eclectic taste in books. This is by no means a complete list, and I'm not going to count books that I had to read for various graduate classes, mostly because there were very few (we do more essays at this level), and the ones that I sought out and actually chose to read have their way of getting into my head on a more enjoyable basis when I'm not being graded on my performance in discussing them.

10. Paul Wells - Right Side Up: The Fall of Paul Martin and the Rise of Stephen Harper's New Conservatism
9. Richard N. Haass - The Opportunity: America's Moment to Alter History's Course
8. Pamela Paul - Pornified: How Pornography is Transforming Our Lives, Our Relationships, and Our Families
7. David McCullough - Truman
6. Joshua Muravchik - The Imperative of American Leadership
5. Francis Fukuyama - America at the Crossroads: Democracy, Power, and the Neoconservative Legacy
4. Ralph Peters - New Glory: Expanding America's Global Supremacy
3. Bob Woodward - State of Denial
2. Natan Sharansky - The Case for Democracy: The Power of Freedom to Overcome Tyranny & Terror
1. Richard McAdam - From Bipolarity to Unipolarity: American Leadership and the Future of the Bush Doctrine - if nothing else, it's the book that I've read the most times this year!

19 December 2006

Person of the Year

Thanks Time!

Top Moments of 2006

Yesterday focused on the world at large, today I'll go over some of my own personal best moments of the past year. Video included!

1. Graduation Day - I came, I studied, I convocated. It was the reason that I came to Halifax, and on October 21st I received the fruits of my labour when I officially became a Master of the Arts. It was made all the better with the attendance of the greatest person in my life, and my sister came to visit too!

2. Going back to Kelowna to visit the families. It had been six months at the time, and it's been almost a whole year since, but going home during reading break was very enjoyable and much-needed. It was saddened a little by the circumstances involving my grandmother, and we kept the trip almost-exclusively limited to family, but it's always nice to go back to where you came from and see many of the people who care about you most. I hope that we can do that again in the new year.

3. Seeing the Rolling Stones. It rained horrifically and it was cold, but what a fantastic evening. Finally getting to see one of my all-time favourite bands, right across the street from where I live, was an amazing experience. These guys are true professionals, they know how to put on a great show and leave their fans satisfied.

4. Seeing Bill Clinton. I may have more than a handful of disagreements with Clinton, but it's still an experience listening to a former President of the United States talk about his experiences in Washington and what to do about the problems facing the world today.

5. Defending and handing in my thesis. These two "moments" were actually a few days apart, and the defence was much longer than a moment, but it was a highly satisfying experience to justify my summer's work and then pass it off to the people at Grad Studies. I've always enjoyed handing in completed term papers, which made submitting From Bipolarity to Unipolarity: American Leadership and the Future of the Bush Doctrine all the better, because it truly was a term paper on steroids.

6. Canada Day down at the Halifax Harbour. It was a lot of fun, we had beaver-tails, the sun was out, and there was much revelling in all things Canada.

7. Sending those Christmas cards to the troops in Kandahar. Those men & women are doing some truly courageous and amazing work to implement the Canadian Government's policy of democracy promotion, and they deserve to be in our thoughts & hearts during this time of year.

8. The Bryan Adams Concert. If Tasha decides to do a Top Moments list, this will probably rank higher for her than it does for me. We had a lot of fun at the show, he played a great setlist, and I made a little DVD out of the photos & videos that we took. Plus it was two days before my birthday!

9. Seeing Paul Martin get tossed out of office and replaced with someone that's unafraid to make a stand without first consulting the public opinion polls. Harper's been right more often than not this past year (I'm sure folks are thinking that, yes, he's always right...wing), and his positions on foreign policy and other policy areas have been a key factor in making Canada more relevant than it has been in several years. When he's wrong, though, he can be really wrong, as readers of this blog no doubt have seen. If you think I'm right, anyways.

10. This one's still to come, so I'm hedging my bets, but I'm thinking that Christmas morning this year is going to be really great.

The Real Number One: growing ever-closer and more understanding and supportive and loving of Tasha. This past year has been truly incredible for the two of us, and I hope that it gets even better in 2007 and 2008 and every year after. You are the best thing to ever happen to me, Anna Lou.

18 December 2006

Political Moves of the Year

We start with, what else, politics. 2006 no doubt had its fair share of political maneuvering, some of it worked, some of it didn't, and some of it contributed to the defeat of Paul Martin. With that in mind, we turn to the best and the worst politicians had to offer us in 2006.

Best Move of the Year (Canada) - Stephen Harper Severs Aid to Hamas-Led Palestinian Government
It happened early, and it set the tone for the new Conservative government's handling of foreign policy issues. While critics predictably said that the move represented a shift in Canadian foreign policy to ape that of Washington, they neglect that Canada moved first on this after the Palestinians elected Hamas as their government. We didn't wait to see what Washington or London or Brussels did, we set the tone and other countries had to play catch-up. The move said that Canada was going to be a player in the world, that Canada would not send money to terrorist organizations when they became politically popular in their homelands, and that Canada was going to stand with its democratic ally, Israel, in denouncing terrorism in the region. This move foreshadowed Harper's tough stand when conflict erupted between Israel and Hezbollah in the summer, and signalled that Canada stands for and with democracy in the struggle against terrorism.
Honourable Mention - Gerard Kennedy Throws His Support Behind Stephane Dion at Liberal Leadership Convention

Best Move of the Year (United States) - Bush Establishes War on Terror as Continuity in U.S. Foreign Policy in National Security Strategy
Unfortunately the document hasn't reached the same stature as the 2002 version, which established the Bush Doctrine and set the tone for American Foreign Policy in the 21st century. In this 2006 NSS a line of continuity is drawn that links the efforts of this presidency to those of Harry S. Truman, Ronald Reagan, and all of those who have pursued a course of freedom, democracy, and the rule of law and blending that idealism with pragmatic thought. For someone writing a Master's thesis on the subject, this document was the literary equivalent of divine providence. Bush carried on the successor-to-Truman theme until June and then inexplicably stopped, leaving behind an important message in a course that has strayed from its original mission.
Honourable Mention: Bush Sacks Rumsfeld

Best Move of the Year (Rest of the World) - India Ratifies U.S. Nuclear Deal
Though the process for this deal began in 2005, it wasn't finalized until March. India has become a legitimate member of the nuclear club, and will subject a significant portion of its nuclear-related activities to international inspection by the IAEA. Far from spurring a renewed nuclear arms race in Asia or undermining the integrity of the non-proliferation regime, the deal has helped bring a sense of stability and respect to New Delhi's aspirations as a key ally of Washington in the region. India will be expected to play a role in working to prevent proliferation in Iran, and this will put a renewed emphasis on Pakistan's future as a player in the region. While it is true that Islamabad, which sees itself as a strong ally in Washington's war against bin Laden and al Qaeda, will feel snubbed because it doesn't get a deal, this may spur Musharraf to take some measures to ensure political stability within Pakistan and ensure that its nuclear weapons and know-how do not fall into the wrong hands. The move brings the world's largest democracy closer to the world's only superpower, shoring up support for the democracy campaign and bringing a nuclear power under the watchful eye of the nuclear weapons regime.
Honourable Mention: Kofi Annan leaves as UN Secretary-General

Worst Move of the Year (Canada) - "We're not making this up."
I went back and forth between the military ad and Paul Martin's pledge to remove the federal government's power to invoke the notwithstanding clause. In the end, I went with this only because of its lasting impact on the election campaign and its legacy as the final nail in the coffin of Martin's respectability. Both ideas were truly awful, but this one hurt a lot of people, and made it sound as though Stephen Harper would turn Canadian cities into military garrisons filled with armed CF members walking the streets. It was, as I noted back in January, the single worst campaign ad to appear on our television screens since the Chretien "face" ads back in 1993. For denigrating the Canadian military, insinuating that the then-Leader of the Loyal Opposition had "military dictator" written on him, and insulting the intelligence of all Canadians, the Liberal campaign staff and the man who signed off on this ad receive the dubious distinction of Worst Move of the Year.
(Dis)-Honourable Mention: Michael Ignatieff not "losing sleep" over "war crimes" in Qana.

Worst Move of the Year (United States) - Dropping the ball on the Iran and North Korea files.
It's been a good year for the other 2/3 of the axis of evil, which means folks in the United States aren't doing a good job of holding feet to the fire. Both Iran and North Korea have made demonstrable progress in their nuclear programs--with the DPRK actually detonating an atomic device in an underground test in July--taking advantage of the tunnel vision of the American governing elite that is focused squarely on Baghdad. Why Washington hasn't yet launched a concerted multilateral effort to, ahem, persuade Tehran and Pyongyang to forgo their nuclear proliferation programs is simply baffling. The National Security Strategy identifies Iran as the single greatest threat to global security, and thus far precisely very little has been done to limit the extent to which Iran can remain with that distinction. With the size and skill of the American diplomatic corps, it is inexcusable that these two states are still getting away with things that are said to be unacceptable. It damages America's credibility on a global scale, not beneficial for anybody.
(Dis)-Honourable Mention: The Lack of Outright Condemnation and Full-Scale Punishment for Haditha.

Worst Political Move (Rest of the World) - Military Coup in Fiji
Thus giving credence to the view that democratic progress is as likely as backsliding into dictatorship, there was a military coup in Fiji this year. The elected Prime Minister was removed from office, there have been crackdowns on the free press, and the coup leader says that this could go on for the next 50 years. Since then, international condemnation and political isolation has been flowing regularly: Washington has suspended international aid and severed ties, as has New Zealand; the British are threatening to suspend Fiji from the Commonwealth and have already cut their military training ties. This is the fourth coup in Fiji in the last 20 years, making the small island nation one of the more politically unstable countries despite its wealth and high level of development.
(Dis)-Honourable Mention - Ongoing lack of resolve from Europe to provide security in Afghanistan and along the Israel-Lebanon border.

That's all for today! Check back tomorrow when I discuss my personal favourite moments of the year.

17 December 2006

2006 Year-End Special Extravaganza!

With just a little over two weeks left in 2006, it's getting near-time for my year in review series. Recaps on everything from top books, top moments, top political plays, will be abounding in the next few days. Reflection is a nice way to wind down the year before gearing up for yet another potential election year in 2007. Given that Parliament's in recess and the MPs are all back at home, the news will likely be slow until we change calendars, and I can only gloat about how awesome the Habs are and deserve to be on HNIC every week so many times until it gets boring for my 3 readers.

So get ready, friends, the next few posts will be fun!

15 December 2006

Canada's Prostitution Laws

The National Post remains my preferred choice in Canadian national newspapers. It has a group of op-ed columnists that provide excellent insights, its news coverage is relatively balanced, and they have a tendency to publish letters that I send to them. Today they ran an editorial discussing the need to overhaul Canada's lamentable prostitution legislation. They came forward with the idea of outright decriminalization. Good idea to remove the criminal label from women and children who are often forced into the streets to prostitute themselves; it makes little sense to put in jail people that overwhelmingly would like to get out of the industry. However, decriminalization would not give johns any fear or worry about being caught for perpetrating acts of violence against women and children, and that is why the National Post is wrong. The British are currently handicapping themselves in their hunt to track the murderer in Ipswich that is killing prostituted women because if any of them goes to the police to report something suspicious, she will be arrested for prostitution. They have thus far refused any notions of a temporary amnesty for women, a remarkable lack of compassion for women who regularly are in dangerous situations, made all the worse by a known murderer on the streets.

The editorial on changing Canada's prostitution laws provides a good suggestion but the wrong remedy for tackling the problem. Rather than outright decriminalization, an alternative and more likely to succeed method would be to adopt the Swedish model, which criminalizes the purchase of sex and decriminalizes the selling of sex. In short, it sees prostitution as an act of male violence against women (which it is) and thus promotes legal action to reduce the number of johns on the streets that are creating demand for young women and children to be bought and sold for sex. As a consequence, prostitution in Sweden has declined dramatically since the introduction of this legislation in 1999. For more on the success of the Swedish model, go to "Why Hasn't Anyone Tried This Before?"

Rather than holding the fatalist view that "it's always been around and always will," there are measures which can be put in place that have demonstrable effects in reducing the number of men that prey upon women and children and reducing the supply of available women and children. It is not inevitable that men (and the overwhelming majority of johns in prostitution are male) see women and children merely as instruments to be bought and sold for their own gratification; with proper legislation and enforcement in place, Canada can go a long way in reducing both the demand and supply for prostitution, thus becoming a country that regards all of its citizens with equal respect and dignity.

14 December 2006

Getting the Habs Back on CBC

Uh oh, a CBC post. No good can come of this.

Canada's national broadcaster provides us with an unfair distribution of Hockey Night in Canada telecasts. Virtually every week, Canadians are "treated" to seeing the Toronto Maple Leafs aired on a national basis, relegating the Ottawa Senators to "regional coverage" while hockey's most storied franchise, the Montreal Canadiens, are usually only available on RDS. RDS is a French-language station only available on digital cable. The CBC believes that Canadians should be entitled through their tax dollars to see the Leafs for cheap as often as possible, while Canadiens fans are made to pay through the nose to watch their favourite team.

The CBC HNIC FAQ states:

How do you choose your broadcast schedule each year?
Each year we work with the NHL to do our best to ensure that viewers are able to see the games they want to see on Saturday nights. Providing coverage of the NHL’s Canadian teams is paramount for us, and we take this process very seriously. Over the past few years, we have increased coverage of Canadian teams, particularly in the west, with the second game of our weekly doubleheader.
How do you decide to distribute the games?
On nights when we have a regional game in addition to our traditional doubleheader, our goal is to make sure that the majority of Canadians get to see the game they want. We know we can’t please everyone, but we do our best.

This, friends, is bollocks, particularly the first question. The real answer, as everybody knows, is "we look at Toronto's schedule." If "providing coverage of the NHL's Canadian teams" were as paramount as they say it is, there would be a rotational basis used to bring balance between Montreal, Toronto, and Ottawa's exposure to Canadians. One week Montreal, the next Toronto, the next Ottawa, with override preference given to all-Canadian match-ups. Doing something along those lines would go a lot further in making the second statement more closely approximate the truth.

Thus far this season, and we're just over two months in, CBC has snubbed: Jose Theodore's return to Montreal and an exciting 8-5 match, a thrilling Montreal-Buffalo game that went all the way to the shootout, and a pre-match ceremony in which the Canadiens retired the jersey of all-time great Serge Savard. In the case of the Montreal-Buffalo game, the Leafs were getting blown out by Detroit at the time, and the Colorado game concurred with a far-less exciting match between the Leafs and the Rangers that ended in a Rangers victory over CBC's team.

So with all this in mind, some folks have gotten together to start a petition to get the Montreal Canadiens back on the CBC national broadcast more often (generally speaking: games that aren't against Toronto). I would encourage my handful of readers, be they Habs fans or not, to click here and sign this petition. Together we can restore justice to the CBC airwaves on Saturday nights.

13 December 2006

Four years for a bill?!?

Watching Rosemary Thompson Live is giving all sorts of laughs tonight. Jack Layton was already on demanding the troops come home by February so that Afghanistan can have its own series of Srebrenica-like attacks on defenceless humanitarian workers (well, that's not why he wants them home, but it's what would happen) and pumping up proportional representation as the remedy to ails Canadian democracy. Good old Jack, always reliable for a lark or two.

But the height of ludicrous statements tonight comes from a Liberal senator who insists that having an elected Senate would result in the procedure to pass a single piece of legislation taking four years. And just to make sure it wasn't a slip of the tongue or an aberration, he said it like four or five times. Wow. There's saying ridiculous things to protect your sinecure, and then there's that. He also had a laugh at his Conservative counterpart highlighting the absurdly large Liberal majority in the unelected chamber, saying that he wouldn't be complaining if he were on the other side. Well, no, of course not, you're so happy because you and a good number of your buddies are enjoying the benefits of patronage. If you were on the other side, you'd probably have been the one complaining. But since you benefit, we can't have any of these elected politicians trying to take away your entitlements.

Getting back to the four years for a bill to pass thing. How on earth was that figure arrived at? Two years in the House and two more in the Senate? I dare say that if that happened, there would be a massive "throw the bums out" election campaign in order to get a more efficient representation. That's not a consequence of having two elected houses, that's just horrible leadership. Last I looked it doesn't take 4 years to pass laws down in the States or any other state with a full elected bicameral legislature. Simply put, this was an absurd statement coming from a historical anachronism looking to ensure his sinecure lasts a few more years.

The Environment: Opportunity or Albatross?

Several years into the Kyoto regime that was foisted upon Canadians as part of Jean Chretien's "legacy" initiative, we are at a very interesting point in the debate over Canada's role in the environment. Though few paid significant attention to the Liberals' stewardship on the Kyoto file until it became readily evident that we were in danger of complete and utter failure to meet our specialized target of 6 per cent below 1990 levels--Chretien, in a bid to really stick it to Uncle Sam, gave us a target that was higher than the normal requirements of Kyoto to show how responsible we are compared to the Americans--it is now being defined in some circles, notably long-time Liberal strategist John Duffy, as the "most paramount political issue of our time." Even more than fighting terrorism. Sure, let's play along with that.

Duffy's essay in the latest issue of Policy Options argues that no federal party has yet to really seize this issue and make it their own, thus creating a vast opportunity to seize upon an issue that is of growing importance to Canadians and thus capture the electoral brass ring. However true this may be, is it possible that we've come so far along that neither of the major parties has any credibility on the environment portfolio, thus rendering it impossible for either of them to truly claim it? Rather than an opportunity, is Kyoto an albatross for both the Liberals and Conservatives?

The answer seemingly leans in the affirmative. First, the Liberals.

Under David Anderson and Stephane Dion, the Liberals had two highly competent ministers to lead Canada to the environmental promised land. Neither succeeded. Rather than going down, our emissions rose 24% over the target, ranking Canada 27th among 29 OECD countries. Not exactly a great point of reference, yet inexplicably Paul Martin saw fit to chastize the United States and declare that Washington lacked a conscience on the environment. The Liberal plan, such as it was, seemingly revolved around buying emissions credits from other countries, sinking billions of dollars into other economies while Canada's skies remaining grossly polluted and carbonated in order to claim success. Thus, now that the green-scarved euphoria over Dion being elected Liberal leader has died down, the Conservatives are coming out swinging on his stewardship, likening his credibility on the environment to that of Alfonso Gagliano on accountability. Ouch.

That said, the Tories have little to gloat over. Rona Ambrose has been lambasted in just about every arena she sets foot. She can claim with credibility to have inherited a poisoned chalice, but there has yet to be an overarching environmental strategy put in place after a year of Conservative government. The abandonment of the language and rhetoric of Kyoto has been a very sore spot for many supporters of the policy; no matter how pragmatic Ambrose has been in her assessments of Canada's prospects for meeting our targets, people don't like to hear language that indicates we're simply giving up because the target may be out of reach. Kyoto has become a sacred cow in this country, right up there with weapons in space and the United Nations Security Council, and thus discarding it has been a disaster for the Conservatives. Process matters as much as results to many, and the process the Conservatives are using is not one that is garnering favour. There have been baby steps taken, but they do not meet the expectations of many green Canadians. More and more support is going to Canada's emerging Green Party, and it seems apparent that they will elect their first-ever MP in the next election.

Thus it seems that neither party will be able to claim a credible monopoly on the environment file. The Dion-led Liberals may make it an issue, but their track record works very strongly against them. The Tories may claim to be moving forward on a "made in Canada" approach, but many Canadians are wedded to Kyoto as the best approach to environmental sustainability, and will criticize the government for going it alone when a global response seems preferable. Perhaps with the passage of time the two major parties will earn some credibility on the environment, but in the short term--and given that the short-term is the primary focus of a political system that is perpetually obsessed with the next election--the issue will be an albatross that will hurt the fortunes of both.

11 December 2006

[Thesis Excerpt] After Bush: 2009 and Beyond

The War on Terror and Tyranny itself was once considered what Donald Rumsfeld might term an “unknown unknown”; though terrorism has always existed and some may have expected something like 9/11 to occur, many only learned the extent to which terrorism has evolved into a global threat when a small group of men inflicted a heavy blow on the world’s most powerful state.[i] Yet five years later, many of America’s allies have largely drawn down their commitments to actively pursue victory, fulfilling Bush’s 2002 prophecy that at some point Americans may be the ones left fighting the Islamist threat. Is it plausible to expect that after Bush leaves office, America too will see its commitment wane?
There is some reason to expect that a post-Bush United States may claw back on some of its anti-terrorist and -tyranny activities. Many Americans believe that Washington should “mind its own business” in the international arena, and divisions in both parties create “debate about what elements of President Bush’s approach to the world should be continued after he leaves office in 2009.”[ii] It is interesting to note that looking beyond the first presidency in the new era, Americans are looking at taking a softer approach to their conduct of foreign affairs, whereas after the Truman presidency Americans were looking at ways in which to get tougher with the Soviet Union.
It is my belief that this is partly due to the changing nature of power and the perception of the legitimacy of the use of force today vis-à-vis what was considered acceptable only fifty years ago. Yet the impact of the Cold War on America left it with the lesson that military power serves as the backbone for other expressions of power. The Iraq debate made plain the reality that “the United States…had been hardened by fifty years of Cold War confrontation to settle for nothing less than bringing transgressors of international order to compliance by military action.”[iii] Nowhere is the contrast in perceptions of power starker than in the chasm between America and Europe. While the British remain as dependable as ever, the fair-weather relations between the United States and the rest of Europe are indicative of their post-modern approach to international diplomacy. America, meanwhile, remains firmly rooted in modernity, and is committed to achieving its interests through all traditional means, including hard applications of its power. The virulent anti-Americanism of European leaders is not, as some suggest, confined to hatred to Bush, and it will likely endure beyond his final term. It is unrealistic to expect that the departure of one man will magically end hostilities towards America and its foreign policy, making consensus-building in multilateral organizations a difficult challenge for the foreseeable future. Because alliances can be interpreted as compromises of national interests, there will be divergences between America and most of Europe throughout this global conflict unless there are more stringent efforts by Washington to soothe the concerns of allies, who in turn may be required to step up their own interests to dissuade America from believing that it has to act alone to achieve its goals.
No president will subject American foreign policy to the UN veto. Future deliberations on collective action—be it economic sanctions or military action—will necessarily require future American leaders to heed international concerns in order to offset potential costs to the United States. This may have a deterrent effect on pursuing military solutions to future crises, thereby reducing the “war” aspect of the global conflict. But the fact remains that the United States will pursue victory in this conflict for as long as necessary, using all the means at its disposal. Moreover, Bush’s successor will inherit Iraq and be required to continue the policy of democratizing that state. This will leave the still-open wound in the Atlantic alliance as such for some time to come. No responsible American president would precipitously withdraw American forces or announce a hard timeline for standing down. The National Strategy for Victory in Iraq makes clear that conditions within Iraq will determine the timeline, and it is necessary that this formula for pursuing victory continues to be followed. It is possible that as time passes, the other states in the international system will assist America in the hard work required to remake Iraq. The passage of UNSC Resolution 1637 marks an important benchmark for the international community in its recognition of America’s presence in Iraq, and it is thus now a collective responsibility to ensure that Iraq succeeds and does not backslide into a haven for terrorists or allows a new tyranny to emerge.

The Grand Wilsonian Tradition Continues

The United States is laying a foundation for victory in the global effort to rid the world of tyranny and terrorism, and the ideologies which facilitate and perpetuate them. Victory will not be achieved during the course of the Bush Administration. That is no fault of his own, nor is it an indicator of the success or failure of the Bush Doctrine. Liberal grand strategies are measured in the course of generations, not two presidential terms. The extent to which the main themes of the Bush Doctrine are followed by his successors, immediate and in the longer term, will mark the measure of his vision and blueprint for a more democratic world. The much-maligned and misunderstood intentions of the United States are not a revolutionary departure from its traditional approach to foreign policy and international relations. There have been controversial methods utilized by Bush in order to achieve his high-minded agenda—preemptive war chief among them—but they are controversial only because of a lack of understanding of American history and its mission. The following statement from Joseph Nye deserves evaluation:

Wilson’s League of Nations was to protect any state against aggression, democratic or not. Although Truman’s doctrine spoke of defending free people everywhere, his policy was containment of communism, not rollback or short-run regime change.[iv]

The continued growth of American power and the experience of sixty years since the announcement of the Truman Doctrine are key in considering this statement. The concept of collective security is meaningless without American participation, and the failure of the League’s successor to avoid repeating its mistakes has left it discredited and in need of being replaced with an entirely democratic union to protect citizens without seeking permission from illegitimate regimes that are more often the source of aggression and conflict than democracies. Nye’s assessment of the Truman Doctrine is accurate to a point. Truman had considered rolling back the North Korea regime and establishing a unified democratic Korea as an ally in the Cold War, but he was forced by circumstances and a fluid military situation to abandon that strategy. Moreover, any efforts to trigger regime change and overthrow non-democratic governments would have been met with a Soviet military response that would almost certainly have spiraled into a nuclear war.
In the absence of such circumstances and the failure of collective security, the United States is left with few other legitimate options to achieve its grand strategic objectives. Withdrawing from the world is simply not an option, as it would create a power vacuum in the international order and leave it in a state of anarchy largely unseen during most of the 20th century. Remaining on the defensive and hoping to contain tyranny within its existing borders condemns disempowered citizens to live under the heel of despotism and hope for such regimes to change themselves. This is unrealistic to the extreme: there is no Cincinnatus holding power in the Middle East that will voluntarily give up his total authority. Thus, seeking to undermine these regimes and promote a better alternative is the right policy for the United States. Bush has little more than two years to prove his case that American grand strategy will make the world safer, more secure, and more democratic. With the suggestions provided in the previous chapter and a clear-minded purpose to demonstrate the superior virtues and compelling values of the American ideology, the Bush Administration can go a long way to fulfilling its strong desire to measure up to the Truman standard that it emulates. It is not inevitable that things turn out right, but the proper determination and application can ensure that they do.

[i] Ian Bremmer, “Thinking Beyond States,” The National Interest 83 (2006), 66.
[ii] Derek Chollet, “A Consensus Shattered,” The National Interest 83 (2006), 74, 75.
[iii] John Keegan, The Iraq War, (Toronto: Key Porter, 2004), 104. Keegan also notes that it was Reagan’s military build-up that forced the Soviet Union into bankruptcy and demonstrated the failure of communism.
[iv] Joseph S. Nye, Jr., “The Freedom Crusade Revisited: A Symposium,” The National Interest 82 (2006), 15.

09 December 2006


Totally forgot about posting this. I had another letter published in the National Post on Tuesday, encouraging my fellow Canadians to make a gesture of support for the Canadian Forces personnel currently in Afghanistan who won't be home for the holidays. As a related note, that night I got a phone call from someone who read the letter and wanted to know how he could send something overseas. Very nice to know that I've inspired somebody. Anyways, here it is:

Let Our Troops Know It's Christmas

Re: Saying Thank You To Our Troops, David Frum, Dec. 2.
I was happy to see Mr. Frum’s column encouraging people to send well-wishes to Canadian Forces personnel serving in Afghanistan. I recently wrote and shipped 50 Christmas cards — some with Tim Hortons gift certificates — via the Canadian Forces Personnel Support Agency, and I encourage others to do the same. There are just under 2,300 members of our Forces in Afghanistan; if less than 50 took the time to replicate my small gesture of thanks, every single soldier defending our country and promoting its principles will receive an encouraging message from a complete stranger and know that the people back home are thinking about them during the holidays. What an incredible display of support for our troops that would be. Richard McAdam, Halifax.

The New Rivalry?

With all due respect to Leafs-bashing, if I had to pick a match-up that gets me really pumped up to watch a hockey game, right now it would be Montreal/Buffalo. Every game they've played this season has been a thrill to watch, they're the top two teams in the Northeast Division, and they see each other an awful lot during the season and could meet in the later rounds of the playoffs. There's a rivalry building between the Habs and Sabres, and I hope that it endures for a long time. Two great teams. Tonight will be a great night at the Bell Centre. Go Habs Go!

04 December 2006

Hold on to Your Hats

It will come as a surprise to many that a person whose defining political perspective is one of foreign policy hawk--way more hawkish than Harper--who has a set of views that tend more towards the individualist than the collectivist, and has disagreed with his former party more often in the past year than he has agreed with it is nonetheless finding himself more in agreement with said party than its main competitor. The issue causing this shift and glance back over the shoulder is not foreign affairs, it is not child care, it is not same-sex marriage, it is not the environment...it is the status of Status of Women Canada.

I have seen a number of vicious attacks on SWC from conservatives and Conservatives, many of which truly are as "mean-spirited" as has been made out by the Liberals and many in the media. Given the emergence of women's issues in my political thinking as a top two priority in the past year, I have a very hard time wanting to associate with people who can be so vindictive and gloating regarding what is happening to that agency. When I see people declaring the SWC irrelevant (this issue really has been festering for a long time now), I always come to the same question: do these people even read SWC reports? Because, personally, and I'm a guy that's gotten pretty far academically based on his ability to read and utilize information, I believe that anybody who reads these reports and digests their messages cannot come to the conclusion that the work of SWC is irrelevant or outdated.

When the women of a generation ago demanded equality, they didn't come to an accord that 71 cents on the dollar for similar work or 21% of the seats in Parliament constituted equality. They sure as hell didn't agree that if 2 out of 3 women would make it through life without being physically abused by a man, that would be an acceptable definition of equal. The suggestions from many on the right that it's a "post-feminist world" are dangerously misleading, because the implication is that the objectives of feminism have been achieved. They have not. If it were true, would the women be angry?

This issue is one that is truly important in Canadian society, so important that it is pulling me closer to the Liberals than I have been at any point in the past year. It is overriding Carolyn Bennett's comment about children going to jail if they don't receive state-run daycare, it is overriding Ignatieff's guffaws on Quebec nationalism and Qana, it is overriding the softness of the Liberal position on Afghanistan. It truly is that important to me. We're talking about the status of 53% of Canada's population and how they fit within society. Are they equals? Do they deserve the same compensation for work as their male counterparts? Should we be doing more to curb violence against them? Yes, yes, and yes. Obviously, the existence of SWC is not enough to achieve these objectives, but they raise attention on a higher level with better access to government than any other organization. If nobody knows there is a significant problem, nobody will do anything about it. SWC informs people about real problems; it is not "Liberal propaganda" when an SWC report highlights that 87% of all domestic violence targets women or that women in aboriginal communities are treated horrifically poorly.

For months now I've been arguing that Harper is making a huge mistake with his handling of the SWC file. More and more voices are coming together against him. The first Question Period question that Stephane Dion asked as Leader of the Liberal Party was about SWC. One cannot take steps that will alienate a significant portion of the majority demographic in this country--and their male supporters--and expect to escape without losing some support. As this issue drags on, I find myself leaning further away from the Tories and closer to my former party. At what point does it go from leaning to outright standing with them?

02 December 2006

And the Winner Is....

Stephane Dion.

As many folks who know me are aware, Stephane Dion is a key figure in my political development. Back when I was in Grade 11 we had to write a letter to some level of government with some sort of important question of the day. This was back in late 1997, so Quebec separatism was still a pressing issue, so I wrote a letter to the Prime Minister with some question on the topic. Instead of a response from Jean Chretien, I received a sizeable package of material and a personally-written letter from the then-Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs, Stephane Dion. It was pretty cool, and I think I still have it in a box at home. The Clarity Act that he and Chretien put together was a fantastic piece of legislation that effectively defused the Quebec "question" for several years. I've always respected Dion and credit him for being an impetus in me taking a deep interest in the governance of my great country.

I don't think that Gerard Kennedy's switch to the Dion camp "will be studied in Political Science classes for years to come," as the folks on CBC suggested, but it will be an area of focus in the coming weeks and months, and no doubt Kennedy--presuming he runs in the next election, wins, and his party wins--will be given a prominent position in Dion's (shadow) cabinet. That move was pivotal in this day, deflating the Rae camp and putting Ignatieff in a difficult position in which he would have to glean a significant number of Rae's people over to his side. Naturally, given that people supporting Rae would ostensibly be the Liberals' left flank, I believe the appropriate expression would be "fat chance."

I wish Dion the best of luck because he's in for a hell of a fight. Having served as Minister of the Environment during Martin's tenure, he will be raked over the coals for failing to deliver on Kyoto by the Tories as they seek to shift blame for Canada's poor environmental record in the post-Accord world. He also faces the large task of getting the Liberals back in power; as was said earlier this weekend, Stephen Harper will not implode and defeat himself. So it's in his court. Good luck.

And now that this business is over, let's get on with the night's real main event: Habs vs. Leafs.

Two Down

I'm watching far more of this convention than I expected to. I guess that when you're a politics nerd, this counts as "riveting" television. The more it goes on, the more I'm enjoying it. Political intrigue is the best kind of intrigue.

I'm blogging this live and have had to cut out some text quite a few times, as initially it was believed that Kennedy would go to Dion, then he was staying, and right now he's walking across the floor to announce that he's going to throw his support behind Dion after all.

So it's down to three. Dion, assuming that everybody from Kennedy goes to him (or even a solid majority), is now the front-runner, meaning that quite possibly Rae will have some serious soul-searching to do because he will end up in third place after this ballot. That's fine by me.

01 December 2006

Canada and the Gender Gap

The World Economic Forum recently released its Global Gender Gap Report 2006, and it gives several reasons for Canadians to be proud. We do better than most countries when it comes to gender equality, though, as always, we still have considerable room for improvement. Overall, we rank 14th out of 115 measured countries in terms of equality. It's disappointing that we're not in the Top Ten; a country that promises such opportunity and boasts of its enlightened thinking should not be on the outside looking in at that type of "club." Women still earn only 64% of what men make, the laws aimed at curbing violence against women are still weak, and women have yet to break through the political glass ceiling of Parliament. However, the trends are upward, we excel in education, and women are at the leading edge of professional and technical work. To the report itself I now turn.

The report measures equality along four main tracks:

1. Economic participation and opportunity – outcomes on salaries, participation levels and access to high-skilled employment
2. Educational attainment – outcomes on access to basic and higher level education
3. Political empowerment – outcomes on representation in decision-making structures
4. Health and survival – outcomes on life expectancy and sex ratio

On three of the four poles, we come reasonably (not superlatively) close to achieving the desired level of equality: economic participation, educational attainment, and health and survival. In fact, in a number of key measurable selections in the educational attainment category, we even come in first! Canada's women are among the most-educated and capable in all the world, receiving top-notch schooling all the way from primary to post-secondary. Indeed, there is a 1.36:1 ratio of women to men attending university, poising Canadian women to assume strong leadership roles in our society in the 21st century.

While there are many areas to be proud, there is one key category in which we are sorely lacking: political empowerment. What you're about to see is disappointing, to say the least.

That dotted vertical line, if you can't see what it means, denotes "equality." We have a very long way to go to reach that. Compare us with the country that is #1 in that area, Sweden (they're #1 overall, in case you're wondering), which has a 1:0.9 male/female ratio of representation and more female than male cabinet ministers. The Swedes have made significant strides when it comes to female political representation, and it is having a very strong positive effect on the way in which women are living their lives in that country. Swedish women earn 5% higher wages as a percentage of men's earnings than Canadian women do. Impeccable health care delivery, access, and opportunity, and get a load of this: they have a 102% enrollment rate in post-secondary education. Don't ask me how that's possible. They have a model for combatting prostitution that is the subject of study and envy in many places of the world--instead of criminalizing the victim, they put johns in jail.

I am highly optimistic about the trends and the future status of women in this country (if not the Status of Women for so long as the Conservatives continue flogging it). Education is the key piece of that puzzle. Societies which create positive learning environments flourish in many sectors: arts, economics, politics, sciences, and so much more. A society that fully permits and encourages both genders to participate in education will flourish at least twice as much as a country that does not. To this point in history, many women have worked twice as hard without reaping a proportionate level of benefits; now, with that work being compensated more fairly than in the past, and ever-increasing pushes for legitimate wage equality, their rewards will be enormous, and it is all of Canada that will prosper as a result. 21st century Canadian women still have yet to tap into their vast potential to claim their rightful place helping lead this country. When they do, we will all be much better off for it.

Happy December!

Already we've reached the final month of 2006. This year has been quite a whirlwind; has it really been 11 months since we started it? A lot has happened already, and there's still 30 days for memorable moments left to mark 2006.

While it's been a fast-paced 11 months, it's now been slightly more than 3 years since Liberal Leadership Convention 2003. Who, back in those euphoric-filled days, would have believed that it would take less than a full five-year term to deliver the final eulogy on Prime Minister Paul Martin? Certainly not this blogger. So fallen from grace is Martin that "his" evening at the '06 Convention barely elicits a mention from political pundits and former supporters; I didn't even watch the tribute, a far cry from Jean Chretien's send-off. I had a little chuckle the next day when I saw the news showing a "Chretien" towel being held up at the ACC, if only because it was me holding the towel. I think I still have it at home somewhere. That send-off was one of reverence for an able party manager and master politician, a man that had dedicated 40 years of his life to public service. I read today that people barely even mentioned Martin's term as PM, sticking only to "he was the greatest finance minister Canada's ever had."

While it will be a long time before I consider a return to the Liberal Party, I do admit that I miss the excitement and feeling of involvement that comes with attending a big convention. Seeing people that you see only when there's a big party party going on, shooting the political breeze, getting handed free swag like it's going out of style (which, of course, it does; anybody want a Paul Martin scarf? Ha!), moving to the front of the stage to show the enthusiastic support for the party leader, all that stuff. It's fun times. I hear that work even gets done at these things (though not always good work).

I do get a kick out of seeing familiar names, folks that most people have never heard of unless you're "on the inside," still working hard within the party. Alexander Swann was once Ann McLellan's top guy, now he's supporting Bob Rae. Sebastien Theberge used to work for Pierre Pettigrew, now he writes communiques for Michael Ignatieff. I wonder what David Brodie, who was Paul Martin's operations director while Martin a backbencher-plotting-his-coup, is up to these days. He was always really good to me and the other Kelowna Young Liberals, even taking me on a personalized tour of Parliament. Wiki says that he's supporting Gerard Kennedy in this race.

Anyways, that's my reminiscing of days gone by. Now the fun part: Bob Rae is my prediction to win this Leadership race. I would prefer just about anybody else (except Volpe or Brison), but I think that's where it's going to end up. Iggy or Dion would be my top two choices, FWIW. Enjoy the weekend, Liberals, but don't think that whomever you pick is automatically going to be the guy that topples Harper.