31 May 2006

Update on the Congo

CNN has posted an update on a story they ran last week and I discussed below. Action will be taken to stop the systemic violence perpetrated against the women of the Congo. This is good news of the highest order.

Kabila was quick to acknowledge that more than 300 former soldiers have been convicted and jailed for sexual crimes, but admitted that is not enough.
"We clearly need to do more for our citizens," he said.
"But just imagine for a moment a country as large as all of Western Europe with few roads and little infrastructure. It's a difficult terrain to police and Congo doesn't have an effective policing system. But after the election, all this will change. If elected, I will make this one of my first priorities."

30 May 2006

Vote for Me!

A hat-tip to my Dal colleague Riley for pointing out that I've been selected as a contestant in Warren Kinsella's "First-ever Iggy Ill-advised Translation Contest." Our task was to take the following paragraph and translate it into English:

"Devant eux, il n'a pas voulu élaborer sur le sujet, mais en point de presse, par la suite, il a indiqué quelques "vaches sacrées" auxquelles il voudrait s'attaquer: le financement du système de santé, le déséquilibre fiscal, le protocole de Kyoto et l'anti-américanisme, au premier chef."

Head over to Warren's site for the full info and my entry (I'm the second one listed), and then fill his email box with votes for me! I'll let you touch the book!

26 May 2006

Closer to Home

This morning I find myself reeling. A woman in an online feminist community in which I participate was raped by three men at knifepoint earlier this week. I
"know" this person only in the sense that I have shared thoughts and discussions in the same discussion forum as her. She is an intelligent, strongly-opinionated, and very bright person who wants, demands, and fights for a better world in which women are treated as equals and are no longer subjected and objectified by men. None of that mattered to three slime of the earth who held a knife at her throat and raped her.
It is the utter callousness of rape that is one of the many things about it which I find so repulsive. The perpetrators of rape simply do not give a shit about the woman's hopes, dreams, ambitions, worldviews. For them, all women are simply a means to an end: their self-gratification. It is the peak of their supposed and assumed entitlement to have sex with any woman at any time in any place, regardless of that woman's objections. To rape is to discard everything human about a woman and reduce her to a hole. It is the ultimate form of degradation, and I am disgusted at the sense of privelige that leads men to do this.

In her own words, "This should not have happened, to me, or to anyone else."

25 May 2006

Reality Check

Every now and again I encounter a news story that really shakes me to my foundations as a human being, and puts whatever day-to-day problems I deal with in perspective and see The Big Picture. This is the first in a wave of stories I hope to do in support of the One in Three Campaign to Raise Global Awareness About Violence Against Women.

Shortly after midnight last night CNN ran a story on what is happening in the Congo. Now, I'd previously read about what is happening there, including this story that prompted the TV story (watch the video link--it is deeply disturbing, but necessary to see). I vaguely knew about the 4 million people dead, the systemic rape of the country's women--12 per day in a single province, ethnic fighting that is fuelled by arms of the "state" itself, namely the military. Seeing the plight of these people, the women sheltered at hospital camps because if they stay in the cities they're likely to be gang-raped by soldiers patrolling the streets, was a really visceral point that honestly left me speechless for the better part of an hour afterwards. It is a testament to the power of television to truly alter our perceptions and attitudes. Hearing a testimony such as this:

Also in the room is 28-year-old Henriette Nyota. Her spirit is all but broken. Three years ago, she said, she was gang raped as her husband and four children were forced to watch. The men in uniform then disemboweled her husband and continued raping her and her two oldest daughters, 10 and 8. The assault went on for three days.
"I wish they'd killed me right there with my husband," she said, "What use am I now? Why did those animals leave me to suffer like this?"

It confirmed something that I have said many times over:
There is no such thing as an international community.

Mukengere [the town doctor], who attends to an average of 10 new cases a day, explains bed-by-bed the cruelty that has become the Congo.
"Helene, over there, is 19 years old. She first came here five years ago after having been raped," he said. "We treated her and discharged her, and off she went back to her home village. Five years later, she's back after being attacked and sexually violated over and over again. This is pure madness."

How can this be allowed to happen?

How can we stand by, with full knowledge, and let 4 million people just die? How can we allow soldiers to enter peoples' houses, rape a woman for hours while forcing her husband and children to watch, kill the husband, rape the children who are often between the ages of 8 and 12, and just before they leave, stick a knife in the woman or shoot her between the legs? How can we knowingly permit soldiers to abduct women and continuously rape them for over a week, leaving them broken psychologically and physically and wishing they were dead?
This is reality. This is actually happening as we speak. For people to claim that there is an international community while a significant segment of that community is being systematically killed and even worse (abused and degraded so badly, suffering such indignity, watching loved ones suffer violence and dying right in front, to the extent that they wish they were dead)...it all seems so hollow. If the authorities here, in Canada, know that a guy down the street is beating the shit out of women and killing them, they arrest him and stop it. But if we as an entire country know that a lot of guys marching and carrying out the orders of another state and doing so en masse in their country, nothing happens. Where is the doctrine of The Responsibility to Protect? Why is this a news story that only airs when most people are in bed? How can we claim that something like a global conscience exists when we stand by and allow this to happen so that we don't upset the delicate peace arrangements between warring factions?

"It's so tragic that the world can afford to sit back and let these atrocities continue like this," said aid worker Marie Walterzon of the Swedish Pentecostal Mission. "Possibly because it involves poor, voiceless Africans," she said.

Whatever the reasons, to ignore something like what is happening in the Congo betrays every principle of a common humanity.

20 May 2006

No More Environmental Hot Air from Canada

I, for one, welcome that the Canadian Government has finally stopped blowing hot air on the Kyoto Protocol. Listening to an environmentalist going off on George W. Bush on CTV NewsNet right now only reinforces that it's probably the right thing to do. She hasn't once mentioned that Canada's emissions are up dramatically and that we're an embarrassment to the entire process, it's all Bush-bashing. When critics of Canadian government policy have no recourse other than to slam the President of the United States, it means they have no salient "made-in-Canada" argument to speak of; hence, play up the anti-American card.
The simple fact is that the Liberal government defected from Kyoto very soon after the ink dried. I have often raised the point in debating this issue with colleagues: who is worse? The government that says no and develops its own alternative, or the one that says yes and then systematically ignores its international obligations while chastising the government that said no and has actually done a better job on the issue? If you said the one that says yes and proceeds with proselytizing its neighbour and friend, you win the prize. If one were to look at Canada & Kyoto through the prism of Robert Putnam's "two-level games" theory, we said yes at level I (international) and then did no at level II (domestic). It wasn't done involuntarily; Canada had a choice, and it chose to blow hot air for 8 years and do nothing. Our environmental record has been abysmal, and I'm glad that the Conservatives are finally injecting a dose of realism into our international politics discourse. The Liberals can cry until there's enough water to fill a small lake, the bottom line is that after 8 years it is literally impossible for this country to lower its emissions to a level that is 6% below the 1990s levels. They set out for a feel-good photo-op by setting our target 1% higher than the other developed states required to lower their emissions, allowing them to claim a moral high ground over both the United States (for not participating at all) and the rest of the world for going further. And then Chretien came home. The end.
The Liberals "plan" was to buy up carbon emissions credits en masse from developing countries so that we could still claim this moral high ground while the smog and pollution over Canadian skies got progressively worse. That is actually true. Even though our own emissions would still have skyrocketed--due to the lack of a coherent reduction plan--we technically could have "met" our targets by pumping billions of dollars into autocratic regimes in the developing world. This is the fundamental flaw of the Kyoto process, and of the Liberals' environment "policy strategy."
I am not giving the Conservatives a free pass on this. Their record in previous House votes on the environment is more than a little circumspect, and those who voted against Kyoto, crossed the floor, and claimed a conversion to loving the environment should be embarrassed. As yet, there has not been an alternative, "made-in-Canada" approach, and reports indicate that the government is exploring the option of pursuing the "Kyoto lite" Asia-Pacific Partnership with the United States, Australia, and others who rejected Kyoto because they were realistic in their appraisal of their ability to meet its requirements. Canada, apparently reading the dictionary that day, decided that in all situations photo-op comes before principle. In the process, the government made a mockery of the spirit of Kyoto, setting up the current government for the international thrashing it has received in recent days and weeks.
No more. I hope that a sustainable alternative is developed and that it is realistic in its prescriptions for targets and outcomes. It will be a refreshing breath of fresh air for a change.

19 May 2006

Ken Dryden Scores...

Too bad it's on his own team. In an article in today's Star, Dryden refers to Tuesday night's debate as less of an actual debate than an "exchange of rhetoric." That's true, but it was most of his Liberal colleagues and his voting partners in the NDP who were lobbing it.

18 May 2006

Results Over Process

I sat through five of the six hours of the debate last night. I am glad to see the result, that a plurality of our parliamentarians supported a two-year extension of Canada's mission in Afghanistan. This will give our troops and civilian leadership considerable time to plan a long-term, coherent strategy to help bring about the conditions for victory for Canada, the ISAF, and Afghanistan itself. It will facilitate the transfer of command of NATO operations for the year 2008 to Canada, allowing our role in this mission to be one of leadership that will reflect our shared values of democracy, human rights, and stability. The narrow result, 149-145, reflects the split in this country over the Afghanistan mission, and I am glad to see that the Conservative caucus and a large segment of the Liberal caucus, including its often-criticized leader, had the fortitude and courage of their convictions to support the mission.

Having said that, the actual debate was shameful and embarrassing to watch. It is clear that many of our parliamentarians are simply in over their head when talking about foreign and military affairs, as made evident by the lack of depth and true passion in what should have been a very serious, thoughtful, and evocative debate. On an issue that should have transcended narrow party lines and been a thorough discussion of Canada's role, objectives, and values, we got far too much partisanship and shallow, superficial commentary.
Going in to this debate, we all knew that the time for discussion and dialogue was limited to six hours. Whether or not this is long enough to have a genuinely satisfying and informative debate on an issue of such great importance, the behaviour of too many politicians betrayed that importance. I would imagine that if one were to tally up the amount of time used by opponents of the motion(mission?) to lament the fact there were only six hours, that the Dutch spent 10 months debating whether to extend their participation in ISAF, one would probably find that at least one hour was wasted. If you know that your time is limited, use it effectively to remain focused on the issue at hand. By the time you subtract that wasted use of speech and debate time, a six-hour debate became limited to five hours (at most) of actual important discussion. That is shameful, and Canadians deserve better. More importantly, because they are in harm's way, the Canadian Forces deserve better.
Another complaint that I had was that there was too much hair-splitting over whether Canadian Forces are in Afghanistan under the aegis of NATO/ISAF or the American Operation Enduring Freedom. Given the time constraints, does this really matter enough to justify expending even more time? One way or another, our military troops are involved in the pacification and reconstruction of Afghanistan. That means getting rid of the Taliban/al Qaeda remnants that still dream of re-taking Afghanistan. If we're shooting them in Alexa McDonough's so-called "search and kill" missions, good. It's not being done to help American imperialism, it's being done to help the people of Afghanistan. I realize that there are different command structures and probably rules of engagement, but the Taliban aren't going to stop shooting if we try to tell them that we're there under the NATO banner.
As I earlier said, there was too much "party line" involved in the discussion, and not enough emotion and depth to the debate. A lot of the questions and comments revolved around the same small number of themes, and there was no real discussion of what constitutes Canadian values vis-a-vis this mission. The NDP were the worst for this, as just about every one of their speakers sounded far too similar to Jack Layton (McDonough being an exception, since she's got senior statesman status in the party...but more on her in a minute), and betrayed Canadian history. It is true that we, at one time, had a stellar record when it came to UN-based peacekeeping. However, the "golden age" during the Pearson era has been extensively mythologized at the same time that Canada's participation in UN-based peacekeeping missions has steadily and drastically declined. Peacekeeping is a laudable goal, but without forward-leaning military force, there would be no "peace" to speak of in Afghanistan. It is proper and appropriate that Canadian Forces be employing counterinsurgency methods to bring security to the Kandahar region. So doing allows for the development programs and aid workers to continue their noble work without having to worry about being abducted and/or killed. The NDP may be scared by "boots on the ground," but victory cannot be achieved without it.
The NDP, in holding up the false idol of Canadian peacekeeping, overlook and seek to put the cover over Canada's proud history of military combat. Two World Wars, Korea, and the Persian Gulf War were major combat operations in which Canadian forces fought, killed, and died to protect our freedoms and values in the world. Contrary to what the NDP would like to portray, we do have a military legacy, and we are not just peacekeepers. Peter MacKay had a statement that he felt truly summed up the NDP:
"I do not expect members of the NDP to understand this. I fully expect that the Neville Chamberlains of the 21st century in the NDP do not want to be part of an effort that is aimed at elevating the lives of the people of Afghanistan."
On this one, I'm wary. Having spoken against Munich references in the past, it would be inconsistent of me to endorse this one. I understand that the NDP has a more pacifist ring to it, but I dunno. It's a straw man, and not one that is particularly generous.
Trading blue berets/helmets for Canadian soldier helmets does far more for global security and justice. The professionalism of the CF has been tremendous throughout the past four and a half years; they have carried out every mission required of them, and have ably and demonstrably fulfilled the conditions of the "three block war" that Canada's 2005 International Policy Statement defines as essential to modern deployments.
The partisanship of the night was at a low level for the most part, until just before 10pm ADT, when Liberal MP Ruby Dhalla took the floor and said the following:
"Mr. Speaker, when we look at Canada's reputation, for many years we, as a country and as a nation, have been the champions of human rights, of peace, of stability, of diplomacy and of democracy throughout the world. The Liberal Party and the previous Liberal governments have always been a champion in ensuring that those rights are upheld, along with our international reputation.
It is quite interesting that in the last 100 days, since the new Conservative government has been in power, Conservative members are all of a sudden concerned about our international reputation and Canada's foreign policy. If this was a priority for the government, why was it not listed as one of the top five priorities that Mr. Harper wanted to address? In addition to this--"

This, simply put, disgusted me. The Speaker cut her off and the response from the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Deepak Obhrai, was rightly justified in its tone and anger. Foreign and military policy is much too important to engage in blatant partisanship at its worst. It would be far too easy to shred every claim she made in her statement, but I'll leave that to any commenters. Canada's international reputation and foreign policy are not the sole purview of a single political party, and demagoguing on Harper's top five priorities is completely inappropriate to a debate on Canada's ongoing military participation in Afghanistan. She should be ashamed of herself and I truly hope that Bill Graham, as leader of the Liberal Party, gave her a stern lecture on how to conduct oneself in a debate of national and personal importance. Peoples' lives are on the line, and to launch into a spiel on election campaign platitudes is unacceptable behaviour.
Dhalla's absurd outburst brings me to my next point: given this was only a six-hour debate, where were the 'A-teams' for the majority of the time? This debate was largely conducted by the 'B-' and even 'C-teams' of all the parties, many of whom were simply over their head and not aptly suited to debate Canadian military and foreign policy on the level that it deserves. Where was Michael Ignatieff? I saw him sitting in his back-row seat for about twenty minutes during the fifth hour to listen to a colleague, but a cursory examination of Hansard reveals that he only made one statement, one that is profound and should have merited a lengthy discussion and evaluation:
"I support the mission precisely because it is the moment where we have to test the shift from one paradigm, the peacekeeping paradigm, to a peace enforcement paradigm that combines military, reconstruction and humanitarian effort together. I have been to Afghanistan and I believe this new paradigm can work."
That is the type of debate I truly wanted to see, a forceful and engaging discussion on what Canada should be doing, not only in Afghanistan, but everywhere that it commits its soldiers. Where was Paul Martin? The former prime minister did not even make an appearance during the debate and was not present for the vote. Given that it was under his leadership that the mission was extended (without a vote in Parliament), he obviously had good reasons for wanting to maintain Canada's presence in Afghanistan, and his insights and contributions would have been much more compelling and interesting than listening to partisan blather from C-teamers like Ruby Dhalla. For such an important debate, to see the House at least half-empty for at least half the debate was discouraging. I don't expect it to be a full audience for the full six hours (though I would have been there for all of it), but that was almost painful to watch. Our troops and our foreign policy deserve better than a half-assed effort from our country's so-called leaders, and they deserve better than being left in the hands of local politicians who are clearly over their heads.

17 May 2006

Extend the Mission

Today is a big test for Canada's commitment--rather, the commitment of Canada's politicans--to the war on terror. It's such a big test that I'm going to take the afternoon off from writing my thesis to watch as much of the debate as possible. Since yesterday's announcement of a vote on extending the mission until 2009 (see below for my original comments), it has been learned that the reason behind holding the vote now is because Canada has been asked to assume command of the entire sphere of Operation Enduring Freedom in 2008. We would be taking over from the British, who are taking over from the Americans. It is thus all the more crucial that Canada reveal its plans now; our actions have an impact on the decision-making process of our allies. The sooner they know where we stand, the sooner we can coordinate with them to build a strategy for the reconstruction of Afghanistan.
Already we know that the NDP will be voting against extending the mission. No big surprise there. We can probably also expect a significant contingent of the Bloc to vote against it. It is from the Liberals, however, that I find the comments most troubling. Ujjal Dosanjh, unaware of the NATO ramifications, said this: "I don't know what has intervened between then and now to make this urgent now." I'm willing to give him the benefit of the doubt, and assume that he made this comment before the news broke that Canada has been asked to lead the Afghanistan mission. That would constitute a pretty significant "intervention," so hopefully that is the case.
John McCallum, however, said this: "Stephen Harper would like to divide our party. I can tell you that there is absolutely no reason other than Conservative politics that any decision had to be made now. . . . speaking from my time as defence minister and with NATO, some advance planning is needed, but nowhere near this much time."
No, no reason at all. It's all about the politics. The crass attitude that some Liberals have been displaying towards our military forces has been steadily increasing, and to suggest that there is any reason beyond mere partisan politics for committing Canadian troops--that's Canadians, not Conservatives--is breathtakingly appalling. How about giving the CF, the DND, and our allies a clear signal of our intentions beyond February 2007? I know it sounds like a long way off, but in reality it's only nine months from now. Better to give more time to devise better strategies, coherent policies, and stronger demonstrations of commitment to seeing this mission to its successful conclusion than to put it all together as the clock runs out. Canada's military deserves to be treated better than a university term paper. Extend the mission now, and use the additional time to coordinate all of our resources and work with our allies.

It's readily obvious that Afghanistan will not be a fully stabilized, peaceful democracy by February 2007. The question for Canadians is thus: do we extend the mission by two years to continue with our important contributions, or do we exit the country and leave it to other states to rebuild that nation?
For myself, the answer is easy. We stay the course, and we finish what we started back in 2001. This is not the easy way out for Canada. It will be difficult, there will be challenges, and there will, sadly, also be casualties. To signal that Canada will withdraw its troops at the earliest opportunity is to signal that we are not serious about the commitments we make to other countries and to our NATO allies. It will indicate that we are not interested in fighting the war on terror until such time as we are directly attacked by al-Qaeda or any of the offspring groups that have spawned in its wake since 9/11. Make no mistake: Canada has been targeted by Osama bin Laden. Of the 20 states he has listed as being potential targets for terrorist strikes, we are one of two that has not yet been hit. CSIS has unequivocally stated that it is only a matter of time until an attempt is made. To pull out of Afghanistan before we have defeated and eliminated the threat posed by al Qaeda and the Taliban is to take a reckless risk with the lives of Canadians and the citizens of our allies.
To hear the comments made from some Liberal leadership candidates who want to get us out of Afghanistan prematurely is disheartening and sends the wrong message to our troops, our allies, and the enemy. A recent Globe article discussed how the Taliban views Canada's public opinion as soft, and if enough attacks are perpetrated and enough soldiers killed or wouned, Canadians will start to demand we end the mission early. Considering that it was the Liberals who first voted to get us into the war on terror's initial front, to hear them being the first prominent party raising calls for withdrawal demonstrates a lack of resolve and commitment. This used to be the party of Mackenzie King and Lester Pearson. The more Liberals who call for bringing the troops home before the mission is complete, the more they tarnish that legacy and lose credibility in laying claim to being its heirs.
Canada does not look to take the easy way out. Not the Canada that I know and am so deeply proud of being a citizen. Hopefully this latest debate will bolster the spines of our elected officials and give them the resolve to see this mission to its conclusion. The people of Afghanistan are depending on us, our NATO allies are depending on us, and if Canadians truly value the "international community" they will choose to be a part of it.

13 May 2006

For activists, women < Cows/Environment

Such is the message I perceived when viewing the glaring headline and photo on the front page of Saturday's Post. This is troublesome, not only for the umpteenth reminder that sex sells, but for the inherent contradictions that these activist organizations are displaying when using women to promote their agendas.
The PETA ad, reducing a nude woman to a piece of meat is the same tactic used by pornographers everywhere, in order to promote the idea that reducing animals to a piece of meat is evil. We're bad for doing it to cows in order to eat them and thus stay alive, but apparently PETA finds it acceptable to do it to women in order to "prove" that point. I guess that explains why Pamela Anderson is important to their organization, she's been participating in her own exploitation for so long that she's almost desensitized as to who is using her. Whether it's Kanye West in need of a new trophy to show off in his latest video or the "We Hate Canada" coalition opposed to the seal hunt, you can always count on Pam's boobs to help support the cause.
The Greenpeace stunt: notice the onlooking leering men, particularly the one escorting her along the runway (and is that Tony Blair in the background?); are they reading the sign or are they staring at her? Either way, the message is almost completely overshadowed by the fact there's a semi-nude woman along the runway, and that always gets guys to pay attention...what was the cause again? Oh right, something about pulp mills. Protecting the environment is a noble cause, exploiting female sexuality to do so is not.
What exactly is the purpose of the "Sexiest Vegetarian" ad? I don't see a plate of carrots and celery, so how is one to draw the conclusion that she even is a vegetarian? For all intents and purposes, it's just another model being used for her body. Don't eat meat, just stare at the "pieces" that are put before you; the only problem with that concept is that women are more than pieces of meat. They are people who have thoughts and feelings and ambitions; this ad doesn't demonstrate that anymore than the fact that she's a vegetarian. Although, that striped pillow she's leaning on looks an awful lot like a raccoon skin; better alert the naked PETA woman!
The causes that Greenpeace and PETA fight for are laudable, and speak to issues that go beyond human existence, recognizing that there is more to this world than ourselves. But these causes place a higher value on cows and baby seals and greenhouse gas emissions than they do on people, and in my estimation, people should come first. Using women as props, exploiting them and reducing them to objects of male fantasy in order to get men to pay attention for a fleeting moment doesn't work because they're too busy staring at the woman! To promote a cause greater than humanity by exploiting women neglects and reduces them to levels less than human. And folks, that ain't right.
How about that Oilers game last night!!! A fantastic crowd and a great bit of playoff hockey. This series has been awesome (especially when compared to the others) and I hope that it goes the distance. It'll mean a tired team against a well-rested Anaheim squad, but wow what hockey. Too bad that the Avs got swept; on balance it makes the Theodore trade look more in Montreal's favour since they aren't on the hook for his salary anymore and he didn't pull a Patrick Roy and win the Stanley Cup only months after being traded. They're not likely to keep both Huet and Aebischer, given that CH39 is up for a decent raise and Aebischer makes $1.9M, too much for a guy that will be in the back-up role. I think that he will be let go (thus making the deal really a dump Theo trade) and the Habs will have Huet and Yann Danis next season. Any thoughts on that?

Otherwise an uneventful week. Got a whole bunch of new books and wrote a good chunk of the thesis, not too much else going on. Harper's still making the Liberals look bad, and this much-speculated-about concept of the federal government suing the Liberals for any potential outstanding money from the sponsorship scandal could have legs to it. Maybe I'll write something on the subject after it's developed a little more, until then it's all speculation and the usual Liberal spin-cycling.

10 May 2006

Canada Elected to Latest Useless UN Talk Shop

Congratulations to Canada for being elected to the new UN Human Rights Council. For those who haven't heard of this new UN body, it's the one that is replacing the old regime, the UN Human Rights Commission, which was plagued by legitimacy problems after electing Libya to chair it and its members voted off the United States so that Syria could get a seat. Thumbs up to the UN for realizing that cynicism can only run so deep before even the states with the greatest proclivities for having a fetish of UN-based multilateralism had to throw their hands up in disgust.
This new body is greatly different from the old one, and will go much further in promoting human rights causes around the world. With such a stellar membership that also includes Saudi Arabia, Cuba, China, and Pakistan...oh, really? The Saudis are on there? An authoritarian regime that systemically denies women any source of freedom or rights to women, that is a spawning ground for Islamist terrorism, and has been recommended for its own membership slot in the "axis of evil" is on a council that advocates human rights. Cuba's there? Castro managed to get himself a spot in there so that he can spew forth his anti-American rhetoric to deny away the reality that his people are living in abject poverty?
But there is a bright side to all of this. Venezuela and Iran failed to make the cut! Those are the actual words of the President of Human Rights Watch, Kenneth Roth. I'm not making this up. Sure it's great that Hugo Chavez won't get to ape Castro on the Council, and yeah it is for the best that an authoritarian regime that has vowed to eliminate an entire segment of the human population from the planet didn't get any representation. But look at the list of names that DID make it! These are the types of states that Canada gets to work with to make the world a better place for human beings!?! I also notice that Ghaddafi's Libya isn't on the list, I suppose we should throw a parade for that too.
There's only so much cynicism I can take. In my opinion, any state that does not have any accountability to its citizens, does not respect the rule of law, and does not have the institutions and traditions and spirit of democracy has no place on a world body that is supposed to be standing up for human rights. To see a state such as Saudi Arabia on that list absolutely makes my stomach turn, and sets the groundwork for the new body to be as ineffective and corrupt as the old one.

**Update** 5/11: Lead editorial in today's National Post essentially says the same thing I'm saying, and even goes further by listing 15 suspect members of the Council. Doesn't bother mentioning the United States because they're not on the Council, and thus not important to the discussion at hand, but if any hysterics want to vent their anger at Washington go bug them.

08 May 2006

Books and Papers Everywhere!

It's amazing, I started off this day feeling really uninspired, but a quick trip to Chapter's has definitely changed that. I bought three books and a journal (American Interest) and ordered two more through their online service. Since I got home just over an hour ago I've already read a significant chunk (ok the first chapter) of Richard N. Haass's The Opportunity: America's Moment to Alter History's Course. It's a fantastic book and has squeezed its way into the lit review section of my MA thesis; I've already written a couple of pages on that particular item and hope to get even more done by the end of the day. I love it when this happens!
Just in case anybody is interested, and if you've read these books by all means feel free to chip in some commentary and thoughts--who knows, you may get an acknowledgment in the final copy of the thesis!--this is what I've picked up:
Acheson, Dean. Present at the Creation.
Allison, Graham. Nuclear Terrorism: The Ultimate Preventable Catastrophe.
Keegan, John. The Iraq War.
Muravchik, Joshua. The Imperative of American Leadership.

06 May 2006

Support for Afghan Mission Plunges

This is something of an update to my April 9 post, where I talked about the Taliban's offensive and their belief that Canadian support for the mission in Afghanistan was soft and that forcing casualties would damage the soft underbelly of Canada's Afghanistan policy--the Canadian public. Since that post, this has come to light:

"About 54 per cent of those polled oppose or strongly oppose Canadian involvement, compared with 41 per cent in mid-March. Negative sentiment has grown sharply in Quebec, where 70 per cent of respondents are against sending troops to Afghanistan, compared with 53 per cent two months ago."

This is bad, very bad. A debate in Parliament, increased focus on the mission after the tragic death of four soldiers and media feud with Harper over their funerals, and new money for the Canadian military in the budget have all had a negative effect on public support for our important presence in Afghanistan. The poll results are very upsetting and I'm disappointed to see that Canadians are turning their backs on the Forces, the mission, our commitment to our allies, and to the people of Afghanistan.
Who Wants a Mug?

Your task is to email: captions@nationalpost.com and come up with a "funny" caption that summarizes what is happening in the above picture. My entry:

"Pornographer Revels in 50+ Years of Degrading Women."

Words cannot describe how much I hate this man. This creep has made a fortune via the prostitution and exploitation of women, going a long way to create the idea that all women just want to get naked and have sex with men on a whim. His "great contribution" to society has been to perpetuate inequality and disrespect for an entire gender. Worse still, since the dawn of the Playboy era, the rape rate in North America has increased by 400% and global violence against women has accelerated to the extent that one in three women "around the world will be raped, beaten, coerced into sex or otherwise abused in her lifetime."

How does Hefner feel about this? He thinks it's funny, wacky, and part of a natural loving relationship. He's wrong on all three counts, and to see him and his rag making light of rape is despicable. So I encourage everybody who reads this blog to send in their caption and thoughts on Hefner's birthday celebration. Make sure to not say "thank you" for the work he's done. Asshat.

**Update** 5/13: Well I didn't win, instead this comment did: “$100,000 on plastic surgery and all we got is sex with an old guy.” Silly me for not making fun of the women who felt compelled to alter themselves because "the system" tells them that the only way to get a boy's attention is to be a silicone doll with long blonde hair. I really wanted that mug!

04 May 2006

Mandatory Minimum Sentencing

I am very pleased to see the Conservative government take action and introduce a bill legislating mandatory minimum sentencing for violent offences. This is another part of Stephen Harper's five-point checklist, and one which will resonate well with a large segment of the population that is tired of seeing violent offenders receive a slap on the wrist for their heinous crimes. There is one shortcoming that I have noticed so far, which may be due to the ambiguities of the news reports in their summation of the changes in the laws regarding violent sexual offences. As such I have written to the Justice Minister, Vic Toews, and the Minister of Public Safety, Stockwell Day, seeking clarification. That letter is re-printed below.

Dear Honourable Ministers,
I applaud the tabling of the two bills by the Government today that introduce mandatory minimum sentences for a wide range of criminal offences. These measures are important in providing safer streets in Canadian cities and a greater sense of security for Canadians. I do have one question regarding sentencing for rape, sexual assaults, sexual assaults on minors, and the distribution and possession of pornography and child pornography, which I hope that you can clarify.
The news reports I have read are somewhat ambiguous on these major offences that primarily target women and young children, making mention of eliminating house arrests for those violent offenders who prey on women and children and that there are maximum sentences for such crimes. My question is thus: will there be mandatory minimum sentences imposed on violent offenders who commit rape, sexual assault, and engage in prostitution/child prostitution-related activities?
Having increased my awareness of the alarming figures on rape, sexual assaults, pornography, and prostitution in Canada and North America generally, which clearly demonstrate a profoundly negative effect on our society and create a significant feeling of insecurity among women and children, I hope that this Government will take strong action on these violent offenders. I am appalled that the Youth wing of the federal Liberal Party has advocated the decriminalization of prostitution, effectively legitimating the deplorable conduct of the people who treat women and children as commodities to be bought and sold, depriving those people of their hopes, dreams, and personal spirit in order to make a profit from their bodies. I am even more appalled that the so-called "grown-ups" in that party have not repudiated that measure unequivocally and stood by for 13 years as the number of rapes, sexual assaults, and recruiting of women and children into the sex slave trade dramatically increased.
Your Government is in a tremendous position to stand up for Canadians and say,"No more. No more women and children will be forced to suffer in silence and live with injustice because their government failed to protect them." I urge you both to take action to protect Canadians by clarifying the Government's position on mandatory minimum sentencing for violent sexual offenders. I look forward to hearing a response from you, and truly appreciate your taking the time to read this letter.
Sincerely yours,
Richard McAdam
Paul Martin Lives!

I haven't seen the most famous footnote in Canadian political history since he conceded defeat way back in January. He's speaking in the House right now, trumpeting, what else, the Liberals' child-care plan over the Harper plan to give parents money so that they can have options in raising their kids they way they see fit. He seems so much more at ease and calm without the burden of being PM weighing him down. Much less rhetoric, more focus, a more serious and intelligent tone. It's good to see him back in the House; rumour had it that after the election and his resignation he'd be about as reclusive as a groundhog, peeking his head out once a year to check to see if he still had a shadow. He's making a good case for the national daycare thing and early learning; had he done a better job of doing that during the campaign instead of zonking out and talking about the notwithstanding clause, he may well still be in power. But he's not, and there's probably only myself and other CPAC nerds still watching him.
The War for Children's Hearts and Minds...and your tax dollars

This is from today's National Post:

In one verbal slinging match, Human Resources Minister Diane Finley slammed Liberal MP Carolyn Bennett, who had dismissed the government plan to create child-care spaces as inadequate, for implying in a television interview that parents who want to raise their children at home will be “bringing up future criminals.”
Ms. Bennett, a feisty family doctor who is seeking the leadership of the Liberal party, insisted research shows that for every dollar spent on early learning and childhood, “we will save $7 later in special education and corrections, and you know that.”

Really? You really said that eh? I was raised at home, I turned out OK and I don't need any special education training. Same with all of my sisters, none of whom have a criminal record either. I'm pretty sure that most of my cousins who were raised at home aren't mentally deficient or escaped convicts either. Now, we McAdams are a special and exceptional bunch, no doubt about that, but to suggest that a generation of dumbasses and criminals is in the offing because the rest of the young Canadians out there don't get to go to a fancy government-run daycare is not only presumptuous but it is insulting to every parent. Why doesn't she just bring up the "beer and popcorn" line?
It is this type of "I'm from the government and I'm here to help" attitude that really puts me off. I remarked to a couple of colleagues during the election campaign that it was if Canada woke up one morning and decided to have a national daycare program as an urgent necessity. I don't buy it. Parents have been experts at raising kids a lot longer than the researchers have been devising ways to raise kids. Don't want to put your kids in state-run daycare? Might as well arrest you now for harbouring a soon-to-be-known criminal. Give me a break!
The Liberals have this outrage that the Conservative plan for child care only gives parents $1200 a year so that they can make their choice; it's not meant to be a 100% subsidy, that's not how Conservatives (neo-liberal economists) operate, and all those rich parents in Vancouver & Toronto with double incomes and massive houses and luxury cars who are complaining about the high costs of their daycare centre are missing the point entirely. Maybe instead of adding the extra bathroom in the guest house they could focus more on their children's development? I don't have kids, but if I did, I'd be more than happy to receive the Harper kiddie bucks and make my own decisions, say thanks for the extra help, and be on my way, than have to be compelled to drop my kid off at some multi-billion dollar government entity. What happened to the days when Liberals didn't feel it was their duty to interfere in the bedrooms of Canadians? Now it's the whole house they want to get involved with.
Further, given that Dr. Bennett (a favourite of my buddy Riley) is a declared candidate in the Liberal leadership race, she's risking alienating that segment of the Liberal Party who may not believe that just because the government isn't babysitting their kids, the little ones are going to turn into criminals. I was always on the right wing of the party when I was a member, and if I heard a comment like that you can bet she wouldn't be getting my support. Since I'm no longer a member, she doesn't have it anyways but she's certainly shot herself in the foot with some who may have otherwise.

03 May 2006

Well I'm still trying to cope with the Habs' devastating overtime loss that eliminated them from the playoffs last night. What a truly sad way to go out: a sixty-footer that went off a D-man's stick to handcuff Huet. The former spare part in the Radek Bonk trade was phenomenal for the entire series and the latter half of the regular season, and he truly deserved a better fate. It's a shame that goaltenders can't score because if they could, Huet would have done that too. My guess is that he's in for a four-fold raise and will be making just over $2M next season for his efforts. That may leave Aebischer in an unfavourable situation, having to play back-up after being the #1 guy in Colorado since Roy's departure. Such is life. From this point, I'm rooting for the Flames, Sens, and Avalanche. I'd love to see Theodore do well in Colorado after having a rough season in Montreal; he's a great guy and his contributions to the Canadiens will never be forgotten by this life-long fan. It's presently 2 minutes into Game 7 of the Calgary/Anaheim game...GO FLAMES GO!!!

Not too much else happening in my world today. I worked on the thesis a bunch, got about 4-5 pages done today alone. I was planning to take a week off after a gruelling semester to recharge, but a lot of debate & discussion with some friends has really got my creative and intellectual energies flowing. Have to write while the writing is good, right? All told, I think I've got around 50 pages or so done in terms of original draft material. Given the way my editing goes, by the time I'm done altering it I'll have closer to 60. That's a really great thing given that it's only May 3rd!!! So yeah, lots of great Truman/Bush stuff happening here. I picked up an 1100-page biography on HST (not the sales tax) today, written by William McCullough, skimmed it a bit and rather like it. I'd really like to get my hands on a copy of Acheson's memoirs and Kennan's American Diplomacy, if anybody out there has it in good shape drop me a line and maybe we can make a deal.

02 May 2006

Holy Overhaul Batman!

Yeah I re-did the place. I've been using the same template for almost two years now and felt it's long overdue for a change in appearance. Notice the new pic and the additional links too. You like?

BTW, budget announcement was spectacular. Harper & co. have done a fantastic job with their first effort, and even the media is acknowledging that there are tax cuts in the budget that will have a positive effect for just about every single Canadian. The GST cut is obviously the major highlight, but this $1000 credit for all employees (time to find a job!), credit for transit users (where's my receipt, Anna Lou!), the child-care benefit, etc. goes way beyond what a lot of people were expecting. And there's still an $8 billion surplus! I'd like to see a combination of debt repayment, extra funding for the military, and some increases to social spending. If Harper wants to tackle the fiscal imbalance, it doesn't bode well for federal-provincial relations if he's sitting on a pile of money that would make Scrooge McDuck envious and the provinces are still struggling to stay out of the red while cutting health care/PSE/etc.

For a first effort, it's a good one. There's always room for improvement, but I like this concept that "for every $1 in new spending, we're putting $2 back in the pockets of Canadians." I don't know if it's true, but it certainly beats "I'm entitled to my entitlements."

Last note, I've got a Conservative Party of Canada application filled out and sitting on my kitchen counter, waiting to be mailed. I'm really *that* close to fulfilling Stockwell Day's prophecy made in mid-2004: "You seem like an intelligent young man, hopefully one day you'll be on our side." If only he knew eh?

01 May 2006


Having read this from today's Globe and Mail, it seems to me that too many students are grooming themselves for careers in the Liberal Party and believe that they're "entitled to their entitlements." Just because a student is paying more for their university education does not mean they automatically deserve an A for their dollars. A's are given out for effort, significant effort, and a demonstrated excellence and achievement in understanding and expressing concepts/theories/etc. and making them relevant to current discussions.
Full disclosure: I am an A student, I just wrapped up the course section of my Master's degree in political science, and I have done work as a Teaching Assistant. Thus I have some understanding of what is required in order for a student to receive an A in their coursework. Simply showing up for class and "working hard" is not enough; it will merit at least a B in many cases, but in order to achieve an A one must go the extra mile and deliver term papers and exam responses and class discussion comments that exceed what was taught in class and demonstrate a complete understanding of the core concepts and principles involved in their work.
Term papers must illustrate considerable research and be delivered with great care to remain on-topic and focused at the task at hand. Too many students these days consider a web stop at Wikipedia to be "research." They are wrong. Research means poring over a number of resources that have academic merit, and articles that are peer-reviewed (i.e. journal articles and essays). A source that, in its biography of Canada's Prime Minister on the night of his election, refers to people as "douchebags" does not have that merit. Not only must one digest all of these readings, they must also harmonize them to support the central argument of their paper. Often I've encountered papers that rely too heavily on their resources, to the extent that they replace the voice of the paper's author. Such work does not merit an A, in my opinion.
Exams are not mere "tests" in which one can "wing it" or BS their way through and legitimately expect an A as a result. Questions cannot be answered vaguely or incompletely; they must be focused, use relevant and specific examples to support contending premises, and be written clearly and concisely. That last point is often greatly overlooked, and I have been astounded at the poor grasp of the English language demonstrated by many upper-level students. If one cannot express the language at a level of excellence how can they credibly expect to receive a mark of excellence? Having been in seminar classes for much of the year, I hate exams and much prefer being given a take-home test or being assigned another essay. Being on the spot, having to answer important questions in a limited time frame, it is difficult to focus and streamline all of one's knowledge. Thinking about the exam I wrote last week, I can now clearly draft ideas and add concepts that hadn't occurred to me in the freakin' hockey arena which would have made for a better exam result. I probably didn't get an A on it, and while that chokes me, it's largely because I couldn't get all my ideas and knowledge down on the page. But I'm not about to burst into my professor's CRC office and demand an A "because I'm a grad student" or "because I didn't have enough time to add/couldn't think of Krasner's thought." Students need to realize that in order to achieve an A, they have to have work that is at a consistent level of excellence. A turned-in paper may have promise to be modified to become an A paper, but papers are not graded on what they could be, but what they are.
Would it be nice and happy and fluffly if everybody got an A in class? Yes. Is it credible? No. Having marked in the neighbourhood of 250-300 student assignments this year, it would be a travesty to have given all of those students an A for their efforts. It's simple: if you need an A to get into law school or med school or grad school, write papers/exams like an A student and focus like an A student. You're not entitled to an A in a class because you've always gotten A's in other classes, your reputation does not precede you and you don't get it because of who you are, you get it because of what you do and how well you do it.