30 November 2006

When "Me" Can Be Better Than "We"

It's kinda funny to a guy like me when I see political hacks like Howard Dean try to establish a dichotomy between his party and his opponents, particularly when that dichotomy can very easily be manipulated and turned against you. Thus, when he established his Democrats and by implication Canada's Liberals as the "parties of we" to stand in steadfast opposition to the deleterious policies of the "parties of me," the Republicans and that gosh-darned Stephen Harper's Conservatives, I couldn't help but think of some ways in which "me" can be more productive than "we." It is, of course, not an absolute standard, as I do like the idiom that "the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few, or the one," but when we're talking politics, creating extreme poles and dichotomies on which people rest because of their particular party association is a dividing and potentially dangerous maneuver.

"Together, we Liberals passed the Kyoto Accord and did nothing about it for almost a full decade, and then, when we lost power because we ran the most inept and pathetic election campaign in a generation, we decided it was time we should at least say something about it."

"For an environmentally-conscious person like me, riding the bus is my small contribution to stemming emissions."

"We abandoned our ally on a crucial global security initiative after we extracted all sorts of concessions and pledges and indicated that we would participate in it."

"Me, I'm just one guy that supports what Canada is doing to fight terrorism, and that's why I send Christmas cards off to the troops and why I support my Government's policy."

"We were in power for 12 years and we promised to bring in a national daycare program. We know what's best for Canada's children, and let's face it, we know that when you do it because you're all about "me, me, me" the children turn out to be criminals."

"The Government of Canada, under Stephen Harper, has entrusted me to raise my kid responsibly, and is giving me a modest contribution to help that effort. One hundred bucks a month isn't a lot of money in the grand scheme of things, but I tell ya, it'll help me out with stuff like food and school supplies for the little fella."

On a closing note, like Riley said, there was nothing in Dean's speech that was so emotive and inspirational that it couldn't have been said by any number of Canadian luminaries.

I Am Still Alive

Eight days?! Yipes. Luckily, there is much fun to talk about today.
  • Warren is going to end up humbling and humiliating some people who seem to richly deserve it as he makes his way to Montreal. Reminds me a little bit of the guy who took the photograph of the dummy peeing on the War Memorial on Canada Day. Some folks are going to be running to the nearest TV station to do some profuse apologizing. Something about annoying frat boys at Leadership Conventions...
  • The G&M story that I had emailed myself earlier to blog about is constantly changing. It began as a tale about rallying the leftist Young Liberals to various leadership campaigns, and has now morphed into a story about fundraising. Running to the YLC is what caused me to abandon Martin, it may cause other thinking young liberals (note the distinction) to do the same with their candidates. However, the YLC, like all children, loves candy, and no doubt there is "ear candy" being handed out left, left, and more left.
  • I encourage everybody at some point in their life to read The Beauty Myth by Naomi Wolf. An amazing book that is further broadening my horizons when it comes to feminism, the women's movement, and the push for real equality in our society. By that same token, for shame on the Conservatives for shutting down Status of Women Canada regional offices.
  • I got a nice letter from the Faculty of Graduate Studies at Dalhousie today wishing me congratulations for getting through my graduate program. That was a nice little gesture that has really made my day. They didn't even ask for my non-existent money.
  • My Habs are doing fantastic, sitting fourth in the East and chasing the Sabres for the Northeast Division. Huet has the best save percentage and goals-against-average in the NHL, and I am thus perplexed as to why he is not even on the ballot for the All-Star Game. Boooo-urns!
  • It was Anna Lou's birthday yesterday. We had a nice, low-key evening together, very enjoyable. And then we forgot to put the cake back in the fridge. Ha! Happy birthday, m'love!

22 November 2006

Panda Porn?! Really?

It's bad enough that a generation of young male humans is learning that pornography is sex, but now we're teaching pandas this lesson as well.

“It works,” enthuses Zhang Zhihe, a leading Chinese expert, about showing uninitiated males DVDs of fellow pandas mating.

Also, much like male humans, when exposed to pornography these male pandas become increasingly violent towards their female counterparts.

"In captivity, with no male rivals around, pandas often take out their aggression on the female."

Honestly, you'd think that nobody in the history of the universe had ever done a study that found a causal link between exposure to pornography and aggression against women that is stronger than that between smoking and lung cancer. Which, of course, is not true, since such evidence can be found right here. I'm not about to embark on a mission to save the pandas from pornography, but honestly, there are some things that just reek of such stupidity that I can't believe somebody hatched the idea. Sorta like the Democratic Congressman that's openly musing about re-instituting the draft down in the U.S.

21 November 2006

A Dream that Re-Writes History

I had a very strange dream last night. It was February 2005 and I was a delegate at the Liberal Party's biennial policy convention. This is already alternate history stuff, as I didn't have an extra thousand bucks kicking around to get to Ottawa for the weekend. Anyways, I was there and after reading the draft of the Quebec Young Liberals' anti-BMD resolution, I used my standing as a riding association Policy Chair to get a 5-minute meeting with Prime Minister Paul Martin (apparently in dreams riding association policy chairs from ridings that haven't elected a Liberal since 1968 are empowered) to convince him of the folly of going along with the resolution and the repercussions that it would have.
I told him that caving in to the demands of the party's leftist youth wing would not be good for the country, and that he had to focus on the best interest of the Canadian Government instead of the Liberal Party. Let Parliament, not a political party convention, decide Government policy. If he did an about-face and denounced his stated position, he'd be pilloried as the "John Kerry of Canada" and portrayed as a weak, indecisive party manager instead of a strong, confident leader that could rally party opinion to his view. I reminded him that if he played ball with the Americans on security, he could probably get some concessions on softwood lumber much like the Australians got a free trade deal when they signed on for BMD. Obviously a lot of what I know in November 2006 influenced this set-in-February 2005 dream, but I told him that it would be the beginning of the end for his term as Prime Minister if he said no to BMD just because a small segment of his party was pushing him to do it. (Wow I said a lot in five minutes)

The PM listened to what I said, and told me that he would take that advice to heart in advance of his convention address later that afternoon, the day before all resolutions were voted on. He also told me to get in touch with a couple people who could arrange some employment stuff. Anyways, at the end of it all, he announced that whatever the result of the party's convention vote on BMD, he would still support the measure on a vote in the House of Commons and would devote considerable time and attention to explaining the case for cooperating with Washington.

I wish that there was a flash-forward for the next few months to see how history would have been altered, what the result of the 2006 election would have been (would there have been a 2006 election?), whether PMPM would still be around, and all the other "what could have been" counterfactual stuff, but the alarm clock had to go off at some point, I guess. Like I said, very strange. I've barely even spoken the name "Paul Martin" in the past couple months, having a dream about potentially saving his career was just plain bizarre.

18 November 2006

Thoughts after Reading Mark Steyn in the Post

This week the National Post has been running excerpts from Mark Steyn's new book, America Alone. The book is one of the few out there that remains supportive of the mission of the Bush Administration and the United States that actually receives some media coverage. The writing is insightful and interesting, if not strictly academic, which can be very refreshing if you're someone who is remaining supportive of the Bush Administration and the United States and have written a 100+ page thesis doing exactly that. As usual, I've got some comments to make after reading Steyn, something which I'm hoping to do at greater length in the short future (yes, I'm giving out hints for Xmas presents).

The nature of the international system--unipolarity--means that regardless of America's benign intentions and status as the greatest force for good in the history of the world, it will face considerable opposition from other states. In this type of system, states seek to balance against power instead of bandwagon with it; it is a tenet of political realism dating back to Machiavelli that a state should not seek an alliance with a greater power, and instead should pursue alliances with relatively equal states to balance against the larger power.
One reason for this is the pursuit of stability. Defying the norm of a superpower, the United States after 9/11 became a revolutionary power in the very system it legitimized, seeking to alter the political systems of an entire region--the Middle East. Realizing that the status quo produced not stability but rather violent hostility and a powder keg of Islamist extremism, the Bush Administration sought to remove the sources of the region's worst pathologies by initiating regime change in Iraq and supplanting it with a democratic system. Part of the underlying rationale for opposing the Iraq war on the parts of France, Germany, et al. was that any American intervention would help enhance American power because the newly-established democracies would turn to Washington for future security and guidance, thus further expanding America's sphere of influence and keeping "Old Europe" out of the equation. Destabilizing the Middle East runs counter to realist interests, yet the pursuit of freedom must ultimately trump those calculations if we are to assist in creating a better future for the people of that region where they may live without the oppression of their current dictators.

17 November 2006

Supporting the Troops during the Holidays

I'd totally forgotten to provide those details I'd promised almost a week ago about a project I was creating to do something for the troops serving in Operation Archer in Afghanistan. And then I remembered. The project is completed, and presently there are 50 Christmas cards, some with Tim Horton's gift certificates attached (thanks to Linsday Elford for confirming for me that they are accepted), headed off to Ontario, where they will be then shipped away to Kandahar. It's not much, but I'm hoping that they brighten the day of those 50 people who won't be home during Chirstmas time because they're off serving in a just and noble mission overseas. It was six hours of my time that I consider to be well spent, and I hope that other folks out there are thinking of doing something to show their support in their own way for the fine men & women in Afghanistan.
Gerard Kennedy: I'm not going to haphazardly insult the United States.

Next sentence: he lauded the Democrats' victory in tossing out the previous "neoconservative" (sneer on face as he spoke the word) Republican-led government. *sigh* But Howard Dean? He's great, totally acceptable. Liberal anti-Americanism only extends to half of the country now. Only a few more years and they'll be ready to speak whole sentences without deriding any segments of the American polity.

13 November 2006

A Role of Degradation and Misogyny in the (Virtual) World

We may have slipped down to #6 in the UN listings of the best countries to live in globally, but apparently Canada is "No. 1 in hard-core sex video gaming," according to this CTV News story. Pardon me while I vomit.

12 November 2006

How Lib-Realism Hurt (and Hurts) Canada's Liberals

The Liberal Party of Canada has traditionally been a party that embodies the spirit of liberalism and added a measure of realism to its political judgment. The Party stands for progress, democratic capitalism, working towards a better future for Canadians based on liberal values, the welfare state (since Trudeau), and positive liberty, and suffuses that platform with pragmatism, a clear conception of the what it defines as "the Canadian interest," and power. This mix has worked fantastically well for the so-called "natural governing party" of Canada, but it seems that in recent years someone has meddled with the formula, and realism has moved to the forefront, overshadowing the liberal features of the Liberal Party. Allow me to explain.

Power--its preserveration, maintenance, and expansion--is the core tenet of realism. It is attractive, and when enjoyed for particularly long periods of time, it can become an object in and of itself. In 2004 I first noticed that the Liberals were running out of ideas and making their calculations based on power; not the power of Canada in the world (that's something still reserved for France), but the power of the Liberals in Canada.

The 2004 election was not a particularly policy-heavy election, strange given the two main contenders were Paul Martin and Stephen Harper. All throughout his run to the leadership of the Liberal Party, Martin seemed to be overflowing with ideas and a vision for Canada in the 21st century, which is what attracted my interest in the party in the first place. Harper is known to eat policy books after reading them by the dozen so that he can maintain a leg up on everybody else. Paul Wells surmises that the reason the 2004 election was so awkward and short on real policy was that nobody was truly prepared for it, the Tories having just completed their leadership conference and the Liberals (Martin especially) shell-shocked from the revelations of the sponsorship scandal. The Liberals' mantra seemed akin to Raiders' owner Al Davis's dictum--"Just win, baby"--so that they could remain in power and then eventually get around to doing some policy stuff.

Because of the growing importance attached to retaining political power and the diminished value placed on ideas, values, and Canada's future, Canadians were increasingly fed what renowned political scientist Kim Richard Nossal refers to as "ear candy" by their government: political platitudes that are appealing to the ears of Canadians, if not a little insulting to their minds. On a couple of occasions I saw Paul Martin go through the pep-rally speech and then turn his tone to something grave and deadly serious. The topic was Darfur, a matter that is truly grave and deadly serious. I listened as Martin talked about the genocide going on there, and about how Canada had/has a responsibility to protect people from this type of inhumanity and he was going to do something about it. I have no doubt that Paul Martin truly believed in the cause of stopping the genocide in Darfur. But nothing ever came of it. As a result, two years after I first heard the Martin speech in Penticton, the violence is still ongoing and may threaten to cross into neighbouring Chad. Ear candy. Make Canadians feel good about themselves, and do nothing to change that perception.

Concurrent with the rise in ear candy, the national interest was replaced with the Liberal interest. Ballistic missile defence was an issue that Martin himself had indicated his support of, it was something that would benefit Canada at no cost to us, and would signal our readiness to stand by our allies. But Quebec opposed it, and, with the party reputation in tatters already over Adscam, the calculation was made that it would cost even more votes in that crucial province, and so Canada said no, only three days after its voice in Washington had said almost certainly yes.

Eventually even the ear candy was snatched away, and the Liberals' primary interest was how to prevent losing their power. Election 2005-06 was the most poorly-run campaign I have ever seen in this country from a legitimate political party. Stephen Harper will turn Canada into a military police state. Without us around, you'll get nothing to help raise your children except a pithy cheque from Stephen Harper. U happy? Stephen Harper will bring in a "road map" that outlaws abortions. Stephen Harper will turn Canada into a country that would make a Republican blush, and he'll be best friends with George Bush. What was Martin's vision for Canada in 2006? Implementing legislation to ban the federal government from using the notwithstanding clause, the implication being that Harper would use it to deprive your rights, and convening an international convention to outlaw weapons in space (he's only 50 years too late to prevent that). OK, so maybe the ear candy wasn't totally taken away.

The obituaries for the Liberal Party all had a common theme, expressed best by Adam Radwanski shortly after the election. It had become "a party that was so much more about ambition and opportunism than any sort of values." Ambition is, of course, the pursuit of power, while opportunism is the use of power to expand power. I knew that the jig was up two days before the vote, and said this on January 21st: "After doing an about-face on everything that he once stood for, he has ran a disastrous campaign, replete with anti-Americanism and fear and smear, and devoid of any true vision for a future prosperous Canada. The Liberal website today features no positive messages about the party's platform, merely desperation attempts to tear down Harper's lead and image." The worst manifestations of realism hurt the Liberal Party to such an extent that even Jack Layton was picking at the carcass and getting away with it.

Here we are now, 10 months after the vote. Have the Liberals gotten it through their heads that people aren't interested in giving them power unless they have something to offer? Signs aren't positive. My former colleague Riley characterizes their recent efforts to promote themselves as a "party built to win" as more in line with being a "party built to spin." There are some ideas out there, but they are potentially disastrous for the future of Canada. The Quebec "nation" debate is political hemlock, and that Michael Ignatieff is drinking it so deeply is a cause of deep concern. They remain hopelessly divided on Canada's participation in Afghanistan, and the anti- side's platform is being used by the Taliban as evidence that Canadians are weak and will withdraw from that country if the terrorists maintain their own resolve. The party website's main page is full of anti-Harper references, but offers no hope and vision other than that Howard Dean is coming to speak to them.

Until the Liberals realize that they are liberals, and start acting like liberals, they will remain in trouble. Their venture into politicking realism--the use of realism for political advantage--has paid miserable dividends. Bring back the grand vision of a strong and united Canada, with national programs that reach out to Canadians who seek to pursue a path of excellence in their lives and in their world, a Canada that plays a strong role in implementing the pillars of its international policy instead of merely talking about them. That's the Liberal Party of Canada I signed up for back in October 2002, and many others did in the following year. I don't know the current numbers, but I wager that it is a fraction of the 531,000 members in the ranks in November 2003. The about-face, which has abandoned the best tenets of liberalism and embraced the ugliest facets of realism, has left them bereft of both ideas and power. Through knowledge and understanding comes power, not the other way around. Liberals in this country have forgotten that. On a weekend in which we remember, it is clear that the Liberals have something more to retain in their minds.

11 November 2006

In Flanders Fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead.
Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved, and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch, be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields


This morning I'm off to the Royal Artillery Park and then the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic for two separate Remembrance Day ceremonies. When I get home I'll give my grandmother, who is a WWII veteran, a phone call and then I'll begin working on something for the men and women of today's Canadian Forces who are proudly holding that torch high and taking up the quarrel with our foe. Details will follow...

08 November 2006

Quick-ish One

I called the election pretty much spot on...again. With the 2 Senate races being out of reach as far as a recount goes (good luck overturning 8000 ballots), it's looking like the Democrats will take the Senate 51-49 (actually 49-49, but the two Independents have indicated they'll vote Democrat on mos issues). This isn't a particularly big call, since just about everybody said that there'd be a swing away from the Republicans. But it does keep in line with my record of calling these things.

My UBC degree showed up today, looks nice. Then Pacho took it and good luck getting it away from him.

Rumsfeld's departure was long overdue. I have a writing style and a world view that meshes well with him (an OUC colleague once said of an op-ed I wrote that "Rumsfeld would be proud" of what I'd produced), but his handling of things in Iraq and elsewhere just hasn't been up to the standard required of these times which try men's souls. Anyone who has read State of Denial, or even my summary of it, would say that a lot of the problems we're encountering today have to do with decisions he made in the past six years.

My friend BB is in considerable duress today regarding the often-times seeming futility of the efforts of feminists, radical and otherwise, to really effect change on the systemic level that is required. It's a sentiment that is often felt around these quarters, and I hope that she realizes that she wields a larger spoon than others and has made significant contributions to draining the ocean of misogyny.

04 November 2006

U.S. Mid-Term Elections Predictions

The House will go Democratic for the first time since the early years of the Clinton Administration, maybe by a comfortable margin. Americans are always wary of power becoming too entrenched by either political party. The Republicans have had 12 uninterrupted years, so it is due. There are also several significant issues that the Republicans have not handled well since 2004, and they will be held to account for that. The House fairly significantly represents the idea that "all politics is local," with a measure of national and international issues thrown in as well. Given the stakes both domestically and around the world at this time, there may be some reluctance to hand the reins of power to a party that hasn't been particularly coherent in finding a way forward and seems to only offer up scathing criticisms of what is happening. Criticizing is easy, governing is hard. The big question, which Charles Krauthammer raises and I second, is: should they wrest control of the House from the Republicans, which Democratic Party will govern? The sane, sound leadership or the loopy left that has all sorts of bright ideas from an immediate Iraq withdrawal to impeaching Bush.

The Senate will be a more difficult battle. Will American voters slap the Republicans on the wrist by handing over the House but allow them to retain the Senate, creating the first divided government in quite some time? Or will it be an all-out shift to the Democrats as a rebuke of Bush and the Republican Party? The Senate has a heavy focus on foreign policy, and there has been a lot of discontent with the handling of the Iraq, Iran, and North Korea files by both the government and the administration. But there is also that wariness of giving too much control to the Democrats. That being said, I think that the Senate will either go Democrat by a very slim margin or it will end up divided, creating mass potential for political deadlock.

The 2002 elections marked a critical realignment (a favoured phrase of my old professor, Dr. Carl Hodge) in the American political landscape, or so it seemed at the time. With 9/11, the war in Afghanistan, and the brewing war in Iraq, national security issues dominated the scene, and Americans flowed to the Republican Party. Democrats have wrestled with the label of being "soft" on national security since they abandoned it in the 1972 elections, and they were trounced on it in 2002. It was a very rare occurrence to have the White House party actually gain seats in both the House and Senate in off-year elections, and the consensus was that Americans had internalized the War on Terror (as it was strictly limited to at the time) as a fact of life and thus placed their faith in the Republican Party to guide the way. But in an expanded War on Terror & Tyranny, they've faltered and stumbled. Combine this seeming incompetence with natural American instincts about government, and it's a recipe for change. If, and it is still an if, control of government goes back to the Democrats, it will not be a critical realignment, signifying that a broad spectrum of Americans look to the Democrats to solve their issues; rather, it will be a tepid embrace after being let down by the Republicans.