28 February 2007

Dion Puts Party Control Over Canada's National Interest

I was disheartened--but not shocked--to see the Liberals vote against the preventative detention measure that was put in place by the Chretien Liberals to permit authorities to arrest, without charges, suspected terrorists in Canada. They also voted down the section of the Anti-Terrorist Act (Bill C-36) that would have compelled detained suspected terrorists to spill the beans in front of a judge. The measures had never once been utilized by the Government of Canada to preemptively arrest those who would seek to kill Canadian citizens using the means of terrorism for their own nihilistic ends. Yet, incomprehensively, the Liberals framed any use of these measures as an unneccesary abridgement of constitutional liberties, deeming that the civil liberties of people who hate Canada are more important than ensuring security for Canadians.

Due credit is to be given to Irwin Cotler, Tom Wappel, and the dozen Liberal MPs who defied Stephane Dion's imposition of party discipline. I have always had tremendous respect for Cotler, who has a clear understanding of the importance of civil liberties and is one of Canada's foremost constitutional experts. He has been involved in this type of constitutional debate for well over a quarter of a century now, working behind the scenes on the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, advocating a strong defence of same-sex marriage rights, and earning the respect of fellow international legal experts such as Alan Dershowitz. Wappel was the only Liberal MP to vote in favour of extending these anti-terrorist measures for another three years; rather than being credited for standing up for Canada, his caucus will likely severely punish him for defying the will of the Leader.

The Liberals were severely divided over this issue, and Dion chose to appease the party's left wing--the new Liberal motto seems to be: when in doubt, outflank Jack Layton. Let me diverge for a moment and make an important statement that is at the heart of this decision: party discipline is a central feature of a Westminster-style Parliament such as ours. I have no problem with a leader, particularly a new one looking to establish his authority and leadership credentials, exercising his authority to unite a divided caucus in the best interest of the country. Dion got the first half, but this maneuver does not represent the best interest of Canada or Canadians. It has been less than a year since the arrest of 18 Toronto-area extremists who had concocted a plan to blow up government buildings, storm Parliament, and seize and behead the Prime Minister of Canada. We know that there are those in the country who share similar sentiments and affiliations. In the event that some of them band together to hatch a similar plan of destruction, the Government now has one less tool at its disposal to preempt and prevent a potential attack against Canada.

Yet in the face of this, Dion deemed that demonstrating his authority had to be his prime consideration. The "big tent" that was once so respective of people such as myself, or Riley, or some friends back in Kelowna, has now shrunk to such an extent that Keith Martin, Don Bell, Derek Lee, and Roy Cullen did not even feel comfortable enough to show up to vote against Dion and in favour of extending the measures. The Liberal audience is shrinking because of its own decisions, alienating those on the centre-right to appeal to those on the left and preserve their own centre-left coalition. They believe, and who knows, they may be right, that there is more inclination among Canadians to veer to the left. Heck, just yesterday one of my co-workers revealed her sympathy with communism and its bastion in Cluba, Fidel Castro, while another was happy to intervene with the declaration that Bush is a dictator. No doubt the Liberal decision will then appeal to these two voters.

The leftist media is rejoicing today. The political cartoon in today's Halifax Chronicle-Herald explicitly suggests that Stephen Harper would like to create a Guantanamo Bay North in Hudson Bay. The Liberals' star blogger accuses Harper of stealing a "Bush-ism" in calling Dion what he is: soft on terrorism. Neither of these comments provides any substance on the matter, or explain any of the legitimate reasons that the Liberals could have used to justify their position. Rather, it's about portraying "scary Harper" by linking him to Bush. In this, they are behaving like nationalists of a second-rate country; well, let me tell you something, Canada is not a second-rate country and we don't need that type of bush-league approach to advocating the Canadian interest. The Liberals are seemingly intent on social engineering the country's political spectrum so that the left becomes the new centre and pragmatic thinking that leans towards a strong Canada becomes "far right," as Dion regularly characterizes Harper. If this theory proves to be true, and I believe it does, they are moving in the wrong direction and the consequences for Canada could be severe.

24 February 2007

In Defence of Britney Spears, Person

Over the course of the past week or so, Britney Spears has been in the headlines a lot, for reasons that have nothing to do with her music career. First, it was Headline News for 24 hours on serious news channels that she got her head shaved and got a couple of tattoos. Then, in mostly tabloid fodder, it was revealed that she had checked herself into rehab. A day later, there was a frenzy over her leaving. Mixed in with this was the announcement that her court date to determine custody of her two children with Kevin Federline was put on delay because of her rehab stint.

For any non-celebrity, male or female, none of these events warrant countless hours of television time. I shaved my head last June and not a single television camera captured it to put it up on TMZ or YouTube or to sell the footage to CNN. But the cult of celebrity in North America is such that anything a remotely famous person does is amplified to become "newsworthy," regardless of its actual importance or consequence to any human beings beside the subject in question. And only for celebrities is getting one's head shaved something used in the court of public opinion to determine whether they or their ex-spouse should get custody of the kids. And amplify that if it's a woman doing it.

Now, I am not a fan of Britney's music, and I never have been. Pop doesn't cut it for me, and the record label-engineered turn to Britney's full-on sexual exploitation and degradation--which they referred to as her "maturing"--certainly didn't do anything to make me a fan.

Of course, in the past couple of years, Britney's music career has been put on hold--maybe never to return--as she turned to family life: marriage, kids, and ultimately, divorce. It is in this arena, more than any other, that the dehumanization and hatred towards Britney Spears have manifested in ever-more prominent and despicable fashion. Say what you will about her music--I certainly have--but it is an entirely separate category of bile that is thrown towards her that is so offensive and should serve as a reminder to all women that there are some men out there who hate them.

How does the misogyny directed towards Britney represent a microcosm of a broader hatred of all women?

Britney Spears is a highly successful woman. In many of the hate-filled comments made by men about her, the evidence of jealousy is clear and in abundance. Jealousy of her success and their own decidedly average or uneventful lives. This is something that is fairly pervasive in society, as many men feel intimidated by women who make more money than them, creating a sense of resentment and anger. She defies the archetype, the norm that men make and are entitled to make more money than women. She may do so in a manner that isn't the most positive role model for young women, relying on her sexuality and body more than her vocal talent, but she has reached a point where she will be financially secure for herself and her kids and their kids...at the young age of 25 years old. It is the use of her image that can result in a lot of problems, exactly the same as any other powerful female public person has to encounter, and many of them don't even use their corporeal vessels to get ahead. Which leads to comments like this from random men:

"When your looks are your number one asset, why get rid of them?"
"can't believe why she did this, she used to be such a pretty girl, but over the past years she really made herself uglier, getting these huge breasts and now this... shame"
"My god this bird is so stupid i just want to give her a slap and tell her to grow up."
"Can't believe this trailer trash whore still makes the news."
"I think Britney's a scumbag, dumb bitch no matter what she does"

Being a high-profile woman, Britney is of course obligated to fulfill her obligations under the Professional Beauty Qualification so that she is visually acceptable to the men out there. This doesn't nullify their anger that she makes truckloads more money than they'll ever see, but it does allow them to still use her as an object for their own gratification. Note the comment lamenting how it's such a "shame" that she's not "such a pretty girl" that meets his standards of hawtness. Of course, for some people it doesn't even matter what she looks like since she's a "scumbag" regardless of anything that she chooses to do in her life. Ignore the fact that she's made significant donations to cancer charities and has a foundation in her name that is dedicated to helping needy children, she's just a "dumb bitch" that needs a few good slaps so that she grows up, learns her place, and gets hot again so that she can entertain men.

An example of "sympathy" being shown:
"she is still human but that doesnt automatically make her a person...you have to have a personality to be a person."

This is how people on the Internet refer to Britney Spears when they pretend to feel bad for her. I suppose that it is only a degree less bad than some of the comments directed at Anna Nicole Smith after her death. Some folks out there decried that her death was not a particularly huge deal, seeing as she'd "never contributed anything to the world" and all. This coming from people who have made no contribution of note to making the world a better place, it seems a little rich.

The manner in which high-profile women are treated has a trickle-down effect on the way all women perceive themselves and how men feel about them. We are on the cusp of seeing a woman secure the Democratic nomination for President of the United States in 2008, yet rather than embracing this historic occasion, the hatred thrown at Hillary Clinton has been readily evident. A fellow blogger, known far better than I am for Blaming the Patriarchy, had a post a couple of weeks ago regarding Donatella Versace's comments that Hillary needs to stop acting like a man and be more "feminine." Tasha came across a KFC billboard picture that was advertising the "Hillary special," which consists of "two small breasts, two fat thights, and a left wing." While the wing part was good for a laugh, the first two-thirds were a reminder that this will be the first presidential campaign in history in which a candidate's bust size, thighs, and degree of sexual desirability to men will be issues. When a woman who works 9-5 at a crap job for 2/3 of what her male colleagues makes overhears how said colleagues and other men spew the hate-filled garbage they do at Britney Spears or Hillary Clinton or any woman that has a spotlight on her, how is she supposed to feel? Is it any wonder that a lot of women don't seek high-profile work that will subject them to similar discussions?

Again, I have no interest to sit through a Britney Spears video to listen to one of her songs. That type of music does nothing for me. But Britney Spears is a human being, a person, and that's why I will occasionally listen to what people are saying about her. Sadly, the lack of empathy or consideration for her humanity all too often come to the fore. The term "trainwreck" and a host of other such terms (see above) seek to portray her as an evil force in the world, while young men who are apparently still embittered over her having the audacity to marry Kevin Federline seek to deny her of even being a human being. That is wrong. Whatever her faults and foibles, she is still a person who is entitled to be treated with a measure of dignity and respect, something glaringly absent from much of the public discourse around her.

20 February 2007

British Withdrawing; America Alone?

Word going around is that tomorrow British PM Tony Blair is going to announce a timetable for the withdrawal of British forces from Iraq. The initial "stand down" will be some 1500 troops, rumoured to be completed within weeks, and another 1500 by year's end. That represents almost half of the British contingent of 7,000 troops, most of whom are stationed in the predominantly Shi'ite south of Iraq, in places such as Basra and Umm Qasr. These areas, while far less dangerous than Baghdad and the rest of the Suuni Triangle, still have their share of danger, and the British have done an admirable job of bringing a significant measure of security to that region of the war-torn country.

CNN's Wolf Blitzer was quick--almost a little too quick--to highlight that the British have been America's most steadfast ally in the Iraq War and that this move by Britain represents a potential split between the two allies, citing that they may not be "on the same page." To me, this sounds like an attempt to portray the United States and the Bush Administration as isolated on Iraq. I can't believe that Blair would announce such a significant policy without at first consulting with Bush, giving him something of a heads-up. Blind-siding your best friend and ally isn't something in Blair's character, so my wager is that Bush was aware of this maneuver and gave it his blessing. He may be frustrated at the move, as it does seem a paradox that Britain is lowering its force output while America is "surging" its troop numbers in Baghdad, but he has no other option but to respect the sovereign decision of London.

Where does this leave Washington? Getting closer and closer to fulfilling Bush's prophecy of some years ago that "at some point, we may be the only ones left" fighting in the War on Terror & Tyranny. Though I remain supportive of the theoretical framework behind the Iraq War, it is clear that there have a number of wasted opportunities to rebuild the country and further assist its transition to a functional, secure, and fully sovereign democratic state. Though the UN was formally given a role in reconstruction via the passage of a Security Council Resolution internationalizing post-war Iraq, the United States has been unable to get other states to assist it. Whether due to lingering wounds over the war debate or a reluctance to allow other states to carry the weight (a point on which I can empathize to an extent), the inability to get other states more on-board, to get them to feel as though they have a stake in the country's future, is a diplomatic failure for which Secretary Rice needs to be held accountable. She has been largely invisible in recent months, notwithstanding her recent trip to Iraq, a major disappointment given the promise she held when she first took over the role from the much-respected Colin Powell.

In the end, the only thing that matters at this point is securing Iraq to the extent that it can at least govern itself without permitting terrorist organizations or neighbouring Iran to hold significant influence over its future. Either of these scenarios would represent a nightmare, antithetical to the stated objectives of the United States for removing Saddam Hussein. The British have not announced a total withdrawal, and it is in their interest as well as Washington's to consider the notion of moving troops closer to the middle of the country to help out in the most dangerous regions. That is something which only Britain can ultimately decide, but the close London-Washington relationship and Britain's own considerable stake in the outcome of Iraq would hopefully lead them to consider all the options that are on the table before them.

18 February 2007

6 in a Row

The Canadiens have lost six in a row and now find themselves sitting two points back of 8th place Toronto in the playoff race. It is almost unbelievable that two months ago, we were only 5 points behind Buffalo for 1st in the Eastern Conference. The news is bad both on the ice and off of it: the team can't score, and the players are getting hurt. Koivu isn't performing like a leader, taking bad penalties, missing opportunities, and failing to rally the team to push their hardest at this time of the season. Kovalev is out 3 weeks, Rivet's been out with the flu, and Huet is now lost for the season because of surgery to repair a torn hamstring.

It's been a sad sight watching this team night in, night out for the past two months. They've become one-dimensional on the power-play, the penalty-killing unit has disappeared, and even the goaltending has been only average. It's great that Souray scored his 20th of the season last night, he's been the strongest leader on and off the ice, unafraid to call guys out who aren't playing up to par. In my view, he should be re-signed and given the captain's C because he's proven himself to be the Habs' top player this season. I know that Koivu is the face of the franchise, but he's not getting it done lately, not having scored in 11 games and doing as much harm as good.

What are the options? With the trade deadline looming, rumours are naturally flying everywhere. Will the team add players? Will they shuttle away impending free agents for prospects and draft picks? Will they look for a goaltender after today if Jaroslav Halak has a poor debut? All are important considerations, and no doubt Bob Gainey is going to be on the phones a lot in the next 9 days looking for the best course to chart for his team.

Were it up to me, and mercifully it is not, I'd be looking to be a buyer at the deadline. They're only two back of Toronto, who they'll play three more times before the end of the season. They play Boston--who are jettisoning this season already--4 times, and have only a handful of games left against teams that are legitimately Stanley Cup contenders. In other words, there are a lot of matches left that are decidedly winnable...on paper, anyways. They should be able to beat the Bruins, the Rangers, the Capitals, and the Blues of the NHL. Should. And that's why Gainey has to have an eye towards strengthening the team for a playoff run this year. Move one or two of the impending UFA's and maybe even a couple roster players that aren't performing in order to make this team better for the playoffs. This season is by no means lost, and there needs to be an emphasis on winning the Stanley Cup now.

17 February 2007

Canadian Props and Their Uses

Yesterday I read a story over at the Globe in which Chief of Defence Staff Gen. Rick Hillier referred to the 1990s as a "decade of darkness" for the Canadian Forces. Spending cuts, rotting equipment, personnel cuts, and a general negligence of the Forces left many institutions of the military "on life support," Hillier added. With the recent funding increases and promised purchases of new equipment, he noted that the CF are starting to emerge from that "decade of darkness" and turn the corner.

One Liberal was not so impressed with Hillier's speech. Denis Coderre decried the term "decade of darkness" (even though Hillier has used it before) and noted that Paul Martin had a plan to bring the Forces back to health. Yes he did, a highly backloaded five-year plan that would have done little in the first three years, putting the Forces in an even more dire situation. He added that Hillier was a mere "Tory prop" and stated, "To get involved in politics, there is one way. You should run."

Now, coming from a man who was used as a Hezbollah prop last summer, these are some mighty audacious words. At least Hillier is, in Coderre's bizarre formulation, "being used" by the Government of Canada in order to make the case for a stronger Canada and Canadian Forces. Coderre is a prop that's been used to make the case for a stronger Hezbollah. Frankly, my loyalty lies with the Chief of Defence Staff far more profoundly than it does with someone who marches with people who scream "Death to Israel!" and seek to destroy the only mature democratic state in the Middle East.

The second part of Coderre's statement is even more bizarre. To charge that there is only "one way" to make speeches or statements that have political overtones is just plain wacky. Running for an election is not the only venue in a free country for Canadians to disseminate political speech. Hillier himself is no politician; he's simply a Canadian--a damn good one at that--who is speaking the truth about something he cares about passionately. Why "should" Rick Hillier run for election? He's a military leader who was addressing a conference of military-affiliated organizations, something he is perfectly entitled to do in this country. If he wants to wax about the moon and the stars, he can do that. If he wants to stay on topic and discuss the perilous situation of the Canadian Forces for the past 15 years, he can do that too.

Hillier has always been blunt in his strategic assessments and they are always made with an eye to drawing attention to the most important institution charged with defending Canadian sovereignty and projecting Canada into the world. When he makes a statement that the Government utilizes, it is because that statement is in the public interest. He is not a prop or a showpiece, he has a voice and a strong opinion that deserves to be heard on this subject. Now, after he marched under a Hezbollah flag, Coderre did denounce the rocket attacks of both "Israel and Hezbollah," making sure to put Israel first in order to somewhat placate the pro-Hezbollah crowd he was addressing.

There is a key distinction between the two. Hillier is noted for his words and his leadership. Props don't speak, their effect comes from their visual effect. And, folks, the visual effect of Denis Coderre marching alongside a bunch of Hezbollah flag-waving terrorist supporters speaks volumes.

12 February 2007

Year Zero

On a completely different note, here's the tracklisting for the next NIN album, Year Zero. This is going to be interesting and it's definitely got some political overtones to it.

Political Party Thinking

With less than two months until my 26th birthday I'm looking forward to the prospect of (re-?)joining a political party without automatically being shuffled into the youth wing. As anybody who knows me well knows, I dislike party youth wings. At events, we're meant to be caterers and go-get-this people, kept well away from the important people lest we corrupt the old boys' club. At conventions, they use their number to force illogical, incoherent, and dangerous resolutions on the floor to cause all sorts of trouble and embarrassment for the party and sometimes even the country. And of course they're well-known as beer-guzzling sycophants looking for a party, a keg, a thong (apparently they were huge souvenir items at the last Liberal festival), or a politician to tag alongside. Sure I've gotten my picture taken with more than a couple Cabinet ministers du jour, and the ex-PM quite a few times, but the bright ideas and enthusiasm that youth bring to the policy table are often overlooked for those more negative things listed above.

I've been a free agent for well over a year now, surveying the political landscape and trying to figure out where I would best fit if I were to grab a button and put a card in my wallet. Foreign affairs? Conservative, definitely. Status of Women Canada? More Liberal-inclined. Childcare? None of the above. Lower taxes? Conservative. Post-secondary education funding? I'm not exactly sure what the NDP's policy is, but I'd wager it's more generous to professional students (I do love that term) than either of the Big Two. Charter Freedoms and the notwithstanding clause? Definitely Liberal--you stay the hell away from s.33.

It truly is a difficult choice for someone who straddles that divide on a few issues. If I were able to overlook their poor policy choice on SWC and didn't have some lingering concerns about some of the more socialy conservative elements, I'd be a Tory. If I could overlook a foreign policy that would turn Canada into Janus at every opportunity or a childcare position that says my potential future children will be criminals unless I turn them over to Ottawa, I'd rejoin the Libs. I don't particularly enjoy partisan hackery, though there definitely were some fun moments rankling Tories and especially Werner Schmidt back in the day. I think it might have been an easier decision if Ignatieff had won the Liberal leadership, because as much as I respect Dion and perennially owe him my gratitude for taking the time to write a letter to a 16-year old kid going to high school in Oliver, BC, I just don't like this one-track mentality that the Party has under his guidance. Yes the environment is an important priority, but it is not the only thing happening in the world and it certainly isn't in such terrible shape that every day represents one more step towards the apocalypse. Or maybe it is. Any enviro scientists out there that can set me straight without hyperirrationality?

I want to be in a position where I can contribute something to the public discourse on a wider scale than this here blog. I like shooting the breeze with people about political issues, and having a party membership definitely facilitates that. I don't even mind when I'm the only one in the room that agrees with me (as was seemingly the case at the Liberal hobnob in Kelowna in 2004 on the BMD issue, though I wasn't in a room then) on a particular subject. Heck, even being the best Simon Says player in Halifax is a good reason to want to hang out with political-types (this is a really inside joke that like two people in the world may get).

So I don't know. Maybe I'll have to wait until an election is called and see who's going in what direction on what issues that matter the most to me. That could be a while, it could be a few weeks. I'm not even leaning in a particular direction right now. Maybe I need to make some phone calls and revive the Chateau Clique and establish it here in Halifax with some of my old cohorts, I just dunno.

Ideas? Anyone?

11 February 2007

Next Five Songs

1. Bryan Adams - Hearts on Fire - Anna Lou loves this song!

2. Def Leppard - Hysteria - I've never understood why some music stations insist on classifying Def Lep as "metal." Hard rock, yes, but not metal. The label makes little difference, as they are a great band both in the studio and live. Having seen them twice and owning more than a couple albums, I can attest to that. This one is def. one of my favourites of theirs.

3. Nine Inch Nails - The Persistence of Loss - holy obscure tracks i-Habs-Pod. This one's only available on the Still CD that was pretty limited issue when Halo 17 came out. Very minimalist (much like the forthcoming Year Zero, apparently) and an instrumental, this really is music one can listen to on a Sunday afternoon as background noise.

4. The Tea Party - Stargazer - didn't this one pop up another time I did this? I can't make this stuff up, folks. I still love this song.

5. Apocalyptica - Misconstruction - ahhh my favourite metal cellists. They've added drums and even vocals for some songs now, adding a new layer to their music and giving them some more dynamics.

09 February 2007

Misogyny Poll

Less than 24 hours after the death of Anna Nicole Smith, CNN has a poll up trying to figure out exactly how people objectify her the most. Only one of the options have her as a subject, a human being, a person. No, instead your main options are "gold-digger," "surgically-enhanced model," "glamorous star," or All of the Above. Predictably the most human categorization of this woman is in a distant third place, well behind gold-digger and some combination of all the other object categories. Like anybody, specifically any woman, who lives a life in the spotlight, there is always a rush to stamp them with something that makes them feel less like "the rest of us," a normal person who has feelings and hopes and dreams of their own. They are othered, they are different, they are an object to be disseminated, discussed, ridiculed, criticized, and used for whatever selfish ends individuals and conglomerates see fit. One doesn't need to be a supporter or a fan of Anna Nicole to say that she deserves better than this:

08 February 2007

Happy Birthday Charter!!!

For 25 years Canadians have been under the protection of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. It has acted exactly as Pierre Trudeau envisioned it: a sword and a shield used to safeguard the liberties and freedoms of Canadian citizens from the oppression of the government. It is a living document, and the Charter is directly responsible for the evolution of rights regimes in this country, be it same-sex marriage, protection of religious minorities, and ensuring the fundamental freedoms that we all enjoy equally under the law.

In that regard, it is fortuitous that my forthcoming essay publication in Federal Governance is coming out when it is. The notwithstanding clause is a controversial--yet central--piece of the Charter; without it, we would not even have a Charter because some of the provinces wanted to override some rights in the name of public morality or interest. Of course, that intention has not exactly panned out as those premiers may have expected, and for this, we have Canadians to thank. Our deep-seeded attachment to rights and freedoms has erected a taboo against the usage of the notwithstanding clause to ensure that the rights and freedoms prescribed by the Charter remain intact and undisturbed by governments. Every non-placeholding* Prime Minister in the Charter era has had their own bouts with the notwithstanding clause, and every one of them has acted pursuant to their dilemma of aversion, rejecting the use of the notwithstanding clause because it would be an admission that they were taking away rights from Canadians. The power of this normative barrier is profound, and something about which all of us have a stake in maintaining.

The rest of the Charter is far less controversial. Indeed, some would argue that what is not protected by the Charter is more noteworthy than the rights that are protected. The lack of protection of property rights is something which PM Stephen Harper has said he would address in the event of a renewed constitutional dialogue, though it is not something that is anywhere near the top of his list of priorities.

The other sections of the Charter assure Canadians are entitled to certain fundamental freedoms: freedom of speech, freedom of association, freedom of religion; the Charter prescribes the right to "life, liberty, and the security of the person" (an underrated statement that I feel should trump "peace, order, and good government" as the key statement of the role of the federal government), which is controversial in its own right because of the implications around the abortion issue; and, lastly of note, the Charter provides for equality under the law without discrimination based on race, gender, sexual orientation, religion, or any other form of "othering."

In short, the Charter of Rights and Freedoms is the finest political achievement in Canada, and certainly the most significant aspect of the Canadian Constitution. It is an instrument to which Canadians can look upon with pride and dignity, and take comfort in the protection of the rights and values that we so closely cherish.

06 February 2007

Next Five Songs on the i-Habs-Pod

It's a good list today:

1. The Rolling Stones - Streets of Love (Live in Halifax) - ahh the memories.

2. Metallica - St. Anger (Live in Ottawa) - see what I said for #1. They were giving the song the fireworks treatment live at this point, which usually means good things for the song's staying power. Number of times played in 2006? Two. Likelihood of being played in the future? Slim.

3. The Rolling Stones - Sympathy for the Devil - great song, much better than the Guns cover (hoping this draws out the sisters).

4. Bryan Adams - Open Road - pretty much the only good song on the last album. It even got the Chevy truck commercial treatment, almost makes you wonder if BA ever had that in mind.

5. Metallica - The Thing That Should Not Be (Live in Calgary) - Heavy beyond heavy. This song scares the kids, especially when they have that creepy eye thing on the video screen.

News du Jour

Garth Turner has joined the Liberals. Will he run in a by-election? Or is this going to be another instance of the move being based on "principle"? My guess is the latter. On the upside, it'll save the taxpayers a few million bucks. Although, given the time lapse between him going independent and joining the Liberals, there may even be some heretofore unseen "escape clause" that'll let him bypass it all together.

The Liberals, the NDP, and the separatists teamed up to pass a resolution affirming Canada's commitment to the Kyoto Protocol. Like just about anything associated with the Liberals and Kyoto, it's not binding and carries no actual force.

Sergei Samsonov has been put on waivers by the Habs. Hopefully someone will take him off the team's hands. It's safe to say that he's been a major disappointment this season. Best of luck to him wherever he ends up.

Telus has made mobile phone porn available. It's going to be a multi-billion dollar industry in the coming years, and the Telus folks figure that "it's only offering what's now universally available," and decided they may as well get a slice of the market. One more reason to not do any business with Telus.

It's been twenty minutes since I last saw a news story creating more hysteria around the impending environmental apocalypse. I'm sure that a new public service announcement will be coming along in very short order.

I finished the Granatstein book last night. As I said a week or so ago, it's a very realist, pragmatic, book that advocates for a closer reading and explanation of Canadian national interests in terms of our relationship with the United States, strengthening the Canadian Forces, and getting seriously engaged with the rest of the world. I found very little disagreeable with the book (though I do agree with Radwanski's assessment that the doomsday first chapter is really good melodramatic fiction), and I think that anybody who even dances around calling themselves a foreign policy hawk would enjoy reading it. Granatstein is moving away from pure historical works into commentaries on contemporary issues facing Canada, and the politico world is better off for it.

04 February 2007

Coming Home!

"So far away, been far away for far too long."

I'm coming back to the Okanagan in May! Oh rapture, oh joy! Any way we can fast-forward the next three months?

03 February 2007

Super Bowl Weekend!

First, you'll notice that I've done some administrative clean-up on the sidebar. Archives now date back to the beginning of my time in Halifax, instead of March 2004 when this blog began. I'm doing so on the basis of the maturation of both the blog and its owner since August 2005; who I am now isn't entirely the same person I was then. I want this space to as closely represent my current thoughts as much as possible, and arbitrarily decided that the move from Kelowna to Halifax was a significant enough point of departure.

On to more important things...

Two big Habs games this weekend, including the rematch with Pittsburgh. If it's anything like the game on Thursday, people are going to be BEGGING to see them square off in the playoffs. As it is, if we can have the same fire and passion with a different result, I'll be happy.

We decided to check out Saw III last night. The first two were enjoyable because of the compelling stories, but this one just didn't quite have it. There were a lot of moments that made both of us uncomfortable, so I'd recommend avoiding it.

I've been screened-in again for the DND Policy Officer Recruitment Programme. The questions are interesting and challenging, and I hope I'm up to the task. Wish me luck!

Have a good weekend!

02 February 2007

Frere Jacques and Why Iran is Under Suspicion

This week French President Jacques Chirac gave an interview with the New York Times. It contained a couple really dumb statements, which are being seized upon by some quarters, and a couple things are actually brighter than Chirac is given credit for. He is no friend of ours, but even rivals can occasionally say things that make more sense than we'd like to admit.

Chirac stated that he thinks that an Iranian nuclear weapon wouldn't be that big of an issue. They may use it once, but then they'd be swiftly dealt with, so nothing to worry about, he says. "The fact of having a nuclear bomb — having one, maybe a second one a little later, well, that's not very dangerous. But what is very dangerous is proliferation."

Getting the bomb is dangerous because that means countries are proliferating nuclear weapons horizontally (i.e. increasing the membership of the "nuclear club"), and may inspire other countries in the region to do the same. Iran gaining and holding the bomb could inspire other vile regimes in the region to pursue nuclear weapons; imagine the thought of a nuclearized Saudi Arabia, Egypt, or Syria. And this is why people are rightly up in arms about Chirac's statement tha having the bomb, no big deal. "Where will it drop it, this bomb? On Israel? It would not have gone 200 meters into the atmosphere before Tehran would be razed to the ground." If possession is the necessary and sufficient precondition for proliferation, that by definition makes possession a big deal, so there is very much a danger "in the bomb it will have."

And in the meantime, potentially hundreds of thousands of Israelis would be killed because Iran wanted to fulfill its proclamation of "wiping Israel off the map." Chirac assumes too much; because France is a ruthless practitioner of realpolitik, he assumes that Iran would do the same, despite all the current evidence to the contrary. Rational thought has not proven to be a strong point in the Iranian regime's ledger sheet. Their mere pursuit of an atomic program that lacks transparency is not in their interests, as it has brought sanctions, condemnation, pariah status, and continued status in the axis of evil. The United States has yet to remove Tehran's distinction of being the "greatest threat to peace" today, and that is because the Iranians are pursuing a program in a fashion that leads the rest of the world to deem that it is pursuing nuclear weapons.

Chirac does get a couple of things right, though: "To maintain the regime of the mullahs, it needs to not be contested or threatened by the international community. And the international community, who is it? It's the United States." He is more right than he knows, because there is no "international community" beyond Washington and whatever ad hoc coalitions it can muster. France worked strenuously to prevent that international community from removing a brutal dictatorship on Iran's borders. It failed, and it lost one of its client relationships as a result. The new Iraq will never look to France for inspiration or assistance in times of need (though, sadly, it may look to Iran) because Iraqis remember France's complicity in keeping Saddam's regime alive. However, he is right to establish the current regime's survival on the basis of avoiding confrontation with the United States and any willing coalition. Should Tehran overstep in any venue and provoke confrontation, the mullahs will find that they have accelerated the elapse of the borrowed time the regime is already using. Granted, getting rid of a vile regime is the easy part, installing a legitimate successor is the hard part, but survival is the key factor in Iran's political calculations. Which leads me to my next point.

Chirac: There is no risk. There is the I.A.E.A. that monitors this. There is control. There is no risk.
Q: There is no risk?
A: None, absolutely none. You cannot take an electrical nuclear plant and make a bomb. It just doesn't work.

Having done a little bit of research into what states need to do to create a uranium-based atomic bomb, I can say that Chirac is absolutely correct in making this statement. It may be, taken out of context, a statement that causes alarm bells among people and prod them to suggest that Chirac is off his rocker. That may be true in other circumstances, but not in this one. You see, in order to produce weapons-grade uranium (U-235), it has to be highly-enriched to approximately 90% purity. The level of enrichment in uranium for nuclear energy is much lower, approximately 20-25% This something which is easily measurable and verifiable for the scientists of the IAEA. What Iran's obfuscation on the matter does, however, is make it very difficult for the IAEA to verify their claims that they are seeking only a nuclear energy program. The IAEA scientists have already discovered trace elements of weapons-grade uranium at Iranian facilities. Iran's prevention of certain inspectors only raises the cloud of suspectability.

If Iran wants to demonstrate that it is only pursuing a nuclear energy program, it is a very easy task to accomplish. Allow the inspectors to oversee and verify that all uranium activity is confined to energy. Deceiving them, attempting to cover up discoveries of HEU, and denying that the HEU even exists is not in Iran's vital interests. It was the same type of opaque process that cooked Saddam Hussein's goose. If the Iranians have nothing to hide, why are they hiding? Even France is reluctant to play the role of dictator babysitter on this one, and has been very involved in ensuring that Iran is not pursuing nuclear weapons. They will not likely be able to rely on a French veto in the UN Security Council if it becomes necessary to forestall action against Iran to forcibly prevent them from fully developing a nuclear weapons capability.

The Chirac interview is an interesting one, and I do recommend that people give it a read.

Super Bowl Prediction

Colts win. Manning gets MVP for a huge performance against a tough Bears defence.