30 August 2007

Liberals: Be more like the puffin

And hide your shit, says Michael Ignatieff. Perhaps had they adopted this policy earlier, they might still be in government.

29 August 2007

Coolest News of the Day

The Edmonton Oilers are going to give the Canadian Forces a very special treat on November 24th. They're asking all season-ticket holders to forsake their tickets for the game that night so that returning soldiers from Afghanistan can attend the game. They're hoping to fill the arena with CF personnel. It will be a welcome break for soldiers to see Sheldon Souray firing off his cannon from the blueline. Full story here.

On "Selling" Afghanistan

I've been doing some thinking this morning about Afghanistan and Canada's participation in that country's reconstruction and stabilization, specifically how Canadians feel about the mission. Polls, as usual, indicate a large divide in the country, with a large majority of Quebeckers opposed to the mission, heightened now by the deaths of Quebec-based Van Doos serving in Kandahar (as many have pointed out, where were Gilles Duceppe et al. when it was Nova Scotians or Albertans being killed?).

I've spent a lot of time here and around the Internet lambasting this government, its predecessor, and the opposition parties for not doing a respectable job of explaining the mission to the public. This is rooted in the belief that Canadians would listen and seek to educate themselves further on the notions of post-conflict stabilization, humanitarian interventions, and counterinsurgency-based combat. But what if this perspective is wrong? Canadians say they're more "globally aware" or what-have-you than Americans, but are they more conscious and conscientious? If Peter Mackay, Maxime Bernier, and Bev Oda tomorrow produced a "slam dunk"-style case for Canada in Afghanistan in a handy little 15-20 page document, would Canadians read it? I know I would, and I know a handful of other people who would as well, mostly fellow academics. But what about regular Canadians? Would they make a legitimate attempt to educate themselves on this most important issue of our foreign affairs in a generation? Would they simply dismiss it as the propaganda of Bush's northern puppet? Or would they not even be aware of its existence?

I've often wondered if one could go out in Rick Mercer-style interviewing to ask if Canadians are proud of the work that their Navy is doing in Afghanistan to defeat Taliban naval forces. I wonder how many wouldn't even blink in giving some asinine answer, not recognizing that Afghanistan is landlocked and thus has no naval forces, legitimate or otherwise. It's an interesting proposition. We're an inward-looking society, despite all our attempts to portray ourselves otherwise. What else do you call people who get up at 5am to go jogging but haven't read a newspaper or a non-fiction book in weeks, months, or years? What else do you say about a people that don't demand action when atrocities are being committed against women in their own country, let alone one that is thousands of kilometres away? These are interesting questions, to be sure. And I'd like to hear what you folks think would be the answers.

25 August 2007

The Need For Action

The gruesome headline of Wednesday's Chronicle Herald ("Woman's throat slit after sexual assault") serves as a harsh reminder of male violence against women. Each year, 6-7% of women in Canada experience male violence; over time, this results in 1 in 3 Canadian women.

It is time for action. The White Ribbon Campaign is a coalition of men and women working to end male violence against women. Through education and the promotion of understanding and respect, we urge men and women to take a stand against this violence and not remain silent when atrocities such as those committed by Michael Robicheau occur. I would encourage all concerned citizens to visit the White Ribbon Campaign website, http://www.whiteribbon.ca/ to find out how they can get involved and make their voice heard. Together, we can make a difference.
***Update*** A version of this letter appears in Saturday's edition of the Halifax Chronicle-Herald.

24 August 2007

Friday Soundbites

The federal surplus for the last quarter is large enough to support several billion-dollar boondoggles. I'll give this government some credit: while it has been pathetic in demonstrating its support and commitment to Afghanistan and very lax on a number of other issues, they've been top-notch at avoiding fiscal mismanagement. That said, since this is a conservative Conservative government, when can we expect the tax cuts?

Michael Ware, CNN Correspondent, gave a brutally bleak assessment of the prospects of the Iraqi government under Nouri al-Maliki. This is clearly not what anybody had in mind when they talked about replacing Saddam with a democratic government in Iraq. I've even heard that there's some generals who favour putting in, on a temporary basis, some sort of strongman to guide Iraq. The problem with strongmen--inter alia--is that they don't tend to accept the "temporary" part of their designation.

One of Andrea Dworkin's most famous statements was that all she really wanted from men was a 24-hour truce in which men didn't rape any women. The news this afternoon alone demonstrates that men have no desire to agree to such a break in hostilities, and that some will just stand around and watch while a man sexually assaults a woman. And others, of course, will put it up on YouTube. (OK the YouTube part isn't actually from today...rather, it hasn't been reported today)

Thumbs up to the Ontario government for listening to the wishes of regular people who wanted to have a section of Hwy 401 renamed the "Highway of Heroes" in honour of Canadian Forces members who were killed in Afghanistan, and travel that stretch of road after leaving CFB Trenton. It's a class move.

22 August 2007

White Ribbon Campaign - Email

If you live in the Maritime region, and want to get involved in ending male violence against women, you can get in touch at: whiteribbonhfx@eastlink.ca

17 August 2007

Hezbollah Video Game

According to MSN News, Hebzollah is getting/making its own video game. My only question: is Denis Coderre a playable character, or can you at least walk beside him in a march while you proudly carry the flag?

Use the Time We Have

It's become clear in recent weeks that, barring a major policy shift from the opposition parties, Canada's commitment to Afghanistan will end in February 2009. They are overtly pre-occupied with extricating the Canadian Forces from Kandahar at that arbitrarily-set deadline, and have demonstrated no enthusiasm whatever to re-deploying to another region or a strategic recalculation of what Canada's military, diplomatic, and development personnel could and should do in Afghanistan beyond the current commitment. For its part, the government has indicated it is unwilling to forge ahead with a renewed commitment if it unable to secure the support of the other political parties. This is a bizarre way to conduct foreign policy, putting political interests ahead of national interests and principles, but nonetheless, this is how Canadian policy-makers operate.

I have been and remain a staunch advocate of Canadian participation in Afghanistan for as long as it takes to secure victory, which can be defined as creating conditions in Afghanistan that: eliminate the threat of the Taliban to the extent that the Afghan national security forces can police and subdue them without international assistance; provide for a stable democratic government with political institutions that are more likely to progress than to backslide into an illiberal authoritarian regime; permit a reasonable level of infrastructure in the areas of housing, education, health, and a legal justice system. We're not looking to create a landlocked Sweden, but we can assist in putting Afghanistan on the road to develop its future according to the wishes and interests of its people.

With the political context and conditions of victory established, I would like to urge the government to do all in its power to contribute to the success of Afghanistan in the months leading up to February 2009. We need to establish benchmarks in Kandahar so that we can determine whether or not progress is being made in critical areas of defence and development, and determine what tactics and strategies we can employ in concert with the Afghans and our allies to achieve those benchmarks and ensure that progress, to the extent possible, is linear. If this requires a larger contribution of Canadian personnel and resources, so be it. If this requires a diplomatic initiative to obtain greater contributions from our allies, so be it. There are going to be necessary commitments to make to Afghanistan in the forthcoming 18 months if we are to utilize our (apparently) remaining time there efficiently and effectively in order to leave a lasting mark on that country.

As I see it, this will be the great objective for the trio of Defence Minister Peter Mackay, Foreign Affairs Minister Maxime Bernier, and International Development Minister Bev Oda. They will have to work long and hard on this endeavour, garnering support for a strong push to the finish line from our allies, from the government, and from a still-skeptical Canadian public. I wish them all the best, and for continued progress in Afghanistan.

14 August 2007

Do the Cabinet Shuffle

Something to break the summer doldrums in Canada's political scene.

The big moves from my personal interest POV:

Mackay to Defence - it's good that he is staying in a role with an international dimension. Though he didn't do the greatest job of publicly selling the mission in Afghanistan, I know that Mackay understands the importance of the mission and that Canada's participation can help tip the balance in favour of success in rebuilding and reconstructing that country. I actually just received some correspondence from the former Minister of Foreign Affairs in the mail today, and it's clear to me that he's on top of it. His new role at Defence puts him in a different position regarding Afghanistan, and I'm confident that he'll handle the position well.

Bernier to Foreign Affairs - I know that he's one of Harper's stars in Quebec. That's about all I know about Maxime. In some circles, it's seen as important to put a Quebec face on the most critical mission Canada faces diplomatically and militarily overseas. That's optical politics for you. Perhaps my "fellow traveller" Chuckercanuck can illuminate all of us on what we can expect from Bernier in this position.

Oda to CIDA - this one is a head-scratcher. She presided poorly over Heritage and Status of Women Canada. CIDA is the third pillar of Canada's involvement in Afghanistan, so this is a promotion of sorts for Oda. My great concern is that someone who doesn't go to bat for women's rights in Canada won't do so strongly for the rights of women in Afghanistan. I hope to be proven wrong, but I'm very skeptical.

The other Cabinet shifts don't amount to much to me. It's putting new faces in new places, but seeing as most Canadians, myself included, can't identify many of these ministers in a police line-up, it's little more than some cosmetic work to freshen things up and get ministers more experience in different portfolios.

13 August 2007

Rove Leaving White House

This just came down about twenty minutes. Karl Rove is resigning from his position as President Bush's chief domestic adviser and other politically-related positions effective the end of August. It's another optical politics blow to the Bush White House, but from an actual politics standpoint, it's less devastating than it seems. Rove, as the domestic adviser, has been ineffective in recent months, as Bush seemingly has no domestic agenda. This is a White House that has bypassed the lame duck phase of its presidency and gone straight to the dead duck portion. I had high hopes for the foreign policy of this Administration as it sought to re-write the rule book to be more effective in implementing positive change in the 21st century and tackling the tough grand strategic issues of our time. That has not panned out particularly well, and with no domestic policy platforms that have any traction, things have not been looking good for the White House for a long time. So losing Rove, while it will be used to make considerably political hay, isn't going to be the death knell for George W. Bush's legacy or any other such nonsense that people will no doubt try to spin out of it. Anti-Bush people will lose one of their favourite punching bags, but there's not much more to it than that other than cutting out a spent force.

09 August 2007

White Ribbon Campaign - Halifax

Earlier in the week I became an official member of the White Ribbon Campaign, an organization of men dedicated to ending men's violence against women. I've been a supporter for some time now, and this is the logical next step.

Apparently I'm the only member in Halifax. This is where anybody who lives in Halifax and the surrounding area comes in. I'm going to be in need of assistance in getting this campaign off the ground. If you're a male who wants to raise awareness of male violence against women in an effort to curb it, please make a comment expressing your interest in doing so.

The main thrust of the WRC is around this time of year, leading up to the anniversary of the Ecole Polytechnic massacre in Montreal on December 6th. The WRC does not hold any events on that date itself, but is in full promotional mode leading up to it, handing out white ribbons and collecting pledges of support, both on paper and financially. The objective of the WRC is not to deflect or steer attention away from women's groups, but rather to serve as a male voice that challenges other men to pay attention to the problem of male-instigated violence against women and urge others to take a stand.

I will be doing regular updates on the work of the White Ribbon Campaign - Halifax effort on this blog, and I welcome the support of any men who wish to help. For more information, please visit the White Ribbon Campaign website at: http://www.whiteribbon.ca

02 August 2007

I like that the CTV website now allows comments on their stories. I've posted in a couple, one today and one yesterday about Darfur. The topic today though is one that I'd rather comment on at this time. Yesterday Russia announced its intentions to go on a major expedition up to the Arctic and plant a flag. The motive for this maneuver is to demonstrate their sovereignty over the Arctic and therefore lay claim to all of the untapped resources up North. CNN had a lengthy story about it yesterday and how it affected America's interests in the Arctic. They were strangely silent about what Canada felt about it, and today we learned why: the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Peter Mackay, is living pie-in-the-sky on the issue.

"Look, this isn't the 15th century. You can't go around the world and just plant flags and say 'We're claiming this territory,'" MacKay told CTV's Question Period co-host Jane Taber.

The attitude of Mackay's comment, that the Russians are merely trying to put on a "show," is indicative of Canada's blase and naive view of the world. It's also interesting that he'd make a statement as he did about planting the flag and its irrelevance, given our recent dispute over Hans Island. I'm sure that the realpolitik crowd in Moscow is having a good chuckle from Mackay's comment. They'll be more than happy to put on a sequel, too. Maybe when they've got a nuclear sub roaming around in the Arctic Mackay will just say it's for partisan bluster among the KGB crowd.

Last year, when it was still of recent enough vintage to call it "Canada's New Government," the Tory leadership seemed to be really on the ball when it came to foreign affairs issues. They were clear-headed, principled, and right in unreservedly supporting Israel in its conflict against Hezbollah terrorists. They were strong on Afghanistan. They were strong on rebuilding bridges with Washington. Now, they've all but abandoned Afghanistan after the artificial February 2009 deadline. They're not taking a resurgent Russia seriously. There hasn't been a bilateral meeting between Harper and Bush in months.

If I didn't know any better, I'd say that governing a wishy-washy country has rubbed off on the Tories.

01 August 2007

Superbad - you ain't kidding

Apparently the market for blatantly sexist, misogynist, and female-degrading movies has not yet been exhausted. All evening I've been seeing commercials for a teen-targeted movie called "Superbad."
The recidivist behaviour I've seen so far includes:
-a male following a female student staring incessantly at her visible thong;
-a male "accidentally" bumps another male so that he grabs a female's breasts;
-two males staring down the shirt of a friend's mother and saying, after she walked away, "take good care of those" before the scene cuts away;
-a male--presmably drunk and ostensibly leaning in to kiss a woman who had not consented to it--headbutt her to the ground;
-two males talking about a female who "had breast reduction surgery" and referring to the idea as "slapping God across the face;"
-two guys plotting how to charm their way into a woman's pants: "I was so gone last night, I shouldn't have slept with that guy...We could be that mistake!"

All that in two 30-second commercials, folks.

The film's R rating primarily (since it comes first) derives from its "pervasive crude and sexual content." Cue the rant.

At what point does the train of American Pie-inspired garbage end? Sadly, only when the demand to see women treated as second-class, compliant, idiotic, sex receptacles has dissipated. Obviously that is not on the horizon. The film is made by the same asswads that brought us Talladega Nights and the 40-Year Old Virgin. People--mostly males in the 18-25 range--are going to line up and pay money to watch this movie, beginning next Friday, because it is what they want to see. They want to see the things they saw in the commercials and the trailer. Getting that little taste of what this movie offers will make them hungry to see more, to the point that they will set aside two hours and shell out $10 plus whatever snacks they so desire. They get a kick out of seeing women get headbutted by drunk men. They laugh when a guy follows a girl down a hallway staring incessantly at her backside. They are entertained by teenaged boys gazing their friend's "hot" mom. This is what they want, and it is being delivered to them.
Demand creates supply. Obviously the men behind this film believe that there is enough demand out there to offset the cost of making this movie. It won't be the #1 film at the box office, obviously. But it will end up making millions of dollars. Take that number and divide it by ten, and you will know how many young men out there get their rocks off by seeing girls humiliated and treated solely as objects of lust and as a goal. The attainment of a woman as pressing objective. To be more specific, the attainment of penetrating a woman as pressing objective. I hope that nobody I know goes to see this movie. I hope that nobody anybody at this forum knows goes to see this movie. I hope that nobody sees this movie and sends a signal that this type of hatred isn't desired. The first two may be possible, the last one, I readily concede is a pipe dream. And that's what disappoints me most of all.