31 January 2007

January's End

Hard to believe we're already at the end of the first month of 2007 eh? It zipped by, and no doubt February will, too.

In exciting news, things are finally moving forward as it relates to my submission to the journal Federal Governance. Some revising to do, and then hopefully it will be given the final approval for publication. If the Charter of Rights and the notwithstanding clause interest you at all (and why shouldn't they!), you'll want to check it out. I'll keep everybody appraised as the process continues.

Other stuff: it's nice to see Mike Duffy back on TV. Canadian Taber Vision is fine and good, but I do like Duff.

"A money-sucking socialist scheme" is how PMSH refers to the Kyoto Protocol. Given that Canada's "plan" under the Liberals to meet Kyoto targets was to pump billions of dollars to the Russians, he may be on to something there. Yesterday, I was posting something over at another blog, that ultimately ended up being swallowed by the Blogger goblins, about how it's fair game to use a politician's public statements against them. This is an example, if you're a Kyoto adherent. Go nuts, folks. But if we're going to spend billions of dollars to fix up the environment, I'd much prefer we use it here in Canada so that the air we breathe is cleaner, safer, and better-smelling, than sending it to the Russians to do I don't know what-all while our air remains dirty, unsafe, and smelly.

Thy're jacking up the price of milk in Nova Scotia again. At Sobey's last night it was $6.67 for a 4L jug and apparently that's just coming in line with SuperStore and not the price increase that will be taking effect next week. It's still only 4 bucks a jug back home.

And finally, Friday is Dalhousie's annual holiday, so I get a day off when I don't really want or need one. I'll likely use it to read, go over my FG submission, and make my Super Bowl prediction.

29 January 2007

Two Quick Things

First, go buy Jack Granatstein's new book, Whose War Is It? How Canada Can Survive in the Post-9/11 World. Granatstein's a thorough realist, and I do disagree with his assessment of Bush 43 as the worst POTUS since Harding, but this book is a very sobering appraisal of Canadian foreign policy five years after 9/11. I've been reading this man's works for years now, and he has yet to put out a poor book (hear that, Jimmy Carter?), and this book is certainly no exception. I realize that the environment is four times as important to Canadians than terrorism, but for those of us who take our foreign and defence policy seriously, we have a lot of work to do, and Granatstein helps point the way. Perhaps after I'm done reading all of the book, I'll do a mini-review.

Second, tonight the Habs will honour and retire the jersey of Ken Dryden. He may have gone to the Maple Leafs and the Liberals (hmmm, both are only popular in Toronto), and he may have brushed off myself and the other young folks in Kelowna in 2004, but this guy gave a lot to the Habs in the 70s. Stanley Cups, backstopped Canada in the Summit Series against the pinkos, and that was when he wasn't preoccupied with law school. Truly, #29 is one of the team's all-time greats, and tonight he takes his rightful place among the other Habs legends. It's a shame that it happens in the shadow of the death of Gump Worsley.

26 January 2007

In The News

Stephane Dion resuscitates the lingering anger over the sponsorship scandal by stating that he'd be open to allowing Marc-Yvan Cote back into the Liberal Party. Well, why not, he was one of the larger donor to the party right? Seriously, I don't know what could have been going through Dion's mind when he spoke aloud on this particular topic. This is Mme. Royal-level ludicrous, and no doubt the Tories allowed themselves more than a slight giggle over this one.

The federal government has made a settlement with Maher Arar for their role in his being shipped off to Syria to be tortured. That's a good move on Ottawa's part, though, let's be honest, no amount of dollars can ever undo the horror of what Arar had to go through. When the state, whose primary responsibility is to ensure the livelihood and security of its people, fundamentally fails in that obligation and instead turns him over to people who show no regard for his life and integrity, it's a big deal, which makes some of the comments over in the Globe's comments section on the story so hard to comprehend. It may "mean the world" to Arar to get the settlement, but it's more on the lines of the Canadian state admitting it did him wrong than the dollars, I would imagine.

Jean Charest would like to see a Canada-EU free trade pact. I'm an economic liberal, I say go for it. Just make sure they don't try to slap any regulations on the curvature of Okangan-grown cucumbers. And don't trade for French wine, you can get that from Kelowna, too. I wanna go home.

The Bush Administration has authorized American soldiers in Iraq to kill Iranian agents that are fuelling the insurgency. This can be problematic, as it will either compel Tehran to stop meddling in Iraq's affairs, or it may be a step towards a larger war between the United States and Iran. I think a lot of this depends on how far along the Iranian nuclear weapons program is, which got a moral boost today after Mohammed ElBaradei said that he's calling for a timeout, in which the Iranians would stop enriching uranium and the UN would stop imposing sanctions. Brilliant, that's the type of strategy at which the Iranians will happily agree to and promptly turn around and keep on enriching uranium. With fewer inspectors to oversee the program, it's going to be much more difficult to hold Iran accountable.

Have a good weekend everybody!

25 January 2007

Centre Ice, Ice Baby!

September 23rd is going to be awesome again this year. You'll recall that last year on that date I saw the Rolling Stones play across the street. This year, something that may be even cooler will be happening, provided that we're still in Halifax at the time. In the event I still refer to myself as a Haligonian-come-lately, I will be seeing the Montreal Canadiens taking on the Boston Bruins in a preseason NHL game.

This all came about very quickly. I managed to catch a scrolling headline on Sportsnet late last night, checked the ticket website and saw they were going on sale today, and bought them this morning. Centre ice, 12th row, directly across from the benches. As you can imagine, I'm extremely excited about this.

With this, September 23rd cements itself in my list of favourite days on the calendar: April 8th, November 29th, March 4th, December 25th, August 7th, and a couple others as well. I have my doubts, but maybe the game will be on RDS and I'll be able to get it taped. Wouldn't count on that though, so it may be up to the cameras. GO HABS GO!

24 January 2007

The Axis Teams Up to Go Nuclear

In news that should come as a surprise to nobody, North Korea is assisting Iran in its nuclear weapons program. Having developed its own program indigenously, Pyongyang is stepping up its efforts to induce nuclear proliferation, fulfilling the worst fears of many that Kim Jong-Il's vile regime would seek to change the store banner from Missiles R Us to Nukes R Us.

Reportedly the North Koreans are looking to share all the information they have from last year's nuclear test with the Iranians, which will doubtlessly speed up the process in Tehran. This news comes hot on the heels of Iran turfing almost forty IAEA inspectors from the country in yet another demonstration of their cooperation with the world to develop a peaceful energy program. So audacious was Tehran's action that even France was forced to express concern. Kicking out international monitors and collaborating with North Korea is a sure-fire way to win the confidence of the rest of the world as to their intentions. Unfortunately for Iran, and fortunately for the rest of the world, it's heightening the confidence that their intentions are to go nuclear and conduct a test of their own, which will hopefully spur some real action to be taken to isolate Iran and get a collective response that unequivocally states that insane tyrannies should not be in possession of the world's most dangerous weapons.

23 January 2007

Oh, France

No doubt by now you've heard about French Socialist Party presidential hopeful Segolene Royal mouthing off about her sympathy for Quebec sovereignty. While French politicians interfering in Canadian political affairs (or those of anybody, more on that in a bit) is nothing new, it is still a galling (de Gaulling?) act whenever it happens. Canadians were more than a little miffed over the "Vive le Quebec libre!" business of a generation ago, and this little outburst may be that act reincarnate for the current generation. Many of you who are here will know of the scorn and contempt I have for the French political class. That doesn't extend to the entire population; indeed, a French citizen is largely responsible for the success of the Montreal Canadiens this season. Moreover, I do regard Stephane Dion as a decent human being.

However, I'm of the mentality that Canada, much like its good neighbour to the south, should take every opportunity to embarrass and humiliate France. They are no allies of ours, or of freedom. Yes they may have a contingent in Afghanistan, but it is a paltry contribution relative to the work of the Canadian Forces, and their guys don't even leave their bases in the safer parts of Afghanistan at night. French elan simply is not what it used to be, and even that is not saying a whole lot given the history of the 20th century.

You see, France would prefer to coddle dictators and enjoy large-scale elaborate UN kickback schemes than act alongside its NATO partners in meaningful missions to improve humanity's lot. In the process, they'll meddle in the affairs of countries such as Poland, telling them to shut up and stay out of diplomatic and military discussions in the middle of a major crisis. Thankfully, Poland learned the lesson of what happened the last time the French sold them down the river, and ignored Paris's commands in 2003. Of course, the last time the French adopted a policy of "no liability at all" for major world events, they ended up going to war anyways, and being overrun within 6 weeks. If it weren't for the very countries they scorned in 2002-03, they'd still be colluding with the Germans to thwart the United Stat--oh, whoops, never mind. A country that clings to visions of past glory as if that is enough to give it points in today's era regularly demonstrates its moral and political bankruptcy. Their efforts to protect Saddam's regime and keep the cash flowing in, in the face of incontrovertible evidence of the regime's despicable human rights atrocities, proved fruitless when the threat of their veto was ignored. Their claims of Operation Iraqi Freedom lacking legitimacy were hollow and the revelation of French complicity in the oil-for-food scandal only highlighted the country's irrelevance and Janus-like nature.

I realize that we live in an era where sovereignty is conditional. However, Canada's integrity as a nation-state has been challenged twice, and defeated twice. For a decrepit power such as France to seek to interject itself into Canadian affairs is laughable and contemptible. Stephen Harper's swift condemnation of the French Socialist leader was a stroke of brilliance, and if it is to be criticized, it should be only for not going far enough. Harper should dis-invite the next president of France, particularly if it is Royal, to the celebrations surrounding the 400 year anniversary of the founding of Quebec. If France does not respect Canadian unity, we are under no obligation to invite them to our parties, especially if they've already snubbed past invitations.

State of the Union 2007

Switching gears to a country I respect, tonight is the 2007 edition of the State of the Union Address by George W. Bush. In the past, the SOTU has served as a major venue for Bush to establish strong positions for the United States. Nobody will ever forget the 2002 edition and the establishment of the "axis of evil," and the 2003 version made it abundantly clear that the United States was prepared to do what was necessary to remove the threat of Saddam Hussein, regardless of French impotent intransigence.

However, this year's SOTU is not shaping up to be particularly eventful. The advance press mentions little in the realm of foreign policy, and the most quoted headline involves the President seeking to convince Americans to consume less gas. That's not the kind of thing that will get a disenchanted public motivated to rally around the President. I don't know if it's executive fatigue or what all, but it's clear that Bush has lost the initiative and resoluteness that defined the early years of his presidency. The announcement of a renewed push towards resolving the Israeli-Palestinian issue indicates that he's ready to go into legacy mode. Likely, it will end up the same way as Clinton's legacy-building efforts, even without the insurmountable obstacle that was Yasser Arafat. Bush needs to announce something innovative and creative to get the initiative back on side, before it really is too late. One could argue that we're already irrevocably past that point, and have been since Katrina, but with almost two full years left, there is still plenty of time for Bush to turn things around and get his Administration back in the driver's seat.

21 January 2007

The New Prudishness -- Or Just Renewed Common Sense?

In my daily travels around the Internets, I routinely come across stuff that makes me just shake my head at how badly wrong some people can twist an issue. An example of this is an article that I was referred to by Anna Lou entitled "The New Prudishness," written by Ada Calhoun. If you want to waste a bunch of your time, you can read it here. Or, you can pass the time by reading me giving my running commentary to this pile of drivel. It's not quite a fisking, but it's not a lit review in the scholarly sense that I did a bunch of for the thesis. Among Ms. Calhoun's insights:
"As I look back on the past few years, I see one thing on which everyone,
neo-con or liberal, young or old, appeared to agree: our culture is
This is the typical conflation of marketed sexuality with actual sex. I don't know how many times I've encountered the argument that porn = sex. Not even close to the truth. Our culture is not oversexed, it is over-pornified. I'm not in the business of spelling out the distinction, so if you need to learn it, I suggest you visit some of the links in the sidebar.

After giving a brief rundown of intelligent people suggesting exactly what I just said, Calhoun states:

"But is it possible that what's actually at work is a kind of neo-prudish groupthink?"

No, it's not prudish, it's just common sense. This is nothing but a typical (again with that word) decrying of people sick of seeing pornography everywhere as being prudes who hate sex and everything to do with it. False. Being anti-porn doesn't mean one is anti-sex. The most absurd false dichotomy is the splitting of feminists into "sex-positive" and "sex-negative" groupings. Many supposed "sex-negative" (anti-porn) feminists have boyfriends, husbands, and children. Doesn't sound like they're really all that opposed to sex to me.

We quickly move from strawfeminism to outright lies:

"We are biologically predisposed to enjoy sex and to enjoy watching other people enjoy sex and to hearing about people having sex and reading in Star or tell-all memoirs about people having sex."

There is absolutely nothing biological about watching television, renting a porn DVD, or paying money to read a book or magazine recounting sexual encounters. Nothing. This also assumes that pornography = sex, and thus watching pornography is simply watching people have sex just like normal people have sex in their bedrooms. Yeah, no. The majority of women out there don't enjoy being penetrated anally by two men they don't know, nor do many enjoy many of the other acts of degradation that are carried out in pornography. One need only read some of Robert Jensen's work to see what are the most popular genres of pornography out there and do some very basic thinking to realize that it's something that doesn't happen in one's regular bedroom life. That's part of the thrill for the misogynists that are watching ever-more degrading pornography: it features women being coerced into doing things that the real women in these consumers' lives would probably (read: definitely) never do. It is dehumanizing to the extreme, and it is so far removed from sex that statements such as Calhoun's lack credibility among intelligent, thinking people.

And then we get into territory that borders on apologism for child pornography, which Canada's Supreme Court has ruled the very existence of constitutes harm to children:

"Anti-porn activists point to violent, hateful or kiddie porn as if it were the standard. But there are as many kinds of porn as there are kinds of sex: some is reprehensible, some is affectionate; plenty is really dull."

Right, porn that features the rape of young children is just another type of porn, no more or less harmful than anything else out there. 92% of the pornography in existence is created involving women who want to get out of their "industry," but who often lack the resources, education, and general ability to do so. Also, that "dullness" that is being spoken of is what leads men to seek out ever more disturbing, degrading, and sensationalized material they can. For some men, there is a progression that goes from "vanilla" porn and ultimately leads to thoroughly degrading and violent material that presents a great danger to the woman/women involved in its creation. There does exist a chain of continuum, and it has a tremendously adverse affect on a young male's ability to relate to actual women. There are numerous studies out there demonstrating this argument, a number of which can be found at Diana Russell's website.

Here, Calhoun describes a species that does not exist:

"But pretty much all the men I know — thoughtful, decent, feminist men — look at porn."

No such thing, sorry. It's mutually exclusive; you're either a feminist or you look at porn. A teacher who gets off on porn on a Tuesday night is not a decent man on a Wednesday morning when he gives his students an exam. The correlation between porn consumption and rape has been shown to be stronger than that which exists between smoking and lung cancer. That porn-lover who rapes a woman is neither decent nor feminist, but he is thoughtful, if only about himself and his desire to exert his supposed right to have sex with any woman he wants whenever he wants, regardless of her consent or lack thereof.

Another bold-faced lie:

"Susan Brownmiller's statement that "pornography is the theory, rape is the practice" has been pretty soundly disproved. In America, rape has declined 85% in the past twenty-five years."

Absolute malarkey. Down 85% you say? Then why is it that 1 in 3 Canadian women will experienced sexual violence in the course of her lifetime? I could also swear that I've read that in the past forty years, the rape rate has increased by 400% Bear in mind, too, that less than 1 in 10 rapes are actually reported. Calhoun has written a complete lie that the statistics say otherwise. The tens of thousands of women who are raped every year would take absolutely no consolation in hearing the bullshit statement that we're on the verge of eliminating rape as a feature in our society, especially when lads mags are giving advice to potential rapists on how to make roofie cocktails.

Yet, there is one place where Calhoun and I come to agreement:

"I'm tired of hearing about how teen girls today are debasing themselves now more than ever."

Me too, we need more people talking about how teen and adults males are debasing teen girls. It is men who are raping them, taking advantage of them with roofie cocktails, slipping them drugs, and filming the entire thing. Joe Francis, the misogynist behind Girls Gone Wild (of which Calhoun is a fan), debases women far more than the nearly passed-out participants in his videos. That plays no small part in why he's been accused of rape more than once. Speaking of, when it comes to those preyed-upon participants:

"But what other kind of fun is there for teenagers to have?"

Really? That's the only role you can allot to teenaged girls is it. I believe that you qualify under the internalized misogyny program. Misogynists everywhere would be more than a little happy if you were to be in charge of the after school programs for girls.

But wait, there is something in it for the girls:

"It makes him feel hot to make the girls do what he says. And the girls (whose boobs they are, after all) are exploiting him to feel hot."

Yeah we really should feel sorry for the poor exploited menz shouldn't we? After all, they're only making millions of dollars with GGW, but the girls, they get to "feel hot." However, given that beauty is fleeting, and all it takes is one guy to take away that "power" by criticizing the girl's breasts or other body parts, it doesn't seem to even out the balance sheet a whole lot. You'll notice that there is no multi-million dollar gonzo industry out there whose sole objective is to get drunk college guys to drop their pants and show off their penises. No, it's simply the continued classification of women as the sex class, but it's become more democratic now. Every woman can be a porn star, and she even gets a hat for the deal. Meanwhile, for the cost of a cheap hat, that woman can be used as a masturbatory tool for the rest of her life.

Celebrities? Caricatures for our own entertainment:

"Paris Hilton is a national joke, our very own screwball comedy star. The Lindsays of the world? They're fodder for clever drag-queen Halloween costumes, not role models for impressionable teenagers."

There aren't many feminists out there who will defend Paris Hilton, though they do exist, and I enjoy their blogs. What Paris and Lindsay and any other starlet out there exemplify is that any woman, no matter how rich, how powerful, how successful, how creative, is simply there to act as a sexbot or other tool for patriarchal entertainment. She can be reduced to a "fire crotch," a sex tape, a piece of paper or a computer image to be consumed by teenaged punks on the Internet. And where Calhoun is, yet again, wrong is that whether they want to be or not, Paris and Lindsay and Britney are role models for impressionable teenagers. They're everywhere on TV, and just about anytime they're on TV, a comment is made about their bodies; how they're perfect, desirable, hot. For impressionable teenaged girls, nothing is more important than being accepted as a sexual being, because that's what the big advertising & beauty industries need: a supply of anxious women who hate their bodies seeking a fix that only these industries can provide. Got pimples? We have a fix for that. Need to lose 15 pounds to fit into that dress that Paris has? We have a fix for that. Just like Charles Barkley was, in fact, a male role model for aspiring male athletes, so too have we created a cult following for Britney, Paris, and Lindsay that makes them idols for young girls to seek to emulate.

Here's a laugher:

"Both men and women have always tried to dress as provocatively as possible."

Nope. There's no huge lingerie, thong, or skimpy clothing industry out there for guys. What is the "look" that is held up as the "hottest" for a man: a suit. Look at all the guys at the awards shows: they're all in suits, and nobody talks about what they were wearing at the water cooler the next day. Remember that dress that J'Lo wore years ago? Of course you do, because it was promoted as hot, sexy, all of that stuff. Why? Because it was so provocative. Sorry Ms. Calhoun, but you only got that one half-right.

More strawfeminism:

"I guess we have to say, yes, we can wear lipstick and be feminists."

The internecine wars of the blogosphere aside, that one is a no-brainer. The objective of feminism is to allow women to choose what they want to do with their own lives, to seek their own happiness in their own way, without any external (male) judgment deeming what is acceptable and what is not. The mythology of the unshaven, hairy-pitted and -legged, makeup-less, sex-hating lesbian feminist is just that: a phony creation by men to make it scary for women to identify themselves as feminists.

Time for some fatalism and a reductio ad absurdum:

"But once we've thought it through, even if we did agree that our culture is saturated with anti-woman sexuality, what do we do? Unplug the internet? Ban porn? Drop Catharine MacKinnon leaflets onto the beach at Spring Break?"

How about urging some common sense? Is it really beyond the scope of her thinking abilities to suggest that we seek to instill some intelligence, knowledge, and most importantly of all, empathy into one another? Given that she can't think of anything for teenaged girls to do but take off their shirts, I realize that I may be pushing up against some cognitive abilities. It's amazing what happens when people talk to each other and share some insights. Opinions can be changed on an individual basis when one is informed and aware of what happens to make pornography, prostitution, and how it affects its participants and its consumers. I know, I've been through it. I may be more receptive and capable to process facts than most, but I know that I'm not the only male in the universe who has forsaken some of his male privelige to do the more difficult thing and say, "This is not right, and I don't want to be associated with 'masculinity' if it entails things such as consuming mass amounts of porn, treating women as receptacles, and being a misogynist ranting asshole."

Another bit of strawfeminism and something that just seemed absurd. After talking about porn and misogyny, apparently all of this is meant to capture

"the most natural thing in the world, the one thing that unites the history of humankind: trying to look cute."

Huh? This is what feminists and right-wingers are adamantly opposed to? I know that this article is having some real problems contorting itself to be acceptable to a mainstream audience and get that patriarchy seal of approval, but this is just bizarre. I honestly don't know how to respond to this because it just has no bearing on reality, and I can't deal with things like that.

But at least she is honest here:

"What these cultural arbiters fail to realize is that we're not doing it for them."

No kidding, you're doing it to gain that patriarchal stamp of approval. Nothing can be more important than being accepted by the menz right? How about demonstrating independence, the ability to succeed or fail on one's own terms instead of those imposed by a culture that rigs the game in favour of the latter, and "doing it" just for yourself? That would seem a much more notable objective for a woman than the nonsense that is being advocated here. Telling girls that if they just conform and keep on doing exactly what the boyz want them to do is telling them that success for a woman is to be deemed a success by a man. Never mind that that success can be instantly revoked, much like a dictator that changes policy on a whim without any accountability. Feminists define themselves according to themselves, as a subject, not an object.

And this says what I'm saying in its own bizarre, twisted way:

"Nine times out of ten, what turns us on is completely embarrassing. Porn is embarrassing. Dressing slutty is embarrassing. The mechanics of sex are absolutely, entirely embarrassing."

Yikes. The objective of one who wants a fulfilled life is to do things that are enjoyable and beneficial to oneself, maximizing his or her own happiness and pleasure. It should, thus it follows, never be "embarrassing" to seek pleasure in a sexual manner. If one is embarrassed by one's own actions in that regard, perhaps it is time for a little more introspection to realize more fully what it is that you want so that you can seek pleasure without the embarrassment. I speak as someone who is in an equal loving relationship with an incredible partner: there is nothing embarrassing involved in my relationship.

And the coup de grace, which is shameful when you really think about the indifference to the very prominent dark side of our modern sexuality:

"Every time someone casually refers to the horrible hypersexualizing of our culture and encourages us to be more responsible about what we wear, what we look at and how we behave with each other, let's nod and smile and thank them for opening up a discussion about modern sexuality."

Yes, let's just nod and smile about a sky-high rape rate, endemic misogyny, women being used and abused and ultimately discarded when they are of no further value, and everything else that is unfair and unjust about the sexual politics of our era.

The saddest thing of all of this? The problems we have here are but the tip of the iceberg when you compare our society to places in the developing world, where women have it so bad it is on a scale unimaginable to people here. The topic at hand here doesn't even discuss female genital mutilation, human sex trafficking, systemic rape and mutilation of women & children in wartorn societies, and the practice in some countries of raping young girls in the government-sponsored or -ignored belief that sex with a virgin can cure AIDS. We would all do well to ponder these issues when we are examining the world at large, because all of these things, in addition to pay equity, political representation, and fair treatment are feminist issues.

News Items

Commentary on the stories that catch my eye today:
  • "Syrian officials salvage Hamas, Abbas meeting" - folks, when you need to rely on Syria to smooth things over, you're in a world of trouble. The Assad dynasty in Damascus is no ally of peace. That the factions in the Palestinian government are turning to Syria reveals just how terrible the situation for them actually is; generally if two political parties are having issues, a quick phone call and maybe some emissarial massaging of concerns is all it takes to get things back in line. But needing Syria? Yipes.
  • "Former Liberal adviser said he did no real work" - that's only slightly less damaging than the work Scott Reid and the TV ad advisers did during the last election. Not only did the adviser not do work, he's come to even regret knowing Paul Martin (who is sporting what appears to be a lovely orange bandana in a photo accompanying the story) "as a person." Ouch. And the Liberals are made about the work Wajid Khan did for Stephen Harper?
  • "Australian officials pay private eyes to have sex with prostitutes: report" - let me get this straight: in seeking to gather evidence as to why brothels should be shut down (which should be in ready abundance, I would think), they actually contribute to business remaining open and in operation. Vile.
  • "Pakistani Role Seen in Taliban Surge at Border" - those wonderful "allies" of ours are at it again, putting Canadian and other NATO forces at risk of suicide bombings at the hands of a despicable regime that is seeking to turn Afghanistan's clocks back a few centuries. Someone please tell me again why Musharraf & company get to go on the "good guys" side of the ledger?
  • Dems: Clinton or Obama? Reps: Giuliani or McCain? - new poll up over at the WaPo has the frontrunners for 2008, at least in the minds of leaning voters. Hilary is way ahead of Obama, and Rudy's lead over McCain is about 7 points. If you like folks from New York, this may be the election for you!

20 January 2007

In The News

I'm going to make commentaries on the day's news a fairly regular thing. News items were a regular feature of every course I ever had with my best prof ever, Dr. Hodge (sorry to any of my Dal profs reading this!), and his commentary was always insightful and sometimes inciteful. So in that tradition, here we go:
  • Hilary Clinton is officially throwing her hat in the ring for 2008. The Democratic side of the race for the nomination is definitely getting interesting. Between Clinton and Obama, it's got the potential to be a landmark moment in American politics. The junior senator from New York is more than a little familiar with the White House, has instant name recognition (if not the greatest reputation or credibility), and more than enough ambition to give this a run that goes right to the convention in the summer of '08.
  • The Globe has a headline that just reeks of "duh" quality: "More than 'drug addicted prostitutes.'" Congratulations, you've recognized that Pickton's victims were actual human beings. There's a real problem in society when it comes to giving recognition to prostituted women as being people with stories to tell. As the women of Ipswich can attest, the only time we really hear about prostitutes is when they are murdered. Something must be done to help alleviate their plight and allow these women to escape the horrific conditions in which they are forced to "work"--as the overwhelming majority would prefer to do--and thus this story (but not its headline) gives me, albeit faint, hope that the government recognizes the ongoing problem of male sexual violence against women is one that it can, should, and must attempt to end. It was more than a little refreshing to see an expert actually recommend the Swedish model, which I've said more times than I care to count is the avenue we should be seeking.
  • Peter Mackay says that resolving the Israeli-Palestinian dispute will require "joint efforts." This is about as much a news story as saying the sky is blue, but it's still nice to see Canada playing a part in negotiations in the Middle East. I'm always skeptical when I see a U.S. administration trying to advance the process when it is in its final two years because it inevitably ends up being a failed "legacy project," but this time is different: there is no Yasser Arafat around to obscure and obstruct the process this time around. I'm also in agreement that a provisional Palestine with temporary borders is not a good idea. It would only set the stage for future irredentist struggles and land grabs. Negotiation over the borders of Israel and Palestine must be on a permanent and final basis, which will end up prolonging the discussions but will ultimately produce a result that is beneficial to all parties that aren't committed to the destruction of Israel. Hamas, get out of the way.
  • Fidel Castro is reportedly close to death. Quick, send Sacha Trudeau! Like Arafat, Castro is an obstacle to his people and their ability to realize their ambitions. His passing into history will finally close another chapter of the Cold War and put an end to communism in the Western Hemisphere, though apparently his buddy Chavez is well on his way to establishing it in Venezuela. It's amazing to think that Castro has been running Cuba into the ground since 1959. Just think how many transfers of power there have been in the world's democratic states since then.

Next Five Songs + NFL Picks

1. Nine Inch Nails - Last - TR discovered guitars on the Broken album. The results were positive. Two major new NIN releases this year, too, which may well end up being two more than Metallica does.
2. U2 - Yahweh - the final song on the last album that has any hope of standing the test of time (see discussion a couple posts below). Not my favourite song on HTDAAB, but it's still a good listen.
3. Stone Temple Pilots - Plush (Acoustic) - the original version was on the first STP album, this acoustic version comes off the greatest hits CD (I generally dislike greatest hits packages, but that's another tale for another time). Before Weiland got hopelessly addicted to heroin, the band seemed on its way to true greatness. From the time of Tiny Music until the end, there were some really weird songs in there body of work that are so far departed from the work on the first Core album that it's almost hard to believe it was the same band.
4. Metallica - Attitude - well, at least it didn't cue up Ronnie. Just about anything off Reload is pretty disposable, and this song is no exception. There's some good riffage in there, and I'm sure that it would be a "good song" for any other band, but this one is just nowhere near even the middle echelons on Metallica's song library. The lyrics aren't that great, as just about every song from the album. James speaks mostly in full sentences as opposed to the choppy word delivery that plagues a lot of Reload, but that's barely a redeeming quality. Why couldn't it have queue'd up something off Puppets?
5. Diamond Head - The Prince - Or even the Metallica version of this song? This song rocks. Great screaming intro solo, wicked riff, and all-around awesome work. It's second to Am I Evil? on my list of favourite DH songs, but a close one. Metallica played this song in Ottawa in 2004, the only show on the tour at which it got the live treatment, and it was awesome, all the moreso because I was one of maybe half a dozen people in the building who actually knew the song.

Now, for tomorrow's conference championship games: New England and Chicago. Sorry, Peyton, I'm rooting for you but I won't bet against Tom Brady in the playoffs. The Bears make the most of their home-field advantage to beat the Saints.

19 January 2007

In The News

  • I'm still awaiting the flood of comments from Paul Martin and other Liberals regarding China's satellite-destroying exercise that will no doubt result in the further weaponization of space. I know that a lot of Liberals don't regard a communist human rights-abusing regime such as China with the same level of contempt as they do that of George W. Bush, but it would be a glaring omission on their part to not make some sort of denunciation of Beijing's move. Of course, given that their new Foreign Affairs critic is the former NDP premier who served as a horrible Defence critic last year, I'm not holding my breath.
  • The hate-machine that is moveon.org is now targeting one of the most honourable senators in American history, John McCain, for their vile advertisements. A pre-emptive strike against a potential 2008 candidate with broad appeal that traverses partisan lines, perhaps? You betcha.
  • Almost half of the Liberal caucus gets a shadow position, and the old boys' network takes all of the top spots. Not a single female committee chair, and not a single female in a top shadow position. With the vast amounts of talent in their caucus, they are wasting a significant opportunity, and Dion has no doubt disappointed many a commentator/pundit/female with his choices.
  • Saw a rumour yesterday that stated Peter Forsberg would be a Montreal Canadien today if he didn't get injured a couple months back. Interesting. Also of note, former Habs heartthrob Jose Theodore is riding the pine on a nightly basis in Colorado and his trade value has sunk to somewhere between a bag of pucks and one of those composite sticks.
  • My football picks for the conference championship games will be up tomorrow or early Sunday. I was 4-for-4 last week, can the heat continue?

18 January 2007

Should Iraq Be Partitioned?

As I was re-reading Ralph Peters' New Glory today, specifically a section dealing with the American experience in Iraq, I got to thinking about the present and the future of that now forever Saddam-free country. The ongoing sectarian violence that has been plaguing the country since, especially, the bombing of the Golden Mosque in Samarra last February had led to some serious thinking about a future division of the country. Much of this has been in terms of maintaining the country's territorial integrity but dividing it into three nominally-autonomous sections with Baghdad acting as the central government to handle external affairs. I wonder: is this going far enough? Would the best interests of Iraqis be to partition the country into three separate states along sectarian lines?

We must first recall that the state of Iraq today is a legacy of empire and the First World War. Created in 1920 by the British, Iraq's borders do not take into account the significant differences within those arbitrary boundaries. The Shi'ites and the Suunis have historical grievances dating back centuries, and the Kurds--who have lived under considerable autonomy since the early 1990s--are not Arabs living in a predominantly Arab state, comprising 15-20% of the country's population and living in their own northern enclave. So Iraq is really a monstrosity that belied the concept set forth by Woodrow Wilson of national self-determination, the idea that every people should have their own state. I will return to this theme later.

The violence in Iraq today has been characterized, with some legitimacy, as a low-level civil war. The Kurds have largely stayed out of the fray, but the Shi'a-Suuni violence occurring in the country's middle provinces provides us with daily evidence that makes the case against a unified Iraq emerging from Saddam's ouster. The U.S. troop presence throughout the country has been insufficient to curb the violence. The disempowered Suunis, having enjoyed the benefit of ruling Iraq for decades despite making up only 35% of the country's population, have been at the heart of the insurgency fighting against the occupation. They also overwhelmingly disapproved of the country's constitution in 2005, suggesting that their political ambitions may well never be reached within Iraq as it is composed today.

If this low-level civil war continues to escalate, the immediate future may well give way to the War(s) of the Iraqi Succession, much as occurred in the 1990s when Yugoslavia rapidly disintegrated into a number of states along ethnic/religious lines. Unless the American initiative to increase their presence in the country to forestall this nightmare scenario works, it may become time for the government in Baghdad to start examining the option of partitioning the state through a political mechanism in order to prevent the catastrophic bloodshed that would occur in a war of secession. It is a process that would have to be conducted fairly to all parties involved, as well as take into consideration the geopolitical ramifications that such an avenue would have on the region. An unfair process that further disempowers Suunis or leaves the Shi'ite majority with significant grievances would only give way to future irredentist wars to "reclaim" territory that the parties believe is rightly theirs.

What are those key geopolitical consequences? Potentially, Iran would be strengthened, lending more credibility to its claims of regional hegemony by exerting significant influence over the Shi'ite population of a rump Iraq. Turkey would not respond well to an independent Kurdistan on its southern frontier. The status quo and the much-cherished "sanctity of borders" would fall by the wayside. The negotiations over the division of territory, Iraq's oil, access to the Strait of Hormuz, and religious sites would be time-consuming, leaving great uncertainty to fester within the region. And potentially most importantly of all, the Suuni regions of Iraq--left as they are now--could become a new haven for Islamist terrorism in the same order of magnitude that Taliban-era Afghanistan served as a base for al Qaeda. These are all critical considerations that would have to be factored into the equation of any discussion about partitioning Iraq.

There are positive potentialities as well. An independent Kurdistan would advance one of the great notions of any American president that much further, and could result in legitimate diplomatic relations opening up between the Kurds and Turkey regarding the future fate of the latter's significant Kurdish population. Iraqi Kurdistan already has in place many of the mechanisms needed to function as an independent democratic state, and giving it complete autonomy could well serve the interests of freedom. It is by no means assured that Iraq's Shi'ites would look to Tehran for assistance or security; having been freed from Saddam's rule by the United States, an independent and democratic Shi'ite state carved out of Iraq may well act as a bulwark against Iranian ambitions without the odiousness that Iraq under Saddam served as during the 1980s. The Suunis, having been given political territory and authority of their own again, could be placated and renounce violence, turning against the foreign jihadists in their midst. Lastly, one more of the last vestiges of empire would be wiped from the map, giving way to justice for each of Iraq's major demographic constituencies.

As with any major political decision, there are significant reasons to partition Iraq and against dividing the country. Both sides of the argument are compelling and have their own merits and drawbacks. I am not yet fully convinced that this is the time to say partition is the only way to save Iraq and its people from the daily orgy of violence in the country. Nonetheless, I do believe that it is a credible option that should remain on the table to be considered by the factions in Iraq's government and by the United States and its coalition allies. It is a decision that will ultimately be made by the Iraqi people, and that decision should be supported by the "international community." There should be no outcry about the sanctity of national boundaries given the wholly legitimate claims to be made on behalf of national self-determination, and the fear of moving away from the status quo is one that is largely unfounded. The situation in Iraq remains fluid and success or failure--by the Americans or of Iraq as a state--is by no means assured at this time.

14 January 2007

Even Clintonians Are Giving Up on the UN

There is an increasingly widely-held view among American political scientists and pundits that the UN is in need of being replaced with an institution that is more suited to the realities of the 21st century than the 1950's. This is a view which I share, and dedicated a lengthy section of my thesis to discussing and promoting. The UN is too entrenched in the weltpolitik of a bygone era to meet the challenges posed by sub- and trans-national terrorism, too saturated with dictators and human rights abusers to promote democracy and human rights, and too inept to handle the challenges of peacekeeping, nation-building, and other challenges that simply did not exist at the forefront of international relations sixty-plus years ago.

However, today was the first time that I've seen Bill Clinton's people openly advocating such a thing as a "Concert of Democracies." Ivo Daalder and James Lindsay do exactly that in this essay posted over at The American Interest. I've disagreed with these two in the past over whether Bush's foreign policy constitutes a revolution in American foreign policy, as I believe that the current Administration has been a natural evolution in political thought of the same lineage as Woodrow Wilson and Harry S. Truman. Thus I was very surprised to see them collaborating on an essay entitled "Democracies of the World, Unite" that took more than a few shots at the international organization status quo and become proponents of the very ideas most closely associated with democratic realists/globalists and their neoconservative cousins that Clintonians so regularly denounce.

If nothing else, it just goes to show that a good idea can traverse all ideological lines. It is long overdue that the Bush Administration overcome its diplomatic inertia and seek to work with its fellow democracies on a comprehensive basis to formulate new institutions that are capable and willing to be full and active participants in winning the Global War on Terror & Tyranny. There is so much good to be achieved through the institutional mechanisms of an alliance composed of the world's democratic states: supporting the advance of women in social/political/economic participation in the life of the nation-state, promoting human rights, deterring tyrannical regimes from seeking to expand their power and influence, supporting the principle of the Responsibility to Protect, preventing nuclear proliferation, and assisting emerging democracies in the development of civil society and the institutions of democracy such as the rule of law, political parties, and grassroots organizations. This is something which is entirely possible for us to achieve, and more importantly, it is a very desirable avenue for Canada to pursue its own liberal objectives in the world.

Sunday Musings

  • The Habs' loss yesterday was awful, almost unbearable to watch. It is no consolation to me that Toronto lost by the same margin to Vancouver. With games against Detroit and Vancouver this coming week, the boys need to get it together.
  • I picked both of the winners in yesterday's NFL playoff games. Today I say Chicago and New England.
  • The blogroll has been updated with the current link to "A Speakout on Male Sexual Violence" (which is apparently on hiatus, which is unfortunate given that male sexual violence never takes a holiday) and I've added a pair of new ones: Robert Jackman is a British blogger who is in the feminist, anti-porn camp, and Prostitution Research & Education is an excellent resource for information.
  • Speaking of prostitution, Barbara Kay's column in Thursday's Post is her latest argument for regulating the "industry." Kay is a noted anti-feminist, and she is regularly wrong in her suggestions. Long-time readers of this blog will recall that it was a similar batch of nonsense that prompted my first publication in the Post. The idea of turning the federal government into the nation's biggest pimp is thoroughly repugnant, and giving men the green light to commit acts of sexual violence and gross violations of a woman's integrity does nothing but perpetuate an intolerable status quo while telling women that Ottawa does not care about their security concerns.
  • I wholeheartedly agree with Trent Reznor's characterization of the music industry as "dying," and this statement pretty much sums up my feelings about the rock scene as well: "If I happen to accidentally turn the radio on and hear, for example, an emo type screamo band, I literally can't tell the difference between one of 20 bands." What qualifies as popular music these days is just horrendous as well. I bought maybe 4 CD's in all of last year, and not a one of them gets any airplay on pop radio, which is fine by me. Funny that I mention TR, as Fox's preview show for the football game is playing a track from his 1999 opus, The Fragile, the amazing and perennial choice in my favourite songs ever list, "We're In This Together."

13 January 2007

Next Five Songs on Your i-Habs-Pod

I've been itching to do this ever since I got the thing for Christmas, and now that I've uploaded almost my entire music collection, it's as good a time as any.

1. Jimmy Eat World - Hear You Me - I used to be a Jimmy fan, just as they really made it big with the single "The Middle," which made them a little too big for my back pocket. I've only ever had one or two bands like that (HIM was another), and I felt a little sad when they went too close to the mainstream. For whatever reason, I never really gave Futures a chance, which I may do one day when Tasha's at work. Anyways, the song itself is a beautiful ballad about a dearly departed friend, so sorry to be morbid, but this is a song I want played at my funeral.

2. The Offspring - I Wanna Be Sedated - a great cover of a great Ramones song. When there was talk of a Ramones tribute album in 2002, I knew that this song would be on there, and I was not disappointed. Very catchy, great hooks, and all sorts of fun. I haven't listened to the Offspring in a while, but this song is a good reminder of why I enjoyed them.

3. The Tea Party - Stargazer - this song is special for me. It came out as a single just as Tasha & I started dating and so we kinda adopted it as our own. Fantastic song by Canada's most underappreciated rock band, whom I had the pleasure to see twice within the span of about three months in 2005, shortly before they broke up. They were scheduled to come to Halifax about two weeks after we moved hered, but the tour got cancelled, making me all the more glad I got to see them when I did. It's sad to me that the Barenaked Ladies got all the radio play and hype from Canada's loathsome CanCon regulations while a great band like The Tea Party always flew just under the radar and never got the exposure that they deserved. I'd been a fan ever since I saw the video (back when MuchMusic played them) for The Bazaar. A very unique band with a unique sound that I'm sad to see will never put out another song like Stargazer.

4. U2 - Walk On - ahh the second single from Beautiful Day. The video isn't that great, but it's a wonderful song. I was hoping they might have played it at the show in Vancouver in 2005, but it was not meant to be. Say what you will about Bono and the activism thing, but this band always delivers the goods.

5. Blue Oyster Cult - Astronomy - Metallica would cover this song on 1998's Garage Inc., but the original version is pretty good too. I get a kick out of this song because it mentions the names of two of my sisters, which once prompted me to ask mom if she used to be a Blue Oyster Cult fan. You never know who's gotta have more cowbell, right? This original features the keyboard, which of course the Metallica cover does not, but it still maintains its heaviness and a great moodiness about it.

11 January 2007

But Is It a "Timeline"?

Bush's speech last night hit on a lot of key points that will hopefully get things in Iraq turned in the right direction. It's not exactly a revelation to say that the situation in Baghdad is not as rosy as had been predicted back in the heady days of 2002 and 2003.

Adding more troops will assist in maintaining order and retaining footholds in the areas which American and Iraqi forces have secured. No more will they clear out an area, leave, and have to return in a matter of weeks or even days. The increased troop presence will of course put more Americans in the line of fire, and will thus give the insurgents more targets (to say nothing of their greater determination). The "media sense," such as it is, is saying that this is Bush's "last chance" to get Iraq strategy right, which gives the coming months a greater sense of a final showdown in the offing.

The introduction of November 2007 as a target for Iraqis to be in charge of their own security, however, is a significant departure from Bush's strategy in Iraq. It sounds as much of a target date as anything we've heard in the past, and this sounds like a timeline, which Bush has been reticent to announce thus far. It's not quite "November 2007 and we're out" but it is still a significant benchmark with a hard date, and it's going to be interesting to see what happens after that date. Will Washington begin pulling back its troop commitments? I suppose that only time will tell...

10 January 2007

Why It's Best to Ignore Celebrities

As I'm sitting here watching CNN tonight awaiting the President's speech, a news item scrolling along the bottom read "Richard Gere urges Indian prostitutes to insist on condom use." The item cited the AP, so I decided that since there's a few minutes left I'd take a gander and see what all this celebrity had to say to the oppressed sex class of India. I have a small headache after hitting my head on my desk. On the upside, I finally make my first feminism-themed post of 2007. It should have happened sooner.

"When sex workers speak of condoms as a norm, it is a powerful statement, it empowers them." - Richard Gere

How many things can you find wrong with that statement?

Most of us feminists realize that the second the word "empowerment" appears in any of its forms, it is usually a word that has the exact opposite effect. For example, "pole-dancing classes" are said to be empowering; telling everyday women that the best way for them to get their man to pay attention to them is to behave like a stripper is not empowering. I say this not to denigrate strippers, but rather because men who go to see strippers have exceedingly low esteem for them.

Frankly, telling prostitutes to do anything that results in them continuing to work in the prostitution "industry" is the exact opposite of empowering: it is perpetuating their oppression.

If Richard Gere truly gave a damn about women forced into prostitution, he would make an address to the pimps and johns of India and tell them: "Don't reduce women to commodities to be bought, sold, and traded for sex. If you're a pimp, don't rape women and sell them to others to do the same. If you're a john, don't buy women to use as disposable tools for your own gratification."

But no, instead let's tell the women that if they "demand"--because a 16-year old girl is in a position of authority to demand that a likely much larger and stronger man who doesn't even regard her as a human being at least have the courtesy to put on a condom before he rapes her--that their john use a condom, they'll be empowered.

Ignore celebrities.

09 January 2007


Once it's done charging I'm going to take a picture of my iPod with its brand-new Montreal Canadiens skin. It is totally sweet and deserves to be seen by the world.

**Updated** No less spectacular than the 4-2 comeback victory by the team last night, I give you: the i-Habs-Pod. That little glow, though it may resemble camera flash, is actually heavenly awesomeness.

07 January 2007

What Canada Must Overcome to Succeed in Afghanistan

"The state of denial among the Canadian people, its academics and the unelected leadership in the bureaucracy has crippled Canada's response to that threat [posed by the totalitarian ideology of al Qaeda -- RGM] and may affect the conduct of our war in Afghanistan. Conditioned by decades of moral equivalency, cultural relativism, a dysfunctional interpretation of history and a lack of real understanding of foreign cultures have taken their toll."

Thus argues Sean Maloney of the Royal Military College in the latest issue of Policy Options. This succinctly captures what many of us who have been supportive of Canada's participation in Afghanistan have been struggling to overcome in winning support for the war here at home. As I have said before, it is incomprehensible to me that our efforts in Kandahar have only 50/50 support. Whether this is due to my own less-than-dysfunctional understanding of Canadian military history, my unwillingness to draw a moral par between democracies and dictatorships, or my rejection of cultural and moral relativism, or some combination of all three, I simply cannot grasp the arguments being made by many of those who oppose Canada's role in Afghanistan.

In addition to the problems that Mahoney lists above, we must also factor in the sense of detachment that many Canadians feel from the plight of the Afghan people and the efforts of our Canadian Forces and allies. Most Canadians simply do not grasp the concept that threats to liberty in, to use the old turn-of-phrase, "faraway places of which we know little" will eventually come to threaten the state of liberty in Canada. There is a layer of separation between what Canada is doing in Afghanistan and the survival of the Canadian nation-state. The war, and it is indeed a war, is not an existential struggle in the sense that World War I and World War II were, and it is because of this reality that there is a lack of connection with what our Forces are trying to accomplish.

However, while the fate of Afghanistan is not connected to the fate of Canada, what happens in Afghanistan will determine the future course of the lives of many Canadians. If we do not succeed in that theatre, the Taliban, al Qaeda, and those like them will re-acquire a base from which to plan and plot future terrorist attacks against Canada, the United States, and its allies. Moreover, they will achieve a key psychological victory that will have ramifications throughout the Islamic world: as Osama bin Laden is fond of saying, when given the choice between a strong horse and a weak horse, people will always choose the strong horse. Should the Taliban stand up to the supposed strongest powers on Earth, they will establish themselves as a strong horse, while the West will be perceived much as it was after Mogadishu: weak, unwilling to defend itself, and vulnerable to pinpricks that morph into much larger injuries and significant time spent on the psychiatrist's couch.

It is therefore imperative that the Government of Canada undertake a significant campaign to demonstrate the weakness and falsity of the claims of Jack Layton and his ilk. In order to maintain support for this mission, Canadians must be given a clear picture of what we are doing in Afghanistan, how it lines up with our traditions, beliefs, and values, and what is the nature of the endgame. It has become clear that fighting for the young girls of Afghanistan to have the right to an education is not enough to spur Canadians into action, nor is the desire of the overwhelming majority of Afghans to escape from decades of warfare and live a life of peace and tranquility. Doing it for them doesn't appeal to Canadians on the level that is required to sustain the popular support needed to give our elected officials the backbone to see through the mission to its conclusion. So it seems.

Rather than making the Afghanistan mission about the future of Afghans, it is apparent that the matter must instead be framed in the context of the future of Canada and its willingness to stand up and defend the principles that it holds so dearly. We must demonstrate the vacuity of the claims of the Left and remind Canadians of their proud history of standing alongside its allies to advance the cause of democracy, liberty, and justice in the world. Are there still some things in this world that Canadians believe in strongly enough that they will fight and die to perpetuate and maintain? Or do we stick our heads in the sand and pretend that there are no more monsters in the world except for that nefarious George W. Bush?

One great piece of evidence of the weakness of those on the Left is their belief that, as Maloney states, "Radical Islamists will somehow be converted to our way of life after having spent enough time in contact with our multicultural society." This position is fatally flawed given the importance than these radical Islamists stress in their religion; to turn away from Islam after having embraced it is the most surefire way to Hell. It is a crime worse than being an ignorant infidel to be an apostate. There is little chance that those 17 young men who plotted to storm Parliament and behead the Prime Minister will simply grow out of their extremism as if it were just a passing phase in their life. Those who hate Canada do so not only for its actions, but for its very existence as an infidel state that seemingly purposefully corrupts young Muslim men and lures them away from their beliefs. When Ayman al-Zawahiri goes on a rant in which he states that Stephen Harper is "obsessed with Christianity," it is an affirmation that he is an infidel and thus his killing is justified. This is a point of view for which there is little ability to compromise, making the "can't we all just get along" sentiment of the Left not only naive but very dangerous.

With all this in mind, Canada must overcome its psychological shortcomings if it is to be successful in winning in Afghanistan. For if this path of weakness and meandering continues, it will not only have dire consequences for the people of Afghanistan, but for the people of Canada itself. The Government simply must do more to denounce and render meaningless the bleating of the opponents of Canadian participation in Afghanistan. Ignoring them and assuming that Canadians will see through the empty rhetoric for what it is has failed and undermined support for a mission that in every way embodies the things for which Canadians have traditionally supported and rallied around. It is easy to roll one's eyes at Jack Layton when one knows the historical reality and understands the imperative of success in Afghanistan, but far too many Canadians do neither, and the lack of an authoritative voice that counters his fallacious arguments only boosts his credibility. And that has proven exceedingly harmful already, it should not go unchallenged any longer.


Mostly sports-related thoughts . . .

I've never been a Cowboys fan (sorry, Dad) but it hurt to see them lose their playoff game last night in the fashion they did. Romo's a good player, and sometimes good players can make costly mistakes too. Given what happened the other night in Edmonton, this one still ends up as the most wild finish of the week.

The Habs have had a rough couple of weeks, and the flu that ravaged the team was evident in the team's play yesterday. Without their captain, and with many of their key players in a weakened condition, they did not look good against the Rangers and they still almost escaped with at least a point. The papers have been ripping on Janne Niinima again for being in the wrong time zone on the winning goal, and should Koivu and Latendresse be back in the line-up today you can rest assured that Janne will be back in the press box where can do less damage.

Today's NFL winners will be New England and the Giants.

I just picked up the latest issue of Policy Options, which has a lengthy section on Afghanistan. Should make for a good read, and if anything inspirational comes out of it, I'll make a post in the coming days.

05 January 2007

"Oh Yeah, That Guy!"

When I first heard the rumour the other day that Wajid Khan was going to cross the floor to the Conservatives, I admit that I had to think for a moment about who that was exactly. Then I remembered that he was the Liberal MP who had signed on to be the PM's special adviser on Middle East issues. I knew that at some point he'd be made to choose either the Liberals or the Tories, and I can't say that I'm readily surprised that he went the way that he did. If you had the chance to be the PM's special adviser on Middle East--only the most important geo-political region in the world--issues, I'm thinking there's a pretty good chance that you'd do it too. I don't know much about Khan and his other political stances, but obviously he's got the Prime Minister's ear and has played a significant role, so there's at least enough agreement between the two philosophies that he doesn't feel as though he's particularly compromising himself and his integrity. It's a number up for Harper and one down for the Liberals, at least for the time being.

In related news, now that the dust has settled, it's time for my own appraisal on the Cabinet shuffle. Baird to Environment is as much a move to give the Conservatives a partisan hammer in the portfolio as it is to give them any substantial policy credibility. Anybody who has watched QP (and if you haven't, how did you manage to make it here?) knows that Baird is a bombastic speaker who can dish out the rhetoric and do that thing where he makes you feel small if you're standing opposite him. I've never once heard him say anything about combatting pollution or reducing GHG emissions, but now that he'll have the chance, it's going to be, at the very least, an interesting spectacle. As for Rona Ambrose, I'm not exactly sure that Intergovernmental Affairs is necessarily the best place for her. It's a file that has been high profile during the course of the past year, and we've seen once already how well she performs in the high-profile portfolios. Unless there's some issues arising between Ottawa and her home province of Alberta, I don't see her excelling in that slot as well as, say, Stephane Dion did back in the late 1990s.

I was also disappointed to see that Bev Oda wasn't moved out of Canadian Heritage and Status of Women Canada. She's been the minister responsible for something of a PR nightmare when it comes to the latter of her duties, taking actions that have spawned such websites as The Women Are Angry and large protests on Parliament Hill. Odd, too, that Jason Kenney has been made a Secretary of State to bolster her in the former role.

It is good news to see Monte Solberg being given a higher profile position in the Cabinet. He's a blogger favourite, and one of the Tories' strongest assets.

Beyond that there's not a whole lot of earth-shattering movement going on with this shuffle. Given how Harper has been governing from the centre during his stewardship, a lot of the ministers aren't even readily identifiable by the mainstream press, so the few new faces in new places isn't exactly going to change the political culture in Ottawa. It's a bit of political housekeeping to give cookies to the MPs that have been good in the past year and scold those who haven't performed to expectations, and not much more than that. Let's face it, few people are going to change their votes in the next election over what we've seen in the past couple days unless they're in Mississauga/Streetsville.

03 January 2007

Cabinet Shuffle Imminent

Word has gotten out that the PM has recalled all of his ministers to Ottawa and a Cabinet shuffle will be taking place tomorrow morning. Speculation galore, of course, but what's being said on TV is that nobody will actually be dropped, there will only be some folks being moved around and even a couple new ones being brought in. After operating for his first year with a leaner, meaner Cabinet, Harper seems to be going down the same road as his predecessors by increasing the size of the government.

A dead-certainty is that Rona Ambrose will be relieved of her duties as Environment Minister. Having been given the most difficult file, she's not measured up to the (unreasonable? impossible? unfair?) expectations placed upon her, and has indeed gone in the opposite direction: she slaughtered progressive Canada's favourite sacred cow by being forthright and honest about Canada's ability to meet its Kyoto requirements, and the Clean Air Act impressed nobody in official circles. With the Liberals going green at the moment of convenience (i.e. when they're no longer accountable for Canada's failures), Harper needs a fresh face in this position that has some credibility on the issues pertaining to the file. I think it's safe to say, then, that Stockwell Day will not be taking over for Ambrose.

There's also been some late-night speculation about the political future of Minister of Defence Gordon O'Connor. He's getting a little up there in the years, and hasn't done an effective political sell on what should be a slam-dunk issue regarding Canada's participation in Afghanistan. A mission that embodies almost all aspects of Canadian foreign policy should enjoy far higher than 50/50 support among the public, and it is the duty of the minister to make known the government's position and the steps it is taking. O'Connor, while shoring up support among those of us whose support for Operation Archer and participation under the NATO banner is unquestioned and unflinching, has not expanded that umbrella of support. One rumour has him retiring, and in his place in the next election retired Major-General Lewis Mackenzie would run for his seat, presumably to take over the slot at Defence. I like Mackenzie, he's a straight-shooter and not afraid to go sacred cow-tipping when it comes to failed organizations like the UN, and if he decides to run it would be a positive for the soldiers and the civilians at the DND.

While nothing is known at this point, all will be revealed tomorrow. The changes, they are a-coming. It won't take long to see whether they'll bolster Harper's roster for the next election or if it's merely a bit of keeping the same folks around but giving them new portfolios to muck around with, a la Allan Rock.

In other news, a study done to measure toxicity levels within the blood of some of Canada's politicians reveals that the Liberal participant, MP John Godfrey, has the highest toxificiation within his blood. Make whatever jokes you see fit.

01 January 2007

The First Post of 2007

First of all, a happy 2007 to all my readers.

I was thinking this morning, as I often do, about the future direction of this country called Canada. Where do we see ourselves in 5 years? 10 years? in the year 2020? What will be the issues that dominate political debates and shape the ever-nebulous Canadian Identity? Of our current leaders, which, if any, will be the one to lead Canada along that path and lead us to their vision of a Canada that fulfills all of its potential? What will it take to forge an immortal prime ministerial legacy that resonates with Canadians for generations to come?

These are no simple questions to answer. Sure, I may be able to conjure them up during a sleepless night at 4am, but I don't really have the full answer right now. I can see some resolutions and paths, however, and I shall discuss but one of them now.

The Next Great Canadian Social Engineering Project

First, do we need one, and if yes, what is it? In the past election campaign, the battle lines were drawn around a National Daycare Program. This, to me--a child-less as yet 20-something--seemed quite odd as a national election campaign issue; it was as if I woke up one morning and a National Daycare program of some sort became the predominant issue in Canadian politics. Every party platform had one, even the Conservatives, which was strange because they're supposedly--in the parlance of our partisan times--really neo-conservatives, who are renowned for their wariness of social engineering projects.

Now, there are a number issues on which I trust the state to take care of me, namely those defined under s.91 of the Canadian Constitution: peace, order, and good government. I don't have kids, as I mentioned above, but I once was one, and let me tell you something: I would much rather have been looked after by my mother, father, step-father, grandmother, aunt, or family friend than the Canadian State. I'm glad that this indeed was the case, as I turned out rather well and with a close bond to my familial unit. The state does other things better, and I would greatly prefer if they stayed out of the business of raising whatever future children I have and allowed me to do so within my family. I'll even take the $100/mo. to pay a babysitter when necessary.

Ah, 25 bucks a week. Folks, what is more "mean-spirited?" Giving mom & dad only a few bucks to help out, or saying that they'll blow the money on beer & popcorn and adding in that without the state's all-knowing and -calming hand they're much more likely to end up in prison? If you are a responsible parent who is able to look after his own affairs and those of his family, you'd almost certainly say the latter. But if you see yourself as a pseudo-European citizen who can't wait for the next state intervention to relieve you of the burdens of looking after brats and managing your own life, you would have fit in nicely on Carolyn Bennett's leadership campaign. The daycare issue, moreover, is a bit of a red herring because of Canada's declining birthrate, which hovers somewhere around 1.5, meaning that for every parenting nucleus (i.e. 2) only 1.5 children are being born. In the future, there will be fewer children and a smaller population of Canadians while the baby-boomers are easing into retirement and collecting all the benefits that the Canadian state has created for them now. The people of my generation, of which there are fewer, will thus each have a higher share of a burden to bear in paying social security and pension benefits. So, not only are the Liberals being mean-spirited in their attitude but they've also focused on the wrong demographic. Unless, of course, they're running on the assumption that all of us young folk are going to be working 16-hour days to be able to pay for ourselves and the benefits of the generation before us, in which case we'll have very little hope of seeing our own kids, should we even be having them (giving more credence to "not tonight, honey, I'm far too tired after having to work all day").

Rather than focusing on child-care, the state should be working on a comprehensive national post-secondary education plan. Yeah, yeah, provincial jurisdiction. Work it out with the provinces, then. Knowledge is the key to almost every aspect of a successful economic life; the more educated a person is in a relevant field, the more money they are likely going to make. Canada is already in the transition to a knowledge-based economy, but those who are on that curve are increasingly finding themselves in an economic hole when they begin their main working years. I should know, I'm one of them, and my burden is much less than that of some of my friends. The pretty degrees and fancy suffixes come at a very high cost, and when you're living in a weaker province like Nova Scotia (which, by the way, is almost entirely shut down today...meanwhile, if I still lived in BC, I'd probably be getting ready for work right now) it can be a real challenge to pay off those costs.

In the last election campaign, Paul Martin trotted out a good idea that simply did not go far enough to be a good idea, the "50/50 program." Under that plan, which would have kicked into effect this coming September, the feds would fund half of the costs for a student's first and last years at university, making it, in effect, a 25/75 program. One of the major flaws with this program was that a student who began study in 2006-07 would not see any benefit from said program until at least September 2009, by which time they'd potentially have accrued a debt load in the tens of thousands of dollars. A true 50/50 program, however, would significantly lighten that load and ease the concerns that many Canadian teenagers (and their parents) have when it comes to further their education beyond Grade 12. Money is almost always the #1 issue a university student faces, and can readily affect the decisions they make regarding where they go, what they take, and how they will live. Not all students are exceptional enough to receive large-scale scholarships, and many don't even know that they exist, but there is a very capable and willing pool of students out there that can make a contribution who end up excluded because they can't pony up enough cash or make a large enough withdrawal from the Bank of Mom & Dad to pursue their training. I don't know about how things work at every university in Canada, but to my knowledge, UBC (and perhaps just the one in Kelowna, at that) is the only school at which a student will not be turned away due to financial reasons (if there are others out there, let me know). We must enable our students to be able to pursue their post-secondary training without fear of emerging from the halls of academia with a crushing debt load that they will be paying off for years to come.