30 April 2007

A Degree of Disappointment

This may be my last post for a while, as I'm going on vacation tomorrow and still need to finish preparing for the trip. I may still make the odd comment around teh Internetz, but actual posting will likely be very sparse. So I'm glad that it's a good one today, as I reprint for you my latest published letter in the National Post.

Re: Hollow Halls of Academe, April 28. It was disheartening to read about the extent of the decay of academia in Canada in Saturday’s Post. I completed my graduate studies in political science at Dalhousie University last year and, by your coverage, I would almost think that my personal learning experience was an anomaly.
While earning good grades was important, the search for greater knowledge and understanding of Canadian and international politics was always my top priority. Learning more of the ins and outs of my discipline is more important to me than the credentials that I achieve, as that perspective and insight will do more for me in my life than the piece of paper that came at the end of my studies.
I hope that university graduates will change their mindset so that they seek career work based on merit they have earned rather than the credentials they have been accorded. Developing real skills and talents should be valued higher than the ability to go through the motions to receive a desired letter grade. When you aim for the former, the degree becomes the symbol of your achieved potential rather than an end in and of itself. Richard McAdam, M. A., Halifax.

27 April 2007

Latest Book

Building on my Dershowitz collection, I'm currently reading his 2005 work, The Case for Peace. The book was written after the death of the greatest barrier to peace in the Arab-Israeli dispute--Yasser Arafat--so it has a sense of renewed optimism that peace via the two-state solution can finally be achieved. I'm only in the early going so far, but I recognize many of the key themes that also appeared in The Case for Israel. This is not entirely surprising, as I've come to notice that what is in the best interest of the Jewish state coincides with what is best for a stable, lasting peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians.

This subject is one area that I feel I've come to understand much better in the past year or two. I feel comfortable engaging in debates on it (which I did yesterday over at Cherniak's, though a rebuttal post to a commenter advocating a one-state solution was apparently lost to the Blogger gremlins), and I have more confidence that the points I seek to make are valid and well-founded. It is a very controversial topic for some people, and one of perpetual frustration for others. But it is an important issue that needs to be resolved because far too many lives have been lost needlessly when the alternatives to peace appeared to be more in the interests of some parties than to others. It is criminal that the dispute wasn't resolved in 2000, and every life lost is a consequence of Arafat's decision to not make peace.

With him gone, and a more moderate Palestinian government in place--Hamas' participation notwithstanding--there should be a renewed push to achieve peace and the two-state solution. The road-map that was introduced in 2003 needs to be picked up again, and both sides will have to make painful concessions in their negotiations in order to fulfill its objectives, but getting half a loaf and peace is much better than seeking more than half a loaf and getting only more conflict.

25 April 2007

The Defeated Resolution

I've been mulling over whether to do a full post on the now-defeated Coderre resolution that would have purportedly brought an end to Canada's combat mission in Afghanistan in February 2009. After looking at it more closely, I've decided to go ahead on the grounds that the Liberals, for all their claims of seeking "clarity" on Canada's commitment to Afghanistan's reconstruction, would have further muddied the waters. First, the resolution's active clause (for the preambulatory clauses, go here:

this House call upon the government to confirm that Canada’s existing military deployment in Afghanistan will continue until February 2009, at which time Canadian combat operations in Southern Afghanistan will conclude; and call upon the government to notify NATO of this decision immediately.

I am not a linguist by trade, nor am I a lawyer. Nonetheless, I know that the wording of this resolution is deeply flawed if the Liberals truly want to bring an end to all Canadian combat missions in Afghanistan at the current February 2009 deadline. I don't know whether they purposefully or unintentionally left the clause vague, but nonetheless this resolution left open the door for the government to continue military operations beyond February 2009. Allow me to explain.

First, the resolution speaks of the "existing military deployment," which can be interpreted to mean the current operation and not the mission itself. Suppose Canada order a fresh military deployment to another region of Afghanistan, either by sending in new forces or a re-deployment of current Canadian Forces already in Afghanistan. How would such a new deployment relate to this resolution? What if the government were to order a new deployment scheduled to begin in March 2009? These are important questions that the failed Liberal measure does not address.

Second, the resolution calls for "Canadian combat operations" in "Southern Afghanistan" to conclude. It doesn't call for an end to "all Canadian combat operations in Afghanistan" in February 2009. This can allow for the Canadian Forces to deployed in Afghanistan for designated non-combat operations, and it can also allow for them to be re-deployed to another region of Afghanistan for combat operations. Most importantly of all, it doesn't call for all Canadian combat operations to end. The addition of the word "the" before "Canadian combat operations" would make it more restrictive, but worded as it is, it is still left vague and open to interpretation.
This brings to mind something which I read in Alan Dershowitz's book, The Case for Israel. In it, Dershowitz examines the language of UN Security Council Resolution 242, which calls for the return of "territories" to a future state called Palestine. It does not call for "all territories" or "the territories" that have been occupied by Israel, though that is the position which most hardliners and the terrorist organizations have claimed to be mandated by the UN. Under that language, Israel will be obligated, and is readily prepared, to concede some territory that will form the nucleus of a Palestinian state. But it is not obligated to return all of the territory.
The Liberal resolution relies upon similar wording, so it is entirely reasonable to interpret it in a similar fashion. By calling for "Canadian combat operations" to end, the resolution does not call for a withdrawal of all Canadian Forces from Kandahar nor does it call for the end of all combat operations in "Southern Afghanistan." Thus, Jack Layton had a point when he said that the resolution opens the door for extending the mission, a point which the Liberals' star blogger has missed, which is something totally anathema to the NDP's desire for immediate withdrawal of all Canadian Forces personnel from combat operations in Afghanistan.

The Liberals' failed resolution did not bring clarity. I am astonished that their leader, who prides himself and refers to the Clarity Act (1998) as a highlight of his career, allowed the resolution to go as far as it did. Had it been passed, it would have done the opposite of providing clarity to Canada's mission in Afghanistan. The serious unresolved questions that I raised above, combined with the horribly bad wording, would have left the status of Canada's Afghanistan mission with even less clarity, and subject to the interpretation of the governing party.

Win Some, Lose Some

Mixed news coming from the fronts of the War on Terror...

Canadian MPs voted down the Liberals' bill to unilaterally withdraw from Afghanistan in February 2009. I can't really congratulate the NDP for having courage to stand up for Canadian national interests given their real motivation, but at least they didn't side with the Liberals in order to get a foot in the door when it comes to a timetable. I'd imagine that once they'd gotten that, they would slowly chip away at the withdrawal date.

To nobody's surprise, Hamas is lobbing rockets into Israel again. After the multi-front conflict that also involved Iran's proxy Hezbollah, many of us knew we would be at this place again within a matter of months. Here we are. Israel is presently meeting to decide what to do in response to this latest challenge and provocation from terrorists. Whatever they decide to do, so long as it falls within the boundaries of acceptable policy (which is very likely the case), Canada should fully support its democratic ally.

24 April 2007

In The Headlines, Canadian Edition

After going global yesterday, nothing but Canadianna today...

Is it me, or is the media trying to spin Harper's image consultant into an actual issue? They spent two segments on it on Sunday's Question Period. I realize that it's one of those poke-fun-at-the-politician things, but there's other, more important issues that CTV's flagship Sunday talk show should be examining. Bringing in numerous talking heads to discuss from multiple points-of-view is a waste of airtime and insulting to Canadians who expect to see actual issues discussed....such as:

Tonight there is going to be a vote on withdrawing Canadian participation from Afghanistan with a hard deadline of February 2009, regardless of the situation in the country and the wishes of Canada's ISAF and NATO allies. For all their criticism of certain neighbours and their supposed unilateralism, declaring without consulting our allies or making a thorough assessment of the conditions on the ground, the opposition parties seem hellbent on unilaterally ending Canada's significant role in reconstructing Afghanistan. Of course it is our decision to make, but to do so without an eye on Canadian national interests and those of our partners spits in the face of well-meaning Canadian multilateralism that was once a hallmark of Liberal-driven Canadian foreign policy. It's almost farcical that the vote hinges on the NDP lining up with the government to defeat the Liberals and the Bloc.

Sticking with Afghanistan, there are some very loud rumours that Canadians are turning over detainees to the Afghan authorities, who are reportedly torturing them. Though there has been no confirmation or denial on these accusations, they are very serious indeed and go straight to the heart of what distinguishes us and what we're helping to build in Afghanistan, and the vile Taliban regime that instituted its tyrannical oppression prior to 9/11. Simply put, Canadians do not and should not support or condone the use of torture, and we would be justly aghast if it turned out that there was some complicity on Canada's part in certain individuals being tortured. Stephane Dion's assertion that we should re-locate these suspected terrorists to Canada is patently absurd, and I'm not seeing the logic in demanding Gordon O'Connor's resignation before: a) the facts are known, b) there is sufficient evidence that Canadians are turning Taliban insurgents over to Afghan authorities for the purpose of having them tortured. It's ridiculous to demand the resignation of a top-level minister over a rumour. Once we get a) and if true, combined with a solid dose of b), sure, but such demands are out of whack right at this stage.

23 April 2007

In the Headlines

And the news is not good today...

The London Times reports that al-Qaeda operatives are planning 'the big one' to execute in Britain, something they say is on "a par with Hiroshima and Nagasaki." This can only refer to exploding a nuclear device. In the War on Terror & Tyranny, this is what Graham Allison referred to as "the ultimate preventable catastrophe," and let us all hope that it is. Kevin Potvin has been given enough to pump his fist at already. Obviously we don't and can't know all the operational details that will go into preventing, disrupting, and dismantling, this plot, or how credible the information is, but it's not a secret that pursuing nuclear materials has long been an objective of Osama bin Laden's in his war against the West.

Former Russian President Boris Yeltsin has died at the age of 76. Though his record on political reform is spotty at best, Yeltsin is best remembered as the Russian leader that ended the Soviet Union and stood defiantly atop an advancing tank to prevent his ouster in a coup attempt shortly after the fall of the Evil Empire.

The Nigerian election has returned the ruling party amid widespread complaints of fraud and other illicit behaviours that have come to mar most exercises in democracy in Africa. I'm not going to sit here and pretend to be an expert on Nigerian politics, but suffice to say that I'm always disappointed when I see the trappings of democracy being used to trammel the progress of a state and its citizens' aspirations so that corrupt leaders can advance their own power with the fig leaf of legitimacy.

22 April 2007

Happy Earth Day, except to the Goddamn Economists!

Canada's favourite homegrown enviro-propagandist, David Suzuki, has some advice to all Canadians:

"First of all, let's stop listening to the goddamn economists," he said. "Twenty per cent of the economy will disappear. It will cost more than World War I and World War II put together. We'll go into a kind of depression we've never, ever had in all of history." The CBC story containing that little ditty leads off:

Canadians are ready to pay a little extra to help deal with climate change, David Suzuki said Friday before a meeting with the federal environment minister. "I think they're willing to suck it in and accept that they're going to have to pay more but they want it to be fair," Suzuki said during a news conference in Ottawa.

Interesting idea, but he's not correct. Check out the poll over at CTV's website and recall this little ditty that I had up a month ago:


I don't know what is going on with these once-respected public figures, but the hysteria is getting louder by the day and ever-harder to digest rationally. General Canadian interest in "the environment" as an issue is superficial at least and passing at most. They see it on the news all the time, hear the message repeated that it's a pressing concern, and thus respond that it is an issue. It's little different from the turn of the century when "health care" was the dominant issue in multiple elections. Canadians love health care, they list it as a "Canadian value," yet in recent years there has been far less political emphasis on the system despite its continuing shortcomings.

Stephane Dion has referred to the environment issue as one of great urgency and said that every day that Stephen Harper is in office the situation will continue to worsen. You'd think that this would provide him an impetus to make a grab for power and force an election. Yet he and his party faithful are insistent that it is Harper and only Harper that wants an election. Contradictory message to say in the least.

I care about the environment and am regularly disgusted by the volume of litter that clutters the streets and sidewalks of Halifax. I try do my part: I recycle, I use public transit and my own two feet to get around, and I try to use as little electricity as possible (most electricity here in Nova Scotia is coal-generated). My "carbon footprint" (whatever that is) is a fraction of David Suzuki's or Al Gore's. I have political interests that I believe are a higher priority than "the environment," but that doesn't mean I go around tossing garbage in the streets or contributing to the problem. The people who are--self-appointedly--in charge of the environment movement are doing more to alienate regular people than to bring them in the fold with their hystrionics and bad advice.

21 April 2007

On Timetables and Afghanistan

Unfortunately I missed Thursday's parliamentary debate on Afghanistan. Thankfully, I have Hansard, available on the Internet. As I've been reading through it, I am struck by something that the Liberals repeatedly insist about the extent of Canada's commitment to the mission:

Hon. St├ęphane Dion: Mr. Speaker, I agree with the hon. member for Halifax about the necessity to show, despite the arguments, that we are trying to help the people of Afghanistan and play a good role. I respect her point of view. I still think we may do good things in the next two years.

Canada is committed until February 2009.

Reading that statement troubles me greatly. We're in it, but we're not in it for "as long it takes" or "until the government of Afghanistan is satisfied with the security situation in the country and requests that ISAF leave effective [insert date]" or "until the Taliban can no longer threaten the people of Afghanistan." No, Canada "is committed until February 2009." Then, pack 'er up, folks, we're going home.

I dread the thought that these people were governing the country in 1915. "Canada is committed until January 1917" or some other such date that had no bearing on, or relation to, the course of the War or the prospects of victory for the Entente countries and their allies. Jay Hill raised a similar point about the Nazis. Imagine if William Mackenzie-King, the Liberal Prime Minister during WWII, had only sufficient backbone to say that Canada would fight Hitler until 1943. Timetables and arbitrary deadlines don't work when applying them ex post facto and they do not work today.

Canada, or at least its political parties, desperately wants to believe in the existence of an international community. I hold no such delusions. Yet I am perplexed: if Canada wants to support the international community, why is it not prepared to participate in its major endeavours until they are completed? A good hockey player doesn't arbitrarily leave the ice with 15 minutes left in the second period (note: NOT AN ANALOGY TO AFGHANISTAN'S CURRENT PROGRESS!), they stick around until the final whistle blows. What if, in February 2009, conditions in Afghanistan, specifically Kandahar, are worse today than they are now? What if the Taliban is only days away from collapsing when we pack up and let, say, the French, who don't leave the base after dark, take over?

Canadians know, or should know, that their government and military forces are doing an incredible job in Afghanistan. Refer to
Ted Menzies' contribution to the debate on Thursday to see some of the accolades that Canadians are receiving from the Afghanistan government. The work that we are doing not only in Kandahar, but in providing aid to the entire country to facilitate reconstruction, is invaluable to the progress and hopeful success of that country's people. And of the Liberals, he said, this:

They are unable to see that each of those numbers, each of those millions of little girls going to school, has a name, a face and a hope that there is better life than the one they have known. Canada is not helping numbers. We are helping real people who deserve no less than we do: shelter, food, water and the ability to provide for their families. Why do the Liberals believe the people of Afghanistan deserve to be abandoned?

Which, of course, leads me to the NDP. Try on this for logic:

Ms. Olivia Chow (Trinity—Spadina, NDP): We know that Afghan women are still subject to arbitrary imprisonment, rape, torture and forced marriage. This is why in August last year the NDP asked that the present mission end.

I cannot, for the life of me, contort myself and my thinking to square the circle that because atrocities are still happening in Afghanistan, Canada should no longer participate in Afghanistan to end atrocities. In my view, that quote right there eliminates the NDP from holding any authority or legitimacy when it comes to promoting human rights and equality. They see that gross human rights violations are occurring, and when Canada has the chance to put an end to it, they want Canadians to have no part of it.

I am regularly disappointed by Canadian parliamentarians, and reading Thursday's Hansard provided more of it. When I hear Denis Coderre ranting and raving about Canada purchasing tanks, I cannot help but feel as though Canada is not a truly serious country in international affairs. I can't fathom even Dennis Kucinich going apoplectic in Congress because the Pentagon has announced it is seeking to buy some new tanks so that American forces have the best equipment available to them to win.

Canadians are clearly not in Afghanistan for imperialist reasons, though the nutbar that posts stickers around Halifax claiming we are may disagree with me. We've been looking for an exit strategy before the first CF members set foot in the country. We're there for the very best of reasons that are coinciding with our values and our interests. Yet some factions are decided upon removing Canada from Afghanistan as soon as possible, even though atrocities are still occurring and the mission is not complete. If not Afghanistan, to these people I ask, where?

19 April 2007

Random

  • Year Zero is fantastic. Go buy it, make sure to note the change in CD colour after playing it. Be sure to check out: http://www.freerebelart.net and scare your friends too.
  • Less than two weeks until I go back to the Okanagan. I can't wait. The weather here has been hideous lately, the job market has little for me, drivers are terrible (yet another close call in an intersection on Monday night), apples are obscenely expensive, and people frequently smoke in non-smoking areas.
  • I'm reading a fictional book for the first time--anything Star Wars notwithstanding--since I can't remember. It's Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale, on the recommendation of one Banana Doodle. Very chilling book about a dystopian future (what is up with all the dystopian future tales these days?) in which women have no rights at all. Best line: "Maybe boredom is erotic, when it is women doing it, for men." Wait, that's the current environment!
  • Is bringing up the "global conscience" conference the best way to demonstrate Stephane Dion's leadership credentials? Not really. President by default of a talking head meet-n-schmooze isn't going to inspire Canadians when the overwhelming number of Canadians don't actually pay close attention to these types of conferences. What he needs is a nickname. It worked well for Chretien.
  • I read the entire 70+ page US Supreme Court decision yesterday pertaining to the ruling in the so-called "partial birth abortion" legislation that Congress passed in 2003. Very informative reading, yet I am surprised and disappointed at the conclusion that the majority reached based on the information provided by the doctors who had the most experience and knowledge in performing abortions. Justice Ginsberg's dissent was impassioned and powerful, and I tend to agree with her: removing one of the safest methods of performing a second trimester abortion as an option seems to be an interference on the part of the state with a woman's sovereignty over her own body. Not surprisingly, Americans are largely divided along partisan lines, and the reaction is very strong from both camps.
  • The playoffs just haven't been as fun to watch this year without Montreal in them.
  • I managed to catch a show on PBS' America at the Crossroads series that was hosted and narrated by Richard Perle. Whatever mistakes have been made, America's course is still the right one, and I'm happy to see proponents of America's current grand strategy--the Bush Doctrine--still being given airtime.
  • As feared, the murderer at Virginia Tech is increasingly appearing to be, at least partially, motivated by a hatred of women. A loner, a stalker, first victim was a woman, another woman reportedly shot in the eye. This wasn't the sole motivation--though apparently some rag in Britain posted a picture of Emily Hilscher with the headline "Was it an obsession with Emily that drove gunman to kill?" and a first sentence of "This is the face of the teenage student who may have sparked the biggest gun massacre in US history." It turns out that they never were an item, but for whatever reason, this paper was compelled to lay the blame on her as the cause of Cho's madness and violent rampage. Despicable. We obviously know that he was twisted and warped by a number of factors, but the all-too-common theme of misogyny is yet again a player in a man's determination to go on a path of slaughter.

16 April 2007

What Can One Say?

What's happened down at Virginia Tech today is truly tragic, and conjures up the still-fresh pain Canadians felt when the Dawson tragedy occurred. 21 people murdered, and we're still yet to know the reason(s) why and the motivations of the killer who did this.

We know the motivations of those who engineered the Holocaust, the victims of which we remember today. Earlier, in the public square on Spring Garden Road, there was a person reading off the names and a brief history of those who were killed in horrible camps at places such as Treblinka, Auschwitz, and Dachau.

This is a very sad day for humanity.

Update: the number is now actually 31 dead. Worse and worse.

15 April 2007

Potvin Thrown Under the Green Bus

There had to be some sort of repercussions from Kevin Potvin's blatherings, and it turns out that Elizabeth May has "cancelled" the candidacy of the nutbar. Apparently the Greens didn't want their foreign policy platform revealed until closer to the election.

Damage is already done.

14 April 2007

Thanks to Andrew Coyne putting up some more of Kevin Potvin's filth, we can now have an insight into the Green Party's perspectives about the world around us, a foreign policy that Stephane Dion is giving a free pass in the riding of Canada's Minister of Foreign Affairs. The following italicized quotes all come from articles written by Potvin that Coyne has linked to, if you want to read them in full, I suggest visiting Coyne's place. My comments in regular text follow . . .

We share common cause with the Islamist terrorists
Far from being unreasonable fanatics, the terrorists fight for the same things we do. We have a common enemy.


The London subway bombings were not cowardly, despicable and unspeakable acts; they were acts of war, and civilians for a century have been regarded as legitimate targets in war, even if our own warriors don’t admit it.

[I]n fact there is a real and serious war on and that the other side does have great and noble, and compellingly existential, reasons to fight.

I think there's enough suspicion about the origins of 9-11 to make it an issue since it has so much to do with Canadian foreign policy.

Osama bin Laden does not fight for the same things that the Canadian Forces or Canada's allies fight for. To suggest that is the case is the most despicable form of moral equivalency and completely ignorant of basic facts, such as, but not limited to: Osama bin Laden used Afghanistan for the purpose of establishing a base to conduct terrorist acts and used his proxy, the Taliban, to institute a ruthless dictatorship over the people of Afghanistan that denied them basic human rights and freedoms. Canada and its NATO partners are there to undo the damage done to Afghanistan's civil society, and help build democratic institutions, the rule of law, and provide security and defend the rights of the country's people from the attempts of the Taliban insurgency to retake the country. Canada has not a single common cause with Osama bin Laden and his ilk.

Targeting civilians, as was the case in the despicable act of the London subway bombing, is not a legitimate tactic in 21st century warfare. That is the basic reason that Canadian Forces, the Israeli Defence Forces, NATO, and other states and alliances do not condone, and indeed strongly condemn, the deliberate targeting of civilians in military theatres. Those who do intentionally attack civilians are rightly defined as war criminals, and are often brought to trial in democratic states. Israel has possibly the most strict legislation of any country when it comes to inflicting civilian casualties in war, and it is the state that is under considerable duress and threat of being extinguished or, as Iran's president prefers, 'wiped off the map.' Democratic states do not target civilians, and go to great lengths to avoid civilian deaths. We gain no benefit from murdering civilians, and we inflict legal penalties upon those who are found to be guilty of doing so, even in the heat of combat. Terrorists, on the other hand, are not traditional legitimate combatants. They wear no uniform, no identifiable insignia that distinguishes them from civilians. They, unlike us, do deliberately target civilians, and they also benefit from the death of civilians that we are responsible for causing. Whereas we fight with one hand behind our back, they deliberately target those who are not involved in the military conflicts in the many theatres around the world. This is but one of many areas in which Potvin's attempt to place Canada and its democratic allies on a moral par with, as being the same as, terrorists organizations fails miserably any well-thought scrutiny.

Installing a regime of sharia law is not a particularly noble agenda when one considers the implications for the rights of women. We know what those implications are, for we see them on a regular basis in countries such as Pakistan or even some areas of Afghanistan still. The objectives of the terrorists include the destruction of Israel, the religious purification of all lands that have ever been held by Muslims, the death of four million Americans, and the utter destruction of any semblance of democracy in the Middle East. To proclaim these ends as good and noble implies that the means being used to achieve them are also good and noble. Strapping bomb belts to young children, HIV-positive people and pregnant women, and sending them off to detonate themselves in shopping malls, theatres, and public gathering areas are not noble means that will achieve a noble end. They only perpetuate violence and prevent moderate Muslims from being able to move forward on truly noble goals, such as the establishment of a viable, free, and non-threatening Palestinian state, or the building of relations between Muslim states and the West.

To suggest that 9/11 was somehow an internal operation conducted by the United States against its own citizens defies all common sense, as well as some of the more obtuse public perceptions about the administration of George W. Bush. A democratic state would never engineer the cold-blooded murder of almost 3000 of its own citizens, and it would certainly never get away with it. The 9/11 Commission Report is a thorough analysis of the events of that day and the sequence that led up to it. It is one thing to question the response of the American government to 9/11, it is entirely another to suggest that it is responsible for orchestrating it. So many nutbars out there are so insistent that Bush is a moron; wouldn't something as huge in scale as 9/11 therefore be out of his range? Or is that also one of those things that is a Dick Cheney-Donald Rumsfeld-Paul Wolfowitz-Halliburton puppet show?

People like Kevin Potvin have had the red carpet rolled out for them. Shouldn't Dion have done his research into what these people think before so eagerly embracing Elizabeth May? He is subverting his own party in Central Nova in order for there to be a supposed greater chance to knock off the Canadian Foreign Minister. Are the above statements what any of us really want to replace the common-sense, democratically-minded approach of the Conservatives? I should like to think absolutely not.

More Thoughts on the Dion-May Alliance

As you know by reading the blurb to the right, I once served on a Liberal Riding Association as its Policy Chair. Prior to holding that position, I was involved with the Kelowna Liberals' efforts to elect Vern Nielsen in 2004. Though I didn't know much about Mr. Nielsen when it was announced that he would be the candidate, it didn't take very long to get the measure of the man and his strong desire to give Kelowna an active MP that would strive to work hard to represent the interest of the people in the riding. I never thought that much of Werner Schmidt, someone who got the Ottawa position pretty much by default after getting the nomination for the then-Canadian Alliance--a trend that has continued with his successor, Ron Cannan, under the Conservative banner.

Nielsen was a good candidate, and he was chosen by the (admittedly small) Liberal grassroots in Kelowna to be their candidate, to carry the red torch in an area that hadn't elected a Liberal since 1968. It was an uphill battle, but it was one that all of us who worked on the campaign--including some really good friends--believed we could win, the sponsorship scandal and its implications notwithstanding. It wasn't meant to be, as Schmidt won re-election but with a smaller percentage of the vote and by a smaller margin than in 2000.

As disappointing as the sting of electoral defeat was, I cannot even imagine how disappointed the Liberal grassroots of Central Nova are. They will not even have the opportunity to field a candidate in the next election--whenever that may be. I know that if some sort of arrangement had been made by Paul Martin and the Green Party in 2004, there is no way I would have voted for that Green candidate. Truth be told, I don't know what I would have done, but I know one thing that I wouldn't. This is the dilemma that Central Nova's Liberals face today. A lot of people there have been Liberals for life, some are Gritus Inheritus, as Chucker puts it, and they have been put in a very awkward position because of the short-sighted and opportunistic grab of a largely meaningless endorsement from a fringe party by their leader. Unless one is really gung-ho about the environment, there is little that links a mainstream Liberal with Elizabeth May. She is anti-choice, anti-same sex marriage, anti-free trade, and her party has more nutbars than even the nuttiest wings of the Liberal Party. She believes that Canada is suffering a "crisis of democracy," even though Canada's democracy is exceptionally healthy. Her comments on abortion--including this one: "I'm against abortion. I don't think a woman has a frivolous right to choose," implying that a woman's choice to terminate a pregnancy is something undertaken flippantly or without due consideration in some cases--have led Judy Rebick, author of the book that Anna Lou is presently reading, Ten Thousand Roses, to withdraw her support for May and the Green Party.

Were I still a Liberal that followed the party line on these major issues, I would have serious concerns about my leader conceding the ground of Central Nova to Elizabeth May and her lunatic fringe party. It was only four months ago that Howard Dean urged Liberals, to thunderous applause, to not cede ground, not one vote, anywhere in the country. They've flip-flopped on that for no good reason, unless you count the quid pro quo of the Greens agreeing not to run a candidate in Stephane Dion's riding as a compelling reason to undermine the party's stature of being a truly national party committed to advancing Liberal values in every riding of the country. The criticism that Dion is facing today as a direct consequence of this strategy, not only from the peanut gallery, the blogosphere, the media, and his opponents, but also some very high-placed people in his own party. Domestically, this will do far more damage to the Liberal brand than virtually any other misguided tactic or policy announcement in recent years, and there have been no shortage of those.

13 April 2007

Dion Gives Party of 9/11 Fan a Free Pass

It seems like there is no end to escalation of vile things coming out of members of Canada's opposition parties this week. The forthcoming story actually manages to trump the last two head-slappers.

Yesterday it was made public knowledge that a member of the Green Party actually cheered when he saw the World Trade Centre towers collapse and did a fist-pump when he saw the gaping hole in the Pentagon. There's a story in today's Post about this clown and his unwillingness to apologize for those words, yet the more Liberal-friendly media sources are strangely silent on the matter.

Today, Stephane Dion is giving the leader of that party a free pass in her ill-conceived bid to try to unseat Peter Mackay in the Nova Scotia riding of Central Nova.

As the saying goes, timing is everything in politics. Dion's timing on this one could not possibly be worse, the optics are absolutely mortifying. There has been no call by Dion for the revolting Green Party member to apologize to the families of 9/11 victims, no call for the Greens to disassociate themselves from this member. Silence can be deafening, and in this case, it speaks volumes. Dion is so desperate to have somebody, anybody, backing him as the best choice for prime minister that he is not going to run a candidate in Central Nova in order to allow Elizabeth May a better chance to beat Mackay. She's hoping to fare better than the 2006 candidate, who managed to achieve a whopping 2% of the total vote. And he'll overlook the commentaries of the Greens' other candidates in order to secure that support, in addition to May's own views that are in stark, stark contrast to the Liberals' own positions. But hey, they're both "committed" to a greener Canada, so they're practically bosom buddies!

The Green Party is well-known for having more nutbars than a Snickers factory. At the Defence Policy forum that Dalhousie put on during the 2006 election, one of their members got hold of a live microphone and proceeded to go on an incoherent rant about a forthcoming nuclear first-strike against Iran and that Canada should not participate in such a thing. The party's grassroots are replete with people such as this, who hold views--which is certainly well within their constitutional rights, but why on earth would you want to exercise it?--that point the finger at the Bush Administration for orchestrating 9/11 and a myriad of other views that most well-thinking people would not consider to be "normal."

The bottom line: Dion is undermining the credibility of the Liberals as a national party and a rational party in order to get the endorsement of a party that has never elected a candidate to Parliament and won't be doing so in the next election. It is a foolish ploy that only heightens the negative sentiment that many Canadians have of his leadership, and gives credence--in a zero-sum fashion--to a party that believes "9/11 Was an Inside Job" and roots on terrorists more proudly than even Denis Coderre.

**Update** Fixed a sentence that was left completely hanging. I blame the gremlins.

12 April 2007

Oh, M. Coderre....and Ms. Black

Amazingly, Denis Coderre has been allowed on national television two days in a row. He referred to Canada's Minister of Defence as a "farce" who is a "former arms dealer" with "no credibility" to discuss matters of Canadian national security. He's denouncing the supposed "escalation" of Canada's role in Afghanistan, suggesting that Canada will be there long after our commitment until 2009 simply because we're purchasing new tanks and aircraft to haul them around in.

But even Hezbollah props aren't the most asinine thing on television today. The NDP's "Defence Critic," Dawn Black, has just likened, twice, Canadian tanks used to defeat terrorists as being on the same moral plane as the Red Army that invaded Afghanistan in 1979-80. She says that the people of Afghanistan will not be able to make the distinction between what we're doing and what they did. She also said that Canadian tanks would serve no purpose in homeland defence or in Darfur. All this emanating from a question about Josee Vernier's forthcoming appearance in Afghanistan to oversee some of the great advances made by CIDA in building Afghanistan's infrastructure.

I am thoroughly shocked and awed, folks. How do clowns like Coderre and Black get on TV to spew this drivel?

11 April 2007

Oh, M. Coderre

It certainly is something watching Hezbollah prop Denis Coderre unable to string a coherent sentence together on Don Newman's Politics this evening. In one phrase alone, he managed to include Liberal talking points on Khan, O'Connor, and the government's heavy-handed intervention into the Montreal Canadiens' failure to make the playoffs (OK, that last one isn't true, but the other two are) as part of his spiel as to why it is that the government's appointment of former PQ minister Daniel Paille to head up an investigation of potential problems with Liberal contracting (something which WK seems to be looking forward to) is the latest in a string of bad government by the Harper-led Conservatives.

Now, I'll agree that the optics of an unelected minister (Michael Fortier) appointing--without a vetting process--a separatist to dig into the relationship of the previous Liberal government and Earnscliffe isn't exactly looking at the Mona Lisa. But hearing words like "witch hunt" being tossed around is more than a little silly. Obviously there's a good reason that Paille was chosen; I don't know what it is, but I can't imagine that Harper would give the thumbs-up to something like this unless there was a good reason. At this point, the Liberals are mustering up a lot of outrage over the process, which makes me wonder what they'll do in six months when we see the result?

Also, two more Canadian soldiers have been killed in Afghanistan today. Take a moment to hold them in your thoughts. This has been a very difficult week for the Canadian Forces and their family members, and they will need the strength of the entire nation.

But Who Will Handle the Complex Files?

Don't let the headline above fool you, I am actually disappointed and very surprised by Belinda Stronach's announcement that she is going to return to Magna and not run in the next federal election. I've always had a lot of respect for Stronach, and that the way she was treated by her opponents, the media, and others was unfair and more than a little revelatory of the latent sexism of some pundits. We all know the things that were said about her, and they do not deserve to be repeated.

Stronach was a big supporter of post-secondary education, enhancing the role of women and youth in politics, and played a key role in etablishing the merger between the Progressive Conservatives and the Canadian Alliance. Her father's company, Magna, is the driving force behind the The Next Great Prime Minister series, she led the task force that resulted in the Liberals' Pink Book, and has many other achievements in politics. This is a sad day for Canadian politics, and an even worse one for Stephane Dion (as I asked my pal Chucker a couple weeks ago, is there any situation in which Dion is not the biggest loser?), as he is losing one of his most recognizable forces and a strong female candidate.

All the best to Belinda Stronach back at Magna.

08 April 2007

Ruminations on the Habs

As I sit here on the morning of my 26th birthday, I am still disgusted with the Habs' performance last night. I have been a fan of this team since birth, and I've been through the full range of emotions, seeing two Stanley Cup victories, a heart-wrenching defeat in 1989, the loss of Patrick Roy, the elation of the return of Saku Koivu, and the disbelief at the utter collapse of Jose Theodore. But last night was the first time I ever felt disgusted by a Montreal Canadiens performance.
Steve Begin should never play another game in a Habs jersey. The penalty that he took five seconds after the end of the second period was absolutely unforgivable. On the list of bonehead penalties, that one will almost certainly find a spot in the Top Five. The period was over, the play was dead, let's take a baseball swing at the puck and hit a guy in the face! The two PPG's the Leafs scored were in 5-on-4 situations and he was the man in the box. The Johnson and Koivu penalties were also unacceptable, but it was the Begin brainfart that killed the team and set the stage for the two 5-on-3's that completely shifted the momentum.
The first ten minutes of the game was like watching men against boys. If it weren't for Huet's solid play, it would have been much worse. 15 shots in 10 minutes! I don't think that Halak would have been able to make all of those stops, and so Carbonneau's decision to go with his All-Star stands as the right one, in my eyes. The two softies, though, those hurt.
Kovalev. Buy him out. He's supposed to be the guy that "thrives" on this kind of game situation. If "thrives" equals "chokes," that would be applicable for last night. Awful give-aways, not a threat in the offensive zone all night. He's got so much supposed talent, but he clearly doesn't bring it on a nightly basis, which is what this team needs. The Habs cannot get by on guys half-assing it or only showing up every 10 games. They need a consistent effort night in, night out. Nothing less should be accepted by the organization.
The young guys played their hearts out. Ryder and Higgins were monsters last night, the former getting the team's only hat-trick of the season and the latter coming close to equalling that task. These guys are the future core of this team, along with a couple of the kids in the A and, of course, Carey Price. The future of the team is very solid, it's just a real damn shame that the present version couldn't get the job done. As the guys on RDS said, they handed this game to the Leafs on a silver platter. When you're up 5-3 in the most important, absolute must-win game of the year, you fight for it and you play smart hockey. They didn't do that in the third period, and quite frankly, they deserve the result that they got. It hurts like hell, but they held their destiny and decided instead to pass it off to the Leafs.
And finally, Sheldon Souray. He may have been a minus player last night, but he also broke up at least 3 probable goals, including the Sundin break that ended up injuring him for the rest of the game. I truly hope that last night was not his last game in a Montreal Canadiens uniform, and that there will be a concerted effort to bring him back to the team. He is a leader, the most dominant and fear-inspiring force on the team. That shot scares goalies, and with a little work on his defensive game, he could be a Norris candidate in a year or two. There is no way to really measure what he means to this team, and his departure would be a great loss that can't be filled at this time (give Komisarek a couple years and a bionic arm, though...).
In all, it's been a roller coaster season, and I'm utterly disappointed and disgusted to see it end in the way that it did against the Leafs. I hope that next year is better.

07 April 2007

Vimy Ridge, Canada, and Two Proud Heroes



As we mark 90 years since "Canada marched into nationhood" at Vimy Ridge, securing one of the great victories of the First World War, I would like to extend my gratitude to all those members of the Canadian Expeditionary Force and all Canadian Forces who served not only in WWI, but also all military conflicts in which Canadians have participated. I would also like to give special mention to two participants in the Great War, my great-grandfathers, Peter Bowen, who served in the PPCLI, and Samuel McAdam, who was conscripted at the young age of 22. I never knew them in life, as both passed on before I was born, but today I honour their memories. Also, an H/T to halls of macadamia for bringing to my attention that these records are available at Library and Archives Canada, and copies can be acquired at a "negligible cost." If you've got a relative that served Canada, go check it out, it's really an amazing thing to see.

One Game to Make the Playoffs




06 April 2007

Lessons from the Israel-Hezbollah Conflict

Anybody with more than a passing interest in international relations and the ongoing struggle between democratic states and terrorist networks--quite possibly the defining feature of 21st century IR--should read this article by Sarah Kreps in the latest issue of Parameters. Entitled "The 2006 Lebanon War: Lessons Learned," Kreps touches on many of the key themes to emerge from the conflict, including, but not limited to: the asymmetry of a democratic state in a conflict against a terrorist organization, the shortcomings of airpower in modern warfare, the influence (and manipulation) of the media to shape perceptions, Qana, and the still-unresolved fate of Corporal Gilad Shalit and the other abducted Israeli soldier whose illegal capture served as the casus belli for last summer's conflict.

Kreps' article is very engaging, and I'd recommend it to anybody that is trying to get a handle on the inherent differences between democracies and terrorists in this war. The suggestion of treating both sides even-handedly or with a balanced approach is ludicrous, and that is something else which comes clear in this reading.

Two Degrees = Two Places Calling for Money

This post is as much thinking out loud as anything else...

Last night I got a phone call from UBC congratulating me on my recent graduation into the ranks of UBC alumni. As you may well imagine, I was a little confounded by such misguided kudos, seeing as I graduated from the then-OUC back in 2003. But when I did the conversion to a UBC degree last October, I guess it entered me into the system as a 2006 graduate from UBC, even though in October 2006 I was busy graduating from Dalhousie.

After getting past the pleasantries, of course the call boiled down to a request for an alumni donation to one of UBC's various scholarship endowments. A friend of mine back home recently graduated and she's got a couple phone calls too. On Monday I attended the unveiling of the Glyn Berry scholarship at Dalhousie in honour of the Canadian diplomat who was killed in Afghanistan in early 2006. On the chairs were programs inviting us to make donations to the fund, and it's something that I'm considering doing as it is a very worthwhile fund that would pay homage to a man who died in the service of a cause that I strongly support.

Apparently, this is the life of a university alumni: regular "opportunities to give back" (as the 3rd year undergraduate student who was on the other end of the line last night put it) to old alma maters. For the record, not once did OUC pester me for cash. I'm leaning more towards the Dalhousie contribution because of the connection to the Afghanistan mission, and also because I just gave UBC $100 for the privelige of having my degree converted. That one was a pretty blatant cash grab that hasn't generated a lot of goodwill, much like the phone conversation last night where I was asked on more than one occasion about things only a UBC-Vancouver student would really know about. I've been on their campus a few times, but asking me about their professors isn't really appropriate. I can make a number of recommendations for UBC-Okanagan profs, but Vancouver not so much.

Also, while I certainly empathize with Vancouver students that are paying up to $5000 a year in tuition, even that ghastly figure pales in comparison to what Dalhousie wrings from their attendees. All the more reason to give a little contribution that will help out a Dal grad student, y'know? We shall see if I end up making a donation to either university, as helping out a starving student doesn't really help out my own personal financial situation, which isn't much better.

05 April 2007

Happy April!

It only took me 5 days!

It's been a bit of a hectic week for me, and I've been spending most of my non-working time either watching the Habs or listening to Year Zero. If you haven't checked out anything from the lastest NIN album, now's the time. Great stuff.

The rest of the world hasn't really had a lot going on that's really inspired me to post. It's been a relatively uneventful week in Canadian politics, though Harper has fulfilled his election pledge to create a wait times guarantee on some aspects of our beloved public health care system (which is a Canadian value, despite the protestations of a former Dal colleaue). Good on him for that; hopefully it will continue to evolve and more aspects will fall under that umbrella in due time.

I just finished reading Alan Dershowitz's The Case for Israel, which is really a very good book and should be read by anybody that pays any attention to the Arab-Israeli conflict. He doesn't trash the Palestinians, he's not a "Greater Israel" propagandist, he simply lays out an argument in favour of Israel's continued existence as a viable democracy and urges people to stop with the double standard that is so often applied to the Jewish state. He is very critical--and rightly so--of Arafat's tactics and ploys, but also critical of certain Israeli policies, in his analysis of devising a way forward that results in a two-state solution, something which is agreed upon by almost all the important parties in the dispute--with the exception of numerous elements in the Palestinian government and other Arab regimes.

The book also makes very relevant points that apply to last summer's conflict involving Hezbollah, and makes clear the distinction between a democratic state that "fights with one hand behind its back" to ensure the safety of enemy civilians and a terrorist organization that benefits greatly both from accidental civilian deaths and the deliberate murders of their intended targets. Yet somehow, Israel is often portrayed as the bad guy. Two nights ago, there was a public forum here in Halifax that had all the indicators of being a decidedly anti-Israel propganda display: pictures of a bombed-out building with a small (presumably now-homeless) child in front of it, being sponsored by a website called "Free Palestine," and probably a couple other little details that simply elude me right now. I didn't bother, as it was on a Tuesday and the Habs were playing Boston...and I have little time for such drivel. Yeah, I know, pre-judging isn't good, but all the signs were there that I would have left after 5 minutes anyways.

It's going to be an interesting weekend. Easter & birthday on Sunday, final game of the regular season on Saturday, Halifax shutting down tomorrow and Sunday because of the holiday. Hope that everybody has fun, and make sure to go listen to this: Nine Inch Nails - Year Zero.