28 June 2007

Russians Encroaching on North Pole?

Bourque today has a link to the UK Daily Mail report on Vladimir Putin launching a highly controversial claim on the Arctic and the North Pole. Given that Canada is sending up the HMCS Corner Brook to that very area as we speak, no doubt this is highly intriguing. Canada, the US, Russia, and other countries all have competing claims on the Arctic region, which is going to grow in importance in the coming years if the global warming crowd is correct. Shipping lanes, new oil and gas exploration, diamonds, and who knows what all else are all going to be going up for grabs in the coming decades, and it is important for all parties who have a stake in the future of the Arctic to demonstrate the legitimacy of their claims.

Not surprisingly, Canada and the US both issued strong statements against the move by Putin. Things between Washington and Moscow have been deteriorating lately, and this will likely only futher rile the two former superpower rivals. We know that Stephen Harper has made concerted efforts to establish Canada's legitimacy in the Arctic, and this Russian endeavour certainly may be interpreted as encroaching on Canadian territory. Very interesting to see what, if anything, develops out of this.

25 June 2007

In The Headlines

There is no shortage of big-ticket news items today:

There is a major meeting happening in Egypt today involving the Palestinian Authority, Israel, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and Jordan. This is the first diplomatic initiative to occur since the election of Hamas last year. With Abbas flailing after losing control over Gaza, it is important that he be seen to be effective and still the real leader and champion of the aspirations of the Palestinian people. As always, skepticism and severely guarded optimism is the best approach, but that these parties are all talking again is a first step.

Tomorrow is Tony Blair's final day as the Prime Minister of Britain. America's best ally in the War on Terror and Tyranny is stepping down, and already rumours are circulating as to where he goes from here. The G&M has a story about Blair possibly being named a peace envoy to the Middle East for the Quartet. This is a position that many have said previously would be the perfect fit for Bill Clinton, but Blair would also be tremendous in the role. He's an expert diplomat, calm and reassuring yet tough and principled, and would have the full support of the West. Here's hoping that it turns out to be true, because this is a leader that should remain connected to major processes.

Also, this is an example of why I like the Government of Canada more than its elected representatives. This analysis of the 2006 US National Security Strategy is one of the best that I've seen--and I've seen many...and even written one. There's a lot in this document that is pretty similar in its conclusions to what I wrote about in my thesis. It focuses, naturally, more on the implications of the NSS for Canada than I did (since I was writing from an IR perspective and not a Government of Canada perspective), and I was pleased to read that it concludes that there are "many positive signs" for Canada in the new overarching US grand strategic policy blueprint.

23 June 2007

Best Wishes to Belinda

It was revealed in today's Toronto Star that MP Belinda Stronach is battling breast cancer, a disease that affects millions of women around the world. I gasped when I saw the headline, as it was only yesterday that I received a correspondence package from her in the mail. I've long had a great amount of respect for Belinda, as her efforts to break down the institutionalized barriers to women entering politics have been among the highlights of her political career, so I send out my best wishes to her in her recovery process.

22 June 2007

Habs of the Future...Today

Welcome aboard to . . .

Ryan McDonagh
Max Pacioretty
P.K. Subban
Olivier Fortier
Yannick Weber
Joe Stejskal
Andrew Conboy

You're now part of the greatest sports franchise in history, the Montreal Canadiens.

More to come as the draft and potential trades unfold . . .

21 June 2007

Irwin Cotler on Israel & the UN

Today, former Minister of Justice Irwin Cotler has a fantastic editorial in the online edition of the Globe and Mail. Read it here. Cotler's article points out how criticizing and condemning only Israel's policies in the UN Human Rights Council is anti-Semitic in its tone and substance. I've been in a couple heated discussions involving Israel lately, and in both cases the topic of criticism of Israel's policies and anti-Semitism has come up. One can disagree and be critical of specific Israeli policies without being anti-Semitic; rational people simply call that a discussion or a debate. But what Cotler is discussing goes much deeper:

Regrettably, this discriminatory and one-sided approach has become not the exception but the norm. Council sessions of the past year reflected not only the same contempt for the rule of law, but the systematic singling-out of a member state for selective and discriminatory treatment, while granting the major violators exculpatory immunity.
Examples abound:
– There have been nine resolutions condemning one member state only (Israel) but none of any of the other 191 members of the international community, including, for example, no condemnation of the genocide in Darfur, or of the public and direct incitement to genocide and massive human-rights violations in President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's Iran.
– The continuing exclusion of one member state (Israel) from membership in any of the five regional groups that govern the council, thereby denying a member state the fundamental rights of due process and equitable standing.
– The council's discourse, as exemplified in the session just ended, as an endless drumbeat of indictment and incitement against Israel, again contrary to the council's founding principles and procedures.

Way, way back when the new Council was first established I expressed my severe doubts about the legitimacy and sustainability of the new body. I hate to be proven right when it comes to such a serious topic as human rights. The UN has long been institutionalizing hatred of Israel, and many individual people read these UN reports without any counterbalancing literature and end up contributing to the problem that has turned the state of Israel into "the Jew among nations," which is in itself a contemptuous anti-Semitic term. The Human Rights Council is the latest UN arm in extending anti-Israel and anti-Semitic sentiment.

When someone as distinguished as Professor Cotler expresses his frustration at the UN in such strong terms, something is deeply wrong. For those who don't know, Cotler has been around in Canadian politics for a very long time and played no small role in promoting the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms when it was initially conceived. He represented Natan Sharansky when he was on trial in the Soviet Union (Sharansky, after being released, returned to Israel and has been a very successful politician; he also wrote me a nice email after I emailed him about his book The Case for Democracy) and his rights were being abused. He's a long-time friend of Alan Dershowitz, who knows a thing or two about rights. But he is most well-known to me for the simple statement: "rights are rights are rights."

18 June 2007

Go Read a Book!

Oh Canadians, at least ye who read the Globe and Mail. We're almost two decades past the end of the Cold War, which concluded with the utter collapse of socialism and revealed its inner bankruptcy--economic, political, and moral. There is no viable legitimate system of governance that can compete with liberal democratic capitalism. None. Fascism? Thoroughly discredited. Authoritarianism? Repugnant. But apparently the socialist dream lives on in this country . . .

In his landmark The End of History and the Last Man, Francis Fukuyama articulates that we have reached the pinnacle of political governance, and it is the one that is embraced by "the major industrial nations" and every successful state. It is democracy, the rule of law, and the capitalist system. There is nothing that can emerge that will rival the success of this system, and nothing in existence that can compete with it for legitimacy among the polities of the world. This is what is meant by "the end of history," which has been defined, says Fukuyama, by the regular and constant struggle between competing ideologies for supremacy. When Soviet communism utterly imploded, there was nothing left to challenge liberal democratic rule-of-law capitalism, thus the "end" was reached. There may still be authoritarian regimes, socialist governments, and even the odd totalitarian dictator, but these are rightly seen for what they are: anachronisms that deny their people the ability to achieve their aspirations, even through latent neglect or outright oppression. They are not viewed with the same legitimacy as democratic governments, and many of them are pariahs, and rightly so.

Yet somehow, G&M respondents believe that there is still hope for the socialist model. I'd imagine that once the state started seizing and re-distributing their assets and property, their minds might change amid the screams of "Foul!" It is incredulous that we need to tout the virtues of democracy in a fully functional and very successful democracy. It is all the more incredulous that there is still a romantic sentiment among some that the socialist way is the better way, or even a "viable political alternative." Any government that is exclusive and denies its citizens equal opportunity to achieve is not viable over the long term; the Soviets learned that the hard way. It will be a cold day in Hell before these granola-crunchers have the opportunity to ruin Canada by imposing a socialist system.

17 June 2007

A "Two-Palestines" Policy?

The events of the past week in the Gaza Strip have potential to shake diplomacy and statecraft in the Middle East for months and years to come. With the de facto establishment of Hamas-stan in Gaza, the West is quickly turning its attention and support to Mahmoud Abbas' moderate government based out of the West Bank. Today we learned that Canada is going to resume its aid to the Palestinian Authority, and presumably other countries are going to follow suit in an attempt to bolster his Fatah party as the best potential partner for peace and the resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian dispute. This is sensible, as moving forward is in just about everybody's interest, but it also an approach that may lead to future difficulties.

In the short term, it will appear as though the West is abandoning the Palestinians in the West Bank who want no part of a Hamas-led territory. We have already seen large numbers of people flocking to the border with Israel in an attempt to get out of Gaza and into either Israel or the West Bank. Those people who are not as fortunate or do not have the means to get out of the Strip will be trapped in what can only be described as a hellhole. There will be no direct international aid flowing to a terrorist organization because we know that Hamas will not use the moneys for advancing the interests of the people in Gaza; rather, they will use it to purchase arms and disseminate anti-West/anti-Israel propaganda. Meanwhile, they will utilize the images of Palestinians in the West Bank living comfortably and blame the suffering of Palestinians trapped in Gaza on Israel, the occupation, and anybody else that they believe they can credibly pass the buck to.

Additionally, a territory dominated by Hamas will become a mini-Afghanistan circa the late 1990's. They will use the land to train people for jihad against Israel, instructing them how to use illegally-purchased assault weapons, devise IEDs, and inflict damage against civilian populations. With the war against Hezbollah fresh in everybody's minds, Israel will no doubt be compelled to fortify itself against a likely attack emanating out of Hamas-controlled Gaza. This will only allow Hamas further propaganda opportunities to incite violence against Israel.

With aid restored to Abbas, he will be able to strengthen security in the West Bank, crack down on insurgents and terrorists, and demonstrate that there has been progress and possibly seek new discussions about a Palestinian state in the West Bank. There will be considerable support for this initiative should he be able to consistently demonstrate progress in the West Bank along well-established political and security metrics. I'm looking at a timeframe of months here; if the West Bank consolidates while Gaza continues to deteriorate, by the end of the year there will be two very different sections of land that have long been considered the foundation points for a future Palestinian state. It is doubtful, of course, that the Palestinians will only accept a state that is only half of what has been the consensus view for the past decade, but if Gaza becomes a lost hope, will Abbas cut his losses and accept the best deal he can?

This is a very fluid situation, though clearly things are not looking good for the future status of the Palestinians of the Gaza Strip. Unless the tide turns, we may well be looking at a two-track policy vis-a-vis Palestine. And that could have very serious and grave consequences for the future.

14 June 2007

Tension? You ain't kidding

No doubt by now you've heard about the mounting trouble in the Gaza Strip, where Hamas is overrunning PA security positions, effectively mounting a coup within the territory. I cannot imagine Israel remaining silent on these developments for long.

Hamas is, was, and always will be a terrorist organization. Clearly they are willing to turn against their own population in an attempt to bolster their position. This is not a series of maneuvers that are in the interest of the Palestinian people or any peace process. Creating civil unrest, heightening tensions, and provoking other actors in the region will only derail any progress that has been made in recent months.

12 June 2007

Irresponsible Canadian Media, Exhibit 290H

I just finished watching, on CTV Newsnet, a live interview conducted with a member of an anti-war group called "Block the Empire Montreal." It was largely an incoherent string of rambling that advanced no aspect of the Canadian interest, and served no purpose other than to plant the kernel of doubt in people's minds that Canada should continue to serve its responsibilities in Afghanistan. After all, if "Block the Empire Montreal" is opposed to the war, surely rational Canadians will arrive at the same conclusions. This group is involved in the letter-writing campaign to Quebec-based Canadian Forces personnel urging them to commit an act of treason and bail out on the mission before they deploy overseas.

Allowing the spokesperson to rant without any real questions, rebuttals, or follow-ups is irresponsible reporting on the part of CTV. They gave her a solid 5 minutes to stumble, bumble, and eventually get around to the pinnacle of the "interview": the military recruits people by promising them a better future, giving them skills training, and paying them. STOP THE PRESS!

Seriously, folks, I'm all for allowing people the right to express themselves without fear of political recrimination, but why doesn't CTV exercise some responsibility and at least vet some of these people before letting them on national television? Saying "no" to some nutbar's request for an interview isn't suppressing their right to free speech, it's just telling them to peddle their spiel elsewhere.

A young man was killed in Afghanistan yesterday, and today the media is doing the full-court press--as it does every time one of these tragedies occur--to undermine the Canadian government's policy in Afghanistan. It is irresponsible and harmful to the Canadian interest, and yet none of these organizations are ever held accountable by us, the people.

09 June 2007


The latest exhibit of a sick society:

"Courts have seen the number of sex offense cases involving juvenile offenders rise dramatically in recent years, an Associated Press review of national statistics found, and treatment professionals say the offenders are getting younger and the crimes more violent."

There's more of them, and they're committing ever-more heinous crimes. Like o.a.g. says, it's not your imagination; things are, in fact, getting worse. Wonder where they're getting their inspiration? Could it be related to the increased prevalence of, and increased violence in, pornography?

This nutjob doesn't think so; indeed, he sees pornography as a safety valve against rape and other forms of sexual assault. Relying on the vile intellectual foundation that all men are inherently predisposed to rape women, he suggests that: "The incidence of rape in the United States has declined 85% in the past 25 years while access to pornography has become freely available to teenagers and adults." This is what we, in the academic community, heuristically refer to as "bullshit."

Fact: the FBI reports that the number of "forcible rapes" (is there any other kind?) has increased in the past 20 years by almost 3% Unless men raped nearly a million women in the United States in 1982 (and who knows, maybe they did, but that number would be off the charts compared to all other years in the FBI's numbers), there is no way that his number can be accurate.

Fact: less than 1-in-5 (19%) of women who have been sexually assaulted by men report the crime against their person to the police. And yes, it is men who are doing it, overwhelmingly: the US government reports: "Most perpetrators of sexual violence are men. Among acts of SV committed against women since the age of 18, 100% of rapes, 92% of physical assaults, and 97% of stalking acts were perpetrated by men."

With these two facts alone, it is incomprehensible how one can arrive at the conclusion that rape has practically vanished since 1982. Given that the proliferation of porn has resulted in a global value that exceeds that of the Hollywood film industry, how this individual can say that porn acts as a cathartic release for men to stop them from raping defies all reason. My guess: he's a porn addict looking to create a false pretense so that he can feel better about himself and his use of sexual exploitation of women for his own gratification.

08 June 2007

Future Habs Champs!

Too bad it's not the NHL team, but the Habs of the AHL are the Calder Cup Champs for 2007. Carey Price, the goalie of the future in Montreal, was the MVP after his spectacular performance throughout the playoffs and the championship round. The Bulldogs were outshot in every game of the finals, often giving up over 40 shots, but Price stopped enough of them to allow his team to win. I was very skeptical about Montreal's decision to draft him in 2005 instead of Gilbert Brule, but I suppose that's another very good reason that I'm not the team's GM. Spectacular move, and no doubt now Price will be contending for a spot with the big club this September.

Though the Habs of 2006-07 turned out to be mediocre, the Habs of the immediate future have a lot of promise!

04 June 2007

Not My Team

I am no fan of the Ottawa Senators. I am certainly not buying into the malarkey that they are "Canada's Team" in this Stanley Cup Finals. They are a classless team, they are a classless organization (recall the incident where they showed, on the arena video screen, of their mascot pushing a Canadiens fan into shark-infested water only weeks after the drowning death of GM Bob Gainey's daughter) and they have more than a handful of classless fans--most notoriously the drunken jerk who punched a woman in the face because she happened to be a Sabres fan.

Tonight my dislike for the team has reached another level. Their captain, Daniel Alfredsson, blatantly fired the puck at Ducks captain Scott Neidermayer at the end of the second period. The contrast in levels of class cannot be more stark. Niedermayer is a champion at every level and a true gentleman of the game, and Alfredsson shoots the puck directly at him in what only be construed as an attempt to injure him. I have been watching the game on NBC because Bob Cole and Harry Neale are awful, and the commentators have rightly been calling Alfredsson's action classless and cowardly. They had Don Cherry on during the second intermission, and they repeated that sense there as well. Good on them for calling this dirty captain on the carpet.

The NHL should suspend him for that action.

**Update** I'm not the only one. James Murphy of Inside Hockey had this to say:

I regret cheering for and enjoying what I now see as (with the exception of a few players), a team of underachieving players... and at times, one that is capable of very cowardly acts, exemplified by their captain, Daniel Alfredsson. It’s no wonder Canada didn’t get behind this team as they did the Flames and Oilers.
What kind of captain does what Alfredsson did last night, when he (and there is no debate here, he had plenty of options where to rifle that puck), blasted a shot at the always-classy Ducks captain, Scott Niedermayer? Then, as if that wasn’t bad enough, as a scrum ensued around the "Krusty the Clown" look-alike, Alfredsson sucker-punched Travis Moen, who was being held back by a linesman. And somehow, he escaped all of this without a single penalty?

03 June 2007

Quote of the Day

Courtesy of Mark Steyn, on President Bush:

"It requires a kind of perverse genius to get damned as a right-wing madman when 90% of the time you're Tony Blair with a ranch."

Steyn, as he so often does, nails it. Conservatives all over the US are fuming over Bush's supposed "abandonment" of conservative principles. They've clearly forgotten about candidate Bush's various statements, the grand liberal strategy of democracy promotion in the Middle East, and any number of readily evident facts that highlight that Bush is not a true conservative. As I wrote in my thesis, he is a product of the zeitgeist of the Reagan years, a man imbued with immense optimism about the world and a desire to usher it along that optimal path.

Speaking of Reagan, as soon as The Reagan Diaries gets the 30% sticker at Chapter's, I'm buying it.

02 June 2007

US and China to Work Together?

In the wake of my little discussion with LaRoche about the future of US-China relations earlier in the week, this statement from the US Secretary of Defence strikes me as a good sign:

“I believe there is reason to be optimistic about the U.S.-China relationship,” [Robert] Gates said at an annual gathering here of defense ministers from the Pacific region.

h/t NYTimes