30 January 2008

Harry Truman's Daughter Passes Away

Not a particularly earth-shattering piece of news, but one that I'd like to mark anyways as it gives me the opportunity to speak of my favourite American President. Having read the Memoirs, I know how much Harry loved his daughter Margaret and was so proud of all that she accomplished on her own, without utilizing her name to make her mark. I do recall that on one occasion, after reading a particularly scurrilous review of her performance, Truman called the writer and chewed him out. That must have been the drubbing, being reamed by the President of the United States for writing an unfavourable concert review. A nice gesture on his part, to be sure. Now, she can "give 'em hell" with her mother and father. RIP Margaret Truman Daniel

29 January 2008

News That Is News

Giuliani is dropping out and endorsing John McCain, according to the folks at NBC. That's a big one. "America's Mayor" saw his campaign fizzle out in pretty short order once we got to the nitty-gritty, and banking everything on a single primary--Florida--obviously did not pay off for him. It's a huge pick-up for McCain, as he gets a big name backing his bid in addition to his victory tonight, giving him even more momentum going into next week's "Super Tuesday."
Even with another victory, McCain still has a long way to go to secure the nomination based on the margins of victory he's had thus far. He may have a plurality of delegates but he lacks a majority; look what happened to Michael Ignatieff as a lesson in what happens when you have a solid lead but not a lock. There's still the chance that the conservative wing of the Republican Party will formulate an anyone-but-McCain bloc that puts someone like Romney into prime position to win at the convention. If that happens, it'll probably be lights out for their hopes of winning the White House, because there's little chance that moderates or slightly right-leaning Democrats are going to embrace somebody endorsed by the religious Right who holds anti-abortion, anti-same sex marriage views. Sure, McCain isn't exactly on the progressive side of these issues, but they're not hallmarks of his candidacy and he doesn't spend nearly the amount of time talking about these "hot button social issues" as his colleagues do. McCain's appeal lies in his character as much as in his policy, which gives him the opportunity to move towards the centre and poach some of those voters that are in the middle. We'll see what adding Giuliani to his roster does as well. Ticket, perhaps?

28 January 2008

News That Isn't News

Gotta love the Crappy News Network for reporting on this "story," something that I addressed in my thesis (back in 2006!!!) and which has been discussed at length in various academic articles including a major essay in Foreign Affairs in 2006. It goes like this:

Saddam Hussein let the world think he had weapons of mass destruction to intimidate Iran and prevent the country from attacking Iraq, according to an FBI agent who interviewed the dictator after his 2003 capture.

According to a CBS report, Hussein claimed he didn't anticipate that the United States would invade Iraq over WMD, agent George Piro said on "60 Minutes," scheduled for Sunday broadcast.

"For him, it was critical that he was seen as still the strong, defiant Saddam. He thought that (faking having the weapons) would prevent the Iranians from reinvading Iraq," said Piro.

During the nearly seven months Piro talked to Hussein, the agent hinted to the Iraqi that he answered directly to President Bush, CBS said in a posting on its Web site.

"He told me he initially miscalculated ... President Bush's intentions. He thought the United States would retaliate with the same type of attack as we did in 1998 ... a four-day aerial attack," Piro said. "He survived that one and he was willing to accept that type of attack."

"He didn't believe the U.S. would invade?" Correspondent Scott Pelley asked.

"No, not initially," Piro answered.

Once it was clear that an invasion was imminent, Hussein asked his generals to hold off the allied forces for two weeks, Piro said. "And at that point, it would go into what he called the secret war," the agent said, referring to the insurgency.

But Piro said he was not sure that the insurgency was indeed part of Hussein's plan. "Well, he would like to take credit for the insurgency," he said.

Hussein had the ability to restart the weapons program and professed to wanting to do that, Piro said.

"He wanted to pursue all of WMD ... to reconstitute his entire WMD program."

So he was playing a game of chicken, relying on a belief that Bush was as half-determined as Clinton to deal with the Saddam problem, and had intent to reconstitute his WMD programs. I enjoy reading articles like this because they re-affirm things which I argued almost two years ago and put a measure of justification to the decision to remove Saddam from power in Iraq. Unfortunately for Saddam, his posture put him in a variation of the Prisoner's Dilemma, in which it was always in his best interest to maintain the appearance of maintaining WMD and, according to the democracy promotion aspects of the Bush Doctrine, it was always in America's best interest to remove Saddam. The two combined to be his downfall.

27 January 2008

Obama Wins a Big One

I wasn't very surprised that Obama won in South Carolina, but the margin of victory is really astounding. When the combined votes of the second and third candidates don't even come close--in what has been a very close race to this point--to matching his vote total, it's a big victory that will send shockwaves through the campaign. Super Tuesday, February 5th, is going to be a huge day for both parties, and the Democratic race continues to get more and more interesting and intriguing.
I am still not certain whom I want to see emerge on the Democrats' side, though I am going with McCain for the Republicans. If it's anybody but him, they won't have a chance to win with moderate and independent voters because the social conservative positions of the likes of Romney and Huckabee are alienating. McCain doesn't cater as much to that crowd and will be able to get over based on his record in the Senate and his lengthy foreign policy credentials. He will not win points with Republicans on immigration, but at this time in history such navel-gaving doesn't fully serve the American interest. That sort of thing is best dealt with by the legislative branch while the executive focuses on much larger issues facing America.
It's going to be a very interesting couple of weeks.

Greens: Still Wacko

Only one year removed from potential election candidates espousing their intellectual and spiritual brotherhood affinity with Islamofascists that make their political statements by blowing up schools and hospitals, the Green Party delivers this:

"The Manley Report fails to consider that the recommendation of more ISAF forces from a Christian/Crusader heritage will continue to fuel an insurgency that has been framed as a 'Jihad'.

One thing I have noticed--and personally experienced--is the inability for serious people to counter such statements because they are so far removed from reality. I still recall my jaw hanging open after a Green supporter ranted for a good three minutes about American fascism and how Canada should never support a preemptive nuclear first strike against Iran. All well and good, except that there never is, was, or will be a plan in place to start a war with Iran by dropping an atomic bomb on Tehran or any other cities or nuclear facilities in Iran. The sheer outlandishness of the statement leaves otherwise intelligent people speechless.
That's pretty much how I feel when it comes to their assessment of the Manley Report. It's a strange line of thinking that adopts a posture that having more people to win hearts and minds and protect Afghans will result in more people flocking to the insurgency that seeks to maim and kill Afghans. And thus we are all reminded why the Green Party has never won a seat in a Canadian parliamentary election, is not likely to do so in the near future, and will never form the government of this great and proud country.

23 January 2008

Afghanistan in Under 60 Words

Manley nailed it right off the bat in his Foreword on the Independent Panel's Report on Canada's Future in Afghanistan. The rest flows from this:

We like to talk about Canada’s role in the world. Well, we have a meaningful one in Afghanistan. As our report states, it should not be faint-hearted nor should it be open-ended. Above all, we must not abandon it prematurely.
Rather, we should use our hard-earned influence to ensure the job gets done and gets done properly.

On Notice

Dear Halifax drivers, you're all officially on notice. I've put up with your running the lights at intersections and crosswalks for over two years now. You chat away on your cellphones while the crosswalk light is flashing and making the bleeping sound, and you don't stop, you just plow right on through because you're so important that you can't be bothered to wait for 8 seconds for me to get to the other side. You have the unmitigated gall to flip me off when I dare step out into the road because I've put you in a position where you have to pay attention to what you're doing, even though it's an area with a lot of pedestrian traffic and you should know better than to try to drive 50 in that area. You honk at the driver in front of you to hurry up while I'm crossing the road, and can only muster a meagre "oops" face when you realize the reason that the guy in front of you isn't driving is because there's a pedestrian in the crosswalk. When you're going right on red you don't bother to look to the right to make sure that I'm not invoking my pedestrian right of way to cross the road when the little white guy in the lightbox says I have the right of way, and believe me, it hurts my hand when I have to smack the hood of your car to get you to pay attention. I suppose I should be grateful that you only gently brushed my knee instead of running over my leg. You clog up the crosswalk when you decide that you may not make that light after all, making the other pedestrians and I have to walk into the roadway, putting ourselves at risk because of your own bad judgment. Simply put, I get the sense that you don't care.
Well I've had enough. I'm mad as hell and I'm not going to take it anymore.

20 January 2008

An Encouraging Preview of the Manley Report

I'm eagerly awaiting the release of the Manley Report on Canada's future in Afghanistan. There's a story in today's Ottawa Sun which suggests that the document will recommend a "stay the course" approach to our participation in Kandahar, an idea that has merit. I've long been of the view that Canada's isolationists are simply wrong about Afghanistan, as I feel that if not Afghanistan, where is a suitable place for Canada to have a forward presence, in the context of either peacekeeping or peace-making? Simply put, Afghanistan embodies in nearly every way Canada's foreign and defence policy: we are promoting democratic ideals and the rule of law, we are conducting counterterrorism efforts (those much-loathed "Search and Destroy" missions the NDP are obsessed with denouncing), we are promoting genuine stability in the region, and we are improving the lives and livelihoods of the people of Afghanistan through diplomatic, infrastructure, and aid initiatives. While "stay the course" is a nebulous term and one probably too-closely affiliated with Washington's policy in Iraq, keeping Canada in Afghanistan to improve the lives of people in that country while protecting the lives of Canadians here is of paramount importance to Canadian national security interests. If anything, we should be ramping up efforts--on all fronts--to ensure that we can achieve victory as much as possible before the politicians attempt to pull the plug in February 2009.

16 January 2008

It's Missing Something

After reading the story about Mitt Romney's victory in the Republican Michigan primary, the thought that sticks out in my mind is this comment:

"Let's take this campaign to South Carolina and Nevada and Florida and all over the country. Let's take it all the way to the White House."

Why, just for the sake of it, couldn't he have thrown in a Dean-esque "Yyyyyeeeaahhh!!" to top it off?

14 January 2008

$20B for the Saudis!?!

So much for the idea that propping up Middle Eastern tyrants is a thing of the past. It was announced today that the Bush Administration is going to pump $20 billion in arms to Saudi Arabia in order to bolster that decrepit regime against the decrepit regime in Tehran. I'm really at a loss for words over this one. All that wonderful prose in the Second Inaugural about spreading the untamed fires of liberty and supporting democrats wherever they may be, it turns out to be a little less than equally applied. Right now the Saudis are holding prisoner, without charges for over a month, a blogger who had the unmitigated gall to be critical of his regime. The Saudis do not allow women the right to vote. 15 of 19 hijackers on 9/11. On and on. And they get a big arms deal because they're less bad than the Iranians. Pardon me while I lament another part of the Bush Doctrine passing into history.

12 January 2008

Misc Musings

My computer monitor is dying. Earlier this week it looked like it was receiving stuff from the future world of Year Zero. Today it's gone green.
The fog is so thick outside I can't see the apartment building across the street.
Though I don't really like being awoken at 5am by his chattering or dropping a scrunchy ball/fish on my face, Orion is just so darn cute.
I may be heading out to get my Habs jersey (the one that Anna Lou got me as a present for the 2007-08 season!) crested with a Price 31 today. Or maybe a Higgins 21. Or a Komisarek 8. The big guy was a monster against Boston on Thursday, some people even drew comparisons to Scott Stevens he was so dominant.
Excellent article posted over at the WRC-Halifax blog today. Go read it.
Life is good.

09 January 2008

Clinton and McCain

Hats off to both for pulling off victories in New Hampshire. A few months ago many pundits were all but proclaiming McCain's candidacy dead in the water, while Clinton was trailing Obama by double-digits only 24-48 hours ago. Big victories for both that may set the table for a long run towards the national conventions later this year.

08 January 2008

McCain, Obama Leading in New Hampshire

Quick note on the news: I'm very happy to see John McCain leading the way in the Republican half of the New Hampshire primary, and also happy for Barack Obama to have a solid lead in the Democrats' race to win the key battleground state. McCain and Giuliani are the only Republicans running in '08 that I believe I can support, while I remain undecided as to whether Clinton or Obama would make the best candidate for the Democrats. In any event, this is good news. It's still very early yet, of course.

05 January 2008

Happy New Year!

Yeah I'm a few days late, it's been a busy week. :)
So here we are, it's 2008, 2007 is now in the rearview mirror, which is good because it allows a little bit of reflection.
2007 was a very interesting year, a real roller-coaster actually. They say that life has its ups and downs, and I can definitely attest to that when I think of last year.
My job situation for the first four months of the year was truly a down. I like Dalhousie as an institution, its faculty (Michael Goodyear notwithstanding) is top-notch, and I'm very proud to have a degree from there. That said, the registrar's office is a place of work that I wouldn't wish on anybody. They treat their students and temps very poorly, paying them a bare minimum and getting them to do all sorts of menial labour that the more established people are simply too lazy to do. If you're looking for a humbling experience, go there. I'm much happier out of there, especially given how well looked-after I am now at VON Canada. The job is still very much out of my element and academic background, but I'm a fast learner and I'm enjoying myself, particularly now that I'm doing work related to Veterans Affairs Canada. It sure beats trying to not bash my head against a desk after having to deal with yet another horribly inaccurate report of service.
My ever-pervasive longing to be back in British Columbia (or, really, anywhere but here) grew a lot this year. This city does a lot of things that are not relevant to my interests and few things that are. It's such a different vibe from what I got accustomed to in my first 24+ years: people always complaining about having to work, the Sunday shopping stuff, no Boxing Day, the utter lack of respect for pedestrians, and other niggling little things like that. When we got back from our trip to the Okanagan in mid-May, we were greeted at our building by someone's graffiti urging people to shoot cops. A couple months later there was a horrific and misogynist tag on Barrington St. about blowing a woman's head off. We have only a few friends out here (damn good ones, I might add, who I'm very glad to have met), and I miss my family a lot. A real lot. I'm really happy for my youngest sister getting to see H.I.M. back in November, but I'm also really jealous--and mostly because I didn't get to go with her because that would have been awesome. I still haven't even got to meet my nephew, and my little niece is growing up fast. The odd phone call helps alleviate the feeling for a while, but it always comes back, especially when my thoughts turn to my grandmother and if I'll ever see her again.
There were several unqualified awesome things this year. If I had to pick one, I'd have to break the rules and pick two. I am crazy about my cats. Sure they pulled down the Christmas tree--thrice--and I don't always want to play fetch with Orion at 5am, but I love the little kugelsachs. I've got a big collection of pictures of Nebula and Orion on Facebook, and so if you're not on it, you can see them here and here And while you're at it, friend me. :)
Things with Anna Lou were amazing this year. Our relationship deepened even further, we always have stuff to talk about, I still get excited when I see her after we've been apart for a few hours, and I just all-around love her. She's made me a much better person, and I hope that I make her as happy as she makes me.
I got to see the Habs for the first time in 4 years. The team sure has changed a lot since then, but they've got a lot of promise and upside for the future. I got my jersey signed by 8 players plus Kirk Muller, which is really cool. I'm also becoming a Carey Price merch collector. The kid's got talent and I hope he gets to be a major part of bringing the Cup back to Montreal. Oh yeah, and we're going to see the last game of the regular season against the Leafs.
Nine Inch Nails and H.I.M. have moved to the forefront of my musical interests. It's amazing what putting out new material on a regular basis will do for the overall rankings, especially when it's damn good music. Year Zero is hands-down my favourite CD of 2007, and I'm torn between Capital G and Sleepwalking Past Hope for song of the year. Maybe when I get to the Top [X] listings below, I'll have resolved that. Meanwhile, there's still no new Metallica album in sight and when my membership in the MetClub expires tonight at midnight it will not be renewed. The past two years in the Club have been pretty much a waste, and I by and large don't like a lot of Metallica fans. People say that metal fans can be pretty misogynistic, and I agree with that, which only made my experiences in the community all the more negative. C'est la vie.
Politically speaking, 2007 was not a banner year for much of anybody. I don't think that any of Canada's major political parties would score the year a lot higher than a B, maybe a B+ at best if you're Stephen Harper and you've been ruminating on just how poorly the opposition parties fared. It was the year of bluster and buffoonery, lots of talk but little action, and when there was action it was ill-gotten. Shane Doan controversy, anyone? How many times did the Liberals threaten to bring down the government, only to not even show up for major confidence votes? Meanwhile, Harper has done a good job as Prime Minister of solidifying himself and his position, almost by default (seriously, Stephane Dion just doesn't have it), but also through some wise tactical maneuvers that will ultimately pay dividends. The press may love to bombard him and the Canadian public with daily polls that show that, oooh, he's just not gonna hit majority territory, but I think that the only poll that matters--the one cast by 14 million Canadians on Election Day (likely not to be in 2008 either; sorry, mainstream media!)--will have him making some significant gains over the 2006 vote.
States-side, umm where was George W. Bush this year? And did he have Condi Rice with him? I remain an adherent of the Bush Doctrine and the promise that it offers to so many people around the world who do not currently enjoy basic human rights and freedoms, democracy, the rule of law, and legitimate government, but this year did not see much from Washington to move forward in advancing these concepts around the world. Administration fatigue seems to have set in early, largely due to Iraq I suspect, and we're at the brink of seeing opportunity go unfulfilled and wasted. The gains made in the Middle East in 2003 seem so long ago, and the ever-present risk of backsliding seems to be growing. The race for the White House in 2008 has thus far failed to be very interesting, if only due to its seeming permanence. It's still far too early to make any sort of predictions as to who will be contesting the presidential election, and I remain unimpressed by much of the field.
And now, the fun part: lists!

Top 5 Albums of 2007
1. Nine Inch Nails - Year Zero
2. H.I.M. - Venus Doom
3. Ozzy Osbourne - Black Rain
4. Metric - Grow Up and Blow Away (really, though, I'm looking forward to the new one!)
5. Velvet Revolver - Libertad

Top 5 Songs of 2007
1. Nine Inch Nails - Capital G (answers that question, eh?)
2. H.I.M. - Sleepwalking Past Hope
3. Metric - Stadium Love (they play it live, so it counts. We saw them in September and it was a really great closer--I could have picked Freddy too)
4. Nine Inch Nails - In This Twilight
5. Rihanna - Umbrella (yes, that song. It grew on me, it's great, let's move on)

Top 5 Pics of Orion and Nebula

And finally,
Top Moment of 2007
The love-meter reading on Christmas morning

Happy 2008, everybody!