29 December 2008

2008 Year in Review Fun Stuff!

Now that the turkey is gone, the tree is down, the presents are unwrapped, and the sun is shining (!) it's time to look back on the year that was, or at least as I saw it. I always get a kick out of these things, and I'm finding it a little bit funny that this is the second time this year that I'm doing my year-in-review postings. Did I fall asleep for the last week of '07 or something?
It was a year of mixed emotions, this 2008. Lots of really great moments, a couple more accomplishments, a few frustrations, a big letdown or two, and a lot of fun along the way.
I'd say that my biggest personal achievement this year had to be the publication of my first book, American Leadership and the Future of the Bush Doctrine, which you can purchase through Amazon by clicking the link on the right there. I was surprised and totally taken out of the blue when a publishing house in Germany got in touch with me expressing interest in my M.A. thesis and making a book out of it. The process was very quick and smooth, and there really is a surreal feeling when you open up a package in the mail and see a beautiful new book that has your name on the cover and all the stuff inside is your words (and those of others with due citation) and ideas. A real high, and I hope that those who have made the expense (and believe me, folks, if I could have set the price it would have been much cheaper to entice more buyers!) have found it worth their while. Regardless of whether it has sales of 10 or 10,000 that's my baby and I'm very proud and fortunate to have it.
That high is matched in equal sense of feeling by the low of the year: losing out on my application with a job with the federal government and the Department of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness. After spending 6 months going through the process, to have it all come to an end with a 4-sentence letter in April really hurt. It was a real confidence-shaker and maybe to some extent I'm still feeling the after-effects of it. Anybody who knows me knows that a career in the public service, particularly one in that field, has been an ambition of mine for many years, and to have gotten as close as I did and have it just disintegrate just left me feeling quite down on myself for some time afterwards. What can you do? It's one of those things where the song rings true: what don't kill ya makes ya more strong.
Politics wise, 2008 was a complete gong show for this country. I've had a sense of detachment from any of the political parties for a while and this year had the effect of simultaneously (at least in December) of further disenchanting me while also pulling me back in a direction that I thought I would not address again for some time. The antics of the coalition, Harper's partisan governance, Dion's ineptitude, and so on all really made me wonder just what this country's leaders were doing and thinking (in that order)--and yet, at the twilight of 2008, I find myself strongly contemplating jumping back into the ring on a much deeper level than I have been since the end of 2005. The Liberals now have the leader that they should have had in 2006, and while I'm sure it wasn't awarded to him in the manner he would have preferred, I do believe that Michael Ignatieff may be just what this country needs in order to break away from the strange and unpleasant ongoings of the past few years.
South of the border, much of 2008 was all about the election, so much so that it pretty much overshadowed everything, including and especially the current President. George W. Bush was almost a non-factor for the entire year, consigned to irrelevancy by the media and its pundits long before the end of his second term in office. There was so much hope (the catch word of the year) offered by Bush and his grand strategy to have America assist in the remaking of the Middle East, and it all just seems for naught at this point. It's disheartening and sad, for him but more importantly for all the voices in the world that are still being silenced, the dreams being suppressed, and the goals locked up and the key thrown away. As I type this, conflict rages anew between Israel and the terrorists of Hamas, India and Pakistan are mobilizing at their shared border due to the terrorist attacks in Mumbai, and the torch of freedom seems flickering and fleeting in places where it was hoped its light would spread and blaze a new path. It all presents a daunting challenge to an incoming President who has done much to inspire and renew confidence in the promise of America. I sincerely wish Barack Obama well because the weight of expectation on him is tremendous. Hopefully he can bear it.
Much closer to home, another wonderful year with Anna Lou and our little family. A couple hiccups along the way, but wow, what a bunch of great memories we've created again this year. Our amazing love and hope and trust and confidence in each other carries me through my days. Thank you for everything you do and everything that you are. I love you so much. All of them.
What else did I love this year? The Habs, big time. My passion for my favourite hockey team has carried over into a new/old hobby: card collecting! It's definitely a lot different now than when I was younger collecting cards; the products have come a long way...but I still collect the same team! I've amassed a ridiculous collection of Habs memorabilia in the past year, lots of autographs, jersey cards, rookies, you name it, most of it centred around my two favourite players: Carey Price and Josh Gorges. Not surprisingly, both BC boys. It was great that we got to see them twice this calendar year, including the last game of the season against the Leafs in Montreal! Just awesome, and hopefully in 2009 we can do it again, preferably in June!
Other than that, there was a bit of a sense of disengagement from a lot of my other long-standing "loves" in life. I didn't renew my membership in the Metallica Fan Club last January, ending a wonderful 5 year run. With the band taking forever and a day to release Death Magnetic (for a while, I thought "The Day That Never Comes" would be the release date and that they'd be beaten out by Axl and Chinese Democracy) and pretty much touring exclusively in Europe for the past few years, plus my frequent headbutting with other Clubbers, it just didn't seem worth the $60 this year (and do you know how many sweet Carey Price cards I can get for that much?) to renew. That said, the album is awesome (see below to see if they make #1!) and you know that if by some miracle Halifax ends up on their tour itinerary in '09 I will be there front row rocking like it's 2004 all over again!
I also had a drop-off in Star Wars stuff. Still grabbed a handful of new toys but even with the new animated series there's a bit of a sense of fatigue or burnout or I don't know what all. Still, it's Star Wars, and the Force runs strong with this one so you know it will be with me, always.
Wow I've talked a lot eh? Enough of that, time for the joyful Top 5 Lists!

Top 5 Movies of 2008
1. Wall*E
2. The Dark Knight
3. Star Wars: The Clone Wars
4. Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull
5. Cloverfield

Top 5 Albums of 2008
1. Nine Inch Nails - Ghosts I-IV
2. Metallica - Death Magnetic
3. Nine Inch Nails - The Slip
4. HIM - Digital Versatile Doom
5. Wall*E Soundtrack

I did not buy a lot of music this year; I've still yet to hear in full the AC/DC and GnR albums--does that make me a bad person?

Top 5 Songs of 2008 (according to my 'Pod's most played list)
1. Metallica - All Nightmare Long
2. Nine Inch Nails - 33 Ghosts IV
3. HIM - The Funeral of Hearts (Live) - blew me away and gave a new appreciation to the song!
4. Metallica - Broken, Beat & Scarred
5. Nine Inch Nails - Discipline

Top 5 Habs-Related Things of 2008
1. Going to Montreal wish Tasha to see them beat the Leafs at the Bell Centre
2. Meeting Josh Gorges outside the Metro Centre in September
2a. Getting a Kelowna Rockets jersey signed by Josh Gorges
3. Getting this in a trade, the highlight of my Carey Price collection:

4. Game 7 against the Boston Bruins
5. Christmas morning when Tasha got her very first Habs jersey!

Top Moment of 2008
As usual, the love-meter on Christmas morning

Honourable Mention: pretty much the entire 12 days spent back in BC this year.

19 December 2008

How Do We Go From....

How do we go from the Prime Minister of Canada vowing to never run a deficit--during the election campaign that saw him returned to office largely as a result of his prowess on economic matters--to the Prime Minister of Canada announcing that the budget deficit next year will be approximately 30 billion dollars!!?!? This is quite likely the worst "promise made, promise broken" news emanating from Ottawa in a very long time. My disgust with the Prime Minister for saying one thing and promptly doing another is incredibly high.

I realize that during tough times (cue the Liberal choir: Tory times are tough times) it is sometimes important and even necessary to introduce a stimulus package that requires increased government spending to kick-start the economy. I have no problem with the government taking measures to protect and create jobs to keep Canada's economy strong. What bothers me is that it should not have come to the point that introducing a strong stimulus package leads to running a deficit in the double-digit billions of dollars. The tax cuts introduced by the Conservatives do not rankle me; lowering taxes was a part of the agenda and it was well-received by Canadians across the board. Cutting taxes in times of great prosperity is a hallmark of fiscal conservative ideology. What is not fiscally prudent is increasing government spending to record all-time highs at the same time that taxes are being cut. The government wanted to do more with less, and as a result, the country is going back into the red.

That is incredible. For over a decade this country had been leading the way in the G8 as the best example of an economic powerhouse maintaining its position without excessive spending and racking up additional debt. We were going through great prosperity and paying down debt. The work of Jean Chretien and Paul Martin, though painful at times in terms of government cuts, in the long term benefitted Canada to a tremendous extent. The plans and procedures they implemented, however, have been cut away. The $3B contingency fund was removed. That buffer could have made a difference. The cupboard is bare, and it is a supreme irony that it was a Conservative government that promised restraint and sound fiscal and economic policies that cleaned it out.

I'm getting really close to the tipping point, folks.

16 December 2008

Know Thine Enemy?

I found this to be an interesting and curious tidbit from the Prime Minister about Michael Ignatieff:

Harper told CTV Atlantic he met with Ignatieff last week, but said he still knew little about the former Harvard scholar and author.

"I've read very little of what he's written. I certainly know he's a noted academic," he said

For his sake, I hope that he's got some people on the staff doing some research. As someone who has read very much of what he's written, I can say that Harper's going to have to bone up on some of the major issues of our times if he wants to go toe-to-toe with Ignatieff. I'm incredibly tired of the gutter politics that has dominated the past few years of Canadian politics, and the prospect of a Harper-Ignatieff intellectual showdown will only meet the lofty expectations if one guy gets ready for that looming battle. And even then, I'm not sure his ideas will surpass those of one of the greatest liberal academics of our time.

11 December 2008

Politics Trumps Principle...Again

But coming from him, on this matter? I never thought I would see the day.

Harper to fill 18 Senate seats with Tory loyalists

The rationale is that is he's wary the coalition will take over in January and do it themselves with their own loyalists, thus ensuring the perpetuity of the Liberal-dominated Senate. Why let others get the shot at patronage appointments when you can do it yourself, right? This one just makes me sad. I railed at Martin for putting his campaign manager Francis Fox in there, and I'm very disappointed to see that Harper's going to reward his old stalwarts with similar career golden parachutes.

10 December 2008

Two Years Later, They Get It Right...Sort Of

Today is a very good day for the Liberal Party of Canada. They have finally chosen the leader that they should have chosen after January 23, 2006. I was one step removed many years ago when I said that Ignatieff would be the next leader of the Party. For some reason known only to Liberals, they opted to go with Stephane Dion first. Many thought they'd hit rock bottom after the 2006 election. They thought they'd lost all the could, but then they lost a whole lot more. Today is Day One of the official rebuilding project.

The first order of business must be to ensure that the party faithful are assuaged and assured that the process by which Ignatieff became leader is legitimate. There is a lot of talk, from myself included, that the manner and form in which Ignatieff has taken the reins of the Party is not ideal, is not democratic, and is not transparent. I hope and believe that while happy to be the leader, Ignatieff truly did not want it to happen under these circumstances. And had it not been for the fever pitch that gripped Ottawa for the past three weeks, he probably would not have become leader until the scheduled convention in May. But Dion's final act of utter ineptitude has resulted in his immediate ouster and replacement. Some will liken this takeover in the same ugly fashion as the so-called "coup-alition" effort. That is something he'll have to contend with.

Another is the lingering and stale argument that Ignatieff's simply an egghead who has been out of the country for 25 years and is thus out of touch with what Canadians want. This is ludicrous. Anybody who has read anything written by Ignatieff is very aware that he's keenly in touch with what the Canadian public thinks about the major issues of our time, from human rights to good governance. He is a very smart man, and the string of anti-intellectualism coming out of the Conservative camp is indicative of their fear of Ignatieff's intelligence.

It is going to be a long haul for the Liberals to get back to government. As Kinsella often says, government defeat themselves. The Tories may be on their way to doing that, but they're not there yet; moreover, the Liberals have yet to sufficiently recover from their own terrible defeats in the past few years and demonstrate that they are indeed capable of handling the reins of power once again. But now that the Liberals have taken the first step by electing the right leader, that process may begin in earnest.

08 December 2008

Irony? Or Just Sheer Hypocrisy

My pal Chucker alerted me to this blog post of Bob Rae's. I'm not sure if it's more amusing, sad, hypocritical, pathetic, or ironic. Perhaps it's a vile combination of "all of the above." But it really does go to show just how readily Liberals in this country are able to contradict themselves.

"The idea of taking away the vote from tens of thousands of grassroots activists in every part of Canada, and reducing the franchise to just 76 men and women seems so out-of-step with the modern world."

This is repugnant to Bob Rae. However, taking away the vote from millions of people in every part of Canada, be they activists, party faithful, independents, libertarians, communists, or any other categorization of people, and reducing the way in which we decide how political power in this country is distributed to 3 men is just hunky-dorey with the modern world.

"Significant portions of the country that didn't elect a Liberal MP would be unable to participate. What about the voice of rural Liberals, of almost all of Western Canada, of Quebeckers outside Montreal? All of these folks would be silenced."

This coming from the coalition's new public champion. It's entirely troublesome to Bob Rae if some Liberals don't get to pick the next leader of the Party, but it's entirely fine that every province outside of Ontario and portions of the Maritimes have their voices from October 14th snuffed out and silenced. What about all of the Conservative supporters who voted for their Party on election day? Do their voices not count in Bob Rae's world?

"What about the Senate? These great Liberals, distinguished Canadians from inside and outside of politics, would have their votes taken away after lifetimes of service."

My heart bleeds so badly for these unelected patronage recipients that they don't get to decide who will lead the Liberal Party. Funny, it's OK that nobody outside the PMO got to decide whether these geezers would get to be in the Senate in the first place. I guess this isn't one of those things that registers on Bob Rae's radar as being "out-of-step with the modern world."

"What about the Party Constitution? The party is preparing a perfectly viable, constitutionally valid plan for holding a one-member-one-vote ballot electronically in mid-January. That's just a few weeks away, and gives us time to prepare for the Conservative budget. It's timely, legal, workable, low-cost, and constitutional."

On this one, he actually has a point. The Liberals have not only made a mockery of the electoral process of Canada, they're so flailing and desperate that they're even flouting their own party's rules and regulations.

I'm appalled at what I've read from Bob Rae. Absolutely appalled. How can anybody take this man seriously when looking at his words in light of his support for the coalition and their botched efforts to seize power from the legitimately elected government of Canada?

03 December 2008

02 December 2008

Quick Question

As a Western Canadian transplanted in Eastern Canada, should I be, um, concerned about the possibility that the West may feel as though it's being kicked out and may take it badly?

The Narratives...

If I were a __________ , this would be the narrative coming from me today:

Conservative: Less than two months ago, the people of Canada spoke. They said no to Stephane Dion, they said no to Jack Layton, and they said no to the separatists. Today, the leaders of these three parties believe that a triple negative combined cancels it out, that three no's do in fact make a yes. You, the people of Canada, voted in the largest numbers in a generation for the steady and proven leadership of Stephen Harper and the Conservative team, giving us a strengthened mandate to govern Canada through these difficult economic times. Today we stand at a precipice because the opposition parties are so infuriated over a $20M cost-cutting measure in our last fiscal update. Why? Because it affects them and their interests. It does not affect Canada's interests nor does it threaten its democracy, which only so recently spoke out in favour of Stephen Harper and against Stephane Dion, Jack Layton, and Gilles Duceppe. We all have to accept restrictions on our spending, yet the opposition parties not only want to keep spending for themselves, they want to do the opposite of restricting spending. They want to drive the Brinks truck up to Parliament Hill, and open it up and let the tax-and-spend ways of Jack Layton plunge this country into economic catastrophe.

Liberal: We understand that we live in unprecedented times, and this has called for unprecedented action on behalf of Canada's major political parties. We had hoped to enter into the 40th Parliament with a renewed spirit of co-operation because we know that it is in Canada's interests for all of us to work together for the good of the country, its finances, and its economy. Yet given their first opportunity, Stephen Harper demonstrated that a leopard cannot change its spots: once a partisan, always a partisan. He is more concerned with handcuffing his political opponents than in reaching out to them with the national interest in mind. After October 14 we said that we were willing to work with the Conservatives with an eye towards improving Canada's economy; our gesture was met with the typical response that we had come to expect but hoped would be a thing of the past. He would rather kick dirt, like a bully always does, than work together. So, today we have looked elsewhere for partners to lead Canada. Our coalition is one with what some would consider to be unconventional allies. As I said before, we need to take unprecedented action. Who would ever have believed that we would see Stephane Dion and Gilles Duceppe working together for the good of Canada? Who would ever have thought that we would find common cause for business interests and their employees in Canada with Jack Layton? But here we are today. We don't want to do politics the Stephen Harper way; we want to do them the Canadian way, where we work together to overcome our problems and succeed, united and proud.

NDP: Today is a new day in Canada, one in which those parties which believe in a strong, progressive Canada have set their differences--and there are some which do remain--aside for the common good. The NDP is proud to have played a central role in brokering this partnership that represents the majority of Canadians and their values. We don't have the time to play mean-spirited partisan politics; this is a time for serious people to work hard for the common good of Canadian families. People are losing their jobs, and the Prime Minister is more focused on kicking his opponents in the shins than helping those working families stay on their feet. Because we're in a minority situation, and because we remained skeptical of Mr. Harper's intentions after the election, we reached out to the Bloc because we knew that there were shared progressive values and that what is good for the people of Quebec is also good for the people of Canada, and we wanted to include the Bloc in our plans going forward. We hear the people and we know of their concerns about the Bloc; this is not a time for talking about the spectre of separatism, because that would financially ruin all of us. We're all in this together, and M. Duceppe understands that as well as I do, as well as M. Dion does. Stephen Harper does not, he wants it to be his way or the highway; what we offer Canadians is a better way.

01 December 2008

Stability? Who Needs It? Canada

Here's a big surprise:

Political uncertainty, economic gloom and falling oil prices dragged the Canadian dollar down Monday, with the loonie at 80.21 cents (U.S.), down 0.63 cent, in morning trading.

The Canadian dollar was down “partly due to weakness in global markets to start the week,” Bank of Montreal economist Douglas Porter said.

“But as one analyst noted, currencies backed by strong, stable leadership are being rewarded in this tumultuous environment, and Canada has the opposite,” Mr. Porter said in a note to clients.

If I were the type to say "I told you so," this would be a key time for me to say "I told you so." However, with the fate of Canada's economy hanging in the balance because of socialists and separatists, this may not be the best of times. Canada's serious political parties--you know who they are--should not be looking to drive the knives into each other, they should be looking form a coalition of their own. If there is one area that Liberals and Conservatives should be able to work together on a common front, it is fiscal responsibility and economic stewardship. I call on Messrs. Harper and Dion to reach out to each other rather than looking to the gadflies for assistance, so that a real plan for all Canadians can be crafted.

Madness Grips Ottawa

The madness continues in our national capital, as not only are there ongoing talks to oust the Tories, we've learned that the two parties that should be kept furthest away from the levers of power in this country have been conniving to gain access to those levers at the earliest available opportunity. The very idea of Jack Layton and Gilles Duceppe throwing our money around like there's no tomorrow is very nearly enough to make me want to throw money at Stephen Harper to stop the idea dead in its tracks. There is so much wrong with what's transpired in the last 72 hours, and they all share an equal part in the blame. As I said in my previous post, if I'm an investor who was looking at plunking some money into Canada, I'm seriously re-considering that idea today.

What the hell happened to the so-called "spirit of cooperation" they promised, they PROMISED, us would emerge in this new Parliament?