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A Liberal in Hiding: So About Last Night…

May 3, 2011 Leave a comment

Bare with me, I’m typing on a Blackberry.
So What Happened?

It came down to two provinces, as it usually does in federal elections: Ontario and Quebec. Ontario went Conservative to the tune of 72 seats, an 18 seat increase from the last election on the back of vote splitting across the province between Liberal and NDP candidates (though it’s tough to tell which side to blame for splitting the vote with the final results being what they are), as well as a healthy dose of “Rae Days” reminders in the final week. I expect that many centre and right-of-centre Liberals jumped to the Conservatives when the prospect of a Layton-led coalition – in the event of a minority government – was brought up by Conservatives during the last week, invoking the spectre of Bob Rae’s tenure as Premier with the message: Conservative majority or it’s back to this.

Quebec also saw a dramatic shift, with the NDP surging to an unlikely victory, crushing the Bloc Quebecois down to non-official party status. The Bloc’s fall, which can be at least partially blamed on the late rise of separatist rhetoric scaring away the moderate BQ voters to the NDP, led to the NDP’s historic Official Opposition finish. There’s been a clear change in the political direction in Quebec. For now.

What Now?

In a word: stability. We know exactly when the next election is going to be, and until then this is Stephen Harper’s show, for better or worse.

Going Green

The Green Party finally found a riding that Elizabeth May could be parachuted into and win, and good on them. I’m a fan of the environment. It provides air and water and food, and in my book, that’s pretty decent of it. I’m glad she won her seat, but it’s going to be interesting to see if she can be remotely effective as the only member of her party in a lame-duck opposition.

Separation Anxiety

On election night I declared that seperatism was a dead issue in Canada in the wake of the BQ’s stunning defeat in La Belle Provence, dropping from 54 to 4 seats; their leader (who is a personal favourite of mine) Gilles Duceppe among the fallen. However, now that I’ve slept off the whiskey induced haze that got me through last night, I’m reconsidering that stance. The NDP is a national party, and as the Official Opposition, will have to represent federal issues despite the fact that the bulk of their support comes out of Quebec. Meanwhile, for the next four years the Bloc is going to have troops on the ground looking to rally support. If the NDP does not adequately represent the interests of Quebec, and they’ll be hard-pressed to do it as the opposition in a majority government. I believe that we’ll see another 180 degree turn and the resurrection of the BQ and all the issues that come with the party in 4 years time. In fact, as the majority Conservatives actually dropped support in Quebec, the BQ should have an easy time demonstrating that the federal government is apathetic towards Quebec interests.

Zombie Party

The LPC is not dead yet.

Moving Forward

Over the next few days I’ll attempt to assess what’s next for the five (Elizabeth May finally counts!) Federal parties.

One Nation Under Zeus, Odin and Ra

March 7, 2011 Leave a comment

 Historian Donald E. Smith, who pioneered of the study of secularism in democratic India, noted that “Democracy and secularism are tightly bonded.” If one goes, so does the other.

It’s considered a foundational pillar of the liberal democratic ideology – the first building block on a nation’s way to democracy. So what does it say when the United States of America, arguably the world’s greatest democracy, certainly the most power and the most symbolic, asks its citizens, when pledging allegiance to the flag, must to so as “one nation under God” ?

 If you look through American history it’s not hard to find that Christianity, specifically Protestantism, defines American foreign and social policies and has since the nation’s inception. You really need look no further than the office of the President. To date the U.S., who heavily criticize religious regimes has had 43 Protestant Presidents of its 44 total, John F. Kennedy being the lone exception, a Catholic.

The addition of “under god” came in 1954, and has been heavily criticized and judicially challenged numerous times and continues to be a hot-button topic in the U.S., this isn’t really anything new. But as congress holds committee hearings on “Islamic radicalism” the issue has begun to come back to the forefront, with many predominant Muslims and Islamic scholars noting that it’d go a long way with the large religious communities (both Islamic and other non-Christian based) to abolish the words “under god” With an increasing diversity in the religion of Americans should “under god” and any other reference to “God” be removed from American (or any secular democracy for that matter) legislation?

I’m not sure how to look at this, on one hand they’re just words, on the other hand, to the more religiously inclined, they’re awfully meaningful words…

An Open Letter to the Dominion Formerly Known as Canada

March 5, 2011 3 comments

Hello Canada,

I’m writing to inform you that your government is making some changes around here.  You see, the idea of Canada just  doesn’t fit in to the ideas that we’re trying to cultivate around here.  When people think of Canada they tend to think friendly, peaceful and reasonable.  That’s just not what we’re all about.  So instead of “The Government of Canada” we’re going to go with “The Harper Government” .  In these times of “minority government” it’s important that the people of this nation and abroad recognize that we wear the pants around here, and the other parties have absolutely no say as to what does or does not pass in the House.  There is only the Harper Government. 

In a similar spirit, we’ve gone ahead and changed the official name of the nation to coincide with the new name of its government; after all, consistency is key.  And so this great nation will hence forth be known as “The United Dominion of the Provinces of Harperland” or “Tim Horton’s Presents: Harper-Nation” for shot.

Your New Flag!

We’ve also taken the liberty to change some other titles around government: The Leader of the Opposition will now be known as “The Not Harper”, the leader of the NDP will now be known as “Mustache Harper”, the leader of the Bloc Quebecois will now be known as “French Harper” , the Office of the Prime Minister, now a position held for eternity, will be known as “The Office of the Infallible, Super Cool, Really Popular Ladies Man who is Always Right, Has Great Hair, and is Totally Not Fat”  His word is law.

Sincerely,

Your Supreme Overlord

The Right Honourable, Super Awesome Home-Coming King

Stephen “Vanilla Thunder”  Harper

Bristol Palin gets a Book Deal and I Die a Little on the Inside

March 3, 2011 2 comments

Yes.  It’s true.

You know what really gets me here?  It’s not that she’s the insignificant daughter of an over hyped former vice-presidential candidate and failed Alaskan governor, or that she’s only 20 years old (actually, both of those things get me too) it’s the target audience.  Who is the target audience for this book!?!?!?!?!

Seriously, I want to know.  If it’s you reading this, let me know why in the comments because I don’t understand who could possibly want to spend money on and read this.  What has she done?  Is her time on Dancing with the Stars really that interesting?

Bristol Palin, seen in California in February, will release her memoir Not Afraid of Life in summer 2011.

Bristol Palin balks at the prospect of having to write anything longer than 140 characters...

There’s also the whole “she just signed the deal and the book comes out this summer” thing.  Don’t think for a second that she’s started it, she’s just going to write it in 3 months.

NOTE:  If you can write your life’s story in 3 months, you’re (a) exceptionally dull, (b) extremely forgetful, (c) lying, (d) in no position to be writing your memoirs.

Canada: Making Saving Lives Cost Effective

January 31, 2011 Leave a comment

 “Elected to form a minority government they didn’t want, these men promptly escaped from their political duties to the Ottawa Underground.

Today, still wanted to perform the duties of government, they survive as politicians of fortune.

If you have a problem – if no one else can help – and if you can find them – maybe you can hire the CAN-A-Team”

Amidst the turmoil in Egypt, governments abroad are scrambling to get their citizens safely home.

Portugal and Greece are sending military planes to evacuate their citizens.  China and Indonesia are sending commercial and charter aircraft to get their people out.  Hell, even Azerbaijan is sending a jet to collect their nationals.

The President of Iraq, the President of Iraq. Think about that for a second.  I’m not sure if there’s a more tenuous political position in the world than being President of Iraq.  The President of Iraq is sending his personal jet (who knew?!) to Cairo to evacuate stranded Iraqis and bring them home.

Meanwhile Canada, with some 6000 citizens in Egypt, ever protective of their citizens abroad (in 2006 they evacuated 15 000 from Lebanon at a 94 million dollar cost to the public) is expecting full reimbursement for charter flights to Europe, where on arrival citizens can buy their own commercial ticket home.  Canada: we’ll save your life, cash up front.

Quebec National Assembly Moves to ban Scissors, Sharp Pencils From Schools

January 20, 2011 Leave a comment

Only two days after banning four representatives of the Word Sikh Organization from the floor of the National Assembly because they refused to surrender their kirpans (a ceremonial dagger carried by men of the Sikh religion) to security; the Assembly has motion for the ban of scissors, pens and sharpened pencils from Quebec’s schools.

Head of the National Assembly security Pierre Duchesnes stands by the decision, noting that “if it can be used to stab, to me it’s a knife.” Explaining why he’s routinely cutting his steak with his car keys.

“It’s a safety measure that’s been long due” noted one Assembly member, a survivor of the great paper-cut outbreak of ’79 through his bubble-wrap facemask.  “Children, like adults, cannot be trusted with any sharp objects.”  the member conceded that the conversion to safety scissors and pre-used crayons (duller colours only) will likely cause a drop in the efficiency rating of Quebec schools; however, he expects a favourable decrease in pokings, proddings and pony-tail cuttings, as well as an increase in the colourful whimsy and overall waxy-ness of student essays.

Hearings will resume later this week.  Assembly security officials advise anyone with long finger-nails, brightly coloured eyes and/or an acuminous wit will be turned away at the door.

Julian Assange : Dangerous Vigilante or Symbol This World Needs?

December 2, 2010 1 comment

It’s the kind of story that Hollywood thrillers are made out of.  A man, with a slightly troubled but otherwise unremarkable past, sets out to inform the everyday person the horrors of a far away foreign war, to hold the military and the nation accountable of their words and actions, and turns his sights next on a financial industry that first robbed the people, and then duped the government into paying them for it.  He founds a website and shines a bright light on the murky international realm, grabbing the attention of the whole world in a matter of hours and goes underground as governments around the globe attempt to silence him – truly a real life Mikael Blomkvist.
 
Or maybe it’s a more appropriate back story for a Hollywood villain.  A man wanted for rape obtains stolen military and diplomatic documents, illegally publishes them and jeopardizes the safety soldiers, diplomats and special operatives abroad before announcing that he’s prepared to deal the killing blow to an already severely crippled financial sector – somewhat reminiscent of a Bond villain.

Artist's Rendition

It really doesn’t matter which way you look at it, I’m not sure which side I stand on myself, but it’s undeniable that the real story coming out of the latest WikiLeaks revelations is what to do about site-founder Julian Assange.
 
Very few of the leaked cables so far have contained sensitive information or anything that wasn’t already assumed, guessed or known by the general public let alone the government officials who made/make the decisions based on the material.  The Queen is more popular than Prince Charles? Canada has an inferiority complex when it comes to the USA?  Barrack Obama is wildly popular abroad?  The Arab states aren’t particularly fond of the Persian state?  Shocking, really.
 
It’s not to say that there isn’t information of note.  China considering the Korean peninsula under Seoul for instance or the confirmation Iran’s long range missile capabilities is interesting to those interested in international on-goings; but remember, governments already knew all this any way.
 
What’s really interesting is the reaction to the man behind the leaks.  All governments have come out with the party line condemning the act (though I’m sure there are a few who appreciate the confirmation of some long held suspicions).  But some have gone much further than others.  In the past week Sarah Palin has called for Assange to be hunted with similar resources to those being used to find Osama Bin Laden, Bill O’Riley called for his execution on the O’Riley Factor, U.S. congressman Pete King, the ranking member of the Homeland Security Committee, has called for JA to be classified as a terrorist under the Espionage Act and WikiLeaks to be recognized as a terrorist organization, and prominent Canadian conservative pundit Tom Flannigan, one-time mentor to Stephen Harper, has gone as far as calling for his assassination. And all this is on top of renewed charges of rape against JA in Sweden that has landed him on Interpol’s most wanted list.  As he often does, Assange has gone into hiding, official whereabouts unknown.
 
Now, if Assange did commit the crime he’s accused of, or if there’s really enough evidence around it to make him a person of interest, he should of course be brought in and questioned and if necessary tried to the fullest extent of the law.  But there is an underlying a problem here.  He’s now well known worldwide, particularly in Sweden where he’s based his operations for some time. How can a trail just be about the alleged crime and not about the leaks? Is it possible anymore for Assange to get a fair trial anywhere?  The charges has been brought and dropped over a year ago and only recently brought up again – could the accusation be brought on by JA’s sudden fame? One certainly hopes not, but it wouldn’t be the first time either.
 
It may be because global public has been Fox News-ed or CNN-ed to death; but does no one recognize real journalism anymore?  You hear people clamour for the banishment of the punditocracy, wanting just the hard news and the chance to make up their own minds (Sarah Palin said so a couple weeks ago, though I’m not sure she knows what “news” is…); well, here it is.  What Assange has done is no different than what Woodward and Bernstein did when they broke Watergate. Assange is not DeepThroat, he didn’t steal or leak the information.  He received it and published it for the world to see.  Yes, there have been one or two cables that come to close to identifying informants abroad, potentially endangering them and from a moral viewpoint I don’t believe those should have been published. But is there anything illegal about it?
 
I don’t know.  I’m not well versed in international law.  But if they were to find him and try him I’m not sure they could get him on anything to do with the leaks themselves, and really isn’t the more important issue here the lack of security in the U.S. electronic filing system?  Who missed 250, 000+ documents being copied or downloaded?  Why is there not an alert that red-flags when any document is copied or downloaded let alone 250,000?
 
Perhaps of greater concern, or interest depending on what side you’re on, are the leaks JA has promised next concerning the financial sector.  In a recent interview when he revealed he had the information, JA mused that he could take down one or two banks with the release.  With the recent troubles in the financial sector and the public emotion that’s come with it, it’s those leaks that will likely prove the most
damaging.