Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Carefully Chosen Words

Today we got the Disney version of the Hamas victory in a Washington Post commentary,
and the more forthright Grimm (pun intended) version in the Guardian.

Both claim to be written by Hamas operatives.

At first glance, the former seems almost conciliatory if not deeply rooted in fantasy:

Through its legacy of social work and involvement in the needs of the Palestinian people, the Islamic Resistance Movement (Hamas) flourished as a positive social force striving for the welfare of all Palestinians.

Hamas as a positive social force. In between suicide bombings?

In recognizing Judeo-Christian traditions, Muslims nobly vie for and have the greatest incentive and stake in preserving the Holy Land for all three Abrahamic faiths. In addition, fair governance demands that the Palestinian nation be represented in a pluralistic environment. A new breed of Islamic leadership is ready to put into practice faith-based principles in a setting of tolerance and unity.

This may sound good but at best it’s meaningless – pluralistic environment? - and at worst, patently false. Tolerance and unity indeed.

Hamas has elected 15 female legislators poised to play a significant role in public life.

Including Um Nidal, who has already sent three of her sons to paradise with suicide packs, and is working on her other three.

And we do desire dialogue. The terms of the dialogue should be premised on justice, mutual respect and integrity of the parties.
...There must come a day when we will live together, side by side once again.

That’s kind of interesting in that it seems to imply that Hamas wants a two-state solution, in direct contradiction to ... this:

We shall never recognise the right of any power to rob us of our land and deny us our national rights. We shall never recognise the legitimacy of a Zionist state created on our soil in order to atone for somebody else's sins or solve somebody else's problem.

which appeared today in the Guardian, a UK newspaper.

Two commentaries, written by two members of Hamas, spun for different consumption.

One meant for Americans, draping itself in the US flag and constitution to elicit sympathy and a feeling of shared purpose:

We appeal to the American people's sense of fairness to judge this conflict in light of the great thoughts, principles and ideals you hold dear in the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution and the democracy you have built.

The other, for a European/international audience, much more strident and direct in tone.
It states right from the start that the Palestinians knew exactly what they were voting for, and it wasn’t just good clean government.
It challenges western countries, in the name of democracy, to suck up the victory of this terrorist group by not withdrawing aid, and in the same breath bullies other “Muslim and Arab nations” to pick up any slack in foreign aid that might result.

(Which raises the question, where have all these oil-rich Arab nations been up until now in regards to Palestinian support?)

Of course what’s crucial is what’s not being said outright – that all this living together in peace and harmony can never occur for Hamas until Israel has ceased to exist.

Hamas is extending a hand of peace to those who are truly interested in a peace based on justice.

And we know what “justice” means to them.

Monday, January 30, 2006

No Frank McKenna!

CTV is reporting that Frank McKenna intends to announce today that he won't run for leadership of the Liberal Party.

That is bound to disappoint a lot of people. It will be interesting to learn what his reasons are.

H/T to the Infozone - always on top on things.

Sunday, January 29, 2006

About Those Canada-US Relations...

Both the New York Times and the Washington Post had commentaries this weekend about the change in government in Canada; and both referenced the same Liberal attack ad in their respective very first paragraphs.

I cringed every time I saw the attack ads (particularly that one, the *smile on Bush's face* ad) and I'm still cringing.
Election campaigns are not the place for criticism of another country. Period.
I don't think even the US stoops that low. They keep their "swiftboating" to their own. You don't see, "vote for us or else you'll end up like France", or anything like that.

Anyway. Now that we've put a smile on George W.'s face, I have to wonder, what position would Paul Martin be in had he won the election?
Would anybody down there even talk to him at all? Or was he not thinking ahead that far?

As it is, the Washington Post ventured a suggestion for Martin's next career move:

Lobbyist for Hugo Chavez.


Both articles also mentioned the softwood lumber dispute, and the Post went so far as to suggest that the US position is somehow tied to Martin's refusal to join the missile defense program. That's all well and good but both NAFTA and the WTO have declared the lumber duties illegal and the suggestions that I see about the US working to resolve the dispute seem bizarre when there are legally binding decisions in our favour.

But what do I know about international relations...

Cross posted to the CTV Election Weblog

Saturday, January 28, 2006

Notes from my Notes

Odds and Ends and Links:

A convergence of disturbing news this week, particularly if you are Jewish, as I am.

First, the Palestinian election in which Hamas gained a landslide victory and a Parliamentary majority. (As an aside, voter turnout was 77%, compared to 65% for Canada. Shame on us.)
This, in a climate where the Iranian President feels it necessary to make regular pronouncements of Holocaust denial and advocates the destruction of Israel;
where somehow an article calling for a boycott of Israel found its way into an issue of Global Agenda Magazine which was distributed to those attending this week’s World Economic Forum in Switzerland, prompting an apology by the Forum’s founder;
where it seems not much has changed at all despite this week’s commemoration of the 61st anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz.

No further comment for now, let’s go on to some lighter stuff.

Like guns.

Border guards should have them.

Eight year old children should not.

It’s simple as that. Next...

I don’t know why Tim Horton’s is balking at the idea of setting up shop at Kandahar Air Field.

Really, if nothing else, what a marvelous public relations move that would be, and can you imagine the commercials that could come out of it? Much better than the old Russian woman peddling soup.
The American soldiers there have American fast food outlets, according to the article, so why not a distinctive Canadian icon for our troops, even if Tim’s is owned by Wendy’s at least until they spin it off this spring.
And someone should tell their spokesperson that “it is not part of our business model” is colder than day-old coffee.
Statements like that should not be part of any company’s PR model.

Finally, just in case anybody missed it over the last few weeks, check out this version of Wikipedia’s listing for the Liberal Party of Canada.

Friday, January 27, 2006

Breaking the Ice...

There seems to be some confusion regarding having a backbone (or other relevant body parts) and being abusive.

Standing up to something the US Ambassador says, in a firm but polite manner, is not the same as America-bashing. It is not grinding a Bush-doll under your heel and it is not name-calling. It is not even the pot calling the kettle black, as poor Paul Martin tried to do re Kyoto.

According to a Reuter's report, Globe and Mail columnist John Ibbitson wrote today that,

Mr. Harper went out of his way yesterday to repudiate some utterly innocuous words that Mr Wilkins offered Wednesday ... (he) took these innocent words and contorted them into An Incident...
There can be no conceivable reason for Mr. Harper's attack other than to defuse Liberal accusations during the election campaign that the Conservatives were secretly controlled by American interests, to which they would sell the country out unless stopped.

I don't know about Mr. Ibbison, but to me,

We don't recognize Canada's claims to those waters...

along with the rather pompous

There's no reason to create a problem that doesn't exist.

is not exactly *innocuous*.

Mr. Wilkins apparently said these things in response to a question in a forum at the University of Western Ontario; without any other information, I venture the opinion that Mr. Wilkins chose his words carefully to see what sort of reaction they might provoke.

And I can think of a whole passel of reasons why Harper would say what he did although the reason Mr. Ibbitson thought up isn't actually a bad one in itself. In fact I have to go no further than the same section of the same Globe and Mail newspaper, to an article by Bill Curry.
He quotes UBC professor Michael Byers who says,

The honest answer is, it's a dispute," he said. "With sovereignty, you either use it or you lose it....
The real threat... is that shipping vessels will start using the (Northwest) passage in violation of Canadian environmental laws
(emphasis mine) if Canada is unable to patrol the region.

Far from *attacking* poor Mr. Wilkins, as Ibbitson suggested, Harper sent a clear message that his Canada will not be bullied.

Good for him.

Cross posted to the CTV Election Weblog

Harper Own Worst Enemy?

Really, is this the best you can do?

Blogger Al Duce feels that Stephen Harper should have known that his photo op with a kitten might trigger an asthma attack.

That certainly might be, although not all asthmatics are allergic to cats, for instance, my sons. Unfortunately, I am (both) and it's one of the big regrets of my life - I adore kitties and do spend as much time as I can with them despite the danger (short of owning one myself).

This is probably the opposite of *damning with faint praise* - praising with faint criticism?

I think it's kinda cute.

Cross posted to the CTV Election Weblog

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Not the Same Old Sovereignty

This is trouble waiting to happen. Happily, Stephen Harper seems to get it.

The Arctic sovereignty issue first came to my attention in December and made the news again today, with reports that the US Ambassador to Canada does not recognize Canada's claim to Arctic waters:

We don't recognize Canada's claims to those waters... Most other countries do not recognize their claim...

and opposes Harper's plan to increase Canada's military presence there:

There's no reason to create a problem that doesn't exist.

Sure, there's no problem for the US as long as we have no problem with what they're undoubtedly planning.

Stephen Harper intends nonetheless to defend our sovereignty up there as well he should.

This issue might not seem like a big deal but it absolutely is.

There are oil reserves up there waiting to be developed. It's also entirely possible that global warming will lead to the opening of the fabled Northwest Passage to shipping, and rights of passage will be a very big deal.

If there is any dispute as to who owns this territory, surely we will need some clout behind our claims; better would be to move now to establish our sovereignty and for this we need exactly what Harper proposed in December: increased surveillance and actual military presence there.

I'm no lawyer but as I understand it, international law pertaining to coastal borders says that sovereignty over an area depends on the ability to defend that area and also on actual occupation and use of the area. Logically that implies that if another country can send its subs there unnoticed, this is not really *defense*. And further, that if another country can establish some operations there (probably unnoticed, just like the subs) they have gone a long way towards being able to claim those resources.
I looked for references, found one site that seemed to cover some of this, but I'd like to be much clearer on the topic of exactly where Canada stands on Arctic sovereignty, so if someone out there can help I'd appreciate it.

Is it really too outlandish to think that some time in the future, the US might decide that our resources, Arctic and otherwise, are just too tempting and too easy to acquire for themselves?

We need to fix this and I hope Harper will do just that.

Cross posted to the CTV Election Weblog

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

On Genocidal Maniacs

There is no room in reasoned public debate for citations of genocidal maniacs.
Yet, people keep doing it.

The most recent Hitler reference occurred on CTV Newsnet on election day, by a Halifax radio host who shall remain nameless on these pages because I don’t want to give him the publicity he so obviously craves. Besides, if you follow my links, it’s there.

He was trying to make a point to another Canadian radio host, Charles Adler, who happens to be the grandson of Holocaust victims, by invoking the name of Hitler to represent the ultimate evil.

As a media professional he knows full well that referring to Hitler ends all reasonable discussion and provokes only an emotional response.
Had he really been trying to make a point, he could have said, Charles Adler would vote for Attila the Hun, or better yet, some fictional evil character.

So, whatever point is buried in that exchange was forever doomed, CTV had a really uncomfortable on-air moment, the Halifax radio host has lost credibility and people are talking about it - to which I say, good.

That’s what free speech does, it brings everything into the fresh air and sunlight of common sense.
I liken hateful ideas to molds or infections that grow in dark, airless places. If you open them up to air and light, they die. Allowing free expression and open discussion of ALL ideas is akin to vaccination against dread diseases.

If you try to keep your children or yourself away from germs, then you end up hiding under your bed all day, and will probably get sick anyway and be unprepared to resist.
If you've been exposed to the idea/germ beforehand, your mind/body has learned how to deal with it and the consequences are infinitely milder.

In perhaps a related story, The Washington Post today felt it appropriate to remind its readers that Stephen Harper thought that Canada should have supported the US war in Iraq in 2003.
I guess the Post felt its readers would be able to relate, one way or another, or something, but that was a strange episode of Harper’s long political career to single out the day after his election.

In any case, Harper wasn’t the only one who felt that way. Events have since shown that neither Canada nor the US nor anybody except perhaps the UN should have intervened in that way, at that time. Jean Chretien did the right thing in the wrong manner: there is no way Canada could have been of much use in Iraq, given that our military resources were busy in Afghanistan, but Chretien could have offered moral support or at least been polite about his refusal.

Okay he was right, much as it pains me to say that.

In 2003 I too felt that Canada should have helped the US in any way we could, not realizing that the US had the wrong plan and the wrong way to execute that plan, but that’s easy to see now from this standpoint.
There is no question that Saddam Hussein is a genocidal maniac – and genocidal maniacs need to be deposed. The ink on the history books is barely dry in this regard. Many alive today still remember, and lived through, World War II; most of us were around when the Rwandan genocide occurred with the full knowledge of the civilized world including the UN which was created to save us from these catastrophes.
Those were not the only genocides in living memory, and some are probably still occurring in places like Africa and North Korea.

The world errs on the side of neglect and procrastination against these tyrants to the point where they probably feel secure in their invulnerability.
Turning a blind eye because it’s happening in another country can’t be the last word.
The UN is all we have to stop this now, and it has got to start doing a better job.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

It's All Good...

...well mostly, anyway.

The Liberals had to go. That much is clear. I was surprised at how well they did - 103 seats as it stands now. I had to wonder last night, just what kind of hold does the Liberal Party have on this country, to very nearly pull off yet another upset despite the state that it's in. But this time even they couldn't find a miracle.

Anyone (I'm speaking to you, right-wing Americans) who thinks Canada is moving to the right, is just wrong. It may look that way on the surface, and it's probably being spun that way in certain media (sadly, I don't get Fox News. Or maybe that's not so sad) but the thin minority that Harper won is hardly a vote for neocon policies.

It was personal. Harper is the man we want at the top right now, among the ones we had to choose from. We gave him the job but constrained his power. I'm sure he gets it and will work towards greater political accountability, a continuing strong economy, and, if he can, a stronger military, NOT for war-mongering but for peace-mongering. (If there isn't such a thing, then there should be.)

In Quebec, where I live, the results were staggering. The Liberal candidate won in my riding, which surprised me because I was sure the Federalist vote would be split to allow the Bloc to come through. I'm okay with it because I would rather see a Liberal than a Bloc MP representing my riding as long as the Liberals are in minority until they reorganize.

If anyone would have told me, two months ago, that the Bloc would lose both in number of seats and popular vote and that the Tories would take ten seats, I'd have asked them what they were smoking. I interpret the result to mean that the idea of *separation* is not as popular as it appeared, and that much of the move away from the Liberals was just that - a move away from the Liberals, not towards the Bloc. Now we just need to get past the hurdle of the next Provincial Election, probably in 2008.

I was encouraged to see the Canadian election prominently featured on the websites of the major US news channels (CNN, MSNBC and Fox) early this morning especially since it's a big news day there with the Alito vote. Had the Liberals won, perhaps the coverage would not be there - but if the Liberals had won, would it even be news, from their perspective?

The Washington Post, which I like to reference because they link back to blogs that link their stories, had two Canadian election features on their website this morning. One of them is rather confusing: It begins like this:

Returns in the national election gave a strong victory to Conservative leader Stephen Harper...

Uh, not? ...however it continues,

But Harper fell short of winning a clear majority in the 308-seat House of Commons. He will need to compromise with opponents to form a government

Rather contradictory, no?

The other report, from the AP, was clearer and more or less to the point.

As for Paul Martin, he did the right thing by announcing he's relinquishing the leadership. That ends the speculation about whether he would quit and if so when, or would he need to be pushed out. He showed some class in his concession speech. It remains to be seen whether an honourable exit was his only motive, or whether he's quitting ahead of the revelation of more scandalous doings, if there are any of course.

So, it's all good and I do look forward to watching Belinda sit in opposition again when Parliament resumes.

Cross posted to the CTV Election Weblog

Monday, January 23, 2006

News Report: Today is most depressing day of the year

Yet another scientific study that tells us stuff we already knew.

It's thanks to some kind of mathematical formula (could it be an algorithm? I know google uses them but I don't know what they are) that January 23, 2006 has been declared the most depressing day of the year by a British researcher.

This can't be a world-wide thing, as they have summer now in the Southern Hemisphere, and I'm sure that certain other countries have bigger problems than it being January 23.
But for us, in North America and Europe, it is so.

I hope that doesn't mean Canadians will be too depressed to vote. I hear the weather is fairly good all over the country, which could be construed by the more wingnuttier of us to mean that God wants us to elect a Conservative MINORITY - or at least throw out the Liberals - or maybe God has better things to worry about, too...
Such as Ford cutting jobs, a new case of mad cow in Canada, and a legal decision that goes against RIM (Blackberry-maker). All of which happened just this morning.

But one thing I won't poke fun at is depression itself, which is no joke. I've had my own battles with it over the years but strangely enough this winter has been pretty good so far, probably because I've been so wrapped up in the election, following the news, blogging, and writing. That can all eat up a big chunk of time and keeping busy is very important.
So is socializing, which I don't do enough of, but two weekly bowling leagues (as opposed to one, until last year) has helped too.
In fact, tonight during the blogging blackout, I'll be at the lanes anyway. Just as well.

Anyway, to wander back to the original point of this post, today will undoubtedly be depressing for a large number of us who follow politics, but very happy for others. To those on the losing end, I offer this famous cartoon by Montreal's Aislin, the caption of which, coming out of Rene Levesque's mouth, was, "OK, everyone take a valium." (Valium was the Xanax of 1976.)

I am old enough to remember when it first appeared in the Montreal Gazette, the morning after the Parti Quebecois won its first victory in Quebec in 1976. You can see a small photo of the cartoon on Aislin's site, as it now graces the cover of one of his books.

The world, and Canada, didn't come to an end after that PQ victory, and they won't now. Sometimes the democratic process does not produce the results we want but it does beat the alternative.

Cross posted to the CTV Election Weblog

Business Update

Two discouraging business news reports this morning:

Canada has a fourth case of mad cow disease. Just when the U.S. and Japan were starting to accept our exports again.
The cow was discovered in Alberta. No jokes about other phenomena that come out of Alberta, please, he's going to be our Prime Minister whether you like it or not, and it will definitely not be all bad especially if it's a minority.

Bad news too for Research in Motion, the maker of the popular Blackberry. The U.S. Supreme Court has refused to hear an appeal by RIM in an ongoing patent dispute. It doesn't end the story but it is a setback, especially if the service is shut down in the U.S. pending resolution of this dispute. People who use these things become very dependent on them, it seems. The news is just as bad for stockholders of the company and if you think you're not one, but you own some mutual funds, you could well have some RIM in there.
I don't think it will be another Nortel - eventually this will be settled and the stock may well shoot way up - but it's way too risky for my taste.

Happy voting, if you're in Canada!

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Can't We All Just Get Along?

If these guys can do it, surely we can, too?

Election is tomorrow. I hope we have a huge turnout in all areas of the country, and that afterwards, no matter what happens, we digest it quickly and move forward, work towards our goals, both personal and social/political/financial/whatever, and do what we need to in order to make our voices heard. In some cases that might be blogging; in others, volunteering, studying, or even keeping a dialogue open with our friends and family.

I look forward to seeing the results, and also to turning my attention to other things that I've been neglecting these last couple of months - such as American politics!

Cross posted to the CTV Election Weblog

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Does This Sound Familiar?

Newest scandal to hit Washington:
"Political intelligence".

While sometimes an oxymoron, in this case the term refers to a quiet but lucrative industry which provides information to clients in the investment community about impending government legislation.

In Canada, this type of thing produces an *income trust scandal*. In the U.S. it's perfectly legal - up until now, anyway.
This story has been brewing for at least a year: it was reported last February in The Hill, a Washington political newspaper. Strangely enough, it came to light again in November, only a week before our own income trust event, in an article in Business Week concerning some impending asbestos-related legislation and its effect on the stock of an American company.

Now, possibly because of momentum from the Abramoff scandal, spokespeople are appearing on news shows to publicize this practice with the ultimate aim of closing this loophole (good luck to them!): Rep. Louise Slaughter on Air America Radio, and Congressman Brian Baird on that station and also on MSNBC's Countdown with Keith Olbermann which is where I first heard of this story.
The transcript of the Countdown interview is supposed to be online at their site on Monday.

While this doesn't have an effect on our election, I find it fascinating because of the parallel to our own experience, and encouraging because this practice is apparently illegal here already or the RCMP wouldn't have gotten as involved as they are.

In the US, like here, you have to wonder just how deep the political scandals go, and realize that corruption and self-serving behaviour are not limited to any one particular party or philosophy. Rather, sadly, they are a function of human nature that we are going to have to get used to dealing with long after the current messes are cleaned up.

Cross posted to the CTV Election Weblog

Friday, January 20, 2006

Breaking news from the New Scientist Magazine

We always suspected this, but now there's proof!

New Scientist Magazine reports today that

According to a new computer algorithm, Prime Minister Paul Martin, of the Liberal Party, spins the subject matter of his speeches dramatically more than Conservative Party leader, Stephen Harper, and the New Democratic Party leader, Jack Layton.

...He and his team analysed the usage patterns of 88 deception-linked words within the text of recent campaign speeches from the political leaders.

I wonder if my pet word *lookit* was included..?

...The computer algorithm is based on a psychological model constructed by James Pennebaker at the University of Texas, Austin, US. While studying the lying and truth-telling of hundreds of test subjects, he uncovered patterns linked to deception, such as the decreased use of personal pronouns - such as I, we, me, us - and exception words, such as "however" and "unless".

The patterns are probably of subconscious origin, he said...

They also said something about how it was natural for the incumbent to have to spin more than the challengers because they have a record to defend (and what a record!) but since that doesn't really fit with my theme I won't emphasize it. In any case, you can go read the whole article here.

Cross posted to the CTV Election Weblog

Who's Scary Now?

Human rights group accuses PM of abetting "unsavoury" U.S. practices

A civil liberties group accuses Prime Minister Paul Martin of siding with the United States to undermine a draft United Nations treaty outlawing government-sponsored disappearances.


Human Rights Watch says in its annual report that Martin apparently decided to run interference for the U.S. as a way for Canada to mend strained relations with its neighbour.

Way to mend relations. Wouldn't a simple birthday card on July 4 be enough?

...The Foreign Affairs Department said Wednesday that Canada has a solid record of opposing the practice.

One would think...

...The Americans fought the treaty because of their reliance on disappearances in secret detention facilities abroad, the rights group contends.

...Human Rights Watch says Canada "worked aggressively" to dilute key elements of the treaty.

The article quotes the usual disclaimers and denials by a spokeswoman.

I don't know if this is true, untrue, or spun out of recognition. Frankly I'm quite weary of this whole campaign and can't wait until it's done. The only reason I'm paying any attention to this is because in the context of all the other *shenanigans* the Liberals have indulged in, both alleged and established, I can't discount this outright. And if there is a grain of truth it does negate all the *scary* rhetoric aimed at the Tories.

We need a Conservative Minority - I'm more convinced of that than ever. I'm also convined that the only reason the Conservatives have a chance of forming a government at all is because of all the people voting AGAINST Paul Martin's Liberals more than they are voting FOR the Tories. But that is how it is, and the sooner the Liberals are out on the street, the better for Canada because then they can turn themselves around and eventually reclaim their rightful place on Canada's throne.

Cross posted to the CTV Election Weblog

Thursday, January 19, 2006

No Thanks to, or from, Paul Martin

Surfing around this morning to find something to comment about, brought me to one of my new favourite sites, the Infozone, a self-proclaimed "Information Digest" (independent news aggregator plus original commentary) based in the US which for some reason takes great care in covering Canadian politics!
There, I found the link to Candace's blog for sending messages to the injured Canadian soldiers (previous entry).

Via Candace, I found this in another blog, which caused steam to come out of my ears...

And not a word of thanks from Paul Martin, what a disgrace

...because there I learned for the first time that it was the AMERICANS who airlifted the soldiers to hospital - an AMERICAN military hospital which is where they remain at this writing.

I checked around to confirm this and it was widely reported, but did not pierce my consciousness at the time. My bad? Or that of the media who didn't put enough emphasis on this detail? Or both...


Not a word of thanks from Paul Martin?

Again I checked around, both news sources and Liberal and government web sites and found no such message.
If one exists, someone please enlighten me and I will be happy to eat my words and maybe even take Jason out to lunch next time he visits Montreal.

No matter how one feels about soldiers (in our cities or otherwise), wars, neocons and all the rest of it, these are OUR soldiers, our young men, critically injured out there and


To be fair I haven't seen anything from Stephen Harper either but he is not - yet- the Prime Minister. Still, a comment would have been nice but perhaps not strategically wise since it would probably lead to a whole new barrage of neocon accusations. I hope that if he is elected Prime Minister, he speaks about it then.
As for Jack Layton, as one would properly expect from the NDP, he is backing off of Canada's committment in Afghanistan but a word or two for the troops that are there - now - would also have been nice.

We expect campaigns to be somewhat uncivilized in our own country but this oversight amounts to flagrant neglect of our own military and that of our allies.

I won't even get into the fact that we are so ill-equipped that we don't have our own resources to aid our men out there which is all the more reason to THANK THE AMERICANS.

Election day can't come soon enough - if not for me, then for those whose lives are at risk in truly *scary* places.

Cross posted to the CTV Election Weblog with *expletive edited

Send Your Support to our Injured Soldiers...

...because somebody has to.

Candace has connected with a person in Germany who is able to pass along messages to the Canadian soldiers who were recently wounded in Afghanistan.

You can add your sentiments in her comment section here.

More commentary coming about this, but I wanted to put up this link asap.

Cross posted to the CTV Election Weblog

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Story on the Globe & Mail website:

Anti-same-sex marriage candidates outed

(The Globe & Mail headline writer has a sense of humour!)

This is a nasty little story that, with a little spin, might turn out okay after all. It seems a few anti-same-sex-marriage MPs have taken it upon themselves to organize the Vote Marriage Coalition and have put up a website endorsing dozens of candidates whom they say oppose the current law that legalized these unions.
I hope that their listings are at least accurate - it would be very embarrassing to have a bunch of those candidates denying their position after all.

So, you can now check your riding to see whom not to vote for. If you are ambivalent towards the Conservatives, the presence or absence of your local candidate on this list might help in your decision. If your Liberal (or other party) candidate appears there, that may also be useful.

Unfortunately, only names, not party affiliation, are listed so clicking around to count how many from each party have made the grade isn't feasible, even if I had the time and patience to do so which I don't.

Some ridings have "No endorsement" and some have the designation "TBC" - To Be Confirmed. They better confirm fast, there's not much time left. There are only two endorsements in Quebec so far but many in Alberta including the leader of the party I just voted for despite, not because of, that stand.

The kicker here, to me, is that former MP Elsie Wayne is one of the driving forces behind this movement; I saw her interviewed the other day and she is very passionate about this cause. I also saw a media report about a meeting she spoke at, in New Brunswick, which allegedly violated federal election laws because it was held in the same location as an advance polling station.

Elsie clearly respects her religious beliefs more than she respects the law of the land that she helped govern as a representative of her constituents.

No I have no point. I'm just sayin'.

Cross posted to the CTV Election Weblog

One Vote

I voted yesterday, taking advantage of advance polls, because the weather was tolerable and you just never know, around here (Montreal area).

One of my sons accompanied me and voted too. Both are a few years above voting age and have had the opportunity before, but I always get this little maternal swell of pride thing, kind of like I'm part of a process that's bigger than any one person, going down through generations, with echoes of my mother's lectures to me on the historical importance of democracy and using one's ballot.
Those lectures were necessary because at the time we lived in Trudeau's own riding and voting sometimes seemed a little irrelevant to me. Those who are born into any sort of advantage tend to take it for granted, I suppose.

Perhaps ironically, the advance poll for this election was located in a local community center, the same one that my sons attended for nursery school, and we arrived at afternoon pick-up time. I'm glad my kids are grown but it was a nice memory to visit for a few moments.

There was a steady trickle of voters but we didn't have to wait very long. I remembered the room as being the one that used to house a little cafe, staffed by special needs students as a bridge to jobs in the food service industry. I have no idea what became of that initiative but I do remember one time when my younger son was slapped there by the daughter of an acquaintance, for what transgression remains unknown because they were not even two years old at the time.
Maybe she just felt like it, in which case no harm was done since he has earned the slap many times over since then.
(I'm not advocating violence but girls will be girls...)

So, once in the voting booth I always take a moment to read through the names, even if my mind is made up. Last time, in 2004, it was a bit of a jolt to see the candidate for the Marijuana Party listed first. This time there was no such candidate in my riding but we did have a Marxist-Leninist.
I voted Conservative, not wholeheartedly, not without pause, but the X counts for the same, regardless. In my mind, for practical purposes it's a Federalist X which is the most important thing in Quebec.

I'm encouraged by the news report that came out today regarding Gilles Duceppe having to backpedal some on his goal for this election. Fifty percent of the popular vote seems unlikely now so he has altered that to the more vague improve. Improve in seat count he probably will, but popular vote is another matter. If there is a significant move of Bloc voters to the Tories (or ANY party other than the Bloc) then those votes are not coming from pur laine separatists and their numbers remain too low to win a referendum.

While the Bloc will likely win my riding, it will be with a minority of the vote and will contribute to the resulting Conservative government being a minority.

You can tell, my enthusiasm for Harper's party is not overwhelming, but it's more enthusiasm than I can muster for any other party in their present incarnations.

We will see what they will do and how much and how fast the Liberals can reorganize.

Cross posted to the CTV Election Weblog

Sunday, January 15, 2006

A Few Observations

Notes from CTV's Question Period:

First off, there's a report today about a Canadian Foreign Affairs Official killed and three Canadian soldiers wounded in Afghanistan, with a video of Paul Martin offering condolences.

I was all set to express outrage at Martin for being able to do this with a straight face, only days after allowing the military to be portrayed as something to be feared.

But I won't, because that would be exploiting a tragedy in order to illustrate my political opinion.
Just one thing, whichever party wins this election, can we PLEASE give the military and those serving Canada in danger zones (RCMP, Diplomats, etc.) the respect and resources they deserve?

On to other impressions:

What is Jean Lapierre smoking to be able to say that the Liberals will benefit from vote-splitting between the CPC and the Bloc in Quebec? If anything, the Bloc will benefit with regard to number of seats won but not, I hope, in absolute popular vote. I think my own riding, held by Liberals since time immemorial (or at least a dozen years) is going Bloc this time because of a split of federalist votes. That's too bad but the big picture is more important.

I think it's also ironic that Lapierre used a military metaphor to express his optimism, saying that the Conservatives don't have the *troops* to get their supporters out to vote and that the Liberals will be able to *mobilize*.

In the interests of equal nit-picking, it was also ironic that Conservative Jim Flaherty reacted to the Liberals invoking Mike Harris' government by shrugging it off as "issues from ten years ago". Option Canada, anyone?

Belinda Stronach talking about *consequences* was my favourite moment of the show, at least until they aired the new Conservative Ad entitled Even Liberals.

It's a great ad on its own merits but what I love best is Martin's quote admitting that he approved the military ad, complete with his trademark "lookit".

I think Im going to miss that.

Cross posted to the CTV Election Weblog

Saturday, January 14, 2006


Channel surfing between hockey, football, golf, basketball and CBC Newsworld's "Behind the Ballot" this evening, I came across a promo for CBC's election night coverage.

Maybe I saw it incorrectly. I hope I saw it incorrectly. It listed a bunch of CBC personalities who would participate in this coverage, including none other than DON CHERRY.

I am stunned. Seriously.
Comic relief is one thing but this is in no way funny.

Does the CBC think that nobody in Quebec watches their English-language channels? Well after this debacle-to-be, for sure nobody will.
But Cherry is quite capable of offending non-Quebecers as well. I don't have the energy to go into (and link references to) even a short list of the slurs that he's cast over the years but he, or at least the character he portrays, comes across as a xenophobic sexist racist.
Yet, he has quite a following among fans of Hockey Night in Canada, or at least Hockey Night in the "Rest of Canada". Leafs, indeed.

What is the CBC thinking? Why would they think that anyone would be interested in Cherry's ravings on one of the most important nights in recent Canadian history? For every misguided prepubescent male hockey fan they might entice into their coverage, they are bound to lose at least a dozen reasonable thinking Canadians.

I've never loved Mike Duffy more than at this very moment.

Friday, January 13, 2006

Giving Credit Where it's Due

Here they go again... but this time there's a difference.

Only hours after this story broke, Paul Martin acted.
No "well, fundamentally, y'know, lookit" blah blah blah. Just BAM, out. No defense, just action.

If he and his spokespeople had tried to waltz around this, peoples' heads would have exploded.

I guess it's safe to assume that the NDP allegations are true, or else there would have been protestations as well there should have been under those circumstances.

And it's probably also safe to opine that the Liberal candidate who allegedly offered the bribe figured he'd get away with it under the heading, "Business as Usual". But not this time. Martin can't have another scandal and he cut this one off at the knees. Good on him.

But I'm still not voting Liberal this time around.

Cross posted to the CTV Election Weblog

Cognitive Dissonance, Anyone?

The voices in my head are getting louder and louder:

Martin is an incompetent crook (I can picture him in a Nixon pose);

Harper is the devil incarnate who will take away our rights or even worse, turn us into a clone of the U.S.

Jason, Cerberus et al ("al" being those who are in their chorus) are right about Liberal policy but what good is policy if the people in office are unable and/or unwilling to implement it? The mud being slung at other parties makes me nervous but some of it does stick; what if Harper really does have a hidden agenda?

And for every one of these there is something like this.

It's enough to make me want to go back into winter hibernation. And also enough to make me glad I only have one vote.

I do agree with some Conservative policy - it's their social outlook that bothers me most. They say they won't mess with abortion but they may mess with same sex marriage and they won't move to decriminalize pot smoking. (Yes I call it "pot". And?) So I have to weigh that against my problems with the Liberals which are not problems of policy, but problems of personality.

I didn't like Chretien, but my hopes for Martin have been dashed. He hasn't cleaned up the mess, only made it worse. His government seems to act for expediency, not for results; for instance, that nice tax cut they introduced just before the writ was dropped? It will cost us almost $4 million to implement since the tax forms for those who submit on paper have already been printed and replacement sheets must be sent out.
Clearly this was done as an election ploy. If it was policy it would have been done in a more timely manner, or at least one would think so.

Then there's the confusion about the ads. Aside from the actual content of the military ad, there's the conflicting stories coming out of various Liberal mouths. It's laughable.

I just don't trust Martin anymore. I don't believe a word he says. I don't think he will work to do what's best for Canada as opposed to what's best for himself and the Liberals. It's not that he's a bad person, only that he and his team have fallen into the trap that appears when democratic governments have been around too long. It happened to the Mulroney PCs and it's happening to the Republicans in Washington. Listening to the US political commentary is eerily similar to listening to our own - only the names are different. Culture of corruption, influence peddling, lobbying, entitlement - it's all there.

I watched Harper's speech on TV this morning and I have to say he looks... okay. He was calm, reasonable, and I liked what he was saying. Yes I know, it's what he wasn't saying that can come back and bite us you-know-where but how much worse can that really be than what we have now? Yes, Jason, lots worse in the worst-case scenario but that's not necessarily a given and it's becoming more and more clear to me that this risk (changing the government) is worth taking.

One more observation:
I find it quite amusing that my CTV blog has attracted at least two hits from the search term, "Mike Duffy Explodes". Gotta love google.

Cross posted to the CTV Election Weblog

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Policy Should Trump Politics

Policy should indeed trump politics. It's the one thing Jason has said recently that I agree with.

In that vein, I would like to invite fellow CTV blogger Jason Cherniak to explain to me why the Liberal party is, at this moment in its present configuration, the best party to run the Canadian government.

Please do not tell me why the other parties are bad. I've heard it all. I want to know what is good and positive about the Liberals.

Jason paid me the ultimate compliment of quoting me and Warren Kinsella in the same breath, so I want to be fair and give him an opportunity to convince me.

Not that he doesn't already have that opportunity, in this forum and his own blog, but all I've seen lately are increasingly desperate attempts to frighten me away from my current position. I tend to not react well to that.

Come on, Jason, surely you must have better arguments to vote Liberal than tearing down their opponents. I am assuming here that Jason speaks for himself and is not in the employ of the Liberal party to spread their gospel as his own. So stop a minute and think, Jason. My mind, unlike yours, is open. Convince me why there is something worth voting for in the Liberal party. Otherwise I am going to vote FOR a chance to do away with a stagnant, corrupt regime.

It's bad enough that the parties themselves have chosen the negative route; we bloggers have the opportunity to stay on message and appeal to reason and logic as opposed to primal fear.

Cross posted to the CTV Election Weblog

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

How Not To Get Elected

It wasn't an earthquake that we felt in the Montreal area on Monday.

The earth shook from the force of people like my late father spinning in their graves, for it must have been about that time that the infamous "military" ad was approved.

My father served in World War II as did many parents of my generation. He was proud of that service and proud of the Canadian army, so much so that he and my mother would argue over one of his favourite phrases, "My country, right or wrong."

The merits of that sentiment notwithstanding, I am almost at a loss for words over that Liberal ad. Almost, but not quite.

On the surface it's a nasty attack ad, intended to frighten Canadians away from voting for the Conservative Party of Canada. The idea is that the party has right-wing gun-friendly pro-war leanings which clash with the sensibilities of the majority of Canadians.

Whether this is correct or not, doesn't even matter anymore because the argument has gone far beyond the bounds of intelligent debate into the territory of mind games and control-by-fear strategy – the same kind successfully used by: the Republican Party of the United States. The Liberals, by virtue of their tactics, have become what they themselves portray as Canada's worst nightmare. They try to suggest that a Conservative government will bring Canada into lock-step with the United States, and whether or not this is a bad thing (in context, the Liberals think so) it is what THEY have become, if not in actual policy then in their conduct during this campaign. They have shown that they believe the end justifies the means, which is certainly how the current U.S. regime seems to govern itself.

Clearly, marketing professionals helped craft the ad, which is stark in its simplicity and follows the pattern of eleven other new ads. The visual is just a grey blur, gradually focusing into a close-up of Stephen Harper's face which is supposed to look menacing but doesn't quite make it. It's the background music that is jarring, a war-like drumbeat gradually increasing in complexity, while the female voice-over repeats a few simple phrases such as "guns". "In our cities." "In Canada." "We did not make this up."

Would it be helpful to remind them that the last time there really were military weapons in city streets in Canada, it was a Liberal Prime Minister who sent them there?

It wasn't enough that the Liberal government neglected the armed forces to the point where it put their lives in jeopardy with second-hand leaky submarines and woefully out-of-date helicopters which cost so much in maintenance that their use is hardly feasible. Somehow, the Canadian military remains a globally respected peace-keeping force, one which the Liberals WANT US TO BE AFRAID OF SEEING IN OUR OWN CITIES.

This, only weeks after an RCMP peacekeeper was murdered in Haiti.

Then again I can understand why the Liberals are a little leery of the RCMP these days, but most Canadian citizens really have nothing to fear on that level.

What's almost worse than the ad itself is the attempt at damage control. When the public's reaction became clear, the ad was removed from the Liberal Party website and the party line on TV was that it had not been released and was just one of those ideas that did not see the light of day.

Uh, no. It WAS released on the website. It was NOT just another idea thrown up and thrown out of a brainstorming session. It was produced in the same manner as the others in its group and released along with them. It bears the fine print authorization seal-of-approval as required by law.

Suggestions that it did not appear in a paid-for context, therefore did not *really* appear at all, show that either there IS no defense for this strategy or that the Liberals are vastly out of touch with the workings of today's media. Or both.

This morning, I heard reports that the ad has appeared on French television, which, if true, makes the story of what has become of the Liberal Party even more pathetic for it insults the intelligence and ethics of French-speaking Canadians and the memory of troops such as the Vandoos, not to mention belying all the disclaimers about the ad that I heard last night.

I came into this campaign as a Liberal supporter. I liked Paul Martin and was pleased when he took over from Jean Chretien. I believed that the Liberal party was the best hope to keep Canada together and that I would vote for my Liberal candidate on election day.

None of the above is true anymore. While the social aspects of the Conservative platform do not fully correspond with my views, they are my preferred party to lead the country at this moment. Character is sometimes the most important quality in a leader, and while Stephen Harper's is less well known than Paul Martin's, I think Canada would be better off with Harper as its next Prime Minister.

Cross posted to the CTV Election Weblog

Sunday, January 08, 2006

Northern Ire, Indeed

Northern Ire: Canadian Politics Are All About America
by Anna Morgan

The above article appeared in today's (Sunday's) Washington Post. It's hard to know where to begin but I guess the subtitle is as good a place as any, since it does a fine job of summing up the theme of the article.

Canadian politics are all about America? It just isn't so. "America" (I prefer to call it the United States) enters into the debate, as it must, but it is hardly the main focus of this campaign, especially since the holiday break.

Perhaps it's being spun that way by the author (a Canadian freelance journalist and author, as described by the Post) in order to attract the attention of the paper's readership.
I suppose a headline such as "Alleged corruption may lead to ruling dynasty's downfall" would only attract yawns from the "Americans".

Anyway. Besides the America-centric bias, there are portions of the article that are just plain wrong.

The most blatant factual error is the following statement:

U.S. Customs and Immigration this year imposed passport requirements on visiting Canadians for the first time...

Not so, according to the US Customs and Immigration website:

Generally, Canadian Nationals must show ID but are exempt from passport and visa requirements.

Not so, too, according to my son who travelled to Maine last month, and who I know for a fact does not have a passport.

More shocking, is the paragraph dealing with Canada and terrorism, which put forth the claim that the case of Abdullah Khadr (is) the Canadian media's current cause celebre.

Come again?

Nobody can say that I don't consume enough media (Canadian and otherwise) to know that this just isn't true, however I did some digging in Google News and Google Blog Search and while the Khadr case is reported, any outrage is noticeably absent.

Even more egregious is the mention of the case of Mohammed Zeki Mahjoub. The author uses it in order to bring up the following quote "from a CSIS report":

there are more terrorist cells operating in Canada than in any other country outside the Middle East.

A little digging reveals that a similar statement was indeed made to the Canadian Senate by then-head of CSIS, Ward Elcok - in 1998 - and it was quoted by a Washington organization, the Center for Immigration Studies (confusingly, also "CSIS") as follows:

with perhaps a singular exception of the United States, there were more international terrorist groups active in Canada than any other country in the world, and that Canada can not become through inaction or otherwise what might be called an unofficial state sponsor of terrorism.

IN 1998.

As for Mr Mahjoub, he has spent the last five and a half years imprisioned in Toronto. His case was sympathetically portrayed in, of all places, the WASHINGTON POST in late 2004
and was most recently mentioned only two weeks ago in Yahoo News.

So much for Canada as a safe haven for America's Most Wanted.

As if all that weren't enough, there's the softwood lumber issue, for which, the article claims, Prime Minister Martin has made confronting Washington on this score a main issue of his campaign.

Main issue? One of many issues but certainly not a *main* one. And why not confront Washington when they have repeatedly ignored NAFTA rulings on the subject?

Similarly, why not refuse to extradite to the U.S. people who would face the death penalty? This is certainly not unheard of in international affairs.

Some parts of the article are factually correct but taken in context with the whole, portray a confrontational attitude which just doesn't exist. Canadians don't go around looking for issues on which to bash the US but when those issues appear we are not shy to make our position heard, and that is all it is.

I don't understand why a Canadian journalist would want Americans to see this country in the way she has portrayed it and why the Washington Post, a respected publication, would print this without at least some fact checking.

And I haven't even gotten to another article, by the same author on the same page of the paper, that deals with poor Michael Ignatieff regarding the treatment he's received because of his views on torture, Ukrainians, and Iraq.

I can only take so much aggravation in one day.

Cross posted to the CTV Election Weblog

Saturday, January 07, 2006

Much as it pains me, I can't buy this conspiracy theory.

As seen on Countdown with Mike Duffy:

Sheila Copps thinks it's no coincidence that a book about Option Canada is to be released on the same day as one of the leaders' debates and that both coincide with the RCMP looking into the accounting of some of the grant money given to this group by the Canadian government, ostensibly to encourage Quebecers to, um, *stand up for Canada* in the 1995 referendum.

This may look suspicious to the casual observer, and heaven knows I love a good conspiracy theory, but none of the above would be relevant if there were no there there.

But we can't really dwell on ten year old news, not when there are so many more recent scandals / allegations with more turning up every day.

In the it's not illegal but... category, now we have the government paying yet more money - to LOBBY ITSELF.

I'd like to see the people who are tallying up the costs of the election promises by the various parties also tally up the wasted tax dollars (with compounded interest) so that we can see the true cost of another government led by the current Liberal party.

Oh and by the way, Bloc notwithstanding (heh), I have decided I just cannot bring myself to put the X next to the L this time. My vote will be federalist but NOT Liberal.

Cross posted to the CTV Election Weblog

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Is the Term "Star Candidate" Proving to be an Oxymoron?

Some things are best left to the professionals. Space travel is one; politics is another.

Marc Garneau, the Liberal candidate for the Quebec riding of Vaudreuil-Soulanges, has been talking about Quebec separation:

I think that when you say you're a sovereigntist you have to think it through.

Maybe so but when you're a candidate for federal office, you also have to think through every word that comes out of your mouth.

Of course I agree with the basic message, as I'm a federalist. But the manner in which it was expressed, and even more so, the timing, were, to say the least, unfortunate.

The only reason for bringing up the relative merits of Quebec separation in the context of this election is to try to win votes away from the Bloc Quebecois. To this end, comparing a cause so dear to the hearts of so many Quebeckers to the US invasion of Iraq, is unlikely to sway anyone. I understand the point of the comparison was that both are, in Mr. Garneau's opinion, poorly thought out ideas. The events however are too different to make the comparison workable, and the sensibilities involved are more likely to insult and alienate Quebeckers who largely support one and not the other.
If we must go down that road, there are many more appropriate comparisons. Off the top of my head, the US Civil War would be one; the partitioning of some European countries such as Czechoslovakia and Yugoslavia would be others.
Whether these examples fulfill the message that Mr. Garneau wants to convey, I don't know.

What really needs to be "thought out" is, what IS the message that Mr. Garneau wants (or ought to want) to convey?
When one is campaigning for a seat in Canada's Parliament, shouldn't the campaign message address what the candidate, and his/her party, will do for the constituents?

It goes without saying that a member of the Liberal Party does not support Quebec separation, so what was the purpose of the anti-separatist message? It won't draw votes from Bloc supporters who either have separatist sympathies or are planning anti-Liberal protest votes. If I am going to vote for the Bloc then nothing Garneau says along these lines will dissuade me.
Neither would it draw votes from the other Federalist parties. We already know who is on which team.

Perhaps more to the point is the revelation of what Marc Garneau's response would be, should Quebec begin the separation process:

He would leave Quebec.

If I were a voter in the riding of Vaudreuil-Soulanges, I would have to ask, does it mean he would no longer be my MP in that event? This would affect my voting decision as I'd prefer to have an MP that would stay and fight for my rights as a Canadian.

I have no doubt that Marc Garneau spoke from the heart; I also have no doubt that Marc Garneau would do his best if elected, and I would rather see a Liberal in that seat than a member of the Bloc Quebecois. I just wonder how wise it was for the Liberals to trust the fate of this tightly contested seat to a newcomer to the political world. I have all due respect for Mr. Garneau as a scientist and modern-day adventurer but in this arena I'd feel more comfortable voting for a professional.

Cross posted to the CTV Election Weblog

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Separated at Birth? - the Blog Entry I Didn't Have the Nerve to Post:

Due to all sorts of copyright issues, not to mention I'm just too darn nice, I refrained from creating a blog entry entitled "Separated at Birth?" with the following photos:

1. The double exposure head shot of Paul Martin that CTV used in its flash thingy yesterday

2. This one

Cross posted to the CTV Election Weblog

Monday, January 02, 2006

Business as Usual?

The Sarmite Bulte story

There appears to be nothing illegal here, but it looks as if it's been left at the back of the fridge for too long.

It has to do with copyright reform, vested interests and political ambition. Draw your own conclusions.

Cross posted to the CTV Election Weblog